Writer's Block: So much for counting sheep

What do you like to do when you can't get to sleep?

Reading is good, or watching documentaries. Sometimes I'll open a wikipedia article on a philosophical topic, then thumb through different pages of philosophers, and read the original articles of their work. Also, the Gutenberg Project is a great resource for free online literature of all kinds.

On the 2nd amendment and the right to bear arms

So, a lot of people claim that the 2nd amendment says that only those in a "well-regulated militia" have a right to bear arms... and I'm here to dispel that myth. First of all, the 2nd amendment wording itself is often misinterpreted as only those within a "well-regulated" have a right to bear arms. This assertion is false. The wording of the 2nd amendment is actually 2 clauses within one statement:

1. "A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state,"
2. "the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed."

Their intent was that, because a well-regulated militia (which has a different connotation now than back in the day) is necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people (citizens) to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed. If the people are to lose the right to bear arms, from where shall the militia attain its arms to provide security for said state? Any government official, regardless of title, is still a citizen of a state or district... and therfore, still holds the rights and responsibilities of all citizens of said state/district. Additionally, the definition of militia is defined in the US code:

Title 10- subtitle A- Part 1- Chapter 13-  311

Militia: composition and classes

(a) The militia of the United State consists of all able-bodied males at least 17 years of age and, except as provided in section 313 of title 32, under 45 years of age who are, or who have made a declaration of intention to become, citizens or the United States and of female citizens of the US who are members of the National Guard.

(b) The classes of militia are--
       (1) The organized militia, which consists of the National Guard and the Naval Militia; and
       (2) The unorganized militia, which consists of members of the militia who are not members of the National Guard or the Naval Militia.

Therfore, all able-bodied men between 17 and 45 have the right to assemble in a non-government organized militia, but all "the people" (citizens) have a right to bear arms.

Lincoln the white supremacist fore-shadows civil rights struggle

Here is another history essay, hope you enjoy it! As always, critiques are welcome!

Abraham Lincoln is famous as the American president who strongly opposed African-American slavery. His criticism of Stephen Douglas' position in the 1958 debates asserted Douglas as an apologist for slavery. Despite his principled opposition to slavery's expansion in new states prior to the civil war, known as "free-soil," his policy regarding racial matters was strangely incongruent. In the 1958 debates, Lincoln expounded on his beliefs regarding race, asserting the superiority of "whites" versus "blacks" though later rescinding and asserting civil rights as equitable for both blacks and whites.

In the Charleston debate, Lincoln states that he does not believe in equality between the Races. Lincoln remarks "I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of bringing about in any way... equality of the white and black races... nor... in favor of making voters or jurors of negroes [or] qualifying them to hold office." Lincoln felt that black people were still sub-human. The free-soil party, of which he was a former member, did not want any black immigration to new states and territories to prevent the spread of slavery; however, their position of blacks being inferior was inherently racist. However, Lincoln stated in the same speech "I have never had the least apprehension that I or my friend would marry negroes if there was no law to keep them from it." His position is conflicted in this regard, because though he regards black people as sub-human, he stated earlier that he would not favor "[blacks] to intermarry with white people." He desires white men to have the privilege of marrying black woman but simultaneously implies a double-standard opposition to black men marrying white women or black women proposing to white men. Lincoln establishes himself as a white supremacist by these statements.

At Galesburg, Lincoln sheds a different light on racial equality, stating "Judge Douglas and whoever, like him, teaches that the negro has no share, humble though it may be, in the Declaration of Independence, is going back to the era of our liberty and independence, and, so far as in him lies, muzzling the cannon that thunders its annual joyous return." In this declaration, Lincoln almost reverses his racial position at Charleston, stating that black people have a share in liberty and independence. His position as a white supremacist is slowly crumbling. Lincoln's belief that slavery would end if it was "confined to the South" expands to include a weak appeal to civil rights. It is through this progressive leap that Lincoln won the hearts and minds of abolitionists and other like-minded progressives which included a large portion of the northern and sizable portion of the middle states. Through these actions, Lincoln ensured his 1860 presidential victory.

