The Democrats: Calm as a Duck On Top of the Water…

DNCPhiladelphia

After the debacle that was the Republican National Demolition Derby last week (really didn’t think it was possible to bottle up that much hatred in one room), the Democrats get their turn in the barrel for the next four days. Starting today up until former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is nominated on Thursday, the Democratic National Committee will throw their shindig in Philadelphia to nominate their choice for President and the proceedings have the appearance of a duck. If you know anything about ducks, they look calm and placid on top of the water, but they’re paddling like hell underneath it to keep everything moving.

It pretty much seems that, at every step along the way, the Democrats have tried to shoot themselves in the foot at every opportunity that they get. 2016 was supposed to be the year that they were supposed to reward Clinton for her patience after getting beaten in 2008 by Barack Obama and, for the most part, the major players that could have given her issues stayed out of the way. Vice President Joe Biden didn’t have it in his heart following the passing of his son and other prominent Democrats lacked the national name recognition to be able to mount a charge (looking at you here, Martin O’Malley). But the DNC was definitely caught with their pants down when it came to a certain septuagenarian from New England.

Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont caught on to the wave of voter disdain for those in Washington (despite him being a part of the Washington scene for the past 25 years) and threw the first of several monkey wrenches into the coronation of Clinton. The first warning shot came in Iowa, where Clinton eked out the slimmest of victories over Sanders, and continued onward. At some points, Sanders would pull off the impossible – evidenced by his win in Michigan – and many, especially younger voters, were enthused by the policies espoused by Sanders (free college, $15/hour minimum wage, etc.).

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Sanders proved to be an excellent foil for Clinton, whipping her into shape for the general election as she had to campaign hard in the Democratic primary to ward off Sanders’ run. Neither would be able to garner the number of delegates outright to be able to earn the nomination, so the choice came down to the super delegates, the members of the Democratic Party who serve as the final arbiter of such decisions. Despite the cries that it was unfair – but, to be honest, Sanders knew the rules and failed to attempt to even woo them before the primaries began (probably because he just joined the Democratic Party to run for President, not because of a long affinition for the group) – super delegates overwhelmingly supported Clinton and, as a result, she will be the nominee Thursday evening.

All is not calm in the Democratic world, however. There are factions of Sanders supporters that, despite what their candidate has said about supporting Clinton and defeating Cheeto Jesus, are behaving like petulant children who will pout because they didn’t get their way. These “supporters” have threatened to either not vote or to vote for another candidate, such as the Libertarian Party’s Gary Johnson or the Green Party’s Jill Stein (who ran an underhanded campaign in offering to give up her nomination for President if Sanders would join their party), to “make their protest known.” There’s only one problem with this:  by doing so, they would be giving the election to the Orangutan Mutant, who would destroy the system far worse than Clinton ever could.

Throw in the perceived voting irregularities, Clinton’s investigations by the Republican-led Senate over Benghazi and the Federal Bureau of Investigation over her private e-mail server, Clinton’s less-than enthusiastic approach to campaigning (the female Clinton has always been a policy wonk, unlike her husband and former President Bill Clinton, who enjoyed the campaigning) and the idea that it was “ordained” by the DNC that Clinton would be the nominee (among other things) and there’s plenty of “paddling like hell” under the water that is occurring.

That doesn’t even begin to add in the latest Democratic shooting of foot. Leaked e-mails from a Russian hack show that the DNC at the minimum wasn’t happy about the Sanders campaign looking to usurp the nomination from Clinton and, at the max, actively was wondering how to stop Sanders’ rise. While none of the e-mails were from Clinton, one e-mail in particular from the Chief Finance Officer of the DNC, Brad Marshall, questioned Sanders’ religious background and whether he was an atheist (many socialists, as Sanders purports to be, are at best areligious and at extreme atheist) and how it could be used against him in certain areas of the country.

Although there is little to no evidence that any action was taken on this or other e-mails, the chair of the DNC, Representative Debbie Wasserman-Schultz of Florida, has been ushered out as the chairman of the DNC effective following the convention (not a big deal as she would have served her term by the end of the November elections) because of the viewed impropriety. This has been something the Sanders campaign has sought for some time because of several perceived slights from Wasserman-Schultz towards the campaign and the scheduling of debates (something that the Sanders campaign agreed to before the campaign started). The actions following Wasserman-Schultz’s announcement aren’t going to soothe anyone’s feelings, however.

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The hiring of Wasserman-Schultz by the Clinton campaign as “honorary chair” of the campaign isn’t going to settle any ruffled feathers. Instead of just letting Wasserman-Schultz lurk behind the scenes and advise the campaign – much like what many think deposed Fox News honcho Roger Ailes will do with the Drumpf campaign since his dismissal – the announcement by the Clinton faction is a stick in the eye to the Sanderites. It is a sign once again that, instead of a placid lake, there are at least ripples in the water.

