Category Archives: America

About American politics, our spirit, and our soul

News about police, crime & social decay in America

Summary: Here are two shocking perspectives on the front lines of America’s class wars, conflicts growing worse as inequality increases in our slow growth era. We close our eyes to these things at our peril; clear vision is the first step to reform.

“The central conservative truth is that it is culture, not politics, that determines the success of a society. The central liberal truth is that politics can change a culture and save it from itself.”

— Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Family and nation: the Godkin lectures, Harvard University, 1985

Model Americans

Model Americans: we prefer not to know

Contents

  1. The murder of Tamir Rice
  2. Confessions of a Public Defender
  3. Some good news
  4. For More Information

 

(1)  The murder of Tamir Rice by police

Here we see how “law enforcement” has become an occupation force, regarding the people it should protect as cattle. It’s a more powerful example than the shooting of Michael Brown after he robbed a store. Here are details about the murder of Tamir Rice from articles in the New York Times and LA Times.

Tamir Rice is playing in the a gazebo outside a recreation center, with nobody near him. He had a black airsoft-type pistol (firing plastic pellets) tucked in his belt. He was 5 feet 7, weighed 195 pounds, and 12 years old.

A police cruiser arrived and skidded to a stop next to the boy. Almost immediately a Cleveland officer, Timothy Loehmann, shoots Tamir. The officers stood by, letting Tamir bleed out on the ground.

About 90 seconds later, Tamir’s 14-year old sister (name not released) ran toward her brother. The second officer, Frank Garmback, immediately pushed her to the ground back-first, tumbling on top of her. Garmback and another officer handcuff the struggling teen and placed her in the back seat of their patrol car. Her brother is bleeding right outside it.

Four minutes after the shooting another man provided the first medical assistance, an F.B.I. agent who was in the neighborhood. Paramedics arrived eight minutes after the shooting; Tamir was taken away on a stretcher five minutes later. Doctors at a Cleveland hospital pronounced Tamir dead nine hours later. An autopsy by the Cuyahoga County medical examiner found that Tamir died from a gunshot wound to the abdomen.

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Why do we believe an armed society is a polite society?

Summary: Led by the 1%, we’re building a New America. Oddly and unlike our forebearers, it rests largely on an intellectual foundation of fantasy. Today we look at one pillar of nonsense that millions of Americans take seriously. (2nd of 2 posts today.)

“An armed society is a polite society. Manners are good when one may have to back up his acts with his life.”
— From Robert Heinlein’s Beyond This Horizon (1942).

33 murders with guns per year in America

Contents

  1. Robert Heinlein’s most powerful insight.
  2. The logic of carrying guns in civil society.
  3. What about life on the frontier?
  4. Research tells the tale.
  5. Another insight from Beyond This Horizon.
  6. For More Information.

(1)  Robert Heinlein’s most powerful insight.

Robert Heinlein’s stories played a formative role in the rise of the libertarian movement, perhaps even more so than the novels of Ayn Rand (Heinlein’s were more widely read, and even more often read to the end), perhaps the first political movement almost entirely grounded in fiction and false predictions rather than history and research. In books such as The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress (1965), he sketched out appealing yet ludicrously improbable worlds.

Perhaps Heinlein’s greatest impact came from his deeply held belief, shown in both stories and letters, that “an armed society is a polite society.” He explicitly stated this in his 1942 novel Beyond This Horizon, where full citizens must carry guns. In his 1949 novel Red Planet children come of age in their early teens when they pass the tests to earn a license for open carry of a gun. (Heinlein, as usual, was ahead of his time; both boys and girls carried guns). These are fun stories. The concept is quite mad.

Heinlein’s myths valorize individual autonomy and power. This contradicts history; he could as realistically described people with wings. In the absence of a functioning State, organization and structure comes from gangs (like States, a form of collective action) — not bold free individualists. No matter what the level of weaponry they have.

