January 30, 2009

Scatter-shooting – of Good and Evil

Op Ed page

A long time ago, in a land far away, I would go down to the Golden Buff Newsstand on Broadway in Boulder, Colorado where I would peruse news and opinion from around the world. This was back in the 60’s, and it was probably pretty odd at that time for a store in the United States to have rags from New York, San Francisco, London, Capetown, Cairo and Helsinki, all under the same roof. The status of the University of Colorado as a major research facility, and the presence of NOAA’s National Center of Atmospheric Research made the selling of these papers profitable, and their availability enhanced my exposure to other cultures while still at an impressionable age.

For a young, west Texas born country boy, this exposure provided startling revelation. Not everyone thought the same as we did. Morality, it seemed, was flexible and dependant on geography.

Over the years since I’ve continued the habit of following opinion pages of various newspapers. The more the merrier. Newfangled technology has aided my efforts considerably and I can now read English language versions of publications from around the world without getting out of my pajamas.
Fast-forward some 40 years from Boulder, and here I sit behind the glowing plasma screen of a laptop, prowling news and opinion stories on-line and musing on the same cultural differences that so startled me as a youth. What had its start in a smoky newsstand has led me to spend a great deal of time visiting various venues spewing differing opinion; radio, television, print and on-line sources, as well as listening to a variety of speakers around the world. It also encouraged me to spend time reading various tomes to learn how and why things happened from another perspective.

Morality and Patriotism

So history has been as much of a passion as news gathering. I’ve found that, with the combination of historical knowledge and an understanding of opinion, it becomes easier to see how societies led by charismatic leaders can be bent to a purpose. I’ve also learned that these purposes, and the actions demanded by them, have the potential for great good… or for great evil.

Probably the most well known recent example of this is the Third Reich. Adolph Hitler was very convincing, and German society was in a mood to be convinced. The resultant evil is undeniable, and also is abundant proof of how easily whole societies can be led to evil behavior; how they can be led to believe that there is good in something history will certainly judge to be evil.

"Naturally the common people don't want war: Neither in Russia, nor in England, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But, after all, It is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship,
or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the peacemakers for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country."

That was Hermann Goering testifying at the Nuremberg Trials. Pretty dramatic observation. With a bit of pause we can remember scores of similar, if smaller scale tales to tell—some old and some modern. A short list just might include:
  • Salem witch trials
  • Stalin
  • Mao
  • French-Algerian war
  • Bosnia
  • The People’s Temple (Jim Jones)
  • Civil wars in Congo, Sudan (twice), Ethiopia, Rwanda, Mozambique and Nigeria
  • Khmer Rouge
  • 9/11/2001
Some in the world would say we should include the U.S. led war in Iraq and our war on terrorism. I’m almost inclined to agree.

Are we Sheep?

What is it about people that allows for this blind following of an articulate orator? Is it arrogance? Ignorance? Theology? Lack of understanding? Whatever it is, it can obviously be dangerous.

We are seeing a great deal of sheep mentality in the Obama craze, and just like with George Bush, it is reactionary rather than reasonable. The followers of Shrub suffered (still suffer?) from the same myopia, and I think our country has suffered greatly because of it. Dubya felt morally mandated to behave as he did. He believed he was divinely led. He followed his convictions. A little moderation would have gone a long way back then, but there was none.

He was wrong in so many ways, and some damn bad things have happened in the world because of it. The actions of the Bush administration enabled and caused atrocities. Of that I have no doubt, although I’m just as certain that some of the folks reading this will doubt my patriotism because I dare to speak these words.

Now the pendulum has swung. The over-action of the right-wingers has fomented an overreaction by the left. Will the results be as evil? Possibly. I fear we’ll see over-action in this administration, at least to some degree, if in an opposing direction. Unless the Obama cult can find moderation, America will suffer further.

A majority of voters in modern America, I think, display sheep mentality—chasing after ideals and following dogma rather than thinking for themselves and using reason. Sound bites uttered by shrill, emotion-provoking pundits rule the culture. The television news offers them all they feel they need to know, and thus we run from crisis to crisis.

It doesn’t have to be that way, but we’ve allowed the growth of a media that foments it, because it’s good for ratings (profits) when the people are afraid. Folks following narrowly focused opinions have nothing with which to compare them. Fear is the result. Everything is polarized, and attempts at moderate, fair coverage fail to reach an audience. We are selectively ignorant.

This is why we never see a quality candidate rise to the top of the ballot for either of the major parties. Just as Goering understood, people ignorant of the truth can be led like sheep. Everyone needs to have the benefit of a Golden Buff Newsstand. A little exposure to alternate cultures could go a long way.



January 28, 2009

A Bit of History: Part I

I couldn’t sleep for some reason so I started pouring over archived files on my hard drive. I had thought I’d cull some of them to regain a little space, but instead I took a walk through 20 plus years of my past. It was interesting retracing the path. One folder contained a smattering of Eleanor Roosevelt’s newspaper columns, titled My Day. Mrs. Roosevelt penned the column six days a week, from 1935 until 1962. She missed only four days in that time, when her husband died.

The War of Booze in the 30's, and the War of Drugs Today:

Interestingly enough, the topic of her July 14, 1939 column was prohibition.

“A number of letters have come to me complaining bitterly about the fact that I said in an article recently that the repeal of prohibition had been a crusade carried on by women. I know quite well, of course that the Democratic Party took the stand in its platform that Prohibition should be repealed. I have always felt, however, that the women's organization for repeal, which was a nonpartisan organization, laid the groundwork which finally brought about the vote for repeal.

I was one of those who was very happy when the original prohibition amendment passed. I thought innocently that a law in this country would automatically be complied with, and my own observation led me to feel rather ardently that the less strong liquor anyone consumed the better it was. During prohibition I observed the law meticulously, but I came gradually to see that laws are only observed with the consent of the individuals concerned and a moral change still depends on the individual and not on the passage of any law.

Little by little it dawned upon me that this law was not making people drink any less, but it was making hypocrites and law breakers of a great number of people. It seemed to me best to go back to the old situation in which, if a man or woman drank to excess, they were injuring themselves and their immediate family and friends and the act was a violation against their own sense of morality and no violation against the law of the land.

I could never quite bring myself to work for repeal, but I could not oppose it, for intellectually I had to agree that it was the honest thing to do. My contacts are wide and I see a great many different groups of people, and I cannot say that I find that the change in the law has made any great change in conditions among young or old in the country today.”

That last line pretty much tells it like it is today. Again I have to wonder why it is we have to keep learning the same lessons over and over.



January 24, 2009

Raytheon lobbyist picked for deputy Defense post

Obama's First Really Big Mistake

While I recognize that right wingnuts will say this is merely one more in a succession of errors, in my mind Obama made his first devastating misstep with the appointment of William J. Lynn III as the number 2 man in the Pentagon. After promising that special interests would not have a seat at the table, this is a huge disapointment.


