Murder and the State (Koyaanisqatsi)

Let’s try to get this straight. The state proclaims that taking a life is wrong. Someone takes the life of another. The remedy of the state is to execute the killer. Is that right? But hold on. I thought the position of the state is that taking a life is wrong. Well, it seems that taking the life of someone else is only wrong if the killer is not the state. Koyaanisqatsi.

Let’s take this to the next level. Suppose the person the state wants to murder is not guilty of the crime for which he is to be executed. In the eyes of the state, that doesn’t matter if a so-called jury of his/her peers decides that the condemned is in fact guilty and so long as the proper procedures have been followed. Koyaanisqatsi. Execution, that is legalized murder, is a mere procedural matter as far as the state is concerned.

This could be carried to the next level and the next and so on, but the reasoning can never come to a point of making sense, neither morally nor ethically nor logically.

My position on murder by the state is unequivocal. I oppose it, with no exceptions. With that behind us, let’s go on to the events of last night in the sovereign state of Georgia.

Last night at 11:08PM EST the state of Georgia murdered Troy Davis. He was convicted on the basis of nine eyewitness accounts, and some very, very poor forensics. Over the course of seventeen years the man was subjected three times to a death warrant, each of which was stayed, and a final, fourth warrant, which was not. To my mind being brought four times to the brink of oblivion was already cruel and unusual punishment, ostensibly illegal in itself. No matter. He was killed, so all that is moot, at least with respect to Troy Davis. Even among those who believe in the medieval act of capital punishment, which they no doubt view as retribution but which is in fact retaliation, there were multitudes of doubters, who felt that this execution was unjust. And so it was. Any reasonable person not guided by feelings of revenge, or perhaps simply with no feelings at all would in a fair and just world call this homicidal state act wrong.

Seven of the eyewitnesses recanted their testimony, and some of those seven said they were coerced by the police who allegedly frightened them into pointing to Troy Anthony Davis. Of those who did not take back their accusation, one was said by many to be the actual shooter. The ninth was so far away that reliable identification was basically impossible. Three jurors said that if they had known at the time of the trial what they knew today, they would not have voted for conviction. Many prominent persons, too numerous to list here, pleaded for a stay of execution, although the President said it was not “appropriate” for him to even comment on the case. It was all to no avail. He’s dead, and no proof of innocence, if such were to be found, can bring him back.

The state reserves to itself the right to kill. Certainly the death penalty for certain crimes is barbarous. The United States aligns itself with such progressive nations as Iran and Yemen, North Korea and yes, China, one of the worst offenders, even though it’s the workers paradise. According to Amnesty International, more than two-thirds of all the nations in the world have actually or effectively thrown the death penalty into the dustbin of history. Lamentably, not so very long ago, the death penalty was deemed unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, but that august body has progressively (sic) become more reactionary as the years pass. In a ludicrous fashion, several Justices call for a strict interpretation of the Constitution, by which they mean to strive to adhere to the intentions of the Founding Fathers, whoever they were, and whatever their intentions actually were. By this standard, one of the current Associate Justices would be counted as only two-thirds of a human being and might well be a chattel slave, and another would effectively not exist, or at least would not be allowed to participate in the affairs of the nation because the female gender was not considered worthy. None would be on the Court if they did not own land.

In some quarters all this is simply racism, and one cannot gainsay the fact that most who are executed are from minorities, yet clearly there is more to it than that. Most on death row are also poor. But even if each and every soul executed were part of the monied class, it would still be murder.

Obama, bin Laden, and Bank of America

Last night came the welcome news that Osama bin Laden is no more. There are those who will say that they will seek revenge against the Crusaders for murdering the apostle of a return to the seventh century. Never mind that bin Laden, or at least al Qaeda collectively, has killed far more Muslims than Westerners. Such are comparable to those who will insist Obama is not a U.S. citizen, and a Muslim to boot, no matter what evidence to the contrary might be offered. Others will feel relief, or at least a sense of justice served. The Obama administration, for its’ part, will insist that U.S. motives are pure, and will never acknowledge any responsibility for the world’s plague of terrorism. Ignore the U.S. military bases in 130 countries. Set aside the fact that the U.S. military budget exceeds the “defense” spending of the entire rest of the planet.

