A few days ago a reader forwarded me a story about a former police officer and teacher, who “served as an expert in the Columbine and other school shootings”, and is now claiming the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre never happened.
This man, Wolfgang Halbig, released an interview in which he listed numerous pieces of evidence which “prove” the event was fabricated. Halbig is a former state trooper and customs agent, plus a onetime educator and apparently a school safety official in Seminole County, Florida. His claims are inflaming those who already believed Sandy Hook was a hoax and pushing those on the fence into the conspiracy camp.
If Halbig’s bio has been reported correctly, it’s pretty impressive. One would think Halbig knows what he’s talking about. If I hadn’t read his list of supposed holes in the story, I might’ve thought he understood school shootings. I’ve Googled Halbig and seen many websites citing his claims, but no refutation from him; in other words, as far as I can tell he did say the Sandy Hook massacre never happened. If he did say that, he’s an idiot; impressive background or not, Halbig doesn’t seem to know the least bit about the realities of school shootings.
Now, a little about me. I’m not a school shooting expert. But I am a 20 year police officer who spent most of my time on night shift patrol in rough areas. I served several years as an adjunct Active Shooter instructor, teaching other officers how to respond to mass shootings. As an instructor I attended advanced active shooter training and played the role of the suspect in numerous exercises. I’m also a 25 year veteran of the Marine Reserve and Army National Guard, and served in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. I have a pretty good background in tactics and a decent appreciation of the dynamics of mass shootings.
I’m going to address Halbig’s list of supposed Sandy Hook inaccuracies one by one. I’d ask you to consider my points, compare my background with Halbig’s, and decide for yourself if Halbig’s claims hold any water.
HALBIG’S LIST OF CLAIMS, AND MY REFUTATIONS
Point 1: “When the police arrived at Sandy Hook Elementary School (SHES) that morning, they parked ¼ mile from the school’s front door instead of doing what first responders are supposed to do in an active shooter event, which is to neutralize the threat as quickly as possible so as to save as many lives as possible.”
When the official Sandy Hook report was released, I also heard rumors of officers parking a quarter mile away. But some of the responding officers have publicly stated they stopped in the school parking lot, rather than a faraway safe spot.
“They made it in under three minutes, arriving in the parking lot while gunfire could still be heard. ‘I got out of the car and grabbed my rifle and it stopped for a second,’ Officer Chapman said. ‘But then we heard more popping. You could tell it was rifle fire. And it was up so close, it sounded like it was coming from outside. So we were all looking around for someone to shoot back at.’”
Are those officers lying? I highly doubt it. I’ve worked for three police departments, two tiny and one which was among the largest in the country. I’ve also worked with police officers from all over the world as a United Nations police officer in Kosovo. One thing I know about the vast majority of American cops: when shots are being fired, we charge toward them. One of the proudest moments of my police career occurred in Kosovo. A local police officer was shot at a hotel, and frantic radio reports rang out. I sprinted toward the hotel. Officers from some other countries weren’t too eager to approach that hotel, and a few went the other way. But Americans charged straight into the danger, as I’ve seen them do over and over here in America. I don’t believe for a moment that police officers in Newtown, upon hearing reports of a school massacre, all chose to park a safe distance away.
Besides that, the official report says this: “Upon the receipt of the first 911 call, law enforcement was immediately dispatched to the school. It was fewer than four minutes from the time the first 911 call was received until the first police officer arrived at SHES. It was fewer than five minutes from the time the first 911 call was received until the shooter killed himself. It was fewer than six minutes from the time the first police officer arrived on SHES property to the time the first police officer entered the school building.”
Doesn’t sound to me like officers had to run a quarter mile from their cars to the school.
Point 2: “Paramedics and EMTs (emergency medical technicians) were not allowed to enter the school. Instead they were kept waiting in the Sandy Hook fire station nearby, 500 yards down the road from SHES.”
This is kind of a “Wow, no kidding” statement. EMS protocol has traditionally been to remain out of the immediate danger area until it’s been declared safe by law enforcement. So it’s believable that EMS wasn’t allowed into the school until police cleared it. Whether that was a bad call or not (I think it was), it’s not the least bit suspicious.
Point 3: “Trauma helicopters, which can provide the quickest and best medical services in an emergency, were not sent to Sandy Hook. Life Star, the medical helicopter service at Danbury Hospital’s Trauma Center, told Halbig ‘we were never called, never asked.’”
In decades as a cop, having been on many shootings, stabbings and major accidents, I can only recall medical helicopters being called in on a few occasions. Helicopters require cleared landing zones, which often means clearing traffic from vital roads. This can’t always be done in an urban area, or at least it can’t always be done quickly. Transportation by road is sometimes faster than by air, when the time needed to get the helicopters into the air, clear a landing zone and move casualties to the LZ is taken into account. Ground ambulances can usually get casualties to a closeby hospital before a helicopter can be brought in.
And there are only so many helicopters available. Even if they had been called, some (maybe most) of the casualties would have been transported by ground anyway.
Point 4: “Where were the ambulances to transport the wounded to hospitals?”
Didn’t he just answer his own question? The ambulances were at the Newtown fire station, as mentioned in point 2.
Point 5: “Why did police declare 26 people to be dead within the first 11 minutes of the shooting, when according to Connecticut law, only a doctor can declare someone to be legally dead?”
What difference does that make? I’ve been on plenty of scenes where cops declared someone “DRT”, meaning “Dead Right There”. That’s not an official pronouncement, it’s the officer reporting what’s obvious to him or her. I once found a man who had been dead in his house for at least a week, and I reported him dead on the radio. The man was badly decomposed, obviously dead, but someone else still had to make the official pronouncement. On another call we had someone decapitated by an air bag. Yes we called them dead, and yes someone else had to make the official pronouncement. That’s not suspicious, it’s just legal procedure.
