Friday, June 17, 2016

Regarding the current push for more gun control...

(The following was written in response to an article by a self-proclaimed gun rights advocate who was, nevertheless, calling for a ban on high-capacity magazines after the horrible mass shooting which recently took dozens of innocent lives in Orlando.)   

This is an interesting opinion, but I'm not convinced. That is to say, I don't think the proposed measure of limiting magazine size would do much to curb most gun violence. Yes, it may have had an effect on limiting the number of deaths in Orlando, but mass shootings are only part of the problem in regard to gun violence. Without having the data in front of me, it's most probable that shooting incidents usually involve only one victim. I'd bet there are far more incidents where 2 people are killed rather than three. This trend undoubtedly continues up to the point where we reach statistically rare events like the shooting in Orlando. And, overall, I'd expect the tally of deaths from single-victim shootings to be higher than the combined tally from shootings with multiple victims. So... I'm not convinced that restricting magazine capacity would dramatically reduce the number of shooting victims or the number of shooting events which take place in the USA. It's also likely that mass shootings would still take place where the perpetrator carries multiple firearms and kills more than a few people.

But don't misunderstand... this doesn't at all mean that I'm in favor of more aggressive gun control measures. That's because I see the real problem as being America's general culture of violence rather than violence specifically related to guns.

It doesn't seem irrelevant that the Tsarnaev brothers used pressure cookers to attack the Boston Marathon. Timothy McVeigh used fertilizer and a moving van to kill hundreds in Oklahoma City. The 9/11 hijackers used box cutters and jetliners to kill several hundred people. And dozens were once killed at a gay club in New Orleans by an arsonist who barricaded the door. Other times, people have mowed over crowds in their cars. We're obviously not going to expect a widespread call to ban the tools used in those attacks. At the same time, those attacks are significant enough, deadly enough, that's it's not illogical to suggest that people who kill with guns could still find ways to kill even if guns were somehow magically wiped off the face of the Earth.

I'll anticipate the counter-argument that a limit on access to guns (or high-capacity magazines) would inconvenience some would-be killers, thus dissuading them from carrying through with their violent plans. And I believe there is some data from other nations which suggests that this is somewhat true to a degree. HOWEVER... the U.S. would sill have a higher rate of murder than most other modern Western nations -- even if guns were banned in the United States and allowed in those nations. Which brings us back to the real root of the problem as I see it -- America's general culture of violence.

Most other modern western nations don't have the unique combination of problems which drive violence in America. Due partly to massive and growing income inequality, the drug war, the prison-industrial complex, religious fundamentalism, and lingering issues of racial animosity... Americans are psychologically a mess. Until problems such as these are addressed in a meaningful and comprehensive way... America's culture of violence will continue.

It's also not insignificant that the Orlando Shooter worked for a state-contracted security firm. He was specially licensed to carry firearms and likely would have still had access to guns (perhaps even high-capacity clips) even if they had been banned already.

It's also not insignificant that he dreamt of becoming an NYPD officer and regularly wore an NYPD t-shirt. This is where the second Amendment starts to become relevant.  Constitutionally, in the Bill of Rights, there is a reason it's the second thing listed after freedom of speech. And it's worth noting that the Orlando shooter's proxy employment by the government is something he shared with other killers like the D.C. Sniper, the Fort Hood shooter, Timothy McVeigh, and other killers who were all at one point paid by the U.S. government to carry weapons.

But more to the point regarding the second amendment and the right to bear arms... the founding fathers of the United States, despite all their faults, knew that governments were capable of orchestrating major atrocities. The U.S. government has already been responsible for two historic acts of genocide (domestically) with the middle passage/slavery and its treatment of Native Americans. And, now, the United States has a populist demagogue running for the presidency who wants to register all members of a particular religion (while barring further entry) and who also wants to deport MILLIONS of undocumented immigrants. And these are merely the things which he feels are reasonable enough to say in public. Perhaps he won't be elected, but someone worse could take office somewhere down the line in 4,8, or 20 years. In such an event, would a disarmed populace really be the best thing? Or what if the other presidential candidate currently running doubles the prison population again (as her husband did) in an effort to bring profits to her major campaign contributors? Hell, maybe the prison population will even be tripled! Would there be any point during such a process that members of the general public might reasonably be expected to stop acting like livestock?

Now don't misunderstand, I'm not a gun nut, don't own a gun, and generally frown upon gun violence as much as the next person. Despite my comments here... I certainly won't be leading the resistance or taking personal initiative should the state institute more gun control. How ironic that such disclaimers are required in the modern surveillance state which steadily promotes increased gun control measures. Such is the life of an anti-authoritarian leftist. The state looms over everything, perpetuates violence across society in a myriad of ways, trains and employs people who have committed some of the worst historic atrocities, and this is the government which people would trust to disarm the general public with sweeping gun control legislation.

