So…Just Who is Shooting Whom — and Why?

As you all know by now, or at least, you should know by now, I’m a historian by profession and education, and not just the sort of well-meaning amateur that many people are who call themselves “historians.”  From time to time I’ve had to professionally confront a number of historical conspiracy theories – I say “professionally” because they sometimes intrude on my work and I’m forced to confront them, rather than they being something I pursue of my own volition.  So I’m familiar with coincidence at a depth most people never have the opportunity (or need) to plumb – and the extent to which it exists and genuinely occurs is, frankly, astonishing.  At the same time, conspiracy has to coexist alongside Occam’s Razor, and that’s always an uneasy relationship.  The point at which conspiracy theories fall apart under their own weight is always that point when an act of human intervention intended to bring about a certain event, but which, even if successful, cannot alone guarantee the desired outcome without the successful implementation of still other actions, adds layers of complication which lower the probability of the desired outcome through conspiracy to a level below the probability of that outcome happening through coincidence.  Conspiracy theories always rely on certain specific events taking place (or not taking place, as the case may be) at precise times and in precise manners – and there is never any recognition given or allowance made in the subsequent explanations of them for a “Jesus factor.”  The conspiracies presented by conspiracy theory apologists ALWAYS work out perfectly, first time, every time.  You’ll never find one where the admission is made “So-and-so failed to do this or forgot to do that, so the following corrective actions had to be taken to bring the conspiracy back on track.” Such perfect execution is – and must needs be – in and of itself an object of suspicion, insomuch as it doesn’t recognize that randomness and chaos are always a factor in both nature and human activity.

Thus I recognize human beings as being more “cooperative” than “conspiratorial” in nature, even when malevolent ends are the objective of that cooperation. By this I mean that it is much easier to arrange for incidents that are specific and limited – but independent of one another – which in and of themselves cannot decide the outcome of a larger event, but which in aggregate have the potential to significantly influence the outcome of that larger event. This is the disturbing submotif about which I’m wondering in this recent rash of firearms-related incidents. It seems as if there is now one occurring every day, and in the fevered media climate –fueled by liberals, progressives, Democrats, and their allies in the media, all of whom have no qualms about admitting that they are tossing gasoline on a fire they’ve willingly lit – too many people are getting caught up in the emotional responses to these incidents, too few of them stopping to think, “Hey, wait a minute, this is all a little TOO convenient…”

Of course, the other side of the coin, which said liberals, progressives, Democrats, and their allies in the media fail to recognize, is that more often than it breeds contempt, familiarity spawns indifference. There is a distinct possibility – perhaps even a probability – that if these firearms-related incidents occur with too much frequency and apparent regularity, the great majority of the population will become inured and eventually indifferent to them, as they will be seen as something akin to “business as usual.” It happens, we’ve seen it happen – witness Detroit in the 1990s and 2000s, or Chicago today; most people in Michigan outside of Wayne County came to a point where their reaction to the gun-violence in Detroit was to dismiss it with a shrug, saying “Well, that’s Detroit for you.” The same dynamic is in play in Illinois outside of Cook County today.

What I’m waiting for is to see how long it will take for the average American to comprehend just how he or she is being played by those same liberals, progressives, Democrats, and their allies in the media, and once they do – if they do – what will be their reaction…

Just remember, while you ponder as to just how right I am in this, that I’m Daniel Allen Butler…and you’re not.

GoogleBook — You WILL See Only What WE Want You to See!

Interesting development. Google Chrome now includes an ad-blocker that automatically blocks what Google terms the “most intrusive” ads. Their public criteria for that are ads which make noise, block the screen, or don’t have a “close” option — and all pop-ups (are those still a thing?) are also automatically blocked. Here’s the kicker — ads with a density of over 30% (that is, they take up 30% or more of the screen when they appear) are also automatically blocked, regardless of whether or not they comply with all of the other blocking restrictions. This means that a lot of news and blogging sites are going to be arbitrarily banned. It also raises the question of what other restrictions are in place but buried somewhere in the ultra-fine print. Then there’s the whole issue of whether or not Google ads will be given exemptions or some other sort of preferential treatment.