Point 6: “Why did the FBI classify the Sandy Hook massacre? This has never been done before. Even the Columbine School massacre was not classified information. To this day, the FBI report on Sandy Hook remains classified information, not releasable to the public.”
I don’t know anything about the FBI’s report. I do know that the FBI’s report isn’t the determining factor in whether or not this incident really happened. Local and state officers responded and investigated, and their report has been released. Some of the responding officers have spoken publicly about the incident. Radio and 911 transcripts have been released. Parents have made statements. So if the FBI doesn’t release their report, suddenly the entire incident was faked?
Point 7: “Why did the State of Connecticut wait ELEVEN whole months to issue its official final report on the Sandy Hook shootings to the American public? Note that the final report does not include the FBI’s still-classified report.”
Why did the investigation take eleven months? Probably because it was extremely complicated, with two murder scenes, one of which was more complex than any those officers had previously encountered. And that each of the twenty-seven murders had to be individually and exhaustively detailed. And that there was no rush to finish, because there was nobody alive to prosecute, so no concern about a “speedy trial”. And that the investigators knew their report would be torn apart by legions of “truthers” intent on exploiting anything from typographical errors to 30-second timeline mistakes.
So officers took a long time to issue a report on one of the worst tragedies America has ever experienced? It’s a conspiracy! And what would have happened if they had issued the report quickly? “Truthers” would have considered that evidence the entire incident was pre-planned, with the report written beforehand.
Point 8: “Police transmissions don’t lie because they are made by sworn and trained law enforcement officers. On the morning of Dec. 14, 2012, recorded police transmissions said ‘We have multiple weapons inside the [SH] classroom — a rifle and a shotgun.’ But nobody could find the shotgun in the school. Instead, a shotgun was found in the black Honda parked outside the school.”
Oh, brother. This statement makes me question Halbig’s exalted background as a police officer. Any cop who has been on more than one dangerous, adrenaline-charged scene knows officers make mistakes. Suspects are misidentified. People see things that aren’t really there. Cops call out bad directions (I was famous for that). Someone yells something that turns out to not be true and others repeat it. How many officers have reported seeing a weapon, suspicious object, suspicious person or whatever, and later found out they were wrong? Does anyone recall the search for the nonexistent third suspect at the North Hollywood Shootout?
A friend of mine arrived on a disturbance one night. Within seconds of arriving he was on the radio saying, “We really need an ambulance. I have a guy here with his eyeball hanging out, I think he’s been shot in the head.” When I arrived the ambulance was leaving, just as officers entered an apartment searching for the suspect. One of the officers had a shotgun. We found the suspect, and determined he had kicked the victim repeatedly in the head with cowboy boots. No gun was involved.
I went to the hospital to check on the victim. The paramedics who transported him not only told the emergency room staff that the victim had been shot in the head, but that “shots were still being fired when we were leaving the scene.” When I found the victim in a shock room, a doctor was standing over him explaining to a group of doctors in training, “Looks like the entry wound is here and exit is here. We’re going to treat him with [etc. etc.]”. I told the doctor he hadn’t been shot, he had been kicked in the head. The doctor was surprised. Later he told me I was right, there was no gunshot wound. And what the officer thought was an eyeball was actually a flap of forehead skin that had been torn free and was hanging over the victim’s face.
When I talked to the paramedics later, it turned out one of them had spread the “they were shooting as we left” story. He just got scared; he had a patient who looked like he had been shot, he saw officers with pistols and a shotgun going into an apartment, and perceived something that simply didn’t happen. Paramedics are just as professional as cops, just as interested in determining facts. But this one made a gigantic mistake, which was then repeated by several other people including a doctor. Professionals screw up sometimes.
I haven’t heard the radio traffic about two weapons, but if it happened, so what? I’m not the least bit surprised an officer called out something that turned out to be incorrect. It happens all the time. And it’s usually a result of adrenaline, fear, confusion, conflicting witness reports and everything else that cops encounter at high-stress scenes. If Halbig doesn’t know that, then I suspect that during his time as a “cop” he rode a desk far more than a patrol car.
Besides that, it’s pretty damn ridiculous for Halbig to cite the professionalism of police officers while simultaneously accusing every police officer involved in the Sandy Hook investigation of being part of this “conspiracy”.
Point 9: “At 9:45 AM that day, a police officer found a surviving kindergarten-aged girl in the hallway. The officer sent her back into Room 8 — a crime scene with students and teachers shot dead. What police officer would do that?”
Probably an officer who thought, “The room we just searched is clear, but the rest of the school isn’t. I don’t have extra people around to guard this girl or take her to safety. And there may be a suspect still loose in the school. So I should send her back into a safe room, and report her location on the radio.” Ordering her back into that room was probably the best bad option out of a list of bad options.
This comment reminds me of a debate I had before I deployed to Iraq. According to traditional military doctrine, you never, under any circumstances, evacuated a wounded soldier with a dead soldier. In the early years of the Iraq War some soldiers tried to hold on to that doctrine. But it didn’t always make sense. If a Humvee was hit by an IED and all the crewmen were killed or wounded, and they were under small arms fire, it wouldn’t make sense to have other soldiers make multiple trips into the kill zone when they can evacuate everyone at once. You make one trip in, load everyone you can, and get out. Sometimes war just sucks, and you have to do what you have to do.
In active shooter situations, we expect to step over the dead and ignore wounded who are screaming in agony and begging for help. We can expect some of those wounded to be women and children. The first officers on scene have to focus on finding the shooter and stopping the killing; if that means we have to send a little girl into a room full of dead people because it’s the only safe place, that’s what we have to do. In a situation where everything sucks, sometimes we have to make the least sucky decision. That’s the brutal reality.
