Second Amendment Blues

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.”

When it came to the Second Amendment, those who wrote the Constitution had this in mind:

Given their concerns at the time, it’s easy to see their reasons for including the Second Amendment in the Constitution. They were not sufficiently prescient to envision the AR-15. It’s cousin, the M-16, was the weapon U.S. soldiers carried in Vietnam. The M-16 is fully automatic (pull the trigger, and it fires several rounds), whereas the AR-15 is semi-automatic, firing once each time the trigger is pulled. It is basically a weapon of war, slightly civilized to meet a federal requirement.

The part of the Second Amendment that’s usually overlooked is the part about “a well-regulated militia.” How much would change if the “wannabes” had to join a militia and train with sufficient regularity to be considered “well-regulated”? Currently most places in the states allow any adult who wants an automatic weapon buy one. Those who do buy them often have absolutely ridiculous reasons for “needing” them. One individual I encountered on Facebook said that he needed an AR-15 so that if he is surrounded by a pack of coyotes while out hunting he will be able to defend himself from the coyotes.

My experience with coyotes in the wild (including the “wild” of the Hollywood Hills) is that, given an option, they will avoid humans. In general, wild animals aren’t stupid and do their best to avoid humans. Many of the stories humans have told about wolves, for example, simply aren’t true. The reason they have been slaughtered isn’t that they are out to get humans, but is that they are competitors for game. Wolves, coyotes, and big cats all hunt the same game humans hunt. And, yes, foxes will get into hen houses. The other predators have learned to avoid humans when possible. Humans are the big killers on the planet. Wolves, coyotes, foxes and the big cats will hunt and kill to eat. When well fed, however, they don’t kill for pleasure. They kill to eat, and they collect no trophies.

The United States is the only country in the civilized world with gun mania. It’s true that countries with lax law enforcement and an extensive criminal population also have problems with gun violence associated with lawlessness, but the U.S. is the only so-called civilized country with a gun problem. Australia had much the same early history with guns as the U.S., but elected to regulate weapons following a couple of incidents of inappropriate use. A major factor in the current situation in the States is that the NRA has become one of the most powerful lobbies in US politics (the others being Agri-Business and the pharmaceutical industry). A long time ago, Lord Acton warned, “Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely,” and in politics, money is power.

The NRA spends a lot of money influencing politicians and politics. It used to be that the NRA sponsored gun safety training. When I was young, several friends and I took an NRA sponsored shooting class. We learned gun safety and spent time working on our shooting skills at a specially designed range. Very few people object to target shooting or to hunting during appropriate seasons. The objections are to killing for pleasure. In terms of morality, there’s little difference between killing a deer (in hunting season), having the meant processed for consumption, and buying hamburger at your local grocery store. Those of us who are not strictly vegetarian (or fruitarian), kill to eat. In some ways, hunting is kinder for the animal than feed lots and the slaughter house.

The objections to the current gun laws in the States are based on arming people for war when they aren’t actually going to go to war. People who own toys naturally want to “play” with them. Guns don’t make good toys. People who are going to own guns need to be trained in how to use them. People working in law enforcement have more training than most, and still they often shoot the wrong person or fire numerous rounds and can’t hit the person they are shooting at. The stories often make the news, but nothing changes. Why are the police so afraid that they fear for their lives and “shoot first and ask questions later”? My guess is that they know that any nut case out there might be carrying, locked, and loaded….

The recent shooting in Parkland, Florida is just one example of recent mass shootings. Las Vegas is another. And, of course, those aren’t the only two. The real question, however, is how many of these “incidents” have happened in the past, but how many will happen in the future. My guess is that they aren’t going to happen in Canada, England, or France. What makes the U.S. different? We all need to think about that for awhile. But not for too long, as the time between mass shootings has been growing shorter. Who knows when and where the next one will occur….

If you’re not happy about the current situation, let your congressman and senator know.

Best Used By….

Food often comes with a label that says a product is “Best Used By” a certain date. We take the label for granted on many food products, but everything has a “best used by” date even if it does not come with a label. Anyone who has been married and later divorced knows that relationships often have a “best used by” date. Everything does, but some things—including relationships—can extend the date when that’s worth doing. Old automobiles can be restored and are often worth a great deal more money than when they were new. Classic cars are an example. Back . . . → Read More: Best Used By….

Future History

I borrow my title from one of my favorite science fiction authors, Robert Heinlein, whose books captivated me during my adolescence. A number of them have been made into movies (including The Puppet Masters, Starship Troopers, and . . . → Read More: Future History

Winter of Our Discontent

I have borrowed the title of this blog from Shakespeare’s play, Richard III. Richard III was not a nice man, although the real Richard was probably not as evil as Shakespeare and others have made him out to be. He was the last king of England to actually lead his troops into battle and died in the Battle of Bosworth Field. Shakespeare portrays him as evil, and he may well have been. Medieval kings had a tendency to be corrupt and cruel, and someone I have quoted before, Lord Acton, famously said, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts . . . → Read More: Winter of Our Discontent

Who Reads?

In some ways, a picture really is worth a thousand words. A picture can often tell a story or communicate feelings that would take a thousand words to tell. If you are old enough to remember the 9/11 attacks, you doubtless remember the video of the buildings on fire and smoking, and people jumping to their deaths to avoid being burned alive. That video has more emotional impact than any of the stories you might have read about it. Reading is more cognitive: we understand more fully. Video is more visceral: we feel more.

When I was an undergraduate . . . → Read More: Who Reads?

March of Time

When we’re young, time seems to creep at a petty pace, but the passage of time accelerates as it goes by. When I was young, I had the sense that a week was a long time, and summer vacations lasted for ever. Now, days and weeks gallop by, and even months pass quickly. When I first read Andrew Marvell’s plea To His Coy Mistress, I didn’t fully understand his impatience. At this point, even without a mistress, I can hear Time’s wingèd chariot hurrying near. When I was young, I wanted time to pass quickly so that I could grow . . . → Read More: March of Time

Ask Your Doctor….

If you watch any commercial television, you have surely noticed how much of the advertising is for prescription drugs If you think that the advertising for prescription medication has increased over the past few years, you’re correct. Such advertising is legal in only four countries, with the U.S. being one of the four. Marketing of pharmaceutical products has been “big business” for a long time, of course. Companies making such products trained an army of sales representatives to take samples around to physicians and others responsible for writing the prescriptions.

They also initiated a major lobbying effort to persuade . . . → Read More: Ask Your Doctor….

Ignorance Is Bliss

An English poet, Thomas Grey, ended his 1742 poem, Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton College, with what has become a well-known aphorism: “where ignorance is bliss, / ‘Tis folly to be wise.” The part that’s quoted most often is, “Ignorance is bliss.” Considering ignorance bliss has a long history. One of the central stories of both Judaism and Christianity is Eve’s being tempted by Satan to eat the fruit of knowledge and then persuading Adam to do the same.

The theme has been important to me for a long time. The title of my 1974 Ph.D. dissertation . . . → Read More: Ignorance Is Bliss

Another Brick in the Wall

I have borrowed the title for this blog from a song by . . . → Read More: Another Brick in the Wall

Customer Service

Although the impetus for this blog was a “customer service” call I experienced with the “help” available at Charter/Spectrum when my cable was out, most everything here applies to all companies that assume artificial intelligence can serve customers as well a breathing, thinking, human being. Eventually, my problem was solved—but not before I developed a deep and abiding hatred for Charter/Spectrum in spite of a long history of good service from the human technicians who work for the company. Here’s the story:

I was at home nursing a very sore back (which probably reduced my tolerance for the stupidity . . . → Read More: Customer Service