www.DavidWilhite.com - fortified with 8 essential witticisms and irony
Welcome to www.DavidWilhite.com  David Wilhite is a part-time writer of fiction, humor, satire, and editorials; and a full-time political critic. The content of this web site represents his views, and his alone. Friends and family will, no doubt, keep their distance from any sentiment expressed here.
— Political —
Politics affects us all.  I find myself itching to offer criticism, but my voice drowns in the roar of the masses.  So this is my pathetic attempt to be heard, or at least vent my political frustrations.
Title: My Right to Own a Hammer
Author: David Wilhite
Category: Political Commentary      Article: political/013-MyRightToOwnAHammer
Posted Date: 15-Nov-2009      Created Date: 15-Nov-2009
David's Comments: I don't understand how anyone could question my right ... no, DUTY ... to own a hammer!
Reader Comments: none
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My Right to Own a Hammer

 
Can you believe how those socialist liberals want to take away my Constitutional right to own a hammer?
 
A hammer is so incredibly useful! It can solve nearly any construction problem that might arise. If a screw gets stripped and pops out of line, I can just WHAM it back into place. Bingo! No more problem. A board gets out of line, WHAM ... there ya go!
 
They won't let me take my hammer on an airplane. Why is that? Just think: if one of those overhead compartments won't close, I could just WHAM ... and it's back in place! You know those wussy flight attendants aren't packing a hammer. If every competent traveler was packing, there would be zero more problems with overhead compartments.
 
Can't take it into most bars either. Bunch o' sissies. If one of those barstools won't spin proper, WHAMMO ... When I'm finished with it, it will spin, or it won't be a barstool anymore, one or the other.
 
People say there are dangers. Maybe I'll hit my own thumb. Maybe someone will take it from me and use it for bad things. Maybe I'll miss and damage something. Not me. I know how to use my hammer.
 
Don't get me wrong. Not everyone should carry a hammer. If you don't know how to use it right, don't carry it! But on the other hand, if we let the government decide who can and can't carry one, they will make it so none of us can carry one. You can't trust the government with power. They want all the power for themselves. Just look what they spend my tax money on!
 
People say there are other tools ... other techniques to make the repairs I make with my hammer. Screwdrivers, tape, glue. Hah! Maybe for them. They're afraid to use a hammer. Me, I'm not afraid of the power my hammer has. In fact I do have other tools ... like my sledgehammer ... and for those really tough tasks, my jackhammer! On full-auto my jackhammer can get rid of any problem on the face of the planet!
 
You'll get my hammer when you pry it from my cold, dead, work gloves!
 
By the way, I've been thinking about buying a handgun, too.
 
# # #
 
Title: World's Greatest Prez
Author: David Wilhite
Category: Political Cartoon      Article: politoon/003-WorldsGreatestPrez
Posted Date: 24-May-2008      Created Date: 24-May-2008
David's Comments: None ever are likely to surpass him in at least one category.
Reader Comments: none
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LCD - Lowest Common Denominator - cartoon series by David Wilhite
World's Greatest Prez - George W. Bush Golf Political Cartoon by David Wilhite
World's Greatest Prez
Title: How Not To Be a Terrorist
Author: David Wilhite
Category: Political Commentary      Article: political/012-HowNotToBeATerrorist
Posted Date: 16-Jul-2007      Created Date: 16-Jul-2007
David's Comments: Don't get me wrong. I know most flight attendants are good, responsible people. The real crime is the legislation that permitted this gross misappropriation of power.
Reader Comments: none
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How Not To Be a Terrorist

Tips to make your commercial airline flight experience arrest-free.

 
After 9/11/2001 air travel changed permanently. Prior to the terrorist attacks of that day, airline passengers were searched for obvious threats, like guns, knives, and bombs; and making an idle joke or conversational reference about a hijacking or a bomb while going through an airport security checkpoint could easily result in your personal reroute to the airport security office.
 
Those were the Golden Days. After the terrorist attacks of 9/11 the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the US Congress had a startling revelation: the most dangerous weapon on any airline flight is the aircraft itself, and therefore the most dangerous item a passenger can bring on an airline flight is a bad attitude — or nail clippers. The proof of this reasoning is left as an exercise for the reader.
 
Deadly items like nail clippers, umbrellas, shoes, and soda bottles are relatively easy to detect by airport security. But how does one detect a bad attitude? Enter the USA PATRIOT Act, expediently passed by Congress, which cleared the way to give flight attendants bold new powers of interdiction. Thanks to this insightful new initiative, we now entrust our flight attendants with the unchecked power to order our arrest.
 
But despite the rigorous weeding process an aspiring flight attendant is subjected to before achieving their position (minimum: high school diploma, no felony convictions, and 3 weeks of training), surprisingly it appears that some of them have had hair-trigger response in exercising their new powers. For example, one passenger was arrested and convicted for thoughtlessly resting his head on his fiancée's shoulder. Another passenger was kicked off her flight for her toddler's poor choice of words, saying goodbye to the airplanes he saw out the window.
 
