Archive | June 2015

The US Constitution’s 2nd Amendment: Police, Not Guns in Every Home

American gun patrioticThe 2nd Amendment of the United States Constitution is interpreted by the National Rifle Association to mean that every American is guaranteed the right to own and carry firearms anywhere, at any time, in any context s/he wishes.  Common sense is not part of their position.  Guns should be at the zoo, at Starbucks, at your kid’s playground, even in your child’s school.  Guns should be everywhere because the Constitution says so!

Except the Constitution doesn’t say that,  Instead the full text of the 2nd Amendment is:

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

14th century Italian militias.

14th century Italian militias.

Now as I talked about three years ago on Yahoo Voices and reposted a year ago, the idea of the militia has a specific historical context grounded in Anglo-Saxon tradition.  It is, at its core, a feudal institution pre-dating professional armies where local men and women responded to local emergencies by arming themselves and protecting their towns and villages.  Mercenaries (soldiers for hire)  were for centuries rather unreliable folks with rape/pillage habits — something American colonists experienced with the Hessian mercenaries hired by the Crown.  Before the emergence of completely professional national armies, soldiers for hire had the habit of abusing the local population, of taking what they wanted.  So locals tended to maintain their militias to protect themselves against such abuse.

gun murder

Times have changed in the United States and United Kingdom. Professional soldiers are hometown heroes and heroines — not threats to the safety of civilian populations. Invasions from foreign powers on home soil is essentially unknown to most Americans and British — the main modern exceptions to that happened during the 2nd World War.  Our armies have professionalized and this is a good thing. Because since the beginning of professional soldiering, the professionals have always possessed superior skills, protection, and weapons compared to their civilian counterparts.

And that is what a militia is:  civilians responding to emergencies.  It’s volunteer police, volunteer fire department, and neighourhood watch organizations. I’ve seen arguments for including USA state national guard units under this umbrella — except those are trained and equipped much more similarly to the full time army, navy, and so forth — and they are paid to do so!

Two London constables on duty.

Two London constables on duty.

So what then does the 2nd Amendment actually guarantee Americans?  If you treat the word “militia” properly, what is the 2nd Amendment actually protecting?  In my analysis as a historian, the 2nd Amendment guarantees us POLICE FORCES and FIRE DEPARTMENTS which do the same job that our militias once did.  Police forces/constabularies and fire departments protect local populations from danger — from within our localities and from outside threats.  When a riot breaks out, it’s the police — not a Federal soldier — that is sent in to deal with it.  When Federal soldiers ARE sent in to deal with riots we habitually treat this much as our ancestors did with mercenary soldiers — and perhaps rightly.

In the Autumn of 2001 New York Penn Station was protected with Federal soldiers carrying high power weapons through the station to police it, a response to 9/11.  Believe me, that terrified me as I walked through the station to catch or depart from my New Jersey Transit trains!  A regular NYPD officer in regular uniform with regular equipment felt safe to be around.  But Federal troops?  Utterly terrifying!

gun murder 2We need our police officers and constables.  We need this modern form of our ancient militias.  We need to honour and respect the work our officers and constables do and trust them to do their job — rather than delude ourselves into thinking we can do their jobs better than they can and therefore arming ourselves.

Gun are not the solution.  As a matter of fact, they aggravate our problems.  A woman is 500x more likely to be shot/killed during a domestic dispute when firearms are kept in the home than she is when family firearms are kept in a neutral location such as a gun club.  There is a reason why the murder rate in the United Kingdom is so much lower than in the United States.  This twisting of the 2nd Amendment is why.

Some of you are likely to attack me for writing this.  That is fine with me.  Be my guest.  Because as a woman who was hurt in a gun “accident” as a child, I fiercely uphold that the gun laws in the United Kingdom are the best way to go.  I’ve seen what guns everywhere all the time can do and it disgusts me and terrify me.

