Monthly Archives: June 2022


Anyone following the news in the U.S. will be aware of two recent horrific mass shootings, one racially motivated one in Buffalo and one slaughter of schoolchildren in Uvalde, Texas. Both were committed by disturbed teenage males. Since that time there have been two significant changes in gun laws. First, the U.S. Supreme Court declared New York’s restrictive gun law unconstitutional, effectively wiping it off the books. The other was a federal law adding new restrictions to gun purchases and giving aid to states who pass “red flag laws”.

America is something of a pariah in the developed world for its archaic gun laws, and understandably so. We suffer many times the per capita gun deaths of nearly every other developed country. But there is a lot of misunderstanding and misinformation about our gun laws. The question I hear asked the most often by talking heads on TV is “Why is America so out of step with the rest of the world on guns?” That has an easy answer and it’s the answer to almost every question critics put up: The Second Amendment.

It’s right there in the Constitution that Americans have the right to keep and bear arms. Legislatures can’t overrule the Constitution by passing laws. Laws that restrict that right keep getting struck down by the courts. The only real solution is to amend the Constitution and that’s politically impossible since it is very difficult to do even for very popular policies. Let’s examine for a moment why we have that right in our Constitution. America was born in revolution. It was oppressed by an English king and fought for its freedom by arming itself. Americans wanted to make sure that could never happen again, so they made sure they would always have the right to take up arms against their own government. It’s a stupid, short-sighted provision passed in the heat of passion out of hatred for England. Blame lies at least as much with King George (and for that matter all the European colonial powers) as it does with America’s founders, but there it is. Personally, I believe it was unwise to make the Constitution so difficult to modify, but I also believe it is wrong to expect courts to disregard its plain language because they disagree with it.

People on both sides of “the gun issue” are right and both are wrong. The pro-gun people are right that they have a constitutional right. They’re wrong when they say things like “guns don’t kill people, people kill people” or that restrictive gun laws wouldn’t prevent these mass shootings or gun deaths in general. Both are proved false by the death rates in other countries that have enacted such laws and restricted the number of guns. Those on the opposing side are wrong when they say it shouldn’t be legal to own guns, especially assault weapons. The whole point of the Second Amendment was to make sure Americans could take up weapons of war to fight an oppressive government, not for personal protection, hunting, or recreation. However, they are right that the court could interpret the Second Amendment differently. I haven’t yet mentioned its preliminary language: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, …” A progressive court could very well interpret that to mean that the keeping of arms is guaranteed only to the extent it is part of a militia dedicated to protecting a free state, not individuals. So those assault weapons should be part of a well-regulated militia of a state. The Supreme Court has not adopted that view, but it could, and many constitutional scholars do.

The only practical way America will ever be able to change this is to elect Presidents and Senators who will appoint and confirm multiple Supreme Court justices who have this view.

The Perfect Weapon by David E. Sanger

The Perfect Weapon: How the Cyber Arms Race Set the World AfireThe Perfect Weapon: How the Cyber Arms Race Set the World Afire by David E. Sanger
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Sanger has done an excellent job of reporting, and now accumulating, accounts of cyberwarfare for many years now. History has shown that generals and presidents or rulers the world over have always prepared for the previous war, not the one that confronts them. Today’s war is being fought remotely through networks. Sanger does a good job of explaining how devastating an all-out attack could be. The United States is more vulnerable than any other nation because we are more connected than any other. Just consider what life would be like permanently without electricity or your local water system. Gas stations will have no gas or no way to pump what they have, so even generators won’t work long. The book is not written with an alarmist aim, but it is sobering. It can seem repetitive, but it is informative and readable.

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The Rose Code by Kate Quinn

The Rose CodeThe Rose Code by Kate Quinn
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This absolutely delightful novel of WWII Bletchley Park is marvelously researched and skillfully plotted. I’m a true nut for codes and ciphers, but you don’t have to be to enjoy it. The plot centers around three very different British women, each of whom served at Bletchley but in different capacities: one, a shy spinster-in-the-making with little education but with a cryptographer’s brilliance, the second a tall Amazon whose main asset was the height to operate the top levels of the bombe machine, and the third, a wealthy debutante/linguist who has a dalliance with Prince Phillip.

