Jade Helm 15 and How Perceived Truth is Stranger Than Fiction

Of course it would be Texas.

If you’ve been living in America, especially the Southwestern states, you’ve probably heard of Jade Helm 15.  If you haven’t, Jade Helm is apparently the U.S. Government’s plan to bring Texas into the United States and do some other stuff, too.  It’s a tale full of sound and fury, told by madmen (and women) symbolizing the country’s further descent into madness and paranoia.

In reality, Jade Helm is a training exercise for the U.S. Military.  The modern world is a different kind of battle ground and requires a different kind of tactic to win; the Jade Helm exercises seem to be nothing more than the military trying some new tactics to see how they work.  Frankly, in-country military training exercises are nothing now; they’ve been going on for decades.  However, since the U.S. government is run by Democrat, certain people have decided that the whole exercise is nothing more than a smokescreen for the evil Obama to take over the country (that he’s already President of) and silence his political enemies (who, apparently, are nuts).

It all started with a leaked map and PowerPoint presentation detailing an internal military training operation called Jade Helm 15 and the conspiracy theorists have spun it so completely out of control to the point that it now involves the United States government, Wal-Mart, the Chinese, ISIS, and a desperate attempt to conquer Texas.  Jade Helm has roped in such luminaries as Greg Abbot (the governor of Texas), Rick Perry (former governor of Texas and failed Presidential candidate who is blaming Obama for the whole debacle), and Ted Cruz (Tea Party favorite who has questioned the Pentagon about “what’s really going on with Jade Helm”).  Abbot has gone so far as to warn the Texas National Guard to “monitor the mission.”

Note how Texas is labelled.

Note how Texas is labelled.

So, what’s the story here?

It would appear there are quite a few empty WalMart stores in Texas.  This isn’t entirely unusual; there’s at least one in Albuquerque I can think of.  Wal-Mart has a history of opening stores and simply closing them when they become unprofitable or more of a pain than they’re worth.  The huge shells are usually repurposed into indoor flea markets, other stores, or extremely large meth dens.  Kind of a cycle of life thing.

The scuttlebutt surrounding the closings (at least in the saner circles) is that employees at the stores were trying to unionize and rather than deal with the hassle of working with a union WalMart simply shut the stores down and told the employees to piss off.  WalMart doesn’t care much for unions.

Now, to really understand the rest of this post, you kind of have to understand the political climate in America.  The Democrats hate the Republicans and the Republicans hate the Democrats.  I’m not kidding on this point.  A Democratic Senator could say something like “we all need air to breathe” and his or her Republican counterpart would argue that point tooth and nail, claiming our need for air was just another example of out-of-control government expansion and that we really don’t need air anyway.  A Republican Senator could claim that Capitalism is a pretty good thing and his or her Democratic counterpart would scream to the skies about how Capitalism is nothing but greedy, rich white guys trying to get richer.

Some voters get behind this and will find any and every reason to hate those guys, whoever those guys might be.

anatomy_republican democratbrain

To hear them speak, no one on the other side has ever had a good idea, is actively trying to destroy the country, is a horrible terrible rotten no-good person who is probably either a Nazi or a Communist depending on who’s doing the arguing.  Those other guys want to take away freedoms and implement a theocracy.  They’re all awful people and if we could just get our guys into the White House all our problems will immediately go away and everything will be fine.

Some people live in an elaborate fantasy world.

Now, I should point out that not all Republicans or Democrats think like that, most are pretty middle of the road.  Unfortunately, you don’t hear from the sane people, they’re too busy trying to get about the business of actually running the country; you hear from the loudmouthed idiots who love to spin yarns like Jade Helm and how it’s an elaborate plot to do something nerfarious.

Get ready, folks, we’re about to go through the looking glass…

I’ve already mentioned the abandoned WalMarts in Texas.  If you’ve never seen one, they’re monstrous stores.  Some of the bigger ones can hold small countries inside of them.  After you kick out the meth heads, you’ve got a perfect place to stage an invasion from.  Each store could easily be repurposed into a place to feed and house an army and hold political dissidents.  According to a segment of the population, this is exactly what’s happening to a handful of stores that were shut down.


That’s RIGHT!

The invasion will come from special forces troops under the command the evil Barrack Obama.  The United States government is, right now, digging tunnels under those closed Wal Marts to link them together.  As if that wasn’t bad enough, the Chinese are apparently in on it, too (even though the US and China don’t really get along).  As if that bad wasn’t bad enough, ISIS is taking part in the whole thing, too; they’ll be providing the false-flag attack that will let the US invade Texas.

Read through those articles and if they don’t chill your blood, well, try something that’s actually scary.

