As North Korea's bellicose posturing continues, we should remember that it is playing mainly to its own domestic audience. As for its US audience, North Korea is China's pit bull. So the big question is, what does china get out of this puppet show?
1. Regarding politics and freedom. Why does Congress insist on regulating and limiting political expression?
I think that politics is a major part of the definition of freedom in free societies. Suppression of politics is a major part of the definition of totalitarianism. I think that most Americans would mostly agree with me.
So my question is, where does the impulse to regulate political expression come from? It can't come from politics itself, where the central thrust is to expand political freedom. I think somehow that the desire to suppress is intrinsic to the establishment of the two-party system as in effect the legal political parties in the modern era. But how?
2. Regarding governmental bureaucracy. Why do governmental bureaucracies expand endlessly?
The snap answer is that bureaucracies must continually justify their existence in order to be refunded. To justify their existence, they have to find more instances of the ills and problems they were established to deal with; so they do. Then failing to complete their mission, they excuse themselves saying they don't have the money need to succeed, and request additional funding and expansion.
But this answer has been unpersuasive for a long time. An historic answer is that expert bureaucracies must recruit their expert administrators out of the industries and social organizations which they regulate as those persons have the most expertise in the problems. Thereby, staffed by industry insiders, the regulatory bureaucracy is in effect the industry regulating itself. (Herbert Croly, an enthusiast for regulatory noticed this problem a century ago.)
This arrangement only breaks down, when conflicting experts get toe-holds on the bureaucracy. So the power industry ran the utility commissions until the environmentalists broke in. Or so the theory goes. This theory is one that says elites run the bureaucracies for their own benefit. Elites have turned to regulatory bureaucracies to run society, because it is a more powerful and permanent form of governmental power than electoral political power. This would seem an especially useful theory to explain the relationship between the Treasury Department, the Federal Reserve, and "private" banks of Wall Street.
But what is the engine of expansion? Why would elites in charge of regulatory bureaucracies want more and more regulatory power?
3. Regarding atheism. In recent years, we have had a spate of anti-religion critiques from advocates of atheism. Most of the intellectual content of the critiques rely upon classical historical criticism, which dates from Galileo. I haven't seen any (and tell me in comments if you know of any) atheistic critiques that deal with Heidegger's refutation of that historical criticism in Being and Time. I would say Heidegger's refutation is irrefutable within the framework of his phenomenological ontology. Heidegger privately in correspondence said he thought he had protected Catholicism from anti-religious modernism, and I would agree. But no advocates of atheism have taken on Heidegger. Why?
4. Regarding gun control. Can we depend upon Congress to protect the bill of rights? Given the enthusiasm with which the establishment parties write laws to limit political organization and expression, why should we expect Congress to respect the second amendment?
5. Regarding Islam. I think there are plenty of grounds for arguing that Islam is a false religion. I understand the reluctance of Western intellectuals to make such an argument, and I understand why and how Islamist apologists object to it and refute it.
But why would Western intellectuals as a class be unwilling to enter into such a discussion? Cowardice is not a fully satisfactory answer.
I would say, no religion, no intellectual philosophy, that contains anti-semitism as an intrinsic pillar of its beliefs can be true.
7. Regarding Judaism and anti-semitism. What would the world look like if anti-semitism suddenly disappeared? There is a whole political, religious, and intellectual apparatus erected on anti-semitic premises, much disguised as anti-Zionism. This apparatus has taken on a validity that is unchallenged from within and intellectually disreputable. Why have intellectuals forsaken their responsibility to truth and ideas and not dissected this anti-semitic apparatus? Perhaps because it serves their intellectual power - whatever that means?
8. Regarding sex. In naturalistic terms, within Darwinian theory, human sexuality is clearly mostly a biochemical affair, of which consciousness is largely unaware and will is foreign and ineffective. The biochemistry of sexual relations is greatly worked out, but the social impact of that knowledge in religion, law, and social mores, is largely ignored or resisted. Why? Is it enough to say that religion, law, and social mores have too much invested in the concepts of consciousness and will to give them up, or adjust them?
