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Saturday, April 19, 2014

Dying Of The Light

 

Rage, rage against the dying of the light!
  - Dylan Thomas, Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night

 

image

“Tourists watch the USS Mahan, an Arleigh Burke class destroyer, as it heads out to the Atlantic Ocean…”

Tourists watch the USS Mahan.

That picture and the associated caption were clipped from a March 25th, 2014, Yahoo! News article about a shooting involving the US Navy destroyer Mahan in Norfolk, Virginia.  The original article was a Reuters wire service post. The picture is attributed to photojournalist Chip East and the full Reuters caption reads,

“Tourists watch the USS Mahan, an Arleigh Burke class destroyer, as it heads out to the Atlantic Ocean through the Chesapeake Bay-Bridge Tunnel complex near Virginia Beach, Virginia in this file photo from September 16, 2003. REUTERS/Chip East.”

Tourists watch the USS Mahan.

Yeah.

The thing is … that’s not USS Mahan.

That’s not even an Arleigh Burke class destroyer.

While a Burke’s radar minimizing profile might be confused for other similar warships, the massive blockhouse superstructure of the vessel in that picture is utterly distinctive and absolutely unique and no other vessel in the world resembles that class of ship, certainly not the Mahan. To somebody who knows fighting ships, the silhouette of the vessel in that picture is impossible to mistake.

In point of fact, the ship in question isn’t even a destroyer, it is a US Navy Ticonderoga class Aegis Guided Missile Cruiser. And to be specific, the vessel in the picture is USS Vella Gulf.

Now, even though the two types of ships are distinctly different, you can sort of understand the confusion. USS Vella Gulf is a cruiser, designated CG-72.  USS Mahan is a destroyer, DDG-72. Similar hull numbers, but completely different classes of warship.

But does it matter? That mistake?

Does it?

Consider this number 32:

OJ32

and this number 32.

MJ32

While both pictures are of tall male African-American athletes, if you were writing an article involving infamous Buffalo Bills running back O.J. Simpson, but you posted a picture of Los Angeles Lakers’ point guard Magic Johnson, well, you’d be all kinds of wrong. Just like cruisers and destroyers, the two are not interchangeable.

So, okay, Reuters, one of the world’s most trusted and reliable news sources, got the ship’s identity wrong. So what? It’s infuriating to a sailor, sure, but c’mon, a warship is a warship, isn’t it? And really what makes one a cruiser and one a destroyer? And does it really matter to the average citizen? Really?

It’s just a stock image. Cruiser, destroyer, football, water polo, whatever, it’s an easy mistake to make, right?

It is.

But if you can’t get the easy stuff right, why should I believe you when it comes to the difficult things?

Why indeed. But they do, believe. Believe without justification, without fact checking, without critical thought.

And that, right there, is the whole damned problem.

 

This, my sparkly electronic friends, is the Information Age, and sloppy journalism and misinformation have consequences.

 

Confusing one picture with another is, sometimes, a small error, an innocent mistake, but those mistakes ripple outward, growing larger and larger. Over time those falsehoods, some accidents, many deliberate, left uncorrected create an alternate reality, one that bears little resemblance to the real world.

In a nation increasingly lacking in critical thinking skills and a healthy reasonable skepticism, that false reality is fast becoming indistinguishable from a dangerous and highly contagious form of mental illness.

Take a look at this:

image

That’s a screen clipping from Sarah Palin’s Facebook page dated April 9, 2014.

Palin declares “[US] Attorney General Eric Holder thinks government should force gun owners to wear special ‘identifying’ bracelets…” and then, as usual, being Palin, she self-righteously assumes the role of Lady Liberty, wraps herself in rabblerousing rhetoric and her dogmatic religion, and then proclaims herself defender of truth, justice, and the American way. Bring it on, Holder!

And the crowd goes wild.

Also, I learned the symbol of the Founding Fathers was some sort of skull and crossed bones Pirate Jesus deal, and that Swarovski Crystals – leaded glass made in Austria, birthplace of Hitler! Who’s palling around with terrorists now? Huh? Huh? (Note: tongue firmly in cheek here) – are somehow, um, hmmm, uh, see, ur … well, you know, shit, ‘Merica! USA! USA!  Okay, I admit that I honestly have no idea what the significance of the crystals are. A web search provided no enlightenment on the matter. When I casually asked an evangelical fundamentalist about it, I got an earful of “witchcraft” and something about “not a real Christian” accompanied by a lot of spittle. I asked social media, but none of the thousands of people who follow me on Facebook or Twitter could provide any concrete answer. Beats the hell out of me why Palin thinks her fetish for trashy costume jewelry was an important point when laying down a challenge to the United States government.

But I digress.

Palin’s hollow bravado was “liked” more than 40,000 times and shared more than 10,000 times on Facebook alone. More than 4000 people commented and the vast, vast majority enthusiastically agreed with Palin’s bluster. People like Laura Kenway who prayed that “God give us the wisdom to discern against the evils faced everyday [sic]” and Michael Anderson who railed against the “socialist regiem [sic].”

But see, here’s the thing, the Attorney General said no such thing.

Eric Holder never suggested that gun owners be forced to wear identifying marks of any kind. Never.

Palin, who specifically invoked her religion – a religion that explicitly and in no uncertain terms forbids her from bearing false witness – falsely condemns the Attorney General for something he never said. And, not to be pedantic or anything, but it would appear that Palin worshipper Laura Kenway’s plea to her deity went unanswered, since Kenway is obviously lacking in the wisdom, god given or otherwise, to discern the difference between that particular “sin” and truth.  Now it may appear that I’m digressing again, but that lack of critical thinking and healthy skepticism is a big part of my point.

Here’s the thing: Palin didn’t come up with this bit of paranoid gibberish on her own.  Predictably she got it from her erstwhile employers, specifically from an article posted on Fox News Politics on April 8th (the day before Palin’s post) entitled Holder: We Want To Explore Gun Tracking Bracelets

Say what you like about Fox News, they know their audience. Eric Holder is to conservatives what the dinner bell was to Pavlov’s dog and people like Palin can always be counted on to bark furiously and run around in frantic circles biting at their collective tails whenever the Attorney General’s name comes up.

As is the usual tactic with Fox, the title is a form of psychological warfare, information manipulation – specifically a technique called “Insertion” used to subconsciously imprint a concept on a target population, or reinforce an existing concept. The title is a logical fallacy, that is it begs the question, it’s a self-contained form of circular reasoning, i.e. Holder wants to take away your Second Amendment rights. How do you know he wants to take away your guns? Because he’s Eric Holder.  ‘Round and ‘round, bark bark bark, lather, rinse, repeat as necessary. 

But you have to give Fox their due, they are very, very good at this. The article is careful to provide the barest modicum of Holder’s actual statement without in any way justifying the explicit accusation in the title – and Fox doesn’t have to. The title is the whole message. Fox has a very low opinion of its audience (and if Palin is any example, justifiably so) and it knows that most won’t bother to read past the title. You can tell the tactic is effective by looking at the quantitative indicators, what military tacticians call “Measure of Effect (MOE).”  In this case, an immediate and easily computed MOE would be 10,000 shares on social media from one source alone. And you could break that down into whatever degree of resolution you want, i.e. number of shares that mindlessly accept the information without comment or objection,  number that embellish the information without prompting, estimate of total views based on total number of interlinked Facebook ‘Friends,’ and the part that pays: the number of Fox News page-loads resulting directly from social media or from related search topics.

Long term MOE is, of course, the unshakable conviction that Eric Holder – and by extension, Barack Obama – are coming to take your guns.

The bottom line is this: with this article and many others exactly like it, the concept that Fox (or rather Fox’s hidden Kingmaker) wants, i.e. OMG! Liberals! Liberals are coming to take your guns! has been effectively inserted into the target audience and has become self-reinforcing and self-propagating and no amount of logic, reason, or fact can displace it.

The actual article is just window dressing – and you can test that for yourself.

This is propaganda in its most effective form.

And yes, this was my primary military specialty, Information Warfare, I literally helped write the book on it (or rather the Warfare Publication). I know it when I see it.

In reality, of course, far from tattooing gun owners with The Mark of the Beast, the Attorney General was actually discussing various ideas currently being examined by the Department of Justice to help reduce gun violence.

Appearing before a House subcommittee, Holder was describing technology that would render a gun inoperable by anyone except for its lawful owner. Here’s what Eric Holder actually said:

"I think that one of the things that we learned when we were trying to get passed those common sense reforms last year, Vice President Biden and I had a meeting with a group of technology people and we talked about how guns can be made more safe. By making them either through finger print identification, the gun talks to a bracelet or something that you might wear, how guns can be used only by the person who is lawfully in possession of the weapon. It's those kinds of things that I think we want to try to explore so that we can make sure that people have the ability to enjoy their Second Amendment rights, but at the same time decreasing the misuse of weapons that lead to the kinds of things that we see on a daily basis.”

Note that Holder’s comments are actually quoted in the Fox News article, but if you look at the comments from readers underneath the article – and at Palin’s knee jerk response – you’ll see that, like I said above, nobody reads them. Or if they do, they read the comments with an eye already willingly biased by the title, exactly as Fox intended.

But in point of fact, Holder wasn’t talking about branding gun owners, he was talking about a safety device, could be a bracelet, a ring, a fob, etc, that needs to be in close proximity to its associated gun in order for that weapon to fire. Alternately, as fictionally portrayed in the most recent James Bond movie, Skyfall, the gun could have a fingerprint or other biometric sensor, coded to a specific user or users.  That way, if somebody steals your gun they can’t fire it – and it would make fencing stolen weapons much less profitable, and perhaps thus reduce gun thefts such as the recent spate of home robberies plaguing Sarah Palin’s own neighborhood (and mine) here in the Alaskan Matsu. With such safeguards, if somebody were to get your gun away from you (say like in the recent fatal shooting of a Navy Sailor by an intruder on Navy Base Norfolk which involved the crew of the ship I mentioned in the introduction to this essay), they can’t turn the gun against you. And such a lockout device would prevent a child from discharging the weapon should they come across it accidentally (not that any patriotic 2nd Amendment worshipping, flag waving, Nugent loving, NRA trained gun owner would, you know, leave their loaded gun laying around where any kid could just pick it up – not more than, you know, a couple thousand times a year, I mean). 

Gun manufacturers have been exploring such safeguards on their own. Not so much out of altruism, but out of self-interest.

Inclusion of such devices moves the burden of responsibility back to the gun owner and away from the manufacturer – and thus reduces the manufacturer’s legal liability. Law enforcement has been interested in such devices for a long time, for the safety of their own personnel, especially in places such as prisons or for cops that routinely have to operate in close quarters to the public. The thing is that from a manufacturing standpoint the lockout needs to be reliable, cost effective, and difficult to circumvent. This technology has been in development for decades, hell, Smith & Wesson showed us some prototype lockout technology when the Navy sent me to train at Smith & Wesson’s Range Master Academy in Springfield back in 1993. The state of the art has advanced considerably since those first clunky attempts. RFID lockout technology is available from German manufacturer Armatix right now, in their iP1 22LR pistol. Is it feasible for large scale use now? Is it affordable? Is it reliable? Is it ready for primetime? That’s what Holder was talking about, and why he told the House committee the DOJ was requesting $382.1 million in increased spending for fiscal year 2014, which would include funding for the exploration of gun safety technology grants and which would be used as financial incentives to gun manufacturers for technologies that are "proven to be reliable and effective."

Yes, that’s correct, Holder wasn’t demanding that gun owners be belled like the proverbial cat, he was actually asking Congress to give money to gun makers.

 

I’ll just pause for a moment so you can let that soak in while you review Palin’s reaction to a completely manufactured outrage.

 

Note that hardcore conservative gun rights advocates, such as Palin, are vehemently opposed to such “smart gun” technology, seeing it as some vast conspiracy to, well, I dunno, violate their right to kill people accidentally, I guess.

Eric, you can replace my identifying bracelets with your government marker when you pry them off my cold dead wrists. And, Eric, “you don’t want to go there,” Buddy.

Except that Holder didn’t “go there.” Holder never said anything about “forcing gun owners to wear special identifying bracelets.”  He never said anything whatsoever about a “government marker.”

