Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Horse says "Not so fast...."

234 years later, the same arguments.  Only this time we have the internet where everyone's "take" on a subject can be presented.  Yeah...that includes mine.  I am a bit different (well of course you are!) then most, because I look for information to change my current way of thinking.  That is, I want to go where the truth is, regardless of how I feel about it.

So as a public health guy, I am naturally biased towards actions that benefit the health and safety of my fellow citizens.  That includes access to health care - which more than just helping my fellow American would also help me.  So now you know that whatever I write will be biased towards that end.  Well if that be the case it kind of defeats what I am trying to do with a blog I call "consilient inductions."  So yeah, some bias will sneak in, but it is not intentional or designed to mislead.

So as I was googeling I came across a website called called "From Reason to Freedom - Think for Yourself."

Now one of the things I force myself to do is read and listen to those who have an opposing view to mine.  I already know how I see it, I want to see how they see it and the reasoning used to support their view.  So this site has a discussion on the "General Welfare" clause of the Constitution.
Article 1, Section 8 of our Constitution: “The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;”
Whooohboy, does this illicit a bunch of view points!  And a whole ton of quotes from our "founding fathers" in order to support a particular way of interpreting the constitution.  Now when you quote you should cite.  And when you read a quote you should understand it's context (see my last post) - which means you should look it up.

Now there are two issues of contention in play when discussing Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution:
  1. Does the term "public welfare" give Congress the power to do anything other than those powers specifically enumerated?
  2. What does "provide for the public welfare" mean? 
Now this is a pretty large debate to tackle in one blog post, so I'm going to come back to it again.  For today, dear reader, it will involve looking at question 1 and how those who oppose anything the Federal Government does support their argument of "too much" government involvement in our lives.

A guy that calls himself "Capt. Karl" responded:
Question: When confronted by the indisputable facts, what excuse do those in Washington use to justify actions that factually exceed enumerated constitutional limits? Answer: They hide behind that ubiquitous General Welfare Clause. And what is the General Welfare Clause?
Now we’ve argued about the definition of this for over 200 years in the courts, in the congress and on the streets and you can reference almost any opinion you like because most will seek out the interpretation that justifies their action. Given the difference of opinion over the years, whose opinion really counts? Whose view is definitive? Speaking as a simple solider, I’d say it would be the folks that wrote the original document even more so than the subsequent courts that bastardized it.
What did the Founders really mean? After all, they’re the ones that can actually answer questions first hand concerning original meaning/intent and not be speculative or twisted politically by the passage of time wouldn’t you think?
OK, let’s see what they had to say and put this question to rest. Let’s ask James Madison, the Father of the Constitution, Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton. Could they possibly shed any light on this?
Admittedly, Jefferson and Madison were not our only Founders. These two were strict constitutionalists who feared the potential strength of any government. So let’s look at another Founder’s opinion—Alexander Hamilton who historically saw it in a somewhat looser vain.
“This specification of particulars [the 18 enumerated powers of Article I, Section 8] evidently excludes all pretension to a general legislative authority, because an affirmative grant of special powers would be absurd as well as useless if a general authority was intended.” – Alexander Hamilton, Federalist 83
Hamilton uncategorically states that all congressional powers are enumerated and that the very existence of these enumerations alone makes any belief that Congress has full and general legislative power to act as it desires nonsensical. If such broad congressional power had been the original intent, the constitutionally specified powers would have been worthless. In other words, why even enumerate any powers at all if the General Welfare clause could trump them?
“No legislative act … contrary to the Constitution can be valid. To deny this would be to affirm that the deputy is greater than his principal; that the servant is above his master; that the representatives of the people are superior to the people themselves; that men acting by virtue of powers may do not only what their powers do not authorize, but what they forbid.” – Alexander Hamilton, Federalist 78
In short, Hamilton tells us that since the powers of Congress are enumerated and limit Congress to those powers, any assumed authority outside those specified that don’t have a direct relation to those explicit powers must be contrary to the Constitution and therefore — unconstitutional.
From the proverbial horses mouths to your own eyes — the all-encompassing General Welfare Clause is not as all encompassing as our current “leaders” would have us believe. In no way does that one phrase grant unlimited power to the Federal government rather it pertains only to those enumerated powers that can and ought to be applied universally and in general to the several states.
Now if you read what he quotes, he makes a pretty convincing argument that we have gotten way off course from what the writers of the constitution wanted.  There is some truth to that, but that's the nature of having people govern themselves.  Sometimes we are right on and other times we veer off course.  Not everything one opposes means we have gotten away from the "original intent" of the constitution.  Nor do quotes from these old timers always lend support to our way of thinking.

