Thursday, December 31, 2015

Sound and Fury

ISIS is coming! ISIS is coming!

Oh no! Run for your lives, Everybody!




"If we don't recognize the seriousness of Radical Islamic Terrorism and are unwilling to give our military leaders the tools needed to destroy our enemy, eventually ISIS boots will be on our ground."

If we don’t recognize the seriousness (the seriousness forsooth!) of terrorism, why we’re gonna be sorry.

The seriousness. Why won’t we recognize it?


Okay. Show of hands, any of you sissy liberals not recognize the seriousness of terrorism?

Hey! Quit your giggling. This is serious and it’s about time you all recognized it.  Conservatives, boy, they know all about terrorism. So you guys better shape up.

You, there in the back, in the hemp overalls and the bloodshot eyes! You're nodding your head. Are you serious? Are you? Terrorism, harshing your mellow? Lemme see your serious face, lemme see it! Okay. Better.

How about you? You, in the front row, with the hairy legs and the "Meat is Murder" T-shirt. How about it, Bean Curd Breath? What? Nothing funny about terrorism, you say? Goddamned right, sounds like you're serious to me. Good. Good. 

Who else?

You there. Yes, you. What? Yes, yes, I feel the goddamned Bern, but what about … oh, you're serious about terrorism too? Well okay then.

Heard any good terrorism jokes lately? No? That’s odd. When I was growing up we had Irish terrorism jokes and Italian terrorism jokes and Polish terrorism jokes – sure, you’ve heard this one, right, Polish terrorist burns his mouth on a tail pipe trying to blow up a car. Hilarious! What? Not funny? Oh, well, sure, if you’re gonna be all serious about terrorism.

No really, anybody here not think terrorism is serious? Anybody? C'mon, don't be shy, let's see those hands, those soft little girly-man hands ... anybody, anybody at all?

Well, it sure looks like we're all on the same page. Serious as shit about terrorism.

So what’s the problem?




I see.

No. You’re right. And when you’re Right, well, you’re right. 


Well, that's disappointing.

There's still terrorism even though we said the magic words. Why, it's almost like magic doesn't actually work and the terrorists don't give a shit what we call them.

Maybe if we prayed on it... no? Dear Our God, help us kill that other God’s followers who want their God to kill Our God, amen. No? Okay. Just putting it out there.

So now what?

What? What's that? You, the jowly-necked red-faced guy with the Mini-14 in the tactical sling. Yes, in the dirty wrinkled camo, yes, yes, waving the Confederate Battle Flag. You! You look like a military genius. Sure. You've got a suggestion? Speak up, I couldn’t hear you over that last chorus of Kumbaya. What? Oh! Give our military commanders the tools they need to destroy ISIS? Why that's brilliant. Just a brilliant idea you got there, Sweet Tea, you learn counter terrorism strategy in the militia while you were off fighting Jade Helm, did you?


Sarcasm? What? No. Nooooo. I have nothing but attentive respect for the expertise of a guy whose sum total military experience is a make-believe bullshit offer of a West Point “scholarship” when he was in high school. As a veteran, I can totally respect that. Sure. Now, I do grant you it's no fake military prep-school to keep rich kids out of Vietnam, but I’m sure this Carson character totally knows serious terrorism when he sees it. I mean, it’s not brain surgery, is it?

So, tools. Ben Carson says we must give our commanders the "tools needed to destroy our enemy" otherwise invasion! Look, out there on the horizon, what’s that? Why, it’s the ISIS fleet! It’s ISIS nuclear aircraft carriers and ISIS cruisers and ISIS destroyers launching ISIS missiles! What’s that, up there? It’s the ISIS Air Force! Soon our skies will be filled with ISIS paratroopers and our beaches will become landing zones for ISIS Marines. Soon ISIS boots will be on American ground.

What tools?

What tools do our commanders need to push back the horde? My God, give them the tools!

Jets? Ships? Missiles? Bombs? A massive global intelligence system? Special forces? Air strikes? Increased domestic and international surveillance? International military coalition and allies? Containment? Largest military and intelligence budget in the world? Advanced technology? Take it! Take it all! Use it!

What? They have all of that already? That and much, much more? But, what then? What tools?

Hey, you don’t mean maybe (and this is just a thought, I mean, what would I know about fighting terrorists in the Middle East, right?) we all work together as a nation? You know, stand with our president? Congress maybe come together, left and right, liberal and conservative, put aside their partisan bullshit and work together like they all promised to do. Sure, you remember, September 12th, 2001, on the steps of the Capitol Building, smoke from the burning Pentagon still staining the sky. Work together against our common enemy.

Heh heh, no. Of course not. What was I thinking? Never mind.

Well, okay, what tools are we talking about then? Nukes? Are we talking about nukes? During the debates Carson mentioned carpet bombing. Is that the tool we’re talking about here? The indiscriminate obliteration of entire cities, towns, villages, schools, hospitals, civilians, children, pregnant women, old folks and their pets? Is that the tool our commanders need?

Might as well use the nukes, I guess.


If we don't recognize the seriousness of Radical Islamic Terrorism and are unwilling to give our military leaders the tools needed to destroy our enemy, eventually ISIS boots will be on our ground.


Boy, where have we heard that before?

If we don’t fight them over there, we’ll have to fight ‘em here.

If we don’t fight ISIS over there, we’ll have to fight ‘em here.

If we don’t fight Saddam over there, we’ll have to fight him here.

If we don’t fight the Taliban over there, we’ll have to fight them here.

If we don’t fight the Vietnamese, if we don’t fight the Soviets, if we don’t fight the Chinese…

It’s the second sounding of the same old call to arms.

You know, back when they used that phrase about the Nazis and Imperial Japan they might even have been right.  But  it’s become a cliché, unending paranoia as policy and a fundraising tool, an endless parade of increasingly lame enemies and vague threats and undefined objectives and open ended unfocused strategies.  

By now, Americans should be smart enough to see this sickness for what it is, God knows we’ve had enough practice.

If we don't recognize the seriousness of Radical Islamic Terrorism?

Who doesn’t recognize the seriousness of terrorism? Who? Name that guy. Go on. And if you say Obama, you’re a fucking idiot. Of course the president of the United States of America understands the seriousness of terrorism, probably one hell of a lot better than you do. Sure as hell better than the drooling paranoids at Fox News and their fraudulent military advisors. The president has the very best military advisors, national security experts, and information in the world. Serious? He couldn’t possibly get any more serious. So who exactly are we talking about here? Who’s not serious about terrorism? 

If we are unwilling to give our military leaders the tools needed to destroy our enemy?

What the hell is he talking about? What tools? Be specific. Unrestricted warfare? Nukes, carpet bombing, full out invasion and occupation on the order of WWII? That’s it, isn’t it? Bomb ‘em back to the Stone Age, kill ‘em all and let Republican Jesus sort it out. Right? Tools? This is the kind of vague undefined nonsense that got us into this mess in the first goddamned place. Tools? Where the fuck was Carson and his tools when Rumsfeld sent us to war with his unknown unknowns  and the military he had and not the one he wanted and substandard body armor from the lowest bidder and radios that didn’t work and unarmored trucks built by Dick Cheney’s buddies in the defense industry? When people like Carson and Trump talk about how they’ll whip ISIS, you can damned well bet there’s nothing behind it but more flag waving bluster and dead American soldiers.  

Eventually ISIS boots will be on our ground…

And there it is.

There it is. Right there.

Modern conservatism in a nutshell: They’re coming for our stuff.

They’re coming to kill us.

They’re coming to take our freedom.

It’s always some  goddamned monster to be afraid of, some bogyman, some night terror, some vague horrible undefined thing. Commies. Putin. God’s terrible wrath for abortion and  gay marriage. ISIS. Ebola. Socialists. Gun grabbers. The Liberal Press. States Rights. The End Times. The poor. The Rich. Sharia Law. Rap Music. Illegal aliens. Yellow Cake Uranium. Electric cars. Evolution and climate change poisoning our kids in the schools. Iran. Big government. Jade Helm. Bird Flu. Pornography. Harry Potter. Affirmative Action and  Political Correctness. Equal Rights. Black Thugs. Affordable Healthcare. The IRS. The EPA. Benghazi. I mean, fuck, it just  never ends with these people. They’re always afraid of some damned thing.

