Category Archives: fear

Rep. Jim Cooper FAIL


Rep. Jim Cooper, obviously getting angry phone calls from people other than me, explains his vote thusly:

“It’s largely redundant. Republicans don’t want you to know that,” Cooper told The Tennessean in a phone interview Thursday.

Um, actually, no. But before I get to that, let me remind everyone of the Rep. Jim Cooper who made a name for himself by his “mavericky” refusal to go along with politicized, grandstanding legislation. That Jim Cooper would never have voted for something “largely redundant” because, of course, if it’s largely redundant why the fuck are we wasting our time on it? I remember that Jim Cooper, don’t you?

But that’s not what this bill does. This bill requires the FBI director, secretary of Homeland Security and director of National Security to personally certify to 12 different Congressional Committees that each individual refugee does not pose a security threat. It basically gums up an already long and complicated process to the point where applications will be brought to a standstill.


Jim Cooper voted “aye” on the “American Security Against Foreign Enemies Act,” AKA the Let’s-punch-Syrian-and-Iraqi-refugees-because-we’re-scared-and-crapping-our-pants-and-also-we’re-ignorant Act.

One of only 47 Democrats, and thanks for playing, Rep. Cooper. I’m so over you right now. TN-05 is a pretty safe district now, thanks to Republican gerrymandering, so I’d say we’re safe to make a protest vote now, maybe even find someone who’s a more reliable Democrat who isn’t  stuck in the past and thinking being a Blue Dog is still what the kewl kids are doing.

I called his office and asked the guy who answered the phone what the hell  Cooper was thinking. I was told that “the Congressman supports Syrian and Iraqi refugees as long as they’re vetted properly.” Jesus Christ on a Saltine, they’re already vetted, and far more rigorously than the average shmoe coming into our country on a tourist visa. But thanks for buying into the pants-wettng Fright-wing Fox News meme. Super helpful for the rest of us moving forward!

I can just see it now: “even Democrats agree that refugees are a risk!” Or, even better, “even Democrats don’t support Obama!” Why, lookie here, it’s already on the Wall Street Journal:

In a rebuke to President Barack Obama, a substantial contingent of House Democrats voted for a bill the White House had threatened to veto ….

You ignorant ass. Why on earth would a terrorist subject themselves to a two year UN/Dept. of Homeland Security background check (which was improved in 2011 following the 2009 entry of Waad Ramadan Alwan and Mohanad Shareef Hammadi, the two individuals Rand Paul has been fearmongering about)? Why do that when getting a tourist visa is so much easier? Hell, what about those “porous borders” desperately in need of a wall the wingnuts are always blathering on about? Wouldn’t that be easier?

Why aren’t we doing something about the fact that anyone on the terror watch list can still buy guns? Legally? Isn’t that important? In fact, the best indication we have that this entire thing is ginned up fear-porn BS designed to help Republican electoral prospects is this:


NRA defends stance on law that allows terror suspects to get firearms

The NRA says it’s just trying to protect the rights of law-abiding citizens to buy guns — even if their names appear on a terror watch list.

Hey, Rep. Cooper: why don’t you do something about that? No?

Anyone who tells you that all of this ginned up fearmongering is anything other than political posturing designed to make voters run to Republican Daddy is lying. But thanks, Rep. Cooper, for playing along.


You are completely dead to me.


Filed under fear, Housekeeping, immigration, rants, Rep. Jim Cooper, Tennessee

“Republican” As A Synonym For Coward


Just as I predicted:

Christian groups break with GOP over Syrian refugees

Faith-based groups, who play a key role in resettling refugees to the United States, say they are dismayed by the wave of anti-refugee fervor set off by the Paris terrorist attacks and are urging supporters to contact elected officials on behalf of victims of the Syrian civil war.

Many of you may not know this but Southern Beale works with refugees. It’s been my job for the past two years. So when I hear Tennessee Republicans like Glen Casada say such repulsive things as,

“We need to activate the Tennessee National Guard and stop them from coming in to the state by whatever means we can. I’m not worried about what a bureaucrat in D.C. or an unelected judge thinks. … We need to gather (Syrian refugees) up and politely take them back to the ICE center and say, ‘They’re not coming to Tennessee, they’re yours.'”

… it really makes me want to punch that guy in the face. Really, the amount of ignorance and hate on display in such comments just boggles the mind. It’s like they’re in a race to see who can be the most despicable human being.

