101 California Shooting

http://archive.calbar.ca.gov/Archive.aspx?articleId=50515&categoryId=50836&month=7&year=2003

This article in the California Bar Journal in 2003 reviews the 1993 shooting on 101 California by a 55-year old man who killed 8 and injured 6 more. The immediate reaction to this shooting was shock and disbelief; and due to the violent nature of the crime, it became a gun control issue for the families of loved ones, as well as Senator Dianne Feinstein. By banding together, some of the strictest legislation on gun control was passed in California, and also an assault weapon ban through Congress.The article discusses the ramifications that this shooting had in the following 10 years in the state of California, and on a national level.

  • A year later, a federal assault weapons ban became law.
  • Survivors of Ferri’s victims filed a lawsuit against the gun manufacturer that ultimately was lost before the California Supreme Court. But as a result, the state legislature repealed the immunity law that had protected gunmakers.
  • Hundreds of local ordinances regulating gun ownership were adopted in communities throughout the state; many also were enacted by the legislature.
  • California strengthened its assault weapons ban in 1999.
  • Thousands fewer assault weapons have been manufactured and sold in the intervening decade.
  • Navegar, manufacturer of the TEC-9s used by Ferri, went out of business.
  • A group of San Francisco lawyers founded a non-profit anti-violence organization that today serves as a national clearinghouse for information about gun regulation.

There is no doubt, that this shooting quickly became a gun control issue. People assumed that the problem was access to weapons. I find myself asking, what about the mental health of the shooter? Can we assume that he was an ordinary person, who had ordinary access to weapons, leading to the conclusion that guns should be controlled for everyone? There is also nothing reported in this article on the shooter’s motives, the law firm’s involvement, or relevant statistics pertaining to gun-related crime. I would like to know if there was a real drop in violent crime or murders involving guns in the period during which the bill was enforced. Because, just like the crime drop in New York City, who is to say that there aren’t many other contributing factors other than guns that could explain a decrease in violent crime?

What I also found interesting about this incident was political drive and momentum gun control was able to have to pass a law so quickly and strictly, in spite of a Republican-majority in Congress at the time. I wonder if the ensuing bill would have passed, if it had not had so much support from the lawyer/attorney community, who was directly targeted in the shooting. I think it is possible that this issue became very personal for them, and they were willing to throw a strong support behind gun control. The article even talks about how a non-profit was started by lawyers called Legal Community Against Violence after the San Francisco shooting, to work with the Handgun Control group.

As far as finding the ethical grey area, this one was not as apparent as others. I could have gone into the issue of Americans’ Constitutional rights to bear arms. Or the ethical implications of suing the company who manufactured the weapons. But what I took away from this was that the shooting quickly became as issue of access. Restrict access and you solve the problem. When I don’t believe it is that this is a simple solution. In fact, the bill expired in 2004, leaving us right back where we started. What has really been accomplished?

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“The disappeared: Chicago police detain Americans at abuse-laden ‘black site'”

http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/feb/24/chicago-police-detain-americans-black-site

The Chicago police department operates an off-the-books interrogation compound, rendering Americans unable to be found by family or attorneys while locked inside what lawyers say is the domestic equivalent of a CIA black site.

The facility, a nondescript warehouse on Chicago’s west side known as Homan Square, has long been the scene of secretive work by special police units. Interviews with local attorneys and one protester who spent the better part of a day shackled in Homan Square describe operations that deny access to basic constitutional rights.

Alleged police practices at Homan Square, according to those familiar with the facility who spoke out to the Guardian after its investigation into Chicago police abuse include:

  • Keeping arrestees out of official booking databases.
  • Beating by police, resulting in head wounds.
  • Shackling for prolonged periods.
  • Denying attorneys access to the “secure” facility.
  • Holding people without legal counsel for between 12 and 24 hours, including people as young as 15.

I found this article particularly fascinating, it was almost like the plot of a suspense-filled episode of Criminal Minds or NCIS. But aside from the thrill, there are very real issues at stake here. American citizens in Chicago may be denied their rights when arrested, unable to be reached, failed to have their Miranda rights read, or not given access to their attorneys. Not only that, this article describes a law enforcement environment in which police officers can circumnavigate the system for a period of time, for what we can only assume is to their own advantage. It would seem from this article that this Homan Square facility is “off the grid” as it were, as has been compared to CIA black site or facilities used for the war on terror.

When it comes to the persons arrested, it can be argued that they are not being treated in an ethical manner. There were several reports of arrestees being injured while they were being detained; one man was found injured and later dead in an interrogation room. Problem 1: police officers injuring people while they are in custody, possibly as a means to get information from them. These people have rights to be treated in a certain manner that protects them. Innocent until proven guilty? Then there is the issue of those people being taken to or transferred to Homan Square without being booked, making it next to impossible for family, friends, or attorneys to search the system to find them. Homan Square does not have a booking system, hence “off the grid”. This leads to a second problem in which the citizens become deprived of their constitutional rights to an attorney. Attorneys reported spending many hours trying to find their clients, and then being denied access to their clients by facility security.

