June 4: Tiananmen Square Day

June 3, 2015 at 12:29 pm | Posted in Abuse of Office, Disinformation, Enemies of Freedom, Fairness, Judicial Injustice | 1 Comment
Tags: , , , , , , ,
A drafting board with a T-Square and triangle. Photo by Michael Holley, October 24, 2012.

A drafting board with a T-Square and triangle. Photo by Michael Holley, October 24, 2012.

June 4 is Tiananmen Square Day: T-square Day

An emblem for Tiananmen Square Day.  Created by thepoliblog.WordPress.com

An emblem for Tiananmen Square Day. Created by thepoliblog.WordPress.com

Two previous posts (here and here) on this blog have marked the anniversaries of the massacres in Beijing and Chengdu on and after June 4, 1989. It is that time of year again.

Tiananmen Square Day honors those who believed in the rule of law.

The demonstrators in Beijing and Chengdu thought that the government of China would adhere to its own written laws. They thought that laws exist to benefit and protect the people, not just to benefit and protect the powerful – those who have appointed themselves to rule the country. The demonstrators’ concept was correct, but their prediction was wrong.

The government of China claims to observe the rule of law. But that is a sham. Laws in China are written or are re-interpreted according to the whims and interests of the powerful. In China today, the mafia is in control.

Recent items (here, here, and here) in the Washington Post underscore the arbitrary way in which the laws are invoked, and the impunity with which they are twisted.

Besides stunting Chinese society, besides the unfairness to individuals and communities, this looseness with fact and law could lead to international conflict. The unilateral reinterpretation of territorial claims in the waters around south east and eastern Asia are a recent example.

In discussing this and other government actions, it is essential to distinguish between the government of China, and China and the Chinese people. To say and write ‘the government of China’ takes more time and space than to say and to write ‘China’, but the distinction is so important that it is worth the extra time and space. Never insult an injured people by confusing them with their oppressors.

Tiananmen Square Day honors the rule of law, while demonstrating that the rule of law cannot exist without the separation of powers.

The separation of powers is the only way for the administrators, the legislators and the judiciary of any polity to be independent enough to monitor one another, and to limit each other’s abuse of power. The tendency to abuse power is inherent in human nature. Even people of good will cannot resist the temptation to abuse power. We are excellent rationalizers, so we easily trick ourselves. The trajectory of the French Revolution is a perfect example.

Black was the color chosen by the demonstrators in Beijing and in Chengdu. Wear something black on Tianenmen Square Day. If you need to be inconspicuous, wear black shoes, or a belt, or a tie, or a scarf or a purse.

If you wish to comment on this post but do not see a box where you can submit a comment, that is because WordPress includes the mechanism for commenting only on the page for the individual posting, never on the page that shows all of the recent postings. So click here, scroll to the bottom of the post, and submit your comment.

Political contributions, the BuyPartisan Mobile app, and Citizens United

August 22, 2014 at 7:55 pm | Posted in Dysfunctional Politics, Fairness, Judicial Misjudgment | 2 Comments
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
A US two dollar bill. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dollar "US $2 obverse". Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:US_$2_obverse.jpg#mediaviewer/File:US_$2_obverse.jpg

A US two dollar bill. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dollar
“US $2 obverse”. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:US_$2_obverse.jpg#mediaviewer/File:US_$2_obverse.jpg

There is a new free app for mobile devices, BuyPartisan, developed by Spend Consciously, Inc. (Although the app is presently available only for Apple devices, Spend Consciously plans to release a version for Android devices in the very near future.)

The SpendConsciously.com web site suggests that you use your mobile device to scan the barcode of the product you are considering. The app will display the political donations of the CEO, Board of Directors and employees of the company that produced the product. On the basis of that information, you can decide whether or not to buy the product. You can also tell your friends what you have found out.

Two related articles (one by Colby Itkowitz, and one by Al Kamen and Colby Itkowitz) in the Washington Post describe what they discovered by using the app.

Subsequently the Editors of the Washington Post disparaged the new app, claiming that it would intensify political polarization.

But in coming to that conclusion, the Editors forgot an important new factor, namely, the Supreme Court’s misguided ruling on Citizens United.

The ruling on Citizens United magnifies the impact of an individual CEO + Board of Directors on an election far above above that of an ordinary citizen. A CEO and Board of Directors can favor their preferred candidate by using the vast financial resources of his corporation to the candidate or proposed law that they personally favor. You cannot.

"1900 New York polling place" by E. Benjamin Andrews - Andrews, E. Benjamin. History of the United States, volume V. Charles Scribner's Sons, New York. 1912. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:1900_New_York_polling_place.jpg#mediaviewer/File:1900_New_York_polling_place.jpg

“1900 New York polling place” by E. Benjamin Andrews – Andrews, E. Benjamin. History of the United States, volume V. Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York. 1912. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:1900_New_York_polling_place.jpg#mediaviewer/File:1900_New_York_polling_place.jpg

In an election, a voter has two kinds of votes.

