Saturday, March 30, 2013

Ten Lessons Learned from Sandy Hook 

What do we, then, learn from Sandy Hook?

1. We learn there is a place for guns. The principal rushed the gunman, only to be shot down. If she had had a gun, perhaps she would have taken him out.

So, what do we do? Either we encourage more people, such as teachers, to bear guns in places where shootings could happen, or we post guards there. The advantage of having guards is that the presence of them is a deterrent. Yes, the guard becomes a target, and the shooter is aware if he takes out the guard, he can then shoot everyone else at will. Still, a guard is a deterrent, and you can post them behind bullet-proof glass or have them walking around so the shooter does not know where to find them when he or she enters the building.

2. We learn that while the police might not be far away, they can be so far away that the violence will be over by the time they arrive.

Can anything be done to improve on that, to reduce how long it takes for them to arrive? Why not have every police headquarters and substation be coupled with an at-risk site? Have the police station right across from the school, and a substation located right in the mall. Move the police closer to the at-risk sites and it will cut down on the response time and act as a deterrent, to boot. "Location, location, location," someone has said, and we should listen to that advice.

3. We learn video games might have an influence. Adam Lanza was a gamer. Acting out things, it would seem (if we use logic), does increase the likelihood of the person actually doing something.

So, do we outlaw video games? Our society already has age limits on smoking and drinking, and even selling pornography to minors. But, we are no longer the same society we were when we place those laws in effect. This time around, we are hesitant about infringing on freedom. Me? I say slap age restrictions on violent video games. They are bad influences. We commonly do not give children all the rights we give adults. We are trying to raise them and teach them what is right. This, too, should be part of that training.

4. We learn the availability of weapons can lend to the commission of the crime. Adam Lanza lived with his mother. She had a gun stash. She encouraged Adam to have guns.

I do not favor gun bans. Nor are many citizens even calling for bans. But, we should see that availability does  increase the opportunity to commit the crime. It would be helpful if those of us who do not need guns, who do not feel threatened, would not be so inclined to own them. This would reduce the risk, somewhat.

5. We learn guns should be locked up. Adam used a gun from his mother's gun collection. Police found no sign of forced entry. 

Guns should be locked away by the owners. And, there is reason to suggest that that should include locking them away from some of the family members. 

6. We learn to wonder if a single image of death can have an impact on a person. Investigators found in the home the image of what appears to be a dead person covered with plastic and blood. If an image is before a person, day in and day out, can it sometimes have an affect on a person?

What can we do, outlaw all violent pictures parents might post on their walls? Hardly, but public television spots might prompt parents to reconsider whether they hang such things on their walls.

7. We learn the glorification of weaponry, also, might impact a person. Investigators found a 7-foot pole with a blade on one side and a spear on the other. It is not likely such an item had much use, but was there simply for the novelty of having it.

Again, we cannot and should not ban parents from having such things in the home. Perhaps even a television spot discouraging owning such items would come off as overbearing. Still, it would be wonderful if parents realized the downside of glamorizing such things. 

8. We learn that rapid-fire weapons facilitate mass shootings. If he had had to place bullets in the gun one at a time, he probably would have killed few, at all. For one thing, there would have been opportunity for someone to rush him while he was reloading.

Some have suggested there be a limit on the number of bullets in a magazine. Perhaps I would go along with that if we changed our Constitution. The Second Amendment says we should not infringe on the right to keep and bear arms and I feel that an infringement. Also, if we view guns as a weapon of war that each citizen should have in case they need to fight against an invading nation, or against their own government gone awry, then we shouldn't restrict magazine capacity.

Some have also suggested we outlaw assault weapons. I have never fully understood this. If it is the semi-automatic nature of the weapon that causes the problem, then isn't that what we should be wanting to outlaw? Again, though, that is an infringement on the Constitution. And, again, if people view the gun as a defense against government . . .

9. We learn some of those who have mental problems are dangerous.

I do not favor banning guns from those who have mental disabilities. I believe the way this would be enforced is that anyone who is on medications (all medications for mental disorders?) would not be allowed to buy a gun. That is a ban. That is also taking guns from some people who are perfectly harmless and non-threatening. Not everyone who buys Prozac is dangerous. So, what do we do, to take guns out of the hands of those who are mentally unstable? I suppose I can think of nothing more than to encourage family members to monitor such situations, and that is a sobering thought to me.

10. We learn that if you try to regulate guns, you are going to have a backlash. "You won't get my gun unless you pry it from my cold, dead fingers." Any move to regulate guns is seen as an affront to the Second Amendment.

What to do? People can be taught that not everyone needs a gun. They can be taught that if they don't need it, and don't perceive the need arising that they will need it, then they might want to consider not owning a gun. Public opinion does sway, as the current debate over same-sex marriage shows us.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Are there Lessons to be Learned from Sandy Hook?

   It is said that those who won't learn from history are doomed to repeat it. So, if we were to do a little barnstorming, looking at Sandy Hook, and asking what we learned from it, what would we come up with?
   Can we look at the shooter, and the way things went down, and the protections we did or didn't have in place, and say, "This gives cause to change our society this way."?