Point 10: “Similarly, that morning, two Connecticut state troopers entered Room 10 and found an unharmed boy hiding in the bathroom. The troopers ordered the boy to stay in the room — a room with dead people. ‘That’s not police protocol.’”
See my above comment. Sure, that’s not protocol. So what? Does Halbig, with his alleged police background, think cops or anyone else always follow protocol? Amazingly enough, sometimes people don’t exactly follow the training they’ve received. I’m sure everyone reading this would be shocked – shocked! – to hear that teenagers still drive like idiots even after being taught not to. Or that soldiers don’t always hit their targets even after extensive marksmanship training. Or that cops, in the most terrifying, intense, chaotic, confusing scene they’ve ever been on, when they’re experiencing survival stress reactions like tunnel vision, auditory exclusion, time speeding up or slowing down, enhanced visual acuity and loss of manual dexterity, might not follow their training to the letter.
Cops are human. I can pretty much guarantee that none of officers at Newtown had responded to anything like the Sandy Hook massacre before. In the heat of the moment, they didn’t exactly follow protocol. Surprised? Me neither.
Point 11: “’Having investigated and given expert testimony on many school shootings, Halbig says ‘I know what tears look like.’ But the parents of slain Sandy Hook children, as we’ve noted here on FOTM, did not cry. (In the now famous case of Robbie Parker, the father of allegedly slain 6-year-old Emilie, he went from laughing and joking to pretending to choke back tears in the blink of an eye.)”
And I’d like to know how Halbig or anyone else knows the parent mentioned above was “pretending to choke back tears”. I’ve been around plenty of family members of murder victims, and it’s not unusual for them to go through intense mood swings.
Point 12: “Sandy Hook’s medical examiner Dr. Wayne Carver refused to let the parents see the bodies of their slain children, and instead gave them photos of the bodies, which is ‘unheard of.’ Halbig knows about the inconsolable grief of parents and is himself a parent. Parents whose children had been shot dead ‘would kick the door down’ demanding to see the bodies.”
I’ve never been on a scene where family members were allowed to see the bodies of murder victims. When the bodies are still where they fell, the area around them needs to remain as undisturbed as possible in order to preserve evidence. Until a body is examined and autopsied, the body itself is evidence that needs to be preserved. People not involved in the investigation aren’t allowed to see murder victims at will, they generally won’t see the body until it’s released to a funeral home after the autopsy.
And reasonable people don’t go kicking doors down to see dead bodies. Yes, I’ve been involved in a murder investigation where a mob did try to reach a dead body at an emergency room, and I know of another case where a mob chased a hearse with a dead accident victim to a funeral home. Neither of those cases involved reasonable people. I’ve been on many other murder scenes where family members patiently followed our every instruction, even if they were distraught.
Point 13: “Why was Sandy Hook Elementary School torn down? This is not the case with any of the other schools where shootings had taken place, including Columbine School.”
In this case, the community decided they didn’t want to continue using the school where 20 children and 6 educators were murdered. I don’t find that particularly surprising. Columbine High School wasn’t torn down, but its library, where the majority of victims died, was walled off.
Point 14: “Who installed the new security system at SHES? This should be a matter of public record.”
If it was a contract made by the city, then I imagine it is a matter of public record. What difference does that make? The security system didn’t enable or stop the massacre, and the school’s locked doors were an easily surmountable obstacle to Lanza. If we don’t know who installed the security system, does that signify something?
Point 15: “The shooting-to-death of 26 people would leave 45-60 gallons of blood. Who cleaned it up? What biohazard company was hired to clean the crime scene?”
Wait…what? According to medicinenet.com, a 150-pound body contains approximately 5.5 quarts of blood. With 26 victims that’s 143 quarts. Four quarts make a gallon, so 143 quarts of blood equals 35.75 gallons. And that’s if they were all adults. Children’s bodies hold less blood.
But that doesn’t matter, because when people are shot to death all their blood doesn’t automatically drain from their bodies. Halbig has either never been on a shooting murder scene or he’s completely forgotten what they look like. People bleed out because they have massive injuries and their hearts pump blood out from those injuries. When the heart stops pumping, the blood loss stops. I’ve seen some big pools of blood, but other than in a few serial murderer cases never heard of a murder victim being totally drained of blood.
Yes, that would have been a hell of a mess to clean up, even without the mythical “45-60 gallons of blood”. Was it cleaned up afterward? I don’t know. The school was never reopened, so did it need to be cleaned?
Point 16: “Why is there not even one lawsuit by a Sandy Hook parent against SHES for negligence? Halbig has never ever seen a school shooting without parents suing the school for negligence.”
Is it possible the parents really don’t blame the school for the mentally ill murderer who shot his way through locked doors, killed educators who tried to save their children, then murdered as many people as he could before shooting himself?
Point 17: “Why are there so many fund-raisers for the Sandy Hook shootings? Halbig: ‘I’ve never seen so many fund-raisers’ in the case of Sandy Hook. One fundraising alone, by United Way, netted $17 million, from which ‘every [SH] parent got a big chunk of money.’”
Okay. People donated funds to assist families whose children were brutally murdered. Obviously the incident never happened, because the United Way and others raised money. This proves that United Way was involved in the conspiracy.
I’m just not seeing a reason to throw out a conspiracy flag because Americans raised money to help families who had just suffered unimaginable tragedy.
