The Penalty is Death

Over the past three years since Michael Brown was shot by an officer in the line of duty leading to the formation of the organization “Black Lives Matter” and the hashtag #BLM, a constant refrain has been “So he should have been killed, JUST for doing THAT?”

What it is that was done does not seem to matter- the rhetoric is always the same. Did Michael Brown deserve to be killed for robbing a convenience store?

Did Alton Sterling deserve to be killed for selling bootleg CDs?

Did Eric Garner deserve to be killed for selling “loosie” cigarettes?

Did Freddie Grey deserve to be killed for possessing a switchblade?

Did Tamir Rice deserve to be killed for brandishing a toy gun?

The actual specifics of the case are after a sense, the details that matter are a police stop whether on foot or in a vehicle that is escalated by a threat, real or perceived, to the officer’s life or the lives of by standers, prompting the officers to discharge weapons and leaving the suspect dead.

I won’t discuss the specifics about any of the cases. Whether this or that individual law enforcement officer was right or wrong to discharge their weapon given the particulars of the circumstance again, does not matter in the grand scheme.

Of course each case should be treated individually, and the full effects of the law applied to the officers who are found to have committed misconduct, whether murder or manslaughter or simply negligent misconduct through the same process of innocent until proven guilty and punished as appropriate to the crimes which they are found to have committed.

Of course there are changes to Police force engagement rules that we can and should have discussions about.

But we need to also be very clear about the simple fact of what a law means.

The maximum penalty for breaking any law is death.

Any time we initiate a police to citizen interaction, death is a potential result. This potential exists regardless of what the law is, what the legal system imposed penalties are, what the police officer’s standing procedures and training tell them to do, how well we’ve trained the citizenry to respond to police interaction, we introduce a rick that the suspect will be killed.

So, if you are wondering what the potential penalties for a particular crime are- you might simply recall that no matter what google or a lawyer may tell you, death is a possibility.

The penalty for tax evasion? Death.

The penalty for any of the ridiculous statutes listed here? Death.

The penalty for a tail light violation? Death.

The penalty for dancing in the street? Death.

The stories could go on and on. On the scale of infinity, eventually it is inevitable than any law for which a person may be pulled over, or a warrant issued for arrest will result in a citizen (potentially innocent) being slain.

In light of the myriad of potential situations which can results in death after a police/citizen interaction goes wrong, what can we do to protect innocent lives?

One solution which is given far too little consideration during the discussion is to repeal the laws which are unnecessary, onerous, and potentially illegitimate laws.

We could reduce the deaths that occur for people who are selling loosey cigarettes by removing the law which prohibits selling loosey cigarettes.

We could reduce the deaths that occur at speeding stops and tail light stops by removing the power of police to pull cars over for such offenses.

We could reduce the deaths for the possession of switch blades (or fire arms) by removing laws which make possession of these items illegal.

We could reduce the deaths from tax evasion by ending taxation, which is theft.

Obviously, laws which prohibit brandishing of weapons, assault, attempted murder, and other such crimes with clear victims who require protection, but on many, many other laws which exist on the books, either enforced or unenforced about which we are not having any discussions on a national level.

In recent years there’s been a national push for the decriminalization or legalization of only three acts or products- gay marriage (which was settled with the Obergefall case), Marijuana (which exists in a quasi-legal state that is both unsustainable and unwise), and Illegal immigration (which is a political football, with arguments on all sides which are intentionally obtuse in order to drive voters through fear).

How many other laws exist which deserve to be challenged on either the Federal or the state levels?

How many of those could we derive a broad consensus on, since these are issues which people tend to care about less fervently since they are less tied to self identification and culture war?

I’d argue that if diligent conversation was had about the need to reduce laws on a broad, rather than narrow scope we might make some actual progress towards a less authoritarian state.

Gun Control’s Root Causes: Why Confiscation is a Meaningless Pursuit

There are reports floating around that Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell is open to listening to “serious suggestions from the experts”. This is good news, everyone, after all, should be open to serious suggestions from the experts in all areas of policy at all times.
We need, however, to make an unequivocal statement on what qualifies as a serious suggestion and what, quite frankly, does not. The most obvious, glaring, and pernicious of these is the call for total or partial confiscation of firearms.