My students have told me stories here and there, so I’ve gained a little perspective  about what it’s like to be a refugee. One thing that’s clear is how hard it is to come to the United States; you don’t just get handed a ticket and land in Nashville. There is a tremendous amount of uncertainty. Some of my students have spent years in refugee camps. When they finally do make it through the arduous process, many of them don’t even know where they’re going. One of my students was first sent to Los Angeles, was immediately redirected to Idaho (Idaho!), was there for just two days (two days!), before then being sent on to Nashville. So  I think stories like this one are not unusual, current events notwithstanding.

Republicans are playing to their fearful, nativist, xenophobic base. I don’t for a second think that they believe the crap that they’re spewing. They’re just trying to gin up a response, and fear is their go-to emotion. Keeping people scared is what they do. Last year it was Ebola, this year it’s refugees. Republicans are the “OMG WE’RE ALL GONNA DIIIIIIE!” party.

What they don’t seem to know is that a large majority of the groups helping refugees navigate these uncertain waters are Christian. Organizations like World Relief, Catholic Charities, and Church World Service are all involved in refugee resettlement. That’s because once upon a time, Christians were interested in more than just abortion and gay marriage. They knew that Leviticus didn’t just have something to say about gay sex, but also about not mistreating foreigners, “for you were foreigners in Egypt.” So as Republicans race to the bottom vilifying people fleeing war in Syria, they’re also pissing off another large contingent of their base.

We’ve seen this all before. It’s an election year, they want to appeal to the lowest common denominator of their base, so they tweak that amygdala,  instead of trying to appeal to the better elements in their party. And come the next post-mortem, Republicans will continue to wonder why they’re perceived as the party that doesn’t care about people. Same as it ever was.

“Republican” is a synonym for coward. Not just because they’re scared shitless of everything — Muslim refugees, Ebola nurses, married gay people, you name it. But because they’re too scared to be anything else.


Filed under conservatives, Current Events, fear, Housekeeping, immigration, rants, Tennessee, Tennessee politics

Thought For The Day

It is truly amazing to hear the same people who bitched and moaned about how TSA body scanners at U.S. airports violated their civil rights now attack nurse Kaci Hickox for not submitting to a 21-day house arrest on her return from Africa.

Do you people even listen to yourselves?


Filed under conservatives, fear

No, Random Mt. Juliet TN Woman, You Do Not Have Ebola


Let the games begin:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – An American Airlines flight from Dallas was quarantined in Nashville after medical scare. Health officials said there was no risk for Ebola.


The Metro Public Health Department said the passenger with the medical issue had no history of contact with anyone with Ebola in Dallas and had no travel history to Africa. Officials added there was no concern the passenger had Ebola and there was no risk to other passengers on the plane.

This was the second Ebola scare in the mid-state in the last 48 hours. First responders in Hazmat suits quarantined a Mt. Juliet gas station late Saturday night.


Oh fer crissakes. With the arrival of cold and flu season, expect to see more stories like this one:

MT. JULIET, Tenn. – A Mt. Juliet gas station was closed for several hours after a woman called emergency dispatchers with what they described as Ebola-like symptoms.

Wilson County officials said the woman was complaining of chest pains just after midnight Sunday. After dispatchers began questioning the woman for additional information, they determined she could have symptoms of the Ebola virus.

EMTs responded to the Mapco gas station at the intersection of Lebanon Road and Mt. Juliet Road wearing full protective gear. The gas station was closed while crews worked.

The woman was transported to TriStar Summit Medical Center in Hermitage, were medical crews had already been alerted to the possible Ebloa threat. Nurses met the patient at the front door wearing masks, gloves and protective masks.

After evaluating the woman, the situation was “cleared,” according to officials. No Ebloa protocol was activated.

A spokesperson for Summit Medical Center said doctors have cleared the woman, and she does not have the Ebola virus. No threat remained at the hospital.

Here’s a quick meme to determine if you might have ebola:


There is a rampant, overriding, highly politicized culture of fear in America. It’s been with us for about the past 30 years, maybe more. It used to thrive on the fringes of American society, where people afraid of the coming zombie apocalypse would stockpile their canned goods, guns and ammo. Hell, I remember in the mid-70s my mom kept a stash of canned food and 50-gallon bottles of water in our garage “for the revolution,” and we were not a nutso survivalist family.

But since 9/11 this culture of fear has been mainstreamed. It’s been aided and abetted by talk radio — mostly right-wing radio, but I’ve heard my share of fear porn on left-wing radio, too. The news media has fear as its default position (Missing white women! Shark attacks! Immigrants! Terrorism!) and political entities exploit it for profit.

