Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Because I sense so many arguing the 2nd Amendment have no idea what it says:
"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."

As a reformed English teacher, I have to say that the framer of the Amendment could have used a good editor.

John Paul Stevens knows a thing or two about the Constitution and he points out:
For more than 200 years following the adoption of that amendment, federal judges uniformly understood that the right protected by that text was limited in two ways: First, it applied only to keeping and bearing arms for military purposes, and second, while it limited the power of the federal government, it did not impose any limit whatsoever on the power of states or local governments to regulate the ownership or use of firearms. Thus, in United States v. Miller, decided in 1939, the court unanimously held that Congress could prohibit the possession of a sawed-off shotgun because that sort of weapon had no reasonable relation to the preservation or efficiency of a “well regulated Militia.”

It makes perfect sense. The first 10 Amendments have to do with what the federal government regulates and what the individual stats regulate. The federal government cannot constrain the states from operating a well-regulated militia to protect a state. States had a right to impose limits on the guns that could be construed as relevant to a militia. The idea that the 2nd Amendment prevented any government from any restriction on gun ownership is an interpretation sponsored by the NRA beginning in 1986.

I've been guilty of posting a meme about the kinds of guns considered by the authors of the 2nd Amendment. It's a cute little thing, but it is, in fact, a bit off the subject, if the subject is what did the framers intend with the amendment. I think the Supreme Court was right in 1939 in US v. Miller when it said that Congress could prohibit the possession of a sawed-off shotgun because that sort of weapon had no reasonable relation to the preservation or efficiency of a “well regulated Militia.”

Even that stalwart of the NRA, Justice Antonin Scalia, went out of his way in District of Columbia v. Heller 2008 to limit the court’s holding not only to a subset of weapons that might be used for self-defense but also to a subset of conduct that is protected.
The specific holding of the case covers only the possession of handguns in the home for purposes of self-defense, while a later part of the opinion adds emphasis to the narrowness of that holding by describing uses that were not protected by the common law or state practice. Prohibitions on carrying concealed weapons, or on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, and laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings or imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms are specifically identified as permissible regulations.

We could also look at how a well-regulated militia functioned in 1791. Men (mostly 16-45 years old) brought their own guns when they patrolled to secure their neighborhood or state. The militia of the time had little in the way of hardware or property. Probably the modern equivalent of militia is the National Guard where participants do not provide ther own arms or munition. Thus one could argue that there is no longer a need for people to provide munitions for the militia, so there is no need for gun ownership. As a gun owner, I'm not happy with that idea, but I can concede that there is room for reasonable regulation.

Just another example of the importance of knowing what you are talking about. That is probably a good pre-requisite to studying ways we might reduce mass murders in our country.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Cooking With Ivy

Last year, Robert and I took a once-in-a-lifetime Mediterranean cruise. It has taken a year to sort through the pictures and get my act together to post pictures and reflections. I have to start with pictures that have the longest history. So, the back story. In 2009, when I started this blog, I joined an international group of food bloggers called BloggerAid. Our biggest project was publishing a cookbook the proceeds from which were donated to the UN Childrens' food program. In the course of that project, I met a few women with whom I continue an internet relationship. So, when I realized our cruise was stopping at Nafpion, Greece, and Ivy Liacopolou of www.kopiaste.org lived near there, nothing would do but that we cook together. Ivy and her husband, Dimitri, picked us up at the pier.

The island of Bourji is a favorite tourist destination, but we had to forgo tourism in favor of food.
After a bit of a morning snack of delightful pastries, we got busy with the cooking. I love to work with phyllo dough, but I've never made the dough because I thought it would be very difficult. Little did I know that it is as easy to make as pasta and far more versatile.
My husband is a very precise cook, but he rarely tries anything beyond pancakes and BBQ. Here, he is preparing a lump of dough for rolling.

He took a turn at running the dough through the same machine we use when we make pasta.
Then Ivy guided him through the process of putting two strips together to make a sheet of dough. Then they put a strip of a spinach mixture on one end, rolled and twisted to get this:

After baking, but before cutting into servings:

I took a spin at the dough for spanikopita.

