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Tuesday, May 24, 2022

The Gun Posts


Since a bunch of you are asking in the wake of the latest outbreak of gun violence, here are the essays:


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
Part 12, Excuses
Part 13, Arm the Teachers
Part 14, The cowardice of Responsibility.


What do we do about it? How do we change our culture of gun violence? Bang Bang Sanity

I don't have the will anymore to write anything new about this madness. 

Nothing will change until we as a nation find the goddamn strength to stand up to this murderous insanity and actually do something about it. 



Sunday, April 3, 2022

When Fascism Comes to America

 

“Before mass leaders seize the power to fit reality to their lies, their propaganda is marked by its extreme contempt for facts as such, for in their opinion fact depends entirely on the power of man who can fabricate it.”
Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism


Ukraine.

As we in America wake to pictures and reports of horrifying war crimes committed by Vladimir Putin's forces, innocents -- hands tied behind their backs -- lined up and executed, the bodies of children, women, men, thrown into ditches or left in the streets, I would remind you of this:

"Why do I care what is going on in the conflict between Ukraine and Russia? I'm serious. Why shouldn't I root for Russia? Which by the way I am."
-- Tucker Carlson, Fox News

"This is genius. Putin declares a big portion of the Ukraine -- of Ukraine. Putin declares it as independent. Oh, that's wonderful."
-- Donald J. Trump, 45th President of the United States

"I'd say that's pretty smart. He's [Putin] taking over a country -- really a vast, vast location, a great piece of land with a lot of people, and just walking right in."
-- Donald. J. Trump

"I don't need a ride, give me ammunition. The fight is right here. But we also have neighbors to the north who need freedom and need to be liberated, and we need that right here at home as well."
-- Lauren Boebert, Congresswoman, 

I could go on all day, quoting various Americans who support the idea of genocide. 

But, I'll leave that as an exercise for the reader. 


Russia learned from the Nazi invasion of their own country. 


Oh, most certainly, they had already committed horrifying slaughters of their own, too many to name in the 1920s and 30s. As someone on my Twitter timeline noted: Hitler had nothing to teach Stalin. Russia already knew all there was to know about brutality. 

But when the Nazis invaded Russia, it gave Stalin justification for that Soviet brutality. 

Or perhaps validation is a better word. 

Whatever word you use, Russia carries that idea to this day, i.e. they were brutalized by their enemies and so any savagery on their part today is justified by that terrible history. 

That's why any appeal to humanity and the rules of war go unheeded by Vladimir Putin. 

Russia took the ruthless lesson of their brutal history to heart and it informs how they wage war: target the innocents, burn the hospitals, slaughter civilians, destroy the infrastructure, and thus reduce a nation's ability to fight back. You have only to look at the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan to see the broad outlines of this doctrine. 

Trump, Carlson, et al look upon that brutality, that savagery, that ruthlessness, and they see exactly what Russia sees. 

Strength.

Power. 

And willingness to do whatever violence is necessary to achieve your goals. 


And the brutal means are justified by the idea that you yourself are the real victim of this violence. 


Trump, and far too many Americans, admire Vladimir Putin because they see themselves as victims just as Russia does. 

They see themselves as oppressed, put down, because the world is changing. 

They feel themselves diminished because others who have been traditionally marginalized in our history are now gaining rights and privileges and an unashamed place in our society. 

You have only to look to Fox News and OAN right now to see those who speak for this brutal Republican ideology, you can daily see them threatening similar violent revenge on Americans for a thousand imagined slights. 

See the comments of Ron DeSantis, Florida Republicans, Laura Ingraham, et al. and how they fully intend to use the power of their office to punish Disney over trans rights. 

Listen to the words of Donald Trump and who he admires. 

Listen to the MAGAs who support him: he says what we think!

Listen to Republican Congresswoman Lisa McClain speaking at a Trump Rally in Michigan yesterday when she declares that migrants crossing the border are all “terrorists, convicts, murderers and rapists.

Listen to Texas Republican Robert Foster: 

Some of y’all still want to try and find political compromise with those that want to groom our school aged children and pretend men are women, etc, I think they need to be lined up against a wall before a firing squad to be sent to an early judgment.”

That's how it starts.

You see yourself as a victim. 

You see The Other as terrorists, murderers, convicts, and rapists. 

You paint The Other as the worst possible thing you can think of, Satan worshipers, pedophiles, criminals, subhuman, the Enemy. 

You use that rhetoric, revenge, get even, and you tell those most privileged by your society that they are the real victims. 

And when you gain power, you use the mailed fist of government and the military to crush your opponents -- and to keep that power, you'll need to carry through on your promise. 

You'll have no choice but to actually line up those you hate against the wall and put a bullet in their heads. The mob who raised you up to power will accept nothing less than blood. 

That's where it starts. 


And it ends with the bodies of innocents shot in the head and dumped in a ditch.


You remember when Trump as President threatened to send the Army into Chicago? 

And Republicans cheered that idea? 

You remember when that same president sent goons dressed in unmarked military garb to Seattle to secretly arrest "ANTIFA" and "BLM?"

And Republicans cheered.

When he paraded tanks through our capital? 

And Republican cheered? 

Do you? 

It's all part of the same mindset, one that ends in war and genocide. 

We must not only stop what's happening in Ukraine, we must stop it before it happens here. 


For God's sake, this man cannot remain in power!
-- Joe Biden, 46th President of the United States







Saturday, April 2, 2022

Paid Content

 


As previously noted, every once in a while I have to ask for money.

I don’t have to do it very often these days. But, this has been an expensive year and I’ve got bills to pay and people to take care of.

Having given up military consulting work and having shut down my woodworking business and art studio when I left Alaska, I subsist for the moment primarily on income derived from my social media sites and this blog – including the various merchandise I sell under my brand.

A few years back, I wouldn’t have believed this possible.

A few years back it wouldn’t have been possible.

But despite the sneering complaints of certain vocal critics, it is possible for a writer to make a reasonably decent living this way.

Yes, writer.

It used to be “writer” was defined as somebody who assembled words and ideas into books, short stories, articles, and perhaps screenplays, fact or fiction, and submitted those efforts via various means to editors at publishing houses or various presses or various media outlets, and then lived on cheese sandwiches hoping a check of some meager amount would come back. Traditionally the profession of “writer” meant you repeated this cycle without healthcare or adequate hygiene or presentable clothes until you died, or gave it up for a real job.

That model, that definition of writer, still very much exists.

And a lot of writers make varying degrees of living from it.

If you’re a Stephen King or a John Scalzi, you might make millions and live in a golden mansion high on a landscaped hill in the middle of a private island waited on hand and foot by an army of nubile olive-pitters (this is totally true and I heard it directly from one of George R.R. Martin’s gardeners). But more likely you’re a stringer for the local paper, and you might make enough to buy a cheese sandwich or two providing you’re not particular about the definition of “cheese” or those weird green spots on the bread.

Various degrees of success exist between those poles.

Me? I wanted to be a writer since I was kid. It’s a sickness, writing. A weird mental disorder that makes you sit in front of a keyboard for hours, daydreaming and playing with ideas and wondering why anybody would read the blather on the screen. But my grandmother gave me a Hardy Boys book (#8; The Mystery of Cabin Island) for Christmas one year when I was about 8 or 9. I’d been an indifferent reader up to that point, but that book captivated me and my lifelong obsession with words began right there. Somewhere shortly thereafter, in a staggering moment of epiphany, I realized there were actually people out there who got paid to sit in front of a keyboard and daydream and those people didn’t have to put on pants every day. Hell they might not even own actual pants – unless you consider pajamas legitimate work apparel.

