Thursday, December 31, 2015

Happy New Year!

Private Buffoon wishes you & yours the best in the New Year!

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

2nd Amendment and "original intent"

I'm not a lawyer or a Constitutional scholar, so what follows are just the ruminations of a citizen who pays attention.
Second Amendment to the Constitution
(one of the first 10 Amendments, known collectively as the Bill of Rights.):
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.
The book from which I learned about the United States Constitution, in 8th-grade civics, is Your Rugged Constitution by Bruce & Esther Findlay. Once out of print, it is now available in a 2014 hardcover edition from Amazon.
In their commentary the authors explain:
You deny: To the federal government the power to interfere with your ownership and use of weapons for lawful purposes.
You get: Protection against the wrong use of power by a national army.
Okay, here goes.

One school of Constitutional interpretation is "original intent": What did the Framers MEAN by the words they wrote?

For the moment I'll ignore that devilish introductory clause about a "well regulated militia".

When the Framers wrote "arms", what did they mean?
The only personal arms known to them were smooth-bore and rifled, muzzle-loaded flintlocks - both long-guns and pistols.
They also knew about smooth-bore and rifled, muzzle-loaded field artillery.
They did NOT know anything of breech-loaded weapons, or percussion caps, or revolvers, or automatic weapons of any sort.
They did NOT know anything of tanks, or rocket-propelled grenades.

Should we, by the interpretive doctrine of "original intent", constrain "arms" to mean only muzzle-loaded, single-shot weapons?
After all, how could the Framers have intended AK-47s, M16s, ... or even 45-caliber automatic pistols?
They had never seen or imagined any of these.
How could they "intend" these in any meaningful sense?
They were not writing science fiction.

Okay - so THAT is much too narrow an approach to "original intent".

Uppermost in the Framers' minds was the recent conflict with the tyrannical government of George III. (A conflict that they WON! - thanks to "citizen soldiers" and militias.)
Perhaps what they intended was that citizen-soldiers be equipped to fight against a tyrannical central government - whether foreign or domestic.
In this case, "original intent" would seem to imply that the potential citizen-soldier ought be allowed to "keep and bear" any arms which that hypothetical tyrannical central government possessed.
Today those permitted arms would include assault rifles, machine guns, grenade launchers, ... and tanks, fighter aircraft, drones, ... well, you get the idea.

Is THIS the correct interpretation according the doctrine of "original intent"?
I should be able to wander into my neighborhood gun store (yes, there is one) and buy a 50-caliber machine gun?
A rocket-propelled grenade launcher?
An M1 Abrams tank?
Without such weapons, how can I possibly hope to confront, let alone defeat, a tyrannical federal government?

I note that each of these would be GREAT for purely self-defense purposes!
You know, my home is my castle, and I'm going to defend it, goddammit!

One of my loyal readers has suggested that there is an implied limitation based on that horrid "well regulated militia" clause. I quote his comment in full:
The argument I heard is that the arms which the 2nd Amendment protects are arms which a militia might carry and use. AR-15 rifle? Yes. Hand grenade? Yes. Tank? No. Heavy artillery? No. Mortar? Yes if light, no if heavy. RPG? Yes. Davy Crockett tactical nuclear recoilless rifle? Hmmm.
What I REALLY want is for someone to pose this question to the GOP candidates:
What, if any, restrictions ought be placed on my right to "keep and bear arms"?

Monday, December 28, 2015

All politics, all the time

Confession: I watch MSNBC.
When I'm starved for real news, I watch CNN.

Lately, there's no difference - both are all politics, all the time.

I LIKE politics... at least I like politics during presidential campaigns... but still...
Is there really NO news?

Thursday, December 24, 2015

well, what the heck

Christmas is my least favorite holiday, for any of a number of reasons - not the least of which is theological: "Here's a picture of God sucking on Mary's tit."

That said, it seems to be customary to recognize the spirit of the season - Peace on Earth, Good Will to Men... and all that.
So - Season's Greetings to all!

Wishing you & yours the best this season and in the New Year!

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

We finally watched the Democratic debate

My wife & I don't like watching commercials, so we almost always record the shows we want to watch, allowing us to watch 'em at our leisure & skip past the folks sharing their medical problems with us ("moderate to severe chronic plaque psoriasis") to sell us something.
We followed this protocol for the Democratic debate, watching it at our leisure on Sunday.

Two things struck us:
thing 1: This was CIVIL discourse. No personal, ad hominem attacks.
thing 2: We could in good conscience vote for ANY of these folks!

I particularly like Bernie Sanders's summation:
... it's time for closing statements
... and let me applaud my colleagues up here. Because I think frankly, maybe I'm wrong, but on our worst day, I think we have a lot more to offer the American people than the right wing's extremists.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Friday, December 18, 2015

You should read this

This is from one of my new cousins ... Joan - one of Melissa's cousins.
It's worth a read!
Citizen's View: We must continue to live our lives without undue fear, anger, hatred
The best we can do is to continue to live our lives without undue fear and hatred. To love our neighbor and expect the best of others. Only then we can continue to live in a country we can feel proud of.
There's more - it's worth a read!

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

A well-spent hour

This afternoon Melissa & I attended an event at a local Conservative synagogue: bringing Jewish & Muslim kids together to make a "peace" quilt.
The rabbi began the event by explaining some things about Judaism, and mentioning similarities between Judaism & Islam - not the least of which being the languages in which the two faiths are rooted: Hebrew and Arabic are near cognates, both Semitic.

Parents of both faiths attended with their kids.
Everyone seemed to be enjoying the spirit of the event.

(A pointless aside: At the end of the introductory remarks, I was unofficially tasked with putting a couple of prayer books back on the shelf.
This minor duty pretty much trapped me as a stream of kids exited the hall.
Mistaking my "duties" and my extravagant beard for signs of authority, many of the kids bade me a formal "good-bye" as they exited.
'Twas amusing.)

Anyway, both Melissa & I were delighted to have participated, however briefly, in this inter-faith community exercise.
We did NOT stick around to help sew the quilts!

