Monday, February 26, 2018

What America is getting wrong about three important words in the Second Amendment – Quartz


On Wednesday night, CNN hosted a town hall about gun violence with members of the community of Parkland, Florida, which only a week earlier had experienced a mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Seventeen students and teachers lost their lives.

The town hall was remarkable in many ways, not least for a question asked by the school's history teacher, Diane Wolk Rogers, about a portion of the US Constitution's Second Amendment from 1791, which states: "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."

"What is your definition of a 'well-regulated militia,' as stated in the Second Amendment?" Rogers asked Dana Loesch, a spokesperson for the National Rifle Association (NRA). "And using supporting detail, explain to me how an 18-year-old with a military rifle is well-regulated? And the world, our country, our nation, is going to grade your answer."

Loesch responded: "George Mason was one of the founding fathers, and he said 'The militia is the whole of the people.' It's every man, it's every woman, that is who the militia is. In the context of the time, a well-regulated militia meant an American man, an American woman, a citizen of the United States of America, who could operate and service their firearm."

If she were taking a history exam, Loesch's response would likely have scored an F.

Mason, a Virginia politician and anti-Federalist, was one of only three delegates to the US Constitutional Convention of 1787 to refuse to sign the Constitution. He authored the Virginia Declaration of Rights, which later served as an influence for the United States Bill of Rights—and it was during the debates at the Virginia Ratifying Convention, where many of the ideas for the Bill of Rights would be generated, that he spoke the words Loesch used in her answer.

Loesch's intent, in using this particular quote, was likely to show that one of America's founding fathers, who provided inspiration for the Bill of Rights itself, believed that every person in the country had the right to own a gun, and that owning and operating a gun made them part of the militia. Therefore, as part of the militia, their right to own guns cannot be infringed.

But Mason's quote doesn't just mean something different "in the context of the time." It means something entirely different in the context of the actual, complete quote. Loesch's misreading, deliberate or otherwise, not only undermines the grounds on which she and the NRA base their definition of a "well-regulated militia" and who belongs to it, but subverts her authority to speak to what the Founding Fathers intention was in creating the Second Amendment.

Here is George Mason's quote in full, as recorded in the transcripts of the Virginia Ratifying Convention:

"I ask, Who are the militia? They consist now of the whole people, except a few public officers. But I cannot say who will be the militia of the future day. If that paper on the table gets no alteration, the militia of the future day may not consist of all classes, high and low, and rich and poor; but they may be confined to the lower and middle classes of the people, granting exclusion to the higher classes of the people."

If this seems a tad different than what Loesch was trying to say—that the Second Amendment means that all gun owners are part of the "militia"—that's because it is.

Mason's statement at the Virginia Ratifying Convention was a criticism of Article 1, Section 8 of the US Constitution, which gave Congress the power "to provide for organizing, arming and disciplining the militia." Mason's fear was that if Congress had this power, they would decide to only conscript the poor into service. Not an unreasonable fear, mind you, given the way most wars have gone. It is often the poor fighting and dying, while the rich enlist in champagne units or sit at home tending to their "bone spurs."

In this speech, Mason also voiced his concern that a government that is too small and too far away from the people it represents would result in representatives having no "fellow-feeling for the people." He feared that they would then inflict "ignominious punishments and heavy fines" on those who chose not to participate in the militia, or exempt people in their own class from service. He thus proposed a clause "exempting the militia from martial law except when in actual service, and from fines and punishments of an unusual nature."

Given the fact that women were rarely permitted to serve in state militias in a fighting capacity at that time, it is also highly unlikely that Mason considered them part of it. No one was that progressive at the time.

Mason's speech was about class, it was about military service, it was about the power of the United States government to require military service. It had absolutely nothing to do with an individual right to own assault rifles simply because you feel like owning an assault rifle. Even if you believe in an individual right to own guns, even if you believe that is what the Second Amendment guarantees, it is clear that this particular quote was not about that.

Despite this, this quote has long been a favorite of the NRA and those advocating against gun control. The most common variation—one notably used by former US attorney general John Ashcroft in a letter to the NRA assuring them of his belief in an individual right to bear arms —is, in fact, an amalgamation of this quote and an entirely different thing Mason said two days before.

"I ask, Sir, what is the militia? It is the whole people… To disarm the people is the best and most effectual way to enslave them."

