Sunday, February 24, 2013

Personalized Costs

So I remember some discussion a while back where someone was accusing someone else of wanting to privatize gains while socializing risks. I’m pretty sure it was about banks, but it holds for what I was thinking about recently.

A lot of the discussion lately has been of gun violence, and how to stop it. Chicago is often held up as a good example of how very restrictive gun laws don’t have their intended effect. Of course progressive control minded types like to say that the guns are coming in from out of state, which I suppose they must be, but I have to wonder: since it’s so much easier to buy guns in other states, why isn’t the murder rate high there? Why isn’t the gun homicide rate universally high? Why is it only in the large metro areas? Gangs? Drugs? Gangsta Rap? Welfare mentality? Single moms? Absent dads? Chem trails? Who knows, but here we are. We don’t know why it happens, but the statistical proof is almost beyond denying that the more you restrict lawful gun ownership (which is the only gun ownership that you CAN restrict) the more helpless common citizens are. Criminals may be dumb, but on the whole, they know how and when to exploit an advantage.

The framers of the Constitution, which is the blueprint for our government, the authors of our very way of life, were distrustful governmental power, some of them so much so that that they insisted on the inclusion of the first ten amendments (the Bill of Rights) so as to make it very clear what the rights of citizens were and what the government could not take away unless the citizenry got together and OFFICIALLY took a right away from themselves. The 18th amendment is a perfect example of this procedure. 1) Stern, bossy woman gets people all riled up. 2) Convinces them that they themselves are not to be trusted. 3) Convinces them to amend the Constitution and deny themselves the right to self determination. 4) People sober up and realize they made a terrible mistake. 5) They again amend the Constitution reinstating the very right that they had taken from themselves previously. It’s not hard to do. But it’s like the Hokey Pokey….. there are rules. There’s a procedure. You just can’t start shaking your right hand all about. There’s an order of operations that has to be followed.

So what do we do about gun violence? There ARE laws but certain types of people (criminals mainly) don’t seem to be obeying them. So let’s use speeding in an automobile as an example. What works there? Let’s say there’s a stretch of road and the speed limit on that road is…… oh, say 70 mph. But a certain percentage of the people don’t want to drive 70, they want to drive 80. Does it make sense to change the speed limit to 60 mph? The same bunch of people are still going to want to drive 80, so the only people really effected are the law abiders. Okay change the speed limit to 50 miles per hour. But the 80 club is still going to be prone to drive 80 and the rest of the people have now become law breakers because they don’t want to and won’t drive 50.

So the question is: why don’t we simply enforce the laws we already have on the books? Or apply harsher penalties? Increase the fines for speeding to the point where the 80s club just can’t justify the risk or the cost of the fines any longer?

It’s the same with guns. By not adequately enforcing, or punishing violation of current gun laws, the government, through the courts is subsidizing gun violence, and in so doing is socializing the costs of that criminal behavior when what it should be doing is PERSONALIZING the costs. Instead of illegally restricting rights guaranteed by the Second Amendment it should be strengthening and enforcing gun laws to the point where criminals would know, and FEEL the true cost of their criminality. “Use a gun to commit a crime, go to jail for a long time”. “Do it again and you’ll live to wish you hadn’t”. And of course then you have to make prison a place to be avoided with some earnestness. Difficult, but doable.

And of course you can’t stop crazy. About the first time someone drives through a fence wreaks havoc on a crowded playground there’ll be an attempt to outlaw four wheel drive trucks because no responsible driver really needs one.

But that’s just what an average guy thinks.

Saturday, February 9, 2013


Listen up peeps. What I’m about ready to say leans toward the profound.

A couple of years ago when the DoD flew a Hell Fire missile up Abdulrahman Al-Awlaki’s exhaust pipe blowing him and his 16 year old son to bits I didn’t really give the topic of killing an American citizen without any due process much thought. He deserved what he got, and the fact that he exposed his son to the hell of warfare at such a young age is unfortunate, but it was his choice. I was wrong not to have given it more thought. Not the killing itself, (I still think he got what he had coming) but the lack of process.

I oppose capital punishment. I don’t think the possibility of being put to death twenty years in the future works as much of a deterrent to criminals and psychotics so inclined and I have serious problems with the ability of our criminal justice system to administer such a punishment. Not “justly”, or “fairly”, but accurately. There are simply too many cases of wrongful execution and near misses on the books to allow such a program to continue. Over zealous, lazy, or corrupt prosecutors or law enforcement personnel and, or bad luck and circumstance can conspire against a person who then finds him or herself at the end of a rope…… so to speak. “Well”, I’m asked, “how often does that really happen”? to which I reply “how often does it have to happen”? How often are we willing to murder innocent men and women in order to maintain our self image of fairness?

That is not to say that I don’t think the perpetrators of capital crimes don’t deserve to die. They do. Horribly. But the laws are not made to apply only to the guilty. They have to apply equally to us all. We can’t honestly say to ourselves that we only execute those whose guilt we’re certain of….. because it’s a prosecutors job to be certain of the guilt of the accused. How could he, in good faith, try any case if he weren’t convinced of the guilt of the accused? A prosecutor’s job is not to look for the truth. A prosecutor’s job is to convince a jury (at any cost sometimes) of the correctness of his accusations. We are human. Humans make mistakes. I feel that it is unjust for human failings to result in the deliberate taking of a life.

Back to the drone strikes.

I am also not opposed (in general) to the use of drones in circumstances where it’s nearly impossible or too risky to engage an enemy operative, but I believe that this administration has another motivation that influences them in the direction of drone use. The detention facility at Guantanamo Bay was (famously) to be closed one year from president Obama taking office. The prisoners were to be moved to US soil and tried in US civilian criminal courts. This movement and civilizing of (men who are in effect) prisoners of war was widely, and wisely resisted. But the administration’s desire to close Guantanamo has not lessened. So they have simply decided to close it by attrition. By trying the few prisoners that they must and repatriating the rest to the battlefields where they can THEN simply kill them with missiles. They are taking no new prisoners. No new prisoners…. no need for interrogation…. no need for a prison. One of the trade offs, of course, is that we receive no new human intelligence of the type which led to the detection of and operation against Osama bin Laden.

So to further its own plans to close the detention facility at Guantanamo bay and to reduce the size of the military, the administration has hired lawyers to tell them that it’s legal and wise to kill American citizens without any due process at all. With no paper trail of responsibility. No lawyer to make a defense… no judge to make a decision and a decree. Only a nameless, faceless, unelected bureaucrat with no legal responsibility sitting in some “Star Chamber” making decisions of life and death. A mortal man…. or woman reading a report, making a check mark in a box and passing a form on to the DoD for targeting…. much the same way the president does now.

A power given is a power used. This power WILL be used, and as witnessed by the resent usurpation of congressional prerogative by the administration it will be expanded. If the administration can make the claim, straight faced, that it’s “legal and wise” to kill American citizens abroad without any due process what’s the barrier to them claiming that it’s legal and wise to kill Americans in remote areas of Mexico, or Canada, or Arizona?

The killing of American citizens with drones makes a mockery of the Miranda decision and helps to push us off on the bobsled run to hell.

But that’s just what an average guy thinks.