Independent Country

James Leroy Wilson's blog

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Are you for Due Process, or merely against cruelty?

Some people who would never threaten physical violence against another will shoplift. They may think they're entitled. They may think the store or parent corporation is greedy. They may think it's harmless fun, or even funny. 

The shoplifters would point at the bank robbers and shout "Cruel! Unacceptable!"

After all, bank robbers point guns at people. Victims could suffer PTSD.

The shoplifters will find the moral high ground on the violence, although the shoplifters and bank robbers are both stealing. And stealing is unacceptable.

Is it surprising that some who justify shoplifting will justify bigger, riskier forms of stealing? Aren't those who failed to condemn shoplifting from the beginning partly complicit when some shoplifters become bank robbers?

It is all well and good to be against the violence or threats of violence in bank robberies. But why were you okay with the stealing?

This is what I've been thinking about through this border crisis in which foreign-born children have been separated from their parents and caged.

It made me think of the broad expansion of the "No-Fly List" shortly after the 9/11 attacks nearly 17 years ago.

The No-Fly List forced airlines to refuse to board American citizens who were on the list. The federal government infringed on the human right to travel without due process of law.

Innocent people were ensnared, as is inevitable when due process is ignored. I know of one, then a high schooler, with a very common name. He was delayed on his class trip. The late Sen. Ted Kennedy was on the list. People thought that was funny.

So we go from the No-Fly List to the victimization of these foreign children. Who knows what emotional scars won't be healed. Who knows how many children will be "lost" in the system. It's worse in many ways than the No-Fly list, just as bank robbery is worse than shoplifting. But the violation of Due Process was the same.

And people who had no complaints against the No Fly List or other travel restrictions without due process, are now advocates of human rights and Constitutional rights. They're suddenly for Due Process.

I hope they really are. I hope defending the rights of these children will inspire more people to fight for due process in other situations. I hope it's not just an emotional reaction against the cruelty. I certainly hope there aren't partisan motives.

To really oppose bank robbery, you must also oppose shoplifting because stealing is unacceptable. To oppose what's happening on the border, you must also oppose the No-Fly List, because violating Due Process is unacceptable. If we respected due process years ago, there would be no children in cages.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

My New Sports Blog

Blog Boy Blues.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

The NRA Myth

This past week a shooting spree at Parkland, FL school reignited the gun control debate. Those who call for the prohibition of some or all guns have blamed the National Rifle Association's campaign contributions to (mostly Republican) members of Congress for its failure to act.

But the Gun Lobby isn't like other lobbies. It's a citizen's group. It doesn't represent corporate interests.

If a Senator from Montana votes for sugar tariffs, you can guess it's due to the influence of Big Sugar. If a Bronx Representative favors ethanol subsidies, you can guess where some of his campaign fund comes from. Many people disagree with tariffs and subsidies of any kind, but few are so passionate that they'll vote against the incumbent over those issues.

Members of Congress could be influenced by campaign donations, but they're not beholden to them. The only thing that matters to them is reelection. It's votes that count, not money. They get away with these special favors to corporate interests because not enough people care enough to  organize against them.

But people are passionate about guns. Lots of people. More than enough to swing an election. A Republican Senator who isn't consistently pro-gun may have all the money in the world in his campaign fund, but he'll face a primary challenge from a "true conservative" and I would bet on the insurgent.

In this sense, the information the NRA provides its members about a Congressperson's voting record on guns is more important than any financial support it may give to election campaign.

That's not to say members of Congress don't need the NRA's cash. They certainly do, especially in "purple" states evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats.  But it's far, far more likely the NRA supports candidates who have always stated support for gun rights. I think we'd be hard-pressed to find a politician who supports gun rights only because of NRA money.

The supposed lack of gun laws, or lack of the right kind of gun laws, is a reflection of the preferences of the voters in a large number of states. NRA money has little to do with it.

This is particularly so because one who is pro-gun is more likely to have guns be their #1 or #2 issue (abortion being the other). Those who are anti-gun, however, may place a higher priority on climate change, immigration, war, or any number of other issues in any given election. For that very reason, the pro-gun side will always be stronger. The NRA could close shop tomorrow and it would make little difference.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Why are switchblades illegal?

