Tom Diaz

Archive for the ‘bad manners’ Category

Stop Blaming the NRA

In bad manners, Bushmaster assault rifle, Ethics in Washington, Guns, NATIONAL RIFLE ASSOCIATION, politics, Running Fire Fight, Semiautomatic assault rifles, Terrorism and counter-terrorism, The Great Stupid, Tired Old Republicans on April 19, 2013 at 9:07 pm
Austerlitz-baron-Pascal

Napoleon at Austerlitz

Debate has raged for two centuries about whether Napoleon Bonaparte was a self-serving egomaniac, or a supremely confident leader driven by concern for the rights of the common person.

There is universal agreement, however, that–when he was on his game–he was a brilliant strategist and a tactical genius. He chose when and where to fight, picking the ground and the time with care. He had an uncanny ability to recall in minute detail aspects of the terrain. His personal courage was unquestioned.

The textbook example is the battle of Austerlitz, fought in what is now the Czech Republic on December 2, 1805. Like all brilliant commanders, Napoleon imagined the winning fight plan. Then he stuck to it with iron nerve and cold will, even when his subordinates lost some of their will. He thrashed a larger, better-trained, better-armed coalition of forces.

There will be no such debate about the claque of professional politicians and hangers-on who now run the Democratic Party. The latest gun control debacle has proven beyond argument that these hollow men are shallow, self-serving, and unfit for battle on behalf of innocent children and other living things. They are fit only to swell a crowd at a lobbyist fund-raising reception, or fill out a scene at a mawkish media event…little more.

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“There Will Be Effective ‘Gun Safety’ Legislation in Our Time…Or Some Time. Maybe.” The Wisdom of the Third Way.

The only strategy they have imagined for two decades is appeasement and preemptive surrender. Like Oliver Twist, they hold up their contemptible little bowls and beg of the NRA and its right-wing allies, “Please, sir, I want some more.”

They have never, ever, not once, gotten more.

The saddest part of this ignominious disaster, this sadly inevitable thumping, is that everybody in professional political Washington wins. Only the rest of America–you, and I, and our children, and our children’s children–loses.

Harry Reid got to make a noble speech after decades–decades–of sabotaging serious gun control at the altar of the NRA and his own reelection. Pundits fawned over his “act of courage,” as if the man were only just born yesterday and had no record of perverse obstructionism.

Reid’s heir apparent, Chuck Schumer, played both ends against the middle, as is his canny wont. He avoided antagonizing the Senate’s “NRA Democrats,” yet got plenty of photo ops at weepy media events. So he’ll still get to be Senate Majority Leader.

Pat (“Brick”) Leahy got to muddle around in his peculiarly thick-witted and uninspiring public manner without doing much of anything to fulfill his public trust.

The list could and perhaps should go on.

There’s Mayor Rahm Emanuel of Chicago, who now professes to embrace gun control after years of cutting the throat of any Democrat–including the Attorney General of the United States–who dared raise the subject. Emanuel did as much as Wayne LaPierre to destroy the gun control movement. And Mayor Michael Bloomberg, whose canonization is imminent after funding some puzzlingly bland Super Bowl commercials. Bloomberg showed up like a rich amateur in a pool hall. He had a million dollar suit and a wad of cash, and a slogan about so-called “illegal guns.”  But Bloomberg never really understood the game and he still doesn’t. So he got snookered.

“Leaders” (cf., Nancy Pelosi) in the House will get a pass because the Senate’s fumbles saved them the awful embarrassment of having to actually try to do something themselves. Whew!

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Senator Dianne Feinstein–The Only Living Profile in Courage in the United States Senate

The NRA will be roundly—and rightfully—blamed for masterminding the smoking field of shame that was the floor of the United States Senate when dusk fell on April 17, 2013. People who used to call themselves gun control advocates—but now prefer wimpier terms like “gun violence reduction advocate,” or even “gun health advocate”—are waving their rhetorical pitchforks at the senators who voted with the NRA, promising to exact vengeance. Perhaps they shall. Much remains to be seen. At the very least, they all got some nice meetings at the White House and on the Hill to put in their scrapbooks.

I say, stop blaming the NRA.

Start blaming your own leadership, the men and women who squandered, threw away, let slip out of their hands, the last, best opportunity to truly save lives that America is likely to see for a generation.

In military terms, the bumbling field marshals of “gun safety” chose to use their puniest weapon—the vanilla-lilac-scented, impenetrable bureaucratic doubletalk of “improved” background checks—and positioned themselves in a rhetorical swamp with a river to their back. Plan B did not exist.

The operatives of this army of incompetents actually set out to aggressively sabotage any talk of such dangerous things as assault weapons and high-capacity magazines in the inner councils of Washington Wisdom. Oh, no, you see, we can “respect gun rights” and find “common ground,” and that kind of talk … well, it just makes trouble in Happy Valley. Let our generals make parley with their generals in secret meetings. Like mommy and daddy, they know what to do. The polls will tell them.

Even had the NRA uncharacteristically ceded the field and allowed the pathetic Manchin-Toomey (and maybe -Schumer, who showed up at the press conference anyway) “compromise” (a weak compromise grafted onto on a weak compromise inscribed on a fig leaf) to pass, this scrivener’s curlicue on the arcane texts of the law would have had negligible effect on the blistering hurricane of gun violence that is America today.  Negligible, in spite of all the hype with which “gun health groups” have hypnotized not only themselves but also many of the outraged mothers and fathers who trust the “experts” to know what to do.

It’s the guns, stupid!

The Machin-Toomey-Maybe Schumer-Pabulum would have no effect whatever on the guns.  Nor would it have any effect whatsoever on the next Adam Lanza, who—mark my words—is out there right now and has, or will legally obtain, and would legally have obtained under Machin-Toomey-Maybe Schumer, his mass murder machine.

What would I have done, you may ask?

Well, I sketched out my ideas in an earlier post, here. Pick the high ground of the real world of American gun violence—the ruthless, greedy gun industry and its cynical mass-marketing of killing machines that have no place in a sane society–on which to do battle. Field a juggernaut of a bill, with the assault weapons and high-capacity magazine ban for starters, truly universal background check and waiting periods for enders, and a Draconian bed of tough regulation for the death merchants in between.

Starting with that proposal, I would have made the NRA and its minions fight their way up a long and difficult hill in the blazing sunlight, punctuated with hearing after hearing after hearing, evidential artillery pounding away at them with every step, its ammunition the bloody, sickening, graphic facts of what the industry and its products have done and are doing to our country.  Fact-based images abound that are a million times more persuasive and inspiring than the brief-cases full of opinion polls favoring obscure “background check” language that the Third Way and other geniuses tote around to persuade the professional politicians they can do good without doing anything too dangerous to their careers.

Yes, I favor war on the Napoleonic model. 

But “wiser” heads—the defeatists and appeasers of the Third Way and its ilk—prevailed, as they almost always do in Washington these days. The Senate leadership had, and no doubt still does not have, the stomach for a real fight. Heavens, it might cost them an election! The darling of this pusillanimously passive path, Chuck Schumer, smugly–smugly–called background checks the “sweet spot” of the legislative path. As if saving the lives of children were a baseball game.

