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Thursday, July 26, 2012

Bang Bang Crazy

 

The previous post has been up for five days now.

Three days ago I added an addendum.

The post, if you haven’t read it, was about gun violence.

On the surface, it was about the horrific events in Aurora, Colorado, when James Holmes dressed up like his favorite comic book villain and stormed into a midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises and started killing people. Using a variety of semi-automatic weapons, he managed to gun down twelve people and wound nearly seventy more. He then surrendered to the police. Since then, Holmes has appeared in court for arraignment, hair dyed orange, looking exactly like the muddled, deranged, murderous cartoon character that he pretended to be.

Specifically, as noted in the addendum, I predicted that this most recent slaughter would change nothing and that the subsequent national narration (I was going to say national dialog, but dialog indicates a reasoned two-way conversation and that is emphatically the wrong word) was tediously predictable.

A week on and I think I’m entitled say: See? I told you so.

It’s like those Hollywood remakes that have become popular in recent years. Where movie studios suddenly started redoing not films from the middle of the last century, but rather films that are only a few years old or so – say like Total Recall, Spiderman, and, of course, Batman.  Yes, that’s it, It’s exactly like being doomed to a rerun of Batman every four or five years. They updated the special effects and move the locations around and change the furniture, but it’s the same plot, same story, same lines said in slight variation by the current Hollywood A-list.

You know the stories by heart and you can predict exactly who they will cast.

See if you can identify this reality TV actor:

The bad guys, the criminals, don’t follow laws and restricting more of America’s freedoms when it comes to self-defense isn’t the answer. Not when you consider what the reality is. Bad guys don’t follow laws.”

Who said that?

Oh it’s a toughie, isn’t it? Who could it be? Who could it be?

Yes, of course it was Sarah Palin. No surprises there.  Anybody could have predicted within a word or two exactly what the Sourdough Shill was going to say.

The bad guys, those criminal guys, well they don’t follow those laws, you know.

No Kidding? Really? Thanks for pointing that out, Grizzly Mama. Criminals don’t follow the law? Is that sort of like how teenagers don’t follow abstinence-only birth control? But I digress.

Criminals don’t follow the law. Wow, you think maybe that’s why we call them criminals in the first place?

Funny thing, James Holmes did actually follow the law.

Well, right up until he started killing people, that is. But all the rest of it? The guns, the thousands of rounds of ammo, the precursor chemicals for the bombs and the ballistic armor? All that was legal.

And that’s sort of the whole damned point, isn’t it?

But, hey, why spoil a thing with logical fallacies, right?

Speaking of Hollywood movies due for a remake, how about Split Second? What do you mean you’ve never heard of this early 1990’s SCIFI/Horror masterpiece? Rutger Hauer in his steely-eyed prime as detective Harley Stone, hunting a murderous alien monster through the sodden streets of drowned future London? Co-starring Kim Cattrall and Michael J. Pollard (Bonk bonk on the head!). Seriously, you haven’t seen this?

Harley Stone and his new partner, Dick Durkin (Alastair Duncain), have just barely survived a battle with the monster, who just might be Satan himself, in the flooded metro tunnels beneath London.  Dick wasn’t a believer until now. He thought the killer was just another murderous psychopath. Turns out, whoa, Satan. Stunned and shaking, Dick turns to Harley and screams the movie’s best line, “We need to get bigger guns! BIG FUCKING GUNS!”  Split Second opened during the weekend of the L.A. Riots, you’d think with a line like that it would have done better at the box office.

We’ve got monsters.

Satan, maybe even.

We need to get bigger guns. Big fucking guns. Yes, that’s what we need. Bigger guns and lots of them.

Wisconsin Republican Senator Ron Johnson opined:

“It's certainly one of the rationales behind conceal and carry. Where criminals actually have to be a little concerned before they commit a criminal act that maybe somebody could stop them. And I think that is the truth. That somebody, a responsible individual, had been carrying a weapon, maybe, maybe, they could have prevented the death and injuries. I mean, that's just the truth. “

You keep using the word “truth,” Senator, I don’t think that word means what you think it means.  I’m pretty sure what you meant to say was “my unsubstantiated opinion” or perhaps “talking out my ass.”  Also? It’s “concealed carry,” Ron, not “conceal and carry.” You’re thinking about shoplifting. But, hey, I’m sure everything else you know about firearms and shooting it out in a darkened theater in the midst of a panicked crowd of screaming kids against a heavily armed and armored attacker is valid.

Let’s go ask a few experts, you know like cops, if they think a civilian firefight in a crowded theater is a good idea, or if they want to walk into one.

Sure, they’ll say, all we need are some more guns, that’ll cut down on the carnage. Sure. More guns. Big fucking guns.

Point of order: by Senator Johnson’s logic, shouldn’t there be less violent crime in places where the threat of imminent return fire is common? Wouldn’t criminals, say like gang bangers or drug cartels or organized crime “actually have to be a little concerned” when confronting other armed criminals on the streets of LA, or on the Texas border, or on Chicago’s South Side? I mean by definition they know the other criminals are armed, right? Oddly, far from making criminals more cautious, what seems to happen instead is that most of them just go get bigger guns and start shooting first.  Same thing with those outlaw separatists and white supremacists  and those crazy wild-eyed end-of-the-world religious cults.  Remember those two bank robbers in LA a couple years back? Fully automatic machine guns and full tactical armor. They expected return fire. They planned for it. The one guy stood in the middle of the street shooting at the cops, impervious, like a fucking Terminator. They called it the North Hollywood Shootout. Remember? Even the SWAT team couldn’t take these guys down, the cops eventually had to break into gun stores and borrow military grade assault weapons. It was a full on battle in the street. I guess those criminals never met Senator Johnson, eh?

Oh yes, what we need here are more guns. Big fucking guns. And lots more of ‘em.  Hell, everybody should have enough firepower to take down a terminator!  That’s the America I want to raise my children in! Oh yes, let’s do that. Hoorah!

But I digress again.

A number of well spoken concerned citizens wrote to me, or commented on various forums and Facebook postings where I was linked to or quoted, and said something similar to this gem of NRA brilliance that I found in my inbox yesterday morning:

“Those twelve ‘dead kids’ as you called them (not all of them were kids, you might want to stop trying to manipulate peoples emotions with your overally dramatic writings!!! are patriots. Just like solders they died for our freedom from Tranny. If there had been just one lawful person there with concealled carry he could have been stopped right there. Yes that is true. Holmes is a sick MONSTER!!!! no matter what law you libtards pass because your scared to defend yourselfs, criminals will still get guns and use them to kill innocent people!!!  Look its just like drunk driving. No matter what laws you pass peoplw eill still drive drunk. You will still have accidents! But you don’t stop drivings do you? If we followed your socialist libtard thinking you libtards would ban cars just because some kids got drunk and killed some other people.  That’s libtard logic!!! Learn to think before you speak!!!”

Learn to think before you speak.

Right.

I’m going to manfully resist the urge to ask what this guy has been doing that he feels the need to defend himself from Trannys and I’ll just take the high road here. I will, however, take a moment to boggle at the fact that we let people who can’t even operate something as simple as a spell checker have guns. Jesus Bulletproof Christ, I hope this guy is a little more reserved with his ammo expenditure than he is with the exclamation points. I will also resist the urge to point out that by his “conservatard” logic, basically what he and Sarah Palin and Senator Johnson are saying is that the solution to vehicular deaths and drunken driving is for all of us to get drunk ourselves and get in our cars and do some demolition derby on the lawbreakers.  Right? However, that said, he brings up a comparison that must now have propagated from one end of the NRA to the other.  I’ve heard it at least a hundred times in the last five days, including from the blowhard expert of all things conservative that sits in the office across the hall from mine. And that is drunk driving, or rather cars in general. 

The gun nuts do have a point.

We do indeed accept a certain number of vehicular deaths each year, including those caused by drunk drivers and crazy people, as the price we pay for mobility. And nobody is willing to give up cars are they? And nobody is suggesting that they do.

It is a valid comparison.

But here’s the thing, even though we do accept a certain number of vehicular deaths each year, we constantly seek to reduce those fatalities through mandated improvement in the state of the automotive art and road engineering, through laws and regulations and increasingly uncompromising enforcement and stricter punishments, through vigilance and observation and monitoring, though mandatory training and testing and licensing, though tracking those who habitually break the law. We don’t let crazy people drive.  We make drivers buy insurance.

Interesting side note: We don’t let blind people drive, or pilot airplanes, we do however let blind people buy and operate guns without restriction. Think about that. I’ve got nothing against the blind, but seriously, think about that.

We hold people who sell alcohol responsible, at least in some aspects, for enabling drunken driving.  We hold auto manufacturers responsible, at least in some aspects, for the safety of their product. We hold state licensing agencies responsible for administration of standards. We hold the drivers themselves responsible for their actions.  We set rules and limits and we work to improve them every single day.

And we, both left and right, drivers and non-drivers, drinkers and non-drinkers and reformed drinkers, engage in reasonable dialog and conversation without hysteria or accusations that the other side is coming to take either our booze or our cars.

