I’m sure you all remember what happened on 11 September 2001. How could you possibly forget? It was the seminal event upon which the modern American republic was founded. A quick recap, though, for those who overdosed on cocaine back in the 80s and have been in a coma ever since: a group of Saudi nationals, in the United States on Saudi passports, hijacked several aircraft and crashed them into the Pentagon and the World Trade Center, killing thousands of innocent people and also the ones at the Pentagon too. Now, fifteen years later, the United States government has finally conceded that Saudi Arabia was perhaps — perhaps! — involved, and congress passed the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act:
This bill amends the federal judicial code to narrow the scope of foreign sovereign immunity by authorizing U.S. courts to hear cases involving claims against a foreign state for injuries, death, or damages that occur inside the United States as a result of a tort, including an act of terrorism, committed anywhere by a foreign state or official.
It amends the federal criminal code to permit civil claims against a foreign state or official for injuries, death, or damages from an act of international terrorism. Additionally, the bill authorizes federal courts to exercise personal jurisdiction over and impose liability on a person who commits, or aids, abets, or conspires to commit, an act of international terrorism against a U.S. national.
Pretty soon you’re talking real money
If you’re anything like me — and you know you are — you stay up nights worrying that the United States just doesn’t spend enough money on its military. America is only just barely spending as much money as the entire rest of the world combined; how can we possibly expect to be kept safe in the face of the overwhelming existential threat of border skirmishes thousands of miles inland on the other side of the ocean? Clearly our wonderful armed forces require a major overhaul, and I’m pleased to report that it’s only projected to cost a trillion dollars to do so. What a relief!
The price tag to rehabilitate the military after about 15 years of war and relentless overseas operations would be about $1 trillion over a decade, according to the Republican-led House Armed Services Committee…
A $1 trillion increase would require obliterating spending limits passed by Congress and doling out an average of an additional $100 billion each year on the military through 2027.
Oh, a trillion dollars spent over ten years would average a hundred billion a year? I had no idea! Since I was educated in the government schools, this kind of complex mathematical operation vastly overwhelms my tiny peanut brain. Thanks for helping, Stars and Stripes!
A great many people, when first beginning to explore philosophy, will hit upon the idea that reality is not what it appears to be; in ye olden days, it was common to describe it as a dream or a vision, but, in a post-Matrix world, the zeitgeist has shifted such that people tend to describe this creaky old philosophical trope in terms of giant computer simulations instead. Regardless of the precise form, this is a very common idea, yet not one quite so common as to disabuse people of the notion that they are unique great geniuses when they first hit upon it. Said list of people now apparently includes a great many high-level political cronies, such as those at Bank of America:
Top bank analysts claim there’s a 50% chance our world is a computer simulation and we’re all plugged into a Matrix-style virtual reality.
And they also reckon if it’s true — then there’s no way we’ll ever find out about it.
The Bank of America’s Merrill Lynch made the astonishing claim in a research note citing comments by top scientists, astrophysicists and philosophers.
If you think this is breaking news, just wait until next week, when they unveil their startling conclusion that there’s a 70% chance that you’re being stalked by a giant, ferocious, man-eating tiger — but you’ll never be able to find it, because the tiger is invisible.
I return smack ack
Now that the Republican primary season is safely far, far behind us, the real senator Rand Paul has apparently been released by the Borg slavers who captured him in the spring of 2015 and replaced him with a neocon replicant. He’s made waves recently by opposing the Obama administration’s plans to sell the Islamic fundamentalists who run Saudi Arabia yet more weapons of mass destruction — this time totaling more than a billion dollars — to be used to slaughter additional tens of thousands of helpless Yemeni civilians. Paul’s opposition to this senseless waste of human life is based, apparently, on trivial things like law and morality, which came as a tremendous shock to ancient robotic newscaster Wolf Blitzer, who once won a Peabody award for announcing that being annihilated by a hurricane is bad for you, but can’t seem to extend the metaphor to cover annihilation by bombs:
"So for you this is a moral issue," he told Paul during the Kentucky Republican’s appearance on CNN. "Because you know, there’s a lot of jobs at stake. Certainly if a lot of these defense contractors stop selling war planes, other sophisticated equipment to Saudi Arabia, there’s going to be a significant loss of jobs, of revenue here in the United States. That’s secondary from your standpoint?"
