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Friday, April 4, 2014

Bang Bang Crazy, Part 9


And here we are yet again.

Another nut with a gun and grudge.

And the enraged monkeys emerge from the trees to shriek and fling fistfuls of their own fecal matter at each other.

Guns! Guns! one side wails, More Guns!

Mental Illness! Mental Illness! screeches the other.

The field that separates the two warring camps is full of the wounded and the maimed and the dead, their bodies decorated in blood and steaming monkey dung. It is a gulf devoid of both reason and sanity.

I really hate to say, see? I told you so. But, here we are, déjà vu all over again.

Only this time there’s a variation on the theme I wrote about in The Seven Stages of Gun Violence. Given that this is the third shooting on a military base in recent memory (shootings on military bases are nothing particularly new, it’s just that all of a sudden it’s fashionable to act like you actually give a shit), the new argument being hurled back and forth like warm monkey turds is whether or not military personal should be allowed to carry loaded weapons on base – and not just loaded weapons, but concealed weapons under their uniforms – so that they may shoot down their fellows should it become necessary.

Given the law of unintended consequences, I do have to wonder what the military will look like after a few years of institutional paranoia, of soldiers regarding each other as potentially murderous lunatics, sleeping with one eye open and ready at any moment to gun each other down.  Morale, esprit de corps, trust, respect, too bad those things can’t be measured quantitatively in empirical values, because I’d love to see a trend graph after a few years of armed fear in the ranks – coupled to a post-war drawdown and reduction in funding.  1975, here we come.

I wasn’t going to write about this, not here, not in detail, not again. 

I updated and reposted the previously mentioned Seven Stages of Gun Violence and I figured that was enough. Frankly I’m sick of this, sick of the bloodshed, sick of the carnage, sick of the apathy, sick of the insanity we continue to inflict upon ourselves like the shrieking primates we are.

But between social media and online searches for gun control and gun violence and military shootings, which inevitably led people to the previous articles I’ve written in this series, folks started to show up on Stonekettle Station. And thus, as always when I won’t let the raging baboons post comments here, I get email.

Most of it is pretty obnoxious.

I looked at the the common theme of the hatemail, and then I proposed a simple scenario for my audience on Facebook. Something to spark conversation and an exploration of the issue.

I suppose I should have known better, I’ve been doing this long enough, but I’m nothing if not a tilter at windmills.

The folks that are allowed to comment on my Facebook wall are a pretty reasonable bunch, probably because I ruthlessly weed out the dullards who can’t behave like civilized human beings. But, see, that simple post was shared far and wide, and some of the resulting comments were … well, hang on to that thought and we’ll come back to those comments in a minute.

First, the bit I posted on Facebook: 

I'm getting email, to wit:

Military personnel are well trained in firearms. They should be required to carry their weapon at all times on base, locked and loaded. In a case like the Fort Hood shooting(s), or the Navy Yard shooting, or the Norfolk shooting, they could respond immediately to defend themselves. You're a faggy America-hating Nazi if you don't agree.

Ok. Fair enough.

How about this: You're a military policeman. The alarm goes off: active shooter in the vicinity of the Troop Medical Campus, shots fired, people down, number and identity of gunman/gunmen unknown, location of the active shooter or shooters unknown possibly moving through the buildings killing randomly, possibly in the parking lot, possibly in the lobby of the main hospital building, possibly in the VA reception area - the situation is unclear, there are multiple reports and descriptions of the shooter, all different, all confused. You just know there's at least one shooter somewhere in the medical campus. You and your fellow cops respond. You arrive. You have no idea what you're getting into. You jump out of your cruiser, weapon drawn, safety off. There are soldiers and civilians down in front of the building. It's like a Quentin Tarantino movie. Blood. Smoke. Screams. The staccato crack of continuous gunfire echoes off the buildings so that you can't even tell where it's coming from - the classic problem of urban warfare. Chaos. Restricted line of sight. Panicked non-combatants. Armed military personnel have engaged the (possible) shooter, there is a three-way firefight going on. You see dozens of men and women in uniform crouched behind cover exchanging fire with other men and women in uniform crouched behind cover returning fire. They all look exactly the same.

Now, you have to do something, right now. It’s your job. You raise your weapon and step forward...


Just one thing, one little thing before you pull the trigger: Which one is the bad guy?


Or perhaps bad guys, plural? Come now, it's easy, after all you're an expert, right? Quick, which one is the bad guy? This isn't a video game. This is the real thing. Choose wrong, you die, other people keep dying. Choose wrong, you kill the men and women you're supposed to be protecting and then you can live with that for the rest of your life, if you live. Better hurry up, you've got a fraction of second, and here comes the rest of the cavalry with their guns out and the same choice to make and how do you know the shooter isn't one of them? This is what you wanted, everybody armed, everybody shooting, so come on, Hero, which soldier do you kill first?


I spent most of my adult life in uniform under arms. I'm a trained and certified firearms instructor. I'm a trained and certified force protection officer. Now, as a civilian, I do consulting on a military base. You don't have to listen to me, but ask yourself something: if arming military personnel on post is such a great idea, why then haven't those experienced, trained, and knowledgeable soldiers in command positions joined your side? Why aren't the NCOs and the Colonels and the Admirals and the Generals demanding en mass weapons free on base?

What do they know that you don't?

You're entitled to your opinion, but you REALLY don't understand the situation at all.

It was a simple thought problem.

There are many ways a scenario like this could play out. Multiple shooters. Shooter already dead and nobody realizes it, either by his own hand or as a result of direct fire. Shooter hides among the victims and waits quietly for law enforcement. Or maybe there never was a shooter at all and it was all a terrible mistake triggered by something stupid – say like a soldier fumbling his weapon and causing an accidental discharge which is then perceived by other stressed out combat vets as an active threat. 

The idea here was to start a conversation among my Facebook following, because that’s what I do there (yes, that’s correct, not everything on Facebook is about cats and duckfaced girls). And that’s what happened. And that continues to be an interesting, adult, and reasoned exchange.  But many folks shared my post, and the comments under those shares provided the impetus for this essay.

Let’s start with this comment from a guy whose force protection and military expertise, according to his Facebook page, appears to consist mostly of really liking Transformer movies:

I think Jim is being a little bit of a bitch about this. The police and soldiers (especially now that urban combat is common place) have been trained for these situations. It's relatively easy for them to identify who the aggressor is. With civilians on base, the reason why soldiers aren't armed is the same reason banks don't have security guards... insurance. You are liable if there is a death on your premises, and the chances of someone getting killed goes up dramatically if there are armed guards. The real question is, how do people keep getting on these bases with firearms? Can the military not afford metal detectors (or are they still looking for a vendor who will overcharge them by 10000%)?

I think Jim is being a little bit of a bitch about this. I’m not really sure what this means other than he doesn’t like what I wrote, so that makes me a bitch. Says the grown man who posts pictures of comic book action figures on his Facebook page.

The police and soldiers (especially now that urban combat is common place) have been trained for these situations. It's relatively easy for them to identify who the aggressor is. Right, the bad guy looks like a giant metal robot made out of car parts, sure. Meanwhile, outside of kiddie movies, it’s often a whole lot different.  Remember the first Fort Hood shooting? In the first minute, how many shooters were there? No, don’t roll your eyes, answer the question, how many? Don’t know? The answer is three. In the chaos and confusion, responders at first thought there were three shooters. Besides Major Nidal Malik Hasan, two other soldiers were identified by military personnel as being involved. Those men were detained and interrogated. It didn’t take investigators very long to figure out the other men had nothing to do with Hasan’s murderous rampage, but what if the soldiers who initially thought they did were armed and prepared to take action? In that confusion, in that moment when people are dying and you just don’t know, in that moment, those two innocent men could easily have become targets for their fellows.

