Thursday, March 22, 2018

Bang Bang Crazy, Part 13: Stand and Teach

Rant: to speak or shout at length in a wild, impassioned way. A tirade.



This veteran’s rant about arming teachers is going viral.

This veteran being me, of course. Seems some clickbait site called Bored Panda picked up a thread I wrote on Twitter and declared it a rant. I think they meant it as a compliment, but I can’t help but feel like John Goodman at the end of Atomic Blonde, “Cocksucker? Really?”

Bored Panda wasn’t the only one. My comments appeared on a number of sites and have been shared on Twitter itself thousands of times and viewed by more than 1.4 million people.

And like Bored Panda, a number of people described my comments as a rant.

Specifically, a tirade against guns.

And isn’t that interesting?

But, I’m getting ahead of myself.

On March 12th, President Trump declared (via Twitter):



Very strong improvement and strengthening of background checks will be fully backed by White House. Legislation moving forward. Bump Stocks will soon be out. Highly trained expert teachers will be allowed to conceal carry, subject to State Law. Armed guards OK, deterrent!.......

It was his usual 5AM declaration from the presidential toilet, hyperbolic, chock-a-block with non sequiturs, and full of straining and groaning and falsehoods – some obvious, some less so.

But it was the bit at the end, that’s what jumped out at me, “Highly trained expert teachers.”

Highly trained expert teachers.

Now, it was pretty obvious that the NRA would show up before Trump finished wiping his ass. Money would change hands. Favors would be exchanged. And Trump would back-pedal on bump-stocks and background checks and age limits and all the other gun control measures he’d been promising since the Parkland shooting. 

And that’s exactly what happened.

Within a day, Trump was walking back his new found passion for actually doing something while pretending that he wasn’t and we’ve always been at war with Eastasia. Or was that Eurasia?

But not that last bit.

No, not that last bit. The NRA loves that idea. Stand and fight. Put more guns into schools. Arm the teachers.

The “highly trained expert teachers.”


…Wait a minute, highly trained expert teachers?

Highly trained by who?

Experts in what?

Trump never explains himself. He certainly never explained this statement. He just assumes he knows what he means. But does he? Does he? Because Donald Trump has a very long record of not understanding complex topics in any detail whatsoever. Instead, he fancies himself an idea man. The leader. He makes some vague pronouncement and expects everybody else to work out the details.

And nobody ever asks for the details.

You want to arm teachers?

You want to let teachers carry guns in the classroom?

Highly trained, expert teachers, you say.

Well, then I think we need to ask for the details.

Yes, I think we need to ask some questions, demand the answers in detail.

I mean, hell, if you wanted to teach evolution, or women’s health, or civil rights, parents would have questions. They’d show up and demand answers.

But guns?

Nothing. Go ahead, arm the teachers, let’s see what happens.


We won’t know until we try it out, he says. Why would that be so bad?

Tell me, are you willing to test your theory with your children?

Or were you planning on risking other people’s kids to find out?

So I asked.

I wrote a 23-part thread on Twitter – which was itself based on a Facebook post I wrote the day after the Parkland shooting, asking the following questions:

“Highly trained expert teachers" Highly trained Highly trained by ... who? Who designs the training. To what criteria? To what standards?

It matters, you know.

You don’t just pull training out of your ass.

Not if you want it to be effective. And we are talking about guns here, aren’t we? In classrooms, with your kids.

Training is designed to meet a specific requirement, to achieve a specific goal.

These people are teachers. Would you stand for it if they just winged it, when it comes to math and science and home economics? No? That’s right. There’s an approved curriculum, designed for each specific grade, that takes into account things like material appropriate to age group, whether or not there was any previous education on the topic (i.e. you don’t start math with AP Calculus in kindergarten, there are prerequisites), and whether the subject is practical or abstract (big difference in the objectives of shop class and the aforementioned AP calculus. One teaches a practical skill, the other abstract thinking). And so on.

Building curriculum is a skill in and of itself.

When you talk about training teachers to carry guns in the classroom, you’re talking about a lot more than just facility with a firearm.

Let me give you an example: When I went through the Smith & Wesson Rangemaster Academy, which trains military and law enforcement to be Firearms Instructors, much of the class was focused on the practical aspects of teaching professional firearms handling and shooting. You had to already be an experienced and trained shooter to even qualify for the class in the first place, coming from the military or from law enforcement. Because we were training to become professional firearms instructors, we spent a lot of time on the range at Springfield ourselves, practicing professional shooting techniques under close supervision. But we also spent a lot of time in the classroom learning not only the theory of firearms instruction but also such things as liability and case law for firearms instructors, along with how to develop training plans, both practical and classroom, tailored to the specific needs of our particular environment. I trained with cops, with federal nuclear materials guards, with armored car guards, and members of various militaries. Each of our requirements were different. When we became certified instructors, our students’ requirements would be different. Thus, the objective of the training was to give us the skills, knowledge, and expertise to safely tailor firearms training to the various needs of our agencies. The certification was to make us legally responsibility for it and for whatever happened under our tutelage.

Police officers, guards, military personnel, how each uses a firearm varies greatly, depending on many, many factors.

A police officer’s rules regarding the use of deadly force are very, very different from the military’s Rules of Engagement, which often vary between conflict zones and are subject to change within each zone depending on phase of conflict, political considerations, international agreement, and so on.  Prison guards, armored car guards, and those guys I mentioned up above who guard nuclear facilities have very different requirements, very different considerations, very different priorities.


So, when I ask you: these teachers will be highly trained by who? Don't just say, "the local police department" or something similar.

That’s the wrong answer, or at best it’s incomplete.

You’re talking about armed teachers. Not cops. Not Marines. Teachers. You’re talking about putting a gun in a classroom full of young children, teenagers, perhaps college students. You’re talking civilians, kids. You’re talking about a teacher, whose primary job is to teach, carrying a loaded weapon among children. You’re talking about practical considerations far beyond mere ability to shoot straight. You’re talking about responsibility – where failure of responsibility results in dead kids. So, you need to consider all the requirements necessary for that teacher to safely carry a weapon in the classroom on a normal day. A day where they don’t have to pull it out and shoot somebody.


Above that, you then need to look at exactly what is you expect that teacher to do in an emergency.

There is a hell of a lot more to an engagement than just shooting straight. This isn’t the firing range. It’s also not a military battlefield and not the mean streets patrolled by cops.

You need something beyond the military’s rules of engagement and the cop’s rules of deadly force.

It’s a special circumstance with unique requirements, priorities, and considerations.

You can’t just wade in with guns blazing.

Well, you can, but you’re going to regret it.


You’d just turn training and certification over to some private contractor without asking any questions?

You’d let some private contractor train teachers to carry guns in a room with your children, and you think asking questions is stupid?

Well, then let me ask another stupid question: how do you hire the contractor?

I mean, have you ever been involved in a government contract? The school district is a government agency. You want the agency to hire a contractor – using your tax dollars. What’s in the contract? I mean, if you don’t ask any questions how do you know what to put in the contract? Moreover, how do you hold the contractor to the contract, if you haven’t specified in detail what the requirements are?

If you’ve ever dealt with this sort of thing, then you know that these kinds of contracts must specify every detail. And there are massive repercussions if you miss something. It can end up costing you millions, or worse.

Look here: if your kid’s school wanted to start some new extracurricular activity, sports team, band camp, Challenger center, you’d ask questions, at least I hope you would. You’d expect the School Board to ask questions. Who’s running it? What is their training? Are they certified? By who? How much is it going to cost? Where does the money come from? If this requires travel, who’s doing the driving and what’s that guy’s qualifications? Kids staying overnight somewhere, boys and girls, and what’s the protocol here? Will the school’s insurance cover this? And so on. This is basic stuff. If you as a parent are too damned dumb to ask the questions, guaranteed somebody in the school staff is asking or you need a new school board, Administrator, and school district lawyer. And the answers to those standard questions tell you whether or not you can do it.

