About greg

Just another bozo on the bus.

walking a post

This is small beans compared to his betrayal of the Kurds, but this morning Comrade Trump is putting the full range of his inadequacies as Commander-in-Chief on display. I’m talking about this tweet:

Two things. First, we do NOT train our boys…wait, three things. First, what’s with this ‘our boys’ bullshit? It’s not as if either of your boys (or either of your daughters, for that matter, or even your own vile self) was patriotic enough to put on the uniform and walk a post. I’m going to come back to this ‘walk a post’ business in a bit.

Second, we do NOT train troops to be killing machines, and we don’t want them to be that. We train them to kill, yes, because that’s always a fundamental facet of military duty. But we impose careful restrictions — rules of engagement — about when and where troops are allowed to kill the enemy. The fact is, indiscriminate killing doesn’t aid in any military objective. Unauthorized killing is a crime, even in the military. In fact, the Uniformed Code of Military Justice is clear that troops are only required to follow lawful orders.

Walking a post.

Third, the very reason Maj. Golsteyn is being tried for murder is BECAUSE he killed somebody in an unlawful way. Here’s what we know happened, and what we suspect happened. We know Golsteyn, a Green Beret, was leading an operation combined with Marine forces during the battle of Marja. We know two Marines were killed and three others were wounded by an explosive device while breaching a doorway. We know they detained the man suspected of making that bomb, and that the materials to make bombs were found in his possession. We know Golsteyn and his unit took the suspect back to their base.

We also know Golsteyn (and others) later took the man off base and killed him. We suspect they buried him in the traditional shallow grave, then returned later, dug up the body, and burned it. We know/suspect this because Golsteyn has admitted it — first to CIA interviewers and later on FOX News. The reason we say ‘suspect‘ is because Golsteyn’s lawyer maintains the killing, the burial, the disinterment, and the burning were part of a fantasy.

We also know this: during the fight in Marja Golsteyn proved himself a hero in other ways. He helped track down a sniper targeting his troops, he helped save a wounded Afghan soldier, and he coordinated multiple airstrikes. He was initially awarded a Silver Star for those actions — and that was later upgraded to the Distinguished Service Cross, which is the second highest medal of valor, just below the Medal of Honor.

I totally understand why Golsteyn wanted to kill the guy. But it’s a violation of every code and law of war to summarily execute prisoners. The fact is, a person can behave heroically AND illegally. The heroism may mitigate the illegality but it doesn’t expunge it. Golsteyn, a hero, isn’t being prosecuted for killing the enemy; he’s being prosecuted for illegally killing a man.

Comrade Trump is incapable of understanding that. And let’s face it, he doesn’t really care about Golsteyn. He doesn’t really care about the battle of Marja or the dead bombmaker. He’s only making a cheap demonstration to suggest he’s ‘for’ the troops, and to insinuate that anybody who disagrees with him is somehow ‘against’ them. His tweet is entirely self-serving.

Standing a post.

Okay, walking a post. Civilians will probably wonder what the hell that even means. Allow me to ‘splain. There are eleven general orders all troops in every branch of the military are required to learn. They all concern the duty of walking a post. Here are the general orders:

  1. To take charge of this post and all government property in view.
  2. To walk my post in a military manner, keeping always on the alert, and observing everything that takes place within sight or hearing.
  3. To report all violations of orders I am instructed to enforce.
  4. To repeat all calls from posts more distant from the guard house than my own.
  5. To quit my post only when properly relieved.
  6. To receive, obey, and pass on to the sentry who relieves me all orders from the commanding officer, field officer of the day, officer of the day, and officers and petty officers of the watch.
  7. To talk to no one except in line of duty.
  8. To give the alarm in case of fire or disorder.
  9. To call the petty officer of the watch in any case not covered by instructions.
  10. To salute all officers and all colors and standards not cased.
  11. To be especially watchful at night, and during the time for challenging, to challenge all persons on or near my post, and to allow no one to pass without proper authority.

Walking a post.

This is basic stuff, but it demonstrates the concept of military duty. I mean, that’s a LOT of stuff to remember considering all you’re really doing is staying awake, walking around, and keeping an eye open for anything out of the ordinary. It’s dull, thankless work, but it has to be done. And take careful note of general order five: to quit my post only when properly relieved. That means IF you’re walking a post and you’re unlucky enough to have some ugly shit come down on you — an enemy attack, a fire starts, an explosion happens, a swarm of killer bees arrives, a tornado drops on you — you’re expected to stay right there at your post and just deal with it. Let me repeat that: you’re expected to stay there and deal with it. That’s your duty. That’s your job.

