What is Fascism?

“Like all sound political conceptions, Fascism is action and it is thought; action in which doctrine is immanent, and doctrine arising from a given system of historical forces in which it is inserted, and working on them from within.”

-The Doctrine of Fascism

That doesn’t really answer the question.  In my efforts to answer this question for myself, I did a bit of research and found nothing from Mussolini which clearly modeled what is commonly called fascism today.  I did find more modern information which didn’t really define fascism, but gave lists of the tools for fascism which tend to be contradictory in places.  Mostly, fascism is just an insult to be hurled at anyone who insists on something you oppose, but that doesn’t suit political discussion so we need something more.

The conclusion I’ve come to is that fascism is, at its core, a political philosophy which views the state, and its leadership, as more important than the populace it would serve while establishing, as a civic duty, the need for each person to serve the state and its economy to their fullest ability, even when this doesn’t benefit them.

With such a vague definition, I decided I’d make my own list of fascist tools used to influence the populace to serve the state.  Any one of these tools is likely to be used by prominent men and women of all stripes, but I’d argue that if any politician, party, or nation utilizes a majority of these tools, it could be considered fascist.

1. Patriotic Nationalism

The belief that our nation is inherently better than all others in most or all areas regardless of evidence to the contrary, coupled with a disdain for anyone who would show disrespect to our nation, such as refusing to participate in the Pledge of Allegiance or the National Anthem.  Flags abound, whether they’re flying above a court yard or pinned to a lapel.

2. Ethnic or Cultural Nationalism

The belief that our people are inherently better than all others, placing people from other ethnicities/cultures beneath us and less deserving of rights.

3. Scapegoating

The belief that some other or conglomeration of others is the cause of our problems, be they a minority group within our nation or some outside group manipulating our nation from afar.

4. Military Adoration

The belief that any man who would wear the uniform of our nation must be beyond reproach.  We ignore crimes committed by our soldiers and their superiors and castigate anyone who calls our attention to them.

5. Toxic Nostalgia

The belief that, not only were things better before, nothing was bad then.  Women were happy in the home, gays didn’t need equal treatment because they didn’t exist and “no one was singing the blues.”

6. Anti-intellectualism

The belief that academics will ultimately undermine our culture, possibly bringing an end to civilization as we accept it.

7. National Security Obsession

The belief that the “wolves are at the gate” and only one party or leader can protect us from this threat, real or imagined.  We must shore up our defenses, be the dominant military force on the planet and attack our enemies before they develop the ability to attack us.

8. Obsession with Law and Order

The belief that criminals are beneath the common populace and not deserving of the same rights or even due process once accused.  If a police officer kills a suspect, there must have been just cause; if a police officer doesn’t kill a suspect, we should lock the suspect up and throw away the key.

9. Human Rights Violations

The belief that the ends always justify the means of human costs.  If there’s a ticking bomb, torture becomes acceptable; if civilians don’t want to be bombed, they shouldn’t live near combatants.

10. Corporatism

Favoring major corporations with low, non-existent or even negative tax rates while ignoring their regulatory violations and worker abuses.  Sometimes allowing them to pay fines that are more profitable than correcting the violation, other times going so far as to strip away the consumer, worker and environmental protections we have in place at their request.

11. Cronyism

Favoring specific individuals or organizations, perhaps those who helped those in power to attain it, with no bid contracts or undeserved, high ranking positions.

12. Media Manipulation

Taking steps to ensure that reporters “tow the party line” whether through direct instruction from the government, media outlet takeover by corporate allies or advertising boycotts by those same allies.

13. Electoral Manipulation

Rigging elections, suppressing the vote, barring political opponents from participating or fraudulently accusing opponents of doing the same.

14. Mass Surveillance

Utilizing surveillance, not only to target criminals who are known be involved in illegal activity, but casting a wider net to find anyone who might be involved in crime or, worse yet, organized disloyalty.

15. Leader Worship

Elevating the leader to a status above the general populace.  Rallies are held in the leader’s honor and photos or portraits are prominently displayed in homes or offices.

Using this list to evaluate the political elite, can you think of anyone who exhibits these traits?  Can you think of many who don’t?

