Godless: Great characters and storytelling

The NETFLIX original seven-part series Godless came as a surprise. I hadn’t heard of it, but somehow stumbled across it and ended up binging all seven episodes in a day. I highly recommend it.

Often we see new series compared to other series that set a high bar. Ozark was compared to Breaking Bad, which isn’t fair, as Ozark is different in several key ways. “Damn it, Darlene!” has now entered the lexicon between my wife and I. If you’ve seen the first season, you know what I mean.

Godless has an intriguing cast. Jeff Daniels as the bad, bad, bad, guy, Frank Griffin, is brilliant. Michelle Dockery, of Downton Abbey fame, as Alice Fletcher, the widow rancher worked perfectly.

Some of these characters might sound cliché, such as “widow rancher” but they are anything but. The story itself, the bad guy who turns, also seems cliché but it isn’t.

What I really liked about the story was that they explained some things, particularly history, but didn’t explain others, allowing you to draw your own conclusions. Who exactly was Sister Alice? She certainly wasn’t teaching those kids to read and she took Roy Goode’s money and opened a saloon? What exactly happened to Alice Fletcher’s second husband? What was with the German woman?

As part of the history, the Buffalo Solders were mentioned, an important chapter in our western history. Jeff Daniels awful childhood experience in the Mountain Meadows Massacre helped explain why he became what he became, although, strangely, they gave the wrong year for it. In the series he says it was 1854, when it was 11 September 1857. I know that because it’s one of the storylines in Nine-Eleven (Time Patrol). That event is one that few Americans know of. Mountain Meadows slideshow.

The overall story in Godless is brutal. It also is a strange combination of realism with a touch of mysticism. There are numerous subplots that are interesting without being distracting. Every character had a back-story, from the runaway German bride, to the sheriff going blind.

The ending might not have been as satisfying to some, but it had to be that way. Roy Goode had to do what he did—he was still a wanted man.

One thing I really liked was the subtext that reading is a life-changing and critical skill. From Roy’s letter from his brother, to the newspaper articles, reading played a key role in the story.

Cool Gus gives it four paws up.

Here is the trailer for Godless:

Slaughterbots—An Inevitable Reality of combining AI, drones and miniaturization

When you combine artificial intelligence, drones, and miniaturization, we have the potential for unbelievable terror attacks and a complete upheaval of the way we currently conduct war. And a powerful tool for terrorists.

The video clip below is not science fiction. Based on the current level of technology, it could easily be reality. Using artificial intelligence for targeting threats already exists. Drones already exist. And they are getting very, very small. The image to the left is of micro-drones released by a US FA-18. Now.

I predict the first drone terror attacks within a year. They will be clumsy: loading C-4 onto a mid-range sized drone and flying it manually to a target. Perhaps into the path of a plane taking off. Into a meeting room. A concert. A sporting event.

We have always worried bigger is more dangerous– the Terminator movies showed large robots killing humans. That’s going in the wrong direction. This is a case where smaller is more dangerous. How are you going to shoot down 100 small drones coming at you? How will a 13 billion dollar aircraft carrier protect itself against a dual threat of thousands of underwater and airborne drones all carrying weapons? A threat that would cost only in the millions compared to the price tag of a carrier? Or, more simply, surround the carrier with drones that swarm any aircraft taking off? Find the choke point and don’t just choke, sever it.

Some say there are positive aspects to artificial intelligence targeting. Machines aren’t emotional. Machines won’t disobey the “rules of war”. They won’t kill prisoners or innocent civilians.

Unless they are programmed to.

Think it through. If we can program drones, each sufficient to kill a single human, to kill everyone who uses the hashtag #resistance how quickly will the resistance be wiped out on day one? A bit simplistic. But it is simply an extension of what the NSA and other organizations are currently doing with their spyware. Spyware into weaponware is an inevitable step.

When we combine cyberwar with drone war things are going to get very, very nasty.

Our military and defensive mechanisms are already outdated.

I found this image and what was weird is that its of fighters dropping drones called Perdix, which is a name I’m using in my current WIP because Perdix is a nephew of Daedalus. The drones are the small objects in the top right.

The technology and capability to do this is easily obtained by non-states organizations. By anyone with an agenda.

What will we do?

The Gun Issue: Part Deux

I addressed some arguments of the gun issue after the Las Vegas shooting.

