Thursday, August 25, 2016

Drug testing at any level without evidence is wrong

Drug testing individuals that apply for welfare in three counties in Michigan have turned up zero results, as in, no individual tested positive.  None.  Zero.  Nada.  And of course, all the other words that can be used for meaning absolutely no one.

The outcry about drug testing comes from many groups.  The liberals, the anti-discrimination crowd and other left leaning government watch dog groups.  Opinions from the groups that I have read about claim that it is unfair to test people who are in desperate need for assistance for their own health and wellbeing as well as their families.

I say bunk.  That’s right, bunk.

Bunk, as in, it may be unfair, but that should not be the reason welfare applicants should not be tested for illegal drug use.  Being unfair is not a good enough reason to stop anything.  Life is unfair, as the expression goes, so live with it.

It is wrong on three different levels.  First, there is no evidence that the applicant has done anything wrong.  That means that the government can’t search a person’s body or belongings unless there is both real evidence that illegal drugs are being used and that the evidence has been presented in open court, where, the court rules that the evidence is worthy of a search warrant.
Then, and only then, can the individual be tested.  By the way, if the test comes back positive, the individual should be prosecuted for possession.  But, not deny benefits to any related individuals that are dependent.

The second level is that all individuals living in the country are to be treated as equals.  If the state thinks that individuals that are appling for welfare should be drug tested, then everyone who receives any type of assistance from the state should be tested.  People that live in a community where police and fire protection are provided should be drug tested.  The owners and executives from companies that receive tax breaks or other types of assistances from local and state agencies should be tested.  Otherwise we could select any socially hated class of people and start asking them to get drug tested.  Or, why stop there?  Let’s started walking into their home and check to see if anything is illegally going on.  It could be any immigrant that is living in the country, legal or not.  After all, an invasion of privacy in one area can be used to justify the invasion of privacy in other areas.

Of course, we could not do any of that because of the first level.

On the third level, the recipient of the benefits provided by the state, whether it is welfare or any other program, is that people have a right to it.  “Right?” you say, “where does it say they have rights in this area.”  Maybe not in the Constitution but certainly the law.  If a benefit program is created by an act of congress, at any level, and the guidelines of eligibility are outline, anyone who fits those guidelines has a right to the benefits if they so choose to apply for them.  Denying that right based on illegal search by the governing body is unconstitutional.

Whatever the rights or responsibilities are for the individual, others related and depended on the individual should not be punished.  Any individual that does anything wrong from murder to the use of illegal drugs should be treated as an individual not as a group.  The individual should be prosecuted, not the family.  Because a dad may use drugs illegally, does it mean that the mother and children are to be denied benefits?  The thinking, or so those that pushed for this legislation want us to believe, is that if the individual is doing something illegal, he or she will refrain from doing it so that his or her family can receive benefits.  As a side bar, that just might be the case here.  But, that individual should be denied, and not others related to him or her.

The reality here isn’t trying to weed out drug users in the system (no pun intended), it is to reduce the cost of welfare in the state budget to enable dollars to go elsewhere, like welfare for big business.  It is also to make good political public relations with the supporting constituents of the law makers that back the program.

The better effort by the state would be to increase the benefits paid to individuals so they can make time for educational programs, to provided educational opportunities, to provide real job training in fields that really matter to an economy that attract business, to ask the recipients to take responsibility for their success, to provide health care and ask for accountability from the recipients.  

Where are we going to find money for that you say?  

While it is a matter for another post, the money that was spent for this program would be the first place to start.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Supporting Constitutional rights must be consistent

Conservatives in this country have unflagging support of gun rights.  They all lean on the constitution as guaranteeing that right.  It seems that no matter the situation, people should have the right to openly carry guns. 

For those of us that support reasonable gun control laws, we are vilified for expressing our point of view.  The Constitution is waved in our faces like it is some kind of stone table sent by God himself.  The Constitution has rights expressed in it and any suggestions that we violate those rights is sacrilege.

My personal view of Constitution is a complicated issue.  I do believe that is some form, the Constitution does guarantee citizens of the United States the right to own guns.  This right was not meant to be blindly followed as is with all other rights.    

The issue of gun rights has gone so far as the Governor of Ohio, John Kasich saying he has no authority to suspend the open carry law in the state for the Republican convention.  It is a matter of state and federal constitutional guarantees.  This after a request from law enforcement no less, asked him to.  Kasich, like most conservatives, believe that no matter the situation, people have the right to pack a 6 gun, or an AK47 with a huge magazine.

But, when it comes to other rights in the Constitution, they don’t so strongly support.  Take, for example, innocent until proven guilty.  While those words are not mentioned specifically in the Constitution, it is clear from a reading of the document, especially about due process, that people are not to be held accountable unless due process has taken place. 

Well, in the case of Hillary Clinton, due process has taken place.  The FBI investigated Clinton, and did not find grounds to prosecute the would be president.  But many conservative members of Congress have tried every maneuver to change that decision by the Director of the FBI.  They went as far as asking that when she is nominated to the run for president by her party she should not be briefed on national security issues like every other presidential nominee has been for centuries.  The reasoning?  That to allow Clinton to be briefed it would present a clear and present danger to our national security.

The reasoning may or may not be true.  But, given the situation in the country right now and the approaching Republican and Democratic conventions, not suspending the open carry law for a few days in a specific area of Cleveland I think presents a greater danger than security briefs to the presidential candidates. 

Think about it.  If I was someone who was plotting with others to reign terror down on the Republican Convention for nominating a candidate that wants to ban Muslims from coming to this country what would I do?  I am not even able to write the words that I am thinking, but I think you know what I mean.  

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.