Category Archives: CRIME and PUNISHMENT

Gun control, redux

Naturally, like many people, my thoughts have been on the topic of gun control of late. Naturally, if you know me, I have opinions on the matter.

However, you may be surprised to hear, my thoughts have evolved a bit.

But first, a metablog word: So, as you can see, it’s been nearly a year since the last time I’ve blogged on here. There are various reasons. One was the chilling effect that incident a year and half ago had on me. (Huh. I was going through the archives trying to find a reference to that incident, and can’t find one. Except where I vaguely refer to it. I guess it was so chilling it left me too skittish to even refer to it when it happened. Probably wise. Suffice to say, someone who vehemently disagreed with a political opinion of mine tried to get me fired from my day job. Tried very hard. And it had the desired effect: I censored myself a lot more. That person won. They limited my freedom of speech by making me afraid to speak. I’d say that’s a tool of the fascist, but that may or may not be libelous if I meant it.)

Where was I? Oh, yeah. I have also not blogged, even the banal stuff I promised because, well, Facebook is just too darn easy! Find a good article, hit “Share,” write a sentence or two: bam! Instant validation. When you can do that 20 times a day on various topics, why bother spending time in a long-form essay format.

But (coming back on topic) some issues and thoughts require careful consideration and discourse. And gun control is one of those topics.

Looking through my archives, it seems I’ve shared a few words on the topic before. Here’s most of the good ones:

I packed a lot of good facts and statistics in those posts, which is good since, today, I want to give more broad strokes. Not to say I want to avoid facts, but I want to avoid being too redundant.

Here’s my thesis statement right off: I’m pro gun, anti-gun culture. Pro gun control, anti-gun abolition.

These are not mutually exclusive opinions, despite what the more reactionary liberals would have you believe. In fact, usually whenever I state that I’m pro-gun and anti-extreme gun control, and support concealed carry, the reaction that more than half the time that comes from a reactionary liberal is:

Oh, so you think giving everyone guns would make us safer?!

I swear, the next time I see someone respond with that (and that’s a literal quote from one individual and nearly verbatim from others), I’ll ban/unfriend their rear. That is a textbook slippery slope, straw man logical fallacy. In no way have I, nor the NRA for that matter, nor any reasonable gun advocate I know, has ever suggested, or even implied, everyone should be given guns–or even that everyone should own a gun at all! In fact, most people probably shouldn’t.

I can’t speak for all gun ownership advocates, but I’m in favor of reasonable gun control. Meaning: yes, ban fully-automatic weapons. Ban assault rifles. Ban whatever can’t be reasonably used for hunting and home/self defense. In addition, I feel, everyone who owns a gun should have to take gun safety and usage courses, pass an exam, and re-certify every so many years, just as we do for driving. Also, mental health background checks should be considered, especially if there is a history of schizophrenia or anti-social personality disorders (sociopathy and psychopathy).

Now, can that position in any way be confused with: Let everyone have guns!!1!

Here’s the crux: Liberals tend to think the whole issue can be solved by banning guns. That somehow our culture will be more civil and less violent without guns. Just like how banning drugs has made people stop using drugs and dealers stop profiting off drugs. (That last was sarcastic, in case you didn’t notice.) But it’s not as simple as that.

Examples: England has outlawed almost all private gun ownership. Yet they have a terrible black market gun trade and high rates of gun-related crime. Meanwhile, Switzerland has a high rate of gun ownership, but extremely low gun-crime. Why is this?

People hate this, conservatives more than liberals, but on this topic, liberals hate it as much as extreme conservatives: The solution is complicated. It comes down to culture.

Face it, America has a violent, arrogant, thrill-seeking, short-sighted, selfish, adolescent-like, near-sociopathic culture. It’s mirrored and reinforced in our entertainment, it’s validated by the corporatocracy which defines our values, it’s evident in our brief history, and it’s exported by our military empire.

Add to that, we have deplorable, embarrassing, social care and safety-net system: the worst insurance-care healthcare system of the civilized world, massive poverty for a western nation, we treat drug addiction like a crime instead of a disease and thus exacerbate drug-related crimes, terrible mental health screening and care–our social structure is abysmal, which is why people often turn to crime, violent crime at that. Countries like Switzerland and most European countries, actually abhor violent culture and entertainment, care about their social structure, have higher education rates and put a premium on education, and strive to make sure their populace is physically and mentally healthy and happy. England, unfortunately, aside from their national health service, has a culture far too similar to the U.S. (thanks Thatcher!) and so suffers from much of the same cultural ills.

What I’m saying, is the problem isn’t the guns, it’s the people. We could ban all guns in the U.S. outright, but that’s not going to change the culture. We would simply have an out of control black market gun trade, and an increase in gun violence just as illegal drugs lead to violence connected with its illegal trafficking.

I agree, we should make it harder for people to get guns that can do a lot of destruction in a short amount of time. But what we also need to do is stop making human game preserves, or as they officially are called: gun free zones. Because if someone is intent on doing gun violence, you think making some place a gun free zone is going to deter them?

What can deter people intent on doing mass violence is the threat of an armed populace.

Yeah, I just heard that aneurysm blow in dozens of liberals.

Again, I am in no way implying giving people guns. Read my paragraph above on what I believe people should have to do to be able to own a gun.

Concealed carry requirements, for example, not only require people to understand gun safety, but also when and where the use of armed protection or reaction is necessary. People who are responsible gun owners, who have legal concealed carry licenses, are people who tend to train often and respect the tool. The scenario of some wanton cross-fire shootout among civilians pretty much only exists in (our violent) movies. It just doesn’t happen in real life.

What does happen in real life, is responsible gun owners have stopped mass killings.

Here’s a site which this fellow (an anarcho-capitalist, ugh!) has researched mass shooting events across the country, sorted the ones in which the killers shot at will until stopped by police, and ones in which an armed civilian got involved. The result:

The average number of people killed in mass shootings when stopped by police is 14.3

The average number of people killed in a mass shooting when stopped by a civilian is 2.3.

[…] it makes perfect sense if you think about from inside the mind of a heroic civilian with a concealed carry permit. It goes something like this:

BANG!
“Holy crap! that guy shot that other guy.”
BANG!
“He’s just going to keep shooting people.”
BANG!

