Wednesday, April 28, 2010

No Virginia, there is no 2nd amendment right to own a gun

There was a demonstration in Virginia over the weekend consisting of gun owners demonstrating for what or against what no one really knew and maybe they didn't either. But it probably had to do with a second amendment right for them to own guns that doesn't actually exist. And never did.

If there is one thing both conservatives, many Democrats and most journalists have in common its their constitutional ignorance of the second amendment and their false belief that the second amendment has anything to do with an individual's right to own a gun.
It doesn't and it never did.

But to listen to Obama, and many Democrats and liberals like Ed Schultz the other night on MSNBC, along with conservatives, they assume they know what the amendment means, assume it gives individuals the right to own guns, and as is the case with so many mistaken assumptions made in America, they are all wrong.

How do we know? Let us count the ways. First, there has never been one single Supreme Court ruling that has held the Second Amendment gives people the right to own guns ( "Heller", which many advocates like to quote, actually skirted the entire issue and focused instead on the status of the District of Columbia as not being a state and ducked on the whole question of the second amendment and states rights). You would think with all the controversy surrounding guns that somewhere along the line there would have been a case or a challenge where the Supreme Court addressed the issue, but there has never been an affirmation of the Second Amendment applying to individuals. Ever.

"Guns in America" clearly points this out when it says:

The public debate over the meaning of those words ( the Second Amendment) has raged for decades, but the U.S. Supreme Court hasn't ruled on the Second Amendment since 1939, in a case called U.S. v. Miller. The 25 paragraphs of that unanimous ruling have been regarded by lower federal courts as a definitive decision that the Second Amendment was designed to preserve state militias, not to give individuals an absolute right to keep and bear arms. "

The irony of the Second Amendment and conservatives is that you would have to be the most liberal of constructionists to think the second amendment applies to individuals. A conservative approach to the constitution -- a strict construction based on original intent ( knowing what the founders intended) makes it clear that the second amendment was ONLY about giving the states the right to have their own militias and didn't speak at all in any way to individual gun ownership.

In "Origins of the Second Amendment", Justice Story, a 19th century Supreme Court Justice who wrote " Commentaries on the Constitution" said as much. This is what he wrote as to the meaning of the second amendment and how he saw the second amendment as the neccessity to have a well drilled militia that had military discipline:

"it cannot be disguised, that among the American people there is a growing indifference to any system of militia discipline......How it is practicable to keep the people duly armed without some organization, it is difficult to see.

"Origins of the Second Amendment" goes on to say this about Story's 19th century take on the second amendment:

Story’s invocation of the grand palladium of liberty concerned the right to bear arms in a well regulated militia, and had nothing to do with hand guns or other weapons owned primarily for individual self defense.

And for good reason. In 1789 America, owning a gun was like owning a lawnmower in Scarsdale. Everyone owned guns. It wasn't controversial. The greatest minds the country ever had at one time in one place did not debate the second amendment for weeks and write 7 different versions, changing a word here, and another one there, in order to write an amendment to the new constitution to give people the right to own a lawnmower.

The entire and sole purpose of the second amendment was to give the states the right to have their own armed militia for the defense of the state. It had nothing to do with individuals owning guns for their own self defense. That already was the case. The second amendment guaranteed the states the right to have and maintain ( "keep and bear) arms for the defense of the state as a whole. And not just armed with guns. With any weapons they wished including cannon, war ships, rockets, anything, which is why state's have armories. All anyone has to do to understand the second amendment is read it.

The subject of the amendment is " a well regulated militia". The use of the word "people" then and now means the collective "people", the state, not an individual. That's why when the constitution refers to a states right it uses the word " the people" and with individual rights it uses the word "person". The second amendment is about a states right, the 5th amendment is about an individual right. Need more proof? Every single crime brought to trial in every court in every state in America is titled" "The People vs. So and So." Not the name of the victim against the perpetrator. The term "the people" has always meant the collective not the individual.

