Monday, May 27, 2013

Memorial Day - 2013

Portions of this text first appeared here on Stonekettle Station, Memorial Day, 2011. The wars change, the years pass, the message remains the same   //  Jim



Once again, it’s a gorgeous day here in the Alaskan Matsu.

It promises to be a beautiful Memorial Day. 

This is the day we Americans are supposed to pause for a moment and remember those who have fallen in the service of our country.

Memorial Day isn’t about honoring veterans per se, not exactly. Veterans, the living ones anyway, have their own day.

Memorial day is supposed to be about the dead, those who have fallen in military service.  Once it was called Decoration Day in honor of those who died during the American Civil War. Later the holiday became a day of remembrance for those killed in all conflicts, and today it marks the passing of all those  who died in uniform in both peace and war.

This is the day that some dutiful Americans visit the graveyards and the military cemeteries to place flowers and flags and to remember husbands and brothers and wives and mothers and sisters and sons and daughters who wore the uniform and came when called and gave the last full measure. 

For some, today is a day when we will lay the wreaths and sound the lonely trumpet and shed a tear and a salute for those comrades long gone.

It’s also a perfect day, here near my home in Alaska, for grilling out or for taking a drive in the convertible with my lovely wife or for puttering around in the woodshop with the large bay doors open – and I may do all three. 

Because you see, even though Memorial Day is nominally about honoring the dead, it’s also about celebrating life.

And on this, of all days, it’s important to remember that.

Because celebrating life is something we do far, far to little of in recent decades.

It’s been more than a decade now since those terrible days in September of 2001.

It’s been more than a decade of war and death and sacrifice. 

For our children, this most recent generation, the ones just now reaching the age of reason and awareness, they have never known an America not at war. 

They have never lived in a nation at peace.


Think about that. 

For them, this new generation, war has become so commonplace, so ubiquitous, that it’s simply business as usual. For them, war simply is, it’s just another aspect of life, like plumbing and electricity and the flow of money, invisible and all around. The dead come home from conflict invisibly, hidden, silently, returned to their grieving families in quiet ceremonies away from the public eye, unlamented and unnoticed by a nation grown jaded and bored with war.

For them, this generation, war is normal.

And their parents, those of us born in the 1960’s, we can’t tell them that they’re wrong, that war is not the normal state, that normality is peace without conflict.  See, because we grew up in a nation at war too.  By the time I was ten, America had been fighting in Southeast Asia for my entire life.  The news media was daily filled with images of blood and death, mangled and maimed soldiers, of burning helicopters and a terrifyingly incomprehensible enemy.  At home, the streets were filled with violence and unrest and it seemed that America was about to tear itself to pieces in a clash of violently opposed ideologies – because no matter how much the enemy might hate us, we hated ourselves, our neighbors, our fellow Americans, even more.

For us, war is the normal state of affairs too.

And before that it was Korea, and before that World War Two, and before that … well, the list goes back a long, long way.

There are a lot of dead to remember on this Memorial Day.

Today there are those who instead of picnicking  with their familiars, instead of working in their yards or enjoying the day, will be patrolling the dark and dangerous corners of this world.  They’re out there, right now, walking the bitter broken mountains of central Asia, standing the long watch on and below and above the seas, they’re out there in the fetid festering jungles of South America, in the dry dusty deserts of Africa, in the blistering heat of the Middle East, in lands so remote you’ve never even heard of them (and wouldn’t believe the descriptions of such places if you did), they are as far away as a cold airless orbit high above the Earth and as close as local bases in their own states.  

Some of these men and women will not live out today.

Some will most certainly come home to Dover Air Force Base in a cold steel box beneath the draped colors of the Stars and Stripes, their war over, their dreams fled.

And there are those who wear the uniform, but can no longer serve – their duty stations are the crowded and forgotten wards of military hospitals around the world. They won’t be working in the yard or grilling out today either. Some will spend the day with family, even if they are unaware of it.  Soon too their last battle will be over.

And there are those who no longer serve, no longer wear the uniform, but they still fight. They fight the nightmares of Vietnam and Beirut and Mosul and Firebase Alpha and a thousand other battlefields you’ve never heard of.   They are the walking dead, killed in action only they no longer have the wit to know it and so they haunt the streets of America, the forgotten unseen discarded ghosts of war and conflict, slowly fading away.

And, of course, there are those who no longer fight, no longer struggle, no longer remember.  They lay entombed in the soil of foreign nations, at Normandy, at Tunis, at the Ardennes, at Brookwood and Cambridge, at Flanders and Lorraine, at Manila, Mexico City, in the Netherlands, the Somme, and many other places whose names most Americans no longer remember or never knew. One hundred and twenty four thousand, nine hundred and nine American servicemen lay interred forever in twenty-four cemeteries on foreign shores and there they will stay, never to return to America.  They were the lucky ones, if you can call it luck, found and honored and laid to rest by their fellows.  Others, well, their bones are myriad and they litter the sea floor beneath all the oceans of the world or are lost in the jungles and deserts on all the world’s continents, their resting places unknown and unremembered. And here, within the boundaries of the United States, there are one hundred and forty-six national military cemeteries, and more than a million Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, Airmen, and Guardsmen lie beneath the cold white granite.  Their battles are long, long over, even if the war still rages on.

They, all of them, came when called, some of their own free will and some not, and did their duty and no one, no one, can ask any more of them.

For them, for all of them, for those who have fallen or will fall in this lousy war, and for all those who have fallen in all the conflicts we’ve fought lo these many years, today raise a glass and give a nod towards the flag.

Remember them, if only for a moment.


Then enjoy your day, celebrate your precious and fragile life, because that’s why they do what they do.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

The IRS Scandal: Tempest In A Teapot


After the previous essay on Benghazi, I got a bunch of email.

The gist of which is best summed up as:

Okay, Benghazi, fine, whatever. Fine. But what about the IRS thing? Huh, what about that? How are you going to defend your boy Obozo on that, huh? Huh? It’s Obumer’s Watergate, Man, he’s going down! Impeachment! Impeachment!


The IRS scandal.

You mean the IRS scandal where not one, not a single one, of the targeted conservative groups requesting 501(c)3 or (c)4 designations were denied tax exempt status despite being engaged in blatantly political activities in direct violation of the intent of the tax code? You mean the IRS scandal where not one of the targeted organizations were denied their rights as citizens of the United States or, in point of fact, were not harmed in any way? You mean the IRS scandal where no actual laws were broken? Where there was no actual cover up? And where the IRS itself found the problem and corrected it and then reported it to the American people?

You mean that “scandal?”


Folks, there’s a scandal here alright, starting with the one where hysterical conspiracy mongering conservatives in Congress will now use this non-issue as yet another excuse for obstructionism, yet another excuse to beat their fleshy chests in a pity party of make-believe persecution while managing to avoid doing any of the actual work they supposedly get paid for.

They’ll form committees and demand investigations and assign an independent counsel.  They’ll bloviate and pontificate in furious fulminous outrage. They’ll give self-important red-eyed interviews to the feverish rumor mill of Fox News.  They’ll stroke the corpulent fecund ego of Rush Limbaugh and his legions of misshapen trollish minions who are even now rubbing their flinty hands together and leaking noxious fluids and squealing in orgasmic glee.  They’ll stand by with eyes slyly averted while Glenn Beck spins his bizarrely ludicrous gold-tinged conspiracy theories replete with Nazis and Hitler and Mao and Sharia Law and the coming of the Mormon End Times of Doom. And they’ll send forth their scrawny pet Tea Party chimp and she’ll caper about dancing her little clockwork monkey dance to the sound of music only she can hear with the whites of her crazed eyes rolling madly in their sockets while she screeches her little set-piece monkey screech of Impeachment! Impeachment!  Then they’ll trundle out John McCain with his war medals a’clankin’ and a’janglin’ and he’ll briefly rouse from the excrement smeared bamboo prison of his cloudy yellowed existence and angrily shout Pickles! yet again.  And when the circus has done run its course, when all of the greasepaint saturated clowns have exited their gaudily painted little car and tooted their little horns and squirted their little seltzer bottles into the cheering crowd, when in the end it turns out that there’s really no scandal at all, and there’s nothing that they can pin on Obama or use to deflect Hilary Clinton from 2016, well, then congressional conservatives will sullenly slink back to their dark little spider holes and dust off their forgotten Benghazi script.

