Monday, April 9, 2012

Lord of the Flies



"The world, that understandable and lawful world, was slipping away."


                       - William Golding, Lord of the Flies


Question of the day:   What interest would a corporate lobbyist group have in expanding the rights of citizens to shoot and kill each other?

A great deal has been written about the shooting death of Trayvon Martin and Bo Morrison over the past several weeks.  I don't need to rehash that conversation, as there is little I can offer regarding specific facts of those cases.  What I would like to do instead is examine why these Castle Doctrine/Stand Your Ground Laws have been promoted with such enthusiasm by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).


I have written about ALEC in several prior posts, including Enemy at the Gates and Contempt, thy name is Fitzgerald.  In short, ALEC is a corporate lobbyist group that writes model legislation favorable to its corporate members and presents this legislation for passage in statehouses across the nation.  The conduit for this legislation are the legislators who are also members of ALEC.  This partnership between corporate lobbyists and politicians has been very fruitful for the corporations hawking their legislation.  This is fact, not conspiracy theory, as evidenced when ALEC legislation was recently introduced in Florida still bearing the ALEC mission statement.

ALEC model legislation is being passed in statehouses all over the nation.  ALEC legislation includes anti-labor legislation like that seen in Wisconsin, Ohio, and the numerous "Right to Work (for less)" states, voter disenfranchisement legislation ("voter ID"), and the privatization of schools, prisons, public works, and pension funds.  ALEC bills dismantle environmental regulations, make it harder for people injured by corporations to sue for compensation, and take away public financing of elections.  As I mentioned in prior posts, The Center for Media and Democracy has done amazing work exposing ALEC, and has been head and shoulders above the mainstream media on this topic.

ALEC has also vigorously and enthusiastically promoted Castle Doctrine/Stand Your Ground legislation around the country.  The Florida "stand your ground" law was signed into law by Governor Bush in 2005 with an NRA lobbyist standing at his side during the ceremony.  This legislation became ALEC's nationwide model legislation on the matter, and since then, over two dozen states have enacted legislation tied to ALEC's model law.

To understand this legislation, we must examine the state of the law prior to the passage of Castle Doctrine/Stand Your Ground across the country.  As a police officer, I am intimately familiar with the law governing the use of deadly force.  While police officers, by definition, use deadly force in justifiable circumstances more frequently that private citizens, the law relating to the use of deadly force applies to private citizens in the same manner.

Let me use Wisconsin as an example:  Prior to the Castle Doctrine, Wisconsin law stated that a person could use deadly force against another human being if they reasonable believed they or another person were in imminent danger of death or great bodily harm.  "Imminent" means "likely or certain to happen very soon" according to the Macmillan Dictionary.  In Wisconsin, for a threat to be considered imminent, three criteria must be met.  The suspect must have:
  1. A weapon capable of producing death or great bodily harm.  This could be a firearm, knife, vehicle, or even bare hands depending on the specific circumstances of that case.  Obviously, a two year old with his hands around the neck of a 30 year old would not qualify, but an able-bodied 30 year old with his hands around the neck of another person likely would.  
  2. Intent to cause death or great bodily harm.  Intent is determined by words, actions, and circumstances.  Intent can be inferred at times without verbal declaration depending on the facts of a case.
  3. Delivery system:  the actor must have the ability, the means, to utilize the weapon in #1 above to inflict death or great bodily harm.  A person with a baseball bat behind a barbed wire fence likely does not have the delivery system to inflict death or great bodily harm with that bat to someone on the other side of the fence.
The belief that one is in imminent danger of death or great bodily harm must be reasonable.  This does not mean that a person can't be mistaken, but the mistake has to be reasonable under the circumstances.  As an example, police officers across the country are routinely found to be justified when they shoot subjects armed with facsimile or BB guns, or who quickly brandish cell phones after claiming to have a firearm in an attempt to elicit the desired lethal response.  In the law enforcement community, it is called "suicide by cop," and the vast majority of time a mistake in fact is still legally justified.  However, a person utilizing deadly force against another will be judged by the standard of a reasonable person under similar circumstances.

