The Mills of the Gods Redux

Expansion of an earlier post from my older blog.

Folk who know me know that I am not a Trump supporter.  I have not been a Trump supporter.  I simply think that he has proven to be better than the alternative we could have had.

Going into the election I had no reason except the word of someone who admitted that you couldn’t trust his word and that everything he said was “just flexible suggestions” as to his being any better than Hillary.  I was able to cite five, possibly six, of the Bill of Rights that he was willing to violate in order to get what he wanted.

And people cheered this.

Still, since then he has proven to be better than I expected and far better than I feared, especially in appointing, and getting confirmed, a Supreme Court justice that actually considers the Constitution to be the Supreme Law of the land rather than something to “get around”.

So.  I was wrong.

That said, I keep running into people who are insist on only voting for the “perfect” candidate.  “The lesser of two evils is still evil” is a common watchcry and that doing so is simply a somewhat slower slide into tyranny.

The flip side is that voting for the “perfect” (from my perspective–I expect yours would be somewhat different) candidate when that candidate can’t even get the support of 2% of the voters is a quicker slide into tyranny.

I like the metaphor that Neil Gaiman used for his career.  It’s like a mountain in the distance.  And as long as I can keep moving toward that mountain I’ll eventually get there.  Don’t try to do it all at once.  That will fail.  But I can get a little bit closer than I am now.  Then, from this new position, look to see if I can get a little bit closer from that.  And then again.  And so on.

By this chart (let’s see if this works)–

 photo politicalpositions_zpsa955ecf4.jpg

–I’m a pretty much a Paelo-Conservative/Classical Liberal.  Some infrastructure things (roads on the chart) I think are appropriate for government, others not.  On the flip side I’m of mixed feelings about education so between them I figure it’s pretty much a wash and the “Paleo-Conservative” label fits fairly well.  Add in that with “health care” and that things like with infectious diseases other folks actions, or inaction, threaten me and it gets a bit complicated.  But still, Paleo-Conservative is probably pretty close.

But look at where we are now.  We’re so far from that “goal” that the Hubble couldn’t see it.  If I had a true Paleo-Conservative candidate to run for office, it’s extremely unlikely he could win (even in a fair election, never mind when the other side(s) cheats).  And if, by some miracle, he (or she) did win, there is simply no way I’d get a paleo-conservative Congress to go along.  Republicans, the so-called “right wing” aren’t even close to that paleo-conservative position.    Consider, repeal and replace Obamacare, while keeping things like the pre-existing condition mandate (regardless of how economically unsupportable it is)?  Despite how much the media makes of the issue it’s really a matter of “modern conservative” and “modern liberal” have both moved a bit outward on the chart.

There’s a concept called the “Overton Window“.  Basically, it’s an expression of the idea that people in general are risk averse.  They’re used to the situation that they find now.  Big changes from that are risky so most people aren’t going to support big changes.  The changes that are made at any given time have to be modest or people will reject them.  (Note also that this tendency toward risk-aversion is why the left, with its promises of security, has had such success, but that’s a topic for another day.) So, we have to pick modest goals and focus on them piece by piece, in an incremental approach, to have any expectation of success.

So, I’m not going to get paleo-conservative, not in terms of national, or even State policy.  But I might get somebody a little bit closer than we are now.  And if I can get that, then the next cycle, maybe I can get somebody a little bit closer than that.  And a little bit closer the next time.  And the same shifting “Overton Window” works here.  As government becomes less intrusive, less restrictive, less all-encompassing, why people can get used to that too, just as they have motion the other way.

The problem, of course, is the other side is doing the exact same thing.  So not only do I have to try to move in the direction I want, I have to resist their effort to move back the other way.  And if I’m not strong enough to prevent that adverse movement, I have to at least slow it down, try and put myself in a position to strike back when I am stronger (or when they’re weaker).  And that might sometimes mean trading.  When you can’t hold everything against a strong opponent then you have to pick your battles.  You might have to give up ground in one area in order to gain or hold ground in another.

People tell me “compromise doesn’t work.” Actually, the cases they site are excellent examples of how very well it does work.  It’s just that it’s been a weapon used against us.  Conservative/libertarian types are like folk sticking to single shot rifles to “not waste ammo” while the other side has been using repeating rifles and machine guns.  Win small concessions, then use that new position as a springboard to win more.  Repeat until you’re where you want to be.  It’s a tactic that works.  So far, it’s worked for our enemies.  Maybe it’s time for it to work for us.

So look at that mountain.  What can we get that moves us closer to the mountain, even if only a little bit?  Get it.  And then keep the pressure on.

The mills of the gods grind slowly, but exceedingly fine.

Blast from the past: Morals, Ethics, and Religion

I am not a religious person.  I sometimes describe as an “Asatru leaning agnostic” or perhaps “a practitioner, if not a believer in Asatru.” I find the philosophical underpinnings of modern Asatru congenial and so I use it to fill my need (a typical human one) for ritual and symbolism without really believing in the literal existence of beings like Thor, Odin, Freyja, et al. (But, come on, Norns, really?  Again?  What have I ever done to you?)

