a few random lunchtime thoughts on political crap

It’s OMG IOWA CAUCUS time. Local, national, and international news teams have taken every damned seat in every damned coffee shop, saloon, burger joint, and opium den in Des Moines. They’re swarming the city with all the desperate, unthinking energy of spawning salmon. They’re trolling for news, and it ain’t pretty. It makes it difficult to maintain a steady stream of thought. So I’m not even going to try.

Here’s the random crap that’s banging around in my head like a dried pea in a tin cup while I try to eat lunch.

Random Crap One: I am reliably informed that New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is “is within striking distance” of the lead in the Republican race. He’s polling at six percent support. Six percent. And the news media is so frantic for ‘news’ they’ve decided that’s striking distance. Hell, the Zika virus is polling at seven percent. More people would rather be infected with Zika than have Christie as President of These United States.

Zika-carrying Aedes aegypti mosquito polls higher than Christie.

Zika-carrying Aedes aegypti mosquito polls higher than Christie.

Random Crap Two: I saw maybe three minutes of the most recent Republican Debate. Three minutes, one question. Nemesis Megyn Kelly asked Marco Rubio how he’d handle the problem of undocumented immigrants entering the U.S. This was (and I’m not making this up) Rubio’s response:

“I’m going to tell you exactly how we’re going to deal with it when I am president. Number one, we’re going to keep ISIS out of America.”

That’s exactly how he’s going to deal with undocumented workers — by keeping ISIS out of America. There are plenty of under-employed white American terrorists looking for bird sanctuaries to occupy. We don’t need foreigners taking jobs that should rightfully go to decent, hard-working, well-armed Americans.

Marco Rubio's understanding of undocumented workers.

Marco Rubio’s understanding of undocumented workers.

Random Crap Three: Louis Gohmert, the human equivalent of the Zika virus (in that when he speaks, he’s capable of causing brain damage) informs us that evangelicals like Donald J. Trump because (and again, I’m not making this up) they’re…

“sick of the nation being fundamentally transformed away from being a Christian nation.”

Gohmert (who is engaged in a heroic quest to discover and exploit brave new worlds of stupid) has apparently read all the bad parts of Ivanhoe (or had somebody read it to him).

“Holy Mother,” said the monk, as he addressed the assembled knights, “I am at last safe and in Christian keeping!”

“Safe thou art,” replied De Bracy; “and for Christianity, here is the stout Baron Reginald Front-de-Boeuf, whose utter abomination is a Jew; and the good Knight Templar, Brian de Bois-Guilbert, whose trade is to slay Saracens—If these are not good marks of Christianity, I know no other which they bear about them.”

Good marks of Christianity, right there in the bloviating figure of Trump. An endorsement by Gohmert carries all the weight of an endorsement by Karl Turley (Karl works at the local Stop&Rob up the street — nice guy, flunked out of his first semester studying HVAC at the community college).

Random Crap Four: There’s a Super PAC called Black Americans for a Better Future. It’s described as “the first and only [Super PAC] dedicated to attracting African-Americans to the Republican Party.” Its goal is “to counter those liberal organizations that receive an inordinate amount of media attention and to present a counter narrative” to liberal groups. According to the group’s first speaker,

“Having well trained, credible, experienced African-Americans constantly challenging the liberal orthodoxy in the media will create a tectonic shift in the perception of the Republican Party within the Black community.”

Guess who  BAFBA is supporting. Go on, guess. No, not Donald Trump, are you crazy? No, they’re supporting Ted Fucking Cruz. Seriously, I’m not making that up. Does that sound crazy? Maybe this will help. This is the guy who created BAFBA:

Robert Mercer, founder of Black Americans for a Better Future. Honest.

Robert Mercer, founder of Black Americans for a Better Future. Honest.

You may have noticed that Robert Mercer is…well, white. In fact, every donor to BAFBA is equally white. Every single one. The donor pool for BAFBA is whiter than the Oscar acting nominees. Ted Fucking Cruz, I declare, wouldn’t it be great if a liar’s pants really did catch on fire?

Random Crap Five: Conservatives are upset that there are new Barbie dolls with new body shapes. Why are they upset? Because apparently it’s political correctness run amok. I’ve noticed that political correctness, when it’s not being jammed down throats, is always running amok. I don’t think it knows any other way to run.

