Saturday, March 5, 2016
Sunday, February 14, 2016
Justice Scalia has died and the accolades are rolling in. Many have used the phrase, "a great legal mind" and there will no doubt be honors and statues to follow. But on one key issue - torture - Scalia let down America and used his legal mind to construct an interpretation of the Constitution that could have been a gymnastics trick in the Olympics. When it comes to torture, Scalia, like his pal, Dick Cheney, managed to use the Constitution as his own personal toilet paper. Perhaps a little background is in order:
The whole point of America was to create a system of government that protected the individual from the state. The three branches were supposed to insure that no one group had too much power. There were checks and balances. There were rights granted the individual. Of course, someone always has to have the final say. Otherwise the system can't work and in our case it's the Supreme Court. We put them in an ornate building and make them wear robes as if to pretend these people are inherently different. They're impartial and above it all. But ultimately, they're still flawed humans and we're at their mercy. We have to hope they do a good job and remain true to the promise of America, but when they don't, we are screwed. They have the power to alter what the country looks like from then on. They can take back rights that took centuries to gain.
It's a constant battle keeping the powerful in check. Their natural position is to want more control so it is up to the system to say, "No. That's enough." For example, some powers are granted the president only in a time of war and that is one reason we have the War on Terror - as President Bush called it, "a war that will not end in our lifetimes." One result of the War on Terror is that it gives presidents the authority to do any damn thing they want. A president can arrest someone and even execute them without trial all in the name of national security. There has been a tremendous erosion of the rights of the individual and it begs the question, "If we were okay with authoritarian rule, why did we leave England in the first place?"
No issue captures the power of the state over the individual like torture. If the state can take you in a room and do whatever it wants to you, it wouldn't matter if you couldn't vote anymore. Freedom of speech? You'd be too busy screaming. The state cannot be allowed this power of inflicting cruel and unusual punishment on someone or we are living in a hellish nightmare. So that is why it was so dangerous when Scalia stated that torture was not unconstitutional. Judge Scalia: "The Constitution says nothing whatever about torture. It speaks of punishment; 'cruel and unusual punishments' are forbidden." So is torture forbidden? "If it is imposed as a punishment, yes, " Scalia said. "If you condemn someone who committed a crime to be tortured, that would be unconstitutional."
When the state wants to torture someone, you don't ask for its reasons. Instead you go to the individual chained up in the little room spitting blood out onto the floor and ask a simple question: "Do you feel like you're being punished right now?" Follow it up with, "Kind of cruel, isn't it?"
Do you see the massive potential for abuse of power here? You could be sentenced for a simple crime and the state would have the right to torture you - as long as they claim they were doing it for a reason other than punishment. How about to set an example as a deterrent? Would that be good enough? What if the state said, "We have no desire to punish this inmate. We're merely using torture so the rest of you will learn that we mean business"? How about if the state is just improving our torture methods? "We're just torturing you so we'll be ready later if we have to torture the bad guys. Think of this as patriotic torture." What if - God forbid - one of our leaders turns out to be a twisted psychopath and just enjoys it? Torture wouldn't be punishment then - it'd be for fun.
This interpretation by Scalia seems to me to be trying way too hard to give authority to people like Dick Cheney to do any damn thing they want when they get in power. It's taking a dump on the central reason America came into existence. And Scalia's reasoning is verbal gymnastics that borders on the farcical. Maybe that's what they mean when they say he had a "great legal mind." Look, he pulled that opinion out of someplace dark, but it wasn't his mind. You know what he really brought to the torture debate, right? Tortured logic.
Maybe we should go back to the beginning of the country - to phrases like "the pursuit of happiness." Maybe we should look at this from the point of view of the individual citizen. How about considering our rights and freedom instead of using the courts to return America to the type of tyrannical rule we thought we left behind? Here's how we could do it:
Posted by Bill McDonald at 11:46 AM
Saturday, February 13, 2016
Thursday, January 28, 2016
Okay, let's assume much of America gets its way and Trump becomes the next president. What would worry you the most under those circumstances? I think this thing where he can't let a slight or perceived insult go would be a huge concern. And I'm not late to this party. I thought there was something weird about his "celebrity feud" with Rosie O'Donnell. At least Joan Rivers was using her endless barbs at someone as schtick - as a source for humor. The Donald has just got a weird area here and I think it's obvious. And the most telling aspect of it is that he sees this - not as strange - but as a positive character trait. Go ahead, America. Elect him if you want. But there's something weird about this Megyn Kelly fixation and if I was married to her, I'd have jumped in by now...peacefully of course. But I'm convinced of one thing: his relentless tedious whining about her qualifications, etc...is BULLSHIT. And it's just plain weird.
Posted by Bill McDonald at 9:56 AM
Sunday, January 24, 2016
Even if you try ignoring little inconveniences like morality, the Rule of Law and thousands of years of civilization and...oh yeah, that quaint old Christian commandment,"Thou shalt not kill," you're still stuck with the pragmatic question: Does our behavior in these countries actually fight terrorism or increase it?
Many have argued that - rather than solve anything - taking out someone's family members just creates the kind of burning hatred that will last for generations. How does that help? Then you're faced with the notion that this is exactly how it's supposed to work: This is the military industrial complex insuring that it will get even more "defense dollars" in the future. The War on Terror is destroying the United States by sucking trillions of dollars into this misery. It is a direct assault on our national solvency without really solving anything. And there's President Obama - weeping openly as he discusses kids here getting killed - while he sends drones to kill kids over there.
Something about the antiseptic nature of having a machine up there doing it provides a disconnect in his mind and with the American Public. But if you're crawling around on the ground after your family gets hit by some hellfire missile, it is all too real. And you know one thing for sure: You're going to try and hurt the country that did this to you until your last breath.
