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Archive for the ‘Justice’ Category

Baker’s Block

March 31, 2015 1 comment

Indiana’s “Freedom of Religion” law reminds us that, despite our democratic notions, we do not live in an egalitarian society. Aristocrats will defend the status quo by all means necessary. Even as society undergoes changes in cultural perspectives and popular support for these groups wanes they will battle to maintain control. Such groups do not go gentle into that good night: they fight to maintain power.

Aristocrats do not recognize their passing. Even in light of new ideas and perspectives a battle will be mounted to reverse the changing trends. Often, discrimination is a common utility for such figures. To deny access to a service allows a powerful group to manipulate resources; to complicate the day-to-day operations of an undesired faction to focus on their goals. “If I don’t like the things you do, I’ll make your life a challenge”, they might say. Ultimately the means to defeat such actions is to swell around the new ideas and work to quell aristocratic abuse of power.

For the cake maker who refuses to sell cakes to homosexuals there are various methods of response. One might create legislation to ban or allow such limitations. Another option is to recognize the power of the market. For a baker to limit his or her customer base is to sacrifice a source of revenue. Beyond the denied couples a portion of other populations (heterosexual couples) will choose to purchase cakes elsewhere in response to these ideas. Though not directly affected, the belief that someone else is being abused warrants a response. “I would never pay a baker who refused to sell to homosexuals”, they might say.

In the end we are faced with variable responses. Legislation might provide for a desired end, but the more powerful response resides in the market. Let the dollars make the statements. In order to defeat aristocrats whose ideas have waned we are better served by popular response.

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Immoral Mission Creep

February 8, 2015 Leave a comment

First expressed in 1953, “mission creep” is the “expansion of a mission beyond its initial goals, even after its initial success”. Though often used to refer to military campaigns, it also provides an agile perspective to assess all social movements. Sensing success and popular acceptance, a group proceeds onward with another set of goals. In business the endless “pushing forward” is the name of the game: new products are the life line of a company and successful companies are known for multiple types of products.

Unlike businesses, where a concrete “product” is created, groups dedicated to the promotion of abstract concepts also suffer mission creep. Advocates can never solve a problem: there will always be persistent crumbs of the initial target problem. For a group determined to eliminate discrimination success can only breed new missions: “We are successful, so let’s move this campaign forward.”

Unfortunately the attributes of these movements is not always associated with goals that benefit society. For every group determined to eliminate discrimination another stands determined to continue or expand the status quo abuse. Progress is an endless battle, a constant give and take between perspectives of the greater good. For the individuals working to achieve a goal there remains only constant, infinite levels of challenge.

Camera Call

December 3, 2014 Leave a comment

In light of recent news, the issue of police authority has given rise to a national question: Can we regulate our police force? Given authority to “serve and protect” the laws and citizens of the country the quandary comes in our inability to determine the acceptable application of this authority. How much force is one allowed to use when facing a lethal threat? We often view such questions with a “tit-for-tat” simplification, concluding that an officer engaged in a life or death battle is justified in lethal force? Yet herein lies our problem: what is “life or death” and how do we determine that once an incident has ended such actions were justified?

The means by which we determine negligence in public officials is faulted. As we see in FIFA, the NFL, and other large organizations the task of investigating comes internally. FIFA investigates FIFA and the NFL considers NFL actions? Should we be surprised when accusers are dismissed and negligence not found?

The challenge comes in finding the means to conduct these investigations. Given that many of these cases involve the death of the other participant in the incident is essential that evidence in the moment be gathered. On-body cameras for officers is the first step to working towards a better system of investigation. Gather video of the incident and require it be used to consider the case. Included with the benefits of this evidence is the additional accountability that comes with awareness of the cameras? Will the cameras eliminate bad behavior or will in hinder officers from doing their jobs? Of course these questions will arise, but for the benefits of the victims whose stories remain untold it is essential that some technology be used to collect their stories. “All men are created equal” and their stories must be told if we are “innocent until proven guilty”

Of Reactions to Reactions

November 27, 2014 Leave a comment

Can Newtown explain Ferguson? In reflecting on the physical world, Sir Isaac Newton wrote that “to every action there is always opposed an equal reaction”. Born in 1642 and yet connected to the here-and-now. In Ferguson, Missouri protestors took to the streets in reaction to a grand jury’s decision to not charge Officer Darren Wilson for the death of Michael Brown. Reaction begot action begot action and reaction. Vicious cycle? Yes: for those who own the buildings and the businesses. From victimization came more victims and from suffering came more suffering.

Speaking in Chicago on the day after the protests, President Obama said: “I’ve never seen a civil rights law or a health care bill or an immigration bill result because a car got burned, it happened because people vote. It happened because people mobilized. It happened because people organized.”

The reactions characterized by Newton can be observed in every aspect of our world. From nature see the microcosm and our human turmoil in miniature. Reactions spindle forward as variables adjust. Are we little more than thunderstorms? Can no progress come from what we wrought?

