Tag Archives: Constitution

The Myth of the “Militia” clause in the 2nd Amendment

Gary Nolan (and THE Scrappy Doo)
Gary Nolan (and THE Scrappy Doo)

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. ~ 2nd Amendment to the US Constitution.

Nothing seems to evoke more passion from either side of the political aisle than the 2nd amendment to the U.S. Constitution. People on the Individual-Right side of the fence often cite the “shall not be infringed” clause, but those who wish to limit or eliminate the individual right to bear arms often cite the “well-regulated militia” clause.

Former ACLU Leader and Mathematics Professor Ira Glasser

The anti-individual-right argument being that the framers meant for Americans to be able to form militias to protect the people or the country, and those militias would need to be armed. This sentiment has been echoed by such noteworthy Civil Rights leaders as former ACLU head and mathematics professor Ira Glasser, which he discussed at length during the March 2nd, 2018 Comedy Cellar podcast. (click to listen)

NYC Comedy Cellar

Side Note: Don’t be fooled that the podcast is from the Comedy Cellar. Owner Noam Dworman is quite fond of discussing politics, and is incredibly thoughtful, fair, and insightful on the subject.

Oddly, the person who got it right (IMO), contradicting Ira Glasser, was Noam’s co-host, comedian Dan Naturman, who often describes himself as left-leaning. Dan does possess a law degree from Fordham University, making him the only person trained in law involved in the discussion.

While Noam Dworman tends to be right-leaning, he understandably felt the need to defer to Glasser’s judgement, since his work with the ACLU would seem to assert Glasser would be the more knowledgeable person in the room—but on this issue, he just wasn’t.

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Comedian Dan Naturman
The argument the anti-individual-right group presents seems pretty sound on the face of it, but there are several flaws with this line of thinking, making it unarguably incorrect.

But let’s break down the flaws of these arguments one by one.

THE CONTRADICTION

The first issue is that it is entirely contradictory with the rest of the Bill of Rights.

The Bill of Rights was drafted, not as a set of laws for the people to heed, but instead, limits set on government as to how government may restrict the people’s individual rights.

The Bill of Rights Institute writes:

The first 10 amendments to the Constitution make up the Bill of Rights. James Madison wrote the amendments, which list specific prohibitions on governmental power, in response to calls from several states for greater constitutional protection for individual liberties.

So if the 2nd Amendment was drafted to allow the establishment of militias, and was not meant as an individual right, it would be inconsistent with the other nine amendments.

Our founding fathers believed you have inalienable rights by virtue of existing, and they cannot be taken from you. They don’t come from government at all—the founders of our country were very clear on that when they wrote the Declaration of Independence.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

The Bill of Rights places limits on what government may do, not establishes the formation of government entities. Those things are laid out in the first portion of the Constitution. But it also is written with the intention that the power comes from the people, not government.

The 1st Amendment
The 1st Amendment

For instance, our first amendment states “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion…” versus something like “You are free to practice any religion of your choosing.”

This pattern is consistent throughout the Bill Of Rights, and while most see both those phrases as essentially the same, there’s an incredibly important distinction. As the Bill of Rights are written, the people have the power and are imposing a limit on the government’s ability to limit their religious freedom. In the second theoretical example, it implies government has the power and is granting religious rights to the people.

So now that we understand the Bill of Rights (it’s in the name, for Pete’s sake) establishes rights of the people, not of government, and thus contradicts the idea that the 2nd amendment was meant to help local militias to form, let’s move on to issue #2.

THE MEANING OF THE WORD MILITIA

The meaning behind the word “militia” in the second amendment.

If we assume the term “militia” refers to local military and police, which are government entities after all; the people arguing the 2nd amendment was set up to allow local governments to establish militias comprised of the people believe our forefathers wrote an amendment that says that government cannot infringe on government’s rights to bear arms. This is not only inconsistent to the rest of the Bill of Rights, which guarantee individual rights, but its redundancy is nonsensical. If government cannot infringe on government’s rights to carry guns, then there would be no reason to even mention it in the first place.

The militia clause does refer to government, but not just local governments, it means any government. It wasn’t a right of the militia, it was a limit on it. This will make more sense as we move on to the next issues.No_gun[1]

THE MEANING OF THE WORD REGULATED

The third important issue people get wrong with this, is believing “well-regulated” is synonymous with “well-organized.”

Merriam Webster defines “Regulate” as:

A: to govern or direct according to rule

Bto bring under the control of law or constituted authority

If the people arguing it was meant to set up militias we’re correct, “well-organized” would have been a more proper wording. But instead, the only logical interpretation was that they meant for the militia (the armed wing of government) to be controlled or regulated. They believed the way you do this, is to prohibit government from disarming the public as the British tried to do before the revolutionary war broke out—arguably the prime motivation for the 2nd amendment in the first place.

WHAT IS BEING PROTECTED?

The last issue with the anti-individual-right argument is what it argues is being protected. The incorrect argument is that it’s protecting a country (state) which is free. But the reality is it is protecting freedom itself, ensuring the state remain free. You’d have to deny nearly all of America’s founding history to believe that freedom wasn’t at the core of everything the founding fathers did. Freedom was always more important in their minds. Far more important than the state.

ANOTHER WAY TO WRITE IT

With all that in mind, let me reword the amendment in the way it was intended using language that is maybe more understandable in today’s vernacular.

In order for the people of the United States to remain free, the militia shall be kept under control by the people of the United States who have the right to keep and bear arms.

This is precisely how the amendment was intended, and the only interpretation of it which cannot be easily challenged.

