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?

This post was revised and reposted in 2016.

Partnership by Any Other Name

Since this is topical once again, I moved it forward from its original April 30th publication and added an addendum to the end discussing current events. If I had perfect knowledge of future events before they happened, like a god, I would have held off posting this and Homophobia in Denial until now.   

On The Other Hand, If god is really what people say he is, he could have fixed this problem as well as the slavery problem in advance by giving detailed instructions to the people who wrote his books; rather than letting them write down their own customs and fears as if they were instructions from him.  But then I was going to leave that specific discussion to Jim over at Stonekettle Station. Trying to stick to the legality issue here.  


It slipped my mind that I was actually being topical with my piece Homophobia in Denial; that the SCOTUS was going to be debating the legality of marriage being broadened to include two people of the same sex.  Given the contents of that piece, it should be pretty obvious that I have no problem with two people of the same sex getting married.

I actually go a bit farther than just not having a problem with that. I really don’t see the point in marriage in the first place, as far as being separated from other business contracts.

I know, I know, I’m a soulless bastard that has no emotions. Trust me, I’ve heard that a few times. Still, I have to wonder why marriage is different than any other joint partnership? Why are there special rules for this business arrangement that are completely different from all the others?

The Wife and I have a prenuptial agreement that involves a rather grisly death if either of us strays, sexually.  I know that I wouldn’t have to make that deal with a business partner.  But I also know that we are complete weirdos and discuss every point of an agreement before we enter into them.  This is true with everything we purchase, not just with the agreement that started our relationship.

Most people don’t even know what their partner wants in the case of medical incapacity. We’ve discussed so many different scenarios that I’d be hard pressed to name an event we haven’t discussed and what her wishes would be.  Without that level of discussion, marriage is just a business arrangement, with no more emotional investment than the subject of which TV to buy.  Fully half of the people who get married will stay married less than 5 years.   The first TV they buy as a couple will still be working when the divorce is settled.

That is not a sacrament, that is an agreement made on an emotional whim. A moment of sexual lust, lost as soon as the dopamine receptors become habituated to the reward.

Given that marriage is expected before sexual gratification is achieved because of religious teachings, who is to blame for its being entered into so lightly? Not the government, which is tasked with simply keeping track of the business agreements made in its jurisdiction.  That blame rests solely on the shoulders of religious leaders who push the agenda of sexual abstinence (which is in reality a perversion) onto our unsuspecting children. The selfsame leaders who are now leading the charge against so-called gay marriage.

I’d like to offer the counter-argument that gay marriage is actually better than heterosexual marriage. How is that possible, you ask? Because homosexuals who want to get married have at least thought about what marriage means. Have at least talked to their partner about future plans. Want to tie each other together in a binding relationship that means more than a few months of hot sex. They at least understand that marriage should be a lifetime commitment, not something entered into because they have to do it before sexual gratification occurs.

Courtesy Girl Du Jour & Jim Wright

The real sacrament, if there is one at all, is the gay marriage; because they’re making a pledge with the full knowledge of what that pledge means, not blinded by the passion of unfulfilled lust.

As for how to address those naysayers out there who think that marriage is some holy union too good for homosexuals to share in, I’ll leave that to Jim over at Stonekettle Station.  He does a much better job of taking them apart than I ever could;

You are the very absolutists, the very religious fanatics, this country was designed to protect its citizens from. — Jim Wright, Stonekettle Station


The NYT article that debunks the 50% divorce rate myth (yes, it is a myth) has a lot of good information in it on the subject of marriage and divorce.

About 70 percent of marriages that began in the 1990s reached their 15th anniversary (excluding those in which a spouse died), up from about 65 percent of those that began in the 1970s and 1980s. Those who married in the 2000s are so far divorcing at even lower rates. If current trends continue, nearly two-thirds of marriages will never involve a divorce, according to data from Justin Wolfers, a University of Michigan economist

 Among the many facts in the article is the notation that the less educated, more traditionalist male-lead households still suffer from divorce rates at the previous high levels. So it is a myth for every group outside of traditional christian households lead by a male breadwinner.

