Category Archives: J.D. Rhoades

It’s That Time of Year Again: The PWoC Returns

By JD Rhoades
The Pilot Newspaper: Opinion

Yes, it’s November, folks, and we all know what that means.

It means it’s time
for Christmas decorations to start appearing on the shelves and in the
streets. It’s time for Christmas commercials to begin showing up on TV.
And it’s time for loud (and ultimately useless) grousing about how awful
it is that all this is happening when it’s not even Thanksgiving yet.

All of this is followed, as the
night follows the day, by the annual Phony War on Christmas (PWOC), that
yearly ritual in which the most privileged class of people (white,
straight Christians) in the most privileged country on Earth get to
whine about how they’re being oppressed because someone wished them
“Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.”

As always, the first cries of woe
came from our old friends at the Resentment Channel, aka Fox “News.”
Bill O’Reilly, whose platoons of researchers apparently comb the
Interwebs looking for stories to spin up into new occasions for
right-wing butthurt, announced, in his words, “the first salvo in the war on Christmas.”

In one school district in
Maryland, O’Reilly said indignantly, “there will be no mention of
Christmas or any other religious holiday on the school calendars going
forward. That’s because a Muslim did something!”

Now, you may be thinking,
“Doggone those Muslims! Now they’ve gotten Christmas banned! Is there no
end to their perfidy?” Not so fast. What “a Muslim” (actually several
local Muslim leaders) did in Montgomery County, Maryland, was ask for a
day off for one of their own religious holidays, known as Eid al-Adha or
“feast of the sacrifice.” They were certainly not asking that there be
no Christmas.

I imagine they didn’t expect the
school board’s reaction, which was to totally punt on the issue and
remove all religious designations from the school holidays, both
Christian and Jewish. It was a decision which satisfied no one.

Note well that the Christian and
Jewish holidays themselves are still there: Everyone still gets the same
time off for Christmas and Easter, as well as the High Holy Days of
Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. It’s just that Christmas vacation happens
over what’s now called “winter break.” Easter vacation is where it’s
always been, during “spring break.” As for the Jewish holidays, they’re
designated as days of “no school for students and teachers,” according to a report in the Washington Post.

So the kids still have the same
holidays they had before, to celebrate in any way they and their
families see fit. You’d think that would placate Mr. O’Reilly and his
colleagues. You’d think that, that is, if you’d been living in a cave
without TV for the last 20 years and were unfamiliar with Mr. O’Reilly’s
shtick. This board decision, he groused,
was “wiping out” all our traditions. “They’re wiping out — you know
Christmas and Easter and Passover, these have a Judeo-Christian
tradition in our country,” he said. “So they just wiped out all our
traditions for these people.”

Actually, “they’ve” done no such
thing. While calling the break at the end of the year “Christmas break”
is something we may have gotten used to over the years, I seriously
doubt that anyone regards how it’s designated on the written school
calendar crumpled up in the bottom of Junior’s backpack as one of their
fondly embraced traditions.

In any case, I strongly suspect
that students and parents will still refer to the holidays as “Christmas
break” and “Easter break,” and no one will try to stop them. All will
still be allowed to participate in their real traditional observances of
the season, such as trampling their fellow celebrants on Black Friday
so as to snag the last of the “door buster” 50-inch TVs for $199 at Best

I’ve noticed that there doesn’t
seem to be a lot of outcry from Jewish people over the Montgomery County
School Board decision, even though their holidays got the same
treatment as the Christian ones. Perhaps this is because Jewish folks,
having actually been the recent targets of horrific and genocidal
persecution, are less inclined to get their knickers in a twist over
what some school board calls a holiday.

It’s a lesson some people could
stand to learn. If the thing that makes you indignant is a faraway
school board calling the end-of-the-year vacation the “winter” rather
than the “Christmas” break, or the thing you feel the burning need to
protest is someone using “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas,”
then I submit that you’ve actually got life pretty good and should just
be thankful for that, it being the season for thanksgiving and all.

Via: J.D. Rhoades


‘Net Neutrality’ is The Right Thing, Even if Obama’s For It

By JD Rhoades
The Pilot Newspaper: Opinion

There’s been a lot of talk since the election on where the first big showdown is going to occur between President Obama and Congress over the use of “executive actions.” Surprisingly, it may turn out that the first battleground won’t be immigration or the environment, but the issue of net neutrality.

