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Archive for December, 2012

…actually, A LOT of people’s teaching credentials need to be reconsidered, but I’d be happy to start with this guy’s.  Louis Michael Seidman is a …Lord help us…a Constitutional Law professor at Georgetown University.

He wrote this incredibly insipid fap piece for the New York Times in which he predictably laments the archaic nature of the Constitution, and those damn restrictions on the Federal Government.  It is a perfect example of how we screwed up the blueprint, based on the advice of such fine academic minds as Professor Seidman, only to then hear he, and others like him ,then declare what their shortsighted meddling broke to be “Broken”.

AS the nation teeters at the edge of fiscal chaos, observers are reaching the conclusion that the American system of government is broken. But almost no one blames the culprit: our insistence on obedience to the Constitution, with all its archaic, idiosyncratic and downright evil provisions.

No, you idiot.  The culprit is the combination of ivory towers and empty skulls that promoted ideas like the 16th and 17th Amendments that enabled the Federal Government to bloat like a tick engorged on the blood of its host, while removing any state representation in the Federal Government, allowing it to take over all manner of things that it was never granted any authority to address, because it had the financial means to do so, and had effectively subjugated the co-sovereigns in the Federal system.

Consider, for example, the assertion by the Senate minority leader last week that the House could not take up a plan by Senate Democrats to extend tax cuts on households making $250,000 or less because the Constitution requires that revenue measures originate in the lower chamber. Why should anyone care? Why should a lame-duck House, 27 members of which were defeated for re-election, have a stranglehold on our economy? Why does a grotesquely malapportioned Senate get to decide the nation’s fate?

Consider, for example, the utter lack of comprehension of the fact by an “expert” that the power of the purse should rest exclusively in the hands of those who have the shortest terms of office, thus to increase their accountability for what they do with it to thems what brung ‘em.

Our obsession with the Constitution has saddled us with a dysfunctional political system, kept us from debating the merits of divisive issues and inflamed our public discourse. Instead of arguing about what is to be done, we argue about what James Madison might have wanted done 225 years ago.

NO, you argue about what James Madison might have wanted done 225 years ago.  I argue about why Madison wanted those things done that way.  It has a lot to do with the fact that the people who argued for and against the document having a much better grasp of human nature, than silly Georgetown Constitutional Law professors.  But then, you’d know that if you actually bothered to read The Federalist Papers and the Anti-Federalist Papers.  They understood that it has always been a tendency of government to gather more and more power onto itself, usually at the expense of the governed.

As someone who has taught constitutional law for almost 40 years, I am ashamed it took me so long to see how bizarre all this is. Imagine that after careful study a government official — say, the president or one of the party leaders in Congress — reaches a considered judgment that a particular course of action is best for the country. Suddenly, someone bursts into the room with new information: a group of white propertied men who have been dead for two centuries, knew nothing of our present situation, acted illegally under existing law and thought it was fine to own slaves might have disagreed with this course of action. Is it even remotely rational that the official should change his or her mind because of this divination?

As someone who has been studying it for more than 20 years, I am ashamed that a professor of the subject frames his sophistry in such simplistic terms.  First for perpetuating the idea that an elected official in modern times reaches judgment on any course of action that is “best for the country”.  Any practiced observer of the Federal government knows that such an idea would be roundly rejected, and that its proponent would be demonized and vilified at every turn in the feverswamp on the Potomac.  One need only look no farther than “the fiscal cliff” nonsense to see the truth of this, because only in a place largely unfettered from the bounds of reality, like Congress, or the White House, could one seriously subscribe to the notion that you correct a debt created by an obscene spending habit by spending more.  But to then characterize the Constitution and the government  it created as “illegal under existing law” completely disregards the nub of our contention with England, which was the fact that our rights under English law were being subverted by a system of government that did not even pay us the courtesy of token representation and the ostensible ability to dissent, and suggest a different course of action.  It was this recognition that the rights of man were superior than the laws that robbed man of them that made the endeavor a worthy one, because the first duty of government is to punish evil, not to commit it.  It was by no means perfect in its execution, and the men who birthed this new nation and the bylaws that would govern it understood the inconsistency between seeking freedom, while denying it others.  Many of them lamented this compromise, and took it as a great moral failing, even as some of them perpetuated the institution themselves.  But that doesn’t change the fact that it was still a superior system to all that had come before, and carried with it the potential to correct this problem, although I doubt any of them would have properly countenanced the amount of blood that would be shed to do it.  Your silly characterization also does nothing to acknowledge that the government we rebelled against also retained this institution, although not as long as we did, and managed to end it without the horrific bloodshed that accompanied it here.

