2nd Amendment, Activism

Repeal and Replace…The 2nd Amendment

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First off, I am not going to make an argument against the 2nd Amendment by analyzing the opinions and ideas of the founders. They lived in another world with another set of realities that do not apply directly to the situation today in a nation of 1/3 of a billion people. We need to divorce ourselves from the idea that we must justify contemporary ideas on civil rights and societal reform by couching it in self-satisfying quotations and references to men who would wet their pants if they saw an AR-15 in action.

In case you missed the context:

Cliven Bundy, a cattle rancher from Nevada who does not recognize the existance of the US Federal government, brought a bunch of armed milita members and “sovereign citizen” activists to support his “right” to pillage & destroy public land for his profit without compensating YOU. Mr. Bundy has been illegally grazing his herd of cattle on public land for 20 years without paying the government, the people, for that privilege. So he is stealing from you, and he is doing it while defying dozens of summonses, court orders, and citations. Mr. Bundy and his friends believe that if you have enough guns and you wish really really hard you do not have to listen to US law. Isn’t that special? The Bureau of Land Management stupidly backed down in order to protect people from the potential gunfire from the insurgents (because that is what they were, not “protesters”…protesters are not armed). The motivations of the BLM may have been admirable, but they have set a dangerous precedent here that if you have the firepower the government will back down and let you continue to be a law unto yourself. Expect incidents like this to continue and get worse. Eventually blood will be spilled and it will not be pretty. The government, at its best, is supposed to preserve and protect the rights of all the citizens, using force if confronted by force, and by backing down they have shown that the law only applies when it is safe to apply it, and that if you act like a big enough bully you can get away with attempted murder and theft. On her public blog Rachel Maddow and her editorial staff have a wonderful and insightful analysis of the situation and I suggest you read it—

( http://www.msnbc.com/rachel-maddow-show/the-bundy-crisis-nevada )

This incident got me thinking about the 2nd Amendment, the legal device used to justify this continuing assault on the safety of US residents and the sanctity of the law itself. With over 300 million firearms in the US (more than most national armies possess) there is hardly a war on firearms ownership in this nation. For context, according to the Geneva Institute of International Studies, the US has 89 firearms per 100 residents, which is 30% more than the next nation on the list, Serbia (which recently went through a violent civil war and genocide) and 90% more than South Korea, a nation with similar levels of economic development and a similar form of government. The US, supposedly the most safe, stable and prosperous democratic nation on the planet, has nearly as many gun deaths per 100,000 as does Mexico, a nation in the midst of a bloody war against armed drug cartels. The US population is armed to the teeth and, as recent activism in favor of open and concealed carry, stand your ground laws (shoot first ask questions later doctrine) and arming everyone from airplane pilots, teachers, and preachers has shown, is eager to use these weapons. The US has 50% 0f the world’s civilian weapons and less than 5% of the world’s population. Again, this is not a nation in danger of losing its essential right to own a deadly weapon of war.

The 2nd Amendment is perhaps the most successful of all the amendments…far too successful in fact. People criticize every other Amendment, rightly or wrongly, and these arguments are largely embraced or at least considered by the general population and our representatives. Every Amendment save for the 2nd. If you dare to bring up any reservations about our most archaic of Amendments you are deemed a traitor, a fool, a weakling or worst of all, a supporter of tyranny. Somehow we as a nation have come to believe that if 100 million + arm chair patriots are not armed the US will turn over night into a Orwellian hellscape complete with death camps for Christians and tattooed social security numbers on foreheads. Talk about a Straw Man argument!

I could go on an on about the logical fallacies underpinning many of the conservative arguments in favor of unlimited gun rights but that has been done better and more thoroughly before. Instead I am going to move on and suggest some common sense ideas to allow US to balance resident’s desire to own firearms and the public’s right to be safe from what is essentially a nation that has become a free fire zone. If you have some suggestions or some revisions to my proposals please feel free to mention them in the comments. I may even debate you!