So, what is net neutrality? Put simply, it’s the principle that all data going across the Internet should be treated equally. Imagine the Internet in the term once commonly used to describe it: as an “information superhighway.”
You’d want everyone on a highway to have equal access to it, right? But imagine if some people got special access to higher speed lanes and on ramps if they paid more. Imagine if, say, J.B. Hunt Transportation could pay to use faster lanes and quicker access ramps than Bob’s Friendly Trucking.
Pretty soon, poor Bob’s going to be out of business, and J.B. Hunt has one less competitor. That’s not good for capitalism. Further, J.B. Hunt’s going to pass that premium down to its users, who’ll have fewer and fewer options to go elsewhere. That’s not good for consumers.
To apply this to the Internet, say you and a few of your entrepreneurial friends have an idea for a new search engine, one that runs faster and provides better sorting of search results than Google or Yahoo. But when you try to get it up and running, you find out that you can’t complete because Google has flexed its financial muscle and paid Comcast and Time Warner off so that they’ll always have better access and run faster than you.
After the customary months of internal debate and re-debate on the subject, President Obama stepped forth and stated: “I believe the FCC should reclassify consumer broadband service under Title II of the Telecommunications Act — while at the same time forbearing from rate regulation and other provisions less relevant to broadband services.”
What that means in plain English is that he wants the FCC to treat Internet service providers (ISPs) as utilities or “common carriers,” meaning that they’d have more power to make them treat all their customers equally.
Some right-wing Washington types immediately leaped forward to defend the only real principle the wingnuts have left, to wit: “If’n Obama’s fer it, we’s agin it.” Orange John Boehner, alleged speaker of the House, claimed the president’s proposal would “destroy innovation and entrepreneurship” (as we’ve seen, precisely the opposite is true).
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz put down his copy of “Green Eggs and Ham” long enough to take to Twitter and Facebook to call the proposed rule change “Obamacare for the Internet.”
Cruz indicated his utter failure to understand the Affordable Care Act, net neutrality, and the English language by going on to claim that the proposed redefinition “puts the government in charge of determining Internet pricing, terms of service, and what types of products and services can be delivered, leading to fewer choices, fewer opportunities, and higher prices for consumers.”
This, despite the clear language about “forbearing from rate regulation.” On second thought, perhaps this is like Obamacare, if by that you mean “something right-wingers justify opposition to by lying through their teeth about it.”
It should surprise no one that Sen. Cruz is the recipient of over $47,000 in campaign contributions from the biggest Internet service providers, such as Comcast, TWC, et. al. What may have surprised the senator, however, is the number of self-described conservatives who joined their more liberal brothers in geekdom to tell him he’s totally full of it on this subject.
“As a Republican who also works in IT,” one wrote, “you have no clue what you are talking about.” Another wrote, “As a tech and fiscal conservative in Texas who generally votes Republican, I am incredibly disappointed by your completely inaccurate statement.”
That shouldn’t be a shock to anyone, however, because this is by no means a strictly liberal issue. According to a recent story on, a survey by the Internet Freedom Business Alliance (IFBA), a group led by former GOP Rep. Chip Pickering of Mississippi, found that “83 percent of self-identified conservatives thought that Congress should take action to ensure that cable companies do not ‘monopolize the Internet’ or ‘reduce the inherent equality of the Internet’ by charging some content companies for speedier access.”
Net neutrality is good for the Internet, and since so much of our business these days gets done there, it’s good for the country. This is an issue with support all along the political spectrum, even if it’s opposed by Comcast, TWC, and other corporate behemoths, and by their bought and paid-for shills in Congress.

Let’s not let knee-jerk opposition to all things Obama, as well as congressional harlotry, be the end of an open and level playing field for all online.

Via: J.D. Rhoades


Running Away From Obama: How’d That Work Out For Ya?

By JD Rhoades
The Pilot Newspaper: Opinion

So what happened this past Tuesday? What was the cause of this so-called “Republican Wave”?
You can blame the gerrymandering, which marginalizes Democratic votes and concentrates Republican ones. That certainly didn’t hurt Renee “I need MY paycheck!” Ellmers in her race against Clay Aiken.
But that doesn’t explain Kay Hagan losing to Thom Tillis, nor does it explain Republican victories in other U.S. Senate and state governor’s races.
You can blame the pernicious influence of money in politics. But the fact is, both sides spent huge amounts of money, and in North Carolina, Hagan actually outspent Tillis.
So what was it? You might come to the conclusion that people just don’t like Democratic policies. But then you’d have to explain away what happened when certain measures were actually put on the ballots in various states:
— Voters in Alaska, Arkansas, Nebraska and South Dakota passed bills to raise the minimum wage, even while electing politicians who opposed such an increase. Not only did these measures pass, but they passed by wide margins. (A similar bill passed in Illinois, but it’s only considered “advisory” and doesn’t have the force of law.)
— Washington state passed a referendum that mandates universal background checks for gun purchases. The bill passed with 60 percent of the popular vote, despite millions of dollars poured into the state by the NRA and other gun rights groups to fight it.
— Voters in Colorado and North Dakota rejected so-called “personhood” laws, which define human life as beginning at fertilization of the egg. It’s clearly a back-door attempt to restrict reproductive freedom, and voters in those states soundly defeated both measures.
— Oregon, Alaska and the District of Columbia legalized possession of small amounts of marijuana. A solid majority of Floridians (57 percent) voted to legalize it for medical use, but that measure fell short of the 60 percent it would have needed to become law.
It seems that voters, when asked to choose, favor liberal policies on the minimum wage, gun control, reproductive choice, and even legal weed. Yet they don’t seem to like Democratic candidates. And I know why.
It’s because they act like such wimps.
One of the recurring themes of campaign coverage was how Democratic candidates were “running away” from President Obama. He’s “wildly unpopular,” the press assured us, despite the steadily decreasing jobless rate, a declining deficit, millions of Americans getting health insurance as a result of the much-reviled Affordable Care Act, and 63 months of economic expansion.
And boy, did they ever run away. Kentucky’s Alison Lundergan Grimes refused to even say whether or not she’d voted for the president. Clay Aiken told reporters he didn’t want the president to appear with him. Incumbent Sen. Kay Hagan spent all her time touting herself as the “most moderate” senator.
Republicans, on the other hand, constantly repeated, “Hagan voted with Obama 96 percent of the time. They painted Hagan as “the deciding vote for Obamacare.” (Funny how every incumbent Democrat in every state was “the deciding vote for Obamacare.”) In the last days of the election, they even put it on the signs: HAGAN=OBAMACARE.
And not once did I hear her stand up and say, “Yeah, I voted for Obamacare, and here’s why: No pre-existing condition exclusions, no lifetime caps on coverage, more people are getting insured, and you can keep your kids covered until they’re 26.” You know, all the things people tell pollsters they like — so long as you don’t call it Obamacare.
Here’s the thing about trying to run away from the president from your party: You’re also running away from the policies that you voted for. That doesn’t work. The Republicans aren’t going to let you do it, and trying to do it makes you look weak, craven, and wholly dependent on polls to determine your loyalty.
Not only does it not work, but as we’ve seen above, it’s so unnecessary. Remember, the president you’re so shy about being seen with got elected twice by large margins. People actually want a lot of the same things the Democrats claim to want. You want to motivate your base voters, the ones you really need in the midterms, then stand up and say, “Yeah, I voted for that, and I’d do it again. I did it because it’ll help the people of my country and my state, and here’s why I say that …”
You want better turnout, Democrats. You need to move the polls, not chase them. You need to stop listening to overpaid Beltway consultants who tell you people won’t like you if you come out strong for the things that help people. You know, the ones Democrats are supposed to believe in.
A few noisy people may not like liberal policies, but everyone hates a two-faced coward.