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Aposhian's Stolen Gun Underscores the Danger

  Enter Clark Aposhian to the gun debate. Well, of a truth, if any one person has been central to the gun debate in Utah, it would be gun rights advocate Clark Aposhian. He entered this debate long, long ago.
   But, today, he entered the debate in a way he surely didn't want to. His gun was stolen. Check that. His assault rifle was stolen . . . out of the car he left it in overnight.
   Big enough story. Lead story on Fox 13 today.
   With 600,000 guns stolen from homes each year, and with a large share of violent crime being committed with stolen guns, it can be argued our nation's thirst for having guns means more gun deaths than there would be without so many of them. The response is that responsible gun owners wouldn't let that happen. Well . . .
   It's possible someone just stole the gun to embarrass Aposhian. At any rate, leaving an AR-15 overnight in a car, even though the car was locked, isn't good gun safety. If one of the state's best-known gun safety teachers can slip and let his gun be sniped away, well, that underscores the danger.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

 Monsanto Rider is an Outrage that Should Put an end to Riders
   Tell me if the practice of having riders attached to legislation is not a form of secrecy.
   This past week, there was a funding bill, and someone slipped a rider in, giving the USDA authority to override a court order that prevented Monsanto and others from planting genetically modified seeds. (I imagine the court order just stopped some such plantings, not all.)
   Word is, the rider was slipped in anonymously. Now, how is that possible? Congress members can make changes anonymously? Why is that, in and of itself, not illegal? Why doesn't any one of our Congress members march in tomorrow and introduce legislation making that illegal?
   But, more so, why do we ever allow riders to be attached to bills? There is danger that the riders will slide through unnoticed. And, if they don't pass through unnoticed? There is danger that the person voting will consider the whole bill to be so vital that he or she feels compelled to vote for the package, even though opposed to the rider.
   Is not attaching such riders a form of corruption? And, we allow it? And, it happens time and time again and none of our Congress members raise a hand to stop it? 
   Be done with such a thing! Would that a member of Congress would march in there tomorrow and introduce legislation against such a practice.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

 Will Foursome Marriages be Next?
  Those first words from the Declaration of Independence keep ringing through my mind as I consider the current debate on same-sex marriages.
   "When in the course of human events."
   I think of my America, and of the news stories pointing out how public opinion has swung from opposing gay marriages to supporting them. I think of the talk of how we have evolved as a nation on this issue. I think of my own sentiment, that perhaps many are born with the gay sexual orientation.
   I don't know that that is true, but I have to consider it, owing to both science saying it is so, and to the testimony I have heard from such as Josh Weed.
   I also think of the gay pride parades, and the forceful opinion of those who have same-sex attraction, of how they argue they are being wronged and slighted and discriminated against.
   So, when in the course of human events.
   I read a Facebook post, asking if we do grant same-sex marriage, then what of polyamory relationships, where people do not need to marry and they have multiple partners. I think in my mind, what if two men and two women want to get married as a foursome, do we say, that, too, is okay?
   Well, when in the course of human events, a people decides a thing it right, you grant them the privilege of living that way. I am grateful, at least for however long it lasts, that there is not a movement for foursome marriages.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Let the Non-Practicing Gays In
   If I were the Boy Scouts of America, I'd let those of same-sex preference in. 
   Kind of.
   I wouldn't let them in if they were practicing gays, but if they said that is where their natural attraction was, but they weren't acting on it, then, I'd let 'em in. Well, and if they promised not to teach it, then, I'd let 'em in.
   There is too much evidence that they can be born that way to turn them away. Plus, letting them in is a way of loving them, and I believe in loving them. 
   But, what if they were practicing? I still think practicing it is wrong. Those who are in the Boy Scouts do influence each other, and I do think a practicing person might be apt to spread his influence. If you believe practicing this thing is wrong, and you do not want your boys to be influenced by it, and you are a private organization, then you should be able to set that standard.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

 Prisoners are the Sheep that are Lost

  I offer you reasoning as to why the criminal should be the most important person in society (well, one of them), Sunday take.
   Now, it is natural for a person's views to be influenced by religious principles, for the religious principles are core values and picking a side on a political issue, often, means following one's values. A non-Christian simply chooses a different set of values to affect him, and they can be good values, as well as mine are.
   Nor does my basing my belief on religious values mean I am right. I might be influenced by one set of scriptures, while another Christian simply sees another set of scriptures as applicable.
   So, back to telling you why the prisoner is the most important person in society. He is the sheep that is lost.
From Luke 15:4, "What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it?"

