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THE PARKLAND SCHOOL MASSACRE: WHERE BLAME REALLY LIES

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on February 28, 2018 at 12:08 am

On February 14, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz slaughtered two faculty members and 15 students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

His weapon of choice: An AR-15 assault rifle, often favored by gun massacre killers. 

Since then, the National Rifle Association (NRA), President Donald Trump and their shills (paid and unpaid) have sought to distract attention from the reason for the massacre: Easy access to military assault weaponry by virtually anyone. 

Among those they have blamed:

  • “The elites” (who, says Wayne LaPierre, the NRA’s executive vice president, “don’t care about America’s schoolchildren”);
  • Unarmed school teachers (who should have been armed);
  • Cruz’ neighbors and classmates (who didn’t report his obsession with violence to police);
  • The media (who “love mass shootings,” according to Dana Loesch, the NRA’s spokeswoman);
  • The FBI (which fumbled tips that Cruz was a live grenade waiting to go off). 
  • Scot Peterson (the armed school resource officer who stayed outside the school as the shooting unfolded).

According to a series of police reports, Cruz suffered from mental illness and was on behavioral medication. The records described fights at home—and his mother’s fear that Cruz was out of control even as an adolescent.

Nikolas Cruz

Even so, it was not mental illness that made it possible for Cruz to slaughter 17 innocent students and faculty.  

It was his access to military-style firepower.

Without that, all he could have done was fantasize about inflicting torment on others. Having access to that firepower allowed him to make his fantasies come true.

And who made it possible for Cruz to obtain that firepower? Those Republicans who are literally on the payroll of the NRA. 

To start at the top: President Donald Trump. In 2016, the NRA spent more than $30 million to support him and defeat his opponent, Hillary Clinton.

Donald Trump

And that investment has already paid off: In February, 2017, Trump signed a bill making it easier for the mentally ill to buy guns. This repealed an Obama-era regulation that restricted the rights of seriously incapacitated people to own death-dealing firepower.

In fact, during the 2016 election, the NRA and its affiliate, the NRA Institute for Legislative Action, spent a total of $54 million. The vast majority of these monies went to support Republicans or oppose Democrats.

Even so, the NRA has been willing to open its pocketbook to Democrats willing to toe the organization’s line. Rep. Sanford Bishop, of Georgia, has received about $47,000 during his tenure in Congress. 

From January 1 to mid-February, 2018, the NRA has spent absolutely nothing to support Democrats, and $337,000 to oppose them.

Then there are Florida’s Republican legislators. All of the following received contributions from the NRA during the 2016 election cycle: 

  • Rep. Gus M. Bilirakis: $2,000 
  • Rep. Carlos Curbelo: $2,500 
  • Rep. Ted Yoho: $1,000 
  • Rep. Daniel Webster: $1,000
  • Rep. John Rutherford: $1,000 
  • Sen. Marco Rubio: $9,900 
  • Rep. Dennis Ross: $2,000 
  • Rep. Tom Rooney: $2,000 
  • Rep. Bill Posey: $2,000 
  • Rep. Brian Mast: $4,950 
  • Rep. Matt Gaetz: $1,000 
  • Rep. Neal Dunn: $1,000 
  • Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart: $2,000 Rep.
  • Ron DeSantis: $1,000 

Then there is Florida Governor Rick Scott

In 2014, Scott won the praise of the NRA’s Political Victory Fund: “Rick has signed more pro-gun bills into law in one term than any other governor in Florida history.”  All of this resulted in his getting an “A+” rating from the organization. 

Image result for Images of Rick Scott

Rick Scott

And what has all this highly-paid political influence bought? 

  • An AR-15 rifle—designed to kill the maximum number of people—is legally easier to obtain than a handgun. 
  • Federal law requires gun buyers to be 21 before buying a handgun. But in Florida, an AR-15 can be purchased at age 18.
  • Residents aren’t required to register their gun.
  • But Floridians must be 21 to buy an alcoholic beverage.
  • No permit or license is needed to buy a gun.
  • No permit is needed to conceal carry a rifle or shotgun; one is required to conceal carry a handgun.
  • The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is required to issue a concealed carry permit to anyone who desires one, as long as: S/he is an American citizen; 21 or older; without a felony conviction; and can prove that s/he is competent with a firearm.
  • Floridians can buy as many guns as they want at one time.
  • Florida does not regulate assault weapons, .50-caliber rifles and large capacity ammunition magazines.  
  • Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law allows for the use of deadly force without any obligation to try to avoid violence.  

And when criminals and/or the criminally insane turn the weaponry they have legally purchased onto scores of defenseless men, women and children, the NRA again benefits. 

For example: One week after the mass slaughter at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Florida legislators voted 71-36 against a measure to consider a ban on semi-automatic weapons. 

Yet they declared pornography a public health risk. The bill “recognizes public health risk created by pornography & acknowledges need for education, prevention, research, & policy change to protect citizens of this state.”

Almost all the lawmakers who voted against an assault rifle ban have an “A” rating from the NRA.

Watching in stunned disbelief and outrage were 100 Marjory Stoneman High School students. They had traveled 400 miles from Parkland to the state capital in Tallahassee, hoping to speak with legislators and Governor Scott.  

GIVE ME THAT GUN-TIME RELIGION

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on February 27, 2018 at 12:12 am

On February 14, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz slaughtered two faculty members and 15 students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

His weapon of choice: An AR-15 assault rifle, often favored by gun massacre killers.

Eight days later, on February 22, Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president of the National Rifle Association, attacked those he held responsible for the series of massacres plaguing American schools.

Image result for Images of Wayne LaPierre

Wayne LaPierre

And it wasn’t crazed gunmen armed with automatic weapons designed for military use. 

With funerals still being planned for some of the victims, LaPierre blamed “the elites,” “saboteurs” and “new European-style socialists” for this and other gun massacres.

He did so at the Conservative Political Action Conference (C-PAC) in National Harbor, Maryland.

