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Sunday, July 2, 2017

Fox in the Henhouse

There is voter fraud. I know there is voter fraud.
-- Stephen Bannon

Two Million

eight hundred and sixty-eight thousand

six hundred and ninety-one.

I like to think I’m the one, there right at the end.

Two Million eight hundred and sixty-eight thousand six hundred and ninety one.

That's the number of votes Donald Trump lost the popular election by, two million eight hundred and sixty-eight thousand six hundred and ninety-one.

According to the final certification of the election*:

Hillary Clinton received 65,853,516 votes

Donald Trump received 62,984,825 votes

Meaning Clinton won the popular vote by 2,868,691.

For brevity’s sake let’s round that off to 3 million.

Now, unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on circumstance and your point of view) the popular vote is not how American democracy selects a president and/or vice president. Rightly or wrongly, that’s how our Founders designed things (whether or not we should change that is a discussion for another time). Thus, Donald Trump won the White House despite the objections of nearly 3 million ... well, I was going to say Americans, but that's actually the issue here, isn't it?

That’s the whole thing, right there.

Those 3 million voters.

The President of the United States says that those people, whoever they are,  they’re not Americans.

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Yes, that’s what he’s saying.

Those people, those 3 million people who didn’t vote for him, they aren’t Americans. That’s exactly what he’s saying.

You see, Donald Trump being the self-involved thin-skinned narcissistic ego-maniac that he is, he just can't accept that he lost the popular vote. He is pathologically incapable of admitting that he was beaten by Hillary Clinton – even though he ended up president anyway. 

He’s not man enough.

He’s not mature enough.

And he just can't accept it.

He can't. Q.E.D.

He's on record, multiple times, claiming that he actually won the popular vote – despite obvious and provable evidence to the contrary.

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And how does he justify this discrepancy?

The same way people like him always do.

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Even before the election Trump was banging the Republican Voter Fraud drum, boom, boom, boom.

Of course there’s large scale voter fraud. Serious voter fraud. Millions of people voted illegally. Voter fraud is her only hope. Voter Fraud! Crooked Hillary!

Just like any news article he doesn’t like must be fake news, anybody who didn’t vote for him must be a fake American.

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These aren’t the baseless accusations of some random madman … well, OK, they are, yes, but they’re also official comments from the President of the United States of America and are now part of the national archive in accordance with the Presidential Records Act.

The President of the United States believes, or officially claims that he believes, that there is widespread voter fraud in America totaling in the millions.

The millions.

If this were true, that millions of people vote illegally in our elections, then the entire foundation for our government, our way of life, would be suspect. It would mean that more than 50 different voting systems and dozens upon dozens of widely separated state and local governments were corrupted to such a degree that millions, millions, of people routinely vote illegally in our elections.

And that would be easily provable.

But, of course, this entire thing is patent nonsense.

The most fervent believer in voter fraud after the most diligent and thorough investigation can’t produce more than one or two fraudulent voters, let alone millions. And they’ve tried. Goddamn have they tried.

This whole thing is nonsense.

Just like nearly every other position the President has staked out.

It’s the same baseless bullshit conservatives in Virginia and North Carolina and Alabama (to name just a few states) have been using as justification to disenfranchise people they don't like.

It’s the same dog whistle.

It’s the same bias and bigotry and racism.

It’s the same political agenda. The same fear. The same hate. The same goal.

Yes it is.

Trump played on this unsupported conspiracy theory of widespread voter fraud before the election as justification for why he was going to lose, and then after the election in order to claim he actually won the popular vote.

And he justifies that position by simply saying that those votes, those 3 million votes, just don’t count. So therefore he won the popular vote.

Republicans might or might not like Donald Trump, but they're plenty eager to go along with this charade. They're perfectly happy to perpetuate the ridiculous myth of widespread voter fraud and to use that fairy tale as an excuse to purge voting registers of Blacks and Muslims and Latinos and Gays and The Poors and any other supposed liberal undesirable under the pretext of weeding out alleged voter fraud.

Republicans sure as hell aren’t going to dissuade Donald Trump of this masturbatory fantasy.

No, they won’t, even though they know it's complete and total bullshit, because it plays directly to their own narrative and agenda of disenfranchisement. They might or might not believe in widespread voter fraud, but if embracing Trump’s conspiracy theory helps them purge their state voting rolls of undesirables, they’re all for it.

So, anyway, what I’m saying here is …

What?

What’s that?

Oh. I see.

You think I’m engaged in a little conspiracy theory of my own, do you?

You say, hey, c’mon, Jim. It’s not like that. And what’s wrong with making sure, damned sure, extra sure, that the foundation of our Republic is intact? What’s wrong with making sure that only Americans, those legally enfranchised, are the ones voting? What’s wrong with ensuring the integrity of our elections?

What’s wrong with ensuring the integrity of our elections?

Nothing.

If you could trust them to do it.

But you can’t.

If that’s what these people were actually up to.

But it’s not.


One of the first things Trump did as president was to set up The Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity via executive order.


The problems with this commission begin almost immediately.

For example, who are these people? Who makes up the commission?

The Executive Order which created the commission is listed on the White House website, dated May 11, 2017, but it only says that the commission shall be chaired by the Vice President. The rest of the committee, which may include up to 15 additional members, will be appointed by the President.

Fifteen people and Mike Pence.

But who are those people? Those 15 commission members besides the Vice President?

Well, it’s damned hard to find out.

The membership of the commission isn’t listed in any official government record available to the public.

The official White House website lists 53 official announcements regarding Administration nominations and appointments. I went through all of them (and tedious it was), but no mention of who Donald Trump has so far appointed to this commission.

There’s a link to “Elections & Voting,” but it’s just a generic blurb about the history of voting in the US.

There’s a link to various Administration offices, but the Advisory Commission of Election Integrity isn’t mentioned.

I went through the Annual Report to Congress on White House Office Personnel (all 16 pages of it) looking for any salaried position devoted to election integrity. Nothing. Nobody. (The EO says the Commission members aren’t entitled to any additional compensation, but I figured it couldn’t hurt to check).

I attempted to contact various members of the Administration, including the Office of the Vice President, since he’s the chairman of the commission. I asked for a list of commission appointees. I got form letter responses or no responses at all (so far).

I went to Vice President Pence’s Facebook page and looked for anything on this commission. Nothing. And isn’t that a bit odd, given the supposed importance of alleged voter fraud, the supposed millions of illegal voters, the supposed dire and immediate threat to our very democracy, the concerns of not only the President but his supporters as well? I mean, from the guy who’s supposed to be in charge of the investigation?

Maybe it’s just me.

Going through media reports, I come up with seven names besides the Vice President:

Kris Kobach: Republican. Secretary of State of Kansas. Immigration ultra-hardliner. Wants a national Muslim registry. Repeatedly makes public statements insisting that widespread voter fraud in the US is a significant problem. As Secretary of State of Kansas, he implemented one of the strictest voter ID laws in the country and attempted to remove more the 20,000 registered voters from the state rolls – voters that were proved to be properly registered. Kobach was instrumental in drafting Arizona’s controversial anti illegal immigrant SB 1070 law and similar legislation in Alabama. Kobach is the Deputy Chairman of the Commission.

