Thursday, August 26, 2010

Anti-lobbyist Lobby. A watchdog concept-

The purchase of politicians is part of the business of Washington D.C., and most other centers of power in the United States. "Contributions" through the lobbying industry seem to be the way of demonstrating membership in the "system." It is probably not far different in essence from the way business was done in Ancient Egypt or Babylon. Oh, some of the particulars are uniquely American, but in essence it is buying an ear. Purchasing influence.

Once a system is entrenched it is quite hard to root out. Revolutions are messy, and most don't really improve the situation. One of the most admirable aspects of our own system is the relatively bloodless changes of power. Unfortunately, our electoral system seems to offer only two flavors, and they are hard to tell apart. Is this vanilla or French vanilla? I can't tell, and it really just leaves a bitter taste in my mouth.

So, I thinks a bit, does I. If you can't break down the system to overcome the system, why not mimic the system and undermine it? What I propose is a special lobby of sorts. For each professional lobbyist we field a shadow, an individual who will simply report where that lobbyist goes and with whom they meet. Then that information is made public.

This shadow lobbyist doesn't listen in, or do any spy work other than open shadowing. They follow the lobbyist to the big wig's office and just sit in the waiting room. Then they follow the lobbyist when they go out from there to meet another fat cat at a restaurant. Follow. Report. Follow. Report.

This could be a business opportunity for some enterprising American. Hey, if you are lucky the fat cats will buy you off. It could happen. It's a free country. It's even more free for those who have money, of course. If you are scrupulous you could provide a valuable service to Americans who are fed up with things as they are. If you aren't, at least you could make some money.

Just like real lobbyists.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Anti-Jihad

My friends in the Blogosphere and in the realm of Facebook are rather varied. Some among them use titles such as Christian and Conservative. Others are proudly Liberal. There are Libertarians among them, as well as some Democrats and some Republicans. Some are even Atheists. From what I have seen, most are pretty decent people.

A few among them have periodically expressed sentiments I am classing as "Anti-Jihad." Those sentiments include a generalized fear of Islam, a willingness to deny radical Islamic people freedoms, and a vague and generalized tolerance of intolerance. I have viewed a few bits of Anti-Jihad propaganda, finding much of it to be fear-mongering. I think these friends need to engage their more rational selves a bit in considering their positions.

At the same time, I must recognize the existence of Radical Islam in various forms in various places. There is  something to fear, in that it is not clear what the lesser extreme aspects of Islam might do if and when the radicals gain a degree of power. I certainly have not seen a lot of moderate Islamics generating anti-radical press and otherwise saying "These people do not speak for me." These radicals seem to be striving to achieve something, and I am pretty sure it is not the increase of my personal freedom and well being.

There is also a bit of history to recall.  At least a modicum of aggressive Islamic expansion can be found from time to time and place to place in history. On some occasions the use of violence was relatively common! Imagine that! Oh, those Christians weren't very often as saintly as their Saints during some of those eras, but since they gained dominance for a number of centuries it is obvious whose side God is on, right?

What are my friends who express Anti-Jihad feelings really saying? I have seen little in the way of clearly thought out philosophies of Anti-Jihad. Currently it seems to focus on some Islamic body trying to build a Mosque in New York a bit too close to the target of a radical Muslim group we call Ground Zero. Understandable feelings, but not too clear as anything more than feelings.

Those I know who lean toward Libertarian thinking tend to feel that the Mosque builders should be free to go ahead, if they own the property. When you think about it, there is a strong point of argument in this position. Do we want to see denial of rights simply due to political or religious beliefs and doctrines? I would prefer to see reasonable laws and regulations enforced without prejudice in this country. My own liberties would then be protected.

Still, the Anti-Jihad feelings are valid as feelings. If an American chooses to hate all Muslims based on the actions of a few, that should be their liberty. Plenty of people think and feel similarly toward Blacks, Hispanics, Native Americans, the Irish, persons of Polish descent, males, females and short people. The freedom to hate without any real reason is a genuine American liberty.

So, lets think through Anti-Jihad. Since it is easier to hate all Muslims than to get to know the nature of Islamic peoples and cultures and analyze critically the genuine nature of the Islamic threat, it is probably best to go with that. How to affectively  practice Anti-Jihad might be worth some consideration.

In my response to Anti-Jihad statements I say, "My knives are sharp, when do we begin?" This is actually a point of humor, with an intentional edge. The knife is a personal weapon, requiring the assailant to select the target specifically and engage with immediate physical violence. Also, I don't own any guns. Not that I don't like guns. They are expensive, and I prefer to buy iTunes and ebooks.

The point is, "You have expressed a concern. What do you intend to do about it?" Generalized hating, or even strongly disliking, is easy on the Internet. That is most often all that is done. Some will go so far as to actually back a candidate or political body that capitalizes on the fear factor. I suppose that is not such a bad thing, other than many of those seem to be as bad as the purported enemy. When you think about it, does it really matter who is taking away your freedom once your freedom is lost?

Carrying forward the idea of Anti-Jihad, I would propose that bombing Islamic schools would be one of the most efficient ways to curb the Islamic threat. If you kill the teachers and as many of the next generation as you can, the whole culture would soon be in chaos. Oh, killing the leaders seems to make sense, but they are few in number and can be easily protected. Nobody can protect all of those little children. There are just too many of them.

What about the political venue, you might ask? Hmmm. Well, I suppose if you are politically clever you could design laws that divest the Islamic communities of their rights without risking the rights of other social and religious communities. It has been done at various times in various places. Remember that Austrian fellow who made a bit of a ruckus in Europe last century? He manged that sort of thing. Sort of.

What do I plan to do? I plan to promote liberty for everyone, no matter what their label. I intend to keep my eyes open, and watch for real threats. Anyone who seeks to limit liberty in the name of anything is suspect, and probably the enemy. Even if they call themselves Christian, or Conservative, or wrap themselves in any other title that is supposed to automatically buy my respect and cooperation. My loyalty does not come cheaply, and I will generally require the pig to be removed from the poke before I will even consider buying it.

Oh, and I do have knives. Quite a number of knives, really. I have at least some notion as to how to use them. I also keep them very sharp. Just sayin'.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Industrial Espionage in World War II


This morning I got to contemplating World War II and how the world changed at that point in history. The United States became perhaps the greatest economic power in the world at that point, largely be default. The war was massive, global in scale, and demanded a lot of resources. Being distant from the fields of battle, and being an advanced industrial nation, we were in a position to become the supplier of wartime goods to the rest of the beleaguered world.

I got to thinking on the strategies necessary to defeat the United States under those circumstances. Germany was its own source of production, drawing on the resources of conquered lands. However, the industries of Germany were in constant danger, as that nation was quite in the middle of the fighting. They may have established the fronts far from home, but air warfare eventually brought the battles home.

Japan was isolated,  being an island nation, and so able to remain distant from most of the fighting. England less so, being within striking distance of missiles and aircraft. Japan, however, had little ready access to resources and so had attenuated supply lines, making that nation vulnerable.

Our own isolation was more significant. Nobody was within easy striking distance, and as a nation we were huge. We had a lot of resources within our own nation. Industries were spread out and not easy targets. So, how to attack the United States? Large scale industrial espionage. Slow, stop or destroy the industrial infrastructure to halt the production and distribution of war materials.

The Germans had established groups of people in the United States who were sympathetic to the Nazi cause. Some of them did, indeed, act as agents of destruction and committed acts of espionage. Since I am only recently entered into this line of thought I do not yet know the degree of their success.

The other threat was the body of Japanese in America. More recently come to the United States than the Germans, and more easily identified, they were suspect as a people. Their culture in America was also a factor. Not having assimilated yet in large numbers they remained in clannish groups, huddled in identifiable Japanese neighborhoods. The prejudices of those already established worked against the Japanese in America in many ways.

