News

When Will It End? Vol. 1

I’ve seen the flag at half-mast too many times in my young life.

What happened in Vegas earlier this week is horrible. That goes without saying.

I hesitated to write anything in the immediate aftermath to allow events to develop, and not to rush to judgement about anything. I also hesitated because it’s getting way, way too routine to have to do this.

There’s a paradox here; I love the true crime genre, but I hate people getting hurt. I justify this to myself that reading and watching true crime brings us to a better understanding of justice, and to a better understanding of evil. As much as human beings can comprehend evil.

More about rushing to judgement…

Some have claimed it’s not the time to talk about gun violence in America. These same people never bring it up…except in the wake of a mass shooting. By now, I think, it is clear that this is a uniquely American problem. American gun laws are uniquely lax in the developed world.

Moreover, if the NRA supports the existing ban on federal funds for research on gun violence, I think we can all safely assume it’s because they think the findings would be unflattering.

That we don’t even enable research into this uniquely American problem is a disgrace.

If we don’t understand the causes of gun violence, we have no hope of preventing it in an effective way.

In another rush to judgement, mental illness has been suggested as the primary cause of the massacre in Las Vegas, and better mental health care proposed as an answer.

While I agree there is a desperate need for better access to mental health services, I point out that most mentally ill people are not a threat to others.

There is, so far, little evidence that the Vegas shooter had mental health issues. Moreover, the intensive planning we now know went into this crime indicates the perpetrator knew what he was doing and attempted to conceal it because he knew others would view it as wrong; even if some underlying suicidal impulses or anger issues come to light, his premeditation excludes him as “criminally insane” as recognized by most courts.

Perhaps it is a kind of benign, charming naiveté to believe that a “sane” person could not murder almost sixty of his fellow human beings and wound hundreds more for seemingly no reason.

Behind that charm, however, I fear there is an ongoing assumption that “crazy” and “evil” are synonymous. It is this assumption, along with others, that stigmatizes mental health issues and discourages access to mental health care.

Whatever complex web of motives and drives that led to the Las Vegas shooting emerges, I propose the following:

Evil is real.

Now, what are you doing to thwart it?

May I suggest calling your elected officials and telling them you oppose the Dickey Amendment? If you get the answering machine, keeping trying. That means it’s working. 

Stay safe,

-L

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There Are No Coincidences–A Statement on Charlottesville

“If thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him”

In the wake of violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, on last Saturday, I think it is necessary to say something.

I am not a person of any notable influence, but I am a human being, and this is my responsibility to prevent.

I am also a white American. The ugly history of racism in this country, which inspired the “Unite the Right” rally last weekend and the murder of a peaceful counter-protester, is my responsibility to acknowledge and face.

I committed no crime on Saturday.

And the LORD said unto Cain “Where is Abel thy brother?” And he said “I know not: Am I my brother’s keeper?”

But I abet that crime if I do not decry it. I admit my shame and guilt that it has taken me these last few days to find my words.

And the LORD said, “What hast thou done? Thy brother’s blood crieth unto me from the ground.”

It is no coincidence that actual Nazis had rallied to protect a public display of support for the Confederacy, which was formed to protect the rights of slave owners.

It is no coincidence that Klansmen showed up with the actual Nazis.

It is no coincidence that a rally in support of genocidal views ends in murder.

“And now thou art cursed from the ground, which hath opened her mouth to receive thy brother’s blood from thy hand.”

It is no coincidence that an American president refuses to condemn Nazis and other white supremacists by name on the day of the attack, and instead blames many “sides”.

There is only one side at fault here.

It is no coincidence the aforementioned president only condemned the Nazis and the KKK on Monday after people of goodwill, including many elected officials of his own party, called on him to do so.

It is no coincidence that, Monday night, the Boston Holocaust Memorial was vandalized–for the second time in a season.

It is no coincidence that, today, unable to restrain even his basest and most politically self-destructive desires, the American president reverted to his previous statement, blaming the counter-protesters for being run over.

It is no coincidence that far-right groups are loving his response.

“Then shall they also answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee?’

And if, after all this, you still think these are coincidences–

I invite you to take a long look in the mirror.

-L

 “Then shall He answer them, saying, ‘Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me.'”

 

Verses adapted from the KJV translation

 

Police Scanner Tuesday–23 May 2017

Police Scanner Tuesday makes its triumphant return this week, only to bring you the latest and most visible in human depravity.

  1. Manchester, U.K. Bombing: On 22 May, as an Ariana Grande concert was ending, a Briton of Libyan heritage detonated himself in the crowd of exiting fans. Of the 22 killed, many were teenage girls or younger, including an 8-year-old girl. Many of the younger casualties were accompanied by their mothers.

    The so-called Islamic State has taken responsibility for the attack, but it is unclear if they coordinated it or are piggybacking on the actions of someone radicalized remotely. Police say the suicide bomber acted alone, but they are not sure if he may be part of a larger network bent on carrying out follow-up attacks.

    British PM Theresa May raised the country’s terror alert to the highest level and has deployed soldiers to the streets to forestall further attacks.

