Will The US Become The Next Belarus?

With the US presidential election approaching, US citizens should see the events in Belarus as a warning. As you may know, though the incumbent Alexander Lukashenko claimed to be re-elected with 80 percent of the vote. International observers have declared that the election was neither fair nor free. As a result, hundreds of thousands of Belarussians have continued to march and demonstrate. More worryingly, one of the leading members of the opposition candidate’s campaign has been abducted by masked men and 3 others have vanished.

Think that couldn’t happen in the US? Think again.

The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe has raised concerns about the integrity of the upcoming election. Other international observers have also voiced concerns. Why? Maybe it’s because the GOP has disenfranchised many voters by demanding often difficult to obtain voter IDs. Maybe it’s because Republican-controlled states have closed voting locations and reduced voting hours in Democrat-leaning areas. Maybe it’s because GOP-controlled states have gerrymandered congressional districts to make it virtually impossible for Democrats to win. Maybe it’s because the average waiting time to vote is 51 minutes for minorities and only 6 minutes for whites. Maybe it’s because GOP-controlled states have purged tens of thousands of registered voters.

Maybe it’s because the wannabe dictator incumbent has tried to discredit and undermine vote-by-mail and installed loyalists to the governing board of the US Postal Service with the express purpose of delaying the mail. Maybe it’s because he continues to tell his heavily armed and conspiracy loving supporters that he can only lose if the election is rigged against him!

Or maybe it’s because the incumbent was put in office as a result of election interference by our nation’s greatest rival and, in fact, has solicited foreign interference yet again.

Moreover, increasingly it appears that Trump and his supporters will only accept a Biden win if the vote is overwhelmingly against him. Anything less and Trump is likely to claim the vote is rigged and refuse to accept the results. After all, he already has claimed that Hillary Clinton’s nearly 3 million margin in the popular vote was only due to voting by undocumented immigrants and Democratic cheating.

So, it’s highly unlikely that Trump will bow out gracefully. He’s far more likely to refuse to leave the White House and to call for his armed supporters to rise up in his defense. We’ve already seen his supporters attack peaceful Black Lives Matters protestors. We’ve seen anonymous federal forces under his direction abduct protestors. And we’ve seen him order a peaceful demonstration cleared with force so he could have a photo-op with him holding a Bible backwards in front of a church he doesn’t attend.

Vote! Vote like our democracy depends on it. Because it does.

Getting Away With Murder.

George Zimmerman isn’t the first person that the courts have allowed to get away with murder. But he is one of the few to be acquitted after admitting to intentionally shooting an unarmed person. Zimmerman can thank Florida’s ill-conceived “Stand Your Ground” law for that, along with an inept prosecution and seemingly naive jurors.

The “Stand Your Ground” law was created as “model” legislation by the NRA (National Rifle Association) and ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) then introduced to state legislatures throughout the country. Designed to protect rootin’ tootin’, gun totin’, cowboy wannabes from prosecution, the law removes any obligation for gun owners to back away from a confrontation. If a pistol packin’ nitwit fears that his or her life is endangered or fears great bodily harm (an arbitrary standard as demonstrated by the Zimmerman trial) it appears that it is now legal to blast away.

Without this law, Zimmerman would have been forced to demonstrate that he tried to avoid a lethal confrontation. Without this law, the jury would have been obligated to convict Zimmerman of manslaughter. In other words, the fact that Zimmerman stalked his victim against the advice of a police dispatcher would have been reason enough to find him guilty.

The ensuing comments of juror B37 also demonstrate a lack of understanding of violent confrontations by the all female jury. The jurors apparently do not understand the difference between a fistfight and a life-endangering situation. Zimmerman’s wounds (and I use the term loosely) were consistent with the effects of a single punch. In no way do they meet the criteria of life-threatening or great bodily harm. Almost everyone who has ever been in a schoolyard fight has suffered worse.

There was no evidence that Zimmerman’s head had been repeatedly slammed onto concrete as he claimed. And that was just one of the flaws in Zimmerman’s story exposed during the trial.