So, I’ll repeat this old post that I’ve brought along from blog to blog as I’ve moved online.

As an unbeliever, I have often been asked, by folk who are believers in one religion or another, “How can you say ‘this is right’ or ‘that is wrong’ without a God to determine it.”

Let’s look at that.  Let’s start from the traditional Christian perspective of an all-knowing, all-loving, all-powerful God setting the rules for what is right and wrong.  The conclusions I draw don’t need that, simply powerful, knowledgeable, and well-disposed to the happiness and welfare of people is sufficient.

The first thing that comes to mind is that this God would have to establish a set of rules that works; that, if followed, leads to the happiness and welfare of the people who live by it.  Anything else would violate the “all-loving” concept.  In fact, such a system would have to be the very best in terms of the welfare and happiness of the people living under it otherwise God would be setting up a system where people have less happiness, or worse welfare, than they would have with a different system.  Doing so would have to be a deliberate choice, since an all-powerful God could establish any rules that God desired and that God, being all-knowing, would know that one system leads to greater happiness and better welfare than another.  Establishing a set of rules that are less than best for the happiness and welfare of the people who follow it, certainly, is not something an all-loving God would do.

This does not mean that the system will be devoid of painful aspects.  In medicine, an inoculation can be painful, but it’s far less painful than whooping cough or rheumatic fever.  So there’s every reason to expect part of the moral and ethical system to include aspects of “You’ve got to do this unpleasant thing to avoid more unpleasantness down the road.”

Also, an all-knowing God would know that some people would not follow the prescribed code, would, in fact, know exactly which people would make exactly what violations of the code and when they would make them.  And part of the code would be the need to deal with this.

Once you have established that the moral and ethical rules established by an all-knowing, all-loving, all-powerful God would be one that would best lead to the welfare and happiness of people who follow it, it then follows that the rules themselves are as much advice as commandment: “touch not the flame lest ye be burned.”

And, once you recognize that an all-knowing, all-powerful, all-loving God must have established a set of moral and ethical rules that lead to the greatest happiness and welfare for the people living under it, on no longer needs to invoke God as a reason for such rules.  In much the same way that science looks at how the world behaves and deduces the rules by which atoms combine, planets move, or the rains fall, so too can we look at how people and societies behave and deduce rules by which the greatest happiness and welfare come to be.  Societies that behave “this” way are happier and more prosperous than societies that behave “that” way.  “This” person may be happier than “that” person but only by harming “those people over there.”

This is usually the point where certain religious people claim “how can you know that your right and wrong are actually right and wrong?  Suppose something you think is better comes along later?”

Something better comes along later?  Great!  Since God’s plan would be, by definition, the best plan, the one that leads to the greatest happiness and the best welfare, anything better that comes along later means we are correcting a misunderstanding of God’s will and coming closer to His divine plan.

This means is that any “true” moral and ethical code can be argued on the basis of its effects.  If the effects are “good” in terms of the happiness and welfare, taking into account both long term effects and the effects of one person’s actions on another, then it’s a good system.  If they aren’t, it isn’t.  You don’t need to invoke God to make that determination any more than you need to invoke God to explain why Seat Belts Save Lives or, The Speed of Light–It’s not just a Good Idea; It’s the Law.

And, if you cannot argue a moral or ethical rule on those terms, without invoking “God said so” then can you not consider the possibility that maybe your understanding of God’s Will is imperfect?  Also (for the Christians among you) note that even the Bible recognizes that while God may be the same “yesterday, today, and forever” the law he requires of mankind can change, at least in detail. “Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, suffered you to put away your wives, but from the beginning it was not so.”

The great thing about this is that it doesn’t require a specific conception of God.  It doesn’t even require a belief in God or gods.  All it requires, in fact, is that if there is a God or gods that he/she/it/they is/are favorably disposed to the happiness and welfare of people.  And even if any ultimate God or gods is/are not so disposed we’re doomed anyway so we might as well try for the greatest happiness and welfare we can now by developing and following moral and ethical codes that lead there.

I’m not wise enough to determine the various rules of physics. However, in that case we have a great many people (smarter than you and me put together) exploring a great many different ideas, testing them against each other and, most especially, testing them against the “real world.” And they have been doing so for a great deal of time.

It is the testing of the ideas, and seeing what ones actually work. Likewise, one can discover the “rules” of moral and ethical behavior by observation and testing the same way we discover the rules of science.

Consider Al Capone who famously said “you can get more with a kind word and a gun than with a kind word alone.” What did that get him? Well, it got him in prison by 33 and dead by 48. Some drug dealers may die old and wealthy but how many end up face down in an alley somewhere instead? The “expectation value” is not so good.

