Thursday, December 4, 2014

As An Irishman, I Need Peter King To Shut His Stupid Mick Face



I'm descended from Buckleys and Brennans, people who immigrated to a Connecticut mill town and worked in the factory, the local newspaper, and a funeral home. One of them went into politics and became the mayor. I know all about the symbolism of your claddagh ring tattoo and which whiskey is the Protestant one. I discovered U2, I grew up with U2, and now I try to pretend U2 never happened. I call my mother often, and I feel guilt as easily as I sunburn. I'm an Irish American.

And that is why as a yegg, a harp, a donkeyfaced narrowback, I was particularly appalled to see that Peter King is still out there talking nonsense, and people are still somehow paying attention to him. It's obvious that the death of Eric Garner is troubling evidence that this country continues to treat black people as if their lives don't matter. And it's also obvious that many conservatives simply will never admit this. Peter King is one such conservative. He recently thanked the grand jury for acquitting the police officer who killed Mr. Garner and went on TV with Blitzer to blame the man's death on his obesity.

If Irish America is one large, cantankerous family, Peter King is the second cousin who gets drunk and flips his car over in an accident bad enough to make the local news. He breaks up Thanksgiving dinner with some extended rant that manages to mix racism with quotes from The Quiet Man. He's the reason we need to go across town for midnight mass. Peter King shames us. He shames us all.

He has a long history of being a tireless defender of every nasty and bigoted impulse of the American right - he demonizes Muslim Americans, he supports torture, targeted killing, NSA surveillance, and he's been described as "the Patriot Act's most fervent fan." If someone with power wants to abuse someone without power, Peter King is eager to provide money, authority, and a justifying soundbite.

But that is not even the bad part. Peter King is also a strong supporter of terrorism. He has long been a vocal proponent of the IRA. In fact, in 1985 when organizers of New York's St. Patrick's Day parade picked him as the grand marshal, the Irish government boycotted the thing in protest. He's on the House Committee on Homeland Security, and he used to be its chairman. One of this government's most influential politicians on counter-terrorism policy, someone who can never find a reason for security forces to behave with any restraint when confronting religious minorities or people of color, is perfectly fine with supporting a terrorist organization when it suits his own purposes.

And that's why Peter King is not just a particularly ugly example of people who share my sometimes magnificent and often cursed heritage... He's also an ugly example of what it means to be American. He's a reminder that we are very, very comfortable with lethal violence against others - here and overseas. For many years it was fashionable among some Irish Americans to support terrorism (until we discovered people could use terrorism against us). But among Americans in general, it's always been fashionable to terrorize people. We've done that since the beginning. We do that still. And we are constantly surprised when it comes back on us. Peter King's power and status is a testament to our hypocrisy and our moral idiocy.

In a better world a guy like that would be mouthing off his asinine opinions from a bar stool at Paddy Reilly's, and someone would eventually tell him to clamp it. In a better America no one would ever confuse him with a patriot. But now it's time for all of us to discover, again, where we live and who we really are. Until we learn.

THE BLACK BOOK OF CHILDREN'S BIBLE STORIES is about faith and loss, and a haunted house hidden so well you didn't notice you'd been living there your whole life. BUY IT HERE.

Monday, November 24, 2014

I Went To UVA And I Hope They Sue The Everloving Crap Out Of It

I got my undergraduate degree from that rape school you've read about. (And if you haven't, you should. Sabrina Rubin Erdely wrote an important piece.)

I loved Virginia. I did. I have so many good memories of that place. I learned things, and I wrote things, and I made lifelong friends, and women broke my heart, and I got good and drunk, and that was where I dated the person who became my wife.

And I hope the class action lawsuit against it leaves nothing but a fucking crater.

Seriously. I want all the people who were raped or assaulted at that institution to find representation, and I want the settlement to be so ugly and onerous that the administration has to sell the Rotunda to Walmart to pay for it. Do you think there are many? Gee, I do not know. But it sure seems like if a bunch of frat brothers commit a gang rape in their own house right in the middle of their own party and do nothing whatsoever to conceal the identity of one of their ringleaders... that kind of tells me that they don't have much of a fear of getting caught. Which sort of makes me think this kind of thing may have happened before. Oh, and also we know it did.

And while we're on the subject of things that are obvious, here's a quote from an article about the police investigation of the crime: They have few updates at this point, but the delayed reporting may pose problems for officers tasked with the investigation. According to NBC29 legal analyst Lloyd Snook, without any physical evidence collected right after the alleged sexual assault, a future prosecution could be a challenge. 

Yeah, evidently if you're a school administration official, and someone reports a felony to you, and instead of calling the cops you have some kind of informal process where you chat about it a lot, and you might not even expel the guilty party, and the result is that the cops don't get to the crime scene for two years... that might make justice difficult. So about that suit: Do you think there was a pattern going on here? Do you think people in the frat and at the university knew about it? Do you think their lack of diligence made the school dangerous for incoming students?

