Category Archives: Philosophy

Scriptural Thoughts

Bizarro - Buddha and Jesus | History cartoon, Art history ...
Piraro–Bizarro

Telling others what scripture means is a great way to start an argument. Nevertheless, it’s been debated since time immemorial and I’m going to keep the discussion going by adding my own thoughts. First, know that I see scripture–the Bible–as the way to go to Heaven, not how the Heavens go.

Over the years, I’ve read and studied various interpretations or versions of the Bible; I focus on what the message is, not on memorizing chapter and verse, particularly since the numbering varies a bit from version to version.

Some things to think about:

  • Jesus was Jewish.
  • Jesus’ skin was probably dark–like most who live in the Levant.
  • Jesus’ did not have blonde hair and blue eyes.
  • Jesus did not speak in Olde English. He never addressed people as “thee” or “thou” nor did he say “giveth or taketh away.”
  • Jesus probably spoke Aramaic with possibly some Greek or Latin.

The Bible has been through a number of Euro-Asian languages before it came to us, with each interpretation adding the potential for confusion. Not only has interpretation from one language to another caused problems. All languages change over time and English is no exception.

Perhaps the best example of the confusion of scriptural interpretation I can offer is Matthew 19:14 (yes, I had to look up the chapter and verse), But Jesus said, “Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.”

As a youngster, I was horrified with this. I knew that Jesus would not want children to suffer, but there it was in black and white. Now, of course, As an adult, I know that Jesus’ comment was for the benefit of the disciples, telling them to not stop the children. He didn’t want the children to suffer, he wanted them close to Him.

Just something to think about during Holy Week and Passover.

Revenge on the Young!

Just a quick note today.

If your kids sit glued to the television, for hours, watching shows in which the kids are talented, smart, and very attractive and adults are dimwitted dolts, take hope.

Disney, among others who churn out these shows expect to keep running and rerunning these for years, if not eons. (Don’t believe me? How long ago was Gilligan’s Island filmed?)

Sooner or later, our kids will not be able to avoid these shows after they become adults and see themselves portrayed as dimwitted.

Even better, the child actors who starred in these will have to watch their past selves.

Filibuster

Mr. Smith Goes To Washington (1939) - The Movie Crash Course

It’s very easy to unintentionally overdose on the news. Like the drinking water in Flint, Michigan, it seems innocuous, but it c an be deadly. Too often, my best efforts to steer clear are thwarted because the news is ubiquitous although most of what it contains is either sensational or useless. For example, most cable news sources include endless celebrity coverage interspersed with the latest buffoonery from our elected officials.

Likewise, Real Buffoons of Washington, DC, a reality television show, drives me up the wall. Politicians redefine their “facts” as often as I change socks–and yes I change them daily. Yesterday’s up is down today. Although someone may have a video of one of them saying the sky is blue, they swear they’ve always described it as pink.

Filibuster is a word that gets bandied about freely. I know that it is a mechanism for the minority in the Senate to block the majority from successfully advancing a cause. In my opinion (for what that’s worth) I can’t see the filibuster as consistent with the goals of a democratic republic.

On the other hand, filibuster is a strange word and I wondered where the word came from. Was it like gerrymander, a term that grew out of and is strictly relevant to politics? It turns out that filibuster is every bit as interesting as you might expect. Merriam-Webster offers the following:

Definition of filibuster

1 : an irregular military adventurer specifically : an American engaged in fomenting insurrections in Latin America in the mid-19th century

2 : [filibuster entry 2] a : the use of extreme dilatory (see dilatory sense 1) tactics (as by making long speeches) in an attempt to delay or prevent action especially in a legislative assembly
b : an instance of this practice The filibuster delayed the voting on the bill for over a week.

History and Etymology for filibuster

Noun and Verb

Spanish filibustero, literally, freebooter

I admit, I had no idea as to what a freebooter was, so as long as I was in the dictionary, I decided to look it up, too.

Definition of freebooter

: pirate, plunderer

Filibuster refers to an insurrectionist or a pirate? Really! How interesting.

Just to clarify, we’re not talking a Disney pirate like Jack Sparrow. We’re talking ruthless people who would hunt down a ship and take its valuables, possibly including the ship itself. People like Captain Kidd, Calico Jack, and Blackbeard, not to mention those who attack ships, such as the Maersk Alabama, in modern times.

Filibuster provides an interesting etymology, if not an accidental truth.