And the shooter goes down.

Quite a few cases went something like that. In fact, I found only one example of a shooter stopped by civilians who killed more than 3 people. Jared Loughner killed 6 people in Tucson, Arizona before he was tackled by two civilians. Maybe it’d have been less if one of those two men were armed.

Police react to shooting events as fast as they can, but unless there happens to be a few around the corner, it takes them as long as it takes a killer to empty three clips of ammo at least, to respond. Usually, as that site shows, mass shootings end when the killer is finished and commits suicide. But like he illustrates, an armed, trained civilian can react and stop a mass shooter in enough time to same many lives.

But the Aurora shooter had body armor! A civilian would have had no effect and possibly kill more people!

Perhaps. But we know two things, especially about Aurora: 1. no one confronted the shooter and a lot of people died and a lot more were wounded. 2. in other shootings in which the shooter was wearing body armor, the shooter stopped shooting at other people and focused on the civilian.

Example: The Mark Wilson response to David Hernandez Arroyo’s mass shooting. Arroyo had already killed two people and was about to kill his own son, when Wilson, a civilian, shot him. Arroyo, instead of shooting the unarmed son, turned on Wilson and chased him down instead. Wilson was, sadly, ultimately killed by Arroyo. But his action saved at least one life, taking the shooters attention until the police was able to adequately respond.

Also in Colorado, when church security guard Jeanne Assam took her personally owned concealed handgun and fired on a man intent on mass murder, the guy’s plans were instantly thwarted (he certainly didn’t expect armed resistance at a church!) and he killed himself (instead of doing so after killing many).

That site I linked above details many such instances in which an armed civilian turns what could have been a news-making mass shooting into a page 3 shooting event.

As for the Aurora, Colorado shooting, obviously we can’t know for sure what would have happened if there were an armed civilian or two in there. But here’s what I see would likely have been a worst-case scenario: Holmes would have started firing. Two, three, maybe five people get shot. The two poorly trained armed civilians pull their guns and fire, both hitting another two to four civilians (with concealed carry size handguns, most likely seriously wounding but possibly killing them). Holmes focuses on them long enough to kill them, and then continues. Instead of 12 dead and 60 injured, maybe 15 dead and 63 injured. Yes, every life is tragic! But is the final result that much worse?

More than likely, what would have happened: Holmes fires a few times. An adequately trained armed civilian realizes what’s going on and takes a kneeling position behind a row of chairs and fires back. Holmes stops shooting indiscriminately at fleeing people, and focuses on the shooter. He can’t see the shooter much better than the other way around, and has to try to locate and approach him. Meanwhile, more people are safely escaping without being shot at. A full minute or two passes while civilian and Holmes trade shots. Eventually, maybe Holmes kills the brave civilian (although, in nearly every single case but 2 of civilian opposition, the civilian is unharmed), but in that time, dozens of people were able to flee. Final result: maybe 4 dead and 12 injured. Still tragic, but significantly less so.

It’s also been shown that some shooters, when their plan goes south and realize there’s quick and unexpected opposition, flee instead….

Well, that’s my take. But what about the Second Amendment? Shouldn’t we be allowed to have AR-15s and assault rifles and high capacity clips and body armor to protect the republic from a corrupt government, like Jefferson and other Founding Fathers intended?

Well, at one time (one of those links above?) I would have possibly agreed. But when you really think about it, it’s far too late for that. No matter how many AR-15s the populace has, if the people wanted to revolt against an evil government, they would have as much chance against the U.S. military as an ant has against a tactical nuke. Gun hoarders and Idaho compound residents expecting to rise up against the government: yeah, give up the delusion. The only thing you’ll be any use in is if all technology stopped working and the world descended into medieval-like chaos, or Red Dawn comes true. And that ain’t bloody likely. No, if the government becomes so corrupt that we need to rise up, you better darn well hope the military is on our side, and that’s not going to happen. And if it does happen, the military coup will be swift.

That being said, it’s possible that the U.S. has avoided corrupt(er) and evil(er) governments thanks to the prophylactic threat of an armed populace. We can’t count the number of times something didn’t happen, so who knows how many times the Second Amendment actually prevented a fascist regime. (One can argue that that very threat has contributed to the plutocratic government’s more subtle corporatist military-industrial-complex takeover that influences our culture.)

But, water and bridges. As it is now, the Second Amendment just doesn’t matter any longer in the sense that guns are needed to protect liberty. The people vs. the standing military (something the Founding Fathers very much did not want) has already been terribly lost.

So, in conclusion: better (i.e.: smarter) gun control, and massive culture reformation are the only ways we’ll prevent gun crime.

Soylent Green and corporations have less in common than you think.

Well, I’m breaking my self-imposed blog embargo for this missive. It’s been rattling in my head for a while and I just need to get it out.

It started with something a friend of mine said recently. A group of us were ragging on corporations, and someone commented about something vile a corporation recently did, and the friend quipped, “It’s almost like corporations were made up of people.” The subtext to his sarcasm was to imply that it’s silly to discuss corporations as if they’re some separate entity from humanity because, after all, corporations are made up of people and, evidently, will only do the same good and ill that humans do.

Unfortunately, despite what the conservative-leaning Supreme Court thinks (vis-à-vis “Citizens United v FEC”), corporations aren’t people. They are a collection of people, that, like any collection of people, make a gestalt that is very different than the sum of its parts. To claim to not be able to analyze and critique (and judge ethically) corporations as a separate thing because they’re made of people, is utterly meaningless. By that rationale, nothing could be said about anything within the realm of human culture and creation because, after all, it’s all made by, or made up of, people. Like all forms of human culture and its production, corporations can — and should — be analyzed and critiqued as a concept that acts separate and apart from humanity in general. Why?

Think of it this way: Would you walk into a library and find a literary book club in progress and expect it to behave and have the save motives and agenda as, say, the group of Ultimate Wrestling fans that show up regularly at the local sports bar? Or how about the local Baptist Bible study group versus the local Society for Creative Anachronism group? They’re all made of people, yes? But any group of people with a shared goal, or interest, is going to A. be very similar to other groups that have the same goals and interests; and B. be very different from groups with different goals and interests. Similar groups will be similar enough that you can usually talk about that kind of group using generalities, and different groups can be different enough to be able to critique them as altogether different entities. This sounds silly and obvious when stated like that, but it’s the ridiculously obvious reason corporations lend themselves to separate and justified deconstruction and critique apart from the motivations and behaviors of people in general.

