Archives for category: Civil Rights

by Michael Maiello

After the Dark Night Returns massacre in Colorado, followed by the elementary school shooting spree in Connecticut, the National Rifle Association remained adamant that background checks of gun buyers at gun shows and other private firearms sales, would do no good in stopping spree shooters, who generally do no have violent criminal records before acting out.

“We have a broken mental health system that is not going to be fixed with more background checks at gun shows. The sad truth is that no background check would have prevented the tragedies in Newtown, Aurora or Tucson,” said the organization in a recent statement.

To that end, the NRA has recently teamed with the American Psychiatric Association to develop a series of personality tests that measure an individual’s capacity for empathy, self control, anger management and control of depression, anxiety and paranoia, to be taken annually by all Americans aged 15 or older.

Test results will be evaluated by a public-private partnership between the Department of Health & Human Services and the AMA.  Americans identified as “high risk,” according to the tests would be banned from owning firearms and required to seek psychological counseling.  For those who cannot afford such mental health care, the government will provide social workers.  In more serious cases, people might be institutionalized, but not without a consensus of mental health professionals.  Also, there will be an appeals process at every step of the evaluation.

“This is a rational solution for a freedom loving people,” said NRA President David Keene.  “We all agree that psychologically damaged or criminally insane people should not have access to firearms but that healthy Americans like you and me should not have our Constitutional rights abridged by an out of control government bureaucracy.”

Finally, the NRA has a point that we can all get behind.  No assault weapons ban, however far reaching, will prevent spree killings because there are too many assault weapons already available and because spree shooters can easily choose other weapons.  Banning all guns is a nonstarter without a Constitutional amendment and, again, what about the existing supply?  Criminal background checks, as the NRA has noted, will not stop those who have not yet committed their first crime.

The only logical answer is that future potential criminals must be identified, evaluated and, if necessary, treated.  We now have achieved the necessary knowledge and skills to pursue a crime free utopia of the kind described by Anthony Burgess in his 1962 novel A Clockwork Orange, which had been immortalized into a delightful futuristic comedy a decade later by the great film director Woody Allen.

In the not too distant future, it could be possible, as imagined by that delightful optimist Phillip K. Dick, that the government will be able to use situational data and discreet monitoring, as well as genetically enhanced psychics, to predict future criminal behavior with a greater degree of accuracy.  Dick described this in his short story, Minority Report, also later made into a film by Woody Allen, who had grown decidedly darker and more serious in his outlook by 2002.

With its bold proposal today, the NRA joins the great utopian dreamers (Burgess, Dick, George Orwell, Aldous Huxley, David Foster Wallace, and Maureen Dowd) who see a better future for America, where the rights of those who intend no harm are preserved without compromising public safety and welfare.

 

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by Michael Maiello

Since the passage of the Volstead Act in 1919, the United States has been a “dry” country, though you wouldn’t notice if you visited any of its major cities, including its capital.  It is well known that the very politicians who, year after year, fail to repeal Volstead (or even address it) consume alcohol in private even as they speak against it in public.

The Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms has tremendous political clout and has been, for decades, hammering the great middle of the country with anti-alcohol propaganda and hysterical warnings about behavioral and health risks.  As the government has effectively cracked down on home stills and brewers, the wealthier classes think nothing of taking a “booze cruise” outside of the three mile limit, to party it up in international waters.  The scheme seems to be that the upper classes, and the political classes should be allowed their freedoms but that the population at large can’t be trusted.

Continued alcohol prohibition has largely benefited organized crime in Canada and Mexico, where they exist outside of the sophisticated law enforcement powers of the U.S. Federal government.  Meanwhile, Americans have sacrificed many civil rights and liberties with urban police being allowed to stop and search people on almost any pretense, looking for contraband alcohol.

The Federal government is now, also at odds with many states.  Thirty states allow doctors to prescribe alcohol containing “tonics,” for a variety of maladies.  The Federal Government views this as an illegal act and has cracked down on medical dispensaries in California that is suspects are selling folk medicine for recreation use.  Still, we know from years of experience, research and family lore that alcohol has many medicinal properties and can be used for the treatment of stress, to dull the unpleasant affects of other medications and to cure digestive ailments.