What congress will not do, is their actual jobs.

And most Americans won’t even notice.  America heard “IRS” and “Obama,” their blood began to fizz and pop, and they were off and running down to the store for a fresh supply of torches and pitchforks without once stopping to ask even a single question.

Because they didn’t need to ask questions, they didn’t need to think. 




When the bells ring, the dogs drool.  It’s really just as simple and as reflexive as that.

Kill ‘em all and let God sort it out, that’s how we do business in America these days. Kill ‘em all, let God sort it out.

But here’s the thing, Americans should have asked the questions.

That way they wouldn’t look so damned stupid all of the time.

At this point, most Americans couldn’t even tell you what this whole thing is actually about. 

Fine, so we’ll ask: Say, what’s this whole thing actually about?

It seems that the Internal Revenue Service singled out conservative groups for detailed investigation.  Republicans are calling it “The New Watergate” and “The New Iran Contra Affair.” 

Um, isn’t there a  non-republican scandal we can compare it to?


What was the IRS looking for exactly?

In a word, fraud.  The groups in question were applying for tax-exempt status, specifically they asked the IRS for either 501(c)3 (charitable agencies) or 501(c)4 exemptions (social welfare organizations).

What the heck is a “social welfare organization?” Sound like a bunch of flaming liberals!

Not exactly, Social Welfare Organizations, called 501(c)4 Groups in the tax code, or usually just C4s, are nonprofit agencies that by law must be devoted primarily to programs broadly serving their communities and not private groups. These can be religious, cultural, educational, veterans organizations, homeowners associations, volunteer fire departments, and so on.

Sounds like socialism! And I  knew welfare would be involved somehow!

Right. In recent years the vast majority of those applying for 501(c)4 exemptions have been conservative patriot groups.

Like the TEA party?


OK, that’s cool then. So what’s the problem?

The problem is that 501(c)4 group cannot engage directly in politics.  They can make campaign contributions, but neither that nor lobbying can be their principle function. Otherwise, they get to pay taxes just like everybody else. And there’s another more important thing, political groups, besides having to pay taxes also have to disclosure how much money they gave and to who.  C4 organizations don’t.

I don’t get it.

501(c)4 organizations can give money to politicians and political parties anonymously, as much as they want.

So, like if you’re one of these C4 outfits you can just give whatever you want to whoever you want and you can keep it a secret?


Wait, you’re saying you could be like The Muslim Brotherhood or Homos for Sodomizing Jesus or something and you can give gobs of money to a stinking filthy scheming liberal politician and they don’t have to disclose that?

Not directly to the politician.

How then? Like to a SuperPAC?

Exactly. Then that PAC can support a politician or lobby for or against a particular piece of legislation and you, as an American citizen, don’t have any idea who’s paying the bills or helping any particular candidate. 

That’s Bullshit! How did this happen?

Two words: Citizen’s United.  Prior to 1998, just about 100% of all political donors to federal campaigns were publically identified.  Today, four years after the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, it’s less than 40%. That’s how profound of impact Citizen’s United had on federal elections.  It’s huge.  Today 60% of all federal campaign money is given anonymously, in other words, you as a citizen of the United States have no idea who’s funding which politicians.  And since money is the key to political office in the US, you don’t know who’s buying what. With the Citizens United decision, big donors can de facto give as much money to political parties and politicians as they want. In many cases, for what should obvious reasons, both the big money donors themselves and especially the candidates would prefer that you, Average American Citizen, don’t find out who’s giving what or how much to whom.  

So, you’re saying that…

Since Citizens United, C4 organizations and Political Action Committees naturally became a way to launder campaign money.

So, like, maybe the government tax people should watch out for that! You know enforce the law!

Yeah, maybe they should. That would be the IRS’s job, wouldn’t it?

Hey! I thought we were asking the questions here!


So why was the IRS spending all of its time harassing conservatives? That’s some Nazi shit right there.

Since Obama’s election in 2008 and the Citizen’s United decision in 2010, the vast majority of organizations applying for 501(c)4 status are, wait for it …. wait for it … conservative Tea Party groups. Naturally they get the lion’s share of the attention.  The IRS wondered if the organizations applying for tax-exempt status as “social welfare” organization really were social welfare organizations or if they were, maybe, engaged primarily in, oh, I dunno, politics. And they wondered that because it’s their job to ask the question.

OK fine. But how come the IRS spent 100% of its time targeting the Tea Party, huh. What about that?

Actually, only about 30% of the organizations singled out for further review were conservative political groups.  

Yeah, but, it still sounds like harassment!

Well, it’s the IRS.   However, of the approximately three hundred applications that were tagged for extra screening (out of several thousand), only about a hundred of which were conservative organizations, independent review showed that those applicants clearly demonstrated indications of significant political campaign activity and they should have been investigated in detail.  In other words, in nearly every case of the 501(c)4 application process, the IRS did exactly what it was supposed to do. In fact, the IRS should have been doing more to investigate these groups, along with the right-wing groups they should have investigated left-wing groups, and middle of the road groups, and any group applying for tax-exempt status as a social welfare organization who appeared to be engaged primarily in political activities. 

Yeah, but, it still sounds like harassment!

Again, it’s the IRS. they’re supposed to harass tax-cheats. And they’re supposed to regard everybody as a potential tax-cheat until proven otherwise. Everybody feels persecuted. But, see, here’s the thing. No conservative group that applied for tax-exempt status was denied.  All were eventually approved. All of them. None of them would have even noticed this thing if it hadn’t made the news. 

But, wait, I thought they were targeting the Tea Party?

Well, yes, in essence they were.  Given the overwhelming number of applications and the limited manpower, and the fact that Congress refuses to either confirm a permanent head of the organization or fund the IRS to the levels required to do a thorough job, the IRS needs a way to help filter things out, so they use something called a BOLO list, or Be On The Look Out.  Then they used certain keywords to flag applications for the BOLO list, words like “Tea Party,” “Patriots,” and “9/12 Projects.”   However, it didn’t work very well, so after about a year they changed the filter criteria to something more generic like “constitutional groups” and “groups dedicated to changing government.”

Ah HA! So it was Obama all along! Just like Nixon!

No. It was the Cincinnati IRS office. There is absolutely no evidence that the White House had anything to do with it.  And the difference between this affair and Nixon’s abuse of power is that Richard Nixon set out to break the law, he did it on purpose and with malice aforethought, and he damned well knew what he was doing.  In the current case, the direction regarding which organizations got extra screening didn’t come from the White House, there was no cover up, and no laws were broken, though the IRS did bend their own rules regarding impartiality – which is what this is really all about. In the Watergate case, the IRS under Nixon’s direction deliberately broke the law, in the current case the IRS acting on its own was attempting to enforce the law.  Big, big difference.

Why Cincinnati?

Because Ohio is a hotbed of liberalism?  Cincinnati is the office that processes all of the tax-exempt applications. Again, the White House had nothing to do with it. Clearly so. Provably so and even congressional conservatives agree with that assessment – well, most of them anyway, the ones that aren’t gibbering white-eyed extremists like the aforementioned capering monkey woman.  Instead of trying to pin it on Obama, the more rational conservatives are now using this event to push for a tax code overhaul, something the President has been calling for since his first term, and a revamp of the IRS itself.

Okay, sure, you’ve convinced us, it wasn’t Obama. Sure. Insert eye-roll. Some low level flunkies put in the filter criteria on their own. 

Yes, because that’s what their office is paid to do. These guys are supposed to be on the lookout for tax fraud. That’s why they call it Be On The Lookout for tax fraud. Should they have used the word “Tea Party?” Maybe. Maybe not. It’s exactly like a police sergeant telling his patrol officers to be on the lookout for red corvettes, because it’s his opinion and his experience that people who drive red corvettes tend to speed more than other drivers. It’s an asshole thing to do, but, honestly, just how egregious is that really? 