But what we don’t do is say stupid shit like, well now you retards, there’s just nothing we can do about drunk people and/or crazy drivers who kill people with cars, uh, uh, uh. Hey, every once in a while crazy people drive buses through pre-schools. Dead kids, that’s just the price you pay for freedom to drive. Herr derr derr!

So, cars. Good example. Thanks for bringing it up.

I assume that since this is your example, you NRA types are now willing to talk about similar actions we can take to reduce the number of gun related violent incidents each year? You’re all about exploring options for law and regulation, mandatory training, licensing, and a database of people who abuse the privilege of owning a gun or who use one recklessly? Maybe we should make all gun owners have gun insurance and be able to show a license and registration?

Hello?

What? Hey, don’t get all pissy because you didn’t think your analogy through – just like you didn’t think through your whole batshit crazy shooting it out in the middle of movie theater idea either.

And speaking of not thinking it through, you’d really think that the guy who has to speak at twelve funerals caused by gun-violence this month would have given some thought to his words before opening his mouth.

And if you thought that, you’d be dead wrong.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper:

“Even if he didn’t have access to guns, this guy was diabolical. He would have found explosives. He would have found something. He would have done something to create this horror.”

Ah yes. Like the monster in Split Second, or maybe like Freddy Kruger, you can’t stop him. It’s fate. He’s the devil. Part of God’s great plan, no doubt. We can’t stop it, can’t even slow it down. We should be grateful that it’s not worse, right? We should be thankful that that God didn’t just decide to randomly kill every goddamned body in that theater and burn the son of a bitch to the ground and salt the earth under it, right? After all, this is the same loving deity that whacked every first born kid in Egypt. Compared to tens of thousands of dead kids, what’s another twelve? Talk about retroactive abortion. This is the same guy who had his winged minions level whole cities right on down to the bedrock. This is the guy who routinely tosses the vast majority of the human race into a fiery pit so that they can be tortured alive forever, for the next billion billion years or until he gets bored whichever comes first. No disproportionate punishment there, oh no Sirree. That’s the guy we’re talking about here, right? This is his plan. So, yeah, I guess the survivors and the families of the dead can take comfort in knowing that, well, heck, diabolical gun violence is better than the alternative. Thanks, Governor, you’re a peach.  Guess you won’t be signing that drunk driving law either, since people who are determined to drive drunk and kill people will always find a way to get shitfaced and behind the wheel. It’s just fate, I guess. Diabolical fate.

This is the cost of civilization, right?

Twelve more dead kids in a movie theater. That’s freedom, right there. That’s liberty. That’s America goddamn it. That’s what I spent my whole life in uniform defending, the right to have twelve more slaughtered innocents and blood running in the streets.

You just can’t stop it.  Crazy people with guns and random carnage are the price you pay so that the rest of us can be free.

And the only way to combat it is, well, to literally combat it, with more guns. Big fucking guns.

Seriously? That’s your solution?

Armor up and shoot it out?

I call shenanigans.

I randomly fished through the pile of hate mail currently clogging my inbox like so many undigested jelly donuts in Glenn Becks’ large intestine.  Once certain trends became obvious, I stop reading. I pulled out some select quotes and the basic gist of each idea and dumped the rest. I’m going to be honest, I’m not going to read any more of this illiterate crap.  After this post, I’ll just hit select all/delete and go get myself another cup of coffee and stare out the window at my mountain. So if you wrote to threaten my untimely and painful demise, or to call me a faggy communist, or to otherwise enumerate my many failings as a father, patriot, and human being, and you don’t see yourself reflected below, well, sorry about that.  Go ahead and write to me again, this time be sure to put “Charlton Heston Can Suck My Hairy White Ass” in the subject line and the Stonekettle Station email system will file it appropriately.

These shootings are staged.  And the reason is simple … Obama and his socialist attorney general will use this incident as an excuse for gun confiscation. He is a traitor to the Constitution. I know that you don’t believe that your precious savior is a traitor but he has sold the United States of America out to the socialists in the UN. He has signed a secret treaty with the UN to disarmed Americans … [blah blah New World Order. Bilderbergs. Nazis. Communists. Satan. LOOK IT UP!]

The same Attorney General who, according to conservatives, is so incompetent he couldn’t even keep from giving automatic weapons to Mexican drug cartels? The same president who, again according to conservatives, is so incompetent that he screws up every single thing that he touches? That Attorney General? That President? Really? Those guys so incompetent, but they are so clever that they’re scheming to disarm America, right? They so dumb, but they’re smart enough to outwit Congress and the rest of the country (except for you, of course, nothing gets by you) and take over the world? What? Is it like a secret identity? A bumbling Clark Kent to Superman sort of thing? A Bruce Wayne to Batman sort of deal? What’s that say about conservatives in Congress?  Being as it is the Senate’s job to ratify treaties and all, how did this pair of screw-ups manage to slip a secret UN treaty past them without Mitch McConnell being the wiser?  Doesn’t say much about his competence now does it? Also, I’m pretty sure that if the Senate doesn’t approve of the treaty, the rest of us don’t have to obey it.

Look, I’m just saying it’s a shame you guys don’t put as much effort into the rest of the Constitution as you do the Second Amendment, that’s all.

A semi-automatic rifle is NOT an assault weapon, Moron! 

Oh, well, then I guess it’s ok. 

Just FYI, assault weapons can be semi-auto or fully auto, and if you really want to get technical about it they could even be a single shot weapon like a pump shotgun firing flechette rounds. The term assault weapon defines the weapon’s intended purpose, not it’s rate of fire. It’s a combination of the design, the ammo load, and how it’s used.  A flamethrower can be an assault weapon. So can a high power microwave beam transmitter, if you’re close enough and you know how to use it and you don’t mind the smell of sizzling flesh and the screams of people being burned alive from the inside out. The definition has changed over the years and exactly what the term means depends on the user and the context. That said, I think that no matter how you slice it, the way James Holmes used his rifle last week was in an assault mode – but hey, let’s argue about that, because that’s what is important, right?

Whenever liberals want to "discuss" guns, what they really mean is that they want to take away our rights!

Yeah, the same way discussion of speed limits means we’re coming to take your car.

You can’t stop people like this.  Using a gun probably saved lives. He could have used a knife. People who want to kill people will find a way.

Really?  He could have used a knife? I’m curious, when you talk, do you actually hear the words coming out of your mouth? Or is it more like a buzzing noise? I’ve got to be honest with you, I’m having a damned hard time picturing this guy all bulked up in ballistic armor and orange afro managing to kill and wound nearly a hundred people with a knife.  How does that work? Does he throw the knives? Does he lumber after the fleeing crowd in his stiff body armor? Or does he methodically go down the aisles? Excuse me, stab stab, excuse me, pardon me, can you move your feet please, thanks, stab stab. What? Down in front? Sorry. Stab stab.

No really, it’s the buzzing noise, isn’t it?

Least you think that it’s just my email, let’s look at some Yahoo and Fox News comments, shall we?

the more dangerous we make the world the better we have a very big population problem there is already way to many people on this planet at one time we should start making murder legal for like one day a week

Right. Good idea. That’ll cut down on the mayhem. You go first. Don’t forget to bring your kids, let’s get all of your unique genetic material in one place.  And don’t forget to pick up your complimentary Darwin Award at the concession stand. 

some logic is just too hard for people to understand...when a child is young and parents worry or even if the child wants to for fun, he will take karate for "self defense". SO he is learning to fight, in order to defend himself. It is a hard fact that in order to defend yourself you must FIGHT. Fire meets fire. so the same logic goes for a gun... if you are affraid of someone having a gun... the best way to protect yourself is to get yourself a gun!!!!! i know i know it is very hard logic to follow. So instead of makng sense of it... lets just yell louder that people should not use guns to kill people.

Let me ask you something, in a theater like the one in Aurora where the vast majority of the audience are teenagers, in a school like Columbine where everybody is a kid, who exactly is it that you think is going to be carrying a concealed weapon and returning fire? Kids? We teach them karate, I guess arming them isn’t too big a stretch, what do you figure is a good age to start? Kindergarten? It’s going to make recess interesting though.

Laws do nothing, they are just words in a book. That is why there are crimes. No law has ever in the entire history of law, has ever prevented anything!! It's against the law to kill people which has a very steep punishment. Changing gun laws doesn't mean a thing, except that people who might have been able to defend themselves against individuals that break the law, are now not able too! The 2nd amendment was to protect us against a tyrannical government. The English had their own army. CITIZENS created a militia to defeat this army. Our modern day army works for the government. They will not protect us from a government. That is why our right to bear arms was introduced.

And they say kids don’t learn reasoning skills and American History anymore. I believe that statement is an exact quote from Benjamin Franklin or maybe it was Chuck Norris. No law has ever in the entire history of law ever prevented anything. Yep. Where is it that they’re printing the textbooks now, Texas? Yeah, I’d never guess.

Historically, gun control vs. the right to keep and bear arms can be explained, but who really believes this pseudo-science? "Trust in God," said Oliver Cromwell, "but keep your powder dry." So there's even a religious argument for keeping and bearing arms, placed in an historical context.

