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Posts Tagged ‘BATMAN’

THE NEWS MEDIA: CHOOSING GLITZ OVER SUBSTANCE

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on January 14, 2022 at 12:10 am

For men in general judge more by the eyes than by the hands, for every one can see, but very few have to feel.  Everyone sees what you appear to be, few feel what you are….”

So wrote Niccolo Machiavelli in his famous book, The Prince, on how to attain political power.

And his advice applies directly to the reception given the July 24, 2019 appearance of former Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller before the House Judiciary Committee. 

Related image

Niccolo Machiavelli

There he testified that Donald Trump, the 45th President of the United States:

  • Sought Russian interference during the 2016 Presidential campaign.
  • Benefited from that intervention.
  • Concealed his close personal economic ties to Vladimir Putin by lying to the public about his hidden attempts to secure a construction project in Moscow.
  • Lied to the special prosecutor.
  • Directed subordinates to falsify records.
  • Tried to exert “undue influence” on law enforcement in order to protect himself and his allies.

A July 26, 2019 article in The Atlantic—entitled “The Press Has Adopted Trump’s Reality-Show Standards”—sums up the general reaction of the nation’s press to these bombshell revelations:

“In any other administration, in any other time, a special prosecutor, former FBI director, and decorated Marine testifying that the president of the United States was an unprosecuted felon who encouraged and then benefited from an attack on American democracy in pursuit of personal and political gain would bring the country to a grinding halt.

“But the American political press found Mueller insufficiently dazzling.” 

Among those media:

  • The New York Times: “Mueller’s Performance Was a Departure From His Much-Fabled Stamina.”
  • The Washington Post: “On Mueller’s Final Day on the National Stage, a Halting, Faltering Performance.” And another reporter dubbed him a “weary old man.”
  • The Hill: “Muller’s ‘Blockbuster’ Appearance Turned into ‘Bomb’ of Performance.”
  • Politico: “Bob Mueller Is Struggling.”
  • Right-wing media openly questioned Mueller’s health. These same media never mention that Trump is grotesquely overweight, never walks when he can ride, and eats a diet high in fats and calories.

In short: The nation’s most influential news media—on which citizens depend for their understanding of national and international personalities and events—has adopted the standards of teenagers.

News Media

Summer is when American teenagers lose themselves in movies featuring superheroes such as Batman, Wonder Woman and Spider-Man.

Americans like their heroes young and powerful—preferably invincible. They want their heroes to be handsome and their villains to be ugly. They want to see lots of explosions and collapsing buildings.

And if a superhero can deliver a zinger of a line while throwing a KO punch, so much the better.

Lacking a sense of history—or concern for it—most Americans remain ignorant of the men, women and events that have shaped the era in which they live. 

Most of those who watched Robert Mueller testify before Congress knew nothing of the sacrifices he had made for his country: 

  • As a Marine Vietnam veteran decorated for heroism (1968-1971);
  • As a United States Attorney (1986-1987 and 1998-2001);
  • As a United States Assistant Attorney General (1990-1993 and 2001); and
  • As director of the FBI (2001-2013).

Retiring from the FBI in 2013 at age 69, Mueller’s 27-year career as a dedicated law enforcer seemed at last to be over.

Then President Trump fired FBI Director James Comey for daring to investigate links between Russian Intelligence agents and the Trump 2016 Presidential campaign.

And, once again, on May 17, 2017, Mueller accepted his country’s call to serve as Special Counsel to investigate those links.

Director Robert S. Mueller- III.jpg

Robert Mueller

Since then, Trump, his shills in Congress and Right-wing Fox News had relentlessly attacked Mueller’s integrity and investigative methods.

Never knowing when he might be fired by Trump, Mueller quietly and methodically pursued his investigation.

As a result, Mueller:

  • Indicted three companies and 34 individuals.
  • Obtained eight guilty pleas to felonies or convictions—including five Trump associates and campaign officials.
  • Unveiled the Russians’ determination to elect Trump over Hillary Clinton.
  • Discovered that Trump associates knew about Russian outreach efforts during the campaign. 

Since the onset of Mueller’s investigation, Trump and his Republican lackeys in the House and Senate ruthlessly tried to smear his name and undermine his findings.

