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

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

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

Senators,
Now might be a good time to rethink the road you’re on.
Your partisan fanaticism and your self-admitted ill-considered actions make the Iranian government seem sane, sympathetic, reasoned and moderate in comparison.
You have measurably damaged the reputation of the United States and risked open war, the lives of millions, and the world economy, solely to further your own selfish goals. You have placed partisanship and loyalty to party above your own country and the lives of your fellows.

At this point, whatever the final outcome of your actions, history will very likely remember you in the same light as your fellow Republican, Richard Nixon – and potentially far worse.
Were I you, I’d give that some very, very serious thought.
Your oath, the oath you swore with your right hand upraised before your God, was to the United States of America.
The Pledge of Allegiance you swear is to the American flag, not the Israeli one.

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

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

Respect is earned, Senators.

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

Now might be a good time to consider yours.

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

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

A copy of the letter sent to my Texas Senators.

It’s Called Torture

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

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

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

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

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

I would.

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

Good intentions do not justify evil.

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

Stonekettle Station

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

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

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

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

Vanity Fair (via Archive.org) & Christopher Hitchens
Youtube Video – Christopher Hitchens Gets Waterboarded

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

September 11, not 9-11

My dad was born on September 11, 1938.  On his sixty-third birthday terrorists destroyed two American icons and shattered forever the illusion that we were beyond the reach of the people intent on doing us harm. There are many lessons to be learned from gaining that insight, but it doesn’t appear that the US has learned anything in the intervening years.  We re-live the events of 9-11 over and over again on each anniversary; wallowing in our collective angst, while repeating the same mistakes that lead to that day, that sprung from that day.

Military adventurism continues almost unabated. Undaunted by the mess that we created in Iraq, we now propose to intervene in the area again.  We remain convinced that everything that happens around the world is somehow linked to us, that we have to weigh in on events, or that somehow the events were caused by us, as if the world only exists because we send our military out there to make sure it does.

My father did his time in the military.  I was born overseas because of the Cold War, and my parents answering the call to serve.  He didn’t like military life very much, and left the service after 4 years to return home to Kansas and his family there.  As a teenager I foolishly contemplated joining the military myself, and mentioned it to him to see what he thought. “You like taking orders?” he said.  I didn’t, I replied. “Well, then you don’t want to join the military.” That was his thinking on the subject, as he related it to me.

Every year after 2001, he complained that the terrorists had stolen his birthday.  Every year until he died, the day that he had looked forward to through childhood had become something terrifying and repugnant.  It annoyed him that his day had been the day they picked. I can understand that.  It is captured in the sentiment of Jim Wright’s piece on Stonekettle Station (a re-post) when Jim mentions the generation that has grown up since the towers fell, never knowing the America that we all remember.  They only know the America we created in our fear after 9-11;

This new generation has lived under the shadow of those falling towers every single minute of every single day since the moment they were born.

Stonekettle Station

So in that sentiment I’d just like to reclaim today, and every September 11th after this one for my father.  Happy birthday dad, wherever you are.  I promise to spend more time thinking of you than of the other events that make this day stand out for average Americans.  Because really, why remember if we aren’t going to learn anything from it?

This post was revised and reposted in 2015.

A Freeloader In the Flesh

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

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

(Democratic Underground link Washington Post link)

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

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

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

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

(Democratic Underground link Huffington Post link)

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

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

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

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

An Individual Right to Keep and Bear Arms

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

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

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

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

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

Where is Suzanna Hupp when you need a voice?

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

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

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

Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

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

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


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

The second amendment is a two-edged sword, in more ways than the one I’ve just outlined. The other argument which can be (and has been) made is the original intent of a well regulated militia; If the people tasked with keeping us safe deem that it the task is impossible with the rules now in place, they can conscript all able-bodied persons into the military for the purposes of weapons assessment.

That is one sure-fire way to make sure we know who should and shouldn’t have a weapon. I’m as opposed as I can get to the idea of a return to the bad-old days of the draft, but if anyone can have a weapon, and if no other laws are possible to fix the problem of weapons in our midst, then the only remaining solution is the one where everyone is trained and everyone is armed to their proficiency.

What we need to decide is, which kind of America do we really want to live in? The time for that conversation is rapidly passing us by.

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

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

NRA comes callin’

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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