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Saturday, September 27, 2014

Promises, Promises

This morning on Twitter, Speaker of the House John Boehner was reliving past glories:

"#OnThisDay in 1994, I joined House Republicans in signing A Contract With America."

Ohhhhh, right, it must be election time.

Christmas, you put up a tree and tinsel.  Halloween, it’s ghosts and ghouls. Thanksgiving, it’s pumpkins and construction paper turkeys. Election Season? Republicans start dragging out A Contract with America.

Thanks for reminding us, John.

A Contract With America. You recall this, right?

Twenty years ago today, Newt Gingrich unveiled A Contract with America. It was six weeks before the election and Republicans solemnly promised America that when they took over Congress, well, they'd do a bunch of stuff. Fix things. Make America better.

They made a pact, they did. 

Inside their little Heritage Foundation tree fort, they donned pirate hats made from cleverly folded Wall Street Journals, and the gang all swore blood oaths with their little pinkies hooked together.

And then they made a big show of signing the Contract with America in front of the TV cameras, with John Boehner front and center – and why not? He was one of the guys who wrote it.  Newt Gingrich usually gets credit, but back then John Boehner was the young Paul Ryan Whiz Kid who was going to change things, man, change America.  If you wonder what Ryan will look like in 20 years, well, there you go – maybe a little less orange, but Boehner is Ryan all grown up, old and leathery and cynical.

As contracts go, it was pretty straight forward. Republicans pledged on their solemn honor to reduce the size of government and make the tiny remainder accountable to the people. Boy it sure sounded good, that Contract with America. Republicans were going to clean up corruption in Congress, reform tort law, and reduce the welfare rolls.

But it was a trick. For you see, they had no honor – solemn or otherwise.

Twenty years later, let’s just take a look at how it all worked out:

1) The Contract promised that republicans would ensure all laws that apply to the rest of the country would also apply to Congress. 

Now, now, don’t laugh.

This one was the crown jewel of the contract. Number one on the list.

It didn't even make it out of committee.

Today, under John Boehner, there are laws for us, and laws (snort) for them. And so it goes.

2) The Contract declared Republicans would hire a well known major independent non-partisan auditing firm to conduct a comprehensive audit of Congress for waste, fraud, and abuse.

Uh Huh.

1994, what's that? 20 years ago now? Has anybody seen that report?

See, it turned out, surprise surprise, that nobody in Congress, and especially republicans and their pals in the defense industry and on Wall Street, wanted that audit.

Because, seriously, heh heh, you’re kidding, right? 

And today? Well today, the Citizens United decision upheld by a Republican SCOTUS makes Congress significantly less accountable in every single way imaginable.  A vast, nearly unimaginable amount of untraceable money flows like wine through Congress and prominent members of the Republican party have openly admitted that they work for the Billionaires and Big Money.

And just last month, Senate Republicans filibustered an attempt to overturn Citizens United via Constitutional Amendment.

In the House, Boehner won’t even allow the subject to come to the floor for debate.

So much for that audit.

3. The Contract promised to reduce the number of House Committees, and cut the remaining committee staff by one-third.

Heh heh.

The first thing Gingrich’s new conservative majority did was to form more committees and hire more staff to examine how to reduce the number of committees and staff.

Most of those committees and staffers are still around twenty years later – they long outlasted the guy who promised to get rid of them. In fact, today the number of house committees is even more bloated than it was back in 1994 – and that includes the House Select Committee on the Events Surrounding the 2012 Terrorist Attack in Benghazi (Yes, that’s the actual name) and all its endless subcommittees, which despite spending tens of thousands of man-hours and millions in taxpayer dollars has found exactly … dick.

4. The Contract promised to Limit Committee Chair terms.

This one Gingrich actually followed through on, despite the fact that he and Boehner couldn't figure out how to limit terms for Democrats without also limiting terms for Republicans.

5. The Contract said that republicans would ban proxy votes in Committee.

Gingrich made good on this one too – specifically because it punished Democrats.

Now that Republicans have the majority, there’s been talk of changing the rule back to proxy voting.

6. The Contract with America promised to open House committee meetings to the public.

Not only didn't this happen, with the implementation of the Protect America Act and Patriot Act, a large number of committee meetings became classified in the name of national security and off-limits to not just the public and press, but even GAO oversight. Hell, in some cases, even the sanitized minutes of those meetings are classified.

Want to guess who was the big push behind this move to closed meetings? Liberals or Conservatives? Come on, guess. Come on.

7. Republicans were going to lower taxes and require a three-fifths majority to pass a tax increase.

They tried to amend the Constitution, because that’s what it would take. The bill passed the House, but was rejected by the Senate. So Republicans wrote a law instead, despite knowing there were specific provisions in the Constitution against it – which was why they tried for an Amendment in the first place. The statute passed both houses and was signed into law by Clinton who didn’t have the votes to prevent a veto override – and was promptly struck down by the Supreme Court as unconstitutional when the State of New York sued the federal government.

Not only did Boehner and Co. not keep this provision of the contract, they ended up costing taxpayers billions when the government sued itself for passing a law that it knew in advance wouldn't stand up in court. Because, fiscal conservatives, right? Gonna make those tax dollars count.

8. And finally, the Contract was supposed to guarantee realistic accounting – realistic accounting forsooth – of the Federal Budget through the implementation of something called zero baseline budgeting.

You've heard of this, right?

Sure. Realistic accounting. Zero baseline budgeting. Uh huh. How realistic do you think accounting of the Federal Budget is today?

The Contract with America was the Republican Party’s very specific promise to reduce the size of federal government, reduce taxes, increase entrepreneurial enterprise, provide tort reform, balance the budget, and overhaul welfare. 

Of those promises, Republicans cut taxes. Yes they did, and then massively increased the size of the federal government after starting two wars.  Then they relaxed the rules on Wall Street and gave us the Great Recession.

Then they sent the bill to the next administration and blamed Obama for not fixing it fast enough.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

By the time Republicans lost control of the House and Senate, the cost of the programs the Contract with America promised to fix or eliminate completely had increased by more than 25%.

Four years ago, Republicans led by John Boehner rolled out A Pledge To America, sort of A Contract With America Lite.

"The federal government is too big, it spends too much, and it's out of control," said then House Minority Leader John Boehner. “The current federal government isn't listening and doesn't get it."

The current federal government?

If this was a court room and an actual contract, that would be the part when John Boehner incriminated himself. Right there.

“Our government has failed us," Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) agreed. "The land of opportunity has become the land of shrinking prosperity. People are outraged."

Oh, people were outraged all right, I know I certainly was.