Edited on August 16, 2017 to add Item 15: Leader Worship.
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Important Bills Before the 64th Wyoming Legislature

The 64th Wyoming Legislature has been in session for two weeks now and, understanding that most people have neither the time nor interest to read and evaluate 342 different bills as I’ve done, I’ve decided to give a summary on those bills I consider to be important.  This list is broken down into 4 categories:  those I support, those I oppose, those I consider important but do not feel inclined to give an opinion of and those where my opinion is conflicted.  There is a 5th category or bills which I consider unimportant or serve administrative maintenance purposes which won’t interest people.  That category is not included.  I’ll start with the smallest category, only containing two bills.

CONFLICT

SF0063  Department of family services-statutory amendments.

This bill starts off as administrative maintenance, addressing background checks for caregivers of vulnerable people.  From there it goes on to adjusting the Low Income Home Energy Assistance and Weatherization Program (LIEAP) income threshold from 60% of “median income” to 60% of “median household income,” which I support, and cutting the time limit to appeal a case review from 30 business days to 10 business days, which I oppose.

HB0153  Parental rights.

This bill references protecting a parent’s right to control their child’s “upbringing, education and care.”  Having seen instances of a family’s religious and cultural beliefs being detrimental, or even deadly, to a child, I’m reluctant to support this despite agreeing with the premise in general.

SUPPORT

HB0008  Student data privacy, security and transparency.

This bill prohibits the sale or sharing of any K-12 student data with commercial interests outside of vendors to the schools who are limited to only using it for the intended purposes.  Something I think everyone can get behind.

HB0009  Student ownership and privacy rights.

This bill protects ownership and privacy of college student writings and communications regardless of their being stored on school systems, allowing for access only as needed to solve technical problems and prohibiting the sharing of any knowledge received through accidental or administrative access unless Federal law requires the sharing of such information.

HB0013  Investment of public funds.

This bill requires that anyone investing money on behalf of a state agency must act as a fiduciary, placing the state’s financial interest above their own.

HB0029  Deposits by political subdivisions.

This bill is really a matter of administrative maintenance, allowing for political subdivisions to place money into a credit union when no bank is available with 10 miles, but provisions that allow government funds to enter member owned financial institutions are preferred over prohibiting it.  It would be preferable to exclude the requirement that no bank be available within 10 miles, but we’ll take what we can get.

HB0046  Permanent absentee voter status.

This bill allows people to apply for absentee voter status electronically and on a permanent basis, making democracy more accessible to those who may not have sufficient means of transportation.

HB0053  Vehicle registration-rebuttable presumption.

This bill is intended to address the issue of tax evaders who live in Wyoming, where there is no income tax, and set up shell corporations to purchase and own vehicles in Montana, where there is no sales tax.  In cases where a vehicle was determined to be owned by a shell corporation from outside Wyoming, but maintained, driven or stored by a Wyoming resident, the holder of the vehicle would be judged to be the owner and be required to pay Wyoming sales tax and registration.

HB0060  State investment policy.

This is an administrative maintenance bill which gives the Treasurer’s office more flexibility in diversifying investment funds.

HB0062  Immunity for drug overdose reporting.

This bill provides immunity for drug charges for people who have reported an overdose by themselves or a companion and remained at the scene or traveled to the hospital while complying with law enforcement orders thereafter.

HB0068  Election ballots.

This bill would allow all absentee ballots postmarked on or before election day and received before the final count of such ballots to be counted whereas current law requires that absentee ballots be received before 7:00 pm on election day, making democracy more accessible as HB0046 does.

HB0075  Automatic restoration of the right to vote.

This bill reinstates the right to vote of a nonviolent felon automatically upon completion of sentence, including probation and parole.  More accessible democracy.

HB0079  State funds equity investments pool.

Like HB0060, this bill provides greater diversity of investment.

HB0080  Transportation network companies.

This bill lays the groundwork for companies like Uber and Lyft to enter the state.

HB0081  Hemp extract amendments.

This bill allows a legal guardian to administer medicinal hemp extract to an adult dependent.

HB0089  Judges of first class cities-retention elections.

This bill creates retention elections for municipal judges, giving the people the opportunity to voice their opposition to a judge whose performance has been unsatisfactory.

HB0122  Death with dignity.

This bill allows a patient to be prescribed life ending medication provided a list of conditions have been met in advance.

HB0140  Minimum wage.

This bill mandates a state minimum wage of $9.50 with a minimum ‘tip credit’ wage of $5.50.

HB0144  New trial based on actual innocence.

This bill allows a person convicted of a crime to move for a new trial based on new evidence of their innocence.

HB0145  Possession of controlled substances-subsequent offenses.