So on July 24, 2019,, a Democratic Congress summoned Mueller to testify publicly about the conclusions he had reached. He was forced to:

  • Testify for seven hours before the House Judiciary Committee and the House Intelligence Committee.
  • Endure powerful, hot klieg lights needed by television cameras.
  • Patiently take questions that were often self-serving 
  • Respectfully answer questions meant to attack his personal and professional integrity.
  • Simplify complex legal scenarios for men and women who have the attention span of a gnat. 

Although Mueller was joined by former deputy special counsel Aaron Zebley, Zebley was forbidden to give testimony. He could only serve as Mueller’s counsel, giving quiet advice.

So the entire seven hours of public testimony fell on the shoulders of a 74-year-old man. No wonder he appeared tired by the end of the day.

A news media that prizes glitz over substance has abdicated the role intended for it by the Founding Fathers: To act as a watchdog over the nation’s leaders. 

THE MEDIA AND MUELLER: JUDGING BY THE EYE, NOT THE HAND

In Bureaucracy, Entertainment, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on July 29, 2019 at 2:05 am

….For men in general judge more by the eyes than by the hands, for every one can see, but very few have to feel.  Everyone sees what you appear to be, few feel what you are….

So wrote Niccolo Machiavelli in his famous book, The Prince, on how to attain political power.

And his advice applies directly to the reception given the July 24 appearance of former Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller before the House Judiciary Committee. 

Related image

Niccolo Machiavelli

There he testified that Donald Trump, the President of the United States:

  • Sought Russian interference during the 2016 Presidential campaign.
  • Benefited from that intervention.
  • Concealed his close personal economic ties to Vladimir Putin by lying to the public about his hidden attempts to secure a construction project in Moscow.
  • Lied to the special prosecutor.
  • Directed subordinates to falsify records.
  • Tried to exert “undue influence” on law enforcement in order to protect himself and his allies.

A July 26 article in The Atlantic—entitled “The Press Has Adopted Trump’s Reality-Show Standards”—sums up the general reaction of the nation’s press to these bombshell revelations:

“In any other administration, in any other time, a special prosecutor, former FBI director, and decorated Marine testifying that the president of the United States was an unprosecuted felon who encouraged and then benefited from an attack on American democracy in pursuit of personal and political gain would bring the country to a grinding halt.

“But the American political press found Mueller insufficiently dazzling.” 

Among those media:

  • The New York Times: “Mueller’s Performance Was a Departure From His Much-Fabled Stamina.”
  • The Washington Post: “On Mueller’s Final Day on the National Stage, a Halting, Faltering Performance.” And another reporter dubbed him a “weary old man.”
  • The Hill: “Muller’s ‘Blockbuster’ Appearance Turned into ‘Bomb’ of Performance.”
  • Politico: “Bob Mueller Is Struggling.”
  • Right-wing media openly questioned Mueller’s health. These same media never mention that Trump is grotesquely overweight, never walks when he can ride, and eats a diet high in fats and calories.

In short: The nation’s most influential news media—on which citizens depend for their understanding of national and international personalities and events—has adopted the standards of teenagers.

News Media

Summer is when American teenagers lose themselves in movies featuring superheroes such as Batman, Wonder Woman and Spider-Man.

Americans like their heroes young and powerful—preferably invincible. They want their heroes to be handsome and their villains to be ugly. They want to see lots of explosions and collapsing buildings.

And if a superhero can deliver a zinger of a line while throwing a KO punch, so much the better.

Lacking a sense of history—or concern for it—most Americans remain ignorant of the men, women and events that have shaped the era in which they live. 

Most of those who watched Robert Mueller testify before Congress knew nothing of the sacrifices he had made for his country: 

  • As a Marine Vietnam veteran decorated for heroism (1968-1971);
  • As a United States Attorney (1986-1987 and 1998-2001);
  • As a United States Assistant Attorney General (1990-1993 and 2001); and
  • As director of the FBI (2001-2013).

Retiring from the FBI in 2013 at age 69, Mueller’s 27-year career as a dedicated law enforcer seemed at last to be over.

Then President Trump fired FBI Director James Comey for daring to investigate links between Russian Intelligence agents and the Trump 2016 Presidential campaign.

And, once again, on May 17, 2017, Mueller accepted his country’s call to serve as Special Counsel to investigate those links.

Director Robert S. Mueller- III.jpg

Robert Mueller

Since then, Trump, his shills in Congress and Right-wing Fox News have relentlessly attacked Mueller’s integrity and investigative methods.

Never knowing when he might be fired by Trump, Mueller quietly and methodically pursued his investigation.