Hans von Spakovsky: Republican. Hardcore Conservative. Lawyer. Bureaucrat. Heritage Foundation manager for Election Law Initiative. Former “voting expert” for the Justice Department, and former member of the Federal Election Commission under George W. Bush via recess appointment. During confirmation hearings it became apparent that this guy has some serious issues with voter disenfranchisement – as in he’s all for it. Some of his ideas were compared to “Jim Crow era” poll taxes. While at the Justice Department this guy literally argued against reauthorization of the Voting Rights act. Think about that. Literally argued against reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act. When it comes to voting rights, this guy is one of the most controversial figures in America. Spakovsky’s was appointed by Trump just this week and his role on the Commission isn’t clear.

Connie Lawson: Republican. Secretary of State of Indiana – under Governor Mike Pence. Nothing particularly remarkable or controversial in her background with regards to voting.

Bill Gardner: Democrat. Secretary of State of New Hampshire. His claim to fame seems to be championing New Hampshire’s “100% paper ballot” elections.

Matthew Dunlap: Democrat. Secretary of State of Maine.  He oversaw implementation of the state’s Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment (MOVE) Act – an absentee ballot update that allows military personnel and Mainers who are overseas greater access to voting.

Ken Blackwell: Republican. Former Secretary of State of Ohio. Hardline fiscal and social Conservative. Despite being African American (and the only person of color on the commission so far as I can determine), Blackwell was the target of a lawsuit filed by the Democratic Party in 2004 after he established a policy widely seen as aimed at disenfranchising minority voters and in violation of federal voting law. A US District Judge ruled against the policy. Blackwell said that he would go to jail rather than comply and the case was appealed. Eventually, after a long drawn out court battle, part of the policy was upheld and part was struck down. Blackwell also oversaw the office which in 2006 accidentally published the full Social Security Numbers of 1.2 million Ohio citizens along with their business filings, resulting in a Federal class action lawsuit filed against the state. The case was resolved when Blackwell’s office removed the Social Security numbers from their website and promised to make changes to prevent such disclosures in the future. A month later, it happened again, only this time it was the names, addresses, and Social Security numbers of 5.7 million registered Ohio voters (about 80% of the state’s registered voters). And then, there’s the Diebold voting machine controversy. Blackwell oversaw the purchase of Diebold Touchscreen voting machines – after being asked by state authorities to disqualify Diebold as a supplier. Turns out, Blackwell owned stock in Diebold, something he claims he didn’t know. The Diebold machines didn’t provide useable audit records and in 2006 state officials were forced to order the hand-counting of more than 18,000 paper ballots after the Diebold machines produced inconsistent results. It took days and in at least one case caused a race to be reversed. Because Blackwell had been involved in the acquisition of the Diebold machines and because he’d owned stock in the company, and because at the time he was running for governor, Ohio Democrats demanded that Blackwell recuse himself from the resulting investigation. He refused.

Christy McCormick: (Political Affiliation Unknown) Commissioner, Election Assistance Commission (appointed by Barack Obama). Civil Rights attorney, Department of Justice. US government Rule of Law in voting matters expert. U.S. Elections Expert monitoring Iraqi national elections in 2010, providing advice to the Iraq High Electoral Commission.

Eight people (including VP Pence). Four right wing extremists with controversial backgrounds with regards to voting rights, including the Chair and Vice Chair. And four more or less middle of the road moderates.

If you squint your eyes, you could say the Commission was maybe, sort of, after a fashion, possibly bi-partisan – if heavily skewed to the hard right and with its leadership tilted towards belief in conspiracy theory, but then there’s that Executive Order.

Sec. 3.  Mission.  The Commission shall, consistent with applicable law, study the registration and voting processes used in Federal elections.  The Commission shall be solely advisory and shall submit a report to the President that identifies the following:

(a)  those laws, rules, policies, activities, strategies, and practices that enhance the American people's confidence in the integrity of the voting processes used in Federal elections;

(b)  those laws, rules, policies, activities, strategies, and practices that undermine the American people's confidence in the integrity of the voting processes used in Federal elections; and

(c)  those vulnerabilities in voting systems and practices used for Federal elections that could lead to improper voter registrations and improper voting, including fraudulent voter registrations and fraudulent voting.

Sec. 4.  Definitions.  For purposes of this order:

(a)  The term "improper voter registration" means any situation where an individual who does not possess the legal right to vote in a jurisdiction is included as an eligible voter on that jurisdiction's voter list, regardless of the state of mind or intent of such individual

(b)  The term "improper voting" means the act of an individual casting a non-provisional ballot in a jurisdiction in which that individual is ineligible to vote, or the act of an individual casting a ballot in multiple jurisdictions, regardless of the state of mind or intent of that individual.

(c)  The term "fraudulent voter registration" means any situation where an individual knowingly and intentionally takes steps to add ineligible individuals to voter lists.

(d)  The term "fraudulent voting" means the act of casting a non-provisional ballot or multiple ballots with knowledge that casting the ballot or ballots is illegal. 

The Commission’s mandate is to identify "laws, rules, policies, strategies, and practices" that both "enhance" and "undermine" the "American people's" confidence in the integrity of the voting process used in federal elections.

Enhance and undermine.

Enhance.

And undermine.

Except…

look at those two sections.

Look at the definitions.

There doesn’t seem to be much emphasis on enhance, but there sure does seem to be a foregone conclusion about undermine, isn’t there? 

Especially when you remember that at least 50% of the commission are hardline fanatical believers in supposed widespread voter fraud, including the Chair and Vice Chair.

And even more especially when you remember that the president who convened this commission in the first place has repeatedly and as recently as today advanced the idea of widespread voter fraud.

But it gets better.

And by better, of course I mean worse.

The Commission requested that each state submit its voter registration databases for examination.

Under the (non-existent) authority of the Vice President, the commission sent a letter to all 50 states and Washington D.C. last week demanding that each state turn over its “publicly available voter roll data.”

“Publicly available” sounds harmless, but there’s more to it than that.

Publicly available doesn’t actually mean the information isn’t controlled and can just be released to the public (see Ken Blackwell and Ohio up above).

The Commission is being deliberately disingenuous.

Look here, in 2016 there were just under 219,000,000 Americans who were eligible to vote.

Out of those 219,000,000 potential voters, only about 146,000,000 were actually registered to vote – and thus could legally vote.

Let’s round that off: 150,000,000 registered voters.

150 million.

Now, the commission wants a list of those names. 150 million names.

And they intend to examine that list, all 150 million names, for evidence of voter fraud.

Eight people.

Eight people are going to go through one hundred and fifty million names.

Now, let’s say that’s actually even possible … oh, hell, let’s not. It’s not possible. They’re going to have to hire somebody to process the data. Obviously. It’s impossible otherwise.

Who?

Who are those people? What’s that agency? Who has the resources to go through that data, 150 million names?

Well, conveniently, one of the Commission members, newly appointed, just happens to be a lawyer for the Heritage Foundation – a ultra-conservative think tank with deep, deep pockets and plenty of resources to crunch those numbers into any shape you like.

Perhaps Hans von Spakovsky’s role on the Commission isn’t so undefined after all.

I digress.

