Tuesday, July 24, 2012

It's the Guns - But We All Know, It' Not Really The Guns

... a note from Michael Moore  I did not want you to miss

Tuesday, July 24th, 2012


Since Cain went nuts and whacked Abel, there have always been those humans who, for one reason or another, go temporarily or permanently insane and commit unspeakable acts of violence. There was the Roman Emperor Tiberius, who during the first century A.D. enjoyed throwing victims off a cliff on the Mediterranean island of Capri. Gilles de Rais, a French knight and ally of Joan of Arc during the middle ages, went cuckoo-for-Cocoa Puffs one day and ended up murdering hundreds of children. Just a few decades later Vlad the Impaler, the inspiration for Dracula, was killing people in Transylvania in numberless horrifying ways.

In modern times, nearly every nation has had a psychopath or two commit a mass murder, regardless of how strict their gun laws are – the crazed white supremacist in Norway one year ago Sunday, the schoolyard butcher in Dunblane, Scotland, the École Polytechnique killer in Montreal, the mass murderer in Erfurt, Germany … the list seems endless.

And now the Aurora shooter last Friday. There have always been insane people, and there always will be.

But here's the difference between the rest of the world and us: We have TWO Auroras that take place every single day of every single year! At least 24 Americans every day (8-9,000 a year) are killed by people with guns – and that doesn't count the ones accidentally killed by guns or who commit suicide with a gun. Count them and you can triple that number to over 25,000.

That means the United States is responsible for over 80% of all the gun deaths in the 23 richest countries combined. Considering that the people of those countries, as human beings, are no better or worse than any of us, well, then, why us?

Both conservatives and liberals in America operate with firmly held beliefs as to "the why" of this problem. And the reason neither can find their way out of the box toward a real solution is because, in fact, they're both half right.

The right believes that the Founding Fathers, through some sort of divine decree, have guaranteed them the absolute right to own as many guns as they desire. And they will ceaselessly remind you that a gun cannot fire itself – that "Guns don't kill people, people kill people."

Of course, they know they're being intellectually dishonest (if I can use that word) when they say that about the Second Amendment because they know the men who wrote the constitution just wanted to make sure a militia could be quickly called up from amongst the farmers and merchants should the Brits decide to return and wreak some havoc.

But they are half right when they say "Guns don't kill people." I would just alter that slogan slightly to speak the real truth: "Guns don't kill people, Americans kill people."

Because we're the only ones in the first world who do this en masse. And you'll hear all stripes of Americans come up with a host of reasons so that they don't have to deal with what's really behind all this murder and mayhem.

They'll say it's the violent movies and video games that are responsible. Last time I checked, the movies and video games in Japan are more violent than ours – and yet usually fewer than 20 people a year are killed there with guns – and in 2006 the number was two!

Others will say it's the number of broken homes that lead to all this killing. I hate to break this to you, but there are almost as many single-parent homes in the U.K. as there are here – and yet, in Great Britain, there are usually fewer than 40 gun murders a year.

People like me will say this is all the result of the U.S. having a history and a culture of men with guns, "cowboys and Indians," "shoot first and ask questions later." And while it is true that the mass genocide of the Native Americans set a pretty ugly model to found a country on, I think it's safe to say we're not the only ones with a violent past or a penchant for genocide. Hello, Germany! That's right I'm talking about you and your history, from the Huns to the Nazis, just loving a good slaughter (as did the Japanese, and the British who ruled the world for hundreds of years – and they didn't achieve that through planting daisies). And yet in Germany, a nation of 80 million people, there are only around 200 gun murders a year.

So those countries (and many others) are just like us – except for the fact that more people here believe in God and go to church than any other Western nation.

My liberal compatriots will tell you if we just had less guns, there would be less gun deaths. And, mathematically, that would be true. If you have less arsenic in the water supply, it will kill less people. Less of anything bad – calories, smoking, reality TV – will kill far fewer people. And if we had strong gun laws that prohibited automatic and semi-automatic weapons and banned the sale of large magazines that can hold a gazillion bullets, well, then shooters like the man in Aurora would not be able to shoot so many people in just a few minutes.

But this, too, has a problem. There are plenty of guns in Canada (mostly hunting rifles) – and yet the annual gun murder count in Canada is around 200 deaths. In fact, because of its proximity, Canada's culture is very similar to ours – the kids play the same violent video games, watch the same movies and TV shows, and yet they don't grow up wanting to kill each other. Switzerland has the third-highest number of guns per capita on earth, but still a low murder rate.

So – why us?

I posed this question a decade ago in my film 'Bowling for Columbine,' and this week, I have had little to say because I feel I said what I had to say ten years ago – and it doesn't seem to have done a whole lot of good other than to now look like it was actually a crystal ball posing as a movie.

This is what I said then, and it is what I will say again today:

1. We Americans are incredibly good killers. We believe in killing as a way of accomplishing our goals. Three-quarters of our states execute criminals, even though the states with the lower murder rates are generally the states with no death penalty.

