Category Archives: Ridiculous Argument

Crime and Punishment, Military-Style: Robert Bales and Nidal Malik Hasan : The New Yorker


No disparity here:
– One dark-skinned Muslim with an Arab name kills two American soldiers. He is put to death.
– A second dark-skinned Muslim with an Arab name kills thirteen American soldiers. He, too, is put to death.
– A white Christian-American soldier kills sixteen Muslim civilians—three men, four women, nine children. His life is spared.

 

Crime and Punishment, Military-Style: Robert Bales and Nidal Malik Hasan : The New Yorker.


If it don’t fit, get a bigger hammer


We as a society are not very rational.  That shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone.  Not really.  We are fractured along so many lines that the best image of us might be Frankenstein’s monster.  It has always been thus from our very founding.  I have explained to people before that if you want to understand America think about this: our founding fathers and mothers were made up primarily of three groups – Religious zealots that were so sanctimonious their own society kicked them out, Adventurous types either interested in exploring or getting away from the rest of society, and criminals sent to those penal colonies.

It was this mixture that has made up our cultural DNA.  To that, through the years has been added regular and consistent injections of immigrants.  Immigrants tend to, as a rule, not exactly be timid or lacking in adventurousness.  After all, if they did, they would have stayed at home.

Is it any wonder then, that we are not exactly a rational society?  That we say we want one thing, and then take steps to achieve precisely the opposite?  We say, for example, that we want freedom and democracy not only at home but around the world, and then we subvert it at home and support brutal dictators around the world, today and in the past.

This manifests in many ways, of course.  Our drug policy is just one of these.  For most of the last century, we have been attempting a policy of prohibition.  We know from our experience with alcohol prohibition that this approach does not work.  Even some of the farthest right, most repressive groups in America know that this policy doesn’t work.  In theory, we as a society want to reduce drug abuse and the associated societal ills – violence and theft, for example.  In practice, the policies that we have in place create or exacerbate these very problems.

Who is it that wants to continue the prohibition policy?  Primarily it is three groups.  It is the inertia group, the police-industrial complex, and the drug cartels.  One at a time.  The inertia group is made up of a variety of people.  It is those who haven’t taken the time to actually think for themselves or have simply not been educated beyond the propaganda that has been spewed out.  They are also those who are of the, “Well, it’s always been this way” variety.  They are those who may have seen people in their lives who have been abusers of drugs and have expanded this out to a belief that the specific drugs the government has labeled as illegal can only be abused.  They are generally unaware that prior to the Harrison Narcotics Tax Act 1914, there was no legal control on narcotics, and they were used openly.  They were, of course, subject to abuse, and that was frowned on, but they were also used in the same way that alcohol was, responsibly by respected members of the community without disdain or other social sanction.  Certainly abuse was not approved of, but that was true whether the substance was alcohol or any other drug.

There is a lot of money to be made from illegal drugs.  Any item that is sold on the black market raises the prices.  The risk involved, and the lack of regulation or tax drives the profit through the roof!  Take as an analogy, if you will, the situation after a disaster such as a major hurricane or tornado.  Those who are lacking in ethics may well raise the prices on the most basic of commodities because they can.  Food, gas, ice, and more may see their prices triple or quadruple.  We have laws in place to prevent this type of price gouging.  However, this is simply “supply and demand” according to the right wing, and it is what happens in the “free market”.  It is what happens in the black market where there are no controls to prevent it, because the black market is the only true free market.-1-  Where is there any incentive for the drug cartels to want drugs to be legalized?  Why would they want to give up their profits?  There is no more incentive for them to do this, than there is for major legal companies to give up their profits through tax breaks and shelters without a fight.

There is also a great deal of money to be made for the police-industrial complex.  Between 2001 and 2010, we arrested over 8 million people in the US for marijuana alone, and 88% of those were for simple possession.  We spend $3.6 billion a year enforcing marijuana laws.  That’s billion with a b, and that is, again, only marijuana. It does not take into account any of the other drugs.  We spend between $20 and $25 billion a year on the “War on Drugs”.  That should worry you.  The private prison industry is a billion dollar a year business, and the vast majority of those prisoners are in for drug related crimes.  We spend huge amounts of money on equipment to outfit the police who are now often as armed and armored, if not more so, than many of the military personnel we have in war zones.  All of that equipment also costs billions of dollars every year.
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Fearing No Shots Across The Bow


It is very likely that in the next week, either on Monday or Thursday, the SCOTUS will release two important decisions relating to marriage equality in this country.  We are facing many crises of freedom right now, from Orwellian privacy invasion of individuals, to infringements on the press freedoms we like to believe exist in this country, to killing of American citizens without trial (or even charges), and so on, but much of America simply doesn’t care about those issues.

Marriage equality though, it seems some people still care about.  Enough that 30 states took the extraordinary steps over the last few years to actually prohibit same-gender marriages, and another 7 prohibit them by law.  Additionally, of course, we still have the “Defense of Marriage Act” on the books at the federal level.

