Thursday, April 19, 2012

Stand your ground??

Florida authorities have picked 17 people to tackle a heated question brought on by the killing of unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin: whether the state's "stand your ground law" should be changed.

A question: Does "stand your ground" mean that it's legal to shoot an unarmed person?

Another question: Does not having a "stand your ground" law mean that if someone comes up and is verbally abusive and physically threatening to you while you are in a public place that you have no recourse and must surrender and walk away?

A third question: Do you wonder why everybody is always on edge and unwilling to meet your eyes?

So, here's the point: remember back in the 18th and 19th centuries in the US when some of our up and coming leaders were killed in duels and eventually duels were outlawed and eventually people mostly stopped challenging others to duel and just started shooting or stabbing them in the back instead?

I haven't been a teenaged boy for nearly fifty years and I haven't been in the military for just a bit over forty-five years, but I wonder what you people are thinking and I don't know exactly what the law says anymore, if I ever did.

But, here's how it is: If we're on a public sidewalk and I'm hobbling along and you ask me to move, if I can, I will.  If, however, you order me to move and make a threat of it you should expect to have to back up the threat. And, that's without reference to any law.

I don't know what happened between Mr. Zimmerman and the late Mr. Martin.  I have heard though that young Mr. Martin was unarmed and was shot to death by Mr. Zimmerman.  To me that screams: arrest and at the least a hearing, even if the shooting occurred inside Zimmerman's house and the damned door had been kicked in.  Why would a man shoot an unarmed man or boy unless he either was in fear of his life or just wanted to and thought he could get away with something?

If someone attacks you with a knife, you don't have to pull your knife and carefully measure the blade to meet the attack with equal force.  If you are threatened with deadly force you are justified in applying the maximum chill-factor that's available.  And, having been there a couple of times as a young man, it's nearly automatic anyway - if you actually stopped to think about it you probably would be killed - but I wasn't carrying a firearm either time, so both assailants survived.

Being attacked, whether physically or only verbally, by an unarmed person is quite different; it will make you angry or afraid, or both, it's not really clear what steps you can take beyond hitting the guy back if he strikes you, or yelling for help.  There's the scenario where you're the abusive badass and you hit the intended victim, and he steps back slightly and gets a really big smile on his face.  Run!

That's why I say it calls for a hearing, an inquest or some official inquiry if you decide to shoot the guy.  It could be justified, but probably would be a hard sell.  Refusing to back down is one thing, whipping out your Glock and perforating the guy is a different type of thing - it's homocide and not involuntary, either. 

Even shading it into manslaughter would take some redefining.  If he lives you're looking at aggravated assault with intent to kill.  You'd need to make a damned good case for being in fear of imminent death at his hands, which is a hard sell if he isn't armed or doesn't outweigh you by 75 or a hundred pounds.

And, in case you hadn't noticed, these are the same - within a narrow range - as the rules that would apply to a sworn peace-officer.

On Crime and Punishment in England, The US & Mexico

 From BBC, London- 19 April 2012

Three young Englishmen have been given lengthy prison sentences for a shooting incident in a London, England shop which left a five-year-old girl paralyzed.  The little girl, Thusha Kamaleswaran, was shot in the chest and a man, Roshan Selvakumar, 35, was shot in the face at a Brixton shop last March.

The gunmen, all 19 and 20 years old, Nathaniel Grant, Kazeem Kolawole and Anthony McCalla were convicted of causing both victims grievous bodily harm with intent and attempted murder of a rival gang member.  Grant was told he would serve at least 17 years before becoming eligible for parole, while Kolawole and McCalla will serve at least 14 years.

Judge Martin Stephens said the crimes were "of the utmost gravity", adding: "Not one of you has, in my judgment, shown a sliver of remorse."  Last month's trial yielded testimony that  "the three cycled up to Stockwell Food and Wine and Mr. Grant opened fire".  One wild shot resulted in a bullet hitting little Thusha in the chest.  That bullet passed through the seventh vertebra of her spine, damaging her spinal cord and leaving her paralyzed.

The court heard testimony that the gunmen were trying to kill Roshaun Bryan, a rival gang member, but instead shot Thusha and Mr. Selvakumar, who were innocent bystander-victims, during the attempted murder.  Prosecutor Edward Brown told jurors: "The reality of this shooting may be that, whilst there was an intention to kill the suspected rival gang member, the gunman and his accomplices couldn't have cared less if someone else was shot too."

Detective Superintendent Gordon Allison said the only time the men had apologised or shown any sign of remorse was when they were seeking to reduce their prison sentences.  He added: "The CCTV images of little Thusha dancing happily in Stockwell Food and Wine are images that many of us will struggle to erase from our memories".