American values under attack by ISIS Barbie

American values under attack by ISIS Barbie

It’s only a matter of time before Trump, Rubio, and Cruz compete to see who’ll work harder to keep the new Barbie dolls from crossing the border.

it ain’t over

First, let me say this: it’s always easy to know the right thing to do when you don’t have to actually do it your ownself. So when I say I think the Feds fucked up strategically in their dealings with the Great Bird Sanctuary Treason Plot, but did well tactically, remember that I’m mostly talking out my ass.

Second, let me make a pretty bad analogy. I mean, it’s not a totally horrible analogy, it’s just pretty bad. Here it is: Pretend you have a child (unless you actually have a child). That child knows he (and yeah, it’s a boy on account of boys are just like that) isn’t supposed to have chocolate. Now, pretend that boy takes a damned chocolate. You take the chocolate back from the boy, and he’s pissed on account you’re mean and stupid and he hates you. Now pretend that the boy takes a damned chocolate and you tell him “Child, you are NOT to take chocolates” but you just stand there with your thumb up your butt while he eats the chocolate. Then the next day the little bastard takes another damned chocolate. This time you take the chocolate from him, but now he’s pissed times two on account of you let him have the chocolate last time and didn’t do anything.

Get it? Wait, I meant to tell you the Bundy family is the child and the chocolate is seizing control over government lands. Now, get it?

My point is if the Feds had confiscated Cliven Bundy’s livestock like they were authorized to do before he called in all his faux patriot buddies, then it’s unlikely the Lesser Bundys would have started the Great Bird Sanctuary Treason Plot. Strategically, the Feds fucked up. If you tell the boy he can’t have chocolate, then you have to be ready to take his damned chocolate.

Charter Members of the Fuckwit Collective.

Charter Members of the Fuckwit Collective.

But they didn’t, and now there’s a dead fuckwitted cowboy and a wounded fuckwitted whatever-the-hell Ryan Bundy is.

It could have been worse. It could have been much worse. And there’s a very real possibility that it will get worse. On account of it’s not over. Not yet.

It’s important to remember that the people involved in the Great Bird Sanctuary Treason Plot aren’t just fuckwits. They’re fuckwits who are part of a religious/political/ideological movement with a long history of violent confrontation with law enforcement, a penchant for armed resistance in a siege, and a tradition of martyrdom. That’s not a recipe for peaceful resolution.

We’ve seen this same basic situation several times since the early 1980s. Well-armed, conspiracy-oriented, survivalist-minded, right-wing fuckwits with strange notions of Christianity and a deep, abiding suspicion of the U.S. government have repeatedly sparked violent confrontations with Federal law enforcement agents. Gordon Kahl and the Posse Comitatus in 1983, Robert Jay Mathews and the Brüder Schweigen (the Silent Brotherhood) in 1984, Richard Wayne Snell and The Covenant, the Sword, and the Arm of the Lord in that same year, Randy Weaver — whose wife and son were killed during their stand-off in 1992, David Koresh and 75 members of his group died after a long siege in 1993, the Montana Freemen in 1996, and on and on and on.

Some of those conflicts were resolved peacefully. Most weren’t. Most ended in bloodshed. Because these people have some real issues with impulse control AND they have guns.

Lavoy Finicum

Lavoy Finicum

Earlier I said the Feds fucked up strategically. I personally think they also fucked up by not taking a harder line against the Great Bird Sanctuary Treason Plot plotters in a way that’s what you call ‘timely.’ Like, say, a couple of days after they moved in. Instead, the Feds allowed the Lesser Bundys to think this was going to be BundyFest II.

Still, when the Feds finally decided to act, they did well tactically. By that I mean they handled the arrest of the Bundys and their camouflage remora in a professional way. They waited until the leaders of the movement left the compound, stopped them, and took them into custody with relatively little fuss. Aside from, you know, shooting the cowboy (and I don’t mean to make light of that; it’s sad that it happened, but it seemed clear from the beginning that Lavoy Finicum was redolent with the smell of burning martyr).

The problem is there are still at least a couple of Finicumesque fuckwits camped out in Malheur, working on their Braveheart imitations. It may not be easy to dislodge them.

time to close the militia fantasy camp

Okay, I’m pretty much sick of those swag-bellied motherfuckers who are still parking their pale, pasty, spongy asses on public land in Oregon. And I’m pretty much weary of waiting for Federal law enforcement to do their fucking job.

I’m a peaceful guy. A patient guy. I have been told patience is my only redeeming quality. But Jeebus in a tea-cup, people, there’s a point at which patience ceases to be a virtue. And we passed that point a week ago. At this point, we’re only encouraging them. We’re only inviting more of this shit.

