Posted by: JDM..... | January 31, 2013

There I go…

…taking myself too seriously again…

too serious_450

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Posted by: JDM..... | May 27, 2018

Language Police…

SpeakAlgonquin [C1]_ 001

Posted by: JDM..... | May 22, 2018

Attention all lemmings…

this is not a drill…!

I saw a political ad today explaining that 83% of the tax cuts spearheaded by President Trump would be going to the wealthiest 1% of Americans. Of course, if proven to be true, this would be a terrible exploitation of Everyman and people would demand corrective action.

Also under the “If proven to be true” banner must fall the “if proven to be accurate” angle, and that’s where eyebrows may begin to wander upward. What if the charge is true but not necessarily accurate? What if it is accurate but not exactly true? Such is politics, and on any topic related to wealth distribution, this especially is the familiar theme song of any modern Liberal-Progressive quest for dominance.

So, what could make such an alarming statistic true but not accurate or vice versa?

First of all, “statistics” are suspect by default, a point known by those with some understanding of the science. The preponderance of those who have had no exposure to the study of statistics, however, is what gives their use, and misuse, an almost unfathomable power to herd the masses in lemming-like precision to the precipice of one’s choice.

I would then counter-allege that the statistic in question is both true and inaccurate, which figures out mathematically to mean misleading. Attention all lemmings! This is not a drill!

Think about it. Are we talking about 83% of the percentage of reduction, or 83% of the dollar value of the savings? That makes a significant difference. A couple of percentage points on a million dollars in taxable income quite naturally has a greater dollar value than that of a person making $45,000 per year. The concept of “fair” may mean everybody get’s 2% off or it may mean the rich get 2% and more modest income brackets get a 30% or greater reduction, depending upon one’s perspective and politics.

It is a trail-worn mantra of the neo-liberal, “progressive” movement that has made a religion out of demonizing wealth makers, perhaps to justify confiscation of the spoils of their productivity in order to bankroll campaigns of an allegedly higher moral purpose. One of many questions that come to mind is, if wealth is so evil, why is it then that the self-anointed dispensers of a redefined concept of “equality” don’t seek poverty? Oh, to be sure, there have been those who have done so at various times down through the ages, but theirs have been acts of self denial and they didn’t claim the moral right or duty to force everyone else to feed them or to join them.

My skepticism of the advertisement’s claims and presumed intent remains acute and unwavering at this point. Politics has always had a shaky reputation, but it would seem to have been seeking the nadir of its potential in recent years. One not only must one read between the lines, he first needs to translate those lines from encoded representations of some obscure and unknown languages.

I was raised in a Presbyterian atmosphere of humble compassion and rational charity, which acquainted me with an appreciation of classically liberal principles comfortably included in a conservative perspective. The slow but nevertheless undeniable mutation from the classical liberal to the neo-liberal interpretation of life in the proper lane has been disorienting at times and simply maddening at others. To carry the metaphor to the point of potential protest, I might say I was born into a culture that was flexible but managed to keep the northbound traffic out of the southbound lanes, and later found myself trying to fit into a culture that has become almost entirely inflexible in its premise that the qualified and approved may drive wherever the hell they please and wherein it is the responsibility of any unapproved who happen to be in the way to get the hell out of it.

I don’t understand this phase of our society’s path through time and I don’t like it. I don’t believe it promises a future that follows an unadulterated edition of the values the American experiment was founded upon.

 

~-~* * *~-~

 

Posted by: JDM..... | May 5, 2018

If you’re not WITH me…

you’re AGIN me….

First of all, I thought a little skit about “assumptions” might be fun. Read on to learn more.

Secondly…………..It isn’t talked about very much, at least not publically, because talking about it off-script automatically defines the speaker as suspect, if not inalterably guilty.

To avoid being swept into the storm sewer of intellectual exile can be difficult as the parameters for Ground Zero seem to expand daily. The formerly innocent, or the at least safely neutral, may suddenly find themselves condemned simply for failing to move quickly enough…..or for neglecting to overtly declare agreement with whatever it is that’s being tendered as the next loyalty test. Ignorance of the currently acceptable standards of the moment is no excuse. Sometimes the only safe approach is to mimic the “PC” evangelists and practice the prescribed excess oneself, just in case.

When the establishment of cultural mores and traditions becomes the sovereign province of specific factions rather than a matter of evolving concensus from the population as a whole, the tyranny of thought control and living within a very narrow band of prescribed options for daily activities become the new norm, whether they actually are or not.

