Rep. Russell Ott, pro-life Democrat

Russell Ott statement

Russell Ott’s statement about his vote on S.1.

As we spoke on the phone today, I kept hearing bubbling, crackling sounds in the background, like something wildly boiling over. I asked Rep. Russell Ott what was going on.

Oh, he said, that was people applauding during the signing ceremony for S.1, the abortion bill that The State describes thusly:

S. 1 requires doctors to perform an ultrasound to detect a heartbeat before performing any abortion. If a heartbeat is detected, the doctor would be prohibited from performing an abortion unless the pregnancy threatens the woman’s life or could cause severe harm to her health, if the fetus has a detectable anomaly that is not compatible with life or in cases where the woman reports being the victim of rape or incest. If a woman reports to a doctor that she was the victim of rape or incest, the doctor would then be required to report the crime to the local sheriff with or without the woman’s consent.,,,

Apparently, Henry just couldn’t wait to sign that one.

As it happened, this was what I had called to talk to Russell about. He thought he had found a quiet place where we could speak. But for him, there is no quiet place on this issue.

Russell Ott

Russell Ott

Back in December when he was re-elected as assistant leader of the Democrats in the South Carolina House, he had looked forward to working on sentencing reform, hate crime legislation, rolling out the COVID-19 vaccine, and trying to get relief and support to small business owners.

“At the end of the day, that is what it means to be a Democrat,” he told the Times and Democrat. “To look out for the working families, to make sure they have everything they need, and our support as much as possible.”

Some days, it’s easier to be a Democrat than at other times.

It turns out that once the legislative session began, the party that actually runs the State House had another priority in mind, one that led Rep. Ott to put this on Twitter yesterday:

That led to a lot of warm responses from his fellow Democrats, such as “Disappointed is a gross understatement,” and “Yeah you should definitely be primaried. Shame on you.” Someone called him “American Taliban.” So far, there are 25 replies. Of course, that’s not so bad when you consider that at the same time, there are 131 “likes.”


So I reached out to him in a text, noting that the reasons he cites as to why he’s a Democrat are the reasons I support Dems such as James Smith and Joe Biden. But abortion is one of the main things that keeps me from being a Democrat myself, so I could sympathize. So I wanted to chat with him before putting his statement on the blog.

He called and we spoke. I noted that it seemed he was having a rough day. He said he’d “probably had some easier ones, but it’s OK.”

He’s not bothered too much by the Twitter stuff. “Twitter’s not even real, Brad. You know that.”

“Come into my district,” he said. “People are not upset.”

Not that he dismisses the concerns of those commenting on Twitter. He respects their views. He respects everyone’s views, as he indicated in his statement. Having gotten into the habit in recent days, he asked me what mine were. I told him that might take years to relate (as y’all know), but I got to talking a bit about some of my problems talking with people who agree with me on so many things, but not on this. And while I’m not a party member, I touched on the problems I’ve had as a Catholic, in light of the fact that about half of my coreligionists voted for Trump over this very issue — setting aside everything else it meant to be pro-life.

He’s a Methodist, but he seemed to understand. Similarly, he wishes some of his more critical fellow Democrats would look at the big picture of what it means, and has long meant, to be a Democrat.

“I put up the amendment that led to the flag coming down” at the critical moment of the House debate in 2015. He’s fought for public education. He’s pushed for expanding Medicaid. “And I certainly have been applauded for that.” But for the moment, at least on Twitter, “That was all gone.”

“But that’s OK,” he says. “There’s a lot of people out there that acknowledge like I do that this is not an easy issue.”

A lot of Democrats maintain their position is not only the right one, but not to be questioned. Ditto among the Republicans, as we know. “Let’s not ignore the hypocrisy on the other side,” he emphasized. As he said in his statement, he’s a Democrat because he cares about babies after they’re born, as well.

“I’m the representative of people who sent me here to … address each issue, as they come,” he said. “I know that the opinion that I hold is not unique. A lot of people that vote Democrat a majority of the time agree with this.”

But that’s because they’re not the professional Democrats, the ones on Twitter. While many of those are fine people, ones Russell gets along with most of the time, sometimes they can be kind of like the Republicans: “Both parties weaponize this issue, and I just reject that position… If that’s the way that person feels, then fine… But if you believe that’s a human being, it’s a baby…” You have to do what you think is right.

“We shouldn’t have a litmus test in this party.”

Russell isn’t alone, of course. I just reached out to him because of the statement he had posted. Democratic Rep. Lucas Atkinson voted with him. I should probably reach out to him, too. I don’t know him and he doesn’t know me, but I found out the other day that we’re related. He’s… hang on; let me go look at the tree… my 3rd cousin, once removed.

But they’re a small group.

There’s nothing new about pro-life Democrats in South Carolina, though. Remember Vincent Sheehen, Democratic nominee for governor in 2010 and 2014? Pro-life Catholic, and one of the smartest and best people in the Senate? Yeah, he got dumped by the voters for the sin of being a Democrat — fer bein’ one a them libruls, you know.

When I brought up Sheheen, Russell pointed out how close Vincent came to being governor in 2010. He said it seems like more Democrats in the state would look and notice how well a pro-life Democrat did. And also note the fact that Jaime Harrison ran as a conventional, pro-choice Democrat, and was easily defeated in spite of having raised more money than any Senate candidate in American history.

But never mind political calculation. Russell voted the way he thought was right. And he expects others to do the same, whether they agree with him or not…

145 thoughts on “Rep. Russell Ott, pro-life Democrat

  1. Ken

    I can respect the view of those who reject abortion for themselves.
    I do not respect the view of those who want to make it illegal for everyone.

    1. Barry


      As I’ve said many times, politicians don’t get to make this decision for my daughter. Sorry.

      And they still won’t as I am able to go anywhere in the world for such a choice.

      Hopefully the courts will do their job, and quickly.

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          Yeah, but it’s not about that, for either side. Republicans are making people go on the record on an issue they see as benefiting them.

          Democrats are outraged at the idea of a legislative body taking a stand against abortion.

          Oh, one more point on the Republicans… I don’t mean to be entirely dismissive of their sincerity. I think some of them truly see this as a way of testing the deal they made with the devil over the past four years. They want a bill to go before the Supreme Court, with those three new justices that Trump gave them. The sincere ones who truly believe in the issue sold their souls, forgiving anything and everything if Trump would just deliver on the deal.

          And of course, to elaborate on the Democrats, part of the reason they’re so angry is that they’re worried about those three new justices.

          When I think about these kinds of factors, I keep going, And what happens next… and what happens after that…?

          Let’s say the sincere pro-life people in the GOP get their wish: Roe goes away.

          If that happens, abortion goes back to where it should have been all along: state legislatures.

          That, of course, is when things really get bitter. The next fight over an abortion bill in the Legislature won’t just be about striking poses. It will be about making real law. Things will get uglier….

          1. Barry

            “That, of course, is when things really get bitter. The next fight over an abortion bill in the Legislature won’t just be about striking poses. It will be about making real law. Things will get uglier….”

            Of course. It will create a whole new law enforcement effort to punish women who seek out medical services out of state.

            If South Carolina bans abortion, but Georgia doesn’t, lots of Augusta doctors will be doing some business.

            Of course folks like Ken and maybe even me will be raising money to help women travel to those cities to seek medical services they choose.

      1. Ken

        If it were banned, I for one would do whatever I could to see that demand reached supply.
        So extremists can ban it if they like, but they won’t succeed in getting rid of it.

        1. Barry

          Yes, of course. The demand will always be there – and so will people willing to solve the demand. Nothing new there.

          and what about these republicans letting the person who requests the “murder” off without going to jail? Soft on crime I guess.

            1. Barry

              oh- no doubt there are many republicans out there- like Rep Hill from Anderson that would put a woman in jail for 60 years for an abortion.

              No doubt about it.

              Again – look at the hypocrisy. They want to put the doctor in jail for life for murder, but they don’t want to put the person who hires the doctor in jail.