The comments in The Pilot since this column went live show that the Right’s not even trying to hide the racism any more:

From commenter “PearlHarbor”: A couple of articles I read called the election white man’s revenge.
Articles where? The KKK Journal?

And of course, our old friend “Francis” spoke from beneath his concealing hood of anonymity: As much as it pains me to say this Obama may have been just what we needed, something had to wake White America up, we have been far to lenient and passive when it comes to allowing others dictate their demands, from illegal immigrants marching in our streets to the moral Monday crowd driven by the NAACP trying to use their numbers, it’s always been about them, never us, time to think about what we want for a change.

Yes, Francis, let’s never forget that it’s the white man who is the truly oppressed minority in this country. Wake up, white men!

Via: J.D. Rhoades


Chris Christie: EBOLA FIGHTER!

By JD Rhoades
The Pilot Newspaper: Opinion

ANNOUNCER: Ladies and gentlemen, welcome once again to the Thrilling Radio Hour. Tonight, we bring you another slam-bang episode of our most popular show — “Chris Christie, Ebola Fighter”! Brought to you by Panicwear, the last word in stylish hazmat suits for the whole family! Dad, Mom, even the kiddies, will look and feel their best in these full-body suits designed for Panicwear by Ralph Lauren. Remember, if it’s not Panicwear, you’re gonna die horribly! AAAAAAHHHHHH! Now, on to our story…

