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Monday, October 19, 2015

Empty Gestures

… this new Republican faction regards the messy business of politics as soiled and impure. Compromise is corruption. Inconvenient facts are ignored. Countrymen with different views are regarded as aliens. Political identity became a sort of ethnic identity, and any compromise was regarded as a blood betrayal.
     - David Brooks, The Republicans’ Incompetence Caucus, New York Times

 

It’s entirely possible politicians and social media should never mix.

Jeb Bush took a moment out of his ongoing tickle-fight with Donald Trump to brag a little:

image

 

The man who would be president is bragging about Fantasy Football: Ha ha! Look how good I am at this make-believe thing! I should have formed a make-believe league! I’m really good at make-believe!

I went back through Bush’s timeline to see how often he makes similar Look At Me I’m A Regular Joe tweets.

He doesn’t.

His official @JebBush account has sent out roughly 2400 tweets since it came online in February 2010. Every one of those messages are geared towards Bush’s political agenda. Given that, if you look at “Can’t help bragging about my fantasy football team” in context, the message is pretty obvious: his skill at some silly game somehow makes him a better choice for president than his rivals.

Which is hilarious ...

 

… right up until you suddenly realize Fantasy Football is actually a pretty accurate metaphor for the current state of the Republican Party itself and may indeed be a valid criterion for the guy who would rule Conservatopia.

 

Once upon a time (all good fantasies start with “Once upon a time…”), conservatives were serious men in white shirts and brush cuts. They were scientists, engineers, teachers, doctors, and steely eyed veterans.

As staunch conservative David Brooks says in his column in the New York Times,

By traditional definitions, conservatism stands for intellectual humility, a belief in steady, incremental change, a preference for reform rather than revolution, a respect for hierarchy, precedence, balance and order, and a tone of voice that is prudent, measured and responsible. Conservatives of this disposition can be dull, but they know how to nurture and run institutions. They also see the nation as one organic whole. Citizens may fall into different classes and political factions, but they are still joined by chains of affection that command ultimate loyalty and love.

Like Brooks, that’s the conservatism I grew up with.

That’s the kind of conservatives my parents were.

Those are the conservatives I remember and the ones I miss.

Once conservatives, as a group, were those who believed in science (who often were scientists), they were the engineers, the teachers, the doctors, the scout leaders, the steady steely-eyed vets. Men like my dad.  Once upon a time, they were the practical pragmatic men who landed Americans on the moon and brought them safely back home again – while the liberals of the time were dreaming their long-haired red-eyed hippy dreams in The Age of Aquarius. 

Now don’t get me wrong here, certainly they got it wrong as often as not, those old conservatives. There was war and ideology and inequality, of course there was – same as today. But once upon a time, conservatives in large part were the people who doggedly shoveled shit against the tide and did their best to keep the nuts from working loose and the wheels from falling off. 

As Brooks so succinctly put it: they used to be people who knew how to nurture and run things.

Conservatives used to believe community was something other than an armed camp surrounded by enemies.  

Conservatives used to believe in reform not revolution – and in fact it was the liberals who were the bomb throwers, the revolutionaries, the reactionaries, the ones who raged against The Machine and raised their fists in protest of The Man, the starry-eye pot-smoking dreamers who were always lost in some unwashed fantasy.

Now?

Intellectual humility? Humility isn’t a trait I’d associate with modern conservatism, intellectual or otherwise.

Maybe especially the intellectual part.

A respect for hierarchy? Precedence? Balance? Order? Have you met the Tea Party? The ones waving their assault rifles overhead and praying to their small angry god for bloody revolution? The ones who see shutting down the government as some kind of victory for freedom and liberty? Who would gleefully burn the institution of government to the ground and sullenly squat in the ruins clutching their bibles and guns? Prudent, measured, responsible, those are the very last things I’d call the raging bloody caterwauling coming from what passes for conservatives today.

This is a party whose best candidate for President is a bombastic self-aggrandizing Reality-TV host whose primary claim to fame is a bunch of shady New York real estate deals and who thinks running the country is like managing an Atlantic City casino.

Think about that.

Really think about it.

In what world is Donald Trump even a contender for President of the United States let alone conservatives’ most popular choice?

In a world where being a conservative means absolute contempt for the very institution of government, a sneering dismissal of intellect and science and education, an unabashed hot-eyed hatred of more than half the American population, a near religious worship of guns and violence and war as not only a solution but the only solution to every problem, a philosophy of hopeless despair and cynical pessimism and an endless pervasive obsession with the supposed End of Days, well, in that terrible world, it turns out Donald Trump might very well be the best choice.

Brooks, who I’ll remind you is a conservative, goes on to paraphrase Max Weber’s Politics as a Vocation.  In Politics, Weber lays out the essential qualities of a successful politician, those being passion, a feeling of responsibility, and a sense of proportion.  Thus, Brooks expands, a politician needs passion to inspire action, but that heat must be tempered by cool responsibility and a measured sense of proportion which are necessary to make careful and reasoned decisions in a complex and dynamic world.

If a politician lacks the quality of detachment — the ability to let the difficult facts of reality work their way into the mind — then, Weber argues, the politician ends up striving for the “boastful but entirely empty gesture.” His work “leads nowhere and is senseless.”

Welcome to Ted Cruz, Donald Trump and the Freedom Caucus.

If I were to sum up the last six years of the conservative caucus, “a boastful but entirely empty gesture” might be the exact words I’d use.

Birthers and truthers, endless futile attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act knowing the attempts were futile, unending obstruction, threats of legal action against the president, death panels, government shutdowns, Jade Helm, sequestration, green eggs and ham, dire prognostications of God’s wrath for one damned silly thing or another, and an endless parade of imagined Nazis – this bizarre fantasy world is what the Grand Old Party of Lincoln has become.  