  2. bud

    LOL. For someone who professes to not like discussing abortion you manage to bring it up aaaaalot. I know it was a big state story but really it was completely pointless. Won’t reduce abortions at all.

    1. Barry

      It likely will reduce some abortions for the poorest people- or make the abortion they choose a very dangerous one. For others, it won’t impact them at all.

      It will probably drive more sales of the morning after pill though or mifepristone and misoprostol.

      People with means $$$- will always have many choices.

        1. Barry

          I mean do these folks really believe that someone like Ted Cruz can’t hop on a plane and travel anywhere in the world if one day one of his children make such a choice?

          of course.

          It’s the pregnant 15 year old that was sexually assaulted whose is dirt poor who will not have any choice and be faced with a life sentence of despair. But our society never has cared much about them anyway. So nothing new there.

          For some of these legislators (not all), this is a power play of men “putting” or “reminding” women in their place.

  3. Mark Stewart

    So here’s the thing: Then what? What’s the plan? Because this is a loose/loose issue for those who push this “right to life” pap. The only reason the GOP pushes this issue is because its contentious. So generally they loose, which gives them energy to try pushing again. But if they actually succeed? Then, they will be swept from office as the majority do not want this, not even in SC. Lots of people will say they support life, but if this were the law of the state, they would not.

    Either way it is just repugnant pandering. Frankly, it is just another issue that echoes of slavery and slave-holding. It’s something white Southerners just can’t bring themselves to confront, like the aversion to public education and the push for “limited government,” another example of how these are just devolved antebellum Planter class projections.

    Fools and their errands…

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      “This ‘right to life’ pap…”

      Mark, one of the remarkable and awful things about this issue is the way it stirs people up, and gets them to say things they normally wouldn’t.

      Why on Earth would you dismiss someone’s sincere desire to let a baby live as “this ‘right to life’ pap” — and then move on to talk about, of all things, slavery? Do you really, truly think that’s what motivates Russell Ott on this issue — some sort of desire to drag South Carolina back to 1860?

      I never dismiss the sincerity of my many friends on the “pro-choice” side (or if I have, I don’t recall it). I believe they really mean it. Their arguments are terribly weak and tortured, but I think they’re doing their very best to justify something that really can’t be justified. (This is an issue that stretches the human capacity for rationalization to its limits.) But I trust their reasons for doing it.

      You’re a reasonable guy, and a fair one. What makes you so dismissive of those who disagree with you?

      1. bud

        Sorry Brad but Mark is 100% correct. This is entirely “right to life pap”. It should be and currently is a national right to prevent the state from interfering with a woman’s right to choose. I’ve lost all respect for the so called “right to life” movement. The proof is that many so called right to lifers adamantly refuse to support measures that would actually reduce the number of abortions. It would be akin to a highway safety advocate pushing for laws making it more difficult to use safety belts.

      2. Ken

        “Their arguments are terribly weak and tortured….”

        I suppose that’s how it looks to those who would ban abortion, who for their part opt for simple minded, obtuse moralizing.

      3. Mark Stewart

        So, pap. My reference here was to the political theater of it. I respect other peoples’ convictions, though there are times when I will disagree. Other people also have the right to disagree with me; and in fact do it all the time. The funny thing is that I don’t actually want them to see things through my way of thinking, though I do hope that some of what I say opens other ways of thinking within other people such they their own views evolve – but as they, not I, want. Yes, I wish people would see the dichotomous folly of Life Begins at Conception. At the same time, I can also see that the idea that life begins at birth could be an objectionable perspective for others. I just wish we could all agree that this issue has a reasonable gray area where the only sustainable answer is compromise, social, political and legal compromise. Life Begins at Conception is not a nuanced, negotiated position. It is one of absolutism – extremism really. I do have a problem with that.

        You may find this as extreme picture, but bear with me. What if we said that a child isn’t a person until they reach the age of majority? Seems laughably far-fetched, no? And yet, the problem is that this is how the state of SC, and our culture in general, treats kids. Under the law, kids are chattel of their parents, or, if not, wards of the state. DSS, DJJ, school attendance laws, etc. are all predicated on the fact that children have no individual rights. This is a true statement, not hyperbole. Therefore, can you see how someone could look at the situation where people proclaim that the unborn have more rights than the born child to be a discordant argument?

        Personally, my perspective is that the process of birth separates a baby from its mother and “births” a person with, now, their own individual rights. However, I can also appreciate that some argue that some sort of viability age exists for a fetus such that it could, within a NICU environment at exponential cost, develop to “normal” maturity if given the chance. This age is something over 7 months. People have “saved” babies younger; though they will never have a normal, healthy life at less than 6 months from conception. That’s not only medical science, it is the developmental mystery of life.

        All this is to say that the third trimester signalling the viability of a baby would seem to be a reasonable position that offers society an agreement everyone can abide by, and disagree about. The trouble, for me, is that some people just won’t keep this issue in proportion or even in alignment with positions that they hold on other issues. I find incongruous viewpoints to be maddening. The presence of them, in the extreme, is a clear indication of a person who holds invective over the rational.

        The SC legislature piling on to keep up with the Joneses in the typical other wacky Southern states is nothing more than a waste of time, taxpayer dollars, and sanity. A legislature passed this type of law and a governor signed it into law. Then it was promptly stayed by the federal courts and though will, inevitably, work its way to the Supreme Court. So what was the point of the second, third, or now the state of SC piling on? Nothing; it serves no purpose. It is a sideshow of the kind SC loves to wallow in; a tent revival without morals, in my view.

        This isn’t and has never been an issue about children. If our society treated children differently, it might have been. The lie in this is how we treat, and view, children from birth to majority. If a state does not fund education, healthcare, art, sports, etc for our children then it has no business devoting this much time and effort to the unborn. And that is why this is pap.

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          See, now this is the way we should debate this.

          Thanks so much for taking the time.

          I’ve got some work I’ve got to go finish, but let me just say quickly that if you look carefully at what I say, and look carefully at what Russell Ott says, you’ll see that we agree completely that it’s essential to care about the child who has been born.

          It makes no sense to care about the child before birth and say “you’re on your own” after birth. That’s an immoral position, as well as illogical. Which is why I’ve never thought it for a moment, and neither has Russell.

          The equation works the other way as well, of course. It makes little sense to care about the child approaching majority, but wash your hands (“that’s not for ME to decide; that’s totally up to ‘the woman’,” as you will hear many say) on the point of whether the child gets to be born to begin with.

          The moral burden swings both ways, wherever you start.

          You’re irritated by the Republicans kicking off this morality play. Well, if you read my post, you’ll see I find it kind of irritating that instead of working on the things someone like Russell would rather work on (“sentencing reform, hate crime legislation, rolling out the COVID-19 vaccine, and trying to get relief and support to small business owners”), we’ve spent the last month engaging in this drama that is to a huge extent about making everyone vote on something that enables you to say, “Look, we’re the good, decent people and they’re the bad guys.”

          As someone who finds Roe to be an enormously destructive force in our society, I can share their desire to have it go away. As does Russell, if you force him to vote on it, which they did.

          But they would have shown respect for so many more lives if they had walked in on the first day of the session saying, “We’ve got to expand Medicaid, right now! Why didn’t we do that years ago? Are we nuts or something?”

          And so forth. Respect for life is respect for life.

          I’ve got to get back to work…

          1. Pat

            “Respect for life is respect for life.”
            I agree But if Republicans really believe this, why make an exception for rape and incest, and why not include the excess fertilized eggs from in-vitro fertilization? And if this is the way it’s going to be, why not give those lives early support with nutrition, childcare, education, and healthcare? And why not train men they are accountable for their actions and prepare them to be a real father?

            1. Barry

              “But if Republicans really believe this, why make an exception for rape and incest,”

              and why allow for the person who sought out the “hit” on their own baby walk away without a murder charge?