January 23, 2009





Rep. Bill Young (R - FL) speaking in objection to Pres. Obama's closing the Guantanamo Bay detention facility:

"[O]nce they become present in the United States, what is their legal status? What is their constitutional status? I worry about that, because I don't want them to have the same constitutional rights that you and I have. They're our enemy"

Thomas Paine:

"He that would make his own liberty secure must guard even his enemy from oppression; for if he violates this duty he establishes a precedent that will reach to himself"

Sri Chinmoy:
"Who is man's enemy? How many enemies are there? Only one, and that enemy is man's own unlit lower self"


Gun Control ≠ Crime Control


One of my pet peeves is “all or none” politics. Of my friends, I can think of at least a few who support or fight political candidates on single issues. Hot button things like abortion, creationism, gun control, etc. Nothing else, in their minds, matters. That particular issue is what it takes to change a mind. Wing nut politics.

In New York we almost installed another Kennedy, but thankfully Caroline came to her senses and withdrew. She may be a nice person, but she has no experience at all in politics. Now a more experienced and centrist individual is under consideration. Kirsten E. Gillibrand is serving her 2nd term representing New York’s traditionally conservative 20th Congressional District. She won a traditionally Republican seat because she is a moderate Democrat. New York Gov. David Paterson is said to be considering her. Unfortunately, she has opposition.

65-year, old, seven term Democrat, Carolyn McCarthy of New York’s 4th district is a staunch gun control proponent, and a staunch opponent of Gillibrand. McCarthy is threatening to run against her in the primaries if Gillibrand receives the appointment to fill Sen. Clinton’s vacated seat. Both are Democrats, so one is left to wonder why McCarthy is behaving so badly.

Gillibrand, it seems, is a defender of our Constitutional rights, which is apparently okay with McCarthy… until it comes to the 2nd amendment. McCarthy’s history in politics is rooted in her opposition to the right of citizen gun ownership. Her reason? McCarthy’s husband was murdered with a handgun wielded by a “deranged” man. Colin Ferguson killed six and wounded 19 when he flipped out while riding the Long Island Rail Road passenger line. Gillibrand, on the other hand, has supported gun owner rights. She apparently recognizes that it was a lunatic that killed McCarthy’s husband, not a gun.

In other words, McCarthy is yet another wing nut.

January 22, 2009

Top Ten Faculties in "History of Analytic Philosophy (including Wittgenstein)" in the English-Speaking World

University of Texas Scores Well

In the specialty rankings, faculties are grouped according to their mean score, rounded to the nearest .5. In parentheses after the school's name, the median and mode scores are listed. Within the grouping, faculties are listed alphabetically.

Group 1 (1-2) (rounded mean of 4.5) (median, mode)

University of St. Andrews/University of Stirling Joint Program (4.5, 5)

University of Texas, Austin (4.25, 4.5)

Group 2 (3-10) (rounded mean of 4.0) (median, mode)

Birkbeck College, University of London (4, 3.75)

Brown University (3.75, 5)

Harvard University (4, 4.5)

New York University (4, 4.25)

University of Chicago (4, 5)

University of Illinois, Chicago (4, 4)

University of Pittsburgh (4.25, 4.5)

University of York (4, 4)

Evaluators: Warren Goldfarb, Jane Heal, Robin Jeshion, Bernard Linsky, Robert May, Stephen Mulhall, Peter Pagin, Ian Proops, Thomas Ricketts, Ian Rumfitt, Mark Sainsbury, Scott Soames, Jason Stanley.

From The LeiterReports, posted by Brian Leiter on January 21, 2009 at 09:59 PM in Philosophical Gourmet Report Permalink

January 20, 2009


In a most dramatic foreclosure, we, the American people, repossessed our property and we have let it out to a new family. Let’s hope this one can pay the rent.

The Sphere is aquiver with blog posts regarding the changing of the guard at the White House. My past few hours have been spent reading some of what the pundits have to say. We have them on both ends of the spectrum and from the middle, but for the most part the view goes something like this:

We have a new president. He was/was not my man. This is/is not a glorious day for America. The next four years will be a departure from/return to failed policies. Our stature in the world is diminished/enhanced by this historic event.
In other words, not much has changed in the blogosphere. Too bad.

Obama was not my choice. I voted for him because my candidate never had a chance. Because of our screwy system of elections, only a Republican or a Democrat is likely to ever sit in the White House, at least in my lifetime. My candidate was Libertarian. Bob Barr. Not much chance, but it was worth the try.

Now I support Obama. Although I’ll not go gaga and drool, I do see him as hope for the future. McCain might have offered some hope too and might have been the best of the bad choices, but the neocon claws dug too deeply into his soul and he lost his way. With the addition of Sarah Palin to the ticket I could not find my way to pull the red lever. Palin and her ilk frighten me. Just as George W. Bush frightened me. Bush proved my fears to be valid.

I’ve been watching elections and feeling the political winds since the inauguration of John F. Kennedy in 1961. Never have I seen this country so welcoming of a new President, and never have I seen the country so happy to see the past President go away. Some still cling to the misguided belief that the Bush efforts since 9/11 have somehow made us safer, and some remain Bush apologists. Honestly, I can’t figure that out.

Take my good friend TOTWTYTR. In his missive on this topic he all but laments the passing of the torch to some lesser man, offering something smelling of sympathy for a President put out to pasture. Obviously TOTWTYTR and I are in disagreement.

This nation and its citizens suffered George W. Bush and his crew for eight, long years. Gerald Ford’s quote as he took the reins from a resigning Richard Nixon referenced the Watergate mess, but those words have found new meaning in the pasturing of Bush. “Our long national nightmare is over.” Finally we have the hope that we may be able to steer this country on the road into the future, unencumbered by neocons who would sacrifice the rights of the people for the “greater good.”

I listened to the Bush farewell speech. If I had been advising him he would not have done that, but it appears he felt some burning desire to vindicate himself. But the best he could come up with was “I have followed my conscience and done what I thought was right. You may not agree with some tough decisions I have made, but I hope you can agree that I was willing to make the tough decisions.”

No, Mr. Bush, I don’t agree. This is not something of which a leader should be proud. We all follow our conscience from time to time, and we all make mistakes because of it. Every failed leader in history could say the same. Osama bin Laden could say it, as could Hitler, Mao, and Stalin. Even the 9/11 hijackers could say they followed their conscience. One’s conscience is merely a collection of desires based upon the limited perceptions of an individual. We should ask if the conscience of a man is worth following. In the case of Bush, obviously not.

While the failures of the former administration do not rise to those of Hitler or Mao, the Bush conscience had much in common with them. Each ruled from a position of supreme arrogance, disregarding the rights of man and justifying it by evoking some greater good. Our great nation did not need, and certainly did not deserve that which eight years of Bush has wrought.