I have spent the last two days (and I stayed at a Holiday Inn Express) reading up on this subject.  What I have come away with is this:  If you are against something Congress does, it is either constitutional or it is not. It has nothing to do with how you interpret the meaning.  Most people opposed always shout something along the lines of:
A more reasoned argument, along the same lines, goes like this:
If the portion of the clause "to provide for the common defense" was indeed a standalone power, why would the founders then explicitly list a power "To raise and support armies"? It would be redundant. Does providing for the "common defense" exclude the raising and supporting of armies? Absolutely not. Therefore the only reasonable construction is that the power to raise and support armies is the explicit enumeration of the manner in which the general power to provide for the common defense is to be carried into effect.
What is missing from all of this is a clear understanding that the framers knew exactly what it had to say, which is why they wrote it and substantially got it approved and ratified.  The idea that somehow we veered off course with FDR's "New Deal", Medicare, Social Security, or "Obamacare" is what you may think but has nothing to do with it being constitutional.  You may think the powers are enumerated to 18 and that that the Power "provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States" can't be a standalone power because it makes the other 18 redundant, but it was decided a long..long..long time ago that this view is incorrect.

To put it bluntly, the Jefferson view of what the Constitution explicitly allows Congress to do - lost.  It did not loose because of Obama, or Johnson, or FDR, it was decided way-way-way back when the framers were still very much alive.  We the people - which includes me and you - through the governmental setup we adhere to (President, Congress, Supreme Court) - and a Constitution that gives this government its guidelines, has said that the Hamilton point of view is the correct one.

Now Capt. Karl quotes Hamilton's views on the subject, so lets look at one of them in whole.  This from 5 Dec. 1791, Papers 10:302--4:
A Question has been made concerning the Constitutional right of the Government of the United States to apply this species of encouragement, but there is certainly no good foundation for such a question. The National Legislature has express authority "To lay and Collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises, to pay the debts and provide for the Common defence and general welfare" with no other qualifications than that "all duties, imposts and excises, shall be uniform throughout the United states, that no capitation or other direct tax shall be laid unless in proportion to numbers ascertained by a census or enumeration taken on the principles prescribed in the Constitution, and that "no tax or duty shall be laid on articles exported from any state." These three qualifications excepted, the power to raise money is plenary, and indefinite; and the objects to which it may be appropriated are no less comprehensive, than the payment of the public debts and the providing for the common defence and "general Welfare." The terms "general Welfare" were doubtless intended to signify more than was expressed or imported in those which Preceded; otherwise numerous exigencies incident to the affairs of a Nation would have been left without a provision. The phrase is as comprehensive as any that could have been used; because it was not fit that the constitutional authority of the Union, to appropriate its revenues shou'd have been restricted within narrower limits than the "General Welfare" and because this necessarily embraces a vast variety of particulars, which are susceptible neither of specification nor of definition.
It is therefore of necessity left to the discretion of the National Legislature, to pronounce, upon the objects, which concern the general Welfare, and for which under that description, an appropriation of money is requisite and proper. [edited]
The only qualification of the generallity of the Phrase in question, which seems to be admissible, is this--That the object to which an appropriation of money is to be made be General and not local; its operation extending in fact, or by possibility, throughout the Union, and not being confined to a particular spot.
No objection ought to arise to this construction from a supposition that it would imply a power to do whatever else should appear to Congress conducive to the General Welfare. A power to appropriate money with this latitude which is granted too in express terms would not carry a power to do any other thing, not authorised in the constitution, either expressly or by fair implication.
So Capt Karl is half right:
From the proverbial horses mouths to your own eyes — the all-encompassing General Welfare Clause is not as all encompassing as our current “leaders” would have us believe. In no way does that one phrase grant unlimited power to the Federal government rather it pertains only to those enumerated powers that can and ought to be applied universally and in general to the several states.

Friday, August 27, 2010

That egg on your face was brought to you by Humpty Dumpty

My last post dealt with a bit o' back n' forth between a couple of commenters on another website over a 2001 speech made by Obama and his use of the word "redistribution" (among other things).

One of the posters, nathanbforrest45, felt that anytime someone comes to Obama's defense by saying "that's not what he means" what they are really doing is hiding the fact that he really is a socialist that hates America and wants to do away with the Constitution.  Why is "the left so esoteric" he asks "that we cannot understand their true meaning?"  "Perhaps," he states "the left should say what it really means in less "nuanced" phrasing."

And then he posts, without understanding the irony, this quote from "Alice Adventures in Wonderland" a book considered to be "one of the best examples of the literary nonsense genre."
"Words mean precisely what I want them to mean, neither more nor less" said Humpty Dumpty to Alice.
But alas, irony and logic are lost on the simpleminded.  The conservative wingnuts on the right have made a parlor game out of trying to make Obama sound like the evil antichrist they need him to be.  The reason you must understand the concept of context and nuanced phrasing is because that's how we speak.

