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Thursday, March 28, 2013

Don’t Let The Door Hit You In The Ass, Mike Huckabee

Mike Huckabee isn’t homophobic.

Mike loves all of God’s creatures, even the gay ones.

Sure he does.

That’s why he’s threatening to take his ball and go home if the Republican Party stops treating gay people like pariahs.

Given that recent polls show a majority of Americans now back same-sex marriages – or at least no longer actively object to the idea – Newsmax asked the former conservative governor if he saw the GOP dropping its objection to marriage equality.

Sounding like a Pharaoh who just realized he might have to build his next temple complex without Hebrew slaves,  Huckabee glumly admitted that the republican party might just pivot on the subject.

Then Huckabee dropped his ultimatum:

And if they do, they’re going to lose a large part of their base because evangelicals will take a walk

Evangelicals will leave the Republican Party?

Oh no!

What would the GOP be without evangelicals?

What would the GOP be without it’s shrill angry science-denying, gun-wavin’, money-loving, snake-handling, drill-baby-drillin’, gay-hatin’, uterus-obsessing, bible-thumping core demographic?

Why, they might even eventually become a reasonable party of rational people who could actually attract moderates from both sides of the political spectrum and who could reach a useful accommodation with the rational members of the Democratic Party and return the federal government, and hence the entire country, to some semblance of functionality and stability.

Good Gravy! That’s just crazy talk right there!

“And it’s not because there’s an anti-homosexual mood, and nobody’s homophobic that I know of, but many of us, and I consider myself included, base our standards not on the latest Washington Post poll, but on an objective standard, not a subjective standard.”

Well, I suppose it’s good that he’s not in an anti-homosexual mood (question: does that mean Huckabee is in the mood for a little homosexual? What, I’m just asking. He is a conservative evangelical minister after all. But I digress).

It’s patently obvious that Huckabee doesn’t know what the word “homophobic” actually means.

He certainly doesn’t know the definition of “objective.” 

He’s one of those people who vehemently deny that they’re bigots because they pretty their hatred up and disguise it behind a thin veneer of Jesus.

People like Mike Huckabee preach ad nauseum about the supposed failings of others and yet somehow always end up offended and outraged when they’re called out on their own bullshit.  As I recall there is a paragraph or two regarding a mote, an eye, and a beam in Mike Huckabee’s holy book, but then again that’s for other people, us I guess, not evangelicals.

There’s a word for these people, that word is hypocrite. 

And hypocrites were condemned over and over and over in the Bible. I think gay people were mentioned roughly six times. Seems to me that if God was so het up over gayness, he a) wouldn’t have made so many of them, and b) he’d have been a bit more specific about it in his Big Book Of Rules.

Huckabee says that evangelicals don’t base their standards on the latest poll (given the results of the last election, I suspect he might want to rethink that) but, instead prefer to base their worldview on whatever arbitrary nonsense issues forth from the pulpit.

This, to Mike Huckabee, is a “standard.”

All of which is a good example, a damned good example, of why a degree in religion from a religious “college,” like the one Huckabee attended, shouldn’t be considered an actual education by any objective standard.

And it’s an even better example of why religion has no business whatsoever in the government of a free people. Period.

“I have great sympathy and extraordinary admiration for Sen. Portman. I consider him a friend and I value his work in the Senate and think he’s a great person. The mistake is that we sometimes base our public policy decisions on how we feel, how we think, maybe even some personal experiences, and we don’t regard a lot of these issues from the standpoint of an objective standard.”

I have great sympathy for Senator Portman, i.e. I’m sorry that your kid turned out all faggy and shit, you poor bastard. Tough break.

I think he’s a great guy, I have great admiration for him, except for that part where I’m about to tell you why I think he’s going to hell because instead of condemning and disowning his gay kid, Portman acted like an actual parent. Portman actually did unto others as he would have them do unto his own children. God hates that, you know. Hates it. That’s why he didn’t mention such things in the Bible. Right?

The mistake is that we sometimes base our public policy decisions on how we feel, how we think, maybe even some personal experiences … like when you put down the religion and actually get to know some gay people you find out that, well, geez, they’re actually people just like other people.

Portman’s switcheroo is an abject example of somebody who suddenly realizes they’re being an asshole for the sake of being an asshole. If his kid didn’t come out as gay, he’d still be toeing the party line instead of behaving like a decent human being. The only thing Portman should get credit for is changing his position while still in office, instead of waiting until he was out of power – like Dick Cheney.

The primary difference between liberals and conservatives is this: circumstance.

It’s easy to be against universal healthcare, until you need it.  It’s easy to be against social safety nets, until you’re poor, or old, or unemployed. It’s easy to be for torture, until it’s your kid they’re strapping down on the table. 

It’s easy be against civil rights, until it’s your loved ones that are being discriminated against.

“Let me explain what I mean by that. If we have subjective standards, that means that we’re willing to move our standards based on the prevailing whims of culture.”

As opposed to what? The prevailing whims of your Bronze Age religion? As opposed to the prevailing whims of some random holy man who thinks that he has a right to impose his ideas on the rest of us? You mean like that?

You mean how Republicans changed their standards when they invited evangelicals into the party?

“Politicians have an obligation to be thermostats, not just thermometers. They’re not simply to reflect the temperature of the room, or the culture, as it were. They’re to set the standards for law, for what’s right, for what’s wrong, understanding that not everybody’s going to agree with it.”

How’s that again? Politicians set the standards for law?

Politicians determine what’s right, what’s wrong.

Politicians.

 

It’s just me, right?

No, really, it’s just me.

 

Five years of listening to this endless We The People horseshit from Conservatives, and now it’s politicians who get to determine right and wrong. Is that correct?

Honestly, can you people hear the words that are coming out of your mouths?

Mike Huckabee’s definition of “standards” seems to be more than a little arbitrary.

Again, this is damned good example of why religious extremist shouldn’t be in charge of anything. Period. 

In the United States of America, the standard for law is based on the Constitution. Period. Not the hatred and bigotry of some evangelical tent preacher, not some politician, and not the fickle whim of the mob.

“On this issue, I recognize the culture is moving away from the traditional standard, but it’s almost like saying, well, we have a basketball team and nobody on the team can hit the goal that’s 10 feet off the floor so we’re going to lower the goal down to six feet and that way everybody can slam dunk the ball.”

If we’re going to use a sports metaphor, lets us a real one: It’s like saying, well, we have a baseball team and we only allow white people to play. Black people have their own Negro League, see, and even though they supposedly have equal rights they must remain separate and even though they pay taxes that in part support the white leagues they can’t use our facilities or call themselves professional baseball players or enjoy the same pay and benefits as the white players. Because they’re black and for no other reason. And they should be happy with this arrangement because, hey, it’s our culture. Plus, Jesus hates black people, children of Hamm and all that, you know.

But, see, then the culture changed.

Of course, pious evangelical Christians just like Mike Huckabee strenuously objected to integration of baseball, and integration in general, too.

“So the question is, have you have improved your basketball game? Or have you actually just changed the standard so it looks like you’re doing better? And that’s my concern.”

You know, maybe I’m not being fair.  Let’s go ahead and use Mike Huckabee’s analogy, shall we? The one where only tall people should be allowed to play sports …

I’ve written extensively about same-sex marriage. From the humorous in Love and War (Uncle Sam needs you! Liberals declare war on traditional marriage. Bombing begins at dawn and its going to be fabulous) to the deadly serious Uncivil Righteousness of Michele Bachmann. 

I have repeatedly asked the same question:

If gay people are given the right to get married, and the right to call it marriage, and thus receive all the benefits of married couples under the law, how does that affect anybody else’s right to engage in the traditional marriage of one man and one woman? How in any way whatsoever are you denied any rights that you, as heterosexuals, currently enjoy? How? You may acknowledge “culture” and “tradition,” but you don’t get to use them as a get out of jail free card. You may not use religion to support your answer. You may not use “I don’t like it” or any other form of subjective bigotry. You may only use the Constitution of the United States to justify your answer. Cite the Article and Paragraph.  Please be specific.

Well?

Here’s the bottom line, culture changes. Nations change. People change. Traditions are discarded, new ones are created. The men who wrote the Constitution knew that, they didn’t try to prevent it, they planned for it, they built it into the very fabric of the country.

If they hadn’t we would still have slavery – something else that has been a cultural tradition longer than it hasn’t.

When it comes to marriage equality, just like with slavery and civil rights and women’s suffrage, the writing is on the wall – and just like with all of those things, Mike Huckabee and the evangelical bigots remain firmly on the wrong side of history.  It’s their culture and tradition to be so.

Evangelicals are threatening to leave if the Republican Party drops its formal objection to marriage equality?

Good.

Good riddance.

The single best thing that the GOP could possibly do for itself, for the nation, for all Americans, is to rid itself of Mike Huckabee and the rest of the evangelicals who hide their small-minded fear and hate behind Jesus’ smiling bearded face.

Let them go form a third party.

See how they like being a dis-enfranchised minority for a change.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Inheritance

What kind of world are we leaving our kids?

Recently I had an argument with people that I know.

It got somewhat heated.

And everybody ended up leaving pissed off.

Especially me.

The point of contention being that they claimed President Obama “is the worst president ever” and a “lying fraud.”

The essence of my response was, “You’re just plain wrong, Goddamnit!”

Not the wittiest repartee, I suppose, but we’ve had this argument before and likely we’ll have it again, and frankly I’m just getting tired of going over the same ground. It’s an emotional argument, not a logical one. It’s an endless reoccurring theme in our relationship and likely will be until they die, or I die, or Barack Obama sprouts horns and destroys the world with his Smooth Negro Ray of Evil and we all die – whichever comes first.

I’m unlikely to change their minds, they will most certainly not change mine. 

We simply view the world in fundamentally different ways.

It wasn’t always so, but we’ve changed, they and I. 