Constitutional disobedience may seem radical, but it is as old as the Republic. In fact, the Constitution itself was born of constitutional disobedience. When George Washington and the other framers went to Philadelphia in 1787, they were instructed to suggest amendments to the Articles of Confederation, which would have had to be ratified by the legislatures of all 13 states. Instead, in violation of their mandate, they abandoned the Articles, wrote a new Constitution and provided that it would take effect after ratification by only nine states, and by conventions in those states rather than the state legislatures.

And yet, while the approval of the product of that convention (which was always planned by Madison and Hamilton to replace, rather than patch) was not unanimous, it made the weaknesses and flaws of the Articles of Confederation impossible to ignore, which was the point.  The difference here is that while the blueprint has been significantly altered by people who refused to consider the reasons for the parts they have changed, resulting in a many-headed hydra that hurts more than it helps, largely because it exceeds its authority, and these changes have been manifested largely by an amendment process, which should imply even to the dullest of dullards that this same process can be used to rescind these errors.

No sooner was the Constitution in place than our leaders began ignoring it. John Adams supported the Alien and Sedition Acts, which violated the First Amendment’s guarantee of freedom of speech. Thomas Jefferson thought every constitution should expire after a single generation. He believed the most consequential act of his presidency — the purchase of the Louisiana Territory — exceeded his constitutional powers.

And, by use of the processes made available by it, the excesses of the Alien and Sedition Acts were brought to heel…as they should have been.  By contrast, neither Congress, nor the taxpayer brought a legal challenge to his purchase of Louisiana, suggesting that there exists a flexibility to the document that is often complained to be non-existent.  It also illustrates that the Constitution doesn’t enforce itself, and that enforcement is necessary, because if left to its own devices, the men who fill elected offices will overreach and usurp that which has not been granted to them.

Before the Civil War, abolitionists like Wendell Phillips and William Lloyd Garrison conceded that the Constitution protected slavery, but denounced it as a pact with the devil that should be ignored. When Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation — 150 years ago tomorrow — he justified it as a military necessity under his power as commander in chief. Eventually, though, he embraced the freeing of slaves as a central war aim, though nearly everyone conceded that the federal government lacked the constitutional power to disrupt slavery where it already existed. Moreover, when the law finally caught up with the facts on the ground through passage of the 13th Amendment, ratification was achieved in a manner at odds with constitutional requirements. (The Southern states were denied representation in Congress on the theory that they had left the Union, yet their reconstructed legislatures later provided the crucial votes to ratify the amendment.)

Your history isn’t quite right.  Lincoln doubted he had authority to free the slaves, and had campaigned with this admission, but the southern states did not believe him, and it wasn’t until the war had already been underway that he issued the Emancipation Proclamation.  Lincoln was guilty of other ultra vires activities during the war with relation to the Constitution, including suspending habeas corpus as it applied to certain members of the press, who successfully argued their cases to the Supreme Court, only to reveal that sometimes being correct doesn’t matter.

In his Constitution Day speech in 1937, Franklin D. Roosevelt professed devotion to the document, but as a statement of aspirations rather than obligations. This reading no doubt contributed to his willingness to extend federal power beyond anything the framers imagined, and to threaten the Supreme Court when it stood in the way of his New Deal legislation. In 1954, when the court decided Brown v. Board of Education, Justice Robert H. Jackson said he was voting for it as a moral and political necessity although he thought it had no basis in the Constitution. The list goes on and on.

And yet, your answer to usurpation and the overreach of government is to simply abolish what limitations currently exist.  Truely, the mind boggles.