“They hate the NRA, they hate the Second Amendment,” said LaPierre, like an Old Testament prophet addressing his fanatical congregation.

“They hate individual freedom. In the rush of calls for more government, they have also revealed…their true selves.

“The elites do not care about America’s schoolchildren. If they truly cared, they would protect them. For them, it is not a safety issue. It is a political issue. 

“Their goal is to eliminate the Second Amendment and our firearms freedoms, so they can eradicate all individual freedoms.”

His C-PAC congregation gave him a wild ovation. 

He then outlined his solution for protecting America’s schoolchildren: Turning schools into virtual concentration camps patrolled by heavily-armed security guards. 

And he accused the Democratic party of being “infested with saboteurs who do not believe in capitalism, do not believe in the Constitution, do not believe in our freedom, and do not believe in America as we know it.”

These “saboteurs” were “new European-style socialists.”

Which was ironic: In 2016, the NRA spent $30 million to elect Donald Trump—who fiercely defends Russian Communist dictator Vladimir Putin against the FBI, NSA and CIA.

But perhaps the highlight of LaPierre’s speech came at its close: “And there is no greater personal, individual freedom than the right to keep and bear arms, the right to protect yourself, and the right to survive.

“It is not bestowed by man, but granted by God to all Americans as our American birthright.”

Anyone who’s seen the 1970 sci-fi movie, Beneath the Planet of the Apes, remembers the final scene: Where seemingly normal underground dwellers strip off their human face masks and reveal themselves to be radiation-scarred mutants.

They wear white robes, and stand silently during a sermon or shout “Amen!” in what is clearly a dark parody of a religious service. It’s immediately clear what they are worshiping: An atomic bomb standing upright.

Image result for Images of bomb worshipers in Beneath the Planet of the Apes

And they pay tribute to the engine of obliteration that has destroyed human civilization and brought about a world ruled by apes.

Their leader, Mendez, chants:

“Glory be to the Bomb, and to the Holy Fallout. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be. World without end. Amen. 

“His sound has gone out to all lands, and his light unto the end of the world.

“Almighty and everlasting Bomb, who came down among us to make Heaven under Earth. Lighten our darkness. O instrument of God—grant us thy peace!”

Reading Wayne LaPierre’s eulogy to the Gun and his passionate invoking of God, it’s easy to re-imagine his giving a slightly altered version of the sermon offered in Beneath the Planet of the Apes. It’s also easy to imagine this taking place during an NRA convention.

WAYNE LAPIERRE: The heavens declare the glory of the Gun. And the body-count showeth His handiwork.

NRA CONGREGATION: His sound is gone out to all lands; and his Light unto the end of the world.

WAYNE LAPIEREE: He descendeth from the outermost part of Heaven; and there is nothing hid from the lead thereof. There is neither speech nor language after His voice is heard among them.

NRA CONGREGATION: Praise Him! Praise Him! My Strength and my Reddemer!

WAYNE LAPIERRE: Glory be to the Gun, and to the Holy Bodycount! As it was in the Beginning, is now and ever shall be, massacres without end. Amen!

NRA CHORUS: Amen! Amen! Amen! Amen!

WAYNE LAPIERRE: Almighty and everlasting Gun, who came down among us to make Heaven unto Earth. Lighten our darkness with your muzzle flashes. O instrument of God, grant us They peace.

NRA CHOIR: Almighty Gun, who destroyed all men—to create corpses! Behold His glory!

WAYNE LAPIERRE: Behold that Truth that abides in us. To reveal that Truth unto that Maker.

WAYNE LAPIERRE AND NRA CONGREGATION: I reveal my inmost self unto my God.

NRA CHORUS (singing): Unto my God!

NRA CONGREGATION (singing):

All guns bright and beautiful. All creatures dead with lead.

The good Gun makes us what we are!

He takes out eyes to see with, and lips that might yet speak. How great the Gun Almighty, who has made all things dead. Amen!

WAYNE LAPIERRE: May the Blessing of the Gun Almighty and the fellowship of the Holy Bodycount descend on us all, this night and forevermore! 

* * * * * *  

In 2012, a psychotic gunman slaughtered 20 first-graders and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Since then, at least 239 school shootings have erupted nationwide, killing 138 people and wounding 438.

THE MOST DANGEROUS THERAPY

In History, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on February 26, 2018 at 12:10 am

Chris Kyle was an American patriot—serving four tours of duty in Iraq. 

And he was a killer: From 1999 to 2009 he recorded more than 160 confirmed kills as a sniper—the most in U.S. military history. Iraqis came to refer to him as “The Devil” and put a $20,000 bounty on his life.

Chris Kyle January 2012.jpg

Chris Kyle

He was an expert on firearms: After leaving combat duty, he became the chief instructor for training the Naval Special Warfare Sniper and Counter-Sniper team. And he authored the Naval Special Warfare Sniper Doctrine, the first Navy SEAL sniper manual.

He was a successful writer—author of the 2012 bestselling American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History.

In 2013, he wrote the equally bestselling American Gun: A History of the U.S. in Ten Firearms.

He created a nonprofit company, FITCO Cares, to provide at-home fitness equipment for emotionally and physically wounded veterans.

In 2014, his autobiography, American Sniper, became a major film produced and directed by Clint Eastwood. The movie portrays his work as a SEAL marksman in Iraq and his struggles to be a good husband and father during his tours of duty.

And Kyle was a mentor to veterans suffering from PTSD—Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

It was this last activity—and, more importantly, his approach to therapy—that cost him his life.

On February 2, 2015, Kyle and his friend, Chad Littlefield, died in a hail of 13 bullets fired by a semi-automatic pistol.

The murderer: Eddie Ray Routh, an Iraqi war veteran reportedly suffering from PTSD, while the three visited a shooting range in Glen Rose, Texas.

Routh, of Lancaster, Texas, a former corporal in the Marines, had been deployed to Iraq in 2007 and Haiti in 2010.

