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05 Jun 14:48

Memorial Day 2017

by Jim Wright

Note:  The original title said 2018. That was a typo, not some subtle message. It’s been corrected, though this essay it will likely apply to 2018 as well // Jim

Last night the air was torn apart by the flash of lightning and shook with the crash of thunder.

I slept fitfully and dreamed of war.

This morning the world has gone silent.

Cold rain falls and the sky is the color of gunmetal.

This seems fitting to me. This quiet melancholy day, leeched of color.

For this is the day we Americans are supposed to pause and remember those many who have fallen in service to the United States.

Memorial Day isn’t about honoring veterans.

No, it’s not.

Not the living ones anyway.

Memorial day is about the dead.

This is the day some dutiful Americans visit the graveyards and the military cemeteries to place flowers and flags and to remember husbands and brothers and wives and mothers and sisters and sons and daughters who wore the uniform and came when called and gave the last full measure. My own father lies out there, under the cool white marble of a military cemetery, and today I dearly wish I could stop by for a visit – but it’s a thousand miles away and too far. Dad would understand.

Today is a day when we will lay the wreaths and sound the lonely trumpet and shed a tear and a salute for those comrades long gone.

Today is about the cool gray ghosts who still wander the countless battlefields of America, from Lexington to Antietam, from the Ardennes to the Chosin Reservoir, to Tet, to Basra, to Kamdesh, and all the terrible battles yet to come.

And come they will.

Oh yes, come they will, those new battles, in this endless and unending war.

For that is our nature, we Americans. This is who we have become, a nation of endless war.

Once this day was called Decoration Day in honor of those who died during the American Civil War.

Later the holiday became a day of remembrance for those killed in all conflicts.

Today, Memorial Day supposedly marks the passing of those  who died in uniform, both in peace and in war – but it’s been so damned long since there was a peace, the distinction is moot.

Today is supposed to be about those who gave their lives for freedom and liberty, for justice and right, for the ideal of a more perfect union.


But in reality, it’s not the soldiers we remember. It’s the endless war.


Do you realize that it’s almost two decades now, now since those terrible days in September of 2001?

Seventeen years of war and death and sacrifice and the supposed Global War on Terrorism.

For our children, this most recent generation, the ones just now reaching the age of reason and awareness, they have never known an America not at war. 

They have never lived in a nation at peace.


Think on that. No, that’s not a rhetorical statement. Think on that. Think on how this conflict has shaped them, this generation, how it defines their worldview during the most formative years of their lives and how this world will shape the one they create a decade from now for their own children.

For them, this new generation, war has become so commonplace, so ubiquitous, that it’s simply business as usual.

For them, war simply is.

For them, war is just another aspect of American life, like plumbing and electricity and the flow of money, invisible and all around. The dead come home from conflict invisible, hidden, silent, returned to their grieving families in quiet ceremonies far away from the public eye, unlamented and unnoticed by a nation grown jaded and bored with slaughter. America does not see the dead, not until days like this one, when the bodies are safely hidden away under slabs of white marble and fields of green manicured grass and draped in words of patriotism and valor.

For them, this generation, war is normal.

And those of us born in the 1960s? Well we certainly can’t tell them that this is wrong.

We certainly cannot tell this generation war is not the normal state, that normality is peace without conflict. 

See, because we grew up in a nation at war too.  By the time I was seventeen, America had been fighting in Southeast Asia for my entire life.  The media was daily filled with images of blood and death, body counts, mangled and maimed soldiers, of burning helicopters and a terrifyingly incomprehensible enemy.  We were told we would go next, that we had to, or the enemy would come here, to America, and slaughter us all.

Back home? Well, back home, the streets were filled with violence and unrest and it seemed that America was about to tear itself to pieces in a clash of violently opposed ideologies – because no matter how much the enemy might despise us, we hated ourselves, our neighbors, our fellow Americans, even more. 

And how did that shape our worldview, the world we have given to our own children?

For us, war is the normal state of affairs too.

And our parents?

They remember a brief period of idyllic America, the perfect peaceful 1950’s, sock hops and ducktails and white picket fences, providing you lived on the right side of the tracks, providing you were white – while Korea raged unseen and ignored in the background and at home they dug fallout shelters and waited for the Soviet bombs to fall and saw commies hiding in every shadow.

Their parents had World War II, and before that … well, the list goes back a long, long way and perhaps war is a normal state of affairs for us Americans after all.

There are a lot of dead to remember on this Memorial Day.


And so it goes, this endless cycle.


Today there are those who instead of picnicking  with their familiars, instead of working in their yards or enjoying the day, will be patrolling the dark and dangerous corners of this world.  They’re out there, right now, walking the bitter broken mountains of central Asia. They’re out there right now standing the long watch on and below and above the seas. They’re out there in the fetid festering jungles of South America, in the dry dusty deserts of Africa, in the blistering heat of the Middle East, in lands so remote you’ve never even heard of them – and wouldn’t believe the descriptions of such places if you did.  They are out there right now, as far away as a cold airless orbit high above the Earth and as close as local bases in their own states and the armories of their own home towns.  

Some of these men and women will not live out today.

Some will most certainly come home to Dover Air Force Base in a cold steel box beneath the draped colors of the Stars and Stripes, their war over, their dreams ash, soon to be just another restless ghost in America’s legion of the dead.

Today, there are those who wear the uniform, but can no longer serve – their duty stations are the crowded and forgotten wards of military hospitals around the world. They won’t be working in the yard or grilling out today either. Some will spend the day with family, even if they are unaware of it. 

Soon too their last battle will be over.

Today there are those who no longer serve, no longer wear the uniform, but they still fight. They fight the nightmares of Vietnam and Beirut and Mosul and Firebase Alpha and a thousand other battlefields you’ve never heard of.   They are the walking dead, killed in action only they no longer have the wit to know it and so they haunt the streets of America, the forgotten unseen discarded cold gray ghosts of war and conflict, poisoned by nightmares, by pills and alcohol and poverty, slowly fading away.

And today, of course, there are those who no longer fight, no longer struggle, no longer remember.  They lie entombed in the soil of foreign nations, at Normandy, at Tunis, at the Ardennes, at Brookwood and Cambridge, at Flanders and Lorraine, at Manila, Mexico City, in the Netherlands, the Somme, and many other places whose names most Americans no longer remember or never knew. One hundred and twenty four thousand, nine hundred and nine American servicemen lay interred forever in twenty-four cemeteries on foreign shores and there they will stay, never to return to America.  They were the lucky ones, if you can call it luck, found and honored and laid to rest by their fellows.  Others, well, their bones are myriad and they litter the sea floor beneath all the oceans of the world or are lost in the jungles and deserts on all the world’s continents, their resting places unknown and unremembered. 

Today, here, within the boundaries of the United States, there are one hundred and forty-six national military cemeteries, and more than a million Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, Airmen, and Guardsmen lie beneath the cold white granite, my own father among their brave company.  And one day I will join them.

Their battles are long, long over, even if the war still rages on.

They, all of them, came when called, some of their own free will and some not, and did their duty and no one, no one, can ask any more of them.

For them, for all of them, for those who have fallen or will fall in this lousy war, and for all those who have fallen in all the conflicts we’ve fought lo these many years, for those who will fall tomorrow, today raise a glass and give a nod towards the flag.

