walking like a camel

No, I don’t do it for the exercise. Yes, I understand that both walking and cycling are terrific forms of exercise, but no, that’s not why I do it. Yes, I’m usually going somewhere when I go for a walk or a ride, but no, that ‘somewhere’ isn’t a destination. I’m not actually going to that place. That place is just a prompt, a nudge, a reminder that it’s time to turn around and go back. Yes, the walk or ride serves a purpose; the walk or the ride is the purpose.

the cyclistI do this almost every day, regardless of weather. Sometimes I’ll walk or ride for hours, sometimes just for ten or fifteen minutes. I might stroll for a couple of hours along the river; I might ride five minutes to the nearby Stop & Rob and buy a Coke Zero. The purpose isn’t to see the river or fetch a Coke, though those are both fine things. The purpose is movement, the purpose is to move the body and disengage the mind from whatever I was doing and allow it to re-engage in…well, something else.

jaywalkHere’s a true thing: I don’t really walk or ride. I saunter. I even saunter when I’m on a bicycle. This is how Chambers defines saunter:

to walk, often aimlessly, at a leisurely pace; to wander or stroll idly

That’s me, wandering idly on foot or bicycle, somewhat aimlessly, at a leisurely pace.

promenadeThere’s some uncertainty about the etymology of saunter. It’s been suggested the term derives from sans terre, ‘being without land or a home,’ which would be a good reason for walking aimlessly. Others believe it comes from s’aventurer, ‘to take risks or leave to chance.’ My favorite explanation of the term, though, comes from the Middle Ages, during the period of the Crusades.

When we think of the Crusades, we generally think of armored knights on destriers, traveling to Jerusalem to ‘rescue’ Christendom. But it wasn’t just knights and noblemen who made their way halfway around the world; poor folks were also seized with the irrational desire to travel to the Holy Land. But they had to walk and beg for food as they made their way à la sainte terre. While of lot of those folks were sincere, the willingness of people to help a common sainte-terrer (it was a sacrifice that would gain them favor with God) created a population of poor folks who wandered through much of Europe claiming to be journeying to the Holy Land, but actually were just medieval hobos.

humming to himselfObviously, I’m not that sort of saunterer. I’m more in the Ludwig Von School of walking. Beethoven took a long stroll almost every afternoon, with a pencil and some paper stuffed in a pocket so he could write down any musical thoughts he might have. I keep myself open to ideas when I walk or ride, but I don’t take any writing paraphernalia with me. I tell myself that if an idea is good enough, I’ll remember it. If I don’t remember it when I get home, I tell myself the idea couldn’t have been that good.

That’s probably nonsense, but it gives me some comfort when I get home and can’t recall the ‘great’ idea I had when out sauntering.

a wee bit tipsyOr maybe I’m more in the Thoreau School of walking. Thoreau said this:

[T]he walking of which I speak has nothing in it akin to taking exercise, as it is called…but is itself the enterprise and adventure of the day.
Moreover, you must walk like a camel which is said to be the only beast which ruminates when walking.

I’m very much taken with the notion of riding a bicycle like a camel.

hard day at the officeI think I could argue that the real reason I take walks or go on rides is to get outside of my mind. Things happen when you’re out and about. Real things, and they happen to real people. The things that happen when you’re at your desk only happen in your mind.

Here’s an example of the way things happen. This thing happened to the composer Benjamin Britten, who was a great walker. It’s my favorite Benjamin Britten story (okay, my only Benjamin Britten story, because c’mon, does anybody have more than one Benjamin Britten story?). He was walking along a railroad track one day and came across a couple of young boys standing by the track, waiting. They had a newt in a jam jar. Britten asked the kids what they were doing. They said, “We’re waiting for the two o’clock train to come out of Aldeburgh, so we can show this newt what a steam train looks like.”

I’m willing to bet you five dollars this will become your favorite Benjamin Britten story too.

the cloak of self-interest

Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel. We’ve all heard that. It was originally said by Dr. Samuel Johnson in April of 1775, and recorded that same evening by his biographer James Boswell. What usually gets left out, though, are the rest of Boswell’s comments.