As our show opens, Gov. Christie is waiting on the tarmac at Newark Airport, along with his faithful aide and sidekick Wazoo.
WAZOO: De plane, Boss! De plane!
CHRISTIE: I see it, Wazoo. Get ready. We’re about to face our most dangerous enemy.
WAZOO: Another ethics investigation, boss?
CHRISTIE: No, Wazoo, even worse. There’s a nurse on that plane. And she’s been in Africa!
WAZOO: A nurse? Africa? Oy gevalt, boss!
CHRISTIE: Wait, when did you start speaking Yiddish?
WAZOO: Hey, is it my fault the scriptwriters could never settle on my exact ethnicity?
CHRISTIE: Never mind, Wazoo. Here she comes.
ANNOUNCER: As the nurse exits the plane, Gov. Christie steps forward, hand raised bravely.
CHRISTIE: Stop right there!
NURSE: What? Hey, aren’t you …
CHRISTIE: That’s right, filthy disease carrier. It is I! Chris Christie, Ebola Fighter! (MUSIC FANFARE) And I quarantine you in the name of the law!
NURSE: But … I don’t have Ebola! I don’t even have a fever!
CHRISTIE: That’s exactly what you’d say if you did have Ebola! Wazoo, to the quarantine tent with her!
WAZOO: You got it, boss!
NURSE: No! Wait! Aaaah!
ANNOUNCER: As Gov. Christie turns away from his vanquished foe, an interfering busybody steps up.
BUSYBODY: Excuse me sir, are you a doctor?
CHRISTIE: I don’t need to be a doctor! I am Chris Christie, Ebola Fighter! (MUSIC FANFARE)
BUSYBODY: I thought not. If you were, you’d know that there’s no danger of Ebola infection from someone not showing symptoms. And only then if you have contact with bodily fluids from an infected person.
CHRISTIE: Hold on there, pal! Are you a doctor?
BUSYBODY: As a matter of fact, I am. An infectious disease specialist, actually.
CHRISTIE: And did you just get off a plane from Africa?
BUSYBODY: No, Amsterdam.
CHRISTIE: Close enough. You didn’t think Chris Christie, Ebola Fighter (MUSIC FANFARE) would know that there are flights from Africa to Amsterdam? Your cunning plan to infect the populace has failed! Take him away!
WAZOO: Yes, boss.
BUSYBODY: Wait! No! Aaaah!
CHRISTIE: Hmmph. Silly liberals and their “degrees.” And their “geography.” Don’t they know I have leadership to display?
WAZOO: Hey, boss, we got a problem …
CHRISTIE: Wait! All those little men. In uniform. What are they doing here?!
WAZOO: Ummm … that’s a Boy Scout troop from Ottumwa, Iowa. They’re getting ready to fly back home after visiting New York.
CHRISTIE: New York?! There’s Ebola there! Quarantine them immediately!
WAZOO: But there’s no more room in the tent, boss! That’s the problem I was trying to tell you about!
CHRISTIE: What!? Well, then, wrap those Boy Scouts head-to-foot in Saran Wrap!
WAZOO: They’ll suffocate, boss! And the people already in the quarantine tent have cellphones! They’ve gotten hold of the media!
CHRISTIE: Not to worry, Wazoo! The media love me. I help them preserve the fiction that my whole party hasn’t gone off the deep end.
WAZOO: I’m not sure this is helping, boss. But they’re also contacting civil rights lawyers. Something about you not having the authority to lock people up just on your word. Especially when there’s zero evidence that they’re actually sick.
CHRISTIE: But I’m Chris Christie, Ebola Fighter!
CHRISTIE: Hey! Where’s my music fanfare?
WAZOO: The trumpet player got quarantined, boss. Turns out he has a great-aunt in Mozambique. There’s no Ebola there, but, you know, you can’t be too careful.
CHRISTIE: (Sighs heavily) Oh, all right. Let everyone go. But be sure we do a press release telling everyone I’m still right about everything.
WAZOO: Yes, boss.

ANNOUNCER: Tune in next week for another episode of Thrilling Radio Hour! Next week’s installment: Chris Christie, Ebola Fighter, meets ISIS! And remember: if you’re not in constant fear, you’re not a real American! Good night, and God help us all!

THE GOBSHITES RESPOND: Weekly commentator “Francis”, who often has his response up within fifteen minutes of the column being posted on the Pilot’s website, responds in the fashion we’ve come to expect from the Party of Love:
Some deserve a long agonizing death, not quick, but slow and painful, then they too will understand just how those who have contacted this virus felt before dying, sorta of takes the humor out of the subject don’t ya think.[sic]

But don’t forget folks, it’s the liberals who are filled with hate.

Via: J.D. Rhoades


Costumes Ripped From the Headlines

By JD Rhoades

The Pilot Newspaper: Opinion

So, got your Halloween costume yet? I remember a time when asking an adult that question would have gotten you, at best, a quizzical look. Back when I was a kid, Halloween was strictly for the youngsters, roaming the neighborhood in packs with a harried (and normally dressed) adult in tow. Or maybe that’s just how I remember it.

The costumes of my early youth tended to be mass-produced polyester and cheap plastic representations of popular cartoon characters or superheroes, picked up at Rose’s or some other department store, although from time to time a creative (or broke) mom would attempt to handcraft one, using things like bathroom rugs for lion fur, toilet paper for mummy wrappings, and tin foil taped clumsily over cardboard for shields, armor and metal robot “skin.” The results tended to be, shall we say, mixed.
Soon, however, adults started getting into the fun and dressing up for their own Halloween parties. Homemade costumes became more elaborate and professional-looking. Irony, sarcasm and satire became common design elements, along with more elaborate pop culture or news references.
(One of my all-time favorites was a group Pac-Man costume, with four people dressed in different-colored sheets chasing a fifth in a cardboard full-body Pac-Man outfit … until on a pre-arranged signal, they all began flashing lights beneath the sheets and running as “Pac-Man” chased them.)
Then commercial costume companies began to see the seasonal bucks to be made in the adult market. Now, you don’t have to go far on the Internet or elsewhere to see a full panoply of costumes for adults. I have to tell you, folks, some of them truly boggle the mind.
Which makes this the perfect time for another round of one of my favorite games, “Truth or Parody?” In this special Halloween edition, I’ll describe a costume and you decide whether it’s real or just something I made up.
I’ve written before about the disturbing plethora of “sexy” costumes, like “Sexy Policewoman,” “Sexy Witch,” and even “Sexy SpongeBob,” which I’d really rather not think about too much, if you don’t mind. But are the following outfits real, or are they the creations of my demented mind?
1. “Sexy Minion,” which turns any female into a version of the adorable little yellow dudes from the “Despicable Me” movies, with goggles, blue coveralls and blue suspenders.
2. “Sexy Darth Vader”: You won’t need the Force for all eyes to be on you!
3. “Sexy ISIS fighter”: Complete with plastic machine gun and beheading knife.
Then there are costumes based on recent news. Such as:
4. The “Ebola Worker” costume: Dresses the wearer up as a health care provider trying desperately not to get infected with a horrible hemorrhagic fever.
5. The “Malaysian Airlines Flight 370” Costume: This one’s pretty inexpensive, since it just requires you to not show up for the party while all your friends engage in hare-brained speculation about what happened to you.
Give up? Here are the answers:
— “Sexy Minion”: Not only is this one real, there are multiple versions of it. Ladies, like “Sexy SpongeBob,” if your significant other wants to get frisky with you while you’re dressed in this one, some serious reconsideration of the relationship may be in order.
— “Sexy Darth Vader”: Also real. This one, from Party City, features, and I quote, a “black corset with boning detail and a lace-up back,” a black hooded cape, and “flirty sequin boyshorts.” I wish I could unsee that description, but since I can’t, I figured I’d share it.
— “Sexy Isis Fighter”: Not yet, at least not commercially, but the people who make the next entry are threatening a “toddler ISIS fighter costume.”
— “Ebola Worker”: Yep, it’s real. The online company “Brands On Sale” promises that its “Ebola Containment Suit Costume,” which provides the wearer with a face shield, breathing mask, goggles, coverall and gloves, will be the “most ‘viral’ costume of the year.” I suppose we should be grateful that there’s no “Sexy Ebola Fighter” costume.
—Yes, this one’s a joke.