Really? The “sweet spot?”  How droll. What a clever sound-bite! The media loved it!

Schumer's Bird

A Man Who Knows a “Sweet Spot” When He Sees … Or Holds …One.

The strategists of defeat will slink away now and point their nubbins’ fingers at the NRA and its herd of like-minded Senators, leaders for whom it must be said at least they stand up and fight for what they believe in.

But what do the denizens of the infamous “Third Way” believe in? The latest poll results. Nothing greater, or more noble, or more inspiring. Mere politics.

Because of decades of this flawed, cowardly and self-serving, merely political, arguably immoral, and certainly not moral strategy, more Americans will inevitably die preventable gun deaths, more terrorists and more criminals will easily get military-style guns, and the fabric of our society will be further rent by random gun violence from people who could pass any background check the minds of men like Michael Bloomberg or the Third Way’s operative Jim Kessler could ever dream up.

To those who are so deeply pained by this defeat, I say this.

Call your enemies to account, yes.  But hold to an even higher standard your supposed “friends.”

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Never Forget Them

No Country for Old Men: Why They Are Killing Our Cops and Prosecutors

In bad manners, Bushmaster assault rifle, Corruption, Crime, Cultural assassination, Drugs, Ethics in Washington, Gangs, Guns, Mexico, NATIONAL RIFLE ASSOCIATION, Police, politics, Running Fire Fight, Semiautomatic assault rifles, The Great Stupid, Tired Old Republicans, Transnational crime on April 4, 2013 at 2:15 pm
"Call it!"

“Call it!”

Sometime between 5:00 and 6:00 p.m., about two dozen LAPD officers faced an angry crowd at the intersection of Florence and Normandie avenues. The cops were outnumbered to begin with, the crowd was growing into a mob, and the mob was howling mad at the police. An LAPD lieutenant, Michael Maulin, made a tactical decision that would cost him his career in the orgy of retrospective finger-pointing that followed the riots. He ordered the police officers to withdraw. The hard-charging, in-your-face, proactive thin blue line faded like a gaggle of Las Vega showgirls at curtain time. “It was widely believed in South Central that the LAPD did not want to protect the city’s poor, minority neighborhoods,” journalist Lou Cannon observed. “The shocking reality was that the LAPD was unable to provide that protection.”

Tom Diaz, No Boundaries: Transnational Latino Gangs and American Law Enforcement, p. 96.

Thus was the iron-fisted, mirrored-sun glasses, take-no-prisoners, paramilitary  creation of legendary chief Darryl Gates—the proud Los Angeles Police Department—humbled by the infamous “Rodney King riots” of April 1992.

The LAPD would never be the same.

Just the Expert Facts, Please

The lesson for today is quite simply this: uniforms, badges, tough-guy swagger, ballistic vests, and most of all guns do not protect law enforcement. Respect and the healthy fear of consequence do. When a society surrenders those two foundations of “law and order,” there are not enough guns in the world—not enough good guys with guns—to protect police, prosecutors, and judges from men who are willing to kill them.

Now we are seeing the truth of this implacable maxim, revealed in a prophetic spate of ruthless murders of law enforcement officers.  In Colorado, the state’s prison chief is shot to death on his doorstep. In Texas, two county prosecutors are shot to death in separate incidents. In West Virginia, a sheriff is shot dead in his car.These incidents are but the latest and most recent examples of a growing trend of blatant attacks on law enforcement.

Please note that it is not the quantum, the total of law enforcement officers murdered, so much as it is the growing demonstration of willingness to confront law enforcement with armed violence. And that willingness–that willful disregard of fear and respect–is the inevitable consequence of two long-term currents in the United States.

One is the suppurating wound inflicted on America’s public discourse by the reckless gospel of insurrection that has been promoted by the National Rifle Association and the gun industry that it represents since at least the 1980s. This rotting lesion has consequences that go far beyond the kabuki theater of rhetorical exchange in Washington, a place where both sides need each other for the show, and ritual has displaced action.

Emitted Little Thoughts Compiled in . . . ummmm... WTF?

“The guys with the guns make the rules.” Wayne LaPierre, Orifice-in-Chief of the NRA.

The stinking, hateful matter emitted by the NRA has dangerously infected the minds of many of the dullest and worst of our society. Ideas have consequences, and when the idea that “government is our enemy” is combined in the minds of the unbalanced and the psychopath with easy access to increasingly deadly guns…well, to all but the ideologically intoxicated, the inevitable is clear.

The other factor is the utter collapse of not only moral will, but moral discernment itself, in Washington. This infection at the heart of our political discourse has paralyzed a body politic that might with capable discernment and strong will have cured itself of the hateful wound inflicted by the NRA and its ilk.

What we see today—elaborated at length in my latest book, The Last Gun—is the triumph of Third Way politics, micro-politics that seeks only political success for career politicians and their waddling retinue of mere technicians—pollsters, advisers, spin-masters, lobbyists.

These are people—Democratic party leaders and their fawning servants—who describe in great detail the polling, focus with frightening precision on the tiniest “swing” group, and then define a message that will appeal to that micro-fraction of America.

These “leaders” have, in the end, defined themselves as soulless people, willing to accept only “what we can get” and “what is politically feasible” in place of real change. They are either incapable of—or unwilling to—make grand moral judgments, define causes to lead, and stand up for principle. Reelection for its own sake is enough.

Thus has the powerful chorus of national moral outrage that followed the Moloch’s slaughter at Sandy Hook Elementary School been pared down to a whimper, to “negotiations” about inconsequential legalisms between the likes of the artfully consummate Third Way deal-maker Sen. Charles (“Chuck”) Schumer and the implacably thick-witted Senator Tom Coburn.

Schumer's Bird

Career politicians bond over a dead bird…

While these career politicians—many of whom have never done anything of substance in their lives other than curry elective favor—nitter and natter around the margins of America’s gun problem, the country is sinking to its gunwales in military-style firearms. Disrespect for law enforcement burgeons among radicals and career criminals alike, fueled by an irrational hatred of compromise and fact-based discourse.

Industry Puppet NRA Calls These Romanian Assault Rifles Just Plain Old Sporting Guns--Are They That Stupid Or Are They Just Liars?

…while the mentally ill, criminals, and extremists bond with the gun industry and its handmaiden, the NRA, over military-style guns.

If this sounds like Mexico, it is.

Conventional wisdom has always been—and still is among conventional “expert” thinkers like those of the hapless private spy agency Stratfor which, not incidentally, failed to protect its vast files from hacking some months ago—that organized gangs and transnational criminals will never attack law enforcement in the United States because the consequences would be too great.

Really?

This is the argument of the smug, the proud, and, oh, yes, by the way,  the grand consultants retired from law enforcement selling their “expertise.”  It can’t happen here because we are so good.

Well it is happening.

09122009_229540It is just as reasonable, and I would argue more reasonable, to conclude that the war for control has begun. We already see one federal prosecutor withdrawn from a major gang and drug prosecution. The drug “cartels” are not stupid. The examples recited above—no matter by whom they are ultimately found to have been perpetrated—make it clear that determined, ruthless men can indeed assassinate law enforcement officers pretty much at will in America today. So much for fear. It doesn’t matter, in the overall sense, who was behind the last four murders.  What matters is the brazen impudence with which they were carried out. That’s straight outta No Country for Old Men.