"... McCalla, Kolawole and Grant will have many years in prison to reflect on the damage they caused to an innocent five-year-old girl and her family but also Roshan and the community that is London as a whole."

A team of detectives who investigated the case are leading attempts to raise money for the vital care and equipment Thusha now requires. Her injuries have not only ruined her dreams of becoming a dancer, but have imposed a serious long-term financial burden upon her family.

Judge Stephens said the trio posed "a significant risk to members of the public of serious harm in the future".  It is Judge Stephens' summation which caught my eye.  It is a simple, yet profound, statement of the rationale which explains the reason society needs to be relentless in finding and punishing this type of offender:

"Shooting into a shop, a confined space where it was known there were people present, is an attack on society itself by men who saw themselves as outside the law and above the law."

Read more on this crime at BBC.

It is nothing less than an attack on society in general, an act which adds more weight to the load which can overwhelm and crush a society, destroying the quality of life for all. Here in the US we have some areas in several of our cities where the level of violence, usually gang-related, is high and as a result people who don't have to be there, avoid those places while those who can't avoid the area simply try to stay out of sight.

Usually the violence is by gang-members and is directed against other gang-members.  The greater problem for the society, though, is the collateral damage caused by the violence.  Drive-by shooting, which is rarely very accurate, often results in injury or even the death of people who weren't the intended target.  It's the callous disregard for the lives of others which does the damage.  Along with that lack of regard comes mugging and robbery, housebreaking for burglary and home invasions.

In trying to think of a good example for a worst case scenario not directly attributable to foreign invasion or to politically motivated civil war, Ciudad Juarez, Mexico comes to mind. A large city which is being devastated due to having been chosen as the venue for a murderous turf-war between drug runners. Mass executions of groups of rivals, bribery or murder of public officials and gun-battles in the streets is not the kind of environment the people of the city want, it just descended upon them and there doesn't seem to be any power that can effectively combat the reign of terror.

According to Wikipedia, an article in The Guardian in September 2010 says of Ciudad Juárez – because of the violence "About 10,670 businesses – 40% of the total – have shut. A study by the city's university found that 116,000 houses have been abandoned and 230,000 people have left."

It's not just because "drug dealer a" killed "drug dealer b".  I'm sure that "drug dealer b" was important to someone besides himself, but that's not why the people are leaving.  They're leaving because "drug dealer a" shot up a crowd at the cinema where "drug dealer b" was picking up his little drug-dealers from the Saturday matinee and purchased (at gun-point) several city police officers who had come to arrest him.

When it reaches the point where the criminals are more numerous, better armed and much better funded than are the forces of law and order finding a workable solution to the problem becomes difficult at best.   Between October 2010 and February 2012, 64 Juarez police officers have been murdered and the federal government has brought hundreds of federal police and 7500 soldiers to the city in an attempt to assert government control.

One of the city’s more grisly murders took place on December 20, 2011, when Officer Jose Everardo Sanchez, who had been kidnapped the previous night, was thrown into the street from of a vehicle with his hands and feet tied. His killers then doused him with a flammable liquid and set his body ablaze. The gruesome scene took place at 8:30 a.m. in full view of many horrified witnesses who saw the officer writhe in pain until succumbing to his wounds.

Besides the police officers and drug cartel members killed, over 4000 young women have been murdered in the past four years and almost none of those killings have been solved by police. It would be easy to say that the Chihuahua Police, Juarez Police and federal police are incompetent or corrupt, but that isn't the reality of the situation.  Of course there are stupid and/or corrupt officers - it happens everywhere - but that's not true of the vast majority. 

What is true is that there are cartels - gangs - of exceptionally vicious and cold-bloodedly murderous men and women who are making money in unimaginably vast quantities making and distributing illegal drugs. Those people intend to keep doing business and they employ hundreds, if not thousands, of agents with cell-phones who act as lookouts in their cities and towns to warn the gang of police presence.  They also employ hundreds, if not thousands, of cold-blooded murderers who are armed with the best hardware money can buy who act as bodyguards and shock troops.

The killers and their employers are, because of their firepower and their willingness to use it, nearly impervious to arrest by law enforcement.  Despite all the stories you hear, in Mexico as in the USA as in Germany or England, and most other countries, the police very rarely are going to shoot first unless certain that they are threatened with firearms by someone who might shoot.  The officer can't know until the weapon fires or, at least, becomes visible that it's not just some random citizen who is approaching or being approached.