I work with a bunch of ex-military men and women at my job and I asked one of the guys (a former Marine) what he thought about the whole thing and he pointed out two interesting facts:

Those two facts taken together should have been sufficient to kibosh the whole thing, but some people are loathe to let pesky facts interrupt what is becoming an exciting new conspiracy theory.  Among one of the newer conspiracies I read earlier today related to a recent decision by the Obama administration to stop selling military hardware to local law enforcent.  At the time, it made sense: what city actually needs its police to have a tank?  The darker side, though, was recently brought to light when someone figured out that the government stopped supplying the police with military hardware JUST IN TIME FOR JADE HELM.  It was nothing more than a clever ploy to defang the police so they’d be powerless when the government troops (who are already stationed in Texas) rolled in.  As if by ceasing the sales of military hardware to local law enforcement somehow meant all the nifty toys the police already had (assault rifles, body armor, drones, etc) somehow vanished.  Now you’ve got a police force that’s incapable of protecting the citizens from the military.



Bear in mind, this is the United States military we’re talking about here.  They take out countries for breakfast.  A handful of cops with body armor and the odd armored car would be nothing more than late morning Triscuit.

Now, lest you think I’m painting all Republicans as total whack jobs, bear in mind there are plenty of sane Republicans out there.  John McCain has expressed disbelief that the whole thing has gotten so blown out of proportion.  Most people think the whole thing is nonsense.  But it’s those few people out there who honestly believe Jade Helm is nothing more than a cover so that Obama can come take them away in the dead of night to a FEMA reeducation camp who simply can’t stop talking about it that keep the story alive.  American media loves the fringe – and this is about as fringe as it gets.  It’s become an echo chamber and each new reverberation adds to the madness.

So, what does this have to do with what’s ostensibly a writing blog?  It’s the perfect plot for a political thriller.  It’s got all the elements of a great story, it just needs some fleshing out to make it personal.  In a year or two, no one will remember Jade Helm 15, and that would be the perfect time for the book to come out.  Only in the book, the exercise really is a smoke screen and some terrible things happen.  If it weren’t for the concerted efforts of a few good people, all would have been lost.

The whole of the Jade Helm conspiracy also goes to show just how crazy a plot can be and still be believable.  I really fretted about the plot to Henchmen: that it wasn’t believable, that it didn’t make sense, that no one would believe it.  It turns out I needn’t have worried.  The stories people are telling themselves about Jade Helm are far crazier.  One “Texas Ranger” is claiming to have seen trains equipped with shackles for political dissidents.  And here I thought the political prisoners were to be stored in WalMarts and secreted away in the elaborate tunnels.

Still, if you’re interested, Jade Helm will be running from July 18, 2015 through September 15, 2015.  I guess we’ll discuss it again on September 16th.  Maybe I’ll make up shirts that say “I survived Jade Helm.”

Maybe.  If we’re all still free enough to do that.


The First Amendment

There seems to be a great deal of confusion about what, exactly, the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution entails.  It seems like every time someone gets kicked out of a Target for wearing an Ayatollah Assaholah T-shirt or has their show cancelled for spouting bigoted nonsense, they cry foul: “Oh, my First Amendment rights are being violated.” (NOTE: I’m not sure if anyone has been kicked out of a Target for wearing an Ayatollah Assaholah T-Shirt.  I haven’t seen one in years, but they were very popular when I was growing up.)

Totally talking to you guys here.

Totally talking to you guys here.

The sad fact of the matter is neither of these are technically First Amendment violations.  Take a gander at the actual First Amendment to the United States Constitution and see if you can find where Target or A&E are mentioned:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

The only actor in the First Amendment is Congress.  Private businesses can still happily tell you to STFU.  Interestingly enough, so can individuals.  When Target asks you to leave because they feel the message on your T-Shirt is inappropriate they’re not violating your freedom of speech.  If A&E shuts down your show because they get pressure from advertisers and the public in general, your First Amendment rights have not been violated.  Here’s a handy-dandy guide to the who violate your First Amendment Rights and who cannot:

Can violate your rights:

  • United States Congress

Cannot violate your rights:

  • Everyone else

So, next time you’re worried that your First Amendment Rights are being violated because you want to wear you favorite T-Shirt that says “I ♣ Jews” or one that says “God Hates Fags” and the movie theater asks you to leave, you can refer to the above bullet points to see if your freedom of speech has been violated.  Since a movie theater isn’t the United States Congress there’s no way that theater can be violating your First Amendment Rights.  If Congress came along and asked you to leave the country over those shirts then, yes, you probably have a case.  With a theater, well, not so much.

The end result is pretty simply summed up in comic form:

From XKCD, the greatest web-comic.

From XKCD, the greatest web-comic.

It would appear to be politics as usual

First up, I just added a politics category.  We just had the midterms and the Republicans swept up a lot of new seats.  Presidential elections will soon start heating up and things are gonna get crazy ugly.  I’m predicting we’ll only hear from the extremists on either side and their arguments, as usual, will be completely full of shit.

American politics – and I suspect, all politics – is ugly business.  It sickens and disgusts me.  Reading anything political is like staring in wide-eyed wonder at the corpse that just got ripped in half by train; it’s horrifying and terrible, but I just can’t look away.