I have written about this before, and I am not going to get deeply into the reasoning here.  (Cliff notes version: There is no moral or constitutional justification to deny a marriage to any consenting adult to any other consenting adult.  No religious authority should be required to give their sanction to it, but that is an entirely separate matter.)

What is of interest right now is that the right is, again, mouthing off about how they are above the law.  As is so often the case, they’re already screaming that no matter what the decision from the Supreme Court, they’re not going to be bound by it, unless they like it.

Now, let’s stop for a moment, because to a small degree, they have a fair point.  That is how a democracy, or even a representative republic, which we are supposed to be, is theoretically supposed to work.  If we do not like the laws, then we can work to change them.  So, that part would be reasonable.  However, what they’re saying is not, “If the decision is against us, then we must change the law.” which is essentially what many said following the ridiculous Citizens United decision.  (Not that it has led to a successful change, but that is still what many are saying today.)  No, what they are saying is quite flatly,

As Christians united together in defense of marriage, we pray that this will not happen. But, make no mistake about our resolve. While there are many things we can endure, redefining marriage is so fundamental to the natural order and the true common good that this is the line we must draw and one we cannot and will not cross.

As I, and many others, are reading this, it is both a veiled threat of the kind that is common from the right, that alludes to a revolution, and a statement that “we” will not enforce your ruling.  It is true, as they point out in their letter, that the courts have no enforcement mechanism, but instead must rely on the executive branch for that.  If they are more than just talk this time around, we may be forced into a situation where we find out if more people are in support of what is right and the rule of law, which in this case are the same thing, or in support of hate and bigotry.

The rest of the letter is the same standard tripe that these people have been trotting out over and over again.  It lacks any more merit this time around than it had the last half a million times that it was paraded around.  It is full of fallacies and bigotry.  Half-truths and bald-faced lies.

I suspect that as with most utterances from the right, it is a lot of hot air.  They talk a lot and have almost no spine to actually back it up.  Except that lately, they seem to be starting to feast on themselves.  We will see what the SCOTUS rules, and then we will proceed from there.  Because yes, no matter how they rule, this issue will not be over.  I know that, and everyone should.  If the SCOTUS rules correctly in favor of equality, then the right will be weeping and wailing and gnashing their teeth and then trying to find ways to overturn it.  If they do not, then the equal rights movement will continue to fight for ways to fix that error.  The Dred Scott decision had to be reversed, and it took time.  I hope this is not a similar situation, but if it is, we will eventually do it.

Because that is what is right and good.

This may well end up like Roe v Wade, though.  Producing another cause for the right to protest for the next half-century.  We may wind up with picket lines at weddings, and counter protestors in front of churches to protect the wedding party.  And, sadly, I wouldn’t put it past a few extremists on the right to start killing ministers and pastors performing weddings, because that is what history has shown us the right wing in this country is capable of producing, despite the vast majority of them being a bunch of blow-hards with no real intellects.  We already have too many in the LGBQT community that are suffering violence for no reason other than who they are, or more accurately, the insecurity and bigotry of who others are.


Chicken Little Say


The SCIAMAGE space has extended an offer to a number of people from a variety of backgrounds and political view points to submit pieces for inclusion in this space.  They have each been told essentially the same thing, though the specific words may have varied ever so slightly.  Basically though, regardless of the words chosen, what they have been told is their piece will undergo only slight editing, and that will only be for spelling and formatting.  It will never be for grammar (unless requested) as that comes too close to style and that would come to close to voice.  Though I might wish to comment on it, I do not wish to interject my voice into theirs.  It will never be edited for content, as that would impede on free exchange of ideas, and that would defeat the purpose.  It may not, however, include patently false information.  Oh, and only once, have I actually suggested a topic.  Other than that one time, I have left the topics wide open for the guest writer to select.

The group invited has included people of widely different political views, and very different socioeconomic and technological backgrounds.  There are, of course, a few things they each have in common. One thing is that they can all get very passionate about what they believe and hold to be true, while not making it personal.  They can also hold a reasonable conversation.  They are capable of distinguishing, typically, between fact, fiction, and belief.  They will typically be able to provide evidence to support or at least attempt to provide evidence to support their position.  Etc.  In other words, they are reasonable and intelligent people who are capable of having reasonable and intelligent conversations.

If you think that you would like to submit a piece for inclusion in this space, please contact the SCIAMAGE through the links below.

Today, the SCIAMAGE space is pleased to bring you the first response to this offer.  Jeffrey Jones, is a man of varied background.  A father, a former instructor, currently working with a defense contractor (we can’t tell you more, or we’d have to kill you under the current NDAA and justification for drone use, and we wouldn’t want to have to do that!!), a gamer (board, role, and online), educated, diverse interests, Buddhist, traveler, and much more.  And, on a personal note, a hell of a Mensch.   That’s really more than you need by way of an introduction, because the piece that Jeff has provided stands on its own without any introduction.  It could well have been written by any man, woman, or child in America today, who pauses to look around.  Any man, woman, or child who stops to think, and doesn’t forget to start again.