And now, oh Dear God help us, it’s ISIS! They’re coming, folks, soon they’ll be putting their dirty boots on America.

This is what it’s come to, this is the once great party of Lincoln. Fear. Paranoia. Terror

ISIS? They’ve already won.

That’s right. It’s too late. They’ve won.

Even if we kill every single one of them, they’ve still won.

Even if we carpet bomb the Middle East.

Even if we nuke ‘em.

Even if we burn the entire region down to the bedrock and piss in the ashes.

They’ve still won.

They’ve won because the goal of terrorism is terror.

Because the goal of terrorism is to make us afraid.

Because the goal of terrorism is to make us hate

The terrorists don’t have to invade.

They’ve already won.

Friday, December 18, 2015

War Face


Gunnery Sergeant Hartman: Private Joker, why did you join my beloved Corps?
Private Joker: Sir, to kill, sir!
Gunnery Sergeant Hartman: So you're a killer!
Private Joker: Sir, yes sir!
Gunnery Sergeant Hartman: Let me see your war face!
Private Joker: Sir?
Gunnery Sergeant Hartman: You got a war face? Aaaaaaaagh! That's a war face. Now let me see your war face!
Private Joker: Aaaaaaaagh!
Gunnery Sergeant Hartman: Bullshit! You didn't convince me! Let me see your real war face!
Private Joker: Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaagh!
Gunnery Sergeant Hartman: You don't scare me! Work on it!
Private Joker: Sir, yes, sir!
--Full Metal Jacket, 1987

Let me see your war face!

Wolf Blitzer sure ain’t no R. Lee Ermey but twenty minutes into the latest Republican “debate” and I was starting to have Full Metal Jacket flashbacks.

War war war! Kill kill kill! Bomb bomb bomb! Terrorism! Security! Make America great! Lemme see your president face! Let me see it!  Aaaaaaaagh! Sir, yes, Sir!

No really, think about it. Bunch of uncomfortable looking dorks with funny haircuts all standing in a row, scared shitless, shouting nonsense, and pretending to be warriors…


Every one on the stage was trying to convince us of their war face. Aaaaagh! Everyone of them was talking about killing the bad guys, taking the fight to enemy, invasion, boots on the ground. Bleeraaaaaagh! War Face! I’m a lean green terrorist-killin’ machine, Sir!

And really, wouldn’t it be great to just once have a debate moderated by Gunny Hartman?

I digress.

I digress, but at least it would be entertaining, right? That would be worth a couple hours of your time. R. Lee Ermey doing Gunny Hartman, dressing down the candidates, goddamn, wouldn’t that be great? You can learn a lot about a person, watching them sweat under the pressure of a screaming drill sergeant.

Which is more than you can say about the latest shitshow.

I mean, honestly, what have you actually learned from these so-called debates? Anything? Anything at all?


One of these people might be your next president. No, really, and ain’t that a thought to keep you wide awake and sweating in the night?

Supposedly, Tuesday’s debate hosted by CNN and moderated by Wolf Blitzer was about national security.

Oh, sure, right, national security. Of course, when you put it like that. National security. We’re all concerned about national security, aren’t we? We gotta keep our country safe for God, motherhood, and warm apple pies.

And let’s start right there.

What exactly is this national security we’re talking about?

When I say national security, what do you think of? Terrorists, right? Sure, terrorists, but what kind of terrorists? Are they all the same? Do they all come from the same place? Are they all motivated by the same ideology? Do they all hate us for our freedoms? Do they? When we talk terrorism on American soil, we always bring up the Big One, the Great White Whale of Terrorism, Moby Dick – September 11th, 2001, but those were mostly Saudis, weren’t they? So are the things that drove those terrorists the same things which motivated the terrorists who attacked a Planned Parenthood Clinic Conference Center in California last month? The terrorists who attacked Paris? Same as the ones who used to blow up British soldiers in Belfast? Or bombed the Khobar Towers? Or the Tokyo Subway? Or the Moscow subway? Or a train in Spain? Or do you just wave your hands and mumble “Globalwawrnterrorism” and start handing out the medals?  And whatever happened to Ebola? And all those Illegal immigrants? Russians? Chinese? European style socialism? Iranian nukes? Drugs? Global Warming? Easy birth control and the sexual revolution? The Equal Rights Amendment? The National Debt? False flags? Super Hurricanes? Creeping Sharia Law? Banks too big to fail? Gay marriage? End times and Mayan prophecies? Killer robots? Secret FEMA tunnels under Wal-Mart? Fluoride in the water and chemtrails in the sky?

I mean, national security? What exactly are we talking about here?

National security, the term means something different to every candidate and to every voter – or non voter if we’re talking about the majority of Americans, which may be a national security matter in and of itself. But, again, I digress.

When CNN declared this debate about national security, none of us even started out on the same page. We didn’t define the terms. Wolf just sort of waved his grizzly white man-beard of freedom about and made some vague reference to “national security” and next thing you know we’re all running around whooping like lunatics, shooting our pistols in the air, and smashing bottles over each other’s heads like something out of a John Wayne movie. War face! War face! Aaaaaaaaaagh!

I waited a week.

I waited to see if the candidates themselves would provide some clarity.

None did. Surprise surprise.

Serious times.

Oh, well, serious times. That sure clears things up. Is that you, John Wayne? Is this me?

Say, just for argument’s sake, Captain Obvious, when isn’t it serious?

No, really, when in the last 240 years of American history hasn’t it been a “serious time?” In the last hundred? Okay, last fifty years? Last decade? When was it time to elect some frivolous leadership? You know, when the most important skill a president might have was making balloon animals and telling fart jokes? When was that? Well?

You know, it’s pretty hard for me to take these people seriously.

They talk about national security as if they’re experts, as if they have a defined outline, as if we’re all agreed to the terms and definitions. As if they really are serious men with serious answers to serious problems.

If you actually listened to these people last Tuesday night, it’s just gibberish.

I went through the debate transcripts, line by line, sound bite by sound bite and … it’s just gibberish. It’s sound and fury signifying nothing. Less than nothing. Nameless, shapeless dread, it’s armpit noises and fart jokes.

You could pick any exchange at random from the transcript and upon detailed analysis it means nothing.

Take this piece right here:

Moderator (Conservative radio pundit Hugh Hewitt): Mr. Trump ... [APPLAUSE] ... Dr. Carson just referenced the single most important job of the president, the command, the control and the care of our nuclear forces. And he mentioned the triad. The B-52s are older than I am. The missiles are old. The submarines are aging out. It's an executive order. It's a commander-in-chief decision. What's your priority among our nuclear triad?

Okay, stop right there.

Let’s just hang on a minute. Back the war wagon up.

It’s an executive order? What is an executive order?

Hewitt was talking about aging bombers as if the old B-52 workhorse was the only nuclear bomber we have in inventory (it’s not), or as if it hasn’t been continuously updated (it has), or as if our Minuteman III and other various nuclear capable missile systems such as the sub launched Trident D-5’s weren’t updated and modernized on a regular basis (they are). What Hewitt was getting at, of course, is that he apparently believes we need a fleet of new manned bombers, new missiles, new submarines.

And he apparently thinks you get those things through an executive order.

Hewitt apparently believes the president just sort of waves his gold scepter and the defense contractors start crapping out ships and tanks and fancy new jet fighters.

He called it a “Commander In Chief decision” – which could not possibly further from reality in any fashion whatsoever.

Hewitt’s statement, his question, is mind boggling in its wrongness.

And nobody, not one person on the stage called him on it.  Not one.

None of the candidates on the stage, all of whom want to be the next president of the United States of America, not one of them, apparently knows how ships, planes, missiles, and weapon systems are procured.

Hint, it’s not via Executive Order. No way. No how. It is a decades long process that involves tens of thousands of people, dozens of legislative actions, research, development, review, revision, redesign, reallocation, cancellations, and it begins and ends in Congress. The president has very little to do with it, because typically acquiring a new weapon of any complexity spans multiple administrations. For example, the F-35 Lightning II was first proposed as the Joint Strike Fighter in the early 90’s. Eventually the government settled on a basic design and began actual procurement in 1996. The first production aircraft came off the assembly line in 2006. The existing aircraft are full of bugs and in testing and redesign at the moment and full production doesn’t begin, if it doesn’t get cancelled first, until 2018.  That’s George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and whichever one of these clowns we pick to sit in the White House next. Five administrations. That’s a single seat airplane. Wanna guess what it takes to design and procure a new nuclear powered ballistic missile submarine?

