Melky Cabrera and the Toronto Blue Jays

Team chemistry is key to team success. It requires assembling a group of talented players of substance and character. Obviously Cabrera is talented but he lacks substance and character. Melky Cabrera, unfortunately for the Jays, is unlikely to assist in delivering the World Series to Toronto. But on November 19, 2012 Toronto signed Cabrera to a two-year $16 million contract for precisely that reason.

That is a lot of money for any player, but particularly for Cabrera, a Bible toting mama’s boy, more likely to implode from within rather than explode with timely hits when he will be most needed. Melky’s given name derives from Melchior, one of the 3 Magi or wise men from the East who allegedly delivered gold, frankincense and myrrh at the birth of Jesus. Cabrera says he keeps a Bible in his locker and reads from it before every game. Perhaps his biblical heroes are Cain or Judas. His heavily tatooed arms suggest, however, he sees himself more aligned with Jesus and his own mother. Neither are likely proud of Melky lately.

Melky no doubt glossed over those portions of the Bible that warn against deception (Proverbs-24-28) and bearing false witness (Mark 10-19). He signed with the Jays this off-season following a tumultuous 2012 season with San Francisco. He was the All-Star game’s MVP. He was batting .346 when he was suspended by the MLB for violating its drug policy.  His suspension turned out to be a total of 50 games. His supporters credited him for his prompt and honest admission of using a banned steroid that dramatically increases the hormone testosterone. Cabrera was anything but honest. Melky’s form of “honesty” was brought about by the exposure of his deceptive cover-up scheme. It was just more dishonesty.

Melky, with the aid of a friend, created a fake website. He then claimed that his positive test was caused by an unknown substance that he purchased through that website. MLB investigators, mindful of the stain on baseball’s reputation by the likes of Barry Bonds,[1] decided to investigate further. The investigators traced the website back to Cabrera. Busted. All the kudos given to him for his alleged prompt admissions of guilt were as phony as him. His admissions were fueled by the fact that he was caught red-handed in an elaborate scheme of deceit.

The Blue Jays No Better

What does one make of the Blue Jays organization signing Cabrera to a two-year contract for $16 million in these circumstances? Obviously, the concept of winning for that organization trumps sending a message of rewarding honesty and shunning dishonesty. Cabrera’s contrived news conference at the behest of the Jay’s organization was difficult to stomach.

Cabrera first announced that this was the only time he would ever make reference to his troubled 2012 season. Then, he dealt with none of the specifics of his tawdry effort to cover his cheating. He read haltingly from a prepared statement, undoubtedly contrived by his lawyers. What he said, of course, lacked any sense of sincerity, as most prepared legalistic documents sound upon delivery.

This press conference was so devoid of any recognition of wrongdoing it was tantamount to a less sophisticated whitewash than his earlier use of a fake website to hide his guilt. He referred to his “difficulty” as “a mistake”. Singular! He has now received a World Series ring “for his efforts on behalf of the team before his scandle.”

The question is: should the San Francisco Giants even be World Series winners since their season had the benefits of his efforts before his cheating was discovered? The use of performance-enhancing drugs did not occur when he was caught. It occurred all year long when he gave himself a chemical advantage over all his competitors. The San Francisco Giants benefitted from his cheating.Their self-imposed penalty was to not use him in the playoffs. Big deal!

So what does the Blue Jay organization stand for? They took advantage of Cabrera’s availability on the market because of his cheating. What message does the organization send out by snapping up the cheater? In the realm of integrity, honesty and fair play, their organization stands for not much at all. Their message could best be described as: Cheat but don’t get caught. If caught, there will always be some organization like ours more desperate to win than conerned about principles of fair play. So, go out there and read from a prepared text that admits nothing, then promise to never speak about it again.

My prediction: The Blue Jays and Melky will fall flat on their two-sided faces. They will not challenge for the World Series. In their tough Division they will be dead last. They will be lucky to play 500 ball. This will be the Toronto version of ‘cheaters never prosper’. Nor should they.