That, and absolute ruthlessness is what gives the cartels their edge.  Back in the early years of the last century the US had some gangs of outlaws roaming around and robbing people, sometimes killing in the process.  John Dillinger, Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow were fairly well known among them.  Those three and a few others were casual killers, if a citizen resisted being robbed they would simply shoot the victim and then take the money.  If they felt threatened by a police officer they would simply shoot the officer.

Those outlaws were finally stopped, but there wasn't anything pretty about it and there was no reading of rights and handcuffing involved.  They were stopped in ambush and killed in a hail of bullets fired by several officers acting in concert.  Essentially they were murdered by the officers because of their history of killing others.  Less historically documented but very emphatically illustrative is the final few minutes of the movie "Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid," in which the two are surrounded by a regiment or so of Bolivian regular soldiers armed with rifles and decide to go out shooting, armed only with revolvers.

Things have reached the point, I think, where extraordinary responses to the challenges posed by those who, apparently, believe themselves above the law are indicated.  Here in the US the response to the drug cartels has been to imprison small-time dealers and some users for lengthy terms, so that the USA now detains a full 25% of all the world's prison inmates.  We only comprise about 4 1/2% of the world's population, so either we're much more criminally inclined than everyone else on Earth, or something is out of whack...

The United Mexican States, Los Estados Unidos Mexicanos, has only 1/3 the US population, or around 112 million people but their country is the favored land route into the United States whether it's drugs or people being smuggled and the USA is the big destination for either one.  For that reason Mexico has lots of ruthless criminals, some foreigners and some home-grown fighting over those routes through their country and into ours.  The official death toll in Mexico for the past five years of the "war on drugs" is right at 50,000 people, while we have incarcerated around 750,000 for drug-related stuff since the inception of the war on drugs.

People are dying and people are becoming filthy-rich because of the war on drugs.  Mexican society is being badly damaged. In the USA murders, burglaries and robberies all happen due to the drugs while billions of taxpayer dollars are spent and hundreds of thousands of people are imprisoned - either because of the drugs themselves or because of crimes committed to get money to buy drugs.  It makes one think that the logical plan would be to legalize the stuff and figure a way to make them dirt cheap so that the users wouldn't have to commit robbery on a wholesale level to afford to feed their habits or addictions.

I don't see any advantage to the country in making the stuff illegal and failing to prevent it being imported while disrupting the hemisphere and keeping people in prison at tremendous cost.  It hasn't prevented a "drug culture" existing, instead it has made criminals, often desperate murdering criminals out of people who are just too weak to stay away from the stuff.  I'd think it would be far better to bring them back into society than to leave a large population outlawed but still living among us with no legal means of support. 

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Some Notes on Lying vs. Being Mistaken

About Lying

About Lying
Some Notes on Lying vs. Being Mistaken

On July 29, 2011 Chuck from Austin, Texas wrote:
The word "lie" indicates intent to deceive. If I say that it is Tuesday when it is actually Wednesday, does that make it a lie? Obviously when two people have differing opinions one (or both) of them may be wrong, but that does not make it a lie. I believe that there is a God. The fact that you do not does not make either position a lie.

August 6, 2011 at 4:40am Mark wrote:
??? hmm... I'll ponder on that, but that's just a technicality.
If I understand you correctly, you are saying that if a person "believes" something to be true and claims it, that is not lying? But he will still be claiming something that is not true, so isn't he technically "Lying", even if he is unaware of it?

The moderater said: No Mark, if he believes it to be true, even though it is not true, then his advocacy is not lying it is simply "being wrong." "Lying" is about the intent to deceive, and not about being correct.

It is possible for a person to tell you the objective truth and yet be lying if that person is intending to deceive you.

The simplest illustrative example that comes to mind is an instance in which there are two containers, one numbered "1" and the other numbered "2". If an object be placed in container #1 and the other person (the one who will lie to you) has been told that the object is in container #2 and that person, intending to mislead you, reports it to be in Container #1; you will have been given correct information while being lied to.

For those who have the tendency to overthink these things, do not confuse this with Schrödinger's cat, in which you can't know if there is a cat in the box until you open the box; but in the interim the box must remain simultaneously in both a cat and a non-cat state. I, personally, think that's asking rather a lot of a box.

About Lying

By Tim C. Mazur

Tim C. Mazur is COO of the ECOA, the world’s premier member organization serving ethics and compliance officers.

"I don't dig into people's private lives. I never have." Ross Perot's brief statement on ABC News in July 1992 was meant to end allegations that he secretly investigated his presidential campaign volunteers. The allegations ended, but not the way Perot intended. Within hours, irrefutable evidence appeared that proved Perot had hired others to probe his people's pasts. By the next day, there was no question on anyone's mind: Ross Perot lied.

