Christopher Valen's Blog (45)

Anarchists and Mother Nature

Manhole covers spot welded into place. 100 spy-in-the-sky cameras focused on downtown streets. Mobile detection units ready to go. Helicopters set to deploy assault forces. Highway exits leading into the city closed. Fences and barricades built around a no-go zone and a tightly controlled perimeter. Fully armed mobile field force units in place and on standby alert.



Am I describing Baghdad? Nope. It’s my hometown of St. Paul as it prepares for the start of the Republican Convention… Continue

Added by Christopher Valen on September 1, 2008 at 11:05am — 1 Comment

Cop Attackers

In a recent blog post I wrote about studies in New York and Los Angeles, which showed that police officers involved in shootings had a hit ratio of about 33%. I concluded that either police officers in New York and Los Angeles, despite extensive training, were lousy shots, or perhaps it was very difficult to hit a target with a handgun, even when the target wasn’t returning fire.



A five-year study released by the FBI entitled “Violent Encounters: A Study of Felonious Assaults on Our… Continue

Added by Christopher Valen on August 22, 2008 at 12:34pm — 2 Comments

Heartless

“Heartless” was a television drama produced back in 1997. It told the fictional story of a shy young woman who received a heart transplant and then underwent a personality change that may have been connected to the murdered donor. The movie was poorly reviewed, but the theory of cellular memory was an interesting idea at the time, and one that still generates interest among some members of the scientific community.



Cellular memory theorists suggest that the cells in our bodies… Continue

Added by Christopher Valen on August 15, 2008 at 12:04pm — 2 Comments

Homeland Insecurity

We will never know for certain whether Bruce Ivins, the Army scientist who committed suicide last week, was solely responsible for the anthrax attacks that killed five people in 2001. Though the evidence against him is compelling, much of it is circumstantial. It is just as likely that a good defense could have convinced a jury that he was innocent as it is likely that the prosecution could have convinced a jury that Ivins was guilty.



So let’s set aside his guilt or innocence and… Continue

Added by Christopher Valen on August 8, 2008 at 4:24am — No Comments

Handgun Accuracy

Soon after the Supreme Court struck down the handgun ban in the home legislation in Washington D.C., Georgia passed a law allowing Georgians with handgun permits to carry concealed weapons on public transportation, in restaurants that serve alcohol, and in state parks. Gun owners must undergo a criminal background check. However, if a firearm is purchased in a "private sale," then no background check is conducted. According to the ATF, these private sales are a major source of firearms to those… Continue

Added by Christopher Valen on July 14, 2008 at 5:29am — No Comments

The Second Amendment

Yesterday’s 5-4 Supreme Court ruling striking down the District of Columbia's ban on handguns and affirming the right to have guns for self-defense in the home raises the question, yet again, as to the meaning of the Second Amendment. Does the amendment specifically protect an individual's right to own guns, or is that right specifically tied to service in a state militia?



The Second Amendment reads, "A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the… Continue

Added by Christopher Valen on June 28, 2008 at 2:32am — 8 Comments

Justice Survives

The Supreme Court’s 5-4 ruling recognizing Habeas Corpus rights for Guantanamo prisoners means that justice has survived in the USA for another day - - just barely.



Most people are unaware that of the nearly 770 men held at Guantanamo since the base opened, only 19 have actually been charged. There are currently about 250 men who are being held without charges in Guantanamo. Many of them have been held for over six years.



Now just step back and think about that last… Continue

Added by Christopher Valen on June 14, 2008 at 5:15am — 1 Comment

The Failed War On Drugs

Tatum O’Neal’s recent arrest for drug possession is another sad reminder of America’s failed war on drugs.



The drug market today in the United States is estimated at $150 billion a year. We have the highest incarceration rate for any Western nation at a cost of $30 billion a year. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, 81% of these dollars are spent on substance-involved offenders. One in three African-American males are in prison on drug-related charges. Gang and gun violence… Continue

Added by Christopher Valen on June 7, 2008 at 1:04pm — 4 Comments

Common Sense Justice

Despite attempts by some current religious figures and politicians to redefine the Constitutional meaning of religious freedom in the narrow context of Christianity, everyone in this country has the right to practice whatever religion they choose -- or to practice no religion at all. Religious freedom also means, however, that anyone can claim to be a prophet no matter how ridiculous or insidious his or her beliefs.



Such is the case with the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of… Continue

Added by Christopher Valen on May 31, 2008 at 10:50am — No Comments

Inherent Contempt

In my February 27th blog, I wrote about the case of Don Siegelman, a Democrat and former Alabama governor, who was charged with conspiracy and bribery and sentenced to seven years in prison. Fifty-two former state attorneys-general had asked Congress to investigate whether the charges brought against Siegelman were part of a five-year secret campaign to ruin the governor orchestrated by President Bush's former chief political adviser Karl Rove.