Remember them.

Remember those cool gray ghosts.

If only for a moment.

21 Apr 13:39

The Hubris of Ignorance

by Jim Wright

Have  you been following this? All these airplane crashes? And everyone is so confused. Everyone is going, Gosh, how come there are so many airplane crashes? Well, um, I gotta theory here. You remember, what was it? Like, uh, four years ago? The air traffic controllers, they went on strike? And then, um, Ronald Reagan fired ‘em? So then they just hired anyone who was hanging out at the time. And now everyone is going, Geez, how come there are so many airplane crashes? How come there are so many airplane crashes?! I dunno, maybe Walt the janitor isn’t qualified to land a Boeing 707!”
-- Bobcat Goldthwait


Maybe Walt the Janitor isn’t qualified to land a Boeing 707.

But then again, in America we’d love to believe Old Wally could maybe pull it off.

Because we Americans, we sure love the heroic myth of the common man.

Oh we do. We prefer myth over reality every time.

We love to tell ourselves that one.

It’s the myth of our country’s birth. We love that myth more than all the others combined.

We tell ourselves with great pride how a bunch of raggedy assed, untrained colonists one day rose up against tyranny.  The Minutemen were roused from their beds in the middle of the night by Paul Revere and they rallied to the Stars and Stripes. They threw all the tea into Boston harbor and sent England a stiff upraised middle finger, up yours, we ain’t paying no taxes no more.  And then a bunch of farmers grabbed up their muskets and formed themselves into a militia under good old George Washington and this army of amateurs chased the Redcoats all the way back to England without any help from anybody except for Jesus.

Because Americans are special. Exceptional.

And when they’d thrown off the yoke of tyranny, well, then a bunch of common men gathered in Philadelphia to receive the Constitution directly from God. They wrote down the sacred words and everybody signed it, especially John Hancock, and America was born.


That’s the myth we tell ourselves, we Americans.

We’re special. Exceptional. We pulled ourselves up by our own bootstraps and forged the Republic out of the mud with our own hands.

We’re a nation of amateurs. Bunch of Good Old Boys beat the best army on the planet. Bunch of farmers wrote the Constitution and laid down the foundation for the greatest country in the world. A government of the people, by the people, and for the people. In America, we’re not ruled over by kings. We don’t owe our allegiance to some hereditary weak-chinned inbred royalty.

No, Sir.

In America, why the people are the government and anybody can be president.



We are a nation of amateurs and damned proud of it, aren’t we?


That’s what this election was about.

Drain the swamp!  Throw the bums out!

That’s why we hated Hillary Clinton.

Sure. Crony capitalist. Career politician. Corruption. Business as usual. You heard it from the Right and you heard from the Left. Hell, go check out my Twitter feed, I’m still getting it full bore from both sides.

That’s why we elected Donald Trump, isn’t it?

Because he was an outsider. Because he’s not a member of the Washington elite. That’s what Trump’s supporters said. That’s what they say now. He’s not like other presidents. He’s not a politician. The normal rules don’t apply. He’s gonna do things different.

Because he’s not a politician.

That, that right there, is a very American belief.

This idea that anybody can be the president.

That’s what we tell our kids. Eat your broccoli, Sonny, and some day you might grow up to be president. 

Moreover, we Americans by and large tend to be suspicious of education and experience when it comes to government.

Anywhere else, brain surgeon, airline pilot, corporate CEO, dog trainer, we want the most experienced person we can get. But the President? Not so much. Power corrupts, right? You got to clean house every once in a while. Throw the bums out.



Except, in retrospect, perhaps ignorance and a suspicion of “elites” isn’t the best way to go about selecting a leader.


Once upon a time, I despised Jimmy Carter.

I mean, who didn’t, right?

President Jimmy Carter.  He was weak and cowardly I thought, and I certainly wasn’t the only one. Iranian revolutionaries had just overthrown the Shah, stormed the US embassy in Tehran and taken fifty-two American diplomats hostage.  And there was Carter, the hapless peanut farmer, and he wasn’t doing anything about it. We had the mightiest military in the world. Those were our people. Our embassy. Our soil, our property. A bunch of goddamned towelheads were touching our stuff, defying the United States of America.

And it just went on and on, four hundred and forty-four days.

It was infuriating.

It was embarrassing that a bunch of camel jockeys should have us – US – bent over a barrel like that.

I mean, how dare they? We were America, Goddamn it.

And Carter, well, Carter did nothing.

I was just out of high school. I worked in a restaurant then, taking classes at the local junior college. After work, over beers, the air thick with cigarette smoke, we smacked our fists on the tables and we cooks and dishwashers seethed in outrage. We hatched endless military campaigns, we mighty generals. It was simple and obvious. We’d send in an aircraft carrier, you see, and not one of those old rusty conventionally powered ones either. A nuclear warship, the very symbol of American military power, her decks bristling with fighter jets. One look – one look, by God – and those Ayatollahs would shit themselves in fear.

Oh, we would get our people back, you bet.

Eventually Carter did send in the military. Operation Eagle Claw. And it ended in horrifying failure. Eight Americans died in the desert, we lost millions in equipment. Iran mocked us from our TV screens. What a bumbling fool Carter was.

Anybody could have come up with a better plan, even a bunch of line cooks and dishwashers with no military background.

Eventually Carter lost the election, Reagan took his place, and the hostages came home.

Reagan, boy, those Iranians feared him, didn’t they? Ronald Reagan was strong, a genuine American cowboy. By God, he’d send in the fleet first thing, you bet. The minute that guy was in office, those sons of bitches let our people go rather than risk it, didn’t they?

Carter went back to his peanut farm in shame and defeat.

And me?

I joined the Navy.

And one day, many years later in the wake of 911, I was on the bridge of a cruiser as we steamed north through the Straits of Hormuz, past Iran, headed for Iraq and war. By then I was salty navy intelligence officer, an experienced war planner, with peculiar and unusual skills. It wasn’t the first time I’d been there and I had actually served with men who had been in the desert on that horrible day when Eagle Claw crashed and burned. I knew a little something of Iran, more than a little in point of fact. I knew a great deal about about the staggering complexity of the Arabian Gulf, its convoluted history and politics and the endlessly shifting powers of the region. And I knew more than a little about what it takes to stage a successful hostage rescue in hostile territory – or even an unsuccessful one. I was an expert in our capabilities (and the very, very real limits of those capabilities), in the astoundingly complicated intelligence problem spawned by a dozen impenetrable regimes (some willing allies, some less than willing, some openly hostile, some undetermined), mixed with a dozen shades of the same religion all mutually hostile, grudges going back a thousand years, the arbitrary interests of the Great Powers, the economics of oil and power and unimaginable amounts of money, the constraints and pressures of geography, and the complex ever shifting unknown and unguessable permutations of a dozen military forces, mercenaries, smugglers, pirates, and random criminal organizations mixed in with commerce from a hundred nations in unbelievable density. It was my job to know those things, and I was very, very good at it.

As we cruised past miles of Iranian coast, alert for danger, ready for action, hemmed in by the geography of the Straits, past lumbering vulnerable tankers laden with vast wealth, dogged by foreign warships, bathed in the electronic energy of hostile fire control radars, knowing we were in the crosshairs of dozens, hundreds, of shipkillers, well, let’s say I knew very, very well indeed how utterly naïve that 18-year-old dishwasher had been all those years ago.

