Saturday, April 19, 2014

Dying Of The Light


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



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

Tourists watch the USS Mahan.

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

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

Tourists watch the USS Mahan.


The thing is … that’s not USS Mahan.

That’s not even an Arleigh Burke class destroyer.

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

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

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

But does it matter? That mistake?

Does it?

Consider this number 32:


and this number 32.


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

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

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

It is.

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

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

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


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


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

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

Take a look at this:


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

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

And the crowd goes wild.

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

But I digress.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is propaganda in its most effective form.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

And Sarah Palin has got nothing on Alex Jones.

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

The post begins:

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

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

Big Green Tyranny.

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

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

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

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

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

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


Just for paying in cash?

For a cup of coffee?

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

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

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

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

From the Infowars article:

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

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


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

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

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

But, again, I digress.

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

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

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

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

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

Sounds pretty bad, doesn’t it?

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

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

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

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

And in fact, the FBI didn’t say it.

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


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

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

What’s missing?

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

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

Do you see such an index number on this document?

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

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

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

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

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

According to their mission statement:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But there was something else we learned from 911. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Activities on Computer could include:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

And these things have consequences.

Bad consequences.

Which brings us at long last to Bunkerville, Nevada.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They themselves are proof that they are wrong.

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

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

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

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

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

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

And that’s the difference, right there.

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

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

They are barbarians at the gate.

Sooner or later they will succeed.

Unless we stop them.

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

Friday, April 4, 2014

Bang Bang Crazy, Part 9


And here we are yet again.

Another nut with a gun and grudge.

And the enraged monkeys emerge from the trees to shriek and fling fistfuls of their own fecal matter at each other.

Guns! Guns! one side wails, More Guns!

Mental Illness! Mental Illness! screeches the other.

The field that separates the two warring camps is full of the wounded and the maimed and the dead, their bodies decorated in blood and steaming monkey dung. It is a gulf devoid of both reason and sanity.

I really hate to say, see? I told you so. But, here we are, déjà vu all over again.

Only this time there’s a variation on the theme I wrote about in The Seven Stages of Gun Violence. Given that this is the third shooting on a military base in recent memory (shootings on military bases are nothing particularly new, it’s just that all of a sudden it’s fashionable to act like you actually give a shit), the new argument being hurled back and forth like warm monkey turds is whether or not military personal should be allowed to carry loaded weapons on base – and not just loaded weapons, but concealed weapons under their uniforms – so that they may shoot down their fellows should it become necessary.

Given the law of unintended consequences, I do have to wonder what the military will look like after a few years of institutional paranoia, of soldiers regarding each other as potentially murderous lunatics, sleeping with one eye open and ready at any moment to gun each other down.  Morale, esprit de corps, trust, respect, too bad those things can’t be measured quantitatively in empirical values, because I’d love to see a trend graph after a few years of armed fear in the ranks – coupled to a post-war drawdown and reduction in funding.  1975, here we come.

I wasn’t going to write about this, not here, not in detail, not again. 

I updated and reposted the previously mentioned Seven Stages of Gun Violence and I figured that was enough. Frankly I’m sick of this, sick of the bloodshed, sick of the carnage, sick of the apathy, sick of the insanity we continue to inflict upon ourselves like the shrieking primates we are.

But between social media and online searches for gun control and gun violence and military shootings, which inevitably led people to the previous articles I’ve written in this series, folks started to show up on Stonekettle Station. And thus, as always when I won’t let the raging baboons post comments here, I get email.

Most of it is pretty obnoxious.

I looked at the the common theme of the hatemail, and then I proposed a simple scenario for my audience on Facebook. Something to spark conversation and an exploration of the issue.

I suppose I should have known better, I’ve been doing this long enough, but I’m nothing if not a tilter at windmills.