I feel a need to readdress some of the same issues and also add some arguments I’ve recently encountered after the Texas shooting. Which right there indicates a problem. After Las Vegas we were told “Now isn’t the time”. And it still isn’t apparently. It wasn’t after children were slaughtered in Newton. It isn’t now, and it wont be after the next one. We couldn’t even get rid of utterly useless bump stocks after 59 killed.

What I would like it be time for is civil discussion. For the vast majority of moderates to try to work together. To do that, we have to address some theories that are either illogical, or have serious flaws inherent in them.

The topics addressed in the first post, HERE, were:

If we restrict guns only criminals will have guns; I own lots of guns and have never had an accident or done a mass shooting; Chicago; I need a gun to stop the bad guys; We didn’t have this in the gold old days; It’s my Second Amendment Right; Hitler, Mao, Stalin all started by taking the guns; Shouldn’t we ban trucks and knives and anything else used to kill people? What about all the responsible gun owners?

I want to amplify on some of those answers, given the latest.

Many people are pointing to the fact that a citizen with a gun fired at and wounded the gunman in Texas. The President has said this prevented “hundreds more” from being killed.

Perhaps, although it appears the gunman killed or wounded a large percentage of the town over the course of seven minutes and was exiting the church when shot at. Apparently there are many satisfied that a 26 to 1 kill ratio is satisfactory; personally I’m not big on it. And that more guns would bring that number down. “Let’s bring guns to church” is a new refrain.

South Carolina once passed a law requiring all males to brings their guns to church. It was after an attempted slave insurrection by Denmark Vessey and they realized Sunday morning would be the best time for that when the slave owners were at church.

But here’s the thing. The answer many come up with is we need more guns to combat guns. Let’s logically follow that one. The US has more privately owned guns per capita than any other first world nation. By far. We also have the highest death rate by guns than any other first world nation. By far. If the argument that more guns would prevent these events is true, then what’s wrong? Is there a magic tipping point of more guns where that will equal less deaths by guns? Shouldn’t we actually, by the “more guns” arguments, currently have the least deaths among first world nations since we have the most guns? We have enough guns in this country for every man, woman, and child to be armed.

Additionally, while we focus on these shootings, we ignore the #1 cause of death by gun, which is suicide. Yes, yes, just like we argue that someone who wants to kill will find something else to kill with other than a gun, someone who wants to kill themselves can find something else to do it; but let’s all agree a gun is far easier? Or else why do people own them and don’t go hunting with a knife or rental truck? Suicide is often an impulse and a gun makes it easy to act on that impulse. Something more difficult, requiring planning and more time, might allow some people, including perhaps a few of the 22 fellow Veterans who suicide every day (most by gun), to have a moment to get past the impulse.

We can add in accidental discharges, which far outnumber the stopping of the bad guy in terms of wounds and deaths. That’s called friendly fire. With hundreds of millions of guns in this country, it happens a lot.

“We don’t need automatic weapons.” This one is a non-starter because I have yet to hear of a mass shooting where an automatic weapon was used. The Las Vegas gun-man used a bump stock, which as noted above, is worthless and inaccurate, unless someone wants the ‘feel’ of firing on automatic or shooting at a crowd of 20,000 people massed together from the vantage of the 33rd floor. Too many anti-gun people don’t know much about guns and they make inaccurate claims that hurt their case. Automatic weapons are very tightly controlled.

There is a lot of argument about “assault rifles”. Some unfamiliar with guns make inaccurate statements about them. But many who are familiar with guns also make inaccurate statements about them. Yes, you can use an AR-15 to shoot rodents and even to hunt other game. But the fact is the AR-15, the AK-47, and all the variants were designed specifically for the military. You can use it for other things; but there are other guns specifically designed for those other things that don’t take high capacity magazines and fire a round specifically designed for military use. In the case of the AR, it is the 5.56 round. Anyone who has seen what this round does to an adult, never mind a child, knows what I’m talking about. In fact, I am very much in favor of releasing the video of what happened in that church and the crime scene photos of every shooting. We cannot have a rational discussion about this topic with the vast majority of Americans having only a theoretical or Hollywood image of what happens. It would be terrible to do this, many families would probably be against it, but we have to face reality.

