Recent Articles

Short history of the NRA and the Second Amendment

| May 24, 2014 | 1 Reply

The Brennan Center for Justice recently published this history of the Second Amendment and the NRA. The Second Amendment was construed entirely differently in years past than it is now. The NRA was an entirely benign organization until a few decades ago. It’s amazing to see how something can evolve into its opposite, but that is par for the course for a symbolic species like human animals.

In the end, it was neither the NRA nor the Bush administration that pressed the Supreme Court to reverse its centuries-old approach, but a small group of libertarian lawyers who believed other gun advocates were too timid. They targeted a gun law passed by the local government in Washington, D.C., in 1976—perhaps the nation’s strictest—that barred individuals from keeping a loaded handgun at home without a trigger lock. They recruited an appealing plaintiff: Dick Heller, a security guard at the Thurgood Marshall Federal Judiciary Building, who wanted to bring his work revolver home to his high-crime neighborhood. The NRA worried it lacked the five votes necessary to win. The organization tried to sideswipe the effort, filing what Heller’s lawyers called “sham litigation” to give courts an excuse to avoid a constitutional ruling. But the momentum that the NRA itself had set in motion proved unstoppable, and the big case made its way to the Supreme Court.

The argument presented in District of Columbia v. Heller showed just how far the gun rights crusade had come. Nearly all the questions focused on arcane matters of colonial history. Few dealt with preventing gun violence, social science findings or the effectiveness of today’s gun laws—the kinds of things judges might once have considered. On June 26, 2008, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that the Second Amendment guarantees a right to own a weapon “in common use” to protect “hearth and home.” Scalia wrote the opinion, which he later called the “vindication” of his judicial philosophy.

After the decision was announced, Heller stood on the steps of the court for a triumphant press conference. Held aloft behind him was a poster bearing that quote from Patrick Henry, unearthed by the scholars who had proven so important for the successful drive: “Let every man be armed.”

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About Farrell Morris

| May 22, 2014 | 1 Reply

The first five notes of Margaritaville are well known. You know, da-da-da-DA-da . . . Farrell Morris was the marimba player who played those notes (and a lot of others) on the iconic recording sung by Jimmy Buffett. I had the opportunity to get to know Farrell, but it was because he was a sculptor as well as a Nashville musician. He and his wife Bobbe traveled to art fairs to sell his works, including the annual Shaw Art Fair on the street where I live (Flora Place). I met them both about 15 years ago, liked Farrell’s work and bought a sculpture (see photo).

IMG_2136 Farrell Morris sculpture

I thought of Farrell today when moving his sculpture to another part of the house. I looked him up on Google and was sad to read that he had been battling cancer and died in 2012. The first time we met, he played a djembe we handed to him, and it was amazing to watch what he did with it. With merely two hands, he struck, stretched, tapped and palmed the skin of the drum to make amazing sounds–in fact, it sounded like multiple instruments. Beautiful rhythms of a veteran percussionist. He was truly a gentleman too. He loved life and loved art. He and his wife returned to STL several times. I spent quite a bit of time visiting with them between customers. They were a wonderful couple. I remember on their last trip here, maybe 12 years ago, Farrell was not playing music anymore because of arthritis that affected his hands. My assumption was that this must have been devastating, but he seemed to be taking things in stride. After all, he was already had a long successful career as a Nashville musician, with hundreds of recordings on his discography, including many musicians who were household names.

This has been my brief tribute to Farrell Morris. Maybe you’ll think of him too when you next hear the first few notes of Margaritaville.

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Vermont is first state to reject Citizens United via Constitutional Convention

| May 21, 2014 | 1 Reply

On May 2, 2014 Vermont became the first state to call for a convention to amend the U.S. Constitution to reverse the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, which precipitated a flood of cash into politics. These were overwhelming votes, and there was bipartisan support.

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The hypocrisy of Town of Greece, NY v. Galloway

| May 18, 2014 | 1 Reply

I do enjoy the observations of Michael Morris. He smells a big of hypocrisy in a recent decision of the United States Supreme Court. The case is Town of Greece, NY v. Galloway. Here are a few of Michael’s comments:

My strong suspicion is that Jesus has no immediate plans of coming back to Earth, otherwise he couldn’t have picked a better time to appear as a surprise witness at the Supreme Court reminding the “Christians” that Christian public prayer is an oxymoron, the very definition of “UN-Christian.”

When you pray, you shall not be as the hypocrites, for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Most certainly, I tell you, they have received their reward. —Matthew 6:5

But wait, Jesus isn’t done yet:

But when you make your prayer, go into your private room, and, shutting the door, say a prayer to your Father in secret, and your Father, who sees in secret, will give you your reward. —Matthew 6:6

Pretty clearly the Son of God and King of Kings says only pray in “your private room” where you’re not “seen by men.”