It begs the question: "How do I avoid my untimely arrest and subsequent 20-year incarceration for my thoughtless acts of terrorism?" Here at last is the advice you need in order to travel and yet keep your criminal record squeaky clean:
 

1. Never bring irony on a flight.

The flight attendant might not have the same sense of humor that you do. So leave the political jokes at home. Think of your flight attendant as Airport Security Lite, with half of the fattening training for making a life-altering decision, but all of the tasty authority.
 

2. Check your toddlers and infants.

Young ones can sometimes choose poorly the things that they say, and infants are surprisingly prone to crying and therefore distracting the attendants from properly performing their critical duties. Drinks and uselessly small pillows do not deliver themselves; and oxygen masks do not demonstrate themselves; that's why it's best for you to check your toddlers and infants along with the rest of your luggage, so they are not a hindrance to the flight crew.
 

3. Eyes front! Sit up straight!

Some flight attendants might not like the way you look at them, or the way you look, period. For example, if you are showing signs that you are too comfortable, they might ask you to change your position. Don't be a troublemaker; do what they say to do. Here's a technique to help you remember: Imagine your flight attendant as a Mother Superior with a ruler in her hand and hawkish expression on her face. Except that the penalty for defiance is not you sitting in the corner, it's you being locked in a federal penitentiary.
 

4. If you drop the soap, don't bend over.

If you do anything that is deemed to be suspicious, you may be subject to Additional Security Stipulations. This augmented investigation protocol will involve a fiber optic microscope, speculum, and highly specialized rubber gloves (none of which are used by you). Use your best judgment. For example, if your ginger ale goes down the wrong way, and you end up having a coughing fit, ask your seatmate (between wheezes) to punch you into unconsciousness. It will take far less time to heal from the head trauma than to serve the felony prison sentence.
 

5. Always remember: the emperor's new outfit is very stylish indeed.

It bears repeating: Do what your flight attendants tell you to do. No matter how ridiculous their demands are, remember that you are subject to their whims. You say you don't really want that uselessly small pillow? For the sake of national security, take it anyway! You say you don't really feel you want to quack like a duck? Do it anyway! Always remember that you are there for the comfort, convenience, and amusement of the flight crew.
 

6. Drive or sail.

With all the security measures imposed today, it's just easier and often faster to drive to your destination. Flying overseas? Maybe you should sail instead. Enjoy the salt air.
 

7. Fly yourself.

As another alternative to commercial air travel, you might choose to acquire your own pilot's license and rent an airplane to fly yourself. Despite the fact that you will be flying a vehicle that can be used as an incendiary weapon of mass murder, you will be subject to far less regulation and scrutiny. Go figure.
 
# # #
 
Title: Airline Passenger Shot Down by PATRIOT Missile
Author: David Wilhite
Category: Political Commentary      Article: political/011-PatriotMissile
Posted Date: 17-May-2007      Created Date: 17-May-2007
David's Comments: Funny story: A guy, his fiancée, and a flight attendant are on this plane ...
Reader Comments: 2
7-Jun-2007 Dawn Sewell [e‑mail] writes: I absolutely love the way you wrote this. You clearly did some research because you are right on target. With more stories like yours being put out there, the better for our country. I feel people like you and I are the only ones who are going to be able to keep the spotlight on this issue. Thanks so much for your support.
8-Jun-2007 David Wilhite [web] [e‑mail] writes: My heart goes out to you and your fiancé. This is a sad era in our country, when more people are moved by sound bites than reason, and more people are interested in "dish" than fact. I hope the justice system will quickly come to its senses in your case.
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Airline Passenger Shot Down
by PATRIOT Missile

 
You remember the USA PATRIOT Act? The one that was enacted after the 9/11 tragedy, to help fight terrorism? Do you remember multiple officials in the Bush administration and Congress swearing (practically on their mothers' graves) that the law would only be used against terrorists and those who support terrorism?
 
Funny story: it turns out that they were just kidding.
 
Another funny story: the USA PATRIOT Act was most recently misused to prosecute a US citizen for the heinous crime of arguing with an overzealous flight attendant. On May 5 of this year he was found guilty, and could be sentenced to as much as 20 years in prison.
 
OK, maybe it's not exactly a "funny" story. It's more of a shocking, depressing, infuriating, ridiculous story.
 
The American popular press has mischaracterized the story as a matter of inappropriate sexual conduct on an airline. That's like characterizing Iraqi civil violence as a problem caused by WMDs. (That's a small part of the back-story, but to make that the headline issue would completely miss the bigger current issues.)
 
