Posts Tagged ‘Government’

Deadly Force and its Use

April 25, 2015

We’ve had a lot of questionable behavior recently involving police. It appears that people question their behavior, and in many cases that is deserved.
Part of the problem is that most of us don’t understand police work and the decisions that police officers make. For that matter, I’m not at all certain that POLICE understand when they’re permitted to employ deadly force.
I was trained to do that, and also given a ist of occasions when deadly force was authorized. That was a long time ago, more than fifty years, but I think I remember most of them.
I think those same rules are applicable today to police officers or others authorized to carry arms. Police or licencees with concealed carry permits, the rules must be exactly the same.
1. Deadly force is authorized in self defense or in defense of another person. ‘Self defense’ requires that the person employing deadly force feel that he/she is either personally threatened or that another human being is under threat. Taking a human life is justified only when it’s employed to prevent the taking of a different human life.
2. Deadly force is authorized to interrupt a felony in progress and apprehend an armed felon if he resists arrest. This means that traffic stops or other encounters with the public rarely require the use of deadly force. Only when circumstances change such that the first rule is in effect would deadly force be authorized.
3. Deadly force is authorized to apprehend an armed and dangerous person who resists arrest. Note that possession of a weapon does not automatically make a person dangerous, nor does ‘resisting arrest’. Many now have permits to carry weapons and certain states permit open carry of weapons upon their person. In such circumstances, should an arrest be necessary, an officer should call for backup (which is standard procedure in most cases). Only when there are several officers on scene should the effort be made.
An unarmed person fleeing is not ‘armed and dangerous’. An unarmed person committing a felony does not present sufficient danger to the police or general public to authorize use of deadly force. There are other, better, ways of taking such a person into custody, including calling for backup.
‘Deadly force’ means use of firearms. Batons and tasers, as well as beanbag rounds and similar, are not ‘deadly force, per se, but can become so. Methods of grappling used to subdue a felon who resists arrest can also be deadly if misused. Whatever the method, if a death occurs, the presumption exists that deadly force was used, and that use must be justified under one of the three rules I stated.
Police officers should not be exempt from scrutiny. The rules above apply to them as well as to civilians, except that civilians will rarely perform an arrest.
This is my take. What do you think?

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Responsibilities, Political Leaders and Citizens

July 3, 2013

I’ve been thinking. Somehow, our political ‘leaders’ have managed to forget their jobs and how those jobs should be done.

The job is to care for the American people. Period.

Included within that is the need to provide protection for those people. Protection from invasion by military forces, but also protection from natural disasters such as wildfires and floods and wild weather. And where protection isn’t possible, assistance in recovery should be available. Protection from criminals, too, people who prey on others.

And after you’ve identified the needs, it’s then necessary to pay for those solutions. It’s necessary to raise money, through creation of money or taxation.

If the land and water and air are not being protected, our political leaders aren’t doing their jobs.

If old people, sick people, people who have become jobless because of economic fluctuations, veterans, and citizens in general have no medical care or support structures in place for protecting citizens from the economic criminals we call multinational corporations, our political leaders are not doing their jobs.

If our foods are not the healthy sorts that we expect, if our medications aren’t free of tainted drugs, if banksters steal a lifetime’s work due to foreclosures, if gamblers rule the markets that define capitalism, then our political leaders are not doing their jobs.

And if we keep electing these ‘leaders’, then we citizens are not doing our jobs.

