Thursday, December 20, 2012

The American Family Gun(s): Why?


The latest mass murder nightmare in America is provoking much needed discussion about a very serious problem. As is often the case, key points will be avoided in that discussion, especially as it is indulged in by national leaders and their corporate stenographers in media.

The usual suspects in this gun lobby vs. gun control debate have valid points to make, but they are similar to those in any national argument of a political or economic nature; they deal with two sides of a coin without daring  to question the existence of the coin. We argue over whether heads are better than tails or vice versa , treating the coin itself as some form of universal deity over which there should be no question, concern or thought. In this fashion, we are provoked (?) to wonder whether taxes should be raised on a minority of wealthy people or government services should be cut for the majority, assuming that the system within which this argument takes place is natural and beyond any concern for citizens of  an alleged democracy.

The subject of fantastic wealth accruing to a tiny minority while poverty expands among a group fast approaching a plurality in the supposedly richest and most democratic society in  history  is left out of the discussion. In the same tradition, Americans will tear each other apart, insult reason and morality and denigrate the very idea of a social debate of substance in the matter of whether there is a constitutional right to own a gun to protect home, body, soul, family pets, jewelry, or stamp collections, and never wonder why there is no constitutional right to a home, a job, health care and other serious necessities of life.

Those of us who find no need to own a gun will trash those who do, and neither side will question their citizenship duties as members of the most violent nation in world history , committing murder and mayhem all over the globe while waving the flag of democracy and freedom. We will insist, under the direction of our consciousness controllers and their servant mind managers, that individuals  are responsible for whatever is wrong with all of us collectively. Of course we are not supposed to be a society or a collective unless we are at war killing foreigners, shopping, or united in grieving  over  crimes committed by individuals.

A case can be made, sometimes strongly, for idiocy and irrationality on the part of gun lovers, but there can also be an easy target for those lovers when they comment on the gun haters' seeming admiration for a system that brings us , or at least many of us, creature comforts not possible without domination of others and  profits trickling down to us from cheap labor and exploitation, however much we individualize it as only certain companies and certain business leaders. Naturally, none among those individually bad companies and people are the ones we rely on for our lives of relative comfort. So it is easy for each side in these debates to feel righteous, correct and beyond criticism. That’s what keeps the system going and what we need to confront and deal with, unless we wish to see the continuing weapons use in other places and in our midst, the destruction of the planet’s ecosystem, and economic downfall which will ultimately include all of us and not just one or another segmented minority forced into mental belief in being different from everyone else.

While our personal obsession with guns has declined over the years, from half the homes in the country  armed now down to only (?) a third, the number of weapons we own has increased. The Gun Market expands every time there is a mass murder as those homemakers rush to buy even more weapons before a supposed ban is instituted. What is important to remember is that these loyal, patriotic and freedom loving citizens are allegedly protecting themselves not from foreign invaders or outer space attack but from other Americans. According to this view ,you never know when some nut case will break down your doors and assault your family, given the wide open, murderous and lawless society we live in. And it isn’t far from the reality experienced by millions of Americans, though they hardly rely on legally purchased weapons to suffer from or participate in the bloodbath that finds more than 1000 people murdered every month via gun violence.

Of course we kill three times that number in our vehicles – as gun lobbyists will point out – but it is rare for a person to consciously wish to die or inflict death on others via driving, however often that is the outcome of a ride to work, shop or school. Nevertheless, despite legends, myths and outright lies about the great saviors of freedom that armed Americans have become, guns are primarily used to commit suicide and murder innocent people, with the few cases of actually interfering with or stopping a crime being broadcast all over the internet, and most of those turning out to be urban legends only believable to those who need – sometimes desperately so – crisis intervention and adult management  in their lives.

Yes, of course, a ninety seven year old woman killed thirteen terrorists who threatened her home, and yes, of course, a three year old boy used his father's gun to kill the monster about to rape his mother. Sure. But these myths and fables only feed into a national disorder which probably follows from historic origins of armed settlers needing to protect themselves from the people on whose land they were settling. But to actually believe we need personal armed protection in the 21st century, with police departments, armies, navies, air forces, drones, rockets, missiles and a  network of eavesdropping spies supposedly protecting us from the menace of evil, should pose the question:

What the hell are we Americans scared of?

