Where There's A William

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Archive for the category “politics”

Is Marriage Unconstitutional?

This began as a comment at The Conservative Sociologist in response to her reaction to the GMM (Gay Marriage Movement).  She isn’t opposed, but finds the logic and media presentation to be flawed and annoying – she writes an interesting blog, you should check it out.

What I said was:

What I rarely see discussed is the unconstitutional nature of government regulated marriage in the USA.

In English Common Law (the law of the land when what would become the USA was still British colonies) the State is the Church and thus there is no conflict between the governments regulation and sanction of an expressly religious ceremony. The US Constitution explicitly forbids government sanction or recognition of religion. On its face, this would seem to make (federal of a certainty and arguably state as well) government involvement in marriage unconstitutional as a matter of constitutional prohibition.

Making this all so much about anything other than the gender of either participant is the acknowledged transfer of ownership of real property (to include at least one of the participants for the historical purists amongst us) that is part and parcel of the religious ceremony in contention. I don’t know about a crisis necessarily, but it is certain that no government will waste an opportunity to claim taxes and fees so I don’t expect the Supreme Court to take up this issue any time soon.

Of course, anyone seriously advancing this argument can be certain pretty much everyone will have the knives out in response … literally; virtually all of human society bases property rights and law on this explicitly religious arrangement, whatever particular religion may be the facilitator.

To be constitutionally consistent in the USA, marriage would have to be strictly a religious commitment and property rights associated with that arrangement would have to be explicitly made a contractual and entirely separate agreement between the involved parties, whether part of a civil union type contract or otherwise.

I think we can take it as a given that the GMM will be among the most fervently opposed to this question ever arising.

Marriage as it is commonly practiced in the US is an historical relic from a time when the state and church were functionally combined; the US constitution explicitly forbids state and religious union (I know that’s not a direct quote).  The US Supreme Court has a history of straining social camels through the constitutional needles eye, so that isn’t a realistic objection.  If all that be true, to be constitutionally consistent shouldn’t we either amend the document to grant explicit exception to the “no established religion” prohibition regarding the institution of marriage or write a law that makes formal the distinction between the religious commitment of marriage and the issue(s) of property rights and inheritance and all the rest?

Along with everybody else (to include Mrs. [and Mr. for all of that] Supreme Court Justice), I think it a given the gay folks amongst us will be just as much up in arms about such a ruling as pretty much everybody else will be; they are the stars of the marriage movement at the moment, in this circumstance they aren’t any different from their parents and that can’t be what equality is all about can it?

I expect this is all built on very shaky constitutional ground and has long since been resolved, but it applies an interesting filter to the questions surrounding marriage nonetheless, I think.

In Which The Question Is Asked, What’s Up With Those Gun Guys?

Via Instapundit I learned of this article in The Atlantic by Dan Baum titled What Liberals Need To Understand About ‘Gun Guys’.

Formatted as a Q&A interview, Mr. Baum asks and answers:

At one point in your trip, you switched from open carry to concealed carry. What was that like?
In some ways I really liked it. It’s physically uncomfortable, it’s heavy and it digs into you, and you have to be very conscious of your clothing to make sure you’re not displaying it, because you really don’t want anyone knowing you’re carrying it. But it kept me vigilant. You really have your shit together when you’re carrying a gun. You never forget you’re wearing it. Maybe cops who’ve been wearing a gun for 30 years forget they’re wearing it, but I certainly never did, and I wore it for about 18 months.
It also made me really calm. When you’re wearing a gun, you do not get upset if someone takes your parking space, or if someone cuts you in line. You have this quite noble sense of being the sheepdog, being the protector. And I liked that.
But then you start wondering — what is my responsibility here? It’s really complicated. Say you’re in a shopping mall and somebody starts shooting. What do you do? If you run away, are you like a doctor who doesn’t respond when someone starts choking in a restaurant? If you’re wearing a gun, do you have an obligation to run towards the sound of the guns?

