Category Archives: Military

Caveat Emptor, Again

I’d accuse Jim of stealing my title, but I stole it from someone else.

Stonekettle Station on Facebook

You must hold this administration, every administration, accountable. Every Congressman. Every Senator. Every general. Every CEO who takes taxpayer money. Every political party. Every media outlet. Every journalist. Ask the questions and demand the answers. Never stop. Show up for every election, no matter how minor. Educate yourself on the candidates and the issues before the election. – StonekettleStation, Caveat Emptor

Jim Wright at Stonekettle Station was referencing the subject of the Orange Hate-Monkey‘s (OHM) military plans when he titled his piece Caveat Emptor. The OHM is selling us a military vision in his usual huckster fashion. The most glorious military you’ve ever seen. Anyone who believes this to be true is as dumb as the people wiring their account info to 419 scammers thinking they’re going to win big. Pretty much just as Jim tells the story.

When I used the title Caveat EmptorI was speaking to the selling of the OHM’s alter ego, Trump the businessman, Trump the deal-maker and fixer. Caveat Emptor, buyer beware. You are being sold a bill of goods. You are being taken. Guard your wallet. The OHM is none of those things. The OHM is a money launderer, serial philanderer, and a thief, not necessarily in that order.


When I get a quotable snippet from one of Jim’s articles, I tend to post it all over the place so as to do him a favor and drive traffic to his website. Since I can’t afford to pay him for what he writes, the least I can do is promote him where he isn’t already being promoted. I posted the above quote to Google’s idea of a social platform, Google+ as well as a few other places, but I only got replies on G+, and what I got in response came out of the anarchist/voluntaryist wings of the political spectrum, a commandment to vote harder.

I recognized the flavor of this attack almost immediately. Voting is useless. Voting doesn’t fix anything. Ah, we’re dealing with a libertarian here. I have little to no patience with libertarians, having quit that cult not so long ago. I don’t participate in government (as the snippet demands) to achieve anything specific for me personally. My personal goals are not what voting achieves. This is a core problem with libertarianism specifically and individualism generally. Voting isn’t about me and it isn’t about you or anyone else specifically. This is true of most life experience, but try explaining this fact to a libertarian or anarchist. It’ll go right over their heads.

But that isn’t to say that voting and government as a structure haven’t achieved measurable good. General goods have been achieved and the list is nearly endless. Longer even than the evils that government has created through it’s existence. It is always that way with the tools we create. The evil comes with the good.

The elderly no longer have to die penniless and alone. The sick now have places to go to be cared for. The poor have the beginnings of structure that could end their poverty if used properly. Libertarians will say these goods were achieved by use of force because they don’t understand the nature of money, the meaning of money, etc.but they insist on force being applied to them before yielding so that they can say told you so. I know because I’ve seen this done many times over the years. That is the definition of a self-fulfilling prophecy.

You libertarians and anarchists, you crazy right-wing ammosexuals, you are not any deader when the cops shoot you for armed resistance than the dead black guy who just happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. What you are buying with your money is death, exactly like funding a military is buying death. The trick, just in case you are wondering, is to outlive the other guy, which means you are failing to understand what you are buying if you end up dead in the process. Caveat Emptor. There’s some good advice offered gratis. Don’t say I never gave you anything.

How to Calculate the Federal Budget

I’ve gotten into several arguments over the years about what the US Federal Budget is and how it should be calculated. Planet Money tried to do a humorous take on the budget this week, and frankly, now I want to argue with them about it.


Here’s the problem with Planet Money‘s budget. Social Security and Medicare are paid for in advance with premiums like any other insurance program. So, the cost of their outlays should be (and are) on a separate ledger because (and this is the important bit) if the premiums do not cover the cost of outlays that is not the beneficiaries fault. The government must honor the rightful demands of beneficiaries or it will cease to serve any real purpose. The government will fail because the people who paid for benefits they won’t receive will make sure it comes crashing down.

The end of government is (again​, important) the real goal of those who call these program’s future into question. They want to end government and enjoy the knife & gunfire filled blessings of anarchy. Oh, who am I kidding? The brief period of anarchy involving nuclear physicists building hydrogen bombs for the highest bidder (at the point of a gun if necessary) before whatever form of life succeeds after humans are gone establishes their unquestioned rule of the planet. Here’s hoping that form of life is smarter than human life was.

The budget presented by the Planet Money Team is similar to this one,

You should immediately note that most of the budget is already spent, as in mandatory expenditures. These are the services that have already been paid for. The services that the average citizen can be said to expect from their government in this day and age. Access to healthcare. Insurance against disability. Assistance to families with dependent children. The latter being properly seen as investing in the future, something we don’t do nearly enough of. Something that the Orange Hate-Monkey‘s budget wants to do a lot less of.