His motive:  “I shot them because they wouldn’t talk to me. I was just riding in the back seat of the truck and nobody would talk to me. They were just taking me to the range so I shot them. I feel bad about it, but they wouldn’t talk to me. I am sure they have forgiven me.”

Eddie Ray Routh

On February 25, 2015, a jury convicted Routh of double murder and sentenced him to life in prison without parole.

Kyle’s believed that shooting could prove therapeutic for those suffering from mental illness. And it was that belief that ultimately killed him.

According to Travis Cox, the director of FITCO Cares: “What I know is Chris and a gentleman—great guy, I knew him well, Chad Littlefield—took a veteran out shooting who was struggling with PTSD to try to assist him, try to help him, try to, you know, give him a helping hand, and he turned the gun on both of them, killing them.” 

Chris Kyle was a lifetime member of the National Rifle Association (NRA), whose stance on firearms is best described as: “The more guns, the better.”

The NRA:

  • Opposes background checks for firearms owners.
  • Opposes any waiting period for the purchase of a firearm. 
  • Opposes banning the ownership of military-style, “high-capacity” firearms.
  • Opposes any limits on how many firearms a person may own.
  • Supports legislation to allow virtually anyone to carry a handgun—openly or concealed—even in bars and churches.
  • Has successfully pushed “stand-your-ground” laws in more than half the states. These allow the use of deadly force in self-defense, without any obligation to try to retreat first.
  • Has steadfastly defended the right to own Teflon-coated ”cop killer” bullets,” whose only purpose is to penetrate bullet-resistant vests worn by law enforcement officers.

Chris Kyle was undoubtedly one of the foremost experts on firearms in the United States. Few knew better than he did the rules for safe gun-handling.

And yet he broke perhaps the most basic commonsense rule of all: Never trust an unstable person with a loaded firearm. 

And it was the breaking of that rule that killed him.

Even worse, he knew that Routh was unstable. During the drive to the shooting range, he texted Littlefield: ‘This dude is straight-up nuts.”

Kyle, who was 38, was survived by his wife, Taya, and their two children.

Kyle was undoubtedly sincere in wanting to help his fellow veterans who suffered from PTSD.

But he could have offered them different—and far safer—forms of help, such as:

  • Urging veterans such as Routh to get psychiatric counseling.
  • Suggesting that they find purpose in a charity such as Habitat for Humanity, which is devoted to building affordable housing for the poor.
  • Helping them find mental healthcare through the Veterans Administration.

Instead, he chose “gun therapy” as his preferred method of treatment. 

Kyle was an expert on using firearms in self-defense. But that knowledge proved useless when he allowed his empathy to overrule his common sense. 

Wayne LaPierre, the executive vice president of the NRA, has repeatedly asserted: “The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is with a good guy with a gun.”

But the death of Chris Kyle raises a question that the NRA has yet to answer: If a certified weapons expert can’t protect himself against a psychopathic gunman, how can the rest of us?

HUMOR VS. HITMEN: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Humor, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on February 23, 2018 at 12:03 am

In March, 2013, the National Rifle Association (NRA) and its Right-wing allies declared war on comedian Jim Carrey.

The reason: His music parody video: “Cold Dead Hand,” which mocked gun fanatics and the late Charlton Heston, former president of the NRA.

Click here: Jim Carrey’s Pro-Gun Control Stance Angers Conservatives

Among its lyrics:

Charlton Heston movies are no longer in demand
And his immortal soul may lay forever in the sand.
The angels wouldn’t take him up to heaven like he’d planned.
’Cause they couldn’t pry that gun from his cold, dead hand.

The phrase, “cold dead hand,” originated with Heston himself.

Charlton Heston in his prime

On May 20, 2000, the actor and then-president of the NRA addressed the organization at its 129th convention in Charlotte, North Carolina.

He warned that then-Vice President and Democratic Presidential candidade Al Gore “is going to smear you as the enemy,” and concluded:

“So, as we set out this year to defeat the divisive forces that would take freedom away, I want to say those fighting words for everyone within the sound of my voice to hear and to heed, and especially for you, Mr. Gore: ‘From my cold, dead hands!’”

Carrey’s stance on gun control couldn’t have been more opposite.

In in February, 2013, he outraged Right-wingers by tweeting: “Any1 who would run out to buy an assault rifle after the Newton massacre has very little left in their body or soul worth protecting.”

 Jim Carrey

Fox Nation referred to the tweet as “nasty.”  

Red Alert Politics writer Erin Brown dismissed it as “a careless remark …rooted in the shallow, parroted talking points so commonly espoused by liberal elites.”

But that was nothing compared to the rage that has greeted “Cold Dead Hand.” Reason TV’s Remy offered a parody rebuttal to Carrey’s song. Its lyrics included:

It takes a talking ass
to oppose a vaccination
when your PhD is in
making funny faces.

None of which bothered Carrey. In fact, he exulted in Right-wing outrage, tweeting: “Cold Dead Hand’ is abt u heartless motherf%ckers unwilling 2 bend 4 the safety of our kids. Sorry if you’re offended…”

Among its lyrics:

It takes a cold, dead hand to decide to pull the trigger.
Takes a cold, dead heart and as near as I can figger.
With your cold, dead aim you’re tryin’ to prove your dick is bigger …..

Many psychologists have long theorized that a fascination with firearms can compensate for inadequate sexual performance.

But it’s one thing for an unknown psychologist to write this in an obscure medical journal—and another for a famous comedian to splash it across the Internet.

Carrey is especially ruthless in attacking those who—like the NRA—make a lucrative living off gun sales:

Imagine if the Lord were here…
And on the ones
Who sell the guns
He’d sic the vultures and coyotes
Only the devil’s true devotees
Could profiteer
From pain and fear.

Many Rightists attacked Carrey for parodying a man—Heston—who died in 2008 and could not defend himself. But Heston had appeared several times on “Saturday Night Live” to spoof his granite-hard image.