Ivy showed us that slight variations gave us very different end results.

From the same dough, we made:
  Mushroom Ravioli
  and lucious fried pockets of cheese.

We added some cheese,

a salad,

and had a feast.

Which Dimitri photographed.
New friends, great food and all in a field of fragrant orange blossoms.

What Happens to the Union Now?

Donald Trump is the presumptive GOP candidate for President of the United States. He's been called a loose cannon, a liberal in conservative clothing and, as one political operative for a suspended campaign described him, a chimpanzee with a machine gun. I think a President Trump wuld be the worst thing that has happened to my country and, possibly, the world in more than 200 years.
That said, I am not particularly encouraged about what might happen to my country if Donald Trump is not elected. For, if he is not elected, we have a pattern for what will happen here in the next eight years. The only good things that have come out of Washington in the past six years have been Executive Orders issued because Congress has a two-letter response to every major policy proposal put before them that would benefit the citizens of the country.
The dirty little secret of my country is that we have a lot of racism, ageism, and sexism. Sure, there were a couple of people who questioned if Ted Cruz was a natural-born citizen, but he is white and his middle name is not Hussein. Not to pick on Ted Cruz, but he is a member of a very odd sect of Christianity that believes they must control all governments of the world to enable the second coming of Jesus. But, he is not linked to an outspoken Black pastor, so his religious life was not an issue.
No matter which candidate prevails in the Democratic party, the winner can expect treatment similar to that experienced by our current President. Both can be targeted with the "old" label. The ageism is not so obvious for the older of the two, perhaps because of his gender. He, however, has two strikes that will be used against him -- he calls himself a Demcratic Socialist and many people will hear only the Socialist part of that description and, despite this country's years of support for Israel, he will be the victim of bold and subtle objections to his religion. David Duke has already talked about the Jewish extremists who are anti-American. I've already heard concerns about Hillary Clinton's age phrased in terms of "She looks tired." We have more than twenty years of the hatred of the Clintons, lies about them, holding them to higher standards so they can be criticized, etc.
Just as we have seen obstructionism based on the color of President Barack Obama's skin, we will see obstructionism based on Bernie Sanders age, religion, and political affiliation or we will see obstruction based on Hillary Clinton's age, gender, and history. I worry that our country will not survive no matter who is elected.
Lest I appear to be Chicken Little, I do see potential for our survival. It will not be easy. It will require that all our Congressional leaders of both parties develop the spine to do what they are supposed to do -- government of the people, by the people, for the people. Stand up to the elite who purchased them with campaign contributions, get rid of the effect of Citizen's United with legislation, and remember that most of them have the title of Representative. Can that happen? Yes. Will it happen? I am doubtful. But it has to happen if this country is to survive as a democracy, not as the theocracy or the meritocracy with which it is flirting.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