Answer: Other Americans.

And that is the problem whose solution will not simply involve refraining from killing one another because we are so fearful of one another, but facing what it is we fear, and why? It is easy to dismiss gun ownership as an aspect of PRS ( Penis Replacement Syndrome) and there may be some cases that involve just that, along with very loud auto engines and other socially induced signs of personal machismo. But women own and practice gun use – the mother of the mass murderer in Connecticut suffered death at the hands of her son using her own weapons – and along with rural customs and honest hobbyists there are target shooters and others whose only purpose in having a gun is for the hunt, sport or collection value. Silly? Then what is ownership of pets, to a non-pet critic? Or wearing cosmetics, to those who find the practice sexist and demeaning? While pet ownership and makeup use hardly seem as  dangerous as weapons, a detractor could make a case for skin, respiratory , hygienic and environmental disorders connected to those socially induced and privately provoked profit making market ventures. The point is not what individuals practice personally  under  socially induced pressure, but the power of that pressure and who or what truly profits most from it, and who or what absorbs the social loss for those private profits.

If we can get a little closer to confronting that problem as a result of the latest atrocity in America, we may get closer to ending the atrocities we commit in other places and arrive at a democratic standard that brings  safety and well being to all of us and not just some of us. That would be a worthwhile public debate.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012


The Syrian government announced its recognition of the Tea Party as the true representative of the American people.

"After extensive viewing of Fox TV News and reading the corporate media in the few places in the USA where people are still able to read, it became clear to us that the only real voice of the aspirations, beliefs and thinking in the USA must be the Tea Party ." said a spokesperson for the Syrian government.

Watch Out For the Cliff: Which One?

As America develops newer deadly weapons to threaten more nations with its inspired movement for humanitarian democracy through rape and murder, our economy is supposedly headed for what an ad campaign has branded  “the financial cliff”. We need to either raise private taxes on a tiny minority of the 1% super rich or cut  public spending on the overwhelming 99% majority. Only in a nation run by people who  regularly visit  a proctologist to have their heads examined could this be seen as a crippling dilemma involving tough choices and necessarily shared suffering. But that’s how it’s being played by our consciousness commissars and their servants in mind management.

This while the annual shopping frenzy commemorating the birth of a prince of peace - to the god of war - threatens to sink more of the 99% into greater debt for the benefit of the 1% creators of the alleged cliff over which we are all invited to plunge, on their behalf.

And then we have the soon to be fulfilled Mayan prophecy, accepted by some so terrified of material reality that immaterial fantasy is their only defense. Beseeched souls expect the oceans to rise and the land to sink, not because of capital’s attack on nature in its pursuit of profit, but because of ancient people’s ability to forecast the distant future while they were being evolved out of existence for inability to comprehend their nearby present.

We do have a deadly serious problem, recently avoided by most global representatives at a conference on the dilemmas posed by climate change, and some of the worst case scenarios would seem to fit into Mayan, Christian, Islamic, Judaic, science fiction, schizophrenic or realist patterns of observation and prophecy. The question is how to deal with these  real problems that need a confrontation with global political economics, while our brains are filled with personal, fictional and mythological cases that defy reason and only serve the cause of further increasing profits  for the few, as always, at  even greater losses for the many, as usual.

The incredible claims that Syria is about to use chemical weapons on its own people are (un)balanced by those citing newer and more deadly Iranian plans to nuke the world, especially Israel, despite no evidence other than supposed (un)intelligence  from an anonymous nation – ??? – supplied regularly to its american puppets and then widely reported by those puppets, without blushing, as fact. Having shattered Libya out of nationhood and into an alleged central government that, like Afghanistan’s, has little power outside the capital city limits, the rush to destroy Syria by any means necessary is joined with the long desired crushing of the Iranian regime in pursuit of destroying anything standing in the way of continued domination of the world by a fading if still malevolent empire. As the power of  eastern Islam rises and western Judeo-Christian dominance falls, the Abrahamic religious trio mostly controlled by capital must confront its role in propping up political economic power under the guise of one or another scriptural excuse for inequality, racism and endless war.

