Sunday, May 31, 2015

Wish There had been a Demonstration of Love in Greenwood Today

   Today 'twas the 95th anniversary of the Greenwood riot. Oh, such a terrible event. Perhaps as many as 300 massacred, and maybe 8,000 left homeless after rioters burned down the Greenwood community in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
   What a community it had been. One of the most successful and wealthiest African-American enclaves in the U.S., it was often called "America's Black Wall Street."
   As I Facebooked tonight, one friend wrote of how black people were driven out at gun point. Little wonder there is still racial tension there, he said. But, he added. "It is time to stop blaming whites for all the problems. It's a complex issue, and everyone needs to take their part in solving the problem."
   "It is complex, bringing peace. Wish we knew what to do," I wrote back. I then went to bed, only to pop right back up and post: "Actually, I do know what 'we' can do. But, it sounds trite and simplistic. Love. Love is all we need. Wish there had been a large demonstration in that greater community today on the 95th anniversary, people pouring into town with signs saying they love the black people, and they regret the riot 95 years ago."
   A complex issue, and love a simplistic answer? As I wrote those words, I thought of a quote from LDS apostle L.Tom Perry, who passed away yesterday. "Today's complexities demand greater simplicity."


If Our Prisons aren't Working, It's Insanity not to Change Them

    Comes a news story about a man who tries to hijack a car, but the 69-year-old woman victim will have none of it, and beats the man with her fists. He flees to her home, sets it on fire, and about dies in the fire.
   As I read the Deseret News article, I learn the alleged criminal, Christoper Bigler, had "an extensive criminal history." Then, I read the comments at the bottom of the online article. The solution some of the writers suggest is locking him up for good.
   I wonder at that. To begin with, we can't lock him up "for good." His wasn't a life offense. At some point, he will have to be set free.
   Still, that jail hasn't reformed Bigler is worthy of note. Will sending him back for a more-extended stay make a difference? It hasn't done the trick, so far. What is the old adage? "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results." Whether Albert Einstein or Benjamin Franklin said that, or neither one of them, there is still truth in it.
   Would that when we saw a news article such as this, we took it as a wake-up call that we do need to change things up. What we are doing isn't working. If doing the same thing over and over even though we aren't getting results is insanity, then this is insanity.
   So, it behooves us to think, to reflect on what we aren't doing, to search and scramble and reflect, to brainstorm. It behooves us to build a better prison. Not one that locks the prisoner up tighter, but one that makes him more suited for being free when it is time to free him.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Our 'Children' in Prison Need Constant Correction

   If a child misbehaves, we correct him. We send him to time-out, or spank him, or make him do the dishes. Whatever form of correction we employ, we do not let him continue his bad conduct.
   Perhaps we should consider if our efforts do any good, because if correction is good for the child, it is also good for the adult. Thing is, though, we can no longer correct the adult. He no longer has to listen to us.
   . . . Until he goes to jail.
   For that brief time he is in prison, he once again is subject to going to time out, or to doing the dishes. It is strange, then -- or should be -- that we hear so little of prisoners being corrected for misbehaving. Oh, I am not talking of the bigger things, such as physically fighting, for I imagine they are punished if they fistfight and such.
   No, I mean little things like yelling at other prisoners, calling them names, and belittling them. When we catch prisoners mocking each other, and treating each other bad, do we correct them? Do we even so much as say, "David, you should not be making fun of Kevin that way"?
   No. They are in prison for however long, and punishing them for the crime they committed is all we concern ourselves with. There is not correction for cussing, or mocking, or cheating while playing cards. It is as if we think those things are none of our business -- and that is, indeed, probably exactly what we think. We think it is none of our business to correct the prisoner for swearing or making fun of others or cheating while playing cards.
   We squander the chance of retraining the child, the child who has now become an adult. We have him back in our charge for this brief span of time, and we waste this narrow opening and do not even try to re bring up the child who has become an adult.
   We waste it away.
   Is there no wonder that we have high recidivism? If we aren't even trying to reform the prisoner's character, how do we suppose to succeed at turning him into a better individual?
   I will say, I don't know if making the prisoner drop and do 20 push-ups every time he picks on a fellow prisoner is the answer. But, I know he should be corrected, if in none other way than being told what he did was wrong. If simply being told not to do something does not work, then escalate to forms of punishment such as no TV for a week, or whatever.
   Those who have the best parenting skills would do us well to be working in the prisons, whether they be there as paid employees or as volunteers. We need workers in the prison who oversee everything the prisoner does, and who provide correction each time they catch a misbehavior. If ever there were children needing constant supervision, it would be our "children" in prison.

Friday, May 29, 2015

It is Not the Gun in the Hand that Counts, but the Gun in the Heart.

   Guns in the right hands, are good. Guns in the wrong hands, are not. Now, there is an asterisk next to the first statement, for guns can go afoul even when a good person bears them.