There are few certainties in the Middle East, but one thing I knew for sure was that this was no place for amateurs.

It’s a funny thing though, isn’t it?

We want an amateur President, but when I sailed up that dangerous strait in 2003 on my way to Iraq, a significant percentage of Congress, both in the Senate and in the House, had been in their jobs since long before the Iranian Hostage Crisis.

Some of them are still in office.

Funny perverse, I mean.

And that Iranian Hostage Crisis? Funny thing about that too.  Carter had sent a nuclear aircraft carrier, the USS Nimitz, at that time one of the newest ships in the fleet. To this day, one of the most powerful warships in the world. Her decks had quite literally bristled with fighters. She was accompanied by USS Coral Sea, and a fleet of nuclear powered cruisers and a screen of destroyers. That fleet carried enough firepower to lay waste to a continent.  And the Iranians simply shrugged, they weren’t impressed and they certainly weren’t intimidated. Iran has been at the crossroads of war and empire since before the beginning of recorded history – a history so vast and so complex that an America barely 240 years old has nothing we can compare to it. The reasons for the Hostage Crisis were woven deeply into that history and included resentment over things most Americans still don’t know about their own past let alone Iran’s – such as the CIA-orchestrated overthrow of the Iranian government in 1953. In America, the Iranian Hostage Crisis was the birth of modern shallow mindless patriotism, of overdone flag displays and empty gestures of self-indulgent nationalism. USA! USA! In the end, the release of the hostages had very little to do with the election of Ronald Reagan and a great deal to do with the patient statesmanship of Jimmy Carter. Despite endless conspiracy theories ala Richard Nixon’s diddling the Paris Peace Accords to win his election, there is no evidence whatsoever that Reagan sent agents (supposedly William Casey and George H. W. Bush) to Paris to delay release of the hostages until he could win the election and take office. No, Iran’s decision to release the hostages was a complicated process that owed as much to the Iran-Iraq war and convoluted diplomacy via Algeria (a country most Americans couldn’t find on a map without Google and would be outraged if told they owed a debt of gratitude) as it did to American efforts.

What I’m saying here is that the situation was fantastically complicated and even to this day not all of the details are known. In point of fact, we are still arguing over the details, who owes who, who was at fault, who was involved, who was wrong, who was right, and all the infinite shades of gray in between. The Obama Administration’s release of frozen Iranian assets from that time, 30 years later, and the seething outrage it caused here in the US is a prime example – though few of the outraged could tell you where that money came from or why we ultimately paid it back. Ask those same righteous patriots about Canada’s involvement and what we owe them and before the Ben Affleck movie Argo came out, not one of them could have told you (and few can even now). The crisis was hideously complicated. It involved religion and politics and vast sums of money and power and war and ancient grievances and the wills of a dozen nations, and no mere display of strength back then, no matter how powerful or determined, would have simplified it. And in fact, every such display, every rattle of the sword, every threat of force, every waggle of dicks, only made matters worse. And Reagan? Hell, five years later Reagan was trading arms to Iran through Israel in exchange for hostages held by Hezbollah terrorists in Lebanon and funding a secret war in South America in direct violation of US law.

I watched the Iranian coast slide by, and in that moment, I knew the terrible choices President Carter must have faced and how unfair the judgement of the mob and history had been to him, the things few Americans will ever know – or care to know – or are even vaguely equipped to understand.

And why a nation run by blustering amateurs is a foolish and idiotic conceit.



The world is a dangerous and complicated place.

Almost unimaginably so.


And nothing is as simple or as straight forward as it seems and as the mob apparently believes.


Foreign nations do not kowtow to the United States.

This is not something new.

This is no weakness of Carter or Clinton or Obama – or Reagan and Bush for that matter. These nations have never bent a knee to us. From Morocco during Roosevelt’s time, to Cuba and Vietnam during Kennedy, to Libya under Reagan to Haiti and Grenada and Panama and all the nations that fill your news feed today.

It is the nature of nations, large and small, to push back – and in fact, like dogs, the smaller a nation is, likely the more fierce and furious its bark.




At home, we Americans face the same problems we’ve always faced, energy and resources, civil rights, race, age, religion, law and order, unrest, left and right, young and old, health care, education, infrastructure, jobs.

It’s complicated and difficult and always on the verge of failure.



This is not a world for a government run by amateurs.

As the man said, Walt the Janitor isn’t qualified to land a Boeing 707.



As we are right now finding out.



Trump was going to repeal and replace Obamacare on his first day in office.

He was going to build a wall and make Mexico pay for it.

He was going to defeat ISIS in the first 30 days.

The Iranian deal was history.

He was going to get us out of NATO.

He was going to get rid of the Import-Export Bank.

Trump spend a decade or more railing about China. Oh it was simple. It was easy. It was so clear. Currency manipulation! We have to stop it!

The mob cheered. Of course the mob cheered. Mobs despise “the elites,” the educated, the experienced, and complexity.

The simpleminded demand simple causes for complex problems.

The simpleminded demand simple solutions.

To the howling mob it’s clear, it’s us and them. We’re right and they’re wrong and there’s no problem that can’t be solved with the correct application of high explosives. The big stick. Send in the fleet, that’ll scare ‘em. And if it doesn’t, drop enough bombs, kill enough people, sooner later, you win. Right? That’s America, we punched old King George right in the nose, created democracy, and popped open a cold one.  Back then all a man needed to forge freedom from the wilderness was a good horse, a sturdy woman, and his six shooter. That’s how America beat Hitler and the Japs, that’s how Reagan beat the Soviets, you bet.


Except it turns out it’s not simple and it’s not easy and it’s anything but clear and it didn’t happen that way.

It’s right there, in the news, in your face, obvious to all but the most obtuse.

Trump spent a decade telling everybody who would listen how easy it was. And he ought to know, right? He’s a billionaire. Billionaires got money. Right? That makes him smarter than the professionals. Sure it does. Just ask him.

Except that simplistic view was wrong – as evidenced by Trump’s own words, even if he doesn’t have the moral courage to admit it. 

And being wrong on this scale has consequences.

Trump was stunned by how difficult it was to come up with a better health care plan than Obamacare.

“Nobody knew health care could be this complicated,” he lamented.


But the thing is, the professionals did know. The people with the most experience knew.  And they said so, over and over and over again. It was only the ignorant and the foolish and the howling mob who didn’t know. Who didn’t want to know. 

Turns out Mexico isn’t going to pay for Trump’s wall, so we’re going to pay for it. Turns out defeating ISIS is going to take a hell of a lot more than the Mother of All Bombs. Turns out the deal with Iran is far better than anybody had any right to expect and Trump isn’t going to negotiate any better deal because there isn’t one – and man, don’t you wish we had that same deal with North Korea? Turns out NATO was a good idea after all. So is the Import-Export Bank. Turns out Moscow isn’t much of a friend. Turns out the FBI isn’t much of one either.

Turns out, Trump’s ideas of how to run a government aren’t much better than that of an 18-year-old dishwasher – though it should be noted: the ignorance of youth has an excuse, the President of the United States does not.