This bill makes our state’s drug laws marginally less draconian.

HB0151  Cigarette tax.

While, as a smoker, I certainly don’t want to pay more for cigarettes, I do want to discourage nonsmokers from picking up the habit.  This bill would increase cigarette taxes by 50% and alter the distribution.  Look to HB0168 for a more aggressive version.

HB0157  Marihuana possession of less than three ounces.

While showing why there’s such a need for administrative maintenance in the law, this “marihuana” bill does some good work in making the maximum punishment for less than 3 ounces of marijuana or 500 milligrams of tetrahydrocannibinol “a civil penalty  of not more than” $200.

HB0159  Homeless minors.

This bill allows for homeless minor of age 16 or higher to enter into contracts of their own will.

HB0168  Tobacco tax.

This is a far more aggressive tobacco tax than HB0151, bringing more benefits for society and more downsides for smokers.

HB0194  School safety and security.

While I may lose some of my progressive friends over my views on the matter, I’ve long held that the people responsible for the security of an establishment should be allowed to carry weapons regardless of the nature of that establishment.  This bill would allow school faculty (who are responsible for the safety and security of the children in their care) to carry handguns.  I would argue to amend the law to require any member of a school faculty who does carry a firearm to take part in extensive and continued training for such.

HB0206  Asset forfeiture.

This bill requires that all proceeds from civil asset forfeiture go into the state’s general fund, thereby removing the incentive for the abuse that has been a significant problem in other states.

HB0209  Disparity in wages and benefits between men and women.

This bill expands a 2003 study on wage disparity in the state, getting into the weeds on specific disparity within locales, professions, etc.  I believe it could put an end to the argument of how much disparity exists when you consider differences in industry.

HJ0005  Mineral excise tax deposits-constitutional amendment.

This resolution calls for an amendment to the Wyoming Constitution to redirect funds from the Permanent Wyoming Mineral Trust Fund to the General Fund from 2019 to 2025.  This could do a great deal to help our current budget concerns.

SF0020  Student digital information privacy.

Similar to HB0009.  Postponed indefinitely.

SF0030  Jail placement coordination.

This is administrative maintenance, but of a variety that is very important when dealing with holding detainees from other states.  There is some sloppy language in (b)(iv) that should be cleaned up.

SF0031  Genetic information privacy.

This bill makes genetic information strictly confidential except as used in criminal investigations and determination of paternity.

SF0033  Computer extortion.

This bill sets forth policy for prosecuting the use of “ransomware” when both the perpetrator and victim are located within the state.

SF0034  Student Personal Digital Information Protection Act.

Similar to HB0008.

SF0042  Opiate overdose emergency treatment.

This bill allows first responders other than EMTs to administer Naloxone and similar drugs to save victims of opiate overdose and pharmacists to dispense it to anyone who makes a request.

SF0057  Motor vehicle franchises-exception.

This bill allows a vehicle manufacturer with no franchisees in the state to perform direct sales, a problem Tesla has faced.

SF0068  Net metering-generation capacity.

This bill increases the peak capacity for net metering systems (where household wind or solar generation is sold to the utility company) from 25 kilowatts to 50 kilowatts.

SF0115  Malicious cruelty to animals.

This law makes it a felony to intentionally kill you neighbors dog for no reason.  Kind of a no brainer.

SF0116  Medicaid expansion-authorization.

Medicaid Expansion.  I don’t think I need to say any more.

SF0118  Food freedom act-sales locations.

This bill allows for the say of food that was not commercially prepared so long as the buyer is informed that it has not undergone standard inspection for food safety.

SF0119  Grand Teton National Park-transfer of state lands.

Amidst all the talk of transferring federal land to the state, this bill authorizes the sale of state land within Grand Teton National Park to the federal government, bringing in some money and possibly saving more.

SJ0001  Right of privacy and right to know.

This resolution calls for an amendment to the Wyoming Constitution enshrining the right to privacy.

SJ0007  Depositories for state funds-constitutional amendment.

Similar to HB0029, this resolution for an amendment to the Wyoming Constitution would allow state funds to be deposited into credit unions if they offered a superior interest rate.

OPPOSE

HB0020  Honor and remember flag.

