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Posts Tagged ‘THE NEW YORKER’

THE RIGHT’S NEXT TARGET: THE RIGHT TO PRIVACY

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Medical, Politics, Social commentary on June 29, 2022 at 12:12 am

“If anyone reproaches me and asks why I did not  resort  to the  regular courts  of justice, then all  I can say is this: In this hour I was responsible for the fate of the German people, and thereby I became the Supreme Judge of the German people!”

That was how Chancellor—not yet Fuhrer-–Adolf Hitler justified his June 30, 1934 purge of his private army, the brown-shirted S.A. It has gone down in history as “The Night of the Long Knives.”

Adolf Hitler

It took five “Supreme Judges” of the American people to purge the right to abortion for millions of American women—including victims of rape and incest.

Hitler’s “blood purge” carried Germany yet another step closer to Nazi dictatorship. Similarly, the Supreme Court has carried the United States yet another step closer to a Republican dictatorship.

In the past, the Supreme Court has made decisions that have blackened its reputation in the eyes of historians.

One of these occurred in 1857, in what has become known as the “Dred Scott decision.” The Court decided 7–2 that neither Scott nor any other person of African ancestry could claim citizenship in the United States.

The case centered on slaves Dred and Harriet Scott and their children, Eliza and Lizzie. The Scotts claimed that they should be granted their freedom because Dred had lived in Illinois and the Wisconsin Territory for four years. Slavery was illegal in those jurisdictions, and their laws said that slaveholders gave up their rights to slaves if they stayed for an extended period.

Dred Scott photograph (circa 1857).jpg

Dred Scott

Chief Justice Roger B. Taney ruled that freeing Scott and his family would “improperly deprive Scott’s owner of his legal property.” 

As despicable as the Dred Scott decision was, it nevertheless lay grounded in the existing laws of that time. The Court did not reverse an earlier ruling. Millions who were already enslaved were kept enslaved. But it did not extend slavery throughout the country.

The Court’s reversal of Roe v. Wade set a huge and dangerous legal precedent.

On January 22, 1973, the Court had struck down virtually every anti-abortion law in the country. On June 24, 2022, it overturned that decision.

It went, in effect, from having expanded freedom of choice to suddenly abolishing itAnd the Justices did so in the single most intimate aspect of a woman’s life.  

Once people have tasted a benefit, they expect it to continue. When President Barack Obama fought to secure passage of the Affordable Care Amendment (ACA) Republicans repeatedly and savagely tried to prevent its becoming law.

And once it became law, Republicans continued to try to overturn it. They knew that if millions of poor and middle-class Americans finally won the right to obtain medical care, they would support it as wholeheartedly as they did Medicare, Social Security and the Civil Rights Act.

For 49 years, Republicans made ending the right to abortion their key issue for gaining and holding elective office. It won them cheers, votes and monies from the Religious Right and powerful Right-wing forces such as Fox News.

Now, suddenly, they have attained their objective. Millions of women will no longer be able to obtain an abortion in cases of rape or incest—let alone because of a failed condom or birth control pill. 

Nor is that the only right the Justices intend to revoke.  

In his concurring opinion, Justice Clarence Thomas said that the Roe decision should prompt the Court to reconsider all of this Court’s substantive due process precedents. And he named the three landmark decisions that established those rights.

Clarence Thomas official SCOTUS portrait.jpg

Clarence Thomas

According to Kenji Yoshino, Professor of Constitutional Law at the New York University School of Law: 

“The Ninth Amendment says that there are unenumerated [implied] rights in the Constitution. And those include things that we take for granted every day, like the right to vote, the right to marry, the right to travel.

“These are all rights that are nowhere enumerated explicitly in the constitution but that we nonetheless take for granted as Americans.

“One of the most shocking things about [the Court’s] opinion was that these unenumerated rights will only be respected if they are deeply rooted in this nation’s history and traditions. And so it essentially said that if the framers of the 14th Amendment in 1868 didn’t recognize the right and question that the right didn’t have constitutional existence.

“And so that’s what leads Justice Thomas and that concurrence, to see an opening to say, ‘Well, maybe we’ll get rid of not just the right to abortion, but also the right to same-sex marriage, the right to sexual intimacy and the privacy of your home, and even the right to contraception.'” 

Thomas, says Yoshino, is inviting lower courts to reach that conclusion. He is also inviting Right-wing litigants to bring cases which can eventually reach the Supreme Court.

Thomas is in effect saying that once this happens, the right to same-sex marriage, contraception and privacy can be struck down by the Court—just as it has struck down the right to abortion.

Mark Antony, speaking in William Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar,” had it right: “The evil that men do lives after them.”

THE WILD CARD IN THE ABORTION RIGHTS BATTLE

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Medical, Politics, Social commentary on June 28, 2022 at 12:10 am

On June 24, the Supreme Court did what millions of Right-wing Americans had wanted it to do for 49 years: Strike down Roe v. Wade, holding there is no longer a Constitutional right to abortion.

The opinion was the one that almost every American recognized, and set a huge precedent for revoking a right that had been enshrined in law since 1973.

It will unleash seismic changes in the United States unseen since, on May 17, 1954, the Court declared segregation illegal in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka.

From now on, abortion rights will be determined by states. Half of these have already passed or will soon pass laws that ban abortion. Other states have enacted measures strictly regulating under what circumstances it can be legally performed.

Still other states have moved to strengthen their laws allowing the procedure.  

Roe was egregiously wrong from the start,” Justice Samuel Alito wrote in his majority opinion. “Its reasoning was exceptionally weak, and the decision has had damaging consequences. And far from bringing about a national settlement of the abortion issue, Roe and Casey have enflamed debate and deepened division.” 

U.S. Supreme Court building-m.jpg

The Supreme Court

Actually, it was not Roe that “enflamed debate and deepened divisions” but the nearly 50-year campaign by the (largely Christian) Right to deny women control of their bodies.

For abortion foes, the Millennium has arrived. For its defenders, the United States has entered a new Dark Ages. Yet the war over abortion may well be far from over. 

