Through my eye

A sometimes caustic view of things.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

An inconvenient Second Amendment essay

I keep hearing an argument that the Second Amendment should not apply to modern weapons because it was written when armies used muskets and civilians also used muskets, therefore it should mean that "the right to bear arms" applies only to muskets.

Really!? Here is the text:
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.

First, you must understand that the militia refers to all able-bodied men from 17 to 45. The actual legal requirements change from time to time. For instance women are now mentioned as being part of the militia in the latest version of US Code. The same code, even the latest one, refers to the organized and unorganized militia--the organized being those belonging to the national guard or the naval militia and the unorganized are those who are not members of the guard or naval militia.

Then, the word regulated refers to drill or training. The organized militia is drilled or trained. That is what gives it organization. Next,  the militia is necessary for the security of a free state. Which in this use means the nation. When the freedom of the nation is threatened the duty of the militia is to defend it.

If the above is a logical progression, then it follows that if the organized militia falters or fails, then the unorganized militia must rise up to assist or defend the nation's freedom as long as possible.

The last is one long command in two dependent clauses, "the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed." In every case, wherever else in the constitution's Bill of Rights the word "people" is used, it refers to all people and their individual rights. In subsequent debates, commentaries by founding fathers and even supreme court decisions, this has been made clear. The Second Amendment refers to an individual right.

Lastly, "shall not be infringed." Infringement means the same now as it did then. A breaking of a pact or contract, a restriction, or act so as to limit or undermine.  Therefore, no law can legally restrict private ownership of weapons because "arms" means weapons and more than that, infers that the weapons must be equal to the task of defending the nation's freedom.

That means military grade weapons--every one of them. Understand that practicality suggests that keeping a tank in your backyard is not going to happen. But a working military rifle, even the ugly black ones with the pointed bullets and multi-round magazines is practical and the right to keep and use one shall not be infringed.

When you hear the politicians start talking constitutional amendment--that's when the fan gets dirty brown.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Another look at the Star Spangled Banner

Sometimes we need to be reminded of certain things. Few people know all the lines of the Star Spangled Banner. Few people understand the circumstances under which it was written.

Oh, they know the part about Francis Scott Key watching the bombardment of Fort McHenry while he was detained on a British warship overnight. But few know or recall that the United States was in its second year of war with the most powerful country in the world, one with the biggest navy and a professional army. And while the small United States Navy had had some startling victories against British warships when they fought on equal terms and American privateers were successful in hurting British merchant shipping, the American Army had had limited success and had failed in all its major objectives.

By September of 1814, the British forces had blockaded America's major ports, had invaded communities along the coast, pillaging and raping the inhabitants in some cases, had captured and burned Washington, D. C. and held the eastern half of Maine. A British army was poised to invade New York from Canada and a British fleet was sailing from Europe with veterans of the war against Napoleon to invade the Mississippi valley by way of New Orleans.

No one realized or could conceive that the British had reached their high water mark in the Americas when they attacked Baltimore and Ft. McHenry. The invasion from Canada was defeated on September 11th by American naval forces on Lake Champlain, thwarting the attack on Plattsburgh, N. Y. This news did not reach the rest of the country for a few days.

Ft. McHenry held on April 15th and American militia met the British army outside Baltimore and fought them off.

The news of the combined defeats reached Europe as quickly as a ship could carry it. Britain and America were negotiating for peace at Ghent in Belgium. The Americans were prepared to be humbled, the British to demand that the US accept the loss of territories held by British forces. Those two victories changed all that. Peace was made on Christmas Eve, 1814, with the US returning to its pre-war boundaries, but no concessions by Britain on the impressment of seaman on board US vessels at that time (one of the reasons the US went to war).

Once again, because news traveled slowly, Americans were thrilled and the British dismayed by a wholesale defeat by Andrew Jackson of the British army's attempted attack, January 8th, 1815, on New Orleans. American naval forces and frontier militias continued to fight for months following the peace agreement.