There is also one more requirement for the use of deadly force in Wisconsin, and that is preclusion.  Preclusion means you have to either 1) demonstrate that you attempted other options prior to utilizing deadly force and those attempts were unsuccessful to end the threat, or 2) you have to articulate why trying other options was not feasible under the circumstances.  An example of #2 would be someone pointing a gun at you at close range, which would make other levels of force suicidal.

Underpinning these standard use of force laws is a pretty basic moral tenet:  We should not be killing each other unless absolutely necessary.

What laws like Castle Doctrine and Stand Your Ground do is essentially remove the requirement that a person actually evaluate whether the person they shoot is presenting an imminent threat of death or great bodily harm if that encounter occurs at the person's home (or business, or vehicle).  You don't have to show that you reasonably believed they had a weapon, that they had intent to cause you or someone else death or great bodily harm,  or that they had the means to do so.  Under laws like Wisconsin's Castle Doctrine, the court PRESUMES that if someone is in the process of entering your home, or has entered your home, you are in imminent danger and justified in using deadly force, regardless of the circumstances.  The law treats the rapist/serial killer the same as the neighbor with Alzheimer's or the drunk college kid who mistakenly came to the wrong apartment.

One of the most extreme forms of Castle Doctrine law was recently passed in the State of Indiana.  In its infinite wisdom, the Indiana legislature amended their Castle Doctrine to allow people to use deadly force against police officers entering their home if they reasonably believed the officers were acting unlawfully.  Don't concern yourself with the fact that a judge has likely issued a search warrant if police are forcibly entering a residence.  Instead, Indiana lets the homeowner (who is often an accused criminal) decide if the cops are there legally, and if the answer in his or her mind is no, he or she can blast away.

Let me make a couple of things clear, before people make erroneous assumptions about my view of the use of deadly force in society.  As a police officer for 15 years, and a SWAT officer for 12 of those, I can say without reservation that if someone actually breaks into my house, there is a high likelihood they will be shot and killed.  Not a certainty, because I have at least a moral obligation to make a very quick decision about what that person's intent is and if other options exist, but a high likelihood nonetheless.  I will utilize deadly force without any hesitation if I determine that my life or someone else's life is in imminent danger, and I will be able to live the remainder of my days in peace with the consequences of those actions.  The reason I will be able to live with having to use deadly force is because I will know in my heart that it is what I had to do.  I will do my best to evaluate the situation first, and utilize other options if they are feasible.  At the very least, I will attempt to determine the difference between Alzheimer's sufferer and rapist; armed robber and my own child.

That decision whether or not to use deadly force might occur in a milisecond, and it will certainly weigh in favor of protection of my family.  If someone is in my residence, they may or may not get the chance to explain.  If they are armed, they certainly won't.  It will, however, be a decision based upon my processing of information, not because the Legislature has given me a blanket authorization to kill.

And here's the curious, and somewhat troubling, thing about all of this:  Wisconsin law already provided protection for those using deadly force in a reasonable manner in defense of themselves or others prior to the Castle Doctrine.  The fact that someone was in my house or breaking into my house when I shot them was an enormous part of the equation in determining whether my use of force was reasonable.  If I shot someone who clearly was attempting to harm me or my family, it would be rather easy for me to articulate that we were in imminent danger of death or great bodily harm.  Citizens who legitimately used deadly force against attackers were just not prosecuted under those circumstances.

From all of the reading I have done, there was no groundswell of demand for these laws by the citizens of these states.  These laws were promoted by lobbyists directly to legislators.  So back to my original question:  why has ALEC been such a forceful proponent of this legislation across this nation?  Why was this such a priority for a corporate lobbying group?  At first glance, it makes no sense whatsoever.