If words only had one meaning, and only one meaning, Paul Simon would never have written "I hope my meaning won't be lost or misconstrued."  There would be no need for the word misconstrued because words would mean precisely what was said.  So let us look at another example of how something got misconstrued and used in a way that it was not intended.

Way back in 2000, George W. Bush (you remember him) made the comment:
"If this were a dictatorship, it would be a heck of a lot easier," pausing and then joking, "just so long as I'm the dictator."
Now, if you want to play the - they should "say what it really means in less "nuanced" phrasing" - game, Bush said he wants to be a dictator. I mean there it is in black and white.  He said it......I'm not putting words in his mouth or selectively editing.  What I would be doing, however, is taking them out of context, and misconstruing their meaning (which was an appropriate and funny joke about how difficult it is to get things passed).

So if you thought for one tiny second that Bush wanted to be a dictator, well now you know the truth.  If you continue to think this even after reading my explanation, well you are an idiot.

Which brings me to:
"He called the Constitution a deeply flawed document," 
Context and selective editing.  As a poster named Evelyn_S succinctly wrote back in 2008:
He did not  call the Constitution a deeply flawed document in either clip.  Did not use those words.  He was referring to the racism in colonial times, when humans were held in slavery.  This, he was saying, is a flaw in the thinking of the framers of the constitution.
So my fine Humpty Dumpty, words do indeed mean exactly what the speaker wants them to mean.  Now that you know what was actually said and meant, I'll excuse your ignorance.  But if you continue to want them to mean what you want them to mean then you are more akin to Tweedledum, which in less nuanced terms, I am calling you an idiot.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Smart Makes a (good!) Comeback


Reading makes me begat stuff, and I came across a website while looking up what the definition of "Public Welfare" means in the Constitution's welfare clause.  Found an interesting site, but the guy's bias shows through on his interpretations - however, a lot of the comments - both for/against - are really insightful .  But there is always one...that requires me to go a googlin' and a begatin':
P.S., with regard to recent revelations that Obama said that the Constitution is "deeply flawed" because the framers were "blind" and that the "constraints" they placed in it are impeding "spreading the wealth," it seems his goal is to rewright the Constituion or at least to "reinterpret" it out of existence.
Did Obama really say that?  I don't know why I just can't accept it as factual....but there are too many idiots out there making stuff up a'la' Fox News.  So I used the search terms:
Obama said that the Constitution is "deeply flawed"
Got a bunch of blogs that all seem to have the quote...I choose:
Barack Obama Wants SCOTUS To “Break-Free” From Constitution ...Oct 27, 2008 ... He called the Constitution a deeply flawed document – this IS the ... He simply said the Warren Court didn't break free of the basic ...
Which lead me to a website called "Argue with Everyone" and a post is by a guy named "naturemomma" where he quotes the 2001 radio interview and then (surprise, surprise) completely misunderstands the comments made and even makes stuff up.  Well another poster named "Smart Makes a Comeback" will not let this go unchallenged.  Some really funny stuff gets bantered back and forth.

smart makes a comeback 
You have no idea what any of that means do you ?
Nevermind..clearly you dont
You read a blog that told you it meant he wanted to change the constitution, you saw the word "redistribution" you dont know any better, so you ran with it.
My I suggest you get a smart friend to help you define some of the terms and put that intervirew into prospective. You will feel really stupid when you find out he was actually taking on a conservative point of view, but at least you wont go on spreading stuipidty and humiliating yourself even more

Argue with some..IGNORE the stupid
'nough said....

smart makes a comeback
I know...but I was trying to be charitable and help you out.

Ever wonder why EVERYTHING Obama Biden time says, is "taken out of context" or "misinterepreted"?
Because he is lying you idiot!
In 2001, he wasn't watching what he said. He wasn't on good behavior, nor was he attempting to hide what he actually thought.
You people are incredibly niave and stupid.

"Words mean precisely what I want them to mean, neither more nor less" said Humpty Dumpty to Alice.
So redistribution does not mean redistribution it means?????????????????
If I said I think Smart Makes a Come Back is a socialist turd I think she/he/it would see the negative in that statement and "run with it"

C'mon now nathan, you know you can't use common sense with stupid-is-as-stupid-does. 
Words mean nothing to these people. And neither do actions... So I really don't know how they decided on the character of this man. 
......Ahhhh, this must be where the, "hope and change" thing comes in! 

smart makes a comeback
Nathan, once again, your home schooling by illiterates betrays and fails you.
I understand, the entire interview and it’s content are far over your head, but you when you take your cue from idiot talk radio, faux noise, whacky right wing blogs, and blithering dundereads like naturemomma and parrot what you hear, you display your ignorance all too graphically.

