05 February 2015

"Open Carry" or Only in America


On facebook today, I received and declined the opportunity to support an "Open Carry" law in Texas. Declining the request was fairly easy: I live in Illinois. So this argument, in this legislature, is simply not my fight. None-the-less, I began to think about the subject.

Open carry is based on the idea that the Second Amendment grants every adult American the right to be armed. So, everyone has the right, so the argument goes, to carry a firearm, as long as it is not concealed. "Open Carry" laws recognize that right, and prohibit the State from interfering with it.

This is where my English and South American friends reach escape velocity incredulity. Yes, that is really what I am talking about here. The idea is that all citizens are part of the State's, "well-regulated militia" that may be armed, and specifically with clearly visible weapons.

Reactive fire, that is responding to an attack, is a police nightmare. Policing agencies spend many hours, and a good bit of money training using "good guy - bad guy" images to teach officers when to fire and at which targets. Open carry makes the job harder. The police may not assume that an armed person may be a legitimate target if almost anyone may have a holster or shoulder carrier with a gun in clear view.

It gets worse. If you have a shooting incident, and some of the civilians are armed, they may decide (especially in a panic situation) to deploy and possibly fire the weapons they are carrying. The potential for chaos, stampede, and accidental casualties is huge. And now the police have to try to distinguish between well-intentioned citizens and the criminals.

So where do I come down on open carry? I think it is a bad idea. But what I think may not matter much. Here in Illinois, and in a number of other States, "strict constructionist" conservative jurists have been forcing States to accept what advocates call, "gun owner's rights" based on the Second Amendment. So, even in States where the polity does not particularly want an armed society, we are getting one.

Among the great American myths is the frontier. When the society was too constraining, be it England, France, Germany, Ireland, Boston, New York, or even St. Louis, the frontier myth says it is time to move on. Lerner and Lowe captured the feeling in their Musical, "Paint Your Wagon." When it is time to move on, one paints the wagon, loads the essentials, harnesses the mules, and moves along. We have become much too settled a nation for that now, or have we?

The lunatics have captured a good part of the asylum. Congress is completely dysfunctional, the idiots are refusing to vaccinate kids, and theocrats have captured the public face of what was once Christianity. Maybe it is time to paint the wagon. I am old, way too old to start over. But none-the-less, I have been reading up on how to manage mules.

02 February 2015


One of the mysteries that frustrates those of us on the progressive side of the street, is the way so many States (typically called the "red states" in our media") generate majorities that vote against their own interests. A map now circulating on the net shows those States with the higher poverty numbers correlate with those choosing Republican government.

We are a Republic: States may choose as they wish. The head scratching for Progressives, and Democrat politicians arises because the choices are so counter-intuitive. One might think of Parisian mobs supporting the aristocrats. I am struck by the question of what Pete Carroll was thinking at the (odd!) end of the Super Bowl. It is not that one may not make choices, I just do not understand how the choices make sense to anyone.

I was surprised to note today that I have not posted since New Years. This has been an unintentional hiatus. I have written and discarded a number of things. Is that, "writer's block?" I do not know. But if it is, I hope I am over it!

31 December 2014

"Slum of a Year"


A former friend of mine's father-in-law used to say of the 20th century that it was a, "slum of a century". He would point to the Shoah, two world wars, the atomic bombing of Japan, poverty and starvation in much of the third war, and widely ascendant Marxism, before resting his case. I agreed with him then, and now.

2014 will be remembered as a slum of a year. Aside from my personal losses, home, friends, and self-image, consider the election of a luddite majority to our Congress, the resurgence of the worst aspects of American racism, Ebola which is destroying Sierra Leone, the increasingly obvious self-segregation of American populations, one word: Fergeson, emergent fascism in New York's police unions, and murder of civilian populations in Eastern Europe, and especially Syria. Throw in the very worst aspects of theocracy is Syria, Egypt, and Iran, the unbridled sexism and homophobia apparent in Africa, and like the late Mr. Feldmann, I rest my case.

In our own lives, my left hand is injured. Treatment will continue into the new year, I may yet salvage the use of my finger. We lost one of our longest and closest friends: Brian. He was a good person who deserved a better ending. His sister-in-law and we tried and at least saw him, as the ancient Kelts said, "well sped." His wife, another long and dear friend has been incapacitated by a stroke. We are transitioning away from the foreclosure of our home. Neither of us is, "handling it all well." I am not at all sure we should.

And yet through all of this, the song of St. Paul resonates. "Rejoice! And again I will say, "rejoice." And so tomorrow, I shall make a fairly nice if not spectacular dinner, served for what may be the last time on our heirloom plates. Tonight a few of us will gather with a toast to the arrival of 2015. And we will attempt to rejoice as we move along in the universe created for mankind, and sometimes ill-treated by us.

Rejoice! Today is the 8th day of Christmas!

31 December 2014. 8th Day of Christmas.

31 December 2014.  8th Day of Christmas

Yes there is a point to my header.  In a real sense, Christmas (remember Christmas?) is about how we think about of time. Jesus comes after all of Creation holds its breath and time stops, waiting for a teenage girl, not a saint, merely a young woman who tries to behave as a young Israelite woman should, considers Gabriel's message. With a single sentence, "I am the servant of Adoni; let it be for me as you say." That acceptance turns time on its ear.

Now, sages begin to travel towards Jerusalem. Now an infertile couple conceives and a son is named, John. Now, all through Palestine, the new message, that the kingdom of God is at hand will be preached, and heard. From her acceptance forward calendars are changed.

