Monday, November 23, 2015

Watch lists and guns

Heard on the radio this morning that the latest scare is the possibility of people on terrorist watch lists being able to legally buy guns. I understand the worry, really I do. The people on those lists are supposed to be potentially really bad guys, and if there's any one we want to keep away from guns, it would be the really bad guys.

But before we jump on board with this, please let me present a couple of reasons to think twice about using terrorist watch lists in this way.

First, what are these watch lists exactly? My understanding is that they aren't lists of people who have already done something bad. They are lists of people who are suspected of being likely to try something really bad in the future. Like Tom Cruise in The Minority Report, our protectors in law enforcement want to catch the crime before it happens. But unlike Tom Cruise, we don't have a trio of bathing precious to give us indisputable evidence from the future. We don't know what will happen, or who will do it. We only have educated guesses about might and maybe. Last I checked, we still don't want the government to treat people as criminals based on what they might do, only on what they have already done.

One more thing to think about. Why do we have these lists anyway? So that the people on them will be watched. Maybe they are "small fish" that the investigators want to follow to the "big fish". Maybe they are "big fish" that they want to catch but only after enough evidence has been gathered to put them away. Either way I think it would be sensible to avoid letting them know that they are being watched. If someone on a secret watch list tries to buy a gun legally and is turned down, oops, the secret is out. And if this someone is already planning some specific nefariousness, he's probably not going to risk going to a licensed dealer who's going to perform a background check and keep good records.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

On border security: Check your doors and windows

A responsible nation takes care for the integrity of its borders.  Just as a responsible homeowner takes care that windows and doors can be closed securely.  Not that doors have to be locked all the time if the neighborhood is safe. But just letting complete strangers come and go without knowing who they are or what they're doing is asking for trouble. Even if a cop or city worker comes to your door,  you check to make sure that they are wearing the right uniform and carrying the right credentials,  and you don't let them wander around without knowing where they are.  That's not racism or paranoia,  that's basic responsibility.

This metaphor extends to the Syrian refugee situation. Someone comes to your door claiming to be afraid for their life. Might be a neighbor you know,  might be a stranger. Might be an abused spouse,  or depending on the neighborhood, someone running from a gang fight. You want to help, but will helping put your family in danger? Do you keep the door shut, or do you let them in?

If you do let this person in, you still have to be careful. It's a bad world, and while you want to be a good host, and you don't want to treat them with automatic suspicion,  especially if they are really running from trouble, you are taking a risk. It could be a scam. You have to exercise caution.

Obama has ridiculed state governors for not wanting to take in refugees. He says that they are afraid of "widows and orphans". If it were just widows and orphans, there would be no issue here. The opposition to Obama's refugee resettlement programs comes from a lack of trust in the federal government's ability to act with that basic caution I'm talking about. This administration has a history of action based on snap judgment and ideology.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Three Possible Races

We're deep in the Presidential primary season for next year. Some candidates have dropped out already, most are still standing. I believe there are currently sixty possible final face-offs between Democrat and Republican that we might see next year.

I'd like to focus on just a few. I call them the "Not Again" race, two "This Should Be Good" races, and the "What The...?" race.

Not Again

I've been around nearly four decades now. I cannot remember a full four-year term when a person named Bush or Clinton was either President, or working directly for the President. From the first time I remember knowing anything about the country, George H. W. Bush was Vice President. Then, he was President. He was followed by Clinton. Who was followed by Bush. Who was followed by... some guy who hired another Clinton as Secretary of State. I am tired of Bush and Clinton. I don't particularly trust either one of them. I don't believe that either one actually represents the ideals of the voters who support their party. Bush will run on a platform of "We need to keep Clinton from winning, she's a crook", and Hillary will run on a platform of "We need to keep Bush from winning, and first woman president."  I do personally believe that Hillary is both a crook and a woman, and I'm still not inspired by either message. Both of them will tell you exactly what they think you want to hear, and the only way you'll ever catch either of them being honest is if we catch them when they think no one is recording. Please, America. No more Bushes or Clintons. It is time for this two-family dynasty to retire to the history books.

This Should Be Good

What do Ted Cruz, Ben Carson, and Bernie Sanders all have in common? They are all showing themselves to be principled and honest. You may disagree with their principles, you may believe that they are honestly wrong, whenever they talk, you can be sure that what they are saying is what they truly believe. Sanders believes in the principles of socialism, through and through. Cruz believes completely that the Constitution works if only we would follow it, and that freedom of conscience needs to be defended. Ben Carson is Mr. Smith Goes to Washington: an "ordinary hero" who just wants to do his duty to God and country. Can you imagine, a race where politicians are really competing on their ideas? Either race, Cruz v. Sanders or Carson v. Sanders, would be a huge breath of fresh air, and maybe pull up the popcorn.

What the...?

Okay, this race is no longer possible, since one of the candidates dropped out four days ago. But, consider Trump vs. Webb. I don't believe Trump is really a Republican or a Conservative. I am surprised that Webb is a Democrat, he certainly doesn't seem to fit with many of the radical progressives in his party. Maybe they'll both run independent and cancel each other out.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

My Voting Guide for November 2015

It's about that time of year when I look at the ballots in my area, and with the power of the internet, find out what's really going on with elections both local and national, and figure out for whom I want to vote. This time around, it happens that the only elections going on are -very- local, and the only seats I have to vote for are the Mayor of Tyrone and one seat on the Town Council. But local matters a lot. So, here goes.