Additionally, it was a practice of many Japanese families who could afford to do so to send their children back to Japan for part of their education. This at least implied an incomplete loyalty to the United States of America. How many of those children might have been indoctrinated and trained to perform organized espionage in the United States?

Now, if I can come to this conclusion so many years later, what might the intelligence community of the United States waging a war of undetermined outcome have concluded? That they rounded up the Japanese in America and isolated them might more easily be understood in this light. It certainly changed my perspective.

That does not make it any less terrible, taking people from their homes and confiscating their property. It was not, however, without precedent. Look at the Trail of Tears. In retrospect, some policies enacted by the United States have been far from ideal. Had the German people in America been less assimilated and more easily identified, a similar policy may have fallen on them, as well.

I was born slightly after the end of World War II. The United States had been less damaged by the trial, and perhaps made stronger for the discipline of wartime production. As the only industrial nation of significance still standing we had the advantage. I have enjoyed growing up in a rather prosperous era in a nation of great wealth and opportunity.

Many made sacrifices over the years to create that prosperity. Many were sacrificed, to include Negro slaves, displaced Native Americans, and displaced Japanese Americans. I am grateful to all who contributed to the freedom and prosperity I have experienced, whether they gave willingly or unwillingly.

I am not faced with the circumstances that led the decision makers in the United States to rob citizens and resident aliens of their freedom to protect the nation from industrial espionage. However, after contemplating the matter, I am perhaps a bit less inclined to judge them for their actions. Halting a likely enemy from committing an act of war is not a bad decision in times of war.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Fear of Socialism-

When I was just a lad, ever so many years ago, I thought how wonderful it would all be if we worked together to create the things everyone needed and just gave them to each other. I am sure my vision was not particularly sophisticated, but I shared it with my father. "Oh, that would be Communism." he said.

I was shocked. I was old enough to know that Communists were evil, the enemy of all that was good. In those days sirens would blare each month to test the warning system that would tell us the evil Communists were raining nuclear fire down upon us and that it was time to duck, tuck and cover.

How could my idealistic (though simplistic) way of living together be associated with something as evil as Communism?

In the passing years I learned that seeming evil was not quite so evil as painted. I also learned that seeming good was not quite as advertised, as well. Yet terms like communism and socialism are still freighted with that burden of generalized evil. Much as capitalism seems to have a more positive spin, at least in many parts of this country.

Oh, I have seen real evil. I worked for twenty years in a jail. You can't work in an environment like that for so long without confronting evil. However, even in jail evil was not common. I have met in that time only a handful of people who were so fundamentally evil that they were as an embodiment of that nebulous term. Most inmates were either mentally ill or given to a bent toward misbehavior. Sometimes extreme misbehavior, but not essentially evil.

Generalized and great evils such as communism are actually more fabrication than fact. The communists expressed a real intent to undermine capitalist regimes and replace those regimes with communist orders. Of course, from the communist perspective the capitalists were painted as evil. Had any of the communist states held to an idealized communism such as I had imagined as a child, I would find them quite attractive and far from evil. Unfortunately, they have not. At least none of which I am aware.

Indeed, the great flaw of Communism, more specifically Marxist Communism, is that it requires an evolutionary step away from human selfishness. Recognizing that selfishness may not die an easy death, Marx admitted the likely necessity to compel people by force to adopt the communist ideals. Most of the regimes which have claimed communism as their doctrine of order have been rather stringent managers and little interested in individual rights and desires.

The great flaw of Capitalism is the very same thing. Selfish humans can and will acquire power with wealth, and unregulated capitalism does not promise much for those who lack the drive and opportunity to capitalize on such an open system. Indeed, it is to the benefit of those few who have the wealth and own the means of production to control and hold down the masses, to maintain a cheap labor pool.

I am not expert, but it appears to me that the great consumer market that marks the present era in much of the world is the consequence of a regulated capitalism. One of my former professors observed that modern communist states act more as a state capitalism than anything like true communism. As such they could participate in a consumer driven capitalist market and still maintain their delusions of being communist.

 I don't know if our current  great consumer market is a particularly good thing, but I do enjoy ready access to affordable technology and communication. My current life is pretty good, so whatever is happening seems to be working well enough from a subjective and self-interested perspective.

Human cultures ebb and flow, and exist in a state of flux. Many Communist states take away freedoms to insure stability and security. Capitalist states, or more correctly market driven states, seem to allow more freedoms, but still gravitate toward levels of regulation that constrict individual freedoms to such a degree that some citizens consider it excessive.

Increased security requires the sacrifice of freedoms. The exercise of freedom requires the acceptance of some degree of insecurity. I have seen no model or example of any social order that allows for the increase of both. I am not convinced that any ideal social order can be brought into being by humans. The ebb and flow and continual flux is the only thing that can be expected as a constant.

Should we fear socialism? I can't see why. I do not see it as a tenable system, if taken to excess. The state just cannot find sufficient resources to simply "take care" of every human need. However, I don't see anything to fear in this. An unregulated capitalism offers little more freedom to the working class individual, since those acquiring capital can use that capital to gather more, and possessing most of the resources means denying them to the rest of the people.

Indeed, fearing socialism or capitalism or anything else with a label sets you up for being manipulated by people who will sling those labels just to fire up your fears. More often than not, they will offer their position as the solution. Pursue your own interests no matter who is in power, whether Socialist, Capitalist, or Lobotomist.

Fear is a terrible foundation for your life. Do not choose fear, even if there are Socialists nearby. They rarely bite, and generally just want to meet your needs. Most often, with somebody else's money.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Circle the Wagons!

I have been reading and writing blogs for a couple of years, now. I regularly visit a lot of different types of blogs, and have observed some trends. For example, crafty blogs with a lot of cool pictures and on-topic writing have a lot of traffic. More philosophical or political blogs have smaller followings, for the most part, but have very strong supporters. Religious blogs are similar. In essence, the more "serious" and focussed the blog, the smaller the base of followers.

The philosophical/religious blogs have an interesting tendency to be defensive. There is a lot of "preaching to the choir," and sometimes some expression of openness to challenges, yet when a particularly sensitive area comes under scrutiny it looks like a wagon train pulling the wagons into a circle because someone saw a feather on the horizon. The enemy is near, circle the wagons!

Some of the Christian and/or religionists of Texas and the Mid-West are still in active conflict with the Atheist/Agnostic scientists of that same area over how evolution is to be presented in schools. Of course there are other related points in conflict, but this one is easier to focus on. I can see both sides of the argument, and two groups of wagons forming circles to defend fundamental truths.

The religionists want to prevent evolution from being the sole mode of creation taught in schools. This is a defensive response to a perceived threat to the spiritual well-being of their children. A threat to children is a serious threat, and so the response is strong regarding this threat. Circle the wagons!

The scientist see a threat in what is essentially a myth (from the scientific perspective) being placed on par with a body of scientific knowledge that has been assembled through the proven reliable method of scientific research. This causes a defensive reaction and the wagons of science are drawn into a circle.

Too often the venue for the subsequent battle is the court of law and the halls of the law makers. This third body, the makers and enforcers of laws, is in the unenviable position of trying to find a viable middle ground. The issues in conflict are not subject to compromise, and so the battle comes down to trying to shape and influence policies and rules and laws in favor of one camp or another.

An ongoing struggle with little promise of resolution. The scientific thinkers reflect on a past when new ideas were squelched by religious hierarchies, and fear the religionists gaining too much strength. If  you examine history it is a reasonable fear.

The religionists fear the corruption of their children, who will be discouraged from faith because that faith does not submit to the rules of scientific inquiry. The educational practices of  declared atheistic political orders in recent history lend some strength to such a fear. Think KGB and USSR.

What are your issues, the ones close to your heart or touching on something you really value? What causes you to bring your wagon into the circle? Are they so dear, so fundamentally part of your view of the world, that they are not open to discussion?  Are there ideas out there that cause you to feel threatened?