Now, how many shooters were initially reported when Aaron Alexis pulled out a shotgun and started killing people inside the NAVSEA building at the Washington Navy Yard?

As to it being “relatively easy” to identify the shooter, answer a question for me. Remember when the LAPD shot three unarmed civilians by accident because they confused two small Asian women delivering newspapers and a skinny white guy on a bicycle for a large angry black man in tactical gear carrying an assault rifle? No? Maybe it’s just me. Funny thing, those cops were specifically trained in active shooter situations, unlike soldiers they were professionals in this exact situation, and they had a detailed description of the shooter, and they weren’t under fire and had time to consider the situation, and yet…

The first minutes of any attack are confused and unclear and can easily result in friendly fire. In fact, certain military and terrorist tactics are designed specifically with this in mind, induce maximum confusion, get friendly forces to engage each other. I know, part of my job in the military was designing warfighting doctrine and tactics exactly like this. Hell, blue on blue engagements happen in battle on a far too frequent basis, even when the enemy isn’t actively trying to make that happen, even when soldiers are trained to look out for it.  You don’t have to believe me, you can go ask Pat Tillman’s family about it. But I guess they don’t teach that at Comic Book University.

There is an enormous difference between a law enforcement situation and unrestricted combat in the warzone.  That’s why the training is very, very different for each type of operation. That’s why the rules of engagement are different. Hell, that’s one of the reasons soldiers and Marines often regard occupation and peacekeeping duty as far worse than actual combat. I’ve been professionally trained in both operations, but don’t take my word for it – ask any cop who used to be a soldier. There are plenty of them around.

That said, my critic fails to specify exactly how (short of the bad guy actually being a giant robot made from car parts) other soldiers and military police would know who’s who in this scenario, given that they’re all dressed the same and all shooting. And given that in the real world, when it really happened, witnesses actually did, in point of fact, misidentify innocent soldiers as shooters. Instead, the critic waves his hand and claims that it’s “relatively easy.”  You know, like when you’re a cop running into a school full of panicked children and you have to figure out which child is killing the other ones in the middle of a crowd – but yeah, it’s relatively easy and cops don’t lay awake at night sweating this exact situation.

With civilians on base, the reason why soldiers aren't armed is the same reason banks don't have security guards... insurance. You are liable if there is a death on your premises … Say what now? Talk about the fallacy of false equivalence. 

Banks generally don’t have armed guards nowadays because a) they’ve gotten a lot better at passive and active security systems, and b) because armed guards pretty much guarantee the robbers will come through the door shooting. There’s a significant reduction in loss of life if the bank personnel don’t attempt to engage the criminals in a shoot out – and, really, what does this do for the critic’s position of arming everybody? Frankly, he seems to be the kind of guy who tends to shoot himself in the foot, at least figuratively.

That said, a bank robbery and an active shooter are two completely different threats. Totally different tactical problems in law enforcement. You can’t compare the two, primarily because the goals of the perpetrators are completely different. And we don’t restrict the free carry of weapons on base because the government is worried about liability. Weapons are restricted for many reasons, from accountability for expensive and deadly government property to concern over accidental or deliberate shootings and everything in between.

The real question is, how do people keep getting on these bases with firearms? Can the military not afford metal detectors (or are they still looking for a vendor who will overcharge them by 10000%)?

Sixty to eighty thousand people enter and leave Fort Hood every day. Sixty to eighty thousand.  Twenty to thirty thousand enter and leave San Diego Naval Station, every day.  Twenty-five thousand active duty military and civilian personnel come and go from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, every day, thirty thousand military family members access that same base on a daily basis, more than one hundred thousand veterans use the base hospital, commissary, and military exchange monthly. Here in Alaska, Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson supports similar numbers.  A quarter of million people work or live on the various bases in and surrounding Norfolk. 

So, what exactly are you going to do? Metal detectors, pat downs, and car searches every day?  At every base? Really? You’re going to provide that kind of manpower, that kind of equipment? Because we do that, you know. It’s called Threat Condition Delta, and everybody coming onto base gets thoroughly inspected. Want to guess how long it takes to pat down every person and inspect every vehicle on a base like Fort Hood? Even if you restrict access to only essential personnel, you’re still looking at scanning 40,000 people – all at the same time, because they all show up for work at the same time.  Which is why we only do it when we have a credible threat, because otherwise it’s impossible to do business.

As I said, this guy just doesn’t understand the problem. But, hey, tell you what, maybe if we got ourselves some magic robots from outer space…

So, who’s the bitch now?

Yes, I know, but I just couldn’t help it.

Moving on, another person opined:

It's not a problem to know who the bad guys is- the one shooting people. In Israel, every 18 years old carries a rifle everywhere (both in the army and when they go home every weekend). It does make for a much safer environment. If a Palestinian terrorist starts shooting innocent civilians, then you know for sure that someone will take him down very fast. That's why most of the terrorist acts in Israel end immediately after they start with far less casualties than other places (like the Norway massacre). You don't need to wait for MPs - that's the whole point. The other soldiers would have taken him down as soon as he started shooting - cause they had GUNS. In fact, one of the routine practice drills is to simulate a Palestinian in Israeli military uniform infiltrating the base and then starts shooting everyone. It is basic training.

The commenter is moving the goal posts.

It's not a problem to know who the bad guys is- the one shooting people. [sic]

Unless he’s not shooting people when you happen to look in his direction.

Unless random good guys are also shooting – which was the whole point of my original comment.

Unless there’s more than one shooter.

Unless the shooter knows your tactics, because he’s one of you, and he takes deliberate measures to hide among the victims or mask his actions or otherwise evade, conceal, confuse, and/or escape. 

In Israel, every 18 years old carries a rifle everywhere (both in the army and when they go home every weekend). It does make for a much safer environment.

Right, no terrorism or random shooting in Israel.

If a Palestinian terrorist starts shooting innocent civilians, then you know for sure that someone will take him down very fast. That's why most of the terrorist acts in Israel end immediately after they start with far less casualties than other places

Ah, and there we are, the fallacy of false comparison.  Palestinian terrorists, i.e. the enemy.  Not quite the same thing as an active shooter who is one of your own troops.  

And speaking of logical fallacies, I think we need a new one: the “Bu Bu But that’s how they do it in Israel” fallacy. 

Oh, yes let us handle gun ownership the way the Israelis do. Let us indeed. You bet.

You can start by chucking out the 2nd Amendment, or rather you can start by actually enforcing the 2nd Amendment. The whole thing, especially that part about a “well regulated militia.” Gun ownership in Israel isn’t a right, it’s a duty enforced by law. You own guns in Israel because you’re required to help defend the state, not just you and yours. I can’t wait to see you implement that in America. And you don’t just run out and buy yourself an AR-15 and start patrolling the streets. It starts with universal conscription, in high school. Every single person will be required by law to undergo training and background checks before they are allowed to touch a gun, along with periodic refresher training and civil defense drills. Did I mention universal registration, both for your weapons and for you? Yeah, see, you were given that gun by the government for a reason, because if you’re not in uniform, once you’ve completed your active duty obligation, you’re still part of the civil defense force and that means the government keeps a record of your training and guns. And you can just forget about gun stores and gun shows and all of the rest of the American gun porn. And then let’s talk about the penalties for irresponsible gun use.

I’ve been there, it’s an ok place, pretty girls, intelligent educated folks, great food – best olives I’ve ever had. The beer is pretty good. Heat. Sand. And religion leaking out of every crack. Government of loons. Sure, it’s a dandy place, if you like living in an armed camp in the middle of a war zone. If you like tanks in the streets and armed soldiers on every corner and machine guns on the playground. If you like looking over your shoulder all of the time. If you like government surveillance and pervasive military security that would make Edward Snowden hyperventilate himself into a stroke. Sure, you bet. Let’s do that. I think it’s a great idea, you go first, Conservatives, the rest of us will be right behind you.