 



[1] MLB’s current all-time home run leader, and probably its all-time greatest steroid user, who had just recently escaped with only a conviction for obstruction of justice while avoiding a conviction for perjury in relation to his testimony for his use of steroids during his career. MLB obviously believes he lied under oath because it continues to deny him entry in the Hall of Fame.

Pope Benedict’s Resignation

Pope Benedict XVI has announced that he will resign the papacy February 28, 2013. His resignation is the first papal resignation in approximately 600 years. His announcement was delivered entirely in Latin. Using a dead language to deliver his message was symbolic–since his excuse for resigning made no sense–why not deliver the message in a language no one understands?

First it’s important to note that while he is resigning as Pope, he apparently has no plans to leave the Vatican. Benedict’s plans to live in a convent in the Vatican post-resignation can only be for one reason: an attempt to gain personal immunity from criminal prosecution or civil suit. In 2010 Benedict was named as a defendant in a lawsuit relating to events in 1995 when he was a Cardinal.

The lawsuit alleged that Benedict was fully aware of sexual abuse by members of the Catholic clergy against children at a school in the United States catering to deaf children. The lawsuit alleged that he played a part in a cover-up of the abuse. Lawyers for the Pope argued that Benedict’s position in the Vatican shielded him from claims for damages based upon the actions of abusive priests. The legal issue was never fully argued or settled. But Benedict was dropped as a defendant in the lawsuit. His anxiety from that legal episode may still linger in his mind.

Pope Benedict claims that the reason for his resignation is that he is old and tired. How that sets him apart from any other Pope over the last 600 years is not certain. He claims that the state of his health prevents him from carrying out his duties. His predecessor Pope John Paul II lasted 25 years as Pope; survived 2 assassination attempts, one of which resulted in severe physical injury, 4 or 5 different types of cancer and still continued his term, suffering from Parkinson’s disease until the date of his death. At times John Paul II could hardly sit up. He would slump sideways in his chair and struggle to speak in audible tones but he didn’t resign because of health conditions.

Benedict looks and acts positively spry by comparison. All of which leads one to question the real reason(s) behind his resignation. Is he physically unable to perform his papal duties? Or, would he just prefer not to? And, does his plan to continue to reside in the Vatican signal a real concern that victim rights advocates around the world who are openly calling for his prosecution are perceived by him as a real threat?

The question of whether or not the Vatican compound actually provides him with immunity from prosecution has never been tried. In legal terms, Papal Privilege has never been recognized as a privilege barring prosecution. A geographical location, even one as prestigious as the Vatican, has never cloaked anyone in protection from prosecution or civil suit. So why stay there? Certainly not for the measly €2500 per month he allegedly will receive if he remains confined in the Vatican?

If it’s a plan, it’s a half-baked plan! While the thought of an ex-pope sitting in a courtroom as an accused criminal or as a defendant in a civil action for sexual abuse is unsettling, in this highly litigious world it is certainly possible. And, apparently at least one Vatican official, anonymously of course, told Reuters that Benedict’s decision to live inside the Vatican is for that very reason–to protect him from legal action. Perhaps Benedict fears these anonymous Vatican spokespersons who always seem to have a newsworthy quote calculated to embarrass the Pontif. One thing is certain. Pope Benedict’s decision to resign after only 7 years is historic.

It is the first papal resignation in almost 600 years. The last Pope to resign was Gregory XII. Like Benedict, Pope Gregory was only 10 years into his tenure. His resignation, however, apparently had a noble aspect to it. There were 3 vying factions of the Catholic Church and each faction had selected a separate candidate as a possible successor. Gregory’s resignation was accompanied by a plea that the various factions select one successor they could all support. If Benedict’s resignation is more about self-preservation than a true concern for his ability to carry out his duties, it is the pure antithesis of a noble act.

Let the political infighting begin. The electoral body known as the Sacred College of Cardinals will meet in enclave in the Sistine Chapel. There they will argue and fight and vote. These Cardinals are not known as a genteel group.  Political advantage in the Church goes to those who successfully select a successor favorable to them.

