Saturday, May 2, 2009
Finally I have come across a comparison that works, one which to me seems very similar to my position about guns.
People who eat meat are partially responsible for the problems caused by industrial meat farming. Since the old pig has been in the news lately due to the swine flu, the focus is on pig farming.
Tristero has an exhaustive post over at Hullabaloo about industrial farming. I dare you to read it all and continue nonchalantly eating meat.
Daisy wrote about it recently. I have too. Go vegetarian; it's my best advice.
What's your opinion? Can you see that only vegetarians should be completely exonerated from the guilt of damaging the environment and damaging human health that is an inescapable part of industrial meat farming? For this reason, I honestly can't understand how people can chew and swallow animal flesh. Perhaps they do what I used to do: just not think about it, just not examine what they're doing.
The gun issues are different, I realize, but can you see my connection? In a similar way to the omnivore public being responsible for the mess that is meat farming, so the gun owning public is responsible for the mess that is wrought by gun violence. Yes or no? What's your opinion?
Please leave a comment.
Montana is trying to trigger a battle over gun control -- and perhaps make a larger point about what many folks in this ruggedly independent state regard as a meddlesome federal government.
In a bill passed by the Legislature earlier this month, the state is asserting that guns manufactured in Montana and sold in Montana to people who intend to keep their weapons in Montana are exempt from federal gun registration, background check and dealer-licensing rules because no state lines are crossed.
This would mean that many prohibited people could buy guns. It would also mean that many people from other parts of the country could buy guns there. For them, driving across state lines would constitute a crime, but perhaps an easier one to get away with than buying illegally in their home state.
The limitation to only guns manufactured in Montana is important, since Montana is home to just a few specialty gun makers, known for high-end hunting rifles and replicas of Old West weapons, and because their out-of-state sales would automatically trigger federal control. But doesn't this sound just like what the pro-gun people say about the Assault Weapons Ban, that it's just the start? If this legislation passes, the precedent will have been established and other laws will follow. In fact, similar measures have also been introduced in Texas and Alaska.
Supporters of the measure say the main purpose is not extending gun freedoms, but curbing what they regard as an oppressive interpretation of the interstate commerce clause and federal overreach into such things as livestock management and education.''Firearms are inextricably linked to the history and culture of Montana, and I'd like to support that,'' said Montana state Rep. Joel Boniek, the bill's sponsor. ''But I want to point out that the issue here is not about firearms. It's about state rights.''
What's your opinion? Is this about gun rights or state rights? Do you think this is a follow up to the Heller decision last year? Is there a direct connection or is this a general trend?
Is there anything wrong with allowing states to have autonomy in these matters, New Jersey strict and Montana lenient as far as guns go?
Please leave a comment.
Miami-Dade jurors on Friday night acquitted an accused gas station thief facing a murder rap after his pal was shot to death in 2006 by a county cop in Northwest Miami-Dade.
Daniel Coleman, 45, had been charged with second-degree felony murder and burglary to an unoccupied structure.
''He is a free man,'' said defense attorney Jonathan Meltz.
Prosecutors maintained Coleman and Walter Herbert White, 48, nearly ran their van over a Miami-Dade officer after stealing snacks from the Shell station at Northwest 79th Street and 22nd Avenue in November 2006.
The officer fired at the van, fatally striking White, the driver. Under state law, someone who commits certain felonies -- in this case, burglary to an unoccupied structure -- can be charged with murder if someone dies during the crime.
How does this story impact on our discussions about Tony Curtis Phillips? Does it mean that when it comes to a jury of his peers, chances are he'll get off too? Does it mean that in some cases juries don't think punishing a criminal to the full extent of the law is necessary?
I have to admit, I found this a surprising verdict. How about you?
One thing I noticed is similar in both cases, the fatal shooting was supposed to have been in response to the vehicle nearly running over the shooter. That lights up the sceptical part of my brain; it sounds too convenient. I suspect, granted with no evidence to go on, that both shootings were excessive actions and both shooters claimed the part about the vehicle trying to run them down to justify. What do you think?
