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I’ve been thinking about the presidential campaign of Donald Trump. That’s hardly a surprising admission, since it’s almost impossible to live in America without hearing about The Donald on a regular basis these days. This morning I was reading about one of his golf courses. It got me to wondering what his campaign is costing him. According to the Wall Street Journal, though claiming to be funding his campaign himself, he has spent only about $100,000 of his own money as of 9/30/15.

Trump’s Federal Election Commission report shows that in the quarter ended Sept. 30, he spent only $100,800 of his own money, while raising $3.8 million from what his campaign called “unsolicited” donors, 119 of whom gave the maximum $2,700 contribution. He received 317 checks for $1,000 or more.

But, the question I wonder about isn’t donations he is receiving, or the disposition of funds from selling hats, t-shirts and mugs. I wonder about the benefits to his lodging and entertainment properties as a result of his run for the presidency.

[Note: I am not an investigative journalist. I have not researched Trump’s finances, nor do I have access to any information other than that which has been reported by news agencies. This is purely a thought experiment.]

Obviously, Donald Trump is no stranger to the benefits of publicity to his brand. His garish branding is either the height of narcissism, or a brilliant business move, or both (or a fortuitous accident.) The free publicity of his reality show, The Apprentice, undoubtedly helped the Trump brand among his customer base. If a viewer were a fan of The Apprentice, they might well choose to stay at a Trump casino, resort, or hotel for their next vacation. It is clear that, had his many properties each borne unique names, The Apprentice would have been far less helpful to Trump’s businesses.

Is Trump’s presidential campaign helping his business empire in the same way that The Apprentice did? My guess is a resounding “of course.” Further, I doubt that Trump is unaware of this effect. Though his campaign appears to be nothing more than a narcissistic fantasy, I can’t help wondering if it is, in fact, a well planning publicity ploy – months of free advertising for his enterprises. Though he may be a dummy, he is no fool.

Those who feel that Mr. Trump is a buffoon are unlikely to have ever wanted to patronize any of his establishments. They won’t vote for Trump, and they wouldn’t have stayed at his casino, so the bigotry and egotism he is showing on camera is not alienating them from his customer base. Meanwhile, people that were already Trump patrons are likely entertained or enthralled by his rhetoric. They may even be inspired to add a Trump destination vacation to their calendars, as they are ever reminding of his existence. A third group are the “undecideds”; not those who are undecided about who to vote for, but rather those who are undecided about where to go on vacation.

I recall several years ago sitting in a favorite Mexican restaurant in Boulder, Colorado, located right near the campus of the University of Colorado. I was seated near a large group of students who were planning a Vegas vacation. They were debating, with great volume and enthusiasm, various details of the trip, especially where to stay. They discussed what place had the best price, the cheapest food, the best location, the best disco, the best pool, the cheapest drinks, and how many people they could pack into a given room (curiously, the casino didn’t seem to enter the conversation.) While they were very concerned about cost, the number one consideration that came up, time and time again, was which place would be the most fun. I can imagine that conversation happening today. I have no doubt that Trump Las Vegas would be given serious consideration. Not only would the name Trump be on everyone’s mind, but staying at the Trump property would be a lark – it would have that extra element of fun and excitement, and the next 100 times The Donald appeared on TV, the students would be able to recount staying at Trump’s casino hotel.

I can only guess about how Trump’s campaign might be effecting his pocketbook. The $100K reported in the WSJ is clearly chump-change to Trump (“Trump-change”?) But Trump’s comments about Mexicans did lose him his relationships with NBC, Univision, NASCAR, PGA, Serta, Macy’s, ESPN, and a host of others. It has probably also lost Latino customers for his businesses. That is likely to be real money. I wonder if those losses are being offset by increased attendance at his properties. There is an old adage that says that there is no such thing as bad publicity. Michael Jackson’s pedophilia charges, Lance Armstrong’s admission of doping, and the recent discovery of Bill Cosby’s predilections, may call that maxim into question.

I find it interesting to ponder whether Trump’s campaign will be a net gain or loss, and whether the campaign itself is a calculated publicity stunt. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

On the internet no one knows you are Bozo
Collage/cartoon by Andrew Sigal

What makes a flan hate another flan? 

