Thursday, October 23, 2014

On Racism: 22-Oct-2014

When discussing racism, it seems patently unfair to lump all people of any particular party or persuasion (e.g., liberal, conservative, etc.) into a box, and label them as racists. Individuals from across the spectrum bring unique ideologies to the table, in the development of collective political platforms. Any of these individuals might possess racist values or values of inclusiveness -- or, even a combination of both. For example, arguably, some people continue to authentically believe that the repression experienced by blacks in previous generations has affected the country's cultural assumptions, in such ways, so as to require the continuation of affirmative action. They don't believe that individual black people can't succeed on their own merits; but rather, that an unfairly large, cultural obstacle remains in place, even after decades of affirmative action. On the other hand, opponents of affirmative action might argue that almost every subgroup in the country encounters cultural obstacles that limit their upward mobility; or that the obstacles that most hinder upward mobility rest more on socioeconomic starting points than they do on race. In the end, the questions of which group employs more racism really don't matter nearly as much as which groups' policy platforms will achieve greater levels of upward mobility, for all people; without unfairly burdening neighbors, who might already have obstacles just as pressing, in their own lives.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Protection, Tryanny and Gun Control

On gun control in the United States: in the end, whether people either accept or reject the basic conclusion that registration leads to confiscation leads to tyranny, will ultimately define their positions on gun control. However, for them to make an informed decision, it seems likely that people should consider these premises, in order to inform their conclusions.

  • People are basically good.

  • People are basically something other than good.

  • Members of government primarily have their constituents' best interests in mind, when making decisions.

  • Members of government primarily have their own best interests in mind when making decisions.

If people are good and if those in government primarily have their constituents' best interests in mind, then most non-criminal gun buyers / owners would not balk at gun control, in general. Similarly, those who advocate gun control would not really have any reason to hold that position, unless "control" serves as the operative word, since they'd have little rational fear of intentional injury or death. Additionally, if these two premises held true, many current gun owners might never have bought guns in the first place.

Likewise, if people are something other than good and if those in government primarily have their constituents' best interests in mind, then most people would likely still not balk at background checks or gun registration; since gun owners could not legitimately question the government's motives. Gun ownership would likely remain at current levels, in answer to the increased risks (even if the criminals would still not purchase their guns legitimately, anyway). Arguably, gun control advocates would also feel that they had legitimate reasons to hold their position -- since even legitimate gun owners make up a percentage of the population considered "something other than good."

On the other hand, if people are good; but if those in government primarily have their own best interests in mind, then most non-criminal gun buyers / owners would balk at background checks, gun registration, and similar measures. Their reasons would not necessarily include defense against neighbors, but rather, defense against a government that could devolve into tyranny -- on either of the local, state, or national levels. If the successful promotion of self-interests necessarily requires controlling others (thereby sacrificing some amounts of liberty); then gun control advocates must determine how the benefits of background checks, registration, and other such measures weighs against the risks associated with trusting the people within different levels of government to consistently do right by all of their constituents. Even though some who now own guns might not fear tyranny, some gun owners who fear government tyranny have already made that decision and have purchased guns, "off of the books."

Similarly, if people are something other than good and if those in government primarily have their own best interests in mind, then again, most non-criminal gun buyers / owners would balk at background checks, gun registration, and similar measures. Arguably, this represents the condition that many citizens believe presently applies within the United States. Most every day,  the press publishes stories of criminal assaults and homicides; to the point that some who otherwise advocate and argue for gun control also carry guns. Those who have weighed the risks associated with tyranny as greater than the benefits of control (generally) balk at gun control. Moreover, arguably, the United States was founded on the premises that the people could not trust their governments, because governments would control the people, if they could, and that liberty from that control is more important than life, itself.