Political Correctness, or “PC”, is an irresistible force that can seemingly emerge out of thin air anywhere and any time to hold a society hostage and subject to its demands. A few generations ago, in the aftermath of WW II, such a storm appeared in the form of “McCarthyism”, whereby lives were ruined because of a word (Communism) or by suspected association with any who may (or may not) have spoken such words.

Other instances have been liberally peppered across the pages of history, and today one example of the moral quicksand one might encounter is any hint of “racism”. The trap, of course, is the fluidity of definitions for that forbidden outlook, attitude, perspective, or what have you. One need not actually be racist in order to be subject to the consequences threatened should one be so identified, one just needs to be perceived as racist.

Ironically, the alleged offenses may have nothing to do with “race,” and that irony may itself be ironic because the very concept of “race” has been refuted by physical anthropologists and biologists for decades.

A century and a half ago, during the “potato famine” in Ireland, thousands of Irish citizens emigrated to the United States where they tended to congregate in the urban centers. Agriculture and traditional fishing dynasties had been largely replaced by the factories and emerging economy of the Industrial Revolution, and the quickest way to access food and the other necessities of life was to earn a regular wage working for someone else. As is not uncommon during mass migrations of any kind, the sudden influx of a different people of a different culture met resistance of various kinds from the “natives”. During this phenomenon, the American language adopted the concept of an “Irish Race” as a means of differentiating between native born Americans and the Irish immigrants. The concept had nothing to do with physical appearances or genetics, but was based upon ethnicity, religion, politics, culture and, of course, territorialism.

A similar behavior can be seen today in reference to immigrants of “Latino” ethnicity, even if they are second or third generation. The most common expression of this separatism may be the admonition demanding that only English may be spoken (“according to whom?” comes to mind here). This, of course, is completely arbitrary and more often than not the province of those desperate for some illusion of control over the world around them.

As for “race” itself, I first encountered the concept academically during the mid-sixties when I took an elective class in Anthropology in college. Though the word had long been an established part of my vocabulary and the lexicon in general, it was then that I heard the concept described scientifically. In that light, I could see that “race” is a vastly misunderstood and misused term, to the extent that it is almost irrelevant. These days, it is generally used to differentiate between people with dark skin and Negroid physical features and fair skinned persons of European heritage. Nevertheless, the two populations are genetically essentially alike. Besides, according to a Science Magazine article, “ Researchers have found that a significant percentage of African-Americans, European Americans, and Latinos carry ancestry from outside their self-identified ethnicity. The average African-American genome, for example, is nearly a quarter European, and almost 4% of European Americans carry African ancestry.” All sorts of traditional albeit largely imaginary characteristics have been ascribed to both Americans of European heritage and those of sub-Sahara African heritage, few if any of them based on scientific analysis.

So what is meant then, when someone angrily refers to another person, or even a school of thought, or a word, as “racist?”

The first thing we must do to clear the way for a rational answer is to isolate the traditional and expected understanding of the concept of “race”. In today’s context, the term “racist” is almost exclusively wielded as a pejorative dismissal of ideas contrary to those of the prescribed “PC”, or of the people who don’t march in lock step with the “PC” mantra.

As time progresses, the usages and applicability of “race, racist, or racism” is dominating the culture by force, and with government regulatory support, and the First Amendment is being reinterpreted to actually demonize many of the very freedoms it was authored to protect.

The second thing we must do, then, is eliminate the whole body of law establishing so-called “hate crimes”, which only serve to reinforce the division and validate the mind-set of victimhood and entitlement. I thought the goal was to eliminate the practice of establishing different laws for different segments of the population based upon whether or not they belong to officially endorsed groups, not just swap deck chairs on the Titanic?

Is “racism” normal? This may seem like a foolish question, but I believe asking it may prove to be an important step towards diminishing its power.

It has been said that human beings generally have two primary instincts or drives, one being to survive and the other being to reproduce and thereby propagate the species. In fact, these are the fundamental functions of all living things. Our daily behaviors serve either or both of them.

One of the behaviors our predecessors learned or developed which facilitated survival was the ability to differentiate between things that contributed to our likelihood of survival and those things which threatened it. This ability to discriminate marked the difference between those that survived to pass it on to their descendants and those who did not.

Human beings adopted methods for choosing their social associations in all aspects, from building alliances to selecting mates. One characteristic of this differentiating or discriminating behavior is the tendency to gather in groups in which members are the most similar and who have the most in common with one another. Trust levels are greater within one’s own group than with members of different groups, even if they seem to demonstrate no significant observable differences.