Our common usage, either "A.D. or C.E" arises from that girl's acceptance. The secular, and anti-Christian world have moved to a midWinter event that works perfectly well without Miriam. I think that is very, very sad.

What is joyful is the effect of Love, the Word made flesh dwelling among us, and the ministry of salvation that all came from that calm, "as you say".  The world was forever changed. Are you? Am I?






13 December 2014

No Excuse

Somehow, the idea that if the use of torture produces, "actionable intelligence" it is acceptable has slithered into the debate arising from the Senate report. I am appalled. Nothing in the national experience or the literature suggests that torture produces useful information, and yet there is one thing that has to be shouted: it does not matter. There is no advantage, none, that justifies this evil.

One of the many things Ayn Rand was wrong about is the simple fact is that there are actual moral norms. Some things, torture among them simply never can be acceptable. Ever! Immoral conduct does not become moral because we might gain some (illusory) advantage.

If I were younger, and thought anyone would take me, I would consider emigrating. A nation that uses evil we once condemned at Nuremberg, no longer deserves allegiance. A nation that protects former Vice-president Cheney is no nation of laws. I recall being told by "conservatives" that, "America is the moral actor in international affairs." No one can defend that proposition after this report.

This is what Cheney and the torturers have done. They captured no terrorists, made the country less secure, and taken giant steps towards the destruction of our democratic country. I fear that such destruction is precisely what the theocrats want. If this is not bad enough, the failure of the Obama administration to prosecute the evildoers and incredibly using the defense offered at Nuremberg, obeying orders, makes the stench worse.

Maybe it is time to paint the wagon.

12 December 2014

So let it be with Cesar

When I was a high school student, Lyon's Twp High, uniquely in the Chicago area, required that we read a fair amount of Shakespeare. I treasure that aspect of my education. Knowing Shakespeare's plays or at least some of them, not only helps a person understand a lot of common phrases, it also leads, as our instructors believed, to an appreciation of good writing.

So, when I read this amazing report I was carried back to a part of Julius Ceasar I memorized and delivered back in 1961. Here is Marc Antony, in his famous eulogy for Ceasar
The evil that men do lives after them;
The good is oft interred with their bones;
So let it be with Caesar.

Shakespeare, "Julius Ceasar," Act III Scene II found at:http://shakespeare.mit.edu/julius_caesar/full.html

Yes(!) the Anglican Communion Office still considers the Covenant to be under provincial review! I suppose we should not be surprised. One of the many criticisms that the No Anglican Covenant Coalition leveled was that it came without any time limits on ratification.

This is a problem we Americans know a bit about. The U.S. Constitution requires that amendments be circulated to the States for approval. Initially, no time constraints applied. At one point a number of amendments, some rather frivolous, were in the approval process and had been so for decades.

So now the question becomes what to do with a thoroughly discredited Covenant that no one really thinks will help the Communion either find or retain cohesion? The answer is "no one knows." What we do know is the thing is simply not going to be the governing framework for the Communion. England, Canada, Scotland, Brazil, New Zealand, and most of Africa have rejected it. TEC will never approve it, but was misled into a sort of limbo, away from simple honesty by a committee chair who certainly should have known better.

The good that Rowan Williams did while Archbishop is largely forgotten. The singular failure of his term, his decent into institutionalism, is enshrined in the Covenant and lives on. His successor cannot convene a "primate's meeting," nor a meeting of the ACC, because either would make the schism visible. Were he to call any such meeting, a substantial number of, "GAFCON" churches would boycott. The illusion of a unified or even fractious community would vanish. Only one on those meetings might be able to formally kill the Covenant. But even that authority could be disputed. No matter, there simply won't be a meeting.

And so, as is so often the case, the evil men, do lives on. Shakespeare was right about Ceasar and right about archbishops. While that evil lives on, those of us who helped, even in some minor way, stop the drive to destroy the Communion, must remain vigilant. Evil lives on.

01 December 2014

Another Embarrasment Departs

Elizabeth Lauten was until recently, a highly placed staffer for a Republican Congressman. Over the weekend, she ended her career when she Tweeted a nasty attack on Sasha and Malia Obama. The sisters, looking like bored teenagers attended the "pardoning" ceremony for Mac and Cheese, the two lucky turkeys Mr. Obama, "pardoned" this year.

This whole ceremony is a recent tradition. Mr. Truman began it in 1947. It appears a number or the "pardoned" turkeys were eaten over the years, but of late they have been given a chance to live out their lives on a farm.

The simple fact is the whole thing is sort of silly. But, silly can be cute, and America can use some cute in its excessively partisan world. One of the rules, not one in concrete or law, but deeply in custom, is that politicians do not attack each other's kids. Ms. Lauten broke that rule. Now she has, "resigned." "Resigned" is frequently in political circles a nice word for "fired." I do not know exactly what happened, whether she offered to resign or was asked. The impact of her lack of restraint is clear.

In our 24 hour, 7 day a week news cycle, with social media at the ready every moment, any lapse can be and likely will be costly. The question is should that be the way we live? Yes, the comment was beyond rude. And yes, it broke to no kids ar attacked rule. And yes Mr. & Mrs. Obama have stayed quiet and "above the fray" as the saying goes. And yes, Ms. Lauten has paid for her error.

My only question is should that be the result? Actually, I have two questions. The other has to do with the, "talk show hosts" who make her lack of manners look like great behaviour. How do they keep their jobs and influence?
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