It is past now, thank god. As I said earlier, Obama is not my choice. I fear he will try some really stupid stuff, but maybe not. Maybe he will not be so arrogant as to think he knows best. Maybe he will listen to the will of the people. Maybe. We have to have hope.

This feeling is not exclusive to Americans. People around the world are celebrating the change and the hope of a better future. This country enjoyed great influence in world affairs in the past, much of which was lost over the past eight years. Before Bush there were some who hated us, but most did not. Much of the world looked to America in great hope.

Remember the headline of the French newspaper Le Monde following the events of 9/11? “We Are All Americans Today”. George W. Bush, following his conscience, with his self-righteous arrogance, squandered the greatest opportunity ever afforded an American President. The goodwill offered following the events of 9/11 was lost in a whirlwind of ill-conceived over-reactions. If Bush had made the right choices the world may have united to fight the evil of terrorism. Now much of the world calls America evil and we fight terrorism all but alone.

Obama, in his inaugural speech, offered some hope. His was a message of inclusion, with relatively little arrogance. He is not a messiah, and there will be real tough rows to hoe, but perhaps… just perhaps, Barack Hussein Obama will be what America and the world needs.

We can hope.


January 19, 2009

Zero Tolerance Gone Wild

I’m reminded of that oft protested cable television show, Girls Gone Wild. This episode might be titled School Administrators Gone Wild. I mentioned earlier the plight of 13-year old Savana Redding. Since then I’ve done a little surfing, looking for information on similar phenomena. Indeed I did find a few.

Waco, Texas – 4-year old boy charged with “inappropriate sexual contact/Sexual harassment” after he hugged a teacher.

Azel, Texas – 16-year old Junior Varsity baseball player given one year suspension after an 8-inch mini baseball bat was spotted in the back seat of his car, parked in the school lot. After it was determined the mini-bat was a piece broken off of a baseball trophy, the suspension was reduced to 5 days. Ironically, the boy has a full size aluminum bat in his trunk (along with his other team gear), but that was okay. On a sidebar, the boy seems to have overcome this stupidity as my web search found him doing pretty darn well playing for a AAA team.

Hurst-Euless-Bedford, Texas – A 16-year old who had helped move his ailing grandmother’s stuff to the Goodwill box was yanked out of class by an assistant principal and security guards who had spotted a suspicious item in the bed of his pickup. It was a butter knife that had fallen out of the boxes. No matter the explanation, the boy received a 1-year suspension. Public outcry got it reduced to 5 days.

In my search I found hundreds of accusations of overzealousness by school officials enacting Zero Tolerance policies. Several fit into the category of those mentioned, but many had some suspicious ring to them. In a lot of the cases I felt pretty certain the rules were followed and punishment meted out appropriately. The reports were whining parents claiming their little darling could never be guilty of such behavior. So there are two sides to the ZT story.

From reading some of the reports I got a feeling that school administrators were being hemmed in by bad policies and were left with little discretion in their decisions. I sympathize with them. Mandatory sentencing guidelines are pretty much a crock, both in the criminal justice system and in school policy. We have a lot of good educators in our systems, but they are shackled by unwise policy.

We also have more than a few wiener head teachers and administrators, who should not be allowed any closer to a school than we allow a strip club.


January 18, 2009

Danger Will Robinson! Robot B9 is gone.

I'm starting to feel my age. It was 1965 when the B&W television show Lost in Space premiered, and the reruns can still be found on obscure cable channels. In today's USA Today I found the obit for Robot B9. Actor Bill May, who always said he got the job only because he fit in the suit, died Sunday at age 69.

Take it easy Bill. Give our regards to Dr. Smith.

Zero Tolerance as a Product of the War on Drugs

On October 08, 2003, 13-year of honor student Savana Redding became an innocent victim of the War on Drugs. The case rises to a Constitutional level based upon a warrantless and unwarranted strip search in an effort to find drugs.

Redding had never been in trouble and never before been disciplined, but was this day standing accused of possessing and distributing a most disturbing and dangerous drug; Advil.

The allegations against Redding originated from an already-caught student trying to wiggle his way out of trouble. When asked by vice Principal Kerry Wilson, the boy identified another female student as the source of the 400mg Advil found in his possession. The female student was brought to the office and questioned, whereupon she identified Redding as the pusher.

When brought to the office, Redding denied it, but vice Principal Wilson instructed a female nurse to see if Redding was hiding the medicine in her clothes. In a private room, Redding disrobed and was instructed to move her bra to the side and pull out her underwear. No drugs were found. In an account of the strip search, Redding described how she was “offended by the accusations,” and how she felt “violated by the strip search.”

Redding’s family sued the school district and school officials with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union. The suit was thrown out, but they appealed, and after two rounds got a strongly worded victory from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit. The margin was a shocking 6-5. If that is the best we can muster from even the very liberal 9th, we are in sad shape. Still, the majority opinion is heartening.

The basis for the search was the school district’s "zero tolerance" policy against drugs. This policy is extended to all drugs, including OTC’s such as ibuprofen, which teenage girls might use to relieve the pain of menstrual cramps.

The court ruled that reasoning to be outrageous: “It does not take a constitutional scholar to conclude that a nude search of a 13-year-old girl is an invasion of constitutional rights," Judge Kim McLane Wardlaw wrote for the majority of the judges. "More than that: it is a violation of any known principle of human dignity."

The drug in question was prescription-strength (400 mg) Advil, or the equivalent of two OTC tablets, which is a recommended dose. The court was not swayed by the drug's prescription-only status: “We reject Safford's effort to lump together these run-of-the-mill anti-inflammatory pills with the evocative term ‘prescription drugs,’ in a knowing effort to shield an imprudent strip search of a young girl behind a larger war against drugs. ... Nothing in the record provides any evidence that the school officials were concerned in this case about controlled substances violative of state or federal law. No legal decision cited to us or that we could find permitted a strip search to discover substances regularly available over the counter at any convenience store throughout the United States. ... And contrary to any suggestion that finding the ibuprofen was an urgent matter to avoid a parade of horribles, even if Savana had possessed the ibuprofen pills, any danger they posed was neutralized once school officials seized Savana and held her in the assistant principal's office. Savana had no means at that point to distribute the pills, and whatever immediately threatening activity the school may have perceived by the alleged possession of prescription-strength ibuprofen had been thwarted. The school officials had only to send Savana home for the afternoon to prevent the rumored lunchtime distribution from taking place -- assuming she in fact possessed the pills on her person. The lack of any immediate danger to students only further diminishes the initial minimal nature of the alleged infraction of bringing ibuprofen onto campus.”