Watch closely. I think I saw a feather on the horizon.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Yabba! Yabba! Merry Christmas, Baby!

Or, What are the limits of Tolerance? 


Here in the little town of Felton is a half-way house. A parade of inmates from the half-way house trek from the house to the small downtown area of Felton every day. Most are obvious victims of the drug culture, people with brains modified through the wonders of modern chemistry. A less generous person might call them "burn outs," but that would be contrary to our theme of tolerance.

This particular half-way house has been in operation for a number of years. It seems that the parade of burn-outs, I mean "victims," has been a fixture of Felton for quite some time. Long enough that it seems just another part of the town, like the Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park or the Roaring Camp Railroads. OK, maybe not quite all that, but something similar.

Walking in the park near our covered bridge my wife Linda encountered one of the inmates. Upon greeting him as she passed she received the reply, "Yabba! Yabba! Yabba! Merry Christmas!" from the otherwise stoical gentleman. On a subsequent day my daughter Beth was walking in that same park, pushing my granddaughter Abigail in a stroller. She was greeted with, "Yabba! Yabba! Yabba! Merry Christmas, Baby!"

Neither my wife nor my daughter found this experience particularly pleasant. Though not overtly threatening, it was none-the-less disconcerting. Walks in that particular park have become much less attractive. Since the person in question is most likely a resident in a long-time half-way house, the probability of that person being unusually violent is low. A respectable facility screens candidates and simply will not house an overtly violent person in an open facility.

There was a time in our culture when this man would have been locked away in a secured facility, and none of the more respectable members of our society would have been greeted with, "Yabba! Yabba!" It would have not been tolerated behavior, and the aberration would have been neatly locked away. That, or "Yabba! Yabba!" would have been driven to the frontier, to shout his greeting to the rocks and trees until such time as a hungry bear might come along and solve the problem.

Now we live in a time when we have little in the way of convenient frontiers, cannot afford to lock up our less-violent social embarrassments, and must learn to live with them in tolerance. I sometimes wonder if our greater promoters of tolerance happen to live near anything that needs tolerating, but I haven't the patience to research that particular aspect of toleration.

I do suspect, however, that in neighborhoods where average incomes are in the higher six-figure realm Mr. "Yabba! Yabba!" would conveniently be found committing some crime or other and whisked away to someplace else. Like Felton. This may simply be a bit of prejudiced opinion and speculation on my part. It probably is. I have no real facts to back it up.

Intolerance would be the intentional harassment of people like Mr. "Yabba! Yabba!" Whatever the events that lead to his current condition, it seems reasonable to allow him to enjoy a public park. Still, his rather strange greeting issuing from a patently strange individual can be disconcerting to more average citizens also enjoying the park.

There are no easy answers on the road to tolerance. My daughter is contemplating getting some pepper spray, just in case.

These days, even a walk in the park is no walk in the park.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Obama and Transparency-

The most obvious fault of the Obama administration is the failure to follow through on the campaign promise of trasparency. The failure has been obvious enough that it mars his greatest accomplishment, pushing through universal health care reform. The failure to keep the promise of transparency has  been obvious enough that a song has been written and produced mocking that particular failure.

I voted for Obama. I did not vote for him because of his promises, and certainly not for his promise of transparency. The philosophy of transparency is impossible in the environment of politics. I voted for him with the hope that someone new at the rudder would change the course of our nation.

I wanted to see the end of two expensive and stupid wars. Afghanistan was necessary in response to a direct attack by an enemy residing there. However, once the enemy had been driven into another sovereign state our mission should have ended. I have blogged elsewhere as to how the mission should have been completed. We should no longer be in Afghanistan.

As to Iraq, I don't think that the war was ever a good idea. Oh, a surgical strike to remove Hussein and destabilize that particular government might have been a good idea, but where do you stop with that? North Korea and a lot of Africa could stand the same treatment. It would probably never end.

Of course, the Bush administration never promised transparency. I never expected it from them. I did not expect it from the Bush-clone the Republicans ran for the 2008 election. Nor did I expect it from Obama, though he made the promise.

Transparency in government and flying pigs have a lot in common. Both are most likely impossible, and if they were possible they still don't seem like a good idea.

As to the universal health care thing, I don't expect much from that flying pig, either. It is an admirable ideal, and it is clear that the current system is driving toward catastrophy, but the government has a poor track record for managing much of anything.

Humans have a great capacity to muddle through just about anything. Though it will be inefficient and expensive and probably miss the target, we will muddle through universal health care just like we have everything else that has come before. We survived other administrations, and we will survive this one.

As to Obama's transparency, he may not truly be so. However, I suspect we won't be able to see him in the White House come the next Presidential election.

Watch out for flying pigs.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

The Challenge of Transparency-

When I was around twenty two years of age I embraced my whole self. I decided that from that point forward I would fully accept the consequences of my beliefs, opinions, and actions. Whatever I said or did, I would claim as my own both in my heart and publicly.

It is my belief that on that day I became a man.

I also adopted a philosophy of transparency. I did not wish to live a secret life, with the real me behind a facade. I intended to be true to myself, and present that self to the world.

For the most part I have found this a livable philosophy. However, it has not always been easy for others. It leaves me with no option but truth. I can either speak the truth always, or remain silent. Even silence feels like a compromise, a hidden lie, but to speak the truth always is not always possible in society.

People depend on small lies, and they often live in delicately fabricated worlds. Truth speakers can disrupt these realms of delusion, and actually hurt other people. Some people live so deeply in delusion that the threat of truth causes them to become dangerously defensive.

My desire to live as myself and embrace truth did not give me license to destroy the delusions of others. Yet in the dance we call society the truth speaker is often out of step. Success in society, advancement in work, placement in social orders is not determined by truth alone. Often it is not determined by truth at all.

Even success in such an intimate relationship as marriage is challenged by too much truth. It is doable, as my wife and I have been married over three decades. Fortunately, she does not depend on deep delusions to maintain her world. She even challenges me when I stray from my own chosen path.

I have gravitated most often toward people and sub-cultures that embrace or at least tollerate transparency. I have learned to avoid people and orders which are deeply delusional and dangerous to truth speakers. I have accepted that my philosophy is not popular and that it is not common.

Then again, perhaps transparency is simply my own delusion.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Draft Our Leaders-


I have a standing personal joke regarding the President and Presidential elections. I suspect it is not funny. Which, of course, challenges its classification as a joke. I will leave all of that up to you. I intend it as a joke, so at least consider it as such even if it is really just a bit of jetsam from my mind.

"The President should be drafted." I would say. "A person who has run a Mom and Pop store somewhere on the South Side of Chicago for the past twenty years would be ideal." Of course, I don't know anything about the South Side of Chicago. I am assuming that it is a tough place to run a Mom and Pop store, and that in doing so both Mom and Pop exhibit qualities of tenacity, toughness and a very fundamental practicality.

Let's just forget the whole joke thing. What I am saying is that we need people like that running our country. I don't care if it is Mom or Pop. For that matter, in the case of President they will both be going to the White House. Let them work as a team. They already have demonstrated that they work well together. Running a store on the South Side of Chicago just doesn't sound easy.

My point is that the ongoing popularity contest that is our electoral system fails on that particular point of popularity. The politicians have to pander to diverse individuals and groups and please the populace rather than commit themselves to doing something that more than appears to be the right thing. It is expensive to try and appeal to the multitudes. It is time consuming.

A draft would be cheaper, and not take so long.

The initial selection could be quite random. Just one big national lottery, selecting a pool of candidates. It would probably be best that they be selected to represent their own districts, since the vested interest would compel them to seek what is best for their own friends and neighbors.

The initial pool could be thinned by eliminating persons with extensive recent criminal histories, any obvious mental illnesses that cannot be adequately managed with proper medication, persons too young or too old to handle the responsibilities and pressures. I would imagine that some kind of test of general knowledge would also help. It would not do for leaders to be unable to find the United States on a map, or look up and be able to read information needed to answer some simple questions.