In his video, Carrey dares to attack not simply the masculinity of the Rightist NRA crowd, but even its courage:

You don’t want to get caught
With your trousers down
When the psycho killer
Comes around
So you make your home
Like a Thunderdome
And you’re always packin’
Everywhere you roam.

Perhaps that’s what most outraged the Right—the accusation that its members live in fear and do their best to generate needless fear in others. 

Fear that can supposedly be abated by turning America into a society where everyone packs a weapon and every moment holds a potential High Noon.

Carrey was not shy in responding to his Rightist critics. On March 29, 2013, he issued this statement:

“Since I released my “Cold Dead Hand” video on Funny or Die this week, I have watched Fux News rant, rave, bare its fangs and viciously slander me because of my stand against large magazines and assault rifles.

“I would take them to task legally if I felt they were worth my time or that anyone with a brain in their head could actually fall for such irresponsible buffoonery. That would gain them far too much attention which is all they really care about.

“I’ll just say this: in my opinion Fux News is a last resort for kinda-sorta-almost-journalists whose options have been severely limited by their extreme and intolerant views; a media colostomy bag that has begun to burst at the seams and should be emptied before it becomes a public health issue.”

The NRA has spent decades bribing and intimidating its way through Congress. Those members who subscribe to its “guns for everyone” agenda get legalized bribes (i.e., “campaign contributions”).

Those who refuse to do so face the threat—if not the reality—of being ousted. 

Bullies are conspicuously vulnerable to ridicule. Their only “defense” is to smash anyone who dares to mock their folly, brutality or pretense to omnipotence.  

Or, as Ernest Hemingway once put it: “Fascism is a lie told by bullies.”

HUMOR VS. HITMEN: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Humor, Law Enforcement, Social commentary on February 22, 2018 at 12:05 am

Bullies do not like to be mocked.

Anyone who doubts this need only examine the Right’s reaction to actor Jim Carrey’s March, 2013 “Cold Dead Hand”  music video.

In this, Carrey—–a strong advocate of gun control—mocked the National Rifle Association (NRA) and its right-wing allies.

These included rural America and (for the video’s purposes) the late actor Charlton Heston, who served as the NRA’s five-term president (1998-2003).

Jim Carrey as Charlton Heston

The video featured Carrey and alt-rock band Eels as “Lonesome Earl And The Clutterbusters,” a country band on a TV set modeled after the 1960s variety show, “Hee Haw.” Carrey also portrayed Heston as a dim-witted, teeth-clenching champion of the NRA.

“I find the gun problem frustrating,” Carrey said in a press release, “and ‘Cold Dead Hand’ is my fun little way of expressing that frustration.”

Carrey’s frustration triggered NRA outrage.

Click here: Jim Carrey’s Pro-Gun Control Stance Angers Conservatives

Fox News personality Greg Gutfeld ranted: “He is probably the most pathetic tool on the face of the earth and I hope his career is dead and I hope he ends up sleeping in a car.

“This video made me want to go out and buy a gun. He thinks this is biting satire going after rural America and a dead man… He’s a dirty, stinking coward… He’s such a pathetic, sad, little freak. He’s a gibbering mess. He’s a modern bigot.”

Columnist Larry Elder spared no venom in attacking Carrey: “Let’s be charitable—call Carrey ignorant, not stupid.”

Click here: Jim Carrey: Not ‘Dumb & Dumber,’ Just Ignorant

Much of his March 29 column centered on defending Heston, who died at 84 in 2008.

A lyric in Carrey’s song says “Charlton Heston’s movies are no longer in demand.” This prompted Elder to defend the continuing popularity of Heston’s 1956 movie, “The Ten Commandments,” where he played Moses.

Elder felt compelled to defend Heston’s off-screen persona as well, citing his 64-year marriage to his college sweetheart, Lydia.

On the other hand, writes Elder, Carrey, “followed the well-worn Hollywood path: Get famous; get rich; dump the first wife/mother of your kid(s), who stood by you during the tough times; and act out your social life in the tabs to the embarrassment of your kid(s).”

Clearly, Carrey’s video struck a nerve with Right-wing gun fanatics. But why?

Start with Gutfield’s accusation that Carry was “going after rural America.”

Rural America—home of the most superstitious, ignorant and knee-jerk Fascistic elements in American society—boastfully refers to itself as “The Heartland.”

In short: a prime NRA and Rightist constituency.

It was rural America to which Senator Barack Obama referred—accurately—during his 2008 Presidential campaign:

“They get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”

Second, there’s Elder’s outrage that Carrey should dare to say that Heston’s movies “are no longer in demand.”

Among these movies: “Major Dundee,” “El Cid,” “Khartoum,” “The War Lord.” And even the hammiest film for which he is best-known: “The Ten Commandments.”

In a film career spanning 62 years, Heston vividly portrayed such historical characters as:

  • Rodrigo Diaz de Bivar in “El Cid’:
  • Mark Anthony in “Julius Caesar”;
  • John the Baptist in “The Greatest Story Ever Told”;
  • Andrew Jackson in “The President’s Lady” and “The Buccaneer”;
  • Michaelangelo in “The Agony and the Ecstasy”;
  • General Charles Gordon in “Khartoun.”

And he played fictitious characters, too:

  • Civil War officers (“Major Dundee”);
  • Norman knights (“The War Lord”);
  • Ranchers (“Three Violent People”;
  • Explorers (“The Naked Jungle”).
  • Judah Ben-Hur (“Ben-Hur”); and
  • Astronauts (“Planet of the Apes”)’

Heston was a widely respected actor who won the Academy Award for Best Actor in 1959 for “Ben Hur” and servecd as the president of the Screen Actors Guild from 1965 to 1971.

But it was not Heston’s film career that Carrey focused on—but his role as president of the NRA.

Related image

Charlton Heston at the NRA convention

Ironically, Heston had identified himself with liberal causes long before he became the face and voice of the gun lobby.

In 1961, he campaigned for Senator John F. Kennedy for President.  In 1963, he took part in Martin Luther King’s March on Washington.

