Archive for the ‘ Crime ’ Category

Made in China–ahem, Italy

The tragic fire at a factory on Sunday, December 1st, 2013, which cost 7 employees their lives, has barely begun to shed light on the industry’s illegal insurgence and Italy’s lack of capacity to do much about it.

Credit: wantchinatimes.com

Pronto moda is a case of what The Economist tags as “reverse globalization.” Cheap materials are shipped from China to Italy–as are the workers, as are the sweatshop concept and conditions. One city, Prato, just northwest of Florence, plays host to over 5,000 factories like the one that burned down on Sunday and some 50,000 Chinese workers buried in 16 hour work-days. Faux-designer products are pumped out at superhuman rates with the facade of labels from designer brands (although the “Made in Italy” label remaining true) and are sold for extremely cheap prices to locals and tourists. Before Italian taxes can even make their claim, more than half of the $2.7 billion profits find their way back to China undeclared.

Chinese utilitarianism and black labor practices are brought to Italy to take advantage of the necessarily perfect combination of an apt market for the pronto moda scheme and weak rule of law in Prato (as what may be an indication of the weaknesses sustained at the national level; consider Rule of Law 1 and Rule of Law 2 to observe Italy’s troubles). Workers, essentially indentured servants, are likely to be left with their promises of a return back to China unfulfilled as they work, bathe, eat, and sleep (in cardboard accommodations as was the case for the victims) within the same few square meters.

The devastating event made headlines in international media; however, the problem for Italian officials isn’t anything new to them. Roberto Cenni, Prato’s mayor, claims that they investigate hundreds of the 3,000+ illegal business every year. The proliferation is too much to handle, he claims, and the operations that Italy is able to shut down only sprout back up the next year. As China merely renders, capitalizes, and improves on what domestic organized crime has done in the country for so long, Italy is forced to drastically improve from the inside-out if it is to have any chance at beginning to address the complicated issues at hand in Prato.

Advertisements

Security cameras vs. the Miami Gardens Police Department

Ravaged by drug crimes and gang activity, Miami Gardens finally found some statistical relief the last couple of years in overall crime only to be overshadowed by climbing homicide rates. The Florida city is in dire need of trusted cooperation between law enforcement and the community.

However, the community is not only being short-changed by the efforts of the Miami Gardens Police Department, their rights are being violated in the process. The infringement has been so drastic as to prompt shopkeeper Alex Saleh to purchase and install 15 security cameras to surveil and document police activity at his store. One of his employees, Earl Sampson, has been arrested countless times for trespassing at the store, his own place of work. In spite of not once being convicted of anything more than marijuana possession, his rap sheet stacks intimidatingly high against him: 56 arrests, over 100 searches, and 258 times he has been stopped and questioned.

Sampson isn’t the lone victim to the harassment. Another employee was arrested for illegal possession of a firearm. Charges were never filed, however, as the firearm was found during an illegal search captured on security cameras.

Once Saleh signed up and posted a sign endorsing zero tolerance as the police had requested his business to do, the police have frequented the store at incessant rates. Saleh claims that the police have harassed him as well once he started questioning them and sticking up for the rights of his employees and customers. On one occasion a patrol of 6 policemen comprising the entire Miami Gardens Rapid Action Deployment squad marched in and posted up ceremoniously for 10 minutes side by side as one went in to use the restroom. Saleh, bemused, could only ask questions to which the squad gave no response. On another night, two policemen followed Saleh out to his car and wrote him up for the tail light above his license plate being out. Two more patrol cars came to bring the total policemen necessary to write a tag light ticket to 6. They searched his car and found a gun, which Saleh had a license to carry. Saleh claims the police threatened with an expletive that they were going to get him before they finally left. The security tape of the parking lot from the night before captures a perfectly working tag light on Saleh’s car.

There are plenty of ways to analyze and speculate about the controversy in Miami Gardens and the egregious profiling habits of its police department. What is most important, however, is to realize how iconic this case is of the social injustice that plays out in the United States on an everyday basis and the real lives it ruins.

The ACLU recently released a report revealing that although whites are a little more likely to smoke marijuana, blacks are almost 4 times as likely to get arrested for it. Racial profiling abounds, and hopefully ambassadors like the Alex Saleh’s sticking up for victims like the Earl Sampson’s can do enough to at least bring awareness to the injustice of a society that too often would prefer to roll over and sleep on it.