It is also worth noting that the progressive changes of the 70’s persist today. The feminist revolution, the achievement of reproductive rights for women, and the more relaxed attitudes towards living together before marriage have lead to reduced rates of divorce, with women holding an equal place in modern society alongside men. This comes as no surprise to me, that women being formally allowed to now pick their mates instead of being prizes handed out by their fathers has lead to fewer bad marriages.

Fewer people marry these days.  That statistic has also lead to a reduction in divorce.  Can’t get divorced if you never marry.

The point that is made statistically in the article is synonymous with the point I made in this blog post; that marriage has already changed and will continue to change. That escaping from the confines of christian dogma has been a positive change in US society. That testing a relationship with co-habitation before actually getting married is a very good idea.

Courtesy Coffee Party

The Wife hates that I compare marriage to a business arrangement.  She has always hated that comparison when I have made it. I’m sure most romantics of both sexes hate the very notion that marriage is anything like a business deal.  Their rejection of this observation doesn’t actually change the reality of the situation. That there are financial concerns that have to be addressed when contemplating any union. That marriage is desirable to homosexuals because it fixes problems with custody of children, inheritance and survivor’s benefits. These are largely financial calculations, and marriage exists to address them.  Not because of love. The notion of romantic marriage was an unrealized ideal before the 1970’s.  That is the hard-nosed fact about marriage that romantics ignore.

When seen in that light as opposed to the notion of fee for sex being the business arrangement (you dirty-minded people. I wasn’t even thinking of it that way) it becomes understandable that the largest concerns in any marriage are financial.  If you fail to discuss these issues before tying the knot, you will regret it later.


The SCOTUS did render the correct decision and not force the people at large to add marriage equality to the long list of changes we’re going to have to make when the Constitutional Convention is called to reverse Citizens United.  It would have been nice if the court had made its decision based on the unconstitutional sexual discrimination which all the objections to same-sex marriage exhibit, as discussed in this article on Salon;

The Supreme Court has long held that laws that discriminate based on sex must be presumed unconstitutional and invalidated unless the government can prove that they can pass rigorous, heightened judicial scrutiny. Relying on that doctrine would answer the crucial question why the Court was deciding the same-sex marriage question at all. The sex discrimination shifts the burden of proof to the state, and the state hasn’t met that burden. The argument is clear and based on decades-old precedent. An amicus brief I coauthored developed this claim, and Chief Justice Roberts raised it when the case was argued.

But any vehicle that gets you where you want to go is better than no vehicle at all.

No need to repeal DOMA now. That act has been rendered invalid with the decision handed down last week.  We still need to repeal RFRA and apologize to religious minorities and the non-religious for ever passing it in the first place.  Still hoping for a congress that is more useful and less obstructionist than it has been for as long as I can remember now.

One way to get that might be to hold certain attorneys feet to the fire.  Attorneys like Greg Abbott and Ted Cruz who have violated the ethical rules for their profession;

The American Bar Association designed the Model Rules of Professional Conduct to define ethical duties of attorneys. State Supreme Courts have adopted versions of the Model Rules as binding upon attorneys who practice law in their jurisdictions. Attorneys are not free to ignore them–compliance is conditioned upon being licensed to practice law–and failure to obey could result in disbarment.

Disbarring them for ethical violations (Cruz’s behavior on several subject warrants this, not just this one) would be a supreme irony, considering the arguments that they are making.

Conspiratorial Fantasies

I’m going to dive right into this. I’m going in hot. The image at right appeared on a friend’s Facebook wall recently.

The correct interpretation of facts currently on the ground is that anyone running for public office, from any party, is subject to the will of the people who fund their campaigns.  If they do not pander to the big spenders in the current climate (i.e. the corporations) then they will not get the funds they need to win.

Winning is key. Without a winning strategy, what occurs is just;

…a tale [t]old by an idiot, full of sound and fury, Signifying nothing.

The Scottish Play

All of them are working for the corporations, even the third party candidates. The Kochs owned the LP for a long time before they shifted to the Republicans. The Kochs represent some of the worst of corporate behavior, strong-arming groups that they fund trying to force them to echo the policies that the Kochs find favorable.  This will continue to be true until we get money out of politics, plain and simple.

I really have no problem with the image.  I probably don’t have a problem with the website it came from, although I haven’t spent any real time on it. What I had a problem with was where the conspiratorially motivated fantasists took the image in the wild.

