Is It Really About the Children?

I was having a discussion with a Facebook friend the other day about gun control. And after we cut through all the talking points about “reasonable restrictions,” “uniform background checks,” “weapons of war,” etc., he pulled out that old, tired saw about how we need to take “assault weapons” away from law abiding citizens for the “good of the children.”
Now those of you who read this blog know that I hate fuzzy language, mostly because it leads to fuzzy thought. I also hate buzzword thinking that engages emotions instead of rational thought. That’s why so many of the phrases above are in parentheses. They are emotional, meaningless phrases used to manipulate instead of illuminate.
Anyway, when we got past all of that, I asked him a question. I asked, “If I could guarantee that no child in America would ever die from gun violence anymore, but the cost would be no more bill of rights, would you be in favor of it?” I made clear what I meant: revoke the first ten amendments to the Constitution; no more freedom of speech, no more protection against police searches, the whole nine yards. Would he pay that price to ensure the safety of the children?
To nobody’s surprise, he refused to answer. He equivocated, he deflected, he tried to rationalize the question away, but he refused to answer it. Which, of course, was an answer. He did not want to say that the rights guaranteed us by the Bill of Rights were more important than the lives of some number of children. But it was clear that that’s what he believed.
Except, of course, for one right. The right to keep and bear arms. That particular right he was happy to do away with. But that position carries with it the implicit notion that any of those rights can be defeased by a significant majority of citizens.
We see the same problem, and the same approach by the left in this country, with the issue of free speech. Take a look at what happens when a right-wing speaker is scheduled to appear on campus. The left becomes unhinged, stages protests, commits violence, all the while decrying “hate speech.” Of course, what they are really decrying is any speech they don’t agree with or want to hear.
The attack used to be subtle, but no longer. There is a war on, a war for the hearts of people. No one wants to be thought of as heartless and callous, and the debate so often polarizes around that. Criticize David Hogg and be pilloried as a vicious child hater. Support the right of Richard Spencer to speak at a university and be called a racist.
It is time that we stop feeling about res publica, and start thinking about them. I don’t care how you feel about issues; that’s between you and your friends, minister, psychiatrist, whoever. Tell me what you think, and we can have a rational discourse.

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Abolish the Senate Entirely

A bicameral legislature makes sense in only one situation, and that is one where the legislative body is responsible to two differing constituencies. For example, in England you have the House of Lords and the House of Commons. In contrast, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has a unicameral legislature, since there are only the people as the constituency of the commonwealth. Our federal congress is bicameral, consisting of both a senate and a house. This was done because originally there were two distinct groups represented.
First were the States. Each state had two votes in the senate, regardless of population. This was done to assure the smaller states that their concerns would not be swallowed up by the larger states. Since our federal system was based on sovereign and independent states banding together in a federal system, this made sense to our founders. As representatives of the state, senators were elected by the legislature of each state, to represent the interests of that state as a state, and not merely a collection of people in a particular location.
Then there was the House of Representatives. Elected directly by the people, based on the population of each state, they were responsible to the people. This was to offset the equal votes in the Senate, and give the people a direct effect on the legislature.
But ever since the Civil War, federalism as the operating principle of our government has been supplanted by nationalism. It has become increasingly irrelevant of which state one is a citizen, and more and more, the idea of “statehood” itself has become irrelevant.
Which is why I propose that we do away with the Senate entirely.
It is a drain on our economy. A cursory look at appropriation bills suggests that the total included for the House and joint operations, excluding Senate-only items, is $3.8 billion. This is $132 million above the fiscal year 2018 level. Note that this doesn’t include the cost of the Senate. The Senate is notoriously vague about the costs involved in maintaining themselves. It is unlikely that it will be less than the House, though.
It is a needless duplication of effort. Since the House is directly elected by the people, why do we need a second body that is also directly elected by the people? There is only one body being represented in the legislature, and that is the people. Therefore, a bicameral legislature is pointless and redundant.
As the second body directly elected, given their six year terms, they are remarkably less responsive to the will of the people than the representatives.
They are an impediment to the efficient functioning of the government. Requiring two bodies to agree on any piece of legislation is a recipe for bottlenecks.
The 17th amendment, which required direct election of senators, has caused a shift in the relations between states and the federal government. In on study, there was a “statistically significant difference” in the number of cases holding state legislation unconstitutional before and after the passage of the Seventeenth Amendment, with the number of holdings of unconstitutionality increasing sixfold.
One author suggests that the Seventeenth Amendment also led to the rise of special interest groups; with citizens replacing state legislators as the Senate’s electorate, with citizens being less able to monitor the actions of their Senators, the Senate became more susceptible to pressure from interest groups. These groups could more efficiently operate on a national, as opposed to a federal level.
It’s time to just do away with the Senate. Why do we need a body so expensive and unresponsive? Time for a change. Eliminate the senate.