Cartoon by Andrew Sigal
(inspired by Depeche Mode)

I have some questions about God. That is to say, Yahweh – the one true God, the monotheist Judeo-Christian God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob - not one of those crazy pantheist gods.

The bible tells us that God created the universe, and the heavens and the earth, and light, and that he separated the light from the darkness, and so on. Cool. But, what was God doing before he created everything? God is eternal, so he existed forever and will exist forever. How long did God exist before he created the universe? The universe is somewhere between 6000 and 14 billion years old. God existed forever. Therefore, God existed for an infinitely long time before he created the universe. Where did he exist? What was he doing?

The Gods of the Greek, Roman, Norse, and Hindu pantheons have always had their own parties going on in their own spiritual planes. Earth and human affairs were just side shows. Sometimes they would notice us – generally to either fuck us or fuck with us, but basically they had their own shit going on, which we would experience as earthquakes, wars, the changing of seasons, and so on. But we all know that is nonsense. There is no god but God, right?

So, back to Yahweh. We were create in his image, so, he has some kind of body with head, arms, legs, torso, naughty bits, etc. For an infinitely long time before the creation of the universe, he was… where? In heaven? But wait! Didn’t he create heaven when he created the heavens and the earth? If heaven existed before God created “the heavens and the earth”, where did it come from? Did God create it? If so, when? Where was he before he created heaven? If he is infinite, then where was he before there was a place for him to be?

What was he doing? Was he alone? Or were the angels keeping him company? Did he create the angels? If not, where did they come from? If so, when did he create them? Were there a pantheon of other gods that God hung out with on a Friday night? If so, what happened to them? Might there have been some foul play that we should know about?

Basically what I am asking is, wasn’t God bored? An infinite amount of “time” spent nowhere, alone. Of course, maybe he hadn’t created time yet, so maybe he didn’t spend an infinite amount of time being bored.

OK. Those questions are hurting my brain, so I’ll press on to other issues. God is infinite and existed forever before creating the heavens and the earth, and all the plants, animals, and people. How did he think of it? The heavens and the earth didn’t exist. God existed forever, but one “day” he decided to create this incredibly complicated universe out of nothingness. Based on what? We are created in his image, but, what is everything else created in the image of? There was no universe. No suns, no planets, no trees, no water, no advertisements for underarm deodorants, no odors to be deodorized.

After an infinite existence, God suddenly starts creating stuff. Maybe he created Heaven and Angels to have a place to exist and some company, or maybe they already existed. But, out of absolutely nowhere he began creating novel stuff. Why? How? Based on what? Why then? Why not sooner, or later?

OK. My brain is hurting even more. One last question and I will go get an aspirin. Why six days? God existed forever, then out of nowhere gets the idea to create the universe, and does it in six days. Why the hurry? A trillion years one way or the other, what does he care? He’s existed forever, and will exist forever. Six days seems a hell of a rush.

You know what, I have another question. I’m really needing 3 or 4 Advil right about now, but, I am not infinite, so I’m gonna ask another question. After God created everything, he put himself in the business of watching all of us all of the time. He keeps track of everything that everyone does or thinks. When we die he judges us and either accepts us into heaven or sends us to hell (unless we go to purgatory.)

The Population Reference Bureau estimates that about 107 billion people have ever lived. Presumably by now God has seen every action that humans can perform, and listened to every thought that can be thought. Oh sure, new specific thoughts come up all the time, like “I want a new iPhone 6”, but practically speaking that is the same as “I want a new kilt”, or “I want a new spear.” How bored must he be now? We can also presume that he’s let a hell of a lot of us into heaven at this point. For an infinite amount of time he was alone, now he’s utterly inundated with happy, smiling, harp-playing souls.

Do you think that’s really what he had in mind when he created the heavens and the earth, then Adam, and then Eve, telling them to go forth and multiply? Oh wait. He’s infallible. I guess an infinite amount of time going forward watching every human and recording their thoughts and actions, and a heaven filled with billions of souls, must be what he wanted. He doesn’t make mistakes (with the possible exception of the duck-billed platypus.) Still, it seems like a rather extreme over-reaction to loneliness. Perhaps God is a manic-depressive. I’ll have to ask him if I ever get the chance.