    According to Adam Chaikof, a public policy student at Brandeis University’s Heller School, the attack is likely to bolster Prime Minister May and her Conservative Party ahead of next month’s snap elections. The Labour Party’s weakest area is national security, and Labour was not expected to do well as things stood before Monday.

  2. Since the beginning of May, 66 civilians have been murdered in Syria, as documented by the University of Syracuse College of Law’s Syrian Accountability Project.
  3. In Maryland, family and friends are mourning the loss of Second Lieutenant Richard Collins III, who had just been commissioned as an officer and was set to graduate Bowie State University  earlier today. Adding to the grief of his loved ones is that he was murdered, and his murder seems to have been motivated by white supremacist ideology.

    Lt. Collins was black and Bowie State is a historically black university. The white twenty-two-year-old male being held without bond for Collins’ murder belongs to a Facebook group called “Alt-Reich Nation.” While saving room to disparage women, Jews, and Latinos, the preferred target of this group’s venom are African-Americans.

    In the early morning hours of Saturday, 20 May, Lt. Collins and two friends were leaving a party at the University of Maryland. While waiting for their Uber at a campus bus stop, they were accosted by the alleged perpetrator, who was screaming at them from a distance before approaching the friends and demanding they move under threat of physical harm. Collins refused to be bullied and flatly said “No” to the disorderly man’s demands he move. The white man then stabbed him repeatedly with a four-inch knife.

    At the Bowie State University Graduation ceremony, Collins’ gown and cords were draped over a chair at the front of the Commencement assembly. His father received his posthumously conferred degree.

    By all accounts, our country has lost a man who would have done great credit to the military and served this nation well. My thoughts and prayers go out to the family of Lt. Collins.

 

 

Are You Dizzy Yet? The Hand-Held Guide to Comeygate

In literary studies, story is the sequence of events in chronological order. Plot is the same sequence of events, presented to the audience in a non-chronological order.

The plot of the ongoing controversy involving James Comey, former head of the FBI, widely reviled for his perceived influence on the outcome of the 2016, who has now been fired by the winner of the 2016 election:

  1. 9 May: Comey is fired by the President. This is within the president’s rights, but the optics look very bad. See below.
  2. 10 May: Media reports Comey had asked for more resources towards the FBI’s investigation of Russian influence in the 2016 election, which would include possible collusion between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin.Many members of the campaign and now presidency have been found to have unreported ties to Russia, most notably former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, who was forced to resign after revelations he made money through an unreported Russian connection.
  3. May 11: Media reports that Comey had a tense and strange meeting with President Trump in February. The President demanded a pledge of personal loyalty. Comey refused. Comey documented this in conversations to confidantes shortly after the fact, for fear of being fired.Newsflash: FBI’s loyalty is to the law, not a particular office, nor its holder. See here for more details.


  4.  May 12: President Trump courts comparison to Nixon with this beauty of a tweet:
    Trump Tweet Tapes
    Too young to remember Watergate? Not sure why every scandal is now called X-gate?
  5. May 15: Throwback to that time James Comey’s testimony buried Alberto Gonzales’s Justice Department career.
  6. May 16: Media reports that Comey actually wrote a memo about his meeting with the President. More juicy memo details come out: the President allegedly asked Comey to end the FBI investigation into Flynn for collusion with Russia, as a personal favor. If true, this could constitute obstruction of justice, an impeachable offense.
  7. May 17: More juicy memo details: Comey wrote that the President encouraged him to jail journalists using leaked information, which has not been the practice of American law enforcement. See the Pentagon Papers.
  8. May 17: Robert Mueller, FBI director under Presidents George H. W. Bush and Barack Obama, is appointed special counsel on the Russian election meddling investigation.The appointment was made by Assistant Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, the same guy who allegedly recommended Comey’s firing even though he knew Comey would be fired before writing the memo to the president.

    Mueller is widely respected in both parties and perceived as independent. A special counsel is appointed by the Justice Department when it believes in-house officials may have too much of a vested interest in an investigation. A special prosecutor differs in the manner in which he or she is appointed.

 

The story:

  1. Comey has a history of devastating testimony before Congress.
  2. In February, President Trump and Mr. Comey had a meeting which Comey alleges involved
    1. demands of personal loyalty
    2.  requests to end an investigation into one of the President’s close associates
    3. hostile plans against journalists
      None of this is illegal, but it betrays an un-American authoritarian worldview.
  3. Comey documents this meeting in a memo
  4. Comey asks for more resources on the Russia investigation
  5. Comey is fired shortly thereafter
  6. The President tweets about possible secret recordings of the February meeting.
  7. The media learns about the memo and its contents.
  8. Mr. Mueller is appointed special counsel.

Things to watch for:

  1. Comey to testify before Congress? Reportedly, he will only do so if public. That would make for juicy television.
  2. Subpoena of the White House tapes? Do they exist at all? Will these ones have mysterious, minutes-long gaps in them?

 

Still dizzy?

Understandable.

Nervous yet?

You ought to be.