I knew then that’s what I wanted to do.

I’d always intended to go the traditional route, cheese sandwiches and all.

I’d never intended to write about politics. But evidence would suggest that’s where my talent lies – if you’re charitable and agree that it is indeed an actual talent and not just something you could train a chimpanzee to do (they taught ‘em to fly spaceships, so I imagine political pundit wouldn’t be that difficult).

But by the time I was free to write what I wanted (upon my retirement from the military) and I started writing in earnest with the idea that someday somebody would give me actual money for it, the world had changed. How we connect to it had changed and continues to evolve at a rapid pace and a new type of “writer” became possible – well maybe not new new, but perhaps a more modern version of the political broadsides and pamphlets penned by the likes of Thomas Paine.

It’s amazing to me how fast this has gone.

Ten years ago, hell five years ago, I would never have guessed that Facebook would become my primary platform for day to day short form.  Facebook is a horrible platform for the kinds of things I write. It’s a bastard cross between a blog and public forum and doesn’t do either very well. It’s subject to arbitrary and random censorship. There’s no protection for intellectual property at all. It lacks the most basic of editing tools and formatting functions, its search capability is ridiculous and all but useless. Facebook’s interface, timeline management, and display are one of the single most infuriatingly horrible experiences in an age of limitless customization – limitless to everybody but Facebook users that is. It’s impossible to get any kind of help from the operators and it’s subject to every kind of cyber-abuse from bullying to trolling to sexual assault.

And Twitter, where I spend many hours every day, is, if anything, worse.

If Facebook is a dysfunctional community, then Twitter is Monkey Island in that community’s horrible zoo, a screeching riot of flying shit and bared fangs. Twitter is a chemical plant for distilling out the absolute worst elements of human existence, like some sort of highway where every driver is armed and in the throes of howling road rage and they don’t care if they die if they can take everybody else with them.

And yet – and yet – these platforms do one thing very, very well.

They do the one thing that traditional publishing venues cannot do.

Facebook and Twitter (and Instagram, TikTok, YouTube, Snapchat, et al) connect creators to people in an organic, viral, geometrically expanding manner that is completely impossible anywhere else.

Now, interacting with readers on a real time basis for hours upon hours every single goddamned day isn’t for every writer. It takes a certain degree of masochism to do it, see my previous comments about road rage and flying monkey shit.

In point of fact, a lot of writers become writers because they are anti-social bastards who enjoy living on moldy fake-cheese sandwiches and sitting around all day in dirty pajamas and who tend to break out in a cold sweat when they actually have to put on pants and go outside where all the other people are.

So real time interaction with their audience isn’t something they consider a feature.

And that’s okay. “Writer” is a loose enough definition that it accommodates the gregarious right alongside the hermit.

But, if you write well, if you write the things people are interested in, and if you’re willing to interact with your audience directly and in real time, then social media makes it possible for your work to spread far beyond the size of audiences normally available to traditional writers. For example: A few years ago, when I started doing this full time, Stonekettle Station averaged maybe 20,000 visitors per month – and that was after eight or ten years of writing every single day.  Maybe 3,000 people followed me on Facebook, maybe another 1000 or so on Twitter, and like one weird guy on Instagram.

A few years later, with some considerable effort, my daily Facebook audience is coming up on 250,000 subscribers, 200,000 on Twitter, and a single long form essay on Stonekettle Station can exceed 200,000 unique pageviews in a few hours.

That’s not connectivity traditional publishing, even things like newspaper columnist, can do.

Social media, for all its ills, has created new opportunity, an alternative to traditional writing models. Not a replacement, a supplement.

And that’s where I ended up.

I admit that in my case there is some degree of luck. I happened to be in the right place just as opportunity opened with the right experience and skillset and enough free time to take advantage of it.  It suits me. It’s not easy. Really it’s not. It sometimes (often) takes 14 to 18 hour days, research, writing, swearing at the screen, it can be incredibly frustrating at times for reasons you never imagine or anticipate. It requires constant attention, a constant presence, and everything becomes grist for the mill, making much of your life public – something that is often less than thrilling to your spouse.

It’s work.

And it is … writing.

I’ve had a number of critics sneer at me, you’re not a real writer! Well, okay. Fair enough. I'd point out that I am published in the traditional fashion, and I even got paid a considerable amount for it. But, I’m not particularly put out by my critics and I’m willing to go with whatever description you want to call it.  Sincerely.

But what do you call it?

I sometimes crank out a quarter million words in a month for a dedicated audience larger than that of many highly successful novelists. Hell, news sites steal my work on nearly a daily basis, and publish my stuff as their own for profit – that’s got to mean something, right? Now, I’m willing to accept any label you want to slap on that, but before you do, I’d like to suggest you try it. Start a blog, social media sites, assemble words every day, build an audience without gimmicks or tricks solely on the basis of what you write, and then tell me what you call that effort.

As a cautionary note: no matter what you call yourself, no matter how much adoring admiration you manage to inspire in your audience, no matter how many people send you fan mail and messages of respect, no matter how successful you eventually manage to be and how full of yourself you become as a result, your family and friends still think you’re a putz and remind you of it as often as possible.  Ideally this keeps you grounded and from turning into a complete ass. Ideally.

And every day, every single day, no matter how well you’ve done, everyday, you’re sure that’ll be the day it all falls apart and you’ll have to go get a real job again.

I’ve been invited to a number of writer’s conventions to talk about this with other writers – or those who want to become writers under this new paradigm. That’s something I’m happy to do. I’ve been pretty lucky and I’m glad to pay that forward. The world is a big place, there’s plenty of room for many, many more writers – or whatever you call ‘em – in this new arena. Catch me at WorldCon in Chicago later this year and we'll talk about it. 

But, here’s the downside – or at least the part I like least.

Every once in a while I need to ask for money.

I don’t like this. I really don’t like this. I don’t like asking for money.

I’m getting more used it, especially since it doesn’t seem to bother readers at all – well except for that one guy who shows up periodically to call me names and generally make an pest of himself. But ideally, I write something and if you like it enough, you’ll kick in.  And thankfully, you do so often enough that I can mostly survive on that part. Mostly, but not quite.

So when I began this I found a way to assuage my conscience.

Any subscriber who donates any amount via the donation button or as a Patreon during the period of April 1st, 2022 to April 30, 2022 will be put in the running for a giveaway. Every few days over the next month, I’ll give away loot. I’ve got at least a hundred of my handmade ink pens, engraved with Stonekettle Station. I’ve signed copies of books that my work appears in. I’ve got signed copies of my photography – and given that I generally don’t sign those prints, these will be unique. And randomly, I’ll give away a couple of Stonekettle Station T-shirts (If you win one of those, I’ll have it made to your requirements, size, color, sex, etc).

Winners will be announced every few days until I run out things to give away.

To donate, click on the “Donation” button on the upper right side of this screen and follow the directions or click on the Patreon link for additional options.


Edit: Readers viewing Stonekettle Station on mobile devices sometimes can’t see the side-bar. As such, I’m attempting to embed the donate function code here in the text.

My Patreon is here


You may enter more than once. Each donation will be counted as a unique subscription. If you’ve already donated to Stonekettle Station this month, you’re already on the subscription list.

Those of you who already donate via an automatic monthly payment, you’ll be entered automatically in the giveaway.