As a result, Mueller:

  • Indicted three companies and 34 individuals.
  • Obtained eight guilty pleas to felonies or convictions—including five Trump associates and campaign officials.
  • Unveiled the Russians’ determination to elect Trump over Hillary Clinton.
  • Discovered that Trump associates knew about Russian outreach efforts during the campaign. 

Since the onset of Mueller’s investigation, President Trump and his Republican lackeys in the House and Senate have ruthlessly tried to smear his name and undermine his findings.

So on July 24, a Democratic Congress summoned Mueller to testify publicly about the conclusions he had reached. He was forced to:

  • Testify for seven hours before the House Judiciary Committee and the House Intelligence Committee.
  • Endure powerful, hot klieg lights needed by television cameras.
  • Patiently take questions that were at times self-serving 
  • Respectfully answer questions meant to attack his personal and professional integrity.
  • Simplify complex legal scenarios for men and women who have the attention span of a gnat. 

Although Mueller was joined by former deputy special counsel Aaron Zebley, Zebley was forbidden to give testimony. He could only serve as Mueller’s counsel, giving quiet advice.

So the entire seven hours of public testimony fell on the shoulders of a 74-year-old man. No wonder he appeared tired by the end of the day.

A news media that prizes glitz over substance has abdicated the role intended for it by the Founding Fathers: To act as a watchdog over the nation’s leaders. 

THE REAL CULPRIT IN THE “DARK NIGHT” TRIAL: PART FOUR (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Social commentary on May 5, 2015 at 12:20 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 the Aurora massacre 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 Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama.

Both rushed to offer condolences to the surviving victims of the Aurora massacre.  And both steadfastly refused to even discuss gun control–let alone support a ban on the type of assault weapons used by James Holmes.

On July 22–only two days after the Century 16 Theater slaughter–U.S. Senator Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) said: “The fact of the matter is there are 30-round magazines that are just common all over the place.

“You simply can’t keep these weapons out of the hands of sick, demented individuals who want to do harm.  And when you try and do it, you restrict our freedom.”

That presumably includes the freedom of would-be mass murderers to carry out their fantasies.

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 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 on political contributions to block gun-control legislation.
  • 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–such as those in Aurora–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 such needless tragedies as the one in Aurora, Colorado.

THE REAL CULPRIT IN THE “DARK KNIGHT” TRIAL: PART THREE (OF FOUR)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Social commentary on May 4, 2015 at 12:29 am

Among the major accomplishments of the National Rifle Association:

  • In July, 2005, George Zimmerman was arrested for shoving a police officer during an underage drinking raid. The charges were dropped after he completed an alcohol education program. That same summer, his ex-fiancée filed a restraining order against him, alleging that Zimmerman hit her.
  • Yet he was allowed to carry a loaded, hidden handgun as a Florida resident–thanks to the 2005 “Stand Your Ground” law the NRA had rammed through the legislature.
  • Under that law: A Concealed Carry Permit is revoked only if a gun owner is convicted of a felony.  It is not suspended if he’s being investigated for a felony.  It is suspended only if he is actually charged.

George Zimmerman

  • On February 26, 2012, Zimmerman shot unarmed, 17-year-oldTrvon Martin, who was wearing a “hoodie.”  A jury subsquently acquitted him, believing his claim of “self-defense.”
  • 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!”    http://www.nrastore.com/nrastore/ProductDetail.aspx?c=11&p=CO+635&ct=e

  • 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, declared the NRA was “all in” to defeat Barack Obama in 2012.  Yet the President had meekly signed legislation allowing guns to be brought into national parks and onto trains.
  • High-capacity magazines were prohibited under the 1994 Federal Assault Weapons Ban–which expired in 2004. The NRA–aided by the Bush administration and Republicans generally–easily overcame efforts to renew the law.
  • 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: 6 dead, 13 wounded.
  • “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 is the standard NRA response to each continuing massacre.
  • 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 still-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 O.K. Corral.

So what should the surviving victims of the Aurora massacre do to seek redress?  And how can the relatives and friends of those who didn’t survive seek justice for those they loved?

THE REAL CULPRIT IN THE “DARK KNIGHT” TRIAL: PART TWO (OF FOUR)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Social commentary on May 1, 2015 at 12:07 am

On July 20, 2012, James Holmes slaughtered 12 Aurora, Colorado, moviegoers and critically wounded another 58.

On May 4, 2015, he finally goes on trial.

Even his attorneys admit he staged the masscare.

