Saturday, March 31, 2012

Florida Gun Owners Are Not Free-Lance Cops

There are still many unanswered questions about the Trayvon Martin killing in Florida, but one fact is clear: George Zimmerman had a concealed weapon as he went about his so-called "duties" as a "neighborhood watchman." While the 911 tapes seem to prove that Zimmerman was in effect stalking Trayvon while the teenager was merely walking home from the store, many gun-rights advocates are saying loudly and proudly that Zimmerman was well within his rights to feel threatened and to use the gun any way he sought fit to defend himself. That's because of the rather vague "Stand Your Ground Law" in Florida that allows just about anyone to claim self-defense in almost any situation.

Gun Advocates also like to throw around the term "castle doctrine" as justification because Zimmerman felt he was protecting his neighbor's homes because there had been a spate of burglaries. The irony is that Trayvon was living there in that neighborhood with his father and had just as much right to be there as Zimmerman, who may not have lived in that particular development anyway. There is absolutely no evidence that Trayvon was involved in any robberies or that he had the intention of doing anything illegal. Also, there was no "castle" to protect because that would only apply if Zimmerman was in his own home or was protecting someone else from bodily harm. If he had stayed in his car as the 911 dispatcher suggested, and Trayvon had somehow gotten into his car with him, then the castle doctrine would have applied. But guess what? Zimmerman got out of the car! He told the dispatcher that Trayvon was "getting away." But the rules of handguns in Florida prohibit chasing someone with a handgun - that is not part of the castle doctrine.

From The Florida Division of Licensing:

 Q. When can I use my handgun to protect myself?
A. Florida law justifies use of deadly force when you are:
* Trying to protect yourself or another person from death or serious bodily harm; 
* Trying to prevent a forcible felony, such as rape, robbery, burglary or kidnapping.

Using or displaying a handgun in any other circumstances could result in your conviction for crimes such as improper exhibition of a firearm, manslaughter, or worse.
Example of the kind of attack that will not justify defending yourself with deadly force: Two neighbors got into a fight, and one of them tried to hit the other by swinging a garden hose. The neighbor who was being attacked with the hose shot the other in the chest. The court upheld his conviction for aggravated battery with a firearm, because an attack with a garden hose is not the kind of violent assault that justifies responding with deadly force.

Q. What if someone uses threatening language to me so that I am afraid for my life or safety? 
A. Verbal threats are not enough to justify the use of deadly force. There must be an overt act by the person which indicates that he immediately intends to carry out the threat. The person threatened must reasonably believe that he will be killed or suffer serious bodily harm if he does not immediately take the life of his adversary.

Q. What if someone is attacking me in my own home?
A. The courts have created an exception to the duty to retreat called the “castle doctrine.” Under the castle doctrine, you need not retreat from your own home to avoid using deadly force against an assailant. The castle doctrine applies if you are attacked in your own home by an intruder.

Q. What if I am in my place of business and someone comes in to rob me? Do I have to retreat before using deadly force?
A. The castle doctrine also applies when you are in your place of business. If you are in danger of death or great bodily harm or you are trying to prevent a forcible felony, you do not have to retreat before using deadly force in self-defense.

Q. What if I point my handgun at someone but don't use it?
A. Never display a handgun to gain "leverage" in an argument. Threatening someone verbally while possessing a handgun, even licensed, will land you in jail for three years. Even if the gun is broken or you don't have bullets, you will receive the mandatory three-year sentence if convicted. The law does not allow any possibility of getting out of jail early.

Example: In a 1987 case, a woman refused to pay an automobile mechanic who she thought did a poor job repairing her car. They argued about it, and the mechanic removed the radiator hose from the car so she couldn't drive it away. She reached into her purse, pulled out an unloaded gun, and threatened to kill the mechanic if he touched her car again. The mechanic grabbed the gun and called the police.
The woman was convicted of aggravated assault with a firearm and sentenced to serve a mandatory three-year prison term. The fact that the gun was not loaded was irrelevant. Even though she was the mother of three dependent children and had no prior criminal record, the statute does not allow for parole. Her only recourse was to seek clemency from the Governor.

Q. When can I use deadly force in the defense of another person?
A. If you see someone who is being attacked, you can use deadly force to defend him/her if the circumstances would justify that person's use of deadly force in his/her own defense. In other words, you "stand in the shoes" of the person being attacked.

