Friday, May 31, 2013

Not Right is now 9

Nine years ago at this very moment, I was sitting at the family PC at my parents' house creating the blog that you see before you now. On impulse, I set up a Blogger account shortly before midnight, wrote up several initial entries and played with the template until about 6 a.m.

Nine years later, I'm ... one room over. It's been a rough year. But at least I'm on my own Mac laptop now. And in between I've lived out of state, moved back in state, been all over the country, loved, lost, won, hurt, stopped hurting, started hurting again and have had to reassess my direction several times. This blog has opened doors, slammed doors in my face and undergone long periods of disinterest. When I set this up on June 1, 2004, I hoped it would help elevate me to an illustrious writing career. It has not done that.

What it has brought me is at least a minimal audience I wouldn't have had otherwise; some friends I might not have met another way; and I probably wouldn't be as consistently prolific and creative. Even if this leads to no traditional metric of success, it's still something. And it's always a treat to look back ... well, sometimes. Some stuff I wish I'd written differently. But such is life.

I hope I can look back a year from now, on this blog's 10th anniversary, and say things are going a lot better. In the meantime, I'll continue to seek self-improvement and steer into a better position as best as I can. That's a lifetime commitment.

I need to do better. And I will. That's a promise.

(Oh, and I'm happy to report that my blog passed the 3rd grade. It nearly got expelled and charged with a felony for its loud science experiment, but hey, test scores!)

A powerful irony

Today is the annual meeting of SLEMCO, the utility co-op that powers much of rural south Louisiana. SLEMCO meets every year at this time at the Cajundome in Lafayette. In addition to official business, the meeting features bands, kid stuff, free coffee and doughnuts, multiple door prizes, scholarships and the grand prize of a car or truck.

My grandfather was a SLEMCO member for 35 years, and he and I went to the meetings each year I was in high school. I always had fun peeking into the prize vehicles and even more fun flirting with the many teenage girls who would show up. Pop's deal with me was always that if he won the car, I'd get his old station wagon. Every year, that didn't happen. 

One year, a picture of Pop mingling with other members showed up in the following year's SLEMCO Power promo. Sadly, he had died in the months prior. With him died our annual trek.

But SLEMCO remains of interest to me in light of the politics of recent years. Its clientele is overwhelmingly rural and conservative, which means that they presumably use their successful, 76-year-old public utility to power up Fox News broadcasts about how socialism is destroying America. And many will no doubt discuss "takers" and government largesse over their free coffee, while waiting to see if they've won an expensive prize, paid for in part by community dollars, at the lavish event.

I've noticed that the meetings, just like the utility itself, have endured for decades. There's a lesson lurking there for some people.

Also, they're too tiny for tic-tac-toe

I saw something on the Internet that annoyed me.

It's something that everyone, including myself, has done on occasion. It has its place.

I've blogged about it before.

I don't think less of people for doing it.

It's not at all important in the scheme of things, really.

But it's still hard to let go.

Excessive hashtags on Facebook.

Today I saw an item that had 26 hashtags. TWENTY-SIX! That's 223 characters, not counting spaces. That's enough to fill nearly two full (unreadable) tweets.

Supposedly, Facebook may be experimenting with hashtags soon. As far as I can tell, that time hasn't yet come. But when it does, a tutorial about tags might be in order.

As of tomorrow, I will have been tilting at windmills blogging for nine years. The only time I ever tagged posts is when I blogged on the Springfield News-Leader's website. That was in 2008, before Blogger had an easy way to tag posts. I realized quickly that I hated coming up with tag terms, because my vocabulary OCD would kick in. I would want to tag every proper noun, then every improper noun, then every verb, then half the conjunctions and some of the articles. (Eventually, I made a running gag of tagging every post with "aggravating" and "squirrels.") Left to my own OCD devices, I might have strung tag lists longer than the posts themselves. After a point, I decided I'd let the posts speak for themselves.

I encourage anyone tempted to go overboard on filling the unlimited space that Facebook provides to show a little restraint. Hashtags work on Twitter because they're searchable and, most importantly, you're limited in how many you can write. Facebook is not (yet?) searchable and allows far more space for tags than is forgivable. Sometimes more isn't more.

Oh, and that hash salad I mentioned earlier? It was a shared advertisement. 

That's not cool either.

Anyone who can get creative with hashtags can — and should — be just as creative without them. 

Solid content has its own way of getting around.

Refining priorities


As a reporter in Baton Rouge, I frequently covered this refinery. The people there were always friendly and accessible, even when coverage was critical. 

One day I visited the refinery along with other local journalists to witness some construction. We took a shuttle van to and from the front gate. On our way out, security stopped the van and was threatening to write tickets for all of us inside. The reason: most of us weren't wearing seat belts. I'm the most militant of belt wearers, but I'll admit I hadn't searched too hard for the elusive restraint in a packed shuttle van that was driving us a few hundred feet at most. The driver eventually talked the officers out of it, but we were told that such enforcement was part of the plant's "culture of safety." I'd heard those words throughout my visit that day, and had to meet lots of safety and ID requirements to enter.

That's entirely understandable and commendable. But if what NPR is reporting is correct, then the safety priorities are askew. Enforcement, to some degree, seems based on economics rather than urgency. If the refinery is quick to crack down on shuttle van violations, then it should be at least as equally diligent in fixing equipment failures that poison the environment around it. At least.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Inspired by a conversation about Savage Garden

Six years ago, I moved out of state for a new job and bought a new car (which I still drive). It was the first new car I ever owned, and it ended a 17-month period when I didn't own a vehicle. The car smelled brand-new and was fun to drive. Also, its radio had an intact faceplate, which was an upgrade over my previous truck.

During my earliest cruises, I noticed that I would jam even to songs I didn't care about before. After that, I'd always love those particular songs. Years later, I went through a period of overwhelming stress and dread that magnified during my commute — and I didn't want to play even my favorite songs.

I don't know if it's a universal experience, but I find time, place and circumstance make all the difference in how (or if) I enjoy a song. More often than not, my first impression of a song matters most.

(Example: In 7th grade, I wanted to make a joke: "(Blank band) is so bad that if you put their CD in your stereo, the stereo says, 'no disc.'" (Stop not laughing.) Because I couldn't think of a bad band, I asked a friend for one. He offered up the Black Crowes, whom I'd never heard of. When I finally heard them, I couldn't admit that I liked them; my friend's passing reference meant that much. I got over it, but it took a while.)

Fortunately, that first impression can be rewritten if necessary. (Saints montages in particular are capable of magic. Potentially terrible magic in the wrong hands.)

Even more fortunately, this is true of pretty much everything. Yesterday was one of those days where I wanted to snipe at everything and everyone, where even an Internet pop-up ad pissed me off based on its content. I'm glad every day isn't like that, because I like to enjoy things. Mood has so much to do with how we perceive things, including life in general. It's just a matter of getting into the right mood, which is often easier said than done, then everything can be beautiful.