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Who Are the Bad Guys

I was watching (or re-watching, really) a fine western, The Professionals. Great cast, decent plot, fun action. But what made me think this time, was a quote by Burt Lancaster’s character. He says, in reply to a fellow professional, “Maybe there’s just one big revolution. The good guys against the bad guys. The question is, who are the good guys.” Which is a question we all should be asking ourselves regularly. So here’s my cheat-sheet for answering that question.
If the person or group wishes to ban books, they are the bad guys. For example, the California State Assembly is set to vote on a bill that could — among other things — ban the sale of books expressing orthodox Christian beliefs about sexual morality. Assembly Bill 2943 would make it an “unlawful business practice” to engage in “a transaction intended to result or that results in the sale or lease of goods or services to any consumer” that advertise, offer to engage in, or do engage in “sexual orientation change efforts with an individual.” So any book that promulgates a theology of homosexuality as disordered, and its practice to be avoided, could be banned. Sorry, book banners are bad guys.
If the person or group wants to abolish the Second Amendment, as do a third of all Democrats, they are the bad guys. (More than a third of the Democratic party would do away with the Second Amendment, a survey by The Economist and YouGov revealed.)
If the person or group wants to do away with free speech, they are the bad guys. More than half of today’s students say that it’s important to be part of a campus community where they are not exposed to intolerant or offensive ideas, according to a survey by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. The results were even more pronounced for those who aren’t white: More than three-quarters of black students and more than two-thirds of Latino students agreed with that idea. Yes, stop free speech so we’re not offended. What about defeating bad ideas with better ideas?
If the person or group hates or marginalizes others because of their religion, they are the bad guys. See, for example, the New Yorker Magazine’s twitter in response to Chick-fil-A’s opening in NYC:
“Chick-fil-A’s arrival in New York City feels like an infiltration, in no small part because of its pervasive Christian traditionalism.” That was followed immediately by Democrat Bill Deblasio proposing a boycott.
If the person or group believes that the government should finance the killing of babies, they are the bad guys. Like the 528 million Planned Parenthood receives from the US government. Which, by the way, is over one-third of their budget. Pay extra attention if those people that think it’s a good idea to help fund infanticide with taxpayer money later bitch about corporate cronyism at tax time.
I understand the frustration many feel about figuring out right from wrong. I understand the greater frustration of knowing the difference and being unable to stop society’s slide into the abyss. But it’s not hard. Right and wrong are easy to figure out, although it may be hard to follow the right path at times.
The simple take-away here is, if anyone wishes to take away our freedom, you can tell they’re the bad guys. Totalitarianism is never the answer, just ask the Jews in Europe, the Vietnamese, or the Venezuelans. Resist tyranny, or as Patrick Henry might have said, sic semper tyrannus.

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Some Serious Talk on the Second Amendment

(I know this is a little long, but bear with me, I think it’s important. Many thanks to Professor Eugene Volokh, UCLA for his always engaging blogs. He made, unaware to him, many contributions to this post.)