Let me be blunt, screw Israel.

You want to go live there, be my guest. I’ll help you pack. But I will bet you whatever sum of money you like, that should you actually try to impose the actual kind of universal gun carry they have in Israel, the very first people who would start screaming fascism! Nazis! would be the NRA and the Tea Party and those advocating right now for arming troops on base. 

Here’s another one:

That article seems a bit disingenuous. The MP's wouldn't have to worry about who was the bad guy because there would be no more shots after the BG was taken out. The good guy would be more than happy to lay down his gun when they arrived and explain the situation later.

It wasn’t an article, it was a couple of lines on Facebook, but, hey, why spoil a thing with facts, eh?

The MP's wouldn't have to worry about who was the bad guy because there would be no more shots after the BG was taken out

Right, it’ll go down just like that. Every time.

The good guy would be more than happy to lay down his gun when they arrived and explain the situation later.

You have to admire this guy’s optimism. But then again, he lives in a magic world of rainbows and flying bunnies where the good guys wear white hats and the bad guys look like Boris and Natasha from Rocky & Bullwinkle.

oh and the answer on who to shoot would be everyone not face down after the command cease fire and surrender your weapon is given. after all You make a strong argument but you don't explain why a nut was allowed to run around shooting people on a military base. Was he supposed to be armed and it not why was he permitted to do this? These people definitely deserve to be better protected or to protected themselves.one guy with a gun can be over powered by soldiers that are already signed up to get shot at.... maybe Marines are different...

Marines are different alright, I don’t think anybody would argue that.

Because in the middle of a shootout, Marines will just lay down, cease fire, and surrender their weapons, right?

Because it’s always so neat and tidy, right? Shooter on one side, Marines on the other, clearly delineated.  Cops show up, Marines meekly surrender their weapons, bad guy is left standing in the middle of the playing field holding his gun in one hand and his dick in the other. Because that’s how it’ll go down, right?

The writer is being disingenuous. I mean we can all make no win situations to try and justify things. I mean what if the shooter is in an MP uniform...... Oh no now we need to restrict weapons to only certain MP's.... What if it happens at a rifle range? Oh no lets restrict the military from doing live fire!

Yeah, that’s what I said.

And what’s with “disingenuous.” Is that the Facebook word of the day?

It’s always the same with these people, hysterical all or nothing, the fallacy of the false dilemma. What? You don’t think arming every soldier on base with live weapons all of the time is a good idea? Why, then you must mean no soldier can ever use a weapon ever! 

You can’t reason with these people because they are not reasonable people.  

Also, I don’t think “disingenuous” means what this guy thinks it means.

I posted a scenario, one based on my own training and experience, and I asked my readers – whom I know to be generally a reasonably intelligent bunch, but most have little experience in this sort of thing – to consider it as a thought problem, something to think about as the start of a conversation on the topic. I didn’t say that was the only way things would happen. I didn’t even imply it. There’s nothing disingenuous about it.

When I went through Anti-terrorism training as an intelligence officer, we were given a number of scenarios to consider. Mine was an attack on the Hoover Dam via a large scale explosive concealed in a semi-trailer (this was when US93 actually ran across the top of the dam, before the new bridge was completed). Did that make my instructors “disingenuous” because they gave me that scenario? Were they implying that the only terrorist attack would involve a truck full of fertilizer? Or was it something to think about in the larger conversation?  And was it “disingenuous” of them to assume I was smart enough to figure all that out without having to have it explicitly explained, you know, like normal people?

Also, since the commenter missed it, a hell of a lot of active shooter and terrorist situations are no win scenarios.  Ask the guys who might have to shoot down a jetliner full of innocent civilians in order to prevent a larger tragedy about that sometime.

Okay, but could it happen? Could it? Sure, it could happen. Just like yesterday at Fort Hood, a soldier goes bugshit.  Or like the time before he pulls out a gun, screams Allah Akbar and starts killing people.  And another soldier, armed and alert for danger and ready to rock and roll on a second's notice, shoots him down. Bang! Threat ended. Sure. It could certainly happen that way.

What’s more likely? This last scenario, or the first one I floated up above? Or something in the middle?

Beats me. There’s no way to tell until it happens, and it never happens the same way twice.

What is likely, however, is that when the shooter screams out his war cry and starts blazing away, what you get - even among experienced and prepared troops - is panic and confusion and chaos (also, not everybody is a troop, some of them are civilians, maybe even kids depending on where on base you are). Now you've got a crowd of screaming people, many armed and with their weapons out, which one is the shooter? And we’re back to where we started.

And just for completeness sake, what weapons are we talking about here? Most soldiers don't carry pistols, they carry rifles or more likely nowadays an automatic carbine with burst capability and a VERY high muzzle velocity. Wait 'till somebody starts blazing away in the middle of the crowd with one of those.

And if you’re going to advocate every soldier carry a loaded gun on post, how do you feel about mandating that they all just wear ballistic armor all of the time instead? Hey, I’m just asking.

And then there’s the other side, the crazy.

The other side of the argument is mental health. We don’t need more guns, we need better mental healthcare for our active duty military and our veterans.

I certainly won’t argue against that and I don’t know many who would.

But it's not all one or all the other.

The problem isn't mental health.

The problem isn't guns.

The problem is people with mental health issues who have access to guns. Crazy people with guns, that’s the problem, right there.

Plastic explosive, C4, Semtex, is just an inert block, completely harmless (well, I wouldn’t eat it) about as dangerous as a handful of Silly Putty … until you insert the detonator.  Then it makes a hell of a bang.

The common phrase is that guns don’t kill people, people kill people. I’m not sure I agree, and I’m leery of empty platitudes on general principle, but let’s just say that’s true. Guns don’t kill people, but they sure make it easier for people to kill people.

A drunk may be a danger only to himself, but let him get behind the wheel and that danger is magnified many times.

That’s what a gun is, it’s a force multiplier. A magnifier.

A gun is a tool, but unlike a wrench, or a car, it's a tool engineered specifically to kill, and certain guns such as the .45 ACP carried by the shooter at Ft Hood yesterday are specifically designed to kill human beings.

The blame may indeed ultimately rest with the person, but the gun is a force multiplier which amplifies human lethality many times.

The problem of gun violence is complex.

The problem of PTSD and suicidal depression is complex.

These problems are extremely difficult to diagnose with any degree of quantitative value. It’s a process and it takes time, sometimes years just to diagnose properly.  And you can’t say if a person is this much depressed, has this much PTSD, he’s going to explode. Hell, we don’t even know why some people get PTSD and some don’t even though they had nearly identical experiences.  I came home and I don’t even have bad dreams, but men who served alongside me in the exact same environment suffer terribly from PTSD.  Will they go murderously insane and start killing others? Will they decide to kill themselves? I for damned sure don’t know, and neither does anybody else, those men and women just take it one day at a time, sometimes one minute at a time. It’s different for everybody.

It’s not just guns.

It’s not just mental health.

Addressing one side of the issue without addressing the other is no solution at all. Q.E.D.

Certainly the problem of mental health, particularly in veterans, must be addressed. But it's not enough to go around shouting "mental health! mental health!" you actually have to do something about it. And one size doesn't fit all. And it's not as simple as handing out a couple of pills. And it costs money, a lot of money, and it's going to keep costing money, forever. That is the price of war, one of many.