On Government, Government Workers, and Trust

June 24, 2013

In the light of what Snowden’s leaked to the media, how do you feel about your own government? Are you approving of what they’ve done to head off attacks, or do you feel suspicious of their motives? One respondent to a recent comment of mine accused me of wanting it both ways. So I wrote the following response, and I hope you’ll find it helpful in perhaps clarifying your own thinking.
My thinking is mine; yours may well differ. But please accept that I put a lot of thought into the question.
And I stand by what I wrote, Kevin.
As for wanting it both ways…I don’t see it that way.
I trust ‘government’, but not the people who make up government. Government is a huge amorphous mass and tends to level out excesses, but people have their own agenda. I don’t know if there’s ever been a single person who was totally devoted to the ideal of governing fairly and honestly to the point of subordinating his or her own interest. That kind of dispassionate approach is certainly not present now.
Most government workers do as they’re told and keep their head down. That’s the middle group who have a vested interest in keeping their job and maybe retiring someday. They have a mortgage, kids in school, car payments. As for doing what they’re told, that might not mean receiving new instructions every day. There are usually printed guidelines, standard operating procedures, office memos, and only rarely verbal instructions. Nonetheless, they don’t exercise independent judgment. For the great majority of these, I trust them to follow those instructions.
Above them are the ones who decide. At that level, my distrust comes into play. They have separate agendas, personal sometimes, institutional in others.
The president is at the top of this chain. Congress is there, and the Supreme Court. And as for the latter two, I think it’s not necessary to point out that they consider their personal agenda first, party second, and if the national interest even comes into play at all it’s in a distant third place. The institution is corrupt, and so therefore the people who inhabit that institution are corrupt. As for SCOTUS, ideology rules; they can manage to interpret the Constitution pretty much as they will. That document, written to limit a government such as that of England when England ruled the colonies, is now sadly out of date. It’s been over-interpreted and laterally-interpreted so much that now past judicial findings in the form of precedence exercise as much influence as the Constitution itself. It’s not a question of ‘right’ or ‘wrong’, but interpretation. It was written by legal scholars, administered, and now interpreted by lawyers.
The president is far too chummy with big money for my liking. If I were in his position I might be the same, but I hope not. He is interested in building a presidential library after he leaves office, and he expects the funds to come from financialists. He also is interested in the legacy he leaves, and must keep that in mind as he negotiates with Congress. And then there are all the subsidiary interests that he balances. My biggest disagreement with him is that his emphasis is not were I think it should go, national interest first, personal interest and the competing interests of the people around him second.
I expect him to be a responsible steward of the nation. I hold him responsible, as I do Congress and the SCOTUS, for the oaths they’ve taken. If they attempt to fulfill those oaths without personal interests becoming dominant, then yes, I trust them and will support their decisions. If they’re looking at who-calls-whom in order to protect citizens, then I’m prepared to approve that. If they’re looking to sell me something, as Amazon does when they gather data, then I’m wary. I understand that my desires in such a transaction have no bearing, only their own profit counts. If politicians attempt to understand my thinking so as to change that thinking, perhaps change how I vote or who I send money to, I’m wary of that. Even though virtually all of them now do that sort of tracking.
I think I have a balanced system of trust and wary distrust. Government in abstract, yes. People in government, not so much.

Bad Political Decisions

May 14, 2013

I think Mr. Obama is wrong again. He’s using a red herring to distract from another red herring, the Benghazi attack.

The Republicans are digging into Benghazi in hopes of finding something that they can use to attack Hillary Clinton as well as Mr. Obama. But using the IRS as a distraction from that is simply playing into Republican hands.

This is part of IRS guidelines that I got from a CNN article:

“A “501(c)(4)” organization is tax-exempt under section 501(c)(4) of the tax code if it meets two criteria: the “organization must not be organized for profit and must be operated exclusively to promote social welfare.”
To meet the IRS social welfare requirements, “an organization must operate primarily to further the common good and general welfare of the people of the community,” The IRS further defines this critical criterion under section 501(c)(4) as “primarily for the purpose of bringing about civic betterment and social improvements.”
But the IRS has said that “the promotion of social welfare does not include direct or indirect participation or intervention in political campaigns on behalf of or in opposition to any candidate for public office.” That said, “a section 501(c)(4) social welfare organization may engage in some political activities, so long as that is not its primary activity.” And, according to the IRS, a 501(c)(4) may also engage in lobbying.
For example, guidance from the IRS available online suggests that an organization is likely to be deemed tax-exempt under section 501(c)(4) if its educational activities are conducted in a non-partisan manner and if the organization is not affiliated with a political party — even though the organization’s philosophy on the issues it is providing education about is broadly consistent with the view of a major political party.
The same guidance also points to past rulings by the IRS that allowed tax-exempt status under section 501(c)(4) for “organizations primarily engaged in advocating a particular point of view on an issue of public concern, through lobbying and public education.””

Read that carefully. And then ask yourself why the IRS shouldn’t scrutinize an application that has “Tea Party” in it’s name? Or other political and non-bipartisan slogan or similar political lobbying effort aimed at raising money and spending it to the benefit of one party?

This is the inevitable result of a bad Supreme Court decision, one of many that this court has made. Citizens United, now Monsanto’s deciding that it owns the seeds of seeds they’ve sold, presumably forever; and for that matter, allowing any country or any state or any company to sell a product that it refuses to identify as GMO or allows to inject into the ground (i.e., fracking) without identifying what is in that…

This court, and the American government in general, may be doing what the Constitution demands by protecting citizens from repressive government. But no one is protecting citizens from oppressive and exploitative private industry and finance. Those last two now own the government and have gained that by the simple expedient of buying people who operate that government.

Economic Malaise, Simplified

June 20, 2012

This essay was written in response to a column by Thomas Friedman in the New York Times, edition of June 20 2012.

Friedman like so many others misses the point, I think. He has some good recommendations, but they won’t solve the economy’s long term problems.