Saturday, March 23, 2013

We Should be More Willing to Forgive Criminals   
   I once posted how the undocumented immigrant is the most oppressed of all.
   I think I've found another candidate, the criminal. Few will stand up for them. Few will speak well of them. Many will not forgive them, nor suppose they could ever repent. Once a criminal, always a criminal.
   Many think they should lose some of their rights permanently. Two of the liberties basic to Americans are stripped from them forever, the right to vote and the right to bear arms.
   Give them a job? Employers shy away from hiring them -- and understandably so.
   Some of what the ex-convict faces should be understood. The ex-convict should understand, and accept the public's shying away from him. But, some of the feelings, on our part, are not wise, nor justified. We should be more hopeful that the criminal will and can set aside a life of crime. We should be more willing to love him back into our society. We should realize he needs employment, to pay his bills, and if we don't give him a job, we are only nudging him back to his life of crime.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Running from Former Friends, the Former Convict Might Need a Gun
   Consider the poor criminal, if you will, and the need (and the right) he has for a gun when he is released from prison.
   Go on, think about it. Think about him getting out, repentant, thinking he has put it all behind him, thinking he wants to live within the law . . . and along come his former friends, wanting him to take up where he left off. Now, they are going to feel a little jilted when he tries to cut ties with them.
   These old buddies of his, as you might imagine, are people with guns. Not only are they people with guns, they are people who use them. And, they have a motive, in case you think that has to be present. Tell me, then, is the former convict in danger?
   His is a target like never before.
   I'm going to remind you, he wants to repent, doesn't want to live a life of crime anymore. And, I'm going to suggest this person's life is as valuable as yours or mine. His is precious, for he is willing to repent.
   And, we tell him, there will be no protection for you, my child?
   I know a lot of people who go out and buy guns whose lives are not even in jeopardy. This person's life is in jeopardy. But, he cannot own a gun, for felons are not allowed to. So, what will he do? He will be very tempted to get a gun illegally, and some would allow that he should, for otherwise he cannot protect himself. If he buys it illegally, he runs the risk of being arrested for illegal possession of a firearm. So, we block him off, to some degree, in his attempt to reform and live within the law.
   Well, I'm not settled on this opinion, the idea former convicts should be allowed to have guns, for I know it means putting guns back into the hands of those who have been using them for harm. If the Constitution is changed, to allow some infringement upon the right to keep and bear arms (as that would allow us to infringe upon the criminal's rights), then perhaps society's need of protection from the former convict is greater than the former convict's right to protect himself with a gun.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Jail Shouldn't Become a Privilege
   Jail shouldn't become a privilege. In other words, it shouldn't be a place to find privileges not found on the outside.
   It shouldn't become a place to escape to, a home when none other can be found, a place to just hang out and not have to worry about bills, or work, or family or where the next meal will come from.
   Prison is not a safe harbor, or a shelter. It is a place you go to make amends for your crimes. If we get too lax in our prisons, we will fail the whole purpose for having them.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Today is Apologize-to-the-Immigrant Day
   Today is Apologize-to-the-Undocumented-Immigrant Day.
   Well, actually it is Fill-Out-Your-NCAA-Bracket Day, the biggest office gambling event of the year. I would ask, if rule of law is so important, if having a piece of paper is so important, since that is the law, well, what about that Utah state law that says no gambling.

Risk of Homicides, According to 1993 Study, Three Times Higher
   The risk of homicide is three times higher in homes with guns, so it is said. A 1993 New England Journal of Medicine article is the source, and it actually says 2.7 times, which is almost three times.
Should We Scrap Democracy Because of Campaign Contributions?

Do campaign contributions tarnish the election system so much that we should have the person appointed instead of elected? Are they such a great danger that in order to get rid of them, we should also get rid of democracy?

Utah State Sen. Todd Weiler is actually suggesting only that we consider that just one office, the attorney general's office, be appointed instead of elected. But, I can't help wonder if he is worried about the attorney general's office, why not all others?

"The discussion is: As an elected official in a statewide race, we're asking these candidates to run around and ask people for political donations," Weiler is quoted as saying in the Salt Lake Tribune. "If someone was appointed, we'd take that entirely out of the process."

Of a truth, being beholden to campaign contributors is a terrible weakness in our democratic process.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

 Shock and Awe or Guns a Plenty?
  With the 10th anniversary of Shock and Awe, I find myself thinking of why guns a plenty is not the way to arm a nation against tyranny.
   I do not say a number of people shouldn't buy guns as insurance against the chance government might take a turn for the worse and go dictatorship on us, though I worry less about that happening than others might.
   I simply say, putting guns in the hands of everyone can do more harm than good. Let's suppose this had been the way we had went about warring in Iraq. Let's suppose, instead of Shock and Awe, we had commenced the war by buying guns and weapons (tanks and missiles, too) and then given them to all the Iraqi people.
   Thus, they would all be armed against tyranny.
   Trouble is, Saddam Hussein's people, or Al-Qaeda would have been there to quickly snap up the offering. For them, it would have been like picking fruit off the vine.
   So it is with us. We run out and get guns, in the name of the Second Amendment, and then we have 600,000 guns stolen each year. Wonder why. And, a good portion of our violent crimes are committed with stolen weapons. Can we not see we create a danger?
We Protect Eagle Eggs, But Not the Human Fetus?
   Read a nice argument against abortion on Facebook just moments ago. I pass it along.
   The Facebooker wondered how it is that the government protects eagle eggs, but not a human fetus.
  I Googled, and found a link on the argument, and pass it along.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Let's Practice the Principles of Change With Criminals
   Of all ways we could make our nation better, we do not give this one enough attention: Rehabilitating the prisoner. We are not doing the basic things that rehabilitate criminals. We should know the principles of treatment, but apparently, we don't, because we don't follow the script very well.
   And, that means if we did, maybe we would have less recidivism. Maybe we would have less crime.
   This is a little like a basketball team that won't drive to the basket when the lane is open, or won't box out to get rebounds, or won't stay in front of the person they are defending to stop him from scoring. 
   We aren't even doing the basics.
   Long ago, someone somewhere suggested that nobody cares how much you know, until they know how much you care. Meaning, you have got to love the prisoner. Long ago, they did studies showing babies need nurturing, they need love, and that they respond by developing better when they get it. I would not be surprised if studies have also shown the same for adults, but, even if such studies have not been conducted on adults, it seems surely obvious that everyone responds better if they are shown love than if they are not.
   Love should not be left to chance in a prison. It should be planned. It should be taught to the guards. It should be part of the rehabilitation. 
   So, love is one of the things we overlook. What are others?
   One, is encouraging the criminal to repent. We slap him in prison, that is all. That, we hope, will cause him remorse, but I do wonder if there are better ways. I wonder, if we had him serve the victim, if it would not help engender more remorse. If we taught him about the victim, would he not be more inclined to feel an empathy for the victim, a love for the victim, and feel a remorse that he had hurt the victim? I think so. Serving the victim is also a way of providing restitution. 
   So, serving the victim is something that would bring the prisoner to the steps of repentance. Why, then, not use it?
   And, there is another thing we should do. We should take the opportunity to retrain the criminal in how to conduct himself. I am not talking just about the crime, about teaching him not to do such things as commit crimes. I'm talking about teaching him to be courteous, and kind and respectful of others. I'm talking about how we train up a child. The rules for raising children have been practiced, I would imagine, since the first child came upon the earth. Things like rebuking them for treating their brothers and sisters rudely. So, let's bring the prisoner's family in to see him, and supervise each visit. Let them play games together, or do work together or whatever, and let's watch them. And, when they treat their family wrong, let's correct them, and punish them by taking away privileges or whatever.
   We cannot retrain the person normally. Once they are grown, we cannot normally take them back to a setting where we correct them and punish them like we do children. Prison, though, provides us that rare opportunity. The person is once again under the direction of another person. If the principles of raising children work, let's use them. Let's use the opportunity of the prisoner being in prison to retrain him.
   Well, there are a few other things we should do -- obvious principles we should follow. We should remove negative influences. If TV has too much violence and sex, take it away. Going to prison means losing some rights and privileges and among them should be taking away the right to watch things that are bad influences upon them. Same goes for the Internet. If they are to have television and Internet, then only for educational purposes.
   Finally, let them work. Why train them to be idle? Give them something to do, if it is only studying. If they don't want to study, give them something else to do. And, I'm not talking just working out. Let them work out, exercise and play basketball, but those things should not be the core of how they spend their time. Those things often serve only themselves, and the prisoner needs to learn to do things that are not just for his own fun and pleasure.
   So, if we would correct the criminal, if we would rehabilitate him, let us do the things that rehabilitate people, that lead them to change. Let's start with love, and then include the other things we, as a society, have learned about how to bring about change in people.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

