The Non-Battle of Portland

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In the morning when I’m on the elliptical machine, I’ll usually flip between CNN, Fox News and MSNBC. Then I’ll get disgusted and switch to AMC to watch the Three Stooges. It seems apporpriate – swapping one set of three stooges for another.

In the week leading up to yesterday’s protests, CNN and MSNBC had nothing to say about the upcoming showdown between the far-right woofers and far-left tweeters that has become a too-frequent hallmark of life in Portland during the Trump regime. Fox was beating the drum about how poorly Portland mayor Ted Wheeler had handled the previous woofer/tweeter dustup in late June. There were ominous overtones of violent retribution and payback, along with the dog-whistle suggestion that Fox viewers could still get a piece of the action if they hurried.

The way these things normally shake out is that right-wing woofer groups from out of state announce that they are coming to Portland to exercise their First Amendment rights. The most frequent culprit in this respect is a group called Patriot Prayer, whose leader, “Joey,” live across the river in Vancouver Washington. They are frequently joined by a group called the Proud Boys, an SPLC-designated “hate group” based loosely in Florida. Fox News incorrectly reports Patrior Prayer as being- POrtland-based, when they in fact are headqurtered in another state. This didn’t stop “Joey” from using his candidacy for a Washington Senate seat as an excuse to hold a rally in Portland. Which is located in Oregon, which is a state that is not Washington.

The right-wing troublemakers gin up excuses to hold rallies in Portland, and the local left-wing troublemakers – the so-called “antifa” – respond in kind. The black-clad and masked anar-kiddies usually turn up in large numbers and are more than willing to give the woofer troublemakers the fight they’re looking for.

That’s what it usually boils down to: two groups of pissed-off people looking for a fight. There is a thin patina of hard-right and hard-left political rhetoric over the whole thing, but it’s really just the Sharks versus the Jets. Neither group has anyone’s best interests in mind. They just want trouble.

Portland has a long history of left-wind agitation, strchting back to the early 20th century. In the early 90’s George H.W. Bush’s staffers nicknamed Portland “Little Beirut,” after the super-charged demosntrations that occurred during his visits. Local author Chuck Palahniuk tells a story about how a group of protesters used mashed potatoes, food coloring and Ipecac to provide Bush the Elder with a patriotic red-white-and-blue mass puke upon his arrival downtown.

Portland (and Oregon) also has a long and ugly history of bigotry and racism that also feeds the violent conflicts between extreme right and extreme left. Back in the 80’s, the moniker “Skinhead City” disgraced the city. One attendee of several Patriot Prayer rallies stabbed two men to death and severely wounded a third on a commuter train, when the men attempted to protect some teenage girls the “Patriot” was harassing.

Sadly, this history makes Portland a likely flashpoint for extreme fringe groups to meet, greet and beat. I’ll give antifa this: they haven’t really been the instigators in these clashes. They have done some low-down instigation in the past, however – with the May Day riot in 2017 being a nadir in behavior, resulting in millions of dollars in damages to downtown businesses.

I have yet to see one of these confrontational events that coalsced around an antifa event; it’s always the right-wing woofers who roll in from out of state to stir up confrontation. However, their response gives the right-wingers oxygen to create a big publicity stunt out of what would otherwise been an unremarkable protest of a couple dozen yobs in leather jackets and flag regalia.

In my opinion, both groups are pretty much a collection of buttheads, with the right-winger woofers getting extra-special butthead credit for bringing their shit-show in from out of state. Fox News and even Turd-Stirrer-in-Chief Donald Trump seemed to be determined to blow the confrontation up as big as possible. The woofers had been on the prod for Portland and mayor Ted Wheeler since the last woofer/tweeter dustup. An alt-right “journalist” named Andy Ngo got roughed up by the antifa goons. Not cool. Even worse than the violence was the excuse this gave Fox and Fiends to dump on Portland and Wheeler for not having the entire antifa organization rounded up and chain-ganged. Even Dumb Donald tweeted in on the fracas, stating that “Portland is being watched very closely,” and admonishing that Wheeler had better “properly do his job.” (Irony alert: this while Trump was burning taxpayer bucks at his golf resort in New Jersey.)