You see, the Pledge these two simpering jackasses were presenting promised the same thing the Contract did, but it was long on promise and short on details.  The Contract had at least contained a roadmap and some specific details (none workable, but still), the Pledge was mostly sound bites and vague hand waving. Republicans didn’t need details, they had Obama. All they had to do was publicly hate him and the rest just sort of followed.

When pressed about The Contract With America and the failure to live up to his end of the contract, Boehner smiled his orange orange smile and said, hey, we only promised to “bring to the House Floor the following bills… .” We did not say we would actually do any of those things.

And so, like 1994, republicans took the House in 2010 and John Boehner became Speaker of Bullshit.

And the Pledge to America?

Like the Contract, it just sort of faded away, quickly forgotten – it was only four years ago, and I bet you’ve never even heard of The Pledge To America, have you?

The only part of their pledge Republicans made good on was hating Obama and obstructing every possible bit of progress since.

Back in 2010, as I watched John Boehner unveil his Pledge, I said in an editorial that “after November, no matter who wins, this Pledge like the Contract before it will quietly disappear. The weasel words have been carefully crafted and the plan is already in motion. This contract isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on, just like the last one. And somewhere, there are a bunch of Native Americans shaking their heads and laughing. Contract with America? Heh heh. Hey! Maybe they'll offer you a land deal next!”

For more than 20 years, John Boehner has been making the same bullshit promises. Twenty years.

He doesn’t deny it, he Tweets about it.

Middle-class families in Southwest #Ohio are being squeezed. When does Washington get the same treatment?

That’s what Boehner said this morning on Twitter.

When does Washington get the same treatment? Seriously? I mean seriously?

John Boehner is Washington.

He’s been Washington for nearly 30 years!

When is Washington going to get the same treatment? You’ve got to be kidding me.

Republicans can blame the president all they like, but John Boehner and his cronies have been making empty promises and shilling the same con game long, long before Barack Obama came along.

And now, here we are, six weeks out from the election and what’s Boehner doing?

Why he’s making the same old promises, the same old pledge, the same old contract.

As I pointed out back then: Contracts, real contracts, are legal instruments entered into by both parties – not something drafted up by one side and foisted on the other.

Here’s the thing, so pay attention: we already have a contract with Congress. A legal and binding contract.

“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter: So help me God.“

That, my fellow Americans, is the contract our leaders have with us. That right there, nothing more and nothing less.

For the last five years, Congressional Republicans together and separately have refused, utterly refused, to live up to the one contract that matters. They have not faithfully discharged their duties, and far from being ashamed of it, John Boehner revels in it.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again as many times as it takes:  If these people, these disingenuous, dishonest, despicable sons of bitches take the Senate next month, it will not be because they’ve kept their promises or lived up to their contract with the people of the United States of America – it will be because you are too goddamned lazy to get off your ass and hold them to account.

Republicans are confident that they will hold on to the House and that they will take the Senate in November.

They are positive they will win and win big.

But, then, that’s what they thought about the White House last time around.

Prove them wrong.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Dominos

Well, I got my window shield so filled
With flags I couldn't see
So, I ran the car upside a curb
And right into a tree
By the time they got a doctor down
I was already dead
And I'll never understand why the man
Standing in the Pearly Gates said:

Your flag decal won't get you
Into Heaven any more
We're already overcrowded
From your dirty little war
Now Jesus don't like killin'
No matter what the reason's for
And your flag decal won't get you
Into Heaven any more…
- Your Flag Decal Won’t Get You Into Heaven Anymore, John Prine, 1971

 

Vietnam.

That’s the bottom end of the scale, right? Vietnam.

The pinnacle of America’s military prowess, is, of course, World War II.

Sure. The Greatest Generation, that’s what they call themselves. The Great Ones. America kicked some serious ass in WWII.  By Jiminy, that’s how war should be, isn’t it? Glory. Heroism. For God and Country. Four, maybe five, years and whamo! enemies utterly destroyed and their countries rebuilt as allies, peace for everybody, and home to parades and cheering and a golden age of wealth and prosperity, right?

Sure.

That’s what they tell us anyway.

But it’s been mostly downhill ever since.

And the low point? The antipode? That’s Vietnam, isn’t it?

That’s the one America doesn’t want to talk about. ‘Nam. Couldn’t win, couldn’t leave. Quagmire.

Vietnam. We’re always worried the next one will be Vietnam.

Nobody says, “hey, this one is going to be World War II all over again! Kickin’ ass and takin’ names! We roll through <insert name of Third World Country here> just like Patton chewing through Italy! Woohoo and hi-yo Silver! 

Nobody says that. No, it’s always going to be Vietnam again.

And right from the start, right from that first night of the invasion on March 19th, 2003, the Iraq War has been compared to Vietnam.

Mark my words, boy, we never learn, it’ll be another quagmire, another Vietnam!

I’m leery of any such comparison, just as I am when people compare every politician they don’t like to Hitler.

But certainly there are parallels, aren’t there?

There are obvious lessons to be learned by looking at Vietnam.

And less obvious lessons, including one really big one, the one staring us right in the face. The most important one.

We’ll come back to that.

The current popular version of history says that America got involved in Vietnam over a lie, an unprovoked attack on US forces that never actually happened, the so-called Gulf Of Tonkin Incident – which became the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which then became the Vietnam Conflict, which was eventually relabeled properly as The Vietnam War. Whether description of that supposed attack was a deliberate lie or just the fog of war combined with political opportunism, I can’t say. Just as I can’t say with any certainty that the men who sent me into Iraq were deliberate liars or just criminally misguided.

But as they say: those who forget history are doomed to repeat it.

Truer words were never spoken and nobody does that better than America.

The reality of the matter, if that word has any meaning here, is that we were involved in Indochina long, long before the Gulf of Tonkin. That’s why American ships were in the Gulf of Tonkin that night in the first place.  We were just looking for an excuse and if it wasn’t an attack by North Vietnamese patrol boats on US Navy destroyers, well, it would have been something else. Almost anything would do, political forces in the US were determined to have a war and they were going to get it, one way or the other.

You see, those men were terrified of communism.

They were certain that America and the rest of the so-called Free World were in imminent danger. They’d fought in World War II and they were fighting in Korea and they were facing the Red Scare at home and they were convinced, utterly convinced, that the communists were coming for them.

Americans were told to be afraid.

And so they were.

And so we went into Vietnam on the pretext of “the domino theory.” That is, America was told that they had to contain communism because if one country fell to the Red Menace, others would too, like dominos one after the other until the Russians and the Chinese came to kill us in our own houses.

"Burma, Thailand, India, Japan, the Philippines and obviously Laos and Cambodia are among those whose security would be threatened if the Red Tide of Communism overflowed into Vietnam."
-
US Senator John F. Kennedy addressing the American Friends of Vietnam, 1955

The Red Tide of Communism. That’s it, right there. That’s what they were worried about.