And how did Trump answer the question?

Donald Trump: Well, first of all, I think we need somebody absolutely that we can trust, who is totally responsible; who really knows what he or she is doing. That is so powerful and so important. And one of the things that I'm frankly most proud of is that in 2003, 2004, I was totally against going into Iraq because you're going to destabilize the Middle East. I called it. I called it very strongly. And it was very important.


And it was very important? What was very important? How was it very important? How does that have anything do to with the question asked?

We need somebody who knows they’re doing? 

Are you sure? Because that would seem to rule out any of these dolts.

Trump: But we have to be extremely vigilant and extremely careful when it comes to nuclear. Nuclear changes the whole ball game. Frankly, I would have said get out of Syria; get out -- if we didn't have the power of weaponry today. The power is so massive that we can't just leave areas that 50 years ago or 75 years ago we wouldn't care. It was hand-to-hand combat.

What does any of that mean? Particularly in relation to the question asked? It’s just gibberish. What does Syria have to do with supposed replacement of aging strategic systems? What does Iraq have to do with it? What are you saying, that you intend to fire nuclear missiles at the world’s oil supply? REALLY? “If we didn’t have the power of weaponry today?” What? What the hell does that even mean? If we didn’t have the power of weaponry today why we wouldn’t have the power of weaponry today!

Trump: The biggest problem this world has today is not President Obama with global warming, which is inconceivable, this is what he's saying. The biggest problem we have is nuclear -- nuclear proliferation and having some maniac, having some madman go out and get a nuclear weapon. That's in my opinion, that is the single biggest problem that our country faces right now.

Climate change is real. It’s entirely conceivable. Millions of people are conceiving of it right now. It’s conceivable to all but the most obtuse. It is adversely affecting our national security right now, right this very minute, and it’s only going to get worse. 

What’s also apparently inconceivable to Trump and the rest of the buffoons on that stage is the idea that the President of the United States of America can focus on more than one thing at time. They all seem to have this idea that the President has some kind of To-Do list and he works on the first thing until it’s done. Then he crosses it off and starts on the next one.  Okay, nobody bother me, I’m working on the Iranian Atom Bomb thing and it’s like really hard and this is probably going to take me like a couple of hours so you guys keep it down out there.

Trump says the single biggest problem the country faces right now is … “some maniac.” Some vague undefined madman trying to get a bomb so he can something something war face aaaaaaaagh!  Not something concrete, not any of the myriad problems that actually exist right now, from energy to infrastructure to rising seas or even the Islamic State, no, it’s the bogeyman. Can’t be any more specific, just … some maniac. Yeah, that’s the single biggest problem our country faces. That. Vague. Thing. There.

Hewitt (still gamely trying to get a concrete answer to his bullshit question): Of the three legs of the triad, though, do you have a priority? I want to go to Senator Rubio after that and ask him.

And here it comes, the definitive answer from the guy who says the most important thing is somebody who knows what they’re doing. Here it is:

Trump: I think, uh, I think, for me, nuclear is just the power, the devastation is very important to me.

Shit’s getting old. We need new stuff. What’s  your priority when it comes to planes, missiles, and submarines? Oh, well, uh that would, um, be, I guess, er, the power, man, the devastation, that’s very important. To me. See? Oh, the powerful devastation of the devastating power you say? Well. Okay. Let’s go ask Congress for some money to, um, upgrade the powerful devastation, because it’s like powerful and devastating and we wouldn’t want to have a devastation gap. I guess. And, really, if the biggest threat we face is this vague thing that we can’t define, what better weapon than an upgraded vaguely defined powerful devastation … thing. Nuclear. Something. Booga booga.

If Trump had dismounted by claiming he could see Russia from his house, he couldn’t have been more full of shit.

And if you think Rubio corrected Trump’s idiotic nonsense, or Hewitt’s, you haven’t been paying attention.

None of the people on the stage, not the candidates, not the moderators, knew what the hell they were talking about. Not at all. Not even in the most general of terms. And after a week of reading through various reactions, it’s fairly apparent most of America has no goddamned idea either.

It’s gibberish.

They’re all babbling idiots.

None of these people have any clue as what constitutes national security. Worse, it’s not even that there’s no agreed upon consensus, they don’t even have a personal concept or clear vision in their own heads and none of them hired anybody who does either.

Honestly, national security? Really? How do you know there’s a problem, when you can’t even define what the problem is?


Like clucking chickens running about in the barnyard. They’re all terrified, but they really have no idea why.

And it’s infectious, these frightened Chicken Littles, the feathers are flying and they’re squawking out vague alarms and scaring the crap out of everybody else, the sky is falling! The sky is falling! and nobody really knows what they’re afraid of, they just know something terrible must be happening. Something, nuclear triad, terrorism, madman, maniacs, it’s the powerful devastation, yeah, that’s the inconceivable part of maniacs with global warming war face war face aaaaaaaagh!

Hewitt: Dr. Carson... [APPLAUSE] ... you mentioned in your opening remarks that you're a pediatric … neurologist … surgeon...?

Sweet Wookie Jesus, fuck me.

Ben Carson: Neurosurgeon.

Hewitt: Neurosurgeon. And people admire and respect and are inspired by your life story, your kindness, your evangelical core support. We're talking about ruthless things tonight -- carpet bombing, toughness, war. And people wonder, could you do that? Could you order air strikes that would kill innocent children by not the scores, but the hundreds and the thousands? Could you wage war as a commander-in-chief?

Again, let’s just stop right there.

I thought we were talking about national security. Instead, suddenly we’re talking about carpet bombing? The indiscriminant area bombardment of military targets and civilians – to include children and old people and pregnant women and non-combatants and innocent bystanders and schools and homes and daycare centers and shopping malls and playgrounds and so on? That carpet bombing. Is that the carpet bombing we’re talking about? How exactly did we get here? And people in the audience were clapping, cheering, carpet bombing, fuck yeah! America! And who are we talking about carpet bombing? Toughness. Ruthless? Could you kill innocent children? Like hundreds of thousands of them? Just carpet bomb the shit out of some kids? You know, for national security.

Since when, since when, is the willingness to carpet bomb children a trait anybody wants in an American president?

Ruthlessness? When did that become a virtue?

I dunno, this guy, what if he doesn’t have what it takes to bomb some children? I mean, fuck, we might as well just give the country over to the tree-huggin’ tofu-eatin homos, man! What would Jesus do? He woulda bombed them little cocksuckers for sure, you bet, I mean, shit, his dad done kilt like a whole darned nation of firstborns, Amiright? And then, and then, the guy who was just called out for being supposedly kind and inspiring and all Christiany Christ-like in his Christian evangelicalism, yeah that guy, says oh sure, ruthless, yeah, I can totally do that. Carpet bomb some kids? You bet. It’s not exactly brain surgery, right?

Carson: Well, interestingly enough, you should see the eyes of some of those children when I say to them we're going to have to open your head up and take out this tumor. They're not happy about it, believe me. And they don't like me very much at that point. But later on, they love me. Sometimes you -- I sound like him. [APPLAUSE] You know, later on, you know, they really realize what's going on. And by the same token, you have to be able to look at the big picture and understand that it's actually merciful if you go ahead and finish the job, rather than death by 1,000 pricks.

Hewitt: So you are OK with the deaths of thousands of innocent children and civilian? It's like...

Carson: You got it. You got it.

You got it. You got it, baby. But abortion, yeah, that’s a sin. Can’t have none of that. Nope. Nope.

Hewitt: That is what war … can you be as ruthless as Churchill was in prosecuting the war against the Nazis?

Carson: Ruthless is not necessarily the word I would use, but tough, resolute, understanding what the problems are, and understanding that the job of the president of the United States is to protect the people of this country and to do what is necessary in order to get it done. [APPLAUSE]

And the crowd cheered.

It was surreal, here we are, talking in all candor about carpet bombing children no less, but,  yeah, I wouldn’t say ruthless. No, I’d call it something more heroic sounding, terrorist pre-neutralization for freedom or something. But, yeah, Imma cut your head open and carve out a chunk of your brain and you’re gonna love me for it, Baby. You’re gonna love me, even if I have to lobotomize you.

