Sunday, April 25, 2010

'The Hurt Locker' as best picture

I just watched "The Hurt Locker" which this time around won the Academy Award for best picture.  Somebody please tell me that was a joke.

Granted, the staging was very accurate as to its portrayal of Iraq as a typical Moslem Middle Eastern hell-hole:  garbage in the poorly-maintained streets, the locals living in 12th century luxury, and a complete disregard on nearly everyone's part for the niceties of the rule of law.  It probably also was accurate as to the intelligence level of everyone involved on the military side:  the smart ones stay alive by being as wily and as suspicious as a feral cat;  the others die in various gruesome ways that are, for the most part, painless for being mercifully quick.

If this film has any value it is that it shows the American people what all that money is being spent on, and it may urge a few more to wonder whether rescuing Iraq (or Afghanistan or Kuwait or ...) from its instant condition is worth the expenditure of even one American soldier's life.  If it does that it's worth watching, but does raise the interesting follow-on question "how would we know we've 'rescued' them?"

But...  best picture?  The only way this could be a 'best picture' would be for the producers to take all the money they saved on script-development and cast salaries and use it to grease the palms of the judges.  I'm not a film critic by any means but shouldn't an award like 'best picture' have some positive correlation to the coefficient of I-want-to-see-it-again ?

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

How to Write the Decision in McDonald v Chicago in 1 Page (no footnotes)

Early in March the Supreme Court heard oral argument in the case of McDonald v Chicago, a case pitting one Otis McDonald, a black resident of The Windy City against the city fathers (sic).  Otis wants a handgun so that he can protect himself, his family, and his property from the drug dealers who frequent his part of town, the poor part.  The city fathers (sic) are opposed to letting the peasants have arms for their defense.  You just never know what a peasant might do with such things.

Alan Gura of Heller v DC fame is lead attorney for the plaintiff and has written a brilliant brief arguing that the Second Amendment should be 'incorporated' against states, counties, and municipalities via the Privileges or Immunities clause of the 14th amendment.  If it isn't already plain, let me make it so:  I think Gura is 100% correct on this issue and his strategy.  There is a problem, however.  For SCOTUS to incorporate via 'P or I' will overturn the 1873 Slaughterhouse decision.  'Overturning prior decisions' is something the Supreme Court prefers to avoid if at all possible.  Slaughterhouse, most modern Constitutional scholars agree, was decided incorrectly by an obviously biased court and represents 'bad precedent' at its worst.  A moral SCOTUS would have burned that decision to the ground decades ago, which tells you something about how long it's been since we had a moral SCOTUS...

Well, heck, if they don't want to overturn Slaughterhouse, I can help them out.  Herewith, the McDonald v Chicago decision in under one sheet of legal paper -- without reference to Slaughterhouse (footnotes omitted):

* * * * * * * * *

Plaintiff McDonald wishes to keep and bear a firearm within the city limits of Chicago for a lawful purpose but fears prosecution under the laws of the City of Chicago based on municipal firearms regulations.  Defendant City of Chicago pleads that the city has a 'substantial public safety interest' in minimizing the number of firearms within the city limits.

This court notes the wording of the Second Amendment to the Constitution of The United States of America which reads as follows (some punctuation eliminated for clarity):  "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 court further notes that said Constitution is a limited grant of authority from the people to the federal government and that, together with its amendments, is the Law Of The Land.

The court further notes that the term  "well-regulated"  meant (at the time of its adoption)  "operating as intended"  and retains that same meaning in perpetuity, and that the term  "militia"  refers to the whole body of the people acting on the basis of that original authority which has been lent (not surrendered) to the federal government.  All of this has been thoroughly covered in Heller and there is no need to plow that field again.

The remainder of the text of the Second Amendment to the Constitution declares that the (pre-existing and naturally-occurring)  "right of the people to keep and bear arms"  shall not be infringed.  Unlike the First Amendment which declares that  "Congress shall make no law...",  the Second Amendment's requirement is much stricter:  "shall not be infringed"  certainly by the federal government, but this appears not to be limited strictly to any particular level of government.  Presumably the power of the federal government may be used, perhaps is to be used, to ensure that this right is not infringed anywhere.

We therefore confidently assert that the federal government may not infringe the (pre-existing naturally-occurring)  "right of the people to keep and bear arms"  as by such devices as the  National Firearms Act of 1934  (which imposes significant fees, arbitrary waiting periods and registration of otherwise-useful firearms and other weapons)  and the Gun Control Act of 1968  (which prohibits unlicensed interstate commerce in firearms, ammunition and other weapons),  and we strike these as unconstitutional  in their entirety.