Rather, this story is about Carl Persing, who was a passenger on a Southwest Airlines flight. He is a man in his 40s who was feeling weak from chemotherapy, and laid his head in the lap of his fiancée. The flight attendant, Frank McCabe, misinterpreted that as a sexual act, and ordered him to sit up. He complied, but McCabe continued his misguided jackbooted police work during the flight, not even permitting Persing to rest his head on his fiancée's shoulder. When Persing became verbally belligerent about it, the attendant escalated the incident. The FBI arrested Persing and his fiancée when the plane landed, charging them with "interfering with a flight attendant" under the USA PATRIOT Act.
 
The verdict will be appealed, and may be thrown out. But a lot of damage is already done. Persing is out $30,000 in legal fees, and has had his name smeared in the news and in popular jokes for months.
 
It illustrates again for us that the most common casualties in the War On Terror are common citizens who have lost basic civil rights.
 
It also illustrates how our obsessive fear of terrorism serves not to protect us, but to do us more injury atop the death toll inflicted by the terrorists.
 
There's a reason they're called "terrorists": their goal is to instill fear. Acting with brute-force legislation out of fear instead of calmly creating a rational plan of prevention, we have done their work for them.
 
How many times do we have to shoot ourselves in the foot before we throw away the gun that we think we can use to protect ourselves? The sooner the USA PATRIOT Act is moved from the law books into the Dark History Of Our Foolish Attempts To Legislate Common Sense books, the sooner we can begin to truly recover from 9/11.
 
# # #
 
Title: Should I Stay or Should I Go?
Author: David Wilhite
Category: Political Commentary      Article: political/010-ShouldIStayOrShouldIGo
Posted Date: 28-Oct-2006      Created Date: 28-Oct-2006
David's Comments: "Between Iraq and a Hard Place" ... Yes, of course I know I'm not the first to think of that one. But it really fits here.
Reader Comments: none
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Should I Stay or Should I Go?

 

Between Iraq and a Hard Place

 
Civil War

For most people the term "civil war" probably holds a very negative connotation, naming the concept of deadly infighting over issues that perhaps should be settled diplomatically. Civil war is a bit like a pitched battle for divorce, where two factions battle for control of the assets of the union. But just as a divorce can be completed without a legal battle, so can the breakup of a national union. The breakup of the Soviet Union is an example of such (except for the subsequent ethnic struggles within some of the separated Balkan states).

There is no doubt that the US is responsible for unseating Saddam Hussein, the dictator who kept order in Iraq only by means of force and fear. There is no doubt that religious factional infighting is now ablaze in Iraq. And it seems likely that having US troops in Iraq is keeping an all-out civil war from ensuing. So we find ourselves asking: Should we shirk our responsibility, and pull out of Iraq? But there are more important questions: Under the current circumstances with US troops standing guard over the tenuous union will Iraq ever reach a situation that will avoid civil war? And if so, how much longer will it take? To keep the Iraqi factions married, US troops are paying a price in blood, at the rate of about 700 lives per year. And US taxpayers are paying a price in tax dollars, at the rate of about $100 billion per year.

Is this really a marriage that should be saved? There are two factors to weigh that we should be able to agree on: Right now the union is in a terribly unstable situation. And if it is even possible to save that union it will require a long and costly process.

Perhaps a separation is in order. A civilly orchestrated partitioning of Iraq (into ethnic/sectarian states) might avoid the fight for power that seems so hard to suppress in the single nation.

 
Side Bet

Our current presidential administration equates the war in Iraq with the War on Terror, despite there being only weak circumstantial evidence to connect them. They tell us that if we lose the war in Iraq, it will constitute a victory for Al Qaeda, which will bolster the confidence of terrorists.

But a committee of intelligence community experts assembled by the Bush administration has leaked a report concluding that the Iraq invasion has been a great boon for terrorists, providing a cause around which terrorist groups have rallied many new recruits.

Let's assume the committee and the Bush administration are both correct. That would mean that if we keep troops in Iraq the terrorists will continue pointing to the US occupation as an attempt to impose western values on Arab people, and thereby gain recruits; and if we leave Iraq the terrorists will be able to declare victory, and thereby gain recruits. It seems that holding Iraq together is a bit like holding together a bad marriage for the sake of the children: damned if we do, damned if we don't.

 
Double Trouble

Now another committee of foreign policy experts assembled by the Bush administration, headed by former Secretary of State James Baker, has leaked a report recommending that keeping troops in Iraq for an extended period is probably the worst strategy. In other words they believe that "Stay the Course" is a poor policy.

There is no avoiding the fact that the US bears the largest part of the blame for placing Iraq in its current situation, and therefore will receive most of the blame from the international community if Iraq falls into civil war. But we have to consider that Iraq might not be able to avoid a civil war at this point if left as a single nation.

If divorce is the likeliest outcome, shouldn't we begin the proceedings for a nonviolent separation of territory now before further damage accrues and more lives are lost? On their Combat Rock album in 1982, The Clash sings their hit song Should I Stay or Should I Go? The lyrics at one point say, "If I go, there will be trouble. If I stay, it will be double." They are important words to consider.