We see this in prisons (the State doesn’t care to regulate). and ungoverned states like Somalia, or parts of Pakistan and Afghanistan. Also, to a lesser extent, in the worst of America’s inner cities (too much effort for the State to regulate). And in the horror show of our wild west (more on this below).

Low levels of government authority are often insufficient to maintain order in well-armed societies. In the Three Musketeers, based on the memoirs of d’Artagnan, Capitaine-Lieutenant des Mousquetaires, we see early 17thC Paris stained with the blood of frequent and senseless duels. One of the greatest of the Founders, Alexander Hamilton, died in a senseless duel.

“A few anecdotes and a good just-so story outweigh a hundred historical counter-examples.”
— David Brin discussing Karl Marx, science fiction editor John Campbell, and Robert Heinlein in his review of Beyond This Horizon, Tor/Forge Blog, 12 July 2010.

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Is America a Christian nation?

Summary: The dream of Western civilization is the ascent from the darkness into the light, of improvement by each generation. For two centuries America has overcome (slowly) the ugly parts of our inheritance from the Founders. Civil rights for Blacks, women, gays. Shifting from imperialism to building a new world order after WWII based on our ideals. Creating a large middle class and a society with high social mobility. The Boomers have reversed this process in America. The new Conservative coalition of evangelicals, libertarians, and the Tea Party promises to accelerate this change. Here we benchmark the New America with the values of the Christian part of its ruling coalition.

Looking at the news, perhaps the question should be “how many Christians live in America?” Perhaps not many.

American Flag and the Bible, together

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Contents

  1. War
  2. Torture
  3. Boosting the fortunes of the 1%
  4. Making our prisons a Hell on Earth
  5. How the faithful voted
  6. For More Information

(1)  War

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Our increasing military presence — now expanding into Africa — both results from and drives our involvement in local wars, usually insurgencies against governments of some combination of corrupt, brutal, and tyrannical (that doesn’t imply the insurgents are better, of course).  We justify these by pointing to 9-11, an attack by a transnational terrorist group (unlike the local insurgencies we fight), who staged the attack in order to involve us in these foreign wars.

So we have killed tens of thousands, and the resulting destruction (in which we played a part) has killed hundreds of thousands and plunged nations into ruin. We’ve brought down secular regimes with strong women’s rights in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya (Syria in progress), catapulting their women back centuries in time.

I doubt the Prince of Peace would approve.

(2)  Torture

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It’s quite popular in America (so we’ll be doing more of it), making a mockery of our claim to be a “government of laws, not men“. It’s probably been of little use (no, we’ve not used it to defuse a “ticking time bomb”). Even if torture had “worked”, I doubt Jesus would approve.

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In 2014 darkness deepened its grip on America. None can see ahead to the dawn.

Summary: Recent events show that the darkness has claimed us. I see it, as do others with clearer sight. Perhaps you do too. What does this say about our future? What should we do about it? (First of 2 posts today)

Despair or Folly? It is not despair, for despair is only for those who see the end beyond all doubt. We do not. It is wisdom to recognize necessity, when all other courses have been weighed, though as folly it may appear to those who cling to false hope.

— Gandalf speaking to the Council of Elrond in Fellowship of the Ring

Hope

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My gig has long been peddling optimism. During the 1990s I gave 3 speeches every week, on different subjects but all variations on the theme of “the good news is the bad news is wrong” (thanks due to George Gilder and my talented booking agent). Since 2007 the FM website provided optimism, analysis only as diagnosis — the prelude to treatment. This year something changed. I’ve found my optimism impossible to sustain.

The GOP response to Obamacare (giving affordable health care to the working poor = evil socialism). The expansion of our futile wars. Growing inequality. Our passive response to Snowden’s revelations. The passive response to videos of police brutality. Now our response to the Senate torture report: ineffective, except for those that applaud our torture.