Alas, as the Democrats converge on the City of Brotherly Love for their convention, their attempts at showing a “united” front seem to be coming apart at the seams. Over the next week, there will be the usual parade of party hierarchy and celebrity speakers (including Lady Gaga – take that, Mr. Oompah Loompah, for star power!), but it is going to be the thoughts of two people that will draw the most attention.

First off will be Sanders and his speech on Monday night. Sanders has already appeared with Clinton on the campaign trail and fully endorsed his former opponent, but it will be how well he can convey that same message, after all of the turmoil of the past few days, and be taken as sincere with his speech. Several other people in the Sanders camp, including his wife Jane and former campaign manager Jeff Weaver, would also be great advocates for Sanders supporters to move on to Clinton.

Hillary Clinton Begins Presidential Campaign In Iowa

The final person who will be able to make an impact is Clinton herself. No matter how many people say good things about her, whether it is family, coworkers, friends or rivals, it will be Clinton’s speech on Thursday night that will sway many opinions. Can she find a way to present the current course of the United States in an optimistic light and show how her Presidency would further the goals of the country? This will be important because of the “doom and gloom” speech that was sputtered last week (hell, the entire Republican National Demolition Derby sounded like the Hellmouth had opened and demon spawn were ravaging the world). If Clinton can show that there is an “adult in the room” and project a solid, stable base for the next Presidency, it could go a great way to winning over people.

But that’s not coming until Thursday. Until that time, we’ll have to see if the Democrats can put it together and not just give the appearance of unity but actually show that it exists. If they are able to overcome their own self-inflicted wounds, then they will come out of Philly with the rockets roaring. If they can’t, then there’s the 4:1 chance that Cheeto Jesus might rise up from the brimstone.

We All Need to Do Better

I was settling in at my writing garret last night, ready to go off on a few things. My late night writing sessions (when I’m not writing about work) are a great way to relax and get some thoughts out of the system. The outlandish reactions by conservatives to the decision by Federal Bureau of Investigations director James Comey regarding the Hillary Clinton e-mail fiasco – which ran the gamut from mild bewilderment over the processes of legal decisions to the actual gnashing of teeth and rending of garments, thinking that the entirety of the United States’ structure was crashing to the ground as a result of those same decisions – were where I had planned to go, but I was also considering a few thoughts on Kevin Durant’s move to the Golden State Warriors (Larry Bird would have rather jumped off the Bunker Hill Memorial Bridge than team up with Magic Johnson, just saying) or a general catch-all that I like to do every few months for things that don’t require a full essay. In a pinch, I could always go at Drumpf…much as it is for comedians, he’s a well of inspiration for essayists.

Then I looked at the television…

DallasShooting

First off, we have to set the stage for the actions last night in Dallas, TX. Earlier this week in Baton Rouge, LA, police responded to a complaint from a citizen that a man with a gun was threatening them outside a convenience store. Police responded to the scene and found Alton Sterling, a 37-year old black male selling CDs outside the convenience store with the owner’s permission. The police approached the man and all Hell broke loose.

Cellphone video from a couple in a car watching the altercation recorded the two police officers – who haven’t been identified at this time – take Sterling to the ground and, per their training, position their bodies on top of Sterling to allow them to further restrain him (it is unknown what was the cause for such action). At one point, one of the officers pulled his weapon, from appearances a .45 automatic or possibly a 9mm handgun, and sticks it in Sterling’s chest. Then there is the comment “gun,” and shots are fired. Sterling died on the scene.

Less than 24 hours later, arguably the more egregious of the two situations occurred. In a suburb of St. Paul, MN, Philando Castile was riding as a passenger in a car with his girlfriend (driving) that was pulled over because the vehicle had a broken taillight. Police approached the vehicle, with Officer Jeronimo Yanez approaching the passenger side and Officer Joseph Kauser the driver’s window. At one point, Castile is alleged to have told the officers that he was a licensed concealed carry permit holder and he was armed at that moment. From there, once again Hell breaks loose.

Castile’s girlfriend alleges that Yanez yelled two commands at Castile, one to keep his hands in view and one to present his licenses and identification. As Castile jerked around to try to obey the officer’s directives – to put his hands on the dash and reach for his wallet – Yanez allegedly opened fire FOUR TIMES (my emphasis), shooting Castile in the right side. Castile’s girlfriend recorded the immediate aftermath and broadcast the incident over Facebook Live, which showed an obviously seriously injured Castile bleeding profusely while the police held the vehicle for almost 10 minutes before any attempt at medical attention could be performed. Castile would die at the hospital roughly a half hour later.

With all that has occurred – or what hasn’t – in the past few years regarding the situation of police use of force, these new situations only cast kerosene on an already raging inferno. Many major metropolitan areas saw protests against such shootings by police on Thursday and, for the most part, many of these protests were peaceable and stayed on point without resorting to violence. Then there was what came on the television late last night from Texas.