The states certain to ban or severely restrict the right to abortion are: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming. 

Those states guaranteeing a woman’s right to abortion: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington. 

The following states do not ban or protect the right to abortion in their constitution: Indiana, Nebraska, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Virginia. 

At present, both abortion supporters and opponents assume that:

  • Women seeking abortion in states where it is banned will have to flee to states where it is legally allowed; and
  • Those states where it is banned will aggressively try to prevent those women from leaving to obtain an abortion, or punish them when they return.

Both of these assumptions—in many cases—may turn out to be wrong. 

Why?

Because they both leave out the wild card in this ongoing war over reproductive rights: The 326 Indian reservations in the United States.  

A Bureau of Indian Affairs map of Indian reservations belonging to federally recognized tribes in the continental United States

Reservations exist in states that ban abortion—and in those that permit it. For women seeking abortions in states where it is banned, these reservations may play a pivotal role in their ability to obtain that service.

The reason: The United States Constitution recognizes that tribal nations are sovereign governments, just like Canada or California.

That means that tribal governments can determine their own governance structures, pass laws, and enforce laws through police departments and tribal courts.

There are Indian reservations in the following states that will ban or severely restrict the right to abortion: Arizona, Florida, Idaho, Iowa, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, Wisconsin, Wyoming.

Consider the implications of this for abortion-banning states:

  • Arizona has 18 Indian reservations. One spans into Utah.
  • Colorado has two, one of which spreads into Utah
  • Florida has two.
  • Idaho has eight.
  • Louisiana has three. 
  • Michigan has seven.
  • Mississippi has one.
  • Nevada has two which spread into Idaho and Utah..
  • North Dakota has six.
  • South Dakota has ten.
  • Utah has seven.

A foretaste of what may be coming can be glimpsed in the history of gambling (euphemistically called “Indian gaming”) on Indian reservations.

The first Indian casino was built in Florida by the Seminole tribe, which opened a successful high-stakes bingo parlor in 1979. Other tribes quickly followed suit, and by 2000 more than 150 tribes in 24 states had opened casino or bingo operations on their reservations.

By 2005, annual revenues had reached more than $22 billion, and Indian gambling accounted for about 25% of all legal gambling receipts in the United States. 

Millions of women are now threatened with forced pregnancy. And many lack the money to travel out-of-state to obtain an abortion. Thus, they will have strong incentive to travel within their home states—so long as there is an abortion-providing clinic on a nearby Indian reservations.

And there will be enormous financial incentives for reservations to provide such services. 

Estimates of the number of illegal abortions in the 1950s and 1960s range between 200,000 and 1.2 million. Thanks to five Right-wing Supreme Court Justices, there will be no shortage of candidates for this procedure.

And the Constitutional status of Indian reservations as sovereign nations will protect clinics operating on their lands.

Of course, some states are moving aggressively to punish women who leave their borders to seek abortion elsewhere.

That is a topic to be dealt with in an upcoming column.

NAZI PAST IS REPUBLICAN PRESENT

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on June 27, 2022 at 12:10 am

You can’t appreciate the ordeal—and the heroism—of Robert Francis “Beto” O’Rourke on May 25 if you know nothing about Roland Freisler. 

Not that O’Rourke and Freisler have anything in common.

O’Rourke, 49, represented the Texas 16th Congressional district from 2013 to 2019. A Democrat, he ran for the United States Senate in 2018 and for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020. He is now the Democratic nominee for the 2022 Texas governorship.

Beto O'Rourke April 2019.jpg

Robert “Beto” O’Rourke 

Gage Skidmore, CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0&gt;, via Wikimedia Commons

Freisler (October 30, 1893 – February 3, 1945) was a German Nazi jurist, judge and politician who served as the State Secretary of the Reich Ministry of Justice from 1934 to 1942 and President of the People’s Court from 1942 to 1945.

His mastery of legal texts, verbal force and fanatical commitment to Nazi ideology made him the most-feared judge in Nazi Germany.  He was an admirer of Andrei Vyshinsky, the chief prosecutor of the Stalinist purge trials, and reportedly copied his demeanor. 

Friesler demanded strict penalties against “race defilement”—sexual relations between “Aryans” and “inferior races”—designating this as “racial treason.”

Between 1942 and 1945, Freisler ordered 5,000 people executed. These included approximately 200 people hanged for alleged involvement in the July 20, 1944, plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler. Ninety per cent of all cases brought before him resulted in death or life imprisonment.

Freisler’s treatment of these defendants was especially brutal and humiliating. During the trial of Erwin von Witzleben, the former field marshal tried to hold up his trousers because he had been given oversized and beltless clothing. Freisler yelled at him: “You dirty old man, why do you keep fiddling with your trousers?”

On February 3, 1945, an American bombing raid on Berlin forced Freisler to adjourn proceedings and order the prisoners before him be taken to an air raid shelter. But he stayed behind to gather files before leaving.

A bomb struck the court building, and while Freisler hurriedly gathered his documents, a masonry column crushed him. He died instantly, and his flattened remains were found beneath the rubble.

Bundesarchiv Bild 183-J03238, Roland Freisler.jpg

Roland Freisler 

Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-J03238 / CC-BY-SA 3.0, CC BY-SA 3.0 DE <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/de/deed.en&gt;, via Wikimedia Commons

Among the files he clutched was that of Fabian von Schlabrendorff, a member of the July 20 plot who faced execution. Because Freisler died, Schlabrendorff, survived the war.

When Freisler was brought to Lützow Hospital, a worker commented: “It is God’s verdict.”

Now, fast forward 77 years to a different country—but the same Fascistic mentality.

On May 24, 2022, 18-year-old Salvador Ramos, armed with an AR-15 assault rifle, entered Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. He shut himself inside two adjoining classrooms and fatally shot 19 students and two teachers and wounded 17 other people. 

He remained in the school for more than an hour before members of the United States Border Patrol Tactical Unit fatally shot him.