So certain were they of this domino effect, that the Eisenhower Administration actually considered dropping nuclear weapons on Vietnam and Cambodia – in the 1950s, long before American forces were on the ground there. 

Think about that for a minute.

Think about it in the context of the 1950s.

There was no internet in those days. TV and broadcast media were in their infancy, there was no satellite relays, no live streaming cable news from remote corners of the world. No Google Earth. No History Channel. Hell there weren’t even any Vietnamese restaurants in America. There were no Vietnamese Americans. No Laotians. No Hmong neighborhoods. Asians in the United States lived in Chinatown and most of white America didn’t even speak to black people let alone Asians.  America was barely a decade out of World War II. Vietnam? We’re talking about a former French colony in the jungles of Southeast Asia. Vietnam? Nobody went to Vietnam for spring break. Americans didn’t buy anything from Vietnam. We didn’t sell them anything worth noting. There were no Americans in Vietnam, not in any significant number.

99.9% of Americans had never heard of Vietnam and had no idea where on the globe it was – nor did they care.

And yet … Eisenhower was thinking about nuking them?

Imagine just how scared you have to be in order to find yourself considering that option.

The Vietnam War required us to emphasize the national interest rather than abstract principles. What President Nixon and I tried to do was unnatural. And that is why we didn't make it.
- Henry A. Kissinger

By the time the 1960s arrived, our full involvement was nearly inevitable.

And so we went into Vietnam.

It was supposed to be quick, they were just peasants with pointy sticks after all.  And we were Americans, Goddamnit, we had a modern military and nuclear weapons and Aircraft carriers. We’d train them to speak English, how to fight, and they’d beat back the commies.

And America would be safe again.

A police action and military advisors quickly turned into actual war and more than a decade of bloody combat. 

And we couldn’t get out.

We won every battle, but we couldn’t win the war.  We couldn’t get out. No matter how many we killed, no matter how high the body count, them, us, they just kept coming and we couldn’t get out.  We kept sending in more, more troops, more guns, more planes, more ships. Liberal president. Conservative president. Republicans. Democrats. It didn’t matter, we couldn’t get out. So we just kept throwing our children at them because we couldn’t think of anything better to do. Back home, the country tore itself apart. There were protests and riots and Watergate and bombings and mass murder and social upheaval and cults and counterculture and police brutality and military action against civilians.

And it just went on and on and on.

Every night the news was full of body counts and pictures of dead soldiers. The newspapers and magazines were filled with Pulitzer Prize winning pictures of burned and maimed children, atrocities, mass graves, burning villages, and bloody battlefields. Our streets were filled with hippies and ragged veterans, the airwave sang protest songs, and the VA waiting rooms were stuffed to bursting with shattered men.

And we couldn’t get out.

But we had to do it.

We had to.

Sure we did. We had to because if we didn’t, well, sir, the communists were certain to take over the world. If Vietnam fell, if Cambodia fell, then the Red Tide would flood all of Indochina and spill over into Asia, the Pacific, Europe, and then, inevitably, America.

By the time we did get out we’d been there for twenty years, from 1955 to 1975 and America had been changed nearly beyond recognition. But for some, it wasn’t enough, they were convinced we could still “win,” that we could remake Vietnam into America.  And they might have convinced us to go back, but public support for the conflict was long, long gone and so we finally left Vietnam once and for all.

Nobody really knows how many Vietnamese died. Most Americans don’t really care.

But 58,000 Americans died in that jungle.

Some of them are still dying.

For nothing.

The war didn’t make America any safer. The war didn’t make Vietnam any safer. The war didn’t end the slaughter. It didn’t stop communism.

Those 58,000 Americans died for nothing.

And here we are.

We’ve been at war, again, for a decade. More. We went into Iraq because they told us we had to, because they told us Iraq had attacked us – I know, I was there. We went into Iraq because we were told that if we didn’t fight them there, we’d have to fight them here. Loud voices back home had been shouting for war and if it wasn’t 911, it would have been something else. We just needed an excuse. In the years since, hundreds of thousands have died, nobody really knows exactly how many. Most Americans don’t care. And we can’t get out. Every night for the last fourteen years, since 911 our TV screens have been filled with the dead and dying, the burning villages, the horrors, the atrocities, the machines of war. And we can’t get out. Our country continues to cut at itself, our streets are filled with protests and riots, cults and militia grow like cancers, we hate and fear our government and our own neighbors. And we can’t get out. Conservative president. Liberal president. Republicans. Democrats. And we can’t get out. Our streets are full of ragged veterans, our VA waiting rooms are filled with shattered soldiers. And we can’t get out.

Vietnam, they say. Quagmire.

We thought it was over, we thought it was done. We thought, we thought, we’d done a better job this time. We won the battles, we won the war. We left Iraq on our own schedule, a schedule set by a republican and executed by a democrat. This time there were no pictures of overloaded helicopters lifting desperate Americans from the roof of our embassy as enemy troops smashed through the walls below. 

After ten long, brutal years – twenty really, and more – we thought it was finally over.

But now Iraq is falling apart, along with Syria.

See? The warhawks crow. Told ya! We should have stayed, we should have kept fighting! We should go back!

Last week, Fox News’ Eric Bolling openly declared that America needed to put fighting forces into Iraq and Syria to combat “terrorism.”

Fox’s Jonathan Hoenig agreed, “We have enemies, and they’re the ones who are declaring war on America and slicing journalists’ heads off.” Hoenig then explained that there were no more Japanese kamikazes or attacks from the Nazis because the United States wiped out both those threats in World War II.

“I honestly wonder if our current administration would have won World War II. I think we would have lost it.”

Why stop there?

If Obama was president during the Indian Wars, why we might have lost the Great Plains! America would be confined to a thin slice of North America east of the Appalachians. What if Obama was in charge during the Spanish American War? Who then would have freed Cuba to become communists? And what if Obama was in charge during the Civil War? Why we might still have secessionists and Tea Party racists waving Confederate flags … Okay, that’s a bad example, let’s just move on.

It’s not enough to address what’s actually happening, it’s not enough for a supposed news source to report the actual news, no, they have to imagine what might happen in some alternate universe. See, what if Obama went back in time and replaced Franklin Roosevelt as president? My God, can you imagine a liberal in charge during World War II? A liberal? Why Obama would have lost the whole damned thing and we’d have been fighting Nazis, goddamned Nazis, in the streets of America! Thank Holy Jesus, Roosevelt was a socialism-hatin’ small government conse… Okay, again, bad example, but I think I’ve made my point here.

We’ve got to go back. We need boots on the ground. Air strikes. Cruise missiles. Nuke ‘em from orbit!

If we don’t kill them over there, why, we’ll have to kill them over here!