Of course, they’re claiming he was insane at the time and thus not responsible for his actions.  And certainly not deserving of the death penalty.

But there is another culprit whose presence at the trial makes it the proverbial elephant in the room.

The National Rifle Association (NRA).

Like Al Qaeda, the NRA promotes violence on an unprecedented scale.  Yet there are profound differences in the way Americans view these organizations.

Consider:

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

The World Trade Center under attack on 9/11

For more than ten 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 Osama bin Laden’s fortified mansion in Abbottabad, Pakistan–and shot Al Qaeda’s leader dead.

Navy SEALS

Turning from foreign death-dealers to domestic ones: According to the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence:

Every day–365 days a year:

  • 270 people in America, 47 of them children and teens, are shot in murders, assaults, suicides, accidents and police intervention;
  • 87 people die from gun violence, 33 of them murdered;
  • 8 children and teens die from gun violence;
  • 183 people are shot, but survive their gun injuries;
  • 38 children and teens are shot, but survive their gun injuries.

And what does all of this add up to?

  • In one year, almost 100,000 people in America are shot in murders, assaults, suicides, accidents, or by police intervention.
  • Over a million Americans have been killed with guns since 1968, when Dr.  Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy were assassinated.
  • U.S. homicide rates are 6.9 times higher than rates in 22 other populous high-income countries combined, despite similar non-lethal crime and violence rates.  The firearm homicide rate in the U.S. is 19.5 times higher.
  • Gun violence impacts society in numerous ways: medical costs; costs of the criminal justice system; security precautions; and reductions in quality of life owing to fear of gun violence.
  • An estimated 41% of gun-related homicides would not occur under the same circumstances had no guns been present.

(This average annual estimated composite picture of gun violence is 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?

The National Rifle Association, of course.

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 Democrats and Republicans seeking NRA 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: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State….”

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

At the time 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 70 years ago, and today the United States is a far different country than it was in 1788:

  • It boasts a nuclear arsenal that can turn any country into nuclear ash–anytime an American President decides to do so.
  • It boasts an Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps that 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 come a long way since 9/11.  The FBI’s top priority is to prevent another such terrorist attack, not simply investigate it 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.

  • 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.

“Cop-killer” bullets

  • 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-defence, without any obligation to attempt to retreat first.
  • 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.

THE REAL CULPRIT IN “THE DARK KNIGHT” TRIAL: PART ONE (OF FOUR)

In Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Social commentary on April 30, 2015 at 9:01 am

It had happened it before–all too many times before:

  • Midnight vigils for the victims of yet another spree-killer.

  • Makeshift memorials of flowers, candles and teddy bears.
  • Grief counselors for students at elementary, junior high and high schools.
  • And, of course, the inevitable question: “Why?”

And Americans had seen it all before–-too many times before:

  • After the San Ysidro McDonald’s shootings, 1984: 21 dead, 19 wounded.
  • After the 101 California Street shootings in San Francisco, 1993: 9 dead, 6 injured.
  • After the Columbine High School shootings in Colorado, 1999: 15 dead, 21 wounded.
  • After the Virginia Tech shootings, 2007: 32 dead, 23 wounded.
  • After the Tucson shootings, 2011: 6 dead, 13 wounded.

And then, on July 20, 2012, came the massacre at the Century 16 Theater in Aurora, Colorado: 12 dead, 58 wounded.

People who wanted nothing more than to see a movie they were eagerly anticipating: The latest addition to the hugely popular “Batman” franchise: The Dark Knight Rises.

The scene of the crime: The Century 16 Theater in Aurora, Colorado

Snuggled into their seats, some eating popcorn or candy, others sipping sodas. None of them expecting that the violence on the screen would suddenly consume them in real-life.

It was a scene of which nightmares are made:

  • A sudden eruption of smoke and fire as a tear-gas canister explodes.
  • A lone gunman–brandishing a Smith & Wesson AR-15 semi-automatic rifle, a 12-gauge Remington Model 870 shotgun, and a G23 .40 caliber Smith & Wesson Glock pistol.
  • First he blasts the ceiling with a shotgun, and then opens fire on the audience, stopping only to reload his weapon.
  • He begins aiming at the back of the room, and then targets people who are scrambling to escape in the aisles.
  • Some bullets penetrate the wall of the cinema and injure people in an adjoining theater, where the same film is being screened.
  • Adding to the nightmarish quality of the scene: The appearance of the gunman–dressed all in black: a ballistic helment, vestand leggings; a throat protector; a groin protector; a gas mask; and black tactical gloves.