In this age of the bulletproof Pope-Mobile it is easy to forget there are many ancient rituals involved in selecting a new Pope. Many of the rituals date back to the Middle Ages. The ballots are secret. The world waits for white smoke from the chimney signaling a new successor. When Benedict was appointed, the smoke was gray. No one knew what to make of it. Was it really black with just shades of gray? Or was it actually white with shades of black? Let’s face it, Benedict started his reign with confusion, why not end it the same way?

Canadian Senator Pamela Wallin

Canadian Senator Pamela Wallin defends her exorbitant travel expenses by claiming that she is simply unable to do her job sitting at a desk in Ottawa. The truth is she could do her job sitting anywhere. Her job, of course, is to rubberstamp any legislation supported by the person who anointed her to the do-nothing job of being a Canadian senator. That would be Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

The Canadian Conservative government after railing on for years about the need for Senate reform when they were in opposition has taken a distinctly different path since their election in 2006. Pamela is one of 64 Conservative party appointments to the 105-member Senate Chamber. Simple math tells you all you need to know. The members of this do-nothing governmental body routinely vote along party lines ensuring that neither their physical presence nor their thinking process is ever actually needed. The only reform needed for this feckless, inept and pointless appendage of government is to allow votes to be mailed in. That way, she and others of her ilk could wistfully spend her remaining years spending time where they want to spend time. That apparently is not the floor of the Senate.

Pamela, for example, has been hanging out regularly in Wadena Saskatchewan where her parents and sister live and where she maintains two residences and owns a seasonal ice cream store. Allowing her to merely mail in her entirely predictable vote on each and every question that makes its way to the Red Chamber would actually save the taxpayers of this country hundreds of thousands of dollars in travel expense and the cost of a separate residence in the Ottawa area. In the last 2 years alone she allegedly spent over $350,000 in travel costs to and from Ottawa and Saskatchewan. Her excuse: she travels home to represent her constituents, all 1500 of them, in Wadena Saskatchewan. Not likely! Only $28,000 was spent there. The remaining $322,000 went elsewhere–hence the audit on her travel accounts.

One wonders what input, if any, the 1500 residents in Wadena had in any of Pamela’s votes over the last 2 years! Let’s hope they unanimously supported every Conservative legislative initiative. Pamela certainly did. If so, they were extremely well represented!  Pamela apparently knows who butters her bread. And based on Pamela’s unfailing loyalty to the cause, Wadena must be considered a staunch Conservative enclave. It seems that she should not have to leave Wadena to deliver such a predictable vote. Think of the savings!

Pamela’s claim of traveling to serve her constituents will eventually unravel to reveal a more disingenuous, deceptive and artful camouflage of her use of taxpayer money. Wherever and however the money was spent, spending almost 6 times the nation’s average income on travel in 2 years demands some straightforward answers. The pork-barrel society that is Canada’s Senate is not in need of reform. Instead, it is in need of abolition. The Senate serves no worthwhile function. Elected members of the federal government should find other ways to pay off their political buddies, preferably from their own pockets and not from the pockets of hard-working Canadians. Pamela Wallin’s squandering of public money serves to highlight the need for abolition.

Al Gore: Hypocrite

I do not know if Al Gore’s claims that the world’s climate is in crisis are true. I also do not know if the world’s coal, oil and gas companies have conspired to develop misleading propaganda that carbon polluters have in hand the answers to any negative effects of carbon emissions.

I do know now, however, that the world’s best-known advocate for the proposition that the world climate is, in fact, in crisis, and, that the major culprits are the coal, oil and gas companies of the world–is a phony. Former Vice President of the United States of America, Al Gore, Nobel laureate and self-proclaimed representative of the movement for climate change, has demonstrated himself to be Judas Iscariot and Benedict Arnold all wrapped into one.

Why? He deftly turned his climate crusade of the last half decade into a prophecy of profit. This globe-trotting alarmist has made a science of finger-pointing at Big Oil. All the more reason for the utter shock inflicted on tree huggers everywhere at the news that he recently sold his digital channel television station, Current TV, to al Jazeera for a cool $500 million. Al Jazeera, a propaganda oozing, multi-language television production owned by the state of Qatar through the Qatar Media Corporation, takes over a television network that ironically was founded by Al Gore to give voice to those who stand up against Big Oil. Al Jazeera is synonymous with Big Oil.

