Thursday, January 31, 2013

Devil's Advocate Part II

¡Hola!, Common-Sensians!

In Part I I talked about how a firing range *slash* gun shop visit left me partially traumatized and completely confused.  Why does a significant segment of the U.S. population feel the need to procure military grade hardware?  Obviously a 40 mm machine gun would purée a deer and an AA-12 automatic shotgun is nothing but overkill against home invaders. 

The legality of open carry / closed carry gun ownership also had me totally perplexed.  So, let me get this straight: it's perfectly legal to display a holstered pistol while standing in a Burger King in Eagle, Colorado, but if you get caught with a derringer shoved into your boot you'd need produce a concealed weapon permit?  What the f#ck is this, Bizarro World?       

Whenever I heard gun enthusiasts wail "But the Constitution's Second Amendment gives us the right to bear arms!" I'd always respond by saying: "Yeah, but you do know that was adopted back in December 15, 1791, right?  Hey, if you wanna start working on that bitchin' vintage musket collection, then by all means, go nuts."

Since nothing about this made a lick of sense to me I began to suspect that I was missing some key puzzle piece.  After the recent Sandy Hook tragedy, I wanted to try to know why many American had this "cold, dead hands" attitude towards gun control. 

WARNING: obligatory history alert.  

This all goes back to the American Revolution in which thirteen North American colonies railed against what they considered to be the tyrannical and illegitimate rule of King George III.  The rebellion succeeded, in part, because the local militias were armed to the teeth with comparable weapons.  This led constitutional contributors like Patrick Henry to state that a "citizenry trained in arms was the only sure guarantor of liberty" and Noah Webster to maintain that "an armed populace would have no trouble resisting the potential threat to liberty of a standing army".

Ergo, when the Constitution was being tweaked a few years later, a clause was included which gives citizens the right to keep and bear arms, thus enabling another rebellion if need be.  In modern parlance: if the government becomes too corrupt and abusive, they want the freedom and ability to shoot these folks right in the pie-hole.  It's kinda like insuring the ultimate democracy reset button.

Although at face value this appears to be an obvious case of bat-shit paranoia, lets just follow this line of thinking to its inevitable conclusion.  Back in 1776 all a willing Patriot had to have in order to participate in revolution was a trusty flint-lock.  Nowadays, you'd need to have a lot more firepower to deal with the hypothetical minions of tyranny.  Police, for example, come equipped with riot gear, tear gas, Glocks and Heckler & Koch MP5s.  The military has body armor, M9 pistols and MK 17s, M1 Abram tanks and Blackhawk helicopters.

So, what gun, enthusiasts are saying is that they want to right to remain competitive in the arms race against their own government in case it becomes so degenerate and corrupt that it turns on its own citizens.

So you're probably thinking the exact same thing I am: "What kind of sad, paranoid, tin-foil-hat-wearing bullshit is this?"

But then I dug a bit deeper.  First up, I decided to humor loony du jour Alex Jones, who recently created a petition on the White House website to deport ex-pat British journalist Piers Morgan for his public anti-gun stance.  After the petition drew 104,000 signatures, Jones was invited to appear on Pierce Morgan Tonight.   During his bombastic, cringe-worthy and ultimately truncated segment, Jones essentially performed the equivalent of a verbal curb-stomp on the flummoxed host.


After watching this "debate" my initial reaction was: 'Man, this guy's a complete and total lunatic!  I wouldn't want guns in the hands of paranoid kook like that either!"  But then I made the mistake of digging into the meat of what Jones was ranting about. 

