In Washington DC, and around the globe, protesters took to the streets to announce their distaste for some of the rhetoric, and plans which may come to light of the new US President, Donald Trump. …
How much security can one safely expect in the modern world?
About this terrible shooting by Omar Mateen in Orlando, Florida last weekend. Here is some weight I have to get off my conscience. It goes like this;
This shooter should never have had access to the weapon used, but because of our laws, that so far have served the purpose they were intended to, he was.
Why is that?
Our constitution is supposed to guarantee certain inalienable rights. The second amendment says we have the right to bear arms, but it also says that privilege is limited to “a well regulated Militia” and we now have the National Guard for that purpose. That still leaves open the definition of what constitutes a Militia. Is it run by the government? Then it is not a true Militia.
The other part of the 2nd Amendment that says that “the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed”; is also open to interpretation, an interpretation widely held by some people to be absolute without any restrictions. But that one is too vague on it’s face.
This man involved had been on an FBI or Homeland Security watch list and that is where I have a problem. Our government is supposed to be of the people, by the people and for the people, yet we have our own government virtually spying on it’s own citizens and that is unconstitutional in my estimation.
The 14th Amendment is about civil rights and basically says, and this is supposed to apply nationally, that; “No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges and or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection under the law.
This man had been spied on and evaluated and yet he still got a weapon and was still not denied his right to bear arms even with the spying. So we’re supposed to think that this spy system we have now gives us a sense of security? It sure doesn’t me. It must be eliminated.
One former president said that those that give up any rights and expect to gain security lose their rights and have no security (paraphrased of course).
He’s the problem. Assault type weapons. No one should have the right to any gun that has clips that require virtually no reloading, shots that can be fired as fast as one can pull the trigger, can be altered to full automatic easily and are basically weapons that only a trained military enlisted person should own. Why? Because they have just one purpose, to kill as many people as fast as possible.
That’s my interpretation of the 2nd and 14th Amendments and although I believe that this man had yet to commit any felony and therefore should not have been spied on, he had all the rights to these weapons just like any other U.S. citizen.
It’s the weapons that are so easily available is what needs to change here. Not the constitution, but the changing of some constitutionally legal laws designed to do some “well regulating” if you will.
This tragedy might have been prevented with a federal law that bans ALL assault type semi-automatic rifles.
I believe that also to have a real lasting effect the ban should also include any hand gun with the same features (semi-auto, clip fed, easily altered).
This stance, or opinion if you prefer and I expect to be called out. Be my guest.
This is legal to do and should be done. As for the whole spying thing, another day another subject.
Why Conservatives hated Star Trek long before Obama admitted to loving Spock
A couple days after the passing of Leonard Nimoy, the Young Turks did a little segment on conservative blogger Matthew Continetti of the Washington Free Beacon. The discussion was centered on Continetti’s dislike of Nimoy’s Star Trek Character Spock, but his opinion was based more on how President Obama viewed the Vulcan character.
“Cool, logical, big-eared and level-headed, the centre of Star Trek’s optimistic, inclusive vision of humanity’s future.” – Barack Obama
In Continetti’s view, Spock was some kind of peacenik hippie, always too eager to use his level head and logic to negotiate out of rough situations. He suggests that Spock’s willingness to constantly negotiate with the Federation’s enemies made him weak, not unlike a certain American president currently in talks with Iran.
Continetti’s rant is amusing to be sure, but it got me thinking. How come it took Obama’s praise of the Spock character to get conservatives to hate something on Star Trek? If you look close enough, there are heaps of reasons for conservatives to loathe Gene Roddenberry’s vision of the future and it has little to do with our Commander in Chief.
If I had a chance to create my own Utopia, Earth in the Star Trek Universe is probably what I would base it on. It just so happens to be the opposite of what today’s conservative would want. Roddenberry essentially created a progressive paradise.
No Money or Capitalism
“You see, money doesn’t exist in the 24th century… The acquisition of wealth is no longer the driving force in our lives. We work to better ourselves and the rest of Humanity” – Captain Jean-Luc Picard
While it’s certain that money exists in some fashion in the Star Trek Universe (mostly outside the Federation), it has been suggested on multiple occasions that money on Earth went the way of the dinosaur.
We can only assume that without money, there is no capitalism. No 1%, no 99%, no classes, no greedy corporations, perhaps no corporations at all. Everyone on equal footing. It’s safe to say that without capitalism, humans gravitated to some kind of money-less socialist system.
