About Me

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Jack is a graduate of Rutgers University where he majored in history. His career in the life and health insurance industry involved medical risk selection and brokerage management. Retired for two decades after many years in NJ and NY, he occasionally writes, paints, plays poker, participates in play readings and is catching up on Shakespeare, Melville and Joyce, etc.

Wednesday, November 23, 2022

11-23-2022 - Happy Thanksgiving! .... Gun Violence, Republican Fun and Games, America Afloat, and Customer Service Woes

 











The Unavoidable Issue – Gun Violence

We have had enough gun violence over the past few years to recognize that we must take steps to end it.  Shootings this week at a Virginia Walmart and at a LGBTQ club in Colorado add to the hundreds of similar incidents over the past few years.  Forget about mental illness and the right to possess arms as a deterrent to violence.  That is NRA bullshit, promulgated by the gun manufacturers and latched onto by right-wing extremists who prefer another form of government to our democracy.  Solving the problems seems to require, my friends (?), either a repeal of the Second Amendment to the Constitution or a rewriting of it.  Fat chance of that happening though.

Leaving it to politically appointed judges, even on the Supreme Court, to ‘interpret’ it, has failed miserably and we have had repeated mass murders in schools, supermarkets, houses of worship, night clubs and other entertainment venues that just don’t seem to end.  All of this can be blamed on the Second Amendment being responsible for the proliferation of weapons among the irresponsible in our country.  But let’s start at the beginning.

Here is the Second Amendment.  Read it over carefully. Note its punctuation.

“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.”

You’re smart (otherwise you wouldn’t be reading this) so now tell me what you think it means. Speak it aloud.  Write it  down.  But read it first.  At least two times.  Note its first thirteen words, followed by a comma.  Would you conclude that they state the reason for the Amendment’s second fourteen wordsI do, but the Supreme Court of the United States, following the lead of the late Justice Antonin Scalia does not. 

To me at least, it is clear that the people to whom were given the right to keep and bear arms were not given that right as individuals but solely to make possible ‘a well regulated militia.’ That’s what it says. Militias are formed by governments, not mobs or individuals, and the Framers had State governments in mind.  Who else did the Framers envision as responsible for 'well regulating' those militias? The words say ‘free State’ and they were what those Framers had in mind, not individuals.  Now think for a minute: What was the ‘security’ of those thirteen free States (now there are 50)  mentioned that these militias were necessary to protect?

Foreign invasion?  Aliens from space?  Nope.  American history indisputably tells us that slaveholding states would not vote to confirm the Constitution back in 1788 unless they were given some way of opposing slave rebellions, an unlikely occurrence, but more likely fear of actions by Federal troops to end or limit the practice of slavery, the key to their economies. They feared that might happen. That’s what these militias were supposed to be for, to oppose the armed forces of the Federal government. And although the militias no longer exist, their modern equivalent being the National Guard, that idea persists.

In those days, when citizens were called up to serve in a militia, they were expected to bring their own weapons.  The slaveholding States wouldn’t provide them (at least initially) and wanted to prevent the Federal Government from legislating against citizens keeping and bearing arms, which were necessary if these militias were to have any teeth in the form of weapons. Without them, they would just be window dressing.

For political reasons, during the past thirty years or so, Interpretation of the Second Amendment has been stretched by courts to mean that the people’s right to keep and bear those arms exists not for the reasons given above, which no longer exist because slavery was ended by the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments, but for personal protection and more quietly, in the background, to aid in rising up against an oppressive government which itself might threaten the security of a free State, or of the nation itself.  Rebellion?  Revolution?  Insurrection?  Call it what you may. That is not what the Amendment says. But that’s what the misguided Supreme Court’s rulings permit.  That’s what those who attacked the Capitol on January 6, 2021 believed.  The chef culprit in making this horrible misinterpretation of the Second Amendment this was the aforementioned late Justice Antonin Scalia.  His warped and tortuous logic persists in today’s Supreme Court, ruled by a majority including three purely political appointments.

As a result, there are now many more guns, including military-type assault weapons in the United States than there are people!   Deranged individuals or those who want to attack people with whom they disagree or dislike have no trouble getting these weapons. They murder them regularly thanks to the Second Amendment and Justices like Scalia.

Really, the problem cannot be solved by repeal or rewriting of the Second Amendment because the Constitution’s rigid requirements to do either make it next to impossible that that will ever happen.  The majorities required in Congress and among the States are for all intents and purposes monumentally unattainable. Such changes, when made, take many, many, decades. The only remaining alternative, then, is to have a Supreme Court that interprets the Second Amendment by sticking to its words, as they were intended, as reproduced above, and not according to some political agenda fused onto them, in effect ignoring its first thirteen words. 

Doing this will require a President to appoint Justices who will interpret the Second Amendment by what it actually says and not politically, expanding the Supreme Court if necessary to do that, not just waiting for vacancies to occur, and a significant majority supporting that President in the Senate where confirmation of Justices takes place.

