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Sunday, November 11, 2018

Veteran’s Day

The […] novel sucked. Even when I liked Heinlein I saw right through that Rah Rah Military is Awesome bullshit.
  - Facebook Comment

I met a man who despised me.

He called me fascist, murderer, and a dumb blunt tool.

I didn’t take it personally – though a younger me might have.

I didn’t meet him in the flesh, like most of my social interactions these days I encountered him online. He surfaced on a well known author’s Facebook page during a conversation regarding a certain well known classic science fiction novel.

The novel was, of course, Robert A. Heinlein’s Starship Troopers.

It’s one of those books you either love or hate.

Very few who are familiar with the work find middle ground between those poles – including those who haven’t actually read it and are familiar with the writer and the novel only by second-hand heresy (yes, heresy, the book is nearly an article of faith to many) and a terrible Hollywood adaptation.

It’s one of those stories where your opinion depends very much on your age and experience, and as such your opinion with regards to the story tends to change and temper over time.

To me, well, that’s what makes it a truly great work.

Love it, hate it, it is a coming of age story and it endures as a lightning rod, as a jumping off point for exploration of the human condition, of government, of service, of duty, of war and conflict, of why we fight and why we should – or should not.

I have read this novel many, many times.

I read it as a teenaged boy before I joined the military.

I read it again at various points throughout my military career, as an enlisted man and as an officer – and in fact it is required reading for students at a number of military academies.

I read it the day the author himself died, and raised a glass to yet another lost shipmate while stationed at a far distant outpost.

I’ve read it a number of times since I hung up my sword. I may, in fact, read it again today.

I don’t know that it influenced my decision to join up. I don’t know that it didn’t. The author, in this work and many others, certainly had some impact on my worldview. I do know that this novel did influence what kind of military man I ultimately became and that there were times, very difficult times, black days, moments when I didn’t know what to do next and lives depended on my decision, when I heard the words of Robert Heinlein whispering in my head, honor, courage, duty, ethics, morality, service above self, willingness to give one’s life in the cause of something greater – even and perhaps most especially when the cost is unjust and immoral and terrible.

The ideals of that book, and the veteran who wrote it, those ideals spoke to me in a very personal way.

And they still do.

As a writer of politics and military subjects, I encounter this book and discussions of its author often and I watch the resulting battles with some amusement. I’ve read hundreds of treatises on this book and its long dead author, detailed analyses from bloggers, columnists, best selling writers, noted scientists of various specialties, politicians, academics, and of course, military professionals.

All, every one, miss one fundamental thing.

And that is this: The reason six decades later this novel still generates love and hate and violent emotion is because the protagonist, Johnny Rico, a man very much like me, finds a home in the military.

War is his profession and he embraces it willingly and without regret.


And that, that right there, is the novel’s great sin.


That’s the criticism most often leveled at both the book and its author, they are pro war, pro military, and therefore somehow fascist and un-American.

To me this is like saying a fireman, one who runs towards the inferno, who is willing to brave the flames to save others, is somehow pro-arson.

There is no one who knows the terrible cost of war more than a veteran. There are few more anti-war than a combat veteran. Just as there is no one who knows the terrible toll of fire more than those who fight it. And yet, both still serve, because that is who they are. 

It’s okay in our society, at the moment, to love the soldier, to tell the story of war.

It wasn’t always so. When I was growing up, society openly despised the soldier.

But somewhere in the intervening 50 years, the circle has come full around and now again it is not only okay to love those who do violence in our names, it is nearly mandatory.

But it must be done in a certain way, you see.

It’s okay to write about war, to set novels among the conflagration and tell tales of glory and honor and sacrifice, so long as those who are caught up in its horror resent their own service. So long as they despise the conflict and the government and the utter ridiculous stupidity which sent them into the meat grinder. It’s okay to tell stories of war and conflict so long as the hero is serving only out of duty and will return to civilian life once the war ends – or die heroically, or tragically, or foolishly, depending on what kind of story you’re telling.

But to tell a story of those who serve when they don’t have to?

To write of those who find a home in the military?

That is a sin.

Those people, you see, they’re the losers. Honor, courage, duty, ethics, the morality of war, service above self, willingness to give one’s life in trace to your country, well, these things are for suckers, wannabe fascists, murderers, dumb blunt tools with nothing better to do.

This is the difference between Full Metal Jacket and The Green Berets.

This, this right here, is the difference between The Forever War and Starship Troopers.


This is the difference between the man I met up above … and me.


Today we honor those who served in peace and in war.

We honor those who came of their own free will and those who came only because they were called.

We honor those who came of age in bloody conflict, those who like me, like the protagonist of that novel, found a life, who found ourselves, in the military.

And we honor those who resented every goddamned miserable senseless minute of it.

Today wreaths will be laid. Flags will be raised to the truck and lowered to half-mast and there they’ll fly, cracking in the cold breeze, the symbol we fought and bled and died for, while below words of patriotism, duty, honor, courage, service, and sacrifice will be spoken.

The trumpets will sound their terrible call and the tears will flow – as they are down my face even as I write this.

Because, you see, I remember.

I remember those who trained and led me. I remember those I served alongside. I remember those I trained and led myself. I remember those men and women, every one of them, the good and the bad, the faithful and the faithless, the leaders and the followers, the admirable and the shitheads, those who came before me and those who came after, those who still live and serve and fight out there every day in the dark and dangerous corners of the world, those who have hung up their swords, and most of all I remember those who have given the last full measure – I remember them, each and every single one, each and every single day.

They are always with me, because they are the people who made me what I am.


Perhaps we are nothing more than blunt instruments. Perhaps we are fools. Today I am disinclined to argue the point.


Perhaps we are.

Because after the wreaths are laid, and the flags are lowered, and the trumpets sound their final mournful call, then the politicians will return to the same old divisions, the tax bill, the latest pork barrel project, or how the other party is a bunch of unpatriotic un-American bastards.

Tomorrow they’ll remember us not at all – or at best, only as a way to further their own selfish agendas.

The talk show hosts will cry their crocodile tears, and wax self-righteous and angrily demand that their listeners honor veterans. They'll take people to task for not wearing an American Flag pin, or for not having a yellow ribbon on their cars, or for not serving in uniform, all the while hoping nobody calls them on their own service, of which, most have exactly none.

And tomorrow, as always, they’ll forget all about us and go back to telling Americans to hate each other.

The Great Patriots, those Americans who think love of country is a contest and who wave the flag as if it were the cheap symbol of their favorite football team, are going to drink a lot of beer and discount liquor and pontificate drunkenly at great length about how the country is going to hell in a hand-basket because of that son of a bitch in [insert: Congress, the White House, Wall Street, et cetera here] and how we should be doing better by our “Heroes.” All the while hoping nobody calls them on their own service, of which, most have exactly none.

And tomorrow, they’ll nurse their sullen hung-over resentment and go back to fearing that the men and women they honor today will knock on their door to take away their freedoms and liberties and guns.

Meanwhile today a lot of folks who don't think much about patriotism are going to go to parades and wave little flags and quietly give thanks for those who bought their freedom at such terrible cost. Some will stand ramrod straight even though many can barely stand at all, like me they limp, or they roll, bent but unbroken, they’ll place their hands over their hearts as the American flag passes, and in their eyes you can see horrible memories of Saipan and Iwo Jima, Normandy, the Rhine, the black Ardennes forest, The Chosin Reservoir, Khe Sanh, Tet, Al Basrah, Anbar, and Bagram.

They won't talk about honoring veterans, they are veterans.

Today those with sons and daughters and husbands and wives in the service will raise a flag in their front yard, just as they do every day - and pray that those same loved ones get home alive and whole, just as they do every day.

Today those with sons and daughters and husbands and wives and mothers and fathers who have fallen in the service will visit graveyards, they'll bring fresh flowers, and fresh flags, and fresh tears.

Today, some just won’t give a good goddamn. They'll get a day off from work. They'll picnic, or party, or go boating, or hiking, or to the track. They'll paint the house, or do chores around the yard, they’ll haul trash to the dump if it's open or take the dog for a walk. Or maybe they won't, maybe today will be just like any other day. Kids still go to school, here in Florida. Teachers still teach. Stores, restaurants, car lots are all open with blowout sales. And it may be that these people most honor veterans, by simply going on with their lives, by living without having to remember the dead on some far distant battlefield, without having to worry about their security.

Without having to thank anybody.

And today, some will protest. Protest war, the military, the government. They'll use this day to burn the flag, they’ll take to Facebook and Twitter to call us fascists and murderers and dumb blunt tools. They’ll use this day to march and to demonstrate and it may be that these people are paying the highest compliment to veterans – even though that is the least of their intentions. Because, you see, it was veterans who bought them their right to despise us.

We are not heroes.