They call it a peaceful event. That’s a lie. Here’s how you can tell it’s a lie: you don’t bring guns to a peaceful protest. You bring guns to a gunfight. They keep saying that IF there’s violence, it’ll be initiated by LEOs — and they say it in the same way a wife-beater tells his battered wife “Don’t make me do this.”

Not a peaceful protest.

Not a peaceful protest.

What that basically says is these tunaheads don’t believe they should be held accountable for their behavior. Tell me, does that work for any group other than armed white guys wearing cowboy hats? Never mind, I know the answer. The answer is hell, no.

They say they want a peaceful resolution. That’s also a lie. Here’s what Ammon Bundy, the bull goose loony of the occupation, told an FBI negotiator yesterday:

“I want to make sure that you understand: The resolution is the Constitution of the United States. How we get there, I realize there’s some steps and some things we need to do. But we’ve compromised that supreme law long enough.”

What they mean by ‘resolution’ is capitulation to their fuckwitted interpretation of the U.S. Constitution. That leaves absolutely no room at all for real negotiation. And let’s face it, at this point the only thing that should be negotiated is how these toads should surrender themselves to law enforcement.

Not looking for a peaceful resolution.

Not looking for a peaceful resolution.

Again, I’m a peaceful guy. I don’t want to see anybody get hurt, including these guys. I don’t want to see this situation end in a gunfight. Gunfights are bad news for everybody. But I want to see these jamokes held accountable. Right now, they’re basically allowed to come and go as they please, attending town meetings, stocking up on snacks. Just as bad, their supporters are allowed into the wildlife refuge to resupply them. These guys are acting like they’re at Militia Fantasy Camp. Seriously, what the fuck, FBI?

There are some basic steps the Feds could take to apply pressure. Isolate the bastards. Turn off their goddamn electricity. Jam their cell phones. Stop their supply runs. Arrest anybody who tries to enter the wildlife refuge, and arrest any of the occupiers who leave. Treat these fuckwits like the criminals they are.

Don’t just stand around with your thumb up your ass; do something.

if you meet Bernie along the road…

I watched the Democratic debate last night. In almost every way, it was the same as the last Democratic debate, which was pretty similar to the Democratic debate that came before that. I find that sort of comforting. It means the candidates are mostly consistent.

The only real difference last night? Bernie’s poll numbers. He’s clearly gaining momentum. Which is mostly a good thing. Why mostly? I’m glad you asked.

Buddhists have a saying — they have a lot of sayings. So do the Irish, for that matter, they’re a grand folk for the sayings, and the Irish Buddhists, those people, you just can’t get them to shut the fuck up at all, at all. But this is the saying I’m talking about:

If you meet the Buddha along the road, kill him.

Obviously, that’s not meant to be taken literally. You don’t want to be killing the Buddha. You don’t want to be killing anybody, for that matter, along the road or off it. No, that saying is a metaphor, is what it is. Basically, what it means is this: the Buddha isn’t going to enlighten you. You have to do that on your own. It means the Buddha — any Buddha — is really just another bozo on the bus. Killing the Buddha means killing the idea that somebody — anybody — has all the answers. It means it’s okay to have heroes, but it’s necessary to remember that heroes are just as capable of fucking up as you are.


Why am I nattering on about this stuff? Because I’m feeling the need to say this:

If you meet Bernie Sanders along the road, kill him.

See, you can get by with saying ‘Kill the Buddha’ because folks understand it’s a metaphor. You say ‘Kill Bernie’ and folks get pissed off. I’m saying this, though, because two weeks before the Iowa caucus I’m seeing a lot of this: ‘Only Bernie Sanders is telling the truth.’ And ‘Only Bernie Sanders can make meaningful change in America.’ And ‘Only Bernie Sanders can beat the Republicans.’ And ‘Only Bernie Sanders understands what Americans really need.’ And ‘Only Bernie Sanders is running a clean campaign.’

Now I need to say something else. I’m almost certainly going to support Bernie Sanders in the Iowa Democratic caucus (I say ‘almost certainly’ because the caucus is still a couple of weeks away and it’s theoretically possible that Bernie might say or do something in those two weeks that will change my mind). I’m going to support him because I’ve been a liberal my entire life and his views more closely resemble my own.

But Bernie is not the Buddha. I’m a pragmatic liberal. As a liberal I love Bernie’s views and ideas, but as a pragmatist I’m aware that some of his ideas just aren’t feasible. They just aren’t going to happen. For example, his healthcare plan.