This isn’t a trivial matter, because it’s a unilateral action on Google’s part, no choice to accept it or opt out, no way to deactivate it. It’s another small step in the general online trend to take choice out of the hands of the consumer/user/viewer and place it solely with what I term the content intermediary — in this case Google. We’ve all seen how small encroachments on viewing choices led to Facebook eventually taking what is for all practical purposes total control of what we see on Facebook, often in spite of our explicit, expressed desires otherwise. (Which is why a significant exodus from Facebook began last year and continues unabated — and not the least of reasons why I recently left Facebook, never to return.) Google is not simply climbing onto that bandwagon, it’s firmly settling its cyber-arse in the driver’s seat. We’ve already had more than a convincing number of demonstrations as to how Google deliberately skews search results — now the Big G has taken it upon itself to begin making decisions for you as to what you can and cannot see.

This is how it starts, with something small that hardly anyone can find objectionable — after all, who LIKES to be bombarded with loud, annoying, and persistent ads? But it’s not at all a huge step from “it’s for your convenience” to “it’s for your own good,” with all the manipulation, compulsion, and control that phrase implies, as we’ve seen demonstrated on Facebook over the past seven or eight years.

Firefox is beginning to look awfully purty right about now….

Dunkirk: Can I Get a Refund for a Movie I Didn’t Actually Pay to Watch?

I finally got ’round to watching Dunkirk.

The trailers were better….

 As an exercise in film making and narrative construction, the movie is a work of genius. Nolan’s ability to weave three distinct but converging storylines together into a narrative whole is nothing short of brilliant, and when it clicked for me just what he was doing and how he was doing it, I was amazed at how seamlessly it succeeded. Where it fails, in my not-at-all-humble opinion, is as a theatrical experience. Now, you can’t approach Dunkirk expecting it to be Saving Private Ryan in reverse, where the good guys are being driven off the beach instead of landing on it — and a British version at that — Nolan made it clear when he was shooting the film that he wasn’t making another Private Ryan and wanted to avoid making a film comparable in tone and content. He succeeded in doing so technically — it’s artistically where he failed. Dunkirk is nowhere near as visually visceral (figuratively as well as literally) as Spielberg’s film, which is both a good and bad thing. Ryan wound the audience up so tightly in the first twenty minutes that they never really had a chance to relax and recover before the next round of shooting started — a lot like actual combat, in a way — so that when the movie ended, the audience, individually and collectively, sort of deflated.


Nolan never creates that sort of “tension — relax, almost — more tension” sequence. He carefully ratchets up the tension as the film progresses and never really lets it go, but this is the big flaw in the film: it never gets tense enough. In his other films, Inception, Interstellar, and the Dark Knight Trilogy especially come to mind, he creates a sense of immediacy within the film and sustains it: actions taken or not take have consequences right now, as well as in the near or distant future, seconds count, life or death can sometimes depend on whether you turn right or left, and whether you do so now or thirty seconds from now. And always there has been a looming sense of real, understood danger threatening the characters.