Point 18: “Alleged shooter Adam Lanza, 20, is said to have Asperger syndrome — a high-functioning (in academics) form of austism. Halbig points out, however, that like those with autism, children with Asperger have ‘very very poor motor skills’ and ‘very poor muscle tone.’ How did Asperger-afflicted Adam Lanza with ‘very poor muscle tone’ carry a rifle, a shotgun, a handgun, and bullets? How did Asperger-afflicted Adam Lanza with ‘very very poor motor skills’ shoot 26 people dead — not wounded — in less than five minutes, firing one bullet roughly every two seconds?”
Unfortunately, I know a lot about autism. My youngest son is moderately autistic. Anyone who thinks everyone on the autism spectrum is affected the same doesn’t understand autism. Yes, some people with autism have poor muscle tone and poor motor skills. That doesn’t mean they can’t operate a weapon. My five year old son could probably hold and fire a rifle (his motor skills are just fine, by the way). There is no reason to believe Lanza was so weak physically that he couldn’t operate a rifle, or carry spare ammunition.
And does Halbig, who is supposed to be such an expert on school shootings, really think anyone needs real weapon-handling skills to murder a bunch of unarmed children? All they need to do is operate the weapon. Unarmed children, especially kindergarteners, aren’t going to do anything more than run or hide. Many would probably freeze in disbelief. Unarmed adults aren’t real hard to kill either, as we’ve seen in many active shooter incidents. Shooting defenseless, terrified people at close range doesn’t require Delta Force skills or even average physical strength.
Besides that, we already know children with little strength can operate an “assault rifle”. We’ve seen pictures and videos of it.
Halbig’s conclusions: “’In my professional opinion [as a school safety consultant], I suspect Sandy Hook was a scripted event that took place, in the planning for two or 2½ years.’…Halbig does not believe any child was killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School.”
Halbig sounds like a typical “truther”; he assumes our government, the same government absolutely incapable of even putting a health care website together, can pull off a gigantic conspiracy requiring thousands of willing participants. And these participants wouldn’t all be shadowy, ghostlike federal government Jason Bourne spies, either. Local cops and firefighters, the very people who serve and live in the small community where the massacre was “staged”, would have to willingly lie to the entire nation about it. Children who attended the school would have to lie. All the teachers would have to lie. Local officials would have to willingly play along with a narrative they know is false. People who live near the school would have to lie about hearing gunfire and having children knocking on their doors asking for help. And all these various disparate people, all the cops, firefighters, paramedics, doctors, neighbors, parents, reporters, all the thousands of people associated with the incident, are all in on the conspiracy? They were all part of this “scripted event”, they all knew in advance it was fake? Or did they spontaneously jump into the conspiracy at the first opportunity?
Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure many people did immediately recognize an opportunity to exploit the tragedy for political gain. Some of them doubtless believe in the morality of their cause, some others probably see it as a way to consolidate their own or their party’s power. But exploiting a tragedy isn’t the same thing as faking it.
The bottom line for me is that I don’t believe a bunch of regular, everyday Americans are lying about this. Why would they? Why would guys just like the cops I’ve served with for decades, teachers like my mom, sister and wife, and paramedics like the guys I’ve seen frantically trying to save strangers on many scenes, willingly lie about this? According to Halbig and every truther who agrees with him, not a single child died at Sandy Hook that day. So every cop on that scene lied about dead children they knew weren’t there. Every paramedic who claimed to have treated a victim knows there were no victims. Every neighbor who reported hearing gunfire knows not a shot was fired. Everyone who worked at Sandy Hook, every student there, knows nobody was murdered. But they’re all in on the lie anyway. Because they all passionately want gun control. Or something like that.
Halbig is reportedly going to travel to Newtown himself, so he can ask questions “eyeball to eyeball”. I’d highly suggest he carry a first aid kit. Because if I had lost a son or daughter at Sandy Hook, and some “truther” came around accusing me of lying about the brutal murder of my own child, I know exactly how I’d react.
Filed under: Uncategorized | 266 Comments
Tags: conspiracy, hoax, sandy hook, truthers
This is kinda cool. Brian P from TheNewRifleman.com, a blog for civilians interested in tactical shooting, asked me to write a post on the basics of tactical optics. So I wrote one, and he posted it today. If you’re at ground zero optics-wise and need a low-level overview, this post might be very helpful. Please check it out, and let me know what you think. Thanks,
“This isn’t intended to be a definitive guide on optics. If you’re already well acquainted with optics and want advanced information, there are many other writers and sites offering it. I’d highly suggest you go to one of them. But for novice, civilian shooters who have little time or money to train and no background in tactical optics, this information may be very valuable. Everything in this article is correct to the best of my knowledge, but if I’m wrong on something please call me out on it.
I’m not a sniper, nor do I have extensive experience with optics in the civilian world. What I do have, however, is a decent background in military optics from my twenty-plus years in the Marine Reserve and Army National Guard, including two combat deployments where I used an Aimpoint CCO (Close Combat Optic), Advanced Combat Optical Gunsight (ACOG), and Leupold MR/T (Medium Range Tactical scope). In the Marines my secondary MOS was 8531, Marksmanship Coach. I’m also a school-trained Army Squad Designated Marksman (SDM), meaning I’ve attended a two-week course which taught me to hit man-sized targets with an M16A4 out to 600 meters with iron sights and ACOGs. So I’ve got a decent background in medium to long range shooting, with and without optics…”
Filed under: Afghanistan, Iraq | 1 Comment
Tags: ACOG, new rifleman, optics, veteran writers
Doing something a little different today, guys. I’m just learning how this whole Search Engine Optimization thing works, and apparently I’ve been stealing views from the sites I write for by reposting my essay here. So I’m just going to put up the first paragraph of my most recent essay, and ask you to please follow the link to read the rest of it. And feel free to comment here, on the other site, or both. Thanks guys.