 
Maybe instead of calling it "Cut and Run," it will be easier to sell as "The Better Part of Valor."
 
# # #
 
Title: Coddling Terrorists
Author: David Wilhite
Category: Political Commentary      Article: political/009-CoddlingTerrorists
Posted Date: 03-Oct-2006      Created Date: 03-Oct-2006
David's Comments: Perhaps I am beating a dead horse. But at least that doesn't violate the terms of the Geneva Convention.
Reader Comments: none
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Coddling Terrorists

 

President George W. Bush has accused the Democrats of wanting to "coddle terrorists." That certainly isn't true using the primary definition of "coddle," which is "to treat tenderly, to nurse, to indulge," which is clearly something that anyone would enjoy receiving. Bush would not be willing to submit himself to even the most liberal forms of "coddling" that the Democrats have put forward.

 
[hyperbole mode: ON]
 

But his repeated use of that word made me wonder if he is covering for his own subconscious desires, similar to the way that some homosexuals are homophobic. A little investigation led me to see that is indeed the case: The secondary definition of "coddle" is "to cook in water that is just below the boiling point." And I believe that is one of the forms of torture that Bush is petitioning congress to make legal.

 
[hyperbole mode: OFF]
 

Come on, Mr. President, don't insult the intelligence of your constituents. Find a believable lie to tell about the Democrats.

 
# # #
 
Title: Miss Characterization Pageant
Author: David Wilhite
Category: Political Commentary      Article: political/008-MissCharacterization2006
Posted Date: 30-Sep-2006      Created Date: 30-Sep-2006
David's Comments: Here he is: Miss Characterization
Reader Comments: none
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Miss Characterization Pageant

 

Anyone can tell a lie. But in the world of politics the very best lies are told using truth, or at least plausibility. The process is known as the Fine Art of Mischaracterization.

The master artisans of this craft deserve recognition. And what better way could there be to celebrate their achievement than with the Miss Characterization Pageant? Because truth, like beauty, is very often only skin deep.

 
The Criteria
Contestants are evaluated based on their abilities in the following categories:
 
Oversimplification — Making a complex issue seem simple; sometimes known as Half-Truth or Truth Lite®. Example: Little Johnny ties a paint can to Spot's tail. When Mom discovers the new pattern on the living room carpet, Johnny says, "Spot got into the paint."
 
Word Substitution — Switching out an unfavorable term, for a more palatable euphemism. Example: Big sister Jane talks her kid brother Billy into drinking an entire bottle of red food dye. When questioned by Dad at the emergency room, Jane says, "He was thirsty and looking pale. I just gave him a drink to restore his color."
 
Criticism Recasting — Detracting from opponent arguments by changing the context. Example: At recess, Charlie steals Sally's lollipop. When Sally brings the teacher over, Charlie berates Sally for wanting to take food away from the hungry.
 
Sidestepping — Changing subjects to avoid an uncomfortable truth. Example: On the bus coming home from high school, Wanda punches Denise. When the driver confronts her, Wanda compliments how well she drives.
 
Name-Calling — Time-honored technique of raising one's own public image by assassinating the character of an opponent. Example: On the bus coming home from high school, Wanda punches Denise. When the driver confronts her, Wanda describes how Denise is a promiscuous, straight-F student.
 
Technicality — Using ambiguities in the English language to cause the audience to misunderstand the statement in a favorable way. Example: Larry comes in the door after school and says, "Ms. Johnson didn't give us homework today. So can I watch TV?" when in fact Ms. Johnson was out sick, and a substitute teacher gave him homework that day.
 
Spin — Brilliant works of Mischaracterization and Misdirection that cannot easily be placed in any single category above. Generally these will involve components of plausibility rather than truth.
 
The Finalists — And Winners
 
Honorable Mention:
Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, nominated for ...
• Characterizing a Clinton counterterrorism plan as being only a "List of Actionable Items." Kudos for this brilliant Word Substitution.
 
Second Runner Up:
House Speaker Dennis Hastert, nominated for ...
• Characterizing House Democrats as wanting to "give more rights to terrorists" when they objected to giving police broad powers for tapping any international calls or e-mails (and therefore invading the privacy of any American who wishes to communicate with anyone outside the country). This is a recent masterpiece of Criticism Recasting.
 
First Runner Up:
Vice President Dick Cheney, nominated for ...
• Successfully avoiding charges of Treason by saying he did not identify "Valerie Plame" as a CIA agent because he only identified "Joe Wilson's wife" (Valerie Plame) as a CIA agent. Pageant judges voted this to be the best use of a Technicality since the Clinton "definition of 'is'" defense.
• Characterizing the CIA's conjecture of WMDs in Iraq as "slam dunk evidence." This work of art qualifies as Spin.
 