So, 150 million names of registered voters. And you suspect millions of them are frauds.

How do you determine if each person on that list is a legitimate American citizen who meets the criteria for voting in a federal election?

I mean, you’re gonna need more than just the name, right?

You’re going to have to have enough information about each person on that list, in detail, that you can ensure they each meet the legal criteria for voting.

And that’s not nearly as simple as it sounds (assuming it sounded simple to you).

See, voting is not spelled out in the Constitution.

In fact, the Constitution doesn’t mandate voting at the citizen level at all.

Voting is a state’s responsibility, not a a federal one.

As such, voting requirements for registration vary depending on the state. For example some states let convicted criminals vote, some don’t. Some let convicted criminals on parole vote. Some let those on probation vote. Some states don’t allow those who were convicted of a felony to ever vote again. Kentucky is one of those states, but unlike Florida and Virginia, in Kentucky an ex-con can petition the state for restoration of voting rights after completion of certain rehabilitation programs.  Some states have specific restrictions on homeless people and how they can register (establishing residency is problematic when you don’t have a residence), some don’t. People move. People change states (Me for example, I moved from Alaska to Florida during an election year and had to change my voter registration). Each state has different requirements for ID. And so on. Then there’s the Voting Rights Act which contains special provisions which apply only to certain former states of the Confederacy.

And what about the primaries?


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I mean, if you’re looking at the election process from the standpoint of “enhance” and “undermine,” don’t you have to examine the whole thing? Start to finish? Including the primaries? After all, that’s where the candidates are selected. That’s the the part Trump keeps yelling about, that part where the Democratic National Party supposedly illegally colluded with Hillary Clinton to screw Bernie Sanders – something a significant fraction of liberals believe too.

So, if you’re concerned about the integrity of the election, don’t you have to look at the whole election process? All of it.

And the criteria for who can vote each state’s primary is different from the general election.

What I’m saying here is that it’s not as easy as looking at a name.

Times 50 states.

Times 150 MILLION registered voters.

So, the Commission will have to have enough detailed information about each voter to be certain that they are actually who they say they are and that they are actually qualified to vote in their registered district.

The Commission requested not just a list of registered voters, but "dates of birth, political party, last four digits of social security number if available, voter history (elections voted in) from 2006 onward, active/inactive status, cancelled status, information regarding any felony convictions, information regarding voter registration in another state, information regarding military status, and overseas citizen information."

And that’s a lot more than just publicly available information.

Right?

You’re with me? You understand what I’m saying here?

Good. Remember this, because we’re going to come back to it.


Now, naturally a number of states have balked at turning over their voter rolls to a presidential commission that has no Constitutional authority and no legal justification for asking in the first place.

Eight states have out and out said they simply will not comply, will not provide any information.

Sixteen states said they will provide some information, but only actual public information, nothing sensitive or controlled.

In Ohio, the Secretary of State, Jon Husted, a Republican, said the state will not provide confidential information to the commission:

"Voter registration information is a public record and is available online. The confidential information, such as the last four digits of a voter’s Social Security number or their Ohio driver license number, is not publicly available and will not be provided to the Commission.”

In New York, the Governor, Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, said flat out that the state would not provide any information of any kind to the commission. Cuomo went further and tweeted,

“NY refuses to perpetuate the myth voter fraud played a role in our election."

Responses from other states, some Red, some Blue, were similar.

Naturally President Trump, being Trump, was incensed at this revolt.

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Leaving aside the part where I don’t think Trump actually understands the phrase “very distinguished,” note where he begs the question:

What are they trying to hide?

Because obviously, any state that moves to protect its own Constitutionally guaranteed rights and the personal information of its citizens must be hiding something. Something criminal. Right? Now, again, I want to you to remember this. Because we’re going to come back to it in just a moment, along with those other troubling points I asked you to remember up above. 

In fact, we’re going to come back to them right now.

Earlier this week, the Commission’s vice chair, Kris Kobach, was interviewed on NPR’s All Things Considered by Ari Shapiro.

SHAPIRO: Why are you requesting this information about voters around the country?

KOBACH: Well, this is publicly available information. It's just the voter rolls that any person on the street can walk into a county election office and get. It's not sensitive information at all. And the reason we're requesting it is to understand issues of voter registration fraud and things like that. You actually have to have the voter rolls.

Note Kobach apparently believes any citizen can walk into any county election office and get information on any voter to include birth date, address, phone number, criminal record, places that person has lived and been registered to vote, military status, etc.  Makes me glad he’s not my Secretary of State. Just saying here.

Note Kobach’s implied assumption: so we can understand the [foregone] “issues of voter registration fraud.”

Note Kobach makes no mention here (or anywhere in the interview) of seeking information that might enhance the public’s confidence in the integrity of our election process. Only “issues of voter registration fraud.” And things like that.

Wait. What things like that? 

What things like that?

When a politician talks about “things” and waves his arms around vaguely, you’d better pay attention (put your hand on your wallet). Especially when he’s taking about something as important as voting rights.

So, keep this “and things like that” comment front and center, because it’s important.

Shapiro acknowledged Kobach’s assertion that none of the information requested by the Commission was private in and of itself (a statement that is demonstrably not true, but Shapiro let it go).

Then, given that instead of being sequestered in 50 plus state and regional databases, all of this voter registration data would be compiled into a single federal database in some standardized form,

and given that this database would be a list of every single registered voter in the country, their names, their addresses and phone numbers, their political identities, their employment, their Social Security numbers, their criminal record, their military status, etc,

and given that this information is the highly sought after target of malicious agencies both foreign and domestic (not to mention political parties, commercial marketing firms, research organizations, and … well, you get the idea),

and given that as of this moment there is no line item in the federal budget for funding such a database, populating it (you’re going to have to compile data from at least 50 different database formats comprising at a minimum 150,000,000 records into a single coherent and useable data structure), hosting it on federal servers, managing it, analyzing it, and so on,

Shapiro wanted to know how the data would be protected. 

KOBACH: What people need to be concerned about and rightly concerned about is the security of the actual database itself because the database itself that each state has does have some sensitive information in it that is not publicly available. We're not asking for that. But one of the things the commission will study is how well-protected are the states' voter rolls against someone who's trying to hack and modify those records? And that's something the public desperately needs to know because of course there were allegations that Russia attempted to try to get into the voter rolls, that other private individuals may have tried to get into the states' voter rolls.

Note that Kobach didn’t actually answer the question.

Note that Kobach in point of fact outlined the very threat Shapiro was asking about and by definition admitted that compilation of the data into a single point of failure makes the threat orders of magnitude worse.

Note that one of the members of the Commission is the same guy who was responsible for the “accidental” disclosure of more than 6 million voter registration records including their Social Security numbers – TWICE.

Note again that one of the members of the commission, newly appointed, just happens to work for a think tank that could, conveniently, host that database and has a political agenda that would benefit greatly from such a boon.

Then once again note that Kobach didn’t actually answer the question of how the information would be secured or who would be responsible for it. Or if it would be disposed of when the Commission is disbanded (if it is disbanded).

But I digress. Again.

Shapiro then asked how Kobach would reassure people who are concerned that the federal government would use this information to “restrict, deter or otherwise disenfranchise legitimate voters from accessing the polls?”