In the increasing entrenchment of both sides of the current gun control debate, a little knowledge goes a long way. So I thought it incumbent upon those with some knowledge to try and clarify some of the issues, and provide some historical perspective. The Second Amendment is fairly clear, when viewed in the light of what the drafters of the Constitution meant.
“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”
In grammar, this would be broken down as follows:
“A well regulated Militia,” is a nominative absolute. It is modified by:
“being necessary to the security of a free State,” which is a participle phrase.
“the right of the people” is the subject of the sentence, followed by:
“to keep and bear arms” which is an infinitive phrase modifying “right.”
“shall not be infringed.” Which is the verb phrase that makes the whole thing a sentence. “Not” being, of course, an adverb that modifies “be infringed.”
Now, as we remember from our grade school lessons, a nominative absolute consists of a substantive (a noun or noun substitute) and a participle and has no grammatical connection with the rest of the sentence. It is the same as the Latin ablative, which the drafters were all familiar with. In other words, the part about “well regulated etc.” is hortatory, not prescriptive.
Put into modern colloquial English, it would read thus, more or less: “Because a functioning militia is necessary for the country’s safety, the people’s right to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”

What is a militia? The Dick Act of 1903 breaks it out into the organized, and the unorganized militias. The unorganized militias, according to the federal government, are every male between 17 and 45 who can bear arms. The organized militia is what is now known as the National Guard. And this leads us into the competing theories of what the right to keep and bear arms is about.

Professor Volokh explains thee four competing theories like this:

First, there is the States’ Right Theory. This theory posits that the Second Amendment guarantees the rights of the states to maintain their own militias, and prohibits the federal government from disarming the state militias. Under this theory, the right “belongs” to the states, in the sense that violating the right is an injury to the state, and that only a state can sue to vindicate this right.

Second, there is the National Guard Members’ Right Theory. This theory holds that the Second Amendment guarantees the rights of those people who belong to a state-established National Guard-type body, and prohibits the federal government from disarming these people to the extent that they are acting in their capacities as members of these bodies. Under this theory, the right belongs to individual citizens, but only those whom the state makes members of this body, and only to the extent that the state requires them to use arms within this body.

Then there is the Individual Right Aimed at Deterrence of Government Oppression Theory. This theory says that the Second Amendment guarantees the rights of pretty much all people (perhaps excluding felons, minors, and maybe noncitizens), and prevents the federal government from disarming them. The purpose of this right is to deter government oppression, on the theory that the government is less likely to oppress people who have the power to fight back. The right belongs to each person.

Then there is the fourth theory, the Individual Self-Defense Right Theory, that the Second Amendment guarantees the rights of all people, and prevents the federal government from disarming them. The purpose of this right is to enable people to defend themselves against criminals. The right belongs to each person.

There are other theories, of course. The most popular, at least in volume, is the “OMG, they’re so scary that only the government should have them.” theory, followed closely by the “the drafters of the Constitution only knew about muskets, so that’s all you should have” theory.

The real question is what did the Founders mean by the amendment? Let’s look at the history they knew, and being educated, knew well.

The Federalist No. 46 (James Madison):
“Let a regular army, fully equal to the resources of the country, be formed; and let it be entirely at the devotion of the federal government; still it would not be going too far to say, that the State governments, with the people on their side, would be able to repel the danger. The highest number to which, according to the best computation, a standing army can be carried in any country, does not exceed one hundredth part of the whole number of souls; or one twenty-fifth part of the number able to bear arms. This proportion would not yield, in the United States, an army of more than twenty-five or thirty thousand men.
To these would be opposed a militia amounting to near half a million of citizens with arms in their hands, officered by men chosen from among themselves, fighting for their common liberties, and united and conducted by governments possessing their affections and confidence. It may well be doubted, whether a militia thus circumstanced could ever be conquered by such a proportion of regular troops. Those who are best acquainted with the last successful resistance of this country against the British arms, will be most inclined to deny the possibility of it.
Besides the advantage of being armed, which the Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation… “

The Federalist No. 29, (Alexander Hamilton):
“Little more can reasonably be aimed at, with respect to the people at large, than to have them properly armed and equipped; and in order to see that this be not neglected, it will be necessary to assemble them once or twice in the course of a year.
“[I]f circumstances should at any time oblige the government to form an army of any magnitude that army can never be formidable to the liberties of the people while there is a large body of citizens, little, if at all, inferior to them in discipline and the use of arms, who stand ready to defend their own rights and those of their fellow-citizens. This appears to me the only substitute that can be devised for a standing army, and the best possible security against it, if it should exist.”