Still sound fishy to me. I feel all persecuted and shit.  So, anyway, which patriotic Conservative discovered it?

Actually it was brought to light by an internal review, by the Inspector General for Tax Administration – I don’t know if the inspector was a liberal or a conservative. I don’t think it matter.  What matters is that the system worked exactly as intended.  The IRS itself corrected the situation and informed its superiors in the Treasury Department, who informed the President, who informed the American people.  No cover up. No secrets.

Wait, I though like John Boehner discovered this?

The Inspector General submitted its report to the Treasury Department and the Obama Administration made the announcement on Monday.  It was considered minor, something easily fixed, already fixed. By Monday afternoon, somewhat predictably in retrospect, congressional conservatives had turned it into “the scandal of the century” complete with fireworks and a parade, which replaced last week’s “Scandal of the Century” in the headlines.  Now, again predictably in retrospect, every senator and representative, every holy man and con man, every circus clown and malingering hanger-on has jumped on the bandwagon and declared themselves persecuted by the IRS.  Boehner didn’t discover anything, and couldn’t have even if it was printed on his ass in orange self-tanning lotion, he’s just being an opportunistic asshole who now has to eat his own words. 

How come Obama fired Steven Miller then?

It’s Washington. Somebody had to be fired. Don’t feel sorry for Steve, he’s an IRS agent, you can dunk them in boiling water like lobsters, they don’t feel pain.  

But, but, but this sort of sounds like, um, kind of, not really a big deal.

Yeah. Funny that.

Well, crud. What kind of scandal is this? There’s no guns, no CIA break-ins, no Weapons of Mass Delusion, no LSD in the water supply. Hell, there isn’t even a blowjob involved. How can it be a scandal without blowjobs? Why for all the screaming and gnashing of teeth?

Well, now that’s the real question, isn’t it

See, because there are genuine scandals here. 

Political organizations, blatantly political organizations, are being allowed to commit tax fraud. And the IRS is letting them get away with it in direct violation of their charter and the law. The Supreme Court is letting them get away with it. The President is letting them get away with it. And Congress is most assuredly letting them get away with it.  

And we, us voters, are letting them all get away with it.

These organizations are pretending to be charities and social clubs and we’re pretending to believe them. 

All those organization were approved for tax-exempt status? All of them? None were denied?

That’s the problem right there. 

That’s the real scandal.

That’s the question you should have asked, right there, not, “How many organizations were singled out for review?” or “How can we pin this on Obama?” but “How many of these applications from blatantly political organizations were rejected?”

And so now they get to avoid paying taxes while secretly laundering funds for every giant money machine from the Koch Brothers to Rupert Murdock to Karl Rove to the mob to the UAW to the Mormon Church.  

We sold democracy to these conniving assclowns without even getting a receipt.

With its Citizens United decision, the Supreme Court has turned democracy into a fucking joke for sale to the highest bidder.

So, why isn’t John Boehner up in arms over that? Why aren’t these great patriots, these great constitutionalists, investigating that?

And that’s the real scandal, right there, isn’t it?


Ask yourself something: Who benefits from this situation?

Who benefits from being able to wash money through the system and buy politicians and political office anonymously?

Who indeed.

And that, my shiny electronic friends, is the answer to the real question.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Benghazi: Reductio Ad Absurdum


Update:  Apparently a number of folks that should be commenting on The Blaze have chosen to instead to grace me with their charming wit and razor sharp intellects.  Oh lucky, lucky me.   Because, really, reason, punctuation, and spelling are so overrated.

As such, comment moderation will be periodically turned on when I’m not able to watch the post in real-time.

This way I can get on with my life, rather than play Whack-A-Mole with a bunch of trolls.  Feel free to comment, stuff worth posting will appear eventually.  The other crap will be bundled up, put into a brown paper bag, placed on Glenn Beck’s front porch and … well, you know how this gag works. Just be prepared to run when I push the doorbell.




Let’s lay out the playing field.

Just to make sure we all understand the rules.

If the President is in the White House situation room surrounded by his staff and military advisors, and he, personally, on his authority as the Commander In Chief, authorizes the US Navy to take whatever action necessary, if he authorizes weapons-free and gets out of the way, and then US Navy SEAL snipers acting on the resulting orders from their on-scene commander execute an astounding feat of marksmanship which then instantly kills three Somali pirates via three perfectly executed head shots which then subsequently allows Navy boarding crews to successfully rescue American merchant Captain Richard Phillips off the Horn of Africa in the tradition of Preble and Decatur – the President gets no credit for that at all, he was only a bystander.

Likewise, if the President is in the White House situation room, surrounded by his staff and military advisors, and he, personally, gives the go/no-go order on his authority as the Commander in Chief, and US Navy SEALs then jump from a C-130 high above Adow, Somalia, and make a daring raid in the middle of the night on an armed pirate camp to successfully rescue Jessica Buchanan and Poul Hagen Thisted, and kill nine pirates in the process – well, Obama gets no credit for that either. He’s just some uninvolved asshole who watched it all on TV.

And of course, if the President is in the White House situation room surrounded by his staff and military advisors, and he, in real-time, personally, gives the go/no-go order on his authority as the Commander In Chief, and US Navy SEALs then swoop into an allied country and double-tap Osama Bin Laden right in the brainpan – Obama gets no credit for that at all.  In fact, if he even mentions it in any way whatsoever, he’s grandstanding, taking credit,  dishonoring the men who actually put themselves in harm’s way to neutralize one of America’s greatest enemies.


However, should four Americans die in the middle of a riot in a warzone, by intent or by accident – well, then that, by the Angry Bearded Christian God, that, Sir, is all Barack Obama’s fault, one hundred percent.

And he should be impeached for it.

And maybe shipped back to Kenya.

He gets no credit for any success and all the blame for every failure.

Do I have that about right?

I’m not complaining, I just like to know what the rules are.


Maybe Obama should have maybe made his various announcements of success while standing on the deck of USS Abraham Lincoln in a flightsuit, maybe conservatives would cut him some slack then.

But probably not.


So, Benghazi.  

What, exactly, is the point of this circus again?

I’m not asking rhetorically, I mean it precisely as stated.

What is the point?

Last week, the chief clown in this posse, Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), said that he “did not know what took place, and who was where doing what and why."

King doesn’t know who, what, or why, and yet he next declared confidently, "I believe that it's a lot bigger than Watergate, and if you link Watergate and Iran-Contra together and multiply it times maybe ten or so, you're going to get in the zone where Benghazi is."

Bigger than Watergate?

Bigger than Iran Contra?

Conservative math, folks: ((Iran Contra + Watergate) x 10) = Joe Biden for President!


… ur, what? No, that’s not what we, wait, now just hold on a minute, what do you mean it’s in the Constitution? Well, crap! Though, you know, at least Biden’s white….

So, if it’s not to make Joe Biden president, then what exactly is the point of the current conservative “investigation” into Benghazi?

I mean let’s be honest here, these people hate the government, they hate it more and more with every day that passes.

And they hate liberals, hate them with the fiery righteous fury of a born-again Evangelical minister denying that’s his face on YouTube snorting cocaine out of Rentboy’s tanned asscrack.

Now, the four Americans killed in Benghazi were government employee. 

And the Ambassador was a liberal appointed by President Obama. 

I’m frankly surprised that the folks screaming loudest about Benghazi aren’t out in the streets next to Westboro Baptist Church, cheering the fortuitous reduction of  government and thinking up ways to make it happen again.

Oh what? Now I’m being offensive? Now I’m being insulting?

Okay, fair enough, but come on, conservatives have spent the last five years threatening to take their guns to Washington. According to a Rasmussen poll taken two weeks ago, more than fifty percent of conservatives said that they believe armed revolution is now the only way to get what they think they want – now that they’ve lost two presidential elections to a black guy it’s time to burn down democracy.  Hell, they’d celebrate if somebody gunned down the president, would they not? A number of them have said so, in exactly those terms, in public. They talk openly about it. And, really, armed revolution, right? If you’re not talking about shooting down government employees, then what’s the point of the gun in the first place?