So, now we have a smaller pool of suitable candidates from which to select the next person to sit in a particular seat of government. I would say that they should meet with the incumbent, who will relate the nature of the job and select three individuals who demonstrate some aptitude for the job. To motivate the incumbent to select well would be the stipulation that they would be brought back to the job if their selection lost a vote of confidence after a year of service.

From the final three the next person to assume any open seat of government would be selected. How? They could roll dice, or play Monopoly, or arm wrestle. At this point the final selection is reducing the best three to one, with  a roll-off for second choice. Kind of a back-up in case of untimely death or some form of madness.

The lucky draftee now will serve ten years. Seats can be filled on a staggered schedule to maintain continuity. The ten year term is also for continuity, to allow for a period of training and a longer period of service. Each drafted public servant will be submitted annually to a vote of confidence by the other members of their particular governing body, and continue to serve for the next year should the pass that vote.

Draftees shall, of course, be permitted to refuse their term of office. They will then serve ten years in a high quality and nicely managed prison, processing government surplus cheese and the like. Public servants who fail to pass their annual vote of confidence will serve the balance of their ten year term in that same prison. It wouldn't be much of a draft unless the alternative was less pleasant than service.

Upon completion of their term in office the public servant shall receive some suitable tokens of gratitude. I would suggest a free home in the poorest and most crime-ridden area under their jurisdiction, and a pension equal to the average salary earned by working people living in that same jurisdiction. They would also receive lifetime health care equal in quality to the average afforded by constituents. That average would include in the calculation the persons who simply cannot afford health care and necessarily do without.

Just to keep things fare and equal in the event that the government initiates any war, the offspring of our public servants who are of service age shall be immediately drafted into military service and fast-tracked to the field of combat. Veterans of the military with combat service or who served a total of ten years in the military shall be excluded from the public service draft.

To provide some motivation to take good care of constituents, the public servant will receive as an annual salary the average salary of a working person in their jurisdiction. Their benefits package and perks will also be similarly defined and calculated. If they want to drive around the capitol in something other than a 1958 International Harvester pick-up with custom rust exterior, it will be necessary to do things to insure that the average Joe back home has a better option as well.

Keep your eyes on the mail for you public service draft notice. You may be the next President.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Presuppositions-

In order to interact with our world, it is necessary to believe certain things. Some fundamental beliefs need not be formally structured or even articulated. Other living things interact with the world around them, exhibiting the "belief" that those things experienced in the world are real and significant. Again, not necessarily articulated.

A flea does not necessarily think about being a flea. It simply is a flea and acts accordingly.

In higher level animals there are behaviors that can easily be considered thinking. Creatures facing alternative choices do seem to ruminate. Unfortunately, none of these creatures can articulate their particular thoughts, so we are not privy to the process. None seem to doubt their own existence, however. They always behave as if their actions are in the context of a real world, and have a real outcome.

Humans have a capacity to think about and articulate their choices. This capacity seems to vary considerably from human to human, but they do have this capacity and act on it to varying degrees. Temperament can be a factor in defining presuppositions, and experiences can define and redefine presuppositions for many humans. It is a necessarily complex process in a relatively complex creature.

Presupposing one's actual existence seems intuitive and necessary. How that existence is perceived and how that perception develops over time is less intuitive and less necessary. We must accordingly absorb from our primary care givers certain assumptions about reality. This is by example, and also in the form of intentional instruction such as the telling of stories.

Children are deeply dependent upon their care givers. Structures of family, tribe and nation are presupposed by dependents such as children to be reliable sources of things needed. Not just physical necessities, but emotional and intellectual necessities as well. They do not consciously adopt these early presuppositions, but do so necessarily. An undeveloped and inexperienced human simply has no other choice.

For more advanced thinking and interaction it is often crucial to assume a presupposition or set of presuppositions prior to contemplation and discussion. For example, a student enters an institution of learning adopts the presupposition that the institution and its agents hold knowledge and shall transfer that knowledge to the student. This presupposition is more intuitive to small children and more intentional in students entering into higher levels of education.

Some institutions of learning require the assumption or adoption of prescribed presuppositions prior to gaining entry into the institution. This can be as informal as simply requiring some evidence of prior instruction in a similar institution. It can be as formal as signing a declaration of certain beliefs. Some institutions even require a prescribed garb or uniform to make the identification with prescribed presuppositions more obvious, and to reinforce the submission of the individual.

Some people may presuppose the fundamental nature of a set of interpretive rules. It can simply be the fabled rules set established by "common sense," or something more formal. The acceptance of this rules set as a sufficient foundation for observing and interpreting the world can be a personal world view, but is often entered into in concert with others.

Experientially, adopted presuppositions and their consequent observations can be so consistent as to appear self-evident. Hence, the individual and their associates perceiving the world through a similar set of experiences and adopting similar presuppositions may easily place themselves in judgement over other individuals with different world views. Everyone in the province recognizes these rules without even thinking. Any other way of thinking is wrong and probably evil.

Humans with a broader set of experiences will often adjust their presuppositions away from such a provincial attitude, becoming more accepting of people operating from different rules of interpretation. They are more "worldly." Not all humans have the same capacity to adapt, and many conflicts between people can be attributed to clashing presuppositions.

Presuppositions are the foundation of any world view, and editing them is frightening and often difficult. Conflict between any individual's world view and the new and expanded reality they might come to experience can be traumatic and even catastrophic. A defensive response is natural, and getting past such a response requires an act of the will. It is a matter of choosing  presuppositions from which to operate.

Provincial thinking is easier. It does not require any degree of examining existing presuppositions. Existing presuppositions are obviously the only rules of interpretation,  and any other way of thinking is simply wrong. Wrong, and dangerous. Sometimes sufficiently dangerous to demand fleeing or fighting.

Strong emotions can be attached to presuppositions. Fear and anger can easily surface when presuppositions are challenged, either by changes in the environment or challenges in thinking. Strong emotions do not generally contribute to objective thought, and so a reasoned adjustment of presuppositions is a rare instance. Most changes are inherently traumatic and often the consequence of trauma.

Consider your own presuppositions. What do you believe to be fundamentally true? How did you adopt this set of rules? Have you ever experienced a radical shift in your fundamental beliefs, your presuppositions? What changes did you make in your way of thinking, and why?

Wouldn't the answers to some of these questions make great material for a blog?

I look forward to reading yours. ;-)

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Temperament Observed-

The various classification systems relating to temperament are often useful, but hardly exhausting. Most of them have four or five major classifications, and subclasses established by combining two major classes into dominant/secondary pairs. These serve well enough, but are not exclusive as categories that may be observed.

Two types of people I have observed in my career in corrections have been the Regulators and the Enforcers. We tend to have an abundance of both in the law enforcement field, probably due to the many opportunities to practice these proclivities.

Regulators like to regulate, control, or manage things. I suspect they find their way into law making careers, or in another career field find their way into the regulatory branch. They really like rules, and at least from my own perspective they like rules for the sake of having rules. Considering the huge number of laws on the books in the State of California, there is no end to this need to regulate.

In our particular jail setting we have behavior management rules to aid the inmates in knowing how to behave, and to provide a reference for those charged with enforcing the rules. Time and time again I saw an augmented rule created by an officer eventually being enforced as if it were a sanctioned rule, even though that rule was never formally adopted.

Regulators do not like to give up any rules once they have been established and adopted. Over time conditions change and the purpose of a rule or set of rules no longer applies to the new state of things, yet it is nearly impossible to bring about a review of rules, much less practical changes. Rather than being focused on the purpose of our rules our temperamental Regulators simply want to hang onto those rules as rules.

Sometimes the perspective is as if dealing with a sacred thing, these little jail rules. I am sure that readers can find other examples from their own experiences.