Do not for one minute think that the chill of necrosis is not creeping into hamlets, counties, towns, cities, states, and  even Washington. A member of Congress who received multiple death threats for simply suggesting that gun owners be required to insure themselves decided, for example, to skip a public ceremony, mindful of the recent near-fatal wounding of another member.

Hysteria?

Vamos a ver.  We’ll see.

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Evil this way comes.

Feinstein Assault Weapon Bill: Is It a Little Bit Pregnant?

In bad manners, Bushmaster assault rifle, Ethics in Washington, Guns, NATIONAL RIFLE ASSOCIATION, politics, Running Fire Fight, Semiautomatic assault rifles, Tired Old Republicans on January 23, 2013 at 3:23 am

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George Bernard Shaw: Madam, would you sleep with me for a million pounds?

Actress: My goodness, Well, I’d certainly think about it

Shaw: Would you sleep with me for a pound?

Actress: Certainly not! What kind of woman do you think I am?!

Shaw: Madam, we’ve already established that. Now we are haggling about the price.

(This exchange is also attributed to Winston Churchill, Groucho Marx, and Mark Twain. Take your pick.  They are all good.)

In a perfect world, the so-called “Assault Weapons Ban” being circulated on the Hill by Senator Dianne Feinstein would be … well, perfect.

One problem.  This is not a perfect world.

It is certainly not a perfect world in the comfortable little set of nesting boxes that defines politics as usual on Capitol Hill — tired old convention, horse-trading, and selling out are the currency of the realm.

Is Feinstein’s bill a “sellout?”  Thinking…thinking.  Well, it depends on whether you believe in the concept of being only a little bit pregnant.

At first blush (and pending further analysis) the late draft of the Assault Weapons Regulatory Act of 2013 I have seen is a case of something “progressive” politicians have proven themselves masters of time and again, namely, preemptive surrender.

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“No pasaran!”–they shall not pass.

Sure, the NRA will scream and shout, “they shall not pass!”  But if Wayne LaPierre is on his meds, he’s going to love this start. His lobbyist surgeons will get busy slicing, slicing away at the weak points in this bill until they give it a complete radical orchiectomy.

The “pro-gun regulation” (aka, the “gun safety,” the “gun violence prevention,” the “nubbins,” anything but the “gun control”) side has started out by giving away half its best cards.

If you’re a betting person, put the mortgage down on the square that reads “another NRA victory.”

Here is what the draft has given away out of the blocks:

What the law taketh, the law giveth back: The draft I have seen “grandfathers” in all assault weapons legally owned as of the date of enactment. This was one of the major defects of the 1994 “ban.”

Here is the operative text from the bill:

SEC. 3. RESTRICTIONS ON ASSAULT WEAPONS AND LARGE CAPACITY AMMUNITION FEEDING DEVICES.

(a) In General.—Section 922 of title 18, United States Code, is amended— (1) by inserting after subsection (u) the following:

“(v)(1) It shall be unlawful for a person to import, sell, manufacture, transfer, or possess, in or affecting interstate or foreign commerce, a semiautomatic assault weapon.

“(2) Paragraph (1) shall not apply to the possession, sale, or transfer of any semiautomatic assault weapon otherwise lawfully possessed under Federal law on the date of enactment of the Assault Weapons Regulatory Act of 2013.

“(w)(1) It shall be unlawful for a person to import, sell, manufacture, transfer, or possess, in or affecting interstate or foreign commerce, a large capacity ammunition feeding device.

“(2) Paragraph (1) shall not apply to the possession of any large capacity ammunition feeding device otherwise lawfully possessed on or before the date of enactment of the Assault Weapons Regulatory Act of 2013.

But…wait: the law proposes also to bring these guns under the National Firearms Act.  So, isn’t that good…or good enough?  Close enough for nubbin work?   Bringing the guns under the NFA would indeed require a more extensive background check than the Brady Law and registration in a central registry. Here is what the summary describes:

Requires that grandfathered weapons be registered under the National Firearms Act, to include:

  • Background check of owner and any transferee
  • Type and serial number of the firearm
  • Positive identification, including photograph and fingerprint
  • Certification from local law enforcement of identity and that possession would not violate State or local law
  • Dedicated funding for ATF to implement registration

Well, gosheroonee, that sounds good.  (And I have written before that this could be one of a number of good ways to deal with the existing stock of assault weapons.)

But why would you go directly to this option instead of insisting on an outright ban, which is actually the best option from the point of view of public health and safety?

Why would you not make the other side come to you for a concession?

No pasaran…

Okay, let’s say Senator Feinstein is trying to be “reasonable” (in a Third Way kind of way) and reassure gun owners that no one is going to take their guns away.  This is exactly what the summary (full text of the summary at the bottom of this post) implies:

Protects legitimate hunters and the rights of existing gun owners by:

  • Grandfathering weapons legally possessed on the date of enactment
  • Exempting over 900 specifically-named weapons used for hunting or sporting purposes and
  • Exempting antique, manually-operated, and permanently disabled weapons

None dare call this pandering.

[Cue, off-stage, left: Here is where a “gun safety” nubbin stands up and dutifully says, “We can’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.”  Check that.]

Prowler-Trap

That ATF funding? Piece of cake. Boehner signed off on that.

But this bill precisely hinges on a perfect legislative outcome on its solution to the grandfathering issue.  Not just a good outcome.  A perfect outcome.  A carrier landing in a freezing rain.

The “solution” of requiring that all these existing assault weapons be registered under the National Firearms Act depends on their being “dedicated funding for ATF to implement registration.”   In other words, somewhere, someone, somehow, is going to have to come up with the m-o-n-e-y, the funding to make this huge task of registration work.

Hmm…what could go wrong? The House of Representatives is going to drop its bitterly partisan fiscal trench warfare and throw a whole bunch of money at ATF? Call me cynical, but I tend to doubt that.

Why would you not ask for a total ban and then use agreement on funding as a bargaining chip to fall back to NFA registration?

Private law enforcement sales.  If this provision creates an exemption for private sales to individual cops, it just a bad, bad idea.

4) Paragraph (1) shall not apply to—
“(A) the importation for, manufacture for, sale to, transfer to, or possession by the United States or a department or agency of the United States or a State or a department, agency, or political subdivision of a State, or a sale or transfer to or possession by a qualified law enforcement officer employed by the United States or a department or agency of the United States or a State or a department, agency, or political subdivision of a State for purposes of law enforcement (whether on or off duty);

That would assume that law enforcement officers are generically and genetically eradicable “good guys.”

On that count, please check (for a start) “Las Vegas police officer kills wife, son, himself,”
http://www.presstv.com/detail/2013/01/22/284974/las-vegas-officer-kills-family-himself/.

This is all hot off the samizdat press and requires further analysis.  More to come after a closer read.