Q. What if I see a crime being committed?
A. A license to carry a concealed weapon does not make you a free-lance policeman. But, as stated earlier, deadly force is justified if you are trying to prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony. The use of deadly force must be absolutely necessary to prevent the crime. Also, if the criminal runs away, you cannot use deadly force to stop him, because you would no longer be "preventing" a crime. If use of deadly force is not necessary, or you use deadly force after the crime has stopped, you could be convicted of manslaughter.

Q. If I get a license to carry a concealed weapon, can I carry it anywhere?
A. No. To get a license you must sign an oath that you have read and understand the Jack Hagler Self-defense Act (Section 790.06, Florida Statutes). That statute lists several places where you may not carry a concealed weapon. You should read subsection 12 for a complete list, but some examples are football, baseball, and basketball games (college or professional) and bars.

A cool head and even temper can keep handgun carriers out of trouble. You should never carry a gun into a situation where you might get angry.

And there you have it ~ from the people in Florida who license handguns.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Broccoli Supreme

Yesterday, Justice Scalia compared the health care mandate to a rule that would force us all to eat our broccoli. It reminded me of  the Elder President Bush carping that he didn't like broccoli and by God he wasn't going to eat it, as if his old nanny was forcing it down his throat back in 1930. G.H.W. Bush sounded silly then, and Scalia sounds silly now. I realize the Supremes don't have to answer to the actual citizens of the country, but shouldn't they take their power a little more seriously? Turning this into an episode of Veggie Tales makes the Supremes sound like first year law students mulling over hypotheticals without any real knowledge of the pain and suffering out health care system foists on the disenfranchised. Apples versus . . . Broccoli anyone?  If they are worried about their image and their legacy, they jolly well should be after this.

As one writer put it: Good Luck Treating Cerebral Palsy with Broccoli.

Charles Pierce blogged on Esquire: Tony Scalia's Retirement Has Started Early
It is plain now that Scalia simply doesn't like the Affordable Care Act on its face. It has nothing to do with "originalism," or the Commerce Clause, or anything else. He doesn't think that the people who would benefit from the law deserve to have a law that benefits them. On Tuesday, he pursued the absurd "broccoli" analogy to the point where he sounded like a micro-rated evening-drive talk-show host from a dust-clotted station in southern Oklahoma.

In a New York Times op-ed entitled Broccoli and Bad Faith Paul Krugman wrote:
Let’s start with the already famous exchange in which Justice Antonin Scalia compared the purchase of health insurance to the purchase of broccoli, with the implication that if the government can compel you to do the former, it can also compel you to do the latter. That comparison horrified health care experts all across America because health insurance is nothing like broccoli. Why? When people choose not to buy broccoli, they don’t make broccoli unavailable to those who want it. But when people don’t buy health insurance until they get sick — which is what happens in the absence of a mandate — the resulting worsening of the risk pool makes insurance more expensive, and often unaffordable, for those who remain. As a result, unregulated health insurance basically doesn’t work, and never has.

So often in this political year the whole thing seems like a Funhouse Nightmare, but it's terrible when a Supreme Court Justice sounds like a cross between Rush Limbaugh and Dana Carvey singing the Broccoli Song on SNL. Then again, maybe the fact that this nonsense is on the record and will be in the history books is some kind of justice after all.

Prepping for the Doomsday Olympics

Out of boredom, I watched a few episodes of the show Doomsday Preppers on the National Geographic Channel. Instead of hoarding junk or kittens, these folks stockpile food and ammunition for when the "Government Declares Martial Law." Well, at least that's what one woman in Utah said was doing as she proudly showed off her stun gun, her tower of boxes full of food and water, and her emergency backpack in case she needed to head for the hills.

 In another episode, a man was driving his wife and daughter crazy by cluttering their house with huge plastic jugs full of rice. Funnily, his wife was an expert on survival, having grown up in Cambodia during the Khmer Rouge reign of terror. Her remarks were a nice counterpoint - she said she would survive differently in an emergency, by killing a rabbit, catching fish, or stealing food if she had nothing to eat. And having escaped from an evil internment camp to come and live in the United States, I can see why she doesn't really want to hear about her husband's visions of Armageddon, or give up and live in the underground bunker (cave actually) with a big metal door into which he proudly led his reluctant family. It looked like a death trap to me, some place a control freak could lock up women basically and feed them rice till they all die. I think that poor woman should take her daughter and go find a husband who likes to tell jokes.

