Friday, August 23, 2013

A Few Smart Laws

Hi, friends.  Sorry I've let my weekly posting go so long, but I've been a bit preoccupied getting ready for WorldCon.  Anyway, a non- Anarchist buddy (strange, I have so few of them) asked if I didn't think there were some good laws in the world, or even in the US -- laws that weren't tyrannical and hadn't been corrupted -- and after an hour's thought, I had to agree that, yes, there are a few.  Among them are these:

1) The Bill of Rights: the ten first amendments to the Constitution, which firmly state what even a democratically elected government cannot do.  Though badly eroded, like an old stone jetty, these ten still hold the government back enough to keep it from being an absolute tyranny.  Religions which try to force everyone into their church, cops who wantonly assault and murder citizens, covert criminals who try to disarm everyone so as to increase their potential victims, can all be brought to heel.  All it takes is enough vigilance, enough energy, and enough lawsuits.  Despite tons of well-funded propaganda, the NRA (among others) still defends the 2nd Amendment, and the ACLU still defends the other nine.

2) Indiana's anti-mask law.  Back in the 1920s, the vicious Ku Klux Klan had become an large and dangerous pest in a lot of states, enough to worry the state legislatures, who then sought various remedies to curb its power.  One of the simplest and smartest solutions was a law passed by the legislature of Indiana, which simply stated that no person could cover their face in public.  This meant that whenever the Klanners gathered for a parade, a rally or a lynching, they had to expose their faces -- so that everyone could see who they were.  There were good enough cameras in those days to capture the moments, and record the faces, identifying the Klanners beyond a shadow of a doubt.  The power of the Klan promptly began to wane, and today it's down to nothing.  The law still stands -- to this day, brides in Indiana have to wear their veils on the backs of their heads, and kids trick-or-treating can only wear costumes and face-makeup -- but there's no attempt to rescind it, despite the minor inconveniences.

3) Detroit's ban on high heels.  For more than half a century, in the city of Detroit, it has been illegal for anyone to wear high-heeled shoes inside the city limits.  The law has no penalties.  Of course, people -- usually women -- walk around wearing high heels all the time and nobody arrests them.  So what's the point?  Well, the legal effect is, if anyone wearing high heels slips and falls and injures themselves, they can't sue the city for damages.  This has saved the city millions of dollars avoiding frivolous lawsuits.

4) Arizona's livestock laws.  Arizona is a poor state whose major industries are ranching and mining, with farming coming in a distant third, and everything else Also Ran.  For that reason, laws concerning mining and ranching make up about half the laws in the state.  Among them is the definition of "livestock" as any commercially valuable animal, and that can cover a lot of ground.  If your pet dog is a purebred of any breed, whose pups could be sold for money, then your pet dog qualifies as "livestock".  The same is true of a pet cat, bird, fish or snake;  if you bought it for money or could sell or rent it for money, then it's "livestock".  The laws that forbid the killing, stealing or injuring of somebody else's livestock are really draconian: prison at least, and in the case of horses, even execution.  (The reason for legally hanging horse-thieves dates back to pre-automobile days, when leaving someone on foot out in the countryside was as good as murder -- because there are several places in this state where a human can't walk far enough to reach water, whereupon s/he dies of thirst;  even today, despite all the warnings and water-maps that the Park Rangers hand out, a few hikers every year underestimate distances and die of thirst.)  The result of these laws is that animal cruelty garners severe punishment in Arizona, and only "foreigners" -- from other states or other countries (guess!) -- are likely to do it.

--Leslie <;)))><   )O(       

Saturday, August 10, 2013

"Coward(s) of the Year" Candidates

I don't usually quote from the newspapers, but this is an unusual case -- from the Chicago Tribune, Aug. 2nd:

*Kass: Was police killing of 95-year-old necessary?

Common sense tells me that cops don't need a Taser or a shotgun to subdue a 95-year-old man.

August 02, 2013   John Kass
When John Wrana was a young man, fit and strong and fighting in World War II with the U.S. Army Air Corps, did he ever think he'd end this way?

Just a few weeks shy of his 96th birthday, in need of a walker to move about, cops coming through the door of his retirement home with a Taser and a shotgun.

The old man, described by a family member as "wobbly" on his feet, had refused medical attention. The paramedics were called. They brought in the Park Forest police.

First they tased him, but that didn't work. So they fired a shotgun, hitting him in the stomach with a bean-bag round. Wrana was struck with such force that he bled to death internally, according to the Cook County medical examiner.

"The Japanese military couldn't get him at the age he was touchable, in a uniform in the war. It took 70 years later for the Park Forest police to do the job," Wrana's family attorney, Nicholas Grapsas, a former prosecutor, said in an interview with me Thursday.

Wrana's family wants answers. The Illinois State Police are investigating the horrific incident but won't comment, and neither will the Park Forest police pending the outcome of the inquiry.