It has become so bad, so utterly ridiculous, John Boehner – the very embodiment of boastful empty gestures learned at the knee of Newt Gingrich himself – that John Boehner gave up his job as Speaker of the House and announced his resignation from politics altogether and republicans can’t find a replacement.  That’s right, the GOP has become so insane, so utterly rabid, so completely prone to eating not only its own young but its wizened elders as well, so entrenched in this bizarre fantasy they live in, that nobody wants the job other than fringe extremists who are so extreme even their fellow extremists won’t allow them near the gavel.

And now?

Congressman Mo Brooks (R-AL) announced today he intends to start impeachment proceedings against President Hillary Clinton.

 

I’ll just pause for a moment so you can fully appreciate that bit of fantasy.

 

Yes, that’s correct, Brooks (Mo, not David), wants to start impeachment proceedings against Hillary Clinton.

Just incase she’s elected president next year.

Disheartened by the fact that his party's partisan witch-hunt, er, I mean the Totally Non-Biased House Permanent Select Committee On How Hillary Clinton Personally Murdered Four American Heroes In Benghazi And Drank Their Blood While Smacking Her Lips And Laughing Maniacally MuWAHaHAHahaHA has failed to produce any actionable evidence of wrongdoing, and looking at the staggeringly shitty selection of candidates currently offered up by his own party, Mo Brooks concludes Hillary Clinton will be the next President of the United States.

And he may be right.

Especially since as previously noted, it appears out of 300 million Americans, Donald Trump and the associated assortment of religious nutters, science deniers, homophobes, misogynists, birthers, truthers, and Ayn Rand groupies is the very best conservatives can do.

These braying jackasses are literally the best conservatives can do.

And they suck so bad at being conservatives Hillary Clinton is, in point of fact, a better conservative in the traditional sense as defined by David Brooks up above than anything the GOP can manage at this point.

Worse, this is the third time in a row for Republicans.

They don’t like any of their options in 2016, they hated Romney, and they couldn’t stand McCain.

Given that, it’s a good bet Clinton has a better shot at the White House than any Republican.

So, reasons Mo Brooks, conservatives better get proactively started on impeachment proceedings now.

Specifically Brooks thinks Clinton should be impeached for

[H]ow many lives she put at risk by violating all rules of law that are designed to protect America's top-secret and classified information from falling into the hands of our geopolitical foes who then might use that information to result in the deaths of Americans [...] And in my judgement, with respect to Hillary Clinton, she will be a unique president if she is elected by the public next November, because the day she's sworn in is the day that she's subject to impeachment because she has committed high crimes and misdemeanors.

Geopolitical foes?

Who the hell talks like that? Outside of some badly written fantasy game, I mean? Could have. Might use. Note the affirmative declaration of that last sentence, she has committed high crimes and misdemeanors. She has. Not alleged. She has.

At this point, I am forced to wonder if they’ll dredge up Colin Powell to tell us about how the NSA found yellow cake uranium and mobile germ labs hidden in the Clintons’ basement.

She has.

Committed high crimes and misdemeanors. She has.

This despite the fact Clinton hasn’t even been charged with anything, let alone convicted. And just never mind multiple Republicans freely and openly admit the various Benghazi committees exist at this point specifically to attack Clinton’s presidential aspirations and not to find any alleged “truth” regarding what happened in Benghazi. Mo Brooks doesn’t even bother with the illusion of rule of law or the constitutional right of innocence until enough congressional fishing expeditions finally manage to dig up an unsanctioned blowjob.

They couldn’t impeach Barack Obama, no matter how hard and how often they tried, and it infuriates them, it gnaws at their guts and at their manhood. 

Now they’ve begun to fantasize about impeaching Hillary Clinton on her first day in office – despite the fact that not only hasn’t she won the office yet, there’s good reason to wonder if she’ll beat Bernie Sanders (or Joe Biden) to the Democratic nomination.

It’s pretty obvious these people exist in the same league as Jeb Bush’s imagined football glories.

Then again, I suppose it follows.

After all, these are the very same people who came up with the idea of preemptive war based on a manufactured fantasy and a boogeyman who existed only in their fevered minds.  

Given that, I suppose preemptive impeachment against some fantasy president isn’t all that far fetched.

 

These insurgents are incompetent at governing and unwilling to be governed. But they are not a spontaneous growth. It took a thousand small betrayals of conservatism to get to the dysfunction we see all around.
   -
David Brooks

 

 


Footnote: I highly recommend you read David Brooks entire article. It can be found here.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Bang Bang Crazy – Two in the Bush

So, another mass shooting.

How many is that this year? This month? This week?

You know, it sure does seems like…

 

Really? 

 

What’s the problem?

We’re only two lines in and already you’re rolling your eyes? Already you’ve got your hand up? You didn’t even let me get through the introduction.  How could you possibly have an objection already?

What’s that?

You have a problem with the phrasing? “Mass shootings,” you say? That’s the problem? Oh, I see. It’s like sex with Bill Clinton, it depends on how you define the words. Mass shootings.  It’s not as bad as it seems. It’s all media hype. Liberal hysteria. False Flags by the gun grabbers.

It’s really not that bad.

Why in most of the recent shootings only one or two people have died.

One. Maybe two.

Maybe three.

That’s not so bad. Right?

See, for a mass shooting you need four dead people.

That’s right. It’s got to be four dead victims, not three kids and then the gunman shoots himself. Not one dead and a dozen wounded and the cops kill the bad guy, no, Sir. For it to count you’ve got to have a pile of dead people. At least four of them, that’s the deal.