Though originally self-depicted as a white-supremacist abolitionist, the implied free-soil party position, Lincoln moved beyond his notions regarding racial equality in America. A product of northern abolitionist sentiments, Lincoln hearkened back to the original principles of the Declaration of Independence. He hinted that, if abolition was inevitable, civil rights reform would later follow.

Native genocide in late-19th century America

This is an essay I wrote for American history, enjoy! Its by no means perfect, but I welcome critiques! :)

The major problems of White-Indian relations in the 19th century were quite simple. American settlers violated established US-Native land treaties. US Soldiers murdered a great number of Native Americans and missionaries claimed Native cultures and customs are "barbaric." In this essay I will explain how Chief Red Cloud's Speech, the secretary of the Interior's report to congress, and the Dawes Act forever changed Native American culture in the United States.

Chief Red Cloud's speech reveals a corrupt and horrid treatment of Natives by the American army and missionaries. Making treaties with the federal government, he explains, meant conceding their cultural identity. The tribes were promised compensation and assistance after their lands, horses, hunting grounds, and customs were taken. When they finally received help, it was a pittance. Money alloted to Natives via the "Indian Department" was distributed meagerly, with officers and agents in charge sequestering exorbitant salaries. "Our rations [were] reduced; they said we were lazy. That is false... " Corrupt army officials were not doing their jobs and mistreated the Natives. They lied to superiors in DC in order to bring more troops, who punished and even assassinated dissenters. "I was abused and slandered, to weaken my influence for good." American politicians turned their backs on these atrocities, on the previous treaties they made with peaceful tribes, and on their humanity.

The Secretary of Interior's opinion on Indian Affairs exposes the social and economic reasons for American cultural hegemony over the Native Americans. Starting with language, the Secretary insists that teaching Natives English benefits American traders and industrialists by allowing economic transaction. Furthermore, he claims, only by knowing the English language (providing "perfect protection" to US citizens) can Natives understand the Constitution. He claims English as the "national tongue" despite there being no such law. His appeal to European custom fails to mention the willing multi-linguistic customs apparent in that continent, but pretentiously refuses that Americans' learn Native languages. The secretary claims teaching Natives their own language will only encourage "the mischief and folly of continuing their barbarous practices..." Ironically as secretary of interior of a country that promotes freedom of religious practice, he continually lampoons Native traditions as barbaric and arrogantly claims that US cultural hegemony is liberation. Its clear this politician holds European customs as superior to Native Americans, and he has no problem commiting cultural genocide of these people.

The Dawes Severalty Act alloted 47 million acres of land as farms to individual Native Americans. Nearly twice as much previously held reservation lands were sold to white settlers. Politicians were eager to rid the diplomatic duty of upholding previous legislation concerning Native Reservations while missionaries were hoping to convert the "savages" to a form of protestant Christianity. This forced transformation from pagan-tribal customs to liberal-protestant ideology is a form of cultural hegemony and was recurrent in the 19th century. "Each family received 160 acres, single adults 80 acres, and children 40 acres."  Male natives of the Great Plains knew little about farming, being hunters of buffalo before Americans forced this change. Furthermore, knowing buffalo were the main form of sustenance to Plains Indians, white settlers decided to kill as many buffalo as possible to rid the plains of the "savages." Skinners and riflemen turned the sport into a lucrative business, collecting the animals' hide, tallow, tongue and hump. A decade later the buffalo were nearly extinct. By 1900, only a quarter million Native remained in the US.

This was a planned and intentional genocide of Native populations to make way for America's manifest destiny, culminating in the transcontinental railroad, white settlers taking reservation lands, violation of established law, and the destruction of many distinct cultures. Some public school curricula have tried to cover up this fact by altering textbooks depicting this shameful past of our nation. I highly suggest reading Howard Zinn's "A People's History of the United States" to gain a different perspective on class struggle and cultural evolution in 19th century United States.