   Still, if the bearer of the gun has the right frame of mind, the chances of the weapon being misused are not likely. You tell me then, can we put a gun in a person's hand, and not have it lure him to its dark side? Can he remain  pure from the lust of wanting to use it? Can he utter what I shall call the Good Gunman's Creed?
    I wear not this gun because I want to use it, but in fear that I might have to. When the time comes to pull the trigger, I will not relish and enjoy the act, for the love of blood is not in my nature. Rather, I will lament, mourn and regret that I must use it. I will tear at any injury I must bring, to anyone, regardless whether they be villain and criminal. I value the life of all humankind, and seek not to harm any.
   I wear this gun not to intimidate, not to frighten the innocent, not to display or have power over anyone, and not to gain stature or respect. I wear it as a duty. If I pull the trigger, it will be of necessity, not with joy.
   Such could be the Good Gunman's Creed. When it comes to guns and whether they are good, it is not the gun in the hand that counts, but the gun that lies in the heart.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Prison Time Should be Family Time

   If you want to foster the things you want a prisoner to be involved with, you don't rip them away from him. If you want him to be a good family man, being a good family man should be part of his prison experience. It is one of the key values you want him to have, so you should teach it to him.
  Rather than taking the family out of the prisoner's life, you seek to put it in.
  Rather than limiting him to once-a-week visits, let him visit his family daily, if they will visit that often. But . . . these should not be unsupervised visits. A counselor or teacher should be on hand at each visit, offering correction and discipline when the prisoner or family mistreat each other. The two parties should be held to a high standard, the prisoner treating the family well, and the family treating the prisoner well. The prisoner should even be coached before many of the visits, the counselor saying, I want you to do it this way. And, the counselor should often review the visits with the prisoner just after the family leaves, making suggestions on what could have been done better and praising him for the things he did correctly.
   The counselor should know the family well, calling the family and interviewing them to know what the needs and accomplishments are. And, if those things are not coming through in the family visits, the counselor should pass them along to the prisoner and encourage him to take an interest in what each member of his family is accomplishing and needing.
   Prison reform should be about making a better person. It should be about instilling values. Having family values can help make the prisoner a better citizen, So, rather than ripping the prisoner from his family when we send him to prison, we should let him continue to see his family, and we should use those visits as opportunities to teach him how to treat his family.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

It Takes a Village to Correct a Criminal

   If we truly believe love makes a difference in people's lives, and if we realize the effort to turn a criminal's life cannot end just because he leaves prison, we would work on making communities more accepting of the ex-convict.
   Prison reform must be extended to the communities. Everything done in prison will be wasted if the reformation does not continue when the prisoner gets out.
   The desire to be reformed is going to end if the prisoner returns to a cold and unforgiving community. Usually, anyway. It would be good if communities showered their ex-convicts with not only love, but encouragement to stay away from criminal ways. I think of the story in the New Testament of the prodigal son. I think of that father who tossed his son a party.
   I wonder how many times a community has tossed a party for a returning prisoner. Of course, I don't mean a party with drugs and loose women. I mean a party where they do the welcoming in a wholesome manner.
   It takes a village to raise a child, they say, and that is only made more true when the person is wayward. It takes a village to correct a criminal, to guide him away from a life of crime.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Give Every Prisoner a Volunteer Mentor

   How about every prisoner having a mentor, a member of the community to befriend them, a role model to come in and counsel them?
   There are great benefits to such a suggestion. One, the prisoner can use the example, the friendship and the direction. Two, such a program invests the community in the process of rehabilitating the prisoner. When the prisoner exits his cell, he will benefit by having an example and friend on the outside, to help keep him on course.
   But, we would need to be careful in selecting the mentors. They would need to be exemplary people, not criminal buddies coming in to take advantage of this system. While it would be wonderful to match prisoners with someone from their own neighborhood, that will often not be possible. It will have to suffice to choose them a mentor who lives close enough to the prison to visit often, and close to the prisoner's home only when that is practical.
   There is a cost to having a great society, a price to be paid, and sometimes it is not monetary. If we would have a great society, where prisoners are rehabilitated more often, we should invest ourselves. If we would do this, we would stand a better chance of rehabilitating our prisoners.


The Muscles of Man are Like the Bow of an Arrow

    The further you pull back the the string of bow, the further the arrow will go. But, if you pull the string too far, you break the string or break the bow. And, another thing about the bow. It can lose its spring. I would guess, if you left a wooden bow in water, that might happen.
   All of this seems a lot like the human. It seems to speak principles of our hearts and our muscles. If I would build my muscles, I must stretch them. And, even so with my heart, exercise helps it. But, if I overdo it, I might pull a muscle. And, like the bow, muscles can lose their tautness.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Give Every Prisoner a Mentor, a Volunteer, from Their Own Community

   If the volunteer does not bring the commodities for which he is needed, he will not be as valuable in serving the prisoners. I have argued for volunteers in the prisons, as part of reforming them, but, it will do no good to have the volunteer there unless he or she conveys two things: love and example.
   Unfortunately, you can have volunteers without having those two things. You can have a person who bears no ill will towards anyone, but who lacks the skill of displaying love. And, you might have a person of great character, but unless that character is displayed to the prisoner, it does no good.
   Love and the example-hood must be on display.
   I will pause at this point, and reiterate how much these two things can impact our prisons, can turn them from being just holding cells into being real reformation centers. These are two principles that society has learned. One, that people respond to love. We have seen a greater tendency for children to lean toward delinquency when parents are absent. We have heard the maxim, I don't care how much you know until I know how much you care. Love is more powerful than the whip in changing the character of a person.
   And, being an example? The importance of role models is also something society has learned. We are reflections of those around us, to a large extent. We learn by example. We say, Show me how it's done.
  Although teaching is often separated from being an example, it can be part of it. Telling a person what they need to do is a form of putting what needs done on display.
   Someone the other day told me they did not like my idea of more volunteers in the prison. They suggested trained professionals are needed, not volunteers. I can see their argument. You've got to know what you are doing to get the job done right. So, I say, train the volunteers.
   To know how to love and to know how to be an example.
   Teach the volunteer to be warm and positive, to smile, and to say nice things. Teach them to exude niceness, for this is love. Asking about the prisoner's life, and learning his or her needs, is also part of it. Trying to help the prisoner with needs can also be part of it.
   But, the greatest thing is just to convey warmth and acceptance.
   You don't need to go to school and get a degree to learn how to do those things, to learn how to show love. You can be as "professional" at it as are the "professionals." You can be told but one time what to do to show love, and if it is a character trait you are naturally inclined toward, you will be able to do it on that very first effort.
   I wonder, too, if having volunteers, invests the community in the prisoner. There then is among the community those who are speaking well of those returning from prison, who are helping roll out the welcome carpets when the prisoner returns. Love will be needed as much when the prisoner exits the prison as while he is in.
   This is not to say the full-time workers should not be among the ones showing love. They, along with the volunteers, need to love the prisoners. I am only saying there are benefits to having volunteers among those who do the loving.
   Being an example? It would be good if the volunteer could roll up his sleeves and work right alongside the prisoner, being faced with the same situations and reacting to them in the appropriate ways and thereby showing the prisoner how it is done. However, even without the volunteer being alongside the prisoner all day, there can be situations where the volunteer serves as a role model. If there are activities they are sharing, situations will come up where the volunteer has a chance to react, and thus show the prisoner how to react.
   But, teaching will also be part of it. The volunteer must be willing to gently tell the prisoner ways in which his conduct might not be appropriate. The volunteer must be willing to point the way by teaching.
   Being a good teacher is not as natural of a skill as that of loving. With teaching, it might be the trained professionals, the prison workers, who have the greater effect. Still, there is a contribution to be made by the volunteer. Even if the volunteer is only someone who comes in once a week and talks to the prisoner through a plated-glass window, that volunteer will be able to share his or her values as they discuss things.
   That sharing of values can lead to change.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Wish Lady Liberty's Loving Arm Could Stretch all the Way to Myanmar