Honestly, it couldn’t have been any more creepy if Carson had finished up with, “It rubs the lotion on its skin! It rubs the lotion on its skin!”

And the crowd cheered.


Read the transcript for yourself. Go through it line by line, questions and answers.

It’s all gibberish.

It’s insanity.

It’s all war face aaaaaaaagh!

It’s people who have no clue whatsoever talking to people who have no idea whatsoever.

This isn’t even political theater. It’s the political equivalent of standing in line at the deli behind two dipshits arguing over who would win a fight between Boba Fett and the Gorn Captain.

It’s long past time to dispense with this nonsense – and I mean nonsense in the sense that it doesn’t make any sense. Non sense.

Here’s what I’d like to see: A job interview.

A job interview with America.

I want a series of interviews, each candidate, alone, in detail, in front of a camera. Everybody gets the same questions. Everybody gets the same amount of time.

I want them to answer questions in detail without moving the goals posts. In fact, moving the goal posts would count against them. Point value, with running totals on the screen. Candidate has avoided the question x number of times.

I want running fact checks by a double blind group of experts. Again, with a running total on the screen. True, mostly true, some true, some false, mostly false, total fucking bullshit ding ding ding, posted in real time.

Don’t tell me why the other guy sucks, tell me what you would do, specifically and in detail.

First interview: The Economy

Explain your economic policy in detail, step by step, here’s a Dry-Erase board and a marker, show your work. If it takes ten hours, well, then it takes ten hours. It’s the single most important topic America faces right now, we don’t expect it to be simple. You may consider this similar to defending a doctoral dissertation. Start by demonstrating a thorough knowledge of the current economic situation. Then give us a detailed summary of how you will create jobs, pay off the debt and reduce the deficit, grow business, revise regulations, and address the tax code. Provide supporting information and references and the relevant footnotes. Don’t give us any crap about it being too complicated either, if you can’t explain it to the general population, you can’t explain it to the idiots in Congress. We’ve got a battery of non-partisan experts back here, they’ll be stopping you periodically to examine specific points and request additional information. You may begin.

Second interview: Foreign Policy

Give us a complete rundown of your foreign policy. Address how you will approach each problem in detail (we might need multiple segments for foreign policy, each night devoted to a different area). For example: ISIS, when you say that all options “are on the table” explain precisely what that means and what the consequences are. List each option and explain them in detail. Start with the nuclear option, then conventional war with and without coalition/UN support, military action short of war, non-military intervention, diplomacy, and so on. Describe precisely how many American casualties you, as president, are willing to accept to achieve each goal, you may round to the nearest power of ten (i.e. 100. 1000. 10,000. And so on). Describe to the nearest billion exactly how much of the American treasury you, as president, would be willing to spend on this endeavor and exactly where that money will come from, including skyrocketing gasoline and energy prices and how many generations you expect it will take to pay off the tab. How many lives. How much money. How long.

Third Interview: Domestic Policy (three days)

First sub-interview: Describe how you will address the concerns, rights, and liberties of all Americans – not just the ones who voted for you.  Describe the difference between “inalienable rights” and “legal” or “civil rights.” Describe where you believe each form of rights depends from. Describe which rights you believe take precedence over others, why. Explain why or why not you believe some citizens’ rights supersede others. Explain when it is acceptable for government to deny rights, be specific. For example: if you oppose same sex marriage, describe why, describe in precise detail why it is legal and moral for you as head of government to deny rights of your fellow citizens. You must answer this and other social issue questions as The President, i.e. you may not use your religion or political party’s talking points, you must describe your support or opposition strictly in accordance with the Constitution of the United States. Period. Again, we have a panel of experts back here and we’ll be fact checking each point. Let’s start with abortion. 

Second Sub-interview: Give us the general outline of your Energy, Immigration, Education, Health, Technology (including space and exploration), Agriculture, Transportation and Infrastructure, and Veterans Affairs policies. Again, we will expect a basic knowledge of each subject to include comprehensive solutions for current and expected problems.

Third sub-interview: The military. Explain how you see the military’s role in America. Start by describing in precise detail when it is permissible for the military to overthrow the democratically elected government of the United States. No, this is not a trick question. Show you work, including the specific articles of the Constitution and US Law.  Next, describe in detail when it permissible for an armed citizens militia to march on Washington, overthrow the US Government, and install its own ruling body. Again, cite the precise articles of the Constitution and US law which permit this action. Describe exactly what you think “a well regulated militia” means as used in the Bill of Rights. Describe exactly what you would do should such a revolt occur during your administration, and why. Explain when military action short of war should be used in foreign conflicts. Explain when war should be declared. Explain your order of priority for military force, i.e. is military action near the first thing you would try or the last? Why? Be specific. Do you consider military action diplomacy by other means or a failure of diplomacy? What is your military experience? If you served, why? If you didn’t, why? Did your children serve? Would you be willing to send your own kids into battle? Why? Why not? Be specific.

Final Interview: Staffing and funding

You say you’re ready to lead on day one. Prove it.

Describe the top ten challenges facing America right now. Put them in order, worst to least. Why? What are you planning doing to address these issues? No hand waving, either present a coherent solution or don’t bring up the subject.

Who are your top ten picks for the Supreme Court? Why? Describe each in detail. Explain what you would expect from each choice and how you think it will shape the future of this country in a way that is fair and equitable to all. Explain your vetting process, show your work.

Who are your first, second, and third choices for each position on your cabinet? Why? What are their qualifications? What was the vetting process – and do you use the same vetting process for all even though their skill sets are vastly different? What do you expect from each position? Why should the Senate confirm them? Why should America trust them to provide you with rational, expert, and timely advice?

Give us three candidates for Chairman of the Joint Chiefs. Why? What do you consider the most important qualifications for this position?  Note, we’ll be cross-checking this against your previous answers vis a vis the military’s role in Foreign and Domestic Affairs.

Who would you select as head of the CIA? NSA? The National Science Council? NASA? The Federal Reserve? The EPA? Name the people you have in mind for ambassador to Russia, China, Israel, the UK, France, and the UN.

Who will you turn to for religious or spiritual advice? Why? What are their qualifications?

Extra Credit: List your financial donors. In detail. All of them. This is an optional question in the same manner that a Breathalyzer test is optional during a traffic stop. You don’t have to answer, but if we have to share the road with you then we have every right to know if you’re sober and it’s the same thing here. You want to be president? Then we have every right to know who you owe and decide if we want them running our country. If you don’t agree, look directly into the camera and explain why.

And we fund the whole thing with a tax on political donations. SuperPACs are going to run our country? Then they can pay for the privilege.  

You want to see my goddamned war face?

There you go.

We do not need a war-president. We need an executive. We need a diplomat. We need a wise man or woman who understands the challenges facing us. We need someone who will address our growing needs for clean energy, clean water, affordable education, affordable health care, and especially economic opportunities for the working class. Not a single republican candidate has addressed those issues. Not a single republican candidate has spoken about the future -- they have only spoken about retaliation for the past.
-- David Gerrold, Author, via Facebook

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Unknown Unknowns

Here we are yet again.

Another nut with a gun and score to settle.

Another mass shooting, more dead Americans.

Another journalism feeding frenzy.

And social media has again gone mad with rage and rumor and accusations of blame like enraged monkeys with fangs bared flinging fistfuls of shit at each other.

Yesterday, I cautioned my audience:

Facebook: You'll note that at the moment the ONLY thing you know for certain is that the shooting is proof positive of whatever political or religious position you hold, no matter who you are or what that position might be. And tomorrow when the facts begin to emerge, a whole bunch of people are going to look either stupid for what they've said today or they're going to bull it out and look like assholes - or both.



Frankly,  I don't think I'm out of line to say I Told You So.

It's now been a bit more than a day since a nut with a gun barricaded himself inside a Colorado Planned Parenthood clinic and started shooting people.

Here's what you actually know as I write this: Nothing.

Here's what you actually know about the shooter today: Nothing.

Here's what you actually know about his motivation: Nothing.

Here’s what you actually know about his political and religious positions: Nothing.

In fact, you don’t even actually know if Planned Parenthood was his intended target, or just a target of opportunity.

And yet, exactly as I said, despite the fact that you actually know nothing, most of you are firmly convinced that this guy is proof positive of whatever political position you hold, Left or Right or something on the howling libertarian fringe.