Americans of all political persuasions realized that the nation could no longer hold to some of the principles of the founders, that having a strong defense was the only way to hold the respect of more powerful nations. Congress authorized a standing army of 10,000 men and a permanent navy, which James Madison signed into being.

All this makes Francis Scott Key something of a prophet, doesn't it.

One thing for sure, the Star Spangled Banner, our national anthem, as difficult as it may be to sing, was born in battle, on one of the darkest nights in our history. Its words--all of them--have stood the test of time. Below is my humble attempt to interpret and comment on the anthem during one of our darkest moments in recent history. Considering what happened to Osama bin Laden, in his unmarked and watery grave, I was a bit of a prophet myself.

(The Star Spangled Banner)

Poem by Francis Scott Key
Sept. 16, 1814
Additional lines out of time and tune
by Charles Griffin
Sept 14, 2001

(To be read by two voices, one pure and sweet, the other a rough gravel)

Oh, say, can you see,
by the dawn's early light,
what so proudly we hailed,
at the twilight's last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars,
thro' the perilous fight,
o'er the ramparts we watched,
were so gallantly streaming?

Came a morning when we waked
to the horror of destruction,
borne by terrorists,
bound to bring fear to our hearts.
We watched buildings fall and people;
day became night in clouds of debris
and the proud banner fell,
buried under the weight of our dismay.
A day and a night of horror
and endless waiting
while rescuers fought and died
to save those who were lost;

And the rockets red glare,
the bombs bursting in air,
gave proof thro' the night,
that our flag was still there.
Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave,
o'er the land of the free,
and the home of the brave?
On the shore dimly seen,
thro' the mists of the deep,
where thee foe's haughty host,
in dread silence reposes,
what is that which the breeze,
o'er the towering steep,
as it fitfully blows,
half conceals, half discloses?
Now it catches the gleam,
of the morning's first beam,
in full glory reflected.,
now shines in the stream.

On the second day the flag was found
beaten down and covered with dust
and firemen raised it up over their heads
on a pole found amidst the rubble.
In the homes of the foe,
whether near or in lands far away,
they watched in growing horror
as we shook the dust from that flag.

"Tis the star-spangled banner;
Oh, long may it wave,
o'er the land of the free,
and the home of the brave."
And where is that band,
who so vauntingly swore,
that the havoc of war,
and the battle's confusion,
a home and a country,
should leave us no more?

In the gleam of rescue lights,
through the streams of poisoned smoke,
the star-spangled banner continues to wave
over the land of the free and the home of the brave.
Now they flee their dens and havens,
looking skyward for the surest of fates,
the sons of hate run before the storm
their own fanaticism brewed.
The benefits of peace will return to the world
over the unmarked graves of our enemies.

Their blood was washed out,
their foul footstep's pollution,
no refuge could save,
the hireling and slave,
from the terror of flight,
or the gloom of the grave,
and thee star-spangled banner,
in triumph doth wave,
o'er the land of the free,
and the home of the brave.
Oh, thus be it ever,
when free man shall stand,
between their loved homes,
and war's desolation,
blest with vict'ry and peace,
may the Heav'n rescued land,
praise the Pow'r that hath made,
and preserved us a nation!
Then conquer we must,
when our cause it is just;
and this be our motto;
"in God is our trust!"
And the star-spangled banner,
in triumph shall wave,
o'er the land of the free,
and the home of the brave.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

What Joe Wilson said?!

Representative Joe Wilson, of South Carolina, who shouted out in a joint meeting with the president, "You lie!" has been criticized for violating some code of conduct. Critics are asking that he be held to the same standards as the military, who fall under the president through the chain of command.

I'm a veteran, husband of a military retiree and father of two veterans. My own father was a soldier for 30 years. Consequently, I understand what some people are trying to say about the required respect for the president under the Code of Military Justice. Every military person learns that, regardless of personal feeling or political philosophy, the only proper response to what any president says is a salute and a prompt "Yes, Sir" or a polite objection under extreme circumstances--illegal orders, for example.

