Showing posts with label Give Them Guns And Jesus. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Give Them Guns And Jesus. Show all posts

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Reprint Heaven: End Of The World As We Know It

(This, from 2012, when I actually spent more time and energy writing and posting.)























Over the long weekend that everyone took, I went to see 2012. It didn't help that I began coming down with a cold right there in the theater, but it wasn't a bad film, really -- and as a friend warned me over Thanksgiving dinner, "You'll only go to see the special effects": They were spectacular, true; but Woody Harrelson's fuzzy-wacky Pabst-Drinking conspiracy radio host, broadcasting from the edge of the Yellowstone caldera as it erupted, almost eclipsed the digital magic...


Will Smith as The Man, and Abby (Or Kona), as Sam The Pooch


Back at home, lying around with The Cold, I flipped through some of my 200 DVDs and found the 2008 release of I Am Legend with Will Smith -- which was a fairly good film, but only in it's alternate release version. I glanced at the Criterion edition of Fritz Lang's M; I ran a finger across the cover of Beetlejuice; I considered Pixar's The Incredibles (Dudes!! Where's the SEQUEL???). But it was "I Am Legend" that gave me pause.


Ahnold's (Supposedly) 'Final Film', Canceled By Voters


Smith had been offered the starring role as Dr. Robert Neville, because the first Star cast, Arnold Schwarzenegger, had become the Governator. I strongly considered watching Smith (a more than decent actor), but finally passed on it to check out the simple, unexpected wonders of the Teevee, and I was glad I did.


Here in San Francisco, a local cable public access channel occasionally runs films when they need filler for a spare ninety minutes or so (occasionally, they don't even run the full feature). The prints are always bad, and the sound worse, but it's interesting to see what the kids down in the studio will pick. A few weeks ago, they put up Romero's original Night Of The Living Dead; this weekend, it was The Last Man On Earth -- which is, aber natürlich, the earliest version of 'I Am Legend'.


There have been any number of End-Of-The World-As-We-Know-It stories and films based on the elements of I Am Legend28 Days LaterThe Stand; the late-70's BBC series, Survivors (certainly, "Shaun Of The Dead"); in an odd kind of way, even The Puppet Masters and Invasion Of The Body Snatchers.


These stories involve a nuclear war/alien incursion/mysterious plague (sometimes man-made) which kills and/or radically alters its victims; somehow, they turn into Zombies/Vampires/Unemotional Communists Alien Replicants; and, there is a single person/small band of plucky survivors, trying to find others who survived as well and get on with living in the Brave New World.


(Photo: The Incorruptable We Worship: Canada's dvdbeaver.com)


Last Man was released in the U.S. in 1965. It began as a property owned by Hammer Films in England, with Richard Matheson writing a script after his classic 1954 novella, "I Am Legend".


A Bantam Paperback: Forty Cents.


(Matheson later wrote another novella, "Bid Time Return", which became the 1980 cult film, Somewhere In Time; later, another novel, "What Dreams May Come" was turned into a fairly good movie about life in the Afterlife, with Robin Williams, Cuba Gooding Jr., Annabella Sciorra and Max von Sydow.)


(Photo: You Will Sing 'O Canada': dvdbeaver.com)


Hammer Films passed on turning the acquisition into a film, but sold production rights to the 'concept' (without Matheson's script) to a cut-rate American producer who filmed it quickly in Europe to save costs. It was directed by Ubaldo Ragona, whose only other films were Fiesta In The Caribbean and The Virgin and The Bastard -- fortunately for Ol' Ubaldo, "Last Man' is a cult classic, the only work he'll be remembered for.


"By night they leave their graves, crawling, shambling, through empty streets, whimpering, pleading, begging for his blood!" Said the film posters. How they signed Vincent Price to play the title role and add the voice narration, no way to know -- except, he did get a European vacation!


Nope; It's Not The L.A. Coliseum... Price, Hunting Vampires In The Amphitheater At 'Eur',

The Rome Suburb, Home To Mussolini's 'Architecture Of Fascism'


As a kid, I'd read Matheson's novella, set in a post-apocalypse Los Angeles. As a sort-of Southern Californian, it was easy for me to visualize L.A. after a Zombiesque, vampire plague. However, Last Man wasn't shot in SoCal; it was filmed in and around Rome, the Eternal City: The architecture, the landscape, the foliage was supposed to be American -- but in college, as I sat getting loaded and watching this thing on teevee, it looked... well, Jeez; it was Italy, for cryin' out loud. Even after several bottles of Chateau Du Safeway, the bunch of us watching the film could spot most of its really obvious 'goofs'.


Wandering West Covina In Search Of The Undead? Nope; Still Eur.

(Photo: The Sublime: dvdbeaver.com)


My favorite "production errors" were seeing vehicles driving in the far background in a number of shots of 'deserted America'; or, Vincent Price (who has been out hunting vampires for two or three years), needing to stock up on garlic to keep vampires away -- and stopping to pick up a few garlands in an abandoned grocery store. Garlic won't last in my kitchen for two weeks, let alone three years.


My favorite bits were the cars Price drove -- which, between cuts in the same sequence, would change from Chevrolets to Fords and back again. I hadn't seen goofs that obvious in a film since spotting a dead slave wearing a wristwatch in the slow-pan-over-the-battlefield shot in the last reel of Spartacus.


"Not tonight, Bobby; I have a headache... be a dear and get me

one of our daughter's pet rats, a razor blade, and a straw?"

(Photo: The Inscrutable: Canada's dvdbeaver.com)


Following the line of Matheson's novella, Price played Robert Morgan, an ordinary man, uninfected (apparently due to a natural immunity) by a plague which arrived from Europe. In a series of flashbacks (also from Matheson's novella), Morgan's daughter becomes ill with the plague, but he and his wife try and nurse her to health. The daughter goes blind; his wife becomes ill with the plague; but he believes they can get through this... until first his daughter, then his wife, dies.


Vincent Price As Morgan, One Step Away From Cracking Up

(Photo: Your Best Friend: dvdbeaver.com)


Now he has a problem; he knows they'll become vampires. Morgan can't bear to stake-and-garlic his own wife and child, so he buries them a long distance from their house. As he knew they would, they return to their old home, every night, standing on the overgrown front lawn and calling out to him. In a grisly way which he can't even admit to himself (They'll come back, man -- and you want them to), Morgan can't bear to be completely separated from the ones he loves, his now Zombized Vampire family, calling to him out of the night.


