Politics Archive

Monday, November 18, 2013

Response to E-mail - Are America's Hunters the World's Largest Army?

Red Dawn Video CoverI received another interesting e-mail, this one claiming that America's hunters comprise the world's largest army. Here's the closing paragraph, which is the main point of the whole thing.

Overall it's true, so if we disregard some assumptions that hunters don't possess the same skills as soldiers, the question would still remain, what army of 2 million would want to face 30, 40, 50 million armed citizens? For the sake of our freedom, don't ever allow gun control or confiscation of guns.

Apparently, this one's been making the rounds for a while. Here's one example of it online, Fox Nation - American Hunters - The World's Largest Army. As a bonus, you can find an example of treason as the very first comment on that site, though I'm sure the commenter would claim it was meant as a joke (and what's with all these people who claim to be patriots with one breath, and then issue threats against the nation with the next?). For anyone interested in reading the entirety of the version I received, I've put it below the fold.

Now, I grew up in hunting areas. Had I stayed in Pennsylvania for high school, the first day of deer season would have been a day off. In Maryland, in one of my first period high school classes, the kid next to me was always telling me how he'd had to hide his rifle in his truck because he'd forgotten to take it out after going to check his traps in the morning. My dad, brothers, and uncles all used to hunt in our backyard and at my grandmother's property. I have no problem with people hunting.

But the big problem that this e-mail only briefly pays lip service to is that giving somebody a gun doesn't automatically turn them into a soldier. It's insulting to all the actual soldiers in our armed forces to suggest that it does. The U.S. has one of the best trained militaries in the world, and it's this hard work of training and constant drilling that in large part makes our military so effective, not the shear number of guns.

A group of hunters doesn't even rate as a militia - at least militias have some training and drills. Back in the late 1700's when more people actually took the 'well regulated militia' clause to mean a duty of all citizens and not something fulfilled by the National Guard, the government passed the Militia Act of 1792. This act actually called for "each and every free able-bodied white male citizen" between 18 and 45 to be enrolled in the militia. The law even called for musters for some type of training for the militia. In practice, this ended up being once or twice a year. But this minimal training (still more than today's hunters) was completely inadequate. When these militias were put to the test in the War of 1812, they didn't fare well at all. To quote from the first link below, "When war came, the under-trained under-equipped and unready enrolled militia simply was not up to the task. The War of 1812 revealed the weakness of relying upon this unwieldy concept, despite many exceptional and heroic individual successes." And that failure came before the industrial revolution. Just imagine how ineffective private citizens with hunting rifles and shotguns would be against mechanized infantry or attack helicopters.

For comparison, in modern first world nations, Switzerland has the most famous citizen militia. But they get 18 to 21 weeks of initial basic training when they first join the country's militia, followed by annual 3 week refresher courses.

As far as the facts of hunting safety - hunting is fairly safe, but this e-mail is a little exagerrated. Around 1000 people per year are shot in hunting accidents in the U.S. and Canada, but thanks to increased regulations and improved mandatory hunter safety courses, it's getting better. In fact, 2012 was the first year in Pennsylvania in 94 years of records that no hunters were fatally wounded in an accidental hunting shooting (though there were still 33 people shot).

Regular readers may already know that my interpretation of the Second Amendment doesn't line up with the current Supreme Court's. I think the 'well regulated militia' clause makes the intent clear, and that the militia is currently fulfilled by the National Guard. Further, I'm tempted to agree with what the Court said way back in 1876 in United States v. Cruikshank, "The right to bear arms is not granted by the Constitution; neither is it in any manner dependent upon that instrument for its existence. The second amendment means no more than that it shall not be infringed by Congress, and has no other effect than to restrict the powers of the national government," or in other words, that the Second Amendment only applied to the federal government, not states. But, times change and interpretation of the Constitution is fluid, so if the current Court wants to reinterpret it, their new interpretation is now the law of the land. But, even if the older interpretation held and the Second Amendment didn't apply to states, I still think there are many legitimate reasons for people to own guns, hunting being high among those reasons. But I don't agree with this e-mail that private citizens come anywhere close to the well regulated militia described in the Amendment, nor that they would provide any substantial defense or deterrence if a modern military were to attack the U.S.