I went out into the world and I saw things and it changed me – and I’ve written about it in an essay that’s one of the most widely read of anything I’ve ever written. Those things I saw, those experiences, changed my viewpoint, yet despite all – or maybe because of it – I’m still an optimist, I still believe.

They remained in the same place, but time changed them too. See, they have reached a point in their lives where they’ve become pessimists.  They used to be pretty optimistic people, but not anymore, now it’s all doom and gloom and the end of the world as we know it – and will be until a Republican sits in the White House once again or Obama destroys the world, whichever comes first.

They long for the good old days, back when America was apparently awesome and everybody was happy and safe and satisfied and knew their place – everybody who matters anyway.

Specifically when that glorious past was, what time between the Great Depression and World War II and Korea and Vietnam and the decades of terrorism and the last ten years of war, I’m not quite sure. I’ve lived through fifty-one of those years myself and I don’t know what the hell they’re talking about. But they’re back there somewhere, those good old days, and they were awesome.

Nothing I can say will convince them that the good old days were certainly good for a few folks, but emphatically not for many, many others – especially those who were told to stay in their place on the other side of the tracks or in the ghettos or in the segregated South.  Nor can I convince them that despite the continuous sleet of dire pessimism and doom that falls like a cold wet smothering blanket from the bleating hysterical media they watch day in and day out, America isn’t nearly as bad off as it has been at various points throughout its history – and it’s a damned sight better off today for more people than nearly any other place on the planet.  Considering that they’ve spent most of my life telling me how goddamned shitty they had it back in the day and how much better kids nowadays have than they ever did, you wouldn’t think this would be a point of argument – but, of course, it is. 

I shouldn’t have let it get out of hand. I should have just shut up and let it go. But I was irritated, I’d spent the morning reading hate mail from people who think I should just please be quiet and go sit in the corner and it irked me that they were using essentially the same argument, I was irked at myself because I’d been drawn in yet again, irked at them because I knew how the argument was going to go, and irked at the world because I had to sit and listen to people I care about repeating sound bites and paranoid bullshit that they should never have given credence to – and wouldn’t have before the election of Barack Obama, back when they were optimists.

And I was most especially irked because despite the fact that I happen to be a certified expert in a number of the topics we were arguing about (such as guns) and they goddamned well know it, they repeatedly and predictably dismissed my expertise and quoted the hysterical ill-informed talking heads at me instead (this isn’t anything new, they dismiss my two decades of military experience out of hand and defer to a five time draft-dodger like Dick Cheney, so I shouldn’t be surprised. And I’m not, but it still pisses me off).

I wasn’t truly angry until they resorted to the Appeal To Consequences fallacy, i.e. well, whatever, fine, we will be long gone and won’t have to deal with your mistakes, but future generations, man, what kind of nation is Obama leaving them? Then it’ll be too late! Mark my words, you’ll see, some day, the sky will fall and then you’ll be sorry, don’t say I didn’t warn you, worst president ever!

Logical fallacies irritate me under the best of circumstances, but I purely hate the Appeal to Consequences fallacy.

It has gone on long enough, this argument, that I ought to know better than get sucked into it in the first place. But for various reasons, which I’m not willing to go in to, I always do – get sucked into the argument.  And it always ends the same way, with me grinding my teeth to the accompaniment of a pounding headache, and them even more convinced that I’ve been brainwashed into the cult of islamocommunazism by faggy vegetarian environmentalists bent on the destruction of America.

The conversation, and hence the argument, ended abruptly.

As it always does.

I went out to the woodshop and managed to completely destroy two days worth of work because I was still pissed off.  I took a walk, talked to my cat, played with the dog, and eventually cooled off enough to return to the shop.  I spent some time picking up the splinters (I’d cranked a clamp down way too hard and shattered the chair back I was working on, the resulting implosion sent flinters of wood all over the shop). And then I calmly started the project over.

After a while I returned to the house much relaxed … and discovered that next installment of the ongoing argument had been delivered via email, along with a note saying, see? I’m not the only one:

Clipping

Again, the appeal to consequences – and by implication, what kind of world are we leaving to our children?

There it is, the bogeyman hiding in the closet, the monster under the bed, the gibbering panic and endless litany of pessimistic woe that drives modern conservatives, all summed up in a few neat paragraphs.

And I found myself clenching my jaw and reaching for the keyboard, and as my head began to throb again I realized I was about to make a grievous mistake.

So I went back out to the woodshop instead.

It’s two days later, I’ve had some time to think about it.  Rather than continue the argument, I’ll address my answer directly to the above letter to the editor. When I say “you,” I’m talking to the generic Ken Hubers of the world.

If we lie to congress it’s a felony, but if congress lies to us it’s politics. 

How’s that again? Look here, if you lie to congress under oath, it’s a felony.  If congress lies to you under oath, it’s also illegal, and plenty of them have been punished for it (not all, but there are numerous examples.  Five minutes with Google is all it takes).  Otherwise, it’s free speech, politics if you like. Congress lies to us. People lie to congressmen – all without legal consequence. You don’t like liars in congress? Then stop rewarding politicians and political parties for lying to you, you can start with Michele Bachmann. Also, stop punishing them when they do tell the truth – even if you don’t want to hear it.

If we dislike a black person, we're racist and if a black dislikes whites, it's their 1st Amendment right.

Right, given how oppressed white people are in America and all. Listen, when you can’t discuss the president for more than a paragraph without resorting to the word “nigger” and you’re not a rap artist, you’re a racist even if you don’t think you are. When you act like a racist, well, Sir, then you’re a racist – whatever your skin color.  However, that said, the First Amendment grants you the right to be a racist – whatever your skin color, white or black or anything in between.  Don’t like racism? Then stop ignoring it or pretending that it doesn’t exist just because you don’t like the other side of the political aisle or don’t want to admit to the history of this country. Don’t like racism? Then don’t stand for it, don’t perpetuate it, don’t ignore it – whatever your skin color.

The government spends millions to rehabilitate criminals and they do almost nothing for the victims.

The government? Which one? State or federal? Which state? Arizona? Texas? Maine? Hawaii? One size doesn’t fit all, you know. What victims? The innocent ones who spend decades behind bars because of their skin color?  Which criminals? The ones that should have gone to jail, but didn’t because they had the means and connections to avoid it? Typically our various governments spend millions to incarcerate criminals, more than any other country in the world, but we don’t actually spend much on “rehabilitation” because, like war, we voters don’t have the wherewithal or the commitment to address the actual underlying causes of crime and conflict such as poverty, education, opportunity, and community. Typically our prisons are warehouses that just make better criminals because we don’t give enough of a shit to do anything about it.  As to victim compensation, well, sure, all we have to do is vote to give them something for their trouble. You go first.

In public schools you can teach that homosexuality is OK, but you better not use the word God in the process.

Oh for crying out loud. For a bunch of people armed to the teeth, you sure are scared of a few “homosexuals” (I know, I know, speaking of words you can’t say, you can’t say “gay” because you might become gay or something). Did it ever occur to you that you’re the ones who keep bringing up homosexuality? There are more than seven billion people on the planet, chances are more than a couple of them are doing all kinds of things you don’t like, why do you keep singling out homosexuality? If you don’t like it, then stop obsessing over it. Listen, here’s what you can teach: in America we are free to decide both our sexuality and our religion, and whether you like it or not we are also free from having either forced upon us.  In America, we don’t have to fear either gay people or God. If you chose to be afraid then that’s on you, you deal with it.

Edit: A number of you wrote asking for clarification about the line “…we are free to decide both our sexuality and our religion.”  You asked if I was implying that sexuality is a choice.  The answer is no, or yes, or whatever. The point is that you are free to decide who you want to be, sexually, politically, religiously. If you’re talking about liberty, about freedom, the “choice” argument is idiotic. Whether we come by our identity naturally or by choice or a combination of both makes no damned difference.  You get to decide who you are. You, and you alone.  The single most fundamental civil right, the only right that I believe is truly inalienable, the only “natural” right that nobody can take away from you, is the right to define yourself. 

You can kill an unborn child, but it’s wrong to execute a mass murderer;

In what state? What country are you talking about?  We have the highest execution rate in the First World. We execute murderers all of the time, one as recently as last week. And just so I’m clear here: you don’t want the government to use a drone against a known terrorist, but you’re ok with that same government strapping a man to a gurney and pumping poison into his veins? What, pray tell, is the difference from a “pro-life” standpoint? What? One was a self-declared enemy of the United States and the other was a minority convicted on flimsy evidence without a supporting DNA match? And seriously here, pro-death penalty and pro-life? Please. Give me a break on the hypocrisy already. Over the last ten years, conservative anti-abortionist Right To Lifers have cheered the deaths of tens of thousands of unborn children … and actual living born children, and their parents, and their cousins and aunts and uncles and every damned body they know right on down to their pets. We bombed them and shot them and burned down their houses and left them to starve to death or die of disease or at the mercy of their environment – and don’t try to tell me that we didn’t, because I was there. Don’t give me your sanctimonious horseshit on abortion, you can’t be pro-war and pro-life, the concepts are mutually exclusive.  And as long as we’re on the subject of unborn kids, aren’t you the same goddamned people who keep whining about your tax dollars going to feed and care for those self same children? Until you’re ready to demonstrate an actual concern for human life, all of it and not just the unborn fetus in a liberal woman’s belly, you can just sit down and shut the fuck up about abortion because I’m sick and tired of hearing about it. You hate us so damned much, what the hell do you care whether we kill our kids or not?

We don't burn books in America, we now rewrite them;

Swear to God, I just snorted chocolate milk through my nose. We don’t burn books in America, we rewrite them? Ahahahahahaha! Hysterical. I don’t think you really want to go down this road – not with the conservative complaint about a lack of God in the schools and conservatives’ continuing effort to rewrite history and science to force their religion upon the rest of us. And it’s conservatives who have been burning books for the last two hundred years, from Origin of the Species to Catcher in the Rye. So what are you complaining about? That you can’t anymore?  Conservatives are the very last people who should be complaining about books.  You’ve got a beef about books, do you? How about you tell your local government that you want your tax money used to fully fund and support your local town and school libraries, including paying librarians a living wage, instead of, oh, say high school football? No? Yeah, that’s what I thought. Books. Jesus Christ, that’s priceless.

