Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Guns and Tea

Given all the "Second Amendment remedy" rhetoric coming out of the tea party and its allies, I thought it might be a good time to discover the intent behind that most contentious of rights . Off to Wikipedia!

So the meaning and role of the terms "well regulated militia" and "keep and bear arms" are not as straight forward as some would have it but the surprising (and distressing) thing to me was that the original purpose of the amendment actually was to repel invaders, suppress insurrection and resist tyranny. The tea partiers were right. Who knew.

Before we all fish out the cups and saucers, there is more to this story. Along with the desire to resist the feds with our muskets and flintlocks was an adamant demand that the federal government not have a standing army. So, we have a little problem. No one in the tea party is demanding that we dissolve the 1st Division. In fact, these folks are as pro-military as you are likely to find. My first question is this: if the founding fathers' concept of no standing army has been cast aside, why do some insist that we hew to the original intent of the language that officially made it into the Bill of Rights?

Now that we have that wee inconsistency out of the way, I have issue with the amendment itself. Measures that made sense to a bunch of men who had just come through a successful revolution are not necessarily wisdom for us today. Calling up the National Guard in times of a crisis is a practical component to national defense. But let's consider the other two legs underpinning the Second Amendment tripod: insurrection and tyranny. The conundrum they present are two sides of the same coin. Would the Tea Party be the insurrection or would they be resisting tyranny? Who is the insurgent? Who is the tyrant? Every rebel claims God for his side. The farmers in the Whiskey Rebellion thought their cause was just and yet President Washington was ready to use troops to enforce the excise tax. Was he a tyrant? Are taxes a source of tyranny when each person has a voice in forming the government that levies the tax?

It was all very well for James Madison to claim the high ground after the fact but if the good people of the Tea Party actually took up arms against the foreigner usurper in the White House what would be the result? The Civil War? The Little Rock Crisis? The Watts Riot? What do Second Amendment remedies actually look like once the rhetoric is put aside. "Collatoral damage" (dead people) in Denver. Patriots dying for the glorious cause in Wichita. Death. Blood. Innocent lives. It is not a movie or video game. This why a believe that the Second Amendment has no place in a modern nation. We are not living on Daniel Boone's frontier. We have a national army and a well-established tradition of non-violent checks and balances. Glorification of the Second Amendment suggests a country in which every aggrieved party takes up arms and chaos rules. Baghdad? Kandahar? These are places where political conflict is reserved by force.

Monday, June 28, 2010

As Goes the Fourth Estate

Anyone who doubts the wisdom of the founding fathers in treating of the news media as a Fourth Estate, should read this report and despair.
The opening line:
Ninety percent of physicians surveyed said doctors overtest and overtreat to protect themselves from malpractice lawsuits.
Notice what it DOESN'T say: that 90% of doctors actually overtest for fear of lawsuits. This is the same kind of survey that discovered that the majority of people believe American schools are failing but a majority believed that their schools were fine. Its all those other doctors doing too many tests. Someone actually thought that it would contribute to our health-care policy debate to do this survey. To report this survey as a major headline on MSNBC. This is crap! This why our democracy is moribund. Can you imagine how many people will walk away from this headline with the "fact" that 90% of doctor really overtreat for fear of malpractice. The article waits until THE VERY LAST PARAGRAPH to point out that this survey does not say that! Couldn't that have appeared at the top where context would have been useful?

It gets better... the co-author of the survey report "noted that defensive medicine is estimated to cost the U.S. health care system billions of dollars each year" but not before relaying that she tends to order more tests, "particularly if it's a high-risk patient." Well, no shit! Of course you are more careful with high-risk patients. They are high-risk. You know, more likely to benefit from extra tests.

So this the kind of non-information that America is being subjected to as we navigate our way through rocky times. I suppose the media is now in the storytelling business. The news must fit the established narrative or the "audience" will be lost. Then again, I was never a fan of LOST.