Too soon? Bad taste? Hey, don’t blame me, blame reality. And/or Halloween. Me, I think I’ll just haul out my trusty bandanna and eye patch and go as a pirate again. Arrrh!

Author’s note: It appears I spoke too soon about the Sexy Ebola costume…

Via: J.D. Rhoades


When In Danger Or In Doubt, Run In Circles, Scream and Shout

By JD Rhoades
The Pilot Newspaper: Opinion

OK, everybody, just calm the heck down. Ebola is not going to kill you.
You’re more likely to get struck by lightning than you are to die of Ebola. You’re more likely to die of food poisoning (as 3,000 people a year do) than you are of Ebola. You’re even more likely to get killed by a guy shooting up your workplace, school, or local McDonald’s than you are by Ebola.
Now, don’t you feel better?
It’s true that there have now been a whopping three reported cases of Ebola in the U.S. The first was Thomas Duncan, who apparently contracted the disease while visiting his relatives in Liberia. He then apparently lied about his exposure to the disease to Liberian authorities before returning here. (Liberia threatened to prosecute him for that, but the poor fellow died before they could.)
The other two victims are health care workers who treated Duncan, all of whom caught Ebola in the only way you can: by contact with the bodily fluids of a person showing symptoms.
This last part is key: You’re only infectious if you’re showing symptoms. This is why that second nurse, who got on an airplane to go to Cleveland to plan her wedding after treating Duncan, most likely hasn’t infected anyone.
Just to be on the safe side, the people on the plane with her are getting checked, but unless she was both (1) symptomatic; and (2) drooling, bleeding, spitting, sweating on, or otherwise enfluidizing her fellow passengers, they should be in the clear. (Yes, I made that word “enfluidizing” up. Maybe it’ll catch on.)
The biggest fear people have about Ebola seems to be the possibility that it will suddenly mutate and go airborne, meaning you wouldn’t have to come into contact with an infected person’s bodily fluids to get it. If that happened, you could get it just by being in the same room with an infected person.
But, as Granddaddy used to say, “If a frog had wings, he wouldn’t bump his butt when he jumps.” Which is to say, Ebola’s not airborne, and the chances of it getting that way are — well, the aforementioned frog has about as good a chance of developing wings.
Don’t just take my word for it, or even Grandaddy’s. Dr. Vincent Racaniello, a professor of microbiology and immunology in the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Columbia University, a man who’s been doing research on viruses since 1975, writes in his blog: “We can ask: Has any human virus ever changed its mode of transmission? The answer is no. We have been studying viruses for over 100 years, and we’ve never seen a human virus change the way it is transmitted.”
HIV, he notes, can still only be transmitted via sex, dirty needles, or childbirth. Same for Hepatitis C. Both have infected millions, and they haven’t changed the way they do it. Ever.
Sure, you can say, “Just because we’ve never seen a virus change how it spreads before doesn’t mean it won’t this time.” But you could just as easily say, “Just because we’ve never seen a virus mutate so as to cause people to turn into flesh-eating zombies doesn’t mean one never will.”
This isn’t a scary thriller novel. It’s not a disaster movie. We don’t live in Africa. There’s no need to stock up on plastic sheeting and duct tape. This can be contained, and it will be.
The kind of hysteria we’ve seen, with CNN trotting out thriller author Robin Cook as not only an expert but as “the man who wrote the book on Ebola,” when what he wrote was an admittedly entertaining but fanciful novel, is irresponsible.
The man’s pre-author job was as an ophthalmologist, for crying out loud. For him to say, “This kind of an illness is probably the scariest thing we can deal with,” is not only not helpful, it’s downright dangerous. Hysteria, for example, is a lot scarier, because it makes people do terrible things.

“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself” is as true a statement now as it was when FDR said it. Maybe even more so.

