Thursday, May 23, 2013


About the Ownership and Use of Guns

I'm obsessing again about the Second Amendment, the Supreme Court, and the possession and use of guns. Here's a copy of the Second Amendment:
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.
The first ten amendments were restrictions on the federal government.  The federal government must not prosecute persons for what they say or for what religion they profess.  The federal government must not require any home owner to provide housing for soldiers in time of peace.  The federal government must not harass people with unnecessary searches and procedures.  And so on.  Until after 1868, when the Fourteenth Amendment was adopted, these restrictions did not apply to the States.  The Amendment contains the sentence "No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."  Courts have ruled that this phrase applies the restrictions of the first ten amendment to the States as well as to the federal government.

Leaving aside any additional discussion of constitutional law, I wonder why we should treat gun ownership and use any other way than the way we treat automobile ownership and operation.  I don't drive a car any more.  I'm too old and my eyesight is less than perfect.  However, when I was driving, I had to possess a document called a "title" that showed that I owned the car; I had to buy license plates for operate the car; I had to pay an annual tax on the car; I had to maintain a driver license and have it renewed every four years or so; and I had to have liability insurance to pay for any damage or injury I caused while operating the car.

Is it foolish for me to suppose that the same rules should apply to guns?  A car and a gun are both lethal weapons as well as useful objects with other purposes.  If I were to buy and carry a gun, should I not be required to maintain liability insurance, have a license to operate that must be renewed periodically, pay an annual fee for carrying and using the gun, and maintain a title of ownership?  These are regarded as reasonable restrictions on the ownership and use of automobiles.  Would they be regarded as infringements if applied to guns?  What do you think the Supreme Court would decide?

Friday, May 17, 2013


Will the Los Angeles Times be sold to the Koch Brothers?

The most distressing piece of news I've seen lately is that the Los Angeles Times may be sold to the Koch Brothers.  The Brothers Koch use part of their vast fortune to fund cultural and political activities that they like.  I've noticed that many of my favorite television programs on public television have, as one of their supporters or sponsors, the Koch Brothers.  I enjoy the programs and I do not fault the Brothers Koch for their support.

The Koch Brothers also fund political activity that I oppose.  They support Karl Rove's political machinations in support of ultra-conservative Republican candidates and in trying to discredit or smear promising Democratic candidates.  Part of the money being spent on inflating the Benghazi disaster as a means of discrediting the potential 2016 Presidential candidacy of Hillary R. Clinton comes from the Koch Brothers.  I happen to believe that Mrs. Clinton would be a fine President and I hope she gets the chance to prove it.

I can't believe that the Koch Brothers view the LA Times as something like a PBS program on the life of the gray whale.  I can and do believe that they view it as a propaganda tool.  The Times at present has a rather "liberal" or progressive editorial policy.  A Koch ownership would change that.  The Times would become an echo of Fox News.

In my experience as a subscriber to the newspaper, the Los Angeles Times has covered and published important news stories that other important newspapers, such as The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal have not.  An example was my puzzlement in 1961 when the new President, John Kennedy, said he had known nothing about the training camps in Guatemala where Cuban exiles had trained in preparation of the landing on Cuba to depose Fidel Castro.  I was puzzled because I had been reading about them for months in the LA Times  and The Nation magazine.  I couldn't understand how Kennedy had missed these stories until I learned that the only two publications that printed the stories were the LA Times and The Nation.  Kennedy obviously didn't read either one.

I know that the free market in buying and selling newspapers may well determine that the Brothers Koch will acquire ownership and control of my newspaper.  The only way to stop the transaction is for someone to offer a higher price than the Koch Brothers are willing to pay.  The present owner of the LA Times is the owner of the Chicago Tribune.  He has no interest in news.  He bought the Tribune company to make money.  His approach was to apply the same discipline that works on many large corporations: make them leaner and more efficient and get rid of those activities that do not bring in any revenue.  That is, boost advertising and reduce news gathering staff.  Unfortunately, this discipline does not produce a profitable newspaper, but rather a dying one.  Without news stories, potential readers have no interest in buying and reading the newspaper.  As a result, advertisers have no interest in paying for ads in the paper.

Successful newspapers are operated by managers who are quite happy to accept the rate of return on investment that a newspaper provides,.  Many successful newspapers are owned by families that take pride in them.  The Los Angeles Times was successful for many years under the ownership of the Otis and Chandler families in Los Angeles.  One day the family decided that they were no longer interested in owning a newspaper.  The paper was sold to the Chicago Tribune.  This was a rather unlikely move, in that the Times had more readers than the Tribune.  Subsequently the parent company of these newspapers declared bankruptcy.  The present owner is interested in selling off the assets of the company for whatever he can get.  If the Brothers Koch make a suitable offer, the paper is theirs to do with what they will.  I wish I could stop it, but I'm not billionaire.

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