But is not also the debate over sexual freedom and abortion partly to blame? It is clear to me that defense of sexual freedom and abortion is central to the political task of masking, in other areas of sexual, social and political life, the soft totalitarianism of the regulatory state (see # 9). We endorse and protect one aspect of sexual behavior in order to control, and mask that control, of many other areas of sex.
Isn't politics partly, perhaps mostly, the problem? Brave New World long ago explained the problem.
9. Regarding totalitarianism. I distinguish between two kinds of totalitarianism.
There is hard totalitarianism, in which the absolute control of government and by government of social life, by a monopolistic political party, is enforced by police and secret police. Hitler's Germany, Stalin's Russia, and East Germany under Soviet rule are examples of hard totalitarianism.
But there is also soft totalitarianism. In the softly totalitarian state, regulation and state management obliterate the line between state and private life, property ownership, private economy, religion, and social relationships. While being told by politicians that "you are free, you are free", persons are progressively being deprived by regulation, taxation, and licensing from a huge variety of activities, from selling their labor, to purchasing labor, to forming economic partnerships and social organizations, to how they behave in private and in public.
That secret police are not spying and reporting on you, that secret courts do not exist, don't make total control of your beliefs and life any less real and effective?
Are not political correctness codes and expectations, hate speech laws, and anti-discrimination laws as pervasive in their effect of suppressing behavior and free expression as a secret police?
There are two routes to one-party rule, loss of liberty, and totalitarianism. One route is the open revolution, as in the October Revolution of 1917 in which Bolsheviks, led by Lenin, took over the Russian government. The other route is the creeping socialism, in which success in democratic politics gives revolutionary opponents of bourgeois governments the foothold in which, during crisis, they launch one-party government, such as Germany under Hitler's chancellorship in 1933. Less fascist of course is the stealth socialism of Britain. Via either route is the end result is control by the political Big Brother.
Traditional America is being subverted by the second route, creeping socialism, under Obama's political successes. I do not say or believe or imply that Obama is a Hitler; I don't think he is. He is not an original thinker of political theory or of American history. He has simply absorbed the ideological slogans and orientations of the New Left of the 1960s and 1970s, which now guide his political agenda. But benign Obama's progressivism is not. It seeks to move America to a political and governmental structure in which traditional political liberty and social and economic freedoms are replaced by dictated social progress and economic activity under the command of national governmental regulation.
A necessary component of totalitarianism is destruction of political opposition by governmental power under one-party rule. There are different means of accomplishing this destruction. One is delegitimatization of opposition parties. Another is intimidation of civilian populace. Nothing intimidates liike surveillance. Fear that authorities can learn of your opposition to governmental rulers and their actions and can formally or indirectly retaliate, threatening to take away the welfare you receive from the government and harrassing you with governmental agency power (you are named a "person of interest" without any due process in court because you are accused of no crime), you are isolated socially and politically, your finances and assets are frozen, and you are compelled to expend your savings on lawyers to chase the chimera of invisible power arrayed against you.
There are all sorts of surveillance done by private and governmental agency through video feeds: traffic, mall and school security, bank lobbies, presidential parades, airport boarding gates, and so on. Now Obama wishes to add another level of surveillance: from small, invisible to the naked eye, drones. Drones would capture activity of both public and private and home spaces, both known persons of interest, felons under warrants, and the innocent public. But in this arrangement, every body become a person of interest for some government purpose.
Drone surveillance would be a dramatic step in the destruction of liberty and due process. The Democratic Party under Obama will not renounce this activity. While the ACLU and other civil liberty organizations will raise alarm and perhaps file law suits, only a broad political attack on drone surveillance will reveal to the public the broader and profound danger to traditional liberties. Let obstruction, criticism, and opposition begin!
The homicide statistics for Chicago for 2012 (source: Redeye) illustrate how America's murder problem is a gang problem.
We do not have the race or ethnicity of the shooters, since almost none of the crimes have been through the courts yet, but we do know the race/ethnicity of the victims. Here we go:
515 homicides in Chicago City in 2012.
392 or 76% of all victims were black.
347 of the 392 black victims died of gunshot.
26 of the 392 black victims died from stabbing.
116 or 23% of the victims were white.