But I've digressed and the issue at hand is whether a ban on guns (or simply more gun control) would really make make society safer. I contend that it would not. Even if the initial effects of such gun control reduced the amount of gun violence in America, and even if other forms of deadly violence didn't consequently rise in the aftermath, the stage could still be set for much more tragedy down the line. Perhaps you trust the current government, but it clearly has room to become more corrupt at some point in the future. And a cursory look at history will reveal that corrupted states have been responsible for countless tragedies.

Thursday, January 01, 2015

Eric Garner Was Not A Member Of Al Qaeda

By now, many have heard the story of Eric Garner and have seen the video of his death at the hands of the NYPD. Initially approached by the police for his involvement in breaking up a fight, he was then accused of selling loose single cigarettes (for what would amount to the profit of a few pennies). He was then accosted by police officers, became indignant at having to suffer yet another round of harassment, and had this to say in response:

“Get away [garbled] … for what? Every time you see me, you want to mess with me. I’m tired of it. It stops today. Why would you…? Everyone standing here will tell you I didn’t do nothing. I did not sell nothing. Because every time you see me, you want to harass me. You want to stop me [garbled] Selling cigarettes? I’m minding my business, officer, I’m minding my business. Please just leave me alone. I told you the last time, please just leave me alone. Please, please, don’t touch me. Do not touch me.”

At that point he was placed in an officially banned choke-hold by a police officer. In his very last words, gasping for air, Eric Garner repeated the following: “I can't breathe.”

How did we as a society arrive at the point where an incident like this can transpire? A man breaks up a fight, gets accused of a spurious crime, and then ends up dead at the hands of a police officer who had repeatedly been accused of misconduct in the past. That this ever happened at all is a tragedy; that it's an incident which most wouldn't find particularly surprising... is a dystopian nightmare.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The Guilty, The Innocent, And The Corrupt: Ferguson & The Case of Rodney Reed

I've recently learned about the case of Rodney Reed. He is currently on death row in Texas for the murder of Stacey Stites. The curious thing about this case is that the victim's family is convinced of Reed's innocence and believes, instead, that the actual murderer was her fiance, Jimmy Lewis Fennell, Jr.. 

At the time of Stacey Stites' death, Fennell was a 34-year-old police sergeant with the Georgetown, Texas, Police Department. At the time of the murder Fennell was not adequately investigated as a suspect. According to an article in the Austin Chronicle, “Police never searched the apartment Stites and Fennell shared, though it was the last place she was reportedly seen alive, and they had returned to Fennell the pickup truck she'd allegedly been driving the morning she disappeared before thoroughly processing it for evidence.”

Since the murder of Stites and the conviction of Rodney Reed, Sergeant Jimmy Lewis Fennell, Jr. confessed and has been convicted of raping a young woman (which he did while on duty). The victim of that attack, in an interview, discussed how he had casually raped her in a calm sadistic manner. She also explains how Fennell was the responding officer when she immediately called 911 after the attack.

After the conviction of Fennell (sentenced to 10 years and scheduled for release in 2018), and during the subsequent appeal of Rodney Reed, a pattern of violent behavior by Fennell against other women  was revealed.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Problems With Genetic Engineering & Genetically Modified Organisms (A Basic Overview Of The Issues)

Public Relations & Political Influence

The controversy surrounding genetically modified organisms has persisted as the agricultural biotech industry has continued to promote its creations around the world. Unfortunately, many people still do not understand the issues relating to genetic engineering and the products of that process. The ignorance surrounding this subject can largely be credited to the PR efforts of corporate agribusiness. These PR efforts have been so successful that at this point in time it can very difficult to engage in honest civil discussion about the issues related to genetic engineering and genetically modified organisms.

A popular accusation used against the opponents of GMO technology is that they are the “climate change deniers of the left.” This dismissive accusation, while quite cleverly crafted, entirely misses the substance and reality of the issues at hand. For one thing, it serves to inaccurately classify the opponents of GMO technology as leftists. This serves to marginalize them along the arbitrary lines of a left/right political dichotomy and casts the issue in a political light which is largely irrelevant. But suffice it say that it's not just leftists who oppose this technology. The next attribute of this phrase, equating them to “climate change deniers,” also serves to create another false parallel which can potentially serve to divide people. People on the right side of the political spectrum don't want to be seen as sympathizing with an issue of “the left” and informed people of any political persuasion do not want to be equated with any sort of climate change denial. But the reality of this accusation is that it obfuscates the real issues at hand.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Writing, Ideology & Mass Communication In Techno-Industrial Society

Originality, accuracy, and clarity can be hard things to measure in terms of the written word. Originality is always bound to some degree with the familiar. Accuracy, while sometimes easier to assess, is rarely complete and can still lead us to faulty conclusions. Clarity is largely dependent upon the ability of any readers to comprehend, relate to, and think reasonably about whatever is being presented to them. These three aspects comprise but a general shortlist of problems a writer may face when trying to compose something of worth and interest to the broader reading public.