This grouping and discriminating behavior plays out in many ways. For example, students from high schools of different communities tend to devalue each other, “talking trash” during athletic competitions as well as by holding generalized negative social characterizations of each other. This kind of discriminating behavior permeates all aspects of the individual’s life as well as on the community level.

Therefore, there would be some justification in stating that “discrimination” is normal human behavior. Nevertheless, cultural mores dictate the nature and intensity of such differentiation and what methods of expression will be considered acceptable. The wise approach to alleged discrimination problems between individuals and groups then would be to recognize “differentiation” as a fundamentally normal feature of “human nature”, while at the same time focusing on positive ways to establish mutually acceptable, but non-binding, standards of behavioral expression for the real and perceived differences. We need to understand these behaviors and how various ways and degrees of acting them out affect the general well being.

Unfortunately, as mentioned earlier, the forces of political correctness of the early twenty first century have been largely dictated by a selected population with the support of various regulatory agencies within the government. Our politics almost mandates that, under such circumstances, the society and cultures within it will become extremely polarized, which in turn reinforces the existence of a “no man’s land” where instead there should be open and productive discussion.

The great challenge is discovering some ways by which to dilute and diminish the ideological polarization without resorting to any further expression of force or authority.

***

Another popular quicksand sticking point today is actually a combination of at least two other components, those being feminism and sexual impropriety.

The feminism question is nothing new. Just as the human species early in its evolution developed the observational and cognitive skills to differentiate between friend and foe, and extended that behavior to apply to all alliances and associations in general, males and females apparently noticed right off the bat that they had significant differences, and have spent the past 200,000 years or so playing King of the Mountain over the details.

I first observed/experienced a feminism bloom back in the sixties when “Women’s Lib” emerged in the midst of the Civil Rights movement, the Vietnam controversy, et al, as a force to be reckoned with. These weren’t trivial issues, of course, and good things emerged from the dust and smoke. However, as with any sharp course correction in a society, there were some excesses and more than a few logic turds born for subsequent generations to contend with as well.

On the plus side, the “traditional” gender roles that had historically sent males out to do muscle things and slay dragons, while keeping females at home on the ranch raising snotters and baking cookies, long past any utility of such a system, began to break down. Men still wanted to do testosterone stuff, but women became more assertive about pursuing goals in medicine, law, engineering, and other erstwhile “male” activities. On the not-so-plus side, as soon as government got involved to “manage” the cultural transition, it became a jobs program for bureaucrats breeding entitlements like mosquitoes in June and doing for the lexicon what Picasso did for Realism.

Consequently, the twenty first century dawned on a world in which gender role issues were a bore and the real meat and potatoes resides in deciding which gender one thinks he-she-it should choose to be prior to entering first grade. Apparently, everything I learned as a Psych major about Early Childhood Development is as passé as polytheism and alchemy.

Another plus aspect to the shift in gender roles and such matters has been a change in the rules governing just how King of the Mountain may be played between/among the sexes. Some females began to reject being sexually exploited by some males, and some males began to respect that concept. This is no small feat! Conflicts abound, some founded (allegedly) in simple biology, and some a function of social conditioning. While some females have rejected everything accumulated by the human psyche since Olduvai Gorge, up to and perhaps including the names of the days of the week, declaring categorically that there is but one gender-that being “whatever floats yer boat”- some others at the same time kept a grip on the privilege of putting their three year old daughters in thong bikinis and marketing mythical levels of feminine sexuality, while simultaneously waxing ugly over little Johnny’s emerging impulse to do Braille on daughter Susie’s emerging curves.

In virtually all realms, the term “equality” and its cognates have adopted the identity known around psych wards as: “Dissociative identity disorder,” formerly called “multiple personality disorder”. Left to their own devices to evolve and squirm according to natural forces instead of by the numbers in keeping with the budgetary and political requirements of the moment, I suspect most of the primary hot buttons of today would eventually have arrived at some rational if not ideally politically correct outcomes. But, that was not to be, so we will pass along to emerging generations and those yet to be conceived a smorgasbord of entitlements and contradictory standards for them to either wrestle with as their forefathers have taught them to do, or perhaps instead to wisely keep their hyperactive Narcissistic legislative and regulatory hands away from.