Dunkirk lacks that immediacy and looming sense of danger. Characters talk about having to hurry up and get whatever men they can off the Dunkirk beaches before time runs out, but the urgency of the circumstances shown to the audience never matches the desperation of the dialogue. The Nazis are never seen, apart from a few aircraft and two out-of-focus Nazi soldiers near the end of the movie, and for this reason they never really seem all that dangerous. We see British soldiers on the beaches willing to risk drowning, dismemberment, immolation, and obliteration to get away, but the audience is left wondering just what it is that they’re trying to get away from? If the danger they are fleeing is so enormous and awful that they would run such risks, what is it? There’s much talk of the threat of the Luftwaffe, and how it can pick off the British troops on the beach like fish in a barrel, but you never see more than three Nazi aircraft onscreen at one time, and as it turns out, they are the same three planes during the entire movie. So the Nazi Air Force seems to be pretty much a damp squib — which is far, far from the reality of the real events. Every fifteen to twenty minutes there is some bombing or shelling, but it almost has a desultory feel to it, as if Nolan suddenly realized “Oh, we’d better blow something up in order to remind the audience that this is a Dangerous Situation.” Keeping the enemy or the threat wholly or partially concealed for a large part of a film is a terrific method of adding suspense — remember how brilliantly Spielberg used it in Jaws, where you didn’t actually see the shark until 2/3 of the way through the movie? — but sooner or later the enemy or threat has to actually materialize and in some way demonstrate that it truly does deserve to be feared and that it genuinely is perilous. In Dunkirk the Nazis don’t seem to be a clear and present, imminent danger, but are rather more of an annoyance. The audience is left with a lingering feeling of “What’s the big deal? What’s all the fuss about?” There are moments when the film actually feels tiresome.

Making the problem worse, there’s no real, developed sense of the “big picture.” There are one or two shots very early in the film that try to convey the strategic and tactical situation in which the British Army is trapped, but the point is never firmly driven home. Nolan stated early on in production that he wanted to “humanize” the Dunkirk story by concentrating on small, intimate, personal stories of individuals — which can be and often is a very effective way of telling much larger stories — but as he does so, he constructs stories and vignettes where the audience is told rather than shown that the individuals Nolan presents are imperiled and then the viewers are expected to be empathetic to a plight that is never really very plausibly presented. Instead of the “little picture” standing in for and being enlarged in our minds into the “big picture,” in this case the “little picture” makes the “big picture” seem somehow diminished and thus the overall event itself is not as important as we are being repeatedly informed that it is.

And this is the greatest shortcoming of all — with the exception of the skipper of one of the small boats (modeled on Bert Lightoller of all people!) and his sons, the characters are so underdeveloped that it becomes near-impossible to empathize and sympathize with them, and thus make them real and relatable — there really isn’t anyone to actually care about in this film. This is due primarily to Nolan’s decision to minimize the amount of dialogue in the film. Ordinarily this can be a good thing, as it tends to keep a film from becoming overly “chatty” and works to reduce the amount of “So, tell me, Colonel, just what the hell is going on here?” sort of exposition that makes a lot of war movies tedious. The problem is in this case it results in almost all of the dialogue that is in the film being exposition — there are very few flashes of personality in the cast members’ performances.

Just as one swallow does not a summer make, one badly flawed film does not mean that Christopher Nolan has lost his touch as a director. He did, however, lose his way in Dunkirk, mainly by trying too hard to present a grand, even epic, historical tale within what are the equivalent of the confines of a short story….

Slavery…. So what’s the Big Deal?

Here’s a question for you to think about — and I mean THINK about it, don’t just knee-jerk in your reaction. What happens when the anti-Confederacy revisionism — the (disturbingly successful) efforts being made to ban any display of a Confederate flag, remove Confederate memorials, forbid identitying Confederate soldiers’ graves as such, etc. — the movement to demonize anything and everything that has any connection to the Confederacy because of its perceived ties to the institution of slavery — reaches the point where so little evidence of the Confederacy’s existence remains that people start to ask, “So, what’s the big deal?” where the American Civil War is concerned?

What happens when there’s nothing apart from a handful of museums dedicated to the history of slavery in America, and those museums are dismissed as propaganda because there’s no outside validation of the reality of that experience? What happens when the people who try to maintain the integrity of the narrative are marginalized and ignored because they’re perceived as over-stating their case — because there is no evidence for it apart from their own institutions and archives? “Because I said so!” isn’t “proof” of anything, whether the venue is a court of law or the chronicles of history. So then “It was beyond terrible — because I said so!” isn’t “proof” of the nature of slavery. It’s the outside evidence, evidence which can’t be controlled or manipulated by someone who is trying to shape a narrative, that provides that proof. Remove — don’t just discard, but destroy — that evidence, and the proof vanishes. Fact and opinion become interchangeable, and in the process both become equally meaningless.