To answer Mr. Baum’s question, No Sir, you have no obligation to “run towards the sound of the guns” simply because you are carrying a complimentary tool yourself.  You may or may not have a moral/legal/ethical responsibility to live up to the American urge to “do something” in an emergency, but simple ownership of a potentially useful tool doesn’t automatically infer obligation to do so directly.   BTW, your choking comparison isn’t really apropos as a choking person offers little if any direct physical danger to any but those in immediate close contact; a shooter does.  You have the potential ability to effectively and (more) safely respond to a shooter if you are yourself wearing a gun, but that doesn’t automatically translate into obligation/responsibility to do so.

Later in the piece he asks/answers:

Nick Kristoff wrote a column in the New York Times about a gun standoff that was the result of a disagreement over a goose. He argued that instead of preventing conflict, guns actually escalate it. What’s your response to this?
I think we are all too cavalier with our guns. I fault both sides, really. The NRA and its handmaidens want us to believe that the whole problem is criminals, and they will not take responsibility. We need to lock guns up. Training should be better. And I think the anti-gun side needs to show gun guys more respect and needs to summon gun guys to respect themselves more. I think we all need to take this more seriously. We have 300 million privately owned guns in this country. Let’s really talk about how we can be safer.
Joe Nocera at the Times runs a daily tally of gun killings. He’s not running a daily tally of how many people defend themselves with guns. For one thing we don’t know about it most of the time. David Hemenway at Harvard is very pro gun-control and he thinks it happens about 80,000 times a year. If that’s true, that means that guns are saving 10 times as many people as they’re killing.
I call for my fellow liberals to approach gun owners with respect. These are the people who understand guns, these are the people who can help us figure out how to be safer around guns. Instead, you drive them into a defensive crouch by calling gun culture the problem.

I suggest the phrase you’re tip-toeing around Mr. Baum is: as a political issue, gun control is more about “control” and less about “guns”.

A final observation; Mr. Baum asks/answers:

At the end of this trip, did you feel any less conflicted about your place in the gun world?
No. I still don’t really belong in either camp. If you watch the reaction to the book when it comes out, you will see that. I’m no less a Democrat than I was, but I am more attuned to the gun guy complaint — “I am over-managed and I am under-respected as a citizen and a human being.” I think the right has a point there. We need to stop fearing capable, empowered, independent-thinking individuals.

Mr. Baum associates guns and gun ownership with “conservatives” and fair enough, lots of my gun-owning friends are actual conservatives politically.  That said, I believe the attitude Mr. Baum closes his article with is more aligned with the libertarian political attitude than it is with the conservative view point. 

I heartily endorse his final words; We need to stop fearing capable, empowered, independent-thinking individuals.  Indeed Sir, indeed.

(Retail) Evolution In Action

I read at The Firearms Blog that Amazon.com may be removing shooting sport-related items from their customer fulfillment inventory.  I sent the following message to the Amazon.com PR email link just now:

Dear Sir/Madam;
I have today read reports that Amazon.com will no longer be willing to meet some of my retail purchases, to wit, firearms-related items like scopes, sights, slings and other such shooting sport enhancement products.  If so, I will be taking my admittedly meager business elsewhere, to an undoubtedly less satisfying transaction process, but one that doesn’t blatantly dispise my purchasing preferences.
Amazon.com has a perfect right to make such a business decision (if in fact the company actually has done), but so too do the individual customers Amazon relies upon to complete the sales transaction process.  I do not wish to take my paltry business elsewhere, but decline to continue dealing with any business that openly despises my beliefs and, indeed, one of the fundamental  principles upon which the USA was founded.
Sincerely yours,
William Brown, Amazon.com Prime customer

Despite my having misspelled “despise” in the original, I hope the company’s spokesperson’s response is as serious – if more literate – than my inquiry. 

Strategy Is Amoral (which is why it works so well)

Via Aaron Clarey’s Captain Capitalism blog comes notice of this Seattle, Washington news story presented by NBC TV network affiliate King5.

“No pictures taken; no questions asked”, regarding who turned in the gun to the police-run collection point being the relevant point of interest here.