Please leave a comment.
Friday, May 1, 2009
A Scarsdale mom was busted for stealing $12 million in gold from a posh Queens jewelry store by slipping it out piece-by-piece in her purse lining, prosecutors said.
For at least the past six years, Teresa Tambunting, a vault manager at Jacmel Jewelry, stole 500 pounds of fine gold jewelry and raw gold, which she hid in the suburban home she shared with her husband and three children, prosecutors said.
The weird thing is she didn't spend it to improve her lifestyle; she simply hoarded it secretly. Supposedly the family was unaware. Eventually, like all good things have a way of coming to an end, the auditors started asking questions about the inventory. Theresa started returning the loot.
"The first time, she returned one bag with eighty pounds of fine gold. Then, on another occasion (one week later) she came back with another bag," said Jacmel president Jack Rahmey.
The bags were so heavy she needed help from the garage employees to get it into the building, a law enforcement source said.
Tambunting claimed she needed to take the ill-gotten gold, the source said. She admitted slashing a hole into the lining of her handbag and slipping the jewelry inside, prosecutors said.
She is expected to argue through her lawyer that she has a form of obsessive compulsive disorder, the source said.
I don't suppose any of the law-and-order types or the personal-responsibility types could possibly recognize something as flaky as obsessive compulsive disorder being a mitigating factor in criminal activity. People who refuse to cut slack for substance addictions certainly wouldn't want to give her a break for this, would they?
What's your opinion? Do you think the fact that she accumulated the gold in her basement and kept it a secret is consistent with her OCD and kleptomania? Should those conditions be considered as mental illnesses in the legal system?
Should her attempts to return the gold be considered in her favor? Or is that too easy for a thief to give the stuff back only when discovery is imminent?
Please leave a comment.
CNN reports on the shooting death of a female car thief in Florida.
What happened was this: Tony Curtis Phillips, 29, and his girlfriend, Nikki McCormick, 21, decided to break into the garage and steal the SUV of Ladon "Jamie" Jones. When Mr. Jones heard the commotion he came running out of his house with a gun to stop the theft. He stopped it all right, with six or eight shots through the windshield, killing McCormick. Phillips fled and was later arrested.
Now here's where it get's interesting. The owner of the vehicle, Jones is not being charged with anything; Phillips, the fleeing boyfriend is being charged with second-degree murder.
Authorities said Jones is protected by Florida's "no retreat" law, which gives him the right to use lethal force if he reasonably believes his life is in danger.
Phillips, however, faces charges because police allege he was committing felony grand theft auto at the time of McCormick's death.
"Because his conduct caused her death, he gets charged with a felony," Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said.
Remember Lillo Brancato? He's the Soprano's actor who was cleared in the death of an off duty policeman but sentenced to 10 years for burglary. In his case, he and the shooter did a crime together and upon being discovered by the next-door neighbor who happened to be a cop, Lillo's partner in crime shot the cop dead. The courts decided Lillo was only guilty of the lesser crimes.
In the Florida case, it seems to be an even greater stretch to charge the boyfriend with murder. What do you think? Is this based upon the same principle of law, the accomplice liability theory?
What do you think about the SUV owner, Ladon Jones and his actions? Supposedly, he saw an arm extended outside the passenger side window which he thought might be a gun about to be raised at him. Also when he tried to stop the vehicle, he says it came directly at him, making the SUV itself a deadly weapon to which he responded with the lethal force which was his right under Florida law.
Wouldn't it have been better if he had stayed in the house and called the police? What is so difficult about accepting that? I can already hear the chorus of constitutionally backed protectors of private property and defenders of personal rights crying out that Jones was correct in what he did and the fault lies completely with the thieves Phillips and McCormick.
What's your opinion? Don't you think a bullet in the brain is a punishment just a little bit severe for car theft? I promised the last time we talked about one of these righteous shootings that I wouldn't compare it to the death penalty, to do so is just too inflammatory, but let's face it, dead is dead. I find the response to this crime disproportionately heavy. What about you?
Please leave a comment.