I have this theory that fear sells so easily here because we are such a prosperous country. People who have a lot, have a lot to lose, and thus tend to be more fearful. Fear is an easy sell, but it’s also incredibly damaging. It’s turning America into a ridiculous parody of modern civilization.

When I read stuff about random people thinking they have Ebola all I can do is laugh at them.

[UPDATE]: And another one, in Birmingham, Alabama. This one was at an airport so the “abundance of caution” makes slightly more sense.


The only thing more depressing than this story are the search engine terms WordPress tells me has brought folks here today: “ebola scare in mt. juliet, tennessee,: “mt juliet ebola,” and this one: “is it true that a woman has ebola in mt juilet.” Seems like the full-court fear has begun.

I am slightly encouraged by “george zimmerman is an asshole,” however.


Filed under fear, media, Tennessee

And They Wonder Why We Laugh At Them

Trying hard not to laugh at the pants-wetters at Open Carry Texas who strutted around the state capitol in Austin over the weekend with their guns so they could whine about how THE MAN was hassling them because of their long hair big guns and nobody loves them or the Second Amendment or appreciates their service to humanity by walking around armed. Meanwhile they are apparently terrified of a homeless man with a garden trowel.

I mean, my first thought was that this was a parody. But it appears to be real. SO, kiddos, read, laugh, weep, etc.:

I was approached by another participant at the rally and was informed that there was a homeless man (who seemed to be mentally unstable) walking around waving what appeared to be a knife in people’s faces. While walking back and forth in front of our merchandise stand, he had somehow obtained one of our OCT hats that we hadn’t sold to him. I was told that he was heading up towards the main rally on the south steps of the Capitol. The potential weapon in his hand had a serrated edge on one side.

I told a couple of the closest DPS troopers (they stayed about 30 feet or so away from us) that we had a potential problem. I started approaching them to describe the man and why he might be a threat. I had forgotten that I had my AR-15 on my back (I was wearing body armor and couldn’t feel the rifle against my body), and instead of listening to me tell them there was a potential threat, several troopers began yelling at me to take my weapon off of the capitol grounds. Bear in mind, every single one of those troopers knows who I am, just as they know who Terry is.

You had forgotten you had an AR-15 on your back because of your body armor? Dude. You’re an idiot. But I digress:

I apologized and walked the less than ten feet back inside of the gate. I then asked them to come closer because we had an issue, but they chose to just stand there staring at me. I told them there was a potentially dangerous man at the rally, and that they needed to find him before someone got hurt. They continued to gawk at me. I finally demanded that they find someone else to come speak with me, and that every second they were wasting ignoring my warning, someone could be in danger. One of the troopers finally began be-bopping north towards another group of troopers who appeared to be supervisors.

I couldn’t stand it any longer. I handed a friend my rifle and went in yelling about the lack of urgency displayed by these troopers who were supposed to be keeping us safe, but were ignoring my warning solely because they don’t like us, particularly me. I quickly walked past them and yelled that if anyone was hurt, THEY all have blood on their hands!

A few of us got to the rally on the south steps and began frantically scanning the crowd. We were looking for a man with a camouflage OCT hat, jeans, and not wearing shoes. By this time, a DPS trooper decided I probably wasn’t exaggerating and asked who we were looking for, joining in the hunt.

After several minutes of searching through the mass of people, a trooper informed me that the potential threat had been located and escorted off the grounds. The “weapon” he was holding was a small gardening trowel similar to this:


Before returning to the armed rally, I thanked him for helping and explained how unprofessional it was that his troopers completely ignored a legitimate complaint.

So the guy in body armor with an AR-15 strapped to his back is running around frantically trying to warn state police about a potential threat to public safety: a homeless guy with a garden trowel. And he tells this story as if it were completely logical, not the utterly massive FAIL any sane person would see it to be?

Right. And they wonder why we laugh at them?


Filed under fear, fear porn, gun control, gun violence, Texas

Black People Are Scary

People keep telling me to stop trying to understand conservatives, but I can’t help myself. If they make sense to themselves, then really we should try to understand where they’re coming from. We don’t have to agree but for God’s sake let’s at least make the effort.

But I just haven’t been able to understand the reflexive defense of George Zimmerman from the right wing. What exactly are they defending here? Is it the NRA-guns thing? The “we don’t believe racism exists” thing? What are they defending when they rally around a guy who shot and killed a teenager? What is going on here?