The mainstream media has finally started to discuss what my friends at Center for Media and Democracy already knew about ALEC.  As the story grew surrounding the Trayvon Martin case, the explanation as to ALEC's role in these laws unfolded as follows:  Many of the corporations that were members of ALEC would somehow profit from Castle Doctrine.  Walmart, one of ALEC's corporate members, is, after all, the largest retailer of guns and ammunition in the nation.  The leading theory is that if you pass these laws, more people will go out and buy guns.  The NRA is also heavily involved with ALEC, and could stand to profit from an increase in guns sales and an easing of gun restrictions.  This was the explanation provided by Common Cause, Bill Moyers, and others.  And while it made sense on a superficial level, it seemed too simplistic and, well, rather unsatisfying.

This explanation doesn't do a good enough job convincing me why gun manufacturers and sellers would invest so much time and energy in laws that won't sell that many more guns.  Sure, there may be a small number of people who were on the fence when it came to gun ownership, but most people in this country have already decided where they stand on this issue.  People who like guns already have guns, and people who don't like them likely won't be swayed by an easing of the requirements for the use of deadly force.  This can't be the real reason.

I think there is something much more fundamental, and much more sinister, going on regarding ALEC's promotion of Castle Doctrine laws.

As I have spoken about before, we are at a point in our nation where we have the highest income inequality in the industrialized world.  We have a system of taxation where a janitor can pay a higher tax rate than a CEO, and many extremely profitable corporations pay absolutely nothing.  Corporations in this country have a strangle hold on our government through campaign contributions, resulting in a government which no longer represents the interests of the average person.  We have seen the destruction of our manufacturing sector, a completely deregulated financial industry run amuck, and the dismantling of a host of environmental regulations.  We subsidize oil companies as they reap record profits, while we pay $4 a gallon for gas.

As I talked about in my post "Compassion Lost," the small elite group that controls this country has done a fantastic job of manufacturing an attitude of  "every man for himself" that now pervades our culture.  They want destroy the human compassion we once had for one another, and the sense of common good (and sacrifice) that made this country prosper.  They want us to be mean, and they want us to be selfish.

And the Castle Doctrine?  In my opinion, they want us to get to the point where the moral component of taking a human life is out of the equation, the only question is whether it is legally justifiable.

I believe that in order for the corporate elite to continue to further an agenda that favors a select few, they have to turn the masses against each other.  That need becomes even more urgent as more and more people wake up to the realities of America in 2012, and uprisings like the Wisconsin protests and the Occupy movement spread.  If the corporate elite failed to keep us at each other's throats, and we actually developed a sense of community and compassion and empathy, we would see with total clarity the insanity that grips our nation.  At that moment, their gig would be up.  We would no longer tolerate what is occurring in America, and the corporate elite and their legislative water boys would be driven from power post-haste.

The Castle Doctrine is just one part of the "shiny object" campaign that the corporate right has waged for decades to prevent this awakening from occurring.  Don't mind that the top 1% controls 40% of the wealth in this country, instead blame the public worker making $40,000 a year.  Don't mind the fact that the wealthy elite in this nation have siphoned trillions of dollars out of our economy and into their pockets through corrupt trade, banking, and tax policies.  No, blame the fact that some single mom is getting $200 more in food stamps than she is entitled to.  Even better if your mental picture of that single mom conjures up a person of color.  The welfare abuse in this nation is but a grain of sand on the beach of corporate welfare and political corruption, yet the right has succeeded in getting us to focus on that one grain with rabid outrage.  You have to give the right wing props for pulling that one off.  Overlook the fact that corporations have sent all of our jobs overseas in search of slave labor,  but hey, feel free to pop off rounds at somebody you don't recognize before you even figure out what is happening.  Now THAT is freedom!

In order to get people to continue to vote against their best interests, the ruling class has to make them believe the average guy next to them is the enemy.  In order to "drown our government in the bathtub," they have to completely destroy any remaining sense that we are our brother's keeper.  It is the only way it is OK to deny people health care when they are sick, or food when they are hungry.  It is how they can demonize our teachers, firefighters and police officers while they siphon trillions from our collective bank accounts.

What the Castle Doctrine laws have done is take away the legal requirement of thought and reasonableness.  I would strongly argue that the short-cutting of the legal requirements has the effect of also short-cutting the moral and ethical considerations of taking a human life, and groups like ALEC know this.  It is one more step in their goal of having us utterly dehumanize each other.