And, without further ado, please, enjoy today’s SCIAMAGE guest column from Jeffrey Jones.

CHICKEN LITTLE SAY…

It’s time that this rampant hyperbole about being under attack ended. It’s sole purpose is to rouse the ignorant and muddy the waters about the evolution of life for humans.

The theory goes that various groups are under attack because the way they have led their lives, or gone about their business, or the manner in which they have acted for no good reason, apart perhaps from jealousy, or fear or propaganda. It certainly could not be that these things are no longer acceptable to the rest of us.

White people are under attack because they are no longer in the vast majority here in America. But is that true? As of the 2010 census results:

Race / Ethnicity Number Percentage of U.S. population
Americans 308,745,538 100.0 %
White or European American 223,553,265 72.4 %
Black or African American 38,929,319 12.6 %
Asian American 14,674,252 4.8 %
Amer. Ind. or Alaska Native 2,932,248 0.9 %
Hawaiian/Pac. Islander 540,013 0.2 %
Some other race 19,107,368 6.2 %
Two or more races 9,009,073 2.9 %

72.4% of Americans identify themselves as Caucasian. And, they are under attack because it used to be more.  You’ll note that Hispanic or Latino is not included in this chart, as, according to the Census Bureau, “Persons whose ethnicity is identified as Hispanic or Latino may be of any race.”  But 16.4% of all races identified themselves as Hispanic or Latino.  In 1960, non-Hispanic white persons made up 85% of the American population, by 2042 they are projected to have lost the strong majority, only accounting for 46.3% of the population, still the largest group, but not a solid, over-powering majority.

Why is this a scary set of statistics? Why is the natural progress of life a “threat” to the comfortable majority?
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Fallacious Arguments on a Slippery Slope Lead to Foolish Appearances


There are many foolish arguments made every day and in so many contexts. Arguments in the supposedly “reasoned” sense.  Not arguments in the childish, “No, you didn’t. Yes, I did” sense, though we do see plenty of that, as well.

So, for example, we see the “Criminals don’t obey laws” argument against any sort of gun control, and this is supposed to stop the discussion, because there are supposedly enough laws already.  Of course, this is stupid.  The basic fallacy is in the construct itself.  They are criminals because they didn’t obey the laws.  Not vice versa.  This is not a stereotypical chicken verses egg argument.  No, what little validity in it is that once one has started to break some laws it does psychologically become easier to break some others, but this is neither a straight line progression, nor is it a complete break such that all lines are broken.

The old saw that, “There is no honor amongst thieves” is a bunch of hooey that really only serves to make sanctimonious do-gooders feel superior because they are following the laws that they have laid down upon everyone else.  There is actually a great deal of honor among those who would break the laws of the “upper world”.  To live in the “under world” that we have created, requires that one be very honorable, because to be without honor, is often to be dead very quickly.  Particularly if one is floating around anywhere other than the basic get along stream of junkies.  Outside of that, one’s word is more important than in almost any other realm you can imagine in this western world, and the consequence is not just being shunned.  The consequences can be dire.  But, I am straying into the psychology of criminology and the anthropology of the underworld far more than I intended to, and more than is required to make the point.  The point is that, in that world, the ability to count on someone’s word is more frequently literally a matter of life and death, whereas in the “upper world” it is, the vast majority of the time, all talk.

I saw a piece this week that made me think about this again.  It was beautifully written and, yet, all too many people will dismiss it.  A short little piece posted by Andy Borowitz in the New Yorker.  A Letter from Kim Jong-Un pretty wonderfully highlighted another couple stupid arguments being made in this same context.

In the immortal words of my dad, the glorious Kim Jong-il: “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a nuke is a good guy with a nuke.”

and

If you join today, we will waive the initiation fee and send you this bumper sticker: “Nuclear weapons don’t kill people. People kill people who don’t have nuclear weapons.”

My grandfather used to say, “Locks only keep honest people out.”  To some extent that’s true.  However, the other side of that is that it makes it more difficult, and to parody the right-wing’s arguments, “We keep our money locked up, don’t we?”  Gah!

So, what then are the answers?  We need to stop the bullshit arguments.  We need to have a real, adult conversation.  We need to have a multi-dimensional approach.  The real answers are going to start at home.  Start with teaching our children to be responsible, caring, compassionate, human beings that contribute to society rather than just looking at society, the world, and each other in terms of what they can take from it.

In a legal sense though, there are things we can and need to do:

    • Strengthen and enforce the laws which are on the books already.  The so-called gun show loop holes.
    • Require universal background check regardless of how or where the gun is sold.
    • Issue FEDERAL licenses to purchase a gun.  This should probably come in categories, much like a driver’s license.  I would have this run through the Health and Safety, and do whatever reorganization would be required to make that happen.

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