In 1968, after the assassination of Senator Robert F. Kennedy, he joined actors Kirk Douglas, James Stewart and Gregory Peck in issuing a statement supporting President Lyndon Johnson’s Gun Control Act of 1968.

But over the coming decades, Heston became increasingly conservative:

  • Reportedly voting for Richard Nixon in 1972;
  • Supporting gun rights; and
  • Campaigning for Republican Presidential candidates Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush.

When asked why he changed political alliances, Heston replied: “I didn’t change. The Democratic party changed.”

YOUR FRIENDS AT THE NRA: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on February 21, 2018 at 12:03 am

Among the major accomplishments of the National Rifle Association:

  • The NRA has steadfastly defended the right to own Teflon-coated “cop killer” bullets,” whose only purpose is to penetrate bullet-resistant vests worn by law enforcement officers.

  • The NRA and its lobbying arm, the Institute for Legislative Action, is responsible for the “stand-your-ground” ordinances now in effect in more than half the states. These allow for the use of deadly force in self-defense, without any obligation to attempt to retreat first.
  • In 2012, the NRA rushed to the defense of accused murderer George Zimmerman, the self-appointed “community watchman” who  ignored police orders to stop following 17-year-old Trayvon Martin and ended up shooting him.
  • Police did not initially charge Zimmerman because of Florida’s “Stand-Your-Ground” law, which the NRA had rammed through the legislature.

George Zimmerman

  • On February 26, 2012, Zimmerman shot unarmed Trayvon Martin, who was wearing a “hoodie.” In March, the NRA issued its own version of a “hoodie”–the Concealed Carry Hooded Sweatshirt, designed to hide firearms.  Selling on the NRA’s website for $60 to $65, it is advertised thusly:
  • “Inside the sweatshirt you’ll find left and right concealment pockets. The included Velcro®-backed holster and double mag pouch can be repositioned inside the pockets for optimum draw. Ideal for carrying your favorite compact to mid-size pistol, the NRA Concealed Carry Hooded Sweatshirt gives you an extra tactical edge, because its unstructured, casual design appears incapable of concealing a heavy firearm—but it does so with ease!”
  • Anyone—including convicted criminals—can buy these “hide-a-gun” sweatshirts, putting both the public and law enforcers at deadly risk.
  • The NRA often claims that law-abiding citizens defend themselves with guns millions of times every year. But the FBI has determined that, of the approximately 11,000 gun homicides every year, fewer than 300 are justifiable self-defense killings.
  • The NRA supports loopholes that allow criminals to buy guns without background checks, or allow terrorists to buy all the AK-47s they desire.
  • The NRA’s executive vice president, Wayne LaPierre, tried to defeat Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012. Yet the President meekly signed legislation allowing guns to be brought into national parks and onto Amtrak trains. Since becoming Chief Executive, he made no effort to curb gun violence.

  • High-capacity magazines were prohibited under the 1994 Federal Assault Weapons Ban.  It expired in 2004. The NRA—aided by the Bush administration and Republicans generally—easily overcame efforts to renew the ban.
  • Political scientist Robert Spitzer, author of the book The Politics of Gun Control, notes that since the passage of the 1993 Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act and the assault weapons ban in 1994, state and national laws have been drifting toward more open gun access:
  • “In 1988, there were about 18 states that had state laws that made it pretty easy for civilians to carry concealed hand guns around in society. By 2011, that number is up to 39 or 40 states having liberalized laws, depending on how you count it, and the NRA has worked very diligently at the state level to win political victories there, and they’ve really been quite successful.”
  • On January 8, 2011, Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was shot in the head while meeting with constituents outside a Tucson, Arizona, grocery store. Also killed was Arizona’s chief U.S. District judge, John Roll, who had just stopped by to see his friend Giffords after celebrating Mass. The total number of victims: six dead, 13 wounded. Severely brain-damaged, Giffords was forced to resign her Congressional seat.

Rep. Gabrielle Giffords after being shot

  • “The NRA’s response to the Tucson shootings has been to say as little as possible and to keep its head down,” said Spitzer.  “And their approach even more has been to say as little as possible and to simply issue a statement of condolence to the families of those who were injured or killed and to wait for the political storm to pass over and then to pick up politics as usual.” 
  • This has been the NRA’s reaction after every mass shooting.
  • In the spring of 2012, the House Oversight Committee prepared to vote on whether to hold U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt for allegedly refusing to provide documents related to “Fast and Furious.” This was an undercover operation launched by the Bush administration to track firearms being sold to Mexican drug cartels.
  • The NRA notified Congressional members that how they voted would reflect how the NRA rated them in “candidate evaluations” for the November elections. This amounted to blatant extortion, since the NRA had long accused Holder of having an “anti-gun” agenda.

Summing up the current state of gun politics in America, the April 21, 2012 edition of The Economist noted:

“The debate about guns is no longer over whether assault rifles ought to be banned, but over whether guns should be allowed in bars, churches and colleges.”

That is precisely the aim of the NRA—an America where anyplace, anytime, can be turned into the gunfight at the O.K. Corral.

Gunfight at the O.K. Corral – October 26, 1881

And that is precisely what the United States is fast becoming.

Except, so far, the vast majority of victims have not been armed gunfighters but unarmed innocents. And it’s been the “gun rights” types whom the NRA supports who have done the killing.

YOUR FRIENDS AT THE NRA: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on February 20, 2018 at 12:05 am

On September 11, 2001, Islamic terrorists snuffed out the lives of 3,000 Americans in New York, Washington, D.C. and Pennsylvania.

World Trade Center – September 11, 2001

But within less than a month, American warplanes began carpet-bombing Afghanistan, whose rogue Islamic “government” refused to surrender Osama bin Laden, the mastermind of the attacks.

By December, the power of the Taliban was broken—and bin Laden was driven into hiding in Pakistan.

For more than 16 years, the United States—through its global military and espionage networks—has relentlessly hunted down most of those responsible for that September carnage.