The fact that dissenting justices regularly, publicly and vociferously assert that their colleagues have ignored the Constitution — in landmark cases from Miranda v. Arizona to Roe v. Wade to Romer v. Evans to Bush v. Gore — should give us pause. The two main rival interpretive methods, “originalism” (divining the framers’ intent) and “living constitutionalism” (reinterpreting the text in light of modern demands), cannot be reconciled. Some decisions have been grounded in one school of thought, and some in the other. Whichever your philosophy, many of the results — by definition — must be wrong.

Agreed.  Those decisions would be those rooted in the sophistry of “a Living Constitution”, which is really just bullshitese for “We’re going to pretend that it allows us to do this because we wanna do it.”

IN the face of this long history of disobedience, it is hard to take seriously the claim by the Constitution’s defenders that we would be reduced to a Hobbesian state of nature if we asserted our freedom from this ancient text. Our sometimes flagrant disregard of the Constitution has not produced chaos or totalitarianism; on the contrary, it has helped us to grow and prosper.

No, and much of the hinderance on growth and prosperity can be linked directly to government’s flagrant disregard for the limitations that the Constitution places upon it.  Growth and prosperity have occurred not because of government disregarding the Constitution, but in spite of it.  Ask any small business owner who has lost countless hours to the compilation and production of reams of information that government has no business requiring of them.  Ask any farmer who can’t irrigate crops because it would be deemed a threat to a species of fish that no one has ever heard of, or loggers idled because of spotted owls, or businesses that never came into existence and individual consumers who spend too much of their income on basic energy needs because a governmental agency has determined that a naturally occurring gas which is also a byproduct of coal power is a pollutant.  You may suffer brownouts because the EPA wants to regulate coal power out of business due to the production of co2, but has no interest in regulating an iota of co2 produced in Congress.

This is not to say that we should disobey all constitutional commands. Freedom of speech and religion, equal protection of the laws and protections against governmental deprivation of life, liberty or property are important, whether or not they are in the Constitution.

So you’re against the HHS mandate as it applies to businesses owned by the deeply religious, or the Catholic Church, and are against abortion, too?

 We should continue to follow those requirements out of respect, not obligation.

Apparently, I spoke too soon, if you seem to think that we do so now.

Nor should we have a debate about, for instance, how long the president’s term should last or whether Congress should consist of two houses. Some matters are better left settled, even if not in exactly the way we favor.

Fascinating.  I wonder what criteria you use to determine what “decided matters” really are decided without the benefit of a written Constitution setting forth what is decided.

Nor, finally, should we have an all-powerful president free to do whatever he wants.

Who is going to break the news to the current occupant of the Oval Office?  You know, the one that thinks that Executive Orders are an acceptable alternative to an uncooperative Congress?

 Even without constitutional fealty, the president would still be checked by Congress and by the states.

Your naivite’ is astonishing.  This President continually demonstrates that the only time he considers Congress or the states worthy of consideration is when they are in accord with him.  SB 1070 and his declaring Congress to be in recess when it was not so he could appoint who he pleased to federal positions without their intereference consent is all the proof you need.

There is even something to be said for an elite body like the Supreme Court with the power to impose its views of political morality on the country.

Yes.  What is to be said is that to have 9 unelected lifetime appointees imposing anything is tyranny, and contradicts the very nature of a republic.

What would change is not the existence of these institutions, but the basis on which they claim legitimacy.

Certainly.  Because unfettered democracies never devolve into mobocracies, tyrannies, or monarchies.  Those idiots Jay, Hamilton, and Madison (all of whom were obviously better educated than you) had no idea what they were talking about.

The president would have to justify military action against Iran solely on the merits, without shutting down the debate with a claim of unchallengeable constitutional power as commander in chief.

Or we could have a Congress that exercises its lawful authority and call his bluff by cutting of all funding for such operations. But then, that requires greater intestinal fortitude than the current crop in Congress has proven itself capable of.

Congress might well retain the power of the purse, but this power would have to be defended on contemporary policy grounds, not abstruse constitutional doctrine.

If such grounds are deemed abtruse, I submit that it is only because “educators” such as yourself have such poor command of the subject material that you are incapable of rendering such things easily understandable.

The Supreme Court could stop pretending that its decisions protecting same-sex intimacy or limiting affirmative action were rooted in constitutional text.

