Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Standing Your Ground

As I write this the George Zimmerman/Trayvon Martin case recently came to a close.  The demagoguery around this case has been staggering.  A couple of things that really bug me -

1)  Zimmerman was NOT told to stay in his car during a 911 call.  He had not called 911, he called a non-emergency police number.  The dispatcher on the phone asked him where Trayvon was going when Trayvon ran out of sight.  George got out of his car to see.  When the dispatcher told George that George didn't need to follow Trayvon, George said OK and started walking back to his truck.

2)  George did not confront Trayvon, it was the other way around.  That's what George said, and that is even what Rachel Jeantel said.  Her first report said that Trayvon spoke first and said "Why are you following me?"  This clearly happened after Trayvon had disengaged from George and circled back to confront George.

And most importantly, the constant drumbeat of criticism of Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law.  This law was NEVER USED in the case.  It was never mentioned by the Prosecution or the Defense.  It was NOT in the jury instructions.  This case was decided PURELY on self defense laws.  Florida's are similar to those of every state in the union.  The jury found as a question of fact that George was on his back being struck by Trayvon, that George was in fear of his life and/or great bodily harm, and was therefore justified in using deadly force.  They also believed that Trayvon came up to George, while George was returning to his truck, and that Trayvon threw the first punch.  George was on the ground being beaten and never had the opportunity to retreat, so the Stand Your Ground law never applied.

But let's talk about the Stand Your Ground law for a second.  Earlier tonight I asked one of The Hairy Urchins about standing his ground.  "If you were minding your own business, and some guy comes up to you, starts screaming at you about how he is going to punch you out, and starts waving his arms around, should you be required to retreat to avoid a fight?"  He answered "No!"  I agree with him.  Despite what Atty Gen Eric Holder said, neither federal nor state law makes that requirement.  It might be SMART to do that, but the law doesn't require it.  Nor do I think it should.  We should be able to go about our business without having to run from people who are annoying or threatening us.

Unfortunately believers in big government would disagree.  One of the underlying goals of the bewildering profusion of laws and regulations we have seen come out of government in the last few decades has the result of making Americans less self reliant.  We have less and less power to defend ourselves, settle our disagreements with our neighbors, or even decide what we and our children will ingest.

I saw a perfect example the other day.  Some little jerk teenagers broke into a house and started vandalising it.  They were discovered by an adult who was watching over the property.  I think it would have been appropriate for him to give them a good spanking (note - I have never felt the need to spank my kids, but they have never done anything so horrible), grab them by the scruff of the neck, and march them to their parents where they would hopefully receive appropriate negative reinforcement.  But no, the guy just shut them in a closet to wait for the police to come.  He caught them in the middle of committing a felony, and safely detained them for the police.  He was charged with kidnapping and child abuse.  Apparently in his jurisdiction he has no authority to even touch a kid who was destroying property in front of him.

The results of this kind of philosophy can be seen in Britain.  I recently saw several episodes of the British equivalent of COPS.  On several occasions old people were being harassed by young hoodlums.  They were struck, their property vandalised, and they were regularly subjected to verbal abuse.  They weren't allowed to directly interact with the kids.  Hose them down for example.  They were told to call the coppers.  The coppers would show up, tell the thugs to be good little boys and girls, and that was it.  You see once the government had taken the ability to help themselves away from citizens, usually with the promise that the government would protect them, the government in turn chose not to use the power that the citizens had given it to protect the citizens.

That will happen here if we let the government take away the existing Stand Your Ground laws.  We do not have a DUTY to retreat in the face of bullying.


Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Understanding Christian Prejudices

One of the most irritating aspects of christians who have at least some knowledge of why they believe what they believe is the belief in the base nature of mankind. I think humans are naturally good and empathetic on the whole, and that their environments tend to damage their better and more altruistic impulses. But christianity disagrees with that position. They believe that only through god can our better natures be found. I found a well written explanation of that in the book "Reborn" by F. Paul Wilson. It is part of a multi-book sci-fi series that I am currently reading, and I thought I would share. This is a Jesuit priest speaking to a woman whose husband had just died a horrible death at the hands of others.