While Islam is still in opposition to the interest collecting model of the JC west, it also entertains enough symbolic unity with the older members of the triad to only offer short  term relief, if that, from the universal model of democracy in name and hypocrisy in action that has brought the world to its current predicament.

Nowhere can the contradiction of the material and the immaterial find greater gaps than in the USA, where incredible wealth has enabled a standard of living for most that has until recently been beyond the grasp of much of the world. The rising of the present rest at the sinking of the past best has offered a means of bringing the positives and negatives of profit and loss capital markets to more people the world over. As it is shown quite clearly here – to any who will bother to look at the material reality and not simply the economic religious fables that give it psychotic substance – the sector gathering the profits gets smaller in number every day even as its personal wealth expands, while those absorbing the loss expand in number while their personal losses grow . This is happening in China, Russia and anywhere else the model of private profit/social loss enterprise is in command and control.

And nature has begun to call out in a louder voice than even some political demands for democracy and freedom. Deadly storms , floods and eruptions which are clearly the response – except to corporate science and its political shills - to treating the natural environment as a simple profit making commodity are causing breakdowns both physical and mental. Millions succumb to hysterical economics, ignorant superstition and fanatic legends to explain what is kept from their consciousness by the political high priests , rabbis and mullahs speaking from global capital’s banking cathedrals.

Almost daily stories of an economy allegedly recovering and booming once again are contradicted within the same bulletins with conflicting signs of pending doom for that same economy. Whatever figures we are given about employment on the upswing, consumer confidence growing and democracy expanding through warfare, always assume the reality is worse, and usually much worse. Just as corporate capital keeps three sets of books - one for itself, one for investors and one for tax purposes - the corporate government keeps books which are juggled by public accountants as much as private capital’s accountants juggle its profit figures.

When corporate government says the patient is resting comfortably or getting better every day, that could mean the patient is dying, or already  dead. We are nearing the edge of a cliff, but it is hardly this childish nonsense over a national debt which has been incurred almost exclusively for war, the destruction of nature and the murder of millions all for the benefit (?) of a shrinking minority. Humanity does face serious problems over our collective future, but one of those problems is a government owned and operated by private capital, at the expense and loss of just about everyone.

Disregard fairy tales about a financial deficit but regard that real imperial cliff with growing concern and informed democratic action, before fanatic profiteers push us all over the edge.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Coulter and Free Speech

Last month the College Republicans at Fordham University rescinded a speaking invitation to Ann Coulter after strong opposition was voiced to her appearance. Fordham President John McShane applauded their cowardice as mature judgment in accord with the university's educational mission. "Hate speech, name-calling, and incivility are completely at odds with the Jesuit ideals that have always guided and animated Fordham," lectured McShane.

McShane forgot to add that paternalistic intervention by a university president in the free speech decisions taken by members of the student body are completely at odds with the democratic ideals said to have always guided the United States. Since President McShane clearly influences the political atmosphere at Fordham, the decision to rescind the speaking invitation extended to Coulter hardly came as a surprise, though the wimpiness of Fordham's College Republicans certainly did. Their contempt for free speech almost rivals that of the Democrats.

If such an episode had happened at an Iranian university, U.S. liberals and conservatives would have united in heaping scorn on Iran for letting religious values trump unfettered political discussion. But when the United States does it, it's somehow OK, or at most, an expression of errant behavior by individuals, not the systemic rot it in fact is. Let's get it straight, folks: There is only one way to practice free speech - by letting the speech that we hate debate the speech that we favor. Any other position is a fraud and a sham.

By the way, how did our fearless opponents of incivility and "hate speech" react when Iranian Prime Minister Ahmadinejad was openly insulted at length by Columbia University president Lee Bollinger during his visit to that campus four or five years ago? It is not difficult to recall that "liberals" and "conservatives" were united in applauding it. So much for our belief in civility.