Excuse me you arrogant and condescending bimbo but if the man says he believes in redistribution and that the courts need to do more and the Constitution only tells us what the government can't do then what exactly am I supposed to believe. Its not an issue of talk radio (and since I never listen to NPR I don't listen to idiot talk radio in any event) or right wing blogs (which I don't read), its an issue of reading the words and hearing the words and gaining an understanding from what is actually said, not what some commentator tells me that I should have heard.
I am able to read and understand. If the left is so esoteric that we cannot understand their true meaning that perhaps the left should say what it really means in less "nuanced" phrasing.

smart makes a comeback
Except that is not what he said you pathetic mouth breathing hick...LOL...so it seems you clearly are NOT able to read and understand 
"Nuanced" phrasing ? 
hahahahahaha !!!!!!!!
A reasonably intelligent 10th grader could understand that what he said was, that contrary to the belief of some, the courts did not engage in such activism.
Read and listen to what people say...Not what Limbaugh and Hannity TELL you they said....you wont look so silly
Good GAWD…can these people be THIS stupid ?

Good GAWD indeed!

Oh, and by the way.....no Obama never said the Constitution is "deeply flawed"

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Marry Poppins you are not welcome here!


I can't ignore the stupidity....I try...really.....but it is prevalent more and more.  I won't even go into the poll numbers showing the stupidity of my fellow citizens who think Obama is either not an American Citizen or is a closet Muslim.  Were not talking about the outer tail of the bell curve, but lots and lots of really stupid and ignorant people.  And no matter what you tell them or show them, they just keep up the dumbness.

So I am reading the Dallas Morning News and I come across this little diddy that screams for a response....so I did.

Real threat is nanny state
I am going to have an omelet, eat from the drive-through menu, drive a Toyota, eat spinach and apples, try to get the flu, look for a pelican soaked in crude oil, breathe some air and exhale some carbon dioxide as my bucket list issues, because these things apparently are going to get me. 
Let me tell you what is life-threatening -- this nanny, whining, wimpy, "goody two shoes" country we have become. When we decide that the new epidemic really is government intrusion in our lives, we will begin to feel a whole lot better. Bon appetite. 
Jim Janusz, Richardson
And here is my response sent to the Dallas Morning News about 5 minutes ago:

So Jim Janusz thinks we have become a "nanny state" (Letters 8/24/10) because our government works to prevent citizens from consuming E. coli contaminated spinach or salmonella infected eggs; cleans oil soaked birds; and works to prevent a flu pandemic.  I am unsure how Mr. Janusz could argue that - at the very least - the Constitution's welfare clause does not provide a valid excuse for our government to protect the health of its citizens.  Perhaps Mr. Janusz is instead arguing for a more Darwinian approach for society, that is, let them get sick and die, allowing for the strong to survive.  
If this be the case, then in the event that Mr. Janusz were to suffer a heart attack, I would hope he forgoes calling 9-1-1 and asking for a nanny-state provide paramedic to keep him alive.  At the very least this would save him the embarrassment of looking whiny and wimpy.  At the very best, it would take him - and his silly notion of what constitutes government intrusion - out of the gene pool.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

I articulated the"n" word all the way out......

I have written before on good ol' Dr. Laura.  Well she's at it again....and this time (crosses fingers) maybe she will cease to exist anywhere people can hear her speak.  But like a phoenix she will rise up even more powerful...probably even run for office - Sarah's VP?

Dr. Laura "I articulated the"n" word all the way out" Schlessinger made an apology. It was kind of an actual apology and not a Fauxpology:
“I talk every day about doing the right thing. And yesterday, I did the wrong thing.
I didn’t intend to hurt people, but I did. And that makes it the wrong thing to have done.
I was attempting to make a philosophical point, and I articulated the “n” word all the way out – more than one time. And that was wrong. I’ll say it again – that was wrong.
I ended up, I’m sure, with many of you losing the point I was trying to make, because you were shocked by the fact that I said the word. I, myself, realized I had made a horrible mistake, and was so upset I could not finish the show. I pulled myself off the air at the end of the hour. I had to finish the hour, because 20 minutes of dead air doesn’t work. I am very sorry. And it just won’t happen again.
You can read a transcript of the phone call that started it all here.  It ends with this:
[Dr. Laura] All right. Thank you very much. Thank you very much. Can’t have this argument. You know what? If you’re that hypersensitive about color and don’t have a sense of humor, don’t marry out of your race. If you’re going to marry out of your race, people are going to say, “OK, what do blacks think? What do whites think? What do Jews think? What do Catholics think?” Of course there isn’t a one-think per se. But in general there’s “think.”
And what I just heard from Jade is a lot of what I hear from black-think — and it’s really distressting [sic] and disturbing. And to put it in its context, she said the N-word, and I said, on HBO, listening to black comics, you hear “n!gger, n!gger, n!gger.” I didn’t call anybody a n!gger. Nice try, Jade. Actually, sucky try.
Need a sense of humor, sense of humor — and answer the question. When somebody says, “What do blacks think?” say, “This is what I think. This is what I read that if you take a poll the majority of blacks think this.” Answer the question and discuss the issue. It’s like we can’t discuss anything without saying there’s -isms?
We have to be able to discuss these things. We’re people — goodness gracious me. Ah — hypersensitivity, OK, which is being bred by black activists. I really thought that once we had a black president, the attempt to demonize whites hating blacks would stop, but it seems to have grown, and I don’t get it. Yes, I do. It’s all about power. I do get it. It’s all about power and that’s sad because what should be in power is not power or righteousness to do good — that should be the greatest power.
You can get a pretty good grasp of her mindset, especially from her apology.  She's been doing this for a long-long-long time not to understand the dynamics at play.  This was not an issue about hypersensitivity on the part of the caller, but with Dr. Laura herself.  What really chaps Dr. Laura - and those with a similar mindset -  is the fear of saying anything about Obama and having it be construed as being racist.  But that's only a concern for those that know themselves to be such - which is why statements such as  "It’s like we can’t discuss anything without saying there’s -isms?"