One of the reasons should be obvious: self-selection. Particular type of people with particular types of demeanors, attitudes, outlooks, ideologies, will choose to associate themselves with others of similar types, under the banner of a shared goal or interest. You will find particular types of people at a book club and different particular types at the sports bar. Oh, sure, there will be cross-over. The occasional mixed-martial-art fan may also be a Jane Eyre fan, and the occasional Nicholas Sparks fan will be seen at the sports bar. But the exceptions point up the rule.

And so too with corporations. Particular types of people seek and earn MBAs and become stock traders and managers and accountants and whatnot who gravitate toward the corporate culture. And the larger, the more multi-national the corporation, the more the individual dissolves and melds into the background of the homogeneous culture of the corporation. Those who don’t fit in or are different than the corporate culture demands, either self-select to leave the culture, or get pushed out for not fitting in — not being a “team player.” And so the corporate culture self-reinforces and insulates itself even more in order to achieve its goals and realize its agenda.

And what is the corporation’s goals and agenda? All groups, organizations, have goals and agendas. The book club, the Bible study, the sports cub, the football team, the knitting circle, the SCA group, the anti-vaccination group, the local skeptics’ club, the Young Democrats, the Future Business Leaders of America… all groups that have come together for a shared interest have an overarching goal. And what is the corporation’s? Profit, pure and simple. Profit by means of selling a product or service to as close to 100% of the market share as possible, and by any means it can get away with. In fact, legally, a corporation can’t make operating decisions that would knowingly deprive the shareholders from making money. As observed by Robert Hinkley in “Redesigning Corporate Law,”

Distilled to its essence, [the law] says that the people who run corporations have a legal duty to shareholders, and that duty is to make money. Failing this duty can leave directors and officers open to being sued by shareholders. This explains why corporations find social issues such as humanrights irrelevant – because they fall outside the corporation’s legal mandate. Secondly, these provisions explain why executives behave differently than they might as individual citizens, because the law says their only obligation in business is to make money.

Well, you can’t make it more plain than that. Corporations exist to make money; and civil liberties, human rights, decency, laws, are all obstacles that must be worked around and, wherever possible, ignored and broken, in order to reach its goal.

A corporation, because of its self-selection and its over-aching goal that all members of the corporation buy into, makes the corporation act as something individualized and apart from humanity. In a way, a corporation is like a person — a sociopath. An amoral being without empathy or remorse, single-minded and manipulative, and dangerous. Capable and willing to do any harm necessary if it means getting what it wants.

In society, when an individual sociopathic human does harm, we punish them. We take them out of society. When a corporation does harm, what happens? The corporation may get fined, it may get sued. But as the link above explains, that’s just a cost of doing business. The corporation will likely continue on without a hitch, especially if it’s a multi-national where its finances are in the Cayman Islands, its management is in Dubai, and its production is in China. Some CEO or manager may become the face of “the problem,” get slapped on the wrist, leave the company — but the company persists as juggernaut. (And the CEO likely will be just fine as well, don’t you worry. Most corporate CEOs and managers sit on the board of directors of other corporations in an incestual game of musical chairs. Boards that hire on a new CEO from another corporation who leads the company for a while, makes several million, gets a few million more as a severance package even if he does a poor job, where he’ll move on to oversee the hiring of a CEO in another company he helps run.)

Oh, and by the way, most of the people on top, the CEOs and managers and directors of the board, aren’t generally people who started out at a community college and worked full time and took classes until they Made It. No, that group at the top, who shuffle around the companies and hand each other favors, are the type of people satirized in this “Note of Appreciation from the Rich.” So when the top of the corporate structure is led by these hereditary, dynastic, feudal lords, and the bottom 95% is constructed of those who strive to be like those at the top — you get a very particular type of culture.

Corporations are, in general, evil in the same way a psychopath is evil. (In fact, it’s estimated that an inordinate amount of corporate leaders are, in fact, sociopaths and psychopaths. Why? Again: self-selected culture.) So, like all and any construct of human creation, the corporation is something that has its own agenda, goals, motivations, effects, and sub-culture, which is perfectly open to deconstruction and ethical judgement.

For more, excellent analysis of why we should analyze and deconstruct any element of human culture, see Roland Barthes Mythologies. It’s actually very short, and a fascinating read.

 

Remember…er, the 5th of… oh! November!

In honor of the upcoming simulacra of a holiday, Guy Fawkes Day, I’m reposting the blog post I did last year for it. Enjoy!

——–

In honor of Guy Fawkes Day this Nov. 5th (Wiki link)* are a couple of links for light reading:

A recent musing of mine on anarchy and democracy: link

An excellent (and scary-sad) collection from Classically Liberal of examples of police stateabuse and misconduct.

* Like most things in postmodern culture, this topic is well filled with contradictions. Guy Fawkes, for example, was not truly an anarchist (as far as I can tell). He, along with his cohorts, were simply p.o.ed that Catholics were being descriminated by the Protestant British government and decided to get rid of it, hoping to establish a Catholic-friendly one. (*sigh* what, religious violence again!?)

Guy Fawkes ironically became a symbol of later anrchistic movements despite his basically being just a religious terrorist.

Guy Fawkes was also appropriated by the British cultural hegemony as a symbol of celebrating the God-protected and ordained rule of proper British royalty. (Much like how Hitler propagandized his surviving the Valkyrie assassination attempt as a sign that God protected his divinely ordained Third Reich. [I may have just Godwined myself, but it just goes to show that anyone and everyone can and does invoke God’s favor when things go well for them.])

And now there’s this Anonymous group appropriating Guy Fawkes to protest Scientology. Interestingly, as this is a quasi-religious fight, this may actually be a more “appropriate” use of Guy’s image… if not for the fact that what they’re really doing is using the image created by the film “V for Vendetta”. They’ve taken an image crafted for entertainment consumption, based on a hyperreality of an appropriated image, of a man whose purpose has been fictionalized by one group and celebrated for it’s failure by another group for ideological justification…

Ow. Jean Baudrillard is probably laughing in his grave over this a-historical postmodern pastiche! (I think I see a scholarly paper in this!)

