What Happened At Columbine


NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This is a piece I wrote about the Columbine tragedy. It turned out a bit different than I thought it was going to, but I think it works. It basically centers on the difficulty of really knowing the past with so many factors and interests involved, and ends with a counter-factual. A counter-factual is a sort of intellectual game we historians do to better understand what actually happened. We go through the facts and find a factor, usually a small one, that plausibly could have changed everything; presuming everything else stayed the same.

My factor was the fact that both of the attackers were under the legal age to buy the kind of guns they used and had to get them through an illegal “straw purchase.” In this case, meaning through a third-party, someone who got them at a gun show from unlicensed sellers. Had this not happened they would have been left with their primary bomb plot which if successful would have been the second largest domestic bomb attack after Oklahoma City. We, however, know that the large bombs completely failed and the homemade pipe-bombs were ineffective, all of the deaths coming from gunshots. No guns, no dead and what is seen as the first-mass shooting becomes an embarrassing fuck-up. I have also linked some song ideas- T.K. McNeil


What Really Happened At Columbine

By T. K. McNeil

When Are Facts, Really Facts?

Recording history accurately is a tricky business at best. Particularly when there is a degree of shock and trauma involved in the events. Passion, stress and the now known unreliability of eye-witness reports make accuracy difficult if not impossible to piece together.  Furthermore, human memory can lead to things being a matter of record that turn out not to be true. The only reason we have a good idea of what happened on 9/11 is that there is video. But to this day, there are theorists who believe there were explosives inside the towers that were the real cause of the towers collapse.

What happened At Columbine

COLUMBINE High School, Littleton, CO. The day after the massacre, Columbine High School students gather outside their school to pray and place flowers on the ground. (Photo by Zed Nelson)

Though such reports are baseless the “real story (the accepted story)” may be blended truth with myth and mythology. In several cases the same victim was, reported dead, twice or more.  But, how many were never found? Questions, questions, questions, an endless stream of questions. A similar situation from around this same point in history is the infamous Columbine school massacre. History to those too young to remember it, but all too clear to those who were old enough to believe they know what happened at Littleton, Colorado that day. The sad fact is, almost everything people think they know about what happened that terrible day in 1999 is faulty, if not outright false.

Doomed To Repeat It

Some might question why it matters if we get everything right. After all, what happened at Columbine did happen nearly twenty years ago. What happened at Columbine is still important because there is solid evidence that this single event sparked the American cultural phenomena of mass shootings. Not only figuratively in terms of being the first, but literally, in that it is known to have at least partly influenced later shooters. The Sandy Hook shooter for example, is known to have been involved in Columbine related threads. Why this was not a red flag for the police is anyone’s guess. Particularly when there are teenagers such as the YouTuber SeptikSiren, now being suspended from school under suspicion of being potential terrorists for re-tweeting Columbine memes.

Lies and Misconceptions

Columbine shooters

Columbine shooters Harris and Klebold

Some of the misconceptions about what happened at Columbine are small. The shooters liked Goth and Heavy Metal music. The real point, and a fact that was used to feed into a bigger lie was that Klebold and Harris were outsiders, loners, weirdos linked to a group called “The Trench Coat Mafia.”  This is not true. The confusion stemmed in part from the fact that this group and the shooters liked similar bands and dressed in a similar way.

Random Acts

Knowing that they did not belong to the Trench Coat Mafia undercuts many of the assumptions about the victims. What happened at Columbine was basically a random shooting. Eric Harris was a keen athlete and they were not targeting jocks. They were not known to be white supremacists and were not targeting blacks. They were not into witchcraft, a common rumor about the Trench Coat Mafia, and were not actively targeting Christians. Which is the root of one of the biggest bits of propaganda around the shooting.

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Books About Donald J. Trump and Other Literary Legacies


“A biography, is a detailed description of a person’s life. It involves more than just the basic facts like education, work, relationships, and death; it portrays a person’s experience of these life events,” Wikipedia

By T.K. McNeil

Write It All Down

Trump rarely reads and has been writing his memoir on his Twitter feed.

Trump rarely reads and is writing his memoir on his Twitter feed, 240 characters at a time

We live in an age of documentation. The word “biography” did not enter the English lexicon until relatively recently. We now have the ability to create personalized literature 240 characters at a time.  I’m sure a book about Donald Trump will someday be written based on his Twitter feed.  Before this age of technology however, a person had to be somewhat well-known  before anyone would think to write, or read, a book about them. One group that has almost always been in this category are U.S. presidents.

