Archive for June, 2010

An open letter to Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley

June 30, 2010

To Mayor Richard M. Daley,

As someone who has watched the ongoing fight over whether cities and states have the right to restrict gun ownership, I have noted your continued efforts to allow cities, specifically Chicago, to control handguns. The recent Supreme Court ruling seems to remove any further hope of reasoned gun control, so I would like to put forward a suggestion for your contemplation:

Give those people who want to own guns precisely what the US Constitution says they should have!

Now, both of us know that the National Rifle Association has it’s own wording for that the 2nd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution says. However, I think that if the amendment is read as it is worded in the Constitution, then there is room for both the city and those wanting to own guns to win. As noted by the emphasis below, the right to bear arms has certain specification to it, to wit:

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.

As stated in the Constitution, the ownership and possession of firearms has a specific aim: to allow for a system of militias. As such, I would suggest that your next move be to propose a city ordinance to form the Chicago City Militia. This would be a body made up of all people exercising their constitutionally-granted right to bear arms. The militia would, as required by the Constitution, have to undergo training (to assure that it is, in fact, a well regulated militia) and all of it’s members would have to serve a period of time (to be determined by the city council) in service to both maintain said training and to assure that those people who were members could function in times of need with the proper authorities (police, fire, emergency, etc.). All of the members of the militia would also be required to serve in times of civil emergency to supplement the city’s services in times of need.

As membership in any militia is historically a voluntary act, the city would not be liable for paying for either the training or time served by militia members.

Some might argue that the city has no authority to enact legislation requiring people to serve in such a body. However, as the Supreme Court has already stated that city and state laws on this matter are subservient to the constitutionally-mandated requirements of the 2nd Amendment, it should also follow that another part of the Constitution also applies in this case. Specifically, as emphasized in the following passage:

Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution

(16) To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the militia, and for governing such part of them as may be employed in the service of the United States, reserving to the states respectively, the appointment of the officers, and the authority of training the militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress.

As Congress has specified no regulations or other laws in this field, by constitutional law, that power devolves to those lower level bodies of government that must deal with said problems. Therefore, by enacting laws to govern the formation and regulation of a city militia, Chicago will be both undertaking it’s responsibility to form a well regulated militia, and giving those members of the community who seek to own a gun their chance to fulfill their constitutionally-mandated duty to serve their fellow citizens in said militia. The city will also have, it is hoped, a trained body of citizens it can call on in the event of a natural or man-made disaster, thus bolstering the city’s emergency capabilities through the voluntary service of it’s citizens.

Some may suggest that this is a ‘back-door’ attempt at gun control, but I beg to differ. This is nothing less than the city of Chicago fulfilling it’s duty to it’s citizens and the nation as a whole. By giving those citizens who wish to own a gun their place in the well regulated militia the Constitution specifies, Chicago is living up to both the spirit and the letter of the United States Constitution. Those who do not feel they wish to serve are free to refrain from owning a gun, and by such, refraining from taking up their responsibility to serve their fellows as provided in the Constitution.

I hope, sir, that you will consider this idea with an open mind. Our nation has been given a new take on gun ownership, and I hope that this will result in a return to the roots the Founding Fathers laid down when they formulated the Constitution, and that the words of the United States Constitution will be followed by all involved in the upcoming debate.

Advertisements

Some (forced) observations of summer.

June 21, 2010

The title of this post reflects what this writer feels like every time he approaches his raspberry bramble. While the initial blush is off the harvest, every day is still producing at least a quart-container sized harvest. At this pace, not only will the neighbors (all of whom but one have received ‘donations’ of berries) have been saturated, but most of my friends and my own freezer too will be screaming “Enough, already!”. Have I created a monster? Should I get out the bush hog (or my personal version, an old sickle) and begin carving away?

NAAAAAAAAHHHH, that’d just make’em angry!

I wonder, do you think the DoD would notice if I “borrowed” a small tactical nuke? Part of me wonders if this is the only way I’ll ever be able to get my bramble under control, or something nearly as radical, something along the lines of a real hard-core herbicide like Agent Orange. Not a lot else I can imagine stands a chance of having any real effect.

One thing that all this outdoor work is doing is giving me a chance to find out just how far science has to go yet in dealing with that most common of all deterrents to outdoor fun in temperate climates: the mosquito. I’ve mentioned my run-ins with these blood-sucking minions of Hell in the past, but with the increase in West Nile virus in my area, trying to keep from being bit is becoming a more serious issue.