"We Got 'Glow In The Dark' Play-Doh, Baby... It's So Koooool..."

(Photo: The Scrumptious dvdbeaver.com)


Even his best friend (also seen through pre-plague flashbacks) appears with them to taunt Morgan, crooning for him to come out and join them... strangely, his Sta-Press hairdo remains the same after he goes over to join the Legion Of The Undead... and occasionally, he tries the ol' White House State Dinner Gate Crash through the front door...


"We Want To Meet The Obamas And Suck their Blooooooood!!

(Photo: Canada's dvdbeaver.com, who shall not be named.)


But, he does more than fight the vampire-survivors just to stay alive; he actively hunts them, day in and day out. He broadcasts on radio, looking for other survivors, without an answer. Suddenly, he comes across an apparently uninfected girl, after not having seen another 'normal' human for years -- and slowly, Price discovers that she's one of them ... part of a developing new society -- of vampires.


Price Staking His Claim As King Of The Vampire Hunters


They've developed a serum which keeps the weird, bacteria-like contagion that results in vampirism at low levels in the blood, which prevents them from lusting for it to survive, and to venture out in daylight. It allows the girl to pass for 'normal', and to get close to Price so that he can be neutralized. Because they see themselves as victims of Price's relentless vampire hunting.


"Don't Talk Trash To Me About The Dodgers -- Ever!!"


This is the masterstroke role-reversal Matheson slowly introduces into his story: We initially see The Man as lonely hero, lost in a decaying, shabby world and surrounded by infected, homicidal monsters. But from the perspective of the New Vampires, trying to create order and structure in a world changed by a disease without a cure, they've adapted to survive -- and to them, Price is no hero: He's the Outsider, his daytime staking and killing the threat to their existence.


"But -- But I Can't Be The Monster -- You Are !!!"

(It's The End Of The World... And You're Wearing A Tie?)


Their serum liberates them from most of the aspects of Vampyrism -- enough to build a New Order. Price is their monster, the thing New Vampire parents use to frighten their children before going to sleep, a boogeyman who comes in the daylight with garlic and a stake. And, he has to die, so that they can live without fear.


Irony: A Bus In Rome (Where The First Version Of Matheson's Story Was Filmed), Advertising the Latest Version, "I Am Legend" (2008)


The next take on Matheson's story, The Omega Man, was released in 1971 with Charlton Heston -- who made Planet Of The Apes in 1968, and would go on to star in an honest classic, Soylent Green, in 1973. Oddly, in a bit of deja vu, 'Omega' was made after purchasing the rights from Hammer Films -- which still had been considering making a film from Matheson's script.


In Hammer's vision, the property had a new working title -- "Night Creatures" -- but British censors considered the concept of an empty world with decayed corpses and vampires too graphic for 1970, and again sold the production rights to Americans... but the plot wasn't entirely okay with censors here, either (there was plenty of real gore on the nightly news, courtesy of the war in Vietnam), so some changes had to be made.


Omega Man was set in L.A., and Heston's character was named Robert Neville -- both points identical to Matheson's story. But the plague survivors in Neville's Los Angeles were not nocturnal vampires -- just albino, deranged paranoids, wearing black monk's cowls and Ray-Bans, suffering from a terrible sensitivity to sunlight. They were Luddites, to boot, organized around an anti-technological dream in a group called "The Family".


ZERBE: These wigs itch. How long does it take to set up a camera?

KIRKPATRICK: Got that right. It's fucked up, man.

ZERBE: Hey, Lincoln; we wear these shades all the time. Right?

What the hell -- let's get high! Who's gonna know?

KIRKPATRICK: I'm down with that, man. You holding?

ZERBE: I think those two chicks who say, "More! Burn it more!" have

some pretty decent shit. Let's go ask. Not like we don't have time.

Heston's nemesis was the leader of the Family, a former L.A. Teevee news commentator named Matthias ("You -- you creature of the wheel!"), played by Canadian actor Anthony Zerbe (a strong supporter of Werner Erhard's 'est' training, back in the day). Before this, Anthony had a small, supporting role opposite Heston in 1968, as a ranch hand in the western, Will Penny. And, Matthias' right-hand 'Family' member, Zachary ("Just let me put some explosive to him, brother -- just a little nitro!"), was played by Lincoln Kirkpatrick -- who in 1973 would appear opposite Heston in Soylent Green as a Catholic priest tortured by the secret of Soylent after it was revealed to him in confession by Joseph Cotton.


Anthony Zerbe, Character Actor Par Excellance --

A Softer version of Anthony Hopkins, in the 1990's


I wonder if Zerbe, Kirkpatrick and Heston ever talked on set about prior shoots working together, or if that wasn't considered appropriate when you worked with someone whose credits included playing Judah Ben-Hur and Moses and Andrew Jackson and Michelangelo.


When The World Ends, You Get To Use Automatic Weapons.


It wasn't a terrible movie; it was Heston's second science fiction film, after Apes and before Soylent. It had a typical look-and-feel of back-lot production values possessed by many Columbia, 20th Century Fox and Warner Brothers films from the late 60's and early 70's. Watching Heston's acting (he seemed to be playing Robert Neville as if it was his Michelangelo from Agony and the Ecstasy) made me feel his career had to be headed for the toilet. The end of the film has Heston's Robert Neville dying in a posture that is too obviously like that of Christ on the cross, and no one watching could fail to feel the weight of the Ham we were being asked to bear.


Chuck; Ah, It's About The Symbolism, Man. Painful; Ya Know?


I felt excruciatingly embarrassed for him -- Heston, who had played so many great roles in film, was doing burned cheese sci-fi?. But, I took all of that back retroactively when he became the public face of the NRA -- and I've been an NRA member.


( I'm a fan of end-of-the-world films -- and, hey; you really want to be frightened? See the 1984 BBC production, Threads, which was the UK's version of 'The Day After'. I guarantee you won't sleep for a week. No shit: I Guarantee It.)


