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Jack is a graduate of Rutgers University where he majored in history. His career in the life and health insurance industry involved medical risk selection and brokerage management. Retired in Florida for over two decades after many years in NJ and NY, he occasionally writes, paints, plays poker, participates in play readings and is catching up on Shakespeare, Melville and Joyce, etc.

Friday, July 26, 2013

"Killing Devices," the Elusive Democratic Majority, Sid Goes on a Nostalgia Trip and Thoughts on the Zimmerman Trial


Another Name for a “Killing Device” is a G _ _ .

There is a romanticism attached to killing devices in this country.  I am not talking about mousetraps or fly swatters, but devices which are intended to kill human beings.  The Minutemen in Massachusetts who threw aside their plows and took arms against the British carried them.  Our military forces, charged with the defense of our nation, carry them.  And law enforcement agencies at all levels are equipped with them as well. 

The reason for their existence is that sometimes, to see that justice is done, a life must be taken.  While sometimes the act of drawing of a weapon is sufficient to successfully threaten or convince the person at whom one is pointed, it should never be forgotten that anyone who aims a killing device at another person knows that his action can ultimately end the life of that person.  Such romanticism is wonderful so long as these” “killing devices” are used for seemingly noble purposes such as terminating the lives of bad guys who are dangers to society or the armed forces of another country which poses a danger to our nation.

This romanticism is why children, armed with imitation “killing devices” play soldiers, cops and robbers or, in a less politically correct period in our history, cowboys and Indians.  This is why the characters in action movies and video games use “killing devices” to defeat the “bad guys.”  Using such “killing devices” in such a manner is generally depicted as a useful, if not noble, thing and is imbued in our history, part of our American culture.
The Romanticism of our "killing device" culture is planted in children at a young age.

Individuals are guaranteed the right to own their own “killing devices” by the Second Amendment to our Constitution.  This is useful if they want to possess killing devices to protect themselves against someone who threatens their life, family or property, and are willing to accept the consequences of doing so, or if they want to use them in the sport of killing animals, or shooting at targets as a recreational activity, or just collecting them much as a numismatist collects coins.  These individuals enjoy the support of the National Killing Device Association, sometimes referred to as the NRA.

The important thing to remember is that these devices, in any of the myriad varieties in which they are available, are manufactured for one purpose, and that is to kill.  That is why I choose to call them “killing devices,” a far more descriptive definition of them than the simple word “g _ _ .”  

Another important thing to remember is that both the Old and the New Testaments of the Bible tell the faithful “Thou Shalt Not Kill.”  (Exodus 20:13, Deuteronomy 5:17, Matthew 5:21, Romans 13:9).   Why then, do so many people, even religious people, have no qualms about possessing these “killing devices”?

Jack Lippman

Why the Democratic Majority Isn’t a MajorityYet

If the only battleground between Republicans and Democrats were in popular elections on a nationwide basis, the Democrats would win handily.  More people vote Democratic than vote Republican in our country.  But we have no such nationwide elections.

If the only battleground between Republicans and Democrats were in popular elections held on a statewide basis, which we do have, the Republicans would win in more states than the Democrats would.  This would not matter in Presidential elections, where the Electoral College modifies the weight of a state’s votes, but it does matter in electing Governors, most of whom are Republicans, and in electing Senators, the small majority of which remarkably now vote Democratic.  (This may be an aberration resulting from the six year terms Senators get.  In 2014, the majority in the Senate will probably shift over to the Republicans, paralleling their success in gubernatorial races.)

Governors: Red States Vs. Blue States

If the only battleground between Republicans and Democrats were in popular elections held in each of the 435 Congressional Districts, the Republicans would win in more districts than the Democrats would, although when you added up the total number of votes cast in all Congressional races, there would be more Democratic votes cast than Republican votes.  But still, that “total” doesn’t count.  The number of districts a party wins is what counts..  This is the reason we have a Republican majority in the House of Representatives.

Therefore, the fact that the majority of voters in this country vote Democratic does not mean that there will be Democratic Governors in a majority of State Houses and a Democratic majority in the House of Representatives or the Senate.  This is the result of the compromises made back in 1789 when the Founding Fathers argued back in forth in Philadelphia as to whether the more populous New England states would have a greater voice in our Federal Government than the more sparsely populated states to the south of Pennsylvania, and which incidentally, permitted slavery, the continuance of which Southern states wanted to preserve. 
We are living with those compromises today, and will be for a long time, unless the nationwide Democratic majority continues to grow to the extent that becomes a majority in most of the fifty states and a majority in most of the nation’s Congressional Districts.  This is the long-term aim of the Democratic Party over the next quarter-century, and the Republicans, looking back at those decisions made in 1789, like things just the way they are. 
This is the crux of the arguments over immigration reform.  The Republicans know that the more immigrants who become citizens, the more Democratic votes there will be.  They really don’t know how to deal with this.  That’s why they keep attacking the Affordable Care Act, talking about Benghazi, attacking anything the President does, blowing up minor incidents into grandiose scandals and doing anything they can to scare up the votes they need to keep them from going the way of the nineteenth century Whig Party (born 1836, died 1854, yet managed to elect Presidents in 1840 and 1848.)