We’re talking penetration here, not oral gratification.

Four dead, minimum. Preferably more. And they’ve got to be Christians, see? Preferably good God-fearin’ white people. A bunch of unarmed black people killed by a rightwing racist in a church? Doesn’t count. A liberal US congresswoman and her staff and constituents? Doesn’t count. Bunch of people watching a Batman movie when they should have been home studying the Bible? Doesn’t count. School full of kindergarteners? Doesn’t count and they were probably all “crisis actors” anyway. When liberals talk about 30,000 dead each year from guns, well, most of those are singletons, one dumb kid shoots another dumb kid, suicides, black people in Chicago shooting other black people, losers, and like that. Accidents. Stuff happens. Those don’t count.

Gun violence, you see, is on the decline. That’s what they tell us – well, except in the giant gun-free death zone known as Chicago where black liberal thugs rape and murder each other on the streets pretty much 24 hours a day. But other than that, if you eliminate all cases that do not involve Radical Muslim Extremists shooting White Conservative Christians, gun violence is on the decline. Hardly ever happens.

And when it does, well, it’s crazy people who are to blame.

Last weekend, Jeb Bush explained during an interview on WHOTV’s The Insiders how mass shootings in the US are caused by mental illness:

“We can lessen it [mass shootings and gun violence]. And we need to look at: What are the common denominators of these very public mass murders where people then commit suicide?”

What are the common denominators?

What is the common denominator in “these very public mass murders?”

What’s the common denominator? Well, let’s do the math: September 1999, Fort Worth, Texas, a gunman killed six people during a prayer service, then he committed suicide. October 2002, it was the Washington DC Sniper, ten dead. August 2003, Chicago, a gunman locked six of his former coworkers in a conference room and shot them dead, then he killed himself.  November 2004, Birchwood, Wisconsin, a hunter got into an argument with a group of sportsmen over a trespassing issue, the hunter ended the argument by killing six and wounding two. March 2005, Brookfield, Wisconsin, a man walked into a church and shot seven people dead, praise the Lord. October 2006, Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania, a disgruntled truck driver shot five Amish schoolgirls to death and wounded six others before taking his own life. April 2007, Virginia Tech, an angry former student set a record with the deadliest mass shooting in the US in recent years, he killed thirty-two people and wounded fifteen others. Go Team. August 2007, Delaware State University, three students were shot and killed execution style by a 28-year-old and two 15-year-old boys, a fourth student was shot and stabbed. December 2007, Omaha, Nebraska, a 20-year-old man killed nine people and wounded five others in a shopping mall.  A few days later,  on Christmas Eve, a woman and her boyfriend gunned down six members of her family in their house in Carnation, Washington. February 2008, Chicago, a gunman tied up and shot six women at a clothing store, five of them died. February 2008, DeKalb, Illinois, a man opened fire in a lecture hall at Northern Illinois University, he killed five students and wounded sixteen others.  September 2008, Alger, Washington, a mentally ill man who was released from jail one month earlier shot eight people, six died. December 2008, Covina, California, a man dressed up like Santa Claus killed nine people at a family Christmas party, then he set the house on fire and shot himself. March 2009, Alabama, a 28-year-old drove through several towns randomly shooting people, he managed to kill ten. March 2009, North Carolina, a heavily-armed gunman stormed into a nursing home and killed eight elderly residents and wounded two more before police killed him. March 2009, Santa Clara, California, six people were shot dead in an apartment building.  April 2009, Binghamton, New York, a man shot thirteen people to death in a bloody rampage at the town civic center. July 2009, Houston, Texas, six people were shot in a drive-by shooting at a community rally on the campus of Texas Southern University. November 2009, Fort Hood, Texas, a U.S. army major opened  fire on his fellows in the middle of a crowded processing center filled with troops preparing for deployment, he killed thirteen and wounded forty-two. January 2011, Tucson, Arizona, a gunman opened fire at a public gathering outside a grocery store, he killed six people including a nine-year-old girl and wounded twelve more including a US Congresswoman. July 2012, Aurora, Colorado, a gunman dressed up like a comic book villain stormed into a packed movie theater and started shooting, he killed twelve and wounded fifty-eight more. August 2012, Oak Creek, Wisconsin again, a gunman killed six people at Sikh temple before being shot dead by police. September 2012, Minneapolis, a gunman kills six including himself and wounds five more inside a small sign company. December 2012, Newtown, Connecticut,  a 20-year old gunman killed his mother and then shot his way into the Sandy Hook Elementary School and killed twenty small children, six adults, and himself.  February 2013, a former Navy officer and Los Angeles policeman declared war on the LAPD, over a period of nine days he killed four people including three police officers and wounded three more before eventually committing suicide by cop.  March 2013, Herkimer, upstate New York, a 64-year old man lit his apartment on fire, then coolly walked into a local barber shop and killed two people, then he drove to another business and killed two more, then he killed a police dog and was subsequently gunned down by the canine’s human partners. June 2013, Santa Monica, California, a 23-year old man went on a killing spree that left six people dead and four wounded and ended when he was shot dead by police inside the Santa Monica College Library.  July 2013, Hialeah, Florida, a man living with his mother lit their apartment on fire and then went on a rampage throughout the living complex, he killed seven before police returned the favor. September 16, 2013, twelve more dead at the Washington Navy Yard. April 2, 2014, Fort Hood, Texas, four more dead, including the shooter. June 17, 2015, Charleston, South Carolina, a racist sat quietly for an hour among the congregation of Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, then without warning he  murdered nine people during prayer service and wounded a tenth – he was hoping to start a race war. July 20, 2015, Chattanooga, a self-declared Jihadist suffering from depression and drug use, mad at the US government, shot up a military recruiting center in a strip mall then drove to a local Navy operations support center and launched another attack, he killed four Marines and a Sailor and then died in a gunfight with law enforcement. July 23, 2015, Lafayette, Louisiana, a drifter with a gun fired thirteen rounds into a crowded movie theater, he killed two people, wounded nine, and then turned the gun on himself when police closed in (yes, he only killed two, but I give him an A for effort). October 1, 2015, a college campus in Oregon, ten dead, and the shooter killed himself after being wounded by police.