Miss Characterization 2006 (for the 6th year running):
President George W. Bush, nominated for ...
• Characterizing terrorists as "Islamic Facists." Remarkably few people questioned this brilliant piece of Name-Calling, as few know what "facist" really means, and even fewer want to appear to be defending terrorists.
• Characterizing legislators who oppose any initiatives by the Bush administration as "Unpatriotic" (Name-Calling) or as "Coddling Terrorists" (Criticism Recasting).
• Characterizing prisoners of war as "Enemy Combatants" in order to avoid the pesky preservation of the human rights normally required. This masterpiece of Word Substitution and Spin has been so effective that it has kept attorneys and judges mired in legal nuance for five years.
 
Congratulations, Dubya!
 
# # #
 
Title: Pot and Kettle
Author: David Wilhite
Category: Political Cartoon      Article: politoon/002-PotAndKettle
Posted Date: 03-Sep-2006      Created Date: 03-Sep-2006
David's Comments: Dictionary definition: fascism n. A system of government marked by centralization of authority under a dictator, stringent socioeconomic controls, suppression of the opposition through terror and censorship, and typically a policy of belligerent nationalism.
Reader Comments: none
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LCD - Lowest Common Denominator - cartoon series by David Wilhite
Pot and Kettle - Osama Bin Laden Political Cartoon by David Wilhite
Pot and Kettle
Title: Lionizing Capitalism
Author: David Wilhite
Category: Political Commentary      Article: political/007-LionizingCapitalism
Posted Date: 22-Aug-2006      Created Date: 22-Aug-2006
David's Comments: Money talks ... and rulz!
Reader Comments: none
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Lionizing Capitalism

 

Why is it that so many of the politicians who claim to be "Of Faith" put so much faith in Capitalism? Furthering the inconsistency, many of the same people who attack Evolution Theory are champions of Capitalism, which operates using the same mechanisms as Evolution. Companies innovate to adapt to the ever-changing economic environment (like Evolution's "differentiation"). Then they compete for limited resources, and the ones with the best survival strategies usually prosper (like Evolution's "survival of the fittest").

 
Faith-Based Economics

Should we put so much faith in the soulless part of the economic process? That's what we're doing when we try to improve the economic prosperity of the country by giving unconditional tax reductions to businesses. The presumption is that a growing business will employ more people, and the wealth will "trickle down" to the masses. But in practice the vast majority of the wealth lines the pockets of investors. Another problem is that growth will occur largely independent of consumer demand, leading to unsupported growth and subsequent failure unless economic supplements are maintained.

It's a bit like trying to boost the wildlife populations of the African plains by feeding the lions. You might hope that the increase in lion dung will trickle down to benefit plant growth and thereby work back up through the food chain. But the only thing you are certain to have is more fat cats.

 
Grassroots Economics

Ecosystems grow by taking in resources at the base of the food chain. Plants take nutrients from the soil, air, and sun, becoming food for the herbivores, which in turn become food for the predators. If you artificially increase the population at the top of the chain, there are not sufficient resources lower down to go on supporting them.

Capitalistic systems grow normally from increases at the consumer level. Consumer spending for goods and services encourages growth in those businesses. If you artificially encourage growth of businesses, there is not sufficient consumer spending to go on supporting them all.

 
Profit Motive

It's no wonder that the federal government has adopted supply side ("trickle down") economics as its preferred form of economic control: Although the United States was intended to be a government "by the people, for the people," today the government is treating corporations like people — people who receive special treatment — people who have more influence in the government. Corporate executives become politicians, and politicians become corporate lobbyists. The line between private and public sectors is now largely symbolic, and completely porous.

 
Guarded Optimism

Attempts at lobbying reforms have fallen flat. That's not surprising since they were designed and implemented by the very people who need to be reformed. Corporate influence on politics is now bigger than it has ever been. But enough ordinary, mere mortal citizens are now disturbed by their government's performance that it might be possible to rally an ad hoc revolution to force a major revision in the federal approach to economics. Such a revision is not likely to occur without a Change of the Guard (major turnover of federal politicians).

 

It would be nice to see the U.S. restored to a government that is truly "by the people, for the people." Right now we have too many fat cats.

 
# # #
 
Title: DMV Is Not A Four-Letter Word
Author: David Wilhite
Category: Political Commentary      Article: political/006-DMV
Posted Date: 18-Jul-2006      Created Date: 18-Jul-2005
David's Comments: Stand-up comedians everywhere may be losing some valuable material.  If you want to poke fun at the DMV now, you might have to take a number.
Reader Comments: none
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DMV Is Not A Four-Letter Word

 

Yesterday, when I noticed that my driver's license had expired nine months ago, I heaved a massive sigh.  I envisioned waiting in line for half an hour, and having a surly clerk tell me I have to fill out the other renewal form because I was more than 30 days late, and having a hefty just-cause-we-can fee added to the renewal.  I envisioned all of that because I have had similar experiences with most of my prior visits to the DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles).