The court further asserts that a (pre-existing naturally-occurring)  "right of the people to keep and bear arms"  may not be infringed by States in violation of the Second Amendment to that Constitution which is  "the Law Of The Land".  As a consequence we strike existing and future schemes at the state-level to restrict, prohibit, tax, and register the acquisition and possession of firearms, ammunition and other weapons by  'the people'  in their entirety.

Consequently, it should be clear that similar restrictions and prohibitions at the  county, parish, and municipal levels  as well as at all lower levels such as school districts and water districts (to name a few)  are equally impermissable and we strike them  in their entirety.

So ordered.

* * * * * * * * *

Now, that's what a proper Supreme Court decision from a moral SCOTUS looks like.  Note the clear absence of any trace of equivocation.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Thoughts for Patriot's Day (April 19th)


He said to his friend, "If the British march
By land or sea from the town to-night,
Hang a lantern aloft in the belfry arch
Of the North Church tower as a signal light,--
One if by land, and two if by sea;
And I on the opposite shore will be,
Ready to ride and spread the alarm
Through every Middlesex village and farm,
For the country folk to be up and to arm."

Paul Revere's Ride
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow


On the evening of April 18th, 1775, two friends, co-conspirators, made plans for rousing the colonial militias in Middlesex County west of Boston.  Paul Revere was to row across the harbor to a point outside the city where he would be able to ride a northern route into Middlesex to raise the alarm.  William Dawes was to stay in Boston and signal Revere from the belfry of The Old North Church when the 'redcoats' started to move.

They had heard a rumor from an informer within the inner circle of General Sir Thomas Gage, military governor of the Province of Massachusetts Bay, about upcoming troop movements.  The Governor General had just recently received orders from William Legge, Earl of Dartmouth, to disarm the colonial militias in Middlesex by seizing their arms and ammunition stored at Lexington and Concord.  Gage had done this once before in 1774, just after his arrival from England, and that act had put the militias on a permanent high alert.  The present action was scheduled for the 19th of April with the 700 British troops moving late on the 18th.

As Revere waited on the far shore in Charlestown, Dawes hung two lanterns in the Old North Church tower to indicate that British regulars were coming 'by sea' across Boston harbor.  Revere took off westward to let the militias know that "The British are coming!  The British are coming!"  At the same time, Dawes slipped out of Boston and rode the southern route toward Lexington doing the same thing.  Why everyone knows about Revere and almost nobody knows about Dawes is my favorite mystery.

At about 5am the British arrived in Lexington and were met by 77 militia and 100 spectators who had gathered to watch the 'festivities'.  A British officer rode forward and ordered the militia to disperse and many of them decided to go home at that point.  Just then, a shot was fired; no one knows to this day who fired the shot, but it was enough to get the battle started.  Following a bayonet charge, the battle of Lexington was 'over' with 8 militia and one British regular dead.

At Concord later that day, perhaps 8am, the British forces clearly did fire the first shot and this was met by effective return fire from the militiamen assembled.  The British managed to do some searching for weapons, but found little or nothing to compensate them for their time.  By mid-morning, other militia companies began arriving and jumping into the fray.  By mid-afternoon, it is estimated there were between 2,000 and 4,000 colonial militia engaging the British troops, although half-heartedly.  Many clearly thought this was a minor incident and would operate to chasten the regulars and make them leave the colonials alone.  There were enough hardened militia, however, to chase the British troops back to Boston, inflicting 287 casualties along the way.

By the following morning, 20 April 1775, more than 15,000 militia ringed Boston, beseiging it.  The War for Independence had begun.

* * * * * * * * *

For the longest time, the identity of the informer within Gage's organization was a mystery.  Historians now believe they know who the 'mole' was:  Lady Margaret Kemble Gage, the Governor's New Jersey-born wife is now considered the prime suspect.

* * * * * * * * *

Other important events which also happened on April 19th

In 1943, the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising began.

In 1993, the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, TX, was burned to the ground.

In 1995, a bomb exploded at the Alfred Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City.

In 2010 (this year) American citizens, many of them, like me, 3%-ers, will hold a rally in Fort Hunt National Park on the Potomac River south of Washington DC.  Many of them will be armed as a sign that (among other things) the federal government no longer enjoys their support.  If things go very badly awry, we may get to hear the first shots of the next American Revolution.  If things go very well, we will have started our long march back from the edge of darkness.  That would be 'a very good thing'.