Friday, May 22, 2015

The Canary


Are gay people born gay?

Or is sexual orientation a choice?

Well? What do you think? Which one is it?

That question, that one right there, is the first question I want asked of each and every candidate for President of the United States in 2016. I want this question put to every candidate and put to them hard. No evasion, no dissembling, no moving the goalposts, no changing the subject. Look into the lights, face the camera, and answer the question: Is sexual orientation something you’re born with or is it a choice?

Wait. What’s that, Jim? That’s the first question you want put to the candidates? You don’t maybe think there are more pressing issues?

Oh I think there are many significant issues we as a nation and as a people will face in the coming years. Conflict in the Middle East and elsewhere. Civil rights at home. Energy. Resources. Trade. The changing climate. Technology. Immigration. Education. The list of challenges is endless and growing.

And that’s why it is imperative we know exactly what we’re getting in a president.

So why do I think this particular question should be first on the agenda?

Well, take a minute and think about it.

Think about it in the context of rights and liberty, in the context of the ongoing debate over the role of government, in the context of society and individuals and where the line between the two is drawn.


Why this question?

Because it’s the perfect test.

As an American, an American, how you answer that question tells the rest of us everything we need to know – well, if we’re paying attention, I mean.

That question, that one right there, is the little chirping bird deep in the coal mine.

There is only one correct answer for someone who wants to be president.

As an American, there really is only one correct answer.

Is sexual orientation something you’re born with or is it a choice?


Now think carefully before you answer. It might be a trick question.


Last week Jeb Bush shot himself in the foot repeatedly when asked the following:

Knowing what we know now, would you have launched the Iraq war?

Knowing what we know now, would you have invaded Iraq?

That’s a fluff question.

It’s an easy high lob, on the order of “So, what do you read?” 

Any competent politician worth his anonymous Wall Street donor money should have been able to field that with a non-committal “If you’re asking me to second guess a previous president, I’m not going to do that. To answer your question: obviously any person equipped with the infallible benefit of hindsight might have done things differently. Next question.”

Instead, Bush had his own Palin Moment. 

“Yes,” Jeb declared confidently. Knowing the intelligence was wrong, I still would have invaded Iraq.

The nuts don’t fall very far from the bush in this dynasty, do they?

Yes. Knowing the intelligence was wrong, I still would have invaded Iraq.

If you listen to the video of Jeb Bush’s interview, you can actually hear his public relations people soiling their underwear just off camera.

Of course, Bush began to backpedal the same day. Because while there are many correct ways that question could have been answered, “yes” is not one of them.

With the iceberg suddenly before him, Jeb threw the rudder hard over and declared he would have made “different decisions.”

You have to assume his cellphone rang shortly thereafter and Jeb felt the hair on the back of his neck stand up, like it does when Dick Cheney offers to take you quail hunting in some remote Texas cornfield.

So Jeb then tacked hard to port and blamed the US Intelligence community (i.e. people like me) for steering his big brother wrong. 

And if you listen carefully, you can actually hear Jeb’s public relations people whimpering in the background, because blaming the military, as a Republican, might just not be the best strategy – especially when it’s provable bullshit.

It took a week, and no doubt being called onto the plastic in front of the GOP Brain Trust, but eventually Jeb got it right: He blamed Obama.

And that works for Republicans.

And what does that tell you about Jeb Bush? He couldn’t manage a simple fluff question without making a mess of it, without prep and handling.  And in fact, Bush’s first impulse was to cover for his family instead of putting responsibility on The Decider where it belongs.  Then he blamed the military and the intelligence community instead of their Commander In Chief. Despite the very provable fact that the intelligence was anything but definitive and that hundreds of red flags were thrown on it before George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice, and especially that arrogant little runt Donald Rumsfeld shut out all debate and declared their version of reality absolute. And that tells you exactly what you’d get in president Jeb Bush, a guy that will spend the next four years covering for his family and friends.

But a bigger problem is this: Knowing what we know now, would you have invaded Iraq?

Seriously? That’s the question?

Say, Mr. Candidate, knowing what we know now about Imperial Japan, would you as Commander in Chief have done anything different on December 6th, 1941?  Knowing what we now know about the Gulf of Tonkin Incident, would you have sent America into Vietnam? Tell us, Jeb, knowing what we now know, would you in fact have chased the Iraqi army up the Highway of Death straight back to Baghdad in 1991 and just killed Saddam then instead of wimping out like your pop?

