Category Archives: Lawrence Davidson

Massacre in Las Vegas

from Lawrence Davidson, To the Point Analyses, 10/2/17

On the occasion of the latest episode of mass murder, I would like to redistribute an essay I wrote in July of 2012 – after yet a different shooting. Please note that I see no reason to change the title of the essay. LD

An American Motto: Free, Armed and Stupid – An Analysis (22 July 2012) by Lawrence Davidson

Part I – Gun Violence Epidemic Continues

Well here we go again. Late in the evening of July 20th “a masked gunman entered a Colorado movie theater playing the new Batman movie and “opened fire…killing at least 12 people and wounding 50.” [To this we can now add the December 14th massacre of 20 young children and 6 adults by twenty year-old gunman in Newtown Conn.] The gunman was not a large anthropomorphized bat but rather a young white male, and he “was armed with a rifle, a shotgun and two handguns” all of which he had legally obtained.

This is nothing new in the Land Of The Free. Among the more notable victims of the nation’s love affair with deadly weapons have been Abraham Lincoln, James Garfield, William McKinley, John F. Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Ronald Reagan and, of course, John Lennon. Then there are the recent (and periodically on-going) mass murders among the population at large: the Colombine High School shootings, the Beltway sniper incidents, the Virginia Tech massacre, and the 2011 Tucson killings. To this can be added the daily shootings that occur in every city in the country. Taking the representative year 2007, there were 31,224 deaths from gunshots with 17,352 of them (56%) being suicides. The numbers have, generally, been going up.

Part II – The Gun Advocates’ Excuses

Those who stand against tightening up the nation’s presently useless gun laws have a variety of arguments most of which are in good part delusional. Thus:

1. EXCUSE NUMBER ONE – Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.

a. It is certainly true that while sitting on a shelf, locked in a draw, or carried in a holster, guns are inert pieces of machinery and, ultimately, it takes a finger to pull the trigger. Yet this fact is actually irrelevant. It’s irrelevant because guns are not manufactured to stay on shelves, in draws or holsters. That inert status has nothing to do with why they exist. So, we can go on and ask,

b. Why are guns manufactured? Why do they exist? Primitive firearms were invented in China sometime in the 12thcentury. They were invented to be used in warfare, that is to kill and injure other people. As the technology spread Westward, first into the Arab lands and then to Europe, it was improved, but the raison d’etre (its reason for being), to kill and injure others. stayed the same. The only thing that has changed over time is that in certain lands, particularly the U.S., a monopoly on the possession of such weapons ceased to be held by the state and guns diffused into the population as a whole.

In the United States, this process of diffusion was allowed based on a peculiar interpretation of Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. That amendment says that the right of the citizens to bear arms shall not be infringed. But that statement forms a dependent clause in a sentence that links the right to bear arms to the maintenance of “a well regulated militia.” Apart from the National Guard, the modern U.S. does not maintain militias. And, most of the membership of the National Rifle Association (NRA), along with the other gun-toting tough guys walking the streets of (particularly) the mid and southern U.S., don’t even belong to National Guard.

c. The hard truth is that guns were originally invented, and still today are primarily made, to shoot people. Their other uses: in hunting, to shoot holes in paper targets, to blast clay projectiles out of the air for fun, are strictly secondary to their primary purpose.

d. So the argument that guns don’t kill people is a-historical and something of a red herring. Guns are essentially our partners, intimate accessories if you will, in what is most often criminal activity, facilitating the efficiency of acts of homicide, assault and suicide. At the rate we pursue these activities, we just couldn’t maintain the modern level of mayhem without them.

2. EXCUSE NUMBER TWO – Guns are most often used for self-defense.

a. If you go on the web, you can find surveys that allege the use of guns for self-defense numbering in the millions of episodes per year. However, these surveys are often carried out by biased organizations and are methodologically flawed. They have therefore been demonstrated to be unreliable.

b. More reliable studies, conducted by unbiased sources have shown, among other things, that: very few criminals are shot by law-abiding citizens; most criminals are shot either by the police, or by other criminals; and firearms reported to have been used in self-defense are, most of the time, used against members of a family or erstwhile friends during arguments.