I know this:  it will take more than the backlash from a high profile killing or two to turn this tide.  It will take a persistent national conversation about who we are and what we want this nation to look like. It will take an enormous push back against tremendous wealth and power.  And, at the end of the day, we have to decide on a fundamental level if we are our brother's keeper or our brother's killer.

Brian

32 comments:

  1. great piece. I personally think though that your giving the ALEC and the NRA a little too much credit here. I think the whole idea behind Stand your ground and Castle doctrine laws is to keep these shootings out of the press as much as possible.

    The more that unreasonable people like Zimmerman and the guy who shot morrison are in the news, the higher the likelihood of a public outcry to have reasonable gun control regulations. That is unacceptable to them, they do not want to limit their customer base!

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  2. This was just too darn long. Even for me.
    But if you're really a cop and really a professional involved in the criminal justice system you might want to mention that The Slinger shooting was deemed to fall under the original WI self defense law, and the application of the Castle Doctrine was NOT the determinant in the case. The situation would have been the same if the Castle Doctrine had not passed.
    Therefore, as a reason to repeal the CD law in WI, not only does this particular case not apply but we have not actually had a true test of the Castle Doctrine Law. All this is propaganda. Mr. Kind would not have been charged prior to Castle Doctrine, and therefore he was not charged now.
    In addition, forcible entry to a home does meet the reasonable man standard as far as the homeowner feeling imminent threat.
    And finally, Jeff is a Silly Billy as always. No shooting will stay out of the press and the recent furor over gun control laws has actually increased gun ownership over all. I personally feel it is because these discussions spur people to start thinking "what if that happens to me" and then realize that police protection, while often excellent, is never-the-less overall in adequate. Bad economy, more desperate stressed out people, more substance abuse, more crime, fewer cops, more budget cuts, slower response times. People feel threatened and feel an increased likelihood that they will have to defend their own homes.
    A real difficulty with a lot of those "indignant" and self-righteous people arguing the evil of guns is, that most likely 1100$ of them live in very low crime, upscale neighborhoods. Very few have probably faced threats of violence themselves. Very few really understand just how many people in America today are truly faced with situations that are UNREASONABLE, and FORCE them to make ugly decisions to either defend themselves, or be a victim. Mr. Kind did not "kill a black man out of racism", he couldn't see the guy's skin color, it was dark when Mr. Morrison advanced on him. And they lie when they say stuff like "the cops were right out front", that's bull. It took the cops 5 minutes to get to the house AFTER the wife called them AFTER the shooting. There's lies all over these posts, no one cares. The first thing that died here was the truth.
    Kind was afraid for the safety of his wife, and kids and for the other kid they had at the slumber party that night. Reasonable Man standard met. Self Defense laws pre-existing Castle Doctrine, requirements met. The report specifically states the laws in effect since WI became a state were applicable.
    Demonizing Kind is not only supremely ignorant, it is unfair and absurd, but the Left does not care about collateral damage any more than the Right.
    I bet you're not really a cop at all.

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    1. Yes, I know it was long, but people can read the post or not if they don't have the time.

      I think I made it pretty clear that I was NOT commenting on the facts of the Slinger case or any other specific case. I do not know all the facts of that case, and as such, would not weigh in on whether or not it the actions were justified. Nowhere did I allege that the Slinger case was racially motivated, and did not "demonize" the person involved in that incident. I leave those determinations to the people who are familiar with the facts of the case.

      Nor did I state in any shape or form that people did not have the right to protect themselves when faced with an imminent threat to their safety, or that people should not have the right to own guns.

      What I did say is that Wisconsin law DID provide protection for the reasonable use of deadly force prior to the Castle Doctrine. You made my case for me by your assertion that the Slinger homeowner was cleared under traditional Wisconsin use of force law. Your point highlights the very question of the need for the Castle Doctrine in the first place.