There is already a legion of people who deny that the Holocaust ever happened, despite the avalanche of evidence that it did. So tell me, then, what happens when the time comes that someone says, “Dude, you’re just making this up — it couldn’t have been all that bad!” because every trace of the Confederacy’s existence has been wiped away?

Those who know me know that I subscribe to the “states’ rights” interpretation of the origin of the American Civil War, or, as I prefer to call it, The War of Northern Aggression. In my not-at-all-humble opinion, slavery was only one of a list of grievances that existed between the North and South in the mid-19th Century that both sides felt could only be resolved by violence, and not the most important one at that. But the North, in its victory, wrote the narrative of the war and made the (self-) righteous cause of abolishing slavery the shining beacon of the Union’s moral rectitude. But what happens to that narrative, that self-righteous self-congratulation when no one takes it seriously anymore because all evidence that the enemy ever existed has been eradicated?

Am I overstating the issue? Hardly. I’m not inventing this concept or this phenomenon. In 2015 and 2016, there were Second World War historical re-enactments in Great Britain that were cancelled because people were upset by the fact that some of the re-enactors dressed as German soldiers. The “German” re-enactors were actually banned from coming onto the venue if they were in uniform. These people actually thought they could have a re-enactment with only one side being allowed to show up. No, I’m not making this up. If you’re willing to take the time and make the effort, you’ll find the news stories that covered these incidents.

You know, it’s kind of hard to have the Second World War without the Germans in it — without the Germans keeping the French and British occupied in Europe, the Japanse would have been forced to limit their own war to the one they already had with China. No Pearl Harbor, no American involvment, no “bright flashie-big boomie” things over Hiroshima and Nagasaki. And yet that’s what some people tried to pretend they could do — they could have World War Two without any Germans in it. Now THAT is an absurd idea, isn’t it? Without the Germans, aggressive little devils that they are, running around trying to seize everyone else’s lebensraum and sending people with the wrong genetics up the chimney, there’s no cause for a war, is there? But there WAS a war, because the Germans WERE there….

And that is exactly my point. When one side eliminates — obliterates — the institutions and agencies that empowered and enabled the cause it opposed, its own cause suddenly loses validity. When you pretend the other side never existed and then try to erase any evidence that it did, you’re calling into question the legitimacy of your own beliefs and values. It’s an admission that your own motivations are so weak that they can’t even sustain themselves in a confrontation with the past.

Trying to pretend that an ugly chapter of our past never happened by trying to wipe out any evidence that it did is a fool’s errand. Ultimately that’s what these people want to do, however, whether they consciously realize it or not. Because they can’t make the distinction between slavery and the Confederacy, in their attempt to efface anything that proves the existence of the latter, they trivialize the former. You see, it goes like this: Slavery was a big enough deal that nations went to war over it. But wait, to have a war, you have to have an enemy. And if you can’t prove that there WAS an enemy, because you can’t prove that enemy ever existed, well, then, without an enemy, it couldn’t have been much of a war, could it? And if the war wasn’t all that big a deal, well, then, slavery really wasn’t that big a deal after all, was it?

And that is exactly where we’re headed….

And that’s the way it is…because I’m Daniel Allen Butler…and you’re not….

It’s MY Fault!

OK, let me make something perfectly clear, and at the same time take responsibility for something that has made a lot of people unhappy.

I’m the one who elected Donald Trump President of the United States.

I wouldn’t vote for Gary Johnson because the last thing the US and the world needs right now is an isolationist president.

I refused to vote for Comrade Clinton because…well, because she’s Hillary Clinton and that’s pretty much self-explanatory.

So I voted for Donald Trump. I saw him as having the potential to be this Republic’s Lucius Cornelius Sulla or Gaius Julius Caesar. I was hoping for a Caesar, because right now this country needs a Julius Caesar. He hasn’t proven to be Julian material yet, but so far he’s been no Lucius Cornelius. As far as I’m concerned, the jury is still out, so don’t look to find any cheerleading for the Donald coming from my corner. I will say that he’s showing signs of growing into the office, and that is encouraging. Time will tell….

