Monday, June 30, 2008

Is this too much to ask?

So there I was today, in the neighborhood CVS, just casually waiting in line while the lone clerk in the store rang up the lady at the head of the growing line. Off to the side of this person was a policeman, in uniform, including a gun and handcuffs, just casually looking at the 20-oz bottles of soda in a nearby refrigerator.

From the back of the store ran a girl, probably about 7 years old, to her mother, who is the aforementioned person at the head of the line.

Said mother to daughter, "did you see the cop?" as she nods in the direction of the policeman.

She may as well have said "did you know that that man is the devil and he is going to eat your heart for dinner?", given the girl's reaction, which was a fearful look at the man in uniform, an accompanying scream, and--I'm not kidding here--a full-speed retreat back to where she came from. Trust me when I say there was no playfulness in her face.

And the mother was looking on at her child with such pride.

I, on the other hand, almost threw up.

Is it too much to ask parents in this society to raise their kids with the understanding that the cops are the good guys? Or that IF you are concerned that a cop might not react to you with a smile, then there's probably something that YOU need to do to change that situation?

Seriously, given the outright fear I saw displayed in this child today, there's no way she'll ever look at a man in uniform with anything but a suspicious eye. And whereas caution MAY BE an appropriate reaction for some people to have if their jurisdiction has a history of corruption in the force (I don't think that's a problem here), I find it hard to swallow that a very very young girl's default position is that dramatic.

Such a shame, too. If this was truly the first time she'd seen a cop (she didn't recognize him standing right next to her mother, although that could have just been inattention to her surroundings), what an awesome opportunity it was to ask some good questions, the kind that only the inquisitive mind of a young child can concoct! Heck, I almost wanted to ask the guy questions, and I know quite a few folks in the law enforcement biz.

Sadly, however, that's an opportunity missed.

I hope she doesn't spend her whole life in fear of the men in uniform. It sure would be an awful dark world if you didn't think that policemen and other uniformed public servants were there to help you.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

DC v Heller--my take

Ah, the end of the Supreme Court term. What a great time to see just how far downhill this country has fallen in the last 12 months.

I seriously wish I had the time to look at every decision rendered in a given term, SCOTUS jurisprudence being somewhat of a hobby of mine. And hopefully over the next couple months I'll get a chance to catch up with a few of the earlier decisions. For now, though, we'll concentrate on just one: this week's ruling on the 2nd amendment case District of Columbia v Heller.

When I first heard about the opinion, I was happy. Wow, the court upheld that we--as citizens--have a right to keep and bear arms. Why, that's such a good idea it should be written somewhere!

Of course, things aren't always that easy. My interest became piqued when I read on Bench Memos yesterday the essay of one Matthew J Franck, who among other interesting points writes:

One thing said by Justice Stevens is undeniable—that the Court's ruling "will surely give rise to a far more active judicial role in making vitally important national policy decisions than was envisioned at any time in the 18th, 19th, or 20th centuries." Yes, it's Stevens saying it, but if he's right, he's right. Once again, thanks to a five-justice majority (that includes Justice Kennedy), we are in for a future that entails increased government by judiciary. That the terms of gun ownership are now subject to the impulses of any five members of the U.S. Supreme Court is not, for me, a pleasing prospect. The matter was better left in the hands of democratically elected institutions.

Now I hate government by judiciary, so this set off all the alarms in my head. Could a decision that should be as simple as "it's the Constitution, stupid" REALLY open the door to increased judicial governing?

So I went to reading. And let me tell you, it's exciting: 157 pages of .pdf file, 50-plus of which that deal with what "right to keep and bear arms" means. And that's just in the opinion, forget about reading the dissent! Is there anything quite as disgusting and self-serving as lawyers being lawyers? Anyhow, I'll summarize the 50 pages for you: "keep" loosely means "own", "bear" loosely means "carry", "arms" means "guns", and the right is not just reserved for members of a militia nor to military purposes (a point that dissent does not agree with, I might add). Got it? Good--let's move on. . .

To the real question for me: was the D.C. law barring handgun ownership an overlimiting of the second amendment right? I know that there are allowable limits on all of our rights--the opinion identifies several of them regarding the second amendment alone--but was this limit in DC a bridge too far?