Look, I don’t care what Jeb might have done if he was magically transported into the past like Biff Tannen and his 2015 copy of Grays Sports Almanac.

I don’t care if Jeb Bush might or might not invade Iraq in 2004, I want to know if he’s planning on invading Iran in 2017.

It took Jeb Bush nearly a week to get his answer straight and in the end, what did you really learn?

Bush’s final answer is wrong and idiotic, but leads directly to one obvious follow-up question that the media has so far failed to address.

The interviewer let Bush dig his own hole, and then let him climb out instead of shoveling dirt on his head, instead of asking this:

Governor Bush, you blame incorrect intelligence for your brother’s decision to send Americans into a decade-long war that has actually made things worse and directly created the very enemies we now face.

You blame President Obama for not staying the course, for allowing Iraq to disintegrate into chaos and civil war. 

As such, please tell America how you as president, would yourself not fall into such a trap.

Describe in detail how you personally would ensure accurate, timely, and comprehensive intelligence and exactly how you would keep your own cabinet and advisors from making the same mistakes Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, et al made. Using Iran as an example, describe in detail and provide verifiable sources that support Republican claims of Iranian nuclear ambitions to a degree that justifies preemptive war (unless of course you don’t agree with the calls for war from your own party, in which case please look directly into the camera and clearly say so). Describe in detail your comprehensive plan for the invasion of Iran, how many lives you expect to lose on both sides, the total cost to the American taxpayer to include post-war reconstruction and the resulting increase in the national debt, the length of time you expect America to be involved in this conflict both in actual combat operations and post-conflict occupation and stabilization, and finally your detailed and fully developed post-war reconstruction plan that will bring Iran to peaceful non-nuclear stable Western style democracy.  Please be specific on all counts.

But no, that’s not what happened. Instead the press let Bush blame Obama. And at this point, as a voter, you know nothing more about President Jeb Bush than you did two weeks ago – other than he needs some serious prep time with his puppet masters.

And it’s important, because this question really isn’t just about past wars or possible future ones.

How a candidate answers the question of “Given what we know now…” tells you how as president they’ll form their strategic and tactical worldview – and whether or not they will take the steps necessary to ensure that worldview approximates reality even if it’s not what they want to hear.

The answer tells you whether the candidate is the dog or the tail.

Bush’s answer puts him right in between the two - and I’ll leave it as an exercise for the reader to figure out what part of the dog that is.

It doesn’t take a political genius to see the big issues in 2016.

War in the Middle East is one of those issues. 

Another is Climate Change.

Every single candidate should be pressed to define their position on Climate Change directly and without equivocation.

Like that first question I asked you to think about, and like the question of Iraq, how a candidate answers the question of Climate Change speaks to a far, far larger issue. 

Combined with the question of war and intelligence, how a candidate answers the question of climate change tells you very, very specifically what kind of person you’re dealing with, one who operates in the real world or one that is motivated by blind doctrine. These two issues, war and climate change, seem like two different things, but from the Oval Office they are simply two aspects of the same issue.

If you tend to dogmatically see what you want in strategic intelligence even though it repeatedly leads to disaster and death on a massive scale, then you are very likely to do exactly the same when it comes to science – with exactly the same results.

This is crucial.

It is crucial because everything else depends from this point.

Energy. Food. Trade. The price of goods. The availability of resources. The Economy. Taxes. Opportunity. Peace. War. Population growth and displacement and the resulting refugee and immigration issues. Education. Crime. Stability. And even religion.

Everything you see in the headlines of your news media every single day depends from this point: whether or not the leader of the largest and most powerful nation on earth operates from pragmatism based reality or from political dogmatism.

And that takes us right back around to where we began.


Sexual orientation. Are you born that way or is it a choice?


Well, what is your answer?

Careful though, I warned you it might be a trick question.

Don’t know? Not sure? Tempted to answer with dogma and sound bites?

Try this: if you adopt a child are you any less a parent simply because you chose parenthood instead of the child being born to you naturally? How about this: If you’re drafted, are you more of a patriot because you didn’t get a choice than a veteran who volunteered?

Not helping huh?

There is a correct answer to the question, you know. Just as there were correct answers to the questions posed above. And just as with the questions of war and science, this is really about something else.

It’s about freedom.

It’s about liberty.

It’s about the very things that make us Americans.

We Americans used to say this of our country:

I don’t agree with what you say, but I will fight to the death for your right to say it.