Just as a footnote, it might be noted that “equality” enjoyed a perfectly satisfactory history of relative clarity prior to being amended to grade that quality on a curve so that selected populations meeting stringent federal criteria got extra credit just for showing up.

And, naturally, the most “racist” are now those who are most OCD about how everybody else dots their inter-anthropological “i’s” and crosses their politically correct “t’s”; the vilest haters are those who coined the term to refer to others; and the most sexist are often those who protesteth the loudest.

Go figure.

 

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Posted by: JDM..... | March 30, 2018

That Sudden Impulse…

AprilFool [2a]_

Posted by: JDM..... | March 22, 2018

Dangerous times…

and what needs to change…

We live in dangerous times, an observation that is difficult to argue with. Just a few weeks ago, on February 14, the news was dominated by the horror of another disturbed young person shooting up a school, leaving 17 dead. Then, from March 2 through March 21, a 23 year old young man went on a bombing spree in Texas for reasons as yet unknown. And on March 18, police officers shot and killed a young black father of two, unarmed except for his cell phone, in his back yard. The question is, what are we going to do about it? How can we end the pointless waste of human life?

When people encounter events or circumstances which fall outside the normal range of expectations, they are driven to seek an explanation that either moves the issue to within that range or that justifies its existence outside of that range. Such seemingly unresolvable inconsistencies are known as “incongruities”, and we human beings can’t tolerate them. Therefore, we can become creative in coming up with answers that put us at ease once again. In part due to the immediacy of the need, logic is not a primary concern, and we may be quick to grasp the first best answer to come up. The “Cliff’s Notes” approach to logic may prevail in the interest of expediency.

Scapegoats are born in this fertile arena, be they the human kind, the philosophical kind, or some other inanimate variety. In the matter of gun ownership, those taking up an anti-gun stance might blame the problems on the National Rifle Association or some other group serving the interests of the large population of gun owners. Particular individuals may be singled out because of their public standing and open support of some sort of gun ownership. Such scapegoat selection can be relatively selective, with the focus on points that seem to support a preexisting conclusion and the rejection of vague points or those that oppose their position.

Whether or not this process is reasonable would, again, depend upon who you ask. My personal answer to that part of the question is “no.” I don’t think it is reasonable, for some of the reasons cited.

* * *

Random bombings are another way that disturbed individuals vent their frustration and anger and terrorize the population. As with the shooting incidents, developing ways to stop the incidents requires that we first discover underlying causes and patterns of contributory circumstances that might help us to intervene and prevent future occurrences. With shooting incidents, the implements used, firearms, are an easy target, and many believe restricting ownership and use of those items will stop future events. Others oppose this manner of thinking, either because they believe it is more important to focus on the underlying causes first and the tools used secondly, or because they see it as a threat to the Second Amendment, or both.

The bombing incidents may be more complex but they still represent a person who is angry and raging for some reason and who has removed himself from civilization and the support and restraints it normally provides. Whether he utilizes known, traditional explosives or creative chemistry with regular household products, he builds a mechanism to serve his purpose.

A common denominator between the shooter and the bomber, it seems to me, would be the need to either find a way to help the person before his mental or emotional state reaches the breaking point, or to or figure out a strategy to stop him before he does harm. The latter is meaningless without achieving the former beforehand.

The most powerful and effective tools of all are knowledge and communication. Providing for the more widespread understanding of mental health issues would be a positive and helpful tool of prevention, combined with easier access to support.

Some rules and regulations around the access to and use of firearms are necessary and reasonable in a large and diverse society. By the same token, such rules and regulations should not be punitive toward the innocent. Statistically, the misuse of firearms is surprisingly small, and there are constitutional considerations that must be obeyed.

I am a life long gun owner, I enjoyed hunting for nearly 60 years, and interpret the Constitution and its Second Amendment conservatively, not necessarily as has been interpreted by others to fit the PC of the moment. The “Politically Correct” description or “PC” is a reference to the heavily “Liberal”, anti-gun opinions and politics of a large segment of the population, and should be respected as such, but it is not the law of the land. That limit should also be respected. The law of the land is established according to the Constitution of United States, which recognizes the opinions of all citizens, regardless of politic.

* * *

The bombing issue is neither so controversial as questions about guns and the Second Amendment, nor does it have a convenient “scapegoat” to distract from the most important part: prevention. But for the same reasons, perhaps it could provide a model for prevention that could be borrowed and adapted for the mass shootings problem.