1. Repeal the 2nd Amendment and replace it with a new one establishing more common sense and humane gun laws and rights. The right o bear arms must not be held on the same level as the right to speech or the right to not be enslaved. Here is a proposal for the wording of such an amendment:

“The 2nd Amendment to the US Constitution is hereby repealed. The right to bear arms, based on tradition, historical precedent, and for reasons of personal safety, shall be respected but shall not be unconditional nor shall it override the right of the people to a safe and secure public space. The people have the right to regulate and restrict firearms and to set standards for ownership and proliferation of arms.”

2. Based upon this new Amendment institute some laws and regulations to protect US citizens from gun violence and proliferation. I propose the following as a start:

Ban the importation of all firearms.

Mandate that only a certain number of firearms are manufactured every year and only at federally owned and regulated factories.

Ban sales of semi-automatic handguns, semi-automatic rifles, and fully automatic rifles

Round up all non approved weaponry using a gun turn in program (with the price every weapon turned in counting as a deduction or credit on Federal and State income taxes)

Faze out all semi-automatic and automatic weapons used by law enforcement and federal agencies

Mandate mandatory penalties of at least 10 years in federal prison for the conviction of the the unlicensed manufacture or selling of prohibited firearms. 5 Years for individuals who repeatedly [more than 3 convictions] violate of federal laws banning ownership or use of prohibited firearms.

Firearms for use in hunting and/or sports will be regulated by state authorities as they see fit.

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These are just a few ideas and I have many more. New Zealand has laws similar to these I have listed and they are hardly a Stalinist dictatorship. Just some food for thought.

UPDATE:

Bundy supporters planned on using unarmed women as human shields so that they would be the first to die after they provoked the Feds to shoot. According to both the hyper-conservative website the Blaze and the left wing site Think Progress Bundy supporter, and former AZ sheriff Richard Mack told Fox News Sunday:

“We were actually strategizing to put all the women up at the front. If they are going to start shooting, it’s going to be women that are going to be televised all across the world getting shot by these rogue federal officers.”

So not only did the supporters of Mr. Bundy all but admit on national tv that they were willing to let unarmed innocents die to make their anti-federal government point they also show that they are using what are terrorist tactics in their attempt to nullify federal, democratic, authority. This is concerning and shows that milita/tea party/2nd amendment types may now be prepared to kill to preserve their perverse sense of entitlement. These people are armed and afraid and see hate as one of their greatest weapons. This is a violent insurgency waiting to happen. The 2nd Amendment may have a long and storied history in the US but to quote Robert H. Jackson talking about another amendment, the 1st, “The Constitution is not a suicide pact”.

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poetry

Live Without Dispair

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I wept for a year too long

Forgetting I had so little time to spare

Now I realize I have no tears left to shed

And that my sorrows are dulled enough to bear

Whoever said time heals all wounds was wrong

A fully mended heart is all too rare

I no longer feel like I am dead

Life can be cruel but in the end it’s often fair

The breeze sings me a soothing song

And ruffles my unkempt hair

And I am not alone in my bed

It seems sadness and I have a few more nights to share

I believe now that I am strong

And for myself once again I care

I’m coming to terms now with the thoughts in my head

I shall soon be able to live without despair

 

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Book, Politics

Libertarianism & Democracy…20 Sold so Far!

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Hello everyone! In honor of my book Libertarianism & Democracy (https://www.createspace.com/4227121) selling 20 copies (self published!) I thought I would announce that I have lowered the price down to $5.50! For the price of a large latte from a certain mermaid company you can get an enlightening and unapologetic examination of libertarianism and how it works to undermine social justice and democratic reform. You’ll also help out an independent writer!

As thanks for all those who have already bought their copy here is an excerpt from my forthcoming book “Terror: How Revolution Begins and Ends”. Enjoy!