Cliven Bundy in Nevada needs you! God Bless America and Damn the Socialist [Regime].

And there you have it, the whole thing, from birth to grave: a) The Attorney General makes a benign, routine request for funds, asking Congress to address a chronic problem that kills more Americans every year than died in the 911 attack and the subsequent wars, b) a news agency deliberately manipulates his testimony to play on the artificially manufactured fears of its audience and thereby create an exploitable (i.e. profitable) issue where none actually exists, c) which in turn causes low-intellect pundits and political celebrities to predictably bleat hysterical bravado in order to score points with their fanatical cognitively-challenged followers, which is then d) taken as valid information by tens of thousands of people in confirmation of their paranoid conspiracy theories and retransmitted to their friends who then share it with their friends and so on until it becomes a permanent part of an altered reality for a significant fraction of the population and thereby ensures the news network a dedicated audience in perpetuity.

As much as Sarah Palin likes to think she’s a political force to be reckoned with, she’s nothing more than a enthusiastic dupe in a larger process who can always be counted on to reflexively bark as needed.

And Sarah Palin has got nothing on Alex Jones.

A while back Alex Jones’ paranoia-porn fetish site, Infowars, posted a piece entitled: 30 Examples of Why America Is No Longer A Free Country.  The post wasn’t really an article and made no actual attempt to discuss the title, rather it was just a page of links to mostly other Infowars pieces and conspiracy sites such as Prison Planet in an orgy of self-gratification - that’s the hallmark of this kind of thing, circular reasoning, the references are almost always just links back to itself like the aforementioned dog chasing its tail.

The post begins:

The nanny state is no longer just on steroids, it has turned into the Incredible Hulk as collectivism, pernicious bureaucracy, regulation, mass surveillance and outright tyranny runs wild across the country.

Outright tyranny. Running wild. Across the country. Like the Hulk. Ook! Ook!

Big Green Tyranny.

In support of that statement, the post offers up links to various panicky screeds about how parents are being jailed for letting their kids play outside, big government’s war on lemonade stands, compulsory recycling and the Green Police, various Department of Justice and Obama administration edicts that label good God fearing patriots as terrorists, the various outrages of the TSA, the various outrages of the EPA, the various outrages of NSA, “fluoride poisoned” tap water, drones, more drones, still more drones, and every overblown feverish fear you’d care to imagine. 

If you like your paranoia concentrated to triple espresso strength, this is the place.

Let’s look at a sample. Here’s one of the “30 Examples of why America is no longer a free country:”

- Earlier this year we reported on how the FBI was telling businesses to treat people who use cash to pay for a cup of coffee as potential terrorists.”

Say what? The FBI instructed businesses to treat people who pay for a cup of coffee with cash as terrorists?

The FBI says people who pay for a drink with cash should be regarded as terrorists?

Terrorists?

Just for paying in cash?

For a cup of coffee?

Oh, why yes, yes that does sound like something the Federal Bureau of Intimidation would do! Why it’s an outrage! And outrage! How dare those fascist bastards treat Americans like terrorists! Government run amok! Amok! Freedom is dead in America! Ook! Ook! Bark! Bark! Bark!

Clicking on the link takes you down the rabbit hole to, naturally, another Infowars article titled:

FBI: Paying Cash For a Cup of Coffee a ‘Potential Indicator of Terrorist Activity’

Note the format, it’s exactly the same as the previous Fox News example: FBI says conservatives are terrorists! How do we know it’s true? FBI. Duh.

From the Infowars article:

An FBI advisory aimed at Internet Cafe owners instructs businesses to report people who regularly use cash to pay for their coffee as potential terrorists.

The flyer, issued under the FBI’s Communities Against Terrorism (CAT) program, lists examples of “suspicious activity” and then encourages businesses to gather information about individuals and report them to the authorities.

[…]

Indeed, the flyer aimed at Internet Cafe owners characterizes customers who “always pay cash” as potential terrorists.

The article goes on to say that the vast majority of innocent patriotic citizens who use internet cafes pay in cash.  Because who pays for a $2 cup of coffee with a credit card? 

I think the author was mixing up internet café with coffee shop, even so I’d sure like to know where it is that I can get a large latte with internet access for $2, because I’d be writing this essay there and I don’t care if the FBI does put me on the No-Fly list.

But, again, I digress.

The article goes on to describe additional assaults on our freedoms:

Other examples of suspicious behavior include using a “residential based Internet provider” such as AOL or Comcast, the use of “anonymizers, portals, or other means to shield IP address” (these are routinely used by mobile web users to bypass public Internet filters), “Suspicious communications using VOIP,” and “Preoccupation with press coverage of terrorist attack” (this would apply to the vast majority of people who work in the news or political blogging industry).

Searching for information about “police” or “government” is also listed as a potential indication of terrorism, as is using a computer to “obtain photos, maps or diagrams of transportation, sporting venues, or populated locations,” which would apply to virtually anyone who uses Google Maps or Google Earth.

People who may wish to keep private the contents of a personal email or an online credit card purchase by attempting to”shield the screen from view of others” are also characterized as potential terrorists.

The article then describes the final outrage: America has become a fascist state like Nazi Germany where citizens are encouraged to spy on each other and report honest god fearing patriots to the FBI as terrorists (after gathering information on the suspect such as license plate numbers, names, ethnicity, and languages spoken).

Sounds pretty bad, doesn’t it?

Sounds just like something Obama would do, doesn’t it? Sure it does, especially if you already believe he’s out to get you.

The FBI says people who pay for a cup of coffee with cash should be regarded as potential terrorists and you should report them to the government.

Fascism! Gestapo! Ook! Ook! Bark! Bark!

But, see, the thing is that’s not what the FBI said. At all. Not even close.

And in fact, the FBI didn’t say it.

Here’s one of the actual flyers. I couldn’t tell you how many Internet cafés this actually ended up in, but type “Communities against terrorism” into Google’s image search and you’ll find it plastered on every anti-government, patriot, and conspiracy website worth its yellow-eyed paranoia:

image

If you can’t read that, you can view a larger version in PDF format here.

Look at the document carefully. Carefully. It’s supposed to be from the federal government.

What’s missing?

I’m sure you noticed it right away. Of course you did.

Any document put out by the US federal government has a Government Printing Office index number, typically in the bottom right-hand corner.

Do you see such an index number on this document?

No? Well, that’s because it wasn’t issued by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Despite the fact that the flyer is titled with official looking seals from the Bureau of Justice Assistance (the state/community assistance division of the Department of Justice) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the information outlined in the document is indeed based on common Counter-Terrorism guidelines, it’s not actually put out by either of those agencies.

This flyer is, in fact, a product of a joint state/city initiative – specifically the City of Los Angeles’ Joint Regional Intelligence Center (JRIC).

And if you look at the JRIC email address on the flyer, www.jric.org, you’ll note that it’s not a .gov address. Because JRIC isn’t a federal agency, nor is it run by the FBI – though JRIC does partner with federal agencies, including the FBI, along with dozens of other state and city agencies.

JRIC was established in 2006 as a cooperative effort between federal, state, and local law enforcement, fire fighters, emergency services, and public safety agencies to “centralize the intake, analysis, synthesis, and appropriate dissemination” of terrorism-related threat intelligence for the greater Los Angeles area and the Southern California region. In 2010, they incorporated counter-narcotics intelligence operations for the same area – being as narcotics trafficking is a major problem in this area and typically carried out by criminal entities that are little different from actual terrorist organizations, and may in fact actually mask terrorist operations. The center serves as Southern California’s central clearing house for intelligence relating to crime, terrorism, and public safety. It incorporates local, state, and federal information into what’s commonly referred to as “fusion intelligence.” 

According to their mission statement:

The JRIC area of responsibility includes the counties of Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, and Ventura. Covering nearly 40,000 square miles, and home to more than 18.5 million people, the region contains nationally critical assets and key resources whose smooth functioning directly affect the day-to-day health of the US economy, including national supply chains, logistics backbones, and energy security.

Remember the aftermath of 911? Remember all those Congressional commissions and all those think tank studies? Some, such as the Official Congressional 9/11 Commission Report blamed the FAA.  Some studies blamed the CIA, some the FBI, some the Pentagon and the White House, and some blamed local law enforcement.  The one thing all of those studies had in common, the one thing they all agreed on, was that the various and multitude information gathering and intelligence agencies of the US and her allies didn’t work well together. The FBI, CIA, NSA, DIA, DEA, FAA (there was no TSA or Department of Homeland Security then, just hundreds of public and private outfits providing varying degrees of airline security), Immigration, Border Patrol, Navy Intelligence, Army Intelligence, Air Force Intelligence, and the various and disparate federal, state, and local law enforcement and information agencies – there was no process or incentive to make these organizations work together, and so 19 terrorists managed to slip onto four airplanes and kill nearly 3000 people and destroy billions upon billions of dollars in property and infrastructure, not to mention precipitate two wars and numerous other military actions that killed hundreds of thousands more and cost trillions upon trillions of dollars.

In the aftermath of 911, remember the one overriding question? The one question every single America demanded to know?

It turned out that we had all the information before the attack.

It turned out that we knew about those guys long before September 11th, 2001.

It turned out that a number of intelligence analysts were concerned that something like 911 was coming.

So how come we didn’t stop it?  That’s the question.

We didn’t stop it because all that information was in bits and pieces scattered across a dozen intelligence agencies. The information was never combined or shared, and therefore never reached actionable attention over the thousands of other threats we face every single day. 

The one thing that we learned in the smoldering aftermath of 911 was that our intelligence agencies have to do a better job of working together at the local, state, and federal levels. They all have to be in the same room together. And they have to operate at the state or regional level, just like all these anti-big government folks have been demanding. 

The JRIC, and 77 similar regional facilities across the nation are a direct result of that lesson, they are fusion centers at the city and regional level.

But there was something else we learned from 911. 

It’s not enough for just the professionals to exchange information. They also have to listen to regular citizens, the people on the street and in the coffee shops and on the internet forums and in the churches and the mosques, those folks who see something suspicious but have no idea who to tell. 

That’s what this flyer is, guidelines for the average citizen, for Americans who are concerned with the protection of their neighborhoods and towns and cities and airplanes and trains and schools and country.   This isn’t about turning Americans into Gestapo informers, it’s not about denying anybody their rights, it’s not about fascism or taking away liberty and freedom. It’s about people doing their duty as citizens to help protect their fellows from another 911, from another Pearl Harbor, from another Oklahoma Federal Building, from another Columbine.

When I was the Intelligence officer onboard USS Valley Forge (a sister ship to USS Vella Gulf, mentioned above. Why, yes, I do indeed know a Ticonderoga class cruiser when I see one, I served on five of them), in addition to my highly skilled and motivated intelligence team – men who were specially trained in various facets of military intelligence – my biggest asset was the ship’s general crew. Those crewmen didn’t have the security clearance to know the bigger picture or to participate in the actual intelligence work my team did every day, but they were eyeballs and brains.  My team trained the crew to be part of the process, to actively help protect the ship and the fleet, to pay attention and look for the unusual in foreign ports or pier-side or out on the open sea.  And they did.  They were smart men and women who had a vested interest in defending their ship and their country and they provided valuable early warning on countless occasions, which then helped steer my dedicated specialists in the right direction. That’s one of the reasons Valley Forge achieved one of the highest force protection ratings ever awarded by the Navy. And that’s why Valley Forge was selected as the CNO’s Intelligence Collector of the year for 2003 and why every ship in the fleet looked to us as the benchmark.  Asking citizens to report suspicious activity, even if it turns out to be nothing, is no different.  How many school shootings have been prevented because students took it upon themselves to tell a teacher when they heard rumors of a hit list or potential shooter?  Does that mean those students are Nazi stooges? Well, does it? Or does it make them responsible citizens? Same thing.