        2. Barry

          My view is that, for probably 25% of the GOP legislature, the issue is not so much about abortion but it’s about detesting the idea that women can decide something on their own without Input from men.

          The reason I say that is because I have a few male members of my family who, when this issue comes up, focus their complaints on the entire concept of a woman “wanting to have a choice.” These men, in their minds, never have accepted the idea of women making decisions on their own, for their own benefit, without “guidance” from men.

          I am not suggesting that is the majority of anti abortion men. But it is a healthy part of the equation.

          There are a few male members of the legislature where I am convinced that idea reigns supreme.

    2. Barry

      My wife suggested last night we make a “sizeable” donation to Planned Parenthood. Some of her friends are planning to do so anytime now. One is quite wealthy, and is now retired.

      I told her that’s fine with me but we need to make sure it can make an actual impact. I suggested we wait a few weeks to see how the initial court challenge shakes out as I suspect the law won’t go into effect anytime soon- if at all.

      I suspect if it did, they’d be a strong effort to make sure women who need the service can get to clinics in other states quickly and efficiently. That takes money but certainly can be done. Of course there are other means with the medication abortion options and those efforts will increase drastically now.

      again, as always, where there is a will, there is a way.

      1. bud

        Interesting thing about Planned Parenthood. Once upon a time this organization was generally regarded with great respect. Now it’s a villain to the right. I happen to find them one of the most important outfits going. No organization is more worthy of support than Planned Parenthood.

  4. Brad Warthen Post author

    One of the little sideshows yesterday was when a Republican member who wanted to add his own amendment to the bill threw his papers into the air and walked out (here’s video if you want to see it), prompting Speaker Lucas to take the floor to denounce childish behavior.

    My own representative commented on that incident:

    When I first read about this, the petulant lawmaker’s name had not rung any bells. But looking into it a bit, there was something familiar to me about it. I think it was the unusual spelling of Rep. Hill’s first name that caused me to search for it on the blog.

    And then I realized, it was THIS guy, who’s been embarrassing himself since he was first elected several years back. As I said at the time:
    Experience as a lawmaker has value. Which is why, if all other things are equal, I’ll pick a veteran lawmaker over a novice.

    You see, Mr. Hill is a freshman lawmaker, in his first month in office. He is, in fact, a 29-year-old freshman legislator, which means that not only does he not know much about the way the political and legal worlds work, but he’s not overly burdened with life experience in general….

    Yeah, I was being overly optimistic. That was in 2015. Apparently, he hasn’t learned much…

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      For some reason, I can’t get that link to go directly to the video of the young man making a spectacle of himself. I’ve never had this problem. But if you are motivated to see it and follow the link, just scroll down a bit and you’ll see it.

      It’s in the middle of a complicated thread on Maayan Schecter’s feed

    2. Barry

      That’s the guy from Anderson.

      I know representatives in the House- Republicans that can’t stand him personally.

      He’s there for clicks on social media. You can’t reason with him on anything – and outside of about 2-3 legislators, no one in the House is willing to work with him- or even consider his opinions.

      He is someone I truly believe would prefer to live in the 18th century- where women and minorities “knew their place”

  5. Bill

    My father was a Methodist minister. I’ve know plenty of men like Ott.They mean well,yeah,yeah,yeah,but their self righteous martyrdom always gets in the way…

    1. Bryan Caskey

      Not surprising. I believe that has been the case for every state that has passed such a law. Either SCOTUS will take up the case and overturn or modify Roe and Casey or SCOTUS will deny cert and leave the block in place, effectively affirming the unconstitutionality of the laws and declining to revisit Roe and Casey.

      With the current composition of the Court, I think there may be the votes to revisit Roe and Casey, but it’s all a good ways off into the future.

      1. Barry

        Here is my question.

        What if the court does take up one of these fetal heartbeat laws. So they take it up, hear arguments, etc . The ruling doesn’t overturn Roe but modifies it somehow into something that’s nowhere close to overturning Roe but also not a wholesale acceptance of one of the fetal heartbeat bills.

        How is such an outcome (the court making the rules) any different than the original Roe decision that so angered “conservatives” because the court made up new rules?

      2. Brad Warthen Post author

        How about Griswold? I’d like to see that one revisited.

        For that matter, let’s take a look at any ruling that finds hard constitutional guarantees in “penumbras”…

        I mean, we seem to have enough trouble interpreting rights that are specifically spelled out, much less those that can’t be seen because they’re in the shadows…

          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            What I said. The penumbra problem.

            As I said, the 2nd Amendment spells out a right, and we can’t agree on what it means. (Lots of folks want to leave out that “well-regulated militia” part — maybe Bryan can explain that to us.)

            Deriving imagined rights (such as privacy) from the shadows seems rather problematic.

            1. bud

              Are the rights “imagined”? I would suggest “implied” is a better term. If constitutional rights don’t extend to privacy then really what good are any of the other rights. I actually find the term penumbra a pretty useful way to look at this. Besides do we really want the state to have the ability to ban birth control? Any answer besides a resounding NO is preposterous.

              1. Ken

                Brad, like other anti-abortion zealots, argues backwards from his conclusion. He believes that abortion is an abomination. From that end-point he concludes that privacy is a Constitutional chimera that must be wiped out in order to get at the foundational “evil.” Because of this single-minded focus on abortion, anything and everything that underpins it becomes a target. Even the guarantees of privacy fundamental to a civilized community. This is the definition of extremism.

              2. Barry

                “ Besides do we really want the state to have the ability to ban birth control?”

                Let’s start with The General Assembly make having a vasectomy illegal.

                Something tells me we will, all of a sudden, have a lot of Republican privacy advocates in the legislature.

            2. Bryan Caskey

              Always happy to try and explain things.

              If you go back and look at DC v. Heller, the two argument advanced were:

              1. From The District of Columbia: The second amendment protects only the right to possess and carry a firearm in connection with participation in government run militia service.

              2. From the citizen residing in the District of Columbia: The second amendment protects an individual right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia, and to use that arm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home.

              Obviously, these are two contradictory, and mutually exclusive thoughts. So, the Court looked at the actual wording of the second amendment. There are two parts:

              A: A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State…

              B: …the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

              That’s all there is.

              Part A is the preface. It sets forth the reasoning behind Part B, which is the operative language. It’s setting forth a reason for something that is about to be a rule. You could quite easily rephrase it to: “Because a well regulated Militia is necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed.” and it would mean exactly the same thing.

              Again, there is a purpose and a command. So, let’s look at the command first, and then second, let’s look at the stated purpose to ensure there is logical connection.

              The first thing you might notice about Part B is that it is “the right of the people to bear arms…” There are two other places where the Bill of Rights uses the words “right of the people”. (The first amendment and the fourth amendment). Both of these instances quite clearly are individual rights and are not conditioned on belonging to any group.

              The Constitution uses “the people” in a context other than rights in a few other instances. First, in the famous preamble we all know that starts “We, the people…”. There are other places “the people” is used as a specific term of art in the Constitution, and it always refers to all members of our political community – never some subset, or group of people.

              Obviously, this clashes with the use of “the militia” in Part A. So what did the people who wrote the words mean when they said “the militia”?

              In United States v. Miller, 307 U. S. 174, 179 (1939), the Supreme Court explained that “the Militia comprised all males physically capable of acting in concert for the common defense.” That definition comports with founding-era sources. See, e.g., Webster (“The militia of a country are the able bodied men organized into companies, regiments and brigades … and required by law to attend military exercises on certain days only, but at other times left to pursue their usual occupations”); The Federalist No. 46, pp. 329, 334 (B. Wright ed. 1961) (J. Madison) (“near half a million of citizens with arms in their hands”); Letter to Destutt de Tracy (Jan. 26, 1811), in The Portable Thomas Jefferson 520, 524 (M. Peterson ed. 1975) (“[T]he militia of the State, that is to say, of every man in it able to bear arms”).

              Recall, the District of Columbia took the position that “the militia” is only the state and federally organized and controlled military forces, not just an ordinary citizen who isn’t a part of that subset of people.