Here's me with extravagant beard:

GOP debate tonight! (... oh boy!!!)

We plan to record this.
... Maybe we'll watch it later, on mute with closed-captioning.
We've done this before - once we managed to watch the entire debate. Once we gave up after about 10 minutes.
This time I'll watch just long enough to see if my suggestion regarding "Base questions on Preamble" was accepted (I doubt it!).

A bumper sticker seen today

Do you like Medicare?
Thank a Democrat!

Monday, December 14, 2015

Thought for the day

Just because something didn't really happened doesn't mean it's not true.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

nope - the planet will survive

The planet will survive. It has for millions (billions?) of years.
WE won't!

Saturday, December 12, 2015

... 'tis the "Trump support" bit that's worth noticing

Cruz Soars to Front of the Pack in Iowa Poll;
Trump Support Stays Flat
Cruz may, indeed, end up the nominee... but my take-away from the headline is "Trump Support Stays Flat".
The Donald has a VERY SOLID base of support... at around 30% of "likely GOP primary voters".
Even if we assume these "likely GOP primary voters" constitute every Republican or Republican-leaning voter, that's something like... hmm... 30% of 50% = 15% of the electorate.

Forget a brokered convention: I'm hoping for a clear Trump victory!
Let's pretend that of the remaining 70% of Republicans, 3/4 decide to vote for the party's nominee.
... that totals something like 41% of total popular vote... enough to lose.
In modern parlance, this would be a landside for the Democrats.
(AND: I'm not at all sure that even 3/4 of Republicans - other than those committed heart & soul to Trump - would bother to show up at the polls.)

Of course, I'm not Nate Silver.

Friday, December 11, 2015

A suggestion for poor ol' Jeb

It's been pretty clear for some time that Jeb Bush's heart just isn't into this whole "presidential campaign" thing.
He seems to be going through the motions only because it's what other folks expect of him.

Of course, I could be wrong.
Maybe he harbors some fantasy about riding in on a big white horse just as the bad guys are about to triumph, rescuing the Party from certain disaster.
If so, I'd say he's delusional.
Should Trump falter (we can only hope!), Cruz, Rubio,... even Christie - all seem better positioned to move to the front of the line.

So, what can he do?

Let's pretend for a minute that I'm right, and that President Jeb Bush is not a realistic outcome.
... Let's also pretend that poor ol' Jeb would like to go down in history as something more than a governor of Florida, son & brother of presidents.

My suggestion for poor ol' Jeb?
Quit the race - BUT, quit with a flourish!
Give the best damn speech of your career to explain quitting.

I happen to have a draft of such a speech... here goes:
Today I am announcing the end of my presidential campaign – I am no longer a candidate for the Republican nomination for President of the United States.
This has not been an easy decision for me, but it’s clear now that I have little chance of winning my party’s nomination, and it’s time to move forward.

Before leaving the stage, however, I would like to comment on some of the disturbing trends I see developing within my party. To some extent, it is these disturbing trends that have contributed to my decision to withdraw from this campaign.

As a candidate, I have found myself compelled to say things I simply do not believe.
I have had to pander to special interests – wealthy interests – proposing tax programs that would clearly help the very wealthy in this country, while at the same time harming our vanishing middle class.
My faith is grounded in the belief that the widow and the orphan deserve justice – not just God’s justice, but our justice, today, in this world.
We – the Republican Party – used to stand up for the middle class, for the poor, for the widows and orphans.
Our heritage is Teddy Roosevelt’s – confronting the monopolists of the Gilded Age.
Where is that party now?

Some in my party shamelessly peddle fear.
They forget Ronald Reagan’s brave challenge to the Evil Empire that was the Soviet Union: “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”
They would have us believe that we are a weak country, on the verge of collapse, and they would have us fear our fellow man, not embrace him as another child of God.
I recall one of my favorite quotations from the Bible, Exodus 22:21
Thou shalt neither vex a stranger, nor oppress him: for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt.
We are today and have always been a nation of immigrants.
Immigrants of different nationalities and different faiths.
We Americans are today and have always been compassionate, welcoming “the wretched refuse” to our shores.
Fear of the Other has not made our country great.
Acceptance of the other – knowing that this acceptance will make “the other” in fact one of US – that is what’s made our country great.

In this campaign I found myself being called upon to say things that I simply did not believe.
Perhaps the other candidates DO believe what they say, but for the sake of my party and my country, I hope not!

No, I am not renouncing my membership in the Republican Party, rather I’m asking my fellow Republicans to ask themselves, “Where are we going?”
As Abraham Lincoln stated in his Second Inaugural address:
With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.
That is MY Republican Party.
I'm thinking such a speech would cement Jeb's place in the history books.

I have a question (really) - how's the GOP convention work?

The "establishment" GOP folks seem to loathe Trump.
Question: are delegates to the GOP convention (July 18–21; Cleveland, OH) obligated to vote for whomever wins primaries?... at least on first ballot?
How binding are primary elections/caucuses on state delegates?

I tried - briefly, none-too-diligently - to find answers on the Internet, but was unsuccessful.
(... could be that "briefly, none-too-diligently" thing... )
Anyway - if one of my loyal readers knows the answer, could you post it in comments?

Thursday, December 10, 2015

From the Albuquerque Journal: The rhetoric of "war"

From Winthrop Quigley in today's Albuquerque Journal:
The word ‘war’ is a rhetorical minefield
By Winthrop Quigley / Journal Staff Writer
Published: Thursday, December 10th, 2015

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — “War” might be the most overused and most sloppily used word in American public life, and because it is we end up with sloppy thinking and poor public policies.

Politicians have declared war on drugs, war on poverty, war on cancer. Jimmy Carter called the energy crisis of the late 1970s “the moral equivalent of war.” Pundits and people advocating different causes warn of a war on Christmas, a war on women and a war on men.