Voters in two states, Colorado and Washington, have approved amendments to their states constitutions legalizing beer and wine consumption for pleasure.  These states should be allowed to experiment and, if all goes well, its conceivable that voters could approve the use and sale of harder spirits.

The economic arguments in favor of fill alcohol legalization are well known, almost to the point of tedium.  Consumption could be taxed, which would more than cover the costs of any negative social effects.  California, currently experiencing higher than usual unemployment, and parts of the Pacific Northwest could support extensive wineries.  Europeans might scoff at this notion but there could come a time when a meritage of California grapes rivals any blend from Bordeaux in terms of quality.  If Chile and Australia can make good wine, certainly the U.S. can.  Parts of the south and midwest could return to their Scot-Irish roots and begin the production and sale of whiskeys.

The U.S. has fallen behind in manufacturing, even in high technology.  Many former white collar jobs are now being outsourced.  More than ever, Americans need a drink.  It’s good for the soul and good for the wallet.

By Michael Maiello

The United States Supreme Court is hearing two pivotal cases and could, at its whim, change the definition of marriage and custom that has guided human society since ancient times.  From experience, we know this — for the most part, aside from sex, men prefer the company of men and women prefer the company of women.  We have never had a society where the norm was for men and women to cohabitate, particularly with children.

What has worked so far for humanity is this — a man and a man live together to raise a young man.  A woman and another woman live together to raise a young woman.  This has not only been successful from an evolutionary standpoint, but it has promoted civic harmony and social cohesion.

Throughout history, there have been dissidents to humanity’s conventions.  There have been men and women who have chosen to live together and even to raise children.  These heterodox men and women have served in the military, they have served in Congress and they have participated in the economy, sometimes in secret, sometimes out in the open.

There is no reason for anyone to hate these people.  All people should, of course, love and respect one another.  But that love and respect does not translate into condoning specific behaviors or choices.  We might love the thief but hate the thieving, because thieving is bad for society.  By the same vein, we might love those who engage in heterodox marriage, but hate the act of heterodox marriage, because the idea of a man and woman, living together for life, is bad for society.

Heterodox Marriage proponents will tell you that, “It’s none of your business.”  But we all live together.  Who wants to share a society full of children left confused by having both a male and female role model when the child is clearly either one or the other?

Even when children aren’t involved, heterodox marriages creates costly problems for society.  For example, most incidents of domestic violence between heterodox marriage couples occur during the Super Bowl, when the emotional state of the male is obviously and understandably heightened and inhibitions are lowered by alcohol consumption.

For their part, even the best intentioned men are unlikely to ever develop any sort of meaningful interest in typical women’s activities such as knitting, the novels of J.K. Rowling and wearing Lululemon products in non-yoga settings.

Men and women share extensive company for one reason, intended by nature, for which most of our bodies derive great pleasure.  Whether it’s fair or not, the idea of a heterodox couple, where a man and woman share extensive time together both inside and outside of the household, even to the point of sharing the burdens of mundane and pecuniary tasks, leaves the impression of persistent libido driven tendencies.

I realize, in this politically correct age that the above might strike some observers as too blunt but even if the reality of such a relationship based on constant sex is unlikely that the sheer amount of time these men and women choose to spend in each other’s company implies the possibility to outsiders.  Two men shopping at Whole Foods might discuss their Fantasy Football results while picking through the peppers, mushrooms and arugula.  The fantasies of a man and woman shopping together will naturally turn less towards professional sports than it will towards lewd conduct behind the bulk grain bins near the freight elevator.

There is no doubt that these heterodox couples have a legitimate claim to a personal right.  But is society ready for the transformation towards unbridled sexuality that the outright sanction of opposite sex partnerships could cause?  I think that some people are and, over time, the country as a whole might come around to that point of view.  But, it’s too early.  Let’s leave it to the states and future generations, not the Supreme Court.