That guy you see in the movies, the one with the binoculars who’s scanning the horizon line? He’s walking a post. That guy you see walking back and forth in front of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier? He’s walking a post. That guy you see apparently wandering around a barracks yard at three in the goddamn morning? He’s walking a post.

Walking a post.

On every military installation in the world, every minute of every hour of every day of the year, regardless of the weather and circumstance, you’ve got some poor bastard doing his duty, walking a post. Because that’s what it takes to keep your people safe.

Keeping people safe is also the duty of the President of the United States. Comrade Trump is derelict in his duty.

Advertisements

wetting the beak

It’s like this. Remember when young Vito Corleone is driving his delivery truck down the street in Little Italy, just trying to make semi-honest living, and suddenly Don Fanucci of the Black Hand swings aboard? And Vito looks at him like “Dude, what the actual fuck are you doing, swinging aboard my goddamn truck? I’m working here.”

Newbie gangster can’t even drive a damn truck without some Black Hand mobster in a white suit slotting in and giving him a ration of shit.

Then Don Fanucci explains. He says:

“Young man, I hear you and your friends are stealing goods. But you don’t even send a dress to my house. No respect! You know I’ve got three daughters. This is my neighborhood. You and your friends should show me some respect. You should let me wet my beak a little… Tell your friends I don’t want a lot. Just enough to wet my beak.”

That’s basically what Comrade Trump did during his phone call with the newly-elected president of Ukraine. But he wasn’t looking for dresses for Ivanka. He was looking for dirt on Joe Biden. And, like Don Fanucci, he didn’t care how President Zelensky came by the dirt — or even if the dirt was true. He just wanted the dirt. According to the ‘transcript’ the White House released to the public, Trump says:

“I would like you to do us a favor though because our country has been through a lot… I would like you to find out what happened with this whole situation with Ukraine… I guess you have one of your wealthy people… The server, they say Ukraine has it. There are a lot of things that went on, the whole situation… I would like to have the Attorney General call you or your people and I would like you to get to the bottom of it.”

If anything, Comrade Trump was nastier than Don Fanucci. Imagine if Fanucci had said, “Vito, paisan, you got a new baby, you got a nice apartment with a toilet you don’t have to share with neighbors. You want to keep those things, you should wet my beak, capiche?” That’s basically what Trump said in his chat with Zelensky.

Zelensky needed some Javelin missiles — these are portable fire-and-forget anti-tank missiles — to keep the Russian Army from seizing more Ukrainian territory. Trump basically told him, “Look, you guys got Russians at your gate. You need missiles. I got missiles. You can have those missiles. I’d love to give you those missiles. But first you got to wet my beak.”

Comrade Trump is not your daddy’s mafia don. He’s a cheap imitation, made in China, shoddy construction.

But here’s the thing. In the old mafia movies, they play up the concept of omertà. The Sicilian Mafia code of silence. You don’t rat. Ever. You get caught, you stay quiet. It’s a matter of honor, of discipline, of loyalty. You don’t rat.

Comrade Trump is no mafia don. He has no honor, he has no discipline, he doesn’t inspire loyalty. The Trump administration is comprised entirely of rats-in-waiting. His people aren’t soldati. They’re not made men. They’re sycophants. They’ll turn on Trump in a New York minute to save their own asses.

And like Don Fanucci, Trump will eventually get what’s coming to him. Okay, I admit the analogy breaks down here. Nobody is going to drop Trump the way Vito did Fanucci, and nobody would really want that. But right now the House Judiciary Committee is wrapping a metaphorical towel around a metaphorical revolver and is waiting for a metaphorical Feast of Saint Rocco.

curious things

Here’s a curious thing. Comrade Trump fired (by tweet, of course) Dan Coats, the Director of National Security, three days after Trump made his disastrous telephone call to newly-elected Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. You know, the call in which Trump leaned on Zelensky to reopen a closed investigation into Joe Biden’s son. The call that’s sparked the current impeachment crisis.

Coats didn’t have much relevant experience in intelligence when Trump selected him to be the DNI, but he was a decent, mostly thoughtful, establishment Republican. He wasn’t a Trump loyalist, though, so he was often in conflict with the president. He was the last member of the Trump administration to publicly disagree with the president. Clearly, he had to go. Although the timing is a tad suspicious.