On May 1, 2011, U.S. Navy SEALS invaded bin Laden’s fortified mansion in Abbottabad, Pakistan—and shot him dead.

U.S. Navy SEALs

Now, consider these statistics of death, supplied by the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence:

  • One in three people in the U.S. knows someone who has been shot.
  • On average, 31 Americans are murdered with guns every day and 151 are treated for a gun assault in an emergency room.
  • Every day on average, 55 people kill themselves with a firearm.
  • Another 46 people are shot or killed in an accident with a gun.
  • U.S. firearm homicide rates are 20 times higher than the combined rates of 22 countries that are our peers in wealth and population.
  • A gun in the home is 22 times more likely to be used to kill or injure in a domestic homicide, suicide, or unintentional shooting than to be used in self-defense.
  • More than one in five U.S. teenagers (ages 14 to 17) report having witnessed a shooting.
  • An average of seven children and teens under the age of 20 are killed by guns every day.
  • American children die by guns 11 times as often as children in other high-income countries.
  • Youth (ages 0 to 19) in the most rural U.S. counties are as likely to die from a gunshot as those living in the most urban counties.
  • Rural children die of more gun suicides and unintentional shooting deaths.
  • Urban children die more often of gun homicides.
  • Firearm homicide is the second-leading cause of death (after motor vehicle crashes) for young people ages 1-19 in the U.S.
  • Medical treatment, criminal justice proceedings, new security precautions, and reductions in quality of life are estimated to cost U.S. citizens $100 billion annually.
  • The lifetime medical cost for all gun violence victims in the United States is estimated at $2.3 billion, with almost half the costs borne by taxpayers.

In short, in one year on average:

  • More than 114,994 Americans are shot in murders, assault, suicides, suicide attempts, accidents or by police intervention.31,537 people die from gun violence.
  • 11,564 are murdered.
  • 21,037 people kill themselves.
  • 544 people are killed accidentally.
  • 468 are killed by police intervention.
  • 267 die but intent is not known.
  • 81,114 people survive gun injuries.

(These statistics are based on death certificates and estimates from emergency room admissions.)

And who, more than anyone (including the actual killers themselves) has made all this carnage possible?

Your friends at the National Rifle Association (NRA).

But unlike the leadership of Al Qaeda, that of the NRA is not simply known, but celebrated.

Its director, Wayne LaPierre, is courted as a rock star by both Democrats and Republicans seeking NRA political endorsements—and campaign contributions.

Wayne LaPierre

He frequently appears as an honored guest at testimonial dinners and political conventions.

The largest of the 13 national pro-gun groups, the NRA has nearly 4 million members, who focus most of their time lobbying Congress for unlimited “gun rights.”

The NRA claims that its mission is to “protect” the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution, which states:

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

NRA members conveniently ignore the first half of that sentence about “a well regulated Militia….”  They simply want everyone to own a gun—and contribute to the NRA.

For the NRA, the Second Amendment is the Constitution, and the rest of the document is a mere appendage.

When Congress ratified the Constitution in 1788, the United States was not a world power.

A mere 26 years later, the British seized and burned Washington, D.C., after repeatedly defeating American armies. On the frontier, settlers had to defend themselves against hostile Indians and marauding bandits.

Only after World War II did the country maintain a powerful standing army during peacetime.

But World War II ended 72 years ago, and today the United States is a far different country than it was in 1788:

  • Its nuclear arsenal can turn any country into thermonuclear ash—anytime an American President decides to do so.
  • Its Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps can target any enemy, anywhere in the world.
  • Its Special Forces—Green Berets, Delta Force and Navy SEALS—are rightly feared by international terrorists.
  • American Intelligence has greatly improved since 9/11. The FBI’s top priority is to prevent  terrorist attacks, not simply investigate them afterward.
  • And waging war on criminals generally are about 836,787 full-time sworn local/state/Federal law enforcement officers.
  • If a criminal flees or conducts business across state lines, powerful Federal law enforcement agencies—such as the FBI and Drug Enforcement Administration—can put him out of business.

But apparently the NRA hasn’t gotten the word.

STOPPING THE GUN MASSACRES

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on February 19, 2018 at 12:19 am

The victims of the violence are black and white, rich and poor, young and old, famous and unknown. They are, most important of all, human beings whom other human beings loved and needed. No one—no matter where he lives or what he does— can be certain who will suffer from some senseless act of bloodshed. And yet it goes on and on.

–Robert F. Kennedy, April 4, 1968

Senator Robert F. Kennedy announcing the murder of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

What should the surviving victims of gun massacres do to seek redress?

And how can the relatives and friends of those who didn’t survive seek justice for those they loved?

Two things:

First, don’t count on politicians to support a ban on assault weapons.

Politicians—with rare exceptions—have only two goals:

  1. Get elected to office, and
  2. Stay in office.

And too many of them fear the economic and voting clout of the NRA to risk its wrath.

Consider Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama.

Both rushed to offer condolences to the surviving victims of the massacre at the Century 16 Theater in Aurora, Colorado, on July 20, 2012.

And both steadfastly refused to even discuss gun control—let alone support a ban on the type of assault weapons used by James Holmes, leaving 12 dead and 58 wounded.

Second, those who survived the massacre—and the relatives and friends of those who didn’t—should file wrongful death, class-action lawsuits against the NRA.

There is sound, legal precedent for this.

  • For decades, the American tobacco industry peddled death and disability to millions and reaped billions of dollars in profits.
  • The industry vigorously claimed there was no evidence that smoking caused cancer, heart disease, emphysema or any other ailment.