      Furthermore, these laws were created and promoted by corporate lobbyists, and did not come from a demand from the public at large. I personally find it reprehensible that our national policy is being dictated by corporate lobbying groups who do not have the best interests of this great nation at heart.

      I know the piece is long, but you should read it in its entirety before you write about what you think I said.

      And yes, I am a cop, and know very well the ugly decisions that we are sometimes forced to make to defend ourselves or others.

      Brian

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    2. Too many words. We know the right-wing doesn't like too many words.

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    3. I have to say that I appreciated the length of your piece, Brian, because it allowed you to delve into more than simply the superficial aspects of the story. Rare these days that anyone's attention span gets properly challenged.

      I agree that it is in the interests of those who already have most of the wealth in this country to sow discord among the rest of us, and your reminder of the message of this Easter season that we are, or should be, our brothers' keepers is very timely. A friend of mine who was born in Brazil recently noted that the extreme disparity between the wealthiest and poorest in her native land created today's conditions where the wealthy convoy between gated/armed communities and everyone else lives under the daily threat of victimization by crime, and under the daily threat of death by violence. We must ask ourselves whether we want to live in a society like that?

      To Mr. Anonymous above: whether the Slinger case was a "test" of the Castle Doctrine is irrelevant: it merely proves lack of a provable "conspiracy" by those who people the 1%. It proves the insidious effectiveness of the hearts-and-minds campaign conducted for the last 30 years by reactionaries against decent, humane, progressive ideals, campaigns such as produce groups like ALEC (watch how they morph now that their name is discredited!)

      Your thesis that the well-heeled want the rest of us to live meanly, where it's every man for himself, is spot on.

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    4. Thanks Paul! My goal for this blog was to write longer, more in depth essays on some of the issues that affect our state and nation. Since I have a full time job and a family, that means less frequent posts, but it is a conscious trade-off that I stand by. Our society is filled with far too many sound bites as it is. I hope I can continue to foster a healthy dialog here.

      Your comments regarding Brazil are well-taken, and people really need to decide what they want this country to look like in 5, 10 or 20 years. The irony is that shared prosperity would benefit the wealthy too, with the added benefit of not having to worry about being constant targets of the disenfranchised.

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    5. One final observation re: all this "Stand Your Ground" "Castle Doctrine" business: If people think gun-slinging ordinary citizens are going to eliminate violent crime they are very much mistaken. Most of the time, a criminal prepares him/herself with enough weaponry to suppress resistance in their victims and to survive the commission of a crime. When ordinary citizens are unarmed, criminals bring enough firepower to establish their superiority--so, a handgun or something of the sort. NOW, criminals will upgrade to more destructive weapons, with more ammo and faster reloading technology. They won't change lines of work, they'll just "call" and "raise" the ante that law-dog citizens themselves just raised. It's going to be more dangerous, not less, in the end.

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    6. So this brave "Anonymous" fella first says that reading too much hurts his brain, then attacks the piece by questioning whether or not the author of the post is indeed a cop - as if that would have any impact on the substance of the author's points.

      An amazing combination of logical fallacies and intellectual incuriosity in an oddly long comment, given the commenter's aversion to reading. The Faux News is strong with this one.

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  3. I think this was really insightful.

    I think you're on to something about the dystopian world that would result from an ALEC-driven agenda which would undercut community support, diminish public institutions, increase economic inequality and impunity from prosecution for the wealthy, and truly would result in a Mad Max world of scarcity with every man fighting for himself- survival of the fittest.

    In a world like that, it does make sense to stockpile our weapons, build up our defenses, trust no one, but shoot first. A law that grants us immunity from overreacting, bad judgment, and irresponsible decision-making further destroys community trust when a teenager in a hoodie gets shot and there don't seem to be consequences or justice.

    I really think you're right about the connection between the "stand your ground" law in Florida and its failing public institutions, no income tax, strained social services, and gated community mentality. It's what Wisconsin could become, if the walker agenda became policy. They cut all public support for citizens- instead they gave them guns and told them they could use them with impunity. Who wants to live in a world like that?