Once In The Ground

For much of American history, a president could count on being at least out of office before the ink began to fly. Some of the former leaders with the most pages dedicated to them being those who are long dead. Once in the ground, presidents become easy targets for writers and historians to delve into every aspect of their life and career from multiple angles. It’s always easier once someone is dead to dig about in their personal correspondence and investigate rumor and innuendo, and talk to people who shared time with the president.

Give It A Little Time

Before the 21st century most presidents were not written about until after death

Before the 21st century most presidents were not written about until after death

The explanation of course is due to the importance of each presidency to the history of the Republic and the politics of the time. Furthermore, once a president passes he is no longer available to explain himself and the effects of his actions are much more clear through the lens of time.

Paradigm Shift

In the early 1990’s, there was a bit of a shift in presidential biographies. The main outlets for written presidential accounts shifted from after-the-fact books and biographies to the minute-by-minute style of newspaper articles written as books at the time of their presidency. There have been many such books written about Donald J. Trump. Some writers are just trying to figure out what is going on, while others are tell-all’s by former insiders. One of the books written about Donald Trump, specifically his rise to power in 2016, actually being called, “How the Hell Did This Happen?” A bit more surprising is the fact that it was written by self-described “Republican” P. J. O’Rourke.

Actually Number One

There are so many books being written I have had to get an assistant reader

There are so many books being written about Trump I have had to get an assistant reader

For all Trump’s bluster about his achievements and profound faculties, many of them delusional, there is one area in which the current president holds the crown. There are more books about Donald Trump in the third year of his first term than any other living, let alone sitting president, in history.


Sounds crazy. Donald J. Trump can barely be bothered to read; and writes mostly in 240 word tweets, often with childish spelling errors. Amazingly there have been more books written about Donald Trump than any other living president. Which is now down to Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. None of whom are, or should be, immune from criticism.

Sheer Volumes

First let’s set some limits and define some terms. The focus is on books about Donald J.Trump specifically. More than only his presidency, but his life, his business career or even his campaign were scrutinized and written about extensively and published between when he got into office and now. There have been at least 51 books published about the Trump presidency since May 2016. At least 60% of these books about Trump books come out in 2018. Astonishingly, that’s 2.5 books about Trump per month for a total of 30 new publications in 2018.

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Sectarianism In Europe; Fear Of Foreigners


By T.K. McNeil

The Roots of Difference

Fear of others is a problem as old as humanity

Fear of others is a problem as old as humanity

Human beings are tribal. By definition. Whether it is literally in the context of a family, or a tribal group, or a nation, there is always an “in” group.  And as the Newtonian law of opposites tells us, there is also an “out” group. There has always been a fear of foreigners. Also known as xenophobia. Such is a biologically determined certainty.

Persecution  Of “Out” Groups

What is not certain, or even particularly static, are the qualities that separate the “in” groups and the “out” groups. There are some factors common to many situations but no single indicator that determines whether a group is accepted or rejected. Not even what is called “race” or “culture.” There being cases of persecution between groups of similar if not the same, or close cultural and racial backgrounds. On going hostilities have existed for thousands of years.

A Classic Rivalry

Nowhere is this basic fear of foreigners between similar cultures clearer than the history of war between European nations. Something that dates back over 7,000 years. Including noticeable examples such as the adversarial relationship between the city states of Athens and Sparta, which remained snippy even when both were threatened by the full might of the Persian Empire.

White As Snow

Simo Hayha was a snipper responsible for no less than 500 Russian deaths in 3 months

Simo Hayha was a Finnish sniper responsible for no less than 500 Russian deaths in 3 months in early WWII

The fear of foreigners was palpable during the Winter War. The general term for the failed attempt by the Soviet Union to invade Finland at the beginning of World War II. Famous for both its short duration, three months, and the mighty Soviets were soundly beaten despite having nearly three times the troops and equipment of the Fins. During the war,  a single Finnish sniper, Simo Hayha, nicknamed “The White Death” because he dressed in all white camouflage achieved heroic status.  Hayha earned 505 confirmed kills, some sources claim 542 confirmed kills, over the three-month period.

Neighbor Versus Neighbor

Not to mention the xenophobia-stoking door-to-door attempts of the newly liberated Serbians to take over their neighbors after the collapse of Soviet Yugoslavia in the 1990’s. What is now known as the Yugoslav Wars. The last of these being the infamous invasion of Albania in 1999. A major war crime by white Europeans against other white Europeans that saw the leader of the Serbian government, Slobodan Milosevic, ousted by his own military.