Click here for several quotes by the founding father’s to bear out this claim. It was painfully obvious that they wanted government to fear the people, as many of them specifically wrote.

They knew government will always be prone to becoming bloated and oppressive. And while a government can pass a million laws, those laws have no teeth if there is no militia to enforce them. So in order to keep that government, specifically its enforcement wing (the militia) well-regulated, the people should be armed as well. This way, the government (and militia) always have some level of fear from the people. It’s the only reason to use the word “regulated” that makes sense.

The United States Supreme Court in 2008 with District of Columbia v. Heller held it is an individual right saying the following:

The Second Amendment protects an individual right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia, and to use that arm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home. (click for entire transcript)

This opinion, being current precedent, effectively settles the argument for now.

IS THIS IDEA OF THE GOVERNMENT FEARING THE PEOPLE EVEN REALISTIC NOW?

Since the United States Military is infinitely more powerful than its armed citizens, many argue the point becomes moot, since we “the people” couldn’t possibly fight them. Which in a narrow scope might seem accurate, but again, if you apply a little skepticism, it isn’t.

While it’s true, the U.S. military’s might is overwhelming—it’s arguably more powerful than nearly all the rest of the world’s military’s combined.

But, they’re still given orders by an elected government. When the military kills the citizens, it usually isn’t well-received by the people who voted for them, threatening their re-electability.

It’s also important to remember ours is a voluntary military comprised of the people, and thus aren’t likely to murder their brothers and sisters for no good cause.

But we actually have evidence it can work.  Nevada Rancher Cliven Bundy, and a large group of supporters showed up armed to the teeth to fight the federal government over a land dispute. No shots were fired, perhaps in remembrance of the Waco Texas incident, and the federal government did back down. Those armed citizens, in this modern era with our massive military prowess, did precisely what the 2nd amendment was designed to enable, they fought the law, and the law didn’t win.

So why do gun control advocates believe this is what the 2nd amendment implies? It’s likely a simple case of confirmation bias—a phenomenon whereby someone attempting to prove something they hope to be true/false, eschew interpretations that conflict with their bias and/or accept suspect data that supports their bias, due to an inner desire to substantiate their argument.

We are all prone to do this, and with the exception of devout skeptics like myself, we’ll rarely even know we’re doing it, nor act to correct it.

Some may have come to these beliefs due to their own life experience. For instance, former US representative Gabby Giffords who was brutally shot in 2011 by a crazed killer on an unhinged political shooting spree, or former Reagan White House Press Secretary James Brady who was shot in a failed presidential assassination attempt.

Their lives were forever changed because of gun violence, so it’s quite reasonable to assume they would advocate limiting our right to bear arms. And when people have been forever affected by senseless gun violence, it behooves all of us to respect their trepidation in respect to lax gun laws. We haven’t walked a mile in their shoes.

James Brady & The Reagan Assassination Attempt

But apologies to those who wish to limit our rights to bear arms, and believe the “militia” clause supports your argument. If you want to argue against gun rights, using the “militia” argument, it just isn’t consistent with the rest of the Constitution, and you’re unfortunately misinterpreting the clause.

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How To Improve Relations Between Police and Citizens

Unless you avoid the news at all costs, you’re fully aware of the shootings by police, killing two black citizens, Alton Sterling and Philano Castile, both under highly questionable circumstances.

Alton Sterling (Left), and Philando Castile (right)
Alton Sterling (Left), and Philando Castile (right)

Then Army reservist/Afghan war veteran Micah Xavier Johnson, so enraged by such shootings, murdered several police officers in Dallas in retaliation.

There can be no doubt, that tensions between the governed and the government are at levels that are bordering the animosity that triggered us to war for independence against Great Britain 240 years ago. But how did we get here, and how do we get out?

Facts versus Headlines

It’s fair to say that the media push narratives that get ratings. But while according to the FBI in 2014, most black and white people are killed by people of their own race—89% for the black community, and 82% for the white, they often push a narrative that a young black man is more likely to be killed by a white cop.

There were a total of 444 police shootings deemed justifiable homicide, by police in 2014. Pointing out those deemed justifiable homicide is important to the story, because the concern is that police aren’t prosecuted for such shootings. So for police not to be prosecuted, it means the shooting was deemed justifiable.

The FBI didn’t break them down by race, but even if they were all white cops shooting black victims, which they certainly aren’t, that’s still four times less than the 2,205 black-on-black murders in the same year, or the 2,488 white-on-white murders.fbi-logo-404553[1]

Let’s be clear about that statistic, though. It has little to do with living in violent communities, a narrative that is often asserted. The first clue is that white-on-white murders are very similar.

It actually has to do with people being four times as likely to be killed by someone they simply knew.

See this table from the FBI, also in 2014, which shows that 43% of the time people were killed by an acquaintance or family, compared to 11.5% by strangers. The rest are unknown, but since the dataset is somewhat large, we should reasonably assume that nearly 4:1 ratio would be true for the unknowns as well.

The Attitude Adjustment

We need to change the way we interact with each other.

The police were hired to protect our rights. If one pulls you over or otherwise interacts with you, remember that this person is potentially willing to die for you—treat them accordingly. A little compassion for police who do such a dangerous job would go a long way to improve the exchange you have with that officer.

Credit: inhauscreative Vetta Getty Images
Credit: inhauscreative Vetta Getty Images

But as always, it takes two to tango.

Police are trained to fear the worst and prepare for it in each interaction they have with the public. The most innocent traffic stop could be their last.