Thursday, April 30, 2009
Max Blumenthal reports on The Daily Beast (h/t The Gun Guys) that not everyone is celebrating Obama's first 100 days the same way.
On April 18 and 19, I attended gun shows in Antioch, California, and Reno, Nevada, to probe the culture of gun enthusiasts at the onset of the Obama era. I came away from these events with a portrait of a heavily armed, tightly organized movement incited by right-wing radio to a fever-pitched resentment of President Obama and his allies in Congress.
I believe if I were a gun owner, I'd want to disassociate myself from the folks in this video. How about you? Can anyone explain to me what the connection with Hitler is and how widespread it is in the gun world? Do any black people go to these things? Or Jews?
What about the modification of weapons to make them legal? Are gun owners generally law abiding except when it comes to laws they disagree with? Isn't there something wrong with claiming to be a "straight shooter" but encouraging these practices of skirting the law?
The sniper rifle that can be disassembled and stored in a backpack or briefcase, is for what exactly? This was the 50 calibre one that was banned because supposedly it could shoot down an airplane. Is there some reason for being able to transport it so surreptitiously?
What's your opinion? You know the old expression, a picture is worth a thousand words? Well, after many thousands of words, after all the discussions on this blog about guns, about why they're good for society, about how we're better with them, I think this video says it all.
What do you think? Please tell us.
This kind of vessel — a self-propelled, semisubmersible made by hand in the jungles of Colombia — is no longer quite so mythic: four were intercepted in January alone. But because of their ability to elude radar systems, these subs are almost impossible to detect; only an estimated 14 percent of them are stopped. And perhaps as many as 70 of them will be made this year, up from 45 or so in 2007, according to a task-force spokesman. Made for as little as $500,000 each and assembled in fewer than 90 days, they are now thought to carry nearly 30 percent of Colombia’s total cocaine exports.
How they came up with that 14% figure must be an interesting story, but the point is clear. Submarine trafficking is here to stay. Given the government's difficulty in accurately reporting numbers, there must be hundreds, if not thousands of subs actively working. I would say this is another indication that the War on Drugs is a lost effort. The criminals are smarter than the cops, once again.
Naturally, the government's resources are not adequate to the job at hand.
Catching, let alone spotting, the drug subs is difficult. The Naval Intelligence officer compared it to patrolling the entire country as a sheriff with three cars. “So if there’s someone in Texas holding up a 7-Eleven, and somebody’s in Baltimore mugging somebody,” he said, “you have to move.”
The cocaine packed inside provides a built-in ballast, giving the boats, which are painted the color of the ocean, about a foot of freeboard above the surface. With little or no steel, the fiberglass-and-wood boats have a low radar signature. Some semisubs use lead pads to shield the hot engines from the military’s infrared sensors.
What do you think? Is the War on Drugs a waste of money and manpower? Is there something wrong with the basic idea of prohibiting certain drugs while allowing others, e.g. alcohol and tobacco? Why is it so difficult to even decriminalize substances like marijuana, let alone legalizing, and let along heavier drugs?
What's your opinion? Please leave a comment.
This case involves New Jersey State Trooper Robert Higbee, who was on patrol the evening of September 27, 2006 in the Cape May area of the Jersey shore. As defendant Higbee went through an intersection in pursuit of a speeder at about 10:00 p.m., two sisters were entering the intersection after buying milk for their grandmother. The result was a disastrous collision that killed 17-year-old Jacqueline Becker and 19-year-old Christina Becker.
The Philadelphia Enquirer describes it like this:
New Jersey State Trooper Robert Higbee was barrelling through the Marmora section of Upper Township about 10 p.m. on Sept. 27, 2006, when he slammed his police cruiser into a minivan carrying two sisters who had borrowed it from their grandmother to pick up milk at the local convenience store.
Those two opening paragraphs tell the whole story. Was he "barrelling through" the intersection irresponsibly or was he "on patrol" and "in pursuit" of a speeder? This is exactly what the jury will have to determine.