And it all just sounds so familiar, doesn’t it? Like the steady beat of the drum or the click click click of dominos falling, one after the other.

“To destroy ISIL, you have to kill or capture their leaders, take back their territory, cut off the finances and destroy the capability to regenerate. This is a war we’re fighting not a counter terrorism operation. This president needs to rise to the occasion before we all get killed back here at home!
- Senator Lindsey Graham, R-SC

Oh no! Not back here at home! Not that!

Predictably, Graham went on to compare the Islamic State in Syria to the Nazis, because, well, Goddamned Nazis, you know.  We need boots on the ground Graham said, in Syria. We need to send the Army back to Iraq. Or else the dominos will fall, one by one, click click click, until Islam comes for America.

This,” Graham declared, “is ISIL versus mankind!”

Mankind.

ISIL versus Mankind no less.

Wow. All of Mankind. Just like the commies. Click click click.

The world’s bestest conservative, Ted Nugent, who himself managed to infamously avoid serving in Vietnam, declared that Americans would absolutely positively be fighting Islam in the streets of their hometowns, door to door and hand to hand, on September 11. That would be September 11th, two weeks ago. You remember, right? Big battle. Slaughter in the streets. How many of them did you have to kill?

Those who carry guns had better gun & ammo up no matter where you go, carrying at least 10 spare mags or 10 spare speedloaders because the allahpukes are confident they will once again methodically slaughter walking cowering whining cryin helpless sitting ducks capable of zero resistance. To gullible naive embarrassing ill prepared targets, there is still time to firepower up ASAP. Head for cover but retain an attentiveness in order to identify the evildoers and dbl tap center mass, then two to the head. Then take cover and prepare your next evasive escape, taking dwn known jihadists to the best of your ability, Aim small miss small center mass & headshots, This is going to be the real deal & absolutely survivable against these 4th world allahpuke zombies. STAND! Go heavy, Only a–holes are outgunned, Dont be outgunned or out ammo’d. Goodluck. Be safe, Shoot straight & OFTEN, Godspeed, killemall

Helpless sitting ducks. In the streets of America. This is going to be the real deal, folks. We’ve got to armor up! Seek cover, shoot for the head!

Except September 11 came and went …

… and somehow the streets weren’t filled with Islamic fighters. 

It wasn’t the real deal.

There were no zombies.

No Nazis.

Americans remained safe in their beds.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the Aisle, Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.) was cautiously satisfied with President Obama's plan. But then he went on to say that he strongly opposes any effort to use ground troops unless Congress authorized a war.

It’s not that he was willing to rule out war and invasion, he just wanted to have a hand in it this time.

"Every war I've been in Congress on has started out with advisers and no boots on the ground. And then..."

Every war I’ve been in Congress for? How many is that, exactly? And is it just me who finds that statement more than a little troubling, for a number of reasons?

Last Tuesday Rangel explained that if America did send troops back the Middle East, Congress would first have to declare war, and second … authorize a draft.

Advisors, then a declaration of war followed by boots on the ground.

And a draft.

Talk about Vietnam.

What’s next Charlie? We going to have Ted soil himself in public again, while we dig up the festering corpse of General Westmoreland to run the thing?

Vietnam.

If there is one man, one member of Congress who should understand the folly of an endless, unwinnable war, it’s John McCain.

If there is one man, one member of the American government, one war hero, one leader, who should understand the value of prudence and caution, it’s John McCain.

If there is one veteran who should understand reluctance to throw our children into the fire without specific goals, without well thought out plans, and without a unity of the national will, it’s John McCain.

If there is one man, one man, who should understand Vietnam, goddamn but it should be John McCain.

“Kill ‘em!”

Kill ‘em!

That was John McCain’s response to Greta Van Susteren on Fox News last Tuesday when she asked what our strategy should be.

Kill  ‘em!

She asked him to maybe provide a little more expansion on his plan, kill ‘em:

“They’ve got to be destroyed! And you’ve got to have a goal, the president does, and we have to have a strategy to fit that goal and policies that will implement it. We have none of the above.”

That’s what John McCain learned from Vietnam. Kill ‘em!

McCain used his interview with Susteren to push for war in both Iraq and Syria. He declared that the threat requires the “full weight of American air power” and “some more boots and support on the ground.”

“All this didn’t have to happen. We could have left a force behind in Iraq that would have stabilized Iraq. And we are paying an incredible price for the president’s leading from behind, whether it be in Iraq, in Syria, in Libya, or a number of countries in the Middle East. We are seeing the chickens coming home to roost.”

We could have left a force behind in Iraq, so says John McCain.

We could have. The obvious implication being that President John McCain certainly would have left American combat forces in Iraq.

McCain conveniently failed to mention that that force would be either an occupying force or a force subject to Islamic law.

McCain also conveniently failed to mention that putting American combat forces on the ground in either Iraq or Syria would be an act of open war. 

And that war would be a preemptive one. 

You see, while the Islamic State may certainly be a threat to American interests, they have not attacked us.  They killed an American hostage, yes, but we generally don’t start wars over one person. Do we? Especially ones that travel of their own free will to meet the enemy. The Islamic State is fighting the Iraqi and Syrian governments – one of which is a corrupt and unreliable ally and one of which is a self-declared enemy of the United States – not us.

Last time I checked, preemptive wars are illegal, a violation of both international law and our own.

And John McCain, of all people, should know that. What McCain demands is illegal, it’s against our law, international law, Iraqi law, Syrian law, and the wishes of our allies in the region.  And yet, he’s a prominent figure in the party who keeps saying that Obama doesn’t adhere to the law. Riiiight.

Neither the Iraqi government or most especially the Syrian government wants American troops on their territory. Syria’s hatred of America is well known and unchanged – especially since we are openly supporting the rebels fighting against the Syrian government. And Iraq’s new prime minister, Haider al-Abadi, said on Wednesday that foreign troops on Iraqi soil are "out of the question."

So, if we were to put “boots on the ground” as John McCain demands, it will be as an invasion. 

For us to put combat forces into Iraq and Syria, “boots on the ground,” it will have to be a full up declared war. There are no bases for American forces there, no safe havens, no allies. We will return as invaders, we will have to either topple the legal governments of both countries or take them hostage at bayonet point and force our will upon them – all while fighting both their militaries and the Islamic State.

You’ll note John McCain failed to mention that as well.

McCain also didn’t bother to mention what happens when you let politicians and their contractor pals run a war for profit – like Vietnam.

Take the Institute for the Study of War as an example.

Institute for the Study of War. Sounds ponderously official, doesn’t it? The Institute describes itself as a non-partisan think-tank, but it’s run by a bunch of civilian staffers/military hangers-on – Whiz Kids, to use the Vietnam era vernacular – and various former Army officers and funded almost entirely by defense contractors such as Raytheon and General Dynamics. 

