a short note on the passing of saul leiter

Back in April of 2008 I did a Sunday Salon on Saul Leiter. Mr. Leiter died yesterday. He was 89 years old.

saul leiter2

These days we tend to think of Leiter as a pioneer in color street photography. It would probably surprise most of Leiter’s modern fans to discover he actually made his bones as a second-tier fashion photographer. He said,

“I was constantly aware that those who hired me would have preferred to work with a star such as Avedon. But it didn’t matter. I had work and I made a living. At the same time, I took my own photographs.”

Those photographs — the ones he described as ‘my own’ — are the photos he’s known for today. But Leiter stopped showing those photos to people in the late 1940s. He simply filed the transparencies away in cardboard boxes. Half a century later, in the 1990s, he began to print and show them.

saul leiter

Nobody paid much attention to them. Not at first. But gradually his work began to infiltrate into the world of fine arts photography. Today, of course, he’s the famous Saul Leiter.

“I spent a great deal of my life being ignored. I was always very happy that way. Being ignored is a great privilege.”

Saul Leiter. 1923 to 2013. We’ll not see his like again.

molon labe, bitches

Okay, I intended to write something semi-intelligent and mildly educational about an aspect of the gun rights movement that outsiders are mostly unaware of — the incorporation of the Greek phrase Molon labe into the rhetoric of Second Amendment absolutists. There’s really some interesting stuff there, and you’d really have liked it (I’m pretty sure you would)…but then something happened.

I first came across the phrase Molon labe on Gun Appreciation Day back in January. It was a weird day in a lot of respects, and seeing some guy put up a sign with a Greek phrase didn’t seem any weirder than the other things that happened that day. Another guy standing near me in the crowd of gun enthusiasts asked “What the hell does ‘melon labe’ mean?”

molon labe

It’s a laconic phrase. I don’t mean molon labe is terse or pithy, though it’s both of those things. I mean it’s really and seriously, no-shit laconic. The term laconic comes from the Spartan city of Laconia. You’ve seen the movies; you know the Spartans were extremely militaristic (and totally buff in a…you know…non-gay way). They were militaristic culturally, they were militaristic spiritually, and they were militaristic philosophically. So it shouldn’t be any surprise that they were also militaristic linguistically.

It’s important in military situations to be concise; to speak quickly and precisely, so that orders are clearly and immediately understood. When you’re under attack you don’t want to waste time saying “Okay, listen up…I want you to affix bayonets to your rifles and form a hollow square, two ranks deep, facing outward toward the enemy, with the unit’s colors and officers inside the square.” You just want to shout “Form square!” and be done with it.

Anyway, that crisp quality of military speech was prized by Spartans. They were literally (and by ‘literally’ I mean literally, not figuratively, so fuck you Merriam-Webster) men of few words. That was apparent at the battle of Thermopylae in 480 BC. The Persian King Xerxes sent an emissary to the Spartan King Leonidas, offering to allow the Spartans to live and be resettled on better land (dramatic pause) IF they would lay down their weapons. Leonidas reportedly replied “Molon Labe,” which basically means “Come and take them.” It’s a great line.

molon labe spartans

That Spartan phrase has now been adopted by Second Amendment absolutists. These folks believe (or claim to believe) President Obama has an ultra top super secret plan to seize everybody’s firearms. They fancy themselves to be modern-day Spartans (only fully dressed — except in rare circumstances, which you’ll see in a bit), courageously standing up to the tyrant Obama and daring him to come and try to take their guns. It’s ridiculous, of course, but in order to pretend to be Spartans, you need to invent a tyrant and defy him.

See, I was going to get all intellectual on you guys. But then I stumbled across this:

Watching this is a lot like being repeatedly struck in the head with a ball peen hammer. It leaves you confused and unsure what the hell just happened. Was that really a fat white guy wearing a cape and a Spartan helmet claiming to be King Leonidas returned to save America, riding down the street between mobile homes because that’s what the Revolutionary War was fought for?

