Tag Archives: violence

America gets a real-time IQ test

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I’m going to assume that some moderate percentage of the US population could either describe an oligarchy or identify one if they saw one. I don’t think it is anywhere near 50%, but let’s say it is greater than 25%. (But read the Wiki. It’s a good primer on what tipping-point we just crossed)

Now what percentage of them could identify an emerging oligarchy? It would be like saying you can ID an oak tree, but not an oak sapling. Lots of people fall into that category.

What just happened in the US is that an oligarchy sapling just broke through the forest floor, is getting lots of nutrients and sunlight, and before you know it, son, you got yourself a mature oligarchy growing right there in the front lawn. And the bigger it gets the harder it will be to get rid of. How do we know if we have a real oligarchy, and not just a playboy-type with delusions of grandeur? The dichotomous key to political systems will get you close:

You have a billionaire as president-elect. He became a billionaire by extracting moderate sums of money from thousands of people at a time, and then doing it again, and again. What billionaires care about it not whether the Dallas Cowboys are looking good (That’s Jerry Jones’ issue, and he is “special”), or whether their bills are getting paid. They mainly care about other billionaires, their money, and how they stack up against them. So we can check that box. They play “Fantasy Billionaire” the way Joe Six Pack plays Fantasy Football. But with piles of other people’s money. No other billionaires have been elected to the presidency of the US. That is a big bragging point right there. That goes over real big when he gets on the phone with other billionaires AND with other heads-of-state. It’s a win-win. And don’t he know it? It’s Trump, Putin, and a few guys in the UAE. That, as they say, is the list of billionaire heads-of-state. Don’t go looking for their free press or their sterling record on human rights.

And in the case of our current president-elect, Donald Trump, he is demonstrating his incuriosity, thin skin, and sub-par intellect at every damn turn. We don’t have a super-genius billionaire, or even a really smart billionaire. We have a whiny douche from Queens who inherited more money from his daddy than the average American makes in a lifetime. He is accustomed to outsourcing virtually everything. He hires “the best”. (More on that, and how he only hires the best for himself and hires the worst when it comes to protecting the American citizenry, later.) How does a guy like this plan to run a country?

Glad I asked! First, you put military lifers in positions where you want chain-of-command respected, not a bunch of smart-ass sass-back. You only want to hear “how high?” when you yell “Jump”. So you stock Defense, Homeland Security, and Intel with guys who will throw their mother in front of the L-train in the name of chain-of-command. It helps if you have conspiracy theorists with itchy trigger-fingers and an axe to grind. Less motivational work and coercion to waste Trump’s time.

Next, you recruit fellow billionaires who you know will put other billionaires (like the president-elect. just sayin’) first, and pretty much fuck the little guy all day long. That is how they got there. When you find anyone who ever called Rex Tillerson “human rights champion” please let me know. Trump himself has *never* gone on the record regarding human rights (I looked, and if you find something I am all ears). It is safe to say he has never though about the concept other than as a way to tar a “loser” who put humanity over making a dollar. Go find the country that Rex Tillerson has staked out where you have a thriving middle class, lots of manufacturing jobs, cheap top-flight health care… Good luck. If that model was successful they would be like Johnny Appleseed, as opposed to Joey Goebbels.

And Trump has Bannon, who jerks off to photos of Goebbels, so another base covered. This guy is a “strategist” in only the broadest way. He seems to be the worst kind of political apparatchik. The kind who will never be seen in public, or grant interviews, or take any real responsibility. He has his hand up Trump’s ass and it looks like Trump is talking, but you are really hearing Bannon throwing his voice. THAT is this dude’s “strategy”. And as usual, when “strategy” is next separated from “propaganda” it will be the first time.

Next, Lackeys. You cannot have a functioning oligarchy without lackeys. You need dopes who are so far over their skis that they will take whatever direction they get because what the fuck does Rick “Dancing with the Stars” Perry know about nuclear warheads? Nothing. And he ain’t gonna learn anytime soon. The steady stream of agency heads who are incompetent or outright hostile to the charters of the agencies they are being tapped to head is not a coincidence. You want a nice mix of incompetence and hostility. Both is nice.

Like an exterminator examining the mud casings in the footings of your democracy, I hate to tell you this, friend: you got a colony of oligarchs, military stooges and lackeys setting up shop in your house. The fix is to get at it early and maybe in short order you’ll have a problem you can fix with a can of RAID. But for now you gotta be ready to do the hard work to knock this oligarch colony down to size.

 

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Obligatory Trayvon Martin blog entry

…obligatory in both the sense that everyone seems to have an opinion, is sharing that opinion, and why should I not throw two cents into the e-fountain?