But here's the kicker, not everybody who decides to commit violence is mentally ill. Not even a significant fraction. The vast majority of gun violence is committed by supposedly sane people. So it's not enough to throw up your hands and shout "mental illness!" You also have to address the tool. Canada, England, Australia, places where it's much harder to get a gun, have the same relative ratio of mental illness as we do here in America, including combat induced PTSD in returning troops, and yet the incidences of gun violence are a fraction of that in the US. And it's not because they do such a great job of treating mental illness.

To be clear here, I'm a gun owner.

I believe strongly in responsible gun ownership - emphasis on responsible.

I am NOT advocating elimination of the 2nd Amendment, far from it.

I’m saying it’s not as simple as more guns, or less guns, or yelling PTSD!

Jim Wright is entitled to his opinion, but he really doesn't understand the situation at all.

and finally:

Where did you find this idiot?

Jim Wright doesn’t understand the situation at all. Where did you find this idiot?

You know, I was only in the military for two and a half decades. I only served in three warzones. This year marks my 30th year working on military installations around the world. I taught weapons. I own weapons. I taught anti-terrorism and force protection.

Where did you find this idiot?

Well, you’ll find me standing next to Lt. General Ed Anderson, a 39 year Army officer, West Pointer, and combat vet, who said, "I don't think that's an appropriate solution to what we have seen at Fort Hood,” when asked on the record about allowing troops to carry live weapons on base. "This has to be very, very carefully thought out. The implications of what that would result in. There are other means by which you can enhance security on installations than arming everyone. […] You could make the case they would have gotten him; maybe yes, maybe no. But then you have a Wild West situation there. It is just not the right thing to do."

Where did you find this idiot?

You’ll find me standing next to Major General Paul Eaton, who said, "We train our military police to a higher standard, they are trained first as infantry and then additional training in law enforcement and how to handle situations like a law enforcement officer." When asked specifically about allowing unrestricted carry on base, he replied emphatically, "I am not in favor of that."

Where did you find this idiot?

Standing next to Rear Admiral Jamie Barnett, who stated, "We already have lots of weapons on base. We have great law enforcement personnel, we have great military personnel who can protect us. It seems to me that the real focus should be on people who have some type of mental or emotional problem, we should concentrate on that."

These men, they just don’t understand the situation at all.

And how about this idiot? This is retired Colonel Jack Jacobs, wounded in action twice, three Bronze Stars, two Silver Stars, and the Medal of Honor

But yeah, Colonel Jacobs doesn’t understand the situation at all. Where did they find this idiot?

Where oh where did they find this idiot?

Where indeed.


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 the myth of 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, When all else fails, try blaming the victim.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

The Seven Stages of Gun Violence


It’s been two 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 thousand Americans have died from gun violence, three times more than died on September 11th, 2001, more than all the military personnel killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. There have been so many mass shootings between the day I wrote this and now that I’ve lost track, one killing blurs into another and the bloody rampages seem to be our new national pass time.

I got a lot of email regarding this post. 

And a lot of people told me I was wrong.

I’ve updated the text 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. New comments will appear after that. The line of demarcation should be obvious  //Jim


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.

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.

And now, four more dead, including the shooter, again on Fort Hood, Texas.

Another massacre and bereft families grieving with loss and concern, a nation left shaken with shock and outrage, left wondering why? How?

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

Yet another bloody horror. 

And it’s a horror that has become all too common here in America. 

It’s a horror that while it still shocks and appalls us, it is no longer a surprise

The fabled gun battles of the American Old West have nothing on the modern slaughter. Gun fuelled 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 a month.

What’s that, you say? Oh yes, another grinning nut with a stupid haircut and a personal arsenal killed some people? 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, Dancing with the Stars is on.

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


Stage One, Confusion:

Mass killings are still big news. I have no idea how much longer this will be so, Americans quickly grow bored with sequels. Unless the next act of mass murder is done by a guy in a Bruce Willis costume shooting a chain-gun from the back of a crashing stealth fighter in the middle of Times Square, I suspect that eventually we’ll just stop watching. 

Some guy went bonkers and killed a bunch of people? Yawn, I’ve seen worse.

However, for now, mass murder is still the number one news show money maker, guaranteed to pull in a Forty-share.

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.

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 building, 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 condemn the president and talk about false flag operations, 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:

- The shooter is a liberal. It’s all part of a plot by the America-hating tree-hugging, New World Order to make peaceful, patriotic gun owners look bad, then the government will send Interpol in their sissy blue UN uniforms to take away our guns. Oh noes! To the bunkers!

- The shooter is a Muslim. Of course he is. You just can’t trust those people. They hate America. He probably thinks he’ll get forty virgins in Paradise for every American he killed. We should kill all the Muslims.

- The shooter is a member of the NRA. He’s a gun nut. Those guys are all crazy with their gun shows and gun magazines and gun clubs and guns. We should outlaw the NRA.

- The shooter is a member of the Tea Party. The shooter is a member of the Occupy Movement. Sure. They hate everybody and they can’t wait to start killing us all and tearing down America.

- The shooter was just fed up. He was an Illegal alien. He was a member of Al Qaida. He was a Jew. He was abused as a child, born again, gay.

By the time the sad truth comes out, if it ever does, that he was just another nut listening to the voices only he could hear, nobody will care. The only thing Americans will remember is that he is yet another sterling example of whatever political point they’re trying to make at that particular moment.


Stage Three, Comparison:

Speaking of furthering particular agendas:

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, 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.

All channels will talk about Bath Salts and Reefer Madness and the unpredictable side effects of depression medication. There’s no indication as yet that the shooter was taking drugs, but then again there isn’t any indication that he wasn’t either.

And, of course, there’s the PTSD and, 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.

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 that’s just not enough for us, is it?

They 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 Obamacare.


However, all of this, Steps One through Three are just the warm up act. Next we get to the main event:

Stage Four, Blame:

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 Obama 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 dead (with the exception of certain predictable talk radio pundits who’ll insinuate that the dead 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.

Somebody is responsible.

Oh sure, the shooter might have pulled the trigger, he might have planned it all and bought the guns and built the bombs and put on the body armor, but somebody else is to blame. 

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.


Stage Six, Acceptance:

By the time it’s determined that the shooter was just plain nuts and his bloody motivation was just plain incomprehensible to sane reasonable people, most Americans will have long since changed the channel and forgotten about it.

Meanwhile Congress, ever eager to do something, will yet again stage a mock vote to defund healthcare in America 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: crazy people with guns.


Besides, it probably won’t happen again.

Stage Seven: Déjà Vu:

See Step One.




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 started shooting when I was about four or so. I got my first deer at 14 and I still own the rifle I shot it with. I helped design, field, and test weapons and I used them for real in the combat zone. I likely know more about weapons and their use than any other ten people you’re likely to come across. I wrote US military war fighting doctrine regarding certain weapon systems. I own guns, all kinds. I’m rated an expert shot with either hand.  I teach guns. I’ve taught guns for nearly 30 years now, I am a professional Rangemaster trained by Smith&Wesson. I used to shoot professionally, I trained with law enforcement and military instructors. I spent my entire life in the military, in warzones around the world. I have a Concealed Carry Permit and I used to have an FFL (I got tired of paying the annual fee, so I let it lapse).

I know something about guns.

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, 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 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.

People called me a cynic.

They said I was wrong.

But it’s been more than two 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?

And nothing, not one goddamned thing, has changed.

I think I’m entitled to say I told you so.



The follow-up series, Bang Bang Crazy, explores certain aspects of the insanity that is the American obsession with guns in more detail.

Bang Bang Crazy, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Needs More Velociraptors!

Noah” is an insult to Bible-believing Christians, an insult to the character of Noah, and most of all, an insult to the God of the Bible. As a result, I believe Hollywood will have a much harder time in marketing future biblically themed movies to Christians.
- Ken Ham, president of Answers In Genesis, Time Magazine March 28, 2014


In 1957, Paramount Pictures released The Ten Commandments

It was an instant blockbuster.