Then there are temperamental Enforcers. There is some kind of deep and emotional satisfaction experienced by an Enforcer when he can apply a rule and set up a violator for punishment. I will grant that rules and the enforcement of rules are necessary for maintaining the order in a social order. The Enforcer goes beyond that. Each act of enforcement becomes a personal victory. Engaging such emotion can unbalance the system.

Most temperamental Enforcers love having lots of rules, and enforce even the least reasonable rules with a tremendous zeal. For them the purpose of the rule was less relevant than the existence of the rule and the need being met by enforcing that rule. Many Enforcers working in the jail would establish personal "rules" to serve over the course of their own shifts, and too many of those rules became so entrenched as to be enforced as if sanctioned.

On a larger scale, our State of California has a phenomenal number of laws. Again, Regulators and Enforcers naturally gravitate to positions of power within our social order, and the zeal for acting out their predilections can at least on occasion create laws that are truly counter-productive.

My thoughts tend to go from this point in a lot of different directions. Many examples come to mind, but most are more properly a new thread to the discussion. This hound finds many tempting cotton tails vanishing into the scrub, and so I think that it is time to move toward a conclusion.

 Perhaps the one conclusion I can take from these ruminations is to examine my attitudes and actions to determine if I am acting from a reasoned position, or if I am simply reacting from my own temperament. Such reaction from temperament might not always be bad, but a failure to examine both the temperament and the action for reasonableness and applicability would leave me incomplete and unbalanced.

This conclusion certainly reveals my presupposition that reason has a higher value in choosing actions than instinct or temperament. That, I think, should be approached in another blog.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Temperament-


Periodically in Christian, non-Christian and popular self-help literature a book on temperament surfaces. I have read a couple of these books and have found them at least moderately useful in assessing myself and understanding a bit about my strengths and weaknesses. The essence of temperament is a predilection or innate inclination toward certain attitudes and behaviors due to some inborn quality. Kind of a hard wiring of the human system predetermining personal qualities.

As a self-help tool it at least gives you some boxes into which to place yourself, wholly or in part, for the purpose of self-analysis and self-instruction. The whole thing does seem to have some validity, having a considerable history and having been studied in the field of psychology. That makes it at least a bit more tenable than astrological horoscopes for self-analysis and guidance. They both can be tools of self-analysis, with a "use at your own risk" disclaimer.

The idea of temperament does seem to go along with the idea of hard wired inclinations in humans. In essence, it is at least possible that some of our tastes and inclinations are built-in. They are somehow a part of our being, so much so that the analogy of hard wiring can be applied and understood. Like temperament and even astrology this analogy can best serve as a very generally guideline.

The whole thing also touches on the nature vs nurture debate. The complexity of studying such ideas is daunting, at least to me. How do you isolate nature (temperament) from the great many different influences that impact any given life (nurture)? Even if any authoritative research can be done, how will it be colored by various factions seeking to serve their own purposes?

I recall reading about research that indicated that some criminal behavior might be linked to certain genes. This was simply reported in the news, essentially as information acquired as a by-product of other genetic studies. The mere prospect of such research going forward had civil libertarians reacting. They did not support such research, recognizing that any supporting evidence regarding a genetic predisposition toward criminal behavior could have significant impact on the rights of individuals.

Some of the more scientific bloggers I read hold to a purity in science, that bastion of research. In an unadulterated form science is a wonderful tool for exploring and documenting the nature of the observable universe. Yet considering the previous paragraph, can such purity be maintained? Perhaps. However, it might also be lost in the smoke and mirrors and muddied waters created by factions serving their own agendas.

Addressing the matter of some predilections being built into humans prior to birth, I would present the long lived idea of temperament as informal evidence. Temperament can also serve as an informal guide for aiding children in education, and can be used by adults conducting self-exploration for the purpose of self-improvement.

Food for thought, but hardly a feast.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Slide rules, chamber pots, and buggy whips-

My first time in college was a few years back. For one class a tool was required. It is called a slide rule. It is a calculating device, used much like a calculator is used today. This was way back in 1971. Though electronic calculators existed, they were rare and expensive. The slide rule had been around for some time, and they were affordable to college students.

I learned to use it, after a fashion, but never mastered the tool. Now they are relics of another time, collectible in like fashion to abaci. Just for fun I also learned how to calculate with an abucus. I have considerable respect for the electronic calculator after having learned these more ancient calculating systems. I also have great respect for the people who built the present using such interesting tools.

How do they relate to chamber pots and buggy whips? Well, they were all produced through maufacturing, were once common and sold in sufficient numbers to be relatively inexpensive. They are now less common, rarely used, and more of a curiosity than a common element in modern life.

I can imagine that an owner of stock in a company producing these items would have seen a steady income for a good many years. However, if that owner of stock did not occasionally assess and update their portfolio, reliance on these particular sources of income would eventually have dried up and left the owner destitute.

Few people have a fondness for slide rules. An occasional collector, perhaps. I don't actually know anybody who depended on a buggy whip to accelerate their vehicle, but I can't see it being something that encourages feelings warm enough to want to return to those old ways. Having actually used a chamber pot, I know by experience that more contemporary plumbing improves the experience of eliminating waste by an astronomical degree.

Sure, collecting some anachronistic items can be fun. However, there are reasons people have moved past such things. It is good to retain the concept and some skills with old ways of doing and thinking. Keeping blacksmithing skills and similar arts alive in our culture provide educational perspective. They also insure a fall-back resource in the event of a catastrophic breakdown in culture.

Similarly, keeping alive some sense or flavor of old ways of thinking can serve to provide cultural perspective, and also add some leaven in thinking toward the future. To consider ancient ways of thought and hold the people of ancient times in disdain simply because they were "backwards" is disrespectful and unwise. Those old ways of thinking were steps toward how we think in our own time. A little effort to understand and respect old ways and how they became modern ways can yield a richness and depth of experience in living today.

I have intentionally sat at night on several occasions, writing with a steel nibbed pen (the kind you dip in a pot of ink) by the light of a candle. Giving myself over to the mood I used my imagination and felt an emotional link with the hundreds of generations of humans who sat similarly lighted at a similar task. I have used old methods for performing calculations to get a sense of history to enrich my understanding of applied modern mathematics.

Now is a good time to be alive, because it is the only time we are alive. The past is a resource, a source of information, richness and pleasure. The future is an adventure yet to be set out upon. Here and now is the place where potential becomes real, and where history begins.

The intersection of Here and Now. A great place to be alive.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Hard wiring, software, and imagination-

The idea of human hard wiring has come up in a number of blogs I read, and the comments following those blogs. Hard wiring is a term relating to the physical elements of an electronic device (such as a computer) which are connected by wires. Often these wires are soldered together, forming a single physical device. In humans it would be the behaviors built into our physical systems, and by extension the thoughts and ways of thinking that are defined and limited by our physical structures.

I recall a discussion I had many years ago via computer (prior to the Internet modes we are currently using) with a very hard determinist. This individual believed that no thought or action arose from our own decisions, but that our very thoughts were predetermined by the interactions of physical matter right from the Big Bang. I contended that because we experienced apparent freedom in thought and action that some degree of freedom (and in the context responsibility) actually existed.

His argument was that all behavior is determined by a cosmic hard wiring. I am more inclined to believe that a lot of inclinations are hard wired, along with a set of basic instincts which are simply part of our automated systems. We don't learn to breathe or blink our eyes. We don't think about functions like that, we just do them. Beyond that we might find some inclinations (such as a love of books or physical games) so compelling as to indicate a degree of hard wiring.

Perhaps the system has some hard wired sub-components which are receptive to stimulation and very open to  experiences such as soccer or cooking. It might just be that such apparently easy apprehension simply creates the illusion of hard wiring, and so we have adopted a technical term to represent what we think is happening. In the future the human brain and related components may well be mapped out and we shall understand these things better.

