May 202013

“America’s Next Top Presidential Scandal:” Worst. Show. Ever. So the second term is about defining your legacy and having your enemies do everything they can to tarnish it. In the past few weeks a lot of Scandal Spaghetti has been thrown against the wall. Overall, these allegations are pretty tame compared to what the last two guys actually did. Here are the contenders, and no, I refuse to stoop to being one of those idiot journalists who thinks it’s cute to tack on a -gate to everything. (See rant in previous post.)

Benghazi. The administration is getting heat for trying to spin the motivation/identity of the attackers. The right is in a tizzy over this one because it touches on terrorism and Hillary Clinton. Even Krauthammer thinks they are wishing too hard for this scandal to be huge, and are perhaps overhyping it.

IRS v. conservative “nonprofit” groups. Certain groups got additional scrutiny in their attempt to attain tax-exempt nonprofit status. Let’s see, we have groups that want to eliminate the IRS applying to the IRS for special treatment. What could possibly go wrong?

DOJ snooping on AP reporters. The Justice Department had a subpoena and was investigating leaks by officials to reporters. I see how this could affect the First Amendment rights of reporters to be able to provide confidentiality to their sources. The source might not want to contact a reporter if the reporter’s phone records could lead investigators back to him. Why didn’t the DOJ just get the records of the people they were investigating. “Hey, look here. According to his phone record, Mr. Leaker called this number, which belongs to a reporter at the AP.” The same facts would be discovered without damaging the reporter’s rights or reputation. Seems like this scandal is about laziness or incompetence. Of course, what the scandalmongers are really looking for is some kind of coverup.

The Marine and the Umbrella. The outrage! How dare a Marine hold an umbrella over the head of the president? I wouldn’t be surprised to hear a scandalmonger chime in and point out that the umbrella is black, and “what kind of message is that sending? Why does Obama have a deep-seated hatred for white umbrellas? And why isn’t the umbrella wearing a flag pin?”

Sad Obama

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Aug 082012

For the second month in a row we’ve got a mass shooting breaking into the headlines. On Sunday, a gunman shot 6 people at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin before justice was swiftly served and he was removed from the gene pool. Reports indicate this bozo had white supremacist ties (he was even in a white power rock band). So it looks like this is not necessarily the work of an idiot-bigot who mistakenly thought he was shooting at Muslims. I’m willing to bet those skinheads probably don’t like Sikhs either.

Again, like America’s litany of school shootings, here’s another case of a lone wacko causing more damage than al Qaeda has in America since 9/11. Yet we’re still spending the lives of our soldiers and billions of dollars each year chasing a couple hundred of those guys around the world, and killing others in the process.

I wonder how the gun control debate will develop following this case. Unlike the large arsenal in the Aurora shooting, this guy had only a 9 mm handgun and some extra clips of ammo. No assault rifles were present. It’s hard to see an angle for gun control advocates, except for maybe seeking to impose more mental health screening for gun permits. It’s a futile cause simply going after a handgun ban.

I predict you might even hear some commentators trampling over the First Amendment on their way to reigning in the Second Amendment. They might call for limiting someone’s ability to purchase guns based on membership in certain groups or based on the content of certain statements they have made. Under the Constitution, you have a right to possess immoral beliefs, but can you can lose rights for having a range of mental conditions. Yes, evil is more protected than crazy.

Mental illness is such a broad category. Where do you draw the line for which diagnosis loses 2nd Amendment rights? How long before a certain political party comes out and says, “Well, if we can’t trust you with a gun, we probably shouldn’t trust you with a vote?” It might be more effective to approach the issue of reducing the number of armed mentally ill by focusing on promoting access to treatment while reducing the stigma rather than attacking the gun ownership half of the equation. It’s more humane and certainly may be easier logistically, and we wouldn’t risk creating too broad a ban.

Lawmakers should tread carefully here. Perhaps because mental illness is such a broad category there is legitimate dispute in academic circles about the usefulness of focusing on the mentally ill in preventing incidents of gun violence:

[S]urprisingly little evidence supports the notion that individuals with mental illnesses are more likely than anyone else to commit gun crimes. Many scholars hold the association to be overstated. According to Columbia University psychiatrist Paul Appelbaum, less than 3—5% of American crimes involve people with mental illness, and the percentages of these crimes that involve guns are actually lower than the national average—particularly when alcohol and drugs are taken out of the mix. For Appelbaum, the focus on so-called mentally ill crime obfuscates awareness of a far more important set of risk predictors of gun violence: substance use and past history of violence.

It may be hard to accept, but when dealing with constitutional rights we should be sure to focus on a much smaller portion of the mentally ill (those who have displayed actual evidence of violent behavior). This will be difficult to regulate because it seems you need an actual diagnosis and/or adjudication before it can be entered into any background check system. Perhaps it all comes down to our freedom to own guns limiting our freedom from fear of random shootings.