All the Gnus That Fits

Media Malpractice: The ABCs of Media Bias - Accuracy in Media

Dear MSN, CNN, Fox, etc.:

I flipped through today’s headlines. Please be advised that I have absolutely no interest in the following stories:

  • Khloe Kardashian Goes ‘90s Chic in Nothing but Ripped Jeans & High Heels
  • Chris Harrison Shares Plans to Return to Bachelor after Controversy
  • The Sussexes’ Friends Think the Palace’s Response to Bullying Claims Is “Retaliation” for Oprah Tell-All
  • What Life Was Like in the Roaring Twenties
  • William Shatner Fast Facts
  • The Worst Angelina Jolie Movie of All Time, According to Critics
  • Paul Bettany Didn’t Think ‘Kooky’ WandaVision Would Be a Hit: ‘It’s Been Really Extraordinary’
  • Side Effects of Eating Too Many Potatoes
  • Experts Share 11 Ways You Could Be Confusing Your Dog, and How to Stop
  • Pregnant Ashley Tisdale Reunites with Hight School Musical Costar Vanessa Hudgens: “It’s Taken 9 Months.”
  • Lamar on “KUWTK” Ending, Kimye Split Rumors

I realize much of the real news is depressing or frightening, but this human is totally not interested in these human interest stories.

Not that you really care. Thank you.

If Not You, Then Who?

See the source image

There’s a huge difference between identifying a problem and solving it. Sometimes, it’s lack of confidence or fear that keeps people from doing what they know they should. It’s easier to walk away and see it as someone else’s responsibility.

We admire–we need–people who do the right thing when it is seemingly impossible. We call them heroes. That’s why we enjoy hearing about Captain Sullenburger landing the airliner in the Hudson River with no passengers lost. That’s why we cheer for Luke Skywalker or Frodo Baggins.

On the other hand, those who enrich themselves at the expense of others are called villains. The most despised villains are those who, when confronted with their actions, deny or excuse themselves and tell us it wasn’t their fault.

Today we need heroes, but unfortunately, they are apparently an endangered species. More’s the pity.

I read a news item today, entitled, “Senate Republicans say Trump should be held accountable for riot — but not by them.”

Who do they think should hold people accountable?

Inauguration Day

I’m not going to go too political. We’ve had enough of that.

Nevertheless, it is nice to hear relatively polite discourse. Very nice.

COVID-19 Progress

I’m slowly but surely recuperating (I hope). It is very difficult to do anything for long since I still have very little stamina or energy. Sleep at night is still 60 – 90 minutes filled with bad dreams, after which I wake up and struggle to go back to sleep.

I hate wearing a mask in my own home and keeping social distance from my wife.

My oxygen levels are slowly improving. We all tend to think that if we’re breathing, we must be doing fine in the oxygen department. With COVID-19, this is not necessarily true.

I can neither concentrate to write very much or to write very often, so my apologies. As my health improves, I should do better.

Repeating myself repeating myself–take every precaution possible. My experience with COVID has been totally, completely, and entirely nasty. I hope you never have to deal with it.

How Will History Treat 2020?

The Decline and Fall of Practically Everybody | Fall, Book ...
This is historically accurate and funny as hell.

I continue to wonder how the year 2020 AD (or 2020 CE, if you’re politically correct) will be recorded in the history books. This may be far more complex than you might imagine.

The reason–most history books are about the same size. No matter how much history there is, it has to fit into a standard book.

Part of this is due to the fact that many history books are intended to be used as textbooks and there’s only so much that can be taught in a semester. There are exceptions, such as the 10 volume Abraham Lincoln: A History written by John Nicolay and John Hay, his secretaries during his presidency, but such exceptions are rare.

My history book collection includes A History of the United States Navy by John R. Spears, published in 1908. It predates both World Wars, Korea, Vietnam, and the Gulf Wars but is about the standard one and a half inches thick and 334 pages. A lot of what is prominent in that book, such as the details of the Spanish American War or the importance of the Dahlgren gun is either absent or barely mentioned in modern history books.

So how will 2020 be covered in the future? The COVID-19 pandemic, like the Spanish Influenza of 1918 may get a paragraph, if covered at all. Today’s political scandals will likely be treated as briefly as the Teapot Dome Scandal or Boss Tweed. Donald Trump may be as obscure a president as Millard Filmore or John Tyler.

It’s probably just as well.