But preparing for the worst doesn’t excuse assuming the worst, nor treating them as if they’re the worst. If police want people to respect them, they must first show citizens the same respect they expect from them. If an officer didn’t specifically witness a citizen harming someone, they are innocent until proven guilty—it’s an officer’s duty to act accordingly.

Blame Legislators Versus The Police Where Appropriate

Whether you’re a Republican or a Democrat (libertarians already generally know this), when you try to socially engineer society by passing victimless crimes, you cause police to have to enforce those crimes—requiring more police.

This puts both police and citizens in harm’s way; increasing the odds of violent interactions between the two parties.SundayAlcohol[1]

Drugs, prostitution, blue laws, and other such victimless legislation which protect no one—yet risk many, are a huge part of the problem.

If you support passing a law, then you must be comfortable with the notion of putting a gun to the offender’s head and killing them yourself if they violate it. If you’re uncomfortable with this thought, then it’s pure hypocrisy to put police in the situation where they may have to do so in your name.

For instance, if your neighbor were smoking marijuana, would you walk next door, put a gun to their head and tell them to stop or you’ll kill them? Of course not. But if that same neighbor were raping a child, I suspect you’d feel quite differently. This is bad legislation versus good in a nutshell.

If we want to reduce senseless violence, we must first elect someone looking to undo all the senseless laws we’ve passed which trigger senseless violence. Then be sure they don’t pass new ones going forward.

Respect the Constitutiongun-and-the-constitution[1]

I’m in a state where concealed carry requires a permit. So this means I open carry when walking my dog at night, because I haven’t taken the course and applied for that license. I carry in case I get accosted by a miscreant. In so doing, I often worry I might get accosted by the police.

The current scenario is that if a busy-body citizen calls police to report me walking down the street carrying a gun, the police must investigate. They do this because we’ve allowed a litigious culture where police can be held liable for not investigating.

What should happen however is that the police should respond to the caller with, “Carrying a gun is every American’s right. Does he/she appear to be committing a crime? If not, there’s nothing for us to investigate.”

This may seem wrong at first, but the police would do this if you reported someone just driving a car down the street. Driving a car and carrying a gun are both perfectly legal actions that have an intrinsic danger if done so irresponsibly or maliciously. So while at first it may seem like a horrid analogy, they are almost exactly the same.

The reason it feels wrong is simple conditioning by anti-gun people who deem gun carriers as a threat, despite the fact everyone is a threat in some way, and gun carriers aren’t any more likely to harm someone. Most are responsible citizens exercising their 2nd amendment rights just as all of us exercise our 1st.

We then need to pass serious tort reform to preventing civil action against police who don’t investigate someone carrying a gun, on the off chance that person actually harms someone.

Better Community Outreach via Police Training

This proposal is a bit novel and controversial, and I admit it may have unintended consequences. But I like blue skies thinking, so I’ll propose it anyway just to get some creative juices flowing.

Much like we have food stamps to help the needy eat, I think police could use confiscated weapons that are normally destroyed, and start a program with impoverished citizens in bad neighborhoods to protect themselves by donating these weapons and giving classes on how to use them properly.

Of course those citizens would be screened properly for criminal backgrounds like they would for a gun purchase. And yes, it is possible one of those guns may be used in a crime later. But it’s also highly possible that those guns may save many lives of people too poor to buy one themselves, yet absolutely may need one as a result of living in a high crime area.oc_zps62e1c21e[1]

If every good citizen were armed, and prepared to defend themselves against a would-be criminal, we’d have a lot less would-be criminals.

Criminal prey on the weak, but it’s hard to call anyone packing heat, weak. Guns are the greatest equalizer mankind has every invented, turning a feeble grandmother into a Chuck Norris level threat.

Police Need To Eschew The Brotherhood Mentality

Being a Corvette owner, we tend to recognize each other—so much so, that nearly all of us wave at another Corvette owner driving past. Motorcyclists do this too. If you were from Boston, visiting California, and overhear the person next to you say he just “Pahked the Cah,” you’ll almost certainly strike up a conversation with him.

This is because people are hard-wired to bond with those they share commonalities with—it strengthens societal bonds. The easiest way to do this, is to bond over a unique common interest or trait. I say “unique,” because if you were both in Boston, you’d pay the same person no attention whatsoever.

Police know that their work is dangerous, so they form strong bonds among one another so they can be confident they’d have the other’s back, even if they don’t personally know each other—it’s a very natural phenomenon.

But they should be taught that this is a natural emotion, and that they should avoid following it blindly. Much like the placebo effect, while it’s natural, it can do far more harm than good if all skepticism is eschewed.

Violent Crime Rate comparison between general population UCR data and law enforcement population NPMSRP data. Click image for the full article
Violent Crime Rate comparison between general population UCR data and law enforcement population NPMSRP data.
Click image for the full article

This data shows that police are just as likely to commit criminal acts as the general public.

At first, you might think this seems odd, but the police are regular people, not superheroes.

We often hear stories of good Samaritans doing wonderful things. So being a good person isn’t unique to police, nor is being a criminal unique to the general public either.

The reason I say they need to eschew the brotherhood mentality is that police often defend other police who have clearly done unconscionable things.

While at first, a police officer might think defending their “brothers” is the honorable thing to do, but it’s absolutely not in their best interests.

When an officer commits a crime, they violate their sworn oath to uphold the law of the land, dishonoring their noble profession. But it also creates animosity with the public who feel as though police can operate above the law without repercussion.

This hatred and distrust often leads enraged citizens to act violently towards the police, because they feel it the only way justice will be served—putting good cops needlessly at risk, as evidenced by the aforementioned Micah Johnson.

