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Posted by on Nov 21, 2017 in Blog, Essays, Las Vegas, Politics | 6 comments

Blaming MGM (Mandalay Bay) for the Las Vegas Shooting is Absurd

 

 

My Thoughts on Victims and Survivors Suing Mandalay Bay: 

This lawsuit is absurd.  It has no merit whatsoever.  Hopefully, the legal case never reaches trial.  Hopefully, MGM and Live Nation refuse to settle out of court.  They did nothing wrong, and finding them guilty of any negligence sends the wrong message.  It also makes everyone’s lives more difficult and more expensive because, in the end, it’s we who end up paying the price.  We suffer the fallout.

 

It seems that everyone in America can sue anyone for any reason for any amount, no matter how frivolous the claim.

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Posted by on Nov 15, 2017 in Blog, Book Reviews, Essays | 1 comment

Statute of Limitations

 

 

Does sin have an expiration date?  Should the statute of limitations apply differently to sexual misconduct versus crimes against humanity?  Does justice hold a ticking stopwatch?

 

A candidate for the United States Senate is alleged to have committed multiple offenses of sexual assault nearly four decades ago.  Should his misdeeds from many years earlier be relevant today?

A middle-aged man committed a brutal murder 25 years ago.  He was convicted and served a long prison sentence.  He’s now free and hopes to rejoin society as a productive citizen.  Should we continue to hold his criminal record against him?

A 92-year-old senior citizen now living in Chile is identified as a notorious former Nazi, who actively participated in what’s known as The Final Solution.  Should the elderly man be arrested and tried for his participation in crimes against humanity?

From these real-life quandaries, we recognize that morality isn’t so much a line, but a matrix.

The common defense for Roy Moore, the current frontrunner in the U.S. Senate race in Alabama is that all five of his alleged incidents of sexual and personal misconduct (two against minors) happened so long ago that they’re no longer relevant.  Moore is 70 now and married.  When he was in his mid-30s and single, Moore liked the company of young girls, make that — very young girls.  However, there’s no record — at least not yet — of any recent transgressions.  Whether deserved or not, if we give Moore the benefit of the doubt that he’s led a scandal-free life since the early 1980s, should his clean record later override suspected crimes as a much younger man?

The floodgates have now opened up on a cultural epidemic of sexual misconduct in America.  Many men in positions of power — from movie stars to business executives to politicians — are now shuddering in the shadows at the prospect of things they did and said to subordinates, years ago.  The sexual misconduct dragnet has even dredged up tawdry accusations against Tom Hanks and George H.W. Bush, two public figures most of us agree would seem to be the least likely of sexual conquistadors.

It’s pretty clear Harvey Weinstein, Anthony Wiener, Bill O’Reilly, and others exposed as sexual predators weren’t just scumbags before who eventually grew out of a sick phase.  They’re scumbags now.  Their misdeeds happened recently and thus reflect poorly on the quality of their character today.  Perhaps these powerful men are morally redeemable and can make proper amends someday.  That remains to be seen.  However, our judgment must apply to what we know now, not what’s presumed might happen in the future.

Consider the case of Kevin Spacey.  He might have posed an excruciating predicament had his scandalous behavior been confined to a single drunken incident three decades earlier.  Some might have forgiven or at least been willing to forget one misdeed (Spacey allegedly hit on an underage boy in 1986).  Our mass indignation became far easier once we learned that Spacey has committed similar acts over the course of a lifetime.

While Spacey and others present no moral ambiguity, Hollywood has a disturbingly short memory when it comes to rectitude.  It holds grudges for less a time than most people elsewhere.  If anyone other than a supremely-talented film director had raped a 13-year-old girl, he would have been an eternal outcast.  But not Roman Polanski, who fled the United States, dodged justice, and continues to live unpunished as a fugitive.  Years after the statutory rape occurred, Polanski continues making movies to this day.  He was even awarded an Oscar in 2002.  Apparently, in Hollywood, the statute of limitations may as well be a parking meter.

Central to the question of forgiveness is accepting responsibility for one’s actions.  Several abusers who were called out by their victims have publicly apologized.  Whether sincere or merely the clever crafting of public relations spin (call me cynical — most of these apologies are nothing but the contrivances of sycophantic handlers working for powerful people who were caught), those who admit their wrongdoing are taking the right first step.  Time will probably heal most wounds.  Roman Polanski clearly shows, they will work again eventually.

I’ve had some interesting discussions with Facebook friends about crime and punishment.  At least one of these friends is a convicted felon (his identity won’t be revealed here).  He committed a serious crime when he was 20, and later served ten years in a state penitentiary.  Today, he’s a free man.  He’s working in an honest job and has even started a family.  But he continues to be stigmatized by his actions from many years ago.  To what extent should he be judged, if at all?