Leave the guns to the police and the constables.  Leave them to the real modern militias. And please, in the name of sanity, stop thinking that having a gun around makes you safer!  IT DOESN’T!


British holiday — the cell phone adventure part two

london-flagEarlier today I expressed the dizzying complexity I found when investigating how to obtain cellular phone service once I land at London’s Heathrow airport from the USA later this summer.

After all that frustration and nuisance I found more information for the weary traveler who despises needless complication and hassle: most terminals at Heathrow include a SIM LOCAL STORE just METRES beyond the immigration check point.

The shop sells unlocked phones and sim cards.  I have emailed them to see what else is available and how they suggest I handle all of the cellular needs for the trip — the micro SD card, power adapter, airtime, etc.

Sim Local seems to be the little secret that USA electronics stores don’t want you to know about and T Mobile especially doesn’t want you to know about.

As best as I can discover, the reason for the $2/minute airtime fee is ROAMING, something I’ve not encountered for a very very long time.  Of course I have not used TMobile since my first cell phone back in 2003.  That lasted just a year or two since T Mobile had TERRIBLE coverage in New York City compared to competitor Verizon (which can only be used in USA).

I am still looking for more information and emailed SimLocal to learn more for my trip.  But by all accounts I will save money by simply not adding any airtime to the T Mobile phone and using it just for this trip when in the USA to phone my taxi cab.

Yes, the new Sim card will cost me to purchase — about $20-$30 USD.  But for a card that will give me local phone charges to use — it’s worth it!

And oh yes — Heathrow has PAY PHONES and seems to really offer a lot for international travelers!

I will of course continue to update everyone on my British holiday adventures.  Now if only I had been able to find this information BEFORE I bought anything at Best Buy!  As a matter of fact, I’m wondering if I should ever shop Best Buy again!

British holiday — the cell phone adventure

Watch out England, I’m crossing the pond!  Yes, finally this summer England will move from the realm of dreams and legends and finally become a real place that I can touch, taste, smell, hear, and see!


As I plan the trip there are two pressing issues on my mind:  how manage the 12-18 hour long trip (from the moment I leave my flat to the moment I arrive at my final destination) and 2) how to get in touch with my friends if something in the process goes wrong (which it could).

unlocked cell phone

In our ever connected world I feel (as I am sure you do) rather naked without a working cell phone when I’m not at home, especially traveling.  I’m not a smart phone person; a phone is about phone calls to me.  But I need that phone working and close at hand when I’m away from home.  Should be simple, right?

Oh no! And in trying to work this out, I’ve found myself in a hornet’s nest when all I want to do is be able to call someone and ask for directions or re-structure a meeting because something messed up the timeline or “what does your car look like” when I get to the train station.

So let’s start with part one:  getting an unlocked phone.

When you are traveling overseas from the USA, that’s the first thing you need:  a handset that is unlocked, meaning the handset can be used with any carrier.  Okay fine, I found one at for $25.  But you know there had to be a catch and there is one.  I bought a SIM card for TMobile (which research says has roaming into the UK) and a $10 prepaid card which should have been enough.  Yeah, you know what is coming next.

Except the phone description says nothing about needing a MICRO SD CARD in order to use even basic features like an address book IN ADDITION TO the Sim card the chat clerk told me to buy.  Did I mention yet that has PISS POOR TRAINING on their products?  This is supposed to be a place that KNOWS electronics.  As of now I think it more likely I will grow feathers and fly myself to the UK without an airplane than find a rep who knows anything about anything.

So I get the phone, the sim card, and $10 airtime card.  When it all arrived Friday night, it took me FORTY TRIES to just open the damn phone — and another forty to figure out how to use the TMobile SIM card kit and get the card in there!  Then you must activate the card on TMobile website.  Okay, this is getting tiresome.  Now I know why bestbuy doesn’t sell these phones in store — people would be flooding Geek Squad beginning for help!