I can discus it - that's what I am doing in this post, but unlike Dr. Laura I get what is going on, which is why you would never hear me say "We’ve got a black man as president, and we have more complaining about racism than ever. I mean, I think that’s hilarious."  It's no such thing, it's an issue that is real and it does not go away because some milestone was met.  It will end when racism ends or is pushed down into the tail end of the bell curve.

There is a difference between a question posed for an answer and one posed because on an "ism."  I am pretty sure that the caller - Jade - knows the difference.  The adamant hatred for Obama is not in proportion to what he has done or not done as President.  So it has to be something else. I think though, it is something much more sinister in play here, and it involves the inability of Dr. Laura to call President Obama a nigger.  This inability is one not of her own making but a societal shift towards what is commonly referred to as being "PC."  The old guard white attitudes towards race - those held by the Dr. Laura's of the world - are being phased out by a reality that one's "race" is really not that important.  But this is troubling for those who are adamant that there really is a difference and that their views are being relegated to some 2nd class status simply because they are white.

In other words because "a lot of blacks voted for Obama simply ’cause he was half-black. Didn’t matter what he was gonna do in office, it was a black thing" now that we have a black President why cant' I call him a nigger...I mean "black guys talking to each other seem to think it’s OK. I don’t get it. If anybody without enough melanin says it, it’s a horrible thing; but when black people say it, it’s affectionate. It’s very confusing" so if I think he's a nigger why can't I outright call him one?

The simplemindedness of whites - especially those who lead and guide them -believe that all should be OK now....that you blacks have reached the top, why aren't you satisfied?  What they fail to understand - and this is just inexcusable for someone with Dr. Laura's background - is that their "race" is a constant factor for blacks.

I don't think about being white.  It does not enter into the equation of who I am.  But blacks do.  Whether they want to or not - their "race" is always a factor.  It is inescapable and has to do with a dynamic that is uniquely American.  The caller - Jade - understood that what was in play was this constant reminder that she is black, which for her means the person making the comment sees her as not like them - instead she is different.

She does not see herself as different, she sees herself as just like everybody else, but the world outside her "race" - as well as from those within it - constantly want to make her different.  That's not being hypersensitive - that's being fed up.

I can't speak for Jade, but I will bet anything that she is no more proud of being black as I am being white.  She wants to be left alone and to be seen as every other neighbor, wife, friend, relative, coworker, professional - that is as a whole person.  That was the point of her call - she was asking Dr. Laura "how can I get them to just let me be me?"

But Dr. Laura didn't get it then and she doesn't get it now.  It has nothing to do with articulating the "n" word "all the way out" nor on making a "philosophical point"  It's not the word that's the issue, it's the complete and utter insensitivity to its usage and what it means - you are different - not good different - but inferior different.  I don't shy away from it - my last post used it and this one does too.  The difference here is that I don't use it because "blacks on HBO use it so why can't I."  I use it for the word it is -and I use it in it's raw unadulterated form.  I get it, and again, it is inexcusable for Dr. Laura not to understand the dynamics in play with the use of the word by blacks.  By using it, blacks control it, they make it their own and by doing that they devalue it by making it just an everyday word.  That's Psychology 101.

But then again, maybe that's telling about the kind of person she is.  Arrogant, self-righteous, smug - and a bigot.

Nice try, Dr. Laura. Actually, sucky try.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

One thing begats another

In the Bible's Genesis there is a lengthy section on who begat whom.  Lineage seems to be an important lesson.
Well like everything else, this lineage came to mind as I sat down to read the Sunday paper.

Susan Estrich had a commentary called "Ground Zero mosque' is in the wrong place." In her well reasoned support of her position (which is opposite of mine) she talked about the Nuns who put up and occupied a convent "at" Auschwitz. Needing to learn a little more and find out what "at" really meant I went out a-googeling and that started me a begating.