Here is the summary sizzling fresh out of Feinstein’s office:

Summary of Feinstein Assault Weapons Regulatory Act of 2013

Bans the sale, transfer, importation, or manufacturing of:

  • Approximately 150 specifically-named firearms
  • Certain other semiautomatic rifles, handguns, and shotguns that can accept a detachable magazine and have one military characteristic
  • Semiautomatic rifles and handguns with a fixed magazine that can accept more than 10 rounds
  • Semiautomatic rifles that are shorter than 30 inches in length

Strengthens the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban and state bans by:

  • Moving from a 2-characteristic test to a 1-characteristic test
  • Eliminating the easy-to-remove bayonet mounts and flash suppressors from the characteristics test
  • Banning firearms with “thumbhole stocks” and “bullet buttons” to address attempts to “work around” prior bans
  • Adding a ban on the importation of assault weapons and large-capacity magazines
  • Eliminating the 10-year sunset that allowed the original ban to expire

Bans large-capacity ammunition feeding devices capable of accepting more than 10 rounds.

Protects legitimate hunters and the rights of existing gun owners by:

  • Grandfathering weapons legally possessed on the date of enactment
  • Exempting over 900 specifically-named weapons used for hunting or sporting purposes and
  • Exempting antique, manually-operated, and permanently disabled weapons

Requires that grandfathered weapons be registered under the National Firearms Act, to include:

  • Background check of owner and any transferee
  • Type and serial number of the firearm
  • Positive identification, including photograph and fingerprint
  • Certification from local law enforcement of identity and that possession would not violate State or local law
  • Dedicated funding for ATF to implement registration

Bans the transfer of grandfathered large-capacity ammunition feeding devices

 Allows states and localities to use Byrne JAG funds to conduct a voluntary buy-back program for grandfathered assault weapons and large-capacity ammunition feeding devices

Imposes a safe storage requirement for grandfathered firearms

Requires that assault weapons and large-capacity ammunition feeding devices manufactured after the date of the bill’s enactment be engraved with the serial number and date of manufacture of the weapon

OVER TO YOU, AMERICA!

In bad manners, Bushmaster assault rifle, Glock, Glock Semiautomatic pistols, Glock smeiautomatic pistols, Guns, NATIONAL RIFLE ASSOCIATION, Obama, politics, Running Fire Fight, Semiautomatic assault rifles, Tired Old Republicans on January 16, 2013 at 5:36 pm

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Big, huge A+ for the President Obama and Vice-President Biden for their strong start out of the blocks today on a comprehensive gun control package.

Confident, tough, and smart.  Sure, you can natter about what might have been in or out, but this is laying down a super package.

President Obama nailed it: this is not going to happen unless the American people demand it.

Start demanding!  Don’t let the midgets on the Hill kill it.

THE ROAD FROM SERFDOM–THE POLITICS OF GUN CONTROL

In bad manners, Bushmaster assault rifle, Corruption, Ethics in Washington, Guns, NATIONAL RIFLE ASSOCIATION, Obama, Police, politics, Running Fire Fight, Semiautomatic assault rifles, Tired Old Republicans, Washington Bureaucracy on January 14, 2013 at 2:28 pm

Schumer's Bird

The year was 1861. An enlightened French nobleman was visiting a Russian nobleman on the latter’s vast estate. The two were out for a morning ride.  The Frenchman pointed to a cluster of serfs—poorly clothed, filthy, ignorant, and doomed to a brutish life little better than that of the animals among whom they lived and bred.

“But, my dear Alexey,” the French nobleman asked the Russian nobleman. “Don’t you care for the health of your serfs?”

“Of course, I do care, my dear André,” replied the Russian noble, flicking his riding crop impetuously as if offended by the very question. “I care very much that they be healthy enough to dig potatoes, but not so healthy as to dig my grave before I am ready to die.”

The challenge of what to do about gun violence in America presents two questions of fundamentally different natures.

  • The public health and safety question: What would successfully reduce gun death and injury among Americans?
  • The political question: What, if anything, can the politicians in Washington nurse through the Congress of the United States of America?

The questions are so radically different that they compel answers as different as the comparison of Hyperion to a satyr (see, http://voices.yahoo.com/literary-analysis-classical-allusions-shakespeares-8833327.html) or of the sun to the moon.

The Public Health and Safety Question

Culex quinquefasciatus

The answer to the first question is so thoroughly answered by an impressive body of research—even though hindered by sabotage from the National Rifle Association and junk scholarship from the gun industry, for which the NRA is a mere potty-mouthpiece—that having to ask it at all ought to be embarrassing to any educated American.

This body of careful assembled scientific knowledge points unerringly to the sea of guns in which we are awash as the problem.  Not video games.  Not movies.  Not secularism.  But guns.  Guns. (See, e.g. http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/hicrc/firearms-research/; http://www.jhsph.edu/research/centers-and-institutes/johns-hopkins-center-for-gun-policy-and-research/; http://www.uphs.upenn.edu/ficap/. )

Guns, and particular types of guns, are the vector, the microbe, the bacillus, the virus, the disease that has infected America with an epidemic of needless, senseless, relentless death and injury.

The proliferation and easy availability of guns not only empowers the mentally ill, the mass shooter, and the criminal. They thrust guns into the hands of law-abiding but angry husbands and boyfriends, fatally curious children, self-appointed vigilantes, the despondent, the angry driver, and the bitter extremist.

The dark, rotting specter of that infection stalks our homes, our schools, our shopping malls, our places of worship, our hospitals, our workplaces, our highways, our restaurants, our courts, our parks, our police stations, even the White House, our Capitol, and our military bases.  Its putrid breath wafts over every one of us every single day.

No other advanced—I dare say it, civilized—nation in the world tolerates this madness.

The Political Question

devil tray 02The Moloch’s slaughter at Sandy Hook Elementary School (see, http://www.nybooks.com/blogs/nyrblog/2012/dec/15/our-moloch/) put starkly to the newly and powerfully reelected President of the United States the greatest domestic political question any President has faced since Abraham Lincoln decided what to do about the secessionist threat.

I do not make that comparison lightly. Insurrectionists today dance to theology from the NRA, around the totem of military-style guns from the gun industry.

Barack Obama handed over this profound political question—inspired by the unimaginably torn flesh and blood of Innocence itself—to Joe Biden, a crown prince among America’s putatively progressive political “gun control nobility.”

Vice-President Biden is today “all about” how he personally wrote and passed the monstrously ineffective 1994 assault weapons ban, as part of the epically bloated and pork-laden Clinton Crime Bill.  (See, e.g., Peter Baker, “Biden Is Back for a 2nd Run at Gun Limits,” The New York Times, December 29, 2012, http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/30/us/politics/newtown-task-force-returns-biden-to-gun-control-arena.html?_r=2&.)

Why anyone would actually want to claim authorship of that abortive piece of legislation—Dr. Frankenstein could have assembled a more effective assault weapons ban using random scraps from the burial notices of those from whom he assembled his monster—passes understanding. Perhaps Dr. Biden doesn’t really understand his law’s fatal flaws, or perhaps he is counting on the fact that not one out of ten thousand Americans does either. In either case, what Joe Biden does not so freely share is the fact that in the darkest days of the final conference negotiations over that 1994 Crime Bill, when President Clinton’s senior staff member George Stephanopoulos was skulking around the conference meetings on Capitol Hill, urging conferees to dump the assault weapons provision to “save” the Crime Bill that Clinton desperately needed as an example of something—anything—the President could get done, Sen. Biden was encouraging his fellow conferees to do just that. What kept the assault weapons ban in the crime bill was the unflinching resolve of the late Senator Howard Metzenbaum of Ohio, whose position was resolute: no assault weapons ban, no crime bill. (Sen. Dianne Feinstein was equally resolute, but she was not a conferee.)