So finally the phone is activated and charged.  I contact TMobile this morning to ask “how do I place a call?”  Simple question.  Annoyingly complex answer.

Because what BestBuy DIDN’T SAY on the website was that the 10 cents a minute rate for pre-paid is JUST for calls to USA numbers with the handset in the USA.  Well I have a tracfone for that that costs MUCH LESS.  I bought this for INTERNATIONAL calling and INTERNATIONAL ROAMING.

AND there is another fine print part about this TMobile sim card and pre-paid service:  it costs $3 per month to keep it active.  So placing NO CALLS uses up the $10 card in 90 days.  And if you let the balance go to zero and don’t re-up within 90 days the SIM card deactivates and cannot be used again (according to TMobile this morning).

At this point I’m feeling stuck in a Mission Impossible movie!

I finally get that “how do you place a call” information out of TMobile:  dial 011 44 plus the ten digit UK phone number.  So, for example, if I wanted a test call to my skype phone, I call 011 44 208 144 1662.  You delete the zero that you usually see at the front of UK numbers. This is how to dial the number whether the handset is in the UK or USA.  If the handset is in the USA, it costs $2/minute.  If the handset is in the UK and calling a UK number the cost is $1.49 a minute.

If the handset is in the UK and I’m calling USA number (perhaps to check on my birds), dial 011 1 ten digit number.  The rate is $2/minute.

At this point I’m feeling frustrated and oh yes, there was a DIFFERENT SIM card advertised on  H2O.  Since I hate the T-Mobile costs, let’s look into that.

I go back into a chat with  MISTAKE.  Because immediately the representative tells me the T-Mobile card WON’T WORK the second I cross out of the USA.  AND he tells me that neither would an H2O card.

In essence:  the $50 just spent for that emergency phone is a COMPLETE WASTE OF MONEY (and Best Buy expects to stay in business?).

At this point I am feeling confused.  Why is something so SIMPLE as the means to place basic phone calls so bloody complicated?

Solutions anyone?  Please post your thoughts.  I cannot be the only American who has suffered angst over needing the protection of a nearby phone when traveling overseas!

The Law of Attraction: Sorting Facts from Fiction

In my last post I explained how in 2014 I was duped into joining whole cloth the Law of Attraction Movement.  It came to me at a time of fear of the future (especially concerning my financial health) when I felt most lost and vulnerable.  The person who insisted I watch “The Secret” claims to be an actual demon in human form.  This alone should have told me to run, not walk away, especially given my spirituality and past experiences with malicious spirits (aka “demons”).  Instead, the person’s glamour and misdirection of my own instincts (which were just starting to call me home to Wales) deceived me into trying to win his love and approval by making myself into the person he wanted.  The law of attraction movement was at the heart of that.

Background with a Planet, Moon and Star

Law of Attraction teachers like Abraham Hicks focus on emotion as the way to attain what you want in life.

The reason why the Law of Attraction Movement is so popular is because so much of it is based on solid psychology, social psychology, and sociology.  Most of it is actually good advice.  The problem is the 20-30% of it that is NOT solid and leads people into the wrong direction, often for the financial gain of the movement’s “teachers.”  It is for that reason that the Law of Attraction Movement (not the core idea itself) is a scam that predates on people’s worries about the future, the instinct to grow and improve oneself, and in the primal instinct to believe in something or someone greater and more powerful than oneself.

So what is the solid stuff worth listening to?  What parts of the advice given actually works?  Let’s take a look in detail:

  • Your assessment of a situation matters.  That is to say that how you look at something in your life or a potential future event is absolutely critical to your success or failure.  If you see a task as impossible then it will be simply because no one looks for solutions to problems that cannot be solved.  By contrast if you see a situation as easily dealt with then you will quickly find the actions that make this the case.  Your assessment forms a self-fulfilling prophesy.  You fail when you see no way to succeed and you succeed when you believe you can.