Now, go back and look at what that flyer actually says:

People who might be up to no good, you know, like the 911 hijackers who were living in the US and doing these very things, people like Tim McVeigh and Terry Nichols, people like Major Nidal Malik Hasan, might exhibit some of these indicators:

* Are overly concerned about privacy, attempts to shield the screen from view of others
* Always pay cash or use credit card(s) in different name(s)
* Apparently use tradecraft: lookout, blocker or someone to distract employees
*  Act nervous or suspicious behavior inconsistent with activities
*  Are observed switching SIM cards in cell phone or use of multiple cell phones
*  Travel illogical distance to use Internet Café

Activities on Computer could include:

* Evidence of a residential based internet provider (signs on to Comcast, AOL, etc.)
* Use of anonymizers, portals, or other means to shield IP address
* Suspicious or coded writings, use of code word sheets, cryptic ledgers, etc.
* Encryption or use of software to hide encrypted data in digital photos, etc.
* Suspicious communications using VOIP or communicating through a PC game
* Download content of extreme/radical nature with violent themes
* Gather information about vulnerable infrastructure or obtain photos, maps or diagrams of transportation, sporting venues, or populated locations
* Purchase chemicals, acids, hydrogen peroxide, acetone, fertilizer, etc.

And people engaged in terrorist activities might download files with “how-to” content such as:

* Content of extreme/radical nature with violent themes
* Anarchist Cookbook, explosives or weapons information
* Military tactics, equipment manuals, chemical or biological information
* Terrorist/revolutionary literature
* Preoccupation with press coverage of terrorist attacks
* Defensive tactics, police or government information
* Information about timers, electronics, or remote transmitters / receivers

All of these things, taken together or in part, are indicators of possible terrorist activity.  Even if you’ve never had professional intelligence , counter-terrorism, or law enforcement training you know that, or you damned well should because we Americans have had enough terrorist attacks over the last two decades that every single citizen, just like every Israeli and every Russian and every European, should damned well recognize these things as possible indicators.

- Earlier this year we reported on how the FBI was telling businesses to treat people who use cash to pay for a cup of coffee as potential terrorists.”

Is that what this flyer says? Is it? Really.

Does the government think that anybody who pays for a cup of coffee with cash must be a terrorist?

Is this, right here, the tolling death knell of freedom?

Well no, not unless you’re an idiot, not unless you’re a hysterical unhinged paranoid, not unless you cherry pick the words specifically to support your conspiracy theory.  And certainly not if you look at what else the flyer actually says:

Some of the activities, taken individually, could be innocent and must be examined by law enforcement professionals in a larger context to determine whether there is a basis to investigate. The activities outlined on this handout are by no means all-inclusive but have been compiled from a review of terrorist events over several years.

and

It is important to remember that just because someone’s speech, actions, beliefs, appearance, or way of life is different; it does not mean that he or she is suspicious.

and

Each indictor listed above, is by itself, lawful conduct or behavior and may also constitute the exercise of rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. In addition, there may be a wholly innocent explanation for conduct or behavior that appears suspicious in nature. For this reason, no single indicator should be the sole basis for law enforcement action. The totality of behavioral indicators and other relevant circumstances should be evaluated when considering any law enforcement response or action.

Every single thing that Infowars says about this subject is wrong. Demonstrably wrong. Provably wrong.  They got the issuing agency wrong. They got the contents of the message wrong. They got the target of the alert wrong. They got the area of dissemination wrong. They got the intention wrong. They’re wrong. And what does that tell you about the bigger picture, the message that this article is supposed to support, 30 examples of why America is no longer a free country? The only way you get to OMG! Fascism! from this flyer is to deliberately ignore sanity and reason and a legitimate need for all free citizens to take part in the defense of their community with brains and eyes and common sense – instead of just brandishing their guns and shouting USA! USA!

If, as these same loons are wont to point out, the Founders intended every citizen to keep and bear arms in defense of their country, then surely those self same Founders would expect those self same citizens to keep an eye peeled for danger. You think?

Infowars used their erroneous assumptions and agenda-driven analysis to support a larger erroneous conclusion, it’s a house of cards, and it’s just plain wrong.

Every single article and post on Infowars, every single one, is as faulty, as misleading, as incomplete, as hysterically hyperbolic, as provably wrong, as this one.  Every. Single. One. Bark! Bark! Bark! Don’t take my word for it, go look for yourself – and be sure to read all the comments.

Despite being wrong, utterly wrong, Alex Jones and Infowars are widely popular and you don’t have to go any further than the comments under any article to see that just like Sarah Palin’s dogmatic followers this false information is taken as true gospel by tens of thousands of people.  These people want to believe in a false reality, they want to believe in conspiracy theories, they want to believe that their government is evil, they want to believe that the biblical Anti-Christ sits in the White House and that the so-called End Times are upon us, they want to believe that the President is plotting their demise because that justifies their hatred and bigotry and their miserable unhappiness. They want to believe it. They want a revolution and they want a war and they want to shoot down those they feel unworthy of America in an orgy of bloody violence. They dream about it. They hope for it. They pray to their god for it every single day. And, no, that’s not hyperbole, that is taken directly from their comments on Infowars and Sarah Palin’s Facebook page. Again, go look for yourself, I included the appropriate links in the text.

And these things have consequences.

Bad consequences.

Which brings us at long last to Bunkerville, Nevada.

I don’t recognize them having any jurisdiction or authority over this land!
  - Cliven Bundy

These people are perfectly willing to start shooting Americans, they’re just looking for an excuse.

Whether it’s a honest mistake like a mislabeled image (which Reuters refuses to correct, no matter how many times the error is pointed out), whether it’s a deliberate attempt to reshape public opinion for financial and/or political gain, or whether it’s made-up creationist mythology masquerading as science, the increasing degree of false and incorrect information that too often shapes our world has become self-perpetuating and forms the foundation of a widespread public perception that bears little resemblance to actual reality. Provably so.

And that false reality leads increasingly to a sense of persecution by a significant fraction of the population, who then consume each other in a self-cannibalizing feedback loop via media pundits and TEA parties and SuperPACs and big-moneyed manipulation and self-serving politicians until they are convinced armed upheaval and civil war are necessary in the name of Liberty.

These people have claimed for themselves the spiritual mantle of America’s Founders.

They are provably deluded. There is an enormous difference between America’s Founding Fathers and those who would rise up in a second American revolution of kooks, cranks, and conspiracy theorists – like the rabble who swarmed to Bunkerville, Nevada, last week waving their guns in defense of a career criminal and serial scofflaw.

The men who rose in rebellion against King George were highly educated critical thinkers, the most brilliant political and military minds of their time, and they regarded reality as it actually existed. 

The various would-be Minutemen, like those rallying to Bunkerville today, are nothing more than hot-eyed dupes in thrall to an artificial reality that they themselves helped to create though a lack of critical thinking and a willingness to believe any lunacy no matter how ridiculous so long as it plays to their small fears.

The Founders’ grievance with the Crown was legitimate and not the product of self-spawning conspiracy theories. They truly were being denied full rights and citizenship as subjects of the monarchy. They truly were taxed without representation. They truly were without a say in their own governance. They truly did face absolutism without the right to petition the state for redress. They were forced into open rebellion only as a last resort, regretfully, and their reasons for such have withstood the analysis of history and the judgment of morality for more than two centuries.

The gun waving lunatics surrounding Bunkerville are not being oppressed in any fashion. They have lost no rights whatsoever. Though their strident complaints are manifold, they have the First Amendment right to petition the federal government for redress, they can have their day in court – and have, many times – but they refuse to respect the results of the very constitutional process they claim to revere as holy writ. None have been shot down – and, in point of fact, the only ones pointing guns and threatening violence are these so-called patriots. None have been arrested without cause. None have been tear-gassed or beaten with batons or set upon by police dogs. None have been denied due process. None have been forced to quarter soldiers in their homes. None have been denied the right to practice their religion. None have been denied access to the press. None have been denied their right to assemble.  None have been subject to unreasonable search and seizure. None have been convicted of capital crimes without a grand jury, none have been subject to double jeopardy, none were forced to bear witness against themselves or were tortured into confession, none were deprived of property that they held lawful title to without just compensation. None were denied a speedy trial or access to legal counsel, or the right to confront witnesses, or judgment by a jury of their peers, or subjected to excessive bail.

The very fact that they have come from across the country unmolested and unimpeded, waving their guns and bibles at federal officers and giving voice in open contempt for government, that very fact, that one right there, succinctly demonstrates that their furious protests, stoked by the media and the pundits and professional politicians and the false reality they exist in, is utterly without merit.

They themselves are proof that they are wrong.

Hell, none of these people were even denied the right to contraception or an abortion or even healthcare if they so desired it.

Though truthfully, it being Nevada, it must be said that some of them might have been unfairly denied the right to get married, but they’d probably deny it … and, yet again, I digress.

Our forefathers took up arms specifically because they were denied the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

These people threaten bloodshed because they’re afraid of a tyranny that exists only in their fevered imagination.

America’s founders rebelled because they had no other choice.

These people have myriad choices, choices they would deny others.

And that’s the difference, right there.

These people exist in a false reality, a world of mass media hysteria created by mistakes big and small and shaped by unfounded fear writ large.

They would gleefully burn civilization to the ground and dance on the bones of the weak and unfortunate, they are the mob who with malice aforethought intend to spill the blood of their fellow countrymen, solely for their own selfish delusions.

They are barbarians at the gate.

Sooner or later they will succeed.

Unless we stop them.

Looking at the US Constitution there is a limit of 40 acres to what the government can own, and that was for harbors and forts. Sorry, I cannot find where it says that, but it is there.
    - Mordecai, Constitutional “expert,” Regarding the Bundy standoff
       Comment ID: 3003254, April 10, 2014 at 11:14 pm, SHTFplan.com

177 comments:

  1. Thank you, Jim. Just -- thank you.

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  2. Spot on, Jim. Spot on.

    But what can we do?

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    1. I have the same question, Joshua -- and it's JIM'S FAULT! His posts are SUCH apathy-killers ....

      Specifically, I'm curious if anybody here knows if there's any value in trying to breathe some life back into the FCC?

      As I understand it -- but corrections are welcome -- that the chief reason Sarah Palin et al can broadcast their blatant, destructive lies with total impunity is:

      "a court case that Fox won [in 2003], which essentially gave the media the right to lie. This came from an appellate court decision that states that the FCC’s news distortion policy does not qualify as a rule, law, or regulation."

      http://kstreet607.com/2012/04/20/the-origin-of-fox-news-blatant-lies-re-post-2/

      A long time ago, I worked in TV production but only in "entertainment" programming, not in "news."

      The reason for the quotation marks: as I recall, back then "news" was a special designation granted to programming by (I THINK) the FCC which carried certain benefits but also required strict adherence to certain guidlines i.e. broadcast journalism ethics, "the public good," etc.

      Unfortunately, between the above-mentioned court case and FCC de-regulation in general, the rules regarding what constitutes "news" seem to have disappeared -- at least, here in the U.S. Our northern neighbors, however -- too often unfairly ridiculed as "backward" -- appear once again to be far more FORWARD-thinking than US'ns:

      "Canadian regulators made a decision in early 2011 to uphold a law that forbids lying on broadcast news ... the provision has been cited as the reason that Fox News and right wing talk radio have been shut out of Canada almost entirely."

      (Excerpted from an article posted in "Communication Law in Review" called "Curbing Deception: Why the FCC Should Establish Formal News Distortion Regulations for Broadcast Programming" --
      http://commlawreview.org/Archives/CLRv13i1/CLRv13i1_Curbing_Deception_Ring.pdf
      )

      Setting aside for a moment the fact that it'd take a literal TSUNAMI of public support ... does anyone know if there's even a snowball's chance in HELL of such a law being enacted here in the U.S.?

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    2. Only if the Faux Noise followers are told it will curb the "lies" of the liberal media. If they can be sold that they'd be screaming for it. But fat chance Fox is going to allow their followers to go anywhere near a law like that.

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    3. I wonder if Canada would have any interest in setting up a series of radio jammers along the border to keep out FOX and right-wing talk radio...

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  3. I have to admit that I have been very frustrated with some people I know. It is weird because some of them are not stupid and craft very logical arguments. Logical arguments based on completely false premises! It is crazy. If I am honest, it also scares me. What madness will these people drag us into?