But, you see, that’s the thing — it was me who elected Donald Trump, me and almost 63,000,000 Americans like me.

It wasn’t the Russians.

It was me.

And that’s the way it is — because I’m Daniel Allen Butler, and you’re not….

I’m Running out of Popcorn….

There just isn’t enough popcorn for all of this….

You know how difficult it is to look away from a train wreck as it’s happening? Well, the Democratic Party has been a continuously ongoing train wreck for the past eight months, and now it looks as though the locomotive just exploded.

The wreck began, of course, in July of last year when Debbie Wasserperson Schultz (she prefers “Wasserperson” to her actual name of “Wasserman”, lest she be accused of gender bias) resigned as Chairman (“Chairperson”) of the Democratic National Committee after she was perceived by the rank-and-file of the Party to have cooked the campaign rules in favor of Hillary “You’re a Dead Man” Clinton and against Bernie “Come on Over for the Weekend” Sanders. (Whether she actually did or not is still being debated — it’s a matter of interpretation and personal bias.) Then there was the little incident of Donna “I Love Sergio Mendes” Brazile passing along to Hillary questions that would be asked in the candidates’ debates BEFORE the debate — that this was a clear-cut violation of ethics nobody tried to pretend was otherwise.

Then there was November 8, 2016. No need to say more about that….

Now, here’s where the locomotive goes “ka-BLOOIE!”

Last night, here in Atlanta, the Democratic National Committee elected a new chairman, Tom “Things Ain’t Exactly Rosey” Perez. He defeated the presumed front-runner, Keith “Mohammed is My Main Man!” Ellison by a wide margin. (This sort of result — presumed front-runner gets his/her bahookie kicked) seems to be a trend now in elections involving Democrats.) So what do Ellison’s supporters do when the results are announced? They get up and stalk out of the convention all but chanting “Not OUR Chairman!”

Can it get any better than this?

Watching these bottom-feeders now feeding on themselves is political farce at its best. That river in Egypt has developed a massive tributary in the United States: when the “Progressives” don’t get their way, they pretend that they can ignore the outcome they didn’t want. Don’t like the outcome of the Presidential election? “Not MY President!” Don’t like the outcome of the chairmanship election? “Not OUR Chairman!” The only “progress” I see “Progressives” making is that they are becoming progressively more stupid every day.

Otto von Bismarck, probably the most accomplished practical politician who ever lived, once remarked to Friedrich von Waldau that “Politics is the art of the possible, the attainable — the art of the next best.” The “Progressives,” a collection of imbeciles within a larger collection of imbeciles, seem to have forgotten that sage observation. Then again, these are the same imbeciles who, in their rush to dismiss all of history as irrelevant — the only thing that matters to them is “the future,” as if “the future” is somehow not a product of the past via the present — have abandoned the collected and collective wisdom that could actually make them relevant and possibly even effective. Instead, they pout, whine, scream, and cry like spoilt children as they throw tantrum after tantrum, never seeing the expressions of disbelief, disgust, and dismissal on the faces of the adults who won’t be coerced or intimidated into giving in to the infants’ infantile behavior. In the process, those infants are destroying the only instrument to which they have access that could effect the changes they claim to so desperately desire.

I couldn’t make this stuff up, people — it’s like the Titanic: if I presented it as fiction, no one would buy it, because it would seem utterly implausible.

I just wish I could figure out a way to charge admission to watch this train wreck happen. I’d retire a very wealthy man.

Meanwhile, I gotta go make some more popcorn.

And that’s the way it is…because I’m Daniel Allen Butler, and you’re not….

Everything I NEED to Know about Islam I Learned on 11 September 2001…. Everything.

Everything I NEED to know about Islam I learned on 11 September 2001. Everything. I have friends who believe that there is such a thing a “moderate Islam.” I won’t go so far as to say that they are stupid — after all, stupid people are not allowed the privilege of being my friends — but they are naive for believing in a fairly tale like “moderate Islam.” Claiming that there is such a thing is like claiming that there was once such a thing as “moderate National Socialism” — and it shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that the Nazis and the Moslems were best of friends back in the day….