Nuns begat a blog called "Oasis" and his well reasoned take on the mosque issue (again opposite of mine).  In his discussion he talks about a "moral psychologist [named] Jonathan Haidt."

Jonathan Haidt begat a visit to "The Edge" web site where I read Dr. Haidt's speech at their conference.  In his speech he talks about his theory on morality and discusses "The two major ethical systems that define Western philosophy Utilitarianism and Deontology."

Utilitarianism and Deontology begat a website called "Physics Forum" and a discussion on Utilitarianism vs. Deontology.

And so here we are with a new thing to add to the ol' gray matter.
Utilitarianism vs. Deontology
Utilitarianism: Utilitarianism is an ethical system that is most often attributed to philosophers such as John Stuart Mill and Jeremy Bentham. Utilitarianism believes that the most ethical thing to do is to maximize the happiness within a society. Utilitarians believe that actions have calculable outcomes and that ethical choices have outcomes which lead to the most happiness to the most members of a society. Utilitarianism is thus often considered a 'consequentialist' philosophical outlook because it both believes that outcomes can be predicted and because it judges actions based on their outcomes. Thus, utilitarianism is often associated with the phrase 'the ends justify the means.' 
Deontology: Deontology is an alternative ethical system that is usually attributed to the philosophical tradition of Immanuel Kant. Whereas utilitarianism focuses on the outcomes, or ends, of actions, deontology demands that the actions, or means, themselves must be ethical. Deontologists argue that there are transcendent ethical norms and truths that are universally applicable to all people. Deontology holds that some actions are immoral regardless of their outcomes; these actions are wrong in and of themselves. Kant gives a 'categorical imperative' to act morally at all times. The categorical imperative, in its most widely used formulation, demands that humans act as though their actions would be universalized into a general rule of nature. Kant believes that all people come to moral conclusions about right and wrong based on rational thought. Deontology is roughly associated with the maxim 'the means must justify the ends.' 
The conflict illustrated: A classic example illustrates the conflict between these two ethical systems. Suppose an evil villain holds you and ten other people at gunpoint and tells you that she will kill all ten of your fellow prisoners unless you kill one of them yourself. You have no doubts about the veracity of the villain's threats; you believe fully that she will do as she says she will. Therefore, you have two options. The first option is to kill one of the ten people to save the lives of the other nine. The other option is to do nothing and watch the villain kill all ten people. Utilitarians would most likely conclude that you should kill the one person because it has the most beneficial outcome. Deontologists would most likely conclude that you should not kill the one person because killing another person is wrong as a universal moral truth. 
Utilitarianism's answers to deontology: Utilitarianism's first answer to deontology is to say that there are no 'universal moral truths.' Such truths are difficult, if not impossible, to ascertain. On the other hand, the benefits and disadvantages of actions are much more easily calculated. Thus, rather than relying on amorphous, vague moral truths to guide action we should look to more concrete ways of determining the ethics of a particular act. Also, utilitarianism would argue that deontology leads to morally untenable outcomes, such as in the example above. Utilitarians would argue that the outcome of ten deaths is much less desirable than one. Thus, we should always look to the ends rather than the means to determine whether an act is ethical or not. 
Deontology's answers to utilitarianism: Deontology's first answer to utilitarianism is to say that the ends are illusory. That is, it is impossible to predict the outcomes of one's actions with absolute certainty. The only thing one can be sure of is whether his or her actions are ethical or not based on the categorical imperative. Additionally, deontologists believe that we can only be responsible for our own actions and not the actions of others. Thus, in the example above you are only responsible for your decision whether to kill the prisoner or not; the villain is the one making the unethical choice to kill the rest of the prisoners. One is only responsible for following the categorical imperative. Finally, deontologists argue that utilitarianism devolves into dangerous moral relativism where human beings are allowed to justify heinous acts on the grounds that their outcomes are beneficial. 

I'll write more on Jonathan Haidt's theory after I digest it a bit (no pun intended.....it's an analogy he uses)

A penny for you NOT to share your thoughts

So a guy I work with with was told by the organization we work for to "cease and desist" on posting his opinions and thoughts on the internet - particularly on FaceBook.

It seems he has some pretty strong opinions about stuff and people, especially if you are not white.  He, unfortunately shares the same views of many of the folks I work with.  It is unbelievable that  in 2010 the term "nigger" is used often enough that it seems almost normal.

Now I don't work with a bunch of uneducated bubbas.  These guys are smart guys who have held high positions in companies and municipalities.  And it's not their age either - they are not that much older than me...and some are younger.  Blame it on the South?

So do I say anything?  Nope.....just let it pass or meekly make a semi-joking comment about being PC.  In my next life I want God to give me balls.....that and enough money to walk away from a work environment filled with bigots, haters, and hypocrites.....but I digress.