I’m all for that, but we could get there by actually demanding intellectual honesty from the Nine, including a professional accountability with professional lawyers. By that I mean lawyers who actually practice law, instead of the pretend ones who teach it when they can avoid getting their personal agendas in the way first.

The deep-seated fear that such disobedience would unravel our social fabric is mere superstition. As we have seen, the country has successfully survived numerous examples of constitutional infidelity. And as we see now, the failure of the Congress and the White House to agree has already destabilized the country. Countries like Britain and New Zealand have systems of parliamentary supremacy and no written constitution, but are held together by longstanding traditions, accepted modes of procedure and engaged citizens. We, too, could draw on these resources.

Except that they don’t. Britain continues to trample on its longstanding traditions. Its banning of firearms is a perfect example, as it is directly contrary to what was a longstanding tradition that was essentially codified and described in his Commentaries. I could continue, but the truth is, I’m certain I would just be met with the blank stare that you are undoubtedly giving me now.

What has preserved our political stability is not a poetic piece of parchment, but entrenched institutions and habits of thought and, most important, the sense that we are one nation and must work out our differences.

Wrong. Our political stability is a direct result of the predictability that results from everyone knowing what the rules are, rather than continually making it up as we go along.

No one can predict in detail what our system of government would look like if we freed ourselves from the shackles of constitutional obligation, and I harbor no illusions that any of this will happen soon. But even if we can’t kick our constitutional-law addiction, we can soften the habit.

Actually, I have a pretty good idea of what it would look like, especially since we have such a large percentage of the population accustomed to the idea that it is the role of the government to steal from others on their behalf. As for “softening our Constitutional-law addiction”, that is already happening. We already have “experts” who, instead of Barbie saying “Math is hard”, declare ” The Constitution is outdated. The language is archaic and hard to read, and it was written by old white one percenters who didn’t want to pay their taxes and owned slaves n’ stuff.”

If we acknowledged what should be obvious — that much constitutional language is broad enough to encompass an almost infinitely wide range of positions — we might have a very different attitude about the obligation to obey.

Except that this just isn’t true, and you’d know this if you read The Federalist Papers and the Anti-Federalist Papers. It is only ambiguous or broad if you never bothered to learn what these gentlemen were so kind enough to put into print for posterity. Let me guess…it’s hard n’ stuff, and American Idol was on, right?

It would become apparent that people who disagree with us about the Constitution are not violating a sacred text or our core commitments.

Nonsense. While slavery was a difficult compromise, the only other thing I can point to as an error was the inclusion of “general welfare”, the nature of which they were specifically warned of by “Brutus”, but frankly given the nature of that exchange, the error was in Madison and Hamilton giving this generation and the last too much credit for an intellectual prowess that too many of us have been too lazy to hone.

Instead, we are all invoking a common vocabulary to express aspirations that, at the broadest level, everyone can embrace. Of course, that does not mean that people agree at the ground level. If we are not to abandon constitutionalism entirely, then we might at least understand it as a place for discussion, a demand that we make a good-faith effort to understand the views of others, rather than as a tool to force others to give up their moral and political judgments.

The problem with this line of thinking is that Justice Rehnquist has already explained the errors that are rife in it.

If even this change is impossible, perhaps the dream of a country ruled by “We the people” is impossibly utopian. If so, we have to give up on the claim that we are a self-governing people who can settle our disagreements through mature and tolerant debate. But before abandoning our heritage of self-government, we ought to try extricating ourselves from constitutional bondage so that we can give real freedom a chance.

40 years of studying the Constitution, and you haven’t yet grasped that the Constitution doesn’t constrain us, it limits government, which is a good thing.

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2012 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

4,329 films were submitted to the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. This blog had 22,000 views in 2012. If each view were a film, this blog would power 5 Film Festivals

Click here to see the complete report.

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Need: noun

1.

a requirement, necessary duty, or obligation: There is no need for you to go there.

2.

a lack of something wanted or deemed necessary: to fulfill the needs of the assignment.

3.

urgent want, as of something requisite: He has no need of your charity.

4.

necessity arising from the circumstances of a situation or case: There is no need to worry.

5.

a situation or time of difficulty; exigency: to help a friend in need; to be a friend in need. 