However, the rules by which soldiers must live hold no authority over civilians or their elected representatives. The function of the Congress of the United States is derived from parliamentary procedure and anyone who has ever seen any parliament in action will understand why dueling was outlawed. By the world's standards, we have one of the most polite legislative bodies ever known. This was not always the case, just read your history books. In our earlier history members of the government and the congress fought duels over comments made in the heat of the moment.

Unlike military members, senators and congress persons are elected to represent the states and districts where they live. Their job is not to blindly follow any president, but to be an equal partner, with certain rights and restrictions, in establishing our government. The founders intended that no person would become a king and no government would speak with one voice. Even when we are most unified in wartime conditions, there have always been some opposition to the leadership of the country.

In the previous eight years, president Bush was booed and hissed while speaking before congress--in the midst of those boos and hisses were shouts and pejoratives that were often difficult to separate from the overall noise. The only difference between now and then is that Congressman Joe Wilson shouted alone, "You lie!"

The party in power and the press may take exception to what he said. Congress has certainly rebuked him, with nearly all Democrats voting so--forgetting their behavior from the previous year. The fact remains that there is no restriction over speech, under the constitution, not for any citizen nor for any elected representative of the people. Witness the after-speech remarks by opposition members to any presidential initiative in the last few years. In so many words, presidents have been accused of lying and worse. The difference here is that Wilson stood alone to say it directly to the president--even if he later apologized for his rudeness.

What critics don't understand is that Joe Wilson thought he was doing what his district expected him to do--and doing it within the framework of what the constitution allows and the founders intended--because there is no "lese majesty" in American government, for it was never intended that any president presume to be a majesty.

Joe Wilson's real judgment will come when he stands for reelection. Did he speak for the people of his district, or not?

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

A comment on Jeremy Levitt

Actually, I have to feel sorry for Jeremy Levitt. He is inflicted with a version of the Sixth Sense, in that he sees racists and racism wherever he looks. I also feel sorry for him because he obviously went through the American educational system, even became a part of the system himself, without learning how to properly apply adjectives to subjects or to research the meanings of words before he uses them.

Here is where to find the original column by Levitt:,0,1528050.column

"It is no secret that the far right and its institutions have an unjust guttural dislike for President Obama. After allowing George W. Bush to destroy our economy and international standing without challenge for eight years, the far right's central strategy for helping America is to attempt to delegitimize Obama with trailer-park prowess."

American presidents are almost always demonized by their political opponents, few more so than George W. Bush during the last eight years, I refer your readers to the web site

for a comprehensive look at how disrespectful and "unpatriotic" by Levitt's standard the far left has been.

As a lover of language, the use of "guttural" in the quote above bothers me. Does Levitt intend to repeat in a different way the meaning of the word "visceral" as he used it in a previous sentence, or does he mean the least used definition of the adjective, guttural: being or marked by utterance that is strange, unpleasant, or disagreeable.

"This was a symbolically threatening parity of Thomas Jefferson's celebrated call for vigilance: 'The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of tyrants and patriots.' Regrettably, this dangerously insolent and unpatriotic message was aimed at the leader of the Free World."

In the use of "parity" did Levitt mean the definitions of that word:

1. Equality, as in amount, status, or value.
2. Functional equivalence, as in the weaponry or military strength of adversaries.

Or was he thinking of parody, which offers this least-used definition: a poor or feeble imitation or semblance; travesty.