George Bush declared a global war on terror, which never made sense, since terror is an emotion. It’s like declaring war on sadness. To declare war on terrorism is no better. Terrorism is a technique of combat. It would be as if the United States declared war on dive bombers after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
The war on drugs militarized a public health problem. Millions of young people, mostly black and Latino, lost years of freedom and citizenship rights once they were convicted of nonviolent drug felonies.
Now come calls for a “war on radical Islamic terrorism.” It’s a sloppy concept that threatens to lead to sloppy policies.
Terrorism has been a tactic in use for thousands of years. Many of the grievances destabilizing the Muslim world today are centuries old. How are we to know when the war is over? Or are we to remain on a war footing for as long as our republic exists? How long can a republic exist if it is always at war?
My editing leaves out a LOT of good stuff.
I encourage you to click on the link and read Quigley's piece in full!

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Just for fun - really!

Just for fun: an open letter to the GOP

Dear GOP folks:
You've been using the race-baiting "southern strategy" for years to win elections.
Hey, it worked. Why not?

You continue to appeal to St. Reagan to demonize Big Government.
Hey, it's still working. Why not?

You use the Tea Party crazies to challenge Obama's legitimacy.
Hey, it works. Why not?

You happily endorsed lies about Saddam's WMD and his ties to al Qaeda to start a war... and to win elections.
Hey, it worked! - Why not?

NOW - you're flipping out about Trump???
You're kidding, right?

Just for fun: Many of you are self-professed old-fashioned Bible-believing Christians. Here are some quotations that may help you understand your current predicament:
Hosea 8:7 - For they have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind.

Galatians 6:7 - ... for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.

Proverbs 22:8 - He that soweth iniquity shall reap vanity.

Proverbs 11:29 - He that troubleth his own house shall inherit the wind...
Given The Donald, I'm particularly fond of Proverbs 22:8!

Oh - and that xenophobic, anti-immigrant, anti-Islam "patriotism" you profess? How 'bout:
Exodus 22:21 - Thou shalt neither vex a stranger, nor oppress him: for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt.

Exodus 23:9 - Also thou shalt not oppress a stranger: for ye know the heart of a stranger, seeing ye were strangers in the land of Egypt.

Leviticus 19:34 - But the stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt.

Deuteronomny 10:19 - Love ye therefore the stranger: for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt.
... or are those verses simply inconvenient?

For a more popular, secular take on what it means to be American, how 'bout we consult the movies? Here's the Bill Murray character in the 1981 movie Stripes:
We're all very different people.
We're not Watusi.
We're not Spartans.
We're Americans, with a capital 'A', huh?
You know what that means? Do ya?
That means that our forefathers were kicked out of every decent country in the world.
We are the wretched refuse.
We're the underdog.
We're mutts!

(emphasis added)
Maybe a little soul-searching is in order.
... But, PUH-LEEZE: don't go flipping out about Mr. Trump.
He is YOUR creature!

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Cautious optimism, tempered by dread

Will The Donald be the GOP nominee?
I don't know.
Lots of "establishment" GOPers seem to hope not, but I can't help feeling this is more "hope" than anything else.
(Snarky aside: HEY - establishment GOPers are now Obama fans... that "hope" thing, dontcha know...)

If not Trump, who?
David Brooks's "blue rug"?
Who might that be? Cruz? Rubio?
... is either of these guys any better??

The "cautious optimism" expressed in title of this post reflects that last question: Is either of these guys any better?
Is Jeb better? Is Kasich better?... Huckabee?... Fiorina?... Carson?
All of these folks are HORRIBLE - xenophobic and CRUEL!
Back when I was running for the Democratic nomination (if you blinked, you missed it), I said this:
I don’t know who will be my Republican opponent, but I believe it safe to draw some contrasts between us, anyway. Both of us, I would like to stress at the outset, believe that America is the best and strongest country on Earth, and we are both extremely proud to be Americans. From this basic point of agreement, however, we have very different visions for America’s future.

When he – or she – imagines America’s future, he – or she – harks back to a mythical “Golden Age”:
A “Golden Age” in which labor had no voice.
A “Golden Age” in which “people of color” had no voice.
A “Golden Age” in which industrial “accidents” were both commonplace and acceptable.
In this “Golden Age”, women had no political voice and few property rights.
For me, America’s Golden Age still lies in the future.
I believe that, great as America is, it can still be better.
As that hackneyed bumper-sticker says, “In a perfect world schools would have enough money and the military would have to hold bake-sales”.
Public education is the foundation of an “equal opportunity” society – without it, the privileged few will continue to dominate, while the slaving masses can only hope to put food on the table, with no hope of escaping poverty and degradation.

My Republican opponent – whoever he or she might be – believes that public education is an anachronism, with no place in our society.

My esteemed Republican opponent will need to be reminded that America has ALWAYS been a land of immigrants!... and there has ALWAYS been a fear of immigrants. Benjamin Franklin deplored the presence of lazy, indolent, non-English-speaking Germans in 18th-century Philadelphia. Germans, Irish, Chinese, Poles, Italians, Japanese – all have been the targets of anti-immigrant hysteria. All were at one time viewed as “The Other” who threatened the American Way of Life.

Today, these “Others” are “Us”! – they are our fellow citizens, competing for – and winning – public office.
Running Fortune 500 companies.
Teaching our children.
We are today all Americans.

My Republican opponent, whoever he or she might be, will almost certainly be the descendant of immigrants.
But when he or she goes to the grocery store, the mall, the ballpark, he is frightened by what he sees: LOTS of folks who look DIFFERENT! Many of them speak English with a FOREIGN accent… some of them don’t speak English at all.
This frightens him … or her.
He sees his world crumbling before his eyes, and again yearns for a mythical “Golden Age” in the past – a “Golden Age” that has NEVER existed.

I am the descendant of Welsh coal miners, German craftsmen, and Polish farmers.
When I go to the grocery store, or the mall, or the ballpark and see folks who don’t look like me, who speak English with a foreign accent, or who perhaps don’t speak English at all – what I see is the source of America’s greatness.
After more than 200 years, WE are still seen as the “Land of the free and the home of the brave”.
We – America - … this is still THE country to which people aspire – to build for themselves a better future, to become Americans.