The relationships among the women change drastically throughout the book and bring human interest to the forefront of the story. It is about the very human and very British victims of the Nazi bombing and threat to invade, not a technical treatise on the Enigma cipher machine. At the same time, the operations of Bletchley Park and its enormous contribution to the Allied victory are richly detailed. I learned more about the nuts and bolts of how it all worked from this novel than I have from reading several dry non-fiction works about it. Don’t let my enthusiasm for that part dissuade you from reading the book as pure fiction. It’s full of love, suspense, violence, humor, and tragedy. It is every bit a war story worth reading.

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Anyone following the news at all is aware of several recent truly awful incidents of mass shooting in America, in particular, one in Uvalde, Texas and one in Buffalo, New York. It’s not clear what motivated the Uvalde shooter, but the Buffalo shooter was quite candid about his motivation. He went to shoot black people because he believed white replacement theory. I’d never heard of it before. It’s clearly racist, false, hateful, and disturbing. But having said that, we should be hesitant to demonize the theory or anyone who believes it. For that matter, the same caution applies in other cases of hate crimes. Let’s look at the causes if we can and remove them.

What many liberals don’t want to recognize are the natural human instincts and demographic reality of a changing America, that are behind such beliefs. Fear of change is a natural instinct. Violent response to change, especially sudden change, has been with us for millennia. The Luddites are a prime example. The haters are correct about one thing: America is becoming more diverse, and that means less white. They’re ridiculous in thinking it’s a Jewish plot and incapable of grasping the reality that migration is a constant throughout history. It’s inevitable, and therefore not a bad thing. We should try to educate people to that fact. Everyone in the world, with the possible exception of a soul in Olduvai Gorge, is descended from immigrants.

Take my block, for example. We live in what is now known as Silicon Valley. When my wife and I moved in in 1981 there were twenty houses and twenty white families, ten on each side. So far as I know, all were born and raised in America. I don’t remember anyone having an accent. On the Fourth of July, one of the neighbors would rent barricades and get a license and we would all come out and barbecue, visit, and get to know each other. American flags would fly. All of them, I think, owned their homes and many were long-time residents. The neighborhood kids would play in our pool. The first change was a German man, an engineer. Then he married a Chinese woman. No one thought a thing about it. Both are still our good friends today. But over the years, things inevitably changed, driven largely by the tech boom. Most of the houses were extensively remodeled or leveled to be replaced by bigger, fancier ones. Next to us now is an Indian family with a nanny. Next to them: an Irishman with an Indian wife. Then two more Indian families, then the German man and on the corner, a Russian. On our left we’ve had a slew of renters from various countries including China and Israel. There’s a Russian family on that end, too. Across the street we have two Chinese families, a Japanese-American, two more Indian families, and a Pakistani family. We’re the only house that flies the flag on any national holiday. The street parties are no longer, although one of the Indian families has attempted to resuscitate them. I believe they are the only ones I called Indian who were born and raised in America. The house directly across from us is owned by an Indian family but is about to be rented to a Mexican family. Many of the immigrant families come and stay for two or three years at a tech firm and move on. Many are renters, not homeowners.

I can understand how people bemoan the loss of cherished traditions they were comfortable with. People feel safe with sameness and distressed at feeling like an outsider.  Some people react with fear and loathing. I miss the shared traditions we used to have, but I also enjoy the diversity of my “new” block. When the house across from us went up for rent, I chatted with two Japanese fellows who were interested. I was hoping they’d rent it so I could practice my poor Japanese. They were able to understand it. Instead, my wife, who speaks Spanish, will be the one to practice her language skills when the Mexicans move in. She regularly walks with a French neighbor and speaks French with her. My wife is the linguist in the family. My neighbors are all good people. I feel fortunate to live in such a wonderful neighborhood. I’m able to accept and welcome change even while missing the old. Not everyone can. I don’t condone any sort of hate crime or racism, and certainly not these awful murders, but demonizing the instinct to make American white again is unproductive. We should be educating, not vilifying.