Drugs, addiction, and chemical physiology

People ingest poisons to feel better/different, because it temporarily numbs/enhances feelings and alters judgment. But really we look like idiots to all the people who stay sober. However, this type of feeling for a release still exists in these people and manifests in other compulsions; conversely, drug users might criticize such people for fulfilling these compulsions in such a way.

Really its hypocritical to say drug users are detrimental to society... they’re only expressing their compulsion for natural body chemicals in different ways than those who don’t take drugs.

Take the police officer, soldier, or extreme sports participant who gets 'high' off the adrenaline rush.

Take any person who enjoys media (music, TV, movies, art, etc.) that trigger release of chemicals in the brain when said person immerses him/her self emotionally and intellectually into the medium.

Take the jogger, sexually active person, (otherwise known as "players"/"sluts" to those who feel envious) who gets an endorphin rush after heavy physical activity, or the hot pepper/sauce fan for eating spicy foods (capsaicin, the chemical that produces the burning sensation, delivers a sort of "high").

Take the fact that we need sleep to function properly and that different chemicals are released in our brain compared to when we are awake that help 'rejuvenate' us (aside from resting the physical body)

People will feel conflicted about this post, though I'm not trying to justify drug use. It can be very detrimental and dangerous if not kept in check, but drugs are not the ONLY dangerous addictions that exist. The danger of addiction is not intrinsic to the medium, but rather to if/how that person reacts and learns how the medium is changing their biochemistry. It all comes down to the willpower of the person.

Culture, boundaries, paranoia, and strife

So I saw Ron Howard's Angels and Demons around May 2009 (better than Da Vinci Code yes... but good movie? It was alright, I give it 2.5 stars) and it gave me an idea:

For sake of brevity, I will abbreviate the phrase Individual/Institution as I/I

Ok, so one of the foundations (if not THE foundation) of humanity is trust. I say humanity because we are the only recognized species on planet earth (that I know of) that possesses and displays conscience, sentience, sapience, AND empathy. Each individual and by extension institution has several layers, like an onion, on which the I/I will allow other certain I/I to interact. For example, perfect strangers will see usually the outer-most layer while the inner-most layers will be seen by long-known close loved ones and family. The very center piece of this onion is almost never seen, nearly impossible to be seen, because at that very core lies the formula for destruction of the onion as a whole. Assuming humans are creatures with purpose to survive and thrive, few I/I will allow the inner-most layer of the onion to be viewed for fear of destruction. However, there is an interesting paradox in this reality: The purpose of social interaction and association is to peel away these layers and find the very core of each person, because at the core lies their very essence, beauty, purity, passion, humanity. We as people seek to understand each other, because without understanding brings pain and conflict. I've devised a simple slippery-slope type equation that explains this phenomenon:

Misunderstanding leads to fear

Fear leads to distrust

Distrust leads to distancing, banishing, or in extreme circumstances attacking

Misunderstanding: Not knowing the what or why of a I/I... what they want to do, why they want to do it, what they see as their purpose in life, their goals, ambitions, etc., represented as the most inner parts of their onion, sometimes even their core.

Fear: The overwhelming feeling that a I/I will have the power to create unwanted destruction of a person, their personal belongings, their goals/ambitions, or their relationships with other individuals/institutions without perceived provocation, usually arrived via misunderstanding.

Distrust: the inability to trust an I/I based on pre-conceived notions about their motives, out of a result of fear.

Distancing: Consciously adding proximity between one I/I and a target I/I either by ignoring or avoiding their presence.

Banishing: Coercively forcing proximity between one I/I and a target I/I, either by physical exile or conscious and aggressive ostracizing.

Attacking: physical harm/damage inflicted upon on I/I by another I/I.