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First, my deepest condolences to not only the Martin family, but the families of all the victims of gun violence. It is easy to be blinded by the media circus and forget that kids are dying at gunpoint every day in staggering numbers. The fact that certain state jurisdictions have made it legal is the subject of this brief personal opinion piece:

When I first heard about the death of Trayvon Martin I was thinking I must have gotten some bad info. Wait? It isn’t until 45 days after the shooting when they charge the shooter? What is the language behind this “Stand Your Ground” law (SYG) in Florida? Did this guy really have 911 on speed dial, as well as the police dispatcher? The shooter had domestic violence priors, yet maintained his carry permit? His daddy is/was a judge? That is pretty fucked up. Cop wannabe’s are everywhere, but they typically refrain from pursuing people based on their gait and wardrobe and starting shit. (Maybe they don’t refrain from that, come to think of it) Well, they might refrain from starting shit unless their daddy is a judge and they had some professional training on SYG from a law enforcement training program. George Zimmerman had both.

…and the details that came out as the public side of the matter unfolded didn’t help me make any sense of it. But I did some reading on the SYG language, and that really freaked me out. It is so broad, and leaves so much latitude in both terms of defining engagement and terms of legal interpretation that I can’t believe that these things aren’t happening several times each week. (it turns out, by one counting, that I am being optimistic) It looked to me like you could basically kill anyone you want, and if you stuck to your story that you felt your life was threatened you would never be held accountable. It STILL looks that way to me. More so.

And not just me… HERE is a recent piece from The Atlantic. Ta-Nehisi Coates sums up what I had been understanding from my own reading on the matter:

Effectively, I can bait you into a fight and if I start losing I can can legally kill you, provided I “believe” myself to be subject to “great bodily harm.” It is then the state’s job to prove — beyond a reasonable doubt — that I either did not actually fear for my life, or my fear was unreasonable.

Proving that the shooter acted one way, or felt another way, is an impossibility. Not only was there no way that George Zimmerman was ever going to be held responsible, there is no way that anyone in Florida will ever be held responsible. Open. Season. Pure and simple as that.

I was near enough to a television on Saturday the 13th to watch some serious gloating and immediate revisionist history by Zimmerman’s defense team. When asked if they thought that the outcome would have been different if the races of the two men were reversed, the answer from attorney Mark O’Mara was “Things would have been different for George Zimmerman if he was black for this reason: he would never have been charged with a crime,”  Which means that in the fantasy land that attorney Mark O’Mara lives in, young black men are discharging firearms and causing deaths of unarmed civilians without legal repercussions. That seems to be the whole George Zimmerman strategy: Hire your legal representatives from a parallel universe.

And that is where I believe the racial issue comes in to play. Would Trayvon Martin have been assumed innocent for 45 days by the Sanford PD? Would he have been given the broad benefit of the doubt if he had pulled the trigger? And I don’t belive so. Aside from the delusional (at the least “delusional for pay”) Mark O’Mara, nobody believes that Trayvon would have been given such gracious treatment.

I won’t belabor the point, but I will say that when the easy reader version of Stand Your Ground comes out in Florida, there will be some serious bloodshed. The use of deadly force has been reduced to a “he said, he’s dead” proposition. As a good friend of mine once said about self defense in the home: “Only one of us will be making any statements”

That approach served Zimmerman very well.

Don’t blame the messenger

I want to say this up front: I often find filmmaker Michael Moore to be a pain in the ass and I also find his opinions cringeworthy at times.  But he is also taking on issues that border on taboo and that can mean having to cringe occasionally.  If there were more like him we might be more open and less cringey about things.

Here is a great example:  Celebrating the Prince of Peace in the Land of Guns

I have been nibbling at these issues for a while, but Moore does a great job at bringing them into a cohesive narrative.  Small excerpt:

I’m not saying it’s perfect anywhere else, but I have noticed, in my travels, that other civilized countries see a national benefit to taking care of each other. Free medical care, free or low-cost college, mental health help. And I wonder — why can’t we do that? I think it’s because in many other countries people see each other not as separate and alone but rather together, on the path of life, with each person existing as an integral part of the whole. And you help them when they’re in need, not punish them because they’ve had some misfortune or bad break. I have to believe one of the reasons gun murders in other countries are so rare is because there’s less of the lone wolf mentality amongst their citizens. Most are raised with a sense of connection, if not outright solidarity. And that makes it harder to kill one another.

The Third Way

Front and center in the debate-storm over American Gun Policy is a standoff between variations on two polar opposite opinions:

  • Arm Everyone, as a deterrent to those with intent to do harm/crime
  • Disarm Everyone and remove the tools of these violent acts

We can see this in action between Piers Morgan and Larry Pratt.

On the first point you have a technological solution to the fear of victimization.  In the second you have a technological solution to the fear of perpetrators.  It is vastly more complex than that, but that is the bold heading that I see above each.