Yes. Yes, it was. And my attempt to write an intelligent, semi-educational post just collapsed — like that guy’s horse is about to do. So in the words of the resurrected Leonidas, let’s put my stifling helmet back on and ride some more. God bless the truckers. Impeach Obama. Molon labe, bitches.

sorry, totally our fault

Okay, on behalf of all the non-Christians in These United States, let me apologize to the Christians. We’re all terribly sorry. Had we known that somebody in a California Costco warehouse put labels on some Bibles that read $14.99 Fiction, and had we known those Bibles would be shipped to a Simi Valley, California Costco store and put on the shelves, and had we known that Pastor Caleb Kaltenbach was going to be there last week shopping for a Christmas gift for his wife, and had we known that Pastor Kaltenbach was going to see those Bibles and totally shit his pants in outrage, we’d have stopped that guy in the warehouse from affixing those stickers. We’re really terribly sorry about that.

bible fiction

Okay, I’m just kidding. We totally did that on purpose. Sometimes we just feel a wee bit frisky and decide ‘Let’s go fuck around with some Christians.’ Seriously, I don’t know what gets into us. Maybe it’s our diet or something, I don’t know. But it’s totally our fault.

You Christians are completely justified in your righteous fury at the Bible being labeled as fiction. What happened was, we were just sitting around after one of our many sex orgies, talking about how women were created from the rib of a man, and how Noah lived to be 950 years old, and how Lot impregnated both of his daughters — you know, stuff like that. And we were all “Dude, that sounds like total fiction.” And then things got a little bit out of hand.

Youthful high spirits, and all that. But still, we probably owe Pastor Kaltenbach an apology. We ruined his shopping experience. He was absolutely correct when he said:

“We are supposed to be living in an era of tolerance, but what Costco did doesn’t seem too tolerant.”

He’s entirely right; it’s rude and inappropriate to insult the Bible. In fact, it’s wrong to insult anybody’s holy book. Again, I’m not a Christian, so when in doubt about how Christians are supposed to behave I always look to that font of Christian charity, goodwill, tolerance, and wisdom: FreeRepublic.com.

Where is The Holy Queeran?

The Koran should be in the toilet paper section

Here in the PNW a bus service had these pro Palestinian adverts. I made up a bunch of Israeli flag stickers and plastered those signs with them. The local pro Palestinian org. threw a hissy fit. I love what I do.

I always place pork products over the “halal” certified lamb.

Bet a Muslim employee put them there.

I’d be tempted to pick up a few Korans and put them over with the bulk packages of toilet paper.

they obviously don’t want the business of Christians during this holiday season

[T]hese fiction stickers are something I’ve heard rumor of: libtards have supposedly a supply somewhere of stickers reading “fiction” that they slap on anything that hurts their sensibilities.

That last guy? I don’t know how he found out about our Libtard Sticker Project. Somebody has been talking out of school. Probably one of the Satanists — those fuckers just can’t keep a secret.

Anyway, I’m not trying to make excuses here. We were wrong, I admit it. But c’mon, you’d have done the same thing if you’d thought of it first. You know you would.

So how about this: we’ve put a sticker on a few Bibles, and you guys have torched a few mosques and murdered a bunch of Sikhs and accused Buddhism of being a cult and refused to allow Pagans and Wiccans to be buried with their holy symbols. You made some mistakes, we made some mistakes. How about if we just call it even, okay? Shake on it, go our separate ways, let bygones bury their hatchets. What do you say? Think if over, let us know.

But I’ve got a feeling y’all just won’t agree to that.

to dedicate a portion of that field

There was a great deal of fuss yesterday about the 150th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. And rightly so; it’s beautifully written — simple, eloquent, thoughtful. In fact, it’s hard these days to appreciate just how thoughtful it was.

That’s partly because we tend to think of it as a ‘speech’ — as an act of public oratory. A stirring and moving speech, to be sure, but basically we tend to see it just a speech given to an audience to dedicate a cemetery.