Dallas, no stranger to tragedy in its past, saw one of the larger marches wend its way through the city in Dealey Plaza (history buffs might note the location). As the marchers protested peaceably with a large but equally peaceable Dallas Police Department watching them, shots rang out from a parking garage. Within minutes, a peaceful protest turned into a scene of chaos as people ran for cover and the police, the apparent targets of the shooter(s), took cover themselves to return the attack and protect the protestors (no irony here, for those of you waggling your fingers – that’s their fucking job).

As the hours wore on, the news channels all tried to outdo each other with “breaking news” details. The death toll of officers started at three, shrunk to one, went up to four and finally settled on five officers dead and another seven injured. Three people were arrested for taking part in the shooting, while a fourth was killed after a standoff with police in the parking garage from which he allegedly launched his side of the attack.

Now a nation is shocked…SHOCKED, mind you…that such mindless violence has taken over the streets of our major cities.

GOP 2016 Trump

We shouldn’t be. We are part of the reason that it has built up, not one faction or another, one party or the other, one race or the other. WE, the people of this country, have allowed for far too long the vitriol of separatism to infest our very fibers, to infest our thoughts, our speech and our actions. It can be seen across the spectrum, whether it is a simple comment on how much a professional athlete makes for playing a game (the racial animosity in some of the comment sections is a great argument for actual names being used to identify people), our political process (which seems to vilify every action of every person, not imbuing them with even a shred of humanity) or even our interactions with people who are tasked with defending and protecting us (if it wasn’t for the recent shootings, would relations be as strained with law enforcement? I think not…).

But we’re better than this and we’d better start showing it, otherwise there’s not much chance at settling things down.

We can first start with the police. There is an element in law enforcement who gets a Woody because they get to play “cops and robbers” for a living and they exercise that power whenever possible. There are also about 95% of those who just want to get the fuck home at the end of the shift to see their wives and kids. I’ve called for it before:  there should be yearly physical, psychological and financial review of all police officers, stretching even down to their social media usage, to determine that they are stable and suitable for duty. This should be ACROSS THE COUNTRY, from the largest departments to the “one stoplight” towns in rural areas.

Secondly, there should be two tiers of police created. There should be those that are tasked with interaction with the public, be it through traffic patrols (a traffic stop shouldn’t have to break out into a reenactment of the OK Corral), meeting visitors at the police department or other types of situations who would be unarmed. Then there should be a second tier, those who are tasked with taking on situations with active shooters, robberies and other “armed” situations who would be appropriately equipped. This tier of police is able to handle the responsibility that is given to them and act accordingly (I cannot claim original idea on this…a Facebook acquaintance actually proposed it and, to Scott, I say you’re dead on).

We’re not going to overlook the citizens of the United States on this, either. A simple way to start with things is to reemphasize to people that a command from law enforcement personnel isn’t the place to be arguing right and wrong (this is an argument from law enforcement apologists, but it is one that does make sense). If a police officer asks you to show ID, you show ID; if they command you to lie on the ground, get there as quick as possible. Escalation of issues come into play when people want to litigate it on the street corner rather than in a court of law.

Secondly, if the actions in Dallas don’t demonstrate it, it is way beyond time to enact some gun control measures. It is obvious that “concealed carry” isn’t a great idea as the Minnesota man was gunned down DESPITE telling officers he was licensed and carrying. The shooters in Dallas demonstrated great proficiency with rifles at long distances…why do civilians need to have such firepower at their disposal? And before anyone starts screaming “Second Amendment,” note NOWHERE there do I say they should be banned…although others have made that suggestion.

It is time that this country demonstrates what it actually should be – a country that, while a vast assimilation of widely divergent viewpoints exist, can actually work together on issues. This is across the board – politics, law enforcement interaction with the public, even common decency amongst each other – and should be something that we strive to do. We can be better than this, people…the alternative is appealing to no one.

Coming Back from Self-Imposed Exile and…Things Are Still the Same

OrlandoClub

Yes, it’s been quite some time since I stepped to the writer’s dais here on my site. Let’s call it a self-imposed exile, one that was required due to the factor that my personal well of outrage over certain circumstances in our nation had reached its dry point. There are times that, when you’ve railed about things long enough, that you have to stop and recharge – I personally used that recharge time to reexamine some issues, some thoughts, and perhaps find some new insight that had previously eluded my vision.

Then Sunday happened…

In Orlando on Sunday morning, a man stepped into a nightclub (everyone wants to say “gay nightclub,” like it matters) armed to the teeth with an AR-15, and handgun and some other weaponry that hasn’t been disclosed. He also must have had a shitload of ammunition because, by the time the Orlando police forced their way into the club at around 5AM, there were 49 people dead, 53 more injured and untold numbers that may have been injured but were able to escape the club before it became a hostage situation and find medical attention. The shooting at Pride nightclub in Orlando took over the dark banner of the biggest mass killing in United States history.