Our killing is not just historical (the slaughter of Indians and slaves and each other in a "civil" war). It is our current way of resolving whatever it is we're afraid of. It's invasion as foreign policy. Sure there's Iraq and Afghanistan – but we've been invaders since we "conquered the wild west" and now we're hooked so bad we don't even know where to invade (bin Laden wasn't hiding in Afghanistan, he was in Pakistan) or what to invade for (Saddam had zero weapons of mass destruction and nothing to do with 9/11). We send our lower classes off to do the killing, and the rest of us who don't have a loved one over there don't spend a single minute of any given day thinking about the carnage. And now we send in remote pilotless planes to kill, planes that are being controlled by faceless men in a lush, air conditioned studio in suburban Las Vegas. It is madness.

2. We are an easily frightened people and it is easy to manipulate us with fear. What are we so afraid of that we need to have 300 million guns in our homes? Who do we think is going to hurt us? Why are most of these guns in white suburban and rural homes? Maybe we should fix our race problem and our poverty problem (again, #1 in the industrialized world) and then maybe there would be fewer frustrated, frightened, angry people reaching for the gun in the drawer. Maybe we would take better care of each other (here's a good example of what I mean).

Those are my thoughts about Aurora and the violent country I am a citizen of. Like I said, I spelled it all out here if you'd like to watch it or share it for free with others. All we're lacking here, my friends, is the courage and the resolve. I'm in if you are.

Michael Moore

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Do I Feel Safer Now?

Just read - as my morning 'treat' - how my government is going all out to keep me safe.

(From an article )
"The Washington Post reported in a 2010 series by Dana Priest and William M. Arken that there are now 1,271 government agencies and 1,931 private companies that work on programs related to counter-terrorism, homeland security and intelligence in about 10,000 locations across the United States. There are 854,000 people with top-secret security clearances, the reporters wrote, and in Washington, D.C., and the surrounding area 33 building complexes for top-secret intelligence work are under construction or have been built since September 2011. Investigative reporter James Bamford wrote in the latest issue of Wired magazine that the National Security Agency is building the largest spy center in the country in Bluffdale, Utah, as part of a secret NSA surveillance program code-named “Stellar Wind.” Bamford noted that the NSA has established listening posts throughout the country to collect, store and examine billions of email messages and phone calls.

So it is going on and on. Is that what "creating jobs" is all about? And, actually, I feel more threatened than safe ... go figure.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

What is There to Hope for?

So much going on in my head. Raging debates with myself and anybody else who will listen. My poor wife is a captive audience. She gets to hear the raw ideas and the initial angry reactions. They need to be vented here.

What is the subject I am talking about? I chose the title because I am asking myself many times a day "what is there to hope for, for the rest of my life (not very much longer), for my children's life (a whole lot of living ahead) and for my grand children (whose lives have barely begun)?"

Where shall we start? Politics? Environment? Wars? Local Issues? Religion? Any of the currently debated sub-issues under those headings can quickly make me throw up, throw in the towel, explode in fury, or disappear into the woods. With the last option really being my favorite. But it does not answer the question.

Shall I hope that our current president or a new one will stop making war all over the world? Or give us all decent healthcare? Or come up with a budget that is sustainable and funds only projects which will help all of us to live decent lives? Or swing into real action on any one of his promises, like alternate energy development, cleaning up the lobbyist situation, get money out of politics, make the Supreme Court into a true institution of justice rather than an enforcer of one or the other political party, make all the Departments in his government be true to their charters, keep religion in all forms out of government ...

I have been made to believe that I as a citizen have an influence over how the people I elect will act on my behalf. The truth is, they act on behalf of who pays them the most money. I was lead to believe that political campaigns are about real issues and open debate not about who can pay for the most advertising that is either presenting an outright lie or totally misleading or plainly promising something the candidate has no intention to ever fulfill, if it is not all about the opponent's horrible record, horrible private life, horrible gaffes and horrible flip-flops.

Vote for the lesser of two evils? Evil is evil. War is war, greed is greed, lies are lies. Who do I turn to? Hope? Hope for What?

Monday, January 9, 2012

Connecting the Dots

If you read a book about the history of the Ottoman Empire and the fact that in the battle for Constantinople 30,000 civilians were raped, beaten, hacked to death and left to rot is very upsetting to you - brutality unworthy of the human spirit inflicted on innocent civilians -- and you have earlier in your life been actively involved in the firebombing of Dresden - which intentionally burned to death 30,000 civilians in one night, motivated entirely by the intent to "break the will of the German population" -- would you somehow connect the dots and tell yourself "I was part of the same brutality I am abhorred by reading about the Turks"? And that was my country doing it.

Well, that did not happen in that conversation. And I find this more often than not in civilized, intelligent conversations - an inability to connect the dots. Is it an unwillingness to see because it is uncomfortable? Is it just plain lack of knowledge of current developments and recent as well as ancient history? Mental paralysis? A media-propaganda-induced accumulation of blind spots?

