#Releasethememo is re-branding of old news. This is a piece that I submitted on Medium, but goes on to explain how this twitter trend is really just re-branding news that we learned in April 2017. There’s so a discussion on rules of evidence, and why liberals need to protect the rule of law.
I thoroughly disagree with the idea that Senate Republican’s should use the “Nuclear Option”. I disagreed with it when then Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid did it in 2013 after he became too fed up with Republican obstructionism against Obama appointees, primarily for appeals-courts nominees. Reid was narrow, and only applied this to those nominees, thus leaving untouched Supreme Court nominees.
Reid set a precedent, as a result he opened the door for future ‘precedents’ to be made. This issue goes beyond party lines, frankly. If McConnell utilizes the option to push through a Supreme Court nominee, it corrodes the Senate, and it further corrodes the Supreme Court from being a “political body.” The filibuster is tool that is meant to empower senators to be able to legislate and fight for their constituents. Going nuclear robs senators of that capacity.
Neil Gorsuch’s vote should be left to the whims of normal Senate rules, and his vote should not be tainted by partisan attempts to corrode democratic rule.
In an endeavor to expand my base of readers, and to experience other platforms, I have decided to post a thought piece on the nature of democracy in protecting liberty. It’s a brief five minute read that you can check out over at Medium. For your benefit, I’ll summarize here:
States will infringe upon, and regulate your rights for more often in scope and frequency than the federal government. Slavery, which is a complex issue of its own, same sex marriage, abortion, and second amendment rights are all “high profile” topics with histories that show state based infringements long prefacing the federal government’s attempts at doing so. In many instances, it seems, the federal government’s laws are a result, or an extension of state based legal trends. This can be seen especailly with abortion, same sex issues (marriage and sodomy), as well as the war on drugs. Kentucky was the first state to attempt a ban on the concealment of weapons back in the 1800’s. California was the first to begin implementing drug laws, and this tread swept eastward in response to specific immigrants that states saw a particular problem with.
So please, if you have a chance, please go check out my article. The Watchtower will remain as my main forum for discussing such topics. Medium is an experiment, an adventure.
So the democratic debate between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton took place last night in South Carolina. O’Malley showed up too, but let’s be honest, he stands no chance. My own opinion concerning O’Malley is that he should have bowed out. Considering the majority of his supporters favor Sanders over Hillary, he’s doing both himself, and Sanders a disservice by staying in for as long as he has.
All in all, I thought it was a good debate between the two top contenders, and I was none too shocked at the fact that Hillary was attacking Sanders as hard as she was. One of my critiques of Sanders is that he says the same economic points almost every time he speaks, which in my opinion is a pretty weak method of obtaining support. That being said, one of my favorite things about Sanders is the fact that he’s very consistent. He spends less time attempting to make Hillary look bad, and instead attempts to dismantle her ideas, and political approach to tackling issues like health care, and foreign policy.
One of my largest critiques of Clinton during the whole debate was a substantive disagreement concerning a point that she used to attack Sander’s with – that on his single vote on the deregulation of Wall Street. Clinton was effectively saying that Sanders isn’t as opposed to Wall Street as he says he is because he supported a bill that had a part to play in the 2008 Financial Crisis.
So, did Bernie Sanders vote to deregulate credit default swaps? Yes, but sort of.
Back in 2000, Commodity Futures Modernization Act was voted on, the same one that Sanders voted for. No surprise to anyone, the bill led to a contentious debate in Congress, and was amended several times that led to Enron Loopholes, and text that forbade oversight concerning credit default swaps. If you’ll remember, those swaps, and the lack of regulation concerning them, was a major factor leading to the 2008 financial crisis. But back in 2000, members of Congress weren’t quite willing to shutdown the entire government, and so a great way to get the legislation you want was to attach it to a government spending bill, which is exactly what happened in December of 2000. The bill that Bernie voted for was not the same version that was passed in the house by a 377 to 4 vote. The bill was incorporated into the Consolidated Appropriations Act for FY 2001, which was then passed, and signed into law.
