Wednesday, December 16, 2015

The Republican Debates

I am an adult independent voter who watched the whole show last night, both the minor four and the major seven, two hours of each group. Several senators, several ex-governors, and several professionals from other fields. Each one obviously an achiever in his/her selected field, and each able to think rapidly enough to reply to challenges, even if not always relevant to the question asked. (They did, after all, have their own agenda to emphasize.)

I personally liked the Ohio ex-governor; he seems to have paid attention to the needs of his state. I respect the neurosurgeon for his manner and speech, but his background in medicine does not prepare him in foreign policy or government finance. Mr. Trump is entertaining, in a manner of speaking, but that does not prepare him to be a diplomatic world leader.

Recent terrorist activity was a major topic (carefully avoiding discussion of gun control.) The proposed solutions emphasized forbidding terrorists' entry into America, military destruction of the jihadist Caliphate in Syria, updating the size and armament of USA's military, building walls along our borders, and filtering out the persons and their communications who have evil on their mind. There was passing mention of the need for updating America's physical infrastructure and the education of the next generation, but no mention of what existing government programs to cut or taxes to raise, or any other way to finance the very ambitious projects they envisioned. No mention of working with others in Congress to even finance the government budget for next week, let alone next year.

So who's going to pay for all this? Donald Trump's personal billions are chicken-feed compared with the trillion dollar cost of modernizing the military, or rebuilding America's bridges and highways, let alone erecting walls hundreds of miles long (which a tunnel or a helicopter can penetrate.

And while you're at it, candidates, let's hear at least a little well-deserved praise for some of the things the Obama government HAS done. Saving the economy from going bankrupt when the banks collapsed, for example. Or providing medical care to millions who were going broke paying their medical costs?

Friday, December 4, 2015


Freedom has become an object of worship in America. If you invoke the word, you can sell almost anything—a political viewpoint, religion, war, selling automatic weapons to Mexican drug lords, pornography, lower taxes, lies, almost anything, good or bad. Ask an American his/her idea of what heaven might be, and you often hear the word again.
Instead of labeling freedom "good" or "bad" we can avoid a lot of name-calling and yelling by asking "freedom from"? or "freedom to"? Neither kind is always good or always bad. We talk about freedom from pain, freedom from hunger, freedom from oppression or bullying, freedom from fear. Most us want such freedoms, both for ourselves and, in theory at least, for others too.
"Freedom to" is also good, but often ambiguous. Freedom to work is hard to dispute; if someone can earn a living, he can provide for himself and his family. Freedom to speak is good, unless it is used to slander or destroy someone else.
Freedom to drive a car on public roads depends on registration with the state after passing a brief examination, but that freedom can be forfeited if one is repeatedly convicted of DUI.
Freedom to own a gun is guaranteed by the Constitution, but may be forfeited if one is convicted of a felony, and in any case the gun owner must register the gun.
Freedom from being shot and/or killed is protected by law provided one is not seriously threatening the life of someone else; yet death from gun violence is more and more common among citizens in USA - arguably more so than in any other first-world nation not at war. It appears that many of those who gun people down are found later to have many guns in their possession. One license to carry covers all. No need to explain to anyone.
The US Constitution 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.” This is reasonable; people may defend themselves against unwarranted assault. It does not imply, however, that anyone is free to shoot other people simply to make a statement, nor does it deal with those who amass unlimited quantities of weapons.
In this week's slaughter (December 4th, 2015) in San Bernardino, California, two people wearing body armor and using military assault rifles, killed 14 people at a holiday party and wounded many more. After police killed the two, they were found to have a total of more than 4,500 rounds of ammunition and twelve pipe bombs in their possession.
Last week, an apparently mentally ill lone man shot and killed 3 people in Colorado Springs. When such tragedies occur frequently, something is wrong.
It should be pointed out that certain weapons are forbidden. Bombs. Mortars. Anti-aircraft weapons. There are limits to which one may personally defend his rights. Should there not be limits to how many weapons an individual may own? The question of these gunslingers belonging to “a well-regulated militia” does not seem to arise. For those few gun collectors whose ego depends on a hundred varieties of guns to exhibit, let the extra ones he does not carry to protect himself in church or post office be disabled. That's what the cannon in our local town park required before the army donated it.
The NRA is fond of saying, “Guns don't kill people, people do.” But gun registration can be better regulated, to decrease opportunities.