So? What do they all have in common?

What’s the common denominator? What’s the one thing common to all these mass shootings?

Is it Muslims? Is it males? Is it military targets? Is it children? Is it schools? Is it movie theaters? Malls? What could it be?

Wait.

Wait, hang on. I think I might know. Is it … guns?

Heh heh, nice try, Jim. Nope.

“And I think the one common denominator that’s pretty clear is, there’s a huge mental health challenge in our country."

Ah, mental health. I should have seen that coming.

Guns don’t kill people, folks, crazy people with guns kill people.

Obviously all of those people up above, all of those mass murderers, were mentally ill. Sure, you don’t just go around murdering people if you’re not nuts. That’s it. Well, thank God we figured that out, right?

We have a huge mental health challenge in our country.

And do you know why? (Hint: it’s not because we don’t provide funding and care)

“And people that live in isolation, they go on the internet, they live their lives there, they get deeply disturbed, and then they get worse, and they commit these atrocious acts. There should be some intervention earlier. If people have deep mental health challenges, they shouldn’t have access to purchase guns.”

It’s the internet!

That’s the problem. The internet makes people crazy. In fact, I’m probably crazy right now from writing this blog on the internet. You’re probably all crazy, mad as hatters, from being here on the internet. Look down, are you drooling yourselves? Show of hands, how many of you are Napoleon? Why, it’s Facebook! It’s Twitter! It’s internet porn! It’s video games! We’re all going bang bang crazy! It’s making us deeply disturbed, that’s what it is!

It’s not guns, hell no.

It’s mental health. It’s the crazy people. They’re the ones! And do you know what? People who have mental health challenges shouldn't be able to purchase guns –  it's okay if they already have guns, but they shouldn't be allowed to buy any more. See?

So, something we can agree on, Jeb Bush and me, crazy people shouldn’t be allowed to buy guns. Common ground, at last. Well, now we’re getting somewhere.

“I don’t know the facts about the case in Oregon, how this young man got his guns, but he clearly had mental health challenges. And the capturing system for mental health in this country is not as wide as it needs to be. And so I think states ought to look at this, to determine how you can protect privacy rights for people, but make sure that we get adequate information, so that people don’t fall through the cracks.”

Um, what?

What did Jeb just say?

Now now, hang on. Let’s for the sake of brevity, leave aside the part where he admits he doesn't actually "know the facts" but he's pretty sure the cause of mass murder is the gun lobby catchall, "mental illness,” – a position apparently based on NRA pamphlets and juju magics since there’s no validated scientific evidence for it and agencies which could produce such studies are forbidden by law and lack of funding from engaging in it.   I mean, he might be right, but how would you know?

I digress.

Let’s just go with Bush on this one: Mental illness causes all mass shootings.

Mental illness causes mass shootings. Crazy people with guns. Okay. I want to hear more about this "capturing system" for mental health, the one good enough to provide "adequate information" on every person in the US, which will presumably be reliable enough to flag everybody with even the most vague of "mental health" issues and then be able to determine which ones will become dangerous gun waving mass murders at some future date. 

I think there was a science fiction movie about that a while back, wasn’t there?

Mental health screening that can tell who will become a gun waving mass murder, and the system can do it to such a degree of accuracy conservatives like Bush would be willing to pass a law, or an amendment to the Constitution, and fully fund it, which would subsequently deny these crazy murderous bastards the right to buy guns.

Yeah, let’s hear more about that, because I find that idea fascinating.

While he’s at it, I’d like Bush to explain who exactly would be gathering this information (since, you know, conservatives have passed laws specifically preventing the medical community from asking any patient – no matter how disturbed – about their access to firearms.

I’d like to hear Bush explain who exactly would be reviewing such information should it somehow magically be acquired. There are a lot of guns purchased in America every day, thousands, we’re going to need a lot more government. Or would this be contracted out? Outsource to India maybe? How much is this going to cost? Who’s going to pay for it? Perhaps we could find a bunch of psychologists to conduct the exams and review the records on a voluntary basis, for the good of the community – or is that too socialist?

And what is the criteria we’ll be using to determine future murderous intent? Is mild depression grounds for denial of gun ownership? Or do you have to show up for the interview in a camouflage tutu wearing a mask made from the flensed face-skin of your grandma while laughing maniacally muwahahahahahHAha! Will your mental health status be reviewed by an actual panel of doctors trained in such behavior? Will Tom Cruise receive a magic red ball etched with the details of your future crime by a pre-cognitive mutant kept in a vat? Or will it be somebody experienced and educated in sane and rational firearms use, like, say Ted Nugent?

What?

Oh, now I’m just being silly, am I?

Look, Bush started it, you got a beef, you take it up with him.

“Had there been intervention in this guy’s case, he was in the military, he was, I think he got, he was discharged dishonorably, I believe, I don’t know what the exact circumstance, but he left within months of his enlisting, there should be some way to identify these things."

I believe.

I don’t know.

I’m not sure, but….

But there should be some way to identify these things.

Like fully funding veteran’s healthcare? Like spending as much on what happens after the war as waging it? Like funding Veterans mental health services as if it was an F-35 Strike Fighter assembly line in a Red State. Like throw money at it as if it was an oil subsidy? Like that? Is that what we’re talking about?