We are not heroes. Most of us anyway, we are simply people like any other, doing the best we can with what we have under difficult circumstance. We came when called and did our duty, each for our own reasons. You don’t have to understand why, just as you may not understand why a fireman would run into a burning building instead in the other direction. Just as you may never understand why Heinlein wrote what he wrote.

And that’s okay.

In our country, in a free society, the soldier should be no more revered than any other citizen.

We should respect the warrior, if he be worthy, but we must never worship him.

For there is no glory in war.

It is a horrible, brutal business and make no mistake about it.

We can wish it otherwise. We can rail against the utter stupidity and the phenomenal waste and the bloody obscenity of it all. We can declare and decry war’s terrible necessity and its terrible cost. Be that as it may, given human nature, for now war must often be done and our nation, our world, needs those who would fight, who would stand rough and ready to do violence in their name. It is a duty, a profession, a job, and a calling that must be done.

Perhaps in some distant future we will have put it behind us, perhaps we will have made war and the warrior long obsolete.  We can certainly hope that it shall be so. We can and should and must strive to make it so.

Perhaps some day we will set aside a day to honor the peacemakers and study war no more.

Perhaps.

But I wouldn’t count on it.


I don’t know. I don’t particularly care. I won’t live long enough to see such a day if it ever comes.


You see, I didn’t do it for you.

I didn’t do it for you and you owe me nothing. Neither thanks nor pity.

I’ve said it before, I’ll likely say it again: If you want a better nation, you have to be better citizens. And me? I joined the military for myself. To prove something to myself. To be that better citizen in my own way.

I joined for myself, but I stayed for them.

I stayed for my comrades in arms, for those I served beside. I did it for them. I did it for all the things I found in that novel, honor, courage, duty, ethics, morality, service above self, willingness to give one’s life in the cause of something greater – even and perhaps most especially when the cost is unjust and immoral and terrible.

I did it because like the protagonist of that book, that is my sin, I found a life there among friends.

I met a man who despised me.

He despised me for who I am, a veteran.

And you know what? That, that right there, is the highest compliment I could be paid.

That, that right there, is what we were doing out there in the dark and dangerous corners of the world, defending his right to hold us in utter contempt.

I met a man who despised me.

He called me and those like me fascist, murderer, dumb blunt tools.

He’s wrong. Utterly wrong. But I can live with that.

And I wear his contempt as a badge of honor.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

The Seven Stages of Gun Violence


Foreward:

I stopped updating this for every mass shooting.

Because I was updating it every day.

So now I update it only when the mass killing breaks some kind of record or is otherwise notable. Last time that happened was October 3, 2017. We’ve had dozens of mass shootings between then and now, and thousands of other incidents of gun violence.

Congratulations on the slaughter, America. Heck of a job.

It’s now been two three four five six years since I first wrote this on the day after a madman stepped into a darkened movie theater in Aurora, Colorado and started killing people.  Since then more than ten twenty sixty ninety one-hundred-and-eight-thousand Americans have died from gun violence, three seven ten twenty sixty times more than died on September 11th, 2001, more than twenty-five times all the US military personnel killed in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001, slightly more than the number of Americans killed in Vietnam. There have been so many mass shootings between the day I wrote this and now that I’ve lost track, and the agencies that are tasked with keeping track have to limit their definition of “mass-shooting” and “gun-violence” because they like me can’t keep up with it.

One killing blurs into another and the bloody rampages seem to be our new national pastime.

I got a lot of email regarding this post over the years.

A lot of people told me I was wrong, some in less than flattering terms. Some threatened to beat me bloody or kill me to make their point.

Those people are not only fools, they are damned fools.

I’ve updated the text and updated it and updated it again and again and again and have now updated it yet again and moved the essay forward in the Stonekettle Station timeline. 

I left the original comments intact, but because those comments primarily address the Aurora Massacre (e.g. the original impetus for this essay) I’ve added a demarking comment dated April 3, 2014, for the first update and another for June 19, 2015, another for July 24, 2015, another for October 1, 2015, another for June 14, 2017, another for October 3, 2017, and now another today.  New comments will appear after that. The line of demarcation should be obvious.

Anyway, before we get started, I just wanted to say: Way to go America. We can’t build spaceships any more; the high frontier belongs to Russia and China. We lack the will to save our children from rising seas and a warming earth. We spend literally trillions on aircraft carriers and invisible fighter jets and our nuclear arsenal, but we somehow can’t spare a dime to ensure every American has access to healthcare, or  food, or clean water, or a warm place to sleep. But goddamn, man, we’ve got the world beat in bloody murder.

Bang bang bang. This – this right here – is the future the NRA wanted.



It is easier for a crazy person to get an automatic weapon than healthcare in America.
                                            - Shannyn Moore, Moore Up North



So, America, déjà Vu.

Here we are yet again.

Another mass killing.

Another hellish scene of smoke and blood and murder.

Another day of death and pain, panic and terror.

Here’s a few highlights, America. Think of it as our country’s Greatest Hits. No no, don’t look away. Don’t roll your eyes. This is who you are, this right here, man up and face it: September 1999, Fort Worth, Texas, a gunman killed six people during a prayer service, then he committed suicide. October 2002, it was the Washington DC Sniper, ten dead. August 2003, Chicago, a gunman locked six of his former coworkers in a conference room and shot them dead, then he killed himself.  November 2004, Birchwood, Wisconsin, a hunter got into an argument with a group of sportsmen over a trespassing issue, the hunter ended the argument by killing six and wounding two. March 2005, Brookfield, Wisconsin, a man walked into a church and shot seven people dead, praise the Lord. October 2006, Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania, a disgruntled truck driver shot five Amish schoolgirls to death and wounded six others before taking his own life. April 2007, Virginia Tech, an angry former student set a record with the deadliest mass shooting in the US in recent years, he killed thirty-two people and wounded fifteen others. Go Team. August 2007, Delaware State University, three students were shot and killed execution style by a 28-year-old and two 15-year-old boys. A fourth student was shot and stabbed. And a month later, September 2007, on the same campus, a student shot and wounded two other students in a dining hall. December 2007, Omaha, Nebraska, a 20-year-old man killed nine people and wounded five others in a shopping mall.  A few days later,  on Christmas Eve, a woman and her boyfriend gunned down six members of her family in their house in Carnation, Washington. February 2008, Chicago, a gunman tied up and shot six women at a clothing store, five of them died. The gunman was never caught. February 2008, DeKalb, Illinois, a man opened fire in a lecture hall at Northern Illinois University. He killed five students and wounded sixteen others. July 2008, Phoenix, Arizona, a former student shot three people in a computer lab at South Mountain Community College.  September 2008, Alger, Washington, a mentally ill man who was released from jail one month earlier shot eight people, six died. October 2008, University of Central Arkansas, gunmen shooting from a car in front of a student dormitory killed two students and wounded a third.  December 2008, Covina, California, a man dressed up like Santa Claus killed nine people at a family Christmas party, then he set the house on fire and shot himself. March 2009, Alabama, a 28-year-old drove through several towns randomly shooting people, he managed to kill ten. March 2009, North Carolina, a heavily-armed gunman stormed into a nursing home and killed eight elderly residents and wounded two more before police killed him. The object of his murderous rage, his estranged wife, was a nurse at the facility –  she escaped unharmed by hiding in the locked Alzheimer ward.  March 2009, Santa Clara, California, six people were shot dead in an apartment building. April 2009, Virginia, an 18-year-old former student followed a pizza deliveryman into his old dormitory, and shot the deliveryman, a dorm monitor, and then himself at Hampton University. April 2009, Binghamton, New York, a man shot thirteen people to death in a bloody rampage at the town civic center. July 2009, Houston, Texas, six people were shot in a drive-by shooting at a community rally on the campus of Texas Southern University. November 2009, Fort Hood, Texas, a U.S. army major opened  fire on his fellows in the middle of a crowded soldier processing center filled with troops preparing for deployment, he killed thirteen and wounded forty-two. February 2010, Alabama, a disgruntled professor opened fire during a staff meeting of the Biological Sciences Department faculty. She killed three and wounded three more. January 2011, Tucson, Arizona, a gunman opened fire at a public gathering outside a grocery store, he killed six people including a nine-year-old girl and wounded twelve more including Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords who was shot in the head.  July 2012, Aurora, Colorado, a masked gunman storms into a packed movie theater and starts shooting, he killed twelve and wounded fifty-eight more. August 2012, Oak Creek, Wisconsin again,  a gunman kills six people at Sikh temple before being shot dead by police. September 2012, Minneapolis, a gunman kills six including himself and wounds five more inside a small sign company. December 2012, Newtown, Connecticut,  a 20-year old gunman with mental problems killed his mother and then shot his way into the Sandy Hook Elementary School and started killing people. He killed twenty small children and six adults and then shot himself.  February 2013, a former Navy officer and Los Angeles policeman declared war on the LAPD, over a period of nine days he killed four people including three police officers and wounded three more before eventually committing suicide by cop.  March 2013, Herkimer, upstate New York, a 64-year old man lit his apartment on fire, then coolly walked into a local barber shop and started shooting. He killed two and wounded two more. Then he drove to another business and killed two more.  He killed a police dog and was subsequently gunned down by the canine’s human partners. June 2013, Santa Monica, California, a 23-year old man went on a killing spree that left six people dead and four wounded and ended when he was shot dead by police inside the Santa Monica College Library.  July 2013, Hialeah, Florida, a man living with his mother lit their apartment on fire and then went on a rampage throughout the living complex, he killed seven before police returned the favor.  Twelve more dead at the Washington Navy Yard.  Another murdered standing watching on a pier in Norfolk. Four more dead, including the shooter, again on Fort Hood, Texas. Charleston, South Carolina, a racist sat quietly for an hour among the congregation of Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, then without warning he  murdered nine people during prayer service and wounded a tenth – he was hoping to start a race war. Chattanooga, a self-declared Jihadist suffering from depression and drug use, mad at the US government, shot up a military recruiting center in a strip mall then drove to a local Navy operations support center and launched another attack, he killed four Marines and a Sailor and then died in a gunfight with law enforcement. Lafayette, Louisiana, a drifter with a gun fired thirteen rounds into a crowded movie theater. He killed two people, wounded nine, and then turned the gun on himself when police closed in.  June 12, 2016, a 29-year-old security guard killed forty-nine people and wounded fifty-eight others at a nightclub in Orlando, Florida, and then died in a gunfight with police who had to use explosives and a military-grade armored assault carrier to bring him down. 14 June, 2017, when four people including House Majority Whip, Steve Scalise, were shot during baseball practice in Alexandria, Virginia.  A ten minute gun battle followed the initial shooting – in the middle of the nation’s capital – until eventually the gunman was himself shot dead by police. October 1, 2017, a gunman armed with a literal arsenal of semi-automatic weapons modified with bump-stocks to be fully automatic killed 58 people and injured more than 800 in Las Vegas – a mindboggling figure.  In 2018, there was the Thousand Oak Shooting, at the Boarderline Bar and Grill, where 13 people including the shooter and police officer died. February 14th, 2018 was the Stoneman Douglas shooting, where a kid with killed 17 students and staff members and became the record holder for school shootings, finally supassing Columbine. On October 27, 2018, just a month ago as I update this, a gunman walked into a synagogue in Pittsburgh and murdered eleven people because he was told by the President of the United States that Jews were conspiring against America.