Directed by Cecil B. DeMille and famously starring Charlton Heston, Yul Brynner, Anne Baxter, Yvonne De Carlo, Edward G. Robinson, Vincent Price (all huge Hollywood stars of their day – well, except for the then little known Heston, who became a huge star specifically for his role as Moses), a literal “cast of thousands,” and filmed on the largest, most expensive set ever constructed, The Ten Commandments became one of most financially successful movies ever made.

The film chronicles the life of Moses – the principal character in the Biblical book of Exodus.

The Ten Commandments has been released four times in theaters, and continues to be popular on cable movie channels to this very day. In 1999 the film was declared “culturally significant” by the Library of Congress and selected for inclusion in the National Film Registry and thus the original cellulose print is preserved in a refrigerated vault beneath the Blue Ridge Mountains near Culpeper, Virginia in a former Cold War nuclear bunker nowadays known as the Library of Congress Packard Campus for Audio-Visual Conservation.

The film is still popular, particularly with Christians – strangely including fundamentalists.

A quick web search shows numerous listings for the movie, it’s particularly popular on Easter weekend, especially on large screen TVs in church basements.

Despite DeMille’s efforts towards historical accuracy, the film takes a number of liberties with the story. 

In an interesting note, the Christian Bible doesn’t contain much detail regarding the life of Moses, especially the first 30 years of his life, and so DeMille turned to another holy book that does, the Muslim Quran. DeMille also extensively used Jewish texts to fill out Moses’ biography.

And yet I’m unable to find any reference to a prominent Christian leader referring to DeMille’s epic as “an insult to Bible-believing Christians, an insult to the Character of [Moses], and most of all, an insult to the God of the Bible.”

How odd.

Far from being insulted, Christians are perfectly willing to overlook the historical and/or biblical inaccuracies of the film, and in large part loved it.

Funny thing, that, don’t you think?

“Hey, God, you know, you’re kind of a dick when you’re in a movie with Russell Crowe and you’re the one with anger issues.”
       — Bill Maher, Real Time with Bill Maher
Talking about the new Paramount Pictures movie Noah

“I think it’s time to bring back blasphemy laws.”
       — Tristan Emmanuel, CEO of Freedom Press Canada Inc. BarbWire
             In response to Bill Maher’s comment

Now, it’s quite likely that I’m the least religious or spiritual person you know, but I enjoy the hell (heh heh) out of the The Ten Commandments and the occasional biblically themed movie doesn’t offend me in the least (You want to offend me? Let Paul Verhoeven make another “adaption” of Robert Heinlein, there’s a special place waiting in hell for what he did to Starship Troopers).

And in that vein, I went to see the movie Noah.

Directed by Darren Aronofsky, the movie stars Russell Crowe in the titular role, Jennifer Connelly, Anthony Hopkins, Emma Watson, and Ray Winstone as the baddy. Also if you pay very close attention, you just might recognize Nick Nolte’s gravelly voice emanating from, well, a pile of gravel.

It’s your basic feel good Old Testament Bible story.  You know, boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl back, they fall in love, there’s a large angry bearded man who spends a lot of time scowling mightily and shaking his fist, a bunch of people in robes who look like they’ve never heard of soap and water run around slaughtering each other for no particular reason, and then God kills everybody who’s left. Also, there’s a boat and some snakes. Amen.

I liked it.

It wasn’t great.

It wasn’t bad.

It’s certainly no Ten Commandments, but Noah is an entertaining movie with decent acting by a bunch of really attractive people (and Russell Crowe).

If I have a complaint, it’s that the movie depends heavily on CGI, unfortunately computer generated characters cost a lot of money and Aronofsky is no James Cameron when it comes to prying cash out of the studio, so Noah’s CGI is closer to the crappy cartoonish animation of The Hobbit than the believable and fully immersive Avatar, but I didn’t find it terribly distracting – though others apparently have. When it comes to CGI, you pays your money and you takes your chances, frankly, I’ve seen a hell of a lot worse (and I’m looking at you, I Am Legend).

But, of course, nobody cares about the acting or the special effects.

It’s the plot.

All Christians learn the story of Noah and his Ark early on.  Heck, even if you’re not a Christian (or a member of the various other religions that incorporate a global flood myth), you’re familiar with the story.  According to the generic Christian version, God gets fed up with sinful humanity and decides on a do-over. He tells Noah to build a big wooden boat and put several of each kind of animal onboard.  Then God makes it rain for a month and drowns every single living thing on the planet except for Noah and his family and the animals on the Ark (and the fish, I guess).  The Ark floats around for a year or so and eventually comes to rest on a mountaintop as the waters recede. Noah releases the animals, then the Ark’s crew spends the next several hundred years fornicating like hyperactive hamsters in an effort to repopulate the world. Now free of sin and properly chastised by God’s murderous wrath, the reborn human race lives happily ever after in Godly peace and pious enlightenment.

Okay, I might have just made up that last bit, but the rest of it is the generally accepted biblical version of the Noah story.

Like most of the Old Testament (and much of the new), it’s a damned grim story.  And the only real lesson is that part where the faithful get to lay awake at night wondering if their deity might just up and decide to randomly off their narrow asses at any given moment so you’d better be good for goodness sake. Or something. Ok, maybe I’m not exactly clear on what the lesson is here.

Now, I’m sure that when the various parts of the Christian Bible were written, given the state of knowledge at the time, Noah’s story seemed like a perfectly plausible scenario. However, over the last thousand or so years we’ve learned a bit more about how our universe works, and the story of Noah and his big boat of salvation long ago started to show some significant problems.  Even if you end every sentence with “God did it!” the story simply doesn’t hold water (Yep, I said it. I’m not sorry).  No part of the Great Flood narrative works as anything other than a tall tale. None of it, from the volume of water to the geology to the timeframe to the number of animals to the staggering logistics to the amount of food and wastes to the utterly impossible task of one man and his kids building a rugged seaworthy ship the size of a World War II aircraft carrier out of wood using only primitive hand tools to the genetic limitations of the miniscule breeding pool to … well, it just goes on and on right up to the part where God completely and utterly fails to accomplish his stated goal of resetting humanity, since human nature of today is pretty much exactly the same as described in the Bible prior to the flood. Taking the story at face value and given the evidence at hand, it would appear that God brutally killed millions and millions of people for no reason whatsoever – and you sure would think He would have seen that coming, wouldn’t you? (What? There’s still sin? So I offed the unicorns for nothing? Motherfu…ur, I mean somebody is getting a plague of boils for this).

Beginning around the time of the Renaissance and the advent of empirical science, Christians started having to come to terms with the fact that not everything in their Bible could be taken literally – most especially the Great Flood. And a lot of Christians eventually became more or less comfortable with that idea and evolved (I’m not sorry) into the kind of people who don’t go around lighting other people on fire and whom you don’t mind having for neighbors or on your local school board.

But not all.

Young Earth Creationism, the belief that the earth is only 6000 years old and the Bible, usually a strict interpretation of the King James Version, has been around for a long time. But it really got going in America during the Reagan administration. Today anywhere between 40% and 50% of adults in the US identify with Young Earth Creationism and roughly 30% claim a literal interpretation of the Bible as history.

And the Great Flood is the entire foundation of Young Earth Creationism.

Everything depends on it, everything.

Without a literal interpretation of the biblical Deluge, all of Young Earth Creationism and its various offshoots simply falls apart.

