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    This Is Everything Wrong with Modern America

    Friday 4th July 2014

    Before anyone gets the idea, from the title, that I’m about to slam America as an abstract governmental concept: I’m not; this is actually precisely the opposite of that. This is about slamming the Americans who have no idea where they live—often literally, since globes are apparently confusing—certainly philosophically…legally…constitutionally.

    Maybe it’s fitting that I’m writing this on July the Fourth. Eastern Time, anyway. Sorta. Where I am, it’s currently 22.02 Mountain Daylight Time, making it roughly eleven hours after actual noon on the Eastern Seaboard. But that’s okay: the antiscientific, emotionally motivated adherence to Daylight Savings Time ['I don't care what "postmeridiem" means; it's scary at night, so I like the sun staying up until nine!'] notwithstanding, July the Fourth has approximately zero historical relevance—the Declaration of Independence A) has just about exactly nothing* to do with the US, and, B) was signed sorta on average on or around 4th July 1776. The thing was drafted across untold dates, having been conceived prior to 11th June and kindasorta finished by the twenty-eighth; on 1st July, the Continental Congress pussed around for a while, debating whether to go live with the thing prior to allying with a foreign nation capable of repelling the British; on the second, South Carolina got on board just in time to vote in an awkward majority in favour of declaring independence; on the fourth [dingdingding], the thing got sent out to be xeroxed; around the ninth, New York finally committed to the plan; New Hampshire didn’t sign on until 4th November; King George first intimated that he’d read the thing on Halloween:

    My Lords, and Gentlemen,

    Nothing could have afforded Me so much Satisfaction as to have been able to inform you, at the Opening of this Session, that the Troubles, which have so long distracted My Colonies in North America, were at an End; and that My unhappy People, recovered from their Delusion, had delivered themselves from the Oppression of their Leaders, and returned to their Duty. But so daring and desperate is the Spirit of those Leaders, whose Object has always been Dominion and Power, that they have now openly renounced all Allegiance to the Crown, and all political Connection with this Country. They have rejected, with Circumstances of Indignity and Insult, the Means of Conciliation held out to them under the Authority of Our Commission: and have presumed to set up their rebellious Confederacies for Independent States. If their Treason be suffered to take Root, much Mischief must grow from it, to the Safety of My loyal Colonies, to the Commerce of My Kingdoms, and indeed to the present System of all Europe. One great Advantage, however, will be derived from the Object of the Rebels being openly avowed, and clearly understood. We shall have Unanimity at Home, founded in the general Conviction of the Justice and Necessity of Our Measures.

    . . .

    My Lords, and Gentlemen, in this arduous Contest I can have no other Object but to promote the true Interests of all My Subjects. No people ever enjoyed more Happiness, or lived under a milder Government, than those now revolted Provinces: the Improvements in every Art, of which they boast, declare it: their Numbers, their Wealth, their Strength by Sea and Land, which they think sufficient to enable them to make Head against the whole Power of the Mother Country, are irrefragable Proofs of it. My Desire is to restore to them the Blessings of Law and Liberty, equally enjoyed by every British Subject, which they have fatally and desperately exchanged for all the Calamities of War, and the arbitrary Tyranny of their Chiefs.

    Translation from English to American: The Muricans just done wrote themselves a can o’whoopass.

    *To get back to A for a minute: The DoI isn’t any sort of legally binding document, today, where Americans are concerned. Any intentions hinted after in this relatively informal Dear George Letter which America as a nation intended to ratify into law is echoed later, in 1789, in the actual constitution; anything not echoed in the actual constitution is effectively sublegal fluff. So, anytime the aspiring theocrats wanna shaddup about the DoI mentioning preternatural creators and whatever, tha’d be great.


    ‘We’ll write up something more formal in, like, a dozen years….’

    July the Fourth aside, I’m not real clear on how Americans date this nation back to 1776. The constitution—which so far as I’m concerned is the nation, in application—launched this republic into existence in 1789. If that sounds like a meaningless distinction, remember that it’s the difference between Thin Lizzy and Debbie Gibson.