The folks that are allowed to comment on my Facebook wall are a pretty reasonable bunch, probably because I ruthlessly weed out the dullards who can’t behave like civilized human beings. But, see, that simple post was shared far and wide, and some of the resulting comments were … well, hang on to that thought and we’ll come back to those comments in a minute.

First, the bit I posted on Facebook: 

I'm getting email, to wit:

Military personnel are well trained in firearms. They should be required to carry their weapon at all times on base, locked and loaded. In a case like the Fort Hood shooting(s), or the Navy Yard shooting, or the Norfolk shooting, they could respond immediately to defend themselves. You're a faggy America-hating Nazi if you don't agree.

Ok. Fair enough.

How about this: You're a military policeman. The alarm goes off: active shooter in the vicinity of the Troop Medical Campus, shots fired, people down, number and identity of gunman/gunmen unknown, location of the active shooter or shooters unknown possibly moving through the buildings killing randomly, possibly in the parking lot, possibly in the lobby of the main hospital building, possibly in the VA reception area - the situation is unclear, there are multiple reports and descriptions of the shooter, all different, all confused. You just know there's at least one shooter somewhere in the medical campus. You and your fellow cops respond. You arrive. You have no idea what you're getting into. You jump out of your cruiser, weapon drawn, safety off. There are soldiers and civilians down in front of the building. It's like a Quentin Tarantino movie. Blood. Smoke. Screams. The staccato crack of continuous gunfire echoes off the buildings so that you can't even tell where it's coming from - the classic problem of urban warfare. Chaos. Restricted line of sight. Panicked non-combatants. Armed military personnel have engaged the (possible) shooter, there is a three-way firefight going on. You see dozens of men and women in uniform crouched behind cover exchanging fire with other men and women in uniform crouched behind cover returning fire. They all look exactly the same.

Now, you have to do something, right now. It’s your job. You raise your weapon and step forward...


Just one thing, one little thing before you pull the trigger: Which one is the bad guy?


Or perhaps bad guys, plural? Come now, it's easy, after all you're an expert, right? Quick, which one is the bad guy? This isn't a video game. This is the real thing. Choose wrong, you die, other people keep dying. Choose wrong, you kill the men and women you're supposed to be protecting and then you can live with that for the rest of your life, if you live. Better hurry up, you've got a fraction of second, and here comes the rest of the cavalry with their guns out and the same choice to make and how do you know the shooter isn't one of them? This is what you wanted, everybody armed, everybody shooting, so come on, Hero, which soldier do you kill first?


I spent most of my adult life in uniform under arms. I'm a trained and certified firearms instructor. I'm a trained and certified force protection officer. Now, as a civilian, I do consulting on a military base. You don't have to listen to me, but ask yourself something: if arming military personnel on post is such a great idea, why then haven't those experienced, trained, and knowledgeable soldiers in command positions joined your side? Why aren't the NCOs and the Colonels and the Admirals and the Generals demanding en mass weapons free on base?

What do they know that you don't?

You're entitled to your opinion, but you REALLY don't understand the situation at all.

It was a simple thought problem.

There are many ways a scenario like this could play out. Multiple shooters. Shooter already dead and nobody realizes it, either by his own hand or as a result of direct fire. Shooter hides among the victims and waits quietly for law enforcement. Or maybe there never was a shooter at all and it was all a terrible mistake triggered by something stupid – say like a soldier fumbling his weapon and causing an accidental discharge which is then perceived by other stressed out combat vets as an active threat. 

The idea here was to start a conversation among my Facebook following, because that’s what I do there (yes, that’s correct, not everything on Facebook is about cats and duckfaced girls). And that’s what happened. And that continues to be an interesting, adult, and reasoned exchange.  But many folks shared my post, and the comments under those shares provided the impetus for this essay.