Commenting on this affair, Jacob Sullum, senior editor at Reason magazine, editorialized that "There are two kinds of people in the world,": "the kind who think it's perfectly reasonable to strip-search a 13-year-old girl suspected of bringing ibuprofen to school, and the kind who think those people should be kept as far away from children as possible." Sullum further says that "Sometimes it's hard to tell the difference between drug warriors and child molesters."

The U.S. 9th Circuit Court at least paved the way for the school to be sued. The parents did so, and the case is on its way to Washington. The Los Angeles Times reports that the United States Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case in April.

The National School Boards Association told the court that the decision had the "undesirable effect of holding school administrators personally liable for making decisions of constitutional import on which experienced jurists cannot agree," alluding to the earlier court decisions that the search was constitutional.

But the ACLU's brief said the decision "follows clearly established law in finding that a school official cannot strip search a thirteen-year-old girl based on unreliable information that she might have possessed ibuprofen at an unspecified earlier time and in an unknown location."

The attitude of the school officials troubles me deeply. How can a reasonable person believe that suspicion is all that is required to grant authority to strip search a 13-year old girl? Especially over ibuprofen! Is it the goal of our schools to train our children to blindly subject themselves to abuses of their natural rights? How can this kind of behavior be called anything other than child abuse? As I’ve commented before, this War on Drugs has turned into a war on reason. “Zero Tolerance” is a crock that serves only to trample the rights of kids. It’s as absurd as it is unreasonable. As Sullum states in his opinion piece, "It's a good thing the school took swift action, before anyone got unauthorized relief from menstrual cramps."

The 9th Circuit’s opinion (including dissents) may be found at Safford Unified School District 1 v. Redding.


The Hits Keep on Rolling

"No God" bus ads banned in Italian city
Sat Jan 17, 2:30 pm ET

ROME (Reuters) – Italian atheists have lost a bid to run "no God" advertisements on city buses after strong opposition from conservative political parties, a member of the group said on Saturday.

The ads reading "The bad news is that God doesn't exist. The good news is that you don't need him" were to have been put on buses in the northern city of Genoa, home to the Catholic cardinal who is head of the Italian Bishops Conference.

The mock-up was ready and the contract was sent to the group for signing but the publicity agency changed its mind and said the ad could not run it because it violated an ethics in advertising code, according to Giorgio Villella of The Italian Union of Atheists and Rationalist Agnostics (UAAR).
"Right-wing politicians criticized us ferociously," Villella said by telephone from the group's base, adding that at least one bus driver in Genoa said he would refuse to drive a "no God" bus.

"It's strange that in a country where ads depicting near-naked women wearing skimpy lingerie is permitted on buses that we can't run ads about atheism," Villella said.

Villella said the group's lawyers would likely file an appeal to a court to overturn the decision and that the group would try to run the ads in other Italian cities.

Atheists in Barcelona, London and Washington have already run "no God" ads on city buses.

January 17, 2009

Religious Bigotry

What if …
What if a resident of a small town wrote a letter to the editor of the local newspaper, stating “It’s time to stomp out Islam in America. The majority of Americans would love to see the Muslims kicked out of America”?

What if a MySpace forum dedicated to Judaism was hacked, the owner deleted and the name changed to “Allah is Love!”?

What if a serving U.S. Representative, commenting on a theatrical performance, said “I was very moved by the song that talked about the damage that Christianity has caused and is causing. It was very moving”?

What if a campaign advertisement for an incumbent U.S. Senator featured the candidate stating that Jews were “the most vile, radical liberals in America”?

What if a candidate for President of the United States and sitting Vice-President, in response to an interviewer’s question, replied “I don't know that Budhists should be considered as [American] citizens, nor should they be considered patriots”? What if a state comanager for the campaign later stated that “Everything the Budhists do is bullshit.”?

Do you think any of this would be tolerated in the United States? Do you suppose there would be a bit of a reaction? Now, let’s substitute the word “atheist” for each of the above to see if you still feel the same.

Do you?

All of this has already happened. In my first example, Alice Shannon of Soldotna, Alaska wrote a letter to the editor of the Peninsula Clarion which was published January 29, 2007, titled “Reader Voices Strong Opinion on Atheists”.

It’s time to stomp out atheists in America. The majority of Americans would love to see atheists kicked out of America. If you don’t believe in God, then get out of this country.


The United States is based on having freedom of religion, speech, etc., which means you can believe in God any way you want (Baptist, Catholic, Methodist, etc.) but you must believe.

I don’t recall freedom of religion meaning no religion. Our currency even says “In God We Trust.” So, to all the atheists in America: Get off of our country.

Atheists have caused the ruin of this great nation by taking prayer out of our schools and being able to practice what can only be called evil. I don’t care if they have never committed a crime, atheists are the reason crime is rampant.

The MySpace forum for atheists, with 35,000 subscribers, was hacked twice, deleted twice, many of the members banned, and the owner’s account deleted. Each time the forum was renamed “Jesus is Love”.

In my third example, the statements of Florida District 21 Congressman Lincoln Diaz-Balart were published in The Epoch Times. Congressman Diaz-Balart was commenting on a performance of the Divine Performing Arts show in Fort Lauderdale. The show is a musical and dance performance by a troop of Chinese artists associated with the Falun Gong.

Elizabeth Dole’s campaign is responsible for the bigot bating in North Carolina as she saw her chances for reelection slipping away. Dole ran not one atheist bashing advertisement, but two.

And my final winner goes to George H.W. Bush, who uttered “I don't know that Atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered patriots. This is one nation under God" In an August 27, 1987 interview with Robert I. Sherman. When George Bush was campaigning for the presidency one of his stops was in Chicago, Illinois, on August 27, 1987. At O'Hare Airport he held a formal outdoor news conference. There Sherman, a reporter for the American Atheist news journal, fully accredited by the state of Illinois and by invitation a participating member of the press corps covering the national candidates, had the following exchange with then-Vice-President Bush.

Sherman: What will you do to win the votes of the Americans who are atheists?

Bush: I guess I'm pretty weak in the atheist community. Faith in God is important to me.

Sherman: Surely you recognize the equal citizenship and patriotism of Americans who are atheists?

Bush: No, I don't know that atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered patriots. This is one nation under God.

Sherman (somewhat taken aback): Do you support as a sound constitutional principle the separation of state and church?

Bush: Yes, I support the separation of church and state. I'm just not very high on atheists.

On October 29, 1988, Mr. Sherman had a confrontation with Ed Murnane, cochairman of the Bush-Quayle '88 Illinois campaign. The following conversation took place.

Sherman: American Atheists filed the Pledge of Allegiance lawsuit yesterday. Does the Bush campaign have an official response to this filing?

Murnane: It's bullshit.

Sherman: What is bullshit?

Murnane: Everything that American Atheists does, Rob, is bullshit.

Sherman: Thank you for telling me what the official position of the Bush campaign is on this issue.

Murnane: You're welcome.

