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The white-Left Part 1: The two meanings of white

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

The Vegas Shooter and President Trump

Weeks after the murder of 58 at a Las Vegas country music festival by Stephen Paddock, most news outlets are still saying they don't have a clue what the shooter's motive was. It's as if only he had shouted "Allah Akbar" or "Heil Hitler" at some point, we could package his motivation up in a neat box and be done with it. I think the killer's issue is hiding in plain sight, but we don't see it because so many Americans share the shooter's problem. He was obsessed with guns.

As the result of investigations since his shooting spree, a picture has emerged of a man who had millions of dollars, three homes, two air planes and a girlfriend. He sent her a hundred grand before he bought it, so presumably he wasn't going broke. The spent his time gambling in Las Vegas where he was known as a high roller who might gamble a million dollars in a single night.

And yet he must have been a very unhappy man because he took his own life. He was on a suicide mission. When he opened up on the crowd below, he had to know it would result in his own death. He brought 23 weapons to his Mandalay Bay suite. Only one was a handgun and he used that revolver to end his life. No doubt he included the one pistol in his arsenal for just that purpose. The other 22 were long rifles. He converted 12 of them with "bump stocks" to fire like machine guns so that he could take as many people with him as possible.

Some enthusiasts trick out their cars with speed accessories and chrome, others trick out their computers with over-clocked CPUs and expensive video cards. Paddock was this way about his guns. He didn't just own stock guns. Many were tricked out with custom sights, grips, triggers, magazines, barrel shrouds and more. The arsenal he brought to his hotel suite has been estimated to cost about $50,000. Most were tricked out AR-15 and AR-10 semi-automatic assault weapons. For example, to a FN-15 rifle he had added an EO 552 holographic scope, 100-round Sure­fire magazine, and a Slide Fire.  His "top gun," the one he probably did the most killing with, was a $3,000.00 next-generation AR-10 known as the DDV-V1.

Since he was a lone gunman, it's hard to imagine why he thought he needed to smuggle 23 guns into his hotel suite to do what he did. Leaving aside, for the moment, the complete irrationality of murdering so many civilians for no apparent reason, what rational plan required that many guns? I think the answer is that he had a fetish for guns, these were his babies. These assault weapons were designed for mass slaughter. He had spent thousands of dollars, and a lot of care and study, to make them the very best assault weapons he could legally own. Whatever target shooting or hunting he may have done with them as practice, mass slaughter is what they were designed for.  He probably wanted to do a little real killing with each of his "babes" before he put the only handgun in the suite, of the five he owned, into his mouth and pulled the trigger.

His plan was also painstakingly thought out. By firing on the crowd from his high perch, he made people lay flat, just as the first responders were recommending, making them lying ducks. He set up two shooting stations, with tripods for stability, from two windows he broke out in adjoining rooms with a hammer he had brought for that purpose, so that he put people in a crossfire. He even set up his own video surveillance in the hallway.

Of the 50 weapons he owned, 33 were purchased in the last year, and then many were customize. Its safe to conclude that in addition to gambling, planning operations like this mass murder became a major pastime for Paddock recently. Beyond the general vacancy that was his life, we may never know what put Stephen Paddock on the road to suicide. We do know that guns became a very big part of his life.

The country music festival had been going on for three days, and Paddock had been in that suite on the 32nd floor for four. What was he doing up there all those days? Planning his attack. Playing with his toys. The mysterious numbers he left on a notepad turned out to be sophisticated shooting calculations. Like all enthusiasts, the journey was the destination. His suicide was his arrival.

The weekend before he finally put his guns to purpose, he rented three rooms overlooking the three day "Life is Beautiful" Festival in Las Vegas. He rent the three rooms on different days but he held two rooms on the first day of the festival. As a high-roller in Vegas, he could have easily gotten a comp room at one of the casinos, and yet he went to AirBnB to rent a room in the 21-story Ogden condominiums overlooking concerts by Chance the Rapper, Muse, Lorde and Blink-182. He confirmed that he would be able to see the festival from his window when he made the reservation. It is not known what he did in the room, or what he had with him that weekend. Was he up there playing his massacre game? Nobody is saying that he attended the festival, so his extra effort to be close to it is curious.

If he was planning, and aborted, an attack on the "Life is Beautiful" Festival, it pretty much destroys any theory that tries to make a motive out of the country music festival as a target. The "Life is Beautiful" Festival had a different audience. Paddock also booked two rooms in the 21-story Blackstone Hotel overlooking the Lollapalooza festival in Chicago's Grant Park, attended by 400,000 concert goers including Malia Obama, in August, but never checked in. Was that another aborted massacre? Police are also looking into a mention of Fenway Park in Boston. The picture that emerges is of someone who has been planning this for awhile, and with no particular target in mind, just thousand of people out in the open and below him. What a top gun would call "a target rich environment."