So what? It wasn't the first time a politician lied and it won't be the last. Sometimes a lie, a false statement made with deliberate intent to deceive, seems the perfect response: a brother lies about his sister's where-abouts to the drunken husband threatening to harm her, a doctor tells a depressed patient that he has a 50-50 chance of long-term recovery when she is confident he'll live only six months, a son gives his late mother's estate to the poor after promising to honor her demand that the money be placed in her coffin. When trying to do the right thing in a difficult situation, perfect honesty may seem second best next to values like compassion, respect, and justice. Yet many philosophical and religious traditions have long claimed that rarely, if ever, is a lie permissible. What, then, is the truth about lying?

The philosopher Immanuel Kant said that lying was always morally wrong. He argued that all persons are born with an "intrinsic worth" that he called human dignity. This dignity derives from the fact that humans are uniquely rational agents, capable of freely making their own decisions, setting their own goals, and guiding their conduct by reason. To be human, said Kant, is to have the rational power of free choice; to be ethical, he continued, is to respect that power in oneself and others.

Lies are morally wrong, then, for two reasons.

First, lying corrupts the most important quality of my being human: my ability to make free, rational choices. Each lie I tell contradicts the part of me that gives me moral worth.

Second, my lies rob others of their freedom to choose rationally. When my lie leads people to decide other than they would had they known the truth, I have harmed their human dignity and autonomy. Kant believed that to value ourselves and others as ends instead of means, we have perfect duties (i.e., no exceptions) to avoid damaging, interfering with, or misusing the ability to make free decisions; in other words - no lying.

A second perspective, virtue ethics, also maintains that lying is morally wrong, though less strictly than Kant. Rather than judge right or wrong behavior on the basis of reason and what people should or should not do, virtue ethicists focus on the development of character or what people should be. Virtues are desirable qualities of persons that predispose them to act in a certain manner. Fairness, for example, is a virtue we may choose to strive toward in pursuit of fulfilling our human potential. In virtue ethics, to be virtuous is to be ethical.

Though the nature of virtue ethics makes it difficult to assess the morality of individual acts, those who advocate this theory generally consider lying wrong because it opposes the virtue of honesty. There is some debate whether a lie told in pursuit of another virtue (e.g., compassion: the brother's lie to his sister's drunken husband is motivated by compassion for her physical safety) is right or wrong. This apparent conflict between virtues is managed by most ethicists through a concept called the unity of the virtues. This doctrine states that the virtuous person, the ideal person we continuously strive to be (We are continuously striving to be an ideal person, aren't we?) cannot achieve one virtue without achieving them all. Therefore, when facing a seeming conflict between virtues, such as a compassionate lie, virtue ethics charges us to imagine what some ideal individual would do and act accordingly (WWJD?), thus making the ideal person's virtues one's own. In essence, virtue ethics finds lying immoral when it is a step away, not toward, the process of becoming the best persons we can be.

According to a third perspective, utilitarian ethics, Kant and virtue ethicists ignore the only test necessary for judging the morality of a lie - balancing the benefits and harms of its consequences. Utilitarians base their reasoning on the claim that actions, including lying, are morally acceptable when the resulting consequences maximize benefit or minimize harm. A lie, therefore, is not always immoral; in fact - according to this view - when lying is necessary to maximize benefit or minimize harm, it may be immoral not to lie. The challenge in applying utilitarian ethics to everyday decision making, however, is significant: one must correctly estimate the overall consequences of one's actions before making a decision. The following example illustrates what utilitarian decision makers must consider when lying is an option.

Recall the son and his dying mother described earlier. On careful reflection, the son reasons that honoring his mother's request to settle the estate and deposit the money in her coffin cannot be the right thing to do. The money would be wasted or possibly stolen and the poor would be denied an opportunity to benefit. Knowing that his mother would ask someone else to settle her affairs if he declared his true intentions, the son lies by falsely promising to honor her request. Utilitarianism, in this example, supports the son's decision on the determination that the greater good is served (i.e., overall net benefit is achieved) by lying.

Altruistic or noble lies, which specifically intend to benefit someone else, can also be considered morally acceptable by utilitarians. Picture the doctor telling her depressed patient that there is a 50 percent probability that he will recover, when in truth all tests confirm the man has only six months to live. The doctor knows from years of experience that, if she told this type of patient the truth, he would probably fall deeper into depression or possibly commit suicide. With the hope of recovery, though, he will most likely cherish his remaining time. Again, utilitarianism would seem to support the doctor's decision because the greater good is served by her altruistic lie.