Former Director of National Intelligence, Dan Coats

Here’s another curious thing. The law clearly stated that in case of a vacancy at the DNI position, the Principle Deputy Director of National Intelligence would assume the role of acting DNI until the Senate could confirm a new DNI. This was because lawmakers felt it was critical for the president to have continuity in regard to national intelligence, as well as reasoned, experienced, expert advice. But the PDDNI was Susan Gordon.

Susan Gordon was a career intelligence officer — a true intelligence professional. She’d risen through the ranks from a CIA analyst to become the CIA’s Director of the Office of Advanced Analytic Tools (the cyber nerds), then the Deputy Director of the CIA, then Deputy Director of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, before taking the second seat as Deputy Director of National Intelligence. She wasn’t just the legal option for acting DNI, she was the best choice to become the permanent DNI.

Former Principle Deputy Director of National Intelligence, Susan Gordon

But the Trump team felt Susan Gordon wasn’t “sufficiently loyal” to Trump. They let it be known there was no place in the Trump administration for her. So she did the decent thing; she resigned on the same day as Director Coats. Three days after Trump’s call to Zelensky. Gordon wrote one of the shortest and most honest resignation letters ever.

Mr. President — I offer this letter as an act of respect & patriotism, not preference. You should have your team. Godspeed, Sue.

Who did Comrade Trump want to replace Coats and Gordon? Trump loyalist and Texas Republican John Ratcliffe, a two-term Congressman. Ratcliffe was best known for (and I swear I’m not making this up) 1) asserting the existence of a “secret society” within the Obama Department of Justice and the FBI devoted to preventing Comrade Trump from being elected and 2) claiming the Mueller Report was written by “Hillary Clinton’s de facto legal team.” In other words, Ratcliffe is a classic Republican from Texas fuckwit.

Current Nitwit and Conspiracy Theorist, John Ratcliffe (getting some serious side-eye from fellow Texas Republican Will Hurd)

Not surprisingly, Ratcliffe was so unqualified even Senate Republicans couldn’t support him. Five days after nominating him, Trump pulled the nomination.

The fact is, Comrade Trump doesn’t want intelligence experts. In fact, he doesn’t want any experts around him at all. He wants to be the expert. He wants others to defer to him and his judgment. He wants others to recognize his genius. Having people around him who are knowledgeable, who have expertise, makes him uncomfortable; they might correct him. And to a narcissist like Trump, that would be intolerable. That’s why the Department of National Intelligence lost both its director and deputy director on the same day. Three days after Trump made his call to Ukraine President Zelensky.

And that leads us to yet another curious thing. If you read the whistleblower’s complaint, it reads like it was written by an intelligence analyst. Or at least somebody familiar with intelligence memoranda. The format, the detail, the underlying evidence, the footnotes that support the narrative — it’s exactly how an analyst prepares a memorandum. Can we think of anybody with experience as an analyst, or who is familiar with such reports? Somebody who is a patriot and a professional, maybe even a career intelligence officer? Somebody who might be willing to be a whistleblower in order to throw light on a shady subject?

I’m just thinking out loud here.

EDITORIAL NOTE: I’m not saying either Coats or Gordon is the whistleblower. I’m just saying…you know…you never know. Is what I’m saying.

okay, impeachment then

Okay, impeachment then.

I’ve been advocating this step for quite some time, but I’m NOT happy about it. Well, that’s sort of not true. I’m not happy that the US is in a situation where impeachment is a necessary task. Impeachment is an ugly business, and it’s a shame that we’ve come to that point. But we ARE at that point, so while I’m sad for us as a nation, I’m also happy that enough Democrats have finally agreed that it’s necessary.

A lot of folks who oppose Comrade Trump and his ‘policies’ (and yeah, I put irony quote around the term because Trumps doesn’t really have policies; he has impulses) are really reluctant about impeachment. They keep warning us that impeachment will ‘fire up his base’ and ‘make them even worse’.

EVERYTHING fires up his base. And they’ll ALWAYS find a reason to make things worse. The Trump base exists in a constant state of rage and fear; cruelty is their response to almost every situation. For four years, starting before the election, Trump’s base have been wearing t-shirts that say ‘Fuck your feelings.’ That’s their starting position. We shouldn’t be concerned with ‘firing up’ his base. What are they going to do? Wear t-shirts that say ‘Fuck your feelings MORE’? (Spoiler — yes, it appears that’s exactly what they’ll do.)

I think it’s time to fire up OUR base. The Democratic leadership have spent far too much time making threats without backing them up, far too much time talking about what we’re GOING to do. It’s time we actually DO something. Fuck THEIR feelings.