Kobach’s reassurance?

“Well, I don't even understand the argument because how is it that taking publicly available information and just analyzing it restricts your access to the polls?”

The very first mission statement of the Executive Order is those laws, rules, policies, activities, strategies, and practices that enhance the American people's confidence in the integrity of the voting processes used in Federal elections.

Enhance the people’s confidence in the integrity of the voting process.

Enhance the people’s confidence.

Enhance.

And the guy charged with that commission doesn’t understand the argument?

Think about that. Take all the time you need. It’ll come to you.

SHAPIRO: If states do not comply with a request, does your commission have any authority to force them?

KOBACH: The commission does not have the authority to force. It's simply an ask. And frankly, if a state like Kentucky or California apparently won't provide publicly available information, one has to ask the question, why not? I mean what are they trying to hide if they don't want a presidential advisory commission to study their state's voter rolls?

And there it is again.

What are they trying to hide?

There it is again, begging the question. I told you we’d come back to it.

What are they trying to hide? And the obvious unspoken implication is that those states are hiding something. And the only thing they could be hiding is 3 million people who voted illegally for Hillary Clinton. Right? I mean, California, right? That’s what we’re talking about here. That’s what Trump is talking about.

Right.

And so, we come down to it.

All those points come together right here. Remember who’s talking, remember how that Executive Order was worded. Remember what Trump has said, what Kobach has said, remember who is on the Commission, remember who they work for, remember “and things like that”:

SHAPIRO: Finally, this commission was created after President Trump claimed without evidence that millions of people voted illegally thereby depriving him of a popular vote win. Do you believe that that is what happened?

KOBACH: I don't know. The commission's purpose is not to prove or disprove what President Trump said back in January or February. The purpose of the commission...

SHAPIRO: Every objective observer has said there is zero evidence of millions of people voting illegally. It seems striking that as one of the leaders of a commission on voting integrity, you're not willing to say the same.

KOBACH: Well, I guess it all depends on what you define as evidence, right? So you know, you don't have hard data, but it is certainly something that we may be able to see some evidence. I seriously doubt we'll have a definitive answer, but at least - why not collect evidence and just get the facts on the table? That would be a good service to the American public - period.

Do you see it?

Do you see it?

It irritates the hell out of me that Shapiro didn’t pounce, didn’t follow up, didn’t press Kobach to the wall. But such is the state of journalism in this country.

Because that’s it. That’s it right there. That’s the proof. That’s the smoking gun.

Do you see it?

That’s what the sons of bitches are up to, right there, in Kobach’s own words.

There’s no indication of a crime.

There’s no evidence of widespread voter fraud.

Hell, there’s not even evidence of voter fraud on a minor scale to any degree that is even vaguely statistically relevant, let alone in the millions – and it would have to be in the millions. 

There is only Donald Trump’s repeatedly debunked and totally unsupported conspiracy theory.

There is only the Conservative Dog Whistle perpetuated by fanatics such as Kris Kobach.

And there it is, right there. Right there:

I guess it all depends on what you define as evidence, right?

So you know, you don't have hard data, but it is certainly something that we may be able to see some evidence.

I seriously doubt we'll have a definitive answer, but at least - why not collect evidence and just get the facts on the table? That would be a good service to the American public - period

It all depends on what you define as evidence. Remember you’re dealing with creationists here, and their understanding of “evidence” isn’t any better than their understanding of science – especially when they use cavalier dismissals such as “I guess it all depends on what you define as evidence” hi ho hi ho. Evidence is whatever they say it is.

Why not collect the information? Why not just let the cops – or better yet, the local random militia – kick in our front doors without a warrant or legal authority and search through our homes? Sooner or later, they’re bound to find some evidence of something, right?  Especially if they think you’re guilty to begin with. Especially if you’re black, or poor, or Muslim.

This commission?

It’s nothing but a goddamned fishing expedition.


In Kobach’s own words, it’s nothing but a goddamned fishing expedition.


Voting is the responsibility of the states, not the federal government. Ironic then that these small federal government and states rights conservatives would attempt to interfere in the rights and responsibilities of those self same states.

Ironic peculiar, I mean.

But irony is lost on fanatics.

Listen to me: This is the United States of America.

Our republic is based on democracy. Our very way of life depends on it.

Those who truly believe in this country, in freedom, in democracy, in justice, in truth, well, those people would be working to increase enfranchisement, not restrict it.

But this president? His political party and their cronies? These small, selfish, petty sons of bitches? They care only for their own power. And they figure if they can just get all the data in one place and if they can go through it, sorting by race and employment and political affiliation, if they can shape the data into some bogeyman of their own fevered creation, then they can find something to further their agenda of stealing this nation away from its people.

And their agenda is clearly spelled out.

In their own words and by their own actions.

They don’t think you’re an American.

They are coming for you.

And you’re looking right at it.




* US Federal Election Commission, Official 2016 Presidential General Election Results (PDF)

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Death for Fun and Profit



Ah, Twitter, the bottomless wellspring of magic unicorns.


clip_image001


A Trump supporter actually said, and I quote, "Cancer ... if you don't have insurance, they don't stop treating you!"

“… and if you don’t have insurance they don’t stop treating you!”

Say that out loud to yourself.

Mouth the words.

Say them as if you mean it, as if you believe it.

Pause in the middle, give the sentence a dramatic beat.

      If you don't have insurance...

              ...they don't stop treating you.

Feel the words in your mouth, the sweet, sweet taste of magic unicorn meat like cotton candy spun from the nicotine stained tears of Ayn Rand and red-boned Republican freedom.


If you don’t have insurance, they don’t stop treating you.


How many times have you heard this?

You can always go to the emergency room if you have cancer.

They have to treat you, even if you can’t pay. Nobody goes without healthcare in America.

How many times? How many times have you heard that in this debate, in this endless shitfight about healthcare in America?

Yeah, listen, if you could get treated without insurance in this country, well, then we wouldn't be having this conversation in the first place and, actually, they do stop treating you if you run out of money.

Yes, they do.

Some specialized gene-specific cancer drugs are $15,000 PER MONTH. Or more.

In cases of aggressive cancers where all other therapies have failed, these drugs are the only options.

These drugs, they're difficult to develop.

They’re difficult to make.

They're difficult to get.

And they cost.

A lot.

Now, we can argue about the ridiculous cost of drugs in this country (and I'm sure you all will in the comments), but that's not actually the point here.

The point is this: if you can't pay, you die.

Hell, you don't even have to get cancer. It doesn’t have to be $15,000. A couple of hundred bucks is the difference between life and death for many Americans.

If you're allergic to bees and you can't afford $300 for an Epipen, well, you'd better hope somebody comes along with a clean pocket knife and some idea of how to perform an emergency tracheotomy when your throat starts swelling closed.

If you can't pay, you die.

This idiotic idea, that everybody has access to healthcare, that you can just go to the emergency room for any kind of condition and be treated free of charge, is one of the most obviously wrong and most deliberately obtuse blind spots of modern conservatism – which not only rejects the idea of universal healthcare out of hand but also thinks your healthcare should involve their religion and your employer and that the insurance you've been paying for (if you're lucky enough to have insurance) should be able to drop coverage if you get sick.