As terrible as the massacre was, it could have been worse.

Police arrived in about 90 seconds and arrested the shooter, James Holmes, in the parking lot of the Century 16 Theater he had just ravaged.

Still, the statistics were terrible enough:

  • Twelve people–several of them heroes who died shielding others with their bodies–would never return to those who loved them.
  • Of the 58 wounded, an unknown number would be physically scarred for life.
  • Some would never fully recover from their injuries.
  • They would not be able to walk. Or see. Or use their arms or hands.
  • Almost all those who were in that theater–-even those who escaped without a scratch-–would be emotionally tormented for months or years to come.
  • Some would never escape those moments of murderous insanity.

It’s possible that Holmes, then 24, an honors graduate of the University of California Riverside, became that most lethal specimen: The genius who slides into madness.

James Holmes

Holmes moved to the University of  Colorado School of Medicine in Aurora in May, 2011, to pursue a PhD in neuroscience.

He had always excelled in his studies, but in early 2012, his grades took a sharp decline. In June, he told the college that he was going to drop out.

Meanwhile, he was amassing an arsenal of weapons and ammunition.

He bought two Glock pistols, a semi-automatic rifle and a shotgun over the last two months from local gun stores and 6,000 rounds of ammunition via the Internet–-all purchased legally under state law.

In early July, 2012, Holmes ordered the paramilitary bulletproof clothing and gas mask that he intended to wear on his rampage.

Finally, he dyed his hair a shocking red-orange and rigged his university apartment with trip-wires and homemade booby-traps. When he was arrested, he told police: “I am the Joker.”

Commentators immediately began asking: Why did Holmes choose to snuff out the lives and dreams of so many people?

But a better question is: “How did he do it?”

It may never be finally known why he did it. But the answer to how makes clear a fundamental truth:

He could not have done it without access to the awesome firepower he was legally able to purchase:

  • The AR-15 semi-automatic rifle is designed for easy reloading. “Even without the grand-sized mag[azine]s, many people who are practiced can reload in 1½ to 2 seconds,” said Steven Howard, a Michigan attorney and security and firearms expert.

  • The AR-15 is a weapon of war.  Its only purpose is to kill large numbers of people–quickly.  Its 100-round drum magazine  allowed Holmes to five 50 to 60 rounds within one minute.
  • The Glock pistol uses a 15-round clip. When it’s done the shooter simply ejects the empty clip and slams in another one, and he’s ready for more killing.

And who has made all of this mayhem not only possible but politically invincible?

Who ultimately bears responsibility not only for those murdered and maimed at an Aurora theater but for the almost 100,000 people who are killed or wounded every year from gun violence?

Your friends at the National Rifle Association.

TRAYVON’S REAL KILLER: THE NRA (PART THREE – END)

In Bureaucracy, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on July 31, 2013 at 12:10 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 violence 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 Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama.

Both rushed to offer condolences to the surviving victims of the Aurora massacre.  And both have steadfastly refused to even discuss gun control–let alone support a ban on the type of assault weapons used by James Holmes.

On July 22, 2012–only two days after the Century 16 Theater slaughter in Aurora, Colorado–U.S. Senator Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) said: “The fact of the matter is there are 30-round magazines that are just common all over the place.

“You simply can’t keep these weapons out of the hands of sick, demented individuals who want to do harm.  And when you try and do it, you restrict our freedom.”

That presumably includes the freedom of would-be mass murderers to carry out their fantasies.

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 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 on political contributions to block gun-control legislation.
  • 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–such as those in Aurora–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.

TRAYVON’S REAL KILLER: THE NRA (PART TWO OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on July 30, 2013 at 12:00 am

Among the major accomplishments of the National Rifle Association:

  • In July, 2005, George Zimmerman was arrested for shoving a police officer during an underage drinking raid. The charges were dropped after he completed an alcohol education program. That same summer, his ex-fiancée filed a restraining order against him, alleging that Zimmerman hit her.
  • Yet he was allowed to carry a loaded, hidden handgun as a Florida resident–under the 2005 “Stand Your Ground” law the NRA had rammed through the legislature.
  • Under that law: A Concealed Carry Permit is revoked only if a gun owner is convicted of a felony.  It is not suspended if he’s being investigated for a felony.  It is suspended only if he is actually charged.