And that, that right there in no uncertain terms, is the correct answer.

Whether we come to it through the accident of genetics and environment or by choice, the freedom to define who we are, each of us personally, is the only truly inalienable right.

Men can take away your freedom and your guns and your speech and your religion, they can beat you down and lock you away in a deep dark hole, but the only thing that neither gods nor men can take away from you is the ability to define yourself. This is precisely what our ancestors were saying when they declared they were founding a nation based on life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. This was the entire point of our nation, from the Revolution to the Civil War to Women’s Suffrage to the Civil Rights Movement to same sex marriage and equal protection under the law regardless of race, creed, color, age, ethnicity, origin, or orientation.

Whether we are born the way we are or whether we choose it is a bullshit question.

But the answer does matter.

In the context of rights and liberty, in the context of the ongoing debate over the role of government, in the context of society and individuals and where the line between the two is drawn, among the ongoing issues of war and conflict, energy, climate, education, trade, resources, technology, immigration, it is imperative that we not lose sight of who we are and what our country is supposed to be.

Just like the question put to Jeb Bush up above, how someone answers tells you far more about who they really are than the actual answer itself. It tells you whether they will stand up for liberty, for freedom, for justice, for all Americans, for all human beings, regardless, or if they are slaves to dogma and ideology. 

And if they won’t do that, if they won’t stand for all, even the ones they disagree with, then the rest is irrelevant.

That’s why the question should come first.

Americans today often lament politicians no longer listen to them.

Maybe it’s time for us to start really listening to the politicians.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Jade Helm: The Insanity that Ate Texas

Update: Comments on this post are now well over 200. If you want to see all the comments including comments nested under others, then you have to scroll all the way to the bottom of the comment queue and click on “load more.” You may have to do this several times. This is a function of the Blogger platform, that’s just how it works.

Note: Comments on Stonekettle Station are moderated. There are commenting rules posted on the bottom of the comments page. I don’t care if you read them or not, but if you don’t comply, then your comment will not post. Additionally: don’t bother screaming conspiracy lunacy at me, I’m not going to debate crazy people. Period. And you can’t double-dog dare me into doing it. Save your threats: I’m a veteran, I’ve been threatened by professionals. If you’re going to take a shot at me, make the first one count because you won’t get a second. 

Welcome to Stonekettle Station // Jim Wright


Jade Helm.

Martial Law.

FEMA Death Camps.

Oh, it’s coming, Folks. It’s a comin’.

This is it. This is the big one. Obama is about to make his move. Martial law, you betcha, FEMA death camps and secret tunnels under Wal-Mart. Oh they warned us, they did, the powdered wig wearing Patriots of the Tea Party, they warned us. Grab the wimen’ folk, load yer guns, hoist the Confederate Battle Flag! To the bunkers! To the bunkers!

"Just because you're paranoid," said Ted Cruz, "doesn't mean they're not out to get you."

Just because you're paranoid, doesn't mean they're not out to get you.


And just because you have the word "Senator" in front of your name doesn't mean you're sane, rational, qualified to run the country, or have an IQ higher than that of a sea cucumber.

Seriously, somebody help me out here: what the fuck happened to Texas?

What the fuck happened to Texas?

There’s just no polite, no non-profane way to ask. What. The. Fuck. Happened to Texas?

Is it the heat? Is it the water? Did somebody spike the punch bowl with psychotropic drugs? Is it inbreeding? It is, isn’t it?

The entire state has gone bonkers.

The Governor of Texas has mobilized his own personal army and Ted Cruz is demanding answers from the Pentagon.

Because, you know, if there really was a secret plot, the generals would tell him. What? Senator Cruz has asked about our super secret nefarious plot to invade our own country and force Texans into hidden underground FEMA centers where they’ll be disarmed and gay married to Muslims? Drat! He’s on to us! Then they twirl their Snidely Whiplash moustaches,  Curses! Foiled again by that brave Canadian cartoon hero, Dudley Cruz.

Let’s say this really was a thing.

Sure, just for the sake of argument, let’s say Obama really is planning on herding Texans into FEMA death camps disguised as Wal-Marts.

Why would he need the army?

Think about it. Why would you need some secret plot to get Texans into a Wal-Mart?

Announce a Veterans Day sale with 50% off all ammunition, Duck Dynasty camouflage, and frozen chicken nuggets, unlock the doors, and step the hell out of the way before you get trampled.

Honestly, where does the Army come in?