So what exactly are conservatives pissed about with Benghazi?

That the Libyans denied them four more targets?

That Ambassador Stevens died in a Libyan civil war instead of an American one?

Seriously, what’s the problem?

Hey, don’t get all soggy and hard to light with me, this is your revolution. I know which side I’m on. I know how long I’ll live once the shooting starts. The knock on my front door will surprise me not at all, nor what comes after (though it might surprise you. Just saying).

Like I said up above, I just like to know what the rules are, that’s all.

Given all the dead and sick and maimed Americans that Congress turns a blind eye to day in and day out, all the blood they personally have on their own hands, and given the responsibility they themselves bear for all our war dead up to and including Benghazi itself, what is the purpose of this particular Republican witch burning?

What is the point in specific and concise terms? Bullet point by bullet point, so to speak.

What is the purpose of the investigation, spelled out, in detail? What is the objective? What are the expected outcomes? How do we measure them, i.e. how do we know when the investigation is complete?

Most importantly: What will we do with the information once we have it?

I’d really like to know.

Why are we spending so much time on Benghazi?

I mean, we already know the answer, don’t we?

We know who is to blame. We know who is at fault, do we not? Conservatives certainly do. They’ve already reached a conclusion and made the announcement. It’s all over but the shouting and now they’re just looking for the smoking gun, and they’re going to keep at it until they find it – and in today’s world if you can’t find a smoking gun, well you can always just print one out of thin air, can’t you? (Of course, it’s liable to blow up in your hand, but that’s not really the point, is it?).

Is Benghazi that important? In the grand scheme of things, among all the dead, among all the carnage, among all the blood we’ve shed in the Middle East, is it really that important?

It is?


But why?


No, stop for a minute and think about it carefully.


Why? Why is what happened in Benghazi important? Why does it matter?

Why does it matter to you? You personally. You as an American.

Will the answers, whatever they may be, will they make a difference? To you? Will they, whatever they may be, will they change what you think? Will they?

Will those answers, whatever they may be, make a difference in your life, personally?

Will the final analysis make a difference in the lives of people that you love or admire or are responsible for?

Will the answers make Congress fully fund embassy security and the foreign service? Will they approve funding and full military support to the eventual Damascus mission, you know, the one we’ll have to stand up once we oust Bashar al-Assad from Syria as certain members of congress are insisting the president do right now – the very same members of congress who are conducting the Benghazi investigation, as a matter of fact, and who cried Treason! when Obama sent us to Libya.

Will the answers reanimate the men who died in Benghazi?

Will the investigation return those dead men to their families, alive?

Now I, personally, don’t believe in reincarnation, reanimation, resurrection (divine or otherwise, now or previously), nor zombies, But some folks certainly do, including the ones conducting the investigation. So is that what this is about? Never mind the thorny moral or ethical questions posed by resurrection. Never mind the profound theological implications or the mind-bending metaphysics. Never mind even the practical, legal aspects of reanimating the dead or the chilling political implications of putting that god-like power into the hands of Congress. Simply answer the question, will the current investigations into Benghazi bring those men back from the grave? Yes or no?

Better yet, do you, as Americans, really expect that the investigation will return those men to life? 


No, I suppose not.

Well then, if the investigation won’t make the dead live again, will it at least give their families closure?

Will the answers, whatever they may be, give those left behind comfort and surcease. Will it ease their pain and put their hearts at peace?

Is that noble idea what this is about?

Are we doing it for the families?

Are we doing it because we owe those who fell in the service of their country at least that much?

If that’s so, are the families of these four men that much more important to us, as Americans, than the families of all the thousands of men and women who have fallen, unlamented, uninvestigated, in the service of their country over the last decade? Are the memories of these four men so much more important than all of thousands who have died on patrol in hostile territory, who died because they lacked proper body armor or reinforced vehicles or dependable equipment or reliable intelligence or air cover or even a decent map, who died carrying out impossible orders in untenable positions, who died because they were sent into battle under false pretext, who died due to any of the hundred million idiotic things that can take your life in a war zone, leaving behind bereft wives and husbands and daughters and sons and mothers and fathers? 

Is that why we’re doing it? Because we owe the families of the fallen?

If so, shouldn’t we give each death, each life lost before its due time, each and every one of those fallen thousands, equal attention, equal outrage, equal measure?

And should we not hold to account with equal diligence the men who sent them?


No, I suppose not.

Is the purpose of the investigation about the words?

Is it about Act of Terror versus Terrorism?

Is that what it has finally come down to?

Is it really about the missing “ism?”

Have all the big questions been answered to such a degree that we have nothing left to debate on the national stage but the phrasing? Has Congress really solved all the big problems, addressed all the big issues, faced all of the challenges, settled all of the big debates, that the only thing left to do is argue over grammar?

Is the Republican party so desperate, are conservatives so exhausted of substance, that the only thing they have left to argue about is the suffix?

Have they truly been reduced to that level by the mighty negro mojo of Barack Obama?

Does it really matter if the president called Benghazi terrorism or if he called it a ham sandwich? 

Do conservatives really, and I mean really, believe that “Act of Terror” and “Terrorism” actually determined the outcome of the last presidential election? 

That it really, honest and truly, came down to that?


If it’s that important, that the tense can determine elections, that it can change the very fate of nations, if it can alter the very fabric of the time/space continuum, I mean if it’s really that important, what we call it, then shouldn’t Congress draft a bill defining the exact criteria? If it really matters to the American people, then should we not, each and every one of us, demand from our elected officials a clear and unambiguous definition of the words and specific guidance on when each expression may be used – under penalty of law.

If it’s really that important, I mean.

On the subject of words, is the number of revisions important? 

CNN’s Candy Crowley suggested that the Benghazi talking points were edited to “help the president get elected.”

Leaving aside the question of why anybody would watch either Candy Crowley or the pitiful joke that CNN has become, what exactly did the rough draft say?  “The Ghost of Osama Bin Laden came to the president in a dream and said, ‘Baaaaaarack, America wiiiiiill beeeee bathed in the blood of infidels.’ But Obama ignored the warning, thinking it no more than a fitful bit of REM sleep brought on by the spicy halibut tacos he had consumed during a Press Club Dinner earlier in the night. ” er, no, let’s make that “The CIA had no credible indications of Al Qaida activity near the Libyan consulate…”

And should we, as Americans, even allow revisions to the pending release of government documents at all? If it’s that important, so important that Congress must hold hearings into the differences between a rough draft and the final copy of each White House memo, can we as citizens do no less than demand that only first drafts be used? That when penning a report to the American people, all government agencies must agree in the rough draft and that no changes shall ever be made?

Or shall we allow a certain number of revisions? One? Two? Exactly how many revisions shall constitute high crimes and treason? Come now, don’t be shy, Conservatives, step up and make your case. If an overabundance of revisions is an impeachable offense, well then shouldn’t that number be codified into the very Constitution of the United States itself via amendment (Wait, the Constitution is the ultimate government document, does the act of revising the Constitution via constitutional amendment fall into this same impeachable offense? Wouldn’t that make the Founding Fathers traitors? After all, they revised the Constitution several times. Also, will conservatives now throw out their bibles, starting with the King James Version? After all, look how many times that silly tome has been revised, it’s damned near gibberish. But I digress).   

Should we set a limit on the number of drafts?

If it’s that important, I mean.


Congress doesn’t think so. Conservatives don’t think so. They’re both deadly serious.

Is the exact location of the president that important?

Fox News’ Bill Kristol says the president was “absent the whole night the crisis.”

Absent? Like what absent exactly? Like they couldn’t find him absent? Like he was hiding behind the couch absent? Like Obama went out for a smoke without telling anybody? Like he just opened a window and shimmied down a tree, over the wall and disappeared out into the night?

Like where’s Obama? I dunno, I thought he was with you absent?