    Top Forty all looks the same, to me.

    So, that’s about where I am. To my thinking, the real bicentennial was around 4th March 1989. Which, for better or worse, I remember a little too well….


    ‘Freedom of pretending to speak, yo.’

    But none of this is what’s really bugging me right now. This is what’s really bugging me right now:


    Everything Wrong with Modern America

    Don’t get me wrong: I get what this is supposed to be, and mean, and all that. But it’s just…wrong. For multitudinous reasons. Like, at least three. Or so.

    Let’s analyse this droll little thing—shall we…?

    I could overlook the graphics. The derpy Duhmerican in the LunchLady shirt and, ostensibly, a baseballcap glamourising Puerto Rico.


    The Mildly Chilly at Three in the Morning Soldier

    I could even overlook the needless designation text. I wasn’t the first to notice the insulting assumption that no one reading a political cartoon could grok what’s going on without stupid little labels on everything; and I doubt I was the last:


    Incidentally, yeah: I’m aware that cracked.com had an article on the topic last year; also, I pretty much totally agree with it.

    My real problem is with the text:

    THANKS TO THE SUPREME COURT, OUR CELL PHONES ARE PROTECTED FROM ILLEGAL SEARCHES…
    AWW… THAT’S ADORABLE…

    Everything about this is horrible.

    Let’s start with the little preamble bit: THANKS TO THE SUPREME COURT.

    No. Nuh-uh. I’m not okay with that.

    Too many people in the US—by which I’m estimating approximately all of them—misunderstand the relationship between the SCotUS and…everything else in the universe.

    I’ve been seeing a lot of that misunderstanding lately. Because, a couple days ago, they returned their decision [I'd more properly call it their opinion, but I'm painfully tired of seeing people misidentify opinion as lawlocaustic hunch] on Burwell v HobbyLobby. Also, look: that was a link; you could follow it, and read the hundred pages of the text, and be one of we the dozen people who have actually bothered to read the damned thing before professing certainty over what’s in it. Although, warning: PDF.

    One thing I’m really tired of hearing, from people who haven’t provably read this thing, is how the SCotUS sided with HobbyLobby. In point of fact: they didn’t; they sided with the Constitution—specifically Amendment I—which is, in further point of fact, their job. As to the quasisarcastic rhetorical question, never not delivered without that stupid pseudointellectual Skeksi sigh endemic to chairbourne warriors: No; it’s not particularly interesting that a corporation would hire lawyers expert enough to use the Bill of Rights to their advantage; it’s perfectly commonplace, and it’s precisely how corporations stay in business, to the consternation of sophistic Skeksi twats who can only marvel at people getting paid to know the laws.

    ‘Don’t lawyers just suck lawl?’

    Yeah. Sucking is precisely the verb I’d apply to people who actually bother memorising and even understanding the pertinent elements of apparently tricky concepts, like whether a given thing is in fact legal.

    ‘Don’t people who can beat me in a game through XBoxLive just suck lawl?’

    See above, you useless, illiterate waste.

    Justicing [we'll call that a word] on the Supreme Court is by definition a thankless job. Not because three hundred million sophists might disagree with baselessly contradict the SCotUS, but because the SCotUS is really the last line of bloodless defence standing between the Constitution and the elements of the Legislative and Executive Branches looking to dick around with it.

    In the case of the cops digging through phones, they obviously made the right call. I call it obvious because I haven’t run across a lot of people who disagree with baselessly contradict the decision. Though, in fairness, I haven’t run across a lot of people who are even aware of the decision. Because—pfft—it’s just some group of old people telling two out of three branches of government that they’re on the edge of treason by ignoring half the Bill of Rights; it’s got nothing on YouTube.com threatening to cut Adele’s wages if she sticks with an independent label.

