Friday, September 27, 2013

Aaron Alexis / Washington Navy Yard Shooting / and Gun Control (Part 2)

I do understand the frustration the public feels at the Country’s inability to stop these mass shootings.  I’ve given it a lot of thought.  I don’t have a good answer.  Nobody seems to have a good answer.  Perhaps, the most viable single answer is swift and severe punishment for the perpetrators of this violence.  Although, I realize that potential punishment will have little or no impact on the likes of someone like Aaron Alexis.

However, am I the only one who feels that the criminal trials and the associated publicity for mass killers Nidal Malik Hasan (Fort Hood Massacre) and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev (Boston Bombing) are more about theater and stacks of money for a few (attorneys, media moguls), rather than about justice?  In the meantime Hasan has had the opportunity to star in his own extended theatrical production.  And, Tsarnaev has developed his own fan base, including having his picture on the cover of Rolling Stone.

You might even say that Alexis had more than his allocated fifteen minutes of fame – going out in a blaze of ‘glory’ so to speak, sort of like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.  It’s disgusting; but the public eats it up.  Maybe, we should have the executions of Hasan and Tsarnaev broadcast on national television.  I’m sure it would be one of the highest rated programs in history.  On the other hand, the resulting legal appeals will probably go on for many years, maybe decades, before any execution.  By then, the public will probably have moved on to other interests.

Let’s discuss guns for a moment.  In the early stages of the Navy Yard shooting, it was reported that an unknown shooter, armed with an AR-15 was roaming the halls and shooting people.  As it turned out, Alexis had a Remington Model 870 pump shotgun – with sawed-off barrel.  For those who do not know, shotguns are normally plugged to hold only three shells (with plug removed the 870 will hold five); which means that he (Alexis) would have reloaded many times while killing 12 and wounding several others.  Circumstantially, he also acquired a Beretta semi-automatic pistol which he took from a security officer.  In this incident, the size of the magazine of his initial weapon (the shotgun) played no role in the killings.

Regarding the first reports that the shooter had an AR-15, I would like to ask journalists if they could name the make and model of one weapon other than the AR-15 or AK-47.  In fact, I would like to ask the President the same question.  I’d be willing to bet that they would draw a blank.

On a personal note, I would not want an AR-15 or an AK-47 if someone wanted to give it to me – nor would I want a sawed-off shotgun, which incidentally is illegal.  I would not want a high capacity magazine for a gun.  If said items were banned, said law would impact me not at all.  Do I think such a law or laws would curtail mass shootings or killings?  No, I don’t believe it would.  As I’ve said before, there are thousands of gun control laws at the federal, state and local levels.  Strong enforcement – not so much.

We have 320 million people residing in the United States.  We have over 7 billion people on this planet.  There are lots of ‘nuts’ out there.  If you want to encourage one to come forward on some future rampage, what would be a good way to do it?  How about a picture of one of his predecessors on the cover of Rolling Stone?

True Nelson

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Aaron Alexis / Washington Navy Yard Shooting / and Gun Control

Here we go again.  It’s another horrendous shooting by a mentally unstable individual.  And, the gun control advocates awake and demand stricter laws.  This will solve or mitigate the shootings they say.

There seem to be two camps and rarely do you find someone in the middle.  Or, if they profess to be in the middle, they are quickly ‘outed’ and are off on a rant.  I suppose that I could be one of them.  But, it’s hard to sit still and bite your lip when the subject comes up; a subject in which almost everyone considers themselves an expert.

I am a current NRA member, as I have previously stated in my blog; and, admittedly, I am sometimes disappointed with said organization.  The NRA seems often incapable of using common sense.  That said, their uncompromising position generally appeals to their base, and contributes heartily to their fund raising efforts.  Nonetheless, if called upon to choose sides, I think that I would stand with the NRA.  Why?

In my opinion there are two defined sides to this gun control issue.  The NRA, when you cut through all of the rhetoric, is basically saying that we have plenty of gun control laws.  And, that we just need to enforce the ones we have.  I tend to agree with that position.  Additionally, the NRA says mental health issues far exceed gun control issues.  Furthermore, what about the incredibly violent video games that are brainwashing our children?  And, what about the violent movies that our children love to watch?  And, while we are at it, what about the breakdown in the family unit, with countless children being raised in variously fragmented and dysfunctional homes?