Tucker St. George taught law at the University of William and Mary, and was a Virginia state judge. This is his view, from a book he wrote in 1803:
“A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep, and bear arms, shall not be infringed.
“The right of self defence is the first law of nature: in most governments it has been the study of rulers to confine this right within the narrowest limits possible. Wherever standing armies are kept up, and the right of the people to keep and bear arms, is under any colour or pretext whatsoever, prohibited, liberty, if not already annihilated, is on the brink of destruction. “

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story wrote Familiar Exposition of the Constitution of the United States (1840), a popularization and abridgement of his Commentaries on the Constitution.

“The next amendment is, “A well-regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” One of the ordinary modes, by which tyrants accomplish their purposes without resistance, is, by disarming the people, and making it an offence to keep arms, and by substituting a regular army in the stead of a resort to the militia. The friends of a free government cannot be too watchful, to overcome the dangerous tendency of the public mind to sacrifice, for the sake of mere private convenience, this powerful check upon the designs of ambitious men.
“The right of the citizens to keep and bear arms has justly been considered, as the palladium of the liberties of a republic; since it offers a strong moral check against the usurpation and arbitrary power of rulers; and will generally, even if these are successful in the first instance, enable the people to resist and triumph over them.”

Michigan Supreme Court Justice Thomas Cooley was the leading constitutional commentator of the late 1800s; he wrote A Treatise on Constitutional Limitations (1868). He wrote:

“Among the other defences to personal liberty should be mentioned the right of the people to keep and bear arms. A standing army is peculiarly obnoxious in any free government…The alternative to a standing army is “a well-regulated militia,” but this cannot exist unless the people are trained to bearing arms.
“The Second Amendment, like most other provisions in the Constitution, has a history. It was adopted with some modification and enlargement from the English Bill of Rights of 1688. The right declared was meant to be a strong moral check against the usurpation and arbitrary power of rulers, and as a necessary and efficient means of regaining rights when temporarily overturned by usurpation.
“The Right is General. — It may be supposed from the phraseology of this provision that the right to keep and bear arms was only guaranteed to the militia; but this would be an interpretation not warranted by the intent. The meaning of the provision undoubtedly is, that the people, from whom the militia must be taken, shall have the right to keep and bear arms, and they need no permission or regulation of law for the purpose.
“What Arms may be kept. — The arms intended by the Constitution are such as are suitable for the general defence of the community against invasion or oppression.”

And finally, let’s look at the State Constitutions around the time of the ratification of the Constitution:

Connecticut: Every citizen has a right to bear arms in defense of himself and the state (1818)
Kentucky: [T]he right of the citizens to bear arms in defense of themselves and the State shall not be questioned (1792)
Massachusetts: The people have a right to keep and to bear arms for the common defence (1780)
North Carolina: [T]he people have a right to bear arms, for the defence of the State; and, as standing armies, in time of peace, are dangerous to liberty, they ought not to be kept up; and that the military should be kept under strict subordination to, and governed by, the civil power (1776)
Pennsylvania: The right of the citizens to bear arms in defence of themselves and the State shall not be questioned (1790)
Rhode Island: The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed (1842)
Tennessee: [T]he freemen of this State have a right to keep and bear arms for their common defence (1796)
Vermont: [T]he people have a right to bear arms for the defence of themselves and the State — and as standing armies in time of peace are dangerous to liberty, they ought not to be kept up; and that the military should be kept under strict subordination to and governed by the civil power (1777)

It all seems pretty clear to me.