   Wish Lady Liberty would stretch her arm halfway around the world, to those who washed ashore in Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand weeks ago. These are the homeless, the unwanted. These are those fleeing religious persecution. These are the Rohingyas. They have had trouble finding a home since landing, some countries not wanting them because of the financial costs. Those remaining behind in Myanmar, who didn't flee? They are at risk of becoming victims of a possible future genocide.
   Wish Lady Liberty's arm could gather them in, and swoosh them back to America. Wish Lady Liberty would sing as she worked. Let her sing:
          "Give me your tired, your poor,
          "Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free;
          "The wretched refuse of your teeming shore,
          "Send these, the homeless,
          "Tempest-tossed to me."
   Those are words that mean something to me. Wish we lived by them, more. Wish, when we saw the destitute, we reached out our arms to take them in, to help them, to care for them.
   Oh, forgive, for I know this won't happen. And, I know the reasons for not bringing them here. To begin with, there is much sentiment against bringing immigrants here. And, there is sentiment against Muslims. Then, there are the numbers. If we brought some of those who washed ashore short weeks ago, there would be others wanting to follow. With it said that 120,000 have fled in the past, how many would we need to care for? Lastly, and perhaps most critically, there is the issue of them not arriving here on their own, but us having to pay the bill to transport them here.
   I only say, we should do what we can. This week, Indonesia and Malaysia agreed to take in about 7,000 at sea. Perhaps other countries could also be persuaded to help. Many hands make light work,it is said. Or, if there are none others to come, then let Indonesia and Malaysia cough up some of these refugees, and allow us to participate in the effort to help them.
   We once tagged a motto on a statue in New York Harbor, declaring ourselves the "Mother of Exiles," and extending a glowing "world-wide welcome."
   I wish we would see that as a pledge of honor. And, I wish we would make good on it.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Prison Should be an Incubator for the Qualities You Want Them to Have

   If we are to rehabilitate our prisoners, we should have them doing in prison the things we want them to do once they get out. Like working. Like treating each other with respect. Like supporting and caring for their families.
  Despite all the prison reform going on, I don't think this is even being touched. How about a prison where the prisoner puts in an eight-hour day, the same as he will need to once he leaves? How about a prison where you correct them when they treat each other roughly, where you encourage them to speak kindly of each other, and to help each other? How about a prison where the prisoner sends money home that he makes while serving time, a prison that keeps him abreast of how his family is doing, and encourages him to have daily visits from family members?
   Prison should be an incubator for the endeavors you want the prisoner to pursue once he leaves. It should be a place where he practices what you want him to become.

You Might be Forced to Build in Increments, but Build, You Can

   I do not buy, at all, the premise a new prison cannot be built on the existing site in Draper. Of course it can. You simply decide where you want to position the new prison, and build it in phases. You take the first, say, 20 percent of the project, and tear down any existing buildings on that bit of the land, and then you build that part of the project and move prisoners into it before starting on phase two. 
   You might be forced to build in increments, but build, you can.
   To have the prison-moving folk telling us that this cannot be done does, indeed, indicate the decisions they are making are tainted. Of course it can be done. Of course we can rebuild on the same site. To say otherwise unveils the decision-maker as already having made a decision and now stretching to justify that decision, giving an excuse and not a real reason.
   I should perhaps draw in my ire and criticism just a little. If a consultant is, indeed, telling them that it cannot be done, it is normal to see that advice as fact, since it is coming from a trained and professional consultant. I still must wonder, though, if the desire to move is tainting how quickly they are accepting the consultant's advice. If a person wants to believe something, they can -- and usually do -- snap to accept it, not wanting to give it second thought and not giving it second thought. That is normal operating procedure for a human being. Lack of objectivity can be something we all are guilty of, so I do not fault them too much. 
   The consultant? We must also wonder whether the dollar he is getting paid -- knowing the payer of the dollar wants the prison elsewhere -- is tainting his advice.  Is his judgement being clouded by the desire to tell the people paying him, what they want to hear?
   Building on the same site is done all the time. Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker points out that it is being done right here in Salt Lake with the Salt Lake International Airport. If someone tells us it cannot be done, of course we should question them.
   Now, after writing this, I read how the Draper site sprawls across hundreds of acres. I don't know if that is true. If it is, where comes the argument, to begin with, that the Draper site cannot accommodate a brand-new prison? 