It’s truly something to behold, these attacks on a 17 year old kid, and while I can maybe understand why they’d attack Sandra Fluke or someone else who came out in support of a hated Obama Administration policy, that’s not the case here. Trayvon Martin was a kid in his neighborhood coming home from the store. So all of this “he deserved to die” stuff puzzles me. Is it because hated figures like Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson are involved now? If those guys say the sky is blue then conservatives know it must be green?

The funniest thing has been the “revelation” that George Zimmerman registered to vote as a Democrat in 2002 (I’m not going to link to those sites, but you can Google it if you’re interested). A-HA! That proves …. what, exactly? That he was justified in shooting Martin? That he wasn’t a racist who immediately assumed a black kid was up to no good? That “stand your ground” laws aren’t dangerous? It means none of those things. What it does show us is that the right wing’s perspective is completely clouded by their hyper-partisanship and also that they assume everyone views the world through the same hyper-partisan lens. But no one ever said George Zimmerman shot Trayvon Martin because Zimmerman was a Republican. Yet that’s what right-wing bloggers and pundits seem to have heard. I just find that truly bizarre. I really want to understand what’s going on here.

Max Read put it really well in his column “Your Guide to the Idiotic Racist Backlash Against Trayvon Martin”:

That right-wing cranks, caught in the storm of their own horseshit, would be unable to distinguish between “being 17” and “being a criminal” isn’t particularly shocking (to most of them, there is no distinction). It’s embarrassing for a theoretically respectable site like Yahoo! to provide cover for clearinghouses like Drudge with equivocating articles that worry about “the difference between the typical teenager Martin’s family and supporters say he was and the way he presented himself on social media” and quote the “we don’t know what happened” hems and “it’s complicated” haws of Business Insider’s Michael Brendan Dougherty and’s David Shane.

But mainstream and gutter are both running from the same source: an anxiety about young black men. That’s why it doesn’t matter that Martin’s suspensions are completely irrelevant to the case, and it’s why there’s a push to sidestep the specifics of the encounter in favor of interrogating Martin’s character.

As Read pointed out, this reached its zenith when Fox News’ Geraldo Rivera told black kids to stop wearing hoodies. What he was really saying was, “stop being so scary.” That a teenager carrying Skittles and iced tea could justifiably be viewed as scary indicates the problem might lie with white folks’ irrational fear, but there it is. And surely there can be nothing scarier to conservatives than seeing hundreds and even thousands of predominantly black faces rallying in the streets demanding justice. That has got to be really scary for these folks, hiting them on a visceral level and harkening back to the race riots of the ’60s. White people scare really easily, it seems to me, which is why it’s such an effective political tool, and has been for decades.

This also reminds me of the question we all asked in 2010, the summer of crazy: “What If The Tea Party Was Black”? Walking around with guns and threatening signs, vowing to overthrow the establishment, what then?

I think the hidden message of the conservative attacks on Trayvon Martin really has its roots in this: black people are scary and white people are justified in being afraid. They are defending fear. This is a very useful message because scared people can be easily manipulated into doing all sorts of things in the service of their rulers. This is a truth as old as Plato and it will never change.


Filed under conservative bloggers, conservatives, fear, fear porn, racism

Living The Gun Life


Comments now closed. Everything that could possibly be said has been said.



As usual, the personal attacks have begun. I’ve allowed plenty of pro-gun folks to comment on this thread and share their ideas. I welcome reasonable conversation but if you’re going to be an asshole and attack me personally I’m going to close this comment thread.


I love sharing my thoughts about guns, gun violence, and gun policy. Without fail my blog gets trolled by gun loons, 99% of them the same folks — directed here by the same pro-gun blog — who have hated what I have to say since the Tennessee guns-in-bars bill that started this whole thing. They come over to my blog to whine about how I won’t let them trash me or my regulars with comment spam. Apparently the idea that shouting over everyone else is not conducive to a conversation is a completely foreign concept.

It’s thuggery, pure and simple: I know this because one of my regular trolls once promised to call off the dogs if I’d stop blogging about guns. I don’t like poking a stick at a hornet’s nest but I like being intimidated even less, so I’ll keep writing about stuff that strikes a nerve with me, gun loons be damned.

Back in August I was fascinated by Dan Baum’s CCW story in Harper’s: “Happiness is a worn gun: My concealed weapon and me.” Baum is a Boulder, Colorado-based avowed liberal, and also a CCW holder and gun enthusiast — many liberals are, contrary to conventional wisdom and what Fox News pundits and NRA newsletters say. (Of course, Fox and the NRA have a vested interest in dividing the country into “us” and “them,” so what do you expect?)