This is not a serious suggestion. It is contrary to every possible method of looking at the policy—antithetical to freedom, directly contradictory to the Constitution, ineffective where attempted, inconsistent to logic when applied to other issues.
Most dangerous, perhaps, of the many reasons that any policy of confiscation and outlawing lacks seriousness is the policy’s obfuscation of the root causes of both mass shootings specifically and gun violence writ large.
The focus on gun control, through both expanded background checks, and veiled and overt calls for total confiscation hearkening to policies that have appeared to be successful when applied to small, ethnically homogenous populations living on islands obscures the fact that so called “gun violence” is not a single problem.
In scientific, data based improvement processes we learn that the most useful method to solve a problem is to search for the root cause. We do so readily in most areas of life—in medicine, in science, and in business, the process of searching for the root cause is an entrenched and acknowledged goal.
Gun control advocates, however, work to obfuscate the root cause of the spectrum of problems we face by conflating a series of vastly different issues, connected on the surface level by a superficial similarity. That is, they take the separate root causes (domestic violence, gang violence, Islamic terrorism, and suicide) and packages them together into a single issue which they label “gun violence”. This ignores the radically different motivations, situations, and circumstances from which these problems stem.
To conflate these four, radically differing issues as a single problem with a single one size fits all solution would be akin to packaging together seniors with broken hips, deaths of extreme mountain climbers, and broken hearts and suggesting one simple solution can drastically reduce them simultaneously—they are all problems which result from falling.
If you’d like reasoning as to why gun confiscation, a solution which focuses on the tool not the impetus of violence won’t work to prevent any of the four major problems which lead to “gun violence” I shall endeavor to point out the counterfactual for each of the four most common root causes.
In regards to the root cause of domestic violence, a policy of confiscation will not reduce violence. Perpetrators of domestic violence are already barred from possessing firearms. This is true not only of felony domestic violence, but also of misdemeanor offenders. Domestic violence is typically an escalating act—that is, before killing his spouse, the archetypal domestic abuser will have spent months or years abusing her physically. Countries who have instituted total confiscation retain high incidences of domestic violence, including brutal mass killings of entire families.
Think for a minute of the mindset of a person who has decided the best, indeed the only course of action which makes sense in their life is to murder their children, spouse, then commit suicide. Does the access or absence of a firearm make any impact upon the decision to do so or not? We’ve seen this type of slaying carried out with knives, with hammers, through strangulation, and even with cars. If the motive to slaughter one’s own kin and one’s own self exist the tool used to do so is inconsequential.