And now, here we are. Another mass murder. Another school. This time it’s Santa Fe, 10 dead so far.

Edit:

Except that not right.

It’s not Santa Fe, New Mexico today. It’s not a school. It’s not a kid shooting other kids. No. It’s a bar in Thousand Oaks, California. A former Marine killed 12 people. Nobody knows why.

I said Santa Fe this morning when updating the post and nobody noticed.

Nobody.

Not one of the thousands of people who’ve read this today. Not one.

Not even the gun nuts who pick apart every word I write.

Nobody noticed because there are so many mass shootings now, they just all blur together.

Give that some thought.

End Edit

Two years ago, when a Republican congressman was shot in Washington while playing baseball, I said then, “Who knows? Maybe now they’ll finally do something about gun violence in America.” Now that another member of congress had been shot. Now that the victim is a male conservative gun advocate instead of a liberal woman. Maybe.

I also noted, “But I wouldn’t count on it.”

And, of course, congress did nothing.

Scalise returned to Capitol Hill and went right back to taking money from the gun lobby.

A few months later, Las Vegas. Fifty-nine dead including the gunman, eight-hundred wounded. Those are the kind of casualty numbers we used to see in war. Fifty-nine dead, eight-hundred wounded. The gunman had 14 AR-15s modified for automatic fire each with 100 round magazines, 8 AR-10s, a hunting rifle, and pistol – 24 weapons total. The shooter fired from a window on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay hotel into a concert crowd below. In ten minutes he fired more than 1100 rounds into the crowd. When police finally breached his room, he killed himself with a pistol shot to the head.

And I thought, 59 dead, 800 wounded. 24 guns. Surely we will do something now.

But, of course, congress did nothing.

Our government did nothing.

Our leaders took their blood money from the NRA and did nothing.

And now? Today? A year later? Here we are, America. Here we are yet again. Bang, Bang, Bang.

Another massacre. Kids again this time.


And that, my friends, is exactly the power the gun nuts in this country want every person to have.


This slaughter is exactly the future the National Rifle Association and their pet politicians wanted.

This is the power the NRA wants in the hands of every American – as they define American anyway.

What?

What’s that?

Oh no. No. Fuck you. Don’t you dare. Don’t you dare try to tell me different. This is the future the NRA wants. Right here. This is the future these sons of bitches want. This is exactly – exactly – the power they want every American to have. The power to murder ten, twenty, a hundred, a thousand people in minutes. And don’t you dare try to tell me otherwise. This is exactly what the guns nuts want, the ability of one kid to slaughter a dozen others.

This the future the NRA wanted.

This is future the gun nuts wanted.

This is the world America wanted.

This slaughter belongs to the NRA and the gun lobbyists and the gun manufacturers and the blood of every victim is on Congress’s hands.

And so here we are again. Friends, bereft families grieving with concern, a nation left shaken with shock and outrage, left wondering why? How?

Another murderous lunatic with a gun in his hand and a score to settle.

Another excuse from the National Rifle Association. Another denial. Another bribe to their pets in Congress. Another unhinged rant from terrorist-enabling lunatics like Ted Nugent and Oliver North and Wayne Lapierre.

Another flurry of empty prayers and sound-bites from our bought and paid for legislature and a Twitter storm from the White House.

Another day of “expert” opinions from the media and Facebook, from people who have no training and no experience and who have never been shot at.

And another day when gun and ammo manufacturer stocks surged up as Americans run down to the gun store to load up.

This is the point where I used to type bloody horror.  And it is, a bloody horror, but it’s just another bloody horror.  Business as usual.  Sandy Hook. Aurora. Pulse. Las Vegas. Shrug. So? Fifty-nine dead, nearly six hundred wounded. Another ten dead kids? So? So what? Who cares? That’s the price freedom.

That’s the price of freedom in America.

Isn’t it?

Well, isn’t it?

I mean, why else would we put up with this?

Bloody slaughter, it’s certainly no longer a surprise – and hasn’t been for a very long time.

Gun violence? Mass slaughter? That’s just who we are.

 

This, this right here, this is the country we live in.


Bang, bang, bang. Welcome to America.

How many mass shootings since I first wrote this? A dozen? Two dozen? A hundred? Five hundred? A thousand? How many? Who knows? You’ve lost track, haven’t you?

Me too.

This slaughter, it’s the set up for a truly American joke, isn’t it? So, a racist, a terrorist, and disgruntled kid walk into a public place and start murdering people, what do they all have in common?

The fabled gun battles of the American Old West have nothing on the modern slaughter. Gun fueled mass murder isn’t the exception any longer, it’s as common and as American as, well, apple pie and happens on average about once twice three four times a month now.

What’s that, you say? Oh yes, another grinning nut with a personal arsenal shot up a concert? Tsk tsk terrible isn’t it? Did they catch him this time, did he kill himself, or did the police shoot him down like the dog he was? People say he was a nice guy, quiet, kept to himself, kind of odd but, man, didn’t see this coming, no Sir.  Here’s a picture of him smiling like a crazy guy, look at those eyes, they’re crazy eyes, anybody could tell he was going to snap. He probably tortured small animals and has his grandmother’s head in the freezer. It’s the parents’ fault you know, for not raising him right.  It’s the atheists’ fault for taking Jesus out of the schools. It’s the doctors, why don’t they get crazy people off the street? It’s the goddamned police, they’re never around when you need them. It’s the government. He’s probably a veteran, you know, those guys are all on the edge.  Guns don’t kill people, you know, no Sir, they don’t. In fact a good guy with a gun is the only … Oops, gotta go, Duck Dynasty is on.

And now? Well, now we Americans will go through the same old oh so utterly predictable dance: 


Stage One, Confusion:

Mass shootings are still, mostly, news. I have no idea how much longer this will be so, Americans don’t have much of an attention span unless you up the wow factor. Some guy went bonkers and killed a bunch of people? Yawn, I’ve seen worse. What’s the body count this time? Fifty? And he got nearly 600? That’s some good shooting, man. I’ll tune for that! But, maybe next time we could get the guy to wear a Bruce Willis costume while shooting a chain-gun from the back of a crashing stealth fighter in the middle of Times Square? Because that would so cool.

What?