This was around the same time that Bernie Sanders was protesting on the floor of the house the danger of repealing Glass-Steagall, which as far as Bernie was presumably concerned, was the bigger issue – and indeed it was an issue. Since that vote, and to this day, Sanders has consistently argued against the repeal of Glass-Steagall, and the fact that there was a substantial amount of deregulation. Deregulation, I might add, that was strongly supported by then president Bill Clinton.
My main point of all of this is that Bernie Sanders is a man who’s goal is to change the political dialogue that is present in and outside of Congress. By doing that, he’s tackling ideas, not votes. Clinton, who describes herself as a progressive pragmatist, is focused instead on working towards goals that can actually be accomplished. Both are needed approaches to the political landscape at this time. I just happen to be in favor of a shift in dialogue and philosophy as opposed to accomplishing tasks. One, sometimes, must preface the other.
In my personal spare time, I do the somewhat unthinkable – I peruse the Tumblrsphere. A dangerous endeavor sometimes, even to my own personal liberal leanings. I mostly re-blog other people’s posts (much like everyone else). Other times, I seek out political and philosophical posts to see “what’s up.” I decided to look up what Tumblr had to say about gun control. I found the usual. But I also found a gem of a post, which you can read here. It was a “tongue-in-cheek” response to the President’s executive actions on the issue.
Below is my response – copied and pasted – for posterity reasons. I normally wouldn’t do this sort of thing as I believe that being original in most matters is important for the preservation of intellectual thought. That being said, Part 2 is my response to his response, and one in which was apparently undeserving of a response.
To this extent, here is what I had to say:
This post really is a cookie cutter example of the kind of response that occurs from members of the political right with respect to gun control. Another way of putting this without necessarily indicting all members of the political right is to simply say that much of the author’s points lack depth, or understanding of the other contextual notions behind these issues.
The violence and kinds of crimes that occur are already legitimate, and in no need of victims and family members of victims to make the issues at present more legitimate. This of course is not a rebuttal to the underlying perspective that those individuals are only there to illicit an emotional response. My criticism stems from two points: 1) Every president in modern times has done this with other executive orders and signings of legislation. 2) It isn’t simply about the emotional response it brings, or the legitimacy attempting to be obtained. It’s the fact that those people behind the president support what the president is doing. More importantly, those victims and family members of other victims aren’t simply political props, they’re human beings who made the conscious decision to stand behind the president, not just physically, but metaphorically as well.
Due to the constant media attention of at least 10 shootings that come to my mind, it seems only logical to use those examples to create the backdrop of the president’s speech concerning executive orders on gun control. This criticism has nothing to do with the efficacy of such an executive order towards curbing mass shootings, it has only to do with the author’s perceived criticism of the president’s use of “highly publicized mass shootings without any context…” It’s likely many individuals who support the president, and even those who do not, are greatly aware of the perceived context of the mass shootings listed by the president.
On the matter of statistics
First, the author makes the claim that the president used “meaningless and incorrect statistics about gun violence.” The source that he provides (you can click on it) is one that shows how gun ownership has increased by 62% since 1993, and gun violence has decreased by 49% since 1993. One would think that a person so devout in their attempt to discredit the president would use meaningful examples of faulty statistics, rather than a simple graph showing a correlation between guns owned, and violent crimes involving guns. The graph shows what would in statistical terms represent a very near if not perfect positive correlation between the number of guns owned and the decrease in violent crimes. But the number of guns is only one indicator of gun ownership. Contrary to the author’s notion of gun ownership, there are other ways of viewing it. For example, the Pew Research Center finds that between 1973 and 2010, gun ownership fell from 49% to 34%. Approximating from the graph and juxtaposing it to the author’s image shows a decline from 43% to 34%. A decrease of 9% (total), quite contrary to the idea that ownership increased by 62%, which is an easy number to arrive at if you count every single firearm purchased during that time. But a person who owns four guns isn’t somehow “safer” necessarily than a person who owns only one firearm.