A couple years ago researchers from the University of Minnesota asked somewhat more than 2,000 randomly chosen Americans whether they would disapprove of a child's wish to marry an atheist, 47.6 percent of those interviewed said yes. Asked the same question about Muslims and blacks, the yes responses fell to 33.5 and 27.2 percent, respectively. The yes responses for Asian-Americans, Hispanics, Jews and conservative Christians were 18.5 percent, 18.5 percent, 11.8 percent and 6.9 percent, respectively.

When asked which groups did not share the vision of American society, 39.5 percent said atheists. Asked the same question about Muslims and homosexuals, the figures dropped to 26.3 percent and 22.6 percent, respectively. For Hispanics, Jews, Asian-Americans and African-Americans, they fell further to 7.6, 7.4, 7.0 and 4.6 percent.

It appears that American atheists are seen as alien. We are, in the words of sociologist and lead researcher Penny Edgell, "a glaring exception to the rule of increasing tolerance over the last 30 years." She further states that atheists seem to be outside the limits of American morality, which has largely been defined by religion.

Interview reports indicated that many of those surveyed saw atheists as given to criminal behavior or drugs, dangerous cultural elitists, or amoral materialists. She states, "Our findings seem to rest on a view of atheists as self-interested individuals who are not concerned with the common good."


So it appears that it is okay to hate atheists; that it is acceptable to discriminate against and harass the godless. A crossdressing, gay, black, Jewish abortion doctor is better protected and has more friends. We are the Great Unwashed.

The study appeared in the April 2007 issue of the American Sociological Review and was co-written by assistant professor Joseph Gerteis and associate professor Doug Hartmann.

The number of atheists and agnostics in the United States is hard to measure, especially since most of us don't advertise, but most surveys put the number at about 16 percent of the population. That would tally into the millions.

The Great American Dream...


January 15, 2009

2008 Weblog Awards

Robert Stein's Connecting the Dots is a pretty good news commentary blog. Below is a copy and paste of one recent post to show you why I like Mr. Stein's work:
Thursday, January 15, 2009

Bush's Luck
Whatever else he is, George W. Bush has not been a lucky president. Here he is, after eight disastrous years in office, in the TV spotlight to make his case for history in a sentimental setting, and millions of viewers can't wait to see the last of him and get back to watching a miracle in Manhattan--a crippled airliner with 155 people landing without loss of life on a strip of river between the crowded shores of New York and New Jersey.
As the President was praising himself, Americans were impatient to learn about a man his age named Chesley B. Sullenberger III, who piloted a twin-jet Airbus safely into the water and then walked the aisles twice to make sure everyone was safe before finally leaving his craft.
An attentive mind and heart could not fail to be moved by the contrast between that airline captain and the man in the White House who steered America into a bloodbath in Iraq after 9/11 and who responded feebly to Katrina, telling us how he kept the nation safe
"I have followed my conscience," Bush said, "and done what I thought was right. You may not agree with some tough decisions I have made. But I hope you can agree that I was willing to make the tough decisions."
Like ditching a damaged plane, steering a nation in distress is not an activity that allows for being graded on good intentions. George W. Bush has been unlucky in the challenges he faced that were beyond his control, but he met them with arrogance and ineptitude that resulted in needless loss of life time and again.Americans can only hope there is no need for an emergency response in the next five days.

January 12, 2009

In the News

The article below, referencing a recent study, falls into the "I Coulda Told You That" catagory:
Recession Could Spur Traffic Citations

Mon Jan 12, 3:28 pm ET

The sour economy could get you a speeding ticket.


A new study finds local governments - at least in North Carolina - use traffic citations to make up for revenue shortfalls.

Thomas Garrett, assistant vice president at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, and Gary Wagner from the University of Arkansas Little Rock, examined 14 years of revenue and traffic citation data from 96 counties in North Carolina.

"A one percentage point decrease in last year's local government revenue results in roughly a 0.32 percentage point increase in the number of traffic tickets in the following year," Garrett and Wagner write.

The number may sound small, but it's a statistically significant correlation, they say.

The finding adds credence to something many drivers have long suspected: Safety isn't the only thing motivating cops. Since many municipalities retain the money generated by traffic fines, perhaps traffic enforcement also acts as a bit of a fundraiser, the researchers speculate.

"There is ample anecdotal evidence that local governments use traffic tickets as a means of generating revenue," Garrett and Wagner write. "Our paper provides the first empirical evidence to support this view."

And when the economy recovers, be advised not to step on the gas. The study found no significant drop in tickets after government revenues increased.

The findings will be detailed next month in the Journal of Law and Economics.

January 9, 2009

Quite a Tribute

Senior Corporal Norman Stephen Smith
Police Department, City of Dallas

Cops have not always been my friend. Working on the streets I had some not so plesant encounters. I guess we’ve all had our ups and downs with law enforcement, but overall I’d have to say the bad ones I’ve had to deal with pale in the shadow of the good. I've known some paramedics I wasn't proud of either. It all evens out. For every jerk, there have been plenty rays of sunshine. So I won’t complain.
In every profession there are the really good ones. Better than good. Those who rise to the top. The ones who set examples and the others call leader. Some cops stand out so much they actually make a difference. It isn’t easy making a difference when you deal with the mean streets, but in Dallas there was a guy who managed it. He was one of those who maybe even deserved the much abused term, hero.
We buried him today. Senior Corporal Norman Smith would have celebrated 18 years on the force yesterday, if he hadn’t been shot in the head by a drug dealer the evening before.
Norm was in the Gang Control Unit. He was part of a squad charged with keeping control of the streets for the citizens of Dallas. Not an easy task, considering there are about six dozen gangs and 7,000 gangbangers, mostly concentrated in smallish hoods, and only a few dozen gang cops.
Norm apparently did a pretty good job of it. He believed in prevention. A big part of his focus was intervention, and he would go to area high schools several times every month, speaking to kids and trying to keep them on the straight and narrow. The path of the funeral procession passed near two of those schools. The flags at both were at half mast and the kids were out front; heads bowed. Several crying. Quite a tribute.
Norm was part of the communities he served. Everybody knew him. He was on the streets so much in one particularly troubled Dallas neighborhood the gangbangers gave him a nickname. They called him the “White Russian”. He stood out not only for his skin color, but because he was a very big man. A big, gentle man. At the funeral, and at tributes the day before, street kids who Norm had rescued from the gangs stood to speak out for the man they credited with saving their lives. Again they cried. Quite a tribute.
The funeral procession travelled over 25 miles, from the Potter’s House in Southwest Dallas to Restland Memorial Park on the city’s north side. The lowest estimate has the number of vehicles in the procession in excess of 1,500. over 6,000 souls attended that funeral. It took hours for the whole procession to make it across Dallas, shutting down some of the Metroplex’s major traffic arteries in the heart of rush hour. Motorists pulled to the side of the highway, got out of their cars and stood with heads bowed.
Thousands of them. All along the path. Vehicles and people lined the roadsides, the sidewalks, the bridges and overpasses. Citizens stood with heads bowed and hats doffed; some holding American flags over their heads. Police and fire departments from neighboring cities parked their vehicles along the path, standing at attention alongside the roads. It was moving. Quite a tribute.
Norm leaves behind Regina, his loving wife of 18 years. Norm and Regina had, as one of the local pundits put it, "the rare kind of marriage for which the human heart yearns – unshakably smitten, thunderstruck, goofy-in-love even after years of familiarity and routine." They had two kids. Even in his marriage Norm was a hero.
Quite a tribute.
Senior Corporal Norman Stephen Smith, Badge number 6613, was toned out for the final time January 06, 2009.