Oh good, a biblical reference and pseudo-science in the same sentance. Wasn’t Jesus the guy who said, “Kill ‘em all, let God sort it out?” Can one of you bible scholars help me out here, I can’t remember if that was from the book of Mathew, Mark, or Glock.

the problem for the liberals is they want somebody to tell them what to do. In Nazi Germany they burned those Jews with gusto as somebody told them to do that, In Uganda they hacked the Tutus with gusto as somebody told them to do it, In Iran they killed as many Sunnis as they could because somebody told them to do it, in the American South they hanged all those blacks as somebody told them to do it. Perhaps the rest of us do not think government is all that nice and full of justice and that criminals in and out of government are going to say pretty please before they rape and rob or kill you.

I was afraid we’d get all the way through this without somebody invoking Godwin’s Law. Liberal Treehuggers = Murderous Nazis, folks, that’s a fact. You can look it up on the Internet, start with RushLimbaugh.com.

The guy that kiled all the people in the movie theater also has an apartment full of explosives. Even if he didn't have guns he still could have killed a bunch of people. Guns are not the issue, crazy people are the issue.

Actually, I’d argue that that crazy people with guns are the issue, but at this point I’ve just decided to go get another beer and lock my doors.

I would rather be shot, than cut. I would rather be shot, than poisoned. I would rather be shot than bludgeoned. The reason? There's a higher chance of survival.

OK, let’s test that, shall we? Here, stand right here in front of this target. I’ll be right back.

Seriously, I’d rather be shot than… For fuck’s sake, who thinks like this? And why would we ever let this guy have a gun? Ever?

No military will set foot on our soil because why? Even if you somehow manage to take out the military, the public will turn on you from every direction. At least I know we would here in Texas. And don't forget, we may have to turn on our own government someday. Stop electing communists and we wont have that problem. Let them take our guns and we are helpless. Also don't be a fool and think if you make guns ilegal that the criminals will just turn them in. They will be the only ones with them. I wish someone would have been packing in that movie and returned some of that fire.

Just so I’m clear here, you’ve bought yourself the biggest, most powerful, most heavily armed, most technologically advanced military in the entire history of mankind, complete with nuclear weapons, stealth bombers, tanks, and many other advanced capabilities too numerous to count. You’ve given them a full decade of intense combat experience in multiple theaters under a vast variety of conditions from mountain terrain, to forest and jungle to desert, right on down to door to door urban warfare. They have more than ten years direct experience in counter-insurgency tactics against multiple heavily armed, experienced, and utterly ruthless civilian militias engaged in guerrilla tactics.  But you figure that an invader that can take that mighty force down can be beaten by you and your drunken rednecked beer buddies and a couple of Chinese knockoff AK-47 replicas, do you?

Good luck with that, Wolverines. Ditto the other thing. No really. Word of advice? Don’t forget to fill out a will first.

And finally I got an even dozen letters from people quoting, or paraphrasing something, from Thomas Jefferson, or Ben Franklin, or Chuck Norris for all I know.

About that. Thomas Jefferson was in France, he didn’t write the Constitution.

He also didn’t write the Second Amendment, though as Secretary of State he did authenticate the final form of the Amendment. 

And he had all kinds of thoughts about it and the other amendments and the Constitution itself. And he wrote those thoughts down, some of them, yes he did, so you could misquote him in an email two hundred odd years later.  Jefferson liked to offer his opinion, so did a whole bunch of the other Framers.  Some liked the idea of bearing arms, some hated it, some didn’t consider it all that important one way or the other. Look around and you can find a quote from some powered wig wearing Founding Father to support whatever position you like.

But you know what? It doesn’t make one damned iota of difference what the hell Jefferson, or any of the rest of them, thought.

It doesn’t matter if Old Tom Jefferson had managed to stop boffing the help long enough to actually pen the Constitution and each amendment personally.

See, here’s the thing, we didn’t ratify some hoary old quote from Thomas Jefferson or George Washington or Chuck Norris.  Woulda shoulda coulda. Quotes from Founding Fathers, no matter who they were, mean exactly jack shit.

What matters is the Second Amendment as written and ratified. Period. 

And what the Second Amendment actually says is:

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

Well regulated militia. The right to keep and bear arms. Now you can argue about what exactly those terms mean until the next time some nut slaughters a bunch of innocent people.  However, if you look closely you’ll see that no where in the Second Amendment does it say that you’re being given the right to keep and bear arms so you can overthrow the United States government whenever you damned well feel like it.

Nowhere. No goddamned where in the Constitution or the laws of the United States does it say that.

It’s a myth.

It’s a complete bullshit myth. It may have been the opinion of a couple of Founding Fathers and state legislatures, but that idea holds absolutely no water at all under the Amendment as written and ratified by those self same Founding Fathers and the citizens of the newly formed United States. Period. This idea of taking up arms against the government and your neighbors is complete pseudo-patriotic bullshit.

The Framers codified a methodology for changing the government in the Constitution itself and that didn’t include armed insurrection. 

As spelled out in general terms in the Constitution and codified in more specific terms by law, you have many rights here in America but armed rebellion isn’t one of them.

Here’s the thing, so pay attention: You can quote Thomas Jefferson to me all damned day and if you engage in armed rebellion against the government and you win, well then history will call you a Founding Father and a patriot. But if you lose, history will call you a traitor and spit on you grave.  A hundred years ago we Americans settled this question once and for all, we called it the Civil War.

Note also that the right to keep and bear arms does not give you the right to engage in a firefight in the middle of a crowded theater, or a school, or in front of a Safeway.  

And the Second Amendment wasn’t included in the Bill of Rights so that crazy people could buy guns and go around slaughtering kids and innocents so other crazy people could then claim that as the price of freedom. You are a hysterical idiot. Your argument is invalid. You fail at America. Sit down and shut the fuck up.

In all the nonsense this week, I’ve heard one politician who actually seems to understand reality:

I, like most Americans, believe that the Second Amendment guarantees an individual the right to bear arms. And we recognize the traditions of gun ownership that passed on from generation to generation, that hunting and shooting are part of a cherished national heritage.

That politician then went on to say that given the partisan gridlock in Congress, “our focus is on the steps that we can take to make sure criminals and others should not have those guns, to make sure they cannot attain them.” There are things that we can do, he said, short of legislation on new gun laws to reduce violence in our society. And we will continue to press the Department of Justice to try to enhance the enforcement of existing laws and try to further develop our background check system so that it prevents criminals and those who should not have weapons from getting them under existing law.

Want to guess who said that?

It sure as hell wasn’t Sarah Palin or Ron Johnson or Chuck Norris.

It was the President of the United States of America.

 

 

 


Attention: Since Stonekettle Station is experiencing a higher degree than normal of raging Guns & Ammo fever, before you get all soggy and hard to light and go all Soldier of Fortune on me and decide that the author is some kind of weeping socialist America hating anti-gun Nazi, and before you embarrass yourself by making some ill-informed idiot assumption in the comments section, there’s probably something you should know: 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 (It was braced on a bench and still knocked me ass over teakettle). I still own my very first gun, bought from Meyer’s Thrifty Acres in Jenison, Michigan, for me by my dad when I was fourteen years old – a lever action Winchester 30/30. I got my first deer with that gun.  I grew up shooting, at home, in the Boy Scouts, hunting, target shooting, plinking, with friends and with family.  Thirty years ago I joined the military and spent my entire life there. I’m a retired US Navy Chief Warrant Officer. I know more than a little about guns. I’m a graduate of the Smith & Wesson Rangemaster Academy. I’m a Colt certified armorer and gunsmith. I’ve attended pretty much every boarding officer and gun school the military has. I hold both the Expert Pistol and Expert Rifle Medals. I’ve taught small arms and combat arms to both military and civilians for nearly thirty years now. I’ve fired damned near everything the US military owns, from the old .38 revolver to a US Navy Aegis Guided Missile Cruiser’s 5” main battery – and everything in between. I can still field strip a Colt .45 M-1911 pistol and put it back together in under a minute, blindfolded – I happen to own several of them, along with numerous other semi-auto pistols and a number of revolvers. I used to shoot professionally and in competition. I helped to design, test, field, and fire in combat US Military weapons systems. I’ve spent my entire life in warzones around the world and in places where gun usage is extremely, extremely, common. I have a Concealed Carry Permit and an FFL. I’m an Alaskan and I typically carry a gun in the wilds of Alaska on a regular basis. If you feel that I’m ignorant of guns, or that I’m anti-gun, or unAmerican, well, you’re welcome to speak your peace – just so long as you can live with what comes after that.  Make sure you read the commenting rules first. Read and adhere. This is my place, my private property, I pay for it, you are a guest and you have no, repeat no, First Amendment rights here. Be polite or else.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Un-American Activities, The More Things Change…

McCarthyism: demagogic, reckless, hysterical, deliberate, and typically unsubstantiated public accusations and/or personal attacks on the character, loyalty, patriotism, and beliefs of an individual opponent or group. Usually for political gain in the guise of patriotism and/or “national security.” Normally based on widespread racial, political, religious, ethnic, and/or sexual prejudices. Can often lead to persecution, disenfranchisement, mass hysteria, and violent mob behavior. Particularly common during periods of conflict, political unrest, migration, and economic uncertainty.