Non-partisan. You’ll forgive my skeptical expression, won’t you?

Not entirely surprising, the Institute for the Study of War typically proposes more war as a solution for war.

Last week the Institute’s founder, Dr. Kimberly Kagan and the Institute’s director of research, Jessica Lewis, a former Army intel officer (who is careful not to include her former rank in her bio and who was one of those folks who won themselves a bronze star or two for non-combat related action, hoorah!), penned an official looking report that makes a case for, well, war.

It’s called “A strategy to Defeat the Islamic State” and it’s freely available to the public on the think-tank's website.

It’s an interesting read. It makes some good points and outlines some useful objectives.

But the part I really enjoyed was the last paragraph of the executive summary:

Though this strategy contains a high risk of failure and the near-certainty of U.S. troop casualties, the outcomes of ISIS retaining control of the territory it has seized, an escalated sectarian war, more foreign fighters, and the largest al-Qaeda safe haven it has ever known outweigh those risks.

A high risk of failure.

Near certainty of US casualties.

Gotta do it though. Fight ‘em there, or we’ll have to fight ‘em here. Dominos, boys, dominos.

Goddamn, if that isn’t pure Whiz Kid I don’t know what is.  I went back to see if the Ghost of Robert McNamara was on the Institute’s board of directors.

Listen to me, when you let the defense industry tell you when to go to war, you’re never going to have not war. Ever.

And it appears McCain learned nothing from Vietnam.

As did we all.

See, we never talk about what happened after.

Oh certainly we learned a few things in the years since 1975. Support the troops, don’t blame them for the sins of our political leadership.  See that they are properly equipped – we don’t do that, but we know that we should.  Have a plan, a solid strategy with measurable goals – we don’t do that, but we know that we should.  Have a plan for after the war, for rebuilding the nation, for winning hearts and minds – we don’t do that, but we know that we should.  Take care of veterans when they come home – we don’t do that either, of course, but we know that we should.

But we missed the big one.

When we left Vietnam, well, to be blunt, the domino toppled.

We left our former allies to their fates, to the killing fields and the mass executions and the reeducation camps and the atrocities of civil war. We left them to collective farms and economic collapse.

We left them to the communists. 

And the communists won.

And yet – and yet – Burma (now Myanmar), Thailand, India, Japan, the Philippines, those dominos didn’t topple.

Myanmar is a brutal repressive regime today, but that has nothing to do with our departure from Vietnam.  There was already a repressive government in the Philippines, one propped up by the United States and made worse by the flood of American forces pouring through the whorehouses and tattoo parlors outside of Subic Bay and Clark Air Force base. Since that time, since America left, the Philippines has become an actual democracy. Though I doubt anybody would say the country is perfect, things are far better for Filipinos today than they were back then. Thailand continues on as it always has, ditto Japan. And India is rapidly becoming a superpower. 

In point of fact, it seems that the domino theory was about as accurate as Ted Nugent.

In the forty years since Vietnam, the dominos that fell were mostly communist.

The Soviet Union withered and died, bankrupted by a war ironically in the very same region and against the very same people John McCain would have us return to fighting.

After two decades, reform came to Vietnam. The old guard was peacefully replaced, the collective farms were privatized, Soviet style economics became free-market reforms.

And Vietnam today?

The communists still hold power, true. Vietnam is one of the few remaining nations with a single party socialist government, but even that is slowly fading away. Vietnam is a vibrant country, a ripe target for American investment and economic growth.

Vietnam is hardly a paradise. But it has become a peaceful nation and, predictably, an economic partner of the United States.

And the region is far more stable today for our lack of boots on the ground than it ever was as the pawns and proxies and colonies of the First World.

Fast forward 40 years and certainly we can not stand by and allow ISIS/ISIL to slaughter the innocents without protest. Morally we must do something, we must send aid, we must help our allies, no matter how unsavory. We must train and equip those willing to defend their own homes. Certainly, I don’t argue that.  If we are to call ourselves moral people, then we have a moral obligation.

Just as we have a moral obligation to rescue our people from the clutches of terrorists. Just as we have a moral obligation to hunt down and destroy those who would murder our people.

But boots on the ground? Invasion? War?

No.

Certainly the fanatics of the Islamic State may one day come for us. That is certainly a possibility.

Or they may not.

Certainly the fanatics of the Islamic State may one day threaten other nations in the Middle East.

Or they may not.

Or, perhaps, like Vietnam, forty years from now these people will find peace and civilization if left to their own devices.

Will they? What are the odds? Is it likely? Maybe not, probably not, but it for damned sure isn’t going to happen in a state of continuous invasion.

This threat exists because war and conflict have destabilized the region.

More war won’t fix that.

Just as throwing more and more of our children into Vietnam didn’t bring peace or stability there.

Most certainly we should be concerned. We should be outraged and appalled at the brutality and the horror. Absolutely we should be. Absolutely we should acknowledge our role in this mess and provide what support we can to aid those caught in the middle. With caution. With prudence. With an understanding that real peace and stability can’t be imposed at the muzzle of a gun or dropped from a bomb bay or by shouting Kill ‘em!

Don’t get me wrong. I’m no pacifist – though I don’t care if you think I am.

I’m no Neville Chamberlain. I’m no isolationist. I spent my entire life in the military. I did my time in Iraq. But my oath was to defend the United States, not throw my life and the lives of the forces under my command away for political goals or because fearful men shake in terror at the thought of what might happen someday.

And that, right there, is the real lesson of Vietnam.

 

Yeah, my blood's so mad feels like coagulatin'
I'm sitting here just contemplatin'
I can't twist the truth, it knows no regulation
Handful of senators don't pass legislation
And marches alone can't bring integration
When human respect is disintegratin'
This whole crazy world is just too frustratin'

Think of all the hate there is in Red China
Then take a look around to Selma, Alabama
You may leave here for four days in space
But when you return, it's the same old place
The poundin' of the drums, the pride and disgrace
You can bury your dead, but don't leave a trace
Hate your next-door neighbor, but don't forget to say grace

And, tell me over and over and over and over again, my friend
You don't believe we're on the eve of destruction
No no, you don't believe we're on the eve of destruction
-
Barry McGuire, Eve of Destruction, 1965

Thursday, September 11, 2014

911: Thirteen Years On

Foreward: I wrote this essay on the morning of the 10th anniversary of 911.  Rereading it, I see little I would have said differently. // Jim Wright




It’s been ten years now.

A decade today.

And frankly, I think that’s about enough.

There comes a point where you have to stop reliving the horror over and over.

There comes a point where you have to say enough, this and no more.

I think a decade is enough time.

