Extreme situations can call for extreme measures, but you still have to be careful not to shoot the innocent…

January 25, 2011

Terrorism in terribly frustrating, as well as dangerous. Anytime there is a lack of law and order it is frustrating and dangerous.

I bring this up in relation to the latest airport bombing in Moscow where 35 people were killed and 185 injured, and then of course in relation as well to all terrorist acts and all break downs of law and order.

The frustrating thing is that terrorists are hard to catch, especially when they kill themselves in the process of committing their terror. Of course someone usually sets them up, but they usually work in secret. Except sometimes they don’t work in total secrecy. What about the imams or whatever they call themselves who fairly openly preach hatred from their mosques? And I am not picking solely on Muslims or factions of Muslims. There are Christian terrorists and terrorists of all kind of creeds.

But anyway, the quite understandable immediate reaction is that we have to go after someone. If you’re George W. Bush you just wildly flail out at any convenient target, Afghanistan/Iraq, and you send whole armies to look for one man, Osama Bin Laden, and when that doesn’t work, he remains elusive, you just say you weren’t really looking for him anyway and change your rationale every few months as to why you have sent in the armies. You end up killing and wounding thousands upon thousands of more people — most of whom who are totally innocent– than were killed in the original terrorist act.

And let’s don’t pick on George W., because if you are Barack Obama you just keep the whole thing going because, well, you don’t want anyone to think you are a coward and truth be known, unpopular war(s) or not, if you pull out the American public would turn against you because now you made all of them feel like cowards.

But I am getting off the subject I wanted to address here in the beginning, that is dealing with terrorist acts and mass breakdowns of law and order, such as in Oakland, Ca. (and other urban areas).

I was listening to Dr. Bill Wattenburg on KGO Radio last night and he was saying that he would not be surprised if the Russians got tough now and went directly after terrorist leaders (and the news says this morning that is what they are vowing to do). Now Wattenburg usually talks about scientific matters and math puzzles and helpful hints around the home and ranch and logging camp and cowboy camp and claims to be an expert on or have taken part in everything from designing freeway interchanges and rapid transit systems to missiles and nuclear weapons — he’ll also tell you how to get a caterpillar tractor unstuck from the mud. But when he ventures into politics he sometimes is a little reactionary, although to his credit he can also often be fairly moderate in his views and seems to try to come down on the side of the sensible.

But he seemed to be rooting for something like the secret police (and I don’t mean he said it directly) going after the bad people, something police states have always done in the name of law and order but also for the purpose of retaining their own political power. And I read up on him and saw that he had in the past called for sending in the military and going house to house in Oakland in reaction to the ghetto crimes and drive-by shootings and so forth. And I’m just using Oakland as an example. All the big cities and even small cities have gang and violence problems.

But anyway, why should law-abiding citizens have to live in fear?

In extreme circumstances, at some point, extreme tactics are called for.

Now in the case of airport bombings, Wattenberg says that experts have looked at it and agree that one of the big problems is baggage. Apparently there is no fool-proof way of checking baggage without opening it all (and then ka-boom?). He said ultimately the only practical way of forestalling a bomber, such as the one in Moscow who apparently brought a bomb in with him to the International Arrivals section of the airport (I imagine from the outside, not from an airplane), would be to ban individuals from taking baggage directly in with them when they go to the airports (and he claims people don’t need nearly the amount of baggage they think they do).

Now we have not had a spate of airport bombings here in the United States as of yet, but if we did extreme measures would have to be taken — the public would eventually demand it. It’s already getting tougher to board an airplane, what with body scans and in some cases mandatory feelups — but the call for all of that actually came from the government, not the people, at least not directly, but the government feels it must show the people it is doing something.

(I don’t fly much, hardly ever. Most of my flying was done in the late 1960s and early 70s when all you had to do is buy a ticket at the counter and get on the plane as simple as if you were getting on the Greyhound bus.)

Although I do not consider myself as politically reactionary as Wattenburg, I have often thought myself, ever since the urban ghetto riots of the 60s and into the gang violence of today, that in some cases martial law should be declared and the wrongdoers rooted out. Easier said than done I realize. But sometimes you feel enough is enough.