 …………………………………………………………………………………………………………

“And I don’t think many need 5000 rounds of ammo on a moment’s notice either.”

One of the most frustrating things about trying to have a “dialogue” with people who claim to want one about guns is their willingness to condition the exercise of a right that they don’t like on the “need” of the individual (as gauged by the person who is arguing for limitations on that right, of course).

Sadly, this error is a common one, and is the predictable outgrowth of conditioning by a government that too often speaks of its acts of redistribution in terms of its presumed duty to meet people’s needs, and even goes so far as to further confuse matters by calling its largesse “rights”.  This grotesque mangling of the English language might be a bit more palatable if it was at least evenly applied by those who practice it, however, that wouldn’t suit the purposes of those who benefit most from this confusion and the usurpation of sovereignty and power that it enables.  As a result, I seem to be having more and more conversations regarding the Second Amendment with intellectual eunuchs who not only have bought into this kind of thinking, but have purposely blinded themselves to the abundant evidence that their arguments make no sense, and are inconsistent to boot.

My first time encountering this was a few years ago during the Tea Party Summer when MSNBC beclowned itself with selective editing of an Arizona rally attendee who came with a shouldered firearm.  My sometimes internet sparring partner Rutherford Lawson expressed all of the predictable liberal emotions and denunciations, topped off with what he thought was the coup de grace: “Why do you need to bring a gun to a political rally?”
My response was simple: “Why should anyone have to justify the exercise of a right?
(And by “right”, I mean a real one, not merely a justification for government giving me something.)”
While he had some responses, none directly addressed this core question.

The question returned in the aftermath of the Gabby Giffords shooting.  The left and the media (but I repeat myself) attempted to divert attention from their ridiculous malpractice in accusing Sarah Palin of being responsible for the shooting, then rambling about the shooter’s conservatism, and then when that narrative could no longer hold, the cause du jour became banning “high-capacity magazines”, because people “don’t need them.”  And again, I asked the question “Why should anyone have to justify the exercise of a right?”  And again, I was not presented with an acceptable answer. (Heck, I wasn’t even presented with a coherent answer.)

This brings us to the current “national conversation” on “gun control”, wherein the Newtown School Shooting has given the tyrants among us license to give voice to all their confiscatory fantasies, Second Amendment be damned.  Whether from the foaming mouth of a British citizen on a network no one watches demonstrating his willingness to march on Lexington and Concord all over again, or elected officials, who have sworn an oath to defend the Constitution openly proclaiming their intention to subvert it, either because they don’t believe that “the governed” have any business having the right to defend themselves by the same means that they themselves enjoy, or because they are desperate to be seen as “doing something” other than spending our money and avoiding doing the work they were elected to do.  The justifications are simple…minded…, and include such sterling reasoning as ” At that time, the musket was cutting edge.  They never contemplated today’s “assault weapons”, and therefore, they should be banned at the earliest opportunity.”

The problem with this specious argument is that you are talking about people who understood that science kept advancing on all fronts.  Not only did they understand this, they made provision for the protection of the intellectual property that resulted when they wrote the bylaws.  That is why Congress was granted the specific authority in Art. I, Sect. 8.

To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries;

Nor were advancements in arms a foreign concept to them, as this letter from Thomas Jefferson to James Monroe describes:

“DEAR SIR,

– The bearer hereof is Mr. Whitney at Connecticut a mechanic of the first order of ingenuity, who invented the cotton gin now so much used in the South; he is at the head of a considerable gun manufactory in Connecticut, and furnishes the U.S. with muskets undoubtedly the best they receive. He has invented molds and machines for making all the pieces of his locks so exactly equal, that take 100 locks to pieces and mingle their parts and the hundred locks may be put together as well by taking the first pieces which come to hand. This is of importance in repairing, because out of 10 locks e.g. disabled for the want of different pieces, 9 good locks may be put together without employing a smith. Leblanc in France had invented a similar process in 1788 and had extended it to the barrel, mounting & stock. [Emphasis Added] I endeavored to get the U.S. to bring him over, which he was ready for on moderate terms. I failed and I do not know what became of him. Mr. Whitney has not yet extended his improvements beyond the lock. I think it possible he might be engaged in our manufactory of Richmd. tho’ I have not asked him the question. I know nothing of his moral character. He is now on his way to S. Carola. on the subject of his gin. Health & happiness cum caeteris votis.