I wasn't at the scene, and maybe the police have a good explanation. But common sense tells me that cops don't need a Taser or a shotgun to subdue a 95-year-old man.

And after doing some digging, I found there are two versions of events: The police version, and a new picture that raises questions of whether John Wrana was killed unnecessarily.

The Park Forest police version is that on the night of July 26, John Wrana, a resident of the Victory Centre senior living facility, threatened staff and paramedics with a 2-foot-long metal shoehorn and a metal cane.

The police statement neglects to mention that the old man also used a walker, at least according to photographs supplied by Grapsas.

"Attempts were made verbally to have the resident comply with demands to drop the articles, to no avail," the police statement reads. "The resident then armed himself with a 12-inch butcher type kitchen knife."

But lawyer Grapsas says that Wrana's family never saw a knife in his room and that staff also told him Wrana didn't have such a knife.

"So where did the knife come from?" Grapsas asked.

The police statement leaves the impression that the staff was under threat, leaving police with no choice other than to shoot him.

But according to Maria Oliva, an executive with Pathway Senior Living, the staff was kept out of the room after police arrived. So there was no imminent threat to staff.

"The staff was not inside once the police were on the scene," Oliva told us. "At different times the staff were in there, but not when they were called. They (the police) were in charge at that point."

Police said there had been threats made against the staff. But Grapsas said he was told that staff begged to be allowed to try to calm down the old man.

"If there were threats to the staff, why did the staff want to intervene and say, 'Let us handle this; we'll get him calmed down'?" he asked.

Grapsas says he was told that police used a riot shield to come through the door before shooting bean-bag rounds at the old man as he sat in his chair.

Riot shields are used to push back mobs of angry young protesters in the streets, or against dangerous convicts in prison cells, not to subdue an old, old man in a chair.

"At some point, I'm told there were between five and seven police officers, they went back to the room with a riot shield in hand, entered the door and shot him with a shotgun that contained bean-bag rounds," Grapsas said.

If this is true and police had a riot shield, why on earth would they need a shotgun?

Most veteran cops I talked to suspect this is a case of unnecessary force. I've never met a police officer who couldn't handle a 95-year-old man in a walker. And John Wrana wasn't Jason Bourne. He was an old war veteran who didn't want to be pushed around.

But one senior police official who has trained police recruits in defensive tactics had a different take.
"When I first heard it, I was like, 'C'mon,'" he said. "Then I thought it through. We don't know what occurred. We don't know what information they had at that time. If you don't have all of the facts, it's hard to judge someone. … Anyone can be dangerous."

Sharon Mangerson, 74, doesn't see her stepfather as dangerous.

Wrana and Mangerson's mother, Helen, were married for more than 30 years. Helen died in 2005. So Wrana lived with Mangerson in the south suburbs until his health — and her health — began to fail.
She said he was a fiercely independent member of the greatest generation, honorably discharged as a sergeant after serving in India and Burma during the war.

"He was a very vital 95-year-old, let me tell you. He still played cards. He taught the 70-year-olds how to play gin rummy," she said in an interview. "I used to admire him so much because he was able to keep doing those type of things. As independent as they come, trust me."

On the night of the incident, he wound up at Advocate Christ Medical Center. The doctor was on the phone with Mangerson, telling her that even if Wrana survived surgery, he'd likely be on life support. Wrana wanted to talk to her. The doctor held the phone up to his ear, she said.

"He just said, 'Thank you for everything you've done for me. I love you and goodbye,'" Mangerson recalled, her voice cracking. "That was it."

Will the family ever get an explanation?

"I want answers," she said. "I want someone held accountable."*

*****

My take on it is that the old man, for reasons of his own, wanted to commit Suicide By Cop -- and knew the local police well enough to guess how to pull it off.  This in turn implies that the local cops are always like that: dangerous, bullying, cowardly pigs.  In that case, the old war hero may have committed one last act of heroism: sacrificing his life to bring a thundering lawsuit down on the pigs' heads, a lawsuit that will strip them to their back teeth and make them a byword all over the country, if not the world.

This incident inspired Rasty to come up with a fitting monument for John Wrana: ironically, a parallel to the the famous Darwin Awards.  He proposes a website for the "Coward of the Year Award".  It will include a candidate form, where anyone can -- for e-submitting a fee of $2 -- propose a candidate, tell who and where the candidate is, and explain just why the candidate deserves the award.  Anyone can -- for an e-fee of $1 -- vote on any of the proposed candidates.  At the end of the year, the candidate who wracked up the most votes (and therefore money) will be presented with the award: a fancy scroll describing his/her winning deed, and a one-way plane ticket to any other country.  Is there anybody out there who has the computer expertise to set up this website?  If so, please contact me.

Now, what shall we call the award?  The White Feather?  The Jelly Spine?  Suggestions are likewise welcome.

--Leslie <;)))><