“Why Being Liberal Really Is Better Than Being Conservative”

Greta Christina has a fascinating article over on AlterNet:
Why Being Liberal Really Is Better Than Being Conservative
(Liberals and conservatives don’t just disagree about specific issues — we disagree about core ethical values. Can a case be made that liberal values really are better?)”

“When asked a series of questions about different ethical situations, self-described liberals strongly tend to prioritize fairness and harm as the most important of these core values — while self-described conservatives are more likely to prioritize authority, loyalty and purity.”…

In the past (mostly on Facebook) I’ve proclaimed that the conservative value-system is inherently a selfish, xenophobic, authoritarian one that has tried to stop all historic efforts to better humanity with social justice and equality. Greta is a lot nicer than I am and makes a case for the necessity for standard conservative values.

However, I think her arguments that liberal (I prefer “progressive”) values (that’s values, not people) are inherently better to be the best argument I’ve heard made.

And it profits none

If there’s anything Enron, the West Virginia mine tragedies, AIG and Goldman Sachs have taught us is that corporations care about safety, employees, doing the right thing, because capitalism and the mystical magical “invisible hand of the market” encourages corps and their owners to not put profit above all else!

Oh, wait….

  • “A Smoking Gun in BP’s Deep Horizon Mess”
  • http://www.thomhartmann.com/forum/2010/05/smoking-gun-bps-deep-horizon-mess
    “Seems that a crew from Schlumberger, on contract to BP, hightailed it off the platform at their own expense 6 hours before the blowout becuase BP refused their recommendation to shut down the well.”

  • “Costly, time-consuming test of cement linings in Deepwater Horizon rig was omitted, spokesman says”
  • http://www.nola.com/news/gulf-oil-spill/index.ssf/2010/05/costly_time-consuming_test_of.html

    And the well-written and summary of the foundational causes of corporate disasters (whether it’s natural disaster or economic disaster)

  • BP Oil Spill A Crime Not A Disaster
  • http://www.socialistwebzine.org/2010/05/bp-oil-spill-crime-not-disaster.html

    “BP has fought the federal government on safety procedures that might have minimized the impact of the most recent spill for more than a decade. CEOs do not get bonuses based upon ensuring future generation’s access to resources, clean air, or a hospitable climate. The purpose of corporations is not to oversee the welfare of the people of the world, but to make money. Environmental damage is not factored into the corporate calculations of costs and profits. Instead, environmental damage is viewed as the collateral damage of the free market in operation.”

    Questioning authority is a crime.

    police brutalityLast year, a Canadian writer, after visiting the U.S., returned home and was stopped by the U.S. border guards. They demanded that he step out of his car, which he did. When he chose to ask “why?” he was being ordered around, he was pepper sprayed, hit, cuffed, and arrested. The officers claimed in their statements that the writer, Peter Watts, resisted and tried to choke an officer. They eventually released Mr. Watts on the Canadian side in freezing weather without his coat.

    Well, his U.S. trial recently concluded. And during the trial it was shown the officers written testimony contradicted their oral testimony, they contradict each other, and witness testimony confirmed that Mr. Watts did not resist and never laid a hand on an officer.

    So all is good and justice prevailed and the charges dropped, right?

    This is Amerika; think again.

    Mr. Watts was convicted of a felony and faces two years in federal prison in the U.S. … because he questioned the officer.

    Even a juror after the trial has stated that the officers mishandled the situation and “committed offences” against Watts. But they determined that based on the letter of the law, questioning an officer constituted felony obstruction.

    This isn’t about safety, it isn’t about security, it isn’t about the rule of law.

    It’s about obedience.

    Authoritarianism is a disease of the mind. It criminalizes the act of asking “why?” It is the obedience-sickness that turns good people into perpetrators and victims of atrocities great and small.

    Sure, we think, in order to keep us safe and secure, some cops may go overboard now and then. It’s just bad apples. But these bad apples are sprouting up in many, many places performing various acts of brutality and abuse of power, and getting away with it. (See link on that page of “Classically Liberals” collection of documented police abuse.) What’s worse, though, is it doesn’t stop at the apples–here is a case in which a jury of peers, who have the ability to enact jury nullification in contrary to the letter of the law applied to the defendant, (and according to at least one juror, this would have been a good situation to use that right of the jury), but instead decided to uphold and support state abuse against someone who simply questioned authority.

    When “peers” support the state in its abuses even when they recognize its illegitimacy, the whole barrel has become rotten.

    “Pastors will test Matthew Shepard Act by ‘inciting hate crimes'”

    An article I recently read: “Pastors will test Matthew Shepard Act by ‘inciting hate crimes'”

    Personally, I’m not sure how I feel about “hate crime” legislation. It feels too much like “thought crime”.

    Case1: Al is beaten to death by a couple of thugs.
    Case 2: Ben is beaten to death by a couple of thugs.

    Both are horrific crimes. Both should be punished. Should one be punished more or less severely than another?

    Especially if the difference between them is that the thugs in Case 1 had on their minds a hatred for Al because he was gay while the ones in Case 2 hated Ben because he owned them money? Should we base crime and punishment on what people think as opposed to only what they do?

    Homophobia is stupid, no question. But at risk of making a slippery-slope fallacy, if we punish an identical crime more severely because of homophobia in one’s mind, will the next logical progression be to punish people because they believe unAmerican things? Should shoplifter 1 be punished more severely than shoplifter 2 because 1 also purused anarchist Web sites?

    I don’t know. Gay-bashers are scum, ignoramuses. But I’m deeply uncomfortable with thought-crime.

    That said, people who INCITE crime are themselves scummy criminals because of what they do. A preacher has a right (*shudder*) to say homophobic things. Free speech protects all, mainly the marginalized and non-majority speech. No matter how stupid the speech may be. But if a preacher knowingly says hateful things that involve suggesting or implying violence, knowing that as influential religious leaders there will be influenceable followers that hear that hate-mongering–that’s like shouting “fire” in a crowded theater (no, much worse) and is not protected speech. It’s a criminal act.