Lest you think that this is one narrow piece, I suggest getting the Library of America’s volume “Jefferson: Writings” and spending some time reading it yourself.  I submit that he and his contemporaries were acutely aware that science in all endeavors was going to march forward, whether or not some attempted to keep the genie in the bottle, and that they fully contemplated advances in arms as part and parcel of those scientific advances to come.

The “need” argument has also been applied to specific types of arms, resulting in some variation this premise :

“You don’t need a ______for hunting.” or “You don’t need a _________ for household defense.”

The obvious reply is that the Second Amendment says nothing about hunting, and while it says nothing about household defense, that is tacit based on both the conditions that existed when it was drafted (with many homes being on the frontier, and subject to attack by natives, and where there was little in the way of professional law enforcement), but it was also part of the common law that informed the nation’s jurisprudence and legal experience.  From Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Laws of England, Book One, The Rights of the Individual:

5. THE fifth and last auxiliary right of the subject, that I shall at present mention, is that of having arms for their defence, suitable to their condition and degree, and such as are allowed by law. Which is also declared by the same statute 1 W. & M. ft. 2. c. 2. and is indeed a public allowance, under due restrictions, of the natural right of resistance and self-preservation, when the sanctions of society and laws are found insufficient to restrain the violence of oppression.

This particular individual right was also reflected in the individual Constitutions of the colonies which predate the formation of the United States as well.  (Which I leave to the reader to research, although a good reference point is the The Second Amendment Primer, from which you will find the appropriate references to be able to complete the research on your own, or as a wise old man once said “Trust, but verify”.)  That said, the idea that the defensive purpose was subject to an arbitrary need, which is (of course) to be determined by someone else, is neither expressed or implied in common law, tradition, or the text of the language itself, and in fact, many of the so-called reasonable restrictions that gun control activists would be counter to the entire language of the Amendment, as this piece in National Review does a fine job of describing.  While it seems obvious to people who own guns and who have paid attention to the constant usurpation of state and individual power and sovereignty by the Federal Government that “The Second Amendment Protects the First” or “The Cartridge Box Protects the Soap Box, The Ballot Box, and the Jury Box”, there have been generations of citizens conditioned to be subjects by public instruction, and will endeavor to condition the exercise of the Second Amendment on the approval of the institution that is supposed to answer to us.  They remain willing to compromise this right in exchange for the illusion of safety given by a government which continually demonstrates that it cannot be the ONLY line of defense.  It is a mindset responsible for the idea that people are made safer in “gun-free” zones because a nation of millions of law-abiding citizens who are entrusted daily with a myriad of other tools, many of which are capable not just of ending life, but multiple lives in one use, are somehow not to be entrusted with a firearm.  While this creates a target-rich environment for the criminals, and the insane, both of which seek easy victims, it does not create a place that is any safer than those where citizens can carry guns.

Which brought me to my latest encounter, and the assertion that there should be background checks and waiting periods for anyone purchasing 5000 rounds or more of ammunition.  When I asked why the 5000th round was now suspect when 4999 wasn’t, I was told that if you were a law-abiding citizen, it shouldn’t be too big a burden to undergo another check and waiting period, and

“And I don’t think many need 5000 rounds of ammo on a moment’s notice either.”

And so the error of “need” was embraced yet again.  But “need” and ” the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” are not compatible.  That is the reason for the precise language that says “shall not be infringed”.  It doesn’t say “shall not be infringed unless…” And once again I asked the question “Why do I have to justify the exercise of a right?” , and again I received no worthy answer.  I’m not surprised by this.  Even a half-wit can recognize the trap laid by this kind of thinking.  If you have to justify the exercise of your Second Amendment right, then you also should have to justify the need for the exercise of all the others.  We don’t make members of the Press obtain licenses.  We don’t make dissenters explain why they have a need to dissent.  We don’t bar the church door until congregants explain why they need to show up and worship when they do.  We don’t require suspects to explain why they need to require a warrant before the police can search their homes, their cars, or their offices.  We don’t make defendants tell us why they need the right to remain silent.  No defense of this logic has been offered precisely because it is indefensible.