Earlier this week, Kellyanne Conway, Evil Counselor, ur, I mean, Advisor to the President, said "Obamacare took Medicaid, which was designed to help the poor, the needy, the sick, disabled, also children and pregnant women, it took it and went way above the poverty line and opened it up to many able-bodied Americans. [Those able bodied people] should probably find other — at least see if there are other options for them. If they are able-bodied and they want to work, then they'll have employer-sponsored benefits like you and I do."

If they are able bodied and they want to work, they'll have employer-sponsored benefits like you and I do.

They'll have employer sponsored healthcare.

Employer sponsored healthcare.

Like you and I do.

You. And I.

This is the kind of idiotic blather you get when you elect privileged rich people who have never actually had to work for a living at the bottom end of society.

This is the kind of ridiculous cluelessness that can only be achieved by people who never have to decide between eating and paying for a prescription.

This is the kind of smug arrogance that you get when your politics and your religion come from the same ideology of “Fuck you, I got mine.”

Furthermore, these are the same people who also reject the idea of a living wage.

They have no idea. They literally have no idea.

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I'm here in the impoverished South.

I'm surrounded by far too many people who have trouble putting food on the table and paying the rent.

They're good people, these poor Southerners. They work hard. They're mechanics who fix cars. They're yard care workers who mow lawns for rich people in the boiling heat. They run daycare out of their houses. They're students, trying to fit in classes at the junior college between shifts at the local burger joint.

Some of them, like my wife 30 years ago, might through grit and raw determination claw their way out.

But many, the majority, don’t.

I could go on and on. I could show you pictures. I could introduce you to them by name.

These people, some of them work 60, 70, 80 hours, six and seven days a week. And still – and still – they're trapped in an endless cycle of low wages and lack of opportunity, crushed by poverty and the inability to get ahead in any fashion. It’s just how it is. It’s always been like this here. It doesn’t matter if the economy is booming or has gone bust yet again.  These people, they don't own the crappy houses they live in, they rent. They don't have anything in the bank. Every couple of years a hurricane comes along and wipes out whatever it is they have managed to build up. Many of them don't even have teeth – and the cliché of the toothless Southerner is a whole lot less funny when you see an attractive young girl behind the counter at the local hardware store and her smile is full of rotten brown pegs because her parents couldn't afford even basic dental care for their children. And don't you think for one second that won't impact her future, her opportunity, her employment, her health. These people, they can't afford birth control, so they have kids they can barely feed, let alone send to the dentist, digging themselves in deeper and deeper. And the goddamned churches aren't any help, with the preachers and their useless messages of abstinence and damnation and guilt.

These people, they can't afford even random healthcare at some shitty neighborhood for-profit clinic staffed by a single physician's assistant in a dirty lab coat when their kid inevitably gets strep throat much less CANCER.

It’s not just the South, it’s the slowly decaying wreckage of Northern industrial cities, places like Flint and Detroit, Baltimore, Rome, Louisville, Milwaukee, places where manufacturing and industry and jobs long ago fled for more profitable fields. It’s New England where the fishing industry, never particularly profitable in the first place, has collapsed. It’s the Salton Sea. It’s the farms of the Midwest. It’s the coal mining towns of the Appalachians. 

It’s America, everywhere outside the gilded towers of the rich.

If you've got cancer, and you cut yourself, sure, you can go to the Emergency Room and get stitches even if you can't pay.

Of course you can.

But that is as far as it goes.

The ER doctor sure as hell isn't going to give you chemo treatments or $15,000 per dose miracle drugs based on an expensive DNA screening. You'll get a sympathetic referral to an oncologist who maybe does some pro-bono work if you're lucky, and shown the door if you're not.

Emergency rooms treat emergencies, not cancer.


If you can't pay, you die.


And there are far, far too many people at all income levels in this country who don't have access to even lousy healthcare.

There are far, far too many who don't have access to the drugs and the therapies and the doctors they need just to live.

There are far, far too many people who have to daily make a choice between eating and paying for healthcare – even when they've worked their whole lives.

And beyond that, somewhere above the poverty line, there are far, far too many people who did everything right, who got an education, who worked and did without and got insurance, who paid into Medicare for 40 years, who bought supplemental insurance, and then got sick and suddenly they got dropped, or faced lifetime caps, or just weren't covered for that illness because people who are already sick and out of resources can't fight the bottomless pockets of the insurance companies or their employer who suddenly decided covering cancer was against their religion.

This is what happens when healthcare isn't a right.

This is what happens when those in charge are insulated from those they govern, when they are safe in their districts and assured of their power and privilege.

This what happens when the morality of those in power is based on profit and greed and the arrogant certainty that they are better than those they govern.

This what happens when you elect a government that hires armed biker gangs to keep their own constituents away from town hall meetings – exactly as my own Representative did right here in Milton, Florida.

This is what happens when your healthcare is decided by thirteen privileged white men behind closed doors. No people of color. No women. Just thirteen rich white men.

This is what happens when religion and political ideology alike are based on the simple selfish principle of “Fuck you, I got mine.”

This is what happens when you elect billionaires to office and believe them when they try to sell you magic unicorns.

If you can't pay, you die.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

The Right Question

Wrong Question. Wrong questions get wrong answers.
-- Master Gregory, Seventh Son, 2014


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Is healthcare a right?

You know, a right?

With all the many ideas we Americans consider rights, you’d think we would have an answer for this.

Obviously, here in America anyway, healthcare is not an enumerated right like Freedom of Speech or Freedom of the Press. But is it one of those other rights? The ones not specifically mentioned in the US Constitution but implied by the 9th Amendment: The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

In December of 2012, the United States along with dozens of other nations signed United Nations agenda item 123: Global Health and Foreign Policy, which among other things encouraged all nations to adopt “sustainable health financing structures and universal coverage” for all people. The resolution also reaffirmed all member nations’ commitment to the idea of “the right of every human being to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, without distinction as to race, religion, political belief, economic or social condition.”

Do we believe that? 

Is healthcare a right?

Well, is it?

That’s the question I asked this week on Twitter.

Twitter is a weird place, the howling wild frontier of social media. But it’s pretty good for this kind of thing, polling the public mind. I have a large audience there, large enough to get a good sample across the spectrum of opinion, and so I asked: Is healthcare a right?

Not just here in America, but everywhere. Do you believe healthcare is a basic human right?

Now that seems to me a straightforward question.

And it seems to me that it’s the critical question.

Everything in America’s ongoing debate over healthcare depends from the answer to that simple question. Everything. Until you answer that question, until we agree on the answer to that question, the rest of the argument is largely irrelevant – or at least putting the cart before the horse.

Is healthcare a right? Yes or no.

That’s the question we need to settle first.

But that question is the one never put to America. Never asked. Never answered.

In all the debates over healthcare in America, from debates surrounding Medicare in the 60’s and Medicaid in the 70’s and Hillary Clinton’s efforts as First Lady in the 90’s and right on up to the Affordable Healthcare Act and the American Health Care Act, that’s the question we keep avoiding. If you look back, if you wade through all the millions of comments made about healthcare in America, that’s the one question that is never asked. The one question never debated in congress. The one question never discussed by all the talking heads on all the TV shows. That’s the one question never settled.