Underlying political and ideological tendencies, which are engrained in the general public, further serve to restrict a writers ability to find and captivate an audience. The promotion of certain ideas, right or wrong, can even be dangerous to writers who promote them. People have been burnt at the stake and put before firing squads because of their ideas.

More commonly problematic is simply the inability of writers to adequately reach a receptive audience. On the simplest level this could sometimes be due to a writers limited access to a suitable medium. However, even having access to modern tools of mass communication does not guarantee that the message being produced will reach a broad or receptive audience. The reasons for this are many.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

9/11 Conspiracies: For The Sake Of Full Disclosure

Many people who have spoken with me in regard to the 9/11/2001 attack are well aware that I am often perturbed and disgusted by many of the more outlandish conspiracy theories associated with the events of that day. I've also commented in many forums about the subject for the purposes of debunking the wilder theories. However... my disdain for the wilder theories, and my belief that the operation itself was in fact carried out by Islamic fundamentalist commandos, is not to suggest that I don't believe in any possible complicity on behalf of any particular members of any government.

Someone recently called me into question about this in regard to an old blog post (which I had actually written [as a Myspace post] before I started this blog in 2006). Since I did add that post to my blog, and because I try to stand behind what I've submitted herein, I now feel obliged to take some time to clarify my position.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Capitalism ≠ Anarchism

In recent years a ridiculous notion has been promoted in the United States. It's the idea that the philosophy of anarchism is compatible with the principles of capitalism. Proponents of this proposed ideological merger call themselves anarcho-capitalists, market anarchists, or agorists. And while anarchists around the globe may not believe in the seriousness of those proposing the merger of these philosophies, I remind them that the proponents we are talking about are primarily people within the borders of the United States of America. This is the same land that has also concocted the notion of “national anarchism” which promotes racial segregation. These are concepts from “the land of the free” – where more people are imprisoned in total numbers (and per capita) than in any other nation. So, as absurd as it is, I assure you that the idea of “anarcho-capitalism” is a real thing.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Depression and Suicide Amongst Radicals and Anarchists

"Before you diagnose yourself with depression or low self-esteem, first make sure that you are not, in fact, just surrounded by assholes." — William Gibson.
The Problem of Suicide: You Are Not Alone

As the survivor of an arduous suicide attempt I've subsequently come to contemplate this subject a bit more than most.  Throughout the years I've seen friends, family, and loved-ones take their own lives.  Each time I hear of another suicide I am reminded not only of my own attempt, but also the attempts by those I've known.  To be perfectly honest... my response is probably indicative of some PTSD.  But I'm more than a decade removed from my major depressive episode and I feel that the subject of depression and suicide ought now be addressed.

It should be pointed out that suicide is now a leading cause of death in the United States.  Amongst the young adults it ranks as the second or third leading cause of death (depending upon the specific age range examined).  In other segments of populations around the world  it is also a primary cause of death.  Economic factors seem overtly connected with suicide in many nationsCertain professions have a higher rate of suicide than others.  And, for U.S. soldiers, suicide has proven to be more deadly to them than combat.  This problem of suicide could accurately be described as a public heath crisis or an epidemic.    

While a variety of factors contribute to individual instances of suicide and the overall suicide rate, I believe that progressive radicals, anarchists, and social justice activists have somewhat unique psychological factors that can also come into play.  Although they are probably just as likely to suffer from problems like social isolation or drug dependency,  I believe that those who are informed about the myriad of crises that humanity currently faces are given an extra punctuation in terms of reasons to be dismayed.  So, in addition to any personal problems they may have, they are also aware that the world seems to be going to hell in a proverbial handbasket.  And while I personally believe that's a fairly accurate assessment of things, I don't advocate suicide as a response to this reality. 

Saturday, December 01, 2012

The Stimulator, host of "It's the End of the World as We know it and I feel FINE," will be doing an AMA Monday.

That's right slaves!  The Stimulator, host of the most rad talk show on the interwebs, "It's the End of the World as We know it and I feel FINE," will be answering your questions in /r/AnarchistNews on the morning of Monday, December 3rd, 2012, at 8am Central Time. 

If you're unfamiliar with the Stimulator's work, you can find episodes of the motherfuckin' show at SUBMEDIA.TV and can you watch his excellent documentary, END:CIV, here

So... get your questions ready now!  YOU KNOW he's got to have an excellent recipe for tacos!  And what's up with the "motherfuckin' tar sands?"  Where does he get all that top-notch riot porn?!  

Here's the link to the announcement on r/AnarchistNews: