this isn’t news

Back in July Bernie Sanders said folks need to “stop shouting at each other” about gun control legislation. A few weeks later, in a speech, he said this about gun control: “[P]eople shouting at each other is not doing anybody any good.” Earlier this month Bernie said that as a nation we need to “get beyond the shouting” when it came to gun legislation. And at the first Democratic debate, he said this:

“As a senator from a rural state, what I can tell Secretary Clinton, is that all the shouting in the world is not going to do what I would hope all of us want, and that is keep guns out of the hands of people who should not have those guns and end this horrible violence that we are seeing.”

And hey, Bernie’s right. Shouting at each other does more harm than good. Once the shouting starts, brains shut down.

bernie sanders

Last Friday, while speaking at the Democratic National Committee’s Women’s Leadership Forum, Hillary Clinton said this:

“I’ve been told to stop — and I quote — shouting about gun violence. Well, first of all, I’m not shouting. It’s just that when women talk, people think we’re shouting.”

And hey, Hillary’s right. Women who take a strong position on a subject — almost any subject — and speak forcefully about it, are often accused of shouting and being ‘hysterical’. Well, more accurately, women are usually accused of shrieking. It’s a tactic intended to keep women quiet.


Her comment has created something of a fuss. The news media have turned this into a Hillary versus Bernie story. He said this, she said that, and it becomes all about the spat. Any actual difference in their policy positions on gun safety gets lost.

Did Bernie accuse Hillary of shouting? No, he didn’t, not directly. But during the debate, his comment about shouting was aimed at her. Did Hillary accuse Bernie of being sexist? No, she didn’t, not directly. But her comment about being told to stop shouting was aimed in his direction.

bernie and hillary at debate

Here’s the thing: they’re both mostly right. Bernie’s comments about people who shout failing to communicate are germane, though there was no need for him to mansplain it to Hillary. Her comments about women being accused of shouting are spot on, though it’s inaccurate to suggest Bernie is sexist. Bernie tends to be blunt — which is usually a good thing, though certainly not the best default approach for a politician who needs to get things done. Hillary tends to be politic — which is great for diplomacy, but isn’t necessarily completely honest.

It’s completely fair for each of them to find fault with the other’s position on gun policy. And the news media would be right to report their different positions. But instead they’ve opted to turn a policy difference into a personal spat.

That’s not news. That’s gossip.


every year, this happens

This happens to me every year. I know summer is going to end. I know approximately when it’s going to end. I know that when autumn is here, I’ll love it.

I know all that — and yet every year this happens to me. There are a few days when the shock of summer’s end makes me…what? Not sad, really. Because, as I said, I love autumn. Not melancholy; I’ve never been able to carry off gloom and brooding. I’m okay at a bit of foreboding, but gloom and melancholy just aren’t in my repertoire. I’m not even disconsolate, because I’m easily comforted.

end of summer part 1

Wistful. I guess that’s it. The end of summer makes me wistful. I am full of wist. Wist, by the way, used to be the past tense of wit — and I’m talking about wit as a verb. As a verb, it meant ‘to know, to be aware or conscious of.’ You see it in other words: witless, dimwit, unwitting. The term witness originally meant to formally attest to a thing you actually know to be true.

Wistful, then, meant to be keenly aware of something you once knew to be true. It’s only a small step from that to the more modern meaning: a pensive yearning for something now gone.

end of summer, part 2

I will miss grilling out supper. I’ll miss sitting outside on a hot day, drinking a cold beer. I’ll miss going through my entire day barefooted. I’ll miss the freedom and comfort of wearing shorts. I’ll miss picking herbs from my window-boxes and cooking with them. I’ll miss the heat — that deep, penetrating, bone-heat that loosens my aging joints. I’ll miss the long days. I’ll miss the whirring of my old box fan. I’ll miss the breeze coming through the open windows and screen doors. I’ll miss leaving the deck door open so the cat can wander in and out at will, along with occasional wasps and flies and twice this year, a butterfly.

Hell, I’m already missing those things, and summer’s only been gone about ten minutes.

end of summer part 3

But at some point this week, I’ll pack up my shorts and put them away. And I’ll unpack my sweaters and scarfs and gloves and caps and soft flannel shirts. Oh, and flannel sheets. It won’t be cold enough for flannel sheets until autumn is over, but lawdy who doesn’t love sleeping in flannel sheets?

And pretty soon it’ll be time to start cooking soups and stews. Time for cooking chili and cornbread. Sometime in the next couple of weeks, I start baking beer bread again, and eating it warm with real butter. It’ll be time for eggnog before long, though it will annoy me that they begin selling it earlier every year (eggnog, by law, shouldn’t be consumed until the week before Thanksgiving). I look forward to walking in the woods, with all the dead leaves underfoot.

I love autumn. I’ll enjoy the hell out of it. I always do.

But still, I’ll have to wear shoes.

boots and a dead guy in vietnam

You guys, guess what! Senator Ted Cruz has thoughts about the Democrat’s debate, and he’d like to scare you with them share them with you! Ready for fun? Here we go!

“It was more socialism, more pacifism, more weakness and less Constitution. It was a recipe to destroy a country.”

More pacifism, you guys! Sure, there was that bit in the debate where sissy Jim Webb recalled how he killed the NVA soldier who’d wounded him with a grenade — but that’s pacifism compared to what Senator Ted would have done. If he’d served in Vietnam. Or even if he’d served in the military at all. Which, you know…he didn’t. On account of he had a career to think of after college.

Senator Ted is so upset, you guys.

Senator Ted is so upset, you guys.

But Senator Ted, he regrets he didn’t serve in the military and get the opportunity to kill enemies for Jeebus.

“I will say it’s something I’ve always regretted. I wish I had spent time in the service. It’s something I respect immensely.”

Immensely, you guys! Senator Ted totally respects military service — or at least the sort of military service he’d have served if, you know…he’d served in the military. Which he didn’t. But he knows why young men and women did join and serve in the U.S. military. And that reason absolutely is NOT to serve as Al Qaeda’s Air Force

“We should be focused on defending the United States of America. That’s why young men and women sign up to join the military, not to, as you know, serve as Al Qaeda’s air force.”

You guys, Al Qaeda can hire its own air force! There are lots of young men and women of Al Qanadian descent who need jobs and would be happy to serve their nation country city-state thingy. So those pacifist Democrats can just take their pacifism and go back where they came from. And have their next debate there. In Al Qaedastan.

“It was interesting for America to see each and every Democratic candidate explain how what we need is an even weaker America, how we should withdraw even more from America, avoid any conflict whatsoever with Iran, with Russia, with ISIS, with the lunatics who want to kill us.”

You guys, it was interesting to see how the Democrats want America to withdraw from America and…uh…what? Never mind. Never mind, on account of lunatics. Still, it was an interesting thing and it was in the debate and America saw it, you guys!

Well, some of America saw it. Senator Ted would have seen it, probably. If he hadn’t been campaigning at a Pizza Hut in Kalona, Iowa while the debate was on the television.  But even though he didn’t actually see it see it, Senator Ted saw it enough to be outraged by what he didn’t see. But he would have seen it if, you know…he’d actually seen it. Which he didn’t.

“We’re seeing our freedoms taken away every day and last night was an audition for who would wear the jackboot most vigorously. Last night was an audition for who would embrace government power, for who would strip your and my individual liberties.”

Freedoms! Taken away! Every day, you guys! And totally stripped! The Democrat’s debate was a jackboot audition to see who could wear it vigorously while embracing power and liberty-stripping. Whatever that means.

It's that one guy, and he's wearing jackboots, you guys.

It’s that one guy, and he’s wearing jackboots, you guys.

But liberties are being stripped. Stripped! And jackboots are involved! You know who wears jackboots? Hitler, you guys! Hitler wears jackboots. Or did. When he was alive. Which is isn’t now. Like that other guy who threw a grenade at Jim Webb. In Vietnam. Where Senator Ted would have served if he’d been old enough. Or if he’d served in the military at all. Which, you know…he didn’t.

But okay, sure, maybe Senator Ted didn’t actually serve in the U.S. military (hint: he didn’t), but he knows what it takes to be the Commander-in-Chief. He knows what’s needed. This is what we need, you guys:

“What we need is a commander-in-chief who makes clear if you join ISIS, if you wage jihad on America, then you are signing your death warrant.”

Death warrant, you guys! Signing it. Not one Democrat had the courage to even mention death warrants! No, all they talked about was Democratic pacifism and their recipes for destroying countries. When Senator Ted becomes President of These United States he’ll totally stop U.S. troops from serving in the air force of Al Qaeda AND he’ll make ISISists sign their own death warrants, probably. In blood.

Senator Ted has thoughts and...hey, what the fuck has he got on his feet?

Senator Ted has thoughts and…hey, what the fuck has he got on his feet?