This is meant to allow state offices to raise the “Honor and Remember Flag” in conjunction with the American Flag, but section 1 subsection (e) reads, “Nothing in this section shall be construed to require the acquisition, erection and maintenance of a flagpole or the display of the honor and remember flag where a pole or display of the national flag does not already exist.”  Through strict legal interpretations, it could be argued that this bill requires the “Honor and Remember Flag” to be flown any place where the national flag is flown, which would be very good for whoever holds the copyright, but bad for the rest of us.

HB0070  Occupational safety and health administration actions.

This bill adds an attempt to neuter OSHA onto law that already attempts to do that to the EPA.  Since OSHA exists for the purpose of protecting workers, I can only assuming that the intent of this bill is to harm workers.

HB0104  Severance tax on coal.

This bill lowers the severance tax on coal.  Since the coal business is driven by demand, rather than price, this will only reduce our already strained revenue in Wyoming.

HB0116  Abortion amendments.

This prohibits aborting a viable fetus giving the fuzzy definition for viable of when the fetus is able to feel pain and prohibits using fetal tissue for scientific research, which I would argue is the one good thing to come from abortion.

HB0127  Wind energy production tax-2.

This bill raises our wind energy tax (the only one in the nation as I understand) 400%.  This is not intended to raise revenue, it’s intended to prevent the development of wind energy in our state, which is among the highest potential in the nation.

HB0132  Reporting of abortions.

This is intended to create a little more hassle for our states abortion providers and get the people to accept a little more restriction.

HB0135  Government Nondiscrimination Act.

In masterful Orwellian fashion, this bill actually makes it illegal for the state to take any action, including choosing not to do business with, companies which are known for discrimination.

HB0136  Campus carry.

I’m generally okay with campus carry, but I am not okay with carrying into sporting events (which this bill specifically includes) or carrying into any place where the person in charge of that place chooses to prohibit carry.

HB0137  Wyoming Repeal Gun Free Zones Act.

All of the places where we prohibit the general public from carrying guns are places where rational people tend to enter and become irrational for one reason or another.  To think that this doesn’t apply to government meetings is insane.

HB0146  State funds-prohibit investment in Iran and Cuba.

In addition to the fact that this provides no benefit, only serving to maintain enemies where it’s not necessary to have them, it will become impossible to invest in major index funds (or the majority of the companies represented therein) once American businesses start moving into Cuba if this bill is passed.

HB0167  Photo ID voting requirement.

Textbook voter disenfranchisement which is completely useless against the concern it claims to address.

HB0169  Prohibited firearms-business and commercial establishments.

Making business owners liable for harm that may come to people if they forbid firearms on their property.  I can’t.  If nothing else, look at the bill so you can see the 8 names everyone needs to vote against in the future.

HB0172  Severance tax-exemption.

Like HB0104, this will have no effect on production, it will simply give the money that is otherwise slated for our state and give it to the fossil fuel industry.

HB0181  Government contracts-labor organizations.

Standard anti-union bill, because being right to work isn’t enough.

HB0182  Abortion–ultrasound information.

Another chip at abortion law.

HB0197  Marihuana and THC products policy reform act.

Similar to HB0157, which I support, but it goes in the other direction.  In a show of their complete lack of understanding on the subject, they raised the threshold for THC product possession to be a felony up to 8 ounces, 453 times what the threshold is in the pro-marijuana bill that I support, or about $3,400 worth.

HB0207  Restrictions on public benefits.

A bill prohibiting undocumented immigrants from receiving non-emergency assistance.  In addition to the fact that this is almost certainly not a noteworthy concern, most undocumented immigrants actually paying for benefits they can never receive, the only barrier to getting a visa in this country should be a previous deportation for far more serious crimes.

HJ0002  Balanced budget amendment-resolution.

This Article V Resolution calls for a balanced budget in the federal government.  While that may be nice in theory, and the resolution does include a provision for declared emergencies, deficit spending is necessary in hard economic times and the laws governing the Social Security Administration would cause a complete shut down if the SS Trust Fund couldn’t purchase US government debt.

HJ0004  Anti boycott, divestment and sanction resolution.

While this resolution aims to fight antisemitism, which is an admirable goal, it assumes that all opposition to the nation of Israel is a function of antisemitism rather than opposition to the current governments extreme right wing ideology.  Until there’s a lasting peace in Israel with Palestinians being granted equal representation or a separate state, we have to make room for the possibility that some organizations will oppose Israel on legitimate humanitarian concerns.

SF0032  Peace officer recordings.