Of the white victims, 79 (68% of all white victims and 15% of all victims ) had Hispanic surnames.
Nearly all the homicide victims were male.
Only 48 females were homicide victims.
What is the immediate cause of this slaughter of black men? We can discount that a conspiracy of non-Hispanic white persons perpetrated these murders, for certainly suspicion of such a collective racial crime would be the single most reported and investigated and discussed event in the nation, which has not occurred.
Nor is the problem, as a whole, caused by mentally ill young white men. Massacres are not typical and do not comprise a large percentage of murders.
Rather, the obvious cause of the great number of murders is murder by black males in the context of gang warfare, with some contribution by Hispanic gangs. This probability is supported by the FBI Uniform Crime statistics, reporting the race of the killers, which show that for years, young black males have been responsible for neary half of all murders - mostly murders of other young black men. There is little reason to doubt that Chicago 2012 will confirm this historical pattern.
How horrible is this gang warfare, which is waged in every large American city with a sizable black population?
It is as if a massacre as large as Sandy Hook elementary school - 26 killed victims - occurred every 18 days in Chicago! Gun control is not the issue. Gang control is.
Daniel Henniger, editorial writer for the Wall Street Journal, gets it: "Obama's Thunderdome Strategy" (WSJ, Thursday, January 31, 2013). The New Left tolerates democratic electoral politics only long enough to secure sufficient power to create a single party state, impose collectivism, and socialize the economy. Welcome to the Brave New World.
I wrote about Obama's political allegiances and ideology some time ago. See the entire series of 17 articles: Obama, Marxist.
She said it before to the public, she said it again to the Committee, she takes responsibility for what happened at Benghazi. She cried when the Ambassador's body arrived in the US. Except that she doesn't take responsibility for it. She has done nothing, absolutely nothing that signals her acceptance of responsibility. For her, to "accept responsibility" means nothing. It is just to mouth words. In this horrible episode, one of the most significant US diplomatic failures since 1945, she has dishonored herself. Disgraced herself. She has no political dignity. I would hope that her failures in this episode -- failure to organize the upper echelons of the State Department so that she received the reports that she needed to know trouble was on the way before it arrived, failure to represent an independent view to the White House, failure to accept responsibity -- will disqualify her from running for this presidency in 2016. But that would, of course, suppose she had some personal dignity in the first place.
"I'm not sure we can guarantee this [mass school killings] will never happen again, but as the president said, even if we can only save one life, it would make sense." Vice President Joe Biden.
No, it wouldn't make sense.
Saving one life is not worth doing, if the doing significantly diminishes the privacy and liberty lives of most Americans. That is the issue presented by the President and his political allies in response to the Sandy Hook murders.
The proponents of universal background checks on gun and/or ammo purchase have more in mind than simply universal background checks; for universal background checks using a national, federal (FBI) database have existed since the 1990s, when they were instituted under the 1993 Brady Law.
Current law requires a background check that disqualifies anyone from purchasing a gun if he or she was dishonorably discharged from the armed services, is illegally addicted to a controlled substance, has been adjudicated to be mentally defective or has been committed to a mental institution, is an illegal or unlawful alien, or is a criminal, among other disqualifications. (FBI Fact Sheet, National Criminal Background Check System).
Some extensions of current background law will be mostly noncontroversial for most Americans, including many advocates for strict interpretation of the 2nd amendment, such as requiring firearms sellers at firearms shows to do background checks.
But one extension that would raise great concerns for many Americans would be broader definition of psychological disqualifications for gun purchase. Broader definition would easily extend to most American when ObamaCare's requirement for mental health benefits is fully implemented.
Many persons seek psychological counselling for dealing with, for instance, marital difficulties, depression and other mood disorders, emotional problems in personal and workplace relationships, victimization from bullying, PTSD, pain and suffering from physical injury, anxieties attendant upon dramatic life changes, and normal emotional confusion and difficulty in adolescent growth and other life stages. For the overwhelming majority of Americans, these psychological disturbances pose no more of a threat to the one's own life or the lives of others than having the flu.