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  4. THIS: "These people want to believe in a false reality, they want to believe in conspiracy theories, they want to believe that their government is evil, they want to believe that the biblical Anti-Christ sits in the White House and that the so-called End Times are upon us, they want to believe that the President is plotting their demise because that justifies their hatred and bigotry and their miserable unhappiness." I wish I had written that. Perfect.

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    1. And they want to believe that "standing up" to the imaginary oppression of these imaginary conspiracies makes them Brave American Heroes. Of course their brave resistance to tyranny seems to be buying guns, watching Duck Dynasty, glaring at their saner neighbors, and nodding along with Fox. I'm sure their medals are in the mail.

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  5. Thanks, great essay.
    Couple of editing nitpicks: lots of extra "r"s, especially in the first several instances of "Info(r)wars"
    Were the pre- 9/11 agencies desperate or disparate?
    Intelligence office or officer? (That's where those r's should be!)

    I love the argument that "They themselves are proof that they are wrong".

    Bruce

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    1. Thanks for the assist, Bruce. Fixed.

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    2. Another one: "...my highly skilled and motived..." I think you mean motivated, don't you

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    3. Thanks for writing this.

      One more nitpick -- "agrenda" instead of "agenda"

      - Heather G

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    4. Got it. Fixed. Again, thanks. //Jim

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    5. Jim was practicing for Pirate day with those extra 'r's.

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    6. Okay, I have to pick one nit also: "Whether it’s a honest mistake like a mislabeled image" -- an honest.

      Other than that, Jim, I am sitting here awed, depressed, and despondent at your incisive summation of where we as a nation are, and what this implies.

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  6. Most excellent essay, Jim. These deluded people are desperately trying to create a self-fulfilling prophecy of Armageddon. Scares the crap out of me.

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  7. 1. Really excellent. You explain so clearly how so many worrying trends are all part of the same problem. Depressing as all hell, though.

    2. "rinse, lather, repeat" should be "lather, rinse repeat"?

    Diane

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    1. "rinse, lather, repeat" should be "lather, rinse repeat"?

      I love you so hard for that attention to detail. Just, so so hard. Beautiful.

      I'll fix it, just for you. Thanks!

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    2. ;-) I'm just a wanna-be copy editor. Who totally loves your stuff.

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    3. I dunno. I kind of like it the other way 'round. Something about "lather" bringing to mind foaming at the mouth yet again after rinsing.

      woof.

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    4. I dunno, "Rinse, Lather, Repeat" reminds me of the GOP's "Ready, Shoot, Aim." tactics.

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    5. And besides, don't you have to wet the surface before you can whip up a lather?

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  8. when the anger and frustration of living in Dumfuckistan overwhelm me, i come here and read -- both the text and the comments -- and i at least feel i'm not alone. :-/

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    1. "Dumfuckistan" just might be the most perfect word I've heard or read in a very long time. Thank you for that addition to my vocabulary.

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    2. i wish i could take credit for it, but i can't even remember where i heard it first. i find myself repeating, though, "i'm so tired of living in ...." :-)

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    3. The first time I saw it, it was a map of the 2010 election results, with all the red states labeled "Dumbfuckistan."

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    4. 'Dumbfuckistan' is now one of my new favorite words. Ever.

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    5. Its from an SNL Santa Claus sketch that aired after Bush's reelection in 2004.

      Wonderful article, sir.

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  9. Greg - ETC(SW) USN - RetiredApril 22, 2014 at 8:04 PM

    Great post - captured the delusional, along with their delusions.

    Oh, and you had me for a bit at the beginning. I kept saying, that doesn't look like an Arleigh Burke destroyer and then, as I read, I realized - hey, that's the point. One of those little things that does nag a sailor - when others get ship types/names wrong. It's that itch, you just can't scratch.

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    1. I'm a bird lover, and a huge fan of continuity - I used to watch old period-piece movies with my mother and we would try to spot the guy who forgot to take off his wrist watch. It always irks me greatly when I see a film that has a crow making owl noises. Or they show a placid lake, and you hear loon calls, and they show a picture of a goose. I think it that played a factor of why I enjoyed "The Big Year" so much, they made the propensity for Hollywood to get it wrong into a joke with faked birds with far-fetched names. So what's the big deal, its a duck making loon sounds? - Not such a big thing when all is considered in the world, right? I disagree because our kids watch these things and whether they realize it or not they soak up falsities thinking its fact. And re-learning something is a much more difficult task than learning it correctly in the first place.

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    2. The thing is that the Hollywood types don't know the difference either.

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  10. These militant neutrons really have me worried. They're wound up so tight and spoiling for an excuse.
    Thank you again for another excellent discourse. I knew you would have some brilliant points to make.

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  11. Nut jobs not neutrons. This auto correct!!!#

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  12. Don't believe everything you read . . .

    http://madeitfunny.com/image/brilliant-facebook-prank-tricks-people-who-consider-themselves-smart

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  13. "And these things have consequences. Bad consequences."

    Yep, and the day when a loon exposed to this repeated barrage of bs breaks down and commits the irreparable, the Palin, Jones, Hannity, etc. of this world, the very people always preaching "personal responsibility", will ALL wash their hands of all this and accuse the loon of being a liberal…

    freeportguy

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  14. I have been saying for a while that the Internet is actually helping to create this kind of problem. No matter how bat shit crazy you may be you can still go onto the Internet and find some other dolt who agrees with your delusion. Thus every nut job can find someone to re-enforce their lunacy.

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    1. Yeah, that's what I wa.... HEY!

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    2. Don't go giving me credit for more cleverness than I deserve.

      I'm not sure who the author was at this point but there is a very good point they made about people like the ones you describe in the article. They MUST create, in their own minds, a Great Evil to stand against. After all, only a Great Good (TM) would stand against a Great Evil. Thereby making themselves the heroes. And that's exactly what they see themselves as. Just ask any one of them.

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    3. There is actually a term for this, and I believe it is coming to be considered as one of the fallacies of formal logic: That if something comes to pass, it is over the cold dead body hands of these True Believers; and if something comes not to pass, it is only because of the ceaseless vigilance and tireless efforts of the True Believers.

      But for the life of me I can't remember what the learned term for this *is*.

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    4. Reminds me of that meme that's gone around of the family dog being convinced that the only reason the mailman hasn't murdered the entire family is because of his ceaseless barking. Given, there may be some small truth to that in one out of a million times, but it doesn't give them a pass for all the times they've cried wolf.

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    5. eponodyne: That sounds a bit like the No True Scotsman fallacy. If something they deem good happens it's because of the valiant efforts of the True Scotsmen. If something they deem bad happens, it's because the people who did it / allowed it to happen weren't True Scotsmen after all.

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    6. Lucas,

      Your first comment reminds me of my favorite George Carlin quote:

      "If you take two things that have never been nailed together before and nail 'em together, some asshole will buy it from you."

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    7. "If you take two things that have never been nailed together before and nail 'em together, some asshole will buy it from you."


      And if you put them together with pegs instead of nails, and beat it with a chain, he'll buy it for twice as much as an antique...

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    8. Talking Points Memo has a number of comments on the "Fox Effect". This one suggests one explanation: http://talkingpointsmemo.com/edblog/more-on-the-fox-effect-part-4

      Basically, those who have beliefs that we have suppressed over the last decades, e.g. racism, gay-bashing, now are seeing their beliefs validated on Fox and the internet. They now feel free to express them.

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  15. Every time you're this erudite, logical and spot-on, the shit-spackled monkeys fly out of the woodwork. Brace yourself, good sir.

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    1. I've got a half full bottle of Irish and loaded pistol handy. I'm ready.

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  16. Speaking of ignoring sanity and reason, SP is full of it.Those bracelets on the left are clearly never-been-worn brand new. The sparkly one on the left looks like she secretly spends her spare time at Ren Fest dressed up as Sassy Palin the Pirate Wench.
    Hard to pry something off your cold, dead wrist if you aren't actually wearing it (not to mention never have and probably never will), wench.

    I may have just insulted pirates and wenches, there.....


    Also, "succinctly demonstrates that their furious protests, stoked by the media and the pundits and professional politicians and the false reality they exist in, is utterly without merit." I think you mean are utterly without merit.

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    1. Fixed, Thanks!

      Also, I will use "Sassy Palin the Pirate Wrech" in a future post and I will give you credit for it. And by credit I mean I'll totally pretend like it was my idea all along.

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    2. (wench or wretch, you may want to choose first)

      ~ Sarah P.

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    3. Sassy Palin the Pirate Wench is all yours. Sassy Palin the Pirate Wrech, I dunno nothin' about..... ;)

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    4. Speaking of pirates . . . have you noticed how much our erudite host uses "r" ??

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    5. And how much you wanna bet they're made in China?

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  17. What I've been trying to understand is basically this: these people live in a fantasy world, but why would do so many people chose to live in a fantasy-land that makes them so angry all the time? If I was going to check out of reality I'd pick a fantasy that was fun, or at least comfortable.

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    1. To quote Lou Reed form "Endless Cycle" - "The truth is they're happier when they're in pain."

      These people do not understand the world they live in, just as their parents didn't. Their anger gives them some measure control, lashing out at least gives them the sense they are doing something to alleviate their bewilderment.

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    2. It's because they'd rather be angry than uncertain, and they're too stupid, too ignorant, too prideful, too brainwashed, and/or too dogmatic to admit the failings of their worldview and come up with something new and better.

      Also, changing one's worldview involves a lot of uncertainty, at least, at first. They'd rather have their two-minutes hate and believe that we have always been at war with Eastasia.

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    3. by being angry all the time means they are righteously angry, therefore, right. There are also biochemical releases in the brain with anger, like addiction. It's a high and the more they get, the more they want. They get off on being angry.

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    4. I think part of what causes this is fear. Fear of change is strong in some people and the prospect of change makes them throw up a defense. They know that the United States is changing as is the world and they want it to remain with in their comfort zone. This of course will not happen as long as people learn more and become able to do things we once could not. If Og had remained comfortable using a stone ax we would still be living in caves. One can not stop technological change or the inevitable social change that comes with it. This is one of the many things people like the "militia" that showed up to support Bundy fear.

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    5. It's an unholy agglomerate of bunker mentality and cabin fever.

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  18. Jim, I love the logical flow of your arguments and the reasoning behind them. You unerringly, doggedly follow the stink of a wrong, rotten statement or belief, from the first sniff of BS you may pick up, all the way back to the stinking A-hole of a mouth or mind from which it originates. Sorry for the vivid language, but that is the best way I know to describe your unique talent, making you the world's Master Human Bloodhound of BS detection. After I was done reading this one I didn't know whether to laugh or cry first, so I decided to write this instead.

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  19. "some of them might have been unfairly denied the right to get married"... LOVED it!

    Though dammit Chief, you seem to expect us Muricans to actually think for ourselves? Like the Founding Fathers did? Sounds like hard work being a patriot ... as opposed to a (ahem) rhinestone patriot.

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    1. Rhinestone patriot -- love it!

      Margaret

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    2. "Rhinestone patriot"! So many good phrases being coined here...
      We should all refer to Sarah as "The Rhinestone Patriot" from now on. Except she might take it as a compliment...

      Bruce

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    3. Bruce - if she tries to take it as a compliment, one merely needs to point out that rhinestones are FAKES.

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  20. Spot on analysis. Now we just need to figure out how to end their self-reinforced delusion and bring them back to reality. Any ideas?

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    1. Aside from padded rooms and regular, healthy doses of anti-psychotic medications?

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    2. @Anonymous 10:31pm
      IMHO, when the average America "WASP" is forced to spend at least one year living impoverished and in a neighborhood where we're in the racial minority, self-delusion becomes impossible and the truth inescapable.

      At least, that's what it's done for me.

      And while discovering just how absurdly "skin-privileged" I'd been all my life has been about as pleasant as a Drano enema, it HAS cured me of "Let-Them-Eat-Cake Syndrome" for all time.

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    3. Grrr: Best wishes to you and your family, I'm there too, and I have family members who still reside within what I like to think of as the "smug bubble." -- bad stuff only happens to people who make bad choices. Full stop. end. of. story.

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  21. I can't believe I'm the only one who finds the disconnect here deep, broad, and profoundly disturbing. How in the world can Mr Bundy on the one hand claim to adhere scrupulously to the Constitution, and on the other hand refuse to recognize the very existence of the same Federal government enshrined into law by this august document?