All this leads to the inescapable conclusion that Levitt suffers from the lack of a good editor, or someone to question his intent. He writes in the same vein that Jesse Jackson talks: A bit of Bible verse, a lot of misapplied adjectives and malformed logic. His idea of patriotism is diametrically opposed to that expressed in the fuller context of the quote above:

"What country before ever existed a century & a half without a rebellion? & what country can preserve it's liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms. The remedy is to set them right as to facts, pardon & pacify them. What signify a few lives lost in a century or two? The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots & tyrants. It is it's natural manure. "

Finally, I've done an extensive internet search for Jeremy I. Levitt's writings and affiliations. The man has been, according to various bios in publications, in 22 to 27 African countries, was appointed to many positions within many organizations, has a B.A from Arizona State University, J.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a PhD from the University of Cambridge, has been associated with or employed by four or five different US universities, associated with two colleges of the University of Cambridge, Managing Editor of the Cambridge Review of International Affairs (but one can only find one article listed under his name) and he has some published works as either author or editor.

What I can't find is his birth year or what state or community he spent his formative years. Why did he not complete his training with the State Department?

And reading some of his scholastic works, I find a lack of academic impartiality-- a bias, if you will-- against European influences on Africa and a willingness to make unverifiable statements such as the following from :

"The principle of a democratic rule of law can be traced back to Black Egypt in the First Dynasty (3100-2890 BC) beginning with the reign of King Menes as documented by Manetho, an Egyptian scholar and priest that lived in the 3rd Century BC, in his famous work Aegyptiaca (also referred to as Aigyptiaka), the "History of Egypt", and confirmed by Herodotus who claims that Menes, politically united Upper and Lower Egypt. It was not until the Twenty Sixth Dynasty (664 BC) that the Greeks came into contact with the highly civilized political and legal tradition of Egypt and acquired the ideas of liberty and democratic equality later espoused and further developed by Aristotle and Cicero. Greek and Roman conceptions of law greatly influenced its development in Europe, particularly in England. The common law system that forms the basis of the American legal system derives directly from England and was later embraced by the newly independent American states after the American Revolution."

There is no evidence that can support the idea that Menes was one person, much less whether he was Black or Semite. Any student of history would have to scoff at the idea that Egypt was the fount of democracy--lawyers, perhaps, but not democratic ideas of equality. The whole paragraph asserts an implication that our legal system derives from a Black ruler 5000 years back in the mists of time. Bias. or not? You judge.

Myself, I can only think of the disaster the journalistic world suffered because of the uncritical acceptance of works by Janice Cook at the Washington Post and Jason Blair at the new York Times. Could the academic world be due for a similar revelation?

Friday, November 21, 2008


At a difficult time in the relations between religions, I find myself lamenting the lack of tolerance on all sides.

Since I neither read nor speak Arabic, nor any other scriptural language but English, I am at a disadvantage in presenting my point of view. The English-speaking world is predominantly Christian and I am, in that world, a stranger in a strange land. Long ago I adopted the precepts of Advaita Vedanta, from within Hinduism, as my personal belief.

I came to this choice from reading, discussions and observation of how the world and the universe works. Consequently, over the years, I have been the subject of many attempts to convert me to another form of religion. Not just Christian, but Buddhist and Hindu, as well.

Remarkably, not once has a Moslem tried to convince me to convert to Islam. I suspect it is because I haven’t been in the right place at the right time. Or it might be because I wear a beard cut in a Moslem style, although that seems unlikely.

Here is my message to Christians in this time of turmoil and conflict between religions:

If you think it is only a matter of time before the whole world has heard the Christian word and had the opportunity to accept or reject your beliefs, think again.

In 2000 years of missionary work, there is not one corner of the globe that has not been proselytized at one time or another. Strangely enough, more than a billion people of all walks of life and educational levels are perfectly happy to follow one of the many forms of Hinduism.

The same can be said, with different numbers, for Islam, Buddhism, Shinto, Judaism, atheism and many older and lesser known religions.

Now, why is this?

Is it possible that all these people view their own religion as perfectly reasonable, based on recognized practices and having both a history and a scripture that tells them pretty much the same things that your scriptures tell you?