Arguably, some people within every generation have believed that they served as the most enlightened generation that has ever walked the face of the earth. Most of the countries in which those people reside have fought and continue to fight in wars and extended, warlike instances of "police action," during each of those same generations. These countries have done this, without exception, in order to impose their wills on members of other people groups. Additionally, during the past 500 years, every century has experienced one or more wars, wherein people with political power have tried to impose their wills on the citizens within their own countries (including countries in Europe and the US Civil War). To think that history will not repeat these cycles, because this generation has "finally got it right" and has become more insightful and progressive than any of the previous generations, ostensibly represents denial, naïveté, or the lack of critical thinking. Consequently, based on these conclusions, it appears evident (a priori) that free people must take responsibility for questioning their devotion to any ideology, like gun control, that could ultimately result in their overarching loss of liberty.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Minimum Wage Day 2014

Why not raise the minimum wage to $10.10? After all, as some political pundits have said, "the federal minimum wage hasn't kept up with the cost of basic goods...," "it will allow everyone to achieve economic independence...," and "nobody who works 40 hours a week should be living in poverty..." in fact, many folks on Tweeter cited more reasons, but most of those seemed tertiary to these three main premises.

Little doubt exists that, actually, the federal minimum wage has not kept up with the costs of basic goods (look online to find associated charts and graphs). However, arguably, what counts as "basic goods" and the amounts of money required to buy them, differ from person to person and family to family. Additionally, families that consist of more than one person and that have one breadwinner who earns the minimum wage, will likely qualify for and receive public assistance. What will happen to their public assistance when their wages go up? Either way, this premise appears to represent the most comprehensive amount of truth of the three listed.

I seriously question the second premise, though; that making $10.10 per hour will provide financial independence for most people -- if anyone. Sure, it would prove better than making $8 or $9 per hour (with all other things equal, e.g., public assistance, taxes, etc.). However, I have a friend who earns about $12 per hour, who lives by himself (with no governmental assistance), and who has no costly vices. He barely makes ends meet. Additionally, little doubt exists that collectively, business owners will not absorb any more of the associated increases of labor costs, than absolutely necessary. Therefore, if labor increases by about 30% and that 30% increase equals half of what would otherwise go to profits, the answer would include an increase in retail prices of about 15% -- across the board... OR a reduction in the number of hours and full-time positions for minimum-wage workers. Regarding the second possible outcome, I've personally witnessed huge companies lay people off, year after year, in order to maintain their annual, projected profit margins, as required by their shareholders. As morally reprehensible as some might consider the concept of conducting layoffs and firings to increase or maintain profits; the evidence suggests that, like it or not, this will happen.

Of course, some business owners (and others) have also addressed the issue of paying teenagers and other trainees, while they learn to work. Arguably, if they do the work that others do, I would argue that they should receive the same wages as anyone else. However, even if people could actually achieve financial independence by working for $10.10 per hour, does it really make sense to force businesses to pay the full amount of minimum hourly wage to young people who might not have the capacity to provide the full, hourly amount of work?

Finally, I couldn't agree more with the third premise. Indeed, no one who works 40 hours per week should be living in poverty. However, I'll go one step further and posit that no one who works 40 hours per week should settle for only earning the minimum wage; regardless of whether the amount of that minimum wage equals $7 per hour or $10 per hour. Substantial proof exists that, on average, people who obtain increased education reap increased financial rewards. Additionally, all levels of government in the United States provide various opportunities for people who lack education and skills to obtain that education and in many cases, those skills. Certainly, it won't prove easy to acquire these. However, having at one time lived in poverty, I can truthfully testify that, in my case, the results beat whining about the unfairness of it all.

Oh, I know, many people, including the well educated, have argued and will continue to argue that the requirements of time and effort price the acquisition of education and skills far beyond the reach of most people in poverty. Some of these people whisper words like these, back-and-forth, in private conversations: "They can't do it..." "they shouldn't have to do it..." "we, the haves, must take responsibility for the have-nots because we would act unfairly if we chose to require subsequent extra efforts of them, rather than simply ministering to their needs, for the rest of their lives." Even if many of the working poor argued in favor of a lifestyle of receiving public assistance, on ongoing bases; what many in poverty really need includes having opportunities to make friends with people who have "made it," to show them the steps whereby they can also "make it" -- and not necessarily having anything to do with any Federal programs.

Answers to some other specific comments:

@brainwashedur said: Thanks to @ScottWalker the Koch Bros. enjoy record profits while Wisconsinites lose more money working #Minimumwage jobs

My answer: what keeps any "Wisconsinites" from quitting their minimum-wage jobs and starting their own companies, just like the Koch family did at some point in their genealogical history?

