Posts Tagged ‘Society’

Society, and the Judicial System

May 17, 2015

I’ve been commenting about the decision to execute Tsarnaev for his part in the Boston Bombing case. I’ve read other comments about Charles Manson and similar ones that have to do with a different aspect of our system: correction, or punishment?
My first post was about society’s responsibility to remove a danger to society. This time I’ll look at a different aspect: punishment, or correction?
‘Punishment’; what’s the purpose? Think about it for a moment.
We punish children. Why? Consider that too.
Is it done to correct a person’s behavior, or is it a kind of societal revenge? Manson and Tsarnaev harmed our society, so we must have vengeance? Neither will be, probably cannot be, ‘corrected’. They’re a danger to the rest of us.
The main problem with correction is that we don’t have a way to ensure that it happens. Prison doesn’t do it. Far too many come out worse than they went in. Death won’t do it, because the person executed is permanently removed, not ‘corrected’. Society is safer, but that’s it.
Those who favor the death penalty believe that it provides both revenge and conditioned avoidance, in that it will frighten others from doing what got the convicted one executed.
I don’t see that working. Are there fewer crimes in Texas? That’s the state with the most executions, yet murders and crimes of violence still happen there.
How about long years in prison? A judge was convicted recently of selling people, including children, to a private prison company to be locked up. He got 28 years behind bars. If he survives, he’ll be an old man when he gets out. Will this encourage others not to become corrupted? Will he be ‘corrected’? To what end? Can he become a productive member of society when he gets out?
This same question applies to anyone who is incarcerated.
The number of people in prison or awaiting execution in the US tells me something different: our society has failed, is failing.
Too many of our people are exploited, hopeless. They see no better future ahead, just work, be exploited by the neo-nobility until they finally die. And their children will fare no better. They rebel.
To me, the cause of our societal problem is uncontrolled capitalism and corruption. There’s more to it than that, but it’s where the rot starts. Religion plays a part too, as does a kind of faux patriotism. Taken all together, it’s an unholy mix.
It’s a failure. We can do better. And we should. We must, or it will only get worse.
While you’re muttering ‘communist!’ at me, think about sports.
Football and basketball are good examples.
“If you ain’t cheatin’, you ain’t tryin’.” Ever heard that?
The New Orleans Saints put a bounty on opposing players. Cheating. The coach got a year’s suspension, now he’s back. Tom Brady is facing suspension for cheating, but it won’t be a heavy one. Why? Both men are draws, moneymakers. And professional sports is about money, not sportsmanship. Basketball? Even notice why it takes so long to finish the final few seconds of a close game? Deliberate fouls, deliberate breaking the rules. Cheating. Two or three free throws, no problem. Fifteen yards penalty for deliberate cheating, holding a defenseman or a wide receiver, no problem. If you ain’t cheatin’ you ain’t tryin’.
And oh, the uproar when ‘fans’ hear that their team is moving to another city! More false patriotism, in a sense.
My team right or wrong is pretty similar to my country right or wrong. We never seem to ask why we shouldn’t make both right instead of blindly supporting their wrongs.
Back to ‘justice’. How do we ‘correct’ early offenders? The judge scolds them, gives them ‘probation’. Over and over again. It’s expensive to lock someone up, you see. And they have no money to pay fines. As for the economic conditions that caused them to act out, nothing is said about that. Nothing will be done in Baltimore or Ferguson, either. Rioters will be scolded, most will be released, maybe a few policemen will get fired, nothing changes.
And unless we force it to happen, nothing will change.
Oh, and that youthful offender? Probation, probation, a short lock-up in a juvenile prison (maybe), until he grows up…then lock him up forever.
Or execute him.
After all, he got due process. Right?

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On Campaigns and Society

May 7, 2015

As of this writing (May 7th, 2015), there are at least six ‘declared Republican candidates’ for president. Six more are hinting strongly that they’ll run while they accumulate the milllions it will take to campaign for the party’s nomination. To do that, they’re attempting to find something, anything, that will separate them from the rest in the clown car. Funny suits, big noses, huge shoes won’t do it; this time, it’s not how they look but what they say.
Believe it or not, those buffoons represent a slice of the modern TeaPublican Party. Because they appeal to the few, they believe they can parlay that into an appeal to the many.