Summing up: The drone program is a mystery. It doesn't make sense - even some military types have said that - so why do we do it? For the power rush? Is it like a video game? Is it.........fun?
Posted by Bill McDonald at 10:20 AM
Tuesday, January 19, 2016
Go back and really look at the Florida vote again that gave us George W. Bush. During the campaign Jeb and his sidekick Katherine Harris dumped one voter screening company and hired another for a fortune. That second company managed to shed a huge amount of legitimate voters from the rolls - voters who would not have voted for his brother. This has been researched into the ground by people like Greg Palast. So before the Supreme Court even had a chance to pick the president, it would have been over except for Jeb. Think of how this country could have been different if we had avoided the Bush/Cheney years and the disastrous war in Iraq. Without Jeb Bush looking out for his brother George W. and stripping the voter rights from thousands, we could have avoided so much misery. So seeing Jeb Bush flounder in the polls - despite all the old cronies throwing a fortune at the campaign - is one of the few positive developments of this wretched political season. And yet, we must remain ever vigilant. We can't let down our guard for a second because the Bush family never rests in its quest for power. This thing is not over yet, but at least the numbers for Jeb are encouragingly bad.
Posted by Bill McDonald at 9:32 AM
Saturday, January 16, 2016
Friday, January 15, 2016
Thursday, January 14, 2016
Wednesday, January 13, 2016
Yes, Los Angeles is getting an NFL team back and maybe two, and that makes sense. USC tried to keep pro football alive there but results were like the last coach's drinks - mixed.
Posted by Bill McDonald at 9:25 AM
Tuesday, January 12, 2016
Monday, January 11, 2016
Libya on Talking to Screens
American foreign policy has devolved into the embodiment of family values - if the family was from the Cosa Nostra. We talk a wonderful game about spreading freedom and Jeffersonian democracy but the fact is we feel we have the right to go into another country and destroy their leaders and plunder their wealth if we feel like it. Then it's just a matter of spinning the results into a feel-good story - no matter how disastrous they are on the ground. And who's to argue with a winning game plan?
One thing though: If you're planning to sell the feel-good version of the mess in Libya you better not have emails come to light that indicate a different story. Hillary received emails from other government officials that indicated that France's involvement and our subsequent participation were motivated - not for freedom - but for oil and gold. Whoops. Of course, we always seem more enthusiastic when we're destroying a place. That's where the money is. Then later as it becomes another major problem spot in the world, we wring our hands and bemoan our undeserved fate. How can so much good intention turn into such a nightmare in these countries? We were just trying to help - as in "help ourselves to their riches." Oh well. Hey, freedom isn't free, right? And yes, it's too bad that we created another mess that will haunt us for decades. But why fret about it now? It's on to the next one.
Posted by Bill McDonald at 8:34 AM
Sunday, January 10, 2016
One interesting thing about conspiracies is that everyone has their own line - call it the nut-case delineation line. On this side are the conspiracies you believe; the other side are just idiotic. For example, Trump was all over President Obama's birth certificate yet he doesn't say anything controversial about 911 - and this is an expert on how buildings are built. Yet his secret girlfriend Rosie O'Donnell is big on 911. I think it's fascinating to hear these declarations come out of different people: "Big Foot? He's an inter-dimensional being traveling from another universe, but that stuff about chem-trails is just crazy." Or, "JFK was killed by Oswald - he had to be so we could fake the moon landings." It goes on and on.
So what do I believe? Well, let's just say I don't think Ruby killed Oswald because he was upset. I think he was ordered to because they didn't want Oswald to talk. But anyone who says we didn't go to the moon is just out of it. Now, whether or not we encountered an alien presence there? That's a different story....In conclusion, although the most strident conspiracy nuts can be very annoying, I feel kind of grateful that they're out there. And I do mean out there. Why? Because if a conspiracy is being planned - and you know they are - the ringleaders have to worry about the dedicated army of rabid conspiracy nuts who will be on their case the minute it happens. And that could act as a deterrent. Actually, I don't really believe this - that's just what my CIA handlers wanted me to say....
Posted by Bill McDonald at 8:26 AM
Saturday, January 9, 2016
We're in that awkward stage of the campaign where any attack on one candidate could be seen as helping another. I regret that. I really would prefer if someone I liked had come forward who had a chance to win. That would have made this much more enjoyable. So what are we left with but to attack everyone, knowing in our hearts that it doesn't really matter because the true people in charge don't change and besides the election will probably be rigged anyway? As a comedy writer I am amused by Hillary tying herself in knots trying to handle Trump. My advice would be to start at the top and by that I mean an endless number of one-liners about a genuine Trump vulnerability. And yes, I am talking about his haircut. I'm not trying to start rumors but I've heard his haircut once had a wild affair with a badger. No really. I saw the whole thing on the "Animal Planet" channel. I think Trump should make a commitment to the voters right now: If he isn't elected he will agree to release his haircut back into the wild. It's only right.
Posted by Bill McDonald at 9:20 AM
Friday, January 8, 2016
I've had around 700 jokes on the Tonight Show including at least one that made it to Time Magazine so I would occasionally have the feeling I had nailed it. Others might be saying the same thing on a topic but I had put it in a creative way that stood out. The question was whether that feeling would ever translate to the cartoon business. This is the first time it did. I like the image of drones shedding tears because they're so upset about the children who got killed in these strikes. As for President Obama's tears about the gun victims here while he's also responsible for those drone strikes? Let's just say I think he's taking compartmentalization to a strange new level.
Posted by Bill McDonald at 8:52 AM