Along the same lines, the statement concerning the Colorado theater massacre issued by Luke O’Dell, a spokesman for the Rocky Mountain Gun Owners association, reflected the misconception that the answer to gun violence is more guns: “Potentially, if there had been a law-abiding citizen who had been able to carry [a gun] in the theater [in Colorado], it’s possible that the death toll would have been less.” One might more plausibly argue that if the shooter had not been able to procure a rifle, a shotgun and two handguns “to carry” into the theater, the death toll would have been zero.

Part III – The Problem of Lobby Power

It seems not to matter how many times these massacres take place. Nothing is likely to change. Here is what an article entitled “Still Little Interest In U.S. Gun Control” in the Philadelphia Inquirer of 22 July 2012 had to say, “Despite periodic mass shootings…the political calculus seems locked down. Most Republicans adamantly oppose tighter gun controls, and most Democrats would prefer to focus on other issues.” Why so? The reason has to do with a very flawed aspect of our political system. Ours is a system that allows a relatively small number of citizens (in this case gun zealots) to form a special interest, or lobby group, that raises and distributes great amounts of money nationwide and, in some parts of the country, exercises strong voting influence. These lobbies can hold crazy ideas that demonstrably harm society and make us look like an insane nation to the rest of the world, but that doesn’t matter either. The politicians will positively respond anyway to get money and electoral support. In this sense, we live in a land devoid of “national interest.” There is only the interest of lobby groups and the politicians controlled by them.

Nor is this situation unique to the problem of the nation’s gun laws and the power of the NRA. If we look at foreign policy, we see that similar lobbies skew policy with disastrous results. The Zionist lobby has the entire U.S. government head over heels in support of the basically racist state of Israel. And, this position does demonstrable harm to our standing throughout the Middle East and Muslim world. It’s crazy, but it has been going on for at least 65 years. The Cuban lobby of anti-Castro fanatics has intimidated Washington to blockade, sanction and otherwise isolate Cuba even though the rest of the world is content to trade and have normal relations with the island nation. Our politicians say they take this stand because the Cuban government is a communist dictatorship. So what? Do we have normal relations with China? Do we trade with Vietnam? They are obviously being less than truthful. They take the stand because they are bought and bullied by a bunch of well organized, well funded, fanatics. The whole thing is crazy and has been going on since 1960.

Part IV – Conclusion

There is simply something wrong with our political system. Too few people can command too much power in the name of relatively small minority groups. We need campaign finance reform and much more transparency when it comes to the operations of special interests. We need shorter electoral periods and limits on how much it can cost to run for any office. We need honest and open regional and national debates on both domestic and foreign policies that affect large numbers of our citizens (whether those citizens know it or not).

And, last but not least, we need a rational rethinking of what the word “freedom” means.

– Does “freedom” mean that just about anyone is free to carry weapons that potentially put the rest of us in danger? Free to carry weapons that are most often going to be used to shoot off the carrier’s foot, or shoot someone he or she imagines is acting abnormally, or shoot a family member in a heated argument, or, in a fit of depression, to blow one’s own brains out? Does it mean that people are free to carry weapons that they may decide to use in an act of mass murder?

– Does “freedom” mean that if you have a lot of money you can use it to corrupt the nation’s politicians so that they distort the positions and policies of government to such a degree that they cease to have any connection to common sense definitions of community or national interest?

The answer is yes. That, in good part, is actually what freedom means in the U.S. And these stupid definitions of “freedom” are slowly but surely undermining the body politic. There are no super heroes out there to save us: no Superman, no Batman, no Catwoman, and the like. There is just us. And if we don’t find a way to, in essence, work our way free of the pseudo “freedoms” that are ruining our political system, no one else will. Things will simply get worse.

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A Culture War Against Tolerance – An Analysis

By Lawrence Davidson, To the Point Analyses, 7/16/17

Part I – Tolerance Amid Growing Intolerance

In case you haven’t noticed, the United States is a country deeply divided on a large number of basic issues: racial issues, gender issues, issues of sexual preference, the role of government in society, the role of religious views in shaping laws, and so on. Influential Institutions, such as media outlets, are being labeled as “left” or “right” depending on how they report or relate on these issues. Battles now rage on these topics in the halls of Congress. Finally, the Supreme Court’s legal decisions on cases that reflect these questions have been trending toward the “conservative” end of the spectrum. All of this makes it quite difficult to have a meaningful discussion or debate about such issues in the public realm. Such attempts have often led to further divisiveness instead of reconciliation – reflecting what some might describe as an ongoing culture war.