But I was surprised ... in the good way ... not the "Surprise! You're being audited!" way.  When I got to the DMV office, a clerk at the door immediately got me started with the correct form, and gave me a numbered ticket.  I went into the waiting room, where there were chairs, by God, real chairs, and no people in line.  I wondered briefly if I was in fact at the correct office.  Then I proceeded to find a table and pen to do my paperwork.  Before I even finished filling out my form, the automated system announced my number.  I approached the counter, expecting to be sent back into the queue, but the clerk actually waited on me to finish the form.  Waited on Me! the customer! what a novel notion.

Then she made a good-natured quip about how late I was with the renewal, but there was no brow-beating involved.  I was all ready with my genuine excuse that I had not received a renewal notice, but I didn't need it.  And there was no extra fee of any sort.

And the whole thing took about five minutes!  And I'm looking at my new driver's license right now, so I'm sure that I didn't just dream it.

 

Kudos to the South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles!

 
# # #
 
Title: Intuition: It's Not What You Think
Author: David Wilhite
Category: Political Commentary      Article: political/005-Intuition
Posted Date: 16-Jul-2006      Created Date: 16-Jul-2005
David's Comments: I have a gut feeling that no one reads these comments.
Reader Comments: 4
19-Jul-2006 anonymous writes: I read these comments! :)
19-Jul-2006 David Wilhite [web] [e‑mail] writes: Glad to know I'm not just talking to myself!  Because that would make me look paranoid, or schizo, or something.  Oh, wait, I do that already with my writing, don't I?
24-Jul-2006 Karen writes: Well-said!
Ooh, and I read the comments too.  I just usually forget to email, or don't have anything nearly clever enough to say.  I should, though — as they say, success begets success, and we like it when you keep writing for us!
25-Jul-2006 David Wilhite [web] [e‑mail] writes: I'll give you the benefit of the doubt, and assume that "well-said!" refers to my article rather than my paranoid/schizo comment. ;^>
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Intuition: It's Not What You Think

 

Intuition is highly valuable when it inspires new ideas that begin an investigation.  But intuition becomes a huge liability when we allow it to substitute for an investigation.  Our society seems to put a great deal of trust in "gut feeling."  There is a predominant belief that if something "feels right" it must really be right.  But much that is intuitively obvious is simply wrong.

 
The Guilty Pig

I can thank my sixth grade English teacher for her fine example of how unreliable intuition can be.  One of the first days of school, a classmate sitting behind me jabbed me in the neck with his pencil.  Naturally I turned around and whispered, "Quit it!"  When I turned around forward again the teacher was staring at me.  As I started to explain what had happened, she immediately stopped me and sent me to a separate table at the front of the class.

Why did she punish me instead of the other guy?  As she explained it, "The guilty pig squeals first!"  Thanks to that teacher's faith in that little intuitive gem, I spent the entire year on display at the front of the class as her example to the rest that she was serious about discipline.  But the only lesson for those of my classmates who saw the whole thing was how to manipulate overzealous authority figures.

 
Shocking Evidence

We know from many examples that people can die from touching exposed household wiring carrying 110 volts of electricity.  So our intuition tells us that touching a source of 5000 volts of electricity will surely kill us.

But our intuition doesn't know the whole picture.  As a matter of fact, people are often exposed to thousands of volts of electricity with no harm at all.  If you walk across a dry, carpeted room, and touch a doorknob, the static shock can easily be thousands of volts, which might sting but is not lethal.

Why is that?  Because if you only know about the voltage you do not know all the facts, and not even the most important of the facts.  More important dimensions of electricity would be amps and watts, which express the quantity of electricity.

Being afraid of high voltage is like being afraid of fast-moving water.  If you're a non-swimmer and have to choose between wading across a body of water that's moving at 40 miles per hour versus wading across a body of water that's moving at 5 miles per hour, which would you choose?  If you've been following closely, your answer should be "I don't have enough information to make a decision."  And a wise answer it is!  Now I'll disclose that the body of water moving at 5 miles per hour is a river that is 20 feet deep, and the body of water moving at 40 miles per hour is a mountain creek that is 6 inches deep.  Now you have a mental image of the relative dangers of electrical voltage versus electrical amperage or wattage.

 
What's The Harm?

What does it matter that your intuition might make you overly cautious about electricity?  There is probably no harm to you personally.

But what happens if we apply that intuitive fear at a national level?  Then we have a whole nation of people who are afraid to work on anything electrical, and therefore no electricians among us.  That sounds ridiculous, doesn't it?  And it would be.

And that is exactly why it is ridiculous to use intuitive reasoning or "gut feelings" to make national policy or law.  Now we have a whole nation of people who have surrendered their privacy and their rights because those steps seemed like they might prevent a terrorist attack.  As a nation, we have unseated a dictator, but have killed thousands of people, and have had thousands of our people killed, because of someone's gut feeling that there must be dangerous weapons in Iraq.