That said, a buddy of mine posted a link to a fake Letterman Top 10 List titled “LETTERMAN’S TOP 10 REASONS TO VOTE DEMOCRAT.”  It wasn’t actually written by David Letterman, but you can see the original post on LinkedIn.  If you don’t have a LinkedIn account, no worries.  I’ve posted it here so we can all get a good chuckle at those wacky Democrats and their crazy ideas.  So, without further fanfare, enjoy the well-reasoned (1), fully thought out (2), and absolutely hilarious (3) reasons to vote Democrat.

“#10. I vote Democrat because I love the fact that I can now marry whatever I want. I’ve decided to marry my German Shepherd.

# 9. I vote Democrat because I believe oil companies profits of 4% on a gallon of gas are obscene, but the government taxing the same gallon at 15% isn’t.

# 8. I vote Democrat because I believe the government will do a better job of spending the money I earn than I would.

# 7. I vote Democrat because Freedom of Speech is fine as long as nobody is offended by it.

# 6. I vote Democrat because I’m way too irresponsible to own a gun, and I know that my local police are all I need to protect me from murderers and thieves. I am also thankful that we have a 911 service that gets police to your home in order to identify your body after a home invasion.

# 5. I vote Democrat because I’m not concerned about millions of babies being aborted so long as we keep all death row inmates alive and comfy.

# 4. I vote Democrat because I think illegal aliens have a right to free health care, education, and Social Security benefits, and we should take away Social Security from those who paid into it.

# 3. I vote Democrat because I believe that businesses should not be allowed to make profits for themselves. They need to break even and give the rest away to the government for redistribution as the Democrat Party sees fit.

# 2. I vote Democrat because I believe liberal judges need to rewrite the Constitution every few days to suit fringe kooks who would never get their agendas past the voters.

…And, the #1 reason I vote Democrat is because I think it’s better to pay $billions$ for oil to people who hate us, but not drill our own because it might upset some endangered beetle, gopher, or fish here in America. We don’t care about the beetles, gophers, or fish in those other countries.”

As soon as you’re done laughing at the rapier wit, we’ll continue the discussion.

The first problem I have with things like this is it manages to paint every Democrat with the same broad brush.  Even better, all the points are taken from the more nearly extreme end of the Democrats’ spectrum.  I had some trouble finding exact numbers, but it seems like there are approximately 72 million registered Democrats.  According to the author all of them share the exact same beliefs.  Needless to say, I was stunned by this because I’m a Democrat and don’t believe most of these point.

Let’s a take a point by point look at these.

“#10. I vote Democrat because I love the fact that I can now marry whatever I want. I’ve decided to marry my German Shepherd.”  This is a common argument against legalizing gay marriage.  It’s designed to make you afraid and show you just how bad things will get.  You see comments like this repeated all the damn time and everyone who says it thinks it’s absolutely the most clever thing anyone ever said and it’s the perfect way to stab the gay marriage debate right in its black heart.  It’s also complete bullshit.  Listen carefully, kids.  Marriage is a legally binding contract.  Meaning anyone who enters into marriage must be legally able to sign a contract.  Last time I checked, dogs did not have that legal standing in the United States.  Sure, some idiot out there already has married his dog, but it is not a legally recognized marriage because DOGS CANNOT SIGN CONTRACTS.  If you want to debate gay marriage at least have the common decency to make some kind of sense.

“# 9. I vote Democrat because I believe oil companies profits of 4% on a gallon of gas are obscene, but the government taxing the same gallon at 15% isn’t.”  The Republicans held sway in this country during the Bush/Cheney administration and I don’t recall taxes on gasoline going down.  I do, however, remember paying nearly $5 a gallon for gasoline during that time (gas is under $3 in Albuquerque right now).  I cannot recall anyone, Democrat or Republican arguing for lowering gasoline taxes.  I do recall a few people saying we should open up our strategic reserves.  Because in the case of national disaster it would be good to know the national gas reserves have been depleted so some people could have cheaper gas for their H2s.

“# 8. I vote Democrat because I believe the government will do a better job of spending the money I earn than I would.”  I think this is another thing about taxes and how we have too many of them.  I’m guessing this is some kind of wishful thinking about how Republicans will completely eliminate taxes.  At least for things this guy doesn’t agree with: Planned Parenthood, food stamps, that sort of thing.  The military budget won’t get touched, though.  By cutting funding to Planned Parenthood we’d be able to keep the U.S. Government going for an extra 5-10 minutes.  If memory serves Reagan did lower taxes significantly and it was an economic disaster because they didn’t also lower spending.  Later, Republicans would blame the debacle on Democrat spending, even though Republicans had control of the House, the Senate, and the Oval Office at the.  Personally,  I don’t mind paying taxes.  I’m not always happy about where that tax money winds up, but I recognize the need for niceties like roads, schools, defense spending and so on.