Ending gun violence turns out to be a problem which can only be solved by voters supporting presidential and senatorial candidates committed to doing so. Until then, blood will flow regularly in the streets of America.

JL

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Republican Fun and Games

Here’s a column by Dana Milbank published last Friday (Nov. 18) in the Washington Post (consider subscribing to it), reporting the fun and games that the Republicans, who will now control the House of Representatives, are planning.  I sense the beginnings of the G.O.P. starting to develop what the Democrats have had for years, a circular firing squad.

As Republicans Take the House, the ‘Crazies’ Take the Wheel’

"Wednesday evening, Republicans formally won control of the House.

Thursday morning, in the first public act of the new majority, senior House Republicans revealed their most urgent priority: They would investigate Hunter Biden.

The incoming chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, the incoming chairman of the Oversight Committee, James Comer, R-Ky., and about 10 other members of the brand-new majority walked into the House TV studio first thing Thursday to announce multiple probes into the president’s son.

“Hunter Biden was conducting business with suspected human traffickers,” they asserted, and “Hunter Biden and Joe Biden were involved in a scheme to try to get China to buy liquefied natural gas,” and “credit cards and bank accounts of Hunter and Joe Biden were commingled” and “Hunter wanted keys made for Joe Biden” to his office. They mentioned Hunter two dozen times in their opening statements alone.

Reporters tried to ask questions about other topics. Comer cut them off. “If we could keep it about Hunter Biden, that would be great,” he said, explaining that “this is kind of a big deal, we think.”

“Why make this your very first visible order of business?” one reporter asked.

Comer assured her that other pressing issues would also be addressed: “Kevin [McCarthy] said the first legislation we’re going to vote on is to repeal the 87,000 IRS agents.”

Great idea! After a GOP campaign focused on crime, their first legislative act will be to protect criminals. They’ll try to block the hiring of IRS enforcement personnel (the true number is much less than 87,000) assigned to crack down on the wealthiest tax cheats. Voters who elected Republicans to fight inflation and gas prices might be feeling puzzled, if not swindled.

But, in fairness, the noisiest voices in the GOP have other plans, too: They also want to cut off military aid to Ukraine as it fights off Russia’s invasion.

A few hours after the Comer and Jordan show, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., took the same stage to announce plans to force a vote on ending funds for Ukraine. “Is Ukraine now the 51st state?” asked Greene, who alleged an elaborate cryptocurrency conspiracy in which military aid for Ukraine actually funds Democrats’ campaigns.

Not too long ago, the Republican Party stood against Russian aggression. But with the GOP’s single-digit majority in the new House, the oddballs hold all the power. “You’ve heard Leader McCarthy say publicly that he doesn’t see very good odds for much funding for Ukraine going forward in a Republican-controlled conference,” Greene pointed out.

Fellow crank Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., agreed: “I will not vote for one more dollar to Ukraine!”

It was heartwarming to see Greene and Gaetz on the same page again. Earlier in the week, they were feuding about whether to deny McCarthy the speakership (the defection of even a couple of Republicans could doom him).

Greene backed McCarthy for speaker and told McCarthy’s critics (including many of her fellow members of the far-right Freedom Caucus) to bring it on. “I’m not afraid of the civil war in the GOP — I lean into it,” she said on former Trump adviser Steve Bannon’s podcast.

Gaetz shot back: “Whatever Kevin has promised Marjorie Taylor Greene, I guarantee you this: At the first opportunity, he will zap her faster than you can say ‘Jewish space laser’” — a reference to the antisemitic sentiments that got Greene kicked off her committees. McCarthy has promised to restore her privileges.

McCarthy’s age-old ambition to be speaker is again teetering. Thirty-one House Republicans opposed his nomination as speaker this week — many times the number needed to sink him when the full House votes in January.

Kevin McCarthy, who may or may not 
become Pelosi's successor as House Speaker

Even if he wins the job, he might soon wish he hadn’t. That’s because he’ll only get it by signing an endless pile of IOUs the crazies are demanding: impeaching Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. Multiple Hunter Biden investigations. A select committee to investigate China. An investigation of the Jan. 6, 2021, investigation. Investigations of Anthony Fauci and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. And a panoply of probes into the Justice Department and the FBI. McCarthy is going to be held “completely hostage,” outgoing Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., predicted.

The same day Republicans were yammering about investigating Hunter and defunding Ukraine, outgoing Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., announced her retirement from leadership after two decades in charge of House Democrats. She was the first woman to be speaker and one of the most effective ever to hold that role.

Yet, most Republicans skipped Pelosi’s announcement on the House floor (and a few opted for social-media taunts). Among the missing was McCarthy, who explained: “I had meetings.”