    ‘Why the hell is cnn.com headlining the Supreme Court preventing the US from becoming Nazi Germany! I wanna know what’s up with Shia LaBeouf getting arrested!’

    Planet. Leave. Now.

    My problem with the preamble—Thanks to the Supreme Court—is that it implies that the Supreme Court are in charge of granting wishes, or something. Well, that and everything else I ever hear from people. Particularly those irksome little statheists who, it really seems, actually worship the government as some abstract deity which sometimes lets them do what they wanna do. And I’m really seeing that right now with the HobbyLobby thing: statheists whimpering that this wishgranting body of government didn’t gift them a damned pony. It’s making them lose faith in the system. To which I say: Great—you shouldn’t have faith in the system—it’s not a faithbased thing. Which I’d sorta want the statheists to be the first to agree about; but, instead, they’re statheists.

    The Supreme Court’s single and thankless job is to take all the details of a given case, and then compare those to the constitution, and then work out via inestimable expertise whether a given element is preemptively outlawed by the bylaws of the nation.

    In the case of Burwell v HobbyLobby, the issue was that the ACA forced HobbyLobby et al into picking one of these three unacceptable options:

    1. Abandon the morals we tend to forget we’re supposed to have when we’re getting haircuts in violation of Leviticus 19.27, and go ahead and supply and write off what we misidentify as Abortion Pills to our people
    2. Don’t supply pills, instead paying fines of half a billion dollars annually which we can’t write off, as well as pay our people enough to live on plus enough to buy nongrouprated insurance
    3. Pay fines we can’t write off; pay our people not enough to live on plus afford insurance; go out of business roughly yesterday because no one will work here anymore

    Why people want to work there in the first place is what perplexes me. But this isn’t about that.

    The SCotUS had to acknowledge a couple of important things, which no one declining to read a hundred pages could ever guess after.

    First: HobbyLobby being a sorta tiny No Girls Club of a corporation, all of its owners—its shareholders—are family and friends who all have the same religious psychoses convictions. There’s no internal debate over this. Everyone with an opinion which isn’t identical to that of the entirety of the corporation is someone who hasn’t got a stake in the outcome. Specifically.

    Second: A newish law [Thanks, Clinton], despite contradicting elements of a ruling made by the SCotUS in 1990 [Oregon v Smith, which defended you and me and corporations and whatever entities from having to justify any religious hunches], advertised something of a grey area. If you wanna say that you believe the Dark Jedi Cthulhu favours those who dye their hair green, making it illegal for your employer [HobbyLobby, if you like] to force you to stop dyeing it green, you can’t be compelled to prove that you maintain this stupid belief; the rest of us just kinda hafta allow that you might be that sort of retard, and go back to not caring about you. So, by the same token, HobbyLobby’s assertion that their imaginary friends call IUDs ‘abortions’ can’t be dismissed because we who walk upright understand that they’re hilariously wrong about that.

    Factoring those two things, the SCotUS sided with the First Amendment, just like HobbyLobby already had. I don’t blame the SCotUS or the Constitution for the ways in which minimally exceptional lunatics molest their beliefs to fit the laws.

    But that’s not what’s up with this stupid cartoon.

    Thanks to the Supreme Court, Who Grant Wishes to Statheists, Our Cell Phones—

    One sec. This is me just…not even bothering to focus on Americans calling mobilephones ‘cells’. I get it: you’re a simple people who need for things to be monosyllabic; go ahead and suck at your own pace.

    —Are Protected from Illegal Searches.

    Um…duh? I’d have thought—and I’ll grant that I’m peculiar—that the illegality of the searches might, you know, have been something of a hint.

    Of course, I am in fact peculiar. I don’t for example call abortion, capital punishment, or meat ‘murder’. Because murder is illegal killing; those three things aren’t.

    So I shouldn’t be too surprised to see people getting all redundant about something like this. Particularly if those people are the sorta statheistic people who like to reoutlaw illegal things.

    ‘It’s not enough to outlaw murder—we gotta outlaw guns, because those can be used in murder!’