While the above reasoning is logical, critics of utilitarianism claim that its practical application in decision making is seriously flawed. People often poorly estimate the consequences of their actions or specifically undervalue or ignore the harmful consequences to society (e.g., mistrust) that their lies cause. Following the examples above, the son's abuse of his mother's faith in him and the doctor's lie undermine the value of trust among all those who learn of the deceits. As trust declines, cynicism spreads, and our overall quality of life drops. In addition, suggesting that people may lie in pursuit of the greater good can lead to a "slippery slope," where the line between cleverly calculated moral justifications and empty excuses for selfish behavior is exceedingly thin. Sliding down the slope eventually kindles morally bankrupt statements (e.g., "Stealing this man's money is okay because I will give some to charity.") Those who disagree with utilitarianism believe that there is potentially great cost in tolerating lies for vague or subjective reasons, including lies in honor of "the greater good."

Critics of utilitarian justifications for lying further note how difficult it is for anyone, even honorable persons, to know that a lie will bring more good than the truth; the consequences of actions are too often unpredictable. Lies frequently assume "lives of their own" and result in consequences that people do not intend or fail to predict. Moreover, it is very difficult for a person to be objective in estimating the good and the harm that his or her lies will produce. We, as humans, have a vested interest in the lies we tell and an equally vested interest in believing that the world will be better if we lie from one instance to the next. For these reasons, critics claim, lying is morally wrong because we cannot accurately measure lies' benefits and harms.

Clearly, lying is an issue worth examining, as many people believe it is a bigger problem today than it has ever been. A recent Time magazine cover story concluded, "Lies flourish in social uncertainty, when people no longer understand, or agree on, the rules governing their behavior toward one another." Maybe social uncertainty abounds because we are a mixture of Kantians, virtuists, and utilitarians who share no common ground. More likely, the problem is that too few persons adequately consider any ethical perspective when facing a situation that tempts a lie. Either way, it seems that the solution to our dissatisfaction begins with acknowledging the value of ethical reasoning and ends with a commitment to follow through with what we determine is the right thing to do.

From the website of:

The Markkula Center for Applied EthicsFurther Reading:

Bailey, F. G. The Prevalence of Deceit, Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1991.

Bok, Sissela. Lying: Moral Choice in Public and Private Life. New York: Vintage Books, 1979.

Greenberg, Michael A. "The Consequences of Truth Telling." JAMA: The Journal of the American Medical Association 266 (1991): 66.

Revell Jean-Francois. The Flight from Truth: The Reign of Deceit in the Age of Information. New York: Random House Books, 1992.

Thaler, Paul. "The Lies that Bind." The New York Times Magazine 140 (June 9, 1991), 16.

You might remember from quite a few years back a debate in the USA over "situational ethics" as the idea was styled, which posited the idea that, in reality, there is no such thing as right nor wrong, but the determination of a thing's "rightness" was a function of the situation at that time and of its outcome with regard to that situation...

The idea was roundly condemned by most, if not all, religious leaders and the fundamental Christian people saw the concept as simply part of Satan's plan, because, clearly in the Judeo-Christian canon there is defined an absolute of "good" and "evil".

I agree, there are absolutes defined in the ten commandments and in Leviticus. It is not left to human agency to decide that it is okay to steal this time, nor to decide that today, for instance, it is not a sin if I covet my neighbor's ox, or her ass.

It seems, these days, that most Christian literalists and fundamentalists, in the USA, are aligned politically with the right-wing of the Republican party and I suspect that it came about due to the issue of abortion more than anything else. They have come to, it appears, equate morality (in the sense of "righteousness")with "right" in the political sense also. Oddly, it seems to me, but that's another story.

The point today is about lying. I have noticed over the past two years, as never before, a lot of email messages forwarded, endlessly, which accuse President Obama of all sorts of crass, crude and vicious behavior. I realize that the right-wing of the Republican party doesn't agree with his political or economic ideas and doesn't think that he should be President.

I think everyone knows that. But, as I said; the point today is about lying. Because many of those messages which people forward to me appear to have been written by people who remain in ignorance of Barack Obama's background; his birthplace, education, employment history and such (or they flatly accuse him of having lied about all of it) and go on from there to describe unlikely scenarios and statements which demonstrate some flaw in the man, his ideas or his family, I tend to vet the statements for accuracy.