WE were pretty apprehensive as Saturday dawn, but fortunately Wheeler and the Portland Police Bureau did an amazing job of keeping the Sharks and the Jets separated. They blocked off a number of downtown streets and a bridge or two, and kept both main groups moving and apart. At one point, they were routing one group east over one bridge, while directing the other west over another bridge. It was like a Scooby Doo hallway chase scene.

Image result for scooby doo hallway chase

At the end of the day, there were a dozen or so arrests, a like number of injuries – only one of which required a trip to the hospital. The right-wing jerks were tired and dispirited when things petered out in the early afternoon. After cheerfully being given wrong directions by friendly Portlanders, many returned to the grocery store where they had parked their calls, only to find they had all been towed. The antifi jerks presumably hopped on the next convenient bus or MAX train and went home.

In the end, it was handled admirably by the city, and the message that future woofer protesters who may contemplate again traveling to the Rose City to start trouble is thus:

  • Welcome to our city
  • Spend some money
  • Don’t cause any trouble
  • Go the hell home

And steps 1 through 3 can be omitted without anyone here getting upset about it.

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Bang! Bang! We’re Dead!

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Bodies of victims of mass shooting in Las Vegas, October 1, 2017
 
 
 

Yeah, this has nothing to do with writing or publishing, but I’m writing it anyway because A) it’s my damn blog & I’ll write what I please, and B) nobody reads the sumbitch anyway. However, I’ve got to vent and I promised myself to stay off of social media today.

First off, I want to state that I am not a tree-hugging liberal tweeter crybaby who wets his pants at the thought of guns in general. I’ve owned guns (although I do not right now), I attended an NRA-sponsored shooting camp when I was a kid, I was a member of the rifle club in high school, I have enjoyed shooting guns throughout my adult life.

But this has to stop.

I’m heartbroken by the spate of mass shootings that have happened over the past week: Gilroy, CA, 28 July 2019, 4 dead & 12 injured; El Paso, TX, 3 August 2019, 20 dead & 26 injured; Dayton, OH, 9 dead & 27 injured. That’s just THIS WEEK.

There is no excuse for these repeated incidents of mass violence. None.

And yet I’m bracing myself for the normal avalanche of right-wing gun-wanker nonsense that always follows one of these horrific incidents. Already, we’ve gotten one of the standard NRA-approved talking points from Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who said that mass shootings would be prevented if more people carried concealed weapons.

This “good guys with guns” theory is utter bullshit/wishful thinking that even a third-grader should be able to reason around. The notion that “more guns = less gun violence” is prima facie absurd. I defy anyone who promotes this sophomoric argument to produce one shred of evidence that this can actually happen. Because I can point to plenty of evidence that the not-insane alternative, “fewer guns = less gun violence” is truth, and I’m sure any half-bright third-grader would conclude likewise.

If said third-grader needed evidence, I will point to the rate of gun violence in Australia following the Port Arthur shooting in 1996 that killed 35 and injured 23. Following the massacre, the Conservative-led government responded thus, according to FactCheck.org:

Under the 1996 law, Australia banned certain semi-automatic, self-loading rifles and shotguns, and imposed stricter licensing and registration requirements. It also instituted a mandatory buyback program for firearms banned by the 1996 law.
During the buyback program, Australians sold 640,000 prohibited firearms to the government, and voluntarily surrendered about 60,000 non-prohibited firearms. In all, more than 700,000 weapons were surrendered, according to a Library of Congress report on Australian gun policy. One study says that the program reduced the number of guns in private hands by 20 percent.
In 2002, Australia further tightened gun laws, restricting the caliber, barrel length and capacity for sport shooting handguns.
Since 1996, the number and rate of homicides — defined as murder and manslaughter — has fallen. Below is the chart that appeared in our 2009 Ask FactCheck article, showing a 20 percent decline in homicides from 1996 to 2007.