No? No, I suppose not.

So, anyway, we should have some kind of mental health screening for gun ownership.

Mental health, that’s the common denominator, that’s the problem. We need better mental healthcare in this country.

Everybody got that?

Better mental healthcare. Mental screening before allowing a gun purchase.

Anybody want to argue? No?

All right then. So, exactly how would President Bush (you have no idea how much it hurts me to type that) address the situation as he's outlined it? How would President Jeb Bush keep crazy people from buying guns?

Well, I’m glad you asked.

Today, Jeb Bush unveiled his plan to repeal and "replace" the Affordable Care Act, i.e. Obamacare.

Bush's plan in a nutshell:

- Repeal the individual mandate and make health insurance a benefit voluntarily provided by your employer. Like it was in the Old Republic, before the dark times, before Obama.

- Remove federal subsidies designed to help people buy health insurance and return control of healthcare plans to employers. Because if you believe in capitalism, well, then you know the free market is best suited to decide your healthcare needs. The free market and your boss. 

- “Encourage” people to create "healthcare savings plans,” apparently with all the extra money that will be trickling down from the benevolent largess of Wall Street. Because healthcare savings plans worked so very well in the past, just like those retirement saving plans Wall Street used to fuel their last harebrained scheme – you know, that one where they exploded the global economy with bad mortgages and rich people got even more unbelievably rich and everybody else got fucked right in the ass and lost their houses, jobs and healthcare? Like that.

- "Allow" employers to use "financial incentives" to "encourage" wellness. Your employers will encourage “wellness.” Your employer. Will encourage wellness. Be well, everybody!

I guess if you're unemployed you're on your own, wellness wise.

- Gets rid of the ACA's emphasis on preventative care, such as maternity coverage (remember, folks, in Republican Utopia life begins at conception and ends at birth, so once the kid is born, fuck you), annual screenings (such as cancer screening, gynecological exams, diabetes, high blood pressure, and so on), emergency services, those aforementioned wellness programs, and ...

…and…

Wait for it.

Waaaaaaait for it.

... MENTAL HEALTH SCREENING!

 

 

So, in summary:

Mass shootings are caused by mental illness.

And the cunning plan for addressing this supposed rash of Crazy People With Guns is to give them more guns and less mental health coverage.

It’s just me, isn’t it?

Does anybody else see a problem with this?

Does this seem … crazy to you?

Well, maybe you have to be a Republican.

Then again, it does make it easy to determine at a glance who should be allowed to have guns and who shouldn’t.

Crazy wise, I mean.



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


Addendum 2: As noted elsewhere, I’ve  been around guns my entire life. My dad taught me to shoot when I was a kid – in fact the very first gun I ever fired was my dad’s prized black powder .75 caliber smooth bore Civil War trench piece when I was about four years old. I still own my very first gun, bought from Meyer’s Thrifty Acres in Jenison, Michigan, for me by my dad when I was fourteen years old – a lever action Winchester 30-30. I got my first deer with that gun.  I grew up shooting, at home, in the Boy Scouts, hunting, target shooting, plinking, with friends and with family.  Thirty years ago I joined the military and spent my entire life there. I know more than a little about guns. I’m a graduate of the Smith & Wesson Rangemaster Academy, the nation’s premier firearms instructor school. I’m a certified armorer and gunsmith. I’ve attended pretty much every boarding officer and gun school the military has. I hold both the Expert Pistol and Expert Rifle Medals. I’ve taught small arms and combat arms to both military and civilians for nearly thirty years now. I’ve fired damned near everything the US military owns, from the old .38 revolver to a US Navy Aegis Guided Missile Cruiser’s 5” main battery – and everything in between. I can still field strip a Colt .45 M-1911 pistol and put it back together in under a minute, blindfolded – I happen to own several of them, along with numerous other semi-auto pistols and a number of revolvers. I used to shoot professionally and in competition. I helped to design, test, field, and fire in combat US Military weapons systems. I’ve spent my entire life in places where gun usage is extremely, extremely, common. I have a Concealed Carry Permit. I’m an Alaskan and I typically carry a gun in the wilds of Alaska on a regular basis. I am neither pro-gun nor anti-gun, a gun is a tool, nothing more. If you feel that I’m ignorant of guns, or that I’m anti-gun, or unAmerican, well, you’re welcome to speak your piece – just so long as you can live with what comes after.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

More Bang Bang Crazy - Big Damned Heroes

Malcolm Reynolds: Well look at this. 'Pears we got here just in the nick of time. What does that make us?
Zoë Washburn: Big damn heroes, sir.
     - Firefly, Season 1, Episode 7 “Safe”

 

Ben Carson is a hero.

Oh yes he is. He’s a big damn hero.

Well, maybe. Probably.  In his mind.

Yesterday on Fox & Friends, Carson said,  "Not only would I probably not cooperate with him, I would not just stand there and let him shoot me. I would say 'Hey guys, everybody attack him. He may shoot me but he can't get us all'"

Carson was talking about the shooting at an Oregon community college last week, where yet another angry loser with a gun, mad at the world, murdered nine people and then, as usual, turned his weapon on himself.

In the bloody aftermath, the oh so tediously predictable aftermath, Carson told Fox viewers he wouldn’t have have been a victim.

No, Ben Carson would have been a hero.

A big damned hero.

Carson boasted that he personally would have led the counter attack, charging into a hail of bullets heedless of his own life. Follow me, boys! He can’t get us all! For America! For Freeeeeedom! For mom and apple pie and Republican Jesus!

I mean, it’s not brain surgery. You just shout “charge!” He can’t get us all, right?