“# 7. I vote Democrat because Freedom of Speech is fine as long as nobody is offended by it.”  This, unfortunately does tend to be an American tendency.  The PC police have softened the language while the religious right is busy squawking about how having to treat people they don’t agree with as equals is a violation of their First Amendment rights.  It’s no longer okay to say crippled or handicapped because we don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings.  At the same time, some God-fearing-folks are getting their nickers in a twist because people don’t  want religious iconography in court rooms or mythology taught as fact in schools.  Here’s my advice to everyone on this issue: suck it up.  Life if full of dealing with things you don’t want to deal with and hearing words you don’t like.  Life is hard, get over it.

“# 6. I vote Democrat because I’m way too irresponsible to own a gun, and I know that my local police are all I need to protect me from murderers and thieves. I am also thankful that we have a 911 service that gets police to your home in order to identify your body after a home invasion.”  Another common meme among some Republicans is the oft-repeated idea that Democrats are all gun-grabbing loons.  First up, the Obama administration hasn’t done much (if anything) to curtail Second Amendment rights.  There were some rumblings among the more extreme left Democrats that private ownership of guns was a bad idea.  Don’t worry.  Most of us thought those people were idiots, too.  I don’t know of a whole lot of Democrats, at a personal level, who actively want guns taken away.  Regulated, sure, but not snatched up.  Hell, I don’t even know if it’s feasible or possible to take all the guns away.  As to the other sentence about the cops, that’s pretty much what the cops do.  Aside from driving around and glaring at everyone, I mean.  It’s kind of funny, actually.  Usually it’s the conservatives who are badge lickers, not the liberals.  When seconds count, the police are minutes away, so I’ll grant him the second sentence.

“# 5. I vote Democrat because I’m not concerned about millions of babies being aborted so long as we keep all death row inmates alive and comfy.”  I’ve read up on conditions on death row and they look pretty freaking far from comfy.  Besides, the two things have very little in common with each other other than fact that they’re in the same sentence.  I’ve known plenty of Pro Life folks and they get themselves extremely worked up over abortion, to the exclusion of everything else.  Here’s the problem though: these people will fight to the death and go so far as to kill abortion doctors to make sure the cute little babies get born.  After that, those babies and their mothers are completely on their own.  There used to be a summer lunch program here in Albuquerque that provided sandwiches for kids, gratis, at some of the parks in town.  Bear in mind, for some of these kids that was all there was to eat during the summer.  I know people who wanted it shut down because the extra five cents taken out of their checks in tax money was too burdensome.  So that’s the Pro Life movement right there: we’ll fight to the death to make sure you get born but after that, fuck you.  This is essentially a religious argument and I know plenty of people on both sides of the political spectrum who oppose abortion.

“# 4. I vote Democrat because I think illegal aliens have a right to free health care, education, and Social Security benefits, and we should take away Social Security from those who paid into it.”  Everyone needs a boogeyman.  It’s so much easier to control people when you can point to another group and say, “Those folks are responsible for all your problems.”  It’s not the fact that you have no skills or work ethic, it’s those guys over there taking your jobs away.  Again, I know of no single Democrat advocating Social Security benefits for illegal immigrants.  To get Social Security you have to pay taxes and register and do all sorts of other things that will get your ass kicked out of the country.  The whole illegal immigrant argument is getting stale, and most Republicans know it, so they’re upping the ante: Now it’s not just that they’re coming for our jobs (and probably women), they’re ISIS militants coming over the border to do nefarious things.  It’s bullshit and it ignores the root of the problem.  Why are people coming over the border illegally?  They’re looking for work.  Why do they think there’s work here?  Because PEOPLE KEEP HIRING THEM.  You want to stop the flow of illegal immigrants, clamp down hard on the people providing the jobs.

“# 3. I vote Democrat because I believe that businesses should not be allowed to make profits for themselves. They need to break even and give the rest away to the government for redistribution as the Democrat Party sees fit.”  What the fuck?  Couldn’t come up with something that makes sense?  Can someone shed some light on where this came from?  Honestly, I think the author was running out of good zingers and just started making things up.

“# 2. I vote Democrat because I believe liberal judges need to rewrite the Constitution every few days to suit fringe kooks who would never get their agendas past the voters.”  Because it’s certainly only liberal judges that do this.  No conservative judge has ever used rewritten laws to support the right wing religious fringe groups who want to impose a Christian nation on the rest of us.  This is the classic example of “It’s not wrong when we do it.”

“#1 reason I vote Democrat is because I think it’s better to pay $billions$ for oil to people who hate us, but not drill our own because it might upset some endangered beetle, gopher, or fish here in America. We don’t care about the beetles, gophers, or fish in those other countries.”  Become a Republican and punch Mother Nature in the face!  The author must have been listening to Sarah “Drill Baby Drill” Palin (never a good idea, there are much better Conservatives to listen to) and decided she was onto something.  I’ll grant a reliance of foreign oil is a huge national security threat (note, the author doesn’t cover this aspect), but the solution isn’t increasing drilling in American, which could take up to a decade to get going and would probably cost a fortune anyway.  Also, as I understand it, we already have a lot of drilling going on here and it looks like the trend is increasing.  What we need to focus on is some kind of renewable or alternative energy source but most conservatives dismiss that as hippie talk.  Besides, we produce more oil than we import, anyway, and the trend looks like it’s increasing.