Moral behavior works. A billion or so Chinese may have a system that leads to female infanticide but I think they are “making the best of a bad situation” where the various behaviors or beliefs (including female infanticide) are the result of larger issues. Can one honestly say that the Chinese system, of which infanticide of daughters is a symptom, produces the happiness and welfare of the people under it? It certainly doesn’t look that way to me.

Using the Christian example again, the Bible says “by their fruits shall ye know them”, that a good tree produces good fruit and an evil tree produces evil fruit.

I simply go a step farther and postulate that that principle “by their fruits shall ye know them” with the “fruits” being the happiness and welfare of the people is both the necessary and sufficient condition to establishing a moral code.

So many people have so many different understandings of various “sacred writings” (quotes because not everybody agrees on what is or isn’t a sacred writing) that one needs a touchstone to test which such understanding, if any, is “correct.” I submit that the “fruits” touchstone is the appropriate one, and it applies equally well to anyone who doesn’t believe in any particular set of sacred writings.

And this is how a non-believer can have a moral compass just as accurate (IMO) as that of any believer.

Apollo 11 Lunar Landing

I had planned to do this yesterday, on the anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing but the Civil Asset Forfeiture issue, and Jeff Sessions plans to expand it, annoyed me too much to leave it alone.  So here we are, a day late:


Communicators in the text may be identified according to the following list.

Spacecraft:
CDR  Commander  Neil A. Armstrong
CMP  Command module pilot   Michael Collins
LMP  Lunar module pilot  Edwin E. ALdrin, Jr.
SC  Unidentifiable crewmember
MS  Multiple (simultaneous) speakers
LCC  Launch Control Center
Mission Control Center:
CC  Capsule Communicator (CAP COMM)
F  Flight Director

Remote Sites:
CT Communications Technician (COMM TECH)
Recovery Forces:
HORNET   USS Hornet
R  Recovery helicopter
AB  Air Boss

A series of three dots (…) is used to designate those portions of the communications that could not be transcribed because of garbling. One dash (-) is used to indicate a speaker’s pause or a self-interruption and subsequent completion of a thought. Two dashes (- -) are used to indicate an interruption by another speaker or a point at which a recording was terminated abruptly.


04 06 28 51 CC
Eagle, Houston. We read you now. You’re GO for PDI. Over.

04 06 28 57 LMP (EAGLE)
Roger. Understand. AELD control circuit breakers. DECA GIMBAL AC – closed?

04 06 29 07 CDR (EAGLE)
What?

(GOSS NET 1) Tape 66/4 Page 309

04 06 29 08 LMP (EAGLE)
DECA GIMBAL AC – closed? Circuit breaker? COMMAND OVERRIDE – off? GIMBAL ENABLE? RATE SCALE – 25.

04 06 29 23 CC
Eagle, Houston. Your alignment is GO on the AGS. On my Mark, 3 30 until ignition.

04 06 29 29 LMP (EAGLE)
Roger.

04 06 29 33 CC
Mark.

04 06 29 34 CC
3 30 until ignition.

04 06 29 38 LMP (EAGLE)
Roger. Copy. Thrust translation – four jets – Balance couple – ON. TTCA throttle – MINIMUM. Throttle – AUTO CDR. Prop button – RESET. Prop button. Okay. ABORT/ABORT STAGE – RESET. ATT CONTROL – three of them to MODE CONTROL. 0kay, MODE CONTROL is set. AGS is reading 400 plus 1. Standing by for …

04 06 30 45 LMP (EAGLE)
Hit VERB 77?

04 06 31 04 LMP (EAGLE)
Okay. Sequence camera coming on.

04 06 31 32 CC
Eagle, Houston. If you’d like to try high gain, pitch 212, yaw 37. Over.

04 06 31 45 LMP (EAGLE)
Roger. I think I’ve got you on high gain now.

04 06 31 49 CC
Roger.

04 06 32 03 LMP (EAGLE)
Say again the angles, though.

04 06 32 05 CC
Roger.

04 06 32 06 LMP (EAGLE)
I’ll set them in to use them before we yaw around.

04 06 32 08 CC
Roger. Pitch 212, yaw plus 37.

04 06 32 24 LMP (EAGLE)
OMNI’s in.

04 06 33 09 LMP (EAGLE)
… 10 … 10 percent …

(GOSS NET 1) Tape 66/5 Page 310

04 06 33 41 CC
Columbia, Houston. We’ve lost them. Tell them to go aft OMNI. Over.

04 06 33 51 CMP (COLUMBIA)
They’ve lost you. Use the OMNI’s again.

04 06 34 01 LMP (EAGLE)

04 06 34 05 CMP (COLUMBIA)
Say again, Neil?

04 06 34 07 LMP (EAGLE)
I’ll leave it in SLEW. Relay to us. See if they have got me now. I’ve got good signal strength in SLEW.

04 06 34 13 CMP (COLUMBIA)
Okay. You should have him now, Houston.

04 06 34 16 CC
Eagle, we’ve got you now. It’s looking good. Over.