The discretionary spending, the only part of government outlays that the currently sitting government should have any control over, looks like this;

As this image should make clear, the only thing that can be easily cut from these expenditures is the military. A military that we spend as much on as the next 9 countries combined. Now, we probably need a good portion of that to continue, but I’ve heard many people say over the years “we need those numbers to continue because they provide jobs for people who need them.”

Here’s a thought. How about we don’t spend money on new and better ways to destroy the world another ten times over? How about we just give the people working for the military the same amount of money but not require them to do any work. The soldiers, I mean. All of the poor, for that matter. I hear you saying “but what will they do to occupy their time?” Let them decide, or give them constructive advice on what kinds of things need done. Forestry and game observation. Construction of infrastructure in other countries as well as infrastructure in our own country.

Spend money on the future and not on the biggest, most glorious explosion ever seen in human history, a history ending nuclear holocaust. Food for thought.

Insult Added to Injury

From the October 24th New York Times story;

After 21 years in the military, three deployments, and a roadside bomb blast that left him bleeding and unconscious, Christopher Van Meter got a letter from the Pentagon saying he improperly received enlistment bonuses and now owed the government $46,000. 

“I was having to choose between buying diapers and food for my children and paying this debt,” said Mr. Van Meter, 42, a former Army captain who now teaches high school near Modesto, Calif. “I spent years of my life deployed, missed out on birthdays and deaths in the family, got blown up. It’s hard to hear after that that they say I haven’t fulfilled my contract.” 

Mr. Van Meter is one of nearly 10,000 National Guard troops in California who have been ordered to repay re-enlistment bonuses and other incentives doled out during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan after an audit in 2011 uncovered widespread fraud, mismanagement and overpayment by the Guard in the state.

I had heard of this story before I read it on StonekettleStation, but I don’t think I’d given it that much thought. Not nearly as much thought as Jim Wright did. That is understandable, I don’t have any skin in the game. Maybe I should have; but the truth is I don’t, and the truth hurts.

Perhaps, they say, they’ll, maybe, address the issue during their lame duck session AFTER the election, or perhaps not — I suppose it depends on who wins and whatever bullshit reason they come up with for continuing NOT to do their goddamned jobs this time.

And while this goes on, 10,000 (and more) soldiers who served this country, who put their very lives on the line, who were enticed into a war started by a lie with yet more lies, pay the price as they always do.

Here’s what needs to happen: The President and State Governors, the executives one and all, must immediately issue executive orders halting the collection of such debts — not waive the debt, the executive can’t do that, only Congress can change the law. But the executives CAN chose not to enforce the law exactly as they accuse the President of doing and EXACTLY as they threaten to do if Obama comes for their guns and marriage via legislation.

This is an election year, and this is the way that the House of Representatives thinks they can treat our veterans? When WE THE PEOPLE are about to go vote for every one of their jobs? After they’ve let every scumbag on Wall Street go? After they’ve failed to prosecute ANYONE from the Bush administration for the many (MANY) transgressions that his administration is guilty of? This is the kind of thing they think we’ll just let go without noticing?

I think we can address this situation directly.

Dear Representative Williams. (Find your representative here) Do you job. Alter the law so that these collection efforts cease and the criminals who ran this con are brought to justice. Do your job or we will replace you with someone who will do your job.

Dear Governor Greg Abbott, please act now to stop any debt collection in our state until the federal congress can be compelled to do their job. Please, Governor Abbott, do your job.

Dear President Obama, when Congress and my Governor fail to do their jobs (and they will) please do your job. Stop this debt collection now.


This came across my desktop today;

The Obama administration has ordered the Pentagon to immediately cease demanding the repayment of enlistment bonuses from some 10,000 National Guardsmen who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Defense Finance and Accounting Service argued that the soldiers were not qualified to receive the money or that accounting errors had resulted in improper payments, despite many of them having served multiple tours.

However, this isn’t over.  Not by a long shot.  The only way that these debts are vacated is if congress acts to change the language in the law so that the debts can be forgiven.  That means Congress still has to act.  So ask your congressman when you see him on the campaign trail will you protect our veterans, or are you like all those others in Washington D.C.? Do you only remember that you represent us when you need our votes? It is not likely, but it is possible we can sort the wheat from the Chaffetz and get only the best people re-elected to represent us.

Right to Travel vs. Right to Bear Arms

If I had a nickel, as the cliche goes.  If I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard this false equivalency, I’d be a very, very wealthy man.

You can license driving because it occurs on public roads. You cannot license people for firearms because there is a right to keep and bear arms.