But they will end up driving each other farther to the right, to the portion of the electorate where the lunatic fringe lives. Where people think that if only people prayed more, that would solve all the world’s problems. Apparently they haven’t noticed how often Muslims pray.
They end up where the NRA lives, never noticing that the NRA propaganda hasn’t done anything to rein in government; instead, the guns kill thousands of ordinary citizens, many of them children. Not one ‘dictator’ trying to take over the country has been held back. You’d think someone would notice, but the propaganda is never ending. The tree of liberty has not been watered by the blood of patriots and tyrants, it’s grown stunted by being overwatered by the blood of children and citizens.
The no-tax fools are realizing that as government shrinks, as there’s less money in the system, somehow the potholes don’t get fixed. Bridges are collapsing. Some wonder why. Eventually, others will too. Whether they’ll wonder in time for the election I don’t know.
But the party of low spending has no qualms about using public money for political purposes. After all, they’ve spent millions trying to deny affordable health care for ordinary citizens. Fifty plus votes, last I heard. They’ve spent more on repeated investigations into Hillary Clinton. So far, nothing has been found. How much have the manufactured ‘crises’ cost the government?
More money will be spent on defense, too. Not to pay soldiers, not even to care for the injured and shocked, but for hugely-expensive weapons systems. That will, somehow, be spent in districts that elect powerful politicians. Ahh, pork…more public money used to help elect a critter.
So what are the issues? Other than that virtually all of them have been told by God that he should run. God’s being indecisive, I suppose.
Wouldn’t you love to see Ted Cruz debate Mike Huckabee on the role of religion in government?
Freedom, or what Republicans call freedom, is an issue.
Railroads are ‘free’ to haul dangerous cargoes. Periodically they blow up, but at least they blow up free.
Factories too are free of regulations. Guess what? They blow up too. But hey, regulation cuts into profits. And corporations need to be free to make as much as possible.
That TeaPublican fringe curses the EPA because it limits ‘freedom’. Even so, corporation are still free to pollute, to strip the top off mountains, to dump coal ash in streams, to leak oil from pipelines into rivers and streams, to create a mess that the federal government can’t control and won’t have the money to clean up.
And after the clowns drive the car as far to the right as possible, the eventual winner will try to crab back to the center. Dragging all that campaign baggage with him.
I don’t see much chance that a Republican can be elected. Even if one is, haven’t we seen how ineffective they’ve proven themselves to be at governing? At least so far, there’s a slight amount of control.
But the corruption is getting worse. The preachers and priests are gathering, waiting to have more say in American society. The manufacturers of military goods are smiling, waiting for more money for ever-more expensive systems they can sell to the Defense Department.
Have you noticed how similar we’ve become to the Middle Eastern nations we’ve been fighting?
We’ve separated into ‘tribes’ based on religious fundamentalism. On color. On ethnicity. On gender and sexual orientation. Corruption, always present, has become endemic. Schools are failing, education is a way for banks to exploit the young, the social safety net is tattered, little by little we’ve been reduced to a third-world nation. Maybe that’s what people are looking for.
Personally, I don’t want to live in Americanistan.
How about you?

Growing Old…Or Maybe Not

June 7, 2013

I played and sang a couple of songs last night; it’s fun to do that for an audience. Bosque Farms has a building that works well for this.
Bunch of people dancing, old people like me providing music, one autoharp, one pedal steel guitar, three bass players, a mandolin picker, the rest played guitar and fiddle.
There’s a single drawback: there were 24 musicians, most pretty good, playing instruments. And six people who just wanted to sing, and most of them were pretty good; think live karaoke.
The woods here, and probably a lot of other places, are full of musicians. Some of them are former traveling professionals who have retired but still like to play. And some are like me, not even wannabe’s but people who just enjoy music and playing for an audience that appreciates your efforts.
Old people, back when I was young, had few social venues to interact with others. Widows in particular simply had little other than church as a venue for socializing. There was a lot of rocking-chair-sitting, and a visit from friends or family was a big deal. Reading, if your eyes were still up to that, was entertainment. Quilting and sewing and such too.
Not now. Now, they’re out there, playing, sometimes singing, sometimes dancing, and sometimes just sitting and listening for some of them.
And maybe this has something to do with why there seem to be more people who live longer and who enjoy life right up to the end.
One of the guys in the band, a fiddler, was wearing a cap that said “World War II Veteran”. Another couple who were out dancing and socializing have celebrated their 70th Anniversary this year.
Live life and enjoy it; does it really get better than that?
A $3.00 entry fee that goes to hall rental and buying the amps and mic’s that we used. Cheap entertainment. And with that many musicians, no one cares if you get up and walk around and talk to people. Have a coffee and maybe a piece of cake or a doughnut. Be sociable.
They did. Some of the musicians took a break and danced too, but my dancing days are over. Bum legs. Sigh.
But by golly, I can still play and sing! I did, and it was more fun than a non-musician would believe. I’ll do it again in a couple of weeks, next time the Old-Time Fiddlers and Musicians of New Mexico get together.
And five of the musicians from last night, counting me, will be playing for a senior citizens center in Belen next Monday afternoon. Some of the same audience will be there listening to us too, and perhaps even dancing.