The focus for developing a meaningful response to the bombing is pretty much restricted to mental health considerations and public awareness. Unlike ideas of “gun control”, It would be impractical if not impossible to try to quarantine all possible bomb making materials.

* * *

Just as one school shooting is one too many, one inappropriate or unnecessary use of lethal force by a police officer is one too many.

There was another one on March 18 in Sacramento, CA. Police were searching for a burglar. The police helicopter overhead reported an individual behind a house, the officers on foot spotted him, ordered him to the ground, and when he moved away instead, they unloaded 20 shots at him. Thus, a young father of two was gunned down in his back yard with a cell phone in his hand.

I have a couple of questions.

  • [1] Why was it necessary to fire twenty shots at the man?

  • [2] Why was it necessary to fire any shots at all, since the “suspect” was being sought for a non-violent crime and the officers had no reason to believe he was a danger to them?

This is not an easy situation to fix. Police officers do have a difficult job, and it can be life-threatening at just about any moment. They have to be properly equipped to do their job and to protect themselves and others when necessary.

Two things come to mind though, policy making and training. Senior officers and other officials set policy for how their organizations will conduct their responsibilities. Training instructs the rest of the personnel in those policies and the skills needed to carry them out. Matters of judgment and clarity of thought under fire are mostly up to the individual officers, with training and oversight also playing a role.

Another component of the policeman’s job should be accountability. When most people screw up on the job, paper or time may be wasted, but when a police officer screws up on the job, someone may die.

Training needs to be more than qualifying at the shooting range periodically. Most police officers are familiar with firearms and may have skills developed over a lifetime or through military training. Far more important should be ongoing education and training in human psychology and environmental awareness, as well as regular oversight to ensure that each officer is mentally and emotionally prepared for whatever he or she might encounter each day. As team members, officers need to be aware of each other as well, and to be vigilant for potential difficulties. Supervisors need to know what is going on with their charges. There may very well be procedures in place allowing an officer to “sit this one out” or to seek temporary reassignment when dealing with personal matters without fear of repercussions, and if not, there should be.

When unfortunate incidents occur and a suspect is shot or killed, as does happen from time to time, the officer is normally placed on leave or reassigned to a desk job while an investigation is conducted. However, an internal review is neither adequate nor fair. I believe the investigation should never be conducted internally and that the incident should be adjudicated in a court of law just as it would be if a civilian was the shooter. Any life lost deserves equal justice under the law.

Being afforded the shelter of claiming one was “in fear for one’s life” should not be a blank check. A police officer who makes a wrong decision or has an error in judgment should be held responsible and face the same charges as any civilian would. They are held to a higher standard, and should be.

An officer, if he is worthy of the uniform, does what he is trained to do. If he is trained to unload eight or ten shots at a suspect who fails to respond with military boot camp precision, whether the suspect is armed or not, he will do so. One could make a long list of examples. The bottom line is, he should be trained to use lethal force only as an unavoidable last resort.

 

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Posted by: JDM..... | March 16, 2018

Economics 101…

Economics[16MAR2018]_002

Posted by: JDM..... | March 7, 2018

Our task is not to act correctly…

…but to act wisely…

I once remarked that watching the evening news can be like going to a one-book library, and that still rings true today in my opinion. Currently, of course, the One Book featured tends to be the recent killing of 17 students and staff at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida by a disgruntled and disturbed 19 year old former student.

As I tried to absorb the whole story and to harvest essential facts from the cascade of presumptions, assumptions, and passion driven pronouncements of the various unquestionable, undeniable, indisputable truths vying for dominance, I found myself at a loss to formulate a satisfactory opinion on the matter. Every time I put together a couple of paragraphs, I realized that I was either straying or contradicting myself, a sure sign of input overload.

One thing I noticed as I began to critique the opposing viewpoints about “gun control” and the Second Amendment, was that my sincere attempt at building a rational analysis was skewed by my own innate biases and emotions, as was everyone else’s. I rolled my chair back, clasped my hands behind my head, and stared at the ceiling.

I found myself re-pioneering a well-worn circular path of my own making when contemplating the reinvigorated face off between those advocating a “gun control” response to the issue of firearm related public mass shootings and those rigidly protective of the Second Amendment. We each have our biases, for a variety of reasons, although we may not recognize our own as readily as we see those of others. I decided to look for a way to guard against those biases to which I am innately blind before offering a new opinion about the issue at hand.