Let’s start with this comment from a guy whose force protection and military expertise, according to his Facebook page, appears to consist mostly of really liking Transformer movies:

I think Jim is being a little bit of a bitch about this. The police and soldiers (especially now that urban combat is common place) have been trained for these situations. It's relatively easy for them to identify who the aggressor is. With civilians on base, the reason why soldiers aren't armed is the same reason banks don't have security guards... insurance. You are liable if there is a death on your premises, and the chances of someone getting killed goes up dramatically if there are armed guards. The real question is, how do people keep getting on these bases with firearms? Can the military not afford metal detectors (or are they still looking for a vendor who will overcharge them by 10000%)?

I think Jim is being a little bit of a bitch about this. I’m not really sure what this means other than he doesn’t like what I wrote, so that makes me a bitch. Says the grown man who posts pictures of comic book action figures on his Facebook page.

The police and soldiers (especially now that urban combat is common place) have been trained for these situations. It's relatively easy for them to identify who the aggressor is. Right, the bad guy looks like a giant metal robot made out of car parts, sure. Meanwhile, outside of kiddie movies, it’s often a whole lot different.  Remember the first Fort Hood shooting? In the first minute, how many shooters were there? No, don’t roll your eyes, answer the question, how many? Don’t know? The answer is three. In the chaos and confusion, responders at first thought there were three shooters. Besides Major Nidal Malik Hasan, two other soldiers were identified by military personnel as being involved. Those men were detained and interrogated. It didn’t take investigators very long to figure out the other men had nothing to do with Hasan’s murderous rampage, but what if the soldiers who initially thought they did were armed and prepared to take action? In that confusion, in that moment when people are dying and you just don’t know, in that moment, those two innocent men could easily have become targets for their fellows.

Now, how many shooters were initially reported when Aaron Alexis pulled out a shotgun and started killing people inside the NAVSEA building at the Washington Navy Yard?

As to it being “relatively easy” to identify the shooter, answer a question for me. Remember when the LAPD shot three unarmed civilians by accident because they confused two small Asian women delivering newspapers and a skinny white guy on a bicycle for a large angry black man in tactical gear carrying an assault rifle? No? Maybe it’s just me. Funny thing, those cops were specifically trained in active shooter situations, unlike soldiers they were professionals in this exact situation, and they had a detailed description of the shooter, and they weren’t under fire and had time to consider the situation, and yet…

The first minutes of any attack are confused and unclear and can easily result in friendly fire. In fact, certain military and terrorist tactics are designed specifically with this in mind, induce maximum confusion, get friendly forces to engage each other. I know, part of my job in the military was designing warfighting doctrine and tactics exactly like this. Hell, blue on blue engagements happen in battle on a far too frequent basis, even when the enemy isn’t actively trying to make that happen, even when soldiers are trained to look out for it.  You don’t have to believe me, you can go ask Pat Tillman’s family about it. But I guess they don’t teach that at Comic Book University.

There is an enormous difference between a law enforcement situation and unrestricted combat in the warzone.  That’s why the training is very, very different for each type of operation. That’s why the rules of engagement are different. Hell, that’s one of the reasons soldiers and Marines often regard occupation and peacekeeping duty as far worse than actual combat. I’ve been professionally trained in both operations, but don’t take my word for it – ask any cop who used to be a soldier. There are plenty of them around.

That said, my critic fails to specify exactly how (short of the bad guy actually being a giant robot made from car parts) other soldiers and military police would know who’s who in this scenario, given that they’re all dressed the same and all shooting. And given that in the real world, when it really happened, witnesses actually did, in point of fact, misidentify innocent soldiers as shooters. Instead, the critic waves his hand and claims that it’s “relatively easy.”  You know, like when you’re a cop running into a school full of panicked children and you have to figure out which child is killing the other ones in the middle of a crowd – but yeah, it’s relatively easy and cops don’t lay awake at night sweating this exact situation.

With civilians on base, the reason why soldiers aren't armed is the same reason banks don't have security guards... insurance. You are liable if there is a death on your premises … Say what now? Talk about the fallacy of false equivalence. 