The University knowingly exposed its students to the risk of sexual assault through a systematic lack of reporting of crimes on and near its campus. That's obvious. The only question is who is out there. How many people are out there.

I hope they come in from the shadows and tell their stories. I hope UVA loses money until everyone in the administration has to wear hairnets to make extra cash. I hope that fraternity simply doesn't exist anymore.

You already know these people aren't going to reform themselves. Someone needs to take money from them, serious money, and then they will pay attention. Then we might have a real change in our colleges. If you are out there, and you have a story, please go find yourself a lawyer and start the long overdue process.

UPDATE: I feel foolish I didn't spot the holes in Rolling Stone's story. Looking back on the story, the omissions seem pretty glaring. I have opinions about all this, but the revelations are coming thick and fast, and I am being more careful with this thing. I'm not taking the post down, because I don't want to pretend I didn't write it. Believe me, I'm tempted.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Should We Defund The Pentagon And Give That Money To Canadian Musicians?

US security services don't protect us. That's clear. That's what every grownup knows. Our soldiers, sailors, spies, and contractors - God love 'em - do a number of very difficult jobs in the world. They are honorable people, most of them. (The ones who don't commit atrocities and then take selfies.) But actually keeping ordinary people from getting killed is not one of their accomplishments. We've spent more than a decade fighting jihadists, and the result is that those jihadists have changed the name of their group. We launched two wars, committed targeted killings - we've lost and taken countless lives - all for a rebranding.

The question isn't whether we're wasting our money and our young men and women. We are. You know we are. The only question that matters is what to do with the money once we admit we're wasting it with all this out of control interventionism.

And I'd suggest we use it to support the Canadian music scene.

Have you heard some of the songs on Brill Bruisers yet? Most of you probably have. But clearly we don't have enough awareness. Watch this:

 

Doesn't financing this make more sense than whatever the hell the NSA is really up to? But it goes beyond the New Pornographers. We could be helping Metric produce new albums. We could be the reason Arcade Fire finally gets that next dozen musicians that's really going to give their sound some depth.

The bottom line is US armed forces and their supporters have promised us security and freedom, and they have not come across. The Canadian music scene has promised us rock, and they have fucking delivered.

Don't think I don't know the risks. Could arrogance and mission drift bring us the next Rush? Sure, it's possible. But Rush never waterboarded anyone. Not really.

I guess what I'm saying is that we could take all the money and effort we've spent on our defense establishment, and we could literally do any other thing with it, and it would make the average US citizen on an airplane or in a big city less at risk than what we have been doing - which is picking fights all over the planet with people we barely understand. We could light fire to all that money. We could spend the next two weeks putting all our forces into the biggest, most elaborate game of paintball the world has ever seen. We could crash all our aircraft carriers into each other and create a giant artificial reef just to develop tastier crabcakes. It doesn't matter. What we're doing right now is so obviously pointless and heartbreakingly counterproductive that it does not matter what else we do. All alternatives are on the table at this point.

So, I'm thinking Canadian indie rock. Brill Bruisers kicks ass, and it doesn't make me ashamed.

THE BLACK BOOK OF CHILDREN'S BIBLE STORIES is about faith and loss, and a haunted house hidden so well you didn't notice you'd been living there your whole life. BUY IT HERE.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Night Of The Libertarian Werewolves

I really can't stay… 
Baby, it's cold outside. 
I've got to go away… 
Baby, it's cold outside. 

Dean Martin was crooning through the minivan's speakers, and it made it hard to hear what was outside. But Rat Pack Christmas was the only thing that calmed Douglas down. Donald was sitting next to him in his car seat, wailing and screaming for me.

"Help me, daddy," he said. "Help me!" But Donald was the baby, and he was more dramatic. He laughed and cried easily. Nothing seemed to really get to him. I never worried as much about Donald. Douglas, almost four then, was serious and quiet and thoughtful. The whole world seemed too much for him sometimes. Anything could break his heart. He was absolutely silent and wide-eyed in the back, and he understood enough to know he should be scared.

"Are you okay honey?" I asked, looking at him in the mirror between glances at the row of white front yards and black-windowed houses. He nodded and didn't mean it. I went back to my business, searching in the sweep of the headlights as the van turned. I held tight to the wheel, and we skidded on the ice. The trucks hadn't sanded the back roads and subdivisions out here in the county, and the snow had been falling heavily since early that morning. As the van slipped I heard the hiss of glass chips sliding across the back seat. The rear window was completely smashed. Through it, a draft of wind slipped in and made the minivan's cabin numbing in spite of the heater. I had enough time to grab blankets to wrap Donald and Douglas. But I didn't have time to dress. I was in my boxers, a T-shirt, and shoes without socks. I'd gotten gloves, but discarded them. They made it hard to work the Mossberg, thumping around down on the floor of the passenger's side.