Senator Ben Cardin ‏ (@SenatorCardin) asked and answered this question: "In how many states can a full time #MinimumWage worker afford a 2 bedroom at Fair Market Rent? Answer: 0.

My answer: how many 16 or 17-year-old children, living with their parents, and attending high school need to rent a two-bedroom apartment at fair market rent prices?

Education Votes ‏ (@edvotes) stated: American families struggle on as Wall Street lives it up. First step to making it right: Raise the Minimum Wage.

My answer: I don't see how forcing everyone in the middle-class pay 15% to 30% more for basic consumer goods (a probable result of increasing the minimum wage by more than 30%) represents a "right" first step. If people in poverty become jealous of employees on Wall Street who "live it up," permission granted for them to go to the library, study, take the series 6 and series 7 exams, go to work for a brokerage, and work their way to Wall Street.

NWLC ‏(@nwlc) said and asked: Raising the minimum wage to $10.10/hr could boost millions of workers' earnings by $5,700. What could that buy?

My answer: quite a lot -- until prices go up to offset the increased costs of labor.

Kirsten Gillibrand ‏(@SenGillibrand) said: 2/3 low wage workers are women. With $10.10, we can pass fair Minimum Wage & help millions of Women Succeed.

My answer: since when have we, as Americans, ever accepted accomplishing the bare minimum as an adequate measure of success? Certainly, I want men and women who work for hourly wages and who perform equal tasks, to receive equal pay. However, rather than focusing any of our efforts on raising the minimum wage to $10.10, for these women, why don't we focus on training them to do jobs with minimum wages at the $20.20 or $30.30 threshold. After all, ours does not represent a zero sum economy.

Please feel free yo comment...

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

To Serve and Protect: The Militarization of Police Forces in the U.S.

The re-imaged version of Battlestar Galactica serves as one my favorite TV shows of all time. I appreciate the show for many of the same reasons that many others have stated -- the depth of character and relationship development; the exploration of various responses to complex interests and ideologies; and the ethical dilemmas raised, regarding the responsibilities of people serving in competing roles in civil society. However, this last reason probably intrigues me the most. An exchange between Admiral Adama (Edward James Olmos) and President Laura Roslin (Mary McDonnell) provides a classic example of this. In this scene (Moore & Grabiak, 2005), President Roslin suggested that since the admiral had people under his command who possessed weapons and the knowledge to use them that the military should police the fleet, during their collective journey, across space, in search of a new planetary home. Adama's reply included: "there's a reason you separate military and the police. One fights the enemies of the state; the other serves and protects the people. When the military becomes both, then the enemies of the state tend to become the people."

Of course, two of the basic societal questions that underlie this answer, include: how much freedom do people have to sacrifice for safety and will the sacrifice of freedom actually result in the establishment of more or less safety. For example, people in the United States have seen an increase in the militarization of police forces, across the country, especially since the 9/11 attacks (Horne, 2014; Shackford, 2014). Arguably, people have allowed or even invited this to happen, as a hopeful response, to increase the overall safety within the country. However, journalists have reported, with increasing regularity, about SWAT teams, armed with automatic weapons and dressed in full body armor, who have entered homes, with "no knock" warrants, for transgressions of lesser and lesser magnitude. Certainly, in situations where enemies of the state hide among the citizens of the state, the role of the military becomes clouded; since we need the military (and maybe members of the federal law enforcement establishment) to defend the state from those domestically located enemies. However, if we continue to militarize the police and, as a result, they increasingly view everyday citizens as potential enemies; who will stand with these everyday citizens and serve to protect them, their freedom, and their interests?


Horne, M. (2014, August 14).  USA Today tries to blame Ferguson riots on police militarization. Political Outcast. Retrieved from

Moore, R. D. (Writer), & Grabiak, M. (Director). (2005). Water [Television series episode]. On R. D. Moore and D. Eick (Executive producers), Battlestar Galactica. Universal City, CA: Universal Television.

Shackford, S. (2014, August 14). Obama speaks on Ferguson events; has nothing to say about police militarization. Reason. Retrieved from