Someone posted my "Coming out as a militant atheist" to the Facebook group “Religious Tolerance”, along with a negative commentary. Another person commented on the post, noting that they were praying for the people of France and that they didn’t see how praying for France was a bad thing; that they shouldn’t be criticized for prayer, and that praying for Parisians was showing solidarity with them.

I would like to suggest to that person that instead of “praying” for the people of Paris, they instead “care about”, “empathize with”, “stand with”, “mourn for”, “have their heart go out to”, etc. I propose that they should announce that they intend to take action, active or passive, now or in the future, to help make sure that such things never happen again.

When someone says that they are “praying” for France, there are two possibilities: one is that they actually mean “care about”, “empathize with”, and so on. The other possibility is that they truly mean that they are stopping what they are doing and saying words, aloud or to themselves, requesting that a deity take action.

In the first case, the word "pray" is being used as a synonym for "wish." I think it is more valuable, and conveys more substantive meaning, when people speak of their emotional connection with the French and express their grief and anger at the terrible actions that happen last week. I believe that it is a much more forceful statement to say “I feel emotionally connected with you and care about you” than to say “I am praying for you, i.e. I wish that hadn't happened." So, you should stop using the word "pray" and instead unambiguously express your direct human empathy for the suffering of others.

The second case, actually “praying” to a deity in the religious sense, is at best a waste of your time. If you encourage others to literally pray, then you’re actively doing harm. Your prayers, and the prayers of others, will not be answered by the deity that you are beseeching help from. By encouraging others to pray, you are encouraging them to waste their time and offload their opportunity to give tangible assistance onto a mythological being. When you say "I am praying for the people of France," what you are really saying is "I hope that some force (other than myself) will take care of them.” Imagine what could actually be achieved if everyone in the world who is “praying” for Paris actually did something physical, substantive, and material to assist the Parisians, or to actively prevent future heinous acts perpetrated in the name of “god.”

If in your anguish you cry out to the giant teapot circling the sun, asking it to help the people of France, your pleas will not be answered. The giant teapot circling the sun is not listening, and it’s not going to do anything about the terrorist acts in Paris, and most importantly, there is no giant teapot circling the sun! If you think there is a giant teapot circling the sun that you can call to in time of need, then someone should sit down with you over hot cup of tea and explain the nature of reality. If you honestly believe that praying to a deity to help the people of France will actually achieve anything at all, then you really need to take some time and think about reality, actions and actors, that which is measurable and that which is imaginary. If you don’t actually believe in a deity, then you really, really, shouldn’t be praying.

Back to the first case again, if you say that you are “praying” but actually mean that you are demonstrating empathy with the victims of terrorism, then you may inadvertently be causing harm. By using the word “pray”, you are likely to be encouraging others to pray in the religious sense. As described, this is wasteful and harmful. Don’t use the word “pray” if you don’t mean it, and if you do mean it, stop and think about reality – then stop praying, because really you are just wishing, and wishing things were different wont help anyone.

I hope that everyone is pained by the terrorist acts in Paris. I hope that everyone feels positive emotions for those who were hurt, and negative emotions towards those who committed these crimes. I hope that everyone will be driven by those feelings to take actions to help in any way they can, no matter how small. And, I hope that no one will “pray” for Paris.
Cartoon by Bradley James Peterson

For years I have been sitting on the fence about religion. I have called myself variously an “agnostic”, or “spiritual but not religious”, or I’ve said things like “I believe in God but not in religion.” But I'm realizing that those statements are classic equivocation. I must come out as an atheist. Not only that, the time has come to be what Richard Dawkins calls a “militant atheist.”

Some years ago I was talking with my friend Bill. He is an atheist and asked me about a comment that I had made about God. I told him that I believe in God but not in religion. He asked me how I, as a thinking person, could possibly believe in God. I told him that I found it to be too much effort to be an atheist in a theist society. That I felt an emotional pull towards the various ideas of God and an afterlife. That it wasn’t important enough to me to be confrontational with true believers. But, I must admit that my responses basically boiled down to laziness.