One current example:

Israel has 300 to 500 nuclear warheads, unacknowledged, undeclared, un-inspected, ready to be shot off at anybody who dares to threaten Israel. Iran is enriching Uranium and most probably has some wish to develop nuclear weapons because it feels threatened, but does not have any of the aforementioned capabilities, neither now nor in the foreseeable future. We, the Western bully nations keep parading our military and economic threats before Iran. Never around Israel. The dots here are not even far apart, in geography and in time. And yet very few people are able or willing to connect them. What happened to intelligence?

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Naked Man and the Hotel Maid from Guinea

Last night I happened onto a European TV newscast that described in great detail the plans the defense lawyers for Mr. Strauss-Kahn had to discredit the immigrant maid who was the victim of his alleged sexual assault.

The most ludicrous effort, I thought, was that some people flew to her native village (which she left four years ago and had no contact with since), to dig up any dirt and gossip which would make her less credible. Another venue of attack was her immigration papers. "We will comb through every entry on every document she ever filled out, because people lie to some answers since they are desperate to be admitted to the US and that is a crime" said the comfortable, heavy bodied lawyer, lodged into a couch. "We will interview all of her co-workers, boyfriends ... I am sure there are some stories we can find and use."

It went on and on, until I had to shut it off. How disgusting and totally irrelevant to what happened in the $3000 a night hotel suite. Apparently Mr Strauss-Kahn has practiced this sort of behavior before, as we come to find out from previous victims speaking up now, so who's life needs to be examined first?

Now he absolves his "house arrest" in a 14 Million Dollar mansion awaiting court action. The poor maid is scared out of her wits in face of that much money and power. I am not holding my breath until justice is done.

Will Common Sense prevail?

Monday, May 9, 2011

What You Should Know About Drones

I am quoting from Kathy Kelly's article on www.commondreams.org because it reminded me of my own experiences in Austria during WWII walking home from school after an air raid. The bombs then were a little more "benign," if I may call it that way, and I was in the shelter when they fell. But seeing the destroyed houses and knowing that people had died in them was enough for me. Here is her story (you can read the full article at http://www.commondreams.org/view/2011/05/09-5).

"I’m reminded of an encounter I had, in May, 2010, when a journalist and a social worker from North Waziristan met with a small Voices for Creative Nonviolence delegation in Pakistan and described, in gory and graphic detail, the scenes of drone attacks which they had personally witnessed: the carbonized bodies, burned so fully they could be identified by legs and hands alone, the bystanders sent flying like dolls through the air to break, with shattered bones and sometimes-fatal brain injuries, upon walls and stone.

“Do Americans know about the drones?” the journalist asked me. I said I thought that awareness was growing on University campuses and among peace groups. “This isn’t what I’m asking,” he politely insisted. “What I want to know is if average Americans know that their country is attacking Pakistan with drones that carry bombs. Do they know this?”

"Truthfully,” I said, “I don’t think so.”

One more interesting fact: "As of now, worldwide, 49 companies make 450 different drone aircraft. Drone merchants expect that drone sales will earn $20.2 billion over the next 10 years for aerospace war manufacturers. Who knows? One day drone missiles may be aimed at us."

Good Luck, to all of us!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Does Anybody Care About Our Health?

Two stories on today's Common Dreams website raised alarm bells for me about governments caring at all about their people. First there is more and more evidence of the health risks following the oil gusher in the Gulf: Many residents along the Gulf Coast are exhibiting symptoms that clearly look like reactions to chemical exposure. Read the article and come to your own conclusions. http://www.commondreams.org/view/2011/04/20-10 Unfortunately the article also points out that there is no concerted effort (and no funds) to collect the data needed to prove what is happening.

Then there is the little story of the well water near natural gas 'fracking' activity in rural Pennsylvania that can be set on fire because it contains methane gas. One of the wells recently blew out and spilled toxic chemicals over fields, pastures and into waterways. http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2011/04/20-8

Last but not least we have the situation in Japan where nobody seems to know "officially" how bad the radioactive contamination actually is and will be as the leaks keep leaking radio active water and who knows what else into the sea, air and into the soil.

What we keep hearing about these catastrophies is mostly that the Gulf is on its way to return to normal, deepwater drilling is safe and will continue, natural gas extraction is going fine with the fracking process, and atomic power plants are really safe ... very little is being said about the poor people who live, work, fish and farm in these areas. Their livelihood and their health and the health of their offspring (maybe for generations) is at risk, and the public efforts to disseminate accurate information and to organize the tracking and alleviating of the health risks are in sad shape. Any kind of public acknowledgement of the situation (other than empty words and promises)is sorely missing. Do our governments care about human beings? Not only do they kill them off by the hundreds of thousands in unjustified wars they also keep endangering them by the millions through unregulated and unsavory practices to maintain our "standard of living" - I guess that standard only goes to the (so far un-radiated)survivors. Common Sense? Where?