It has finally come down to this.

This, right here, this is just how low the once great party of Lincoln has sunk.

This right here, this drooling lunacy, this mental illness, is the state of America. This is what talk radio and reality TV and Budweiser fueled NASCAR has done to the gene pool.

This, right here.

I've been putting it off, talking about Jade Helm, because it's just so stupid, just so utterly fucking stupid even for the twitching under-medicated paranoia that passes for Republicans nowadays. But now that Texas Governor Greg Abbott and Texas Senator Ted Cruz have weighed in on the side of booger eating stupidity,  I see I can’t evade it any longer.

Very well.

Let me be blunt, or blunter than I’ve already been: anybody, anybody, who believes President Obama is about to send the United Nations to invade Texas, declare martial law, and herd Texans into FEMA Death Camps Of Death cleverly hidden in a secret network of continent spanning tunnels linking Wal-Marts across the nation, anybody who believes this ridiculous howling bullshit in any way whatsoever should be darted with powerful tranquilizers, netted from black helicopters, pumped full of happy juice before they start eating their own feces, and installed in a dark padded cell where the most dangerous thing they encounter each day is a small plastic cup of institutional butterscotch pudding pushed through a small opening in the bottom of the door with a stick.

Yeah, but, but, but, the Army, Obama, Texas, Jade Helm!

Shut up. Take your medication, in fact double up on it, and just shut the fuck up.

Just, shut up.



A blubbering paranoid on Facebook managed to get all the drool summed up in one place. My response to her is as follows (edited and expanded):

"How do you explain the Jade Helm law?"


There is no, repeat no, "Jade Helm Law."

"JADE HELM 15" is standard domestic exercise, same as dozens of others, same as any that have been going on since the country was founded.

Look, maybe you haven't noticed, but we in the military are often called upon to operate in foreign lands, particularly in urban and suburban environments. How in the hell do you think we train for that? What? You think it’s just fucking magic? We get by on our charm and wholesome American looks? Do you have any idea what it takes to do what we do? Coordination, communication, navigation, talking to civilians, security, just finding your way around in a strange city, and a thousand other mundane things you've never thought of. How in the hell do you think we learn that?

You can't exactly send troops to Tehran to practice you know – well, you can, but it’s bound to get you talked about, especially that part involving, you know, military invasion of a foreign country. So we do it here, in our country, where we can concentrate on the skills necessary without being shot at - except given the rise in paranoid droolers here at home, maybe it would be easier to do it in a hostile foreign land. These days, Baghdad is far more sane and friendly than whatever the fuck is going on down there in Texas.

Honest to God, what the hell is wrong with you people?

We do this all of the time. This is what we do when conservatives don’t have us invading other countries. We practice. We practice navigation of navy ships up the coasts of our nation. We practice landing on the beaches of San Diego. The Air Force practices long range bombing runs across thousands of miles of US territory. The deserts of the American Southwest make a good facsimile of Middle Eastern conditions, and it’s a whole lot better to learn how to use a map and compass and a GPS unit there than when you’re trying to find your way out of the Swat Valley. The National Guard practices convoys on US highways – you must have seen those military vehicles out there on the road, what did you think they were doing? Driving shitty lowest bidder trucks two hundred miles for fun?

Yeah, but what about foreign troops on US soil? What about that? Huh? Huh?

What about it?

Listen, how do you think we learn to work together if we never practice together? If the first time we try to work with Belgian troops, or Senegalese, or Chinese, is when we're, oh, you know, TRYING TO FUCKING FEED PEOPLE IN THE MIDDLE OF THE RUINS LEFT BY A NEPALESE EARTHQUAKE? I'm just saying here, you know, for example.

How is it you expect us to work with the Mexican army to reduce drug trafficking, again for example, if we never train together? If we can’t even talk to each other? If we don’t even know what goddamned frequencies each other’s radios are on? If we can’t tell a Mexican General from a private? Do you know? Can you read Mexican Army Rank insignia? Can you?

How do you think the ships of a dozen nations would be able to sail together if they didn't practice? Do you have any idea what it takes to form a fleet and sail in close proximity to each other? To navigate across thousands of miles of open ocean, to patrol coastal waters, to coordinate resupply and personnel transfers and communication and a million other things necessary to, oh, you know, hunt down pirates together in the Indian Ocean, or enforce UN sanctions against Iran in the Arabian Gulf, or search for a missing Japanese sailboat lost in the Pacific? Do you? Do you have any idea what that takes? When’s the last time you worked with the Chinese navy doing SAR for a missing Malaysian airliner in the South China Sea? Well? No, no, don’t be shy, step right up and tell us how to do it, after all you’re no doubt an expert on the Peoples Liberation Army Navy – what’s that? You didn’t even know China’s Navy was part of the Army? Funny, you being such a fucking expert on military exercises and all, I mean.