That’s the sort of leadership you’ll get from President Ted. If he wins the presidential election. Which he won’t. You know, if he wins the Republican nomination. Which he also won’t.

But still, there’s a dead guy in Vietnam who’s looking over his shoulder, because Senator Ted has a death warrant for him to sign.


sorry, but no

You know how sometimes you’ll overhear a snippet of conversation and you pause in whatever it is you’re doing, waiting to hear more? That happened to me this weekend. I was at the market, baked goods aisle, and I heard this:

“Well, I don’t agree with everything he says, but Ben Carson has a valid point…”

And I skidded to a stop (right in front of the fresh-baked pumpkin bars). Ben Carson has a point. A valid point. Okay. That’s possible. You know, if we’re talking about pediatric neurosurgery, then yeah, sure, he could have a valid point. Otherwise…

“…the Nazis did impose gun control on the Jews. Maybe if they’d had a chance to…”

Ah, okay, no. No, Ben Carson does not have a valid point. Ben Carson is nowhere near having a valid point. He’s not on the same map as a valid point. If Ben Carson was the head of NASA, a valid point would be Matt Damon abandoned on Mars — only without the potatoes. Ben Carson’s valid point is a parrot pining for the fjords.

Dr. Ben Carson believes he has a valid point. He is, sadly, wrong.

Dr. Ben Carson believes he has a valid point. He is, sadly, wrong.

I wrote about this whole Nazi gun control bullshit a couple of years ago, and I won’t bother to repeat it now. But anybody willing spend a little time actually looking at history can put a stake through the heart of that lie.

“Maybe if they’d had a chance to defend themselves, the Holocaust wouldn’t have happened.”

Sweet Jeebus Jack-o-lantern, how fucking stupid do you have to be to believe this? Look, Poland had an army. Maybe not the world’s best army, but an actual army. Soldiers who’d been trained. Professional soldiers. The German army kicked the shit out of them in five weeks. Belgium had an army; so did the Netherlands. The Nazis walked over them in short order. Norway and Denmark both had armies, and they fell in a month. The French had an army, and it was actually a fairly good one — more than a hundred divisions, including one of the best armored mobile forces in the world. They held out against the German army for two months before surrendering.

But hey, if only ordinary Jewish citizens — all those doctors, cobblers, merchants, teachers, musicians, butchers, scholars — if only they’d had guns. Sure, they weren’t trained in combat, and sure, they were scattered in hundreds of cities across half a dozen different nations — but if only they’d been able to own rifles and shotguns and pistols, then maybe the Holocaust wouldn’t have happened.

Except, of course, history shows that German citizens could possess guns (and so could Jews until 1938). And history also shows the armies of at least eight European nations were unable to stop the Nazis. So to believe Jews With Guns could have prevented the Holocaust you have to first ignore historical realty and…well, reality in general.

In other words, you have to be like Ben Carson.

stupid ideological purity

So I’m chatting with a friend, right? About all sorts of stuff, including U.S. politics. And he says to me, he says “I won’t vote for Hillary. It’s Bernie or nobody.”

So I smile, because I think he’s just being dramatic. But he says, “No, I really mean it. If Bernie isn’t the Democrat’s nominee, I just won’t vote.” I politely suggest maybe he’ll change his mind if it comes down to, say, Hillary versus Marco Rubio. Because c’mon, Rubio? But again he says, “No. Fuck it, let Rubio or Trump or whoever fuck up the country. Then maybe people will get motivated to vote for a true progressive.”

I say, “Yeah, but dude? You’re willing to tank the economy? What about poor folks? What about all those wars Republicans want us to fight? What about immigrants and old folks? Dude, what about the fucking Supreme Court?” And he says, “Fuck it. If they wreck it, they’ll own it.” And I’m like “Yeah, they wreck it, they own it. But we’ll still have to live in it.”


We go back and forth for a bit, and he allows there’s one other Democrat he’d consider voting for. Elizabeth Warren. I’m like, “Dude, she’s not running.” He says, “She should.” And I say, “Yeah, maybe she should. But she’s not.”

And that’s when I realize that my friend is living in a Bizarro Liberal Tea Party world. His approach almost exactly mirrored the conservative Tea Party. Ideological purity above all. Operate the government the ‘right’ way or burn it all down. That’s really a pretty fucked up approach. Look at where it got the Republicans. They’ve become a Balkanized political party. The modern GOP is a disorganized collective of small, quarrelsome, ineffective, suspicious, mutually hostile groups. Those fuckwits aren’t only incapable of governing, they’re incapable of being governed.