  • Tobacco companies spent billions on slick advertising campaigns to win new smokers and attack medical warnings about the dangers of smoking.
  • Tobacco companies spent millions to elect compliant politicians and block anti-smoking legislation.
  • From 1954 to 1994, over 800 private lawsuits were filed against tobacco companies in state courts. But only two plaintiffs prevailed, and both of those decisions were reversed on appeal.
  • In 1994, amidst great pessimism, Mississippi Attorney General Mike Moore filed a lawsuit against the tobacco industry. But other states soon followed, ultimately growing to 46.
  • Their goal: To seek monetary, equitable and injunctive relief under various consumer-protection and anti-trust laws.
  • The theory underlying these lawsuits was: Cigarettes produced by the tobacco industry created health problems among the population, which badly strained the states’ public healthcare systems.
  • In 1998, the states settled their Medicaid lawsuits against the tobacco industry for recovery of their tobacco-related, health-care costs. In return, they exempted the companies from private lawsuits for tobacco-related injuries.
  • The companies agreed to curtail or cease certain marketing practices. They also agreed to pay, forever, annual payments to the states to compensate some of the medical costs for patients with smoking-related illnesses.

The parallels with the NRA are obvious:

  • For decades, the NRA has peddled deadly weapons to millions, reaped billions of dollars in profits and refused to admit the carnage those weapons have produced: “Guns don’t kill people.  People kill people.”  With guns. 
  • The NRA has spent millions on political contributions to block gun-control legislation.

  • The NRA has bitterly fought background checks on gun-buyers, in effect granting even criminals and the mentally ill the right to own arsenals of death-dealing weaponry.
  • The NRA has spent millions on slick advertising campaigns to win new members and frighten them into buying guns.

  • The NRA has spent millions attacking political candidates and elected officials who warned about the dangers of unrestricted access to assault and/or concealed weapons.
  • The NRA has spent millions pushing “Stand Your Ground” laws in more than half the states, which potentially give every citizen a “license to kill.”
  • The NRA receives millions of dollars from online sales of ammunition, high-capacity ammunition magazines, and other accessories through its point-of-sale Round-Up Program—thus directly profiting by selling a product that kills about 30,288 people a year.

  • Firearms made indiscriminately available through NRA lobbying have filled hospitals with casualties, and have thus badly strained the states’ public healthcare systems.

It will take a series of highly expensive and well-publicized lawsuits to significantly weaken the NRA, financially and politically.

The first ones will have to be brought by the surviving victims of gun violence—and by the friends and families of those who did not survive it. Only they will have the courage and motivation to take such a risk.

As with the cases first brought against tobacco companies, there will be losses. And the NRA will rejoice with each one.

But, in time, state Attorneys General will see the clear parallels between lawsuits filed against those who peddle death by cigarette and those who peddle death by armor-piercing bullet.

And then the NRA—like the tobacco industry—will face an adversary wealthy enough to stand up for the rights of the gun industry’s own victims.

Only then will those politicians supporting reasonable gun controls dare to stand up for the victims of these  needless tragedies.

IF KILLERS HAVE GUNS, LET’S MAKE EVERYONE A POTENTIAL KILLER

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on February 16, 2018 at 12:03 am

On February 14, Nikolas Cruz found an unforgettable way to celebrate Valentine’s Day.

The 19-year-old former student returned to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, and allegedly slaughtered at least 17 people.

As in: “What are all these allegedly dead people doing here?”

The massacre has now become one of the 10 deadliest mass shootings in modern United States history.

He carried out his massacre with at least one AR-15 assault rifle and multiple magazines.

Although he had posted “I wanna die Fighting killing shit ton of people” he didn’t have the nerve to shoot it out with police SWAT teams. Instead, he concealed himself among the hundreds of students fleeing the school.

Related image

Nikolas Cruz posted this picture of himself on the Internet

Investigators used school security videos to identify Cruz and found him in a nearby neighborhood in Coral Springs, Florida.

Cruz had posted “I am going to kill law enforcement one day they go after the good people.” But he was arrested without incident.

Like so many other mass killers, he didn’t have the courage to shoot it out with armed police. He could only prey on defenseless men, women and children.

According to a CNN law enforcement source, he is now talking with investigators.

As always, most Republican lawmakers believe the answer to halting such future attacks lies in giving everybody a firearm.

That, of course, is the standard mantra of the National Rifle Association (NRA), which lavishly bankrolls the GOP. 

(In 2016, the NRA spent more than $36 million on elections. Donald Trump proved the largest beneficiary—netting more than $21 million.)

But it it true?

On July 7, 2016, five Dallas police officers were shot and killed by a disgruntled ex-Army Reserve Afghan War veteran named Michah Xavier Johnson. Another seven officers and two civilians were wounded before the carnage ended.

The shootings erupted during a Black Lives Matter protest march in downtown Dallas.

Texas has long been an “open carry” state for those who want to brandish rifles without fear of arrest. And about 20 people wearing “ammo gear and protective equipment [had] rifles slung over their shoulder,” said Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings.

“When the shooting started, at different angles, [the armed protesters] started running,” Rawlings said, adding that open carry only brings confusion to a shooting scene.  What I would do [if I were a police officer] is look for the people with guns,” he said.

“There were a number of armed demonstrators taking part,” said Max Geron, a Dallas police major. “There was confusion about the description of the suspects and whether or not one or more was in custody.”

A 2012 Mother Jones article on “More Guns, More Mass Shootings–Coincidence?” offered a striking finding: After analyzing 62 mass shootings over a 30-year period, the magazine determined: “In not a single case was the killing stopped by a civilian using a gun.”

So much for the ability of gun-toting, untrained amateurs to “stop a bad guy with a gun.”

But even highly-trained shooters—such as those assigned to the United States Secret Service—don’t always respond as expected.

On May 15, 1972, Alabama Governor George C. Wallace was campaigning for President in Laurel, Maryland. He gave a speech behind a bulletproof podium at the Laurel Shopping Center. Then he moved from it to mingle with the crowd.

Since the 1968 assassination of Senator Robert F. Kennedy, all those campaigning for President have been assigned Secret Service bodyguards. And Wallace was surrounded by them as he shook hands with his eager supporters.

Suddenly, Arthur Bremer, a fame-seeking failure in life and romance, pushed his way forward, aimed a .38 revolver at Wallace’s abdomen and opened fire. Before the Secret Service could subdue him, he hit Wallace four times, leaving him paralyzed for the rest of his life.

