Monthly Archives: March 2012

A Very Bad Law

The Trayvon Martin shooting is, without a question in my mind, a terrible tragedy. It should never have happened. It is all the more tragic because of a very bad law. The “stand your ground” statute in Florida actually permits someone to provoke a violent reaction but, if the reaction is life threatening, to respond with deadly force. That means if two gunslingers meet in the middle of a Florida street, whoever kills first wins the justified homicide race. For proof that his life was in danger, he can point to his slain foe with a gun in his hand.

Yes, Mr. Martin was unarmed, but one eyewitness says he saw Mr. Martin beating Mr. Zimmerman, the shooter. Another eyewitness saw the opposite happening, so all we have left is Mr. Zimmerman’s testimony, and he did have injuries to his face and head consistent with his account of Mr. Martin attacking him. So why did Mr. Martin attack, if that’s what he did?

Maybe it was the same stupid law. The law allows for people to stand their ground, instead of requiring a duty to retreat. A duty to retreat means a person needs to get away from a confrontation and let police handle the situation. In a stand your ground law, one can stand and engage an opponent based upon one’s judgment.

In this case, imagine what has to be going through the mind of a 17-year old walking home in the dark on a rainy night when some strange guy in a truck pulls up beside you and demands that you come talk to him. That’s a terrifying situation, and I can understand why Mr. Martin would not want to give any information to or comply with Mr. Zimmerman’s commands. We tell our children that strangers could kill them – and that is exactly what happened here.

Had Mr. Martin killed Mr. Zimmerman, the same law would have justified the homicide. Without a duty to retreat and let potentially cooler heads prevail, or at least heads that can be identified as policemen – and I’m leaving the racial controversy with the local force aside – the Florida law as written allows any pair of individuals that doesn’t understand each other completely to open fire, rather than try to understand what’s really going on.

Bad laws make for bad situations. Not only has this law contributed to the Martin shooting case, it’s also used by criminals to justify murders of rivals. Is that really what Florida wants on its hands?

Individual Mandates and Constitutionality

Short version of the problem: Come 2014, I’m supposed to get insurance for my whole family. Looking at the government charts, I’ll have to spend at least $500 per month on a policy. Last policy I had didn’t pay for the square root of jack squat. Whatever policy I’ll have to get in 2014 probably will have the same huge deductible and no real benefits.

When a person in my family gets a major illness, I’ll have to cover that out of pocket. I make too much money to get free clinic stuff, but not enough to buy a policy that actually pays for hospital care. Being forced to buy insurance by the government does nothing for me, but everything for the insurance company whose lobbyist helped to write that part of the health care act.

Should I choose to do without, I can pay just shy of $2100 in a fine to some government agency. It won’t be a tax, technically, but it will go in to the USG’s coffers. So, come 2014, I can either pay $6200 per year for nothing or pay $2100 per year for nothing. Yeah… thanks for nothing, US Government!

This provision shows just how much control the lobbyists have over the President and Congress. They wrote a bill that doesn’t help poor or middle class people, it helps the interest groups that are already rich. I do hope the Supreme Court strikes down the individual mandate as unconstitutional. Congress should not have the power to require people to engage in acts of commerce, particularly when such acts are of no benefit to the purchaser.

By the way, this isn’t something that the Republicans are alone in hollering about. The liberal media is livid, as well. Michael Moore and Ralph Nader have both pooh-poohed this provision. While the left and the right may not agree on the solution for our health care problem, they can both agree that this ain’t it.

An Open Letter to Leon Panetta

Dear Mr. Panetta,
How are you? I am fine. I see there is a problem in Afghanistan right now. A soldier killed 16 civilians, including children. This is a terrible tragedy, and I’m sure you feel bad about that. I heard on the news that the soldier may have been drinking, which will contribute to bad decisions. But the soldier was also supposed to be home in the USA after three tours in Iraq and instead got sent to Afghanistan. That’s got to be what really messed him up.

The soldiers in the US military have been getting poor treatment on all accounts since 2001. They had to buy their own body armor, National Guardsmen would be denied VA benefits if their injuries could be reclassified, psychological health care was minimal at best, and they were put into situations they could not find any good way out of. This soldier has his own sins to bear, but the US armed forces have their hand in this situation, and that needs to be fixed.

The US Army can keep soldiers in combat, indefinitely, with the way they’ve written their regulations. While the regulations make everything legal, they don’t make it all right. The treatment our front-line soldiers has received has been abysmal, both “over there” and at home. These are the men and women that put their lives at risk for their nation, but who have been hired out to do the dirty, wet work for the big oil companies. And, like any other worker for corporate America, when they’re used up, they’re tossed aside. That is not right.

I hold that the wars should not have happened in the first place: I don’t care to win converts to that point of view, as I’d rather have agreement on a more basic issue. That soldier, and thousands others like him, don’t belong in war zones after multiple combat tours. Fix the rules so that what is done is also the right thing.

Thanks for your time, Mr. Panetta. While I have your attention, could you also make sure that we don’t use the US Army for political purposes? I don’t see any partisan political gain to be worth even one life of an American soldier. I have friends over there. Don’t use them like pawns in a game in which only the richest of the rich will win.


