Tag Archives: Government

Outrage Isn’t Going to Prevent Another Brock Turner

The Internet has been on fire with outrage over the lenient sentence given Brock Turner. What good do we think that will do his victim, us individually, or society? I’m disappointed that this young man refuses to take responsibility for his actions, for shattering the life of a young woman. None of us can make him accept responsibility for what he’s done, and continues to do, since his refusal to formally accept that he’s raped a woman and severely harmed her, and that this was wrong, is making it more difficult for her to move past this trauma.

I propose that we spell out what we want from Brock, from his parents, the justice system, lawmakers, and society, and why we want each of these things. We have a responsibility to prevent this from happening to others. Raging against decisions and people we disagree with will do little or nothing to prevent this from happening again.

Here’s my list, at least as a starting point.

1. Brock Turner needs to admit that he raped this woman, and that it’s entirely his fault. He should formally apologize to her.
2. Brock Turner’s parents need to formally admit that their son did something terrible, and that he should face the consequences of his actions.
3. Brock Turner should be sentenced to several years of community service, of a kind that will develop empathy and provide a genuinely needed service to society.
4. Lawmakers should create laws that ensure restitution for victims of sex crimes, from the offender where possible and the state otherwise, and that restitution should be opened ended enough to provide whatever is necessary to help the victim recover fully (as fully as humanly possible).
5. What can we do to prevent rape? There are many things we can do better. Talking to boys and girls is necessary but clearly not sufficient. What else can we do? Where is the balance between liberty and security? Where should the responsibility for rape prevention fall?

For background: I’m a married father of a college age daughter and two high school age sons. This issue is immediately relevant to my life.

Citizens should retain their voting rights, without exception

Voting should be an inalienable right, not forfeited by any conviction. The right to keep arms should be restored upon completion of an offender’s sentence unless he was convicted of crimes of violence.

Virginia’s Governor recently restored voting rights to a large number of felons. You can read the New York Times’ account of this here – http://www.nytimes.com/2016/04/23/us/governor-terry-mcauliffe-virginia-voting-rights-convicted-felons.html

I’ll present here a brief dialogue between me and a very smart G+ friend. I think it covers the issues here well.

Friend: Quick hypothetical…
If rights should be restored in full after a sentence is served, would you include the 2nd amendment rights? I believe the question is purely academic because where federal law allows for states to decide the issue with regard to voting rights, I believe it strictly prohibits the same for gun ownership. Could be mistaken about that.

I honestly feel the nature of the crime should be considered with the answer being a clear “no” in cases of violent crime.

Me: That’s a very good question. For violent crimes, I would say gun rights should remain suspended. In fact, my stance would depend on what right we’re talking about. I treat voting differently because it’s the primary and most powerful voice the citizen has in a democracy. As long as our votes are fairly counted and elections determine the leadership of our nation, we can save ourselves (or be the instrument of our own destruction).

For a felony having nothing to do with violence or force, I don’t see why someone shouldn’t have their firearms rights restored after their sentence is served. The right to self defense should be inherent. There’s an argument that firearms specifically are very rarely needed for self defense, but that would be a distraction from the main issue of whether this right is inherent. We could also consider the other legitimate uses of firearms, such as hunting or sports, and whether there’s a compelling reason the state should prevent a felon from engaging in these activities. This could get tricky to implement, but we could start with the standard of whether a reasonable person believes the felon would be likely to illegally use a firearm and see where that takes us.

Friend: Well, in the case of voting rights, wouldn’t the same principle hold true in regards to crimes of moral turpitude? Do you want the former leaders of Enron to have a say in who becomes the leader of the free world?

Me: I thought about moral turpitude as a disqualifier, but I think it’s more important to treat the right to vote as inherent than to allow exceptions and weaken this right. I think the moral turpitude argument could have unintended consequences, and I note that some of the most immoral people (e.g. Don Blankenship) are either walking free with all their rights intact or not convicted of any felonies. For democracy to work, we have to trust that the masses of the people won’t be so shortsighted, fearful, or ignorant as to vote a disastrous person into power. I know this isn’t the best time for that trust and the Bush 2 Presidency is a counterexample, but I still prefer democracy to the alternatives.

Both: We were in agreement and ended the discussion at this point.


So what do you think about this? Feel free to tell me in the comments.


Deadly weapons aren’t for everyone

Gun-toting Florida mom shot in the back by her 4-year-old may go to jail for 180 days


BoingBoing’s coverage of this incident, including the offender’s/victim’s pic is perfect.

This is why I want serious firearms regulation. I’ve met far too many people like this, including some in the military and law enforcement, but civilians are generally worse. We need to have strong weapons laws with serious bite to them. Carrying deadly weapons isn’t for everyone, as this woman clearly demonstrates, and we will be forced to have this lesson repeated daily until enough of us learn it to take decisive action.