This has taken on new and more troubling implications in the years since the attacks on 9/11, with the development of the no-fly list for terrorists that the government barely admits exists on the one hand, and their willingness to apply it to other things like weapons purchases so that suspected terrorists can be kept from buying guns as well as not being able to fly on the other. That latter proposal, weapons purchases, has its own share of problems, many of which echo the core problems in the title and the argument quoted above.

As I’ve said before on this blog, I have a serious problem with cognitive dissonance on the subject of firearms.  But when it comes to contrasting travel with firearms, I have a few things I think I can say without reservation.

Occupy Posters

Just to be clear what the subject is here, it really isn’t travel vs. firearms. Even though most gunnuts (ammosexuals) want you to think about the subject in these over-broad general terms, the subject is properly generically stated as travel vs. self-defense or more specifically driving vs. firearms.  Public transit vs. firearms in the case of the no-fly list.

And right off the bat we run into this glaring problem.  Travel generically is a more important right than owning a firearm, specifically. Travel is instrumental in the ability to defend oneself, the ability to remove from one location, where your life is under threat, to a new location where it theoretically is not. Access to public transit, which includes air travel, is far more important than even being able to drive.

The ability to move is just about as fundamental as it gets. It is why the human species has adapted to so many different climates on this planet.  We travel and set up shop somewhere else where there isn’t already ten thousand other people trying to live. Where resources aren’t already owned. Where our lives are not threatened by a greater number of others who want what we have and/or need to survive. A classic defensive strategy, not to be where your enemies are looking for you.

Travel is a right. Limitations on travel without due process is a violation of our rights, what the government is supposed to be safeguarding for us. So the existence of the no-fly list outside of due process is a constitutional violation of our rights.  I’ll get back to that.

First let’s tackle the specifics of driving and firearms. I want to draw some parallels to illustrate why the arguments I’m about to present are not some wingnut conjecture. An automobile is deadly. It may not be designed to kill, but it is a very effective killer all the same. It is a tool designed by humans to serve humans as a replacement for large animals who were used in a similar fashion before the industrial revolution.

fivethirtyeight.com

A firearm is another man-made tool. This tool serves a specific purpose, or a variety of purposes all related, much like the automobile was designed to serve a specific purpose. Refined and perfected over the years, modern firearms are some of the most effective killing machines we’ve ever invented. They fire repeatedly and use standard rounds that can be purchased almost anywhere.

To purchase an automobile you need to have a license to drive. There are cases in which you can buy a car without a license; methods to circumvent regulatory guidelines allowing you to buy a car without a license.  But the regulatory purpose of the driver’s license is clear, and only those intent on obfuscation offer arguments to the contrary.  The purpose is to restrict vehicle operation and ownership to those people who have demonstrated a proficiency with the dangerous tool in question.

We license and regulate drivers because automobiles are dangerous and not because roads are public. You will find sovereignty arguments all over the place that make noises about common modes of travel, public conveyance, etc. None of them amount to anything in the face of a police officer who wants to see your driver’s license.  You can operate machinery on your own property without a license because law enforcement officers cannot enter your property without probable cause. It is actually illegal to drive on private property without a license in many jurisdictions. Not in Texas, apparently.

Now we come to the right to keep and bear arms, the murky waters created by the second amendment to the United States Constitution.

The second amendment is perhaps the most misunderstood piece of legalese still in place in the Constitution. It ranks right up there with the attempts to legislate the value of Pi or what we call rising sea levels in Florida. It has caused at least as much harm as it has good especially in the modern age of repeaters, automatics and semi-automatic weapons.

The problem here is two-fold. The ability to defend oneself is primary. This is demonstrable, as I illustrated above. Self-defense though is not limited to and may not even include access to firearms generally. But the right to defend oneself is not mentioned in the constitution, the right to keep and bear arms is. This is most likely an outgrowth of the views of the time. Dueling was still a common practice. Although it was made illegal around the time of the revolution in many places, it’s practice continued well into the middle of the next century and became the basis for the near-mythical quick draw gunfight. It is worth noting that some Western municipalities attempted to put an end to dueling with some of the first gun carrying restrictions in North America, the precursors for modern gun control.

Hunting with long guns (rifles were not yet invented) was commonplace and essential for many Americans if they wanted to eat. Between these two purposes, self-defense and hunting, it was rare to find a man who did not know how to shoot. On top of this we have the demonstrable attempts by governments all across the world, down through history into the modern day, to render their populations defenseless.  It is easier to control people who do not understand how to defend themselves. Historically this has been done by hoarding weapons under the guardianship of the local authority. If the authorities know where all the guns are, they will know who can and can’t defend themselves.