              Now, unlike armies and navies, which Congress is given the power to create (“to raise … Armies”; “to provide … a Navy,” the militia is assumed by Article I already to be in existence because all “the people” already exist. Congress is given the power to “provide for calling forth the militia,” and the power not to create, but to “organiz[e]” it—and not to organize “a” militia, which is what one would expect if the militia were to be a federal creation, but to organize “the” militia, meaning a body already in existence.

              This is consistent with the ordinary definition of the militia as all able-bodied men. From that pool, Congress has plenary power to organize the units that will make up an effective fighting force. That is what Congress did in the first militia Act, which specified that “each and every free able-bodied white male citizen of the respective states, resident therein, who is or shall be of the age of eighteen years, and under the age of forty-five years (except as is herein after excepted) shall severally and respectively be enrolled in the militia.”

              Naturally, Congress need not conscript every able-bodied man into the militia, because nothing in Article I suggests that in exercising its power to organize, discipline, and arm the militia, Congress must focus upon the entire body. Although the militia consists of all able-bodied men, the federally organized militia may consist of a subset of them.

              Finally, the adjective you asked me about… “well-regulated”…implies nothing more than the imposition of proper discipline and training. “Regulate”: “To adjust by rule or method”.

              Happy Saturday!

              1. James Edward Cross

                If the militia is defined as “able-bodied men” then where does this leave gun ownership by women or the disabled? Or is that covered by subsequent acts of Congress that broaden the membership of the militia (National Guard).

                1. Barry

                  I too wondered about women and disabled people.

                  What about people who do not belong to any group and actually abhor the idea of belonging to any group of likeminded militia folk?

                  What about those individuals that take pride in not taking orders from anyone or any entity? Their actual lack of discipline seems to be a calling card they take pride in.

                2. Bryan Caskey

                  This is a good question that shows the point that the right isn’t connected to service in a special group or subset of the people. The right to bear arms is unconnected with service in the militia.

                  If the right were predicated on service into the state or federally run units, then your concern about women and disabled people not having the second amendment apply to them would be valid.

                  The government would be able to limit who the second amendment applies to by limiting membership in the government run units. The states or Congress could make a provision for the enrollment of all who are fit to perform military duty, or of a small number only, or it may wholly omit to make any provision at all; and if the right to bear arms were limited to those enrolled, the purpose of this right would be defeated altogether by the action or neglect to act of the government.

                  So, for example, if the second amendment was only limited to people who were admitted into the state or federally organized militia, then people who are in wheelchairs would not be covered by the second amendment if they were denied service into the state or federal militias.

                  The meaning undoubtedly is, that the people (not some subset of the people), from whom the militia is taken, shall have the right to keep and bear arms; and they need no permission or regulation of law for the purpose.

                  1. bud

                    Bryan you have made excellent points and I find your knowledge on this matter impressive. Since I don’t talk about guns I’ll simply make a general statement about original intent. I don’t recognize arguments based on that interpretation of the constitution for the same reason I don’t read the owners manual of a ‘57 Chevy to determine what to do when the check engine light comes on. The constitution should be treated as an evolving guide to fit the reality of the times.

                    1. Bryan Caskey

                      Ah, the “living constitution” philosophy. What would you say are the primary benefits of this philosophy?

                    2. Barry

                      Obviously, it goes without saying I’m not lawyer, etc.. – but over the last 2 decades, I’ve adopted Stephen Breyer’s views much more so than anyone else, not because I’m educated on all the various views, but I find his views more compelling.

                      Scalia’s view is much more black and white. “The Constitution that I interpret and apply is not living, but dead,” he famously said.
                      Scalia contends that the Constitution is not flexible and its meaning cannot change over time. To allow the Constitution’s meaning to morph over time, he contends, just allows judges to say it means whatever they want it to say.

                      Not so, Breyer says.

                      “People think we decide things politically,” Breyer says, “or that the only way to protect against subjective views of judges is to have something called originalism, which is as if you could reach decisions by means of an historical computer. I don’t think any of those things are true.”

                      Breyer argues that the founders did want a living Constitution; they wrote a Constitution they wanted to last for the ages. The founders knew “perfectly well that conditions would change. The values don’t change. The circumstances do.”

                      He points to the countless Supreme Court cases that debate open matters. “What does that word ‘liberty’ in the 14th Amendment mean? What does ‘due process of law’ mean?”

                      Citing the Constitution’s prohibition of “cruel and unusual” punishment, Breyer notes that standards of morality evolve over time. “Flogging as a punishment might have been fine in the 18th century. That doesn’t mean that it would be OK, and not cruel and unusual, today,” he says.

                      What about the First Amendment freedom of speech? There was no Internet in 1789 — no radio or television. You can’t simply “freeze” the Constitution with the “dead hand of the 18th century,” he contends.

                      What’s more, he says, historians don’t agree on what the founders meant at the time they wrote the Constitution.

                      “History is very often in these matters … a blank slate or a confused slate, and if you want to govern the country by means of that history, then you better select nine historians and not nine judges to be on the court.”

                      “And I’ll tell you,” he adds, “those nine historians will very often disagree with each other.”

                      The job of the Supreme Court, Breyer says, is to apply the Constitution’s values to modern circumstances, using the tools of judging: precedent, text and an assessment of the purpose of the constitutional provision at issue.

                      “What we’re doing with the Constitution is you can think of us as this document laying down certain frontiers or borders, and we’re the border patrol,” he says. “Life on the border is sometimes tough. And whether a particular matter — abortion or gerrymandering or … school prayer — whether that’s inside the boundary and permitted, or outside the boundary and forbidden, is often a very, very difficult and close question.”

                      To illustrate the difficulties, Breyer points to the question of congressional term limits enacted in some states in the early 1990s — a question the court decided in a case from Arkansas.

                      The Constitution says that to be a member of Congress you must be at least 25 years old, a citizen of the United States and a resident of the state from which you are elected. That’s all it says. So, can a state add to that list of qualifications by disqualifying anyone who has served three or four terms before?

                      “The text doesn’t tell you,” Breyer observes. “Go look at the history. What you’ll discover: Jefferson and [Justice Joseph] Story thought one thing at the time. Madison thought something else. Go look at the precedent. Some cases over here. The other cases over there.”

                      Ultimately, a five-justice Supreme Court majority concluded that the list was exclusive and that states could not add requirements to it. Breyer says the court majority concluded that allowing the addition of state qualifications would significantly change the nature of a federal institution, and that the founders did not intend that. The other four justices felt it was more important for states to control what their own representation in Congress would be.

                      Breyer’s book has many sections devoted not to such philosophical arguments but instead to the drama of the court’s history. It’s what he calls the “Mary Poppins” approach — or as he puts it: “A little bit of sugar helps the medicine go down.”

                      The history chapters cover some of the court’s most famous and infamous decisions: The court’s 1831 decision telling white Georgians that they could not simply kick the Cherokee Indians off land that was theirs by treaty with the U.S. government, and President Andrew Jackson’s action to not only disregard the decision but countermand it; the Dred Scott case, which upheld the constitutionality of slavery; the Little Rock school desegregation case in which the court’s desegregation orders were enforced by federal troops; and the court’s 1944 decision upholding the internment, in barb-wired camps, of all individuals of Japanese descent living on the West Coast — 120,000 people, 70,000 of whom were U.S. citizens.

                      Breyer notes that both the court and the government knew by the time the case was decided in 1944 that the principle justification for the internment was false — there had never been secret Japanese-American saboteurs. The FBI director, J. Edgar Hoover, told authorities that government agencies had monitored all signals to ships at sea and found none were from Japanese Americans. What’s more, by the time the case got to the Supreme Court, the U.S. was winning the war. So why, when the end of the war was in sight, did the court ratify the internment decision made by President Roosevelt?