Finally, my Republican opponent will seize on “FEAR” as the basis for his or her campaign.
Fear of “illegal immigrants”.
Fear of Iran, or of North Korea.
Fear of “The Other”.
My Republican opponent will cast “The Other” as Existential Threats to America.

I believe America is stronger than that!... and by building his campaign on Fear of “The Other” my esteemed Republican opponent will demonstrate just what he REALLY thinks about America: he - or she - believes the United States is a weak, vulnerable, beleaguered country, on the brink of failure, defeat and collapse.

We – my Republican opponent and I – have very DIFFERENT visions for America.
That speech was delivered in July, 2012.
At the time I had no idea just how accurate my characterization of my nameless "Republican opponent" would be!!!

Okay - back to that "cautious optimism" bit...
"Some of my best friends are Republicans!"
(Well, no - that's not true. But I do know some Republicans, and they all seem like more-or-less decent people.)
I'm cautiously optimistic that if Trump, or Cruz, or Rubio... or Jeb, or Kasich, or... well, or ANY of 'em, end up the GOP nominee, these more-or-less decent folks will just figure, "To hell with it!"
No, I don't expect they'll run out and vote for Hillary or Bernie or Martin - but I do HOPE that they'll just STAY HOME!
Could anyone that I know vote with a clear conscience for ANY of these folks?

An aside: Hmmm... I seem to be basing my "cautious optimism" on something akin to Anne Frank's profession of faith:
"In spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart."
This sentiment doesn't appear to be particularly well-founded!

Now for that "tempered by dread" bit.
What if I'm wrong?
What if my fellow Americans in fact ELECT Trump... or Cruz... or Rubio... or, well, or ANY of 'em?
What would that say about MY country?

It's scary.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Albuquerque in the news

Man burglarizes mom’s house for homemade posole, police say

Oh, no! - I agree with Donald Trump

"Without looking at the various polling data, it is obvious to anybody the hatred is beyond comprehension," Trump said in a statement emailed to reporters on Monday.
... oops - wait...
I don't think he means the same thing I do.

Nope - Trump is calling for a halt to Muslim immigration to the U.S.
For a minute I thought he was being self-critical.
My bad.

A wholly solipsistic post, or, "What's the point?"

... or, "Why bother?"

Private Buffoon is not a well-read, mainstream political blog. (Really?)
On a good day, one of my posts will garner perhaps 30 readers.
So, why do I do it?

1) Catharsis. It makes me feel better to vent my frustration with the current state of politics in what I continue to view as MY COUNTRY!
Having an outlet to express my reasoned rage is good for my mental health.

2) ... on a more grandiose level:
"All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing."
(attributed to Edmund Burke... but the attribution is controversial.)
Though an agnostic, I find it helps to understand the world if I at least pretend to believe in Good, Evil, and Luck.
I'd just as soon confront Evil.

3) Related to both #s 1&2 above: DOING something seems compulsory.
What can I DO?
Precious little.
I've not the $$$ to truly influence events, so I make due with the currency that is readily available:
I write.
I write this blog.
I write letters - to my Congressional delegation, to the President, to CNN, to ABC News (2 such just mailed today!).
... AND... I try to convince other like-minded folks - those at-best-30 or so who read Private Buffoon - to do the same.

What can I do?
Perhaps not much, but I can at least try.

A thought experiment, of sorts

The NRA, and by extension the GOP, hold that an individual's right to bear arms - ANY arms - is sacrosanct.
A previous post noted that I cannot today walk into a gun store and buy a Thompson submachine gun, an RPG, or an M1 Abrams tank.

Would the NRA and their GOP enablers rescind this Depression-era law?
SHOULD I be able to walk into my neighborhood gun store (there is one) and buy a Tommy gun, a grenade launcher, or a tank?
These are, after all, "arms".

Does the NRA's and the GOP's support for my Second Amendment "right" to buy a semi-automatic assault rifle extend to support for my currently legally-impeded right to buy a fully automatic weapon? An RPG? A tank?
Where would our friendly GOP candidates - and the NRA - draw the line, were they free to re-draw it?

Would they nominate Supreme Court justices who favored repealing the National Firearms Act of 1934 and the Gun Control Act of 1968?
Would they encourage the NRA to bring cases before the Federal courts to challenge these laws?
Do they believe that my "right to bear arms" extends to the entire available arsenal of military-grade weapons?

Maybe someone should ask 'em.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

... a quick follow-up

... basing debate questions on the Preamble - in addition to informing the viewers about the Preamble - might also have the added extra benefit of acquainting the CANDIDATES with the Preamble!

Hint: There's nothing in it about, "... all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights...".
Nope - not there.
No Creator.
No unalienable rights.
No life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness.

Sorry guys & gals!

A modest proposal

I've sent a version of this suggestion to the folks over at CNN who will be moderating the next GOP debate.
The suggestion also works for the next Democratic debate.
The idea is get candidates to reveal their basic philosophy of government and of the Presidency, and to avoid stupid, snarky, "gotcha" questions.

Here goes.
Base at least the first half of the debate on the Preamble to the United States Constitution.
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.
Start by asking each candidate, "What can and should the Federal Government do to help form a more perfect union?"

After this, distribute questions appropriately so that each candidate has a chance to respond to at least two (maybe 3, depending on number of candidates).:
"What can and should the Federal Government do to establish justice?"

"What can and should the Federal Government do to insure domestic tranquility?"

"What can and should the Federal Government do to provide for the common defense?"
(The GOP candidates should be salivating for the opportunity to answer this one!)

"What can and should the Federal Government do to promote the general welfare?"
(The contrast between GOP & Dems should be stark on this one!)

"What can and should the Federal Government do to secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity?"
That's it.
Not snarky, just simple questions about the government's role in fulfilling the mission statement articulated by the Preamble.