-FactCheck.org

Got that? Stricter gun laws in Australia = fewer homicides in Australia. Let’s see your evidence for your “good guys with guns” bullshit, gun wankers.

Like I said, this is pretty much wishful thinking, fueled by the American gun culture that glorifies gun play in TV, movies and video games. (Admission: I am a consumer of all three.) People seem to think that being involved in an active shooter situation would pretty much be like a session of “Call of Duty,” and that citizens will simply whip out their pieces and cut down the lunatic shooter. It’s not that simple, of course, and as anybody who has been in a sudden stressful situation such as a car accident or a fire can attest. Your best-laid plans go all to hell when that monster bolt of adrenaline hits and the situation goes from zero to chaos in three seconds. The potential for shooting another bystander (or even yourself) in such a situation must be quite high. And even if other innocents are not injured by “good guys with guns,” the situation can hinder the police response to the shooting as it did in yet another Walmart shooting in Colorado in 2017.

Hell, I could cite anecdotes and provide evidence six ways ’til Sunday, and it would change the mind of very few of the gun wankers who keep mouthing these idiotic platitudes and hindering real progress in keeping our nation safer from gun violence. It’s because it’s a very emotional issue, and goes into a lot of intricate topics that I’m not going to address right now, such as the broken mental health system in America, the ambiguous wording of the Second Amendment and feelings of powerlessness endemic to large (mostly white male) segments of American society.

I think that one of the problems we’re dealing with here is that these mass shootings are just abstractions to many people in this country. The loss of life and the suffering of the friends and families of the victims means nothing but talking points to most gun wankers. Part of the problem is that TV news only shows sanitized versions of the aftermath of these shootings, usually a couple of shots of crime-scene tape and SWAT officers patrolling the area in body armor. I think a lot of people’s minds would be changed if the TV news was REQUIRED to show the horrific aftermath of a mass shooting. Make them send in the cameras to broadcast grim images of the bloody, ripped-apart corpses of the men, women and children shot down. No dramatic music in the background, no talking heads boo-hooing, just raw video, forcing America to confront the end result of its gun culture. Of course, that will never happen because it will upset people, reducing ratings and cutting into ad revenue. Christ knows we can’t have anything like that cutting into CNN’s profit margins.

Speaking of gun safety legislation and profit motive, now seems as good a time as any to opportunity to dump on the National Rifle Association, which in my lifetime has pretty much gone from a decent sporting association to a hard-right lobbying organization for the weapons industry. The NRA has a hell of a lot of blood on its hands, and until our politicians can actually grow a spine and stand up to its influence, nothing’s really going to change.

Which brings me to a second, more extreme gun wanker response to mass shootings: the “false flag” narrative. This is the ludicrous notion that mass shootings are actually orchestrated by liberals looking to use them as an excuse to enact gun control legislation. Alex Jones, the shit-for-brains mastermind of InfoWars, pushed this conspiracy idiocy hard after the Sandy Hook shooting. Now he’s being sued for defamation by parents of the children murdered during the shooting. Trial date is set for November 2020, and I hope the son of a bitch loses every thing he owns. It would be more than he deserves.

Like the “good guys with guns” narrative, the “false flag” narrative falls apart under scrutiny like wet Kleenex in a hurricane. The idea is that these staged shootings would result in more gun legislation. However, with the exception of a handful of half-assed responses (i.e. banning bump-stocks after the Las Vegas shooting in 2017), no meaningful gun control legislation has followed any of the many, many mass shootings over the last several decades.

However, there is one consistent response whenever a mass shooting occurs: gun sales skyrocket. They also went up shortly after Barack Obama was elected president. The thinking is that the event in question will result in greater gun control regulation, and gun wankers rush out to stock up.

Note that this is not consistent; the spike didn’t really occur after the school shooting in Parkland, Florida. But that’s not my point here. What I’m saying is that mass shootings DO NOT result in meaningful gun control legislation, but DO result in greater gun sales. So tell me: who has the motivation to stage these “false flag” shootings? (Answer for oblivious gun wankers: the NRA and the weapons manufacturers.)