Our fingernails aren't claws. Our jaws don't break necks. Our bite has no venom. As a species, we need tools to protect us.

The Second Amendment is more than about firearms. It's about all arms. It's about YOUR right to weaponry of any sort. It's about your right to life, because what is the right to life if it's illegal for you to defend your own life?

But, interstate sales of switchblades are illegal. Concealed carry of switchblades is illegal in most states.. These laws strip women against stronger male attackers, and other victims of direct physical assault, of perhaps their best defense.

I'm not well-versed in this area; I'm not versed in weapons and self-defense at all. But I could see countless situations in which an overpowered victim might be able to grab a switchblade hidden in her clothes whereas a pistol might be less retrievable. Guns may be more effective in self-defense from a distance, but not when the criminal is physically on top of you.

And it makes me angry.  It's as if the federal government will compile the statistics of reported rape and domestic violence, and politicians will mourn the tragedy of it all, but will deny a woman the most effective means to stop the crime in its tracks and prevent assailant from preying on others while her case is being investigated. Is rape a crime? Yes. Does the government want rapes to be stopped by allowing women the freedom to stab the rapist in the neck with a switchblade? No.

They want an "investigation" instead, during which the rapist preys on others.

Laws against switchblades may be even more a declaration of "open season" on women than laws against guns.

Laws don't protect you. Police don't protect you.

Only you can protect you.

And you're victimized twice. First by the "government" that tells you you'll be in trouble if you acquire the weapons you think you need.

Then you're victimized by the criminal precisely because you didn't have those weapons,

Do you want to be a victim, or do you want to at least have access to the means to fight back?

Do you want your children to be victims?

So why do you want switchblades to be illegal?

Monday, January 23, 2017

The State lies

I frequently watch Joe Kenda, Homicide Hunter on the ID channel.

An episode struck at me as distressing. Here are the facts as revealed...

1. A party was held.
2. It had members of a gang, but it was in another gang's neighborhood.
3. The gang that "owned" that neighborhood  showed up, uninvited, to intimidate.
4. A brawl broke out.
5. With an uninvited guest on top of him, the invited partier reached for his pistol and shot the guy in the neck, and he died.

Kenda did what he had to do: he found out what happened. The narrator took over and said the killer was charged for 1st Degree Murder, though it was pleaded down to manslaughter and the killer got 12 years.

Say what you want about the killer. He was probably a bad guy. And the victim might have turned out to be a good guy, but he was doing wrong when he was killed.

Here's what angers me: this was obviously not a case of premeditated, 1st degree murder. If anything, it was the opposite of that.

I'm  not saying the killer did right. But obviously it was an impulse, not planned. The killer didn't pre-plan the whole thing to specifically kill this particular guy.

The State knew this. The State lies.

If you ask me why I hate the State, I would ask, why didn't the charge, the truth, exist in the first place?

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Hard to explain the betrayal

No tweet, no fb post, no blog post, heck, no commissioned article or book can adequately explain the depth of betrayal I felt by the federal "government," the Democratic Party, and yes, my spiritual leaders, when Bill Clinton bombed Serbia over Kosovo and THEN when Obama bombed Libya. This wasn't about taxes or stupid regulations, or the best way to make minor improvements to the status quo, or the "proper role of government." Or even the existence of The State or the morality of aggression. This was about STARTING WARS and MURDERING PEOPLE WHO POSED NO THREAT TO THE AMERICAN PEOPLE, and TAKING SIDES IN COMPLICATED CIVIL WARS WITH NO GOOD GUYS. And VIOLATING THE CONSTITUTION, FEDERAL LAW, AND THE UN CHARTER. You could say, "The Republicans did even worse." I EXPECT WORSE FROM REPUBLICANS. But at least Bush I went to Congress over Kuwait and Bush II went to Congress over Saddam. So to you preening, self-righteous Democrat partisans, if your moral compass doesn't include that maybe, just maybe, that a harmless person across the ocean has the right to live, on what moral grounds to you have to lecture me about anything?