And let me tell ya, folks, a strong case can be made for the nutbars.  Don't believe me?  Well then follow the links...
  • Elements within the American government once humored a plan to stage fake terror attacks on its own citizens in order to drum up public support for an invasion of Cuba.  Mercifully John F. Kennedy (arguably the last U.S. president who wasn't completely under the thrall of corporate taskmasters), personally rejected Operation Northwoods outright as totally unconscionable.
  • Although that particular scheme was never greenlit, many believe that the U.S. government compelled Israel to attack the USS Liberty as a pretext to war with Egypt.
  • It's a proven fact that the C.I.A. staged very real and very lethal terrorist attacks in Italy during the Cold War in order to discredit leftist regimes.  Indeed, the details of Operation Gladio are pretty stomach-turning.   
  • The Gulf of Tonkin incident was totally blown out of proportion, giving Lyndon B. Johnston carte blanche to take his nation into war in Vietnam under false pretenses.  That bloody conflict dragged on for years and cost fifty-eight thousand loyal and oblivious servicemen their lives.    
  • Compelling evidence suggests that the Bush Administration knew full well that Saddam Hussein didn't have any WMD's before going to war in Iraq.
  • Under the Clinton Administration, the Commodity Futures Modernization Act of 2000 allowed major financial institutions to freely engage in credit default swaps, a particularly heinous con game that would have been considered illegal gambling if an aggressive campaign of deregulation hadn't made it all kosher.  This created the perfect climate for the 2008 Market Crash which effectively destroyed life savings and evicted scores of people from their homes all the while sheltering the "too big to fail" criminal financial institutions with bailouts to cover their losses.  Honestly, the more you look into the government's complicity in this crisis, the more sympathy you begin to feel for gun owners.  P.S. Rolling Stone journalist and professional muckraker Matt Taibbi has done some tremendous work shedding light on this sickening spectacle.  
  • Exploiting the fear, anger and paranoia that was rampant after 9/11, George W. Bush passed the Patriot Act which gave the President sweeping powers of surveillance and detainment .  Not only was this extended by Obama, his National Defense Authorization Act kept Gitmo up and running and also makes indefinite detention of U.S. citizens a very real possibility.  
  • This also gave way to the United States publicly sanctioning torture (er, sorry...enhanced interrogation techniques) as a valid method of information extraction for the first time ever in that nation's history.    
  • Given recent developments, U.S. citizens can now be killed abroad without the benefit of due process.  For added convenience, this now be accomplished via the tidy abstraction of remote control.  As a side note, drone strikes have a hideous record of killing innocent civilians
  • Via sanctions, indiscriminate bombing and  illegal warfare, the U.S. government has directly and indirectly caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands of women and children.     
  • Also, if the government is supposed to protect its citizens why does it have such a deplorable history of safeguarding us against such patently harmful things like antidepressants, DDT, flouride, bottled water, and even water bottles, for f#@k's sake? 
And just because we're up here in good ol' innocent Canada, don't think for a moment that everything's hunky dory.  We've seen plenty of evidence that paints the Harper government as patently undemocratic, indulging in such distasteful practices as election fraud, environmental plunder, corporate toadyism, suspension of human rights and the wholesale disillusion of our national sovereignty
    Faced with such pervasive and overt madness, the "gun nuts" are starting to look downright rational in comparison.  To quote psychiatrist and academic Thomas Szas: "Insanity is the only sane reaction to an insane society."  In fact, my appraisal of Jones's performance on Pierce Morgan Tonight has softened considerably.  If he'd ventured into that studio and indulged in a civil give-and-take debate, his prime-time appearance would likely have gone largely unnoticed.

    Besides, why is it socially acceptable for people to lose their shit over a football game or a reality T.V. show but it's verboten to exhibit any sort of passion over the state of this dystopic Brave New World that we're blissfully leaving to our children?

    EPIC   I sincerely wish that everything I'd just written about was complete and total hogwash.  If things were that simple then I could blissfully subscribe to Jon Stewart's recent and brilliant gun control dissertation with a clear conscience. 

    FAIL  Pro-gun/Second Amendment proponents will always be regarded as ignorant f#@kwits so long as they let chuckle-heads like this speak for them:


    Wednesday, January 23, 2013

    Devil's Advocate - Part I

    Felicitations, Seekers of Cover!

    Back in 2005 I had the good fortune of visiting my wife's uncle down in Texas.  While we were there he offered to take us to a real, gen-u-wine firing range *slash* gun store.

    The prospects of going there weighed heavily on my mind for days.  This despite the fact that had plenty of experience dealing with ranged weapons as a kid.  Dad comfortably displayed a vintage ten gauge single-barrel shotgun on the basement wall for years.  Hell, with supervision, I was even allowed to play with it on occasion.  Having said that, I have only the faintest memory of handing an actual shotgun shell.

    And then there were the two BB guns that I was inseparable from as a kid.  Way before I was allowed to even so much as look at one, my dad put the fear of Crom into me:

    "Now, if I ever catch you friggin' around with that thing I'm takin' it away.  And if I hear that you shot a bird or some other animal, you'll be gettin' up close and personal with the one down in the basement."