Friday, May 22, 2015

The Value of a Volunteer Lies in Giving Love and Being a Role Model

   It is the one-on-one volunteer I seek most, in wanting our prisons to have more volunteers. While attending the open house on the prisons Wednesday, I asked one of the officials what kind of things the volunteers are doing.
   Helping with family home evenings and church services and such, came the answer. He also mentioned a mentoring program. Those are good things.
   I reflect on what other things a volunteer might do. Just sitting and talking, would be one. Just listening to and offering advice. Or, you could teach them. A volunteer could teach them to read, or how to do math, or all about science.
   Here's what I'm thinking, though. The real value of a volunteer lies in how well that volunteer provides two things: love and being an example. You can be an example while conducting a FHE lesson in front of a classroom, but in order to give love, it is more effective when you are just one-on-one.
   The prisoner sometimes gets love, sometimes doesn't. Sometimes family members come in and show love, and sometimes the prisoner goes without any at all. That, then -- providing love -- becomes a value of the volunteer.
   Being an example? That is a huge need. So often we do not learn something unless someone shows us how. So it is, we don't change our character unless we see someone model for us how we should behave. Now, do we leave the prisoner to find role models from fellow inmates and from his friends and family who come visiting?
   Or, do we bring in positive role models? Do we bring in volunteers who serve as examples?

Thursday, May 21, 2015

If the Site You've Got is the Best, Why Move?

   What makes for a good prison site?
   It should be as close as you can get to the services, such as the courts, the psychiatrists, and such.
   It should be close to the largest base of volunteers, which means built right into largest segment of the population.
   It should have adequate infrastructure: roads and utilities that can accommodate it.
   It should be large enough and open enough so the facilities necessary can be provided on it.
   Of the five sites being considered, four do not come close to equaling the current Draper site. The fifth, out past the airport, also probably is a little behind the Draper site.
   If the site you've got is better than the ones you are considering, why move?

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

If the Goal is the Best Prison, Keep Your Eye on that Objective

   To those who would move the prison, who say the economic benefits demand it, I reply, Good governance is not always a matter of economics.
   You don't built and run a school but what it costs money. Your first concern is, How can we make our schools better. Yes, if all sites were equal, you might sell off one site for the property tax revenue it could generate, or because that site is in the center of a booming high-tech hub and the property could be used for that.
   But, the siting would remain important. It would have to be located in the community it aimed to serve, and, regardless what property you chose, it would mean that property could not be used for the commercial benefit it would have if a store or a housing development or something else went there.
   There a price you pay when you provide a service. Good governance demands that you pay the price.
   Much has been made of the fact those in the real estate industry are at the forefront of the prison relocation effort. I do not say that they are going to make a profit. What I do fear, is that they will see the question not from the viewpoint of which site will best be suited the best prison, but from the vantage point that property suited for high commercial development should not be squandered on a prison.
   Good governance should be the first priority. And, if you are compromising that in order to provide economic development, you are not keeping your eye on what should be your objective.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Non-Profits Should be Allowed to Say Who They Support

   Are we to remain silent about one freedom of speech that has been lost? I speak of non-profit organizations and their being outlawed from speaking their mind on who they support for offices.
   It just seems that being able to say who you support for public office is as much a matter of free speech as anything.

Monday, May 18, 2015

I Wonder if Sometimes 'Militia' is but a Cleaned-Up Term for a Gang

   It would not be true of all militias, but I wonder if sometimes "militia" is but a cleaned up term for a gang.
   Got wondering about that while thinking of the war between the Bandidos and Cossacks, Was already wondering if some motorcycle clubs consider themselves militias when I read on a thread of a person saying the shooting at Twin Peaks in Waco, "will certainly be used as a pretentse for increased police presence among militia groups."
   That made me wonder more.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

It isn't a Party Unless You Can Toot Your Horn

   Would this be good of a political party? What if it sought to fill its primaries with candidates holding opposite views on current issues? One candidate who favored prison relocation, and another who opposed it. One candidate who championed Common Core, and another who despised it.  One who endorsed Gov. Herbert's Healthy Utah, and another who stood against it.
   What if the party sought to make each race, a race on a particular issue -- a referendum, of sorts, on that issue?
   The Democrats, in particular, often do not have two candidates filing for the same office. So, the party could keep a pulse on who was going to file, learn their stands, and seek out a candidate for each office with an opposing view on a key issue.
   If you wanted to participate in the referendum, you'd have to vote in the Democratic Primary, not the Republican. Since the Democrats are so in jeopardy of extinction in this state, they could use a little of this kind of pizzazz to swing more voters to their primary.
   And, consider it this way: It would be a service. The party would be serving the voters by providing them meaningful choices between candidates, and by providing them an opportunity to express themselves on the issues at the ballot box.
    Then, advertise the party this way:
   Your Democratic Party
   Where the Voters' Choice, is the Choice that Matters
   The Democratic Party
    Because it isn't a Party Unless You Can Toot Your Horn

Friday, May 15, 2015

Instead of Shying from Primaries, the Democrats Should Embrace Them

   Okay, its not going to happen. Still, I like my idea from last night that the Utah Democrats re-spin and re-invent their party. They've long hailed themselves as the party of the big tent. This would make them that.
   Often, when the primaries have rolled around, they've had few races on the ballot. In many places, Democratic voters would turn up, only to learn there was no election at all in that precinct, for if there are no contested races, no primary is held there.
   So, what a massive change this would be. The party would seek to field at least two candidates for every race. And, it would strive not only to have contested races, but to have candidates with opposing viewpoints. If they found a candidate to run who favored more immigration as his or her big issue, then they would seek out a second candidate who opposed easier immigration. If they found a candidate who wanted more restrictive guns laws, they would search for a second who opposed such a move.
   That's big tent, rather than just accepting candidates who conform to the party platform, actually going out and seeking for candidates who go against the party platform.
   Then, as I intoned yesterday, they would have a media blitz coming up to the primary, spinning themselves as the party that gives the people a choice.
    Below are some of the pitches the Democrats might give as they invited the public to choose their primary over that of the Republicans, who have discussed vetting their candidates so that only those who agree with the party platform could run as Republicans.