Now, these are extreme measures that may or may not manifest themselves in overt or covert phenomenae. However, due to the complexity of the world, these do manifest in several different ways, a couple of which are pretty self-explanatory:

Physical: IE violence or refusal to interact via trade/cooperation/competition

Mental: IE willed and perceived non-cognizance of another I/I; refusal to communicate or acknowledge communication

Emotional: IE displaying little human resemblance via emotions that would be recognizable by said I/I; refusal to acknowledge I/I's emotions

As mentioned before, the very inner core of an I/I lies the key to its very destruction, and so little is seen of this inner core by most of the outside world. However, when this core is glimpsed by another I/I the very onion itself will be changed radically, as the onion (I/I) will see the subjective/perceived reaction and will respond in kind in a manner to feel justified in its essence though learn from the other I/I. The course of enlightenment occurs through possession of new knowledge, and seeing an inner-core is a very enlightening experience as rapid exchange of valuable knowledge is shared with the chance that destruction of one inner core is eminent.

The world exists on a very delicate balance if the cores of onions are exposed, and this is why the onions (I/I) have layers... trust is something that is hard to earn because once it is broken, it can mean eminent destruction or radical negative transformation.

Racism and Prejudice

Racism and prejudice are often inter-linked (for good reason) and yet there are tremendous differences.

Racism can influence prejudices some individuals have about others due to their skin pigment and body/face shapes which are arguably different amongst all regions of the world (east Asian/Latino people are shorter than avg; Africans/aborigines/Arabs are taller and thinner than avg; Norwegians/Eskimos are stouter than avg; etc.) and its pretty much a useless assertion of whether certain features make one person "more" human than another because we're all the same species.

However, this isn't to say that that such racial traits (pronounced phenotypes) don't give some people natural physical advantages over others. A person's body type (regardless of race) will accentuate certain natural abilities (power, endurance, balance, coordination, speed, agility, etc.) Does this mean people will discriminate based on these factors depending on their business (sports, computer science, construction, manufacturing, etc)? Hell yeah. Does this mean they are racially profiling? Not necessarily.

Prejudice can be any assertion based on a first-hand judgment of a person, and is usually involved with factors such as race, gender, clothing, job, religion, and even lifestyle. Even body shape can cause prejudice... but the reason people are prone to prejudice are evolutionary reasons-- survival. We are attracted to people like us and who share our values, because humans are intent on avoiding unnecessary conflict (for the most part) because it drains time and resources that could otherwise be used for surviving and even thriving.

This doesn't mean I promote homogeneousity because diversity is evolutionarily advantageous. It encourages the survival of animal species by promoting region-specific populations to develop immunities to local diseases as well as physical attributes that carry advantages against the surrounding geological-tropospheric environment.

"Race" is merely skin pigment and facial/body shape. It doesn't say anything about their character or disposition, so why judge without first getting to know them?
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Writer's Block: When push comes to shove

What can be done to promote tolerance and stop bullying in schools?

There is no easy answer of course, but I think the best way is for parents and counselors to talk with kids who are having trouble in school in these areas, and for grade school-high school teachers to include a quarterly section on tolerance and discussion/debate about how current issues relate to tolerance, what tolerance is, what can and can't be tolerated, etc.. The only way to solve social problems is to have social discourse about them.

Front license plate requirement in WA state

There is an online petition for Washington residents that will go to the Washington state legislature arguing in favor of rescinding the requirement under the RCW 46.16.240 for front plates. I endorse this for the following reasons:

1. Front plates are an ugly eyesore and take away from the aesthetic quality of cars.
2. They create minute drag, which is insignificant for one car, but if you add all extra gas used for every vehicle because of this drag its pretty significant.
3. If the state only had to make half as many plates, that would free up the money for better uses.
4. Plates are made of aluminum, which many people may not know is going up in price.
5. Most cars are traveling fast enough that a person may not be able to make out the numbers and letters of front license plates anyways, plus there are no lights to illuminate front plates so they are useless in the dark and at night.
6. Some cars weren't built to hold front plates, and requiring someone to drill holes in their front bumper to mount it at the cost of potential resale value is troubling.