The next day, Republican Texas Governor Greg Abbott staged a press conference in Uvalde. Joining him were Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, House Speaker Dade Phelan, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and Texas United States Senators John Cormyn and Ted Cruz.

As always happens after a gun massacre, the assembled Republicans blamed it on everything but the ready availability of military-style firearms to virtually anyone—including criminals, terrorists and the mentally ill.

“Inevitably when there’s a murder of this kind, you see politicians try to politicize it, you see Democrats and a lot of folks in the media whose immediate solution is to try to restrict the constitutional rights of law-abiding citizens,” Ted Cruz told reporters. “That doesn’t work. It’s not effective. It doesn’t prevent crime.”

Paxton similarly rejected any effort at gun control: “I’d much rather have law-abiding citizens armed and trained so that they can respond when something like this happens because it’s not going to be the last time.”

This totally ignored the fact that armed Texas police, knowing they were facing a man armed with an AR-15 assault rifle, waited more than an hour to enter the school.

O’Rourke was having none of it. He had become outraged about gun violence after a 2019 mass shooting in his hometown, El Paso, killed 23 people.

About 15 minutes after Abbott began speaking to the media and fellow Republicans onstage, O’Rourke moved to the third row of the Uvalde High School auditorium. When Abbott concluded his comments and introduced Patrick, O’Rourke rose and walked to the stage and spoke directly to Abbott. 

Beto O'Rourke confronts Gov. Greg Abbott at news conference on Uvalde, Texas school shooting - YouTube

“The time to stop the next shooting is right now, and you are doing nothing,” O’Rourke said. “You are offering up nothing. You said this was not predictable. This was totally predictable when you choose not to do anything.” 

Republicans onstage furiously reacted.

Cruz: “Sit down and don’t play this stunt.”

Patrick: “You’re out of line and an embarrassment.”

Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin: “I can’t believe that you’re a sick son of a bitch that would come to a deal like this to make a political issue.” 

Police escorted O’Rourke out of the room. Just as some defendants had dared to warn Freisler he would face trial for war crimes, O’Rourke had a similar warning for Abbott:

“This is on you until you choose to do something different,” O’Rourke said, as he was escorted out of the room.

“This will continue to happen. Somebody needs to stand up for the children of this state or they will be continue to be killed just like they were killed in Uvalde yesterday.”

It remains to be seen whether history will hold Greg Abbott as accountable for mass deaths as it has Roland Freisler.

WHEN TYRANTS FACE RETRIBUTION: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on June 22, 2022 at 12:12 am

The United States Marshals Service is now charged with protecting the nine Justices who comprise the Supreme Court of the United States.

Deputy U.S. marshals have had decades of experience in protecting Federal judges, members of Congress and organized crime witnesses

As protectors, they are probably best-known as the operators of the Justice Department’s Witness Security Program. Launched as part of the Organized Crime Control Act of 1970, they have successfully protected and relocated thousands of endangered organized crime witnesses.

But there are significant differences between the security provided for Mafia witnesses and that being provided for Supreme Court Justices.

While a witness is testifying, s/he receives 24-hour protection from five to a score of marshals. Since visits to courthouses are especially dangerous, marshals often use deception as a vital weapon in keeping their charges alive.

A caravan of marshals cars, with sirens blaring, will pull up to the front of a courthouse, with a deputy playing the role of the witness. While all eyes (including those of mob assassins) are focused on this, a postal truck will enter the building through an underground passage. Inside: The witness and one or two guards dressed as mailmen.

U.S. Marshals Service, Career Opportunities, Duties

A witness security detail

Helicopters and speedboats have also been used to transport witnesses to and from court.

In at least one case, marshals installed Joseph “The Animal” Barboza, the most-feared Mafia hitman in New England, in a fortified room inside the courthouse. When it came time to testify, he would be brought into the courtroom through the judges’ elevator. 

But once testifying is completed, the marshals no longer offer 24-hour protection. Instead, they provide witnesses (and their wives and children, if there are any) with new names, Social Security numbers, driver’s licenses and other records supporting their new identities. 

Then they are shipped off to a new state where—hopefully—they can start their lives over on the right side of the law and safe from their enemies.

Thus, round-the-clock protection by the marshals isn’t intended to be permanent. 

But in the case of at least six Supreme Court Justices this may well prove different. These are the ones who are preparing to strike down Roe v. Wade and re-criminalize abortion for millions of women.

To prevent attacks on the Justices at the Supreme Court, an eight-foot, “non-scalable” fence now surrounds the building.

Fencing Goes Up Around US Supreme Court - YouTube

Once a long-held fundamental right is revoked, anger toward those responsible becomes the natural reaction. And for some people, that anger can easily flare into violence.

Thanks to the Supreme Court’s January 22, 1973 Roe decision, abortion has been legal throughout the United States for 49 years. Those who have been born since can’t recall a time when it was a criminal offense.

On June 8, Nicholas John Roske, 26, of Simi Valley, California, was arrested by deputy U.S. marshals near Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s house in Maryland after threatening to kill the Justice. He was armed with a Glock 17 pistol, ammunition, a knife, zip ties, pepper spray and duct tape.

In this case, the marshals had been alerted by Roske’s threat. But the truly dangerous assassin is one who doesn’t announce his intentions and simply acts on them.

Knowing you are so hated that people want to murder you creates huge psychological pressures on those threatened. Some people become prisoners of their own bodyguard, venturing out only when absolutely necessary. 

Others adopt a “Live it up, because tomorrow I may die” attitude. They chafe at the security regimen imposed on them, sometimes even trying to elude their protectors.

Security specialists for the Marshals Service have warned countless witnesses: “You’ve got to realize that your life’s in danger.  Keep your eyes open. Use your head.  Don’t lie to us. Stay close to us. 

“Keep us apprised of everything that’s going on.  Suppose you’re sitting out on your balcony and you see something flash. What could it be?  A pair of binoculars?  A rifle-scope?  Be aware of your position, and help us protect you.” 