Oh. I see.

You don’t like my tone. It’s disrespectful of the dead, right?

Yeah. Fifty-nine dead. Eight hundred wounded. Congressman shot. Another ten dead kids. Sure, you got me, I’m the one being ridiculous. I’m the one being disrespectful. Right.

Anyway, for now, mass murder is still a news show money maker.

Problem is, there’s just not enough actual information about the event to fill up the airwaves.

Nobody really knows anything. 

But Americans aren’t interested in facts and they’re for damned sure not interested in waiting.

Americans want their news the same way they want their food, they don’t care if it’s good for them or not so long as it’s quick and it comes in SuperSize.  

So, over the next few days, until America loses interest, the news outlets will each issue at least three versions of the story, all different, all mutually contradictory. Accuracy doesn’t matter, being first is what matters. Blame, that’s what matters, we need to assign blame to somebody, Muslims, liberals, gays, commies, survivalists, the mentally ill, somebody is at fault and the sooner we assign the blame the sooner we can get back to our freedom and liberty and civilization. 

And besides, it’s not like those first false reports and poor reporting will be wasted, the conspiracy nuts will print those out and tape them up on their bulletin boards right next to pictures of that grassy knoll and WTC #7. False Flag! False Flag! They’ll shout gleefully and manufacture their own false information fresh from their fevered imaginations and within days the airwaves and the internet will be filled with their wild speculation.

You’ll get interviews with at least four witnesses who didn’t actually see anything, including at least one middle-aged hypochondriac who wasn’t actually there on the day of the massacre but once, way back when, happened to be in the same neighborhood, and so had to be hospitalized because she was so traumatized by the close call.

You’ll get interviews with at last three professional victims who weren’t there but were near similar events and whose stories are now somehow relevant.

You’ll get earnest opinions from two experts in fields completely unrelated to anything that actually transpired, and CNN will interview at least one former non-combatant Air Force Major who was stationed in Nevada during the Iraq invasion and now teaches law at a small Women’s college on the East Coast.

Eventually, each news outlet will trot out their one remaining gray haired genuine distinguished Newsman, and in dour solemn tones he’ll ponderously opine on the miserable state of journalism in this modern age – then he’ll condemn all the other stations for getting it wrong.

 

Stage Two, Speculation:

Since there isn’t any real information and by the time there actually is America will have completely lost interest, the important thing is to fill up the media channels with something.

The talking heads and paid conspiracy mongers will wax fat and feculent, they’ll talk about false flag operations and possible links to ISIS and whether or not a white man can be a terrorist, all the while hiding their sly grins behind their plastic outrage while the money rolls in.

News anchors, talk shows, bloggers, pundits, and the endless ill-informed mouth-breathing Yahoo commenter will each and all put forward their opinion of Why He Did It.

The Big Giant Orange Leader will tweet, blaming North Korea and Fake News and somehow, some way, it’ll be Hillary Clinton’s fault. Or maybe Bill’s.

Politicians will each rail loudly against those who would politicize this terrible event – while they themselves politicize the event and blame whoever happens to be convenient.

And already social media is a surging froth of foreign trolls and bot swarms, shaping public opinion, urging on more violence and division, aided and abetted by Jack Dorsey and Mark Zuckerberg's utter indifference to anything but profit and their companies’ continuing inability to do anything whatsoever to protect their own users.

By the time the sad truth comes out, if it ever does, whatever it is, nobody will even remember … what was the name of this school again? We’ll be a dozen, two dozen, mass shootings on by then and the only thing Americans will remember about this guy is that he is yet another sterling example of whatever political point they’re trying to make at that particular moment.

For us, the shooter isn’t a real person.

He’s a chimera, an empty shell we can fill with whatever substance best suits our worldview.

We don’t really care why he did it and knowing won’t keep the next massacre from happening.


Stage Three, Comparison:

The conservative channels will start running footage of Columbine, Fort Hood, and Waco. The liberal channels will start running footage of the Giffords shooting and Virginia Tech and Sandy Hook.  None of those incidents really has much to do with the current horror – other than easy access to guns – but they are images of bodies and blood and bullets and that’s what counts when you’re explaining how this event is what happens when the End Times are nigh or civilization is on the brink of collapse.

It’s important to associate this mass murder with other horrible events in order to shape public perception in the proper manner regardless of the fact that there is little connection or comparison to be had – other than easy access to guns, that is.

All channels will talk about drugs and depression. There’s no indication as yet that the shooter was taking drugs, or was depressed, but then again there isn’t any indication that he wasn’t either.

And, of course, there’s the PTSD, every media outlet will explain in concerned tones. You know, we should expect more of this kind of thing as veterans start to come unscrewed. Especially if they were bullied as children. Or abused. Or into comic books, or video games, or porn. And, well, even if the guy had nothing to do with the military, it’s important to stress that returning veterans are murderously unstable and something should be done.

Eventually we’ll fetch up at the old standby, mental health.

The simple truth of the matter is that you don’t walk into a crowd and start shooting people unless you’re, at least to some degree, nuts. But of course the shooter can’t just be nuts, or rather they can be, nuts, but it has to mean something. Somehow. Even though the shooter might be completely insane, America will still demand a sane, rational, understandable reason for their behavior.

Which naturally will lead to endless arguments regarding the sorry state of mental health in this country.

Which, of course, will almost immediately devolve into a debate on healthcare.

Which, of course, will almost immediately turn into a shitfit between political ideologies.

Which means that nothing whatsoever will be done.

Which means that I’ll be forced to update this essay again, and again, and again, and the even more simple truth of the matter is that a society doesn’t allow this sort of thing to go on and on unless that society itself is insane.

But you see, the thing is that these shootings all have nothing in common.

Nothing in common, except for one thing.

One thing.

They all have one thing and only one thing only in common.

Guns.



Stage Four, Blame:

The shooters may all be crazy in some fashion or another, but the real insanity here is our continued inability as a nation to face reality.

We are quite literally insane.

We won’t face reality.

We won’t face the single common denominator.

Instead…

Let’s blame Hollywood. Violent movies and violent video games and rock and roll music. That’s what it is.

Let’s blame the families. It’s bad parenting, this guy’s folks should have their asses kicked for raising a psychopath.  But since we can’t do that, we'll punish the shooter’s family by having every single news agency in the world camp out on his mother’s front porch, and we’ll ask her important questions such as “what are you feeling right now?”

Let’s blame the Liberals with their liberalism, their political correctness, their communist Nazism, their coddling of criminals, their gun control and the gay agenda.

Let’s blame the Conservatives with their conservatism, their guns and their bibles and their callous disregard of the human condition. It’s their fault, of course it is.

Let’s blame it on the Me Generation, these selfish little bastards, always with their hands out, me me me. It’s social media, it’s Twitter and Facebook and those self centered bloggers looking for attention.

Let’s blame the Muslims and the godless goat humping atheists and Fast & Furious and bad teachers and Benghazi and the secret manipulations of the Illuminati.

The politicians and their supporters will all, each and every one, gleefully make hay. Oh they’ll all, each and every one, wax poetic over the victims (with the exception of certain predictable talk radio pundits who’ll insinuate that the wounded had it coming for being unprepared and unarmed and ungodly), and they’ll even wipe away sorrowful bitter tears and pause for a moment in patriotic remembrance with their hands over their flinty black hearts with the flags waving and crackling in the cold breeze at just the right camera angle, and they’ll condemn the other guy for politicizing the tragedy, and then they will make just as much political hay out of this as they can because somebody is damned well to blame for this mess.  And it sure isn’t going to be them, no sir, it’s the other guy and his un-American agenda, vote for me!

Somebody is responsible.

The thing is, all of these shootings, including the latest horror, have nothing in common.

Nothing in common, except for one thing.

Guns.

Guns. Guns. Guns. Guns are the common denominator here.

In every case, it’s guns.

You can’t have a mass shooting without guns.

It’s just that goddamned simple.

But we won’t face it.

We won’t do anything about it.

We’ll blame everything but the one single common denominator.

We just  keep on keeping on, expecting something different – and that right there is the very definition of insanity.

As a nation, we are insane.


Stage Five, Bang Bang Crazy:

And so, once again, inevitably, we circle around the wheel to the perennial American argument: 

Guns don’t kill people, crazy people with guns kill people who don’t have guns.