There are other ways to defend yourself, short of firearms. Denied access to firearms and even knives, it is still possible to mount a defense if you know how. Knowledge is power, in more ways than one. Revolution need not be violent in order to be effective. So the question is, what role do firearms play in modern society, how do we secure our right to defend ourselves while at the same time avoiding becoming the victim of the very same weapons we keep for defense?

unregulated militia

The second amendment speaks to two things; a well regulated militia and the right to keep and bear arms individually. The recent Heller decision struck down blanket bans on firearms that had evolved from the earlier attempts at gun control I mentioned previously.  Personally I think that is an accurate reading of the second amendment. What remains to be realized is that we need licensing and regulation of the citizenry for firearms proficiency. That is what well regulated militia means in the modern age.

The militia are the people, the citizenry. There has been a historical disconnect between the concept of militia and what the militias became as government evolved over the last two centuries. What the originating documents of the United States called militia we would probably see as the various state guards and national guards today. In those days all able-bodied men and boys were expected to participate in guard duties to some extent or other, a practice that fell to the wayside as our cities and states became more populous and our experiences more segmented and separated.

However, the language in the Constitution still states a well regulated militia, and since there is an individual right to keep and bear arms, that means that we the people have to decide what well regulated militia means in the scheme of all of us potentially being armed at any given time. Regulation is necessary. We want to keep the Trayvon Martin encounters to a minimum. We definitely do not want cities of Zimmerman‘s stalking all the suspicious-looking people they don’t like, just waiting for a chance to act in self-defense. We do not want a return to the old West stereotype of guns at High Noon, or pistols at ten paces. A near-certain death sentence with the accuracy of today’s weapons.  Just as there are limitations on who can drive or travel in what kinds of cars and trucks, limitations based on objective standards, so too there should be limitations on who can own a firearm and what kind of firearms can be owned.

Now we’ve come full circle, you readers who are still with me. we’ve circled back to the initial parameters of the argument; driver’s licenses, firearms licenses, and no-fly lists for terrorists.

In the light of objective standards as a guide, the use of the completely subjective no-fly terrorist list to also ban firearms purchases is essentially a patchwork way of applying suspicions more broadly whether those suspicions are well-founded or not. Automobile ownership and weapons ownership are almost identical for comparison purposes, but the right to use public transit should not be so easily infringed. With no way for the list to be challenged, no standards beyond mere suspicion by a federal agency, the use of this list should be stopped altogether, not applied to another related subject.

What needs to happen is for there to be actual discussion of these problems. What is needed is standardized national identification for the purposes of travel (there is a twisted can of worms) so that citizens can be assured that they will gain access to public transit. Me personally? I’m tired of that argument.  Let me just use my palm print. Mark of the beast be damned, I just want to stop standing in lines everywhere I go. Can we just get over this crazy notion of anonymity? Make a provision for those people who really need to remain anonymous? I have no problem with driver’s licenses, and I say this as a guy who will likely be forced to surrender his license in the next decade or so, as my ability focus and balance is degraded by disease.  Subjectively I resent not being about to get around on my own; objectively I have to say most of you will be safer if I can’t. If this disease gets worse.

I’m not even going to try to broach the discussion necessary to outline what objective standards for firearms proficiency might be. I’ll leave that argument to people who have more education and understanding of the subject. People like Jim Wright over at StonekettleStation (yes, him again)

Over time, just like with the drunk driving laws, enforcing the NRA’s own rules, the same basic common sense rules that are used in the military, in law enforcement, on civilian gun ranges, and were taught to most of us by our fathers, will change our culture from one of gun fetishists to one of responsible gun owners. And that will reduce gun violence, just as the same approach has significantly reduced drinking and driving.

Go over and read the article once you stop screaming at your computer screen. You might learn a thing or two from the (more than a dozen) articles Jim has written on the subject of America’s gun culture; or as he refers to it Bang, Bang Crazy and Bang, Bang Sanity. He has far more patience for the gun fetishists that surround us than I do.

I do want to make one thing crystal clear before ending. The second amendment is a two-edged sword, in more ways than the one I’ve just outlined. The other argument which can be (and has been) made is the original intent of a well regulated militia. If the people tasked with keeping us safe deem that the requirement is impossible with the rules now in place, they can and probably should conscript all able-bodied persons into the military for the purposes of weapons assessment.

That is one sure-fire way to make sure we know who should and shouldn’t have a weapon. I’m as opposed as I can get to the idea of a return to the bad-old days of the draft, but if anyone can have a weapon, and if no other laws are possible to fix the problem of weapons in our midst, then the only remaining solution is the one where everyone is trained and everyone is armed to their proficiency. What we need to decide is, which kind of America do we really want to live in? The time for that conversation is rapidly passing us by.