Via: J.D. Rhoades


The Curious Incident of the Supreme Court

By JD Rhoades
The Pilot Newspaper: Opinion

Ah, the first Monday in October. A day of great interest to those of us in the law biz, because that’s the day the Supreme Court of the United States officially starts its term.

This year, the Supremes began by, like the dog in the Sherlock Holmes story, doing a curious thing: nothing. They decided not to review the decisions of lower courts which struck down bans on gay marriage in seven same-sex marriage cases.
Because those appeals courts also have jurisdiction over more than just the states the original cases came from, bans on same-sex marriage will almost certainly fall in those other states as well. For example, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, which struck down Virginia’s gay marriage ban on constitutional equal-protection grounds, also has jurisdiction over West Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina.
Therefore, while a challenge to North Carolina’s egregious Amendment One hasn’t yet reached the Fourth Circuit, it’s legally dead in the water, waiting only for the harpoon, and the Supreme Court isn’t going to try to resuscitate it.
On Tuesday, the mighty Ninth Circuit, which covers Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon and Washington, struck down same-sex marriage bans in Idaho and Nevada. By the time the effects of the decisions are fully felt, 35 states will likely have to recognize the right of same-sex couples to enjoy the same legal rights the rest of us take for granted.
As one might expect, the haters and bigots went nuts. Sen. Green Eggs and Ham himself, Mr. Ted Cruz of Texas, referred to the decision of the SCOTUS not to intervene as “the worst kind of judicial activism.”
Get that? Doing nothing is now “activism.” Proof once again, as if you needed any, that the words “judicial activism,” like the words “liberal” and “leftist,” have been robbed of all meaning other than “anything I don’t like.”
Meanwhile, Sen. Mike Lee of Utah fell back on the tired and hackneyed complaint about “unelected judges”: “Whether to change that definition [of marriage] is a decision best left to the people of each state — not to unelected, politically unaccountable judges.”
Sadly, Sen. Lee, like most right wingers claiming to be defenders and upholders of the Constitution, seems to know very little about it. See, according to that pesky old Constitution, federal judges, including those on the Supreme Court, aren’t elected, and therefore not “politically accountable.”
That’s how the whole thing was set up from the beginning, for the very reason that the interpretation of federal law (including the Constitution) shouldn’t be subject to the vagaries of political opinion, and that you can’t “leave it to the people of each state” if what they decide to do, even via popular vote, violates the Constitution. You got a problem with that, take it up with the Founding Fathers.
It’s particularly amusing because Sen. Lee himself used to work for one of those “unelected and politically unaccountable” judges, namely Justice Samuel Alito, for whom Mr. Lee clerked. So we can assume he knows better and is just playing to the rubes — sorry, I mean the “base.”
As of this writing, the rulings and others like them have not caused the collapse of so-called “traditional” marriage. Despite the fretting of Butch Otter, Idaho’s wonderfully named governor, allowing same-sex marriage has not led “opposite-sex couples to abuse alcohol and drugs, engage in extramarital affairs, take on demanding work schedules, and participate in time-consuming hobbies.” At least not any more than they already do.
As Ninth Circuit Judge Stephen Reinhardt drily observed in responding to that argument, “We seriously doubt that allowing committed same-sex couples to settle down in legally recognized marriages will drive opposite-sex couples to sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll.” Dang it, I was so looking forward to that.
All that said, the issue isn’t completely over. It’s entirely possible that another federal circuit — say the Fifth (Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas), Sixth (Ohio, Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee), or Eleventh (Alabama, Florida and Georgia) — which still have cases on marriage equality pending, may decide differently than the ones whose decisions the Supreme Court left alone.
That would create the dreaded “split between circuits,” at which point the Supremes would almost certainly decide they needed to step in and resolve the question once and for all as to whether states can deny people the fundamental right to marry and equal protection of the law just because they’re different.

Let’s hope they decide to stay on the right side of history and tell them, “No, you can’t.”