Another potential benefit: framing the debates along these lines would help inform the voting public - or at least the folks watching the debates - about the Preamble!

Saturday, December 5, 2015

"I was gratified to be able to answer promptly."

... The title of this post is the first part of one of my favorite quotations, from Mark Twain's Life on the Mississippi:
"I was gratified to be able to answer promptly, and I did.
I said I didn't know."
This is my response to current epidemic of gun violence in America.
What's to be done about it?
I don't know.

Do I favor more restrictive gun laws?
Yes... but with severe reservations.
The Second Amendment is notorious for its ambiguity:
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.
I suspect that 'twas fight between Madison & Hamilton that led to this convoluted single sentence.
(A more knowledgeable Constitutional scholar could well correct me - maybe it wasn't Madison & Hamilton, but it was clearly a fight that led to this horrible construction! - on the one side a staunch Federalist, on the other an equally staunch Republican.)
I'm very far from a Second Amendment scholar, so will refer interested readers to the Wikipedia article, which includes a nice summary of the judicial history with which we must deal.

... all this is somewhat beside the point, however.

My real concern is that any attempt to tamper with the text of the Second Amendment will lead to a very slippery slope.

The Bill of Rights stands as a unified whole in our collective understanding of our Constitution.
An apparent afterthought, these first ten amendments have been known since they were first drafted as THE Bill of Rights.
Once we mess with one, all the others are up for grabs.

Every one of 'em is controversial.
When we are FEARFUL, every one of 'em looks like a MISTAKE.

Since 9/11:
First Amendment
Freedom of religion, press, speech, right to assemble.
All have been challenged.

Fourth Amendment:
Protection against warrantless searches.
Challenged... I mean, really: How can we catch the bad guys if we have to get a warrant? Why shouldn't we be able to check someone's library records, or record their phone calls, or monitor their Internet searches?
(See, e.g., Edward Snowden or NSA.)
Fifth Amendment:
Due Process?
For terrorists? You're kidding,right?

Sixth Amendment:
"... the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial... to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence... ".
(See, e.g., Guantanamo.)
Well, you get my point.

In fact, the Amendments cited above have ALL been abrogated since 9/11.

Why do we allow these basic freedoms to be denied, but continue to insist on our artificial and arbitrary "right" to bear arms?

I note that as a private citizen today I cannot walk into a gun store and buy a Thompson submachine gun, a Rocket-Propelled Grenade launcher (RPG), or an M1 Abrams tank.
Yes - we DO, even today, have restrictions on our "right to bear arms"!

Why is it such a stretch to restrict my "right" to buy an AK-47 or M16 assault rifle?

Friday, December 4, 2015

Was he perfect?

This post is tangential... no, not tangential - rather, completely unrelated to anything that's gone before.

"Was he perfect?"
The "he" here is Shakespeare.

I've just read a couple of reviews of the latest film version of The Scottish Play - known to folks not subject to theatrical superstitions as Macbeth, directed by Justin Kurzel.
One of these reviews was in The New Yorker.
The other in the New York Review of Books.
(Yes - I'm showing off!)

Both reviews reference Orson Welles' 1948 version, Polanski's 1971 version, and, of course, Kurosawa's Throne of Blood.
But what I found interesting in both reviews was the implicit assumption that there is a genuine Macbeth, the play written by Shakespeare.
To be judged a good film version, apparently, means to capture Shakespeare's intent, whatever that might be.
Any deviation from this intent, or any novel interpretation of the play is judged somehow, if not exactly sacrilegious, at least wrong-headed.

Now I'm in no way qualified to dispute Shakespeare's reputation as the greatest playwright in the English language...
BUT - he was a WORKING playwright, trying to produce something that both his patrons and the hoi polloi would PAY to see.
He had to make decisions based not always on "artistic" criteria, but on the basis of getting butts in seats, paying his actors, meeting expenses.
Producing plays was his livelihood.
Working within real-world constraints, I'm betting he wasn't PERFECT.

Perhaps - just maybe - someone else's vision of Macbeth, or for that matter, someone else's vision of the character, Macbeth, also has merit - regardless of whether or not that vision corresponds to Shakespeare's original intent.
(I note that in the field of Constitutional Law, "original intent" is a nice-sounding but very difficult criterion on which to base decisions.)

Perhaps reviewers could allow later interpreters to give it a go, and decide if the choices made contribute to a unified, coherent production.
Base the review not on how well or poorly the director captured Shakespeare's intent, but whether the work he or she has produced is a satisfying artistic whole.
Does it hang together on the director's terms? (... which may or may not coincide with Shakespeare's!)

Just a thought.

Demented, delusional, or simply in denial?

David Brooks in today's New York Times:
No, Donald Trump Won’t Win
Somewhat bizarrely, he starts by talking about buying a rug.
The pink one really stood out, and he liked it a lot on first glance...
... but then he decided the blue one would be easier to live with.

He then suggested that Donald Trump is the current "pink rug" of the GOP "likely primary voter".

This may have been a nice homey analogy... IF he'd been able to suggest a plausible "blue rug" alternative.
But - no.
In fact, Brooks doesn't even TRY to suggest a plausible alternative.
The best he can do is to suggest that
When campaigns enter that final month, voters tend to gravitate toward the person who seems most orderly. As the primary season advances, voters’ tolerance for risk declines. They focus on the potential downsides of each contender and wonder, Could this person make things even worse?

When this mental shift happens, I suspect Trump will slide.

Where's the blue rug?

Thursday, December 3, 2015

A very short story

In August 2014 my wife & I took the train from London to Leeds (UK).
We shared a table with a young woman - perhaps 18- or 19-yrs old - returning home after a "gap year" (time off between high school & college).
Noting that we were Americans, she had only one question for us:
"Do you own a gun?"

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Sometimes I forget...

... there's more to life than politics.
Donald Trump is fun, and scary.
... BUT: there's more.

I'm reminded of this today
I had lunch with a long-time friend who professes to be completely apolitical...
... and, in fact, the lunch conversation was free of politics.