Patriotism having become one of our topicks, Johnson suddenly uttered, in a strong determined tone, an apophthegm, at which many will start: “Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.” But let it be considered, that he did not mean a real and generous love of our country, but that pretended patriotism which so many, in all ages and countries, have made a cloak of self-interest.

It’s that last bit that matters most. That ‘cloak of self-interest’ business. By that measure, Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina, is a patriot.

Senator Lindsey Graham cloaked in self-interest

Senator Lindsey Graham, cloaked in self-interest

Graham is regarded by the right wing conservative Christian branch of the Republican Party (which, let’s face it, is the main branch these days) as a closeted ‘Nancy-boy’ who is a Republican In Name Only. Since he’s facing re-election next year, and is alarmed at the notion of being forced to run against a Tea Party candidate in a primary election, Graham has been trying to butch up and present himself as more conservative. One way he does that is by talking tough on terrorism and immigration.

Graham has said he wants Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the surviving member of the brothers accused of the Boston Marathon bombing, to be treated as an enemy combatant. He specifically tweeted that position:

The Law of War allows us to hold individual in this scenario as potential enemy combatant w/o Miranda warnings or appointment of counsel.

The phrase ‘enemy combatant,’ by the way, isn’t just a generic description; it’s a legal term of art. It has a specific legal definition which is too tedious to repeat, but here’s how it’s generally defined by the U.S. Department of Defense:

In general, a person engaged in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners during an armed conflict.

Graham is a lawyer; he knows this. What happens if Tsarnaev is declared an enemy combatant? Two important things. First, the status and rights of an enemy combatant are different than those of an accused criminal. As Graham said in his tweet, enemy combatants are held according to the Laws of War — they don’t get lawyers and they aren’t charged with crimes; they can be grilled for intelligence about the enemy, though, and then like the captured pieces in chess they’re removed from the board until the game is over.

Basically, Graham wants to Gitmo this kid’s sorry ass. And an awful lot of people agree with him. They seem to believe that because the Tsarnaev brothers were Muslims and because their parents are Chechens, that the bombing must be related to Islamic extremism and ethnic nationalism. From what I’ve read about Tamerlan Tsarnaev, that may accurately describe his motivations. From what I’ve read about Dzhokhar (who by most accounts is a stoner who switched colleges because he preferred the party atmosphere of the new school), it doesn’t seem to describe him at all.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev

The second reason a move to designate Dzhokhar Tsarnaev an enemy combatant is important is because it removes him from the criminal justice system. If, as Graham wants, we treat this kid as an enemy combatant, we’re required to view him as a soldier in a war rather than as a criminal who committed a crime. To my mind, that elevates Tsarnaev’s actions; it gives them a dignity they don’t deserve. A soldier who infiltrates enemy territory and commits an audacious assault is a hero to his people. This kid wasn’t attacking enemies; he was just killing and mutilating innocent people. He doesn’t deserve to be treated as a warrior; he deserves to be treated as a common criminal.

For people like Lindsey Graham, the problem with being a common criminal is that accused criminals have rights. They have, among others, the right to remain silent, the right not to be forced to incriminate themselves, the right to legal counsel, and the right to a speedy trial by a jury of their peers. And if those rights are to have any meaning at all, they have to be given to every person accused of a crime, even if that person is blatantly and obviously guilty of an exceedingly heinous crime.

This what offends Graham and his cohort — the notion that we, as a nation, have to provide and protect the rights of a person who committed a horrific crime. They apparently interpret this approach as protecting the guilty. It’s not. Not really. It’s protecting the innocent. I’m not suggesting Dzhokhar is innocent; I’m saying that in order to protect the truly innocent, the rights of the accused have to be afforded to everybody accused. It’s not about protecting the guilty, it’s about protecting society. It’s about protecting the things we believe in.

What Graham believes in is getting re-elected. So he’s talking tough. He’s not thinking (or he doesn’t care) about the larger reality. If we were to put this kid in Guantanamo, he’d become something of a martyr. If we put him in prison, he’s just another criminal.