There are no innocents, including me, and including you, dear reader. In the meantime, the criminals of finance capitalism, in stealth mode, invent new ways to get around any attempts at restricting their predations. They continue to find new ways to fleece the helpless consumer, and to pick his/her pocket. Today, the morning after the surprising news of the killing of Osama bin Laden, I receive in the mail “Important Consumer Notices and Other Changes to Your Bank of America Credit Card Account,” one notice for each account. These notices put me on notice, as it were, that if I were to make a late payment on any account, the APR will go to 29.99 percent, and that this new rate will apply indefinitely. It is debatable as to who has caused more disruption of the world’s well-being in the last few years, bin Laden, who had become more or less irrelevant, or Bank of America and its ilk, driving the world as fast as possible to penury. Continue reading Obama, bin Laden, and Bank of America

Owls and Such, Taking the Sunset Limited

Today I received an email from Care 2 action Alerts soliciting my signature on a petition to seek punishment for a soccer player from Panama who apparently kicked the live owl mascot of the opposing team from Colombia. The owl died a few hours later. I resisted even opening this message, as I have had enough lately of the cruelty of humans. Eventually I opened it anyway, and my spirits sank as I considered what this man had done.

Some will say it was just an owl. I say, it was a living, sentient being. Now, we humans as a species, whatever we may have been in the past, are at the end of the food chain. We are the predators par excellence, at least as predatory as the strange beast in the film “Predator.” We are accustomed to eating other animals virtually every day. Humans consider themselves special, especially Christians, but others as well. Anything non-human is essentially of no import, put on the Earth by God (pick one, any one) for us to do with as we please.

I cannot and will not argue with the apparent scheme of things, however it may have arisen. There is a natural order of things. There is indeed a food chain. Unacknowledged is the simple truth that the terminal elements in this chain are not large predators, but rather vanishingly small microbes. But humans are the creatures that routinely kill gratuitously, or what amounts to the same thing, for trivial and indulgent reasons. Surely, we are an evolutionary blind alley. Or perhaps we are the Apocalypse, those beings that will bring the world to an end. Ridiculous, you say? Hear me out, and then believe what you will, but hear me out. Continue reading Owls and Such, Taking the Sunset Limited

Nah, It Ain’t F**cism

The term fascism is tossed about without much reflection these days. Conservatives talk of Islamofascism even while decrying as class warfare any reference in similar terms to their own extreme right wing stuff. Some left-liberals count almost anything the right does as fascism. None of this has much to recommend it. This kind of ranting is merely baiting those who disagree with whoever is making the fascism accusation or association. George Orwell supposedly said that the word was most often used as a way to insult one’s enemies.

But let’s look a little more closely at what is happening in America today. While it is very difficult to come to a consensus definition of fascism there are a few things most can agree upon. There will be dissenters no matter what, e.g. Hayek and von Mises and such. One term that is frequently used is corporatism. Unfortunately, corporatism itself is subject to widely differing interpretations. Whatever notion of the nature of corporatism you may favor, the fact remains that both the Third Reich and Mussolini’s Italy favored large corporations. Such American giants as Ford and IBM continued operations in Germany throughout the Second World War, and they were compensated after the war’s end for their losses by the Allied powers. It isn’t so much that corporations are nefarious, they are amoral. They will do anything they can get away with to make a profit.