Let’s put that shoe on another foot. There are many people who follow Islam that feel exactly the same way that you do. They can’t understand why you don’t realize the rightness of the Koran and why you reject submitting to Allah. They believe that it is only a matter of time before the words of the Prophet reach the whole world and God will finally go about the business of sorting out the wicked non-believers from the faithful.

I hear and read all sorts of anti-Islamic opinion from commentators and preachers that exactly mirror the comments and preaching of militant Islamists.

This all comes down to one simple word: Intolerance!

The intolerance that both sides exhibit is in direct contrast to the spirit and intent of much of what both Christ and Mohammad taught:

What all great religious founders have taught since time began.

Love one another.

Treat others as you would be treated.

Take in the stranger as a guest.

That all beings are equal under God.

That women, although different than men, have the same equality.

Both Christ and Mohammad brought reform to the practice of their times and both the religions that grew from their teachings have diverted from the founder’s principles and continue to find ways to be venal, possessive, and hateful to those who do not believe as they do.

What, then, do I suggest?

At least, cease trying to convert the world. If you feel the urge to share your faith through good works, so be it. Do not use that as a way of subverting the faiths of others. If, by your good example, someone asks you to explain your religion, do so without an air of moral superiority or other than as an expression of what seems right to you.

If you have a message that people want to hear, they will come to listen. You cannot force it upon them.

Of course, this is true for those within Islam who seek converts, as it is for you.

I know I ask too much. Forgive me.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

A review of Woody Allen's "Vicky Cristina Barcelona"

I usually can't stand Woody Allen movies, even his best, a few of which I sat through when I was younger. Barcelona, however is a city that I love and, based on pre-release publicity, that Allen said Barcelona was a character in his film, I decided to view it.

True, there are images from many sites within the city, but none with more than a pinched, anemic view of the scenery. Barcelona is a city of bright daylight (except when it rains) and brightly illuminated spots of activity in the darkness of night.

It does not have a golden glow day and night as Allen filmed it, probably trying to make it seem more romantic. Unfortunately, even with capable actors, he could not recreate the very real atmosphere of heat and romance the city exhibits.

In fact, Allen's film-making is as archaic as his view of photography, based on his narration within the movie about what makes art in photography--that only film could produce the full potential of art.

And that narration begins the movie and ends the movie and pops up throughout the movie, often in scenes where he could have freed the actors to express the emotions and personal changes that he describes so unnecessarily.

Allen, as writer, director and narrator, is pretentious and overbearing. It is fortunate that most of the acting overcame his attempt to control every aspect of the movie. Javier Bardem proved that natural talent can overcome a bad script and Penelope Cruz was even stronger than Bardem.

Scarlett Johansson tried to rise above the direction but couldn't get a handle on how to play her character of Cristina. Rebecca Hall, as Vicky, was assigned the task of being Allen's alter ego, so she had to imitate all his mannerisms and insecurities and be his on-screen voice, despite the problem of her being female, instead of the scrawny male schmuck she sounded like.

Lastly, the premise of the movie, that morals have no place in real life and that all love dies at some point, so you might as well do what you want as opportunity arises, is as unsatisfactory as the outcome of all the relationships depicted in the movie.

This is not a return of Allen's talent as some have said, but another step down in his long fall to irrelevance.

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Thursday, August 14, 2008

Soldier, ask not...

Notes during latter days:

14 Aug 2008

Read “Message to Garcia” and “How I delivered the message to Garcia” and some commentary about the theme of obedience to orders versus the questioning of orders.

In essence, when one joins the military, one has made a decision to subordinate himself (and his life) to the requirements of the service. So, an order that falls within the abilities and tasks that one is taught during training can be carried out with little or no cogitation.

But no man or woman is an automaton, and orders that fall outside the parameters of one’s training may be questioned—perhaps of necessity—for a variety of reasons.

Even if the answers are not easy or comforting, hard things go better when there is an understanding on the part of those who must undergo the tasking.