A couple of months ago I was watching Fox News and a preview for an upcoming story came on. The story was about a veteran with PTSD who had been prescribed a “PTSD dog”. The preview showed the back of the veteran’s head and showed him petting his dog as he drove his truck. The veteran’s southern drawl was evident, but his face was never shown.
I’m a veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan, and am well aware of the PTSD problem among some veterans. Unfortunately, I’m also well aware of the legion of liars and fakers pretending to have PTSD in order to get a monthly government handout. When I saw the preview, my first feeling wasn’t sympathy or concern. It was, Yeah, this guy has PTSD. I bet a rocket landed two miles away when he was on a huge base, and since then he’s been making up symptoms so he can get a disability check. Sure, whatever.
A few minutes later they showed the full story (which is here, if you’re interested). When I saw the veteran, I was stunned. It was Staff Sergeant David Moore, a Georgia National Guard soldier I was with on many missions with in Afghanistan.
Filed under: Afghanistan, Writing | 34 Comments
Tags: PTSD, PTSD dogs, veteran writers
I’ve stayed out of the Affordable Care Act/Obamacare debate. Mostly it’s because I don’t know anything about the health care industry and even less about economics. Despite my ignorance on those subjects, I’ve observed with keen interest the technical problems with the web site, and the data showing how many millions of Americans lost their health care due to the ACA. But mostly I’ve been interested in the human factor. Namely, I’ve noticed with both disgust and amusement how hard the political left has tried to blame the ACA’s problems on the political right.
In this interview from November, Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, described as an architect of the Affordable Care Act, said this, referring to Fox News and conservatives:
“It [the problems with the ACA] becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. We’re going to do everything we can to make it fail, then when it fails, ask, ‘Oh, why did it fail?’” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e-L1dTNu2eo)
On November 19th, 2013, President Obama said, “One of the problems we’ve had is one side of Capitol Hill is invested in failure, and that makes, I think, the kind of iterative process of fixing glitches as they come up and fine-tuning the law more challenging.” (http://www.realclearpolitics.com/video/2013/11/20/obama_republicans_making_it_difficult_to_fix_obamacare_glitches.html)
During a discussion about the ACA’s problems with Bill Maher, noted liberal director Rob Reiner said, “You have republicans who are refusing to make this better.” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6aurY7nvQbU)
Of course, those comments were made months ago. Things have changed now, right? Not exactly, according to this January 30th interview with Nancy Pelosi.
Please note the part right around 2:20. When Jon Stewart asks, “Why do we have so much trouble executing these plans with any kind of efficiency?” she answers, “Again, if you’re dealing with people who have no agenda, who, ‘Nothing is our agenda and never is our timetable’, it’s very hard to negotiate with them.”
So if I understand the President, Dr. Ezekiel, Rob Reiner and Ms. Pelosi correctly, the problems with the ACA aren’t a result of a poorly written law, or poor implementation, or unforeseen second- and third-order effects. The ACA’s flaws can’t be blamed on those who actually wrote the law, voted for it, poorly implemented it, or demonized those who opposed it. Blame for those flaws lies squarely at the feet of those who never wanted it to become law in the first place.
I doubt I’m the only one who finds this amusing.
The left chose the ACA as their crusade. They championed it for years. They vilified anyone who argued against it. I recall the President saying “The one unifying principle in the Republican Party at the moment is making sure that 30 million people don’t have health care.” Dissent against the ACA was never described by democrats as reasonable or logical; it was always a matter of evil, child-hating conservatives actually wanting poor, innocent people to needlessly suffer. The democrats pushing the ACA were, on the other hand, noble and magnanimous knights in sterling armor, defending the health insurance-less from the greedy depredations of horrible ogres like me.
So what does this have to do with a French General in World War I?
When I was a kid, someone brought this book to my house. I must have read it four or five times before I graduated high school.
One chapter tells the little-known story of Nivelle’s Offensive, a huge attack the French Army launched in 1917.
The short version is that General Nivelle came up with what he thought was a great idea for an assault. Other people warned him that it wouldn’t work. He ignored their warnings and went ahead with his plan. The attack was a disaster that cost the lives of tens of thousands of French troops the first day (and many more after that), for little gain. The French Army almost broke from the losses, and mutiny ensued.
So what did General Nivelle do? He blamed the people who tried to stop him from carrying out the attack in the first place.
“Apparently overcome by hysteria, Nivelle traveled to Dormans, General Alfred Micheler’s headquarters, where he stormed into the conference room shrieking accusations… Ignoring rank, [Micheler] turned on his commander in chief.
‘You wish to make me responsible for your mistake,’ he bellowed, ‘me, who never ceased to warn you of it. Do you know what such an action is called?’ he demanded. ‘Well, it is called cowardice!’”
I’m not a republican, but I opposed the ACA. All the problems associated with the ACA aren’t my fault. Nor does any fault belong to others who opposed it, argued against it, and voted against it. If the democrat plan for the ACA’s success relies on cooperation from those who desperately tried, for years, to prevent it from being passed, then the democratic party is following a criminally stupid strategy. If republicans repealed Roe vs. Wade, over strenuous democrat objections and warnings, and the result was disastrous, republicans would rightfully be viewed as morons if they blamed democrats for the debacle. What democrats are doing right now is no different.
If you pass it, you own it. Especially if you pass it with literally no support from the other side.
As I said, I’m no economist or health care expert. Maybe the ACA will eventually be a spectacular success. Or an abysmal failure. Who knows. I can handle a failure as long as the responsible party actually acts responsible. The democrats aren’t doing that. Instead they’re deflecting, clinging to pathetically transparent talking points, and blaming the very people who “never ceased to warn them of the danger.” Do you know what such an action is called?
Well, it is called cowardice.