So,  TV is Our Treatment for Criminal Behavior?
  Some day, I should visit our jails, to see if the prisoner sits around and watches TV all day. Well, maybe calling them and asking would do.
   At any rate, before the age of television, the prisoner didn't have such an influence. I can't help but wonder if he was the better for it. I wonder if with the invention of the TV, a harmful influence was unleashed upon the prisoner.
   Well, I do confess, I am one of those who considers the violence and the sexuality and the values portrayed on television to be a negative influence on anyone. But, if they are, I ask, why do we feed the prisoner on little else. If a man is the sum of the things he consumes, in terms of what he feeds his mind, why would we let the TV be the chief influence our inmates have?
   I will confess, I do not know how many prisons let TV be the chief way the convict passes his time, but I do wonder how many allow it to be so. And, yes, I really do shake my head at how wrongheaded we are to go about correcting the criminal this way. Our idea for making things better is to have them sit idly, doing little but watching television all the day long? We really have progressed a long way in treating criminal behavior. If this is what our criminal justice system has come to, I really don't think we are giving much thought to what treatments are best to counter criminal behavior.


Let the Convicts Serve Their Victims
   Our judicial system might could take a tip from what is taught in church. I know some recoil when anything churchy is brought into politics. But, if that is you, listen, and judge the suggestion on its merits, not on where it came from.
   A few weeks ago, while debating a Facebook friend who pointed out the U.S.'s high incarceration rate, some scriptures and church doctrine on repentance came to mind. The steps of repentance include recognizing our sins, feeling sorry we did what we did, providing restitution, forsaking the sins, and confessing them. I zeroed in on restitution, at first, but quickly realized how the others steps could also be involved if we changed up our system so that, when possible, instead of sending people to prison, we asked them to serve their victims. 
   Serving the victim, then. Let the judge look at the case, and decide if it is the better option, better than prison, or maybe something that could be done even while in prison.
   Not thinking he was LDS, I didn't share any scriptures, or church doctrine with my Facebook friend, I just told him serving the victim might be an option, instead of prison.
   Now, when a person serves someone, they are turned to thinking about them. Could we not teach the convicts some of the good qualities about their victims, helping them develop an empathy for them. Serving the victim can help the prisoner achieve the steps of repentance. Serving the victim can help create a sorrow for the crime. If you know a little bit about the victim, and are taught what is good about that person, you are more likely to recognize that what you have done is wrong, you are more likely to  feel a sorrow for what you have done, and you are more likely to say, "I never want to do this thing again." 
   If those steps of repentance really are principles of overcoming sin, why would we not want to use them in our judicial system? If they are true principles, let's use them. They are just as practical in one situation as they are in another. Me thinks it a wonderful thing that this might help, might make for a better judicial system.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Love the Prisoner, or Face Him Again  
   If you would change a person, you must love him first.
   What is that phase? I don't care how much you know until I know how much you care? And, what is it that all those studies on loving and hugging children show? That they grow up to be better adapted? Well, the need for love doesn't stop just because you are no longer a child. And, there is no part of society we should want to change more than those who are in prison. 
   So, where is the love?
   When our prisons are created -- when the functions of the prison officers are assigned and the programs are all set in place -- how often is the element of love even considered? Confinement is the concern. As long as we have confinement, we have a prison. To the large degree, it is punishment we seek for the criminal to have. Love should be important, though, if we decide punishment is not enough, if we decide we also want the criminal to be rehabilitated. Still, while it is true we often do seek rehabilitation, I do not see love as being an integral element we mindfully infuse into our correctional system.
   It should be. A correctional facility should not be master planned that does not address how the prisoner will receive love. In Utah, we are fortunate to have volunteers go to the state prison, and we are fortunate that the prison is located so close to our large population, so it is easily accessible to the volunteers and encourages them to come.
   Studies have indicated recidivism is reduced when the prisoner is loved. 
  Love the prisoner, then, or face him again.
  (Note: I originally posted this Oct. 26. With my postings again being on prisoners, I am re-posting it, with slight changes.) 

