Monday, October 8, 2018

Kavanaugh and SCOTUS

I am frustrated by the fact that the entire discussion of Kavanaugh’s ascent to the Supreme Court has been badly off track. In the shadows of his ascent we have headlines like “Sex offender sent to the Supreme Court.” No, “Lier, Bully, bad Drunk, and Politician sent to Supreme Court” is what we should be saying.

I have no argument with the MeToo Movement as such and I believe it was correct that Ford’s accusations were brought forward. I believe the other women should also have been heard and I believe that the FBI should have been given complete freedom to investigate all of these matters. The fact that almost none of that happened is the fault of a hugely powerful Republican political machine.

But in the end, when the Senate was finally ready for a vote, what should they have been thinking? In my mind, the most important aspect of Kavanaugh’s series of hearings was his present behavior —- precisely who he is today, how he thinks, and how he behaves. Is Kavanaugh really the kind of person Americans want on the highest court of the land? In this respect, Kavanaugh had already been failing well before the allegations of sexual misconduct came forward. While Republican Senators stroked him, Democratic Senators tried to probe with serious questions. Kavanaugh repeatedly avoided giving direct answers, refused to reveal his beliefs, and hid 90% of his judicial record from examination. When he was forced to testify with respect to Ford’s allegations on that infamous Thursday, he behaved like a monster — angry, resentful, altra-political, and a bully. Clearly, also, he lied numerous times under oath. Now that should have disqualified him from a position on the Supreme Court right there.

I do not believe that sexual misconduct in high school or college, for that matter, should itself disqualify the man (or for that matter a woman). People do grow up and become better people. The sexual issue is disqualifying only if we find it appearing in the present and recent past as well, signaling that growth of character has not occurred. This is the case of Donald Trump, a sexual predator that should never have been allowed into political office. Neither of them should have a high public office, but in the case of Kavanaugh, I believe, it is not for his sexual misconduct.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Two Problems

Problem #1

People of my political persuasion keep saying, "That is not who we are." I agree with that idea but the question remains, "Who are we really?" I am afraid that the "we" is very ambiguous. The "we" has been a progressive movement that has sought to move the country into a state of tolerance for racial justice, sexual freedom, etc. But the "we" as in "who we are" --- the actual USA --- is very different, as we have learned in the last two years. It may be that when Trump boasts about the women he has abused, loves dictators around the world, lies and cheats, and orders immigrant families to be criminalized and separated, that IS who we are --- as a nation, that is.

Problem #2

Many of us keep observing that the German people accepted Hitler's Nazism too easily but begin to see, under Trump, how easy it is. All of that is sad but true. The really important issue, however, is how to get out from under Fascism once it has progressed. I cannot think of a country in recent history that has gotten out from under Fascism once it became a fact. The Spanish tried and failed (even with outside help). In the cases of recent history, it took the rest of the world to come and rescue them. And "rescue them" looks a little optimistic when you look at what happened to the Germans and the Japanese as a consequence. The lesson is that the people under Fascism wind up being blamed for their regimes and pay a big price.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

The Image

I am possessed by an image. It is June 6, 1944 —- 74 years ago —- and a young man is in full battle regalia standing at the very front of an LST landing craft that is bucking waves toward Omaha Beach. He has trained on American soil and sailed across the Atlantic Ocean to England and has nervously set off that morning for a beach in France. The landing craft finally reaches waste-deep water at the beach and the huge front door slams downward. Suddenly the beach is in full view ahead and at that very instant a bullet slams right through the front of his helmet into his brain and he is gone — doesn’t even remember being alive —- snuffed out like a bug. Perhaps 5,000 other young men died on the very same day and on that very same beach. Why?

It was all about Hitler. He just wanted to make Germany great again.

Hitler’s Nazi Party won popular support in 1933 and many Germans remained faithful to him to the very end. They paid a heavy price for that, as did Americans, French, and British men and women. All in all about 60 million people died because Hitler wanted to make Germany great again.

Saturday, June 2, 2018

What Is to be Done?

You have to wonder where all of this will end --- with Trump, that is. He praises tyrants around the world and then he turns on all our traditional allies. He thinks the president of China is a hero because he has somehow placed himself in a lifetime position. Doesn't Trump wish. Apparently he does.

He has been in office for almost a year and a half. Hitler had essentially taken on all power in Germany after about two years. Can Trump manage that? One wonders when you see the arguments that come out of his lawyer team. Basically, he has all power and no one can check it.

The whole thing is an amazing test of our Constitution and, unfortunately, we are discovering that our Constitution may not be up to this challenge.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Published Blog Book

If you have been following my blog off-and-on, it has been published as an Amazon Kindle book --- both paperback and kindle formats. The blogs have been reorganized into groups of relevant material.

https://www.amazon.com/Reflections-American-Dream-Excerpts-Philosophers/dp/1980850836/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1524695233&sr=1-1

Monday, March 26, 2018

The Gun Issue, Part 2

On Saturday, thousands of people (even people outside of the US) marched in support of the movement founded and lead by the young survivors of the Florida school shooting. It is more than sad, actually obscene, that the gun supporters (NRA and others) refuse to engage in dialogue and merely demean the young people and their followers. That is genuine cowardice.