While it should have been the utter idiocy of someone taking the lives of 50 people and injuring a similar number, what was mind-numbing was the speed of politicization of the shooting. The GOP and the National Rifle Association supporters must have hot-keyed their responses to the “next” mass shooting, because they were at the ready with the well-worn dismissals of any such occurrence: “it wasn’t the gun’s fault,” “it was (insert your barely hidden religious or racial screed here),” or, because of the fucking Orangutan Mutant that continue to fire shit out of his mouth, “the Muslims have to go!” While they did this, they didn’t have something that a normal person, being of a halfway evidentiary mindset, had:  the ability to let evidence come in to make a more informed decision.

From all apparent evidence, the shooter was a U. S. citizen, born and raised, who self-radicalized himself. According to his ex-wife and co-workers, he had anger issues that bordered on bipolar disorder. He had been investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation for some statements he had made to co-workers regarding other people, but the FBI found no crimes to be able to charge the shooter. Finally, his own father said that he had always been anti-gay, particularly outraged two weeks earlier because he saw two men kissing in public.

That last one is particularly important. Evidence has shown that the shooter bought the weapons he used, including an AR-15, within the last two weeks, AFTER the incident that his father reports the shooter was upset over. It is also of interest that the shooter had a profile on a gay dating site and had visited Pulse nightclub; because he was gunned down in the club, it will never be known if the shooter was ashamed of his sexual proclivities or was simply using all tools at his disposal to research his hideous crime.

But let’s get back to the politicization…

None other than the Orangutan Mutant, Drumpf himself, crowed about how “he was right.” He actually accepted CONGRATULATIONS following the attack, letting a couple hours lapse before he even put out his condolences to the families. Then the asshole went a step further, saying that only he could protect the LGBT community, despite the decades that the GOP has spent trying to deny every right to these people across the board.

Furthermore, the GOP as a whole stood up more for the NRA rather than the LGBT community that was mowed down Sunday morning. The Republicans couldn’t even bring themselves to say the acronym “LGBT,” instead just offering that maddeningly pandering “thoughts and prayers” instead of actually doing something about the issue.

Now, in the last 48 hours or so of the discussion, the usual battle lines are drawn. The GOP and conservatives state that there’s “nothing that can be done” to stop such attacks. The Democrats and liberals are once again saying that there should be more controls on weapons (and, let’s add for emphasis here, NOT LOOKING TO ABOLISH THE SECOND AMENDMENT). The extremists on the right want to follow Mr. Oompah Loompah with his ban on “any immigration from a country with terrorist activities” (news flash, asshole:  that’s virtually every other country in the world…you’re going to stop ALL immigration or just the brown people?), while the extremists on the left ARE looking for that ban on all guns.

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As usual with this situation, the answer lies in the middle.

I’m all for the Second Amendment and responsible ownership of weapons. This would entail a license for every weapon owned, no sale of weapon without a properly transferred license, medical and psychological evaluation of gun owner BEFORE obtaining said weapon, a nationwide system of checks against those who shouldn’t have weapons, having insurance on weapon should they be used in an inappropriate way…I can go on, if you like. There is a litany of regulations that could be instituted to ensure responsible gun ownership.

We do more to ensure someone can operate a 3500-pound weapon on the roads of the U. S. than we do a device that can spit hundreds of rounds per minute indiscriminately. If you reach a certain age, you have to either surrender your driver’s license or PROVE EVERY YEAR that you’re not a hazard on the roadways. If you get too many drunk driving convictions, your license can be revoked. If you have certain health issues like seizures, you’re driving privileges can be taken. You also have to have insurance on every vehicle owned, otherwise in many states you can’t even get plates for the vehicle. With guns? Little to none of this is true.

Yes, more laws are sometimes necessary. Did we have laws mandating wearing seat belts? No, but we passed them and auto deaths were reduced. Did we have laws on pasteurizing milk? No, but we passed them and made it to where contaminated milk didn’t kill you. Just saying “you can’t do it” isn’t good enough. You have to be willing to look at situations and say “You know, this isn’t right.” And if you disagree with this, I do believe that you don’t value life (or you find the children of Sandy Hook, the clubgoers of Orlando and the theatergoers in Aurora to be an “acceptable loss”), otherwise you might actually say that some controls are necessary.

AR15

Furthermore, we are not talking the abolishment of the Second Amendment.We are talking taking a military-style weapon off the table in the AR-15. The AR-15, the weapon of choice in several mass killings, is the civilian equivalent of the military’s M-16. Its sole purpose is to fire as many rounds as possible and kill as many people as possible. With some modifications – some legal, many illegal – the weapon can fire hundreds of rounds per minute. There’s absolutely no “hunting” or “sport” involved with this weapon.

We’re not talking about handguns, shotguns, ammunition, none of that. ONE WEAPON whose sole existence is to kill, rapidly and as many targets as possible. That’s a pretty easy elimination. If we enact some common sense legislation, will it stop ALL shooting crimes? No, there’s always going to be gun-related homicides and suicides. But if we can cut the numbers down, it’s a start. And sometimes that is necessary in a civilized society.

At What Price Security? At What Price Privacy?