Instead, if an officer is arrested or put on probation for a potential felonious act, police should distance themselves from that person entirely, and make it clear that if the person is found guilty, that person is no “brother” of mine.

They should also be quick to report any criminal acts among their ranks, and clean their own house unmercifully. They will never get the trust and respect of disenfranchised citizens otherwise.

And let’s be honest, if you are a police officer, are you really OK with one of your own committing a murder or unprovoked assault?

Drew Peterson should serve as a shining example of the harm that can come from this blind loyalty. His fellow officers failed to properly address allegations of abuse against Drew when his then wife Stacy Peterson reported him a multitude of times for serious domestic abuse.

Stacy Peterson
Stacy Peterson

It is almost certain that had his fellow officers taken Stacy’s complaints seriously, and treated Drew like any other violently abusive husband—investigating Drew in earnest, Stacy could very well be alive today, with Drew safely in jail where he belonged.

By all means, police should have each other’s backs, but never at the expense of what is right. A criminal is a criminal, whether they wear a badge or a wife-beater, they should be treated with the same prosecutorial mindset.

I could write an entirely separate post on the tactics police unions use to protect police in ways that harm the general public, and destroy the public’s trust in them. They should merely assign the accused a lawyer, and refrain from professing the person’s innocence or any other public statements until that officer is cleared of any wrongdoing.

But once convicted, their sentences should be as harsh as what would be applied to the general public (in my opinion harsher, since they swore to uphold those laws). The slap on the wrist sentence for an offense that would land us regular citizens in jail is surely one of the largest factors in eroding the relationship between the governed and the government.

Why Do We Only Complain About 2/3 Of Government

We libertarian-minded people often complain that presidents are ruining our nation or that congress are passing unconstitutional laws infringing on our rights. But oddly, you rarely hear complaints about the Supreme Court.

They work just as much as congress does, and with Obama’s golf game in high gear, it seems like they likely work more than him. So why is it that people complain ad nauseam about congress  and the president, yet give SCOTUS a pass?

Golfer-In-Chief: President Obama
Golfer-In-Chief: President Obama

We all know about National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius, where Chief Justice John Roberts famously provided the majority decision to treat the Affordable Care Act’s penalty as a tax, therefore accepting the legislation as constitutional, despite the fact that Sebelius’ side specifically argued it was to be a penalty and not a tax.

The administrations reason for calling it a penalty was largely political so that Obama would not be deemed as a willing participant in raising taxes on all Americans, including the poor.

So why would SCOTUS rule in such a way as to effectively rewrite law?

Supreme Court of the United States Chief Justice John Roberts
Supreme Court of the United States Chief Justice John Roberts

Sadly they shouldn’t have—the Constitution is quite clear. I accept that the idea of questioning SCOTUS from my layman’s Constitutional perspective seems mighty ambitious, but the Constitution enumerates quite clearly that the Supreme Court’s duty is to adjudicate laws on the basis of their constitutionality, in so doing, setting precedent for lower courts to follow.

Writing law is strictly the job of Congress, and therefore Roberts and the majority. were out of line. They should have just rejected it as it was, and let congress rewrite and repass it in a more Constitution-friendly form.

A million other op-ed writers have elaborated on this case well enough that I feel any opinion I would write would be redundant, so I am instead going to focus on the idea that much of our ire at government in general should be directed at SCOTUS.

First things first, let’s look at their oaths of office. (Yes, there are two.)

The Constitutional Oath

“I, _________, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter.  So help me God.”

The Judicial Oath

“I, _________, do solemnly swear or affirm that I will administer justice without respect to persons, and do equal right to the poor and to the rich, and that I will faithfully and impartially discharge and perform all the duties incumbent upon me as _________, according to the best of my abilities and understanding, agreeably to the constitution and laws of the United States.  So help me God.”

If we break this down, it is clear that their personal opinions shall be suppressed, and rulings should be given solely based on what is contained in the Constitution and U.S. law.

Chief Justice Roberts Being Sworn In
Chief Justice Roberts Being Sworn In

There are two potential views on this. There are absolutists who feel the Constitution must be adjudicated as written. That rulings should be based solely on the verbiage of the Constitution, not what SCOTUS justices believed the legislature meant when writing it.

Others believe that the Constitution is a living document where justices are free to rule with the Constitution as their guide, but have license to issue judgments based on what they feel the framers of our Constitution may have meant. But this interpretation essentially allows for SCOTUS justices to rule however they want, so long as they can fabricate some story, no matter how ridiculous it may seem, to align their opinion with the framers’ intentions.

But clearly this makes the Constitution virtually irrelevant if we think this way, as it essentially means that SCOTUS is only limited by individual justice’s imaginations.

For example, in McGowan v Maryland, Sunday closing laws (blue laws, as they’re known) were challenged as a violation of the 1st amendment; the argument being that they were clearly a law establishing religion.alcohol1[1]

However, the courts ruled that the law was secular in nature and these communities were simply enforcing a day of rest. They ignored that the chosen day was Sunday, which aligns with Christian dogma, and contradicts Jewish dogma, infringing on the Jewish people’s own rights to work on Sunday.

If the justices had been absolutists, the law would have unquestionably been struck down with its clear religious underpinnings. But those who held this decision instead opted to find a way to allow it, despite the Constitution’s concise forbidding of laws establishing religion, because at the time, Christian opposition to overturning such longs would have been quite great. All people want to be loved, including Supreme Court justices I guess, their oath-of-office be damned.

Since the Constitution doesn’t address absolutism versus interpretationism specifically, sadly SCOTUS justices may take either tact at any time.