I happened to watch an old episode of the second season of The West Wing last night. The episode takes place shortly after an attempt is made to murder the President’s body man, a young African-American. Some of the White House staff are angry because the law protects the people who tried to murder their friend. One of the characters shakes his head and asks “What can you say about a country that protects the very people who trying to destroy it?” After a dramatic pause, another character responds, “God bless America.”

I don’t believe in God. But despite all the many reasons not to, I do believe in the United States of America. I believe in it enough to protect the rights of its citizens, even if that citizen is Dzhokhar Tsarnaev — even if it’s his brother Tamarlan. I believe this nation is made stronger by protecting those rights. And I believe Lindsey Graham is a patriot. At least by Johnson’s definition.

wishing flags

Most last week sucked. It sucked on so many different levels. You’d need an abacus to count the many ways in which last week sucked. But on Friday afternoon Suspect #1 in the Boston Marathon bombing was dead. Suspect #2 was said to be injured and corralled in a ten block area of Watertown. So I felt free to abandon the television and the Internet for the first time in a couple of days and take a much-needed walk.

It wasn’t an ideal afternoon for it. The weather sucked too. The temperature had struggled to climb up into the low 40s, but I got the impression it wasn’t very committed to staying there. The wind was fluctuating between 6 and 7 on the Beaufort scale (not that anybody still uses the Beaufort scale, so let’s just say it was blowing about 25-30 mph) and shoving around massive wads of discouraged-looking clouds. Every so often, though, there was a break in the cloud cover and the most incredible sunlight would gush through for a moment.

So I stuck my little Fujifilm X10 in a jacket pocket and set off for the river.

and larsonThe river was flooding a wee bit because of all the rain. Not enough to cause any serious damage, but the river had risen enough to cover the lowest level of the riverwalk. As I approached one of the pedestrian bridges, I heard an unusual noise. I assumed it was just the wind through the girders, combined with the rushing of the water. But it wasn’t.

It was flags. Lots of flags. Lots and lots of small flags.

small flagsCord had been strung crisscrossed through the girders, to which small squares of something resembling cloth had been affixed. Even though the little flags were weathered and a tad faded (not surprising after a few days of rain), they gave the pedestrian bridge a rather festive look. They couldn’t quite overcome the gloomy weather, but they made a brave attempt.

I didn’t look at the flags very closely, I’m afraid. Not at that point. I noticed one of the flags had the logo of the Principal Financial Group, so I dismissed it as some of corporate promotional stunt. And it was, after a fashion. But as promotional stunts go, this one happens to be pretty cool.

clothette flagsA local bookbinding company donated recycled clothette (a durable paper that resembles cloth and is used in — that’s right, binding books). Using still more donated materials, children turned those squares of clothette into ‘wishing flags.’ Each flag is a celebration of Earth Day — which, it turns out, is today, April 22. The materials were also made available near the riverfront one day recently, so anybody could create and contribute a wishing flag to the project.

Something like five thousand of the small flags were created. Volunteers, most of whom were students, worked with the Parks Department to string them up along the river. Not just across that particular pedestrian bridge, but for a mile or so along the riverwalk itself.

shadow of flagsRemember, this was a cold, windy, cloudy miserable day. Somewhere just west of Boston a 19 year old kid who was responsible for at least four deaths and well over a hundred horrific injuries was cowering, wounded, in a tarp-covered boat in somebody’s backyard, hunted by dozens of police agencies. Thousands of lives had been disrupted, and some will never recover from it. And yet that Friday afternoon, for the first time in a week, I felt a sense of joy.

I’m going to say something sappy here. Sappy and sentimental and goopy. Here it is: By and large, people are pretty fucking great. Sure, there are always going to be folks who hate, folks whose anger and resentment and fear will cause them to do horrible things. But as we saw in Boston, good people outnumber the bad people. And here, along a small stretch of river in the Midwest, a group of kids collaborated with a local bookbinder and a multinational corporation to celebrate Earth Day. So yeah, haters are assholes and corporations are almost certainly inherently wicked, but people in general are pretty fucking great.

i love the riverThey’ll remove all those flags in a few days. And that’s okay. They’ll have served their purpose, and they’ll be recycled again. After a week like the one we’ve all just suffered through, it’s good to see something hopeful and cheerful. Like a kid’s painting of two happy girls, a few flowers, and some sort of mutant ferret.