Filed under: Writing | 23 Comments
Tags: ACA, obamacare, pelosi
This essay was published yesterday on Military.Com.
I read Marcus Luttrell’s book Lone Survivor soon after it was released. And while some of it strained credulity, I was still impressed by it. I was excited to hear it was being made into a movie. My wife and I made plans to see it soon after it was released.
And then I read this:
A List of the Differences Between Lone Survivor (Film), Lone Survivor (Book) and Reality (http://www.onviolence.com/?e=762)
This very interesting and well-researched article shows numerous instances where the movie, for whatever reason, differs from the memoir. Some changes from book to film are understandable; internal dialogue, for example, works great in books but not movies. But director Peter Berg, who professes to have undying respect for our military, altered the story drastically.
In the book, the reportedly true story, Army Rangers moved on foot and unopposed to the village where Luttrell was being sheltered. In the movie, Luttrell is rescued by Search and Rescue personnel during a raging firefight. In the movie, Luttrell is almost decapitated by Taliban, in the book no such thing happens. Movie, Luttrell stabs a Taliban fighter to death during the final battle, doesn’t happen in the book. Movie, Luttrell is so badly wounded his heart stops just after his rescue; book, Luttrell isn’t badly wounded and his rescuers even stop for tea with the villagers. In the movie, the SEALs are after Ahmad Shah because he killed twenty Marines the previous week. In the book, and real life, no he didn’t.
And so on.
These changes are ridiculous, unnecessary to say the least, and at worst a blatant insult to combat veterans. Because apparently, the reality of our experience just isn’t good enough for Hollywood.
Of course, Lone Survivor isn’t the first modern film to unnecessarily ruin a story that was compelling enough already. The makers of Black Hawk Down, for reasons unknown, decided to add a ridiculously stupid scene. When they could have just shown the reality of our Special Operations soldiers surrounded by thousands of hostile Somalis overnight in a distant, exotic city, they instead created an imaginary, impossible situation. In a scene near the end, helicopter gunship pilots coming to aid our troops just can’t identify a target (despite about ten thousand Somali gunmen on roofs in the open). So Staff Sergeant Matt Eversmann runs into the street to mark targets with an infrared strobe.
No disrespect at all to Staff Sergeant Eversmann – he went through hell on “the Lost Convoy” – but he wasn’t in the city overnight with the others. And IR strobes are generally used to mark our own positions, not the enemy’s. Does anyone really think our troops, to mark a target for an air strike, have to run up and throw a strobe at it? The incident never happened. But director Ridley Scott added it, because the men of Task Force Ranger just weren’t brave enough for him. The story needed an instance of “true” heroism.
And then there’s We Were Soldiers. The amazing dedication and bravery of a lone American battalion, outnumbered and holding a perimeter for three days against determined attacks by an equally brave and dedicated enemy, just wasn’t interesting enough. So director Randall Wallace added something.
At the end of the movie, Colonel Moore leads his men out of their perimeter to assault the North Vietnamese base camp. The North Vietnamese soldiers ready themselves behind machine guns, prepared to slaughter the attacking Americans. Just as Colonel Moore crests a rise and locks eyes with an enemy machine gunner, as the enemy gunner begins to pull the trigger, mere milliseconds before Colonel Moore is cut to shreds… guess what happens? An American helicopter gunship swoops in and rakes the enemy with gunfire, saving Colonel Moore and all the other (major) characters! How dramatic!
Know what makes it even more dramatic? It never happened. Colonel Moore’s battalion “merely” held their perimeter, losing 79 men killed in the process, until the enemy gave up. Shoot, anyone can do that. So Wallace invented a fake heroic charge. Because the best way to recognize heroism is to exaggerate it.
I have a mental image of movie directors, when they hear of an amazing, heroic military story: they clench their fists, shake in excitement, then suddenly burst out yelling, “I just have to make a movie out of this! And I can’t live with myself if I don’t add something totally stupid to it!”
I suppose Peter Berg, Randall Wallace and Ridley Scott only see bravery in outrageous, unbelievable acts of imaginary valor. If it’s not a Recon Ranger SEAL ninja Green Beret stabbing a grizzly to death with a toothpick while HALO jumping from the space shuttle, they’re just not interested. The bravest acts I saw in Afghanistan would have meant nothing.
The captain and staff sergeant who dragged a KIA down a bare, exposed hillside while under fire from numerous Taliban positions? Not enough. The men who walked into an enemy-held valley, knowing they were going to be ambushed? Don’t waste time with such pettiness. Heading into the open within 100 meters of Taliban positions to recover a fallen comrade from a burned-out vehicle? Piddly things like that don’t even register on a director’s radar.
Hollywood recognizes true heroism. They recognize it by twisting it, hyperinflating it, butchering it, turning it into a cartoon version of reality. All in the name of “honoring veterans”. If onviolence.com’s article is correct, the movie Lone Survivor is as much a “true story” as Jessica Rabbit is a representation of the average woman.
Yes, I’ve heard many of the counter arguments. It’s a movie, everyone knows it’s not “really” true. Hollywood has to make money. Every movie follows a formula, and for war movies there has to be a larger-than-life hero.
Maybe so. I’m just a soldier, not a filmmaker. What do I know about making movies? Nothing, except for this:
Marcus Luttrell is in fact a hero. So were the SEALs with him that day. So were the eight SEALs and eight Army Special Operation aviators who died trying to reach Luttrell’s team. What all those men did that day was amazingly dramatic. The true story, without embellishment, would have made a good movie.