I think most of us will agree that a felon who has paid for his crime and has demonstrated genuine repentance for the suffering he caused deserves another chance.  In fact, someone who successfully overcomes a bad childhood, addiction, and a criminal past is even more worthy of our admiration for having conquered their personal demons.  Most of us were born lucky, with good parents and enjoyed a proper upbringing.  Those who change from bad people into good people merit an extra level of commendation.

But what about the most terrible crimes in history, most of which have gone unpunished?  Only a small fraction of those who carried out of the most brutal barbarism of the Third Reich have been tried and convicted.  Most escaped justice.  Many fled to safe havens, like counties in South America where their criminal pasts were either ignored or forgotten.

Only a small number of Nazi war criminals are still living, most aged in their 90s.  Is there really any point to hunting them down, rounding them up, and shaming old men hobbling on canes or puttied to wheelchairs?  What end is served?

This one is easy.  Criminals who escape justice must be pursued until the end of their miserable lives, and even beyond (dig up the bodies and remove them from privileged resting places, if necessary).  They should never be comfortable enough to feel they’ve gotten away with villainy.  Not only do the ghosts of their victims absolutely demand this.  Modern would-be despots must be dissuaded from carrying out similar misdeeds.  One of the most effective deterrents to another holocaust is the grisly image of the guilty hanging from a rope.

Justice must never be subject to any stopwatch.  There is no statute of limitations when it comes to sinners and sin.  However, we must also accept that those who genuinely seek redemption must be entitled to change into better people.  In fact, they must be encouraged to do so.  This decree has no religious overtone.  Justice and the opportunity for redemption, when deserved, are the fundamental covenants of humanism.

 

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Posted by on Nov 9, 2017 in Blog, Essays, Las Vegas, Politics | 1 comment

Marijuana’s Impact on Las Vegas from a Non-User’s Perspective

 

 

Now, four months into Nevada’s bold experiment with recreational marijuana use, all evidence indicates that critics of legalization were dead wrong about the presumed dangers they insisted would occur.

This isn’t the view of a biased, half-stoned, pot smoker.  It’s my sober opinion based on countless encounters with pot users who I’ve seen light up in public places, mostly using vaporizers.  “Vaping,” I believe it’s called.  Forgive me if I get some of the lingo wrong.  I’m not familiar with the mechanics of marijuana smoking nor do I know how to use one of those devices which resembles an electronic metal tube.  In fact, I’ve never smoked marijuana (or cannabis) in my life and have no plans to do so in the future.

I don’t like drugs.  But I don’t begrudge those who chose to imbibe in the milder stuff, provided they act responsibly.  Despite having no desire to partake, I strongly favor the legalization of recreational marijuana (and most other drugs, too).  Nonetheless, earlier this year when the law changed, no one knew what to expect once using marijuana became as convenient as buying a six-pack.  Frankly, given Las Vegas’ pervasive culture of quick and easy access to all forms of vice, things could have gone either way.

Critics warned that incidents of public disorder would worsen.  They claimed crime would increase.  They insisted recreational marijuana use would lead to a significant rise in the use of harder drugs, thus filling up emergency rooms and adding to the burdens of law enforcement.

Turns out, legalizing marijuana hasn’t made any of these problems worse.  In fact, pot may have actually helped to reduce some these problems.  In recent months, for instance, I’ve encountered fewer traffic accidents.  Data will ultimately determine if the rate of auto accidents has declined in Nevada since legalizing marijuana.  But based on personal experience, I’m willing to stand by the supposition that things are better now.

Why is this so?  My theory is as follows:  Since more people are now smoking marijuana than before, they’re also consuming less alcohol.  This shift in behavior would likely reduce the number of impaired drivers on the road.  Fewer impaired drivers means fewer accidents.

But doesn’t smoking pot impair driving?  I don’t think so.  Interestingly, I see drivers smoking pot all the time.  At stoplights, drivers frequently roll down their windows and release huge plumes of white smoke.  You can’t drive anywhere in the city and not witness this phenomenon.  When my windows are down and I’m sitting next to another vehicle with a driver who’s vaping, the odor is unmistakable.  It’s pot.  Yet, I’ve not seen any incidents where any pot-smoking driver appears to be driving unsafely.  Sure, it might happen occasionally.  I just haven’t seen it.

I don’t want to be accused of overstating things, but marijuana use appears to be happening almost everywhere around Las Vegas.  I’m astounded at how public this activity is and how few people (non-users) seem to care.  Pulling into some parking garages is like getting invited to a pot party.  Small groups of people are frequently seen standing around their cars, at all hours of the day and night, sometimes just sitting in their cars quietly as though huddled around a campfire, as clouds of smoke rise into the air.  It’s pervasive.