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Constitution Protects the Accused More than Anyone
   Pick it, if you can: Which segment of our society is most protected by the Bill of Rights?
   Blacks? Gays and lesbians? Women? Religions? Gun owners? Well, which will it be?
   Try, criminals. If the answer isn't criminals, then it is the broader group: those accused of crimes.
   Tell me, if this is not right. To begin with, doesn't the Fourth Amendment protect those who would be prosecuted, "against unreasonable searches and seizures"? 
   And, in the Fifth Amendment, we have not just one, but at least four protections. It says, "No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury." More, it say, "nor shall any person be subject for the same offence be twice put in jeopardy." More, yet, it says, "Nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to witness against himself." And, finally, it says, "nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law..
   So, the double-jeopardy clause, the right to "plead the Fifth," and due process are all found in the Fifth Amendment.
   Keep reading the Bill of Rights, and watch as protections for those accused of crimes come one amendment after another. The Sixth promises that, "the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial." And, it suggests the accused shall be told what crime he has committed, cannot be convicted unless there are witnesses against him, and has the opportunity to bring witnesses to his defense. And, it says he must be provided with a lawyer.
   The Seventh Amendment promises the right to a trial by a jury in lawsuits.
   The Eighth Amendment says excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed. Oh, and it has that famous protection of not allowing cruel and unusual punishment.
   Did you catch all that? Amendments Four through Eight are pretty much devoted to protecting those accused of crime, and, in some cases, convicted of crimes. Count the above protections. There's no less than 14 of them. Impressive, to me.
   I'm thinking, there's no segment of our society that the Founding Fathers protected as much in the Bill of Rights. 


Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Punishment for Undocumented Americans Should Equal the Crime

Some would send the undocumented immigrants back where they came, telling them to get in line behind those who are coming legally.

Go back to Mexico. Wait for five years.

I turn to the Bill of Rights, to the 13th Amendment, where it says excessive fines shall not be imposed. Haven't we always supposed the punishment should not exceed the crime?

If I watched a movie without a ticket, would the theater ban me for five years? If I rode TRAX without a ticket, would I be forbidden to use the train for five years? And, the requirement to return to their home country can be more harsh to some immigrants. For some, the cartels are waiting for them, the immigrant having been enticed or coerced into a difficult-to-pay agreement to help them cross the border.

Stop and consider their offense. The immigrant is in the U.S. without proper paperwork. This is an offense, and a punishment is justified, but it should be just. If we send them back, I say let them return to the U.S. as quick as possible. 

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

We Imprison More of Our Own than any Nation in History

We Americans are in such a troublesome position, incarcerating more people by far than other nation. As of 2009, the U.S. held 743 in prison per 100,000 people. Second on the list? Russia, 577 per 100,000. Third? Canada, with but a fragment of what the U.S. has, Canada having 117 per 100,000.

I've heard it said we incarcerate more of our own people than any nation in all of human history.

Being embarrassed seems appropriate. More people imprisoned in the Land of the Free than in any other land? Say it ain't so!
Fleeing America Because of Persecution

You've heard of people being persecuted, and, to escape it, fleeing to America.

Dread the day they should flee America, because of persecution, right? Of course, that would never happen, would it?

Alas, it has. Watch this CNN report, about how a family from Mexico ended up turning back around after many years, and returning to Mexico, because of the hatred they felt in Arizona, and the fear put in their hearts because of harsh immigration laws passed there.

Monday, March 11, 2013

I do not Like Private Prisons

About a week ago, I had some thoughts on why I do not like private prisons. Sunday, the Salt Lake Tribune ran a story, with people expressing some of the same thoughts. So, I pull my comments from a the email I sent myself from work, and rework them.

I do not want a private prison in Utah.

Reason? Where you put your carrots, determines which direction the donkey moves. For private prisons, the carrot is, of course, to make money. I can only see three places where private prisons can make money: 

One, from the government, which means they have the incentive to squeeze as much money as they can out of the government. Not being someone who likes government spending , I don't like that. 

Two (the second place private prisons can turn to for money), from the prisoner. Now, the prisoners aren't coming in as willing customers. It is not like they're saying, "I'll give you $31,000 if you'll be so kind as to hold me in your prison for a year." Oh, some good might come of private prisons, as far as them trying to make money off the prisoner, for private prisons have more incentive to make the prisoner work, and I do like the idea of prisoners working, instead of idling away watching TV. The problem is that private prisons will have more incentive to profit off the inmate's labor, to pay the prisoner but pennies on the dollar for work that is done.

It has been said private prisons turn the prisoner into a commodity, and I agree. The primary way for prisons to make more money becomes that they must incarcerate more people, so they become a lobbying force for legislation that results in more people being placed in jail. 

Three (the third place private prisons can turn to to increase their profits), from the employees. It would seem private prisons would pay less, in order to maximize their profit margin. I'm not altogether against that, and this place for private prisons to make money does not offend me as much as the first two, still, I am not sure I like our prison employees making less money.

There is another way the carrot placement bothers me with private prisons, and this one bothers me a lot. With the prison focused on making money, less emphasis will be placed on reformation.

I like rehabilitation. Rehabilitation already is not the priority I wish it were. My friend, a former prison guard, flat out tells me rehabilitation doesn't work. He tells me studies say it doesn't. Well, I don't care what the studies say, I still believe we should be striving to reform the prisoner. Seems we should never seek anything less. If we are always failing, and have no success ratio at all, it might be that we just aren't going about it right.