Law of Attraction teachers talk about situation assessment in terms of emotions.  It’s all about FEELINGS.  Your feelings need to be the barometer of everything because feelings work on a deeper level of the mind than your thoughts do.

The problem here:  all emotions are based on your thoughts and attitudes, not the other way around as the LoA teachers would have you think.  That is to say that if you want to change how you feel about something you need to change your mind about it.  Thoughts are the controlling factor here, at least once the ego/conscious self forms at around the age of six years old.  For example if you think all Muslims are terrorists then your feelings about Muslims will probably be categorically of a suspicious, fearful, or perhaps even hateful nature.  These feelings will then in turn alter how to behave when it comes to meeting someone or hearing about someone who is Muslim.

The Law of Attraction movement focuses on FEELINGS.  In particular, Abraham Hicks teaches that if you have any sort of "negative" feelings then you will only attract negative things to your life.

The Law of Attraction movement focuses on FEELINGS. In particular, Abraham Hicks teaches that if you have any sort of “negative” feelings then you will only attract negative things to your life.

Law of Attraction teachers tend to skip the attitude part of this when they focus on feelings.  In doing so, they take away your best and most effective tool for changing your life.  This is also why education is so vital to changing our lives.  Education empowers us with knowledge which then shapes our emotions and behaviours.

  • Barriers to success are in your mind.  When we assess situations we are quick to find the reasons why something cannot be done or is otherwise difficult/impossible to achieve.  This in turn blocks us from figuring out how to do something and achieve our goals.

Most Law of Attraction teachers focus on emotions.  The barriers to your manifesting the life you want are not in your thoughts but in the emotions you feel.  It says that “good” emotions attract good things and bad emotions attract bad things.  That in turn makes us judge ourselves quite harshly because no one can be euphoric or feel good all the time about absolutely everything — and if you do, there’s probably something unhealthy at work there!

In truth, the barriers we put between ourselves and our goals tend to be psychological and mental, not emotional.  We say, “I cannot ____ because _____.”  That because can be anything, but usually a situation or a feeling about a situation.  The feeling is not the problem because the feeling changes the moment we change our minds about something.  And genuinely there are some emotions we really do need.  We need to be angry when someone rapes someone.  We need to feel sad when someone we love dies.  We need to feel outrage at an injustice.  These feelings motivate us to make changes and set new goals.

For example, I feel disappointed and upset at the results of the 2015 Parliamentary Election in the United Kingdom; I adore Ed Miliband and really wanted him to become prime minister.  Negative emotion.  Except that in those feelings I have a determination to fight harder, to get more involved in politics, and to actually stand for MP once I become legally eligible to do so.  Negative feelings about David Cameron staying in office has made me decide to chart a new career path!

And that is the value of negative emotions, the very emotions that Law of Attraction teachers tell you will only bring more negative experiences into your life.

  • Focus on what you want to achieve, not how or when you achieve. There is always more than one way to achieve a goal.  A former friend of mine put this as the number fourteen.  How many ways can you reach the number fourteen in arithmetic?  If you see just seven plus seven then you are missing the other fifty plus ways to reach that number.  That is what we tend to do though.  We think that each goal or challenge can only be accomplished ONE WAY.  What is worse:  we tend to set specific time perimeters for achieving this.

Here the Law of Attraction teachers are dead on right.  Too often we do say “this is the way to get what I want” or “I have to have x goal by y date.  Reality is that the universe has its own way and own timing.  Everything happens the way it does in the timing it does because that is the best and easiest way for it to happen.  The key here is to keep your mind and heart open so you can take advantage of the opportunities that come your way.

  • You reap what you sow.  This is the actual law of attraction.  It is the principle that like attracts like that is well documented in social psychology.  Contrary to the popular cliche, opposites repel, not attract. At its core it says, correctly, that your attitudes, emotions, and behaviour have consequences which are similar to whatever the original attitude, emotion, and/or behaviour was.  If you smile, people will smile back at you.  If you yell at someone, that person is likely to yell back at you.  If you hurt someone, you will be hurt back.  If you show interest in someone else’s accomplishments, they will be or at least much more likely to be interested in yours.