OK, you say; but most of those other issues are more difficult, if not impossible, to solve.  OK, I say that limiting the magazine capacity and access to assorted military-type semi-automatic guns will accomplish practically nothing.  You say, what about additional background checks on gun purchasers?  Actually, I don’t have a problem with that, but I haven’t seen the details of what has been proposed.  If I want to give a gun to my son, grandson, nephew or niece, does he or she have to have a background check?  If I want to give or sell a gun to my neighbor or friend, does he have to have a background check?  What about ‘gun shows’ you ask?  I have gone a time or two.  Most of people looked pretty normal to me.  I’ve never noticed any Hell’s Angels or Crips perusing the displays.  However, on this particular subject, I am prepared to give some ground.  If you are selling guns for profit to people you don’t know (as occurs at gun shows), then I think those sellers and buyers should have to go through the same process as is required for a retail gun seller.  That makes sense to me.  Moreover, the states should make the laws, not the Federal government.

Listen folks, don’t believe the hogwash put out by politicians.  When violence occurs, like what Aaron Alexis unleashed on the Washington Navy Yard, our politicians pick out the easy target; and with shaking geriatric hands fire off a round hoping that in some way they will not miss the broadside of the barn.  And, if they do, they hope no one will notice.  It’s the oldest story in politics; more laws, less enforcement.  Let’s placate the masses, they submit.  These political platitudes are picked up by thirty-something journalists, and insulated city folk, as timely, appropriate and unquestionably erudite.  As one of my FBI instructors used to say, “balls.”

To be continued…

True Nelson

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Milwaukie, Oregon: A Notorious Speed Trap

Yesterday, I returned to the scene – 47 mph in a 30 mph zone.  Why?  Don’t offenders always return to the scene of the crime?

Two days ago, I received a kind of formal looking letter from the Milwaukie, Oregon Police Department.  And, no, they were not asking for my assistance on a case.
The letter began:  “In an effort to improve traffic safety and community livability, the Milwaukie Police Department has implemented an automated speed enforcement program called photo radar to monitor vehicle speeds on streets and roadways within the city.”  They enclosed a grainy picture.  Yes, it was me.  I had a very serious look on my face, and both hands were on the steering-wheel.  In my defense, it looked like I was extremely intent on my driving.

The offense took place on McLoughlin Blvd., which was originally the old Highway 99E, two and three lanes each way.  So, it wasn’t like I was ripping through a residential area.  The fine was $160.  Wow!  The posted speed limit, going South on McLoughlin drops from 45 to 30 when you enter Milwaukie.  However, the highway in Milwaukie is not distinctively different from the highway north of or south of that city’s jurisdiction.  In other words, you’re driving along, minding your own business, and bingo you failed to note the 30 mph sign.  The Milwaukie Police photo surveillance van is waiting for you.

I’m kind of old fashioned about these issues.  This whole process is so impersonal, more focused on collecting revenue than enforcing safety.  The citation was not actually issued until five days after the alleged violation happened, and then the citation was a couple of days in the mail.  I suppose there were so many citations that it takes a while for the automated system to work.  In the ‘old days,’ the officer personally issued a ticket after listening patiently to a usually pathetic excuse from the driver.  At least there was some interaction with law enforcement, and everything was handled in a timely manner.  The officer usually commented that ‘you should have a nice day, and to please drive carefully.’  You felt reprimanded, but in a nice way.  At least I think so – depends on whether or not he had a smirk on his face when he said it.

I did sign a ‘no contest’ on the aforementioned citation and sent in my check.  How does one contest a traffic violation several days past, when he can’t remember what he had for breakfast that morning?  Surprisingly, I did have an agenda the day of the offense, and an appointment.  The time of the appointment and the appointment’s location would have made it practically impossible for me to be at the point cited in the ticket at the stated time.  However, the citation is carefully worded, indicating the time is ‘approximate.’  However, there is no indication that my speed at the time was approximate.  Apparently, time is a somewhat insignificant variable; but the radar is very precise about the exact speed.  OK.  I’m glad that photo radar has now achieved perfection, even though it is continuing to struggle with keeping time.

Coincidentally, there was a relevant article in the Oregonian yesterday:  ‘Well-Known Lawyer Takes Ticket to Court.’  Prominent Defense Attorney, Mark Cogan had his ticket thrown out.  He was cited at the exact same location where I was, but months back, for going 45 mph.  He went to trial and ultimately won.  On what basis might you ask?  Well, the prosecutor never asked the police officer in charge of the photo radar what the speed limit was when the violation occurred.  In other words, the prosecutor did not put forth the proper foundation for the violation.  He did not say that Cogan was driving 45 mph in a 30 mph zone.  A bit of a technicality I admit, but that is what attorneys do.  It doesn’t even sound like Mr. Cogan represented himself.  He apparently had another attorney handle it.  Obviously, Mr. Cogan has some philosophical differences with the photo radar system, because he spent far more money defending himself than the price of the ticket.

Well, under the circumstances, I could not afford to hire an attorney.  So, I considered representing myself.  I had some relevant points to make, including:  Why does it take almost a week from the time of the infraction to actually issue and mail the ticket?  When was the last time the photo radar system was calibrated?  What about the time indicated on the ticket?  But, I decided against that idea.  Thinking, perhaps, the magistrate would consider me something of a ‘smart-ass,’ wasting his or her time, and double my fine.