Banks generally don’t have armed guards nowadays because a) they’ve gotten a lot better at passive and active security systems, and b) because armed guards pretty much guarantee the robbers will come through the door shooting. There’s a significant reduction in loss of life if the bank personnel don’t attempt to engage the criminals in a shoot out – and, really, what does this do for the critic’s position of arming everybody? Frankly, he seems to be the kind of guy who tends to shoot himself in the foot, at least figuratively.

That said, a bank robbery and an active shooter are two completely different threats. Totally different tactical problems in law enforcement. You can’t compare the two, primarily because the goals of the perpetrators are completely different. And we don’t restrict the free carry of weapons on base because the government is worried about liability. Weapons are restricted for many reasons, from accountability for expensive and deadly government property to concern over accidental or deliberate shootings and everything in between.

The real question is, how do people keep getting on these bases with firearms? Can the military not afford metal detectors (or are they still looking for a vendor who will overcharge them by 10000%)?

Sixty to eighty thousand people enter and leave Fort Hood every day. Sixty to eighty thousand.  Twenty to thirty thousand enter and leave San Diego Naval Station, every day.  Twenty-five thousand active duty military and civilian personnel come and go from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, every day, thirty thousand military family members access that same base on a daily basis, more than one hundred thousand veterans use the base hospital, commissary, and military exchange monthly. Here in Alaska, Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson supports similar numbers.  A quarter of million people work or live on the various bases in and surrounding Norfolk. 

So, what exactly are you going to do? Metal detectors, pat downs, and car searches every day?  At every base? Really? You’re going to provide that kind of manpower, that kind of equipment? Because we do that, you know. It’s called Threat Condition Delta, and everybody coming onto base gets thoroughly inspected. Want to guess how long it takes to pat down every person and inspect every vehicle on a base like Fort Hood? Even if you restrict access to only essential personnel, you’re still looking at scanning 40,000 people – all at the same time, because they all show up for work at the same time.  Which is why we only do it when we have a credible threat, because otherwise it’s impossible to do business.

As I said, this guy just doesn’t understand the problem. But, hey, tell you what, maybe if we got ourselves some magic robots from outer space…

So, who’s the bitch now?

Yes, I know, but I just couldn’t help it.

Moving on, another person opined:

It's not a problem to know who the bad guys is- the one shooting people. In Israel, every 18 years old carries a rifle everywhere (both in the army and when they go home every weekend). It does make for a much safer environment. If a Palestinian terrorist starts shooting innocent civilians, then you know for sure that someone will take him down very fast. That's why most of the terrorist acts in Israel end immediately after they start with far less casualties than other places (like the Norway massacre). You don't need to wait for MPs - that's the whole point. The other soldiers would have taken him down as soon as he started shooting - cause they had GUNS. In fact, one of the routine practice drills is to simulate a Palestinian in Israeli military uniform infiltrating the base and then starts shooting everyone. It is basic training.

The commenter is moving the goal posts.

It's not a problem to know who the bad guys is- the one shooting people. [sic]

Unless he’s not shooting people when you happen to look in his direction.

Unless random good guys are also shooting – which was the whole point of my original comment.

Unless there’s more than one shooter.

Unless the shooter knows your tactics, because he’s one of you, and he takes deliberate measures to hide among the victims or mask his actions or otherwise evade, conceal, confuse, and/or escape. 

In Israel, every 18 years old carries a rifle everywhere (both in the army and when they go home every weekend). It does make for a much safer environment.

Right, no terrorism or random shooting in Israel.

If a Palestinian terrorist starts shooting innocent civilians, then you know for sure that someone will take him down very fast. That's why most of the terrorist acts in Israel end immediately after they start with far less casualties than other places

Ah, and there we are, the fallacy of false comparison.  Palestinian terrorists, i.e. the enemy.  Not quite the same thing as an active shooter who is one of your own troops.  

And speaking of logical fallacies, I think we need a new one: the “Bu Bu But that’s how they do it in Israel” fallacy. 