Problem is, I have yet to find an effective means of keeping the little buggers at bay. The most recent experiment has been to use one of those clip-on repellent dispersers that you often see advertised on TV. Sold by that old stand-by brand name Off, they are billed as the solution to keeping yourself free of unwanted attention from your local mosquito population.

DON’T THEY FREAKIN’ WISH!

From this writer’s own personal (and bitter) experience, the Off clip-on is more of a placebo, making it’s wearer feel more secure, than anything that actually keeps mosquitoes away. Sunny weather or cloudy; warm, hot or not; no matter, it just plain don’t work!

What to do instead? Wear long sleeves, jeans and a hat to keep as much of your body covered as you can, and make sure that it all fits a little loose. It won’t protect you completely, but it will give you a fair amount of protection….and it’s a hell of a lot cheaper than then those stupid little clip-on things!

Further adventures in Brain Cramp City (Arizona speaks, yet again [unfortunately])!

June 16, 2010

If you’re a reader of this blog, you know that right now, I don’t exactly hold the legislature of the state of Arizona in high esteem. Given that they have toyed with the idea of passing a “birthers bill” aimed at requiring President Obama to produce his birth certificate, and the plain insanity of their passage of the now-infamous law giving police the power to stop anyone they have “reasonable cause” to “suspect” of being an illegal alien, it is hard not to hold them in at least contempt, if not outright scorn. Now, as if all this were not enough, there is talk of them taking their crusade to “protect” American citizens and citizenship to a new level by refusing to acknowledge the citizenship of people born in the United States who don’t have at least one parent that is an American citizen.

That this runs counter to the US Constitution, specifically the 14th Amendment which grants citizenship to anyone born in the United States, does not seem to bother the determined fools in Arizona. No, they say, this piece of the Constitution was put in place only to allow black, freed at the end of the Civil War, to be granted citizenship. In their eyes, the intent of the original amendment has been “stretched” too far in subsequent years, and it is time for someone to Set Things Right.

That Arizona’s legislature has an odd definition of how the US Constitution should be interpreted is not news. That nearly every scholar of constitutional law feels the law allowing the police to stop anyone and demand proof of citizenship violates several provisions of the foundation of this nation doesn’t seem to bother them at all. So if they can ignore one part of the United States Constitution, why not another one?

Hell, while they’re at it, I think there are a few other things they should take care of:

Abolish freedom of the press. After all, it’s just those pesky commies in the press who’ve been questioning their right to do what they want, isn’t it? So why not shut’em up once and for all?

Abolish the right to assemble. Think of it, not only could they shut down those darned commies in the media, they could also keep all their supporters from marching through their streets and raising a ruckus, so why not?

Abolish the right to seek redress through the courts. Hell, if it isn’t the damn commies in the press who are ruining things, then isn’t it those “activist” judges who can’t leave well enough alone? Get rid of them and save everyone a ton of trouble!

Abolish the right to vote. After all, they know everyone loves them and their stand, so why confuse matters with all this campaigning and having to answer silly questions about “rights”….like Americans have any anyways?

Ah, yes, Arizona, land of the (un)free and home of the terminally brain dead. God spare the rest of this nation their disease.

Spuds and berries: an update on the garden front.

June 15, 2010

I think I should never, ever speak of how well things are going for any garden plant I ever grow. Over the last few weeks, since the last time I wrote about them, the potatoes have begun to be attacked by something that eats holes in their leaves. The leaf eating hasn’t seemed to damage the plants……yet, and I remain hopeful that they’ll survive and thrive.

Readers of my other blog will remember my past writings about my berry patch. For those of you new to the story, one plant I keep year-in, year-out is a patch of black raspberries. Formally known as a “bramble”, mine patch is hardly that organized. When I first started growing berries, I read through tons of garden catalogs, trying to find plants that would produce the types of berries I once picked wild along the road: tart, dark berries that could go equally well over ice cream, into pies or into a jar as jam. The best match I could find was a black raspberry strain known as “Cumberland”, a plant that, so the catalog said, was a delicate vine indeed. As I remember it, the description made it sound as though a stout breath could damage these plants, so I made sure to buy lots and plant them widely.

Well, the catalog lied, BIG TIME!

