Gun Control

We saw yesterday the House of Representatives, with heads bowed in prayer, remembering and praying for the people killed and injured in the Aurora, Colorado shootings. This is a familiar sight; we saw the same in the wake of the Gaby Gifford shootings. Everyone weeps and remembers. There are the usual calls and cries for gun control. Yet nothing is done. For one the politicians find it politically inexpedient to pursue such a track. And the people themselves are less than enthusiastic about gun control. 

I remember much to my chagrin in 2008 when the Supreme Court ruled that the preparatory clause of the  Second Amendment that begins, “A well regulated militia…” does not limit  or amplify the clause that comes after, ” the right of the people to bear arms.” Despite the fact that I am a strict constructionist, I disagreed with that. When the founders wrote the Second Amendment, the states maintained militias, which were called up on a moment’s notice. It was required of an able bodied man to keep a firearm on hand to be used in the event of such a call up. There were no armories or state militia training facilities where arms were kept.
The anti-Federalists were also concerned that a check and balance was needed against the Federal government to prevent it from declaring martial law and/or war upon the states. So the citizen was given the right to bear arms in conjunction with participation in a well regulated state militia. Today there are no militias, and therefore no need for an able bodied man to keep a firearm at home. And it is highly unlikely the Federal government will declare martial law or attack any of the states. Well, maybe California.

But by de-linking the preparatory clause from the rest of the amendment, the Supreme Court’s decision let the “right of the people” clause to stand alone, thus allowing citizens to acquire and possess as many firearms of any type that they choose. This is a dangerous and intolerable situation. If the Congress and the American people are serious about gun control I believe a two pronged approach needs to be taken to remedy the situation. One, efforts must be undertaken in the Congress to repeal the amendment and simultaneously in the states to ensure that strong gun control laws are put in place. This will require a long, arduous state by state campaign. Perhaps a Bill Gates or George Soros would step up to fund a a 50 state effort to do this? And, dear reader, are you up to it?


Eddie Mercury is concerned. His ruling planet is in retrograde since July 14th and will remain in this state until August 3rd. This does not bode well as everything tends to slow down and sometimes stall during this periord which occurs 3-4 times each year. What does retrograde mean? Well, think of the train in which you are riding passes a slower train. Looking out the window it appears that the other train has stopped or is going much slower. In this case, as with the stopped or slower train, Mercury does not physically slow down, it just manifests an apparent slowdown relative to Earth’s motion. There is good news however! Today Mercury is at aphelion (or apogee as it is incorrectly called). Which means that it is the closest to the earth that it can be. It has flung itself out on its eliptical orbit miles from the Sun, and with it brings positive energy and force. Will that action counteract  its retrograde properties? I believe so, although many in the astrological and astronomical communities disagree wth me. 

Needless to say Eddie does not need slowdown or stalling in his life right now. His life is moving too fast. When he was a little kid it seemed to move so slowly; not any more. He remembers the grammar school days when he and his pal Hocky would start out on Saturday morning at 8:00 and rejoice that they had 9 whole hours to play before the street lights went on and they had to be home. And that 9 hours took a long  time to pass and they had it crammed full of wondrous activities: catching mice, snakes and parakeets, building wagons, race cars and rockets, fishing, finding meteorites. But today Eddie says “Where has the time gone?” Which is why he likes Mercury. It is the planet that circles the Sun in the shortest period of time. While its day is equivalent to 59 Earth days, it takes only 88 days to orbit the Sun, its year. Mercury chases the sun. It wants to outrun the Sun, but of course it can’t. It gives it its best shot. Which is why Eddie loves it so much. Besides being his ruling planet (Eddie is a Gemini), it inspires him.  And thus the discussion about retrograde, aphelion, and the Sun. But the most exciting event of all is Mercury Transit, when the planet actually comes between Earth and the Sun. More about that later. In 2016.


The economy is in  the tank. Most economists seem to agree that second-quarter 2012 growth will come in lower than first-quarter’s 1.9%. The recession officially ended in the middle of 2011 and most economic indicators have risen since then but over the past year they all  have flattened out. There are many reasons for this. While housing starts have grown, over $7 trillion of housing market value was wiped out in the months leading up to the recession and today over 11  million Americans owe more on their houses than they are worth. Then,  Americans used rising home equity to fix up their homes, pay kid’s college tuitions and buy things for themselves; those days are far gone. Industrial production and investment is flat, and retail sales are declining. Unemployment is stagnant at 8.2%. Mr. Bernanke and the Fed plan to do something to increase liquidity (add more money to the economy) but so far the plans have not been made known.