In concept, it’s brilliant. Health care as a right, and bugger the insurance companies.Who could be against that? I mean, aside from insurance companies, and I’m of the opinion they can go fuck themselves in the neck. But how’s he going to actually do that? How’s he going to fund it?

Bernie’s plan requires the individual states to end their current ACA exchanges AND all private health insurance. It then requires the federal government to contribute the funding it would have paid to that state under the ACA into what he calls an American Health Security Trust Fund. That fund would then be combined with a new payroll tax on every taxpayer, AND a healthcare tax on folks making a lot of money, AND a surcharge tax on folks making even more money, AND a transaction fee on Wall Street trading.

I’m also troubled by the fact Bernie suggests his plan will end all the wrangling about care and treatment. That just ain’t so. Instead of private insurance companies making decisions about which treatments and procedures are acceptable, you’d have the government making those decisions. There’s still going to be somebody there “Dude, no way we’re going to pay for your acupuncture.” The difference — and yes, it’s a big, meaningful difference — is the decisions won’t be made on the basis of profit. Instead they’ll be made on keeping costs down. But it’ll still means some folks will be denied treatment they want or need.

Again, I love the fundamental idea. A single payer system would improve life for a LOT of U.S. citizens. But I want to know how Bernie’s going to get Congress to go along with all those taxes and fees and surcharges? Obama’s plan was modest in comparison, and we’ve seen how much resistance it’s still getting. I just don’t see any way Bernie can implement his plan unless there’s a radical shift in Congress — which is highly improbable.

Hillary’s health care plan, on the other hand, is basically just a series of incremental improvements and expansions on the existing ACA. That’s a good thing, to be sure, but it’s not the sweeping change that Bernie promises. I’d much rather see Bernie’s plan put into place, but I think her plan has a better chance of actually being implemented.

I think there’s a decent chance Bernie can win the nomination, and if he does I think there’s a very good chance he’d be elected. But as a pragmatic liberal it’s important for me to acknowledge that President Sanders won’t be able to do all the things he wants to do. He won’t be able to create a single payer health care system. He won’t be able to break up the big banks (and, in fact, his ‘plan’ to do so isn’t really a plan at all — it’s the concept of a plan).

So if I think Hillary’s plan is more feasible, and if I don’t think there’s any way Bernie can actually do the things he wants to do, why am I supporting Bernie instead of Hillary?

buddha smiling

Because he’s arguing in favor of values rather than policies. I support him because he wants to do those things. I’m supporting Bernie despite the fact that I’m a pragmatic liberal. Electing somebody who wants to make those changes might be a step in the direction of creating an electorate more willing to elect a Congress that would make those chances possible.

As a pragmatic liberal, I believe Hillary has a better chance to implement her plans and incrementally improve life for most Americans. As a pragmatic liberal, I think she’s likely to do better in the general election.

But I support Bernie because it’s really hard to kill the Buddha.


Editorial Note: If Bernie doesn’t get the nomination, I’ll happily support Hillary. I like her. Her incrementalist approach to policy won’t create any sweeping change, but even small improvements are worthwhile. And she consistently addresses local issues that get ignored in a national campaign. Perhaps the very best part of the debate last night was when Hillary, in her closing statement, brought up the appalling situation of Flint, Michigan.

natural born fuckwit

Sweet Jeebus in the swampland, have seen this? Have you seen THIS? No? Then see it right now. Go on…watch it. Go on…I’ll wait.

Ted Fuckin’ Cruz, I declare. Okay, first, we don’t actually see him kill a duck. Oh sure, he’s out there in the woods, wearing camo face paint (on account of you don’t want to take any chances when going toe-to-toe with a duck), and toting a shotgun. And yeah, he’s out there with that lunatic Old Testament-looking motherfucker who could probably paralyze a mallard just by looking at it. But do we Ted Fuckin’ Cruz actually put a duck to death?

No, we do not. I think we can all agree that TFC would kill any number of ducks — with his bare hands and teeth, if need be — for the chance to park his portly ass in the Oval Office. But this commercial does not, with any conviction or credibility, demonstrate the man’s duck-killing prowess.

Does this disqualify him from becoming President of These United States? No, it does not. The U.S. Constitution does not require the president to be a master of venery. It does, though, require the president to be ‘a natural born citizen.’ That’s right, we’re talking Article II, Section 1, baby.


Donald J. Trump, who may be the only person campaigning for the presidency who is more odious that Ted Fuckin’ Cruz, is making hay (not actual hay; metaphorical hay, although actual hay IS actually made — I mean, you’d think it was just grown, right? But no, there’s a multi-step process involved in the making of…never mind. Tangent.) over whether the fact that Cruz was born in Canada disqualifies him as a legitimate candidate.