This bill would make police recordings strictly confidential without a court order.  In my arguments concerning the right to privacy, I often hear the words “if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear.”  Police officers, in the course of their official interactions with the public are acting as agents of the government and therefore have no right to hide the things they fear.

SF0070  Manufacturing machinery exemption sunset date.

This bill pushes an exemption on sales tax for manufacturing equipment from 2017 to 2027.  I might support this in good times, but these are not good times.  Sales tax is a minor part of a manufacturers overhead.  The state has a greater need.

SF0071  Electricity production standard.

This bill pretends to be administrative maintenance to clarify the buying and selling of electricity, but it conveniently excludes commercial wind and solar energy production from the “eligible generating resource” list, making it illegal for Wyoming utility companies to sell energy from those sources to their customers.

SF0075  Firearm possession and purchases.

This bill prohibits people on the “terrorist watchlist” from purchasing firearms which I would support, except that the terrorist watchlist is a list of people who have never been convicted of a crime or adjudicated to be mentally unstable.  We have actual, serious threats we should focus on prohibiting from purchasing firearms.  Then we can look into the boogeyman.

SF0094  Franchise business relationships.

This bill clarifies that franchisees and their employees are in no way to be considered employees of their respective franchisors.  When considering that franchisors tend to dictate every aspect of a franchisees business, this doesn’t pass muster.

SF0101  Unemployment compensation exemption-seasonal employment.

This bill exempts seasonal employment from unemployment compensation.  This is despite the fact that the receipt of unemployment income during layoffs is a part of the compensation structure for seasonal workers.  If someone wants to raise the minimum wage for seasonal workers to $30 an hour, I might reconsider this.

SJ0103  Public lands-constitutional amendment.

This is the federal land transfer amendment.  The only people who want this are paid by the mineral industry.

SJ0005  Countermand amendment.

This is an Article V resolution calling for the ability for the states to overturn federal law, essentially bringing us back to a confederacy.

NO OPINION

HB0049  Mountain daylight saving time.

This bill would eliminate the state of Wyoming’s observance of Daylight Savings Time making our time always Greenwich Mean Time minus 6.  I’ve always considered DST to be rather pointless, and there is evidence that car accidents and health problems are more common when the time changes, but this is also how we’ve always done it, at least for a couple generations.  There is a question of how we’d adapt to a new system.

HB0050  Limitations on delegates-constitution amendment conventions.

This bill deals with the way delegates to an Article V convention can conduct themselves, requiring that they only vote for amendments that have been approved by the legislature.  It’s a reasonable requirement, but due to the process of holding an Article V convention, I don’t think it’s relevant.

HB0141  Daylight saving time-exemption.

This is a simplified version of HB0049.  Apparently there are a number of people who feel strongly about it.

HB0160  Handgun purchases.

This bill would create a 3 day waiting period for the purchase of handguns.  I’ve made my views on the Second Amendment clear, but I don’t consider a 3 day wait to be an infringement.

HB0201  Presidential primary elections.

This bill would change our presidential selection from a caucus to a primary.  While I see the benefits of both systems, I just can’t bring myself to decide which I would prefer.

HB0208  Attorney general-elected official.

This bill would make the Attorney General of Wyoming an elected position.  While I generally prefer more elections for major positions, I’m not sure it’s always the right way to go.

HJ0001  Convention for proposing constitutional amendments.

This Article V resolution would again work toward a balanced budget, without setting specific restrictions, and work to institute term limits for Congress.

HJ0003  Single subject amendment resolution.

This Article V resolution works to constitutionally require federal laws to be limited to a single subject.

HJ0006  Budget shortfall reserve accounts.

This resolution calls for an amendment to the Wyoming Constitution to set out rules on how the LSRA and similar accounts are handled.

SF0087  Countermand amendment provisions.

This is SJ0005 all over again, but done in a way that I don’t believe is valid.  I’m unsure of this.

SJ0004  Wyoming civil rights amendment.

This resolution, masquerading as a move for civil rights, is actually an effort to end affirmative action policies.  While I’m tempted to oppose it for that reason, I can’t confirm that affirmative action practices are necessary or used by any public institution in Wyoming.

SJ0006  Public instruction constitutional amendment.

This resolution is to amend the Wyoming Constitution to state that any school financing adopted by the legislature is automatically assumed to be valid.  I don’t understand the purpose of this and that gives me cause for concern but, as cited with SJ0004, I won’t oppose something on the grounds that I don’t fully understand the impact.