BelgiumBombing

As many U. S. citizens awoke this morning, they were greeted by the news of the most recent battle of the civilized world against those who would seek to change it through terrorist attacks. In Belgium, at least three bombs – two in an airport and another in the subway system in Brussels – have killed at least 30 people and injured 230 more (and the numbers are increasing). As always, the world is stunned at the ferocity and sophistication of the attacks as the process begins of investigating and capturing the people involved.

Much of what will occur in Belgium and on the European continent over the next few days will rest in the hands of security agencies and law enforcement investigators, probably with assistance from our Central Intelligence Agency and Federal Bureau of Investigations. These two departments – along with INTERPOL, MI6, FIS and several other powerful organizations, not to mention local law enforcement in each country – will put together the smallest threads of evidence, discover how and where the bombs were built and, eventually, find those responsible for the attacks (whether they are apprehended alive or dead doesn’t really matter, unless we’re truly interested in why they did what they did). But what happens for the United States, when we’ve built a society that treasures security as much as their citizens’ privacy?

This is a monumental question today – at what price do we want security? At what price do we sacrifice privacy? – with several cases that the federal government is currently pursuing in courts across the United States. Currently in Brooklyn, a federal judge has denied the U. S. Department of Justice’s request that Apple assist them in unlocking the iPhone of a drug suspect, citing that he lacked the authority to be able to order the computer giant to disable the security protocols that they established to ensure that their customers’ information was safe. Likewise, the popular messaging application WhatsApp has come under scrutiny from the feds because the encryption used in their program prevents anyone outside of the sender and receiver from seeing what has been passed. If pushed in a courtroom, would WhatsApp fall under wiretap orders – more than a decade old that were passed for landlines – or would it be protected under privacy laws?

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The biggest fight, however, has been the Department of Justice’s ongoing battle against Apple regarding the iPhone of one of the terrorists responsible for the attacks in San Bernardino, CA, late last year. Syed Farook, one of the terrorists killed after Farook and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, ruthlessly murdered 14 people (most of whom were Farook’s co-workers) and injured another 22 people before they were gunned down by law enforcement as they attempted to escape the scene. As a part of the massive amount of evidence against them, Farook’s iPhone was allegedly found to possibly have information on it that could be beneficial to law enforcement (adding information as to potential accomplices or groups that might have helped the duo), but was inaccessible due to the security features that Apple employs on every iPhone that customers around the world purchase.

If there are too many attempts at an individual’s password for an iPhone, then the phone completely erases whatever information is on the device, locks up and becomes completely useless for whoever has the device, be it the owner, a thief or, in this case, the federal government. Naturally, investigators want to preserve any information that might be on the terrorist’s phone and, in the case of Farook’s phone, the potential destruction of whatever evidence might be contained on the device is something that is necessary to avoid. But should there be some way to get around this security feature?

The feds did kindly ask Apple to create a “backdoor” that would allow them to access Farook’s phone but, with their customers not only in the United States but worldwide in mind, Apple politely declined to create such a plan, program or application to assist the government. In Apple’s eyes, allowing such a move for the government would allow them to do that with virtually any iPhone they wanted access to (see the Brooklyn case above). For their part, the feds are saying no, we’ll only use it this one time, honest as they try to plead their case to the court of public opinion.

Currently the battle is raging in the real courts, with the Department of Justice so far winning the judicial argument as Apple maintains its privacy and security rights. The higher up the debate in the judicial branch has gone, however, it has become more difficult for the feds to be able to justify their breach of privacy and security, especially the “one time only” usage of such programs to penetrate Apple’s devices. Public opinion is split on the issue, with some attacking Apple for its stance while others are applauding Apple for standing up for the rights of citizens not only from the U. S. but also around the world. That battle has paused, at least for the moment, as the federal government yesterday asked to cancel a hearing in Los Angeles for reasons unknown.

The answers to the questions that surround this case – at what price security? at what price privacy? – are ones that, if you ask ten different U. S. citizens, you would probably end up with ten different answers. Since the attacks of 9/11, the U. S. citizen has consistently given up pieces of their privacy, their right to keep the government out of certain aspects of their lives, in exchange for the (false?) cocoon of “security” that is supposed to be provided by said government. And, for the most part, it has worked – there hasn’t been another 9/11 style attack in the nearly 15 years since that dark day.

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Just how far does the government need to go, though? Whether you like him or not, whistleblower Edward Snowden pointed out the vast amounts of data that is scooped up by U. S. agencies in the name of “homeland security,” and in many cases it was questioned why the government needed such extreme measures. The result was a minimal slowdown on data taken but, in the end, vast amounts of data collection continue unabated.

The need to be “safe” is an emotion that human beings consistently want to feel but it shouldn’t come at the sacrifice of the government consistently invading private aspects of your life. What books you order from Amazon, the websites you read online, even particular groups you interact with physically or online – all of these things are something that shouldn’t be known by the government. At the snap of a finger, however, a dossier can be created on probably every U. S. citizen that can trace their activities, a penetration into personal life that the government shouldn’t have.