    In Wisconsin, maybe because Walker is a tone-deaf and clumsy politician, the "bomb" he dropped spawned a community-driven counter-movement that underlies the recall effort and has created a real network of activists, who always cared about community, but now express it politically. There have been some real leaders that have emerged in opposition to ALEC- Bill Cronon, Mahlon Mitchell, Lori Compas, and many others, including you, Brian Austin. And, political figures who opposed the ALEC-driven agenda were supported as never before- people like Dale Schultz, Bob Jauch, Tamara grigsby, Jon Erpenbach, Cory Mason and many others. Wisconsin is not going to turn into Florida.

    But, it could have. There was an orchestrated plan in the works, all thought out ahead of time, and designed to blitzkrieg all progressive legislation out of existence under the pretext that "we're broke" and put a republican majority in place for at least a decade, through redistricting. And, it was going to be done so fast that no one would have time to react using legislative majorities and hyperpartisanship and threatening anyone who didn't fall in line.

    It didn't because certain key groups and people in key positions didn't follow their scripts and react the way ALEC planned they would. I see the police and firefighters across the state as the first key group that reacted differently than expected. And, that refusal to follow that script was so important.

    I'm sure that the great minds at ALEC thought exempting the police and firefighters from losing their collective bargaining power would automatically place them on the governor's side. The firefighters would stay home, thinking "I've got mine" and the police would crack down on the protesters and we'd have a recreation of the 1960's era protesters vs pigs that would play out to the benefit of the walker agenda.

    But, that didn't happen. The bagpipes were with us at every rally, the police observed the civil liberties of the protesters, and police and firefighters marched with the rest of the people because it was a community ethic under attack. And, it grew from there.

    I'm from a hunting family, but I don't own a gun and will call the police- who I trust- if I feel threatened. And, part of the reason I trust the police is not only the professionalism I've seen from them, but because they were so respectful to protesters when they could have behaved differently. They had their own script, based on ethics and professionalism, not the one written for them by ALEC.

    I don't think we're going to become Florida, but it's important to understand how easily it could happen and to stay vigilant.

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    1. VERY well stated, thank you.

      Brian

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  4. Excellent post! And let me remind you of the prescient words of railroad tycoon Jay Gould who said, in 1886,

    "I can hire one-half of the working class to kill the other half."

    I believe we, as a nation, have finally arrived.

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    1. Yes, I too fear we have arrived. Until we remove the grotesque amount of money from politics, the corporate interests that control our nation will continue to foster and nurture this division

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  5. Something that a friend pointed out: Republicans are constantly complaining about "legacy costs" for police and first-responders; if every community is a gated community with a George Zimmerman patrolling (or every man defending his own castle) then you can eliminate those pesky pensions. You can also eliminated judge, jury and executioner.

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  6. Your use of Golding is perfect.

    What the rightwing-corporate forces wish onto the population is suspicion, isolation, a despair for achieving the common welfare, and an abiding appreciation of magic and ignorance.

    This is why the GOP's love affair with racism as a politcal tool will not die. Racism perfectally acheives the objectives of rendering a people unable to think.

    It pains me to see young black men walk down our street with the look of discomfort and embarassment for being black and for being in our neighborhood. White, female joggers don't show the same sense of discomfort [to Republican dismay that abhors empowerment], nor the elderly couple going for a walk.

    But fear and isolation are just fine with the Republican Party.

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    1. Thanks MAL, Golding just seemed to fit the dysfunction of the day.

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  7. Great piece. (And for Pete's sakes, it is not too long. Geez) Few have talked about what it would mean if Walker wins the recall. You point to a few obvious things, i.e., the other ALEC objectives: the privatization of schools, prisons, public works, and pension funds. ALEC bills dismantle environmental regulations, make it harder for people injured by corporations to sue for compensation, and take away public financing of elections.

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  8. Outstanding post!

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  9. Brian,

    thank you--excellent post, well worth the read. I hope Jeff is right, that ALEC and friends are not as smart as this, but they have a whole lot of right-wing think tanks in their corner. Also, a slew of dystopian novels, all too popular, depicting (or selling) what you have to do to survive in the post-apocalypse--so that people live in fear.

    witness, MAL, thanks as well, great points.