Islam is NOT a religion, folks, regardless of what its adherents and sympathizers will tell you. It is a totalitarian social and political ideology wrapped in religious trappings.

A religion, by definition, must allow for freedom of conscience: to truly follow a religion a person must arrive at the decision to do so through internal conviction, not external coercion. Inherent in any genuine religious system is the right to refuse to believe it in — or any other religion for that matter.

An ideology, on the other hand, does not tolerate dissent or non-conformity: everyone within its reach must adhere to its doctrines and dogmas, regardless of whether or not they personally accept the validity of those doctrines and dogmas. Everyone outside of the ideology’s reach must be brought into it, as their existence outside of the ideology’s control represents a threat to not only the ideology’s control over those it dominates, but also to the very existence of the ideology itself. Those of you who have studied Islam will immediately recognize that this is identical to the “Realm of Peace (the Moslem world)/Realm of War (the rest of the world)” dichotomy in Islamic doctrine.  Going hand-in-hand with this a fundamental doctrines in Islam that the existence of anyone outside of the “Realm of Peace” will not be tolerated — either they must be brought into the “Realm of Peace” i.e. convert to Islam, or they must be eliminated. No alternatives are allowed in either the Koran or the hadiths.

Which leads to the next point in understanding why Islam is NOT a religion: no genuine religion will espouse the idea of conversion by force. The existence of a God or gods is not something that can be “proven,” in the scientific use of the word, so belief in a God or gods is, again by definition, a matter of faith. The exercise of such faith is a conscious, deliberate, voluntary act, one that in essence states, however openly or privately one might do so, that “I have come to this point, no one has brought me here or made me come here: I now believe what I believe because it is what I have chosen — it the conclusion of my spiritual seach, and that of no one else.” Islam, however, has at its heart the doctrine of “conversion through coercion” — the use of force, including physical violence and threats of execution, to compel non-Moslems to renounce their own beliefs and embrace Islam. This is not some modern aberration or perversion of Islam, the doctrine began with Mohammed himself in 622 AD. Again, this is the methodology of totalitarianism: conform or die. History has provided us with more than sufficient examples of this, whether they be the Third Reich, the Soviet Union, Maoist China, or any one of a dozen tinpot dictatorships that sprang up around the world in the 20th Century.

In a nutshell, then, the difference is this:  a genuine religion will always allow the individual the right to free will, to follow his or her conscience, to believe or not believe as they feel is right.  An ideology, even one masquerading as a religion, will never allow the individual right to conscience or to not believe, but demands adherence, without exception.  That is the litmus test, it’s a simple pass/fail that takes only a few seconds to determine, but tells you everything you need to know when some ideologue is playing the religion card.

In the end, it comes down to this: the violence that we are seeing today — and was done on 11 September 2001 — is not simply a part of the fabric of Islam, it IS the fabric of Islam. Burying our heads in the sand, hoping it will go away, will not solve the problem. The world was shown the solution by men like Martel, Graf Salm, von Roggendorf, and Sobieski. The choice we have now is whether or not we will choose to profit from their example. The solution does not lie in continuing to pretend that Islam is something far different than what it actually is.

And that’s the way it is…

…because I’m Daniel Allen Butler, and you’re not.

“Put the Kitten Down or We’ll Shoot!”

Look, people, it’s not just the police as tools of oppression vs. young black men, it’s the police as tools of oppression vs. everybody. At issue is not the color of your skin but the how quickly and thoroughly you comply — comply with trivial and insignificant regulation, ordinances, and instructions, all of which are created not to expedite any particular process or achieve a specific end but rather to reinforce your sense of complete subordination to local, state, and federal authority. Their purpose is to further drive home the message that has been presented to the American people by their government since October 2001: you, collectively and as individuals, are expected and required to OBEY. No matter how absurd or illogical or openly counter-productive the commands and instructions given to you, OBEY THEM, because “we, The Government” (and this attitude is becoming more and more openly and completely embraced by state and local governments, not just the Feds) “have decreed that you must do so.” Common sense has gone out the window, as empty compliance, coupled with a fanatical devotion on the part of civil servants to “go by the book,” dot every “i” and cross every “t” ad infinitum ad nauseum, coupled with dire threats of punishment and retribution should anyone not do so, has become the norm.