I am fine with a “surgical” strike by law enforcement groups like the FBI. Go to the courts and obtain a subpoena, have a singular target for a specific time and ask whatever tech companies might have on the subject. A blanket gathering of information is not what was envisioned by the creators of the United States, in fact the federal government was meant to stay as far away from infringing on the individual as possible. Furthermore, to tell a company they HAVE to do something against their will – especially when that would violate the personal trust that people have put in a product that company produces – also violates the rights of the people against potential tyranny.

General Michael Hayden, a former director of the National Security Agency, said it best. “Look, I used to run the NSA, OK?” Hayden told USA TODAY earlier this year. “Back doors are good. Please, please, Lord, put back doors in, because I and a whole bunch of other talented security services around the world — even though that back door was not intended for me — that back door will make it easier for me to do what I want to do, which is to penetrate.”

The battle between the rights of the people and the protection of those people by the government will continue to rage onward. But the answer to the questions asked is that security shouldn’t be an extreme price, but privacy shouldn’t be sacrificed at the altar of security. Once privacy is shattered, any semblance of security disappears also.

Why Are the Feds Slow On the Uptake in Oregon?

Militiaman

It didn’t take us long to get into the Year 2016 until we have our first serious confrontation.

Armed militiamen (we’ll get into this in a moment) have “taken over” a federal headquarters for a national park ridge in Oregon following a protest in a nearby town. Swearing to fight off “anyone” who threatens to try to remove them from the land, these ammosexuals who got dressed in their Sunday-finest camouflage to “go to meetin’” say they will maintain the post and continually brag about the weaponry they have and the numbers (approximately 150 by estimates). Oh, and their leader is the son of the Nevada cretin Cliven Bundy, who was doing well with his own diatribe against the federal government (despite the factor he owes over $1 million in grazing rights fees) until he started talking about how the “Negro” needed to be treated.

Yes, Ammon Bundy is at the helm of this little coffee klatch, except the problem is the klatch doesn’t have books (they may have coffee), it has AR-15s. One of many militiamen who flooded to Oregon to protest the further jailing of two Oregonites for arson (they admitted they were burning their land, the fire got out of control and that they threatened federal authorities who put the fire out; originally jailed for a short period of time, federal judges said it should have been longer and the men had to surrender to authorities), Bundy and his buddies decided they weren’t quite ready to head back to Nevada. Instead, they thought it would be a good idea to forcibly take a federal property, then swear that they would shoot any local, state or federal agent who came to try to force them from the area.

Lovely way to start the year, isn’t it?

There are several problems with this beyond simply the legal issues that it implies (and those would be treason, sedition and, if any federal, state or local officers were killed or injured, first degree murder charges; then we’d get to the small shit like seizing federal property). The people in Oregon whom Bundy says he’s helping have said they DON’T WANT HIS HELP. The two men involved in the arson case have already reported to federal prison to continue to serve their sentences and have issued statements through their attorneys that in no way do those at the Bundy camp represent them. It doesn’t stop with just the two men at the center of the case, either.

The Pacific Patriot Network, a loose-knit group that claims to oversee militias on the West Coast, said it “does not support seizing federal property” even though it understood the frustration with the federal government. A group that united behind the Bundys in 2014 in their case in Nevada, the Oath Keepers, has made sure to keep a far distance away from Ammon Bundy this time around. Although others wouldn’t speak ill of Bundy, they also “wish he wouldn’t have done this,” according to a report from Reuters, because it draws a mark of ill-repute on militias.

But here’s the big question that surrounds this situation. Why haven’t the federal authorities – either park rangers, Federal Bureau of Investigation officers, Department of the Interior officers, SOMEONE from the government – reacted to the situation? Is it because it isn’t a threat to anyone at this point? Or is it because these are whites involved in the situation?

The federal government hasn’t exactly had the best track record when it comes to armed standoffs with anti-government opponents. The incident in 1992 in Ruby Ridge, ID, that led to the death of three people (including a woman, a child and one U. S. Marshal) is considered to be one of the worst run operations in the history of law enforcement. Using a Rules of Engagement that was extremely draconian (down to the killing of noncombatants and animals, if necessary), the Ruby Ridge incident was held up as how “not” to handle such a situation.

While the hearings regarding the Ruby Ridge incident were ongoing, the FBI and ATF agents earned another blemish on their records. In attempting to deliver an arrest warrant on David Koresh and a search warrant of his Branch Davidians compound in Waco, TX, four ATF agents and six members of Koresh’s Branch Davidians religion were killed. After a 51-day standoff, the FBI and ATF – believing that children were in danger inside the compound – raided the compound. A resulting fire (investigations revealed it to have been set by those inside the compound in a final suicide pact with Koresh) from the attack killed the 76 people who were inside the compound.