    If he doesn't believe in the Federal Government, then why should he get to enjoy the rights (such as free speech and the right to keep and bear arms) protected by the same?

    Both my parents served as Council members of the small town in Wisconsin in which I grew up: My father, a former Army Security Agency SIGINT Warrant, a (Buckley) Conservative; my mother, a former State Department code clerk and then medical records manager, less so. In any event, they had plenty of experience dealing with this sort of problem writ small during the years when the town was experiencing fairly rapid growth. They often had to deal with someone who was complaining bitterly that the new homes sprouting up on the edge of town were ruining their enjoyment of . They both had a great deal of contempt for the sort of fool who, in the words of my mom, "Enjoyed the view but wanted someone else to pay the taxes on it."

    In a related story, one of the men who organizes (As much as it can be said to be organized at all) Burning Man is planning a follow-on festival this autumn, directly after Burning Man... and directly across the road from the Bundy Ranch. Word around the campfire is that 80+ bands are already slated to show up.

    I suspect Mr Bundy will not be pleased.

    I suspect I will find myself caring very little that Mr Bundy is not pleased.

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    1. (Somewhat off-topic...)
      Eponodyne, I feel compelled to comment on your statement, vis a vis Burning Man, "(As much as it can be said to be organized at all)".

      The event currently has 70,000 participants, and pulls in well over twenty million dollars in ticket sales. It is VERY organized (sometimes to the dismay of some participants). The event has to coordinate with a alphabet soup of Federal agencies (BLM, ATF, DEA, FAA (we have an airport), FCC, and EPA) as well as local and state agencies from law enforcement to health department.

      I say this as someone who has been a volunteer for the event during all of the 20 years I have attended. For more than ten years, I've been on the team that inspects the various fire art projects (be they giant wooden buildings, sculptures, or projects involving hundreds (or thousands) of gallons of pressurized propane, kerosene, methanol, or hydrogen, and the plumbing and electronics to control them. Our job is to ensure that none of these blow up or burn any participants, and includes poring over the plans, months before the event, and inspecting them on-site, and making sure that they are operated in a reasonably safe manner.

      As for Sean Shealy and his claim of hosting an event across from the Bundy Ranch, I am extremely skeptical. While Sean say is is "one of the organizers" of BM, I note that his name does NOT appear anywhere on the BM web site. I know all of the principles who were (and still are, in many cases) the core creators and organizers of the event. Is Mr. Shealy a volunteer? Quite possibly, as there are several thousand people who volunteer, and provide most of the manpower needed for the event to happen.

      As for his belief that many thousands will show up at his event, after Burning Man?
      After a week or two in the desert, most folks are champing at the bit to get home. And the vast majority have jobs that they urgently need to return to. And Mr. Shealy's county health department will not be at all happy if he has fifty thousand guests and no porta-potties...

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    2. argyre, it's my understanding that Shealy's post was a joke. The post I saw said there would be 240 (?) bands playing 24/7 and a lot of other nonsense (clothes optional) that would totally drive Bundy (the liar, freeloader, anti-USAer) mad.

      freckles (in northern NV, where all the folks fly in to attend Burning Man)

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  22. Yes! Loved this essay! Though, sadly, personal experience with mental healthcare in today's world leads me to the belief that a fixed delusion cannot be corrected/healed/changed. (I don't actually believe that, or at least I don't Want to, but that's what the medical professionals tell me.) A very terrifying thought, actually, if it's true. Terrifying even if healing is possible, since so many Will Not Seek help.

    Gretchen in KS

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  23. The people who amaze me the most are the ones who start talking about standing against our military. Really? You and Bubba from down the road are going to stand against our military if it comes to actual combative confrontation? Then you get the response of "Well most of the military would stand with us Patriots". They don't seem to understand that even as a citizen of this country, if you come out of your house armed and start shooting at our military, you have just become the enemy. It won't matter if some of the guys agree with your way of thinking. Not to mention these people actually think that because our founding fathers succeeded in the Revolutionary War, that they stand a chance against our military. I don't think they did very well in school. Or missed every class during the time that the rest of the class was studying that war. They don't seem to understand that fighting a war with a musket, against other people who are carrying um, muskets, is a pretty fair fight. You with an AR-15 against fighter jets, helicopters, tanks, rocket launchers, MK-19 automatic grenade launchers, satellite surveillance, mortars, land mines, etc. is not so much a fair fight. I can't help but laugh at these people.

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    1. Especially since the Revolutionary War *wasn't* primarily fought by a bunch of guys with muskets and freedom. If it weren't for the aid we received from the French, as well as a number of cunning Information Warfare attacks that got the Hessian mercenaries to abandon their contract with the British, we'd have been beaten into ground for daring to challenge the Crown.

      In short, the American Revolutionary War was a proxy war between the United Kingdom and France, the two most prominent world powers at the time.

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    2. Very few Americans are aware of the fact that the American colonies were just a battleground for the continuing war(s) between Britain and France.

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  24. Ugh...stop talking about Intel and cruisers...makes me want to consider a second IDIS tour if one pops when I am picking my next set of orders.

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  25. Just helping clean up some typos.

    In the section about the JRIC, in the paragraph that begins with "Remember the aftermath of 911?" you list various agencies and whatnot, and after the word 'disparate' is the superfluous word 'ate.'

    In this line, you need a 'be' near the end:
    "Does the government think that anybody who pays for a cup of coffee with cash must a terrorist?"

    You have one more errant 'r' typo in the following line:
    "Infowars used their erroneous assumptions and agrenda-driven analysis to support a larger erroneous conclusion, it’s a house of cards, and it’s just plain wrong."

    And finally, near the end you have this line:
    "Hell none of these people were even denied the right to contraception or..." and I just prefer a comma after the first word.

    Excellent writing. Thank you.

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    1. I think you're enjoying this way too much ;)

      Fixed. Thanks // Jim

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    2. I figured agrenda was a mashup of agressive and agenda...
      Chandra in MO

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    3. "Flying Fingers Wright"...

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  26. I have noticed that there seem to be two conspiracy theories around at the moment. However they are written and presented by very different people, for very different purposes, and have a completely different feel to them. The first is that the wealthiest 0.1% of the population have managed to (or are well underway in the process) control the world's finances, it's legal systems, override it's democratic processes, subvert presidents, control the world media, destroy unions and other protections of the working class, and irreversibly destroy the environment. Put like that, it sounds insane, irrational, a wacko theory put about but a zombie doomsday wannabe.

    But the proponants of elements of this theory are anything but: they are sane, sensible, well grounded people who present compelling theories backed up by hard facts and cold logic. Often they are altruistic people, who envision a better society, a better world, a fairer, more just world. In 'People First Economics', writers such as Noam Chomsky and David Ransom look at our economic systems, why and how they are unfair, and present different ones. In 'Risk, The Science and Politics of Fear', Dan Gardener shows how we are easily manipulated by media threats, and how politicians and others utilize the media and utilize fear to manipulate us. Remember George Bush and the "Yellow alert / Orange alert / Red alert stuff? In 'American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America' by Chris Hedges, he shows how the Christian Right is hand in hand with big corporations, and how it enlists the support of disenfranchised people and whips them into a fervour and redirects them into passionate support for policies which benefit multinationals and ultimately impoverish themselves. In 'Guardians of Power: The Myth of the Liberal Media', Media Lens authors show how the media is owned and controlled by vested interests, and thus will ultimately portray events sympathetically to their desires. Conflicting facts will not be investigated, much less reported in an unbiased, impartial way as they claim to and are supposed to. You will never hear of the Israeli military terrorizing apartment buildings with helicopter gunships where valiant Palestinian freedom fighters were recuperating. "Sanctions" will always be accepted as a benign bloodless incentive, it will never be vilified as useless and counterproductive, forcing the poorest people to do without basic necessities while the military remain unaffected because the military always get fed first in any nation under threat. I could go on.

    I find it interesting and compelling that many of those making these kinds of arguments seem to be well read, thoughtful, people who have done their research, and those who oppose them often use trite disparaging empty statements, often being deliberately misleading or false, such as "You don't understand the economy," "You'll destroy the economy" "Loony Commie Greenies" and so on.

    I'm also aware that in America there is an other kind of conspiracy theory. It's antiabortionist, violently pro-Christian (for a very narrow conception of Christianity, often far removed from Christ's values), pro guns and First Amendment Rights, anti Obama, and even anti health insurance (!!!??). It seems to me that this second conspiracy theory is manufactured and promoted by corporate interests and the far right political spectrum (ie that 0.1%); that it is sweeping up huge numbers of disgruntled, disenfranchised people with chips on their shoulders ; and that most of the issues are non-issues. They are distractions, irrelevant to what's really going on, throw away things which are utterly unimportant. In doing so, these millions of poor, hurting people are firstly not attacking those who are really causing pain to their lives and secondly they are manipulated into attacking people who are on their side and in a position to help them.

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  27. If you have ever followed a local Patch you are watching the degradation of a news service in real time. First to go is the editor, so suddenly the writing has lost a layer of eyes and structural integrity. The content gets marginalized, no longer local, now regional, so the readership loses interest. Then it just dies a lingering death.

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    1. Dunstan, you have that correctly. Patch is a shadow of its former self and a whisper in a windstorm of what it was intended to be.

      Delete
    2. Same with any newspaper bought out ( & run into the ground) by Gannett.

      Delete
  28. The movie Idiocracy come true.

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  29. According to Wikipedia, that particular skull-and-crossbones design is attributed to the pirate Richard Worley.
    to quote their article, " the crew agreed upon a set of articles, which included a vow to fight to the death rather than surrender to authorities." Wonder if Palin has the same determination?
    I would like to see her emulate Worley in this regard - his career ended 3 or 4 months after he first hoisted that flag.

    Bruce

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  30. Proofreading: "disparate ate" and "agrenda-driven"
    Correction: We are all being denied our 4th amendment constitutional right to protection against search and seizure without a warrant. The founders said "papers" but courts have ruled it also applies to e-mail and telephone calls. The NSA first lied to Congress about their massive data collection, then used a definition of "collect"ing intelligence that was unlike any other definition of "collect" I have ever read. The fact that it started under Bush and got worse under Obama worries me. At first I thought I was being paranoid, but the reality after Snowden's revelations is far worse than I ever imagined. What pisses me off is that the gun waving morons are frightened of what is provably not happening, instead of what is happening.
    Correction 2: The people getting tear-gassed, beaten with batons, and arrested were the Occupy Wall Street folks, who *were* protesting against something really happening. Not any more- the politicians just ignored them. Growing income inequality and the growth of inherited massive wealth, along with the recent SCOTUS rulings that money equals free speech is leading to an oligarchy replacing a republic-democracy. This also worries me. The gun-waving morons are not just ignoring this problem, oh no. They are promoting it with their deluded visions of liberty and capitalism, brought to you by the Koch-owned Tea Party and billionaire-owned Fox "News". Think I'm being paranoid here? Just look at the record of bills passed by Congress backed by the economically top 1% versus bills passed desired by the bottom 50% of the country. The imbalance is huge- practically everything desired by the top 1% gets through even if it has to be sneaked in; practically nothing the top 1% dislikes ever gets passed. Honestly Jim, if were asked to serve in the mlitary again (age aside), I don't know if I would... I don't much like who my government is working for any more- it arguably isn't "the people". Sorry for the length of my rant. I hope it isn't too far off topic.

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  31. A well crafted argument and a great read - thanks! I would caution you, however, about being caught in the same trap of making associations based on a few words on an internet page. Specifically "... leave their loaded gun laying around where any kid could just pick it up – not more than, you know, a couple thousand times a year, I mean)..." with a link to a fact checking site. There is, however, nothing on that site which gives any statistics about the number of guns left laying around. Instead, there is a number cited reasonably close to 2000 (2694) for "young people killed by gunfire". The TOTAL number of accidental gunshot deaths in 2010 was only 606, of which about 200 were children (statistics vary depending on how "children" is described). And children finding an unsecured firearm is certainly not the only way that a child dies to an accidental gunshot wound. Although it is certainly a large proportion, it is a large proportion of a much smaller number than you cite. So a sarcastic, off-the-cuff remark in your own article could well spawn the next viral internet claim that over two thousand children a year are killed by unsecured firearms!