The reason that we have these mass shootings and that meaningful gun safety legislation never occur is that the monetary influence wielded on our political system by the NRA and the weapons industry is too overwhelming. The reason that there are so many mass shootings in the U.S. is because there we are saturated with firearms. A 2017 study by the New York Times offers a very clear correlation between mass shootings and number of firearms. Straight correlation, no other meaningful controlling factors.

But to reduce the number of guns in the country would reduce the profits of the weapons manufacturers that control the message of the NRA, who use those profits to influence Congress and other lawmakers. I nearly hit the ceiling in the immediate aftermath of this latest round of shootings when a number of people whose opinions I normally respect began pissing and moaning about the Democratic candidates’ “politicization” of these tragedies. OF COURSE it’s going to be politicized. This is a problem that requires a legislative solution; the typical right-wing marketplace fetishism will do absolutely nothing but make the problem worse; a legislative solution means politics; and since nearly every Republican lawmaker is on their knees with the NRA’s cock in their mouths, only the Democrats have a motivation to enact such legislation. And I question even them; they are just as beholden to big-bucks interests as the Republicans, and I’d be surprised is there isn’t gun-lobby money finding its way into the pockets of Democratic politicians as well. But maintaining the status quo for the sake of the profits of weapons manufacturers is akin to suggesting that World War II shouldn’t have ended because it threw a lot of concentration camp guards out of their jobs.

So what’s the answer? I wish I knew. The best I can come up with is to frame the debate in a way that takes the steam out of a lot of the emotional manipulation that the hard-right and the NRA uses to get the gun wankers exercised. This isn’t a matter of Constitutional rights as it as a matter of public health and safety. Compare the situation in the U.S. now to the situation with automobile safety in the mid-60’s. It was a problem, but no one to my knowledge ever suggested that cars be outlawed. Instead, legislation was introduced that resulted in the creation of the Department of Transportation and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Of course, the right-wingers pissed and moaned about big government and the automotive manufacturers pissed and moaned about lost profits. However, the end result was a dramatic decrease in automotive death and injury.

So that’s what I propose: that guns be treated pretty much in the same way as cars. You should need to have be licensed and pay insurance to own and operate one. Restrictions would apply to those with history of mental illness and violence. A simple, pat solution to a complex problem, but it seems a good framework to start dealing with a situation that has caused untold suffering to our fellow Americans for decades.

Okay, that pretty much as worn me out. I know this has been very emotional and profane, but so be it. I really hope that we’ve finally reached the tipping point and that we will make some grossly needed changes to our society that will result in America become a safer place to live, and less of an appalling laughingstock in the eyes of the rest of the world.

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AK-043 – Us and Us and U.S.

Crawford goes on the offensive about gripes about the previous episode, picks on the news media (again!) and explains how the Alliance Party can offer hope and help for all of US in a toxic political climate.

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AK-042 – The Rebel Alliance

Crawford is back with a new adventure, and this time he’s putting his money where his sizable mouth is. Find out how you can become part of the rebel Alliance, and be a big damn hero!

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AK-041 – Knucklehead (Slight Return)

Joe Knucklehead makes a temporary comeback from retirement, and goes on a [CENSORED] rant. He’s still a class act all the way ’round.

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Big News!

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AK-040 – Goodbye and Good Luck!

Donald Trump cost me fifty thousand bucks! Just the first ugly act in the Age of Bohica. Enough of this mess, I’m outta here. Y’all be good to each other out there; we’re in this together.

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AK-037 – Time to Whig Out

Like the presidential campaign of Donald Trump, the American Knucklehead podcast refuses to go away. If only it were as funny or as popular. Featuring new music from Canadian teen pop ska death metal sensation Ass and Hammer.

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AK-036 – De-Evolution

Withdrawal symptoms send Crawford off the deep end – perhaps for good! New music from the Rudy Schwartz Project.

Many thanks to those who have supported the podcast over the years.

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AK-035 – Lunkheads and Potheads

Crawford talks about his new career move, giving Justin Bieber the Ned Beatty treatment, Republican infighting, and the war on marijuana.

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