Before I go any further, let me tell my pro-gun readers that Baum’s piece is probably the best argument for guns, open-carry, shall-issue laws, etc. which I’ve ever read. (Hint to the gun loons: trolling liberal blogs acting like dicks does not exactly do your movement or your point of view much service. But I digress.)

I’ve been wanting to write about Baum’s piece since I read it back in August but every time I try I end up basically quoting the whole thing, because it’s so full of insight. Unfortunately, Harper’s is subscription only, so if you don’t subscribe you’ll have to find some other way of getting your hands on a copy.

The truth is, I have a lot of friends and family members — political liberals and Dem-leaning moderates — who like to shoot firearms and hunt. Heck, I met Mr. Beale at a shooting party. Yes, it’s true! Go figure.

That said, there’s a difference between my liberal gun friends and the ideological purists who deny guns pose any danger at all, who claim that all CCW permit holders are always responsible, and pretend that guns are as innocuous as Bic pens. I detect a cult-like mindset, something which comes up again and again when Baum writes about what he calls “living the gun life.”

Let’s start with Baum’s description of the handgun class he was required to take by Colorado law:

The classes I took taught me almost nothing about how to defend myself with a gun. One, taught by a man who said he refuses to get a carry permit because “I don’t think I have to get the government’s permission to exercise my right to bear arms,” packed about twenty minutes of useful instruction into four long evenings of platitudes, Obama jokes, and belligerent posturing. “The way crime is simply out of control, you can’t afford not to wear a gun all the time,” he told us on several occasions. We shot fifty rounds apiece at man-shaped targets fifteen feet away. The legal-implications segment was taught by a cop who, after warming us up with fart jokes, encouraged us to lie to policemen if stopped while wearing our guns and suggested that nobody in his right mind would let a burglar run off with a big-screen TV. It’s illegal to shoot a fleeing criminal, he said, “but if your aim is good enough, you have time to get your story straight before I [the police] get there.” Thank you for coming; here’s your certificate of instruction. The other class, a three-hour quickie at the Tanner Gun Show in Denver, was built around a fifteen-minute recruiting pitch for the NRA and a long-winded, paranoid fantasy about “home invasion.” “They’re watching what time you come home, what time do you get up to go to the bathroom, when you’re there, when you’re not,” said the instructor, Rob Shewmake, of the Florida company Equip 2 Conceal. “They know who lives in the house. They know where your bedroom is, and they’re there to kill you.” (Eighty-seven Americans were murdered during burglaries in 2008; statistically, you had a better chance of being killed by bees.)

These are Kool-Aid drinkers who, like Zach Wamp, appear to be so drunk on the fear porn we get 24/7 from the news media that you’d think they were the last defense between civilzation and utter mayhem. Even though violent crime has been dropping for years, apparently thieves, rapists and murderers lurk around every corner, ready to defile their daughters and steal their flat-screen TV.

Their paranoid vision of America is not one I share. “Living the gun life” appears to require being in a constant state of fear, mistrust, and paranoia, viewing your fellow citizens as potential threats, and ready to fight to the death for material objects that are not nearly as valuable as a human life–even the life of a criminal.

Fear is a potent drug, as bad as heroin or cocaine, and equally addictive. Of course this is what the gun loons are selling — a populace that isn’t in fear doesn’t need to arm itself, does it?

Baum continues:

Both classes were less about self-defense than about recruiting us into a culture animated by fear of violent crime. In the Boulder class, we watched lurid films of men in ski masks breaking into homes occupied by terrified women. We studied color police photos of a man slashed open with a knife. Teachers in both classes directed us to websites dedicated to concealed carry, among them, an online gathering place where the gun-carrying community warns, over and over, that crime is “out of control.”

In fact, violent crime has fallen by a third since 1989—one piece of unambiguous good news out of the past two decades. Murder, rape, robbery, assault: all of them are much less common now than they were then. At class, it was hard to discern the line between preparing for something awful to happen and praying for something awful to happen. A desire to carry a gun seemed to precede the fear of crime, the fear serving to justify the carrying. I asked one of the instructors whether carrying a gun didn’t bespeak a needlessly dark view of mankind. “I’m an optimist,” he said, “but we live in a world of assholes.”

At the conclusion of both classes, we students were welcomed into the gun-carrying fraternity as though dripping from the baptismal font. “Thank you for being a part of this, man. You’re doing the right thing,” one of the Boulder teachers said, taking my hand in both of his and looking into my eyes. “You should all be proud of yourselves just for being here,” said the police officer who helped with the class. “All of us thank you.” As we stood shaking hands, with our guns in our gym bags and holding our certificates, we felt proud, included, even loved. We had been admitted to a league of especially useful gentlemen and ladies.