We got rid of the communist and socialist threat by renaming the progressives;

We renamed the fascists too, so it all evens out. The important thing is that you still have a vaguely defined derogatory epitaph that you can use to label people you don’t like as enemies of America – and remember, if you’re ever confused by the name changes you can always use the all-purpose go-to label: Nazi!

we are unable to close our border with Mexico, but have no problem with protecting the 38th parallel in Korea;

No problem? No problem? The hell? I call Shenanigans.  Seriously. I don’t think you’ve been paying attention – for about the last 60 years.  No problem? The “38th Parallel,” i.e the Korean Demilitarized Zone, is only 151 miles long – compared to the two thousand miles of US/Mexico border. The DMZ is manned by more than a million troops on the allied side, and another million on the North Korean side, and it’s the most heavily fortified border in the world complete with watchtowers, mountains of concertina wire, walls, tank traps, mines, and heavy weaponry – and it still can’t stop people who really want to get across (and neither could the Berlin Wall). Do you have any idea of the staggering amount of money it takes to secure that lousy one hundred and fifty miles? And you want to do that across our southern border times twenty?  You people won’t even pay to feed those babies you claim to love so damned much, or fund criminal rehabilitation, or libraries, and you’re going to pony up how many more billions per year to create a DMZ of your very own? And for what? So you can shoot more kids? More pregnant women? So you can make us all live inside an armed camp? It’s about time you people faced reality, the only way to “close” that border is to transform the United States into the very country that you all claim to hate, the one surrounded by walls and barbwire and machine guns and under military security where you have to show your papers upon demand by authority. A much better, and ultimately less expensive and more profitable, idea would be to address the actual causes of illegal immigration in the first place.  But I digress.

if you protest against President Obama's policies you're a terrorist, but if you burned an American flag or George Bush in effigy it was your 1st Amendment right.

I assume you’re talking about those terrorists with the Occupy Movement who were railing against Obama’s Wall Street policies? Or the limp wristed liberals protesting Obama’s drone policy? So you’re sympathizing with their position, is that what you’re saying? Wouldn’t that make you a … progressive? Or were you talking about those enemies of America who stood on the street corners during the Bush administration protesting the wars? Listen, there have been plenty of folks burning President Obama in effigy – including, you know, actual terrorists in Third World countries. Look around, see who you’re standing next to? Think about it. If you protest Obama’s policies, that’s your First Amendment right, just as it’s your right to call him a traitor and a Kenyan and a socialist and the worst president ever. And it’s also my right to say you’re acting like an asshole.  That’s how freedom of speech works.    

You can have pornography on the TV or the Internet, but you better not put a nativity scene in a public park during Christmas;

What is it with you people?  You can have a nativity scene in a public park if you like, but you also have to allow other people with other beliefs to display scenes from their religion too.  But you don’t want to do that, do you?  You seem to think that the month of December belongs exclusively to you and your God.  That’s why you can’t have your nativity scene, because if you won’t share then nobody gets to play. Public property is exactly that, public, it belongs to all of us and it’s not for the exclusive use of your religion. You brought this on yourself, so stop complaining about it.  And as long as we’re on this subject, here’s what else you can’t display in a public park, pornography. However, you can have pornography in the privacy of your own home. You can also have a nativity scene on your private property, if you like – unless you belong to a Home Owner’s Association, but then again that’s a form of absolutism you all seem to embrace willingly.  If a nativity scene is such a big damned deal with you people, then put it in the front yard of your church and invite all of your friends. Problem solved.

we have eliminated all criminals in America, they are now called sick people;

This old canard.  Some of the people who commit crimes in the United States are sick, and even conservatives think so – as they keep noting during the gun debate. But the vast, vast majority of criminals are labeled as criminals and are treated as such. The prisons and jails and courts are full of them and this idiotic statement is simply a made-up complaint and nothing more – and if you want to clear the docket, maybe you should tell your representatives to stop acting like petulant spoiled children and start doing the job we pay them for by confirming the huge backlog of judges they’ve been obstructing for the last five years. 

we can use a human fetus for medical research, but it's wrong to use an animal.

Oh for crying out loud. In the United States, nearly all fetal research is banned, unless it directly supports the correction of fetal defects (such as advances in inter-uterine/neo-natal surgery) or the curing of fetal/maternal diseases or the improvement of human fertility.  Fetal research is strictly controlled and under tight ethical review and is almost exclusively limited to the preservation, health, and wellbeing of both embryos and their mothers. In other words, just about all fetal research is used to save fetuses.  On the other hand, we do use animals for research and though we’re getting better at it, some of that research can be pretty horrific.  In some cases maybe, maybe, this is necessary (depending on how you define “necessity”), but in others it is most certainly not, it’s just convenient and less expensive.  And if there are alternatives to animal testing, then please, by all means, explain to me why it’s ethical under the highly touted superior morality of your religion to continue using animals. I’m all ears. 

We take money from those who work hard for it and give it to those who don't want to work;

Right. Like wealthy politicians who pretend to be farmers, or Fortune 500 executives who offshore their companies and pay no taxes at all, or millionaire venture capitalists whose wives raise horses as a hobby, or a sports team who want a new stadium, or corporate jet owners who get to write off their weekend jaunt to Bermuda as a “security” expense, or any of the other thousand bullshit giveaways that go to the rich and powerful.  When you’re ready to close those tax loopholes, you can get back to me on welfare reform.

we all support the Constitution, but only when it supports our political ideology;

I’ll give you this one.

we still have freedom of speech, but only if we are being politically correct;

You know, in my experience the vast majority of those who complain about political correctness are just sore that they got called out for behaving like crass assholes.  Conservatives hate political correctness … right up until a liberal calls Palin’s kid a retard.  Freedom of speech in America is in no danger, from political correctness or anything else.  You can publicly hate homosexuals right alongside of Westboro Baptist Church, the Mormons, and the Pope, if you like. You can call the First Lady uppity and a gorilla on a national radio program or advocate armed insurrection and revolution on public TV – and you don’t have to be politically correct in any fashion.  But here’s the thing, if you engage in hate speech, and that’s exactly what it is, don’t come whining to the rest of us because you got called out on it. If you’re going to be a fucking asshole, then at least have the balls to own your bigotry and bile and stupidity and ignorance (apologies if that was a little blunt, I suppose I could have been a bit more tactful but I know how you hate political correctness and how much you enjoy it when I exercise my First Amendment rights).

parenting has been replaced with Ritalin and video games;

Yeah, yeah. And in the previous generation was raised on TV and Rock&Roll Music.  And the generation before that was raised on the telephone and drive-in movie theaters.  And the generation before that was raised on child labor and radio.  And the generation before that was raised on the bible and beatings.  So what?  You know what’s wrong with the current generation? Nothing. Not a goddamned thing. You took their country to war and for the last ten years they’ve been stepping up.  America had to draft your silly ass, but this generation, the one that you sneer at, these kids have been out there on the front lines of their own accord for more than a decade now. If we’re such shitty parents, where’d they get this sense of country and duty from? The only thing wrong with them is the fact that they let The Greatest Generation call them worthless and lazy without protest.  You’re complaining about parenting?  Ask yourself something, who raised the parents? That’s right, if you don’t like how we parent our kids, if you don’t like how we turned out, then you should have raised us better.

the land of the opportunity is now the land of hand outs;

Oh come on. Go see some of the rest of the world. Go see some of the Third World. Good grief, quit blubbering.  As an American, you have more opportunity now than any other human being at any other time in history. You have no idea just how lucky you are, just how much opportunity you have.  You can do anything, be anything, go anywhere, and sleep at night with a full belly. The most downtrodden American is still safer and better off than most of the rest of the planet.  No opportunity? Hell, I just watched a private American spacecraft successfully return from two weeks at the International Space Station and splash down in the Pacific Ocean. No opportunity? You’re kidding me. Maybe if you didn’t spend all of your time composing an endless list of woe and misery, you’d see the opportunity that surrounds you. They make medicine for depression you know, they even tested it on animals. 

the similarity between Hurricane Katrina and the gulf oil spill is that neither president did anything to help.

Hang on now, both events involved water, that’s a similarity. Lets see, they both happened on planet Earth. They were both televised. What? What’s that? I’m being stupid? Well what did you expect? You started it, I thought that’s what we were doing.  Hurricane Katrina and the Deepwater Horizon disaster is a ridiculous comparison, not to mention a stellar example of the fallacy of false equivalency.  You want to make a valid comparison? Then compare Hurricane Katrina under the Bush administration to Hurricane Sandy under the Obama administration – and even those two events are comparable only in broad strokes.  There is an enormous difference between federal help to a flooded city caused by a natural disaster and plugging a hole caused by human negligence at the bottom of the ocean. If you can’t see that for yourself there’s probably nothing I can say to help you get your head out of your ass.

And how do we handle a major crisis today? The government appoints a committee to determine who's at fault, then threatens them, passes a law, raises taxes, tells us the problem is solved so they can get back to their reelection campaign.

In other words, exactly the same way the US Government has worked (or not) since George Washington.

Of course the country isn’t like it was when you were growing up.

It’s not like it was when I was growing up either.

And it won’t be like it is now when my son is old.

That’s the nature of the thing. 

If you want to live in a country that doesn’t grow or change or evolve, well, you could always pack up and move to North Korea, or Afghanistan, or Texas (Oh what? Like you didn’t see the punch line coming).

We won’t be here so we don’t care, but what about the kids? What kind of world will they inherit?