I will just conclude with a quote from the Oregonian article referred to above:  “That stretch of highway is a notorious speed trap.”  So, I guess we might say that Good-ole-boy, Alabama, population 250, has nothing over our very own Milwaukie.  Drivers, don’t say that we didn’t warn you.

True Nelson

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

True Nelson Visit's France (Conclusion)

In my Part 2 of this series, I stated that I was not “overly impressed” with my visit to France.  Upon reflection, that sounds a little disdainful; and I really didn’t mean it in that way.  I enjoyed my trip.  It was very interesting.  There is an undefinable something associated with France and Paris and it was fun to have the experience – if only for a moment.

That said, and for those who will never make it to France, there are sights closer by that I would recommend – sites that really impressed me:  Denali on a sunny day, the Grand Canyon, the Red Woods of Northern California, and Oregon’s Crater Lake.

What impressed me the most in France:  I would have to say that it was the Eiffel Tower.  Unless you stand at the base of this structure, you really have no accurate concept as to how massive it is.  It’s a must see.  It was engineered by Gustave Eiffel for the 1889 World’s Fair.  Interestingly, the residents of Paris initially hated the Tower, considered it an eye-sore and circulated petitions to have it torn down.  The city fathers were compelled to agree.  However, they could never find the funds for its demolition.  Now Parisians love the Tower.  And, it is the biggest tourist attraction in France.

What would I have avoided if I’d known better:  Some might find this opinion incredible, but I would have skipped the visit to the Palace of Versailles.  It was visually stunning and spectacular, but was also a study in unbelievable royal self-indulgence and decadence.  The visit was sullied by the massive crowds – the worst experience being the interior of the Palace.  Pushing and sweating, as well as tedious lectures was the order of the day.  My thought was ‘let’s just get this over with.’

My impression of French Wine:  Admittedly, I am not much of a wine drinker.  French wine does have cachet, but I think that Oregon wine is just as good.

And, what was the most unusual insect:  At a vineyard we visited, this little creature started a debate.  ‘It’s a hummingbird.’  ‘No, it’s some sort of bee.’  ‘No, I’m certain it’s a small hummingbird.’  Well, as it turned out, it was a Hummingbird Hawk Moth.  You might enjoy watching the following:

True Nelson

Sunday, September 1, 2013

True Nelson Visits France (Part 4)

I didn’t actually experience a crime while visiting France, but I do have some comments.

Regarding guns, undoubtedly a hot item in the U.S., French citizens (for the most part) do not own guns.  We were informed that some people living in very rural areas have guns, as well as some who are involved in various shooting competitions.

Nonetheless, private gun ownership is considered rare.  However, and it’s a big ‘however,’ I witnessed something that I considered practically unthinkable by American standards.  At the major tourist attractions, public transportation venues, and other places where large numbers of people gather, you will customarily see French military personnel carrying automatic weapons.

I would have liked to talk to one of these military guys; but my prying questions would have probably landed me in a French jail.

Questions:  What kind of security issue do you plan to resolve with military grade automatic weapons?  What are your orders?  Do you always operate in pairs?  What if someone takes your weapon away from you?  Do you have bullets for your guns or is your presence simply for show?

Sorry folks, but this is what goes through the mind of a security consultant.  All I see here is the possibility of chaos, many casualties, and lots of liability.  I try to imagine what type of incident these military types were directed to prevent, and how they would do that with wall to wall tourists.  I’m sure the French military has given this a considerable amount of thought – at least I hope so.  My guess is that these soldiers were more for show.  And, I would opine that they do not, in fact, have any ammunition on their person.

New subject:  Our various tour guides constantly reminded us of the many ‘pick-pockets’ that operate in the various French cities.  As described, these guys and gals are very professional, and can relieve you of valuables without the typical American tourist noticing anything.  During the two weeks we spent in France, I bet we were warned of the pick-pocket plague more than a dozen times.

New subject:  You rarely see beggars in France.  That is in contrast to Portland, Oregon where they are on almost every corner.  Why is that?  I don’t know.  It might be the culture.  It might be that they have better ways of treating and caring for the mentally ill, less drug problems, more enforcement (tourism is a major contributor to the French economy and they want your experience there to be a good one), and / or better social services which makes begging unnecessary.  Personally, I think it is just a cultural characteristic of French people.  Five or ten years from now, the French may decide to copy the American system, wherein begging on street corners is considered a form of employment and no disgrace to the individual or to society.

To be continued…  What impressed me the most?  What would I have avoided if I’d known better?  What was my impression of French wine?  And, I know you all will want to know the answer to this – but, what was the most unusual insect?

True Nelson