I have culled most of the incorrigible conspiracists from my Facebook wall.  Every now and then a new one pops up and I subject them to the ban hammer; but generally my wall is free of their posts. Some of my oldest friends indulge in conspiracy fantasies though; and as a consequence of this I still have to deal with the odd reference to a conspiracy theory even though I find the entire subject of grand conspiracies completely ludicrous.

Let’s start with the phrase conspiracy theory. It really isn’t a theory at all.  A theory not only explains the facts in evidence, it survives rigorous testing through trial and error.  The theory of evolution is an excellent example of this. It has survived test after test, and has made predictions about evolutionary history which have been proven to be true. It is a robust theory, accepted by nearly all of the scientific community.

They aren’t conspiracy hypothesis either, which is the step in evidence below theory. A hypothesis of necessity must explain all the predominant facts it is attempting to address.  It has to be testable to be acceptable as a scientific explanation.

What we are left with is conspiratorial conjecture. They are stories that are told to entertain, for the most part. They are, as the title of this piece states, conspiracy fantasies.  When you start allowing your fantasies to replace the reality around you, a whole host of bad is waiting in the wings to descend upon you.

When my friend made a tangential reference to the Rothschild family in his Facebook post the image was attached to, rather than argue with his conspiratorial mindset directly, I linked this recent video discussing scientific studies showing that the conspiracy fantasists were more gullible than other people;


Rebecca Watson – No Shit Study: Scientists Show Conspiracy Theorists Will Believe Anything – May 18, 2015

Unfortunately for all concerned, the only fact that penetrated was that “the Pink Haired Lady says chemtrails aren’t real”  which lead him and his friends to try to convince me they were real.

Well, they aren’t real. Of course chemicals are delectable in contrails, the planes that create them are shedding molecules into the atmosphere everywhere they fly. The combustion engines they are powered by emit exhaust chemicals, which are also detectable. This really isn’t that hard to figure out.

…Unless you have a ready-made market of science denial set up specifically to use the tools of science against it. An entire method of approaching the world around us that paints the activities of others as nefarious and unscrupulous. This says more about the conspiracy fans than it does about the rest of us, but there is a large group of people out there ready to confirm your suspicions about any activity that concerns you. All you have to do is go look and leave your critical thinking skills behind.  That is, if you ever learned to think critically in the first place.

Without critical thinking we are all babes in the wilderness.

The Rothschild thing? That is an old anti-Semitic/White supremacist fabrication.  Like the whole sovereign thing. There is no sound basis for asserting that the fantasy has any reality to it, unless you have a problem with Jews. Which again, says more about you than about anyone else.

If you think the pink haired lady only dismisses chemtrails, then conspiracy theorists are as gullible as the study she talks about shows.  They lack the ability to detect when they are being subjected to satire and ridicule, and repeat satirical posts as if they are real. If I felt like messing with conspiracy fans (and I don’t) I could feed them all kinds of crazy stuff which they would buy right into. So if that kind of trolling is something you enjoy, have at it. They’ll never know you’re pulling their legs.

The conversation spiraled into a discussion of various other conspiracy tales.  Haarp was mentioned. Like Agenda 21, it isn’t anything close to what conspiracy fans think it is.  Monsanto was raised, Godwin style. It was at that point that I knew I was quite literally wasting my time.  I didn’t want to have yet another conversation where the fans throw each conspiracy they’ve heard of at me one at time, each time certain that it can’t be explained. All of them can be explained, and not with grand conspiracies. Good luck getting one of the fans to notice this fact.

Perhaps the reason why so many American’s subscribe to conspiracy theories is because they understand their culpability in allowing their government to go so far astray.  Like all the guilty parties of the world, they are quick to point to those shadowy others out there “Them! They did it! It wasn’t me!” rather than take the blame for their own inaction, their unwillingness to sully themselves with real politics.  I mean, if lizard people are running the world, why bother with democratic participation?


I really should have mentioned the latest conspiracy fantasy that has taken Texas (my state) by storm. Ever ready to believe anything said of President Obama (except this) when the military announced their latest round of training exercises Operation Jade Helm 15 the entirety of conservative Texas lost its collective mind.