Foreign relations, international economics, the balance of powers, the art of diplomacy, it’s complicated and difficult and nothing is as it seems to the simpleminded mob. You can’t just bomb your way to peace and prosperity. You can’t just send in an aircraft carrier.

You can’t manage foreign policy via Tweets.



“See what happens.” Literally, the foreign policy version of Come at me, Bro!

Meanwhile, the warships supposedly dispatched to show Kim Jong Un the Big Stick, well, that fleet was sailing in the opposite direction, blithely unaware that they were at the center of a threatened nuclear war.


Because the President of the United States of America has no idea whatsoever how to command the very military assets he’s threatening the rest of the world with.

And neither, apparently, does anybody else in his administration.

That’s how utterly unprepared this bunch of amateurs is.

And now they’re shoveling shit against the tide in an effort to dig their way out of it.

The bottom line is, in our effort to always be open about what we are doing we said that we were going to change the Vinson's upcoming schedule. We don't generally give out ships' schedules in advance, but I didn't want to play a game either and say we were not changing a schedule when in fact we had.”

That was Secretary of Defense James Mattis today in Saudi Arabia in a statement that is patent nonsense.

That’s what it looks like when a military man who’s used to speaking plainly tries to spin like a politician.

And he knows he’s sucking at it. He can’t help it. Because he knows that last week the Navy, for which he is personally responsible, announced the Carl Vinson strike group would divert from Australia and proceed to the western Pacific Ocean. Trump administration officials along with Trump himself were explicit about it.

And Secretary Mattis himself said on April 11th, the Vinson was “on her way up there.”

A day later, Trump himself said on Fox Business News, “We are sending an armada, very powerful.”

The danger here is even worse than most Americans imagine. It’s not that he might start a war via some belligerent ham-fisted Twitter accident, which would be bad enough, but he might start a war on purpose with no idea the status of American forces or how to deploy them in any coherent fashion. Nor does he have the focus or the intellectual curiosity necessary to find out.

And nobody else in his administration, including General James Mattis, apparently knows either.

Meanwhile, somebody in the Administration claiming to represent the US Central Command told the press,


This was regarding the MOAB drop in Afghanistan last week. A strike apparently conducted by the military without Presidential authorization because according to Trump he prefers the generals to handle the details.

Except shortly thereafter, CENTCOM issued an official press release saying in essence, “We have no idea who that guy is.”


And while the whole thing suddenly reeks of John Miller, more likely the Press got pawned by some over zealous mid-grade officer who wasn’t authorized to speak to the media.

And it’s not just the military.

A month ago, Trump fired all the US Attorneys.

Today, Attorney General Jeff Sessions says aggressive law enforcement is the administration’s priority.  He’s going to crack down on everything from illegal drugs to illegal immigration.

Except that’s impossible without the 93 US Attorney positions currently vacant via his own President’s order.

Add to that the fact that all of the Justice Department’s top divisions are currently without permanent appointees.

This disarray is evident in every department of the Trump Administration, from Defense to Education to State to the Interior.

Just like in any other profession of any difficulty, education, training, practice, experience, advice, these things matter.

There are real world consequences, terrible consequences, for ignorance on this scale.

There is no position of comparable complexity – or even approaching such complexity as the office of President – anywhere else in America that we would trust to someone so utterly lacking in qualifications as is Donald Trump.

And nothing demonstrates the sheer staggering incompetence of this bumbling oaf than threatening North Korea with a fleet that didn’t even know it was involved.


The Founding Fathers weren’t amateurs


The men who freed this country from King George and then went on to forge a new nation were intellectual elites, the educated inheritors of The Renaissance and products of the Early Modern Age. They were able to create a new government because they were experts in government, educated in war and politics and science and religion and economics and social structures and all the hundreds of other things it takes to build a nation instead of tear one down.

Unlike their foolish descendants, the Founders knew that liberty and democracy and good government take far more than shallow patriotism.

Good government takes intellect, education, experience, curiosity, and a willingness to surround leadership with expert advice and support.

More than anything, it takes the cultivation of intelligence instead of pandering to the lowest common denominator. 

Myths are important to a nation, but a firm appreciation of actual history serves a free people to far greater effect.

There is no virtue in ignorance.

And amateurs make for a lousy republic.

If you want a better nation, if you want better leaders, you have to be better citizens.


The doctor turned to me and asked, “Mr. Goldthwait, would you like to cut the cord?” And I said, “Isn’t there anyone more qualified?!
Bobcat Goldthwait

23 Feb 14:31

Into the Valley of Death, Again

by Jim Wright


To go against the church is to go against God!
-- Monsignor Orelas, Priest, 2011


A winning mission.

Not a failure says President Trump.

Or rather not a “failure.”

Given the nature of the situation, perhaps winning should be in Doctor Evil quotes instead of failure but then I’d be digressing by the fourth line and let’s not do that.

So, Our hero Ryan died on a winning mission.

Let us review:

- Chief Special Warfare Operator (SEAL) William Ryan Owens was killed.

- Six American servicemen were injured, several severely.

- Despite strict operational security, covert insertion, and months of intelligence work, the enemy was tipped off to the pending attack. Exactly how isn't known, could have been barking dogs, a crashed recon drone, intercept of communications from Yemeni commandos accompanying the mission, or just plain bad luck.

- A large number of civilian non-combatants were killed, including an 8-year-old girl

Note: reports are that armed women were part of the firefight, making them legitimate targets. I'm not saying they weren't. But even the Pentagon admits a number of non-combatants were killed and has opened an investigation into those casualties

Also Note: Once the advantage of surprise was lost and the firefight began, air support was called in because there were no other options. At that point, given the situation, it would be nearly impossible for there not to be collateral damage and civilian casualties. Sometimes there are no good options, that’s just how it is.

- A $75,000,000 MV-22 Marine assault aircraft was lost.

- Out of the 14 enemy combatants killed, three were actual AQAP leaders, but the primary objective got away (or was never there) and is now openly mocking President Trump and publicly calling him "The White House's new fool."

- And anti-US sentiment in the region, already high, is now rising significantly.

In the aftermath – depending on analysis of captured materials and information systems – it is possible that the mission could be considered an intelligence success. It's too early to tell and likely the results of that analysis, whatever they are, will be classified for OPSEC purposes and even if they are significant, the public will never know. That is the nature of this sort of thing. Failures are public, successes are unacknowledged.

Now, before we go any further let's get something out of the way:

Sometimes missions go to shit and there is not one damned thing you can do about it.

The God of War is fickle and perverse and his prophet is Murphy.

All the planning, all the assets, all the training, all the intelligence work, despite all of it, sometimes there's a barking dog and it all just goes sideways. And then the only thing you can do is call in the gunships and let God sort it out.

That is the nature of war.

And so my criticism is not, REPEAT NOT, directed at the military.

I know these people. I helped plan and execute missions like this one. They would not have gone forward if they weren’t reasonably confident of success, no matter who is sitting in the White House. The people out there on the pointy end of the stick are doing the very best they can with what they have at the moment.

Could things have been done differently? I don’t know, I wasn’t there. I’m not questioning the commanders who made the decision to go forward or the SEALs who executed the mission. That’s not my point. Unfortunately the job has to be done and theirs is not to question why, it's to do or die and ride into the valley of death when commanded. And that is why they are the very best, the most highly trained, with the best equipment and support we can give them.

