Editorial: Don't make the world scarier than it really is

Do you think we're a bunch of nuts?"

That was the question for state Sen. Kelli Ward last Wednesday at a meeting of activists pushing the "chemtrail" conspiracy, and the audience was frustrated - and to be fair, justifiably so.

Ward set up the meeting saying she would connect people with questions and people at the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality who could offer some answers. But she showed up with a department lawyer and a spokesperson, and their response was, basically, "Talk to the EPA."

No, answered Ward. She said she didn't think the audience was nuts. And for the most part, neither do I - but I do think chemtrail believers are misguided and locked into a mindset that limits their world while also turning the world into a scarier place than it really is.

Think about what's necessary to endorse "chemtrails."

One has to believe that condensation trails, a routine by-product of airplane travel (hot exhaust meets frigid atmospheric air, ice crystals form, and boom! Wispy trail), have been hijacked by secret forces and used to pump chemicals into the atmosphere with the deliberate intent of sickening the population. It requires thousands of people to maintain the cover-up, which they've somehow been able to do for decades. And, of course, there's the fact that if you want to poison people, randomly scattering chemicals in the atmosphere has got to be one of the least effective ways of doing it, assuming that there is a massive movement to gas the population in the first place.

That's a lot of mental leaping with little foundation to leap from.

What's wrenching, though, is that people are sick and they don't know why. The chemtrail tale at least offers an outlet for blame. But these folks would be better off looking at real pollutants - jet fuel exhaust is not exactly benign, and neither is car exhaust, or fossil fuel energy plants, or the remnants of exploded munitions, mining, chemical dumps and nuclear testing.

We don't need a massive conspiracy to pollute the world. We've already done that, all on our own.

•••

Speaker of the House John Boehner isn't nuts, but what he has to do to keep the right wing of his party satisfied must drive him crazy.

Now he's promising to have the House sue President Obama for his "aggressive unilateralism," according to a memo Boehner sent last week. "President Obama has circumvented the Congress through executive action, creating his own laws and excusing himself from executing statutes he is sworn to enforce," he wrote.

The answer to that is a lawsuit, apparently, and legislation to start one is supposed to be introduced in July.

According to the Speaker, there's a three-part test to see if a House lawsuit is warranted:

• "There is no one else who can challenge the president's failure, and harm is being done to the general welfare";

• There is no legislative remedy; and

• There is explicit House authorization for the lawsuit.

At best, he gets one out of three - House authorization. There certainly is a legislative remedy (which would involve, you know, passing legislation), and there are definitely others who could "challenge the president's failure."

As a practical matter, Obama would be long gone from office by the time the case reaches any argument on the merits.

Let's call this what it is - Impeachment Lite. It gives Boehner the political cover of doing a "gotcha" on the president while sparing him the embarrassment of a noisy, drawn-out impeachment fight that would seriously damage the GOP.

This only makes them look silly.