Let’s not do that to the Democratic party.

My friend says he’s tired of voting for the lesser of two evils, and I totally understand that. It’s discouraging. But the operative term there is lesser. If you refuse to vote for the lesser of two evils, then I think you’re fucking stupid and petty.


I have problems with Hillary. I have problems with Bernie. But they’re nothing like the problems I have with ALL of the Republican candidates. I told my friend I was probably going to join Team Bernie for the Iowa caucus. He said, “Probably? Probably?

Yeah, probably. Because every so often Hillary does something that makes me lean in her direction. Like her response to the latest development in the Patriot Coal bankruptcy case. I’m going to take a wild guess here and say you probably haven’t paid a lick of attention to Patriot Coal. I’ve written about them before, and you can read that here. Basically, Patriot Coal is a subsidiary of Peabody Energy; it was almost certainly deliberately designed to go bankrupt. But before it went bankrupt, Peabody transferred the costs of the health care and retirement benefits of former coal miners to Patriot Coal. Patriot could go bankrupt, the miners would lose most of their retirement and health benefits, and it wouldn’t have any effect on Peabody.

That’s pretty shitty behavior, even for a coal company. But it gets worse. The bankruptcy court set aside something like US$22 million to help the retired miners. Patriot Coal is attempting to get the court to use $18 million of that money to pay for lawyers fees. Seriously, that’s fucked up on about nine different levels.


This is an issue that almost nobody knows about. It’s not a national election issue. It’s an issue for maybe ten or eleven thousand retired miners, mostly living in West Virginia. But Hillary spoke about it. She issued a statement on Patriot Coal. It wasn’t very widely reported; it wasn’t really considered very newsworthy. But Hillary was aware of the issue and took a stand. She took a stand for miners who almost certainly won’t vote for her (West Virginia voted for Romney by nearly a 2-1 margin). I suspect Bernie would agree with Hillary on this. But I don’t really know, because I haven’t been able to find any news report in which he’s commented on it.

I’m still probably going to caucus for Bernie. But I like Hillary. And any Bernie Sanders supporters who tell me they won’t vote for Hillary if she wins the nomination can go fuck themselves.

By the way, this morning Patriot Coal withdrew their request that lawyers fees should come out of the miners’ retirement benefits. Nobody will probably notice. It won’t have any effect on Hillary’s election chances.

we don’t have to make it so easy

It’s become traditional, after high publicity mass killings, for the families of the victims to make a public statement. And right there, that demonstrates how routine mass killings have become. We’ve developed social patterns based on them, and those patterns have developed into traditions.

Most often, these family statements take the form of a public eulogy. The families talk about the victim — how wonderful they were, how tragic their death, how much they had to offer society, how much they’ll be missed. Sometimes the statements will include a call for finding some way to insure “this will never happen again.” That call will be repeated for a while, then conveniently ignored.

The family of 18-year-old Quinn Cooper, who was killed in the Umpqua Community College mass killing, has issued the traditional statement. It includes this:

“We are hearing so many people talk about gun control and taking people’s guns away. If the public couldn’t have guns it wouldn’t help since sick people like this will always be able to get their hand on a gun(s).

We need to be able to protect ourselves as a community and as a nation. Please don’t let this horrible act of insanity become about who should or shouldn’t have a gun. Please remember the victims and their families. Please remember Quinn.”

I have a lot of empathy for the Cooper family. I’m certain they are sincere in their belief that nothing can be done to prevent these tragedies. But sadly, they are misguided — and more to the point, they’re just plain wrong.

Quinn Cooper

Quinn Cooper

This ‘horrible act of insanity’ is always about who should and shouldn’t have a gun. I’m sure the Cooper family would agree that Chris Harper Mercer should not have been able to stockpile an arsenal of a dozen or more firearms. The only reason ‘sick people’ are ‘always…able to get their hands on a gun’ is because we’ve made it ridiculously easy for them to do so. The only reason so many people were killed and wounded at the Umpqua Community College is because we’ve made it ridiculously easy for mass killers to hike up the body count.

And we’ve done it deliberately. We’ve deliberately created a convoluted and inconsistent record-keeping system that impedes the transmission of mental health records to gun dealers. We’ve deliberately created barriers that prevent law enforcement officers from obtaining or sharing information about potentially illegal firearm transactions. We’ve deliberately created an alternate system of firearm sales that’s essentially designed to avoid background checks.