Now, don’t get me wrong, the events of September 11th, 2001 were traumatic on a national scale.  911 was a shock like no other in American history, hell, maybe even in world history.  The modern Information Age saw to that, bringing it right into our living rooms without any delay to soften the impact, live and in horrifying color. 

All of us remember where we were and what we were doing on that terrible morning, I know I certainly do

I’m not in any way saying that we should forget, but there comes a point where you have to allow history to become history.

There comes a point where you have to move on.

Today marks a decade now, since 911.  In that time, we went to war and seven thousand more Americans, some of our very best, died.  Tens of thousands more were maimed and scarred and damaged forever.  Hundreds of thousands of innocents died. 

Entire countries were laid waste.

In the decade since 911, we Americans have became a callous people who can look upon those devastated lands and say, well, you know they had it coming, all of those bastards had it coming including their goddamned children.

In the decade since 911, we became a nation that tortures people and disappears people and detains people, including our citizens, indefinitely without trial or recourse in abject repudiation of the very spirit of our nation’s own founding – and we are unashamed of that and unrepentant. 

In the decade since 911, we have become a nation where, as an American, you must put aside your freedom a dozen times a day. You must show your papers. You must submit to naked body scanners and you must allow unsmiling uniformed men with the force of secret laws behind them to grope the most intimate areas of your children and yourselves. Such has become the price of freedom in America. We have become a nation  where you – as an American – can be detained for a glance or a gesture or a careless word or for checking out the wrong book from the library or for worshipping the wrong God.  We have become a nation where the only acceptable response to uniformed authority is immediate and total submission. Talk back, question, stand pat on the rights of previous generations and you’ll be branded an enemy. We have become a nation that claims to revere liberty and justice, but believes those things can only be had when secret agencies monitor our every email and our every communication without warrant or probable cause. 

The day after 911, September 12th, 2001, Congress stood upon the steps of the Capitol with the smoke of the burning Pentagon still hanging in the air above their heads and solemnly pledged to the American people that they would put aside their partisanship and their personal agendas and work together for the sake of our nation.  

In the decade since that moment we have become a nation divided instead, a nation of partisan rancor writ large – and those who stubbornly proclaim their patriotism loudest are the very ones who would lead us into civil war and secession.  They would destroy what terrorists could not.

And yet, in the decade since 911, we have found those responsible, rooted them out, and ground them into dust.  It took ten years, but Osama bin Laden is dead at the hands of Americans.  So is his successor. So are hundreds of his lieutenants.  So are thousands of his foot soldiers.  

So are many, many others, including thousands of Americans.

But it has not brought us closure.

And it has certainly not brought us peace.

Nor has it healed us as a nation.

911 was horrifying. It was personal to us all, every single American. It left us scarred, as a nation, and traumatized.

And we keep using that horror, that trauma, as an excuse to lash out in a massive case of collective post traumatic stress disorder.

The wounds of that event run deep and are still raw a decade later – but those wounds will not heal so long as we keep picking at the scab over and over and over.

Today, we will relive the horror yet again – a fevered nightmare that simply won’t go away because we will not allow it to go away.  

Again, don’t get me wrong, we should always remember the events of September 11th, 2001, just as we remember Pearl Harbor or the assassination of John F. Kennedy or the hundred other events that shocked and traumatized our nation. But if we are to heal, if we are to move on, we have to stop reliving that horror over and over. 

Certainly we should build the memorials and lay the wreaths.

Of course we should always remember the names of the fallen and hold them sacred.

But we need to stop covering ourselves in the blood of that day.

Today, right now as I write this, hundreds of media channels will play the recordings of those trapped in the towers.  They’ll play those recordings over and over and over again. Recordings of the tortured calls to emergency services and the final calls to loved one.  And we’ll listen, yet again, to the intimate agony of those dying people.  They will play on endless loop the videos of those who jumped seventy stories to their death, lingering lovingly on their faces, speculating about their last moments, reveling in the horror. They interview those who witnessed the death and destruction and horror and they’ll beg, “Tell us what you were thinking. Tell us what you were feeling at that very moment.” We don’t need to know what they were feeling, what they were thinking, because we felt the same exact thing. We’re still feeling it. But we’ll listen anyway like a entire nation slowing down to goggle wide-eyed at a car wreck. 

We’ll watch the towers fall. Again.

We’ll see the Pentagon crumple and explode.  Again.

We’ll hear the tapes of the air traffic controllers, of the horrified confusion in the towers, and the phone calls of those Americans who fought back above the corn fields of Shanksville, Pennsylvania.  

I hear those tortured voices, I see those dying faces, and I don’t feel hate. I don’t feel a need for revenge. I’ve had a decade of hate. I went to war in revenge. I’ve been covered in blood long enough.

Instead, I look at those pictures and I feel revulsion. 

There is something obscene about listening to 911 calls, any 911 call.  While those records may have value to history, it is nothing but a voyeuristic grotesquery to broadcast those intimate communications to a public jaded by reality TV and violent slasher flicks. 

It serves no purpose whatsoever but to keep open festering wounds that should be long scabbed over.

Today, pundits and politicians will use this anniversary to drive us further apart, to reopen the wounds, for their own selfish agendas, to further inflame partisan fervor and to brand their neighbors as enemies and un-American. 

And we will let them do it, because in the decade since 911 we’ve become a nation of cutters who hack at our own flesh with mean abandon.

Since 911, an entire generation has been born and grown to self-awareness.

Those young Americans have never known their nation at peace. 

They have never known a nation that is not divided.

They have never had a single day where they weren’t told to hate their neighbors and to report them if they don’t seem patriotic enough.

They have never lived a single day in a nation that wasn’t bent to the terrible business of revenge.

They have never known a nation that didn’t roil in fear and cringe in terror every single day.

They have never flown on an airplane without having been treated like a criminal.

They have never checked out a book from the library without having been subject to secret scrutiny.

They never sent an unmonitored email or made an unmonitored phone call.

They have never lived in a house that isn’t subject to unwarranted search.

They have never had the right to redress or legal challenge when their name is placed on secret lists – and in point of fact, they don’t even have the right to know if their name is on that list at all.

They have never lived in a nation where they have the right to confront their accuser and demand proof of more than just suspicion.

They have never lived without the threat, however unlikely, of being disappeared.

They have never lived in a nation that didn’t regard the torture of human beings as an acceptable option.

This new generation has lived under the shadow of those falling towers every single minute of every single day since the moment they were born.

The terrorists didn’t do that.

We did it to them.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Bang Bang Crazy, Part 10

An armed society is a polite society. Manners are good when one may have to back up his acts with his life.
- Robert Heinlein, Beyond This Horizon

An armed society is a polite society.

That’s what somebody said to me today.

I said, ah, so you’re a Heinlein fan then?