So, again, where is the carrot? I do not believe a prison with a for-profit motive is inclined to seek to reform for the prisoner. I suppose financial incentives could be established, paying the prison for those they reform, and perhaps by designing the system that way, you might even swing me over to liking private prisons, but that not being the way things are currently set up, private prisons have little incentive to rehabilitate the prisoner. I imagine a public facility feels more responsibility to bring about change, even as it is that we refer to government workers as public servants. Private managers have no such carrot. When they come to work, they are charged with turning a dollar. That is their focus. It seems much more the focus of a private contractor than of a public worker. 

Private enterprise is wonderful, but that doesn't mean it belongs everywhere, and it doesn't mean we take it where it doesn't belong. The glory of private enterprise is competition, and I'm doubting this will either add any of that to our prison system or be appropriate, even if it does.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

The People Spoke this Past Week; Will Our Leaders Listen?

Wait, wait, wait! Before we let go of the news out there this past week, consider that story about how the Administration is closing down the White House tours, and how the topic became a Twitter event, with people coming up with alternate ideas, ways to save instead of closing off the White House tours.

My friends, this might be more significant than you think. Why? Because -- just looking at the suggestions off the top and not having really looked into them -- some of these ideas look really good. They are significant, worthy cuts.

I mean, maybe the people have spoken and our leaders should listen. Don't we believe in "government of the people, by the people, for the people"?

There was the SuperCommittee that came up with the Sequester thing. These government-types squirreled themselves away and conjured up the best ideas they could come up with, thinking and thinking and debating and debating . . . but not agreeing on any good cuts. So, they simply said, "If nothing else comes up by March 2013, then these cuts will begin to automatically take place. We don't really like them, though."

Well, in one little week of Twitter campaigning, the people came up with some great ideas of their own. (Well, some were from congress members.) If we respect the people, shouldn't we implement some of these ideas?

I'm waiting for a congress member to stand up and say, "My fellow legislators, we have just heard from the people. They've got some great ideas on where to cut. Their ideas are as good as ours. So, I'm introducing legislation right now that will implement 17 of these ideas."
Case in Point: The Kay Mortensen Murder

Fewer guns, fewer murders -- so I contend. Case in point: In 2009, Martin Bond and Benjamin Rettig went looking for some guns. Bond was friends with BYU professor Kay Mortensen and knew Mortensen had a stash of guns.

So, they drove over to Mortensen's. When Mortensen recognized Bond, they slit his throat.

You can argue that guns don't kill, people do. But, the thirst for guns also kills. The presence of guns creates a danger that would not be there without the guns. Maybe guns don't kill, but the presence of them does lead to death. We have a phrase, "The more, the merrier." I would say that in the case of guns, we could say, "The more, the hairier." I do not favor gun regulation. But, I do wish we, as a people, of our own volition, would buy and possess fewer guns.
What Once was 'Amnesty' is now 'Pathway to Citizenship"

Have you noticed that what once was called "amnesty" is now being dubbed "a pathway to citizenship"? It almost seems that "amnesty" was such a dirty word, and we had sworn so much that we would never go that route, that we have had to come up with different terminology if we are going to go ahead with providing a way for those who are illegally in the United States to have citizenship.

"Amnesty" or "pathway to citizenship," either way, what is so wrong with forgiving someone who simply lacks their paperwork? Forgiveness is not such a bad thing, and forgiving someone for not having paperwork  is not such a bad thing to forgive a person of. 

Thursday, March 7, 2013

My Argument Against Moving the Draper Prison

Dear state representative:

Would that you would not vote for SB72.

I don't like SB72 because it calls for the new prison to be a private one. Private enterprise is wonderful, but that doesn't mean we should drag it into everything, sometimes going where it might do more harm than good.

I don't like it because it is a spending bill. With a $600 million price tag, it is definitely a spending bill.

I don't like it because it calls for federal money. Uncle Sam is broke. He owes his creditors $16.5 trillion. At a time like now, why run his bill up higher?

I don't like it because once that land is sold into private hands, it is gone. You can't ask it back should you as a state come across a good public use for what some say is the best situated land in all Utah.

I do not like SB72 because once the prison is moved, there will not likely ever be a chance to locate it so close to services again. The central location is lost. There may be disadvantages to having a prison in the heart of our population, but there are also advantages. Foremost, it is close to volunteers. The volunteers serving at our prison give it much advantage as they act as roll models and help reform the prisoners. Second, the Draper site is closer to courts, medical facilities, lawyers and other services. The cost of transporting prisoners not being cheap, I cannot understand how it is being argued it will be less expensive to operate it in Delta or Tooele.

Perhaps the move will create 40,000 jobs, but please at least question that claim before you accept it. Is that count simply a count of how many jobs will occupy the site once it is developed? If the land is not developed, is there not reason to believe the jobs will simply go to another location here in the Salt Lake and Utah counties area?

And, the dollar figure that is being attached to suggest how much this will benefit us, how much of it is accounted for by businessmen realizing profits, and land values increasing for businessmen? It is great when private businessmen make a profit, and maybe consider doing this for them, but first weigh that against the value the site has for the state, and against the $600 million cost, and the additional debt to the federal government.  I suggest the balance of the scales is against selling the Draper site.

One argument for the prison move that does have some merit with me, is that the land, once in private hands, will generate tax revenues for the state. Even that should be tempered some, though. If corporate businesses are not given this site, but are forced to other sites, the land values of those locations might increase, and at least to some extent there will be additional tax revenue generated by them, also.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

The Proliferation of Guns is the Proliferation of Chance

For the same reason a lot of folks don't like a prison next to them, there's reason not to like guns.

The mere presence of the prisoners creates a danger. If one breaks out, he might just come knocking. He might want to change into clothes that are a bit less conspicous, might want to take your car, might need a hostage . . .