You tell me the Senate will never vote to convict Trump? Maybe so. Probably. Then we force them to openly and publicly vote to support the most corrupt president in US history. We force them to say on the record, for the judgment of history, that it’s okay for a president to pay off porn stars, to lie to the public, to hide his taxes, to use the Oval Office to enrich himself and his family, to separate immigrant toddlers from their parents, to deliberately harm the environment, to encourage hostile foreign nations to interfere in US elections, to make it harder for citizens to vote. We may not win, but the very least we can do is force his supporters to acknowledge their own corruption. 

The US may yet turn into a fascist nation. It’s entirely possible. But damn it, if that’s going to happen, we need to at least make them work for it.

speaking of guns…

Imagine this scenario: a guy wearing an ‘antifa’ baseball cap stands in front of the mayor’s house, where he uses a bullhorn to shout, “If Trumpers get to the point where they start killing us, I’m going to kill them next. I’d slaughter them and I have a detailed plan on how I would wipe out Trumpers.” He then goes on a national radio program and describes that detailed plan. It involves identifying Trump supporters, finding out where they live, breaking into their homes at night, and killing them while they’re asleep.

Do you think that might make the news? Do you think that might get widely reported? Do you think you’d see segments on that in the evening television news? Do you think FOX News would devote entire opinion shows to the threat of violence against conservatives?

Bet your bony ass they would. And hey, guess what. That actually happened. The first part, I mean. You know, the guy yelling in front of the mayor’s house and going on national radio and outlining a half-baked plan to murder folks in their sleep. That’s the part that actually happened. Except the guy was a Trump supporter, and the plan was to slaughter members of antifa. And it barely made the news at all.

Shane Kohfield.

I am NOT making this up. This guy Shane Kohfield (a Marine veteran who served two tours in Iraq) went on the Lars Larson radio show and laid out his plan to organize a mass slaughter. It was a stupid, ridiculous plan that had no chance to actually be implemented, but still. This is what Kohfield said:

“First​, veterans ​[will] join antifa social media pages and groups and get names of most active members of social media, along with getting the arrest records from rallies and write down all the names they see, as well as use arrest records. The veterans will use background check programs to find home addresses of all the members of antifa using the intelligence they had gathered​.

The veterans will take a map of the cities where members of antifa are known to live there. Grid overlays will be placed over the maps of the cities. The veterans will be broken down into squads. Each squad will be assigned its own grid and given a list of names and addresses in their assigned grid square. … The veterans would use Route4Me to find the most expedient route to hunt down the most violent members of antifa in their beds at night until every one of them was gone and every city in America, if need be, in a single well-coordinated night.”

Kohfield told Larson he didn’t actually intend to USE the plan. He just created the plan. You know, just in case. The plan, he suggested, was his response to the threat antifa posed to conservatives and the Constitution. Kohfield apparently believes the next step in the logical progression of anti-fascist violence is to go from 1) punching nazis during a demonstration to 2) tossing milkshakes on nazis to 3) murdering conservatives and Trump supporters.

Kohfield also sent his plan to Republican Dan Crenshaw, a former Navy Seal now representing Texas in Congress. He reportedly told Crenshaw that if Congress didn’t act to stop antifa, he’d have no choice but to begin systematically killing them. Crenshaw gave the letter to the U.S. Capitol Police, who forwarded it to the FBI, who handed it to the FBI’s Portland office, which tossed it to the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office. Clackamas County is in Oregon.

Why does that matter? Because back in 2017 Oregon passed an ERPO law. ERPO stands for Extreme Risk Protection Order. That’s the fancy name for a red flag law. These laws allow family members or law enforcement officers to petition a court directly in order to temporarily restrict an individual’s access to firearms IF that person shows signs of being a danger to themselves or others.

Shane Kohfield

Kohfield lives with his dad, who apparently told the police, “I can’t say that he won’t kill someone.” Kohfield’s dad also said his son was taking medication for bipolar disorder, drinking heavily, and had become increasingly agitated. So the police did what they were supposed to do.

They took Shane Kohfield’s guns away. A pistol, a shotgun, and two rifles — one of which was an AR-15.

But here’s the thing. Don’t hate Shane Kohfield. Disagree with his politics. Be afraid of him, maybe. Be glad he doesn’t have access to firearms right now. But don’t hate him. Have some compassion for him. He did his time in military harness, and he’s paid a price for his service; Kohfield receives disability payments for the physical and psychological injuries he sustained during his tours in Iraq. He deserves a measure of respect for that.