The Consequences of the Tea Party

Back in 2009, April 15 to be specific, I wrote a blog describing Fox News invovement in the Tea Party as a modern form of yellow journalism. If you remember your journalism history (thank you Calder Pickett), you'll know that newspaper competition in the 1890s was fierce. Pulitzer and Hearst essentially created news to sell newspapers.
Fast forward and we see the consequence of those 2009 tea parties in the shape of Donald Trump. At that time, we had a new President, a black President with a Muslim-sounding middle name, a President born in Hawaii the validity of whose birth certificate was questionned by a businessman named Donald Trump. We had a Senate leader, Mitch McConnell who openly said his purpose was to assure that said President would be a one-termer. Well, Senator McConnell failed in his purpose, but he has remained a thorn in the President's side -- most recently refusing advise & consent to the President's Supreme Court nominee, citing non-existent precident.
Since 2009, we've come into a time when a lie repeated sufficiently is treated as truth, when shutting down the government is an accepted means of law-making even if it damages our bond rating, when obstruction is a way of life in the U.S. Congress, and the House has voted more than 50 times to repeal landmark legislation governing the healthcare industry. We've come from the brink of economic depression to relative financial security. In 2009, the unemployment rate was in the double digits; right now it is below 5%. But one area that hasn't been great has been that the new jobs created are low-paying jobs. And that may play into the current political nightmare that is the Republican party, a situation they caused in blocking as many bills from Pres. Obama as they could.
In 2009, Tea Partiers protested big in business, government, national debt and taxes. They detested the elite and were furious that the governent bailout to bring the country out of the recession helped Wall Street and automakers without helping regular citizens. So it is a bit ironic that they celebrated the Supreme Court decision in Citizens United which held that corporations had the same right as average citizens to influence elections.
The Republican Party welcomed the energy of the Tea Partiers, but, 2012, the bloom was off the rose because the party stalwarts began to see that they couldn't control them. By the 2014 elections, the GOP was running their candidates against Tea Party candidates and winning. I think the mainstream GOP thought they had figured out how to have the best of Tea Party energy without their volatility. I don't think they understood the firestorm that was coming.
After years of repeated lies being treated as truth (birthers, Muslim President, PPACA death panels, etc.), the rank and file in the Republican party learned to accept grandious statements of dubious validity. That made it easy for that birther businessman Donald Trump to make grand promises with little chance of implementation like the beautiful wall on the US/Mexican border with Mexico paying for it, repealing the PPACA and replacing it with a wonderful plan that was just a return to the old way but with insurance sold across state lines, deporting millions of Mexican undocumented workers, and special badges for Muslims living in the US. Some would say his biggest unrealistic promise has to do with bringing American jobs back to America. While much, maybe most, of his manufacturing is done in China and Mexico, his followers believe that he will bring jobs back by imposing tariffs on foreign manufactured goods.
The Tea Party fomented the outrage, the GOP conditioned them to believe lies, and Donald Trump has capitalized on the situation. Now the leaders of the GOP are expressing panic that they have an uncontrolled candidate headed to the top of the party ticket. They are talking brokered convention, alternative delegate counts, etc. What they do not seem to understand is that they have the candidate they built. As you sow, so shall you reap. Time for them to reap the onsequences of the Tea Party Express of 2009.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

At war with an Ideology

I usually try to limit my posts to things about which I have some knowledge or about which I have read substantiated articles. This post, however, is more of a wondering and I have absolutely no idea if this has merit.
I'm wondering if the old way of responding to an international event, attack, whatever, is just that, an antiquated response. Through the years, our enemies have been countries or political entities, distinct bodies we could attack, conquer or subjugate, and cause to back down and behave in ways we deem acceptable as was the case in WW I & WW II, the Korean Conflict, etc. It was even, probably, the case in Vietnam even though "our side" didn't win. We knew who were at war with -- Germany, Italy, Viet Cong. We could shoot them, bomb them, kill them, etc.
Today’s enemy is ideological. They have no geopolitical boundaries, no readily identifiable location, not even a reliable way to isolate them. When we attack them with conventional warfare, the response is not conventional warfare, not even the counterinsurgency we saw in Vietnam. It is what we have come to see as seemingly random terrorist attacks.
It is becoming apparent that what we have been doing with rather conventional warfare in Iraq & Afghanistan cannot stop this new enemy. Taking off our shoes and swabbing our hands at TSA airport checkpoints does not stop this enemy. All our current techniques are no more successful against ideology than it was in preventing Ebola entering the U.S. While the ideology has some connection to a particular religion, banning that religion from our country, or any country, cannot stop it and can inflame it as well as being every bit as dreadful as Japanese internment camps or the Holocaust. And, because it is ideological, but not descriptive of the entire religion or an entire country, we can't blanket bomb the entire Middle East and eliminate the ideology.
So nothing we have done or proposed has been effective. If anything, these ideas have fed the hatred and violence. Now, the hard question. What can we do? If I understand, the ideology at play is similar to the Christian Dominionist ideology that Jesus cannot return until Christians have control of the socio-political systems of the world and return to a literal interpretation of scripture, Allah will not be satisfied until Islam with a literal interpretation of the Quran is the religion and law throughout the world. At this time, the Dominionists are approaching their ideological goal politically. The Islamic fundamentalists are taking a violent approach to conquer. I don't have the answer. I don’t agree with literal interpretation of any scripture. I don’t see violence as an answer any more than I believe we need to conquer. I'm looking for a way to end the situation.