That’s not a coincidence.

It’s by design.

Why? Because it’s not the question we can’t face, it’s the answer.

We’re all afraid of the answer.

The press is afraid of the answer.

The public is afraid of the answer.

The politicians are terrified of the answer.

The people who don’t believe healthcare to be a right are afraid of their answer.

And the people who do believe are afraid of their answer too – maybe them most of all, because they put the most conditions on it.

The answer to that question, yes or no, has consequences, big ones. If we don’t ask the question, then we don’t have to face the answer. Not as individuals, not as politicians, not as a nation. We can just keep arguing.

Nevertheless, that’s where it all begins, right there. With the answer to that question.


Is healthcare a right?


What if the answer is no?

Look at Scott Walker’s tweet up above.

Obamacare is collapsing. If nothing changes, 28 million Americans will lack insurance by 2026 under Obamacare (according to CBO)

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Look at John Cornyn’s comment:

Obamacare has left about 30M uninsured and individual market is in a death spiral.

And it’s not just conservatives:

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Those are three examples of literally thousands of similar remarks made by politicians on both sides of the debate.

Essentially: If X happens, y number of Americans will lose healthcare.  Swap in Obamacare or Trumpcare for x and 10, 20, 30, 50 million for y. The sides and the numbers and the plans don’t matter. If x happens, y number of Americans will lose healthcare.

That’s the drum both sides, left and right, Republican and Democrat, keep beating. Millions will lose healthcare.

Millions will lose healthcare.

Millions will lose healthcare.

Millions will lose healthcare.

So?

So, they go without healthcare.

So maybe the quality of their lives is diminished.

So maybe they die as a result.

So?

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So? So what? I mean, so long as it isn’t me, why do I care? Why should I care?

As an American, why should I care?

If healthcare isn’t a right?

If healthcare isn’t a right then why should I care how many people don’t have it?

Why would any politician give a damn about how many people lose healthcare, if healthcare isn’t a right?

No, really.  If healthcare isn’t a right, isn’t a right of all citizens, then why does Scott Walker care? Why does Nancy Pelosi care? Why should Donald Trump care? Why should anybody care? If healthcare is just a privilege, something nice to have, but not a right of every American, then why should anybody care? The argument, Oh no! Millions will lose healthcare! just doesn’t hold water – unless you believe that every single person is entitled to healthcare as a right. Not deserves it. Not can afford it. Is entitled to it as a right, as an American, as a citizen, as a human being.

It is a simple black or white answer. Yes or no. Either healthcare is a right, or it’s not.

Everything else in this argument depends from that one fundamental ideal. Everything.


Either you believe people are entitled to healthcare as a right or you don’t. The rest is just details.


Now, before we go any further, let’s get something straight:  I don’t care if your answer is no.

I don’t. Really. I’m not going to condemn you for it. I spent most of my life in the military defending your right to see the world how you want. If you don’t believe that healthcare should be the right of every human being, well, I fully support your right to that viewpoint.

If you’re embarrassed or ashamed to admit your answer is no, that’s on you.

If you don’t believe that healthcare is a right, then at least have the goddamned courtesy to be honest about it.

Own it. Don’t pretend otherwise or try to make it sound like you do when you don’t. Don’t blow smoke up my ass. Don’t move the goalposts. Don’t dismiss the question. Don’t try to rationalize it.

Let me give you an example: a large number of people responded to my question by saying, well, I don’t believe that healthcare is a right per se, but I want you to know that I do believe we should have universal healthcare.

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What? How’s that work?

If healthcare isn’t a right, then why do we have a duty to provide it?

If healthcare isn’t a right, then why would society and community have any obligation to provide it?

I mean, what’s the impetus for universal healthcare if it’s not a right?

If providing healthcare is the right thing to do, if it’s some kind of moral imperative, then why isn’t it a right?

Now don’t get me wrong here. Sure, a rational civilization should obligate itself to provide healthcare for all its citizens, because healthy people make for better citizens if for no other reason. Just as a rational civilization would obligate itself to provide quality education, adequate food, clean air, clean water, decent housing, energy, and so on.

We don’t live in that rational society.

And if healthcare isn’t a right, then what’s to keep your universal healthcare system from denying healthcare to certain people? For good reasons and for bad?

That seems an odd definition of universal, doesn’t it?

Yeah, said the responders, but, see, you set up your universal healthcare system so that it can’t deny healthcare to anybody…

Can’t deny healthcare to anybody? Well, haven’t you then made healthcare a de facto right?

Stop playing games. Stop acting like you’ve thought it through when you obviously haven’t.

Look here, if the answer is no, then own it.

Just own it. All the way. And stop pretending that you give a shit about how many people don’t have healthcare. If you don’t believe that healthcare is a right, then don’t use the fact that people don’t have healthcare as an argument. Because you’re insulting not only my intelligence, but yours too. And that kind of cowardice irritates me.

If your is answer is no, that’s fine.

But I want to hear you say it.

Is healthcare a right? Yes or no. Everything else is just details.

If we all agree that healthcare is not a basic right of human existence, then we must acknowledge that healthcare is a privilege.

And not everybody is privileged.

That’s the whole definition of privilege. Some people have it, some don’t.

If the answer is no, it’s not a right, then healthcare is a privilege and we are not obligated to guarantee every person will be able to get healthcare. The privileged get it. Those of lesser fortune don’t.  Simple as that. Oh sure, we might provide some charity, some help for the non-privileged, but we are by no means under any moral obligation to do so.  If we’ve got extra money, if we’re feeling generous, sure. What the hell. But otherwise, no.

If you can afford it, you get it.

If you can’t, you don’t.

And you should at least be honest enough to admit that’s what you’re up to. I want to hear every politician, every candidate for office, go on the record, yes or no. And if it’s no, if you believe healthcare is a privilege of those who can afford it, then have the guts to look into the camera and say so. And if you’re voted out of office as a result, or stripped of your privilege by the mob, well, that’s just too goddamned bad.

If healthcare isn’t a right, then it’s just another line item in the budget, next to bridges and warships and farm subsidies.

And the only argument is where we draw the line between the haves and have-nots – and the best part about capitalism is that we don’t have to draw the line ourselves, the free market will do it for us. Leaving our hands clean.

You just have to hope that you’re privileged enough to be on the right side of the line.

And that the line doesn’t move.

And you never lose your privilege.


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What if the answer is yes?

Well, hang on. We can’t just say yes, can we?

Not without caveat. Not without conditions.

We need to know some things first. Before we say yes.

Because as it turns out, it’s really difficult for a lot of people to say yes.


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What was it Anatole France said? The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread.

They want to.

They want to say yes, that healthcare is a right.

But they need to know things first. What kind of right? Like fundamental? Inalienable? Enumerated? Civil? Human? What kind of right, man?

What kind of right?

What are we talking about here? The kind of high ideal we give lip service to but don’t have to follow up on? Well, sure, Jim, I believe healthcare is an inalienable right, like life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  Just like that. Nobody can keep you from pursing healthcare if you want it. Go ahead. Sure. No problem. No action required on my part, on society’s part. You have at it. Pursue away. The government can’t stop you. Pursue that healthcare. It’s a “right.” Wink. Wink. 