Here’s the other thing: red flag laws work. They not only help protect the general public, they also help protect folks like Shane Kohfield from doing something they’d probably regret later. Assuming they’re still alive. I doubt Kohfield appreciates it — and I can’t blame him for that. But the laws work.

One last thing: only 17 states currently have red flag laws.

a myriad of misconceptions and skewed data

Back in August, after the El Paso and Dayton mass murders, I wrote that the primary reason we’re seeing more of these sorts of crimes is because of easy access to guns.

It’s the guns. Guns, high capacity magazines, and lax firearm laws. You get yourself a semi-automatic rifle and a few 30-round magazines, and you can rack up a high body count in a very short time. Doesn’t even have to be an assault-style rifle, though the military design of those weapons makes them more attractive to would-be mass killers. Any semi-auto rifle would do the job, so long as you’ve stocked up on hi-cap magazines. Gear up, take a walk, and until you open fire, you’re probably acting within the law.

Some folks, of course, disagreed with me (which isn’t all that uncommon; people disagree with me all the damned time). One of those who disagreed recently left a comment on that blog post. Not a comment exactly — a link to a post on his (I’m assuming it’s a guy) website. The post is titled ‘The Colt AR-15- Is It Rightfully Demonized?‘ It’s a question worth discussing (SPOILER: the answer is yes, it is properly demonized).

AR-15

Since I don’t have this person’s name, and since his blog is called Inverted Logic, I’m going to refer to him as IL.

IL states, “a pervasive fallacy among the anti-gun crowd is to conflate the motives of the murder with the murder weapon.” This certainly would be a fallacy if it was accurate. But it’s not. As IL himself correctly points out a sentence or two later, “an inanimate object does not possess motives.” Bingo. I don’t know anybody who believes firearms have motivations. What some of us actually believe is this: there are certain weapons commonly used by people who are motivated to kill a lot of other people in a short amount of time.

It’s like this: a lawn mower and a pair of garden shears are both tools that can cut grass. Neither tool has any motivation. It’s not that lawn mowers want to cut grass faster and more efficiently; it’s just that it’s designed to do that. People who are motivated to cut grass are much more likely to opt for the lawn mower than the garden shears. That’s the same motivational process of people who want to kill other people faster and more efficiently.

IL then examines FBI crime data. He states, “four times more people were murdered by a knife than were by a rifle.” That’s correct, but misleading. We’re not talking about murder rates here; we’re talking about mass murder — a totally different beast. Mass murders are relatively rare in comparison to ordinary murders. Most murders occur between people who know each other, usually during an argument and often fueled by alcohol. That or some fuss over drugs. Most murders are crimes of — I hate to use the term ‘passion’; let’s call it high emotion. In general, they tend to be spontaneous, unplanned, spur-of-the-moment crimes.

In fact, most mass murders also follow that pattern. The problem is in how mass murder is defined. Here’s the most common definition:

Shootings at a public place in which the shooter murdered four or more people, excluding domestic, gang, and drug violence, in a single episode.

If a drug deal between gang members goes bad and a few of them get killed by gunfire, it’s not technically considered a mass murder. Similarly, if a man gets drunk, argues with his wife or girlfriend, grabs his gun, shoots her and her kids, and maybe her parents, it’s not technically counted as a mass murder. Seriously. I’m not making this up. So most mass murders aren’t even considered mass murders. The victims, though, are just as dead.

Henckels chef’s knife.

Back to IL and his knives. There have, of course, been mass killings committed with knives. China, for example, suffered a spate of school attacks between 2010 and 2012. In ten separate incidents, 25 people were killed and around 115 were wounded. Those attacks were made with knives, box cutters, machetes, and meat cleavers.

That’s 25 dead and 115 wounded in ten attacks over three years. Twenty-five dead is maybe ten minutes work with a semi-auto firearm, including re-loading time. The thing is, killing groups of people with a knife requires a lot of work. To begin with, a knife attack is more likely to wound than to kill. And there’s a lot more chasing involved in a knife attack; you literally have to get close enough to the victim to touch them — and most folks aren’t going to stand around to give you the chance.

AR-15 with modifications

So let’s just dismiss the knife argument. Given a choice between an edged weapon (a knife or a machete or a meat cleaver or a damned box cutter) and an AR-15, I’m confident most would-be mass killers would opt for the rifle.