04 06 34 23 CC
Eagle – –

04 06 34 24 LMP (EAGLE)
– – descent looks good.

04 06 34 25 CC
Eagle, Houston. Everything is looking good here. Over.

04 06 34 29 LMP (EAGLE)
Roger. Copy.

04 06 34 34 CC
Eagle, Houston. After yaw around, angles: S band pitch, minus 9, yaw plus 18.

04 06 34 46 LMP (EAGLE)
Copy.

04 06 34 59 LMP (EAGLE)
AGS and PNGS agree very closely.

04 06 35 01 CC
Roger.

04 06 35 14 LMP (EAGLE)
Beta ARM. Altitudes are a little high.

04 06 35 45 LMP (EAGLE)
Houston. I’m getting a little fluctuation in the AC voltage now.

04 06 35 51 CC
Roger.

04 06 35 52 LMP (EAGLE)
Could be our meter, maybe, huh?

(GOSS NET 1) Tape 66/6 Page 311

04 06 35 54 LMP (EAGLE)
Stand by, Looking good to us. You’re still looking good at 3, coming up 3 minutes.

04 06 36 13 LMP (EAGLE)
… real good …. about on.

04 06 36 18 CDR (EAGLE)
Our. position checks downrange show us to be a little long.

04 06 36 21 CC
Roger. Copy.

04 06 36 24 LMP (EAGLE)
AGS has gone about 2 feet per second greater …

04 06 36 36 CDR (EAGLE)
… ought to be … Stand by.,

04 06 36 43 LMP (EAGLE)
Altitude …

04 06 37 00 LMP (EAGLE)
… it’s going to stop.

04 06 37 18 CC
Eagle, Houston. You are GO to continue – –

04 06 37 19 LMP (EAGLE)
… closed … GO … at 4 minutes.

04 06 37 22 CC
Roger. You are GO – You are GO to continue powered descent. You are GO to continue powered des cent.

04 06 37 30 LMP (EAGLE)
Roger.

04 06 37 35 CC
And, Eagle, Houston. We’ve got data dropout. You’re still looking good.

04 06 38 04 LMP (EAGLE)
… PGNS. We got good lock-on. Altitude lights OUT. DELTA-H is minus 2 900.

04 06 38 18 CC
Roger. We copy.

04 06 38 20 LMP (EAGLE)
Got the Earth right out our front window.

04 06 38 23 CDR (EAGLE)
Houston, you’re looking at our DELTA-H?

04 06 38 25 CC
That’s affirmative.

04 06 38 26 CDR (EAGLE)
PROGRAM ALARM.

(GOSS NET 1) Tape 66/7 Page 312

04 06 38 28 CC
It’s looking good to us. Over.

04 06 38 30 CDR (EAGLE)
It’s a 1202.

04 06 38 32 LMP (EAGLE)
1202.

04 06 38 48 CDR (EAGLE)
Give us a reading on the 1202 PROGRAM ALARM.

04 06 38 53 CC
Roger. We got – We’re GO on that alarm

04 06 38 59 CDR (EAGLE)
Roger. P30.

04 06 39 01 CC
6 plus 25, throttle down – –

04 06 39 02 LMP (EAGLE)
Looks like about 820 –

04 06 39 03 CC
– – 6 plus 25, throttle down.

04 06 39 06 CDR (EAGLE)
Roger. Copy. 6 plus 25.

04 06 39 14 LMP (EAGLE)
Same alarm, and it appears to come up when we have a 1668 up.

04 06 39 17 CC
Roger. Copy.

04 06 39 23 CC
Eagle, Houston. We’ll monitor your DELTA-H.

04 06 39 24 LMP (EAGLE)
… worked out beautifully.

04 06 39 28 CC
DELTA H – –

04 06 39 29 LMP (EAGLE)
… looks good now.

04 06 39 30 CC
Roger. DELTA H is looking good to us.

04 06 39 34 LMP (EAGLE)
Ah! Throttle down – –

04 06 39 35 CDR (EAGLE)
Throttle down on time!

04 06 39 36 CC
Roger, We copy throttle down – –

(GOSS NET 1) Tape 66/8 Page 313

04 06 39 37 LMP (EAGLE)
– – … throttles down. Better than the simulator.

04 06 39 42 CC
Roger.

04 06 39 48 LMP (EAGLE)
AGS and PGNS look real close.

04 06 40 08 CC
At 7 minutes, you’re looking great to us, Eagle.

04 06 40 13 LMP (EAGLE)
Okay. I’m still on SLEW so we may tend to lose as we gradually pitch over. Let me try AUTO again now and see what happens.

04 06 40 21 CC
Roger.

04 06 40 23 LMP (EAGLE)
Okay. Looks like it’s holding.

04 06 40 24 CC
Roger. We got good data.

04 06 40 49 CC
Eagle, Houston. It’s descent 2 fuel to MONITOR. Over.