And you know what else is cool? That building in the background? It used to be the main branch of the public library. Now it houses the World Food Prize, an honor given annually to somebody who has “advanced human development by improving the quality, quantity or availability of food in the world.” The prize was the idea of Dr. Norman Borlaug, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970 — the very same year as the first Earth Day celebration.

People. I’m telling you, they’re pretty fucking great. In general

freebooters in the senate

I keep seeing some version of this headline: Senate Fails to Pass Popular Gun Control Legislation. I keep hearing radio and television news reporters repeating some version of this: “The Senate failed to obtain the sixty votes needed to pass the legislation.”

Those are lies. No, the Senate didn’t fail to pass legislation extending background checks to guns sold at guns shows and over the Internet — they were prevented from voting on the legislation. No, it doesn’t require sixty votes to pass legislation — it only takes fifty-one.

Here’s another lie: the Senate Republicans filibustered the legislation. They didn’t. They only threatened to filibuster it. Under current Senate rules, the mere threat of a filibuster is treated as an actual filibuster.

How the hell did we end up with a Senate in which the minority party has all the power? And just what the hell is a filibuster anyway? The term comes from the Spanish filibustero, which is derived from the Dutch vrijbuiter, which is translated as ‘freebooter.’ A freebooter is a sort of pirate — a mercenary who wages ad-hoc war primarily for the money in it, a seafaring hijacker. Like Edward Teach, better known as Blackbeard.

The original approach to the filibuster

The original approach to the filibuster

In legislative terms, a filibuster is a tactic by which one or more members can hijack the debate over pending legislation, delaying it from reaching a vote. The intent was to give minority members a platform for voicing opposition to the proposed legislation, or to stall the vote while attempts were made to gather support from other legislators. This required the legislator(s) to take the floor of the Senate and hold it by continuously speaking.

Initially it was a rarely used tactic, partly because it required a great deal of effort and organization, and partly because it stopped ALL legislative activity. Nothing else could happen in the Senate so long as the filibuster continued. The filibuster is famously employed in the movie Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.

A more refined form of filibuster

A more refined form of filibuster

In the mid-1970s, the rules were changed to allow other legislative business to take place during a filibuster. The new rules created the ‘virtual’ filibuster we have now. Even so, the tactic was rarely employed. In fact, the filibuster had only been used 413 times before 1990.

In 2005, Democrats (who were the minority party in the Senate) began to use the virtual filibuster more frequently, mainly to block some of President George W. Bush’s more controversial judicial nominees. When President Obama took office in 2009, the practice skyrocketed. Now almost every nomination for every judicial position is subject to the virtual filibuster, as is almost every piece of legislation offered by Democrats. The virtual filibuster has become the norm.

Let me just repeat that. The virtual filibuster has become the norm. Republicans have normalized the practice. That’s why lazy journalists continue to claim the legislation requiring background checks to be extended to gun shows and internet sales was defeated, even though the Senate was blocked from voting on it. That’s why lazy journalists continue to claim sixty votes are required to pass legislation.

It doesn’t have to be this way. The Senate Majority Leader has the power to change that. Harry Reid can modify the rules of the Senate. He can restore the talking filibuster. He can do away with the filibuster altogether (though that would be a bad idea). And Reid keeps threatening to reform the filibuster rules. Ten days ago he said this::

“All within the sound of my voice — including my Democratic senators and the Republican senators who I serve with — should understand that we as a body have the power on any given day to change the rules with a simple majority. And I will do that if necessary.”

The problem with a threat is that it only has meaning if the person making the threat is taken seriously. Nobody takes Senator Reid’s threats seriously.

Majority Leader Harry Reid

Majority Leader Harry Reid

In fact, Republicans openly mock him. After the shameful virtual filibuster on the recent gun control legislation (which was supported by nearly 90% of Americans and more than half of NRA members, and which was approved by a majority of the Senate), Minority Leader Mitch McConnell posted this on his Facebook page:

harry reid punked

So long as Democrats have ineffective leaders like Harry Reid, and so long as filibuster rules remain as they are now, and so long as Republicans in the hire of the National Rifle Association continue to thwart the will of the public, nothing is going to change.