Broader and looser definition of psychological conditions that disqualify gun purchase and ownership can easily, and almost certainly will, include most adults. How would regulations implement broader definition? Would licensed counsellors, psychiatrists, physicians, ministers, any and all persons who professionally administer psychological therapy and guidance, be required to report their clients and their conditions to a national database?
Will the prescription and taking of pharmaceutical medicines for psychiatric therapy be deemed evidence of mental incapacity? Shall doctors be required to report when and to whom they prescribe such medicines? Shall pharmacists be required to report when and for whom they fill such prescriptions? Such requirements are surely not beyond the scope of broader definitions and regulation of mental incapacity to purchase guns and ammo.
Be assured, over a few years, more psychological conditions would be added by politicians to a list of disqualifications in response to incidents. Legitimate reasons for gun purchase, ownership, and use would be negated by regulations. In short order, the 2nd amendment would be regulated out of existence. And, alas, for many gun control advocates, this is the hidden and ultimate purpose of extension of the background check law.
The creation of such a database will assuredly find addition uses besides gun regulation. Will employers be allowed to query the national database to determine whether a prospective employee might be a danger to other persons in the workplace? Will colleges be allowed to query the database to determine whether applicants might be a danger on campus? Will men and women be allowed to query the database to determine whether prospective marriage mates might be abusers and a danger to wife and children? We already have, in California and other states, such publicly open databases of sex felons, whose prospects for life after serving legal sentences are effectively destroyed. Why should we expect the government to prohibit such uses of a national gun disqualification database?
Such uses of a database would strike most people as a violation of the principle that a person is innocent until proven guilty, that a person cannot be punished for a crime he/she has not committed, that all persons are due legal process, and that doctor - patient relationships should be privileged and private in all but the most extreme instances (e.g., that a specific threat to the life of the patient or to other persons is demonstrably a clear and present danger).
Advocates of state and federal databases of psychological and psychiatric profiles of Americans would certainly argue that such databases can be secure, the data available only to legal, permitted users, and medical privacy and privilege of Americans profiled therein protected. This argument is nonsense. State and federal internet accessible databases are wide open to knowledgeable hackers. California state databases are regularly hacked and personal identifying information of, for instance, state employees, regularly stolen and used for fraud. Federal databases are no better. Both state and federal computers, internet servers, and distributed terminals, as in the FBI, are antiquated, often mostly nonfunctional, and poorly understood by the administrators in charge of them. The second - the very instant - that personal private information is put into a state or federal database, it will be hacked, stolen, distributed, and used for illegal purposes, some certainly by newspapers and journalistic media eager to expose the mental condition of people.
The President and Vice President perceive, as a general idea, not from knowledge of specific persons demonstrated to pose a danger, such a danger to schools and other public places from possible mass murders that they are eager to restrict the 2nd amendment. Given their readiness to follow general ideas in making policy, why should we believe they stop there but not also restrict other rights when the public might be in danger?
The possible restrictions of liberty and due process due to expanded definitions of persons who should not be allowed to purchase guns and ammo are so onerous and threatening that many citizens would avoid seeking psychological counselling for fear of being put in a national database. They would avoid counselling, not necessarily because they might be denied the right to purchase such firearms, but because they fear misuse of the database by state and federal governments. And, candidly, in my opinion, they would have reason to fear such misuse.
Since the eighteenth century, America has been filled with politically displaced peoples who, defeated in their home nations, have in exile supported and celebrated killing their oppressors in their home states. This political ferment has generated a broad cultural strain romanticizing and justifying political mass killing. I would argue that this cultural strain long ago seeped out of its category boundaries to glorify mass killing in general that can be justified somehow, if not necessarily to resist political oppression, then to resist any kind of oppression. Extension of cultural categories beyond their logical definition is especially seductive for disoriented or disturbed minds; in those broken prisms, logical fractures into the psychological. This cultural theme is hardly the entire extent of American cultural values, and countervailing values exist; but it is a real component of them, waiting for its potential to be released.