How many women and children have lost their lives because instead of searching for answers to domestic violence we’ve fought for disarmament?
In regards to the root cause of gang violence, a policy of confiscation will not reduce violence. Gang members have made the choice to commit crimes, to associate with criminals, and to live a way of life with complete disregard for the law. Much of the gang violence committed is committed by career criminals who are already known to the police. Many of them are felons, who like perpetrators of domestic violence are already banned from firearm ownership. They obtain weapons illegally, often through straw purchases which as a matter of policy are not prosecuted. The other major source for firearms for gang violence is the very cartels which supply them with a steady stream of other already illegal substances which they sell.
If we can’t stop cocaine from flowing from Columbia through Mexico into the United States, why do we assume that we can stop these established smuggling lines we’ve proven impotent to disrupt from including a few more firearms to supply their local operatives in Baltimore, Chicago, and LA? What variety of logic suggests that a career criminal, intent on breaking the law repeatedly and blatantly will suddenly respect one more law, and one which he has reason to believe he won’t even be prosecuted for breaking?
How many law abiding inner city people, mostly minorities, have lost their lives because instead of searching for answers to gang violence we’ve fought for disarmament?
In regards to the root cause of terrorism, a policy of confiscation will not reduce violence. Pointing out that the most deadly terrorist attacks are carried out by means other than firearms seems specious at this point due to repetition. It also remains the unequivocal truth. A firearm is but one weapon in the arsenal of the Jihadi terrorist. Fueled by a global network of information and indoctrination that is supported by vast amounts of middle eastern money and the symbolic recruitment tool of an actual, functioning Jihadi nation-state ISIS has expanded to inspire if not coordinate attacks.
Worldwide terrorist attacks are carried out with explosives far more often than with firearms. What logic suggests that, absent available firearms the Jihadi who has spent years declaring allegiance to ISIS and Al-Qaeda, who spent months casing Disney World and other locations to attack, who has traveled twice overseas to receive training to carry out his attack, who has familial ties to the Taliban, who had been implicated in domestic abuse, been reported to his employer for stalking and harassment, and been twice investigated by the FBI would simply blend peacefully into society?
Would we feel better if he had walked to the center of the dance floor, yelled “Allahu Ackbar!” and detonated a suicide vest killing 49? Or would the result have been the same?
Can we truly say that in the chain of events leading up the Orlando attack, there’s not something else we could have done to prevent it? Perhaps some law that could be changed related to the information the FBI had on the individual? Perhaps truly decisive action against the Islamic State to deny them their nation state? Perhaps a coordinated global effort to choke off the millions of dollars fueling Jihadi terrorism worldwide? Perhaps another solution related to the domestic abuse he had perpetrated (which if prosecuted would have prevented his access to legal firearms)? Perhaps taking seriously harassment in the workplace, and not de facto exonerating someone because of their religion?
How many innocent people have died because instead of confronting Jihadi, Islamic terrorism we’ve fought for confiscation?
In regards to the root cause of suicide, a policy of confiscation will not reduce violence. It’s somewhat deceptive to even include gun suicide as a form of violence, after all, excepting murder-suicide which typically comes in either domestic violence or Jihadi terror forms, suicide is neither a crime, nor possesses a victim save the perpetrator. If a person has wholly and irrevocably decided to end their life, or to attempt to do so, what difference does the method make?
Gun control advocates will claim that gun suicide attempts are more successful than other common methods such as pills or wrist slitting. However, if we remove the capability to succeed at a suicide, while leaving the perpetrator/victim in a state of feeling the need for a suicide, how much can we be said to have improved his (and I say his because gun suicides are overwhelmingly committed by men) life?
We stand at a cross roads, culturally speaking, in regards to suicide. We have some small amount of suicide prevention resources available- hot lines, occasional public service campaigns, and theoretically mental health professionals capable of dealing with the issue. However, we have virtually no research into the reasons for suicide, particularly among males. And we are simultaneously trying to push gun control to reduce suicides, while pushing to legalize doctor assisted suicides.
How can we hope to confront the problem of suicides committed by firearms if we cannot decide as a society whether suicide is a problem we need to reduce or a right we need to defend?
There are cultures where suicide is accepted, cherished choice. There are traditions where it is a cardinal sin. We must decide which variety of society we represent. The end effects of a bullet to the brain and a lethal dose of drugs administered under the supervision of a doctor is the same.
There is hypocrisy both blatant and bland in using suicide figures to inflate “gun violence” statistics, while simultaneously praising the “choice” made by a 5 year old to end her life. A five year old who believes she will go to heaven (which we have been told over, and over, and over again does not exist) is apparently informed enough to choose to end her own life, but a grown adult male cannot make the same informed choice?
Or should we seek to push all those who are intending to commit or considering suicide towards treatment, hope, and a better way forward than death?
Is it time to admit that our societal values have destroyed the concept of manhood and that, perhaps, we should spend some time learning what causes so many adult, mostly white, mostly lower class men to decide there is no hope?
Or are they too privileged to care about except for their value in advancing a narrative?
Absent firearms, the situations, feelings, and disorders which lead to male suicide will still remain. Without addressing the causes of those situations, feelings, and disorders we condemn these men to a life of suffering. Taking away something they consider to be a part of their way of life, a pivotal foundation of their identities as hunters and sportsmen will only serve to exacerbate the existential crisis caused by the relentless assault on the modern male.
How many men have made the choice of death because instead of offering them help, we’ve fought for confiscation?
So long as we continue to focus on solving a spectrum of problems with a single sledgehammer solution, we will continue to fail because we are ignoring the root causes. We cannot allow ourselves to continue to focus on the method rather than the motive of murder we will continue to stall on the goal of reducing murder. If the goal is simply to replace gun violence with an increase in knife violence and bombings then we are pursuing a meaningless goal.
I’ve asked a wide array of questions, and given virtually no answers. But when we’ve spent the entirety of the last eight years asking the wrong question, how could he hope to find the right answers? Senator McConnell has an olive branch, a promise to consider serious suggestions. The onus is now on gun control advocates to provide them and to understand that confiscation in whole or part does not meet the definition of a serious suggestion.

(This article was originally published on 6/10.2016 at https://lovesthoughts.wordpress.com/2016/06/20/gun-controls-root-causes-why-confiscation-is-a-meaningless-pursuit/)

The Conservative Case Against Defunding Planned Parenthood

Talk of Congress defunding Planned Parenthood is in the air again, and this time, it may actually have some teeth since we now live under a unified Republican government for the first time since 2006.