Got an annoying neighbor or co-worker?  Ex-spouse working you over in the courts?  You get the idea, I’m sure; here’s your chance to be a criminal mastermind with the Seattle PD’s willing assistance!

Some effort on your part will be necessary of course (it’s strategy, not socialist economic policy).  There’s the whole delicate issue of timing to be considered, not to mention the basic premise of there being no direct witness to the act (and if you can’t arrange matters thus and so, the word you want is “fantasy” not strategy), but if killing someone and getting away with it is an as-yet un-crossed off entry on your personal bucket list, then January 23 – 25 next in Seattle, Washington is your destination of choice.

Wash well after the fact, present your anonymous self to a collection point with a well-wiped down (and unloaded) gun the morning of the 26th January, and the evidence vanishes into the police supervised smelter directly thereafter.

Celebrate your success by giving the gift card to some smelly beggar deserving poor person on your way back home.  If it needs to be said, Amazon is putting up the seed money along with the gift cards; do you really think they can’t associate a particular card to a specific customer transaction should SPD make inquiry later?  Come on, Moriarty!

Strategy works.  It works in pretty much direct correlation to the degree of minimal intellect and attention span you can bring to any outcome you work to achieve.  To stretch a metaphor only slightly; tools are often not up to the task to which they are put … and whose fault is that?  Getting a Seattle (or virtually any other, really) politician to admit to their strategic mistakes, however, is a matter for another post entirely.

All you proto-Dexters rejoice and start planning your itinerary.

Past Performance Is Not A Guarantee Of Future Behavior …

.., but it is the safe way to bet when politics are involved.

I think David Gregory, the not-quite-yet-late commentator for the NBC News organization, might want to give serious – and fairly immediate – thought to catching a flight back to ‘ol Blighty in the very near future.  There’s still plenty of room under the Obama bus, and him going to jail for embarrassing Obama and the Democrats violating DC gun laws on national TV could be usefully spun by his erstwhile colleagues into less politically damaging support for additional gun restrictions legislatively.

Food for thought.

Update (12/30/12):  And, of course, strategy works both ways.  🙂

Aging Strategy

Maria Konovalenko (whom I took mildly to task on a different issue here and this same issue here) has a recent post up on her blog about the relationship of human aging to disease and the research funding process effects on healthy lifespan extension and traditional disease treatment therapy research processes.

She writes:

Aging is not considered to be a disease at the moment. There is no such indication as aging, therefore one can’t register a geroprotector drug, the one that slows down aging. This is one of the major hurdles in aging research. Even though there are some substances that are proven to slow down aging and protect from diseases, researchers can’t make drugs from these substances. This has to be changed if we want to live longer and healthier.

A perfectly valid observation, marred by her curative prescription:

I think it’s horrible that the NIA people are propagating this idea that aging is not a disease. They are rejecting the opportunity with their own hands. If they fought for persuading the healthcare officials to accept aging as a disease, a lot of problems would be gone instantly.

Let’s be blunt here; the people staffing the US NIA are perfectly ordinary Americans trying to perform their job duties as well as they can in the job environment they occupy.  I expect they by-and-large are well-meaning people who genuinely want to improve other people’s lives medically (and I’m confident Maria herself would not disagree with this observation).  The problem being, the people staffing NIA aren’t free to make funding grant decisions based solely upon science – they work for the US government and so are funded by the US legislative branch of government and directed by the US executive branch of government, both of which are frequently subject to pressures from conflicting points of view.

Basically, having the .gov fund your research virtually guarantees you won’t have much say in the direction your research follows and you will always find your efforts being held up as example of how wrong-headed government funded research is (if only by someone whose pet project/topic of interest isn’t getting funded as well as desired).  The problem isn’t a lack of funding, it’s the funding regulation process itself that’s having such an inhibiting effect on aging treatment research.

In her comments I wrote (in part):

Relying for research (or any other, really) funds from people who are themselves reliant upon the common perception that their opponents can create about them to portray them in a negative light will always result in a tightly constrained and medically questionable (at best) research and development (or pretty much any other, I suggest) environment. Much better, I think, to develop a different model of research funding that minimizes individual influence and maximizes transparency of research process. Government would still have a desirable role in the production and distribution process of medical treatment after all.