Even the American colonials who revolted against England can be seen in the light of this tradition. The 2nd amendment right to bear arms itself originated in colonial resistance to British oppression. To prevent the colonials from arming, the British ordered the confiscation of all firearms around Boston. This was a traditional British tactic to thwart rebellion. After the Jacobite rebellions in Scotland and Ireland, England confiscated all the native populations' weaponry. It was to prevent such disarmament and to preserve the ability of the formerly colonial citizenry forcibly to resist governmental oppression, that is, to obtain or to preserve liberty, that the 2nd amendment's right to bear arms was added to the Constitution.
The French Revolution was central to the ideological formation of the nation's first political party system. The Revolution, which destroyed the monarchy and aristocracy in the name of the people, added ideology as well as vocabulary to the tradition of resistance to oppression. Jefferson supported the French Revolution (though he frowned upon mass mobs in cities while living there). He spoke favorably of armed rebellion and the bloodshed it brought to defend liberty.
Before the Civil War, Scots and Irish immigration to the US dispersed throughout America a huge population of persons who had resisted the English. They settled especially in the Appalachian Mountains and other frontier areas, where they, as rural, farming people, felt comfortable and knew how to make a living. Their warrior traditions and legendary opposition to English government were ingrained in regional cultures.
It is worth observing here that the popular expression of gun culture is simply an appropriation and expression of the pre-existing gun culture of the aristocracies of England, Germany, France, Russia, and other originating countries of America's displaced peoples. In monarchies, the military officer class were drawn from the aristocracy who owned most of the land and were tied to the crown. Guns were expensive and only the land-owning aristocrats could afford them. Guns were used to suppress rebellion and enforce rent laws on peasants. It was natural, not only that former peasants would take up firearms as effective weapons, but also adopt the values of the aristocrats' gun culture.
We don't ordinarily think of the frontier wars with the American Indians as political wars, but of course they were. The expansion of the frontier Westward, establishment of territories, and the organization of the territories as states was a political as well as governmental process. The political struggle over expansion of slavery is proof of the political character of American state formation. So the justification of mass killing of native Americans, appropriation of their lands, their evacuation further West, the whole troubled history of nation formation and native destruction, is part and parcel of the American culture of celebrating political mass killings. It was only the great romanticization of the native American at the end of the nineteenth century, when they had ceased to be a military threat, that led to the cultural amnesia we experience today regarding the political context of their mass killing.
The slavery issue before and during the Civil war also stimulated and hardened the culture of justifiable mass political killing. Slave planter resistance to abolitionism generated new content for this culture. After the slave rebellions identified with Toussaint L'Ouverture (Haiti 1791), Vesey (South Carolina, 1822), and Turner (Virginia, 1831), the culture of the American slave South was filled with the justifiability of mass killings, in the process of suppressing rebellion, to enforce racial segregation, overlaying political and economic rationalization (maintaining planter power) with ideology. After the civil war, this racist ideology supported the opposition of the KKK to Reconstruction of Southern social relations.
It took a long time for the former Black slaves to obtain a similar culture (probably subculture is a more accurate descriptive) celebrating killing of oppressors, but it certainly developed in the 1960s with the Black Power movement. The Left, particularly, justified this ideology as an explanation of the Black "ghetto" riots in the 1960s, which were typed as "uprisings" against oppression: Los Angeles Watts riot ("Rebellion"), 1965, 6 days, 34 deaths, 3438 arrests; Detroit riot, 1967, 5 days, 43 dead, 467 injuries, 7200 arrests; Chicago riots, 1968, 39 dead; Los Angeles riots ("Rodney King riots"), 1992, 6 days, 53 dead, 2000+ injured, over 10,000 persons arrested (1, 2, 3, 4).
Marxist revolutionary tradition has been since the late 19th century a fertile ground for the romanticization of political mass murder in the name of destroying the capitalist oppressors of the working class. The use of mass bombings, armed combat, assassination, purges, extermination, of internal and external opposition are now widely understood to be product of the long march to totalitarian rule for the purpose of imposing socialism and communism. The US experienced some of these violent outbursts, as with the bombings associated with unionization (the Los Angeles Times bombing of 1910 killed 20 persons, the Wall Street bombing of 1920 killed 38 persons).