As for the rest of the amendment, ask anyone who thinks the second amendment gives individuals the right to own guns what they think the words "to keep and bear arms" means and its a good bet 100 out of 100 will get it wrong. They always do. Its like what Will Rogers said, it's not what people know that makes them look stupid its what they think they know that ain't so.

The constitution was not written by people who didn't know how to write and didn't understand the meaning of words. And the second amendment which is simply one long sentence was rewritten seven times with minor word changes here and there so the meaning was absolutely clear. Every word mattered and every word meant exactly what the Founders intended them to mean.
The term " to keep and bear arms" had a specific meaning in 1789. It didnt mean the right to keep a gun under your bed, in the trunk of your car, go hunting, take target practice or put a dress on it and take it dancing. And in 1789 America the word " arms" didn't mean your rifle or hand gun either. It meant what the word "arms" means today and has always meant going back centuries to the middle ages -- it means weapons of war.

Gun dealers and arms dealers are two entirely different things.. "Arms" are not just guns. "Arms" means weapons of war. The "arms race'" between the U.S. and the Soviet Union did not mean which country had more people with guns in their closets. The right to keep and bear arms guaranteed by the constitution guaranteed the states the right to have their own militias and to have any weapons of war they chose which is true to this day. There is no restriction on what arms each state's National Guard can have because the constitution guarantees it. They have tanks, they have fighter jets, they have bombers and many of them were used to fight in Iraq.

The right to keep and bear arms is not about what guns you have. It does not guarantee that you have the right to walk into a 7-11 carrying your gun and if you disagree, try doing in New York. They'll find a nice cell for you maybe next to Plaxico Burress the former NY Giant wide receiver who is doing 3 years in jail for carrying a gun in New York City.

And what about the words " to bear arms"? It does not mean to go hunting or to take your gun to a gun show, go target shooting, show it off or even to shoot a burglar. In 1789 America and to the Founders who authored the amendment "to bear arms", meant only one thing -- to go to war. And the second amendment gave the right to each state to do just that -- to go to war with the weapons the constitution guarantees them to keep to defend their sovereignty against any enemy whether it be a foreign enemy washing up on their shores or a president who decides to become a dictator. That was the whole purpose for each state having their own "well regulated" which means well drilled and prepared, militia.Those militia's have morphed into the National Guard each state has today.

While we hear a lot of nonsense whether its from Obama, journalists, politicians or gun owners about second amendment rights, not one of whom is a constitutional scholar (and that includes Obama) Warren Burger is just such a scholar. Burger is also the former chief justice of the United States Supreme Court, appointed by Richard Nixon and a card carrying conservative. In a television interview on PBS in 1991 with Jim Lehrer, Burger said the second amendment, as it relates to an individual's right to own a gun,

" has been the subject of one of the greatest peices of fraud, I repeat the word 'fraud' by special interest groups on the American public that I have ever seen in my lifetime".

Finally, the second amendment's last clause is more proof that it doesn't apply to individuals. The clause says " shall not be infringed". Go look up the word " infringed". If the second amendment applied to individuals every gun law in every state,city,county, town and village that in any way restricted, limited, regulated, interfered with or banned people from carrying guns, any kind of gun, anywhere, would be unconstitutional since its clear that the right granted by the second amendment "shall not be infringed". That means not reduced, restricted, interfered with, regulated, or altered in any way. In other words the right granted in the second amendment is absolute and cant be tampered with.

The second amendment has nothing to do with an individual right to own a gun. Those rights are left up to individual states and localities to decide what their gun laws are going to be. Which is why they vary from state to state. The fifth amendment does not vary from state to state. Neither does the first, 4th, 14th or any of the others. No Virginia, there is no constitutional right to own a gun. And never was.

The second amendment is solely a states rights issue regarding "well regulated militias". And if anyone doesnt think so, load this: no law by any state can trump whats in the constitution. So if the federal constitution gives individuals the "right to keep and bear arms" and that right "shall not be infringed", what is Plaxico Burress doing sitting in prison for 3 years for carrying a gun in his pocket in New York City? Why isnt the New York gun law "infringing" on "the people's: right to keep and bear arms?