So, without invoking fascism, in the darkest days of the zenith of the right in the twentieth century, right wing governments enlisted the collaboration of corporations, domestic and foreign, to accomplish their aims. Government colluded with business to conduct what amounted to perpetual war. Those governments were militaristic and corporate. In fact, some hold that in these cases, government itself was run like a corporation. I believe that our own government may be sliding inexorably toward similar behavior in our time. Let’s see why I think so. Continue reading Nah, It Ain’t F**cism

Groupon, Google!

Here is a perfect example of the mess our society is in today. Google, the Internet search engine giant, has bid $6 billion to buy Groupon, an Internet business startup. Well, the New York Times called it a startup. The founder of Groupon is all of 30 years old. He stands to become a billionaire by selling a company that doesn’t make anything to another company that also doesn’t make anything. Continue reading Groupon, Google!

There Will Be Fuel

The august New York Times on Wednesday, 17 November had a special section on Energy. The lead article by one Clifford Krauss (unidentified in the article) asserts that there will be ample fuel for all purposes for the forseeable future, albeit with some minor problems. As authority he quotes William M. Colton, vice president for global planning for Exxon-Mobil and Robert N. Ryan, Jr., vice president for global exploration for Chevron, as though they had no axe to grind and are completely impartial. No chance that they are self-serving. Continue reading There Will Be Fuel

Chalmers Johnson RIP

Chalmers Johnson died on November 20, 2010 at the age of 79. Although I did not know him personally, I will miss him and the work he did for all of us.

There Really Are Limits to Growth

It is still fashionable today to ridicule the report the late Donella Meadows and her associates at MIT prepared for The Club of Rome, “The Limits to Growth” and successor reports. Yet it is patent nonsense and an affront to common sense to pretend that economic growth, the fundamental basis of modern capitalism, can continue indefinitely, and at a geometric rate at that. To suggest otherwise is purely willful, an ideological, indeed a theological claim. I am not interested in endless examination of philosophical or even cultural terms or buzzwords. It serves no purpose to try to come to an agreement as to whether a particular label is rooted in this-or-that origin. Are neoconservatives an outgrowth of left-liberals switching from left to right? I really don’t care. But it is important to recognize that certain positions are ideological, quasi-religious in nature. Continue reading There Really Are Limits to Growth

Fossil Fuel Folly

What BP is really doing.

This is a cautionary post. It is not a cautionary tale, something made up to illustrate a point. Rather it is constructed out of information gleaned from public sources. Conventional wisdom holds that competition is the only and best way to provide abundance for all. Pursuit of profit results somehow in maximum good for maximum numbers. Yet the very word competition implies a winner. In a competitive event there is supposed to be a winner. A 100 meter dash, a baseball game, a competition to win market share, all usually result in a winner. But it is a zero sum game. If there is a winner, there is at least one loser. The result of neoliberal corporate economic competition is the killing of the planet, and graphic evidence is at hand.

Since late April, oil has been gushing into the Gulf of Mexico at a disastrous rate, and thus far no one knows how to stop it. The corporation responsible for this is BP (formerly British Petroleum, now congratulating itself as Beyond Petroleum in its ads), the world’s third-largest oil company. BP spends significant amounts trying to convince the consumer that they are not like other oil companies; they are trying to be green. The epithet “green” is vague and imprecise, but according to the BP Web site (excerpted 26 July, 2008): Continue reading Fossil Fuel Folly

Aristotle vs. Wall Street

In his Introduction to a new translation of Aristotle’s Politics, published in 1912, William Ellis pointed out that:

The Greek doctrine that the essence of the state consists in community of purpose is the counterpart of the notion often held in modern times that the essence of the state is force. The existence of force is for Plato and Aristotle a sign not of the state but of the state’s failure (emphasis mine). It comes from the struggle between conflicting misconceptions of the good. In so far as men conceive the good rightly they are united. The state represents their common agreement, force [represents] their failure to make that agreement complete. The cure, therefore, of political ills is knowledge of the good life, and the statesman is he who has such knowledge, for that alone can give men what they are always seeking.
Continue reading Aristotle vs. Wall Street