Opposition to the Vietnam War generated justification for killing politicians and police and the celebration of killings involved in native uprisings abroad against European colonial powers. William Ayers, Marxist and Communist, celebrated on the Left as an educational theorist and a friend of President Obama and his wife when they lived in Chicago, "participated in the bombings of New York City Police Department headquarters in 1970, the United States Capitol building in 1971, and the Pentagon in 1972" (*). Bombs are always a popular option for mass killing, whether successful or not.
The history of terror bombings since the 1960s, in the US and elsewhere, conducted in the name of decolonialization, or anti-imperialism, or anti-semitism, or promotion of Islam is filled with blast and blood. While it is popular since 9/11 to decry such terror mass murders, it is also true that for fifty years such terror mass murder has been accepted or justified or variously celebrated in the US by a subterranean culture of protest.
Of course, popular culture has been infected with celebration of mass murder and cold-blooded killing. "Bonnie and Clyde" glorification of murder, if not celebration, replete with harshly, intensely, realistic depiction of murder, but without empathic depiction of suffering of victims, has been a staple of movies, video games, and comics. But seldom have these portrayals been without a nod to rebellion against oppression. We see such glorification in the theatrical depiction of organized crime, neighborhood gangs, and cowboys.
The claim that sexual frustration caused by repression of sexual expression leads to violence was hallmark of Beatnik literatuare and has also been a favorite of Hollywood in the past two generations. The implication of the claim is that sexual repression is a technique of social oppression by the ruling classes. My point in the discussion above is that these popular theatrical genres are but manifestations of a deeper, more historical, often more political tradition that looks sympathetically upon mass murder.
The difficulty in keeping a category like mass political murder tightly defined is that in total war, including total social war between classes, or races, or religions, or castes, or ethnicities, murder in the name of liberty against oppression is loose, porous, and easily justifies mass murder on other grounds. Or in moments of glory, or in moments of hubris, on no justifiable grounds at all. During the second world war, the line between combat killing and killing noncombatant civilians disappeared when civilians went to work in the munitions factories. Similarly, total social war justifies killing of children of oppressors, because they will grow up to continue the oppression their parents perpetrated with the social, legal, and political power their parents bequeathed to them. Children of oppressors are born guilty. Killing children is not a new phenomenon.
The school mass killings, workplace mass killings, mass killings of upper class families in their homes (see, Manson murders and attempted murders of Sharon Tate, et. al. [*]), post office mass killings, mass killings at theaters and malls, mass killings in urban "uprisings" are not outside this deeply ingrained American culture. Culture seldom stays confined to tight categories, but spreads to new unrelated situations.
We are not going to stop these mass killings, against innocent shoppers, or innocent co-workers, or innocent movie-goers, or innocent school children, by banning guns, or expanding government authority to new areas of our lives, such as mental health. Indeed, such policies, such politics of governmental intrusion, are the fuel that feeds the historical American culture of justifiable mass killing.
If all the guns are confiscated, if the 2nd amendment were amended to prohibit private possession of firearms, then agents of mass murder would just turn to bombings. Bombings are already an intrinsic feature of the culture of rebellion against oppression. It takes only patience, hiding of explosive materials, and a modicum of intelligence to assemble ingredients to make a bomb and deliver it to a school. The Oklahoma city blast of April 1995 "claimed 168 lives, including 19 children under the age of 6, and injured more than 680 people. The blast destroyed or damaged 324 buildings within a sixteen-block radius, destroyed or burned 86 cars, and shattered glass in 258 nearby buildings."(*)
If we confiscate all bomb making materials, confiscate all library books and close the Internet, agents of mass murder would turn to mass poisoning. Jim Jones managed to murder 914 persons at Jonestown in 1978.(*) Jones' victims included 200 children. How easy would be free Kool-Aid at school soccer games?
It's not the tools of mass killing that need confiscating. It is America's political culture that justifies mass killing that needs reforming.
America has a historical culture of mass violence, but not because of the presence of guns. America has a mass of guns, because of the presence of a culture of mass violence. It is the culture, not the guns, that instills the value of killing.
What, we ask, might changing such a cultural pathology involve? How could such a change be defined that does not give, in the name of security, legitimacy to a creeping totalitarianism of American social life?
Revised December 23, 24, 25, 2012, January 7, 2013.