Whether or not there is a supernatural being orchestrating it all, I desperately want there to be an afterlife. I can’t bear the thought that my loved ones who have died are simply gone. My brain cannot wrap itself around the notion that when I die there is nothing – that it will be so nothing that I won’t even be aware that there is nothing. There won’t be an “I”, and there won’t be “aware”, and there won’t even be “nothing.” I have no way to even think about such a thing (or such a non-thing), so, I desperately want there to be a heaven, or reincarnation, or some kind of afterlife. But guess what, I want a lot of things. I want to have the body of a 25-year-old again. I want vast wealth, power, and fame. I want to have dinner and/or sex with a long list of interesting, attractive, intelligent people. I want my cell phone to get better reception. But guess what, I’m probably not going to get any of these things, and even though I want there to be an afterlife, that doesn’t mean there is one. Just as with poor cell phone reception, I’m going to have to accept it and learn to live with it.

I recently watched an outstanding Ted Talk by Richard Dawkins from 2002 in which he talks about being a militant atheist. He made many important points. Among them he notes that all believers in Yahweh are atheists when it comes to Zeus, Poseidon, Mars, Odin, Thor, Osiris, Seth, Horus, and 100’s of other gods of the Greeks, Romans, Norse, Native Americans, Inuit, Pacific Islanders, etc., as well as, Vishnu, Shiva, Durga and the whole Hindu pantheon. Dawkins says that he takes atheism just one God further. Implicit in this I found the idea that when learning about these non-Judeo-Christian gods, most people find the stories to be anywhere from quaint to ridiculous. The Maori of New Zealand believe that the Polynesian demigod Maui pulled up the north island of New Zealand with a fishing hook. When modern worshippers of Yahweh hear that story, they find it cute and silly. But no thinking person could critically read the Old or New Testaments, or the Koran, without finding the stories held therein to be equally naïve and even absurd.

Dawkins’ Ted Talk was not my first exposure to atheism. Years ago I watched Jonathan Miller’s BBC series A Rough History of Disbelief (aka “A Brief History of Disbelief”), many of which can now be found on YouTube. I found it fascinating, so I followed it up with the equally brilliant, “The Atheism Tapes”. I subsequently read my friend Valerie Tarico’s, The Dark Side: How Evangelical Teachings Corrupt Love and Truth. Each of these are highly recommended.

Even after all these convincing arguments I couldn’t give up my wish that there be some kind of god with a promise of some kind of afterlife. I didn’t care about the religion that was bestowed on me, and I was well aware of the atrocities committed throughout history in the name of virtually every deity conceived by the mind of man. But being an atheist was just too much trouble and I wanted an afterlife, so, I remained “spiritual but not religious.” The lazy man’s escape hatch.

Yet I live in a world where I am daily bombarded by the nonsense promulgated by pandering politicians and other pious pinheads. The very people who should be most impartial – politicians, newscasters, and even some scientists – either believe in and proselytize for some version of god, or pretend to do so.

And then there were last night’s terror attacks in Paris, committed in the name of Allah. Dear God, where are you that you let such atrocities be committed? Dear God, why do you command your followers to perform such acts in your name? God? God? Hello?

So, OK, I’m “coming out” as an atheist. But, why a “militant atheist”? Because I can’t just admit that I am an atheist and sit back wiping my hands clean of terrible acts done daily in the name of “god.” Noted atheist Christopher Hitchens says that he is offended by the notion that he needs to read a 2000-year-old book to know right from wrong. I agree. The subtle nuances of behavior in a polite society, and the laws that pertain to my slice of the world, are created by my particular culture. But the more fundamental questions of right and wrong, good and bad, come from my own empathy with my fellow creatures. I know that the attacks in Paris last night were evil. I don’t need to read the Old Testament or ask my rabbi to understand that it was a wrong act. I don’t need to read the Koran or ask an Imam to receive the opinion that the Paris attacks were a holy jihad and therefore good. I am a human being, so I know that the slaying of other innocent human beings is wrong. If some religion tells me that I need to read their book to understand that truth, then the religion is wrong - dangerously wrong.

No God either promoted, or stood by and watched the Holocaust, the Cambodian genocide, the endless African genocides, the atrocities in the former Yugoslavia, the attacks on 9/11, last night’s terror attack in Paris, nor wars, atrocities, and inquisitions going back to antiquity. By sitting back quietly, secure in my blameless atheism, I am indirectly complicit in the terrible acts committed in the name of religion – be they horrors like terrorism, war, and genocide, or simply suppression of freedoms such as an individual’s decisions about how to treat their own body.