(In fact, if you look carefully at the film's poster, down at the bottom, below the credits in very small type is the simple statement, "This Film Will Not Just Frighten You; It'll Fuck You Up For Life". )




Saturday, May 30, 2020

Probably Shouldn't Have Shown Yourself To Be Lovin' You Some Nazis In The Middle Of A Pandemic With 40,000,000 Unemployed, Huh

Remember: No One Is Coming To Save Us


1.)  "Everything Can Be Like It Was Again": America somehow calms down, the insurrection (because that's what it is) tapers off, and everyone on the 'Left' concentrates on organizing to elect Joe Biden in November. 
  • Covid-19 remains more-or-less quiescent through the summer (people still die, just not so visibly or rapidly). Another Covid support package rolls out of Congress, more money for struggling private-jet charter LLC's and Friends of Jared, and -- Oh Yes; enough trickle-down to keep 40,000,000 unemployed afloat and their children from starving, through the election.
  • On November 3, Biden wins by a large plurality: a wave of euphoria, a belief that Happy Days Are Here Again! send people into the streets -- not to scream rage, but to party. And in January, 2021, an addled, drugged Leader appears at Biden's inauguration; maybe there's an incident, maybe not. No one really cares, because Ding Dong; Th' Bitch Be [redacted]
This path is a re-affirmation of basic American principles, rejecting Trump as an aberration. It also relies on a general acceptance by black communities and People Of Color that more change can be gained under a Biden presidency, than four more years of proto-fascist criminals.

Somehow, America stumbles forward. Some 'social gains' are made, checks and balances are introduced. The Biden presidency spends more time trying to fix the damage wrought by Trumpism than actually governing. Things appear to be "getting back to normal".

The American Openly Fascist party criticizes Biden's lack of progress, taking no responsibility for enabling and supporting Trump. They demand austerity, an end to social safety nets as 'unsupportable', due to America's huge national debt in light of Covid. The virus, meanwhile, is tamed, even all-but-eliminated. Until the next one appears.

But most important, the structures of ownership of America by the 0.001%, are intact -- necessary to provide jobs, it is said. Some people say the inequalities laid bare in the spring of 2020 have only been painted over; but in the rush to Be Like It Was, few notice they are poorer, their social mobility, choices for employment and education, more restricted than before. That social surveillance and national security laws created since 2001 are still in place, and enhanced. Because Pandemic, it is said.

Obligatory Cute Small Animal Photo In Middle Of Blog Thing

2.)  "Business As Usual" : America simmers into the summer. Governors in multiple states call out their National Guard; as in Minnesota, Humvees and troops in Camo hold spot checks at strategic intersections and enforce curfews (Note: civil unrest in poor 'minority' neighborhoods; cities on fire; National Guard troops in the streets -- was a routine occurrence in America, every summer, from 1965 to 1971).  
  • The unrest drops in intensity but never completely disappears. The National Guard is replaced by municipal police in some areas. Neo-nazis and militias make some attempts -- some, spectacular and disturbing, as in May -- to spark their dreamt-of Boogaloo, but the incidents are defused.
  • Trump continues to rage-Tweet, bellowing on 'Fox'n Friends', but more people recognize he is profoundly disturbed, unfit for office, than before. Biden is elected in November -- not by a landslide, and it's clear some Right-wing attempts to suppress or even falsify voting occurred. Trump claims the election is a fake for weeks until, abruptly, he says he will not contest the results. In a tense inauguration, Biden assumes office. 
  • Trump announces a 'joint venture' with the Murdochs: a new cable channel, broadcasting the Trump message alongside News Corporation's media. Steve Bannon and Stephen Miller are executive producers and partners, along with Jared and Ivanka.
  • America stumbles forward, but the euphoria of Biden's election is muted. Republicans in Congress, eager to see Biden fail, remain obstructions to legislation: gridlock, partisan politics continue. Voters are frustrated, and whatever coalition the Democrats created for 2020 begins to slip. 
  • The Democrats may do what they've done before, and give the Thugs what they most want -- reductions to Social Security and Medicare, erosions to reproductive rights; more emphasis on religion through law -- just to move legislative packages through both houses. The Rethugs refuse to entertain any legislation to rebuild America's infrastructure. FDR's New Deal comes to an end.
America is uneasy. Armed militias and far-right groups, 'christian' leaders of megachurches, are now political fixtures calling openly for white power and preaching for a theocratic government. While most people dismiss them as fringe groups, local and regional politicians and legislatures are careful not to provoke them. Their spokespersons are interviewed on the PBS News Hour and Face The Nation. They are legitimized, part of the American mainstream. 

The social issues that sparked civil unrest in 2020 are not fully addressed, leaving communities of people marginalized, under-represented and still angry.  A disproportionate number of black men are still shot by police. There are fewer corporations; billionaires are still billionaires, but they're mentioned in the media less frequently. 

Unemployment finally stabilizes between 7 and 10%, but jobs being created are primarily in the 'service economy'.  Covid still appears in hot spots every winter; people still die, just not as many.

2023 comes to an end. For voters, the euphoria over being liberated from the rule of Trump has mostly dissipated. It isn't clear whether Biden has enough popular support for a second term. And a new Rethug challenger, a young, little-known Senator, from a second-generation immigrant family, appears -- sounding very much like a more reasonable, folksy, easy-to-like version of Donald J. Trump.

An unashamed 'christian', with a populist message of 'hard work' and America resurgent, he begins polling with likely voters in the high 40's, against Biden's low 30's, in campaign match-up polls. People respond to his open smile and gracious manner in television interviews. "I believe I've been chosen for a purpose," he says.

However, there are rumors that in private he is much less friendly -- vicious, in fact; that his smile never reaches his eyes; it's reported he once remarked privately that 'we ought to put these godless leftist sons of bitches in the ground'.

But many voters supporting him, and his GOP colleagues, don't care about the rumors: "He just seems like a leader." 