We can't hibernate through the worst times, so it's worth it to figure out how to do that.

Or, even better, how to live life so that you never want to hibernate.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

An anarchy of accuracy

I’m not sure I’m a liberal.

Get up.

No, I haven’t changed my mind about anything, nor am I having an existential crisis of any sort (well, not this sort at least). But after giving a lot of thought to what I believe in terms of religion and politics, I think I’m more of a scientist than anything else. By that I mean, I’m theoretically flexible.

In the past, I’ve considered myself an atheist. But I’m not certain there’s no God any more than I’m sure there is one. Officially, I’d say I’m open to concrete evidence for either case. Realistically, I don’t think I’ll ever see that kind of evidence, so I’m not likely to budge from my stance of, “I just don’t know.”

It’s the same with politics. I’ve considered myself liberal for as long as I’ve known what the word meant, but what I value most is an open-minded approach. Officially, I’ll side with whatever strikes me most accurately as the truth. Realistically, I don’t see my political morals being swayed dramatically at this point.

In either case, I like to think that I wouldn’t cling to something I knew to be untrue or inaccurate out of stubbornness. I’d accept concrete truth and move on. It’s the basis of the scientific method — hypothesize, build on available data and adapt when necessary.

Religion tends to be the exact opposite of this — based on preordained, absolute truth backed by faith and properly questioned by no one. If a belief does not hold up to evidence, then the evidence must be tweaked to fit the belief.

Hence, I don’t worship at any altar, not even the ones with which I most identify. Where I stand is a result of consideration, experimentation and logic. It can change, but only where it must to closer adhere to the truth.

The problem with this approach is that people will say, “You think you’re being objective, but you’re biased.” Behind this statement is the idea that the truth is a dead-center concept, and thus anyone who veers left or right is ideologically clouded. This is a destructive view, just like the idea that the press must be “balanced.”

“Balance” doesn’t mean a thing if by achieving it, journalists lend credence to a false viewpoint. Objectivity, the supposed point of balance, is important — but that’s not accomplished by equally weighing competing viewpoints for its own sake. Part of finding the truth is filtering fact from fiction. Sometimes that might make one side look better than the other, but the truth often has that effect. True objectivity acknowledges that.

This is important to keep in mind as the press grows more democratic in the online age. Many pundits bemoan the “elitist” media for dismissing the power of the fact-finding masses. And yes, journalism isn’t (and shouldn’t be) the exclusive, unchecked province of a privileged few. However, the press — regardless of form — must be the exclusive province of one type of journalist: the one who cares about truth, accuracy, fairness and context. Some untrained, amateur journalists have a natural knack for it; some professional, trained scribes don’t.

It’s the same with individuals and beliefs. The truth isn’t necessarily a matter of being open to all things for its own sake; it’s being open to that which steers you closer to the truth. Wherever you fall, whatever you believe, you should be there because it’s the most accurate place to be. In a world of false absolutes, accuracy is a real absolute. Anyone who wants to make an anarchy of accuracy lacks respect for the truth. Don’t buy anything they’re selling.

But do keep experimenting for enlightenment, always. Be as true and accurate as you can be. In the end, that’s all that matters.

Science!

Friday, May 24, 2013

Debunking Jonah Goldberg in four sentences


1) When anger and derision toward the media is an established journalist's entire schtick, it rings more than a little petulant, hollow and ironic.

2) It's not a victory for the First Amendment to demand no standards of truth, accuracy and context. 

3) Freedom of religion does not mean, "freedom to violate the law based on religion."

4) It's not a violation of the First Amendment if a group applies to be a nonprofit and then breaks the rules that govern nonprofits — it's a violation of the tax code. 

That was easy. Weekend!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

I have relatives in the news

I'm sharing the video below not just because of the hilariously awkward "I'm an atheist" exchange that's lit up the Internet, but because I know Rebecca Vitsmun. She's my cousin by marriage. (But the "I'm an atheist" moment, at 7:46, is indeed priceless.)



She and I aren't close, though I spent a lot of fun times with our mutual cousins growing up. We did attend the same college at the same time and hung out a couple of times. And we're friends on Facebook. That's enough for me to know that she's very cool. (I didn't know she lived in Moore, though. She's moved around a few times, as have I.)

I like especially how she handled Wolf Blitzer's question with honesty and open-mindedness. And in Blitzer's defense (what an awesome pair of words), his question would have been fine with 99.9999 percent of Becca's neighbors. I thought they both played it off well. And I'm glad she and her family are OK.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The role of guilt in giving back

Graduates at Drury University in Springfield, Mo., on Saturday were treated to what was touted as a "final exam" and "test of your character" during commencement exercises. Each student was given a sealed envelope with an amount of cash ranging from $10-$1,000 each; the speaker urged the students to donate it all to Drury without peeking. The students then adjourned to an obscured area where they could make their decision without anyone knowing. The school had no way of knowing who gave. Supposedly, the school received back 85 percent of the gift, and the speaker (the donor behind the idea) will make up the difference.

OK.

This reminds me of a TV newsmagazine segment I saw years ago titled, "How Honest Are You?" The producers drove onto a crowded street with a big truck and threw bundles of money out to an eager crowd as they slowly crept along. Footage of the experiment made clear that it didn't appear to be an armored truck losing its cargo — a man in a suit was gleefully tossing out cash while multiple cameras conspicuously filmed the whole thing. I don't remember the rest, but do recall thinking, "this seems like a cheap stunt."

This graduation "test" is also a cheap stunt.

The idea isn't bad — doing your best when no one is watching is age-old wisdom, and sacrificing for the common good is the cornerstone of society.

But that isn't what this is. This is a rich man slipping money to students, most of whom are debt-ridden and face a bleak job market, and baiting and guilting them to give back to the institution that has given them so much (such as the privilege to work for degrees while incurring monster private-school debt). It puts the students in a bind — if they donate the money, no one knows; if they don't, they may hate themselves for letting down the community. Either way, Drury gets the full amount of the donation, and the big-shot donor looks good.

OK, but isn't what students feel inside the important thing? Yes, but this experiment equates doing the right thing with a single, specific action — donating cash to Drury University. It manipulates the students into thinking they should feel guilty if they apply even some of the funds to their own pressing needs (which I'd argue is also a worthwhile investment).

When I first graduated from college 11 years ago (a public university, not Drury), it took my alma mater all of a month to start regularly hitting me up for money. I used to joke that if employers were that eager to reach me, donations would never be a problem. In the years since graduating, I've supported UL when I can. But in times when saving money and living tight take precedence, alumni support takes a backseat. It's not a jab at the school; I just figure they can make do until I can make do.