I have read a lot of Stephen King. In the course of his works he presents more than once the idea that we evolved consciousness as a by-product of more useful mutations. An interesting idea. In Cell he presents humans reduced to essentially their hard wired selves, and then does things to them only Stephen King can do. King is not a brain scientist, a social scientist, or even a professional philosopher. He is a writer who observes and thinks about people and writes stories. Still, he notes that our conscious selves are not necessarily necessary for our ongoing existence as animals.

That thinking self-awareness is the realm of our software. Software is the part of the computer which is composed of coded instructions. It can be installed, modified, and even removed. Like the hard wire analogy it has a lot of weaknesses if examined too closely. The idea is more of a general illustration than a sound description.

We are able to learn much better than most of the other beings we can observe on our earth. Our brains are programmable and re-programmable. We can not only solve survival related problems with our brains, but recognize a world beyond simple survival. We systematize and record our experiences so that we can share them and learn beyond our immediate experiences.

Beyond the hard wired hardware of our beings and the programmings of our software we have something most astounding. Imagination. Just another consequence of our evolution, useful in living our self-conscious lives but still a by-product of random events? Or, maybe the single most important element in a created being for relating to his transcendent creator? Hmmm.

We are dangerous creatures, we humans. Hard wired well enough to survive just about anywhere. Programmable enough to learn and expand our realms of knowledge. Imaginative enough to overcome the limits of our senses and reach beyond just what is, here and now. Perhaps imaginative enough from time to time to touch the face of God.

Imagination is the essence of being human. It is the core of religious experience no matter what context. It is the heart of exploration and learning. Yes, it can fuel our baser instincts, causing fear and repression and evil in many forms. It can also allow us to see beyond such dark moments, and find the pathways to greater light. It lets us go beyond simple knowing. Imagination allows us to believe.

To believe is to choose. Choose wisely. Choose well.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Everyday faith-


People act on faith every day. They go to bed every night expecting the sun to rise in the morning. They plan for it as if it had already occurred.

They get into cars and hurtle at dangerous velocities on narrow pathways with other humans operating other cars, trusting in the rules of the road and the capacity (and willingness) of those other humans to follow them. As far as I am concerned, that is a huge leap of faith.

They use money. Now there is faith! I go to work, investing my time and effort in somebody else's interests, in exchange for pieces of paper that are no more than a promise. I trust that everyone else with whom I deal will also believe in that promise. These days I don't even get a piece of paper all that often. Sometimes I just get numbers recorded in electronic devices I have probably never even seen.

Faith is a part of life. It is believing a certain outcome will occur from a certain action. It is believing in effect following cause. Even those who know enough to doubt the veracity of cause and effect still live as if it were true. Faith can be a funny thing.

They sit in chairs without even thinking about their beliefs about chairs. Though I would hazard that most people have had at least one chair failure in their life, yet they still tend to sit as if there could be no doubt that the chair will chair and hold them up from the ground.

They choose to believe and act this way because life would be very difficult to manage without fundamental assumptions and beliefs. Such faith, such belief, is practical. It makes life work. We just don't have time to test every chair upon which we might sit. We can't afford the time and expense of seeing every chair certified and regularly tested to insure our safety.

What defines the cut-off? After all, we don't regularly trust ourselves to cars because they are absolutely safe. Accidents happen all of the time, yet we run that risk just to go to the mall, even when we don't really need anything. We get out on the road sometimes just for the experience of driving, even though there is some probability that we won't survive the adventure.

I recall a television program which featured a woman who could make herself drive after an accident, but would only make right turns. She would plot her whole journey to insure that she could make right turns all of the way to her destination and back. This behavior seems psychotic to most of us, and by definition it is. However, is it that much more crazy than the rest of us running the risk just to get a loaf of bread?

Faith, by whatever degree, is still faith. Trust me.

Monday, February 15, 2010

A well reasoned faith-


In my prior post I presented a little video indicating (among other things) that one cannot argue unbelievers into the Kingdom of Heaven. I concluded with the statement that belief is a choice. I hold to that, because I believe it to be true.

If our faith is not based on reasoned arguments, but on something else, what is that "something else?" Ultimately, it is subjective experience. For the individual it is all that came to pass in their life that compelled them to believe in the existence of God, and all other subsequent related beliefs. 

For some it is a culture so entwined with a belief in God that it is a small step from unbelief to belief. It comes so naturally that the very thought of unbelief is itself unbelievable. For others it is a complex amalgam of internal and external compulsions driving toward a dramatic change of core beliefs. I suspect that most believers have an experience somewhere in between these extremes.

Being social creatures, the outworking of such subjective experiences in concert with other human beings leads to faith centered social orders. In other words, churches and like social bodies. Modes of organizing thoughts regarding subjectively acquired beliefs have eventually formed vast libraries of reasonings. These would be the libraries of religious thought, vast bodies of documentation. Reasons for believing, brought together from a vast history of subjective experiences relative to the creator of all things.

I have been very general here, to be inclusive of all religious experience and the whole body of religious literature. I now narrow the focus toward the Christian faith, to which I subscribe. Over time a body of that literature became recognized by authorities in the Church as authoritative and inspired by God. Within that context a well reasoned faith will be based on such literature, and cite that literature to support the faith that was acquired subjectively.

For much of history a convert to a faith has been expected to subject themselves to the religious order into which they had been inducted. Such practice insured the new believer a context in which to grow in knowledge, and provided a lot of emotional support for the individual as well as a context for correction of both behavior and thought.

Such subjugation in family, tribe and culture has been pretty much the norm for many centuries. It had the positive effect of insuring a consistent context for living and the protection of numbers. It was a herd, moving together, but far more complex in dynamics. Religious orders grew up in such contexts, shaping and being shaped by them.

Our modern era has several challenges to a well reasoned faith.

First is the growth of individualism. Where in the past a convert would subject themselves to an order which superseded their individuality to a large degree, and which would impress them with their beliefs and the reasonings behind those beliefs, now a convert is left with a lot of that to do on their own. However, a well reasoned faith still exits within the context of a system of belief.

Secondly, our era has been subjected to a new way of thinking. Prior orders depended a great deal on their authority. You believed what they said because they had authority, which was granted by God. They were the context of knowledge and truth.

In an era of individualism such an idea is distasteful in itself. In an era of scientific thinking, it is unthinkable. Truth exists objectively. I hope to address the idea of objective truth in a future post. Suffice it to say that objectivity is a rather elusive quality, and objective Truth with a capital T not all that easy to find.

The body of religious literature was largely written in ancient forms of argument. They were not designed to be subjected to scientific analysis. The religious experience is largely subjective, and the direction of science is objectivity. Religious history and literature is the context of religious experience, and is purposed to support those subjective experiences.

A well reasoned faith need not stand up to the rigors of scientific analysis. Science can dissect your faith, and some information may be gained, but your faith may well die under that cold scrutiny. Faith is a living thing, and should be nurtured as such.

We don't come by our faith through scientific inquiry and analysis. We come by our faith through living, through our experiences and through the openness of our hearts. In my own case I was driven to it, largely against my will. Yet in the end it is something I chose. 

Faith is choosing to believe, every day. Choose wisely. Choose well.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Faith in Perspective-

I find the video at the end of this post rather intriguing. I have to imaging that my friends of faith will be a bit troubled by it, as it implies that ways of thinking that are not based on faith are somehow superior to faith based ways of thinking. Some might fear that it gives weight to atheism, or some other worldly way of thought.

Perhaps a person of limited or weak faith might be made uncomfortable by this little video. However, the video simply challenges the idea of proving the existence of God or any being or any thing that exists beyond the realm of direct experience or proof. God is such a being. God is far beyond proof or comprehension.

I have been a visitor in a great many sites on the Internet. A number of the interesting places I have found are run by atheist. Like any other group of  humans, atheists are not all the same. They are not monsters, in fact quite the contrary. Some are very good people. For the most part the ones I have bumped into are involved in some realm of science. For some it is the incompatibility of science with faith that defines their particular unbelief. Others are simply not fond of the way religionists think and act. Some are just angry at the God they declare does not exist.