Why am I saying all this? Why, because no where are the banks to be seen. Do you remember the bank bailout following the collapse of Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers? Seems such a long time ago. Do you remember all the talk of investigating and seeking accountability for all the banks’ wrong doing? What happened? Nothing. And since then the banks have all become profitable, and the executives are once again receiving their bonuses. Just like the old days. How did the banks become profitable so quickly? The banks’ goals and objectives differed slightly from ours and the government’s. As they saw it, their priority was to get out from under the government’s thumb. So they needed to get profitable as quickly as possible and repay the government’s loans. This they did in record time. How did they do this you ask? Very simply: they traded. They did not lend to homebuilders and owners, or to small businesses, or to start up companies. No they traded for their own account government bonds. Instead of trading the sham real estate products that go themselves into trouble  in the first place, they went into, what is known in the biz as the bond trade carry business. Prior to 1996 when banks were deregulated they had three functions: provide deposits (savings and checking), make loans and provide letters of credit for foreign transactions. Now they can do almost anything they want, including selling stocks and insurance. And since 1996 there have been many scandals that have touched on all these areas.

Lending creates jobs and helps grow the economy. The government made capital available to the banks; the banks did not make it available to the American people and businesses. I fear the Fed will again make capital easily available to the banks and the banks will ignore their basic responsibility and continue trading at the sacrifice of investing in America. And most Americans will not say a word. They will not pay attention. They will remain asleep. But what about the administration and both houses of Congress? Why are they silent about this? Could it be in that in the race to raise $2 billion both political parties are loathe to rock the boat? To not bite the hands that feed them?

Heroes (Cont’d)

Van T. Barfoot was a remarkable man.

In  December 2009, at the age of 90, he was living in the Sussex Square community of Henrico, VA, near Richmond the capitol. Every morning he raised the American flag on a flag pole in front of his home and lowered it in the evening, meticulously folding it in the three-corner manner. The Owner’s Association  objected to the flag pole and ordered him to remove it by a certain deadline, and face legal costs and other fines if he did not.  The Association claimed that the flag pole was aesthetically undesirable.  So he decided to fight the order, and with his daughter’s help and the assistance of local and national media, he won the fight. In the interim, in a modest show of defiance, he flew the flag on Veteran’s Day until the order was removed. “There’s never been a day in my life or a place I’ve lived in my life that you couldn’t fly the American flag.”

Mr. Barfoot won other fights in his life. I am not sure the Owner’s Association knew this when they took him on.  In 1940, at the age of 21, he enlisted in the Army. Assigned to the 157th Infantry Regiment, he was shipped off to Italy at the height of the war. He made the Anzio, Sicily and Salerno landings and saw some of the fiercest fighting of the Italian campaign. On May 23, 1944 Mr. Barfoot found himself in the town of Carano, northeast of Verona. By this time he was a Sergeant and squad leader.  His company came up against fortified German positions. Alone, he advanced through a minefield, took out two machine gun nests with a hand grenade and his rifle, killing eight men and capturing seventeen others. On the same day, he disabled a German tank with a bazooka and destroyed an artillery piece. For his actions that day Mr. Barfoot was awarded the Medal of Honor. He went on to become a Colonel and served in the Korean and Viet Nam wars, receiving a Purple Heart in addition to numerous other awards.

Van T. Barfoot was a hero.  From all accounts he led a quiet life after the war. In his photographs taken in later life he appears as a kindly old gentleman. But make no mistake he was a hero who led a heroic life. He showed  us how we can be heroic in our daily lives, by just being responsible and doing our duty no matter whether it is for our selves, our families, and our friends. And even in the simple task of flying our flag. Van T. Barefoot died on March 2, 2012 at the age of 92.