September 11, not 9-11

This is adapted and expanded from previous articles.  I intend to keep updating and reposting a version of this article annually until the US collectively demonstrates learning something from history, or I pass from existence. Given prior evidence, I’m betting on the latter.


My dad was born on September 11, 1938.  On his sixty-third birthday terrorists destroyed two American icons and shattered forever the illusion that we were beyond the reach of the people intent on doing us harm. There are many lessons to be learned from gaining that insight, but it doesn’t appear that the US has learned anything in the intervening years.  We re-live the events of 9-11 over and over again on each anniversary; wallowing in our collective angst, while repeating the same mistakes that lead to that day, that sprung from that day.

Every year on this day we bathe in the blood of that day yet again. We watch the towers fall over and over. It’s been 15 goddamned years, but we just can’t get enough. We’ve just got to watch it again and again. -Jim Wright, Renegade 9-11

Every year.  Every goddamn year.

My father did his time in the military.  I was born overseas because of the Cold War, and my parents answering the call to serve.  Dad didn’t like military life very much, and left the service after 4 years to return home to Kansas and his family there.  As a teenager I foolishly contemplated joining the military myself, and mentioned it to him to see what he thought. “You like taking orders?” he said.  I didn’t, I replied. “Well, then you don’t want to join the military.” That was his thinking on the subject, in a nutshell. He never elaborated more, but that view has stuck with me ever since.

Every year after 2001, he complained that the terrorists had stolen his birthday.  Every year until he died, the day that he had looked forward to through childhood had become something terrifying and repugnant.  It annoyed him that his day had been the day they picked. I can understand that.  It is captured in this sentiment;

This new generation has lived under the shadow of those falling towers every single minute of every single day since the moment they were born. -Jim Wright, 9-11 Thirteen Years On

I’m reclaiming today and every September 11th after this one for my father.

Happy birthday dad, wherever you are.

I am reclaiming it for my father and for all the young Americans born since that day. People who deserve more than to be dragged into battles that have been going on since before they were born. I promise to spend more time thinking of him and of them than of the other events that make this day stand out for average Americans.  Because really, why remember if we aren’t going to learn anything from it?

Good Guy With a Gun

Jim Wright asked this question on his Facebook page recently;

Responsible Gun Owner Exercise: You’re in a public place. Lots of people. Guy in camo walks in with a pistol on his belt and an assault rifle in his hands.
Quick, is he a good guy with a gun or a murderous nut?
Well, which is it?
Come, come, seconds count, no guessing and don’t fuck it up. How do you KNOW? Is there a secret hand sign? A T-shirt? Does his phone emit an IFF signal? Which is it, good guy with a gun or bad guy with a gun? For full credit, you MUST answer BEFORE HE STARTS SHOOTING. Show your work.
Extra credit: How does he know YOU’RE not a bad guy with a gun?

He followed it up with a (very long) response addressing the various answers that he got. The answers are almost irrelevant. Of course there is no way to know what the intentions of this person are.  As another Facebook friend pointed out as a counter you don’t know what anyone’s intentions are if you are just now seeing them.

But that isn’t the question. The presence of the firearm alters the equation. This is a known fact, that visible weapons alter the behavior of people. It is true, as that same Facebook friend pointed out, the person could be carrying invisible weapons; a suicide vest, anthrax, firearm in his pocket, knife in his shoes. You name it. But that also isn’t the question.

The question is simple. You are armed, you see another person that is armed. Do you shoot him or don’t you? You have to answer this question before he starts shooting other people, or you fail the test. This is a very valid point that Jim has been trying to illustrate for several years and over about a dozen posts on Stonekettle Station; all of which I’ve read. The question isn’t whether guns are bad or not. The question isn’t whether we should be armed or not.

The question is, how do you know what your actions should be? That is all there is to it. The gunnuts are convinced that the solution to the mass murder problem is more guns in more hands, but that just makes the question that much more difficult since it muddies the waters as to who is the bad guy and who is the good guy.  If you shoot the guy before he shoots other people, are you the good guy or the bad guy?

You can’t know. There is no way to know. It is the nature of the universe, the uncertainty principle. You can’t know before the first shots are fired.  If you shoot first, you are the bad guy. But if you’re carrying the weapon to prevent aggression, what good is it if you don’t use it when you should have? What if his first action is to shoot you because you have a visible weapon? What if his first action is to demand that you disarm?  How many hours of time are we willing to waste making sure that each of us on an individual basis are good guys who are supposed to be carrying weapons and not bad guys who aren’t? All day, every day, from now on?