04 06 40 55 CDR (EAGLE)
Going to 2.

04 06 41 01 LMP (EAGLE)
Give us an estimated switchover time please, Houston.

04 06 41 05 CC
Roger. Stand by. You’re looking great at 8 minutes.

04 06 41 10 LMP (EAGLE)
At 7000 –

04 06 41 12 CC
Eagle, you’ve got 30 seconds to P64.

04 06 41 15 LMP (EAGLE)
… Roger.

04 06 41 27 CC
Eagle, Houston. Coming up 8 30; you’re looking great.

04 06 41 35 LMP (EAGLE)
P64.

04 06 41 37 CC
We copy.

04 06 41 51 CC
Eagle, you’re looking great. Coming up 9 minutes.

(GOSS NET 1) Tape 66/9 Page 314

04 06 42 05 CDR (EAGLE)
Manual attitude control is good.

04 06 42 08 CC
Roger. Copy.

04 06 42 10 CC
Eagle, Houston. You’re GO for landing. Over.

04 06 42 17 LMP (EAGLE)
Roger. Understand. GO for landing. 3000 feet. PROGRAM ALARM.

04 06 42 19 CC
Copy.

04 06 42 22 LMP (EAGLE)
1201

04 06 42 24 CDR (EAGLE)
1201.

04 06 42 25 CC
Roger. 1201 alarm. We’re GO. Same type. We’re GO.

04 06 42 31 LMP (EAGLE)
2000 feet. 2000 feet. Into the AGS, 47 degrees.

04 06 42 35 CC
Roger.

04 06 42 36 LMP (EAGLE)
47 degrees.

04 06 42 41 CC
Eagle, looking great. You’re GO.

04 06 42 58 CC
Roger. 1202. We copy it.

04 06 43 01 LMP (EAGLE)
35 degrees. 35 degrees. 750. Coming down to 23.

04 06 43 07 LMP (EAGLE)
700 feet, 21 down, 33 degrees.

04 06 43 11 LMP (EAGLE)
600 feet, down at 19.

04 06 43 15 LMP (EAGLE)
540 feet, down at – 30. Down at 15.

04 06 43 26 LMP (EAGLE)
At 400 feet, down at 9.

04 06 43 29 LMP (EAGLE)
… forward.

(GOSS NET 1) Tape 66/10 Page 315

04 06 43 32 LMP (EAGLE)
350 feet, down at 4.

04 06 43 35 LMP (EAGLE)
30, … one-half down.

04 06 43 42 LMP (EAGLE)
We’re pegged on horizontal velocity.

04 06 43 46 LMP (EAGLE)
300 feet, down 3 1/2, 47 forward.

04 06 43 51 LMP (EAGLE)
… up.

04 06 43 52 LMP (EAGLE)
On 1 a minute, 1 1/2 down.

04 06 43 57 CDR (EAGLE)
70.

04 06 44 04 LMP (EAGLE)
Watch your shadow out there.

04 06 44 07 LMP (EAGLE)
50, down at 2 1/2, 19 forward.

04 06 44 13 LMP (EAGLE)
Altitude-velocity light.

04 06 44 16 LMP (EAGLE)
3 1/2 down, 220 feet, 13 forward.

04 06 44 23 LMP (EAGLE)
11 forward. Coming down nicely.

04 06 44 24 LMP (EAGLE)
200 feet, 4 1/2 down.

04 06 44 26 LMP (EAGLE)
5 1/2 down.

04 06 44 31 LMP (EAGLE)
160, 6 – 6 1/2 down.

04 06 44 33 LMP (EAGLE)
5 1/2 down, 9 forward. That’s good.

04 06 44 40 LMP (EAGLE)
120 feet.

(GOSS NET 1) Tape 66/11 Page 316

04 06 44 45 LMP (EAGLE)
100 feet, 3 1/2 down, 9 forward. Five percent.

04 06 44 51 LMP (EAGLE)

04 06 44 54 LMP (EAGLE)
Okay. 75 feet. There’s looking good. Down a half, 6 forward.

04 06 45 02 CC
60 seconds.

04 06 45 04 LMP (EAGLE)
Lights on. …

04 06 45 08 LMP (EAGLE)
Down 2 1/2. Forward. Forward. Good.

04 06 45 17 LMP (EAGLE)
40 feet, down 2 1/2. Kicking up some dust.

04 06 45 21 LMP (EAGLE)
30 feet, 2 1/2 down. Faint shadow.

04 06 45 25 LMP (EAGLE)
4 forward. 4 forward. Drifting to the right a little. Okay. Down a half.

04 06 45 31 CC
30 seconds.

04 06 45 32 CDR (EAGLE)
Forward drift?

04 06 45 33 LMP (EAGLE)
Yes.

04 06 45 34 LMP (EAGLE)
Okay.

04 06 45 40 LMP (EAGLE)
CONTACT LIGHT.

04 06 45 43 LMP (EAGLE)
Okay. ENGINE STOP.