Yesterday, the House Judiciary… Continue

Added by Christopher Valen on May 24, 2008 at 10:18am — No Comments

Internet Crimes

Yesterday’s indictment of Lori Drew of suburban St. Louis, who allegedly helped create a MySpace account in the name of someone who didn't exist to convince Megan Meier she was chatting with a 16-year-old boy named Josh Evans, is a long overdue wake-up call to all those who are bullying or harassing others by posting and sending fraudulent messages on the Internet.



Drew was charged with one count of conspiracy and three counts of accessing protected computers without authorization to… Continue

Added by Christopher Valen on May 17, 2008 at 6:25am — No Comments

Serial Killers or Urban Legend

The hottest crime story in Minnesota and on the Internet involves the death of Chris Jenkins, a University of Minnesota college student whose body was found in the Mississippi River in February of 2003. Originally ruled “undetermined” or “drowning” by the Minneapolis Police Department, the cause of death was recently changed to “homicide” because of the dogged efforts of Kevin Gannon and Anthony Duarte, two retired NYPD detectives.



Gannon and Duarte have investigated more than 40… Continue

Added by Christopher Valen on May 10, 2008 at 3:09pm — 1 Comment

War Profiteering

According to a report by a Pentagon panel, the dollar value of Army contracts quadrupled from $23.3 billion in 1992 to $100.6 billion in 2006. While the Pentagon outsourced hundreds of troop support jobs to private companies, the number of Army contract supervisors was cut from 10,000 in 1990 to 5,500 currently.



In what writer Naomi Klein calls “disaster capitalism” in her terrific book The Shock Doctrine, this collusion between the private sector and the Pentagon and the resulting… Continue

Added by Christopher Valen on May 4, 2008 at 12:53pm — No Comments

Perception versus Reality

Extensive research has found that people rarely are capable of total and perfect recall of events. In high stress situations, such as officer-involved shootings, memory and recall become even more tenuous.



Independent studies conducted by Alexis Artwohl and others found that

52% of officers involved in shootings reported memory loss for part of the event and 46% reported memory loss for some of their own behavior. 39% reported disassociation or a sense of detachment or… Continue

Added by Christopher Valen on April 28, 2008 at 2:22pm — No Comments

School Crimes

Having been a teacher and administrator, I was disappointed but not surprised by yesterday’s arrest of a Colombia, South Carolina high school senior who had collected enough supplies to carry out a bomb attack on his school. It seems that every week another name is added to the growing list of high school and college students intent on killing classmates, teachers and themselves.



In contrast to what we see on television and read in the newspapers and magazines, a recent five-year… Continue

Added by Christopher Valen on April 23, 2008 at 8:18am — No Comments

Crimes and Religion

Given his appalling historical record regarding sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, I find it nothing short of ironic that Pope Benedict XVI arrived in the United States just days after 400 children were taken into legal custody amid charges of sexual abuse after a raid on a cult compound in Eldorado, Texas.



By the U.S. bishops' count, more than 5,000 priests have been credibly accused of abusing about 12,000 children in the United States since 1950. The church has spent $2 billion… Continue

Added by Christopher Valen on April 17, 2008 at 12:01am — No Comments

Principals of Torture

In my April 4th blog entitled War Crimes, I wrote about a recently declassified White House memo, which argued that the Geneva Accords didn’t apply to the President’s actions in wartime. The memo attempted to give the President and other senior White House officials cover for acts of torture they authorized in direct violation of international and constitutional laws.



Yesterday, ABC News reported that President Bush’s most senior advisers met in dozens of top-secret talks and… Continue

Added by Christopher Valen on April 11, 2008 at 1:17pm — No Comments

War Crimes

My wife and I recently rented a movie entitled Rendition. It told the fictional story of an Egyptian born American citizen who was unjustly accused of being a terrorist and shipped off to a prison overseas where he was subsequently subjected to various means of torture including waterboarding, electric shock and beatings.



Last Sunday night, in a case of life imitating art, 60 Minutes told the story of Murat Kurnaz, a German citizen, who was picked up on a bus in Pakistan three months… Continue

Added by Christopher Valen on April 5, 2008 at 12:18pm — 1 Comment

Be All You Can Be

As we reach 4,000 dead and the 6th year of the war in Iraq, it’s no secret that the armed services are suffering from recruiting problems.



What isn’t widely publicized is that nearly 25,000 non-citizens are on active duty in the U.S. armed forces and many have died in Iraq, including Marine Lance Cpl. Jose Gutierrez, an illegal Guatemalan immigrant, who was killed in action on March 21, 2003.



High schools with large Mexican and Latino populations have complained that… Continue

Added by Christopher Valen on March 26, 2008 at 5:38am — No Comments

Corporate Crimes

I read in the paper today that John Stumpf, the CEO for Wells Fargo & Co., received over $12 million in compensation last year while the total return for shareholders in his company was down over 12%. If my math is correct, that means that Stumpf collected $1 million for every 1% the company stock lost in value.



Where can I get a job like that?



The former Bear Stearns CEO, James Cayne, collected $40 million in compensation in 2006 while his company and shareholders… Continue

Added by Christopher Valen on March 19, 2008 at 1:55am — No Comments

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