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What is terror? The system you live (and die) in is an evil, destructive one, what we may have once have defined as terror, political or socially motivated violence, may now be understood better as the natural expression of creatures who wish to be free from this evil. All terror, all conflict, all action leads to the dissolution of the Capitalist order and its Imperialist system. All these anti-human forces have left to them is reaction against the boiling anger and yearning of the People. Reaction is termintive, a political expression of the scientific tendency of all things to eventually collapse into chaos and disperse back into the mixture of all things. This is a truth understood since at least Democritus that has influenced humanist thought in what is so stupidly, but now all but unavoidably, called the Western World for at least 1000 years. All things tend towards their most natural state unless prevented by another force or happenstance. War is a force that takes societies, cultures, landscapes and most importantly people and grinds them down to a bloody nub approximating the raw and painful animal state that tortured and terrified 99% of our forebears. This, though, is not the natural state of humanity as a political animal, as homo philosophicus. We can only live so long as creatures before we grasp desperately at what surrounds us so that we may craft a less galling existence.

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Uncategorized

The US Constitution in Context: Part II

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The movement was always centered in the upper middle class and aristocracy, bourgeois in its demands and concerns: taxation that infringed upon the capitalist endeavors of the merchant class and their aristocratic investors, and high-handed dictates that insulted the honor and autonomy of classes that saw themselves as rulers by right of a continent that was just then being opened to imperial market exploitation. The Founders, as they are called, did not envision a state run for or by the poor, workers or for the betterment and empowerment of the marginalized and exploited. They wanted to do for themselves with their own systems of power and privilege what the British had done by imperial fiat. With 1 out of every 4 Englishmen now living in the colonies, and the vast amount of market growth and capitalist earning potential also located in the states, there seemed to be nothing but downsides to remaining united with crown.2 The United Kingdom and its imperial prerogative was a middleman the colonial power structure decided it could no longer afford.

The War that followed was led and financed by the aristocracy and the merchant class that so desperately wanted to join that class. With appeals to tropes of imperial brutality, patriotism, promises of land, enterprise and greater local control these privileged elites were able to bring the working and agrarian classes into the movement as fodder for the brutal grinding Continental style of warfare that would come to full horrible flower in the Napoleonic wars and the early engagements of the American Civil War. Erroneous promises of land and free agency, as well as intimidation, economic pressure and manipulation of the strained relations between tribal nations, also brought the indigenous population into the war on both sides. Neither the British nor Americans would hold up their end of the bargain though. The war was won by the American aristocracy over the British Imperial state on the backs of those who had no stake in the coming system of power and privilege and with a generous bit of assistance from the abominably cruel and brutal French Monarchy. The soldiers fought proudly and many organized and protested what they saw as injustices being perpetrated against the colonies by the British. What is lost though is the constant battle being waged by the destitute and the marginalized against the powerful and wealthy in the colonies themselves. With the British gone a new system would have to take their place, and that system would not necessarily be an improvement over the old system. Many fought for a new way of life in the colonies, a “new birth of freedom” if you will, but the war in the end would lead not to this potential but to “the rule of property, free markets, and a gilded elite of landowners, merchants, and bankers.”3

This is the context in which the US Constitution was crafted. But Constitutional Federalism was not a fait accompli; the interests of the various states, and those who held sway in them, were seen to be best served by a looser Confederation that diffused authority and control away from a central governing system familiar to the colonies through their experience of colonial rule from Great Britain. Article 4 of the Confederation charter made clear that this system would benefit the entrenched powers and classes:  “the free inhabitants of each of these States, paupers, vagabonds and fugitives from justice excepted, shall be entitled to all privileges and immunities of free citizens in the several States”.4 Property ownership and economic power became the basis of rights and privileges and set up an insurmountable wall keeping much of the people from true political influence and power. This point of view would be cemented, albeit in a more palatable language, in the Federal Constitution and system that would replace the articles of Confederation.The state sovereignty envisioned by the crafters of the Articles of Confederation would not be sufficient to maintain the sort of control the aristocracy and merchants desired. The lack of taxation powers, a military limited by the opposing interests of the various states, and especially the proliferation of debt held by the states, and of course their wealthy creditors, would be the death knell of this form of union. The debt held by the creditors of the states was an especially powerful lever used against Confederated authority. The various states were responsible for the debts accrued during wartime, but such an arrangement would complicate attempts by Federalists to establish a more powerful central authority that was allied with (and therefore to a certain degree beholden to) wealthy creditors.  A new constitution would allow the government to take on debt of the states, and work directly with the monied powers that controlled the debts of the states, and distribute it onto the working people and farmers of the nation through taxation and penalties.