To explore further how far behind the U.S. is compared to other social democracies concerning issues like these and many more, please visit our Social Justice page at InternationalComparisons.org.

US joins 90 other Arms Trade Treaty signatories

Making news last week directly affecting research on internationalcomparisons.org, the U.S. became the 91st signatory of the international Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) which regulates illicit arms trade–everything from helicopters and tanks to small and light arms–among countries in order to prevent weapons being sold to countries involved in human rights violations. Secretary of State John Kerry signed the treaty on President Barak Obama’s behalf much to the chagrin of the National Rifle Association and U.S. conservatives. Kerry has assured that “… we would never think about supporting a treaty that is inconsistent with the rights of Americans, the rights of American citizens, to be able to exercise their guaranteed rights under our Constitution.” The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms already regulates that which is required by the ATT and no supplemental enforcement or legislation is required to support it. Kerry further guaranteed that the treaty still allows “the ability of both individuals and states to obtain, possess, and use arms for legit purposes,” and that their 2nd Amendment rights had no reason for concern.

As extensively reviewed on internationalcomparisons.org, the U.S. has left many forefront international treaties unsigned (official endorsement from the head of state) and still more unratified (official endorsement from the legislature). Many of the snubs are absolutely confounding. Organizations like Amnesty International, who have pushed for such an agreement for the past 20+ years, are rightfully celebrating this achievement as potential progress on cracking down on international arms trade. Since the U.S. signing, 21 more nation states have signed the treaty and ratifications have almost doubled from 4 to 7.

More on gun control: utilizing a healthy rationale

Moderation is key Credit: skepticink.com

As thoroughly established in last week’s blog, it’s entirely implausible to revoke all gun rights with the second amendment’s clarity in establishing the right to bear arms. Equally erroneous is the National Rifle Association’s (NRA) tirelessly obstinate refusal to consider anything resembling regulation or compromise.

Both sides need to take a break from either polarity in order to find some sort of common ground if we are to resolve anything in this controversy. Such common ground is hardly extreme. We review five “commonsense” options as provided by San Francisco Chronicle reporters Erwin Chemerinsky and Robert Steinbuch. (For an idea on how nonsensical gun laws can be here in the States, look no further than another one of our previous blogs.)

  1. Extend background check requirements: Most notably, this should include gun show sales and private sales. This loophole is too big to ignore and of which is too easy for potential criminals to take advantage.
  2. Expand the FBI’s database with more thorough information: Today, the requisite information is hardly sufficient in determining whether the consumer can be considered safe. The background checks should require more information about the individual.
  3. Reinstate liability of gunmakers: Thanks to heavy lobbying efforts from organizations like the NRA, the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act was passed in 2005, effectually removing any liability a gunmaker could have in a lawsuit. Gunmakers should be held responsible like producers of all other legal products.
  4. Certain weapons ban: The phrase used here by Chemerinsky and Steinbuch is “weapons that serve no other purpose than to kill a large number of the public in a short amount of time.” They also make the point that society has always been assertive in setting limits on the availability of the most dangerous weapons. It is quite reasonable to regulate such weapons without challenging the second amendment.
  5. Regulate magazine size: There have been instances in which gunmen (Cherminsky and Steinbuch cite the Long Island Railroad killer) have been stopped only when they ran out of ammunition in one magazine and needed to change to another. The application is obvious: if the magazine had less capacity, the opportunity to stop him would have come sooner and before he had the chance to kill more people. Larger magazine capacities hardly serve any other functional value.

 

 

Minority rule kills; the American gun Jihadist way of death and the long path to the recovery of the constitution

On April 17, 2013, the US Senate held a vote on the Toomey-Mancini amendment to Senate Bill 659. The amendment would require finding out if people are insane or criminals and, if so, prevent them from getting guns. The idea is supported by over 80 percent of the US population.The bill was defeated by a vote of 55 in favor and 45 against, so it failed, because the majority in the US Senate has no power. 55% loses.Since Senators represent states and not people, a small state has as many Senators as a large one. Mostly small state Senators opposed background checks, so the rule by the minority was even smaller in population terms. An analysis of the vote shows that 29.2 percent of the US population was able to prevent majority rule. (Appendix A)

American gun crime is so high that the US does not qualify as a developed democracy.

firearm homicide graph

(Appendix B)

One cause of gun death is the perversion of the Second Amendment, which is designed to promote the security needed for freedom, but has been misrepresented in order to maximize gun and bullet sales. This misrepresentation is possible because too many Americans know nothing about the issue and are easily panicked by their fears and paranoia.