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School Personnel Work for Us

There’s a video making the rounds in which a high school history teacher and Democratic city councilman in California made stupid remarks about those who enlist in the military, those who serve in the military, veterans, and the general military leadership. Now that’s nothing new. Nor is it new that he made his rant in the classroom, in front of students. Nor is it really new that he used a lot of vulgarities. In fact, there’s nothing really new in this story at all; democrats saying stupid things could be a reality show.
Here’s a sample of the councilman’s remarks:
“We’ve got a bunch of dumbs***s over there,” “Think about the people who you know who are over there — your freakin’ stupid uncle Louis or whatever, they’re dumbs***s. They’re not, like, high-level thinkers, they’re not academic people, they’re not intellectual people, they’re the freakin’ lowest of our low
“So, if you join the military, it’s ’cause you have no other options. Because you didn’t take care of business academically or your parents didn’t love you enough to push you, and then you didn’t love yourself enough to push yourself. …
So what’s new, right?
What intrigued me about the story, however, was the response to the story by El Rancho Unified School District Superintendent Karling Aguilera-Fort who said, “We cannot expose the disciplinary measures because it is a personnel matter, but there will be disciplinary measures taken.”
Why do we tolerate the idea that the personnel actions taken both by and against our employees are private? They work for us and we pay their salaries. More than anyone else, since we trust these people with our children, we need to know, and have a right to know the personnel history of any school employee.
Karling Aguilera-Fort is employed by the taxpayers. The school board that hired her is elected by the taxpayers. The teacher is paid by the taxpayers. The school board’s lawyer is paid by the taxpayers. The school’s electric bill is paid by the taxpayers. Ad infinitum; you get my drift. How dare our employee tells us what we can and cannot know about those who act in loco parentis.
As parents, it is our right and duty to raise our children as we see fit. Knowing who and what our teachers are is an essential part of whether we trust schools and school administrations to caretake our children on a daily basis.
It’s not as if the school board has national security implication, for God’s sake. And, by the way, this vulgarian councilman and teacher has run afoul of civilized behavior before. He has used racial epithets, and struck students. I think it’s clear that the parents of the school district, at least, have a vested interest in knowing what happens to this mope. And not just the locals, either. My tax dollars find their way into every public school in the nation. I have an interest in knowing what my employees do.
It’s time to reverse this trend of the government telling us we can’t know things. We elect and hire these barely-functional hirelings.

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On Climate Change

I think people are asking the wrong questions on climate change. And then, when they don’t get the answer they want, they devolve into ad hominems and insults.
The questions that should be asked are:
How fast is the climate changing? We all know climate changes. Charles Dickens lived through a little ice age. According to some scientists, we’re heading for a new Maunder minimum that might usher in another. Other scientists predict warming, yet others predict cataclysmic disruptive events. Climate changes. That’s not really the question, though.
The question that the climate doom-and-gloomers really want to ask is “Do you believe in anthropogenic global warming?” This is an entirely different question from the first, and I’m not convinced that we know, to a scientific certainty, the answer.
But suppose we agree, arguendo, that the answer to the above questions are it’s changing fast, and yes, it’s manmade. By itself, those answers tell us nothing. Nothing, that is, except that attitude of the questioner. Because the people that ask those questions aren’t looking for answers. They’re looking to judge your level of social justice awareness, while at the same time signaling their own virtue. The really serious questions come after those two.
Suppose, as I said, that we agree that climate change is happening, and we’re causing it. By itself, that’s a big nothing. We’ve been changing the climate ever since we discovered fire and started liberating all that sequestered carbon dioxide. The question is, has our changing of the climate, and pari passu, the physical environment in which we live, made things better or worse for mankind as a whole? I think any rational person would agree that mankind’s altering the environment has been a good thing. Bridges, canals, wells, penicillin, sanitation and medicine all alter the natural world for better. We haven’t always been perfect, and in some cases we’ve been downright horrible, but overall that changes have been good. I doubt anyone would trade their standard of living today for that of someone in the 6th century A.D.
Suppose that AGW (anthropogenic global warming) results in an increase in the available arable land worldwide, thereby alleviating world hunger issues? Would you agree or disagree that eliminating starvation is good? There may be other benefits that I am, as yet, unaware of. I am sure that the potential benefits are being explored; it would be unscientific and short-sighted not to.
Finally, the last question that goes unanswered is what can we seriously do about it, if, in fact, AGW is real? The Paris Accord that has the lunatics all kerfluffled promised to reduce the global average temperature one-tenth of one degree by the end of the century. At an astronomical cost to be paid for by the least polluting countries on earth. Under the Paris Accord, China has no obligation to reduce carbon emissions until 20 years from now. That would put the U.S. at an enormous disadvantage economically and militarily. How far shall we reduce our standard of living to allow China and India, Niger and Cameroon, to do as they please?
Until we can answer all these questions, to a scientific certainty, I think Trump did the right thing. The Paris Accord is less about the environment and more about taking from the have to give to the have-nots.
And finally, apropos of nothing I’ve written above, bring back DDT for God’s sake. There are children dying of malaria that could be saved by its use. And, by the way, Kathy Griffin is a whiny little idiot.