Al–you are a sellout! What platitudinous BS to call out President Obama for his failure to take the climate crisis seriously! The same can be said for your biting criticism of Congress when you said, “… polluters and their ideological allies tell the members of Congress to jump, and they say, ‘how high?’ Al Jazeera, in addition to being the voice of Big Oil, is also a favorite sounding board for militant groups such as Hamas, Al Qaeda and the Taliban. But apparently when Al Jazeera asked you to jump you did. How high?  Your Inconvenient Truth is that you jumped $500 million high.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez Should Be In An American Hospital

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez could be forgiven if on New Year’s Eve he is lamenting his previous allegations against the American government supporting a failed coup attempt against his government in 2002 and his subsequent breaking of diplomatic relations with the US in September 2008.  Why?  Because tonight is at a hospital in Havana Cuba fighting for his life with what Venezuelan government officials describe as “his bout with cancer taking a turn for the worse”. Contrary to filmmaker Michael Moore’s claims that Cuban hospitals deliver far better health care for much less money than those in America, the truth is that they do not.  Even with the favored treatment that Chavez will receive in Cuba as a foreign leader who has pumped hundreds of millions of dollars into the coffers of that country, their health professionals and their medical equipment are no match for what would be available in the United States, or in Canada for that matter.

Cuba is fond of publishing statistics about its health care system that present a rosy picture.  But there is no independent method permitting verification of any of their claims, and, of course, public criticism of the government is a crime in Cuba. Recent exposés on American television by 20/20 and Fox News demonstrate that the intrusion of Cuban politics into medical treatment and health care decision-making has had a serious and detrimental effect on healthcare there.

Chavez for months did not acknowledge the exact nature of his illness, other than to say that he has cancer of an unknown type and unknown location.  Before his latest trip to Cuba for treatment, however, he did acknowledge that his condition has deteriorated.  Indeed, he suggested a successor to his position in the event of his demise. Sunday, December 30, 2012 Vice President Nicolas Maduro said from Havana that Chavez now faces “new complications” due to a respiratory infection that has arisen since his last operation. This operation was his 4th in Cuba. He also described Chavez’s condition as “delicate.”  Many New Year’s Eve celebrations are reportedly being canceled based on the increasingly bleak outlook for his survival.  Instead of celebrating they are being asked by government officials to pray for Chavez.

Praise is due President Obama for his efforts to re-open diplomatic relations with Venezuela following the long, harsh rhetoric between former President George W. Bush and Chavez. President Obama began his efforts in the summer of 2009 and his efforts have continued to the present date.  Secretary of State Hillary Clinton advanced the US efforts by having Roberta Jacobson, a top US State Department official in charge of Latin-American affairs, begin dialogue with Vice President Maduro. It seems that those discussions have been largely successful. Now, whether or not Chavez succeeds in his battle with cancer, diplomatic relations between the two countries will likely continue. It is a pity, however, that Chavez is apparently still not comfortable seeking out and receiving the best healthcare in the world–available exclusively in the United States of America.

 

Subway Murders

Two murders in New York city do not an epidemic make.  The brazen nature of these 2 killings that left victims helplessly anticipating a terrifying, painful death, and, the sheer stark horror of each victim’s final moments, will remain hauntingly with all of us, whether we utilize subways or not. For regular users of the subway, however, the thought of such an occurrence is likely their worst nightmare.

In the 1st of the 2, Naeem Davis, 30, pushed 58-year-old Ki-Suck Han, a resident of Queens, in front of an oncoming subway train.  Davis now stands charged with second-degree murder.  In the 2nd killing, Erika Menendez pushed Sunado Sen, a complete stranger, in front of an oncoming 11-car train. Both victims were killed instantly. Both, prior to their death, made futile efforts to escape the deep subway well while others looked on helplessly and motionless.  On the list of preferred ways to die, this would rank lowest on my list. On the list of uncivilized behavior, the actions of the perpetrators would rank highest.