Presidents have been protected by the United States Secret Service since 1901, when Vice President Theodore Roosevelt became the first Chief Executive to be assigned agents.

Logo of the United States Secret Service.svg

Before this, three Presidents had been assassinated—Abraham Lincoln (1865); James A. Garfield (1881) and William McKinley, Roosevelt’s predecessor (1901).

In 1963, John F. Kennedy would become the fourth.

Two attempts were made on Gerald Ford (1975) and, in 1981, Ronald Reagan was seriously wounded.

As a result, it’s unthinkable that a President would not be guarded round-the-clock. 

But no Supreme Court Justice has ever been assassinated.

Justices have been able to come and go as they please, without even being recognized by the vast majority of citizens they affect with their rulings.

That will soon change—at least for those who intend to strike down Roe. They will become familiar faces—for those who hate them. Already, their home addresses have been splashed across the Internet.

At least 13 states will automatically ban abortion in the first and second trimesters if Roe is overturned. This will create legions of new enemies for the Justices. And there will be no end-date to this hatred.

Which means the Justices will likely live in fear—and under heavy armed guard—for the rest of their lives.

WHEN TYRANTS FACE RETRIBUTION: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on June 21, 2022 at 12:13 am

Tyrants know they lack legitimate authority–and so they must live behind armed guards and high fences. They constantly fear being overthrown–or killed.

“It was only years later, when I was imprisoned at Spandau, that I really understood what it must be like to live each day under such intense psychological pressure,” Albert Speer, architect and Minister of Armaments to Adolf Hitler, told Playboy during a 1971 interview.

“Looking back on Hitler’s physical environment in his military bunkers in Berlin and Rastenburg, I realized how similar the atmosphere was to a prison—immense concrete walls and ceilings, harsh electric light instead of daylight, iron doors and iron grilles over the few windows.  

“Even Hitler’s brief strolls through the barbed wire perimeters, surrounded by armed guards and police dogs, resembled a convict’s exercise in the jail yard. Hitler had turned all of Europe into a prison, but he had become its leading prisoner.”

Albert Speer and Adolf Hitler 

Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-V00555-3 / CC-BY-SA 3.0, CC BY-SA 3.0 DE <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/de/deed.en&gt;, via Wikimedia Commons

At least six Justices of the United States Supreme Court have joined Adolf Hitler as prisoners of their own bodyguard.

In the past, Justices came and went as ordinary citizens did. Occasionally they made a controversial decision, but then the uproar died down and everything stayed the same.

It took the alleged gutting of Roe v. Wade to change all that.

On May 2, Politico published a leaked draft of the Supreme Court majority decision in Dobbs vs. Jackson Women’s Health Organization that would explicitly overturn Roe v. Wade.

In doing so, it would end the Court’s 49-year-old decision guaranteeing a woman’s right to obtain an abortion. 

Reaction was swift—and devastatingly angry. 

Threats of violence against the Justices have poured in—especially the six Right-wing ones behind the decision:

  • Amy Coney Barrett
  • Brett M. Kavanaugh
  • Clarence Thomas
  • Samuel A. Alito
  • Neil M. Gorsuch and 
  • John J. Roberts. 

Supreme Court defies critics with wave of unanimous decisions - ABC News

Justices of the Supreme Court

As a result, all nine Justices have been given extra security through the U.S. Marshals Service.

The marshals have had decades of experience in protecting Federal organized crime witnesses, members of Congress and Federal judges. So the odds are that the Justices will remain safe from violent attack. 

The question that remains to be answered: How well will they hold up under the intense pressures of facing potential violence—and having to live under constant guard? 

Almost immediately after Politico published its article on the Justices’ decision to overturn Roe, an eight-foot steel fence went up around the Supreme Court building. All entry points were blocked to vehicles and police patrols were beefed up.

United States Marshals Service - Wikiwand

As if that were not claustrophobic enough, the Justices’ home addresses were quickly shared online.

Justices have received threatening phone calls at their homes.

The group, “Ruth Sent Us”—named in honor of deceased Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg—planned a protest at what it called “the homes of the six extremist justices.”

“ANNOUNCING: Walk-by Wednesday, May 11, 2022! At the homes of the six extremist justices, three in Virginia and three in Maryland. If you’d like to join or lead a peaceful protest, let us know,” the website stated. 

“Our 6-3 extremist Supreme Court routinely issues rulings that hurt women, racial minorities, LGBTQ+ and immigrant rights. We must rise up to force accountability using a diversity of tactics.” 

The group even published a Google Maps graphic pinpointing homes “where the six Christian fundamentalist Justices issue their shadow docket rulings from.

“We intend to stop the corruption of our Supreme Court, and stop the spread of fascist laws,” the group said. “Instead of waiting for the extremist Court to strip our rights further, we must rise up now.”

In Virginia, where three of the six justices live, protesting outside a private home is illegal.

Justice Samuel Alito, author of the draft majority opinion, canceled a scheduled appearance in Nashville, and the other justices are also cutting back on public events. 

Meanwhile, the Court has been thrown into a frenzy of self-investigation to discover who leaked the upcoming decision.

Far more attention has been paid to this by the Justices than to the enormous implications for millions of American women if abortion once becomes a criminal act. Chief Justice John Roberts publicly said: “To the extent this betrayal of the confidences of the court was intended to undermine the integrity of our operations, it will not succeed.” 

Not all protests were aimed at the Justices. 

Ruth Sent Us also planned to target Catholic churches on Mother’s Day—telling followers to protest “that six extremist Catholics set out to overturn Roe.” It published a video of churchgoers trying to kick out protesters who interrupted a service, chanting, “Without this basic right, women can’t be free — abortion on demand and without apology.”

The Catholic group, CatholicVote, demanded that President Joe Biden condemn Ruth Sent Us for targeting Catholic churches and disrupting Mass on Mother’s Day. 

Joe Biden presidential portrait.jpg

Joseph Biden

Biden, a lifelong Catholic, strongly favors abortion rights.  