If you don’t ask the questions, how do you even know if you can afford the training?

I don’t think you’ve thought this through.


Tell me, what’s in a concealed carry class?

What concealed carry class teaches you to face down an active shooter in a school full of children?

Show me that class.


Please describe how the requirements of an Air Marshal, i.e. a trained, certified federal law enforcement officer who typically operates undercover and whose primary consideration is the safety of aircraft in the air is in anyway whatsoever similar to a civilian teacher whose primary goal is teaching and who operates as an overt authority figure in a classroom full of kids.

Note also, that an air marshal’s training was developed to very, very specific requirements and requires specific prerequisites such as a Bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice, Homeland Security, Criminology, or similar, and requires several years experience in law enforcement before you can even apply. Were you planning on leveraging that training on a teacher’s normal education and accreditation? Well? Something tells me this person didn’t even bother to look up the requirements for Air Marshal before making the suggestion. And again, we’re talking about putting guns in the classroom with kids, you can’t just pull it out of your ass.


Again, a pilot’s requirements to carry a weapon in the cockpit are very, very different from a teacher in the classroom.

A pilot’s primary legal responsibility is to maintain control of the aircraft. Even if it means everybody in the passenger cabin dies. It’s not to shoot it out with a terrorist in coach. A pilot carries a gun only to ensure the security of the cockpit.  Because if bad actors get control of the aircraft, all lives onboard are forfeit. The US military will shoot that plane down before it can become another weapon of mass destruction.

Now, how is that similar to a teacher’s responsibility in an active shooter situation? Does she worry that the shooter will take control of the school and fly it into a skyscraper? Or is her duty to protect her students? The priorities of these situations are completely and totally different and to suggest they aren’t displays a profound ignorance of the subject.

But he wasn’t done:



I find it interesting that when I ask a simple question: who does the training? What’s the curriculum? The responses are “your hysterical rant” and “you’re a fucking idiot.”

We’ll come back to that.

The simple truth of the matter is that there is no training for arming teachers in the classroom.

We don't train soldiers for that.

We don't train cops for that.

So we're going to need special training, beyond the mechanics and theory of combat arms to include the psychology of killing a child in an active shooter situation.

Do you think you could do it?

Kill a child?

Even one pointing a gun at you? Do you really think you could do it?

Turns out a lot of people do, apparently, believe they could kill a child without hesitation. No guilt, no remorse. Like a terminator.


You’ll be amazed at how easy it is to kill a child. Depending on size of course. And color, I’m guessing, given that this is the standard “but the black kid looked big and scary for his age” excuse used every time police shoot another African American youth down in the street.


Get a grip, killing people is easy. Killing kids, why we do it all the time. Doesn’t require any special training. It’s easy. Get a grip.

And I wonder how many of these people have actually shot another human being?

How many have taken fire themselves?

Easy, they say. Easy.

I guess that’s why the VA wards are full of PTSD cases. Because shooting people is easy.



This guy claimed to be a Marine.

I have little doubt he was telling the truth. He talks like a Marine. He thinks like a Marine, in terms of acceptable losses and killing the aggressor.


Some kids are going to die. Hopefully just less, he says. Hopefully not yours, I guess.

That’s a very military mindset. A necessary one on the battlefield, the brutal reality of war, the cold equations that all commanders must face.

But is that the mindset you want in the classroom?

How many dead kids are an acceptable loss?


So, we’ve established the minimum acceptable loss, one innocent kid per 17. What’s the maximum? Two, four, ten? I’d love to see this debated and a ratio established at your next school board meeting. I would love for the president to face the nation and tell us what the acceptable loss ratio is. How many kids are you willing to kill and still call it victory?

“If that coach had shot back and killed the shooter but accidentally killed a student so you had one victim instead of 17 you wouldn’t be good with that?”

No. Hell no. No, I wouldn’t be good with that.

Not even if it was your kid.

Your kid shouldn’t have to be sacrificed because you’re a goddamned idiot. The hell is the matter with you? We’re talking about kids here, not Marines. Up above somebody said I’d be amazed at how easy it is to kill a kid. That doesn’t amaze me. What amazes me is how willing these people are to sacrifice other people’s children.

Do you really want a teacher with a gun in your classrooms who thinks in terms of acceptable losses?

You wonder if maybe that teacher is thinking about which kids can be sacrificed and which ones can’t?

You wonder if maybe one of those sacrificial kids is yours?

Generals have to think this way.

Not teachers.

And you? Are you maybe starting to see why military training isn’t the right training in this situation?

Police very often develop a distant relationship with the public. Us and them.

Sometimes, depending on the situation, that can become a siege mentality.

Not always, and not all the time, but it’s pretty common and you don’t have to look very far to find it. Nowadays, in a lot of places, the police feel themselves under attack. They’re not wearing all that body armor for nothing you know. And even in the most benign of situations, a cop always has to be at the ready, suspicious, alert. A routine traffic stop can turn deadly without warning.  Drugs, intoxication, mental illness, domestic violence, any encounter with the public can go sideways. It makes a lot of cops paranoid – and the ones that don’t develop hyperawareness often end up dead. How many stories have you read where cops shot a suspect who was reaching to pull up his pants? A dozen? Two? Including the infamous case in Texas a few year ago where cops shot a man crawling in his hands and knees. Why? Well, because cops don’t want to get killed. In situations like that, they are hyper-alert, amped, and anything that appears a threat results in reflexive gunfire. And in a lot of cases, later, it turns out they’d shot an unarmed man. I trained with cops. I was trained in similar procedures. I taught it. But don’t take my word for it. Do the research yourself, there are a hell of a lot of studies on this subject. A lot of cops worry about it, worry about becoming paranoid and detached and shooting some poor chump who was just pulling his britches.

And there’s no good answer, because being a cop is a damned tough and dangerous job – particularly given that much of our population is armed with military grade weaponry.

So, you’re going to have a certain degree of paranoia and detachment.

Is that the mindset you want in a classroom?

Is that really the mindset you want in a teacher? One where they must regard all children as potential threats, potential enemies, potential targets? Where they must be prepared to kill children at any moment? Imagine where that goes over the long term, that siege mentality – hell, you don’t have to imagine it, look at your increasingly militarized police departments.

Police training isn’t the right training either.

Cops are cops and teachers are teachers and they have very different outlooks, responsibilities, and priorities.

If we are to arm teachers, then we need something new. Something specifically designed for their unique requirements.

Who pays for it?

Combat arms is a perishable skill, so how often is refresher training and re-qualification mandated?

And again, who does that training? Who provides certification? Who does the background checks? Who does the psychological screening? Who decides who can and cannot carry in a school?


Ah, our taxes pay for it.

Well, then why wouldn’t we get a say in how that training is conducted? And to what standards. And how often. If our taxes are paying for, then it’s no longer a matter of some private citizen carrying concealed on his or her own time. If our taxes pay for training teachers to carry firearms in our schools, we’re are de facto creating a whole new armed service, like the Air Marshals or Homeland Security or the National Guard. Those people answer to us via our government. You damned right I got questions.

And if our taxes aren’t paying for this training, if we make the teachers pay for it themselves, can you then mandate the specific details of the training?

These aren’t frivolous questions. Without very specific guidelines and legal controls, if you don’t ask the questions in advance, well, then the system can be abused. If taxes pay for training, what’s to keep teachers from defrauding that process for their own benefit? Flip that around, what’s to keep a liberal school board from leveraging so many requirements on training and certification that no teacher can afford to pay for it out of their own pocket?