Now that I’ve gotten through that list, I’d like to mention two resolutions I’ve been fighting to see included here that are not present.  The first is Wolf PAC‘s Article V resolution to Restore Free and Fair Elections and the other is a resolution I wrote Specifying Electoral Finance Limits.

If you have a strong opinion on any of these issues, call your legislators today.  Call them tomorrow.  Keep calling until they listen.


Why I’ll Hold My Nose and Vote for the Lesser of Two Evils

I’ve never been inclined to endorse voting for the lesser of two evils. In the four presidential elections of my adult life, I’ve voted for a Republican once (as a foolish child of 18 when my conservative upbringing led me to believe that Bush was a better option than Gore) and for a Democrat once (when I realized the error I had made with Bush and voted for Kerry). Since then, I’ve voted Libertarian, despite my irreconcilable differences with that party on economic issues, because they’re the third party with the greatest chance in Wyoming and I want to draw attention with the problems found in our electoral process.

 
This year changes that. I was a very hopeful supporter of Bernie Sanders over the last year. His candidacy not only led me to decide that the Democratic Party was the right place for me, but it inspired me, a delivery driver with one semester of college education, to run for office and do my part to take political power away from the establishment forces I’ve opposed since 2004. Sadly, the majority of voters in Democratic primaries and caucuses in our nation chose to vote for Hillary Clinton, bringing us politics as usual, and another choice for the lesser of two evils.
 
The thing keeping me from voting for a third party in protest this year is the greater evil, another anti-establishment candidate, but one who can not be allowed to win. We all know, from long years of experience in this political system, that politics as usual is safe. Despite the promises, there is a mix of slight improvement and slight deterioration with little real change. Hillary Clinton may not usher in a golden age of progressivism, but she’s also not going to jeopardize our national and global security.
 
Conversely, the Republican nominee is an unthinkable monster. Not only has he vowed to build an impossible wall to keep Mexicans out of our country and instate an unconscionable ban to keep Muslims out all while reducing revenue to a point where we could not have a functioning government, but he’s indicated that he would violate NATO (which has kept the western world at peace since 1949) and has suggested that preemptive nuclear strikes would be a useful tool against our enemies who he’s doing everything he can to increase in numbers. We can not allow this madman to take the presidency.
 
The time for third party candidates is coming. In the next two decades, we may have a President who has neither a D nor an R behind their name. For this election, though, we need to ensure that we have a president who will allow our government to continue to function through those future elections. If you’re planning on voting for Jill Stein or Gary Johnson in this election, I commend you on your commitment to voting your conscience, but take a moment to consider what may happen to our nation and our world if Trump wins. Successive generations are counting on us.

On the Nature of the Second Amendment

The second amendment to the US Constitution is kind of a tricky thing to deal with. There are actually two versions. The first, which was passed by congress:


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.


And the second, which was ratified by the states:


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.


There are three arguments to be made based on this discrepancy. The first I’ll look at concerns the first writing. Many people, notably those who desire to limit gun rights, or at least maintain the levels of restriction we have now, take advantage of the unusual parsing of the sentence and assert that the amendment actually protects existence of the militia and, by extension, its right to maintain weaponry without supporting the right for the people outside those guidelines. I do not support this argument.

The wording presented here, with its awkward parsing, doesn’t actually mean anything. The repeated commas prevent the sentence from ever completing a coherent thought, leaving the reader to guess at which of those four phrases were meant to go together. Legal wording needs to be clear, so this version should be cast aside.

The second argument, which I’ve surprisingly never actually heard, though I’ve considered it myself, is that since the amendment wasn’t passed and ratified with the same structure, the amendment should simply be discarded as invalid. After all, the legal process for amendments to the Constitution is very specific. The second amendment didn’t follow this process to the letter of the law, therefore it is invalid. I can accept this argument. I will heartily argue against it, but it is intellectually honest and conforms to the law.

Thirdly, my preferred argument is that, when faced with two similar sentences used for the second amendment, we should use the sentence that actually says something. “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.” This sentence has a clear meaning. What does the amendment concern? The right of the people to keep and bear arms. What does it say about this right? It shall not be infringed. Why should this right not be infringed? Because a well regulated militia is necessary to the security of a free state. With the exception of the modern reader not understanding the eighteenth century usage of the phrase “well regulated” this version is beyond debate as to its purpose.