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Jun 142012

Today is June 14th, Flag Day, here in the great United States.  It is a day to commemorate the official adoption of our flag back in 1777.  It’s also a day for flag worshipers to pop up, those who care more about the symbol than the nation and people it represents.  

If you can believe it, some people still get their panties in a bunch over “flag etiquette.”  This guy goes beyond reminding us to not let the flag touch the ground:

The Flag Code clearly states that “The flag represents a living country and is itself considered a living thing.”

A living thing!

Are you kidding me? You won’t convince me the flag is a living thing until I see a bunch of hunters out in the woods trying to kill it.

Now, I’m against people abusing the flag in order to intentionally inflict emotional distress on other people.  For instance, I don’t think it is a good idea to go streaking naked through a VFW meeting, stopping in the middle to wipe yourself with Old Glory.  Using a blank T-Shirt would be bad; the flag makes it worse. 

The difference is I’m concerned about the damage to the person-victim than the symbol-object “victim.”  Defiling the fabric doesn’t harm the nation, but many in the audience would find such behavior so outrageous and offensive that it risks causing heart attacks.

If you want to see some real desecration, look for those trying to redefine the flag’s symbolic value to fit their own political ideology. Check out this gem from the Washington Times:  “In other words, the flag was understood to be a symbol of the unity of people and not simply a representation of the government of the United States because at the time, there was no official government.” 

So you want the anti-government crowd to co-opt the flag. Just paint a giant teabag on there and call it a day.  I’m going to say, “Hell, no, Bozo!”  Patriotism belongs to anyone who loves their country, but especially those who want to make it the best it can be. 

Today, we’ll probable hear another call for a flag burning amendment.  I’ve always found this idea amusing for its astounding level of cognitive dissonance. They want to protect a symbol of our freedoms by placing an arbitrary limit on one of our most important freedoms (First Amendment expression). 

I think such an amendment would do more damage to the flag than burning millions of them. (Similarly, any legislation that bans display of the flag should be tossed for similar reasons)  A call for a flag desecration amendment would probably appeal to some of the same folks also put more emphasis on a few isolated phrases in a perpetually re-translated bible over the core principles of their own savior. 

Flag worshipers want to prove their patriotism by treating the flag like a holy relic.  Ask them if they know whether that flag was made in China.

On Flag Day, take a more reasonable level of reverence.  Respect the flag as a symbol, but don’t worship it.  Doing so will distract you from continuing attempts to ruin the nation that it stands for.


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Jun 082012

This week’s Wisconsin recall election inspired me to examine the phenomenon of working class folks supporting the destruction of unions.

The argument I hear the most is that it is somehow unfair that people in union jobs get job security and “cushy” benefits, while other nonunion workers don’t.

This argument is bizarre. Because you don’t have those benefits, they say, it is obvious and only fair that those union folks shouldn’t have them either. NO, NO, NO, you idiots!  Instead of demanding they be taken away from others, why don’t you demand them for yourself. You deserve the benefits, too. This is like saying that because someone stole your car, your neighbor shouldn’t get to keep his car either.

Many people are susceptible to being persuaded by this nonsense because of their emotional loyalty to their partisan team. This makes them generally adverse to facts and very likely to believe and regurgitate whatever the team’s opinion leaders say.

The only mildly reasonable argument against unions I’ve read concerning the Walker recall is that public employee unions operate in a tainted collective bargaining process because they negotiate with elected officials. Thus the public unions have undue influence over the management side of the equation because they can pour money into campaigns. The argument goes further (salt in the wound) that the politician/manager no longer puts the interests of the shareholder first, who in this case is all of the taxpayers. So they argue unions get public employees unfair access to tax dollars.

This, perhaps the best argument union-crushers have, is a flawed position. If you ban public employee unions it doesn’t solve the problem you are concerned about. In fact, it might make that problem worse. First, without a union, public employees would feel more insecure about their position and more individuals would become politically active without having a union to do it for them.

Second, banning unions won’t stop the employees from having the ability to dump money into a campaign. We have this thing called the First Amendment. Employees are free to associate and work together in the political process. They could set up a PAC, perhaps more easily than a union.  Now, under Citizens United, they could set up a Super PAC and spend unlimited dollars in favor of a particular candidate.

So long as elected officials are in the position of employer, the employees will use the political process to pursue wokers’ interests.

How did the working class get turned against unions? It looks like the anti-union crowd tapped into partisan loyalty, jealousy, and ignorance to set up the divide-and-conquer approach to weaken the power of labor. I wonder how long it will take them to marshal support to repeal the 13th Amendment.

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