Additional Obligatory Cute Small Animal Photo In Blog Rant

3.)  "When You Come At The King, You Best Not Miss":  Unrest over the death of George Floyd, a trigger for an ocean of anger over deep and unhealed currents in American culture and society, spreads.  Trump carries out threats made on Twitter to send Regular Army troops into the cities to restore order. 
  • The military may establish curfews, checkpoints. This doesn't end the protests. There are escalating incidents; more protesters are injured or killed.
  • Armed militias may appear, to provoke demonstrators and spark their fabled Boogaloo. If they end up in a hot confrontation with Regular Army forces, that is a significant and separate level of escalation.
Past a certain point in this extreme scenario, the fabled 8-Ball Of The Future says "All Bets Are Off". Trump could declare a State of Emergency and effectively lock the country down -- it could also muzzle Biden, while Trumpo dominates the media through press 'briefings' a la Covid for hours each day. The election could be 'postponed'. 

The Democrats would be left scrambling -- while the Thugs support Trump to the hilt, not knowing where The Leader is taking them, their party, or the country -- and they won't care; as long as their personal interests are served. The country can step into actual fascism and collapse, and like it.

If things reached this level of chaos (or, if someone saw this as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity), it's probable some group would step forward -- with Trump as figurehead, or not -- to 'take control'.  There are very few layers in American society with the resources, or the absolute inner certainty that committing treason is a necessity. If you believed you were being directed to do so by god, for example. 

The country wouldn't know anything had happened until, suddenly, major media was disrupted (Fox, in all probability, would be given an exclusive to broadcast the Good News). Cellular and broadband service might become unpredictable. Banks might close, and restrict ATM withdrawls. Democratic members of Congress and the government might find themselves detained, or worse. The Army, already restricting travel and enforcing curfews, would execute last orders given until new ones came down. 

It wouldn't matter who the players were, or which figureheads would be chosen among the Rethugs to act as mouthpieces -- if their move to seize power succeeded, then the United States of America would end. Something else would begin.
____________________________

The civil war in Syria started with the arrest of some teenagers, spray-painting anti-Al-Assad graffiti on a wall; protests over their arrests a few days later, which were really about the inequalities and authoritarian rule of Al-Assad's regime, ended with police opening fire and killing some in the crowd. This led to a rapid spiral of more protests and deadlier reaction by the government. Some anti-Assad group began using weapons, firing back, and the civil war began.
____________________________

I'm not suggesting that any of these three views plays out, the civil war scenario particularly -- only to note that this seems a fork in the road. 

A disease, and events triggered by it,  have pushed America to a point where we can't go back to where we were. There are different groups, for different reasons, who see where we are, right now, as their chance to tear down the old structure and rebuild it. To what degree you would like to do that, and what means you feel are necessary and permissible, depend upon whose lens you view it through.

So, the future is not set.  For perspective, I do suggest looking at this, and then this.
____________________________

MEHR, MIT WIR KOMMT, U. HIER WIR SIND:  James Fallows, staff writer at The Atlantic Monthly, quoted by Digby, echoing something I'd been thinking about:
I’ll give you my voice-of-history overview here. I did a piece for The Atlantic a couple of years ago where I said that I realized that every article or book I’d ever written had really been about just one question: Is America going to make it? The story of the U.S. is trouble and the response to trouble.
But one thing that’s particular to this moment is that national leadership is the worst in my lifetime, and arguably the worst in our history. We’ve never had a head of federal government as unmatched to the duties of that role as we currently do. 
The question is how all the other sources of resilience and health in the country balance that singular but very important point of dysfunction, and the party that supports him too.
_______________________________ 

Friday, November 15, 2019

Twilight At Noon

A Long Howl:  Misery Does Not Require Acts, Only Conditions


Vanished World: Ours Will Also Seem As Remote
While from a Proud Tower in the town / Death looked gigantically down
-- Edgar Allan Poe, "City In The Sea" (1845)
The ... great age of European civilization was an edifice of grandeur and passion, of riches and beauty and dark reliance... The Old World had much that has since been lost, whatever may have been gained. Looking back on it from 1915, Emile Verhaeren, the Belgian Socialist poet, dedicated his pages, “With emotion, to the man I used to be.” 
-- Barbara Tuchman (1966)
______________________________

In The Proud Tower, popular historian Barbara Tuchman focused on describing Western culture in the decades leading up to the Great War -- a huge, red line of demarcation that finally separated the generations of the Nineteenth and Twentieth centuries.

Her story is a chronicle of human folly (one of Tuchman's favorite themes), and because we know how the story will end, a leitmotif of nostalgia we sense in the background is really the collective despair of survivors who had lost everything familiar, an entire frame of reference for living.

Edward VII's Sendoff: Royal Procession Of Mourners, 1910

She opened her book with a spectacle: the funeral of King Edward VII of England, who had been on the throne for less than a decade after the death of his mother, Victoria. Tuchman described the brilliant funeral cortege, royal houses and empires in uniform. As Edward's coffin rolled along London streets, "The muffled tongue of Big Ben tolled nine by the clock ... but on history's clock it was sunset, and the sun of the old world was setting in a dying blaze of splendor never to be seen again." One of the last displays of presence and power of the Elite of the Gilded Age.

Tuchman closed the book with another funeral: this one for Jean Jaures, Socialist member of the French Chamber of Deputies, and a  principal, seminal Left political agitator of the age. Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria-Hungary had been assassinated in Sarajevo on June 28, 1914, and with the interwoven alliances in that era, major European powers began slow-walking into war.

Jaures Speaking At A Socialist Rally, Paris; 1914

A general war had been building for the better part of a decade, and the Socialists in Europe knew working people in all countries would be the disposable cannon-fodder for nationalist politicians and industrial plutocrats. Jaures believed only a pan-European worker's strike, united under the banner of each country's Socialist party, could prevent the continent from being dragged into a catastrophe.

Austria-Hungary issued an ultimatum to Serbia, whose assassin had killed the Archduke, then mobilized to invade. On July 30, Russia declared a general mobilization; Jaures was pushing to organize the strike action with other Socialist leaders. While eating at a Paris cafe on the night of July 31, he was assassinated by a right-wing nationalist who had been stalking him. Jaures died at roughly the same time Germany's ambassadors were delivering messages in European capitals, advising it had declared war on Russia.

The Great War had just begun as Jaures' funeral took place in Paris on August 4, 1914. As the funeral cortege moved through Paris streets, Tuchman described a muffled bell of Notre Dame tolling, thinking of a poem by Schiller: "I summon the living / I mourn the dead."