That’s right, you won’t be here. You won’t have to live with the consequences. 

What kind of country will our kids inherit?

The one that you leave them, of course.

Likely they’ll inherit a country where people are still discriminated against due to their race, because when you had a chance to stamp out bigotry, you didn’t.

They’ll probably inherit a country where people are still discriminated against due to their sexual orientation, because you couldn’t overcome your fear and hatred and Bronze Age religion.

They’ll get a country where hunger and poverty and illness are still rampant (and thus war and crime), because when you had a chance to do something about it, you said it wasn’t your problem.

They’ll get a country where the climate grows ever hotter and the seas rise ever higher, because when you had a chance to stop it you denied that the problem even existed.

They’ll get a country where the schools and the libraries are still underfunded, because you couldn’t bear the thought of a defense budget less than the military expenditures of the next fourteen countries combined.

They’ll get a country where people still can’t afford access to healthcare, because you were afraid of death panels and other make-believe nonsense spouted by hysterical selfish fools.

They’ll get a country where the land is poisoned and the water undrinkable, because you didn’t want to put undue burdens on business.

They’ll get a country where energy is scarce and expensive, because you believed diversification and development of sustainable energy sources was a satanic plot.

They’ll get a country where the government careens from one manufactured crises to the next, still mired in debt, because you kept electing the same intransigent obstructionists, small-minded extremists, and dimwitted religious nutters who think they can create an actual budget based on a shitty science fiction novel written by a pill-popping paranoid fraud.

They’ll get a country where children are still slaughtered by armed madmen in their schools and in their theaters and in their homes, because instead of devising rational solutions you flooded the streets with more ammo and weapons at the insane insistence of yet more armed madmen.

They’ll get a country where people think that liberty is building a wall around the country and huddling in a hole clutching their goddamned guns, because instead of helping the rest of us hold it all together you spent your time dreaming of The Rapture and arming for civil war.

They’ll get a country where people still sit wallowing in pessimism pining for the good old days that never were.

Or not. We can change it, you know.

I keep getting sucked into this argument because it matters, because we can do better, because pessimism isn’t the legacy we should be leaving our kids, but we probably will anyway.

What has America become?

Whatever we want it to be. The American dream is different for everybody.

What has happened to the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave?

It changed.

It grew.

It evolved.

Exactly as the Founders expected it to do.

Exactly as the Framers designed it to do.

What kind of country will our kids inherit?

The one we leave them.

And I suspect they’ll be just fine.

Despite us.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

No Matter How You Slice It, It’s Still Baloney

Ever try to talk to somebody who doesn't speak your language?

In a foreign nation or with a visitor to your own country?

Trying to get directions, maybe, or give directions. Order a meal. Find the nearest restroom. That sort of thing.

Even simple concepts can be difficult, let alone an actual conversation, or an exchange of ideas, or seeing each other as equals, as human, or reaching an actual understanding.

There are several ways to go about it.

First, you can make an actual effort.

You can use what few words you both do have in common, along with gestures and body language like the tourist’s version of charades, to achieve some form of mutual understanding, typically with varying degrees of success depending on how far apart your disparate cultures are. In the Spanish region of Andalusia for example, they make a kind of palms-down finger-waving gesture when they want you to come closer, to an American it looks like they’re giving you the brush-off. On the streets of Seville and Cadiz, Spaniards greet each other in passing by saying “adios!” (goodbye). It can be confusing, and Spanish and American cultures aren’t all that far apart. I’ve been to places in Africa and Asia where I wasn’t sure if I was ordering lunch or agreeing to participate in a revolution against the local despot. And I once spent two days driving across New South Wales with a guy who looked like an extra from The Road Warrior, he talked nonstop and supposedly spoke English and to this day I have no idea what the hell he was saying – but I got to see parts of Australia that the tourists never see and left with a deep seated respect and admiration for the people who live there.  

Even without a common language and culture, understanding is possible, if you put enough sincere effort into it.

Or maybe you can find somebody who speaks both languages, understands both cultures and can act as a bridge, a translator, and thus you can come to a mutual understanding. As a Navy intelligence officer, I once boarded an ancient rusting freighter in the Persian Gulf, a smuggling vessel crewed by a ragged bunch of cutthroats. The vessel’s master was right out of Corsair mythology, a tall thin man with weathered skin like hammered leather, long braided hair and beard, an enormous hooked beak of a nose, and the most piercing black eyes I’ve ever seen – all he lacked was a scimitar and a brace of black powder pistols. My enlisted Navy translator was born to Iranian parents who’d fled to New York just ahead of Khomeini’s revolution, they’d raised their children in the languages and cultures of both lands and it wasn’t long before the smuggler captain was offering us thick sweet coffee brewed in the Arab fashion and telling me how he hoped we Americans would get rid of Saddam so that his daughters could grow up free to choose their own destinies like Western women. He was a hard eyed Marsh Arab pirate, an Iraqi, a Muslim … and a softhearted doting father who believed in the promise of freedom and equality between the sexes – and a more fascinating conversation I’ve never had.

Increasingly technology fills this role, the bridge between cultures and viewpoints, my Android tablet coupled to the Internet speaks a dozen languages, maybe not perfectly, but certainly better than I do, enough for an understanding. With these tools, human or machine, understanding is possible – but you have to work at it, you have to want to meet the other guy halfway.

Or you can just shout louder.

That’s right, you can be the cliché, the boneheaded jerk who refuses to learn even a few words of the other guy’s language, who instead just keeps repeating the same sentence over and over – as if the other guy will finally come around if you just say it loud enough. You can be the obnoxious jackass who demands that everybody else speak your language with your accent, the guy who does nothing but complain because people from other viewpoints have the unmitigated effrontery to act as if their way, their beliefs, their society, their religion, their culture, their lives and loves and interests, are just as valid as yours. You can be the guy who manages to be perpetually offended by the very idea of different cultures and beliefs and religions, and who believes that because you’re not allowed to discriminate against them that they are somehow depriving you of your god-given rights just by existing.

Yes, you can certainly be that guy.

It doesn’t take much effort, to be that guy, the bigoted self-righteous ass who just doesn’t get it. Who doesn’t want to get it. The one that just keeps shouting louder and louder, the one who gets mad because others refuse to live their lives in a certain way, your way, your culture’s way, your prophet’s way. You can be the guy who clings to outmoded ideas, to old biases and hatreds, and a cloistered and selfish worldview.

You can be the guy who just doesn’t get that the problem isn’t them – it’s you.

It’s certainly easier to be a bigot.

 

A number of your wrote to ask why I hadn’t yet commented on this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC).

I was waiting.

I wanted to give conservatives plenty of time to finish talking, to make sure they’d had time to rebut the criticism, I wanted to examine the CPAC message in context and see how they interpreted it first.

And, most especially, I first wanted to read the Republican National Committee’s “autopsy” report, the “most comprehensive post-election review” ever undertaken by party leaders, which was released on Monday. It’s a hundred page analysis detailing why Republicans think they lost so badly in the last election cycle, not just the White House but across the board.

I wrote about this topic right after the election, It’s The Racism, Stupid, and I wondered if the RNC would come to the same conclusion I did.  I’m not exactly sure what I was expecting, but I sure wasn’t disappointed – or rather I was, but you know what I mean. 

“Our message was weak; our ground game was insufficient; we weren’t inclusive; we were behind in both data and digital; our primary and debate process needed improvement…”

So says RNC Chairman, Reince Priebus (and seriously here, Conservatives think “Barack Obama” is a funny foreign sounding name? But I digress).

It’s always a hopeful sign when the patient starts out by admitting that they have a problem.

Except, of course, that’s not exactly what’s happening here.

Because Priebus followed up his first statement by saying in essence that his party’s platform and policies are “fundamentally sound” but, see, it’s the minorities who just aren’t listening.

Maybe if republicans speak louder

Priebus went on to say:

“There’s no one solution, there’s a long list of them.”

And first on the list is “more extensive outreach to women, African-Americans, Asians, Hispanics, and gay voters” – which is pretty damned funny when you think about it, because the RNC Chairman basically just admitted that the GOP really is the party of rich old white guys.

And how, exactly, does the GOP plan on reaching out to women, non-whites, and gays?

Not by changing their actual platform, of course, oh no, not that. Instead they’re going to spend $10 million to more clearly explain to bitches, homos, and brown people why they should be happy as second class citizens.

Oh, what? Did you actually think the Republican party was suddenly going to let women manage their own bodies? Did you really think that they were suddenly going to stop trying to shove their evangelical version of God up our collective asses? Or that they were going to let gay people get married (Hell they can’t even say “gay” – let alone LGBT). Or that they were going to purge their ranks of the bigots and the racists and embrace diversity and multiculturalism?

Really? You thought that’s what Priebus was saying?

You’re so darned cute.

The basic gist of Priebus’ “autopsy” is this: We’re not going to learn your language, we’re not going to respect your culture or beliefs. We have no intention of seeing things from your viewpoint, we’re damned well not going to meet you halfway. It’s not us, it’s you. We don’t need to change, we just need to talk louder. And we’re going to keep talking louder until you unAmerican idiots understand. We’re going to learn how to use the internet and that twitter thing you liberals love, we’re going to find us some dynamic candidates, a 21st Century version of Reagan, who can convince you silly women, you stupid brown people, and you damned queers to vote for a political party who won’t even let you in the front door.

In other words, we’re not changing a damned thing, we’re just going to say it louder.

The RNC looked at the last election and figured democrats won not because their platform and message resonated to a greater degree with a greater percentage of the population, but rather because democrats had better candidates, were better at social media, were better at debating, and were better at speaking without putting their foot in their mouth.  The idea here being that a significant fraction of conservatives believe that Democrats won because they got a large percentage of the minority vote, and they got that vote because minorities are stupid and gullible and easily bribed with promises of “free stuff” and “government giveaways.” And conservatives haven’t exactly been shy about saying exactly that in public – starting with Mitt Romney. 