                      “I think the reason was, they thought, ‘We can’t run the war,’ ” Breyer says. “And the choice is, ‘We run the war or Roosevelt runs the war. And we think he can, and we know we can’t, and therefore we’ll uphold what he does.’ ”

                      A decision that imposed no limits on the president came to be regarded as so wrong that Congress formally apologized for the internment and paid reparations in 1988. The lesson, as Breyer sees it, was reflected in the court’s decision when President George W. Bush, acting on his own authority, set up a detention camp at Guantanamo, and the court ruled that the detentions were subject to review by U.S. courts.

                      Guantanamo “in my own mind represents an effort by the court to say there are some limits,” he says.

                      Such decisions are often unpopular. At the same time, Breyer argues, it is important for the public to understand the value of an independent judiciary that may sometimes, in his words, decide things the public doesn’t like “one little bit.”

                      Pointing to Bush v. Gore, the Supreme Court ruling that decided the 2000 presidential election, Breyer notes that he was in dissent, on the losing side of the 5-4 decision.

                      “I thought it was wrong,” he says. “A court will sometimes be wrong, but it’s more important to have a nation that tries to resolve its differences, important ones, under law rather than have people resorting to violent alternatives.”


                    3. Bryan Caskey

                      “Citing the Constitution’s prohibition of “cruel and unusual” punishment, Breyer notes that standards of morality evolve over time. “Flogging as a punishment might have been fine in the 18th century. That doesn’t mean that it would be OK, and not cruel and unusual, today,” he says.”

                      I agree that the Eighth Amendment’s proscription of “cruel and unusual” punishment is a great example of the “living constitution” advocates having their way.

                      I also would love to continue this discussion more right now, but I have some current legal work to attend to. I’ll set forth more thoughts later this evening if I can. 🙂

                    4. Bryan Caskey

                      Ok, the Eighth Amendment’s “cruel and unusual punishment” prohibition has been used over and over by the “living constitutionalists” to claim that capital punishment is unconstitutional. We have prohibited, for example, the imposition of the death penalty for any crime except murder – though the death penalty was until recently sometimes imposed for rape, and at the time the Eight Amendment was adopted it was even imposed for for horse-thieving.

                      Once again, it may be sensible to do this, but it was never in the Eighth Amendment. The Supreme Court’s cases say that – they must, as the Constiution clearly contemplates capital punishment in its text. However, they then say the content of the Eighth Amendment changes from age to age to reflect (and I quote) “the evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society”. So apparently something the words written down once allowed…these same words now forbid.

                      You will note the youthful optimism of this sentiment: every day, in every way, we get better and better. Societies always mature; they never rot. This is despite plenty of evidence to the contrary. I’m sure you can think of some examples.

                      Of course, the whole premise of a constitution in general, and a Bill of Rights in particular, is the very opposite of this. Certain rights are sought to be “locked in” – that is, placed beyond the normal legislative process out of fear they will be disregarded or discarded by a less enlightened or less virtuous future generation.

                      The proponents of a living constitution indulge in the assumption that whatever changes are made in the original meaning will always be in the direction of the greater good. However, I cannot understand why the proponents of a living constitution expect it to be a one-way street. The “evolving standards” approach can take old rights away as well as create new ones.

                      Quite often, living constitutionalists claim their position is absolutely essential to maintain “flexibility” that a changing society requires. This might be a persuasive argument if most of the “growing” were the elimination of restrictions upon the governmental process. However, just the opposite is true.

                      Living constitutionalists want to create new restrictions on the legislative process, not eliminate old ones. They favor, in other words, less flexibility in government, not more. Currently, state and federal governments may (for example) either apply capital punishment or eliminate it, permit suicide or forbid it – all as changing times and sentiments of society may demand. But if capital punishment is held to violate the Eighth Amendment, all flexibility on that issue is gone.

                      A good example of where there is no flexibility anymore is abortion: the living constitutionalists have created a regime in which it must be permitted, regardless of the changing needs and desires of the American society. No, the reality of the matter is that living constituitonalists are not seeking to facilitate societal change, but to prevent it, by enshrining their own views of morality in the Constitution.

                      The attitude of living constitutionalists is that if something ought to be so, why then the Constitution, the embodiment of all that is good and true and beautiful, requires it. And we fight these battles about what ought to be – whether it’s abortion or whatever – not in the democratic forum, but in the law courts. The major issues that shape our society are to be decided for the whole nation by a committee of nine lawyers. There is a certain irony in the fact that a society that takes all these issues out of the democratic process and requires them to be decided as constitutional absolutes prides itself (of all things) toleration.

                      We are willing to tolerate anything, apparently, except disagreement and divergence and hence the need for democratic debate and democratic decision-making, on an ever increasing list of social issues.

                      Our appointment and confirmation process bears this out. Each nominee is asked a series of questions by a series of senators (representatives of the people) regarding the existence of one right after another.

                      “Judge so-and-so, do you believe that there is a right to X in the Constitution? [Fill in X for whatever your most favorite constitutional claim happens to be.] You don’t? Well I do, and my constituents do, and I certainly won’t vote for anyone who has such a radical [or depending on the answer, uncompassionate] view of the Constitution.”

                      So basically, our confirmation process has evolved into a mini-plebicite on the meaning of the Constitution every time there is a new justice to be seated. As we have seen, it’s gotten worse and worse. Under the living constitutionalist view though, this was inevitable.

                      Such confirmation battles are now inevitable because a freedom-loving people respectful of the rule of law may be expected to let us lawyers decide what the text of the Constitution says; but they cannot be expected to let us lawyers decide on what the Constitution ought to say. That’s because it’s not a job for us lawyers – it’s a job for the people.

                      The theory of the living constitution is, even before our very eyes, in the process of undoing the Court and the Constitution alike.

                    5. Barry

                      I have many guns. I’ve had my CWP for years and years. I shoot my shotguns and pistols regularly. Heck, I picked up another new pistol for Christmas.

                      But I am a supporter of gun control and regulations. I don’t support lack of responsibility when it comes to firearms and that’s what I consider some of our permissiveness with guns to be.

                      I’ve always found the discussion interesting though. Some of the biggest “pro gun” folks I know don’t actually own any guns themselves. There is one particular person who is in the public eye on this issue quite a bit, voicing almost unregulated ownership of guns, who I know for a fact doesn’t allow guns in his own home.

                      My opinion is that the issue is simply a money maker for him and many others.

                      It’s almost criminal how the gun manufacturers have refused to modernize many guns. With the technology today, there is no reason any gun should be able to be fired when not in the hands of the original owner. But gun manufacturers, with the help of a few loud voices, refuse to implement steps that would prevent many unintended consequences.

                      They money is too good.

                    6. Bryan Caskey

                      “With the technology today, there is no reason any gun should be able to be fired when not in the hands of the original owner. But gun manufacturers, with the help of a few loud voices, refuse to implement steps that would prevent many unintended consequences.

                      They money is too good.

                      I don’t follow your logic, here. You’re saying that gun manufacturers could make a “smart gun” with technology (fingerprint sensor or something like that) that would be, safer and save lives. But apparently, they aren’t doing this because the “money is too good”?

                      Are you saying that gun manufacturers have the ability to make a better product that people will buy, but they are refusing to do so, because….why? Don’t they make money when someone buys the newfangled “smart gun”? Wouldn’t they possibly make more money modernizing everyone’s guns the same way cell phone companies make money updating our phones every couple of years?

                      You’re saying greedy companies in pursuit of profits are…eschewing profits?

                      Isn’t it possible that a “smart gun” loaded with technology isn’t in demand?

                    7. bud

                      I’ve always liked Breyer. Never liked Scalia, especially after his condescending comments toward Breyer in Glossip v Gross. That was one of he most disgusting, arrogant displays in Supreme Court history. Why people revere that pompous ass (Scalia) is beyond me.

                    8. Barry

                      I started liking Breyer when I heard him on WBUR once being interviewed and he was willing to take questions from callers.

                      The callers were a mixture- some where clearly trying to ask him what they considered “tough questions” and he calmly explained the process he takes to consider various viewpoints. He was very disarming and clearly brilliant.