Saturday, January 21, 2017

The Ship of State, Really? Or, Everyone's #NotMyPresident

The "Ship of State" is a metaphor used since Plato to describe the necessity of wise leadership in a country.

I think it's a stupid metaphor. Here are a few reasons:

  • If you are a sailor, you understand that if you don't do your assigned job then the ship might sink in the water, or veer off-course.
  • States are legal constructs that exist on land, not physical objects that float on water.
  • Therefore, these states can't sink like ships can.
  • These states can't move in any direction, let alone wrong, dangerous directions that lead to wreckage or sinking.  
"But wait! You miss the metaphor! Countries can indeed 'sink,' financially. Countries can indeed go in the 'wrong direction,' morally, which in turn will undermine its security." 

Well, no. I totally understand those concepts. It's still a stupid metaphor. 

If you're a sailor on a ship, you do your job on the orders of more experienced superiors. If you don't do your job, the lives on all aboard might be in peril. If you believe your orders are mistaken, you can violate the orders but the consequences are your responsibility. If the captain is incompetent but it's not known he's incompetent, disaster may befall the ship.

The whole idea of life on land is entirely different. You decide to join a ship and agree to that chain of command. But being born on a particular piece of land was not your choice, and imparts no reason for you to have obligations or be subject to orders by superiors you didn't voluntarily agree to obey. The land won't move or sink. It's not a ship. 

Therefore, the people don't need to be told what to do. Everyone's survival doesn't depend on your actions. No one needs to order you around. No one has the "right" to get the "best" from you. If you score high on the medical school tests but would rather play chess for a living, and some bureaucrat for the "ship of State" orders you to become a doctor anyway for the "good" of others, are other people really better off if you do as you're ordered?

The beauty of a free society is that it relies on nobody, and that allows everyone to flourish. You are not a sailor; you're the captain of your own body and your own body only. You don't need a leader called a President. You don't need to be told what to do. You won't sink the Ship of State, because it doesn't exist.

And its leader doesn't exist. Trump isn't your leader, and Obama wasn't your leader, nor any Presidents before them.

It doesn't even matter, really, whether you believe you yourself or others "need" a "leader," 

If you really want a "leader" to tell you and others what to do, volunteer to work on a real ship. Don't pretend we all must do our "duty" for a fake one.

Nobody ever was or ever will be "your" President. 

Friday, December 16, 2016

#Wakeyleaks: Doing the right thing is prudent

Imagine you're a football coach at the major college level or higher. Someone gives you the playbook of your upcoming opponent. As anyone who follows football knows, having access to the opponent's playbook would give you a strategic advantage in the game.

You ask, "Where did you get it?"

The answer, "Doesn't matter, does it. Don't you want it?"

Why wouldn't you want it?

I know why I wouldn't want it and wouldn't use it. My first thought would be, "Gamblers are trying to fix the game. I don't know who these gamblers are or who they work for. This smells like trouble."

I'd immediately report the incident to my superior, name names as I know them, and hand over the playbook. Then I'd let my superiors handle it from there on, and cooperate with any official investigation.

Something similar has indeed happened. A broadcaster with insider access to Wake Forest football offered confidential play information to at least a couple opposing schools, for as if yet undetermined motives. One assistant coach (at Louisville) received the information but wasn't forthcoming about it and has been suspended.

Is it honorable, a sign of integrity, to refuse to use the playbook and reveal the information? Probably, but that to me isn't the reason come forward. The real reason is self-interest. Access to the opponent's playbook smells like trouble, just like buying Air Jordans out of the trunk of a car for $20 smells like trouble. Even if you don't know precisely how the Air Jordans would be available at such a huge discount, the wise thing to do is to not buy the shoes, and get away from that car as quickly as you can.

Don't get entangled with what looks like trouble. Protect yourself the best you can.

Even if you don't have a sense of honor or ethics, prudence can drive one to do the right thing.