Right.

Big damn hero, Ben Carson. Now that’s a campaign slogan worthy of a bumper sticker.

Big damned heroes, they’re always ready to give somebody’s life in defense of liberty, you bet.

I’ve met people like this. Wannabe heroes.

Too many.

I spent more than 20 years on active duty with the US military. I used to have a commanding officer, a Lieutenant, who I am absolutely certain practiced his Medal of Honor acceptance speech in the mirror every morning while shaving his big damned heroic chin. You know that speech? The big damn hero speech? Sure. It’s the one which begins all humble like, “Thank you, Mr. President. I’m sorry every one of my men were killed, but I’m honored, honored, to wear this award on their behalf…” All aw shucks and I wouldn’t call myself a hero, oh no sir. And what’s this? Why it’s a nice little scar that didn’t damage anything vital, just a big damned heroic wound to impress the laaaaadies. Oh yes.

Of course, when the balloon did go up and we were all out there on the pointy end of the stick, Commander Hero Chin (he’d gotten promoted by then) was heroically back in San Diego, heroically risking his life for America making heroic Power Point slides and fresh ground coffee for the admirals.

But man, if he’d been there, why, he’d have been a hero just like Ben Carson. Oh yes indeed. And for years afterward he’d regale anyone who’d listen with his tales of could-have-been heroism, “Man, if I was there, if I was there, man, you’d wouldn’t find me waiting to die, hell no. Why I wouldn’t just stand there and let him shoot me, no sir. I’d step right up and look that bastard in the eye! Follow me boys! He can’t get us all! For freeeeedom!”

That’s how these people think.

They practice their speeches, getting all the patriotic words just right, just the right amount of Captain America modesty, aw shucks anybody would have done it.

They rehearse how it’ll go down in their minds, a clever kick and a swift karate chop and they’ve got the terrorist’s gun and a pithy squint-eyed Dirty Harryism, do you feel lucky, Punk? and bang bang bang, they’re big damned heroes. Well, do ya?

And yet, oddly, guys like Ben Carson, they’re never on the front lines. Whenever it does go down, whenever the bullets start flying and the blood starts spraying and the screams echo in the halls … somehow, they’re nowhere to be found, these big damned heroes. It’s only afterwards they appear, oh, am I too late? Did I miss the battle? Well, let me tell you what I would have done.

We’re a nation of wannabe heroes, looking for our moment of glory.

This week, in Auburn Hills, Michigan, an affluent suburb of Detroit, a customer in a big box store parking lot attempted to help store security stop a suspected shoplifter by pulling out her gun and shooting at the suspect’s fleeing vehicle. The woman, a concealed carry license holder, saw a Home Depot Loss Prevention Officer attempting to stop a suspected shoplifter from getting into his vehicle. The suspect and his companion got away and took off in their SUV. So the woman, who was not a cop, not law enforcement, not involved, not threatened, not in fear of her life, and not defending herself or anyone else, pulled out her 9mm and began firing at the vehicle. What if there were other people in the car? Children say. So what? Who cares? It’s hero time!

Who presents a greater danger to the innocent public here? Some shoplifter who swiped a power drill or a box of screws or the good gal with a gun shooting in a flat trajectory across tarmac into a parking lot with a crowded highway and shopping center as a backstop?

Think about that.

Go ahead and take all the time you need.

While you’re at it, here's a thought problem for you:

Michigan is a Stand Your Ground state. Since the alleged shoplifter wasn't actually threatening this woman. And since she, as an uninvolved third party, menaced him with a gun. If he had a legal firearm in his possession at the time, would he have been justified in standing his ground, i.e. defending himself ala George Zimmerman, since any reasonable person would say his life was in danger? If not, why not?

Two weeks ago, another good guy with a gun apparently attempted to stop a carjacking at a Houston, Texas, gas station. Police say two men attacked a third man as he was pumping gas and then stole his truck. Another man, a good guy with a gun, pulled up, saw the attack, unlimbered his peacekeeper, and started shooting. Unfortunately, he hit the carjacking victim in the head instead of the thieves. The carjackers jumped into the victim’s truck and drove away. The shooter carefully picked up his spent shell casings and took off – not even bothering to check on the condition of the innocent man he’d just shot. Just another big damned hero.  Note: there is some conflicting information regarding this story. Some reports say the victim was not actually shot, and was in fact injured by the carjackers who hit him on the head.  Even now two weeks later there is no confirmation either way, and none of the original reports have been updated. However, I do note the original reports from local Houston media, based on actual police reports and on-scene witnesses, say the victim was shot in the head. Other media reports, based on secondhand accounts and filed a day or more later, say the victim was not shot. Regardless, all reports agree an uninvolved man fired on the carjackers and victim, policed his brass, and left the scene without helping the victim.

Now, certainly carjacking is a violent and dangerous crime.

Certainly the victim, whether injured by gunfire or by being hit on the head, has every right to defend himself, has every right to be angry and aggrieved at the violation. I don’t think anybody would argue that. Hell, I certainly wouldn’t argue his constitutional right to pull out his own legal weapon, should he have one, and use it to defend himself up to and including shooting at the guy who was shooting at him.

But in this case, who presented a greater threat to the public? The guys stealing a truck or the guy who wanted to be a big damned hero? Both ran away. Both took pains to hide their identities. Both are still at large and unidentified. So, how can you tell the hero from the zero? The victim was still injured, was still robbed, still left bleeding on the pavement.

Tell me, how did the gun improve this situation? How did it make anybody safer?

Think about it. Again, take all the time you need.

While you’re at it, here’s another thought problem:

Ponder the wisdom of a supposed responsible gun owner shooting into a gas station.