March 6, 2011

On American Society; Why We’re No Longer Number One.

I’ve written on a number of topics in the past, for everyday readers and also for Mensa International in their online Forum. I think it’s time I extended one of those topics to American Society. I have been influenced in this decision by Mr. Fareed Zakaria’s writings in Time and by his on-air comments that he airs on CNN.

Time’s edition of the week of March 5 2011 has some of his writing and also a counter argument from another writer; both are well worth reading.

But I have argued in the past that there are three things that American Schools and American Society fail to teach, and the lack of this teaching is what really hampers student progress. After listening to Mr. Zakaria, I realized that the same three characteristics are what is hampering American Society. And if we ever plan on turning society around, we need to start with these three things. A good place to start would be in the education system, although that has now been so compromised by politics that I don’t expect to see any improvement in my lifetime.

There are people in our society who have acquired these qualities. At the same time, there are millions who have not done so.

But to the three lacks:
The first of these is discipline. Discipline may be defined for the purpose of this writing as willing cooperation with the aims of society. Discipline allows an individual to pursue goals without becoming distracted. While there are disciplined individuals, I think it is fair to say that American Society has become undisciplined. Along with this lack of discipline, there is found the second great lack: we no longer have the quality of self-responsibility. It’s far too easy to expect that someone else will provide for our well being or care for us when we haven’t made provisions to care for ourselves. And the third lack is a sense of ethics.

There is little doubt that ‘recreational’ drugs are an evil. And yet, millions of persons will, despite the best efforts of educators and leaders and law enforcement entities, use drugs each year. It’s well known that these drugs are addictive, but this won’t deter new users. There is no sense of discipline, no responsibility, no ethics that will prevent this.

American Society is at least overweight, at worst obese. We tend to blame restaurants for serving too much, or vendors of prepared foods for using too much fat or salt or preparing high-calorie foods, or advertisers who constantly urge us to buy more, consume more, eat more prepared foods. But in the end it comes down to choice; we make bad choices through a lack of discipline and then blame our bad choices on others because we lack self-responsibility.

We as a society want everything, and we want it now. There isn’t the discipline to wait until we’ve earned those things or to say “no!” to the relentless barrage of advertising. We want the newest iPad or a new, expensive car, or smartphone, or a lifestyle that our own efforts can’t buy. There’s always plastic; so we in our undisciplined rush to have it all turn to credit and buy-buy-buy. And rather than call it undisciplined, we call it a disease. In this way we can push responsibility onto someone or something else. There are indeed personalities that are prone to addiction; but they all start somewhere, and it’s a lack of discipline and a lack of self-responsibility that enables that first small step that leads to addiction. But there’s always rehab; blame someone else, then expect someone else to get you out of the trouble that your own behavior has gotten you into.

I’ve spent less time discussing ethics in this paper, but the lack of ethics underlies many problems of society. It’s not ethical to push people to consume more, to make choices that are known to be bad by the person who urges us to make those choices, and yet this is done. It’s not ethical to urge bad choices on financial markets, and then, via hedge funds, bet against those choices…but it happens. It’s not ethical to use the mechanism of government to enrich one’s private accounts, but that happens all the time. It’s not ethical to take money from a contributor for a political campaign and then repay the contributor with public money or political favors; and it isn’t ethical to contribute money in expectation that public funds or favors will be forthcoming. And yet, these are the ways that we select our public servants. It’s not ethical to make bad business decisions and it’s not self-reliant to expect government to bail us out…but that’s what has happened.

So…number one? I don’t think so. We’re dependent on a remnant of a society where discipline, self-reliance, and ethics built something that was the envy of the world. But we’ve squandered most of our capital and little by little we’re losing what that earlier society built. The evidence is all about us. Virtually all our political leaders are corrupt to one extent or another. We follow the antics of ‘celebrities’ while realizing that these persons have little or nothing to contribute to society that’s more beneficial than short-term gratification. Who are our entrepreneurs or scientists or educators or physicians? But of course, we know all about sports figures or entertainers, if only because we’re horrified by their behavior.

Nations rise, and then they fall. I think we’re seeing the early stages of that fall. We have, in the past, responded well to challenges. I just don’t see the ability remaining in American Society to respond to the challenges we’re seeing now.