IL also points out that rifles aren’t a common murder weapon. Which is true. He writes:

Only a minuscule 3.2 percent of all reported murders in the same decade were committed with rifles. Even per the New York Times, 173 people have been killed in a mass shooting where an AR-15 was used from 2007-2017 (total number of homicides 13,657). If you do the math (173 divided by 13,657=0.012667 X 100= 1.266 %) that is a number that is slightly above 1 percent of all homicides. All this uproar and outrage is being focused upon a weapon that is only responsible for approximately 1 percent of all murders.

But, again, we’re not talking about murder rates. We’re not talking about individual murders. We’re talking about mass murders. Using IL’s dates (2007-2017) there were at least 480 fatalities that met the traditional definition of mass murder. If 173 were committed with AR-15 variants, we’re talking about a quarter of all mass murders. Add in all the mass murders committed with AK47 variants and…hell, add in ALL semi-auto firearms, rifles and pistols, and you’ve just about covered it all. (I say ‘just about’ because technically multiple deaths in arson attacks and explosions also fit the common mass murder definition.)

The important question IL doesn’t address is this: why do so many mass murderers select AR-15 and AK47s as their weapons of choice? I mean, a Ruger mini-14 would be just as effective at killing large numbers of innocent people. Like the AR variants, it’s a semi-automatic rifle that uses .223 caliber rounds, and hey, it can utilize high capacity magazines. It’s also a lot less finicky than the AR. So what is the appeal of the AR variants?

Ruger Mini-14

I’d argue it has to do with two things. First, they look dangerous. There’s a reason so many mass killers dress in black (or camo or trenchcoats). It’s not because they want to blend into their environment. Camouflage isn’t going to help you in the aisles of Walmart. It’s because there’s a mass killer aesthetic; there’s a popular culture notion of how mass killers are supposed to look. Militaristic-looking weapons are a part of that aesthetic. A mini-14 may be as efficient a killing machine as an AR, but it doesn’t have that brutal militaristic aura. It just looks like a plain old rifle. No self-respecting mass killer would walk into a Walmart with a Ruger mini-14.

Exploded view of AR-15 modifiable parts

Second, AR variants are exceedingly customizable. They’re like Legos for gun nuts. You can interchange or upgrade just about every part of the AR — switch barrels, change the stock, add a sound suppressor, modify the grip, get a new trigger. A LOT of gun owners like AR variants because they can play with them more than other rifles. If you want a semi-auto rifle that will operate under almost any condition, you opt for the AK variants. If you want one that looks brutal to begin with and want to make it look even more brutal, you go for the AR.

IL does, though, say one thing I mostly agree with. “The take away here is that we need to be critical consumers of media. There are a myriad of misconceptions and skewed data represented as being conveying the whole picture. When, only a sliver of factual truth is being presented and is reframed to support a specific ideology or agenda.

Ignore the grammar and creative punctuation; IL is right. We DO need to be critical consumers of media. We need to be able to recognize and dismiss arguments that are misleading. We need to be aware of arguments that have a hidden agenda.

Because I want my agenda to be completely open, let me say this (I’ve already said it dozens of times on this blog): I don’t hate guns. I like guns. Guns are fun to shoot. I just don’t think they should be easy to obtain and keep. I don’t think all firearms are equal. I’m okay with certain firearms being banned. I don’t believe anybody needs a magazine holding more than ten rounds. I don’t think anybody needs a sound suppressor. I’m okay with the government putting limits on the Second Amendment just as they’ve put limits on the First.

Will banning or confiscating AR and AK variants put an end to mass murders? No, of course not. It might reduce the butcher’s bill, which is still a worthy goal. Probably a more immediately effective way to do that, though, would be to ban and confiscate magazines with a capacity of more than 10 rounds. Or what the hell, 7 rounds.

Just my opinion.

it’s not a toomah

Okay, first — I don’t have a brain tumor. I’m just saying that right up front to shed any drama from the rest of the post. No tumor, no cyst, no alien symbiot, ain’t nothing growing in my head. Just wanted to get that out of the way. Now, the story about not having a brain tumor.

A few years ago I began to notice my left ear felt…okay, here’s a problem. How do you describe something wonky with your hearing? I’ve been going through this with doctors for about a year or so, and I still can’t get it right. The thing is, sounds in my left ear are muted a bit, but with an intermittent sort of hollow echo-ish thing. It’s sort of like having water in your ear, or that air pressure thing you experience when flying — only it’s not constant. It’s like a filter that instantly creates a weird doppler-like effect then just as suddenly stops.