Most people do not know what the Second Amendment says. It says, “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

Those who claim to understand the Second Amendment usually do not. One side claims it allows anybody to keep and bear arms; the other side, that the militia clause allows any regulation by government. Both views are false. Both sides err from their cultural bias and lack of understanding of history and logic. The gun nuts do not respect the constitutional requirement to regulate, and the gun controllers  generally don’t like guns. They talk at each other, grabbing a hold of a partial truth, unable to see the genius of the amendment.

The two parts function as one, not as independent clauses. From the viewpoint of the Constitution, there is no right to bear arms except as part of a well regulated militia, and there can be no militia without a right of the people to keep and bear arms. Regulation and bearing arms are not opposed to each other; they exist because each is necessary to the other. The purpose of the militia is to secure freedom. The lack of a militia, or a poorly-regulated militia, cannot achieve the goal of securing freedom.

“Well-regulated” is what ties the militia to government. The Founders were aware, from Whiskey and Shays and other rebellions, that an unregulated militia was a threat to citizens and to government. Even today, right-wing militias give the militia idea a bad name. The concept, however, is not rooted so much in government as it is in the weakness of government and the need for citizens to play a role, in fact, an armed role. The concept assumes no split between people and government, but a unity of function, each needing the other. Relative success in achieving domestic tranquility since the Civil War has allowed these lessons to be forgotten, even when they have application today.

How do we know that such a militia is necessary for freedom? We know it is necessary because in America today we do not have a well-regulated militia, and it allows the loss of freedom in high crime areas and random gun violence elsewhere. It does not matter if a death is caused by foreign or domestic enemies. Our domestic  enemies are the gun jihadists, who do not want a well-regulated militia. Out of control gun crime in some neighborhoods, murder after murder, suicides, accidental deaths, assassinations, and periodic mass killings of children are now far worse than in the days of the Early Republic.

The regulation would work two ways, keeping guns out of the hands of the unqualified, and as a rapidly mobilized force of volunteers to work with police when local crime gets out of control. The viability of this idea will vary from place to place, but something should be done to overcome the frustration and vulnerability of people, usually low income people, who live in high crime areas with violence that is not tolerated in developed countries. Something should be done to keep guns out of the hands of those unqualified to be in a militia, to at least reduce the frequency of random mass shootings.

In February, Robin Kelly won a Democratic primary in Chicago for a seat Congress with a pro-gun control position, defeating an anti-gun control candidate. She was helped by what most pro-security candidates have lacked, funds for an aggressive campaign on the issues. The pro-gun money has usually been able to make support for security toxic, but in Chicago the tables were turned. The new money came from a political fund established by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, turning the tables. People got the information they needed to vote in their self-interest.

Bloomberg has used his wealth to criticize Democratic Senators who voted against stronger gun laws when well over 60 percent of their constituents wanted them. Some of his fellow Democrats fear such attacks could cost the party seats in the Senate and loss of control. On the other hand, the value of Democratic control is vitiated by the unwillingness of the Democratic majority to use its votes to stop minority rule by the Republicans.

Past outrage over assassinations and mass shootings, and many years of serious efforts like the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, have not been enough, and we do not know if Chicago is a turning point. But it can be, and it will take about six years of work from a much higher political base to restore the security required by the Constitution. Gun jihadist support for candidates needs to become politically toxic.

Progressive states need to experiment with militia concepts. Responsible gun owners need to establish state advocacy groups to promote the Second Amendment, and to teach the genius behind its wording, its value to the Early Republic, how it fell into decay, and how gun jihadists have tried to brainwash Americans into opposing their own Constitution. We can restore the pride people once felt to keep and bear arms in a well-regulated militia, people like my ancestor Lieutenant Reuben Doty (1745—c1820) of Colonel Humphrey’s regiment, and my Great Grandfather John Gilman McAllister, Assistant Surgeon of the Fourth Battery of Light Artillery in the Second Brigade, First Division, Massachusetts Militia.