Abraham Lincoln at Gettysburg

Abraham Lincoln at Gettysburg

A cemetery. A burial ground. A graveyard. Yes, we all know the Gettysburg Address was to dedicate the ground on which the Battle of Gettysburg was fought. For us, that’s history. For Lincoln, it was a recent event. The dedication took place only four months after the horrific three-day battle. Nearly eight thousand men were killed. Nearly thirty thousand were wounded or went missing (‘missing’ might mean the men ran away; it might mean they were simply obliterated). Many of the wounded were still convalescing in Gettysburg when Lincoln gave his short remarks. Coffins were still stacked at the railway station where he arrived.

The battle had been so savage and so many people had died that almost immediately afterwards it was clear that something astonishing and awful (and I mean awful in the oldest sense of the term) had taken place at Gettysburg. Something so appalling that it was necessary for the entire nation to pause a moment and recognize it.

Dead troops at Gettysburg

Dead troops at Gettysburg

Why did Lincoln wait four months to dedicate the battleground? Because it took that long to gather the dead, try to identify them, and rebury them. That’s right, rebury them. We forget that the battle took place in the first week of July. Try to imagine eight thousand human bodies (many of which were dismembered) scattered over several hundred acres. Imagine five thousand dead mules and horses. Imagine the July heat, and the stench of decomposition. The noise of bluebottle flies was said to be deafening.

Now try to imagine the task of cleaning all that up using Civil War-era technology. Picks, shovels, muscle. The horses were burned; the men mostly buried in quickly-dug shallow graves, many of which were later washed open by heavy rains that fell in the second week of July.

Confederate dead in shallow graves at Gettysburg

Confederate dead in shallow graves at Gettysburg

The grisly work was done by Union troops, by captured Confederate soldiers, and by unfortunate townsfolk who’d been dragooned by the authorities. The town of Gettysburg, at the time of the battle, only had a population of about 2500. Fewer than half the number of the dead.

In the four months between the battle and the dedication, the organizers bought the land on which the battle was fought, they laid out a design for where the graves would be dug, they re-interred most of those bodies, they telegraphed invitations and coordinated a public dedication (Lincoln, by the way, wasn’t the main speaker; his job was to present some brief closing remarks after the main speaker was finished).

To do all that in 120 days was a remarkable feat.

Dead horses at Gettysburg

Dead horses at Gettysburg

And don’t forget this: the war wasn’t over. The outcome was still very much in doubt. There’d never been anything on the North American continent remotely like the ongoing slaughter of that war. They were more than two years into the war, there were already nearly a quarter of a million casualties, and nobody could guess how much longer it would last. That’s what Lincoln faced when he went to Gettysburg. Read his speech with that in mind, and you’ll see he wasn’t just dedicating a national cemetery; he was telling the nation there was more to come, and asking them to maintain their resolve.

Lincoln spoke about the “unfinished work” and “the great task remaining before us.” He acknowledged the uncertainty of whether the nation “or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure.” Despite all that, he talked about the necessity of an “increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion.”

Confederate dead laid out for burial at Gettysburg

Confederate dead laid out for burial at Gettysburg

To stand on the site where so much death and destruction had taken place, to tell the public there would be more of the same, and to ask the public to accept the necessity of sacrifice on that scale in order to maintain an ideal — that’s just astonishing. What’s even more astonishing is this: the people agreed to accept that burden. The war would stagger on for another year and a half after Gettysburg. Tens of thousands more would die. Lincoln himself would give the last full measure of devotion before the end.

Think about that. Then think about this: there are people in this nation today who talk of seceding from the Union because they dislike a health care policy. There are people in this nation today who talk about secession because they believe the president isn’t a Christian, or because they feel their taxes are too high, or that someday they might not be able to purchase high capacity ammunition magazines.