Utah's Democratic Party
The Party of the People

Utah's Democratic Party
Pick the Party that Let's You Pick the Candidates

Utah's New Democratic Party
The Party of Choice, Because it Gives You Choice

The Democratic Party
Where Voting Means Choice

Utah's New Democratic Party
Where You Choose, and You Lead

The Democratic Party
Where Freedom Means Choice, Not Conformity

The Democratic Party
Choice is on Our Side

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Slogan: 'Utah's Democratic Party: Where the Voter is the Party Boss'

  With the Republicans rumbling of how voters should not pick party candidates in a primary, and of how candidates should conform to party standards, perhaps now would be the time for the Democrats to seize the opening and sell a new image. They could have a series of logos underneath their name in their advertisements:

The Democratic Party
Where You Decide the Stands

Utah's Democratic Party
Where the Voter is the Party Boss

Utah's Democratic Party
The Party of the People

The New Democratic Party
Taking its Cue from the People, Instead of Getting Cute With the People

The New Democratic Party
Your Voice is Our Voice

The New Democratic Party
You Make the Party

The Democratic Party
We Don't Party Without You

The Democratic Party
Because Parties aren't Fun Unless You're in Charge

The New Democratic Party
Because Parties aren't Fun Unless You Toot Your Horn

The Democratic Party
Of the People, By the People, For the People
(In smaller print) We Might Get Caught Stealing From the Other Party, But We'll Never Get Caught Stealing the Right to Vote from the Voters

And, here's the idea that could really make a difference. The party could seek to field at least two candidates in every race, working not to find candidates that agree with the party platform, but rather candidates that disagree with each other, so there would be a choice in the primary.

Then, the slogans would read:

Utah's Democratic Party
Pick the Party that Let's You Pick the Candidate

Utah's New Democratic Party
The Party of Choice, Because it Gives You the Choice

The Democratic Party
Where Voting Means Choice

Utah's Democratic Party
Embracing Choice, Not Party-boss Politics

Utah's New Democratic Party
Where You Choose, and You Lead

The Democratic Party
Where Grassroots Means Something

The Democratic Party
Where Freedom Means Choice, Not Conformity

The Democratic Party
Stuck on You

The Democratic Party
Choice is on Our Side

The Democratic Party
All Baseball, Applepie, and the American Way

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

It was not a Great Victory for Gun Rights, but a Terrible Tragedy

   I lament, yet, the loss of Christian Chichia. It has been now more than two weeks now since his death. Was this but a drunk who stumbled to the door of a Second Amendment advocate, and was shot dead? Bless him where he now is, for though it is not good to be drunk, and not good to try to get into the home of another person, his death was tragic.
   But, rather than mourning his death, many, when they hear the story, only hail what happened as a victory for Second Amendment gun rights.
   As a people, how far do we take our gun rights? I fear for our values, if we see victory in this rather than tragedy, I wonder but what our love of guns is greater than our desire to preserve human life. What is the value of our justice, that we should say justice was done?
   Yes, Chichia was not so intoxicated that he was unable to climb to the second story of the home. But, he was out of it enough that he did not know he was at the wrong home, thinking it was his own, as the units in the housing development look the same. His roommates had told him that if he were ever locked out, to crawl up a level and come in through the second-floor balcony. He thought he was doing that, and was trying the door when the homeowner cracked the door to talk to him. Chichia just barged on in at that point, and the homeowner shot him dead.
   A great victory for gun rights? I think not. Rather, it shows that while Second Amendment justice  can be a good thing, it can also awry.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

There Might be a Cure for Some of What We Call Old Age

   How about a study of why muscles cease to work? Do they lose their elasticity? Are they too weak? What?
   In the case of old people, we often simply call it the deterioration of the body. And, it seems to me, rather than treating it clinically, rather than studying the problem and trying to find a cure -- we simply dismiss it as what happens when you get old.
   I say, treat it as something that needs a cure. We've searched for cures for most every disease, and been successful in retarding the development of many of those conditions. Why not this? Your reply might be that once old age sets in, it sets in, and cannot be conquered, and that the deterioration of the muscles is strictly a matter of being old. It can't be solved.
   I disagree.
   I ask, I say, is it a matter that the muscles no longer receive the energy they need to make them operate fully? Is it that the physical composition of the muscles breaks down? I say, treat this like a disease, and study it, and there might be an answer.
   Many among the elderly are restricted to wheelchairs. Others use canes. And those that don't have wheelchairs and don't have canes are more limited in their mobility than they were when they were younger. I'm assuming it is often because of a condition that comes upon their muscles, but you tell me.
   Can a cure be found? If you say, "No," if you say, "Just accept the fact God intended us to be old when we are in fact old," I will say, remember Kitty Hawk, for folks once said, if God intended man to fly, he would have given him wings.
   I say, maybe we can find a cure. Maybe we can eradicate much of the need for wheelchairs and canes, and make it so many men and women can sprint as fast at age 90 as they could when they were 19.
   Laugh, but I think it possible.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Do the Bristlecone Pines and the Sequoias Match the Bible's Timeline?

