Skeetergate and the ‘Art of Distraction,’ killing them roughly

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Distractions … we all know what they are. They take many forms, but like porn, we know it when we see it. What distracts you might not distract me in the least. Pictures with cats and dogs and cute sayings that can be found ad nauseam on Facebook do not distract me. My distractions are … less wholesome.

At any rate like the vast majority of us, I’m not the kind of person who can easily concentrate on two things at the same time so it’s easy for me to get distracted and when I am it takes me off topic all together. For instance: listening to music I like when writing. I want to give the music my full attention and if I’m tapping away at this keyboard I’m missing some key moment in the music … and then I stop typing, restart the song on the iPod and forget what was about to be entered into this text.

At the moment I’m thinking of the Frank Zappa song, “Joe’s Garage.” I won’t dare put it on now because it will take all my attention and then I’ll listen to the rest of the recording — three album’s worth and phhhht! There goes the morning. I’ll listen to it later.

Hardball is all about distraction.
Hardball is all about distraction.

Distraction also is a magician’s trick. We see something going on over there while something unexpected is taking place over here. And then voila! The magician pulls the rabbit out of his sleeve. Did you watch any of David Copperfield’s amazing tricks back in the day? He made elephants and buildings disappear. As you probably guessed, I didn’t watch them either.

Years ago my brothers and I went to Las Vegas, NV for a weekend and I insisted we see at least one show — any show — instead of spending 18 hours every day gambling and eating. We decided on a little known (at the time) magician who was headlining at the old Hacienda: Lance Burton.

Obviously this took place a long time ago because the Hacienda was torn down — blown up actually — in 1996 to make way for the Mandalay Bay resort. And now Lance Burton is considered one of the top five magic shows in Sin City. I don’t think you’re going to get into Burton’s show at the Monte Carlo for the $20.00 (each) we paid at the Hacienda.

My younger brother wanted the early show, but we also wanted to have dinner, so we opted for the later show, which turned out to be fortuitous. You see the earlier show was PG-rated, i.e. Burton’s assistants kept their tops on and had veils covering their lovely derrieres. The later show … the assistants had less clothing.

Anyway, Burton’s was a great show. An excellent magician, he made great use of distraction. Trust me: when the lovely young female assistants are walking around topless and wearing thongs, there’s a lot of distraction. And of course he was doing magician stuff that had your more conventional types of illusionary distraction. But that’s how it works. “Look over here … or at one of my lovely assistants walking around the stage and up and down the aisles …” and voila! Another lovely assistant appears in the once empty box.

But there’s yet another kind of distraction and it involves the media. The hyper-drive, 24-hour news cycle media that is always looking for the story that has legs they can run on for a week or two.

Here’s an example:

President Obama is pushing through two items on his agenda: immigration reform and gun control. Due to the latter someone in the White House press gaggle asks WH spokesman Jay Carney if the president has ever fired a gun. It’s kind of a stupid question, one that, as far as I can remember, has never been asked of previous presidents. Carney answered yes, the president likes to shoot skeet at Camp David.

OK, so now he not only plays basketball and golfs, which is really bad form considering the Right thinks he shouldn’t have any time off or participate in any leisurely activities while president, but now we find out he shoots skeet too? Man, what a slacker!

But wait!

Where are the photos? Why haven’t we seen any photos of the president shooting a gun? You know you can’t believe this president for nuthin’!

Amazing what Photoshop can do.
Amazing what Photoshop can do.

Remember when President Dick Cheney … err, I mean Vice President Dick Cheney … shot his friend in the face? We saw all kinds of photos of Cheney shooting at captive birds. Don’t you think for one minute Dick Cheney isn’t a hunter! It probably took him days to hunt down that Texas hunting ranch. Well, OK, maybe one of his assistants flipped through the Rolodex of campaign donors to find it, but still, that dog hunts!

“Look at that photo of President Obama shooting a gun! He’s holding it left-handed, for chrissakes! And it’s not at the correct angle for shooting skeet! And he isn’t wearing a cammy-looking shooter’s vest with all the slots for extra shells. And now you know this photo is Photoshopped — the president has a potbelly! The president is just trying push his anti-gun legislation with this doctored photo!”

Or, maybe the people going through all these histrionics over whether the president has ever fired a gun and whether the photo is real or not are just goofy in the head. Most of the hysteria has been coming from FoxNews (surprise) and the actual news networks are covering the hysteria from FoxNews and other conservative noise outlets.