Predictably, each perpetrator advanced an explanation for their cowardly behavior. Erika Menendez is alleged to have said, “I hate Hindus and Muslims ever since 2001 when they put down the twin towers.” Naeem Davis, working on his own version of self-defense, apparently proclaimed that his victim “attacked me first.” The first explanation will no doubt lead to a claim of insanity based on the horrors of 9/11, apparently  impacting more deeply and personally on this woman than millions of others, including those who actually lost loved ones in the 9/11 attack.  The second explanation, equally untenable and unsupportable, will nevertheless be played out in court by some energetic defense lawyer, despite its chance of success hovering somewhere between slim and nil.

The fate of the perpetrators, while important to their families, will have little or no impact on any of us. Two years from now it will be page 23 news in the New York Times. What should, however, have an impact on us is the cavalier attitude of governmental authorities accepting that nothing can be done to prevent such tragedies in the future. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, for example, suggested that there is “nothing anyone can do to prevent mentally ill people from pushing innocent victims in front of subway trains.”  Firstly, there is definitely no evidence that either of these perpetrators was or is mentally ill.  Indeed, our law assumes they are not mentally ill and it is they who must establish mental illness based upon evidence acceptable to a jury. They each attempted to escape, a sure sign that they each believed their acts to be morally wrong and contrary to law.

Secondly, and more importantly, lots can be done to prevent intentional killings, accidental falls and just plain mistakes that can lead to these types of horrifying deaths. Inexpensive fences could be erected with gates that open to allow all subway customers to enter only after the subway has arrived and is stationary.  Electronic sensors could be installed at all subway ramps that would automatically cut power or produce warning signals to oncoming trains.  And, of course, as with most allegedly unsolvable problems that are, in fact, solvable, additional subway personnel could be utilized to protect and supervise waiting patrons of the subway.

Mayor Bloomberg is no doubt correct when he suggests that there are many people, particularly in a city the size of New York, who are mentally ill.  All the more reason that active steps must be taken to prevent further deaths. The legal principle that we have a duty to our neighbors to protect them even from their own misfeasance encompasses the idea of forward, preventative planning.  You plan to protect persons from being victimized by any manner of bad conduct, whether fueled by insanity or not.

Frank Calabrese Sr. (a.k.a. Frankie Breeze) is Dead

The Chicago mobster and hit man who allegedly strangled his victims and then slashed their throats

35 years as a criminal defense attorney causes one to have a special interest in crime and those that commit crime.  For many years now I have followed the exploits of Frankie Breeze, the Chicago mobster and hit man, who allegedly strangled his victims and then slashed their throats.  He died on Christmas Day 2012 in a federal prison in North Carolina. While authorities are not releasing the cause of death, during his own testimony in September 2007 at the Family Secrets trial he portrayed himself as a man dying with a “sloppy” enlarged heart.  He definitely did not die of a broken heart.

While Federal authorities have often struggled to obtain evidence that leads to convictions against real mobsters, in the end, Frankie Breeze was handed to them on a silver platter. Omerta, the code of honor among mobsters that guarantees silence and a lack of cooperation with the authorities, is seldom broken.  If broken, the code calls for death to the person who breaks it.  In this case, the code was not just broken; it was shattered in a most unusual way. The key witnesses against Franie Breeze were his 2 sons, Frankie Jr. and Kurt, and his brother Nick (a.k.a. Nickie Breeze). Nickie Breeze was arguably just as dangerous as Frankie, but sensing his own demise based on the disclosures of his nephews, he cut a deal to turn state’s evidence against Frankie to save himself.

Frankie Breeze actually faced 2 criminal trials: the 1st in March 1997 and the 2nd in June 2007.  The 1st was an uneventful affair in the sense that Frankie Breeze and his 2 sons pleaded guilty to racketeering charges related to events from 1978 to 1992.  What was eventful is that while in prison his son Frankie Jr. wrote to Federal authorities offering to assist them in gathering evidence against his father.  Oddly and surprisingly, according to Federal authorities, he asked for nothing in return.  They accepted his offer and he was wired.  Frankie Jr. provided the Federal authorities with the most persuasive evidence available—audiotapes of Frankie Breeze bragging of all the murders he had committed and how he committed them.