We can’t approach the problem from this direction.  It just isn’t going to work.  This is the reason why laws are made. This is the reason why governments exist. It isn’t for any of the paranoid delusions that individualists envision as they sweat inside their bunkers gripping their pistols in fear.  Laws are written to make sure that standards are met. Government exists to see that laws are followed.


I wrote and then shelved the above months ago. I had some notion that I would riff on a response from J. Neil Schulman who insisted the above question was meaningless.  However Mr. Schulman (surprise) really didn’t have a response to the above aside from putting more guns in more hands.  He has since unfriended me over some trumped up excuse involving calls to use RICO laws to initiate civil prosecutions of climate deniers, similar to what was done to RJR after it was discovered that the cigarette manufacturer was paying scientists to muddy the waters surrounding the effects of cigarette smoke on the human body.

FYI, smoking causes lung cancer, and anthropogenic climate change is almost certainly as real as the findings concerning smoking and lung cancer.  I don’t think it is outside of reason to use tactics similar to those used before in order to bring wayward corporate funded scientists to heel so that we can get down to the business of dealing with climate change.

That isn’t the subject of this post, but the level of denial concerning climate change is reflected in his level of denial when it comes to weapons and who should be allowed to have them.

I had forgotten this little dust-up and almost forgotten this post until last week.  The subject of weapons is one of  the subjects that I suffer cognitive dissonance with; consequently I have a very, very hard time writing coherently on the subject.  I have owned weapons all my life.  My most treasured gifts as a young boy were the weapons that my father gave me.

However, being a good father as well as a responsible gun owner himself, he made sure that I went to classes to train me in the proper handling and storage of weapons before I was allowed to take possession of my first real shotgun.  I still have the certificate issued by the (irony of ironies) NRA for hunter safety training in cooperation with the State of Kansas.

It is a mark of how far down the road to crazy we have come that the NRA no longer thinks weapons training is important enough to be required before allowing weapons purchases, even though their website stresses the importance of weapons training.  I’ve known enough people who sleep with a loaded weapon next to their beds now that I no longer believe the argument that gun owners don’t need weapons training because they’ve already had it.  A common refrain amongst gunnuts.

Then we had the latest mass killing, as well as the several other shootings on campuses across the US, even in Texas where campuses are no longer gun free zones (negating that counter-argument) and it seems that Jim’s question from a few months ago now has recent real-life examples that really do beg the question (no longer a fallacy) how do you tell who the good guys with guns are?

Take, for example, the case of the concealed carry weapons holder who fired on a suspected shoplifter as they drove away in their vehicle.  Not the merchant, who might well have been forgiven for acting in the heat of the moment. No, it was a simple bystander (a good guy with a gun?) who happened to be armed and thought that the thing to do.

Or the guy who shot the carjacking victim, then took the time to clean up his brass before fleeing the scene of the crime? Jim Wright posts one of these types of stories virtually every day on Facebook, a tribute to the stupidity of the average American when it comes to owning and using weapons in a public setting. So these are not isolated events, rare occurrences that don’t deserve our attention.  These are examples of the fact that there is something wrong in the US and we really should do something to fix the problem.

However, the minute you bring up examples of a clear lack of training like the above though, gunnuts (or ammosexuals, take your pick) start screaming about how we want to take their guns away.  I’d like to state for the record, yes.  If you think that the above is a reasonable use of a firearm, I want you to turn in your weapons, right now.  Because you don’t know the first thing about firearm safety.

September 11, not 9-11

This is adapted and expanded from a previous article.  I intend to keep updating and reposting a version of this article annually until the US collectively demonstrates learning something from history, or I pass from existence. Given prior evidence, I’m betting on the latter.


My dad was born on September 11, 1938.  On his sixty-third birthday terrorists destroyed two American icons and shattered forever the illusion that we were beyond the reach of the people intent on doing us harm. There are many lessons to be learned from gaining that insight, but it doesn’t appear that the US has learned anything in the intervening years.  We re-live the events of 9-11 over and over again on each anniversary; wallowing in our collective angst, while repeating the same mistakes that lead to that day, that sprung from that day.

Military adventurism continues almost unabated since that cautionary moment in our history. Undaunted by the mess that we created in Iraq, we are now doing our best to intervene in the area again.  Stationing troops in the form of advisors, lending military aid to the Iraqi government that has made it pretty clear they don’t want our help anymore.

The Republican candidates for President can’t promise they’ll declare war on enough countries fast enough to suit their Halliburton backers. At the very least a war with Iran will be in the promises that a Republican candidate for President will bring to the campaign trail, as if we haven’t had enough war for several lifetimes in the last two decades.