There’s a pervasive pattern here, one where confrontation is the default behavior, offering scenarios where displays of petty authority almost inevitably escalate into situations where the application of force, up to and including deadly force, is deemed necessary, all the better to make the point to those not involved but witnessing the situation that it is in their best interest in the future to simply OBEY. Whether it’s the TSA pointlessly harassing travelers with vague and ridiculous travel restrictions which arbitrarily change from airport to airport (and sometimes from minute to minute), a clerk at Animal Control who simply can’t say “Whatever…” to someone dropping off a stray at a shelter, or some “well-intentioned” private citizen whose hysterical phone calls to police results in an unarmed man being shot and killed by a police officer without so much as a warning, the standard of conduct by and the default attitude of government employees has become one which seeks to escalate, rather than de-escalate, any potential confrontation. Why? To reinforce the the lesson: you must OBEY.

The proof of this can be found in this news story out of Dothan, Alabama, as reported by the local paper, the Dothan Eagle, on 31 December 2014: “Police say [Robert] Lawrence had gone to the animal shelter to turn over a stray animal, but became disorderly when told he could not leave an animal without showing identification. Police say Lawrence was a sovereign citizen, which is a group of people whose political ideology often leaves them at odds with the government. Lawrence was told repeatedly to calm down, according to police, then was advised he was being placed under arrest. An altercation then occurred and Lawrence was shot in the abdomen…. Houston County Coroner Robert Byrd said the 30-year-old Lawrence…died at 9:50 p.m. Tuesday.”

Apologists for the police will emphasize that Lawrence was “confrontational” and that the personnel at Animal Control may have felt threatened as a result — that is not an unreasonable position. The perceived threat, real or not, provoked a physical response from the police, who at some point came to the conclusion that it was necessary to resort to lethal force. That is where the situation becomes surreal, and demonstrates that the sense of confrontation between police, as the representatives of authority — and hence, the tools of repression — and civilians is rapidly expanding across the country. It is no longer simply an inner-city, or major city, or police vs, blacks problem any longer. The surreality stems from the fact that the individual at Animal Control in Dothan, when Lawrence refused to show identification, in turn to refused to simply say “Whatever…” and take in the stray animal Lawrence brought to the shelter. Instead, that person felt it necessary to initiate a confrontation over compliance with a meaningless regulation: it’s not as if Lawrence was trying to pawn stolen jewelry or a handgun with its serial numbers filed off. Let’s apply a modicum of common sense here, people: what difference does it make — really — whether or not someone dropping off a stray animal produces identification? That requirement was probably introduced into Animal Control’s SOP without anyone bothering to think much about it — and probably rightfully so, it’s a trivial thing. But what would happen if that self-same employee at Animal Control had been confronted with a 12-year old child who brought in a stray dog he’d found on the side of the road? I know of very few 12-year olds who have identification. So what does the clerk at Animal Control do in that case? Detain the child until he or she somehow produces the ID they don’t have? Lock them up in an empty office until their parents arrive? (There’s a legal term for that — it’s called “kidnapping.”) Do you see the point that I’m driving at here? A departmental regulation so insignificant that it doesn’t even aspire to the level of “minor” was invoked by an equally insignificant departmental employee enamored of their own imagined “authority,” which needlessly escalated into a confrontation, and then an altercation, which cost a man his life. What could have been — should have been — a situation where the clerk said “Yeah, don’t worry about it, it’s not that important” and taken the animal, which is Animal Control’s primary responsibility, instead became a fatal situation when the police, already mentally and emotionally “geared-up” for a confrontation, arrived on the scene. Take a few minutes to contemplate not just how this happened, but why.