My favorite clown head politician, Ted Cruz, took to the internet and the news to predict dire consequences if these maneuvers were allowed to happen (as if they don’t happen pretty much every year) Even our sitting governor had to get in on the act, saying he would call up the Texas State Guard to protect the state from the federal military. (h/t to Skeptoid for a link to Abbott’s letter)

I’ve been to Camp Mabry. I have a lot of respect for soldiers, but if that’s what is going to protect us from the US military, I think we’d be better off pleading for mercy from the feds and then asking for reconstruction aid, rather than rely on the Texas Guard to fend off the largest military the world has ever seen.  No offense fellas, but you’re just a bit outnumbered and outgunned. Just a bit.

I’d like to second the observation of a friend that suggested the US government should simply offer to pull all military bases out of Texas as a gesture towards non-aggression. All those tax dollars in the form of soldier’s pay, base construction, etc going to another state instead of Texas.

What was that? You weren’t serious? No, no I think you were serious. Seriously deranged, anyway.  You might want to get some help with that.

Paranoia is a mental illness, not a super power.

Jim Wright Stonekettle Station

The latest fantasist appears to be Seymour Hersh; which is too bad.  Too bad because the guy really had a marvelous resume. Not too long after his revelations on Abu Ghraib, he seemed to lose his grip on what we colloquially refer to as reality, mistaking his desire to see grand conspiracies everywhere for the demonstrable facts in a story;

Perhaps the most concerning problem with Hersh’s story is not the sourcing but rather the internal contradictions in the narrative he constructs.

Most blatant, Hersh’s entire narrative turns on a secret deal, in which the US promised Pakistan increased military aid and a “freer hand in Afghanistan.” In fact, the exact opposite of this occurred, with US military aid dropping and US-Pakistan cooperation in Afghanistan plummeting as both sides feuded bitterly for years after the raid.

Hersh explains this seemingly fatal contradiction by suggesting the deal fell apart due to miscommunication between the Americans and Pakistanis. But it’s strange to argue that the dozens of officials on both sides would be competent enough to secretly plan and execute a massive international ruse, and then to uphold their conspiracy for years after the fact, but would not be competent enough to get on the same page about aid delivery.

The many problems with Seymour Hersh’s Osama bin Laden conspiracy theory by Max Fisher

Don’t get me wrong here. I’ve never accepted Pakistan’s denials of knowledge concerning Osama Bin Laden’s location, since he was living near their military training academy. What surprises me on that subject is we haven’t been able to demonstrate what classes he was teaching there.  Which high-ranking official in the Pakistani government helped him take up residence in Abbottabad.

That aside, not even the Obama administration accepts that Zero Dark Thirty is anything aside from a Hollywood fantasy attempting to make sense of the disparate narratives that could have lead to OBL’s killing. They have denied that torture lead to information on OBL’s whereabouts, and have maintained that key evidence was provided by a walk-in source voluntarily, not through any kind of intense interrogation.  Only Cheney and his ilk insist that torture produced anything useful, and I’ve already said my piece on that subject. So the accusation that Hersh himself levels at the Obama administration is largely incorrect.

I offer the previous as an attempt to disarm the fantasy believer, so that when I observe that Hersh is engaging in conspiratorial fantasies it in no way means I accept any other particular narrative on the subject.  Rather it is an observation like this one detailed over on Slate;

It’s this commitment to counter narrative totality—the idea that a few legitimate questions make the entire official narrative a lie, accompanied by a certainty in a counterhistory based on theory, suggestion, and a relatively negligible amount of secondhand evidence—that make Hersh’s account reminiscent of what you might see from the professional conspiracy theorists at InfoWars. It privileges the accounts and suggestions of a few vaguely connected ex-insiders over other, more exhaustive accounts based on the testimony of people who are in a much better position to know at least some of the facts.

Slate

It is Hersh’s tone and his spittle-flecked denunciation of the US government’s complicity and cooperation with Pakistan in the killing of OBL as a publicity stunt that gets him marked as a fantasist, not the content of his counter-narrative.  Most of what he has to say on the subject really isn’t even news, if it is at all believable on its face.

This story is a baseline for conspiratorial fantasies. A gateway drug.  A building 7 in 9-11 truther language. If you can get past the point where you stop wondering how hundreds of civil employees and soldiers could have been motivated to keep silent on this subject, then you can get busy embroidering Hersh’s revelations with details of your own.