Oh, yes let us handle gun ownership the way the Israelis do. Let us indeed. You bet.

You can start by chucking out the 2nd Amendment, or rather you can start by actually enforcing the 2nd Amendment. The whole thing, especially that part about a “well regulated militia.” Gun ownership in Israel isn’t a right, it’s a duty enforced by law. You own guns in Israel because you’re required to help defend the state, not just you and yours. I can’t wait to see you implement that in America. And you don’t just run out and buy yourself an AR-15 and start patrolling the streets. It starts with universal conscription, in high school. Every single person will be required by law to undergo training and background checks before they are allowed to touch a gun, along with periodic refresher training and civil defense drills. Did I mention universal registration, both for your weapons and for you? Yeah, see, you were given that gun by the government for a reason, because if you’re not in uniform, once you’ve completed your active duty obligation, you’re still part of the civil defense force and that means the government keeps a record of your training and guns. And you can just forget about gun stores and gun shows and all of the rest of the American gun porn. And then let’s talk about the penalties for irresponsible gun use.

I’ve been there, it’s an ok place, pretty girls, intelligent educated folks, great food – best olives I’ve ever had. The beer is pretty good. Heat. Sand. And religion leaking out of every crack. Government of loons. Sure, it’s a dandy place, if you like living in an armed camp in the middle of a war zone. If you like tanks in the streets and armed soldiers on every corner and machine guns on the playground. If you like looking over your shoulder all of the time. If you like government surveillance and pervasive military security that would make Edward Snowden hyperventilate himself into a stroke. Sure, you bet. Let’s do that. I think it’s a great idea, you go first, Conservatives, the rest of us will be right behind you.

Let me be blunt, screw Israel.

You want to go live there, be my guest. I’ll help you pack. But I will bet you whatever sum of money you like, that should you actually try to impose the actual kind of universal gun carry they have in Israel, the very first people who would start screaming fascism! Nazis! would be the NRA and the Tea Party and those advocating right now for arming troops on base. 

Here’s another one:

That article seems a bit disingenuous. The MP's wouldn't have to worry about who was the bad guy because there would be no more shots after the BG was taken out. The good guy would be more than happy to lay down his gun when they arrived and explain the situation later.

It wasn’t an article, it was a couple of lines on Facebook, but, hey, why spoil a thing with facts, eh?

The MP's wouldn't have to worry about who was the bad guy because there would be no more shots after the BG was taken out

Right, it’ll go down just like that. Every time.

The good guy would be more than happy to lay down his gun when they arrived and explain the situation later.

You have to admire this guy’s optimism. But then again, he lives in a magic world of rainbows and flying bunnies where the good guys wear white hats and the bad guys look like Boris and Natasha from Rocky & Bullwinkle.

oh and the answer on who to shoot would be everyone not face down after the command cease fire and surrender your weapon is given. after all You make a strong argument but you don't explain why a nut was allowed to run around shooting people on a military base. Was he supposed to be armed and it not why was he permitted to do this? These people definitely deserve to be better protected or to protected themselves.one guy with a gun can be over powered by soldiers that are already signed up to get shot at.... maybe Marines are different...

Marines are different alright, I don’t think anybody would argue that.

Because in the middle of a shootout, Marines will just lay down, cease fire, and surrender their weapons, right?

Because it’s always so neat and tidy, right? Shooter on one side, Marines on the other, clearly delineated.  Cops show up, Marines meekly surrender their weapons, bad guy is left standing in the middle of the playing field holding his gun in one hand and his dick in the other. Because that’s how it’ll go down, right?

The writer is being disingenuous. I mean we can all make no win situations to try and justify things. I mean what if the shooter is in an MP uniform...... Oh no now we need to restrict weapons to only certain MP's.... What if it happens at a rifle range? Oh no lets restrict the military from doing live fire!

Yeah, that’s what I said.