The Zimmerman Trial in Retrospect

George Zimmerman deserved to be punished for being overly zealous in his role as a community watch leader, disregarding the advice of the police dispatcher not to continue following Trayvon Martin, and even carrying a weapon while making his rounds. While he had a personal right to possess and carry a weapon, doing so as a volunteer community watch person was inappropriate.  Such volunteers are usually told not to carry weapons.  Their mission is to “watch,” providing an extra set of eyes and ears for law enforcement officers.  If armed guards are needed in a community, there are private agencies that can provide them.  That these actions on the part of Mr. Zimmerman resulted in Trayvon Martin’s death is tragic, but those actions were not what the trial turned out to be about.

The State Attorney appointed as Special Prosecutor for the case, Angela Corey, without going to a grand jury for an indictment, hastily chose to pursue a case for Second Degree Murder against Mr. Zimmerman, for which any lawyer knows that guilt had to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. (That same very high standard had to be met for a conviction on the grounds of manslaughter, an alternative ultimately included in the judge’s charge to the jury.)  As we know, it wasn't met.

The actual prosecutors unlucky enough to be assigned to the courtroom were unable to come close to doing that, once a defense based on the defendant’s acting in self-defense was skillfully raised, easily creating sufficient reasonable doubt as to his guilt.  

In my opinion, if this case had gone to a grand jury, it is doubtful that an indictment for Second Degree Murder would have been issued based on the available evidence, particularly in view of Florida’s generous statutes defining self-defense and the “stand your ground” concept included in them.  

The Prosecution
The two prosecutors, as well as Ms. Corey, whose salaries I pay as a resident of the Banana Republic, excuse me, of the State of Florida, should not be excused from criticism.  Ms. Corey should resign or be fired (noted law school professor and attorney Alan Dershowitz has already criticized her actions in the strongest possible terms) because of her behavior in supervising the handling of the case, and for the next year or two, the two courtroom prosecutors should be limited to handling less weighty cases for which their skills seem far more suited than the one they just muddled through.

Here is a transcript taken from an interview of Professor Dershowitz on the Mike Huckabee show on July 14. 
MIKE HUCKABEE: You have said that you thought the prosecutor ought to be disbarred, that's a pretty serious type of violation to get a person disbarred. It is that serious to you?

ALAN DERSHOWITZ: Right, it is. She submitted an affidavit that was, if not perjurious, completely misleading. She violated all kinds of rules of the profession, and her conduct bordered on criminal conduct. She, by the way, has a horrible reputation in Florida. She's known for overcharging, she's known for being highly political. And in this case, of course she overcharged. Halfway through the trial she realized she wasn't going to get a second degree murder verdict, so she asked for a compromised verdict, for manslaughter. And then, she went even further and said that she was going to charge him with child abuse and felony murder. That was such a stretch that it goes beyond anything professionally responsible. She was among the most irresponsible prosecutors I've seen in 50 years of litigating cases, and believe me, I've seen good prosecutors, bad prosecutors, but rarely have I seen one as bad as this prosecutor, [Angela] Cory. (Huckabee, July 14, 2013)

If you are one of those who think that the criminal justice system in Florida is still a remnant of the racist era which preceded the civil rights legislation of the past half century, you might feel that the approach taken by the prosecution could have been intentional.  Recognizing that once nationwide pressure about Trayvon Martin’s killing had grown, the State of Florida became aware of the necessity to do something in regard to his killer.  Could it be that somewhere the decision was made to prosecute him, but in a manner so that the end result would have been the same as if he had never been prosecuted?  I would hate to believe that the prosecution was intentionally incompetent and that Special Prosecutor Corey, without even being aware of it, was being used with that end in mind.
Sid's Corner

As I read an article on turning eighty by Oliver Sacks (physician, best-selling author, and professor of neurology) in the July 6, 2013 issue of the New York Times, much of what he presented resonated with me because I myself had just turned eighty in June.

For those of you who might enjoy reading his essay, this link will connect you: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/07/opinion/sunday/the-joy-of-old-age-no-kidding.html?_r=0

A short time later while preparing an article that I wanted to submit to a feature on relationships in both the L.A. Times and the magazine, “Nostalgia”, I was rummaging through a staggering mish-mash of old photographs spanning the sixty-three year relationship with my wife and came upon photos of me going back to my infancy.

Sitting on the floor sifting through the two shoe-boxes of loose pictures and the six albums of mounted photos, I fell into a dreamy reverie of my seventy decades of existence…a nostalgic replay of my life’s events much like Oliver Sacks described in his article.

Because my wife and I met when I was seventeen and she was sixteen, the majority of the pictures captured moments in time from our huggy-kissy beginnings, into young marriage at nineteen and twenty, the rearing of our three sons, and the morphing into the matriarch/patriarch of a clan that now includes three daughters-in-law, nine grandchildren, and one granddaughter-in-law…not to mention the six dogs. For the article I was preparing I selected photos of us kissing as teenage lovers, our wedding picture, and a group photo of the resulting clan taken in June.

But then I was mesmerized by two ancient photos…me at nine or ten with my “girl chum”; and me at about sixteen with my mother. Both were taken in Plymouth, MA where I spent my summers with my paternal grandfather. And, unlike the vacuum of memories that my infancy photos produced, these two stirred rumblings in the hard drive of my brain’s circuitry…much like Oliver describes in his essay.

As I write this, the two pictures still sit before me, and I continue to marvel at their effect. Both show me in swim trunks…seven years apart. The earlier one captures a brown-as-a-berry youngster with his sweet Lorraine (and her young sister) who spent the summers happily romping together in an age of delicious innocence. The other snares a sweet moment close to my flight from the nest into young manhood and my subsequent journey into becoming my own grandfather six decades later. My mother was the one who taught the youngster how to swim and dive and evolve.



                    Sid Bolotin



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