In 1950 a minor freshman Senator gave a speech in West Virginia.

A conservative from Wisconsin, he spoke before a chapter of the Republican Women’s Club.

Despite being widely disliked by his fellow congressmen for being volatile and easily enraged, and despite having recently been voted “the worst U.S. Senator currently in office” by the Senate Press Corps, the senator was regarded as charming and gregarious by those who met him in social settings. He was an accomplished and popular speaker and was invited to talk in front of many different organizations, such as the aforementioned Wheeling, WV, Republican Women’s Club – and since he was nobody important, he was usually available.

Up until that day, February 9th, 1950, with the exception of his temper, Senator Joseph McCarthy was mostly an unremarkable little blowhard.

But his speech before a small group of conservative women on that cold West Virginia day would change the very face of America and make a paranoid insecure cowardly weasel of a man famous and powerful and, above all, feared.

His speech followed predictable lines, right up until it reached this proclamation:

The State Department is infested with communists! I have here in my hand a list of two hundred and five. A list of names that were made known to the Secretary of State as being members of the Communist Party and who nevertheless are still working and shaping policy in the State Department.

Communism was the bogeyman of the mid 20th Century, you better believe those women sat up and took notice. And then, after the speech, they went home and told their husbands what an actual US Senator had said: Communists, in the State Department.

McCarthy’s exact words were not recorded, but the quote above is widely regarded by historians and those who were there as accurate. There is some dispute as to whether McCarthy really claimed his list contained two hundred names or whether he actually said there were fifty-seven.  Witnesses said two hundred and five. They were quite explicit about it. McCarty said when questioned for the record that it was fifty-seven but he used both figures in later speeches and official records. 

Two hundred communists in the State Department or fifty, it didn’t take McCarthy’s startling accusation long to attract attention.

And why shouldn’t it have?

Joe McCarthy was a hero. 

Sure he was. That’s how he got elected in the first place. That’s why people wanted him to come talk to their little clubs and parties and organizations. Joe was a real live genuine war hero.

When World War II broke out, McCarthy had given up a career as a district circuit court Judge and enlisted in the Marines as a buck private. He quickly distinguished himself and rose to the rank of Captain, serving as an intelligence officer and earned himself the Distinguished Flying Cross, a Letter of Commendation from Chester Nimitz himself, and the nickname “Tail Gunner Joe” while flying thirty-two combat missions in the Solomon Islands and over Bougainville. He’d been wounded in either an airplane crash or by anti-aircraft fire (he was too modest to say which) and so why the hell shouldn’t those nice ladies take a patriotic American war hero like Senator Joe McCarthy at his word?

If Tail Gunner Joe said there were commies in the State Department, well, Sir, there were commies in the State Department and probably the White House too.

And so McCarthy’s sensational claims went the 1950s version of viral and all of a sudden the obscure bombastic senator from Wisconsin was somebody

He gave the speech again, polishing and embellishing and amplifying and exaggerating the threat against the United States.

In Salt Lake City he once again cited fifty-seven as the number of communists working their subversive evil within the State Department and that time it was recorded. A week later McCarthy stood before a packed Senate Chamber and in a five hour speech presented a detailed analysis of eighty-one “loyalty risks” within the US Government. As a result of McCarthy’s warning, Congress convened the Tydings Committee, a subcommittee of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, to conduct further official investigations into allegations of communists in the State Department. When the committee found little substance to McCarthy’s accusations it didn’t take long for Ol’ Tail Gunner Joe to start accusing the Tydings Committee itself of communist sympathies. And just like that, McCarthy had moved from vague allegations to the naming of names, going so far as to publically accuse specific government employees, one after the other, of being actual Soviet spies, traitors, and enemies of the United States of America.

This being 1950, the Red Scare was just getting into full feverish swing but hadn’t quite achieved critical mass among the civilian population. McCarthy’s sensational accusations changed all of that and directly propelled the population into full blown panic. Sixty years on and it’s difficult for us to grasp just how close to outright insanity the United States was at that point, it is only by the slimmest of margins that we are not a police state today (I know, I know, but really, we’re not. I’ve visited police states, we’re not even close).

It didn’t take long for McCarthy and his supporters in both the Senate and the House to start seeing commies everywhere. In the Department of State and Defense. In the Army. In the White House. McCarthy actually accused President Truman and the entire Democratic Party of being in league with “The Communists.” Congress, both in the House and the Senate, disintegrated into wild accusations and sometimes fist fights. Conservatives accused liberals of being socialists and soviets and commies (boy, does this sound familiar or what?). Liberals accused McCarthy of being a closeted homosexual, the papers wouldn’t print that accusation and there’s no proof that is was anything except slander but the rumor persists to this day nonetheless. In retaliation, McCarthy publically and vocally and persistently accused Secretary of Defense, George C. Marshall (he of the Marshall Plan, one of America’s most highly respected military commanders and statesmen) of communism and high treason. In fact, McCarthy went so far as to say of Marshall that he deliberately lost China to the communists and was engaged in a “conspiracy so immense and an infamy so black as to dwarf any previous venture in the history of man."

And it got worse.

Much worse.

Marshall had friends in high places. He was safe. Other citizens weren’t so lucky.

Americans, inspired by the increasingly paranoid insanity of their elected leaders and convinced by those same leaders that the end of the world could arrive via Soviet nuclear bomber at any moment (Any moment! Any Moment!), devolved into full on mass hysteria.  Soviet spies were everywhere, they could be your neighbor, your teacher, your parents, your children, your mayor, your garbage man or your city dog catcher.  The unions were full of them, so were the colleges, blue collar workers and students especially were not to be trusted. You could never be too careful. Patriotic citizens, when they weren’t busy building backyard fallout shelters, started reporting activity deemed un-American, any person out of the ordinary, any person too smart for their own good, or too educated, any non-Christian, anybody with a funny accent or dark skin, anybody different in any way. In panic and fear, laws were passed at the local, state, and federal level implementing loyalty oaths and background checks and massive new secret security organizations (Truman vetoed the McCarran Internal Security Act, declaring it a mockery of the Bill of Rights, but congress overrode him and the bill become law anyway – and McCarthy again accused Truman of communist sympathies and being un-American. Later, after the insanity had passed, almost all of the law was sheepishly struck down or quietly repealed).

Déjà vu, all over again, eh?

The fear became so pervasive and so entrenched that the Soviets were granted evil superpowers.

Americans were told that without unending vigilance the communists could literally take over their minds from the inside.

Popular movies of the time such as The Thing From Another World and (late to the party in 1957) Invasion of the Body Snatchers were thinly disguised lessons in the dangers of infiltration, subversion, invasion, mind control, and the fact that nobody, nobody, could be trusted – especially those who questioned the wisdom of pouring billions into nuclear bombs and secret weapons and the smoldering Cold War.  Even John Wayne got into the act, playing a heroic extra-constitutional investigator for the House Un-American Activities Committee rooting out commies in Hawaii as Big Jim McClain (He’s a Go-Get-‘Em Guy for the USA on a Treason Trail that leads Half-A-World Away!  No really. If you’ve never seen this propagandistic stinker, it’s a damned painful 90 minutes).  The Duke might have been True Blue, but much of Hollywood wasn’t patriotic or conservative enough to suit the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) and many actors, directors, and producers were blacklisted as suspected communists. And like Jews on the streets of Germany twenty years before, half of Hollywood suddenly found themselves despised enemies in their own country – and a bitter irony that, given that many of them were Jews.

The FBI and the HUAC investigated everyone and anyone (including each other), nobody was above suspicion. The insanity became so deep and so wide that even the faintest, most tenuous, hint of communism was enough to see you detained, questioned, investigated, blacklisted, or made a pariah – for example a baseball team, the Cincinnati Reds, the oldest major league team in the country, was forced to change their name to the Redlegs or go out of business just because their name, Reds (a name adopted in 1881, long before there even were any communists) led to accusations that they were secretly baseball playing commies.

It wasn’t conservatives versus liberals or Republicans arrayed against Democrats, at least not entirely – though the battlefront was drawn along fairly predictable and familiar lines. American Catholics for example, though mostly Democrats at the time, lined up behind McCarthy en mass – including America’s most famous Catholics, the Kennedy family. Tail Gunner Joe was a frequent guest at Hyannis Port and even dated Pat and Eunice Kennedy (supposedly not at the same time, though you never really know with the Kennedys). Moderate and sane Republicans tried to distance themselves from McCarthy – especially Dwight Eisenhower.  Eisenhower needed McCarthy to win Wisconsin during the 1952 presidential election, but once in office Ike kicked McCarthy to the curb. This enraged McCarthy and he began accusing the Eisenhower Administration of communism and treason.  McCarthy had referred to the previous two decades of Democrats in the White House as “Twenty-years of treason.” When Ike wouldn’t bow to McCarthy’s agenda, McCarthy updated his catchphrase to “Twenty-one years of treason.”