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history, Politics

The US Constitution in Context: Part I

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“Men seem determined to adhere to old prejudices, and reason wrong, because our ancestors reasoned right.”–Noah Webster

When dealing with the Constitution of the United States and the concomitant Amendments thereof there is an innate and perverse bias to “preserve, protect, and defend”1 the document as it exists now, which is essentially, with small but important exceptions, in its original finished state. This bias should not be mistaken for the facile arguments over whether the document should be seen as “living” or “dead, dead, dead”, in the the words of the ineffably ardent textualist Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. Between the loose constructionist (as the proponents of the living are called) and textualist (as the proponents of the dead are called) schools there is an long lasting, even structurally essential, detente: the notion that the basic precepts of law and ethics outlined in the document should be preserved and built upon. Therefore it is my contention that the Constitution of the United States of America was and is the primary obstacle to the advancement of human rights and dignity in the nation.

This is not altogether surprising when we consider who it is that has had the job of crafting and maintaining the document: slave owners, patriarchal aristocrats, elite academics, capitalist businessmen, wealthy jurists and entrenched political officials. Of course there have been exception to this essentially conservative codere but those exceptions, civil rights activists, socialists, workers rights advocates, independent scholars, feminists and Aboriginal activists, tend to prove the rule. There is a vested interest in keeping the Constitution as it is or at least only allowing it to grow within strict and legalistic parameters that are controlled and set by the same folks who benefit most from the current systems. For the most part insurgencies against entrenched bias and privilege in the document have taken the form of mass protests and targeted legal maneuvores to bring attention to issues of abuse and neglect within the context of the preexisting systems. The most effort has been put towards the further amending of the document as it exists in order to “expand” its reach and “widen” its applicability to include marginalized groups and people. Outside of anarchist, communist, or fascist intellectual circles (circles that are, rightfully or not, considered “fringe” at best and seditious at worst) there has been little or no attempt to analyze the role the Constitution itself, as a system, plays in perpetuating injustice and marginalization. Activists and reforms miss the forest for the trees, and are either too blind or too afraid to take on the Constitution itself.

The United States as it exists today is the antithesis of the nation that existed when the Constitutional framers first worked on its system of laws and government. The nation of today is 100 times larger by population, many times more influential in world affairs, for the most part has an ethos of democratic participation as opposed to republican good order, is internationalist in outlook, diverse in population and, at least when it comes to the vast majority of citizens, populist in matters of economics and governance. The United States as it existed in 1789 was an oligarchial agrarian state with a large population of paupers, indentured servants, itinerant farmers and hunters, enslaved people and displaced indigenous folk ruled over by an immensely rich and powerful entrenched semi-feudal aristocracy and wealthy merchant capitalists. The revolution that overthrew the authorities governing the various colonial nations (and they did indeed see themselves for the most part as disparate and unique nations) was more like a localized coup then an authentic mass revolutionary movement like those in late 18th Century France, mid 19th Century Central Europe and early 20th Century Russia. A system of overseas control was overthrown in favor of a local alternative.

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Uncategorized

Excerpt From Part I of the Dionysian Man

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The following will be available for purchase in a more complete for as Part I of The Dionysian Man, a novel in April 2014: [All Spelling Errors are my own and should be fucking ignored as this is a rough draft preview of an upcoming book. History in the making people. super cereal]

 The Dionysian Man

Part I

December 1913

I.