The detail of size is what makes the likelihood of this conspiracy being true so improbably remote.  Fantasists who support Hersh point to the Guardian / Edward Snowden revelations as proof that massive conspiracies can and do exist. However, it is that very story that illustrates the problem with massive conspiracies and the theories spun about them.  The NSA spying was anything but secret.  Oh, it was officially denied, and the US government would love to punish Snowden for his revelations. But the spying was itself an open secret.  Anyone interested in the subject knew that the NSA was involved in a dragnet of information across the internet.

It is a lot like the people who point to the denials of Groom Lake (area 51) being a location for testing new Air Force technologies, and then conclude that the stories of alien visitations are true.  The locals knew it was testing facility for decades. The official denials proved nothing aside from the fact that they were conducting secret tests there at some point. They certainly don’t point to any factual truth concerning extraterrestrial contact.

The NSA’s spying program is the hallmark of the inability for large conspiracies to remain secret. It is only a matter of time before the secret becomes common knowledge.  The fact that Hersh’s fantasies concerning OBL contain so little new reliable information proves that they are just that.  If they weren’t, he’d have solid witnesses willing to swear to the veracity of his complete story.  Those simply don’t exist outside of his imagination.


This post was revised and reposted in 2018. It bears mentioning that at this point in time (2018) it has been revealed that the Jade Helm 15 conspiracy fantasies were created by Russian operatives as a testbed to see if they could alter US politics by sowing discord. In a word, yes. Yes they could and did, and continued to do from this point through the 2016 presidential elections that gave us the Orange Hate-Monkey as president.

TEXAS STANDARD|Michael MarksMay 4, 2018 12:38 pm|SECURITY EXPERT SAYS RUSSIA IS WINNING THE DISINFORMATION WAR

There will be more on this at the 2018 Version of this post.

An Open Letter to the 47 Senators Who Should Have Known Better

I am forwarding this on behalf of a friend of mine, Jim Wright. I agree with his sentiments so solidly that I feel little need to embroider them with thoughts of my own. Please feel free to peruse his article that accompanies the letter, to be found at http://www.stonekettle.com/2015/03/the-second-coming-of-richard-millhouse.html (Please forgive the misspelling. Milhouse has already forgiven him)

To the United States Senate, Attention: Tom Cotton, David Perdue, Joni Ernst, James Inhofe, John Cornyn, Mitch McConnell, Marco Rubio, Roger Wicker, John Hoeven, Richard Shelby, Thom Tillis, Richard Burr, Steve Daines, Jeff Sessions, John Boozman, Cory Gardner, Shelley Moore Capito, Ron Johnson, Mark Kirk, James Lankford, Chuck Grassley, Roy Blunt, John Thune, Mike Enzi, Pat Toomey, Bill Cassidy, John Barrasso, Ted Cruz, Jim Risch, Mike Crapo, Deb Fischer, Ben Sasse, Orrin Hatch, Dean Heller, Pat Roberts, John McCain, Rand Paul, Rob Portman, Lindsey Graham, and Mike Rounds 

Senators,
Now might be a good time to rethink the road you’re on.
Your partisan fanaticism  and your self-admitted ill-considered actions make the Iranian government seem sane, sympathetic, reasoned and moderate in comparison.

You have measurably damaged the reputation of the United States and risked open war, the lives of millions, and the world economy, solely to further your own selfish goals. You have placed partisanship and loyalty to party above your own country and the lives of your fellows.
At this point, whatever the final outcome of your actions, history will very likely remember you in the same light as your fellow Republican, Richard Nixon – and potentially far worse.

Were I you, I’d give that some very, very serious thought.
Your oath, the oath you swore with your right hand upraised before your God, was to the United States of America.
The Pledge of Allegiance you swear is to the American flag, not the Israeli one.

Your legal, moral, and sacred obligation is to the citizens of the United States of America first, ALL OF THEM NOT JUST THE ONES WHO VOTED FOR YOU, and second to all of our allies and partners –  not just Israel.  Your duty extends far, far beyond the small and selfish interests of your religion and/or your political party and it is long past time for you to remember that.