While we’re here, let’s take a quick look gander at the environmental arguments here.  Sure, drilling might displace or damage endangered animals.  That can be somewhat problematic depending on the animal, but I would posit that the greatest threat is to things like ground water and air.  Everyone needs air and water and polluting it so you can get slightly cheaper gas for your monster truck just doesn’t make long-term sense.  Ecosystems are kind of complicated things and I won’t delve into the ramifications of eliminating certain beetles, gophers, or fish, but it can have devastating effects.  Add to that the environmental issues of pumping waste into rivers, lakes, and the air and you’ve got a good enough reason to at least think twice about drilling for oil.  I don’t know about you, but I like air and water that won’t kill me.

So, there you go.  The Top Ten Lies People Keep Telling Themselves About Democrats.  Funny stuff, no?

The biggest problem with nonsense like this is it further entrenches the ideas of us and them in the minds of a lot of people.  Not all Republicans think this way, nor do they all think it’s real.  Truthfully the Republicans have some decent ideas, it’s not all a bunch of hullabaloo about immigration and abortion.  I don’t particularly care for their track record on the social side of things and I think they’re getting more and more likely to let big business run roughshod over us, but I agree with the idea that a smaller government is generally better than a larger one.  The problem is when the Republicans had absolute control over government, they didn’t do a damned thing to shrink government.  They started a couple wars and created a brand new agency, but they didn’t actually shrink the government at all.

As a side note, they didn’t do much to stop abortion, either, did they?  It’s almost like politicians will say whatever it takes to get elected and then go ahead and do whatever they feel like.

Honestly, when you get right down to it, most of the time it doesn’t really matter who’s in charge because not much ever really changes.  Marriage equality is becoming more and more common and I’m happy to see that, but that wasn’t politicians driving the cause forward; that was people driving the cause forward.  Same thing with marijuana legalization.  If you want to see the country change, quit backing these political shucksters (I made that word up) and go out and drum up some support for something you believe in.

Above all, though, quit listening to crap like this list.  It’s not based in reality, it’s not rational and, worst of all, it’s not even funny.  Stuff like this doesn’t help anyone and it doesn’t convince anyone that your cause has any merit whatsoever.  All it does is make you look like a fool.

1: Not actually reasonable, paints half the country with one giant brush

2: Not really though out, just a bunch of bumper sticker logic

3: I, personally didn’t find if funny; your mileage may vary

Midterms and Muslims

This post may rankle a few feathers, but you know what?

I'm okay

It’s midterm election season and the mud is slinging fast and furious here in Albuquerque.  In my district, we’ve got a showdown between the Democratic Destructor Bob Coffey and the Republican Revenge Machine Nate Gentry.  Both of them have peppered our house and mail with attack ads of all stripes, demonizing the opposition.  According to the campaign literature I’ve been getting Bob will increase my taxes to give violent drug addicts better access to cable television and Nate is going to eat every tenth child on national TV.

Such is American politics these days that I have to do a ton of research on these guy to figure out what they actually want to do.  Their campaign literature only tells me what horrible things the other guy is doing that this guy definitely won’t do.  Great.  Nate won’t tax the hell out of me and Bob won’t eat children.  There’s some stuff about education in there, too, but it’s nebulous.  Both of them are going to fix education.  Somehow.  Don’t question it.

Normally, I get campaign literature ads and they go straight from the mailbox to the recycling bin (yes, I recycle, what of it?), but I got one from Nate’s campaign that actually made me laugh out loud.  It was a beautifully printed 8.5×11 double-sided, full-color ad on heavy card stock.  The damned thing must have cost a fortune to print.  On the front, in big type was “They’re not coming for the Balloon Fiesta.”  This is fine by me.  For the folks who are unfamiliar with Albuquerque, we host a big balloon party every October and a short-ton of people show up and fly balloons.  The balloons crash or drift over Kirtland Air Force Base and the Air Force threatens to shoot them down.  People drive really slowly, watching the pretty colors and shapes, and accidents increase exponentially.  You can also get up at 4am and join 100,000 of your closest friends on the launch field and eat $9 breakfast burritos.  A good time can be had by all.

So, anyway.  “They’re not coming for the Balloon Fiesta” is on the front.  Flip it over and I find “They’re coming for our drivers licenses.”

I wonder if they’re coming for our women, too.  I also wonder who “they” are.


Turns out “they” are illegal immigrants.  It’s funny, I thought illegal immigrants were taking our jobs, but it turns out they’re taking our drivers’ licences, too.  So, the logic here is something, something, driver’s licenses, bam! we’re all broke and speaking Spanish.  Oh, and they’ll probably take our women, too.  And it will all be Bob Coffee’s fault.