Welcome to the gun cult! You are now in an exclusive, “special” group: defenders of freedom, liberty, chastity, and family. The fate of the Republic rests on your shoulders.

There’s more:

Just as the Red Cross would like everybody to be qualified in CPR, gun carriers want everybody prepared to confront violence—not only by being armed but by maintaining Condition Yellow. Hang around with people committed to carrying guns and it’s easy to feel guilty about lapsing into Condition White, to begin seeing yourself as deadweight on society, a parasite, a mediocre citizen. “You should constantly practice being in Condition Yellow all the time,” writes Tony Walker in his book How to Win a Gunfight. Of course, it’s not for everyone; the armed life in Condition Yellow requires being mentally prepared to kill. As John Wayne puts it in his last movie, The Shootist, “It’s not always being fast or even accurate that counts. It’s being willing.”

This is a classic cult mind-control device: to portray those who are in the cult as having special, privileged knowledge, an exclusivity or “elite” status. Those who are outside the cult are portrayed as lost souls, in extreme cases they are evil. It’s a separation of humanity into the privileged few and the “other.”

This cracked me up, but it also made me sad:

When I mention that I’m carrying, their faces light up. “Good for you!” “Right on!” “God bless you!” The owner of a gun factory in Mesa, Arizona, spotted the gun under my jacket and said, with great solemnity, “You honor me by wearing your gun to my place of business.”

You honor me? Dang. That’s some serious whack.

Fear is an effective tool; its opposite — certainty — is equally enticing. I don’t want to live in fear all of the time — I daresay most people don’t, but when you live in a world where fear messages are thrust at you nonstop, it’s a hard habit to quit. I’ve said more than once that if fear is what you’re selling, I ain’t buying.

Neither do I want certainty. Certainty looks appealing but it’s a chimera. There’s no such thing. Destiny turns on a dime, the world is a maze of gray. Black and white exists only in morality plays and fundamentalist religion.

The problem is, fear is what they’re selling. Baum writes about the state of high alert, the hyper-vigilance which comes with carrying a gun and being in what’s called “Condition Yellow.”

If I’m in a restaurant or store, I find myself in my own little movie, glancing at the door when a person walks in and, in a microsecond, evaluating whether a threat has appeared and what my options for response would be—roll left and take cover behind that pillar? On the street, I look people over: Where are his hands? What does his face tell me? I run sequences in my head. If a guy jumps me with a knife, should I throw money to the ground and run? Take two steps back and draw? How about if he has a gun? How will I distract him so I can get the drop? It can be fun. But it can also be exhausting. Some nights I dream gunfight scenarios over and over and wake up bushed. In Flagstaff I was planning to meet a friend for a beer, and although carrying in a bar is legal in Arizona, drinking in a bar while armed is not. I locked my gun in the car. Walking the few blocks to the bar, I realized how different I felt: lighter, dreamier, conscious of how the afternoon light slanted against Flagstaff’s old buildings. I found myself, as I walked, composing lines of prose. I was lapsing into Condition White, and loving it.

Condition White may make us sheep, but it’s also where art happens. It’s where we daydream, reminisce, and hear music in our heads. Hard-core gun carriers want no part of that, and the zeal for getting everybody to carry a gun may be as much an anti–Condition White movement as anything else—resentment toward the airy-fairy elites who can enjoy the luxury of musing, sipping tea, and nibbling biscuits while the good people of the world have to work for a living and keep their guard up. Gun guys never stop building and strengthening this like-minded community.

I don’t know if Baum was aware he is describing a cult, but he is.

I can’t imagine what living in this constant state of hypervigilance does to one’s psyche. It’s not healthy, and it’s certainly an effective way to exert cult-like influence over a group of people.

The last half of Baum’s article addresses the issue of gun policy. He makes some really interesting points. For example:

Shall-issue may or may not have contributed to the stunning drop in violent crime since the early Nineties. The problem with the catchy More Guns, Less Crime construction, though, is that many other things may have helped: changing demographics, smarter policing, the burnout of the crack-cocaine wave, three-strikes laws, even—as suggested by Freakonomics authors Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner—legalized abortion. And crime dropped more in some states that didn’t adopt shall-issue laws than in some that did.