It’s unsurprising therefore that Biblical literalists have gone to absolutely ridiculous lengths attempting to rationalize the irrational, up to and including incorporating dinosaurs into their narrative by putting coconut eating vegetarian Tyrannosaurs in the Garden of Eden and velociraptors on the Ark.  And Creationists were willing to spend an enormous amount of money building a museum (and soon a supposed full sized and functional replica of the biblical Ark) in Kentucky.


And this, right here, is why they simply cannot tolerate a movie like Noah.

Young Earth Creationists have constructed a house of cards so flimsy and so utterly ludicrous, that should it be questioned in any way, should any deviation in belief be allowed to exist, should any adherent engage in anything but absolute blind belief, the entire structure will collapse of its own ridiculous weight.

Canadian Creationist Tristan Emmanuel wrote an article on the anti-gay site Barbwire and posted a video on YouTube entitled “Bill-asphemy” where he suggested that non-believers such as comedian Bill Maher, who did a humorous and irreverent review of Noah on his show, be publically whipped for not respecting fundamentalist Christian beliefs.


Christians should unanimously condemn Maher. There was a time when a generation of believers actually believed in defending the honor of God and would have done just that — condemn Maher. Back then Maher would have faced stiff penalties for his slanderous crimes against God and country. And the reasons were clear: slander the ultimate authority of a nation — God — and you ridicule the very foundation of its laws, values, public institutions and leadership.

Emmanuel went on to quote religious law from no less than the Massachusetts Bay Colony to describe what those “stiff penalties” should be:

“…everyone so offending shall be punished by imprisonment, not exceeding six months, and until they find sureties for good behaviours; by sitting in pillory; by whipping; boaring thorow the tongue, with a red hot iron; or sitting upon the gallows with a rope about their neck; at the discretion of the court…”

Whipping. The pillory. A hole bored through the tongue with a red hot iron. And the threat of hanging.

And you thought the Taliban was a bunch of assholes, eh? It would appear that they’ve got nothing on Canadian religious extremism, who knew, right?

Needless to say, Emmanuel was unhappy with Noah.

Creationist Ken Ham, he of the Bill Nye evolution debate and the shrill voice behind the aforementioned Creation Museum, called Noah “the worst film I’ve ever seen.”

Ham was aggrieved by the movie’s fallen angels (which admittedly did look a lot like the bastard offspring of the rock monster from Galaxy Quest and Treebeard from The Two Towers, but come on, you’ve got Adam and Eve chumming around with brontosaurs and you can’t handle a pile of magic rocks?), the depiction of the Ark itself which Ham didn’t think looked enough like the barn shaped renderings from junior Sunday school, and especially the movie’s liberal depiction of human sin.  Despite the fact that nearly every scene involves human beings acting like complete assholes, for Ken Ham there just wasn’t enough greed and selfishness and plunder and debauchery and gluttony and rape and murder and cannibalism. And though the lead baddie repeatedly flouts biblical law to a degree that makes Bill Maher look like a rank amateur, Ham was upset because Noah liked animals better than people – because apparently God wouldn’t send a man who values animals above people as the guy to, you know, save all the animals.

But Ham was particularly put out by the movie’s portrayal of Noah as a religious lunatic:

Noah’s misanthropy is revealed many times in the film. For example, when the girlfriend of Noah’s son Ham is caught in a trap and is about to be overtaken by some marauders, Noah leaves the girl to die at their hands. The film’s Noah wants to totally destroy the human race and doesn’t want his sons to have children. In perhaps the most shocking part of the film, Noah plans to kill his unborn grandchild, the child of Shem’s wife, if it is a girl. As Noah values his animals on board more than people and rants about it, he becomes a psychopath. Hollywood’s Noah is not the righteous man described in Hebrews 11 and other scriptures.

For a guy who prides himself on being the world’s bestest Christian, Ham sure missed the boat on that one (still not sorry).

Look, Noah supposedly hears the voice of God telling him to drop everything and build a giant floating zoo. So he does, and it takes years. Decades. He meets angels. He sees miracles. The hand of God is upon him.  He fills the Ark with animals, locks himself inside, and rides out the end of the world. And even with the dying screams of humanity echoing in his ears he remains resolute in his divine task – now you’ve got to figure that this guy is dedicated. He believes, man, he believes. And what’s God’s message to Noah here? Right, people suck. God is like Liam Neeson in Taken, I will find you and I will kill you! I’ll kill you all. And so, in the movie, Noah decides that he must commit murder in order to carry out God’s will. And the thing is that like any fundamentalist, he cannot be swayed by the voice of reason. His wife, his sons, his daughter in law, none of them can convince him that he’s wrong, that he’s acting like a deluded jackass – even though he obviously is.

No wonder Creationists like Ken Ham hate the movie. 

Like Emmanuel, Ham complains that he can’t simply forbid people from seeing the movie.  He recommends Young Earth Creationists track down any Christian who’s been exposed to the movie and “communicate biblical truths and undo the possible damage that might be caused by this sci-fi fantasy, one that is making a mockery of the Word of God and its true account of Noah, the Flood, and the Ark.”

I doubt Ham has much to worry about, if the comments under the World Net Daily’s review (Movie Depicts Evolution and Black Magic! Run for your lives, Everybody!) are any indication. Young Earth Creationists already know everything they need to know:

It is simply a badly done movie. Not seen it but I trust what I've heard.

I haven’t seen it, but I hate it!  There’s that evidence based science creationists are so well known for.

I don't have to "see" it to know it's another piece of atheist garbage.

That’s not how you use quote marks. Here let me give you a proper example: Jeremiah 5:21, “Hear now this, O foolish people, and without understanding; which have eyes, and see not; which have ears, and hear not.” That clear it up?

Stay away from disgusting things like this... and that includes the many shows on TV that promote homosexuality. If it has homos in it, count me out. It's not an alternative life style, it's an abomination.

Hmmmm, maybe I missed that part where queer animals were led onto the Ark in fabulous pairs of same sex couples…

Don't attend such trash. Too bad Hollywood stars are not in mudslide areas. Cruel but they get what they dish out! Not swallowing their crappola any more!

Question, wasn’t it God who was dishing out the mudslides? And, well, you know, I guess if you believe your God murdered an entire planet because people pissed him off, praying for him to whack a few movie stars you don’t like is small potatoes.

People and even clergy of today are manipulating the word of God to suite themselves and what their evil hearts desire. I have a saying that goes Like this:"People shouldn't manipulate the word of God to suit themselves.[sic]

I have a saying too, but it involves less of quoting of myself and a lot more facepalming.

And my personal favorite:

The script writers inserted the words "the Creator" wherever the word God should have been. They just didn't want to upset people by using that word. Another case of editing/revising a biblical story. The leftists of the film-making industry had to be satisfied! The film will make money, that is the intent of having made it with such an expensive cast, however I can guarantee there will be one individual who won't purchase a ticket to see it. "The Creator" could mean Lucifer/Satan. Freemasons, the upper echelon adepts not the lower initiates, believe in a "creator god" but his name is Lucifer, not God of the Bible. Be careful how they use language that could be referring to something other than the point of reference you may have in your own mind. Our leaders today, especially shadow government, are Luciferian. Once the NWO/One world religion is ushered in, all will have to take the Luciferian initiation or lose his/her life. I know my choice; have you considered yours?

Have I considered my choices? Why yes I have, I’m considering having another beer … or just switching to whiskey right out of the bottle.

Luciferian initiation, folks. Luciferian initiation.

I mean, come on, you can buy New World Order, but can’t sit still for a goddamned movie without foaming at the mouth?

Honestly, if your religious beliefs can’t let you enjoy a movie without a crisis of faith, well maybe you ought to give that some serious thought.

You know, there are days I find myself wishing that a few of those flesh eating dinosaurs had indeed survived the voyage.