   The world's oldest living trees might give a small glimpse of light as we wonder about whether the Bible is true. I watched a video by John Pendleton, who was arguing for the creationist's timeline and against the timeline of the evolutionist.
   The Methuselah Pine, which is a bristlecone pine, is the oldest living thing on earth, he says, noting that particular tree in California is 4,300 years old, The Sequoias in California, Pendleton says, are about 4,000 years old. That matches well with when Noah was one of eight people who survived the Great Flood, which was, what, 4,400 years ago?
   I don't pick up my Bible to remember how long Noah was upon the waters, but I wonder some if a tree couldn't have survived underwater for the duration of the flood. If so, Pendleton's argument loses some of its value. Then again, the force of flood as it arrived would perhaps have uprooted many, if not all of the trees.
   I also check and find that others say it is not the Methuselah Pine that is the oldest, but a neighboring bristlecone pine, also in the White Mountains, which is said to be 5,064 years old. That puts it a little beyond the Great Flood. Or is there enough leeway that it still matches?

Sunday, May 10, 2015

One of the Greatest Famines of History, Matching the Savior's Prophecy

   Why not this as one of the biblical signs of our day that we are living in the end of times? Has there ever been a famine like the Great Chinese Famine of 1958-62? I am not student enough to know, but I doubt there have been many.
   Guess how many died? Would you believe an estimated 20 to 43 million? That makes the 11 million deaths from the holocaust almost seem small. How did I ever grow up and get to this age without hearing about this? I'm thinking, it is partially because it was decades later before it became known that anywhere near that many people had died.
   Anyway, after learning about the great famine in China, I turned to the scriptures, reading in Luke 21 of how the Savior prophesied that there would be ". . . famines and pestilences and fearful sights . . ." I thought of Africa, where the famines have been so large that they have long held the world's attention, and been a hallmark of our time. I think both of the large charity events, such as Live Aid 50 years ago, and of the lyrics in songs such as Toto's Down in Africa, where it says, "I bless the rains down in Africa."
   There have been other famines throughout history, but I do wonder but what we are living in a day when they are worse than at many other times. 
   And, yes, I do believe they are a fulfillment of prophecy. One of the greatest famines of all time, this Great Chinese Famine, and it is in the last days, even the days that the Savior said would be marked by famine.


Saturday, May 9, 2015

The Gun as a Cure-all is a Danger to Society

   Are we, then, a trigger-happy society? Do we administer death even when death does not need to be administered? When I say, "we," I am speaking to most all of us, for I find that most all of us hold what I consider dangerous values on this issue.
   Yes, I wonder if many of us -- perhaps even most -- do advocate pulling the trigger every time someone breaks into our home. Is that dangerous? I think it is.When we verbally agree that death should be administered, we contribute to the atmosphere that brings about it happening. We foster murder being committed even when murder is not necessary.
   Would you be careful with your words, not to say something that would encourage another person to do something that he shouldn't? If he were thinking of robbing a bank, would you tell him that certainly seems to be just the right thing he should do?
   Murder is a grave thing. Just as we would not encourage a bank robber, we should also guard our words not to encourage death where death does not need to be administered. Yes, there are times when killing someone is the right thing to do, but we should not want to drag into and include in our utterances those times that death is not the right thing.
    So, we should consider carefully on whether there are times we should not administer death, that we guard what we say so we do not utter agreement where we would not want to.
   Gunning someone dead should not be a cure-all. Killing should not be the default option. Not every time someone enters our home uninvited should we gun them down. Death to another does not and should not cover every situation. Not every time we are frightened should we fire blindly into the night. Not always should we administered death when we don't know what lies in front of us. Sometimes, maybe, but not always.
   So, when someone says, "If someone breaks into my home, I'm going to shoot first and ask questions later," do we agree with them, and thus encourage that thinking? I think that if I had a chance to ask questions, I would certainly want to. Rather than murdering someone unnecessarily, I would want to find out anything I could to keep me from killing without just cause.
   Take the situation in Pleasant Grove a week ago. About 5:40 in the morning, a man pounded on a homeowner's door. Getting no answer, he crawled up to the balcony on the second floor, where there was also a door. He was drunk, and hinking he was at his own home, which was buildings away and looked just the same. (His roommates later would say they had told him, if he ever got locked out to crawl up to the balcony and use that door.)
   So, the homeowner opened the balcony door enough to talk to the man, but the man rushed right in. The homeowner fired, killing the intruder.
   What should he have done? I would say he should have backed away, gun still in the ready, and asked questions. You don't just shoot a man dead when you have no reason to know why he is entering. The intruder did not have a weapon and was not saying anything threatening. Had the homeowner given the man but a chance to look at the surroundings, he shortly would have realized he was in the wrong home. Instead, the shoot-first-ask-questions-later scenario played out, for I understand there was little or no conversation before the homeowner blew the intruder away.
   Let me ask, if you and your wife were walking down the street, and  a person approached who had ill feelings toward you, and you knew he carried a gun and was capable of killing you, and he leered at your wife and then gave a mean, threatening glance back at you, would you be justified in pulling out your own weapon and blowing him away?
    Of course not.
   The homeowner had no greater reason for fear. If we are to say he was justified, we must also say you would be justified for firing on the person on the streets.
   Fears can be taken too far. They can quickly become irrational. If we say the homeowner was justified, are we saying he was right in supposing the intruder might rush up and rape his wife? Are we saying there was there reason to think  the intruder was going to strangle him?
   I think if we believe that, we stretch for reason to justify murder. We play a dangerous game that could lead to us becoming murderers.
   Nevertheless, isn't this what we teach each other? We say that if someone breaks into our home, we should shoot them dead. The homeowner did but what we, as a society, taught him. So it is, we should reconsider very carefully what we are teaching each other, lest we in some small way bear the burden of fault for the death of another person. Let us not be part of a teaching that fosters killing without good reason, for what we sow, so shall we reap. If we teach that if someone breaks into our home, we should always shoot them, sooner or later there is going to be -- a situation like there was in Pleasant Grove, where the homeowner shot the intruder.
   If we are teach that we always shoot them, we  are teaching a one-size-fits-all dangerous thing. We are teaching that guns are a cure-all when, in fact, they aren't and shouldn't be. There are times when, if someone breaks into our home, we should shoot them. Yes, we are there to protect our wives, and our daughters and our sons. But, there are also times when killing is the wrong thing. We, as a society, should know the difference, and be ready to verbalize it in our conversations with each other.
    Right now, what we verbalize is death and death only. Ours is a trigger-happy society, and if we agree with someone when they say they will kill anyone who breaks into their home, we are among those who are trigger happy, for if we kill them all, we kill some who shouldn't be killed.
   With murder being as great of a wrong and as great of a sin as it is, we should want no part of it.