Then there is the issue of the police department. Based on the comment of one former Chicago detective, there is no way such a facility is handled in such a way. “Transferring detainees through police custody to deny them access to legal counsel, would be “a career-ender”. To move just for the purpose of hiding them, I can’t see that happening,” he told the Guardian. Richard Brzeczek, Chicago’s police superintendent from 1980 to 1983, who also said he had no first-hand knowledge of abuses at Homan Square, said it was “never justified” to deny access to attorneys. However, according to certain arrested citizens, families, and attorneys, such unethical behavior exists.

In conclusion, this article struck me an unjust because it seems to violate many of the rights that Americans have deemed essential to life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness for hundreds of years. Because of these convictions, we as citizens have collectively put laws in place that prevent such abuses of the justice system. We believe that these laws define the ethical practice and policy when a person is arrested, innocent or guilty. Granted, we have also allowed a military branch that has different practices similar to those described above. But this particular Chicago police department seems to be overstepping its bounds, at the expense of the citizens it is purposed with protecting and serving.

Blood Money: Honoring Chris Kyle’s Promise

https://www.yahoo.com/movies/american-sniper-chris-kyles-widow-at-center-of-111390083907.html

When he was alive, Chris Kyle told friends and business associates that he viewed any profits from his memoir American Sniper as “blood money.” The legendary Navy SEAL, whose account of his four tours of duty in Iraq was adapted into the Clint Eastwood movie that is now up for six Oscars including best picture, maintained that he wanted the money to go to support struggling military families. After Kyle and a friend were shot and killed in 2013 by a veteran Kyle was helping, The New York Times retold this widely known point of view: “Though his book became a best-seller, he never collected money from it, friends said, donating the proceeds to the families of two friends and fallen SEAL members, Ryan Job and Marc Lee.”

At the center of the discord is Kyle’s widow, Taya, 40, who is alleged to have ignored her late husband’s wishes and withheld money from the bereaved families he publicly had promised to support.

Neither Lee’s family nor Kelly Job, the widow of Ryan Job, have filed lawsuits, and none is expected. Legal experts say that because Kyle’s promise was verbal and he died without a will, prevailing in a court case would be unlikely.

In August, Taya sued Christopher Kirkpatrick, a Dallas lawyer who had represented both her and her husband in connection with several business deals, including a company called Craft International that Chris Kyle had co-founded.

In that suit, Taya claimed that Kirkpatrick was inappropriately making statements that Taya had not honored her late husband’s oral promises and was withholding money from the Jobs and Lees. Taya responded strongly in a court filing that she owed no such obligation and was in possession of an undisclosed document that made clear her husband’s plan: “Chris Kyle specifically detailed his wishes as to the proceeds of American Sniper in the event of his death,” the language of the court filing reads. “And such wishes are IN FACT being carried out as set forth by Mr. Kyle.” She maintained that another adviser had drafted a written document that spelled out “his wishes as to the distribution of profits after his death,” which suggests it did not include the Lee or Job families. Taya has not shared that document in the case, which is ongoing.

Having recently finished the book American Sniper, I found this article interesting because it became extremely evident to me in the autobiography how passionate Chris Kyle really was about his friends and fellow SEALs, and helping war veterans once they returned home. Now that Chris is gone, much debate remains as to what his wishes were for how the over $6 million in book sales and the $400 million worldwide from the Warner Bros. film should be distributed. Obviously there are those who feel that Chris’s wife Taya has cheated the Lee and Job families from what was promised them, while Taya asserts that she is carrying out her late husband’s wishes.

There are several questions that I asked myself when reading this article. What type of ethical obligation does Kyle’s widow have to his verbal promises? What type of obligation does she have as an American to those who have served to protect our lives? Is she decreasing the quality of life that these veterans’ families might enjoy for her own benefit? If so, what makes her more deserving of the profits? Furthermore, what types of ethical obligations are any of us under to carry out the undocumented wishes when a loved one passes? Should we carry out the “letter of the law”, as Taya seems to be asserting, or the “spirit of the law”, which would imply donating the profits?

I realized that perhaps Taya’s situation may be more complicated than the media reports. We don’t know what Chris’s final written instructions were. I think that each case should be individually evaluated. However at the end of the day, your decision is going to come down to your presuppositions and values for life after death.

Playing the Race Card: the Hypocracy of Minority Statuses

http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-nation/wp/2015/02/12/funeral-planned-for-three-muslims-killed-in-north-carolina-shooting/

This article reports on the recent shooting of three Muslim students in North Carolina on Tuesday. The three young people- Deah Barakat, 23; his wife of a little more than six weeks, Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, 21; and her sister, Razan, 19-  were shot by neighbor Craig Hicks, 46, allegedly over a long-standing parking argument. The young people’s father asserts that this was not over parking, but rather a hate crime based on their Muslim beliefs. Police, now including the FBI, are investigating the murders, as media and social outcries have slowly gained momentum.

I found several things about this article in particular very interesting. First, the article identifies the victims as “three young Muslims”. This is a racially charged way of identifying three young people who were in fact successful UNC students, as well as American citizens. The racial undertones clearly take the spotlight in this tragedy.