Now, conservatives want the same people they’ve been calling stupid and shiftless and lazy to vote for conservatives.

And the RNC figures that minorities will vote for conservative candidates if Republicans just polish a few turds and pretend they are diamonds.

They don’t have to change, they just have to shout louder.

Which brings us to a case in point: CPAC.

Ask yourself something: Who didn’t get invited to CPAC?

Who didn’t get invited to CPAC and why?

At the exact same moment the RNC chairman was talking about reaching out to the other side, the most well known and most outspoken conservatives firmly and publicly uninvited Governor Chris Christie, popular with both Left and Right, from their little convention.

And why? Why was Christie snubbed?

Christie was uninvited specifically because Christie reached out to the other side.

Talk about your classic facepalm moment.

Priebus said that conservatives need to reach out to gay voters.  

Meanwhile CPAC specifically and pointedly didn’t invite gay voters who are already republicans – why should the rest of the LGBT community expect they’ll get treated any different under a conservative government run by these same people? Why should LGBT people vote for any of these people? For a party platform that literally makes them second class citizens? (And tell me again why there even are gay republicans in the first place?)

And I don’t suppose we have to mention the percentage of black, brown, or yellow faces in the crowd.

No?

There you go.

And who did get invited to CPAC?

Who will be the face of the new Republican Party?

Who will unite conservatives and lead them to victory in 2016?

Wayne LaPierre? The National Rifle Association got invited to CPAC, but not Chris Christie? Wayne LaPierre, what, they couldn’t find a clown who makes balloon animals? 

Sarah Palin? The Grizzly Mama, who continues to nurse a sophomoric grudge against members of her own party, never missing an opportunity to catalog all the insults and hurts that she never, ever, forgets? As always, Palin eschewed any real message and went for the divisive sound bite, demanding that conservatives “furlough the consultants” and send “the architect” back to Texas in an unabashed dig at Karl Rove.  The woman just can’t help herself, she’s a spoiled little small town high school prom queen, she’s good at leading a homecoming pep rally but that’s really all she’s got going for her – well that and her “rack” (And seriously, Sarah? “Todd got the rifle, I got the rack?” Nothing like a tit joke to attract the female vote, eh? Can you imagine if Joe Biden had told that exact same joke about Palin? Jesus Christ in a Bullet Bra, what’s she going to do for an encore? Make fun of retards? But I digress). 

That said, well, then there’s Karl Rove. This corpulent little slug has been oozing around the dark corners of the GOP since Watergate, whispering in ears and listening at keyholes – though his assessment of Sarah Palin makes me think fondly of slugs.  Palin naturally wants to send him back to Texas, which is a whole lot like locking an alcoholic in a liquor store – but she’s right, if for the wrong reasons. The great science fiction writer, Robert Heinlein, once penned a truly terrifying tale about an alien invasion called The Puppet Masters. In the novel the aliens, slimy slug-like creatures, secretly attach themselves to human hosts, burrowing into the nervous system and pulling the strings.  That’s Karl Rove, malevolent slug-like brain tissue, hiding in the shadows, bending human will to his own alien ends.  Reince Priebus can proclaim a new era of conservative outreach, but until the GOP gets rid of Karl Rove and Newt Gingrich and Dick Cheney and the rest of the slimy old guard alien collective, things are unlikely to change very much.

Jeb Bush? He bemoaned the fact that “all too often we’re associated with being anti-everything, anti-immigration, anti-women, anti-gay.”  There’s that penetrating insight into the human condition the Bush family is so famous for. Geez, Jeb, you ever stop to wonder why the outfit which refused to invite gay members of its own party to their own conference is associated with being anti-gay? You ever wonder why the party which supports candidates who believe in “legitimate rape” and that rape is part of “God’s plan” can’t seem to attract women? The party of “self-deportation” and “no amnesty” and who wants to build a two thousand mile long wall across Mexico can’t figure out why they’re not attractive to Latinos? Meanwhile, just for fun, at the CPAC breakout session on minority outreach entitled “Trump the Race Card” during a speech by K. Carl Smith of the Fredrick Douglass Republicans, audience member Scott Terry stood up and asked Republicans to endorse races remaining “separate but equal.” Scott then went on to defend slavery by saying that it “gave food and shelter” to blacks – a statement that was greeted with applause and cheers from more than a few members of the audience. The gist of Terry’s comment was that white people have been “systematically disenfranchised” by the federal government at the behest of minorities and that African-Americans should be permanently subservient to whites. When challenged on the history of the Republican party by a female reporter, Terry quipped, “I didn’t know the legacy of the Republican Party included women correcting men in public!” After the breakout session, Smith issued a statement condemning the reporter as “rude.” 

There’s a reason why the GOP is associated with being anti-everything, anti-immigration, anti-women, anti-gay, it’s because they’re anti-everything, anti-immigration, anti-woman, and anti-gay.

Listen to their speakers, read their platform, it’s printed right on the label.

Rick Perry? I half expected Perry to break into a rain dance. But instead of bustin’ a move, Perry told conservatives they didn’t need to change. He blamed the media for recent GOP setbacks and said that conservatives didn’t really lose the last election after all, “that might be true if Republicans had actually nominated conservative candidates in 2008 and 2012.” And you’ve really got to admire the logic there, don’t you? We didn’t lose, because we didn’t like our candidates either, so the joke’s on you nyah nyah nyah! On second thought, maybe Perry was dancing after all – it’s hard to tell with old white guys. Perry’s comments are diametrically opposed to the RNC’s own autopsy report and were designed to pander directly to the majority of conservatives who blame weak candidates for their losses and see no need to adjust their party’s platform – a position that is unlikely to attract LBGT voters, women, or people of color in 2016 any more than the same message attracted them in 2008 and 2012.  

Speaking of weak candidates: Mitt Romney showed up at CPAC, making his first public appearance since election day.  It was like watching one of those robots in Disney’s Hall Of Presidents – the only difference is that Mitt isn’t as lifelike.  It’s as if the word “banality” was invented just for Mitt Romney, “I utterly reject pessimism. We may not have carried on November 7th, but we haven’t lost the country we love. And we have not lost our way.” Mitt rejects pessimism? Well, that’s good, I suppose. Conservatives haven’t lost the country they love? Republicans haven’t lost their way?  Right, except for that part where the conservative message for the last five years, including Mitt Romney’s own campaign, has been the very definition of pessimism.

And if they haven’t lost “their” country, then why do they feel the need to take it back?

Mitt Romney, still out of touch with everybody – including his own party.

And then there was Donald Trump, who declared that America had a right to "pay ourselves back" for the Iraq war by taking the country's oil – kind of like how a crackhead has a right to your wallet, since he went through the trouble of mugging you.

The 2013 CPAC basically just doubled-down on everything that’s wrong with the GOP in the first place.

These people are the very epitome of the Ugly American stereotype, the obnoxious idiot shouting, “Whatsamatter? Can’t you understand the words that are coming out of my mouth?”

I’ve said it before, I’ll likely say it again: America needs a better class of conservatives.

Maybe if I said it louder

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Various and Sundry For The Week of March 15

 

So, New Pope.

Well, OK, he’s like five hundred years old or something, not exactly new new – but you knew what I meant.

Now, I’m not Catholic, or any religion for that matter, but apparently I’m supposed to really, really care about the new guy.  

Because it’s on every single damned news station and news paper and news feed and social media news site. 

New Pope is awesome! New Pope still has New Pope Smell! New Pope Hand Selected By God Himself! New Pope is First New World Pope! New Pope carries his own luggage! New Pope celebrates Mass (I didn’t even know the new guy was a fan of the Higgs Boson, but I suppose it sort of figures). New Pope  has no obvious resemblance to infamous Sith Lord – Catholics hopeful New Pope is a Trekkie or maybe even a Browncoat! New Pope begins first day by blessing stuff, New Pope blesses himself (don’t you go blind if you do that too much? I’m just asking. Popes are supposed to be experts on that sort of thing, you think he’d know better), New Pope blesses Old Pope, Pope blesses some random people for practice, New Pope blesses a pickle just to see if he can.  And so on. 

New Popes get to choose their Pope Name.

Popes are the only world leaders who get to do that, choose their own Superhero name. It’s a opportunity unique among the world’s big shots and not a choice to make lightly.

So, what name did this guy choose?

Francis.

Pope Francis?

It’s just me, right?

Pope: The name's Francis Soyer, but everybody calls me Psycho. Any of youse guys call me Francis, and I'll kill ya.
Random Priest [sarcastically]:  Ooooooh!
Pope: You just made the list, Buddy! [pulls a switchblade out of his cassock and flashes the blade at the offending Clergyman] And I don't like nobody touching my stuff. So just keep your meat-hooks off! If I catch any of you guys in my stuff, I'll kill ya. Also, I don't like nobody touching me. Now, any of you… homos… touch me, and I'll kill ya.
Cardinals: LIGHTEN UP, FRANCIS!

This guy was born Jorge Mario Bergoglio.  Didn’t that suggest anything? Pope Jorge (pronounced in the Spanish, Whore-Hey). Because that would be totally awesome, and besides, somebody has to be the first of his name, right?  Or how about Pope Mario – and then we could rename the Popemobile to The Mario Cart, and it would blast that old 8-bit video game music from speakers on the roof, see, and it would make that power-up bonus noise when Pope Mario blessed people and the wahahahahahahaaaaaaa sound when …  

Oh, what?

See? This is why people are leaving the Church, no sense of humor.

Heck, the guy’s last name is Bergoglio for crying out loud, he could have been Pope Coolio!

Instead, he went with Francis.

Who the hell chooses Francis?  On purpose?