Like Great Scott, he’s absconded absent? Like that?

If that’s the case, maybe we should be having a completely different investigation.

What? I’m just asking, how’d he get past the Secret Service? 

Was it Obama’s smooth negro mojo again?

And what? He didn’t take a cell phone?

Former Secretary of Defense, Leon Penetta and General Martin Dempsey testified before Congress that the president was fully engaged with the National Military Command Center during the attack.  And really, don’t we spend a metric shitload of money to make damned sure the president is fully connected, all the time, no matter where he is – even if he sneaks out for pizza?

But here we are, with Conservatives declaring that the president, the president, wasn’t in the right place at the right time.  That the very future of the nation is at stake, isn’t that what conservatives are telling us?  The nation teeters on oblivion, the seas shall rise, the dead will walk, the Anti-Christ is come.  Because, hey, even though these are the same people who predicted with absolutely confidence that their guy would be sitting in the White House right now, we should just take them at their word on this subject. Right?  Because they’ve been so, so very correct in the past (like that time these same clairvoyant assholes told us to invest in real estate, but I digress). We can’t determine the exact nature of the treason until we pin down exactly where Barack Obama was during every second of every minute of every hour of the unfolding crisis. 

We don’t know where he was, man, but we know where he wasn’t – he wasn’t in the right place.

And where is that exactly?

Should Obama have remained in the Situation Room? The Pentagon? Deep below Cheyenne Mountain? Or perhaps he could have called Dick Cheney and asked for the undisclosed location of a convenient Cold War redoubt. 

If it’s that important, shouldn’t Congress pen a bill requiring the real-time tracking of the President via GPS collar? If it that’s important? Or maybe every member of the government, including Congress, should be belled, just in case we need to know where they are.  Hello? Is this thing on? Hello?

Are we doing this for the people? For us? For America?

Are we doing it because the people have a right to know?

Are we doing it for the truth?  Because the truth, the truth no less, actually matters to a nation steeped in conspiracy theories and make-believe creationist hoodoo and chock-a-block with science-denial and awash in unchecked rumor mongers and which routinely lends credence to hysterical talk radio and reality TV and embraces deliberate ignorance, because that nation clearly gives a good goddamn about the truth?


The Truth. That’s funniest thing I’ve heard all day. The Truth.


Of course, in reality (if that word has any meaning here), we should be investigating Benghazi in order to determine how we might better protect our people in the future.

That’s what responsible, mature, intelligent people would do.

That’s what those charged with the security of nation are enjoined to do. That’s the oath they swore and their solemn duty.

But obviously we’re not investigating what went wrong in Benghazi in order to reduce the likelihood of such an event again.

Look at the “investigators.” Look at the questions they’re asking. Look at the witnesses and those called before Congress. Look to the talking heads on the News. Look at the testimony. Nowhere is there any effort whatsoever to quantify lessons learned, to develop a better process, to update security procedures or embassy staffing or define security protocols.

Because, obviously, the investigation isn’t about that.

It’s not even about Barak Obama, except by default.

It’s about blame.

It’s about sour grapes.

It’s about bitter partisan driven revenge.

It’s about the last presidential election.

And more than anything, it’s about preemptive strikes. it’s really about the next presidential election and if these silly sons of bitches want the truth, the Truth, then they should start right there and admit it. 

But they won’t, and they won’t admit what they’re really up to because conservatives go into an election the same way they screw, scared to death and afraid somebody is going to catch them cheating.


Nothing, and I mean nothing tells you who conservatives fear in 2016 more than this idiotic charade.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Bang Bang Crazy, Part 7

Next time I tell you someone from Texas should not be president of the United States, please pay attention.
         - Molly Ivins


I bought my first letter quality computer printer in 1988.

Personal computers were not very common then, at least ownership of business grade machines, home computing was just getting started.

I had recently sold my first “real” computer, an IBM PC/XT, and upgraded to a new, more powerful Z-248, a huge behemoth of a 80286-based processor with a genuine VGA color display system that was only available to government employees and members of the military through a special government purchase program direct from Zenith.

And I decided that I needed a professional quality printer to go with it.

The personal computer printer market back then was pretty gruesome, choices were limited and none of them were good. 

There was dot-matrix, which sounded like endless yards of tearing cloth (unless you also sprung for a huge monstrosity of an insulated sound-box) and reams of tractor-fed fanfold paper – every wastebasket in the 80’s was filled with eleven inch long perforated strips of paper, because that’s all you did, tear off the tractor-feed strips. That’s where all the forests went, tractor-feed strips, endless, endless miles of them.  Inevitably the paper feeder would jam about every third page or so on those cheap printers, but the dumb machine would doggedly just keep on grinding away, szzzzzzzzrrrrip! Szzzzzrrrrip! Szzzzzrrriiiiiiiip. They called them tractor-feed for a reason, and if you didn’t catch the jam in time the idiot machine would relentlessly wad an entire box of paper into the stalled feed rollers like a Russian battle tank grinding inexorably through an Afghan village.  Each page started out with blackish letters that gradually faded to a kind of plum-tinted gray as the ink ribbon wore out. And on the cheap 9-pin models the only available font was best described as "a cluster of spots resembling the tracks of a drunken housefly that had recently crawled through fresh dog shit."

If you didn’t want tractor-feed, well, there were Daisy-Wheel printers and Element-Ball printers, both of which were descended from a bastard mating between a typewriter and a one-lung Harley-Davidson. They were loud, clunky, expensive, and charitably described as hideously slow.  Not to mention that they were extremely difficult to interface with.  See, in those heady days of PC-DOS, in the Paleolithic pre-USB world of serial cables, each program had to have its own printer driver, not the operating system, the program itself, and so while you might be able to pipe ASCII text directly to the COM1 port and get a generic dot-matrix printer to hammer out unformatted text, your word processor, which was likely Word Star or Electric Pencil, might not be able to speak to a Daisy-Wheel printer at all – unless you had a specialized piece of software from the manufacturer made specifically for your particular equipment.  And there wasn’t any Internet you could go download drivers from either, you had to order them, from the manufacturer, via written letter with an enclosed check, and then wait six weeks for the floppy disk to arrive via ox cart. Oh, it was a glorious primitive time, back in the wild wooly 80’s!  (And just for added fun, I was living in the island nation of Iceland at the time, and the fastest form of communication was the only vaguely reliable military postal system – which 99.9999999% of computer manufacturers would not ship to, no matter what. Period).

I really wanted a laser printer, but in 1980’s those were commercial products roughly the size of a mini-fridge, bulky, temperamental, prone to catastrophic jamming and bizarre formatting problems, requiring knowledge of specialized programming languages such as PCL and an innate understanding that what you saw on the screen would in no way whatsoever resemble what would eventually appear on the printed page.  Not to mention that a cheap laser printer was about eight grand beyond my price range.

And then HP came out with the Deskjet.

Laser quality printing without the laser. Inkjet technology had been around for a couple of years in industrial settings, but the Deskjet brought it down to the (mostly) affordable home market.

I bought one of the first five hundred units made by Hewlett-Packard via a money order for $999 (Plus S&H).

I had to order it directly from the company and have it shipped to a friend in the states who then shipped it to me via the APO/FPO system. When all was said and done, that printer cost me about $1200, give or take.

And it was well worth it.

It was whisper quiet and it printed crisp black Times New Roman letters on high quality paper that looked even better than the output from top end laser printers. I loved that printer. I still have it, in the original box, in a storeroom in the basement.

Back then, I was the envy of every techno-geek that I knew.  I owned the only affordable personal laser quality printer in the entire nation of Iceland (Ok, it was a small country, but, damnit, I was a god. A god of nerds, sure, still… I’m just staying. A God).

There were, however, some problems.

The ink wasn’t exactly permanent.  Get it wet and it smudged and smeared and ran. Damp fingers would do it.  Sneeze on a printout and your text would end up looking like it had a case of the measles.  And it was slow, not Daisy-Wheel slow, but slow, the specs said four pages per minute but it was more like two pages a minute, on a good day.  It was supposed to hold a hundred sheets of paper, but it would jam if you loaded the paper tray higher than seventy-five. It didn’t like cheap paper, you had to spring for the good stuff. And it went through ink cartridges at a ferocious rate.