And even more importantly to me: did the court write another law? That point is, after all, the main reason why I rail against Roe v Wade--rather than merely find Art. 1196 unconstitutional based on all the smoke and mirrors that it used, the court also specifically created its own law for the whole country to abide by. THAT is judicial activism--and it stinks!

SO with that in mind, here we go:

To me, the law in D.C., which "ban(ned) handgun possession by making it a crime to carry an unregistered firearm and prohibiting the registration of handguns" was indeed a bridge too far, as it rendered as illegal the carrying (i.e. having in your possession) of all handguns within D.C. jurisdiction, to include your house/dwelling.

As for the other big lookout for me (the degree to which the court legislated), it all comes up roses. The court simply held "that the District’s ban on handgun possession in the home violates the Second Amendment, as does its prohibition against rendering any lawful firearm
in the home operable for the purpose of immediate self-defense." No new laws--heck, even a nice limiting of the part of the law that it took issue with, which was the inclusion of the home as an area to which the handgun ban applied. THAT is model opinioning, if I may opine myself.

For background on this case, one must understand United States v Miller from 1939. Majority justices look at one paragraph in the opinion to purport that that decision was about the TYPE of "arm" that was of attention in Miller :

"In the absence of any evidence tending to show that possession or use of a 'shotgun having a barrel of less than eighteen inches in length' at this time has some reasonable relationship to the preservation or efficiency of a well regulated militia, we cannot say that the Second Amendment guarantees the right to keep and bear such an instrument. Certainly it is not within judicial notice that this weapon is any part of the ordinary military equipment or that its use could contribute to the common defense."

The difference between a sawed-off shotgun and a handgun in terms of probability of use by a law-abiding citizen is used in the majority opinion as an express difference between Miller and Heller.

Dissenting justices look at Miller thusly:

"The view of the Amendment we took in Miller—that it protects the right to keep and bear arms for certain military purposes, but that it does not curtail the Legislature’s power to regulate the nonmilitary use and ownership of weapons—is both the most natural
reading of the Amendment’s text and the interpretation most faithful to the history of its adoption

Well, here's the thing about Miller: it doesn't say that at all. ANYWHERE. Whereas the majority justices look at specific text from the case law in question, the dissent rests upon a reader's digest summary of an already brief opinion (read it here). Especially since Miller had nothing to do with "ownership" (at least not directly), I find that entire argument lacking.

SO, in short, I can rest easy tonight. This breach on our Second Amendment rights was duly smacked down; the court did not legislate from the bench but rather played the "yay/nay" role with an appropriately limited scope . . .and I've spent entirely too much time reading about some very boring stuff. Oh yes, the sleep will come easy tonight!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

from the mouths of babes

Senator Obama this weekend on the prospect of townhall debates with Senator McCain:

"If they bring a knife to the fight, we bring a gun"

Which is ironic, considering that of the "fights" that he'd inherit as Commander in Chief of this country, he would prefer to use:

a) an order of retreat (as is the case in Iraq); and
b) the habeas writ (as in the case of the war on terrorists vis-a-vis the Boumediene decision).

It's funny how he's so willing to attack--even in imagery--fellow Americans with any tool in the arsenal, but against people actually trying to hurt his fellow Americans, he'd rather use nothing more than paper.

Now I know that in the childhood game, paper beats rock. But I have news for you, Senator: that's a childhood game. In real life, paper only beats other paper.

And paper doesn't stand a chance against bombs.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

catching up

All right, it's been a while since last I posted. Much, much has gone on, so let me be quick in getting everybody up to date:

-- OBAMA CLINCHES NOMINATION! Thank you, Dems, for handing us the candidate that we wanted to face. Of course, it's a dangerous wish--as they often are--because if McCain can't beat him, then the next 4 years are going to be . . .too interesting to me.