A handful of freebooters have been allowed to rule the legislative high seas. That needs to stop.

why i don’t despair

It’s a cliché to say that the worst tragedies bring out the best in humanity. But it’s true all the same. Some people invariably step up — they put the welfare of others before their own concerns, before their own religious or political beliefs, before their own safety. It happens all the time, and it’s one of the reasons I never completely despair when tragedies occur.

Perhaps the most gruesome and graphic photograph published of the horror that took place at the Boston Marathon yesterday was the full version of this:

bombing victim

I’ve not included the full image, though it can be seen here. Before you click on the link, be aware that it graphically shows the damage done to the man in the wheelchair. He suffered what medics call a bilateral traumatic amputation. His legs were blown off. In the full frame image what you see is bone and bloody tissue.

But take note of the guy in the cowboy hat, who appears to be holding a tourniquet. His name is Carlos Arredondo. He was at the finish line to cheer on a runner who was doing the marathon in honor of Arredondo’s son Alexander, a Marine who was killed in 2004 during his second tour in Iraq. Alexander Arredondo died on his father’s 44th birthday.

Following the death of his son, Carlos Arredondo, an immigrant from Costa Rica who worked as a handyman, became a peace activist. He participated in several protests against the war in Iraq. In 2006, he became a U.S. citizen. The following year, 2007, Arredondo was at an anti-war rally in Washington, DC. He was attacked and beaten by members of the Gathering of Eagles, a conservative group whose stated mission is to protect war memorials from being “desecrated, used as props for political statements, or treated with anything less than the solemn and heartfelt respect they–and the heroes they honor–deserve.” Their mission statement also states they “vehemently oppose the notion that it is possible to ‘support the troops but not the war.’ We are opposed to those groups who would claim support for the troops yet engage in behavior that is demeaning and abusive to the men and women who wear our nation’s uniform.”

They apparently believe assaulting people who disagree with them is an act of patriotism.

Alexander and Brian Arredondo

Alexander and Brian Arredondo

Brian Arredondo (on the right in the photograph above) struggled with depression after his brother’s death in Iraq. In 2011, Brian took his own life.

That explains why Carlos was standing at the finishing line, supporting a runner who’d dedicated the marathon to the memory of Lance Corporal Alexander Arredondo. But it’s courage and compassion that explains why Carlos stayed on the scene after the bombs detonated, helping several of the victims. This man — this immigrant from Central America who lost one son in combat and another to suicide — was one of the people who deliberately ran toward the detonation zone to help others.

Carlos Arredondo

Carlos Arredondo

There were a great many acts of heroism in Copley Square yesterday. Arredondo’s behavior, while selfless, was no more heroic than any of the other men and women who stepped up and helped. Considering what he’s already sacrificed for this country — and given the circumstances — nobody would have blamed him if he’d looked to his own safety after the explosions. But he didn’t.

We don’t know who is responsible for the bombing. But we do know who is responsible for helping the victims. As long as there are people in the world like Carlos Arredondo and all those police officers and firefighters and EMTs and volunteers and ordinary people who are willing to put themselves at risk in the service of others, the bomb-makers and terrorists will always be shown to be small, pathetic, cowardly ass-hats. And they’ll never be able to remake the world in their own hateful image.

I wonder what those eight members of the Gathering of Eagles think of Carlos Arredondo now.

(UPDATE: I’m reliably informed that the victim in the wheelchair survived, despite the loss of both legs.)

some uncomfortable thoughts on the marathon bombing

I heard about the bombs at the Boston marathon about twenty minutes after they were detonated. My first thought — and it was an ugly thought — was this: homegrown terrorists. Why did I think that? Three reasons.