 

I, for one, am ready for this nation to enter a new Age of Reason.

 
# # #
 
Title: Raising a Red Flag
Author: David Wilhite
Category: Political Commentary      Article: political/004-RaisingARedFlag
Posted Date: 10-Jul-2006      Created Date: 10-Jul-2005
David's Comments: Why was the flag-burning amendment defeated by only one vote (short of 2/3 majority) in the Senate?  ... and passed by a 2/3 majority in the House of Representatives?
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Raising A Red Flag

 

So, let me see if I understand the reasoning:  It's insane to threaten someone for drawing a picture of your Messiah, but it's a good idea to put someone in jail for desecrating your flag.

 
What Would Jesus Do?

I'm no authority on exactly WJWD, but it seems likely to me that he would not hide from the paparazzi, nor object to someone drawing his likeness.  But he would object to anyone treating such a picture in a sacred way, as an object of reverence.  We all know that's called "idolatry."  The obvious problem with idolatry is that the worshipper places importance on the symbol instead of the concepts it embodies.

So what do you call it when we make the symbol of our country (our flag) more sacred than the freedoms and rights it embodies (like free speech)?

It might make you furious to see someone burning your flag.  But remember that it makes some people furious to see someone picketing their factory.  Should we outlaw all forms of protest that most of us don't like to see?  Or do we act like the adults we are, and ignore the punks who stand in our face and chant "naanee naanee boo boo!"?

 

Perhaps Jesus would turn his other cheek.

 
# # #
 
Title: I'm Afraid Not
Author: David Wilhite
Category: Political Commentary      Article: political/003-ImAfraidNot
Posted Date: 26-Jun-2006      Created Date: 26-Jun-2005
David's Comments: We have nothing to fear. Period.
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I'm Afraid Not

 

I despise fear: not the kind that takes the form of reasoned respect for a real danger, but the kind that makes knees buckle, and evokes a panicked reaction.

 
Fear Is A Societal Thing.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt was inaugurated into the Presidency in 1933 amid the very depths of the Great Depression.  In his inauguration address he eloquently stated that "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance."  He perceived very clearly that negative global factors had only caused an economic downturn, and that downturn was then driven toward collapse by fear.  Fear among the masses caused the stock market crash in 1929.  Fear among the masses caused the bank failures in 1933.

 
Fear Is A Personal Thing.

Frank Herbert in his science fiction novel Dune composed the "Bene Gesserit Litany" which states in part, "I must not fear.  Fear is the mind‑killer.  Fear is the little‑death that brings total obliteration."

I detest fear for what I have allowed it to make me do ... and not do.  Out of fear, I have rushed choices that should have been better deliberated, I have shrunk back from actions when timeliness was essential, I have backed away from justified fights, I have been silent when I should have risen in protest, and I have even provoked lesser enemies for sake of an easy victory.

Being frustrated by my own shortcomings that have been induced by fear, over the course of my life I have endeavored to counteract fear as I find it in myself.  Spiders and snakes used to scare me.  So I learned to identify the few that are actually dangerous, and now I can literally handle the others without fear.  Public speaking used to make me squirm.  So I forced myself to practice it and do it, and now I have become quite comfortable with it.

 
An Abject Lesson.

A major personal turning point occurred in the failure of my small business.  Delinquencies on my part (no late payments, just late filing forms) resulted in major belligerent threats by the South Carolina Department of Revenue, which I allowed to scare me into inaction ("deer in the headlights").  The snowballing effect culminated in that agency's unjust seizure of my business assets, and the threat of additional action.  I became so fear-stricken that I had a genuine nervous breakdown with a full-blown panic attack (that I thought was a heart attack).  I believed I was about to die.

Facing death can be a very life-changing experience.  The South Carolina Department of Revenue eventually returned those funds (minus significant banking fees), but I did not try to rebuild my business.  The negative feelings were still far too strong.  But in the process I stopped fearing my government.  I have faced the fear of death.  I have no reason to be afraid of my Big Brother, no matter how much of a bully he is.

The lesson I learned: If I had acted objectively instead of going where my fear pushed me, I could have straightened out the whole ugly mess very early in the process.

 
Fear Is A Global Thing.

Society en masse has never dealt well with fear.  It has always taken concerted effort and/or time to allow society to recover from any given fear.  After World War II, proliferation of nuclear weapons was a source of justified fear, or at least justified caution.  The result was the nuclear arms race and a policy of Mutual Assured Destruction.  It took decades for international tensions to relax enough for the sides to realize that M.A.D. is a stupid way to live, and to begin disarming.  And if the Soviet Union had not disintegrated, it probably would have taken decades more for the disarmament to progress significantly.

 
The New Boogey Men.