    Needless to say I took this very threat seriously and pledged my unwavering adherance to THE RULES OF PROPER GUN HANDLING.  As such, I was allowed to own two guns, the first was my beloved 111 BB rifle:

    And the other was a Dairy Model 188 B-B pistol:

    I proved so trustworthy that my parents even let me set up a home-made bullet trap in the house to use for target practice.  It kinda looked like this, minus the big, dumb-ass, ricochet-alicious metal binder clip stuck on the front:

    So even though I was no wilting flower when it came to slug-throwers, the prospects of going to a real firing range made me inordinately nervous.  As a willfully disarmed peacenik Canuck, I still had a healthy fear and respect for guns.  No matter how careful you are, accidents can still happen.  

    As I walked into the store my anxiety level instantly shot up.  Suddenly we were surrounded by literally thousands of potentially deadly weapons.  Hunting rifles, pistols, shotguns, assault rifles and even what appeared to be an M60 machine gun were displayed with the same casual, blasé abandon as a goalie stick at Canadian Tire.  

    After we picked out two guns to shoot, I was totally gobsmacked when the dude behind the counter asked without a hint of irony:

    "So, we got two kinds 'a targets you can use: reg'ler and Bin Ladin.  Which one you want?"

    Stunned but still resolute, we politely procured two of each and then made our way out to the range.

    As I paced back and forth waiting for my turn with the guns, I couldn't help but notice all of the spent shell casings clinking around on the floor underfoot.  And then there was the intense gentleman who was in the range next to us.  He was methodically and mechanically squeezing off one shot after another from a .45 as if he was working on his glutes at the gym.  Also disconcerting was the myriad of bullet holes everywhere: in the ceiling, the floor and a Sonny Corleone amount of them in the wooden frame where you shoot from.  Silently I couldn't help but wonder if this scene from The Simpsons had been re-enacted on this very same spot on more than one occasion.

    I had a chance to fire two guns that morning.  The first was a .22 calibre pistol; the equivalent of a handgun with training wheels.  Honestly it wasn't much more powerful then the average CO2 pellet gun.  Nope, I was not impressed.  Where was the recoil?  The stopping power?  My intoxicating feelings of compensation?  The drunken and inflated sense of ego?

    Mercifully, all of these elusive qualities came part and parcel with firing the .38 special.  It kinda looked like the sort of service revolvers that policemen used to carry in old Seventies-era cop shows.  Even though it was physically smaller then the .22, it definitely packed a wallop in comparison.

    On the way out I spent some time perusing the ample and intimidating hardware.  I quickly realized that the .38 special we'd just fired would probably be ridiculed as a pop-gun by enthusiasts who had Glocks, Uzis, AK-47s, M1911 pistols, G3s, M-16s and AR-15s in their collection.   As I began to roll a few frames of video to commemorate our visit a staff member hustled over to me and growled:

    "Hey, whutareyewdoin'?  You cain't video tape in here!"

    Already more nervous then a cat at a rocking chair convention, I'm pretty sure that I visibly jumped.   Sheepishly I shut off the camera and apologized profusely.

    "Sorry!  I'm so sorry!" I spluttered.  "God, I didn't know!  Oh God, I shouldn't have said God.  Sorry!  I'm just a stupid Canadian..." 

    Later that night my wife's uncle invited some friends over for dinner.  Naturally, the discussion inevitably turned to firearms and gun control.

    "I remember when I bought my first gun," one of the female guests said, sounding vaguely wistful.  "Originally I was going to get something small and simple, like a .22 pistol.  But after I told the clerk that I'd never fired a gun before he said that I should probably get a shotgun.  I still remember his exact words to me:

    "'Look, if you got some burglar or rapist chargin' atcha, it ain't gunna be easy to get a bead on 'em, 'specially if yer scared.  But with a shotgun, all you need to do is lure 'em into a hallway and sorta aim it at 'em.  Now granted, it'll prolly strip every bit of the paper off the all, but I guarantee that you'll put 'em down!'"