First, today was Patriot’s Day in New England. Homegrown terrorists invariably think of themselves as patriots. Whether they’re part of the Sovereign Citizen movement, anti-tax protesters, white supremacists, neo-Confederates, Posse Comitatus, Christian Identity members, racist skinheads, Constitutional Patriot militia groups, Christian Patriot Defense League — they all devoutly believe they are the True Americans. It wouldn’t surprise me to see them act on Patriot’s Day.

Second, today was the traditional deadline for filing US income taxes. For a lot of so-called ‘patriots’ the notion of paying your taxes is seen as government oppression.

Third, this week ends on April 19th, which is an important date in the warped mythos of anti-goverment hate groups.  It’s the date on which the American Revolutionary War started in 1775 (which is why it’s celebrated as Patriot’s Day). Many anti-government groups refer to the war as the First American Revolution, suggesting another revolution is coming.

Battle of Concord and Lexington

Battle of Concord and Lexington

April 19th is also the date in 1985 on which the FBI and the BATF began the siege of the compound belonging to The Covenant, The Sword, and the Arm of the Lord. The CSA was a Christian Identity and white supremacist hate group, with affiliations with the Ku Klux Klan and the Aryan Nations. In 1984 one member of CSA, Richard ‘Wayne’ Snell, murdered the owner of a pawn shop in the mistaken belief that he was Jewish. Shortly thereafter, Snell murdered an African-American police officer. He was caught, tried, and sentenced to death. Richard ‘Wayne’ Snell — remember this name.

covenant sword

April 19th is the date in 1993 on which the siege of the Branch-Davidian compound in Waco, Texas ended. The BATF and the FBI had surrounded the compound for 50 days; on the 51st they decided to move in. A fire was ignited inside the compound, resulting in the deaths of 76 members of the Branch-Davidians. The government maintains the fires were started by members of the group themselves; anti-government groups claim the men, women, and children inside the compound were deliberately killed.

Branch-Davidian compound

Branch-Davidian compound

Even though most anti-government groups disagree with the religious philosophies of the Branch-Davidians, they still see the Waco siege in terms of a conspiracy — primarily because the underlying criminal complaint against members of the compound involved the possession of illegal weapons. Several anti-government activists traveled to Waco during the 50 day siege as a show of support. One of them was Timothy McVeigh, who was briefly interviewed by a local news affiliate.

Timothy McVeigh at Waco

Timothy McVeigh at Waco

Two years later, on April 19th, 1995, Richard ‘Wayne’ Snell — the member of The Covenant, The Sword, and the Arm of the Lord community convicted of murdering a pawn broker and a black police officer — was executed by the State of Arkansas. Christian patriots believed the date chosen for his execution was a deliberate insult.

On the morning of his execution, Snell asked the correctional officer assigned to his death team if he could watch the news on CNN. The officer agreed. Shortly after he changed the station, CNN reported a breaking news story. A massive bomb had been detonated outside the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. According to the death watch log, Snell “smiled and chuckled and nodded” as he watched the devastation. It’s worth noting that a decade earlier, Snell and one of his CSA compatriots had planned to attack that very same building. Their plan was scrapped when one of the rocket launchers they’d acquired for the assault malfunctioned and exploded.

Alfred P. Murrah Building, Oklahoma City, OK

Alfred P. Murrah Building, Oklahoma City, OK

Snell was unrepentant. A few hours after watching the destruction of the Murrah Building, moments before being given a lethal injection, Snell spoke his last words — a threat to the Governor of Arkansas:

“Governor Tucker, look over your shoulder; justice is coming. I wouldn’t trade places with you or any of your cronies. Hell has victories. I am at peace.”

Timothy McVeigh, who’d visited Waco to show his support for the Branch-Davidians, killed 168 men, women, and children that morning — April 19, 1995. He stated he’d chosen the site and the date intentionally.

Timothy McVeigh, terrorist

Timothy McVeigh, terrorist

Obviously, I’ve no idea who is responsible for this horror. What I know is my immediate thoughts turned to homegrown terrorists and hate-mongers. I hope that’s not the case. I also hope it wasn’t foreign terrorists. That leaves me in the unappealing position of hoping the bombing was the work of a lone crank — an angry, delusional individual who decided to punish humanity because his satellite television was disconnected or because he was ordered to do it by the voice of Siri in his iPhone.