This seems like one of those stories that the media, the public, and “experts” could undoubtedly chew on interminably, only to come up with the same old threadbare epiphanies we always seem to arrive at, I thought. Why is that, I wondered. Human behavior was my focal point academically and in most of my work environments over the years, so I decided to do a little research before blogging any analyses or opinions.

It wasn’t long before I ran across an article in the Harvard Business Review of February 2009 titled Why Good Leaders Make Bad Decisions, by Andrew Campbell, Jo Whitehead, and Sydney Finkelstein that seemed to offer some insight into the matter. Although written from a business perspective, the subject was examined as a question of human behavior and basic psychological principles, which is more up my alley.

I saw a relationship between the behaviors described in the article and those observed both locally and globally following virtually any social crisis such as acts of random public violence, like the recent school shooting incident.

According to the article, researchers have found that our brains are wired to be more reactionary under stress. I think most of us are aware of that, but I’m also rather certain that few of us bother to break that down into its component parts, consider how conclusions might thus be drawn, and recognize how that process affects decision making. In other words, in stressful situations, our actions will be more strongly dependent upon what the researchers call “Pattern recognition” where we tend to make assumptions based upon previous experiences and judgments. As part of this process, they say, we are subject to “emotional tagging” where our emotional information becomes attached to the thoughts and experiences our memories hold.  

As an example, the authors cite circumstances faced by a CEO when he had to choose between selling off a non-performing division of his company or bailing it out and sticking with it. The hook is that he had placed one of his long time loyal managers in charge of the operation.

Being aware of the normal, unconscious processes of pattern recognition and emotional tagging as sources of self-defeating bias gives one the opportunity to devise strategies to avoid that outcome and to make more productive decisions.

So, how could the CEO interfere with the natural tendency for his attendant biases to influence his decision making? For one thing, the decision makers, whether that would be just the CEO or a committee, should expose themselves to new and different information and analyses of the problem by involving people from outside their usual sphere of interest. Include time for debate and especially for confrontation of recommendations that are bias-based. Provide for “checks and balances” such as oversight. In matters of business, including a moderator might be appropriate, but in a Representative Democracy environment the opposite would be more appropriate and it would be best to limit the options for purely executive decision making.

Psychologist Gary Klein explains that our brains tend to leap to conclusions making us reluctant to consider alternative ideas. He described three circumstances or “Red Flag Conditions” which can cause distorted emotional associations which in turn can lead to perceptions of false patterns.

  • 1- The presence of “inappropriate self-interest”, being too close to the situation to be truly objective, makes decision makers more likely to see what they want to see.

  • 2- The presence of “distorting attachments” , being attached to people, places, and things involved in the situation, can influence one’s judgment.

  • 3- The presence of misleading memories, wherein one may have memories of similar situations, how they were responded to, and the outcomes, which can lead one to ignore or undervalue significant differences between “then and now.”

Having read the above reference article, as well as a few others, I thought it would be helpful to apply the observations to the current question about how we should respond to patterns of mass shootings and the issues of “gun control” and the Second Amendment.

I think it would be safe to say that one primary common objective is to reduce or eliminate incidents of mass shootings; another would be to develop strategies for improving safety in and around schools and other vulnerable public venues.  All suggested “objectives”, emanating from the citizenry as a whole, enjoy equal validity at this stage.

Having developed a list of “objectives”, the next step would be to come up with a list of “options.” A number of people want “gun control”, and espouse options that focus on the regulation of who can obtain, possess, and use firearms. Some of their suggested options at this point include [a] increasing or expanding the current background check system, [b] raising the age to 21 for the purchase of certain firearms and ammunition, [c] banning certain firearms and accessories (high capacity magazines, bump-stocks, etc), and [d] amending the Second Amendment to reexamine and redefine “the right to bear arms” and set parameters around who can own, possess, and/or use specific arms or specific classifications or types of arms.

A contrasting viewpoint focuses on achieving the objectives of reduced violence and protection schools and other vulnerable public venues while at the same time protecting against perceived threats to the Second Amendment, and aggressive regulation of who can obtain, possess, and use firearms and accessories. Their suggested actions at this point include [a] arming selected teachers and other school staff; [b] eliminating “gun free zones,” as some feel that such designation presents an open invitation for potential shooters; [c] examining existing laws and regulations to ascertain what is working and what is not; [d] developing strategies to improve aspects of current laws not working as intended or as desired instead of passing new laws or supplements to existing ones that aren’t working.