Three weeks ago in Des Moines, Iowa, a man was driving down a busy road when he saw another man running across the Dollar General parking lot. The running man jumped into a waiting truck which then sped away. The man suspected a robbery and attempted to stop the speeding truck by blocking it with his own vehicle. He drew his weapon and jumped out of his truck to confront the supposed robber … and was promptly hit by the suspect vehicle. He told police he then executed a “barrel roll”  and came up shooting - and if you’re having T. J. Hooker flashbacks here, rest assured you’re not the only one. The truck sped away. Whether the shooter actually hit anything or anybody remains unknown.

Tell me again, I forgot your previous answer, how did the gun improve this situation?

Tell me how the situation wouldn’t have been better served if he’d shot the suspects with his cell phone camera instead with his gun.

How does discharging a weapon in the middle of a busy intersection without regard to your backstop or surroundings make society safer?

While you’re at it, here’s yet another thought problem:

This guy, the shooter, we can agree he has a right to defend himself, yes? But would that have been necessary to begin with if he hadn’t jumped out of his truck with a gun in his hand? He put himself in danger. He put himself in danger because he could, because he was armed. Then he tried to shoot his way out of it when things went pear-shaped and it’s only by pure luck he didn’t hit a bystander. How comfortable are you with that? Good? Okay, now put your kids in that parking lot and answer the question again.

Big damned heroes.

Meanwhile in that same period, this last three weeks, how many crimes have been successfully stopped by a good guy with a gun?

Come now, let’s have a list. We’ve got nine more dead in Oregon. We’ve got the cases above. In Jefferson Country, Tennessee, we’ve got an 11-year old who deliberately killed his 8-year old neighbor with a 12-gauge shotgun in an argument over a puppy.  Heck, we’ve even got a story about US servicemen on a train in France who took down an armed terrorist with their bare hands.

But where are the Big Damned Heroes? Where are the good guys with their guns?

Why aren’t the headlines full of these people?

No, no, don’t look away. Don’t change the subject. Don’t move the goalposts. Where are they? Given the staggering amount of violence in this country, given the crime that fills our news feeds every day, given the mugs and the thugs and the Ebola infected brown people from Africa and the Muslim terrorists and the invading hordes of red commies and the raping illegals from south of the border, where is it? Where are the hundreds, thousands, millions, of headlines? Where are the tales of heroism and courage? I mean, given the sheer number of home invasions we are warned about every single day by the gun lobby, every single one of us should know somebody who’s fought it out with a crackhead in their kitchen at 2AM or took down a crazed shooter in the parking lot of their kid’s elementary school or defended an abortion clinic from some raging Christian Jesus Warrior equipped with his own personal arsenal of God … okay, that’s a bad example but I think I’ve made my point here.

Well?

Where are they?

Is it like Bigfoot and UFOs? Tens of millions of cell phone cameras and surveillance systems and none of them capture a single Good Guy With A Gun taking down the endless parade of bad guys we’re warned about every single day?

What?

What’s that?

Oh, I see. It’s the Second Amendment hating liberal media. They won’t publish stories about big damned heroes stopping crime with their guns. They’re hiding the truth! The truth! That’s it, isn’t it? Sure. Because Fox News, Newsmax, The Wall Street Journal, Guns&Ammo, Breitbart, Beck, Limbaugh, Coulter, those guys, right, liberal mouthpieces one and all. That must be it.

Sure.

"Can you imagine with Trump, somebody says, 'Ohhh, all these big monsters aren't around, he's easy pickins, and then ... pu-ching! So this is about self-defense, plain and simple!"

Self defense? I thought this was about shooting down your government because you’re feeling oppressed by tyranny? No?

Okay, self defense. Whatever you say, Chuck.

Donald Trump told the crowd at a suburban Nashville campaign stop on Saturday he has a New York state concealed carry permit and if faced with an attack like that last week in Oregon he’d go all Charles Bronson. The crowd loved the idea of The Donald as a raging vigilante so much they started chanting “Death Wish! Death Wish!”

Trump then went on to rail against "gun-free zones," telling the cheering crowd the Oregon shootings could have been stopped if only teachers and students had been armed.  He somehow left out the part where Umpqua Community College is not a gun free zone – and in fact Oregon state law forbids colleges from outlawing guns. But hey, Death Wish Trump is on a roll and why spoil a thing with facts, right?

I’ll leave it as an exercise for the reader to visualize Donald Trump, Donald Trump, massive gold-plated .50 Desert Eagle clutched in one hand, American flag in the other, chest bared, fighting it out Hollywood style with the next mass shooter in the hallways of your kid’s school. Pu-Ching! Oh you want some of this! How about some of this? Do ya, Punk? Pu-Ching! Pu-Ching!

Trump, like Jeb Bush and his fellow conservatives blamed the vague catchall “mental illness” for America’s gun violence and then, like Bush, noted stuff just happens. “No matter what you do, you will always have problems," Trump said and added that “it doesn't make sense to limit access to firearms.”

It doesn’t make sense to limit access to firearms.

Not even for people with “mental illness?”

Ah, you know, never mind.

As extra credit, consider this thought problem:

Mass shootings in the US are random events unrelated to gun proliferation and violent culture. Nine unarmed innocent people are gunned down in cold blood by a nut with a bad haircut and a grudge, and we shrug and say, hey, shit just happens. A nut dressed like a comic book character shoots up a movie theater? Shit happens. A racist murders people in their church? Shit happens. Another nut with a bad haircut and mental problems takes his mother’s personal arsenal and murders first her and then a school full of kindergarteners? Whoa, slow down there, Hoss, look here, shit just happens. There’s nothing you can do about it and we don’t need to be making any rash changes. Did I say rash changes? Hell, we don’t need to be making deliberate changes either. No changes.