    Kristin in Milwaukee

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  10. Too long? No. Spot on? Yes. Thank you for an enlightening and important post about the demise of brotherly love in the US. We all learned the one rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Simple, yet apparently a concept difficult for Republicans and other right-wing organizations to understand. Maybe they can't see, hear, or speak over the big piles of money in the office and at home. Sad and disturbing.

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  11. Great piece.

    To Anonymous' point about people who are against C & C live in safe neighborhoods, as part of being a good friend I helped a Republican campaign for the nomination to state assembly in Brookfield. What was the voters' #1 issue in this very safe neighborhoods? Conceal carry.

    Watch it, but here comes the race card that the right wing has been dealing for the past 150 years. You know damed well what kind of person these people have in mind when they imagine intruders around their neighborhoods.

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  12. Detective-

    Excellent piece. Thank you for explaining it thoroughly and thoughtfully. I wonder, though, about your thesis of the 'shiny object' motivation. Would those who push this agenda really be so short-sighted as that? Do they really see more reward in keeping the people down with panem et circenses than in helping people grow and prosper to achieve the American dream?

    Keep fighting the good fight. Thanks.

    DB in NJ

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    1. Thanks old friend!

      Unfortunately, I think that is exactly what is occurring in this country. Those who have profited from our current banking, tax and trade policies have extracted so much money from our economy for so long (about 30 years) that people are starting to take notice. Greed is an extremely powerful motivator, and does lead to very short-sighted thinking.

      As you allude to, that winner-take-all mentality will certainly be the downfall of this nation if we don't change the paradigm, because a civilization cannot flourish by only representing the interests of a tiny few. We once saw this nation send 20% of those returning from WWII to college, resulting in tremendous growth, innovation, and prosperity for a large segment of the population. Now we see budget proposals from Ayn Rand worshipers like Paul Ryan that defund Pell grants and destabilize an entire social safety net. Their only tool left is, as you point out, bread and circuses. Let's hope we can come together at some point and realize that shared prosperity is the only way forward.

      Be well!

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  13. These laws are promoted in order to weaken the state monopoly on the legitimate use of force, weaken the government, including police, and to legitimate the use of force by corporate or private actors such as Xe/Blackwater. Thus entirely consistent with 'drowning government in a bathtub.'

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  14. Though the long range coarsening and weakening of society may the the end result of a lot of ALEC's key legislation drives, I suspect there was a more immediate end result in their push for both Castle Doctrine & Stand Your Ground Laws.

    The original bill, introduced by the NRA and with strong support from WalMart has a pretty comprehensive blanket immunity from not only prosecution but also any and all Civil Liability.

    Why would ALEC be interested in advancing this?

    I suspect that the NRA (which is essentially the lobbyist for the gun manufactures) and WalMart (#1 gun retailer in the country) are trying to absolve themselves and their clients from any possible liability lawsuits down the road. My guess is they looked at the tobacco industry and saw that, sooner or later, a Civil Suit and/or Class Action suit against gun manufactures and retailers would hit them very hard. The best way to indemnify yourself from liability? Make even the most outrageous use of your product completely legal, AND write into the statutes protection from any civil liability.

    Why else would these clauses be in the legislation and why else would it be an ALEC priority?

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  15. Another essay by Brian of remarkable insight, not at all 'too long'! As an aside, I found myself reading this installment of ‘what’s on Brian’s brain’ during the airing of a Stephen Colbert spoof about ‘the bunker mentality’ of fear mongering where he calls attention to a product that is a gun bunker/safe to be installed as a substitute for a spring box mattress, under one’s bed. (catch the replay on the web;)

    As others above have well stated, I also think Brian is spot on about an insidious and cynically motivated agenda of ALEC, regarding the otherwise inexplicable link of a wealth and political power generating corporate lobby of legislative initiative producing organization with a fear fostering agenda of gunclingers legislating for a justifiable homicide legalistic mitigation scheme.