                      He really never gave an opinion. he would restate the question and ask the caller about the consequences of their opinion. The callers, both right and left, didn’t do well answering his questions. It was clear they had only really considered their own opinion, not the consequences.

                      I thought he was exceedingly friendly and approachable in the way he handled those questions.

                    9. Barry

                      “ Are you saying that gun manufacturers have the ability to make a better product that people will buy, but they are refusing to do so, because….why? ”




                    10. Barry

                      Well “originalists” are just as likely to rule by “fiat” as anyone else.

                      It depends on what suits their interests.

                      “originalism now means so many different things to so many different people. Originalism today is less a theory of constitutional interpretation than a label usually signifying one’s right-wing politics.”

                      “either Justice Thomas nor Justice Scalia vote or voted in an originalist manner. Their votes to strike down numerous state and federal laws on free speech grounds, their affirmative action opinions, their decisions on anti-commandeering, standing, and sovereign immunity, as well as takings, and many more, are unsupported by text and history. These votes are at best supported by prior Supreme Court doctrines and constructions, most of which have no basis in the Constitution’s original meaning, intent, or any combination of the two. And the fact that neither Justice Scalia’s nor Thomas’ votes were even moderately originalist shows yet again that originalism is more a label than a serious theory of deciding cases.”

                      – Eric Segall – Georgia State University, Professor of Law

                    11. Barry

                      Just heard an attorney on SIrius radio breaking down the SCOTUS decision not to take up the Pennsylvania case.

                      He felt like the headlines were a little unfair to Justice Thomas.

                      But he also said that Thomas was a bit hypocritical because his opinion went against the “state right” mantra that he often lives by.

                      Of course, this time, he didn’t live by it because his preferred presidential candidate wasn’t served by a state decision.

                  2. Barry

                    “ The theory of the living constitution is, even before our very eyes, in the process of undoing the Court and the Constitution alike.”

                    Good info. I’m not persuaded but you wrote a lot of interesting information.

                    I agree with Breyer.

                    Obviously, I’m not capable of discussing this issue to any great degree but I respect Breyer’s views and experience on the subject more so than others.

                    For me thing, I don’t trust “originalists” to follow what legislatures (the representatives of the people) pass as legislation.

                    1. Ken

                      “Judicial fiat” is merely a pejorative aimed at acts of justice hamstrung and otherwise denied by the so-called “people’s representatives.”

  6. Barry

    We’re #1

    We’re #1


    Average Daily Cases per 100k in Last 7 Days
    South Carolina 53.4
    New York City* 50.4
    New Jersey 36.2
    Rhode Island 34.4
    New York* 34.2
    North Carolina 32.2
    Delaware 31.1
    Florida 30.2
    Georgia 30.1
    New Hampshire 28.6

  7. Bill

    Over the course of American history, women of all classes, races, ages and statuses have ended their pregnancies, both before there were any laws about abortion and after a raft of 19th-century laws restricted it. Our ignorance of this history, however, equips those in the anti-abortion movement with the power to create dangerous narratives. They peddle myths about the past where wayward women sought abortions out of desperation, pathetic victims of predatory abortionists. They wrongly argue that we have long thought about fetuses as people with rights. And they improperly frame Roe v. Wade as an anomaly, saying it liberalized a practice that Americans had always opposed.
    Women Have Always Had Abortions:

    1. Mark Stewart

      People have always had abortions. There are no clean hands for men, either; something that many (see what I did there?) overlook.

      The patronizing misogyny of this entire debate, is, for me, nauseating.

      1. Barry

        Yep – for many men (Not all of course) – this is just another way for men to control women.

        My wife pointed out to me this weekend what she had noticed – “why is it that certain, middle and upper income white men seem to be the ones standing on the abortion issue” all the time?

        I told her I suspected some believed it, and for a number of others, it was a way for them to “keep women in their place.”

        I think her sensitivity on the issue comes from the fact we know another couple where the husband brings this issue up often. Not sure why. He likes to discuss it- probably because he knows we disagree with him. He’s very much a “keep women in their place” guy too. I’ve told my wife plenty of times that he’s the type of guy that would be paying for an abortion himself if he ever was in such a situation (like the “very strongly pro life” congressman that got caught urging his mistress to get an abortion a few years back).

        Sure, plenty of women are against abortion, but for many, this is not the issue they fight over. My wife told me she didn’t think she’s ever been involved in an abortion debate in her life with her girlfriends that she hangs out with or when she and her friends travel together.

        Of course my wife doesn’t want anyone to choose abortion but she’s certainly pro-choice .

  8. bud

    From Wiki here is an especially offensive passage from Scalia in Glossip:

    Justice Scalia’s concurrence

    Justice Scalia, joined by Justice Thomas, concurred. Scalia attacked Breyer for offering “a white paper devoid of any meaningful legal argument.”[23] Mocking Breyer’s use of statistics, Scalia wrote “if only Aristotle, Aquinas, and Hume knew that moral philosophy could be so neatly distilled into a pocket-sized, vade mecum ‘system of metrics’’.

    You can disagree with someone without behaving like a condescending jerk toward a fellow Supreme Court justice.

    1. Bryan Caskey

      That really made me smile.

      I can’t tell you how often I’ve risen to my feet after opposing counsel makes an impassioned argument and I say “Your Honor, Mr. So-and-So, spoke for the last ten minutes and not a single legal argument escaped his lips. The law is quite clear that this Court is required to grant my motion, notwithstanding the irrelevant things Mr. So-and-So has said.”

      Find me a lawyer who disagrees.

      1. bud

        Bryan I’ll put you down as pro condescending jerk. Of course by uttering those words Scalia looked like a very small, beaten man. His argument was just too weak to respond otherwise so he chose to be an ass.

        1. Bryan Caskey

          “Of course by uttering those words Scalia looked like a very small, beaten man. His argument was just too weak to respond otherwise.”

          Um, Scalica was in the majority on Glossip v. Gross. He won the argument. Also, I don’t view his remarks as condescending. He’s just disagreeing and stating that Breyer hadn’t made any legal arguments – which he hadn’t.

          1. bud

            Brayan where did you get your law degree, Trump University? Of course Scalia was condescending. In a narrow sense Scalia’s snarky view prevailed since 5 reactionary justices determined that administering an unproven cocktail of drugs that cause searing pain for many long minutes is not cruel. Sad day for America. Maybe one day we’ll have 5 + sensible justices who don’t take their marching orders from a bunch of elitist, slave owning men who died 200 years ago.

              1. bud

                I was making the point that condescending attacks are not really arguments at all. That’s what Scalia unambiguously did in Glossip. Bryan inexplicably saw it differently. Perhaps I was too subtle.

                1. bud

                  The host seems to have a double standard. Bryan can condescend til the cows come home. Us liberals get called out every. Single. Time.

                  1. Brad Warthen Post author

                    I think we have a misunderstanding here. The fault may be mine, due to the order in which comments were appearing here on the dashboard.

                    It appeared from this perspective that your saying “Brayan where did you get your law degree, Trump University?” immediately followed Bryan saying, “A perfectly valid opinion. I think you would find those who disagree, though.

                    That appears not to be the case, now that I look at it on the public blog itself. (He was responding there to you saying “My issue with the death penalty is that it is cruel and unusual.“)

                    So I apologize for that, Bud. These threads get confusing when they get up to about 100 on a post, and they’re covering abortion, capital punishment and guns.

                    At the same time, I don’t see why you said that in response to what Bryan DID say above. What he said seemed fairly reasonable, and not worthy of the “Trump University” crack…

                  2. Ken

                    Of course. Especially when the post is directed at BW’s best bud, BC. The host-moderator of this blog has never been fair-minded in that respect. It’s his blog, so he can be as biased as he likes, just so long as it clear to everyone else.

                    1. Brad Warthen Post author

                      Everyone sit down and take notes. It appears Ken is in the mood to give us a lecture on blog civility.