Since I planted that initial patch, I have not had to worry about anything but the distinct possibility that I might wake some morning to find myself surrounded by raspberries, unable to get out of my place of residence by any other means that a sharp machete, vigorously swung. This year, as of Saturday last, there were some berries showing color, making the transition from green, unripened fruit through their red stage to the final black, ripe stage. By this morning, I noticed some ripe berries and resolved to wade in and see just how many I actually had. Going raspberry picking is a job not for the faint of heart. These are plants with thorns that seem to be able to get through just about anything, given the right chance. So, to get into the plants, and you really do have to get in, right among them, you dress appropriately: long sleeved shirt, blue jeans, heavy boots. So this is not something you do when it’s warm, doubly so when it’s actually hot. Problem: mosquitoes love the evening, and where I live, you go out without protection and you end up feeling like you’ve been in a close encounter with Dracula. Worse, we’ve had a couple of wet days of recent locally, so the mosquito crop is at a near-bumper level. To make a long story short, I waded in, and a half an hour later I waded back out with a pint of berries in my possession and what felt like a pint less blood in my system. Things will get more…..interesting from here on. At peak, the berries can produce about a gallon of berries a day, so I expect to be making many more contributions to the Mosquito Reproduction Fund in the near future.

Is it worth it?

HELL YES IT IS!

More as the days go by…….

“Help, me, help me……DON’T!!!”

June 15, 2010

As the oil spill in the Gulf has unfolded, one of the things that has become abundantly is that what happened on the destroyed exploration platform was almost inevitable. Though they should have been more vigilant, more ‘ahead of the curve’, everyone who was concerned with the safety of such operations was in fact living in denial. As wells were drilled in deeper and deeper waters, plans for how to deal with just this sort of problem became more and more out of date. Things like the much-discussed blow-out preventer, how different possible failure modes might be dealt with, almost at every turn, planning seems to have been based just as much on wishful thinking as it was on hard data.

Given that, you would think that the logical first step to try to make sure nothing like this ever happens again would be to stop any new drilling. You’d also think that, with every single official along the Gulf Coast screaming for the federal government to “Do Something”, that this would be something they’d swing in behind.

WRONG!

With oil coating nearly everything that touches the Gulf, even with the very real possibility that any one of the oil rigs now drilling off their shore could fail with just as horribly, these same officials are now screaming about the possible loss of jobs this might represent.

It is almost understandable, but the emphasis in that statement should be on the word almost. Would things be better for the shrimpers, fishermen and all the other people who depend on a Gulf of Mexico be better off if another oil well fails? Would their economies benefit from an ecological disaster that was far larger than the current one? That lasted not for the multiple-months currently projected for the BP spill, but for year? Doesn’t it make sense to try to figure out just how bad things might be now, and do what it takes to fix them, instead of just cross our collective fingers and hope for the best? Yes, it’s going to have a cost to it, and yes it’s going to be painful. That can’t be denied, but neither can it be denied that the alternatives are potentially as bad, if not worse.

To the folks on the Gulf Coast who are yelling their heads off, demanding help with every other breath, a hint:

If you ask for help, don’t complain when you get it! Got it?

Mind you, the folks from the other end of the political spectrum are not exactly brimming with good ideas either. I had the pleasure, despite a day long off-and-on rain, of attending Chicago’s literary celebration, the Printer’s Row Lit Fest. If you are from anywhere around the Chicago area, and love books, this is one of those events you should keep track of and attend. One of the exhibitors was a group called “Revolution Press”. From everything I read and could deduce, they operate as something like the official press arm of the Communist Party. Along with their booth, where they sell various books they publish, they also engage attendees in an effort to drum up support for various causes. This year was no different, and their cause belli on this occasion was the above mentioned Gulf oil spill. In their case, they were appealing to people to either attend a meeting on the spill they are planning for a short time in the future, or to contribute money to help support said meeting. They had a nicely done poster at their booth, which I read out of my usual curiosity, but before I had time to finish the entire poster, one of their people came over to ask me to join their effort. What resulted was a multi-minute debate over their gathering. I had read enough to give me the gist of what the meeting would basically be: people setting around talking about how this was wrong and that Something Should Be Done. When I asked the individual who approached me this point, I was told that this was needed to ‘draw attention to the matter’, as though nightly images of the ongoing devastation were not enough to do this already. I was also told how BP had known that there was a problem with the now-infamous blow-out preventer and could have fixed it for a fairly small sum (again, far from breaking news). My counter-argument boiled down to one point: what happened can’t be undone, and that setting around discussing and rehashing the point would accomplish nothing. Au contrare!, I was informed, this would be a forum where people and scientists could get together and figure out what to do next. The old cockle about ‘America put a man on the Moon’ was even brought forward to justify further discussions. In the end, my counterpart couldn’t see that, in all likelihood, the scientists and experts would come to the conclusion that the only way to fix the problem is to plug the leak, and that until that’s done, all talk is vain. I would have been more than willing to give a few dollars if, instead of wanting to talk about the problem, they’d been recruiting people to don haz-mat suits and help clean beaches. That bit of practicality seemed to be as far beyond them as the sense of stopping drilling until we know we can contain another failure-induced leak is to the conservatives along the Gulf Coast.