Frankie Breeze did not, however, go down without a fight.  Despite what any objective observer would describe as overwhelming inculpatory evidence–his own voice proclaiming his guilt–he took the stand and in less than articulate fashion proclaimed, “Them is all lies”.  In a strange twist of fate, his own words figuratively strangled him and slit his throat.  The jury perhaps believed some of what he said, however, because they only convicted him of 7 of the 18 counts of murder in the indictment.  Perhaps instead their leniency in registering convictions related more to the fact that Frankie Breeze was said to have threatened the prosecutor, Markus Funk, that he was a “fucking dead man” in a way that was clearly audible to them.  They may have felt that some leniency in their decision-making was in order! Efforts by Frankie Breeze to have his convictions overturned after one of the jurors disclosed that that he had heard this threat were denied.

Here are some of the more interesting facts (or should I say allegations?) revealed during the 2007 trial:

  1. Nickie Breeze testified that his brother Frankie was the capo of the Chicago Outfit, a group of mobsters operating on the south side of Chicago that used all manner of intimidation, including extortion and murder, to collect their loan sharking debts. Frankie Breeze reported only to Angelo LaPietra (a.k.a. “The Hook”) the ultimate boss and founder of the Italian American Club;
  2. His son Kurt testified that Frankie Breeze had buried his proceeds of crime at various unknown locations around Chicago. He claimed that his father had stashed “millions” that would likely never be found. Frankie Jr. agreed testifying, “Yeah, he loved to stash cash” and, “he’d put it in 2 places in the same place so that if you found the one you were so happy you didn’t look for the other one.  And he made the one easier to find with less cash in it”;
  3. His son, Frankie Jr. described his father as “deadly” whose method of murder was strangulation but finished with his signature move, a slit throat;
  4. January 28, 2009 Judge Zagel sentenced Frankie Breeze, then 71, to life in prison describing his criminal acts as, “unspeakable”.  Despite the jury’s findings that Frankie Breeze was guilty on only 7 of the 18 alleged murders, the judge sentenced him on 13 murders.

Postscript

Frankie Breeze was not treated as a ‘criminal celebrity’ in prison.  His lawyer, Joe Lopez, filed a court application in 2008 to seek improvements in his state of solitary confinement in Federal prison.  He was, according to his lawyer, treated as though he was a terrorist and subject to “Special Administrative Measures” ( SAM’s).  His lawyer claimed those measures were completely inappropriate and should be reserved only for actual terrorists. He ought not to be treated as Hannibal Lecter, the lawyer claimed, referring to the fictional psychopath in the movie Silence of the Lambs. His quarters in the prison were likened to, “an old mop room” more suitable for “a storage room”.

Frankie Breeze died in a way that TS Eliot would describe, “Not with a bang but a whimper”.

The National Rifle Association

National Rifle Association (NRA) Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre presented a paradigm for controlling gun-toting killers in the United States that affirms an unstable, asymmetric, disproportionate and treacherous approach certain to exacerbate rather than ameliorate the epidemic of wanton violence involved in mass random shootings.

The tragic circumstances of the Sandy Hook Elementary School murders in Connecticut have served at least this one useful purpose–exposing the NRA as an organization of self-righteous, self aggrandizing “good guys” with guns, and lots of them, with the presumptuous temerity to hold themselves out as ‘the answer’ rather than part of the problem. His nationally-publicized comments* should help to galvanize the forces in favor of gun control.  (* see video below.) Assuming his comments represent the official position of the NRA, that organization has revealed itself as accommodating, protecting and defending revolutionary extremists advancing maniacal, partisan notions opposing every aspect of the American Constitution.

