good guys with guns



Gun wielding people mowing down large numbers of school kids, church-goers, movie patrons, and night club visitors.


If we made following scenarios true, the U.S would be the safest damn country on earth, according to the NRA and many politicians.

  • School teachers with assault rifles strapped to their backs.
  • Librarians carrying AR-15s.
  • Ministers with a civilian-model “Spectre” M4 submachine sitting on their pulpits.
  • Movie projectionists with sniper rifles.
  • DJs with a loaded shotgun next to the turntable.

We could turn up the safety factor even more by allowing open carry of lethal weapons in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. In courtrooms, let the judge, jury, and audience carry assault rifles for super security.

It may already be legal to carry weapons in some basketball and baseball stadiums — but do they sell guns and ammo at the concession stands? We’d all be safer if they did. Let’s make it happen at the next Super Bowl.

Alcohol, rock and roll, and semi-automatics make a great combo, so the more firearms at concerts, the better. At the symphony, the piccolo players, with their lightweight instruments, could carry heavy, blockbuster weapons, while the tuba and euphonium players would have a handgun that fits in the pocket, because they have to handle larger instruments.

As soon as kids are old enough to hold a small pistol, they ought to be given a tiny G42 Glock handgun for protection (and in case they need to fight government or playground tyranny). 

In 2015, firearms killed 13,286 people in the U.S. (excluding suicides). Where do you think that number would go if we quadrupled the number of people carrying guns?



whose land of the free?


During the last U.S. presidential election season, Russians attempted to hack their way into voter registration and election systems in 21 states, organized political rallies here, and spent more than a million dollars per month trolling social media sites, and, in general, bamboozling large numbers of citizens.

I’ve seen American reactions that range from being positively impressed at how effective they were, to wanting to strike back at them in vengeance. I’m somewhere in the middle on that, but it’s reminded me about our own history of overturning democracies in other countries, installing dictatorships, invading, and interfering.

Here’s a short list of selected actions. I’ve left out all interventions before 1950 — and that’s a large number that includes Hawaii, Puerto Rico, Cuba, the Philippines, Honduras, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and more — and I’ve also limited myself to some of the best documented interventions. 

1953. The U.S. and U.K. overthrew the elected Prime Minister of Iran, who was replaced by a brutal, U.S-backed dictator, the Shah. The coup was designed to undo the Iranian nationalization of a large British oil company (that had previously exploited its workers and cheated Iran of profits) and to give the U.S. and U.K. control of Iranian oil. 

1954. The CIA helped overthrow the democratically elected president of Guatemala, paving the way for a pro-U.S. military dictator. The U.S. had been heavily lobbied by the powerful United Fruit Company, whose usual business of bribes and exploitation had been interrupted by the Guatemalan government. Our involvement continued for decades, including training and supporting the military of the Guatemalan government throughout a civil war, despite the government’s slaughter of more than 200,000 civilians.

1961.The CIA engineered a failed invasion of Cuba (Bay of Pigs) I’ve read different estimates of the casualties, ranging from a few hundred to a few thousand killed, including fighters on both sides. The U.S. also plotted many failed attempts to assassinate Fidel Castro.  

1964.The U.S. opposed the growing influence of communism in Vietnam, and wanted an excuse to increase its existing military presence and role. It used two incidents in the Gulf of Tonkin (one fake, one misreported) to justify increased troop levels and then carried out an invasion and war, which devastated the nation, spread into neighboring countries, and cost millions of lives. 

1964. The U.S. helped depose the elected president of Brazil in a military coup, leading to a series of repressive right-wing dictators. Brazil’s president had planned to nationalize many large U.S-involved companies and the country was also seen as a potential socialist/communist threat. 

1973. The CIA helped overthrow Chile’s elected president Allende, ending 40 years of democracy and creating a brutal dictatorship. Allende’s supporters were kidnapped, tortured, and murdered. The new dictator was more business-friendly to the U.S. 

1980s. The U.S. attempted to overthrow the government of Nicaragua by funding and training murderous Contra terrorist groups. After Congress cut off funding, they were covertly supported when the Reagan administration sold weapons to Iran and funneled the earnings to the Contras. Also, Contra drug sales in the U.S. and Central America helped fund the war.