04 06 45 45 LMP (EAGLE)
ACA – out of DETENT.

04 06 45 46 CDR (EAGLE)
Out of DETENT.

04 06 45 47 LMP (EAGLE)
MODE CONTROL – both AUTO. DESCENT ENGINE COMMAND OVERRIDE – OFF. ENGINE ARM – OFF.

(GOSS NET 1) Tape 66/12 Page 317

04 06 45 52 LMP (EAGLE)
413 is in.

04 06 45 57 CC
We copy you down, Eagle.

04 06 45 59 CDR (TRANQ)
Houston, Tranquility Base here.

04 06 46 04 CDR (TRANQ)
THE EAGLE HAS LANDED.

04 06 46 06 CC
Roger, Tranquility. We copy you on the ground. You got a bunch of guys about to turn blue. We’re breathing again. Thanks a lot.


HERE MEN FROM THE PLANET EARTH
FIRST SET FOOT UPON THE MOON
JULY 1969 AD
WE CAME IN PEACE FOR ALL MANKIND

Legalized Highway Robbery: Civil Asset Forfeiture

When a person holds office in the United States Government, they swear (or affirm) that they will uphold the Constitution.  The Constitution is the supreme law of the land, from which all other laws derive their validity.

So consider this language:

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

That’s the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution.  Everybody knows the portion of it that forbids “self-incrimination” (actually, the language is broader than that “nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself”)  But there’s also this part:

nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law

In order by law to justly take someone’s life, deprive them of their liberty, or take their property, it must be with due process of law.

So why the bloody hell does “Civil Asset Forfeiture” even exist?  This amounts to taking someone’s property simply because some individual in some position in government–whether a law enforcement officer or some bureaucrat–simply claims that they think the property might be used for, or come as a result of, criminal action.

“But!” say proponents, “we need this to hamstring criminals and deny them the benefits of their criminal activities.”

Oh?  You’re taking criminals money?  You can prove that, right?  In a court of law?  You know, with due process.  So they can challenge your accusations with evidence and witnesses of their own.

Only they don’t.  Indeed, if they could do that, they’d have no need for Civil Asset Forfeiture.  Instead, we get:

Police seize $125,000 from a man “believing it to be drug money” without any actual evidence of drug crime (no drugs found, for instance).  Oh, a drug dog found the scent of narcotics on the money–which is the case with much of the money in general circulation in the US.  The police kept the money even though the person they stole it from (yes, I say stole it from) was not charged with any crime.

Another young man, after saving up money to pursue a music career is stopped and his money confiscated, even though he was not charged with any crime.

The list goes on.  A man who makes a respectable win at a legal Nevada Casino is driving home with his cash and has it confiscated.  No charges.  No evidence of any crime.  Just his money taken because he was carrying it as cash.  He was luckier than some.  He managed to get his money back–less the legal fees the lawsuit to get his own money back cost him.

Civil Asset Forfeiture is an abomination.  It’s a direct and obvious violation of the Constitution.

Look, I can accept that sometimes temporarily denying someone’s liberty, or holding/denying access to their property as part of an ongoing investigation can be a part of due process itself.  A suspect can be arrested and held.  Evidence of a crime can be held pending trial.  And so on.  But you can’t just take it and keep it.  The Sixth Amendment?  The one right after the Fifth?  It grants the accused the right to a speedy trial so as to prevent just that kind of “punishment through process” (throwing someone in jail, denying their liberty, or taking their property as “evidence”, for an “investigation” that never ends).

It is wrong.  That the police do it is wrong.  That the courts have allowed it is an abomination.

This thing needs to be stopped.  It’s gone on far too long already.  Write your Representative, Write your Senators.  Write the President.  If you’re looking for something you can do easily that might not accomplish much by itself but might at least provide a little nudge.  Here’s a petition you can sign.

Remove Civil Forfeiture

Let’s put this back in the dust heap of history where it belongs so that future generations can look back and say “man, those people back then were dumb!

Immigration Policy Redux

This started as a “blast from the past” but I ended up expanding it quite a bit.

Immigration policy is a perennial subject on social media and in politics.  I, of course, have my own views.  Specifically, I support legal immigration while not supporting illegal immigration.  The question often arises of what to do about the children of illegal aliens, brought here through no fault of their own.

In the case of these kids there are two options as I see it. First, either they are still kids in which case the only realistic thing to do with them is send them back with their parent(s). Second, if they are not still kids, then as an adult they chose to stay here illegally and that’s on them.

The above options are for children brought here from out of country. In the case of children born here to illegal alien parents, there are two different options because of “birth citizenship.” The first is that the parents may choose to retain their parental rights, in which case the child goes back with them (As far as I’m concerned amnesty followed by promises of future border enforcement* is a non-starter.  “Fool me once….”) but, as a citizen, they may return on reaching adulthood. The second is that the parents may, at their option, give up their parental rights and allow the child to be taken into foster care and possibly adopted by an American family. In neither case do the illegal aliens remain in the US.