Abbreviated to its core, the NRA’s themes are:

  1. The greater number of guns that you have in the hands of US citizens the less crime US citizens will suffer at the hands of what Lapierre refers to as the “unknown number of genuine monsters” lurking in the country;
  2. All members of the NRA and its allies are “good guys” available in a minute’s notice to respond to and kill any “bad guys” with guns;
  3. To rely upon law enforcement to respond to emergency situations like Sandy Hook necessarily involves unnecessary delay, a delay easily eliminated by having the always available good guys of the NRA shoot and kill whoever they perceive to be the  bad guy;
  4. Membership in the NRA signifies virtuous citizenship, adherence to all rules that are good for the country and the unwavering courage of its individual members to protect not only themselves but their fellow citizens.
  5. There is no need to maintain a court system that laboriously attempts to decide guilt or innocence. The righteous members of the NRA representing “good” are quite capable of deciding those issues spontaneously.  They, not an adversarial trial system, will replace evidence, testimony, careful examination and reflection and decision-making by juries with virtuous street justice.

This is the vision of the NRA.

 

How To Distinguish A ‘Good Guy With a Gun’ From A ‘Bad Guy With a Gun’

Since National Rifle Association (NRA) Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre’s nationally publicized comments after the tragic circumstances of the Sandy Hook Elementary School murders in Connecticut I have been thinking about how any one could distinguish extemporaneously a good guy with a gun from a bad guy with the gun.  I envision 2 guys, each believing fervently to be ‘good’, shooting at the other, of course, believing the other to be bad. Impromptu gunfights have that inherent aura about them, a ready, shoot, aim mentality. The other aspect about them is that they tend to be final, or should I say, fatal.

With over 300 million guns in the hands of Americans, distinguishing good guys from bad guys is admittedly a daunting task.  Perhaps, like the concept of sanity where we assume everyone is sane unless proven otherwise, we should assume everyone with a gun is a ‘good guy’ until proven otherwise. That assumption would have been deadly wrong, of course, for the perpetrators of mass killings at Columbine, Tucson AZ, Aurora CO, Newtown CT and over 60 other mass shootings in the United States since 1982.  We tend to establish ‘bad’ only after the carnage is complete. This also takes no account of approximately 33,000 deaths a year by firearms in the US.

If the murderous rampage in Newtown Connecticut could not ignite a sustained and vigorous demand by Americans for immediate, effective gun control legislation, perhaps nothing ever will. Since that December 14, 2012 catastrophe, gun sales have again skyrocketed, establishing a consistent pattern of spiked sales immediately following mass shootings.  It represents the settled, hopeless expectation of a paralyzed nation embracing the fearful philosophy of be armed or be killed. Sadly, it also represents no end in sight to the ever-increasing loss of life via firearms.  Fueled by the gun nuts that self-righteously spout indignation at any measure of gun control, and cloak themselves in incomprehensible Second Amendment rhetoric, the needless loss of life will predictably continue unabated.

Utah and Indiana already have laws that permit teachers and other school staff to carry firearms into their schools presumably to protect the students.  One of the next bizarre tragedies that we will bear witness to will be perpetrated by some angry student who overpowers an armed teacher and injures or murders innocent students and unlucky bystanders with a gun made available to him or her ostensibly for the purpose of student safety.  These imbecilic laws may not be mainstream legislation presently but incomprehensibly other similar laws are soon on their way.

The New York Times reported this week that 2 Texas legislators have proposed bills that would expand existing gun laws to allow for “deputizing school employees” with special training to carry firearms into the classroom to be used during an attack.  The NRA supports these bills, apparently envisioning the United States as an armed camp of good guys and bad guys.

Yet another problem in this uncontrolled gun-happy environment is the so-called straw purchaser of guns.  William Spengler might have been prevented from purchasing the guns that he used to kill 2 firefighters in Webster New York on Christmas Eve because of his prior conviction for murdering his elderly grandmother. Spengler had bludgeoned the old woman to death with a hammer because she would not provide him with drug money.  But his questionable mental state and prior conviction proved to be easy hurdles to avoid by simply using a straw purchaser.  He used the daughter of former neighbor.

He shopped for the guns with her, pointing out to her the very guns that he “needed”, an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle similar to the one that was used in the Newtown massacre, and a 12-gauge shotgun. He then set a fire and waited for the 1st responders from the fire department to show up. Predictably, he killed the first 2 firefighters to attend, and, wounded 2 other firefighters and an off-duty police officer on his way to work. Then he killed himself. The NRA will no doubt recommend that all firefighters now should arrive armed and ready to shoot their way into the blaze! In the badly burned remains of his home investigators found the body of the 67-year-old sister.