So the news networks are distracted from actual news to report on the googly-eyed exhortations of the people ginning up yet one more conspiracy theory involving President Obama. I think the unofficial name of this latest conspiracy theory is “Skeetergate.” Well, that’s the name we’ll use here.

This is more believable.
Yep, the GOP is right. The photo is Photoshopped.

The actual news concerning presidential affairs is that the president and vice president are going out into the hustings to rally support from the American people to pass gun control and immigration reform legislation.

The Republicans have already surrendered on immigration reform and we will soon see legislation that reflects much of what the president wants. The GOP is … was … trying to hold onto the idea of holding the path to citizenship hostage until the border is secured. Well, as it turns out the border between the U.S. and Mexico is now more secure than ever, thanks to the president beefing up border security in a variety of ways. We actually now have a negative flow of people coming into the U.S. Imagine that.

So we’ll see the legalization of the immigrants already here and the pathway to citizenship will get easier, not harder.

Gun control legislation will pass, but I sincerely doubt a ban on assault-style weapons will be part of it. Not enough support in Congress and quite frankly, it isn’t practical, considering there are now millions of these weapons in the hands of private citizens, legally. But universal background checks and a restriction on magazine size will definitely be part of the package.

All of that did get reported, but it’s been punctuated by the latest in Skeetergate. While the Fox Newsies are going on about the photo of President Obama shooting a shotgun, the president is in Nevada talking to a high school auditorium full of people about immigration reform and then Minnesota talking to people about gun safety reform, in front of a riser full of law enforcement, all of whom, we can assume, agree with the president’s proposals on gun control.

But Jay Carney has to spend a couple days talking to the White House Press Corps about the president shooting a gun at Camp David. And this time he actually did roll his eyes.

This is what we should all be talking about, what the TV news organizations should be all over, 24/7. Going on behind the curtain, while everyone is distracted by the president shooting guns, immigration reform and gun control, is the president’s policies on counter-terrorism.

Ever read this?
Ever read this?

President Obama has stepped up the use of armed unmanned aerial vehicles — called UAV’s or drones — to kill our enemies in places where we are not at war. And even more pertinent to us as U.S. citizens, the president and his administration have devised an interpretation of our laws to “legally” hunt down American citizens and kill them with these drones — without regard to our civil liberties as guaranteed by the Bill of Rights, in particular the Fourth, fifth and Sixth Amendments.

We don’t get to see any of these documents, of course, because they are classified. The White House did put out a “White Paper,” but that just created more questions, like what constitutes an imminent threat and what is considered unfeasible when considering when to kill or capture an American citizen accused of being a high level terrorist. More troubling still is that the White Paper says the so-called “kill list” has “no geographical limit.”

Does that mean the government can send a drone over Imperial Beach or Baltimore  and take out someone they’ve determined to be a senior al Qaeda operative (or of an affiliate terrorist organization) and poses an imminent threat to the U.S. and it isn’t feasible to capture that person?

The interesting response to that question was that it wasn’t answered. In other words the administration is keeping its options open, at the very least.

It isn’t a secret that from his first inauguration President Obama has been more of a war hawk than his predecessor in some aspects of foreign policy. Especially Obama’s stepped up use of drones to carry out warfare, in particular attacks on targets in countries we are not at war with, like Pakistan and Yemen.

What is secret is the criteria the president and his intelligence staff use to choose who gets on the kill list and why. Not even the Intelligence Committees of the Senate and House of Representatives know how and why a person is put on the kill list, meaning there’s no Congressional oversight.

  • On a historical note: Presidents Bush and Obama aren’t the first presidents to target U.S. citizens as enemies of the state. President Lincoln authorized the killing of U.S. citizens during the Civil War.

Thursday President Obama’s pick to head the Central Intelligence Agency, John Brennan, faced his Senate confirmation hearing. Even when pressed by Democrat Carl Levin, Brennan would not say if he considered waterboarding torture or not. Brennan said it was reprehensible and should not be used, but he stopped short of calling it torture.

The cagy CIA pick – John Brennan. Waterboarding is not torture?

When it came to the kill list, Brennan was even cagier. After the hearing the Senate Intelligence Committee wasn’t any closer to knowing those policies and procedures than they were a month ago. The big questions remain unanswered: are U.S. citizens on that list given an opportunity to surrender? Do they even know they are being targeted? I guess we could assume the targets assume they are being targeted if they have aligned themselves with enemies of the U.S., but even if they have joined our enemies are they still entitled to their civil liberties?

Senator Ron Wyden, Democrat from Oregon, put it simply and clearly: “Every American has the right to know when their government believes that it is allowed to kill them.”

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