And those people consider themselves to be patriots.

intimidation? pshaw…

A week ago four women met at a restaurant in Dallas, Texas. It was the monthly meeting of a gun control group called Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America (and you know these women were actually moms, because only a mom could come up with such a lame-ass title for a protest group). In response to this threat to the Second Amendment of the Constitution of These United States, forty members of a gun rights group called Open Carry Texas (a much more effective name, by the way — pithy and to the point) showed up outside the restaurant. And because they believe in open carry laws, they openly carried their weapons.

Photographs were taken. This is the one that got the most attention:

texas open carry1

It looks like these 40 armed citizens have formed a firing line and are waiting for the members of MDAfGSiA to emerge. The four women didn’t emerge, though, on account of they were intimidated by — well, by 40 armed citizens.

Intimidation? Pshaw. The OCT folks say they weren’t there to intimidate anybody. They were there to show peaceful opposition to the position taken by MDAfGSiA, which was their right under the First Amendment of the Constitution of These United States. And they weren’t forming a firing line; they were posing for a much friendlier, cheerful, patriotic photograph.

texas open carry2

See? Nothing to be afraid of. Just a bunch of smiling white folks carrying assault-style weapons and American flags. Outside a restaurant. In the middle of the day. Nothing intimidating there. The patriots at FreeRepublic.com point out how silly it was for those four women to feel bullied or intimidated.

The mommies met to peacefully talk about denying the constitutional freedoms of other citizens. Another group of citizens who stand by our constitutional freedoms met to peacefully protest their actions. Where was somebody bullied?

“Bullies!” is the new “Nazis!” code word little snivelers use when somebody disagrees with them.

This wasn’t some knitting club the OCT was counter-protesting, these are Bloomberg’s operatives that want to take our RKBA [Right to Keep and Bear Arms] away.

I’d just moon the dumb bitches and tell em “Put a Liplock On My Ol’ Love Porkchop” and go on my merry way… And THEN I’d show them the old “This is My rifle…. and this is my gun… This one’s for shooting… and THIS one’s for Fun…” See? I’m a nice guy!

Seriously, how could anybody possibly be intimidated by nice guys like this?

You want to know what’s intimidating? I’ll tell you what’s intimidating. An unsmiling black guy wearing a beret standing outside a polling station in a neighborhood in Philadelphia. Like this guy, during the 2012 election.

voter intimidation2

That’s some scary shit, right there. I mean, look at him. He’s standing right there, deliberately wearing a beret. A military style beret. And oh my god, he’s black. He’s got some sort of paper in his hand. Probably the Communist Manifesto of the Black Panther Party against White People.

This is clearly a threat. Obvious intimidation. A menace to public safety. What would the patriots of FreeRepublic.com have to say about this blatant attempt to frighten decent law-abiding citizens?

Call in the snipers.

These thugs should be arrested, tried, convicted, sentenced, and then hanged for treason.

How great would it be to see a “Sons of Anarchy” style motorcycle gang ride up on these fools to see how determined they were to stand on those corners? I’d pay to watch that.

a fine example of how “Americans” can regress into spear chucking tribalists…

The real motive behind these desperate actions is a concentrated effort to suppress the white vote

These bastards are robbing the people of their votes..Someone really needs to do something about the fools.

Everytime The Democrats or liberal media complains falsely about the Republicans being responsible for voter disenfranchisement, everyone needs to point to this story and the one 4 years ago when the 2 black new black panther thugs were carrying billy clubs outside of a voting district and intimidating voters.

Two black panther thugs! You know what’s even more intimidating than a black guy wearing a beret standing outside a polling station? TWO black guys wearing berets standing outside a polling station. Like these guys from the 2008 election.

voter intimidation

Look at that one guy — oh my god, he’s holding some sort of stick! That could be used as a weapon. You could hit a person with it. What has this country come to? Do we really want to live in a land where black guys in berets can just stand on the street openly carrying sticks?

Black panthers are allowed to gang bang and hang out election polls? What the flying frack?!

people will be afraid to vote


I wish there would have been Black Panthers outside my voting place. I have 4 years of bottled up anger inside me and that is one cork they don’t want to pop.