You didn’t think of that, did you?

Don’t think any of this would happen? You haven’t been paying attention. This kind of stuff happens all the time.

If a teacher wants to be armed, but is judged by whatever authority to be unfit for whatever reason, what are legal repercussions? Can the teacher sue to change the judgement? Who is the final arbiter? Who pays for the legal challenge?


Really? Mrs. Johnson keeps leaving her hogleg in the bathroom by accident. Mr. Smith keeps dropping his gun on the floor because he can’t afford a decent holster. You have to take them to court to prevent them from carrying in your school? And if your school can’t afford that, then what? You just let these two goofs continue to mishandle their weapons around your kids?

What if the teacher is a Muslim? A Black Panther who has expressed what his white neighbors consider anti-American sentiment? But he’s an upstanding citizen with an excellent record and he’s got a concealed carry permit and he’s passed all the classes … but the authorizing agency turns him down for his skin color or religion or because he took a knee during the Anthem? Don’t think it will happen? It will. And then what?

How do you control who can and cannot carry in your schools fairly, without that process being abused or corrupted?

You tell me that’s easy. Great. Let’s see your plan. The one approved by your school district lawyers.

What’s that? You don’t have one?

No, of course you don’t.

Who do these "specially trained people" answer to in an active shooter situation?

Is the principal also the commanding general? Or is the school police officer now part of the chain of command? What's their training to direct a tactical response by amateurs in such a situation?

What's the doctrine for armed teachers in an active shooter situation?

Remain in their classrooms? Take to the halls to conduct sweep and clearing operations? Are they trained to work together? Or are they Lone Wolf McQuade?

You have to have a plan before the shooting starts


You see it?

The assumptions.

Well, of course, there will be a chain of command!  These people will train together, he says confidently, and know who to answer to and what to do. And that person, whoever it is, will be qualified to command. Of course they will. Specially trained by … somebody. To some vague undefined standard. With your kids lives in the balance. Hoorah!

You ever wonder why the military is structured the way it is? Why there are officers and enlisted? You ever wonder at the reason for an officer’s commission? The legalities of it? Why officers and enlisted swear the same oath with one crucial difference? Do you even know what that difference is and why it exists? It’s about legal authority, about legal responsibility, about legal accountability. The military chain of command has very, very specific authority, responsibility, and accountability under a special set of laws called the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Failure, dereliction of duty, abuse, incompetence, all have strict legal penalties.

Cops have something similar, though they answer to civilian law.

So, this chain of command for teachers, the one that can order and direct deadly force, what legal authority is that based on? What are the limits of that authority? What are the responsibilities? Who is accountable?

This guy, the one in the tweet above, he claims to have been a Marine. If true, it would have to have been a fairly junior one. A rank that never had to worry about ordering men to their death, ordering them to kill. His job was to point and shoot, kill on command without concern, to do and die and never wonder why.

Is that what you want in a teacher?

How do you insure the school?

Because you going to have to insure the school.

Are the specially trained people personally liable for their fire? If they hit an innocent kid, if they kill an innocent kid or cripple a child for life? Or is the school responsible?

Can the armed teacher be held responsible for failure to stop an active shooter? You can certainly be held accountable for failure to stop an aggressor in the military. You can be as a police officer too. So, what about teachers? If the teacher was "highly trained" but failed to stop the shooter, when the grieving parents sue, will the school hang the teacher out to dry? If the teacher was outside, like that cop in Florida, and didn’t go back in after the shooter, are they accountable? Particularly if we paid for their training?

Beyond accountability, how do you insure the liability here?

No. Don’t roll your eyes. My wife was an administrator for one of the largest school districts in America. She dealt with this stuff every day. So I asked her. School insurance is complicated, extremely so. And very expensive. And required by law. And there are only a handful of companies in the US that provide this type of coverage. And some of them have already announced they won’t insure schools that allow teachers to be armed. So what’s your plan in this case?

You can’t just put it off. You can’t just dismiss the question. You have to answer it. How do you insure your schools?

The Marine again:


I’m not an insurance expert, but I’m fairly sure you shouldn’t bring up words like “crossfire,” “shooting stance,” and “shoot into the crowd” when your administrators are negotiating next year’s contract with the insurance company.

Also, you should avoid terms like “common sense” as a risk mitigation plan, unless you want to get laughed out of the room.




I’ve taught firearms to military and civilians for 30 years.

Common sense ain’t all that common, Folks.

If it was, we wouldn’t have to have this conversation in the first place.

If common sense was common, none of these school shooters would have access to a gun.

If common sense was common, insurance would cost a whole lot less and we wouldn’t need nearly as much of it.

If common sense was common, we wouldn’t have 30,000 gun related deaths every single year.

Depending on common sense is just about as useful as offering up “thoughts and prayers” after another mass murder.

What weapons?

It makes a difference, you know. Larger, high velocity rounds can penetrate body armor, but also walls, doors, etc., meaning increased chance of collateral damage in a building full of children.


If you don’t mandate what can and cannot be carried, it won’t be long for someone takes advantage of your lack of direction. When Mrs. Jones shows up with an ACR Enhanced-Carbine Bushmaster Coyote in a tactical sling it’s going to be too late. And don’t think it won’t happen.

You’re going to have to address basic gun handling rules, like any other agency that allows weapons – only you are doing so in the middle of a couple hundred kids. It’s one thing for a cop to leave his service piece in his desk drawer when he goes to the can, it’s something else entirely when a teacher does it in a room full of kids.

So, you’re going to have to address basic weapons protocols, carry, storage, condition, type, acceptable ammunition, etc. You’re going to have to provide penalties for failure to adhere. You state’s general carry laws are very likely insufficient for this.

Failure to address this will result in disaster.

There’s no learning curve here. You have to get it right first time, every time.

Or kids will die.

How do the cops know who the licensed and qualified "specially trained people" are?

No. No, don't roll your eyes. Answer the goddamned question. How do the cops know who the bad guy is in this situation? Show your work. Be specific.



More items to be controlled along with the teacher’s gun.

Because if they get into the hands of the shooter, well, then what?

So, you’re going to have to pay for all this stuff, and a secure place to store it. And training on how to use it. And periodic familiarization with the police, so they don’t shoot you.

You going to have to change this stuff periodically, the same way TSA changes up their random security measures each day, to prevent the bad guys from learning your codes and procedures. And you’re going to have to coordinate that. And make absolutely certain, every day, that everybody with a gun gets the new procedures, new identifiers, new codes.

And you’re going to have to get it right, every time.

Or kids will die. Teachers will die. Cops will die.

And tell me, what if the teacher you issued all this stuff to and let carry a gun into your school is the shooter? What’s the protocol then?


What’s the actual problem with turning teachers into soldiers and schools into warzones?

What’s the problem?

If you can’t figure that part out for yourself, well, then the odds are pretty high that you’re the problem.

Naturally, a number of people responded to my comments on Twitter with last week’s shooting at Great Mills High School in Maryland, where a 17-year-old kid took his father’s handgun to school. He shot his ex-girl friend and another student (apparently by accident). The kid was then shot and killed by the school resource officer.

A rather large number of people seem to think that somehow answered my questions.


An armed school officer.

Yeah, that’s right. The shooter, a kid, was shot by St. Mary’s County Sheriff’s Deputy Blaine Gaskill. An experienced cop, not a teacher. This was his primary job.  And that kid was armed with a pistol, not a military grade semi-automatic rifle. And Maryland doesn’t answer my questions at all.


A 17-year-old kid is dead. Killed by a cop. Two more children are wounded.