1980s. The U.S. interfered in a civil war in El Salvador to suppress leftists, heavily arming both the government’s military and covert death squads. Key death squad personnel were trained in methods of torture and execution at Ft. Benning, Georgia. The death squads were responsible for 85% of civilian deaths, including religious leaders and hundreds, or possibly thousands, of children.

1989. The U.S. invaded Panama and ousted former CIA-informant, President Manuel Noriega. There were about 475 military personnel killed, and at least 500 civilians. 

2003. The U.S. invaded Iraq on a pretext regarding non-existent “weapons of mass destruction.” Meant to bolster U.S. military and economic power in the Middle East, the invasion resulted in killing and injuring hundreds of thousands, and the conflict continues today. The invasion fomented radicalization of militants across the region, leading to the formation of groups such as ISIS.

I love the USA, but it isn’t blind love, and I feel the need to call attention to the darkest elements here. We can and should put a stop to Russian election meddling. Meanwhile, there are lessons to learn about the depravity of taking down other nations whenever it suits our economic interests.



the inside of my pocket


Once again, Google has been asking me, via messages on my Android phone, to submit photos of Seattle locations for Google Maps. Most recently I snapped an image of the inside of my jacket pocket while walking through McGraw Square downtown:

They were pretty happy with this one, as you can see:

A year ago was my first submission, “A dark night at Green Lake”:

I’ve volunteered to become a “Local Guide” for Google so I can offer additional aid. I’m suspicious about how well they really like my pictures, however, because I can’t find them on Google Maps.

I’ll keep trying. Maybe a close-up of one of my fingernails as I stand beneath the Space Needle would garner more appreciation.

news from the looney bin


The New Yorker has recently provided some of the best writing I’ve seen about gun violence in the U.S. I’ve accumulated some quotes below, along with an opening and closing quote that I found elsewhere.

The U.S. begins its process of doing nothing about the deadliest mass shooting in its history. (Charles Mudede in The Stranger)

In recent years, gunmen have shot up fast-food restaurants, post offices, military installations, a movie theatre, a holiday party, a night club, a health clinic, a congressional softball game, churches, high schools, colleges, an elementary school. Three weeks ago, someone killed eight people at a football-watching party in Plano, Texas. You didn’t hear about it because eight gun deaths barely register as a national news story anymore.  (“Washington’s Ritualized Response to Mass Shootings.” The New Yorker, Ryan Lizza)

The distance between forty-nine dead in Orlando and at least fifty-eight in Las Vegas is sixteen months. The deadliest shooting before Orlando, the massacre at Virginia Tech, which claimed the lives of thirty-two people, held that terrible distinction for nine years—not a small amount of time, but damning by another measure, in that our “worst” tragedy could not exist for a decade without being surpassed. (“Another Worst Mass Shooting in the United States” Jelani Cobb. The New Yorker)

 … if he was … from a Muslim country, then a massive act of terrorism would have been committed and a militant response, including travel bans and broad suspensions of rights, would be essential. If it was just one more American “psycho,” then all we can do is shrug and, as the occupant of the Oval Office put it, send “warmest condolences and sympathies…” (“In the Wake of the Las Vegas Shooting, There Can Be No Truce with the Second Amendment,” The New Yorker, Adam Gopnik)

After Newtown, Wayne LaPierre, the C.E.O. of the National Rifle Association, said, “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” But in Las Vegas the only thing that have could have stopped a sniper hidden behind a bank of windows on the thirty-second floor of a building, shooting at people twelve hundred feet away, would have been the unlikely presence of a similarly armed sniper located at a vantage point that gave him or her an open shot at the perpetrator. (“Another Worst Mass Shooting in the United States” Jelani Cobb. The New Yorker)

One measure of the development of a civil society is the obstacles that we place in the path of those who would commit acts of great harm to innocents. (“Another Worst Mass Shooting in the United States” Jelani Cobb. The New Yorker)

There’s no reason why on the street today a citizen should be carrying loaded weapons. (Governor Ronald Reagan)

the council for manhood speaks


Above: Man attempts to open a pickle jar.