Priest: "A lot of adults never grow up when it comes to religion. They could never accept that Satan is just a symbolic externalization of the evil that lurks in all of us."
Widow:"But where does that evil in us come from?"
Priest: "From the merging of the spirit and the flesh. The spiritual part of us comes from God and wants to return to Him. The physical part of us is like a wild beast that wants what it wants when it wants it and doesn't care who gets hurt in its drive to get it. Life is a process of striking a balance between the two. If the spiritual part prevails, it is allowed to return to God when life is over. If the baser drives and emotions of the physical aspect taint the spirit too deeply, it is not allowed to return to God. That, Carol, is hell. Hell is not a fiery place with pitchfork-wielding demons. It's a state of being bereft of God's presence."

I found it interesting that the priest said that very few Jesuits believe in the existence of an actual Satan or Hell. It had the ring of truth to it, and I had always associated jesuit thought with a more intellectual approach to catholocism.

This crutch of needing to give yourself up to god in order to become a truly good person and to get to heaven is one of the most fundamental disagreements I have with xian thought. It leads to blaming god when things don't go well and writing problems off to "God's Will".

I find that attitude even more clearly in Islam. While xian fundamentalists have the country song "Jesus Take the Wheel" (Really? Your car starts to skid on ice as a metaphor for you life being out of control, and your best advice is to close your eyes, throw up your hand, and hope god steers your car/life away from the ditch. Really? But I digress.) muslims have the expression Insha'Allah or As God Wills.

I see that a lot in news reports and interviews on TV, and have had Muslim friends and acquaintances use it in situations where I think they would have been better off trying harder for the results they wanted. I think a touch of that attitude peeved Winston Churchill when he was talking about the muslim culture's "fearful fatalistic apathy."

How dreadful are the curses which Mohammedanism lays on its votaries! Besides the fanatical frenzy, which is as dangerous in a man as hydrophobia in a dog, there is this fearful fatalistic apathy. The effects are apparent in many countries. Improvident habits, slovenly systems of agriculture, sluggish methods of commerce, and insecurity of property exist wherever the followers of the Prophet rule or live. A degraded sensualism deprives this life of its grace and refinement; the next of its dignity and sanctity. The fact that in Mohammedan law every woman must belong to some man as his absolute property—either as a child, a wife, or a concubine—must delay the final extinction of slavery until the faith of Islam has ceased to be a great power among men. Individual Moslems may show splendid qualities. Thousands become the brave and loyal soldiers of the Queen: all know how to die. But the influence of the religion paralyzes the social development of those who follow it. No stronger retrograde force exists in the world. Far from being moribund, Mohammedanism is a militant and proseltyzing faith. It has already spread throughout Central Africa, raising fearless warriors at every step; and were it not that Christianity is sheltered in the strong arms of science—the science against which it had vainly struggled—the civilization of modern Europe might fall, as fell the civilization of ancient Rome.

Oh well, just railing against the Nine Billion Names of God on a Wednesday.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Life on the Edge

One of the problems I have with Obamacare is the implied ability of the FedGov to control our personal life choices or reducing care options available to us, in the name of keeping costs down.  We are already seeing that in England where people who are overweight aren't allowed to get hip or knee replacements.  Big private/public employers like insurance agencies and hospitals are mandating urine tests and refusing to hire people who test positive for nicotine.  Is caffeine next?

I'm fat.  On the "Fluffy" scale I am somewhere between DAMN! and Oh Hell No!!!  Is the government going to tell me what I can and can't eat?  Will I be allowed to get that bypass that I am probably going to needs someday?  Probably not if Obamacare takes over.  It may be a few years, but our freedoms are being slowly eroded in the name of safety.

Sure I should lose weight.  I don't enjoy being fat.  But I enjoy eating bad things and choose to make the trade off.  Every life choice has its downsides, and I am generally very happy with my life.  Government, leave me the hell alone.

You know they are going to come for the easy targets first.  The smokers and the fatties.  But that is just the beginning.  What about motorcyclists?  Heck, people who drive cars instead of the much safer mass transit.  All of these can be regulated in the name of health care once we give the government that power over us.

I wonder what they are going to do about these guys.


Saturday, December 10, 2011

Leaning Toward the Newt

Been perusing the political news.  Funny thing, the pundits claim that our republic yearns for an outsider to run the country.  Then they claim that Romney and the Newt are both insiders so neither has a chance.  But I think they are wrong in both cases.

Mitt is easy.  He had a lot of business experience before he got into politics.  If a voter kinda likes Mitt (or dislikes everybody who is left) and is looking for an outsider, it is easy enough to assert that Romney's experience outside of government makes him outsider enough.