George Zimmerman

  • On February 26, 2012, Zimmerman shot unarmed, 17-year-old 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!”     http://www.nrastore.com/nrastore/ProductDetail.aspx?c=11&p=CO+635&ct=e

  • Anyone—including convicted criminals—can buy these “hide-a-gun” sweatshirts, putting both the public and law enforcers at deadly risk.
  • On July 13, 2013, a Florida jury found George Zimmerman not guilty of second-degree murder of Trayvon Martin–largely through the “Stand-Your-Ground” law the NRA had rammed through the Florida legislature.
  • 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.
  • In 2012, the NRA’s executive vice president, Wayne LaPierre, said the NRA was “all in” to defeat Barack Obama.  Yet the President has meekly signed legislation allowing guns to be brought into national parks and onto trains.  Since becoming Chief Executive, he has 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: 6 dead, 13 wounded.
  • “The NRA’s response to the Tucson shootings has been to say as little as possible and to keep its head down,” says 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.”
  • 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 has 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 O.K. Corral.

So what should the surviving victims of gun violence do to seek redress?  And how can the relatives and friends of those who don’t survive seek justice for those they loved?

TRAYVON’S REAL KILLER: THE NRA (PART ONE OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on July 29, 2013 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.

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 ten 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.

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

Every day–365 days a year

  • 270 people in America, 47 of them children and teens, are shot in murders, assaults, suicides, accidents and police intervention;
  • 87 people die from gun violence, 33 of them murdered;
  • 8 children and teens die from gun violence;
  • 183 people are shot, but survive their gun injuries;
  • 38 children and teens are shot, but survive their gun injuries.

And what does all of this add up to?

  • In one year, almost 100,000 people in America are shot in murders, assaults, suicides, accidents, or by police intervention.
  • Over a million Americans have been killed with guns since 1968, when Dr.  Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy were assassinated.
  • U.S. homicide rates are 6.9 times higher than rates in 22 other populous high-income countries combined, despite similar non-lethal crime and violence rates.  The firearm homicide rate in the U.S. is 19.5 times higher.
  • Gun violence impacts society in numerous ways: medical costs; costs of the criminal justice system; security precautions; and reductions in quality of life owing to fear of gun violence.
  • An estimated 41% of gun-related homicides would not occur under the same circumstances had no guns been present.

(This average annual estimated composite picture of gun violence is 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?

The National Rifle Association, of course.

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 Democrats and Republicans seeking NRA endorsements–and campaign contributions.

Wayne La Pierre

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: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State….”

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

At the time Congress ratified the Constitution in 1788, the United States was not a world power.  Only after World War II did the country maintain a powerful standing army during peacetime.

But World War II ended 68 years ago, and today the United States is a far different country than it was in 1788:

  • It boasts a nuclear arsenal that can turn any country into thermonuclear ash–anytime an American President decides to do so.
  • It boasts an Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps that can target any enemy, anywhere in the world.
  • Its Special Forces–Green Berets, Delta Force and Navy SEALS–are rightly feared by international terrorists.
  • 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.

  • 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-defence, without any obligation to attempt to retreat first.
  • 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 to death.
  • Police did not initially charge Zimmerman because of Florida’s “Stand-Your-Ground” law, which the NRA had rammed through the legislature.
  • The same “Stand-Your-Ground” law will play a major role in the coming trial of Michael Dunn, a white software engineer, for the first-degree murder of Jordan Davis.  The shooting occurred on November 23, 2012, in Jacksonville, Florida.
  • Dunn claimed that he argued with three young black men over the volume of their music in their SUV.  He said that he saw a shotgun appear in one of the SUV’s windows and he fired his handgun eight or nine times before fleeing.
  • Three of Dunn’s bullets killed Davis.  Police said that the men in the SUV were unarmed.

A REALILSTIC WAY TO CURB GUN VIOLENCE

In Business, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on April 12, 2013 at 12:00 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 National Rifle Association (NRA) to risk its wrath.

On July 22–only two days after the Century 16 Theater slaughter in Aurora, Colorado–U.S. Senator Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) said: “The fact of the matter is there are 30-round magazines that are just common all over the place.

“You simply can’t keep these weapons out of the hands of sick, demented individuals who want to do harm.  And when you try and do it, you restrict our freedom.”

That presumably includes the freedom of would-be mass murderers to carry out their fantasies.

Second, those who survive such massacres–and the relatives and friends of those who don’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 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 on political contributions to block gun-control legislation.
  • 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–such as those in Aurora–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.

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