But shall-issue didn’t lead to more crime, as predicted by its critics. The portion of all killing done with a handgun—the weapon people carry concealed—hasn’t changed in decades; it’s still about half. Whereas the Violence Policy Center in Washington, D.C., can produce a list of 175 killings committed by carry-permit holders since 2007, the NRA can brandish a longer list of crimes prevented by armed citizens. I prefer to rely on the FBI’s data, which show that not only are bad-guy murders—those committed in the course of rape, robbery, and other felonies—way down but so are spur-of-the-moment murders involving alcohol, drugs, romantic entanglements, money disputes, and other arguments: the very types of murders that critics worried widespread concealed-carry would increase.

This is all good information but it’s not a compelling argument to me.

Here is what resonates with me:

When I called Mike Stollenwerk, a retired Army lieutenant colonel who is a cofounder of, he told me right away he thinks displaying a gun outside a presidential event is for “the Tea Party nutties.” He wants more people carrying handguns openly because “we want everybody to have that right.” Wearing guns openly so you can wear guns openly sounds to me like the old Firesign Theatre joke about the mural depicting the historic struggle of the people to finish the mural. Open-carry is already legal almost everywhere. But Stollenwerk said the movement is about changing culture rather than law. “We’re trying to normalize gun ownership by openly carrying properly holstered handguns in daily life,” he said.

And this is my objection. Baum provided an excellent window into “the gun life” and it’s not a life I want, or a community I want to call home. I don’t want the culture changed into this high-stress, hyper-vigilant “Condition Yellow.” I don’t want to be a member of your cult and the eroding of community standards it represents, where killing a fellow human being to defend your big screen TV is a virtue. I’d rather sip tea and nibble biscuits with the other airy-fairy elites. And if that’s something you want to do, then fine – I’m not an abolitionist, but I don’t think it’s unreasonable for me to ask a few assurances. Like, for instance, that you’ve cleared a thorough background check, you have been thoroughly trained, and your permit is revoked if you’re an idiot like Debra Monce. Of course, these things are supposed to happen but we’ve seen what a joke this is. Because when you’re in gun cult country, where those who go unarmed are viewed as parasites and the man teaching the gun class refuses to get a carry permit on principle, such things are not just inconvenience, they are a downright threat.

Baum writes:

We may all benefit from having a lot of licensed people carrying guns, if only because of the heightened state of awareness in which they live. It’s a scandal, though, that people can get a license to carry on the basis of a three-hour “course” given at a gun show. State requirements vary, but some don’t even ask students to fire a weapon before getting a carry permit. We should enforce high standards for instruction, including extensive live firing, role playing, and serious examination of the legal issues. Since people can carry guns state to state, standards should be uniform. States should require a refresher course, the way Texas does, before renewing a carry permit. To their credit, most gun carriers I’ve talked to agree that training should improve, even if some of them get twitchy at the idea of mandates. The Second Amendment confers a right to keep and bear arms. It does not confer a right to instant gratification.

Baum said he’d probably stop wearing his gun. He missed “Condition White,” he felt it put up a barrier between he and his friends. It “militarized” his life and he didn’t like it. And I don’t like it either. I don’t want to live in a militarized community, just as Dan Baum didn’t want to live a militarized life.

Tennessee is a nice place to live. Nashville is a nice city. One always hears that it’s “a great place to raise a family.” Bringing guns into every school, church, restaurant, bar, park, etc. will change that spirit. And I don’t like it.


Filed under fear, gun control, gun violence

>Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is Or STFU

>Arson is suspected at the Murfreesboro mosque construction site because, you know, construction machinery doesn’t just torch itself.

So Newt Gingrich, Charles Krauthammer and the rest of you yahoos who contend you aren’t Islamophobes, you just don’t want those people worshipping on our hallowed ground! … I just have two words: pony up.

Come to Tennessee and embrace the mosque in Murfreesboro. We’re hundreds of miles from Ground Zero. This ain’t hallowed ground, it’s Rutherford County.

Come tonight for the candlelight vigil sponsored by Middle Tennesseans for Religious Freedom. There will be TV cameras there. I know that’s important to you.

Tell your rage-filled minions that Muslims have a right to worship in America, not just legally and Constitutionally but morally, as well. Control your hateful rabble before some innocent person gets hurt. You will have blood on your hands if this escalates. I will blame you for stoking a torch and pitchfork mob.

And when you’ve finished embracing the Muslims in Tennessee you can go to Jacksonville, Florida, where a pipe bomb was found at a mosque. And then take it to Arlington, Texas, where a mosque playground was set on fire. And then take it to Madera, California.

If your beef is really about how special Ground Zero is, fine. You should be the biggest supporters of Islamic community centers and houses of worship in the rest of the nation.