Mason's words, when read like this, seem like a perfect and romantic validation of everything the NRA believes in—that not only does the Constitution provide a bulwark against gun control, but that the very reason the Second Amendment gives them this right is for the purpose of keeping a tyrannical government at bay. This is why it shows up so often on message boards and lists of quotes meant to prove this point. When Loesch quoted Mason, she likely knew that many of her fellow gun enthusiasts would fill in the blanks with the rest of the "quote" themselves. It was meant to perk up the ears of those who believe that the true purpose of the Second Amendment is to give gun owners the ability to overthrow the government if necessary, that this is what the Founding Fathers intended.

The second part of the "quote," however, literally refers to a state militia, organized for the defense of the nation, not people owning guns for fun and sport:

"Forty years ago, when the resolution of enslaving America was formed in Great Britain, the British Parliament was advised by an artful man, who was governor of Pennsylvania, to disarm the people; that it was the best and most effectual way to enslave them; but that they should not do it openly, but weaken them, and let them sink gradually, by totally disusing and neglecting the militia. […] This was a most iniquitous project. Why should we not provide against the danger of having our militia, our real and natural armed strength, destroyed? The general government ought, at the same time, to have some such power. But we need not give them power to abolish our militia. If they neglect to arm them, and prescribe proper discipline, they will be of no use."

This, again, is very, very different from the way the cobbled-together "quote" used by Ashcroft and others makes it sound. Mason was not talking about taking guns that people purchased themselves away, but rather about not providing them with arms, training and discipline, as is necessary for a military unit to function. It is fair to say that, were the government to get involved with the "training and discipline" of everyone in the country who owns a gun, the NRA would have a pretty big problem with it.

Mason may well have believed in a personal right to arms outside the function of a militia, he may have even believed that the right to have arms in order to overthrow the government. That is not at all what he was talking about in either of these quotes—or, frankly, in anything else he wrote or has been quoted as saying.

It is important to know that, at the time the constitution was signed, there was significant opposition to having a standing army, and state militias were supposed to fill that gap. The state, in turn, was supposed to arm and train them. They were there to suppress insurrections—specifically slave insurrections and anti-tax insurrections like the Whiskey Rebellion, and to fight Native Americanswho, god forbid, wanted to continue living where they were living—not to start them. From the second Military Act of 1792 until the establishment of the National Guard in 1904, all "free, able-bodied white male citizens" were conscripted into state militias and were required to fight at the behest of the government. So yes—guns for certain individuals. But individuals that were trained and disciplined, and not all that free.

Dana Loesch is, of course, free to believe what she believes. She can believe everyone and their four-year-old child should have a gun. She can believe that all people should be considered part of the militia—hell, she can believe all people should be considered part of the cast of Beatlemania!, or the Olympic luge team. The NRA and John Ashcroft are entitled to believe what they believe. However, when you can't defend your belief without taking quotes entirely out of context, disregarding their original intent and history, you may want to consider how successful your argument is in the first place.

Robyn Pennacchia is a freelance writer based in Chicago, IL. You can follow her on twitter at @RobynElyse.

#MakeAmericaSmartAgain - the earth is round, not flat!

Why anyone debates this I have no idea. I guess our education system failed on some level.

Here’s Carl Sagan to give you the proof ... it’s simple really. 

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Russian influence...

The indictments handed down from the grand jury via the mueller investigation were interesting. In short, 13 Russian nationals and 3 Russian businesses, and one American were implicated in a plot to sow discord and influence the election.

Rosentsteins reading of the indictments was also interesting, because his words were measured and talked about *this* indictment, specifically.

A couple of quick thoughts:
* it was made clear that this was an effort to promote trump, and denigrate any opponent.
* in an effort to continually help trump, stein was promoted
* to further sow discord, there were rallies to both promote and oppose trump
* money changed hands to fund this effort

And that's where the one "common criminal" from the US comes in. This guy was facilitating the money transfers, setting up accounts, committing fraud against the banking industry. Was he a witting accomplice, or simply just making a buck? We don't know, and it kind of doesn't matter.

But he did help make this happen, and has already agreed to a plea deal...which also would lead one to believe there's more.

This, in and of itself, is not an indicator of collusion with the trump campaign. But it's weird how trump and his allies immediately seized on this to say they were vindicated. Which they were not.