Image Source: IMBD

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Thursday, November 14, 2013

Texas Science Textbook Adoption - Reminder

Stand Up for Science TexasIf you haven't already seen it, go read my entry, Texas Science Textbook Adoption. To summarize, On November 22nd (a week from tomorrow), the Texas State Board of Education will have their final vote to adopt the currently proposed textbooks and other instructional materials for high school biology and environmental science. So far, everything appears to be going relatively well, but there are a few idealogues on the board who have thrown a wrench in the works before. So, please contact your school board representative and urge them to vote in favor of sound science. Links on how to take action are included in that entry.

For anyone interested, I've posted my letter to my representative, Marty Rowley, below the fold.

Continue reading "Texas Science Textbook Adoption - Reminder" »

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Texas Science Textbook Adoption

Stand Up for Science TexasI haven't written about the Texas School Board in a while, but it's time to, again. On November 22nd, the school board will have the final vote to adopt the currently proposed textbooks and other instructional materials. Now so far, things appear to be going the right way for our students' educations. Despite some school board members appointing creationists and other idealogues to the textbook review panels, and those idealogues making recommendtions against sound science, the publishers haven't made any changes undermining science education. There's still full support for evolution and climate change, the two big controversial points for the extremists.

If the final vote approves the recommended materials without any last minute shenanigans, then our students will at least have good science textbooks. But, given the school board's past behavior, it doesn't hurt to send the members a gentle reminder to vote properly. If you would like to send such a reminder to your representative, the links below provide you the means to do so (and please remember to be polite).

Links to Take Action:

Links for More Information:

Links to Past Entries on This Site Related to SBOE or TEA:

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

More Thoughts on the Government Shutdown, or !*#%!#@ Republicans

Political FightingI've written about my political affiliation previously:

As far as party affiliation goes, I'm an independent who usually votes Democratic, but not exclusively. I've never voted a straight Democratic ticket. I always try to look at individual candidates to decide who to vote for. It's just that more often than not, the Democratic candidates match my views more closely than the Republicans (and I'm not about to throw my vote away on a third party candidate).

But I have to say, it's getting harder and harder to take anyone seriously who associates themselves with the Republicans, and this latest stunt with the government shutdown is about the last straw in my mind. It doesn't matter how much they disagree with the Affordable Care Act, holding the government and economy hostage to try to achieve their goals is unacceptable. It's not the way our government is supposed to work, and is quite frankly un-American.

The Republican talking point about trying to claim that Democrats have refused to negotiate is horse puckey. Take a look at the article, 19 Times Democrats Tried to Negotiate With Republicans, for a list of all the times the Democrats tried to enter into negotiations with the Republicans before it came to this.

I'm also tired of hearing about them supporting the 'will of the people'. Go read this article, Poll: Don't Shut Down the Government Over Obamacare, reporting on a recent Quinnipiac University poll. Even on the point where the Republicans are closest to reality, the number of people favoring or opposing the Affordable Care Act, they still don't have a good case. Roughly 45 percent of people support the Affordable Care Act, while around 47% oppose it. That's a pretty even split, and not even a majority in opposition. So, according to that poll, Republicans are basing this whole fight on a law that less than half the country disapproves of. Granted, other polls do show the numbers skewed a bit more towards disapproval, but nowhere near an overwhelming majority - nothing that calls for the type of scorched earth approach they've taken.

But, that was the one point with the most support for Republicans. Look at another stat, and it's far worse. A full 72% of those polled opposed shutting down the government in an effort to defund the law. According to another article, Poll Shows Disapproval of Threat of Government Shutdown, it was 8 out of 10 who disapproved of the Republicans' tactics. So the House Republicans can't even pretend that they're representing the will of the people here. They're hijacking the country in an effort to enforce the wishes of around 1/4 of the population.