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REBEL GIRLS: Women In Combat


Women in combat had many faces during the Irish "troubles". Women and girls moved munitions, hid fugitives, and provided security for Republican neighborhoods.

Women in combat had many faces during the Irish “troubles”. Women and girls moved munitions, hid fugitives, and provided security for Republican neighborhoods, often frisking suspected loyalists at gunpoint.

REBEL GIRLS: Women in Combat 

By T.K. McNeil

Unfair Exclusion

Women are being integrated at all levels of the United States military including combat

Women are being integrated into all levels of the United States military including combat roles.


Women in combat comes across like a complex issue. Particularly in the United States with its military culture. As demonstrated by the fact that it had compulsory service longer than most other comparable Western democracies. Not stopping it entirely until 1973. There is still a Selective Service System that requires all male born US citizens to register for potential conscription by their 18th birthday. Which has raised questions as to whether the draft should be brought back and force women as well as men to serve. Raising and rehashing questions as to whether women are physically and mentally capable of combat.

Not An Enemy In the World

Women volunteered to serve their country during WWII but were banned from combat, and worked in ancillary roles

Women served their country during WWII. They were however banned from combat, so served as secretaries, nurses and supply techs.

Generally speaking, bringing the draft back to America is unnecessary. America already has one of he largest military’s in the world and no viable enemies in terms of conventional warfare. Are there rogue states who could launch a nuclear weapon? Possibly but direct invasion by land, sea or air is essentially impossible. And almost always has been. The United States has not been directly attacked by an official government actor since WWII. And even that was not the mainland United States, in fact at the time of the Pearl Harbor attack, Hawaii was not even a state. There has not been a direct attack on the mainland United States by an official, national military since 1814, when James Madison spectacularly failed to annex British-Canada. The Brits fought back, driving American troops back across the border. The Brits followed the retreating Americans and attacked Washington, D.C., burning down the White House. Before being pushed back themselves, ending the war in a stalemate.

For Home and Family

Men in the U.S. military outnumber women 100:1

Men outnumber women 100:1 in U.S. military

As to the question of women in combat, particularly as to whether women are physically or psychologically capable of fighting, just look at history. Not only can women fight, they have been. Quite effectively and for over a century. The main difference being that women are more likely to fight in situations of direct existential threat, to themselves, their loved ones or their autonomy. Which could partly explain why in the ostensibly all-volunteer United States military, which has not been used for national defense since the 19th century, men outnumber women 100 to 1.

Fight For Your Life

Israeli Prime Minister, Netanyahou talks to female combat soldiers

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahou talks to female combat soldiers during inspection tour

An example of women in combat for existential preservation in the current context is that of Israel. One of the few nations in the world with universal conscription. 92 percent of combat roles are open to women, 70 percent being actively filled by females. The only limits to service are that one must be an Israeli citizen over the age of 18. Israel also has one of the lowest rates of deferment requests overall. Between 1962 and 2016 535 female soldiers have officially been killed in combat. The heaviest losses came during the Six Day War in 1967.


German soldiers hold captive female Polish Resistance fighters

German soldiers hold captive female Polish Resistance fighters at gun point during search

Historically, women have been in combat, serving in both official and non-official roles, during some of the world’s worst  conflicts, including World War II. This was particularly true during the Jewish ghetto uprising in Warsaw, Poland in April and May 1943. Women and girls running espionage, shooting soldiers and fire-bombing armored vehicles side-by-side with men and boys. Many of the women and girls, some as young as 13, taking up arms against the occupying forces, were the same who had been routinely sexually exploited and violated by Nazi forces.

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Night Witches Regiment 588 by SABATON

The Night Witches were the all female 588th Night Bomber Regiment of the Soviet Air Force. Active during WWII, the regiment would fly daring night missions in old wood and canvas training planes left over from WWI. The sound of the planes swooping out of the sky to deliver their deadly payload sounding like a witch swooping down on her broomstick. A German commander reportedly said, “We simply couldn’t grasp that the Soviet airmen that caused us the greatest trouble were in fact women. To find out more about women in combat read T.K. McNeil’s fascinating article on women in combat, “Rebel Girls” coming soon to www.calamitypolitics.com. Thanks, Darlene