    I haven't been able to track down statistics for the number of people accidentally injured by unsecured firearms, which may certainly be closer to the "couple of thousand" that you cite, but you haven't listed a source that reads on that category.

    Certainly I don't intend to detract from either your message or from the deep background of knowledge and experience from which it comes.. But care in journalism an easy target of criticism, especially in an article about care in journalism.

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    1. This may help, though sadly they retired the project the end of last year:

      http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/crime/2012/12/gun_death_tally_every_american_gun_death_since_newtown_sandy_hook_shooting.html

      Delete
    2. But the project has been taken over here:

      http://www.gunviolencearchive.org/

      Delete
  32. They read something on a blog that matches their false worldview and treat it as if it were written in red in their Bible. In the words of singer/songwriter Cheryl Wheeler, they are "easily riled and likely to shout; Frequently wrong but never in doubt."

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  33. About those "militia" members... don't any of them have jobs? My guess is No, and that just maybe a few of them are bums suckling from the government teat. I wonder if they are aware that most of the country is laughing at them.

    Peace
    Chris in South Jersey

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    1. Chris, exactly what I've been thinking! Don't they have to get back to work? Or are many of them receiving benefits from the government they hate?

      Freckles

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    2. I remember at several town meetings following the passage of the Affordable Healthcare Act, some of the loudest denouncers of the law admitted to receiving social security or disability. None saw the hypocircy

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  34. I think you really missed a golden opportunity to run a version of that NPR gag here. Maybe a title that is something that all the frothy mouths would agree with? Just sit back and watch your comments explode with butterflies and kittens for a change.

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  35. Brilliant as usual. But, it saddens me more than before. You are speaking to the choir for the most part. Even if you were speaking to all and these people could see what you have written, they would raise their fists in the air and say "lies all lies!" I don't go to any conspiracy sites. Sometimes I have read some that I thought was more informative than it was, but ends up being all hype and anger with little or no facts. At that point I leave and don't come back. I hate to be one of those people that say, "there is nothing we can do." I don't want to even think that. I'm tired of people like my ex-husband who are uneducated and think they know everything when in reality they know nothing. I know nothing, but I know enough to not believe all the hype when I see it. I try to be as balanced as I can, but as humans it is hard to not have some bias in what we chose to read, watch, talk about.

    The more anger I hear about from people like the ones you talk about, ironically, the more balanced I get. Instead of me getting angry at them, I seek out blogs like yours that are more rational in thought. I seek...no desire to find the balance, the more moderates, the more centered thinkers.

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  36. I didn't forget your question about the crystal on Facebook, and I may have SOME info for you.

    First, though, I want to recommend a book, it might be at the library if you don't want to purchase it.

    It's called When Time Shall Be No More: Prophecy Belief in Modern American Culture

    This book was an eye-opener to me, and explains a great deal of the current thought under what I will call the charismatic, evangelical branches of Christianity.

    Without getting into too much detail about a book that likely nobody here has even heard of, if you do pick it up, I want to note there is a huge, huge parallel with the idea that the Bible can be interpreted by individual and the arguments about evolution and global warming. It's actually a little scary, and I would be absolutely thrilled to discuss it further once people have had a chance to check it out.

    The second thing is the Swarovski Crystals. I did a bit of digging, and the first thing that caught my eye was some of the names the crystals were given, such as Evil Eye, The Demon in My Head and Demon Eyes, just to name a few. There is a subset of Christians that take those sort of names quite literally. (Note: I did not look this up to give cites for my statement, but I can assure you I knew one of this type personally, and I am sure references are widely available.)

    There is also the fact that Swarovski Crystal is Lead Crystal. If you google "Swarovski Crystals dangerous", you will find a lot of people asking if the crystals can cause lead poisoning. So there's an element of suspicion there.

    The combination, I think, leads to the astonishing beliefs shown by the comments on this page I found when looking for info.

    I noticed a couple of people asked if there was a solution. I actually think there is, and while it's a relatively SIMPLE solution, implementing it wouldn't be EASY. I think the root cause of a lot of this is fear, plain and simple. Same thing with the whole "welfare cheats sucking off my hard earned tax dollars".

    I made this point to a friend of mine quite some time ago. I said to him, "If your cupboards are full and it's easy to re-fill them and a friend drops by at dinner time, you don't hesitate to invite them to stay to dinner--you have plenty and it's easy to be generous. On the other hand, if there is barely enough for you and your family--or worse, not quite enough--you may offer because you feel you are supposed to be generous, and resent it the whole time.

    I think we see the same dynamic coming into play here, and the answer, which as I said before is simple but not easy, is to take the steps necessary to reduce that fear. When the fear eases up, there's room in the mind for other things like education.

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    1. Good gravy, I read a few of the comments on that site until I couldn't stand to read another. Ignorance is amazing: every time you think people couldn't possibly be more stupid, they continue to reach new lows.

      Anyway, crystals. They are pretty in jewelry, when used in moderation. Not so pretty in trashy junk jewelry (Tim Gunn would have a field day with Sassy Sarah's wardrobe). The latest trend at many quilt shows is to embellish a (show, not for actual use) quilt with as many hot-fix crystals as you can, and include the count of how many were used in the artist's statement. Unfortunately, gluing crystals on a poorly designed piece does not improve the design any more than gluing crystals on dog poop would make it smell better.

      Delete
    2. It's called celebrating Bastille Day on Wall Street. Bankers are the special guests of honor, with Hedge Fund Managers in a tight second place.

      Delete
  37. I do not understand how people were able to actually call for range wars and point guns at federal officials and not be summarily arrested and carted off. (I understand that the feds in question said *they* didn't want bullets to start flying, but it was SO VERY WRONG and I feel like that Bundy twerp has "won" somehow.
    Also, thanks for the information about the Government Printing Office number - I did not know that. Learn something new...

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    1. I am thinking there may be some indictments under RICO in the upcoming months and years.

      Delete
  38. Hey Jim, great article...
    Just a couple typos:

    "Pirate Jesus deal, and that Swarovski Crystals – leaded glass made in Austria, birthplace of Hitler!
    That crystals what? I think you were going to say "that crystals signify something"

    "Does the government think that anybody who pays for a cup of coffee with cash must a terrorist? "

    Must *be* a terrorist

    Offer still stands to proof your book. ;P

    Thanks for shining a light on the truth...hopefully people will listen.

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  39. Nicely done, as usual. I am trying very hard to get my black-helicopter believing mother to read your stuff. She is quite intelligent, but harder to move than the Rock of Gibraltar.

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  40. Zola,
    thanks for sharing that page talking about witchcraft and swarovski crystals...no wonder these people deny the truth of science...they actually believe that BS...I think we are doomed.

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  41. Oh, boy. I'm a terrorist now for paying cash for coffee...and other things! Since the debit card data debacles seem to happen more and more often, lol, gee, I went back to cash. I had no idea I was destabilize and terrorize my country.

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  42. Oops, typo/grammar gray moment: "Had no idea I WOULD destabilize and terrorize..."

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  43. Again, you have nailed it, Jim Wright. I posted a photo comparison on Facebook today that someone sent me. The top photo is of a gunman training his weapon through a concrete barrier at a federal officer. He was not arrested. The bottom photo was of peaceful demonstrators on a college campus, sitting quietly, who were doused with pepper spray.

    That said, may I make a tiny bit of constructive criticism? I think you need an editor. Not only would a lot of typos be caught. (No one can catch all their own typos or inadvertent ambiguities. No one.)

    An editor could also have pointed out that you actually have two separate blog posts here which might have benefitted from being separated. The first could have been about misinformation and poor critical thinking skills. The second could have started where you brought us around to the idiocy in Nevada or at least this particular round of idiocy. The added benefit would be that we, your fans, would have had two blog posts from you rather than one.

    Just a mild-mannered suggestion from someone who is such an almost rabid fan the she is willing to hand knit socks for you. And there are only about 5 people on the planet I can say that about.

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    1. I absolutely agree. I'd love to post a link to this blog on a rw forum, where the Nevada debacle is being discussed as though it's the Second Coming, the battle of Bunker Hill and the battle of Marathon, all rolled into one, with a bag of chips. Alas, excellent as this post is, it does, well, ramble a little too much, with the main subject, that idiocy in Nevada, getting what seems to me to be short shrift.

      I worked as an editor for about 10 years, following a 25 +/- year career as a freelance writer, and I would be happy to donate my services. Every writer, including me, and including Shakespeare, could use an editor.

      I don't knit socks, but I would happily contribute home-made, stone ground whole-wheat bread to the cause(s).

      Delete
  44. I have two close relatives that cause me to struggle with the meaning of intelligence. One is a member of Mensa (international high IQ society - top 2%) and the other is finishing up his doctoral degree in nuclear physics. And both are barking mad acolytes of Ann Coulter, Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin, Dinesh D'sousa, as well as a wide assortment of lesser-known nutballs. They obviously have some sort of critical reasoning skills in science and math but both are socially awkward and generally fearful - and both believe everything the right-wing misinformation machine spews out without a moment's thought to fact check any of it. I can usually figure out what makes folks tick but these two have me stumped. By the way, I enjoyed the post - you hit the nail squarely on the head as usual.

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    1. It's called "Idiot Savant" syndrome.

      To be less snarky (and I hold a Ph.D. in Physical Chemistry, I'm speaking from experience, here), the problem is twofold. The first is the problem of different types of intelligence. There is, broadly speaking, math type intelligence, and linguistic / social intelligence. It's rare to find equal talent in both. The more towards math and physics one skews, the more one tends to lack the social / linguistic skill set. Add to that a lifetime of training that builds one up at the expense of the other.

      The second problem is that that teachers in the formative years tell these kids that they are so smart. Then they have a long primary and secondary school experience where this appears to be true - they can do things their peers can not. And much of what they do does not require social intuition, as scientists ruthlessly punish and exclude anyone who purposely puts false data into the literature - so they don't develop a bullshit filter. Yet they think they are capable of interpreting all sorts of things they, in actuality, can't.

      Add the arrogance and the naivete together and you have a perfect set-up for Dunning-Kruger.

      xkcd did a great comic on this:

      http://xkcd.com/793/

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    2. People who are smart and work in science-based fields such as engineering or even medicine sometimes think they can call themselves scientists, but they're wrong. The training in those fields is deterministic, "A causes B, not C", with a lot of their education based on absorbing knowledge. There is not not much emphasis on detecting nonsense or excluding random noise. Research scientists, on the other hand, are trained not just in the facts of their fields, but specifically on expanding the boundaries of what is known. The world is a complex open system; so are human bodies; much more so than designing a nuclear reactor. The so-called "controversial" subjects like climate change or evolution or vaccines are not at all controversial to the scientists working in those fields. For that reason, the scientists on the other side tend to be people in engineering or medicine (but not typically medical research). Many of them tend to be religious (for creationists) or Libertarians (for climate), giving them an ideological bias. The tiny token few outliers who work in the relevant fields are almost to a man funded by organizations with an agenda, the Discovery Institute for creationists (who don't do research) and a handful of right wing institutes (e.g. Heritage Foundation, et al.) funded by oil and coal companies. These people very rarely publish outside of their think tanks' boutique non-peer reviewed journals, protecting their work from being examined & critiqued by people in their fields prior to public exposure. The public sees only that "climate change is backed by thousands but Dr. S said the opposite", so they think the reporting is "balanced", when it's a set of roller skates on one side of the scale of evidence and an 18-wheel truckload parked on the other. Yeah, the media sucks. Fox News is the worst, because they have an agenda and cater to it, but lie about 'balance'. However, the rest of the media is just not qualified to discuss reality either. Reporters think "both sides" of a one-sided issue have to be represented, and media corporation owners love that because fake controversy sells better than sometimes sad reality.

      Delete
    3. Do not confuse Intelligence with Wisdom. The two are completely separate. I've known some blindingly intelligent people who completely lacked common sense.