So, you may ask, what is the moral of this particular story? The central core, I think, is that wisdom never comes from the fringes of politics, only useless rhetoric and empty gestures. That if you want to fix a problem, you first have to be willing to do something more than complain about it. That making a sacrifice, be it a painful one or a personal one, is sometimes needed to make that solution possible. That, maybe, if the fringes could channel some of their energy into concrete action, into actually doing something to help fix the problem, or at least clear up the aftermath, that the world would be a lot better place.

Why is it I doubt any of them will read this, or if they do, that they’ll actually listen?

Reflections on a workplace

June 10, 2010

Blue sky.

White clouds.

Heat, humidity,

dust everywhere.

Noise, incessant.

Work is done here.

Heron

June 7, 2010

Is a heron,

Standing in a muddy drainage canal,

As beautiful as,

A heron,

Wading in a forest lake?

Beauty

Is

Beauty,

No matter where

It is found.

Thought on Israel’s seaborne raid.

June 3, 2010

I don’t know about you, but the more I read, hear and see about Israel’s raid on a group of ships in international waters off its coast, the less I understand.

It wasn’t as though they didn’t know these ships were coming, the entire voyage was widely publicized to draw attention to both the mission and the reason it was being staged: a near-strangle-hold blockade of the Gaza territory by Israel. Nor can they claim that the cargo was anything that could be even vaguely termed “war material”, as the material being carried was also advertised to the media in general. Even with all of this, it was like the Israeli authorities couldn’t figure out some way to let the delivery go ahead, or that they were unwilling to do so.

So, in the end, what resulted was something of a disaster. Commandos storm the passenger ships from helicopters. The passengers, in turn, do what a lot of people have said sailors should do when confronted by a hostile force: they fought back, using whatever came to hand. Even the worst estimates from Israeli sources give the crew an “arsenal” of baseball bats, a few metal pipes, some slingshots and a few improvised flash grenades. Stack that up against pictures from Israeli sources showing their troops carrying automatic rifles and dressed in body armor and you have to ask how things came to the end they did. Can a statement be termed realistic when it claims that trained commandos were “overwhelmed” by the passengers and crew wielding improved weapons? That, as heavily armed as they were, they felt themselves in such danger that they had no recourse but to open fire with live ammunition? And underlying all of this is the most fundamental question: Why was this even necessary?

For now, the government of Israel is sticking to it’s story, that they were attempting to stop a shipment of “dangerous” material into Gaza. The problem is, the more they reveal of the raid, its aftermath, and the cargo they actually seized, the weaker that story becomes. As if to undermine their own version of what happened and how much of a threat the convoy was, all of the people the Israeli military took into custody from those ships have been released. Does anyone believe that Israel would actually release someone who was engaged in an act that threatened them, that could be even vaguely termed “terrorism”?

What have they accomplished, anyway? Turkey one of the few Arabic nations that had a close relation with Israel was the place the convoy left from. Worse, most of those killed were Turkish citizens. The result has been that the government of Turkey has little choice but to break relations with Israel. Worse, even in countries sympathetic to Israel, public opinion is already beginning to take a negative turn towards that embattled state. How this turns out anything but badly for Israel is a mystery to this writer. If it led to certain high-ranking officers and/or ‘security’ types being removed from their positions might be one step. A lifting, or at least a major relaxing, of the blockade on Gaza would also be a good step. Together, they might take some of the mud off of Israel’s face.

And America? A clear and sound condemnation, one that made it clear that this nation stands for the rights of vessels engaged in non-military activities to navigate freely in international water, should be our first and most public step. Beyond that, a closer examination of how we interact with Israel might not be out of line, especially our support for some of the more “cowboy” actions that Israel has undertaken in the past…..and floated that it is contemplating for the future. To do otherwise would be the same as endorsing this sort of action, and that is not an option given our own nation’s dependence on international shipping.

News Flash: Potatoes Grow!

June 2, 2010

It’s been a while since I wrote about the potatoes I planted. To date (and knock very hard on wood!), they seem to be doing fine. All but the ‘late comers’ are actually getting quite tall, at least two feet high, and even those that came up last are showing signs of strong growth. On the other hand, the weeds are starting to come up too. Part of the Memorial Day weekend was dedicated to removing some of the unwanted plants. Someday soon I hope to beg, borrow or steal a digital camera so I can upload a photo of them, but for now, they’re fine and send their best regards.