    And if these scummy, hate-filled, arrogant, disgusting preachers go ahead and do what they’re planning, they should absolutely be arrested and tried for inciting violence and criminal acts.

    Remember, remember the 5th of November. Maybe.

    In honor of Guy Fawkes Day this Nov. 5th (Wiki link)* are a couple of links for light reading:

    A recent musing of mine on anarchy and democracy: link

    An excellent (and scary-sad) collection from Classically Liberal of examples of police state abuse and misconduct.

    * Like most things in postmodern culture, this topic is well filled with contradictions. Guy Fawkes, for example, was not truly an anarchist (as far as I can tell). He, along with his cohorts, were simply p.o.ed that Catholics were being descriminated by the Protestant British government and decided to get rid of it, hoping to establish a Catholic-friendly one. (*sigh* what, religious violence again!?)

    Guy Fawkes ironically became a symbol of later anrchistic movements despite his basically being just a religious terrorist.

    Guy Fawkes was also appropriated by the British cultural hegemony as a symbol of celebrating the God-protected and ordained rule of proper British royalty. (Much like how Hitler propagandized his surviving the Valkyrie assassination attempt as a sign that God protected his divinely ordained Third Reich. [I may have just Godwined myself, but it just goes to show that anyone and everyone can and does invoke God’s favor when things go well for them.])

    And now there’s this Anonymous group appropriating Guy Fawkes to protest Scientology. Interestingly, as this is a quasi-religious fight, this may actually be a more “appropriate” use of Guy’s image… if not for the fact that what they’re really doing is using the image created by the film “V for Vendetta”. They’ve taken an image crafted for entertainment consumption, based on a hyperreality of an appropriated image, of a man whose purpose has been fictionalized by one group and celebrated for it’s failure by another group for ideological justification…

    Ow. Jean Baudrillard is probably laughing in his grave over this a-historical postmodern pastiche! (I think I see a scholarly paper in this!)

    Beyond Democracy. Thoughts on anarchy.

    never

    The Tyranny of the Majority:
    If you ever found yourself in a vastly outnumbered minority, and the majority voted that you had to give up something as necessary to your life as water and air, would you comply? When it comes down to it, does anyone really believe it makes sense to accept the authority of a group simply on the grounds that they outnumber everyone else? We accept majority rule because we do not believe it will threaten us – and those it does threaten are already silenced before anyone can hear their misgivings.

    […]

    Three wolves and six goats are discussing what to have for dinner. One courageous goat makes an impassioned case: “We should put it to a vote!” The other goats fear for his life, but surprisingly, the wolves acquiesce. But when everyone is preparing to vote, the wolves take three of the goats aside.
    “Vote with us to make the other three goats dinner,” they threaten. “Otherwise, vote or no vote, we’ll eat you.”
    The other three goats are shocked by the outcome of the election: a majority, including their comrades, has voted for them to be killed and eaten. They protest in outrage and terror, but the goat who first suggested the vote rebukes them: “Be thankful you live in a democracy! At least we got to have a say in this!”

    –From THE PARTY’S OVER: BEYOND POLITICS, BEYOND DEMOCRACY
    http://thecloud.crimethinc.com/pdfs/democracy_reading.pdf

    So, I’ve discovered this Web site: CrimethInc. Ex-Workers’ Collective (http://www.crimethinc.com). They have some blog posts on the G-20 protests…and most interestingly, a non-protest that was treated as a violent protest by the police and resulted in more than a hundred arrests (including a great many who weren’t doing any protesting) and many injured. (State Repression at the G20 Protests) From this I started looking over the site. It’s an anarchists’ site, filled with info and publications geared toward helping people find the anarchist within and fight the system.

    This is what’s struck me as interesting: Their reason for existing, their criticism of the system, their complaints of capitalism and democracy, I completely agree with–and I’ll explain why in a moment. But their explanation of their remedy, their idea of anarchy, I’m having trouble with. (Note, that anarchy does not mean violence or chaos in the sense of abuse of others, harming people. It simply means no government, no rule of imposed law, no masters.)

    Ironically, these anarchists have, from what I can see, I great disdain for socialism, communism, any -ism apparently derived from Marxism. I say “ironic” because their entire criticism of the current state of capitalism and authoritarian democracy comes straight from Marxist criticism, 101. Take for example this page from the book Days of War, Night of Love:

    daysgallery3(page image link: “How Does Capitalism Work“)

    This is capitalist criticism straight from Marx’s Kapital (not verbatim, of course). Everything this anarchist site decries about the current state of capitalist economy, culture, and the police state used to protect the hegemony and the owners of capital, is Marxism stripped of the Marxist lingo (like “hegemony”). There’s nothing about their critique of capitalism I don’t agree with (my being a Marxist). However, and this is where things get uncomfortable, their ideas of overcoming the system I don’t know if I can support. Well, let me clarify…

    At the core, I consider myself an anarcho-socialist. I too believe that the best path for humanity, for human advancement, equality, justice, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness is the complete lack of government and forced adherence to someone else’s majority rule. However, I also believe that married to that must be a social contract of mutual cooperation, shared resources, publicly owned and operated resources, manufacture, distribution…capital. This is different from anarcho-libertarianism, or Objectivism (vis-à-vis Ayn Rand) which believes that in addition to lack of any forced rules or regulations, private ownership is valued above all. That humans are selfish and greedy by nature, and that we should live to acquire as much for ourselves as we can and help others only so much as we can gain from it ourselves. Pretty much ethically and morally bankrupt, in my opinion.

    As I read through the CrimethInc site, most of what they believe (and what they purport anarchists believe) matches up with my anarcho-socialism. They support cooperation, mutually beneficial action, gift economy. Hey, great! But they also support a sort of worship of anti-social behavior, crime, vandalism, activities that make me cringe (e.g.: shoplifting). Although, all the anti-social behavior they support, is all geared toward the state, corporate America, the power structure, and not against other individuals and their personal rights. OK…that sounds good… I guess.