Video of the funeral may be viewed here.
Final tribute may be viewed here.


London Atheist Campaign Draws Complaints

I wish I could say I’m surprised… but I’m not.

The Guardian is reporting that a British religious organization known as Christian Voice has filed complaints with the Advertising Standards Authority over the Atheist Bus Advertising Campaign I reported on earlier. Their assertion is that there is no evidence to support a claim that there is no god, so therefore the bus advertising is false.

Stephen Green, spokesman for Christian Voice, states that by ASA regulation “marketers must hold documentary evidence to prove all claims.” And “There is plenty of evidence for God, from people's personal experience, to the complexity, interdependence, beauty and design of the natural world.” Therefore, the sponsor for the advertising, the British Humanist Association, is making a false claim.

So there you have it. The godless cannot prove a negative, and the godded have “personal experience.

For their part, chief executive of the association Hanne Stinson, says: "I've sought advice from some of our key people here, but I'm afraid all I've got out of them so far is peals of laughter. I am sure that Stephen Green really does think there is a great deal of evidence for a God (though presumably only the one that he believes in), but I pity the ASA if they are going to be expected to rule on the probability of God's existence."

The irony is becoming unbearable.


January 7, 2009

British Atheists Roll Out Ad Campaign

The New York Times ran a piece yesterday about an advertising campaign using London busses. Atheists in London, in response to Christian advertising on busses, decided to return the favor. “There’s probably no God,” say advertisements on 800 busses. “Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.” Reactions were mixed, but I found the following of particular interest:

“I think it’s dreadful,” said Sandra Lafaire, 76, a tourist from Los Angeles, who said she believed in God and still enjoyed her life, thank you very much. “Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but I don’t like it in my face.”

I certainly hope I'm not the only one finding that statement rather ironic.


January 6, 2009


The Intent of the First Amendment:

Many of our Founding Fathers were religious men; some Christian, some not. Theism or Pantheism seem to have been the prevalent philosophies; therefore we could say most of the Framer’s had some sort of belief in a deity. A great many of the colonists were refuges from religious persecution, fleeing the injustice of a state-sponsored religion. Some of those wanted to install their particular belief system as the American state sponsored religion.
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion…”
So why do we have this constitutional prohibition? We live in far different times than our forefathers, so it will be impossible to know without doubt just exactly what they were thinking, but we can get a pretty good idea based upon the records of debates as the Bill of Rights was discussed. Various language was proposed before Congress proposed the 1st amendment. Some early draft amendments to the religion section were:

"The Civil Rights of none shall be abridged on account of religious belief or worship, nor shall any national religion be established, nor shall the full and equal rights of conscience be in any manner, nor on any pretext infringed. No state shall violate the equal rights of conscience or the freedom of the press, or the trial by jury in criminal cases." --James Madison, June 07, 1789

"No religion shall be established by law, nor shall the equal rights of conscience be infringed," --House Select Committee, July 28, 1789

"Congress shall make no laws touching religion, or infringing the rights of conscience." --Samuel Livermore, August 15, 1789

"Congress shall make no law establishing religion, or to prevent the free exercise thereof, or to infringe the rights of conscience." --House version, August 20, 1789 (Moved by Fisher Ames)

"Congress shall make no law establishing religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." --Initial Senate version, September 03, 1789

"Congress shall make no law establishing articles of faith or a mode of worship, or prohibiting the free exercise of religion." --Final Senate version, September 09, 1789

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." --Conference Committee

The final wording was accepted by the House of Representatives on September 24, 1789, and by the Senate on September 25th. It was ratified by the States in 1791.

A Wall of Separation:

Through the years, several court rulings have referenced the Jeffersonian concept of a "Wall of Separation" between government and church. The decisions have root in a letter written by the new President, dated New Year’s Day, 1802.

Shortly following the 1801 elections, Jefferson was petitioned by some Connecticut Baptists to declare a National Day of Fasting. Those requesting this believed the nation to be in need of spiritual healing following the bitter election contest. Jefferson declined, stating that the Federal government should not recognize such religious behavior with a Federal holiday.

In reply to the request, Jefferson wrote: "Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God, that he owes to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legislative powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with solemn reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should 'make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,' thus building a wall of separation between Church and State."

The "Wall of Separation" term leaves little doubt of the meaning of the Establishment clause, or of the intent of the framers of our Constitution. Church and government should not mingle.

Resisting the Religious:

I am in total agreement with this concept. Religion and I do not reside in the same house. I do not want my taxes to fund the display or teaching of religion in government institutions. If you want to teach your children your religious beliefs at home or at your church, go for it. If you want to display the Ten Commandments, hang them on your living room wall. That is your right as guaranteed by our Constitution. However, do not insist that your religion (or theologically centered curriculum) be taught in the schools my taxes help fund. If you want religion in school, send your kids to private schools.

I’m a godless non-theist... happy as a clam, and I’m not the only one with these sentiments. A recent nationwide survey found that somewhere in excess of 16% of the population held little or no religious belief. The survey, conducted between May 8 to Aug. 13, 2007 by the Pew Forum on Religious and Public Life, sampled more than 36,000 adults. Freethinkers, active atheists and non-Christian religious protesters have fought several court battles to maintain this "Wall of Separation.” The dogmatists are persistent and I feel certain the battles will rage ad nauseam.

Atheists have fought back, and some have gone too far in their protest. In some cases this has created an atmosphere of fear and hatred.
This is the part with which I do not agree. Anti-theism is actvism we don't need any more than we need theistic activism. It is counterproductive to protest or file legal action over minor displays of religion in the schools. If you want to deny evolution and teach ID in the classroom, you infringe on my rights. But if a teacher allows students a few moments of silence for prayer, I can see little problem. There is room in the middle for all of us.