I mean Francis? You figure priests and bishops and cardinals must daydream about this stuff, right? For Christ’s sake, you’d think they’d be prepared.  I mean I’m not even Catholic and I was ready if they chose me. I would have totally gone with Pope Hammerscowl Ironbar The Unforgiving, Avenging Falcon Kick of the Almighty, Destroyer of Worlds, Scourge of Sin, Knight Commander of the Velociprator Army and Ayatollah of Rock and Rolla!  I mean, shit, you’re The Pope, right? Who’s going to tell you that you can’t?  Think of how cool his business cards would be – maybe with little smity embossed lightning bolts around the edges? Huh?

Look here, Pope Hammerscowl Ironbar The Unforgiving issues a Holy Edict, and for damn sure the clergy would think twice about any Shenanigans with the altar boys, especially if there are velociraptors involved – but get a memo from some little old guy in a dress with matching hat and red pumps named Francis and where are you?

See?

My point exactly.

Nobody would be telling Ol’ Hammerscowl to “lighten up.”

At least they wouldn’t tell him twice.

 

Meanwhile, speaking of a place that could use a few velociraptors, down in Mississippi they just passed an “anti-Bloomberg Bill” that makes calorie counting and portion control illegal in local restaurants.

Yes, that’s right, the state with one of the highest densities of per capita obesity, diabetes, and diet related health problems just passed a law making it illegal for restaurants to limit portion size or to post the number of calories and fat content in their food.

The bill’s author asked:

If we give government a little more control of our personal rights, where does it stop?

I think’s it obvious that Mississippians are afraid it will stop at the Golden Coral Buffet, I’m just saying.

I glanced at the Constitution to see which inalienable right was being infringed upon if jowly Mississippians  can’t get their pudgy hands on a Big Gulp, but I couldn’t find it. Maybe they meant the Mississippi State Constitution, Article Two, Second Helpings and other God Given Freedoms: Cholesterol being paramount to Liberty, the right of the people to shove as much fat and sugar into their gravy slathered country fried pieholes as is humanly possible, while simultaneously demanding the elimination of government mandated healthcare, shall not be infringed.

Sure, New York Mayor Bloomberg’s portion size law is idiotic and unenforceable and does absolutely nothing to address the growing problem of obesity and is very likely unconstitutional to boot, but is it really something that people are actually afraid of? 

Really?

Are We The People organizing over this?  Marching on Washington?  Pillaging health food stores?  Lighting yoga instructors on fire in effigy?  Are state governments and town councils sitting around hot airless conference rooms right now, pounding down stale jelly donuts and slurping whole-milk double lattes, bending to the people’s will, crafting laws to prevent the horrifying tide of Bloombergism from sweeping across American? My God, man, what if we can’t supersize? The horror! It’ll be the end of America as we know it! That’s how it started with Hitler! Not me, man, not me! The Nazi bastards can take my Big Gulp when they pry it from my cold dead sticky bloated ham-sized fist that had to be amputated due to the diabetes! Freeeeeedom!

Half the world is starving to death and in here America we’re arguing about the right to chug a gallon of soda in one sitting and Bloomberg’s city is home to events like professional hotdog eating contests and the World’s Biggest Burger.

No wonder most of the world hates our bleeding guts.

Our fat, fat bleeding guts.

 

While Mississippians are rallying for the right of all Americans to kill themselves with food, a town in Maine is taking a more direct approach.

In Byron, Maine, town residents will vote next week on a law that, if passed, will require all households within the municipality to own a gun.

The basic argument being that it’s overreach for the federal government to require that everybody buy healthcare, but it’s not government overreach to mandate that everybody must buy a gun.  Individual mandate = communism, mandatory gun ownership = Jesus. Write that down, kids, there’ll be a test at the end of the blog post, followed by a blessing from His Smitiness, The Pope.

Can’t afford healthcare premiums, can afford a gun. 

Can’t afford healthcare, can afford a daily Big Gulp. 

The sound you hear is Ben Franklin drowning a bald eagle in a vat of ketchup.

The law, if passed, of course, would be unenforceable.  

It’s an idiotic waste of time and money and the town council knows it.

Town Head Selectman Anne Simmons-Edmund, the council member who proposed the ordinance, says:

“It was never my intention for anyone to own a gun who doesn’t want to. My purpose was to make a statement in support of the Second Amendment…”

Because that’s what laws are for, right? Not to be enforced, only to make a political statement.

What? You can’t arrest me, officer.  Well, of course I just punched the Mayor in the face. But the laws against assault aren’t supposed to be enforced, they’re more of a statement on our First Amendment right to petition the government for redress of wrongs – and that bitch totally wronged me, so I redressed her right in the nose. Boyah!

This kind if nonsense isn’t confined to Maine.  Here in Alaska, and in a dozen other states, local representatives are busy bloviating on about wasteful government spending and parasites who take a government paycheck while producing little in return – and are busy penning laws and ordinances that they know right up front are unenforceable and unconstitutional and will be struck down in court after costing taxpayers even more money. Every small town pissant Tea Party state representative, for example, is home right now crafting legislation to make enforcement of any new federal gun laws illegal in their home states.  Like you can actually do that.  For a bunch of people who claim to hate the Europeans, these patriots sure do seem to like the idea of a federal model that resembles the European Union – or the long defunct Confederacy.

Honestly, if they really wanted to reduce the size of government and the average total tax burden most of the middleclass deals with, then they’d do what Business does when it’s too big and too complex and too bloated – they’d advocate for elimination of redundant functions. You want to downsize? You want to streamline? Then don’t get rid of Federal Government, instead get rid of fifty different state governments. That would be a start right there. Just eliminate an entire layer of redundancy and bullshit and bureaucracy. Blam!  We’d end up one country, with one government, with one set of laws, with one set of taxes.  Then we can start getting rid of underperforming divisions, starting with Mississippi. And do we really need two Carolinas? Two Dakotas? A Virginia and a West Virginia?  Look, I’m just saying, anywhere that the percentage of Big Gulp slurping Wal-Mart shoppers wearing pajamas pants in public exceeds a ratio of, let’s say, 1 per 10,000 then that state should be looked at for a quick fireside sale. There’s really no downside.

What? Yes, yes, I know, make sure they spell my name right on the Nobel Prize. They’ll probably have to invent like a whole new category – The Nobel Prize of Awesome!

 

Which reminds me: North Korea. A bunch of you wrote asking what I thought about North Korea’s recent threat to nuke us.

Folks, honest to God, Kim Jong Un, right? You can all start digging fallout shelters in your backyards if you want to, but have you seen this character? Talk about a guy who was voted most likely to win first place on the People Of Walmart website.  Frankly I just can’t take anybody seriously when their chubby pink ass is hanging out of a pair of pajama bottoms – or maybe that’s his head, it’s kind of difficult to tell.  

Kim Jong Un, it’s like being threatened by Crazy Smurf.  

 

Of course, I’m not exactly sure that we should be talking shit about anybody else’s government, given the silly bastards who’ve taken ours hostage.

It’s now been two weeks since Congress crossed its little pipe-cleaner arms and scrunched up its little red face and started holding its breath like a truculent child.  If I don’t get my way, I’ll just hold my breath until I die! Then you’ll see! Then you’ll be sorry!

Of course, that’s what happens when you elect twits like the freshman republican Representative from Oklahoma, Jim Bridenstine, who was apparently off throwing tea into the harbor or something on the day his high school government class explained how America works.

“Just because the Supreme Court rules on something doesn’t necessarily mean that that’s constitutional.”

Um, yeah, Dude, that sort of is what it means, that’s what we pay them for.

But Bridenstine wasn’t finished, the crux of his complaint is that Democrats have stacked the court in their favor – the Supreme Court, the one dominated by conservatives five to four, conservatives appointed by conservatives. That court. Yeah.

This is the same guy whose website says he’s a veteran of “Operation Shock and Awe in Iraq.”  Operation Shock and Awe? Hmmm, I was there and as I recall there was Operation Southern Watch, and Operation Iraqi Freedom, and Operation Enduring Freedom, but I don’t remember any “Operation Shock and Awe.”  Shock and Awe was a strategy, a form of fast moving warfare that formed the first phase of Operation Iraqi Freedom – sort of an American version of Blitzkrieg, a snappy catch phrase tailor made for the news media.  But, hey, man says he was part of Operation Shock and Awe and the Supreme Court is made up of tofu eating liberals who don’t know about the Constitution, who the heck are we to argue, right? I’m sure he knows what he’s doing.

Left and Right remain far, far apart on spending and taxes.

Paul Ryan says he can balance the budget in less than ten years – all we have to do is let old people die and turn the poor into tasty Soylent Green.

President Obama is supposed to release his budget idea next week, republicans already proactively hate it.

Guy says to me this morning, “Obama? Jesus, somebody needs to tell him ‘you can’t borrow your way out of debt!”

We were standing at the urinals.  Now, look, there are rules. Men don’t talk to men in the restroom, not while they’re doing business – maybe a brief “howsitgoin’” while washing hands, but not during the business phase of the operation.  That’s the only part of the day that’s entirely mine, I don’t want to talk to anybody while I’m emptying a supersized Mountain Dew out of Pope Hammerscowl, if you understand what I’m saying here.  The only way to irritate me more than talking to me when I’m blessing the masses is to say something stupid.

You can’t borrow your way out of debt?

Right.

Except for that part where you actually can borrow your way out of debt – and, in point of fact, borrowing is the most common way people, corporations, and countries actually get themselves out of debt.

It happens a thousand times a day.

Take a doctor for example. Or a lawyer. Or any other highly paid professional with a graduate degree – pretty likely they borrowed themselves into debt in order to get advanced schooling which they then used to get a series of backbreaking internships where they wracked up more debt while working to improve their situation which eventually led to a decent high paying job which then allowed them to pay off their debts and start making bank.

Take GM. They borrowed a shitload of money from the government, they used that money to reorganize, reinvest, and retool – and they’re turning a profit again and working their way out of debt right now. If they hadn’t borrowed their way out of debt, they’d be bankrupt and out of business and several million American workers would be on the street.