The reply was a blank stare.  Heinlein, never heard of him. NRA?

Uh, no, not exactly. But he’s the guy who said it, that bit about an armed society, the idea you’re quoting out of context. And really, listen, I hate to be a wet blanket, and I’m as big of Heinlein fan as anybody, but I’m going to have to call Shenanigans on that one right up front.

An  armed society is a polite society.

Uh, no. No, it’s not. Not outside of science fiction anyway.

You see, when Robert Anson Heinlein wrote that line, “an armed society is a polite society,” it was in the context of a fictional story. That’s what he did, you know, he wrote science fiction. You could say that in certain circles, he’s somewhat known for it.  He created a “politely” armed society for his 1948 novel, Beyond This Horizon (first printed 1942 as a two part serial in the pulp magazine Astounding Science Fiction).

And in Heinlein’s case, “polite” is subject to broad interpretation.

Horizon describes what’s nowadays typically referred to as a “post-scarcity” utopia.  All the problems plaguing mankind have been beaten, hunger, poverty, disease, conflict, old age, and even death from natural causes in large part, are all relics of the past.  Genetic modification of human beings is the norm (in fact, “natural” or unmodified human beings are so rare, they are a endangered and protected species).  Most humans in this society are what we’d call “supermen,”  they’re physically perfect and mentally gifted. Nobody wants for anything and nobody has to work – or do anything they don’t want to.

Naturally, the world is packed end to end with the resulting mass of bored humanity.

Which means that people have plenty of opportunity to bump into each other, physically and mentally, and be insulted or offended. 

So they all go armed.

Nearly everybody in Beyond This Horizon carries a personal sidearm. Those that don’t are pariahs and have to wear special identifiers. And they get the opportunity to use those weapons on a regular basis because dueling is the primary method used to resolve interpersonal conflict.

Which is where the quote comes in. See, if you don’t want to duel to the death with an immortal superman, then you’d best be damned careful not to give offense in any way. You’d better be unfailingly polite.

An armed society as a polite society works for Beyond This Horizon, and it works because Heinlein wrote it that way.

It was simply a device to hang a story on and nothing more.

Which is probably why we shouldn't base our society on pull quotes from science fiction - no matter whether the writer be a master storyteller like Robert Heinlein or a deluded hack like L. Ron Hubbard – or Ayn Rand for that matter.

Heinlein, whatever his failings, wasn't any drooling ammosexual. He had strong opinions about society and he was certainly not shy about stating them, both in his fiction and in his life. But he also believed, very strongly, in personal responsibility and individual accountability - something the gun nuts never seem to mention when cherry picking his work. He's been dead now for 20 years and it's too late to ask, and as I said the definition of “polite” in the context of the story is somewhat subjective, but given his background and beliefs I seriously doubt that Robert Heinlein expected Americans to go around so terrified by the likely armed response of irrational people that they just hide in their houses and keep their mouth shut or be willing to risk death daily in the grocery store or on the way to pick up their kids from school. 

But, you know, even if he did, if even that’s exactly what he actually thought, so what? He was a writer, not some infallible omniscient deity.

The quote isn’t profound, it’s just a line in a science fiction story.

I might enjoy Star Wars, but I don’t think America has to live by the Jedi Code.

But then again, maybe Heinlein had a point. Maybe if everybody is armed and willing to kill each other over any minor altercation, if every American is so angry and so utterly terrified for their lives every minute of every day that they must respond to any confrontation no matter how small with deadly force in fear for their lives, well, yeah, maybe we will get a more polite society.  What’s left of it after the carnage. After we've gunned down all the people who frighten us, all those people with different skin colors, and those with sexual orientations that make us uncomfortable, and those with funny accents and alien customs, and the punks who wear strange clothes and go around sporting tattoos and piercings, and especially those people who worship the wrong gods or none at all, and … parents on the way to pick up their kids from school. Sure, once we get rid of those people, thin out the herd, what's left will be a whole lot more polite – courteously shouting "please" and "thank you" from their bunkers, no doubt.

 

Wait, what was that last one?

 

Shoot people on the way to pick up their kids?

Well, yes, that’s exactly correct.  That’s what happened in Michigan this week.

Tuesday, 69 year old Martin Zale was driving like a horse’s ass through a residential neighborhood, speeding and driving aggressively (No, that’s not my opinion, there were witnesses – including Zale’s wife). He crossed paths with 43 year old Derek Fleming, who along with his wife, was on the way to pick their two young children from school. Zale nearly collided with Fleming, tailgated him, and then cut him off despite the fact that Fleming had politely moved into the right lane in order to let Zale pass.  After cutting Fleming off, Zale slammed on his brakes forcing Fleming to slam on his so as to avoid a collision. At the next intersection, Fleming got out of his SUV and approached Zale’s truck.

There were witnesses and they are all agreed, Fleming was not armed and did not threaten Zale in any way, he simply asked, “What’s your problem?”

Zale rolled down his window, pulled out a concealed pistol, and without a word shot Fleming in the face, killing him.

And that, right there is the “polite society” these gun nuts would have us live in.

They want the right to act like assholes, to say or do any goddamned obnoxious thing they like, force a confrontation and then when questioned about it claim that they felt “threatened” in order to stand their ground.

That’s it. That’s the society these people think they want to live in. Dodge City. Tombstone. Beyond This Horizon. Duels and pistols at dawn. Blood in the street.

What?

No.

Don’t. Just don’t.

Don’t get all narrow eyed and start making that patting gesture and telling me that I’m wrong.

Don’t tell me I’m making a mountain out of a molehill.

Don’t try to tell me that it’s just one isolated incident, just one crazy gun-toting asshole with a chip on his shoulder and grudge to settle.

Don’t.

After all the blood and all the bullets and all the insanity this suicidal gun crazy culture has inflicted on America, just don’t.

Instead, how about we review what a shitting sitting member of the National Rifle Association said this week:

“Those who carry guns had better gun & ammo up no matter where you go, carrying at least 10 spare mags or 10 spare speedloaders because the allahpukes are confident they will once again methodically slaughter walking cowering whining cryin helpless sitting ducks capable of zero resistance. To gullible naive embarrassing ill prepared targets, there is still time to firepower up ASAP.  Head for cover but retain an attentiveness in order to identify the evildoers and dbl tap center mass, then two to the head. Then take cover and prepare your next evasive escape, taking dwn known jihadists to the best of your ability, Aim small miss small center mass & headshots.”

Of course that was Ted Nugent yesterday on Facebook.

Well, of course it was. Who else would it be?

And of course Nugent is a murderous madman – just another drooling ammosexual with an arsenal. Not to mention a guy who shit his pants at the very thought of having to face down armed enemies for real.