Via: J.D. Rhoades


Latte Is The New Teleprompter

By JD Rhoades

The Pilot Newspaper: Opinion

Once again, the shrieking outrage over a photograph of President Barack Obama saluting with a cup of coffee in his hand as he steps off Marine One reveals that there is nothing too small or trivial but that the American right won’t throw a giant hissy fit over it.
It’s all very amusing — until you realize what it says about the state of right-wing thinking.
By now, I’m sure you’ve seen the photo: President Obama, on his way to the U.N., stepping off the helicopter, flanked by saluting Marines on either side. He has his coat slung over one arm and is returning the salute with, horror of horrors, a cup in his hand.
Of course, the right-wing hysteria machine, apparently made up of people who have nothing better to do than comb through every photograph of the president looking for something to be apoplectic about, leapt immediately into action.
“How disrespectful was that?” Republican strategist Karl Rove asked. Half-Term Governor Sarah Palin mocked Obama’s lack of military service in a speech to a “Christian values” convention, a speech in which she also identified the president’s home address as “1400 Pennsylvania Avenue” — actually the address of a park next to the historic Willard Hotel. (It should be noted that neither Rove nor Palin served in the military.)
The National Republican Senatorial Committee even created a website — yes, an entire website — to protest.
Thing is, the president isn’t required to salute at all, and in this situation probably shouldn’t have. According to the regulations published by the Department of the Army (and available online), a salute isn’t required when “carrying articles with both hands” and “when either the senior or the subordinate is wearing civilian clothes.”
In addition, for 192 years of our nation’s history, presidents (including war heroes like Ulysses S. Grant, Teddy Roosevelt and Dwight D. Eisenhower) didn’t return the salute at all. The practice originally started with Ronald Reagan, who apparently ran around saluting everything in a uniform.
When a Marine aide let him know that that wasn’t standard protocol, Reagan went to the commandant of the Marine Corps, who told him, “You’re the [bad word] president. You can salute whoever you want.”
Of course, you can just imagine the howling that would have ensued if Obama hadn’t saluted at all. Or if, like the President Who Must Not Be Named, he was photographed, several times, saluting while holding his Scottish terrier in one hand. That’s different, we’re told by the Raging Right. Because — just because it is, OK?
So what next? Will Darell Issa convene hearings on “Latte-gate?” Will there be subpoenas demanding to know if the president took cream or sugar, and if so, was it an American brand? Will there be a breathless (and quickly debunked) expose on “60 Minutes”?
“Tonight on ‘60 Minutes,’ some guy you’ve never heard of who claims to have been a barista on Marine One has written a book in which he details his harrowing experiences on Sept. 23, 2014. He tells us how he would have heroically taken the cup from the president’s hand himself, but received a ‘stand down order’ for some reason we don’t know, but which we know is somehow Obama’s fault. I’m Lara Logan, and am as baffled as you are as to why I still have a job.”
More likely, “latte” will became the new “teleprompter”: a word wingnuts randomly drop into any conversation about the president in an attempt to craft a clever insult that only serves to point out how mindless and ill-informed the person delivering it actually is.
Example: “Wow, did you hear some guy jumped the fence and broke into the White House?” “Yeah, Obama was so surprised he nearly dropped his latte. Get it? Latte! HAW HAW HAW!”
It’s important, the wingnuts say, because it shows a pattern. They’re right, but not in the way they think. The real pattern is this: The right has certain narratives, certain themes they cling to. In this case, the theme is “Obama hates the military.” This is patently absurd, as anyone outside the right-wing anti-information bubble knows. But the truth doesn’t matter to these people. Any information that contradicts the narrative is rejected. Anything they come across, no matter how minor, is warped to fit the theme.

Fix the facts around the theory, instead of the other way around. Sound familiar? That’s the right-wing mindset that got us into the Iraq War. And that’s where it stops being amusing.

Via: J.D. Rhoades


Whatever It Is, Blame Obama

By JD Rhoades
The Pilot Newspaper: Opinion

The recent spate of stories coming out of the NFL regarding domestic violence, child abuse and other nastiness on the home front has led to a great deal of soul-searching and debate across this country.

What is the cause of all of this? Does our culture’s adoration of professional athletes lead them to believe they can get away with anything? Is it a symptom of some deeper societal problem?
To the right wing, however, the answer is clear, as it always is when the question “Who or what should we be angry at for this?” is raised. That answer is: President Barack Obama.
Fox News-harpy Andrea Tantaros, for example, leapt right to the attack after the now-infamous tape surfaced showing Ray Rice punching his then-fiancee’s lights out.
“I wanna know, where is the president on this one?” fumed Tantaros from inside the cloud of peevishness that enshrouds her at all times. “My question is, and not to bring it back to politics, but this is a White House that seems to bring up a ‘war on women’ every other week.”
Yeah, Andrea. We certainly wouldn’t want to bring it back to politics.
Meanwhile, washed-up actor Kevin Sorbo (of “Hercules” and “Andromeda” fame) tried to kick-start his new career as a right-wing wacko celeb (a la Ted Nugent, Adam Baldwin and Kirk Cameron) by going on Fox and parroting the same line.
“There’s no accountability in the White House with Benghazi, the IRS and all that kind of stuff,” he explained. “How do we expect to have accountability with something like a professional football team?”
The National Review’s Jim Geraghty went even further. He blamed not only the NFL’s failure to act promptly on the Rice scandal, but a laundry list of other bad things, on “The Obama Era of American Leadership.”
Those bad things ranged from GM’s recall of 2.6 million cars with defective ignition switches, to the chemical spill in West Virginia that poisoned the drinking water of 300,000 people, to NBC’s decision to hire Chelsea Clinton for “$600,000 a year for three years.” (I’m still scratching my head over why he’s so cheesed off about that last one.)
As I’ve pointed out before in this column, the right has even found ways to blame Barack Obama for the failed response to Hurricane Katrina (which occurred three years before Obama’s first election win); the recession that began the year before he took office; and high oil prices before the 2008 election.
Back in March of this year, former National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice (who used to seem like a pretty smart lady) blamed Obama for “dictators like Bashar al-Assad in Syria (who came to power in 2000) and Vladimir Putin in Russia (who first became president of that country in 1999).”
It’s a time-honored technique. Make your gripes about “leadership” or “tone-setting” broad enough, and you can blame the president for just about everything:
“I’m sorry, ma’am, we know you came in for a tonsillectomy, but we, um, amputated your left leg. We blame Obama’s lack of leadership. Gee, thanks, Obama!”
“Yeah, Your Honor, I beat up an elderly African-American storekeeper and robbed his cash register. If Obama hadn’t inflamed racial tensions by commenting on the Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown cases, I wouldn’t have been so angry. Gee, thanks, Obama!”
“Yeah, I showed up three hours late for work, I smell like a distillery, and there’s an unconscious stripper in the back seat of my car in the parking lot. I’ve just been really depressed lately over Obama’s lack of accountability. Oh, I’m fired? Gee, thanks, Obama!”
And so on.
Sadly, it’s not just the right-wingers who blame Obama for everything. Far too many on the left are prone to what blogger Oliver Willis has dubbed “Green Lantern Liberalism”: the idea that, like the nearly omnipotent comic book character, the president could create all the things they want — single-payer health care, banking reform, minimum wage increases — through the sheer force of his will if he just wanted it enough.
Thankfully, the president isn’t omnipotent. He can’t travel through time. He’s not responsible for domestic violence, chemical spills, the fact that Bashar al-Assad and Vladimir Putin are brutal thugs, or the fact that the Middle East is the same tangled mess it’s been for more than 2,000 years.
He’s not responsible for Republican obstructionism or the weak-kneed Democrats who fear it. That’s just the hand he was dealt, and he’s playing it pretty well, despite the silliness of the far right and their lapdog news network.