If it was a lone crank, then we’re not in for more bombings leading to April 19th. If it was a lone crank, then Islamophobes might stop foaming at the mouth. If it was a lone crank, then it’s a mental health issue, not a terrorist conspiracy.

I hope it’s a lone crank. But I’m afraid it probably isn’t.

heaven, hell, and a horsepond

Marlin Stutzman is a Republican Congressman from Indiana. He’s often described in the press as a ‘Tea Party favorite.’ Like so many members of the Tea Party, Stutzman calls himself a States’ Rights advocate. He believes passionately in the right of individual States to determine what should be should and shouldn’t be legal within their borders.

States' Rights Advocate Martin Stutzman

States’ Rights Advocate Marlin Stutzman

For example, Stutzman opposes same-sex marriage reciprocity. In general, people who are legally married in, say, Iowa are recognized as being legally married in Indiana. However, since same-sex marriage is legal in Iowa but not in Indiana, Stutzman believes his state should not be required to recognize the marriage of a same-sex couple who married in Iowa.

“This is the one issue that as we talk about states’ rights, states’ responsibilities, which according to the Constitution what responsibilities are for the states and which are for the federal government, I think this is the one issue that you’ll even find that if states deal with it themselves that with a very mobile society as people move around the country if you have states that do recognize same-sex marriage and other states that don’t there’s going to be a series of consequences that are going to result because you may have one state in the east coast that recognizes same-sex marriages, if they move to the Midwest, a state like Indiana or Mississippi or other states that don’t, you’re going to have a patchwork quilt of laws.”

Stutzman, obviously, supports the Defense of Marriage Act, which restricts federal marriage benefits and requires inter-state marriage recognition only for opposite-sex marriages.

Marlin Stutzman, however, isn’t quite so staunch in his support for States’ Rights when it comes to firearms. In general, a Concealed Weapons Permit issued in, say, Indiana (which has very permissive CWP laws) is not recognized in, say, Illinois (which has more stringent CWP laws). Stutzman supports national CWP reciprocity; he believes other states should be required to recognize the CWP issued by his state, even if its in violation of the laws of the other state.

States' Rights Opponent, Martin Stutzman

States’ Rights Opponent Marlin Stutzman

According to Stutzman,

“The right to self-defense is the cornerstone of the Second Amendment and my responsibility as a father to keep my family safe doesn’t change when I cross state lines.”

Just to be clear, Stutzman and many other Republicans believe individual states should not be required to respect the marriage laws of other states, but should be required to respect the gun laws of other states. He believes gay couples marrying is harmful to society, but carrying concealed weapons isn’t.

A 19th century minister, Charles Spurgeon, said this about hypocrisy:

Men turn their faces to hell, and hope to get to heaven; why don’t they walk into the horsepond, and hope to be dry?

I’m inclined to agree with Rev. Spurgeon. I think Marlin Stutzman should walk into a horsepond.

idiots, applebee’s, and a gun that shoots machetes

This guy? His name is Jeff Duncan. He’s a Congressman from South Carolina, serving his second term in the House of Representatives. He’s an idiot.

Congressman Jeff Duncan, Republican, Idiot

Congressman Jeff Duncan, Republican Idiot

I know, I know…it’s rude and juvenile to call people names. But I don’t really consider this as name-calling. It’s more of a political taxonomy — a system of classification. Jeff Duncan falls into the class of Republican Idiot.

I base that classification entirely on statements made by Jeff Duncan his ownself. For example, there was the time when Duncan believed President Obama was somehow going to issue an Executive Order that would…well, he wasn’t quite sure what the Executive Order would do, but it was something about guns, and dammit Jeff Duncan was not going to stand for it. Whatever it was. Or might have been. If Obama had actually done it. Which he didn’t. But this is what Duncan said in response to the Executive Order That Didn’t Exist Dealing with Something about Guns:

“The Founding Fathers never envisioned Executive Orders being used to restrict our Constitutional rights. We live in a republic, not a dictatorship. I will use every means at my disposal to combat the agenda of the Executive branch to undermine our Second Amendment rights. I will also fight any legislative action that is taken to implement more gun control. Americans don’t want their Second Amendment freedoms restricted in any way.”