If there was a plausible way to accomplish this type of system tomorrow, where no one is wealthy, but no one goes hungry, it wouldn’t pass the Republican controlled Congress in a million years. Just imagine what life would be like if money wasn’t a driving force in our lives. I’d guess conservatives would dismiss the idea as impossible.
A Society led by Science
“In the 24th century there will be no hunger, there will be no greed, and all the children will know how to read.” – Gene Roddenberry
The irony of a race of people relying on logic must be completely lost on some conservatives. However, if you told them about the possibility of a society led by science and exploration rather than religion and war, their heads might explode.
That’s not to say the people of the 23rd and 24th century don’t believe in god, and it’s not to say that some humans don’t like a good war. But one is no longer caused by the other, at least not on earth.
Science and development is what drives humanity, God is an afterthought. Humans no longer allow religion to cloud their judgement when it comes to research, conflict, and matters of urgency. Imagine a world where people didn’t oppose stem cell research or deny that humans are causing global warming based on a mythical book.
While Star Trek may have focused more on science than religion, it also showcased religious tolerance, multiculturalism, non-violent resolutions to conflict and a prime directive that forbid the federation from engaging with other cultures. These are all things that conservatives have been known to have a problem with.
In the end, while Star Trek can be chalked up as simple science fiction, Roddenberry’s vision should be taken seriously if we are ever to come close to achieving it. To do so however, would require a vast amount of change on our part. Something conservatives have never been willing to do, it’s in their very name.
“Perhaps we’ve never been visited by aliens because they have looked upon Earth and decided there’s no sign of intelligent life.” – Neil deGrasse Tyson
Posted by Julian Drury on Sunday, March 1, 2015 · 1 Comment
In an attempt to provoke a western response, ISIS has declared war on ancient history
ISIS has proven itself to be, perhaps, the most comic-book ideal of a terrorist group I have seen to date. They spare no expense in time or money to make themselves appear barbaric and stylish in their campaign of destruction. Recently this includes an incident in which ISIS militants were smashing priceless ancient artifacts in the city of Mosul.
In ISIS’s attempt to re-create their “Caliphate”, they have set out on a campaign to eliminate all things “non-Islamic” across the parts of Syria and Iraq they control. Part of this program has been a systematic destruction of priceless artifacts from ancient Mesopotamia, which was recently taped and distributed by ISIS on social media.
The video takes place in a museum in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, and for me it was hard to watch. These artifacts are irreplaceable, some well over 3,000 years old. To put it in context, some of the items destroyed by ISIS are older than the oldest books of the Bible (and much older than the Koran). Mesopotamia is also the famed “Cradle of Civilization,” so studying from those artifacts has revealed much about many key developments of civilization.
As a student of history, watching the senseless destruction of those priceless artifacts made me sick. The history that has been destroyed by ISIS goons is heartbreaking, let alone the myriad of other atrocities and violations of human decency they have committed. Any and all culture and history that does not fit their radical narrative is to be destroyed. If ISIS ever took over Egypt, I bet they would destroy the Sphinx and the Pyramids too.
The madness perpetrated by ISIS is not new. This act is reminiscent of terror tactics, such as book burnings, done by dictatorships in the past. The book burnings of the Fascists in Europe perhaps come to mind. The object is to destroy everything that does not conform to the narrative. While committing these acts of vain destruction, though, ISIS merely forces us to take them less seriously.
Clearly these acts, while an affront to all decency, are there mainly as provocations. The object of the destruction of the artifacts in Mosul and elsewhere is both to erase non-conformed history and to provoke the West and wider region to attack them. Nothing gets ISIS more recruits like more war.
There is a method to the madness. While many acts of ISIS seem unnecessarily cruel and without purpose, there is a line of reasoning. ISIS is fueled by war, especially war against the “infidels.” One of the main reasons for being so outwardly brutal is to draw in Western and regional powers to fight them, to give ISIS the “Holy War” it so desperately wants.
While I deplore what ISIS has done to priceless pieces of history in Iraq, I also understand that this is only a strategy to provoke more violent reactions. While ISIS may have a method to its madness, giving in to that method only proves its effectiveness. We shouldn’t combat ISIS on their terms, but on ours.
I’ve begun to notice a trend that seems to have escaped most political news coverage in recent years. Since 2010, Republicans have made massive inroads in state legislative chambers and governors’ mansions across the country. This is especially true after the most recent elections in November.