Being a gigantic fuckwit disqualifies Ted Fuckin’ Cruz from being president, but that Canadian business? Not so much. The specific question may not have been officially adjudicated, but it’s almost universally accepted that a child born anywhere to a citizen of a recognized nation is automatically considered a citizen of that nation (and often, as was the case with TFC, a citizen of the nation in which the wee bugger was born).

The only reason this is an issue — the only reason — is because there are no Republicans saying “Oh c’mon, are you kidding me?” when the question of TFC’s citizenship is raised. Not one. On account of Ted Fuckin’ Cruz is pretty much hated by his colleagues (see that earlier reference to being a gigantic fuckwit).

Having spent his entire short Senatorial career buggering up the Senate has left TFC friendless. Ain’t nobody sticking up for him, even against the most absurd accusations delivered by the most absurd accuser.

Ted Fuckin' Cruz defends himself against The Giant Head of Trump.

Ted Fuckin’ Cruz defends himself against The Giant Head of Trump.

The ducks have come home to roost. I’d feel a bit sorry for the guy, except that he’s Ted Fuckin’ Cruz. He’s earned it.

bus stops


You’re either on the bus or off the bus. If you’re on the bus, and you get left behind, then you’ll find it again. If you’re off the bus in the first place — then it won’t make a damn.
(Ken Kesey – The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test)

I’ve written about the GeoGuessr game before. It continues to be fun and challenging, and I still play once or twice a week. I find I’m approaching the game differently, though. I’m still always lost, of course, and trying to figure out where the hell I am — but now I’m also looking for recurring, universal scenes. Clothes hanging on outdoor clothes lines. Solitary cyclists riding down isolated roads. Couples walking, holding hands. Bus stops. A village in Latvia, a small town in west Texas, a city in Scandinavia — doesn’t matter. Folks still need to dry their laundry, they still hold hands, they still wait on the bus.

A bus stop in Norway

A bus stop in Norway

I’ve become particularly interested in bus stops — partly because they’re ubiquitous, partly because they’re the most democratic form of public transport. It’s true that, outside of major metropolitan areas, buses are most commonly used by the poor and working classes, but the bus stops for everybody — and you don’t need a reservation.

Near Stega Mala, Poland

Near Stega Mala, Poland

We can thank John Greenwood for that. In the early 19th century, Greenwood was a toll gate keeper on the Manchester-to-Liverpool turnpike. Yes, they actually had turnpikes back then — the monarchy built a few decent roads and charged travelers a fee to use them. The fees were collected at various points along the road, which were marked by a shelter and a pike stretched across the road. Once the fee was paid, the pike was turned and the travelers were able to continue. These turnpikes were mostly used by merchants who needed to transport their goods quickly, or by the merchant classes who could afford to book a seat on a coach. Ordinary people took ordinary roads, which were messier and more dangerous.

Near Boa Vista, Brazil

Near Boa Vista, Brazil

Greenwood changed all that in 1824; he bought a horse and a wagon and began the first mass transport service for ordinary folks. All they had to do was show up at the appointed spot at the appointed time (no reservation necessary) and pay a small fee to ride in the wagon. A similar service was developed two years later in the French city of Nantes. A retired military officer who’d built a heated bath house on the outskirts of the city devised a transport system for getting clients to and from the baths. His clients would gather at the Place du Commerce, outside a shop owned by a Monsieur Omnès, whose motto was  Omnès Omnibus — all for all. You can figure out the rest.

Outside of Arvik, Norway

Outside of Arvik, Norway

The concept of a bus network is fundamentally simple: a series of designated routes with consistent designated arrival/departure times and stable designated boarding locations with predetermined fees. It’s a predictable, reliable, efficient dynamical transportation system, and bus stops act as fixed point attractors. Riders know where to go and when to be there.

And yet it’s an incredibly elastic concept. The same basic approach can be molded to work anywhere under almost any condition. It works in the mountains, it works in the desert; it works in totalitarian nations, it works in democracies; it works in urban centers, it works in rural areas. Buses just make sense — so it’s not at all surprising to find bus stops scattered throughout the Google Street View universe.

Portstewart, Ireland

Portstewart, Ireland

What IS surprising, though, is the diversity of design. Some bus stops are elaborately designed structures, some are purely utilitarian; some have shelters to protect riders from the elements, some are merely wide spots in the road; some are meticulously cared for, some are trash magnets; some are designed to make the wait as comfortable as possible for the riders, some…well, aren’t.