So it is with guns. The mere presence of guns creates a danger. They might be stolen by someone wanting to commit a crime, the teenagers might use them to commit suicide, they might tempt their owners to use them to commit a crime . . . 

The proliferation of weapons is the proliferation of chance. The more that are out there, the greater the chances they will be used. No, I'm not calling for more gun regulation, but I am saying, the more guns we have, the more problems we have. And, I do wish we, of our own accord, would own fewer.

(Altered 4/8/13)
The Day Corporate Personhood was Abolished
   Getting up that morning after the constitutional amendment passed, declaring that corporations aren't people, and stripping them of their constitutional rights, I turned on the radio to hear how a law was approved in  early morning session, saying employers could not refuse to hire someone on the basis of their inability to do the job.
   "But, we have the right to hire someone who is qualified," the corporations had argued.
   "No, you don't. As of this morning, you have no rights, not so much as the right to be weighing in with your opinion on this matter," the sponsor of the bill had responded.
   That was at 9 a.m. At 10, news broke that the court just struck down employers right to fire employees. "You have no rights," the judge declared, "except the right to remain silent."
   At 11, I wheeled back to my radio, anxious to hear the latest news, and learned a court was ruling employers would no longer be allowed to set wages. Instead, an independent commission would regulate pay for all industries, setting rates that would be fair to all employees. "But, sir, we should have the right to set our own pay rates," a corporate officer had tried to tell the judge.
   "You will be silent," the judge had responded. "You are in a court of law, and have no standing here that you should be rendered any justice. This is a court of the people and the rights of the people are reserved to the people, not to corporations."
   "But, sir, . . ." the corporate lawyer had tried to interject.
   "Be quiet!" came the reply. "One more outburst like that and you'll be hauled away."
   "You cannot do that," the lawyer responded. "I remain a person. I do have personal rights. You cannot just toss me in jail."
   "True," the judge said. "If you are to argue of your personal rights, I will listen. You have not lost those, not your personal rights. But, Mr. Campbell, I cannot have you speaking as an officer of a corporation in this courtroom. It is simply beneath the dignity of this court to be listening to something that is not even a person. Do you understand that, Mr. Campbell?"
   At noon, there was a flood of news. No more would the Catholics or any other entity have the right to argue that they should not be required to provide contraceptives in insurance policies, nor would any church ever be allowed to deny its members abortions, nor dictate to them that they should not have them.Churches would not be allowed to advertise in any political fashion, nor would any business. Corporations and other entities would no longer be allowed to buy any political advertisements. Corporations would no longer be allowed to defend themselves when lawsuits were brought against them, but, rather, would be assigned a lawyer of the people who would strip any arguments on their behalf down to only the rights they possessed as individuals, not companies . . .  and the news went on and on.
   At 1, I again turned on my radio, not imagining that anything else could be done to strip corporations of rights that they should not possess, since they were not people and since only people have rights. 
   "Breaking news," the announcer said. "We have just learned, that on executive order from the president, all corporations are now banned. The events of this morning have made it clear that corporations have no rights. And, if they have no rights, they have no stature, they have no standing, no being, and they cease to have any value to even exist. So, by order of the president, all corporations are hereby dissolved. All vestiges of the corporations are hereby transferred to the people. The people are hereby free from the corporations. They  are no longer encumbered by them. From this hour on, the people will answer only to themselves, and no longer to the corporations. Corporations are not people, and this nation has today freed itself of corporate personhood
   I stared down at the rug, contemplating it all. It sure seemed the whole thing had gotten quite out of hand. As I reflected on the argument that corporations are not people, and therefore have no rights, I wondered what exactly we had expected would happen, if we were to declare that corporations had no rights. No rights? No rights at all?
   We should have known it would come to this. 

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

They Should Become Peace Officers, Not Wardens of Death

Utah police officers shot and killed three unarmed individuals in the last six months. Thinking such a thing should be rare, three raises our eyebrows. Yes, it does make us wonder if officers are taught to shoot to kill. Are they taught: "Stay within the legal limits, but if you are going to be able to say that you believe lethal force was necessary to save yourself, then, by all means, you can shoot to kill."
Maybe "you can" is okay, if it is just pointing out legal rights, but it should be tempered with the warning not to shoot to kill if it is not necessary. Life is too valuable, even if the life is that of a criminal, for us to be killing each other just because a law gives permission. So, if officers are to be taught they have the right to kill, the teaching should be peppered thick with the additional teaching of just how valuable live is. Officers should be taught that the legal right to kill is not the moral right. They should be taught that if they can see they can stop the offender without killing him (or her), then that is the much preferred option. Preserving life should be taught ahead of the taking of life. They are becoming a peace officers, not wardens of death.
"Life is valuable, and we mean all life," the officer should be told in the training. "Shooting to kill is not your first option. If you can stop the person -- maiming him -- then, by all means, do so."
James Bond was a movie. And license to kill is fiction.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Serving the Victim Could Replace Many a Jail Sentence

Supposing we revamped our penal system with this thought in mind: The criminal offenders should be responsible to their victims, and should provide restitution to them.

I'm told that with just 5 percent of the world's population, we have 25 percent of all those who are incarcerated. I'm told it cost us $60.3 billion a year. At some point, we must ask if there are less expensive ways that are also more effective.

Perhaps having the offenders be answerable to their victims is the answer. To begin with, have them provide restitution to the victims, when that is possible. But, let it go beyond that. Let them serve their victims, doing chores for them. They need not always have face-to-face contact to do things that benefit the victims. Let them fix their cars, or do whatever other chores the victim might find he or she is in need of.