Newt is tougher.  He's been tramping around DC for a VERY long time.  But he has a couple of things going for him.  First, he really did upset the status quo in his first incarnation with the Contract With America, welfare reform, and inflicting balanced budgets on Clinton.  Second, a LOT of established politicians just HATE him.  To me, that makes him an outsider.  Anybody so disliked by so many political hacks just HAS to have something going for him.

The Pundits also assert that Newt loses focus and gets disorganized.  That is also a positive for me.  If something really important comes up, he will get focused and be the smartest guy in the room.  Until then he won't get much done.  That government governs best that governs least.

Barring some major meltdown, I am leaning in Newt's direction.  Even though I too like the idea of a political outsider to shake things up.


Monday, November 21, 2011

A Part of the Case for Voter Photo ID

There has been a recent push to require photo ID before someone is allowed to vote.  I think it's a great idea.  Naturally the left is against it.  They want to continue to control vote outcomes through their city and state machines.  They disingenuously claim that it is a racist tactic to disenfranchise blacks and the poor.  They also claim that voter fraud is incredibly rare, and challenge ID supporters to find court cases where fraudulent voting has been found.  Of course those are virtually non-existent because the people who would investigate and prosecute such cases are the same people who are committing the fraud.  But every once in a while a liberal with a conscience comes along.

Democrat says Democratic Party bosses use voter fraud

Thursday, November 10, 2011

A Few Thoughts on Faith and Free Will

I was recently asked if humanists have an open mind about the existence of god, and what science can do to find god.  My opinion is that the answer is yes, but that humanists haven't seen anything that they would consider evidence of the existence of an anthropomorphic god.  Scientific research into the existence of god really doesn't have any good place to start.  The existence of god will need god to provide an unambiguous signature of his presence.  Measuring wavelengths, timing events, creating compounds are the kinds of things scientists do, and do very well.  Those things aren't like to produce the answer to life, the universe, and everything any time soon.

In myth and legend gods interact with humans all the time.  But generally only in private so you have to take the word of the person who suffered the divine presence.  "You saw who?  And he said what?  And he personally gave you that magic kazoo that can heal the sick.  Oh, but you can't cure my athlete's foot right now.  Uh Huh."  God needs to be less shy to overcome natural skepticism in a scientific age.

There is a common argument that god shouldn't provide proof of existence because that would rob man of freedom of choice.  That man must prove his allegiance through faith rather than evidence.  I find that argument less than compelling.  First, of course, there is the inherent unfairness of god taking that precious gift away from so many of his messengers.  Moses, anybody who got healed by Jesus, Joseph Smith, or anybody else who became a prophet of god through divine communication just got screwed.  Hardly the actions of a just god deserving of worship.  Second, and more important, just because you KNOW god exists doesn't mean that you will choose god.  Plenty of people choose to be evil.  Just ask Judas or Lucifer.  Freedom of choice is still there, it is just a more informed decision after god gets a regular talk show on Fox News.  (The other networks probably wouldn't give him a show.)


Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Obama and the Deadly Drones

One of my favorite conservative blogs is Powerline. They recently posted an article discussing President Obama's program of blowing up bad guys with drones. It raises serious constitutional and ethical questions. This particular discussion noted that there aren't really clear limits or boundaries on presidential powers in some areas, and questioned whether there should be more. Here is the article:

And my response:

One of the biggest problems I have with over regulation is that it enforces mediocrity and lowest common denominator outcomes. We see that with the public schools. Every move, every curriculum, every textbook, every teacher promotion or firing, must follow a rigid set of rules using written standards monitored by bureaucrats. While this may defend against really poor outcomes, it also reduces the chances for greatness and innovation. I believe that over regulation generally degrades outcomes, even if it does make them more consistent and predictable.

So yes, there are times that ambiguity of law, and the executive reaching in ways that were not considered by laws (Or that would never have gotten approval if publicly proposed.) is probably a good thing. We may not like it when that executive belongs to a party we don't approve, or if we don't like the particular action. But overall, on the balance, I believe that most Presidents of the United States make the right decision most of the time. Particularly on hard calls like whether to target a terrorist, citizen or not, with a drone.

I don't like Obama. Not as a person. Not as a politician. Not as our President. But I would not take the power to act independently away from him. Because if we take away some of his ability away to do bad things, we also take away part of his ability to achieve great things.