            It is easy enough to be disheartened and depressed by existence. Often the events that unfold in a normal life are enough to unhinge even the sturdiest of minds from their delicate moorings to sanity. Optimists would have you believe that the things that happen to us and others have a purpose that will reveal itself at the appropriate moment. Pessimists… well, pessimists are nothing more than misanthropic optimists, truth be told. They are optimistic in the face of optimism and they take a certain degree of comfort if not pleasure in this notion. Professor Florian Tull was neither an optimist nor a pessimist in thought nor in deportment. He was equally happy and unhappy with the sundry little disappointments and triumphs that inflicted themselves upon him over the course of his 55 years. Florian Tull enjoyed nothing worth enjoying and was disturbed by nothing that would elicit a measure of disturbance. Herr Tull had grown up seeing the world as a puzzling and beautifully awe inspiring place. He was a rare specimen of man: he was not in a thrall to metaphysical ideas and tenants. Herr Tull was a free spirit in the sense that he was a freethinker: he did not let self-indulgent fear rule his mind or influence his personal morality. That is not to say, however, that he did not have his own petty phobias and foibles.

            Herr Tull was a Professor of Philosophy at one of the premier Universities in all of Germany, a University he proudly called his alma mater. His heart was an arrhythmic muscle devoid of the passion and lust for power and people that often fuels intelligent or unique minds such as his was. His bland and unimaginative seeming personality was ill-suited to the task of cultivating the potential of emerging geniuses and leaders on the surface. He reserved what little passion he had for his exploration of the real nature of philosophical and physical freedom in what he deemed a “world imprisoned by faith and fear”. His one remarkable trait as a thinker and a teacher was the uncanny ability to see the world in the most profoundly achromatic shades of grey. Sadly this talent was often mistaken for a depressive personality, and as a result of this erroneous observation many of Herr Tull’s colleagues and contemporaries went out of their way to ovoid him.

            He was respected and feared by his students, but he was also despised and pitied. One student pitied him so much that she condescended to marry him. Inga Tull nee Hoffman was a brilliant writer and a beautiful woman. She had all of the qualities that her husband so sorely lacked and more besides. She was gracious, pleasant, possessed an excellent sense of humor, and was generally beloved by all who met or beheld her. She was the rare woman in her era that was actually able to capitalize on the gifts and talents she possessed. She was one of the most celebrated young writers of either gender in Germany and Europe with three well received novels and two widely attended plays under the belt surrounding her lithe frame. But as is often the case with writers there was something lacking in her self-esteem. A Freudian would call her personal malaise a repressed hatred of her mother that led to a lack of self-appreciation. A Christian would see her as a lost soul who had never felt the love of God, and as a consequence never found a way to love herself. Most others would just call her a fool.

            Foolish was the only way to describe her decision to marry her professor and PhD advisor. She would later explain that she saw something safe in the man she called “Florry”. She would say that he was kind to her were no other man was before, and that he asked nothing of her besides patience with his morose temperament and the long hours he spent working on his “Philosophical Masterwork”. Herr Tull had never been the recipient of a woman’s affection (or in sooth interest) before, and he grasped onto Frau Hoffman like a terrified serf grasps onto the word of his God. Theirs was a short courtship. He proposed to her while they were both attending a colloquium on translations of early German Romanticism. Just around the time the speaker got around to De Stael Tull looked to his erstwhile Eve and asked her if she would do him the favor of marrying him. Not wanting to make a scene in the midst of dozens of her colleagues she said yes. They did not discuss the matter further until they had dinner that night. At that point the idea had sunk in and Inga felt that she could certainly do no worse. Tull was lucky in this regard: she was busy with her studies and her creative endeavors, so much so that her inherent insecurity urged her to reach out to the nearest kind soul. This just happened to be Tull.

 

 

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essay, Film

RIP Harold Ramis…A Celebration of His Genius

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Harold Ramis died today at the age of 69. He was a talented actor, comedian, and writer but for me he will always be best remembered as a genius director. I could go on for pages and pages about his talent and ideas but instead I will limit myself to just a few words on what I believe is his masterpiece, the film Groundhog Day.