Regardless of one’s position on the subject, it would be helpful to develop a neutral framework within which to examine the situation and draft suggested courses of action, while minimizing the potential influence of personal biases and giving opposing viewpoints equal consideration

My biases
I hunted for some sixty years and have owned one or more firearms for most of that time span. I no longer hunt, but I do own firearms and support the NRA. Politically, I tend to hold Libertarian / Conservative values. In college, I favored correcting the inequities in our society that were given so much attention during the sixties, more or less along “classical liberal” lines. However, I have never agreed with the “neo liberal” philosophy that favors centralization of power in the federal government and a prescriptive approach to resolving perceived or actual inequities. More on that another time.

My opinion
I believe we should follow the framework of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights as they exist, according to the spirit in which they were written and subsequently amended. We need to be extremely careful about creatively reinterpreting those documents to make them support certain political positions. This is not to diminish in any way the value of any particular political views, but they tend to be fluid and ever-changing. The Constitution, on the other hand, has survived intact for 231 years so far, with a few amendments along the way. Amending the Constitution is an important option to ensure that it remains relevant, but for the same reason that process is not taken lightly and is not designed to be easy to do.

Already, actions are being proposed on the basis of political value rather than on the basis of viability and compatibility with the Constitution.  I suspect that ideas involving the selective imposition of increased age limits on certain purchases would run into serious challenges on a number of points.  I can’t imagine a 20 year old coming home from the Middle East with one leg and a chestful of medals being told he’s not old enough to purchase or use certain firearms.  Any age limits tend to be arbitrary and subjective anyway, so they should at least be established rationally and not on the basis of emotion or political currency.  

I find the incidents of public violence extremely disturbing, and it tears me apart to think what it must be like for a parent to lose a child, or for anyone to lose someone they love in such a way. These traumas heal slowly, if at all, and they always leave scars.

I want people to feel safe, but I also want my grandson to grow up in a country that is as free as, or freer than the one I was born into. Liberty is paramount and should never be pawned in exchange for promises of “safety”. Freedom and safety are both crucial to life, but balance is equally critical, with the emphasis on freedom rather than safety.

I don’t have to worry about being savagely murdered in my home or fields as some of my ancestors were, but we have dangers of our own in present times. My ancestors learned, however that becoming overly dependent on, or obedient to government for day to day matters over and above the general defense, can be a fatal error. It is why we were given a system of self governance to live under, if we choose. Freedom includes the right to be wrong, the right to be unpopular, the right to hold opposing views, and to be considered offensive. It also includes the responsibility to safeguard those same rights for others, all inclusive.

We have had to adapt, innovate, and grow as our population has grown astronomically and the world has changed. Unfortunately, human nature, opportunity, and hasty decision making has sometimes led us to chip away at the checks and balances built into the Constitution, resulting in a progressively larger, broader, and more elitist government, and a less independent, more compliant population.

Thus, when we find ourselves facing difficult challenges that require new considerations of our safety and freedom as we do when a disturbed or evil person shoots up a school, it is important that we are able to make rational decisions that will work rather than impulsive ones driven by anger, fear, or passion that may exact further collateral damage to our rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

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Posted by: JDM..... | March 6, 2018

Oh, yeah…by the way…..

OscarsDiverse(final)]

Posted by: JDM..... | February 18, 2018

About “mass shootings”…

 

What do we do?…

The question is…

How Can We Develop an Effective and Constitutionally Valid Response to Mass Shootings?

Before we can come up with a rational and effective response to a problem, we have to define the problem, which is not likely to be as clearly understood as we might like to believe.

While the differing perspectives and opinions may never actually agree, they can and must find actions they can agree to take and to not take.

At the present time, passions run high and most people have their feet firmly and immovably planted on what they KNOW, beyond any shadow of doubt, is the ONLY rational an moral idea about what should be done.

VIOLENCE

Violence is not a new phenomenon in the United States or in the rest of the world either. Also, firearms have, for the most part, almost entirely replaced earlier tools of the trade such as bows and arrows, spears, big sticks, rocks, and so forth. Like other implements of death, they all have had other uses as well. Lizzie Borden’s axe has historically been thought of as a tool for cutting wood, at least in western societies, although certain models have in the past been designed to inflict harm and were used as weapons of war.