That you stay silent is very, very telling. It’s all the proof we need supporting our contention that you’re just hateful bigots stoking fear among your ignorant followers.


Filed under fear, Islam, mosquetroversy, Newt Gingrich

>Scary-Voiced Announcer Man

>If you have XM Satellite Radio like I do, then you’ve been hearing Scary-Voiced Announcer Man intoning about Ben Stein’s movie “Expelled.” The ads have been running a lot–a lot–to the point where I can’t listen to Lionel or Ed Schultz anymore, they are that annoying.

I haven’t seen the movie, but I’ve heard the premise (Stein has been making the TV rounds) and it strikes me as the most ridiculous fake controversy I’ve ever heard. I can’t get worked up over the “injustice” of people peddling religion and fake science in schools being told they can’t by school administrators and school districts. Sorry, dude. I liked you better when you were challenging us to win your money.

Anyway, I think we’ve all heard enough of Scary-Voiced Announcer Man this campaign season. Which is what made this video so hilarious:

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Filed under fear, fear porn, XM Radio

>What A Legacy

>Bush vetoes anti-torture bill. Wow, what a headline.

There are things I just don’t understand, and this is one of them:

Bush’s Veto of Bill on C.I.A. Tactics Affirms His Legacy

Published: March 9, 2008

WASHINGTON — President Bush on Saturday further cemented his legacy of fighting for strong executive powers, using his veto to shut down a Congressional effort to limit the Central Intelligence Agency’s latitude to subject terrorism suspects to harsh interrogation techniques.

Mr. Bush vetoed a bill that would have explicitly prohibited the agency from using interrogation methods like waterboarding, a technique in which restrained prisoners are threatened with drowning and that has been the subject of intense criticism at home and abroad. Many such techniques are prohibited by the military and law enforcement agencies.

First, boo-hiss to the New York Times for using the polite euphamism, “harsh interrogation techniques.” It’s torture. No need to polite here, let’s call things what they are.

Secondly, Bush’s legacy will not be “strong executive powers” but supporting the use of torture. Own it, folks. This will be Bush’s legacy, and what a sick one it is. It will be the legacy of the Republican Party, including John McCain, himself a victim of torture, who voted to allow the CIA to use these techniques.

That is something else I just don’t understand.

Torture is one of those things that didn’t seem real to me until I did this post on rendition back in December:

… a University of Glasgow pathology report shows one man “died of immersion in boiling liquid” after being seized by the authorities. Post-mortem photos of an 18-year-old Samarkand resident reveal similar marks: “The right hand looked like cooked chicken.” In addition, Murray writes, “one technique was widespread throughout the country — they would strap on a gas mask and then block the filters. I presume that the advantage of this was that it would suffocate without bruising.”

This is torture, Uzbekistan-style, which is relevant because Uzbekistan is reportedly one of the destination countries for our CIA rendition program. To America’s credit, we have routinely criticized Uzbekistan’s human rights record. Well, sorta:

President Bush welcomed Uzbek President Islam Karimov to the White House, and the United States has given Uzbekistan more than $500 million for border control and other security measures.

Add that to the Bush legacy while you’re at it.

This is insane, Upside-Down Day stuff. What president wants fear, torture, violence and war as his legacy?

It is generally known that the information one gets from torture is unreliable. A person being tortured will say anything to get the torture to stop. So, what does work? We don’t know. We haven’t studied it, not since the 1970s (with good reason, too: the studies we did were barbaric and horrific).

Right-wingers agree with the President that

[…] information from the C.I.A.’s interrogations had averted terrorist attacks, including plots to attack a Marine camp in Djibouti; the American Consulate in Karachi, Pakistan; Library Tower in Los Angeles; and passenger planes from Britain.

but there’s no evidence that this is true. None. Just Bush’s word, which we all know is as good as $3 bill. For instance, it’s not the “Library Tower” in Los Angeles — it’s the U.S. Bank Building. Secondly, there was no “plot,” it was debunked long ago. Bush likes to bring it up, though, along with a host of other phony terror plots, because the government wants you scared.

What better way to keep people scared than to keep reminding us that they need “tools” like torture, warrantless wiretaps and telecom immunity. Whether they actually use these new powers is beside the point: they are telling us that they need them — just in case. It’s another way of saying “Boo!”

Keep the people scared, which is another Bush legacy. It’s the oldest trick in the book:

“This and no other is the root from which a tyrant springs: when he first appears, he is a protector.” — PLATO, The Republic

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Filed under fear, President Bush, rendition, torture