As to the eighteenth century usage of “well regulated,” it does not mean being under government regulation as so many seem to believe. Rather, it means functioning according to design. In fact, issuing governmental regulations of the militia is specifically against the purpose of the militia. The militia stands, in part to protect our nation from invading conquerors (a task which our modern military is more than capable of without direct help from the civilian populace), but more to protect our nation from elected representatives and their appointees whom may attempt to become conquerors. It is the final recourse of a population facing abuse.

With this view of the militia’s purpose in mind, I’ll address my specific views on the issue of gun rights. The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed (within reason). Any mentally stable adult who is not currently under the jurisdiction of the correctional system should be allowed to own whatever small arms they desire and have the funds to procure. I suppose I should classify small arms for readers who may be ignorant on the subject of firearms (expected and understandable of those who wish for greater gun control). According to a Report of the Panel of Governmental Experts from a twenty year old UN resolution, small arms consist of revolvers and self-loading pistols, rifles and carbines, assault rifles, sub-machine guns and light machine guns. This essentially means weapons that can be carried by a single man, which have the capacity to kill only one person with each action (with exceptions for extreme circumstances like a sniper killing two people who are standing in a line from his position or a shot fired resulting in some additional catastrophe which would kill multiple people). It does not include chemical or biological weapons nor explosives of any sort (assuming we’re not classifying the weapons propellant as an explosive) which could kill many people with a single activation of the weapon.

This means that every mentally stable adult not currently under the jurisdiction of the correctional system should be allowed to own weapons ranging from pistols to automatic rifles without any restriction. Yes, this even means that even a felon who has been freed from prison and is no longer serving parole should have this right (as they should have all rights restored at this point, but that’s an argument for another day).

Clearly, this interpretation of the amendment is not being honored by current state or federal law. While this is not the first constitutional violation in our nation’s history (that dubious honor belongs to the Adams administration with the passage of the Sedition Act of 1798) it is the first I learned of, with laws dating back to the Gun Control Act of 1934. Mind you, in the decades since I became politically aware, violations of the Bill of Rights have been many and varied (more topics for another day). The acceptance of violations to the second amendment, in conjunction with support of such from our media, is exactly what grants our government the ability to now violate the first, fourth, fifth, sixth, and eighth amendments.

We, as a society, somehow consider these new violations to be acceptable (though I’ll stress that I vehemently disagree), but what happens when they go too far? Where will we turn when we have no speech, privacy, nor liberty? I can only hope that some semblance of the final recourse available, will still be strong enough to get the job done.

Buying Democracy

It’s the simplest aspect to the American political process. Every American gets a vote (well kind of, but my concerns there are a matter for another day) and the person for whom the majority votes represents the people’s interest. That’s what I learned in the Boy Scouts. It’s what I learned again in Civics class. It’s what every ‘political expert’ on TV will tell you. From Washington to Obama it’s always been the same. The people choose.

The trouble is, you don’t choose your representatives anymore. The rich do. You have the illusion of a choice, of course. But what is really there for you is an option between corporate stooge number one and corporate stooge number two. When these stooges take office, they don’t represent your interests as they’re supposed to, they represent the interests of their financial backers. This is what our political climate has devolved to in the wake of Citizen’s United and other follow up cases.

This is the most flagrant evidence of corruption in American history and they don’t even bother to hide it. People are actually proud of how much their favored candidate received in campaign contributions (read bribes). In 2014 alone, a midterm election, 1.6 billion dollars was raised by candidates for the US House and Senate. That’s a million dollars per candidate. Two thirds of that money came from 0.22% of the American population. You don’t spend that kind of money without getting something out of it, and that’s a very small percentage of the population spending the money to get something. The rest of us are left hoping we don’t get abused too badly in the process.

Many naively assume that this doesn’t translate into politicians doing favors for those donors, but the first priority of the current congressmen now that they’re in office appears to be deregulating Wall Street, even repealing the ban of making risky investments with federally insured bank deposits (the activity that was largely at fault for the recent recession) and making it far more difficult to pass any new regulations against any industry. They’re also trying to slow the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and they’ve even cut funding to the IRS within the budget, thereby helping the wealthy elite avoid audits, which is expected to cost the federal government an estimated 2 billion dollars in revenue. I wouldn’t call that a useful addition to the budget.