Any new business typically starts out by acquiring debt. People and organizations borrow money all of the time in order to get out of debt by creating or improving infrastructure, hiring talent, to get past a bad patch, to fund research or construction or any of a thousand other things that improve their lot.

It’s sort of the entire basis of our economy.

You can borrow your way out of debt, what you can’t do is use empty platitudes and idiotic sound bites to achieve the same.

We’re two weeks into sequestration and there’s no end in sight. The full effects haven’t been felt yet, but they’re coming.

A number of folks, like my soon to be furloughed Urinal Buddy, have suggested that we just stop paying Congress until they start doing their jobs.

Uh, no.

Sorry, but that would be unconstitutional.

See, the 27th Amendment requires us to pay them. Period. Whether or not they do their job, whether or not we like it, we have to pay them. It’s the law.  Sequestration will eventually impact just about everybody in the United States, except for the people who created it.

Congress came up with that. Cute, eh?

Which brings up an interesting idea: Turn it around.

See, I figure it’s only poetic justice, Congress wrote a law that says we have to pay them no matter what, so I think it’s only fair that they should have to work – no matter what.

Here’s my idea: we herd the whole goddamned disagreeable bunch of them into the United States Capital Building, Senators into the Senate Chamber, Representatives into the House – and then we lock the doors.

That’s right, we lock the doors, from the outside. And post guards. Big guards, with bad attitudes and tasers – federal police, the guys threatened with furlough. Those guys.

And the Congressional sons of bitches can stay in there until they’ve earned their paychecks.

No pages, no aides, no phones, no internet, no TV cameras, no catering, no breaks. One Port-O-Potty per chamber – with one roll of toilet paper each.

Good luck.

Let us know when you’ve all agreed to a budget.  Slide it under the door and if we like it, we’ll send it over to the President for signature. If he vetoes it, then that’s on him.

Sequestration, as you’ll recall, has several definitions, one of which is to “seclude or lock away.”

I suggest we do exactly that. Sequester. To Congress.

Congress thinks sequestration is such a spiffy idea?

Let them live with it.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Droning On And On

 

Can the President kill an American?

That’s the question, isn’t it?

Can the President kill an American?

Well, OK, Obama looks pretty fit, I’m sure he could kill a guy if it really came down to it. Maybe stab somebody to death with his little flag pin or something, or borrow a shiv from his Secret Service detail.

But can he do it legally? From the air? With a robot?

Does the President have the authority to use a weaponized drone within the sovereign territory of the United States to kill an American citizen not actively engaged in hostile actions against our national interest?

That’s the real question.

The Attorney General of the United States says the answer to that question is no.

No.

No, the President can’t just use a drone to gun down American citizens.

No.

Well, whew, that’s a relief.

Glad we settled that. Because, man, that’s been keeping me up at night, the thought that Barack Obama might just decide to target me for death from the sky. Because, of course, that’s exactly what Hitler did, right? Sure. Right after Der Fuhrer gave everybody free government health care and a cell phone, he sent in the Gestapo Flying Robot Gunships to kill them all. It’s in the history books, you can look it up – it’s right next to the chapter about how Jesus founded America from the back of a T-Rex while fighting off the Nazi Communists Of Climate Change.

Forgive me if I don’t run outside with my assault rifle right now and look to the skies for the hovering Evil Obama Death Robots of Death

On the other hand, I can sort of see why Senator Paul and his posse might be concerned.

No, seriously, I mean given the nauseating volume of bilious yellow paranoia he and his fellows have heaped on the President these last few years, I suppose it’s not beyond imagination that Paul might be a little apprehensive. I guess if I’d been spewing ridiculous hysteria and talking shit about the most powerful man in the world, the man who commands deadly flying robots, I’d also maybe worry that Barack Obama would unleash the Predators from the computer terminal on his desk and start offing random conservatives from the comfort of the Oval Office. Rush Limbaugh? Kapow! Glenn Beck? Brazzzp! John Boehner? Mitch McConnell? Sarah Palin? Boom! Zap! Powie! Mitt Romney? ZZzzzslrp! Oh yeah! Hell yeah! Right in the magic underwear! Whoohoo! Like shooting womp rats from my T-16 back on Vulcan! Zap! Zap! Next, world domination! Oh Yes! Yes! Get some! Get some! Pew! Pew! Muwahahahahaha!

But I digress.

I’ve written about drones before, in detail, and their use against Americans overseas and the fact that it causes me little in the way of teary-eyed sleep loss.

But can the President of the United States of America authorize the military or the CIA to use a weaponized drone to kill a citizen of the United States on United States soil if that citizen isn’t actively engaged in hostile actions against the United States? 

I think it’s a pretty big step to get from the first case to the second (hypothetical) one, but Senator Paul felt it was important enough to spend fourteen bladder bursting hours droning on and on about it.

Can the President kill an American?

You know, that question, that one right there, speaks more clearly than anything else as to the current state of our country, our rights, and the overall nature of the hysterical posturing dimwits we’ve elected to manage our republic.

You see, because the answer to that question, whether or not the president can just kill whomever he feels like, isn’t exactly clear.

It should be clear.

It should be obvious.

It should be unambiguous, you shouldn’t have to ask the Attorney General or the prospective head of the CIA – it should be spelled out in the job description in no uncertain terms.

It should be well regulated and codified in law for every American to see.

It shouldn’t even be a question – but it is.

And it’s a question because legislators like Rand Paul and the rest of the overpaid, overfed louts in the House and Senate have made it so.

Can the President of the United States kill you, an American?

Well, let’s see, he can disappear you, or rather he can authorize your indefinite detention under military confinement without a trial, without access to a lawyer, without basic civil rights or even the basic level of access to civil jurisprudence that we give daily to Charlie Manson. He can have the question put to you, just as hard and just as long as he likes, just so long as he doesn’t call it torture. He can authorize active surveillance and the monitoring of your phone calls and emails and tweets and texts and social media posts without a review by a court of law. He can authorize the search of your home without a warrant or authorization by a judge and he can have it done in secret so that you don’t even know you’ve been violated and there’s not a damned thing you can do about it. He can authorize the confiscation of your property if anybody thinks you might be engaged in terrorism. He can have you and your children strip-searched in the airports and put on a secret no-fly list without the right to confront your accuser or the right to appeal your guilt or the right to petition the government for redress. He can make the library give up a list of the books you’ve checked out.  He can authorize the secret infiltration of your church, your social clubs, or your school, for the express purpose of spying on you simply because you look like you might, just might, be a subversive – he just can’t openly call it racial profiling even though that’s exactly what it is. He can have you snatched off the street in a foreign country and rendered into the custody of another foreign power for interrogation – and this time he can even call it torture if he likes.

And he can very likely do a number of other things to you as well. What exactly? Well, see, you’re not allowed to know that, it’s a secret.

When legislators just like Rand Paul, acting in fear and rage and panic, passed the Patriot Act and the Protect America Act and a dozen other laws with secret provisions and draconian authority and have since continued to renew those very same laws, well, they gave the President those powers.

And us? We citizens? We let them do it, and we rewarded them for it and we asked for more.

We gave that power to the President.

Or rather, we gave the previous President those powers.

And the people cheering Rand Paul’s impressive filibuster today? Those people were just fine with that power, that nearly unlimited presidential authority to deny Americans their rights under the Constitution, just so long as it was directed at those dirty bearded (alleged) terrorists being held in a cage down in Cuba, some of which are indeed Americans.  They were the same folks who were lined up ten deep begging for a chance to personally pull the lever on Army Major Nidal Hasan, an American, without a trial and damn his Constitutional rights (and yes, full disclosure, me too. Given a chance I’d strangle the cowardly son of bitch with his own beard. But I digress. Again). These are the very same people who talk of the Second Amendment in hushed reverent tones and dream of taking their guns to Washington – who exactly were they planning on using those weapons against when their little revolution comes? Will those targets, those Americans, get a trial? Will their Constitutional rights as American citizens be respected?  Go on, make me laugh.

As I’ve said many, many times, if you give the Jesus Lovin’ Midwestern Texas Conservative Patriot the power, you’ve also given it to his Tofu Eatin’ Chicago Bunny Humping Socialist ‘Merica Hatin’ successor. 

Rand Paul has nobody to blame but his fellow Congressmen, including his own father, those who wrote and passed the bills, and his own political party whose President signed that power into law, and his conservative Supreme Court who turned a partisan eye away and allowed that power to stand.

You give it to Bush, you give it to Obama.

Quod erat demonstrandum.

So, yes, given the current state of affairs, I suppose it’s not entirely out of line to wonder if the President, any president, thinks he has the authority to zap citizens into bloody mush on the streets of America.

And he does, you know.

That’s right.

Despite what Eric Holder said in his letter to Senator Paul, the President can kill innocent Americans.

The President, this one and the one before him, they have pointed guns at innocent law-abiding American citizens. In public. On TV. With the very real threat of killing those innocent law-abiding citizens right along with the supposed enemies of America.  I’m not talking collateral damage, not exactly, I’m talking about using the military to deliberately kill innocent Americans on American soil with malice aforethought.

Or rather, over American soil.

And we would have let them do it too, both of them, Bush and Obama.

See, every single time armed Air Force fighters are scrambled to intercept a suspect aircraft, private or commercial, in American airspace that’s exactly what the President is threatening to do, kill Americans.

And we would let the President authorize the shoot-down of an airliner in order to prevent another 9-11, wouldn’t we?

And we’d do it knowing that the innocent would die right along with the presumed guilty.

We’d kill them all, mothers and fathers and children, old and young, Americans and not, innocent and guilty, without trial, without warrant. Not without remorse or regret, certainly, but nonetheless we’d tell ourselves that it was necessary, that those dead Americans were heroes who died to protect a greater good, to prevent another 9-11. We might even build them a memorial after it was over, if we could get Congress to authorize the expenditure.