But there is always a risk that the mission will go bad.

And it did.

In the worst way possible.

Is that Donald Trump’s fault?


Yes it is.

He’s the President. He’s the Commander in Chief. The buck stops right in front of his desk. Fair or not, that’s how it is. That is what he swore to when he took the oath of office. That is what the Constitution demands of him. He and he alone is responsible. If the mission is a success he gets to claim it on national TV. And if it goes bad, it’s all his fault. That’s the job. And a real president, a real leader, steps up and takes responsibility either way, most especially when it all goes to shit.

But America does not begin with the President.

It begins with us, the citizens of this nation.

And while it may be the military’s duty to do or die, it is for us to question why.

Chief Owens died in our name, so it is for us to demand a thorough and dispassionate accounting from our leaders.

A few years back, when four men died in Benghazi, conservatives didn't need reminding of this duty – though they then perverted their responsibility into a political vendetta. 

And since the Benghazi comparisons are flying on both sides today, allow me to remind you all that at no time did the previous administration attempt to portray that debacle as a victory or anything other than failure.

And that's my point, right there.

The Yemen raid, whatever the eventual intelligence value, can hardly be called a "winning mission."

To do so is an insult to every thinking American and an abdication of the responsibility which comes with the office of President.

Worse, far worse, this morning the Administration is attempting to silence accountability by saying that any criticism is unpatriotic and a "disservice to Chief Owens."


That is some fascist bullshit, right there.


That is the tactic of every petty dictator and tin pot tyrant.

It is the duty of free citizens to question their leadership.

Just as Republicans and Democrats questioned Obama.

If, as Sean Spicer this morning claimed, the mission was a success, a true success despite the terrible cost, then it is the responsibility of the administration to prove that beyond a shadow of a doubt to the public.

Otherwise what Spicer is saying is that every Republican who questioned Obama in the wake of Benghazi must be considered equally unpatriotic and un-American.

More, Trump himself claims to have opposed the war in Iraq and Afghanistan right from the start.

Donald Trump has repeatedly claimed to have been a vocal critic and to have never supported the idea of war in the wake of 911.

And he has repeatedly criticized the war and our role in it for the entirety of his campaign, denouncing both wars as failures – this is in point of fact the very cornerstone of his rhetoric.

So when White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer demands the critics of the Yemen raid apologize to Trump out of some supposed respect for a fallen SEAL, then we must demand Trump himself apologize for his critical and disparaging remarks about the war in deference to all of those Americans who died in Iraq and Afghanistan.


No, I suppose not.

He’s just not that kind of leader, is he?

In fact, this morning Trump took to Twitter to criticize Senator John McCain – a man who arguably knows a bit more than Donald Trump about military missions gone bad – for criticizing the Yemen Raid.

Trump said such criticism "emboldens the enemy!"

Criticism of a botched military operation emboldens the enemy.

Think about that.

No, really think about that and what such a statement from a president really means for liberty.

And yet – and yet – despite repeated attacks, McCain himself and those like him in Congress continue to endorse this president and his decisions. And they do so, those Senators and Congressmen, because they are terrified that if they don't then they themselves will become casualties of this war.

And staying in power, no matter how diminished, no matter how far they have to crawl on their bellies, is more important to them than their duty to the nation.

And that should sound the alarm for every American.

Because that is how republics die.

07 Oct 21:59


Remind me to order another pack of coffee filters from Dyson. Man, these things are EXPENSIVE.
15 Sep 14:07

Respect: Colin Kaepernick – The Extended Cut

by Jim Wright

Wrong question. Wrong questions get wrong answers.
-- Master Gregory, Seventh Son (2014)


As veteran, what do you think of the Collin Kaepernick controversy?

That was the question  As a veteran, what do you think …

Readers often ask me about current events. 


Why me?

Well, because that’s what I do nowadays. That’s my job. I’m a political essayist, I write about the world, about politics, about war, about America.

But I used to be in the military. I spent most of my adult life there. I’m a retired US Navy Chief Warrant Officer. If you don’t know what that is, well, you’re in good company.

Regular readers know my background, or a bit of it anyway. As such, no one asks me “As a writer, what do you think?” As an artist. As a Michigander by way of Alaska trapped in the fetid swamps of the Florida Panhandle. Nobody asks me that. They want my opinion as a veteran.


And that condition changes things.


Let’s start with the National Anthem. 

Guess what, Folks? The Star Spangled Banner doesn’t belong to veterans.

No, it doesn’t.

The national anthem is just that, the anthem of the nation.

This wasn’t some Memorial Day parade honoring the fallen. This wasn’t some Veteran’s Day ceremony upon the hallowed ground of Arlington. This was a sporting event and a preseason one at that. Look around that stadium, how many were talking on their phones? How many were texting? Or in line for hotdogs and beer? How many were watching Colin Kaepernick instead of the flag?

How many veterans were waiting for care in the lobby of some VA hospital while that anthem was playing?

How many veterans committed suicide in that same period, finally overcome by depression and despair and the weight of their service?

How many veterans were outside that stadium, sleeping in boxes on the street, digging in the trash for food, lost in the nightmares of PTSD and mental illness?

How many veterans were gunned down on the street while that anthem played?

How many veterans bills to address these issues passed the House and Senate while that song played?

And it’s a football player you’re angry about, because he didn’t stand for a song?

You want to make this about veterans? Then you’re starting in the wrong place.

This isn’t about veterans.

Veterans don’t own the song.

Veterans don’t own a song about a flag even if it is the Star Spangled Banner.

And that flag doesn’t belong to veterans either.

The song, the flag, those are symbols of a nation, the whole nation, not just one little subset of it.

At the moment, there are around 1.4 million people (not all of which are Americans) serving in the US armed forces. That’s less than half of 1% of the total US population. Now, there are a lot more former service members than there are those currently serving on active duty. Nobody is really sure exactly how many, but estimates put the number of veterans at about 22 million, based on VA data compiled from the Department of Defense, US Census Bureau, the IRS, and the Social Security Administration. Add up those numbers and you find only about 7.3% of the total US population have ever served in the military.  About 13.4% of all American males have served. About 1.4% of American females are veterans.  Some of those vets served only a few years. Some like me served nearly their entire adult life. Like me, some served honorably and retired, some served only a few years, and some were tossed out for various offenses or medical reasons or just for being shitty soldiers.  Some like me loved the military, some hated every single goddamned terrible minute of it.  Some like me volunteered, some were conscripted against their will. Like me, some served in war, and like me some served in peace. Some drove trucks, some pushed papers, some washed dishes, some pulled triggers.  Some came home whole and some didn’t.

But no matter how you break it down, veterans are less than 8% of the total US population. 

We don’t own the flag. We don’t own the song. Those symbols represent all Americans, vet and non-vet alike. 

And this is by intent.

The people who designed this country made the military subordinate to the elected civilian leadership for a reason.

They put the military under control of a civilian president for a reason and made it answerable to the people.

And when the Framers wrote the Constitution, they purposely did not require military experience from those elected to office.


Because we are not Spartans.