One of those meetings McCarthy had Thursday was with Greene, who informed him of her anti-Ukraine maneuver. “I said, ‘I’m having a press conference at 4,’” Greene recounted. “And he said, ‘OK.’”

Of course he did. The crazies are all knocking at his door. And if he wants to be speaker, there is only one answer to their demands: “OK.”

(Dana Milbank is an opinion columnist for The Washington Post.)

 JL

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Poetry Re-Visited

This poem that I wrote for the July 30 posting on this blog, and which has been included in many postings since then, also recently appeared in my community’s magazine, receiving much favorable comment.  Only the original July 30 posting, however, included my explanatory notes about the meaning of the poem.  Here is the poem again, for the umpteenth time, and with those notes.

America Afloat

 Jack Lippman

The greatness of America

Is that it does survive

Attacks upon democracy

Whose flame it keeps alive.



The laws that blossom from the words

The Founding Fathers wrote

Still serve us well today to keep

America afloat.

 

This doesn’t happen by itself,

We cannot wish it true,

The bottom line, my friends, is that

It all depends on you.

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I am proud of this poem.  It is not just a collection of patriotic rhymes. It sums up a lot of my thoughts. 

It was written in response to the meaningless slogan of the defeated former president, ‘Make America Great Again,’ which encourages his supporters to look back to any time in the past that they think was better than what America is today, casting negative aspersions on any changes which may have occurred since that elusive time in the past that they feel have diminished America’s greatness, and pointedly reduced their own traditional social and economic positions.

The first verse points out that what really makes America great has been its ability to survive the attacks on democracy presented by the crises of 1776, 1812, 1860, 1918, 1941, 2001, and most recently, by the efforts of the defeated former president to disrupt the peaceful transfer of power which has followed every presidential election in American history except his, culminating in violence on January 6, 2021. That ability enables America to continue its role as a ‘city on a hill,’ serving as a democratic beacon to other nations.

The second verse points out that America is a nation based on laws, as established in the Constitution and those subsequently developed in the spirit of that document and of the Declaration of Independence as well. The unspoken alternative to 'staying afloat' is 'sinking.'

The third verse assigns responsibility for maintaining this greatness to us as individual citizens.

JL

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Customer Service

As of late, I have been having trouble dealing with the customer service people at several business that I patronize.  That’s because these companies had outsourced their customer service operations to companies that specialize in performing this function.  They are often located in the Philippines or somewhere in Latin America, resulting in their people lacking familiarity with the area where the companies employing them do business, making communications difficult. I suspect that I am not the only person experiencing such difficulties.

Sometimes these customer service operations cannot do much more than reply to basic questions, the kind that usually can be answered ‘online,’ and must refer more complicated problems, such as authorizing refunds or even changing credit cards, to other sites, unavailable to the customer, for handling. The result is inferior service from what was once available when a business maintained its own local customer service operation. Getting  to speak to a supervisor is rarely possible since the supervisor may be thousands of miles from the customer service person to whom one is speaking. Another complication is that a customer service representative may be handling several different companies from their desk and have different sets of rules to follow for different client companies. 

Finally, it is unpatriotic for American businesses to ship jobs overseas, and most of these customer service jobs are indeed outside of the United States, so long as there are Americans available to take these jobs right here. 

A solution to this problem might be to impose a tax penalty on businesses that outsource their customer service operations.  What they are doing, providing a service, is different from a company that outsources its manufacturing, for which such penalties would be impractical, amounting to a tariff.  Customer service is a different ball game entirely and most businesses can well afford to bring back their customer service to where it is closer to the customer it is intended to serve.  Such a penalty might encourage them to do so.

JL

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Voting By Mail is Not a 'Forever' Thing


 A Reminder to those who have voted by mail.  In Florida, at least, you must now renew your request to be sent a 'vote by mail' ballot in the future.  In Palm Beach County, visit 

https://www.pbcelections.org/Voters/Vote-By-Mail.  

Elsewhere, contact your County Supervisor of Elections, but remember, at least in Florida, your old vote-by-mail request runs out at the end of this year!

 JL

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And of course, please forward this posting to anyone you think might benefit from reading it.  The place to send them is: 

https://jackspotpourri.blogspot.com

Important 'Forwarding' Addendum - It has come to my attention that Google Blogspot, the platform on which Jackspotpourri is prepared, has revised its forwarding abilities.  If you click on the envelope with the arrow at the conclusion of every posting, (it looks like this:), you will have the opportunity to list as many email addresses as you wish, along with a comment from you, each of which will receive a link to the full blog that you now are reading, with all of its bells and whistles.  This is a great advance from the very basic format Google Blogspot originally provided when they forwarded something.  It might take a few minutes longer to be sent but this method of forwarding offers the advantage of being able to forward jackspotpourri to many addresses simultaneously.  Either way will work, sending them the link above or clicking on the envelope at the bottom of this posting.

 JL

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