Whatever rights gun owners have are the rights the state of Virginia, or any other state wants to give. Or take for that matter. And the great irony is that the only possible interpretation of the second amendment that could cause it to apply to individuals could only be the most liberal approach to the constitution possible, discarding the Founders intent, reading the words of the second amendment any way you choose and to have them mean anything you choose.

Which is not to say some conservative members of the Supreme Court wouldnt throw away their conservatism and their principles and take a liberal view for the sake of politics. It's been done before on other issues and no one can say it could never be done again..

UPDATE: There seems to be a lot confusion ( surprise, surprise) over the Heller decison involving Washington D.Cs's ban on handguns which was reversed by the Supreme Court. That decision, if one wants to read it, has nothing to do with the issues regarding whether the 2nd amendment is a states right or an individual right. If Heller decided the issue in favor of individuals, every gun law in the country would now be unconstitutional. Heller simply said that Washington DC was a special case because it is NOT a state, and therefore not entitled to anything the constitution grants to states as a states right. As everyone knows they dont even have represenation in congress and its congress that approves their budget.

Every constitutional law expert agrees on one thing -- that in terms of the controvesy over the 2nd amendment, the Supreme Court punted on Heller and decided it very narrowly only as it applies to Washington DC as a one of a kind case, and the decision has no affect on gun laws in any of the other 50 states.

Friday, April 16, 2010

CNN's ratings collapse and a right wing crazy

CNN has been on a downward spiral for years in terms of shoddy reporting, laughable attempts at trying to find "equivalency" on both sides of an issue when there is none, spending more time reporting on the more lunatic reactions to the healthcare debate instead of reporting facts, substituting reporters questionable opinions for journalism and all the while insisting on reminding us every five minutes that they are supposedly "the best political team on television".

But the latest numbers for CNN are nothing less than catastrophic: Larry King's ratings are down almost 50% as is Anderson Cooper's. Campbell Brown is down considerably and "American Morning" has fallen to last place among morning news shows. And for good reason. Their journalism is embarrassing.

And while CNN's ratings continued to slide dramatically, not just over the past few months but over the last few years, CNN management's approach to trying to stop the bleeding has been like using a cold remedy to cure cancer.

Their latest attempt at a remedy is a right wing blogger on the lunatic fringe named Erick Erickson and their hiring him is in the hope he will attract some of the right wing lunatics that watch Fox News and believe it now that more intelligent viewers have abandoned them.

How nuts is Erickson? He has threatened to answer his door with a shot gun if a census worker shows up and has spewed the usual big mouth right wing tough guy talk that never gets backed up but is used to intimidate and incite the dumbest and those incapable of thinking for themselves.. Which it sometimes does.

As the Washington Monthly reported, Erickson called retired Supreme Court Justice David Souter a "goat f--king child molester," referred to two U.S. senators as "healthcare suicide bombers," praised protesters for "telling Nancy Pelosi and the Congress to send Obama to a death panel" (something he later took back, no doubt worried that it might have broken the law) and called President Obama winning the Nobel Prize "an affirmative action quota.".

While I agree that Obama winning the Nobel Peace Prize was a joke for many reasons, the affirmative action reference clearly defines Erickson as a racist.

The Washington Monthly also quoted Erickson as saying, "At what point do the people tell the politicians to go to hell? At what point do they get off the couch, march down to their state legislator's house, pull him outside, and beat him to a bloody pulp for being an idiot?"

This is how CNN is hoping to stem the tide of their ratings collapse, by making Erickson one of CNN's on air contributors who will be appearing on John King's nightly CNN show..

But this isnt the first time CNN management has resorted to something stupid to try and stop the ratings slide. When CNN first started to slip badly because of badly reported and presented journalism, CNN's answer was profound. They decided to change the set.

