Reasonable Gun Laws Do Not Threaten 2nd Amendment Rights


Emotional testimony v. Cold hard facts!

I believe in the importance of the Constitution with it’s Bill of Rights to the proper functioning of our democracy. I also believe Second Amendment. Without a new amendment directly annulling it being being ratified, the government cannot take away the guns of law abiding citizens.

On the other hand, I do not believe that reasonable legislation intended to keep criminals from getting and using guns to commit crimes or to keep innocent civilians, particularly children, from being killed by guns necessarily infringes on 2nd Amendment rights.

Most of all, I believe facts are facts, and that looking beyond the biased, skewed rhetoric of entrenched sides to the actual facts, we may stand a much better chance of coming up with good policy on the matter. That is clearly illustrated in the graphic at the top of this post that appeared on a friend’s Facebook page today.  There was an emotional assertion made as a hearing that is contradictory to the facts.  The emotional assertion was repeated a lot in the media.  I didn’t hear it challenged until at least the next day. Continue reading

Why I Worry About Turnout

On the CBS Evening News, Bob Schieffer just made the point that no matter what the polls say, everything ultimately depends on voter turnout, and that Republicans have been better with turning out their supporters in recent elections.  This really worries me.  I am not registered with a party but I am, philosophically, a liberal.  I believe put those policies are best for America and so I nearly always vote Democratic.  But I must confess that in this election my interests are also personal.

I worry Republican advances in Congress will jeopardize aspects of the new health care law.  Provisions of the law are still coming into effect, so many people don’t realize how beneficial it is. Rollbacks will have minimal impact on me as a resident of Massachusetts, but I spent last year in another state and I can assure you, this system is better. I’m still cleaning up some of the financial mess from an inadequate insurance plan last year.

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“Forward” Music Video

There’s always a part of me that feels just a little naive and sentimental when I post a video like this one.  But I suppose I am a little of both those things.  I strongly believe in the essential goodness of human nature, and that when a society offers people an opportunity to excel, most will rise to the occasion.  Congressman Barney Frank once said, that government is simply the name we give to those things we choose to do together.  That is the view taken in this video, and it is one thing I like about it.

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NDAA and the Soul of America

Something momentous will very likely happen this week, something ominous.  So ominous that the kid that grew up reading mythology, medieval literature and fantasy, will somehow find it hard to believe if the sky doesn’t darken or the earth become sick as nature herself reproaches the nation for the wrongfulness of the path it has started down.  I am referring to the potential signing of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).  No one wants to hold up funding for the military, but it contains other provisions that are simply contrary to the very essence of the American nation’s soul.  I get a lump in my throat and tight chest every time I think about this bill.

President Obama, once the hero of the narrative who came to office President Obama who “came into office pledging his dedication to the rule of law and to reversing the Bush-era policies” (Andrew Rosenthal, “Politics of Principle,” NYT, Dec. 15, 2011), is likely to sign the law making indefinite detention of American citizens a permanent fixture of American law.  They will also be subject to military tribunals.  Maybe we’re not quite at the point of using the Bill of Rights for toilet paper, but we’re at least using it as a dinner napkin.

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Congress Busy on 220th Anniversary of the Bill of Rights

US Senate voted 86 to 13 in favor of the NDAA for FY 2012

220 years ago, on the 15th of December 1791 the Bills of Rights was ratified.  The first ten amendments to the Constitution of the United States of America enshrined in law basic freedoms for all Americans, including freedom of speech, religion, the press, assembly and the right to bear arms.  It also protects us from unlawful search and seizure, gives us the right to a trial, and protects us from excessive punishment, among other things.  It’s a good text to know, because it enshrines some of our most basic rights as a people.

On this, its 22oth anniversary, Congress was once again in session, theoretically doing the peoples business, though I am not so sure that is what they were doing.  Here are two things that marked the day for them.  You be the judge.

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Headlines from the President’s Middle East Policy Speech

President Barack Obama meets with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, Friday, May 20, 2011.

I always find it interesting to scan headlines after a major policy speech.  The startlingly reveal the biases of the sources, or at least the audiences they seek to attract.  Particularly interesting today are those concerning the meeting between President Obama met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel.  I haven’t read all these articles, but here are the headlines with the sources and the links to the articles.  What might you speculate about the articles, the papers or their target audiences?

Netanyahu Tells Obama Israel Can’t Return to ‘Indefensible’ 1967 Borders
Bloomberg – Jonathan Ferziger

Netanyahu and Obama long way apart over Middle East peace plans
The Guardian

President Obama supports a two-state solution based on Israel’s 1967 borders …
Wall Street Journal

Bibi and Barack Meet: So Much for the Fireworks
TIME (blog) – Massimo Calabresi

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Budget Cuts and the National Community

Discover history at our National Parks

When I was growing up we traveled often as a family for vacations and weekends. We had a camper and took it to all kinds of interesting places, frequently our nation’s national parks and historic monuments. I remember fascinated by the history I learned visiting the birthplace of George Washington, the Yorktown Battlefield and National Cemetery, the battlefields of Gettysburg, the birthplace of Booker T. Washington, the Capitol Building, the Lincoln Memorial and so many others. Frequent visits to the Cape Hatteras National Seashore and the Blue Ridge Parkway or the Smoky Mountains awakened my fascination with the natural wonders of the world, and the visitor centers, trails or markers were as good as any classroom. I was an inquisitive boy, so I took home the free brochures maps and field guides from these places to study more, and begged my parents, more often than not successfully, to buy me the books in the gift shops that I could read at home.