Again, this tune sure sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

McCarthy eventually ended up in charge of the Senate Committee on Government Operations, which was also responsible for a little known outfit called the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations (SPSI). McCarthy turned this organ into something very similar to the Gestapo in all but name.  Led by McCarthy the SPSI went after public radio including the Voice of America, writers, actors, newspapers, and libraries – resulting in actual book burnings of volumes deemed subversive or questionable.  They investigated churches, calling protestant clergymen the “largest single group supporting the communist apparatus” (ironically, evangelicals being protestants and all, you’d think they would remember this kind of crap, but we’ll come back to that in a minute, or rather back to one specific evangelical in particular). The committee went after the Army with a vengeance, convinced that the ranks were chock-a-block with comrades and Soviet infiltrators – McCarthy even cut short his honeymoon to open the investigation. McCarthy verbal flogged generals and the Secretary of the Army himself. All of this and more occurred in public hearings, much of which was broadcast on the primitive electronic media of the time and via the printed press.

It was all bullshit, of course.

Oh, there were communists alright, even spies, certainly.

And a small few of the thousands of accusations made by the HUAC and the SPSI might even have been legitimate. But overwhelmingly, McCarthy’s fear of suspected communists was about as valid as Salem’s fear of witches had been three hundred years before. The vast, vast majority of the accusations leveled by Senator McCarthy, the SPSI, and the HUAC turned out to be utterly baseless. The majority of accusations were the result of outright lies, deliberate hysteria, political agendas, and mean spirited revenge – just as they had been at Salem.

Eventually McCarthy was brought down in large part by the journalist Edward R. Murrow, one of the very few people left in the United States by that point with the guts, integrity, and determination to take on Tail Gunner Joe and expose the louse for what he was, a petty small minded hateful paranoid fraud who had gone mad with power. 

McCarthy was no hero, he was never a “Buck Private” or worked his way up through the ranks as he had repeatedly claimed. He’d been commissioned into the Marines as a 2nd Lieutenant based on his education as a lawyer. He did serve as a minor intelligence office, or more specifically as a briefing officer, for a USMC dive bomber squadron based in the South Pacific. He told his cronies that he had joined the Marines not out of patriotism but specifically because he believed that branch of the military would serve him best in his future political career – and he in fact, first ran for the Senate while still in uniform. He flew eight missions, not the thirty-two he claimed, and somewhere in there he started calling himself Tail Gunner Joe (reportedly his squadron mates referred to him as “Low Down Joe,” oddly he never mentioned that after the war). 

That Distinguished Flying Cross? He put himself in for that in 1952, that’s why he exaggerated his record to thirty two missions, eight wouldn’t have gotten him a cup of coffee let alone the DFC.

The Letter of Commendation from Chester Nimitz? McCarthy wrote that himself. 

The war wound? Like the letter, he just made that up. 

He got himself elected to Congress by claiming his opponent was a draft dodger and a war profiteer, when in fact the opponent in question, Robert La Follette, was nearly fifty when the war broke out and ineligible for service. As to profiteering, La Follette had invested in a radio station before the war which made him about $23,000 a year for about two years, hardly what you’d call “war profiteering” (McCarthy meanwhile had invested in the stock market and made $43,000 during the same period).

And it turns out that McCarthy was a chronic untreated alcoholic, though what few friends he had left continued to deny McCarthy’s addiction – right up until drinking killed him.

After hemming and hawing and fiddling around for more than two years, the Senate finally decided to condemn McCarthy for damned near destroying the country. Note that McCarthy wasn’t given a formal censure, but rather a weak and watered down “condemnation.”

He stuck around for another couple of years, but he was a ruined man. McCarthy was mostly ignored while the House and Senate and all his previous rabid supporters, including John Wayne, shamefacedly pretended like they hadn’t actually gone right along with McCarthyism – which Eisenhower started calling McCarthywasm.

And there there wasn’t much question that McCarthy was history, he died in Bethesda Naval Hospital on May 2, 1957 at the age of forty-eight from hepatitis and cirrhosis of the liver.

And good goddamned riddance to Joseph McCarthy.

Though many of the abuses of the House Un-American Activities Committee were already known, the full extent of the Senate’s appalling excesses and blatant disregard for the law and Constitution only came to light in 2004, which prompted Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Carl Levin (D-MI) to issue a joint statement:

Senator McCarthy’s zeal to uncover subversion and espionage led to disturbing excesses. His browbeating tactics destroyed careers of people who were not involved in the infiltration of our government. His freewheeling style caused both the Senate and the Subcommittee to revise the rules governing future investigations, and prompted the courts to act to protect the Constitutional rights of witnesses at Congressional hearings . These hearings are a part of our national past that we can neither afford to forget nor permit to reoccur.

These hearings are a part of our national past that we can neither afford to forget nor permit to reoccur.

Yes, that is exactly correct. 

We are still feeling the effects of McCarthyism sixty years and a new century later. Much of the partisan rancor we now face can be traced directly back to Tail Gunner Joe and McCarthyism – hell, even the words are the same, commie, fascist, Nazi, un-American, traitor.

We must never allow this type of un-American persecution to reoccur. Ever again.

 

There are many ways to be an American, McCarthyism isn’t one of them.

 

Any elected official engaged in such truly un-American activities must be called out and called to account, forcefully, immediately.

If the accusations are found to be baseless, or especially if they are found to be part of a political agenda or issued for the purpose of personal gain or for inciting public hysteria and/or deliberately diverting precious resources into a witch hunt, then Congress has a duty and obligation to the people of the United States, along with the Executive, to move for immediate formal censure, if not impeachment, of any member engaged in such baseless and paranoid ravings.

Actions such as those described above are contrary to everything this country stands for. They are contrary to the Constitution and the ideals of our founders.

This type of baseless hysteria, this turning of brother against brother for nothing more than political gain, nearly destroyed us once. It must never be permitted to happen again.

It is not enough to condemn such actions on the floor of the Senate.

It is not enough to protest such witch hunts in the press.

It must be done as a formal action of the Legislature. And it must be done immediately and with alacrity.

Representative Michelle Bachmann, along with her cronies in Congress, Representatives Trent Franks, Louie Gohmert, Tom Rooney, and Lynn Westmoreland need to pony up detailed public proof of their insidious and paranoid allegations against their fellow Americans or face immediate and significant consequences.

In letters to the Inspectors General of the Department of State, Defense, and Homeland Security, Bachmann and her Lieutenants accused American citizens of un-American activities and demanded an investigation:

“It appears that there has been deep penetration in the halls of our United States government by the Muslim Brotherhood. The Muslim Brotherhood has been found to be an unindicted co-conspirator on terrorism cases and yet it appears that there are individuals who are associated with the Muslim Brotherhood who have positions, very sensitive positions, in our Department of Justice, our Department of Homeland Security, potentially even in the National Intelligence Agency.”

That statement from Bachmann is nearly indistinguishable from the words of Senator Joseph McCarthy.

“We seek answers through these letters because we will not tolerate this group and its affiliates holding positions of power in our government or influencing our nation’s leaders."

And in the wretched miserable spirit of McCarthyism, Bachmann doubled down and personally accused Huma Abedin, top aide to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, of no less than outright treason – and, of course, by implication that would make Clinton and President Obama guilty too.

Bachmann, in cowardly predictably fashion after being condemned by both her fellow Republicans and by Democrats and pilloried in the press, claims her words are being taken out of context.  She also claims she is privy to secret information that substantiates her accusation – information she’s not at liberty to share with the rest of us, just like the accusations of Joseph McCarthy and his cronies. She doesn’t bother to explain how Abedin managed to spoof her security background check (something I have personal and intimate and extensive experience with, it is quite unlikely in this post-911 world that any association with known terrorists would go unnoticed). Note that Abedin is a naturally born American who has never displayed anything other than the highest level of integrity, patriotism, and loyalty to the United States. Bachmann apparently believes that Abedin is so dedicated to her secret radical Muslim mission to infiltrate the US government that she would marry a Jew and have a child with him to further her agenda (Abedin is married to disgraced former congressman Anthony Weiner).  What’s next? Body snatching?

Of course, this hysterical nonsense is being pitched by a Birther, so I suppose secret Muslims stealing our souls and precious bodily fluids isn’t that big of stretch for this batshit crazy loon.

Bottom line, any accusation of treason, especially from a sitting member of Congress, and especially directed at a person in Abedin’s position must be immediately met with a formal demand for public proof.

Abedin and the others who stand accused, as Americans, have a right to face their accuser directly, in public and demand satisfaction.

This isn’t Salem.

This isn’t Tail Gunner Joe’s personal Subcommittee for Investigations.

This isn’t the Soviet Union and we’re emphatically not the goddamned communists.

This is the United States of America and a petty small minded hateful power mad fraud like Michele Bachmann must be held to account for her baseless and hateful and un-American actions.

Letters to my own Senators and my Representative have already gone out.

If you value your freedoms, if you value the country you live in, if you value the ideals we veterans put our lives on the line for, if you remember all those lives ruined and destroyed by the likes of Senator Joseph McCarthy, if you believe that you have the power to hold back the darkness, then stop what you’re doing right now and contact your own representatives and demand that Michele Bachmann be held to account before the American people. She needs to show proof, not vague accusation and insinuation, but proof, solid and irrefutable – or she needs to be censured and relieved of her duties on any House Committee.  And there needs to be a public polling of the House and Senate, we as Americans have the right, no the duty, to know who stands with her and who does not.