It has not been my purpose to argue these people into the Kingdom of Heaven. I prefer to consider any evangelism that occurs as a consequence of my visits and comments more catalytic. I go, I read, I consider, I comment. As a Christian my comment will reflect and contain something of my belief. Whether or not my comment has an evangelistic impact, it will necessarily be catalytic. I have introduced something into the discussion, hopefully in a loving and respectful manner.

In my own past I walked the path of the atheist, the skeptic, and the agnostic. I have fellowshipped with many forms of Christians, subsequent to my conversion experience. I have held to many ways of thinking, and have some understanding of other ways of thought and belief. Jesus is, indeed, the only way to God, but the pathways to Jesus can be many and varied.

My reason for presenting this little video is to encourage believers to recognize that those with whom you interact may have a very different way of seeing the world, and very different views of concepts such as God and faith. The video warns that a believer who elects to argue the faith must be ready to face some serious challenges.

View with caution. The arguments presented are not without flaws. Even some atheists have challenged the validity of some of the arguments presented in the video. However, it does make clear the challenge of offering testimony regarding the God who is there.

Should you go ahead and have a peak, and find your faith challenged, seek out those who are stronger in the faith. I think that this little video is worth viewing and thinking about. If it gives you pause, it may well indicate that you need to dig more deeply into what you believe.

To believe is to choose. Choose wisely. Choose well.

video

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Dueling in 21st Century America, United States-


This is a follow up to my previous post pointing out the emotional insufficiency of contemporary justice systems. More specific, the justice system of the United States. The criticism might apply in other modern nations, but this is my nation and the context of most of my own experiences.

I have served in the corrections end of the justice system, holding prisoners for the State of California and the United States both before sentencing and after sentencing. My observation is that as a system it is probably about as good as we might expect. Sure, it could do with some fine tuning, and should always be under development toward as fine a system as possible. However, it is not a train wreck. In general, the system works.

My point of contention was more in the area of satisfying the emotional needs of victims. Systems of vengeance were generally messy, and probably had little to do with any ideal matching the usage of the term "justice," but there was some degree of emotional satisfaction. I have to assume that a multitude of victims having "faith in the system of justice" find themselves quite unsatisfied in the emotional sense of balance and order.

I have seen drunk drivers who have robbed a family of a member through vehicular manslaughter do as little as a year in minimum custody. These drunk drivers were permitted, under supervision, to continue in their jobs while sleeping in a jail dormitory. There are usually other legal stipulations extending over a number of years, and a financial penalty as well.

Such sentences are well reasoned. To deny the drunk driver's family a source of income is to compound an already enormous tragedy. Additionally, the drunk driver did not get drunk with the intent to take a life. They were foolish, stupid and irresponsible, but not inherently terrible by nature.

That may be true, but the offended family may not be emotionally satisfied by such a sentence. It just is not enough. They lost someone they loved, someone who was part of their very life. This is a terrible tragedy, and it was the direct result of another human being's choices. It hurts, and such hurt demands an emotional satisfaction.

It is for that purpose that I would recommend that an organized system of dueling be brought into being. The offended could issue a challenge, which would be reviewed by a "fair fight" committee. A suitable venue would be provided, and appropriate handicaps established. The offended could exercise physical violence upon the challenged, who would be permitted a degree of self defense.

For example, a woman of advanced years had her purse snatched. The perpetrator is apprehended, tried and found guilty. The offended woman, having received a minor injury and considerable inconvenience and a loss of a sense of personal security, elects to exercise her right to challenge as part of the sentencing process.

A fair fight committee establishes a time and place for the duel. Considering the youth and vitality of the perpetrator, they assign leg shackles and the binding of one hand. After further evaluation, the perpetrator is also chained to the wall of the arena, having a limited arc of movement. He is provided with head protection to prevent damage to his brain and eyes, but is otherwise not protected.

The challenger enters the arena. She has been offered a choice of body armor, but elects to use only a bit of padding over chest, back and shoulders. Within the arena are a number of stick weapons, a paint ball gun with ten rounds, and a short leather lash. Training has been provided and counsel regarding how to approach the battle.

The limits on the battle were established by the committee to end the battle on first blood, any injury requiring medical attention, or the physical exhaustion of the challenger. Should the challenger fail to follow the instructions provided through training and counsel, and she closes with the perpetrator and he gain an advantageous physical hold on her, the battle would be ended and the challenger rescued.

I have to imagine that the battle would be interesting. A woman of advanced years laying down the ten allotted rounds of paint balls to bruise her victimizer from a distance, then selecting a suitable stick weapon or lash to apply a more direct satisfaction. Dancing and striking, avoiding the grasp of her victimizer as she tries to land a few blows. The eventual exhaustion of the challenger as the physicality of the battle overwhelms the emotional need for vengeance.

That is the sort of thing I see serving to provide satisfaction to persons offended. The challenge to building a working system of this sort, under the umbrella of a justice system, is to prevent abuses. Social orders which embraced dueling tended to have to deal with abuses. Expansion of a justified duel into feuds and civil wars. Thugs using the guise of dueling to exercise their passion for violence.

I could also see the potential for exploitation of such a system for entertainment. Videos marketed to purportedly offset the cost of the system itself eventually becoming a motive to expand the system and encourage more and more legally sanctioned battles.

Humans are often emotional and sometimes violent. A system of justice that is too abstract and sterile is not sufficient to meet those drives when confronted by injustice. Could a system that embraced carefully regulated dueling serve to meet the emotional needs of victims?

I really don't know. However, the image of a victim slapping their victimizer silly sure does put a smile on my face!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Justice vs Vengeance-

Some of us have an appetite for vengeance. We feel strongly compelled to see wrongs made right, to see injustice corrected forcefully, directly and decisively. We may be driven by an innate passion for order, or we may be drive by an injustice observed or experienced. It is deeply ingrained, and feels like a compelling need.

I know I have such an appetite, such a compulsion. When I observe on the news someone wronged, I do feel for them and their immediate needs. However, there are many others who have that kind of compassion. My focus turns toward the perpetrator, and I am hungry to pursue the vile creature and inflict a comparable suffering upon them.

I recognize the ultimate impact of following through on such compulsions and refrain. Following through would most probably bring injury and suffering on myself, and may inflict such on innocents caught in the battle. I may err in selecting my target, blinded by my zeal and my ultimate lack of necessary skills in locating and bringing to bay the true perpetrator. I may well trigger a chain of counter assaults by my targets, guilty or not.

Modern societies developed systems of justice to provide for the capture of criminals and miscreants, and to administer punishment deemed consistent with the nature of the crime. Such systems are less messy, more likely to be accurate in selecting targets of justice, and inclined toward being fair.

In a perfect form such a system would be satisfactory, to society and the victim of crimes. Were the perpetrators less criminally self interested, they would also recognize the punishment received as fair and be satisfied. Such a perfect form, of course, does not exist.

Vengeance is driven by emotion, and acting out vengeance has an emotional satisfaction. Most systems of justice are simply bureaucratic machines, devoid of emotion and as a consequence devoid of emotional satisfaction for the victim.

They are also costly, and time consuming. For settling many disputes they are probably fine. Insurance claims, matters of rights, that sort of thing. However, for deeply personal injuries, such as rape, murder, and many forms of theft, they can be far from satisfying.

A number of my short stories deal with vengeance. It is a problem I think on, from time to time. How to provide emotional satisfaction to victims when the matter is not just a technical crime, but an offense against the person. I recognize that a society must maintain a system of justice and to maintain such a system they cannot allow citizens to bypass the system for personal satisfaction.

However, is justice devoid of such satisfaction a true form of justice? A citizen denied such satisfaction will have a grievance against the system that failed them emotionally. Too much of that kind of dissatisfaction can erode a society from within. Yet to maintain order a society cannot be driven by the vacillating emotional states of the citizenry.