And while I’ve had a few people express to me the idea that the Second Amendment is not inviolable because it is subject to amendment itself, I reject the notion.  It isn’t a step I take lightly, but it is the product of several years of study of the law, and the philosophy of the law.  At its core, the Bill of Rights is an expression of unalienable rights.  It is not exhaustive, but it exists as a guarantee by the government of the ability to exercise the rights enumerated.  It was undertaken not as a concession that they were government’s to grant, because the people who drafted the Constitution and the Bill of Rights knew better, but as a recognition that governments are jealous of the rights of the individual, and that when left their own devices, governments will usurp what they can, and curtail or restrict that which they cannot usurp.  This being the case, if government were to undertake the amendment of any portion of the Bill of Rights, it would no longer be acting lawfully, and would be manifesting an intent to protect the rights of government, and not of its citizens.   This is why I do not have to justify the exercise of a right to anyone.  It is a right, and by its nature, no justification or need should be made to anyone else for it.

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The problem with making movies from comics is that if it isn’t being headed by someone who loves the characters/story, it shows.  While I wasn’t a huge fan of the first Ghost Rider movie, I thought it was well-done, and did no lasting damage to the story.  I even liked the nod to the cowboy-era Ghost Rider, played by Sam Elliot.  I can’t say the same about the second installment of the series.

The new film opens with confusion at a monastery…a well-armed monestery, and much running and shooting, apparently in an attempt to capture a boy.  We aren’t sure why, we are only offered a few clues as a woman, perhaps his mother, spirits him away from the gun thugs there to capture him.  Anthony Head plays the head monk, and blessedly for his career, his screen time is short before he’s left a corpse on the floor.  Unfortunately, the viewers aren’t as fortunate.

When we finally see Johnny Blaze, he is obviously worse for wear.  He is hiding out in an abandoned industrial site in eastern Europe, where he is found by a survivor of the monastery attack, a wine-swilling, black motorcycle riding priest named Laurent, played by a slumming Idris Elba.  He recruits a reluctant Blaze, who has struggled under the curse of the Rider, and is losing his battle to keep his humanity and to keep the Rider in check.  What finally sways him is the offer to be freed of his curse in exchange for retrieving the boy and bringing him to the shelter of the monks (because they did such a bang up job the first time they had him in their custody).

As the story unfolds, the Rider comes out, and confronts the thugs as they are attacking the boy and his mother.  Apparently, he no longer has the penance stare, and instead eats their souls in an almost special-effectsless scene.  We find out that the mother was from a background that was like a Hell on Earth, and made her own deal with Rourke (the Devil) that left her with a young son, Jaime, who Rourke wants back.  Rourke isn’t played by Peter Fonda this time out, and is instead being played by Ciaran Hinds, who I can only assume like Nick Cage, needs the money.

The story plods along, and we find out that Rourke wants Jaime so he can transfer his soul into Jaime’s body, which doesn’t have human weaknesses like Rourke’s body, which is “burning out”.  Along the way, Eurotrash favorite Christopher Lambert, who reveals that the monks’ intentions for young Jaime are less than what had been billed, after the promise to free Johnny of the Rider had been kept, and the Rider had been taken from Blaze,  leaving him helpless to intervene.

The climax left the predictable body count, and a new purpose for the Rider, as he was supposedly restored to his supposedly original angelic-type role.  But aside from Idris Elba’s character, I found that I genuinely didn’t care what happened to anyone in this movie.  By the time I got to the closing credits, I found myself honestly wishing that they would have made the movie about Laurent instead, as that would have been an infinitely more interesting movie.  However, if you want to see a craptastic movie, either for an evening of shredding a crummy script with good and sarcastic friends, or just because you enjoy it when Hollywood decides that you’re stupid, and wants to prove it by selling you tickets, then Ghost Rider: Spirit of vengeance is for you.  If, however, you actually liked Ghost Rider in all his four-color glory, avoid this like you would the Blade sequels, or the equally horrible Punisher movies.

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One of the drawbacks of living in a society where feelings short-circuit logic is that all too often is that people engage in acts of compassion for dubious reasons, or engage in acts that by their communal nature make people feel compassionate without actually ever requiring anything from them. 