Near Calilegua, Argentina

Near Calilegua, Argentina

Over the years I’ve become a fan of the bus. I often prefer to take the bus than drive. Of course, I have some advantages over most bus riders. I’m rarely in a hurry and I rarely have to be anywhere at any specific time, so I don’t mind if the bus ride is slow and stops often. The pace of a municipal bus suits me.

I enjoy looking out through the large bus windows. These days I find myself living in a rather dull, middle class, suburban neighborhood; the bus takes back through the sorts of poor, working class neighborhoods I grew up in. As a kid, I never felt there was anything interesting or beautiful about those neighborhoods. Now I see variety and diversity that’s entirely absent from where I live — variety in the people who live there, in the houses they live in, in the clothes they wear, in the level of life on the street. It makes me appreciate experiences I used to take for granted.

Sudovice, Slovakia

Sudovice, Slovakia

Among the Hopi and Pueblo peoples of the American Southwest there’s a creation legend involving Grandmother Spider. She existed in the world before it became the world. Before there were places. She spun a web that spanned the entirety of the incipient universe. It connected everything that was to exist, thereby creating — and linking — all places.

She’d have been a great bus driver.

Rural South Africa

Rural South Africa


you’ve probably got one in your community

So they arrested Trey Sudbrock again.

Who the hell is Trey Sudbrock? Nobody special. He’s a 21-year-old local guy who got dumped by his girlfriend. He’s just another guy at the intersection of male privilege, misogyny, and guns. There are tens of thousands of Trey Sudbrocks across These United States. You’ve probably got one in your community.

Here are the basic facts behind Trey Sudbrock’s story. on 24 November, a couple of days before Thanksgiving, he had a fight with his girlfriend. I don’t know what the fight was about, I don’t know who started it, or how it progressed. What I know is Trey Sudbrock was arrested and charged with domestic abuse. His girlfriend filed for a restraining order, which was granted. Sudbrock posted bond, and was released from jail with the proviso that he have no contact with his former girlfriend.

The story is pretty predictable from this point.

Trey Sudbrock

Trey Sudbrock

A week and a half later, on 3 December, Sudbrock violated that restraining order. During that incident, he killed his ex-girlfriend’s dog. Again, he was arrested. He posted bond and was again released. Then, on 23 December, the local sheriff arrested Sudbrock for the third time. He was charged with animal torture, stemming from the earlier incident.

Three days later, the day after Christmas, having been released from jail yet again, Sudbrock contacted a friend, asking to buy a gun. He allegedly told the friend he needed the weapon so he “could kill a lot of people.” He reportedly had US$2000 to spend on the firearm. His friend refused to sell him a gun, and instead reported Sudbrock to the Sheriff’s Office. Sudbrock’s been arrested yet again; this time he’s been charged with threatening terrorism — a Class D felony. The subsequent investigation revealed Sudbrock had contacted other friends about buying a firearm. They didn’t sell him one, but neither did they report him.

But guess what. Had his friends been less decent, they could have legally sold Sudbrock a gun. Or even loaned one to him. And had they done so, the odds are they would be completely free from any responsibility for whatever Sudbrock might have done with that gun.

As far as that goes, had Trey Sudbrock been patient enough to wait a couple of weeks, he could easily have bought a weapon from one of the unlicensed dealers at the gun show that’s going to be held next weekend at Adventureland Park in Des Moines. There were earlier gun shows he could have attended, but they would have required an inconvenient two or three hour drive.

Even though existing law prohibits anybody charged with or convicted of domestic abuse from buying a firearm from a federally licensed firearms dealer, there are almost always unlicensed dealers at gun shows. These unlicensed dealers are folks who don’t own a physical gun store. They have business cards, they sell firearms obtained directly from the manufacturer — new guns, still in the box, and they may make a substantial amount of their income from selling firearms and gun accessories, but they are considered by law to be private sellers, not ‘engaged’ in dealing firearms. And these unlicensed dealers don’t need to perform background checks. Even if they sell their weapons online.

That’s right, Trey Sudbrock could have gone online, bought himself a gun, and had it shipped right to his door. It’s easy. How easy? This easy.

Go to http://www.armslist.com. Pick out the gun you want. Create an account. Buy the gun.

Glock 42 -- US$399.00

Glock 42 — US$399.00

Let’s say Sudbrock wanted this sweet little Glock 42. It’s only a .380 caliber, so it lacks the stopping power of the 9mm, but hey, it would still do the trick. It’s less expensive than the 9mm too (with his $2000 Sudbrock could have bought five of these deadly beauties). If that’s not enough, the .380 is more easily concealed than the 9mm.