The law of attraction itself is not the problem with the law of attraction movement.  The law is solid social psychology explaining the nature of the consequences for our behaviour. The problem with the law of attraction movement is its focus on just the feeling side of this instead of the action side.  If I feel good about something, something good is automatically going to come out of it.

Feelings are great.  But it’s not feelings in isolation that makes things happen.  It’s action.  In the law of attraction movement feelings are put above everything else.  But if you never act on your feelings, you stay where you are.  Things do not change.  Those in the movement with things to sell will say the problem is that your feelings were not lined up correctly — and we can fix that when you buy this item or experience.  Read that SCAM.

Though Law of Attraction teachers do tell you that action is important, this part of the equation is downplayed and rarely discussed in favour of emotions and how to fix your emotions.

There is a solution

But the real key to success in life is taking ACTION.  Not just any action though — it’s easy to get on the hamster wheel and tire yourself out — the hamster wheel is usually what makes us vulnerable to the scam in the first place.  Instead it is INSPIRED ACTION that makes everything happen.  That is to say ACTION WITH CLEAR DIRECTION. It’s relaxing about the how and when in a situation, quieting your mind, and letting your mind solve the problem.  Do not force it.  Do not struggle.  Your mind is expert at solving puzzles; that’s what the human brain does best.  Relax, let the answers come to you, and then act on the answers.  That is what inspired action is.  That is what brings you true success in life.

And best of all, you don’t need to buy a book, a seminar, a cruise, or anything else.  The answers actually lie within your own mind, your own heart, and within your own existing abilities.

Duped: how I came into the law of attraction movement

The Law of Attraction movement focuses on FEELINGS.  In particular, Abraham Hicks teaches that if you have any sort of "negative" feelings then you will only attract negative things to your life.

The Law of Attraction movement focuses on FEELINGS. In particular, Abraham Hicks teaches that if you have any sort of “negative” feelings then you will only attract negative things to your life.

Many of you know that for most of 2014 I was a HUGE fan of the Law of Attraction videos and affirmations.  I was spending several minutes per day with meditations and affirmations in effort to manifest financial security for myself.

One of the main LoA teachers I focused on was Abraham Hicks — the alleged other worldly being channeled by Esther Hicks, an idea that made me uncomfortable from the start because of my own spiritual journey and interactions with spirits.  I am naturally distrustful of channeling.  But the film The Secret was put in front of me when I was emotionally vulnerable so I did what so many of us do and disregarded my instincts out of desperation.  In seeing my personal finances from the “glass half empty” point of view, I made myself prey to someone who actually claims to be a literal demon living in human form.

This alone should have rang alarm bells.  It didn’t, plausibly because in my own first hand experience, actual demons or malicious spirits (pick your word) are able to project a form of glamour upon their prey — manipulating them, as I was in this case, into thinking they are in love with them — even in the face of contradictory evidence.  So I confess I was duped, manipulated.   He had me so wrapped around his finger that I spent money I had no business spending on things that I didn’t really want or need — making my desperation even worse (you can see how this spirals).

This was the context into which I entered into the whole law of attraction thing.  It happened at a time of fear and vulnerability when I was being emotionally (not for the first time) manipulated by a man with ulterior motives.

negative emotion is

I was prime target for a scam.  I was primed to open up a massive hole and fall down down down into it.

Though it did take me down a bit, it didn’t destroy me.  Because at the end of the day, there are kernels of truth to the law of attraction.  The problem is not the 70-80% that is solid; it’s the 20-30% that isn’t.  The best lies are the ones that are just barely lies — where the deceit and misinformation is subtle.

I am not the first person to fall for a scam, even partially.  I won’t be the last.  But I want to confess that I did fall for something that hindsight — and the wisdom of my heart brother Tim Wilson — shows is ultimately about luring vulnerable people into spending money they shouldn’t out of desperate need for a magic bullet that solves everything neatly and easily.

