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Posts published in “Stapilus”

Packin’ nuclear? Why not?

stapilus RANDY
STAPILUS

 
The View
from Here

Boise attorney John Runft has addressed a point that ought to be put to gun advocates coast to coast. But did he address it as they would - and has he thought through the implications?

Interviewed on KIVI-TV in Nampa, he was enthusiastic in his discussion of the Second Amendment, saying there was even an "anti-government" aspect built into it. (I'd love to find the specific validation for that argument.)

But he also acknowledged something that some gun advocates seem not to, that there are limits even to the Second Amendment: “Do you have the right to bear a bazooka? The right to bear an atomic bomb? Absolutely not.”

No argument on that here. But I would argue this: Bazookas (defined in Wikipedia: "a man-portable recoilless rocket antitank weapon, widely fielded by the US Army") and nuclear weapons clear are "arms". (Remember the nuclear arms race.) Not much question about that either.

So: By Runft, it is okay to ban some arms. Next question: If we can ban bazookas from private use, why not semi-automatic weapons? From where comes the private constitutional right to possess one but not the other?

A question, then, posed to any and all gun advocates: Should weaponry such as nuclear weapons and bazookas be allowed for private ownership in the United States? If not, why not, if your argument that a right to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed?

So what are we going to do about it?

stapilus
Randy Stapilus
View from Here

And so as we end another year, another round of madman shootings - just this week three dead and one injured at Clackamas Mall in Oregon - where only luck kept the death toll from rising much higher - and at the elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, where so many children were slaughtered.

How much longer, how many more insanity-driven shootings, before something meaningful is done? Not, to be sure, with the idea that there's such a thing as a perfect prevention, but with the idea that mass killings should be at least harder to accomplish, and diverted more often. And recognizing that it doesn't have to be this way: The United States really is an aberration among the more developed countries around the world, most of which see nowhere near as much of this sort of violence.

Drawing in part from a Jeffrey Goldberg piece in the Atlantic and a spate of other articles, here are a few thoughts.

• If someone is determined to kill, they will kill. But the impact can be lessened. If guns were not the hand weapon of choice, violence would not end, but fewer people probably would die. Last week in central China a man entered a school and attacked about two dozen people - but he did it with a knife, and while many of those people were slashed and stabbed, all of them lived. The attack was not prevented entirely, but the efficacy of weaponry made a difference.

• With something on the order of 300 million guns of various kinds in the United States, the idea of getting rid of them, or even very many of them, is futile. Leaving aside legal issues, there are many legitimate legal uses of many guns apart from those use by law enforcement and military, and self-defense is a legitimate use. But relatively few people really know how to properly, carefully and safely use a firearm. Anyone who thinks the Clackamas or Newtown events could have been stopped by a population of shoppers or educators who'd been packin' ought to stop to visualize what probably would have happened in fact: A frantic shootout by panicked people that would have doubled, tripled, quadrupled the death toll. A public of vigilantes ready to shoot first and ask questions later would be vastly more dangerous than what we have now.

• Do we really need, on the open market and available for any (prospectively crazed) person to buy, semiautomatic firearms that can kill dozens of people in minutes? Yes, other guns can kill, too, but not so many people, so quickly. Do we really need such easy access to 30-round magazines for AR-15 semiautomatics? Shouldn't it be at least harder to access such lethal firepower? (more…)

Rights of sucession

stapilus
Randy Stapilus
View from Here

Looking ahead to 2016 - yeah, a lot of people are - one of the things we know is that, conspiracy theories notwithstanding, it'll be an open election: No incumbent president on the ballot.

And probably it will be more open than that. On the Democratic side age considerations may preclude the vice president, Joe Biden, from running, and also former presidential candidate (and Secretary of State) Hillary Clinton. Running for president, as either could tell you, is rugged, stressful, and requires enormous energy and discipline. The Democratic nomination seems more likely to go to someone a few years younger, and there's no clear telling right now who that might be. But then, Democratic nominations, other than for incumbent president, often are hard to predict very far into the future.

Republicans traditionally have been a different matter. While many contenders may run, the nomination usually goes to someone who has an established claim on it. Leaving aside incumbent presidents, since Barry Goldwater in 1964 (the last more or less out-of-nowhere nominee), Republicans nominated a former nominee/former vice president in 1968 (Richard Nixon), incumbent president in 1976 (Gerald Ford), the previous runner-up for nomination in 1980 (Ronald Reagan), the incumbent vice president in 1988 (George H.W. Bush), an earlier nomination runner-up in 1996 (Bob Dole), a son of a former president in 2000 (George W. Bush), and former nomination runners-up in 2008 (John McCain) and 2012 (Mitt Romney).

Molds can always be broken, of course. But if Republicans stick to their long-running patterns, who is most likely to get the nomination in 2016?

The list has to start with Paul Ryan, the 2012 vice-presidential nominee, and Rick Santorum, the 202 nomination runner-up. And if you want to extend the list, using the logic of recent history, you might add Mike Huckabee (a 2008 runner-up), Jeb Bush (another son of a president) and Sarah Palin (2008 VP nominee).