There are those who say the Texas shooter should have been stopped by the laws in place. True. The argument then goes that laws do not work, which is a rather ludicrous statement since our entire civilization is based on laws. In fact, using the Second Amendment, a law, to justify owning a firearm, and then saying laws wouldn’t work to get some control over those firearms, is contradictory. Because here’s the next thing: there is no illegal gun factory in the US. Every gun starts out legal. Many of the guns that criminals use are legal guns that are stolen. In essence, we are arming the very people we feel we have to arm ourselves against. Another snake eating its own tail argument.

Another thing I see is that the purpose of the Second Amendment is so we could fight back against a tyrannical government. This doesn’t factor in the fear of slave revolts as an additional impetus for Amendment, but that’s another story. My question is this: when will the time be for us to pull our guns out? How will we, collectively, decide our government has become a tyranny? I’m of the opinion we’ve had a coup in the past year and we have a Russian stooge as President, elected by a minority of the people with foreign influence—almost fits the definition of tyranny in a way. His comments praising Putin and against our own intelligence agencies just the other day are on the verge of treason. Who should I go out and shoot? I prefer to let the law and voting work. And many Americans disagree with me, which is fine. We can agree to disagree; I’m not going to shoot anyone. Today.

Another argument I saw was that we have an inalienable right to defend ourselves. Personally, and this is just an opinion, I rank the inalienable right not to get shot on a higher plane than that. Just saying.

We’re not going to do away with guns. I own guns. I’m trained on them and used them in my previous occupation and have always considered them a tool. I see a place for them, both as tools and for hobbyists. But I also see a place for rational discussion about the topic, which I believe the vast majority of people, including the majority of law-abiding gun owners, would be fine with. The extremists on both sides interfere with that, and sadly, I include the NRA which uses fear-mongering. It used to be a worthwhile organization but has gone too far.

I think we simply treat guns like driving and cars. Driving is a skill, so is handling a gun. Someone wants to own guns, they need training and to earn a current license for whatever class of gun they want to own.

Every car is registered, so every gun should be registered in a national database. When sold, the registration must be transferred.

Would it work? It would take years since we already have so many guns. But if we don’t start now, when? When will be the time for it? What is our acceptable level of bodycount? 59? 26? 20 six and seven year olds at school?

Licensing and registering would not be foolproof. Nothing is. We have tons of car accidents. We have people driving drunk. Texting while driving. Not getting licenses. Not registering their cars. (Interestingly, the factor of gun liability and insurance could be an intriguing aspect–Newton lawsuit). But something is better than the hodge-podge of inconsistent laws and regulations that dot our country. I had a carry license in WA state, but here in TN, there are different requirements. Interestingly, WA, a more liberal state only required a background check, while red TN, requires a background check and a day of training. Let’s get national on this.

I already anticipate two arguments against this: the tyrannical government will know who to come after to get their guns and where the guns are. But wouldn’t that be the moment all us gun owners know the government is tyrannical and we fight back? We’ve followed the law, we’re licensed and registered, have committed no crime and you want my gun? I don’t think so. It would be much clearer than the Night of the Long Knives or Kristallnacht and more national.

The second will be that criminals, of course, won’t obey these laws. Yes. But if we make mandatory prison of at least a year, such as New York City has (why did the guy driving the truck only have a paintball and pellet gun?), for those carrying a gun without both license and registration, that will put a quick chill on things and give police a powerful weapon against armed criminals. They won’t even have to have committed a crime with the gun. Just having it, unlicensed and/or unregistered would be enough.

But one thing for certain. Doing nothing other than “thoughts and prayers” is utterly worthless in real terms.

 

 

On other, more cheerful notes, I’m still giving several books away for free on my Freebies page. Along with some short stories and audio downloads.

Mass Shooters— Don’t Say The Name; Don’t Show their Picture

We had another one. Amidst all the prayers, thoughts, arguing, bluster, might I suggest one thing?

Don’t mention the shooter’s name. Don’t show their picture. At all.

I’ve been watching a show, Active Shooter: America Under Fire and a couple who lost a son at the Aurora theater shooting have a movement where they believe it’s key to not give publicity to these people. I agree wholeheartedly. It is a very worthwhile series to watch.

While notoriety might not be the primary motive for some of the shooters, it’s part of it.