Oh, and Nate Gentry is a criminal or something.  I had kind of assumed he was a criminal.  He is a politician, after all.

Texas is having it’s fun with midterms, too.  Up for grabs is the lieutenant gubernatorial position and seeking that esteemed post is one Dan Patrick.  I don’t know much about Dan Patrick and really don’t care.  What he does in Texas is up to the Texans, so if they’re cool with him, that’s cool with me.  He has, however, echoed a recently evolving meme in political discourse: Secure the borders because Islam.  Or, to quote him directly:

While ISIS terrorists threaten to cross our border and kill Americans, my opponent falsely attacks me to hide her failed record on illegal immigration.”

ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria), in case you’ve been living on Mars, in a cave, with your fingers in your ears, is the group running around the Middle East raping and executing other Muslims for not being Muslim enough.   They’re filthy bastards and deserve the worst the world can throw at them, but last I heard they weren’t trying to cross the border into Texas to continue their mad quest for power.  It would seem Patrick’s logic follows from the fact that someone found a Urdu dictionary on coyote, or at least he wants us to believe that.  Never mind the fact that Urdu is the native language of Pakistani and Indian Muslims and most of the nutters in ISIS would be speaking Arabic.  Fun fact, by the way: India has the second largest Muslim population on the planet at about 142 million people and very few of them have become radicalized.  So, being Muslim does not necessarily mean someone’s going to detonate themselves in a coffee shop.  Of course, it’s easier for most people if we just go right ahead and say Muslim equals terrorist even if it’s not the truth.  Then we can use terms like ‘radicalized’ to further demonize the enemy.

Radicalized.  There’s a term for you.  This is the term that’s been applied to groups like Al Qaeda, Boko Haram, and ISIS to denote that they’ve gone from being happy-go-lucky guys to a bunch of people with a strict view of their religion and a willingness to kill to enforce it.

This is where things start to get ugly and dangerous.  I don’t think ISIS has its sights set on Texas, and the Texans would crush them in a heartbeat, anyway, so breathe easy.  Dan Patrick, whose past experience as a sportscaster give him mad skills in the political arena, can rest easy knowing his fellow Texans would stomp the ever loving crap out of any invading militants, especially since there really isn’t any evidence for an invasion.

What should frighten you is this: there is a slow incursion of radical thought into the United States and Canada and there’s not a damned thing you or anyone else can do about it.  The message is out there and some people are already picking it up and running with it.  It’s an idea based on hatred and fear that promises identity for those who can’t make one on their own.  All someone has to do is take up arms against people that haven’t done a damned thing to you, be it America or (recently) Canada.  That right there should tell you some of these people are crazy.  Seriously, who hates the Canadians?  Hating the Canadians is like hating Mr. Rogers.  Two separate sets of people in Colorado have recently decided to travel to Syria to join ISIS in the fight for, well, whatever it is that they’re fighting for.  More radicals in governance, I guess.  The guy in Oklahoma who beheaded a former coworker after he was fired had recently converted to Islam.  The guy who shot up Canada last week?  Muslim convert.

Now, I don’t think every Muslim is out there secretly planning a new caliphate.  I’ve had a handful of friends and acquaintances who were Muslim and they were generally pretty cool people.  My point here is we don’t have to worry about foreign fighters coming to American soil to do their dirty deeds, all they have to do is put the message out there and let the idea take hold.  And it is taking hold.  You can secure the borders eight ways to Sunday and not stop that because you can’t block an idea with a fence and drone strikes.

So, mark my words: the next election cycle will find a way to weave militant insurgents into the narrative as an excuse to seal the borders.  The whole “they’re taking our jobs” message didn’t stick, so someone will find a way to up the ante and keep everyone afraid.  Now it’s not just our jobs at stake, it’s our lives.  And probably our women, too.

Well, that escalated quickly

So, almost immediately after the Hobby Lobby decision a group of religious leaders want exemption from a soon to come Executive Order that would prohibit federal contractors from discriminating against LGBT folks.  It would seem these guys are going out of their way to make sure everyone thinks religious rights means the right to be a dick to people you don’t like.

Read on.

Hobby Lobby, ACA, and Religious Rights

Every time Sarah Palin opens her mouth I get a strong desire to kick John McCain square in the balls.

Sure, maybe McCain wasn’t directly responsible for choosing her, but in his desperation to win he looked at Palin and thought, “Feisty, kinda hot, young.  This is exactly what I need to win this election.”  Had he bothered to look a little closer, maybe actually listen to her, check out her record, do a little more vetting, she never would have gotten the national exposure that she has and American politics would be slightly better than they are right now.  She does a wonderful job of spinning up the muck without doing much in the way actually providing solutions.

McCain and his team moved the rock she was hiding under and now it’s too late to put the rock back.  For that, I will never forgive him.