I won’t presume to say you should be ashamed of your recent actions, since many of you obviously lack the capacity, but I will say it is NOT necessary to destroy the village in order to save it – and your fellow Senator John McCain should know the moral bankruptcy of that particular strategy better than anyone.  What will save our nation and our world, the only thing that will ultimately save civilization itself, is that we work together, all of us  – and that’s something else Captain John McCain USN(ret) and the veterans among your number should know as well. Perhaps they could explain it to the rest of you.

Respect is earned, Senators.

For people and likewise for nations, respect is earned – or lost – by every action, by every word.

Now might be a good time to consider yours.

Signed,
James Wright
Chief Warrant Officer, United States Navy (ret)
Citizen of the United States of America

It bears noting that if Ronald Reagan authorized the negotiations with Iranian terrorists holding US hostages in 1980, he was only following in the footsteps of his hero Richard Nixon, as noted in the Stonekettle Station article. I find it hard to believe that his administration only thought of negotiating with the Iranians 4 years later during Iran-Contra and not at the earlier time when it would have meant defeating Carter in the election.  Simply doesn’t add up.

A copy of the letter sent to my Texas Senators.

Torture; Because a Spade is a Spade

I have resisted writing on this subject because; frankly, it’s black and white to me.  As a matter of course you treat innocent people (people not convicted of a crime) as if they haven’t done anything wrong. People are in the wrong place at the wrong time, even when you’re fighting a battle in a third world country.

This view puts me at odds with most law enforcement, even in the US, where any visit to the holding cells for people recently arrested will result in horrified outrage at the treatment of people awaiting processing. But depraved conditions in the local holding pen because of the tight-fistedness of local government is nothing compared to intentionally causing physical and emotional pain to people simply because we can, because we are in charge and want to assert our authority.

There is an excellent essay up on Stonekettle Station right now on this subject.  Jim Wright has the experience to back up what he says when it comes to the subject of taking prisoners in a time of war, of just how hard it is to take a high moral road when you really are in the thick of it.

I, me personally? I would do whatever it took, including torture, if that was the only way to save the city, if that was the only way to save my family, if that was the only way to save you. As a military officer, yes, I would. Absolutely. I wouldn’t order my men to do it, I’d do it myself. I shove a hose up the bastard’s nose and turn on the water. I’d shoot out his knees. I’d cut off his balls. You bet. If that’s what it took. I’d do it without hesitation.

And I’d do it knowing I was breaking the law, and I would expect to be tried for the crime and sent to prison.

I would.

Because even if I saved the day, I’d be wrong.

Good intentions do not justify evil.

A just cause does not justify injustice. No more than if I donned a cape and tights and drove around Gotham in the night killing criminals without trial or due process. – Jim Wright @ Stonekettle Station

It’s worth noting, in our depraved current era, that not even Batman killed the subjects he pursued in the original comic books.  The same is true for all the heroes of previous generations.  They didn’t kill, they didn’t torment, they didn’t torture. That was what the villains did. That was why the Punisher was a villain when introduced in the comic sphere.  Because he killed, he tortured. He was evil.

Nowadays our heroes are not heroic in any sense of the word.  Sports stars pummel their wives unconscious on video and go unpunished. Beat their children to the point that they need medical attention, and expect to be let off without suffering consequences. Police officers are filmed strangling and shooting unarmed men, and remain unprosecuted. Politicians don’t even flinch at being caught in hypocrisy any longer. They just explain it away as some thing they said but didn’t really mean.

I only have one response for people who think we should be subjecting prisoners to torture, which is what enhanced interrogation techniques are.  You can be seen as free of hypocrisy, supporting the systematic use of torture, if you willingly undergo it yourself. I mean, if innocent people can be subjected to this kind of treatment, then anyone should be able to undergo the treatment without ill effects.

Christopher Hitchens thought waterboarding was no big deal, until he allowed himself to be waterboarded. here’s the video of it;


(courtesy Vanity Fair & Christopher Hitchens)

I expect Dick Cheney to submit himself to waterboarding, or to the Hague for prosecution for war crimes.  He should do so within the week.  Unlike someone subject to waterboarding, I wouldn’t suggest you hold your breath waiting for that.

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?

This post was revised and reposted in 2015.

A Freeloader In the Flesh

I have been accused of being a disability freeloader (by family even) in the past. I’d like to introduce you to a real freeloader.