An eyewitness said he was driving extremely fast, without emergency lights or sirens. The impact propelled both women through the passenger-side window, they were pronounced dead at the scene.
Most of the comments to the CNN story, which is much less antagonistic towards Higbee than the Enquirer article, are along the lines of, "these abusing cops must be stopped." I generally agree that policemen should be held to a higher standard than regular citizens, anyone in a position of authority should, but in this case I wonder if the vengeance motive has taken over. Much like the cries for "justice" that accompany capital punishment cases, based on the heartbreaking emotion of the loss of innocent life, I wonder if Trooper Higbee is being dragged over the coals for what was nothing more than an accident, a tragic one, but an accident nonetheless, committed during the commission of his duty.
These are just thoughts off the top of my head. I stand ready to take them back if during the trial it's revealed that he's demonstrated disregard for safety in the past, if he's been known to abuse his power in other ways, and certainly if he's had a history of alcohol and drug abuse on the job. But barring those things, I say he may have been involved in a terrible accident, that resulted in the unintentional death of two young women, and I don't think people should be punished for having accidents.
What's your opinion? What do you think about State Trooper Higbee, guilty or not guilty?
Please leave a comment.
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
And bring him to the ground
You can beat him
You can cheat him
You can treat him bad and leave him
When he's down
But I'm ready, yes I'm ready for you
I'm standing on my own two feet
Out of the doorway the bullets rip
Repeating the sound of the beat
The Miami Herald reports that the Miami-Dade prosecutors didn't see it that way.
Not only do I suspect the police and the courts of failing to do their job, it seems like the Miami Herald is in on it too. The part above which says "he grabbed the officer's gun," doesn't jibe with the chilling video and the other descriptions which indicate Officer Fernandez handed it to him.
Prosecutors have cleared an off-duty Miami-Dade police officer whose high school pal, after a night of drinking and partying together on South Beach, grabbed the officer's gun and fatally shot himself in the head.
Officer Francisco Fernandez's conduct was ''reprehensible'' for allowing his drunk friend, Miguel Angel Martinez, to play around with his loaded Glock pistol on June 16, 2008, prosecutors said in a final memo released Tuesday.
But no crime -- such as manslaughter by culpable negligence -- could be proved because Martinez put the gun in his mouth himself and squeezed the trigger, prosecutors concluded.
Martinez shooting himself was ''an independent act that superseded Fernandez's own conduct, albeit reprehensible,'' Chief Assistant State Attorney Jose J. Arrojo wrote.
The part that really convinced me it's not kosher is this:
No blood alcohol tests were done on Fernandez, who declined to give a statement to investigators. Toxicology reports showed Martinez had been using marijuana and cocaine that night.
I wonder what toxicology reports on Fernandez' blood would have shown.
What I can't understand is the reluctance people have in accepting the theory of shared responsibility. What do they have to lose? I don't accept the argument that it would lend itself to excusing criminal behaviour. I never said it's the parents fault or it's the society's fault. In certain cases, parents and society might share in the responsibility, that's all.
In this case, for me there's no question. Fernandez, through stupidity and negligence contributed to Martinez' death.
The Martinez family attorney, Herman Russomanno, said Fernandez was ''dangerous and reckless'' in pulling his weapon from his holster and allowing a drunk civilian to play with the gun.
''He has exhibited the highest level of gross negligence,'' Russomanno said.
What's your opinion? Do you think Officer Fernandez was negligent? Do you believe in shared responsibility in certain cases?
What about the suicide of Martinez? Drugged and drunk, do you think he was in any condition to make a choice? Would his friend have been wrong to physically stop him, if he'd had the chance?
Please leave a comment.
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
photo by Barron Storey, New York Times
The New York Times reports on a fascinating discovery which has paleontologists scratching their heads.
Six years after their discovery, the extinct little people nicknamed hobbits who once occupied the Indonesian island of Flores remain mystifying anomalies in human evolution, out of place in time and geography, their ancestry unknown. Recent research has only widened their challenge to conventional thinking about the origins, transformations and migrations of the early human family.