By what chance does a serial killer pick this person and not that as his next victim? Law enforcement officials said Paddock started preparing his attack soon after he checked in on Thursday. The attack came on Sunday night, the last night of the festival. Why did he wait till then? If the sheriff's latest timeline holds up, it started when a hotel security guard responded to an open door alarm and heard Paddock drilling a hole into an adjacent wall. He never finished. Seeing the guard in the hallway, he opened up on him, pouring more than 200 rounds into the hallway. Then he poured another thousand rounds down on the festival goers below.

It is thought that Paddock was drilling the hole to install another camera. If that is true, it means that Paddock was still in the "preparing for attack" mode even on the last night of the country music festival. The happen stance of the security guard outside his door, perhaps seeing that the drilling noise has already caught his attention, may have been just the thing that set him off. Except for that chance occurrence, might Paddock's weekend overlooking the "Route 91 Harvest" Festival pass with as little notice as his stay the weekend before overlooking the "Life is Beautiful" Festival? We probably can never know.

In a perverse way, Las Vegas was an appropriate venue for this drama because chance always plays such a big role in such tragedies. Still Paddock was on a road to Hell, he was going to unload on a crowd of people somewhere if he wasn't stopped first.

In another way the tragic drama is very timely because it contains important lessons and warnings for a world for which the most important immediate task is surviving the peril to the planet posed by United States President Donald Trump. Trump said Paddock "was a demented, sick individual" whose "wires were crossed pretty badly in his brain.”

While Stephen Paddock's obsession with guns resulted in the worst mass shootings in the US since the 1921 Tulsa race riot, Donald Trump's obsession is nuclear weapons, and this is infinitely more dangerous because he now controls them.

What Donald Trump calls "his concern for nuclear holocaust" goes back to at least 1969 when an uncle, Dr. John Trump, a nuclear physics and professor at MIT shared his concerns. He told that story in a 1984 New York Times piece William E. Grant did about the real estate mogul's "Expanding Empire." When asked what could possible go wrong, the 37 year old Trump took things in an unexpected direction with his surprising answer "What does it all mean when some wacko over in Syria can end the world with nuclear weapons?" The NY Times piece ended this unexpected segue into Trump's concerns about nuclear holocaust unprophetically:
The idea that he would ever be allowed to go into a room alone and negotiate for the United States, let alone be successful in disarming the world, seems the naive musing of an optimistic, deluded young man who has never lost at anything he has tried.
In 1987 Donald Trump told author Ron Rosenbaum that he was "dealing at a very high level” with people in the Reagan White House on what he called "The Subject," his cryptic label for nuclear weapons proliferation. Rosenbaum wrote that Trump was worried about a future in which "hair-trigger heads of state will have their hands on multiple nuclear triggers."

Trump was suppose to be using the interview to promote his newest project, but he kept drifting back to the dangers of nuclear holocaust. At one point he said "You know, a while ago you asked me to talk about the success of Trump Tower Atrium—it really does pale. It’s hard to get off this subject.” Even then, he really was obsessed with the issue, saying “Nothing matters as much to me now.” Rosenbaum wrote "He’s been “spending so much time on this other thing,” he says, meaning The Subject, that he’s hardly had time to think of conventional deals."

One small exchange calls out from this interview 30 years later as now President Trump threatens war with North Korea and Iran over the nuclear issue. Rosenbaum asks what he would do about a rogue nation's nuclear program:

Trump: “I guess the easy thing would be to say you go in and clean it out.”

Rosenbaum: “Like the Israelis did with the Iraqi plant?” In 1981 Israel bombed an Iraqi nuclear reactor.

Trump: “I don’t necessarily want to advocate that publicly because it comes off radical. And you know, without a lot of discussion prior to saying that, it sounds very foolish and this is why I get very concerned about discussing it at all.”

He said he would use heavy sanctions to make France give up her nukes, “They’ve got the bomb, but they don’t have it now with the delivery capability they will have in five years. If they didn’t give it up—and I don’t mean reduce it, and I don’t mean stop, because stopping doesn’t mean anything. I mean get it out. If they didn’t, I would bring sanctions against that country that would be so strong, so unbelievable... ”

Imagining how "D.C. people probably regarded Trump’s calls on The Subject," Rosenbaum makes reference to the Ancient Mariner's tale: "Remember the way Coleridge’s glittering-eyed stranger began buttonholing the guests at the feast to tell them of the vision of horror he’d beheld out there in the watery wasteland?" Thirty years ago this was already a man with an obsession.