Whoever this guy is, whatever his motivation, whatever his mental state, whatever his political position, whatever his target, the only thing anybody knows for certain is that he represents whatever political, religious, and social point they hold dear.


Shooter, terrorist, madman, murderer, hero, whatever you choose to call him, his ultimate utility to our society is as gleeful confirmation of our own beliefs and as a condemnation of those we oppose.


While the shooter was still barricaded in Planned Parenthood, actor and raging conservative extraordinaire Adam Baldwin told me that the shooter was a transgendered leftist member of the Marxist "Socialist Workers Front." So AH HAH, in your face liberal scum!


As proof of his position, Baldwin linked to a website called The Gateway Pundit, a rightwing political blog run by a member of the Tea Party.  The Gateway Pundit published what it alleged to be court and voter records which showed the shooter to be female, despite rather obvious male characteristics in the attached booking photo with the caption, “That’s weird.” 

The obvious implication being the shooter was the T in LGBT, and therefore a “lefty” since by definition in Adam Baldwin’s mind all Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgendered people are ipso facto liberals.

The Pundit post ended with “[the shooter] also lists his party as UAF” – though the article provides no source or proof of this affiliation other than a vague reference to “voter records.”


Baldwin helpfully broke out “UAF” to mean “Socialist Workers Front.”

Other sites gleefully latched onto this supposed “fact” and ran with it, identifying “UAF” as the political movement “Unite Against Fascism” which some allege to be a Marxist leaning movement.




Only one problem, in the Colorado voter registration system “UAF” is a designation meaning “unaffiliated” or “independent” and Unite Against Fascism is a British fringe political party that is neither active in Colorado nor does it have a designator in that state’s voter registration system.

As of this morning, it appears today Baldwin deleted his original tweet – at least I can’t access it despite being able to see all his other messages on Twitter.

The Gateway Pundit stands by its post – as one would expect from a source that crows about its award for “Breitbart Accuracy in Journalism.”

Baldwin’s partisan confirmation bias and public rumor mongering sets the tone for this entire miserable affair (though to be honest, given his track record on Twitter, I’m somewhat surprised at his mild tone when talking to me – especially since the conversation began with me calling him a “dimwitted goon,” which in retrospect makes me somewhat of an ass).

Planned Parenthood meanwhile claims the shooter was mumbling about “no more baby parts” and was violently opposed to abortion:



But again, what you’re looking at here is opinion.

Somebody else said the shooter was opposed to abortion, the shooter didn’t say that.

And his alleged statement about “baby parts” is as yet unconfirmed and at best hearsay.

Donald Trump called the shooter “a maniac.”

President Obama said, “Enough is enough!”

Mike Huckabee called it a case of “domestic terrorism.”

Carly Fiorina assumes the mantle of martyrdom and blames “Leftwing Tactics” for the blowback she’s  facing over her previous comments supporting widely debunked Planned Parenthood videos.

Pro-Life LifeNews condemned Hillary Clinton for “exploiting” the shooting after Clinton issued a series of comments on Twitter in support of Planned Parenthood. LifeNews then predictably goes on to exploit the shooting in order to push their pro-life agenda.


Conservative media site The Daily Caller angrily denounced the liberal media for “rushing to blame Christians, Republicans for Planned Parenthood Shooting.”

Progressive media site Vocativ angrily denounced the conservative media while “Hundreds Cheer Planned Parenthood Rampage As GOP Stays Silent.”




Glen Beck’s The Blaze with grim predictability managed to tie Clinton, the shooting, abortion, and Black Lives Matter all up together and dismounted in triumph apparently defending the lives of black children which the same outfit commonly refers to as “thugs” and against which its readers loudly feel they need to be armed.




The Shooter’s neighbors called him weird and angry and disturbed.

He might have been in trouble with the law once or twice, or more, much more. He might have abused animals.

The word “loner” is being bandied about on both sides of the political divide,  often with a raised eyebrow and a knowing look. Ah, of course, a disturbed loner with mental problems. Sure. Sure.



The word “terrorism” has been thrown out on both sides of the political divide, though who the actual terrorist is when a bearded lunatic kills a cop while shooting up a controversial medical facility is open to interpretation.




A number of people have noted that despite killing a cop and actively shooting at the police for five hours, the white shooter was calmly taken  into custody and walked out of the building apparently uninjured.  And somehow, so far, he hasn’t died in custody. And what exactly  does that say about our society in light of other recent events where people of color weren’t nearly so lucky – despite, you know, not having killed a cop.




And of course, there’s the perennial American Gun Argument:




In the end, I suppose when it all shakes out it’s possible that the shooter will turn out to be an introverted transgendered pro-life Tea-Party Marxist Muslim extremist, but at the moment what you actually know about him (or her) is nothing.

And yet, exactly as I said, despite the fact that you actually know nothing, most of you are firmly convinced that this guy is proof positive of whatever political position you hold, Left or Right or somewhere out on the howling fringe.


You know, when I was growing up, it was the atom bomb.


We were sure, sooner or later, the world would end in nuclear fire. We built shelters we knew would be no use. We built great engines of war which we hoped would defend us from our enemies but which we secretly knew would only ensure no shred of civilization survived the holocaust – we even had a name for it, we called it MAD. We signed treaties and prayed to the gods and fearfully watched the skies for the first sign of the falling warheads.

Somehow, by luck mostly, we survived.

Somehow, the Doomsday Clock was reset, the hands moved away from midnight instead of ticking down to our doom.

Now, when the learned men speak of that dark time, they sigh and say, well, you know, civilization dodged the bullet.

And yet, looking back, I wonder.

I wonder if nuclear Armageddon was half the threat to civilization the internet and the 24-hour news cycle are.

Sooner or later, if we are to survive, we human beings of the Information Age are either going to have to evolve filters and critical thinking skills, both mentally and technologically, as a society or watch our civilization fall into utter chaos and ruin around us.

As the man said, some people just want to watch the world burn.

The simple obvious truth of the matter is that we, most of us, are not yet equipped to deal with the deluge of information which floods our senses every single day. Our social systems, our mental filters, our sense of propriety, our ability to judge truth and falsehood, right and wrong, are all overwhelmed. All of our very worst traits, confirmation bias, fear, hate, bigotry, ignorance, stupidity, selfishness are exaggerated and amplified and all of our best traits, love, understanding, empathy, patience, courage, are lost in the fire.

Like frightened chimps we bare our fangs, screeching in rage, and fling shit at each other.

Today, right now, whoever this guy is, whatever his motivation, whatever his mental state, whatever his political position, whatever his target, the only thing anybody knows for certain is he represents whatever political, religious, and social point they hold dear.

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

Tuesday, November 24, 2015


On a Virginia bluff overlooking the Potomac there stands a flagpole.

It is, truly, a monument to a terrible moment in American history.

The plaque on its pedestal reads:

Many great American soldiers, both of the North and South, died at this spot. The casualties were so great that the water would turn red and thus became known as ‘The River of Blood.’

Imagine that.

Imagine that horrifying scene.

Imagine the thunder of the cannon, the crack of the rifles, the smoke, the screams of dying men and maimed horses. Imagine the smell, rot and putrefaction, death, shit, iron, and wet raw lamb. Imagine the casualties, so great, so many, they literally stained the wide Potomac itself crimson with the blood of patriots.



Only one problem: it never happened.


Imagine, because that’s where this battle exists – solely within imagination.

There was no battle.

There were no casualties.

There was no bloody river.

The Potomac was never known as The River of Blood, not during the Civil War, not now.

Oh the flag is real enough, but the story is as phony as Ben Carson’s West Point scholarship.

The guy who owns the place and erected that historic marker ... just made it all up to improve his property values.

That guy?

That guy is, of course, Donald J. Trump.

In 2009, Trump bought a rundown golf course on Lowes Island, Virginia. He chopped down an actual historic forest to improve the view, pumped millions into renovations, designated his new property an ersatz historical site, and opened his doors to the well heeled suckers.

Since then, Trump has been told repeatedly, publicly and in private, by some of the most prominent experts in American history that he is completely and utterly wrong about his so-called River of Blood.

Unsurprisingly, Trump refuses to budge or admit error.

In point of fact, Trump believes he knows more about Civil War history than the people who study, excavate, preserve, and teach it as their profession.