The U.S. Marshals Service has operated the Witness Security Program for threatened organized crime witnesses since 1970. Of its approximately 19,100 participants, none have been killed who followed its guidelines.

But there are serious differences between the security afforded Mafia witnesses—and that being accorded Supreme Court Justices.

TIME TO REFORM THE DEATH PENALTY

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on June 20, 2022 at 12:10 am

On June 8, justice finally caught up with Frank Atwood.

On September 17, 1984, eight-year-old Vicki Lynne Hoskinson was riding her bike home when Atwood kidnapped and murdered her. Then he left her body in an Arizona desert.  A hiker found the child’s remains about seven months later.   

Making Vicki’s murder even worse: Atwood had previously been convicted of “lewd and lascivious acts and kidnapping” two young children in California.

Ten days after Vicki’s disappearance, eyewitness testimony and physical evidence led to Atwood’s arrest. He was charged with one count of kidnapping. 

Atwood’s trial began in January, 1987. He was found guilty of first degree murder on March 26, and sentenced to death on May 8, 1987. But it took until 2020 for all of his appeals to be exhausted. 

Finally, at just after 10:15 a.m. local time, on June 8, Atwood met his own death by lethal injection at the Arizona State Prison Complex in Florence, Arizona. 

Arizona Supreme Court issues execution warrant for Frank J. Atwood - The Gila Herald

Frank Atwood

While Atwood had no concern for the pain of others, he had plenty of it for himself. He tried to halt the execution by claiming the procedure would violate his constitutional rights. 

How? 

In an appeal to the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, Atwood’s lawyers claimed that lying flat on the execution table would cause him excruciating pain due to a spinal condition he developed while in prison.

The appeals court agreed with a federal judge in Phoenix, who noted that the table can be raised to an inclined position.

A district court dismissed Atwood’s “poor, pity me” excuse and on June 7, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the decision to execute him.

A typical execution room

The next day, the United States Supreme Court dashed Atwood’s last hope to escape justice and denied his petition to halt the execution.

About 111 inmates remain on Arizona’s Death Row.

The Atwood case offers serious reasons for a complete overhaul of how the death penalty is administered. 

First: There is genuine wisdom in the saying: “Justice delayed is justice denied.”  

Imagine how the parents and relatives of Vicki Hoskinson have felt for 36 years:

  • Knowing that she died violently, probably after being sexually abused.
  • Knowing that she wasn’t given even the dignity of a funeral—that her body had been left in the desert, with her remains scattered by animals.
  • Knowing that the man responsible for her death was not only still alive but had far more rights conferred on him by the State than he had provided Vicki.
  • With every appeal they had to relive the horror of their loved one’s brutal murder.

63 Love the Fog ideas | eerie, cemeteries, old cemeteries

Second: The life of a murderer should not be considered as sacred—if not more so—than the lives of those he has murdered.

People don’t get sent to Death Row by stealing food or picking pockets, as they did in England during the 19th century. They don’t even get there by killing someone accidentally or in the heat of passion.

According to 18 U.S. Code § 1111: “Murder is the unlawful killing of a human being with malice aforethought. Every murder perpetrated by poison, lying in wait, or any other kind of willful, deliberate, malicious, and premeditated killing; or committed for the perpetration of, or attempt to perpetrate, any arson, escape, murder, kidnapping, treason, espionage, sabotage, aggravated assault abuse or sexual abuse, child abuse, burglary, or robbery, or perpetrated as part of a pattern or practice of assault or torture against a child, or children….is murder in the first degree.”

They get there, in short, by deliberately choosing to take the life of someone—and then doing so.

Third: The insanity defense should be abolished. 

Too many perfectly sane murderers use this as a defense to escape justice for the human carnage they have left in their wake. Even if they are ruled criminally insane—on a “Hannibal the Cannibal” level—they should not be allowed to avoid the death penalty.

Consider this: A beloved dog gets rabies. It isn’t his fault. But from now on he presents “a clear and present danger” to everyone he meets. The same is true with someone who has demonstrated a taste for cold-blooded murder.

Fourth: The number of appeals should be severely limited—to three or four, at most.

This would ensure that the accused had his sentence carefully reviewed, and yet allow a fair time for justice—acquittal or execution—to occur.   

Fifth: Violent offenders should not be released, even if they’re not given the death penalty.

The rate of recidivism in the United States is 70%. Within three years of their release, two out of three former inmates are rearrested and more than 50% are reincarcerated. 

Atwood had previously been convicted of “lewd and lascivious acts and kidnapping” two young children in California. Had Atwood not been released, he could not have murdered Vicki.  

It’s true that some inmates have radically turned their lives around in prison and spent the rest of their lives as model citizens. But this happens so rarely and unpredictably that taking this chance is not worth jeopardizing the safety of the public at large.

THE TRUTH ABOUT POLICE

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on June 17, 2022 at 1:11 am

Lori Tankel had a problem: A lot of angry people thought she was George Zimmerman.

She began getting death threats on her cellphone after a jury acquitted him on July 13, 2013, of the second-degree murder of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.

Unfortunately for Tankel, her number was one digit away from the number Zimmerman used to make his call to police just before he fatally shot Martin.

George Zimmerman

Trump  The phone number had been shown throughout the trial.  And, believing the number was Zimmerman’s, someone posted Tankel’s number online.

Just minutes after the verdict, Tankel began getting death threats.

“We’re going to kill you.  We’re going to get you.  Watch your back,” threatened a typical call.Tankel worked as a sales representative for several horse companies.  She had grown used to relying on her phone to keep her business going.

But, almost as soon as the Zimmerman verdict came in, “My phone just started to blow up. Phone call after phone call, multiple phone calls,” Tankel said.

So she did what any ordinary citizen, faced with multiple death threats, would do: She called the police.

According to her, the Sheriff’s Office in Seminole County, Florida, told her the department itself receives around 400 death threats a minute on social media sites.

