First random *political* post of the year.

Obama showed by his new executive orders on gun control that he is no longer interested in dealing with a recalcitrant and do-nothing Republican Congress. This, finally, is the leadership many of us who voted for him have wanted to see ever since he took office. And the cooler-than-cool President has shown anger (after the Roseburg shooting) and sadness to the point of tears (while introducing his new gun control program).  In other words, he has shown himself to be human. Good.

Bravo for Obama for pointing out that most of the gun violence is not the result of mass shootings. “And, by the way, this happens in Chicago every day” recognizes the horribly widespread nature of the problem. The statement got a well-deserved ovation.

Bravo also to including increased mental health funding, but not making that the main focus of the program. Bravo for recognizing that the mentally ill are only part of the problem.

I’m sure I will find myself restating Obama’s “Second Amendment rights are important, but so are the rights to life, liberty, and happiness” a lot over the next few weeks.

I spent time talking gun control issues (among other things) with The Not-So-Little Drummer Boy on our way to the airport after his way-too-short visit home for Christmas.* Talking politics with my kids is so much fun, especially since they have different viewpoints (the NSLDB lines up roughly with me, Railman is a bit more conservative, and The Red-Headed Menace is more liberal, to the point of being radical). Is this weird? One nice side effect is that my kids vote, and sometimes nag their friends to vote as well. Representative democracy: it’s contagious.

In other news, Donald Trump has finally gotten around to questioning whether Ted Cruz is eligible to be president. After all, Trump led the birther charge against Obama, who had an American mother and was born in Hawaii, why not against the son of an American mother and a Cuban father born in Canada? I am interested to see if the Tea Partiers who were so eager to slam Obama will follow Trump down this road. I really doubt it: Cruz is as extreme as the Donald, perhaps more so. Cruz is just quieter.

You  have to love Cruz’s response: he posted the clip of Fonzie jumping the shark on Happy Days. I have always considered Cruz to be humorless but it appears that I’m wrong. Many of us felt the Donald’s campaign jumped the shark some time ago, but not in a humorous way.

In a way, Cruz showing humor makes his hard-line stance on reproductive issues and gay rights seem more extreme. I know it is a fault to assume one’s political opponents are cartoons not people, but it’s understandable.

Cruz also likes to quote from The Princess Bride. Mandy Patinkin (“Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father; prepare to die.”) takes exception to this.

Everyone on my side of the fence (aisle no longer seems appropriate) has been comparing the treatment of the Oregon seditionists (taking over government property really is nothing other than sedition) with the Ferguson and Baltimore protesters. While I agree that it highlights a problem with racist disparity in treatment, I feel the need to point out the obvious: this is a federal problem, to be dealt with by federal law enforcement. Most of the overreaction to protesters in Ferguson and elsewhere came at the hands of the local, county, and state police. The feds should have stepped in to stop the locals, but that’s a slightly different matter.

The analogy to the situation on Oregon that fits most closely is not Ferguson, but the 1973 AIM standoff at Wounded Knee. And even that is inexact, given the internal politics of the Oglala. Although both involved the feds, neither Ruby Ridge nor Waco is apposite: those took place on private property. And at Waco, children were in danger.

The Bundys (Cliven and his offspring) say they want the federal government to give up federal property to local, state, and private control. Given that neither the locals (municipal and county) nor the state want them there, I think it’s clear that what they want is the federal government to give federal land to already existing landowners, namely them. I wonder what they would think if a bunch of Mexican-Americans or African-Americans came West to claim land? Actually, I think I can pretty well guess.

The government has already ceded a lot of property to private citizens: grazing rights on federal lands go for less than $2 an acre, as opposed to $15 on the private market. Similarly, mineral and timber rights on federal lands are a fraction of what they go for elsewhere. (And let’s not get into water, although water is less undervalued than some other commodities.) These people are just freaking greedy, is all.

Roy Moore is at it again: the man who refused to take down the Ten Commandments from the statehouse, and who argued in 2002 that sexual preference would be the determining factor in child-custody disputes, former World Net Daily columnist, who has argued that Muslims should be ineligible for elected office, who opposed removal of references to poll taxes and separate schools for “whites and colored children” from the state constitution, has ordered state judges to refuse to issue same-sex marriage certificates. That the voters of Alabama re-elected him as Chief Justice after he had been removed from that position makes me think twice before ever visiting Alabama.

I have often thought that elected officials should have to pass an exam about the Constitution before taking office. That goes in spades for judges.

Former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson has announced a Libertarian run for President. He claims that since he is “fiscally conservative and socially liberal” he’ll pull from both sides. He’s wrong: he might pull some Republicans, although many will be put off by that “socially liberal” business. (Not to mention that he heads up a marijuana-based business.) The Democratic primary is looking to be a referendum on economic issues, specifically on income equality, and I can’t see a “fiscal conservative” gaining much traction. (What the hell is a “fiscal conservative” anyway? I try not to cynically think of it as shorthand for “don’t raise my taxes or have any business regulation whatsoever and to hell with poor people, who are probably poor because they’re lazy and come from broken homes, or workers, oh and let’s get rid of unions while we’re at it,” but I’ve seen too many “fiscal conservatives” who believe just that.

Besides, Democrats have learned from the 2000 debacle. Okay, I sincerely hope that Democrats have learned from the 2000 debacle.  Of course, we’re Democrats. To quote Will Rogers, “I belong to no organized political party. I’m a Democrat.”

Given the bizarre nature of the Republican primary, there is an outside chance that the California primary in June might actually be relevant in the presidential race. That hasn’t happened in several election cycles. It would be nice to be something other than a presidential afterthought.

Only three weeks until the Iowa caucuses. Then we’re off and running.


*Any visit by him is definitionally way too short. I love that kid.

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