Therefore, we should ban all guns! No, wait, if we ban all guns then only people with guns will have guns so they’ll kill the people who don’t have the guns and then there will only be people with guns left and then they’ll kill each other because if you ban guns only people with guns will be criminals and when the government comes to get our guns only the criminals will be free because liberty equals guns! Also what about bears? OK, then we should give everybody guns! But if everybody has guns then even criminals will have guns and brown people and yellow people and illegal people and crazy people who don’t love Jesus will have guns and they will break into our houses to steal our guns and rape our women and eat our babies and take our liberty so then police and the military will need bigger guns to keep us safe from those people but then we’ll need even bigger guns because otherwise we won’t be safe from the cops who will use their guns to take our freedom! OK, well then how about a reasonable common sense compromise? We all agree that as Americans it’s our basic right to keep and own firearms. But also, some people really, really shouldn’t be allowed to own even a Nerf slingshot, let alone a machine that can punch a couple hundred fist sized holes in a room full of people in under a minute. How about we maybe talk about some kind of reasonable way to keep guns out of the hands of criminals, terrorists, and crazy people? What! Communist! Nazi! How dare you? Second Amendment! Second Amendment! Every red-blooded true blue American has the God given right to own a fully automatic meat-grinding bone-shattering blood-spattering high capacity killing machine if they want to, the Founding Fathers said so! USA! USA! Dead kids? Mass murder? Blood in the streets? That’s the price you pay for freeeeeeeeedom! Besides if there had only been one, just one, god fearing patriot with his own concealed meat-grinding bone-shattering blood-spattering high-capacity peacemaker there at that massacre, why he’d have stood up in his genuine American made American Flag Shirt of Patriotic American By God Freedom and fired up his laser-sight and he would have put that animal down right goshdarned there! Remember, when seconds count the police are only minutes away and idiotic empty NRA platitudes have saved more lives than Charlton Heston did in all those bible movies. Booyah, Baby, give me a Glock Nine and an extended mag any day. Also, we need more Jesus.

‘Round and round in one long run-on paragraph of fury and hysteria and flag waving spittle flecked madness. America, Fuck ya!


Stage Six, Acceptance:

By the time it’s determined that the shooter’s bloody motivation was just plain incomprehensible to sane reasonable people, most Americans will have long since changed the channel and forgotten about it, lost in the bloody mayhem of the next gun fueled mass murder.

Meanwhile, the NRA will quietly make the rounds on Capitol Hill, handing out checks, and Congress, ever eager to promote the idea that they care, will yet again stage a mock vote to defund healthcare in America or announce a bill that gives billionaires another tax break because they are completely unable to do anything that actually matters other than squabble amongst themselves like spoiled petulant children.

Nothing will be done about the real problem because nothing can be done.

That’s the price you pay for freeeeeeeeeeedom: murderous lunatics with guns.



Besides, it probably won’t happen again.



Stage Seven: Déjà Vu:

See Step One.




Afterword:

Ok, snark off.  Let me be serious.

Nothing, and I mean nothing not even religion or abortion, generates the hate mail that any article on guns does.

As I’ve said here many, many, many times, and will obviously have to say many, many, many more times: I’ve spent my entire life around weapons, all kinds of weapons – some of which you can’t even imagine. I’ve had decades of professional training. I am a professionally trained firearms instructor with decades of experience. And I spent most of my adult life in war zones around the world.

I know something about guns and violence.

I’ll tell you something: the ignorant, illiterate, and cognitively challenged NRA nuts who troll this site every time I post something about guns are the very last people I would allow on my range or allow to handle weapons anywhere near me or mine. If you’re taking orders from Ted Nugent and Tom Selleck and criminals like Oliver North, then you are fucking insane. These people are every bit as insane as the murderous lunatics described in the text above who thought that guns were a solution for their own personal inadequacies.

These people have taken the Second Amendment and perverted it all out of recognition.

However, for the record, the post above does not, repeat does not, advocate for or against any additional laws, regulations, bans, or any other form of gun control.

What I actually said was that all the arguments were oh so tediously predictable. 

What I said was the usual folks would call for gun control.

What I said was then in response the usual folks would scream about Nazis and fascism and explain why nothing ever can work and how dead kids are just the price you pay for freedom.

What I said was that nothing, absolutely nothing, will change. The slaughter will continue. The argument will continue. And nothing will change because we will not let it change, we would rather die than allow a reasoned conversation to take place, let alone any action of any kind.

What I said was that we as a society are insane.

What I said was that we will continue to ignore the one single common denominator.

What I said was that we can’t even have the conversation.

And that is exactly what is happening, because that’s what always happens. Every. Single. Time.

Both sides are perfectly convinced that they are right. That’s it and that’s all. Period. No compromise. No no no. End of discussion and fuck you, Liberals. No, fuck you, Conservatives.  You cannot reason with unreasonable people and the people on both sides of this ongoing monkey shitfest are profoundly unreasonable people (and now people on both sides will write to argue why they’re right and perfectly reasonable and the other side is wrong and perfectly unreasonable, predictably).

People called me a cynic.

They said I was wrong.

But it’s been more than two five six years since I wrote the original version of this essay. How many mass murders have happened in that time? How many Americans have died in front of a gun muzzle? Hell, we’re up to four or five mass murders a month now.

We’ve actually had a president shot. We’ve had two members of congress shot. Citizens murdered in street every day. Our own children gunned down.

And nothing, not one goddamned thing, has changed.

I think I’m entitled to say: I told you sons of bitches so.


 


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 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 graduated from nearly 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’m an Alaskan, even though I don’t live there anymore, and I typically carry a gun in the wilds of Alaska 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.


A note about commenting:

Comments on this post are now in excess of 200.  When that happens you have to scroll to the bottom of the comment queue and hit “load more.” You may have to do this several times to see all the comments including the nested ones. This is a function of the Blogger platform, I have no control over it. // Jim Wright/Stonekettle Station.

Monday, October 22, 2018

The Big Lie

In my scheme of the German state, there will be no room for the alien, no use for the wastrel, for the usurer or speculator, or anyone incapable of productive work.
-- Adolf Hitler, Interview with George Sylvester Viereck, 1923


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It was probably inevitable that we'd circle back 'round to this.

It is, after all, the perennial conservative boogeyman.

If you could point to the one thing that got Trump elected, the one thing that terrified both conservative voters and the Electoral College with equal revulsion, the one thing they feared more than a regulated and restrained Wall Street, more than universal healthcare, more than abortion, more than unions, more than teachers, more than empowered woman and uppity people of color, more than the wealthy and multi-billion dollar corporations being forced to pay their fair share, more than sane gun laws and gay marriage, more than peace, it would have to be this.

Immigration.


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Oh, they'll tell you -- and in fact are telling me right now on my Twitter feed -- that's it's not immigration per se they're against, but rather illegal immigration. They'll say they're fine with lawful immigration, with immigrants who obey the law, who follow the rules.

They’re fine with that.

Sure.

And that is true.

So far as it goes.


But it's also the worst kind of lie.


The Big Lie.

The kind of lie the Nazis told so well.

It’s the lie of fascists and of communists and all flavors totalitarianism, of abusers and tin-pot dictators the world over.

See, it’s not that we’re against all “those” people, it’s just that we want “those” people to follow the law. I mean, who doesn’t want a lawful society, right? That’s reasonable, isn’t it? That people follow the law?

Of course it is.

And then you change the law to make “those” people illegal.

And if anybody complains, well, they obviously have no respect for the law. They are, in fact, very likely criminals themselves, or criminal sympathizers.

And if the opposition becomes too vocal, well, you have an excuse to declare martial law and throw them into jail too.

Convenient, eh?


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You think I’m wrong?

You think I’m an alarmist?

I am watching the Democrat Party led (because they want Open Borders and existing weak laws) assault on our country by Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, whose leaders are doing little to stop this large flow of people, INCLUDING MANY CRIMINALS, from entering Mexico to U.S. In addition to stopping all payments to these countries, which seem to have almost no control over their population, I must, in the strongest of terms, ask Mexico to stop this onslaught - and if unable to do so I will call up the U.S. Military and CLOSE OUR SOUTHERN BORDER! The assault on our country at our Southern Border, including the Criminal elements and DRUGS pouring in, is far more important to me, as President, than Trade or the USMCA. Hopefully Mexico will stop this onslaught at their Northern Border. All Democrats fault for weak laws!

Trump declares migrants and asylum seekers as criminals, as the enemy – even though the people he’s talking about haven’t as yet broken a single US law. Nor declared their intention to do so.

Not one.

Walking through Guatemala, through Honduras, though El Salvador and Mexico isn’t a crime under US law. Or even a crime under the laws of those nations.

US laws do not apply to the leaders (or the citizens) of foreign countries. International laws and agreements likewise don’t apply to this migration, and in fact, in most regards international laws prohibit governments from preventing migration and enjoin nations to provide aid and comfort to those in need.

Having defined migrants as criminals and a dire threat to America, Trump then declares his political opponents, Americans, as enemies of the country – because in Trump’s mind he is America and thus any opposition must therefore be treason. Criminal.