I wonder how I would have handled this challenge both times I graduated. I'd like to think I'd do the right thing in their eyes. But honestly, I probably would have kept most of the money. Because in those days, cash was often hard to come by (I wasn't in debt thanks to scholarships, but I wasn't rolling in dough either). I would have rationalized that I'd donate later once established, when I could give more anyway. Then I'd get mad about feeling guilty, and resent the attempt at rewriting my ethics for financial benefit. Which would lead me to wonder whether I should ever donate to a school that would allow such a stunt.

Returning found funds is the right thing to do, as is giving back to the community. Manipulative stunts that exploit an underfunded group's altruistic urges, on the other hand, deserve to be called out.

I hope that's the lesson the Drury students took from their pop final. It's a valuable one.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Understanding understanding

This past weekend, I found myself in a heated debate on Facebook with a friend of a friend. She argued that all women should own a handgun for protection, especially if they're slight like she is. She also said that she had no training in self-defense, though she was thinking about looking into it. She implied as well that she's never owned a gun, but didn't think she'd need a lot of training to shoot any guy who approaches her when she's afraid.

I countered that not only is a handgun far more likely to be ineffective or used against the owner in a defensive situation, but that it takes lots of sustained training and discretion to actually use one in a crisis situation — and that it's not something to take lightly. Furthermore, I suggested that if she's so serious about self-defense, she should become well-rounded in physical techniques and not presume that a gun is a cure-all protectant. And that awareness of one's environment and avoiding high-risk situations are smart strategies.

The debate eventually crumbled to the point where she said that I could never understand her plight because I'm not a woman. She accused me of siding with the "bad guys" (which in this conversation meant rapists) and not-so-politely demanded that I shut up.  

"You don't understand." 

I've had this conversation before. I'm sick of having it.

Ultimately, the only experiences we can know 100 percent are those that happen to ourselves. But since time began, that hasn't stopped us from trying to relate to one another. Some people don't even try. Others do try and get rebuffed by those they're trying to understand.

For my part, I get that I cannot fully understand the unique trials faced by women, minorities and the disabled because, as a healthy white male, I don't suffer those institutional disadvantages. But I do try to be aware of them, in an attempt to understand societal wrongs and to not be part of the problem. I'm equally not interested in overdoing it, which is where I go wrong sometimes in peoples' eyes.

For one thing, I see men and women as equals. And because I don't put up with a man saying, "You couldn't possibly understand, little lady," I also have no tolerance for, "You can't understand because you're a man."

That's not to say that "you don't understand" has no purpose. But I think if someone is making an earnest attempt to understand something, they shouldn't be shot down with an abstract, exclusivist concept. Save the condemnation for those with dismissive attitudes.

That's not me, no matter how much some want it to be.

Daily satirist devotional

"Americans are fed up with both parties, especially the Democrats." — Catchphrase of fake tea partier Earl "Clem" Bob

"It was the frustration with big spending created by both parties, but especially maximized by the current administration, that successfully harnessed and packaged together citizens from all around the country under a common, big tent banner: the tea party." — Real tea partier Dana Loesch

"Without a blatant display of humor, it is impossible to create a parody of extremism or fundamentalism that someone won't mistake for the real thing."Poe's Law

As Jeff Goldblum might say, "Must try harder."

Sunday, May 19, 2013

#conservativebandnames

(My humble contributions to the Twitter meme)

The My Way or the Highwaymen
For-Profit Medicyndi Lauper
Let the Eagles Soar
Wings Take Dream
Joe McCarthy and Wingnuts
SUV Halen
Inhuman League
Panic! It's San Francisco
Eurythmethods
Fortune 500 Maniacs
Victoria Jackson Five
Right Winger
Tower of Glower
Scam!
Glass Ceilings & Croft
The Prima Donnas
Issahouse
Morose Days In Due Time
Not Yes
New Border
Roberta Frack
Kings of Peon
Soft Sell
Pink Slipps, Inc.
Litter River Band
Gary Puckett & The Union Busters
Was (Never Was)
Standardized Test Dummies
Heavily Edited Exposé
Big Brother and the Hypocrite Company
War ... of Northern Aggression
Impeach Boys
Charlotte Church and State
Trans Fat Boys
Chyld Stallyns
Rebecca Token Black
Spite Girls
Fall Outsource Boy
Rovette
The George Bush Blues Explosion
50 1 Percent
Average White Fans
Gall and Cutthroats
Dream Eater
Sugar Reagan
All Eyes Blind
The Gimme Hundreds Experience
Deadeye Dicks
Debtallica
Overreach Boys
Butthole Birthers
Chicago Style Politics
Foster the People Into Hating You
gun.
There Might Be Defiance
Filibuster Poindexter
Boy Meets Girl ... Period
Not So Many Men at Work
Three Dogma Night
Oldplay
Birther, Windbags and Fired
Conserving Berlin
Plain White Tea Partees
Ben Ghazi Five
Gun DMC
Foreigner Go Home
Caucasia
Bachmann Turner Diaries Overdrive
The White Gripes
Jesus Police
Grand Junket Railroaders
Meredith Crooks
The Melissa Etheridge Disinformation Society
OD on Talk Radio
Hooey Lewdness on Fox News
Errorsmith
Hannity 6
Reince
Michael Steele Wheels
Without Warrant

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Extra Ordinary

Long before I knew what parody and sketch comedy were, I was a huge fan of both. As a child, I loved Saturday Night Live, Turkey TelevisionSCTV, Laugh-In and TV's Bloopers and Practical Jokes. Naturally, I came up with my own comedy ideas for TV and film. Most of them had the word "ordinary" as a punch line. I thought this was hilarious.

Here's why: at some point, I saw a fake commercial for a cereal called "Ordinary K." (I can't recall when or on what show, and the entire Internet apparently doesn't know either. There is this, though, in a meaner vein.) The ad got my attention and made me laugh out loud. And it inspired me.

I began to integrate "Ordinary" into all of my spoofs, most of which are lost to time. One I remember was a movie called Ordinary Rider, in which a news producer embarks on a soul-searching, cross-country road trip with his pal in a Ford Escort.

I couldn't find a rip of "Ordinary K" online, but I found a picture of the exact toy car that I pretended was Ordinary Rider. Good show, Internet.
But my magnum ordinary opus was a show that I (and I'd imagine millions of Americans) would watch even today: Ordinary Wrestling.

The concept was simple: pro wrestling with celebrities. And I don't mean those WWE cameos where a famous person shows up and gets dramatically fake-demolished between rounds — I mean, real celebrities get real pummeled. Because to my elementary brain, wrestling was real. And apparently, I thought anyone could do it.

