Sunday, August 22, 2010

My View of the 2nd Amendment

I finally have come to what I think is a correct understanding of the 2nd Amendment. Here, after listening to Dan Carlin, who motivated me to read some of the history, is how I see it.

The framers, and specifically here James Madison (who wrote the 2nd Amendment), left very little political philosophy for us to work with. In the context of the times, there was great fear of a centrally-controlled standing army, which could do the bidding of a government bent on dominance. Thus, the framers and others had reason to want to leave the principle defense of the country to decentralized (read "State") militias. It is probable that the states did not have the means to arm their militias, and in fact should a militia be needed, the call should simply result in the gathering of prepared, armed men. For that reason, Madison saw the need to protect both "well-regulated militia" and the right, in fact an individual right, to bear arms.

Not all of the framers openly agreed on the individual right, but not in the sense that there were arguments against it. Rather, there were no arguments on way or another. Perhaps this was a product of the times, it was just assumed that in order to allow the states to arm, their citizens had to be individually armed.

You can say with good authority that the conditions that led to the inclusion of the 2nd Amendment no longer exist, that it is an anachronism. But for the first century and a half of the existence of the US, there was no argument about an individual's right to bear arms. In fact, it was the organized crime spree of the 1920s, the development of progressively more potent firearms, and the evolution and maturization of US society and its global role during the 2nd half of the 20th century that led to the growth of the gun control movement.

So, even though I agree at heart with the gun control movement, it seems to me that the 2nd Amendment, though confusingly written, is actually quite clear in its defense of an individual right to bear arms. I believe that a Constitutional Convention could clear up this confusion, perhaps by means of a modification such as that of It reads:

Section 1. The second article of amendment to the Constitution of the United States is hereby repealed.
Section 2. The right of the people to keep arms reasonable for hunting, sport, collecting, and personal defense shall not be infringed.
Section 3. Restrictions of arms must be found to be reasonable under Section 2 by a two-thirds vote of Congress in two consecutive sessions of Congress before they can be forwarded to the President for approval.

I believe it is necessary (and possible) to convince non-radical NRA (and having read from the NRA website's discussion on the 2nd Amendment, I can see that they may be intractable) pro-gun ownership people that the 2nd Amendment is truly an anachronism and requires revision. In that way, a Constitutional Convention can produce a fair and forward-looking revision, one that clarifies reasonable restrictions, state licensing issues, and yet maintains the core of gun-ownership culture in the US.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Sustainable Energy — without the hot air

Read this free on-line book. You will learn more about energy and climate change in a clearly and simply written booklet. David MacKay simplifies the issue, yet gives hard data to support his arguments. It is what IPCC and other climate change organizations should be doing

Sustainable Energy — without the hot air
David JC MacKay

stupid Arecibo

Two decades ago a rum plant closed in Arecibo, Puerto Rico. This plant was on prime ocean-front property west of downtown, an ideal location for sensible beach-front development, promoting tourism, environmental protection, and desperately-needed recreational opportunities for those of us who live here.

In fact, there have long been plans to build tourism infrastructure in Arecibo, some of which has moved forward. The Camuy Caverns and Arecibo Observatory greatly improved their visitor facilities and experience in the last decade, and the city renovated the old lighthouse and built a theme park around it. There are some new and other improved hotels nearby. Slow progress is apparent. Then, the best opportunity of all appears, as the city finally removes the remnants of the rum factory and its intoxicated grounds. What are we getting on that beautiful beach front? A Home Depot and CVS Pharmacy.

This can only be described as lunacy, and quite evidently corrupt lunacy at that. If history teaches us anything, this lunacy will move ahead with little or no resistance. How can we take this sitting down. While we give away our prime real estate to major multinationals with no interest in the local community, we will destroy local hardware stores, and the local pharmacies, which were already on the margin, will likely be finished off by this incursion.


Wednesday, November 5, 2008

President-elect Barack Obama!!!

I am thrilled, almost euphoric!

America has made the right electoral choice, and has demonstrated that it is time to finally look forward. Retrograde policies have had their chance, and they have been shown wanting before all of our eyes. That 47% of the electorate does not see this is troubling, but it is now incumbant on those of us who see a progressive way forward to demonstrate that we are on the right side of destiny. As the results of "marriage" amendments in the various states show, there is still a long way to go. Nevertheless, we should not concern ourselves to turn those injustices just yet. We have first to demonstrate that our ideas are superior and will lead the USA towards a brighter future.

There are so many issues on which Obama's ideas are superior, it would require a dissertation to describe them all. To focus on those where McCain was simply bankrupt, you can look at healthcare, foreign policy, the economy and economic crisis, and tax policy.

Our way to the future will involve universal and affordable healthcare. We would probably have gotten there after McCain completely destroyed any semblance of a just and workable system, but Obama can take us there without such a crisis. Hopefully, that will happen.

Our foreign policy must be willing to take risks by showing apparent weakness. Belligerent policies lead to conflict, as Bush II's policies have shown. Just today (11/5/08), Russia is acting to counter the missile shield the US is installing in eastern Europe by deploying new missiles. In fact, the US missile shield will not protect us, and it will hurt us. I know that Obama is pro-BMD, but I also believe that he will talk to and respect our adversaries as much as our friends. Those dialogs will lead to increased mutual understanding and reduce the need for costly and likely impotent defenses. There are many challenges, and it will take a long time to resolve them---much longer thanks to 8 years of belligerence---but Obama can take us in the right direction. McCain would lead us further down the path to another global war.