While most mainstream media coverage was focused on the partisan battle for control of the Senate, the GOP made massive gains in state legislatures in all regions of the country. The motions of statehouse politics might not be as sexy or headline-grabbing as the constant drama seen in D.C. in recent years, it is arguably more consequential for American politics in the long-run.
According to Ballotpedia, Republicans now control a significant majority of state governments across the country. Of the 98 partisan legislative chambers in the United States (a number which excludes Nebraska’s nonpartisan unicameral legislature), Republicans now control 67.
In terms of governorships, Republicans are in charge of 32 after the 2014 election, leaving Democrats in control of only 18. Most strikingly, these numbers mean that Republicans have control of both legislative chambers and governorships (a “trifecta,” as described in the image on the right) in 23 states, whereas Democrats have complete control of just 7 states.
This significant Republican advantage at the state-level poses serious long-term problems for the Democratic Party’s ability to compete in future elections. Unless Democrats engage in serious efforts to reinvigorate themselves in state and local elections, they may well find themselves trapped in a world where they can only compete effectively for the White House.
While the presidency is an undeniably powerful office, it is of little use when the other levels of government are out of your hands. If Republicans continue to control one or both Houses of Congress or a significant majority of state governments, Democrats may one day be locked in the Oval Office as if it were a prison cell.
Some see a trend that will favor the Republican Party for decades to come. I am hesitant to endorse such a pessimistic vision of the Democratic Party’s future, but I am also significantly less bullish than many liberal activists seem to be. If they are to continue to compete as a viable national party, Democrats must remember that there is much more to effectively controlling the country’s political machinery than just winning the presidency every four years.
There are a number of benefits that these Republican successes grant the Party. Most obviously, it gives them a substantial head-start on using the lower levels of government as laboratories for their preferred policy issues which they will likely one day try to bring up to the national level.
Examples of such policies have already been on display in recent years. One need only look to the current budgetary debacle in Kansas created by Governor Sam Brownback or the kerfuffle over union bargaining rights started by Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin for illustrations of what is likely to come if the GOP makes further gains at the national level.
Another benefit is the deep bench of experienced political operatives that the GOP currently has. With so many new conservative politicians entering the ranks of state legislatures, the Democrats will find themselves powerless to stop an emerging experience gap between their legislators and those aligned with the GOP.
This numerical superiority in experienced legislators will give the Republicans a major advantage in picking candidates for national races while Democrats are left to pick through the aging scraps of their ranks. This dynamic will only serve to accelerate a vicious cycle in which the GOP’s advantage at these lower levels of government reinforces itself and produces an even greater crop of potential national candidates for years to come.
One final effect of their growing control over state governments is the GOP’s ability to redraw district lines to favor their own congressional candidates. State legislatures are responsible for drawing congressional district in most states, so the party that controls them can choose the voters they want to represent.
Prior to the 2010 elections, the Republicans put a massive amount of resources into their state-level electoral efforts with the knowledge that the 2010 Census was a brilliant opportunity to seize the reins of the House of Representatives. This gerrymandering provided the GOP with a fundamental electoral advantage that undeniably contributed to their successes in congressional elections in 2012 and 2014.
I have seen the adverse effects of one-party dominance firsthand during my work in the 2014 midterm election cycle. When one party takes total control of the levers of power in a state, officeholders often find themselves tempted to alter electoral rules and regulations to favor their own party.
A prime example of such gross partisan manipulation can be seen clearly in my own home state of Kansas. Our current Secretary of State, the infamous Kris Kobach, is currently attempting to change electoral rules to allow straight-ticket party voting and impose further difficulties for people attempting to register to vote or cast their ballots.
It may be too late for the Democratic Party to halt the coming GOP wave that appears only to grow with each new election. 2016 is likely to favor the Democrats in the Senate and the presidency given the Party’s coalitional advantage in presidential election years and that more Republican Senate seats will be up for grabs than was the case in 2014.
Until Democrats invest in state and local party building in the way that Republicans have in recent years, however, they will likely find themselves locked out of state legislatures and, consequently, the House of Representatives, for many years to come. And unless they can do so and see measurable results before 2020 when the next Census occurs, the GOP will be able to lock in the gerrymandered congressional advantage that they currently enjoy until at least 2030.
I don’t have much hope that they will do so in time.