They need to be treated as nothings. Nobodies. We should focus on the victims. The loved ones of the victims. We need to help those wounded in body and mind.

 

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Black Tuesday: 29 October 1929

88 years ago today, the stock market crashed and the Great Depression was officially ushered in.

But 29 October is significant in other years.

In 1980, at Eglin Air Force Base, the last test flight of Operation Credible Sport was taking place—the planned second Iranian hostage rescue mission. What if that mission had succeeded?

In 1969, at UCLA, the first Internet message was sent to Stanford. It got the letters L and O sent before the system crashed, thus accurately forecasting the future of the Internet. But wh

In 1618, in England, Sir Walter Raliegh was to face the executioner’s axe. But what if—

Black Tuesday (Time Patrol) examines these possibilities and more.

 

The JFK Assassination–theories and a “Mortal Error”

The release of a lot of new documents is interesting, but it still doesn’t explain the ballistics of the actual event.

Putting aside conspiracy theories, I like to focus on what actually happened at the crime scene. My wife has read pretty much every book out there about it– seriously. I’ve read some. We’ve watched lots of documentaries about it. One, JFK: The Smoking Gun by Colin McLaren is particularly interesting because he explores a theory initially raised in a book titled Mortal Error.

I like McLaren’s work because he does it as a crime scene investigator, focusing on the facts. I think his theory of accidental of an AR-15 from the trail Secret Service car is pretty valid– it explains not only the crime scene, but also a motive for a large part of the cover-up.

I did a short presentation on various theories below.

What do you think?

 

The Arguments Against Gun Regulations Reviewed

After simply saying that the gunman in Las Vegas did it because he could, I’ve gotten some blowback on it. Various arguments have been used to point out that there is no need for gun control; at least not more than we have.

Everyone wants to know “WHY?” did this guy do it. It’s driving them crazy. Because if he’d been ISIS we could focus on ISIS instead of the guns. Mental illness has also come up, which will be addressed below.

I propose WHY doesn’t matter. He did it because he can. That needs to be the focus. Put more narrowly, he was able to shoot a lot of people because he had the capability to shoot a lot of people.

But the pushback? So here are some:

Now is not the time!!!! Seems like if he had been Muslim we would have heard about the need for an immigration ban immediately. If he’d crossed the border, we’d have heard WALL!!! Come on, this is so bogus. Now is absolutely the time. Charleston was the time. Orlando was the time. Sandy Hook was most definitely the time and nothing happened. And it’s already been several days and all we’re hearing is the smokescreen of banning bump stocks.

If we restrict guns, only criminals will have guns. Yes. And? Isn’t that why we have laws? Strangely, these gun advocates feel that in this specific area, the rule of law is void. Doesn’t work. Yet they also are big law and order fans. The two don’t reconcile.

Also, is there a criminal gun factory we’re not aware of? Are criminals getting their guns from some place other than legitimately sold guns that either directly or indirectly end up in their hands? The shooter in Vegas was not a criminal until he fired that first round.

I own lots of guns and have never had an accident or done a mass shooting. Okay. And?

Chicago!!!! Yes? And? It is a city inside a state inside the country, all with varying degrees of regulation. We need to deal with this as a country. Factually, Chicago doesn’t have the toughest gun laws in the country as many say. It has a B+ for its gun laws from a nopartisan think tank. Chicago also is close to Wisconsin and Indiana which have very weak laws. 60% of gang related firearm incidents in Chicago are with out of state weapons.

New York City has some strict laws and its gun homicide rate is 2.3 per 100,000 compared to 14.7 in Philadelphia and 25.1 in Chicago. Something is working in NYC. Perhaps the zero tolerance, mandatory one year sentencing for carrying an unregistered firearm?

I need a gun to stop the bad guys!!! The John Wayne syndrome. Yes, it does happen. But statistically, rather rarely given the overall numbers. The cold, hard numbers indicate that having a gun in your household make you a much more likely candidate to die from a gun than not having one. Suicide is more prevalent. Gun accidents (can’t have one with no gun) are more likely. Yes, everyone who quotes this points out that they never have accidents, would never kill themselves, etc. but someone does. It’s numbers that are real. Facts.