Confusing, right? Anyway, I first noticed it when I was living alone in an old farmhouse in the hills of rural Pennsylvania, trying to be a writer. The thing about living alone in the hills trying to be a writer is that you can go days without seeing or talking to anybody. That isolation is great for writing, but it also means you don’t really notice that your hearing in one ear has become sporadically fucked up. When you do notice it, it’s just a minor annoyance, and since you have no health insurance, you just ignore it and assume it will clear itself up or just go away.

It didn’t. But I’d gotten used to it and by the time I came to my senses and moved back into the world of people, I was used to it. It meant occasionally asking folks sitting to my left to repeat stuff. Not a big deal. It’s especially not a big deal when those folks know you to be the sort of person who spends a lot of time just thinking about stuff. If I miss what other folks are saying, they tend find excuses for it. They assume I’m distracted (and I often am) or just not paying attention to them (usually, though not always, wrong) or that they’ve just said something I find particularly interesting and I want them to repeat it (sometimes true).

So that’s been the situation. I’m accustomed to not quite hearing or understanding what folks say, and they’re accustomed to me asking them to repeat themselves. You know, ‘That’s just Greg — he’s probably thinking about the Norman Conquest or turtles or the origin of the word ‘omelet’ or what he’s going to cook for supper.’ Like that.

Then about a year ago my ex said something to this effect: “Dude, you really need to get your hearing checked.” And I realized she was right. So I did. Not immediately, but when I had my next check-up I mentioned it.

The doctor poked and prodded, did some interesting stuff with a tuning fork, and said, “All them little bones in your ear? Ain’t nothing wrong with them. Probably your eustachian tubes might be fucked up. Try some Flonase for a month, probably clear it right up.” (Not a direct quote).

It didn’t clear up. So he scheduled an exam with an audiologist. This is where things started to get weird. I had the exam a couple of weeks ago. They gave me some hearing tests. The first was just a series of beeping sounds — some loud, some soft, some low-pitched, some high. I assumed I heard fine out if my right ear and missed some beeps in my left. The next test involved words. I’m my right ear I’d hear, “Say the word ‘hard.’ Say the word ‘bell’.” Nothing to it. But in my left ear I’d hear, “Say the word ‘blargh.’ Say the word ‘dog.’ Say the word ‘froon.’

Turns out I could hear equally well in both ears, but I couldn’t correctly identify a third of the words I heard in my left ear. The doctor said, “Dude, you need an MRI of your whole damn head. Something’s fucked up in there. Might be nerve damage, might be something growing in your head is pressing on a nerve. A cyst maybe, maybe a tumor, I dunno. Something.” (Not a direct quote.)

Leaving the doctor’s office after the Possible Alien Symbiot diagnosis.

Afterwards I sat in the car and had the following thoughts:

  • Well, that explains a lot.
  • I guess I’ll have to tell my ex and my brother I might have an alien symbiot growing inside my skull. They’ll be concerned.
  • I probably ought to be concerned too.

But I wasn’t. I mean, nothing had changed. If a symbiot was growing in my skull, it had been growing for a while. It was either there or it wasn’t. No point in fretting about it.

So I told them with as little fuss as possible. “Yeah, saw the doctor, might be something in my head, got an MRI scheduled next week, how about those Red Sox?” And they accepted it with minimal fuss, which I appreciated. Then (aside from occasional desire to exclaim “It’s NOT a toomah!“) I basically forgot about it.

Well, that’s not entirely accurate. I didn’t think about the symbiot or what it might mean for…well, my life, or how they’d eventually deal with it. But I did think about the MRI. I’ve never had one before, so I was curious about it. When I talked to the MRI Johnnies about scheduling I’d told them I was mildly claustrophobic. They said not to worry, they had a new shiny large imaging unit for folks who didn’t like tight enclosed spaces.

I showed up as scheduled only to find there was another patient — an absolutely enormous guy. I’m guessing close to three hundred pounds. I was told I could either wait, reschedule, or have the MRI in the older narrow unit. They showed me the older unit. It was pretty massive, but the patient-tube sleeve (probably not what it’s actually called) was…well, small. Teensy.

“How long will it take?” I asked. The tech said, “Thirty, thirty-five minutes.” I thought, Well, how bad could it be? All I have to do is lie still for half an hour. So I said okay. The tech said, “Then we’ll pull your ass out, inject some dye into your arm, and slam you back inside that sausage tube for another fifteen or twenty minutes.” (Not a direct quote.)