Police Scanner Tuesday: New & Notable in Crime-21 February 2017

Dear Readers,

This is the first in a new feature, a curated news experience to keep you up-to-date on the good, the bad, and the just plain weird when it comes to crime. I’ll leave you to sort out which is which.

Just one, major item this week:

World Trade Center Bombing Mastermind Dead: Omar Abdel Rahman, better known as “The Blind Sheikh,” died last Saturday in a North Carolina federal jail from heart disease. Rahman was, at the least, the inspiration for the 1993 truck bomb attack on New York City’s Twin Towers. The New York Times has an excellent retrospective on the city’s reaction to what would become only a prelude to the horror of 9/11.

 

My Week From Hell: An Obituary, An Apology, A Meditation on Free Will, and a Plea for Mercy/Pity/Views

Dear Readers,

I apologize for not publishing a review this week.

I can explain.

This week was supposed to be the beginning of a relaxing week visiting my hometown and family, including the surviving pets from my childhood . My plans were to eat good Tex-Mex (rather than the sorry excuse for “Mexican” they serve at Chipotle) and produce a lot of good content for you, preferably surrounded by fuzzy things.

Instead, my trip home began with putting down the cat I, myself, convinced my mom to let me bring home from the shelter ten years ago. While I am glad to report that True-Crime Cat, Sassy, is doing well in the care of my significant other and neighbor, this childhood cat of mine, Max, suddenly and inexplicably developed lung cancer. This was after a year in which my beloved grandmother died, and a summer in which my childhood dog died and another cat ran away after we moved out of the house I grew up in.

A fatal blow, right in the childhood.

Knowing the end was near, the ever-dignified Max was attempting kitty hara-kiri: rather than eventually suffocate, he was starving himself to death. The vet said he should have succumbed before I returned from Boston. Judging by the loud purr he gave, though emaciated, when he saw me again, and by how he declined in the few hours immediately after that, I think he was holding out to see me. This proves my belief that cats are capable of discerning and refined loyalty. It also makes me blame myself for any suffering he might have experienced.

Max was the finest hunter of any species I have ever met. If we mounted his “presents” to us, we would have a wall full of mouse, rat, squirrel, and bird heads.While he might have been a menace to the mockingbirds that nested in our yard, he was definitely the most effective pest control in our neighborhood. He was also an excellent cuddler and had the world’s loudest purr.

Easter 2012 to Finals 2013 006.JPG
“America’s sweetest serial killer” rests after a hunting trip

After seeing the companion of half my life slump over on the vet’s examination table, I was in no mood to keep reading the anthology on high-profile executions in America I had planned to review for you last week. In fact, I was barely able to keep myself together in public. Trying to go shopping with a friend the day after, to keep me occupied, backfired, as I almost lost my s–t when we walked into a part of a store that had cats on LITERALLY EVERYTHING.

Okay, maybe there was just one pillow with a cat on it, but you understand.

Why so upset over a cat?

Because a cat, like all animals, is naturally good. Some might call them “inferior beings” because they do not have the range of choice we do, and have no conception of morals. However, I say this puts them beyond the reach of evil. They are “lower” than us only in that while they are aware, we are aware we are aware. Because of self-consciousness, we recognize their weakness in comparison to us, and have the choice of defending them or not.

Max played with his food because of instinct. He did not delight in causing pain to rodents. He never killed for sport. He never bribed a cop, robbed a bank, or defrauded old folks of their retirement money.

When someone commits a heinous crime, it’s unfair to call them ‘an animal.’ Man is the only animal that acts out of malice.

And it is that existential dilemma which draws me to true crime.

Tomorrow I will review something light and fluffy for you, two series available on Netflix that fall under “crime” in content but not in ethos. It includes lots of healthy animals and the people who love them, along with dumb American tourists carrying drugs across international borders.

I will also publish the review schedule for the next several months.

Thank you for your patience and understanding.

-L

 

 

 

Update: The Station Fire Still in the News

I am glad to learn that the lessons of the Station have not been forgotten, even if the tragedy has faded in public consciousness over the last decade.

This mention of the fire came as a result of the political circus otherwise known as the 2016 Presidential Campaign. No matter what our beliefs may be, I think we can all agree this has gone on far too long.

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump recently complained in a stump speech that the Colorado Springs fire marshal refused entry to some of his supporters once the rally’s venue, a hotel ballroom, reached its occupancy limit. Mr. Trump also claimed his real-estate background gave him a better sense of fire safety than the official hired by the city of Colorado Springs.

While Mr. Trump accused the fire marshal, Brett Lacey, of acting out of political ill-will, Mr. Lacey noted that Mr. Trump’s campaign sold more tickets to more people than could fit in the venue. Overselling of tickets was one of the factors that led to the number of fatalities and injuries at the Station.

A much more direct reference to the Station came from a member of the National Fire Protection Association, Robert Solomon, who cited the consequences of overcrowding at the night club as the strongest possible argument in favor of occupancy limits.

In the next few days, I  will post some fire-prevention and fire-safety tips, because I only want to see my readers in the news for good reasons.

Stay safe, my friends,

-L