Second, the author also suggests that the president is wrong in his justification to pass such executive orders because it’s “clearly not true” that the majority of gun owning American’s agree with universal background checks. I encourage you to read the author’s source from the Crime Prevention Research Center, which does a whole lot of sidestepping their title argument that 80 to 90% of American’s wanting universal background checks as false. I’ll summarize the article as simply saying that it’s five strawman arguments used to suggest that those numbers are incorrect. But they’re not incorrect, and here’s why. First, people can hold conflicting opinions on the same topic, but that result does not negate the results of either question. For a specific example, question 24 of Quinnipiac University’s April 4th, 2013 poll asks “do you support or oppose – requiring a background check for all gun buyers?” The results was that 91% agreed, including 88% of Republicans, and 88% of those respondents that owned guns in their household. The question has nothing to do with the level of importance that gun control has on the barometer of each respondent against other topics like the economy or immigration, nor does it have to do with whether they agree that congress should act – two points that do not change the fact that 91% of respondents agree, or that 88% of households with guns support background checks with gun purchases. But more to my point on seemingly contrary beliefs, the survey also asked if respondents believed that universal background checks would lead to the confiscation of legally purchased guns – 48% agreed, of which 61% of Republican’s agreed, and 53% of gun households agreed. But this question does not “debunk” the previous question supporting background checks, nor does it “clearly show” anything to the contrary.
Theoretical is one way to put it, but supported by evidence is another. You can check out this source, and this one, the summary of which is this: background checks reduce violent crimes by reducing the flow of weapon purchases done legally, to people who intend to use them illegally. Another takeaway is that, frankly, no all gun dealers are on the straight and narrow. The 40% statistic that is often used by liberals today is an often cited 21-year old statistic, and to their discredit should not be used. One Harvard source (summarized by CityLab) suggests that the 40% gap remains to be true. The first source listed in this section also points towards the fact that at least 11% of inmates (surveyed out of 1100+) purchased their guns through a licensed gun dealer. This having been said, the “theory” behind the implementation of a universal background check has more to do with the fact that places like New York and Illinois, two states with strict guns laws, continue to see a huge influx of guns coming from other states, such as Tennessee, Michigan, and the many other states that do not have background check requirements. The reason that Chicago continues to struggle with gun violence despite its gun laws is due to the fact that about half of weapons used in crimes are traced back to another state – that does not require background checks. Universal background checks would facilitate state based methods of handling gun related violent crime.
But to finish this point, I really think it is pertinent to summarize what the resident did. He asked for 504 million dollars to hire 230 FBI agents to assist in, completing background checks on a 24/7 basis – for the benefit and preservation of that citizen’s liberty in legally attempting to purchase a firearm, hires 200 more ATF agents to assist in enforcing already existing federal laws, provides $500 million towards mental health services, and requires all firearm sellers, be it on the internet, gun show, or otherwise to obtain a license to sell firearms.
No liberty lost, with the exception of maybe those that have mental health illnesses. Nothing in the president’s executive order takes away the right of a person who is legally allowed to own a weapon from purchasing a weapon, nor did anyone lose the right to sell a weapon, so long as a license is obtained.
Congress is useless. Of course this is a statistical fact, and a personal opinion. But more to the point, the current president has passed down fewer executive orders than most presidents. The author’s opinion being as it may be, the president isn’t doing anything new – all presidents utilize executive orders, for whatever reason that may be – which are then contested by the opposing party regardless of their majority or minority. Obama’s present status as a lame duck does nothing to change this, nor does it make him look weak, or incompetent. His use of an executive order on an issue as polarizing as gun control is what’s driving the amount of vitriol currently present. Woodrow Wilson, FDR, Ford, Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Clinton, just to name a few of course, signed several executive orders concerning internment camps, civil rights and liberties, and other politically contentious topics of their time. If anything your perspective just goes to show that in terms of political opposition, little has changed over the last 100 years.