Luttrell and his comrades faced more danger and showed more bravery than most people will ever dream of. Many of our troops have marched bravely into combat, even though the odds were against them, even though they were scared. They chose to serve their country as warriors during a war. They fought, struggled, sacrificed, sometimes bled, sometimes died. They experienced profound hardships, willingly risked their lives for cause and country, suffered crushing losses, and felt the adrenaline-spiked glory of victory. Why do their stories have to be “improved”?
Peter Berg, Randall Wallace or Ridley Scott, please answer the following question. It’s not rhetorical. I’d like an honest explanation.
Wasn’t our actual wartime experience enough for you?
Filed under: Afghanistan | 22 Comments
Tags: lone survivor, marcus luttrell, veteran writers
Several weeks ago I was at a critique circle reading one of my true cop stories, “Just Another Night on Smith Street”. It’s about a shooting outside a club in a bad part of town.
The way this critique circle works, everyone brings their piece, every member reads each piece and writes comments, then when everyone’s done the group discusses each piece. In my piece, I related many vivid details of the shooting. I was at the station when the shooting call came in, and in the story I mentioned something I said before I went to the call:
“I looked at the other two officers, smiled and said ‘I don’t wanna go.’ Then I ran out the door to my car and sped away.”
I didn’t think that part of the story was a big deal. It was just part of the overall incident, one tiny bit of an extremely memorable experience. Since I was at a critique circle, I expected my story to be criticized and torn apart by the other writers there; I get valuable advice from every critique and make significant changes based on that advice. And I got plenty of comments that night. But I wasn’t prepared for one of them.
As we went over my piece, a very good writer mentioned the part where I said I didn’t want to go. He asked, “I don’t get this part. If you didn’t want to go, why did you go?”
I was dumbfounded. I actually stammered a little as I tried to answer him.
“I…uh…I had to…I mean…I’m a cop. I really…I don’t have a choice.”
At this point, two other writers piped up. “I didn’t understand that either. Why’d you go?”
One of the three had even written the comment on my piece:
We had a discussion about it. I tried, and failed, to explain that it was my duty. I guess we cops have a choice not to act, but our sense of duty makes us head toward danger. I couldn’t look myself in the mirror if I failed to act when I was expected to. My cop and military friends are the same way.
After a few minutes discussion, I told the other writers, “I’m actually shocked at this comment. I never expected anyone to ask why police have to go to dangerous scenes.” But I don’t think I made them understand a sense of duty.
I can look back on many instances where I and the people around me headed into danger, because it was our duty. The very scary convoy when my team delivered Iraq’s first election ballots into Najaf, a week after we arrived in country. The night I had to clear an alley by myself, after I found a man shot in the head outside a club and witnesses said, “The shooter ran into that alley.” The morning I rode into a raging firefight with other silent, tense soldiers in the back of an armored vehicle, listening as other Americans yelled for help over the radio. The night I walked up to what I thought was a roadside bomb in Iraq, because my convoy was stopped right next to it and I had to. The many times I got out of my police car shaking, because I was scared of the fight I knew I was about to get into. It wasn’t bravery, it wasn’t heroism. It just had to be done. It was our duty. Not doing it was as unthinkable as a mother refusing to run into traffic to grab her toddler.
The writers who made that comment weren’t stupid or evil; they were well-educated, and one was a college professor. All were good, decent people. One I had just met, one was a very nice woman who I don’t know well, and one was a good guy who I consider a friend. They’re all talented writers. But I guess in their vision of my world, when dispatch says “We just got a shooting call, you need to go,” I can just answer, “Nah, I’ll pass. I’m not feeling it tonight.” And I have to ask, who do they think is going to handle these problems? Who is going to catch murderers, or fight back against enemies who want to attack us? Do they have any idea what the world is really like?
I’m not insulting or demeaning the other writers in any way. But this conversation was a shock, and an eye opener. I learned something at that critique meeting.
I learned that only a select few of us really understand what a sense of duty is. The rest of the country just doesn’t get it. This is why so many people can’t understand why we cops perform such a crappy job for crappy pay, or why we soldiers repeatedly risk our lives in what many view as pointless wars.
I write about that sense of duty. But I don’t know that it’s understood by anyone who didn’t understand it already. And to tell you the truth, that depresses the hell out of me.
Filed under: Writing | 76 Comments
Tags: critique cricles, duty, veteran writers
This essay was published several days ago by IronMikeMag.com.
Since we’re currently embroiled in a national debate about unemployment benefits…
Not surprisingly, most conservatives aren’t too sympathetic to the idea of extending unemployment benefits. Less surprising, most liberals are. I keep seeing articles and social media posts describing conservatives of being uncaring, evil or selfish for opposing unemployment extensions. While I can understand why some people support extending unemployment benefits, I’m also getting a little annoyed with all the “those conservatives are selfish bastards” stories. So for what it’s worth, here’s my opinion. This opinion is about entitlements in general, not just unemployment.
Many years ago I arrested a well-known dope dealer, “Sammy”, in the small town where I worked. Sammy was in his early twenties, tall and thin, and could have been an Olympic sprinter. He had outrun almost every officer on the department. Several times I had turned corners and encountered him by chance; he would immediately sprint for the nearest fence, vault over it in a second and be out of sight before I could even call it out on the radio. And Sammy wasn’t just fast, he was cunning. Maybe not book smart, but street smart. Smart enough to sell a lot of drugs and almost never get caught.
One day we were notified Sammy had a felony probation violation warrant. That’s nice, I thought. Unfortunately we’ll never catch him. But a couple of nights later I turned a corner, and there he was. He saw me, the escape reflex kicked in, he started to step off into a sprint. Then he apparently realized, I don’t have any crack on me, so he just stood there. He didn’t know he had a warrant.
I pulled up beside him, threw the car in park, jumped out and grabbed him. He was shocked. He went to jail without a fight.