    Between my trip to the firing range and the testimonials that night, I came away thinking that all Americans were paranoid, gun-obsessed lunatics.  If the purpose was hunting, why did they need something salvaged from the flank of a Vietnam-era Huey helicopter?  If they were protecting themselves against home invasion, who were the invaders?  Agent Smith from The Matrix?

    These events haven't crossed my mind for years, but the back-to-back horrors of the Aurora Theater / Sandy Hook tragedies have me thinking about it again.  Ever since these horrendous events took place, I've been trying to pinpoint the real reason why Americans don't want to be parted with their ludicrously over-compensatory military hardware.

    And after I share my epiphany with you, Dear Reader, it will likely surprise you for two reasons:
    1. Their logic kinda makes sense in a frighteningly real sorta way.
    2. It actually called into question my own immutable stance on firearms for the first time in my life.  
     To be continued...        



    Wednesday, January 16, 2013

    Hmmm, Smells Like Bacon...

    "OooOoo!  Red...pretty..."

    Greetings, Fellow Carbon-Based Life-Forms.

    Every time I sit down to look for a job I'm overcome by a primal fear.  It's not that I'm afraid that there'll be nothing to apply for.  I'm terrified by the prospects of actually getting something.

    I've been toiling away for half my adult life and in all that time I can count the number of decent jobs I've had on two fingers.  The first one doesn't count because it was only a make-work project and the second one shouldn't count because I was hired by my best friend.  For everything before, during and after I've had to feign levels of interest and aptitude that would earn anyone a Golden Globe nomination for Best Performance in a Existential Comedy. 

    And then there's all of the overt screwage.  I can point to at least four distinct occasions in which I've been royally buggered by an employer, in spite of all my dedication, hard work and proficiency.  Three out of those four times happened at the last place I worked, fer Chrissakes!  But as needlessly monotonous and/or stressful as that last gig was, by far the worst part about it was having to listen to everyone bitch, moan and complain about how terrible everything was from 9:30 am to 6 pm, all day, every day.  And let me tell ya, folks, after marinating in a stew of negativity like that for eight and half hours every day for three years you start to think about throwing on some Pink Floyd, climbing into a nice, warm bath and then turning your wrists into venison. 

    And then there are all the telling work-related Facebook notification that I see each and every day.  On Friday everybody's doing back-flips, on Saturday they're livin' large, on Sunday they're paralyzed by indecision, on Monday they're all shell-shocked, on Tuesday they're all sitting underneath their desks with a loaded revolver, on Wednesday everybody unlocks a mid-week survival achievement, on Thursday they wake up hoping it's Friday and on Friday they're all back to start.  Then the whole brain-damaged cycle starts up all over again.

    I'm also not looking forward to being the "new guy".  Y'know, the guy with zero seniority.  The schmuck with the rapidly bleaching hair who can't seem to grasp things, even after fifteen quality minutes of training.  The dweeb who gets to scrub the virtual toilets at 8pm on a Saturday night.  The clown who gets paid with bottle caps and loose bits of string.  The yahoo who stands to earn forty-eight minutes of vacation time if he can just avoid getting sick or take a day off over the next six months.

    Seriously, is anyone out there happy with this arrangement?  Does it make sense to spend the lion's share of our best days performing meaningless, ethereal tasks that have no positive or lingering impact on the world?  Duties that you won't even remember doing a month from now?  All the while surrounded by backbiting, petty, sabotaging co-workers that you just want to smoke in the head with a keyboard tray? 

    I know that you're gonna say: "Well, that's just the way it is."  Well, I'm here to challenge that with a simple question: Why?  Why do things need to be this way?  Do you remember having a say in how our society operates?  Have you ever asked yourself why decent jobs are so scarce?  Do you ever wonder who really benefits from the current North American labor paradigm?

    Insanity is often described as performing the same action over and over again and expecting different results.

    Well, personally I'm tired of the insanity.  I'm tired of putting my hand on an open burner just because some stranger assures me that I won't get burned this time.    

    FAIL-URE TO COMMUNICATE  Okay look, I loves me some Jodie Foster, but if people need a friggin' Rosetta Stone to figure out what you're trying to say in your acceptance speech, then it might not have been particularly effective. 

    Monday, January 7, 2013

    2013's (Hopefully) More Realistic 'Things To Do' List

    This time last year I posted a pretty massive list of things that I wanted to achieve in 2012.  