I almost said I’d wait. But I didn’t. I said, “Fuck it, let’s go.” (Not a direct quote.)

It was unpleasant. First, you insert expandable foam plugs in your ears to mute the noise. Then there are — I don’t know what you’d call them. Firm cushiony things placed around your head to keep you from moving it. Then they slide a sort of plastic ‘Man in the Iron Mask’ thing over your face. After that, a conveyor belt slides you inside the tube, which is so narrow your shoulders are pressed up against the sides. The tech speaks to you over some sort of intercom, which is absolutely useless since you’re in a tube and you’re wearing ear plugs and you’re there because your hearing is already fucked up. So you’ve no idea whether she’s saying “Okay, everything is fine, here we go” or “Oh my god you’ve got a fucking symbiot growing inside your head.”

Then the noise begins. Weird mechanical noises. Banging, whirring, grinding. I was lying there thinking that this wasn’t the least bit amusing or interesting, when I had a moment of…well, let’s call it a sort of enlightenment. Dye. They were going to inject dye into my arm to give them a better image of my brain. Because there might be a symbiot growing in there. And I had the following thoughts:

  • These folks are seriously testing my brain for symbiots.
  • They’re more concerned about these possible symbiotic motherfuckers than I am.
  • I should be more concerned about brain symbiots.

And for a moment, I was. Then I realized that nothing had changed. If a symbiot was growing in my skull, it had been growing for a while. It was either there or it wasn’t. And there wasn’t a damned thing I could do about it while I was packed inside a torpedo tube. Just focus on your breathing and let it all go.

So I did. All in all, I was packed in that tube for about 50 minutes. When it was over, I was given two scheduling options for an appointment to review the results. Wednesday the 11th at 8:00 AM or Friday the 13th at 1:00 PM. I figured if there was a symbiot growing in my skull, it had been growing there for a while — so there’s no point in getting up early to find out. It would still be there Friday afternoon.

Then I basically forgot about it again. Until yesterday morning, when I was showering and shaving to go to my appointment. And I had the following thoughts:

  • In a couple of hours I’m going to find out if there’s something alien growing inside my skull.
  • I should probably be more concerned about this; something alien growing inside your skull just ain’t right.
  • Maybe the alien symbiot that might be growing inside your skull is fucking up my thinking, which is why I’m not as concerned about it as I should be.
  • Oh well, I guess I’ll find out.

And I did. There’s no drama here, remember? I told you right at the beginning. No tumor, no cyst, no alien symbiot. I went to the doctor’s office, they put me in an exam room, and a few minutes later the doctor came in and said, “Dude, no tumor. Your entire brain is shiny as a peach. Probably you had some sort of virus thingy that fucked up a nerve. That’s what we tell folks when we don’t really know why their hearing in one ear is fucked up. Anyway, your hearing IS fucked up and almost certainly won’t get any better, but hey…no tumor, right? So go now and be happy.” (Not a direct quote.)

So I did. I left and I was happy. I told my ex and my brother that the MRI showed my brain was perfectly normal. My ex was happy; the brother suggested I get a second opinion.

I don’t normally spend much time thinking about how I feel about things. I mean, I’ve known myself my whole life — there aren’t many surprises there. But for a moment this morning I had this odd sense that I should have felt something more when I learned my brain was being slowly gnawed away. Something big, something dramatic. But I was basically happy before all this began, and I’m still happy now. So nothing changed.

However, there was a moment — that moment right after the doctor said there was no tumor — that I felt something. Not big, not dramatic. It wasn’t relief or a release of tension. Or if it was, I wasn’t really aware of the tension to begin with.

It was something more like apricity.

The appreciation of experiencing the warmth of the sun on a winter day.

Do you know that word? It’s an obscure word for a common feeling. It was first included in Henry Cockeram’s English Language Dictionary, published in 1623. This, by the way, was only the third known book to serve the function of an English dictionary, but it was the first to actually be called a dictionary. All of which is beside the point, although this tangent probably helps explain why folks often thought I was just distracted when I asked them to repeat stuff they’d said to me.

Anyway, apricity. That’s what I felt when the doctor said I was symbiot-free. It refers to an appreciation of experiencing the warmth of the sun in winter.

Apricity. Yesterday was a perfectly lovely end-of-summer day. Sunshine, 78 degrees, light breeze. But sitting on an exam table in a doctor’s office, I felt something like the warmth of the sun coming out from behind the clouds on a wintery day.

“No tumor,” he said. And I said, “Cool.” (That’s a direct quote.)