“But!” someone will say. “It’s not the child’s fault!”

No.  It’s not.  But the child does not get to benefit from the illegal actions of the parent any more than a child who, innocent of theft, would be allowed to keep stolen property given to them by a thief parent.  The child being deprived of that is on the parents who provided it illegally in the first place.

“But you’re breaking up families!” Someone else says. “You can’t do that.”

It could be if the parents choose that option.  But how is that different from any other crime?  Entering the US illegally is a crime. (Kind of implicit in that word “illegally”.) Overstaying a VISA is a crime.  Working in the US without being here legally with proper authorization to work is a crime.  Collecting government benefits without being here legally is a crime.  Those latter two illustrate that it’s not just the illegal entry that’s at issue, but that unless they’re independently wealthy and therefore self-supporting (in which case, they should have no problem entering legally) they continue to break the law as they continue to remain here illegally.

So, no, if I had my way, illegal immigrants would not get to stay.

Now, while that would be the base policy I would also agitate for a bit of flexibility to deal with innocent mistakes, paperwork errors, or being misled in procedures that lead to someone through no intent of their own being here illegally. I’ve known people who’ve had that happen, My wife had that happen. (We filled out my wife’s paperwork after our marriage. I sent it off. Only between the time the paperwork sent to us was printed and the time we sent it back, the location to which it was supposed to go changed. After a period of no response, no response, no response, we ended up hiring an attorney who helped us resolve things.  And I checked.  Our copy of the forms said “send here”.  Lawyer said, “No, send there”. And the “there” is what finally got things straightened out.)

Some people do make a good faith effort but, through no fault of their own, things go bad.  Judicious people with the ability to make exceptions can handle that when it happens.

Oh, and I would bend. over. backward. to encourage people I think of as “Americans who just happen to be born elsewhere” to come here, people who could read the Constitution (the Bill of Rights in particular) and the Declaration of Independence, and basically say “Duh” (Or call it, oh, say, 85% or more agreement), people like Darryl Hadfield and Sarah A. Hoyt. I don’t much care how they get here, so long as they do get here to counteract the “we’re going to come to America and turn it into a replica of the place we just came from” folk.

That’s the thing.  I want people to come to the US.  While the lines on the Statue of Liberty are a poem and not US policy (and never have been) the line is “yearning to breath free” not “yearning to bring our tyranny here”.

Which brings up another issue.  We could handle quite a few of the latter, immigrants who don’t believe in the American Ideal as laid out in our founding documents.  They might not, but their children would–or their children would if we didn’t have educational and media establishments that are actively hostile to those ideals and deliberately work to turn people against them.  Instead of focusing on the ideals, on the value of freedom, self-reliance, and the dignity of the individual they focus on the flaws of those individuals and use their shortcomings to denigrate the very ideals themselves.  No, we are not, and haven’t been, perfect.  But they use that imperfection to tear down the very core ideals of the nation.

And they teach that to the young.

Without that deliberate effort, I would have little concern over immigration even by people who despise everything America stands for.  They might hate us, but their children wouldn’t.

And with that, I leave you with this musical interlude:
 

*There is one form of “amnesty” that I might be willing to buy into.  Not a “you get to stay” amnesty but an “if you leave now, without a fuss, we won’t hold your former illegal status here as a mark against you should you apply to enter the US legally in the future.” “You have to go, but you can get in line to come in legally if you wish.”  There isn’t any logical reason to allow that.  Basically, I’m just soft hearted.

Snippet from a work in progress

This is a piece from a forthcoming sequel to my novel “The Hordes of Chanakra”.  Kreg, the main character in the first novel, has been lost at sea and his companions are holding a “Hastening and Gifting” ceremony, a ritual to ease the travels of the departed to the afterlife.


In the bow of the ship, Keven looked back at Kaila’s approach.  In addition to the ill-fitting clothes taken from the late purser she wore a mantled hood pulled low over her head.  The skirts of the hood, normally worn over a separate cloak, just covered her shoulders.  In her right hand she held a roll of cloth.

One of the large iron brazier’s for cooking the crew’s meals stood in the bow of the ship, a fire kindled in its center.  Shillond stood watch over the brazier, ensuring that no sparks escaped to catch in the rigging or the pitch-soaked planking of the ship.

Kaila knelt by the brazier, her head low, her face shadowed by the hood.

Shillond, on the far side of the brazier, sat.  Keven dropped to the deck as well, sitting crosslegged.

“Kaila?” He reached out a hand to her.

Kaila held up a hand, forestalling him.

Keven looked up Shillond.  Shillond met his eyes and shrugged.

Shillond cleared his throat. “Since we’re all here.”

“Marek?” Kaila asked.

“Father tends the tiller,” Keven said. “He has given me his proxy for the ceremony.”

Kaila nodded, the hood bobbing.