I’ve discovered that winners sometimes, often it seems, do not want their names made public. I’d like to tell readers who got the various art pieces, but if you want your name kept private I will certainly do so. When I did this before, the first person I selected to receive a prize refused because they lived on a boat and had no room for addition items. The alternate also refused for personal reasons and requested that the artwork go instead to a charity for auction to raise money for a cause important to them. They wanted it kept anonymous. So, that I did. I will honor any reasonable request when it comes to such things.

Legal Disclaimer: To be clear, this is not a lottery or a raffle.  Donations are voluntary subscription fees specifically in support of this blog and the associated social media feeds and conducted in accordance with state and federal requirements.

That is:  you’re paying for content not a chance to win something.

I am not claiming any tax-exempt status or charity. Donations are considered business income and I pay all applicable state and federal taxes on that income and I have the records to prove it.

The items I give away are my artwork, created and paid for by me.  As such I chose to randomly give them away to supporters, just as I gave away my custom made pens to my fellow writers.  The giveaway list is generated from voluntary subscriptions, since I have no other way to determine who readers are.  You are not donating for a chance to win a prize, you’re paying for the content of this blog and my associated social media feeds and I’m using this opportunity to give something back other than just my usual blog essays, Facebook posts, Instagram, and Tweets.

As always, thank you for your support.

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

No One Is Coming to Save Us



2016: "Russia if you're listening..."
2019: "I'd like you to do me a favor..."
2022: "...So now I would think Putin would know the answer to that. I think he should release it."
-- Donald Trump, repeatedly imploring foreign despots to attack Americans


A few days ago, Fox Business News Stuart Varney asked Donald Trump what he would do differently from Biden when it comes to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

What would you do differently, Mr. Trump?

What indeed? 

Trump, a man who declares himself a military genius and who allegedly knows more than actual military generals, replied: 

“Well, uh, what I would do, is I would, we would, uh, we have tremendous military capability and, uh, what we can do without planes, to be honest with you, uh, without 44-year-old jets, what we can do is enormous, and we should be doing it, and we should be helping them to survive and they’re doing an amazing job.”

There you go, the vision of a military genius. 

It's like listening to some football player who's been hit in the head one too many times: Uh, well, I just wanna, uh, you know, get out there and, uh, you know, do the thing that we do, uh, you know, stuff with that is enormous stuff that we're doing every day, um, you know, with the thing, you know, that we do because that's how you do it and they're doing an amazing job! 

Even Varney couldn't believe the gibberish coming out of Trump's sagging ridiculous Big Mac hole. 

So he asked again, what would you do in Ukraine that Biden's not doing right now? 

I mean, you have to give Varney credit for hanging in there like a Russian general about to become yet another hilarious statistic in Western news media, but honestly I don't know how after all this time he couldn't see what was coming.

“I listen to him [Putin] constantly using the n-word [the what?] that’s the n-word, uh, and he’s constantly using it [wut? wut?] the nuclear word [OH] and we never talk of, uh, we say, ‘Oh, he’s a nuclear power,’ but we’re a greater nuclear power, we have the greatest submarines in the world, most powerful machines ever built, most powerful, and they got built under me [The only nuclear subs we're building are the Virginia Class which were ALL ordered and budgeted prior to 2014, Trump had literally nothing to do with it, but he's on a roll] most powerful machines ever built, and nobody knows where they are and you should say, ‘Look, if you mention that word one more time, we’re going to send them over, uh, and, uh, we’ll be coasting back and forth up and down your coast.’”

Get all that?

Trump's big plan is that since nobody knows where the submarines are (which is pretty much the whole point of submarines) we'll just go ahead and TELL THE ENEMY WHERE THEY ARE

We'll just tell the enemy where our secret weapons are. 

Genius.

While at the same time also, apparently, threatening nuclear war and basically daring Russia to do something about it. 

That's what Trump would do. 

I can't tell you how damn glad I am that he's not the guy doing it anymore.

Well, at least for the moment, but we'll come back to that. 

Because he's a fucking lunatic. 

He's nuts. Crazy. Barking mad.

This is Trump, literally saying in one breath that if he was in charge, he'd threaten nuclear war, global annihilation, and then minutes later openly begging political favors from the same guy he's threatening. 

He's insane. 

His gray spongy brain is a ragged tangle of cobwebs full of dead bugs and bad smells. 

If we are not as yet actually at war with Russia then it's the very next thing to it -- as Trump himself must believe, otherwise why would you threaten nuclear war?

And yet, here's Trump demanding Vladimir Putin produce some sort of compromising material on Joe Biden's son to somehow damage Biden himself solely in order to profit Trump. 

This isn't the first time Trump has done this. 

It's not even the second time. 


And at this point, if that isn't treason, it's the next thing to it. 


Yesterday, Congressman Matt Gaetz declared in apparent seriousness that if Republicans take back the House later this year, he intends to nominate Trump as Speaker of the House. There's nothing in the Constitution that would prevent this, and as ridiculous as it sounds I wouldn't put it past Republicans to do it solely in order to make liberals scream in rage -- because that's become the mean small ideology of the GOP in its entirety. 

Also, yesterday, we discovered there's a seven hour gap in White House phone logs, in Trump's records specifically, during the height of the January 6th Insurrection. 

Literally, at the exact moment Trump's supporters stormed the Capitol his official phone logs show no data. 

Yet, we know with absolute certainty Trump was on the phone during that period. 

We know this, because when you examine the phone logs of other Republicans during that same time, those records show calls from Trump

For example, Trump called Senator Mike Lee, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, and Vice President Mike Pence during that seven hour gap. This is not in dispute. He was on the phone, calling his own Vice President, calling members of Congress, and members of the media -- such as Sean Hannity. 

So, either Trump was using burner phones to avoid the Presidential Records Act in a premeditated violation of the law, or the official White House records have been deleted, altered, or forged again in violation of the law. 

There are no other options. 

Trump committed criminal acts. 

This not alleged. This is not speculation. This is fact. Trump committed criminal acts. 

Or, you know, more criminal acts. 

In fact, last Monday, Federal Judge David Carter in a case involving Trump crony and right wing lawyer John Eastman, formally stated: 

"Based on the evidence, the Court finds it more likely than not that President Trump corruptly attempted to obstruct the Joint Session of Congress on January 6, 2021."

"The illegality of the plan was obvious. Our nation was founded on the peaceful transition of power, epitomized by George Washington laying down his sword to make way for democratic elections. Ignoring this history, President Trump vigorously campaigned for the Vice President to single-handedly determine the results of the 2020 election ... Every American -- and certainly the President of the United States -- knows that in a democracy, leaders are elected, not installed."

Eastman was in court, suing to prevent having to turn over records of communication between himself and Trump which the January 6th Committee believes may show that he and the former President planned to criminally disrupt certification of the election, knowing they were committing crime. I.e. Trump's actions on January 6th were premeditated sedition. 

Unfortunately, neither the January 6th Committee or Judge Carter have the power to bring criminal charges against Trump. 

Only the Department of Justice can do that. 

And so far, the Attorney General has shown absolutely no interest in doing so. 

I know a lot of those on the Left would like to think there's some big secret plan afoot, that cases like this take time, etc, the DOJ is closing in and soon Trump will face justice. 

And maybe there is. 

Maybe Merrick Garland is a cunning and cagy general, scouting the enemy, gathering intelligence, moving his army into position, and perhaps one day he'll unleash a legal Blitzkrieg and those like me who are increasingly doubtful that Trump and his seditious cronies will ever be brought to justice,  yeah, well, maybe we'll have to hang our heads in shame and apologize. 