I’ve walked past these dens of pot smokers more times than I can count, frequently late at night after a long poker session.  I’ve never encountered a problem or felt unsafe.  Not once.

Downtown Las Vegas has become a melting pot of bikers, women with too many tattoos, budget-seeking tourists from the Midwest, and at least on weekends — about half the population of San Bernadino County.  It’s also become the city’s epicenter for marijuana use.  Locals and tourists alike carry vaping devices openly on city streets and inside many casinos, toking away.  Many different odors have come to be associated with marijuana products now, given there are so many different varieties.  I don’t know enough about it to describe the sensation, but the smell is distinctive and unmistakable.

Despite all the pot smoking within relatively confined spaces, I’ve seen no incidents of violence or disorder associated with its use.  To the contrary.  Smoking pot appears to make most users more mellow.  They don’t want to fight.  They want to chill, and maybe later — eat.  Moreover, smoking pot usually means there’s less drinking.  So, just like with driving, that would account for less public intoxication and violence.

Again, it may be too early to tell just yet, but crime has not increased in Las Vegas (obviously, the mass shooting isn’t taken into account here, but that had nothing to do with drug use).  Desperate dope addicts aren’t robbing and stealing in order to feed their addictions.  That appears to be yet another myth associated with legalizing marijuana — now disproven.  I expect we’ll eventually see better research on this which will settle the matter once and for all.

The only negative I’ve experienced with marijuana used so openly is a mildly annoying odor, at times.  If confined within a small space, the smell of smoke vapors can be pretty intense to a non-user.  But I’ve yet to encounter any of the discomforts associated with second-hand smoke — such as coughing and burning eyes.  Given the option of having a cigarette smoker VERSUS a pot smoker (vaping) right next to me, and I’ll gladly take the pot smoker.  In a heartbeat.  No discussion necessary.  Not even close.  Besides, the pot smoker probably won’t be much of a bother.

I can’t speak with any depth as to the economics of legalizing marijuana.  However, the state’s revenue from taxation will be huge.  Based on reports, including the conservative-leaning Las Vegas Review-Journal, local and state officials appear to be doing a remarkable job in policing the new industry, which remains scandal-free.  Even more compelling is the fact that hundreds (perhaps thousands) of new jobs have been created, many at legal dispensaries located all over town.  So, economically speaking, legalizing marijuana has been a good thing.  Just how good still remains to be seen.

Okay, so virtually all the short-term impacts of legalizing marijuana appear to be positive.  But what about the long-term?  Surely, we will pay a heavy price down the road, right?

We’ll eventually see.  If the critics are right (they’ve been wrong on every point, thus far); if marijuana proves to be a so-called “gateway drug” to harder stuff in the future, then Las Vegas will have some mighty big problems.  However, there’s no evidence yet that harder drug use has worsened in jurisdictions where pot has been legal for some time.  Other states (and countries) which liberalized their drug laws aren’t seeing any epidemics when it comes to overdosing and addiction.  In the end, legalization probably ends up saving more lives since those who do abuse drugs won’t be dissuaded against getting treatment because of fears of being charged with a crime.

Alas, the most serious drug epidemic in this country right now has nothing whatsoever to do with marijuana.  It has everything to do with a corrupt corporate capitalistic culture pushing the hell out of opioids in order to swell profits and make shareholders happy.  Las Vegas certainly has its share of victims who have become slaves to this opioid crisis.  Still, none of this has anything to do with marijuana.  America’s opioid addiction crisis has killed thousands.  But no one dies from smoking marijuana.  Let’s face it.  It’s big pharma’s bonus-driven corporate whores and overzealous marketing departments who are the most dangerous and destructive drug cartel in America.  Not pot people.

By and large, Las Vegas’ initial four months as a test case in the ongoing marijuana debate has produced a convincing case that this should be our national drug policy:  Total decriminalization of all marijuana-related products, sale, and use — in every state in America.  Imagine how that might free up our overburdened law enforcement and court system to tackle real crime instead of wasting precious resources busting pot smokers.

It’s clear.  Critics of drug legalization here in Las Vegas have been proven wrong.  Advocates were right.  So, let’s now listen to the people who got it right and start ignoring the people who always seem to get things wrong.  Let’s get wise and expand this smart and more economical approach towards marijuana to other places.

Here’s the final conclusion of someone who has no interest in smoking marijuana:  Legalizing recreational marijuana in Nevada was the right thing to do.

 

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Posted by on Nov 7, 2017 in Blog, Essays, Politics, What's Left | 0 comments

Another Discussion Worth Having: Animal Rights and Stopping Abusers

 

 

The tragic killings in Central Texas this past weekend have sparked yet another round of tireless debates about gun laws and mental health issues.