The argument that many ordinary tools can be used to maim or kill has merit, but there is little argument that guns have come to be viewed in the twenty first century mostly as evil implements of mayhem and murder. Except in the hands of the military and law enforcement. Militarily, the United States has been involved in armed conflicts for 93% of the 240 years we have existed as a country. With less than a handful of exceptions, those involvements have taken place in other countries around the world, and whether or not our participation was justified is a matter of politics and opinion. In addition, and perhaps as a spin-off from those involvements, we have become a global leader in the manufacture and sale of tools whose sole purpose is to kill. Furthermore, the United States is said to have the world’s largest military budget. War has become quite profitable and is the focus of some of our largest corporations.

The arms race of the fifties and sixties, which grew out of mutual fear between the USA and the USSR has become the arms race of today, which is an economic competition between the USA and Russia for the global weapons business. Obviously, both countries have a vested interest in continued conflicts.

Law enforcement has undergone an alarming transformation over the past twenty years, particularly since September 11, 2001, having replaced the traditional “Officer Clancy” persona in many areas with what looks more like a military assault team.

When the military ensures that it is armed to the teeth, it’s called “defense”, which is partially true and is, in fact, the government’s primary job.  When the local police are similarly equipped, it’s called “protecting the public”, but it was not that long ago that when a military style intervention was needed, the National Guard would be summoned.   Full on, zero to one hundred responses require more thought and aren’t as likely to be spontaneously over-used under such circumstances,   and the difference between the police and the police state remains clear.

As an aside, I worked on a locked psychiatric unit at the local hospital for several years, until I retired.  Before that, I had worked as a counselor with the substance abuse program.  Some of the patients and clients with whom I worked could be volatile or violent, much like many of the people encountered by the police, and yes, on a few occasions they turned out to be armed.  Nevertheless, on no occasion did I cause harm when de-escalating a volatile or dangerous situation.  In fact, at one point I taught non-violent intervention and restraint methods.  Occasionally, we did have to call the local police to take control of particularly dangerous patients who were out of control, but the most aggressive action I ever saw them take was the use of pepper spray.  I shared in that experience once as I was trying to restrain the individual at the time the substance was unleashed.

Yet, with all of this armament and weaponry, the mere possession of a firearm by a private citizen is looked upon by some with a jaundiced eye as a potential felony, or at least a misdemeanor, or maybe a fine if all of the requisite paperwork is not in order. Those whose personal values and politic reside on the more conservative side of the divide interpret the Second Amendment as having been written to ensure that the citizenry would always have the means to defend itself against their own government should it ever become oppressive as had the British, or if it should go rogue in some other way.

The more “liberal” perspective has come to view the government as a positive force rather than a potential threat, and they favor strong centralization of power and authority in the federal government. Many on this side of the controversy favor varying degrees of “gun control” with a heavy emphasis on federal regulation of who can own and use firearms, what kind of firearms should be permitted, and so forth, essentially rendering the Second Amendment a protector of the government against the potential threat of the citizenry instead of the other way around. That, to me, is a scary prospect.

I would suggest that the largest faction includes both those who like to target shoot occasionally, or hunt deer and small game in the fall, and those who are not gun owners, have little or no experience with them, and don’t like the idea of private individuals owning them. Some of the more passionate on both sides of the issue energetically gather statistics and data that support their preconceived conclusions, while others try to remain more true to the scientific method as it applies to basic statistical analysis.  This can be a challenge when one has a measurable bias regarding the outcome.

The shock wave of the senseless murders of 17 people at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida will be with us for a while, and the philosophical divide over Second Amendment issues remains raw and pained, as it always is at such times. Protests and demanding crowds with hand-made signs are more numerous and energetic. Those who disagree may tend to grit their teeth silently, perhaps feeling as though their failure to hate guns makes them the enemy. Yet, most likely they are as shocked and dismayed by the mass shootings as their neighbors on the other side of the room.

Now is not the time to make iron clad and decisive moves regarding gun ownership. It is a time to be aware of one’s environment, of course, a time to investigate and collect information.

The first thing that must be done before there can be any chance of an equitable and constitutionally valid response to the issue of public mass violence involving firearms is we must resolve the “divide” and find ways to listen to each other for nuggets of wisdom instead of word-filtering for potential turds. There is a common need and a common goal, but neither has been defined yet.

Demands for “gun control”, or turning a deaf ear to those words, provides no useful information to help the process move forward. Action requires specifics, something more than just thrashing about hoping to connect with something. The challenge is to discover or develop specifics that are mutually acceptable to those who differ most sharply.

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Posted by: JDM..... | February 11, 2018

In Case of Emergency….

In Case of Emergency_[FINAL]

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