Keep X in Christmas

Many people take offense when the holiday on 25 December is referred to as Xmas, believing it ignores Jesus, whose birth it celebrates. Not so much.

One of the major hubs of early Christianity was Greece. The New Testament tells us that both St. Paul and St. Andrew (among others) preached in Greece. St. Andrew was crucified there, with his cross being in the shape of an “X”. Today, that shape is still referred to as Andrew’s Cross, such as in the flag of Great Britain.

The X is significant for a more important reason. The Greek word “Christos,” begins with the letter chi (pronounced “key”) followed by the letter rho. Perhaps you’ve seen the Chi Rho in a church or other religious site.

Christingles and other Christmas traditions | St Francis ...

Early Christians, when persecution began, would identify themselves to one another by doodling Christian symbols in the dirt with their walking sticks. To others, it was meaningless. It is believed among the symbols that Christians would recognize included a simple fish and the Chi Rho.

So, Merry Christo-mas!

COVID Is Not Only Real – It’s Too Real

Workers in El Paso, Texas, move coronavirus victims from refrigerated trailers into the main morgue on Monday, November 23. El Paso County has seen a surge in coronavirus cases over the last month, and inmates have been recruited to help the shorthanded, overworked staff. Ivan Pierre Aguirre/Reuters (CNN.com)

I’ve worked in healthcare and have seen many people die, but I’ve never seen anything like this. People in stacked body bags, filling refrigerated trucks because the morgue is full. This is the type of thing that happens when weapons of mass destruction are used in wartime. It should not happen in 21st century American cities, especially since the recommendations–masks, social distancing, staying home, and hand-washing–could have prevented this.

COVID-19 has infected 13,723,671 Americans as I write this, which is over 4 percent of the entire population of the United States. Today there are 5,377,420 Americans who are currently infected. Some of those people may have mild or no symptoms. Others may suffer neurological or pulmonary problems for the rest of their life and. Unfortunately, 273,160 Americans have already died. Even those who have not contracted the disease have suffered loss of jobs, businesses, and homes.

Projections are that the numbers will rise in three weeks because of Thanksgiving travel and gatherings. Between Christmas and New Years, deaths from those infections are expected to peak.

I”ve never before seen a “hoax” that is this deadly.

Pardon Me?

I’ll never understand politics.

On one hand, the president pardoned Michael Flynn and the Thanksgiving turkey.

On the other, the Justice Department is in a hurry to execute five federal inmates before the inauguration. They have proposed that prisoners incarcerated in a state that does not allow capital punishment be moved to a state which does.

The approved pharmaceuticals for death by lethal injection are no longer sold for that purpose. Pentobarbitol has been used, which apparently kills by rapidly filling the lings with fluid–in effect drowning the convicted with their own bodily fluids. This sounds like a particularly nasty way to die, but federal judges, including the supreme court approve of its use.

To expedite the deaths of federal prisoners, the federal government is proposing [Click for link]:

  • Firing squad
  • Electrocution
  • Poison gas

So far, no word on the status of the guillotine, hanging, burning at the stake, or drawing and quartering, all of which were traditionally carried out in public. (In England and Europe, beheading was reserved for nobility.)

Perhaps if federal prisoners claimed that their religious beliefs required them to self-identify as a turkey, they might have a chance.

Supreme Court 5-4 Ruling

I’ve been pondering the recent ruling by the US Supreme Court siding with religious groups’ desire to bypass the COVID-19 restrictions and allow people to attend church rather than to maintain social distancing.

I’m a church goer, although for some time now I’ve been attending Mass via a video since I’m at high risk for COVID infection. Therefore, in fairness, I admit to somewhat of a bias. Not a significant one, but a bias nevertheless. Therefore, accept these as my personal opinions.

First, from a constitutional standpoint, I look to the preamble:
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

I personally believe that a rampant pandemic is a real and present danger to domestic Tranquility and the general Welfare. Infecting 100,000 people and killing 1,000 people every day does not seem to help secure our Posterity. Finally, a common defence is necessary for any danger, such as a pandemic, not merely military threats. I believe the founding fathers wrote what they meant.

Incidentally, the oft-spoken of separation of church and state is somewhat different than many believe. The First Amendment to the US Constitution states:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

This places a restriction on Congress. Given that America fought for independence from Great Britain, which had the Church of England as its official religion, the founders did not want the same situation here. In this situation, I don’t see Congress as having had any involvement.