Americans remain convinced that everything that happens around the world is somehow linked to us, that we have to weigh in on events, or that somehow the events were caused by us, as if the world only exists because we send our military out there to make sure it does.

My father did his time in the military.  I was born overseas because of the Cold War, and my parents answering the call to serve.  Dad didn’t like military life very much, and left the service after 4 years to return home to Kansas and his family there.  As a teenager I foolishly contemplated joining the military myself, and mentioned it to him to see what he thought. “You like taking orders?” he said.  I didn’t, I replied. “Well, then you don’t want to join the military.” That was his thinking on the subject, in a nutshell. He never elaborated more on the subject, but that view has stuck with me ever since.

Every year after 2001, he complained that the terrorists had stolen his birthday.  Every year until he died, the day that he had looked forward to through childhood had become something terrifying and repugnant.  It annoyed him that his day had been the day they picked. I can understand that.  It is captured in the sentiment of Jim Wright’s piece on Stonekettle Station (a re-post) when Jim mentions the generation that has grown up since the towers fell, never knowing the America that we all remember.  They only know the America we created in our fear after 9-11;

This new generation has lived under the shadow of those falling towers every single minute of every single day since the moment they were born.

So in that sentiment I’d just like to reclaim today, and every September 11th after this one for my father.  Happy birthday dad, wherever you are.  I promise to spend more time thinking of you than of the other events that make this day stand out for average Americans.  Because really, why remember if we aren’t going to learn anything from it?

September 11, not 9-11

My dad was born on September 11, 1938.  On his sixty-third birthday terrorists destroyed two American icons and shattered forever the illusion that we were beyond the reach of the people intent on doing us harm. There are many lessons to be learned from gaining that insight, but it doesn’t appear that the US has learned anything in the intervening years.  We re-live the events of 9-11 over and over again on each anniversary; wallowing in our collective angst, while repeating the same mistakes that lead to that day, that sprung from that day.

Military adventurism continues almost unabated. Undaunted by the mess that we created in Iraq, we now propose to intervene in the area again.  We remain convinced that everything that happens around the world is somehow linked to us, that we have to weigh in on events, or that somehow the events were caused by us, as if the world only exists because we send our military out there to make sure it does.

My father did his time in the military.  I was born overseas because of the Cold War, and my parents answering the call to serve.  He didn’t like military life very much, and left the service after 4 years to return home to Kansas and his family there.  As a teenager I foolishly contemplated joining the military myself, and mentioned it to him to see what he thought. “You like taking orders?” he said.  I didn’t, I replied. “Well, then you don’t want to join the military.” That was his thinking on the subject, as he related it to me.

Every year after 2001, he complained that the terrorists had stolen his birthday.  Every year until he died, the day that he had looked forward to through childhood had become something terrifying and repugnant.  It annoyed him that his day had been the day they picked. I can understand that.  It is captured in the sentiment of Jim Wright’s piece on Stonekettle Station (a re-post) when Jim mentions the generation that has grown up since the towers fell, never knowing the America that we all remember.  They only know the America we created in our fear after 9-11;

This new generation has lived under the shadow of those falling towers every single minute of every single day since the moment they were born.

So in that sentiment I’d just like to reclaim today, and every September 11th after this one for my father.  Happy birthday dad, wherever you are.  I promise to spend more time thinking of you than of the other events that make this day stand out for average Americans.  Because really, why remember if we aren’t going to learn anything from it?

The Gun Argument

“An armed society is a polite society.” ~ Robert Heinlein
We are an ‘armed society’; I’ll let you be the judge of whether our conduct even approaches politeness. From my perspective, we could use a lot more of it.


Most people will never have cause to use a weapon in self-defense. When I tell someone that I’ve twice had cause to need a weapon, much more use it, most of the time the listener is shocked. Gunnuts (pro-gunners) as a rule are convinced they always need more and better weapons, most of which remain unfired in any setting other than the range where it becomes a matter of pride to have the coolest weapon with the best gizmos to go with it.

That is where the AR-15 is used, not as a self-defensive weapon. A self-defensive weapon is a pistol, or a shotgun. A woman would be better served with a can of pepper spray (also a weapon) as she is more likely to be killed with her own gun, statistically, than she is to use it.

Which is the another point that gunnuts fail to notice; that a ‘weapon’ is anything you can use against another person. That ‘self-defense’ is anything you might do to defend yourself. That, in fact, you cannot have a right to something that you cannot make yourself (if the converse is true, then I can definitely have a right to health care) which means you don’t have a right to firearms in any fashion beyond what the Constitution guarantees.