For example, earlier this year I was perusing a cousin’s Facebook page.  On it was a notice that he would be attending an event in Detroit entitled “End Hunger, Cure Poverty”…or was it “Cure Hunger, End Poverty”?  The point was questionable either way.  I found it slightly ironic, as this cousin is professional clergy, and as such, should know better than to fall for the hubris of ending or curing poverty.  After all, he serves a savior who very plainly stated “For you have the poor with you always, but Me you do not have always.”  I have no problem with people who want to assist others, and I’m all for them doing it privately, rather than with taxpayer money, but eventually, my curiosity got the best of me, and I sent him a message asking “Do you honestly believe that man can end hunger?”

I got back a one word reply.  “Yes.”

I’m still not sure how that isn’t essentially calling Christ a liar, but I have to work out my own salvation with fear and trembling.  I’ll leave that other question to him.

I saw this on the gas pump at Safeway last night, and while I think it's great that people are giving to this, I found the idea that a $10.00 donation would "End Hunger" almost offensive.

I saw this on the gas pump at Safeway last night, and while I think it’s great that people are giving to this, I found the idea that a $10.00 donation would “End Hunger” almost offensive.

And so we come to the current over-wrought emotionalism in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary Shootings.  It isn’t enough for celebutards and leftist mouthpieces to labor under the delusion that government can and should abrogate our Second Amendment rights, and to say so at every opportunity, and displaying their moral superiority and clarity by calling for NRA members to be shot, but we also have what is now the cause ribbon of our day:  The Moment of Slience, “out of respect” for those murdered.

Last night, after making Christmas cookies to take to work and share with co-workers, my wife turned on the TV.  It was tuned the Miss Universe Pageant.  I was on the computer in the living room, so I could hear it when the frivolous proceedings were halted as the contestants and the audience observed a “Moment of Silence” for the victims of Sandy Hook, “out of respect” for them.  My eyes rolled as my wife changed the channel.

But the thought remained, like sand in my underwear.  What did it accomplish?  It was an empty gesture, but it undoubtedly made people feel as they were doing something, and therefore embodied the kind of substance that society has come to treasure in this day and age.  I know that this will cause some to conclude that I am harsh, or a jerk, or worse.  While that wouldn’t be the first time (it’s an occupational hazard), I floated the thought in a community of friends on Facebook, and found that I’m not the only one who thinks so.

The emptiness of the gesture wasn’t the only thing about the “Moments of Silence” that are popping up like daisies in the wake of the shootings.  It was the fact that so many of the people eager to participate in this formal expression of grief are the same people who would think nothing of aborting those same kids when they were just “blobs of cells”, but now want to weep over the corpses (from a distance), and promote the idea that more government and fewer means to address its overreach are the solution, rather than seriously examining the idea of crazy person control.

A friend pointed out that it implies a moment of prayer, but doesn’t go that extra step, and this was an event that called for it.  But then he also stated “…if Democrats called for a moment of silence for every aborted child, they’d never speak again.”  Another pointed out that the formal nature of it makes it an act without meaning.  And one pointed that it was another demonstration the narcissism in our culture…another way for those who love attention to draw it to themselves.  I think that this was also part of my irritation, much like something known on an instinctive level, but not yet teased out of the subconconscious, instead waiting for sudden jelling of the kind to wake me at 3 am when my brain finally fit it together, because the minute I read these remarks, my brain immediately went to Matthew 6:5-6:

““And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. 6 But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.

Congratulations, society.  You have found a way to pretend at the genuine concern and emotion of another age, while investing nothing in it.  Say what will, but you can count me out.

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Gun Control doesn’t fix the problem, which is PEOPLE. What it does do is make masacres like this more likely, especially in “gun free zones”, which if you think about it, are the ultimate expression of gun control. Laws that say “you can’t have a gun here”. Obviously, that only disarms people who are inclined to follow the law.

And before anyone starts hyperventilating, I’m NOT advocating that kids carry guns to school. What I am suggesting is that we allow those who we entrust with keeping our kids safe while they are in the school’s custody the ability to actually DO SO, because when seconds count, the police are only minutes away.

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