                      Ken, you get support from me when you’re polite to others here, and don’t fling about peripheral reflections on their characters. “BC” does that pretty well most of the time.

                      Bryan and I are different in that he seems to enjoy himself when people are taking potshots at him. I do not. I think that sort of thing has run off too many thoughtful people who aren’t as patient as he is. And I reached a point, years ago, where I got pretty tired of that. Hence my “bias,” as you put it…

                    2. Ken

                      To Brad:

                      I will continue to treat as I am treated: honestly and with merciless directness, as the situation warrants.

                    3. Ken

                      Incivility to me isn’t, as you would have it, superficial discourteousness. It’s an idea, policy or mindset that subverts progress toward higher and greater civilization in a society. Those who speak or act in favor of such ideas, policies or mindsets open themselves up to fulsome censure.

                    4. Brad Warthen Post author

                      OK, I just deleted a post from Ken that was nothing but reflection on another poster’s character.

                      I’m just going to keep doing that, as I find time to stop what I’m doing and deal with this tiresome nonsense.

                      To save myself time, if I get so much as one more like that from Ken or anyone else, that person is going on the “hold for moderation” list. (Think about that before you succumb to the temptation to post something else demonstrating that you are in charge here instead of me.)

                      One last point, for anyone to whom it applies: If you don’t like my rules or the way I enforce them on MY blog, go start your own blog.

            1. Bryan Caskey

              “where did you get your law degree, Trump University?”

              LOL. You just keep thinkin’ Butch. That’s what you’re good at.

  9. Doug Ross

    I can never figure out how someone would reach a point in life where they support killing a fetus but find putting a confirmed mass murderer like Dylan Roof to death as abhorrent. But that’s just me. I’d rather see more executions as punishment than abortions as birth control.

    1. Barry

      I can never figure out how someone would reach a point in life where they support the efforts of politicians and bureaucrats injecting themselves into the private medical decisions made by a woman in consultation with a medical provider.

      Thankfully, that’s not just me but the majority of Americans.

      I have no issue with Dylan Roof being executed. Of course, if he wants to be executed, I’d want to make sure he didn’t get executed.

      My issue with the death penalty is the arbitrary nature of how it’s carried out, the incredible expense involved, the fact that it’s occurrence is often dependent on the quality of the attorney involved, the race of the criminal, and in some cases is against the wishes of the victim’s family.

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        The victim’s family should have nothing to do with it.

        For the same reason that the woman whose life is being disrupted by a pregnancy should be the last person to decide whether the child lives or dies.

        If the state is going to have the power to kill (never mind granting it to private individuals, which is outrageous), the decision should be made by uninvolved individuals.

        But of course, I don’t believe the state should assume that power, for itself, or for others. Not in circumstances in which other options can be followed (as opposed to a situation in which a lunatic is killing people right NOW, and can’t be stopped without shooting him — which of course is not the case with either abortion or capital punishment)…

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          It’s interesting to watch British cop shows, in which it’s a huge decision even to send armed officers to a scene.

          I watch a lot of those. Last night, I was watching an episode in which a senior cop’s life was endangered, and the authorities very deliberately deployed an armed team to the scene (which in the end proved unnecessary, because the subject committed suicide without harming the cop)…

          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            That blog I linked to closes with the great last line of the episode: ““What d’you think this is? Life on Mars?”

            I loved that, too. Because I’m a fan of “Life on Mars“… British cop show AND time travel. Can’t be beat…

        2. Barry

          “The victim’s family should have nothing to do with it.”

          Once again, we disagree.

          and thankfully, in most situations, the victim’s family is consulted by the prosecutors with regards to their thoughts on pursuing the death penalty.

          After all, the prosecutors often have to rely on the family and/or victims to testify, repeatedly, in death penalty cases that very often drag on for decades. Of course their wishes should be taken into account since their time, and their lives are directly impacted by such decisions.

      2. Bryan Caskey

        “My issue with the death penalty is the arbitrary nature of how it’s carried out”

        The arguments that it is arbitrary and unreliable, and therefore cruel, deal with the concerns about conviction, not the punishment itself, and are dangers inherent in the jury trial process. The decision of whether to impose the death penalty encompasses the type of moral calculus that should remain in the hands of the jury, as the Constitution provides.

          1. Bryan Caskey

            A perfectly valid opinion. I think you would find those who disagree, though.

            Perhaps we should decide via the legislative and democratic process whether or not to abolish it for South Carolina. But it’s certainly the height of folly to say that a document that specifically contemplates capital punishment somehow forbids it.

            1. bud

              I guess the height of folly is in the eyes of the beholder. Once you determine something meets the definition of a simply stated amendment then you must follow through.

        1. Barry

          “ The decision of whether to impose the death penalty encompasses the type of moral calculus that should remain in the hands of the jury, as the Constitution provides.”

          Prosecutors decide every day to put someone on trial with the death penalty an option or not.

          A strong argument can be made that the arbitrariness of the entire nature of it is cruel.

          “ Only 2% of the counties in the U.S. have been responsible for the majority of cases leading to executions since 1976. Likewise, only 2% of the counties are responsible for the majority of today’s death row population and recent death sentences. ”

          “ Philadelphia County, with the third largest number of inmates on death row in the country, ranked lowest in the state in paying attorneys representing those inmates”

          This is not justice. This is not remotely fair. It’s disgusting.

          1. Bryan Caskey

            Prosecutors are local elected officials who act on behalfof the people. If the local people don’t like the decisions the current prosecutor, they are free to elect another.

            Also, juries of the people decide capital cases. They decide guilt, and then they decide whether it is a capital offense.

            It seems it is the people with whom you disagree.

            1. Barry

              Locally elected prosecutors should not have the right to decide if all taxpayers of a state (who didn’t vote for them or have them on their ballot ) are going to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars, or more of taxpayer funds, to spend 20 years trying to execute someone.

          2. Bryan Caskey

            “ Philadelphia County, with the third largest number of inmates on death row in the country, ranked lowest in the state in paying attorneys representing those inmates”

            Are you saying that if Philadelphia County paid its public defenders more money, they would be able to lower the number of capital sentences imposed by juries?

            Have you ever worked at a public defender’s office?

            I have. I worked in the DuPage County Public Defender’s Office outside of Chicago for two semesters in law school.

            1. Barry

              Yes, I’m 100% saying it’s quite possible that being able to hire better qualified attorneys or provide them with better resources to defend someone in a what can be a very difficult death penalty trial could very well lower the chances they end up sentenced to death.

              Is your argument that money for resources for public defenders is irrelevant?

              You working for the public defender while in law school is irrelevant to the conversation.

              I once worked at a law firm too. But it’s also irrelevant.

    2. bud

      So Doug how would prevent a woman from getting an abortion. Unless you actually have something (Brad doesn’t) then all you’re doing is insulting people. Not constructive.

      1. Doug Ross

        Of course I’m insulting people. It’s a hypocritical opinion. Killing a fetus with a beating heart SHOULD be treated as a death, not some type of medical decision. Life matters. The vast majority of abortions aren’t about rape, incest, or the health of the mother. Those should be allowed. But for the ones that are a result of poor judgment or just a desire not to have to deal with the consequences of personal choices (sometimes more than once), there should be no cheering for having that option available as a woman’s right.

        I’ve said it before many times. I don’t expect we can stop abortions from happening so we should establish incentives for young women to delay having children until they are in a position to care for themselves and a baby. Too much focus is on dealing with the aborting the fetus than preventing it from being conceived in the first place. Free birth control of all types, much more education regarding the benefits of delaying childbirth — especially for poor and unmarried women who are in high school, and financial incentives paid to the mother if she waits until after age 21 to have a child…

        1. bud

          Free birth control of all types? Absolutely! Still doesn’t answer the question – how would you prevent a pregnant woman from having an abortion. To date I have not ever seen anyone answer that fundamental question.