    So, I’m left to question: Is my cringing because I’ve lived my entire life controlled by the hegemony, brainwashed into subservience to conformity with passivity, being a good little worker bee who keeps his head down and continues to make profit for his capitalist lords without making any trouble for them? Well, yes I have. We all have. That’s the entire goal of hegemony, be it capitalist or feudal or slave economy. Those in control use whatever sociological means available to control the other 99% of the people for their own benefit. This requires blind obedience to their laws. It requires complete acquiescence to state-supporting meek mildness.

    When I remember these things, which I’ve been studying and contemplating for some years now, it reinforces my belief in the anarcho-half of my anarcho-socialism. So, why does the action of subversiveness bug me?

    Since President Dubbya started taking away civil liberties after 9/11, I started studying libertarianism and even anarchy–but always from a level of personal rights and liberties. It wasn’t until I started grad school and my first professor, Dr. Burling, introduced me to Marxism that I learned that Bush, civil liberty removal, the corporate ownership of the government, wars, all of it, are a result of the economic foundation: capitalism. It is essentially the base on which everything is a superstructure built extending from it. Everything is about the material question: Who uses it and what is it for? With that in mind it’s easy (easier) to understand power, wealth, who benefits from it most, and how they exploit those without it. Dr. Burling helped change my entire outlook on culture, laws, economy, politics, etc.

    But when asked why doesn’t he live outside the corruption and control of capitalism, his response was, in essence: you can’t escape it, it affects everyone, might as well not make your own life unnecessarily difficult fighting it. And this is a guy who, in addition to being an unashamed Marxist, was also a musician with a focus on rock (meaning nothing exactly, except an implication that he has a rebellious spirit).

    And it also makes me think of vaunted Marxist cultural critic and major figure of the Frankfurt School, Theodor Adorno, who it is said that during the Paris riots of 1968 when asked by his students why he didn’t participate or support the student protests, he replied “How can you actively fight for something before you fully understand it?”

    There is “theory,” and there is “praxis.” Praxis is putting theory into action. Is it that these Marxist critics and theorists I look up to, who happen to be intellectuals and educators, don’t know how to put their words into action? Do they not have the courage of their convictions? Or are all they are about is understanding and criticizing the current system, but not about doing anything about it? When asked what good is knowing how culture develops, knowing how the hegemony controls and influences our decisions and our wants? They have replied that it helps you understand why you make the decisions that you do, why you choose what products or how you sell your labor. But is that enough?

    Frederic Jameson (Marxist cultural critic) has developed a concept of applying “cognitive mapping” to cultural criticism, which is a theory of mapping the contradictions in capitalism, where it affects our lives, and finding and exploiting the holes in it. And it’s a step toward praxis, which gives people like me hope of doing something to make a difference. To help turn the tables on capitalist exploitation and help the “seeds of rebellion” grow. But…what is that rebellion? What are we Marxist intellectuals waiting for? We who study culture, and politics, and socio-economics? Dr. Burling had cryptically referred to the biopic about Che Guevara, The Motorcycle Diaries, in which a young, pre-revolutionary Guevara is asked about how to spark the South American peoples into revolution against their oppressors, he responds that you can’t have a revolution without guns.

    But then, Dr. Burling often referred to other ways to create such drastic upheaval as to eliminate capitalism, without revolution and war, and used as examples Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars trilogy and 40, 50, 60 trilogy. Stories in which the only way to evolve from capitalism to egalitarian socialism is either to colonize another planet, or deal with Earth-shaking environmental disaster. So, do we just wait for change?

    Back to my point: Are these anarchists doing what we intellectuals fear to do, but are a natural and proper result of the same Marxist-rooted criticism of capitalism we both share? Am I a hypocrite for complaining about and railing about capitalism and its ills and evils, but I continue to lust after home ownership and getting a better job and obeying all the laws of the land so I don’t draw the attention of the state’s police apparatus?

    Is it because I have a family to care for? I don’t risk rocking the boat, and so I participate, if grudgingly, in my own commodification and the orgy of consumerism? Of course, this is exactly what the hegemony counts on, this conservativism that we’re all supposed to grow into. We’re allowed to rebel a little as a youth, test the bounds of social acceptance, and then “settle down.” Grow a family, buy a home, get a job you can’t leave because you can’t live without the insurance benefits. You become a productive worker bee who has too much to lose by questioning authority, bucking the system, making waves. Be a quiet little worker bee, and you get to go (somewhat) unnoticed by the system that exploits you and uses you and extorts you, giving little in return except an addiction to mass consumption.

    Are anarchists heroes I fear to admire? Or are they the hemp clothing wearing, organic food growing, dumpster diving neo-hippies that I can easily dismiss and marginalize, exactly as I’ve just done, because they threaten the social stability and conditioning I’ve internalized because I grew up brainwashed to become a quiet and non-trouble-making worker bee? Is that why when asked, I say I’m an anarcho-socialist “in theory” but “in practice” I’m a democratic-socialist? Isn’t that just a way for me to marginalize myself?

    I don’t know. But this Fighting For Our Lives: An Anarchist Primer is at the very least thought-provoking reading.

    Nothing to fear but…each other?

    My apologies in advance: I think I’m going to be posting a few (hopefully not too long) blogs in succession to try to make up for the fact that I can’t blog from work any more, and school work (and the desire to not be on a computer after a day of work) after coming home have been preventing me from blogging like I used to.

    BoingBoing has been following the issue of a new surge of British “fear everything” posters:

    David Byrne’s snapshots of UK police posters.

    London Police poster mashup (in which people have ‘shopped their own versions)

    And my favorite so far:

    Make your own paranoid British terrorism poster!

    The fine print in that one’s dead-on.

    (Whew! Finally, I can close those tabs off my browser!)

    (For the Facebook users: This is a post from my blog getting auto-noted to Facebook, which cuts off any images or videos in the transfer.)

    Basking in a God’s love induced coma.

    Saw this news report tonight:

    In brief, a pastor was visciously, brutally beaten (oh, and robbed) by two men with no provocation, in a cowardly, disgusting act of human cruelty.

    That alone is tragic. The tragedy is compounded by this comment:

    “By yesterday afternoon, the bleeding had stopped. And there’s no brain damage,” said Mendy. “And so we’re rejoicing today in a God that loves us and cares about the details.”