With the stage, set, Trump then declares this a matter of sovereignty, of national security, of law. He demands other nations control their populations, even though the US has no authority to do so, and threatens military action if they do not comply. Military action. Don’t take my word for it, read those of the American President for yourself, “I will call up the U.S. Military and CLOSE OUR SOUTHERN BORDER!” That’s what he said. That’s what he said in a statement that is bookended by declaring Democrats as criminals and the enemies of America.

Is the hair standing up on the back of your neck yet? Because it should be.

Military action first on US soil and then an excuse to … invade the Sudetenland perhaps?

And if you still can’t see the parallels then you are a goddamned fool.


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Ask yourself something: Why is it that every time Trump says something like this, foreign actors swarm to his defense?

Why is it that agencies under the control of totalitarian regimes such as Russia and China and North Korea think building walls and using the military to crack down on your own people sounds like a good idea?

“Invite them to stay at your house if you like them so much. You pay for their food, schools, health care and everything else they want”

That was a foreign troll responding to my comments on Twitter. A fake account, created for this sort of thing, anonymous, not even trying to disguise its origin. Because it doesn’t have to. Because the sentiments expressed by this foreign agency exactly mirror those right here in America. They are the very words shouted by Republicans, by conservatives, by Trump’s own base. By Trump himself. And it’s become impossible to tell whether this foreign xenophobia drives American bigotry or if it is a reflection instead. It doesn’t matter because it is become a self-reinforcing feedback loop.

What if we took them up on this challenge?

I’ll take in these refugees, pay for their food, schools, healthcare, if in return conservatives alone pay for Trump’s wall, for his tax giveaway to billionaires and Fortune 500 companies, for the wars Republicans start and can’t seem to finish…

Is it a deal?

No?

No, I suppose not.


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Once upon a time, the Nazis promised to make Germany great again. That was a large part of their message in the aftermath of World War I and the Great Depression.

And at first, Germany indeed had a roaring economy under Hitler, which is how they could afford that massive military and eventually the invasion of other countries – not to mention the mass murder of their own people.

I would submit to you that there is more to freedom, to liberty, to justice, to morality, to civilization, to life, than just a “roaring economy.”

Money. Wealth. Economic might. Military strength. Power. This is what matters to Trump, to Republicans, to conservatives.

That’s why this migration disgusts them so much. Poverty. The powerless. Weakness. Victims. Dirty. Subhuman. Needy. Diseased. Hungry. Criminal. The enemy. That’s what they see.

It’s the same old hate.

The same old call to arms.

That’s what they see, inferiority, just as the Nazis regarded the Jews.

Speaking of Nazis, back in World War II the United States intelligence community – specifically the Office of Strategic Services, the core of what would later become the Central Intelligence Agency – compiled a detailed psychological profile of Adolf Hitler. The report said, in part, that Hitler’s basic rules for maintaining power were: never allow the public to cool off; never admit a fault or wrong; never concede that there may be some good in your enemy; never leave room for alternatives; never accept blame; concentrate on one enemy at a time and blame him for everything that goes wrong; people will believe a big lie sooner than a little one; and if you repeat it frequently enough people will sooner or later believe it.

History would call this technique The Big Lie

Joseph Goebbels, the Nazis’ Minister of Propaganda is often credited with the idea, but it was Hitler who first outlined it in Mein Kampf in 1925.

Never allow the public to cool off.

Never admit a fault or wrong.

Never concede that there may be some good in your enemy.

Never leave room for alternatives.

Never accept blame.

Concentrate on one enemy at a time and blame him for everything that goes wrong.

Repeat the lie, over and over, until enough people believe it.

You see it, don’t you?

You see the parallels.


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"Sadly, it looks like Mexico’s Police and Military are unable to stop the Caravan heading to the Southern Border of the United States."

Unable. Because, why?

Because the Mexican military is overwhelmed, out maneuvered and outgunned, by this horde of armed criminals and Middle Eastern types?

or

Is it not so much as unable as unwilling? Because it's less a military horde and more just a bunch of poor people, children mostly, looking for sanctuary, for a better life?

You note that Trump doesn’t tell you why.

Instead it’s Mexico’s fault. They’re weak. They’re unwilling. They’re unable. They can’t be trusted. They are not our friends. They are helping our enemies. That’s the implication here, isn’t it?

"Criminals and unknown Middle Easterners are mixed in."

Criminals. Of course.

These must be criminals, by definition.

Trump switches between The Big Lie and the little ones with ease and somehow never seems to realize what he’s giving away.

For example: How do you know there are criminals? Rapists. Murders. Thieves. No, seriously, how do you know? Think about it. If this is true, how would the United States government know this? Where's the intelligence coming from? How are we getting it? Do we have intelligence assets embedded in this caravan?

Do we really?

Operating in ... Mexico?

On what pretext would these intelligence agents be operating on the soil of a sovereign foreign nation? An ally. What agency are these assets from? What operation is this part of? How was it funded? Is it a joint operation with foreign nations? Is Congress aware of this? What is the oversight? Is it a military operation? Civilian? Because there are some real legal implications here, implications that follow from Trump's statement "Criminals and Middle Easterners."

And speaking of “Middle Easterners,” Middle Easterners? That's not even an actual demographic. The Middle East is dozens of nations, some friendly to our interests, some hostile, many indifferent. Who are these so-called Middle Easterners? Where are they from? Again, how do you know?

How do you know if you don’t have intelligence assets directly embedded in the caravan?

Moreover, what the hell would somebody from the Middle East be doing in this migration? I mean, sure, Trump's insinuation, the dog whistle for his base, that's obvious, but pull the thread.

Ask the questions.

You see, if this is true, if Trump’s unspoken insinuation is true, if there are Middle Eastern terrorists in this caravan, then from a military and counterterrorism standpoint, if you know there are terrorists coming toward you, well, then doesn't that suggest an opportunity to you?

Doesn't it?

No?

Because it should. It’s a rudimentary tactic used damned near every day by law enforcement and the military.

Welcome the caravan, process the asylum seekers, take the "Middle Easterners" into custody without a fight. Low risk. Non violent. They come to you, you don't have to find them. You don’t have to risk your troop’s lives humping through the brush, kicking in doors. The terrorists give themselves up willingly. Right? You don’t need million dollar drones and satellite coverage and an army. Minimal risk, minimal cost. Set up a welcome center, in-process the whole migration, separate out the bad actors and process the rest of the asylum seekers in accordance with US law – i.e. grant them asylum or send them back. Congratulations, you’ve caught a bunch of terrorists. And treated the real immigrants with dignity and respect. If you produce actual terrorists, you’re be proven right, you’ll have a media coup, and it’ll be damned impossible for the bleeding heart liberals to argue with that.

I mean, goddamn, doesn't that seem the obvious tactic to take this threat Trump describes out of play?

I used to do this sort of thing for a living. I would have killed, so to speak, for a counterterrorism opportunity like this.

Which makes me wonder where this "intelligence” is coming from. Are there any actually generals involved in this? Any actual law enforcement experts? Any counterterrorism agents? The FBI? The CIA? Who's running this operation, rank amateurs?

Unless, you know, nobody is actually running anything and it's all just some bullshit made up in Trump's mind. Again.

"I have alerted Border Patrol and Military that this is a National Emergy. [sic]"

A national emergency.

Really, an actual, no foolin’ national emergency? 

How? How is this a national emergency? You notice again that Trump never tells you the details.

Trump seems to think that if this "caravan" reaches the border, we, what? Just have to let them in? Border Patrol can't do anything because ... Democrats? What? Doesn’t our law already prevent this?

"Must change laws!"

What laws will stop illegal immigration?

Taking away their kids didn't stop them.

Throwing them in prison doesn't stop them.

Deporting them doesn't stop them.

Shooting them dead doesn't stop them.

Rape, murder, robbery, death in the desert and in the jungle, doesn't stop them.

A wall sure as hell doesn't stop people and never has.

So what are we talking about here? What laws?

What law is Trump talking about? Again – again – you notice he never actually tells you this? No details. No references. Just vague "laws." What law? What new law?

"Every time you see a Caravan, or people illegally coming, or attempting to come, into our Country illegally, think of and blame the Democrats for not giving us the votes to change our pathetic Immigration Laws!"

Never allow the public to cool off.

Never admit a fault or wrong.

Never concede that there may be some good in your enemy.

Never leave room for alternatives.

Never accept blame.

Concentrate on one enemy at a time and blame him for everything that goes wrong.

Repeat the lie, over and over, until enough people believe it.

Three times in the last decade, once under George W. Bush, twice under Obama, Congress reached bipartisan agreement on immigration reform. Each time, it was Republicans who shot it down. Republicans. Not Democrats, Republicans. Last time they did it just to spite John McCain.

It's funny isn't it?

According to Republicans, new laws won't stop gun violence, only punish lawful gun owners. Too many laws already, they say. But immigration? Whoa doggies, we need us some new laws! Lots and lots of new laws! Yes, Sir!