Then think about this: you see fewer and fewer police cruisers displaying the motto “To protect and serve.” This decline is nothing more than an acknowledgement of the truth (in theory and in fact). And let’s face it, replacing “To protect and serve” with “Professional Law Enforcement” or “Proud to Serve!” is far less provocative than what would be an embarrassingly honest motto: “To shoot to kill — anyone.”

To read the full Dothan Eagle article, go here: http://www.dothaneagle.com/news/crime_court/man-shot-by-dothan-police-officer-has-died/article_bb63771c-90f4-11e4-936d-73a715876dfd.html

And that’s the way it is…

…because I’m Daniel Allen Butler, and you’re not.

Winding Down and Winding Up…

Well, I guess this is where and when everyone is supposed to get sentimental and maudlin, lachrymose and melancholy as they prepare to wave goodbye to 2014 in a bit less than twenty-five hours. Everyone but me, I guess. You were expecting that, though, weren’t you? You’ve come to expect me to be, by turns or in combination, cantankerous, cranky, obnoxious, cynical, irreverent, intolerant, condescending, skeptical, and sometimes downright rude. And after a while you probably just write it off as “Dan just being Dan,” with an occasional sprinkle of “How on earth does he live with himself?” thrown in for good measure. And frankly, that’s who I am – or at least, the Daniel Allen Butler persona you see here online is all of that, and it IS part of who the whole person is, but not all of him, not by a long chalk. But it’s also Dan’s way of keeping most of the world at arm’s length, because in 57 (soon to be 58) years, I’ve learned that I’m more comfortable with it that way. You see, like just about every year before it, 2014 was pretty much a mixed bag. I’ve had successes and failures (I actually had a book proposal rejected this year, the first time I wrote one that wasn’t specifically MEANT to be rejected (for contractual reasons) that was turned down); I’ve had big surprises, good and bad; I’ve experienced tremendous validation and excitement, along with painful disappointment. Taken all in all, pretty typical of “a year in the life of….” wouldn’t you say? I’m still on the green side of the sod, which means that the ledger is still in my favor; a good thing, considering the alternative, but let’s not get carried away with the thing. After all, in the words of Leonard McCoy, “What’s so damned troublesome about not havin’ died?”

Those of you who are still with me are here because one or the other (or both) of us made a decision to keep you here – which means you’ve gotten further inside arm’s length than the rest of the entire world has managed to do. (Some got even closer – the results were not what anyone expected.) Congratulate yourselves for that, because it means that collectively and as individuals you have substance – not because I said that you are such, but because your thoughts and actions have proven you to be so. None of you saw everything that happened here in this curious dramedy called “The Life and Times of Dan Butler,” though every one of you saw something no one else did, and some saw more than others. Not everyone who was here on this page a year ago is here now. Some were jettisoned. For some, we played “The Flowers o’ the Forest.” Some walked away, not just here but in real life as well. One of those who did broke my heart – and laughed while they did it. Again, it was all a part of that strange experience of total community and absolute loneliness we call “life.” It’s not fair, it just is. The great dichotomy of being a human being is the experience of knowing that you are simultaneously component with the whole of humanity and utterly alone. For some – for many – that thought is cause for dismay. Personally, I find it fascinating.

But I will tell you this. For myself, at least, I’m looking forward to 2015 much the same as I have looked at the 56 previous New Years I have known: yet one more arbitrary division in the whole experience of my life. I will make of it whatever I can, and try to bend as much of it as I may to my will — whatever I cannot I will take for what it is, good or bad, and try to profit, intellectually, spiritually, or materially, from it. For those of you want to continue to tag along, by all means do so. Not all of you will see the same things, nor will anyone – but me – see everything that happens here. Still, I can assure all of you of one thing: it won’t be boring!

Happy Hogmanay and Happy New Year to all.

And that’s the way it is…

…because I’m Daniel Allen Butler, and you’re not.