Then again, one of my long-time correspondents, a former statistics colleague, is the most conservative person I know.
We somehow manage to engage in civil discourse on... well, politics, religion, family, the state of the world...
... all without coming to blows.
(Did I mention that this correspondent is a USMC reservist who's been deployed to Iraq & Afghanistan MANY times since 9/11? ... and he's still alive!)

LIFE is not co-extensive with politics & religion.
Sometimes it may feel that way, but really ... no.

Simple answers to stupid questions

Could Donald Trump win the GOP nomination?

Sunday, November 29, 2015

"How To", and my failure to do so

One of the keys to maintaining a relevant blog is to post DAILY.
Sadly, I don't manage this.

On the bright side - I have nothing to say.

Updated "Contact Info"

PrivateBuffoon, having been inactive for some time, was also out of date!
The "Contact Info" navbar to the right, for example, listed "Contact NM1 Congressman Martin Heinrich".
Congressman Martin Heinrich is now Senator Martin Heinrich.
The NM1 Representative is now Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham.

Anyway - the contact list is now up-to-date.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving!

Continuing what is now a 9-year-old tradition:
From al Qaeda in Albuquerque, 22 Nov 2007:
Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday.
It's secular - religious overtones are secondary.
It's American - the rest of world goes on happily without us.

Most of all, for me the basic premise - giving thanks - is a good thing.
Yes, I am thankful for my family, for my undeserved good-fortune in life, for friends.

Most of my family is in town. None of us started out here - we all just ended up here.
I've 3 sisters. 2 of 'em are in town, with their husbands.
My mom is in town.

So: Happy Thanksgiving, with friends & family!
An update is needed:
My mom died in 2012.
One of my sisters died in October of this year.

Yes, there have been losses.

BUT: I've remarried, to a very beautiful, wonderful, caring, generous woman - Melissa.
... and I almost forgot: we have a new grandson! - Hunter:

So... well, YEAH - Thanksgiving continues to be my favorite holiday!

I AM thankful for my family, for my undeserved good-fortune in life, for friends!

So: Happy Thanksgiving, with friends & family!

Too little, too late

Josh Marshall over at TPM hit the nail on the head:
That's Why We Do This
We cover the weird, dark, outrageous and surreal in our politics because these things are much more important than most people - especially most political observers - care to admit. I thought of this when I read this high-minded and starchy editorial in yesterday's Washington Post, the upshot of which is that while they've tried to do the right thing and ignore Donald Trump's clown car campaign, they simply can't do it anymore. The time has now come to stand up to Trump's bullying! And, the Post insists, Republicans must now do so too.
This encapsulates pretty much entirely the myopia of so much American political journalism. Sometimes readers will write in to say 'Why are you writing so much about Trump?' or Steve King or Michele Bachmann or Death Panels or whatever the latest thing is. 'You've just given them oxygen. If people ignored them, they'd go away.'
A lot of people, a lot of liberals, or what we might better call people of cosmopolitan political sensibilities, live in this fantasy world wherein what they ignore either doesn't exist or will be shooed out of existence by their refusal to pay attention to it. This is, needless to say, not true. That's why many Democrats are continually surprised that things they think are straightforward or commonsensical turn out to be deeply controversial or even politically impossible. Or conversely, why so many preposterous claims are widely accepted as either possible or true. Why do so many people think the President is a Muslim?
Since July or thereabouts, the very serious people in the professional political punditry class have been predicting the demise of The Donald.
Each new gaffe, they have claimed, foretells the end of his campaign.


More recently, the very serious professionals have stopped making these predictions.
Good for them!

Now, they're going after Trump - attacking him! ... as evidenced by the "high-minded and starchy" editorial board of the Washington Post cited above.
"By God, if he won't self-destruct, WE'LL launch our nuclear arsenal against him!" - so our wise men now tell us.

The latest salvos?
Trump is a Fascist! - a nascent Hitler!

As it happens, I agree with this assessment... BUT - does anyone really believe that this informally coordinated attack (both liberal & conservative outlets are saying much the same thing) will do any damage?
I don't.

BUT - if The Donald IS elected next November, and the Capitol burns down in February... well, maybe we should have paid attention!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Bill Kristol should be happy

Putin Accuses Turkey Of Backing ISIS After It Downs Russian Warplane In Syria
Oh, good - we're going to war with Russia.
Our NATO ally, Turkey, just shot down a Russian fighter.

Bill Kristol should be delighted.
Maybe he'll use his influence to get age restrictions waived and join the military.

Free advice for the GOP (Honest!)

A math problem (just to acknowledge my former profession):
Which is larger:
100% of a 6" personal pan pizza,
51% of a 20" family-size pizza?
Donald Trump continues to lead in polls of likely GOP primary voters.
Latest numbers are above 30%.

I highlighted the target audience, likely GOP primary voters, for a reason.
Here's an excerpt from a speech to stockholders given by Larry the Liquidator in the 1991 film Other People's Money:
And you know the surest way to go broke? Keep getting an increasing share of a shrinking market. Down the tubes. Slow but sure.
"Likely GOP primary voters".
Thanks in part to The Donald, that group does NOT include Hispanics, or Blacks, or Muslims, or... well, or just a lot of fairly decent folks.
It DOES include a rapidly shrinking, aging white constituency.

Good luck with that!

Monday, November 23, 2015

As American as Superman!

From loyal reader TedTheCat:

Mental illness & the GOP

Trump Doubles Down On Claim He Saw Thousands Cheer In N.J. On 9/11
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has shown he is not one to back down.

In fact, when he was questioned by ABC News today about his assertion that "thousands and thousands of people" cheered the collapse of the World Trade Center on Sept. 11 just across the river in New Jersey, Trump doubled down.