” In Flanders fields where the poppies grow, the crosses stand row upon row.” Thank you Lt. Col. John McCrae.  Memorial Day is celebrated on the last Monday of May. It is supposed to be a day of remembering the men and women who died while serving in the Armed Forces. The holiday originated after the Civil War to remember and honor the war dead on both sides.  Memorial Day was originally a floating holiday since it was fixed on the 31st of the month. Today it anchors a long weekend filled with shopping, picnics, barbecues, beach trips, etc. and is a warmup for the next 3-day weekend at July 4th.  Sadly the day’s purpose, to remember the nations’s war dead, has been forgotten by many. We do not like to talk about war dead. They are our “fallen heroes,” and are remembered in the same sentence that we ‘remember the troops,” and those serving “in harms way.” We like to soften things. Anything that bothers us or is inconvenient we soften especially when it comes to something that is inconvenient and distasteful, like war.
It seems that everyone today is a hero. In our culture and society , beginning in primary school, there are no losers. The “self esteem” generation of parents and educators make sure of that. Everyone gets a trophy, everyone wins. Therefore every returning serviceperson is a hero. Especially the World War II generation. As we are losing so many every day we regard them all as a heroes. Talk to anyone of these guys and gals and they will tell you they are not heroes. A Medal of Honor recipient is a hero; most veterans are not. They were just doing their job like everyone else and are lucky to have survived. Winston Churchill said it best, “There is
nothing so exhilarating than to be shot at without result.” The alternative is not so pleasant or exhilarating. When one of our service people dies he or she suffers a horrible, painful death which cries out to be remembered and commemorated on Memorial Day. Visit one on the 131 national cemeteries in the U.S. or one or the 24 national cemeteries on foreign soil and you will get the idea. Or go to Dover Air Base in Dover, DE and watch the large USAF cargo planes bringing the dead home from Afghanistan and Iraq in the middle of the night. These young men and women do not “fall” in “harms way;” they die in a war.
But these thoughts bother us; they are inconvenient. They make us feel “uncomfortable” and interfere with our summer warmup weekend.


We are half way through the season. How do we know that? Well, for one, we have just enjoyed the All Star Break, a four day period of rest, relaxation, and fun this year in Kansas City. Over 4 days we watched our favorite players in the Home Run Derby and then the American and National League stars square off against each other in the annual contest.
Baseball is a magical game. It is the most difficult of all sports. It is a game of failure. The champion batter at the end of the season will have succeeded getting on base only about one third of the times he went up to bat. The champion team will have won only about 6 games out of 10. Baseball is a game of “decades and years.” and in the words of the poet Donald Hall the game is “fathers playing catch with sons.” It is impossible to master the game; it is far too complicated, physically, mentally, emotionally and spitirually. The game begins at an early age, boys playing catch with their fathers in backyards and vacant lots, and continues through a long process of learning through Little Leagues, college leagues, semi-pro leagues and finally if a player is lucky he gets picked up by a Major League team. But it really only begins there. He has to look forward to spending time in the major league club’s instructional league, A, AA, AAA leagues and then if he is ready and can play the game on the major league level he gets called up to the “Bigs” or the “Show” as the major leagues are callled. During all this time the young player is learning the game. He has been learning the game since he was 6 years old. He will keep learning it until he dies. In the words of the great Charles Dillon (Casey) Stengel, “Now there are only three things that can happen in baseball: you can win, you can lose, or it can rain.” And in those 3 outcomes is a lifetime of learning. Johnny Pesky the famed Boston Red Sox outfielder was a spring training instructor for the Sox until he died last year at 92. Phil Rizzutto, “The Scooter”, famed New York Yankee shortsop, taught the arcane art of bunting well into his 80’s. And on every dugout bench sits the bench coach to give advice, counsel, and consolation to the manager usually 20 or so years his junior. No other sport works this way. It is still “fahters playing catch with sons.”

Stuff That Doesn’t Make Any Sense

For years Boeing, that great aircfrat maufacturing company, has been complaining about its arch-rival and nemisis Air Bus Industie, the European aircraft manufacturer.  Yes, the same Boeing that shipped over 1,000 engineering jobs to Moscow. Read Moscow Russia, not Idaho. Well guess what? Air Bus Industrie just announced that they will build an aircraft manufacturing plant, guess where? That’s right you got it, Mobile, Alabama, at a cost of almost $1B. And the plant will employ more than 1,000 workers. Score a major coup for the State of Alabama. Airbus has 200 people already working there so they got to know the place. So much for Globalization and Boeing’s whining.