Forty white folks smiling, toting firearms, holding American flags — just an exercise in protecting Constitutional rights, perfectly fine, nothing to be alarmed about, don’t be silly. Couple of black guys, not smiling, holding pamphlets and sticks, wearing berets — that’s intimidating, be afraid, call the police, or stand your ground and shoot them. 

And if four women meet at a restaurant to discuss gun policy — be brave; gather three or four dozen folks, arm yourselves, and stand outside that restaurant. Don’t let those four mothers intimidate you.


can’t we wait until after thanksgiving?

Call me old-fashioned, call me a traditionalist, call me a fuddy-duddy — but I miss the old days. When I was a kid, the War on Christmas didn’t begin until after Thanksgiving. Not any more. Yesterday the publisher HarperCollins released Good Tidings and Great Joy: Protecting the Heart of Christmas, by Sarah Palin.

palin book cover

That’s right. Sarah Palin is out there protecting the very heart of Christmas. According to HarperCollins,

At a time when Christian values are challenged—when the greeting “Merry Christmas” has been replaced by the supposedly less offensive “Happy Holidays”—Governor Sarah Palin makes the case for bringing back the freedom to express the religious spirit of the season.

You guys! You maybe didn’t notice it, but we totally lost our religious freedom when ACORN elected Baraq Hussein Obama (Mujahideen, Kenya, Africa) as President of These United States. We are no longer free to wish anybody “Merry Christmas.”

You're either with Christmas -- or you're with the terrorists!

You’re either with Christmas — or you’re with the terrorists!

But happily Sarah Palin (Patriot, Macy’s, Grizzly Mama Department) has written her name on a book that tells oppressed Christians how to fight back against the tyranny of being forced to say those two most loathsome words in the English American language: Happy Holidays. Here are some of the former Governor’s peppy Words of Wisdom:

An angry atheist with a lawyer is one of the most powerful persons in America.

Totally true, you guys.You think Magneto was tough? You think The Joker was mean? You think Lex Luthor was cruel and relentless? Pffft…those guys were pikers compared to Angry Atheist (and his evil sidekick Lawyer). Angry Atheist is so tough, so mean, so cruel that Marvel Comics is afraid to write about him. According to Palin,

Atheism’s track record makes the Spanish Inquisition seem like Disneyland by comparison.

Also totally true. Think about it, you guys. The lawsuits brought by atheists to prevent Christian displays on public property are SO MUCH WORSE than the expulsion of 800,000 Jews from medieval Spain by the Tribunal del Santo Oficio de la Inquisición. A couple centuries of torture of Jews and Muslims (and what the hell, a few hundred Lutherans) — that’s like a day playing with koala bears compared to the agony of having to hear people say “Happy holidays.” Seriously, ask yourself this question: would you rather live in a world where 5th grade students in public schools are denied the freedom to stage a play about the virgin birth of the Christian savior, or one in which a government agency legally uses torture to punish and/or convert citizens who disagree with religious orthodoxy? Think about the little children!

"Say it! Say 'Merry Christmas' and this will all be over."

“Say it! Say ‘Merry Christmas’ and this will all be over.”

The Atheist Commie Muslim assault on ‘Merry Christmas’ is taking place on several fronts, some of which will totally shock you. As Palin points out,

Walgreens twenty-four page nationwide circular used the world ‘holidays’ thirty-six times without one mention of Christmas.

Seriously? I had no idea Walgreens was the drugstore of the Devil. I mean, c’mon, they seem SO American. They invented the malted milkshake, you guys! How did they manage to hide their fiendish nature from the American public for 112 years? Atheists are some sneaky anti-Christmas bastards.

I bet Charles Darwin never understood this: If the world could be described as truly  ‘survival of the fittest,’ why would people collectively be stricken with the spirit of generosity in December?