It does not surprise me that most are simply made-up out of whole cloth. The rest often will be built around a misrepresentation of an actual event, many of which didn't actually involve Mr. Obama. I might, then, make the categorical statement that those emails tend to be a pack of lies. Actually, I will so state: those emails are a pack of lies.

But, in defense of my family members and friends who are conservative Christians, they are not lying. They are simply mistaken in believing and forwarding the scurrilous disinformation invented by those who claim to be ethical and honest while denying that everyone with whom they disagree politically or, for the love of God, economically could possess those qualities. 

So, without trying to assume the mantle of a teacher of righteousness for I certainly am not worthy of 
that, still, there is written a command from The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob to mankind, given to 
the children of Israel at the mountain of the lawgiving which deals with the type of lying that these 
people of the right are doing.  In Matthew 20:18 Jesus restated it for that generation and for us, as well: 
"Thou shalt not bear false witness". 

Friday, April 13, 2012

Mr. Romney vs. Mr. Obama

It's Friday the 13th and today Mitt Romney addressed the Annual Meeting of the National Rifle Association, which drew more than 60,000 gun enthusiasts to St. Louis.   Along with normal NRA convention business such as a chance to inspect the latest in personal weaponry, this year's show includes a feast of tough political attacks against the current incumbent of the White House.

"This November, we face a defining decision," Romney told a large crowd on the floor inside Edward Jones Dome, the home of the St. Louis Rams. "I am offering a real choice and a new beginning," he said. During his 1994 Senate race, Romney said: "I don't line up with the NRA." And in his first presidential bid, he falsely claimed that he had been endorsed by the NRA and was later forced to backtrack.

Romney was roundly mocked in that race for claiming to be a lifelong hunter of "small varmints" like rabbits and rodents. This time around, though, things are a bit different, NRA members who watched Romney's speech seemed not to care about Romney's record on guns, nor did they complain that he might not have been their first choice in the Republican race.

Romney is in undisdputed possession of the prime requirement to be president as far as most GOP and NRA members are concerned:  he is not Barack Obama.  NRA President Wayne LaPierre addressed the crowd before Romney spoke and LaPierre's message is the one which most of the far-right crowd keeps echoing, "We know if President Obama gets a second term, America as we know it will be on it's way to being lost forever," LaPierre said.  The NRA members answered back with lusty applause.

It appears to me that this contest is between two men who are very much alike and in many ways very different from the voters whom they are hoping to attract. Both men are highly intelligent and exceptionally well educated. Both belong to an unpopular minority (unpopular with some of the population, but certainly not all); Mr. Obama's minority status is an accident of birth and not something that he could change in the event that he might desire to do so, while Mr. Romney's minority status is one of religion and is one that he could change if he wished to do so.

Both men are high-achievers and are possessed of an exceptional drive to accomplish their objectives. Both men have managed to amass a not inconsiderable fortune in money and, obviously, have reached the very pinnacle of achievement by being in contention for the presidency of the USA. Mitt Romney is not very experienced at, nor very good at being in second place and I think it's fair to make the same observation with regard to Barack Obama.

It's true, it seems fair to surmise, that there are serious differences in what type of executive branch we would get with Romney as President when compared to Obama's administration. The major difference that is apparent in the two men is that they have a profound difference of opinion as to who should bear the cost of governing the country.  Obama has the rather simplistic idea that it would be logical for the people who have money to pay a lot of the costs, he seems to base that on the idea that they not only have benefitted from the country but, well, they have money.

Romney's idea, in stark contrast, seems to be that if the people with the money are allowed to continue to retain 75% to 90% of the earnings from that capital; that eventually, "in the fullness of time.", as the Mormons like to say, huge amounts of that money will permeate through the manufacturers to the shop-keepers and eventually into the pockets of the stock-clerks and janitors and hamburger makers; at which time we can have them pay the interest on the country's debts; to Mr. Romney and his friends as most of that 75% to 90% of the income from their capital.

And, as an additional benefit, all those stock-clerks and janitors and hamburger makers will be renting apartments from Mr. Romney and his friends, buying cars from Mr. Romney and his friends, attending movies at cinema complexes owned by Mr. Romney and his friends, borrowing money for student loans for their children from Mr. Romney and his friends (with government guaranty of repayment, of course) while actually being employed by Mr. Romney and his friends...

Should they become ill the stock-clerks, janitors and hamburger makers will, if they can get together enough money, be treated at hospitals owned by Mr. Romney and his friends using drugs manufactured by companies owned by Mr. Romney and his friends.  In the event the treatment fails they will be hauled from the funeral homes owned by Mr. Romney and his friends in hearses manufactured by Mr. Romney and his friends and fueled by gasoline purchased from Mr.Romney and his friends, to interment in a crypt owned by, and rented in perpetuity from, Mr. Romney and his friends.