The worst was Zimmerman’s claim that, when Martin was on top of him, Martin reached for Zimmerman’s gun. If the situation was as Zimmerman claimed, Martin could not have seen the gun behind Zimmerman’s right hip, let alone reached for it. Moreover, in the situation described, it would have been impossible for Zimmerman to have reached for it. Martin’s lower leg would have blocked access to it. (Having taught martial arts, including ground fighting, I have been in a similar position many times.)

The prosecution failed to clearly demonstrate this critical point. Had they done so, the jury might have reached a very different verdict.

Even more troubling than the outcome of the trial are the inconsistencies of our justice system and the perverse voyeurism of our media. As Zimmerman was getting away with murder, a Florida woman was sentenced to 20 years in prison for merely firing a warning shot to keep her estranged husband from attacking her. No one was shot. No one was hurt. The clear message is that, if you’re going to fire your gun during a confrontation, you better make sure the shot is fatal. And since the woman is black, the two incidents demonstrate the duality of our justice system.

Such inconsistency, especially the appearance of racism, deserves a serious public discussion…one free of the sensationalism demonstrated by media coverage of the “trial du jour.” Unfortunately, in search of ratings, our media would rather treat our judicial system as a series of reality shows.

The War Within.

During the Cold War of the 1950’s, 60’s, 70’s and 80’s, the US and Soviet Union armed proxy nations with the world’s most sophisticated weapons. It was good business for the defense industries of both participants. And when the proxy nations went to war with one another, business got even better.

Now we’re seeing a similar phenomenon within the US.

Arms makers such as Glock, Sturm-Ruger, Smith & Wesson and Winchester continue to design and produce increasingly more lethal weapons. Thanks to the NRA, semi-automatic handguns, tactical shotguns and assault rifles are readily available to all Americans…criminals and the mentally unstable included. These weapons are aggressively marketed through dozens of magazines, TV networks and action movies.

The gun makers even promote guns that are currently banned in the US. Ads for semi-automatic weapons are placed directly across from ads offering kits to convert the semi-automatics into illegal, fully-automatic weapons. (Of course small type in the ads note that the conversion of guns is illegal.)

But that’s not the height of the cynicism of these murder-for-sale businesses.

In addition to marketing weapons to the criminal element, the weapons industry markets even more lethal weapons (including tanks) to police and security forces. That way, they profit from both sides in an ever-escalating war of lethality. The criminally insane obtain more and better weapons. Then the police increase their armaments. And so it goes.

I’m reminded of the game played by the manufacturers of radar guns for police. Once they had upgraded the majority of police departments to the latest technology, they began selling radar detectors to help motorists avoid speeding tickets. Then they introduced improved technology for the police.

The only ones to benefit from such policies are the manufacturers.

Arizona’s War On The Environment.

Arizona has a long love affair with the gun. Its legislature even named the Colt .45 as the state’s official gun. Gun shops are everywhere. And there’s at least one gun show in the state every weekend. On the other hand, there are few gun clubs or official firing wages.

So where do Arizonans go to fire all of these weapons?

They simply go into the wilderness. They shoot virtually anything in sight, whether it’s legal or not. They blast away at targets and bottles, leaving spent cartridges, broken bottles, targets and other trash in their wake. Increasingly, they leave the forest smoldering.

Over the last few years, dozens of wildfires throughout the West have been caused by hot lead. It’s difficult enough to keep Arizonans from camping when there’s fire danger; from starting campfires; from off-roading; even from flicking cigarette butts out their car windows. But no one’s going to keep Arizonans from exercising their “God-given”, Constitutional right to set the wilderness on fire.

A case in point is the Doce wildfire near Prescott. It has already been determined that the fire was human caused, but it’s not yet certain that it is the result of gunfire. What is known is that the fire has consumed thousands of acres, threatening homes. And that it began in the Doce Pit, an area popular for target shooting.