Thus, not only am I coming out as an atheist, but as a militant atheist. Sign me up.

Quantum Pie: Pie that was eaten by Schrödinger's cat. Pie that was not eaten by Schrödinger's cat.

How much pie did Schrödinger's cat eat?

Illustration by Andrew Sigal

I started using, studying, and building tools for “The Web” in 1996. Back then we called it the “World Wide Web.” I attended the “W3C” (World Wide Web Consortium) Conference. The  addresses (URLs) for the most commonly visited sites started with “www”, which stood for “world wide web”. This differentiated them from other types of addresses such as “ftp” (file transfer protocol), “nntp” (network news transfer protocol), “pop” (post office protocol), and so forth. We tended to write and talk about the “world wide web” to distinguish the universe of web sites viewed in web browsers from the other ways that the Internet was used. Casually we would refer to it as “The Web”, though curiously, web sites themselves were often called “home pages.” Over the years, with its universality, the “World Wide” part of the “Web” has pretty much gone away. Lately it seems like the word “Web” is waning too.

Way back when, people got really good at typing “www.” It didn't take long to realize that 99% of everything anyone wanted to see started with “www.”, so servers (which we used to call “web servers”) and browsers (formerly “web browsers”) were changed to either automatically add “www.” to URLs, or assume that was what was meant if there was no prefix to a URL. Now you only need to add a prefix if it is something special such as “ftp”, and most people don't even realize that “www” used to mean something.

Since the World Wide Web is ubiquitous, saying “World Wide” is redundant. As with the “www” prefix, the only reason you would specify which “web” you are referring to is if you are talking about something different, for example the “Dark Web”, or some other experimental, alternative, or private internet.

Even the word “web” is in decline. Where it was always “web this” and “web that”, people are now much more likely to refer to “online” or “the Internet”. We used to say “Have you checked the web”; now most say, “Have you 'Googled' it”, or “Have you looked online.” Often, we refer not to the web as a whole but to a specific site or class of sites - Facebook, Google, Twitter,, Wikipedia, Amazon, Uber, online dating, blogs (formerly Web-logs), etc. More and more often we use neo-verbs that refer to the act of using a specific site - Google (as a verb), tweet, post, pin, Uber, etc. [It is interesting to note that of the most used sites, - having chosen a common English noun for its name - is always referred to with its “.com” suffix and hasn't been verbified.] There is the curious inverse case that today the term “home page” sounds quaint or even archaic. Now we call everything a site (unless it is a 'blog'), as in, "Hey, check out this new site for buying groceries online."

There is an argument to be made that we should stop using “web” to refer to sites on the Internet. In the early days before search engines, it really was a web. The only way to find anything was to traverse (“surf”) the “web”, following links from one page to another. If you didn't know the URL of any web sites at all, then the “World Wide Web” was completely useless to you. You had to step onto the web somewhere. From that starting point you could only get to other pages that were linked to from there, or pages linked to from those links, or the next page's links, and so on. Since pages further down the path could and often did link you back to previous sites, it was a web of pages, rather than a chain or a tree.

My original “home page” was just a list of links to web pages that I found useful, with descriptions of each. In 1996 an online magazine listed my home page in its list of World Wide Web resources. Not long afterwards, Yahoo! came to the rescue with its professionally curated card-catalog of web sites. That innovation begat the portal-wars, as AOL, Microsoft/MSN, Netscape, Yahoo!, and others competed to become your portal to the web. People set their browsers' start page to be the portal of their choice; they would get to the rest of the web from there. But portals weren't long lived. Soon search engines emerged as the beginning for almost every online foray, followed by a blend of searching, personal bookmarks, links shared through social media, and well-known site names.

Nowadays, by and large, people no longer traverse a web of Internet sites. The word “web” persists in our lexicon, and arguably there is still an interconnected set of links out there, but that is no longer how we interact with it. People now go directly to a site they know about or were pointed to, or use a search engine to find information they want. The webiness of The Web is less and less important. The online world has grown and morphed to become more like a sponge, sucking up all that is digital. It is a squishy, amorphous matrix that holds everything we pour into it, seemingly forever. It has become "The Global Sponge".