The last three all seem a little improbable, though Huckabee retains visibility through his cable TV program. But Santorum already is making sounds about running again, and he can argue that he did better in the Republican primaries, with marginal resources, than almost anyone expected him to do. And Ryan is likely to be highly visible in Congress for some time.

There are other contenders out there, of course, such as Florida Senator Marco Rubio and Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, both evidently moving toward entering the race. But in trying to reach the nomination, they'll be running against history.

Lonely in a crowd

If you added up the population of the six most populous counties in Idaho, you have just over a million people - about two-thirds of all the people in Idaho. Those people cast just about 250,000 votes for Republican Mitt Romney for president.

The single largest county in Washington, King (anchored by Seattle), cast more votes for Romney than those six counties in Idaho did: 252,090 votes, by today's count. And the people who cast them are in a far more concentrated geographical location than those Idahoans.

But how different the psychology. Those Idaho Republican voters certainly don't (generally at least) feel isolated; they know they're in a large community of like-minded people.

So, this, in the Seattle Times today: "Oh, the loneliness of being a Seattle Tea Party Patriot, especially after this last election. All around you: Liberals. Democrats. Obama supporters. People who think Dan Savage is really cool. 'It's getting harder and harder for me. I was at Trader Joe's, and I was glaring at everyone around me,' says Keli Carender, 33, co-organizer of the local group. Carender's glaring took place at the Trader Joe's in the University District, a neighborhood that, for sure, is a bastion of libs."

In society, a lot of things are relative. - Randy Stapilus

Moving into a new era

stapilus
Randy Stapilus
View from Here

Every presidential election year, seemingly, is the most important election of our lifetimes. So we often heard this time. And this time, it wasn't true.

This was a confirmation election. The nation is gradually setting off on a course originally charted in 2008.

Some of my view on this grew out of reading Kevin Phillips, who became well known among politics watchers more than 40 years ago for his book prescient The Emerging Republican Majority. In it, he argued that as the 1932 election marked a political and philosophical turnaround in American politics, bringing in not just overall Democratic dominance but an ascendant New Deal and liberal tilt to politics generally, so was 1968, albeit in more subtle ways, a pivotal year. With hindsight, you can that Phillips was clearly correct. A new Republican coalition, with social (sometimes religious), economic and other components, enough to win national elections, was forming. By the mid-60s the forms of liberalism started in the 30s were reaching political exhaustion - going as far, at least, as most people in the country would want them to go - and a reaction to that, an alternative view of politics, policy and government, set in. The most immediately visible and obvious result of that was the flip of the South from Democratic to Republican, a move starting in 1968 and confirmed in the 1972 Nixon landslide. The old South has been mostly Republican since.

And politics for many years after had a Republican tilt, extending and growing over time. It was not a totally smooth or uninterrupted extension. Watergate led to Democratic wins in Congress in 1974 and the presidency in 1976, and the Clinton presidency came during that period too. But even Clinton famously declared that the era of big government was over. The idea of small government and balancing the budget (even during periods which neither happened, even during times of unified Republican control) took off as a major philosophical point. The weight of political discourse had changed.

Over time, the Republican and "conservative" (it should be referred to in quotes) dominance began to grow, change and extend. To be a conservative Republican in Congress, one of the dominant members in the Republican-led House, for example, is a very different thing than it was in the 80s or even the 90s. It has become a lot different, traveled a long way from conservative Republicanism as it was in 1968 or 1972. It has drifted to where its policy points, one by one, are broadly unpopular. And it has allowed Democrats and President Obama to run as simply supporting the idea of community, something considered broadly mainstream not long ago.

In 2008, a new coalition capable of winning national elections was emerging out of this. That coalition, which includes many of the fastest-growing parts of American society (most famously in recent months the Latino vote, but other components as well), is now a functional basis for a long-running coalition that can take Democrats and liberals to wins for quite a few election cycles to run, as long as the Republican coalition remains in the pattern started in 1968. Younger voters are more Democratic and more conventionally liberal. The existing Republican coalition is in numerical decline. It will continue to decline over the next decade.

The 2008 election demonstrated this and marked a break. 2010 was a reaction to that - no major change in American history has ever come without a significant reaction in opposition. But 2012 reinforced the larger trend line.

What does this translate to? It doesn't necessarily mean, and probably doesn't, the reinstallation of the New Deal approach to the world. Times change and new approaches are needed. The new Democratic or liberal world view hasn't fully cohered yet (though it seems to be on its way), and we don't yet know where it may lead over the next decade or two. Nor does this suggest that Republicans ought to give up their core principles - they won't succeed by becoming faux Democrats (as Democrats have never had lasting or broad success by becoming faux Republicans). But some major rethinking (not simply "rebranding" or less incendiary rhetoric) will be needed before serious rebuilding can begin.

In any event, the news out of this election is that we've entered a new era. The conversations are going to be different. Ways of looking at our society are going to change. And the last two presidential election years have pointed the course.