And yet herein lies the critical value: progress. From what progress do our reactions serve? Perhaps this is the key question to ask: “What progress comes from our protest?” Are we building a better world by reacting as we do? One is cautioned to consider this, to ponder one’s emotion and consider a reaction. Destroying in reaction to destruction is a farce.

Our Cake of Twenty-Three Percent

November 5, 2014 Leave a comment

As of 2013, Ohio’s population was thirteen-million people. Of those, 7.75 million are said to be registered to vote. This is 59.6% of the population. Only 3.1 million people cast ballots in the 2014 mid-term election. This is roughly 40% of those registered and a mere 23% of all citizens in the state. While lack of registration of election day means its impossible to vote, one does have significant swaths of time to register to vote. So-called “motor-voter” laws encourage voter registration by including the ability to register to vote at DMV offices.

One wonders why one wouldn’t vote. Yes, some argue that a single vote has no difference (reducing down to being a 1 in 10 million chance of being decisive), but statistics are unrelated factors here. Instead, I view voting as an act of participation. To be a citizen in a democracy is to be a member of a social machine of sorts, a human construct designed to have human representation as its gears and parts. We vote for representatives who form symbolic collectives of our community who then go on to represent our views in government. The idea is that these representatives will enact, detract or propose legislation that reflects our collective belief. This, of course, is Civics 101 and stupid, simple logic.

But what are we to make of a system where 23% of the population participate. Imagine society as a car. How would a car that is 23% complete function? How might a child respond to a birthday cake that is 23% whole? Unfortunately this is just the cake we’ve baked. Worse yet, while the solution remains in grasp (people can register and vote), the likelihood that they will remain highly doubtful. We live in a world where people will camp outside stores to buy the latest model of expensive electronic toys and yet find no reason to bubble in the teeny tiny dots of a ballot. What purpose does it have? some ask. One wonders where the hesitancy comes in? Is it useless? Well, so what. What other daily chores do we complete that have no functional utility? To vote is to participate and build the machinery of state. At the very least, vote simply to have the right to complain. See those who complain without voting as the baker’s complaining about how bad their 23% completed cake is. What would we say to them? Finish your work, do your job. Low voting rates are tragic. One wonders how such lack of concern for a civic action stems from a country where people died for such a right. Though I know that no one reads this, please, if so inspired take the second to register:

No Photos, Please

August 17, 2014 Leave a comment

The cameras are everywhere. From pockets to street corners, to concerts and games, the world is full of image and video capturing devices. One can venture into the eyes of these devices without willingly participating. Walk the dog on the trail, take a friend to a concert and one might just be photographed.

Given that one might not desire such “captures” to take place, modern technology should include an option to protect the identity of those involved. If one does not want to be captured, he or she should have the right to be blurred or distorted in some form that renders the captured image free of identifying marks.

As Native Americans were suspicious of the photograph, contemporary citizens might find similar concerns with technology of today. For whatever reason one feels uncomfortable it is to the benefit of all involved that technology work to embrace the rights of privacy and establish means to remove the unintended subjects of photography.

Proof Positive

August 17, 2014 Leave a comment

First, some foundation…

Citizens grant authority to the state to regulate and control populations. These forces work to ensure that the citizens within that society adhere to the established rules and behaviors of expectations. These “rules”, also known as laws, are constructed by the society and subscribed to by those who enter into it. One who disagrees with these laws has an ability within the system to express his or her ideas and work towards a change, removal or creation of different legislation. This is the model of society we have developed through time and the one in which we function on a daily basis.

But what about a crisis?

On August 9, 2014 an unarmed eighteen-year-old was shot by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri. Without discussing the details (all of which are readily prevalent on this domain known as internet), the event set off a series of protests.

My aim here is not to consider the justification for the reaction by either side. Reacting to a tragedy with violence and actions that destabilize a community cannot be condoned regardless of outrage or perceived abuse of power. Sadly both sides, the police forces and those aligned with the victim’s perspective feel an abuse of power has occurred and are responding with an increased use of force.

My question here is with whom does the burden of proof reside? Given that the event has occurred, it is my opinion that the burden of proof exists with the state. The power invested in the state to enforce laws, and in this situation deploy lethal force, demands a justification after the fact. As citizens we must see evidence that justifies the officer’s actions. For the benefit of all involved, the state must provide evidence that explains the situation. There is no justification for rioting or reacting in any way that further destabilizes the community.

Additionally to this point, a community that perceives any potential need for lethal force (aka every community) must establish a set of tools to gather evidence in case proof to justify action is needed. In other words the forces of the state must recognize the incredible power of force granted to them by the citizenry. Entrusted to protect the laws, they are given immense amount of power. Such power expands beyond the use of force and also includes the responsibility to justify action and display to the citizens that each and every action is justified.

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