Category Archives: commentary

Watch Out!

Look to your right. Now look to your left. Look ahead. Slowly, without drawing attention to yourself, turn and look behind. See all the people? Any one of them could be carrying a concealed weapon. They may be deranged. They may have no logical reason to be armed. But the Republican Supreme Court says they can carry weapons. And there is not a thing you can do about it.

The Republican hypocrites on the Court, all six of them, fulfilled the dreams of every member of the National Rifle Association by striking a New York law which had served that state well for one hundred years, setting standards for the carrying of concealed weapons. For the conservatives who hide when convenient behind the idea that states should be able to set local standards on these matters, the hypocrisy is exposed for all to see. This was not unexpected. Republicans have been fighting attempts to restrict guns for years. The vote was 6-3, strictly along party lines. All of Donald Trump’s three appointees voted to strike the law.

The New York law required concealed carry permit applicants to demonstrate a special need for a license, beyond a basic desire for self-defense. Writing the opinion in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association Inc. v. Bruen, Justice Clarence Thomas wrote that the so-called “proper-cause requirement” prevented “law-abiding citizens with ordinary self-defense needs from exercising their right to keep and bear arms.”

“We know of no other constitutional right that an individual may exercise only after demonstrating to government officers some special need,” Thomas wrote for the majority. “That is not how the First Amendment works when it comes to unpopular speech or the free exercise of religion. It is not how the Sixth Amendment works when it comes to a defendant’s right to confront the witnesses against him. And it is not how the Second Amendment works when it comes to public carry for self-defense.”

Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett joined the opinion.

The ruling’s broad sweep amounts to a complete overhaul of the court’s Second Amendment doctrine and is expected to call into question a wide range of other gun laws. The court’s decision clears the way for legal challenges to similar restrictions in Maryland, California, New Jersey, Hawaii, and Massachusetts. It follows recent mass killings in Buffalo and Uvalde, Texas, horrifying acts of violence that spurred Congress to advance bipartisan legislation strengthening federal gun laws.

The court’s three Democrats, in dissent, accused the Republican majority of failing to consider “the potentially deadly consequences of its decision.” A 52-page dissent by Justice Stephen Breyer began bluntly. “In 2020, 45,222 Americans were killed by firearms,” he wrote, joined by Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. History alone shouldn’t govern the Second Amendment’s application, he wrote, for “it is constitutionally proper, indeed often necessary… to consider the serious dangers and consequences of gun violence that lead States to regulate firearms.”

So now it is done. I have been writing about this ad infinitum, ad nauseam. I am ready to throw up. And to morn. I can now look forward in the years ahead to writing about more gun control laws being stricken by the Republican Supreme Court. And I can plan on writing about more killing and carnage. Make no mistake about it. The carnage does and will lie at the feet of the Republican Party, which favors guns over children. And takes the blood money of the NRA to win elections.

I know I have broken the tradition by referring to the Supreme Court justices as political partisans. Too bad. I call them as I see them. Today’s ruling has been the result of a fifty-year crusade by the NRA and its Republican syncopates to change the meaning of the Second Amendment and to take control of the Court. The second shoe is expected to fall any day with the overturning of Roe v Wade.

With this ruling, the Court continues the strained logic of its 2008 opinion in District of Columbia v. Heller. In Heller, the then 5-4 Republican majority bent over backwards to conclude that the first words of the Second Amendment, “A well-regulated militia,” didn’t actually require regulation nor a connection to a militia. Apparently these strict textualists, who in other places argue that the words of the Constitution are paramount in its interpretation, conveniently relegate those key opening words of the Amendment to the status of an ink blot to be ignored.

Let’s face facts. The Constitution does not mean what it says. It means what a majority of Supreme Court justices say it says.

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A Doolittle for Ukraine

What Ukraine could use is a Jimmy Doolittle. James (Jimmy) Doolittle was a pilot, a Lieutenant Colonel in 1942, when he led a bombing raid on Tokyo. It was just five months after Pearl Harbor, where the Japanese struck the American Naval base in a surprise attack.

Doolittle led sixteen stripped-down B-25 bombers carrying extra fuel and a reduced bombload taking off from the U.S.S. Hornet – a feat never attempted – and struck Tokyo. Fifteen of the planes then flew to the Chinese coast where they ditched and the crews were recovered by Chinese nationalist allies, while the other bomber landed in the Soviet Union.

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In Memoriam

Memorial Day, along with Veterans Day, are the days on which we honor the men and women in uniform who have given their lives to defend our nation. I have always had respect for those who wear the uniform. And I wonder if I would have been able to show their courage and dedication had I been called to do so.

I mean no disrespect, and I certainly hope our soldiers and veterans will not think ill of me, but I find myself moved to commandeer their day to mark another memorial and to write, for what seems the umpteenth time, about a mass killing in America. The twenty-one souls whose faces appear at the top of this columns died at the hands of an eighteen-year-old killer at the Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.

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We Had This Beat

More than one million Americans have died of complications of Covid-19. Can you wrap your arms around that number? Does it seem possible? Everyone I know has been touched by Covid one way or another. I lost my mother-in-law. And it didn’t have to be this way.

American is in many ways like Australia. As reported by the New York Times (the link is probably behind the Times’ paywall, but it is excellent and worthy of credit), both countries are English-speaking democracies with similar demographic profiles. In Australia and in the United States, the median age is thirty-eight. Roughly 86 percent of Australians live in urban areas, compared with 83 percent of Americans. Yet Australia’s Covid death rate sits at one-tenth of America’s, putting the nation of twenty-five million people (with around 7,500 deaths) near the top of global rankings in the protection of life.

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First Amendment Hypocrites

It was the end of the term, 2014, when the headlines blared, “Supreme Court Strikes Down Abortion Clinic ‘Buffer Zone’ Law. At issue was a Massachusetts law requiring a 35-foot zone around clinics that provided abortion services. Both supporters and opponents of abortion rights were not allowed within that buffer zone, where some were harassing women going in and coming out while others tried to shield and protect them.

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Why the Surprise?

The news broke overnight. The online publication Politico published an exclusive, what it believed to be a draft opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, written by Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito which, speaking for the majority, overturns the seminal 1973 abortion decision Roe v. Wade. The text says, “We hold that Roe and Casey must be overruled,” referring also to a subsequent 1992 decision, Planned Parenthood v. Casey, “Roe was egregiously wrong from the start.”

In pledging to investigate the leak, Chief Justice John Roberts confirmed it is the authentic first draft. It is standard procedure for a vote on a case to be taken after oral argument, and if there is a clear majority, the chief justice assigns the writing of an initial draft opinion if he is voting with the majority, or the assignment is made by the senior associate justice in the majority if the chief is not.

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The Truth is Out There

This is the 21st century. The Russians deny they are responsible for the slaughter of civilians in Bucha, Ukraine, claiming corpses were planted on the streets after Russian soldiers had left the scene. Satellite pictures clearly show bodies on the ground and Russian troops still on the scene.

There is a fiction making the rounds that says the average Russian does not know what their country is doing in Ukraine. Don’t buy it for a minute. During the Cold War, the Soviet Union worked hard to keep the truth out of their territory. Western news media were blocked, jammed, and banned. But the truth leaked in, and when the USSR fell in an economic collapse, the truth flowed in with a vengeance.

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