My thinking here is influenced by my experience with Khan Academy.  Salman Khan began his education “business” as a series of YouTube videos to tutor his niece who lived in a different city here in the USA.  Serendipitously, he chose not to make the videos private, and others soon found them and began commenting positively about them.  Eventually, financial backing was arranged and Khan Academy became the non-profit education establishment it is still in the process of becoming.

Maria Konovalenko occupies a position from which she is uniquely able to replicate that experience – not for education as such, but for creating a healthy life extension non-profit to fund research into therapies as well as educating people around the world about healthy life extension.

This would not be a quick process (Sal Khan spent 6 years building his teaching model and portfolio to arrive at the formal organizing stage), but she has the credentials and access to the researchers to begin the development process that Sal Khan himself has demonstrated.  An open-ended series of instructional YouTube videos (in as many different languages as Maria can contrive to produce – I’m guessing she isn’t the only multi-lingual hottee of her personal acquaintance – but at least in both Russian and English to begin with) that explain the various principles and research efforts, and maybe some interviews of researchers themselves when possible, would make a good beginning.  Once she has a program of research direction(s) defined “on tape”, she begins the process to attract funding for a non-profit, non-governmental entity to fund research into age-related effects on disease and treatments for aging aspects of (ultimately any) disease or health condition, entirely independent of government or corporate investment in similar types of research.

Maria is quite correct that present research efforts are being artificially limited, both in scope as well as direction.  I hope my comment at her blog will lead her to this page and that she gives these ideas some consideration.  I’m not getting any younger myself, after all.  Yet …

Post-Debate Thoughts

Everybody has their reaction to last nights initial Presidential Debate up for all to see; here’s mine:

Mitt Romney is the more polished debator.  This has multiple potential applications for an elected executive office holder.

Barack Obama did nothing to support the image that has been constructed about him in the media these last few years.  This will have consequences on election day as most voters tend to be swayed by the degree a candidate appears to conform to their (the voters) expectations about the candidate.

One other note; many are making note of both candidates “character”.  The test for that will be found in both men’s behavior at the subsequent debates.  This was only the introductory tune-up match, more a test of each campaigns capability than it was of either man or party platform yet.

Arrest That Man!

Over at Joe Huffman’s place, a really intriguing question gets a look:

David Hardy says there are options to be considered now that Holder has been found in contempt of Congress:

The House sends out its Sergeant-at-Arms to arrest the defendant, he is tried on the spot, and the House decides whether to convict.

It is a little bit of a surprise to me but the Capital has a dungeon just for such purposes. And I find it interesting and very pleasing that:

…presidential pardons appear not to apply to civil contempt procedures such as inherent contempt because it is not an “offense against the United States” or an offense against “the dignity of public authority.”

A commenter at the David Hardy link above suggests that leaving AG Holder out of durance vile would be a better strategy, but I think I disagree.  The advantage of asking Holder himself, “what did the president know and when did he know it”, isn’t measurably more effective than is responding to efforts to obtain his release with the same query I think.

One added attraction of sending out the Sergent-at-Arms of the House (with as many Capitol Police as needed for back-up) to arrest the AG is the really strong potential for all the various DOJ gun toters to actively oppose their boss being given the good news.  I can see the headlines now; “House Swatties No-Knock AG’s Office”, “OK Corral, D. C.”, “Blood In The (Capitol) Streets”.

So, how do you say “snark” in spanish Mr. Calderon?

Less Crime = Lying Cops?

At his Bayou Renaissance Man blog, Peter writes:

There’s a very interesting article over at PoliceOne discussing how, in many jurisdictions, crimes are under-reported, wrongly recorded, and generally ‘fudged’ for political reasons…

I highly recommend clicking over to PoliceOne and reading the entire report. It provides very important insight into a problem that directly and immediately affects your own security. If you don’t know the true dimensions and nature of the crime problem in your area, how will you know whether or not to take additional precautions, or be prepared to deal with specific types of crime?