From a religious standpoint, I have at least three problems:

  1. Jesus was a healer. His disciples became healers. During the Antonine Plague of 165-180 AD, early Christians, who cared for their ill, had a higher survival rate than non-Christians who did not.
  2. Jesus said to them, ‘Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.’ And they were amazed at Him.” (Mark 12:17)
  3. Gathering for prayer is important, but there are other ways to pray. Jesus taught, “When you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” (Matthew 6: 6)

I do not claim to be an expert on either Scripture or the law, but I do know how to think, and these are my thoughts.

Veterans’ Day

I’m a veteran.

Veterans’ Day was originally called Armistice Day. Fighting ceased in the “Great War,” which we now call World War One, at the 11th hour of the 11th Day of the 11th month. I have to wonder why they couldn’t do it immediately–how many other lives were lost waiting for 11:00?

Being a veteran changes people. When I came back from Southwest Asia, I was different. I didn’t notice it, but everyone else did, so it took a while for me to be willing to adjust to the new normal. Years later, I’m still working on it. I think I’m making progress.

I was in logistics, meaning I supported the warriors–the heroes. I spent time in combat areas, but I was never directly engaged in combat. Nevertheless, to this day, I tend to be hyperalert. I dream about still being in uniform. I also jump at any loud or surprising noises. My coworkers know that when they speak to me, at the first syllable, I’ll jump.

I came back without any combat induced physical injury. However, I was affected in other ways. I attended too many memorial services; the inverted rifle, boots, helmet, and dog tags at the front of the chapel were real. Often, there were more than one set. Each represented a real son, daughter, spouse, or parent that would not be coming home. I cannot describe the impact of those on me, but it affects me to this day.

Being a veteran changed me in other ways–good ways. I know what it means to be part of something much larger and more important than myself. I know the meaning of honor, courage, and commitment. I was blessed to learn these priceless lessons.

When I returned to the states and someone thanked me for my service, at first I didn’t know what to say. Over time, I realized that for me there was only one honest and appropriate response.

“It was an honor.”

Strict Interpretation of the US Constitution

There’s been a lot of talk, lately, as to whether the law, particularly the US Constitution should be interpreted to reflect exactly what was written or whether the law adapts with the times. I am an analyst, so I am cursed with need to make sense—to the best of my ability—of issues of importance that are presented to the masses. I do not claim superior intelligence nor do I do believe I have extraordinary understanding of legal subtleties or political intrigues. I do however view myself as a responsible American voter trying to prepare for the time I will spend in the voting booth. I ask questions when I do not know the answers. However, sometimes the best way to find the answers is to ask the right questions. In fact, the questions are often more important than the answers.

Just for the record, I have sworn an oath to protect and defend the US Constitution from enemies foreign and domestic. I will continue to honor that oath for as long as I live. I take the US Constitution seriously, just as it deserves.

There is a mad dash to nominate and approve a new Supreme Court Associate Justice in the weeks before the next presidential election. The primary goal is stated as to appoint an associate justice who will interpret the constitution so as to reflect the exact intention of the those who wrote and signed the original US Constitution in 1787. The founding fathers were responsible for creating the Great American Experiment, which is both wonderful and yet remains an experiment.

A story, which is generally accepted as true tells us: Benjamin Franklin was walking out of Independence Hall after the Constitutional Convention in 1787, when someone shouted out, “Doctor, what have we got? A republic or a monarchy?” To which Franklin supposedly responded, with a rejoinder at once witty and ominous: “A republic, if you can keep it.”

I believe we may be facing just that question.

The founding fathers planted the seed; for the past 230 years, those of us who love America have tried to nurture that seedling and the plant as it has grown. In my opinion, some parts of the republic have done well, while others need more tending, including some weeding and pruning, even today.

The thoughts and ideals of the founding fathers were based on their times and their norms, which is why many people today believe that the Constitution should be interpreted based on today’s norms. This is not necessarily a new idea. In fact, Thomas Jefferson, the primary author of the Declaration of Independence and the third US President wrote to James Madison, the fourth US President and who is considered the Father of the Constitution.