The case for defunding planned Parenthood is simple to make- it is a despicable organization, founded for the purpose of forwarding eugenics era ideas of racial purity, which murders 300,000 babies per year.

The organization has also become a flashpoint for the Left/Right divide in our popular conversation, each side attacking or defending the organization as much out of reflex as principle by this point.

This is a fight in which both sides can only harden the hearts of their bases, and in which convincing anyone who supports Planned Parenthood or decries it that the Federal funding should stay or go contrary to their starting position is a simple impossibility. That Federal funds “can’t be used for abortions” is a ludicrous claim- can they be used to pay general operating expenses, thus allowing the funds that would otherwise have needed to defray those costs to go for abortions?

The “women’s healthcare” dodge is a spurious claim at best (PP is an abortion mill and both sides know this deep down) but conservatives will never convince Liberals who believe abortion is a good thing that essentially only providing abortions makes PP a bad organization. The fact that their other services- like cancer screenings, are simultaneously very costly and not very helpful won’t budge their thinking either.

Meanwhile, in the face of 300,000 slaughtered infants per year there is absolutely no argument in favor of Planned Parenthood that would sway a single conservative heart.

Which leads me to my case against defunding Planned Parenthood. I think, picking a fight where we once again trot out the many arguments on each side and retreat further into our respective fox holes is counterproductive, and even if we win- as we are likely to do in the short term on this, we will simply strengthen the opposition in the same way that the Obergefall case stiffened conservative opposition to the Left’s culture warriors.

Rather, if we begin with an argument built on a a question of what government itself should and should not do, we arrive at a conversation which will further the public debate, absent the triggering emotional baggage of a specific organization like Planned Parenthood.

Both the Left and the Right have a vested interest in fighting public corruption. When the conversation rests in the abstract, rather than in the case of a particular case, both your average moderate Democrat and moderate Republican can be convinced that, for instance, groups which are engaged in donating to politicians or political parties should not receive Federal government dollars in direct subsidy.

This case seems absurdly easy to make. Illustrating the concept, in general, that a group receiving government money who then donates part of that money to a politician or political party, who then votes to give that organization more taxpayer money is a corrupt practice which should be ended. A piece of legislation built in general language which barred companies from simultaneously receiving Federal funds and donating to political causes, pitched from a government reform standpoint and applied dispassionately to all organizations equally could gain a broad bipartisan support of the public (if remaining unpopular among status quo politicians.)

That it might, incidentally, defund Planned Parenthood (or force them to cease their donations to the Democratic party and Democrat politicians) is secondary to the broader goal. That it might reform other institutions who engage in de facto kickback schemes, regardless of their political affiliation, thus providing a far larger societal benefit than a simple defunding of Planned Parenthood.

Another, more useful, and potentially more bipartisan method to pursue is to simply cut off government subsidies altogether. Every segment of the political spectrum has a particular government subsidy they rail against- whether the Left and far Left against big oil, or the right against PP and green energy, or Libertarians against everything. Government subsidies are bad. Everyone understands this when they are railing against a government subsidy for something they don’t like. Similarly, everyone understands why their particular thing they like is just oh so important that even though government subsidies are bad, it’s ok, even necessary to use a government subsidy for this.

It’s needless to say, neither side would like to unilaterally disarm and leave the subsidies they don’t like in place, while eliminating those for programs they prefer.

So, why not attack the problem in the abstract again? A coordinated campaign to build public desire for a law which, for instance, eliminated the government’s ability to directly subsidize companies, non-profits, and other organizations- that is a law requiring that Federal funds only be given “in exchange for actual services rendered or goods delivered.”

I’ll be perfectly honest- I don’t have a problem with an organization like Planned Parenthood receiving the Medicare cost for a cancer screening covered by Medicare that they provide to a Medicare patient in exchange for doing a screening. I have a problem with the half a billion dollars they receive per annum that are not attached directly to a specific service they provide.

In the same way I have no problem with the government paying the energy company (whether fossil fuels or green energy) that supplies the electricity to a government building. I’d just like to cut off the subsidies paid to them directly (yes to both fossil fuels and green energy companies).

This is why, although I am against Planned Parenthood as an institution, and against it receiving Federal funding, I am not in favor of measures designed specifically to defund Planned Parenthood. If we change the conversation towards a true conservative value of reforming and shrinking government we can accomplish this, while providing far greater benefits to society by also removing other corrupt and costly programs.