 Arthur Bremer shoots George Wallace

Nor was he Bremer’s only victim. Three other people present were wounded unintentionally:

  • Alabama State Trooper Captain E C Dothard, Wallace’s personal bodyguard, who was shot in the stomach;
  • Dora Thompson, a campaign volunteer, who was shot in the leg; and
  • Nick Zarvos, a Secret Service agent, who was shot in the neck, severely impairing his speech.

None of Wallace’s bodyguards got off a shot at Bremer—before or after he pulled the trigger.

On October 6, 1981, Egyptian President Anwar Sadat was reviewing a military parade in Cairo when a truck apparently broke down directly across from where he was seated.

Anwar Sadat, moments before his assassination

Suddenly, soldiers bolted from the rear of the vehicle, throwing hand grenades and firing assault rifles. They rushed straight at Sadat—who died instantly under a hail of bullets.

Meanwhile, Sadat’s bodyguards—who had been trained by the CIA—panicked and fled.

Sadat had been assassinated by army officers who believed he had betrayed Islam by making peace with Israel in 1977.

The ultimate test of the NRA’s mantra that “there should not be any gun-free zones…anywhere” will come only when one or more heavily-armed gunmen target an NRA convention.

It will then be interesting to see if the surviving NRA members are as quick to blame themselves for being victims as they are to blame the victims of other mass slaughters.

TRUMP: THE ABUSER’S FRIEND: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on February 15, 2018 at 12:02 am

In one week, two White House staffers were forced to resign after reports surfaced of their brutality toward their wives.

And President Donald Trump’s reaction was to defend the accused wife-beaters and accuse their ex-wives of lying:

“Peoples lives are being shattered and destroyed by a mere allegation. Some are true and some are false. Some are old and some are new. There is no recovery for someone falsely accused – life and career are gone. Is there no such thing any longer as Due Process?”

What are the lessons to be learned from this?

First, Donald Trump has his own history of abusing women.

At least 22 women have accused Trump of sexual misconduct between the 1970s and 2013.  And Trump flat-out denies the accusations–which include ogling, harassment, groping, and rape—while attacking the women as “liars.”

“Every woman lied when they came forward to hurt my campaign,” he said during a 2016 campaign rally in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. “Total fabrication. The events never happened. Never. All of these liars will be sued after the election is over.”

The election ended on November 8, 2016. And Trump has yet to sue any of his accusers.

So it’s not surprising that when similar accusations strike men he has around him, he leaps to their defense.

Second, Trump fires women-abusing staffers only when the news media outs them.

Accused wife-abuser Rob Porter resigned from his staff secretary position at the White House only after his two ex-wives detailed their abuse to CNN.

According to CNN, White House Chief of Staff John Kelley knew for months that Porter faced claims of physically and emotionally abusing these women. But he never conducted an inquiry to find out if the claims were true or false.

It’s safe to assume that Porter would still be on the White House payroll if CNN hadn’t reported the abuses.

Third, don’t expect Trump to show any sympathy for alleged female victims.

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Donald Trump

Trump has repeatedly shown his contempt for women through abusive and humiliating language. For example:

  • During a 1990 Vanity Fair interview, he said of his then-wife, Ivana: “I would never buy Ivana any decent jewels or pictures. Why give her negotiable assets?”
  • In 1992, while watching a group of young girls going up the escalator in Trump Tower, Trump said: “I am going to be dating her in 10 years. Can you believe it?”
  • During a 1991 Esquire interview: “You know, it doesn’t really matter what [they] write as long as you’ve got a young and beautiful piece of ass.”
  • In 2006, during an appearance on The View: “If Ivanka weren’t my daughter, perhaps I’d be dating her.”
  • Easily the most infamous example of Trump’s predatory attitude toward women came during his 2005 Access Hollywood interview: “You know I’m automatically attracted to beautiful–I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star they let you do it. You can do anything. Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything.”

Fourth, Trump has often defended men who were charged with abusing women.

  • In March, 2016, his campaign manager Corey Lewandowski was charged with misdemeanor battery by Breitbart News reporter Michelle Fields. “How do you know those bruises weren’t there before?” asked Trump.
  • When Roger Ailes resigned in July, 2016, as chairman of Fox News, owing to sexual harassment accusations leveled against him, Trump said: “It’s very sad. Because he’s a very good person. I’ve always found him to be just a very, very good person. And by the way, a very, very talented person. Look what he’s done. So I feel very badly.”
  • In October, 2017, the news broke that Bill O’Reilly and Fox News had paid almost $13 million to settle multiple sexual harassment allegations. Trump’s reaction: “I don’t believe Bill did anything wrong. I think he’s a person I know well. He is a good person.”
  • Trump vigorously defended Roy Moore, Alabama’s Republican candidate for United States Senator in 2017, against charges that he had molested a 14-year-old girl: “Well, he denies it. Look, he denies it. He says it didn’t happen. And you know, you have to listen to him also.”

Fifth, any criticism of sexual harassment—or even outright criminality—must come from outside the White House.

Trump’s defense of accused White House staffers Rob Porter and David Sorensen drew fire from prominent Washington officials.

“Women’s lives are upended every day by sexual violence and harassment. I’m going to keep standing with them, and trusting them, even if the President won’t,” tweeted U.S. Democratic Senator Patty Murray.

And Democrat Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont tweeted: “As a former prosecutor, I’ve been amazed by the bravery & sacrifice required of victims to come forward. Their lives are forever changed,. Due process is critical, but it can’t be a pretext for not believing women. We don’t need to see photos of bruises to know that.”

Democratic Rep. Jackie Speier of California tweeted: “Apparently his motto is when they go low, he goes even lower.”

Sixth, in assessing Trump’s character, two essential truths should be constantly remembered:

“Tell me whom you admire, and I will tell you who you are.”

And:

“What is past is prologue.”

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