We are not Romans. We are not Nazis. We are not some warrior culture bent to conquest that puts military service on a pedestal to be worshiped.

We’re Americans.

We’re supposed to be the good guys.

We’re supposed to fight only when we have to, out of dire necessity and because there are no other options and not for some goddamned glorious spectacle.

That’s who we’re supposed to be.

America isn’t just veterans. Veterans might have defended this country, but without the other 92% of the population there wouldn’t be an America to defend. America is veterans, but it’s also everybody else, bricklayers and dishwashers and road builders and firefighters and cops and engineers and scientists and doctors and teachers and students and librarians, rich and poor, young and old, hale and infirm, black, brown, white, yellow, red, straight, gay, Christian, Muslim, Jew, atheist, short and tall, male and female, immigrant and natural-born, and whatever other variation you care to name.

That flag, that anthem, represents all of those people and all of their history.

And while a lot of that history is pretty spectacular, a lot of it isn’t. A lot of it is spattered in blood and begrimed with violence.

And while America itself is a pretty great place to be – despite what some politicians want you to believe – we’re far from perfect and there’s still a great deal of work to be done. Those who forget their history are doomed to repeat it in endless cycle. The Founders knew this and they didn’t just crap out a finished product and sit back on their asses expecting it to work for everybody for all time. The idea was a more perfect nation, not a perfect one. They did the best they could with what they had. They knew it wasn’t finished so they installed mechanisms into the fabric of our country that would allow for update and refinement – see Amendments to the Constitution et al.

We’re still working on that.

America clunks along pretty well for a lot of us. But not for everybody. Not yet. And because of that history and because we are human and because we each have the freedom to see the world as we will, the process of making America work for all of us is messy and fraught with endless setbacks. And it will never be done, it’s an ongoing job so long as time passes and the nation endures.

And that means the flag, the anthem, represent different things to different Americans – and some of you are just going to have to get used to that idea.


Next, let’s talk about the oath.

The oath all military members swear.

Enlisted personnel swear the following oath:

"I, (state your full name), do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God."

Officers take a similar oath with some crucial differences:

“I, (state your full name), having been appointed an officer in the (service branch) of the United States, as indicated above in the grade of (rank) do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservations or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office upon which I am about to enter. So help me God."

Enlisted personnel can be drafted against their will, which means they might take the oath with more than a bit of mental reservation. A lot of conscripted guys going off to Vietnam had serious reservations regarding their enlistment. Don’t take my word for it, ask them.

Officers on the other hand can’t be drafted.

An officer must take the oath freely and without reservation – under penalty of law. If it turns out you, as an officer, are unable to well and faithfully execute the duties of your office because you have mental reservations which you kept concealed at the time of your oath, then depending on the circumstances you’re likely to face resigning your commission or sitting in front of a court martial on your way to prison.

I took both of these oaths. First as an enlisted man and later as a commissioned officer. As the latter I administered the oath to others many, many times.  The one thing both of those oaths have in common is this part: I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same.

We swear our oath, our lives, to the Constitution.

Not the flag.

Not the anthem.

Not to the president.

Not to congress.

Not to the citizens.

Not to a political party or ideology.

Not to a race.

Not to a religion.

We swear our oath to the Constitution.

But what does that mean? That we swear to give our lives for some raggedy old piece of paper? Is it the sacred paper itself that commands our allegiance? Some old piece of parchment, yellowed, handwritten in an archaic language, falling apart, stored away in a nitrogen-filled box somewhere in the National Archives. Is that it?


What then?

Ah, I see. It’s not the paper -- whether it be that hoary old original document or one of those mass produced little booklets supposed patriots and politicians like to toss around. The paper doesn’t matter, it’s the ideas written on it. 

We swear our oath to an idea.

This idea: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

We swear we will bear true faith and allegiance, and give our lives if necessary, for that idea.

That idea was the foundation of the United States of America.

That idea was the very first words spoken by the new nation.

A war for that idea, tens of thousands dead for that idea, a decade of argument and bitter debate and endless compromise later and that idea became the Constitution of the United States.

That’s what we swear our oath to.

That’s why the Founders and the Framers made us subordinate to the civilian leadership – so that we would never forget that our place, our duty, is to defend the life, liberty, and happiness of all Americans. The ones we agree with and identify with and call brother and the ones we don’t. This is why Americans should be appalled and alarmed by the recent tendency of presidents to wrap themselves in military custom. The president is the civilian Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces, not the General in Chief. The president shouldn’t be wearing military garb or rendering a salute. His civilian status should forcefully remind every American of their military’s subordinate role in our society every single day, especially it should remind the president and generals.

We are not Rome, and if we wish to remain so then this reminder is vital.

Okay, stop right there, Jim, I hear you say in that tone you use when you’re pretty sure you’ve got me. Back up. What about “enemies, foreign and domestic?” What about that?

What about it? We just covered that.

We, we military, we don’t get to decide who is and who is not an enemy, or who is and who is not an American – check the Constitution if you don’t believe me.

The military’s job is to defend the country, not rule it.

That’s not our job. And for a damned good reason.

It’s your job.  

We are a representative democracy, a constitutional republic, not a mob, not a military dictatorship. It is our elected civilian government’s job as constrained by the law and limited by the Constitution to decide who is and who is not an enemy. 

If you don’t like how they’re doing it, then elect better leaders. You’re the check, you’re the safety stop.  

Only about 50% of you vote. What kind of safety system only shows up 50% of the time?

If you want a better nation, you have to be better citizens.

You are who that flag, that anthem, represents.


And that takes us to your question:

AS A VETERAN, what do you think about Colin Kaepernick's decision to sit during the National Anthem?

That was your question. That’s how you phrased it. As a veteran.

If you’d asked me as a citizen, as a civilian, as a writer, as an artist, as a father, as a patriot, as a transplanted Michigander by way of Alaska living in the hellish fetid dinosaur infested swamps of the Florida Panhandle, I might have a different answer – then again I might not.

But that’s not what you asked.

You asked me to speak as a veteran, and as a veteran there is only one answer.

The very first thing I learned in the military is this: Respect is a two-way street.

If you want respect, true respect, sincere respect, then you have to give it.

If you want respect, you have to do the things necessary to earn it each and every single day. There are no short cuts and no exceptions. This is true of men and true of nations.

Respect cannot be compelled.

Respect cannot be bought.

Respect cannot be inherited.

Respect cannot be demanded at the muzzle of a gun or by beating it into somebody or by shaming them into it. Can not. You might get what you think is respect, but it's not. It's only the appearance of respect. It's fear, it's groveling, it's not respect. Far, far too many people both in and out of the military, people who should emphatically know better, do not understand this simple fact.

There is an enormous difference between fear and respect. One is slavery, the other is liberty.

Respect has to be earned.

Respect. Has. To. Be. Earned.

Respect has to be earned every day, by every word, by every action.

Respect has to be given freely.

It takes a lifetime of words and deeds to earn respect.

It takes only one careless word, one thoughtless action, to lose it.

You have to be worthy of respect. You have to live up to, or at least do your best to live up to, those high ideals – the ones America supposedly embodies, that shining city on the hill, that exceptional nation we talk about, yes, that self-evident truth that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

To earn respect you have to be fair. You have to have courage. You must embrace reason. You have to know when to hold the line and when to compromise. You have to take responsibility and be accountable for it.

