Category Archives: Libertarianism

What Part of Your Oath Do You Not Understand?

I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to something something anymore!

It all started with Wil Wheaton1, who used to be the bartender (I believe) on “Star Trek”, but who is now some sort of Twitter celebrity. I myself have zero tolerance for Twitter celebrities, but one of the “data scientists” I follow “retweeted” the following into my newshose:

The SOPA/NDAA, in case you have more important things to do than follow politics, is the latest power grab by the content industries, and would allow the President to use unmanned drones to assassinate you and/or the Internet without a trial if he suspects you’re selling counterfeit handbags or illegally downloading Hall & Oates MP3s or waging jihad. It is indeed an abomination, which is why it is only supported by heartless, baby-killing monsters like record company executives and United States Senators. And it certainly seems plausible that a President who signed such a bill would be in violation of his oath to “defend the Constitution.”

You know what else is in violation of his oath to defend the Constitution? JUST ABOUT EVERYTHING HE’S EVER DONE. Invade Libya without declaring war? NOT IN THE CONSTITUTION. Illegally traffic guns to criminals in order to drum up popular support for eviscerating the Second Amendment? NOT IN THE CONSTITUTION. Override state medical marijuana laws? NOT IN THE CONSTITUTION. Force people to buy private health insurance? NOT IN THE CONSTITUTION. And so on. If it takes the NDAA to get you to care about Obama’s oath to defend the Constitution, then either you’ve been living in a cave in Pakistan for the past 3 years, or YOU DON’T ACTUALLY CARE ABOUT THE CONSTITUTION.

As it happens, I’m not one of those libertarian types who pounds the table about what is and what isn’t in the Constitution. Of course I’d rather the government lived up to its promises not to quarter soldiers in my condo, not to take away my guns, and not to censor my XXXXXXXXXXX. But they don’t, and no one seems to care that they don’t, and in fact most people are quite happy to let the government quarter soldiers in their condos as long as it gets them something they want, like endless war in Afghanistan, or patents on being aware of medical best practices, or subsidized pharmaceuticals for wealthy old people. In any event, I don’t treat the Constitution as holy writ, or think something is necessarily a good idea because it’s in the Constitution or necessarily a bad idea because it’s not, or consider it a good use of anyone’s time to yell “READ THE CONSTITUTION!” to people who don’t particular care about what’s in the Constitution.

But I will pound the table when some Obama-endorsing, juvenile-name-calling Twitter celebrity suddenly starts chastising people as if in this one case the Constitution is the most important thing in the world. You don’t get to do that. If you didn’t care about the Constitution back when activist judges insisted that deep in its penumbrae one could divine secret rights to funnel taxpayer money to politically-connected banks and carbuilding unions, then no one is going to take you seriously when you pretend to care about it now. Oh, they’ll pretend to care about your pretending, and maybe they’ll even mention to their friends that “that bartender from the Starship Enterprise had some great tweet where he pretended like he cares about the Constitution, and he used #hashtags and everything, and it was really such a stellar example of pretending to care about the Constitution that I favorited it and retweeted it and @replied to it, so you should check it out!” But they know that you’re posturing and that you know perfectly well that the President and the Congress perfectly well understand their oath to “uphold the Constitution”, they JUST DON’T GIVE A RAT’S ASS ABOUT IT, and they also know that 364 days out of the year NEITHER DO YOU.

What’s extra-sad is that this guy had a particularly unpleasant run-in with the TSA last spring:

You’d think that might have indicated to him that the “teabaggers'” fear of government power was maybe not so off-base after all. The bartenders at the places I hang out certainly would have noticed this, so maybe it’s that all the cosmic rays in space kill brain cells.

All that said, the NDAA and SOPA are both horrible laws and we’re worse as a society for passing them (or for being about to pass them) and the people defending them are heartless, baby-killing monsters who you should probably go out of your way to spit on if you encounter them. But they’re also perfectly predictable consequences of having the kind of busybody government that you’ve been loudly clamoring for your whole life. It wasn’t so long ago that you were blogging a stupid “CHANGE WE CAN BELIEVE IN” graphic and telling people to vote for this jerk. To the extent you care about preventing the next SOPA, you might consider next time listening to the libertarians instead of just calling them vulgar names and putting sugar in their gas tanks.

1. Technically, it started when I read the article about Sheila Jackson-Lee stopping a SOPA hearing so they could discuss whether someone had insulted her on Twitter, and I realized that I was the one with the “crazy” politics for not being eager to subject myself to thousands of pages of laws written by emotional preschoolers.

Too Much Grope

The last time I flew anywhere was January May 2010, which predated all of the “don’t touch my junk” craziness, toward which I’ve maintained an extremely passive sense of outrage.

Somehow I assumed that only some small fraction of travelers were getting X-rayed, but I arrived at Sea-Tac this afternoon and discovered that every security line was being routed through an imposing-looking “RAPISCAN” machine.