And if that day comes, if I watch them dragging Trump in chains to a traitor's just fate, well, then I'll certainly apologize for my lack of faith. 

But if it doesn't happen very, very soon, it never will. 

Because this isn't about justice. 

It's not about legalities. 

It's not even about what's right and wrong. 

It's about politics.

And politics are about perception

And there is no one -- no one -- who understands this better than Donald J. Trump. 

See those words up above. Trump's words. His big plan to defeat Russia. Gibberish. None of it makes any coherent sense. It's a brain full of spiders. Not one word of it makes any sense. It's disjointed mewling insanity.  

But Republicans don't care. 

Trump doesn't have to make sense. 

Trump knows this. Republicans know this. The mob doesn't give a shit what the words are or even if they make any sense. 

Look at the recent Trucker Convoy in Washington D.C. 

Big joke, right? You and I, we saw a joke, a ridiculous sad failure, a bunch of losers peeing on themselves and driving around in circles. They didn't even know what they were protesting. 

That's what we saw. 

But the other side? They saw defiance. Patriotism. Liberty. 

It doesn't matter if it made any sense, it's about what you see.

Because politics is about perception. 

And so, if the DOJ doesn't shit or get off the pot soon, they might as well not even bother. 

Because if Republican take back Congress this year, then just like those two impeachments, nothing the law does will matter. 

And Trump will not only have gotten away with it again, he'll likely regain the White House. 


Right now, right this very minute, Russia's official state media is calling for Russia's "Partner Trump" to be installed (their words) as President of the United States. 


That's where we're at.

Right on the cusp. Right on the edge of losing it all. 

So, in case I'm being too subtle here, in case you've read this far and you haven't figured out where I'm going, it's this: 

This is your 2022, 2024 CLARION CALL TO SHOW THE HELL UP. 

No more bullshit. 

No excuses. 

No more "both sides."

I don't want to hear about how disappointed you are with Biden or Pelosi or democrats. I don't want to hear any whining about how you don't like the choices. Any of this childish nonsense about how you want better choices. 

Too damn bad. 

This isn't about what you like, it's about your duty as a citizen.  

This is it. You can't depend on anyone else to save you, to save your country, to save your kid's future. 

You can't depend on Merrick Garland for justice, not in time anyway. You can't hang the future on some vague hope that somehow someone somewhere will keep these assholes from destroying what's left of this country. 

It's up to you. 

You have to show up. 

You have to keep them out of office. You. No one else. 

You show up. You browbeat your friends and family and strangers to show up. And you keep this lunatic and his lunatic party the hell out of office. Give the DOJ time to bring them to justice, if you believe that's what going to happen some day. Or at the minimum you just keep these assholes out of office and avert nuclear war and maybe that's the best you're going to get. 

Whatever way it goes, everything you care about, everything, is on the line. This is it. 

So I don't want to hear any infantile whining about how you wish it was different. No shit, we all do. But it's not and here we are. 

Time to adult, folks. 

You show up and you do your duty. 

You want a better nation, be a better citizen. 


The liberties of our country, the freedom of our civil constitution, are worth defending against all hazards: And it is our duty to defend them against all attacks.
-- Samuel Adams

Friday, March 11, 2022

No Happy Ending


Colonoscopies are undignified. 

That's what I said. 

Yes, I said it. 

If you live long enough, eventually the only words any doctor will say to you are: have you had a colonoscopy? 

Literally that's it. Doctor, I'm here for my eye exam. Have you had a colonoscopy? 

Doc, I've got a sore throat. Right, have you had a colonoscopy? 

Doc, I'm pretty sure I broke my arm, see the sharp end of the bone sticking out of my skin? Uh huh, when's the last time you had a colonoscopy? 

Doc, I'm having these excruciating chest pains, my arm hurts, my vision is fading out, I'm sweating like Donald Trump Jr. on a coke bender making a TikTok video... I hear you, so anyway let's get you scheduled for that colonoscopy.

Sooner or later there you are, on a table, naked, unconscious, with your ass literally hanging out in the middle of room full of people suited up with masks and face shields, cameras, lights, computer monitors and robot probes like an SpaceX mission to Uranus. Then later, while you're still dopey from the anesthesia and pumped full of sewer gas that's slowly (or rapidly) leaking out and you're sitting in a puddle of your own goo, they show you high resolution full color pictures of parts of your anatomy that you'd rather not see, with the person who's supposed to drive you home right there as part of the audience and ain't that a hoot? 

And maybe, if you're really lucky, they'll tell you that you have cancer. 

Because that's always awesome. 

I don't know, maybe that's a fun day for you. 

Me? I'd prefer to do just about anything else -- well, except for maybe watching that aforementioned Don Jr. video. 

Now, I didn't say it wasn't necessary. 

And I also didn't say you shouldn't get it done when your doctor tells you to. 

And I don't honestly see how what I said was in any way whatsoever at all controversial.

I just said, the whole process is undignified. 

Undignified. That's it. That's what I said. Undignified. 

And Twitter called me ... homophobic? 

Wait, what? 

No, no, you read that right the first time. Homophobic. 

I...

(long pause)

... honestly don't know how you get there. 

It's three days later, and still I still really just don't see how you got there. 

Nevertheless here we are. Homophobic. Cue the outrage. And then, I got to spend the next six hours hearing about how I'm an asshole (yeah, I did that on purpose, tough shit) because here are all these other procedures that are even more undignified if you're a woman. Rage! Rage! You terrible person, you! 

So, in summary, not only homophobic (and really, what the actual fuck?), but misogynistic too. 

Oh, and the people who have colorectal cancer? They were likewise mad. A lot of them anyway. 

What? 

What's that? 

Oh, right. You're right. You're right. I shouldn't take it personally. After all, the whole purpose of social media to be perpetually outraged at every jerk of the knee no matter how ridiculous. You're absolutely right. 

And I really don't take it personally, much. 

Still, homophobic? 

Are you kidding me?


But, I'm getting ahead of myself. 


Remember those old home improvement TV shows? 

Like, actual home improvement shows. 

Remember those?

Back in the 1980s and 90s. Shows like This Old House, Home Again, and Hometime. Dean Johnson. Jojo Liebeler. Robin Hartl. Norm Abram. 

Remember that? 

No?

Well, I guess if you're not old enough for a colonoscopy, you're probably not old enough to remember Bob Vila

Anyway, if you were a homeowner back then, especially if you were fixing up an older house, they were pretty great. They showed you how to repair things. How to renovate on a budget. How to build a new kitchen, knock down a wall, overhaul a bathroom, landscape your yard, how to hire a contractor or how to do it yourself.  They'd give you great ideas, show you what tools you'd need and where to rent them, what kind of materials to use, and walk you through the various steps in detail. 

Moreover, they were fun people. Likable. Interesting. No drama. Every week you'd tune in and see a new thing, a new idea, something you could adapt to your own situation. 

America was a different place back then. 

I'm not saying it was great. But we still had this idea, somehow, that we could make things better. 

Things changed. 

One day, suddenly it seemed, all the shows were about buying some rundown place, renovating it the minimum possible amount, and selling it for a profit. 

Oh boy, profit. 

At first those programs might show you how they were doing the renovations, but unlike actual home improvement that really wasn't the point. And it wasn't long before they dropped even the pretense.

Now, these shows are about drama. 

Oh my God! We've got a problem! Termites! Bad Pipes! We're Going Over budget! Everybody is mad at everybody else! You're fired! What are we gonna do? What are we gonna doooooo?!