I drew up fight cards (none of which I still have, unfortunately). While I can't recall the exact match-ups, they often ran along the line of Ed McMahon vs. Dick Clark and Bill Cosby vs. Bea Arthur. The only real matches I remember are Andre the Giant vs. Ernest and Pee Wee Herman vs. Kermit Duhon.

Who is Kermit Duhon? He's a big-shot travel agent in Lafayette. For a few months in the 1980s, he hosted a sweepstakes drawing on local TV that appeared in between shows. He'd spin the wheel and people would win big prizes. In my mind, this made him as big a celebrity as Pee-Wee.

Vintage TV Guide ad for Ordinary Wrestling, circa 1988.
My brother and I took it a step further and Ordinary Wrestled for real. We'd each pick a favorite famous person and then grapple in our custom ring (my grandmother's bed), usually during Bloopers. The floor of the bedroom was also fair game. I even made up my own move inspired by the DDT just for Ordinary Wrestling: the AAC. The move consisted of whatever I was doing at the moment I yelled, "AAC!" And we'd laugh the whole time while repeating, "This is ORDINARY Wrestling!"

We weren't ordinary kids.

Why I don't date much

Friday, May 17, 2013

When it rains, it pours false outrage


Proving that literally anything can make critics furious if President Obama is involved, conservatives blew their top today over the image above. 

They claimed that Obama's request for rain protection violates U.S. Marine regulations regarding umbrellas. Obviously these rules are taught at the Limbaugh Institute for Advanced Conservative Studies, given their long track record as a public obsession. Why, you can't even spit on the street anymore without grazing a patriot who is up-to-date on obscure military umbrella protocol! (Surely these not-at-all newly minted experts are aware of U.S. Code Title 10, which compels the Marines to "perform such other duties as the President may direct.")

The outrage over this is so transparently bogus that it (to a degree, at least) retroactively washes out the scandals of the past week. Sure, there are legitimate questions to be asked about the IRS scandal (though not really) and definitely the AP surveillance racket — but how trumped-up do those scandals seem in light of yet another supposed "blow" against Obama? It's like the critics got cocky, pressing their luck only to hit the Whammy.

Given Obama's history of reaching out, maybe we won't be seeing such a move the next time it rains. But as we've seen in the past, it works out for the best.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Good ideas I've had

As someone whose brain constantly cranks out ideas, I have a lot of terrible ideas. But amid all the piles of lame dust, there occasionally sit some nuggets of goodness. A lot of times, those ideas are as doomed to die as the bad ideas that fueled their existence. This blog is a dumping ground for some of those good ideas. (You can decide if "good" is good, or if it means "not great.")

• In kindergarten, I created my own entire line of Transformer knockoffs. They were based on real toys I owned (and sometimes real Transformers) and I expanded the line over the next couple of years. Most of the names made no sense, such as Electictwo (the leader who transformed into a red station wagon). Other good guys included Poweracer, Crumbasher (aka Loosecrack), Bluebumble (a blue Beetle), Whirlwind (a knockoff of the real Whirl), Tank-Pong, Blackout, Executioner (a skateboard with that name I called a "Gigantic Vehicle") Tiretread, Karlengine (a butterfly; my mom made up that one) and Digitron (a clock radio — seriously — that actually had that as its name). Bad guys included Loudmotor (a 1983 Ford Fairlane — hush) and the Flower Girls, a group of robot-sized women based on girls on the playground who had girl germs. There were many, many others.

One, however, sticks out in my mind as being uniquely somewhat serviceable. In my imaginary movie, like the real Transformers movie, some robots get reformed into new ones. Tank-Pong became Defender, for example. Bluebumble became a funny car. His name? Laugh Track. Get it?

• In high school, I ran track. And as I so often do, I came up with a movie idea. It was called "Track & Dead." It was about the school's star runner, who drops dead right before crossing the finish line. Because it takes place in the Ghost version of the afterlife, he notices he's dead only after he sails through the finish line and doesn't break it. Then he turns and realizes he's dead. But all is not lost. For one thing, he can still move objects and even drive his car (in a memorable scene whose context I never quite figured out). For the rest of the film, he tries to convince the team of his continued presence so they can win state. (This was before The 6th Man, by the way.) In the two sequels — of course there are sequels — he follows his best running buddy to college, and the buddy learns to pretend he's on his cell phone when talking to his spirit friend. In the third one, the ghost is in Antarctica for some reason (probably because he's still wearing his singlet and that would be funny).

The good idea from this one arises when the freshly dead protagonist spies a track legend, maybe Jesse Owens, standing alone in the bleachers. Our hero approaches him and asks him why they see no other spirits around. Jesse says that they go to the afterlife and that he doesn't know what's there. The runner is scared of the uncertain and wants to stay on Earth. So Jesse tells him:

"Just keep breathing. Inhale, exhale. You don't have to do it when you're dead. It can be a burden. But it's a good burden. It keeps you alive, even in death. It keeps you going in death as certainly as in life. If you've got unfinished business here, keep breathing. Always."

• At seven, I dreamed up the idea of cable radio. Lots of specialized stations at your fingertips. I never worked out the logistics of attaching a cable to your car. Fortunately, the XM satellite people picked up where my research left off.

• When I was 9, I dreamed up a sequel to Robocop where Robocop would have graffiti spray-painted on him and would be chopped to pieces. His LED display would also be a different color. Much of this inspiration came directly from Short Circuit 2. And it all made it into Robocop 2 a year later. I was wrong about one thing: in my version, Robocop got forcibly hooked on "drug water," which made society absolutely crazy at the cost of its hopes and dreams. In the real version, the drug is Nuke and it's a human cop who's addicted.

• I once had a dream about a sequel to Spice World where the bus blows up in the first shot and they have to find new Spice Girls, leading to all-new zany hijinks. OK, that idea wasn't so good.

• I think there should be a football league where, once per half, a team can throw two forward passes in a single play. Think of the strategy involved, not to mention how it would keep cornerbacks and safeties on their toes. Though I suspect there'd be some ambiguous rulings and it would swiftly go the way of New Coke and Qwikster.

• Glenn Beck should work the midnight shift at a fully automated dubstep radio station in rural Manitoba. My best idea yet.

• In fourth grade, I designed a car called the Slike 73,000 (an upgrade to the Slike 72,000, which was remote-controlled) that had unreal brake power. Basically, easing off the accelerator pedal was the same as a typical application of the brake, and the brake pedal boosted the stopping power. I hear this is a real technology now. As for a real car looking like a giant, majestic eagle, well, not so much.

• I considered having a public-access TV show when I was a teenager. The good idea was that I didn't do it. But if you're thinking of using the UB40 song "Chronic" for your own show's theme song, don't. I called it 19 years ago and there's still hope for me yet.