Dean Webb

Milquetoast Fascism

Caspar Milquetoast was a cartoon character that lacked fortitude, assertiveness, and gumption. In short, he was a gutless, spineless, pliable person that bent to the wills around him. He’s the inspiration for the word “milquetoast.” He’s also the inspiration for the figureheads of the Republican Party.

The Democrats still elect leaders that can stand up for what they believe in. The last Republican that had a spine of his own was Richard Nixon, and he nearly wrecked the nation. Nixon was such a terrible president, Jimmy Carter was able to win the election after Nixon’s disastrous second term. Now, I like Carter, but Republicans hate him. So that goes to show just how bad the GOP had gotten with a willful leadership.

So who won the 1980 election? Ronald Reagan. Him? A milquetoast? Sure. His toughness was all scripted and Hollywood by-product. The guy rolled over on his fellow actors when he fingered anyone he suspected of Communist sympathies during the Red Scare of the 1950s. The guy was a mouthpiece. Remember Iran-Contra? Reagan was spineless enough that we could actually say he was dishonest if he knew and stupid if he didn’t. The secret bombing of Cambodia and Watergate, those we could lay right at Nixon’s feet. With Reagan, we could reasonably suspect someone was pulling his strings.

Since 1980, the GOP hasn’t campaigned on issues. It’s campaigned on buzzwords. God, guns, and gays. Family and prayer. Hard on crime. Liberal media. These strike a primal chord with anyone that hears them. The manipulation in GOP advertising and speechcrafting is powerful and undeniable. Find yourself weeping after Ollie North gives a stirring speech about how, in an effort to save American lives, he made some mistakes? Thank the speechwriter, not the mouthpiece. In reality, North was part of a murderous operation that fueled terrorism in the Mideast and Central America – and that also brought in a flood of cocaine to the USA. Mistakes? No. They were deliberate violations of the law, on the same level as organized criminals.

Dubya Bush was another Milquetoast Fascist. Everyone knew that Dick Cheney was working Bush like a sock puppet. When 9/11 happened, Cheney was rushed to safety. Bush was left in a pre-announced location where any terrorist with an RPG could brew up. Bush had been the target of an assassination attempt the night before from a team that used the same method that killed the leader of the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan, but somehow, was left out there vulnerable while the vice-president got rushed to safety? The man was expendable.

Now there are three Milquetoast Fascists running for the GOP nomination along with Ron Paul. Paul is constantly sidelined by the media because they’re connected to those that are pulling the strings for the other three, and Paul has a spine. I don’t agree with everything the guy says, but he’s a breath of fresh air. Why doesn’t he have more popularity? It’s because he’s making the same mistake the Democrats make: he’s talking about the issues. Herman Cain made huge progress in the polls just by repeating the number “NINE!” Maybe Paul should start chanting, “GOLD!”

By the way, NINE is a homophone for the German word for no, “nein.” “Nein! Nein! Nein!” makes for an interesting tax percentage of zero…

But none of the GOP guys on his own is going to win the nomination. All three are sock puppets. To me, Romney is the biggest disappointment because he could have been so much different from the panderer he’s become. Santorum is an old hand at saying whatever he needs to say in order to get elected. In 1993, Santorum voted with the Democrats on labor issues and NAFTA. Why? His home congressional district had a 3:1 Democrat:Republican ratio. The man wanted to stay in power, so he said what people wanted to hear. Santorum also tried to make the National Weather Service not release information if it would be in competition with a pay service. That’s criminally stupid, and obviously a ploy by commercial weather forecasters to make more cash with a little help from a Santorum sock puppet.

Gingrich is a crusty old man and most likely to grow a spine suddenly. That’s why he’s at the bottom of the three Milquetoast Fascists in the political running. His job is to win just enough votes to force a brokered convention that could allow a different Milquetoast Fascist to emerge as a compromise candidate. Then, unbesmirched by the tars and feathers of the primary season, this new GOP Boy Wonder could charge to the top and grab the brass ring… and then bring the USA that much closer to a republican fascism, smiling all the way.

Market Failure and Alexander Nevsky

In the classic Russian film, Alexander Nevsky, the merchant princes of Novgorod think they can buy their freedom by paying tribute to the advancing forces of the Teutonic Knights. Turns out, they can’t, and the rest of the film is about Alexander Nevsky leading the stout-hearted Russians in defense of what they held dear: land, family, and community.

In professional terms, that’s what economists call a market failure – and what free-market ideologues say can’t exist. That’s the problem with ideology: it blinds a person to the truth. This morning, I saw a news piece about how the military is finding it difficult to get enough healthy recruits. The blame for this national defense problem belongs to the unregulated markets that allow people to shove just about anything they’re addicted to into their bodies. Food, alcohol, tobacco: it’s all a mess.

I find it ironic that the biggest boosters for national defense are also the biggest proponents for not regulating diddly squat. Seems like you can’t have both. It’s further ironic that this lesson is brought home quite effectively in a 1938 Soviet Union propaganda piece. The problem with unregulated capitalism and free markets is that anything can be bought or sold, including poisons that destroy the youth of a nation and leave it unfit to defend itself.

Greed is not good: it undermines the soul of a nation. Forced collectivization is a horror, as well: nations must resist the extremes of any ideology if they wish to survive, let alone prosper. Markets have failed, are failing now, and will fail in the future. It is the role of a just government to address those failures with appropriate legislation.