There's a distinction between being exonerated or the evidence being exculpatory (meaning it favors the accused), and saying that this indictment in and of itself doesn't show collusion. It may sound the same, or at least similar, but words have a legal meaning.

Trump himself says that because this started in 2014, before he "decided to run," it means nothing. Except that there are tweets to and from trump that say he might run as early as 2012; and some from Russian nationals that are more specific in 2014. Oh, and by the way, trump trademarked "make America great again" in 2012. Seems that an astute lawyer could use that against him.

And then, I went down the rabbit hole. I decided to read more about all of this. I did discover that one thing most people can agree on is that mueller and team aren't done.

On the one hand, you have some liberal-leaning folks looking at the connections between trump and Russia which are essentially unrelated to this. Like Rybolovlev, one particular oligarch, who purchased property from trump way over market value, and who just happened to follow trump around during the campaign (and after) according to his flight logs. Or a host of others who invested in or were connected "as friends" to the trump family that seem to be more like business partners.

Naturally, most of them think trump will ultimately be swept up in this, and mueller is just building a case.

On the right-leaning side, the view is different. Vast conspiracy theories with "deep state" and a corrupt fbi component. They look back to Hillary and her ties to Russia as Secretary of State, and the uranium deal, along with donations to her charity....I read more than one post where they see it as Hillary having colluded with Russia, but it went awry because trump was just that awesome!

And for some, it will be Hillary who will be swept up in the probe because she was behind it all. And Obama too, because he was aware of it and complicit or did nothing....or....something.

As far as the election, the indictment points out that a part of the effort was to reach undecided voters and sway them to cast their vote for Jill Stein. And if you look at the vote totals in some of the "surprise" states that trump won, you see that he did win by around the same number of votes as the Stein voters. Coincidence? Could be. Or this could be an indicator of something.

As they say "if you want to get to the truth, follow the money" which seems to be exactly what mueller is doing.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Word soup, semantics, and terrorism

Trump supporters, the nra, and various politicians like to play semantics games. For example, the AR 15 has been called "safe" when it can shoot a large number of rounds with a fairly easy squeeze. They'll tell you it's not an assault rifle while AR literally stands for "assault rifle"....

But the one that gets me is "terrorism." The latest school shooter, and really anyone should be labeled as a domestic terrorist. Full stop.

But the word police have a problem with that because the definition of terrorism literally is "the unlawful use of violence and intimidation, especially against civilians, in the pursuit of political aims."

They ask what a persons political aim is if they are a white person, and a US citizen. Unlike some brown skinned foreigner boogeyman type who is set out to do harm.

Political aim is loosely defined as supporting ones ideology, and more specifically it relates to the state, government, the body politic, public administration, policy-making, etc.... involved in, or relating to government policy-making as distinguished from administration or law.

Isn't that what the "make America great again" Mantra all about? Then, isn't one who supports it trying to achieve a political aim?

Stop hiding behind words. Stop trying to downplay the shooter as a lone wolf, or a troubled youth. He was a terrorist bent on his own ideology. Who cares how he got there, where he came from, or what he looks like....he's a monster who murdered children.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

An open letter to Marco Rubio on gun control

Early yesterday, you sent out another absurd plea for money.  But in it, you did make one point - that we need to make this nation a better place for our children and grandchildren.  And why did that resonate so much?  Because, of course, later in the day OUR children were senselessly slaughtered by a kid who had an assault rifle.  We still don't know the full extent of this mass murder, but we do know that parents sent their kids off to school, and they will never see them again.

And why? Because politicians like you seem to think its okay for everyone to have an assault rifle.  Assault.  It says what it is, and what its used for right in the name.  How can there be any debate that these weapons are used for anything other than killing other humans?

Its absurd that you, and others like you, take money from the NRA and other groups to promote the gun culture.  And that you stand there and say we need more border security, or immigration reform because the boogey man might come and get us from across the seas.

No this is a problem of our own making.  We need to address the problem of home grown terrorism.  Of people who want to harm fellow Americans.  To harm our children. 

We need to make this country a safer place for our kids and grandkids.  We can't let these monsters win, and throw up our hands and say "nothing we can do, sorry second amendment."  And then offer up stupid talking points and thoughts and prayers for those who were massacred.  Stop using pejorative terms to describe these acts of violence.