I learned a lot about our nation’s history and the natural world this way, it seems like as much as I did in school. I don’t remember being taught about Booker T. Washington before college. That’s not to say I wasn’t, but I don’t remember it like I do the visit to his birthplace. We must have learned about Thomas Jefferson, but I don’t remember that, either and my virtual obsession with him sprang out of a family visit to Monticello. While visiting the Smoky Mountains I was first exposed the the tragedy of the Native Americans and the horrors of incidents like the Trail of Tears. Most of these parks had not entry fee, paid for entirely with tax dollars. That meant that we could and would, explore something on on a whim. If it was a rainy day and we had planned to do something outside, we could tour a historic mansion, instead. In addition to the National Parks and Historic Places, there was a whole other network of state parks and sites operated by non-profits that were also free.

More recently an increasing percentage of these sites have imposed an entry fee. People want low taxes, budgets are small, and government at all levels from local to national is practicing austerity. Fee for service became a model for a lot of what government does in the 1980s, and it has been that way since. It makes sense on a certain level. Why should those of who never have any intention of visiting one of these sites pay for their upkeep and for providing services there? In fact, these properties are part of our national heritage. We, as a people, have decided that these places are an important part of our history and they need to be preserved. They are monuments that need to be visible to our fellow citizens and the world to remind us of our common heritage and who we are as a people. The White House has offered to cut $105 million from the budget of the National Park Service, and the Republican’s want more.

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The President is Correct about the Health Care Reform Law

President Barack Obama delivers his state of the union address on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. Photograph: Pool/Reuters

In the State of the Union Address tonight, President Barack Obama welcomed serious efforts fix aspects of the new health care law, but rejected efforts to overturn it and start over. He is right. The law is Constitutional and the apocalyptic scenarios regarding its impact on our health care system are absurd.

Most importantly, it is a good law protecting us from abuses by insurance companies and the health care industry. Here are a few of the most interesting provisions, as summarized in an article from Reuters that came out in March when the legislation was passed. I’ve selected some of the provisions that will have the most impact and inserted my comments in parentheses.

Already in effect are the following provisions. See the article for a fuller summary.

  • Insurance companies will be barred from dropping people from coverage when they get sick. Lifetime coverage limits will be eliminated and annual limits are to be restricted. (Note: If you, a friend or family member has every had a chronic condition, or an illness or injury that is difficulty that is expensive to treat, you will really be grateful for this provision.)
  • Insurers will be barred from excluding children for coverage because of pre-existing conditions. (If you’ve ever changed jobs in a state that doesn’t prohibit this, this is good news, too.)
  • Young adults will be able to stay on their parents’ health plans until the age of 26. Many health plans currently drop dependents from coverage when they turn 19 or finish college. (The job market it tough out there! A lot of young people and their worried parents will appreciate this.)…
  • A tax credit becomes available for some small businesses to help provide coverage for workers.
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    Theatrics of Seating for the State of the Union

    Members of Congress are going to cross the aisles and sit together in a show of bipartisanship for the State of the Union Speech. It’s nice and probably ought to happen all the time. It’s political theater, of course, as is the whole State of the Union Speech, but it is theater, demonstrating national unity and resolve at times when we most need it, be it war or national crisis.

    This Congress has a penchant for political theater anyway, such as the reading of the Constitution at the beginning of the current session of the House. Tonight’s gesture will only be as meaningful as whatever follows on it. Is it followed by Civility and a willingness to put the nation first, or is followed by business as usual. The nature of politics in the American system is adversarial. In a two party system someone wins and someone loses and it is as simple that. The key is to choose battles and to compromise when necessary, and to always act with civility in accordance with the gravitas of legislating national policy on behalf of the constituents who put you in office.
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    Academic Freedom Media Review, January 15 – 21, 2011

    The Scholars at Risk media review seeks to raise awareness about academic freedom issues in the news. Subscription information and archived media reviews are available at here. The views and opinions expressed in these articles are not necessarily those of Scholars at Risk.

    Protecting academic freedom seen as key
    Jimmy Walsh, Irish Times, 1/21

    U.S. Bishops Begin 10-Year Review of ‘Ex Corde’
    Beckie Supiano, The Chronicle of Higher Education, 1/21

    Scholars at Risk calls for letters on behalf of Nasrin Sotoudeh, Iranian legal scholar sentenced to 11 years in prison
    Scholars at Risk, 1/19

    And freedom for all includes undergraduates
    Bruce Macfarlane, The Australian, 1/19
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