And; the "national debt" will never, ever be repaid. It will only have the interest paid and be added to from time to time to purchase more stuff from Mr. Romney and his friends with money borrowed from Mr. Romney and his friends.  Capisce?

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

It's not Romney's religion that's the issue...

Mitt Romney’s campaign has released a web video falsely claiming that President Obama has somehow created more debt than all his predecessors combined.

    “[The President] has managed to pile on nearly as much debt as all the previous presidents combined.”

The Facts:

As numerous fact-check organizations have repeatedly pointed out, Romney’s claim is demonstrably false. While President Obama has fought to deal with the consequences of the recession he inherited, the necessary increase in debt is far less than Romney claims.

The Need

The day he took office, the President inherited both an economy which was in free fall and “the largest deficit relative to the economy since the end of World War II.” Despite the fact that President George W. Bush inherited a surplus, he went on to cut revenues and spend roughly $4.4 trillion on policies including the Bush tax cuts and the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, leaving behind a national debt of $10.5 trillion.

Even conservative economists like former President Reagan adviser Martin Feldstein noted that the economic crisis required “increased government spending” and pushed for “big spending, carried out quickly.” Mainstream economists said that the crisis required “a mix” of public spending and tax cuts that the President was doing at the time. Despite the cost of the Recovery Act, it received “general approval from economists.”

The Plan

While focusing on economic recovery, the President has promoted policies that make much-needed reforms to reduce the deficit. Though Republicans have walked away from some of the President’s proposals to reduce the deficit reduction by trillions, the President has still put forward serious deficit reduction plans. In his latest budget proposal, he has outlined a plan that includes $4 trillion in deficit reduction over the next ten years—including $1 trillion that he signed into law last year.

The Irony

Now as a GOP presidential candidate, Romney is pushing tax and budget proposals that would explode the national deficit by $5 trillion over the next 10 years. The bulk of that cost comes from his plan to cut taxes for corporations and the wealthy. And as the Center of Budget and Policy Priorities’ Jared Bernstein notes, Romney’s proposals would drive up the debt to 99 percent of GDP in 2021.

My Take

There's no doubt, from any quarter, that the nation is in deep excreta. The issue though, is how much of this debt should we repay through the increase of federal revenues?  The Republican answer is more or less along the lines that if we eliminate medical care for the indigent, slash social security benefits and round up all the people who lack immigration documents, and abolish abortion and planned parenthood along with school lunch programs, stop unemployment security programs, abolish minimum wage laws, require that all business be conducted in English, abolish labor unions and institute a means and literacy test as a requirement for voters things will be fine, the economy will recover and peace will reign. 


If Romney is elected expect that he will, as he always has as an executive, throw the workers to the lions in order to maximize the take at the top. With all due respect to the man, that is how he operates. It's small wonder why the republicans think he might be okay in spite of his "off brand" Christianity.

Their plan is to eliminate all help for the poor and the unfortunate,  and use that money to pay the bills - oh, and fix things so the poor can't vote. In essence, they want to turn back the clock to the "good old days".

Some of us, though, think that child-labor laws, literacy through kids being allowed to go to school rather than starting to work as soon as they are 6 or 7 years old (which was common in 19th century America), wage scales which are high enough so that workers can have a place to live and food on a regular basis, universal suffrage (it's a democracy, don't let them change that; if you're not rich you won't like the result), equal rights for all citizens without regard to race, religion, sex, sexual identity, color, national origin, previous condition of servitude, marital status, bank account, beauty and so on, ad infinitum, are a good thing.

The reason for human society is that in union there is strength.  It's about, literally, keeping the wolves away from the door.  If society becomes transformed into little more than a mechanism of oppression by the ruling class of the workers, what incentive is there for the workers to allow the maintenance of the ruling class?  When the "law of the jungle" is the law of the land, what use have we for the rulers?  That, actually, is what the second amendment is about.

The overturning of such a society is called, oddly, a revolution.  Revolution implies that the high become low and vice-versa. It rarely is that simple, but, it's not, altogether, a bad idea. The issue, of course, is that there are a lot more of us than there are of them, it's just that they own everything.
Oh, and of course, they intend to keep it that way; which might explain all the foreclosures.

In that great halcyon age of the USA in the 1950s, so often referenced by the right-wing (And, I was there, it wasn't all that great - unless you happened to be wealthy) as some sort of ideal society, it isn't mentioned that our population was a third of the current number.  It's rarely mentioned that women - basically - couldn't get a job other than as a teacher, a nurse, or a telephone operator or a shop clerk. 