I find this notion troubling as it seems clear to me that the Constitution’s framers did not intend for this by virtue of the way the Supreme Court is set up.

The 1st Amendment
The 1st Amendment

Firstly, the Justices are appointed, not elected. Then once appointed, they are never reelected or reappointed; they’re a Supreme Court Justice until they retire, do something criminal, or death does them part.

The purpose of this is to ensure that they never make a decision based on popular opinion, nor make a decision based on what the legislature or the president who may have appointed them might want.

If Justice Sotomayor for instance, were to rule against Obama in every constitutional challenge he were to be involved in, despite the fact he appointed her, there is no recourse he has. Once she’s confirmed, her decision shall not affect her job status whatsoever. It’s the only true way that she makes her decisions, no matter how unpopular that decision may be, with sole regard to the constitutionality of it—assuming they adhere to their oaths.

This is the very point of the Constitution in general. Many forget we are not a democracy, but a republic. We have our Constitution, and thus SCOTUS, to protect the rights of the minority from the majority. By definition, there is no point in SCOTUS’ nor the Constitution’s existence, if government is simply to side with popular opinion.

The Supreme Court Of The United States
The Supreme Court Of The United States

So the very act of considering congress’ or the people’s opinions when ruling on the constitutionality of something is a violation of the Constitution’s core principles. So in National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius, it was not the majority opinion’s right to essentially work with congress and the people to find away to allow an unconstitutional law.

While this was a landmark case, the fact is, this reasoning should apply to a majority of laws in the United States. The Tenth Amendment alone should be grounds for striking much of federal legislation. It states as follows:

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.

This essentially states that unless the law in question is of a subject matter that the Constitution defines as a federal issue, or forbids the states from legislating on, the law must be a state issue, or a matter between the people.

NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration), the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), and the DOE (Department of Education) are all effectively precluded via the Tenth Amendment. Where does the Constitution mention traffic, the environment, or education? (Hint: It doesn’t).

So while we lambaste congress and the president for violating our rights, let’s not forget that SCOTUS has the ability, and more importantly, the duty under the Constitution, to be the last line of defense of our rights—something they don’t seem to take too seriously these days. If anyone should know better, it’s them. Their forbidding of cameras in the courtroom, and rare amount of interviews given have kept them out of the limelight, likely by design. But I say let’s make sure we’re pissed at them too.

All that is necessary for evil to succeed is for good men to do nothing

Gary Nolan (and THE Scrappy Doo)
Gary Nolan (and THE Scrappy Doo)

 

All that is necessary for evil to succeed is for good men to do nothing. ~ Edmund Burke (Disputed)

There has been much heated debate about the subject of Stand Your Ground Legislation. Proponents argue that when faced with a dangerous situation, a person’s fight-or-flight response should default to flight by law.
keep-calm-and-stand-your-ground-5[1]

Imagine a scenario where a middle-aged person of average health like myself gets confronted by a would be attacker who is much younger, fitter, stronger, and faster. I’m expected to make an attempt to flee in states where Duty-To-Retreat is the legislation du-jour instead of Stand-Your-Ground.

What happens in this scenario? Ultimately I run—hopefully to some place safe. But this creates a very unsafe situation for me instead of my attacker, because now I’m on defense and I have to hope I can run fast enough to get away. I also have to hope my attacker doesn’t have a gun, because I wouldn’t know once I started running; I have my back to them—a position that makes me as vulnerable as a person can be. Plus, like most people, I can’t outrun a bullet, if they’re armed.

In this situation, the victim is ultimately expected to put themselves in a more dangerous position because of the actions of a would-be attacker, but also they’re often expected to abandon their property as well. But why does the attacker get the benefit of having the upper hand or having their rights protected while mine are diminished?

Victim Drawing On An Attacker
Victim Drawing On An Attacker

With Stand-Your-Ground, I simply draw my gun, keep my eyes on my would-be attacker, and ultimately either they flee, or they get shot due to a scenario they created. I could flee if I thought it was the best way to protect myself, but I shouldn’t have the threat of 20-to-life hanging over me if I opt not to.

The problem has often been that politicians hear news stories about young attackers getting shot and killed and court voters as the compassionate one who feels it’s a tragedy a child is dead. While I agree it is sad on the face of it, I feel this is disgusting to act as if a young felon’s life is somehow more important than the life of the innocent victims they decided to attack.

Let’s dispel some scientific nonsense first. Nothing magical happens at 18 years of age. There’s no radical change that takes place in the human body. Making 18 the age of adulthood was something Americans decided via legislators, and it has little do with science. It is generally just that we know humans stop growing around that age, not their mental capacity to understand the weight of their actions; that varies from person to person.

To act as if a 16-year-old for instance, who is putting someone’s life or property at risk with malicious intent is somehow  innocent or unaware of what they are doing, or doesn’t understand the heinousness of the act, requires a monumental amount of ignorance.

To act as if the victim should understand the person is under 18 is equally nonsensical. Attackers usually don’t show you an I.D. first.

I don’t want anyone to die needlessly, but whatever bad outcome happens to a violent felon caught in the act, up to and including death, is justice in my eyes. Whether they are 14, 18, or 40 is irrelevant. They voluntarily chose to create this situation, and they’ll potentially pay the price for it. If so, they will serve as a warning to others not to choose a psychopath’s lifestyle.

However, an often not discussed issue I want to delve into is the psyche of the victim. While I don’t profess to live in the middle of gangland, I have had the unfortunate honor of being attacked, robbed, and had a gun put in my face at different times in my life.