The reality is in an active shooter scenario, a citizen pulling a gun becomes indistinguishable from the shooter. When taught how to clear a hostage situation in Close Quarter Battle, we assume everyone is a bad guy until they prove otherwise. An effective hostage technique is to tape toy guns in hostage hands. We ziptie everyone and let follow on forces sort it out. If you’re blazing away when law enforcement comes on the scene . . .

We didn’t have this in the good old day!!! It’s all those meds people are taking!! No. We had this in the good old days. We just didn’t have the firepower available. Also, this administration has seen fit to roll back restrictions on gun purchases for people with mental issues, so that kind of says it doesn’t see mental issues as an issue for gun ownership except when someone wants to regulate the guns. Then the pivot to mental illness comes up.

It’s my Second Amendment Right!!! The Constitution and the Amendments were not written in stone. They were written at a very different time. We can parse the words, but yes, it’s fine to have a right to own a gun, just as it to do many things. However, given the body count, perhaps some more regulations? In any other field when there are deaths, we try to improve things; but this is one area that we have sought no improvement.

Hitler, Stalin, Mao etc all started by taking the guns!!!!  If someone is truly afraid that our government is going to do whatever it is you’re afraid they’re going to do and take your guns, and that of others, and impose some kind of draconian system outside of the Constitution do you really believe you will stop the US Military or law enforcement? It’s also very insulting to the US Military to think they’d come to oppress you. Remember, officers swear their allegiance to the Constitution, not whoever is in office. So if you believe in the Second Amendment, why don’t you believe in the oath of office that our military leadership swears to that same Constitution? The very first law made by the very first Congress addressed this issue. That’s how important it is.

Ironically, the one time a large number of officers violated their oath of office, we had a Civil War, which is an entirely different issue.

We’ve actually had people act out politically with guns. Recently a Republican Congressman was shot by a citizen who felt oppressed. Was that a good move under the Second Amendment?

Shouldn’t we ban trucks and knives and anything else used to kill people? A silly argument that sidesteps facing the issue with guns.

Since 1968, when these figures were first collected, there have been 1,516,863 gun-related deaths on US territory. Terrorists have used trucks, and knives, and planes, fertilizer to make bombs and some other things, but the numbers aren’t even within 1% of that total. We lost 2,977 dead on 9-11. We completely changed the way we deal with flying. That is not even 1/10 of 1 percent of the number of gun deaths. Yet our response has been nil to the gun issue.

Our response to an event like 9-11 is all out of proportion to the posted threat in comparison with guns. We’ve spent billions, employed hundreds of thousands of people in order to prevent another occurrence. After Oklahoma City we’ve hardened federal building against truck bombings.

Can we not admit that guns are rather convenient, readily available and accessible? And over 1.5 million Americans, more than have died in all our wars combined, have died from them in just the last half-century? If we could just make that fact a start point for rational, national discourse it would be a huge step in the right direction.

In Special Forces we do a target/threat assessment, using the CARVE formula: Criticality, Accessibility, Recuperability, Vulnerability, and Effect. Yet this is one area where the threat assessment is lacking.

What about all the responsible gun owners? Absolutely! That is why we need to have a national discourse on how to deal with this. With so many guns in this country it is a credit to those owners how few are used in criminal endeavors.

The reality is that the great middle, both gun owners, and non-gun owners, want rational discourse on this and rational regulations. More than we have, but not a complete ban. I think the vast majority of Americans are reasonable people. We need to stop being swayed by extremists on both ends on this topic and on every topic. We can find a middle ground because there is a middle ground among the American people. BTW– yes. I own guns, my prior occupation used guns as tools of the trade, and I believe that the vast majority of gun owners are responsible people who actually are in favor of reasonable rules.

We have to start with the fact: he did it because he could.

Las Vegas: He Did It Because He Could

People are scrambling to answer the question “Why?”

I think it’s pretty irrelevant. In fact, I hope no reason is uncovered. Then we have to face a harsh truth that can’t be passed off on a terrorist movement, an ideology, racism, religion, political, crazy, etc etc etc.

He shot people because he could. He had the guns. He had the ammunition. He had the modifications to the guns to fire a lot of rounds.