The one place where thoughtful debates are usually encouraged is on the university and colleges campuses. This is particularly so in the “humanities” and “social sciences” classrooms, where you find courses in history, English, foreign languages, sociology, anthropology, political science and the like. Such areas of study draw on diverse source material and examples. And so, running against the popular grain, so to speak, divisive issues often become legitimate aspects of study.

This process of study and discussion concerning controversial topics has been going on on U.S. campuses at least since the end of World War II. By the 1970s clear preferences as to how these issues should be thought about appeared. And, they consistently agreed with a tolerant stand that maximized the virtues of equality and social justice….

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Netanyahu’s Mind – An Analysis (22 April 2016)

by Lawrence Davidson, To the Point Analyses

Part I – The “Fresh Perspective”

Dan Illouz is an Israeli lawyer and a former legal adviser to both the Knesset’s leadership coalition and the Israeli Foreign Ministry. He is also a big fan of Prime Minister Netanyahu. On 13 April 2016 he wrote an opinion piece for the Jerusalem Post entitled, “A Fresh Perspective: Understanding Netanyahu’s Mind.”

Among the many synonyms of “fresh” offered by your average on-line dictionary are “unusual” and “undeveloped.” Though Illouz would certainly not agree that these terms fit his effort to explain the prime minister’s consciousness, it turns out that they actually do. For instance, there is his unusual claim that “Netanyahu is one of the deepest thinkers among world leaders.” At the same time Illouz emphasizes that Netanyahu comes from a “very ideological” background bequeathed to him by both his Revisionist Zionist father, Benzion Netanyahu, and the American neoconservative worldview. As we will see, both outlooks are undeveloped one-dimensional frames of reference.

It is true that our perceptions reflect a worldview structured by the aspects of family and society we choose to embrace, or rebel against. It could go either way. According to Illouz, Netanyahu has embraced the restricted worldview of a brand of Zionism that teaches that, if the Jews are to survive in the modern world, they must be militarily all powerful and remain unmoved by any and all calls for compromise with alleged enemies. Also, according to Illouz, Netanyahu sees the world through the myopic lens of the American neoconservative movement, which preaches that both the United States and Israel are allies in a never-ending battle of good against evil. …

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Charles Krauthammer: America’s Conservative Voice – An Analysis (8 February 2016)

by Lawrence Davidson, To the Point Analyses, 2/8/16

Part I – Krauthammer Conservatism

Charles Krauthammer is the most celebrated contemporary conservative thinker in the United States. However, let it be known that he is not just a theorist. He is man of political action who wants a conservative in the White House to line up with those already in control of Congress. Thus he supports Republican candidates such Marco Rubio and Chris Christie (Ted Cruz, while a “genuine conservative,” is too “radical,” and Jeb Bush isn’t mentioned at all) as potential presidents who would give conservatism its best opportunity since Reagan to become the country’s governing philosophy.” Those are the words of an unapologetic ideologue: what is good for the country is the Krauthammer philosophy of conservatism in control of the government. 

What does this mean? For Krauthammer, as for so many other conservative thinkers who have never really evolved away from 19th century capitalist economic theory, conservatism in power means the “reform” of big government, or as he still describes it, “the 20th century welfare state.” Reform essentially means significant downsizing of government in the name of individual “freedom,” primarily in the market place, and, of course, a corresponding cut in taxes for the business class.  

There are several things dangerously wrong about Krauthammer’s simplistic approach to “conservative governing.” One is that, in a country like the U.S. with approximately 320 million people (a considerable number of them getting steadily poorer), doing away with welfare state services and regulations seriously risks further impoverishment, increased economic exploitation in the workplace, an erosion of state and local infrastructures, and an explosion in business corruption. While Krauthammer would never agree, it is simply historically untrue that capitalism, without widespread government regulation and significant financial support for basic services, has ever brought prosperity to the majority of any population. The second thing wrong with Krauthammer’s thinking is his apparent inability to understand the difference between inefficiency and government size. Big government is necessary for the social and economic health of big societies. However, increased size does not automatically translate into government inefficiency. The need to monitor the efficiency of all bureaucracies so that they perform their jobs in a smooth and timely fashion is one thing. Downsizing to the point of near dismantlement of necessary government bureaus based on the conservative ideological assumption that they are chronically inefficient and overly expensive dead weight is quite another. The former will make things better. The latter will risk societal collapse. …

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