The modern courts have upheld this “Wall of Separation” and have struck down some of the more egregious violations. Unfortunately, the theologian’s losses combined with atheist overreach have resulted in unfortunate results. The courts, school teachers and school boards have carried the intent too far; in some cases to the point that that religion has become a taboo topic, and any expression of religious belief or discussion of religious philosophy has resulted in disciplinary actions. This is a great loss, for it leaves the children mostly ignorant of the enormous impact, both for evil and for good, of religion in American culture.
I don't want you teaching them religion in public schools, but they should learn about religion in our history.
The Intent:

The Founder’s intent was to allow religious freedom in this country; something unique to the world at the time. From the records they left we know they wished America to be a land of liberty, where men are free to choose. The wanted both freedom of... and freedom from religion. It was never their intent that religion be denied.


January 5, 2009

Comments? Comparison?

"His primary achievement has been in confusing the public mind, as between the internal and the external threats of Communism. We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty. We must remember always that accusation is not proof and that conviction depends upon evidence and due process of law. We will not walk in fear, one of another. We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason, if we dig deep in our history and our doctrine, and remember that we are not descended from fearful men. [...] We proclaim ourselves, as indeed we are, the defenders of freedom, wherever it continues to exist in the world, but we cannot defend freedom abroad by deserting it at home. The actions of the junior Senator from Wisconsin have caused alarm and dismay amongst our allies abroad, and given considerable comfort to our enemies. And whose fault is that? Not really his. He didn't create this situation of fear; he merely exploited it -- and rather successfully."

Edward R. Murrow, March 9, 1954

Small Economy Joke...

BULL MARKET -- A random market movement causing an investor to mistake himself for a financial genius
BEAR MARKET -- A 6 to 18 month period when the kids get no allowance, the wife gets no jewelry, and the husband gets no sex
VALUE INVESTING -- The art of buying low and selling lower
STOCK ANALYST -- Idiot who just downgraded your stock
STOCK SPLIT -- When your ex-wife and her lawyer split your assets equally between themselves
FINANCIAL PLANNER -- A guy whose phone has been disconnected
MARKET CORRECTION -- The day after you buy stocks
CASH FLOW-- The movement your money makes as it disappears down the toilet
LONG TERM INVESTOR - Another name for a delusional person
LONG TERM INVESTMENT STRATEGY -- What you tell your wife so she doesn't try to do a stock split
WALL STREET -- America's version of the Vatican. It physically exists in our country but it does not have to obey our laws
RECESSION -- You're neighbor is out of work
DEPRESSION -- You and you're neighbor are out of work
DEEP DEPRESSION -- You're Viagra doesn't work
DEEP DEEP DEPRESSION -- You can't afford Viagra
G7 -- Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, United Kingdom, United States
G1 -- China

January 3, 2009

Here Kitty Kitty

Someone needs to put the cat out. She keeps making messes on the floor.


In Defense of Freedom: Part IV

The 3rd Amendment:

It would seem to me that the first two amendments to the United States Constitution were prioritized. The 1st amendment was considered of primary importance, because liberty demands freedom of expression and conscience. Without doubt, it was free expression, in the form of the printed word, which led to the American Revolution. The Pen is Mightier than the Sword.” Therefore, the rights guaranteed under the First are considered the most powerful tools of liberty. The 2nd amendment, while very important in that it allows for the defense of the First, pales in its shadow.

In light of the overshadowing importance of the First and Second, the 3rd amendment is somewhat of an enigma.
“No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law”
The Third is rather widely mocked, but to the Founders it was an absolute necessity. The root of the language can be found in the Founder’s fear of a standing army in peacetime. James Madison was the major proponent of this amendment.

In 1765 and again in 1774, British Parliament passed the Quartering Acts, authorizing British troops to take shelter in the homes of American colonists. It was the forced quartering of British troops in private homes in the years anteceding the Revolution that helped foment unrest and eventually led to revolution.

Even during the Revolution, British soldiers relied on their authorized ability to quarter at private residences. In 1776, the Declaration of Independence assailed the British for quartering "large bodies of troops among us" and keeping "standing armies without the consent of our legislature." The Founders desired to guarantee no American government would be allowed to infringe on citizen’s rights.

One should not be too hard on a citizen not knowing of the Third. According to the Government Printing Office (GPO), it is likely the least cited Constitutional provision in federal cases, but there is one cite. In an interesting case from 1982, Engblom v. Carey, corrections officers in New York went on strike and were evicted from their state owned housing by New York Governor, John Carey. The National Guard was brought in to substitute for the striking guards and bunked in these quarters. One of the corrections officers sued, citing the 3rd amendment… and lost.

An amusing anecdote regarding the 3rd amendment has Judge Laurence Silberman of the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals having dinner with a group of law students. Silberman is widely understood to be a constitutional law expert, and has issued rulings on constitutional claim dealing with every constitutional amendment… except the Third.

The students engaged Silberman in discussions of a variety of his case opinions. A particularly pinheaded student commented that Silberman must only rule on a case involving the Third and he would have ruled on them all. Silberman is reported to have paused a bit, looking a bit confused, and then stated, “I’m very sorry, but what is the Third Amendment, again?”

If you’re having trouble sleeping, Mule Breath will offer some nighttime reading material guaranteed better than counting sheep:



Kontorovich, Eugene, The Constitution in Two Dimensions: A Transaction Cost Analysis of Constitutional Remedies. Virginia Law Review, Vol. 91, 2005

Dugan, Joshua B., When is a Search Not a Search? When it's a Quarter: The Third Amendment, Originalism, and NSA Wiretapping (July 3, 2008). Georgetown Law Journal

January 2, 2009

More evidence for evolution of species?

In a former life, the young lady in the video served as a paramedic on the Texas frontier. Her new job is with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection service. The critter is a previously undiscovered specie.


January 1, 2009

In Defense of Freedom: Part III

The 2nd Amendment:
Writing this has been more difficult than I thought it might be. Of all the words in our United States Constitution, there are 27 that seem have caused more controversy and debate than the whole of the rest of the document.
"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."
For about the past two score years, there have been more pages published in debate of the 2nd Amendment than on any other several constitutional issues combined. Those few words have confounded many modern folk, but from my reading I have come to unerstand very well the Founders intent. From letters and published reports I find it evident the signatories to the Bill of Rights intended the 2nd Amendment to guarantee the right of the individual to possess firearms.