Recently an organization with the entertaining name of the Council for Christian Manhood and Womanhood met in Nashville and released a document called the Nashville Statement. This document claimed to speak on behalf of a God that does not sanction “same-sex attraction or transgender self-conception.” It made the news for a bit.

The mayor of Nashville quickly made it clear that this statement was not a city-condoned proclamation. One of the Nashville Statement signers, David French, wrote an editorial in the National Review. He writes that for some people, separation of church and state “is just a pit stop on the road to de-Christianizing America.”

Obviously the mayor was not invoking the separation clause; just trying to protect the city’s reputation. But it’s interesting to see this writer describe the very idea of upholding the Constitution as a way to “de-Christianize.”

French goes on to summarize the Nashville Statement: “We believe the Bible is the word of God, and the word of God declares that sexual intimacy is reserved for the lifelong union of a man and a woman in marriage.” And also for men and concubines, right? Because in that book, people like Abraham, Gideon, and Solomon had concubines, too. There is a pile of polygamy in the Bible.

Then there was God’s order to Moses about dealing with the Midianites (Numbers 31). “Now kill all the boys,” says the Lord. “And kill every woman who has slept with a man, but save for yourselves every girl who has never slept with a man.” So the spoils of war are okay for men, also. If the Nashville Statement signers don’t accept these practices as well, then maybe their statement is just a wishy-washy modern reinterpretation of Biblical family values.

French’s editorial goes on to say, “There are powerful peer and cultural pressures that are pushing Christians to compromise on core principles. In some parts of the country, Christians are social pariahs if they admit to their Biblical views.”

I wonder if he means people who admit to the Biblical views displayed in Judges 19:22-24. That’s the one where wicked men surround a house and demand that the homeowner send one of his guests out of the house so they could have sex with him. But the homeowner is righteous. He protects his guest, and says, “No, take instead my virgin daughter and my guest’s concubine and do what you want with them.” I suppose people who admire this passage might become pariahs.

French writes that today’s Christian liberals subject “God’s word” to a cultural and political test. He says that today, “One can reject even His clearest commands if those commands are ‘mean’ or ‘intolerant.’” Maybe a good example is how the Bible clearly condones slavery (including the sale of one’s daughter) and stoning people to death for infidelity or disobeying parents. We can only assume French is not a wimpy-ass liberal and fully accepts these clearly stated principles.

The article also claims that in today’s society, punitive reprisals are made against “moral” businesses. “They will re-educate or ruin small-business owners who won’t lend their creative talents to celebrate gay weddings.” By this logic, opposing and prohibiting a whites-only lunch counter is an unfair punitive reprisal.

Another shining example from French’s article: “They [liberal Christians] will publicly reject basic statements of Christian theology, and they will do it in the name of comprehensive social engineering.”

I suppose he considers the entire history of civil rights, including the prohibition of slavery, to be social engineering. Maybe so, but they represent the ending of tyranny. It’s amazing the lengths someone will go to justify the desire to mistreat fellow humans.

eclipse weekend


We were among thousands that drove to the totality zone for the eclipse, camping for three nights in the Eastern Oregon town of Culver. We participated in a scenic 25-mile bike ride as part of the Culver Crawdad Festival and in general, had a great time there.

On eclipse-day morning, we watched the first slice of shadow cut across the sun. Soon the temperature started to fall. Over the course of the next hour and a half, the temperature dropped from somewhere in the low 80s °F until it was cold enough that I wanted to put on a sweatshirt. The landscape around us gradually turned dim and a little grayish, as this picture shows in totality.  It became fairly dark, Venus appeared in the sky, streetlights came on. There were sunset colors around the entire horizon.

Most amazing, of course, was the sun, or rather the lack of it. You can look without glasses while it’s completely covered, and the sun was like a black jewel in the sky with rays of light sticking out around the side. Even though the circle itself was dark, there was something crystalline and “super-real” about it. The two minutes of complete eclipse seemed momentous and cosmic, even though it’s fairly common. It looked like this about a second after totality. (I only had my phone camera, so I have none of my own.)

We were fortunate to see some wonderful sights in addition to the eclipse (click to expand)

On a bike ride, we viewed Mt. Jefferson over farm fields

Wind farm in South-Central Washington

The amazing Lake Billy Chinook

Last but not least, the Culver Crawdad Festival