(I recall reading something a few years ago about how the police in one town in, Arkansas I believe, tried to cordon off a bad neighborhood and do random searches, but I think that was eventually prohibited by court order.)

And do we really want things to get as out of hand as they are in Mexico?

In the case of terrorism there is always the problem of doing more harm in the name of good than was inflicted in the first place (ala Bush). The Russians have a recent history of storming into hostage situations and killing everyone, good and bad.

I recall that during the Iranian Hostage Crisis of the late 1970s when Americans were held captive by terrorists backed by the Iranian government that many folks here at home were actually suggesting that we bomb the embassy where they were being held.

Somewhere in all of this there has to be a middle ground between impotence, doing basically nothing but maybe feeling up innocent airplane passengers, and ham-handed foolishness, starting major wars or storming into schools Russian style and killing schoolchildren and their parents in the process.

And I do think that in the case of lawlessness in the urban areas, governors should declare martial law and root out the gangs. It would have to be done selectively and carefully and unfortunately probably would require sophistication we do not have at this time. But to surrender whole communities to lawlessness in unacceptable, or should be.

Going in guns blazing Russian style may not be the answer, but neither is waiting (too long)…

April 6, 2009

Somewhere there has to be a happy medium in police response in these mass shooting incidents.

On the one hand, we don’t want the police to go blazing in blindly and shoot or gas everyone Russian style, but on the other hand waiting nearly 45 minutes as at Binghamton or waiting for a long time while children continued to be shot as at Columbine several years ago seems to me unacceptable.

(At Binghamton some survivors reportedly hid for several hours before they were freed from perceived danger. At Columbine it took police something like two hours to move in after the shooting started, even though there was some police presence within minutes.)

I’m 100 percent for officer safety, but it is a police duty to protect citizens in harm’s way, not wait until the coast is clear.

I have not studied these things and I don’t have the answer – except that I wish the answer was that there would be no more such incidents to worry about.

But I can’t get over the memory of Columbine and the video of police waiting as children screamed for help and hung out windows while the rampage was still going on.

And I recall that in the not-so-long ago Virginia Tech incident there is a famous video of a cop standing there with his gun drawn but not moving and the sounds of shots from the shooter’s weapon – the death toll rising.

And I know full well that policemen face as much danger as if they were in a war zone. Within a day of the Binghamton incident, in which 13 innocent people died, three officers were gunned down responding to a domestic dispute over a dog in Pittsburgh.

All I am wishing is that the experts use these incidents to reassess their standard operating procedures.

Rescuers need to be rescuing not waiting unnecessarily. And I already noted at the top that we don’t want to go in blindly with guns blazing and kill the hostages and get police killed in the process too, but this has become such a problem, this mass shooting business, we need improvement in our response tactics.


And why is it that these nut cases have such apparently easy access to high powered weapons and why is it that there always seems to have been clues – comments and personal behavior – before hand that went unheeded?

I will answer my own question, in part. We live in a free country and have a right to keep and bear arms. I don’t want to lose freedom of movement and freedom of privacy and of self defense, but when someone gives off public clues, perhaps we need to listen and take them seriously.

And I would think anyone who makes threats loses some of his or her rights at that moment.

Easy to jump to conclusions in Binghamton-like incidents; I still cling to gun ownership rights, though…

April 3, 2009

It’s so easy to jump to conclusions in these mass killings as the one today in upstate New York. I thought maybe it was a disgruntled white man going after immigrant targets and then I heard the suspect (presumed dead now) was perhaps a Vietnamese immigrant himself.

Also I read that he was carrying false I.D. and that he was recently let go from a job at IBM, implying that he kind of went postal.

There’s been so many mass shootings here in the United States recently, and one in Germany — not counting the usual terrorist acts overseas — that one almost becomes numb to the news — almost.

It’s still a developing story in Binghamton, N.Y., but apparently at least 13 people were killed or 14 including the gunman. It took place at a facility where immigrants were taking citizenship tests and English classes, it was reported.

And while I am a supporter of Second Amendment gun owner rights (although I find the wording of that provision highly ambiguous), I always wonder why we seem as a society helpless to keep obviously demented folks from obtaining weapons and going on shooting rampages. And the problem is even worse when you consider how easily criminals can get hold of weapons, often with a firepower that outmatches the police. But I cling to gun ownership rights, primarily due to the historical aspect of Americans being free to protect themselves from bad guys and bad government if need be (read the Declaration of Independence). I know full well, though, that most folks don’t have guns and don’t plan to get any.