Four years, three months, and the deaths of ~10,000,000 soldiers and civilians later, the war ended.
________________________________

We know we're living in a time of extremity. Everyone is figuratively holding their breath, waiting for ... something.  Tuchman's story led to a streetcorner in Sarajevo, and a few weeks in the high summer of 1914 -- and we read it with dread because we know where it ends. No one knows where our American story is leading.

Tuchman's story closed in 1914, 105 years ago. In 2019, there's no one reason to assume bad things are coming, in America -- because there seem to be an overwhelming preponderance of reasons. No one can be blamed for feeling the present moment is portentous, that we're approaching something, a Sarajevo moment, that will trigger a cataclysm. It's a continuous, negative feedback loop, difficult to shake off.
________________________________

America has ignored critical, obvious things for generations: contributing to climate disintegration; the inequality in wealth. We've ignored our real history of class, race and gender. We became an Empire, and behaved like one. We became a center to develop technology out of desire for novelty and profit, while reducing personal privacy and allowing our opinions, desires, habits to be harvested and exploited.

We ignored the rise of weapons availability and gun violence. We ignored evangelical christian religious extremism. We ignored right-wing domestic terrorists and white supremacists. We ignored a malignant right-wing media -- whose lies and distortion have created a separate, alternate reality, tailored for a specific segment of America's population.

Our great national weaknesses have been chronicled and discussed for decades. Then, we had 9/11, and the Forever War; the 2008 financial crisis; an internal struggle in the GOP (won by the Alt-Right); and a loss of focus or purpose by our political Left (ostensibly, the Democratic Party).

In the new Millennium, America became progressively more tribal, split along every fault line you can imagine -- Left vs. Right; Rich vs. Poor; Young vs. Old; Urban vs. Rural; christian vs. non-christian; White vs. Anybody Else; LGTBQ vs. homophobe; Men vs. Women. Into the mix, throw gun ownership, militias, private armies and private intelligence groups, and the daily drumbeat of lies, conspiracies, taunts and threats pouring out of the great echo chamber of the Right.

Never before have the 'deplorables', the Base, felt so empowered, so justified, so ready to take back what they have been told is theirs from a rag-tag crowd of liberals, hippies, immigrants, minorities, and devil-worshiping pagans.

And, I can't shake the feeling that there are too many 'responsible' conservatives who want some final, showdown battle with everything they hate in life, personified by liberals, women, and anyone different from them.
_________________________________

Sad Vlad's Pal.

Against that background, Trump was almost inevitable -- "I can drain the swamp"; the allegedly rich mogul with the blow-up doll trophy wife; America's Silvio Berlusconi. He is the personification of everything we've collectively ignored, the would-be Clown Emperor. Everything about his presidency is a symptom of the rot at the heart of America, and on constant display -- selfishness, arrogance; narcissism and misogyny; nationalism; religious extremism; racism and sexism.

If you were trying to find a political leader who, if elected, would blow America apart along those developed fault-lines -- someone who would subordinate the needs of a democratic nation-state to feed a bottomless, life-sucking pathological need -- Trump is precisely who you would pick.
__________________________________

I don't have any great expectations for the impeachment process. The hearings are important, historic. There will be moments everyone will recall with relish or anger. Generations will remember them, as  Watergate is remembered. From a legal perspective,  and for the historical record, they're essential.

Whether a majority of Americans understand this impeachment is about limits of Executive authority is an open question. The GOP will continue to push a conspiracy-fueled, barely coherent defense of Trump, designed to confuse and obfuscate, because that's what liars do.

Another part of that defense is the yet-to-be-released Barr report, which will attack America's intelligence agencies and federal law enforcement, claiming to document a titanic conspiracy by The Deep State to thwart a victorious, glorious Trump presidency. It's a lie, of course; a projection of Trump's distorted interior landscape, tailored by Barr and others to please and curry favor with The Leader -- and on that basis alone, it'll be astounding.

Barr intends people will go to jail because of The Leader's whims; that one cannot act against The Leader, lest they suffer. And Republicans in Congress, the huge megaphone of right-wing media, are eager to dominate any impeachment coverage with a constant smoke screen of lies.

The GOP will not walk away from Trump. He is their chance to roll back generations of Liberal political change, social programs, and legal precedents. That great work, blessed by evangelical pastors, is more important than anything. But they've gone all-in.

Last night on Amanpour & Co., journalists Jeff Greenfield of Politico and Carl Bernstein of Watergate fame were asked about the current impeachment hearings, compared with those 46 years ago. Greenfield noted Americans seemed to be more involved and informed about the issues at stake, during Watergate -- and that they seemed to understand readily how Nixon had abused his office. More of an effort will be needed to 'sell' impeachment to Americans in 2019, Greenfield thought.
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I'm certain the hearings will lead to Articles of Impeachment in the Democratically-controlled House, but (my opinion) they will die in the Senate -- probably after an abbreviated trial; McConnell has already indicated what the result will be. After, there will be protests and civil disobedience (watch carefully how Trump and the government he owns will respond, as a preview of what may happen after the 2020 election).

Then, we'll head to the election. If the Republican attempts to confuse and obfuscate are successful; if the Democrats can't coalesce, and field a strong candidate; if our voting isn't secure against tampering; if voter suppression in key districts is successful... short of an act of god, America could end up with another 1,640 Days Of Trump.

There won't be a second attempt at Impeachment; the majority of Americans will be stunned, dispirited, and "sink into the abyss of a new Dark Age, made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science." (Winston Churchill; June, 1940)

I'm also reminded of a quote by lawyer and philosopher, Joseph De Maistre, in 1811: "In a democracy, people get the leaders they deserve."
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Let's put on our tinfoil hats.

Trump wins re-election. That would be enough to trigger mass social unrest. His response could end in a national state of emergency.

Or, before the election -- if his poll numbers indicate he's in serious jeopardy, an "event" might occur serious enough to trigger a state of emergency. The election is disrupted or delayed.

Or, Trump loses, and refuses to concede, saying the results are "fake news". He asks "very good people" to bring their guns and come to Washington DC to "protect your president". The result would look very much like the confusion in a banana, or central African, republic as the government disintegrates.