Update: And as I wrote this, the parents of the young girl shot at Great Mills decided to take her off life support. And thus the shooter achieved his goal, he took her life and his too.

If you think that’s a win, again, you’re part of the problem.

There should be no acceptable losses when it comes to our kids. None.

Look here: I never said there shouldn’t be armed guards, armed police, trained officers, protecting our schools.

As a matter of fact, I never said teachers shouldn’t be armed.


I asked some very basic questions. Questions any competent professional should be asking.  Questions every school administrator, school board, district lawyer, and parent should be asking.

If you want to put more guns, carried by amateurs, into a building packed full of children, then I don't think I'm being unreasonable here.

When the president says "highly trained expert teachers," we must all demand to know exactly what that means. In detail.

But nothing in my comments was pro- or anti- with regards to arming teachers.

I didn’t rant against guns.

And I never, not once, said arming teachers was a bad idea.

But here’s the funny thing, right here:



A veteran, meaning me, thinks it’s a bad idea.

That’s what they said.

That’s what they all said.

Pro gun. Anti gun. Didn’t matter. When people attempted to answer my questions, they all, every single one, thousands of them, they all came to this same conclusion: Gee, Jim, you’re saying arming teachers is a bad idea.

No, I didn’t.

I didn’t say that at all.

YOU did.

Addendum 1:  Every time I write one of these, I hope it's the last. But it never is, there's always another massacre. Always.
The Seven Stages of Gun Violence

The Bang Bang Crazy Series:
Part 1, What we need, see, are more guns, big fucking guns
Part 2, Gun violence isn't the exception in America, it's who we are
Part 3, Sandy Hook, the NRA, and a gun in every school
Part 4, More dead kids and why we have laws
Part 5, Gun control and a polite society
Part 6, The Christopher Donner rampage, they needed killin'
Part 7, Still more dead kids and let's print our own guns!
Part 8, Let's try blaming the victim, shall we?
Part 9, Armed soldiers on post, sure, nothing to go wrong there.
Part 10, Big Damned Heroes!
Part 11, Two in the Bush
Part 12, Excuses, Excuses

What do we do about it? How do we change our culture of gun violence? Bang Bang Sanity

Addendum 2: As noted elsewhere, I’ve  been around guns my entire life. My dad taught me to shoot when I was a kid – in fact the very first gun I ever fired was my dad’s prized black powder .75 caliber smooth bore Civil War trench piece when I was about four years old. I still own my very first gun, bought from Meijer’s Thrifty Acres in Jenison, Michigan, for me by my dad when I was fourteen years old – a lever action Winchester 30-30. I got my first deer with that gun.  I grew up shooting, at home, in the Boy Scouts, hunting, target shooting, plinking, with friends and with family.  Thirty years ago I joined the military and spent my entire life there. I know more than a little about guns. I’m a graduate of the Smith & Wesson Rangemaster Academy, the nation’s premier firearms instructor school. I’m a certified armorer and gunsmith. I’ve attended pretty much every boarding officer and gun school the military has. I hold both the Expert Pistol and Expert Rifle Medals. I’ve taught small arms and combat arms to both military and civilians for nearly thirty years now. I’ve fired damned near everything the US military owns, from the old .38 revolver to a US Navy Aegis Guided Missile Cruiser’s 5” main battery – and everything in between. I can still field strip a Colt .45 M-1911 pistol and put it back together in under a minute, blindfolded – I happen to own several of them, along with numerous other semi-auto pistols and a number of revolvers. I used to shoot professionally and in competition. I helped to design, test, field, and fire in combat US Military weapons systems. I’ve spent my entire life in places where gun usage is extremely, extremely, common. I have a Concealed Carry Permit. I spent much of my life in Alaska and I typically carry a gun in the bush on a regular basis. I am neither pro-gun nor anti-gun, a gun is a tool, nothing more. If you feel that I’m ignorant of guns, or that I’m anti-gun, or unAmerican, well, you’re welcome to speak your piece – just so long as you can live with what comes after.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Bang Bang Crazy, Part 12: Excuses, Excuses

Every right has its responsibilities. Like the right itself, these responsibilities stem from no man-made law, but from the very nature of man and society. The security, progress and welfare of one group is measured finally in the security, progress and welfare of all mankind.
-- Lewis B. Schwellenbach (1894-1948), American lawyer, politician, and judge.

Headline: 17-year-old Girl Killed In Accidental Shooting at Alabama School.

How many times have you seen a similar headline?

How many? A dozen times? A hundred? A thousand times over the years?


An accidental shooting.

Gun advocates like to say guns don’t shoot people by themselves. Guns don’t point themselves. Guns don’t just go off and kill people by accident.

People kill people. It’s not the guns.

That’s what they tell us.

And yet, every single time something like this happens, it’s an “accident.” The gun accidentally fired. It was an accidental shooting.

Nobody is responsible, it was an accident.

An accident.


The Associated Press tweeted out their headline: Another young person killed by another accidental shooting. And someone who follows me on Twitter responded to the AP by quoting a point from my (this) Bang Bang Crazy series:


As @Stonekettle has so aptly put it, 'There are no accidents with guns. There. Are. No. Accidents. It's a killing machine. You're responsible. Period No exceptions.

That’s a correct quote. Those who follow me here, those who were trained in firearms and combat arms by me on the range and in the classroom, have heard me say this many times. There are no accidents with guns.

There are no accidents with guns.

Guns are killing machines. When you pick one up, you and you alone are responsible for happens next. No excuses. No exceptions.

And if you don’t understand that in your bones, then you will never be allowed on my range or at my back. Ever.

There are no accidents with guns.

Of course, it didn't take long for the first ammosexual to arrive:


So when someone is cleaning their rifle but they forgot to check the chamber...it goes off and kills him...that wasn't an accident?

Because they quoted me and used my Twitter handle in the exchange, I saw the conversation in my feed. So I answered Mr. Loomis.


That’s what I said. Simple. Direct.

That’s not an accident. No. 

That’s negligence.

Brad’s comment isn’t a counter argument, it’s an excuse.

There are no accidents with guns.

No matter what the training, no matter whose rules, police, military, Boy Scouts, 4-H, NRA, civilian shooting range, the very first cardinal rule of safe weapons handling is this: ALWAYS ASSUME THE GUN IS LOADED AND TREAT IT AS SUCH.

Always treat a gun as if it is loaded. All subsequent gun rules depend from this basic primary rule.

No excuses. No exceptions. You always assume the gun is loaded. Always.

And thus by extension, the corollary: Assume all weapons are loaded until you yourself have personally checked and cleared the firearm. Every single time. No exceptions.

What this means is that even if I witness you unload the weapon in front of me, I will still assume that the weapon is loaded when you hand it to me – until I personally check it clear and safe myself

You check the weapon every single time you pick it up.

Every time.

Every. Single. Goddamned. Time.

Every time.

You. You personally. You’re responsible. YOU. Nobody else.

The order of the remaining rules vary depending on where you're getting your training, but they always include the following: Keep the weapon pointed in a safe direction, Keep your finger off the trigger until ready to fire, Keep the weapon unloaded until ready to use, Always check to ensure the weapon is in proper operating order.

"So when someone is cleaning their rifle but they forgot to check the chamber...it goes off and kills him...that wasn't an accident?"

No. It’s not an accident.

It's negligence.

We don't have a legal term for negligent suicide or manslaughter resulting in your own death, but that's what this is.

Brad's hypothetical dead man (and not so hypothetical, since this happens with alarming frequency) died specifically because he disregarded the cardinal rules of safe gun handling.

That's not an accident.

When a child finds a gun and picks it up and kills another child with it, that's not an accident.