In short: Unless you’re wealthy, a politician or—best of all—a cop, don’t expect the police to protect you if your life is threatened.

If you doubt it, consider the lessons to be learned when the Los Angeles Police Department found itself threatened by one of its former officers

First, above everyone else, police look out for each other.

Robert Daley bluntly revealed this truth in his 1971 bestseller, Target Blue: An Insider’s View of the N.Y.P.D.  A  police reporter for the New York Times, he served for one year as a deputy police commissioner.

Related image

A great many solvable crimes in the city were never solved, because not enough men were assigned to the case.  Or because those assigned were lazy or hardly cared or got sidetracked.

“But when a cop got killed, no other cop got sidetracked. 

Detectives worked on the case night and day….“In effect, the citizen who murdered his wife’s lover was sought by a team of detectives, two men.  But he who killed a cop was sought by 32,000.”

Second, don’t expect the police to do for you what they’ll do for one another.

In February, 2013, Christopher Dorner declared war on his former fellow officers of the Los Angeles Police Department.

The LAPD assigned security and surveillance details to at least 50 threatened officers and their families.  A typical detail consists of two to five or more guards.  And those guards must be changed every eight to 12 hours.

  SWAT team 

Oregon Department of Transportation, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0&gt;, via Wikimedia Commons

the  Those details stayed in place long after Dorner was killed in a firefight on February 12.

But if your bullying neighbor threatens to kill you, don’t expect the police to send a guard detail over.  They’ll claim: ”We can’t do anything until the guy does something.  If he does, give us a call.”

Third, the more status and wealth you command, the more likely the police are to address your complaint or solve your case.

If you’re rich, your complaint will likely get top priority and the best service the agency can provide.

But if you’re poor or even middle-class without high-level political or police connections, you’ll be told: “We just don’t have the resources to protect everybody.”

Fourth, don’t expect your police department to operate with the vigor or efficiency of TV police agencies.

“I want this rock [Hawaii] sealed off,” Steve McGarrett (Jack Lord) routinely ordered when pursuing criminals on “Hawaii Five-O.”

 Jack Lord as Steve McGarrett

Real-life police departments, on the other hand:

  • Often lack state-of-the-art crime labs to analyze evidence.
  • Often lose or accidentally destroy important files.
  • Are–like all bureaucracies–staffed by those who are lazy, indifferent or incompetent.
  • Are notoriously competitive, generally refusing to share information with other police departments—thus making it easier for criminals to run amok.

Even when police ”solve” a crime, that simply means making an arrest. After that, there are at least three possible outcomes:

  • The District Attorney may decide not to file charges.
  • Or the perpetrator may plead to a lesser offense and serve only a token sentence—or none at all.
  • Or he might be found not guilty by a judge or jury.

Fifth, the result of all this can only be increased disrespect for law enforcement from a deservedly—and increasingly—cynical public.

It is the witnessing of blatant inequities and hypocrisies such as those displayed in the Christopher Dorner case that most damages public support for police at all levels.

When citizens believe police care only about themselves, and lack the ability—or even the will—to protect citizens or avenge their victimization by arresting the perpetrators, that is a deadly blow to law enforcement.

Police depend on citizens for more than crime tips.  They depend upon them to support hiring more cops and  buying state-of-the-art police equipment.  When public support vanishes, so does much of that public funding.

The result can only be a return to the days of the lawless West, where citizens—as individuals or members of vigilante committees—looked only to themselves for protection.

SURVIVING “FACEBOOK JAIL”: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, Business, Entertainment, History, Politics, Social commentary on June 16, 2022 at 12:10 am

Facebook likes to promote itself as a place for “more than three billion people around the world to share ideas, offer support and make a difference.”

But there are limits to the ideas that can be shared on Facebook. And while Facebook likes to boast about its “Community Standards,” these are enforced in a totally arbitrary way.

There is simply no predicting what will trigger Facebook’s ire and land a post—and its poster—in “Facebook Jail.” 

Facebook doesn’t restrict itself to banning posts that are libelous and/or harassing. Its definition of “Hate speech” is so all-encompassing it can be stretched to cover anything—including historically valid statements. 

Our Favourite Banned Facebook Memes - The Inappropriate Gift Co

In Part One I laid out the reason for my sending a letter of protest to Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s longtime Chief Operating Officer.

In this part, I will offer specific steps Facebook can take to keep faith with its stated mission to be a place where people can “share ideas.” 

Noting that I had been banned from Facebook for seven days for posting “Americans are historical illiterates,” I cited the noted historian, David McCullough, and an article from the Smithsonian Institute to support my statement. 

At the 2015 National Book Festival

David McCullough 

fourandsixty, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0&gt;, via Wikimedia Commons

I then quoted my offending paragraph in full:

“Tyrants cannot be appeased by giving into their demands–it just convinces them that they can demand even more from their victims. British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain tried that approach at Munich in September, 1938, giving Adolf Hitler a big chunk of Czechoslovakia. The reason: To prevent a war with Nazi Germany. Less than a year later, war broke out anyway.” 

This referred to yet another act of cowardice by Democrats in refusing to stand up to the aggression of the Republican Right.

There are serious historical parallels between the closing days of the German Weimar Republic and the rise of Adolf Hitler—and what is happening today in the United States.

Example: In the Weimar Republic, all that stood between Hitler and total power was a frail old man—President Paul von Hindenburg. In the United States, all that stands between Donald Trump and absolute power is a frail old man: President Joe Biden.

Revelan elogios de expresidente Donald Trump a Hitler | Cuba Si

Adolf Hitler and Donald Trump

Too many Americans remain ignorant of their own history—not to mention that of other countries.

That was the point of my post. But on Facebook, it’s “Hate speech” to point out the ignorance of criminally ignorant people.

Then came my third and last point.

Third: Facebook claimed: “You can disagree with the decision if you think we got it wrong.” That implied that I would be given the opportunity to state why I believed the decision was wrong and have that objection carefully reviewed. 

But, immediately afterward, Facebook stated: “We usually offer the chance to request a review and follow up if we got decisions wrong.