 That's one thing I noticed - these people longing for Armageddon don't laugh very much.They are deadly serious about everything and just want to show off their mad survival skills in the end-of-the-world Olympics. They've given up on life, music, and fun in favor of fear mongering. Yes, they may think they are the logical ants who are working hard for an inevitable future while we foolish grasshoppers fiddle and play, but even from a religious standpoint they are forgetting that the Bible says to "take no thought of what you eat or drink." Or how about the story of the Loaves and Fishes? I couldn't help but feel a little disturbed that one family has enough food for the next 20 years while other people are eating out of dumpsters. But this philosophy isn't about helping the "other people," the weak ones who are going to be destroyed by the next disaster. Doomsday Prepping begins at home and ends at home. Like their brethren in the Republican Party who don't believe in "sharing the wealth" or "that dang socialism," Doomsday Preppers live in the Narcissistic States of America.

Don't get me wrong - I want to take care of me and mine, too. I shiver at thoughts of the Yellowstone Super Volcano, Nuclear Fall-Out or a Viral Pandemic. But having lived through horrible tornadoes and hailstorms this year here in Tennessee, I know that when it is my time to go, I'm gone. God isn't going to ask permission before he blows away my house, and no stun gun can stop that either. I am much more worried about strong winds than the "Gummint."

We have a very simple emergency box: some canned goods, matches, charcoal, aluminum pans, candles, and a radio. No stun gun, sorry. My husband and I figure ordinary life is scary enough with making our kids paranoid enough to shoot any human who "threatens" the family compound. That's the ultimate in-crowd/out-crowd Group Think that leads to another Waco massacre or Jim Jones Cult mass suicide. Us versus Them - survival of the fittest. It's interesting that most of these folks probably don't even believe in evolution even while preaching social Darwinism, and they also forget that maybe God has a sense of humor. If they had any introspection at all, they might smile inwardly at the absurdity of their actions. Don't they recall the Millenium 2000 scare when civilization was supposed to grind to a halt? Never happened, and millions of people had to eat crow - whoops, sorry - had to eat stale cereal and canned tuna for years because they had used up all their money while "prepping."

I'm sure this show gets good ratings for National Geographic. But I wonder what they are highlighting here? Is it the social phenomenon of our divided society or the psychological phenomenon of people drinking too much Wingnut Kool-Aid?

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Happy Place Diversion

Yes, sometimes for my own good I stop reading about politics and go to my Happy Place. Here's a YouTube video that should make anyone smile - a woman found a gathering of normally fierce creatures just chillin' on her back porch. Shot in the Aleutian Islands off the coast of Alaska. Note: You can see the Eagle's mate sitting on a light pole in the distance.

 Update: I went to YouTube and had this exchange with the very nice woman who made the video.

 From me: There's a message in there somewhere for this political season - why can't we all get along?

pla1554alaska : That's why I did the video to begin with!  Actually I wanted to show people that the animals all get along and aren't out to just kill each other all the time! But I like your point, too! Why can't we all just get along like this???

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Supreme Court Has no Cred with the Public


All day I've been referring to the Supreme Court as "The Supremes," which is probably irritating my daughter, who is in Law School. But in a way, these illustrious judges have become no different from any other narcissistic celebrities with delusions of grandeur. Appointed for life with all the benefits, and treated like royalty by the Washington elite, they answer to no one but themselves. Too bad they only talk and pontificate instead of sing and dance.

Do I sound cynical? Maybe it's because I remember all too well the Bush v. Gore decision which gave the election to George W. Bush even though later it was discovered that Gore won the popular vote. Before the 2000 election, I had faith that the Supremes were truly above politics, and that they would let the recount proceed in Florida because it was the American Way. Before Citizens United decided that "Corporations are People" we could placate ourselves that at least they recognized the basic rights of human beings to run their own country instead of big business. But I don't see them as infallible Gods of Law anymore, and no one should. Yes, even now with a natural split they sometimes write a nearly unanimous decision. But they won't be remembered for that. In fact, whatever they decide in this case about Obama's Affordable Care Act, that's what people will remember. When the verdict is handed down from Mt. Olympus sometime in June, one side or the other will damn the Supremes and take to the streets.