Over about 30 years, these shows stopped being about practical solutions and became manufactured outrage for entertainment. 

Reality TV. 


You're wondering where the hell I'm going with this, aren't you?


You're trying to figure out how I got from social media being mad at me over a colonoscopy to Love It or List It, aren't you? 

But, that's it, right there. 

That's the whole thing. 

Somehow over the last four decades, we went from looking for simple, practical solutions to literally manufacturing ridiculous drama so that we can be outraged for our entertainment all the damn time. We don't care about fixing stuff, we want to watch people shouting at each other. 

Home renovation not your thing?

Then take a look at the evolution of cooking shows over the same period. 

We went from how to make a decent meal to a red faced asshole screaming at some poor cook about what a goddamn failure they are. It's not about cooking. It's not even about food. 

It's about humiliation for entertainment. 

And goddamn, don't we just love that? 

Of course, the evolution (de-evolution?) of these shows is nothing compared to what's happened to the news.

So, what am I'm saying here? TV rots your brain? 

Maybe, but the point isn't that these shows, and by extension social media, are causing the downfall of humanity. 

That's not what I'm saying at all.


These shows are simply a reflection of who we've become as a people over the last 40 years. 


We've become a race of beings who are perpetually offended and outraged. 

We thrive on it. And if there's nothing to be outraged about, by god, we'll make something up and be mad anyway! You're not enthusiastic about getting a colonoscopy? YOU HAVE OFFENDED ME!

We can't just live our lives. 

It is not possible for Americans, or increasingly anyone else, to just be happy. 

Oh, but it's so much worse than that. 

See, we can't allow anyone else to live their lives either.

We absolutely cannot tolerate the idea of anyone else being happy. 

We have quite literally reached the point where we as a people, as an ideology, as a society, seemingly can only find self-worth in outrage.

This wretched worldview is bad enough when it results in the kind of bizarre manufactured indignation that I illustrated up above as a lede into this article, but all that happens then is that I take a break from social media until I stop thinking that maybe nuclear war might not be such a bad idea after all. 

As nasty and insane as social media is to me most of the time, I, as a straight white male, am not in any way oppressed or diminished by it. 

I can, and do, walk away when I have to. I have that luxury. 

I have privilege to ignore it if I want to. 

Others, far too many others, cannot escape and the actual real consequence of this contemptible worldview is that it results in real, actual, terrible oppression. 

The real horror is that this oppression exists for no reason, for literally no reason at all, other than that we as a society have come to glory in the humiliating domination of others.

And far too often, that oppression, that true horror, is lost in the seething noise floor of our perpetual outrage over idiotic nonsensical things. 

While my Twitter feed was working itself into a righteous over-caffeinated woke fury over some imagined homophobia on my part, Florida made it illegal -- literally illegal -- to even say the word "gay" in public schools. 

What's that? 

Oh, now you're mad at me about that? The new law doesn't really say any such thing? 

No? 

Yeah, actually, it does. 

Classroom instruction by school personnel or third parties on sexual orientation or gender identity may not occur in kindergarten through grade 3 or in a manner that is not age appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards.

May not occur. 

May not

No exception. 

In Kindergarten through grade 3 or in a manner that is not age appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students.

And who decides what is age is developmentally appropriate? 

The state. 

The governor. 

The political party who came up with this hateful bullshit in the first place. 

That's who. 

So don't you dare try to tell me that's not what the law says. 

And if it's illegal to say gay, then it won't be long before it's illegal to be gay. 

Which is what just happened in Texas, where any parents can now be sent to prison for life -- simply for affirming their own child's sexual identity. 

For being supportive of their own children. Imagine that. 

Well, you don't have to imagine it. That's the thing. 

This is America. This is what we have become. The ideology of self-determination and personal freedom, so long as you only identify yourself in accordance with the state's accepted definition. 

Meanwhile, back in Florida again, a second bill just passed the Senate making it illegal to discuss race in public school -- specifically racism. It will be quite literally illegal in the state of Florida to teach  actual American history. 

And this isn't just happening in former slave states. 

Or the Bible Belt. 

There are more than one hundred and fifty similar examples of pending legislation in nearly every other state in the Union. 

Florida and Texas are only the first, they won't be the last. 

But ... why?

No, that's not a rhetorical question. Why? 

Why would anyone care? 

Why do you care what sexual orientation anyone else is? What skin off your nose is it? How could you possibly be offended by what pronoun someone else uses? How does it affect you personally? How does teaching that our nation once held human beings in bondage and treated them as less than livestock diminish you personally now? 

Of course, it doesn't. 

But, it's not about that, is it?

No, it's about outrage

Outrage at the very idea that someone else should know their own identity -- because that's what history is, identity. 

Outrage that someone else should be free to chose their identity -- because that's what freedom actually is, the right to define yourself. 

While social media is yet again outraged at some imagined slight, very real people are being erased from our society. 

That is an outrage. 

This is about an ideology that claims to revere freedom, but is daily reduced to seething yellow-eyed violent rage over the idea of someone else choosing a pronoun. Over someone learning that their ancestors were property. About the idea of actually trying to make the world a better place. 

This is about a people who see themselves as victims, who literally liken themselves to Jews being pushed into Nazi gas chambers, even as their own endless privilege allows them the freedom to take a month away from work and drive their trucks across country to protest an oppression that exists only in their own fevered brains -- while some of them are literally flying the Nazi swastika and how the fuck does that even make any sense? 

It's about a people whose sense of self-worth is measured entirely relative to others, and so they can only feel superior if those others are made less -- it is the swaggering self-assurance of a bully. 

It is about a people who've been conditioned to believe that worth is measured in bombastic chest beating, in physical strength, in power, in size, in bulk, in muscle, and most of all in the willingness and ability to visit violence upon others. It's about the biggest truck, the most powerful gun, the greatest wealth, the loudest voice, and the largest flag. And the biggest hardon. 

It's about self-loathing. 

It's about fear. 

It's about an ideology that can never ever be happy with itself and thus can only find satisfaction in the humiliation and subjugation of others. 

It's about those who profit from hate and outrage and who think there will never be an accounting. 

Writ large, this is Russia's invasion of Ukraine and it just might end in nuclear fire after all. 

It's about a culture that is the end result of decades of manufactured artificial outrage -- so much so, that it's become self-sustaining and thus you must find offense in the most innocuous of things while real injustice goes unchecked all around. 

We have become a people who pretend to oppression, who scream in outrage at the slightest of imagined offenses, solely in order to drown out the anguished cries of those who are the true victims of tyranny, inequality, and injustice. 

Outrage isn't the opposite of calm, it's the savage antithesis of reason

And far too many of us have given up on making the world a better place. 

Friday, March 4, 2022

Break

 

Choose to be optimistic. It feels better.
– Dalai Lama


Take a break

I remind you this morning that as terrible as things appear to be, it's important to not let this feeling of pervasive doom overwhelm you.

Yes, yes, I know. It feels like the end of the world out there a lot lately. 

It does. 

And no, it's not that easy to remain optimistic or shake this sense of depression. I never said it was. 

But you need to do it anyway. 

Not just for yourself. 

Not just for those you care about. 

But for all of civilization. For the future. 

I interact with something on the order of half a million people every day, and I'm increasingly seeing a rising sense of dread. I feel like I'm drowning in it some days. 

And why not? Dread, doom, gloom, horror, terror, pessimism, these are the things that sell. That's what make you the money. 

Rage, that's what gets you clicks and likes and that -- that terrible popularity -- is the real currency of our modern world. 