This gun control nobility are the career politicians—and their respective trains of career advisers, well-paid consultants and pollsters, and assorted opportunistic camp followers—who have similarly gamed the question of what to do, and mostly what not to do, about guns and gun control to their political benefit over the last several decades.

Yes, gamed. Gambled.  Played at.

a-combination-of-12-handout-pictures-shows-12-of-20-young-schoolchildren-killed-at-sandy-hook-elementary-school-in-newtown-conn-on-friday-dec-14-2012All of them trade on their putative (but usually shockingly thin) knowledge of guns and of the real drivers of the gun violence problem, and on their professed paternal concern for you and me. They appear in an endless procession of Sunday morning shows and at controlled media events.

But, as the continuing and growing torrent of gun violence in America conclusively demonstrates, what has been good for this gun control nobility has not been equally good for America.  Like the nobility of imperial Russia, the gun control nobility have lurched through a series of clever retreats and cynical concessions, all designed to ensure that they stay in political office to do…what?

This political tactic of always skulking around the edges of the gun control battlefield but never stepping up to the fight has actually been reduced to doctrine and received wisdom in Washington by the likes of such appeasement-oriented organizations as Third Way, founded and run by a gaggle of career political functionaries, liverymen of the career political nobility.

“Not too liberal…not too conservative…but right in the middle.” That’s the third way.  Okay, so maybe staying in the middle third means that some more kids will have to die, but we’ll still be in office to do…what?

The barons of gun control have stayed in office.  But they have failed to protect Americans and, in a profound and real way, America itself.

Put aside the mass shootings and the daily dead. Their hand-wringing, self-serving equivocation, fainthearted piety, and backward-stepping has enabled the growth and arming of a significant insurrectionist paramilitary faction in America.  The country is in vastly more danger of armed political violence than it would have been had they screwed up the will and the courage to act decisively years ago.

Thus, the Prospects of a Sell-Out Look…Good

political-handshake-lgGiven the tender hands within which the fate of the country now rests, there is faint cause for hope.

There are really only two forces that count on this issue in political Washington. One is the power of the office of the President of the United States.  We have seen what Barack Obama chose to do with that, although it must be said that he still makes a fine speech.

The other is the National Rifle Association.

There is no in-between moderating force.

Either the President goes to war with the NRA and mobilizes the nation for a long fight comparable to that of, say, the civil rights struggle, or the NRA wins.

The so-called gun control movement—or “gun safety”, or “gun violence prevention,” or whatever the evasive semantic fashion of the day happens to be—is not a force to be reckoned with.

It is a prop.

These nubbins of candle light vigils and teddy bear mounds have no boots on the ground. None. None of them can reliably deliver that vital spark of local influence that drives the votes of the hard-eyed men and women who run Washington.  Many decision makers in Washington secretly believe that the “groups” are basically useless.  I would murmur that not all are useless.  The Violence Policy Center—where, yes, I worked for 15 years—has contributed a virtual online encyclopedia of knowledge about the gun industry and its depredations.  (See, http://www.vpc.org/.)

The rest of these nubbins can fend for themselves in the court of public opinion.

Thus, reality.  Unless and until a real grass roots gun control movement is created in the form of one that can deliver the same thing that the NRA delivers day in and day out—not campaign money, but local clout to be heard by politicians—all the calculations of the third or fourth or fifth way, and all the marches of a million this and a million that (truly, more like a few thousand this and a few thousand that) do not amount to a heap of toasted nubbins on the scale of hard, cold power.

Unless, of course, the President stands up and takes off the gloves for a real fight.

Obama weeping

For an easy guide to 10 ways to tell the American people have been sold out..again…on gun control, see the companion post here http://tomdiazgunsandgangs.com/2013/01/14/ten-ways-to-spot-a-sell-out-on-gun-control/.

TEN WAYS TO SPOT A SELL-OUT ON GUN CONTROL

In bad manners, Bushmaster assault rifle, Ethics in Washington, Guns, NATIONAL RIFLE ASSOCIATION, Obama, politics, Running Fire Fight, Semiautomatic assault rifles, Washington Bureaucracy on January 14, 2013 at 2:26 pm

Biden and Obama copy

The Ten Ways

Vice-President Joe Biden will within days flash his beautiful teeth (only his orthodontist knows for sure what his barber already knows) and deliver the conclusions of the ponderous machinery of his task force (or whatever it’s officially called).

One would like nothing so much as a powerful legislative drone strike against the NRA and the industry it represents as the opening round in a long and relentless war against gun violence.  But the NRA is not crouched in the dust behind a hill in Yemen. What we are most likely to see is a frizzante of accommodation, an artfully-contrived punch, served up as the gun control nobility whirl about in the kind of grande valse brillante that passes for action today in Washington, DC.

Here are ten signs—among many that one could state—to watch, in order to know at the end of the day whether you have been sold out once again by the political nobility of gun control.

 

  1. Failure to stop production, import, and transfer of ownership of semiautomatic assault weapons and high capacity magazines.  If either of these bans is out, the fix is in.  A high-capacity magazine ban would be a useful advance, but if the guns themselves are not addressed, a thriving trade in contraband magazines is guaranteed to ensue.  By the way, there is nothing magic about the number ten.  A reasonable case can be made to define a high-capacity magazine as any magazine holding more than, say, five, rounds of ammunition.  The current chatter about 10 rounds is political.
  2. “Grandfathering” existing assault weapons and/or high-capacity magazines.  Any law that “grandfathers” (exempts) existing guns and high-capacity ammunition magazines is meaningless as a practical matter.  This was one of the great defects of the 1994 law.  Millions of military-style weapons would remain in legal circulation. Production and imports would ramp up feverishly to build up legal stocks before the deadline.Should the banned guns be confiscated?  No.  That is not a realistic or, given the tense facts on the ground in America, wise course. But further transfers of banned guns can be halted, meaning, if you own one, you cannot sell it, give it away, or leave it to your heirs.  The guns could be brought under the highly restrictive regime of the National Firearms Act, which requires registration and an extensive background check.
  3. Allowing “exceptions” or “waivers.”  The gun industry loves waivers and exceptions.  For example, an assault weapons ban could allow the Attorney General or some other executive authority to “waive” the prohibition on a firearm classified as an assault weapon, for one or another reason.  Were that to be in the law, the industry would build its guns toward the waiver and its lobbyists would work the halls of the bureaucracy to open a fatal gap in the ban.
  4. Exceptions for “small” calibers.  It will be tempting to make an exception for assault weapons and magazines in small calibers, e.g. 22 caliber, that are associated in the popular mind with sporting use and thought to be relatively benign.  Nothing could be further from the truth. Multiple rounds from an assault weapon in any caliber are extraordinarily lethal.
  5. Contingency and/or sunset clauses.  Contingency clauses, suspending the law’s effectiveness “unless and until” X event or Y data occur, simply open up running room for equivocation, challenge, and litigation.  The “sunset” (automatic expiration) of the last ban was a foolish concession allowing the gun industry to bide its time and wage an assault in what was essentially a entirely new legislative fight—with a President who sat on his hands.
  6. Cosmetic features test.  It is well understood that the 1994 law was a failure in large part because its definition of what constituted an assault weapon was a fanciful agglomeration of “bells and whistles,” most of which had absolutely nothing to do with what makes assault weapons so dangerous.  An effective law will focus on one prime feature—the ability to accept a high-capacity magazine.
  7. Private sales to law enforcement personnel.  Allowing individual law enforcement officers to make private purchases of banned guns is a bad idea.  If an agency decides such guns are necessary, it should purchase and issue them.
  8. “Relics” and “museum” exceptions.  Some existing gun laws are written so as not to cover guns made before a given date or period of time.  The flaw is obvious: as time passes, more and more truly modern and exceptionally lethal guns become treated as relics, which they are not in any real sense.  Moreover, similar provisions allowing trafficking in guns designated by jerry-rigged “museums” as “curios” simply opens the door to fraudulent certifications of phony curios by fake museums.
  9. Expanded background checks without funding for implementation, and better definitions of what is disqualifying (especially mental health status).  The question of mental health will be explosive, as some mental health advocates will argue that it is not “fair” to restrict the “civil rights” of persons with mental health problems.  But a better definition and working practice is essential
  10. Failure to greatly strengthen the legal definition of gun trafficking, the definition of what constitutes “dealing” in firearms, and to expand funding of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.  The NRA and the gun industry have deliberately starved the ATF and weakened its authority.  It is time to insist that it be given the funds and power to deal with its mission.