“We have fewer reviewers available right now because of the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. We’re trying hard to prioritize reviewing content with the most potential for harm. This means we may not be able to follow up with you, though your feedback helps us do better in the future.” 

Using COVID as an excuse to avoid responsible behavior is despicable. If Facebook is  going to ban people for supposedly violating its “Community Standards,” it has a moral obligation—if not a legal one—-to give them a chance to share their side of the story.

That is how a court in a democracy behaves. Making a decision based on whim and secrecy, with no appeal possible, is the behavior of a star chamber.

Facebook jail Memes

I then noted two ways by which Facebook could avoid such disgraceful episodes in the future:

  1. Providing its users with an 800 number whereby they can interact directly with the Censorship Committee and share their reasons for posting the comment(s) they did;
  2. Providing its users with at least an Instant Messaging capability, so they can do so.

My letter to Sheryl Sandberg closed as follows: 

Im aware that Facebook is a private company and thus can do whatever it likes. But it is also—supposedly—a market for the airing of competing ideas. And to behave in the despicable manner I have described is as much a disservice to the reputation Facebook wishes to have as to those who are negatively affected by its censorship decisions. 

Frankly, I don’t expect to get an answer from Sandberg, any more than I expected one from Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. 

Still, there is this:

On August 23, 1968, Russian poet Yevgeney Yevtushenko sent a telegram to Communist Party Boss Leonid Brezhnev and Premier Aleksei Kosygin, protesting their invasion of Czechoslovakia. 

No doubt, Yevtushenko didn’t expect his protest to change Soviet policy—just as I don’t expect any major changes—for the good—from Facebook.

These will come about only if:

  1. Enough Facebook users get so fed up with arbitrary bullying that they seek another social media format to speak their minds; and/or
  2. Enough members of Congress demand major changes in the way Facebook regularly makes a mockery of the First Amendment. 

Neither of these is likely to happen anytime soon.

SURVIVING “FACEBOOK JAIL”: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, Business, Entertainment, History, Politics, Social commentary on June 15, 2022 at 12:10 am

Facebook likes to promote itself as a place for “more than three billion people around the world to share ideas, offer support and make a difference.”

But there are limits to the ideas that can be shared on Facebook. And while Facebook likes to boast about its “Community Standards,” these are enforced in a totally arbitrary way.

There is simply no predicting what will trigger Facebook’s ire and land a post—and its poster—in “Facebook Jail.” 

50+ Funny Facebook Jail Memes to Avoid Being Blocked / Get Out of It

It’s true that standards against libel and harassment are absolutely essential.

Twitter has earned an unsavory reputation for refusing to take action against those guilty of one or both. As a result, the Disney company has refused to partner with this company.

But Facebook doesn’t restrict itself to banning posts that are libelous and/or harassing. Its definition of “Hate speech” is so all-encompassing it can be stretched to cover anything. 

For example: On June 3, I received the following message from Facebook: “You can’t post or comment for 7 days. This is because you previously posted something that didn’t follow our Community Standards.

“This comment goes against our standards on hate speech and inferiority, so only you and the admins of Private Liberal Group can see it.

“If your content goes against our Community Standards again, your account may be restricted or disabled.” 

Meta Platforms Headquarters Menlo Park California.jpg

Facebook / Meta headquarters in Menlo Park, California 

LPS.1, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

And just what was my comment that qualified as “hate speech”?

Facebook refused to publish the comment or news story to which I responded. So I can only assume that I was referring to yet another act of cowardice by Democrats in standing up to the Fascistic Right:

“Americans are historical illiterates, and this is just another example proving it. Tyrants cannot be appeased by giving into their demands–it just convinces them that they can demand even more from their victims. British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain tried that approach at Munich in September, 1938, giving Adolf Hitler a big chunk of Czechoslovakia. The reason: To prevent a war with Nazi Germany. Less than a year later, war broke out anyway.”

Apparently, for Facebook, “Americans are historical illiterates” qualifies as “hate speech.”  

When Donald Trump boasted, during his 2016 campaign for President, “I love the poorly educated!” he was not alone. The leadership of Facebook apparently feels the same way. 

Making a decision based on whim and secrecy, with no appeal possible—as Facebook routinely does—is the behavior of a star chamber.

In the past, I had sent letters to Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s CEO, protesting Facebook’s star chamber approach to justice. Zuckerberg’s life features two accomplishments that dwarf all others:

  1. He’s worth $71.5 billion, courtesy of Facebook’s revenues; and
  2. In multiple appearances before Congress, he’s managed to unite Right-wing Republicans and Liberal Democrats—in their rage at his perceived arrogance and stonewalling.

I didn’t expect Zuckerberg to show the courtesy of a fair-minded CEO by replying to my letters—and I wasn’t disappointed.

Mark Zuckerberg F8 2019 Keynote (32830578717) (cropped).jpg

Mark Zuckerberg

Anthony Quintano from Westminster, United States, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0&gt;, via Wikimedia Commons

So, this time, on June 3, I decided to write someone else: Sheryl Sandberg, longtime Chief Operating Officer for Facebook. (She will be stepping down from that position in the fall of 2022, She will, however, remain a member of Facebook’s board of directors.)

Early on in my letter I quickly laid out my case:  Apparently what aroused the ire of Facebook’s Censorship Committee was my statement that “Americans are historical illiterates,” and this was interpreted as “hate speech and inferiority.” Taken to its logical conclusion, only comments celebrating the ignorance of ignorant people will be considered acceptable on Facebook.

Facebook Jail Memes - Geeks + Gamers

Then I offered three reasons why I strongly objected to the decision to ban my post—and me—from Facebook:

First: What I said about Americans’ historical illiteracy was entirely accurate. No less an authority than the acclaimed historian David McCullough has said: “I think we are raising a generation of young Americans who are, to a very large degree, historically illiterate.” 

Nor is he alone. A May 5, 2015 article by the Smithsonian Institute asks: “How Much U.S. History Do Americans Actually Know?” And it answers the question: “Less Than You Think.”

