Thursday, January 7, 2016

Citizens for Constitutional Freedom, get off my land!

Citizens for Constitutional Freedom lead by Ammon Bundy, have taken over the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge on Saturday, January 2, 2016.  They have taken the action because they believe two follow ranchers, farmers and citizens have been unfairly treated by the federal government.  The two compatriots were convicted of setting fire to public land to cover up their poaching on the land.  The two compatriots, who are now convicted felons and serving their time in prison, said they did it to burn off invasive species on the property.  (It is public land and not their decision to make if it was the real reason they set the fire.  So, that means, they are arsonists and it doesn't matter the reason.)

According to Wikipedia, the "Malheur National Wildlife Refuge was created in 1908 by a proclamation from President Theodore Roosevelt, [Republican] under law which allowed the president to declare game preserves on federal public land. The refuge was named after the Malheur River." (By the way, the river's name comes from a French word meaning misfortune.  This is will the group's misfortune.) Not only is this a public game reserve, declared by President Roosevelt in 1908, the land was held by the public before it was declared a refuge.  Currently, the property, by an act of congress, is managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  This is clearly public land owned by all United States citizens collectively.  We, collectively, have agreed through acts of congress and many elections since 1908 (and before) that this was property is to be operated by the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service for the safe, legal and peaceful use by all. 

According the website for the refuge, the area is closed until further notice.  A notice on the site states, "An unknown number of armed individuals have broken into and occupied the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge facility near Burns, Oregon. While the situation is ongoing, the main concern is employee and public safety; we can confirm that no federal staff were in the building at the time of the initial incident. We will continue to monitor the situation for additional developments."

It is not my concern why the Citizens for Constitutional Freedom are occupying the property.  Their reasons is not a subject for this blog post.  Unless they have a permit from the managing agency, or are the owners of the property, they are there illegally.  They should be removed immediately.  The authorities should make every effort to end the siege peacefully.  Although, force may, after all other options have been attempted, be required.  It is more important in the end that the individuals that are involved are prosecuted for their actions and, if convicted, be given the appropriate punishment.

The guiding principle is this, property owned by an individual or a community must be protected and be available to for the quite enjoyment of the owners.  In this case, the owners are the citizens of the United States.  Right now, according to the statement on the website, none of us are able to quietly enjoy the refuge.  So, the occupiers must leave.

But, if you think this discussion ends here, you would be in error.  Because this principle needs to be applied to all regardless of the cause.  As stated above unless the property is owned by them, or, they have a permit for its use in this manner, it doesn't matter what their reasons are for occupying the property.  The only principle is that they are there illegally.  Well, so are the Occupiers of Wall Street when they camped out in parks to draw attention to their cause.  So are rioters that burned buildings and destroyed businesses over this last summer because of police action they disagreed with.  To be balanced here, Black Lives Matter did condemn the violence and understood that it hurt their cause.  Perhaps, it could be said that the riots are their "malheur."

Civil disobedience has a long, and perhaps honorable, history in our nation.  It was indeed part of the actions that lead to the Revolution against England.  The "Tea Party" that took place in Boston harbor was civil disobedience.  The people of the Americas had no voice in the laws that dictated their actions.  This made their civil disobedience justified.

Currently in the United States we all have a voice in the laws that are made.  We have a separation of branches of the government. One of the branches is the Supreme Court.  If the Citizens for Constitutional Freedom are unhappy with the laws that one branch made; Congress; and another enforces; Executive; then sue and take it to the third branch; The Supreme Court.  But, if they rule against you, as they have in many contested cases against public lands held by the Federal government, you must accept that decision.  Not just take land that isn't yours.

The people from Citizen for Constitutional Freedom are trespassers.  I wonder how they would react if I decided to pitch a tent on their land, that by the way they do own and control by law, with guns and said I am not leaving till you leave my land (collectively with the citizens of the United States), the refuge?

So, in the end, Citizens for Constitutional Freedom, get off my land!