And, of course, when I say ‘we’ deliberately did that, what I really mean is ‘Republican legislators’ and ‘the National Rifle Association’ have deliberately done that, along with a scattering of cowardly and selfish Democrats.

Yes, of course, there will always be disturbed people who want to kill groups of people. And yes, of course, many of them will always be determined enough to find a way to do that. But we don’t have to make it so easy for them. And we don’t have to give them tools that multiply the body count.

The Cooper family is right in one regard: we should remember the victims and their families. We should remember Quinn. And we should also take a few simple common sense steps to prevent other families from experiencing what the Cooper family is coping with right now. One last line from the Cooper family statement:

“No one should ever have to feel the pain we are feeling.”

Agreed. So maybe instead of just offering post-tragedy ‘thoughts and prayers’ we should take a few practical steps to make it a wee bit more difficult for these tragedies to take place.

credit where credit is due

“Let me be very clear, I will not name the shooter. I will not give him the credit he probably sought prior to this horrific and cowardly act.”

That was Douglas County Sheriff John Hanlin speaking at a news conference in which he briefed the news media about the mass killing at Umpqua Community College. He announced ten people had died during the crime, but refused to say whether the shooter was one of them.

Sheriff Hanlin is a man of strong opinions and beliefs — and some of those opinions and beliefs are about firearms. The sheriff and I have that in common.

Sheriff John Hanlin

Sheriff John Hanlin

Here’s another thing we have in common: on January 15, 2013 both Sheriff Hanlin and I were writing about guns. It was a month after the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT. A month after six adult school staff members and twenty children — all aged six or seven — were slaughtered in a five-minute shooting spree. Let me just repeat that bit. The victims were little kids. A month after a mentally deranged young man deliberately walked through the halls of a school shooting little kids.

It was also the day before President Obama was scheduled to propose some new executive firearm policies. Both Sheriff Hanlin and I were writing about that on the 15th of January. I was writing to mock Texas Republican Steve Stockman, who’d vowed to thwart the president’s proposals by any means necessary. Stockman didn’t know what those proposals were, but he was sure they were “an attack on the Constitution and a violation of his sworn oath of office – they are a direct attack on Americans that place all of us in danger.”

That’s right — a member of Congress claimed a few policy proposals made by the President of the United States were a direct attack on Americans that would place all of us in danger.

Sheriff John Hanlin

Sheriff John Hanlin

Sheriff Hanlin — the law enforcement officer in charge of the investigation of yesterday’s mass killing — was writing a letter to Vice President Joe Biden to say pretty much the same thing (full letter is below). Biden had been named to head an  interagency gun-violence task force after the Sandy Hook massacre. Sheriff Hanlin requested that Biden’s task force:

…NOT tamper with or attempt to amend the 2nd Amendment. Gun control is NOT the answer to preventing heinous crimes like school shootings.

Hanlin went on to formally notify the vice president:

…any federal regulation enacted by Congress of by executive order by the President offending the Constitutional rights of my citizens shall not be enforced by me or by my deputies, nor will I permit the enforcement of any unconstitutional regulations or orders by federal officers within the borders of Douglas County Oregon.

Got that? The sheriff was essentially announcing that he didn’t care what the President of the United States or Congress wanted, he was going to insure that folks in his county could have all the guns they wanted, all the high-capacity magazines they wanted, and all the ammunition they wanted.

In effect, Sheriff Hanlin was protecting the right of Chris Harper Mercer to buy and own three pistols and a semi-automatic rifle. The weapons Chris Harper Mercer used to kill nine citizens in Douglas County. The weapons Chris Harper Mercer used to wound ten other citizens, ones he failed to kill. Those are all citizens Sheriff Hanlin is sworn and duty-bound to protect.

Chris Harper Mercer

Chris Harper Mercer

Sheriff Hanlin refuses to say Chris Harper Mercer’s name because he “will not give him the credit he probably sought prior to this horrific and cowardly act.” I think it’s important that we all say the name of both Chris Harper Mercer and Sheriff John Hanlin. Sheriff Hanlin deserves his share of the credit.


NOTE: Here is the letter Sheriff Hanlin sent to Vice President Biden:


By the way, I’ve written about these so-called Constitutional Sheriffs before, and Sheriff Hanlin’s name is included. If you’re willing to put up with it, here are The Dimwit Sheriffs and the Return of the Dimwit Sheriffs.