Another possibility: if Trump loses the 2020 election and is replaced by a Democrat, the current "Cold Civil War" in America could turn hot:  asymmetrical warfare by rightist, white supremacist militias demanding -- something -- would likewise end in a state of emergency, a quasi-guerrilla war, endless paranoia and heightened surveillance.

If these circumstances become dire enough, other actors may step in. The military is one possibility, but more likely is a cabal of 'christians', backed by elements of a private corporate militia, might decide that god has called them to take control of America, end the sin, and bring the nation to His judgement and the path of righteousness. These actors are the best organized, best resourced group to commit treason on the scale necessary to succeed -- and, they believe they answer only to god.

There are scenarios, of course, where the Good Guys win, and America appears to have been 'saved'. Unfortunately, Fox and the rest of the Rightist echo chamber will continue pumping sewage; a Trump loss will make 'The Base' apoplectic, and right-wing violence will increase.

Any Left political leader elected to the Presidency will find it hard to govern in as fractured a nation as America is in the second decade of the 21st century.
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Before you completely laugh off the possibility of a Republic of Gilead option for America's future, please consider these two news items:

1.)  The Ohio State Legislature has passed House Bill 164, the “Student Religious Liberties Act.” Under this law, students can’t be penalized if their work is scientifically inaccurate, as long as their reasoning is based on their religious beliefs.

If a public school student turns in a class assignment stating the earth is only 10,000 years old, if it's based on their religious belief, the student cannot be given a failing grade for the question.

The Bill also requires:
  • Public schools to give students the same access to facilities as provided to secular groups, if they wish to meet for religious expression;
  • Removing a provision that allows school districts to limit religious expression to lunch periods or other non-instructional times;
  • Allowing students to engage in religious expression before, during and after school hours to the same extent as any student in secular activities or expression;
  • Prohibiting schools from restricting a student from engaging in religious expression in homework, artwork or other assignments.
2.)  Former Time and Los Angeles Times journalist Joel Stein appeared on the PBS News Hour on Thursday, November 14, to discuss his new book, "In Defense Of Elitism".

Stein spoke about visiting the town of Miami, Texas, and his observations that Americans there were not uninformed or ignorant, but very determined that their point of view was true and correct:
...They [residents of Miami, Texas] were very white, and they were very christian.... And their anger about what is going on was different from what I thought it would be. And I found out that what they're upset about is, they feel really discriminated against. These are the people that, if you asked, 'are christians discriminated against more than black people', they will say yes. 
...So what they have noticed is that white christians have less power than they did 10, 20, 30 years ago. And they're panicked about that kind of change. ...These people are voting for what they want for the country. I think it's a dangerous vision they have, in my opinion, but it's not ignorant.
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Thursday, February 7, 2019

Steak Of The Union

Eat Up And Leave, You Hoser
The Leader Speaks:  Sleep, America.  Sleep.

Tuesday night, The Leader delivered a rambling STFU address, written by committee (as these speeches are), only this one done more so and badly. He was pathetic; the script execrable, and it met the low expectations of nearly the entire national punditi class -- some of whom whom had said that the address would look and sound as if it had been slopped together by a Primary School.

(I'd thought of liveblogging the event [Archives are proof, I've done it before], but it would have been like channeling The Leader's twitfeed; like repeating a giant informercial for America™ Trump Timeshares. Couldn't stomach the notion; so, uh-uh.)
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Everyone heard a Reagan-era speech, built around references to an illusion of America which never was. Old-line Republicans like baseless appeals to patriotism ("Why? Because Freedom!"). Reagan's description of a "shining city on a hill" was outdated when he spoke the words, and is stupefyingly illogical to use any similar metaphor 35 years later.

(Not surprisingly, the "shining city" reference Reagan's speechwriters chose was drawn from a Puritan -- John Winthrop, who lead the Massachusetts Bay colonists from England in 1630. America, and the rest of the planet, continue to suffer the echoes of the Puritans' world view [principally its justification for class stratification, misogyny, and exploitation], as it shaped the cold-blooded and self-justifying behavior of America's hereditary upper class -- and all its institutions, which it does to this day.)

The Leader's speech asked Americans to focus on an illusion that past great deeds equal what we are today. It was a ninety-minute exercise in ignoring every major challenge we're currently facing as a nation or as a species -- but the speech implied that America's worst problems seem to be the political Left, and murderous Brown People From The South.

It was a speech appropriate for the Des Moines Chamber of Commerce in 1919, but not a Joint Session of Congress in Washington D.C., and for the rest of the world, in 2019.

Obligatory Cute Small Animal Photo In Middle Of Blog Rant

Ironically, a speech invoking the great deeds of America's past was being delivered by a mediocre, populist grifter -- the sort of person who always seems to show up just as Empires begin to fade. The Leader's hair appeared a darker and more uniform yellow (a few days before it had been almost whitish); otherwise, he appeared the same bloated caricature, a man who personifies every prejudiced, misogynistic and ignorant aspect of our culture. And he claims to speak for all of us.
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The Leader looked and sounded conspicuously unprepared to give a milestone speech -- as if he didn't have to be. He is Trump, The Magnificent, and can Wing It anywhere if he wants; fuck that Gravitas crap.  His delivery was halting, choppy, always changing tempo, as if reading something off the teleprompter for the first time, unsure what was coming next.

His delivery, like his entire presidency to date, was substandard and extemporaneous, painfully embarrassing to watch. The only thing we could be sure of : everything in the speech was written to focus on him. It would all be about him. It's all he knows or understands.

And for once, he'd be right. Just as the mid-terms were partly a referendum on Trump the man and The Leader, this State Of The Union speech would show whether he had listened to the message those midterms delivered. Or, whether he was going to shove his tiny manhood into the collective face of America while screaming fuck youuuuuuu!! As he does so often. 

I suspect The Leader believed this speech would be a Great Political Moment for him -- but as we observed, his Personal Best was the functional equivalent of licking his crotch in public while on international live television (Hey; as a Dog, I know about this).

Additional Obligatory Cute Small Animal Photos In Middle Of Blog Thing 
Think: You Never See The Two Of Them In The Same Room.
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The speech began with I Make A Mock Appeal To Bipartisanship, leading to I Am Responsible For A Wonderful Economy Which Benefits Working Americans Most. Then came My Tax Cut Benefited Working Americans Most; and then But There Is More We Together Must Do.