But again, I digress.

"Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador were not able to do the job of stopping people from leaving their country and coming illegally to the U.S."

Funny how Trump and his Republican base are suddenly all about big government -- so long as that big government is in other countries oppressing other people.

Just another example of the Republican motto: Fuck you, I got mine.

"We will now begin cutting off, or substantially reducing, the massive foreign aid routinely given to them."

US Foreign aid to Guatemala: $249 million. Honduras: $127 million. El Salvador. $74 million

"Massive foreign aid."

Massive.

In comparison, we give Israel about $5.4 BILLION in aid annually, but there I go digressing yet again.

You see it? You see it in context right?

Most of that paltry foreign aid to Central America never actually reaches the poor people of those countries. So, this threat is to the governments of those nations, to the wealthy of those nations, those in power. Crush the poor, pen them in, beat them down, or else we'll cut off your meal ticket. That’s the real message here. Brutalize your population or else. Get your people under control, that’s what Trump is telling them. 

Of course, this the same foreign policy we used with the Shah of Iran, the erstwhile President of the Philippines, the Batista government in Cuba, the current regime in Iraq, Africa, South America... Really paid off, didn’t it? Made us more secure, right? I mean, didn’t it?

Or did we create our own enemies?

And so, here we are.

Again.

Cut off foreign aid to impoverished Central American countries, take military action, making life there even more terrible for poor people and you expect this to some how stop those from attempting to flee in search of a better life? You expect this to make us safer? To somehow stave off the inevitable revolution and the creation of yet another enemy nation who hates our fucking guts?

Tell me again, what was the definition of insanity?


Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

-- Emma Lazarus, The New Colossus

Friday, September 28, 2018

Fraud Alert


The ONLY authorized seller of Stonekettle Station Merchandise is ME via my Etsy Store.

There are two exceptions to this:

1. Rich Fizzell at Prairie Art Metal (on Etsy), who is authorized to sell certain products using my logo and designs.

2. Shawn Riley at Rounds By Riley (also on Etsy) who is my business partner and the guy who does the lion's share of our pen manufacturing).

The following screenshots are fraudulent products:


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These sites and manufacturers are not authorized to sell products with my intellectual property, likeness, or logos.

This is blatant theft of my intellectual property.

I'm in the process of trying to get these sites taken down, but they are foreign based somewhere in Indonesia and it's a slow and cumbersome process. Some of the sites have California based contact information. That's a front, working through fake email addresses, proxies, and rerouted phone numbers.

The attached screenshots are only a few of the sites I've managed to run down, there are likely more (and if you come across one, please let me know). It's all the same outfit, despite the various fronts, operating via anonymous PayPal accounts and using various falsified social media profiles to target my audience. So far, they are operating mostly on Twitter, but I do see accounts active on Facebook and elsewhere (and if you think social media sites like Twitter and PayPal are at all helpful in policing this kind of crime on their platforms, I've got a T-shirt to sell you). They have also attempted to hack my various accounts, but since I use 2-factor authentication on every site, they have so far been unable to do so. It also appears that when I reported these various sites to Twitter last night, the operators of the sites began reporting me in an attempt to get my Twitter account suspended. I'm not sure, but they may have attempted to do this to my Facebook account as well. As of this morning, the fraudulent accounts are still active and Twitter has, unsurprisingly, taken no action.

Repeat, this con is SPECIFICALLY TARGETING MY AUDIENCE.

If you get a message or see a post purporting to be me advertising this stuff for sale, it's not me. You are being targeted by thieves using my image and brand.

This is a fraud.

It's not cute or funny or flattering or fair use. It's theft. It's a crime. These people are stealing from me (and from thousands of other businesses and artists).

If you attempt to buy from this outfit, you may or may not actually receive a product, and that product will be significantly inferior to what I sell, with a poorly printed copy of my material. I can't stop you from doing it, but if I see you on the street wearing knockoff Stonekettle apparel, you and I are going have some words.

Snark aside, moreover and more importantly, in order to save yourself a (very) few bucks, you will have given a foreign criminal enterprise your personal information and PayPal/Credit Card information. You might want to think about that before you buy this stuff.

If you want to support me, then buy ONLY from my store. This one: https://www.etsy.com/shop/Stonekettle.

If you see pirated versions of my products or what you think might be unauthorized reproductions of my my written material, I always appreciate a heads up. Please given me a link and as much info on the miscreant as you can and I'll take it from there.

Thank you.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Jenkins

I work for the president but like-minded colleagues and I have vowed to thwart parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations…
-- Anonymous, OpEd, New York Times, September 9, 2018


The Left.

Fake News.

The Swamp.

Witch Hunt.

The Deep State.

Anonymous Sources.

The Shadow Government.

Seems everyone is out to get Trump.

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There’s a moment for most people.

It’s part of growing up. The foundation of emotional maturity. The basis of rational adulthood, that moment.

Not everybody gets there. Not everyone has that moment. No. Not everyone. We all have that one needy friend who lives a life of endless self-inflicted disaster. Bad investments. Bad relationships. Bad decisions. Their life is an ongoing car wreck and they just never seem to learn. They show up with a new partner and you know in the first second how it’ll go. You can see it in the date’s eyes. Selfish. Stupid. Too much money and not enough sense – or maybe not enough of either. Entitled. Spoiled. Emotionally crippled. And you’re like, goddammit, here we go again. You can see the whole thing, you know how it’ll play out. The relationship will go down in flames, smoke, wreckage, like a gut-shot B-17 auguring in over 1944 Berlin. You know exactly how it’ll end: on your couch, wailing “what’s wrong with me?”

What’s wrong with you?

You’re a goddammed child. That’s what’s wrong. You just never seem to reach that moment, the moment the rest of us face, the moment when you realize all those shitty horrible relationships you keep finding yourself in, all of those shitty terrible situations, all of the shitty misery that keeps piling up on your pointy head, all of that, the one thing all of that has in common is … you.

You’re the problem.

So, stop doing it. Whatever it takes, stop doing it. Stop being that person. Stop it.

Sooner or later, most of us realize we’re doing it to ourselves.

That’s the moment.

And we stop.

It’s part of growing up. Part of emotional maturity. Part of being a rational, reasonably happy, functioning adult. Stop hurting yourself.

But not everybody gets there. And even if you do, you always have that one person in your life who doesn’t.

Sooner or later, you have to slap some goddamned sense into these people or, for your own sanity, cut them loose – because they are your shitty relationship. 


That’s America.


That’s who America is, your needy friend, crying on your couch.

And that’s Trump, America’s shitty boyfriend. Selfish. Self centered. Stupid. Too much money and not enough goddamned sense. Entitled. Spoiled. Emotionally stunted. And you can see the whole thing, can’t you? You know how it’s going to play out. You just hope that when it goes down, when it finally crashes and burns, when it augers in, you can avoid being killed in the falling wreckage.

You might be able to slap some sense into your friend, America, but not Trump. Not Trump. He can’t see it. He just doesn’t get it.

Trump doesn't get it.

He can’t get it.

He can’t get it because it’s not possible for him to get it. He’s damaged, crippled by his wealth and privilege. He's pathologically incapable of getting it and his comments this morning are another example of just how thoroughly Trump does not get it.

“The Deep State and the Left, and their vehicle, the Fake News Media, are going Crazy…”

No.

No. It’s not the media. It’s not any “Deep State.” It’s not the Left. It’s not any shadowy conspiracy in the White House – though there are certainly forces conspiring against Trump. Hell, I’m one of them. I’m America’s friend, telling her to cut this loser off, kick him to the curb, throw him the hell out and change the locks, do it, before it’s too late. Again.

Goddammit, America, stop hurting yourself.

I’m reminded of Jenkins.

That’s right, Jenkins.

See, Jenkins was that guy. Emotionally stunted. Spoiled. Self-centered. Stupid. Goddamn was he stupid. The only thing Jenkins cared about was basketball. It’s all he ever talked about. It was his go-to move, every time. No matter what. If you were talking about some thing, politics, technology, whatever, that Jenkins didn’t understand, or wasn’t interested in, he’d interrupt with basketball. He never paid attention to anything anybody said, he just waited for a moment to bring up basketball. His wife sat home every night while he was out playing basketball with the fellas. Or she sat in the bedroom while he watched basketball on TV in the living room. At work, we’d be in the middle of some complex military evolution and Jenkins would interrupt to ask if anybody had seen the game last night. I was his supervisor. I’d yell at him, Goddammit, Jenkins, pay attention, you’re gonna get people killed. Yeah, he’d answer, but how about that game, right? Jenkins never got advanced. He couldn’t score high enough on the test. He couldn’t get good enough evaluations. He’d come to me crying, having been passed over for promotion yet again. What’s wrong with me? Well, I’d start… Hey, he’d interrupt, you see the game last night? His wife eventually left him for some other guy who paid attention to her. Jenkins never saw it coming, of course he didn’t. He could tell you the stats of every Hall of Famer, but didn’t know how miserable his own wife was. So she left him. Guy was wrecked. What are you gonna do, he’s one of your people. Hey, man, it’ll be OK. Jenkins broke down crying, I don’t know what happened! What’s wrong with me? Hey … did any of your guys catch the game last night?