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The Coming Storm

I had a small chat with a friend of mine today, and it touched on the subject of what appeared to be an ever-increasing amount of violence in America. Specifically, in this conversation, the recent shooting in Fresno and the one in the Midwest that was broadcast live on Facebook. Our chat got me thinking.
The two acts of violence are not outliers or statistical anomalies. They are part and parcel of a process that has been going on for some time, but has recently devolved into publicly tolerated, if not accepted, political violence. In the Fresno shooting, we have the terrorist proclaiming his hate for white people and shouting “allahu ahkbar.” The press, specifically AP, whitewashed this by saying the terrorist shouted “’God is great’ in Arabic.”
The apparently motive-less shooting of an elderly black man by a younger black man demonstrates this lack of public opprobrium when the police spokesman says that he wishes we could have taken the killer alive, so we could get him help.
And while this was going on, out in Berkeley the “antifa” activists were inciting violence in their cause to prevent fascism. If one speaks out publicly against their position, they use violence to shut that speech down. The irony is lost upon them, although that is to be expected, given the state of public education.
At the same time, we have a public college professor advocating the assassination of the president of the US.
This is just in our little corner of the world. Europe fares no better. Wave after wave of “refugees” are swarming into Europe, demanding to be taken care of on the taxpayers dime, while refusing to assimilate and creating crime waves of epic proportions.
In the middle-east, it is a perilous proposition to be a Christian or even a secularist. The savages are destroying centuries of culture; art, history, civilization are all falling beneath the onslaught of their savagery. The US not only approves of these atrocities, we actively cooperate with the barbarians. We have a stated goal in Syria of removing the only leader who protected the civilized people.
It’s been exported to Africa. Boko Haram, al Shabab, and Al-Qaeda in the Maghreb and the Sahel, among others, have made Africa a bigger hell hole than even Winnie Mandela could have imagined.
The far east doesn’t escape. China, Thailand, and Burma have all had their problems with islamic terrorism and insurgency.
All of this points in one direction. There is an active, violent, and relentless attack on, for lack of a better term, western Christendom and democracy. The forces of savagery and barbarism are engaged in a struggle to bring about the destruction of the west. The antifa people are upfront about admitting it, as are the young socialists who wish to do away with capitalism and private property. The islamic movement is not only upfront about it, but they advertise their disdain for us every time they televise another of their savage killings.
The last great civilization, that of the Greeks and Romans, were destroyed by barbarians from without. As civic virtue and the desire to preserve their culture waned, the barbarians grew ever-more powerful, until it was too late. Now Athens and Rome are just notes in history books.
It seems we might be on the same path. Civic virtue is declining. It is becoming ever more difficult to suggest that there are virtues worth inculcating, and vice worth decrying. It is no longer possible to assert the superiority of one’s own culture without being branded a racist, or a sexist, or a homophobe, or whatever current slur passes for argument nowadays.
If we, as a nation, and a people, don’t decide that our culture, western Christendom, is worth defending, we may end up like Rome: merely a footnote, if there are any books left unburnt.

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