      Delete
    4. As an engineer I am amazed at the amount of people in my field who seem to have wonderful critical thinking skills on a narrow, focused basis (in response to engineering problems), but can't seem to apply these same skills to any other part of their life (religion and politics are the biggest culprits).

      Delete
    5. I'm also an engineer, and I agree with the 24April2014 11:08AM anonymous.

      The amount of Obama Derangement Syndrome going around in the technical fields is astounding.

      One of the people I work with cites as fact that President Obama killed the shuttle.

      I checked. He can't have. President GWBush announced that the shuttles would be retired. He made the announcement in 2004. The thing is, I KNEW that because I remember commenting that the US space program going back to the capsule for space exploration is going backwards.

      Delete
  45. This might be your best piece yet, better than Bang Bang Crazy parts 1 through a million, or America, etc. As the father of two young kids, it scares the shit of me what the future may hold. Keep up the good work. You, sir, are a real patriot.

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  46. Re: the Swarovski crystals. Having read Palin's entire statement (and seen the bling in question), I think all the effort to read some deep meaning into them is probably really stretching it. I suspect that she thinks having a bracelet with Swarovski crystals raises her a step or two above the rest of the trailer trash--in other words, that she was bragging, simple as that. As Freud probably didn't say, "Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar."

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    1. That was the general consensus arrived at on social media as well.

      Delete
    2. In other words, she is just saying "Ooooh, shiny!!"

      Delete
  47. Damn, you write good.

    I read portions of this piece to my husband over breakfast this morning, my husband who eschews politics in favor of dirty, old cars, preferring to be depressed by the recalcitrance of hunks of sheet metal than by the idiocy if his fellow man. He was suitably impressed.

    Thank you for taking the time to lay it all out, the basics and the complexities. Personally, I'm real concerned about their Foxxy Revolution. Is Bundyville the opening salvo? Once again, people are going to get hurt while these people burn off their manufactured rage. Will this be the Scopes Monkey Trial, the Murrah bombing, of our time, the thing that sends the liars and haters scurrying for the shadows for another generation? One can only hope... but not too fervently. I'm in no hurry for innocents' blood.

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  48. Damn that was exceptional in every regard!!

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  49. Thank you. I wish I'd had this a few days ago while 'discussing' that ad that never really appeared on Everytown.org's actual Facebook page... It would have made the pain from repeated /headdesking in the face of recalcitrant bias confirmation easier to bear. Just one question: Do you really mean 'demonstratively,' or were you really after 'demonstrably?"

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    1. That depends, which one is wrong? I meant the other.

      :)

      It's fixed.Thanks // Jim

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  50. Thanks, Jim. Very good essay. I will never forgive John McCain for loosing the Palin monster upon us. If he had not chosen her as his VP candidate, she would have stayed in Alaska where she would have been universally ignored.

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    1. It still amazes me that an unintelligent incurious governor who quit halfway through her term, especially for a Fox Noise talking gig, isn't universally reviled as pathetic.

      Delete
  51. It's odd, but the more stark light that is shed upon the mindset of the ever-growing deluded swarm, the greater my first response is that maybe it's time for more than one weapon in the house.

    All enemies, foreign and domestic. Or, put another way, war may be hell, but it's good for {the firearms} business. Sigh.

    Thanks, Jim. Another great one.

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  52. A blogger I follow called ***Dave, who is relatively liberal (for the US ;) ) once railed against a UK public information campaign telling people to report suspicious activity in their neighbours. The picture for the poster was lots of bleach bottles in the recycling bin.

    I replied with in the UK that's what we got used to - 30 years of IRA attacks put you on your guard, then 7/7 happened. If someone has used 40 litres of bleach something isn't right (it can be used to make stuff go boom).

    Yes it leads to false reports, and racial profiling by ordinary people of the innocent (in the 70s the Irish, in 00's Muslims). But...

    Do you know how easy it is too make a classic Provo Lorry bomb? Basically if someone can get hold of Det Cord, you can make a huge bomb, including timer with anti tamper device, from stuff you can buy at Walmart etc. If a guy with an Ulster accent walked into a garden centre and bought up all the feltilizer, the police hoped that someone would tell them (This is public domain info - the press called them fertilizer bombs, though they didn't explain the whole process- which apart from obtaining the detcord is easy).

    Nobody wants to live in a Stasi style community, but the bad guys don't have rules.

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    1. Damn - forgot an edit while editing the comment!

      Nobody wants to live in a Stasi style community, but the bad guys don't have rules, There has to be a balance

      Delete
  53. Hmmmmm. Despite the fact that generally agree with your views and enjoy reading your missives, sometimes I fear that you will develop an aneurysm Jim. I really worry.

    After Y2K and the Supremes gave the country to a batch of ravening wolves in suits I spent a decade bursting blood vessels over ignored terror indicators, shitty wars, our new police state, nuking the economy, etc, etc....I thought after the Big O swept in that we could keep our shoes on to get on flights and bankers might go to jail. But no. Gitmo is still there and the only ones making it are the 1%. Just exactly according to the plan.

    So, I don't get upset anymore at teh stupid (it BURNS!). This country (can't rightly call it a "nation" anymore) is pretty messed up and critical mass is approaching. Hopefully most of the people who get hurt will be the "patriots" who get to water the tree of liberty when find out that the cops and Feds really can shoot straight. But some innocents are gonna have to pay as well. The 2d American Revolution should last about 18 minutes. Less if the idiots put their wives up front.

    I'm in Colorado Springs for a conference this week. This town is ground zero for Christian Taliban, Tea Party, 2d Amendment worshiping mouth breathers. I am laying low and not engaging with people who start a conversation with "When is someone gonna impeach or shoot Nobamma and Holder?". Cause I don't know the answer.

    I was walking around the hotel neighborhood (Why didn't I stay at the Antlers?), and I noticed a stop sign on a street surrounded by thin walled houses and mobile homes. The stop sign had three bullet holes in it. Big ones, .40 or maybe .45 caliber. And I am not surprised at all.

    Thanks as always for your insight Jim, and to everyone for the excellent commentary. Go to your happy place - Tommy D

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    1. This is my happy place.

      You should see my unhappy place ... on second thought, maybe not.

      Delete
    2. Just wanted to say that I live in Denver, and Anonymous/Tommy D above is NOT KIDDING about Colorado Springs! Makes me shudder just going through there.

      This article, Jim, is one of the best things I've read connecting lazy critical thinking and this bizarre conservative militant behavior. Thank you for this!

      Delete
    3. Hubby and I used to go to Colorado Springs every couple of years or so in the '70s and '80s because there used to be Olympic training there for his hobby of choice, teaching judo. It seemed benign and sane, a good place to be then.

      But I admit no judo folks ever went through the born-again evangelical ritual of pointing to the sky or crossing themselves every time they attempted seoi nage. (thanking the sky god in the midst of a match is a good way to get flattened)

      I understand one can't say the same for the cadets at the Air Force Academy.

      Delete
  54. "Sassy Palin the Pirate Wrech" God, why did you have to ruin all future Pirate fantasies?? I will now fear sleep. The nutballs who want a revolution, they never think they they themselves will probably be shot, bombed, or otherwise killed. I could have shortened that to "They Never Think"
    Mike Morrow

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  55. Jim -

    I like this piece as much or more than anything else you've written, but fuck it's long and meandering. If there's been one consistent complaint from friends (some of them experienced writers) I've shared some of your better posts with, it's (insert British accent) "Goes on a bit, doesn't he?".

    This is about three pieces crammed into one. Break it up. I have no problem reading longform pieces - I love the essay, from Mencken to Ellison to Ivins - but you're all over the map here.

    You candidly present your credentials as an Intel CWO; as an ex-Air Force 791X1 (Broadcast Specialist, equivalent to a Navy JO with radio/TV training), and bloody good at my job both in the bluesuits and in civilian life, please consider the following from the grizzled old bastard that taught Voice and Diction (and many other things) at the Defense Information School at Ft. Benjamin Harrison, IN, circa 1990: "There is no MOS or AFSC for "Listener" or "Reader". Understanding what you're saying is not the troops' job, it is YOURS."



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    1. This writer/editor has to agree with Don here, Jim. Your writing is excellent and your opinions are always well developed and worth reading, but occasionally a column runs too long. Some of those complicated themes you veer off on might be better served (and absorbed by us readers) in their own columns.

      Delete
    2. What is, in the eye of one beholder protraction is, in the eye of another a good sea story. Jim, obviously coming from more of a, errr, nautical background will certainly know that nothing deflates the experience of a good tale more than coming around to one's point too abruptly. You ever hear the one about the three Generals and an Admiral getting together to settle a bet on which branch of the service has the bravest enlisted men? If you get around to delivering the punchline before the 4th round is on the table, you're telling it wrong.

      In all seriousness, though, Jim is one of a rare breed (as this article effectively points out) who does not simply present his audience with an opinion, take it or leave it. He frequently goes far, far out of his way to present the reasons how and why he has arrived at the conclusion he submits for your consideration. Personally, I will anchor myself to my desk chair and read cheerfully through his most convoluted essays because every supporting story is only going to serve me as a longer belt of ammo at my disposal once I depart this hallowed page and pitch myself back into the rabid pit of frothy bedlam otherwise known as my FaceBook news feed. Tell on, Mr. Wright.

      Delete
  56. I don't mind Sarah Palin barking like a fool and chasing her tail, but I really object when she drags her worm filled ass across our national carpet.

    Jeff Lamm

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    Replies
    1. Mr. Lamm,

      That is, without question, THE crudest and most disgusting comment here.

      It's also hands-down THE funniest AND among the most accurate ...

      Thanks for both the "vivid" imagery and the belly laugh ... you bad dog.

      Delete
  57. A new article on the Tea Party's new hero. Wow. Rand Paul is going to have to do some serious backpedaling.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/24/us/politics/rancher-proudly-breaks-the-law-becoming-a-hero-in-the-west.html?hpw&rref=us&_r=0

    ReplyDelete
  58. Some more comments from the esteemed Mr Bundy, who apparently attended the Duck Dynasty School of Public Speaking:
    http://www.msnbc.com/rachel-maddow-show/bundy-i-want-tell-you-one-more-thing#break
    Somehow, I am not surprised.

    ReplyDelete
  59. Wow, scratch the surface a little and the crazy just starts spewing:

    http://www.upi.com/Top_News/US/2014/04/24/Defiant-Nevada-rancher-Cliven-Bundy-Blacks-might-have-been-better-off-as-slaves/9481398347547/

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  60. Thanks Jim. Another great article!!
    God won't come till the end times are upon us so it's up to them to bring it on...Oh, and the bonus is Fear begets Money and Money begets doling out more fear and around it goes...
    So Hallelujah! They get to have their cake and can eat it too...Well at least until God shows up or man wises up. I'm personally still hoping for the latter, though at the moment it's not looking to promising :{

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  61. You can't believe everything you read on the internet. -- Abraham Lincoln

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  62. Exceptional in every respect, even by the high standards of Stonekettle Station. Thank you, Jim.

    Also, thanks to Jeff Lamm for the remark about SP. Expect to see it shared widely and with proper credit to the author.

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  63. You know, Mr. Wright, if you want to summon a disorganized psyops militia to try to push back against the forces of batshit, there are lots of volunteers ready and waiting for their first orders. I take it you've seen this work done in Bosnia, and it worked ok there, didn't it?

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  64. Jim - you used the term "RFID" in reference to newly emerging gun safety technology without making any mention of what the abbreviation stood for .... so, I got off my butt and looked it up. It's an acronym for "Radio Frequency Identification" and developing this technology sounds like it could solve a great number of gun safety issues without infringing on anyone's lawful use of a firearm. Hell, the main reason I don't own a handgun is the fear that my grandkids would get hold of it or in dire circumstances the gun could be snatched away and used against me. And by the way, I missed where Eric Holder said that in order for gun owners to make use of this technology they first had to relinquish all their hokey costume jewelry to the federal government. What the hell was that all about?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. RFID: Radio Frequency Identification. Basically, it's a chip that responds to a coded radio signal sent to it, and then responds. They're used in key fobs for cars (carry the thing in your pocket, get in the car and push the button, and because the fob has responded with the unique code, your car will start). They're also used in inventory control, anti-pilfering in retail environments and as a way of tracking shipping. It's pretty cool stuff.