And what’s with “disingenuous.” Is that the Facebook word of the day?

It’s always the same with these people, hysterical all or nothing, the fallacy of the false dilemma. What? You don’t think arming every soldier on base with live weapons all of the time is a good idea? Why, then you must mean no soldier can ever use a weapon ever! 

You can’t reason with these people because they are not reasonable people.  

Also, I don’t think “disingenuous” means what this guy thinks it means.

I posted a scenario, one based on my own training and experience, and I asked my readers – whom I know to be generally a reasonably intelligent bunch, but most have little experience in this sort of thing – to consider it as a thought problem, something to think about as the start of a conversation on the topic. I didn’t say that was the only way things would happen. I didn’t even imply it. There’s nothing disingenuous about it.

When I went through Anti-terrorism training as an intelligence officer, we were given a number of scenarios to consider. Mine was an attack on the Hoover Dam via a large scale explosive concealed in a semi-trailer (this was when US93 actually ran across the top of the dam, before the new bridge was completed). Did that make my instructors “disingenuous” because they gave me that scenario? Were they implying that the only terrorist attack would involve a truck full of fertilizer? Or was it something to think about in the larger conversation?  And was it “disingenuous” of them to assume I was smart enough to figure all that out without having to have it explicitly explained, you know, like normal people?

Also, since the commenter missed it, a hell of a lot of active shooter and terrorist situations are no win scenarios.  Ask the guys who might have to shoot down a jetliner full of innocent civilians in order to prevent a larger tragedy about that sometime.

Okay, but could it happen? Could it? Sure, it could happen. Just like yesterday at Fort Hood, a soldier goes bugshit.  Or like the time before he pulls out a gun, screams Allah Akbar and starts killing people.  And another soldier, armed and alert for danger and ready to rock and roll on a second's notice, shoots him down. Bang! Threat ended. Sure. It could certainly happen that way.

What’s more likely? This last scenario, or the first one I floated up above? Or something in the middle?

Beats me. There’s no way to tell until it happens, and it never happens the same way twice.

What is likely, however, is that when the shooter screams out his war cry and starts blazing away, what you get - even among experienced and prepared troops - is panic and confusion and chaos (also, not everybody is a troop, some of them are civilians, maybe even kids depending on where on base you are). Now you've got a crowd of screaming people, many armed and with their weapons out, which one is the shooter? And we’re back to where we started.

And just for completeness sake, what weapons are we talking about here? Most soldiers don't carry pistols, they carry rifles or more likely nowadays an automatic carbine with burst capability and a VERY high muzzle velocity. Wait 'till somebody starts blazing away in the middle of the crowd with one of those.

And if you’re going to advocate every soldier carry a loaded gun on post, how do you feel about mandating that they all just wear ballistic armor all of the time instead? Hey, I’m just asking.

And then there’s the other side, the crazy.

The other side of the argument is mental health. We don’t need more guns, we need better mental healthcare for our active duty military and our veterans.

I certainly won’t argue against that and I don’t know many who would.

But it's not all one or all the other.

The problem isn't mental health.

The problem isn't guns.

The problem is people with mental health issues who have access to guns. Crazy people with guns, that’s the problem, right there.

Plastic explosive, C4, Semtex, is just an inert block, completely harmless (well, I wouldn’t eat it) about as dangerous as a handful of Silly Putty … until you insert the detonator.  Then it makes a hell of a bang.

The common phrase is that guns don’t kill people, people kill people. I’m not sure I agree, and I’m leery of empty platitudes on general principle, but let’s just say that’s true. Guns don’t kill people, but they sure make it easier for people to kill people.

A drunk may be a danger only to himself, but let him get behind the wheel and that danger is magnified many times.

That’s what a gun is, it’s a force multiplier. A magnifier.

A gun is a tool, but unlike a wrench, or a car, it's a tool engineered specifically to kill, and certain guns such as the .45 ACP carried by the shooter at Ft Hood yesterday are specifically designed to kill human beings.