Losing sight of oversight

A man invents an awesome safety apparatus for table saws. Not only does it shut down the saw blade immediately upon contact with anything soft, it does so without damaging the blade or interfering with lines of sight. More than a decade later, manufacturers still refuse to incorporate it in their power tools. Instead, they make minimal efforts at safety measures, including guards that obscure vision and stoppers that ruin the blade.

Why has the superior technology not caught on? Because the companies are afraid that by adopting it, lawsuits will soar. They say it'll make their existing products magnets for liability claims.

This Mother Jones article reminded me of a conflict I followed when I lived in Missouri. A local dairy declared on its bottles that its milk was "100% hormone free." Competitors complained, saying that such labeling implied that hormone-added milk had something wrong with it. The state agreed, and banned dairies from making the designation. I was appalled by that ruling, just as I'm appalled by the table-saw saga.

The ongoing IRS scandal has at least partial relevance to this. Critics are crying partisan persecution over what seems to me to be legit scrutiny. And, as sadly expected, our leaders are playing right along. 

It seems to me that any reasonable advancement in safety should become official standard. Public safety is one of the reasons government exists. Enforcement should be strong and not subject to the profit-protecting agenda of big business. The same rings true with product labeling and with financial scrutiny. The public's interest should always come first.

The opposition says we don't need such oversight. Their actions prove that we do.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Guest columnists riff on recent scandals

A real president wouldn’t attract all these scandals

By Cort Rory
Disappointed intellectual

Impeach Obama!

There, I said it. And it gives me great pleasure to say so.

“Yo Cort,” you’re probably saying. “You’re pretty liberal. Why call for the president’s impeachment?”

Well first off, DON’T BOX ME IN LIKE THAT! Liberal, conservative, moderate, swing, apathetic ... they’re just labels, man. Labels that choke rational discourse! If you must call me anything, call me a THINKER. When a political issue arises, bet on me to weigh all sides of a situation before arriving at a conclusion. That’s what everyone should do, all the time. If they did, they’d be as disappointed as I am.

Speaking of disappointment ... Obama, man. OBAMA. Just his name makes me sick these days. The guy can do no right! Look at this week alone — Benghazi, the IRS, tapping the AP’s phones ... it’s a veritable scandal factory, and it all points straight to the president!

And even if it doesn’t, well, Obama’s the president. He should be on top of all that. If he isn’t, then he’s a terrible president who deserves impeachment.

A real president wouldn’t attract all these scandals. No wonder the Republicans can’t get anything done in Congress — they’re too busy outlining all the scandals! Maybe Obama shouldn’t be so scandal-prone. Maybe he should try being a leader for once. Good leaders steer clear of anything that might piss off the opposition.

And would it kill Obama to pass comprehensive health care reform in the form of a single-payer system? Can’t he extract us from Afghanistan, Iraq, Korea and Saudi Arabia? Won’t he stop the drones? Can’t he burn the Patriot Act this afternoon? I swear, it’s like the man doesn’t realize what powers he has.

When I voted for Obama in 2008, I wanted change. Like millions of Americans, I was tired of the unitary executive abuse put forth by George W. Bush. I wanted a leader who knew when to hold, when to fold and when to compromise. I knew I’d never get what he (or I) wanted 100 percent of the time, and I knew that the GOP would obstruct Obama every step of the way. Still, I held out hope.

It turned out exactly as I hoped. And I’m disappointed.

Guess I’ll be voting Republican from here on out. At least I’ll expect the disappointment then.

I'm not voting for the IRS in 2016

By Earl “Clem” Bob
Tea party contributor

The new IRS scandal makes me mad. And that makes me happy.

Now Ol’ Clem ain’t an expert on taxes, but I know that I hate payin’ them. Every year, I gotta fill out that complicated form with all the credits and deductions and whatnot that I don’t understand. That’s on top of the sales tax I pay all year round on my groceries, my gas and my ammo! Then at tax time, after all that money I paid in from my paycheck all year long, I only get back about $800 of it! Now tell me, is that highway robbery or what? There really ought to be some way of easing the tax burden on hard-workin’ people like me and Donald Trump. But nooooo. The Democrats give all our tax money to the freeloaders who spend it on spinning rims, gold teeth and AK-47s! So that they vote Democrat!

No, I ain’t racist. But I am fed up with both parties, especially the Democrats.

The IRS was bad enough before, but now they’re targeting patriotic organizations. How un-American is that? From what I understand, there was this e-mail that told IRS employees to stick it to the conservatives, especially in the Tea Party. And every organization that had names like “Taxed Enough Already” really got it stuck to. And as a result, all of these organizations have secret IRS spy-goons inside them, making sure the victimized groups pay taxes five or six times, just because they love America.

That’s what I heard, anyway.

In my America, a patriotic group should be able to do anything they want. No one, least of all the IRS, should question their tax status and related political activities. Those groups love America, the land of the free! What do they have to hide?

I worry that the big, bad federal government has become way too bloated and big for its britches. In the past decade, we’ve seen a unprecedented surge in bureaucracy and uncountable threats to our civil liberties. And that’s been a really disturbing development since 2009. All I know is this: come 2016, the IRS ain’t gettin’ my vote.
 America must return to its roots, when the People were free to do anything in the name of patriotism. Anything less is an insult to our nation’s legacy.

The IRS should crack down on Greenpeace.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

A taxing thought to entertain

One of the big news stories this week has been the IRS's alleged profiling of Tea Party and other self-styled "patriot" groups. 

The outrage over this reminds me of what arose in 2009 when a report warned of increased chances of violence by right-wing militia groups. In that case, the Department of Homeland Security warned that right-wing militia groups might exploit economic and political fears to recruit for their cause. It stated also that some of these groups might potentially turn violent, citing specific possible scenarios.

It was a hypothetical report by an agency tasked with addressing potential threats to the U.S. — one that isolated groups of angry, threat-issuing Americans with guns as being people who might hurt other people. So naturally, many saw the report as a witch hunt against conservatives for their political beliefs. The DHS quickly backpedaled on the report, apologizing for the imaginary bias and assuring the public that some threats should be off-limits to scrutiny.

After reading several reports about the IRS scandal, I feel the same thing is recurring. An agency tasked with ensuring proper taxation practices singled out several nonprofit groups — a fraction of whom were tea party-affiliated — to make sure that they conformed to nonprofit regulations. In particular, the IRS chose to ask more proof of certain organizations affiliated with an anti-tax movement to prove that they aren't illegally politicking; if they were being political, then they lose (or don't receive) nonprofit status. So naturally, many people see this this as a witch hunt against conservatives for their political beliefs. The IRS is backpedaling, apologizing for the imaginary bias and assuring the public that it won't be vigilant in its financial scrutiny.