The author critiques the president for not providing context to his logic, continues to provide no context for his claim or for the presidents subsequent lack of it, and then ends by citing Emperor Palpatine’s takeover of the Galactic Republic through his New Order, making him the Emperor of the Galaxy. Somehow, a fictional character overthrowing a republic that lasted over 24,000 years is comparable to the president signing is 225th executive order that really does little in the grand scheme of things. Obama’s executive order is not comparable to Star Wars’s Emperor Palpatine, or Rome’s eventual fall into such a system with Constantine. Liberty didn’t die, in any scope of the idea, or theory of it, because the president (who’s approval rating is 30%+ higher than congress’) did what president’s do – since the beginning of this country.
Even Antonin Scalia, the constitutional conservative champion, has pointed out that not even the second amendment is untouchable, or “unlimited.” Liberty doesn’t die because a barrier was put in place, liberty dies because of many other factors working in conjunction – liberty dies because people cling to perfunctory responses to complex issues. Complex issues such as the balance between state’s rights and the right of the federal government to regulate commerce (selling of weapons), and protecting the rights retained by the people (own guns), and other people’s right to life (not be murdered, i.e., prevent crime from happening).
One does not defend liberty by remaining closed minded to the issues that affect our society, or by clinging to 17th Century notions of what liberty is. Liberty is far more complex a topic than the second amendment affords it.
Officials and principle researchers involved with the HiRISE, and Curiosity have announced today that there is flowing liquid water on Mars. It’s a bit more complicated than simply looking at physical, obvious streams. It would seem that once upon a time, Mars was covered by a huge ocean – sizable in comparison to two thirds of the oceans on Earth. But, as scientists stated, something happened, and Mars is now seen as dry, barren, and desolate. Since 2007, however, seasonal linea were seen flowing down the slopes of craters. A paper being published today proposes that perchlorates, which is a kind of salt, essentially absorb the air based water (humidity), and as the salts absorb the water they then begin to dissolve, at which point they flow down the slopes. Much is unknown, of course, but this is one major answer in a long series of very intense questioning.
In sum: Mars is very humid, and water has been found to be flowing. Soon, we’ll be sending humans to Mars, and will likely have set foot there by 2030.
Kenneth Chang over at the New York Times has a greater analysis and summary of events, which you can read here.
Yes, you read that title correctly – John Boehner will be resigning at the end of October. For me, it was a shock, whereas for others, not so much. There have been rumors as of late about a possible overthrow by the Freedom Caucus, run by very powerful, extreme right leaning individuals. That being said, Boehner’s announcement really shouldn’t by any surprise for a number of reasons, nor should this be seen as a technical cop-out on the part of Boehner. Let me explain briefly.
First of all, Boehner had planned to step down in 2014, and stayed on after Eric Cantor was defeated in his election. Second, Boehner has stated in the past that one of his big goals was to have a Pope speak before Congress, which was achieved. For Boehner, I imagine that would be the height of his tenure as the Speaker of the House. Third, the same wave that brought him into power has also been shown to be the most difficult brand of conservatism so far. Say what you will about Boehner, but his decision has little to do with his inability to reign in the tea party component of the Republican Party. A more accurate way of stating this is that by Boehner resigning, this allows him a chance to avert a Government shutdown – which is not what he wants, nor agrees with – much to the same as Mitch McConnell. Boehner has nothing to lose – he was Speaker, he brought a Pope before congress, and now he’ll be able to protect the institution from crumbling – because he has nothing to lose. Having announced his resignation, he’ll be able to rally the more centrist (or less conservative) Republicans, as well as the Democrats in the House to prevent a shutdown.
I’ve never been a huge fan of Boehner, and I would say that he was not that great as Speakers of the House go, but that’s also in context of the insipid atmosphere that has since enveloped Congress.
So what’s next? Well, probably McCarthy, as he’s the House Majority Leader. But, the race for the Speakership hasn’t started yet, so we really can’t say. I’ve been mulling over the possible candidates when I started hearing whispers of a possible overthrow. McCarthy isn’t that great of a leader either, in my eyes, but he can get votes. The only concern I would have with a weak Speaker is an inability to control the majority if that majority is unwilling to bend on certain issues – like the Tea Party. But then again, we’ve seen what 5 years of that looks like, and I would hope that McCarthy would have learned from the failures of Boehner.
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