Killing for Profit–An American Story

I was gonna go postal in a blog (still might) about this but The young Turks once again handled it much better than I ever could.

Wells Fargo Yovany Gonzalez
Yovany Gonzalez with his daughter Mackenzie.

For those without time to watch the video–and if you haven’t heard–the short version is that Yovany Gonzalez is suing Wells Fargo bank because he believes they fired him 3 days before his daughter, Mackenzie, was scheduled to have cancer surgery. Gonzalez alleges that the financial conglomerate and their insurance provider, United Healthcare, fired him for the express purpose of not having to pay for the expensive medical procedure.  (He was not offered his government mandated COBRA coverage until after 90-days…when he was no longer eligible.)

Mackenzie died of cancer in March 2011.

Germane here is the point that corporations are inherently devoid of morality.  By design, corporations are meant to, within the scope of the prevalent laws and regulations, generate profits and alleviate personal risk.  They can be either good or bad as profit and their executive leadership dictates.  Now these amoral “constructs” have assumed overwhelming influence in the U.S. because of our corrupt political system.

A prime example of this manifest corruption is the lack of gun restrictions–hell, there isn’t even talk of restricting access to guns, even after the Aurora, Colorado, Tayvon Martin, Gabby Giffords, and Virginia Tech shootings.  Gun restrictions very well might have saved lives in all of these instances.  America averages roughly 20 mass shootings a year.  Most just don’t make national news.  In fact, the rate of gun-related deaths in the United States is 8 times higher than in economically similar nations.

Yet it is political anathema to even consider any gun restrictions–even though a vast majority of Americans think more restrictions are needed.  There are even some gun regulations that a majority of NRA members agree with, such as:

1. Requiring criminal background checks on gun owners and gun shop employees. 87 percent of non-NRA gun-owners and 74 percent of NRA gun owners support the former, and 80 percent and 79 percent, respectively, endorse the latter.

2. Prohibiting terrorist watch list members from acquiring guns. Support ranges from 80 percent among non-NRA gun-owners to 71 percent among NRA members.

3. Mandating that gun-owners tell the police when their gun is stolen. 71 percent non-NRA gun-owners support this measure, as do 64 percent of NRA members.

4. Concealed carry permits should only be restricted to individuals who have completed a safety training course and are 21 and older. 84 percent of non-NRA and 74 percent of NRA member gun-owners support the safety training restriction, and the numbers are 74 percent and 63 percent for the age restriction.

5. Concealed carry permits shouldn’t be given to perpetrators of violent misdemeanors or individuals arrested for domestic violence. The NRA/non-NRA gun-owner split on these issues is 81 percent and 75 percent in favor of the violent misdemeanors provision and 78 percent/68 percent in favor of the domestic violence restriction.

–From:  http://thinkprogress.org/election/2012/07/24/577091/nra-members-agree-regulating-guns-makes-sense/

A majority–in most case a super-majority–of Americans, a of gun owners, and of NRA members support these reasonable and very commons sense gun controls.  Still, no gun regulations get passed because lawmakers fear the power of the NRA and gun manufacturers.  Apparently the NRA members don’t matter.

Meanwhile Conservative–and establishment–propaganda has many people convinced that the government–the only body with the authority to check the power of these corporations–is an even greater evil.  This has become a self-fulfilling prophecy as our government is now in the hands of corporate machines with no conscience.

We are in dire need of a political revolution that puts power back into the hands of the people.  But with people being being allowed to die in the name of profit, access to opportunity shriveling on the vine, more and more advantages being stacked in favor of the rich, and the voice of the people being increasingly ignored, I’m not sure how much longer the window for political change will stay open.

They right way.

After that, the only option will be violent revolution.  In modern times.  With modern weapons.  No sane person could possibly want that.  But given the human inclination to not act, even on our own behalves, until absolutely  forced, I dread that large scale violence is becoming increasingly inevitable in the long run.

The wrong way.

It is our Constitutional Right to not just be heard, but represented.  Despite all the other problems we face, getting money out of politics–ending the purchase of political office–has to be our first and foremost priority. 

We need a Constitutional Amendment revoking the corporate personhood which allows business interests to use their dollars as “political speech”.  We need strict, draconian campaign finance reform (I would prefer 100%publicly funded elections).  Take away the means of buying politicians.

Forget party affiliation.  Forget campaign promises.

Crush the corruption.

Get money out of politics.  If not for ourselves, for Mackenzie Gonzalez and those like her yet to come.

Free.  Thought.

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The Real Problem In The Trayvon Martin Shooting

Trayvon Benjamin Martin (Feb. 5, 1995 – Feb. 26, 2012)

I haven’t talked too much about the Trayvon Martin shooting  because I feel like the system needs to play out.  Like everyone else, I have very strong opinions on the subject, but facts are still coming out.  Unfortunately, as the story evolves, I see the real point of this tragic tale getting lost in the debate over the legality of a child’s murder.