There are many today who do not interpret the 2nd Amendment to guarantee this right to the individual, but instead insist the intent was collective. In light of the following excerpts, taken from various letters and records, I fail to understand that interpretation.
Quotes from the Founders:

“A strong body makes the mind strong. As to the species of exercises, I advise the gun. While this gives moderate exercise to the body, it gives boldness, enterprise and independence to the mind. Games played with the ball, and others of that nature, are too violent for the body and stamp no character on the mind. Let your gun therefore be your constant companion of your walks”
--- Thomas Jefferson in a letter to Peter Carr, 1785
One loves to possess arms, though they hope never to have occasion for them.
--- Thomas Jefferson in a letter to George Washington, 1796

“We established however some, although not all its [self-government] important principles. The constitutions of most of our States assert, that all power is inherent in the people; that they may exercise it by themselves, in all cases to which they think themselves competent, (as in electing their functionaries executive and legislative, and deciding by a jury of themselves, in all judiciary cases in which any fact is involved,) or they may act by representatives, freely and equally chosen; that it is their right and duty to be at all times armed”
---Thomas Jefferson in a letter to John Cartwright, 1824

“No freeman shall ever be debarred the use of arms”
---Thomas Jefferson writing in a draft of the Virginia State Constitution, 1776

“…the advantage of being armed which Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation... where the governments are afraid to trust the people with arms”
---The Federalist No. 46, authored by James Madison

“To suppose arms in the hands of citizens, to be used at individual discretion, except in private self-defense, or by partial orders of towns, countries or districts of a state, is to demolish every constitution, and lay the laws prostrate, so that liberty can be enjoyed by no man; it is a dissolution of the government. The fundamental law of the militia is, that it be created, directed and commanded by the laws, and ever for the support of the laws”
---John Adams, Defense of the Constitutions of the United States 475 (1787-1788)

“Before a standing army can rule, the people must be disarmed; as they are in almost every kingdom in Europe. The supreme power in America cannot enforce unjust laws by the sword; because the whole body of the people are armed, and constitute a force superior to any band of regular troops that can be, on any pretence, raised in the United States. A military force, at the command of Congress, can execute no laws, but such as the people perceive to be just and constitutional; for they will possess the power, and jealousy will instantly inspire the inclination, to resist the execution of a law which appears to them unjust and oppressive”
---Noah Webster, An Examination of the Leading Principles of the Federal Constitution, 1787

"… if raised, whether they [federal government] could subdue a nation of freemen, who know how to prize liberty, and who have arms in their hands?"
--Theodore Sedwick, speaking at the Massachusetts Constitution ratifying convention, Jan. 09 - Feb. 06, 1788

“Who are the militia? Are they not ourselves? Is it feared, then, that we shall turn our arms each man gainst his own bosom. Congress have no power to disarm the militia. Their swords, and every other terrible implement of the soldier, are the birthright of an American... the unlimited power of the sword is not in the hands of either the federal or state governments, but, where I trust in God it will ever remain, in the hands of the people”
---Tenche Coxe, Writing in the Pennsylvania Gazette, Feb. 20, 1788

“… whereas, to preserve liberty, it is essential that the whole body of the people always possess arms, and be taught alike, especially when young, how to use them”
---Richard Henry Lee, Writing in the Pennsylvania Gazette, Feb. 20, 1788

“Guard with jealous attention the public liberty. Suspect every one who approaches that jewel. Unfortunately, nothing will preserve it but downright force. Whenever you give up that force, you are ruined”
--Patrick Henry, speaking at the Virginia ratifying convention, June 02 - June 26, 1788

“O sir, we should have fine times, indeed, if, to punish tyrants, it were only sufficient to assemble the people! Your arms, wherewith you could defend yourselves, are gone...Did you ever read of any revolution in a nation...inflicted by those who had no power at all?”
--Patrick Henry, speaking at the Virginia ratifying convention, June 02 - June 26, 1788

“…when the resolution of enslaving America was formed in Great Britain, the British Parliament was advised by an artful man, who was governor of Pennsylvania, to disarm the people; that it was the best and most effectual way to enslave them; but that they should not do it openly, but weaken them, and let them sink gradually...I ask, who are the militia? They consist of now of the whole people, except a few public officers. But I cannot say who will be the militia of the future day. If that paper on the table gets no alteration, the militia of the future day may not consist of all classes, high and low, and rich and poor...”
---George Mason, speaking at the Virginia ratifying convention, June 02 - June 26, 1788

“…the people are not to be disarmed of their weapons. They are left in full possession of them”
-- Zacharia Johnson, speaking at the Virginia ratifying convention, June 02 - June 26, 1788

“That the people have a right to keep and bear arms; that a well-regulated militia, composed of the body of the people, trained to arms, is the proper, natural, and safe defence of a free state; that standing armies, in time of peace, are dangerous to liberty, and therefore ought to be avoided as far as the circumstances and protection of the community will admit; and that, in all cases, the military should be under strict subordination to, and governed by, the civil power"
--Recommended language for the 2nd Amendment, offered by the Virginia delegation, June 26, 1788

"And that the said Constitution be never construed to authorize Congress to infringe the just liberty of the Press, or the rights of Conscience; or to prevent the people of the United States, who are peaceable citizens, from keeping their own arms;…"
--Samuel Adams, as quoted by the Philadelphia Independent Gazetteer, August 20, 1789

“The whole of that Bill is a declaration of the right of the people at large or considered as individuals... it establishes some rights of the individual as unalienable and which consequently, no majority has a right to deprive them of”
---Albert Gallatin in a letter to Alexander Addison, Oct 7, 1789

“…conceived it to be the privilege of every citizen, and one of his most essential rights, to bear arms, and to resist every attack upon his liberty or property, by whomsoever made. The particular states, like private citizens, have a right to be armed, and to defend, by force of arms, their rights, when invaded”
-- Roger Sherman, during House consideration of a militia bill, 1790

"When an instrument admits two constructions, the one safe, the other dangerous, the one precise, the other indefinite, I prefer that which is safe & precise. I had rather ask an enlargement of power from the nation, where it is found necessary, than to assume it by a construction which would make our powers boundless"
--Thomas Jefferson, letter to Wilson Cary Nicholas, Sept. 7, 1803

"The constitutions of most of our States assert that all power is inherent in the people; that... it is their right and duty to be at all times armed;..."
--Thomas Jefferson letter to Justice John Cartwright, June 5, 1824
So, with the very men who authored this document stating time and again that the right belongs to the individual, I cannot understand the arguments to restrict firearm ownership by the individual. Even the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has swayed to the argument that the right is collective. The ACLU has my admiration and support, but they are wrong on this issue.

The argument for gun control has roots in fear. Criminals have guns - - Criminals with guns are dangerous - - If we make rules prohibiting gun ownership we will control dangerous criminals.

If only it were that easy. Honest citizens will be disarmed by such laws because honest citizens abide by the law. Criminals, by definition, do not abide by the law. Instead of controlling crime, the effect is honest citizens denied the means to defend life and property.

Gun control legislation violates the right of the people as guaranteed under the 2nd Amendment, and is therefore unconstitutional. But it goes deeper than this. Denying the People the right to bear arms violates the political philosophy which spawned the Declaration of Independence, and denies the very heart of our Constitution. How might we guarantee “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness” if our government removes from us the means of self defense?

For Part IV of this series I was going to write in defense of the ACLU, and I may still do that in a week or so. They are on the opposite side in this 2nd Amendment debate, but I remain their friend. For all its warts, the ACLU has been the most stalwart defender of American liberty.