What about that inconvenient domestic abuse charge hanging over Sudbrock’s head? That awkward restraining order? No problem! All Sudbrock, as the buyer, would have to do is acknowledge the responsibilities listed on the seller’s website.

By purchasing through this system you agree to follow all manufacturer safety instructions and to only use the firearms in a safe manner in an approved area for a legal purpose.

Buyer assumes all responsibility for the legality of a specific item when you purchase it.

Buyer is responsible for securing your firearms from unauthorized use.

Buyer is responsible for checking all local laws before ordering or using an item that is sold here.

Buyer is responsible for complying with all firearms laws in your area.
Buyer must be of legal age to own any items you order.

Buyer must be at least 18 years of age to purchase ANY item from [name redacted]. Proof of Age can be requested prior to shipping an item.

Then it’s just a matter of waiting until that Glock arrives at the door.

Easy peasy, lemon breezy. For now.

This is one of the things that will change under President Obama’s new executive orders. If a gun seller has a website, if he has business cards, if he sells multiple firearms that are new from the manufacturer, if he obtains a substantial profit from those sales, he’ll be considered to be engaged in the business of selling firearms. That will obligate him to obtain a Federal Firearms License, and that will require him to conduct a background check on his customers.

The gun rights folks get one thing right: the executive orders issued by President Obama won’t stop mass murders. But they could prevent some of the Trey Sudbrocks of the world from buying a weapon at a gun show or online.

That’s a good thing.

It’s important to NOT allow the issue of mass murder frame the entire discussion about gun violence. This isn’t about trying to end mass murder. It’s about trying to reduce the level of overall gun violence — not just murders, but non-fatal shootings as well. It’s about making life a tad more safe for women like Trey Sudbrock’s former girlfriend.

They need that extra protection. Over the last decade, nine women were fatally shot by their domestic partners (husbands, boyfriends, and former husbands and boyfriends) every week. Every week. Easily twice that many are shot and survive. Something like 90% of those women who are shot had been physically abused on at least one prior occasion by the person who shot them.

If Obama’s executive orders make it even slightly more difficult for men like Trey Sudbrock to obtain a firearm, then it’ll be a success. It ain’t much, but it’s a start.



Right. Okay, you guys say you want to talk about the Great Bird Sanctuary Treason Plot of Harney County. I can do that. It’s an extraordinarily stupid act, and it’ll probably just dissipate in a couple of weeks, leaving behind nothing but some trash and the fetid stink of disappointed testosterone — but sure, we can talk about it. First, though, I’m going to insist on a tangent. Maybe two tangents; I haven’t decided yet.

Harney County, Oregon. Named for William Selby Harney, a 19th century military man who fought in the Indian Wars, and the Mexican-American War (which, I should point out for Trump supporters, was a war between Mexico and the United States and NOT a war on Mexican-Americans), and the American Civil War. General Harney was also deeply involved in the Pig War.

General William S. Harney

General William S. Harney, who knew a thing or two about escalating a minor fuss.

Okay, the Pig War. I’m going to guess you’re probably unfamiliar with the Pig War of 1859. I’m also going to guess you’d be happy to remain unfamiliar with it. Too bad, on account of it’s sort of relevant. The Pig War was basically a dispute over who controlled a chunk of land. In this case, the chunk of land was the San Juan Islands, which are located between Vancouver and the U.S. mainland. Both the U.S. and the U.K. claimed sovereignty over the islands. They set up a commission to settle the fuss, which of course meant the dispute dragged out for years.

However, while the commission was doing whatever bullshit commissions do, people went on living on the islands. One of those people was an American named Lyman Cutlar, who had himself a nice little garden where he grew potatoes. Another of those people was a British citizen named Charles Griffin, originally from Ireland. Charles raised pigs. On the 15th day of June, 1859 one of his pigs (identified in court documents as ‘a large black pig’ though it’s unclear if that’s a physical description of the pig itself or a reference to the creature’s breed–a Cornwall Black, which is generally referred to as a Large Black) ate some of Lyman’s potatoes. Lyman shot and killed the pig. Charles objected to what he perceived as unmerited swine assassination. Lyman offered to pay Charles US$10 for the dead pig. Charles refused, demanding $100 (which, let’s face it, is an astonishing price for a dead pig, regardless of how large and black it is). Lyman refused, saying “Your pig was trespassing and eating my potatoes.” Charles responded “My pig doesn’t recognize your property boundaries, and besides it’s your responsibility to keep your potatoes out of my very fine pig.”