Now. Not later. Not after the election. Now.

This isn’t about Left or Right.

This isn’t about Republican or Democrat.

This isn’t about Liberal or Conservative.

This is about a malignant cancer.

A festering pustulent rot.

A deadly disease that we stamped out once, but now it’s back and it needs to be dragged into the daylight before it spreads any further.

We’ve faced this shame once before, we should never have to do it again.

McCarthy, Bachmann, Franks, Gohmert, Rooney, Westmoreland, and their cowardly cronies are a far, far greater threat to your liberty and the freedom of all Americans than any Muslim Brotherhood could ever hope to be.

Act.

Do it now.

 




Note: Previous versions of this post listed Representative Michele Bachmann as a Senator.  I have some kind of mental block about this. I know she’s a Representative and yet I still almost always manage to type “Senator” in front of her name.  Sigh. It’s fixed. I think // Jim

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Homeliest Girl in Dogpatch

The Republican National Convention starts on August 27 in Tampa, Florida.

If you’re thinking of attending, you’d better make reservations now.

Or rather, you should have started making reservations about six months ago.

The best hotels in Tampa have been booked solid for months along with the convention halls, rental cars, rental tuxedos, and RentBoys escort services. You can probably find yourself a Motel 6 out in Plant City, but anything closer than that is likely booked up by now including the campground at Lettuce Lake.

It’s going to be big – not, you know, Rush Limbaugh big, but big. Husky sized.

The first Republican National Convention in 1856 was a dinky little affair held in Pittsburgh. That convention was mostly about electing a national committee and getting things organized. The party was formed out of a diverse bunch of anti-administration types (think 1800’s version of Tea Parties), disaffected political groups, and a large number of folks opposed to the Kansas-Nebraska Act. In that first convention, Republicans established a platform that was anti-slavery but interestingly enough called for increased federal sovereignty in US territories and specifically demanded federal assistance to the transcontinental railroad (A private business who at that time was struggling financially and needed a bailout, but I digress).

Also, ironically, the new party platform was quite explicitly anti-Mormon.

Republicans met up again later that same year in Philadelphia to nominate a candidate for president, John C. Fremont, who handily beat the Know Nothing (American Party) candidate Millard Fillmore but soundly lost to Democrat James Buchanan. They did win a number of congressional seats however. Four years later, the 1860 Convention nominated Abraham Lincoln and they won their first White House. The rest, as they say, is history.

Republican National Conventions since then have been notable for certain contentious events.

For example, former Republican president Teddy Roosevelt showed up at the Republican National Convention in 1912 and challenged the incumbent William Howard Taft for the nomination in a move that nearly broke the party in half.  Roosevelt, despite being my favorite of all presidents, was engaged in a pretty blatant bit of assholery.  See, at the end of his second term Roosevelt had personally chosen Taft to be his successor, but was so disgusted with the resulting administration that he challenged his former protégé for the nomination. Taft won the nomination and Roosevelt stormed out of the GOP to form the Bull Moose Party and compete against the Republicans for the Oval Office anyway – and thereby spit the party and handed the election to Democrat Woodrow Wilson.

In 1964, Barry Goldwater beat out a bunch of Republican candidates who were much more popular with the  conservative establishment and won the GOP Nomination at the convention - and suddenly presidential primaries became almost as important and hotly contested as the general election.

At the 1976 Convention, Ronald Reagan directly challenged the Republican incumbent Gerry Ford for the nomination – and very nearly won. Given the events that transpired during the last years of the 70’s, I have to wonder how very different the world would be today be if it had been Reagan vs. Carter that year. I strongly suspect the Iranian Hostage Crisis would have had a different outcome if Reagan had beaten Carter for the Presidency in 1976 (Note that I didn’t say a better outcome).

1976 was also the last contested Republican National Convention. Contrary to early predictions, 2012 doesn’t look like it will break that string and devolve into naked mud-wrestling for the nomination – though there may be a bit of that going on in the Tampa Airport bathrooms, but I tactfully digress.

Reagan was back in 1980 and the Convention that year was about as joyful as conservatives ever get outside of a book burning. They had a sure winner that year and they knew it, nobody wanted poor hapless Jimmy Carter reelected – not even the Democrats.

By 1992 the glory days of the Reagan Revolution were emphatically over. George H. W. Bush stumbled into office on Reagan’s coattails and promised no new taxes. Instead he delivered four bemused years of material for late night comedians and talk radio hosts, both on the left and the right. The only thing Bush had going for him was that he managed to get the hell out of Iraq in under six months without killing more than a handful of American troops, a lesson apparently lost on his idiot progeny. After raising taxes, even if it was the right thing to do, Bush couldn’t have gotten himself reelected  if he was running against the rubbery preserved brain of Blondi, Hitler’s own pet German Sheppard, in a pickle jar full of onions and formaldehyde. It was pretty obvious that a liberal was going to be the next president, and not just any liberal either but a hayseed bumpkin from Arkansas with a ball-busting dyke-bitch feminist lawyer for a wife. Predictably, conservatives began uncontrollably pissing themselves in earnest and forlornly heralded the coming of the Horned One. They went back to their do-it-yer-own-damned-self homemade backyard bunkers and furiously stocked up on generators and canned beans to await the End Times. The Republican National Convention in Houston, Texas, was notable that year for the pervasive stench of desolate panic and for Pat Buchanan’s speech where he basically told progressives, moderates, and less extreme members of the GOP to fuck right off to hell, sooner rather than later. Sane republicans could have marginalized that message right then and there, instead in their Clinton-induced panic they embraced Buchanan’s extremism and thundered hard right en mass waving their bibles and automatic rifles like talismans against evil.

They’ve been stampeding in the same direction ever since, hell bent for leather and trampling the memory of Lincoln beneath their churning hooves. At this point they’re not going to veer aside until they hit a wall or charge headlong over a cliff.

The 2012 convention is unlikely to change the course of the Republican Party. Just like 2008, they’ve ended up with a lackluster candidate who reminds me of one of those cardboard cartoon cutouts they have at fairs. You know, you stick your head though the hole and somebody takes a picture of your face on the strongman’s body, or the clown, or the Wall Street executive, whatever. It’s hard to tell who Mitt is going to be this week, the guy is a chameleon in a thousand dollar suit. Conservative enthusiasm is more than a bit forced again this year. The spiritual descendants of Pat Buchanan don’t much care for Mitt Romney, just like they couldn’t stand John McCain, but Romney’s the guy they’re stuck with like it or not.

As a result, the Republican National Convention this year isn’t going to be about Mitt Romney. Indeed, the convention this year is much less about getting Romney into office than about getting Obama out.

Conservatives don’t have much love for Mitt, but they sure as hell embrace the idea of “anybody but Obama” even if they have to vote for Hitler’s pickled dog brain.

This year’s convention isn’t about how much conservatives love Mitt, it’s about how much they loathe Obama. 

Seriously, it’s the only goddamned thing these people have talked about for the last three years.

At the 2012 Republican National Convention, you’re not going to hear the modern analog of Abraham Lincoln “talking like a giant inspired” about all men being equal. Instead you’ll hear about those lazy minorities and those filthy  immigrants and the poor with their entitlement mentality. 

You’re not going to hear a Ulysses S. Grant imploring his own party to reach across the political divide and heal the nation.  What you will hear is how America is for Americans and how they’re going to take “their” country back.

You’re unlikely to hear a Theodore Roosevelt, winner of both the Medal of Honor and the Nobel Peace Prize, pounding the podium and thunderously demanding the progressive regulation of business and power, you won’t hear him speaking about the obligations that the wealthy and privileged classes owe to the nation.  No, what you’ll hear instead is how rich people and Fortune 500 companies shouldn’t have to pay taxes because they’re going to create jobs, eventually, probably, real soon now, and how regulations are bad because business has learned its lesson and will be self regulating, just like JP Morgan demonstrated yet again last week, and HSBC Bank USA is demonstrating this week before Congress. Self regulating, right.

Nor will you hear a Dwight D. Eisenhower, the great Republican president who planned and commanded the defeat of Nazi Germany and who was the first Supreme Commander of NATO, who created the Departments of Health, Education, and Welfare, extoll the virtues of expanding Social Security or the Interstate Highway System. However, if you’re really lucky, Dick Cheney might speak about his five draft deferments, after which Glenn Beck can explain how taking care of old people and helping the poor get access to healthcare is the first step to Marxism.

You’re not even going to hear any big Reaganesque ideas for restarting the economy or creating jobs or restoring America’s supposed lessened place in the world.  You’re not going to hear about bringing Americans together,  or about a shining city on a hill or even about ending a Cold War. But what you will hear is how we maybe ought to start another Cold War, with China this time or maybe India.  You’ll hear all about how shitty America is nowadays and how we just need some more tanks and stealth bombers and maybe a war with Iran or the Muslim Brotherhood to pull us out of our downward spiral.

And you’re going to hear a whole lot about that traitorous Kenyan socialist who’s stinkin’ up the White House.  He’s the Anti-Christ, you know, End Times, Armageddon, Last Days and all of that. Ook ook!

Hell, it’s already started, today Romney declared that this election is for America’s soul.