While it’s easy for politicians to pass laws that a rational person would adhere to, until you’ve been victimized, it’s impossible to understand the natural and sometimes uncontrollable rage that will fill every victim who is put into that situation.

In each instance, if I had been carrying a firearm, I would have emptied it into my attacker and then probably pulled the trigger at least a dozen more times to make sure there weren’t any bullets left that my gun just somehow missed.

Now maybe you’re thinking I’m a violent guy, but I’ve genuinely never instigated a physical altercation, so the evidence indicates otherwise. These three instances are the only ones I’ve been involved in since 5th grade, and all of them were unprovoked on my part.

It is a fool’s mission to expect a reasonable person to behave reasonably when they are thrust into a situation that puts them in mortal danger. It’s hard to predict what a situation like that will do to someone, but assuming they’re not an emotionless sociopath or a trained soldier mentally equipped for such an act, it will affect them in a way they’ve never been affected before, and a controlled outcome should not be expected.

Putting innocent victims in jail because they overreacted to a violent attack is one of America’s biggest atrocities it commits on its own denizen.US Constitution

Not only do I believe that the Constitution should be amended to include Stand-Your-Ground, I also believe that the law should clearly state two things:

  1. Attackers have no rights during the commission of, or while fleeing from a felony. Nor shall they or their family have any legal right to civil damages incurred by their counter-attacker later.
  2. If the victim, or an innocent bystander harms the attacker in any way during the commission or fleeing of a felony, the person acting against the attacker should be immunized from all criminal prosecution.

(In both instances, I emphasize during the act—I do not condone hunting them down later in an act of vigilantism)

I understand that people may think my idea is radical and heartless, but you shall not convince me I’m on the moral low ground.

While I do value life, I only value the lives of people who respect the rights of others. If you opt to attack, rape, murder, or rob another person, I feel your early and untimely death will be to the benefit of humanity.

It not only protects society from your future bad acts, but if sociopathy is genetic, which some in the psychiatric profession suspect it is, the genes of a sociopath are removed from the gene pool as well. From a purely logical standpoint, my argument makes the most sense to advance society as a whole.

So what about the Edmund Burke quote? My plan would hopefully encourage the good men from the anecdote to do something instead of nothing. If a victim is killed because a good person who could have helped opted to do nothing out of a fear of prosecution for intervening, then evil will have triumphed, and the right to life isn’t nearly as Constitutionally protected as it should be.

 

The United States Constitution: Beauty in Ambiguity; Logic in Simplicity

Gary Nolan (and THE Scrappy Doo)
Gary Nolan (and THE Scrappy Doo)

Amendment I

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

As you read the U.S. Constitution, one thing becomes quite obvious. It is concise, all-encompassing, and there is ambiguity throughout. This is often surprising when you consider it was written by government. Unlike The Affordable Care Act which spans thousands of pages, the Constitution, which was intended to serve as the entire framework of the role of the federal government, comes in at a svelte six.

Looking at the First Amendment above, it simply says the right to free speech shall US Constitutionnot be infringed. What it doesn’t say, is that the right to complain about government shall not be infringed or something of that nature. They could have tried to list all of the speech they wanted to protect, but they understood the beauty of ambiguity.

If they had specified anti-government speech as a protected right, then the right to call your boss names could have been in question. One could argue, “the Constitution specifically mentions ‘anti-government’ speech, but it doesn’t mention ‘one person insulting another’ speech, therefore we must conclude that they didn’t want to unilaterally protect that speech.” They would have a legal leg to stand on by doing so.

But by simply saying “the right to free speech shall not be infringed,” they make it clear that no matter what type of speech you think of bestowing on the ears of another; it’s protected. The content is infinitely irrelevant.

Yet lawmakers of today seem to be incapable of such elegant legislation. When 2012 Presidential contender Herman Cain tried to introduce this concept, he was sadly ridiculed for it.

Herman Cain
Herman Cain

The left, like comedian John Stewart, mocked him as if to insinuate Herman was incapable of understanding complicated legislation.

Herman Cain has a bachelor’s degree in mathematics, a masters in computer science, and a trail of business success a mile long. He was almost certainly in possession of a greater intellect than Jon Stewart, or any of the other disrespectful people who tried to make an ignorant joke against his proposal. These jokes were insulting with no basis in reality, but Stewart’s leftist base ate it up.

Herman understood that laws do not have to be thousands of pages long. The smartest man in any room, Albert Einstein, is quoted as saying, “Make everything as simple as possible, but not simpler.”

So why does it happen? Complex legislation is the result of two things.

Many in Washington who have a background in law and are used to writing contracts where every imaginable scenario is envisioned and accounted for to protect their clients. As such, they write laws the same way.

But also, with legislation a mile long, it allows pork barrel spending, to be stealthily added so as to hopefully go unnoticed by the masses.

While Herman was certainly intelligent enough to understand complex legislation, he knew that if the power resides with the people as our Constitution explicitly states, that the people should be able to read, understand, and then advise their elected leaders on how they desire them to proceed. Yet, I’d wager that 99.99% of our populous didn’t read a single page of The Affordable Care Act for instance.

Such simple legislation makes it nearly impossible to corrupt good legislation with the myriad of special legislative favors that are commonplace in Washington now.

Imagine you picked any random person off of the street, let them read the Constitution, and then ask them to explain it. I would bet that most would be able to easily do so. Ask them to do the same with the Affordable Care Act however, and aside from the fact that you’d have to come back a month later in order to give them time to read it, I’m comfortable most would not retain or grasp half of what’s in it.The Federal Register

The Federal Register was enacted in 1936 to be one big list of all the laws the federal government has passed without repeal. It was a sprite 2,620 pages at inception, but as of 2012, it has ballooned more than thirty times over, to a whopping 78,961 pages and counting.