I kept one foot touching it to know its location in case I had to get it quickly. But on the passenger's seat was the revolver, and that seemed a quicker reach.

This evening has been… 
So very nice. 
I'll hold your hands; they're just like ice. 

My nose was still bleeding. Every time I snorted I could taste rust. When I coughed or breathed too deeply, a rib let me know it might be cracked. Bruises covered my body. And none of that was as bad as the nub of the hunting arrow sticking out from my shoulder. I'd broken off as much of the shaft as I could. The head had hooks though, and I wouldn't be able to get them without pliers and time. I had neither - not then. So I hunched to keep that part of my back from touching the seat, but now and again I would brush it and the shiver of pain was exquisite. I discovered so many things, things I never suspected, but I never found out quite who the fuck shot me with the arrow.

"Daddy, help."
"I can't help you now, Donald," I said as evenly as I could. "But I bet we can sing a song together…"

The kid shook his head and his face crinkled up. I sang along with the radio to get him interested, even though I could tell it wouldn't work.

I wish I knew how… To break this spell. 

"I'll take your hat; your hair looks swell," Dean and I answered.

"No sing!" Donald said, "No, no, no!"
"Donald, please. We'll drive out of here, and then I promise you…"
"No!"
"Donald, why don't we…"
"NO SING!"
"Donald!" I shouted, but I never finished. Because then something bumped up against the window right next to his tiny head, and I saw it in the mirror. I didn't see it long, but it had eyes and teeth and it looked right at my son, and then it was gone. Startled by the sound, Donald stopped crying. And then he broke out laughing and laughing like it was one of our games, and I'd just surprised him.

Douglas didn't even change expression. Just stiffened a little, and soon I smelled he'd pissed himself. But I wasn't looking directly at them. I turned around in my seat, straining to see it, but the thing was somewhere beside the vehicle, just out of sight, and moving toward the open window in back. I hit the accelerator and the van jerked forward. I made it to the end of the street and spun around, almost toppling the vehicle. Whatever was out there could outrun us. I knew that. There was only one thing to do. I clicked on the high beams and sped back, aiming for a trash bin and a clump of cardboard boxes with a shadow behind them. I barreled into that mess, taking most of my neighbor's trash halfway down the block. For a second I thought I missed it, but then there was a thump from the grill and right tire, and it felt right. I pounded the brake and fishtailed to a stop. Then I backed up about fifteen feet and hit it again, trying to put my wheel right onto its head.

Silence and stillness. Nothing but the curtains of headlight and street lamp spotted with snow. The cell phone buzzed in the side pocket, jolting me. I picked it up with my left hand. I kept my feet on the brake and my right hand free to reach the gun. I was ready to see something terrible rise up, and I knew I'd have to shoot it without hesitating.

"Is everything okay?" Ellen wanted to know, "I called the landline." She'd been away for awhile, and she worried on nights like this.
"Oh yeah, honey," I said. "I had them in the bath."
"It's really late for that."
"I know, I know. They wanted to watch Airplane, Airplane. And then they wanted to watch it again, and I just, I just couldn't say no…" I chuckled unconvincingly.
"You sound strange."
"Just a lot of… stress. It's nothing."

She murmured sympathetically. It had been a strange day. But it was difficult to be a stay-at-home dad. It was always worth it, and I loved my family, and every day was an adventure of course. Still, some days were harder than others.

"Don't worry," Ellen told me. "You've got all the important stuff." It's something we reminded each other when we ran low on money or our work got hard. Because if your kids were okay, and you were in love with your wife, then you really couldn't worry about anything.

"I know you're right, honey," I told her. "Now, I gotta…"
"You have to put them to bed."
"Yes."
"Love you."
"You too." She hung up. I dropped the phone. Even Donald was quiet then. Whatever was down there in front of us hadn't moved. It was time to kill it if I could. I almost reached for the Mossberg, but changed my mind. The revolver. Because it had silver bullets…

The hidden full moon glowed softly from somewhere behind the clouds. The interior lamp chased it away as I popped open the door. The trash was everywhere - old plastic bags, an empty can of corn, unopened junk mail envelopes splotched with dark liquid. And beneath them, a torn sign:

Rand Paul 2016

I'd been seeing them all around now. Everywhere. It made a crazy kind of sense. The gatherings of college-aged white men in identical sport coats in hotel conference rooms. Arguing with each other. Spreading out over the country to give you pamphlets and tell you this theory to explain everything. And you knew they weren't actually going to put anyone in office. So what were they really up to? What else could it be?

"Daddy's got to do something, kids, and then we'll go have ice cream, okay?" Donald smiled weakly. Douglas nodded a little. I punched the emergency brake and stepped out to finish it off.