Yeah, explain that, Charles Darwin. Let’s see you explain the evolutionary benefit of people around the entire globe most of the world large parts of — uh, let’s see you explain the evolutionary benefit of people living in those bits of the world where Christianity is the dominant religion suddenly feeling particularly generous during the month of the winter solstice. You can’t, can you — and not just because you’ve been dead for more than 130 years, but because there IS no evolutionary benefit. Sarah Palin understands that everybody in the world people feel generous in the month of December because of Special Jeebus Magic.

In which Jolly Old Saint Nick doffs his cap and wishes Mary and Joseph a Merry Christmas

Jolly Old Saint Nick bathes in the light of Special Jeebus Magic before taking to his flying-reindeer-driven sleigh to deliver gifts to Good (Christian) Boys and Girls.

Sarah Palin wants all Americans to live in a world where we no longer have to be terrified to say “Merry Christmas.” She’s SO brave, you guys. But still, would it kill anybody to wait to celebrate the War on Christmas until after Thanksgiving — the day we’ve set aside to thank God and Jeebus for letting us share a meal with those natives who survived the diseases we brought to the Americas (before we had to slaughter the savage bastards in order to expand the territory we seized from them and exploit the land’s natural resources).

I suppose I shouldn’t complain too much. Somebody has to protect the heart of Christmas from atheists and other Heart-of-Christmas-haters. Kudos to Sarah for standing up and writing putting her name on a book that’s sure to turn the tide in the War on Christmas (all proceeds, by the way, are being donated to a fund to support former half-term governors of states from which you can see Russia).

"Santa, all I want for Christmas is to sell a metric buttload of books."

“Santa, all I want for Christmas is to sell a buttload of books.”

And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God bless us, every one.

Editorial note: Except John McCain. Curse you John McCain, for inflicting Sarah Palin on an unsuspecting public. May you be boiled with your own pudding, and buried with a stake of holly through your heart.

nobody pays much attention

In the United States, November 11 is called Veterans Day. In other parts of the world it’s called Remembrance Day or Armistice Day. The latter is appropriate since it celebrates the anniversary of the day hostilities formally ceased in the First World War. The 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918.

Ninety-five years. And what have we learned? Aside from more efficient and more impersonal methods for killing, not a hell of a lot. We’re still fighting wars, we’re still fighting them for the same stupid reasons, and at the behest of the same powerful business and political interests. Young men and women are still killing and dying in foreign lands. And nobody is paying much attention.

U.S. Army Pfc. Michael W. Daley Jr. (right) and Pfc. Travis B. Woolwine, both Soldiers with 1st Battalion, 506th Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), scan their surroundings while on patrol in Paktya Province, Afghanistan / Photo by Sgt. Justin Moeller

U.S. Army Pfc. Michael W. Daley Jr. (right) and Pfc. Travis B. Woolwine, with 1st Battalion, 506th Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), scan their surroundings while on patrol in Paktya Province, Afghanistan / Photo by Sgt. Justin Moeller

As of this date, 402 troops have died fighting in Afghanistan this year. Most of those (310) were US troops, but soldiers and marines from the UK, from Poland, from Georgia (the former Soviet state), from Romania and Slovakia and Italy and Germany and Australia have also been killed.

In the last few days 42-year-old Warrant Officer Ian Fisher of Barking, Essex in England was killed in an IED attack in Lashkar Gah in Helmund Province. Army Sergeant 1st Class Forrest Robertson, 35 years old, of Westmoreland, Kansas was killed by small arms fire in Pul-i-Alam in Kogar Province — also known as Bab al-Jihad, the Gates of Jihad, because of the savage fighting between Soviet troops and mujahideen during the Soviet-Afghan war. Army Specialist Angel Lopez, 27, from Parma, Ohio was killed by small arms fire in a Green on Blue attack in Zabul Province. Twelve deaths in the first nine days this month. The youngest was 19 years old. Nineteen years old — Jeremiah Collins of Milwaukee wasn’t even old enough to buy a beer. Dead, 7000 miles from home, in service to his country.