Since those two incidences, however, the federal government has been rather subdued in its responses to domestic incidences. The Bundy case from 2014 – where 1000 militiamen basically dared agents to take some shots at them, all for naught – is a case in point. It is also very likely that this case in Oregon could be run much like the 2014 Bundy case was handled by federal authorities.

In essence, this is a battle being fought on the government’s turf. They can cut off electricity to the building, cut off water, put a loose circle of agents around the area – or none at all – and simply wait for Bundy and his fellow yahoos to decide that playing soldier isn’t as much fun when you have to fend for yourself. Then they’ll come out and, as they do, you pick them up and charge them with an assortment of laws that they’ve broken – or do nothing at all and make them look even more foolish.

There is another point being bandied about out there and it does bear some discussion amongst the adults in the room. These are all, for the most part, middle-aged white males who are involved in this situation in Oregon. What would be the reaction of the federal authorities if there were 150 black, Latino or Asian men heavily armed and storming a federal building?

It is loosely comparable, but we’ve seen a similar response from governmental authorities in the past. In 1985, police in Philadelphia, armed with arrest warrants and orders to evict members of the Black Power group MOVE from a building, instead ended up in a firefight with said group. The Police Commissioner at that time, Commissioner Gregore Sambor, ordered the building to be bombed and Philadelphia Police Lieutenant Frank Powell dropped two one pound “water-gel explosive” devices on the roof of the house.

The results were catastrophic. Not only did the resulting explosion destroy the top of the building, it started a fire that spread to an estimated 65 buildings that surrounded the targeted house (police also refused to allow for firefighters to fight the fire, due to the chance MOVE members might shoot at them). In the end, eleven members of MOVE, including five children, died as a result of the fire, 250 people were left homeless (MOVE members who survived said that survivors were shot at by police as they fled the carnage) and ZERO political or law enforcement personnel faced any repercussions from the event.

Perhaps we’ve come a distance since that day in 1985 – or even those days in 1992 or 1993 – where such usages of force would be considered. There are easier ways to bring about the closure of a standoff – some of which I mentioned previously, cutting off water, power, essentials that would eventually force someone out of a stance – rather than going in with guns blazing. With this current situation, we can only hope that it ends with a peaceful solution; with a Bundy involved, however, and the rhetoric they and the militias wield, they will try to push every button possible to try to goad the government into a fight.

Why Do We Keep Repeating Ourselves When It Comes To Gun Violence?

It’s been a couple of days since the tragic shooting of WDBJ-TV Roanoke, VA, reporter Alison Parker and her cameraman, Adam Ward (and the life-threatening injury to Vicki Gardner, a member of the Chamber of Commerce that they were interviewing), live during the broadcast of the station’s morning show by a deranged former co-worker of the duo. Over the past couple of days, there has once again been the hand-wringing that comes about following one of these inexplicable shootings that seem to happen like clockwork in the United States. When these periods of mourning occur, there is also a renewed “effort” (if you want to call it that) to enact sensible gun regulation; in the Roanoke case, it is Parker’s father that has led the call this time. There’s also that dreadful feeling that, like many other times before and for much worse cases, nothing at all will be done about the situation.

The problem is, in the past couple of instances, the current laws and any tougher restrictions may not have done any good.

In the Roanoke case the shooter, former reporter Vester Flanagan (we will not respect him by using his on-air name) legally purchased not just one but two Glock semi-automatic pistols, one that he would eventually use in the shooting of Parker, Ward and Gardner. Flanagan passed through the background check, no bells went off and he walked out (there is no waiting period for gun purchases in Virginia) of a licensed gun dealer’s shop in Virginia with his weapons after paying for them.

This situation also applies to the horrific tragedy that is the Charleston, SC church shooting. The person responsible for that, 21-year old Dylan Roof, also was able to pass a background check (later found to be faulty) to be able to obtain the weaponry that he used to gun down the nine churchgoers in cold blood. Even the Sandy Hook tragedy was done by a shooter, Adam Lanza, whose mother legally bought him the weapons he had (and would use on her and 26 others) in 2012.

Add in Virginia Tech, Aurora, Chattanooga and many other cases and you see that the United States has way too many instances of mass shootings on its soil (this is just in the past decade and not even a comprehensive list). To be able to correct this problem, there are several issues that have to be considered here and implementation of all are necessary if we are to get the usage of guns in horrendous crimes under control.

A 2013 Pew Research Center survey states that slightly more than one-third of U. S. citizens own or live with someone who owns a weapon. With the population of the U. S. around 320 million, that means there are over 100 million people who own at least one weapon. For arguments sake, let’s cut that number to around 50 million gun owners, counting for duplication in a husband and wife household at the minimum. That’s a scary number to see, especially when you consider “at least one” in the ownership realm.

The reason I say “at least one” is that it is also estimated that there are anywhere from 270 to 310 million weapons in the United States, nearly enough to outfit each man, woman and child in the U. S. with a weapon whether they like it or not. That number of guns available in itself is far too many and needs to be examined in its own right. But through implementation of some common sense ideas, many of the problematic issues regarding weapons can be corrected; it’s going to take some time, however, perhaps decades.