Hate sells, that's where the profits are -- and the prophets

Trepidation, fear, anxiety, those are what put asses in seats. That's why religion and politics are so popular. Be afraid. That's the message of both, be afraid, be afraid, fear God, fear the the Commies, fear the Socialists, fear the fascists, fear immigrants and gay people and trans kids and vaccines and don't forget to put your money in the plate. 

Folks, the world is always going to hell. 

Always. 

Every damn day. 

It's always something, war, plague, disaster, angry gods, burning nuclear power plants, fire and poison toads falling from the sky, Nickelback. Something. 

Social media makes it worse because we tend to see the things we want to see, doom-scrolling it's called, and we select for it. We go looking for the things that make us afraid, that make us feel this sense of doom and dread and fear. 

This isn't new, of course. Religion has done it for millennia. Look at the Christian Bible. That second part, the whole second half of the book, it's about hope, right? About being a better person and making the world a better place. But you drive around my little Southern Town, and every alleged Christian church has a sign out front and it's all doom and dread and fear and Hell. The sign never says "Do upon to others as you would have them do unto you." It's never "feed the hungry, clothe the poor, heal the sick." It's never any of the kind, optimistic words their prophet allegedly said. No, it's always fear and wrath and the threats of a small and miserable god. Inside, it's the same, fire and brimstone and damnation and what kind of moral and loving god has to threaten his followers with eternal torture?

But without that fear, no one shows up. 

There's no profit in kindness and optimism. 

It's the same with politics. Any politician who pushes a message of hope and optimism, fuck that guy. We want anger and rage and ... well, yeah, just look around. I post a thread about Nazis, something that took me ten minutes to whip out, I get ten thousand likes and retweets and shares. But I post a picture of nature, a bee in flight for example, an image that is the culmination of literally years of effort and experience and skill, the pinnacle of the state of the art, I get five comments and one of them is something about how it reminds the commenter of Donald Trump. 

I'm not complaining, I'm simply pointing out that when we moan about how everything is terrible, it's often because we are deliberately ignoring the things that aren't

I see this every day. Americans drive $70,000 trucks, smoke $200 worth of cigarettes each month, consume more calories in day than half the world gets in a week, watch 900 channels of cable TV, and bitch endlessly about how terrible they have it -- how they're just like the Jews being herded into the gas chambers, how they're oppressed worse than the slaves, how their privileged lives are just the worse thing ever. And they feel this way because the man in the pulpit, the man on the TV, the man they voted for tells them how they are victims, how they're being oppressed, how terrible they have it every damn day. 

You know, it's easy to think everything is terrible and getting more terrible when you spend all day looking at terrible things. 

There are a lot of loud shitty people in the world, and the Information Age gives them all a platform to shout their rotten halitosis in your face all day. 

Look, I'm not saying you should dismiss what's happening in the world. Not at all. 

I'm not saying you should ignore all those terrible things, the hate, the injustice, the misery. 

But take the time to look for the good things too. For your own sake. 

Block the haters, fight only on your terms, and take a break when you need it.

Here's a picture of a bee. 


I'm taking the Mini and my wife and going to drive the beach road. 

See you tomorrow. 

Thursday, March 3, 2022

Hasta la Vista, Baby



Todd and Janelle are dicks, but I've gotta warn them. You got a quarter?
-- John Connor, Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991)



I know. 

I heard.

The January 6th Committee announced that they have pretty solid evidence Trump himself personally by his very own hand totally committed some crimes. Personally. Himself. He did it. Crimes. Yep, it's true. 

Oh boy! 

Right? Oh boy! We got him now! Ha ha!

The press is beside themselves this morning. The phrase BREAKING NEWS! BREAKING NEWS! fills my social media feeds and the alert scroll running down the side of one of my screens is red with glee. 

We got him now! This time for sure!

Whenever this comes up, and it does come up repeatedly on a very, very regular basis for the last year -- Breaking news Trump committed crimes Oh boy -- those who follow me on Twitter see me quote Edward Furlong as young John Conner from Terminator 2, i.e. "We really got Skynet by the balls now, don't we?"

Heh heh. Man, I love that line. 

I love how wrong that kid was. 

See, they had the robot arm and the microchip brain from the first time-travelling terminator and without those, Cyberdyne would never be able to build Skynet and thus humankind would be safe from nuclear war and killer robots. 

Right? You saw the movie. 

They had the microchip. They had the arm. Now, all they had to do was destroy those key items and they'd save the future. Yah! And they spent the next 45 minutes of the movie trying to do exactly that, ending with Robo Arnold giving the world a big thumbs up as he melts into the molten steel and saves the day.

Yeah.

We're saved!

Except...

...there have been what? four sequels and at least three reboots since then and it seems the future is still producing murder robots and Skynet (or Dominion, whatever its calling itself these days) is just fine up there in the future and it's still us who are the endangered species. 


"We really got Skynet by the balls now, don't we?"


I mean, don't get me wrong. It's a great flick. 

But every time I watch that movie and they get to that line, I laugh. 

Yeah, Kid, sure. 

Where am I going with this? 

Here: At this point, if the big "breaking" story doesn't prominently contain the words "Trump Indicted" you can just save telling me about it. Because I just don't care. Oh, wow, they found evidence Trump committed more crime? Well boy howdy, how about that. 

I guess he's going to jail now! 

I guess we really got Skynet by the balls this time. 

Except, he's never charged. 

There's always another sequel. Always another reboot. And he just keeps on being Trump. 

And goddamn if it don't look like we're rushing towards a future where we're the endangered species and not him. 

So, you know, unless the Attorney General finally decides to get off the pot and start charging this asshole before suddenly it's the next election and he's the fucking president again, I got other things to do. 

Like move to Mexico and start training my kid to fight murder robots. 


John Connor: We're not gonna make it, are we? People, I mean.
The Terminator: It's in your nature to destroy yourselves.
John Connor: Yeah. Major drag, huh?
-- Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991)


Wednesday, March 2, 2022

Recap: Mar 1, 2022

Proudly Ignorant. 

Deliberately Stupid. 

Ragin violent hate. 

Open racism, white nationalists, jingoism, shallow brainless patriotism.

They are gun humping conspiracy nuts who embrace sedition, insurrection, treason as virtues and loudly raise up  foreign despots as their heroes.


This is the pinched bitter screaming face of the Republican Party today.

This is what the once venerable Party of Lincoln has become. 


A fist, smashing in the face of Liberty. 

History shows again and again and yet again, that a political party and an ideology that accommodates and encourages this yammering ignorant hate cannot build anything.

It can not build anything. 

It can only destroy. 


This mean small ingrown ideology can only make the world a worse place, never better.

This kind of mindless slavering hatred and greedy bitter lust for power is exactly what led to the war in Ukraine -- and every other atrocity throughout history. 

This horrible worldview is precisely the vile bilious hatred condemned over and over by the very religion these people claim to believe in. They are the selfsame antichrist they claim to fear. 

If Republicans do not remove this vile cancer from their midst, then they have become a disease upon the body politic.

And sooner or later, like any other malignant tumor, we're going to have to cut them out. 

Before they kill us all. 

Thursday, January 6, 2022

Insurrection, One Year On

 

How the hell did we get here? 

It's been a year since January 6th, 2021. 


And instead of shamefacedly being a year safely away from the demise of democracy, we're still looking right at it. 

We're still looking right at it, right on the very cusp of revolution and collapse and civil war. 

It's not over. 