At the jail I asked him standard questions for the arrest blotter. Address, phone number, next of kin, and so on. When I got to “occupation”, I jokingly asked, “Hey Sammy, what kind of work do you do?”
Sammy answered, “I get disability checks a month!”
I remember giving him a curious look. I knew he was an unemployed dope dealer, and I was just being a smartass when I asked the question. I also didn’t understand what the hell he was trying to say.
“I get disability checks a month!”
Very slowly, I asked, “Are you saying you get disability checks every month?”
He answered, “Yuh!”
“Sammy, you are the fastest human being on earth. You’re in better shape than most professional athletes. What’s your disability?”
“I can’t work!” he blurted. “I can’t get along with the boss man. My lawyer got me disability.”
That conversation was, to say the least, illuminating. I had no idea someone could receive disability just because they’re too undisciplined to work.
Later, in that same town, we had repeated problems with a family living in a housing project. The father worked, mom stayed home with the teenaged kids, they all got snot-slinging drunk every weekend. They had a satellite dish in their front yard, at a time when satellite TV was rare and not cheap. They went through cases of beer and had lots of parties. During one party mom stabbed dad under his arm, hitting an artery. While dad was at the ER, maybe about to die, and mom was under arrest, maybe for murder, the kids kept asking the officers on the scene if they could get the blood-smeared cans of beer in the roped-off crime scene. When officers pulled down the tape, the first thing the kids did was rush in, wipe blood off beer and continue drinking.
Our tax money was supporting that family. Without welfare, could they have afforded all that alcohol?
Years later, in the late 90’s, an officer I worked with told me about a call he was on at a housing project. About three in the morning there was a fight. When the officer showed up he encountered a crowd cheering the fighters on. One of the people cheering was a healthy woman, about 40 years old, who we knew pretty well. She wasn’t a real troublemaker, but every time there was a late-night fight or shooting (which was several times a week), she’d be out there drinking a beer and enjoying the show.
Since the woman was a witness to the fight, the officer interviewed her. During the interview, he asked her, “Why do you just hang out here every night? Shouldn’t you have a job or something?”
The woman very calmly asked him, “Officer, how much money do you make?”
The officer told me he was surprised by the question. But he gave her an honest answer: his salary was about $38,000 a year.
She answered, “Well, I make almost as much as you do. And I don’t do nuthin’.”
I once participated in a raid on a crack house. The owner of the house was about 60. His house was disgusting; no electricity or running water, trash everywhere, roaches scattering at our approach, holes rotted through the floor, buckets full of urine and feces in the kitchen. An officer asked him, “How can you stand to live like this?”
The man answered, very articulately, “Officer, I have no stress. I don’t have to work. I get free food. I get free money. If I want crack, I let a dealer use my house to deal from, and he gives me free crack. If I want sex, I let a crack whore stay here and she lets me have sex with her. I have no stress at all.”
As years went by, and I met more people who seemed perfectly capable of working but received welfare, disability or unemployment instead, I came to resent the entire system. In my case, as a cop and soldier I literally risked my life to earn a not very big salary. And some of that salary was taken from me and used to support people who were just plain lazy or, even worse, career criminals. These criminals were running the streets all night stealing cars, burglarizing houses, robbing and even killing people. They were able to run the streets all night because they didn’t have to be at work in the morning. They didn’t have to work because we give them free places to live, free food, free medical care, and free money. They have the basics, they don’t have anyone telling them when to get up or where to be, they don’t have to do anything unpleasant like manual labor. They have no reason to even look for work.
No, not every welfare or unemployment recipient is like that. In the same complex as the drunken family I knew another family who were all employed, never got in trouble, and were trying to work their way to a better life. Some welfare recipients are worthy, but some of them sure as hell are lazy scam artists. The President has said “I’ve never known anyone who would rather live off welfare than earn their own living.” Apparently the President never met some of the people I have.
No, I’m not against all forms of welfare, unemployment or disability. My daughter was born on Medicaid, because at the time I was a rookie cop making $600 a paycheck, and health insurance would have cost me literally half my pay. I just couldn’t afford it. A few months later I switched to another department and got a significant raise, and got off Medicaid even though I was still eligible for it. I didn’t consider it an entitlement I should hang on to for as long as possible. It was temporary help that I paid into before I used it, and have paid into since.
I don’t have an issue with welfare or unemployment when it’s used to help a deserving person through a tough time. Anyone can have an accident, get sick, or lose their job through no fault of their own. A woman who chose to stay home and raise her children while her husband supported the family can unexpectedly become a widow. People who work hard and save every penny can fall victim to changing economic fortunes. Few of us have so much money put away that we can sail through any crisis without help.
But welfare and unemployment don’t just go to decent people who get sick, or stellar employees who show up at work one morning to find the doors chained shut. Sometimes, far too often, those benefits go to people like Sammy, or the family of drunks, or the crack house owner, or the woman at the housing projects. Unemployment benefits can go to people who choose to do nothing, because it’s easier to party all night and sleep all day than get up early and commute to a job they don’t like.
Yes, the examples I’ve described are anecdotal. Liberals will cite studies that prove 99.99999% of people on welfare/disability/unemployment are desperately struggling to get off entitlements and support themselves. People like me won’t believe those studies. I would really like to believe them. I wish I was wrong about this. I hope the number of people scamming the system is infinitesimally small compared to the number of deserving recipients. I hope I’m completely wrong when I say that among parts of the population, anyone who doesn’t cheat the system for unemployment or other benefits is considered an idiot, because it’s so easy to do.
But I can’t believe I’m wrong about this. Because my own lying eyes have convinced me otherwise.
Filed under: Writing | 26 Comments
Tags: unemployment, veteran writers, welfare