Saturday, December 03, 2016

Elect the Electoral College for Real

Every Presidential election year, there's a call to get rid of the electoral college. Supporters of Hillary Clinton this year can point to her winning the popular vote by 2 million votes over the presumptive winner, Donald Trump.

I'm loath  to suggest a fix to something I'm opposed to in principle. I think America would be great if the federal government, including the Presidency, was abolished completely. It's like taxes. Taxation is theft. Immoral. But if there are to be taxes, there are ways I'd prefer they're raised.

Electing the President is similar. There are some ways that are less bad than others. And I think "we" should choose the Presidency the same a bill becomes a law.

A bill must pass the House, which represents the people in districts of roughly equal population. Then it must pass the Senate, which is represented by two per state, regardless of the state's population.

Few ever complain about this, even though there's some imbalance to it. In strict, representative democracy terms, it's imbalanced toward less-populated states. But that's how a federation works.

The Electoral College is constituted the same way as Congress. A state's Electoral College delegation, that elects the President, is equal to its Congressional delegation. The President that signs a bill into law represents the country in the same way Congress represents the country.

The question, however, is: why should we the people even indirectly cast ballots for the President? Why should the Electoral College be constituted that way? If anything, it makes the Presidency too powerful. The President often acts with reckless abandon because he has the stamp of democratic legitimacy. But his job is largely administrative, not legislative. Neither "democratic" nor "republican" theory implies or demands the people elect their law enforcement officers, chief diplomat, or top military commander. To do so is to invite demagogues to run for the office.

But if not the people directly, then should vote for President? People that "the people" trust. Not just once, for for the long haul: elect Electors of the Electoral College to six-year terms.

To begin, there would be adjustments where some electors would be limited to two-year or four-year terms. But over six years it would adjust. To project forward, here's what we'd see:

2028: Electors representing each Congressional District would be elected by the people. They would vote in the Electoral College in 2028 AND 2032. Their obligation ends there, but their terms "expire" in 2034.

2030: One elector representing each state is elected. They would vote in the Electoral College in the 2032 and 2036 elections, after which their terms expire.

3032: Another elector from each state is elected. They would vote in the Electoral College in the 2032 and 2036 elections, and their terms formally expire in 2038.

2034: Electors representing each Congressional District would be elected by the people again. And so on.

The people wouldn't be electing the President, but would elect people to elect the President, and trust them to do it twice. The circumstances of the country, the rising stars and flashes in the pan, the politicians who fall from grace --  the Electors would be considering all of that. And just like we theoretically do with Senators with economic and geo-strategic changes, we would trust the Electors to adapt to these changing circumstances when they consider the next President.

How would this be better than the current system?

For starters, the person elected President by the Electors would probably be more "qualified" without the stench of scandal, demonstrated incompetence, or inexperience.

As the Electors' terms would be staggered, representing shifting political winds from the time they were elected, "compromise" candidates would probably come forward. The President may be both more competent but with less ability to command popular consent. He'd have a less ambitious agenda. And because he wasn't popularly elected, he'd be more accountable to Congress. The people would be more willing to see a President impeached because the President doesn't really represent "them" or their favorite party.

And most importantly, we'd build more local interest in "who do we trust to be an Elector" but no national money drain of Presidential debates and primaries that waste our time for 18 months.

A President elected by Electors, and not "The People," would probably be less powerful and less ideological. He'd take care that the laws would be faithfully executed and then get out of the way. That would be a victory for liberty.

But I'm not married to this idea either. I'm just speculating that it'd be better than the system we'd have now, and far better than a direct popular vote.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

The power of inexperience

Last week, I predicted Mrs. Clinton would beat Mr. Trump. Two trends seemed to offset each other in the contest. One is that the ticket with more Ivy League degrees wins, and the other is that the "outsider" wins.

While wrong on the prediction, I underestimated just how great a handicap being a Washington "insider" is. The fact is, people don't like a lot of Washington experience in their President.

Only four times in the last fifteen years did someone with more Washington experience prevail in a Presidential election, and all of them were incumbents. They are in bold. Three were incumbents and the other was a sitting Vice President.