The last has had an especially severe effect on my spirits. I’m old enough to remember when defending torture marked one as a NAZI, Commie, or generally evil person. Now it’s a subject of mild debate, with broad support (when used by us; it’s evil when done by our foes). That torture is good and works is now part of the mental DNA for people in our security services, intelligence agencies, and military. Also this makes it almost certain we’ll torture again — probably Americans next time.  Perhaps I’ll live long enough to see mothers urge their children to work hard so they can get a good job with the Gestapo (being American, we’ll have a snazzier name for it).

Over the past few years I have analyzed each of these subjects, and posted the analysis of experts on these things. It all points to a common element in our various problems: us. We’re broken. The War on Terror has corrupted us (Bin Laden’s victory). I cannot even imagine what a cure might look like. All our fancy technological progress, military and civilian, cannot counterbalance the darkness in our souls.

I’m not the only one in despair. William Lind has a new book coming soon — Victoria: A Novel of Fourth Generation War (published under the pseudonym “Thomas Hobbes”; you can read it online here). It starts from a dark outlook, telling of post-USA America (when the Republic has fragmented, due to liberalism). Last week I asked a well-known Army officer (brilliant, author of several books) how we can reform America. His answer: ” Revolution”.

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Our leaders justify torture in ways that justify its future use on their foes (including Americans)

Summary:  On Friday I said that we would torture again., despite the evidence in the Senate’s report.  This weekend former and current high officials of the US government confirmed that guess. Defenders of torture dispute the evidence, deny that torture was torture, and offer bold affirmations that they would torture again.

For I doubt not but, if it had been a thing contrary to any man’s right of dominion, or to the interest of men that have dominion, ‘that the three angles of a triangle should be equal to two angles of a square,’ that doctrine should have been, if not disputed, yet by the burning of all books of geometry suppressed, as far as he whom it concerned was able.

— Thomas Hobbs in The Leviathan

Shining City Upon a Hill

By Hawk862

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The Bush and Obama administrations have put torture into our national DNA.  In the past Americans supporting (or enjoying) torture spoke quietly, least they (rightly) get compared to torturers of the NAZI Gestapo, Soviet KGB, and the many lesser known secret police of 3rd world nations (many of whom learned their craft at the US Special Forces’ School of the Americas).

Now come the propos to convince the American people that this is business as usual, that we’re still an exceptional City on a Hill (Matthew 5:14).

So closes the next chapter in America’s fall. We’ll use torture again. Read Republican’s justification of torture. Hear the echos from the past. As so many have said before, Hitler was just early (hence Godwin’s Law). Listen closely — their words justify torture of Americans (when designated as bad guys by the government). That shouldn’t surprise us after so many tools of the war on terror appear on America’s streets. (plus, of course, Obama’s assassination of American citizens).

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia

His word salad clearly communicates that our rights mean nothing to him. CNN about Scalia’s interview on December 12 on Swiss National Radio:

The justice who’s been a mainstay of the high court’s conservative wing for 28 years condemned the “self-righteousness of European liberals” who oppose torture “so easily” Friday in an interview with Swiss National Radio.  “I don’t think it’s so clear at all,” Scalia said. “I think it is very facile for people to say ‘Oh, torture is terrible,'” he said. “You posit the situation where a person that you know for sure knows the location of a nuclear bomb that has been planted in Los Angeles and will kill millions of people. “You think it’s an easy question? You think it’s clear that you cannot use extreme measures to get that information out of that person?”

… “What are human rights is not written up in the sky, and if it were written up in the sky, it would not be up to judges, lawyers, just because they’ve gone to law school, to know what human rights ought to be and therefore are,” Scalia said.

“And therefore each society’s perception of what it believes human rights should be ought to be up to that society, and I think it’s very foolish to yield that determinations not only to a foreign body but to a foreign body of judges,” he said. “I don’t know why anyone would want to do that.”

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Close this chapter of America’s use of torture (it’s over). Look ahead to the next chapter.

Summary: Here’s the last thing you need read about America’s WOT use of torture, unless you enjoy reading about such things. This ends with a transition to the next chapter, our future use of torture — and a song by Justin Timberlake about our long and rocky relationship with the CIA.  (This is the first of two posts today)

” I have said repeatedly that America doesn’t torture, and I’m going to make sure that we don’t torture.”