A dictatorship? That’s idiotic on two levels. First, I guess it never occurred to Duncan that in an actual no-shit dictatorship anybody who suggested the president was a dictator would have a short shelf life. But Duncan felt perfectly safe in publicly suggesting the president is a dictator. Perhaps he thought President Obama just wasn’t a very good dictator, because any dictator who’d put up with Jeff Duncan would need some remedial dictatorship lessons. The second reason this was idiotic is because there was no such Executive Order. This is all based on something Duncan believed the president might be considering. Not even something he thought Obama might do; just something he thought he might be thinking about doing.

But okay, everybody over-reacts on occasion. You can over-react without being an idiot. If those comments were the extent of Jeff Duncan’s foolishness, I’d be reluctant to classify him as an idiot. But he’s built on that foundation of idiocy.

Jeff Duncan likes him some guns. That doesn’t make him an idiot, either. A lot of smart people like guns. But anybody who thinks he needs to be able to tote a firearm into Applebee’s in case he might need to shoot somebody for some reason (because you know how lawless Applebee’s is), well that person is an idiot. Duncan complained that the South Carolina legislature refused to pass a law permitting people to carry concealed weapons in establishments serving alcohol.

“[W]e can’t even pass [a law] to allow CWP (concealed weapon permit) holders to eat inside restaurants like Applebees and Ruby Tuesdays because they have a bar.”

Of course, CWP holders can eat in an Applebee’s in South Carolina. They just have to leave their firearms in their vehicles. Jeff Duncan is far more at risk from eating the desserts at Applebee’s than from its rowdy clientele*.

Troublemakers and hooligans hanging out at Applebee's

Troublemakers and hooligans hanging out at Applebee’s

In case there was any doubt left about Duncan, he established his Idiot bona fides recently by posting a lengthy screed on his Facebook page. Here’s some of what he says:

There is a reason that some want to end private gun ownership, limit ammo purchases, limit magazine capacity…. Ask yourselves about a National gun registry database and how that might be used and why it is so wanted by progressives.

Read about the Rwandan genocide, the Hutu and Tutsi tribes. Read that all Tutsi tribe members were required to register their address with the Hutu government and that this database was used to locate Tutsi for slaughter at the hands of the Hutu. (Since the government had the names and addresses of nearly all Tutsis living in Rwanda (remember, each Rwandan had an identity card that labeled them Tutsi, Hutu, or Twa) the killers could go door to door, slaughtering the Tutsis. Not with firearms, mind you, but with machetes.

I use this example to warn that national databases can be used with evil consequences.

That’s right, Congressman Jeff Duncan is apparently afraid that ‘progressives’ want a ‘National gun registry database’ so they can can go door to door and slaughter decent gun owners. With machetes.

Unidentified 'progressive' with a gun that shoots machetes

Unidentified ‘progressive’ with a gun that shoots machetes

Is there any legislation under consideration by Congress that includes a national gun registry database? No, there is not. Is there a Federal law prohibiting the creation of a national gun registry? Yes, there is — since 1986. Is the United States in 2013 just like Rwanda in 1994? No, it’s not, and you’d have to be an idiot to think so.

Jeff Duncan is no natural-born idiot. He’s come by his idiocy the old-fashioned way; he earned it.

Editorial note: In Duncan’s defense, a 30 year old man and his girlfriend were shot in the parking lot of an Applebee’s restaurant in Georgia in January of 2012, following a play-off game between the New Orleans Saints and the San Francisco Forty-Niners. The shooter, a Saints fan, got into an argument with the victim (oddly enough, not a Forty-Niners fan – just a guy cheering on the team because his girlfriend was a fan). The shooter was forced to go to the parking lot to get his pistol, since it’s illegal to carry a concealed weapon in a bar in Georgia. The shooter was then forced to wait for two more hours until the victim and his girlfriend left Applebee’s, at which time he shot them. If Duncan had his way, the poor shooter would not have had to waste those two hours.