Vanderboegh said he once worked as a warehouse manager but now lives on government disability checks. He said he receives $1,300 a month because of his congestive heart failure, diabetes and hypertension. He has private health insurance through his wife, who works for a company that sells forklift products. 

(Democratic Underground link Washington Post link)

I can say for certain the man is a freeloader, because disabled people don’t make their way halfway across the nation and threaten a sitting Senator with violence,

One of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy’s supporters did not hold back his disdain for Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.), hurling a painful threat in the process.

In a video posted by Right Wing Watch on Wednesday, Mike Vanderboegh warned followers that “we are still staring Civil War in its bloody face.” He pulled out a soap dish for Reid, calling it the “2014 award” for inciting such conflict.

“I will send it as a reminder, with the message ‘Don’t poke the wolverine with a sharp stick, Harry, unless you want your balls ripped off,'” Vanderboegh said, drawing boisterous “yeahs!” from the crowd.

(Democratic Underground link Huffington Post link)

I”m not too worried about Senator Reid, He’s proved he’s a scrapper. However, as a person who lives on disability himself, who only regretfully applied for disability (and received it after three years of fighting) after suffering from the symptoms of undiagnosed Menieres disease for at least a decade, I find this man’s hypocrisy particularly troubling and revealing. Troubling, because his activity proves there are freeloaders on disability. Revealing, because these types generally do assign their own ‘sins’ to everyone around them.

…My family and I are thankful, every day, that the government was there to keep us in our house, my kids in school, food on our table, etc, etc, etc. Had the government not taken the steps to insure me for disability, my children would be homeless, and I would probably be dead.

There is a reason *why* the government steps in to cover matters of public health, and I personally am glad, now, that they do. I wasn’t always this enlightened. Had I not been taken ill, I might very well have been as deluded as this guy, still believing that the government was my enemy. At least my sickness saved me from that mistake. If he was really ill, really had time to think about his predicament as I do, he might be spared his current hypocrisy. In any case they should probably stop cutting his checks. Clearly if he can take part in an armed insurrection, he can do some real work.

(h/t to Jim Wright of Stonekettle Station for bringing this to my attention)

An Individual Right to Keep and Bear Arms

I’ve been waiting for this decision ever since I heard about the case in a CATO Daily Podcast. From the CATO site:

On June 26, 2008, the Court rediscovered the Second Amendment. More than five years after six Washington, D.C. residents challenged the city’s 32-year-old ban on all functional firearms in the home, the Court held in District of Columbia v. Heller that the law is unconstitutional.

Here’s the pdf for the District of Columbia v. Heller decision.

I’d like to offer a thanks to Rob Balen (who was subbing for Jeff today) for alerting me to the fact that the Supreme Court finally got a decision right. Having said that, I must observe that Rob Balen the food critic is a gun-phobe. I never heard so much whining over someone being allowed to have guns since the last time I heard someone begging not to be shot in a movie.

Someone should explain the danger to this Yankee carpet-bagger, when he goes South and tries to tell Southerners that they can’t be trusted with weapons. It’s going to rile some people up.

Where is Suzanna Hupp when you need a voice?

Suzanna Hupp interview from Penn & Teller’s Bullshit!, Season 3, Gun Control

I was living in Austin when this tragedy occurred. I remember wishing, at the time, that a customer had taken the guy out. No one could wish harder than Suzanna Hupp.

A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.

Militias are the people; each individual person is a member of the militia. Guns equip the militia. Should we amend the constitution? Remove the second amendment and task government with our protection, empower the military as the only form of defense for the country?

If not, then each of us is responsible for our own defense, and the defense of our neighborhood/city/state. That is the way the founders intended for this to work. It’s about time the courts have acknowledged these facts.


There is so much that is being left unsaid in this post, I can’t imagine where to begin, even if I wanted to fix the misconceptions apparent in this piece. Here. Now. Today. (10/13/2017) Since I made a deal with myself ages ago not to erase old posts and simply make corrections through this addendum process, I’m left scratching my head just how to exactly paint the picture of my cognitive dissonance on this subject. I think I’ll start with a link to what is my latest piece on the subject as of this mea culpa review process,

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 it the task is impossible with the rules now in place, they can 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.