Monday, November 16, 2015

My deepest empathy to the people of France and the world

As is widely reported in the news and on social media, the citizens of Paris were attacked by what all are calling “Islamic terrorists” and up to 128 lives have been taken as of this writing.  
This post is to express my empathy for the families of those killed, the people of Paris and all of France.  It is also to make the reader aware of the many other similar events that have been executed before and since the events in Paris that also deserve our collective empathy.  We have all become dulled by the death and carnage that happens all over the world.  The events no longer touch us like the attacks in Paris.  But, common people, on the ground, in all parts of the world just want to live in peace so they can get on with their lives.  If the attacks in Paris are to have an outcome with any value, perhaps it is to make us aware that similar events are happening all over the world.    

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Rights and the outcomes when exercised

A right is any action an individual can take. In the wild, an individual has the complete freedom to take any action he pleases.  He can move, speak, throw a stone, burn down the forest, kill deer for dinner, or anything else that can be imagined.

While there are no restraints to an action an individual can take in the wild, there are consequences to each and every action.  The individual can speak all day long and it is doubtful anything will happen to him.  Unless of course, he either scares the animals away he is trying to kill for food or attracts a lion that is looking for dinner.  With this restraint, of course, he could just speak at certain times.      

But, there are other actions that could place him in direct harm.  If he decides to burn down the forest, it has the possibility of destroying the habitat that provides him with shelter and firewood.  If he doesn’t act responsibly and pollutes the water he needs to drink, he will become ill or die.  If he decides he doesn’t want to eat deer meat because of a religious belief; a decision to not act, which is still an act; he could starve to death.

These are rudimentary examples of the actions an individual can take in nature and some of the consequences that may follow.  But, they make clear a couple of things.  First, of all the actions an individual can perform, some have greater negative consequences than others.  Some have outcomes with little impact on the individual’s life.  In fact, some may actually help him learn and deal with the difficulties of life.  Talking to himself after something goes wrong may help the individual learn from the experience.  Others have a much greater impact on the individual’s life and the world around him.  The actions may cause him great harm or even kill him.

When all rights are valued the same, the possible outcomes of the exercise of those rights are not being considered.  Rights need to be ranked according to the possible outcomes, positive or negative.  In the wild, the individual can still act anyway he pleases, but the individual must consider if some acts will be to his benefit or detriment.  Those that are to the individual’s benefit, he may want to do as often as possible.  Those that are to his detriment, he may want to exercise self-restraint.

Second, there isn’t a clear division between rights with good and bad outcomes.  There is an inequity scale of rights.  Even those that have a greater possibility of good can have negative consequences.  When the individual considers the costs and benefits of an action, it may be clear that the chance for a positive outcome is so great, that the risk of a bad outcome is well worth taking the action.  Other actions may have just the opposite conclusions.  It may be that the risk of a bad outcome is so much greater than any benefit derived, the individual may decide not to take the action.  In most situations the line between good and bad outcomes is not a clear dark line but a gradation from good to bad, or a scale of inequity.

In the wild, or in an environment without a community agreement (social contract) the individual does have complete freedom to exercise any right he wishes.  The natural restraint he has is the negative outcomes that will impact him and his environment.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

The problems I see with many political leaders, writers and others is that they don't define their terms.  When ever they say someone has the right to do something, we should all ask what do they define as a right?  When people are prevented from doing something else, we should be asking why?  Only then can their ideas be tested and challenged to evaluate the benefit they provide.      

To that end, the following is a list of terms that I will use in the blog.  I will be faithful to the terms as long as they stand up to the challenge of their application to the real world.  When they fail, I will make adjustments in the definition.  When they are correct, the definition will be expanded and strengthen.

An individual is a living, breathing human being. 
A community is a particular geographic area where individuals have an agreement guiding their actions.    

Responsibilities are all actions that are required by the community.

To live in a community as a free individual, some rights are subordinated to the community in exchange for the benefit of living in the community.     

If that isn’t geeky enough, I can get even more definitive.  I realize it is a simplistic and roughly written draft for the basic concept of the fundamental purpose of the blog and the philosophy of the Responsible Community.  Its refinement will come as the blog develops through the examination of the events and issues of the political environment. 

But, for right now this will do.
Hello, world.  I am back.

After a much longer hiatus than expected, I have decided to write again.

It is in my nature to explain in detail.  But, as many tell me often, just get to the point.