Despite that, the Deskjet Model 1 was damned cool gadget for its time.

A year later HP came out with an upgrade, the Model II. I didn’t buy one of those, but in 1989 they released the Deskjet 500. Then the 550. Then the 550C, the first color version that would print pictures – that I bought.  And I didn’t have to order it from the factory, they sold it right in regular stores, like diapers and toothbrushes and frozen waffles.

In less than five years the technology of ink-jet printers went from primitive to fully mature, from four pages a minute in draft mode to twelve pages a minute in laser quality mode.  From black and white to photographic-quality full color.  From $1000 to $200.

And now?

Twenty years later and I own a commercial grade office “document center,” a photo quality color laser printer that can crank out a hundred double-sided pages per minute in full waterproof glossy color indistinguishable from the pages of National Geographic. It’s also a high-speed high-density scanner, duplex collating copier, fax machine, and data storage device with onboard processing, it’s networked via a broadband Gigabit wireless interface running an encrypted internet connection that I can print to from anywhere in the world via any device including my phone, it holds four full reams of paper – and it cost me less than my first HP Deskjet (not a lot less, mind you, but a bit less anyway).

And there’s nothing particularly unique about it, the technology is ubiquitous, anybody can own one, it requires no god-like specialized knowledge to setup or operate.


Yeah, yeah I hear you say in that voice you use when your eyes are starting to glaze over in a technobabble coma, thanks for that trip down the dusty forgotten dead ends of Memory Lane, Nerd Boy, what’s your point?


My point?


I’m just wondering at the state of the art.

The current state of the art, the one that includes relatively primitive 3D Printer technology.   Technology that was designed to produce cheap plastic prototypes and one-off designs. Technology that predictably is now being used to crank out single use disposable handguns.

At the moment those printers are clunky and slow.  The weapons, and other products they produce, are little better than a homemade zipgun and just about as accurate.  Anybody who actually tries to fire one these things, outside of a testing lab under very specific safety protocols, is putting themselves at risk of serious injury and/or death. 

At eight grand for a cheap 3D Printer, they’re a bit beyond the average consumer – but only a bit, and only for the next very few years.

And by now you have, of course, figured out what this essay is really about and you, like me, are wondering just where that technology will be in, oh, say, twenty years.

Twenty years?

Scratch that, make it five.

Very likely in much less than five years, inexpensive 3D printer technology will be able to rapidly  produce on-demand fully serviceable, reliable, accurate, and cheap handguns. 

And it will be available to basically anybody, you, me, kids, the sane and insane, criminals and terrorists and gang lords, anti-government types of all political persuasions, the Occupy Movement, your local militia in their raggedy-assed camouflage, angry loners itching for attention, seething psychotics under the lash of their pet demons, scorned crazy ex-girlfriends and abusive drunken wife-beating husbands.


And won’t that be fun?

Oh, and those plastic guns? They will also have the added benefit of being undetectable, untraceable, and disposable. 

See they were designed to be that way, available to anybody and undetectable without expensive sophisticated scanning equipment – like the body scanners employed by the TSA in our airports, i.e. equipment beyond the range of most police departments, businesses, and school districts.

See, that’s the whole idea.

The “printable” gun you’ve heard so much about in the press lately, was designed by a guy named Cody Wilson. He’s the founder and director of Defense Distributed, a non-profit organization dedicated to the development and distribution of open source templates for the 3D private manufacture of guns, so-called Wiki Weapons. Wilson is a Texan, and law student at the UT School of Law, he’s also a self-described crypto-anarchist.

If you don’t know what that is, a crypto-anarchist, it’s most accurately described as a Big L government-hating Libertarian, a guy who embodies the mindset of eugenics, i.e. survival of the fittest and to hell with everybody else else. 

So far Wilson has complied with US law at every step of his design process, up to and including getting a Federal Firearms License and removing his designs from Defense Distributed’s website following a cease and desist order from the State Department- not that the take-down actually matters in any fashion whatsoever at this point. The designs are out there and they’ll never be erased.

As I mentioned, Wilson is not big on government, any government.  If reports are accurate he apparently embraces the ultra-libertarian idea that all people are sovereign unto themselves (at least those strong enough and mean enough anyway, the rest, the weak, the unfit, according to libertarian philosophy are sheep fit only for slaughter or slavery). He believes that government should be no larger than community sized and disposable whenever you don’t agree with it.

Wilson has publically stated that he believes any human being should be able to possess any weapon of any kind at any time – up to and including weapons of war, including nukes.  If you’re familiar with Vernor Vinge’s Peace War universe novella, The Ungoverned, Wilson sounds a whole lot like an Armadillo (and if you don’t know what the hell I’m on about here, don’t sweat it).

The basic idea behind Wilson’s printable gun, the Liberator (named for the cheap handguns air-dropped by the WWII Allies to the resistance in Occupied France), is to make guns so easy to manufacture, so easily available and so widely available, that any human being can access them at any time – even being able print disposable guns out at will whenever and wherever they want. Kids, criminals, you, me, everybody.


Very likely, given the probable course of the technology’s development, the relentless and hectic pace of Moore’s Law or one of its many variations practically guarantees Wilson’s vision of the future will at least in some regards come true. It’s nearly inevitable at this point.


Now, home manufacture of guns is nothing new.  Any competent machinist with a decently equipped metal shop and few basic milling machines can build a far more accurate, more powerful, and far safer weapon than Wilson’s pathetic plastic pea-shooter.  Likely they can’t do it more cheaply, but that’s just a quibble. Before gun manufactures and their various pet legislators flooded the streets of America with cheap and widely available handguns, criminals and thugs used to make their own homemade zipguns on a regular basis. 

But to do it well does take specialized knowledge and a particular skill.

3D printing doesn’t.  Using Wilson’s free open source template and the increasingly cheap and available printer, anybody can make a single use, untraceable, throwaway gun. 

If you can operate a smart phone and plug in a TV, you can make a gun with about as much effort as it takes to download and print out a recipe for tuna casserole.

And that’s the thing.  Right there.

3D Printers use technology adapted directly from inkjet printers and CNC (Computer Numerical Control) milling machines. Using a three dimensional electronic blueprint, they build up fine layers of plastic one on top of the other.  They can create infinitely complex shapes far easier and with much less waste than standard injection-molding or heated vacuum-forming techniques allow.  The current state of the art means that the 3D printer doesn’t produce a finished product when creating a complex device like a gun, rather it makes each individual component and a human being assembles those into the final machine.  Future generations will likely make complete products, ready for use.

The technology is exciting. Beyond guns, it is being used to literally transform manufacturing – and more, much more. For example: scientists have used 3D printing technology on a limited basis to actually make human body parts.  In a decade or two, very likely we will be able to literally print out replacement organs, literally printing with living cells.

Ironic, isn’t it? That the same technology that one day may preserve and extend human life is being used right now to make tools for ending it? 

Ironic that a guy with Cody Wilson’s talent would rather spend his days creating tools to destroy human life instead of making it immortal?

But I digress. The irony of people like Cody Wilson no longer surprises me, thus is the perverse nature of so-called libertarians.


Just like the evolution of text printers, within a few short years, cheap 3D printers will be able to use a variety of raw materials, not just plastic, to create complex and durable goods – including much more advanced weapons.

But that’s the nature of technology.

All technology, all of it, embodies both benefit and bane.

It’s how we choose to use technology that makes the difference.

And you can’t put the Djinni back into the bottle. 

The technology is out there in the public domain and it is too useful, too exciting, too valuable, too empowering, too laden with possibility and promise, to abandon. 

It can not be suppressed, even if that’s actually what we wanted – which we don’t.