First off is a suitable waiting period before someone can obtain any type of firearm:  rifle, pistol, shotgun or a variety of other weaponry. In some cases, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) performs the background checks on potential gun owners, in others it is the individual State Bureaus of Investigation; both should be utilized, the state’s investigation first and the FBI as a double-check. There should be a 10-day waiting period in which to give the proper authorities ample time to review a person’s background and, if there is no result from the responsible investigative bureau, then the sale is rejected. To implement this change, however, you can’t continually cut funding from the proper authorities to do their jobs properly.

Second is better recording and sharing of mental health records. There should be a national registry for those suffering from mental health issues that flag them, in particular for law enforcement groups when they are looking over pretty much anything they do. Wouldn’t a police officer like to know that the person sitting in the vehicle ahead of them might have a history of mental health issues and therefore might handle a situation differently? The same holds true when they are reviewing someone’s application for a weapon, especially if the applicant’s mental health issues are only recorded in another state.

Now I am sure that someone is going to say that this is an “invasion of privacy” or a violation of doctor/patient privilege. Unfortunately, when you’ve reached the point that your particular affliction is causing issues with law enforcement, you do lose some privacy considerations. Don’t take it too far, however; someone has to have demonstrated previously an incident, either on the job or with law enforcement, to show just cause for being placed on such a registry, not someone who has been simply treated for issues that affect their abilities to function in normal life. Even with this caveat thrown into the mix, the Roanoke situation may still have happened, however.

Finally, there has to be some recognition from the political sphere that this is a significant problem in the United States and pay it real attention rather than hiding behind the skirts of several usual suspects.

For the Democrats, we already have enough gun restrictions on the books. There are going to be shootings on a RARE occasion, even with all the gun laws in the U. S. implemented to the fullest. Banning high capacity magazines and automatic weapons isn’t the answer, a better one would be to regulate their usage and allow for their ownership by the populace. Continuing to push for deeper and deeper restrictions or bans beyond what already exist only infringe on a lawful individual’s rights, not the criminal who actually committed the crime.

For the Republicans, it is time to take the pacifier that the National Rifle Association sticks in your mouth after each mass shooting out, get out from behind the U. S. Constitution and allow for some more regulation on guns. The NRA leadership (rumor has it the base membership of the organization doesn’t have a problem with some additional regulation, especially in banning sales at gun shows and more extensive background checks) has shown repeatedly that it isn’t about defending the right of U. S. citizens to own weapons. With that leadership in particular (and the same can be said for plenty of other groups), it is more of a political stance to get the proper person into a seat in Congress or state legislatures across the country to be able to manipulate them at will.

The Second Amendment in the Bill of Rights to the U. S. Constitution does provide for the right of the citizenry to own weapons and it is an important amendment to defend. However, it doesn’t provide for someone to own an arsenal that sometimes outpaces even law enforcement (no matter how good you are, you can only shoot two weapons at a time). Add in to that equation the issue of when the Second Amendment was written. At that time, it took even the best musket shooter anywhere from two to three minutes to reload their weapon and said weapon was only accurate to about 100 yards for the best marksman. Today, when you can spray 600 rounds per minute – with accuracy from 300 to 500 yards – from an Uzi by an untrained person, perhaps it’s time to reconsider the Second Amendment’s intent.

Additional regulation doesn’t have to be draconian, it can be as simple as banning gun show sales (hey, if you really want that weapon, go to the store and go through the process) or waiting a few extra days to get a particular weapon in your hand. What about liability insurance on gun owners to hold them personally responsible for the ownership and usage of their weapons? We do more for cars and their ownership than what we do when it comes to weapons.

It is particularly shocking when those whose livelihood once were dependent on the world of weapons are actually asking for more regulations on weapons.

One year ago in Nevada, gun range instructor Charles Vacca was the unfortunate victim of a gun range incident that resulted in his death. The perpetrator? A nine year old girl who legally could fire the weapon, an Uzi submachine gun, but logically shouldn’t have been allowed to even put it in her hand. The six children of Vacca are now advocates for new guns laws that would prohibit people under the age of 16 from shooting certain semiautomatic weapons like those as powerful as the Uzi, an instance of gun control that make completely logical sense.

The real issue that needs to be addressed, however, is the mentality of the citizens of the United States. It would take several generations to change the mindset of how guns are used in the U. S., to get it beyond its “Wild West” romantic nostalgia or its inner city “equalizer” role. We as a people need to start looking at guns as something that, like many things in life, in the wrong hands can be fatal and how can we attempt to make it a bit safer (let’s be honest, there is no such thing as “perfectly safe”). The rest of the civilized world seems to have learned that using guns as a method of solving conflict isn’t the way to go, why can’t U. S. citizens?

Implementing the measures above – and all of them need to be done, not a piecemeal approach that minces around the subject – would be an outstanding start. After that work is done, we can then sit back and review to see if there is anything else that needs to be done.