Everyone by now knows the plot of this great film. What people may not realize is how subtle and genius the philosophical issues underlining the plot are. It is essentially a story about a man living in a world he feels he cannot control. Phil (played by the grossly under-estimated and under-utilized Bill Murray) finds himself trapped in a time loop that causes him to repeat what may be the most banal day of his life. This film could have been nothing more than a comedy of errors that allowed Murray to run rampant through this little town using all the jokes and tropes in his bag of tricks but Ramis did not let the story go that route. Instead he gave Murray and the rest of the cast a task to explore what it means to be a human being confronted with the boring, bland and even oppressive monotony of the everyday. Ramis’ story is Nietzschean in its view of time and place, positing a eternal reoccurence of events and circumstance that starts out as comical and slowly moves on to the absurd, the tragic and then finally the transcendent.

This would not work the way it does if not for Ramis’ skill with framing scenes in such a way as to elicit a sort of cinematic/aesthetic deja vu. We do not see actors redoing scenes, we see them reliving them and in this it enhances Murray’s performance and allows him to interact with the characters in such a way as to bring out the desperation of a man who has realized that his life is a loop that is unable to be broken. We come to realize with Phil that the seemingly mystical redo of this day is not so mystical at all but just a more literal manifestation of the everyday. Nothing changes in the world, nothing except for how we react to it, the choices we make and the interactions we have with other people. For the first few days (or is it weeks, or years?) of Phil’s experience he continues to push himself to do the same thing over and over again, to try and recreate his experience from the perspective he brought to this town he did not want to visit to do a task he never wanted. But soon he realizes that he has a chance to not only change himself but to change the world around him. He learns to play the piano, he becomes an expert on the goings on of this town and its people, he makes friends, forms memories, and makes realizations about himself in relation to others. Nothing changes in the world around him but he changes, and through this he slowly begins to change the people and the world he interacts with. His interactions with his old high school chum, the insurance shill Ned, starts as a comedy of errors but Phil’s disdain for the man slowly becomes an affection that leads him to realize that in his own way Ned is trapped in his own loop. By interacting with him as a human being instead of just as an annoyance he is able to transcend the strangeness of their interactions and help release Ned from his nightmare, the everyday. This epiphany is repeated with other people, most notably his love interest played ably and believably by Andie McDowell, and most tragically with the homeless man who hides in plain sight on the margins of this little universe. He tries to help this man, to improve his life in some way, but continually runs into the true end of this endless loop: death. The man cannot be saved because this man has reached the end of his journey. Phil is thrown into a depression that is all the more profound because he once did not give a shit about anyone or anything. He tries to kill himself, countless times and in many creative and silly ways, but he cannot ever do the deed. Maybe this is because he is not ready to die? Maybe it is because he is not meant to? There is no answer to that question as there is no answer to the finality of death.

The the structure of the movie moves from cynicism to hilarity to farce to cynicism and eventually, inexorably to revelation. Not a religious experience, not some cheap throwaway message about eternal life or the inherent joy of existence. Instead change comes when Phil finally gives up trying to change the world and his circumstances and instead focuses on changing himself and being a good, compassionate friend to those around them. It does not matter in the end that they may not remember this or even reciprocate his generosity and friendship, what matters is the experience of the joy of the moment and the love of people and their flaws, stupidity, and imperfections. People are not meant to be perfected, they are meant to change. Change is not positive or negative but instead regenerative, a constant cycle of renewal and growth that, like the idea of natural selection in nature, moves the individual into greater harmony with and understanding of the world around them. The world itself, the whole, changes so slowly that it may as well be the same day over and over again. Phil embraces this and that is when he is freed from this perverse parody of the everyday.

It takes a real visionary to be able to take such a basic set of tools and turn them into something truly profound. Harold Ramis achieved that feat with Groundhog Day. Groundhog Day may be the most successful American comedy of the past 50 years in regards to its honesty, creativity, humor and craft. I try to watch the film at least once every year and I am continually inspired by Ramis’ ability to take what is essentially a ridiculous concept and turn it into a sort of  transcendent examination of what it means to live day to day and how our own choices are the main way we escape the drudgery of life. It is a perfect existentialist examination of what it means to be a person living in a world that does not change save for the actions of each person.

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