Because the herd could use a little thinning out.

If you know what I mean.

He speaks to you. You must trust that He speaks in a way that you can understand.
Methuselah, Paramount Pictures Noah, 2014

Friday, March 14, 2014

Into The Twilight Zone: Malaysian Airlines Flight MH-370

Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 has gone missing.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last week, you know that already.

Those longtime readers who are familiar with my military background know that I have some experience in looking for downed aircraft, and other things, lost at sea. Most Navy sailors do. If you spend any significant time at sea, sooner or later you’re going to be looking for missing airmen, foundering vessels, and men overboard. That is simply the terrible nature of the beast. As a former intelligence officer who directed and coordinated certain aspects of visual and electronic searches using shore, surface, and air assets, I perhaps have a bit more insight into this process than the average Sailor, but any person who spends time in the fleet know at least something about it. We’re trained that way.

Which is no doubt why people asked me about it. 

Much of what follows appeared on my Facebook page two days ago. That social media post was simply intended as a quick casual response to my Facebook audience in answer to queries about the missing airliner and the various conspiracy theories that have sprung up since the plane mysteriously disappeared from radar.  I hadn’t intended it to be an actual essay like the kind that typically appear here on Stonekettle Station. However, that simple Facebook post went viral, and continues to spread virally across the internet and various news media. It has been reprinted in a number of places, sometimes with permission and sometimes without, and I’ve been receiving offers to appear on various radio and TV shows to discuss my comments further. This amuses me and I’ve declined all such offers so far.

I apparently underestimated interest in this topic.

Nor did I realize just how utterly starved the public is for any reasoned counter to the raging and rapidly mutating conspiracy theories surrounding this strange event.  If you’re a member of the media, especially somebody who has the power to influence format and content, you might want to give that some hard thought – seems to me there just might be a vacant niche in the 24 hour news cycle for actual, non-hysterical, non-conspiracy laden, non-partisan, good old fashioned fact-based reporting.

But I digress.

Back to the missing jetliner:

On Saturday, March 8th, Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 with 239 passengers and crew onboard disappeared somewhere between Kuala Lumpur and Beijing.

A week later, the fate of the aircraft and the people onboard remains unknown. No wreckage, no debris, no trace of the aircraft or the people have been found.

Weird, man, weird. I mean, it's totally got to be alien space pirates or Langoliers or Dirty Dick Vader, right?

I mean, what else could it be, right?

Folks, I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that based on my experience with this sort of thing, we can safely rule out alien abductions and inter-dimensional rifts in the space time continuum. And I have it on good authority that Dick Cheney was home all night, nursing an acid stomach over Obama's reluctance to invade Russia.

Now, I suppose it's just, just, vaguely possible that the missing aircraft is parked on a secret jungle runway in Sumatra or Cambodia (or Bangor, Maine), hidden under camouflage netting, with the passengers and crew secured in an underground prison and its mysterious cargo now in the hands of a heretofore unknown shadowy cabal of international criminals with a really cool and evil acronym for a name. But until the Queen gets a coded message demanding 36 Billion British Pounds in gold bullion to be hand delivered by Sean Connery himself, let's just go ahead and label that Alternate Theory #007.

Most likely, and by "most likely" I mean the probability is approximately 99.999999999999%, the plane and its unfortunate passengers are scattered like confetti across a large portion of the seafloor under the Gulf of Thailand or the Andaman Sea.

Okay, Jim, I hear you ask in that long suffering tone you use when you’re convinced I’ll see reason if you repeat the bit about Obama and his Magic Negro Ray of Evil Chocolate Mojo just one more time, if the plane went into the ocean why can't they find the wreckage? Huh? What about that?

The search and recovery teams haven’t found the (presumed) wreckage of MH370, because the earth is a damned big place.

Nowadays, largely due to advances in air travel and ubiquitous instant on-demand broadband global communication, many people seem to think that we’ve conquered this planet. It appears that we humans inhabit every nook and cranny from the deepest ocean rift to the highest mountaintop and beyond right up into orbit, and there is nowhere left for a single human to hide, let alone some lost place for a large airliner to crash and its location not to be instantly tweeted and instagrammed and Facebooked to every corner of the globe. But it only appears that way.

Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately depending on your point of view, that is simply not even close to true.

The world and especially the sea are vaster than you can imagine unless you've travelled across it, inch by inch and mile by mile – and maybe not even then.

If the plane fell into the ocean, which is the most likely scenario, even when you know exactly, and I mean exactly, where to look, it is still extremely difficult to find scattered bits of airplane or, to be blunt, scattered bits of people in the water.

And yes, I mean exactly that: scattered bits of people. 

A comment in the Malaysian Times, which reposted my Facebook comments without permission, boggled that I would say such a thing, scattered bits of people. But that is how it is. When an airplane hits the water at high speed, it might as well be hitting a slab of concrete. Ditto if it comes apart at altitude, from explosion or structural failure, aerodynamic forces tear the airplane to pieces fairly quickly and what ends up in the water is scattered bits. Bits of plane, bits of cargo, bits of people. Most of which is burned and torn and unrecognizable to the untrained and inexperienced – which is why crowd-sourcing the search and rescue process is likely to be unhelpful.

Over two and a half decades as a navy sailor, I've spent many days searching for lost aircraft and lost human beings in the unforgiving ocean.  Even if you think you know where the bird went down, the winds and the currents can spread the debris across hundreds or even thousands of miles of ocean in fairly short order. No machine, no computer, can search this volume, you have to put human eyeballs on every inch of the search area. You have to inspect every item you come across, every scattered bit no matter how small – and the oceans of the world are full of flotsam, jetsam, debris, junk, trash, crap, bits, and pieces. Often neither the sea nor the weather cooperates, it is incredibly difficult to spot an item the size of a human being in the water, among the swells and the spray, even if you know exactly where to look - and the sea conditions in this part of the world are some of the worst, especially this time of year. And again, to be blunt, after a few days, a human body and a waterlogged tree stump are nearly indistinguishable from each other, all you see is a dark wet lump in the water – if you see anything at all – and to find out which is which you’ve got to put a boat over the side of the ship and go look at it in person.

Yeah, but what about a fuel slick, we should be able to see that, right? That would be huge, impossible to miss, right?

Again, you just don't understand how big the ocean is.

A fuel slick from an airplane this size, assuming the fuel hit the sea in one mass and wasn't vaporized into an aerosol by break-up of the aircraft at 30,000 feet, might cover, what? a square mile? Probably much less.

A standard search area, a rectangle 50 miles wide by 200 miles say, along the airplane's flight path encompasses ten thousand square miles - every inch of which has to be searched by the Mark 1 MOD 0 human eyeball. If you fly over it in an airplane, that’s like looking out the window for an object the size of a man, or smaller, over a distance equal to three and a half trips between San Diego, California and Bangor, Maine.

But it’s much worse than that.

The search area now covers more than two hundred thousand square miles. That’s 200,000 square miles, and more.

That’s like driving the distance from earth to the moon, looking out the windows hoping you don’t miss scattered bits of debris that may be no larger than a pack of cigarettes.

Starting to get the picture?

And yes, a fuel slick is maybe much bigger than the rest of the debris, but we're not talking thick heavy bunker oil, a big black sludgy stain on the surface of the sea.  No, we’re talking about high grade light fuel, like the kind burned in commercial jet turbines. Jet fuel evaporates quickly. Slicks are broken up by wave action and wind. And in heavy seas the sheen of oil on water is nearly impossible to spot. There's a very finite amount of time for finding a fuel slick on the surface of the ocean, assuming that one even exists, that time is past for Flight 370.

Yeah, but how come they don't know exactly where it is? Don't we track all airplanes via radar?