I stuck my computer and luggage and shoes on the belt and then cheerfully informed the TSA lady that I didn’t want to be X-rayed.

She gave me her best “are you fucking kidding me?” look, shunted me off to the side, and then told her compatriot “we’ve got an opt-out.” She said “opt-out” in the same tone that a teenager might say “mom, you’re embarrassing me.”

So I stood there and stood there and stood there, all the while my computer and luggage and shoes were sitting unattended on the far side of security, until finally the TSA lady from the next line over noticed me and asked if I was “an opt-out,” after which she fetched a male groper.

The groping itself wasn’t too bad. The TSA guy who did the groping was polite enough, I guess. The idea of getting groped bothered me, but apart from that it wasn’t particularly upsetting. I don’t, however, look forward to explaining to little Joelene why the TSA agent gets an exception to the “no one should ever touch you like that” rule.

Anyway, other than the first TSA lady’s look they didn’t give me much trouble for opting out. If any part of it was distressing, it was this: the whole time (~10 minutes) I was hanging around the security stations, not one other person opted out.

Election 2010 Post-Mortem

Everything is different now. The dreadful “Patty Murray loves Dino Rossi” and “Dino Rossi loves Patti Murray” commercials they’ve been interrupting my football games with have overnight been replaced with commercials for Cialis and Levitra and new, less side-effect-y gout drugs. Our lack of a state income tax is now a new, more emphatic lack of a state income tax. The government-run liquor monopoly, having successfully fended off privatization, has earned a mandate to make its stores drearier, its prices less compelling, its selection sparser, and its employees surlier. Laws against marijuana are still keeping unionized prison workers, unionized cops, and unionized drug gangs gainfully employed. Truly, a new day is dawning.

On the national level, the Big-Government-and-Business Party suffered a stunning loss at the hands of the Big-Business-and-Government Party, which probably portends all kinds of changes over the next two years, although I couldn’t tell you what they are. Possibly they’ll rebuke the suddenly-unpopular President for his “endless war in Afghanistan” and “assassinate Americans” and “keep the drug war going” and “anti gay marriage” positions.

More likely, they’ll keep the ship on its current course, which is why I find it sort of befuddling how everyone on both sides can be all excited and/or apocalyptic.

It’s possible that there’s some way in which my life will be different depending on whether Dino Rossi or Patty Murray “represents” me in the Senate, but it seems pretty likely that Boeing will keep sucking at the giant federal teat, we’ll keep throwing more money at our public schools and they’ll keep sucking really bad, Microsoft will keep introducing fancy new phones that nobody wants, the dollar will keep losing value, we’ll funnel a ton of taxpayer money to politically-connected “alternative energy” companies, Paul Krugman will stay apoplectic, Congress will “save the economy” several more times, and “Top Chef: Just Desserts” will keep eliminating “cheftestants” until one finally claims the dubious mantle of “Just Desserts Top Chef” and Bravo starts the new season of its other show about the transsexual fashion-designer / personal-trainer / cocktail-inventor who likes to flip houses and in zher spare time set spoiled millionaire housewives up on dates.

I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t a sense in which I find all the celebration and/or hand-wringing sort of cute. It reminds me of the epidemic of rioting and/or suicides that you always see when people’s favorite and/or most-hated squadron wins the World Series and/or Grey Cup. Wait, did I say “cute”? Because I meant “alien and tiresome.” Can’t I have a few days of peace to imagine that Rand Paul is going to be my libertarian dream-Senator before he actually gets sworn in and starts being as terrible as the rest of them?

A Sky Daddy Is a Sky Daddy

Apparently a bunch of people want to build a new mosque somewhere or another, while a different bunch of people want them not to build it. This not only provides fuel for resuscitating our dwindling 24-hour news cycle, but also creates opportunities for feel-good speechifying, proclamations of “pride” in one’s country and admiration for one’s elected betters, and demonization of one’s political and/or religious opponents.

Insofar as pretty much everyone is my political and/or religious opponent, I find myself without an axe to grind, leaving me to fall back on my default position of blanket opposition to the opening of new religious facilities. As a good libertarian, of course, I default to letting people do whatever they want with their property; however, if you ask my opinion I’m happy to tell you that the world probably doesn’t need any more phony-baloney churches or synagogues or mosques or celebrity centres.

Let it not be said that I am without sympathy for the Muslims of Manhattan, who (I understand) lost their cherished World Trade Center Mosque when it was (along with the rest of the facility) destroyed by so-called “terrorists” with unknown motivations. I do feel a little bit churlish for not being more enthusiastic about their rebuilding plan.

Nonetheless, a sky daddy who insists that you live your life according to the dictates of a magical fairybook is a sky daddy who insists that you live your life according to the dictates of a magical fairybook. Couldn’t we build a Trader Joe’s instead?