US Army Spc. Kevin Jackson, 4th Squadron, 9th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, pulls security during a reconnaissance mission in a village south of Forward Operating Base Fenty, Nangarhar province, Afghanistan, Sept. 8, 2013 / Photo by Sgt. Margaret Taylor

US Army Spc. Kevin Jackson, 4th Squadron, 9th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, pulls security during a reconnaissance mission in a village south of Forward Operating Base Fenty, Nangarhar province, Afghanistan, Sept. 8, 2013 / Photo by Sgt. Margaret Taylor

All of those troop who’ve died have families and friends, they have fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, they have wives and husbands and children. Outside of their families and friends, hardly anybody will notice those deaths. Because nobody, really, is paying much attention.

I mentioned this earlier in the year. At that point there were about 70,000 US troops serving in Afghanistan; today there are about 60,000. Combat operations by US troops are slated to end in late 2014 — but even then the US will likely leave between 15,000 and 30,000 troops in the region. And be sure of this: some of them will be fighting and dying.

Cpl. Zachery K. Arrowood with 1st Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, provides security during a patrol in Helmand province, Afghanistan, Oct. 12, 2013. The patrol was conducted to disrupt enemy activity in the area / Photo by Lance Cpl. Zachery B. Martin

Cpl. Zachery K. Arrowood with 1st Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, provides security during a patrol in Helmand province, Afghanistan, Oct. 12, 2013. The patrol was conducted to disrupt enemy activity in the area / Photo by Lance Cpl. Zachery B. Martin

There’s still only one media outlet that routinely pays attention to the troops serving in combat zones — the liberal muckraking magazine Mother Jones. They still publish their brilliant photo series We’re Still at War: Photo of the Day. I don’t know how many people bother to look at the photos. Not enough. Not nearly enough.

Why? Because the war is primarily being fought by strangers — by people we don’t know and don’t care about. Historically, wars have always been fought primarily by the poor and working class. Officers, of course, usually come from the middle classes, but most of the killing and dying has been done by the underclasses. The demands of twelve years of war — the longest war in US history — have exacerbated that problem. The gap between the people who initiate the wars and the people who actually fight them is greater now than ever before. And the mass in the middle — which includes most of the American public — are estranged from both groups. And so when a soldier gets killed in some dusty desert, very few people are affected, and nobody pays much attention.

Marines and Georgian Soldiers with 33rd Georgian Battalion exit an MV-22 Osprey aircraft during an operation in Helmand province, Afghanistan, Sept. 23, 2013. Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 165 provided the service members with aerial support during the operation / Photo by Cpl. Ashley E. Santy

Marines and Georgian Soldiers with 33rd Georgian Battalion exit an MV-22 Osprey aircraft during an operation in Helmand province, Afghanistan, Sept. 23, 2013. Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 165 provided the service members with aerial support during the operation / Photo by Cpl. Ashley E. Santy

On Monday — Veterans Day — I’ll meet with my brother and my cousin, both of whom served in the Marines, and we’ll attend a breakfast given by a local grocery store chain (Hy-Vee), just as we’ve done for the last few years. There’ll be a lot of old veterans there — a handful from World War II, a few from Korea, some from Viet Nam and Iraq and Afghanistan. The food will be mediocre — but better than what we’d have gotten in the mess hall back when we were in uniform.

Nobody will be there just for the food. We’ll all be there because we’re veterans, and on this one day some folks will pay attention. Most of the veterans sitting down to breakfast will have scars, physical or emotional. Some will be missing limbs. And every one of us will, at some point, remember somebody who was wounded or killed.

Marines with 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, patrol near Forward Operating Base Musa Qala, Helmand province, Afghanistan, Oct. 19, 2013. The Marines of 3/7 patrolled to reduce enemy activity in the area / Photo by Lance Cpl. James Mast

Marines with 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, patrol near Forward Operating Base Musa Qala, Helmand province, Afghanistan, Oct. 19, 2013. The Marines of 3/7 patrolled to reduce enemy activity in the area / Photo by Lance Cpl. James Mast

As we enter and leave the breakfast venue, the volunteers from the grocery store will thank us for our service. And they’ll be sincere, because they’re working people. Some of them will be veterans themselves, or have family members who have served or are still serving. During the day a lot of politicians will also give public thanks for our service. Some of them will be sincere and some of them will mean it. Damned few of them, though, will actually understand what service to the country means. It means sacrifice. When most politicians speak about sacrifice, they’re talking about other people.