There is a direct vote, by making a choice on a ballot.

There is an indirect vote, by contributing or not contributing to a candidate or to a proposed law.

The CEO and Board of Directors’ huge contribution easily drowns out the much smaller contribution that is feasible for most ordinary citizens.  The Supreme Court’s illogical decision dramatically undercuts your indirect vote. The Supreme Court’s ruling implicitly transforms the United States into an oligarchy.

The money that the CEO can appropriate in this manner is derived from the company’s sales to its customers.

Your only way of influencing the amount that the CEO and Board of Directors has available for this legal but unjust diversion of corporate funds? Either buy or do not buy from their company.

The Supreme Court’s politically partisan decision on Citizens United has thus linked buying decisions to political positions.

The linkage acts whether or not you – or the Editors of the Washington Post – recognize its presence.

That is why citizens now need to determine the political preferences of the CEO and Board of Directors of any company they might use.

Without apps like BuyPartisan, a great deal of time consuming detective work would be required for you to obtain that information. The app makes it easy.

Contrary to the position taken by the Editors of the Washington Post, using this app is now imperative for good citizenship.

If you wish to comment on this post but do not see a box where you can submit a comment, that is because the mechanism for commenting is not available on any page that contains more than one post. Comment boxes are available only on pages that contain only a single. So click here, scroll to the bottom of the resulting single-post page, and submit your comment.

Humane Executions

July 29, 2014 at 5:17 pm | Posted in Brain and mind, Crime and punishment, Fairness, Judicial Misjudgment, Terrorism | 1 Comment
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
A woodcut showing a rabid dog in the Middle Ages. "Middle Ages rabid dog" by Unknown - Scanned from Dobson, Mary J. (2008) Disease, Englewood Cliffs, N.J: Quercus, p. 157 ISBN: 1-84724-399-1.. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Middle_Ages_rabid_dog.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Middle_Ages_rabid_dog.jpg

A woodcut showing a rabid dog in the Middle Ages. “Middle Ages rabid dog” by Unknown – Scanned from Dobson, Mary J. (2008) Disease, Englewood Cliffs, N.J: Quercus, p. 157 ISBN: 1-84724-399-1.. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Middle_Ages_rabid_dog.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Middle_Ages_rabid_dog.jpg

 

Execution by lethal chemical cocktails has recently become more difficult.  Some of the makers of the required chemicals refuse to sell them for that purpose.  The remaining makers desire anonymity, to avoid becoming the target of protests.  Worse, some of the recent chemical executions have been botched, and seem to have produced drawn-out painful deaths.

All of these problems could be eliminated by returning to an older technique: death by bullet.

But the shooting should not be performed by a firing squad.  Too many things can go wrong with a firing squad.

Instead, use a device that softly but firmly holds fixed the head and chest of the condemned.  A commercially available cervical collar might be one part of the device.  The condemned should be lying horizontally, face up, unable to move, on a special table having a soft surface.

The execution would be carried out by one or more gunshots from behind the head.

The gun could be fired by either a person or a computer.  Computer-controlled firing would be less subject to mistakes.  Sensors viewing the vicinity of the condemned could provide signals to the the computer so that the gun could fire only when no other person was in the line of fire.

Note: The general design described above is hereby released into the public domain by thepoliblog.WordPress.com.  It is not patentable.

That covers the how.  What about the why?

As long as the death penalty is imposed fairly, its morality is clear.  We kill mad dogs, attacking wild animals, and armed enemy soldiers.  We kill terrorists.  We kill madmen and criminals who try to kill the police, and madmen who attack the public.  We kill cancers.  No matter how morally advanced we become, we will always regard such killing as justified.

But can the death penalty be imposed fairly?

Some claim that the death penalty can never be imposed fairly on an individual who is now under our control.  Why not treat such a person as a prisoner of war?  Why not restrain them instead of killing them?  Why not try to rehabilitate them?  These are difficult questions which I hope to address in a later posting.  But for the present, recall that we do not use these alternatives for mad dogs.  Recall that the intrinsic dignity of human beings may be a too-sweeping and vaguely founded concept, and likewise for the concept of free will.  And recall that many innocents have been killed by seemingly reformed but unreformed parolees: different person’s brains are wired differently.

On these matters I have to agree with Charles Lane, and have to disagree with Eugene Robinson, who is usually one of the most insightful analyzers of public issues, and with the Editors of the Washington Post.

 

If you wish to comment on this post but do not see a box where you can submit a comment, that is because the mechanism for commenting is not available on any page that contains multiple postings.  Comment boxes are available only on pages for single blog posts.  So click here, scroll to the bottom of the post, and submit your comment.

Blog at WordPress.com.
Entries and comments feeds.