According to the New York Times, Trump quipped, “How would they know that?” when told historians had called his plaque a fiction. “Were they there?”

Despite a complete lack of historical evidence, Trump justifies his version of American history by saying, “That was a prime site for river crossings. So, if people are crossing the river, and you happen to be in a civil war, I would say that people were shot, a lot of them.”

How would scientists know that?

Were they there?

I would say.

My opinion is as good as the professionals.

Now, where have you heard that before?

That faulty thinking, that flawed logic, that is the inevitable result of unchecked Creationism.

This is what happens when unsubstantiated made-up fictions are substituted for actual scientific methods and the ramblings of amateurs and fortune-tellers are given equal or greater weight than that of professionals.

False reality.


So what? So what if some daffy self-aggrandizing billionaire made up some fake history, right? Who’s he hurting?

So what if a significant fraction of America discounts the sum total of science and history for a fictitious world where Jesus walked with dinosaurs and the Earth is 6000 years old? So? Who are they hurting?

Glad you asked.

Trump insists he saw video and news reports of Muslims celebrating in the streets of New Jersey the day the towers fell.

This did not happen.

Did. Not. Happen.

Despite the fact that Trump’s version of reality has again been soundly and thoroughly debunked and absolutely no video or validated news or police report  whatsoever can be found of any such thing (and in fact, the only confirmed reports of people celebrating are parties of non-Muslims, white and black, Americans, who gathered on rooftops to watch the spectacle from across the river before the towers collapsed and the true extent of the horror was fully realized), Trump continues to insist that his recall of history is correct.

Just as he insists his version of a Civil War battle that never happened is correct.

And then yesterday, Trump doubled down.

He now claims he personally witnessed with his own eyes, from the windows of his own Manhattan apartment, more than 80 people jumping to their deaths from the Twin Towers before the collapse – despite the fact that his apartment in Trump Tower is more than four miles away and it would have been utterly impossible for him to have seen any such thing.

This is a pattern with Donald Trump.

He plays fast and loose with reality on a daily basis.

Now, either Trump believes what he's saying or he's exaggerating for effect knowing his supporters don't really care either way because they have been conditioned to believe whatever the loud wild-haired guy under the tent is saying, no matter how ridiculous so long as he waves the bible and stands pat on his version of reality.

Either way, by accident or with malice aforethought, the bottom line here is that Donald Trump is not operating in a reality based framework.

And neither are those cheering him.


And that's the problem with our Republic.


That, right there, that Creationist I Don't Care What The Facts Say, History Is Whatever I Believe mindset.

When you have a government of the people, by the people, and for the people, the government is only as good as the people.

When the people deliberately choose ignorance and fear and make-believe, you get a government that does as well. Worse, you then get a government who can only thrive on those very things and therefore must seek to instill them in the population in a vicious feedback loop.

Phony history and make-believe science don’t build starships.

Creationist thinking won’t “make America great again.”

Yesterday in Wasilla I saw a truck in the parking lot of a local grocery store which brought it all into focus for me.  It was a mammoth machine, huge tires, extended cab, all the trimmings. NRA sticker on the window. Pro-life. Trump: Make America Great Again. Old scowling white guy with a gun on his hip emerged from the store, squinted at me suspiciously, and climbed behind the wheel.

And on the tailgate, a mural. This one:

Everything I need to know about Islam, I learned on 9-11.

You know, I wonder, somewhere in Iraq if there is a pinch-faced angry member of the Islamic State with a mural on the back of his truck which shows Bagdad blown to hell and a trite little sound-bite which reads,  “Everything I need to know about Christianity, I learned when America blew up my country despite the fact that we had no weapons of mass destruction and nothing to do with 9-11 because they couldn’t tell the difference between Iraqis and Saudis.”


Perhaps not. Not too many people have the means, money, or time to paint murals on their vehicles in Iraq these days.



What’s that?

That Iraqi guy, he shouldn’t judge all Christians, all Americans, based on the actions of an insane few? He shouldn’t go around blowing people up and chopping off heads and hating everybody in the West because certain Christians blew up his country?

Interesting, I’ll have to think about that.


Everything I need to know about Islam, I learned on 9-11.

You ever wonder if maybe that’s the whole problem?

Everything I need to know about Islam, I learned on 9-11? Really? Because I have to say, personally, I’ve learned one hell of a lot I didn’t know about Islam in the years since 9-11. I learned that a lot of what I’d been told, what I thought I knew, was wrong, or at best incomplete.

And maybe, just maybe, that was at least part of the problem.

I learned that just like Christians, Muslims are each and every one different – and just like Christians, it’s what you do with your religion that matters.

Perhaps for me, the most profound lesson came when I led a Navy boarding team onto a hostile Iraqi ship in the Northern Arabian Gulf. They were certainly smugglers, perhaps pirates, perhaps even spies for Saddam – though in hindsight, the latter is unlikely. We rounded up the crew, cutthroats and criminals, dangerous men, one and all.  I found the master in the ship’s pilothouse and the man was … fierce.  He was tall, well over six feet, lean like a greyhound as if he was made from wire and sun dried leather, huge finely kept black beard and a moustache that for Iraqis is a thing of vast pride, giant hooked nose like the blade of an axe, and the most piercing and intense black eyes I have ever seen.  Give this man a brace of pistols and a scimitar of Damascus steel and he would have been at home in the midst of the Barbary Wars. 

And he was hugely, massively, angry to be facing an American military officer on his own bridge, the fury radiated from him in palpable waves.

He was the enemy, the boogeyman, I expected him to fight, to ram his ship into mine, to … I dunno, pull out a brace of pistols and a scimitar of Damascus steel and scream Allah Akbar.

Instead, he offered me coffee.

And we spent the next hour talking about our children, my son, his daughters and how he hoped they would grow up like western women, proud and sure of themselves and beholden to no man, no religion, no dictator. He didn’t hate America, he had a brother in Chicago. He had been horrified by 9-11. He didn’t hate me, he didn’t hate my country. He hated war and death and injustice and being boarded by a foreign power in his own waters.

The things I truly need to know about Islam, and my own country, the most important things, I’ve learned in the decade since 9-11.

I’ve often wondered what happened to that old pirate, if he survived the war, if his daughters did, and where they might be today.


Listen to me, if you want a better country, a better world, then you have to to be better citizens.


When you put people who don’t believe in reality into power, you get government that is likewise deluded.

You get moonbeams and magic fairy dust and arbitrary laws based on arbitrary interpretations of somebody’s arbitrary religion.

You get Drill, Baby, Drill while the seas rise and the crops wither and the super hurricanes smash our coasts into sodden rubble.

You get voodoo economics based on the shitty selfish ideas of some drug-addled second-rate science-fiction author whose own bullshit didn’t even work for her and thirty years later you’ll still be waiting for the full effects of those ridiculous juju magics to trickle down while the world falls to shit around you.

You get racism and misogyny and homophobia and bigotry writ large. You get walls and barbed wire and machine guns and broken glass. You get fear and hate, all based on something that never happened. And you will get war, against the wrong people, in the wrong country, for the wrong reasons and thousands of your children will die or come home maimed and you’ll find that you’ve made the world a thousand times worse and now you’re facing yet another war as a result – the latest conflict in an endless string that stretches back as far as you can remember.

If you put people like Trump into power, you get many things.

But greatness is not one of them.



Footnote: You’re wondering about the title?

Well, see, the thing about gravity? It’ll kill you whether you believe in it or not.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

The Price of Civilization

Here we are yet again.

Terror, death, chaos.

Already the drums are sounding, the trumpets call us to arms.

War is coming yet again.

But … well, it’s not the war I wonder about, it’s what comes after.

In a comment on my Facebook page, somebody asked how this could happen. Paris. How could this happen and nobody see it coming? It seems as if terrorism sprouts like mushrooms, the commenter puzzled, one minute the world is normal, and the next BOOM!

Indeed, terrorism is like that. Boom. Everything is normal, then boom.

But it only seems that way.

You see, terrorism like this doesn't just pop up like mushrooms.

It grows, inch by inch, day by day, cell by cell, recruit by recruit. Most of the time it grows right out in the sunlight, ignored - not unnoticed, ignored. Just as it was here in the US, because it's over there, somewhere, in some Third World shithole and we just don't care so long as it's not us.

And in this case it's been doing exactly that in Syria and Iraq and North Africa for years now.