"It did happen. I saw it. It was on television. I saw it," Trump said.
But, yes, surely Trump is the ONLY GOP candidate who "saw" this, yes? NO!
Ben Carson joined GOP rival Donald Trump in claiming that he, too, saw news footage of Muslim-Americans cheering as the World Trade Center towers fell on Sept. 11, 2001

The leading GOP candidates have a serious mental illness:
Hallucinations are false perceptions, inaccuracies that affect our senses & cause us to hear, see, taste, touch or smell what others do not. In the acute phases of schizophrenia, patients are likely to insist they are hearing voices that no one else can hear. Sometimes they hear noises, clicks or non-word sounds. On occasion they are disturbed by seeing, smelling or feeling things that others do not.
( Understanding and responding to symptoms of schizophrenia)
Okay - to be fair to Dr. Carson, he later admitted that he'd mistaken the Middle East for New Jersey!
(This could be a pretty good SNL skit, if anyone's paying attention!!!)

"Pay it Forward"

My mind is a-jumble trying to come up with a coherent response to the madness.
In addition to the leading GOP candidates suggesting a database to track Muslim citizens, today there was this:
Gun-Toting Islamophobic Group Protests Outside Texas Mosque
In the latest anti-Islamic incident to take place following the Paris attacks, demonstrators in Irving, Texas, protested on the sidewalk outside a mosque with guns, Islamophobic signs and American flags.

What can I say that has some even slightly positive impact?

My solution: use the theme of the 2000 movie, Pay it Forward.

In the movie, a middle-school student is challenged by his teacher to come up with a project that will change the world.
His solution? Do a kindness for three (3) strangers, and ask each of them to repeat this - each doing a kindness for three other strangers, and so on.
Turns out, it works, and the movie follows the good deeds of the strangers impacted by the kid's original kindness.
(At the end of the movie, the kid is killed by Donald Trump... well, no - not by Trump, but he is killed.)

What has this to do with PrivateBuffoon & the current political mess?
Less than you might imagine, but something.

I'm betting that most of my hundreds of thousands of followers share my political views.
Individually, each one of us has little political power.
BUT - as a bloc, we can maybe help just a little.

If you are not now registered to vote, REGISTER today!
... THEN urge at least three of your like-minded friends to do the same.

Now comes the hard part: VOTE!

At each step, encourage others to REGISTER and to VOTE.

There is some chance - at the moment it looks to be not all that small a chance - that we could be welcoming the bigoted, xenophobic, paranoid "circus clown" into 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in a little over a year UNLESS the sane ones among us come out in FORCE to VOTE!

So, do me a favor: mobilize your like-minded friends to vote (for what may indeed be only the lesser of two evils) next November... and ask them to do the same - get others out to the polls next November.


Sunday, November 22, 2015

Now I remember...

... at least one of the reasons I stepped away from PrivateBuffoon:
Ben Carson Thinks Giving Up Certain Torture Techniques Would Be Too PC

Donald Trump Says He'd Bring Back Waterboarding

It's all just too depressing.

On the other hand, there are some voices of reason... even in the notoriously conservative Albuquerque Journal:
Threat of a terror attack is worth the risk
By Winthrop Quigley / Journal Staff Writer Sunday, November 22nd, 2015 at 12:05am

Given that only a police state guarantees personal safety, given that the societies that reject new people and new ideas in the name of security have names like North Korea, vulnerability is a price we should be willing to pay, with trepidation, but without hesitation.

There are still sane voices out there.
I just wish they were louder.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Blast from the past

Back in 2012 I declared my candidacy for President.
The campaign was short-lived.
... BUT - I did give a speech.
Here's an excerpt:
My esteemed Republican opponent will need to be reminded that America has ALWAYS been a land of immigrants!... and there has ALWAYS been a fear of immigrants. Benjamin Franklin deplored the presence of lazy, indolent, non-English-speaking Germans in 18th-century Philadelphia. Germans, Irish, Chinese, Poles, Italians, Japanese – all have been the targets of anti-immigrant hysteria. All were at one time viewed as “The Other” who threatened the American Way of Life.


Finally, my Republican opponent will seize on “FEAR” as the basis for his or her campaign. Fear of “illegal immigrants”. Fear of Iran, or of North Korea… Fear of “The Other”.
My Republican opponent will cast “The Other” as Existential Threats to America.

I believe America is stronger than that!... and by building his campaign on Fear of “The Other” my esteemed Republican opponent will demonstrate just what he REALLY thinks about America: he - or she - believes the United States is a weak, vulnerable, beleaguered country, on the brink of failure, defeat and collapse.

We – my Republican opponent and I – have very DIFFERENT visions for America.

I'd say I'm prescient!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Terror suspects killed in St. Denis

3 terrorist suspects killed in French raid in Saint-Denis, police say

Just for fun:
My wife and I visited St. Denis in August 2014.
St. Denis houses the Basilica of St. Denis
The Abbey of St. Denis was one of the largest and most influential in Europe in the 12th and 13th centuries.

The abbey/basilica is named for St. Denis, a patron saint of France:
Legend relates that he was decapitated on the hill of Montmartre and subsequently carried his head to the site of the current church, indicating where he wanted to be buried. According to related legends, a martyrium was erected on the site of his grave, which became a famous place of pilgrimage during the fifth and sixth centuries.

Here's a photo of bas-relief showing the saint carrying his head:

Yes, there's a large Middle Eastern population, but we found it a very pleasant & interesting suburb - next time we visit Paris, we'll go back to St. Denis. ... TV coverage makes it sound like a hell-hole. It doesn't deserve that.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

"callous, heartless and prejudiced."

Bill De Blasio: Chris Christie's Comments On Syrian Refugees Are An 'Embarrassment To This Country'
"We should not close our borders to any group of people fleeing the atrocities and horrors of terrorism. To do so is to hand terrorists a victory over our democracy, strengthened over the years by Americans who died or risked their lives for it," he [NYC mayor Bill de Blasio] said.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

The objective of war...

... is to win the peace.

To date I've heard no one - Democrat or GOP; American or French or German - propose a strategy against ISIS/ISIL that does anything more than blow stuff up and kill the "leaders".