Every constitution, then, and every law, naturally expires at the end of nineteen years. If it be enforced longer, it is an act of force, and not of right (Emphasis added). It may be said, that the succeeding generation exercising, in fact, the power of repeal, this leaves them as free as if the constitution or law had been expressly limited to nineteen years only. In the first place, this objection admits the right, in proposing an equivalent. But the power of repeal is not an equivalent. It might be, indeed, if every form of government were so perfectly contrived, that the will of the majority could always be obtained, fairly and without impediment. But this is true of no form. The people cannot assemble themselves; their representation is unequal and vicious. Various checks are opposed to every legislative proposition. Factions get possession of the public councils, bribery corrupts them, personal interests lead them astray from the general interests of their constituents; and other impediments arise, so as to prove to every practical man, that a law of limited duration is much more manageable than one which needs a repeal.”

Thomas Jefferson to James Madison, 1789. ME 7:459, Papers 15:396

Inasmuch as Jefferson’s suggestion was never implemented, we have kept the US Constitution, more or less as written. It’s true that there have been 27 amendments, although the 18th amendment (Liquor Abolished) was negated by the 21st Amendment (Amendment 18 Repealed).  Therefore, there have actually been 25 changes to the US Constitution since 1787.

The first 10 amendments, commonly referred to as the Bill of Rights, were ratified in 1791, only four years after the main body of the Constitution, and given that they were primarily the work of James Madison, I propose that it is fair to include and accept that they, too, accurately reflect the will of the founding Fathers.

Before we consider some specific passages of the Constitution, let’s first mentally adjust our perspective to social norms of the Founding Fathers in the mid eighteenth century:

  • Only gentlemen could exert significant power. A gentleman was first and foremost a landowner. In many cases the land that they held had been granted by the British Crown before the War of Independence.
  • A gentleman was invariably white.
  • Every signatory of the US Constitution was a male.
  • Every signature on the Declaration of Independence also belonged to a man.
    • The closest was Mary Katharine Goddard, who was Baltimore’s Postmaster and an important journalist. She was charged with publishing the Declaration, so at the bottom of the broadside, issued in January 1777, the following appeared, “Baltimore, in Maryland: Printed by Mary Katharine Goddard.”
  • Suffice to say, women could not vote. I find no record of female judges until Esther Hobart Morris served as a Justice of the Peace in 1870.
  • At the time of the Founding Fathers, women were considered chattel (property).

Given these conditions and how they conflict with our norms and mores today (Thank, God) I have a difficult time accepting that strict interpretation is the best approach for the Twenty-first century.

The primary responsibility of the Supreme Court is to review legal decisions to ensure that they agree with the US Constitution. A strict constructionist sees the gold standard as the writings of the Founding Fathers. The Constitution, for example does not address issues concerning communication beyond the printed page. The telegraph, radio, television, internet, and smartphones are outside the instructions left by the Founding Fathers. While the Founding Fathers were well familiar with issues of property and the navigation of the seas, they had no concept of vessels that operate below the seas, in the air above the land, most assuredly of people and equipment that exist and operate above the Earth, on the Moon or on other planets.

Given that, let’s examine some original sections of the US Constitution. The following sections of the original Constitution may have been amended, but the original statement, and therefore strict interpretation best reflects the Founding Fathers’ intention.