Suddenly anchors and reporters were standing, walking, and using touch screen displays to communicate their inaccurate, empty and lackluster reporting and much to management's surprise, it didn't help the ratings.

After Obama was elected they hoped that pandering would boost ratings using special reports like "Black in America", a special on MLK, a special on the King assassination and two new African American anchors who, quite frankly seem like nice guys but are unwatchable as anchors for a news organization as are the anchors who were already there.

Rick Sanchez, another CNN anchor, panders to college students at 3 p.m and uses the word "cool" more than anyone in the history of the news business. He also presents the news like he feels he is talking to a collection of idiots. Sanchez has frequently been caught reporting facts that proved false as well.

CNN pioneered what I called the WWF school of journalism -- bring on someone from one side, someone from the other, use the anchor like a referee, let each side say anything they want and attack the other without proving a word of what they have to say, do nothing to challenge the statements of either guest, do nothing to prove or disprove any statement made, and then think you did your job by presenting a "balanced" presentation when "balance" has no value in true journalism. There are not two sides to every story. There are only facts.

How dishonest is CNN's approach to journalism? A few years ago CNN started running a slogan calling themselves "The Most Trusted in Name in News". The fine print disclaimer told us this was based on a Pew Research Poll. The problem is the Pew Research Poll specifically asked the question " do you trust ( cable network) to accurately report the news?"

Based on the Pew findings, 69% of respondents said they did not trust CNN to accurately report the facts. The other two cable networks fared slightly worse with 70% saying they didn't trust MSNBC and 71% saying they didn't trust Fox. This is the basis for CNN calling themselves "the most trusted name in news".

One might think that CNN would look at those numbers as trouble and think they had to do something to make their reporting better and a lot more credible. Instead someone in the marketing department looked at those numbers and said, " hey, people might not trust us and our reporting stinks, but the other two networks stink a little more, and a few more people distrust them than us so we can truthfully run a tag line saying we are the most trusted name in news."

Management obviously thought that was a brilliant idea, and no doubt the marketing person got a raise. But no one asked the obvious question -- if a news organization cant tell the truth about themselves, how can they be trusted to tell the truth about the issues facing the country?

The answer is they cant and obviously the great majority of people know it and while the marketing person probably got that raise CNN's ratings have been crashing ever since and will continue to unless there is a major house cleaning at CNN from the top down. And bringing in a right wing lunatic with a gun isnt the kind of house cleaning that is going to work.

And who is the village idiot at CNN this time who hired Erickson? His name is Sam Feist, CNN poliitcal director and vice president of Washington based programming. According to Feist, Erickson is the "perfect fit" for John King's show. He may be right. But not for the reasons he thinks.

Monday, April 12, 2010


It's always hard to criticize President Obama in the face of the irrational and sometimes racist attacks made by Republicans and conservatives. But Obama has had his own issues with the truth and his duplicity for most of his political career and a small thing like his census form just seems to underline it.

In answering the question about his race, Obama entered "African American". But Obama is not black, he is mixed raced, (which in itself is a first for a US president). But one of the major campaign themes in Obama's run for the Democratic nomination was his slogan "Yes We Can", which, as everyone also knows, was a veiled pitch that, yes we can elect an African American president. And when it was to his political advantage that's how he presented himself,even though he had an African father and white mother.

It was the idea of electing a black president that won him biased media support and it became a cause celebre to elect a black president which resulted in most of the media looking the other way every time he was caught in a lie or reneged on a pledge or promise which was almost every other day. Obama knows that too.

And so Obama finds it necessary to perpetuate the representation on his census form of being black so he can continue to justify the rationale for much of his support especially among whites, so he can be called " the first African American president". Which, as if race as the basis for supporting someone isn't superficial enough, in Obama's case it's even more superficial since its based mostly on his outward appearance.