    As the great man in the wheelchair said, “the only thing we have to fear, is fear itself”; and I would add, maintain a wary eye on a sinister organization such as ALEC which would foster social fear as a shiny spoon tool to distract attention from their over-reaching wealth/power re-ordering designs.

    My growing respect for Brian’s intellectual abilities to observe the socio/economic and political world events and write so well about these matters that others may understand, is conflicted by my view that he may have probably reached a hard choice in his career. The MPD is an organization of varied history and evolved growth which I am proud to have had some connection in a former life for what it was worth. Brian’s work there is notably exemplary and valuable as such. But, we need a civic leader like Brian with his keen instincts, to take on a higher purpose mission of public service, in my humble opinion. I wonder if it is time Brian put the MPD in the rear view mirror, and set a site towards a greater leadership role in government and legislation to balance out the insidious ALEC forces and their agenda?

    RJD

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  16. Marvelous piece, and something of which we need to be aware: In the corporate world, they literally 'take no prisoners.' I guess the really amazing thing is that it took six years for a case like this to surface in the media. But we are, most of us, becoming more attuned and sensitive to these stories, organizations like ALEC are becoming more brazen (and make mistakes or try to get their name/fame out there), and watchdog groups are becoming more savvy in bringing anti-citizen actions, such as those of ALEC, to light.

    Keep up the great work, Brian.

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  17. As always, I appreciate your thoughtful, careful writing. I do have the nagging sense that "justifying" the privatization of the justice system is a significant part of this agenda.

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  18. You have written a wonderfully enlightening piece here. Length was noted but very much appreciated. I have been aware of ALEC for quite a while and done all I can to make others aware as well. I was stunned and dismayed when I first learned of them. It amazes me that it's apparently legal for them to function as they do.

    Your quest to figure out their motives, and your conclusions, speaks well of your work as a detective. Your mind is well tuned to seek the truth. It disturbs me greatly that what you conclude is very likely the truth, but your continuation on to how to resist gave me some hope.

    I have had a sinking feeling for some time seeing the effects of the ALEC agendas playing out across the country, feeling as if the very fiber of our democracy was being . I have listened to the heated rhetoric of the so called religious right villifying our President, minorities, the poor, women, the LGBT community, and Occupy, vacillating between utter dismay and anger wondering where compassion and respect had gone. Most striking has been the treatment of our own citizens by the Police (no disparagement to you) in their treatment of members of the Occupy movement - how is this okay when this country decries the suppression of protests in other countries.

    Your solution to push back and not allow their agendas to become reality fills in the missing element for me. I have seen in the parents of Trayvon Martin as they, through their grief, have pushed back with dignity, composure, and love to demand justice for their son's death. They have epitomized what you have proposed. Watching them has caused me to rethink my own reactions and anger to what seems like chaos at times. Anger can consume and paralyze us or be motivation to act. The act, as you suggest, is to return to civility and not react with hate and anger. Compassion, respect and dignity must return and I intend to attempt to do just that.

    You cannot know the impact you have had on me through your writing. I look forward to following your posts. Thank you for your professional service and sharing your insights.

    Be well.
    Kim T.

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  19. I can't imagine living with myself after shooting and killing someone. It must take a certain kind of person, especially to shoot an unarmed teenager, be it one you stalked or one who just hid on your porch. But seeing how a group in our Country votes against feeding the poor, providing healthcare for the young, Women, and elderly, and slashing education....I guess killing someone is just one step further. Such wonderful Christian values.

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  20. You nailed it. Thanks for you insightful piece. It was only too long for people who don't like to read very much. I appreciate your perspective as a police officer and a human being.

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  21. Brian--

    Thanks. I'm chiming in late, but this was a fantastic post, well worth the read, and for what it's worth, I don't think it's possible to overestimate the greed of the monied class, and their absolute scorn for the rest of us.

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  22. You're probably right about all of this. But I wonder, have these elite criminals never heard of the French and Russian Revolutions?

    They seem intent on eliminating precisely those social conventions and legal rules which protect *them* from the angry mob. And that's not rational.

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