And what's horrifying a year later isn't that a bunch of raggedy-assed unwashed unshaven sloppy virgins in militia garb, wild-eyed drooling conspiracy nuts led by some goof wearing horns on his head and woad on his face like a Dollar Store Mel Gibson, and a veritable cornucopia of howling racists in every fruity flavor from pathetic Klansmen to sad inbred toothless Confederates to violent white nationalist Nazis, attacked the nation's capitol in an attempt to overthrow democracy and appoint Donald Trump as King of some new Empire of Blustering Capitalist Rage. 

How the hell did we get here

It's easy to blame Trump -- and there is no doubt he proudly bears a lion's share of the responsibility for what happened a year ago today. But Trump is a symptom of a much deeper sickness. Like Adolf Hitler, Trump is an conniving opportunist who didn't create the nation we now live in, he just took advantage of it. Took advantage of the hate, the bigotry, the unfocused pervasive rage of those who feel their privileged place in the universe is somehow being stolen from them by the undeserving. 

How the hell did we get here?  

How the hell did we get to a state where Americans are willing to throw away The Republic for ... Donald Trump? 

How?

This morning, Karl Rove -- yes, that Karl Rove -- penned an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal, that stodgy musty wool-smelling bastion of Republican ideology, where he straight-facedly declared with all the self-awareness of a dog licking its own asshole on a public sidewalk that the GOP has a "duty to condemn the riot and those who refuse to acknowledge it." 

The GOP has a duty to condemn the insurrection. 

A duty, forsooth. 

A duty. 

The GOP. The fucking Republican Party. He's talking about duty. 

The very people who elected Trump in the first place and cheered him on. Those Republicans. 

Rove went on to say, “There can be no soft-ped­al­ing what hap­pened and no ab­so­lu­tion for those who planned, en­cour­aged and aided the at­tempt to over­throw our democ­racy. Love of coun­try de­mands noth­ing less. That’s true patriotism."

Karl Rove, talking about how there's no absolution for those who planned, encouraged, and aided in the attempt to overthrow our democracy. Karl Rove. 

Karl. Rove. 

This is typically where'd I say something like Irony jumped the tracks, careened down the embankment, smashed through a circus, plowed over a mink farm and slammed into the river, where it burst into flames, rolled over, and exploded raining down flaming weasels and burning clown shrapnel over the terrorized countryside but such is that state of our nation that I can only boggle in amazement. 

Karl Rove, goddamn

How did we get here? 

Well, guys like Karl goddamn Rove, that's how. 


But I'm getting ahead of myself. 


I used to be an intelligence officer. 

Military intelligence. That was my job for a couple of decades and change, in peace, in war. 

Mostly war, there's hasn't been a lot of peace in my lifetime. 

I was pretty good at it, or so I'm told. 

But then, I should have been good at it. Because I was trained to be good at it by men who were themselves good at it. Men I respected and admired -- well, most of them anyway. 

But we'll come back to that. 

Our job was to look beyond our own bias. Our job was to gather information, process it, and put it together into a coherent picture for those making the decisions. Most importantly: Our job wasn't to tell the chain of command what it wanted to hear, no matter how badly it wanted to hear it, but rather to tell the truth as best we were able to determine. 

Even if it pissed people off -- which was almost literally the definition of my job and rank.

Even if it meant we might incur the wrath of our leaders for it. 

Even if it meant we might personally suffer the consequences of that wrath. 

Let me give you a personal example.

For me, that moment came a few days after the start of the Iraq war in March of 2003.

I'd been there for months already, doing missions in hostile waters, managing the collection of intelligence in the Northern Arabian Gulf. Reporting what I saw of the situation up the chain of command. I know for certain some of what I and my team reported ended up on the president's desk, as part of the larger picture. It's not like the movies. It's not like TV shows. It was chaotic and dangerous work, it's tedious and frustrating and nerve-wracking and confusing and every damn day you have to fight against the limitations of not only what is possible and the fog of war, but also the inertia of human nature. 

What I mean by that is that we go into war with certain pre-conceived ideas and a lot of those are wrong. 

And it was my job, by definition, to tell those in charge when they were wrong. 

And they were, wrong, often enough. 

A few days after the war started, my Chief brought me the target list for that day's strike missions. 

And I saw a target on that list that I knew was wrong. 

We were about to launch a mission that would kill innocent people -- well, maybe not "innocent" innocent, but they were certainly not combatants. And even in a war like that, a war of revenge, where the rules defining "enemy combatant" are pretty damn vague and morality isn't something Americans much care about, they were most certainly not a legitimate military target. 

And I knew this for certain, or as certain as anything ever is in war, because a few days before I had personally led a team to that target. I'd been there. I'd inspected that target top to bottom. I'd spoken to those people. I knew who and what they were and I knew the mission to kill them was wrong. 

And so, it was my job to stop it. 

And eventually, just in time, I did. I got the strike called off. 

There were some very irate commanders. I'd maybe used some less than respectful language to get their attention, words like "war crimes." But that's what it took to get through their pre-conceived perception of the situation. There was some talk of disciplinary action against me, as a result. 

But in the end instead of an A-6 loaded with missiles, we sent in a SEAL team to assess the situation in person. 

I was right. 

And instead of getting court martialed for insubordination, after we came home a few months later I ended up getting a medal for saving the lives of 43 Iraqis. 

In the grand scheme of things, it hardly matters if we'd killed those people. No one would have cared. You'd have never known about it. It would have just been a couple more dead in a war that killed half a million people who'd never done a damn thing to us and no one would have given a shit. Least of all America.

But it mattered to me.

It mattered to me because the men who trained me made it matter to me. The good guys don't kill people they don't have to, even in war. 

Now, I'm for damn sure not telling you this to blow my own horn, because all I was doing was my job. It was my duty. It was professionalism. It was the way I was trained. The medal and the commendation that go with it are in a box with the other ones from 20 years of service, on a shelf in the back of my closet. Maybe someday after I'm gone, my kid will find it and have some idea of what his old man did. 

Maybe he'll be proud of me, I don't know. 

Like I said, it doesn't much matter at this point. And I don't know if honor and duty and steadfastness mean anything in a dishonorable war started on lies from those like Karl Rove. 

I did my job, same as everybody else over there. No more, no less. It was one minor moment in war, one of a thousand goddamn things in a war of goddamn things, and one of the few I can actually mention, even if only in vague terms. 

The point here is that I did what I did because I was trained that way. 

I was trained to do the right thing, even it it meant saving enemies that no one would ever care about. 

I did what I did because the men who trained me demanded nothing less. 

I did what I did because I believe that we are the good guys, or we're supposed to be anyway. America falls short often enough, but in the moment, well, either you stand on the moral high ground or you're buried under an avalanche of your own hypocrisy. 

We lead by example, or we don't lead. 

It's really just that simple. 

I served for a number of years after that moment, long enough to learn we'd been lied to by the President, by slimy sons of bitches like Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney and Karl Rove. 

I tried to retire. I was refused three separate times. 

But eventually they let me take off the uniform and go home and so it became someone else's job, someone else's duty, the next generation's war, the responsibility of the people I had trained.

And me? Well, I became just another old gimpy veteran. 

I did some consulting work afterwards, but by then the scope of George Bush's malfeasance had become clear and so I retired to Alaska and became a writer. I started this blog and wrote about war and politics and the coming election. Social Media as we know it now was in its infancy. Facebook, Twitter, these were new things. I signed up. 

And by and by, given the nature of social media, I reconnected to old friends, those very men I had once so admired, the ones who trained me in honor, duty, professionalism, and the skills to see the truth through chaos. 