There are group’s trying to fix this. Two I’m aware of are Larry Lessig’s Mayday PAC, which is trying to force candidates for national office to correct the situation (though I don’t see that happening since those are the people receiving all those high dollar campaign contributions), and Cenk Uygur’s Wolf PAC, which is trying to get state legislatures to call for a Constitutional Convention to propose an amendment prohibiting the current funding (this is my preference, and a group I strongly support, though not through my time or money as I have neither to spare). I’m sure there are more people pursuing this goal as well. After all, the majority of this country agrees with those of us who want to eliminate the problems of campaign finance. It seems to only be politicians and Supreme Court Justices who feel that anything less than a quid pro quo arrangement is not corruption.

I urge anyone reading this who has the time or money to contribute to look into Wolf PAC or a similar group and do what you can for what may be the single most important political issue of our generation. Make your voices heard to your state legislators. Demand a resolution calling for a Constitutional Convention to eliminate the legalized bribery that the Supreme Court is allowing more and more. If, like me, you can’t contribute directly, at least do what I do. Tell your friends, family, coworkers, and anyone else who will bother listening to you to fight against this assault on the democratic process. Until the fight is won, we won’t have true representation.

In the meantime, just don’t let them buy your votes. Read up on the politicians, see what they’re really about. The fact that you’re a Republican and they’re a Republican, or you’re a Democrat and they’re a Democrat isn’t good enough. In reality, the people at the top of the political game are neither conservative nor liberal. They’re corporatist. If their ability to legally receive bribes goes any further, I’ll just have to be a seditionist.

I am not Charlie.

The staff of Charlie Hebdo were kind of asking for it. Not that they should have been killed, but they were killed due to their repeated instigation against the Islamic fundamentalist community. While I will support free speech to my last breath, I have no desire to lump myself in with people who make a living deliberately insulting other people’s religious views. I choose to identify with a group that’s fighting for a greater purpose.

Like two thousand people just trying to put food on their tables. That’s how many were killed in the Baga area in Nigeria during the same week as what is, comparatively, a child’s temper tantrum in Paris. Haven’t heard of Baga or the terrifying number of people who were killed there? You should have. It’s an excellent opportunity to learn just how broken our world is. The sheer scale of this crime sickens me to my core.

I’m not even talking about the crime committed by the terrorist group Boko Haram. I’m talking about the crime in progress by our news media. Two thousand dead and these bastards sweep it under the rug because apparently a handful of assholes, with enough going for them that they decided that the best use of their time was to insult people professionally, being killed by three terrorists was a more compelling story than what is likely the biggest attack since we kicked off this whole ‘War on Terror’ thing (I may be wrong and simply missed some other story in the last 14 years) perpetrated by what may be the largest and most dangerous terrorist organization in the world.

Why isn’t anyone talking about Nigeria? Is it the fact that the children lying dead in the street are black? The fact that none of the buildings burned to the ground were owned by white people? Why do we not care when these things happen to those people.

It’s not just that they’re black. We care when black Americans are killed. At least sometimes. If they’re unarmed. And really young. But when it comes to Africa, we pay no attention. I was pissed when I saw the story. It raised my blood pressure enough that I had to immediately start writing this post just to keep from exploding in a ball of rage. I assume many other people, the audience of our mainstream news, will also be pissed to learn about it. That’ll get you some views. So why doesn’t the media run this story?

That question is what really pisses me off. Not the answer to it, because I don’t know the answer, but simply the fact that the question can be asked. CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, and all the others. You people have one job. Report the news. Sure, a big part of your job is to editorialize based on what you think your viewers want to hear, but reporting comes first. I understand that a lot of stories will fall through the cracks. A pretty high school valedictorian gets killed by a drunk driver in Duluth? I don’t need to hear about that story. But two thousand dead in a massive terrorist operation. How do you not think that’s cause for a headline?

If I were a big enough asshole to demand someone’s job because their performance offended me, I’d be calling for the jobs of every single person in the media who decided not to run this story. None of you bastards are worthy of the first amendment that you claim to be supporting with your ‘je suis Charlie’ twitter campaign. You people sicken me. And you should sicken yourselves.

I’m writing this on January 13, which is a Tuesday (the day I finally saw a story about what happened), and I’ve set a rule for myself that these blog posts go out on Monday morning. This means it’ll be another six days before anyone reads this. I considered breaking that rule at this point just so I could share the outrage of these two thousand deaths, but fuck ‘em.

That’s Africa.

Those people can wait.

And to everyone in the news media with daily broadcasts and millions of viewers who are making the same decision?

Fuck you, too.