There is one obvious problem with the “mo’ guns, less crime” argument, not counting the statistical reality that it does not work at all: It does nothing to address the psychological impact of surrounding very young children with armed “teachers”.  Much of the experience in formal education revolves around developing a working concept of authority and independence.  An armed teacher is symbolizing a very different kind of authority figure.  Full stop.  The argument also falls flat when looking at the reality of armed intervention by regular citizens (vigilantism).  For every successful deterrent there are many accidental shootings of friends and family, like the one in Oklahoma that happened on December 18.  I encourage anyone to stop using Google for “Asian Ass Porn” for just a minute and search for “accidental shooting“, and feel free to add your city or state.  The results are shocking.

On the “less guns, less crime” side you have a very different set of issues.  First, there are a staggering number of assault weapons in the hands of Americans at this point in our history.  Sales of AR15-pattern rifles surged after the presidential election of 2008, and at each and every twitch of anti-gun sentiment since.  Freedom Group (parent company of Bushmaster) turned out more than 1-MILLION rifles (multiple makes) and sold 2-BILLION rounds of .223 ammo in the past 12 months.  That is one company of many.  I have personally witnessed the lines of gun buyers “getting theirs” before some threat of a “gun grab”.  The sales spike in AR15 weapons in the immediate aftermath of the Newtown shooting should stand as a monument to our priorities as a society.

The second problem with technological solutions is that the human animal is an “apex” tool builder and tool user.  Time after time we are shocked by both highly technical solutions, and the highly crude but effective solutions, that mankind turns to when faced with a “problem”.  A “gun ban” is not as simple as some promoters of the approach would make it seem.  As well as some gun-ban approaches have worked in other countries like Australia and Japan, they didn’t have a 0.88 gun/capita ownership rate (which I believe is a low estimate in the US), and they didn’t have the NRA pushing a mantra with the words “cold dead hands” front and center.  As well, if you think the armed massacres we have endured are bad, wait until you have an endless stream of armed resistance faced by Federal agents.  If you think I am joking you would do well to get out of the house more often.  I’m not saying that restrictions won’t be effective, but I am saying that they won’t be easy and they have the potential of sizable blowback.

Not to lay the whole debate on numbers, but this is widely accepted as accurate data.  I wish there was a better overlap of countries in the two graphs.  I will work on finding a better dataset and report back.

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So what about the “third way”?  The third way is to rearrange our priorities as a nation, with a greater focus on physical health, mental health, fiscal security, jobs, and overall wellness.  If you know anyone who has sought mental health treatment the odds are that they found very limited resources, long waits for treatment, and inadequate treatment once they made it in the door.  They also may have feared the social and professional stigma of having been treated for a mental illness.  If they ran the treatment gauntlet, they may have encountered a system heavily biased towards pharmacological intervention.  That may or may not have provided any kind of real relief.

We also have issues with the role of simulated and glorified gun violence in our culture.  The lack of realistic depictions and a “reset button” mentality toward killing aside, the greater message is “eliminate, not negotiate”.   The widespread dispersion of this culture through television, cinema and video games makes it difficult to assess causation since it forms a kind of background noise.  Still, you would not be faulted for thinking that a generation with heavy exposure to first person shooter gameplay, and access to real assault weapons, might be on a playing field biased towards gun violence.

Once again, we are in a nation with massive social and fiscal issues, and great damage inflicted as a result, and our socio-political system is proving to be too broken to move toward a solution.  I hope that the bigger issue of “emotional infrastructure” gets a fair hearing in the coming months.  I dare to dream, knowing that it is not much more than shadows of what could have been.

Happy Festivus

Every year it gets harder to really celebrate “the holidays”. I’m all for any good reason to get together with family and friends, but something (me, probably) really has changed. Part of it is probably that the “Thanksgiving rule” for when to start Christmas music commercials has gone the way of the dodo. I heard the first one of the year back around Halloween. Fuckers. If you remember “Hey Now” Hank Kingsley (played by genius actor Jeffrey Tambor) from the old Larry Summers show, then you know where I’m coming from on that. Fuckers.

Anyhow. These things happen. It is a time for the kids, and I spoil the kids in my life pretty well. Not all the time, but around the holiday season I can get away with it under the banner of holiday cheer. I’d like to wish the best everyone who I won’t get to see over the next month or so. I do that most of the year anyhow, but this time with feeling.

So gather ’round the aluminum pole, air grievances, explore the feats of strength, and don’t feel like you are beyond marking your own holiday tradition. Speaking of which, my pal Nate sent me a link to his pal (my iPal on Myspace, etc…) fossilapostle and his groovy new holiday sensation: Zappadan Ain’t it funky now?