      Delete
    2. RFID = Cool-but-engendering-lots-of-batshit-paranoia stuff, for those unacquainted. (All too familiar, speaking as one old enough - who attended a couple of right-wing fundamentalist schools in the '70s and '80s - to remember when the Universal Product Code was Step 1 to the Mark of the Beast.)

      Delete
    3. And as I think of it - the Mark of the Beast was supposed (and I use that term advisedly) to "be upon the forehead, _or upon the right hand_". Or, maybe, wrist. Any thoughts as to where the particular clamor over RFID bracelets to confirm "authorized users" for guns might be coming from?

      Delete
  65. A couple of commenters have critiqued this post by saying that it is two, or even three, different essays rolled into one, making it too long. I must respectfully dis-concur.

    It is about the effects of misinformation/disinformation/outright lying/wanton purposeful ignorance on our society. It is about what happens when people stop thinking critically and blindly accept nonsense as fact just because their personal idols said it was so.

    There happen to be more than one instance of that in the news right now, and Jim made use of three of four to illustrate the point. The ship, Infowars, the Pirate Queen, and the Welfare Rancher all contain examples of non-fact running around dressed up as fact. And those who accepted it as fact have caused consequences here in the real world.

    One essay, one point, four examples. It may be long, but hey! I like the writing - don't stop. It may even be somewhat convoluted, but most good thought is not come by simply, in little sound-bites, all lined up in a row. Or else everyone would be doing it.

    Bruce

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    Replies
    1. Greg - ETC(SW) USN - RetiredApril 25, 2014 at 9:17 AM

      It's an essay, not a sound bite. I know that takes one side to an extreme, but it's worth saying. While my own writing experience and expertise can best be described as terrible, I've enjoyed Jim's essays especially for their ability to go deeper into a particular topic. I see enough that would be better in Reader's Digest. I'm not sure what one would suggest trimming. I didn't find anything that wasn't relevant to the central theme and I'm pretty confident (based on my limited experience with Jim's writing at this blog) that Jim considers the essays from his reader's perspective, as well.

      Delete
    2. From my experience, if you are going to read Jim Wright, be ready for a long read. I've never been disappointed, both in the fact his writing is long, and in the fact that it's worth reading.

      Delete
    3. I find myself hesitating over Stonekettle when checking my bookmarks for the next site to read. I so much want to read it but do I have enough time right now? Especially if I am going to read the comments.

      At times it is an evil pleasure, like eating just another chocolate and, oops, the box is now empty.

      Delete
    4. Agreed that this essay was just fine as one rather than chopped into bite-sized morsels.

      My only problem with the length of Jim's essays is that there aren't enough of them, as it takes time to do them (W)right, thus limiting his productivity. Well, that, and that I have to make enough time in my own schedule to give them full attention. Well, plus his paragraphing, while much improved, still does get a bit dense at times. And then


      I'll go out and come back.

      Delete
    5. Well, plus his paragraphing

      I've been wondering about that, and I didn't know whether to just chalk it up to style or not. See, I've developed an email "style" over the years, as a result of people just not reading the whole thing, or even enough of it to get all my points. I began using email in my work--independent construction sub-sub-sub-subcontractor--in the late '90s and, while some "operations" people were pretty good, others, especially the younger ones, would apparently fall asleep halfway through and miss the important parts. Like what material we needed to swap out, or how far off the field measure was. Little things like that. I started breaking the message up into bite-size pieces, using as few lines for each as I could get away with, and double-spacing the paragraphs to set them off a bit. Surprised the hell out of me by actually working. Some.
      Can't help wondering if Our Host has run into that with the million or so messages he's no doubt had to send over the years...

      Delete
    6. Meanie, you'll probably notice that I usually double-space my paragraphs when I post here, too. Makes it look less dense & easier to read, in my opinion.

      rm1948, I wish I had a nickel for every email I have sent out asking three questions, only to get a reply answering just one!

      Bruce

      Delete
    7. As perhaps the chief complainant - nope, sorry. I know what a soundbite is. I know (and loathe) the top-ten list (with extra hipster snark to fill out the wordcount.) I know, given the background I passed earlier, that the written form will almost always exceed the broadcast form in information passed & received.

      (The Internet - which I and Mr Wright predate - is a slightly weird amalgam of the two. Print form with most of the ethic - or frequently lack thereof - of the broadcast form.)

      Delete
  66. Excellent as usual. Quite honestly I harbored a secret desire that the shit was going to hit the fan, and the militiamen would light up the BLM. Why? Because I can't think of a better way to remove 5000 batshit crazy lunatics from the gene pool. I can't think of a more efficient way to relegate this ridiculous militia fringe from the body politic, to complete irrelevance. .

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There turn out to be unpleasant side-effects.

      Delete
    2. Wanted to find out what the 1791 was about on that ugly pirate bracelet. Googled 1791 and top listing: Glenn Beck's 1791 Supply Company. My guess, because I refuse to "go there" (Beck's website) is that "Sassy Palin" is shilling for Beck. Its multi-level marketing: hate, stupidity and jewelry. There is an article at Truthout about Beck's enterprise if anyone is interested. Can't embed with current device...sorry.

      Delete
    3. Um, it says right there in Palin's accompanying text what 1791 stands for: "that glorious year our Bill of Rights came to be"

      Delete
    4. OK...now that the benadryl and cough syrup have worn off (wicked cold, not a recreational thing I can assure you...blech), I feel I should redeem myself here.

      First off, my reply is in the totally wrong place. Steering problems. Second, you are right, the Palin does say what 1791 is about. But after the long post and the excellent discussion and hilarious comments, my addled brain got pirates and 1791 all mixed up and I got curious and ended up at Glenn Beck.

      Just say no kids, really. Benadryl will kick your arse.

      Subsequently, I have done more research and have found that the ugly pirate bracelet was made especially for Lou Sarah by some woman with an etsy store. Palin may have said that as well, but I have to admit to a certain amount of speed reading and skimming when it comes to the stylings os Sarah Palin. Her florid verbal gymnastics, coupled with hearing her voice in my head (ouchy without a bad cold, excruciating with one), make it near impossible for me to get past the first sentence of any of her screeds. Besides, I've got it already: 2nd amendment is the bestest amendment ever, drill baby drill, Obama bad.

      Back to the bracelet. The Google machine suggests that you too can have one for $950. Once again, I did not "go there" as I have gotten bad computer infections from visiting sites of those who have Tea Party affiliations....lie down with dogs kind of thing.

      Anyway, to clear up a misconception I may have started, I do not know if the ugly bracelet is available at Beck's website. But because I got all confused and then made the effort to unconfuse myself, I now know some things I didn't know before.

      I know that Jim's point about propaganda is made all the more clear by the perpetuation within the culture, i.e. the ugly bracelet, of the revisionist history being perpetuated by Palin, Beck and their fellow travelers. I know that Beck has a multilevel marketing empire that bases its advertising on one grievance after the next and extends well beyond publishing and media. I know if I see anyone wearing an ugly 1791 pirate bracelet that the old adage "a fool and their money are soon parted" Is likely applicable.

      One thing I knew before all of this is that the failed governor never misses a chance to pimp out her son's ("some say" less than voluntary) military service. That bit of repugnant propagandizing has been her stock in trade for quite a while now.

      As far as the third, "Don't tread on me"," bracelet is concerned, "I am wondering," to quote Cliven Bundy who quoted Glenn Beck, if one of the little Palin's made it in craft class at the witch-hunter hosting, Dominionist-theology-preaching, church at which Sarah Palin was a member. Pure speculation on my part and not something I plan on researching further.

      Delete
    5. Yes unfortunately there would be nasty side effects. I am not serious about wanting an armed confrontation, conservatives might be surprised by how many liberals have firearms, and how many are willing to use them when there is no alternative. No alternative does not mean the first choice, after you don't get what you want. Unlike conservatives we generally don't present them as some sort of prosthetic for a courage that is generally lacking. No I really wish we had universal healthcare so all the lunatics could receive the mental health care they need, but barring that it might be worth the side effects.

      Delete
  67. Forgive me if this point has already been made, but isn't that echo chamber of "news" that many of those wing nuts listen to belong to an Australian and a member of the Saudi royal family? When you consider they're being fed a robust diet of ungulate manure to the point they've developed a taste for it, and that immigration reform is a rallying point, why doesn't that set them off? "Got to keep them ferriners out so we can hear what Hannity has to say about us maybe shootin' up some Americans". While waving around the US flag that represents the federal government they seem to hate, as was pointed out by Jon Stewart the other night.

    Well, like Sarah Palin would do, I'll quote our founding fathers:
    "Divide and conquer!"

    Also, Mr. Wright, may I suggest instead of Pavlov's Dog, maybe it would be more germane to use Don Young's "Pribilof's Dog", when referring to Ms. Palin's minions? Just sayin'.

    FSM, this is depressing! That's why my doctor recommends Oban.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. As an aussie, I can point out that while Rupert Murdoch is Australia's best known gift to the world, some years ago he became a citizen of the USA.

      His mother died recently at the age of 103, so you will have to put up with him for a while yet. John in Redfern, Sydney

      Delete
    2. --> Aussie: Yes, I knew that. Would you like him back?

      Delete
  68. Logic doesn't work with these folks. I think we are left with ridicule. I find solace in snarky rhymes:

    Don't know if Bundy has a horse,
    Whether white or grey its hide.
    But if his mount is ever stuffed,
    The plaque should read "Free Ride"

    From a work in progress: The Filked Mash up of Cliven Bundy: Mellon Farmer and King of the Welfare Cowboys

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  69. I don’t recognize them having any jurisdiction or authority over this land!
    - Cliven Bundy


    Far as I'm concerned his name is now "Klavern Bundy"

    Scroll down in comments or CRTL+F: klavern

    Commenter was downright prescient...

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  70. So, who else has thought of doing this?

    http://xkcd.com/406/

    Bruce

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    Replies
    1. I most respectfully disagree. I'm comfortable with a long read. Perhaps it's because I was not always connected to the intertubes and have a bit of an attention span. Not intended as a dig, or a suggestion that you may not, but I LIKE complicated and lengthly essays. Gimme 20! Gimme 50! I can handle it!

      Delete
  71. The Koch brothers think they can continue to manipulate the lizard brains of some very unstable people, continue to push guns in their hands and tell them to "go boys, go after the government" all for their selfish interests. They want that land the government owns. They want to frack it, drill it. Problem is, inflaming people's primal anger has blowback.

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  72. My nick name for him is Craven Bundy. Hell do anything now for his 15 minutes.

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  73. Coming in late to the party, as always.

    Has anyone raised the question that 1791 (while it is the year they ratified the Bill of Rights) is also the year of the Whiskey Rebellion which was, in effect, the first American tax revolt against the American government (as opposed to revolts against the English government)?

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  74. It never fails that whenever I try to write something meaningful, I find that someone else has beat me to it. As you've done, in spades.

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  75. You really covered a lot of territory here, Jim. Great analysis and fact checking. Thanks for all the work you put in.

    This is a first-time post, as I didn't know you existed before the whole Negotiating with Terrorists and your Counterpoint blogs. I really admire someone who not only holds strong beliefs, but who also uses logical thinking and hunts for facts rather than what we unhappily see so much in modern society. I was Navy as well, but only 6 years as an MM/ELT, USS Snook SSN 592. The Navy and I were not the right fit, but I knew many sailors I truly respect. Sadly, my sub never had any of you Warrants on board. I heard about them and would have traded a boat-load (literally) of the fresh out of Annapolis Ensigns who had to be schooled in how a boat operates before they could be trusted to do much more than salute the CO.

    Anyway, glad I found your blog.

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  76. Oh, I think I used some hyperbole there in my comment. Annapolis grads had to make it through nuclear power training and were generally JGs by the time they got to the boat. Still, they were mostly clueless for a bit. One tried to tell us Engineering Laboratory Technicians how we were not doing our chemistry properly and the CO had to smack him down before he screwed up the plant.

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  77. as usual, perfect in every way,length,language,facts. a pleasure to read.

    ReplyDelete

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