This was followed by We Could Accomplish More, But For Partisan Investigations.  Then, as we knew it would, came I Will Have A Wall / A Wall  / A Wall Wall Wall -- which tumbled abruptly into his introducing relatives of an elderly couple, apparently killed in Nevada literally days ago by undocumented alien Brown persons. Fear The Caravans! FEAR THEM! More Soldiers To The Border!



Well -- it was obvious we could go here, so we went.

Cynically, I had to ask myself: not to trivialize their loss -- but why would grieving relatives, whose loved ones (so said The Leader) had been killed days before, want to sit in the public gallery of the Capitol on display before international teevee? Is their love for The Leader that great? How do they feel about his Brutal Whiteman Daddy vision of the future? Or, were they chosen as representatives of The Base, to be seen as guest stars in the reality teevee show, Trump's America™ ?

Eventually, the speech wandered into I Say To You We Must End AIDS In America, and too, also We Must End The Scourge Of Child Cancer.  The Leader stumbled with the word "scourge"; but who could argue with either idea? Which was, of course, the point. The Leader is Compassionate. He feels for ordinary faceless peasant Americans like you. Really. No, really.

Finally came A Nod To Evangelicals That Soon, By My Bounty, Shall They Have A Late-Term Abortion Ban, surely the first of many Wonderful Things. And as the room erupted in Republican applause and cheers, TeeVee cameras showed Misters Gorsuch and Kavanaugh, sitting side by side, looking up intently, respectfully, at The Leader.

(That's called "Foreshadowing" -- the hallmark of quality reality teevee entertainment, like the program our planet has been forced to live in).

And sprinkled like raisins through the suet pudding of this event, The Leader directed his audience to Look! Look Up There! It's [A Grieving Family]  [A Sick Child]  [Old Soldier]  [Astronaut]  [Holocaust Survivor]  [Police Man]  [Trophy Wife]!

It went on, and on, and on. And after more and more and more, The Leader finally said Gobblezyou gobblezmurrika G'nite.


G'nite.  You can, of course, sleep on.  I suggest waking up as fast as you can.
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MEHR, MIT SPECIAL BONUS UPDATE:

Holy Mother Of God.  Fortunately, only a car part; but, still: Fuck Fuck Fuck Fuck Fuck.

It's been almost fifty years since anyone has fired a weapon at me, and while there was context for it at the time ("Since you are here, people will try to fuck with your basic existence"), the fact of guns and that humans use them at all leaves me speechless.  
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Wednesday, August 29, 2018

That Narrow Way Towards A Precipice

It Can't Happen Here Unless It Already Happened Here

(Graphic Mongo)
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It Can't Happen Here is a 1935 political novel by American author Sinclair Lewis. 
Published during the rise of fascism in Europe, the novel describes the rise of Berzelius "Buzz" Windrip, a politician who defeats Franklin Delano Roosevelt and is elected President of the United States, after fomenting fear and promising drastic economic and social reforms while promoting a return to patriotism and "traditional" values. 
...Windrip is less a Nazi than a con-man-plus-Rotarian, a manipulator who knows how to appeal to people's desperation, but neither he nor his followers are in the grip of the kind of world-transforming ideology like Hitler's National Socialism.
...Windrip takes complete control of the government and imposes a plutocratic / totalitarian rule ... Windrip's administration, known as the "Corpo[ate]" government, curtails women's and minority rights, and eliminates individual states by subdividing the country into administrative sectors... managed by "Corpo" authorities, usually prominent businessmen.
Those accused of crimes against the government appear before kangaroo courts presided over by "military judges". Despite these dictatorial ... measures, a majority of Americans approve of them, seeing them as necessary but painful steps to restore U.S. power... 
The novel's plot centers on [a journalist, Doremus Jessup's] opposition to the new regime and his subsequent struggle against it as part of a liberal rebellion. 
Reviewers at the time... emphasized the connection with Louisiana politician Huey Long, who was preparing to run for president in the 1936 election...  
-- Wikipedia Entry for "It Can't Happen Here"
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Friday, February 16, 2018

America Wants Its Guns And Jesus

Parkland, Florida: 17 Dead

Yet one more mass killing.

I understand what gunfire and injuries caused by weapons mean. In 2012, when twenty children -- 20 children -- were murdered at Sandy Hook, projecting my own experience into a situation involving the deaths of five-year-old children -- five-year-old children -- I thought this, finally, would be the event, the tipping point which would cause us to turn in collective revulsion, and something would be done about gun violence in America.

But it wasn't. And in the six years since, we've had Virginia, and Denver, and Florida (No. 1), and Washington D.C. And San Bernardo. And Texas. And South Carolina. And.

Every time this happens, it becomes Just One More Of Those Things That Happens. And, I've said it before: these incidents always happen Somewhere Else in this big Nation of ours -- until they don't. And Our Corrupt Whores Complicit In Homicides Sainted Politicians do nothing.

Our Bloated, Raving Skunk Sainted Leader says it's about mental illness -- guns don't kill people; it's the crazy nutjobs who do that.  But Our Sainted Leader can shut the fuck up and be damned: as I've said and unfortunately will go on saying, none of these incidents are about Operator Error.

And because I've said it before, here are reprints from 2015, and 2014, and 2012, after (then) yet another mass killing. And another.

And while the massacre in Norway in 2011 didn't occur in the United States, the connection between gun violence and right-wing consciousness is clear -- more of a threat in America than the rest of the 'developed' world.
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Virginia

I've already had to repost my thoughts about Sandy Hook after yet another rampage by some angry nutjob.  I'm not going to do it every time we see the effects of combining Angry Nutjob with Firearms, or I'd be reposting it every week.  But I will quote myself:
Only in cases like Sandy Hook does our national debate begin and end with, "Guns don't kill people; the people using them do". And that's it -- Pilot Error, essentially, is the public finding; and any other meme is just filler in the media. That, and people repeating, "It doesn't happen every day."

I'm sure that fact is a comfort to the extended families of twenty children, who died because they were shot with high-powered handguns. Twenty children...