Government agencies should never be politicized. But neither should cries of politicization be allowed to thwart legitimate investigations. If a domestic group is hoarding guns, making explicit threats and looking to expand, we deserve to know about it. If a nonprofit group is trying to dance around federal tax laws to cheat the system, all the while bleating about being Taxed Enough Already, we should all want that probed. This is true regardless of what (if any) politics are involved — it just so happens today's most egregious examples come from the right. Failure to so much as look into it gives these groups exactly what they want — the ability to operate unimpeded toward their twisted ends.

I've often said that a failing of today's press is its obsession with balance over truth — in other words, trying to appease all sides even if one side is completely wrong. I hate to see the IRS fall into this same trap, especially over such transparent phoniness. 

What did they used to say about having nothing to hide?

What Angelina's breasts say about America

Angelina Jolie is making headlines today for having had a double mastectomy. She says she did it to thwart a high risk of breast cancer, and wants all women to get tested. Good for her.

Was that the best course of action? Hard to say; in her situation, probably. But intentionally or not, Angelina has made an important point:

Preventive medicine is a rich person's game.

How inspiring is it, really, that one of the richest and most famous women in the world was able to undergo an expensive procedure? Let me know when some poor woman in New Orleans' 7th Ward with the same risk factors can have this done. That will be inspiring.

Preventive medicine is too cost-prohibitive for most people, much in the same way as eating healthy. And yet, both actions keep people healthier, longer, and for a lower overall cost. But of course, that notion is too politically loaded to an American majority convinced that health must be a function of wealth. So our jacked-up medical system continues to be beset with broke people who've waited too long to seek help and drain taxpayers and their own wallets, and/or die.

But, hey, freedom. Ain't it great?

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Gun violence: ugliness on parade


Yet another shooting at the hands of worthless shit-stirrers who'd be nothing (and would accomplish nothing) without easy access to deadly weapons. How much "freedom" will we tolerate before people can't do anything safely anymore?

I'm bracing once again to hear racist white people blaming this on blackness. Every time a white guy shoots up a theater or a school, those people will insist he's not representative of all gun owners, let alone all white people. But when blacks shoot innocent people, it's because all blacks are irredeemable thugs. Debate over incidents like this, especially in the South, inevitably diverts to race. 

But gun violence is not a racial issue; at least, it shouldn't be — it's a gun issue (or a people issue if you prefer, though not one race of person). Every shootout has one or more unhinged individuals and a multitude of victims; that setup is universal and transcends pat stereotypes. Today, as many times before, black victims suffered and black family and friends wept alongside them. That doesn't fit with what prejudiced whites want to be true, but it's reality. Just as all gun owners aren't violent murderers, all black people aren't trigger-happy thugs (and not all whites think they are).

Those who perpetrate gun violence have lots of issues: mental instability, sociopathy, poverty, hatred, poor impulse control, cowardice, etc. What they don't share is a common skin color. 

It's time to end destructive double standards and pointless sniping about "thugs," and address the glut of disturbed and desperate minds (of all races) this country produces at an alarming clip. We must do everything we can to ensure these sick people can't get their hands on guns.

Unlike race, that's something we can control. We need to control it.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Obama ben Ghazi!

By Earl "Clem" Bob
Tea Party contributor

Benghazi!

That's how Obama pronounces Watergate.

Watergate brought down President Nixon, once the media said it enough. Benghazi's gonna do the same thing, but we still got lots of Benghazis left to say.

Benghazi! Benghazi! Benghazi!

Now, ol' Clem's not an expert on foreign affairs like that Lou Dobbs fella. But I know enough about Benghazi to be outraged. Four people died and Hillary had to do with it. And Obama apparently took a long time to call it terrorism. Also, it happened in some place called Benghazi, hence the name, Benghazi.

Benghazi!

The point is, Obama's goin' down! Impeachment is on the horizon! And it means Hillary ain't gonna be able to run in 2016, because of Benghazi! And that's good news no matter how you slice it.

I was fortunate enough to learn that thing about Hillary at my Benghazi Barbecue Blast. Before that, I just thought four people tragically died and Obama was responsible. Hearin' about Hillary gave us a whole new reason to party.

Benghazi is a poignant reminder of what we lost when President Bush left the Oval Office. Four Americans never would have died under that man's watch. The other day in town I saw a billboard where he was smilin' and it asked, "Miss Me Yet?"

Yes, sir, I do.

The public deserves so many answers about Benghazi. Who? What? Where? When? Why? How soon will this end liberals in America?

Obama is easily the most goin'est-down president in U.S. history. The Benghazi President, we all call him at the trailer park. Before that he was the Obamacare president. But that was too many syllables. Also, Jim Bob didn't much care for the insult after he went to that new free clinic and got a shot for his persistent ringworm. Tell you the truth, I think they injected him with some Kool-Aid too! Shhhh...

Benghazi. I may never fully understand it. But I know this: Americans are fed up with both parties, especially the Democrats. And the people want us a president who isn't gonna let another Benghazi happen. Who can assure not only that all Americans are safe abroad, but that Congress gives 'em enough money to pay for adequate security.

It sure ain't gonna happen as long as Obama sits in the White House! Or Hillary.

This incident exposed the true priorities of the political parties. Thank you, Benghazi!

Friday, May 10, 2013

Heights High and the height of overreaction

(Inspired by this item)

[Faculty meeting, 3:21 p.m., Heights High School, Wichita, Kansas]

Principal: "OK, people, we have a disturbance on our hands."

Math teacher: "Oh my God, what happened? School shooting?!!"

Principal: "Heavens no! Math teacher, you must exercise discretion when passing along such conjecture. You'll scare people when there's no cause for alarm."

Math teacher: "My apologies."

Principal: "No, what happened was that a student ... posted a controversial tweet."

Math teacher: "What's a tweet?"

Principal: "I don't know, it's some website on the Internet."

Vice Principal: "It allows people to say anything they want and send it to 140 characters or less."

English teacher: "Or fewer."

Vice Principal: "Hush."

Principal: "Apparently, Wesley Teague managed to send it to more than 140 people, because the whole school got it. Honestly, I'm not sure how the Tweeter works."

Math teacher: "Wesley Teague? Isn't he the senior class president?"

Vice Principal: "Yes he is."

English teacher: "Wow! Then he should know better than to spout inflammatory rhetoric. What did he say?"

Principal: “I've got it right here. Uh, '"Heights U" is equivalent to WSU’s football team.'"

Math teacher: "Ha! That's funny."

Vice Principal: "Hush."

Principal: "This is a direct attack on our school athletes and we cannot allow it to stand."

Coach: "Teague runs track. He's an athlete too."

Vice Principal: "Doesn't matter. He made a mild crack at sports and there's honor for us to defend."

Science teacher: "Why?"

Band teacher: "Yeah, why?"

Vice Principal: "Because as the most popular group in this school or any school, they have such delicate sensibilities."