Three other incumbents had, even when counting their first four years in office, spent fewer years overall in Washington than their opponent. They all prevailed. Three other incumbents lost, all to candidates with no DC experience.

Three sitting vice Presidents also lost to candidates with fewer year in DC.

The only elections without an incumbent or a sitting vice President were in 2008 and 2016.

2016: Trump over Hillary Clinton
2012: Obama over Romney
2008: Obama over McCain
2004: GW Bush over Kerry
2000: GW Bush over Gore*
1996: Bill Clinton over Dole
1992: Bill Clinton over GHW Bush
1988: GHW Bush over Dukakis
1984: Reagan over Mondale
1980: Reagan over Carter
1976: Carter over Ford
1972: Nixon over McGovern
1968: Nixon over Humphrey
1964: Johnson over Goldwater
1960: JFK over Nixon

Going further back would take more research than I desire. (Who ran against Harding?) But it seems that unless the Presidential election has an incumbent, the "fresher face" has always been preferred for decades.

Tuesday, November 08, 2016

Election Follies: Other states are dumb

I voted today against the death penalty in Nebraska, against a tax hike/bond question, and for Gary Johnson as President of the United States. I also voted for a consolidation of two county offices.

State legislative, judicial, and local elections are formally non-partisan. Unlike Johnson for President, I knew of no Libertarian Party member, or philosophical libertarian, running. I did not vote in those races.

The voting tools were a pencil and a paper ballot. I was to color the oval beside my choice. Then there was a covering to hide my choices from the election official who deposited my ballot into the box.

And I had to wonder...

What's this about Russians or others hacking the election? While I have no doubt that computers will scan these ballots, there's a definite paper trail backing it up that can be audited.

How do other places not keep things simpler and more tamper proof?

If the election can be hacked in other states, they were inviting it. This isn't blaming a rape victim for wearing skimpy clothes; a state that doesn't have a paper trail invites the hacking. You could say intended it.

I don't know if there will be concerns about how these votes are counted. I have as much confidence in my vote being properly counted as I ever did. That's not to say I have a lot of confidence. I know error or fraud is possible. Maybe all elections are rigged.

But I prefer the false sense of security in a paper ballot to no security at all.

Sunday, November 06, 2016

The Third Party Vote Fallacy

Originally published:

by Steve Scott

We've all heard the claim that a vote for a third party candidate is a vote for the least desirable major party candidate. A related claim is that not voting at all is a vote for the least desirable major party candidate. Well, these claims are fallacies and I will show that here.

I will set up an election with candidates A, B and C, voter V, and claim maker K. A and B are the major party candidates, and C is a third party candidate.

Let's say voter V votes for candidate C. The claim is made by K that a vote for C is a vote for A. V casts a vote for C, so C gets one vote. But A also gets a vote? How did that happen? A vote must magically appear out of nowhere for this to be true. One vote is cast, but two are received! K needs to convince V of the mathematical equation 1 = 2. But this equation is false, and so is the claim that a vote for C is a vote for A.

Similarly, let's say V does not vote for any candidate. The claim is made by K that not voting is a vote for A. No vote is cast but A gets a vote that, again, magically appears out of nowhere? The equation that must be true is 0 = 1. But this, too, is false, and so is the claim that not voting is a vote for A.

As a result of the above, I would propose the following axiom: Candidates only receive votes that are actually cast for them.

Now, for a slightly different claim, I will add a piece of information that says that both candidates A and B are very undesirable candidates, and that B is "the lesser of two evils" in the eyes of KK makes the claim that not voting for B is a vote for A. The error that K makes here is that K has already attributed V's vote to B according to K's own election plan. K is then guilt-tripping V (because K is attempting to be the lord of V's conscience) for failing to vote according to K's plan. Because a vote is already attributed to B, K believes he can take liberty to subtract a vote from B and claim that it goes to A. This is similar to the bookkeeping practice of subtracting from one column and adding it to another on a ledger. The money was already in the first column and was transferred to another column. But if no money was in the first column to begin with, it cannot be transferred to the second column. This claim is especially pernicious as K need to convince V that both equations of 0 = -1 and 0 = 1 are true. But they are both false, and the claim that not voting for B is a vote for A is doubly false.