But if Jesus says you can’t pray at your city council meeting, where else could you possibly pray? This time Jesus leads by example:

But he would withdraw to desolate places and pray. —Luke 5:16

In every gospel, Jesus heads off to the desert or the mountain to pray. That’s fine for him, but he never quite imagined his followers would eventually number in the billions. It really is impractical to start your governmental meeting with a quick trip to the desert.

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The failure of mandated disclosures aimed at consumers

| May 17, 2014 | Reply

Who takes the time to read all of the disclosures that comes with software and products? Not most of us. A new book reviewed by Bloomberg says that this is not only ineffective, but harmful.

[I]s mandatory disclosure really that beneficial? During the housing bubble, having to sign 50 documents stuffed with financial disclosures didn’t stop people from taking out ill-advised subprime loans on overpriced houses. An alarming number of female college students are still attacked on campuses despite the federal Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act, which imposes stiff crime reporting obligations on school administrators. And disclosure forms in routine transactions, from getting a car fixed to signing for a FedEx package, have become meaningless annoyances. A new book, More Than You Wanted to Know: The Failure of Mandated Disclosure, takes the critique one step further: It argues that mandatory disclosures aren’t just useless but outright harmful in many cases.

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My bad: It turns out that burning coal is a GREAT idea

| May 15, 2014 | 3 Replies

I didn’t know that burning coal was such a great idea until I saw this billboard in St. Louis. Orwell is probably already dizzy from spinning in his grave, but here we go again.

Coal Billboard

Here’s a link to the work of the corporate spinmeisters.

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Urbex favorite church collapses – the joy and sorrow of urban exploration

Urbex favorite church collapses – the joy and sorrow of urban exploration

| May 11, 2014 | Reply

I’ve come to enjoy urban exploration over the past year. Today I learned that a favorite urban exploration spot in St. Louis, the Bethlehem Lutheran Church in north St. Louis, has completely collapsed. That is the first photo of this group, which I took back in August 2013.

IMG_4975 Bethlehem Church

It’s so very sad to hear that a beautiful structure has imploded, even if the economic reality pointed in that direction. It was obvious that this was going to happen, but I was hoping to photograph it again before that happened. I learned about the death of Bethlehem from a friend who lives and breathes urbex. This afternoon we explored an old factory in southeast Missouri (St. Joe’s-Part of Missouri Mines Park area). That is where the remainder of these photos were taken.

IMG_6179_80_81_fused St Joes lead HDR

IMG_6158_59_60_fused St Joes lead HDR [More . . . ]

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Should your job even exist?

| May 10, 2014 | 1 Reply

I’ve often wondered how most of us in the United State would fare if we were forced to stand up and justify our jobs, one by one. We can do without most of the stuff in high-priced malls. We can do without casinos and all of the thousands of people they employ. Wall Street banks “make” only about the amount that they take in from federal government welfare, year after year. We could do away with all of these, and many many more.

Should your job even exist? David Graeber explains that people with make-work jobs envy those with real jobs:

All my life, there’s people, you meet them at parties, you run into them, you ask them what they do, and they kind of look sheepish and don’t want to admit it, you know? They say, well, it’s not really very interesting. It’s like, well, I’m a human resource consultant; I work at a computer firm where I fill out forms of a certain kind to make it faster for somebody else to do this, or I’m a middle man among seven layers of middlemen in this sort of outsourcing… They’re always embarrassed; they don’t look like they do anything. All those people out there who have these jobs that you don’t think they’re really doing anything, they must be suffering, they must know that their jobs are essentially made up. Imagine going to work every day knowing you’re not really doing anything. What must that do to someone’s soul?
Why America’s favorite anarchist thinks most American workers are slaves

How could you have dignity in labor if you secretly believe your job shouldn’t exist? But, of course, you’re not going to tell your boss that. So I thought, you know, there must be enormous moral and spiritual damage done to our society. And then I thought, well, maybe that explains some other things, like why is it there’s this deep, popular resentment against people who have real jobs? They can get people so angry at auto-workers, just because they make 30 bucks an hour, which is like nowhere near what corporate lawyers make, but nobody seems to resent them. They get angry at the auto-workers; they get angry at teachers. They don’t get angry at school administrators, who actually make more money. Most of the problems people blame on teachers, and I think on some level, that’s resentment: all these people with meaningless jobs are saying, but, you guys get to teach kids, you get to make cars; that’s real work. We don’t get to do real work; you want benefits, too? That’s not reasonable. . . . It’s envy of people who get to have meaningful jobs that actually produce something.

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Plot idea regarding global warming

| May 8, 2014 | Reply

plot idea

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