Frankly I thought the guy was creepy enough when he was just into magic underwear, now he’s after our souls.

Accordingly, everybody who’s anybody in conservatives circles will be at this year’s Republican National Convention.

Well, everybody who’s anybody except for Sarah Palin that is.

Seems she didn’t get an invite.

Not that she’s sulking or anything.

It’s her own fault, for tellin’ the truth.

“I’m sure I’m not the only one accepting consequences for calling out both sides of the aisle for spending too much money, putting us on the road to bankruptcy, and engaging in crony capitalism. In accepting those consequences, one must remember this isn’t Sadie Hawkins and you don’t invite yourself and a date to the Big Dance.”

This isn’t Sadie Hawkins and you don’t invite yourself to the big dance?

Uh, actually, Sadie, you sort of do invite yourself to these things.

And, what? She can’t get a date? Todd’s busy that night with, um, fishing? Hunting? Dancing with the Stars? What?

Of course, Sorry Sarah is all soggy and hard to light because so far she hasn’t been invited to speak (What? Now, now, let’s not be making jokes about asking the pit bull to speak. Speak, girl, speak! Good doggy, yes you are… er, I mean that would just be petty and juvenile).

I’m not really sure why this is a surprise to Ol’ Sadie. The Tea Party has made no bones about disliking Romney and neither has their Princess. Palin basically ran Romney over with her Paul Revere I’m-Not-Campaigning Campaign Juggernaut of Patriotic American Freedom here a couple months back. Palin herself never forgets a slight or an insult, ever, so, you know, not asking her to speak at the Republican Convention just seems like returning the favor to me.

And seriously, what’s she going to say in her big speech? Hey, I’ve been bashing the hell out Romney for the last year, but, uh, now, uh, pit bulls, lipstick, everybody, Mitt, Mitt, Mitt!

Yeah.

Here’s the thing, Romney doesn’t need Palin. The Tea Party is going to grit their yellowed teeth and they’re going to hold their noses and they’re damned well going to vote for Mitt Romney, because, well, anybody but Obama. You can bet money the Tea Party will turn out to vote, they don’t like Romney, but they purely hate Obama and just like sex they won’t get any pleasure from it but they’ll do their duty nonetheless. 

No, what Romney needs are the fair-weather Republicans, he needs the undecided vote, he needs the moderates – and frankly, Palin and her simple-minded word salad rhetoric and her legion of tea-maddened flesh-eating zombies turns those people right the hell off. 

Add to the fact that Romney makes more than enough verbal gaffs on his own, he really doesn’t need Palin muddying up the waters.

Not that she isn’t busy doing it anyway.

Yesterday she told Fox’s Greta Van Sustren (because, really, who else, right?) that she thought Condi Rice would make Mitt a “wonderful vice president.”

“She has much more experience than our sitting President does today.”

Really, Condi’s got more experience at being a president than Obama? Really? OK, obviously some of us haven’t moved past 2008.

Sustren asked Palin what she thought about Condi’s well known pro-choice stance.

“We need to remember, though, that it’s not the vice president that would legislate abortion, and that would be Congress’s role. And we’ll keep that in mind.”

Suddenly Palin’s all, hey, it’s OK to be pro-abortion because, you know, it’s like Congress that’ll be doin’ the legislatin’ and shit. So, we’re all good with that baby abortiony stuff now.

Really?

Seriously what the fuck?

Oh yeah, that’s what Mitt needs, right there.

Mitt Romney should be damned glad that Palin is right, this ain’t no Sadie Hawkins Day.

See in the Li'l Abner comic strip, Sadie Hawkins was the "homeliest gal in all them thar hills.” When she didn’t get invited to the dance, her father declared Sadie Hawkins Day and called together all the unmarried men in Dogpatch for a footrace.  At the threat of being shot, the men started running with Sadie close behind. The one she caught and dragged over the finish line had to marry her.

You know…

Then again, maybe that’s not such a bad idea for picking Candidates after all.

It would sure make this year in Tampa a whole lot more interesting, that’s for sure.

Run Mitt, Run!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

4th of July Reads

First, The Mudflats interviews yours truly in The Soldier, The Sailor & The Senator.  As always, thanks to Thomas Dewar and Jeanne Devon for giving me the opportunity.

 

Second, I had intended to write something today about Illinois Republican Joe Walsh, a pitiful excuse for an American if ever there was one, Left or Right.  The kind of disgusting bullshit this idiot is willfully engaged in needs to stop right now. His words and actions are disgraceful enough for any American, but they are inexcusable for an elected representative of the people. Joe Walsh’s obnoxious and infantile attacks on a decorated combat veteran for no reason other than political gain should be as offensive to veterans on the right as they are to veterans on the left. This kind of thing is an affront all Americans whatever their political affiliation and should immediately disqualify this worm from any office - he’s not fit to be a citizen let alone their representative. 

We veterans, be we Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, Airmen, or Guardsmen, we swear our allegiance to the United States of America, to all Americans, not to a political party or an ideology.

It's about time Americans returned the favor.

However, instead of writing something myself today, I will point you at the journal of the incomparable Elizabeth Moon, writer, photographer, naturalist, and United States Marine. Semper Fi, Elizabeth, Semper Fi


(H/T to my good friend, the also incomparable writer and physicist, Dr. Phil)

Monday, July 2, 2012

Here Be Monsters!

Update: About the title:  In ancient times when mapmakers didn’t know what lay beyond the edges of explored territory they would often print “Here be monsters” or “Here be dragons” or some variation of the same on the charts.  The voyage of HMS Beagle, among many other voyages of discovery, was an effort to fill in those gaps. There were no monsters, only ignorance.  There were those who cowered from the unknown, preferring to make up myth instead of seeking out the truth, and there were those who had the courage to go look for themselves.

Today, there are those, like the so-called educators described in the article below, who would erase that hard won awareness and replace it with Here Be Monsters.  These people are fearful idiots.  - Jim


 

In 1831, Charles Darwin set sail on the HMS Beagle.

Beagle’s voyage of discovery lasted nearly five years and visited many wondrous places.

Along the way Darwin formulated the genesis (sorry) of ideas that would eventually become the scientific theory of natural selection – i.e. Evolution.

Now, generally, Americans have some vague idea that Beagle visited some weird place somewhere and there were some weird birds or weird monkeys or some such weird stuff there which caused Darwin to swear unholy allegiance to Satan. More astute Americans might even be able to identify Darwin’s epiphany as having its origins (sorry) on the fabled Galapagos Islands – though the vast majority of those same Americans couldn’t find the Galapagos on a map if they were given unlimited access to an infinite number of monkeys typing on an infinite number of GPS enabled smart-phones surfing Google Earth with an infinite amount of bandwidth, but I digress. Be that as it may, Darwin spent some time there in that strange place studying rocks and birds and giant tortoises among other things.

I can understand Darwin's fascination. I've sailed to the Galapagos myself – though at the time I was studying the evolving (sorry) tactics of local cocaine smugglers and not the weird fauna which so captivated Darwin. The islands are strange and mysterious and exotic, the kind of place you’d expect to find a fifty foot tall ape who digs hot blonds and likes to climb skyscrapers, but I digress yet again.

Since Darwin’s landmark voyage and his theories have been almost completely edited out of modern American schoolbooks, it's not surprising that many Americans don’t realize that the Galapagos Islands weren’t the only place Darwin visited. In fact, Beagle circumnavigated the world on a voyage of scientific discovery like a  19th Century version of the starship Enterprise (except Darwin didn’t lose his shirt and get laid in every port, so far as we know, though he’d probably be more popular today if he had).  The ship set sail from Plymouth on December 27, 1831, under command of Captain Robert FitzRoy and voyaged first  to the Azores and Cape Verde Islands, then to the east coast of South America down to the Falklands and through Tierra Del Fuego via the Straits of Magellan. From there, the Beagle sailed north up South America’s west coast to the Galapagos. Then she turned west and made sail for Tahiti. The ship visited a number of atolls, New Zealand, Australia, Tasmania, more atolls, islands, and reefs, and then crossed the Indian Ocean to South Africa. The Beagle then sailed northwest to Ascension Island and across the South Atlantic back to Brazil.  Finally, she set course north towards the Azores once again and then on home to England, reaching Cornwall on October, 2, 1836.

You’ll note that although Beagle visited many lands she didn’t make a port-o-call in Scotland.

Yes, Jim, we see that, I hear you say in that puzzled yet curious tone you use when you’re wondering what the hell I’m going to do next and if it will involve the adorable human-like shenanigans of monkeys. The ship didn’t visit Scotland. It also didn’t visit the forests of America’s Pacific Northwest or Canada’s Lake Okanagan or the goatherds of Central America or the snowy peaks of the Himalayas or the mysterious and unknown Skull Island. Is this significant?

Of course.  And, really when have I ever mentioned the irrelevant for no reason other than my own amusement? OK, that’s a trick question but I think I’ve made my point here.

Now, Darwin’s role as the Beagle’s naturalist made him famous in scientific circles. He was always a workaholic, but after the voyage he became even more driven. Not long after the ship returned to England, Darwin was nearly incapacitated by stress and overwork and as a result he was repeatedly ordered by his doctors to take periodic rest breaks in the quiet countryside, which he did, sort of – predictably, most of his rest breaks turned into working vacations.