Based purely on personal nostalgia I miss the “World Wide Web”, but, I have to admit that “World Wide” is redundant, and “Web” is irrelevant. The “World Wide Web” is gone. Long live “The Global Sponge.”

Amendment II: A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

I was sitting around on this beautiful morning reading the Bill of Rights, as I am want to do. I noticed something about the Second Amendment that hadn't struck me before. It is the only one that provides a rationale. It's not just the only such amendment in the Bill of Rights, it is the only one of the 27 amendments to the Constitution that specifically states why the rule is there.

I went online to learn more about the Second Amendment. There are no end of resources for analysis and opinion about each and every word:
  • What does “well regulated” mean? This is pretty easy; in the 18th century “well regulated” meant something that functions properly, like a wristwatch that keeps time or a well-oiled plow.
  • Why did they use the indefinite article “a” instead of the definite article “the” in specifying “a well regulated militia”? At the time of the first Congress most people in America saw the country as a confederation of states. Just as today, the representatives considered themselves to represent their own state as much as, or more than, the nation. Each state had its own militia. Thus, the authors were obviously thinking of their own state militias, rather than the national army.
  • What does “militia” mean? What does it mean to “keep” arms? What does it mean to “bear” arms? And so on, and so forth. I leave it as an exercise to the reader to study up on any of these terms that interest you.
I have my own opinions on the interpretation of the amendment based upon historical linguistics. I also have opinions as to whether or not any of the amendments to the Constitution should be re-amended or reinterpreted in the light of modern society. But that's not what I'm interested in this morning. I'm wondering why it is that this amendment comes with an explicit reason when none of the others do, and what it would mean if that reason were no longer valid.

“A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state…” Why? Why did the first Congress of the United States give a rationale for the Second Amendment but not for any of the others? Why didn't they just say, “The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed”? Alternatively, why doesn't the First Amendment say, “Because we're a nation with many different religions, and we want people to be able to speak their minds, and we were escaping religious and intellectual persecution when we came here in the first place, Congress shall make no law…” Why doesn't the third amendment say, “Because we believe in private property, no soldier shall, in time of peace…”? Etc.

Moreover, they gave one and only one, very specific, reason. They didn't write “Because we haven't yet established an effective police force so people need to be able to defend themselves, and because people need to be able to hunt for food, and because practically everyone has weapons …and since a well regulated militia is necessary to the security of a free state…” No. For this one amendment they gave a reason and it was both singular and specific. What were they thinking when they chose to write this amendment in this way? What is it about the right to bear arms that compelled explanation when other amendments, no less important and no less worthy of justification, did not?

The authors of the amendment say the reason that “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed” is that “A well regulated Militia [is] necessary to the security of a free State.” If by “the security of a free state” they meant protecting the United States of America against foreign enemies, then clearly we now have that covered, with or without citizens keeping and bearing their own arms. The current Armed Forces of the United States is the most powerful on earth. When young men and women enlist, they are extensively trained in the use of whatever weapons are appropriate for their service. Prior experience with arms does not necessarily improve the quality of our national security. Most people entering the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, or National Guard, will never have had any experience with the actual weapons they will need to use. Even gun owning families are unlikely to have fully functional, state of the art, US military armaments. Yes, some do - but as a percentage of gun owners, that number is small. Even if they did, the amount of time most youth will have spent training with such weapons is likely insignificant in comparison to what the government will provide once they don a uniform. Arguably, the hundreds or thousands of hours that kids (and adults) spend playing video games might be more valuable training than the actual possession of such weapons.

Also, our Armed Forces do not currently expect volunteers or draftees to show up with their own guns. That was the case at one time, but no longer. The US government provides our soldiers with the weapons that they are expected to use. Bringing your own Winchester to Desert Storm would be unnecessary.

Others suggest that “the security of a free state” should be interpreted in the context of the early days of the country when the states thought of themselves more as a confederation than a nation. The country had only been around for a few years and no one knew how it was going to work out. Many states had long been rivals. With that context in mind, “the security of a free state” could mean that the individual states wanted to maintain their ability leave the union and even to potentially fight each other. Thus, they wanted to make sure that the federal government couldn't make a law that would stop that from happening. I seem to recall that we gave secession a try and it didn't work out so well. In almost 250 years we've gone that route a grand total of once. I hope that no one wants to do it again.