Put simply, in simple and easy-to understand steps:
We have a surplus of workers. Half our workforce can produce all we require in goods and services. The relentless push for more efficiency has gotten just that, and efficient economic processes need fewer workers. Machines have taken the place of men.

If those workers are to be employed, then they must be employed in activities that bring in external revenue. They must serve tourists or manufacture goods for sale offshore, and in both cases what they sell must be something that others want to buy and can afford to buy. For a time, we produced commodities that people needed: oil and coal, metals, foodstuffs. Ultimately the minerals become depleted, the few remaining become too expensive to extract and sell, and other nations could extract minerals cheaper and could begin producing excess foodstuffs using the mechanization and efficiency developed here. Manufacturing, e.g. value addition, and tourism are what is left. And that need to produce competitive pricing means that our unrestrained capitalism must be controlled. Unions demand more, executives demand more, finance demands more, taxation demands more…but when the demands price the US economy out of the market, no one wins. Union workers are laid off, management sees the company decline toward bankruptcy, finance loses what it invested, there is nothing left to tax. The inflated manufacturing sector drags the economy down with it. Only by requiring readjustment of currencies (i.e., a cheaper dollar vs the euro and yen and renminbi) can this adjustment realistically be made. It’s not unilateral; those other currencies and the nations that issue them are involved, and so this is a government issue that only governments can address.  And a consideration to be factored in is that those who hold dollars will see their holdings decline in value.  Governments and banks will take major losses if there’s a decline in value of the dollar.  What helps our economy harms them.

Currency adjustment affects balance of trade. That trade cited above is the basis for a functional economy that employs those excess workers and that can support a large middle class. Our government is now controlled by a few who are positioned to exploit niches and extract riches from the status quo. But that status quo is unsustainable; it’s destroying the very economy it depends on. Those who once manufactured goods for external sale are now importers and salesmen; few goods go out, many come in. Foreign competitors have been joined by Americans who do the same thing those competitors do, compete with the domestic economy.  And money flows FROM the economy, not into it. Instead of employing our surplus labor making goods for export, we now employ foreign workers in foreign nations to do the work and bring the results of that work here. Economically, this is no different from firing American workers and replacing them in our plants with cheap foreign labor. It’s the problem that people cite when they oppose unchecked immigration; but the real job loss is not here, it’s THERE, when the job itself is exported. Exported jobs destroy the middle class.  Pressure on the middle class comes not solely from foreign competitors but also now from our own upper classes who have joined the foreigners in putting pressure on rather than sustaining that middle class.  The Walton family, despite claiming American citizenship and measuring their billions in dollars, have economically become Chinese.  Their economic activity benefits China at least as much as it benefits the US; and of course, it benefits them financially.

The other thing affecting trade balance is the concept of ‘free trade’. This type of agreement effectively removes government from trade and turns all trade decisions over to for-profit entities. In so doing, our inflated economy produces goods that foreigners can’t afford to buy and floods our markets with cheap goods that we can’t compete with on a pure price basis domestically; again, it’s that inflated economy that makes this happen. Regulation of trade is a government function; it’s done by imposing taxes or tariffs on imported goods to slow down the flood of imports that saturates the American market.  But no one in government is prepared to do anything except press for more ‘free trade’, without realizing that this means free imports without corresponding exports.  We freely buy but cannot freely sell.

Only a robust middle class can support our government. That government has been squeezed and faces further pressure. Middle class people can’t afford private schools for their children, they can’t afford to provide for themselves after they’re unable to work, they can’t afford to pay for expensive healthcare. Our middle class lifestyle actually is subsidized by the government we’ve built. That government needs income to provide these things. That income must ultimately rest on taxation. Borrowing is a short-term solution that is ultimately unsustainable. We are currently approaching that limit of sustainability.

The middle class is being squeezed ever smaller; the upperclass now controls the government that has the power to save that middle class. The mechanisms that provided education and housing and health care and retirement are being destroyed, even as the government that provided them is being destroyed. All wealth now flows not into the middle and underclasses but only to the wealthy, who become wealthier thereby.  Government policy protects that wealth.

And so we’ve rebuilt a system of nobles and serfs. The nobles profit by rents, from lands and properties occasionally, but mostly from renting out the money they’ve extracted. They live well not by producing more, but by extracting wealth from rents. They remain wealthy because they ARE wealthy.

It’s not sustainable. Never has been, never will be. The traditional solution is violence, the kind of violence that pushed the American Revolution and the later French one. At some point, the level of unsustainability will reach that tipping point. It’s not here yet, but it appears certain to come.

If I can figure this out, why can’t our elected leaders? Why are they so unwilling to act before a crisis overtakes us, a crisis that we can’t recover from?

And why do we keep putting the venal and stupid and uncaring in positions to control our lives?