For an analysis of the deeper questions and politics of gun control, see the companion post here http://tomdiazgunsandgangs.com/2013/01/14/the-road-from-serfdom-the-politics-of-gun-control/.

P

ALEX SANCHEZ — ACCUSED SECRET SHOT-CALLER — SPEAKS TO HIS SUPPORTERS

In bad manners, Corruption, Crime, Cultural assassination, Drugs, Gangs, Informants and other sophisticated means, Latino gangs, RICO, RICO indictments, Transnational crime on March 17, 2010 at 10:50 am

Alexander (Alex) Sanchez (AKA "Rebelde") Throwing Devils Horns Gang Sign

Alex Sanchez, the “anti-gang activist” who was accused last June of being a secret MS-13 gang shot-caller, is out on bail.  (For background details, start here and follow the links.)

Sanchez’s lawyer successfully beat back an Associated Press motion to make public the transcript of the star-chamber secret bail hearing conducted under the octogenarian aegis of  Federal Quirky Judge For Life Manuel Real.  (Go here for details.) His Honor agree to protect the spineless political hack(s) who testified on behalf of Sanchez.

Lesson: the public has no right to know anything and the First Amendment rights of a Free Press do not reach into the Realm of El Rey Real.

Meanwhile, Sanchez’s supporters cooked up this nicely done video in which The Mother Teresa of Gangsterdom turns his soulful eyes to you (woo-woo-woo) in thanks.  (Go here for link to the Simon & Garfunkel song, “Mrs. Robinson,”  to which the preceding parenthetical refers, kid.)

A nice touch in this video — which is making the rounds of the “immigration rights” movement — is the background music, a cover of Bob Marley’s “Get Up, Stand Up (For Your Rights).” None of Sanchez’s bobbleheads want to get up, stand up, for their right, much less the right of the public, to know what went on behind locked doors in the chambers of Doktor Herr Schiedsrichter Real.

And completely forget about the rights of ordinary people to be free from gang violence.

As Kurt Vonnegut once wrote: poo-tee-wheet, poo-tee-wheet.  Joltin’ Joe — a “Real” role model — may be gone, but we still have Alex!

Look around you, all you see are sympathetic eyes

Stroll around the grounds until you feel at home …

Our nation turns its lonely eyes to you, woo woo woo …

Joltin' Joe -- Son of Immigrants ... Not a Gangster

DiMaggio was born in Martinez, California, the eighth of nine children born to immigrants from Italy, Giuseppe (1872–1949) and Rosalia (Mercurio) DiMaggio (1878–1951). He was delivered by a midwife identified on his birth certificate as Mrs. J. Pico. He was named after his father; “Paolo” was in honor of Giuseppe’s favorite saint, Saint Paul. The family moved to San Francisco, California when Joe was one year old.

Wikipedia

50 CALIBER ANTI-ARMOR SNIPER RIFLE A FAVORITE OF MEXICAN DRUG GANGS

In bad manners, Crime, Drugs, Gangs, Guns, Latino gangs, Mexico, Running Fire Fight, Washington Bureaucracy on March 16, 2010 at 6:44 pm

We Feel You ... But Not THAT Much!

The murders of several U.S. citizens connected to the American consulate in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico has elicited the usual transparently fake concern by the usual suspects in Washington.

President Obama sent out to a flack to say that the Chief Executive was “deeply saddened and outraged.”

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton  declared that the murders:

… underscore the imperative of our continued commitment to work closely with the Government of President Calderon to cripple the influence of trafficking organizations at work in Mexico.

"Gun Dealers? I Don't See No Stinking Gun Dealers!"

The unspoken overalls in the chowder of Secretary Clinton’s declarations about working closely with Mexico and crippling drug lords is the fact — political, historical, and inconvenient — that the Administration of President Obama has no intention whatever of taking on the U.S. civilian gun industry (and import houses) that are major suppliers of firearms smuggled to Mexico for use by the drug gangs and other criminals.

One of the most popular is the Barrett 50 caliber anti-armor sniper rifle.  Although its inventor calls his gun “an adult toy,” Mexican criminals understand its real capabiliities, which are basically its ability to punch holes in armor from a thousand or two yards away.

Although there is nothing amusing about the war in Mexico, here’s a charming little video about the Barrett rifle.

ALLEGED SECRET SHOT-CALLER SANCHEZ BAIL HEARING STAYS ON DARK SIDE OF THE MOON — WHO IS BEING PROTECTED AND WHY?

In bad manners, Corruption, Crime, Drugs, Gangs, Informants and other sophisticated means, Latino gangs, Police, RICO, RICO indictments, Transnational crime on March 9, 2010 at 5:47 pm

Alex Sanchez, Accused by Feds of Being a "Secret MS-13 Shot-Caller" and Now Out On Bail, With A Friend in Happier Times

Having written extensively about the Alex Sanchez case, I was looking forward to the so-called “Daubert hearing” to test the expertise of LAPD Detective and MS-13 gang expert Frank Flores.

The hearing was originally scheduled for Monday, March 8, 2010.

But — lo and behold — that hearing has been mysteriously postponed, from Monday until late April — by mutual agreement of defense and government.

This struck me as curious, because Sanchez’s mouthpiece has been aching to do a legal orchiectomy on Det. Flores for almost a year.

Why postpone the surgery, I wondered?

So, I started poking around.

See, the last two big gangsters I have tracked who suddenly entered into a series of friendly postponements with the government were working out plea bargains (Nelson Commandari and a loathsome creature who went by the nickname of “El Culiche,” or “Tapeworm.”)

Please be sure to note that there is NO  evidence whatsoever that Alex Sanchez is negotiating a plea, because he — to the contrary — insists he is completely innocent of the charges and can prove it, and his counsel is fighting like a banshee to do just that.