 Rachel Maddow had a great recap of all that Supreme Court history tonight. Watch it Here She brought up the following poll showing that the American Public is skeptical that the High Court will be fair and untainted by partisan politics. People expect the Republicans on the Court to side with...the Republicans and against President Obama. That's okay. I'm glad we know. This could get us one step closer to Medicare for everyone or Single Payer like the rest of the civilized world.
From BloombergPhotobucket

Why Sympathy for Dick Cheney is Nearly Impossible

When Vice President Dick Cheney had heart-transplant surgery the other day, Republicans (and probably even some Dems) were dismayed or even outraged by the instantaneous snark heaped upon the man, tweets questioning whether he ever had a heart to begin with. And it does seem a little sad that a man who was Vice President of the United States for eight long . . . and I mean really, really long . . . years is held in such low esteem by so many people. I can't think of any other VP's who have such a negative image. Dan Quayle couldn't spell "potato" but I was sorry to hear he had deep-vein thrombosis from riding around on airplanes.

Interestingly, Dick Cheney had the same blood-clotting problem, along with years of other heart trauma. Why do we treat him differently than Quayle? Well, Quayle was clueless but he was basically a nice guy, and his gaffes only made him seem more human. Cheney - not so much. He seemed almost supernaturally cold and inhuman in all his dealings. He could never speak without a sneer and a snarl, even while talking matter-of-factly about plans to go to war with Iraq, no matter what the cost, and ignoring the fact that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. And while no one was sorry to see Saddam Hussein overthrown, Cheney and his sympathizers have to understand that the guy is out of luck when it comes to empathy from real human beings.

Cheney is just too cold, smug, and indifferent for most of us to care. His calculations for starting an unecessary war in the hopes of gaining new oil for his Haliburton Empire are his legacy now, along with bad memories of Abu Ghraib prison. Funny how he knew so much about Saddam's nuclear prospects and could round up so many usual suspects, but he never could seem to track down Osama Bin Laden in Afghanistan - the present admininistration solved that for him instead.

For some comedians he will always be that old guy who shot his "friend" in the face with birdshot down in Texas. For others now, he will forever be the guy who was given a free heart pump for 20 months and then a free heart transplant paid for by our tax dollars at a time when most members of his party want to cut out health insurance for the poor and indigent. As Representative Alan Grayson once described the Republican Health Care Plan, "Part One - don't get sick; Part Two - if you get sick, die quickly." Dick Cheney could be the poster-grandpa for why everyone deserves good health care into advanced old age. Yet most people feel that he never gave a damn about the public, so why care about him? And since karma is a bitch, people will keep making jokes comparing him to Darth Vader, the Tin Man, and the Grinch with a heart two-sizes too small.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Mad Mash-Up from Hardball

The Obama - Mad Men Mashup from the Chris Matthews show on MSNBC. Wow - so creative! And also indicative of the role played by propaganda, spin and branding in modern elections. We have the imagery of the campaign signs and the commodities, with gasoline and medicine used as talking points, not to mention the fact that Romney (if not Santorum) could walk right into an episode of Mad Men.  But thank God this is 2012 and not 1964 ~ Obama wouldn't have been President back then.

And I think he will still be Chairman of the Board come next January!

Why I am Here in the Snark Lane

I've been blogging since 2007, mostly in the Harry Potter community - My Livejournal is Here - but I find that there are many more things in heaven and earth to write about that don't quite fit into my fandom niche. So inspired by my dear daughter, who recently created her own blog, I am setting up shop here to write about the spillover things I am passionate about ~ family life, poetry, nature, crime, politics, oddities, etc.

This important year of the Presidential election will surely give me much snark fodder. I should warn everyone that I do have nettlesome opinions of a rather progressive nature, and that can make others uncomfortable. I apologize in advance (well, not really - this is my blog, after all, and you can always go read something else - shoo!).

What is Snark, you might ask? It's a word derived from the poem The Hunting of the Snark by Lewis Carroll. Nowadays, the word is used to describe comments that are "sarcastic," perhaps "witty," and definitely "arch." Some people find snark amusing, others become "frumious" ~ another Carrollism which is a "portmanteau" type word created by the author, combining "fuming" and "furiuous." I find that the more frumious I become, the more I speed into the Snark Lane, and that gets me into trouble sometimes. But it's just so fun to put the snark in gear and let the wheels turn.

If your Snark be a Snark, that is right:
Fetch it home by all means — you may serve it with greens,
And it’s handy for striking a light.
You may seek it with thimbles — and seek it with care;
You may hunt it with forks and hope;
You may threaten its life with a railway-share;
You may charm it with smiles and soap —’
You shall hear when I’ve leisure to speak it.
But the Snark is at hand, let me tell you again!
’Tis your glorious duty to seek it!