Which is kind of a pity, because he seems like a decent guy and, had he been the nominee in the 2000 elections instead of smilin’ George Bush, I would have happily voted for McCain.  Problem is, Bush had the mad genius Rove in his corner and Rove had no problems with winning at all costs.  If that meant robo calling people in the deep South and leaving messages that implied McCain had a child with a black woman out of wedlock, well, that’s just how politics is these days.

Now we’ve got Sarah Palin setting up the structure for political debate, a style more analogous to childish name calling than any actual debate.  The problem is, thanks to McCain, she now has a voice and people listen to her when talks about things like “Obama’s Death Panels.”  It’s easy, with such punchy rhetoric, think Obama is personally out to kill your grandparents while completely ignoring the fact that insurance companies have had such panels for decades.  If it’s not economically feasible for an insurance company to treat you guess what’s going to happen.

So, the Affordable Care Act, derisively referred to as “Obamacare,” was pitched as a way to rein in healthcare costs and prevent some of the insurance company abuses that have plagued the industry for so long.  The original pitch said it was going to change everything and make it all better.  There are elements of the law that are good: no longer being able to deny people coverage based on pre-existing conditions is a pretty good thing, as far as I’m concerned.

Problem is, the ACA was hammered pretty hard in the beginning by people like Sarah Palin and other industry shills and, after concession after concession just to get the damned thing passed, we wound up with a law that has holes you can drive a Mack truck through.  Take a look at the recent Supreme Court decision to let Hobby Lobby decide what types of birth control they will pay for, based solely on religious preference.

People, over the past few days, have been pointing a lot of fingers at Hobby Lobby and screaming about how they’re denying contraceptives to their employees.  This is not, strictly speaking, accurate.  Hobby Lobby does cover contraceptives, they just don’t want to cover what they consider abortifacients because they feel that would be supporting abortion and, according to their religious beliefs, that would be wrong.

The owners of Hobby Lobby have some pretty strong beliefs and I’m not here to tell them they’re wrong to have those beliefs.  Personally, I don’t care what they believe.  I usually don’t shop at Hobby Lobby, anyway, so whatever the owners choose to believe is fine with me.  Before everyone gets up in arms and starts screaming about religious freedom, let me be clear: I don’t shop at Hobby Lobby because I think their model kits are over priced, not because of their religious beliefs.

Still, though, that begs a little digging into religious rights.  This is a term that’s been thrown around a lot lately and it usually comes attached with a rider.  “My religion says gay marriage is a terrible thing, and to make me think otherwise is a violation of my religious rights,” or “My religious beliefs say any kind of contraception other than keeping their legs closed will lead women down the path to harlotry.”

It seems like every time I hear someone talking about their religious rights they’re using it as an excuse to take rights away from someone else.

Back to the Hobby Lobby debacle, though.

What should be concerning to people isn’t the fact that Hobby Lobby’s executives don’t want their insurance plan to cover abortifacients.  That’s kind of a given considering their religious beliefs.  What should be concerning is just how porous the law really is that a small handful of people can get uptight about something and the Supreme Court will side with them, potentially over the wishes of a larger group of people that are actually being affected by the law.

My worry, and mind you this is just my opinion, is that this opens the door to all kinds of religious rights claims.  Does your religion hate gays?  Well, the Supreme Court may well back you on that.  Does your religion say women shouldn’t work?  There’s a chance, slim though it may be, that the Supreme Court will back you.

These are extreme examples, of course, and probably wouldn’t come to pass.  However, any time we start allowing a minority with a strongly held opinion to change the rules for everyone else to suit that opinion, it should be worrisome.

“Well, what about gay marriage?” some will cry.  “That’s a minority changing the rules for everyone else?”

To those people I will say the difference is no one is forcing anyone to get a gay marriage.  The recent Supreme Court decision, while not the end of the world, is forcing a change on others.

Now, why is it not the end of the world?  Most of the contraceptives that Hobby Lobby doesn’t want to pay for are available elsewhere.  Planned Parenthood, for instance.  So, while I’m not terribly happy about the Supreme Court’s decision, especially considering the vote fell pretty much along party lines, the ruling, in and of itself, isn’t the end of the world.

Of course, the folks that run Hobby Lobby are cut from the same cloth as those who are busy trying to get rid of Planned Parenthood.

What is frightening is how the Supreme Court is calling this a narrow ruling that applies to a minority of businesses, mainly closely held private businesses.  Most small to medium sized companies in this country are closely held, and this just opened the door for all of them to claim a religious bent on something they don’t particularly care for.

I have noticed, over time, that those who would happily push their religion on others get pretty snippy when other religions do the same to them.  So, all of you who are celebrating this as an aspect of religious freedom had best be forewarned that there are other religions in this country, and this ruling just opened the door for them to start pulling the same kinds of shenanigans.  Religious freedom in this country, after all, includes all religions, not just yours.

Bottom line: there’s probably not much anyone can do at this point and, hopefully, the ruling will be overturned as soon as it starts being abused by those who would deny you freedom so that they can better live up to their religious ideals.