He just never got it.

He wasn’t capable of getting it. He was emotionally stunted. Broken in some way and unfixable. He didn’t know how to listen. He didn’t know how to lead. He didn’t even know what questions to ask and he wasn’t willing to learn. And so he lived a life of loud misery.

He never figured out that he was the cause of all of his problems.

Rather than face it, he kept trying to change the narrative. Hey, fellas, how about the game last night, huh?

And as a result, his problems always became my problem, our problem, the unit’s problem – until he got himself thrown out of the service.

Look at this:

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"Cosumer [sic] confidence highest in 18 years, Atlanta Fed forecasts 4.7 GDP, manufacturing jobs highest in many years. “It’s the story of the Trump Administration, the Economic Success, that’s unnerving his detractors.” @MariaBartiromo"

Consumer confidence?

What the hell? What’s consumer confidence have to do with anything? Right now, this moment, the country is afire with rumors of chaos in an unmoored, drifting White House helmed by a self-centered lunatic and instead of facing that head on, Trump is talking about consumer confidence and hey, fellas, how about the game last night, huh?

Hey! Jenkins, you idiot, pay attention! You’re gonna get people killed.

Trump is not just off on a tangent. He pivoted to the economy, as he always does when faced with criticism. That’s his move, his basketball fake, the economy. But it’s more than that. Notice how he always quotes Fox News, but not his own Administration?

Why is that?

Where is Bartiromo getting these numbers? From the Consumer Confidence Board, right? Probably. That’s typically where the Consumer Confidence Index numbers come from. The board is an independent (supposedly) research organization, which attempts to quantify the level of optimism in American consumers based on the opinions of 50,000 households. The Consumer Confidence Index is 40% opinion, 60% Wall Street expectations, and some mumbo-jumbo, smoke, and a couple of rainbows thrown in for leavening. The CCI is considered a leading indicator of economic trends and it’s used by the Federal Reserve when determining interest rates and, naturally, it’s watched pretty closely by stock exchanges around the world.

So, why then doesn't Trump quote the CCB directly?

Or the Federal Reserve?

Or his own Department of Commerce? The Treasury. Anybody in his own administration. Why is he quoting Fox News?

Why? Because he doesn’t even know where the information he’s quoting actually comes from. He doesn’t know how to get it. He doesn’t even know who to talk to in his own administration. And nobody is stepping up. Nobody.

Most of all, he doesn’t really know what it means, so he needs somebody like Maria Bartiromo to whore it up with some flattery because he can’t do it himself. It’s just something he saw on the infotainment channel he watches and he threw it into the public narrative because he doesn’t have any goddamned idea what else to say. It's a pattern, he first attempts to discredit whatever the day's leading story is, Deep State, Fake News, Shadow Government, and then every time pivots to the economy filtered through his pet media outlet. Hey, fellas, did you see the game last night?

It's ironic, isn't it?

Trump daily complains about the news media, who he says doesn't really have the inside scoop on his administration…

…and then, instead of quoting his own staff, his own agencies, his own experts, his own government, he always, every time, presents information filtered through the media instead.


Meetings with him veer off topic and off the rails, he engages in repetitive rants, and his impulsiveness results in half-baked, ill-informed and occasionally reckless decisions that have to be walked back.
-- Anonymous, Editorial, NYT


He can’t see it.

He doesn’t get it.

And of course he does this because he doesn't have the attention span to sit through detailed briefings from his own people or the mental rigor to review in detail the reports from his own administration or the education and experience to know what questions to ask. Instead he gets his entire worldview from TV, filtered through a corporate agenda specifically tailored to get his attention, like a parent jiggling keys in front of a baby or a porn star jiggling her … well, you get the idea. This warped worldview is then reinforced by a stable of his own toadies and ass-kissers who tell him only what he wants to hear.

This is an incredibly dangerous situation for a president.

And a very, very dangerous situation for any nation.

It echoes the final days of any totalitarian regime where the leader retreats to his Eagle's Nest or Wolf's Lair or Spider Hole and ignores the rumble of approaching defeat for the comforting lies of his own propaganda.


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"The Deep State and the Left, and their vehicle, the Fake News Media, are going Crazy - & they don’t know what to do. The Economy is booming like never before, Jobs are at Historic Highs, soon TWO Supreme Court Justices & maybe Declassification to find Additional Corruption. Wow!"

Wow, indeed.

Insulated from reality, Rich Business Guy crows about the economy. Money, Right? It's the only thing that matters to him and those like him. Money. So long as the economy is booming, what are you peons complaining about? Hey, how about the game last night?

It's a pattern with him.

He lives in an artificial bubble, created partly by himself and partly by those around him -- the ones whose own power and identity are irrevocably tied to Trump's. If he goes down, they go down, and so they work diligently to keep that bubble inflated at all costs. In a way, he is like Pu Yi, the last Emperor of China, a child, isolated inside the Forbidden City, who spends his days playing while others run the nation, unaware that outside the walls is a very, very different and very dangerous world. Of course, the analogy only goes so far, unlike Pu Yi, Trump's power extends far beyond the walls and could easily, in a fit of childish temper or imperial ignorance, destroy us all.

And thus we come to that OpEd in the New York Times.

The one penned by an anonymous member of the Imperial Court.

The one that describes a fool, an emotional cripple, an amoral mad child of a president and a government in chaos.

The one that describes a secret resistance inside the Trump Administration, a cabal of unidentified, unelected, unappointed staffers who daily work to thwart this reckless fool and impose upon America their own agenda.

As somebody noted on my Twitter feed, what is most disturbing about the NYT article is we're all asking who wrote it, not if it's actually true.

Because we all, all of us no matter our political affiliation, we know that it’s true. It can hardly be otherwise. And it is all too likely.

I don’t need to analyze it, or prove its veracity, even if I had the data and the tools to do so.

Trump proves its truth over and over.

This editorial, comes the day after the release of Bob Woodward’s new book – a book written with meticulous care by a trusted legend of the genre and that describes the same situation, the chaos and disarray, in the White House.

A book, even one from a veteran like Woodward, an editorial, even one from The Gray Lady herself, those could be dismissed in isolation. But they are hardly isolated incidents. Everywhere you turn – everywhere but Fox News and its satellites – every source from inside the administration, every former employee, everyone who has to deal with Trump up close and personal, they all paint the same picture.

And Trump himself does nothing to dispel this impression. Because he can’t.

As I type this, literally as I typed the above paragraph, Trump posted this to Twitter:

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And there it is.  Look at that.

I mean, you do see it, don’t you?

He’s spent the last two days, the last year of his presidency, denying that any such sources within his administration exist.

He daily rails against “fake news” and says repeatedly that “anonymous sources” don’t really exist.

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And yet, at the end of the day, he demands to know the source’s identity.


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You don’t demand the name of the source, you don’t demand the source be turned over to the government for “national security purposes” (at once!), if you believe that source doesn’t really exist.

Trump knows.

He knows the New York Times editorial is true.

He knows Woodward’s book paints a true picture.

We all know it. And I don’t know what’s more of a danger to the Republic, this buffoon of a president or some unelected cabal pulling the strings.

Trump has lost control, if indeed he ever had such – which I doubt. And he can’t figure out why all of these bad things keep happening to him.

It’s not the the Left, or Fake News, or The Swamp, or any Witch Hunt. There is no Deep State. And it’s not anonymous sources who are the problem.

It’s Trump.

He doesn’t know what to do, because he’s never had that moment, that moment where he takes responsibility for his own life and becomes an adult.

He doesn’t get it. He’s not capable of getting it. He’s intellectually crippled and emotionally stunted. Broken in some way and unfixable. He doesn’t know how to listen. He doesn’t know how to lead. He doesn’t know how to get critical information and he doesn’t even know what questions to ask and he is unwilling and unable to learn. And so he lives a life of loud misery and makes us miserable too.

Worst of all, he can’t seem to figure out that he and he alone is the ultimate cause of all of his problems.

He can’t face it. So he keeps trying to change the narrative.

Hey, fellas, how about the game last night, huh?

And unfortunately for us, his problems become our problems.


Trump is America’s Jenkins.


There is a quiet resistance within the administration of people choosing to put country first. But the real difference will be made by everyday citizens rising above politics, reaching across the aisle and resolving to shed the labels in favor of a single one: Americans.
--
Anonymous, Editorial, NYT