Judge Decides No Immunity For Cops Who Sent A SWAT Team To A 68-Year-Old Woman’s House


Conclusion of Judgement by Court of Appeals

From the techdirt post: In 2012, the home of 68-year-old grandmother Louise Milan “was raided by a SWAT team (accompanied by a news crew) searching for someone who had made alleged threats against police officers over the internet. Part of the probable cause submitted for the warrant was Milan’s IP address. But the police made no attempt to verify whether any resident of Milan’s house made the threats and ignored the fact that the IP address was linked to an open WiFi connection.”

This is unjustifiable and nearly incomprehensible, as the judge noted. One or more police need to be fired and banned from holding a law enforcement position again and there needs to be a punitive judgement sufficient to motivate police across the nation to take notice and change their policies to prevent this from happening again.

The Real Causes of the American Civil War

Confederate Monument at Arlington National Cemtery

Confederate Monument at Arlington National Cemetery – Wikipedia

In this excellent article, Ta-Nehisi Coates lays bare the principles the American Civil War was fought over and the mask of deception practiced by racists ever since. He quotes the documents of secession and other relevant historical documents to prove his point.

This is a good resource to point to when you run into the willfully ignorant who claim the Civil War as a “War of Northern Aggression” or the hateful flag as a symbol of a proud (non-slave) heritage. It may not shut them up, let alone open their eyes, but their reaction to this evidence will be a good gauge as to whether further engagement is a waste of your time.

Capital Oppresses Labor


Tolstoy was exactly right.

It doesn’t have to be this way, of course. Welfare Capitalism, as practiced in most of the developed world, allows the creative destruction of capitalism to proceed while shielding individuals from its excesses.

Supporting capitalism does not require that we support a free for all in which the capitalists use people and natural resources as they will. Capitalism left to run its natural course results in the destruction of individual life, liberty, and ultimately the environment we need to survive. A serious capitalist will acknowledge the need for strong government regulation of capitalist practices, even as he fights against those regulations that limit his own profits.

Our True Parasites – The Ruling Class

Man’s responsibility to his fellow man is a common thread running through every major ethical system, religious and secular. People are morally bound to contribute to their society according to their benefit from it. The poor benefit very little and so owe very little in return. Ideally we would create a society in which everyone benefits and is invested in maintaining and improving it. 

As it stands now, those who benefit the most generally contribute the least in return, making them parasites. The right wing loves to call people parasites, but this is largely a measure to put their opponents on the defensive and minimize the number of people who realize the right and their patrons are the real parasites. 

Philosophy Professor Jason Read describes the situation in terms of biology, in which successful parasites are not recognized as such by their host, which is exactly the case with the very wealthy in this nation. They thrive by preventing the majority from recognizing their true enemies.


GOP Lies Are Destroying America, and Reform Is Our Only Way Forward

I really want there to be a strong and healthy conservative party in the United States. While I’m very progressive socially and economically, I recognize the need for balance and the importance of pitting two intelligent groups against one another in a conflict of ideas as a key to finding that balance.

What we have today is a strong but very unhealthy extreme right GOP (and associated groups) and a lackluster centrist Democratic Party that’s too weak, too beholden to moneyed interests, and generally too afraid to propose anything truly progressive. The Democrats by their nature are a very diverse group and unable to come to a consensus on anything remotely controversial, and they’re pulled to the right by their fear of losing elections to the GOP, so I am focusing on the GOP because it’s both the greatest danger to our nation and the group that must be brought into balance if we are to return to a healthy democracy.

As detailed in Six Studies That Show Everything Republicans Believe is Wrong, it’s time for the right wing to stop lying about the minimum wage, taxes, global warming and more. I’m not sure how to reform a party that’s so completely committed to enforcing it’s will on the nation at any cost and is so heavily invested in lies and other corruption, but this is certainly the task before us.

Are Democrats less patriotic than Republicans?

Someone posted this question on Quora and I answered it as follows:

Several people have made this point, but since there are a number of others here who understand patriotism as loving your nation in an idealistic, religious way, I feel compelled to weigh in. Most Republicans believe that complaining about your nation isn’t patriotic and that “America” must be praised and considered first and foremost among nations. This is nationalism, not patriotism, though for some people these are the same.

Republicans tend strongly toward nationalism while Democrats tend toward patriotism. A mature love for your nation involves appreciating its goodness, acknowledging the evil it harbors and its bad acts in the world, and working to make the nation better for its citizens and the world. That’s my definition of patriotism.

If you read the comments of those who say Republicans are more patriotic, you’ll see that they almost uniformly define patriotism as nationalism.

This difference in opinion on what constitutes love of country is a common undercurrent in US political discourse. I find it interesting that the majority of Republicans serving in Congress have never sacrificed for their nation, for example in the military, law enforcement, the Peace Corps, … and that their lack of service and their votes against veterans benefits contradict their professed love of this nation.

Finally, I find it very telling that the majority of Republicans support the government when it does things they like and is led by someone they like, but they do everything in their power to cripple the government, even threatening to harm the nation, if they don’t like the actions of the government and especially if they don’t like who’s leading it. That is at best a very shallow, conditional sort of patriotism.

As others have commented, this difference between the Democratic and Republican love of their nation is at least partly explained by the maturity of the love, and the lover, with one very child-like and idealistic, and the other very mature and realistic.