Our new societal terror is Terrorism itself.  And that societal fear has gone beyond rationale.  It has developed into the kind of fear that causes airport security to take away fingernail files, and to inspect shoes.  It's the kind of fear that causes a whole people to submit to a loss of liberty and privacy in exchange for a perceived (and undemonstrated) improvement in safety.  It's the kind of fear that causes a nation to dismantle in a few months a system of government power restrictions that has worked for centuries through challenges much greater than the current ones.  It's the kind of fear that causes loyalists to turn a blind eye to abuse of power in their government, and to cast dissenters as purveyors of treason.  It's the kind of fear that causes a person to point his finger in accusation at another who has a particular skin color, or name, or religion.

Terrorists use fear to accomplish their goals.  On September 11, 2001, in a dramatic display of violence that resulted in death and destruction, a small group of terrorists was able to kill thousands of people in the World Trade Center, and thereby place millions in a state of mortal fear.  About 3000 died in that incident, which is approximately the same number that died elsewhere in the United States that day and every other day.  So in a cold statistical sense, the terrorists did not significantly raise the level of mortal risk to Americans as a whole.  But the spectacle of that one act has propelled the fear of that group's power forward for nearly five years now.  Not only individuals, but large corporations are afraid to defy their demands.

Terrorists are not the only ones to capitalize on fear.  In the subsequent months and years, the Bush administration and Congress have propelled many initiatives forward that they could never have passed without the environment of fear.  And of course many enterprising capitalists have taken advantage of new markets for products and services to offer the fear-stricken public.  Indeed, ethically challenged members of both public and private sectors have perpetuated that fear in order to benefit their own goals.

 
Step Into The Light.

In the United States there were about 3000 victims of Terrorism.  The other 290,000,000 of us have been victims of our own terror.

The best antidote for fear is knowledge.  We must read.  We must question.  We must seek out and evaluate different points of view, instead of huddling comfortably inside a small world of like‑thinkers.  This is good advice for the general public and for political leaders alike.

 
###
Title: Patriot's Dream
Author: David Wilhite
Category: Political Commentary      Article: political/002-PatriotsDream
Posted Date: 13-Jun-2006      Created Date: Aug-2005
David's Comments: I am a Truly Blue American.
Reader Comments: none
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Patriot's Dream

Patriotism is the founder's dream,
a staff supporting waving flag unflawed,
flying above a nation of principle and cause.
Leader bends staff to form shepherd's crook,
pulling sheep to flock behind the wearer of the bell,
seeing only kin, they believe no one else,
hearing sounds unknown, they believe the wolf imperils.
General skins crook to form soldier's drum,
swelling proud heart when homeland name reaches ear,
narrowing vision when choices appear,
clenching fist when opposition rears.
Who leads that most patriotic cause
is confered with sheers by his trusting sheep.

Who commands that most patriotic war
is showered with accolades by his distant homeland.

Who follows that shepherd shares the fortune of the flock.

Who obeys that general knows the smell of victory on the battlefield.

Protect the symbol, neglect principle and cause.
And none recalls the foundering dream.
###
Title: Ignorance of the Law
Author: David Wilhite
Category: Political Commentary      Article: political/001-IgnoranceOfTheLaw
Posted Date: 25-May-2006      Created Date: 25-May-2006
David's Comments: I used to think that it was the responsibility of every citizen to follow the actions of their political representatives. Note the choice of words: "used to"
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Ignorance of the Law


Writing Off into the Sunset


"Ignorance of the law excuses no man," is an often quoted and widely revered maxim penned by John Selden, a lawyer who lived in England, 1584-1654, centuries before the texts of US federal and state laws grew into the millions of pages.

Ignorance of the law is no excuse; rather, it's a fact of modern life.

And how can an average citizen, even with the best of intentions, possibly analyze the actions of their government representatives? The existing body of law is far too large for anyone to understand all of it. And the implications of current legislation and other legal activity are therefore often far too complex to see.

Transparent government is essential, but even that is not enough. You can get a computer with a nifty transparent chassis, but that doesn't give you an understanding of how the thing works.

How about a constitutional amendment imposing "sunset" (expiration) provisions on all federal laws? Wouldn't it be nice to weed out the laws that no one finds worth the effort to renew? I'm not the first to suggest this. But there is a huge amount of momentum to overcome to bring such an amendment into being. Career politicians are heavily invested in the status quo; and those who detest scrutiny enjoy the natural cover provided by the briar patch of our tangled legal code.


###
Title: Next Stop Iran
Author: David Wilhite
Category: Political Cartoon      Article: politoon/001-NextStopIran
Posted Date: 18-May-2006      Created Date: 14-Dec-2004
David's Comments: This was my first attempt at creating a political cartoon, inspired by news of the time (December 2004) about the Bush administration making the same kinds of statements about Iran as they made about Iraq a year or so before they invaded it. It was also the first cartoon of my series I have dubbed "LCD" (Lowest Common Denominator).
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LCD - Lowest Common Denominator - cartoon series by David Wilhite
Next Stop: Iran - Political Cartoon by David Wilhite
Next Stop: Iran
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