What does this mean to you? Any number of things.

  • It is highly possible on any given day, YOU have committed a federal crime and you wouldn’t have a clue.
  • YOU have to pay law enforcement to investigate and enforce every law enacted.
  • If you own a business, YOU have to pay a lawyer to research every law for compliance.
  • YOU have to pay for judges and prosecutors to carry out enforcement of these laws.

With nearly 79,000 pages of legislation, can you fairly argue America is still a free country? Our federal government seems to have hoarders’ disease, amassing an amazing collection of legislation, 90% of which likely violate the Tenth Amendment alone, which clearly states that if a subject is not specifically outlined in the Constitution, that subject should be pushed to the states or the people. Where is healthcare mentioned in the Constitution, for instance?

So how do we fix this?

There’s an old adage that says, “Vote the bums out!” It really is that simple. There are libertarian politicians in the Libertarian Party and the Republican Party just itching to take over government, then do their damnedest to reduce it down to its Constitutional core and give you your rights back. They’re the polar opposite of tyrants.

It is important we elect a more concise government that doesn’t spend us into oblivion or do special favors for their districts and friends.

We must demand they appoint Supreme Court with justices that respect the Constitution (including the Tenth Amendment) regardless of their own political beliefs.

And we must require they pass laws that are simple and ambiguous, thus allowing judges and juries to be more able to make decisions on the spirit of the law instead of the verbiage of it as a result.

As long as there is government, we are never ultimately free. But much like science pursues all knowledge with the knowledge it can never truly know everything, what’s wrong with wanting government who will strive to work themselves out of a job, knowing they will always exist in some form?

Business People In Office: A Good Thing?

Gary Nolan (and THE Scrappy Doo)
Gary Nolan (and THE Scrappy Doo)

I’m going to try an interesting op-ed approach; debating with myself. While this may seem silly, this is how logical thinking and skepticism usually works. I list the pros and cons in order to come to a logical conclusion and attempt to refute my own theories to see if they hold up. The latter part, a version of falsification, being the most important.

Normally I do this before I write something, then write my opinion once I’ve come to a conclusion. But on this one, I just cannot commit to a particular opinion. So instead, I’ll lay out my arguments, and at the end, just leave it open for further discussion. I would love to hear your own opinions and why.


GCaseAs a young man, I had been initially enamored with the idea of Ross Perot as president (as evidenced by my trusty old guitar case). I don’t even remember any of his actual positions, I was just beginning my politically literate phase in life. But what I did know is that this man, having borrowed $1,000 in 1962 to start a company called EDS (I believe his wife had to sign because he had bad credit, no less), later sold that company to General Motors for an astounding $2.5 billion in 1984. By all accounts, a pretty good investment and an amazing American success story.

I say initially interested, because as you may know, his campaign soured in the end with claims of death threats and such that seemed to indicate Ross might be either succumbing to senility, or was honestly just a kook.

The part that interested me about Ross though, was the generic idea of a businessman in office. Whether it be as a president or legislator, I felt that the people running our government should have business acumen so that they actually knew how to manage employees and solve problems—something successful business owners do in the marketplace every day.

But is this really logical?

H. Ross Perot
H. Ross Perot

Let’s first ask if we’ve had any successful businessmen as president. Herbert Hoover stands out as the only truly successful businessman who went on to become president, and in the scientific community, when trying to establish a pattern, only one data point isn’t exactly helpful. We’ve likely had numerous successful businessmen as legislators, but it’s nearly impossible to judge a single legislator’s success when everything they do is by committee. So for now, we’ll stick to theoretical arguments as we can’t really use history.

I believe that one of the problems of government is that it is inefficient. In the business world, this is the path to insolvency, but in government, it is quite common and somewhat by design.

Inefficiencies in the government work place are indeed problematic though, and having a leader that not only inspires people to be better, but holds them accountable when they’re not, should improve productivity and reduce waste. This is my initial case for a businessman as president.

But when it comes to a president who works with legislators, they’re not supposed to be efficient at making change. The point of our Constitution and resultant system of government is one that is intended to be insusceptible to changing on a whim. A constitutional republic protects the minority from the majority, whereas a pure democracy could change in a heartbeat due to panicked legislators making knee-jerk reactions or merely those wishing to serve at the whim of a charismatic president.

Huyton Internment Camp
Huyton Internment Camp

An easy hypothetical to explain my meaning on this would be to go back to September 11, 2001 and imagine we were a pure democracy. Once we were aware that it was radical religious zealots at the behest of Osama Bin Laden who attacked us, the majority of America could have easily demanded that we deport all Muslim immigrants, instate Muslim internment camps, and/or attempt to close any Muslim mosques. There was a significant amount of anti-Muslim sentiment in those following months; if they were the majority, it would have been a real possibility without our Constitution and the 1st amendment to prevent such actions.

So would a businessman who is used to being able to put their foot down be able to deal with a Constitution, legislative branch, and judicial branch telling them what they may or may not do? I’m not convinced someone used to having “the power” could make the change without becoming jaded and end up giving up. Arnold Schwarzenegger seems to be a perfect example of this.

One of the other problems I perceive is of a fundamental nature. A successful businessman achieves success by growing his business. But in a free country, a successful politician should be one that shrinks government to what is considered to be the bare essentials. Two diametrically opposed philosophies, and ones that may not translate well.