A Cornwall Black pig

The Cornwall Black pig, a breed notorious for their appetite for pilfered potatoes

Charles asked the British authorities to arrest Lyman for murdering his pig. And they said “Yeah, okay, why not?” Lyman in turn asked U.S. authorities to protect him from the British. And they said, “Sure, okay, we can do that.” Because people are generally really fucking stupid, by August 10th, the British had five warships anchored off the San Juan islands, with some 2000 troops prepared to arrest Lyman Cutlar for killing Charles Griffin’s potato-eating pig. The U.S. had about 400 men with a couple dozen cannons under the command of Gen. Harney, prepared to help Lyman Cutlar protect his potatoes from being molested by wandering swine.

This standoff lasted for thirteen years (during which Harney and many of the troops went off to fight in the American Civil War, and most of the British troops went off to wave goodbye to some other part of the fading British Empire) until October of 1872, when an international tribunal chaired by Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany in Geneva, Switzerland ruled that the San Juan Islands belonged to the United States. Therefore, Charles Griffin and his tuber-ingesting pig could go fuck themselves.

Seventeen years after that, in 1889, Oregon established a county comprised of more than ten thousand square miles and named it after Gen. Harney, who at some point in time probably had to pass through the area on his way to someplace else. We’re talking about 10,000 square miles, you guys, with a population of just over 7,000 people. This place is seriously rural. And in 1908 the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge was created in Harney County.

This guy claims he couldn't spend Christmas with his children because he had to drive to Oregon to defend the right of a large black pig to eat potatoes. Or something.

This guy claims he couldn’t spend Christmas with his children because he had to drive to Oregon to defend the right of a large black pig to eat potatoes. Or something.

And hey, nobody paid a lick of attention to the place until a couple of days ago. Which is when a dozen or so ten-gallon fuckwits, mostly from Idaho and Arizona, ‘seized’ one of the unoccupied buildings on the refuge. By ‘seized’ I mean they broke open the door, walked in, and marked their territory by spraying White Christian Cowboy musk all over the place.

A lot of folks are outraged that these guys aren’t being referred to as terrorists. They’re angry that these people aren’t being treated to the same sort of rapid response military force commonly used against unarmed black pedestrians. Which is totally justifiable anger and outrage. There’s absolutely no doubt this event would be reported differently and handled differently if the occupying fuckwits were fuckwits of color or Muslim fuckwits.

But are these guys terrorists? I have to say no. I mean, terrorists cause terror. It’s right there in the name. Terrorists are scary. These guys are terror-asses. For the most part, the public is treating them with well-earned derision. Their dramatic Red Dawn farewell YouTube messages are alternately sad and hilarious. Their insistence that they’re fighting tyranny by occupying a bird sanctuary in seriously rural Oregon in the middle of the goddamn winter is so patently ridiculous that it belongs in a Monty Python skit.

This guy claims he went to Oregon to die for the cause so that no other person ever has to suffer the injustice of going to prison for setting fire to government-owned land.

This guy claims he went to Oregon to die for the cause so that no other person ever has to suffer the injustice of going to prison for setting fire to government-owned land.

But hey, they’re there and something needs to be done about it, right? So, what to do? I’d suggest the very worst thing we could do would be to treat these as a threat to national security. This is NOT an armed insurrection. It’s NOT an act of sedition that warrants an armed assault. It’s a pathetic, testosterone-driven cry for attention.

Don’t get me wrong. I think every one of these paunchy, beef-witted, potato-heads ought to be arrested and charged with a Federal crime. I think those who can be proven to have carried a firearm in this mewling exercise should be charged with a felony, in the hope that they’ll be prohibited from legally buying or owning a weapon again. I also believe these idjits who yearn for another civil war in the United States can be a genuine existential threat to the security of the United States. But occupying the Welcome Center of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge doesn’t merit a major response.

I think it would be a serious mistake to turn this clay-brained episode into the sort of military stand-off the occupiers (and the newsfotainment media) are after. That would just grant them legitimacy, which they don’t deserve. Even the folks on FreeRepublic are mocking these guys–that’s how completely fucking stupid this is.

Here is a pig stealing a potato. Alert the media.

Here is a pig stealing a potato. Alert the media.

This is only a big deal if we make it one. This ‘occupation’ doesn’t deserve the attention we’d give to a potato-thieving pig.