    Where are we on that whole leaving the planet thing….

    So: so far, we have Thanks, Supreme Court, for WishGranting the Illegality of Illegal GruntPhone Searches.

    Which then unravels, since the derpy idiot yank with the PuertoRican ballcap is being watched and listened to through…I guess some weird, invisible TheyLive Drone? Maybe?


    ‘Consume…consume…swampgas….’

    Which kinda seems confirmed in the second panel, with the condescending [and labelled] NSA Guy calling the yank’s gratitude toward the Wishgranting Branch ‘adorable’.

    Suddenly I wonder whether this was drawn up by a conspiratard to poke fun at the statheists, those two being the pessimists and optimists of the third millennium.

    The Optimist Believes the Government to Be Always There for Him.
    The Pessimist Fears That He’s Right.

    That’s what I’m seeing in this stupid strip:


    Probably more than the guy drawing it ever came up with.

    Like it’s some visual Enjoy Your Sleep gag. Like, ‘Shurrr the SCotUS granted your wish to outlaw illegal stuff; you just keep pretending that’ll help….’

    Which is one more Horrible Thing about America. That people don’t see a need to care [let alone learn] what is and isn’t legal, because the laws never really apply to them, for or against. People in this country will judge the importance of a law—written down and ratified, just like all the others—by whether they assume anyone cares about it. And, by anyone, they really mean themselves.

    ‘So I ran a red light; it’s not like I murdered someone….’

    Yes it is. It’s a lot like that. Different outcomes, maybe; different sentences for breaking different laws. But, the thing where you broke a law was a thing where you broke a law. Whether you, or anyone, might care that you broke a law is irrelevant. Was it a dumb law? Maybe. Was it a law that the SCotUS would rule to have contradicted the constitution? Possibly. Was it a law in effect when you broke it, regardless whether you in your lazy, apathetic narcissism had ever bothered to find that out? Looks like it. So: did you, in breaking the law, break a law? Two guesses; get both wrong, and I shoot you myself.

    Not that you can’t break dumb laws with something eventually resembling impunity. There’s jury nullification; there’s the SCotuS hearing your case on eventual appeal and agreeing that the law was dumb. But an illegal thing is illegal. In this case, the illegal act by cops of grabbing phones and looking through them being illegal, the SCotUS acknowledged that it was illegal.

    Doesn’t mean it’ll never happen again. Doesn’t, as an example, put an end to my habit of thumping a hiddenish button on my phone which instantly and silently starts recording through the camcorder and possibly livestreaming the footage directly to a secured server in Scandinavia [I've been getting computers to do things they were never designed to do since 1979; I'd get into specifics, but some things lack statutes of limitations] if and when a cop forgets that, being not a soldier, I answer to no member of the Executive Branch. But it does mean, all things being equal, that a cop stealing your phone can’t by legal definition use anything he finds in it against you. Your phone could be full of plans to nuke DisneyLand today, as depicted through ChildPorn, and the cop finding that without a warrant wouldn’t have anything on you in court. It does make a difference.

    As to the NSA seeing yanks as overexcited children for having won some insignificant victory: I guess I can kinda see that. We are after all talking about a populace who celebrated some weirdly detached moral victory over Justin Bieber getting arrested; we’re talking about a nation which may as of today still be obsessing over a disappeared Boeing; we’re talking about a caste of people who know that the SCotUS didn’t grant their wishes, because they haven’t got someone to read Burwell v HobbyLobby to them. So, yeah: I suppose three hundred million Americans are a bit on the adorable side.

    And, I suppose that that’s who this comic was for: adorable idiots whose opinions on laws and policies and the number of governmental branches potentially too high to count up to are at best based on zero information and, more often, on the opposite of information—outsourcing the thinkiness to equal but public morons.


    ‘I wonder if I could fit my head in my mouth….’

    And that, really, is everything wrong with Modern America.

    Have a webcomic:

    More later….

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