are you a socialist or a communist?

This is a super easy question to answer. If you’re a Communist, you took power in a vicious, unrelenting revolution that saw the elimination of everybody in your society who was holding the proletariat down. The rich and powerful, the educated elite, the aristocracy – all of them – DEAD. If you were particularly enlightened, you might have given them the chance to run. Certainly if they were THAT smart, they’d have left when they saw the writing on the wall.

If you advocate a widespread revolution – and I’m not just talking philosophical here – to eliminate the bourgeoisie, then you’re a Communist. Otherwise, you’re just a Socialist – a weak, afraid-to-commit Socialist, whether you live in a democracy or not.

Quotes from Karl Marx get thrown around a lot when people start talking about Socialism, but nearly everybody that does this messes it up in a way that’s reminiscent of quoting the Bible (or the Koran) to suit a specific purpose.

Marx saw Socialism not as an end, but as a necessary stepping-stone between Capitalism and Communism. Socialism is a pre-Communist state, one in which the people get used to the idea of little private ownership (or control) of the means of production.

There are some commonalities between the two systems, no doubt, but do not make the mistake of thinking Socialists are committed Marxists, because they are not. They *wish* they were Marxists, because the people controlling a Socialist society still fear the power of the people, which is why they stopped at Socialism.

In a Socialist society, then, most of the means of production are owned and controlled by the state, but among the people themselves, social classes still exist. This is, according to Marx, a lesser form of existence than true Communism.

Marx’s ideal system – Communism – is a utopia. It is a classless, stateless society in which every person contributes as much as they can according to their talents and abilities, and in which every person takes only what they need to serve their basic human needs. For example, if somebody is great at being a doctor, then they’re a doctor and they do doctor stuff all day long. If somebody is great at being a truck battery assembler, then that’s what they do all day long. Nobody needs money, nobody worries about health insurance and nobody is homeless.

Kind of like Star Trek, when you think about it, but that’s a discussion for another time.

As a utopian ideal, though, Communism is not sustainable. First, it is predicated on the idea that there are no social class distinctions. However, humans will always separate themselves into US and THEM groups. We can’t help it. Communism fails simply because we divide ourselves into groups, and we always think our group is better than the other groups.

Second, Communism is built on the idea that everybody owns everything and nobody has to struggle to get ahead. Won’t work. Humans are vain and greedy and we have to get ahead – of our neighbor, of our parents, of our high school rivals. It’s an almost irresistible urge we call “ambition,” and we frown upon those among us without any.

Third, and again because PEOPLE!, there is no motivation to excel. Sure, in any society there will always be people who want to be the best at something and are. Stephen Hawking. Eric Clapton. Wilt Chamberlain. Marie Curie. Gordie Howe. Aretha Franklin. People like that will not be happy unless they are at the peak of their abilities, no whether what those abilities are. They become society’s heroes, its role models, the pinnacles of achievement. Yet most of the rest of us are schlubs. We will only ever do just enough to satisfy the person ticking off boxes on a checklist.

Then we will take absolutely as much as we can get away with.

This is why Communist societies – as we have formed them since the emergence of Marx’s theories – always have over-the-top repressive (authoritarian) governments. Without the boot-to-the-neck and stiff punishments doled out by Communist governments, most people will give little and take much. The only reason the folks running the truck battery factory work as hard as they do is because they know if they don’t produce the 100,000 truck batteries this quarter that the government says they have to produce, somebody will get dragged out of his office, stood up in front of the whole town, and shot in the back of the head. For motivation.

A Socialist government tries to create a classless society in which the means of production are largely owned (and certainly entirely controlled) by the government. It expects everybody to pitch in (often in the form of paying high taxes) and similarly expects everybody to only take out what they truly need. Again, with people being people, most folks will only contribute the bare minimum, yet try to extract the maximum they possibly can. Without the iron boot of the Communist government to punish these people, Socialism is doomed to failure in the long run.

Socialism won’t work forever – not because it’s not a wonderful, utopian idea, but because most people are self-involved, self-interested assholes who will do as little as possible but take as much as they can. There will always be people in society that give the maximum and take the minimum, but these folks make up a tiny proportion of any given society and simply do not pervade the population deeply enough to sustain a socialist system indefinitely.

To add insult to injury, both Socialism and Communism ask people to pretend they’re all equal to each other – and we know THAT will never happen. Ever. Such a thing requires that humanity evolve into a higher plane of social existence.

Socialism is a great idea. Communism is an even better one. The involvement of people, however, dooms each to the great dustbin of human ideas. No utopian ideal is achievable, simply because human nature makes a utopia impossible to attain.