Haven't we learned from past 14 years that killing the "leaders" - of al Qaeda, of ISIS, of this group or that group - accomplishes NOTHING.
We've killed enough "leaders" in the past 14 years to populate a battalion or a brigade.
The groups whose "leaders" we have killed are not diminished.
Hydra-like, each assassinated head grows 2 or 3 or 5 more.

We erred in both Afghanistan & Iraq by believing defeating the enemy militarily would be enough.
Defeat Mullah Omar's minions, capture or kill bin Laden.
Defeat Saddam's Revolutionary Guard, drive into Baghdad.
We've NEVER had a plan to WIN THE PEACE!

Now we face a diffused terrorist threat from ISIS/ISIL.
Bombing, targeted killings of "leaders" - this continues to be our response.
(The "our" here now includes European allies - France today bombed ISIS's self-proclaimed capital: Raqqa, Syria.)

Stop the madness!

Friday, November 13, 2015

I am very lucky

What appears to be multiple terrorist attacks in Paris tonight.

I don't worry about this... getting blown up by terrorists, I mean.
Maybe I should.

As post announces - I am very lucky.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

I know the answer to this question!

One of my favorite quotations, from Mark Twain's Life on the Mississippi:
"I was gratified to be able to answer promptly, and I did. I said I didn’t know."
Sadly, in this case I DO know the answer:
G.O.P. Fight Now a Battle Over What Defines a Conservative.
Here it is:
The GOP's Vision for America

The players change, the message doesn't.

Yep - I just keep saying the same thing over and over... and I don't get paid to say it over & over!

Repost, somewhat dated now, from 10 Jan 2009

The GOP presidential hopefuls all kowtow to Wall Street.
Here's a repost from 2009... (It's sad that it still seems relevant, going on 7 years later...)

Wall Street bonuses totaled $18.4Bn in 2008.
Intel's 2008 net income? $5.3Bn.
- NOTE: Intel is the largest supplier of microprocessors in the world, with somewhere around 75%-80% market-share. They have cash reserves somewhere in the neighborhood of $12Bn.

In one of Wall Street's worst years, they paid bonuses three (3) times Intel's net income!
What's wrong with this picture?

Note: Intel makes THINGS. You can hold a microprocessor in your hand. The things Intel makes - microprocessors - are in your desktop PC, your notebook PC, your smart cellphone, your iPod.

Wall Street financial geniuses make 'paper'... or, more recently, vapor-ware - fancy financial instruments that somehow represent money, but are not transparently identifiable with tangible things.
They exist only to create the illusion of wealth - they are not in themselves wealth.

Never forget!

The financial wizards are NOT job creators - they create NOTHING, which somehow masquerades as "wealth".

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

My thunder has been stolen... by our President, Mr. Obana

As some of you may know, during election cycles I publish a fair number of YouTube vids - all politically themed. ... (YouTube channel "Swordfish1543")

A day or so ago I had a GREAT idea for a vid: "These guys can't stand up to CNBC moderators! - Do you really think they can successfully out-maneuver Putin?"

Then... sigh... Obama stole my thunder, making exactly the same point.

Oh, well.

Full Disclosure

My wife and I are Job Creators.

Yard work? - we contract it out!
House work? - we contract it out. (... to a woman of - shock - Hispanic descent, who does a GREAT job, bi-weekly... or "fortnightly" if you prefer.)

We are currently in middle of a fairly massive renovation project. Nope - we're not doing any of the work.
When the job is completed we'll have contributed more than $100K to local economy.

WE are job creators. We're not entrepreneurs - just folks lucky enough to be able to spend $$$.
I'm not at all sure just WHO are the "Job Creators" envisioned by the Republican candidates... it ain't US!

Monday, June 1, 2015

Yippee!... uh-oh... (... and it probably doesn't matter)

The Senate let the so-called Patriot Act die.

Uh-oh: Rand Paul was the Senator that seemed to be most in line with my views on the so-called Patriot Act.

... and it probably doesn't matter: within the week key provisions of the so-called Patriot Act will doubtless be re-instated.

Does ANYONE remember the post 9-11 catch-phrase?
We had failed to "connect the dots".
In a moment of fear and panic the so-called Patriot Act was passed.
It generates MORE dots - it does NOTHING to "connect the dots" - it simply generates LOTS MORE DOTS!

In my experience, decisions made when fearful and panic-stricken are BAD.
The so-called Patriot Act was a BAD idea then.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

He thought he'd get away with it...

The big news is that a South Carolina police officer shot a fleeing black man in the back. It was captured on video. "Ferguson" seems to be the main meme. What do I see? Yeah, the shooting was horrific... BUT! - - what I see is a police officer who KNEW he'd get away with it - calmly composing the scene to agree with his report of the incident. I live in Albuquerque, New Mexico - whose police department is currently under some form of DOJ oversight. Two Albuquerque police officers have been indicted for murder for an incident captured - last year - on video... in this case, police department videos. Again - what is surprising is that the officers involved KNEW they'd get away with it! If I were a betting man, I'd put money on the proposition, "Most cops are decent people."... BUT - in these times of strained $$$, with communities struggling just to make ends meet - LOTS of folks get to be police officers who probably oughtn't be, and they believe, "Hey, they gave me a gun. I'm gonna use it!" ... AND - they KNOW they'll get away with it! ... it is particularly distressing to see state legislatures (see, e.g., Texas) attempt to pass laws that outlaw citizens from taking videos of cops. Without the videos, they WOULD get away with it!

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Mississippi??? - Who knew?

Mississippi, a Vaccination Leader, Stands by Its Strict Rules

My weak libertarian bent DOES in fact question the power of the State to mandate medical intervention. ... if only the anti-vaccine folks weren't so crazy.

More and more I'm favoring "Enlightened Despotism" - an essay which I recall as attributed to Frederick the Great of Prussia, and which I read in Mr. Mitchell's 12th-grade World History class at Tulsa Central High School.
A Google search suggests this memory is imprecise. Any help?