You have to keep your word.

You have to give respect, true respect, to get it back.

There are no short cuts. None.

And any veteran worth the label should know this. All of it. If they don't, then likely they weren't much of a soldier to begin with and you can tell them I said so.

If Colin Kaepernick doesn't feel his country respects him enough for him to respect it in return, you can not make him respect it.

You can not make him respect it.

It is impossible.


If you try to force a man to respect you, you'll only make him respect you less.


With threats, by violence, by shame, you can maybe compel Kaepernick to stand up and put his hand over his heart and force him to be quiet. You might.

But that's not respect.

It's only the illusion of respect.

And, yes, you might force this man into the illusion of respect. We’ve done such things in the past, beaten the illusion of respect into people of color. So you might. Would you be satisfied then? Would that make you happy? Would that make you respect your nation, the one which forced a man to his knees, into the illusion of respect, a nation of little clockwork patriots all touching their forelock to the tyranny of ideology and pretending satisfaction and respect?

Is that what you want?

If that’s what matters to you, that illusion of respect, then you're not talking about freedom or liberty. You're not talking about the United States of America. Instead you're talking about every dictatorship from the Nazis to North Korea where people are lined up and made to salute with the muzzle of a gun pressed to the back of their necks.

That, that illusion of respect, is not why I wore a uniform.

That's not why I held up my right hand and swore the oath and put my life on the line for my country.

That’s not why I administered the oath to others.

That, that illusion of respect, is not why I am a veteran.

Not so a man should be forced to show respect he doesn't feel.


That's called slavery and I have no respect for that at all.


If Americans want this man to respect America, then first they must respect him.

I didn’t say you had to agree with him.

I didn’t say you had to agree with his methods.

Just as I don’t have to agree with those who exercise their Constitutional right to stand on the corner in this little Southern town waving their bibles and loudly damning me to their hell.

Just as I don’t have to agree with those who exercise their Constitutional right to daily scream NRA talking points at me and carry their semi-automatic dick-extenders into the grocery store.

Just as I don’t have to agree with the pundits and the press who exercise their Constitutional right to create paranoia and hate and falsehoods whole cloth.

Just as I don’t have to agree with either the Tea Party or the Occupy Movement, or the drooling idiot Sovereign Citizens who march on the White House periodically to demand the president be tried in a kangaroo court and hung from the nearest lamp-post, I don’t have to agree with any of them when they exercise their Constitutional rights to assemble.

As a citizen, I might disagree with one hell of a lot of the ways other Americans exercise their rights, I might have no respect for their actions or their words and I might even write about it here in less than respectful language.

But as a veteran, I do have to respect them – whether they are worthy of it in my opinion or not. Because I swore my oath to the ideal that they have every right to believe as they will. That, that right there, was the whole damned point of my service in the first place.

Here’s what that respect got me this week: 50,000 plus messages of respect in return.

See how that works?

The same is true of men and true of nations.

If America wants the world's respect, it must be worthy of respect.

America must be worthy of respect. Torture, rendition, indefinite detention, unarmed black men shot down in the street, poverty, inequality, voter suppression, racism, bigotry in every form, obstructionism, blind patriotism, none of those things are worthy of respect from anybody -- least of all an American.

That does not mean there aren’t many things to admire about America.

But those great things don’t give you a pass on the bad stuff. 

Our Founders expected us to fix those things, to keep making America better. Not great again, better. If you can’t see that, then perhaps those men had a higher opinion of us than we deserve.

Now, doesn’t all this also mean if Kaepernick himself wants respect, he must give it first? Give it to America? Be worthy of respect himself? Stand up, shut up, and put his hand over his heart before Old Glory?

No. It doesn't.

Respect doesn't work that way.

Power flows from positive to negative. Electricity flows from greater potential to lesser.

The United States isn't a person. It's a vast imperfect construct. It is a framework of law and order and civilization designed to protect the weak from the ruthless and after more than two centuries of revision and refinement it exists to provide in equal measure for all of us the opportunity for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That’s the exceptionalism we talk about, that right there.

If you want to be exceptional, then you have to be exceptional.

If being exceptional was easy, everybody would be exceptional.

Living up to the promise of the Declaration is hard. Living up to the ideals of the Constitution is hard. If it was easy, we wouldn’t need to have this conversation.

All the power rests with America. Just as it does in the military chain of command. And like that chain of command, like the electrical circuit described above, respect must flow from greater to lesser first before it can return.

It doesn’t matter if Colin Kaepernick is a well paid pampered athlete.

It doesn’t matter if Colin Kaepernick is the worst quarterback who ever fumbled a play, or the finest baller to ever set foot on the gridiron.

It doesn’t matter if Colin Kaepernick is an arrogant jerk of a human being or the nicest guy you ever met.

It doesn’t matter if you think Colin Kaepernick doesn’t do enough for his cause or if he spends his money in a fashion you don’t approve of.

It doesn’t matter if you respect him.

What matters is that he is an American and he has every right to speak his piece, to use his voice and his position to make what difference he can if he so desires – and yes, to suffer the consequences of his actions if necessary. That’s his choice.

That’s his right. You don’t have to respect it, but as a veteran I must. Not to do so would make a mockery of the very things I swore my life to defend.

And that’s what you asked me, as a veteran. Remember?

To you the National Anthem means one thing, to Kaepernick it means something else. We are all shaped and defined by our experiences and we see the world through our own eyes. That's freedom. That's liberty. The right to believe differently. The right to protest as you will. The right to demand better. The right to believe your country can be better – just as the Founders themselves did – that it can live up to its sacred ideals, and the right to loudly note that it has not so far. The right to use your voice, your actions, to bring attention to the things you believe in. The right to want more for others, for the people who are important to you, freedom, liberty, justice, equality, and respect.

A true veteran might not agree with Colin Kaepernick and in fact might adamantly disagree, but a true veteran would fight to the death to protect any American’s right to say what he believes.

In the week since I wrote the original post on Facebook I’ve received literally tens of thousands of responses. The overwhelming majority are positive, notes of encouragement and understanding, enthusiastic and even reluctant agreement.  It makes me proud to note many of those responses came from veterans, from cops, and from Americans who put their asses on line for their fellows every day without expectation of reward or thanks. They may not agree with Kaepernick, but they stand with him nonetheless as true Americans do. A number came from non-Americans, those on foreign shores who look to America with equal parts fear and fascination and wonder at that shining city on the hill and it makes me proud that they can still admire this nation for what it is supposed to represent.

But in that same week I’ve daily posted a roster of those who don’t get it. Those who wrote me, many who claim to be veterans, who called me traitor and called Kaepernick nigger and who have daily sent me death threats and seething hate simply because I spoke of honor and duty and respect. It is these people, these haters, these dimwitted goons, who prove with their own words the validity and necessity of Kaepernick’s protest and why I stand with him.

You asked me what I think as a veteran?

You have my answer and if you don't like what Kaepernick has to say, then prove him wrong.

Be the nation he can respect.

It's really just that simple.

10 Aug 15:45


Maybe you should keep FEWER backups; it sounds like throwing away everything you've done and starting from scratch might not be the worst idea.
18 Nov 17:00

Before You Share It, Google It

by terribleminds

Imagine that Person A has a sandwich.