The tragically escalating numbers of mass shootings in the US over the last decade has left us all pretty much scratching our heads. A good number of what I considered allies as of the writing of this 2008 piece have become conspiracy fantasists in the true meaning of the phrase and have decided that any mass shooting that can’t be explained with the label terrorism is automatically a false-flag event. Essentially turning themselves into the kinds of nutjobs that really shouldn’t be trusted with high-powered weaponry in the first place.

This development has left me without a place to call home on this subject. I do find some comfort in the writings of Jim Wright over at Stonekettlestation. Sadly he doesn’t see any end to this craziness either. Not until the US itself gets tired of the bloodshed and settles in for a good old-fashioned discussion of what an American fix for this problem might look like. Here’s hoping that self-reflection occurs sooner rather than later.

NRA comes callin’

The NRA has called me several times over the last few weeks. It hasn’t really added to the problem of 10 or more calls from telemarketers that I get every day; maybe I just expect better from the defenders of the second amendment than to be harassed at home by their monetary fishing expeditions.

A few years back I responded to a survey that the NRA sent me and ever since then they’ve decided that I’m a great untapped fiscal resource. While I think it’s sweet that they thought of me, I have a little problem with them, and here it is. The NRA wants to protect hunting. Not the right to keep and bear arms, hunting. For the NRA the argument is only about the rights of gun owners to go out and shoot at animals as a sport, not about maintaining an adequate defense of the nation from enemies foreign and domestic. And that is a problem for me.

I’d give to the NRA if they only had the balls that they act like they have. If you want to know what I mean, drop by the GOA (Gun Owners of America) site and take a look at what they have to say on the issue of guns and gun possession, and then go and read the documents that formed the republic that was the US. Once you’ve done this you’ll probably begin to understand that hunting was never an issue for the framers. Oh, hunting was part of the deal, while you were out drilling with the militia you had to eat something; but they didn’t want the average person to have guns so that they could hunt deer on the weekends. The reason is, that an armed and trained population is a force to be reckoned with all on it’s own. The ability to stand up and say no when push comes to shove is something that keeps the power hungry at bay. Or it should.

(And this is the real problem with focusing on the right to bear arms as the key issue right here and now)

The average man not just having, but being trained in the use of weapons is key to the deterrent effect. Outside of a few active militias, that training is sadly lacking. Without the training, guns in the hands of average citizens is a minor deterrent at best, which probably does more to explain the current state of the union than anything else. Without education, without an understanding of how and why things work the way they do, all our potential is wasted. A loaded gun just waiting to be misused. And misused it most likely will be.


This is the first post I wrote on the subject of guns for the blog. While I’ve owned guns for as long as I can remember, I never felt much of a need to write about them. Living in the small towns that have been home for most of my life, I never met anyone who didn’t own a gun. In Texas there are few people, even in the cities, who don’t own firearms.

It was Austin where I met my first gunphobe (as opposed to a gunnut or ammosexual) someone with a pathological fear of firearms. Over the years I’ve met many of them, so I don’t doubt they exist.

But like christians insisting that they are persecuted when they can’t promote their religion everywhere they want to, gunnuts are convinced that they have to be allowed to display their favored fetish everywhere or they are being disarmed. This is the problem that has developed with the NRA in the years after writing this post. This always was a problem with the GOA (which has rightly run afoul of watchdog organizations that track hate groups) it just wasn’t recognizable until after the court decision that allowed citizens to defend themselves with firearms wasn’t enough. After a dozen states and more had passed Stand Your Ground laws that have been shown to be horribly flawed pieces of racist legislation.

Disarming the population isn’t a solution to the violence problem, although it will reduce the number of gun deaths. People will still beat each other to death with bats, stab each other to death with knives. On The Other Hand, giving everyone a gun will actually lead to more gun deaths, this is a statistically unavoidable outcome. It will happen as a simple side effect of there being more weapons in more hands.

No, the firearm problem is best addressed with something like what Jim Wright offers over at Stonekettle Station in his piece Bang, Bang Sanity. Solutions based on the NRA’s own gun safety guidelines.

If we pursued liability for gun miscreants as Jim outlines, mass shootings would rapidly become a rare occurrence again. It is too bad that not even the NRA can recognize their own rules anymore.