Friday, May 8, 2015

If a Person Spoke Over Us with a Bullhorn, Would We Shoot Him Dead?

   There's a rumbling, rolling, rising rebellion against corporations having free speech. Citing the Citizens United ruling, some would literally rip free speech away from corporations, churches, and other entities.
   Money does buy. Money is favor and power and influence. It gives the upper hand to the upper class. No, I do not deny those things.
   On Facebook, someone notes that if one person had a bullhorn and was standing on a soapbox saying "A," and another person was standing on the ground next to him saying "B," it really wouldn't be fair.
   So, should one person walk over to the person with the bullhorn and shoot him dead? That would shut him up. As he stands over the dead body, he can say, "Hey, you had no right to talk ove me like that."
  That is just the type of solution some are seeking. They would take freedom away from some, They would take freedom of speech away from some. They argue that corporations are not people, people are people, and therefore corporations have no rights at all.
   They would literally kill the other person's rights. That's pretty much the same attitude as killing the person who has a bullhorn.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Measure the Worth of Guns in these Two Situations

   As I turn to the Facebook page of Taulagi V. Matefeo (supposing it to be the same Taulagi V. Matefea who was shot and killed in Utah County), as I read of him having been a maintenance worker at McDonalds, as I see his picture -- I begin to see a real human.
   Not just a man who highjacked cars, was he. But, a human, one with struggles, one who reached out for help, one who needed help.
   As I read about the other man shot in Utah County, Christian Chichia, I learn it was not much more than a month ago he was in on drug charges. I learn he and his roommates had been up late watching the Mayweather fight and partying, and Chichia had left that morning to walk with someone.  He lived just buildings away, his building being of the same pattern as the one where he was shot. His roommates had told him that if he ever got locked out, to crawl over the balcony and use that entrance.
   So, it seems most probable that in his confused state, he simply thought he was at his own home, pounded on the door for his roommates to answer, and then -- as he had been told to -- crawled up a floor to the balcony to try that door.
   Was he less of a worth if he was a partaker of booze and drugs? Was Matefeo of less worth to us, that he had a troubled past, dotted with some crime?
   I lament the lose of these lives. I consider what would have happened if the shooters had not even had guns. In the case of the carjacking, police perhaps would have followed Matefeo home, arrested him, and got the car and returned it. We may not know for certain, but it seems likely it would have played out without so much violence. In the case of the home intrusion, Chichia would have soon realized he was in the wrong home and left. Instead, two people are dead. That is the bottom line. We might not know for certain in the carjacking, but there seems little question but what the presence of a gun in the homeowner situation only resulted in tragedy.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Do Those Administering 2nd Amendment Justice Get More Leeway?

   Had it been police officers pulling the triggers in those Utah County shootings this past week, I'm guessing there would have been an outcry.
   It should make us wonder if gun rights advocates aren't accorded a greater right to kill than are our men and women in blue. Of course, these are times police are being scrutinized. Still, it should jar us a little that a person, hailing that he or she is operating under the banner of Second Amendment rights, can kill with greater impunity than an officer of the law.
    Consider those two Utah County cases, if you will. In one, a carjacking was underway in a parking lot, and a person with a concealed weapons permit noticed it, came over, and stopped it. He noted the unarmed carjacker lunged to take his gun from him, and he shot and killed him to stop him.
   Now, suppose it had been an officer. Had officer pulled the trigger, Would we be questioning why the officer shot an unarmed person?
   Then, case two. A man came pounding on someones door, but the homeowners didn't respond, so the man crawled up a floor and onto the balcony to get in. The homeowner noted he went to the balcony door to talk to the intruder, who then forced his way in. The homeowner shot him in the chest, killing him.
  The intruder was drunk, and lived just buildings away in the same housing development, and likely, in his confused thinking, thought he was entering his own home.
   Now, what if the homeowner had been an off-duty police officer and had been the person pulling the trigger? Would there have been outrage if it had been police officers doing these two shootings instead of others. Would there at least have been much more intensive investigations?
 Yes, I do wonder, if at the moment in America, those who administer Second Amendment justice aren't given freer rein to pull the trigger than officers are.
  Note: Blog shortened 5-7-15. I had been of the misunderstanding that the cases were no longer under investigation, but after reading on the Internet tonight (5-7-15), I understand that they yet might be, especially the homeowner/intruder case.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

