cane toads of politics

This surly-looking sumbitch is a cane toad. They’re big, hungry bastards, native to South and Central America. When I say big, hungry bastards, I really mean big; the largest cane toad on record was something like 15 inches from asshole to nose. Weighed nearly six pounds. And I mean hungry; cane toads are ravenous. They’ll eat anything. Plants, garbage, dog food, other amphibians, reptiles, small rodents. These guys have been known to kill and eat birds.

cane toad1

And they’ve been around forever. Archeologists have found fossil cane toads dating back to the Miocene. We’re talking at least five million years ago. They’re survivors. Not just because they’re big, hungry bastards, though that helps. They’re survivors because they reproduce at an insane rate. A single clutch laid by a cane toad contains around 30,000 eggs — that’s like three times the number laid by ordinary toads and frogs.

Because they’re such big bastards, you’d think they’d be a prime target for predators, right? Not so much. Because these guys are also poisonous. They secrete a powerful bufotoxin that can kill most animals.

cane toad2

So…big, hungry, astonishingly fecund, and poisonous. In general, it’s wise not to fuck around with these toads. But people are greedy and stupid, so that’s exactly what we’ve done. We introduced them to sugar cane fields in Hawaii, in the Caribbean, in the Philippines, and in Australia to gain control over rats and beetles and other pests.

And hey, it worked. The toads ate the rats, they ate the beetles, they ate the pests — and then they just kept eating everything else. Everything else. Now cane growers are desperately trying to find some way to control the warty bastards — to keep them in their place. And they’re finding it really, really difficult. .

See these guys? They’re a species of political cane toad. Gun nuts, climate nuts, religious nuts, abortion nuts, conspiracy nuts — all cane toads. The Republican party has turned them loose in the cane fields of political discourse in order to gain control of Congress.

open carry smiling

And hey, it worked. The GOP fed these groups a steady diet of fear and suspicion and rage, and they ate it up. Like any invasive species, the extremists found an ecological niche and began to chow down. Initially the GOP.was pleased with the results.

But now things are getting dicey. The Republicans are beginning to see the problem with invasive species. Cane toads don’t stop being cane toads just because the beetles are gone. They’re still hungry and they’re still poisonous, and they don’t stop.

We’ve seen that most recently with the yahoos of Open Carry Texas. A couple of days ago the National Rifle Association found themselves in the improbable position of suggesting the Open Carry folks in Texas might want to moderate their behavior.

[W]hile unlicensed open carry of long guns is also typically legal in most places, it is a rare sight to see someone sidle up next to you in line for lunch with a 7.62 rifle slung across his chest, much less a whole gaggle of folks descending on the same public venue with similar arms.

Let’s not mince words, not only is it rare, it’s downright weird and certainly not a practical way to go normally about your business while being prepared to defend yourself. To those who are not acquainted with the dubious practice of using public displays of firearms as a means to draw attention to oneself or one’s cause, it can be downright scary.  It makes folks who might normally be perfectly open-minded about firearms feel uncomfortable and question the motives of pro-gun advocates.

Well, they got that right. When you’re snacking down on your burrito at Chipotle or shopping for a new crowbar at Home Depot, seeing a ‘gaggle’ of armed men enter the premises might make a person really fucking uncomfortable.

NRA membership cars

The response of open carry supporters? Many have cut up their NRA membership cards. The NRA is no longer extreme enough on the Second Amendment. We see that same response across a wide spectrum of social issues. That’s where the Republican party is today. That’s why there are almost no moderate Republicans in office. That’s why we don’t see any pragmatic Republicans, any environmentally friendly Republicans, any pro-choice Republicans.

Cane toads, by the way, are cannibalistic; they don’t mind eating their own kind.



15 thoughts on “cane toads of politics

  1. Whew . . . when I first saw the bottom photo without having read the text, I thought that might have been your membership card all decimated on the table. Well, not THE table, but a table.


    • These sorts of internecine struggles are often the ugliest because they’re so bitter. I mean, the gun nuts don’t expect Democrats to support them, so they’re not very upset when Democrats oppose them. But they feel like Republicans and the NRA should have their back. When they’re disappointed in that, they get really pretty furious.


  2. The OCT people are to the gun rights movement what the guy in the feather boa and assless chaps at the parade is to the gay rights movement.