As for Coulter, she is exactly the kind of enemy Democrats deserve. Her perpetual hysteria and in-your-face hostility are obviously designed to inflame discussion, not illuminate it, just as the Democrats' habitual dismissal of their opponents as irrational or crazy is designed to prevent debate, not engage it. If the Democrats can caricature and dismiss opposition, why can't Coulter insult them to their faces?

A phony democracy requires phony opposition and phony debate. Hence the two official parties continually insult each other, with the Republicans often gaining the upper hand because of the wimpiness of the Democrats. But the Democrats have no leg to stand on in claiming that they represent free speech, as they continually denounce views they deem unacceptable as "racist," "Holocaust denial," "extremism," "crazy," and so on, rather than participate in substantive debate around points of disagreement, which is supposedly the essence of our democracy. By now there is a very long and diverse list of public figures Democrats refuse to debate with - Ralph Nader, Bradley Smith, Noam Chomsky, Ann Coulter (sometimes), David Duke, Louis Farrakhan etc.

Here's the problem: when rational discussion is banned, all that's left is invective, and after that, violence.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Pearl Harbor - Beyond Selective Remembering

Leaving aside the matter of whether FDR had specific foreknowledge of the Pearl Harbor attack, there is no question that the attack was hardly the "bolt from the blue" it has long been presented to Americans as being. An outgrowth of colonial rivalry, the Pacific side of WWII came in the wake of a long deterioration in U.S.-Japanese relations and was precipitated by FDR’s cutting off of oil shipments to Japan, an act practically guaranteed to lead to war.

In 1932, the Ottawa Conference cut off Japanese trade with the British Commonwealth, including India. Three years later Japan was forced to curtail shipments of cotton textiles to the Philippines while U.S. imports there remained duty free. (At the same time, U.S. tariffs on many Japanese goods surpassed 100%.)

Squeezed out of concessions throughout Asia by better-established rivals, Tokyo complained of American, British, Chinese, and Dutch encirclement strangling its economy and denying it a day in the imperial sun.

Short of revolution at home, Japan’s only way out was direct control of its own trade routes. So in 1937 Tokyo began its conquest of China in earnest, wiping out 140,000 Chinese civilians at Nanking while proclaiming a desire to promote economic development and prevent Communist domination of Asia.

Four years later negotiations between Admiral Nomura and Secretary of State Cordell Hull broke down over the Japanese request for equal trading rights in Latin America in return for allowing U.S. capital penetration of China. Hull was deeply shocked at the insolence of little yellow men demanding equality with their Nordic superiors.

On July 2, 1941 the Japanese decided to move troops into southern Indochina. Washington, having broken Tokyo’s purple code, immediately knew of the decision. On July 21, 1941 Japan signed a preliminary agreement with the Vichy government of Marshal Henri Petain, leading to Japanese occupation of airfields and naval bases in Indochina. Almost immediately, the U.S. and Britain froze all Japanese assets in their countries. Radhabinod Pal, one of the judges in the post-war Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal, later noted that the U.S. embargo presented a “clear and potent threat to Japan’s very existence.”

On July 24, 1941 FDR informed the Japanese Ambassador that if Japan would refrain from putting troops in southern Indochina Roosevelt would use his influence to have Indochina neutralized. But this message failed to reach the Japanese Foreign Ministry until July 27.

On July 26, 1941 Tokyo disclosed its intention to move troops into southern Indochina. The U.S. promptly froze all Japanese assets in the U.S. With Japan importing 90% of its oil, half of that from the United States, Admiral Richmond Turner, Director of the War Plans Division of the Navy Department, stated that it was “generally believed that shutting off the American supply petroleum [to Japan] will lead promptly to an invasion [by Japan] of the Netherlands East Indies.” FDR publicly stated that this reaction would be a justification for war. The New York Times characterized the U.S. move as “the most drastic blow short of war.”

For the Japanese military, it was “now or never.” The Western powers controlled and were choking off access to the raw materials on which Japan's national existence depended. With Washington refusing to lift its embargo unless Tokyo surrendered Chinese territory it had fought for years to conquer (Note: Washington objected to being shut out of the China market, not Tokyo's atrocities there), Japan was left to choose between submitting to U.S. demands or going to war to obtain the oil and other vital raw materials available in the East Indies and Southeast Asia.