On the economy, remarkably McCain still does not recognize the bankruptcy of deregulation. Not only does he want to destroy the healthcare system with such policy, but he would continue such governance of the economy. Self-regulation has led us to an economic crisis that is unprecedented, except by the 1929 crash. In 1929 (and later in 1932 when FDR took the presidency), the US was running budget surpluses, so government intervention was more realistic and affordable, albeit in a deeper (to this point) crisis. But the fix is not in re-regulation; that will only maintain the economy once it returns to strength. Re-invigorating the US and world economy will require confidence amongst the holders of world capital. To that end, Obama has a little of Ronald Reagan in him. Reagan, in spite of his espousing of ultimately failed and dangerous policies, engendered confidence in the people. Obama will have to do the same, and it seems to me he has the makeup to do so. Success in this area will require a steady hand and consistent policy, neither of which have been demonstrated by McCain over the course of the campaign, while Obama has appeared much better.

Tax policy is a difficult area where I hope that Obama will break through. We have been through 28 years of class warfare when it comes to taxation, and now it is not only possible, but likely, that your millionaire boss pays a smaller percentage of his income in taxes than you do from your "pay as you go" middle-class salary. This is grossly unfair, regressive, and economically unsustainable. We have created an aristocracy in our country, something that our founders rebelled against. McCain supports tax policies that would not only perpetuate this situation, but make it far worse. Change, recovery, will not be painless, but the holders of wealth in our country are more capable of supporting such pain, and they should be willing, even enthusiastically, to accept such pain. They will pay higher taxes, but in the long run, it will be best for them, just as it will be for the rest of us. Paying taxis IS PATRIOTIC! Borrowing from China is not.

My final thought is on the choice of running mate. I am still in denial that a coherent, rational person would consider someone of such thin qualifications for such a crucial post. However, even should Palin not have been so shallow in her preparations, her political and personal beliefs are precisely those that have brought us to the edge of a second great depression. Her choice was a disaster for the McCain campaign, and it could have been a disaster for the whole nation. It was her choice that convinced me that the John McCain of 2008 was not the competent and rational man who ran in 2000.

Republicans have consistently shown a desire to rule. They have tried to mandate from narrow majorities, and as a result, they have divided the country with false "facts" and, frankly, incompetent ideas and governance. On the other hand, Democratic presidents have shown that their goal is to govern. Governing means taking a broader view of issues and the world, and as a result, forming consensus for good ideas. Remember, our government is "of the people, by the people, and for the people".

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

"drill baby drill"

Listening to Thomas Friedman describe that surreal scene at the GOP convention, Giuliani leading a cheer: "Drill! Baby Drill!" These people are truly the friends of the major oil producers, including Saudi Arabia, Venezuela and Russia (Canada too, but we'll keep that one to the side). By drilling for oil we are taking a short-term (a few weeks exuberance) price benefit for a long term huge penalty, as fuel prices go through the roof because our demand goes up. STOP!

Not only is it time to get off of fossil fuels, but it is time for an Apollo + Manhattan Project for energy independence and clean energy. And Obama has to put his strength behind it. He is being softly supportive, but this is an issue that can win him the election.

Monday, September 8, 2008

women and the presidential campaign

I want to say something about the two prominent women in the conventions.
First, Sarah Palin.
I will confess that I do find her frightening. Not only did she excite the GOP to actually (possibly) vote for McCain, but she seems to have charmed the press into quiet googly-eyed submission. Having read something of her policies and beliefs, she is truly scary. She makes W seem centrist (though far from leftist). She is on the extreme kook wing of the GOP. Her denial of science, laid out in my previous post, makes her unqualified to begin with. Her cow-towing to the oil industry is very concerning: do we have another Cheney coming? And her radical stance on hunting reminds me of the John Birch society and worse.

I am not what many would consider "typical liberal" on hunting. In fact, I am a supporter. In the years I lived in Colorado I discovered that hunters were probably the most powerful allies environmentalists could have. But then, I never met a hunter with views like Palin. Most of them agreed that healthy predator populations were important to maintain healthy prey populations, and that hunters and predators (wolves mostly) were interested in different members of a herd. (Hunters: big & healthy; Wolves: weak, sickly, old).

Second, Hillary Clinton
I was pleased that Obama did not choose Sen. Clinton as his running mate. I liked them both as candidates, though I did not consider either of them the best candidate for the Dems, but that is for another post. Clinton would not be a good second fiddle to Obama. First of all, she is not a second fiddle. Second, a VP generally has very limited authority or influence. Only if the president is weak and frightened (like W) can the VP have an important role. Clinton is a powerful senator who can truly have policy impact in the Senate, if she cannot be president. The country will be better off with her in the Senate, and should Obama fail to defeat McCain or be an effective president, Clinton will be waiting in the wings for 2012. That said, I hope Bill Richardson is still in the picture come next election. Although I like Joe Biden, I think Richardson would have been the best VP choice.