That's negligent homicide and should be treated as such. No, not the child who found the weapon, the person who left the gun loaded, unattended, unlocked, unsecured, and accessible to a child. It’s your gun. YOU’RE responsible. YOU. Nobody else. If you leave a gun where an unauthorized person can get ahold of it, especially a child, then you are responsible for what happens after that. And you should be tried for negligent homicide and child endangerment and sent to prison and never, ever, under any circumstances be allowed to handle firearms again.

There are no accidents with guns.

You are responsible, no exceptions.

Now, I know what you’re going to say: it is possible for a weapon to malfunction and fire inadvertently.

It is possible. Yes. No matter how careful you are, for unforeseen things to happen. Sure, your hunting dog knocks over your rifle that you leaned up against a tree while taking a piss.

You drop your loaded pistol while pulling it out of the holster to unload it.

You can throw "what abouts" at me all day. But if you follow the rules of safe gun handling, then an inadvertent discharge only sends the bullet in a safe direction. Your dog knocked over your weapon, but because you'd cleared the chamber and took the gun out of battery before setting it down, all that happened was your scope got knocked out of alignment. Because you maintain your weapon in good operating condition and keep the safeties engaged when holstered, dropping the weapon onto concrete did nothing more than scratch the finish. And so on.

Calling negligence an accident is an excuse.

It's an excuse gun nuts like Brad use to dismiss responsibility and nothing more.

Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer, but the right answer. Let us not seek to fix the blame for the past. Let us accept our own responsibility for the future.
-- John F. Kennedy

If you have any doubt about what I'm saying, when confronted with his nonsense, like all gun nuts, Brad moved the goalposts rather than accept responsibility:


Yet hammers kill more people annually...you all are a special kind of dense.

Ignoring that last bit where Brad quotes some Old West hanging judge as if he was pronouncing an execution, this a standard NRA canard. A standard response used to dismiss responsibility. Hammers kill more people than guns.

No they don’t.

This is easily proven wrong. And not just wrong, but pitifully wrong. Massively wrong. Utterly wrong. The FBI maintains data on violent deaths by cause. In 2013, for example, 8,454 Americans were murdered by firearms. Four hundred and twenty-eight were murdered by blunt objects (including hammers). You can look at statistics for other years, it’s about the same ratio. 8,454 to 428. About 20 to 1. Roughly twenty people are murdered with a gun for every person murdered by blunt force trauma.

When confronted with that fact, Brad predictably again attempted to avoid taking responsibility for his own statement, for his own obviously wrong information, for his own argument:


Yeah, late and you all jump because I misspoke. Now...if we just banned abortion in cases not involving rape, incest, or if the mothers life is in imminent danger, we would be saving way more lives than guns in total take…

Of course.

The go-to trump card of the pro-gun, pro-life fanatic.

Abortion, ha HA!

He tried to shift the argument to some controversial subject, figuring everyone would jump into that screaming match and just forget all about his nonsensical statements. He helpfully included a graph showing more murders are committed with knives than "assault weapons." Your basic non sequitur logical fallacy.

This is what happens when you use NRA talking points and shallow arguments traded among gun nuts instead of actually understanding the subject in any depth.

He tried to move the goalposts.

He tried to change the subject by diverting the conversation into a kneejerk shitfight over abortion or the definition of "assault weapons" or anything but taking responsibility for his own statements, his own actions, his own ideology.

But what he’s really doing here is literally attempting to excuse willful violation of every primary rule of safe gun handling resulting in death. And he’s trying to do that by dismissing it as an "accident."

This is why gun "accidents" continue to happen.

This guy, this reasoning, this dismissal of responsibility, right here.

I would not allow this guy on my range. Ever.

I would not allow this guy to handle a firearm anywhere near me or mine. Ever.

He’s not willing to accept responsibility for his own words, how could he accept responsibility for a gun?

You must take personal responsibility. You cannot change the circumstances, the seasons, or the wind, but you can change yourself. That is something you have charge of.
-- Jim Rohn (1930-2009), writer, speaker, entrepreneur.

Brad was (heh heh) hammered for hours by my Twitter followers.

He tried insults.

He tried moving the goalposts.

He tried playing the martyr.

He tried playing the victim.

He tried playing the patriot.

He tried everything except for taking responsibility.

In the end, he couldn't shoot his way out of the corner he'd painted himself into and he didn't have the moral courage to admit he was wrong, and so he retreated and locked his account. That way he didn't have to face his own bullshit, he didn't have to admit his errors, and he could again avoid responsibility.

Why Brad?

Why pick on Brad Loomis, pro-golfer, regular Joe, gun advocate?

Because Brad chose to make an example of himself.

Because Brad is a metaphor for a larger problem. Because, in thumbnail, this is the entire problem with guns in America.

This, right here, is the entire problem with the Second Amendment.

The utter failure to take responsibility.

And that, my friends, is no accident.

That’s negligence on a national scale.

You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today.
-- Abraham Lincoln

Addendum 1:  Every time I write one of these, I hope it's the last. But it never is, there's always another massacre. Always.
The Seven Stages of Gun Violence

The Bang Bang Crazy Series:
Part 1, What we need, see, are more guns, big fucking guns
Part 2, Gun violence isn't the exception in America, it's who we are
Part 3, Sandy Hook, the NRA, and a gun in every school
Part 4, More dead kids and why we have laws
Part 5, Gun control and a polite society
Part 6, The Christopher Donner rampage, they needed killin'
Part 7, Still more dead kids and let's print our own guns!
Part 8, Let's try blaming the victim, shall we?
Part 9, Armed soldiers on post, sure, nothing to go wrong there.
Part 10, Big Damned Heroes!
Part 11, Two in the Bush

What do we do about it? How do we change our culture of gun violence? Bang Bang Sanity

Addendum 2: As noted elsewhere, I’ve  been around guns my entire life. My dad taught me to shoot when I was a kid – in fact the very first gun I ever fired was my dad’s prized black powder .75 caliber smooth bore Civil War trench piece when I was about four years old. I still own my very first gun, bought from Meijer’s Thrifty Acres in Jenison, Michigan, for me by my dad when I was fourteen years old – a lever action Winchester 30-30. I got my first deer with that gun.  I grew up shooting, at home, in the Boy Scouts, hunting, target shooting, plinking, with friends and with family.  Thirty years ago I joined the military and spent my entire life there. I know more than a little about guns. I’m a graduate of the Smith & Wesson Rangemaster Academy, the nation’s premier firearms instructor school. I’m a certified armorer and gunsmith. I’ve attended pretty much every boarding officer and gun school the military has. I hold both the Expert Pistol and Expert Rifle Medals. I’ve taught small arms and combat arms to both military and civilians for nearly thirty years now. I’ve fired damned near everything the US military owns, from the old .38 revolver to a US Navy Aegis Guided Missile Cruiser’s 5” main battery – and everything in between. I can still field strip a Colt .45 M-1911 pistol and put it back together in under a minute, blindfolded – I happen to own several of them, along with numerous other semi-auto pistols and a number of revolvers. I used to shoot professionally and in competition. I helped to design, test, field, and fire in combat US Military weapons systems. I’ve spent my entire life in places where gun usage is extremely, extremely, common. I have a Concealed Carry Permit. I spent much of my life in Alaska and I typically carry a gun in the bush on a regular basis. I am neither pro-gun nor anti-gun, a gun is a tool, nothing more. If you feel that I’m ignorant of guns, or that I’m anti-gun, or unAmerican, well, you’re welcome to speak your piece – just so long as you can live with what comes after.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Caveat Emptor

Whether the mask is labeled fascism, democracy, or dictatorship of the proletariat, our great adversary remains the apparatus – the bureaucracy, the police, the military. Not the one facing us across the frontier of the battle lines, which is not so much our enemy as our brothers' enemy, but the one that calls itself our protector and makes us its slaves. No matter what the circumstances, the worst betrayal will always be to subordinate ourselves to this apparatus and to trample underfoot, in its service, all human values in ourselves and in others.
Simone Weil


"We will have a military like we've never had before."

