Tuesday, October 03, 2017

What's it take to make an assault rifle "full auto"? Not so much ...

When you hear the NRA and is political clients say it's hard to get guns that will fire full auto, check out bump stocks, paper clips, and other ways to make an AR-15 fire full auto, or close enough. It will be interesting to see whether Paddock managed to get "real" fully automatic weapons or some of these variations. As if it would make any difference to the victims.

Mass Shooting at a Concert in 1903 - After Las Vegas, Republishing My Notes on the Winfield Massacre

This is excerpted from one of my Shadowland columns for Newsweek in 2003. I reread it this morning in light of the Las Vegas massacre, but also remembered Trump’s past remarks about how terrorism supposedly was eliminated in the Philippines ... 

The down-home massacre in Winfield, Kans., took me by surprise when I came across it the other night while reading up on the history of this small town near the Oklahoma border.

I'm in the middle of researching a novel about terror in the American heartland, but the story of Gilbert Twigg got me thinking about the cost of being an occupying nation.

Here's the tale. One fine summer evening just 100 years ago, Gilbert Twigg "deliberately fired into the crowd of promenading people, at Ninth Avenue and Main Street, as Camon's Band was in the midst of its regular weekly concert." Six people died that night, and four more in the following days. Many more were injured. Described in earnest detail by correspondents of The Winfield Courier, the scene of Twigg
Gilbert Twigg
 emptying his shotgun and rifle at the bustle-and boater-clad crowd unfolds like a production of "The Music Man" interrupted by a rampaging Rambo. "At the first shot fired, Clyde Wagoner's horn was shattered in his hand and at the next, Rev. Oliver fell from his chair on the band stand. It would beggar fancy to attempt to describe the suffering of the injured, and the sight of prominent young businessmen dying in pools of their own blood made strong men turn aside their heads. A handful of brains on the pavement in front of the Craig book store, with young Dawson [Biliter] laying within a few feet in a pool of his own blood, is a representative picture of the vengeance meted out to an innocent public by the demented man.

"After firing his first two shots, Twigg arose and each time he fired he took a step backward, until he was in the alleyway back of Craig's where he came face-to-face with night watchman George Nichols and Cal Ferguson, who out of the crowd of several thousand people, were the only men who displayed any disposition to follow the veritable human canon [sic], and then still believing himself innocent and the victim of plotting enemies, Twigg took his own life, rather than be taken alive."

Twigg, we can infer, was a paranoid. He was also an Army veteran of the American military occupation of Cuba and the Philippines that began four years before. "His military training came in good play," wrote the Courier. "He chose the one evening of each week when most people congregate in a central place, he chose the spot from which to fire with the skill of a general; he commenced firing at a range of about 125 feet from the band stand; he dropped on one knee at each fire, then retreated backward, while reloading, then dropped on his knee again and fired. These are the skirmish line tactics of the army...."

Of course, nobody remembers the Winfield massacre today. Just as most people don't remember the savage wars--what Rudyard Kipling called "the savage wars of peace"--in which Gilbert Twigg enlisted. The people of the Philippines, it turned out, did not welcome American occupation after the Spanish-American War, and "the deteriorating situation provoked an ugly reaction among some American soldiers, who committed atrocities such as torturing prisoners," according to "For the Common Defense," a scholarly history of the U.S. military by Alan R. Millett and Peter Maslowski. "The final pacification campaigns on Samar and in Batangas were brutal. The ghastly massacre of a U.S. infantry company in Balangiga, Samar, in September 1901 whipped Americans into a vengeful fury." How could these people be so ungrateful? Some hawks, who were known more forthrightly as "imperialists" in those days, blamed "false humanitarianism" for the debacle, and a general known as "Hell Roarin' Jake" Smith was dispatched to carry out a scorched-earth campaign. What were called "concentration camps" became a vital part of the strategy in those days, just as "strategic hamlets" would be important in Vietnam. ... (The column continues with the theme of occupation)

Monday, June 19, 2017

Remembering James Dickey on Father's Day

Thanks to Alex Ashlock and WBUR's "Here and Now" for re-posting—on Father's Day—this 2013 interview about James Dickey's life and his Complete Poems.

Chris and James on the ferry from Dover to Dunkerque, 1954
I also posted several previously unpublished family photos on our Our Scrapbook.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Two Very Different Stories About Race and Hate in America

The Hellfighters Who Cut Down Germans and Gave France Jazz

What the 369th had that set it apart was strong leadership by black officers as well as white— and the best damned band in the American Army.


This History Channel video tells the tale of Harlem Hellfighters in combat and draws on the graphic novel by Max Brooks, but, oddly, doesn't mention James Reese Europe and the powerful role played by his music.

Inside the Head of Dylann Roof, Jihadist for White Hate

Never-before-reported documents about Roof's psychological exams give us a look deep inside the 'logic' of this murderous white supremacist—and terrorists everywhere.


The Macron Files: Superstar, Shooting Star, or Black Hole?

France's new president, Emmanuel Macron, has made quite an impression since his election less than three weeks ago. But his greatest accomplishments have been on the proscenium of international politics, upstaging Presidents Trump and Putin. At home he's already facing scandals that seem to give the lie to his promise of squeaky clean government. So, it's too early to tell if he'll remain a superstar, is just a shooting star, or like his predecessor François Hollande will become a black hole in the French political firmament. But here, for the record, are several of my pieces about him from the last couple of months. 

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Macron Handed Putin His A**, These Outlets Tried to Save It
At 64, Putin's a quarter century older than Macron, and he looked lost and frustrated next to the outspoken 39-year-old French president.



Macron Gets Under Putin's Skin, Shows Up Trump
Like Donald Trump, if Vladimir Putin thought the new boyish French president would roll over, he was in for a big surprise when they met for the first time at Versailles on Sunday.


Here's How World Leaders Are Learning to Handle Donald Trump
Small concessions, flattery, simple language, cultivation of his advisors, a united front, and low expectations are key to managing the U.S. bull in the global china shop.


Macron's Man on Terrorism
The professor Marine Le Pen loathes and the jihadists want to kill hopes that France can break out of the cycle of fear and hate promoted by both ISIS and xenophobic populists.


Emmanuel Macron Vanquishes Marine Le Pen

An Obama-friendly centrist has just crushed a pro-Trump right-winger to become the next French president. But ... who is this outsider with all the inside connections?


Did Macron Outsmart Campaign Hackers?
While it's still too early to tell, so far the big document dump by hackers of the Macron campaign has not been damaging.


Le Pen Vanquished in Final French Debate
The final French presidential debate—the only head-to-head between centrist Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen—ended in a clear defeat for the far-right populist.


Fighting Back Against Putin's Hackers

Emmanuel Macron isn't just fighting a neo-fascist in his race for the French presidency. He's battling some of Vladimir Putin's most savvy hackers, too.


France's Centrist Candidate Bans RT
The centrist running against Marine Le Pen to become the next president of France has denied credentials to Moscow's 'propaganda organ' as reports of Russia's efforts to undermine him grow.


French Far Right and Center Face Off
Trump's tacit endorsement of France's far right may have backfired, as France's centrist candidate took the lead in the first runoff. But Le Pen is still standing.