I shall propose a solution in a subsequent post, a solution that could exist within the existing system of justice, a solution that could provide more immediate emotional satisfaction to victims. However, I would like to throw this out there for discussion. I look forward to seeing where this may go.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Follow Your Dreams-

Sound advice, actually. Not quite so easy as this fluffy, warm and fuzzy phrase sounds, but still sound advice.

However, I wonder how many people have a dream that can be followed? I remember in my own youth (we're talking very young here) I dreamed of knowing everything. I hungered for knowledge. At that age I lacked perspective, and really that is a very general sort of dream. Probably more of a longing.

As I gained perspective I learned that getting knowledge required time and effort. I don't really think I had a problem with the effort. I actually like the act of learning. No, the issue is time. Everything is virtually infinite. How much time would be needed to learn everything?

Infinite time.

Not a practical pursuit for a finite creature with a finite lifespan. Consequently, I was frustrated early in life. I would not be able to achieve my dream. No lesser dream sufficed. I never resolved to follow another dream, but rather just drifted through my life. I still loved learning, but it was random and undisciplined, and never developed depth.

In our childhood some of us have dreams. "I want to be a policeman" or some such thing, that holds and directs our lives. Some people follow through, and do become a "policeman." I have no idea if they are happier over all, but I like to believe that following such a dream has some degree of fulfillment. It gives direction and order to life, at least.

Interestingly, my disordered approach to living led to me being a "policeman." A correctional officer, actually, but still a law enforcement professional. To be quite honest, though the job provided well for my family my heart was never in it. I did it well. I appreciate the job, but I never had a sense of fulfilling my dream.

Here I am, late in life and trying to find a viable dream. The quest leads me to the idea of becoming a resource for others seeking their dreams. More of a notion than a dream, at least for me, but the idea promises some degree of fulfillment. Some kind of dream agent, a dreamer's assistant. Concierge of the Dream.

How does one turn that into a career?

Can dreaming become a philosophy, a philosophy on purpose? Perhaps, if the dream leads to concrete plans and actions. Plans that are flexible enough to survive the rigors of actual living, and actions that are focused enough to move toward fulfilling the dream. Perhaps, if it generates or modifies the dreamer's world view.

Is hunting for your dream the same as following it? It is at least a pursuit, an occupation, a thing to do. It is not easy, answering this kind of question. That may indicate that the question is simply not the right question.

I still have the urge to know everything. I still recognize my limitations relative to fulfilling such a dream. No, I need to cast this aside, and follow a more realistic dream.

Perhaps I shall become The King of Suede. Yeah.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Exit Strategy-

When we were attacked on 9/11, it was necessary to go to war. We went to Afghanistan and bloodied some of those who attacked us, and some of those who supported those who attacked us. I supported that, because it was necessary. If you are strong and powerful, insults can be tolerated. Assaults can never be tolerated, or there will be no end to them.

I was, however, concerned as to the objective. Capturing Bin Laden and his associates was a laudable objective, but not necessarily a sound condition of victory. We were not there to take over the country, or destroy whatever government was in place. Afghanistan is not a singular entity, and such a condition for victory can never be met.

Then we became entangled in Iraq. That was simply ill advised, though I could buy a surgical action to take out Saddam Hussein. Threat eliminated, we could have withdrawn and simply promised to return if they didn't behave. It could have gone like that.

That didn't happen, so now we had two protracted wars with no clear definitions for victory in either case. Then came a lot of political jargon and some kind of offal about "exporting democracy." At this point it was clear that our decision makers did not have any idea as to the nature of our enemies.

I am not a genius, but I certainly do not assume that the rest of the world longs to adopt the American Way. I find it hard to believe that any of our "leaders" could hold to that. I am not convinced that the world would become a particularly attractive place if we compelled the "rest of the world" to become JUST LIKE US. Narcissistic paranoia is not a particularly attractive state of mind, and certainly not worthy as a major item of export.

So, the Presidential Election of 2008 loomed. I did not wish for any Bush clones. He and his masters had not proved to be particularly good stewards of my future. Obama? Not my first choice. I actually supported Libertarian candidate Christine Smith. However, she was too hard core as a Libertarian for even the Libertarian Party, and I didn't want to vote for compromised Libertarianism, especially since the stood very little chance of success.

Eventually it was Obama as the most likely candidate to win and (hopefully) end these wars. Though slow, his administration has been (seemingly) winding down the war in Iraq. Well, that's half of the battle.

Afghanistan, however, may prove problematic. Obama seems committed to shifting resources being wasted in Iraq to being wasted in Afghanistan. Those resources are our brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, and whatever economic future we may all have. All to be spent on an ongoing war in a distant land, and no real victory in sight.

So, we still have a war with no clear exit strategy, and no clearly defined condition for victory. We still have a politician in the White House dispensing rhetoric instead of wisdom. I don't believe any one administration can do too much damage to the country, so I don't fear Obama being nominally at the helm. However, I had hoped for more.

If Bin Laden and Al Qaeda are our objective our current method will not work. Armies topple governments. To hunt weasels you need hounds. Hounds that are not restricted by rules. Hounds that do not recognize national borders as impediments. Hounds that will fight just like the enemy fights, only better.

War is an ugly business. Politicians like to dress it up and make it pretty. It is not. Soldiers know what it is, but serving the politicians they dress pretty and allow their hands to be tied. Consequently the wars go longer than necessary, rarely accomplish much more than filling graves, and the world muddles on making redundant history.

It is time to release the hounds, and bring the other soldiers home. If our "leaders" cannot find the testicular fortitude to release the hounds, perhaps it is time for a rogue pack to go out and do what is necessary.

Hounds don't necessarily need an exit strategy. Just a suitable Scooby snack.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Little Old Lady Philosophy-

I have coined an awkward phrase. "Little Old Ladies of any Age and Gender." It needs the qualification, otherwise people will think I am speaking of literal little old ladies.

The phrase refers to the prissy and provincial little old ladies (literal) that we have probably all known. Women who have lived sheltered lives, for the most part, and who think that their own narrow little world is all the world there is. Anything else is false, offensive, and without value.

There are plenty of people like that who are not literally little old ladies. However, they think like little old ladies, and so earn the title. With the qualifier, of course.

I recall sitting under the teachings of Dr. John Mitchell of Multnomah School of the Bible. Dr. Mitchell was fond of cigars, but refrained from smoking them due to the prejudice of some Christians, who considered smoking sinful. Dr. Mitchell did not hold to this view, but for the sake of these little old ladies (literal and figurative) he refrained.

This was an admirable accommodation, but I don't believe that he extended this accommodation to church leadership or matters of doctrine. He was a powerful church leader and teacher for most of a century. Such an achievement could not have taken place in an atmosphere of accommodating little old ladies.

I have thought about these little old ladies, from time to time. I have wondered how accommodating Little Old Ladies of Any Age and Gender might have adversely affected churches, states and other institutions. Prissy thinking is not the exclusive realm of churchy little old ladies.

The term Politically Correct is linked with a political orthodoxy, not a religious one, and is generally secular. Hypersensitivity to words and phrases deemed "offensive" can be very Little Old Lady. The fear of offense can cripple creative thinking and affective action.

This is not to say that lighting up cigars (figuratively and literally) in the presence of genuine little old ladies is good practice. Giving offense on purpose is rude and generally counter-productive. Granted, an occasional shock can shake loose some people that need shaking, but for the most part such intentional offenses will work against ideas and the people associated with those ideas.

I have no idea how to fix this phrase in our language, other than to throw it out into the world and see what happens. Little Old Ladies of any Age and Gender. LOLAG? Hmm. Perhaps. Maybe not.

More important than the phrase is the awareness. Is my thinking LOLAG? Am I being prissy, provincial, and small in my thinking? Am I content with my thoughts going unchallenged?

For any (literal) Little Old Ladies who happen to be reading, I apologize for any offense. Really. Just don't be so LOLAG.