“Kaila,” Shillond said, “since you were closest to Kreg, would you like to…”

“Father, it would please me much if you or Keven would begin.  I would save my words, and my gift, for the end.”

“Of course.  Keven?”

Keven nodded and stood.

“I speak for Marek, King of Aerioch.  Kreg came to us from a distant land, from another world so Shillond tells it.  From his arrival he has given whole heartedly to the Kingdom, sparing not even his own body in his efforts to defend it.” Keven took a folded piece of parchment from under his tunic. “I give him this writ, making him a Duke, he and his heirs forever.”

Keven smiled. “This seems an odd gift.  Kreg has no use of a Duchy in the Halls.  And he has no heirs unless…” Keven looked at Kaila.

Without raising her head she shook it. “There can be no children of Kreg’s body.”

“It is symbolic,” Shillond said. “The highest honor the King can bestow upon a man raising him to the highest rank of the nobility.”

Keven nodded and laid the parchment on the fire.  It curled and blackened as the flames took hold.  In moments it was consumed.

“Speaking for myself,” Keven continued, “I cannot say more than my father did.  Kreg was a good friend to Aerioch and I wish I had known him better.”

Keven opened a large pouch at his belt.  From it he drew a large round fruit.

“The cook on this ship possessed some few fresh fruits along with the dried.” Keven broke open the fruit, revealing its seed-filled interior, each seed covered in a juice-filled pulp. “This was my favorite when I visited Chanakra.  I hope Kreg relishes it as much as did I.”

Keven placed the fruit on the fire.  Steamy smoke rose as the fruit hissed in the flames.  Keven bowed to Shillond and sat.

Shillond rose.

“I, too, have little to offer.  I do not think Kreg ever realized how much he gave to us.  And now that he is gone, what can I give to him?  So, like with our King, I must give a symbolic gift.”

Shillond flicked his hand and a ball of blue light appeared in it. “Let this, small portion of my power, stand for all I would have done had Kreg remained with us.”

Shillond turned his hand and the ball of light darted to the flames to burst and vanish.

Shillond nodded to Kaila and sat.

Kaila rose.  She folded back the hood.

Keven’s eyes widened.  Bare stubble remained of Kaila’s hair.

“You shame me, Father,” Kaila said. “I had thought merely to offer Kreg a memory, and perhaps a promise of meeting again once I too take the journey with Pireth.” A gaunt smile tugged at her lips. “But it is not too late to amend.”

She licked her lips, then bowed her head a moment, then stared into the flame.

“When you came, Kreg, you seemed like little more than a babe, unversed in the ways of the world.  I took you in hand, taught you to fight with sword, with lance, on foot and on horseback.  But you, in your turn, taught me how to live.  You thought me more than I ever dared imagine.  And I did not dare to fall short in your eyes.  We fought together many times, saved each others lives again and again.  Would that I could have saved yours one more time.  But it was not to be.”

Kaila unrolled the cloth she had brought with it.  Within lay bundled her hair, hacked from her head with a knife.

“Let this, my hair, stand for the joy we would have shared together.  Let it stand for the sons I would gladly have born him, that now will never be.  Let it stand for the life we two would have lived.  And let it carry my love to him and remind him that no day shall pass that I do not remember him however long, or short, my life shall be.”

Using her right hand, Kaila gently laid the hair in the fire, heedless of the way the flames caressed and reddened her own skin.

Finally, she stepped back and raised her hands to either side above the flame.

“May Pireth guide you swiftly, Love.  May your tread be light.  May you find rest and comfort in the Halls.  Take my love with you and let it warm you until the time when I join you there.  So let it be.”

She took another step back and turned a half smile on Shillond. “Did I get the words right, father?”

Shillond waved a hand. “It is not the words that matter, but the heart behind them.”  He reached out for her. “Your hand will need tending to.”

Kaila took yet another step back holding her burned hand behind her.

“Nay, father.  That, too was my gift.  I will not snatch it back.”

Keven stood up and stepped toward her.

“Your Grace, if we have to fight…”

Kaila laid her left hand on her sword, as though to draw it. “My sword hand is ever yours, after only the King.” He raised her right hand. “My other hand is my own.”

Keven looked at Shillond and shrugged.

“Very well, Kaila,” Shillond said. “But if the pain becomes too great…”

Kaila let her arms fall to the side. “Then I will bear it, as I have born others.”

She turned and strode toward the stern of the ship.

Keven watched her go then turned to Shillond.

“I worry for her.”

“As do I,” Shillond said.


If you liked this, you might like my novel The Hordes of Chanakra:

$4.99 in Kindle Store, Free to read in Kindle Unlimited, $14.99 in Paperback

Pulled into an alternate world mired in the middle ages, Kreg finds allies in Kaila, a rough swordmistress, and her wizardly father. He’s also found their foes – an unending horde pouring forth from the small nation next door.

Now, he’s in a race against time to find the true source, before everything he cares about ends in fire and death!