The worst offenders of the right to Self-Defense, places like Chicago and D.C., are what is held up as examples of commonality across the US. Nothing could be further from the truth. Most places (8 of the 10 cities on this list) in the US have very lax gun laws. We have LOTS of measures on the books, and almost none of them are actively enforced, even if they were effective. There is no mandate that someone demonstrate proficiency with a weapon before being sold one. There is no certification of sound mind required before someone can go and buy a handgun.

‘Anyone’ can go to virtually any gun show or private seller and purchase a weapon more lethal than any gun available at the time of the drafting of the Constitution. If that fact doesn’t scare you, then you aren’t a thinking person. 

 I’ve had arguments with gunnuts that think that Zimmerman was right to stalk Treyvon Martin, that think teachers should be mandatorily armed (as if weapons proficiency is a good skill in a teacher) that think not just semi-auto ‘mock-ups’ of military arms, but full auto military arms and weapons systems (like tanks) should be available for private purchase. They never seem to get the disconnect between a defensive action (removing a threat to you personally) and military actions, requiring the killing of multiple targets simultaneously, indiscriminate of the safety of onlookers, neighbors, people caught in the crossfire. That is a loosing argument.

I’m on record saying “I’d accept that training and background checks should be mandatory, if those who want to ban guns would accept that the right to carry common weapons for defensive purposes is guaranteed.” but truthfully when I start having to argue with gunnuts about their weapons fetish I’m to the point where I simply endorse the reinstatement of the general draft. That is how we fix the problems in this country. Reconstitute the militia as intended in the Constitution. Two years of service, military or civil, with mandatory weapons training for all. Gets the kids off the streets, gets people work to do, gets the gunnuts were we can find them and disarm them before they hurt someone.

…or we can fall back on the first sentiment. Take your pick.

Common Sense 121: Beware the Military Industrial Complex

Dan Carlin having bowed to the inevitable and deleting his forums and the archives (as far as an outsider can tell) I am glad that I saved so many of the arguments that I engaged in there. Here is another one of those I’ve published retroactively on the date I saved it to the blog for republishing.   

Dan has stated on occasion that he is not a historian, and I freely admit that I know less about history than he does. This is especially true about military history, which I have not actively studied since I was in high school (other than research into specific events) making me that much more removed from the ranks of historians than Dan is. Even lacking Historian credentials, I think I can say that there is a difference between what something is intended to do, and what gets done.

The Army isn’t supposed to exist in peacetime. On the other hand, there’s been very little true peace in American history. If there wasn’t natives to fight, there has always been some foreign dragon to slay. Those who profit from providing war materials to the government have always found excuses to get us involved in another conflict.

However, the military looks significantly different today than it did prior to WWI. The existence of the Air Force alone, much less the impact of other mechanized forces on the other services proves this. The war department was an ongoing temporary affair until 1943 when the Pentagon was finished (which was strangely about the same time as the creation of the Joint Chiefs) creating the permanent military structure we have now.

Prior to WWI (in spite of Lincoln’s unprecedented conscription service during the Civil War) you have a military that understood the truly temporary nature of its mandate. After WWII, the military sees itself as justifying its own existence; that taking the people’s money to pay for weapons we don’t really need and forces we can’t really use somehow makes sense in the scheme of things.

And so we engage in ever more frequent bouts of military adventurism in order to justify the expense of maintaining the military; creating enemies to fight (Saddam, Osama; perhaps even funding the USSR depending on whose tin foil hat views you want to give credence to) when we couldn’t find a home grown bad guy to flex military muscle on.

Given where we are now, I’ll take the temporary military that we had prior to WWI, whether it was really temporary or not. How many times are we going to fall for this type of subterfuge? The Maine and the Spanish American War? the Lusitania and WWI? Pearl Harbor and WWII? Gulf of Tonkin? 9/11 and our new permanent War on Terror? Hear the bell and salivate. Good dog.

Logic dictates that if you keep paying for a large military, a standing army will be used to do what armies do, kill people and blow things up. If that isn’t acceptable, killing people as a justification for the existence of the military alone, then what is being proposed is a welfare program that we must contribute to because not letting our military go adventuring is going to hurt our economy. Burning women, kids, houses and villages because our boys need some paying work to do. I have never seen soldiers as being some part of a welfare program. “We don’t really need you to serve, but we know you need the money?” I doubt that most of them would be honored to serve, willing to serve, under those conditions.

Is it going to be a radical change in government policy to take this action, to end the existence of a standing US army? Not as much as it would have been 10 years ago. The debt keeps piling up, and we have to pay it down eventually; slashing military spending would go a long way towards correcting the problem. The cure will not be as bad as the disease.