No. And certainly not over the oceans between countries or even over remote territory like northern Canada or the Gobi Desert or undeveloped areas of Africa, Central America, and Mexico.  Hell, if we could track every plane in detail, the US and other countries wouldn’t have so much trouble with airborne drug smugglers, would we?

Commercial Air Traffic Control radar systems don't work the way you think they do, at least not exactly, and not all of the time. What Air Traffic Controllers see on their screens depends on where they are and what their particular job is.  Near an airport, the images are usually very accurate and in real time, but out away from those concentration points things aren’t quite so clear. Why? Money mostly. Ironclad coverage takes money and lots of it. And it’s not practical in a lot of places. It’s damned hard to build and man a radar tower in the middle of the ocean, or the jungle, or the Arctic. Oh, it can be done, and has been. I’ve been stationed in places so remote you wouldn’t even believe they exist, Shemya Island at the far tip of the Aleutian Islands for example, we built radars there and in even more harsh and distant places during the Cold War – but those were military systems and the cost is astronomical.  There are other constraints such as International cooperation, or the lack thereof, and limited and widely mixed technologies, some modern some dating back decades. And so on.

Well, Okay, but you mentioned military radar systems, how come the military wasn’t tracking the plane?

Most military radar isn't concerned with commercial air traffic on standard routes flying at 30,000+ feet. The skies are full of jetliners. Most just appear as a contact on a tracking scope. A blip. Since commercial flights are regular and known and their schedules are public knowledge, those blips are predictable and expected. They’re watched briefly as they trundle along in a straight line across the sky, and are then ignored.

Military people are concerned with threats.

Threats typically move in a ballistic trajectory, or a flat fast powered arc, or much closer to the surface moving in patterns that a trained radar operator recognizes as a suspicious contact. 

Military radar records might be helpful in figuring out what happened, but unless Flight 370 was behaving like a threat while passing through somebody's radar envelope, it's unlikely that anybody would notice or bother to identify it. And so those recordings will have to be analyzed, and the hundreds of contacts will have to be sorted out just to determine if MH370 even appeared on their scopes. Also military people charged with defending their airspace don't like showing people from other countries their radar systems, and for damned good reasons, so it's going to take some time to get those records.  It's going to be a while before a complete search those recordings can be done.

Sure, Okay, but what about the ringing phones?

You ever call a cell phone that was turned off? Ever call somebody and it goes straight to voicemail, but you know the phone is active and the other person has call waiting? You ever call somebody, their phone rings and rings and rings and rings and then they finally answer and when you ask, the guy on the other says his phone only rang one time? 

Folks, you hear ringtones even when the phone you’re calling isn’t physically ringing because the cellular network doesn’t want you to hang up while it tries to connect the circuit. Minutes equal money, if you hang up, if your call isn’t connected, the phone company is out profit.  So, they send you a ringtone while the systems looks for the phone you want.  If the phone doesn't respond immediately the network doesn't know if the device is active but in an area of weak signal or limited connectivity or heavy congestion, or roaming out of network, or turned off.

Sometimes you get different behavior depending on what cell system you’re using, analog, second generation digital, 3G, LTE, GSM, and so on.

So, some networks send you a ringtone to let you know they’re working.

Some just give you dead air until they connect.

Some do both depending on programming and happenstance.  There's no standard, even in heavily regulated North America, and sure as hell not across the various countries of Asia. This isn't some big conspiracy, it’s no mystery, this is how the various evolving patchwork cell phone systems work. The information is widely available and you can test it yourself.

Claiming that "ringing" cell phones mean the plane is or was still intact just means that you're ignorant of how the technology works.

Yeah, but what if the plane was intact and underwater. The cell signals might penetrate water even if the people were dead or unconscious, so the phones could ring until their batteries wore out. That might account for the ringing after the plane was lost, right?

No. Wrong wrong wrong.

Take some science classes, radio wave physics for starters.

GPS and cell phones operate above the Ultra High Frequency (UHF) portion of the Radio Frequency spectrum, those wavelengths do not, repeat do not, penetrate water. Period. It doesn’t matter what you read, or what some conspiracy goof said on TV, it can’t happen. Physics is physics, it’s not magic, and the principles are very, very well understood.

Now just wait a damned minute, Jim, I hear you protest, don’t they have those giant radio transmitters that can talk to submarines underwater?

Yes. But those operate in a different wavelength. Very Low Frequency (VLF) and Extremely Low Frequency (ELF) radio waves can penetrate water to a significant degree, but you'd need a cell phone the size of large refrigerator/freezer and an antenna miles in length to use those frequencies and there is no way around that. Also, those frequencies are slow, it takes hours to send a few characters of text, they cannot be used for voice or cell phone communications. Period.

Yeah, but what about reports that the plane turned before losing contact?

What about reports that the plane’s computers continued to send engine performance data hours after last voice contact with the pilots?

What about reports that the 777 might experience cracks around an antenna mounting?

What about the pilots? What about the fake passports? What about this? What about that?

Look, that's what experts are for.

Search and rescue, forensic crash investigation, fault analysis of complex systems, anti-terrorism investigation, air traffic control, all of these things are complicated, they require experience and training and years of education.  Just because you read some stuff on World Net Daily or on Facebook or heard it from the guy in the cubicle next to yours, doesn’t make any of those people experts.

Investigation and analysis takes time, if it was easy and obvious, anybody could do it.

And that's what's taking so long. Maybe the plane turned around, maybe it didn't. Maybe the cabin lost pressure, suddenly or slowly. Maybe the plane exploded at altitude. Maybe it augered in. Maybe maybe maybe. At the moment, nobody knows anything. Period.

Every single person on the planet in this information saturated age should damned well know by now that initial reports are going to be conflicting, contradictory, confused, and just plain wrong.

That confusion is not evidence of some cover up, or even something unusual. This isn’t some big conspiracy, it is unfortunately the nature of the situation. It's perfectly normal and it happens all of the time and it always has and you know it.

Every single human being who lives in the Information Age should understand in their bones that every Joe Shit The Ragman who comes along just might not know what the hell he's talking about, but that doesn't stop him from getting on the TV or the Internet and speculating away. It’s human nature to fill up the unknown with nonsense, and you should be smart enough to recognize that and demand proof and evidence and fact.

Conspiracy theories aren't about the truth, they're about the conspiracy theorist.

Wait for the official word and for the sake of Dread Cthulhu and your sanity, stop listening to TV pundits and World Net Daily. News media has to fill up bandwidth, and they will with whatever drooling idiocity that comes along, but you don’t have to listen to it and you certainly don’t need to go around repeating it. 

It's unusual for a plane to vanish nowadays, yes, especially for a large modern aircraft, but that doesn't mean it has to be the plot of a Stephen King novel, or Ian Fleming for that matter.  Ships, planes, people have vanished before. It happens. It used to happen a lot. They fall into the sea or into the remote jungle or the empty desert and are lost for months, sometimes years and even decades.

The world grows ever smaller, but it is still a vast, vast place, there are plenty of dark holes beyond the reach of technology for things to drop into and vanish for a while. 

I have no idea what happened to this airplane, but the difference between me and the media is that I’m not afraid to admit it.

Again, that's what experts are for, let them do their jobs. Sooner or later, the plane or its wreckage will be found, eventually we'll know the reason why. Mechanical failure, accident, weather, human error, terrorists, or even time-travelling kidnappers from a dystopian future. Sooner or later, you'll know.

Yes, it's hell on the families who wait for news of the their loved ones, but hysteria, wild speculation by the media, and conspiracy theories from the internet sure as hell aren't helping.

This isn't CSI or an episode of 24, sometimes you don't get answers in 60 minutes with time out for piss breaks and a snack.

Act like a rational adult and deal with it.