In the interim, you might want to consider throwing some money at Planned Parenthood.  They’re going to become more and more important as rulings like this continue.

This may seem a little bitter and meandering, but bear with me

If you live in America, you don’t live in a Democracy.

I can’t speak for the rest of the world, but America is not a Democracy.  Technically, it never really has been a Democracy, we’re better described as a Representative Republic.  If this were a true Democracy, we’d all spend a lot more time voting on how the country is run.  Rather, we vote every two to six years to elect people who, we hope, share our world-view and, again we hope, will actively set out to implement it.

We’re also not a Christian nation, no matter what you hear people say.

I’m not Christian so I’m far less concerned about this one since there never really was a promise that we would be a Christian nation.  Frankly, as far as I’m concerned the further organized religion stays from politics, the happier I am.  There are, however, plenty of people who are extremely disgruntled when they wake up in the morning and realize that not only has Jesus not come to save them from the heathens, but that the heathens seem to have free run of the madhouse.  We’ll push religion to the back burner for the time being.  Religious arguments are great ways to start flame wars, but I’m not interested in that right now; I have real-world problems to discuss.

So, hold those things in the back of your head for right now while I throw a seemingly unrelated issue into the mix.  Trust me on this one.  Ultimately this mixture will turn into something rational.

If you were a supervillain, what would your goal be and, more importantly, why?  Every supervillain needs an origin story and a dastardly plan.  The best supervillains are the ones with a plan that’s pretty evil but something people can actually relate to.  Think Magneto.  Kill the humans because they’re a threat to the mutants.  His endgame, freedom for the mutants, is admirable.  His mechanism, killing all the humans, is less so.  Although, I did spend a great deal of time in traffic today so I think fewer people might not be a bad thing.

Final seemingly unrelated topic to add here.

At its heart, Henchmen is a simple book about people fed up with politicians and the various ways in which both sides of the political spectrum regularly screw over everyone.  Its sequel (which I need to work on tonight), covers more of the religious spectrum.  Sure, it’s an adventure story.  There are gun fights and naked women and gods and some stuff gets blowed up real good, but at the heart of the story is a group of people who have decided to take the fixing of the country into their own hands by finding a way to kill every member of Congress.

Like I said, every supervillain needs a goal.  That goal should be pretty evil, but ultimately relatable.

So, before anyone starts raising their hands and saying, “Ooh.  Ooh.  Ooh.  Mr. Government!  Eric Lahti, um, wants to kill everyone in Congress!” let me assure that I don’t.  Nor do I advocate political killings.  Or really killing in general.

But I do have an idea.  A wondrous, terrifying idea.

There’s an old joke that goes, How can you tell an honest politician?  Honest politicians stay bought.

So, right there you can tell we’re not a Democracy.  If we were a Democracy, we wouldn’t have as much need for politicians.  Let alone politicians with as much power as ours.  Our politicians make the rules that we have to adhere to while they themselves seem to play by a different set of rules.  As Jonathon Hickman (bonus kudos for anyone who can identify him) once wrote, “Laws are created by those who consider themselves above them.”

The really cool thing about politicians, though, is the fact that they really only worship the money that lets them get the power they crave.  Money wins elections, elections give power, power is great.  Most politicians ride into office on a wave of donations from corporations and the extremely wealthy.  By donating all that money, those people expect a return on their investment.  This means laws that favor the corporations and the extremely wealthy.  By the way, the things those guys want and what the rest of us want are usually antithetical.

Politics is a big money game, and most of us will never be able to fork up the kind of cash the big telecom players can come up with.  As a result, fighting for Net Neutrality, from our end, is going to be extremely difficult.  All we can really hope to do is kick up a big enough fuss that someone pats us on the head and tells us it’s really in our own best interest that network providers should be able to grant faster speed to companies that can pay more money.

This begs a question, how can the average person get enough money together to bribe a major politician?  Sorry, donate to a reelection campaign of a major politician.  They don’t take bribes, they get campaign donations.

Well, I think Kickstarter provides us with a valid model.  Take their basic theory and translate it to something political.  People will be able to put up a problem, provide an example of how bribing a politician will help fix the problem.  Sorry, again, damn: Provide money for the reelection fund a of a politician.  We can then set a base amount that will be needed to get the legislation pushed through.  If you, as a user, agree with the problem and the solution, you can kick in some bucks.  If enough people kick in some money, a large group of people might actually be able to buy a politician.

“What about PACs?” you ask.  Well, with my version of Kickstarter for Democracy, you don’t have to subscribe to all the things each PAC stands for.  You can still focus on that single issue that’s burning you up inside.

This, my friends, is my evil plan.  We can save the Republic by exploiting the very greed that’s busily tearing it down.  The end result, more of a political voice for everyone, is admirable.  The mechanism, exploiting the natural greed of our politicians, is far less admirable, but will probably work quite nicely.