Let me pause by saying that I value all human life, regardless of sexual orientation, race, religion, or political affiliation. A life is a precious thing, and a life lost, while inevitable, is something to mourn. 

Since the shooting, I have witnessed very little outcry via social media against these murders. While social media is one of many modes of communication in our society, it has become a powerful and convenient way for people to share their  strong, and often narrow-minded opinions. I find the lack of media attention in this case inconsistent in light of the recent and racially-charged Ferguson case. There were easily millions of African-Americans who passionately argued the racial implications of that case. Likewise, I remember reading defenses for the police officer citing that, had the roles been reversed, a white American being shot by an African-American would have hardly made the ten o’clock news.

I am not writing to argue the Ferguson case. What I hope to do is show a parallel, or lack there of, in relation to the murder of these students. The press has remained shockingly neutral in this case in North Carolina. In comparison to the Ferguson case, the press has been equally obliging to label this recent murder as a hate-crime, motivated by Hicks atheist beliefs. These young people are equally hailed in the article for being model students but remain highlighted by their religious beliefs. Unlike the Ferguson victim, these minority victims have not sparked a passionate defense, and I do not believe that this story will continue to grab headlines for an extended period of time. Why? Because we have identified these people as Muslims, first and foremost; Muslims are not a protected minority in this country; neither do they enjoy the sympathy of those who champion the rights of minorities. They are mistakenly associated with foreigners who have made it their mission to harm Americans.

So because the press is not ready to take up arms over the victims, Hicks is not ostracized for his actions.The impression I got from reading the article was, “Yeah, he undeniably shot them. Now what what realistic reason can we find to justify his actions?” The apathy.

My point is that while the press has acknowledged the racial implications of this case, it has failed to defend either party involved. (Perhaps I am wrong and I merely read an article that merely reported the facts, instead of publishing an opinion.) However, I see this issue as a breach of ethics. We as Americans are willing to go up in arms and fight heroically with our words when a American minority is involved. But I think it is fair to say that Muslims are not an accepted American minority in this country. Their minority status is associated with our 14-year war on terrorism in the Middle East. As least, that’s how it started…

And therein lies the grey area. Clearly murder is immoral, unethical, and unlawful. But with this case being identified the way it has been, those victims have not received the respect and honor they deserve as human beings, but rather will continue to be commemorated as Muslim casualties.

Philosophy of Education

Before last week, I had never been asked to define my philosophy of education. I have experience in creating and revising my professional philosophy in relation to athletic training, but never really put my thoughts into so many words regarding education. Upon reflection, here are some of the things that I believe should be valued and guide the education system.
• Education should be available to all
• Students should be able to learn in a variety of ways that will match individual learning styles
• Education should be student-centered, address the student as a whole person, and provide the student with life skills
• Material should be foundational as well as provide practical experience
• The education system should be built in a way that requires, challenges, and supports hard work, critical thinking, and initiative
• Educational material should be relevant and prepare students for workplace/ job placement

With these points in mind, I closely relate with some of the beliefs of many philosophers in regards to education. Johann Pestalozzi believed that every individual has the ability to learn, the right to an education, and believed in the importance of personal liberty. He emphasized that this is true not only for those who could afford access to education in the 18th and 19th centuries, but also for those of lower socioeconomic status. All students have the ability to learn, succeed, and grow, however not all receive or take advantage of the same opportunities to do so. This parallels my philosophy because I believe that all Americans should have access to education. And not only through grade-school, but higher and continuing education. I believe that education can be correlated with pay grade (among other factors); the more education you complete, the greater the opportunity to earn a greater paycheck. And while money is not a necessarily a measure of success, it does bring comfort, personal freedom, influence, and greater opportunity. Being able to attend and graduate from college is a great accomplishment, but not one enjoyed by all young, American adults. Often those who need the opportunity to rise from a lower socioeconomic status are those who cannot afford to go to college. I believe that those individuals who are hard working and motivated to learn should be able to be educated in a way that will improve their lifestyle and well-being. For this reason, community colleges and trade schools continue to be an important avenue of education. They provide students with easier access to practical knowledge and experience that can be applied to the workplace.

Pestalozzi influenced many of the principles of modern pedagogy, such as the ideas of active student learning. This involves methods of teaching such as hands on learning, practical experience, and learning by doing. This can be invaluable to students with different learning styles as well as challenge them to practical apply what they have been taught. It can truly be the bridge between reciting knowledge and using it. From my own experience, the most valuable learning environments that I have been a part of have been those that challenged me outside of the classroom. Additionally, I have found that those students who participated in internships or other participatory settings outside of the classroom were better prepared for jobs after graduation. Again, I believe that students who are given the opportunity to learn in this environment receive an advantage that other students do not. As a closing thought, perhaps the bar for higher education degrees would not keep being raised if institutions were doing a better job of teaching from experience rather than textbooks and for tests. Perhaps a bachelor’s degree with practical knowledge and experience would be enough to prepare anyone for an entry-level job in their chosen profession.

There is no doubt that each of us points a different finger at current problems in the education system, however I find it fascinating that words of philosophers from hundreds of years ago still speak to our ideals that we hold for education.