It needs to stop. And it needs to stop now.  More mental services.  Some sensible legislation.  Don't tell me there's nothing you can do.  That's total garbage.  While this one may not have directly impacted you, it surely impacted someone you know - since Parkland is part of South Florida.

Don't stand on the sidelines.  Make this country better.  Sensible gun control now. 

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Prohibition-Era Gang Violence Spurred Congress To Pass First Gun Law : NPR

A good listen or read.

Further, we should never forget what the 2nd amendment actually says:

"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."

But politicians and Supreme Court Justice Scalia just read the part after the first comma, ie, "the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."

Which clearly has a different meaning than all of the written words in context. Of course you can argue about the absolute meaning of the whole phrase.

But in the 1930s the public outcry against "machine guns" became great and congress acted. Enter the gun lobby to alter the name calling them "assault rifles" and they get around the law!

And assault.... what, exactly?

I think their name spells out exactly what they do - assault other humans.

Thursday, February 8, 2018 Russia penetrated voter databases before 2016 election #NotOurPresident

The ONLY thing that should matter to our democracy at this point is this: free and fair elections are the foundation of democracy. The 2016 election was hacked, and in addition to "influencing," the Russian government actually did manage to enter the voting databases - and the assertion is that it probably went further, though we have not heard that piece specifically from the intelligence community.

But even penetrating the voter rolls should be taken seriously. Our democracy was attacked by a foreign power, and those who can do something about it are either turning a ridiculous blind eye to it, or actively looking to discredit information.

Which means that - and we have supporting evidence that this is true in the form of donations coming from Russia - many of them are complicit in the attempt to dismantle our democracy. They are subverting the very constitution they have sworn to defend for personal gain. That is the very definition of treason.

And then there are the dunderheads among the public who seem to think this is all bullshit, and decide that "the snowflakes"simply can't accept that trump won.

If he won in a free and fair election, I may not like it, but I could accept that he was president. But he did not, and that's why I can not accept it.

Every day there is another piece of evidence that mounts that this is all built on treachery and hacking votes. Something must be done.

Russia penetrated voter databases before 2016 election

#MakeAmericaSmartAgain NASA IMAGE satellite found by amateur astronomer after 12 years 'dead' in space - The Washington Post

With no specific tools and just a keen interest, IMAGE was found by a guy in Canada.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

#MakeAmericaSmartAgain Tesla Roadster Starman live video feed from SpaceX Falcon Heavy launch

As a nation - and as a species - our continued growth and evolution depends on finding new ways to succeed. To not be afraid to fail. And to look past the bullshit we hear from talking heads, celebrities, athletes, and politicians.

Falcon Heavy took off today for the first time. And Elon Musk used a Tesla vehicle as the payload.

The launch itself was a resounding success and you should watch it; and then read about some of the cool "design flourishes" he put in.

Launch replay:


Short. Sweet. To the point. That's the beauty Dave's iPhone.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Predictable - Marlins edition

The city/county are on the hook for nearly $2bn for the stadium they built for the Marlins (in real dollars, given the time value of the loan).  They had a deal with the Marlins to share in some profits. 

Selling the team within a 10-year span was supposed to trigger additional income to help with the debt.  But predictably, Luria and his cadre of lawyers found a loophole to not have to contribute to it.

So we south Floridians remain on the hook for it.  Aren't we lucky?

Tasting Table: There Are No Truffles in Your Truffle Oil


There Are No Truffles in Your Truffle Oil
Tasting Table

It's time to blow the lid off this farce Read the full story

Shared from Apple News

Short. Sweet. To the point. That's the beauty Dave's iPhone. 

CNN: Missing woman found on 'The Bachelor'

Well since it's a crappy show that numbs the brain, I would assume no one would ever notice...great place to hide

Missing woman found on 'The Bachelor'
Rebekah Martinez managed to appear on five episodes of Arie Luyendyk Jr.'s season of "The Bachelor" while simultaneously occupying a spot on the missing persons list in Humboldt County, California. Read the full story

Shared from Apple News

Short. Sweet. To the point. That's the beauty Dave's iPhone. 

Friday, February 2, 2018

Disco rocks!

Much like we have TOS, TNG, ENT, VOY, and DS9, Star Trek discovery is being referred to as "disco" by fans.

That's awesome!

Especially considering the shirts they wore in an episode.