Posted by Michael Eric Brown on Saturday, January 31, 2015 · Leave a Comment
Gender inequality isn’t limited to wages, it’s also alive and well in our justice system
With all the news in the past few months stirring up racial hostilities and strong emotions, I cannot help but ponder the racial/ethnic issue from a different but relevant viewpoint. I have long considered myself a feminist, although I suppose feminist women would say I am a feminist-supporter. I always find myself considering issues that women encounter, regardless of their race or ethnicity.
Rather than focus on the media events these last few months, I want to bring up what I consider a serious issue of social inequality. It is statistically recognizable that women and minorities experience blatant social inequality in our judicial system, perhaps more so than outside of that system.
I wonder if you are aware that the United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world, with 2.2 million people in prison or jails, and 4,781,300 people were on probation or parole in 2012, for a total of 6,937,600 people in America under some form of criminal justice supervision. I imagine one may see this as a good thing, but I’m not one of those people. But I’ll leave that rant for another day.
Here I want to talk about two specific (and overlapping) groups of people in those numbers, and I believe it is important to understand the social aspects of the U.S. judicial system. One sociological perspective stresses “just as the social classes differ in opportunities for income and education, so they differ in opportunities for crimes.” I believe the same is true for women and racial minorities when it comes to crimes, and the severity of punishment of those crimes.
As well, I believe women and racial minorities experience obvious, and inexcusable, inequalities compared to whites during their incarceration, as well as subsequently in their lives after confinement, under the supervision of the judicial system, including those on parole and probation.
I don’t want to bore anyone with lots of numbers and statistics, although I think it is imperative that I share just a few to corroborate the accusations of injustice and inequality I am making.
According to The Sentencing Project, in their fact sheet on Incarcerated Women, about 200,000 women were serving sentences in 2012, and more than 1 million were under the supervision of the criminal justice system, which included those on parole and probation. They also state that with the lifetime likelihood of imprisonment for women being 1 in 56, it varies significantly with race. It becomes 1 in 19 for African American women, 1 in 46 for Hispanic and 1 in 118 for white women.
The website continues with more statistics, including in 2011, black women were incarcerated at 2.5 times the rate of white women and Hispanic women at 1.4 times the rate of white women. As a study by Sandu and associates asserts “So a Black female offender is more likely to be incarcerated rather than placed on probation, as compared to her White counterpart, and also more likely to be incarcerated as compared to her male counterpart. Both her gender and her race seem to work against her.”
I hope you don’t get bored quite yet. There’s a reason I’m sharing this next set of statistics, and I think it’s important you understand why I think the way I do. Perhaps you might open your mind to seeing it from my perspective for just a few moments.
Data from the Oklahoma Department of Corrections by a Special Task Force regarding the characteristics of female prisoners revealed the following:
- 30% don’t have high school diploma or GED
- 81% have children
- 25% are married
- 71% had been in an abusive relationship
- 48% had received social assistance
- 75% were incarcerated for drug and non-violent crimes
- 50% of the women have history of, or exhibit symptoms of mental illness, twice the rate of men
- Of those with mental illness, 68.3% were incarcerated for drugs or non-violent crimes
What this suggests to me is that women may require more positive social support beforethey resort to committing crimes. Over 2/3 were in abusive relationships, and we can imagine that they likely turned to drugs and alcohol to cope with it. Only 1 out of 4 were married, but 4 out of 5 had children. This suggests to me that many unwed mothers trying to support themselves and their children turned to illegal acts to compensate and/or cope.
How about the fact that half of these women have or have had history with mental illness, but where was the critical help for them before they ended up in prison? One paper written about Oklahoma’s drug & alcohol treatment states “Only a small portion of [prevention and treatment] programs serve females… it appears that gender-specific treatment, while potentially beneficial to women in need, is lagging behind.”
Better social support for women is essential in this country. Wages need equalizing, and domestic abuse needs more severe penalties for those men who serve only to demean their women and force them to turn to alternative situations, many times illegal activities, to cope. For women, better educational support, substance abuse support, and enforcement of child support are all critical issues that need addressed.
The judicial system needs an overhaul, and there needs to be more equality in sentencing, not only concerning gender and race, but with social classes, such as the “white collar crimes” with their lenient 6-months sentences, and the poor person’s crime with sentencing of years in prison.
It is clear that we, as a nation, have a further need to improve on gender and racial considerations, and we need to begin bridging the gap of inequality within all of society, including with incarcerated men and women.