Via: J.D. Rhoades



By JD Rhoades
The Pilot Newspaper: Opinion

Anyone who says that President Barack Obama is not doing enough about ISIS, ISIL, whatever they call themselves, should be required to answer one simple question or forever hold their peace:

Do you or do you not advocate sending American ground combat troops into Iraq and Syria to fight ISIS? Yes or no?
Let’s make no mistake: These ISIS people are bad news. They’re so vicious and crazy even al-Qaida disowned them. They’ve committed horrific atrocities against American and British citizens, not to mention against thousands, possibly tens of thousands, of their fellow Muslims.
They do not, however, pose a significant threat at this time to the U.S. homeland. Don’t just take my word for it. This is the assessment of the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Pentagon, even though Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel did allow as how they may threaten our interests abroad.
That doesn’t stop the usual hysterical ranting from the usual gang of warmongers. Sen. Lindsey Graham, for example, looked as if he was about to bust a blood vessel on Fox News Sunday as he demanded ground troops, ground troops and more ground troops, while railing that President Obama “needs to rise to the occasion before we all get killed back here at home.”
Really? They’re going to kill all 314 million of us? No, Graham insists, it’s actually worse. According to him, ISIL, left unchecked, will “open the gates of hell to spill out on the world. … This is ISIL versus mankind.”
Meanwhile, you can always count on our old pal John McCain, a guy who never saw a crisis he didn’t want to carpet-bomb.
“We are now facing an existential threat to the security of the United States of America,” McCain said, possibly because he doesn’t understand what the words “existential threat” actually mean. Either that or he doesn’t care about anything other than the fact that the words sound scary.
It’s all poppycock. Also, codswallop and balderdash.
ISIS/ISIL doesn’t threaten the existence of the United States, which is what the words “existential threat” mean. They don’t hold the keys to “the gates of hell” like the Big Bad in a second-rate horror flick.
Yes, they need to be dealt with, before they get big enough to actually do some real damage to us. That’s going to take exactly the sort of broad-based plan we’re engaged in now: diplomacy with our allies who actually are on the front lines, combined with training and support for the people who rightly should be fighting the war for Iraq and Syria, namely Iraqis and Syrians.
It’s fear-mongering, pure and simple, from the party that realizes every issue it has counted on up to now to bring down the president and defeat his party has fizzled.
Obamacare is working as more and more people get access to health care. A Republican-led committee finally had to admit that its investigation of the Benghazi murders revealed no wrongdoing on the part of the administration. The economy continues to improve as the Dow rises and the jobless rate falls. And so on.
So they fall back on their tried and true tactic: scaring people into believing that Daddy McCain and Momma Lindsey and all their Republican pals will take care of us against the Scary Brown Supervillains Who Will Kill Us All. Pay no attention to how many of our own sons and daughters will be killed, maimed or broken to pay the cost of another war. After all, it won’t be their kids or grandkids bleeding and dying.
The kind of sustained freak-out the right is engaging in right now over an exaggerated threat is exactly the same sort of madness that led to this mess in the first place. Letting terrorists — well, terrorize us into committing troops to another quagmire in the Middle East is playing right into their hands.
They’d like nothing better than to have American troops in Iraq and Syria so they could go back to slowly bleeding us with IEDs and suicide bombers, while our inevitable reaction creates more and more resentment among the locals and more and more of them join the ranks of the terrorists.
Have we learned nothing?

But, hey, if the current group of Republican pols want to send division after division of Americans back into Iraq, make them say it. Don’t allow them to get away with their usual “we don’t want war, but we’ll call anything else failure” nonsense. Make them own up to it. See how the American people like them then.

Via: J.D. Rhoades