With less money than I bought my first inkjet printer for, I can build myself a 3-axis CNC milling machine that will precisely sculpt wood and plastic in my workshop to an accuracy in the sub-millimeter range.  For a double that, I could build myself a 3D printer accurate enough to produce Cody Wilson’s Liberator.  Of course, being a professionally trained gunsmith, I could make a much better weapon without benefit of CNC/Printer technology, and for less money, and it wouldn’t blow up in your hand on the second shot. But I could only make one at a time, and I couldn’t teach you how to do it without a lot of effort.

But I could build you a printer, and then with the right raw materials you can make all the guns you like. 

And if I can do it, anybody can.

There has been talk of safeguards, i.e. forcing 3D printer manufacturers to include a software block that prevents the machine from making gun parts or certain shapes.  Won’t work. Can’t work. Total waste of effort. The mere suggestion shows a complete lack of comprehension with regard to the actual situation. Any teenager can jailbreak an iPhone or bypass their parents’ nannyware with ease. Any shade-tree mechanic can hack the chip in their truck.  Chinese, Iranians, and Anonymous burn through their government’s firewalls with impunity – and the only way to prevent it is to squat in the Dark Ages like North Korea.  DRM is a joke, as is the utterly ineffective regional encoding on DVDs.  Any blocked software will either be circumvented in short order or erased and replaced with easily available freeware – if you don’t know how to do it, just ask any random fourteen year old. 

Mandating software blocks is a complete waste of time.

So what am I saying here?

That homemade plastic guns are an inevitability?


That’s exactly what I’m saying.

You can’t put the Djinn back in the bottle. 

However, will the proliferation of printed guns make the world any more dangerous than it is now? I mean really?

Probably not.

Not really.

Hell, last week in Kentucky a five year old boy shot his two year old sister to death with a rifle he received as a present for his birthday.  Five years old and he got a 22 caliber rifle for his birthday.  And the rifle was apparently kept loaded and unlocked without any form of safety or child control, leaning up against the wall in the family’s dinning room.  When the mother looked away “for just a moment” the kid naturally picked up the rifle and shot his sister. Authorities called it an “accident.”  Speaking as a certified firearms instructor, there’s nothing accidental about this incident at all. There’s nothing surprising about it any way, shape, or form. Anyone with even a modicum of experience around children and/or guns could have told you exactly what was going to happen.

These people left two children and a loaded gun together in the same room.

That’s not an accident, that’s negligent homicide, manslaughter, pure and simple.  

The parents however won’t be prosecuted.

Because there’s no law against leaving your kid and your loaded gun unattended in the same room (though, personally, I think a clever prosecutor could make a case of child endangerment). 

Shit happens.

Dead kids are just the price you pay for freedom, right? Right?

The following comments appeared under a Yahoo! News article about the shooting. I can’t find the link again, so you’ll just have to take my word for it without the reference:

This isn't a gun case, it's a parenting case. I wouldn't leave my 5 year old alone with a bottle of bleach, either. The only reason this made news is to brainwash the masses. If the child had drunk a bottle of bleach and died, it wouldn't have made the news. As for the mom, she made a mistake, as all parents do, and she'll pay dearly for it for the rest of her life, having lost her baby.

Mom made a mistake. Shit happens.  Kids die. That’s freedom. Just don’t let it affect me.

I have to wonder if the author of that comment would feel the same way if the five year old had been pointing his gun at their children.  Let’s ask the parents of Sandy Hook, shall we?

...and thousands more people die from car accidents....want to take autos away too?

No. But as I explained in the first installment of this series, I do want autos regulated, and registered, and the operators required to have training and to be held accountable.  And when they demonstrate an astounding level of negligence, especially when that negligence results in the death of other human beings, I want their right to own and operate a vehicle terminated, period.  I want them held accountable.

Now, why should a gun be different from a car?

Because a gun is designed to kill people, shouldn’t we hold gun ownership to a higher standard?

If not, why not?

Yes, rule # 1 is make sure all firearms are unloaded, but people make mistakes. So you want to lock the parents up so the 5 year old is an orphan? Great idea, lets just lock everyone up who makes mistakes, its not like our jails are overcrowded or anything.


Folks, this was an "accident". You know accident's can happen. I look at intent, knowone wanted this to happen. The article stated, the gun was NOT supposed to be loaded. The guilt will be enough punishment. I don't believe in locking everyone up.


Too bad that so many are making negative remarks about the parents. This is not a time to do this. I agree that the parents were wrong in giving the child a gun and for not keeping it locked up. So sorry for the family and friends, this is tragig.

Funny thing, the same folks who are staunchly pro-gun, and are consequently willing to dismiss this incident as a mistake, are very often the very same people who declare themselves pro-life and are perfectly willing to lock up abortion doctors – or shoot them..  Why is the life of a fetus in the belly of a liberal worth more passion and effort than the life of a child killed by gun violence (and no, I don’t, in fact, know if the commenters are actually pro-life, I’m asking a question based on well-established demographic statistics.  Ask around any NRA convention, see how many pro-choice types you find. There you go).

Why are these same people willing to dismiss the shooting of hundreds of children per year as “accidents” and the unavoidable result of freedom, but not do the same for Benghazi?

Hey, I’m just asking.

You have to look at intent. Their was none. Accidents happen all the time, (car accidents, gun accidents etc..) That is the way life goes. The gun was not supposed to be loaded. We can all learn to be more careful, but bad things are still going to happen sometimes. [sic]

Oh, well, a learning experience. Well, that makes it okay, I guess.  Intent. That’s what matters. Bad things happen. Just like drunk driving.  Or that abortion doctor and his house of horrors. Or Benghazi. Or handing your kid, the one with Asperger's and a behavioral disorder, the combination to your gun safe. Again, let’s ask the Sandy Hook parents how they feel about their  learning experience, see how much comfort it gives them.

Obama wants gun control - what about parent control? We don't need more laws, we need more citizens with armed with common sense who are responsible.

Ah, the wishful thinking solution to gun violence.  That’ll be helpful.  If only people weren’t irresponsible. If only.

Maybe we could pray for a pony too while we’re at it, a magic pony that can fly and shoot rainbows out of its ass.

So what. The mother has already broken the law just as if she let her 2-year old unattended by the swimming pool -- she is guilty of gross negligence in the care of her kids. So what is this article all about -- the story of a moron mother or another ultra liberal attempt to push their anti-2nd Amendment agenda using any means possible? Let's just take advantage of another tragedy by pulling on emotional strings. Hey you effete liberals, you wanna play big daddy to the max? Well,instead of taking guns away from law-abiding citizens maybe we should take kids away from moron parents. Better yet, we could sterilize all parents whose combined IQ scores are less than 200 (but that would wipe out a good amount of your voter base wouldn't it?).

So what? A five-year old killed a two-year old and obviously, obviously, it’s a liberal plot to take away our guns!

What exactly is the argument here? Gun ownership must be unrestricted, but reproduction? That’s fair game for regulation, right? We can’t stop crazy people from owning guns, but we can sterilize the ones we don’t think should have children.  If stupid people don’t have kids, kids won’t kill each other with guns. After all, the Constitution grants you the legal right to bear arms, but makes no mention of bearing children, does it? Is that about right?

Tell me again, who was it that used forced sterilization on people they deemed politically undesirable?  But Obama is the Nazi, right? 

Question: who decides?  Who decides who can have children and who can’t? This guy, the Yahoo commenter?

Color me slightly dubious here.

Why is it that those who repeatedly call for responsible gun ownership are so, so, very reluctant to actually put their money where their mouths are? In other words, don’t bother to tell me about responsible gun ownership if you’re not willing to enforce that idea by force of law. Could it be that they are not, in fact, responsible gun owners after all?


Folks, we need to stop asking “How damned stupid can you be?”  Some of these folks are taking it as a challenge.


In Detroit last week a teenager killed himself during a game of Russian Roulette.

Russian Roulette. Seriously, who does that?

In Oregon teachers were shocked and frightened damned near to death when two masked gunmen burst into a meeting at the school and started shooting. 