I’ve been wrong on one thing. People have been saying automatic weapons need to be banned and they mostly are. I’ve always dismissed firing on auto—my training and experience is that it was a waste of bullets. Placed, effective semi-auto is much more dangerous. It just never occurred to me that someone would be placing plunging fire from the 32nd floor of a building into a packed crowd of thousands. I’m a fiction writer. I wrote about crashing planes into buildings before 9-11. But this? Nope. Here’s the scary thing—now it’s out there. It will happened again. Concert. Sports event. It will.

He didn’t have weapons capable of automatic fire as of the latest report. Instead he had something called a “bump-stock”. I’d first seen this a few weeks ago. It works like this: the shooter keeps his finger on the trigger, but otherwise keeps that hand free of the grip. The non firing hand braces the gun in the firing position. The gun fires, recoils back on the stock, which resets the trigger as a new round is loaded. The bump stock pushes the gun back to the firing position. Since the trigger finger is held stationery it thus ‘automatically’ pulls the trigger. I thought: That’s kind of dumb. What would you ever want that for as it makes automatic fire even more inaccurate? Got my answer.

You don’t have to be accurate in this instance.

So, while not technically automatic, it’s automatic. When I heard the firing, it  sounded weird to me. I’ve heard a lot of firing of all kinds of weapons. I knew it wasn’t an AR on auto. Almost AK, but not right either. Also, the time between firing made me think it was multiple shooters. One shooter with multiple weapons works too.

I remember a few years ago a range instructor was killed in Nevada by a young girl. Her parents took her to the range so she could fire guns. Including an Uzi on full auto. The instructor wasn’t 100% focused, she pulled the trigger, the gun recoiled. He’s dead. That’s how it happens. A momentary lapse. Happens every day. Every day. Guns do not forgive. Guns also don’t fire by themselves.

But people can’t shot someone without a gun.

I’m seeing all the argument in social media about suppressors, automatic, “if he didn’t use a gun he’d use a truck” etc etc etc etc. I don’t care.

He used a gun. Multiple guns. He used a modification on the guns to fire a lot of bullets from weapons which have been designed for combat; not sport shooting or hunting. That’s not opinions or open to discussion. Those are facts. I know guns. I know the history of guns. I know weapons from all over the world. They were the tools of my previous occupation. I have a lot of respect for those who use guns in their occupations or for hunting. I worked with some of the best shooters in the world. Who did it every day.

When Sandy Hook happened I was devastated. I know what it feels like as a parent to lose a child. And to lose it that way would have been even worse. It is an exclusive club you do not want to be a part of. Despite that, I always believed, and still believe, the crime scene photos of Sandy Hook should have been splashed on the front page of every paper, presented on the cable news nonstop. Yes– horrible. But not many Americans have seen what 5.56 does to the human body. To a child’s body.

More parents have lost children this week, not just in Las Vegas but all over the country. They’ve lost spouses, parents, brothers, sisters, friends, lovers—people.

It comes down to a simple fact we have to digest and let it become part of our true reality.

He did it because he could.

The Job Most People Desire?

According to Yougov, it’s author. 60% of those surveyed picked Author as the #1 job they’d like. That’s much higher than movie star (31%). So Cool Gus says pssshww Brad Pitt. Opps, that’s actually Sassy Becca.

Unfortunately, a survey of 1,007 indie authors indicated the average earnings were $10,000, a number greatly skewed by a handful earning over 100k. 75% reported earnings of less than $500 a year. So if one can live off $500 a year . . .

When I started out writing I was living in a one-room, unheated apartment above a garage. I also was in the Army Reserves and since Special Forces was in high demand, I’d constantly get calls to go to interesting places (not) and meet interesting people (not). So that supplemented things.

Today my 72nd book (I think), Hallows Eve (Time Patrol) is published. My first came out in 1991 (it’s free—Eyes of the Hammer [Green Berets].

I’ve written thrillers, science fiction, suspense, historical fiction, survival manuals, a leadership book, writing books, and might be the only male author on the Romance Writers of America Honor Roll, with three romances, one of which made the top 100 of the decade 2000-2010.

Don’t do that if you want a successful career as a writer. But, I’ve had a career as a writer for over 25 years. So much for writing advice.

So, yay, pub day and I’m already into Area 51: Resurrection, the 10th book in my all-time bestselling series, picking up where I left off with Area 51: The Truth, because you know, there’s always more truth. And that’s the reason I’ve been able to make a living writing. Because I write.

Now that’s true writing advice.

Nothing but good times ahead!