But I do like to keep track of these sealed filings — and there are a LOT of them in this case — because weird things happen all the time.  Especially in the closed, secret, under-the-radar, star chamber type proceedings that federal criminal courts are turning into.

(This business of secrecy is serious, people.  Some day it may be your turn to have some imperious life-time appointed judge and an arrogant, anonymous, bureaucrat-prosecutor seal your case off.  Good luck to you, then, my friend.  You will be a tree falling in a forest.  See, it’s their government, not yours!)

Call me nosy.

Well, what a shocker!

It turns out that Los Angeles is not Kansas, Dorothy!

And open court has a totally different meaning, dude, in LaLa Land.

Like, get out and shut up, man!

Watch the Razzies or something.

What I found was a curious set of recent filings concerning the transcript of the famous closed Sanchez bail hearing.

If you read Fairly Civil, you may recall that the U.S. government’s witness list was inadvertently made available on PACER just long enough for me to find it and publish it before it was sealed!

On the other hand, Sanchez’s cozy little list of friendly witnesses have never been publicly disclosed.  People of principle, but they like to keep their principles in the closet, you understand.

Judge Manuel L. Real, Presiding Over His Closed Star Chamber, to Public: "None of Your Damned Business."

Bottom line:  Federal Judge Manuel L. Real has ruled against the Associated Press and ordered that the transcript of the secret, star chamber, bail hearing be kept sealed … i.e., none of us … none of Alex Sanchez’s many alleged ditto-head supporters … and none of his putatively former gangster buddies … can find out exactly what was said, by whom, and why the judge changed his mind and sprang Sanchez!

How convenient!

See, he’s innocent.

But you don’t need to know anything, except for the wonderfully redeeming power of Faith, man.  Can you feel it, brother? Heal, I say!  Heal!  Satan, get thee out of this skeptic!

Apparently, AP reporter Christina Hoag reported Judge Real’s denial of its paltry motion on behalf of a Free Press and the Public.  But the report was not picked up extensively.  Certainly not in the Los Angeles Times.  Yawn.  More fun to read about the latest adventures of Lindsay Lohan.

Here is the state of play, as I make it out by reading the docket:

  1. The Associated Press files a motion asking for the last Sanchez detention hearing transcript to be unsealed.
  2. The U.S. government replies, OK by us, we agree there are insufficient grounds to seal the record, sure, unseal it.
  3. But SANCHEZ (aka Mother Teresa of the Gang Universe), who one would think would LOVE to have the record unsealed to show how pure he is and deserving of release, has successfully opposed the AP’s motion!

So the record remains sealed. In other words, Sanchez does not want the public to read why he was released!  (Please, counsel, spare me the phony argument that the hearing record  contains hearsay and evidence that would be inadmissible at trial.  What a crock!)

Not only that, a flurry of sealed documents have been filed in the case.  Sorry, none of your business.  Even requests to seal documents are sealed.

Why?

It might to some look as if Sanchez (and/or his lawyer) are trying to protect the politician(s) who showed up on his behalf, and who are rumored to have been City Council Member Ed Reyes and/or City Council Member Tony Cardenas, and perhaps others.

But that would be crass, cynical, and not at all like Mother Teresa, to whom some have compared Sanchez.  You know, the truth shall make ye free, etc., etc.,etc.

Talk about judicial administration by the dark of the moon!  Hey, I know, let’s seal the whole trial and just let Judge Real read from an envelope and announce a verdict, like the Oscars!

All the  legal bureaucrats implicit in this charade can show up on the red carpet.

I can hear the snarky commentary now:

“OOOH, the new U.S. Attorney is wearing an absolutely daring two vent, European cut Navy blue pinstripe suit … oh, wait, it’s just the suit!  How clever!  And will you check out the alligator skin Manolo Blahniks lead defense counsel is wearing!”

Where are all the “civil liberties” advocates who would be going bananas if some common

Activist Tom Hayden Curuiously Silent on Judge Real's Little Judicial Gulag

thug were held two minutes incommunicado from the professional mouthpieces who service gangsters?

Where is WitnessLA?  Where is the Gangsta Tea Party and Marching Social Justice Band that shows up at every public orchestration of the government’s horrible oppression of gangsters?

Where, for the love of all the Bill of Rights and “transparent” judicial administration are Tom Hayden, Barack Obama, and Eric Holder?

Apparently, they all agree.

It’s none of our damned business!

Amazing.

Truly amazing.

Judicial administration roughly equivalent to the Soviets dragging dissidents down to the cellar of Lubyanka Prison and putting a nice round of 9mm in the back of their heads.

Or, boiling frogs one degree at a time.

How does it feel, suckahs?  Freedom rocks, right?

"He did NOT say that! Shut up! Get Out!"

Why the Los Angeles Gang Tour and the Sicilian Mafia are Bad Ideas

In bad manners, Corruption, Crime, Cultural assassination, Drugs, Ethics in Washington, Gangs, Guns, Latino gangs, Marijuana Debate, politics, Transnational crime, Turf Wars on January 31, 2010 at 3:44 pm

Survivors of Gunshot Wounds Suffer Pain, Indignity, and Often a Life of Daily Horrors

“This isn’t the Boy Scouts. It isn’t the chess club. It’s a world of violence.”

Los Angeles Police Department Detective and gang expert Frank Flores, quoted in article on MS-13 trial in Charlotte, NC, Charlotte Observer, January 14, 2010

Just when you thought Los Angeles couldn’t get any goofier or more self-defeating, an entrepreneurial former gang member turned “anti-gang activist” has started a gangland bus tour.

Alfred Lomas, 45, a former gang member and the creator of the tour ($65, lunch included), said this drive-by was about educating people on city life, while turning any profits into microloans and other initiatives aimed at providing gang members jobs.

“A Gangland Bus Tour, With Lunch and a Waiver,” The New York Times, January 16, 2010

OK.

Like the mudslides and wildfires that remind us the Los Angeles Basin was intended by its Maker for other than human habitation, this idea roared through the arid mind canyons of the Left Coast and swept thoughtful analysis into the Pacific Ocean like so much polluted runoff.

Not on the Tour

First, let’s be clear about one thing.  Lomas’s “tour” is going to skip the fundamental reality of gang life in Los Angeles.  You know, the inconvenient bits – drug and human trafficking, extortion, robbery, theft, armed violence, and most of all the visible toll of the dead (think funerals) and the limping, less visible trail of walking or wheelchair-bound wounded (think spinal injuries and those little plastic waste bag appendages).

This You Tube video fills in that weak point of the enterprise.

NOTE:  Some idiot at You Tube  disabled the video I had posted here some months ago — without warning — on the grounds that the images of actual gunshot victims in the video were merely shocking.

You Tube’s Google owners have learned well from their Chinese masters.  I’ll find another venue to host the video and add the link back here when I get it.

Meanwhile, I took down my You Tube site in protest of this idiotic and heavy-handed censorship.  Be warned.

I assume that one of the LA gangster world’s bought-an-paid-for-politicians got to YouTube, or some other thug-hugger.  In a paraphrase of Gen. Douglas MacArthur:  The Video Shall Return.