Principal: "We'd do the same for any group if they were the coolest in school."

Band teacher: "Uh-huh."

Vice Principal: "In any event, it's clear that Mr. Teague created a disruptive environment at school, as evidenced by the anger his tweet generated. You could see it in their reply tweets."

Science teacher: "Will those students face the same punishment?"

Vice Principal: "Heavens no! People have every right to be offended and stand up for themselves."

Principal: "Especially if they're athletes."

Coach: "Like Teague?"

Vice Principal: "Hush."

Math teacher: "So how are you handling this? A talking-to? Formal reprimand?"

Vice Principal: "Are you kidding? We're meting out suspension for the rest of the school year and are barring him from attending some student activities."

English teacher: "Isn't that excessive?"

Principal: "We hear the Tweeter is a big deal, so the punishment should be too."

Vice Principal: "We have to teach him that actions have consequences."

English teacher: "But he's a good kid. Don't you think he already knows that on some level?"

Behavioral counselor: "Yeah, I work with our most challenging students and there's a difference between a mistake by a good kid and a pattern of defiant behavior by a delinquent."

Vice Principal: "We teach zero tolerance here. No student is better than anyone else. All must face accountability for their actions."

Behavioral counselor: "But shouldn't the punishment fit the crime?"

English teacher: "And is it really a crime to post mild jokes on Twitter? It's not as if he's cyber-bullying."

Vice Principal: "We're dealing with a technological force unlike any we've ever known before. And frankly, it's scary. People are more equipped than ever before to completely derail their future before it even begins."

Behavioral counselor: "Well, that's kind of on us too, isn't it? We have a responsibility to use our power with discretion."

Principal: "No, we have a responsibility to use our power with power. That's what we do as authority figures."

Science teacher: "That's a pretty good life lesson, I'll admit."

Vice Principal: "I'm just glad we have the Internet to police our pupils. Can you imagine how hard it was for administrators when we were in school?"

Principal: "Aw, man, I'd have been in so much trouble!"

Vice Principal: "Me too! Ha ha!"

Principal: "I probably wouldn't be principal today if they knew half the stuff I did. The sixties alone ... whoo!"

Vice Principal: "But we put it all behind us and grew into solid, responsible human beings."

Principal: "It's too bad kids these days are so far gone."

Vice Principal: "Blame it on bad influences. Video games, rap lyrics, YouTube, bad parenting."

English teacher: "If only we could do something about it, huh?"

Vice Principal: "We are. We're punishing him."

Principal: "Next time, he'll think twice before he expresses himself."

Vice Principal: "Inviting criticism by saying something provocative is not what being a good American is all about."

Principal: "It's our duty to weed out disruptions at this school."

English teacher: "Seems to me that a national story about overreactive administrators is the textbook definition of 'disruptive.'"

Science teacher: "It's all any of my students wants to talk about."

Math student: "Mine too. Makes it hard to teach to the test."

Coach: "And my guys are starting to look like Wichita State's defunct football team." 

Principal: "All right, I've heard enough! Teachers, you're all suspended."

All teachers: "What?!!"

Civics teacher: "Even me? I didn't say anything!"

English teacher: "That's ironic on multiple levels."

Principal: "I shall announce our sensible measures via school-wide text."

Civics teacher: "That's also ironic."

Vice Principal: "Hush."

Thursday, May 09, 2013

Coaches converse about Tim Tebow

(Inspired by this)

[All 32 NFL head coaches and commissioner Roger Goodell assemble in a room. Devil's food cake is served with a perfectly chilled beverage of children's tears. Lots of friction and trash-talk ensues until Goodell turns the subject to Tim Tebow.]

Roger Goodell: "OK, guys, time to talk about Tebow."

Every Coach In Unison: "Agreed! None of us will start him."

Goodell: "And why won't we start him?"

ECIU: "Because he's a Christian!"

Goodell: "Very good. Also?"

ECIU: "Because we are minions of the liberal media elite!"

Goodell: "And?"

ECIU: "Because we hate to win!"

Goodell: "Men, we could very well see every team going 0-16 this season."

ECIU: "It's worth it to keep Tebow, the best player ever created, off the field!"

Goodell: "And let's be clear — Tebow's blacklisting has nothing to do with his abilities. As a past Heisman Trophy winner, he is destined for the same illustrious pro career guaranteed to every recipient of that honor, like Danny Wuerffel. Tebow's recent lackluster play also has nothing to do with it. No, we are blacklisting him specifically because he is an unabashed supporter of Christ Jesus Our Lord and Savior, Emmanuel, the Lamb of Bethlehem."

ECIU: "Hail Satan!"

Goodell: "Now if he decides to be gay instead, that's fine."

Sean Payton: "If that happens, I'll drop Brees in a sec, that saint."

Bill Belichick: "Not if I get rid of that metrosexual Brady first."

Rex Ryan: "I'd take Tebow back for sure, because the only thing keeping me starting Mark Sanchez was Tebow's Christianity. With that out of the way, I could actually play the guy and end this misery."

Gus Bradley: "Hi, I'm Gus Bradley. I coach the Jaguars now."

John Harbaugh: "The team that prefers married players?"

Bradley: "Yeah, gay-married players!"

[Thunderous applause]

John Harbaugh: "I wish I had more gay-married players. We probably would have won the Super Bowl twice this past season."

Jim Harbaugh: "One of my players prayed the lights would come back on. That's why we lost. Being San Francisco only goes so far."

Bradley: "I will say this: Tebow's got heart."

Jason Garrett: "Yeah, the heart of Jesus! I don't care how perfect that heart makes him play; I will start Romo before him! Because of religion and stuff."

Goodell: "Men, there's no excuse to start Tim Tebow. Winning, despite the cliché, is not the only thing. Persecuting Christians always comes first! That's what our fans care about on Sundays ... and Mondays, Thursdays, Saturdays and two extra weeks if we can hack it." 

Tom Coughlin: "Ah, Tebow is mediocre! If he played better, none of this would matter. In fact, I guarantee that we'd all clamor for the guy if he improved. Superstar skill combined with name recognition? Are you kidding me?"

E(Other)CIU: "You're in the wrong conversation! This is the sarcastic one!"

Coughlin: "Er, I mean, Tebow is a boss! But as a head coach in the NFL, I do not do what it takes to win at any cost."

EOCIU: "None of us do!"

Coughlin: "Instead, I obsess over irrelevant aspects of a player's personal life."

Goodell: "Yes indeed. Well, not for dog-fighting or shooting guns or felonies or anything like that, but for excessive Bible reading, absolutely."

Coughlin: "I'm starting to get the hang of this."

Jeff Fisher: "Here, Tom, take a bite of this bat."

Coughlin: "No, Fisher! Gross!"