Like that?

As soon as you define the kind of right, you can start finding ways to weasel out of it, to find ways to deny that right to others.


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Some people seem to think rights only exist if they’re specifically enumerated in the Constitution. I don’t know if they think other countries don’t have rights, or if they even bothered to think it thought that far. And I wasn’t inclined to ask. They are also apparently unfamiliar with the 9th Amendment.

For them, the paperwork comes first, rights second.

I’m not sure how they think the Constitution was written in the first place, i.e. your basic chicken and egg problem, and more on that in just a minute.

A lot of folks were reluctant to answer the question without the exact parameters of the right defined.


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Define “Freedom of speech.”

Define “Freedom of religion.”

Define “Right to peacefully assemble.”

Define “Right to keep and bear arms.”

Those rights were enumerated without definitions by the Framers and put into the Bill of Rights.

In other words, the rights came first. And we’ve spent two hundred and forty years since figuring out the details.

And we’re going to have to keep figuring out the details and how they apply to our time.

Why? Because the details are dynamic. How we define those rights changes over time.

The limits of the rights change depending on evolving context. Society, civilization, community, are a living things and so are rights. For example: The Framers never envisioned how Freedom of Speech would apply to social media, because social media didn’t exist when they enumerated the right and they couldn’t peer across time into the future. It’s up to us, in the moment, to figure that part out.

This is the mistake gun rights advocates keep making. Rights are not absolutes.


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Of course, this being America, rights always seem to come down to … money.


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Predictably, I got hundreds of responses like this one.

If healthcare is a right, how do you pay for it – OR – essentially, we can’t afford it.

It amuses me when people explain how rights are “God given” or “natural” or some other lofty idea – then they want to hang a price tag on it.

Funny thing, these same people never say, whoa, hang on. This right to keep and bear arms, how much is that going to cost us?


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When it comes to healthcare, they always bring up money. How much is it going to cost? Then they bring up the freeloaders and start quoting Heinlein, TANSTAAFL.

They want everybody to pay for their own healthcare, which is fair enough I suppose, but like the woman in this example, they don’t want to pay people enough to afford to buy their own healthcare. Again, making healthcare a privilege of the affluent.

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It is a matter of priorities. And if you don’t believe healthcare is a right, then there’s no reason to make it a very high priority, is there?

But at least she was honest. 

Horrifyingly so.

For her, rights are about money.  For her, healthcare isn’t a right. It’s a privilege for those who can pay for it. And if you can’t pay, then you’re a cockroach.

She’s not the only one. This is by far and away the most common response I got, how are we going to pay for it? How?

As if rights were some commodity, like gold or corn or nuclear aircraft carriers.

This is the kind of thing that once led ultimately to civil war in America. Because when you believe rights are dependent on money, those that have no money have no rights. Q.E.D

And from there, it’s a damned short hop to the idea that people are property.

We went to war here in America once upon a time because the South didn’t believe it could afford to free the slaves. Because the South’s entire economy was based on the idea that rights belonged to those who could afford them, otherwise, you were property. If black people gained rights same as everybody else, the Antebellum South would be out of business. And they spent millions upon millions of dollars, and thousands upon thousands of lives, trying to maintain that economic model.

When rights depend on money, those who can’t afford rights, well, they’re just cattle. Or cockroaches – the same term the Nazis used to describe Polish Jews.

But then there’s this:

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No one says food is a right.

Well, actually, a lot of people do think food should be a right. But even if it was, shoplifting would still be a crime.

Americans have the right to keep and bear arms. That doesn’t mean you can just take any gun you happen to come across. Stealing a gun is still a crime. You still must pay for a gun and for the bullets. There’s still freedom of choice, you can choose not to have a gun, you can choose what kind of gun you want.

This argument is stupid.

But (and there’s always a but, isn’t there?), for a truly ridiculous argument you have to go full Ayn Rand:

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I got hundreds of responses like this one.

Most from self-proclaimed libertarians.

The logic goes that if healthcare is a right, then healthcare providers become slaves.

If healthcare is a right, they say, then I (for example) am entitled to the labor of doctors and nurses and they cannot refuse me. If healthcare is a right, according to these Randian libertarians, then any doctor, any nurse, any healthcare provider must provide me with their services free of charge at any time. Because it’s my right, you see?

Which is a damned good example of why Atlas Shrugged should be regarded as a tediously mediocre science fiction novel and not a blueprint for civilization.

In America, guns are a right. The right, in a lot of ways. But you can’t just walk into a gun store and demand a gun as your due free of charge – not without getting shot, probably. The government isn’t obligated to provide you with a gun. Hell, we don’t even have subsidies for poor people who want a gun and can’t  afford one. And instead of turning gun manufacturers into slaves, it made them fabulously wealthy.

Look here: in America, you have the right to legal representation. If you’re accused of a crime and you cannot afford a lawyer, then one will be appointed to you by the court. Does that make you entitled to another’s labor? Yes. Yes it does. That’s what Public Defenders do. They’re not slaves, they chose to do that job and they’re paid for it. And just because you’re entitled to legal representation doesn’t rob lawyers of their rights.

This argument is idiotic to a degree that boggles the rational mind.


I received thousands of responses to my question. The responses are still coming in a week later.


And despite all of the above, the resounding, overwhelming answer was YES.

Yes. Healthcare is a right.

Now, I don’t pretend that my survey was scientific. And I don’t pretend that my twitter feed is a non-biased representative sample of America or the world, but I’m looking at thousands of people who believe that healthcare is a basic human right. A basic human right. Without caveat, without condition, without question. Yes.

And I agree, without reservation.

How will we pay for it? I don’t know. How do we pay for every other right? For guns. For the free press? For freedom of Religion? We’ll find a way. How do we keep this right from becoming oppression? I don’t know. How do we keep guns and freedom of speech and freedom of religion from becoming oppression?

Those are just details. Big ones, sure. But just details nonetheless. Just like every other right.

If we agree that healthcare is a right, a basic human right of not just all Americans but of all people, then we’ll find a way. We’ll figure it out. We’ll keep figuring it out, just like every other right.

And it matters.

It does.

Because right now, right this very minute, as I write this, as you read it, as the world wonders at Donald Trump’s next Tweet, and Congress chases after threats to the Republic, and the crises of the day fills the headlines, right now, a handful of powerful men are secreted away from the public eye, working in confidence, working in collusion with those who profit from misery, deciding the fate of healthcare in America. 

I don’t know for certain what their priorities are, because healthcare is not a right and as such their motivations are secret and I as a citizen am not entitled to know. You are not entitled to know. They’ve locked the doors and they are deciding our fate. And from their track records I am forced to guess that the focus of this law is not my rights, not your rights, not the rights of humanity.

No, I am forced to suspect this committee’s priorities are money and privilege.

And I suspect that this law they are currently penning will reflect that when it finally emerges into the light of day.

And that is the point of this entire essay.

That, that right there, is the point of the question.

Because when healthcare is not a right, then it becomes a privilege doled out by a handful of powerful men hidden away from accountability and the consequences of their actions. You don’t even have the right to question them.