One last scenario, the one in which we find ourselves today. We have two candidates, A and B, that are each perceived as being very evil, but with differing opinions as to which is the greater evil. Voters are taking such a stand against the candidate they perceive to be the greater evil that they create a motto such as #NeverA or #NeverB. They will voluntarily vote for a known evil just to prevent another evil from being elected. What is missed in all this is that #NeverA and #NeverB combined is a guarantee that an evil candidate is elected. No such guarantee exists for voter V that does not vote for either A or B, or who votes for a third party candidate. So, #NeverA and #NeverB are greater promoters of evil than the one who refuses to vote for a known evil. It is my hope that people can recognize the common fallacies presented to them each election season and reject them.

Saturday, November 05, 2016

Election Prediction: More Ivy-er or more Outsider-er?

[Note: this is a prediction, not advocacy.] 

I see two trends in Presidential elections among the Democratic and Republican nominees:

1. The ticket with the most Ivy League degrees wins. (The Ivy League is Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Columbia, Dartmouth, Cornell, & Brow;n, although half of them aren't mentioned here). 
2. When there's no incumbent, the more outsider-ish candidate wins.

Here's the evidence.

1. The first list is updated from JulyHere are the universities that the Presidential and Vice Presidential nominees since 1980 attended. If two schools are listed, the first is the undergraduate school. The Democrat is on the left, the Republican on the right. The winning ticket is in italic. Ivy League schools are in bold. Data from before 2004 and earlier is copied from this 2008 blog post.

2016:  Wellesley, Yale (law) v. Pennsylvania
vp:   Missouri, Harvard (law)  ???  v. Hanover, Indiana U. (law)

2012: Columbia, Harvard (Law) v. Brigham Young, Harvard (Law, MBA)
vp: Delaware, Syracuse (Law) v. Miami (OH)
2008: Columbia, Harvard (Law) v. Naval Academy
vp: Delaware, Syracuse (Law) v. Idaho
2004: Yale, Boston College(law) v. Yale, Harvard(MBA)
vp: NC St., North Carolina v. Wyoming
2000: Harvard v. YaleHarvard(MBA)
vp: Yale v. Wyoming
1996: Georgetown, Yale (law) v. Kansas
vp: Harvard vs. Occidental
1992: Georgetown, Yale (law) v. Yale
vp: Harvard vs. DePauw, Indiana (law)
1988: Swarthmore, Harvard (law) v. Yale
vp: Texas v DePauw, Indiana U (law)
1984: Minnesota v. Eureka
vp: Marymount Manhattan, Fordham (law) vs. Yale
1980: Naval Academy v. Eureka
VP: Minnesota v. Yale

2. Here's updated information from a 2008 post. An "outsider" is considered an outsider relative to the other candidate, usually a governor or former governor with little to zero experience in Washington. They don't usually win against an incumbent, but always beat non-incumbents with more DC experience.

2016: Outsider vs. Insider: Winner: ? 
2012: Outsider vs Incumbent. Winner: Incumbent
2008: Outsider-ish (short-time Senator) vs. insider (longtime Senator): Winner: Outsider 
2004: Insider (longtime Senator) vs. incumbent. Winner: Incumbent
2000: Outsider vs. Incument VP. Winner: Outsider
1996: Insider vs. incumbent. Winner: Incumbent 
1992: Outsider vs. incumbent. Winner: Outsider
1988: Outsider vs. incumbent VP. Winner: Incumbent VP
1984: Insider (recent VP) vs. Incumbent. Winner: Incumbent
1980: Outsider vs. incumbent. Winner: Outsider
1976: Outsider vs. incumbent. Winner: Outsider
1972: Insider vs. incumbent. Winner: Incumbent
1968: "Outsider" (former VP eight years removed from DC) vs. incumbent VP. Winner: Outsider 

Based on these trends, the election between Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Trump looks like a toss-up. Her ticket has more Ivy League degrees, and Mr. Trump's is the outsider. In fact, his"outsider" status is a little too outside in that he's held no elective office or had any government experience at all. Only Wendell Willkie in 1940 is similar, and he lost to the incumbent. 