Properly named Homo Floresiensis, scientists are not sure if they could have been primitive survivors of even earlier hominid migrations out of Africa, before Homo erectus migrated about 1.8 million years ago. This theory would mean that some of the earliest African toolmakers, around 2.5 million years ago, had made their way across Asia.
Another possible explanation is that they evolved into a new species in Asia, which moved back to Africa. Two-way traffic is not unheard of in other mammals.
Everything about them seems incredible. They were very small, not much more than three feet tall, yet do not resemble any modern pygmies. They walked upright on short legs, but might have had a peculiar gait obviating long-distance running. The single skull that has been found is no bigger than a grapefruit, suggesting a brain less than one-third the size of a human’s, yet they made stone tools similar to those produced by other hominids with larger brains. They appeared to live isolated on an island as recently as 17,000 years ago, well after humans had made it to Australia.
Some prominent paleoanthropologists are reserving judgment, among them Richard Leakey, the noted hominid fossil hunter who is chairman of the Turkana Basin Institute at Stony Brook University. Like other undecided scientists, he cited the need to find more skeletons at other sites, especially a few more skulls.
What do you think about this story? Do you find these sciences fascinating? Why do you think some people are so against this stuff? Do you think that our having evolved from these primitive creatures, if that's true, in some way diminishes us? What do fundamental Christians think about this? Isn't this proof that The Bible and the other sacred texts need not be taken literally?
What's your opinion?
Monday, April 27, 2009
The adults who hosted a booze-filled teen bash and a motorist whose car was stolen as it idled share the blame for the drunken-driving deaths of a Queens high school standout and his buddy, a bombshell lawsuit charges.
Robert Ogle, 16-year-old junior at Brooklyn Technical High School was mowed down on Feb. 1st by a hit-and-run driver as he walked home from a party that had left him tipsy. His parents are now suing not only the driver of the car but the owner of the vehicle and the hosts of the party where their son had been drinking.
The driver, Kenneth Guyear, was drunk and behind the wheel of a Kia Spectra he'd swiped after finding it running outside a Woodhaven Blvd. deli, cops say.I wonder what percentage of responsibility the hosts of the party will be charged with? I don't see that they had all the much to do with it. The owner of the car that was stolen, on the other hand, should share, leaving of course, the majority of blame on the thieving driver himself.
"Each person in their own way contributed to this train wreck," said the teen's dad, Brendan Ogle, who will file the wrongful-death lawsuit today in Queens Supreme Court. "If everyone had exercised better judgment, my son would be alive today."
The Ogles' lawyer Sanford Rubenstein said he expects a jury to hash out the "appropriate percentage of responsibility" for the couple that hosted the party, Sing-Chau Fung and Yuk Lai Fung, and David Jaber, who left his running car unattended.
What's your opinion? Is this a good example of the very thing we often talk about, the sharing of responsibility? Or do you feel only Kenneth Guyear is responsible?
Do you think Guyear's intoxication could be considered a mitigating circumstance? What if it turns out he was an alcoholic operating under the grip of addiction? Would that kind of thing get him any leniency, do you think?
What's your opinion?
Two Florida deputies trying to arrest a man wanted in a domestic violence case were shot and killed Saturday by the suspect, who died in a shootout after a car chase into the next county.
Deputies Burt Lopez and Warren York traded gunshots with the suspect at about 1 p.m. at the Shoal River Gun Club in Crestview, Florida, said Okaloosa County Sheriff's office spokeswoman Nicole Wagner.
Joshua Cartwright, 28, had been involved in a domestic violence incident earlier in the day in Fort Walton Beach, Florida. It wasn't his first run-in with the law.
The sketchy details leave one wondering what was a guy wanted by the police doing at a gun club, especially if this "wasn't his first run-in with the law." Does this give us a glimpse into the gun world that we normally aren't allowed? Could it be that the gun community, although it is comprised largely of law-abiding citizens, also houses and protects a large demographic of borderline criminals, wife beaters and violent offenders, you know, the ones for whom it's not "their first run-in with the law?" Are these the guys who keep making the news?