It's not just us, this blithe happy ignorance. It happens all over the world and has for as long as there has been civilization. In recent memory, Russia, France, Spain, the UK, Northern Ireland, Italy, Somalia, and the Middle East. It is the nature of human beings to argue and squabble and dismiss until it's too late. Climate change, pollution, failing economy, poverty, disease, collapse, war, it's all the same.

Terrorism? It comes from chaos. From conflict and exploitation, from endless ruin and crushing poverty and bleak desperation. It comes from religion and ideology run mad.

You want to know why someone would strap an explosive belt to themselves and run into a crowd?

I’ll tell you.

It’s not complicated, it’s because they have literally nothing better to do, that's why.

It’s because the vague promise of some glorious afterlife is better than anything else in their lives.

It is absolutely no different, no different, from those who would let the world burn because they believe their own prophet is coming soon to rapture them away to some eternal bliss while the rest of us roast in eternal torment. The only difference is in degree.

We created this. Paris. Yes we did.

What’s that?

Oh, you’re offended, are you? Offended that I say it’s our own fault. That we created this. You’re offended. Got your red, white, and blue panties in a bunch? How dare I? How dare I?

Yes? That’s it, isn’t it?

Tell you what, fuck off. Shove your reflexive self-righteousness patriotic jingoism right up your ass.


If you want to do something about terrorism, actually do something about terrorism, then you start by being honest with yourself.


We created this.

Terrorism, the kind we face today? It comes from the fact that we, us, we keep blowing up civilization and leaving nothing but death and ruin in our wake. Terrorists are like cockroaches, they thrive on chaos and destruction and we're damned good at creating that chaos. I know, I spent most of my life in the business of war.

We created this.

Yes we did. We created the conditions for it to grow. To incubate, ignored over there, in the chaos we created.

Thirty years ago we denounced the Soviets for destroying Afghanistan and leaving nothing but ruins, a destroyed civilization, chaos. But we, we Americans, we were right in there, weren't we? Funding and fueling the Mujahedeen - creating our own enemies, just as the Romans did 2000 years ago. We could have done something about it, sure. We could have rebuilt that civilization after the Soviet Union pulled out. We could have made the Mujahedeen our friends. We could have. But it would have cost us money. Our money. Lots of money, vast, vast sums of it. It would have taken decades of sustained commitment. It would have taken effort.

And so, instead we left. Fuck it. Not our problem. Enjoy your freedom, Towelheads.

And the Mujahedeen became what?

The "freedom fighters" we trained, we equipped, we left behind, became what?

They became the Taliban.

They became Al Qaida.

They became the seeds of our own destruction.

And we learned nothing.

Then the same amoral sons of bitches who diddled in Afghanistan without regard to the consequences took us into Iraq.

And we reduced Iraq to lawless ruin.

Oh, we won the war, I know, I was there. We won the war, sure we did and they cheered us in the streets just as our leaders told us they would.

And then?

And then?

Then it all went sideways. It all fell apart. It all fell apart because we are damned good at destroying nations, not so good at building them.

Destruction is easy, creation is the hard part.

We had no plan. We didn’t care enough to have a plan, to see it through, to govern what we’d won, to rebuild the nation we’d destroyed, to beat swords into plowshares, to earn the respect and keep the friendship of the people we’d supposedly freed.  We let it fall apart. And then, like Vietnam four decades before, we walked away. See yah, have fun with your freedom!

We let Syria disintegrate and we still can't make up our minds who to back, the evil dictator who hates us, or the Islamic state who hates us, or the Russians who we hate. And Syria is just one of a dozen places currently falling apart.

And so, war, destruction, desperation. Chaos. The perfect breeding ground for terrorism.

Meanwhile, right here in our own country, a bunch of religious lunatics who pray to their small and mean god every single day for their own idiotic rapture, make it worse by throwing gasoline on the fire at every turn in their unending obsession with the end of the world. War, war, war, they just can’t get enough in the name of their religion of love and peace.

We haven't cleaned up the last mess and they want more war, more chaos, want to destroy yet another country. They gleefully point to the horror they helped make and proclaim it a sign from upon high, glory glory hallelujah, the End Times are come. Praise Jesus!

Well, it looks as if their miserable god has finally answered their prayers and they'll get their wish. War. Again. Because now we have no choice.

And I will bet you whatever sum of money you like, because I used to do this for a living, that right now the war machine is spinning up. The sabers are rattling, the ships are preparing to sail, the bombers are fueling up, and the trumpets are sounding To Arms, To Arms!  As they must for the barbarians are at the gate and now? Now we have no choices at all.


But what comes after?

We’ll rush in, like the fools we are, heedless yet again. Our own children will march off to war to the sounds of cheering crowds and they’ll come home in bags, hidden away from public view. We’ll speak the solemn words, sacrifice, patriotism, duty, honor, courage. We’ll bomb another country to ruin, kill thousands, millions. Oh, we’ll win the war, don’t you fear, of course we will, we always do. We’re good at it.


But meanwhile, what comes after?

What’s the plan this time?

What have we learned? What have we learned from all those lives? From all that blood? From all that destruction?

What have we learned from terror?

Terrorism grows like bacteria in warm agar, among the destruction and ruin of war. Terrorism grows in the gaps between civilization. And so what is the plan for after the war? After we’ve blown up the world yet again?

What comes after?

It does you no good to kill cockroaches if you don’t clean up the rot and mess and the filth they live on, if you leave chaos and darkness for them to breed in. More will always come in an unending tide.

So what’s the plan for after?

Paris was caused by Iraq. By Syria. By Afghanistan. By chaos and destruction and because the terrorists had nothing better, literally nothing better, to do with their miserable lives.

Unless we do something about that, then Paris isn’t the end, it’s just the beginning.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Veterans Day 2015

The […] novel sucked. Even when I liked [the author] I saw right through that Rah Rah Military is Awesome bullshit.
  - Facebook Comment


Yesterday, I met a man who despised me.

He called me fascist, murderer, and a dumb blunt tool.

I didn’t take it personally – though a younger me might have.

I didn’t meet him in the flesh, like most of my social interactions these days I encountered him online. He surfaced on a well known author’s Facebook page during a conversation regarding a certain well known classic science fiction novel.

Now, it doesn’t matter which author or which novel or exactly where the conversation took place – though I’m certain a number of folks reading this can figure it out in short order.  The conversation and the novel which inspired it aren’t relevant to this essay, other than as a starting point. Suffice it to say the novel and the reputation of its author is such that fully six decades after it was written it still has the unerring ability to generate violent conflict and powerful emotions. Mention it in any conversation about government and/or military service and the sparks will fly.

It’s one of those books you either love or hate.

Very few who are familiar with the work find middle ground between those poles – including those who haven’t actually read it and are familiar with the writer and the novel only by second-hand heresy (yes, heresy, the book is nearly an article of faith to many) and a terrible Hollywood adaption.

It’s one of those stories where your opinion depends very much on your age and experience, and as such your opinion with regards to the story tends to change and temper over time.

To me, well, that’s what makes it a truly great work.

Love it, hate it, it is a coming of age story and it endures as a lightning rod, as a jumping off point for exploration of the human condition, of government, of service, of duty, of war and conflict, of why we fight and why we should – or should not.

I have read this novel many, many times.

I read it as a teenaged boy before I joined the military. 

I read it again at various points throughout my military career, as an enlisted man and as an officer – and in fact it is required reading for students at a number of military academies. I read it the day the author himself died, and raised a glass in his name, while stationed at a far distant outpost.

I’ve read it a number of times since I hung up my sword. I may, in fact, read it again today.

I don’t know that it influenced my decision to join up. I don’t know that it didn’t. The author, in this work and many others, certainly had some impact on my worldview. I do know that this novel did influence what kind of military man I ultimately became and that there were times, very difficult times, black days, moments when I didn’t know what to do next and lives depended on my decision, when I heard the words of its author whispering in my head, honor, courage, duty, ethics, morality, service above self, willingness to give one’s life in the cause of something greater – even and perhaps most especially when the cost is unjust and immoral and terrible.

The ideals of that book, and the veteran who wrote it, those ideals spoke to me in a very personal way.

And they still do.