How do you think the air forces of a dozen different countries with different requirements and different procedures and different equipment and different communication protocols and different languages are able to work together, again for, oh, say, delivering supplies to a disaster zone, if they never talk to each other? If they don’t practice. Do you have any idea what that takes? Any at all? Or are you too busy imagining secret tunnels under Wal-Mart?

Here's another example: every year US troops and foreign forces from dozens of nations gather here in Alaska for NORTHERN EDGE where they work together and practice terrifying liberty destroying horrors such as learning to cross country ski in full military gear with hundred pound backpacks - you know, just in case some conservative jerkoff sends them to invade the snowy mountains of Afghanistan.

And we've done all of this literally for centuries.

"People are stupid and giving the government all the room they need to enact whatever laws they want to."

While I agree that the commenter is an object example of the first three words of that ridiculous sentence, the rest of it is provably wrong. And here's an idea, if you don't like the laws being passed, try electing people that aren't insane paranoids for a change.

America is a government of the people, by the people, and for the people - if you don't like the government, you've got nobody to blame but yourself. Stop acting like a mental defective and grow the hell up.

"While martial law is usually declared under a state of emergency, things are changing and there may come a day when that isn't the case."

May come to.


Right. And the world may be destroyed by impact with the giant invisible planet Nibiru or conquered by naked purple lizard people from the alternate dimension of Crazyfuckistan.

What's next, you gonna tell me about the bogeyman hiding in your closet?

If you think the president can just wave his big Magic Negro Ray of Chocolate Mojo and declare martial law, you really don't understand how your government works - but then again that's not even a little bit surprising given a sitting US senator such as Ted Cruz apparently doesn't understand how the very government he is part of works either.

"Call it what you want, but this is reality now."

No. No it's not.

This is not reality.

It's a paranoid delusion completely divorced from reality and based on a faulty premise manufactured whole cloth by conspiracy mongers such as Alex Jones who make tidy livings preying on gullible mental patients.

"I do my own research."

That's what the commenter said, I do my own research. That’s how she knew the pending invasion of Texas was for reals, man, for reals.

I do my own research.

No. NO. Just … no.

No you don't.

What this crazy little nutter is doing is not research.

She doesn’t even know what that word actually means. Research is a structured formal process complete with checks and balances, multiple points of verification, experimentation, and fault testing. We actually teach classes in research. What these loons are doing is not, repeat not, research.

What it is is masturbation.

It makes them feel good but it's not the kind of thing anybody should be doing in public and you really shouldn't confuse it for actual intimacy.

What they are doing is nothing more than jerking off to conspiracy porn.

Every single part of this idiotic conspiracy theory is taken directly from "alternative news." It's self-reinforcing paranoid gibberish, like mental patients licking butterscotch pudding off of each other, and nothing more.

Now, listen to me and listen good:

This stupid shit isn't worth my time.

It's not worth your time.

It’s not worth any rational person’s time.

It’s certainly not worth a state Governor’s time, or a Senator, both of whom should have demonstrated basic leadership by telling their booger eating constituents to sit down and shut. the. fuck. UP.

You all should have grown out of this silly horseshit around about the time you stopped having your daddy check under your bed for monsters.

Stop it. Stop it right now.

If you can’t, then find an adult: have them slap you across the face, HARD, hard enough to knock out what few rotten teeth you have remaining in your pointy head. Have them slap the drool out of you. Have them keep smacking you up side your goddamned head until they knock some fucking sense into you.

This entire thing is a spook story manufactured whole cloth by people who make money, gobs and gobs of money, by preying on the simpletons and the fearful.

If you believe in any of this crap, then you are either mentally ill OR you are so goddamned stupid you shouldn't be allowed any social interaction of any kind without a court appointed keeper.

Stop it. Stop it right now.

"Just because you're paranoid," said Ted Cruz, "doesn't mean they're not out to get you."

Dude, they’re out to get you because you’re paranoid.

Paranoia is a mental illness, not a super power.

And only a raving lunatic would think otherwise.