Rigidly Defined Areas of Doubt and Uncertainty

This must be Thursday. I never could get the hang of Thursdays.

The Case Against the State’s Power to Kill

No power in the hands of the state is more sobering than the power to end a human life. Only a handful of nations on Earth retain this power and the United States is the only western democracy among them.

Being an outlier on such an issue would be no problem so long as the United States derives some practical benefit from it, such as a demonstrable deterrent effect that has a downward impact on violent crime.

This is most certainly not the case. Capital punishment not only completely fails to deter people from violent acts but it is far from the most efficient means of dealing with the worst members of the human species.

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The Big Three-O

Right now there are three proposals for new gun control laws making the rounds on Capitol Hill. They are, in decreasing order of inevitability:

  1. Universal Background Checks
  2. Extended Magazine Ban
  3. A New Assault Weapon Ban

The background check law, which would extend the background check to all private sales as well as those conducted through a licensed dealer. This is supported by 90 percent of virtually everyone, including 80 percent of gun-owning NRA members like myself. Reason: We don’t want to let crazy people and gang bangers into our club. We want the gun-owning public of these United States to be composed entirely of people who have no reason to fear a background check.

Of the other two provisions, the extended magazine ban, which would restrict magazine capacities to 10 rounds or less, and the assault weapons ban, would be ban selected rifles due to their shared features with military rifles, I maintain that only the extended magazine ban is necessary. It solves the real problem, making the assault weapons ban redundant. Continue reading

Holy Metaphorical Overkill, Lawrence!

I like Lawrence O’Donnell, a polished combination of eloquence and passionate pugnacity. Since the Sandy Hook tragedy, however, he more than any other host at MSNBC has allowed his rhetoric to get a little overheated when discussing the National Rifle Association. Even as a member of that group, I confess that I have little use for it and will probably let my membership lapse if it hasn’t already. If it’s not going to represent the views of 80% of its members, than the NRA doesn’t offer anything you can’t get from the Auto Club, namely hotel discounts.

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Agua fría, por favor

With whom do you think Marco Rubio should be more angry?

  • The guy who forgot to remind him to hydrate before the speech?
  • The guy who simply pulled one of Mitt Romney’s old stump speeches out of his ass rather than writing an actual response to the State of the Union Address?

I’m afraid both of those people are probably named Marco Rubio. If that’s the best he can do, he won’t be spending much time in Iowa and New Hampshire in early 2016.


(Don’t) Send in the Drones

The Justice Department is releasing to Congress a memo detailing the administration’s legal justification for what we normally call the “drone program.” The real issue is whether or not the Executive Branch has the legal authority to order the killing of a terror suspect, especially if that terror suspect is an American citizen. Whether or not the killing is done via a Predator or Reaper drone, or by Seal Team Six kicking down someone’s door is a side issue.

To kill Americans fighting for an enemy during a time of war is not controversial. German-Americans occasionally wound up fighting for the Wehrmacht during WWII, and some of them never came home. If you wear the uniform of the other side during a hot war, that can happen. For some reason, however, people have a problem with targeting American citizens, who have admittedly made the irrational decision to join al Qaeda, in places that are not currently war zones (i.e. not in Afghanistan), all without the usual safeguards in place to prevent state power from being used arbitrarily.

Normally, before the government can end someone’s life, there is a little thing known as due process. Continue reading

Scouting May Soon Be Openly Fabulous

Bowing to pressure from corporate sponsors to wake up and smell the 21st Century, the national organization for the Boy Scouts of America may vote as soon as this Wednesday to lift their ban on gay members and allow local groups to decided whether or not to admit LGBT youths to their troops.

Predictably, the usual suspects on the right have chimed with cries of alarm Continue reading

Republican Cannibalism

This past week, former Senator Charles Hagel began hearings on his nomination to serve as the third Secretary of Defense under President Obama. The President must believe that Hagel is the man for the job, because it was almost inevitable that the nomination would be controversial on both sides of the aisle. Continue reading