    • It’s not the analogy I’d have chosen, but yeah. The problem (well, the problem as I see it) is that the gay rights movement accepts the assless chaps folks, but they don’t develop policy positions around them, whereas the gun rights movement, sadly, has for a long time rallied behind the assless chaps folks (which is becoming a rather unfortunate analogy). And that’s made it really difficult for reasonable gun owners to acknowledge that it’s possible to implement reasonable legislation that would reduce the number of gun-related injuries and deaths without shredding the Second Amendment.


      • I’d say closing the gun show loophole would count as reasonable legislation. It wouldn’t impose any real hardship on anybody who was legally allowed to buy a firearm. I’d argue that holding gun owners legally and civilly liable for accidental discharges would be reasonable.


  3. Wow… That’s got to be one of the best uses of an analogy that I’ve seen yet. And it sent chills down my spine. Never seen a cane toad, and now I hope I never do. The NRA thinks they should tone it down. Wow, never thought they’d come to that position.


    • The really sad thing is that there are principled conservatives out there — folks who I’d disagree with, but still folks who have moderate views and would like to actually govern instead of just blocking everything. And the cane toads of the right have effectively displaced them.


  4. We had our share of these characters in Southeast Texas, too. one went so far as to dress a kid in a big banana suit and have him parade around in a major highway intersection sporting an AK-47 on his back.

    But I see this stuff about cutting up their NRA membership cards as little more than a childish knee-jerk reaction for not being about to stuff their ideals down everyone’s throats. Most people I talk to haven’t any problem with the idea of openly carrying handguns, sidearms, or even rifles and shotguns. But the mere thought of some character strolling down the street with a military-style semi-automatic (or illegally modified fully automatic) assault-type weapon on them sends shivers down people’s spines; and, most run for cover and call 9-1-1 because they don’t want to become another victim of some half-witted nut trying to kill everyone and their brother before taking themselves out.

    If there is one thing people learned during the presence of these wanna-be armed thugs (they’ve since pretty much left this area high and dry) is that they flatly refuse to answer people’s questions, or address concerns. When there was talk of them holding one of their well-armed rallies in Port Arthur, Texas, the Police Chief wanted to talk to the representatives to discuss some of the questions and ask them to address the concerns. To date, not a single open-carry advocate has ever been willing to meet with the Port Arthur Chief of Police, nor respond to public venues like the Jefferson County Beer Party, to answer questions or address concerns. Sure, they threatened in the news media to sue the City of Port Arthur for infringing upon their First and Second Amendment rights, but when asked how those rights were being infringed upon when they hadn’t even approached city officials, all of a sudden they started disappearing as those they were done away with by (pun intended) cane toads.


    • The thing is there’s absolutely NO reason for people to be walking around the streets and in stores and shops carrying long weapons. They only do it to be provocative and to draw attention to themselves. Anybody who does it is an asshat.

      Frankly, there’s no reason based on statistical probability for folks to be walking around armed at all — not in the U.S. There are damned few instances in which a ‘good guy with a gun’ has made a difference in a public venue. Certainly not enough to justify the numbers of people killed or injured by accidental discharges in public.


      • Heavens to Betsy, don’t let the wanna-be armed heroes of Texas hear you say there isn’t any reason to be armed at all. These characters just love spewing out how they will stop crime completely dead in its tracks by putting “their people” on street corners in every community to strike fear into the hearts of criminals.

        Inasmuch as there are reports of accidental shooting throughout the country, one issue I have is that I think there are too many irresponsible gun owners who, in lieu of placing weapons into a secure gun safe, or implementing a trigger guard, are more willing to leave loaded weapons lying around homes and offices where little kiddies and criminals can easily get their grubbies on them. The reasoning behind not using gun safes or trigger guards is that then they won’t be able to afford more guns!


  5. Re. the cane toad-Australia thing: for extra irony, the toads took one look at the cane beetles here, went eeuww, left the cane fields and have never looked back. They now cover the entire northern half of Australia (we have to watch where we’re walking at night when we go into the back yard – they make an unpleasant, high-pitched squeaking protest when trodden on) and have brought many species to the brink of extinction. Don’t get me started on the English genius who thought having foxes to hunt in the new colony would be jolly, or they might need some rabbits to eat when not being hunted. I love humans but we really are fuckwits.


  6. Pingback: cane toads of politics–part 2 |

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