So back to the guy that got told to cease and desist.  Seems he's back on.  And good for him.  Despite the idiotic crap he types, I get more bent out of shape with having to conform with what my place of business finds acceptable on non-business hours.  He's entitled to his opinion, just like I am entitled to write mine in this blog that no one reads.  That's what it truly means to have a right to speech.

To shut him up because he offends is wrong since it draws a line in the sand which says this passes and this shall not.  Now I understand from their point of view they don't want to be associated with a guy like him.  But would they want to be associated with a guy like me?  I am not the same as them....liberal is what you would call me...but I am much more pragmatic in my approach to accept that term freely.

And there on my Facebook page (yeah I "friended" him knowing full well what he writes) came this little diddy - which I won't even try to counter since it's not worth the effort.
That extra gust of hot air felt by many Texans today was just the Oblamer Man running his crap hole about Bush. Look what happened to JFK when he came to Dallas and people LIKED him. Get your Muslium lovin ass outta Texas and go back to the filth of your home lamd......Kenya. You poor pitiful excuse for a human being. I long for the day youre ridin in that Pine Box.
And here's the real kicker on this......I will get a Christmas card from him with 8 pound baby Jesus and Mary on it telling me God loves me by giving the world his son.

It just don't make no sense.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Why there is no such thing as black and white decision making

If you have read any of my past posts you will understand that I don't like dogma, demigods, ideology, or pat answers to complex situations.  I heard this on NPR the other day and it got me to thinking.....

Interestingly the first thing that came to my head was Joni  Mitchell's song "Both Sides Now" mainly for the lyric:
I've looked at clouds from both sides now, From up and down, and still somehow, It's cloud illusions I recall, I really don't know clouds at all
Now the song is really not about what I was thinking about, but that line of looking at something from both sides is what I fixated on.  It's never as easy as black and white as some people insist it should be. What's interesting is how opinions change when it directly confronts them.  Hypocrisy is what most people would call it.  But it's a bigger dynamic than that I am coming to understand.

"Compartmentalization" is what I heard someone on NPR call it in reference to how Thomas Jefferson could write about liberty, equality, and rights all at the same time keeping slaves and never addressing the contradiction.  The ability to keep two diametrically opposed thoughts in play - holding them both equal - is a phenomenon that escapes me.

So anytime an example of a situation illustrating the point that both sides need to be addressed...that you need to see it form the other's vantage point.....that it is important to walk a mile in someone else's' shoes..... is important when you vote for something or choose a side to stand on.  One needs to see the clouds from both sides.

The compensation that will be given to those who helped BP in the cleanup effort. The oil company asked many boat owners to assist, and they were paid, often handsomely.  From the NPR story on BP's compensation fund:
Feinberg (the guy now responsible for doling out the money for BP)  intends to deduct that money from their compensation package. He contends that although they couldn't do their regular job, they were paid.
Mr. FEINBERG: It seems to me eminently fair, and I think that's what any court would do.
KAUFMAN (NPR Reporter): Perhaps, but boat owner Kimberly Chauvin said later that Feinberg's approach means that she and others did BP's dirty cleanup work for free.
Ms. CHAUVIN: You have no clue as to what we did, and then you're going to act like we should just be grateful for what we got. Are you kidding me?
KAUFMAN: She says she could have stayed home and gotten the same amount of money.
So which one is right?  They both are, which is impossible.  So therein lies the the difficulty in making a sound and reasoned decision.  If compensation for lost revenue is all you look at then Feinberg's position is valid.  But on the other side of the cloud is that if those participated in the cleanup have that amount deducted then they did, as Ms. Chauvin states, did "BP's dirty cleanup work for free."

It's a cloudy situation alright - but one thing is for sure, how it is to be rectified will not be black and white. 

Thursday, August 19, 2010

One hundred churches too many

On the August 16 edition of On the Record with Fox New's non-journalist Greta Van Susteren, Sarah Palin claimed that
"[n]obody argues that freedom of religion that the Muslims have to build that mosque somewhere."
She then went on to make one of the more profound statements I have ever heard dribble from her perky mama grizzly jowls......
"there are a hundred churches already in New York....if the purpose of [a] church is to create [a] tolerant environment ... you have to ask, why didn't one of those one hundred churches already accomplish such a thing?" [Edited for clarity]
Exactly Sarah.  Why do we need so many churches?  Nothing has really fundamentally changed with human behavior, even as we have changed a lot of our social undertakings, we are not very "Christ-Like" or even close to "loving our neighbor" as God intended for us to do.

When we had an evangelical-church going President - just like Ms. Sarah - he still found it OK to torture.  And the Tea Party folks would just as soon see every brown skin person sent packing back to Mexico (which, Ironically, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California was).   And the total lack of compassion for the children of poor families who get a free meal at school - they can eat peanut butter sandwiches my upstanding Catholic mom said mimicking her hero Rush's instructions on how to dumpster-dive for food.

I could go on and on......