    The weird, twisted, sado-masochistic rationalization of this religious delusion astounds me. A man is senslessly beaten, in horrible pain, and people praise God’s love and mercy?? “Praise God for allowing wretched me to live!” I’m serious, faithful believers act just like long-term spouse abuse victims–defending their abuser, making excuses for him, blaming themselves for the abuse they receive.

    But, what can you do with such blatant cognitive dissonance? You’re believing in a “God of love and mercy” that’s supposed to be all powerful, all knowing, and all loving–and yet the world is filled with senseless violence and death and misery and cruelty. The deluded human mind has to create conveluted excuses and strange rationalizations if it’s going to try to hold onto two conflicting and mutually-exclusive concepts at the same time.

    People living lives of delusion and self-deception makes me almost as sad as their being victims of human creulty.

    The Amerikan Stasi!

    I can’t believe I missed this. In researching information on my last post regarding the addition of peaceful opponents to capital punishment being added by police to terrorist watch lists, I found this news item from last year about the FBI and CIA’s programs to recruit and pay for citizen informants (thus spreading fear and mistrust as well as creating gi-hugic ineffectual mountains of hay to look for needles in–resulting in more false accusations and arrests and less actual safety and security)

    Excellent, emotional and enlightening movie, by the way, of a story set within the end of the East German informant society: The Lives of Others.

    One sane sheriff, one fascist superintendent.

    It’s easy to find countless articles on the appearant rise of police brutality and fascist, militarized mindset, and are gleefully proud of their testasterone overdosed abuses, and stories in which the police are used as political weapons.

    Well, here’s one more story of overreaching abuse of power and damage to civil liberties:

    And a good editorial on the subject:

    In the midst of the ever-increasing shift from police watching over the public to the police watching the public, one will try to mitigate the fear and disappointment by rationalizing: “Well, these are just the bad ones in the news. Most cops are good ones!” So, where are those “good cops” when the bad ones are breaking the law, violating the Constitution, and generally harassing and beating the public? Why aren’t the so-called good cops standing up against the few bad ones and eliminating them from their ranks?

    Because: (a) police forces generally draw the power-hungry bullies of society which tend to create a pervasive culture of abusiveness from the inside;

    (b) police forces are being funded by the Department of Justice and given neato-cool paramilitary toys to play with based on their devotion to and performance in the War on Drugs (and increasingly the War on Terrah) which is inherently a civil liberty trampling campaign that routinely treats harmless citizens as wanton and deadly criminals, fostering a culture of abuse and power from the outside;

    (c) police forces are fiercely fraternal and loyal to each other–a useful and vital trait for military units in war, a destructive and criminal trait in a group that is supposed to serve the interests of the public over and beyond any sense of brotherly camaraderie.

    These influences from the inside, outside, and the pathological in-group loyalty police forces encourage, generally lead to an environment which will quickly reject or break the few people who go into police work with a true desire to serve the public and put citizen above fellow cop.

    However, there are very rarely exceptions to the rule. A story out today tells of a Chicago sheriff who is (at least in this case…who knows what he’s like otherwise) thinking and feeling like a real person and not RoboCop (pre-self aware RoboCop, of course) :

    Banks on foreclosed houses aren’t doing basic checking on who’s actually in the houses, and are literally forcing renters out onto the street even if they’re good, rent paying renters, despite what defaulting the actual owners of the home are doing on their mortgage.

    “These mortgage companies … don’t care who’s in the building,” [Sheriff] Dart said Wednesday. “They simply want their money and don’t care who gets hurt along the way.

    “On top of it all, they want taxpayers to fund their investigative work for them. We’re not going to do their jobs for them anymore. We’re just not going to evict innocent tenants. It stops today.”

    So, good for him!

    Forced to apologize for someone else’s incompetence.

    A year ago, MIT student Star Simpson was nearly killed by police when an airport worker panicked at seeing a benign electric light-up design integrated into Star’s sweatshirt. Long story short, she’s been forced by the state to do community service and issue an official apology–for doing absolutely nothing wrong.

    They tried to get her convicted on threatening the public with a “hoax device,” (again, this was a harmless wearable electronic, no different than some of the commercial, store bought novelty clothes–except she made this herself…did I mention she was a student at the Massachusetts’ Institute of Technology?) and the state has threatened her that if she doesn’t do community service and apologize (for doing absolutely nothing wrong) they’d convict her of being a “disorderly person” which basically has no defense. The state can tag that onto anyone they like.

    Here’s the transcript of one of her first public appearances discussing the event and ensuing court drama since it happened:

    Moral of this story? Be a completely unremarkable and passive citizen. Don’t do anything interesting or unique or else someone in authority will put a gun in your face.

    XENI: Star, how old are you now?

    STAR: 20.

    XENI: Do you feel like what happened with this incident has caused you to grow up faster?

    STAR: The main thing I can say is that I believed that police were nice, friendly folks before last September. And my opinion has changed drastically in that respect.

    It’s not a 1st and 4th Amendment violation if we say “whoopsie!”.

    You’ll recall my post during the Republican National Convention in which I relayed news that not only were legitimate criminals being rounded up before the RNC commenced, but so were peace activists and protestors, civil liberties activists, government watchdog groups…and evil journalists. Many were raided and harassed and intimidated into submission and property was seized (most without warrants), and many were arrested. I repeated the facts on how in 2004 the same thing happened before and during the GOP convention in New York and how the NYPD dropped charges on most of those arrests as well (most out of hand, some because one of those watchdog groups harassed this year had produced video evidence showing the state’s evidence was doctored!) And word is that the NYPD accepted the fact that they’d have to pay out millions in resulting civil cases in exchange for helping the federal overlords establish a police state bastion around the RNC.

    Well, looks like the St. Paul authorities just released the journalists it had arrested this year, dropping all charges.

    Good, I’m glad they’re released. But they shouldn’t have been arrested in the first place in a grossly transparent display of abusive police force as a tool of intimidation on behalf of a political agenda. But, maybe that’s just me. I’m sure it will happen yet again and even moreso in four years (although, I’m pretty certain that if McCain/Palin win this November, the U.S. will be under martial law this time in 2012. I’m taking bets on it.

    Community responses to crime.

    I really need to keep writing this weekend (OMG! I just touchtyped that last sentence! And most of this sentence! This is a big deal for me. I’ve been using a keyboard, sometimes 10+ hours a day, for 25 years, and I still can’t touchtype. Anywa….) so this should be reasonably brief.