We’d hate it, but we’d let the Air Force blast them right out of the sky.

That’s exactly the iron fist the President flexes whenever he sends fighters up to intercept a jetliner.  

So, yes, the President can authorize the killing of innocent Americans on, over, American soil.

 

I’ll pause for a minute while you think carefully about the full ramifications of that.

 

Okay, sure, I hear you say in that argumentative tone you use when you’re glancing nervously over your shoulder, watching the sky. Sure, OK. But that’s different, Jim, it’s not the same thing. And the president would only order a shoot-down under extraordinary circumstance, when all else has failed, when danger is close and the threat is clear and present and imminent. When people are about to die!

Of course, the President has never ordered the actual shoot-down of a civilian airliner, not yet. But it could happen, we can’t rule out the possibility. That’s why we have fighter jets sitting ready around the country right now. We all remember the falling towers and the burning Pentagon and that smoking hole in the middle of a cornfield outside of Shanksville, PA, don’t we? And we could easily imagine a similar nightmare happening again. 

And, so if he had too, well, Boy, the President better do it, because we’d damned well hold him accountable if he didn’t. Right?

When Senator Paul first asked the Attorney General in a letter on February 20 about the use of armed drones directed against Americans on American soil, this was Eric Holder’s response:

The U.S. government has not carried out drone strikes in the United States and has no intention of doing so. We reject the use of military force where well-established law enforcement authorities in this country provide the best means for incapacitating a terrorist threat. The question you have posed is therefore entirely hypothetical, unlikely to occur, and one we hope no President will ever have to confront. But it is possible, I suppose to imagine an extraordinary circumstance in which it would be necessary and appropriate under the Constitution and applicable laws of the United States for the  President to authorize the military to use lethal force within the territory of the United States. For example, the President could conceivably have no choice but to authorize the military to use such force if necessary to protect the homeland in the circumstances of a catastrophic attack. Were such an emergency to arise, I would examine the particular facts and circumstances before advising the President on the scope of this authority.

Given our actions regarding national security since September 11th, 2001, on both sides of the Aisle, what in Holder’s response is in any way controversial? Or is in any way whatsoever “frightening” or any more an “affront to the Constitutional due process rights of all Americans” as Senator Paul proclaimed the Attorney General’s response to be than any other option we have on the table?  Is it more frightening than the prospect of blowing an airliner full of innocent people out of the sky? Is it any more frightening than the fact that we live in a country where our former Vice President wanders around extolling the morality of fucking waterboarding?

Honestly, at this point, how damned frightened can you possibly be?

You want to talk about frightening? Rand Paul belongs to the very same political party who was outraged when the President wouldn’t commit to leaving “all options” on the table when it came to dealing with Iran and North Korea – and by “all options” they specifically meant nuclear war.  You got any idea how many innocent people, American and otherwise, would die horribly if such an “option” was actually used?

Again, consider the ramifications. Consider the full ramifications of the nuclear option and all that would come after its use including the endless acts of terrorism in revenge.

Just so I’m clear here: you’re OK with nuclear war, but you’re frightened by flying robots with guns?

That about right?

I guess that’s no more contrary than any other partisan political position.

 

Snark and sarcasm and political theater aside, let’s get down to brass tacks: Rand Paul isn’t exactly wrong.

You, every one of you, American or otherwise, should be concerned about this power.

You should be asking what the limits are.

You should be demanding that your elected representatives stop acting like spoiled petulant children and start doing their jobs.

Rand Paul was a grandstanding jackass with his little filibuster, and he accomplished exactly nothing other than to keep his name in the headlines for 2016 … but he wasn’t entirely wrong.

Look, here’s the thing, you can’t put the Djinn back into the bottle.

Drones and other UAVs and RPVs are just too damned useful.

We spent billions developing these things and the technology is long past the experimental stage.

And we’re going to see more and more of them, at home and abroad, on the battlefield and off it.  Drones extend our reach, both civilian and government, they give us a cost-effective middle ground between satellites and the surface of the earth.  They are an incredibly versatile and valuable tool.

And you’re going to see a lot more of them in a lot more places doing a lot more things with a lot more capability.

Sure drones can kill people, there’s no question in that regard. 

And sure, a government can abuse the use of drones in a thousand different ways to make a mockery of civil and legal rights.

And yes, there is no doubt whatsoever that drones and similar technologies could most certainly be used as another tool of totalitarianism and oppression – and given the nature of human beings, it’s likely that they will be used as such, somewhere, sooner or later.

So?

No, not “so what?” but rather “So, tell us something we don’t know.”  

Tell us something that the men who wrote the Constitution didn’t know. No kidding? Technology can be used to enslave us? Well, of course it can.

But it can also free us.

Drones and other advanced technology can save lives too.

Drones can help to ensure civil and legal rights.

Drones can be used to enforce government compliance with the Constitution, to ensure liberty and justice and the American Way (whatever the hell that is).

Every technology has both benefit and bane.

Drones can be armed and used to kill, but they can also be used to find children lost in the wild or track criminals or rapidly survey the damage from hurricanes so that emergency relief can be quickly directed to where it’s needed the most. 

Drones can be used to snoop on the average citizen and be used to violate privacy rights in a hundred different ways from visual observation to monitoring of electronic emissions and heat signatures (and not just in the hands of the government. Imagine a drone equipped with the kind of advanced sensors that are widely available on the civilian market, let alone military equipment. Now imagine them under the control of, oh, say paparazzi. Now imagine you were Kate Middleton sunbathing topless … but I digress), but those same drones could be used by the media to observe police and government operations (over, say, an Occupy or Tea Party Rally) like a suped up police cruiser dashcam. That’s why the Founders felt freedom of the press was so important, not so that Glenn Beck could spew his idiotic conspiracy theories unchecked or so that bottom feeding yellow journalism could publish pictures of the Queen’s royal tits , but so that the citizens have an unrestricted method to observe the very government that was observing them.

If you want to impose limits on government power, then instead of Libertarians and Conservatives demanding more guns to protect themselves from government what they should be demanding are drones of their own – because that would make the use of guns a whole lot less likely.

Drones are simply too useful, both to government and for civil use, to abandon now.

Eventually they’ll be used not only for that border patrol conservatives are so keen on, along with tracking illegals entering this country on foot via the deserts of the American Southwest, but they will also be used by the average farmer to survey crops and livestock.  Farmers band together now in state Cooperative Extensions (Farm Co-Ops) for grain sales and help with the harvest and planting and advice on pests and yields and so on – I see the day when Co-Ops buy and operate their own agricultural drones equipped with special IR and UV sensors designed by NASA to analyze the health of crops and animals.  It’s not beyond the realm of possibility that those drones will be equipped with tanks and sprayers and capable of precision crop dusting beyond the capability of manned aircraft, and do it more cheaply, faster, and without risk to a human pilot.

The use of drones in search and rescue should be obvious – and demanded by the public as capability immediately available at the state level for areas where the manned Civil Air Patrol and National Guard units are unavailable or too costly.

Did you know that drones mounted with transmitter/receivers could serve as temporary cell phone relays over disaster areas – or sporting events? And do it cheaply and with much greater height of access than a traditional tower, without leaving an impact on the environment the way a fixed tower does – and, when it needs servicing or upgrade, it can be flown to the service center instead of requiring that somebody put on climbing gear.

With a little effort and a little imagination, you should be able to envision thousands of uses for drones, thousands of uses that would markedly improve our daily lives, that would ensure liberty and justice and the American Way for all citizens.

Drones are merely a tool, they are neither inherently good nor inherently evil.

Like any technology, from a club to a nuclear bomb, it’s how you use them that matters.

And in that regard Rand Paul is certainly right, we need to establish the rules now.

That’s the legislature’s job. Establishing those rules, setting boundaries, limiting power, examining the ramifications.  It’s got nothing to do with Left or Right, liberal or conservative, Republican or Democrat.  It is simply a facet of our ever advancing technology, our ever changing world, no different than the advent of the automobile or the internet.

There may indeed come a time when a President may have to authorize the use of armed drones against Americans on the soil of the United States.

And because of that, the Attorney General was absolutely correct in his statement. 

Congress is derelict in its duty if it does not acknowledge the possibility for partisan reasons.  They don’t have to like it, just as they don’t have to like the idea of shooting down a plane full of Americans, but they do have to acknowledge the possibility and plan for the eventuality.  That’s their job.

But like all power, that power should not be left to the opinion of any one man, even if he is the President of the United States. Or the Attorney General. Or a Senator.

How we use this technology should not be determined by grandstanding, or filibuster, or partisan coup counting.

It should be decided by the people, in the manner specified by the Constitution – i.e. via elected representatives of our republic doing their jobs in a rational and adult manner, without hysteria and histrionics and hyperbole.  If Americans want that option taken off the table, even under the most dire of circumstances, then Congress needs to put forward the proper legislation to make that a law. If we want to keep armed drones as an option within the confines of the United States, then Congress needs to sharply define that power and its limitations and write it into the President’s job description in black and white.

They don’t need a filibuster to do that.

They just need to do the job they were elected to do.

But then again, that’s how we should be doing a lot of things.

No Senator should ever have to ask the question Rand Paul did.  To do so is to admit publicly that neither he nor his fellow Congressmen are doing their jobs.  Congress makes the law, by definition. They shouldn’t ask the Attorney General for his opinion, they should give it to him – as a clearly defined law.

The Legislative Branch makes the laws, the Executive Branch enforces the law. That’s how our government is supposed to work.

If Rand Paul doesn’t like Eric Holder’s answer, then the Senate shouldn’t have given the Attorney General room for interpretation in the first place.

The use of force against citizens by their government, be it rendition or torture or indefinite detainment or no-fly lists or pepper spray or death from the sky, should never be open to interpretation by any one person. 

It should be clearly defined. Tightly bounded. And sharply limited.

And it would be, if only Congress was doing its job.