Is there anyone alive that can seriously argue that more guns are the answer to these senseless tragedies?  Could the framers of the Second Amendment ever have envisioned this mess? Will sensible politicians finally step up to the need for dramatic changes in gun control?  Stay tuned.

Disgusting Bedfellows: Vladimir Putin and Bashar al-Assad

 

The world’s genuine “axis of evil.”

Disgusting Bedfellows: Vladimir Putin and Bashar al-Assad

No need to search too long for evidence that Russia’s Vladimir Putin and Sryria’s Bashar al-Assad personify the world’s genuine “axis of evil.” Indicia are everywhere.

Putin

  1. Sergei Magnitsky, a Russian lawyer, uncovered the largest tax fraud in his country’s history exposing top government officials stealing money from taxpayers and was rewarded by being beaten to death in a Russian jail cell in 2009. Magnitsky was on trial, not the government thieves;
  2. In response to America’s Magnitsky’s Act, imposing US travel and financial restrictions on human rights abusers in Russia, Putin struck back with an Act of his own effective January 1, 2013.  The new Russian law bans the adoption of Russian children by US families.  Apparently, this despot’s best method of retaliation against the United States for striking out against political murder is to ensure that approximately 1000 Russian children per year, languishing in institutional care, be prevented from adoption by American families yearning for a child to love. You have to admire such proportionate and responsible government retaliation! The new Russian law says, in effect, Americans have called us out once again on our human-rights atrocities—so let us “get them” by perpetrating further abuses on our homeless Russian children;
  3. The omnibus Russian legislation does not stop with the children-it also provides a list of US citizens who will be prohibited from entering Russian, suspends legal ongoing US businesses controlled by the Russian state, and, rescinds Russia’s earlier agreement to provide safeguards to children involved in inter-country adoptions. Apparently, abusing helpless Russian children did not go quite far enough;
  4. Putin’s16 years in the KGB, the world’s hallmark abuse agency, served as the ideal training ground for this dictator’s mafia style governance. Small wonder his government offers asylum to virtually every one of the world’s other despotic human-rights abusers, soon to include Syria’s al-Assad. Assad will, of course, enjoy a spacious country home, KGB style, with the rest of Russia’s politically protected exiles. Assad will, like the others, bask in the glow of Russia’s warm embrace, despite killing 40,000 of his own people with ostensible impunity;

Al-Assad

  1. President of Syria since 2000, Assad has proven himself even more diabolical and depraved than his abhorrent, immoral father who controlled that country for more than a quarter of a century;
  2. Calling the brave and desperate citizens of Syria with the temerity to challenge his tyrannical rule, as representing members of a “foreign plot” Assad has systematically killed thousands of Syria’s citizens. Most of those killed have nothing whatsoever to do with an uprising. Assad says that the remaining citizens, that is, the ones he has not yet killed, “want” him to remain as leader to quell the “foreign uprising.”  Perhaps Assad needs to use his training as an ophthalmologist to look a little closer at his dead victims. They, of course, look very much like every day Syrians, even to the untrained eye. At least half of those killed are women and children.  They have been killed while they waited in bread lines and huddled in makeshift bunkers;
  3. Because America and its allies hold a natural reluctance to engage in yet another deadly, expensive foreign war, and because Assad enjoys Russia’s unbridled support, a support that cradles all miscreants with an ounce of anti-American sentiment, now Assad’s worst-case scenario seems to be an unapologetic retirement in the snowy confines of Russia;
  4. With several recent defections by Assad’s top Generals, one can only hope that the Generals that remain will also turn on him, and then, not let him out of Syria alive.

If Assad makes it to Russia, he will, like the rest of the world’s asylum-seeking tyrants, enjoy the impregnable sanctity offered by Putin, a like-minded totalitarian overlord. As long as Assad does not allege publically that Putin, or any of his political cronies, are stealing taxpayers’ money, he should be safe–free to live out his sorry human existence, without redress or penalty.  His future is likely to be calm and unremarkable despite his murderous carnage. Makes you want to believe in hell doesn’t it?