The only societies that seem to be relatively free of gun violence, among the populace at least, are dictatorships who run police states.

Even Israel where the authorities and the citizenry have had to be ever vigilent against terrorism for more than half a century because its neighbors have often vowed to do way with that country cannot stop terrorist violence.

We’ll find out more later today or tomorrow about the facts and possible motives in the  case, hopefully.

Meanwhile, we have to ask ourselves is all this gun violence on a radical increase — it can’t be all due to more reporting via the internet — and if so, why and what can we do about it?

Do we just have to accept it all as the hazards of everyday life?

(Catch my contribution to the German-American experience and call up http://vonwalther.wordpress.com )

USA’s main security threat may be Mexico and there are valid reasons to keep their trucks out…

March 25, 2009

While we are still fighting wars in the Middle East for somewhat nebulous reasons and no clear idea of our goals, the nation on our own southern border, Mexico, is in the midst of what might as well be called a civil war, with 7,000 deaths in the last 16 months, including high officials in its federal government, as well as town mayors and police chiefs, some of whom have sought political asylum in the U.S.

The Obama administration has announced a kind of token response on the border, but as I understand it, they are pulling immigration personnel from out of our interior to do so, conveniently letting the enforcement of the hiring of illegals slide as a sop to those who for some strange reason support the underground economy of illegal aliens, many of whom come from Spanish speaking nations to the south, most notably Mexico.

While some of the illegal migrants have gone back south because of the higher unemployment numbers in the USA, they face a problem in their homeland because their government is still corrupt after all these years, but it is trying to fight off drug lords, some of whom employ paramilitary against the Mexican soldiers and police.

Meanwhile, the violence is spilling across the border and is reaching into our northern cities, such as Chicago. Much of it involves illegals fighting over drug disputes, but sometimes hapless illegals, maybe not involved in the drug trade, get caught in the crossfire or become victims of kidnapings and ransom schemes, another popular line of work for criminals south of the border.

Mixed in with all this somehow is an ongoing dispute between Mexico and the United States over a North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) program to allow a limited number of Mexican trucks to be able to cross the border and have a run of our country. Congress cancelled funding for the program recently, but the Obama administration has indicated it might resume the program in the future.

In retaliation, Mexico, one of our top trading partners, has applied tariffs on 90 U.S. products. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is in Mexico to smooth things over in the dispute and to promise the President Felipe Calderon administration there that the U.S. will help it in its fight against the drug cartels. And amidst all this, a Mexican defense official has warned the U.S. against any military incursions into his country (ala the Mexican-American War of the 1840s and the chase after Pancho Villa in the 1920s, I would suppose).

The truck program was cancelled in part supposedly over safety concerns, but probably also because the Teamster’s Union, a supporter of Democrats, was worried about the loss of American jobs.

Now before you go thinking I think this was a bad thing, think again. I was a trucker and as things stand I don’t think Mexican trucks should be allowed past our border. And I know something – not everything – about this subject, because as I said I was a trucker (and never a Teamster member) and furthermore I dealt with the border trucking scenario and know the landscape (my experience was at Nogales, Az. and Otay Mesa, Ca., and San Diego, Ca.).

Now first you need to know that our northern neighbor Canada runs its trucks throughout the U.S.

But the Canada/U.S. situation is nothing like what we face with Mexico.

A U.S. trucker can cross the border into Canada and go just about anywhere.

On the other hand, American trucks do not cross into Mexico and who would want to?

Canada is a civilized nation with the rule of law (probably more so than the USA, in some respects).

Mexico is highly corrupt (despite the efforts to clean things up by Calderon) with the bribes and intimidation as a standard operating procedure in business and law enforcement and everyday life there.

I once talked to a Mexican trucker and he told me that when he drove in his country there were no truck scales. But a policeman might stop a truck out on a lonely stretch of highway and decide supposedly by eyeballing a truck that it was overloaded and assess the fine and pocket it on the spot.

Who in their right mind would take their truck south of the border?