 

Garland v. 2nd Amendment

On 16 Mar 2016, President Obama adhered to his duties as laid out by the US Constitution and nominated Merrick Garland to fill the US Supreme Court seat vacated when Justice Antonin Scalia died.

Merrick Garland is currently the Chief Judge of the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, a court which is often the last stop for a case before it heads to the US Supreme Court.

A lot of politicizing is running back and forth from both Democrats and Republicans, but the fact is that Obama is obligated by the US Constitution to nominate a new justice.  As it states in the Constitution, Article II Section 2:

“The President  … shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint … Judges of the Supreme Court.”

A lot of the arguing and rhetoric being spewed by both sides involves the argument that several Republicans have laid down that a new justice should not be appointed until after the November 2016 election, at which time “the people” shall “have their voices heard.”  This post does not address that aspect of the process – that is Democrats (who have taken that position in the past) and Republicans throwing their dicks on the table for a measuring contest.

What this post is about, though, is the near-immediate dismissal of Garland as a valid selection for the US Supreme Court because he is “an enemy of the 2nd Amendment.” (Though it does not state so, an article from the National Review is being credited as using that term in re: Garland; the article is at http://www.nationalreview.com/bench-memos/432716/moderates-are-not-so-moderate-merrick-garland)

To expand on that, let’s look at the two court cases being touted as the reasons for declaring Garland an enemy of the 2nd Amendment. The first is NRA v. Reno, a 2000 SCOTUS case; the second is Parker v. DC, a DC Circuit US Court of Appeals case.

NRA v. Reno
This case has nothing to do with the 2nd Amendment and applies explicitly to the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act. Here is the relevant passage from the ruling:

“According to the NRA, the Brady Act requires immediate destruction of personal information relating to lawful firearm transactions.   The Attorney General interprets the statute differently, arguing that temporary retention of data for at most six months is necessary to audit the background check system to ensure both its accuracy and privacy.   Finding nothing in the Brady Act that unambiguously prohibits temporary retention of information about lawful transactions, and finding that the Attorney General has reasonably interpreted the Act to permit retention of such information for audit purposes, we affirm the district court’s dismissal of the complaint.”

You can read the entire ruling at http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-dc-circuit/1434078.html

Garland’s participation in this case was as one member of the three-judge panel that makes up the DC Circuit US Court of Appeals. They decided this case on 11 July 2000, ruling in favor of Janet Reno. This ruling affected the 2nd Amendment in no way, but allowed the AG to retain NICS (aka “background search”) records generated by people buying guns for six months to determine if the records were being used for fraud or identity theft.

Parker v. DC
This case actually does have something to do with the 2nd Amendment. You have probably heard of its Supreme Court cousin, Heller v. DC, and it’s that SCOTUS case that publications like the National Review are assuming Garland will work tirelessly to overturn (and I quote: “he would vote to reverse one of Justice Scalia’s most important opinions, D.C. vs. Heller.”)

At issue was the District of Columbia’s outright ban on handgun ownership. Here is the relevant passage from the ruling:

“Appellants contest the district court’s dismissal of their complaint alleging that the District of Columbia’s gun control laws violate their Second Amendment rights. The court held that 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”) does not bestow any rights on individuals except, perhaps, when an individual serves in an organized militia such as today’s National Guard. We reverse.”

You can access a PDF of the entire ruling at: https://pacer.cadc.uscourts.gov/docs/common/opinions/200703/04-7041a.pdf

The judges involved in the case were called Henderson, Griffith and Silberman. Garland was not involved in the ruling. (You know who was, though? Ted Cruz, who was the Solicitor General of Texas at the time – March 2007.) The votes for reversal – effectively extending the right to own handguns to residents of DC – came from Silberman and Griffith. The “anti-2nd amendment” vote came from Henderson.

What Garland *was* involved with was a move to get the case re-heard by all the judges in the DC Circuit US Court of Appeals, rather than just the three-judge panel that heard it the firs time. There are currently 17 judges sitting on that court, including Thomas Griffith (who heard this case), Merrick Garland (currently chief judge), Sri Srinivasan (another possible Supreme Court nominee) and Laurence Silberman (who heard this case).

Until he gets his hearing in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Garland is the only person who knows where Garland stands on the 2nd Amendment.  At this point, the only hard evidence anybody has of anything related to gun ownership from Merrick Garland is contained in these two cases, only one of which actually has anything to do with the 2nd Amendment – and on which Judge Garland did not rule.

Fist