And you had better damned well hope that when it comes, you and those you love are privileged enough to be on the right side of the line.

And that those men don’t one day move the line.

And that you never lose your privilege.

Is healthcare a right? Yes or no. Everything is just details.

But some of those details will kill you.




Correction: Originally the article said Hillary Clinton was First Lady in the 1980s. That has been corrected to the 1990s.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

The Seven Stages of Gun Violence


Forward:

Every few mass shootings, I update this and move it forward in the timelline.

It’s now been two three four five years since I first wrote this on the day after a madman stepped into a darkened movie theater in Aurora, Colorado and started killing people.  Since then more than ten twenty sixty ninety one hundred and fifty thousand Americans have died from gun violence, three seven ten twenty fifty times more than died on September 11th, 2001, more than twenty times all the military personnel killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, twice the number of Americans killed in Vietnam. There have been so many mass shootings between the day I wrote this and now that I’ve lost track, one killing blurs into another and the bloody rampages seem to be our new national pastime.

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

And a lot of people told me I was wrong.

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

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

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

Anyway, before we get started, I just wanted to say: Way to go America. We can’t build spaceships any more, or ensure every American has access to healthcare and food and clean water and a warm place to sleep, but we’ve got the world beat in bloody murder.

Bang Bang Bang, fuck yeah, America!

  //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.

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

Last time I updated this it was fifty dead. Fifty. Fifty. Fifty dead, killed by a single shooter armed with a military grade assault rifle in a nightclub.

And today? Somebody took a shot at Congress.

Who knows? Maybe now they’ll finally do something about gun violence in America

But I wouldn’t count on it.


Here we are, America. Here we are yet again. Bang, Bang, Bang.


Another massacre – attempted massacre anyway.

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

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

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

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

Another day of “expert” opinions from the media and Facebook.

This is the point where I used to type bloody horror.  And it is, a bloody horror, but it’s just another bloody horror.  Business as usual. So far, nobody but the gunman has died, so compared to, oh, say the Pulse Nightclub shooting, or Aurora, or Sandy Hook, it’s not all that big of deal, is it? Meh.

It is certainly no longer a surprise – and hasn’t been for a very long time.

It’s only news because this time the violence was aimed at Congress. Hey, that’s new!

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


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


Bang, bang, bang. Welcome to America.

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

Me too.

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

The fabled gun battles of the American Old West have nothing on the modern slaughter. Gun 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 twice three four times a month now.

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

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


Stage One, Confusion:

Mass shootings are still news. I have no idea how much longer this will be so, Americans don’t have much of an attention span unless you up the wow factor. Some guy went bonkers and killed a bunch of people? Yawn, I’ve seen worse. What’s the body count this time? Fifty? Worst since 911? What? Just the shooter died? Well that ain’t even worth my … Ooooh, he was shooting a congress, well, I’ll tune for that! But, maybe next time we could get the guy to wear a Bruce Willis costume while shooting a chain-gun from the back of a crashing stealth fighter in the middle of Times Square? Because that would so cool, man.

What?

Sure, I’m the one being ridiculous. Right.

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

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

Nobody really knows anything. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Stage Two, Speculation:

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

The talking heads and paid conspiracy mongers will wax fat and feculent, they’ll talk about false flag operations, 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 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 hater eaten up with rage, 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:

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

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

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, insane.

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 healthcare.

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

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

Nothing in common, except for one thing.

One thing.

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

Guns.




Stage Four, Blame:

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

We won’t face reality.

We won’t face the single common denominator.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Somebody is responsible.

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

Nothing in common, except for one thing.

Guns.

Guns. Guns. Guns. Guns are the common denominator here. In every case, it’s guns.

You can’t have a mass shooting without guns.

It’s just that goddamned simple.

But we won’t face it.

We won’t do anything about it.

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

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

As a nation, we are insane.



Stage Five, Bang Bang Crazy:

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

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

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

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


Stage Six, Acceptance:

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

Meanwhile 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: murderous lunatics with guns.



Besides, it probably won’t happen again.



Stage Seven: Déjà Vu:

See Step One.




Afterword:

Ok, snark off.  Let me be serious.

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

As I’ve said here many, many, many times, and will obviously have to say many, many, many more times: I’ve spent my entire life around weapons, all kinds of weapons – some of which you can’t even imagine.

I 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 and Tom Selleck 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 (and now people on both sides will write to argue why they’re right and the other side is wrong, predictably).

People called me a cynic.

They said I was wrong.

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

And nothing, not one goddamned thing, has changed.

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

// Jim Wright, Stonekettle Station

 


Addendum 1:  Every time I write one of these, I hope it's the last. But it never is, there's always another massacre. Always.
The Seven Stages of Gun Violence
The Bang Bang Crazy Series:
Part 1, What we need, see, are more guns, big fucking guns
Part 2, Gun violence isn't the exception in America, it's who we are
Part 3, Sandy Hook, the NRA, and a gun in every school
Part 4, More dead kids and why we have laws
Part 5, Gun control and a polite society
Part 6, The Christopher Donner rampage, they needed killin'
Part 7, Still more dead kids and let's print our own guns!
Part 8, Let's try blaming the victim, shall we?
Part 9, Armed soldiers on post, sure, nothing to go wrong there.
Part 10, Big Damned Heroes!
Part 11, Two in the Bush
What do we do about it? How do we change our culture of gun violence? Bang Bang Sanity


Addendum 2: As noted elsewhere, I’ve  been around guns my entire life. My dad taught me to shoot when I was a kid – in fact the very first gun I ever fired was my dad’s prized black powder .75 caliber smooth bore Civil War trench piece when I was about four years old. I still own my very first gun, bought from Meijer Thrifty Acres in Jenison, Michigan, for me by my dad when I was fourteen years old – a lever action Winchester 30-30. I got my first deer with that gun.  I grew up shooting, at home, in the Boy Scouts, hunting, target shooting, plinking, with friends and with family.  Thirty years ago I joined the military and spent my entire life there. I know more than a little about guns. I’m a graduate of the Smith & Wesson Rangemaster Academy, the nation’s premier firearms instructor school. I’m a certified armorer and gunsmith. I’ve graduated from nearly every boarding officer and gun school the military has. I hold both the Expert Pistol and Expert Rifle Medals. I’ve taught small arms and combat arms to both military and civilians for nearly thirty years now. I’ve fired damned near everything the US military owns, from the old .38 revolver to a US Navy Aegis Guided Missile Cruiser’s 5” main battery – and everything in between. I can still field strip a Colt .45 M-1911 pistol and put it back together in under a minute, blindfolded – I happen to own several of them, along with numerous other semi-auto pistols and a number of revolvers. I used to shoot professionally and in competition. I helped to design, test, field, and fire in combat US Military weapons systems. I’ve spent my entire life in places where gun usage is extremely, extremely, common. I have a Concealed Carry Permit. I’m an Alaskan, even though I don’t live there anymore, and I typically carry a gun in the wilds of Alaska on a regular basis. I am neither pro-gun nor anti-gun, a gun is a tool, nothing more. If you feel that I’m ignorant of guns, or that I’m anti-gun, or unAmerican, well, you’re welcome to speak your piece – just so long as you can live with what comes after.


A note about commenting:

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