  • Section 2, third paragraph: “Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons.”
    • Women counted in the census, although they could not vote.
    • Native Americans were excluded from both being counted and voting.
    • “Other Persons”—in other words slaves—counted as 3/5th of a person, giving states with slaveowners more clout than other states. The more slaves in a particular state, the more representatives that state would have. At the time of the Revolution, the population of the United States is believed to be somewhere between 2.5 million and 4 million. There were about 450,000 enslaved “other persons,” although I cannot determine how they were enumerated in the total.
  • Further down in Section 2, third paragraph, “The number of Representatives shall not exceed one for every thirty Thousand, but each State shall have at Least one Representative.”
    • The 450,000 “other persons” is believed to include an estimated 400,000 slaves brought from Africa to the Colonies plus another 50,000 who had been born in the Colonies.
      • Americans in all 50 states owned slaves at that time.
      • The “breeding stock” aspect of slavery was a profitable business
    • The effect of the headcount of both freemen and the 3/5th count of slaves on representation was not trivial. In 1790, New York had 6 representatives, Pennsylvania had 8, while Virginia had 10. The number of slaves tipped the balance in Virginia’s favor.
    • Based on the original verbiage of the US Constitution—“The Number of Representatives shall not exceed one for every thirty Thousand, but each Shall have at least one Representative.” The forefathers were looking at a small number of people in a huge landmass, but today, it’s different. Based on strict interpretation, today, we would be entitled to 11,013 members of the House of Representatives.
  • Section 8, paragraph 7 points out that the Congress shall have the Power “To establish Post Offices and Post Roads.” A strict interpretation expected Congress to establish, operate, and maintain a Post Office. Back then, there were not necessarily roads in existence to provide postal communication. The Post Office needed to build and maintain those roads. Nowhere does it say that Congress can abdicate their postal responsibilities onto a pseudo-governmentally-owned-corporation or hand it over to a political sponsor to disenfranchise voters.
  • Section 8, paragraph 12 states that Congress has the authority “To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a Term longer than two Years.” The Founding Fathers did not want a standing Army because of the mischief that standing armies in Europe had caused.
  • “To provide and maintain a Navy.” The United States was and is a maritime country. In the time of the Founding Fathers, we were separated from European powers by the ocean, yet we needed to free travel through the ocean in order to maintain trade and commerce.
  • “To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel invasions
    “To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress.” During the Civil War, for example, the armies of both the North and the South primarily consisted of state militias.
  • Besides slavery being legally recognized, the Constitution in Article IV, Section 2, runaway slaves were to be returned to their owners. This was superseded by the 13th Amendment, which was passed in 1865—well after the Founding Fathers had passed into history.
  • Since the Bill of Rights was written by the Founding Fathers and reflects their views, the 9th and10th Amendments are especially important:
    • Amendment 9 – Construction of the Constitution: The enumeration in the Constitution of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.
    • Amendment 10 – Powers of the States and the People: The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.

The Federal Government has expanded its authority into areas and in ways that would have shocked the Constitution’s signatories. This has resulted in rights of the individual and the state being impacted–sometimes for the better, sometimes not.

To interpret the Constitution as the Founding Fathers intended is not possible. In college, when a question on an exam asked what an author meant by a particular passage, I would answer in two parts:

  1. No one knows except the original author.
  2. Having established that, the interpretation that you taught is—and I’d regurgitate whatever the textbook or lecture opined.

If, on the other hand, we consider the Constitution to be a more current document, we would have to include the following conditions added by those who were NOT the Founding Fathers. These are not all-inclusive, but do reflect the most significant changes after the Founding Fathers passed on. A strict constructionist should, by rights, ignore every one of these since they are not from the Founding Fathers.

  • The abolition of slavery
  • All persons born in America or born anywhere to at least one American parent are citizens.
  • Voting cannot be denied or abridged on the basis of sex, race, color, or previous condition of servitude.
  • Congress can lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived.
  • Attempts to legislate morality, such as Prohibition, have not succeeded.

I recommend that we admit that we’re no longer an 18th century agrarian society and act accordingly.

The US Constitution

Yesterday was Constitution Day, which marks the signing of the US Constitution on 17 September 1787. With all of the turmoil in our society, I struggled to figure out how to write about it without throwing gasoline on anybody’s fire. This is the best I can do.

The constitution is a marvelous document both imperfect and the product of its time. Twenty-five times it has been amended (There are 27 amendments, but the 18th [Prohibition] and the 21st [repeal of Prohibition] cancel one another).

While much of the constitution describes the mechanisms of government, but to me the very soul of the Constitution is its preamble:

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

These days I read about people demanding their constitutional rights—a just and reasonable demand. However, without making a judgement about their position, I wonder how many of these people have actually read the Constitution. [Related story]

Sadly, it seems there are too few who acknowledge their responsibilities, as well as their rights. Members of the military and elected officials swear an oath to protect and defend the Constitution from foreign and domestic threats. I have experience with the military, and believe most are, in fact, committed to that oath, to the extent that they are willing to give their lives to do so. I do not have a similar personal familiarity with elected officials. However, I do not believe death is a significant risk for them. As near as I can tell, their risk seems to be limited to not being re-elected.

I suggest that one of the responsibilities we share is to have some familiarity with this marvelous document. I urge everyone to read the US Constitution.

Better yet, make it a habit to read it once a year—on Constitution Day.

Survival of the Republic

Is progress really beneficial? I’ve been contemplating that–seriously–and I’m not sure.

George Washington was unanimously elected by the Electoral College. The initial idea was to avoid political parties. The candidate with the most votes became president, and the second place became Vice President. Therefore, George Washington became President and John Adams the Vice President.