On Tuesday the 12th, the world will forget us for another year. Troops in Afghanistan will continue to go out on patrol. Some of them will get wounded. Some will get killed. And nobody will pay much attention.

Editorial note: The photos above were shot by members of the military, and published in Mother Jones magazine.

the right to be an absolute dick

Okay, so maybe it’s not clearly articulated in the Constitution of These United States, but c’mon you guys, you know it’s there. It’s what we call an ‘implied right’ and it’s totally guaranteed right there in the Ninth Amendment.

The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

That’s it. That’s the entire 9th Amendment. It’s like, what…twenty words? Plus some Revolutionary War punctuation. Basically, it’s the Founding Fathers saying “Dude, we’re not going to write down every possible Right, because c’mon that’ll take forever, and besides — quill pens?” So just because the Right to be an Absolute Dick isn’t clearly enumerated, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

statue of liberty armed

A couple days ago a patriot exercised his Right to be an Absolute Dick by toting a rifle slung over his shoulder into Sky Harbor International Airport in Phoenix. That just made him a dick. The fact that he did this two days after the assault on TSA agents at LAX made him a Really Big Dick. It was his decision to bring his 12 year old son along with him to the airport — and arm that child with a semi-automatic pistol — that catapulted this guy to Absolute Dick status.

This guy and his 12 year old son had geared up and gone to the airport to meet an arriving passenger. The guy told the Phoenix Police Department he and his 12 year old son had come armed because he “feared for his family’s safety while at the airport.” I guess because you never know what sort of nutcases will show up at the airport with guns and start shooting folks.

You’d think the other people at Sky Harbor International would be comforted by knowing that there was a guy and a 12 year old boy armed with semi-auto weapons to defend them against anybody who might show up at the airport with semi-auto weapons. But no. Those sissies called the police, just because they were irrationally distressed that a guy and a 12 year old boy were strolling around the airport with semi-auto weapons two days after a guy a guy with a semi-auto weapon went to an airport and killed a TSA agent and wounded a few others.

children with gun

Obviously there was no reason for them to be upset. I mean, the guy had armed his 12 year old son. Surely that showed he was rational and reasonable. What kind of nutcase would bring a 12 year old boy to the airport and NOT give him the opportunity to defend himself? Remember what NRA spokesman Wayne LaPierre said:

“The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. Also, a 12 year old boy with a gun. Also too in addition, maybe a 12 year old girl with a gun — if you can find a pink Hello Kitty semi-auto that’ll fit into her cute little hands.”

You may have noticed that I’m referring to the guy who gave his 12 year old son a semi-automatic pistol and brought him to the airport only as ‘the guy who gave his 12 year old son a semi-auto pistol.’ That’s on account of the police didn’t report the guy’s name (nor the name of the 12 year old boy). Why? Because they didn’t do anything wrong. It’s perfectly legal for folks (including, it seems, a 12 year old boy) to openly tote firearms into the unsecured areas of OK Corral International Sky Harbor International Airport.

LAX shooting

Sure, maybe the guy and his 12 year old son scared the shit out of dozens of other people waiting for flights at the airport — and sure, maybe the guy and his 12 year old son drew police officers away from their other duties and areas of responsibility — but a right that isn’t exercised isn’t a right at all. And this guy has a Constitutional right to be an Absolute Dick.

I can’t help remembering, though, what happened a few years back when a few Muslims awaiting a flight stopped to pray. And I can’t help wondering what would happen if an Arab-American exercised the right to openly carry a firearm in an international airport.

fear of flying comic