    A couple of communities have taken very different approaches to the threat of crime in their community. (Before I get started, I’m comparing apples to crabapples here as the threat of crime are two different types for the communities. Regardless, I think the differences in approaches are far reaching and grander than the specifics of what they’re trying to protect themselves against.)

    A town in Arkansas, plagued by a criminal culture of drugs and shootings, has allowed its law enforcement to place the town under martial law:

    “Curfew” is a rather quaint term for what’s going on there. The police, with automatic assault rifles, are stopping anyone from being on the streets after curfew. Their attitude it clear:

    “As far as I’m concerned, at 3 o’clock in the morning, nobody has any business being on the street, except the law,” Councilman Eugene “Red” Johnson said. “Anyone out at 3 o’clock shouldn’t be out on the street, unless you’re going to the hospital.”

    It seems to be the opinion of the town’s “leaders” that free citizens don’t have the liberty to be out on their own business in their town when they wish. His belief that everyone should be resting snug in their beds at night else you’re a ne’er-do-well is being imposed by force upon free citizens.

    Of course, as all things are, the issue is complicated. There’s no doubt that their town is overrun by crime. Randoms shootings, drive-bys, drugs rampant. In a very significant way I feel for this town. There’s a part of me that thinks in order to deal with an out of control crime wave, the fascist fist of martial law is needed to stem the tide so that more democratic means can be allowed to have an effect. Martial law is an addressing of a symptom–crime come from failures in the social structure and no amount of fascist strength will solve the problems of social distress.

    I don’t completely disagree with a limited and controled use of strength to get a situation under control, but that’s not what appears to be happening in this town (I’ve never even visited and know nothing about aside from news articles). It would seem the law of the land has an attitude that armed enforcement of curfew is not a limited and should not be a limited solution but rather a norm. When you have community leaders making statements that no one should be out on the streets late at night, you have a truly fascist attitude which seeks to control the populace and not help it to live with liberty and freedom. This town may push the criminal element to other neighboring towns, but they will not solve the underlying issues this way and will in fact end up do more harm to the very concepts of what it means to live in America.

    In the curfew area, those inside the homes in the watch area peered out of door cracks Tuesday as police cruisers passed. They closed the doors afterward.

    That sounds like an establishing shot from a movie set in East Germany or the Soviet Union, maybe a movie version of 1984.

    Meanwhile, to protect their school children from what they see as a rising tide of school shootings, a Texas school district will be allowing its teacher to carry concealed handguns:

    “Gun free zones” are basically game preserves for anyone who has enough disdain for law as to want to shoot people and are going to ignore “gun free zone” declarations in order to do it. A look at school shootings the last couple of decades and you see pretty much two scenarios playing out: 1. A shooter enters a school and starts killing and wounding unprotected people until they decide when to stop, and then they kill themselves. Police arrive after it’s all done. 2. Someone (a student and/or teacher) runs to their car, grabs their gun, and comes back to stop the shooter thus ending the spree earlier than the shooter would have decided to. Police arrive after it’s all done. (Same goes with the recent church shootings.)

    Unless a school is placed next door to a police station, it can take several minutes for police to respond to a shooting (which even in this age of cell phones, may not even be placed until a couple of minutes into the event), and then it can take longer for the police to make an organized counter “attack” on the shooter. And as we’ve seen, it doesn’t take very long for a shooter to exhaust their ammo and turn a final shot on themselves.

    The idea of a “liberal media” is absurd, except when it comes to issues of successful non-police use of guns to protect innocent people, then the media is generally silent on reporting it:

    (Although, as you can see, CNN.com appears to be doing a fair piece on this Texas town–kudos to them)

    The important thing is that the school district is being smart about it. When rabid liberals hear the idea of letting teachers or students carry firearms on a campus, they immediately commit reductio ad absurdum and imagine a wild west shootout left and right. The district will be requiring very specific and strict guidelines for who can carry:

    For employees to carry a pistol, they must have a Texas license to carry a concealed handgun, must be authorized to carry by the district, must receive training in crisis management and hostile situations and must use ammunition designed to minimize the risk of ricocheting bullets.

    (OK, so this isn’t brief.) These are indeed two different situations that have received two different solutions, but I would like to point out the mindset and the larger repercussions of both solutions. In the Arkansas town you have a situation where the empowerment of the people has be abdicated in favor of police control. The populace have turned over their ability to take matters in their own hand, to fight to make change in their community, over to an entirely different group of armed thugs. A more organized and better funded group of thugs, perhaps. The free citizens have given up their freedom and have chosen to live under siege. Safe, perhaps, but disempowered and cowering to a different force that’s become even more uncontrollable than the criminal element.

    On the other hand, the Texas town is determined to take matters into their own hands and protect their own themselves. They have recognized the absurdity of both fascist control and posting warning signs that have all the effect of “Nuh uh, mister baddie-bad. You can’t bring your guns in here to express your sociopathic suicide rage–this is a ‘gun free zone!'” Instead of relying on the near-impossible protection of the police, they have chosen a course of action that empowers themselves and not only does not eliminate freedom but rather express and celebrates it.

    It’s this exact difference in attitudes which can be extrapolated into the bigger context of our reaction to terrahism. Our government has decided to take the attitude of the Arkansas town and enact police state tactics. It has decided the best way to protect the land of the free against those who despise our freedom and liberty, is to remove freedom and liberty. To paraphrase Penn Jillette, the first act our government should have done after 9/11 was to remove laws, not make more restricting our freedoms. The best attack against fundamentalism is to increase freedom and liberty and not do their job for them.

    And the tragic thing is that we the people are letting it happen. We’re peeking out the crack of our doors and closing them tight as the law drives by in the middle of the night. We imagine we’re nice and safe, but unlike the “safety” of the Arkansas town, our safety is completely illusionary. Time and time and time again it’s pointed up how worthless the TSA security is in anything except controlling the innocent. How worthless the border controls are at anything except controlling in innocent. How worthless port inspections are, shipping truck control is. We’re living under increasingly fascist state control without the benefit of the safety we’re supposedly being sold in exchange for our civil liberties.