What does that mean?

No. No. Stop. Don't wave your hands and make vague noises.

Don't roll your eyes and sigh.

Stop and think about it.

Answer the question.

I mean, it sounds good. Make American Great Again. We'll have a military like we’ve never had before. Sure. Sure. Who wouldn’t want that? What patriotic American wouldn’t want a … um, well, whatever kind of military he’s talking about? It must be better than the one we have now. Right? Must be. Sure. Let’s get us some of that. Got to be better. Bigger. More powerful. Shinier. Yeah! USA! USA!


I mean, right?

But, well, not to be unpatriotic and all, but better … how, exactly?

You did notice that Trump never actually tells you this. Ever.

There’s a reason for that.

You see, the Long Con is based on simple human nature. A confidence game that plays on greed, pride, desperation, fear, hope. Which is why religion is often so very successful at it. It takes skill and commitment to pull off a long-con, weeks, months, years even, to groom the suckers, until the mark finally hands over his money of his own free will. And the most skilled confidence man can fool a mark over and over, convincing him again and again to hand over his money. And the best part is that once, if, the mark ever twigs to the fact that he’s been fooled, robbed by his own greed and gullibility, well, he’s often too embarrassed to do anything about it.

As General Smedley Butler once said, war is a racket.

And the military industrial complex and their shills have been playing this game for a very long time.

The key to this con is greed, pride, desperation, and fear. Or in simpler terms: the refuge of the scoundrel, patriotism.

"We will have a military like we've never had before."

The key to a successful con is letting the mark convince himself. Ohhhhh, yes, like we’ve never had before! You bet. We gotta get us some of that, America!

Never give him too many details, too much information. Let him create those things in his head. Let him build it up in his mind, let him imagine how for just a few dollars down he’ll make a fortune. How many of those Spanish Prisoner scams have you seen? The Nigerian Banker with the fortune in British Pounds Sterling sitting in an African bank and all you need do is hand over a small processing fee for your share of the fortune. Crude and clumsy, and yet thousands fall for such cons every year. You laugh at the suckers, meanwhile the CEOs of Northrup-Grumman and General Dynamics, the politicians, and the media pundits tell you that you need a shiny new warship and a fleet of brand new invisible planes. Pride, you want to be proud of your military don’t you? You don’t want another country to have a better military, do you? No, of course not! Our prestige is on the line. And what about all those threats? ISIS for example! Yes, ISIS. If we don’t fight them over there, we’ll have to fight them over here! You’re gonna need a fleet of shiny new warships to defeat ISIS, folks. How much is freedom worth, they’re cheap at that price. What are you, a liberal fool? Do you want them to murder your children? Don’t you love your children? We’ve got to have this new military! One like we’ve never seen before! Yes, yes!

But what does that mean in detail?

Trump never explains anything, any of his genius ideas, in any detail.

He constantly makes vague pronouncements like this one. And no one ever calls him on it.  Not the press. Not the people. Certainly not Congress.

Trump says we need a big beautiful Wall.

And the masses nod or rage depending on their inclination, but what does that mean?

Big! Yes! Yes! Beautiful! Oh, God yes!

Big and beautiful. Beautiful and big.

But what's the goal? Stop illegal immigration? Stop terrorism? Stop drugs? How? What terrorists? What drugs? Which immigrants? What's the plan? What studies and hard data is the plan based on? What are the counter arguments? What other options do we have? Have we looked for any other solution? Where are the studies weighing those options against each other? Where is the cost benefit analysis of each one? The environment impact statements? What are the objectives of this wall? How will you measure if the objectives are being met and what's the backup plan if they aren't? How much will it cost? To build? To maintain over its lifespan? How long is that lifespan? How will we pay for it? Who will build it? How long will it take? Will construction stretch into the next administration? What happens if that administration elects not to continue? Do we get our money back? Who will maintain it? Who will patrol it? How long will it be? How high? How is it better than what we have now?



And etcetera.

He never answers any of these questions. He never explains anything. Not only because he doesn’t know, but because he’s conning us. 

Trump claims to be a genius. Of course we have only his word for that and he’s a little short on the details of who certified his intellect. We’re just supposed to take him at his word. Stable genius. Sure.

But have you ever actually listened to a real genius?

Stephen Hawking is one of the most brilliant minds who has ever existed. He studies time itself. Time. Try to define that. Go ahead. Try to explain time. Time is … what? Hawking studies things that most mundanes can't even put into words in even a general sense, let alone comprehend in any detail. And yet – and yet – what Hawking is most noted for is his ability to patiently explain that very complexity to ordinary people. He wrote a famous best selling book on it. He gives sellout lectures on it, like some kind of rock star. Even though doing something as ordinary as speaking is horribly difficult for him.

Ever watch Elon Musk describing his plans for the future of humankind? This guy is so many steps ahead of the human race that there is legitimate reason to wonder if he's maybe an alien in disguise, sent here from some advanced civilization out there beyond the stars. Musk can describe the most complex machines – like his Falcon Heavy – the most complex ideas, and why they are so very important for our future, in terms that anyone can understand. All while cracking sly jokes and sending his own car into orbit around the sun.


Trump claims similar genius, yet he can never describe his plans in even the vaguest of terms.

"We will have a military like we've never had before."

What does that mean?

What the hell does that mean?

The United States spends on average 20% of its entire federal budget on the military – and that does NOT include the Veterans Administration or money spent on veterans after they leave the service.

54% of federal discretionary spending is on the military.

4.5% of the Gross Domestic Product is spent on the military, that’s 700 BILLION dollars as of this year.

And Trump and conservatives in Congress tell us that we must increase that expenditure.

We have to.

We have to, right? Don’t you want a military like we’ve never seen before? Sure you do.

But … why?

Why do we need to spend more on the military?

No. NO. That's not a rhetorical question. Why do we need to spend more on the military?

Why? The answer to that question, the ability to answer that question in any detail, is the whole goddamned point here.

We spend on average right now a bit over 4% of the Gross Domestic Product on ... well, I was going to say Defense, but that's not really accurate, is it? War. Military hardware. Weapons. Invasion. Power projection. Occupation of foreign nations. Empire building. Whatever the hell you call it, it's not really defense anymore. Department of Preemptive Mayhem and Wanton Destruction maybe. War, Inc.

Whatever we call it, we spend roughly 4% of our GDP on it.

For comparison, during the height of WWII, spending on the military peaked at 41% of GDP.

Forty-one percent.

That’s a lot. We had to give up a lot of other things to fund the military at 41% of the GDP. But that's back when we were literally fighting for survival, fighting a total war, globally, against two different enemies -- enemies that were a vast alliance of nation states -- simultaneously over literally millions of square miles of the planet. We were fighting in the air, on every sea, and over the land on six continents. Nearly every ship, every plane, every base, entire armies, new technologies, doctrine, plans, alliances, all of it, had to be built from scratch. All of America had to sacrifice, they gave up consumer goods, they rationed food and essentials such as gasoline – hell, it was illegal to own a spare tire for your car, that rubber went to the war. They scrounged for metals, they went to work in the factories, they volunteered for the military, they instituted a draft, they bought war bonds. That’s what it took, and more, to fund the military to 41% of the GDP. They could never have sustained it, if the war went on as long as the current one has.