Obama's phenotype, our outward appearance, has predominantly African features. That is the result of the random mixing of genes from both his mother and father and in Obama's case his features happen to be more African. Derek Jeter has the same genetic racial make up but the random mixing of his genes from a black father and white mother produced a phenotype with more Caucasian features and Jeter has never been referred to as the "the Yankees first black shortstop".

What is the point? Simple honesty and integrity on the part of someone who claimed to be a "different" kind of politician. And the perpetuating of something less than the truth in order to justify something.

Its a strange form of racism itself to have Obama and others call him the first African American president in the way we come to understand the term since it denies the very existance of his mother and elevates one race above another. Yes those who do it think they are doing it for a good cause, but so did anyone in history who thought for any reason one race was more important than another instead of the point Martin Luther King tried to make which is that race doesnt matter.

Imagine if Obama's appearance was more Caucasian and imagine if Obama wrote on his census form that his race was white. People would feel he was denying the existence of his black father and no doubt many would have called him an Uncle Tom. Instead, for political reasons Obama chose to deny on his census form the contribution of his white mother.

Barrack Obama used race to help him get elected and he knows it and so does most everyone else. And ironically most of his supporters discarded everything Martin Luther King stood for and judged Obama on the color of his skin not his qualifications which is why now, supporters of Obama like Matt Taibii in Rolling Stone accused Obama of "bait and switch" in the health care battle ( which is an understatement) big supporters like Frank Rich have been calling his presidency a failure to date, and others are saying "what happened, this isnt who we thought we were electing".

Thats because Obama's race is of no use to him or anyone else now that the job has to be done. And the same lack of qualifcations, and deep character flaws that existed before he was elected are all too apparent now that he's president. Its just that a lot of people dont want to admit they were bamboozled.

The truth is anytime you hear someone, including Obama or any other politician or member of the media refer to Obama as the first African American president , something they do all the time, they are making race the reason for Obama's election and lying about it.

Obama claiming his race as black is pure politics. Obama knows that better than anyone.
Not walking out on Jeremiah Wright's anti-white anti -American diatribes for 17 years was a purely political decision since the Trinity Church was in the Chicago district he represented.

When he was embroiled in the Wright controversies during the Democratic primary he said at one time that he would no sooner leave the Trinity Church than he would turn his back on the entire African American community. So when he did dump the Trinity Church when they became a political liability it's no surprise that the Democratic Black Caucus wants to know why Obama has not done more about disproportionate African American unemployment.

He said that Jeremiah Wright was like a member of his own family and he would no sooner disown him than he would disown a member of his family. But he dumped Wright too when he became too much of a political liability, and as if fullfilling a pledge,when he filled out that census form he did as promised, -- he disowned the white half his own family including his mother and his white grandmother who had a lot to do with raising him. And all for the same reason. Politics.

During the healthcare debate when the Hitler signs and words like Voodoo and Witch Doctor came out attacking Obama on healthcare the gut reaction for many, even those who criticize him, is to defend him against those kinds of low class, unwarranted, and in many ways racist attacks. Obama knows that too. So in that sense embracing and elevating the black side of who he is helps him politically in that way also.

There is no doubt that in Obama's mind, to embrace his true racial make up wouldn't be good politics. And everything Obama does is about politics whether its dropping the public option in healthcare, pulling a bait and switch as Taibii pointed out by calling healthcare reform "health insurance reform" and hope no one would notice, or filling out his census form.

The irony is that in misrepresenting his racial make up on his census form he actually did what the form is supposed to do in the first place but in a different way. It reveals who Obama is. Not black, not white but an ordinary politician.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Obama's incredible first year of accomplishment ( April Fools)

In his first year as President Barrack Obama lived up to everything his supporters hoped for, proving what he and his supporters always saidt he was -- a transformative president who was ready to be president from day one.

And he proved it again by standing up to Republicans and refusing to allow off-shore drilling, standing by his committment to develop alternative energy sources.
In his first year, Obama fulfilled all the promise and displayed all the skills and integrity his supporters in the New York Times, MSNBC, the Nation, Michael Moore and many others said he would.