Given the cultural power of those passionately trying to use the Constitution to undermine it, progress over the next few years is likely to be minimal. The great majority usually fails to vote the way it feels. Responsible gun owners have a difficult row to hoe: they will not be appreciated by those who don’t like guns, and they will be attacked by other gun owners. Any organization may be slandered as an unregulated militia, yet there is no governmental support for a regulated militia. The idea that the National Guard is somehow the militia is inconsistent with the Constitution, because citizens should not be expected to be in the National Guard.

A well regulated militia could be part of an effort to deal with crime in high crime areas. It may seem counter-productive to have more arms in an area where guns are out of control, but there are a couple of counter-considerations: the gangs associated with guns are greatly out-numbered by old adults who now have no armed framework for action, and enforcement of regulation would remove guns from the irresponsible.

A well regulated militia would by its nature not allow an uncontrolled proliferation of weapons and bullets. Such controls are usually thought of in the context of control, but properly implemented they strengthen the effectiveness of citizens to keep and bear arms. It makes no sense to arm citizens and then also arm the criminal element they are supposed to fight, or to arm the mentally ill and unstable. The framing problem has been that control measures are seen as controlling guns, rather than as a  citizen militia effective. Militia-based gun control is required by the Constitution.

We need not honor every decision of the Founders. They themselves were uncertain as to what would work and what not. They made compromises, like slavery and limited suffrage, that have not stood the test of time. However, in the case of the Second Amendment, citizen ownership of Arms is today still very much a recognized right, and the need for security is as great to deal with domestic enemies as it was when the amendment it was adopted to deal with foreign enemies. The Founders showed wisdom in exactly how they framed the idea. It is time we honored the intent of the Founders. It is a matter of regulation and freedom, and of pragmatism and patriotism.

Appendix A

This tally puts Sen. Reid as a yes because his shift to no before close of voting was a parliamentary maneuver to preserve the right to move for reconsideration.

Apendix A

Appendix B

Apendix B

Various sources. See www.internationalcomprisions.org

The link between guns and U.S. crime

Although it’s worth researching, evaluating the relations of the Connecticut catastrophe to mental illness or “manhood” isn’t within the scope of internationalcomparisons.org. Rather, we focus our attention on national statistics about gun deaths and gun control.

We’ve updated the site to arrange arms ownership rates to be sandwiched between crimes per capita and homicides per capita. Countries like Japan indicate the potential impact gun control can have with a 0.6 ownership rate cozily resting between 19.17 crimes per 1,000 capita and 0.5 homicides per 100,000 capita.

The U.S. is at the opposite end of the spectrum with 61 traumatic reminders since Columbine. Compared to the next to worst advanced democracies studied on internationalcomparison.org, the United States owns over twice as many firearms (88.8 per 100 capita) and suffers twice the homicidal rate (5.4 per 100,000 capita).

There’s plenty to be done concerning gun control without repealing the Second Amendment; tighter restrictions with closer regulation would be appropriate to achieve the goal of the Second Amendment which is a well regulated militia. Earlier this year in Colorado, concealed guns were okayed on college campuses. Four other states also allow firearms on campuses. Loaded weapons are permissible in bars in five different states. In eleven states, felons have less to worry about when they try to have their right to bear arms restored. A well regulated militia would be an easy start. Stricter (not total) gun control would be an easy start in order to ensure arms don’t end up in the wrong hands.

A recent open-forum article in the San Francisco Chronicle recommends the following steps: 1.) Close the gun-show and private-sell loopholes to require background checks. 2.) Include more data for background checks in the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System. 3.) Ban military assault weapons designed to kill many people quickly. 4.) Repeal immunity of gun makers from litigation so they are treated like manufacturers. 5.) Ban large capacity bullet magazines.

Two well established groups have advocated for reasonable gun laws: the Brady Campaign and Mayors Against Illegal Guns. After the mass murder in Connecticut, a number of additional groups are advocating for gun control.

New links posted

A new article from Citizens for Tax Justice entitled “United States Remains One of the Least Taxed Industrial Countries” has been linked on the Income Distribution page. The article indicates that of the 27 OECD countries, the U.S. ranks 25th in federal, state, and local tax totals.

Another article link has also been added to the Crime page. Families Against Mandatory Minimums contend in “What America Can’t Afford” that the U.S. prison is too costly to maintain and its incarceration numbers are incomparable to any other country in the world.

If you have any thoughts on either article or have other relevant articles presenting other insights, we’re very glad to hear them! Just drop a comment.