Businesspeople solve problems, politicians fancy themselves as people who solve problems; but, unlike a business person a good politician should recognize when it’s not their problem to solve. That more often than not, they should simply abstain and let free people work it out.

What about combined experience? Clint Eastwood famously ran for mayor of a little town called Carmel, California after being offended by the bureaucracy of zoning laws and other restrictions that he felt were unfair. He understood how government affected him and would go on to make decisions accordingly.

I have conversely read news stories (can’t remember the name) of a legislator leaving office for the private sector only to get frustrated by laws that he had been instrumental in getting passed in the first place; showing regret for all he surely must have done to harm businesses he had intended to help.

Ted Kennedy
Ted Kennedy

In both situations, an opinion on politics was formed due to the effect of government on the private sector. This is something that life long politicians like the late Ted Kennedy likely never understood.

So I do believe that any politician should have some understanding of how laws they might pass will affect those being governed—it’s the difference between theory and reality. I hope there is not a capitalist among us that doesn’t want to vomit every time they hear the words “Compliance-lawyer.” The thought of having to pay someone to make sure you’re legal, in a free country, seems ridiculous. Shouldn’t one know when they’re doing something wrong?

So here is where I throw it to you the reader. Surely there are other pros and cons to be considered, what say you?

Get rich quick! It can’t lose

Gary Nolan (and THE Scrappy Doo)
Gary Nolan (and THE Scrappy Doo)

I have a genius idea and I’m sharing it with you, my loyal readers—and indiscriminate web-surfers who accidentally ended up here while searching for LOLcat memes.

LOL catImagine I have a massive mound of debt, and I’m sick of it. However, I have good credit and am ready to put it to good use. I am going to use that line of credit, borrow every penny I can, and buy up as much stock as I can in companies I believe are the way of the future. I’ll sell that stock for a profit once it gains like I expect it will, and payoff both my old and new debts; maybe even pocket a few bucks along the way.

To be fair, I’m not a professional stock broker or anything, and I really don’t know that much about these industries other than I believe them to be really cool, futuristic, and impressive. Since they’re futuristic companies, I assume they have people much smarter than me solving problems, and therefore, there is little doubt any of them will fail.

I know what you’re thinking; this man is a genius! How can it fail—right?

If you’re still reading, and you’ve never read me before, you’re probably thinking I’m a whack job who bathes in peanut oil while playing GI Joe and pretending he’s fighting off the perfect storm. I’m sorry to say however, that I do not. This genius idea of mine is pure nonsense that no intelligent person should ever endorse it.

But let’s look at what is happening here on our little section of planet Earth commonly referred to as America. We have our hard-earned money forcibly taken from us taxpayers and put into government coffers. When our country was founded, we drafted a constitution that laid out the limitations and responsibilities of our federal government. Those tax dollars were meant to pay for such expenses. In the proper limited government mentality our forefathers intended, that’s all they would pay for, but these days, what was once a mole hill, has become a fairly impressive mountain.

Trillion DollarsIt’s no secret we have a lot of debt. At the time of writing this, we were at 16.5ish trillion dollars. Let’s do some math for fun. A dollar bill is 0.0043 inches thick. Stack 16.5 trillion of them on top of each other and you have a pile 1,119,792 miles high. That’s enough to go to the moon and back twice, then around Earth a couple of times for good measure. I’ve heard Obama and his merry band of Democrats say we don’t have a debt problem, but I suspect he hasn’t done the same math I just did yet. Out of sight, out of mind. So not-so-respectfully, I disagree Mr. President—we have a @#$%& debt problem.

In the president’s infinite wisdom, he’s decided that instead of working on reducing our spending and applying more of our tax dollars to reduce our debt, something any family facing a debt problem would do, he’s decided that he’s going to invest instead. Not only is he going to invest, he’s going to do so having no prior experience or formal training in investments, and he’s investing in things like green energy. For those of you unaware, his schooling is in law. He does not have a degree relating to solar energy, physics, chemistry, biology, or any of the related fields for which these investments are based on.

It’s OK though, because he knows that global warming is settled science. Never mind that the scientific community doesn’t know this. They do know that animal life, including mankind create a lot of CO2, and we have a general idea that as our animal population grows (humans are animals; FYI) it should effect the planet’s ability to radiate the sun’s heat. This effect may be harmful to our ecosystem leading to life-altering consequences.

But we don’t know how our planet will react to it. Plant life thrives in a carbon-rich environment. It’s quite possible that the increase in CO2 from the animal kingdom will merely result in an increase in life from the plant kingdom to counteract it. That’s what an ecosystem does after all; it constantly strives to balance itself out.

There have been several scientific experiments with predicted models that led to surprises instead of confirmed hypotheses. There’s a prime example here. I’m not making the assertion my previous example is true, but suffice it to say that scientists without an agenda all agree we don’t really know exactly how the planet will ultimately react to a growing population.

SolyndraSo if Al Gore turns out to be full of more hot air than facts, these green energy investments will be horrible ones. Putting our eggs in a risky basket is a bad, BAD investment. With failures to a myriad of government boosted companies like Solyndra, clearly the president doesn’t understand the science, smart investing, or that our tax dollars are not his personal E*Trade account in the first place. If he really wants to invest money, I suggest he talk to his friend Warren Buffett and let Berkshire Hathaway lead Uncle Sam down the path of proper investing.

So while my “genius idea” is clearly ridiculous, it is virtually identical to what has been done with our tax dollars for the last 4 years, and our gambling-addict-in-chief is showing no signs of reversing course any time soon.