Nothing is ever that easy; you won’t grow rich just by thinking about wealth.  But you will grow rich by changing how you think and how you behave.  Emotions are important to that.  But thoughts and feelings without action will not do anything.  And that is the big lie in the Law of Attraction movement.  The movement focuses so much on how you feel that it is easy to forget you must ACT to reap its promised rewards.

Going at it alone: more lessons from Josh Duggar

josh-duggar-reason-for-abuseRecently the Duggar family went on the record in an effort to lay to rest the scandal concerning Josh Duggar’s molestation of his sisters when he was fourteen years old.

In the interview the Duggar parents admit that Josh informed them of his behaviour three times across 2002 and 2003 and that each time the family decided it was best to deal with it from within the family boundaries instead of going outside of it.  When that did not work on the first attempt, they went to their church for help.  On the third time in 2003 they sent Josh to a faith-based camp for help.  But in all three cases it was dealt with entirely from the tiny confines of their close-knit community instead of informing the law and allowing the state to step in.

In 2012 I wrote a report for Yahoo Voices concerning rape and incest within the insular orthodox Jewish communities, a report that was re-posted into this blog before Yahoo dismantled Yahoo Voices.  In that report I called for an end to victim-blaming in religious communities.  Sadly with the Duggars his victims are also defending his behaviour, no doubt partially because the Duggar parents are in denial themselves regarding just how serious sexual violence is.

Until we start treating sexual crimes as serious, until we stop making excuses for those who violate the physical integrity of other people, and until we genuinely punish the perpetrators of these crimes while providing a strong and protective support system for those hurt by them then of course we cannot expect to stem this epidemic of violence and sexual violence.  Even in 2015 we treat rape as “no big deal.”  Women and men both do this, including victims of assault and sexual assault.  We keep making excuses and telling those hurt to shut up and “get over it.”

Now as a healed survivor, I am the first to say that experiencing assault and sexual assault does NOT BREAK YOU.  It doesn’t taint you.  It doesn’t make you less of anything.  In fact it becomes an opportunity for transcendence, to grow into something greater and be a better person — no different than any other form of hardship.  This isn’t lessening the horror of the experience; what I suffered WAS HORRIFYING.  A healthy human being MUST BE HORRIFIED by violence and especially sexual violence.  At the same time, our societies have this habit of not only dismissing survivors when we speak up (been there!), but also treating us as the walking dead.  So we are dismissed first for daring to speak up and second when the wounds heal — as they must heal.

It’s a culture that favours those who rape, beat, and kill and treats those who receive this treatment as surplus population who had better just die off quickly so our societies can pretend there’s not a problem.

Most alarming to me is the matter of the insular community.  Why?  Because I see its danger as someone whose insular community made it easy to continue these acts of violence and to continue dismissing me when I sought help.  Yet, unlike the Duggar girls, I went to adults for help — but they wouldn’t  help because of the insular community.  It was easier to call me “evil sorceress” or “seductress” (right because four year old girls instinctively know how to seduce men 10x their age into sex?) than place that phone call to social services that would have taken me to safety.

The larger problem is therefore not Josh Duggar — a man who doesn’t deserve to have his children grow up with him — but the communities themselves.  We can only help people in need when we go beyond our castle walls and allow the larger secular community to intervene, to enforce laws written to protect children and provide safe home environments for everyone.

Yes, our governments are not perfect; there has never been a truly perfect government.  But when we fail to trust others beyond the boundaries of our small communities we set ourselves up for exactly the epidemic of violence and sexual violence plaguing our societies.  Protecting the community becomes more important than what is right and just for the people being hurt.  This was the case at Penn State and it is the case with the Duggar family.

What is your take on the Josh Duggar matter?  Reply to this post with your comments below and let’s get a serious conversation going!