On the other hand, Mrs. Clinton is herself four years removed from holding any office. If her opponent was a sitting Senator, she would be the "outsider" of the two.

So who will win?

What it comes down to is I see no reason for people who voted for Mr. Obama in 2012 to not vote for Mrs. Clinton. They may be disappointed that a seemingly less shady person like Joe Biden didn't run and get nominated instead, but concern about Mrs. Clinton's ethics likely won't cause one to switch to Mr. Trump, who has his own ethics issues.

There's really nothing that transpired in the last four years to change one's mind about Mr. Obama or the Democratic Party that wasn't known in his first term, and there's nothing about Mrs. Clinton that represents a radical departure.

So if this is about "Obama's third term," Mrs. Clinton has the advantage. The only counter-argument is that Mitt Romney failed to inspire Republicans who failed to vote in 2012 and Mr. Trump may attract them. At the same time, he's lost other Republicans and there is now a stronger third-party and fourth-party presence on the ballot since 2000.

My guess is that Mrs. Clinton wins. But I don't bet.


Friday, October 28, 2016

October 28, 2016: What it takes for morality

October 28 in history (via Wikipedia)

1922 – Italian fascists led by Benito Mussolini march on Rome and take over the Italian government.

I wonder if they took offense at being called fascists.

Birthday quote

“As part of 'moral philosophy,' the concept of 'natural liberty' clicks easily into place. Man, as an ethical integer, is either free to choose between good and bad courses within the limits of his circumstances, or he is not. If he is not free, if he can only accept what is handed to him from above (by fate, or by decree of the human agents of fate), then there is not much use in talking about morality or ethics. To make any sense of the idea of morality, it must be presumed that the human being is responsible for his actions-and responsibility cannot be understood apart from the presumption of freedom of choice.” 

John Chamberlain (October 28, 1903 – April 9, 1995)

Happy Birthday songwriter Desmond Child! 

"I couldn't push the button myself."

The conversation at a dinner party last night turned to a question on the Nebraska ballot: the death penalty. It had been abolished by the legislature in 2015 over the veto of Governor Pete Ricketts. Ricketts, a wealthy man, helped fund the ballot initiative to get it restored.

There was no particular moral objection to the death penalty. For me, it's not about "life for life" or vengeance. We kill rabid dogs, don't we? Killing people who have demonstrated they're a threat to others is self-defense.

But that theoretical justification for the death penalty doesn't outweigh the practical concerns which led this conservative state to abolish it for a conservative reason: it doesn't work.

There's the number of innocent people who get convicted of capital crimes, plus the length and cost of the appeals process.

Then someone said this: "I can't support it because I couldn't push the button myself." I don't think she meant she wouldn't do it out of doubts over guilt or innocence. The prisoner could indeed be guilty. She meant she couldn't bring herself to deliberately take a human life.

Fair enough.

If you eat meat, you should be willing to work at a slaughterhouse. And if you support the death penalty, you should be willing to be the executioner.

That's not to say you should want to do it. It might not be your first choice for a job. But if you believe in it, your conscience would permit you to do the work no matter how unpleasant it is.

Just as it's fair to ask death penalty supporters if they'd push the button themselves,  I think it's fair to demand anyone who says "there ought to be a law" to affirm that they'd be willing to personally enforce it. That includes the threat of violence, and the use of violence, up to and including lethal force.

Is your neighbor selling jars of jam from her house without a health inspection?

Is she charging for haircuts without ever having gone to cosmetology school?

Is the street vendor selling in the wrong zone?

Does a freelance repairman accept cash only for his work, which you suspect he doesn't report in his tax filings?

Would you be the one who would, at minimum, ruin their day with an investigation?

Would you be willing to kill them if they resist arrest?

Do you really believe the laws that could get them into trouble are necessary for a peaceful, orderly society?

If your conscience prevents you from being the one to push the lethal injection button, then you don't really believe the death penalty is necessary.

And if you're not willing to kill for a law, you don't believe it's necessary.