Fast forward to the age of Twitter and we can see that his concerns about nuclear weapons are no longer the optimistic musings of a young man. His thoughts have turned darker. He felt the US needed more nukes, and he was especially concerned with keeping them out of the hands of the Iranians and North Koreans.

In September 2011 he tweeted about Iran "They laugh at us. We can't allow them to develop nuclear weapons." and "Iran’s nuclear program must be stopped – by any and all means necessary." In November 2011 he tweeted "American sanctions alone cannot stop Iran's nuclear drive."

In 2012 he kept up the drum beat against "the threat Israel faces from Iran's nuclear drive." with Tweets like "What's more dangerous for the country--the Iranian nuclear threat or @BarackObama as President?" while adding North Korea to his target list with such tweets as these: "Watching Pyongyang terrorize Asia today is just amazing!" and "We can’t even stop the Norks from blasting a missile. China is laughing at us. It is really sad."

One Tweet from 2013 has aged surprisingly well:

While other Tweets that year repeated the familiar themes: "Now China is helping Iran smuggle nuclear parts," suggesting "maybe we should knock the hell out of Iran and their nuclear capabilities?," predicting "Obama will someday attack Iran in order to show how tough he is," reassuring "@Israel will not allow Iran to get nuclear weapons." and complaining about the deal "We had all the leverage in our nuclear negotiations with Iran and our leaders foolishly decided to let them out of the trap. WHY?" As always, he was concerned about them laughing at us "Obama is now warning North Korea on the Yongbyon nuclear reactor. After Syria, our enemies are laughing!" and he wanted no nuke reductions for the US "Putin says Russia can’t allow a weakening of its nuclear deterrent—U.S. wants to reduce—are we crazy?"

In 2014 these themes continued with "they are building nuclear weapons in Iran and North Korea and Pakistan already has them!!" He also starting finding uncanny ways to combine the two existential threats to human existence together in the same tweet with such gems as "The only global warming that people should be concerned with is the global warming caused by nuclear weapons because of our weak U.S. leader" and "The global warming we should be worried about is the global warming caused by NUCLEAR WEAPONS in the hands of crazy or incompetent leaders!"

This theme continued in 2015 with "The only global warming we should fear is that caused by nuclear weapons." He continued the complaints about Iran: "Iran is desperate to develop nukes. Congress must increase sanctions against Iran." He hated the deal from the beginning: "The Iran nuclear deal is a terrible one for the United States and the world. It does nothing but make Iran rich and will lead to catastrophe" , "Iran continues to delay the nuclear deal while doing many bad things behind our backs. Time to WALK and double the sanctions. Stop payments!" and "Obama’s nuclear deal with the Iranians will lead to a nuclear arms race in the Middle East. It has to be stopped." and he goes on "Amateur hour with the Iran nuclear deal" Oh! The humiliation: "We look like we’re beggars’ in Iran nuclear talks"

During the December 15, 2015 Presidential Debate, Trump showed just how little he knew about the nuclear forces he had been obsessing about for thirty years, and was now trying to win control of, when he responded to a question about the nuclear triad in such a way as to reveal that he didn't have the first clue about what that means. As he rambled on to cover his ignorance: "That is so powerful and so important...Nuclear changes the whole ball game...the power of weaponry today. The power is so massive," his face just lit up and he became animated because he was talking about The Subject. Then he repeats the familiar refrain and again warned about the danger of unstable leaders in control of nukes:
The biggest problem this world has today is not President Obama with global warming, which is inconceivable, this is what he’s saying. The biggest problem we have is nuclear – nuclear proliferation and having some maniac, having some madman go out and get a nuclear weapon. That’s in my opinion, that is the single biggest problem that our country faces right now.
In 2016, Trump as running for president and the Tweets reflected this, so now it was "@HillaryClinton’s Nuclear Agreement," and "Russia has more warheads than ever, N Korea is testing nukes, and Iran got a sweetheart deal to keep theirs."

Trump issued many provocative warnings about The Subject during the 2016 campaign, such as on March 30th when he asked Chris Matthews on MSNBC "Somebody hits us within ISIS — you wouldn't fight back with a nuke?" and said he wouldn't rule out using nuclear weapons even in Europe. When Matthews said that nobody wanted to hear talk about using nuclear weapons, Trump responded "Then why are we making them? Why do we make them?"

The next day Trump doubled down on this in a Fox New interview. After promising "The last person to press that button would be me....The last person that wants to play the nuclear card believe me is me," he said "Europe is a big place. I’m not going to take cards off the table. We have nuclear capability. " Then he repeated  "The last person to use nuclear would be Donald Trump. That’s the way I feel. I think it is a horrible thing. The thought of it is horrible."