While these are debates worth having, they don’t fully address a national epidemic worsened by the distorted scales of criminal justice in America when it comes to animal cruelty.  Turns out, abusing animals (often family pets) is among the most troubling indications of serious trouble to come later in life.  And — we don’t take this issue nearly as seriously as we should.

The deranged Texas gunman wasn’t just a military reject, a mental patient, and wife beater.  He was also a viciously cruel man who was charged with animal abuse.  In 2014, the mass murderer was cited for animal cruelty after neighbors told police he viciously punched his dog outside his trailer home in El Paso.  Court records show the case was dismissed after he paid a small fine.

A small fine.

So punching a defenseless animal in the face so brutally that witnesses living in a trailer park felt compelled to call the local police gets taken about as seriously as a parking citation.

Most animal abusers aren’t caught.  Most aren’t charged with criminal offenses.  The vast majority of animal abuse goes unreported.  And most people who abuse animals don’t do it just one time.  They are habitual offenders, mindlessly cruel sadists who do awful things to animals for some sick perverted satisfaction, even joy.

There’s a terribly disturbing pattern linking animal abuse in childhood (and sometimes later on, even as adults) to the monstrous acts they commit which brings them into the public consciousness.  Consider the most high-profile killers in history, most of whom have tortured animals, and then gone on to commit viciously wicked crimes:

  1. Albert DeSalvo, a.k.a. “The Boston Stranger” murdered 13 women.  As a child, he trapped dogs and cats in boxes and would then shoot arrows at them.
  2. David Berkowitz, a.k.a. “Son of Sam” murdered at least six people.  Before he began his mass killing spree, he shot his neighbor’s dog.
  3. Brenda Spencer shot a gun into a crowd of children.  Eleven were hit by bullets and two died.  During her childhood, Spencer liked to light the tails of stray cats and dogs on fire.  Not as many women commit these horrendous acts.  Most childhood animal abusers tend to be men.
  4. Jeffrey Dahmer was a sexual sadist who murdered 17 young men.  As a kid, his hobby was to kill neighbor’s pets.  He even impaled a dog’s head on a stick, which he proudly displayed.
  5. Ted Bundy killed 40 people.  He learned cruelty early in life, often watching as his father tortured small animals.  As a teenager, Bundy later did the same acts to animals, and eventually people as an adult.
  6. Edmund Emil Kemper murdered eight women (including his mother) during the 1970s.  As a child, he found cats around the neighborhood, killed them, and then displayed their heads on poles.  He even killed his own cat and sliced it into pieces.
  7. Andrew Cunanan murdered five people, including fashion icon Gianni Versace.  As a kid, he often went to beaches and tortured crabs by gouging out their eyes.
  8. Lee Boyd Malvo was the impressionable teenager in a duo of snipers who terrorized the Washington, DC area during the early 2000s.  As a child, he used to torture small animals.
  9. Dennis Rader, who would become the infamous “BTK Killer,” discovered a grotesque thrill as a kid when started binding, torturing, and killing animals.  He cruelly experimented on several types of animals, even going so far as to prolong their lives during torture sessions so they would experience more pain.
  10. Now, add the name Devin Kelly to this list, who murdered 26 people on Sunday.

It’s excruciating for me to point out this short list is by no means complete, nor is it comprehensive.  Indeed, there are innumerable cases — thousands, hundreds of thousands — of kids who torture animals who later go on to commit even worse crimes as adults when empowered with greater means and opportunity to inflict more pain and destruction upon innocents.

So, what is to be done?  And, how do we stop this?

I don’t have all the answers, but this is a question we should be asking.  While gun debates and how we administer mental health treatment is a vital issue right now, so to must be animal rights and mindless cruelty.

A good start might be each of us taking an interest in what we observe.  Neighborhood kids throwing rocks at ducks might not seem like such a big deal.  Chasing defenseless animals seems innocent enough.  Shooting a pellet gun at birds isn’t illegal.  But engaging in these inexplicable childish acts not only exhibits a complete lack of empathy for other creatures.  These common acts of adolescent violence often become an early foundation for horrors to come later.  They are an affirmation that is okay to amuse oneself at the expense of animals.  It’s fucking sick.

We need more teaching.  We need more respect for animals and the environment.  We need to instill goodness in the hearts and minds of children.  We need more counseling.  We need greater access to mental health professionals.  We need more severe punishment for those who harm animals.

Not small fines.

It’s time to take animal cruelty much more seriously.  Too often, it’s the secret and silent beast within which incubates for years and later mutates into mass murder.

 

READ MORE:  DO MASS KILLERS START OUT BY HARMING PETS? [PSYCHOLOGY TODAY]

 

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