And I was horrified


You see, a liberal black man had just been elected to office. 

I voted for him. Yes, I did. Not reluctantly, but with enthusiasm. Proudly. Obama, my God, he was young and dynamic and smart and educated and articulate and kind and compassionate and funny and all the things that made me proud to be an American. 

I'm still proud that I voted for him, twice, voted for the first black president not because he was black but because he embodied the very best of what this nation might be. 

But what does that have to do with January 6th?

How did we get here? To this moment?

That's how. 

President Barack Obama. 

Because the election of a young, dynamic, smart, educated, articulate, kind, compassionate, and funny liberal black man galvanized the foul racist mean underbelly of this country like nothing else ever had. 

Those who attacked the Capitol a year ago today. They are in almost every regard, the antithesis of Barack Obama, mean, crude, uneducated, ill spoken, filled with rage and blind ignorant loud blustering false patriotism. 

And those men I had admired? Those veterans I respected? 

Like me, they were trained to be objective. To put aside their own bias. To demand proof. To require evidence. To check and doublecheck the information. 

And they threw all of that away, all of it, when a black man took office.

They forgot everything they ever knew. 

They forgot who they had been. 

They watched Fox News all day and they lost their humanity. They lost their objectivity. Without the supporting structure of the military and the purpose it gave them and the impartiality our profession had imposed upon their worldview, they lost their very identity. 

They became, literally became, different people. 

It was horrifying. Like watching a loved one eaten alive by Alzheimers. 

They included me on increasingly insane email chains that quoted Nancy Grace, Rush Limbaugh, and Glenn Beck as fact. They sent me racist mails quoting the comedian Jeff Foxworthy as if that guy was some sort of expert on anything. They posted racist memes to their Facebook pages and said with a sly wink, it's not really racist if it's true. Heh heh. They sent me dire proclamations from the NRA how the negro in office was somehow coming to take their guns -- these were men who'd been trained in firearms by professionals, who'd served honorably in war, who laughed at a bunch of unholstered swaggering goons like the National Rifle Association and yet here they were now suddenly quoting Ted Nugent

And it got worse. 

It got so much worse. 

They joined the fucking Tea Party. They began to trade in the most insane and ridiculous of conspiracy theories. There was no lunacy too great, no rage so unhinged, that they couldn't embrace it if it came from Rush Limbaugh. And then when the next election came, these men that I had once so admired, who had served steely-eyed in war and who would have once risked it all for the truth, who had once led every day by steady example and who had been supremely contemptuous of those blustering frauds, the paper warriors, those of stolen valor and empty bravado, suddenly these same men were cheering ... Sarah Palin. 

How did we get here? 

That's how. 

America has always had more than its share of malcontents, of lunatics and violent nutters, the proudly ignorant and outright stupid, the sociopaths and the religious extremists, and while they nipped around the edges of our society, they were rightly relegated to the shadows. 

Ronald Reagan and Lee Atwater and their version of The Southern Strategy brought the howling fringe into the Republican Party. But it was a war started on lies and the election of a black man to the highest office in the nation that normalized the most unhinged and brought them front and center.

There was always going to be consequences. 

You can't spend decades building a political ideology based on hate and rage and not expect that there will be violence. 

And it's always -- always -- downhill. 

An ideology of hate and rage cannot build a better society, cannot create a better world, even for itself. It can only destroy.

Those who warp reality to fit their ideology can never ever be trusted to tell the truth, or ever see it.  

When you raise up ignorance, extremism, and violence as not only normal but something to be admired, then the most admired must perforce be the most ignorant, extreme, and violent. 

How did we get here?

How did we end up a year ago today, watching ignorant violent extremists storm the Capitol of our country shouting the name of an ignorant violent extremist, waving the very flags of violent extremism, in support of an violent extremist ideology? 

That's how. 

It has often been said that for evil to triumph, good men need do nothing. 

And that is true. 

But it's more than that. 

For evil to flourish, good men forget who they are. They forget the ideals they once swore to give their very lives for. They come to believe that they are aggrieved, that justice, liberty, and democracy are zero sums and that they have been diminished by the rising freedom of others. They come to see education and intellect as "elitism" and they begin to regard duty and the obligations of civilization itself as oppression. They raise up ignorance, hate, and especially violent rage as strengths and sneer in contempt at compassion, charity, and selflessness. 

And the saddest part of this decline is that they cannot see that those who would lead them to their own destruction, do so not for ideology or belief or even from some supposed moral high ground, but for profit

And if you're to keep the money rolling in, then you have to keep going further and further. 

And hate always has consequences. 

Always. 

When your entire ideology is based on outrage, then the only way to maintain power is to stoke the fires of hate into an inferno of bitter white hot rage.

When rage becomes the only emotion you can feel, well, that only ends one way, in violence and blood. 

And if you doubt this, you have only to look at the reaction among Republicans to President Biden's speech today on this anniversary of the insurrection. 



Those responsible, those who led the insurrection and cheered on treason, they refuse to accept responsibility.

Instead they offer up defiance. 



Outrage.

Hate.

And threats of violence. More violence. 

They have learned nothing. They are not sorry. They are not ashamed. 


And you have only to look to their leader to see that it is true. 


How did we get here? 

That's how. 

These treasonous, traitorous, seditious insurrectionists. These sons of bitches right here with their fists raised into the air cheering on hate and violent insurrection. 

That's how. 

From Limbaugh to Palin, from Carlson to Beck to Hawley, from Greene to Boebert to Gohmert, from McConnell to Gaetz, and most especially to Trump, that's how we got here. 

But that's also how we stop it before this cancer kills us. 

Like cancer, we cut it out. 

We bring these bastards to justice. We hold them to account for their words and their actions and their endless treason. We drop the hammer on fascism so goddamn hard that these miserable fucks and their craven shitty stormtroopers never dare show their faces again. 

Biden came out swinging this morning and put the blame for this insurrection squarely on those responsible and it's about goddamned time. 

He should have done that a year ago. 

There is no compromise with those who would murder us for their own profit. 

If Merrick Garland can't step up now and do what is necessary to defend democracy and the Republic, he needs to be fired with alacrity and we need to find us someone who isn't afraid do what needs be done. 

This is the moment, right here, right now. 

This is the moment where history turns on a single sharp pivot and the very fate of civilization hangs in the balance.

And rarely -- if ever -- is that moment so clear while it's happening as it is right now. THIS is history, this moment right here, and what we do in this moment is how history will remember us.

A century ago, Germany could not stop its slide to destruction and those people, the craven cowards and the innocent and the monsters alike, had to ride the horror all the way down. 

But we have their terrible example before us and we don't have to suffer the same fate. 

We can stop it. 

We can restore democracy and save The Republic. 

But the time for half measures is long, long past. It is time now for bold action. This is our nation. This is our democracy. It's worth fighting for and it's time we take it back from these miserable sons of bitches and send them back to the fringe where their rotten ideology belongs. 

As much as it pains me to say it, Karl Rove is right. 

Those Republicans who still believe in democracy and their duty to The Republic, if there are indeed any such left, have a duty to condemn the riot and those who refuse to acknowledge it.

There can be no soft-ped­al­ing what hap­pened and no ab­so­lu­tion for those who planned, en­cour­aged and aided the at­tempt to over­throw our democ­racy. 

Love of coun­try de­mands noth­ing less. 

That is true patriotism.

A year on, the question isn't: How did we get here? 

It's how we get out of here. 

This is the moment. Get after it.