Note 1: More to come.

Note 2: THE BLACK BOOK OF CHILDREN'S BIBLE STORIES is about faith and loss, and a haunted house hidden so well you didn't notice you'd been living there your whole life. And it is FREE today. GET IT HERE.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

My Bible-based Horror Story Is Free Today And Tomorrow

The dead you love are in a kind of Schrodinger's experiment spun out of control, the box closed forever and the ones inside neither really here nor ever gone.

 "She's watching over us."
"He's so proud."
"They'll always be with you. I can feel it. I can tell."

 Keep it shut long enough, and they'll follow you down every street. Keep it shut long enough, and they'll never be far away. This is what it means to live in two worlds. To pray. To hope for something better.

THE BLACK BOOK OF CHILDREN'S BIBLE STORIES is about faith and loss, and a haunted house hidden so well you didn't notice you'd been living there your whole life.

It's free on Amazon today and tomorrow. Read what people are saying in the right column of this blog, and get yourself a copy here.

Monday, November 10, 2014

A Veterans Day Message From A Man In The Trunk Of A Car

I don't have much time to say this. I hope I don't.

Someone struck me in the temple and wrapped a hood over my face before I could respond. My hands and feet are zip-tied, and my kidnappers are driving wildly and fast. The turning of the vehicle rocks me from side to side in the close darkness as if I'm at sea. One side of my face is slick, and I want to go black and expire before we reach wherever we're going. I've heard what happens in such places.

I should add that I am not the one they were looking for. Their leader didn't say my name correctly. I can hear rumbling from an argument. But they will agree to smother their doubts. Like all of you they know they can't stop.

The men don't wear uniforms. They don't wear your flag. Your leaders don't admit what they are doing. They might belong to units your military does not acknowledge. Or they are retired from the armed forces and now work for a civilian agency. Private companies will hire them for this kind of work soon, if they haven't already. But they are all over the world, and they are working for you, even if you have absolutely no control over them. You know enough to know it's happening, that it's beyond anyone's supervision, and you all have your own reasons for keeping quiet.

I and the others (the many, many others) have only one pitiful revenge. We know this thing you're doing is killing you.

It's destroying basic meaning of all the words you use to tell yourself who you are. The word "veteran" does not actually mean anything under conditions of such secrecy and violence. The phrase "defending our freedom" that you like to use - you already know it has little in common with these grubby little crimes you commit everywhere.

What becomes of a nation founded on an idea when it can no longer use words to describe that idea?

I think you already know the answer.

And that's why, through my pain and terror, I pity you.

NOTE: THE BLACK BOOK OF CHILDREN'S BIBLE STORIES is about faith and loss, and a haunted house hidden so well you didn't notice you'd been living there your whole life. BUY IT HERE.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Does Pat Robertson Wear A Hockey Mask And Kill Teen Campers?


It would be irresponsible of me to definitively answer the question I posed in the title. I just don't know. It's hard to say whether Pat Robertson, living as he does in southern Virginia, even owns a hockey mask. I don't have evidence that proves - conclusively proves - Mr. Robertson spends his warm summer evenings crouching in the bushes outside rustic cabins fondling a machete as he listens to the furtive sounds of young people exploring each other's bodies so that he can butcher them afterwards.

I won't claim to know any of this.

Is Pat Robertson obsessed with transgressive sexuality? Yes. Is he a kind of Lars Von Trier figure, telling lurid stories to scared old white people so they can be filled with disapproval and secret arousal? Of course he is. Does he keep a girl in a makeshift dungeon somewhere in North Carolina? We just don't have all the facts.

Does it seem like Marion Gordon Robertson talks more about steamy, sinful man-on-man action than you'd expect a completely straight person to do? Possibly. And does this seem like a common feature of older social conservatives? Who could judge? But that does not mean Pat Robertson has a bright red PVC suit that he wears as he's waylaying young men in the forests around the Regent University complex, tying them up for a series of hideous games that explore the outer boundaries of pain and pleasure. Not necessarily.

Just because a development prompts questions - a whole hell of a lot of questions - doesn't mean you should reach for the first answer you can find. To take a (completely) random example... even if the origin of the universe is shrouded in mystery that wouldn't mean you should believe the explanation found in just any collection of creepy desert scrolls. No. The unknown should prompt debate and rational investigation. It's not there to be filled with wild speculative claims.

We know this much: Pat Robertson takes an obvious pleasure from reciting the violent and disturbing details from an old book of horror stories he clearly cherishes. There is something wrong with him, yes. And with whoever wrote that thing.

THE BLACK BOOK OF CHILDREN'S BIBLE STORIES is about faith and loss, and a haunted house hidden so well you didn't notice you'd been living there your whole life. BUY IT HERE.
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