Contrary to U.S. political folklore, Japan’s subsequent attack was launched on a U.S. naval colony in Polynesia, not U.S. territory. And it cannot properly be described as a surprise. Given the hopeless impasse in negotiations that preceded it, the Roosevelt Administration was well aware disaster was on the way.

Furthermore, the Pacific War was not a contest between democracy and fascism, as Americans have long been taught. Neither the British nor the U.S. had ever entertained democracy for Asian peoples and FDR’s idea of a cure for Japanese imperialism was worthy of Hitler: in hopes of eliminating their presumed congenital “barbarism” he expressed interest in a plan to crossbreed Japanese with “docile” Pacific Islanders. Meanwhile, the notoriously brutal and corrupt Chiang Kai-shek - practically a prototype of fascist leadership - remained a U.S. ally throughout the war. British historian Christopher Thorne has commented that, “if the term ‘fascist’ is to be employed in a non-European context for the 1930s, to no regime is it more appropriate to attach it than that of the Kuomintang in China.”

In spite of the democratic rhetoric employed for strategic reasons, a racist attitude permeated the entire U.S. war effort. U.S. troops committed atrocities in the field similar to those carried out a generation later in Vietnam, and press coverage depicted the Japanese as monkeys, rats, and lice who deserved whatever they got. What they got was succinctly summarized by war correspondent Edgar L. Jones: “We shot prisoners in cold blood, wiped out hospitals, strafed lifeboats, killed or mistreated enemy civilians, finished off enemy wounded, tossed the dying in a hole with the dead, and in the Pacific boiled the flesh off enemy skulls to make table ornaments for sweethearts, or carved their bones into letter openers.”

Such atrocities did not appear in American news reports, which focused laser-like on Japanese brutality. Japanese atrocities garnered more attention in the U.S. than the mass killing of Europe’s Gypsies, Jews, homosexuals, mental patients, and prisoners of war, which received scant attention.

Unfortunately for U.S. nationalist romantics, Washington's atrocities cannot be attributed solely to brutal wartime conditions. In November 1940 - well before Pearl Harbor - FDR was "simply delighted" at air force general Claire Lee Chennault's plan to "burn out the industrial heart of the (Japanese) Empire with fire-bomb attacks on the teeming bamboo ant heaps of Honshu and Kyushu." A year later, U.S. Army Chief of Staff George C. Marshall called on his staff to prepare plans for “general incendiary attacks to burn up the wood and paper structures of the densely populated Japanese cities.” With the war barely underway in January 1942 Admiral William Leahy, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, wrote an internal memo stating that “in fighting with Japanese savages all previously accepted rules of warfare must be abandoned.” Abandoned they were. When the war wound down three years later hundreds of thousands of Japanese were burned, blasted, and irradiated to death in the most devastating air attacks in human history.

"Japan was provoked into attacking Pearl Harbor. It is a travesty on history even to say that America was forced into the war. It is incorrect to say that America ever was truly neutral even before America came into the war on an all-out fighting basis.”
--------British Production Minister Oliver Lyttelton

“We did not go to war because we were attacked at Pearl Harbor, I hold rather that we were attacked at Pearl Harbor because we had gone to war.”
--------Arthur Sulzberger, Publisher, New York Times


Dower, John W., "War Without Mercy - Race & Power in the Pacific War" (Pantheon, 1986)

Chomsky, Noam, "American Power and The New Mandarins - Historical and Political Essays" (Vintage, 1969)

Chomsky, Noam, "Failed States - The Abuse of Power and the Assault on Democracy," (Metropolitan, 2006)

Spritzler, John, "The People As Enemy - The Leaders' Hidden Agenda in World War II" (Black Rose, 2003)

Toland, John, "The Rising Sun - The Decline and Fall of the Japanese Empire, 1936-1945," (Random House, 1970)

Zezima, Mickey, "Saving Private Power," (Soft Skull Press, 2003)

Shalom, Stephen, "V-J Day: Remembering the Pacific War," Z Magazine, July/August 1995

Jones, Edgar L., The Atlantic, February 1946