During the Cold War we spent on average about 10% of the GDP on the military. That was to maintain a global presence and go toe-to-toe with the Soviet Union, with the literal end of the world hanging in the balance every day.

During World War II, during the Cold War, our enemies could have wiped us out. Taken us over, destroyed civilization in a dozen different ways. Now? We face some pissant terrorists and a handful of Third World dictators. They can harm us, certainly. Some of them might even have the power to destroy a city. I won't argue that. They might certainly wreak terrible damage.

But they can't destroy the United States.

They can't end the world.

They can’t topple civilization.

Meanwhile, Between 2001 and 2014, 440,095 Americans died from gun violence on US soil.

Four-hundred thousand.

You know how many Americans died in World War II? 416,500. 

For comparison and lest you think I’m picking on gun violence unfairly, between 2001 and 2014, 534,601 Americans died in car accidents.

Again, for comparison, in the same amount of time, 13 years or so, 58,000 Americans died in Vietnam.

Between 2001 and 2014, the total number of Americans killed overseas by terrorism (as the government defines it) was 369.

Three-hundred and sixty-nine. Total. That’s it. Killed by terrorist overseas.

Inside the US, the number of Americans killed by terrorism during that same period was 3,043 – a tenth of the guns deaths in America that year.

Three-thousand and forty-three. That’s a lot right? Yes it is. But that figure includes the attacks of September 11th, 2001. With the exception of that extraordinary and terrible event, the annual deaths from domestic terrorism (as the government officially defines it) is much, much lower, averaging <10 per year. 

Note: as the government defines terrorism. You can't have it both ways. If the government doesn't define a white Christian man with a modified semi-auto assault rifle firing from a hotel window into the crowd as terrorism for the purposes of gun violence, then they can't count it as terrorism for national defense purposes either. Make your bed and lie in it.

That's the threat we face today. Opioid abuse. Gun violence. Car accidents. These things are what kill Americans today. And while, certainly, terrorist states and rogue nations are a threat, comparatively speaking they’re fairly minor when plotted against the things that are actually killing Americans in large numbers right now.

Quick, what percentage of the federal budget is spent on gun violence?

What percentage on car accidents?

What percentage on drug deaths?

We spend 4% and more of our GDP, 20% of the federal budget, on our military and almost nothing on the actual threats that are actually killing Americans. 

The politicians and the pundits and the defense industry would have you convinced that our enemies are massed outside the gate and tunneling under the walls. But, fear not, America, for the low, low price of $700 Billion, we can defend you! And most of America is too damned scared to stop and question anything. $700 Billion? What a bargain for our safety, plus, super cool military! USA! USA!

Let me give you an example, one of many: 4,486 American service personnel died in the most recent Iraq War. 2,345 American military personnel have so far died in Afghanistan. More than a million have been wounded.

Now, how many of those deaths were due to enemy airpower?

How many of those 6,831 dead Americans were killed as a direct result of enemy airpower?

Need a hint? It’s none.

Over 17 years of war, no American in that conflict was killed or wounded by enemy aircraft. They were killed by IEDS in infinite variation, RPGs, mortar fire, snipers, small arms fire, suicide bombers, but not one was killed by enemy air superiority.

In fact, how many Americans have been killed by enemy air power since Vietnam?

And yet, we’re spending $1.5 Trillion to build the F-35, because we just gotta have it. And this was the cheap one, the single seater, compared to the F-22, the air superiority fighter, which we also just had to have. Now, sure, technological superiority is great and all, but again, it’s not technological superiority that’s killing our people or threatening our country. Hell, 19 shitheads with boxcutters killed 2,996 of us on 911. All the super invisible fighter jets in the world couldn’t have stopped it. Just as they can’t stop a fanatic with a suicide vest. But, the generals, the defense contractors, the politicians and the pundits have convinced you that the real threat is enemy airpower. Or enemy ships on the high seas. Or enemy tanks. So we’ve got to have new planes and new ships and new tanks.

And yet, ISIS can’t destroy us. North Korea can’t destroy us. They can bring down a building. Blow up a city. Sure, and we need to deal with that threat, I’m not saying we don’t. I’m certainly not saying that any building, any city, is expendable. But they can’t destroy us.

And the things we need to fight ISIS, or even North Korea, well, those things aren’t sexy and they don’t keep multi-billion dollar defense contractors in business. So we buy trillion dollar fighter jets to fight terrorists.

It’s a racket. That’s why you never hear about the details.

The generals, the defense contractors, the pundits, the politicians, they never spell it out. They don’t want you thinking about it, asking questions, getting suspicious that you’re being conned.

Ask yourself something: Where's the upper limit?

At what point do we max out, percentage wise? 10% of GDP? 41% like WWII? And what are we willing to give up to achieve that level of military spending? Nylons and spare tires? Will you buy war bonds and ration gasoline and butter? Will you send your children off to fight a preemptive war somewhere in the world?

How is this military Trump plans to create unlike any we've seen before? What will it do that the current one can’t? How will it be better? Who decided that? What did they base that decision on? How much will it cost? How much will it cost to maintain? How long will it last? What do we have to give up? What are the long term consequences? Ronald Reagan created a massive military, unlike any we'd seen in recent history. We activated WWII battleships and built nuclear cruisers and bought new fighter jets and new tanks. We recruited new soldiers and marched out smartly to show the world our might.

It put us into massive debt and couldn't be maintained.

We had to cut back.

Meanwhile, there was the Soviet Union. They too built a massive military at the expense of everything else in their society. They loved to parade it through Red Square to show the world. Their mighty ships patrolled the high seas and their bombers cruised the skies.

And combined with endless war, eventually that military bankrupted the USSR.

The entire country collapsed overnight without so much as a whimper, and disappeared into history.

Right now, North Korea is building bombs and rockets while their people go hungry. We mock them for this, just as we laughed at Soviets standing in endless lines for bread and toilet paper while their government churned out tanks and nuclear cruisers that they couldn’t afford.

These things should be cautionary tales, not examples to emulate.

"We will have a military like we've never had before."

How come conservatives like Trump never say, “We will have an education system like we’ve never had before.”

We’re going to have healthcare coverage like we’ve never had before.

We’re going to advance science like we’ve never done before.

We’re going to help people we’ve never helped before, feed people we’ve never fed before, spread civil rights to those who’ve never had them before, bring freedom and equality and justice to all like we’ve never done before, give a leg up to every member of our society like we’ve never done, work towards making war less likely and work on lasting peace and prosperity like we’ve never done before.

We’re going to see that everybody has a boat and that the tide raises all of those boats together! Goddamned right, that’s what we’re going to do.

They don’t say it, because they don’t believe it.

Because they are amoral bastards who don’t believe in anything but enriching themselves. They’ve been running this con for a long time. They’ll take your last dime and they don’t give a damn what happens to you.

But here’s the thing: the con doesn’t work unless the victim plays along.

Greed. Pride. Envy. Fear. These are the human traits that make this con profitable.

As such, the countermeasure should then be obvious.

You must ask the questions and demand the answers. You must look past fear and greed and pride and mindless unthinking patriotism.

You must hold this administration, every administration, accountable. Every Congressman. Every Senator. Every general. Every CEO who takes taxpayer money. Every political party. Every media outlet. Every journalist. Ask the questions and demand the answers. Never stop. Show up for every election, no matter how minor. Educate yourself on the candidates and the issues before the election.

When government is of the people, by the people, and for the people, the people – you – are the weakest link.

In the end, as always, if you want a better nation, you have to be better citizens.

Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. This is not a way of life at all in any true sense. Under the clouds of war, it is humanity hanging on a cross of iron.
Dwight D. Eisenhower

Friday, February 9, 2018



Someone asked, "What would you say to someone considering joining the military right now?"