Superficial Rationales Sufficient for the Chattering Class

Rationale # 1. “Hey, it’s America, right?”

“What the heck, market what you got,” said Celeste Fremon, who writes the criminal justice blog Witness L.A. and has studied the city’s gangs.

Although she disputed whether several of the sites had a solid gang association, she said, “if it makes money for a good cause, more power to them.”

Rationale # 2. “Hey, his heart’s in the right place!”

Kevin Malone, a former general manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers who came to know Mr. Lomas through the center and is one of the financial backers of the project, said he might accept the criticism “if it was somebody other than” Mr. Lomas.

“But I know the guy’s heart,” he said. “He is not taking anything out. All he is doing is serving and giving. If that is exploitation, I hope somebody does that to me.”

Rationale # 3 (maybe … maybe not … demi-semi quavering)Gloria in excelsis scelestus ?”

Caregivers in Pediatric Intensive Care Units See Too Much of This from Gang Violence

“Everybody says we are the gang capital of the world, and that is certainly true, no denying that,” said the Rev. Gregory Boyle, who has spent decades trying to steer people out of gangs into legitimate work. “It’s hard to gloss over that. But there are two extremes we always need to avoid. One is demonizing the gang member, and the other extreme is romanticizing the gang.”

Snarky Rebuttals

With all due respect to Boyle, Malone, Lomas and Fremon, this is a bad idea on so many levels it makes LA’s most densely stacked freeway interchange look like a rural crossroads.

Snarky rebuttal # 1. Making money for a good cause?  That’s the test?

Deep.

Let’s see, every whacked out terrorist in the universe – especially the ones who strap bombs into their underwear – thinks his or her cause is not only good, but also superior to every other cause on the planet.

Fund-raising for these “good causes” is intimately entwined in the depredations of global organized crime – included human trafficking, sex trafficking, drug trafficking, cigarette trafficking, traffic in phony products from lethal baby formula to fake designer jeans, and the bloody mayhem that accompanies all of the above.   In fact, there is a school of serious thought that the war in Afghanistan is at least as much about the drug trade as the Taliban’s odd socio-religious tyranny.

Street Gangs are the Retail Outlets for Drugs in America

And by the way, the point of this spear of criminality comes right down to L.A.’s ubiquitous marijuana “clinics,” which are a wonderful system of retail outlets for the illegal production and trafficking in weed by the Mexican drug cartels and their affiliates, the Gangs of Los Angeles.

Bad idea, good cause.

Check.

Snarky rebuttal #2. “If it were anybody else …”

Say, what he say?  This logic twists my mind like a pretzel.

Hmmm.

Okay, pick a hero in your life.  Any hero.  You know, like … um … Brangelina … Barack Obama … Mother Teresa … Alex Sanchez … Lindsay Lohan … Pat Robertson … Glenn Close … whoever you look up to in your personal universe.

Just imagine – stick with me here, this is just a “mind exercise” – that your hero decided that running 13-year old child prostitutes up from Pueblo Pobre, Qualquiera, and vending them out in slam pads was a damned good way to raise funds for … well, a good cause, no profit here.

Pick a Hero ... Any Hero

See, if it were anybody else …  love the sinner, love the sin?  Certainly, no one, definitely not Fairly Civil, suggests that there is anything unlawful about the gang tour.  But the logic is the same.

Bad idea, good-hearted personal hero.

Check.

Snarky rebuttal # 3The demi-semi quaver.

In fairness to Father Boyle, it is at least possible that he told The New York Times reporter that this gang tour was definitely a bad idea because it glorifies gang life.  Reporters and editors sometimes cut out the sharp points in a “reader.”  But the quote attributed to him came across as an “on the one hand, on the other hand” equivocation.  What the modern news media call “even-handed.”

Well, be that as it may, here is a more pungent comment from another source:

Is there a danger of romanticizing or even glorifying the culture that has cost so many lives and caused so much heartache and tragedy to go along with the poverty that pervades the area? You think? There are a number of tours of past gangster lairs and stomping grounds from those occupied and traveled by Jesse James to John Dillinger to name only a couple. But those who made these locations infamous or famous are long gone and the thrill is far more benign than what one might expect where there still is ongoing horror.

“L.A. gangland tour is a bad idea,” Dan K. Thomasson, Scripps Howard News Service.

Human tragedy is human tragedy.

Check.

The Sicilian Connection

Cosa Nostra Assassinated Mafia Busting Sicilian Magistrates Giovanni Falcone (left) and Paolo Borsellino

Finally, it is instructive to look at this tour in the context of another gang-infested culture:  Sicily, home of the original mafia, Cosa Nostra (not “La Cosa Nostra,” as the U.S. federal government mistakenly and irreversibly misnamed the American variant.)

It’s well worth reading the history and sociopolitical culture of this scourge.  So much that is fundamentally bad about the Sicilian Mafia and its relation to civil life can be seen in the L.A. gang culture.

  • Self-marginalizing ethnic mythology and denial. “There is no mafia, it’s just a cultural thing we Sicilians have.”  For nearly a century and a half Sicilian and other Italian chatterers – politicians, writers, academics – promoted the idea that there was no such thing as the mafia, in the sense of an organized criminal enterprise in Sicily.  No, they said, “mafia” just means a prideful violence ingrained in the “character” of Sicilians.  You know, like that Latino carnal and barrios stuff.  We just can’t help ourselves.  The gangsters, of course, loved this idea, and promoted it through the transmission belt of their “useful idiots”  — even in the face of well-documented informants from as far back as the late 19th and early 20th centuries!  The mob’s suckers included “intellectuals,” corrupted and gullible politicians, nitwit clerics, and the usual gaggle of do-gooders.
  • Corrupted members of church and state. To the shame of the Italian government and the Catholic Church, many politicians and priests were co-opted by Cosa Nostra.  Some remain so to this day.  Interestingly, a characteristic posture of the corrupted has been to publicly criticize the mafia and propose grandiose plans to attack it, while secretly undermining law enforcement efforts against the mobsters.
  • Attacking law enforcement and judicial authorities. One of Cosa Nostra’s classic tactics has been to attack – both physically and rhetorically – specific gangbusters in Italian law enforcement and in the Italian judiciary.  In many cases, this was assassination intended to send a message that the mafia was above the law, in fact, was the law.  In other cases, it was a smear campaign; a whispering, snickering current of innuendo designed and intended to undermine public confidence in law enforcement generally and in specific persons whose principled activities became a thorn in the side of the mob.
  • Culture of Criminality. The goal of socialization is to inculcate a “culture of lawfulness.”  No matter what else one thinks of cops, there clearly are not enough of them to prevent every crime and stop every criminal enterprise.  This is the job of that broader mass we call “culture” or “society.”  In Sicily, the culture of lawfulness became a culture of unlawfulness.  The vast mass of ordinary people came to accept the depredations of the mafia, because the very culture taught them there was nothing they could do about it.  Many heroes of modern Sicily paid with their blood to reverse this perverse culture inversion.

Sound familiar?

You can read some of the best books about Cosa Nostra, the Sicilian mafia, and decide for yourself.  My recommendations:

Salvo Lima, One of the Sicilian Mafia's Politician Friends, Was Brutally Whacked When He Outlived His Usefulness

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