As a writer of politics and military subjects, I encounter this book and discussions of its author often and I watch the resulting battles with some amusement. I’ve read hundreds of treatises on this book and its long dead author, detailed analyses from bloggers, columnists, best selling writers, noted scientists of various specialties, politicians, academics, and of course, military professionals.

All, every one, miss one fundamental thing.

And that is this: The reason six decades later this novel still generates love and hate and violent emotion is because the protagonist, a man very much like me, finds a home in the military.

War is his profession and he embraces it willingly and without regret.


And that, that right there, is the novel’s great sin.


That’s the criticism most often leveled at both the book and its author, they are pro war, pro military, and therefore somehow fascist and un-American.

To me this is like saying a fireman, one who runs towards the inferno, who is willing to brave the flames to save others, is somehow pro-arson.

There is no one who knows the terrible cost of war more than a veteran. There are few more anti-war than a combat veteran. Just as there is no one who knows the terrible toll of fire more than those who fight it. And yet, both still serve, because that is who they are.  

It’s okay in our society, at the moment, to love the soldier, to tell the story of war. But it must be done in a certain way. You see, it’s okay to write about war, to set novels among the conflagration and tell tales of glory and honor and sacrifice, so long as those who are caught up in its horror resent their own service. So long as they despise the conflict and the government and the utter ridiculous stupidity which sent them into the meat grinder. It’s okay to tell stories of war and conflict so long as the hero is serving only out of duty and will return to civilian life once the war ends – or die heroically, or tragically, or foolishly, depending on what kind of story you’re telling.

But to tell a story of those who serve when they don’t have to? To write of those who find a home in the military? That is a sin. Those people, you see, they’re the losers. Honor, courage, duty, ethics, the morality of war, service above self, willingness to give one’s life in trace to your country, well, these things are for suckers, wannabe fascists, murderers, dumb blunt tools with nothing better to do.

This is the difference between Full Metal Jacket and The Green Berets.

This, this right here, is the difference between The Forever War and Starship Troopers.


This is the difference between the man I met yesterday … and me.


Today we honor those who served in peace and in war.

We honor those who came of their own free will and those who came only because they were called.

We honor those who came of age in bloody conflict, those who like me, like the protagonist of that novel, found a life, who found ourselves, in the military. And we honor those who resented every goddamned miserable senseless minute of it.

Today wreaths will be laid. Flags will be raised to the truck and lowered to half-mast and there they’ll fly, cracking in the cold breeze, the symbol we fought and bled and died for, while below words of patriotism, duty, honor, courage, service, and sacrifice will be spoken.

The trumpets will sound their terrible call and the tears will flow – as they are down my face even as I write this.

Because, you see, I remember.

I remember those who trained and led me. I remember those I served alongside. I remember those I trained and led myself. I remember those men and women, every one of them, the good and the bad, the faithful and the faithless, the leaders and the followers, the admirable and the shitheads, those who came before me and those who came after, those who still live and serve and fight out there every day in the dark and dangerous corners of the world, those who have hung up their swords, and most of all I remember those who have given the last full measure – I remember them, each and every single one, each and every single day. 

They are always with me, because they are the people who made me what I am.

Perhaps we are nothing more than blunt instruments. Perhaps we are fools. Today I am disinclined to argue the point.

Perhaps we are. Because after the wreaths are laid, and the flags are lowered, and the trumpets sound their final mournful call, then the politicians will return to the same old divisions, the bailout bill, the election, the latest pork barrel project, or how the other party is a bunch of unpatriotic un-American bastards. Tomorrow they’ll remember us not at all – or at best, only as a way to further their own selfish agendas.

The talk show hosts will cry their crocodile tears, and wax self-righteous and angrily demand that their listeners honor veterans. They'll take people to task for not wearing an American Flag pin, or for not having a yellow ribbon on their cars, or for not serving in uniform - all the while hoping nobody calls them on their own service, of which, most have exactly none. And tomorrow, as always, they’ll forget all about us and go back to telling Americans to hate each other.

The Great Patriots, those Americans who think love of country is a contest and who wave the flag as if it were the cheap symbol of their favorite football team, are going to drink a lot of cheap beer and discount liquor and pontificate drunkenly at great length about how the country is going to hell in a hand-basket because of that son of a bitch in [insert: Congress, the White House, Wall Street, et cetera here] and how we should be doing better by our “Heroes.” All the while hoping nobody calls them on their own service, of which, most have exactly none. And tomorrow, they’ll nurse their sullen hung-over resentment and go back to fearing the men and women they honor today will knock on their door to take away their freedoms and liberties and guns.

Meanwhile today a lot of folks who don't think much about patriotism are going to go to parades and wave little flags and quietly give thanks for those who bought their freedom at such terrible cost. Some will stand ramrod straight even though many can barely stand at all, like me they limp, or they roll, bent but unbroken, they’ll place their hands over their hearts as the American flag passes, and in their eyes you can see horrible memories of Saipan and Iwo Jima, Normandy, the Rhine, the black Ardennes forest, The Chosin Reservoir, Khe Sanh, Tet, Al Basrah, Anbar, and Bagram. They won't talk about honoring veterans, they are veterans.

Today those with sons and daughters and husbands and wives in the service will raise a flag in their front yard, just as they do every day - and pray that those same loved ones get home alive and whole, just as they do every day.

Today those with sons and daughters and husbands and wives and mothers and fathers who have fallen in the service will visit graveyards, they'll bring fresh flowers, and fresh flags, and fresh tears.

Today, some just won’t give a good goddamn. They'll get a day off from work. They'll picnic, or party, or go boating, or hiking, or to the track. They'll paint the house, or do chores around the yard, they’ll haul trash to the dump if it's open or take the dog for a walk. Or maybe they won't, maybe today will be just like any other day. Kids still go to school, here in Alaska. Teachers still teach. Stores, restaurants, the mills and mines and rigs are still running. And it may be that these people most honor veterans, by simply going on with their lives, by living without having to remember the dead on some far distant battlefield, without having to worry about their security, without having to thank anybody.

And today, some will protest. Protest war, the military, the government. They'll use this day to burn the flag, they’ll take to Facebook and Twitter to call us fascists and murderers and dumb blunt tools. They’ll use this day to march and to demonstrate and it may be that these people are paying the highest compliment to veterans – even though that is the least of their intentions. Because, you see, it was veterans who bought them their right to despise us.

We are not heroes.

We are not heroes. Most of us anyway, we are simply people like any other, doing the best we can with what we have under difficult circumstance. We came when called and did our duty, each for our own reasons. You don’t have to understand why, just as you may not understand why a fireman would run into a burning building instead in the other direction. 

In our country, in a free society, the soldier should be no more revered than any other citizen.

We should respect the warrior, but we should never worship him.

There is no glory in war. It is a horrible, brutal business and make no mistake about it. We can wish it otherwise. We can rail against the utter stupidity and the phenomenal waste and the bloody obscenity of it all. We can declare and decry war’s terrible necessity and its terrible cost. Be that as it may, given human nature, for now war must often be done and our nation, our world, needs those who would fight, who would stand rough and ready to do violence in their name. It is a duty, a profession, a job, and a calling that must be done.

Perhaps in some distant future we will have put it behind us, perhaps we will have made war and the warrior long obsolete.  We can certainly hope that it shall be so. We can, and should, strive to make it so.

Perhaps some day we will set aside a day to honor the peacemakers and study war no more. Perhaps.

But I wouldn’t count on it.


I don’t know. I don’t particularly care.


You see, I didn’t do it for you.

I didn’t do it for you and you owe me nothing. Neither thanks nor pity.

I’ve said it before, I’ll likely say it again: If you want a better nation, you have to be better citizens. Me? I joined the military for myself. To prove something to myself. To be a better citizen.  

I joined for myself, but I stayed for them. For my comrades in arms, for those I served beside, I did it for them. I did it for all the things I found in that novel, honor, courage, duty, ethics, morality, service above self, willingness to give one’s life in the cause of something greater – even and perhaps most especially when the cost is unjust and immoral and terrible.

I did it because like the protagonist of that book, that is my sin, I found a life there among friends.

Yesterday I met a man who despised me.

But you know what? That, that right there, is what we were doing in the dark and dangerous corners of the world, defending his right to hold us in utter contempt.

Yesterday I met a man who despised me.

He called me and those like me fascist, murderer, dumb blunt tools.

I can live with that.

And I wear his contempt as a badge of honor.