African-Americans couldn't buy a house in most towns (assuming that, somehow, they got enough money, because they weren't going to be getting a loan) because of deed restrictions which made it illegal to sell the land to them and they couldn't get a job nor even shop in many towns. That's why the civil rights fight started on a city bus and at a Woolworth's lunch counter.

And, I almost forgot, one US dollar was worth about a 1000 Japanese yen and about 500 francs, we didn't do business with the mainland Chinese nor with Russia... We were, although dirt-poor for the most part, supremely rich alongside almost everyone else on Earth. We had the only fully functional economy left in the world after WWII.  And, you could buy a nice house on two acres of land for about $3000. Good farm land was about $400 an acre.

Hispanics, in the Southwest, then called Mexicans or "wetbacks", could only expect to be hired for menial positions.  There were exceptions, someone who had acquired an advanced degree might teach school, it wasn't impossible to advance it was just very, very difficult - it's called prejudice.
A Hispanic had to be outstanding to get a normal job other than as a laborer, and most often being outstanding wasn't enough. By the 1950s the barriers for Hispanic men were softening, the African-Americans were not so lucky.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

some thoughts on US politics

American Crossroads, the biggest of the Republican “super PACs,” is planning to begin its first major anti-Obama advertising blitz of the year.

With an anticipated bank account of more than $200 million, officials at American Crossroads said they would probably begin their campaign this month.

They said they would focus the bulk of the first phase of their drive to defeat Obama on the period of May through July.

The ultimate goal of the Crossroads campaign, Steven J. Law, the group’s leader said, would be to better connect Americans’ disappointment with the economy to their views of the president.

The May through July period, they believe, is a critical period for making an impression on voters before summer vacations and the party conventions take place.

American Crossroads position and theme concept which it will continue to push is, in their words, "President Obama and his allies in Congress stubbornly cling to the same destructive policies that drove us into this economic and fiscal morass: Backbreaking tax increases. Job-destroying regulatory harassment.  And gross fiscal incompetence."  See their website at:

Which, of course, reflects the position of the Republican Party that: "everything in the USA, and nearly the entire world, was absolutely wonderful and everyone was basking in the sunshine of peace and near unlimited prosperity, pretty much without a care in the universe until suddenly, unexpectedly and inexplicably, a foreign-born African communist who had spent his entire life in Muslim countries like Indonesia and Kenya, seized control of the government of the United States early in 2009.

He quickly executed his fiendish plan, retroactively attacked Afghanistan and Iraq and bankrupted the economy by channeling hundreds of billions of dollars to his oil and transportation companies and then gave away trillions of dollars to  bankers, insurance companies and stock manipulators while simultaneously destroying the value of most private homes in the country. Meanwhile he was bringing in millions of Hispanic non-citizens, who can't even speak English, for hand-outs and free health-care and raising the price of oil by 60%, because he can do that stuff."

Fortunately the brave folks at American Crossroads, at great personal risk, were able to beat back the insurgents, restore our rightful flag, reinstitute the use of the American Language, turn corporations into people and regain control of the House of Representatives in the mid-term elections and thereby narrowly avert Obama's evil scheme to enslave... The Very Wealthy.

Have I left anything out? 

Oh, yeah: he's the Anti-Christ; which explains how he was able to get his birth announcements into the Honolulu newspapers back in 1961 and magically appear, completely out of nowhere, in Chicago five years ago in the guise of a teacher of constitutional law, an attorney and a United States Senator.

But, I want to thank the folks at American Crossroads for saving us from a bunch of stuff like having health-care, a place to actually, you know, live and food to eat.  It's a relief to know that they support our freedom, especially freedom as it was defined so long ago: "Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose."

1864 Eagle and Flag copyright 2010  "What's going on"

I picked this exchange from the comments section of a news story about Rick Santorum, unlike the right-wing, I don't have to make this stuff up:

H: I was just discussing with a friend the other day how freaking terrified I am of the future and I don’t even live in the US. This is the scariest election by far.

A: Exactly.  The implications are so far-reaching, its not just the US that will feel it. I think the moral of the story here is that I don’t care how freaking jaded you are by the establishment right now, if you DON’T vote for Obama things are only going to get seriously worse. especially if you're a woman…or poor…or a minority…or gay.

 H: Yeah, or a foreign citizen, or have a disability or learning disorder, or work a minimum wage job, or are sick etc. etc. etc, you see where I'm going with this...