And working down on the border where my loads were transloaded into Mexican rigs, I got to see some of the wrecks they run up and down the highway. While not all USA trucks are up to par, many of the trucks the Mexicans use would not pass the same inspections USA trucks are given.

While they were running the pilot program allowing Mexican trucks in, I believe I saw some pretty questionable rigs running up and down our highways. I do not believe that these trucks were subjected to the same standards as USA trucks, probably due to political considerations.

Another problem is that while Canadian truckers speak English (and yes I know some of them speak French too), many of the Mexican truckers do not (they can’t even read our road signs).

(In the interests of fair play and full disclosure, I should note that some USA-licensed drivers, some of them from Eastern Europe, do not speak English. I actually watched one of these guys at a warehouse once and the freight receivers could not communicate with him. They had to make hand signals and lead him around and show him what to do with his paper work.)

And you have to understand that once you let an over-the-road truck over the border, it goes all over. It may deliver its original load into the country from Mexico at one place, but then haul other loads within the country between cities and only return to Mexico after hauling several loads.

If Mexico had actual law and order and was not corrupt, and if their truck safety standards and practices were better, it might well have a valid argument that its trucks should be allowed into our country and in turn we could also operate in Mexico.

It is unfortunate to have a dispute with Mexico because it is one of our top trading partners, but realities have to be accepted.

And back to the turmoil in Mexico. I don’t know why it has been downplayed. It threatens Mexico and it also threatens our own security.

Part of the problem is that the U.S. offers such a good market for the south-of-the-border drug cartels. Personal guns are illegal in Mexico, so guns from the U.S., to include high powered assault rifles and other powerful weapons, are basically traded from the north for the drugs from the south.

Combating the drug trade is a tough problem that we have not ever solved in the USA. I find calls to simply “legalize” illicit drugs to be dubious at best (and that was not some kind of marijuana pun – doobie is it?).

But meanwhile I don’t think we should tolerate cross border incursions, be they illegal aliens looking for work or engaged in the drug trade.

We need a military show of force at the border, as well as  a strong commitment of the various appropriate law enforcement agencies where needed to fight the drug cartels. And we should not let up on our enforcement of immigration laws at the workplace in the process.

We may well find that the biggest threat to our security is not in the rugged terrain of Afghanistan or the deserts and urban areas of Iraq but instead at our own southern doorstep.

In the long run we need to work hand in hand with the Calderon administration in Mexico, which from all reports is doing its best to fight both the drug cartels and to turn the tide on corruption that has existed so long in Mexico.

(Copyright 2009)

Oakland, other urban areas need martial law…

March 22, 2009


NOW ON SUNDAY THE DEATH TOLL FROM SATURDAY’S INCIDENTS IN OAKLAND, CA. IS FOUR POLICE OFFICERS  DEAD. But also, in an even more recent update, police officials are now saying that while the fourth officer has been declared brain dead, he is still on life support.

Back to my original post:

Make no mistake, Oakland, Ca. is a dangerous place to be.

It is especially a dangerous place to be a police officer.

Three police officers were killed Saturday and a third gravely wounded (update: he has now been declared brain dead) after two motorcycle officers made a traffic stop.

There are few details as to motive and so on as of this writing.

I feel terrible for the policemen and their families.

I also feel bad for law abiding citizens who must live in constant terror in Oakland and much of the East Bay (and in so many urban areas). I suppose many of them are numb to it all after all these years.

I know the lawlessness in Oakland goes back to at least the 1960s (and I guess before).

Much of it is the result of lingering racial strife ( so much of it is black on black) and the drug trade.

A lot of high minded people, to include former Gov. Of California and former Mayor of Oakland Jerry “Moonbeam” Brown have failed to do much about it.

There have been so many times during my life where I have felt that in Oakland, Richmond (another nearby deadly community) and parts of LA and so many urban areas the only solution is martial law.

Of course that by most people is seen as a kind of hard right wing extremism – and I am not hard right wing, believe me.

But what is the alternative? The law abiding citizens have to live with constant fear and intimidation. And I am not talking race here. I am talking security for civilized humanity.

Why do the civilized have to bend to the ways of the uncivilized?

Again my sympathies to the families of the slain and wounded officers.