Ted Nugent is an active and outspoken member of the NRA Board of Directors. When he speaks, he’s speaking for them, for every single member past and present of the National Rifle Association and their apologists, for the gun culture of America – and don’t tell me that he’s not, not until the NRA publically ousts him and unambiguously and in no uncertain terms condemns his murderous paranoid bugfuckery.  Not until his shows are cancelled, not until he’s ruined financially, not until he’s held to account for his bullshit, not until he’s arrested for making terroristic threats.

Listen to me, if one Muslim extremist is the face of all of Islam, then Ted Nugent is the face of the NRA. Quod erat demonstrandum. Period and you can’t have it both ways.

“This is going to be the real deal & absolutely survivable against these 4th world allahpuke zombies. STAND! Go heavy, Only assholes are outgunned, Dont be outgunned or out ammo’d. Goodluck. Be safe, Shoot straight & OFTEN, Godspeed, killemall.”

Nugent was talking about his belief that Muslims, or “allahpukes” as he calls them, will attack America on the anniversary of 9-11, and that Americans, real Americans, will have to fight for their very lives in the streets of their hometowns. But his mindset, the paranoid armed insanity that is this exact mindset, the idea that the whole world is out to get you, that you have a god-given lawful right to act like a selfish obnoxious asshole all of the time and if questioned about it in any way whatsoever then deadly force is somehow the right and proper response, that mindset is exactly what led to the cold-blooded murder of Derek Fleming.

Tell me, what else are we to make of “…walking cowering whining cryin [sic] helpless sitting ducks capable of zero resistance. To gullible naive embarrassing ill prepared targets…” Is that what Derek Fleming was? A sitting duck? A gullible na├»ve embarrassing ill prepared target? No really, you tell me, what distinguishes the murderous rhetoric of Ted Nugent or the murderous terrorism of Martin Zale from any Jihadist? Zale gunned down an American in the middle of a residential neighborhood. He killed a father who committed no crime who made no threat, who was on his way to pick up his kids. Zale slaughtered a husband in cold blood while his wife watched.

Now, you tell me, what distinguishes Martin Zale from the men who cut off James Foley’s head?

That’s not defense of country.

That’s not self defense.

That’s not freedom.

That’s not liberty.

That’s not justice.

That’s not what the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution means.

That’s insanity.

People like Martin Zale, people like Ted Nugent, should not, under any circumstance, be allowed to own or operate a gun. Hell, Zale at least shouldn’t even have a driver’s license.

Police took Zale into custody after the shooting. It took two days, but today he was formally charged with one count of open murder, two counts of felony firearms, and the discharge of a weapon from a vehicle.

And then this happened:

“I fully support the right of individuals to keep and possess firearms, but it’s when they misuse those weapons that it becomes a problem.”

That was Livingston County Prosecutor, William Vailiencourt, the guy who charged Zale with open murder.

I fully support the right of individuals to keep and possess firearms.

That’s great, Bill, it really is. But you know it’s a damned sad day when a public official feels he has to preface a press conference about an aggravated murder with that caveat. 

Big fan of the Second Amendment here. Love those guns, fellas, love ‘em. America, fuckin’ A baby. Fuckin’ A. Buuuuut if people “misuse” firearms, well, boy, yeah, okay, that’s gonna be a bit of a problem right there. You bet. We’ll have to do something about that. 

It’s not a “problem,” Mr. Prosecutor, it’s stone cold murder.

It’s a sad day when Americans are so goddamned bang bang crazy that you have to make sure, absolutely sure, that you’re not perceived as maligning the sacred holiness of the Second Amendment in any way no matter how slight when talking about cold blooded murder.

But he had to say it, didn’t he? Vailiencourt had to caveat his words, he had to make sure Americans understood he supports unlimited gun rights. Had to. Or else he’d lose his NRA endorsement and that would be the end of his political career.

And there it is, right there.

That’s the fear which reveals Heinlein’s comment for what it is: science fiction.

Beyond This Horizon is a darned entertaining story, but it’s not a blueprint for civilization.

The simple truth of the matter is that in reality an armed society isn’t a polite society. Not even close. It never has been. And, short of Heinlein’s fictional utopia it never will be. This is provable and repeatable as many times as you care to run the experiment. The results are always the same. An armed society simply swaps one form of tyranny for another.

As much as I enjoy reading Robert Heinlein’s work, as much as I respect him as a Navy shipmate and as a writer and as a teller of tales and as a human being, outside of fiction his observation is pure bullshit.

An armed society is not a polite society.

It’s not even a civil one.

It’s a society that lives in abject fear

Every single day.

No statement should be believed because it is made by an authority.
-
Robert Anson Heinlein

 


Footnote 1:

Attention gun nuts: Save it. Really, just save it for somebody who hasn’t heard it all before.

Save my time and yours – but mostly mine.

Commenting on Stonekettle Station is moderated. By me. Stonekettle Station is not a democracy, it’s my private property. You want to call me names, threaten me, question my patriotism, you go right ahead and do that, that’s your right.  But you’re not going to do it here.  You want to comment? You want to make your feelings known to the readers here? Then you will goddamned well be respectful, courteous, and well spoken. You will use proper grammar and punctuation. Above all, you will be polite. Period. This is non-negotiable – and you shouldn’t have a problem with that, given that I’m armed.

Oh, yes, that’s correct. I’m armed. Guess you didn’t see that coming, did you? Maybe, just maybe, you’d best rethink threatening me. Your call, I’m good either way. Click on the link to Part 1 below, read the footnote there if you read nothing else, get your mom to help you with the big words if necessary.  It’s very likely that I know more about guns, their operation, their care and feeding, and their use in violent confrontation, and the Second Amendment, than you do.  I was trained by professionals and likely I own more guns than you do.

So do us both a favor and save your threats and accusations and other drooling NRA bullshit for the guy who shit his pants in public rather than serve his country. You shouldn’t have to look very far to find a guy like that, you can smell the rank stink of his fearful cowardice from a mile away.

 

Footnote 2:

Every time I write another addition to this series, I hope it's the last. But it never is, there's always another massacre. Always another murder. Always another angry lunatic with a hard-on and a gun and score to settle. Always. It never ends. Welcome to America.

Here’s the rest of it:

 The Seven Stages of Gun Violence
And the Bang Bang Crazy Series:
Part 1, What we need, see, are more guns, big fucking guns
Part 2, Gun violence isn't the exception in America, it's who we are
Part 3, Sandy Hook, the NRA, and a gun in every school
Part 4, More dead kids and why we have laws
Part 5, Gun control means using two hands
Part 6, The Christopher Donner rampage or they needed killin'
Part 7, Still more dead kids and now we can print our own guns!
Part 8, Let's try blaming the victim, shall we?
Part 9, Armed soldiers on post and nothing to go wrong there. Nothing at all.