After Washington served two terms, John Adams was elected the president, with Thomas Jefferson in second place and therefore the Vice President. The next election, Jefferson opposed Adams, won, and became president. Voila, the effort to avoid political parties died.

John Adams, who was one of the driving forces for independency, as it was called at the time, was described by others as “obnoxious and disliked.” His personality was matched by a short, rotund body, with few teeth. He might have been brilliant, but was not, in any way, attractive.

If Adams made a harsh comment, in those days, it would have merited little notice. Newspapers of the time were small and printed weekly or less. President Adams pronouncements would have been little noticed outside of Washington, DC.

Today, every comment, statement, quote, burp, or fart is immediately broadcast across the world with video of the incident, commentary, point and counterpoint within minutes.

Washington might survive today’s news cycle. Adams and his successor, Thomas Jefferson, probably wouldn’t.

Think about that. Think about the republic without Adams and Jefferson because of 24/7 cable news. I’m not saying it’s better or worse–I’m just asking you to think about it.

Are we better off today?

Guns

I generally try  to stay away from politics, but sometimes I just need to say something.

I enjoy guns. The wall of my office is a collection of antique firearms–most too old to safely fire, but interesting pieces nevertheless. I have other firearms I enjoy taking to the shooting range at a nearby USMC Base to blow holes in paper targets.

In the past, when deployed, I’ve carried a .45 caliber M1911, a 9mm Beretta, and an M-16. In each case, I was in a combat zone.

Nevertheless, there are rules relating to firearms and they are basic and sensible rules. These are true whether in combat, when you hear a noise in the middle of the night, and any other context.

  1. Treat every gun as loaded
  2. Never point a gun at anything you don’t intend to kill.
  3. Identify your target.
  4. Always be aware of where the muzzle of the weapon is pointed (see above).
  5. Keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to shoot.

Here is the most important one:

  • You only fire your weapon when there is no other option. Unless you’re in combat in a legal war zone, this means that you can only fire when your life is in danger and you have no other option. That means that your back is to the wall.
  • Someone running away is not a threat to your life.

As I said, I have been armed with an M-16. However, to all the people who insist that they need an AR-15 (the civilian version of an M-16), I have the following advice.

  • If you need a high capacity magazine, you must be planning on killing many people.
  • If not, it means you’re a truly lousy shot who needs 30 rounds to ensure that you hit the broad side of a barn.

Either way, you should not have an assault rifle with a high capacity magazine.

LT (j.g.) Madeline Swegle, We’re Proud of You!

a man holding a sign posing for the camera: ecgspwvwoaipfmv.jpg

I guess it’s easy to let expectations exceed reality.

I spent many years serving in the Navy Reserve and the active duty Navy. During that time, I saw many things progress. I saw female officers command ships. I served with and under a number of female officers.

I was surprised to find out that it has taken the Navy until now to have its first Black female fighter pilot.

I have three things to say:

  1. LT (j.g.) Madeline Swegle – Bravo Zulu! You, and you alone, earned this. Feel free to be proud of yourself.
  2. The next generation of tactical pilots will look to you for inspiration.
  3. And to my beloved Navy–it’s about damn time.

Change comes far too slow far too often. However, when positive change finally occurs, it’s a wonderful thing.

 

Heroes Wear Masks

In the midst of the COVID-19, where are our inspirational influencers?

  • Batman wears a mask.
  • Black Panther wears a mask.
  • Spiderman wears a mask.
  • The Green Lantern wears a mask.
  • Ironman wears a mask.
  • Captain America wears a mask.
  • The Lone Ranger wears a mask.
  • Medical and Surgical teams wear masks.
  • Dr. Fauci wears a mask.

On the other hand, who are the trend setters in the other direction?

  • The Joker does not wear a mask.
  • Jabba the Hutt does not wear a mask.
  • Lex Luthor does not wear a mask.
  • Lord Voldemort does not wear a mask.
  • Captain Hook does not wear a mask.
  • Snidely Whiplash does not wear a mask.
  • Neither Boris nor Natasha wear a mask.
  • [Fill in your anti-mask politician here]

 

 

Making Sense of Life

“For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.”                                                          Hosea 6:6 King James Bible

As I’ve gone through life, this has been a major factor driving me. I’ve erred on the side of mercy and at times it was inconvenient for my career–at that particular moment. Nevertheless, I continued to progress professionally beyond my wildest aspirations.