Fisher: "Eating bats is specifically forbidden in the Book of Deuteronomy."

Coughlin: "Ah. I mean, CHOMP CHOMP!!"

Goodell: "Yep, we sure hate us some Jeezus here in the NFL."

Mike Tomlin: "How have I not won every Super Bowl with Roethlisberger?"

Goodell: "Football works in mysterious ways."

ECIU: "Amen!"

A new "IIIIIII-DDDEEEEEE" for Cajuns?


I'm amused and intrigued by this for several reasons.

• Will one have to prove sufficient Cajun-ness to the DMV clerk? If so, how? Anecdotes? Original, long-form birth certificate? A test for accent along with the standard eye test? I suspect in many smaller DMVs, it would simply be a matter of answering the question, "Who's your momma?"

(I'm half Cajun myself — the recessive half, to be sure, but my mom's side is populated with LeBlancs and Champagnes. Is blood enough, or must one live the life as well? I don't like crawfish. Am I already disqualified? So many questions!)

• Many Cajuns, like south Louisianans in general, openly resent minority and immigrant pride. Sure, they'll say that the Cajun culture must be passed down and preserved, because at one time forced assimilation nearly caused its extinction. That's absolutely true. But when another culture asserts itself, those same people ask, "Why can't they just be Americans?" 

I'd be interested in seeing how far a bill proposing "Black Pride" or "Orgullo Mexicano" on licenses would go in the legislature. Probably not as far as the options "preaux-life," "Tiger fan," "good for business," "Copiloting with Jesus," "PC Offender," "Git-R-Dun" and "registered coonass."

• Louisiana legislators in 2008 declared that the state would not comply with the Real ID Act. Because of this, airports and some federal buildings soon will no longer allow non-compliant Louisiana driver's licenses as valid ID for entrance. I got my passport card yesterday, and I'm still having to explain why, because most people (even some city workers) seem unaware that this is the case. Between this and the Cajun measure, a lot of proud residents will soon try to board a flight, only to hear, "This is not acceptable ID, cher." Yay for state priorities!

• Hopefully, the state will take this one step further and customize license plates. Cajun pride may be in the blood, but a plate that screams "DRINKER" tells me what I really want to know about that driver's blood.

Monday, May 06, 2013

A quick point about gun control

It's often said that "guns don't kill people; people kill people."

That's true. It's why raw metal isn't required to undergo a background check before it can be morphed into a gun. And why guns can buy all the guns they want.

People, on the other hand, sometimes need to have limits on what firearms they can procure, and on where and when they can use them. This is because some people are mentally ill, felons and/or otherwise unstable.

Gun laws are for people. Because people kill people. 

Shooting herself in the foot

Overlook the obvious and raging dimwittery in this article and skim it for the tweets.

That's Dana Loesch, the young Republican famous for being those two things together, bickering with CNN's Piers Morgan about guns on Twitter. Morgan points out that the AR-15 Loesch shot was the same model used by Adam Lanza in the Newtown shooting, which had been legally purchased by Lanza's mother. 

While Morgan doesn't deserve the vitriol heaved against him in the Twitchy article, he was definitely trolling to some extent. Which sucks, because he makes some good points.

But that shouldn't detract from what Loesch was doing to start with: bragging about firing the weapon. Gun people do this because they love firearms. Others may psychoanalyze all those tweets and Facebook posts, but the same can be said for posts about food, cars, liquor, politics, quilts and just about everything else.

What sets Loesch's tweets apart is context. Among the right-wing pundits I follow on Twitter (and I follow many), she is among the quickest to double down in any politically unflattering situation. She takes particular delight in slamming critics, constantly retweeting their low blows. So when Loesch tweeted a picture of her AR-15, I figured there was at least some political bent to it. 

"But Ian! Maybe she just likes the AR-15."

Maybe. She hasn't done anything illegal with it that I'm aware of. But I can't help thinking her intention was to rile up critics. That it was as much to say, "Nyah nyah nyah" as to say, "Check out my AR-15." So she is guilty of one thing: spite. Is that the right word? I'm not sure. But it's a pattern these days, and it's obnoxious.

Last year, when Chick-Fil-A was taking heat for donating money to anti-gay causes, people like Sarah and Todd Palin posted pictures of themselves eating there. In my own feeds, I noticed conservative friends suddenly name-dropping the place every chance they got. That actually irritated me more than Chick-Fil-A itself, because it suggested that people cared more about thumbing their noses than actually thinking about the issue. (To be fair, I also thought that about the gay activists making out there and about that jerk who harassed the woman at the drive-thru.)

What I wanted to happen was for Chick-Fil-A to cease funding those activities, thus no longer making the restaurant (where the food is tasty and the people are friendly, honestly) a litmus test for politics. I wanted to be able to eat there with a clear conscience, or at least as clear as I can have in a world where most companies put profits toward things I deem reprehensible. Doubling down on pointless posturing makes that difficult — more so, even, than the actions of the company itself.

Same goes with the AR-15. As far as I'm concerned, anyone wanting to praise that weapon in public should second-guess themselves. No, guns don't kill people, but that gun was recently used by a person to inflict the horrific deaths of small children. Loesch would be better off enjoying her weapon without making a public spectacle of it. Her tweet, politically loaded as it is, only hurts her cause.

I haven't been innocent of this in the past, though I like to think that there's always more to my posts than reactionary spite. Sometimes riling up people is the cost of making a point, but it should never be the prime motivator. It's all too clear when it is.

Sunday, May 05, 2013

A bad idea to carry through

Remember when writing about the badness of the Bush administration was enough to be accused of treason by conservatives?

Those people have gotten over it quickly.

Washington's apparently really gotten bad since 2009.
The Open Carry March in Washington is apparently a serious idea being seriously quasi-kickstarted by serious people. And why not? What better way to show love for America than to offer a threatening message to Capitol Hill over a straw man, while violating local ordinances?

I asked my sister, a once and future D.C. resident and Republican, what she thought of this march. Her response was something like, "yeah, that's not gonna happen." Turns out that city officials really, really frown upon private firearms within close proximity of Capitol Hill. I imagine that the policy didn't take effect recently.

Which means that if people actually go through with this open-carry march, they could be arrested on felony charges. And convicted felons can't possess firearms. Which is government suppression, I guess?

This march is an insane idea; I suspect I'd feel that way even if I opposed gun control. What's the point of walking around with loaded weapons other than to imply a threat? And if that's the case, why say you'll back down if there's a confrontation? There will be a confrontation, because no one won't confront thousands of people toting guns. Either there will be a firefight, which will destroy any illusion of guns equaling freedom, or the marchers will back down, contradicting their message. Neither possibility benefits the pro-gun crowd. And given the toxicity of the comments on the march's Facebook page, they need all the good press they can get.

To that end, maybe openness is the last thing they need.