One advantage of such justice, is that the criminal would learn more about the victim, turning his or her heart to that person, and hopefully helping to bring remorse. I believe remorse can be a large factor in bringing the offender to realizing he or she has been doing wrong, and changing. 

Saturday, March 2, 2013

We've Abandoned the Two Ways We Were to be a Republic

Perhaps the two most significant ways in which the original Constitution called for the U.S. to be a republic are no longer in effect, one having been removed from the Constitution and the other not being practiced.

Go ahead, browse through the Constitution, looking for ways our government was set to be a republic, not a democracy. What do you find?

One, you find the U.S. senators were to be elected not by the people, but by the state legislators. Two, you find the president was to be elected not by the people, but by electors of the Electoral College. The 17th Amendment changed the rule on senators, stipulating that they were from that time forth to be elected by the people. As for the president being elected by the Electoral College, officially, he or she is, but it is but a formality. In practice, the people vote for president, not for the electors, and the electors are committed in advance to vote for the candidate the people voted for. As set up by the Constitution, it would seem that when we go to the polls, the names of the electors should be on the ballots, not the names of the presidential candidates, themselves. And, it would seem that we should have electors not bound to the candidates and not having predetermined who they will vote for. But, rather, those electors after being elected should study, weigh and consider everyone whom they think might make a good president, and then each elector should make an educated decision, voting for the person they conclude will be best.

Being a democracy is not such a bad thing, to me, but neither is being a republic. And, I do sometimes lament that we have abandoned the two things in the Constitution that most distinguished us as a republic. Actually, even with those two provisions, we were part democracy, for, all along, those in the House of Representatives were to be elected by the people. The Constitution had many balances, and it should not surprise us that there was a balance between being a republic and being a democracy.

Only, that balance has been lost. I say we should restore it.

Defense Contractors Should Share in Austerity

So, the U.S. Department of Defense spends $316 billion on contracts, and the top 20 contractors make $84 billion. 

I look at those numbers, and realize someone is getting rich. And, since someone is getting rich, then there is a place where we could make some cuts to cut the national  deficit.

Yes, getting rich is okay, but when you are getting rich at the expense of your country, and the country is going broke, I think it is just to ask you to consider making a little (maybe even a lot) less.

I do think we should go to those contractors, and ask which of them would be willing to reduce their profit margins. These are austere times -- or should be -- and it is fair to ask those who are getting rich at our expense to share in the austerity.

Though I speak of defense contractors, alone. There are other contractors who are rich as a result of their contracts. They, too, should be asked to share in the austerity.

Let's Quit having Stand-Alone Police Headquarters

Let's quit having stand-alone police departments, and the change might help prevent mass shootings. Let's have the police headquarters be right there at a school, a mall or other such place where there is potential for a mass shooting.

It makes sense: No one walks into a police department and starts shooting it up. (Not so likely, anyway.) Criminals have a tendency to steer clear of police departments. So, if you have the police located right with the children, that is one site that is protected. As is, police headquarters often stand alone, although often they are next to city hall, and thus help protect it.

I suggest it is a waste when the police headquarters stand alone, away from anything it could protect. You only have one headquarters (though you might have satellite offices) and coupling it at the same location as one of your schools or at one of the other places you seek to protect, utilizes the automatic protection that come just with having the police across the street, or better yet, in the same building. 

Oscar Pistorius is Case in Point

My argument being that our proliferation of guns is doing us harm, Oscar Pistorius becomes a case in point.

During the last year, the Olympic hero (he competed in sprint races while wearing man-made legs) became a gun aficionado. He may have had an interest before then, but  he started increasing his interest, building an arsenal that included a .500 magnum dubbed "the most powerful production revolver in the world." His collection also included a civilian version of a military assault weapon.

Then came that fateful day this past month when, he says, he thought an intruder was in his bathroom and he became frightened, and shot through the door, killing his wife, international model Reeva Steenkamp.

Steenkamp probably would be alive today, if Pistorius had not become a gun aficionado, if he had not gone out and bought the guns he did.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Leave the Prison Right Where it is
   They would move our prison, you know, but I question whether they should.
   Do not understand the supposition that there will be a cost savings after the new prison has been up and running for awhile. Seems if one location would have advantage over another (in prison costs), it would be the the location closest to the courts, to the hospitals and to the services the prisoner depends upon. Transporting a prisoner is expensive. How is transporting him from Tooele or Delta not more expensive than transporting him from Draper? If the cost savings being spoken of are savings that come from a new facility, then update the current facility, or build a new one at the same site. 
   Do not follow the argument that the move will bring new jobs. It is said the moving of the prison will bring 40,000 jobs. How so? I'm assuming these new jobs are jobs that will come as the Draper site is developed. Is there something about that 690-acre site that is special above all other places we have available, that new industry should locate to the Draper site, but not to the other locations?
   Do not believe the notion that moving the prison to generate $20 billion in economic benefits should be an overriding reason for moving the prison. I'm guessing a portion of that $20 billion will come as property values around the current site go up. Moving the prison should be decided on whether it will benefit the state, not whether it will line businessmen's pockets. This $20 billion, how much of it will be because of increasing property values around the Draper site? Are we saying that making those landowners a little richer is more important that having the prison located at the best site for a prison? For, I quite like it that the current prison is accessible to volunteers and family. Giving the prisoner interaction with those who will work to reform him is vital, and if we seek to reform the prisoner, not just incarcerate and punish him, then giving him these visits does make a difference. Don't place the prison away from the convenience of those volunteers who are good influences upon the prisoner.
   I say we leave the prison right where it is.