            1. bud

              Disagree. If you don’t punish the mothers what you have is pro-choice. Anyone that claims to be pro life without answering that question is really just pro choice with a contrarian arrogance..

              1. Brad Warthen Post author

                You say that a lot. It still doesn’t make any more sense to me than the first time you said it. I don’t understand why you want to punish the mothers, except to transform the situation so that it fits the “you want to punish women!” narrative…

                1. Barry

                  “ don’t understand why you want to punish the mothers, ”

                  I don’t want to punish women.

                  I am just confused as to why you want to excuse someone who chooses to kill their baby.

          1. Doug Ross

            I wouldn’t prevent it because those who want to do it will do it – legally or illegally. Doesn’t mean it should be looked upon as a blessing for women or celebrated to have that as a “right”. I want fewer unwanted pregnancies, not fewer abortions.

    1. Barry

      FWIW- I posted a response to your questions about gun technology- but it’s “awaiting moderation”

      No idea in the world why the 3 links I posted would require it to be moderated (i post on various blogs and message boards and never have such an issue posting such links).

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          To elaborate…

          I just dug down into the depths to see the settings. Basically, the limit was three links. Include three links, and you get held for moderation.

          I changed it to five. We’ll see what happens.

          Why any limit at all? Because spam.

          The system is guarding against stuff that looks like this:


          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            Although I had to scroll down a bit through the spam to find that example. Turns out, most of the spam comments contain only one link. I’m not sure how the system catches them. Surely they’re not all from senders I labeled as “spam” in the past…

            1. Barry

              To be fair, in response to Bryan’s question, I could have stopped at 2 links.

              There were dozens, so I just picked the top 3 that looked the most interesting to me.

              1. Bryan Caskey

                I read through the Bloomberg article, and it basically looks like the reason there isn’t a “smart gun” on the market is that no one really wants one.

                A 1 in 100 failure rate for something that is an instant life and death situation isn’t even close to being ready for service. I’m around lots of gun folks, and no one…no one…is clamoring for a smart gun. The most important thing for the firearm is when you pull the trigger, it goes bang.

                That’s why Glocks became so popular so quickly. They were relatively inexpensive semi-automatic handguns that almost never fail to fire compared to other semi-automatic handguns. It’s why almost all law enforcement folks use Glocks. They are rock-solid reliable.

                1. Brad Warthen Post author

                  Kind of like the popularity of AK-47s, for those who REALLY want to kill some people.

                  You sort of have to TRY to make them not work, and even then you’re likely to fail.

                  Hence their popularity among those who arm child soldiers…

                2. Barry

                  “ It’s why almost all law enforcement folks use Glocks. They are rock-solid reliable.”

                  Yet my father recently sold his GLOCK 26 because he didn’t think it was reliable.

                  We were target shooting in November and his jammed on him twice. He was quite upset. I wasn’t sure why. Then he said it had been jamming on him occasionally, had it checked out at a local gun shop, and then when I was with him it didn’t it again. Not happy.

                  “It’s not a question of demand. In 2016, a Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research study found that 59 percent of Americans in the market for a handgun were willing to buy a smart gun. Stephen Teret, public health researcher and co-author on the study, sees in smart guns a possibility for reducing gun deaths. “I feel a high level of certainty that there will be a substantial number of lives saved,” he said.

                  Certainly weekend warriors would not be happy with a Smart gun. Heck, most of them don’t want a safety on a pistol.

                  But of course gun manufacturers haven’t actually spent much money pushing them, promoting them, and developing them into “must haves” as they have other weapons, some with faulty mechanisms/triggers like some Winchesters have had.

                  It’s hard to know how many would want something when the gun manufacturers aren’t that interested in promoting a product.

                  Like with anything else gun related, development and a committed company with a good promotion strategy can sway public opinion.

                  Current gun owners will likely adopt smart guns slowly. But of course tens of millions of people don’t own guns- and the potential of that market for the future is huge

                  1. Bryan Caskey

                    “Yet my father recently sold his GLOCK 26 because he didn’t think it was reliable.”

                    Red ALERT! Barry’s dad sold his Glock because he thought it to be unreliable. Everyone discard decades of data!

                    1. Barry

                      Data didn’t help my dad’s GLOCK 26 keep from jamming or making it unreliable to him- which is all that matters. Why would he or I care how reliable you or anyone else thinks it is when his wasn’t reliable to him?

                      I’ve fired hundreds and hundreds of guns. Most of them are quite reliable. But I’ve also had plenty of jams. It happens. It’s a mechanical device. They also happen to be largely operating on the same technology for the last 100+ years.

                      No, my point wasn’t really about my dad‘s experience. my point was even the very reliable Glock has a lot of critics.

                      I picked up a pistol at Christmas time that 80% of gun enthusiastS would say they wouldn’t own. but I love it

                      I don’t care if you like smart gun technology or not. Again, irrelevant to me. it’s coming and it will be a large part of market in the future. But that will take some time.

                    2. Bryan Caskey

                      “I picked up a pistol at Christmas time that 80% of gun enthusiasts would say they wouldn’t own. but I love it”

                      What did you get?

                    1. Bryan Caskey

                      Cool! My only subcompact is a Springfield Armory XDM .45. I like shooting it a little, and it’s super-easy to carry much like that LCP is. The only think I don’t love about my subcompact is that I find it harder to be accurate with it than my full size FN Hi-Power. I LOVE my Hi-Power. I can drive tacks with that thing, so it’s very easy to love. It’s also one that was imported from FN through Columbia, which is says right on the frame. Here she is:

                      Do you plan to carry the LCP much? Looks like a great gun to carry all day and almost forget you have it.

                    2. Bryan Caskey

                      Actually, that’s a really old photo of my Hi-Power; I’ve since changed the grips on it to a nice set of wooden ones. Lemme see if I can find a more recent photo.

                    3. Brad Warthen Post author

                      Three questions:
                      — Why is the hammer back in both of those photos? Maybe this is common with semi-automatic pistols that aren’t in use, but I wouldn’t know. If the hammer on a revolver was in that position, I’d think it was about to be fired.
                      — Why would you want a “subcompact” .45? Seems like it would jump around a lot more than a full-weight .45.
                      — Am I looking at gun porn here?

                    4. Brad Warthen Post author

                      Mind you, my knowledge of these things is mostly academic, from reading — and that mostly from fiction.

                      For instance, on my second question, I’m remembering something from Tom Clancy’s Without Remorse. The protagonist, very much a serious professional, adapts a full-sized .45 to fire .22 ammunition — for the sake of stability and accuracy.

                      Unless I’m misremembering…

                    5. Bryan Caskey

                      “Why is the hammer back in both of those photos?”

                      Yeah, just for photographic purposes.

                      “Why would you want a “subcompact” .45? Seems like it would jump around a lot more than a full-weight .45.”

                      A smaller handgun is easier to carry concealed as opposed to a full-size one. Yes, the fact that it’s smaller and weighs less contributes to it having more recoil and being harder to shoot, but as Barry mentioned, you’re not using a concealed weapon to shoot long distances, so accuracy isn’t likely a problem if you’re shooting at very close range. Again, keep in mind the idea is defensive use, not sniping a guy at 1,000 feet.

                      “Am I looking at gun porn here?”

                      I guess that depends on if you’re enjoying yourself looking at the pictures. 🙂

                    6. Barry

                      Nice pictures.

                      I do plan to carry it a good bit. The problem is- I often forget to carry it.

                      Yes, it’s quite small so you can forget you have it.

                      They are harder to shoot in many ways. An average sized hand like mine sort of swallows it up.

                      Accuracy can be more difficult. Of course with that type of gun, you are not aiming for the barn.

                      Of course with COVID, I don’t go too many places anyway. But I am planning to travel a bit this coming weekend so I’ll likely carry it with me as I plan to be out a bit for a late dinner.

                    7. Barry

                      My dad has both the 1st and 2nd edition.

                      They are hard to find right now because of demand, or at least they were at Christmas, but we lucked out on the one I purchased.

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