In Search of the Impartial Jury

   I've suggested the Sixth Amendment is the most ignored part of the Constitution, that a speedy and public trial most often goes wanting.
   Ahh, but what of that other part of the Sixth Amendment, where it says the person is entitled to an impartial jury? While that part is not ignored, it surely is hard to keep.
   The Freddie Gray case in Baltimore? Yes, I wonder whether a fair and impartial jury can be seated.
   I think of cases where DNA has came back and shown convict innocent. I think of other times when people have also been convicted when they shouldn't have been. I think of times they should have been and weren't. I think of O.J. Simpson.
   Our judicial system is far from perfect. Though we tend to take court decisions as being just, I am one who wonders how many of them are not.
   And, I wonder what could be done, to make them more impartial. The only thing I can think of, off the top, is better instructions to the jurors. Give a long diatribe on how important it is that they set aside tendencies and focus on being fair. Give the diatribe before the hearings start and give it again as the jury retires to discuss the case, and issue a short third warning as they ready to vote.

Monday, May 4, 2015

A Nation's Propensity to Divide Comes from its Propensity to Hate

   More racially divided than in more than 20 years? Are we? A New York Times poll shows as much. And who are we to thank? The poster suggests it is not Barack Obama, Eric Holder or Al Sharpton.
   He found a way to turn it all on three people he probably doesn't like.
   Unfortunately, we always look to blame. Maybe that is part of why race relations are at their worst in a long time. When a society becomes prone to pick faults, it divides itself. Where there are two parts of the people, they start picking at each other, Democrats picking at Republicans and vice versa, white people picking at black people and vice versa, and so forth wherever two large groups exist.
   If you want to instill racial tension into a country, first instill the tendency to find fault and hate. More racially divided than in more than 20 years? Perhaps, we have just become a more hateful society, and our propensity to hate is showing.
   A nation's propensity to blame and hate equals its likelihood of splintering and dividing.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

How I Define Love

   Love. Love is all we need. If we study it and study ourselves and study our ability to love . . .
   We stand well the chance of transforming ourselves into God's own.
   Love. If we realize it is treating others well when they ill-treat us. If we can see through our jealousies, and through the moments when our friends do so well that we are tempted to think of them as enemies . . .
   We will be practicing the essence of love.
   Love isn't just an utterance, although that can be a beginning point. It isn't just saying, "Love the person, but not the sin," though such a statement can be true. Unfortunately, such a declaration can also be letting ourselves off the hook.
   Love? How do we know if we are loving? How do we know if we really love our enemies, and those who despitefully use us, and those who have different beliefs and values?
   By how we treat them.
    Ye shall know them by their fruits, the gospel teaches, and it is so. I may be wrong on this, but I think not: If you can greet all persons warmly (all persons, extending all the way to the murderer), if you can think good thoughts and see good in all people and not just the negatives (as opposed to never finding any good in, say, a politician), if you can wish for every person to do well and to succeed and prosper . . .
    Then, you know the meaning of love. You know love, and you have a love of God and of all men.
    This is not a standard I have attained. But I am striving. Bless us all, that we might get there.

Charge is Depraved-Heart Murder -- and that Might Make a Difference

    I'm wondering if some in the media missed an important point in reporting the key charge in the Freddie Gray case. I listened to a few reports saying the driver of the van, officer Caesar Goodson, is being charged with second-degree murder. But, I see a picture of the news release, and it says the charge is second-degree depraved-heart murder.
    There is a distinction.
    Depraved-heart murder is when you show depraved indifference for the survival of a person and your indifference leads to their death. It is when you commit an act even though you know that act could cause great physical harm. Ignoring the danger constitutes this crime called depraved-heart murder.
   If Goodson, the driver, ignored Gray's pleas for medical help, then it would seem the only question is whether he knew there was a danger of great physical harm.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Will What Batts Said Count as Evidence Against the Six Baltimore Officers?

    It is an admission that can be used in court, to convict his officers, I would think.  Anthony Batts, Baltimore Police Commissioner has said police did not get Freddie Gray the medical attention he was requesting in a timely fashion.
   If there is to be any culpability for failure to provide adequate medical attention, then should not Batts admission seal the case against the officers? No, I am not a lawyer, but I do wonder if the failure to properly provide medical help fits into the manslaughter charges against some of the officers. If so, has Batts admission convicted the officers of manslaughter?
   I do not fault Batts for the admission, nor think it wrong, nor suggest he should not have been uttering something what he did, nor condemn him for allowing the case to be tried in the press. If the investigation clearly showed the officers were negligent, then that is a finding that need not be withheld.

Friday, May 1, 2015

The Things That Need to be Taught, Belong in the Schools

   I think of one of the large wars of history, the Civil War. I think of the civil rights protests of the 1960s. And, should I include the riots of the present? We are not yet free of racism.
   And, if we are not, should we not do something to deter it?
   Everything starts with teaching. If you want change, you start by teaching change. If we are to overcome racism, we should see the need to teach against it. With this in mind, I wonder if we should not teach a class in junior high. Title it, if you will, Equality, Tolerance and Civility, for teaching tolerance (including tolerance of beliefs) and civility are not just topics that mesh, but are also of great social need in our country.
   Nothing taught, nothing learned. If we are serious about racism being a problem, we must teach against it.
   Some will argue against this, saying school is just for intellectual learning, not for the prescription of morals. I will counter that this is, indeed, appropriate. I have argued that, if there is a problem, the first thing to do is to teach against it.
   And, where will we teach, if not in our schools?
   Those things that need to be learned are, in fact, the very things that should be taught in our schools. Oh, I will confess, I would have no problem if honesty and other moral values were also taught. Maybe, this would open the door to that. If we ended up going that direction, I would not be opposed.