I could go on an on venting about this situation, but it's difficult not to devolve into using strings of four letter words. Instead, I'll post a couple links to people that have already made the points I was thinking. The first of these is more humorous, from Tom Tomorrow. I'm only showing the first panel - click on it to read the full thing.

The second is an article by Charles Pierce, The Reign Of Morons Is Here. Here's the opening, to give you an idea of what to expect.

Only the truly naive can be truly surprised.

Only the truly child-like can have expected anything else.

In the year of our Lord 2010, the voters of the United States elected the worst Congress in the history of the Republic. There have been Congresses more dilatory. There have been Congresses more irresponsible, though not many of them. There have been lazier Congresses, more vicious Congresses, and Congresses less capable of seeing forests for trees. But there has never been in a single Congress -- or, more precisely, in a single House of the Congress -- a more lethal combination of political ambition, political stupidity, and political vainglory than exists in this one, which has arranged to shut down the federal government because it disapproves of a law passed by a previous Congress, signed by the president, and upheld by the Supreme Court, a law that does nothing more than extend the possibility of health insurance to the millions of Americans who do not presently have it, a law based on a proposal from a conservative think-tank and taken out on the test track in Massachusetts by a Republican governor who also happens to have been the party's 2012 nominee for president of the United States. That is why the government of the United States is, in large measure, closed this morning.

It's hard to describe how disgusted I am with the Republican party right now. I didn't have a very high opinion of them before, but they've gone and lowered the bar to a depth I wouldn't have guessed it could reach.

Related Entries (i.e. the government shutdown, and general Republican stupidity):

Friday, September 27, 2013

Brief Thoughts on the Looming Government Shutdown

Republican ElephantI've had a busy week, skipping or working through lunch breaks, so I didn't have much time to devote to this blog. But there's something going on in the news right now that I couldn't resist mentioning - what in the hell is wrong with Republicans?

There's a simple problem with a simple solution. If Congress doesn't authorize government spending, then the government can't spend money on many programs, and many parts of government will get shut down. If that happens, many peole would be affected, from the employees who wouldn't be getting their paychecks, to citizens who wouldn't be getting certain services (for example, the parks would shut down, and passports would cease to be issued). Depending on how long the shutdown lasted, it could have significant effects on the already slow economic recovery (read more - CNN - How a shutdown could affect the economy). So, the simple solution is to pass a resolution to keep the government funded, even if it's only temporary, and let the politicians hash out their disagreements later in the normal manner with the government still running.

But Republicans, at least of the Tea Party variety, have chosen this as an opportunity to hold the government and the economy hostage, all because of the Affordable Care Act. It's crazy. The Affordable Care Act was passed through the regular democratic process. It was voted on by duly elected representatives and became law. The House has made numerous failed attempts to repeal the law. And even if they want to continue efforts to repeal the law, this sure as hell isn't the time, place, or manner to do it. I mean, it's not as if the Democrats are pushing some new law they want to get passed, or a law they don't like that they want to get repealed. They're not using this as an opportunity for enhanced gun control laws. They're simply doing the responsible thing, trying to keep the government funded. Why are Republicans setting an ultimatum that has nothing to do with the issue at hand?

I'm reminded of a quote by Mike Lofgren concerning the previous debt ceiling debate that I included in my entry, Thoughts from a Retired Republican:

Everyone knows that in a hostage situation, the reckless and amoral actor has the negotiating upper hand over the cautious and responsible actor because the latter is actually concerned about the life of the hostage, while the former does not care. This fact, which ought to be obvious, has nevertheless caused confusion among the professional pundit class, which is mostly still stuck in the Bob Dole era in terms of its orientation. For instance, Ezra Klein wrote of his puzzlement over the fact that while House Republicans essentially won the debt ceiling fight, enough of them were sufficiently dissatisfied that they might still scuttle the deal. Of course they might - the attitude of many freshman Republicans to national default was "bring it on!"

Now, I realize that Democrats are by no means perfect, but can't we as a nation decide to get rid of these Tea Party clowns and get some responsible, reasonable people back in charge of the government?

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Selling Out