So lets not build any more churches.  It's apparent that God does not find them an instrument for creating and sustaining tolerance or anything resembling love and compassion for that matter.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Close: Horseshoes, Hand Grenades, and Mosques

I have been following the" Mosque near Ground Zero"  discussion for a bit now.  I can understand the feelings presented, but I take a view that transcends that and follows a more pragmatic look.

You are ether for freedom of religion or you are not.

Yes there are sensibilities at play here, real ones, but there is also plane bigotry and xenophobic attitudes in play as well.  My opinion falls along the same reasoning as Leonard Pitts elaborated in a recent column of his.

So lets call a spade a spade on this.  Opposition to the mosque for the most part is simply predicate on the fact that the terrorists that brought done the World Trade Center were Muslims.  Muslims go to Mosques, therefore Mosques are associated with terrorism.   Bottom line - we don't want ANY Mosques because we don't want Muslims - because Muslims believe in Islam and Islam instructs their followers to kill non-believers, which they did  on September 11.  Never mind the fact that they also killed Muslims in that attack as well - but that's for another discussion on the illogical nature of an ideological view of the world.

The reason given that the Mosque is being built on Ground Zero is one that might - might hold water.  I mean c'mon guys - lets be sensitive here.  But look at where the Mosque is actually being built.

And here is a photo of the sacred area it will be built at:

I don't know, seems a stretch for me if one really believes in our Constitution.  Like I say, you are either for freedom or you are not.  And if you are not, you better be honest enough with yourself to say why.  And if it's because you hate Muslims then so be it.  I mean who are you trying to convince here?  Do you think Jesus is somehow being snookered with how you really feel about your brother?

(Photo and map from Richard Adams Blog)

Thursday, August 5, 2010

It takes a village but only the teacher should get the axe

Dear Mr. Pitts

I was disappointed in your recent article on teachers and accountability. Most of the time you provide a substantive argument for or against a position, but this time you succumbed to the same intangible rhetoric those less enlightened take. Or - to put it more succinctly - you sound like a Tea Party member yelling "that's socialism."

What does "embrace accountability" mean exactly?  How is the "accountability" thing that gets brought up over and over defined?  Why is that statement any less ambiguous than "activist judge," family values," or "less regulations."  What accountability is to be embraced?

If it is poor performing students, are we to assume that this poor performance rests solely on the teacher, and if the union was removed we would somehow achieve a different result by firing the teacher each time performance is not met?  In other words, all situations should achieve similar results regardless of any unique dynamics in play.  Is that your position?

And better performance of students could be obtained - as you see it - if we could fire them at will.  I can only speak for myself, but getting fired plays little into my "impetus for doing good."  I do good work because that's a standard I set for myself and I am sure a lot of others, including teachers, work under the same standard.  Kind of reminds me of the sign that states: Beatings will continue until moral improves.

There is no doubt that some teachers should not be teaching.  And there is little doubt that their union protects them.  However, on the other side there is little doubt that the blame the teacher mentality is persuasive.   Even a guy like you, a thoughtful, reasoned, introspective humanist has the audacity to portray as fair and just the firing of an "entire facility of a poorly-performing school."  I don't know, but that sounds a bit draconian to me, kind of like supporting the attitude for the war in Iraq of 'nuke em' all let God sort em' out.'

You state that "whenever anyone seeks to require better, they seem to find themselves at odds with the last people you'd expect: teachers. Or, more accurately, teachers unions." but you provide no evidence to support that.  Yes there are most likely anecdotal evidence of a union or teacher getting away with something.  But you are making a blanket statement that nothing "better" is ever adopted, that teachers want kids to fail, that unions want the system to continue to poorly perform.

Show me.

There is good reason for opposing this blanket statement of "accountability."  And if you stepped back a bit and looked at it from all perspectives you would see that.  Regardless of how over protective unions can be, they adopt, they change, but bottom line - they protect their charges from the silliness of words like "accountability".  They know that what we are asking teachers to do here is be accountable for the whole when they have little or no authority to correct, modify, or eliminate the dynamics in play; mainstreaming kids with behavioral problems, lack of support for disciplinary problems, parents who take offense at every little action that is misinterpreted, kids who have serious family issues, kids who are bullied or live with constant danger, and an education system that believes all kids are college material and vocational studies are somehow a disservice.

I am not a teacher, yet I am aware of what takes place in a classroom simply because I have listened to teachers discuss why they leave the profession.  You, and your ilk, want the buck to stop with them, yet they are the lowest rung on the ladder.  They fight "accountability" because its all responsibility without authority.  Until you change that dynamic, kids will continue to fail.

But go ahead, fire them all if it makes you feel like you are doing something for the children.  I hear they have a bunch of Filipino guest workers  (USA Today 8/5/10) ready and willing to take their place, and for a lot cheaper too!  Ah but that damn teacher's union will probably oppose that too.