He says to me, “Damn, this sandwich is delicious. Best sandwich I have ever eaten.” He describes its ingredients in detail: a bounty of meats and cheese and rare mustards, mm-mm-mm.  Then he says, “We should all share this sandwich.” And you think, dang, that’s very nice of him.

So, you take a quarter of the sandwich for yourself and then you pass the rest along. Maybe you’re hungry, so you take a bite. Or maybe you decide to wait for later and let someone else eat it.

If only you have peeled back the bread and looked inside because it’s just — I mean, it’s just full of scat. Turtle turdlets and otter dung and the sloppy mess from an irritable gopher.

Don’t worry, nobody really fed you a shit-filled sammy.

But also, definitely worry, because the truth is much worse.

Truth is, the internet’s informational sharing mechanism is pretty much that. It’s a lot of people passing shit sandwiches around, ignorant of or pretending they’re not actually shit sandwiches.

Given the horror show present in places around the globe recently — Beirut, Paris, and so forth — the informational sharing mechanism has been like ordure fertilizing a garden of only ordure. During times of crisis and concern, the misinformation shared often seems to spike sharply for reasons both sinister and foolish. Some folks want to actively share propaganda, and other people who spread the propaganda around because it sounds awfully good and awfully true and so surely it’s not propaganda at all (spoiler warning: it is). The most sinister of propaganda is the stuff that doesn’t read like propaganda at all. It sounds sensible. It comes from smart-sounding folks. Maybe it even comes from a primary major media source. Or! Maybe it comes from a friend. And we trust friends. Above all others. The circle of trust amongst people can be tighter and stronger than any other bond, and we like to think it keeps out bad ideas but sometimes it does the opposite — it traps the bad stuff within where we all huff it like glue.

This is easily solved, at least on the Internet.

It’s called “just fucking Google it.”

You know the paranoid phrase IF YOU SEE SOMETHING, SAY SOMETHING?

Add a new one to your panoply of phrases:


Because usually, the order of operations goes like this:

a) see a thing

b) maybe read it all the way through or maybe just enjoy the insightful headline


Here, I would add a mere extra step:

a) see a thing

b) maybe read it all the way through or maybe just enjoy the insightful headline


d) determine whether or not you should share this thing or not

The impetus behind me asking for a slight shift in your Internet information-sharing habits is this: on Facebook, that most fertile breeding ground of dum-dummery, someone I was “friends” (air quotes are key) with shared a post from some ministry that was also so “patriotic” I’m pretty sure the writer ejaculates every time he sees an American flag. This post was all about how HEY GUESS WHAT JAPAN NEVER HAD ANY MUSLIM TERROR ATTACKS BECAUSE JAPAN KEEPS THEM MUSLIMS OUT, and then it goes on — sounding very factual and intellectual and actually not at all like my frothy caps-lock tone suggests! — to lay out its case with facts and details. Japan doesn’t allow Muslims into the country, Japan doesn’t allow the study of Islam, and only a “few hundred” Muslims even live in the country. I mean wow. Who knew?

So very simple and straightforward, right? Japan is safe because Japan closed its doors to Islam.

Full stop. End of story. Huzzah and hooray.

Now, let’s for a moment try to see past the sheer irony of someone like this using Japan as an example — I say ironic because I’m guessing that this dipshit would normally froth at the mouth if he even heard the words “Pearl” and “Harbor” in the same sentence. Further, let’s also look past the fact that even if it were all true, that doesn’t make it right, and it doesn’t make it simple…

It’s all bullshit.

Which is easily discovered through the strategy of –

Wait for it.

Waaaaaaait for it.


All you gotta do is take like, less than two minutes of your life and Google it. Hell, Google already had this one locked and loaded in the chamber, as it auto-filled the search term for me. It’s not only bullshit, it’s old bullshit — years-old from one of those chain letter e-mails you probably got from your racist grandpa. And it takes a shallow dive to see the author of the piece is a one of two authors who co-wrote this lunatic e-book about immigration (spoiler warning: its cover offers a big red clumsy font and an image of the burning World Trade towers) and whose entire presence on the Internet is a racist sham. (I’m not linking to any of this because, really, ugh.) And of course statistically, the 1.6 billion Muslims globally could not possibly be related to the fractional number of terrorists in the world, so tying one to the other is super-dubious and…

Point is, it took me no time at all in my day to suss this out. It took as much effort as it takes to clean a filthy window so that you can see through it more clearly.

It’s not your fault. Our brains are poorly wired. You know how like, Dell computers come pre-loaded with lots of junk-ware? Our brains come loaded with a lot of the same crummy software. Fallacies and fritzing logic centers and synaptic tangles that let us trust anecdotal information over statistical reality. Surely once upon a time this bloatware probably helped us defend ourselves from baboon attacks or something, but those days are gone, and now as we sit plump and happy anxious in our office chairs, we have to defeat our fucky reptilian brains and cleave to some kind of logic. Particularly when sharing information — because information creates for us a story, and story is important. Narrative matters. That’s why propaganda exists.

Here someone will probably say, WELL IT HAPPENS ON BOTH SIDES, and sure, yeah, yes, it does. And I’ve done the thing too where you share something and then learn fairly quickly that it’s old, outdated, or just plain wrong-o. Thing is, the power of JUST FUCKING GOOGLE IT is that it will limit the bullshit on all sides of a thing. It’s not perfect, no. It will not grant you 20/20 vision — certainly you have to possess reason and common sense, and further, Google is capable of floating bullshit to the top of the pond, too. And sometimes it’s not as easy as taking just a minute or two of your time. Sometimes it takes some actual reading! (gasp.) Just the same, in my experience it’s still a very good start. God knows, you might even learn something in the process.

So, repeat after me:


Truth will out. And, hopefully, Google will out, too.

(Small call to action, here: if you are capable of donating to charity, please consider doing so. Charity Navigator will rate charities for you and show you vital statistics of each charity, and so you might want to look at Doctors Without Borders, or the American Refugee Committee.)

21 Aug 18:14

"The" in band names

by David Pescovitz

The name of this band is Talking Heads (not The Talking Heads), indeed. At The Atlantic, Dale Eisinger examines the use of "The" in band names.

21 Aug 18:08

New HP Laptop Would Mean Windows at Chromebook Prices

by timothy
New submitter nrjperera (2669521) submits news of a new laptop from HP that's in Chromebook (or, a few years ago, "netbook") territory, price-wise, but loaded with Windows 8.1 instead. Microsoft has teamed up with HP to make an affordable Windows laptop to beat Google Chromebooks at their own game. German website Mobile Geeks have found some leaked information about this upcoming HP laptop dubbed Stream 14, including its specifications. According to the leaked data sheet the HP Stream 14 laptop will share similar specs to HP's cheap Chromebook. It will be shipped with an AMD A4 Micro processor, 2GB of RAM, 32GB of flash storage and a display with 1,366 x 768 screen resolution. Microsoft will likely offer 100GB of OneDrive cloud storage with the device to balance the limited storage option.

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24 Apr 21:09


Before you say anything, no, I know not to leave my computer sitting out logged in to all my accounts. I have it set up so after a few minutes of inactivity it automatically switches to my brother's.