The blame may indeed ultimately rest with the person, but the gun is a force multiplier which amplifies human lethality many times.

The problem of gun violence is complex.

The problem of PTSD and suicidal depression is complex.

These problems are extremely difficult to diagnose with any degree of quantitative value. It’s a process and it takes time, sometimes years just to diagnose properly.  And you can’t say if a person is this much depressed, has this much PTSD, he’s going to explode. Hell, we don’t even know why some people get PTSD and some don’t even though they had nearly identical experiences.  I came home and I don’t even have bad dreams, but men who served alongside me in the exact same environment suffer terribly from PTSD.  Will they go murderously insane and start killing others? Will they decide to kill themselves? I for damned sure don’t know, and neither does anybody else, those men and women just take it one day at a time, sometimes one minute at a time. It’s different for everybody.

It’s not just guns.

It’s not just mental health.

Addressing one side of the issue without addressing the other is no solution at all. Q.E.D.

Certainly the problem of mental health, particularly in veterans, must be addressed. But it's not enough to go around shouting "mental health! mental health!" you actually have to do something about it. And one size doesn't fit all. And it's not as simple as handing out a couple of pills. And it costs money, a lot of money, and it's going to keep costing money, forever. That is the price of war, one of many.

But here's the kicker, not everybody who decides to commit violence is mentally ill. Not even a significant fraction. The vast majority of gun violence is committed by supposedly sane people. So it's not enough to throw up your hands and shout "mental illness!" You also have to address the tool. Canada, England, Australia, places where it's much harder to get a gun, have the same relative ratio of mental illness as we do here in America, including combat induced PTSD in returning troops, and yet the incidences of gun violence are a fraction of that in the US. And it's not because they do such a great job of treating mental illness.

To be clear here, I'm a gun owner.

I believe strongly in responsible gun ownership - emphasis on responsible.

I am NOT advocating elimination of the 2nd Amendment, far from it.

I’m saying it’s not as simple as more guns, or less guns, or yelling PTSD!

Jim Wright is entitled to his opinion, but he really doesn't understand the situation at all.

and finally:

Where did you find this idiot?

Jim Wright doesn’t understand the situation at all. Where did you find this idiot?

You know, I was only in the military for two and a half decades. I only served in three warzones. This year marks my 30th year working on military installations around the world. I taught weapons. I own weapons. I taught anti-terrorism and force protection.

Where did you find this idiot?

Well, you’ll find me standing next to Lt. General Ed Anderson, a 39 year Army officer, West Pointer, and combat vet, who said, "I don't think that's an appropriate solution to what we have seen at Fort Hood,” when asked on the record about allowing troops to carry live weapons on base. "This has to be very, very carefully thought out. The implications of what that would result in. There are other means by which you can enhance security on installations than arming everyone. […] You could make the case they would have gotten him; maybe yes, maybe no. But then you have a Wild West situation there. It is just not the right thing to do."

Where did you find this idiot?

You’ll find me standing next to Major General Paul Eaton, who said, "We train our military police to a higher standard, they are trained first as infantry and then additional training in law enforcement and how to handle situations like a law enforcement officer." When asked specifically about allowing unrestricted carry on base, he replied emphatically, "I am not in favor of that."

Where did you find this idiot?

Standing next to Rear Admiral Jamie Barnett, who stated, "We already have lots of weapons on base. We have great law enforcement personnel, we have great military personnel who can protect us. It seems to me that the real focus should be on people who have some type of mental or emotional problem, we should concentrate on that."

These men, they just don’t understand the situation at all.

And how about this idiot? This is retired Colonel Jack Jacobs, wounded in action twice, three Bronze Stars, two Silver Stars, and the Medal of Honor

But yeah, Colonel Jacobs doesn’t understand the situation at all. Where did they find this idiot?

Where oh where did they find this idiot?

Where indeed.


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.