Turns out the whole thing was a setup by the school administration, the “shooters” were firing blanks and the idea was to … well, fuck, I’m not exactly sure what the idea was – unless it was to determine if any of the teachers were packing concealed heat like the NRA wants, because that would have been hysterical, right? When the armed teachers started shooting back I mean. With live rounds.  

You talk about a learning experience – here’s an abject example of why amateurs and fuzzy headed NRA gun droolers should be the very, very last people teaching school security or handling weapons around children.  Nobody with any professional experience in Tactical Survival Training would ever, and I mean ever, mix active shooter simulations with the possibility of live fire.  The use of simulated munitions, blanks, simunitions, must be in a carefully controlled and rigidly managed training environment – and yes, I have extensive personal experience in this area.  There’s no more egregious violation of basic weapons safety protocols than this incident. Whoever authorized this evolution is criminally stupid if not actually insane.

The number of ways this could have gone horribly wrong are too numerous to count.

Meanwhile, down Texas way, retired firefighter and all around bad neighbor, Raul Rodriguez, tried to use the state’s stand your ground law to get out of capital murder charges.  See, back in 2010, Rodriguez shot and killed Kelly Danaher, a thirty-six year old elementary teacher.  She was having a birthday party and Rodriguez didn’t like the noise. So he confronted Danaher and two men in Danaher’s driveway.  When the unarmed trio told Rodriguez to shove off, he called police and told the dispatcher, "my life is in danger now" and "these people are going to go try and kill me."

Then he declared, "I'm standing my ground here."

And then he went back to his neighbor’s house and shot the unarmed Danaher down in cold blood and wounded the other two men.

Then he bragged to his friends how he’d never be convicted because Texas has a Stand Your Ground law and as long as you kill the other guy, you’re home free.

To give the state of Texas its due, Rodriguez was convicted of murder and sentenced to forty years in prison last week – why he didn’t get life or even the Texas death penalty I’ll leave as an exercise for the reader. 

Advocates say that Stand Your Ground wasn’t intended as a free license to kill, but it seems not everybody got the word.

And as long as we’re in Texas, I suppose I’d be remiss if I didn’t at least mention the NRA’s national convention of batshit bang bang craziness.

Even the annual Adult Video Awards Show in Las Vegas can’t hold a handful of sanitizing gel to the staggering amount of public masturbation, ejaculation of bodily fluids, copious drooling, and general ass buggery that a bunch of rednecks climaxing over a couple acres of guns generates.

They were all there too, all the crazy people who shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near a gun, all in the same room together. 

Glenn Beck wasted no time in invoking Hitler and the Nazis, beating the same old dead horse into rotten scraps while waving a rifle ala Charlton Heston over his head, raving on about shadowy conspiracies and the evil Obama.

Sarah Palin rode her favorite hobby horse around the stage, declaring that the elite lamestream media would never let a Republican president get away with what Barack Obama has done in his push for new gun laws – which is what again, exactly? Ask for a national dialog? Ooooh, that America hating bastard

Palin a longtime NRA member drew a standing ovation when she reminded the crowd that her son Trigg’s name is short for “trigger” (like the horse, I guess) and her new nephew’s middle name is Remington (probably in homage to William Remington, blacklisted liberal economist and designated by Tailgunner Joe McCarthy as a communist suspect. If I had to guess, I mean).

Ted Nugent predictably shit his pants in public, his comment aren’t worth repeating, you’ve heard them all before.

Wayne Lapierre engaged in his usual wackiness.

“They are coming after us with a vengeance to destroy us and every ounce of our freedom. It's up to us, every single gun owner, every American to get to work right now and meet them head-on."

LaPierre than declared that the recent background check legislation in Congress got the “defeat it deserved!”

Funny thing, though, the NRA used to be for background checks, but that was when a conservative Texan was in office. You know, right after a crazy man shot Ronald Reagan.  That’s different though, I guess.

Every opinion poll, every single one, shows that the vast majority of Americans, somewhere between seventy and eighty percent want tighter control over gun ownership – including background checks. 

There are roughly three hundred and fifty million Americans.,

There are about five million NRA members, about 70,000 of which showed up for the convention in Texas. 

That means the folks cheering LaPierre are a fraction of one percent of the population. But somehow they think they represent the rest of us. Then again, modern conservatives have never been good at math and science (or grammar and spelling) so I suppose the reasoning follows.

Be that as it may, the convention loudly cheered gridlock in Congress, and the resulting lack of any effort to address gun violence.

And nothing will be done, because nothing can be done.

I hate to say I told you so, but, well, I told you so.  I did.


And so, here we are. Back to where we started at the beginning of this series. 


Look out there, look upon the upturned wild-eyed fevered faces of the people waving their guns and cheering for Wayne LaPierre and tell me that you’re surprised. Look at the fact that these people, seventeen percent of Americans, fifty percent of Republicans, according to recent polls, think that armed revolution and overthrow of the United States government by force of arms is the only way to get what they think they want.  

You still think that some plastic gun will make the world any more insane, any more bang bang crazy?


So, what do we do?

Do we embrace the fatalistic NRA mindset?  I.e. dead kids, gun violence, random slaughter are just the price you pay for Freeeeeedom?

Do we give up? Do we just say fuck it, fire up the 3D Printers and open fire?

Do we march on Washington, waving our guns, and shoot down those we don’t agree with like some third world shithole and their revolution of the week? 

Do we end the argument by killing those we disagree with? Like Iran? Or Somalia? North Korea? The Soviet Union?

Is that what you want?

No, of course not.

What we do is talk about it, like rational adults. And there are far, far, far more of us, the rational ones, on both sides of the political spectrum than there are of the bang bang crazies.  If you need proof of that, look at the falling popularity of those senators who moved to obstruct discussion and debate last week.  My own cowardly asshat of a senator is one of them.  And he damned well lost my vote, if he won’t stand with his fellow Democrats in Congress he sure as hell can’t be trusted to stand with me

Now, I, like you I suspect, don’t really know if the failed legislation would have changed anything or not, whether it would have made the world safer. Whether or not it would have preserved our Second Amendment rights to keep and bear arms while keeping guns out of the hands of crazy people. I do find it hopeful that it was proposed by a bipartisan group of Senators, seems they can work together as rational adults when they want to.  I don’t know if it would have worked, but the legislative process of the United States government was blocked by a bunch of selfish, self-centered assholes who are more concerned about their own reelections than the safety of the people whom they are supposed to represent. 

Here’s what I do know for certain: our government was designed around conversation, around discussion, around compromise and debate – not on obstruction.  The Founding Fathers, who are so frequently invoked by the gun lobby, were a diverse and fractious lot. Some of them hated each other.  And yet, and yet, they managed to sit down and hammer out the compromise that eventually became the Constitution, the United States itself.

If they can do it, if they could do something so monumental as design a country from scratch, these petty jackasses should be able to handle something simple like background checks.

If you’re not willing to compromise your sacred beliefs in service of the country, then you have no business in government. Period.

If we can’t talk about it, about this and other difficult subjects, if we can’t talk about it in a rational and reasoned manner, we will never find the answers.

And we’d better start talking about it.

We’d better start figuring out how to deal with it.

Because sooner or later, likely sooner, those cheap shitty plastic guns are going to appear, they’re going to be made in bedrooms and basements and garages. And pretty soon after that, the advancing state of the art is going to ensure that anybody who wants one is going to be able to make basically any kind of weapon.  And by the time that happens, we’d damned well better know what to do about it.

Given the restive state of the nation, were I a member of congress I’d be making a real sincere effort to find solutions.

Because given the restive state of the nation, were I a member of congress, I’d be damned concerned about who those undetectable, untraceable, disposable plastic guns are likely to be pointed at.

We need to sit down now, right now, and figure out how to deal with the inevitable future.


Congress’s job is to hold the nation together, to preserve the union, to place country above party, courage above partisanship, to lead by example.

Their job is nothing less than to preserve the republic against the coming of night – not to tear it apart. That is the very essence of the oath they swore, the oath that I swore.

The truly ironic part of this whole thing is that if they were doing their jobs, there would be no market for those plastic guns in the first place.

It’s about time they wised up to the situation.




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.