-- MOVIES MOVIES MOVIES. If I'm gonna tax 'em, I might as well support 'em, right? I've seen 3 movies in the last few weeks: Prince Caspian, Iron Man, and Kung Fu Panda. In order:

I enjoyed Prince Caspian much more than I enjoyed the book (I seriously considered not going after I finished the book, such a snorer was it), but there just wasn't enough "new" here to get me crazy about it. It's hard to love a movie when you can't feel genuine pull for the main protagonists (the two eldest Pevensie siblings);

Iron Man was a good summer "escape" movie, but I didn't find it as great as all the buzz.

Kung Fu Panda made up for both of those disappointments--in spades. Truly, I found this to be an amazing movie. It had a "message" in the same vein as most of Pixar's best flicks, but with a few more laugh-out-loud moments than I normally get the first time I see an animated movie. It doesn't hurt that the Panda is such a cute creature to build a feature around. After the first viewing, I put this on the same level as Ice Age and Finding Nemo--both of which were only better when I saw them successive times. I am excited to get a chance to see KFP to my heart's content when the flick comes out on DVD, sometime next spring.

-- IT'S A TOUGH ROAD TO HOE. Call me late coming to this party, but lately I have been down in the dumps about what this country will look like 4 years from now. Why is that, you ask? Well, here's my latest epiphany: with the radicalization of the Democratic party, conservatives are destined to be a group that is incapable of stopping this country from moving significantly to the left over time.

Details to follow. . .

Sunday, June 01, 2008

politics makes strange bedfellows

So here's what I'm wondering today:

Now that Sen. Obama has thrown his entire church under the bus, essentially calling them another source of "distraction" in his quest for power, I wonder how long it will be until some "powerful voice" from the black liberation movement stands up and says "phooey" on Obama as a leader of the African-American population.

'Cuz let's face it: that's what he has become. And when he threw Trinity United under the bus, he made a lot of the past leaders of the black population look uncouth.

And Al Sharpton don't like uncouth. (The bad grammar was on purpose)

Folks, Obama isn't "transcendant". And if you listen to him lately--I mean actually LISTEN to him--he doesn't even sound like a man who can reason his way out of a paper bag, much less bridge the positional gaps that mark political discourse today.

He sounds like a man who thinks that everybody else in the room thinks that he's the smartest man in the room, and he knows he can get away with anything because the masses don't question, they just absorb.

Obviously, he spends a lot of time in rooms full of his supporters.

So here's my question, in marathon format: Jesse Jackson has been in the national limelight as a leader of the black population since . . .well, for a long darn time (40-odd years and counting, back to the time when he broke bread with MLK, Jr). Same with Al Sharpton (almost 40 years since he came into service with Jackson). These are men who are accomplished civil rights activists. I don't agree with them all the time. . .or even most of the time. . .but at least they have been out there, actively engaged in "the struggle" that many black people feel in every day of their lives. For them to be considered as "leaders" of that struggle makes sense.

Whether that "struggle" is a legitimate reason to rally around or not is a subject for another post. But I digress. . .

What has Obama done? Oh, that's right, he was a "community organizer"--after he went to Ivy League schools. He's been a candidate for more years than he's done anything else in his adult life.

To say he falls short of Jackson or even Sharpton is an understatement.

And yet Obama is in a position to be the face of the black economic and equality "struggle" for the next generation?

HELLO!!! He is NOT one of you! And since he clearly is not one of you, how dear do you think your agenda is to him?

Please keep in mind this is a man who has, in short order, disassociated himself from: his grandmother who helped raise him; his preacher who, as recently as this winter, was one of his closest personal advisers; his top foreign policy aide; and now his entire church community. And my personal over/under on his campaign manager, he of the strong ties to the lobbyist world, is about the end of July.

Jesse Jackson, love him or hate him, at least had the interests of the "black community"' honestly at heart. He never would have jettisoned his honest affection for that community for any reason, no matter what political doors it may have opened up.

Obama jettisons EVERYTHING.

And I just wonder when someone from "that world" is going to see the writing on the wall and realize that the "black" movement CAN'T tie themselves to Obama. At least not if they want to get anything accomplished.

So here's my call to arms for Al Sharpton or even--dare I say it--Jeremiah Wright. YOUR life's work is going to be voided if Obama gets into the White House.

He only gets there on the backs of people who listen to you. Will you go silently into that good night?