So, the point is, I am back.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Part four on gun violence: The community's response

In the first three parts of this four part blog about gun violence in America, the current situation in America has been examined; the rights of gun owners discussed and the legal responses that should be taken were outlined.  Now, to use perhaps an ironic phrase, there must be a cultural call to arms about gun violence in our communities.

This portion of the series has been changing from the time I started writing it.    
The CEO of a Tactical Response in Tennessee, a company that trains people in weapon and tactical skills, recently created a video that said he would start “killing people” if they tried to take away his guns.  His response to increased gun control is not a measured and reasoned retort, but a threat to violence.  He will find followers that support his point of view.  A gang of bullies will have found a voice that will influence directly or indirectly individuals that are searching for outlets to express their own angst with life and the society around them.  Instead of a positive lesson on solving problems, they will feel empowered to commit violence.

There is no law that can changes this.  The legislative action that is called for in the previous posts is for structural support of the community and the culture.  The community can’t outlaw speech based on its content.  But, the culture can respond in a positive way to this vitriolic approach and balance the message.  If the response from the culture is strong enough, it will minimize the voices.
The first thing we need is a respect for others in our communities, no matter how different they may be from our own point of view.  Some of the violence is happening all across America not based on any real threat against any individual, but on perverse beliefs about the threats to our own personal way of life.  As individuals we must make our voices about tolerance heard.

The violence on television, in movies, in video games and other media must be turned off.  If we don’t consume the violence in media, it will not be created.  Even if it doesn’t directly affect an individual’s behavior (I do believe it does though in varying degrees) the culture can send a strong signal about the violent behavior played out in the media.  If this rejection is wide spread enough, it will minimize the effect it has on the players to a minimum. 
Communities must ensure that every child receives a strong education.  With an education, individuals feel empowered and have the resources available needed to solve problems. 

Stronger lessons on working through problems without violence in schools should also be taught.  Not just a structured lesson about non-violence, but also from the parents of the students and other community members.  They must stand up in their own community about the issue, rejecting violence in every form with positive examples of working through issues.
Communities should establish formal and informal boards that would advise gun licensing agency about people in the community that apply.  Who knows people more that family, friends and neighbors?  How many times have media reported that someone was in an unstable situation in their life after they have killed someone with a gun?  If anyone had asked the persons family, friends or neighbors, perhaps the purchase of a gun could have been stalled for a few weeks. (1)

Of all the cultural changes that could be made, we must also take a page from the Communitarian Philosophy.  We must come together to fight violence of any kind in our communities.  Of course, communities need to do this in response to the Sandy Hook’s of the world, but also the common criminal walking the streets of every neighborhood.  We all must learn to speak up when we witness violent behavior by the media, individuals and families.  Social pressure is one of the strongest means we have as communities to create and maintain a safe and free environment. 
We have an outstanding example of this in MADD.  What seems like many years ago now, it was once funny to see someone drunk.  Media depicted the drunk as a fun person to be with and talk to.  But, the human cost of the behavior was the deaths of millions of people by drunk drivers over the years.  Until, of course, a group of mothers who had children killed by drunk drivers began to turn things around.  While their progress was slow at first, politicians eventually took note.  State by state, year by year, more restrictive impaired driving laws were created and enforcement instituted.  Now, not only is it unacceptable to drive while impaired, the social pressure has reached down to each family and individual.  We are all watching out for each other with the legislative support of our communities.

We can turn this around, in just a few years, with the collective action by the federal and state governments, our local communities and every individual.  The price we have paid in the violent episodes over the last couple years that received nation media attention is just a drop in the bucket.  As stated above, the total count of people killed in the widely reported case over the last couple of years is less than the death toll killed in America every week.
We have a choice.  Make these changes and others that will be discussed as we hold the this national debate on gun violence or keeping reading about the death of more children until we become numb to it all. 

(1) This idea came from a friend and advisor, John Perry.  Thank you, John, for your support and wisdom through the years.
Authors note:  As with many political events, the landscape on gun violence is changing almost minute by minute.  Since the beginning of this series to the posting of the last chapter, the community discussion on the issue has advanced dramatically.  With as much volatility as this issue has, much of what is in this series would have been expanded, re-examined and perhaps even changed if written again.  But, the basic concept would remain the same.  That concept is this:  Communities must balance the responsibility of helping individuals with their personal safety and maintaining as much of the individual’s rights as possible.