Predictably, it has been politicized…mainly by Republicans.  The right has initiated and perpetuated a smear campaign against Trayvon Martin, blaming him for everything from wearing a hoodie, to confronting a man who was following him (i.e. standing his ground), to having been given a 10-day suspension from school.  Meanwhile, they tsk-tsk those calling for Zimmerman’s arrest because that’s “unfairly judging him in the media.”  This is a two-fold ridiculous assertion, because of the aforementioned hypocrisy, and because trying high profile cases in the court of public opinion is something of an American pastime, from the scopes monkey trial to Casey Anthony, often engaged in by these very same right-wing pundits.

The reason Republicans have been so staunch in their apparent support of George Zimmerman actually has nothing to do with Zimmerman at all.  They are defending Florida’s Stand Your Ground law, which is the main culprit in this case.

George Zimmerman, 2005 mugshot (left) and more recently.

It makes sense to lay this all at George Zimmerman’s feet.  But, from what I can tell, Zimmerman is a paranoid kook who grabbed a gun and appointed himself defender of the neighborhood (Neighborhood Watch has come out and said he is in no way affiliated with them is not in accordance with their practices or philosophy).  There are paranoid kooks all over the world and sometimes they kill people because of that paranoia.  This is not to minimize Zimmerman’s actions.  If he is guilty, he should pay to the fullest extent of the law.

Others will charge that racism is the main culprit here, but I disagree.  Obviously, it is a significant factor.  If Zimmerman had shot a 17-year old, blonde-haired, white girl, I doubt Zimmerman’s defenders would find his self-defense excuse so credible.  That is to say nothing of the fact that Zimmerman would likely never have even followed a blonde-haired white girl in the first place.

Even the botched investigation by the primary officer on the scene and the apparent obstruction by the chief of police aren’t the core problems.  The interrogating officer wanted to arrest Zimmerman for murder.  There were people in the department doing their jobs that night.

Racism is a significant element but not the central issue of the Trayvon Martin shooting.

The real problem is that Florida has a law that changes the nature of  justifiable homicide.  Self defense is traditionally (and logically) an active defense where the burden of proof falls on the defendant, not the prosecution.   The presumption of innocence applies when someone denies committing the crime for which they are accused.  We don’t presume that person is guilty; it has to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.  When someone admits to committing a crime–as Zimmerman has admitted to killing Trayvon Martin–there is no presumption of innocence.  Zimmerman must prove he was defending himself–as he would have to prove his defense if he said chemicals from a toxic corn dog had rendered him temporarily insane.

Stand Your Ground turns all that on its head.  Under this preposterous law, if two guys get into a drunken brawl  and one guy pulls out a gun and shoots the other, he is now justified in doing so because he “felt threatened.”  In other words, the last man standing is presumed justified so long as he claims self defense.  He can’t even be charged–hence the furor.  If Zimmerman had been arrested and was due to stand trial, the outrage over this shooting would be greatly diminished.

April 26, 2005, NRA lobbyist Marion Hammer (in red) makes sure Gov. Jeb Bush signs SB-436 (Stand Your Ground) into law as instructed.

Now, the reason Republicans will do anything–even smear the reputation of a 17-year old murder victim–to divert attention away from Stand Your Ground is because it’s their law.  In 2005, Florida’s Republican-led state legislature passed the bill and Republican governor Jeb Bush signed it into law (with an NRA lobbyist looking over his shoulder as he did).  And as usual, rather than admit that the law is poorly written or (gulp) poorly conceived, or even that the Trayvon Martin shooting goes outside of the law’s intent, the GOP doubles down on their support for the law no matter how heinous a position it puts them in.

This is because versions of Stand Your Ground laws currently exist in 21 states–all Republican-controlled at the time of passage–and ALEC, a particularly vile conservative PAC, is currently trying to make the law federal.  Statistics show that Stand Your Ground has led to a 200% increase in “legally” justifiable homicides in Florida.  The other Stand Your Ground states have seen a similar increase.

However, the facts are irrelevant.  The Republicans are not going to back down.  They can’t.  Otherwise, the NRA will eviscerate them, as the powerful lobbying group will not be derailed from their goal–in cooperation with the gun manufacturers–of ensuring that as many Americans as possible own and use as many guns as can be put out into the world.

For Sale SOLD.

This goes back to the corruption of our system, where the political parties cannot act in the interests of their constituents, much less their conscience.  They have an obligation to their campaign benefactors.  If they buck, or get out of line, they will be put down and replaced by someone who plays ball.  In that sense, it’s unfair to overly politicize the Republican position.  They got caught on the ugly end of this, the system gives them no room to move.  If not these Republicans, then those who will; only the names would change; the outcome would remain the same.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not asking for a single tear for any of these bought out lawmakers.

I just don’t want the point to get lost.

The real tragedy, of course,  is the death of Trayvon Martin.  In a sense, there can be no justice because their is no equivalent or recompense for the loss of his life.   But the underlying problem is that his killer may never even have to defend his actions in a court of law because of a corrupt political system that does not work for, represent, or even care about the people it is supposed t0 protect.