The saucy Brits writing for the Daily Mail think I can’t tell what they’re up to. Their plan, quite clearly, is that if they just publish the most comprehensively weird article of all time, Last Week in Weird will overload and break, and I’ll never be able to make fun of them again. Well, I’m pleased to report that their plan only almost worked; I did, against all odds, manage to survive the onslaught from the Mail’s masterpiece: "Pedestrians are baffled by gay traffic lights as little green man is still replaced by same-sex symbols three months after London Pride." I promise I’m not making any of this up.
Transport For London replaced the traditional ‘go’ sign in 50 traffic lights in June around the Trafalgar Square area as a nod to those taking part in London Pride, and they are still in place almost three months on.
However, because the gender symbols happen to look like arrows, some pedestrians are confused which direction they should be walking in and even whether only men or women are allowed to cross at one point, according to The Express.
I’ll be honest with you: I’m not even sure who to make fun of first here. I guess I should start with Transport For London; one would think that the purpose of traffic signals is to control the flow of traffic, no? While I’ll allow that there’s plenty of room to argue about whether or not that’s a viable goal, it’s clearly the reason. Yet somehow Transport For London — a government agency, of course — has decided that selling people the social justice war is so important that the whole entire traffic control system can be subjugated to it. If you’re the kind of person who believes in government traffic control, is this a good use of your money?
Libertarians do a terrible job fighting against socialism, but the tragedy of it is that we think we’re winning. In the end, though, it’s impossible for us to win as long as we fail to understand our opponents, which is the key problem; libertarians devote so much time to fighting against Bernie Sanders and Kshama Sawant and their idiotic promises of free this and free that that we come to identify the "free stuff" mentality itself as the heart of the socialist ideology. Don’t get me wrong, now; Bernie is wrong, as any fule kno, and it’s important that we keep pointing that out, but smashing dopey politicians is playing the short game. The long battle is fought by the philosophers, and no serious Marxist philosopher bases his philosophy on a foundation of "rich people will pay back your student loans."
We libertarians are often fooled into believing that we can smash the socialists forever by pointing out that socialist economies are notoriously unproductive, and that a hundred million people starved to death under their reign in the last century. While that does pretty effectively blow up the bumper-sticker socialism of a Sanders or a Sawant, it should be noted that, as a philosopher, Bernie Sanders makes a great long-distance runner, while "Kshama Sawant" is a Hindi phrase meaning "intellectual lightweight." Just because those two goobers have literally no comeback at all when faced with the obvious failures of real-world socialism doesn’t mean that the serious thinkers haven’t considered the problem. They have — and the answer they’ve come to is so far afield of what libertarians are used to dealing with that we basically don’t even realize it’s there.
Let’s begin today by going back to everybody’s favorite whipping boy, Gary Johnson, and everybody’s favorite subject, compulsory gay wedding cakes. Here’s a portion of the recent interview with Johnson conducted by Reason’s Nick Gillespie:
GILLESPIE: Let’s talk about your stance on religious-liberty issues, which has angered a lot people on the right and many libertarians. Your position is that you essentially want to extend anti-discrimination protections for race and gender to cover sexual orientation when it comes to businesses that are open to the public. Yet you support an opt-out for vaccinations. Why not support an opt-out for the religious owner of a business who doesn’t want to bake a gay Nazi wedding cake?
JOHNSON: Because it would create a new exemption for discrimination. At the end of the day we’re just going to agree to disagree. But you bring me specific legislation dealing with a cake baker not having to decorate a cake for a Nazi and I’ll sign it.
At the risk of being deliberately misquoted by the New York Times, I’m compelled to point out that if there exists a group in the modern Western world that is the consistent victim of unremitting, crushing discrimination, Nazis are that group. Nazis are so relentlessly discriminated against that here we have anti-discrimination law champion Gary Johnson, in the middle of his screed about the evils of discrimination and the important role government can play in fighting it, pausing to explain that he believes the anti-discrimination laws themselves should discriminate against Nazis. That, my friends, is some hardcore discrimination.