Comedians have long gained laughs at Americans’ historical illiteracy. When Jay Leno hosted The Tonight Show, he often did “Jaywalking Tours” where he would ask people about seemingly well-known historical events. It was common to see people say the Civil War happened in the 1940s (instead of 1861-1865) or to believe that the Texans won at the battle of the Alamo. 

Second:  I quoted the rest of my paragraph: “Tyrants cannot be appeased by giving into their demands–it just convinces them that they can demand even more from their victims. British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain tried that approach at Munich in September, 1938, giving Adolf Hitler a big chunk of Czechoslovakia. The reason: To prevent a war with Nazi Germany. Less than a year later, war broke out anyway.”

I challenge you—and anyone else who reads this letter—to refute one line of that paragraph.

SAN FRANCISCO: WHERE PROSECUTORS SEE CRIMINALS AS VICTIMS: PART TWO (END)

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

On June 7, San Francisco residents voted—60% to 40%—to oust District Attorney Chesa Boudin.

Since “liberal” has become a taboo word even among liberals, Boudin was praised by his supporters—and saw himself—as a “progressive prosecutor.”

This meant he favored—and implemented:

  • Abolishing cash bail;
  • Refusing to prosecute minors as adults—regardless of their crime; 
  • Lowering the jail population during the COVID crisis;
  • Refusing to seek tougher sentences under California’s anti-gang (“three strikes”) law.

Boudin, 41, had previously served as a deputy public defender for the city’s Public Defender office. As such, he was expected to provide his clients with a vigorous defense. His mistake was taking that same mentality into the office of District Attorney. 

Chesa Boudin, San Francisco Elections candidate video (October 2019) (cropped).png

Chesa Boudin

Shoplifters ran rampant in the city, victimizing not only high-end stores but even pharmacies. As a result, Walgreens has closed at least 10 stores since the beginning of 2019. Five closed in November 2021. Six CVS stores have closed for the same reason.

Owing to President Donald Trump’s attacks on China as the incubator of COVID-19, assaults on Asian-Americans steadily rose—in a city where they make up 34.40% of the population. 

Overall crime in San Francisco is up nearly 8% in 2022, with a 20% surge in larcenies, as well as spikes in homicides, rapes and assaults.

Boudin and his supporters blamed conservative and business groups for the recall effort. And, in fact, they had raised more than $7 million to secure his ouster. 

But the recall clearly tapped into existing anger about soaring levels of quality-of-life crimes in the Bay Area—car break-ins, burglaries and shoplifting.

San Francisco’s notorious tolerance for “the homeless”—most of whom consist of drug addicts, alcoholics, mentally ill and outright bums—also played a major role. Tax-paying citizens have grown fed up with sidewalks littered with oversize tents, empty wine bottles and beer cans, human feces and urine, used hypodermic syringes—and the Untermenschen responsible for them.

Drunk guy passed out on the sidewalk - YouTube

Boudin had been elected District Attorney on November 5, 2019. 

In hindsight, Boudin’s priorities as District Attorney—and the reasons for his recall—seem foretold.

His parents, David Gilbert and Kathy Boudin, were members of the radical Weather Underground. In 1981, when Boudin was 14 months old, both served as getaway drivers in a Brink’s robbery. And both were convicted of the murder of two police officers and a security guard.

Kathy Boudin was sentenced to 20 years to life; David Gilbert drew 75 years. Kathy Boudin was paroled in 2003, dying of cancer in May. Gilbert was paroled in October, 2003.

As a result, the raising of Chesa fell to two other members of the Weather Underground: Bill Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn. So discovering why Boudin considers criminals as oppressed victims is relatively easy.

For Michael Shellenberger, author of San Fransicko: Why Progressives Ruin Cities, none of this has come as a surprise.

Praise for San Fransicko — Environmental Progress

From the inside cover flap: 

“Michael Shellenberger has lived in the San Francisco Bay Area for 30 years. During that time, he advocated for the decriminalization of drugs, affordable housing and alternatives to jail and prison. 

“But as homeless encampments spread and overdose deaths skyrocketed, Shellenberger decided to take a closer look at the problem. 

“What he discovered shocked him. The problems had grown worse, not in spite of but because of progressive policies. San Francisco and other West Coast cities—Los Angeles, Seattle, Portland—had gone beyond merely tolerating homelessness, drug dealing and crime to actively enabling them….

“The real problem is an ideology that designates some people, by identity or experience, as victims entitled to destructive behaviors. The result is an undermining of the values that make cities, and civilization itself, possible.”

Anyone who doubts Shellenberger’s conclusions need only examine the city’s COVID-19 Alternative Housing Program. 

It’s the creation of San Francisco Mayor London Breed and the Board of Supervisors, and run by the city’s Department of Public Health (DPH),

It works in two stages:

Stage 1: Move the “homeless” into the city’s hotels—at city expense.

Stage 2: Provide them with not only free food and shelter but free alcohol, cannabis and cigarettes

According to a May 11, 2020 story in City Journal.org:

“The program’s primary purpose is to keep homeless people, the majority of whom are addicts, out of harm’s way during the pandemic. By getting their substance of choice delivered, the thinking goes, the guests may be more apt to remain in their government-funded rooms….

The city doesn’t want homeless people who should be staying in their rooms roaming the neighborhood in search of the substances, potentially infecting others.”

Referring to these people as “guests,” DPH said in a statement that they are screened for substance addictions and asked if they’d like to stop or have support to reduce their use.

If they say they want to remain alcoholics and/or drug addicts, they’re provided with their substance of choice. 

In 2020, and lasting until at least 2022, San Francisco lost its longstanding convention, Oracle’s OpenWorld, to Las Vegas. A chief reason cited: “Poor street conditions.”

And “a major medical association” will move its convention out of San Francisco after 2023

Tourism is San Francisco’s largest industry, generating $8.4 billion annually. When tourism revenues dry up, so will the city.

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