— President-elect Barack Obama on CBS “60 Minutes”, 11 November 2008. We elected him to tell us pretty lies.

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Dreamland

Dreamland: the alternative to learning

The debate has ended. Next comes the squawking by politicians and policy gurus, which serves important purposes. Members of the outer party (i.e., the kind of people that write and read these kind of posts) need entertainment and a sense of participation. The news media need clickbait to get readers, and content to fill the space between ads.  “It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

Cut to the chase; this summary can help us remember the key points:

  1. Under Bush Jr our high government officials authorized torture.
  2. The CIA tortured (incompetently) but gained little or nothing of use.
  3. Medical and legal professionals violated the canons of their profession to assist.
  4. We, the citizens of America, knew about it but did nothing (a large fraction applauded).
  5. Our leaders stopped torturing at their discretion, and remain unapologetic about it.
  6. The only person punished was John Kiriakou, the CIA operative who blew the whistle (and went to jail for it).
  7. President Obama approved it by hiring those responsible for high office (e.g., John Brennan) and shielding everyone responsible from punishment.

To see the future we turn to John Brennan — senior CIA officer under Bush and Obama, vocal advocate of torture, who ran the “extraordinary rendition” program that sent people to be tortured abroad. A man who knows about these things. When asked about future use of torture at his December 11 press conference, he gave us a word salad — with a clear meaning.

And then finally, as far as what happens if, in the future, there is some type of challenge that we face here, the Army Field Manual is the established basis to use for interrogations. We, CIA, are not in the detention program. We are not contemplating at all getting back into the detention program using any of those EITs. So I defer to the policymakers in future times when there is going to be the need to be able to ensure that this country stays safe if we face a similar type of crisis.

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Our love for gun play grows as our trust in ourself wanes. Logical, mad, sad.

Summary:  Polls are our mirrors in which we see who we are and how we’re changing. The new Pew Poll showing our increased trust in gun-play reflects several obvious but grim trends in America. Let’s examine them. Always stare at the news; never ask for the blindfold. {This is the second of today’s posts}

“Well in the first place, an armed society is a polite society. Manners are good when one may have to back up his acts with his life. For me, politeness is a sine qua non of civilization.”

— From Beyond this Horizon, a science fiction novel by Robert Heinlein (1942). Fun fiction, although quite false.

Americans trust in themselves

The saddest of graphs, from Gallup

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As you see in this graph, each year we have less confidence in ourselves, collectively. So, quite logically, we have less confidence in the officials we elect to run America. That makes us weak (we have power only when acting together), and strengthens those people with the resources and confidence to rule America. Worse, we are losing our ability to clearly see the world — and become more credulous in accepting things told to us by people we trust. This makes us easy to manipulate.

PEW poll on guns

Nowhere is this clearer than with gun rights. We have gone from several generations of moderate regulation to allowing widespread concealed carry to increasing agitation for open carry (something forbidden in most towns in the Wild West). It’s logical, in a mad way, that we’d turn to personal weapons for a sense of control and security (unraveling several centuries of social progress).

The reason we tell ourselves for this confidence in guns range from false to delusional, while the astonishing toll in blood astonishes people in other developed nations (subscribe to Robert Waldman on Twitter for horrific real time reports: @KagroX).

The latest Pew Poll about Americans attitudes about guns makes grim reading. Support for gun regulation has dropped significantly among most groups during the past ten years. Among Black Americans, the group suffering the most from gun violence, belief that guns protect them from crime almost doubled in two years (29% to 54%). It’s “the hair of the dog that bites” them; massive evidence proves this false. See the posts at the end for detailed debunking of the major myths about guns.

This reaching for guns oddly accompanies a long-term decline in the crime rate. The hysteria about 9-11 and Benghazi matches contrasts with our far larger annual death toll from mass shootings.

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