On healthcare reform, the most significant piece of legislation since the Civil Rights Act, Obama arm twisted and showed remarkable backbone in getting the signature component of health care reform, the public option, passed. Standing up to fierce Republican opposition, showing steely resolve in the face of lunatic conservative opponents who tried to portray him as Hitler, refusing to compromise or be intimidated,Obama said no to back room deals with lobbyists, instead staying the course on the public option, fending off every attack and recognizing that doing what was best for the American people was more important than compromise, bipartisanship, and politics. That is true leadership.

In a move LBJ would have greeted with grudging admiration, Obama threatened Joe Lieberman with losing his seniority and chairmanship of the Homeland Security Committee if he made good his threat to filibuster the public option and then, showing why he was ready to be president from day one, instructed Harry Reid to use reconciliation to pass the bill back in June, saving a lot of angst and the political bloodletting that would have surely come had Obama not acted, as he likes to say, "swiftly and boldly" without regard to his own political standing.

He also proved proved he was the right one for the job and challenges of health care reform, when he refused to allow health insurance mandates, a part of Hillary Clinton's healthcare plan that Obama trashed all over the country during the primaries.

On jobs and the economy, he smartly refused to hand over $46 billion in tax payer money to GM to stave off bankruptcy correctly understanding that the best thing for GM was bankruptcy and reorganization. Showing why people call him a true visionairy Obama saved the tax payers $46 billion in a useless bailout. He also forced AIG to declare bankruptcy having none of the "too big to fail" nonsense, and used the sale of its assets to pay off its debts. The insurance policies held by AIG were auctioned off to other insurance companies who took the policies and in some cases divided them to share the risk. In the end it put AIG out of business, some feeling deservedly so given their recklessness in the derivative markets, and at the same time saved taxpayers tens of billions which Obama then plowed into job creation.

The money flowed fast as communities set up projects which went a long way in putting America back to work. And he insisted that government money taken by banks in a bailout be used to extend credit to individuals and businesses to get the economy moving. And it worked.

In the middle east, Obama's supporters which claimed that because he had a black father and African features he would be able to achieve foreign policy successes that others never could, were proved right again, leaving Obama's critics looking foolish, as both the Israelis and Palestinians praised Obama's ability to bring the two sides together and how having a black father caused them to trust him in ways they couldn't trust anyone else. The harmony brought about by Obama between the Israelis and Palestinians and his ability to make the Palestinians understand that Jerusalem belonged to Israel was in itself a testament to Obama's ability to unite people and proved to his supporters that he was everything he said he was.
But that wasnt all. In a decisive foreign policy test during the Iranian protests against what was clearly a rigged election, Obama, recognizing the opportunity for regime change with an avowed enemy of the United States, and with the Amadinejad government teetering, seized the moment and stood up to Ahmedinejad and supported the protesters fight for democracy showing the kind of leadership and backbone Americans want to see in their leaders. In deciding that supporting democratic principles and human rights was more important than having a talk with a mad man, Obama tilted the playing field in the direction of the protesters emboldening them and when the Revolutionary Guard refused to fire on their own people, Ahmadinejad was finished, thanks to Obama.

All in all it has been a year of great triumph, with Obama leaving his critics who said he lacked the experience, expertise and personal integrity to be president with egg on their faces. And it left everyone at the Nation, the New York Times, Associated Press, CNN and MSNBC and Michael Moore beaming with pride because Obama vindicated them.

He had the kind of first year as president that justified the belief of his supporters who said they felt goose bumps when he spoke, even when he reneged on a promise.

It was the kind of first year for a president that those who supported his candidacy can be forever proud and both Obama and is supporters can certainly say, "Mission Accomplished"!

April Fools.
NOTE: The Republican Party also ran an April Fools ad on their web site making fun of Obama's first year. The problem is the Republicans making fun of anyone's lack of accomplishment is like General Custer making fun of the the Souix's war dance.