Also in March he told Fred Hiatt of the Washington Post "I think we’re in tremendous peril. I think our biggest form of climate change we should worry about is nuclear weapons. The biggest risk to the world, to me – I know President Obama thought it was climate change – to me the biggest risk is nuclear weapons...The biggest risk for this world and this country is nuclear weapons, the power of nuclear weapons." He repeated the chorus line to the New York Times: "When people talk global warming," Trump said. "I say the global warming that we have to be careful of is the nuclear global warming." He would always use this device to turn any attempt to query his views on climate changes into another discussion of The Subject.

In his March interview with Bloomberg, he talked about how he planned to use unpredictability on nukes to gain respect from the Muslim world.  “They have to respect us,” Trump said of Muslims, “The first thing you have to do is get them to respect the West and respect us. And if they're not going to respect us it's never going to work. This has been going on for a long time. I don't think you can do anything and I don't think you're going to be successful unless they respect you. They have no respect for our president and they have no respect for our country right now.”

Trump was talking about all Muslims here and this question of respect that he so harped on did not seem to be a two-way street. The explosive combination the world is dealing with now is that Donald Trump is more than just a maniac with nuclear weapons, he is a white supremacist that allows those racist views to cloud his judgement.

In April 2016 he showed just how far he had drifted from his earlier opposition to any nuclear proliferation when he told the New York Times it would be okay if Japan had nukes, “If Japan had that nuclear threat, I’m not sure that would be a bad thing for us.” Nor would it be bad, he said, if South Korea and Saudi Arabia had them too.

Joe Scarborough said on his show in August 2016 that a foreign policy expert advising Trump said "three times he asked about the use of nuclear weapons. Three times he asked, at one point, 'If we have them, why can’t we use them?'"

On December 22, after he was elected president, Trump Tweeted "I met some really great Air Force GENERALS and Navy ADMIRALS today, talking about airplane capability and pricing. Very impressive people!," What's with the all caps? That was followed by "The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes."

He rang in the New Year by putting North Korea on notice again "North Korea just stated that it is in the final stages of developing a nuclear weapon capable of reaching parts of the U.S. It won't happen!" A month later he was officially president, and it was Iran's turn again "Iran has been formally PUT ON NOTICE for firing a ballistic missile.Should have been thankful for the terrible deal the U.S. made with them!" In March it was back to North Korea "North Korea is behaving very badly. They have been "playing" the United States for years."

In August he bragged "My first order as President was to renovate and modernize our nuclear arsenal. It is now far stronger and more powerful than ever before...." Two days later he Tweeted "Military solutions are now fully in place,locked and loaded,should North Korea act unwisely."

Since then he has been demanding the development of smaller nukes that can be used more easily in a variety of situations. He has been demanding more nukes, as many as eight times what the US has in its current inventory, and everyday he is beating the war drums louder against North Korea and Iran, and even adding others to his list.

An August tweet warned "Kim Jong Un of North Korea" that not doing as Trump demanded "would have been both catastrophic and unacceptable!" In September he started calling his North Korean counterpart "Rocket Man," allowing South Korea and Japan to buy more sophisticated weaponry, and flying nuclear capable bombers close to North Korea. When the threatening tweet "Just heard Foreign Minister of North Korea speak at U.N. If he echoes thoughts of Little Rocket Man, they won't be around much longer!" cause North Korea to say Trump had declared war on them the White House Press Secretary said they hadn't and called the suggestion "absurd." It will give North Koreans cold comfort that the US hasn't declared war on anybody in the past 70 years.

He is also heating things up with Iran again by making moves to pull the US out of the Iran Deal. He is now in a position to act out his long-held animosities towards both these countries and the war clouds are building as a result.

On October 5th Trump took the unusual step of admonishing his generals in public to demand more military options quicker. Could he be looking for a place to use a nuke? He said "Moving forward, I also expect you to provide me with a broad range of military options, when needed, at a much faster pace." Trump dropped a MOAB, the largest non-nuclear bomb in the US arsenal, in anger after he had been president only 82 days. How long before he tops that?

While taking pre-dinner photos  that same evening with military leaders and their spouses, the man with his finger on the nuclear trigger thought he'd have some fun with a nervous world. "You guys know what this represents? Maybe it's the calm before the storm," Trump said. When asked later what he meant, Trump replied: "You'll find out."

Right now, all this is a game for Trump, just as it was for Paddock. Until it wasn't.

Syria is the Paris Commune of the 21st Century!

Click here for my posts on the 2016 US Election
Click here for a list of my other blogs on Syria
Click here for a list of my other blogs on Libya

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