One of those breaks, a “geologizing” trip in the summer of 1838, was to Scotland.

Yes, Scotland again (at this point, in your head, you should be hearing the music that heralds ominous foreshadowing).

Darwin was so, so close, but unfortunately for The Truth he confined his trip to Glen Roy, an area of the Scottish Highlands, and mostly spent his time studying rocks. And it was here that Darwin made his “Gigantic Blunder,” speculating that the strange geologic formations in the area (known as the Parallel Roads) were formed by receding oceans (instead of ice damming during the last glacial period).

That wasn’t the only gigantic blunder Darwin made.

See, if he had only ventured a bit further afield, his Origin of the Species would have looked far, far different.

Yes, if Darwin had but visited Loch Ness, all would have become clear and his entire contribution to science could have been summed up in a single hyperlink to the Book of Genesis.

You see, deep beneath the cold wine-dark waters of the loch lurks irrefutable proof that not only was Darwin nuts, but that all of modern science is wrong as well.

"Are dinosaurs alive today? Scientists are becoming more convinced of their existence. Have you heard of the 'Loch Ness Monster' in Scotland? 'Nessie' for short has been recorded on sonar from a small submarine, described by eyewitnesses, and photographed by others. Nessie appears to be a plesiosaur."

A plesiosaur?

A plesiosaur, a toothy long-necked aquatic dinosaur that scientists say died out sixty-five million years ago – give or take a year or so – that plesiosaur?

Yes, that plesiosaur. Alive. And living in Scotland.

Obviously if dinosaurs live among us,  not only evolution but pretty much all of science must be wrong, including science’s assessment regarding the age of the earth.  Obviously, obviously, existence of the Loch Ness Monster proves beyond any shadow of a doubt that Noah built an Ark and survived the Great Deluge and that he carried two (or five, or seven, or maybe it was fourteen) of each animal – including dinosaurs (the Bible isn’t clear, but presumably Noah kept the plesiosaurs in a giant Zip-lock bag during the voyage like when you bring goldfish home from the store).

Holy cats!

Nessie the Scottish Plesiosaur proves that Young Earth Creationists are right! Paleontology is a crock, evolution is bunk, the Earth is six thousand years old, snakes talk, trees walk, and living dinosaurs prowl the dark corners of our world pretending to be mythical creatures hidden by the vast global conspiracy of science

I know what you’re thinking: when you phrase it like that, Jim, it all makes perfect sense!

Yes, I know. It’s a gift. From the Unicorn.

The quote above is from the actual no foolin’ science class curriculum taught to kids at Eternity Christian Academy in Westlake, Louisiana. Yes, that’s correct, the “school,” which is taxpayer funded (or soon will be, thanks to Governor Bobby Jindal’s efforts to bolster Louisiana’s reputation as a science and education powerhouse) and uses the fundamentalist Accelerated Christian Education (ACE) Curriculum, teaches its students that the Loch Ness monster is not only real but actually disproves the theory of evolution. The ACE curriculum claims to teach students how “to see life from God’s point of view” which is a neat trick given that even the best of America’s institutions of higher learning such as MIT and Harvard can’t grant degrees in omniscience.  One presumes that ACE graduates are automatic shoe-in’s for both Glenn Beck University and a lifetime membership in the GOP. ACE also offers students a “Biblically based curriculum infused with Godly character,” which frankly scares the shit out of me given God’s track record in the character department and the fact that the ACE website also offers a course in “Sharpening Your Axe.”

What?

No, I’m not, in actual point of fact, shitting you.

This so-called school, one of many in The Birdbrain Pelican State, also uses “bible-based math books” and substitutes creationism for actual biology and science texts. The school uses an “earth science” textbook that explains what God made on each of the six days of creation.  According to the pastor-principal, the school tries to “stay away from all those things that might confuse our children” – you know, like an actual education – because the offspring of creationists, delivered via stork no doubt and having not evolved along along with the rest of us, are morons.

Folks, we’re never going to get anywhere if you keep interrupting. What is it now?

Oh, yes, that. Look, bible-math is like word problems. Let me give you an example: If Joseph starts his own ministry which he then expands into a multi-billion dollar faith-healin’ salvation-sellin’ EVILolution-denyin’ Reality TV show that is broadcast on three cable channels and carried by one hundred and forty three radios stations in twenty-seven different countries, how much can he expect to clear tax-free off the top if he tells everybody that the world is going to end? For extra credit: After he become famous and buys his own senator, when Father Joe gets caught snorting cocaine out of Rentboy’s shaved bellybutton how many liberal homosexuals will he have to condemn to hell before God forgives his transgression? (The answer is: OMG! Nazis, Nazis everywhere!).

Now using the Loch Ness monster to prove creationism opens the door to some other interesting scientific proofs.

Yes, I’m talking about using a myth to “prove” another myth. So?

Look, it’s not like science, reasoned debate, or dazzling displays of logic are going to sway these chowderheads anyway. So, I say sure, let’s go all in and why the hell not?

That said, let’s check out some other elusive monsters, cryptids as they’re called, and see how they can be used to teach creation science.

We’ve already covered biology, how about World Religion Class?

Take the Pope Lick Monster for example…

 

Really? That’s how you’re going to be?

Sigh. Go on, get it out of your system, I’ll wait.

 

Done?

So, anyway, as I was saying, down in Kentucky they’ve got this thing called the Pope Lick Monster, part man, part goat, part sheep…

Stop giggling, it’s a real thing.  Look, we’re doing science here and you’re distracting the others.

Anyway, most legends of the Pope Lick Monster describe it as a hybrid man/goat with a twisted body, furry legs, and alabaster skin with an prominent aquiline nose. The Pope Licker lures the unsuspecting to their doom by appearing to be someone they trust…

Whoa.

Not laughing now, are you, Smartass? Maybe there is something to this creationism stuff after all.  If Darwin had spent time in Pope Lick, Kentucky he’d be singing a different tune (probably one involving banjos) – you spend a night in the woods there, trust me, you’re going to be praying to Jesus pretty goddamned quick.

There’s the Loveland Frog. A warty skinned humanoid with the leathery face of a toad. From Ohio. Coincidence? But, I digress.

The Loch Ness Monster as a basis for, well, I guess we can’t call it Evolutionary Biology can we? Creationary Biology then. So how about the Yeti for teaching the climatology portion of Earth Science?  You know the Yeti, Meh-Teh, Migio, Mirka, Kang Admi, The Abominable Snowman, Big Frosty – sometimes goes by the name of Steve.  Lives in Himalayan regions of Nepal and Tibet.  Snowman. Lives in the cold. Look, heat rises doesn’t it? If global warming was true, how come there’s snow on top of mountains? Pretty obvious that the Yeti proves Al Gore is a minion of the Devil. Hey, don’t blame me, folks, blame science.

We’ve got Dinosaur Biology and Snowman Climatology. You’ve heard of Voodoo Economics? Right idea, wrong myth.  Native Americans tell tales of the Wendigo, a creature who is the literal embodiment of gluttony, greed, and excess – think love child of Bernie Madoff and the Koch Brothers. Wendigos are never satisfied with sucking the life from just one person, they’re always searching for new investment opportunities. Ordinary people who give themselves over to greed and avarice can themselves turn into Wendigos.  Is it just me, or are we looking at scientifically biblical justification for unfettered Wall Street capitalism right there?

Sex Education Class? Well, there’s the Fur Bearing Trout of Montana…  Uh, you know, on second thought, never mind that one. That’s probably more of a Bible College level course.

Godless scientists say that Will-O-the-Wisps are nothing more than glowing swamp gas. Methane and phosgene gas from decaying plant matter bubbling up through water? Sure you can believe that, if you want to go to hell.  Just like you can believe that Obama isn’t a Nazi Muslim Kenyan bent to the destruction of the United States using captured UFO technology from Area 51 piloted by Bigfoot, or you can avoid eternal damnation and acknowledge that Will-O-the-wisps are really angels sent by Jesus to show petroleum companies where to drill the fracking wells.  Moses only saw a burning bush (and really, burning wood? Big Woop), we’ve got flaming water shooting out of our shower heads. Put that in your pipe and smoke it, Darwin.

What’s left? Chupacabra International Relations? The Goat Sucker, the Chupacabra, a mangy diseased creature who haunts the Southwest, it comes from Latin America, it crosses the border at night and sucks the life from our very children. Jersey-Devil Genetics? Half man, half horse, half bat, half dragon, half devil and all bad (What? It’s bible math folks, try to keep up). Jersey-Dee is what you get when you mess with stem cells. How about Blair Witch Media Arts? Ogre P.E?  Ogres eat kids, if they can catch them. Imagine an Ogre coaching your school’s Cross-Country program, those kids will run like hell – I smell championship!   Meanwhile, down in the computer lab, we’ve got trolls…

What?

Oh, right, I’m the one being silly here.

Maybe so, but I’m not the one setting my kids up for the Darwin Awards.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to stop by the enchanted wood and talk to my Leprechaun travel agent, I’m thinking about moving to the Galapagos Islands.

Or maybe Scotland.