My answer?


Flip, I suppose. Terse, certainly. But that’s my recommendation nonetheless.  Don’t.

It doesn’t need to be any more elaborate than that, if you understand what you’re asking.

It doesn’t require any more words than that, if you understand what you’re asking.

If you understand what you’re asking.


Simple as that.

But, of course, it’s not that simple.

And, of course, it didn’t end there.

How could it?

I mean, if you had to ask, well…

Those you who follow me on Twitter, you saw the responses.


Many seemed shocked, surprised, as if they expected a career veteran like me to have answered differently.

But why? They asked. Why would you tell people not to join the military? You did. You spent 20 years and more in the military, why would you, you of all people, tell others not to join up? Are you one of them? One of those disgruntled vets, all sour and angry and ashamed of your service?


No, I’m not one of them.

Not at all.

I’m proud of my service. I’m glad I served. Even when the war was unjust and ill-conceived and based on lies, my service, and that of those who served beside me and under my command, was honorable. I’m proud of my service and those I served with. I am neither bitter nor angry nor ashamed of it. Just the opposite and I’ve written enough about my career here that such should be obvious.

But this world, this America today, is not the same nation it was when I signed up.

I was no idealist. I joined up for a number of reasons, some good, some dumb, some I’ve told you about in other articles and some that are none of your business, but idealism wasn’t one of those reasons. I knew what I was getting into. I joined the military in the first years of the Reagan Administration. Back then, agree with the president or not, the Cold War was very real and you could at least see the very explicit threat America faced every day. We didn’t have to go looking for it. We didn’t have to provoke it with bombast and juvenile posturing on Social Media – even if such had existed back then. And while I wasn't so foolish as to believe everything the government told me, I believed that the majority of those in our government wanted to make the world a better place. Reagan, whatever his faults, whatever his ideology, was trying to make nuclear war less likely, not start one to prove his manhood.

I don’t idolize Ronald Reagan, far from it. And I am well, well aware of his myriad faults and I despise the path he set American politics on, the path that has led thirty years later to this very point. But I was willing to sign up and serve under his command because I believed he truly wanted to make the world a better place for all of us. Reagan tried to tear down walls, not build new ones.

I don’t expect you to agree with me about that. I expect you and I see that time differently. That’s okay.

But I think we can agree that the world, and America, was a very, very different place and Reagan aside, back before the rise of the 24/7 news cycle and hate TV and 9-11, I believed the majority of Americans wanted to make the world a better place. We certainly didn’t agree on how, and maybe many of those Americans never thought beyond winning the Cold War, but in large part most of our country wanted to make the world a better place.

I could support that.

I could be part of that.

Even if I didn’t agree with the various administrations over the years, or the methodology, or how we were used, I could be part of that.

Fast forward to the present:

Joining the military is (so far) still a personal decision.

If you're considering it, then you should understand in detail what that decision implies.

You're going to swear a binding oath to obey the orders of the President. This President. If you don’t understand what that means now, well, you could find yourself later in the same jail cell Chelsea Manning just vacated.

You need to understand that oath and what it means before you sign up.

Oh sure, the orders must be lawful.

But you’re going to find out, sooner or later, that there is a hell of a lot of wiggle room in lawful. Using that above example: nothing that Manning disclosed, not one of the things she couldn’t live with, none of them were unlawful. Immoral maybe. Unethical. Horrible. But not unlawful.

And here's the real rub: what is and is not lawful, well, that’s decided by Congress and the President.

This Congress.

This President.

You? Once you swear that oath, you don't get to decide what is and is not lawful, but you will be held responsible for it anyway -- and they will not.

So, before you hold up your right hand and swear your oath, you need to think about what that could mean for you personally.

Particularly under this Congress and this president.

And you need to think about it in detail. Hard. All the way through. And if you can't live with what it very well might come to, if you can’t see what it might very well come to, then don't swear that oath.

Because once you do, you're part of it.

All the way.

Once you swear that oath, you're part of this administration. Part of its agenda. And you’ll be held responsible, at least in part, by history for it. If you sign up during this administration, you're saying you're good with all of that – or if not good per se, then at least you can live with it. Whatever it might come to. You won't have an excuse. You volunteered. You're in, all the way, whatever might come, to the bitter end.

And you damned well better understand that in your bones.

Me? I spent more than 20 years in the military. I served under Republicans and Democrats with equal fidelity. I had to do some pretty shitty things in some pretty awful places. I don't regret that, because I made my peace with it before I swore my oath the first time and again when I became a Chief and then an Officer and was put into a position were I would surely have to order others to do terrible things in the name of my country.

I can live with it.

I can live with it, even if I didn't agree with the government, or the president of the moment, or the war. I did my duty because I believed we were right. Because I believed we weren't sacrificing our lives for nothing. Because I believed the majority of Americans wanted to make the world a better place.

I no longer believe this to be true of America.

You see, my word, once given is good. No exceptions.

So I don't give it lightly. And as such, I could not in good conscience swear to obey the orders of this President, even lawful ones – not when he is enabled, encouraged, and unchecked by this Congress and an America who put these rotten faithless sons of bitches in power. I could not in good conscience follow the orders of this feckless fool of a President unrestrained by this small-minded hateful Congress. I do not believe they want to make the world a better place for anyone but themselves.

I do not trust these people not to waste lives, mine, yours, the lives of my troops, the lives of our children, or the lives of those caught in the middle.

In point of fact, many in this government have made it abundantly clear that they regard the lives of those they deem unAmerican to be unworthy of any further consideration. This is not acceptable to me. I would not pledge my life to those who see me as expendable to further their own selfish ends.

Yes, but what about the Coast Guard, someone asked. What about the National Guard, asked several others.


Hell no.

Those services most especially.

Why? Well, see, the Coast Guard is a military service under the cognizance of the Department of Homeland Security.

Think about that.

Think about why it is that way.

You want to think carefully about what that implies nowadays in the context of, oh say immigration, or drug enforcement, or national security, and how those things have grossly distorted the Coast Guard's traditional mission in this paranoid, nationalist, post-911 America. And then you want to remember that the Coast Guard is specifically not under the Department of Defense because it is, primarily, a law enforcement agency who unlike the rest of the military, can enforce the government's will directly on Americans without regard to the Posse Comitatus Act or other niceties.

The same is true of the National Guard when under the command of State Governors, and I wouldn't trust those fascist bastards not to abuse that power nor this federal government to hold them in check.

Nor would I want to be the instrument of it.

How likely do I think that danger is?

I don’t know. And that’s the problem.

So, if you're thinking of joining, think on that very carefully.

Remember, you asked me what I would do.

Back in the early part of the last century, there were those Germans who signed up. They weren’t Nazis. They weren’t terrible people. They were serving their country long before the fascists came along. They were decent people who hailed from a tradition of service in a nation that valued their sacrifice. They were professionals. And when Hitler came to power, well, at first they were glad to see their military restored to priority in that society.

But when it all went to hell, when the horror became apparent, it was too late. They were part of it then. All the way. To the bitter end.

Those men, they didn’t know, not at first, not like those who joined up after the truth was obvious, but in the end they had become monsters just the same.


In this world?

In this America?

I would not join up, because I know in detail what that oath means.

The oath is power. Service is power. Not for you, but for those who command it.

And I know that the restraints and the reason that were once placed on that power no longer exist in America.

I won’t be a part of that. And I am not willing to risk becoming a monster even by accident.


Well, that's your decision.

And you’ll have to make it.

But if you’re asking for advice, then my answer is this: Don't.

If you don't like my advice, then you shouldn't have asked for it.

Then again, if you’re asking, you really don’t understand the question.

And you really, really should.