As I said in his comments, one of the more seeming open-and-shut arguments advanced by many gun bloggers recently is the idea that “more guns = less crime”. If the reporting from PoliceOne.com is as widespread as it appears, just how trustworthy are the statistics this line of reasoning relies on? Do the actual numbers really support the conclusion we gun owners think we’re making?

This is more than a quibble over semantics. If the “… less crime” half of the argument isn’t actually true (indeed, if the apparent crime reduction synonymous with the rise in gun ownership is actually false and no correlation exists), what evidence is there to disprove the notion that this official statistical fraud is instead hiding a rise in gun-involved crime?

Food for thought, indeed.

 It is usually a better strategy to control the context of a dispute, to get ahead of your oppositions arguments as it were, so my initial thought is to make a point of the unreliable nature of the official statistical record and to dismiss efforts to debate any point that relies upon them. Stick to the historical record of political/constitutional arguments about US citizen gun ownership and concentrate on the positive individual growth and development achievable through responsible gun usage. Defensive gun usage shouldn’t be minimized, but it might be more effective to relegate such arguments to a supportive role rather than boldly flaunt assertions that appear more than a little questionable at the moment.

The whole “tide of history” thing is still running strong; concentrating on legal gun ownership, while making the point often about how unreliable “official” records seemingly are,  just makes better sense to me.


Picture Of War Crime Justice

At the very end of his Dec. 22 Chaos Manor post, Jerry Pournelle links to a Treppenwitz post, now several months old, which examines a famous photo from the Vietnam War. Therein blogger David Bogner reviews some of the lesser known facts surrounding both the picture itself and people’s perception of the recorded image.

All of that is interesting, yet the single most operant fact that contributed to the circumstance playing out as it was recorded at the time is never directly mentioned.

Without recounting the Treppenwitz post, the basic facts are: in 1968 the Communist Viet Cong/Viet Minh insurgent forces staged extreme acts of violence in violation of a negotiated truce throughout much of then-South Vietnam. Captured in the act of mass murder, one of these VC was summarily tried and executed by the military and civil police commander for the city and military district of Siagon (the city since re-named as Ho Chi Minh City). This summary execution was captured on both still and motion photography, the still image probably being the more historically famous of the two.

Here’s the thing; the executed man (formally Captain Bay Lop, South Vietnamese Communist Party Army, Viet Minh) was properly judged and sentenced “in accordance with the provisions of the Geneva Convention (aka Laws of Armed Conflict) regarding “Armed Partisans”, ” civilian combatant s”, and “crimes against non-combatants”. Were an American or other NATO officer to be presented with an insurgent in Afghanistan captured committing the same crimes, he would be equally in accordance with the law (negotiated treaty having force of same in the USA) in also issuing a summary judgement and execution. We would also subsequently crucify him too.

We cry about how terrible something is, empower someone to impose our considered will upon any perpetrator of that thing, and then cry in horror that we didn’t mean for what then happens to take place, all while we set out to destroy those who did our bidding in our name. Police, soldiers, politicians; you name it, the list is virtually endless. We put people in a position to act with our authority, then refuse to accept responsibility for the predictable results of our decision. If we want honest and open enforcement of our societal decisions, we must be prepared to accept responsibility for what those we so empower do as a result. Further, if we want an open and honest society (government, law enforcement, whatever) we must judge all things – not least ourselves – just as openly and honestly.

In executing Capt. Lop, South Vietnamese General Nguyen Ngoc Loan was photographed performing his sworn duty in an entirely lawful manner. The honest image of that honorable act was subsequently used in deliberate campaigns of lies and misdirection, both here in the United States and elsewhere, which are themselves symptoms of what still ails American society – possibly fatally. We very well may not be able to elect ourselves out of our present national condition, but I suggest Gen. Loans experience is instructive of the consequences if we don’t.

My thanks to Jerry Pournelle for this timely reminder at the outset of our latest national election year. Sometimes, harsh facts are best illustrated by harsh images.

Merry Christmas.

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