No one that I know or have heard has called for the elimination of hunting guns. I suppose that some people consider an AR 15 to be a hunting weapon, though I think a sign I saw responds to those people —- “If you need an AR 15 to hunt, you should find a better hobby.”

I think there are really two levels of gun issues. The present issue is AR 15s and AK 47s and similar military-style assault weapons. The other issue is hand guns. Without a doubt, hand guns are involved in the majority of annual deaths from gun violence. In that sense it is an even more serious issue. Nevertheless, the present issue stems from the use of assault weapons to attack schools and other large gatherings of people young and old. There is something terribly wrong when parents send their children off to school in the morning and cannot be sure that they will be safe.

If researchers and commentators are correct, the majority of gun owners in our country are willing to have stronger restrictions on the purchase or sale of guns. Even large numbers of police and military personnel believe that assault weapons should not be available to the public. But the bottom line of defense of those who believe in free access to assault weapons seems to be among those who hate and fear government and who believe that their weapons are the one line of defense against government enslaving them. I find this argument entirely unconvincing. First of all, it seems historically true that people lose their freedom and move into tyrannies slowly and by their own doing. Italy, Spain, Germany, China, and Cuba are recent examples. By the time they realize what they have done to themselves it is really too late to clean and load their arsenals. Secondly, modern governments have multiple ways in which they can control and overcome people — cancelling their bank accounts and credit cards, intervening in their employment and housing, invading their homes and throwing them in jail overnight. That fellow with his AR 15 is going to be pretty confused by the time the swat team surrounds his house and breaks through his front door. In short, it seems to me that the only way to protect ourselves from an abusive government is to participate in good government and try to make government work well. We have a well founded Constitution and we will be safe if we follow it. That includes the Second Amendment, by the way. If we really followed it, all the assault weapons would be in the National Guard where they belong.

Currently, there are two big problems in American government. Huge rich organizations like the NRA literally own Congress and the Presidency so those who are assigned the task of governing us are actually acting in the interests of these organizations rather than for the interests of the people. The second problem is that we now have a President who is born to be a tyrant and has no respect for the Constitution and is probably mentally ill.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

The Gun Issue

The Second Amendment states that “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 NRA likes to ignore the part about the “well regulated militia” and focus only on the part that says “shall not be infringed.” What the framers of the Constitution surely had in mind, speaking of the “security of a free state,” was the possible intrusion of British or other foreign forces. As time has passed, the concept of a militia has been replaced by the concept of a National Guard. A militia was a well armed citizenry that was ready to come together in defense of the country. The National Guard is an organization of volunteer citizens who train together and stand ready to act in the interests of the state or nation. And the National Guard can indeed be called into action in situations where the national security seems threatened. People in the Guard are trained and “well regulated” and leave their military style weapons and other equipment in the Guard facility.

The Second Amendment says nothing about keeping and bearing arms for the purpose of hunting, home protection, marksmanship, or merely collecting. But American tradition clearly includes shotguns and rifles for hunting as well as hand guns of various sorts for self defense. Rural Americans have grown up hunting and do so with little formal training. Urbanized Americans hunt for a mixture of reasons and most likely need training. (In California one cannot get a hunting license without passing a hunter’s safety course.) I do not believe there has been any significant movement to take away hunting equipment; although there is certainly a movement that speaks against “trophy hunting” and for good reasons. (I have an article about hunting published on Amazon’s Kindle.)

The issue of hand guns is a rather different matter however. Hand guns can easily be concealed. They can be brought out quickly and they can be deadly at close range. Hand guns are of little use in hunting and their main use is against other human beings. The NRA likes to say that “a good guy with a gun is the one sure way of dealing with a bad guy with a gun.” What this brings to mind is the American Wild West where everyone was toting a gun and there was so much violence that towns ultimately began restricting guns. Hand guns are susceptible to accidental use and are all too available when people are angry or drunk. By far the majority of gun related deaths in this country are involved with hand guns.

Now enter military style assault weapons. Their sole purpose is to kill lots of people very fast. Perhaps that is desirable on a military stage but it has no place in a domestic scene. In spite of the NRA, that good guy with the gun doesn’t really stand a chance against someone with an assault weapon. So the whole thing escalates. That good guy better have an assault weapon too. So we should put these into schools? Enough of them so that there’s a real barrier against assault? First of all, any person in the military or in the police force will tell you that working a hand gun or an assault weapon effectively requires significant training. And actually confronting another person who is armed and dangerous is not just a simple matter of holding a weapon of your own. And actually shooting another person is not easy, nor is the aftermath pleasant.

Virtually none of the rights bestowed on us in our Bill of Rights are unlimited. Speech is free so long as you don’t abuse it by standing up in an airplane and yelling “highjack” or “bomb.” Assembly is free but you better get permits from the city if you plan to do it in public. The press is free but you are not free to defame someone. Only the NRA seems to think that the right to our weapons is unlimited; even most NRA members seem to agree that limitations are justified.

I have a hunting license because I did go through hunter safety training and I am glad that I did. I think that people who want to have hand guns should register them, insure them, and receive training on how to handle and store them. We do as much for driving a car. Personally, I think that assault weapons should remain within the military domain and should not be available to the general public.