But even if they did, would individuals keeping and bearing arms, and well regulated state militias, really do the job in 2015? For the sake of argument (and so as not to piss off anyone residing in other states) I will pick on my own state - California. Let's say that California decided to violently secede from the union. We would need to have modern, military grade weaponry to even attempt such lunacy. Fortunately, a fair amount of military manufacturing occurs in California. So, we might be able to raid Lockheed Martin and other manufacturers for armaments with which to take on the US government. But that doesn't mean that individual Californians owning small arms would give the state much of a leg up in this battle. We would need tanks, airplanes, drones, bombs, rockets, etc. The Second Amendment does protect our right to own such weapons, but how many of us do, and how many of us know how to use them and use them well? I think it goes without saying that even taking advantage of military hardware that's manufactured within California, and even given the state's large population, we wouldn't have a prayer against the combined might of the other 49 and the well trained, well equipped US Armed Forces.

It is common to hear people speak of the Second Amendment as meaning that individuals, and small militias, should be able to overthrow the government should it fall into tyranny. But clearly this has never happened, and given modern defenses this cannot happen using conventional weapons. Through our history there have been numerous terrible assassinations, and attempted assassinations, of our leaders. Fortunately these events are getting less common - probably due to the formidable security we provide to those at the highest levels of government. There are certainly no fewer people that have hated each of our recent Presidents, but based on results, killing them with a firearm appears to be impossible.

Even if we consider past attacks on Presidents, cabinet members, and congress people, the assailants were virtually always insane individuals. Regardless of the attackers and their motivations (rational or otherwise), no assassination has ever changed our government in any way other than personnel. Perhaps JFK was killed as part of a conspiracy that disagreed with his policies. Maybe John Wilkes Booth's action echoed the sentiment of a contingency of Southern confederates. But even in these cases, though the Presidents were killed, the structure and policies of the US Government continued.

In recent decades there have been some noteworthy attacks on the US government by citizens who had ideological agendas. Ted Kaczynski (the “Unabomber”) and Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols (bombed the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in downtown Oklahoma City), are just two that come to mind. It is important to recognize that the Second Amendment did not help either of them in their attempts to stop the government which they viewed as tyrannical.

There have also been militias that have formed and used their Second Amendment rights to stockpile munitions for purposes such as seceding from the US, creating their own laws, or refusing to pay taxes. Supporting the USA and the Constitution is generally labelled “patriotic.” We have a different word for the actions of such militias - we call it “treason.” Is it unpatriotic to suggest that militias shouldn't be able to use the Constitution to help them commit treason?

If one wanted to image nightmare scenarios of attacks on the Federal Government, one could speculate about the use of non-conventional weapons ala The Unabomber, McVeigh and Nichols, etc. Chemical or biological attacks, nuclear weapons, dirty bombs, poisons, and the like, might, possibly be able to take down the government. I would like to believe that there are agents at the Secret Service that spend their careers trying to think up such things, and then devising counter measures. In any case, even if an individual or group were able to conceive, create, and successfully execute such an attack, the right to bear arms would be irrelevant to their plans. The weapons protected by the Second Amendment wouldn't come into play. The government has proven defenses against those - a successful attack would come from some other quarter, as Al-Qaeda showed so terribly in 2001.

So, I believe that the explicitly specified rationale in the Second Amendment is no longer valid. Therefore, the prohibition against infringement upon which it is based is no longer valid. This leaves two options before the American people: (1) allow the government to infringe upon the right to keep and bear arms, or (2) craft a 28th amendment that guarantees this right without any justification or qualification.

I find myself wonder what the authors of the Second Amendment would say if they were alive today and heard my argument that a “well regulated militia” will no longer provide for the security of our free state. Would they agree with me? If so, what would they then say about the right of people to keep and bear arms? Would they conclude that this right may now be infringed since the purpose of the amendment is gone? Or would they insist that there were other compelling reasons to protect the right to bear arms? If they felt that this right must still be maintained, would they agree that a new amendment must be crafted, since the Second Amendment is rendered invalid by its obsolete rationale?

I wonder.

Aka “Kero”

She was the queen of dogs