What happened in Sandy Hook yesterday has happened before -- in Columbine; in Denver; In Virginia; in a mall in Seattle last week; at a Dairy Queen in the Northwest. There may not be massacres, but annually there are many multiple-victim, firearm homicides in America.

And they will keep happening, until something changes about how firearm ownership and possession is discussed, and regulated, in this country.

The debate is not about Operator Error.  It's not about something that happened "over there" in another city or state. It's about twenty dead children.
 Per Reuters:
Two journalists, reporter Alison Parker and cameraman Adam Ward of Roanoke CBS affiliate WDBJ7, were shot during a live interview on Wednesday by a disgruntled former station employee who later killed himself. The woman who was being interviewed was wounded and hospitalized.

Parker's father, Andy Parker, urged state and federal lawmakers to take action on gun control, especially to keep firearms out of the hands of people who were mentally unstable... "How many Alisons is this going to happen to before we stop it?"

The United States had about 34,000 firearms deaths in 2013...  with almost two-thirds of them suicides, according to the [CDC]...
The last time there was a push at the federal level for tighter gun control was following the massacre of 26 people, mostly children, at the Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, in December 2012... [the legislation] was rejected in April 2013 by the U.S. Senate, including by some lawmakers in [the] Democratic Party.

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Norway

I want to say this, right up front: In the United States, domestic terrorism is in fact committed by those on the Right. Period.

Don't agree? How many dirty hippie leftists plotted to destroy the Federal Building in Oklahoma City? How many bombs have been set off by "left-wing extremists"? How many family planning clinic doctors and nurses have been stalked and murdered by Buddhists? Or Progressives? Come on; how many?

How many organized groups of dirty hippies (some with illegal heavy weapons) publicly hail Marx and Lenin and claim they are "at war" with an illegal, 'occupation' government? How many churches, and alleged 'pastors', preach messages of exclusion, intolerance and hate towards Evangelicals? How many radio stations in America spew out a never-ending stream of hatred and bile towards conservatives, caucasians, and christians?

How many? How many?

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Sandy Hook

 (Photo: AP, via The New York Times)

There are no real words for what happened in Connecticut, yesterday. There is plenty to say about how it happened.

I overheard someone at work (a classic gun nut owner who believes Negros persons of color will overrun his part of the planet) observing that "this [presumably, massacres committed by unstable individuals with firearms] is the new normal".

On PBS' The News Hour, a professional psychologist asked to comment said (and I'm paraphrasing) that "It's important to say... this kind of tragedy doesn't happen every day... that schools really are safe places."

I reject the first comment. The second remark made me think: This fellow doesn't go to many Inner City schools, then -- massacres with 27 dead don't happen every day, that's true; but there are shooting incidents, and kids packing, and metal detectors, and education occurring against a solid backdrop of poverty and violence, every day.

The psychologist on News Hour was, I thought, trying to suggest themes parents might pass on to reassure their children (Don't worry, Timmy; It Can't Happen Here) -- that planes can crash, but the odds of going down in one, or having one crash on top of you, are hugely in your favor. And largely, that is true.

But planes do crash. Ships sink. Trains collide and buses plunge. Whenever that does happen, there are NTSB investigations, reconstructions and root-cause analyses. There are discussions with engineers and manufacturers about what to do to lessen the chances such a tragedy doesn't happen again.

Only in cases like Sandy Hook does our national debate begin and end with, "Guns don't kill people; the people using them do". And that's it -- Pilot Error, essentially, is the public finding; and any other meme is just filler in the media. That, and people repeating, "It doesn't happen every day."

I'm sure that fact is a comfort to the extended families of twenty children, who died because they were shot with high-powered handguns. Twenty children.

I've owned firearms; at various times because I was required to carry them, but afterwards had no sane reason to keep them. I don't want them in my home.

We live in a world of high anxiety, and there are persons who want to exploit those feelings of danger, threat, and imminent disaster:  Gun manufacturers, and their lobby, the NRA, are at the top of the list.  Mike Huckabee and the rest of his fellow Xtian evangelical ilk; there are 2012 World-Enders, predicting massive earthquakes and crustal displacement and 'coastal events', and ultimately few survivors.

There are White Power fascists, and Survivalists, and the people who manufacture and sell them freeze-dried food and plans for bunkers to shield against the EMP bursts from North Korean-launched warheads, detonating high above the USA.

What happened in Sandy Hook yesterday has happened before -- in Columbine, in Denver; In Virginia; in a mall in Seattle last week; at a Dairy Queen in the Northwest. There may not be massacres, but annually there are many multiple-victim, firearm homicides in America.

And they will keep happening, until something changes about how firearm ownership and possession is discussed, and regulated, in this country.

The debate is not about Operator Error.  It's not about something that happened "over there" in another city or state. It's about twenty dead children.

Along those lines are two, other very pertinent observations -- one, a part of the discussion at TPM Prime:
Memekiller:  ...for me, it's all about the NRA. I'm anti-NRA, not guns, and am offended by the strangle-hold they have over our politics. And I'm angry that Democrats have ceded the issue, only to have the NRA, if anything, put twice as much effort into unseating Democrats and Obama who, if anything, loosened rules on guns ...

... And the gun culture the NRA fosters... Would the prevalence of guns be as frightening without the culture of paranoia and conspiracies they perpetuate? It's not just about freedom to own a gun. The NRA culture is a cult of xenophobia and insanity. They don't seem to be aiming their message at responsible gun owners so much as the disgruntled and those prone to paranoia. They are less about developing an advocacy group than they are about assembling a well-armed militia of the mentally unstable.  
And the other, at The Great Curmudgeon :
Broken
Our discourse, that is. Fortunately, we have DDay trying to repair it.
Just to pick at random, here are a couple headlines at the Hartford Courant site just from the past 24 hours: Woman Shot, Man Dead After Standoff In Rocky HillArmed Robbery At Hartford Bank, Two In Custody.It’s not that school shootings like this are abnormal. They are depressingly normal. The fact that there were no shootings in one day in New York City recently was seen as a major achievement, which shows you how desensitized we have become to gun violence as a normal occurrence of daily life.Just a reminder. The NRA is an industry lobby for the gun industry. The industry that makes consumer products largely designed to kill people.  Not deer. Not rabbits.
People.