    This year I'm paring things down to two (hopefully simple) goals:
    1. Break my ruinous addiction to writing.
    2. Prevent my savings from bleeding out like Marcus Fenix during a full-scale Grub invasion.
    I love my life right now.  I love getting up every day and nurturing instead of ignoring the creative thoughts germinating in my skull.  I love exploring these ideas through mad loose leaf scribbling over a cuppa joe.  I love the process that occurs when I trap these thoughts in electronic amber, refining them twice before releasing them to the world.  Above all, I love it when people read what I've written and give me feedback.

    There's only critical thing missing from this seemingly perfect equation: I'm not making any money.  Y'know, money...scratch, shekels, dinero, cash, bread, currency, cheddar, dough, rupees, coin, capitol...friggin' greenbacks.  I.E. those numbers on a paycheck or scraps of colored paper that we receive in exchange for goods and/or services rendered?  I.E. that mass hallucination which arbitrarily assigns a relative value to everyone and every thing in our society.

    Hmmmm, for some reason the NHL settlement just popped into my mind.  How odd

    Anyhoo, this irrational compulsion to write has set me on an inexorable collision course with the iceberg of financial ruin.  In fact, because of my three-to-five-times-a-week-habit I didn't even attempt to do most of the things on last year's list.  

    It kills me to say this, but I'm either going to have to quit these blog posts cold turkey or, at the very least, scale back my usage.  As I transition back into some nebulous, yet-to-be-determined "real" job, these posts will become less about composition and research and more like diary entries.  I just hope that I can find a paying gig that offers even a fraction of the bliss I feel whenever I'm writing something.

    I honestly didn't expect to degenerate into a word-slave when I started exploring the blog culture over two years ago.  My first tentative posts were only designed to hone my skills as a writer and maintain a regular production schedule.  In doing so I was hoping, rather naively, that some hypothetical employer would notice that I could string a sentence together, work under self-imposed deadlines, and attract a healthy cadre of followers.  In my warped imagination I though that this might lead to some sort of regular paying gig.  Surprisingly, this hasn't materialized yet.

    I also recognize that I should have paid my dues as a writer back when I was in my twenties, not now.  It's forgivable to be dirt poor in your twenties but it's considerably less romantic and indie when your forty.  In fact it's kind of, hmmmmm...what's the word I'm looking for...oh yes, pathetic.    
    Now, I certainly don't regret using the last two years to practice my craft.  In fact, I think I've exhibited dramatic improvement as a writer, editor and all-around embloginator.  But as I've come to learn rather painfully: producing content is considerably easier then parleying it into a career.  Although I'm still holding out some hope for an It's a Wonderful Life-style resolution to my story, I now know that life isn't like the movies.  No-one's going to magically materialize out of the ether and grant me some semblance of a future.

    In Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, after Kirk has become disillusioned with the administrative assignment of Admiral, Spock tells him: "Commanding a starship is your first best destiny.  Anything else is a waste of material".

    If the last two years have taught me anything, at least I can say with total confidence that my own "first best destiny" is to be a writer.    

    Unfortunately if I keep blindly pursuing this destiny, I'm gonna end up wasted by the material.      

    EPIC SUPPORT  I just want to say a hearty thanks to anyone who's ever contributed to my hit count either here or at my entertainment site or my gaming blog.  If you're a regular reader and you want to help, honestly the best thing you can do is pick up a copy of my book in paperback for $19.99 or the e-version for a paltry $4.99.  You can also throw a coupla bucks my way by using the Paypal link above.  Considering the state of my finances, these donations should technically be tax deductible.    

    Honestly, I had no illusions about becoming J.K. Rowling-rich while persuing this racket but I'd love to  keep writing without loosing my shirt.  The funny thing is, if all four-hundred and twenty-three people who read last year's "Things To Do" post had donated a dime to the blog I'd actually be well on my way!

    NOT GETTING PAID TO DO WHAT YOU LOVE?  YOU'RE FAILING AT LIFE!  Honestly, I understand the world less now at forty then I did when I was twenty.

    FAILED PRIORITIES  If this douchebag can get paid over five million dollars a year to chase a friggin' black rubber disc around a rink (or not in the case of this disastrous season) then I don't think it's unreasonable for people in creative pursuits to earn enough money to pay for basic living expenses.