Shit just happens, man.

Now, given that, what do you call it when four armed Americans are gunned down in the middle of a violent revolution in a North African country steeped in gun culture?

Hint: 10 congressional committees and 32 congressional hearings are pretty sure shit doesn’t just happen.

Shit just happens.

And Bobby Jindal knows why. Jindal didn’t blame fate. Shit might just happen in Bobby’s world, but at least he knows where the blame lies.

It’s bad parenting, see? 

Jindal went after the shooter’s father:

“He’s a complete failure as a father! Because he failed to raise his son.”

Jindal was enraged because the shooter’s father condemned his murderous son’s actions, questioned how a kid with mental problems could just legally buy four guns, and called for reasoned discussion of gun violence. Jindal was pissed! How dare he? It’s an outrage! Why a real father, a real father, would have … I dunno, bought his mentally disturbed kid more guns like the Charleston Shooter, took him to the range like the Sandy Hook Shooter, something, man. A real father of a mass murderer wouldn’t be talking about gun control, why that’s unAmerican. A real father would have charged the shooter, yeah, like Ben Carson, been a big damned hero.

Jindal wrote a blog post titled We fill Our Culture with Garbage, and We Reap The Result. He blamed music that promotes “the degradation of women” and flouts “the laws of God and common decency.” And of course, he wouldn’t be a Republican if he didn’t also blame abortion. 

Mike Huckabee chimed in on that theme:

“We have not so much a gun problem, we have a problem with sin and evil.”

Sin and evil. Abortion. Ah, of course. In other words, “If women weren’t rutting godless whores, none of this would have happened.” Sin folks, who’s fault is that?

Exactly.

 

And so what have we learned in the wake of yet another bloody rampage?

 

All of this violence has one thing in common. But that’s not the problem, folks. No, Sir.

It’s women having sex, that’s the problem here.

It’s that Rock & Roll music. It’s Elvis the Pelvis and that Satan loving heavy metal.

It’s TV. It’s video games. Though oddly, you don’t see conservatives promoting peaceful TV and non-violent video games and why is that?

It’s gun free zones. Though, perversely, the vast majority of gun violence occurs outside of gun free zones pretty much every single day, but just never mind that. Move along. Move along.

It’s mental illness.  But, hey, let’s fight tooth and nail against anything that might keep crazy people from buying guns.

It’s sin. It’s evil. It’s abortion and gay people. It’s illegal aliens. It’s divorce and bad fathers who don’t like guns. Because, and lets be honest here, if we let God make the laws, why this sort of thing wouldn’t happen. No violence in the bible, right? Other that part about virtuous fathers sacrificing their sons on stone altars or handing out their daughters like door prizes, or that part, you know, where God slaughters all the firstborn kids and drowns the entire planet.

No, it’s everything but guns.

What we need, see, is more guns. Yeah, that’ll fix the problem.

What we need, is some big damned heroes. Follow me, they can’t shoot us all!

Last night, Ben Carson appeared on SiriusXM’s Karen Hunter Show and related his own real life act of heroism. Carson, it seems was once held at gunpoint inside a Popeye’s fast food restaurant during a robbery.

“Guy comes in,” Carson tells it. “Put the gun in my ribs.”

Did Carson refuse to cooperate? Did he refuse to stand there and take it? Did he shout Hey guys! Everybody attack him. He may shoot me but he can't get us all!

Actually what Ben Carson, Big Damned Hero, said in his own words was:

“I have had a gun held on me when I was in a Popeye’s organization. I just said, ‘I believe you want the guy behind the counter.'”

Are you feeling lucky? Well are ya? Because I believe you want the guy behind the counter. Punk.

Zoë Washburn: Do you know what the definition of a hero is? Someone who gets other people killed.
- Serenity, 2005

 


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


Addendum 2: As noted elsewhere, I’ve  been around guns my entire life. My dad taught me to shoot when I was a kid – in fact the very first gun I ever fired was my dad’s prized black powder .75 caliber smooth bore Civil War trench piece when I was about four years old. I still own my very first gun, bought from Meyer’s Thrifty Acres in Jenison, Michigan, for me by my dad when I was fourteen years old – a lever action Winchester 30-30. I got my first deer with that gun.  I grew up shooting, at home, in the Boy Scouts, hunting, target shooting, plinking, with friends and with family.  Thirty years ago I joined the military and spent my entire life there. I know more than a little about guns. I’m a graduate of the Smith & Wesson Rangemaster Academy, the nation’s premier firearms instructor school. I’m a certified armorer and gunsmith. I’ve attended pretty much every boarding officer and gun school the military has. I hold both the Expert Pistol and Expert Rifle Medals. I’ve taught small arms and combat arms to both military and civilians for nearly thirty years now. I’ve fired damned near everything the US military owns, from the old .38 revolver to a US Navy Aegis Guided Missile Cruiser’s 5” main battery – and everything in between. I can still field strip a Colt .45 M-1911 pistol and put it back together in under a minute, blindfolded – I happen to own several of them, along with numerous other semi-auto pistols and a number of revolvers. I used to shoot professionally and in competition. I helped to design, test, field, and fire in combat US Military weapons systems. I’ve spent my entire life in places where gun usage is extremely, extremely, common. I have a Concealed Carry Permit. I’m an Alaskan and I typically carry a gun in the wilds of Alaska on a regular basis. I am neither pro-gun nor anti-gun, a gun is a tool, nothing more. If you feel that I’m ignorant of guns, or that I’m anti-gun, or unAmerican, well, you’re welcome to speak your piece – just so long as you can live with what comes after.