The main question that comes to mind is why do the "good guys" try so hard to deny the "bad guys" exist in significant numbers, and when that fails, why do they insist they have nothing to do with the law breakers? Isn't the connection clear between lenient gun laws, the resultant increase in gun availability and these tragic incidents?
The police came for Joshua Cartwright because of domestic violence earlier in the day. They came TO HIS GUN CLUB. Isn't there something wrong with that? If you don't know what I mean, I'll try to explain.
My blog-friend Mud_Rake wrote a brilliant post the other day in which he explored the idea that men with guns don't learn how to manage conflict resolution normally the way men without guns have to. Joshua was only 28 years old at the time of his death. His being involved in the so-called shooting sports, owning guns, being involved in the gun culture, perhaps exacerbated whatever attempts he'd made at resolving domestic situations without violence. Apparently he wasn't doing too well in this area. Did the gun mentality play a part in that? I'd say it probably did.
What's your opinion? Do you think the gun community is failing to properly police itself? Do you think they themselves should be more proactive in these efforts? Shouldn't it be possible to spot dangerous characters before the tragedy, or is this the price we pay for freedom?
Please leave a comment.
Sunday, April 26, 2009
A University of Georgia professor apparently shot and killed his wife and two other people at a community theater group's reunion Saturday, then dropped the couple's two children off at a neighbor's and fled.
Athens-Clarke County police said they have local, regional and national alerts out for George Zinkhan, 57, an endowed marketing professor at the school's Terry College of Business.
Zinkhan was not at the theater event initially, Holeman said, but when he arrived, he got into "a disagreement" with his wife. He left the scene -- police believe to his car, where his children were waiting -- and returned with two handguns.
This is yet another sad story that perfectly illustrates some of our most common, and most debated themes.
Gun availability. Whenever someone decides to kill in the heat of an argument or in a rageful fit or on the spur of the moment, just like when someone concludes that suicide is the answer while home alone in the nadir of depression, gun availability is critical. What should be done about that is another question, but I submit that in this particular case we have another example in which the shooter's mini arsenal, which was readily available in the car, made the difference.
Gun flow. Here's another case of a presumably law abiding gun owner turning bad. There was no indication that he was anything other than a normal guy who was exercising his 2nd Amendment right to self protection - at least that's what some people say the 2nd Amendment is all about. I and many others are not so sure. The gun flow in this case is the hidden one, the one which concerns itself more with people than weapons. But, just like its big brother, the flow of stolen or improperly sold guns, this type of gun flow is continual.
Concealed Carry on campus. The pro-gun folks say that allowing concealed carry on college campuses would be helpful in thwarting school shootings. I admit they have a good argument, but here's an example of how disaster would follow. Allowing professors and older students to carry on campus presumes that they can be trusted to manage their guns responsibly. This is too big a presumption for the simple reason that people are people, even gun owners, even gun owners with the Concealed Carry license.
There are a couple of fascinating twists to this tragic story, particularly that unlike some of the high profile shootings lately, he didn't shoot the kids as well. It was reported that he drove them to a neighbor's immediately after killing their mother. Lucky kids, or are they?
"It appeared he and his wife were having problems," police Capt. Clarence Holeman said.
Two other people were wounded by ricocheting bullets, Holeman said, but did not identify them. At least 20 people were in attendance at the event, he said.
After making that unintentional joke about their "having problems," the police captain provided an interesting piece of information we don't often hear. This is called collateral damage. When it's less than fatal it often gets overlooked, not only in criminal shootings but in the so-called defensive uses of guns. I would imagine people who are suddenly shot by ricocheting bullets might suffer terribly for a long, long time both physically and emotionally. This is part of gun violence too.
What's your opinion? Did you notice in the story that when he decided to kill his wife he had to go out to his car to get the guns, the car in which his two young children were waiting? I suppose the weapons could have been locked in the glove compartment, but still it makes you wonder.
Do you agree with me about gun availability plays a part in many of these tragedies? Wouldn't it be possible to agree with that and still maintain your gun-rights position?
Please feel free to leave a comment.