Justice Rant One

There is an often cited tenet of the “western world’s” justice systems, and that is that an individual who is accused of a crime must be considered innocent until they are proven guilty. And yet so often our knee-jerk reaction is to encourage violence against those accused of heinous crimes — not yet even convicted. To suggest cruel and unusual punishments to those against which we perceive guilt, regardless of what evidence may have been presented, or withheld.

The righteousness of a Justice System is found not in how it treats the guilty, but in how it accounts for its treatment of those who are later found to have been innocent.

I suggest to you that even after an individual has been proven guilty before a court of law, their punishment must be such that those held responsible for their welfare during their incarceration, as well as we as a collective society, are able to live with it if we later determine that the proof was lacking, nay, that we prove conclusively that the individual was wrongly convicted. I further suggest that this doctrine should apply not only to those found guilty under protest or silence, but to those found guilty by their own admission, their own proclamation.

Despite the other tenet that says “it is better that ten guilty men go free, than one innocent man face punishment” history tells us that this is not often held to. Even on its best day our justice system allows for innocent men to be found guilty, be it by evidence that is incorrectly interpreted by the police, the prosecution, and the jury; or through the falsely accused being coerced into pleading guilty for fear of harsher punishment if a trial does not end favorably – after all, it is generally far more difficult to prove you did not do something, if there is even minimal evidence that can be arranged to suggest you did.

It is not enough for the government to send an apology or to offer a little restitution to those who are granted freedom after providing enough evidence of their innocence. It is imperative that we treat all of those that we incarcerate with dignity and respect, not because it is deserved by the truly guilty (for it is not), but because it is owed to those who are not. We are obligated to show humanity to the convicted, not because we have reason to believe it is in their best interest, but because it is truly in ours.

Stay tuned for the next Justice Rant…

DACA, Immigration, etc

I’ve written about immigration before. It’s not a new topic for me.

Since I am one (an immigrant) myself, I am occasionally asked what I think. I figured I’d write it down.

It’s simple: something has to be done if we are to bring an end to illegal immigration. Specifically, three things, ideally four depending on how you look at it, if we are to bring an end to illegal immigration while still maintaining a moral high ground and continuing to promote the American Dream.

The difficult part is that realistically, all three (or four) components MUST be sold as a unit, and even if they are implemented over a period of time, they must be designed not as individual components, but as an interconnected system.

1. Border Security: Stop the flow of traffic

It’s a simple concept, really: stop the flow of traffic. Of course, it’s easy for me to write this as I sit in an air-conditioned cubicle, thousands of miles from the nearest point on the border with Mexico.

I don’t think we need a border across every inch of the southern border, but security does need to be sufficient to catch the majority of people who are attempting to cross without prior approval from USCIS.

I don’t know if that means we need to increase security, or pay our Border Patrol agents more, or give them more technology or resources. I do know that we need a metric to measure how many people are attempting to cross, and we need a reliable method of measuring how many of those aliens (and I use that term because it’s what the Government calls us) are able to cross without interception.

2. Amnesty/Deportation: Handle the people who are already here illegally

Once the flow of traffic is reduced to a reasonably low number — preferably but unrealistically zero — you need a program to identify people who are here illegally, and resolve that issue of status.

Plenty of conservatives will simply say “deport them back to their country of citizenship” (or primary eligibility, if they were born here to illegal parents and ineligible for US Citizenship). That’s one way of resolving the issue, and depending on their history I would agree. The other would be to create a path to citizenship, just as any other alien (who arrived legally) has.

They don’t need immediate citizenship, maybe they begin with a conditional permanent resident status, like I did. Commit no crimes (perhaps grant exceptions for traffic violations), go to school or maintain at least half-time employment or provide valid justification as to why school and work are both impossible. After three years, remove the condition. After another two years, allow an application for citizenship.

3. Reduce the load: Make Legal migration more appealing

Legal immigration is a long and tedious task. It costs a significant amount of money, and takes a very long time with very little communication and results in a lot of uncertainty if you perceive yourself to be needing it urgently. It involves a lot of paperwork, and despite speaking English natively, we still got it wrong a couple of times.

A lot of things can be done to improve that — hire more staff for the USCIS to bring down case processing times. I’ve been waiting nine months for a replacement for my Green Card, and that’s a little bit ridiculous.

Bring the cost of migration down. All said and done, we’ve so far paid somewhere in the vicinity of $2000 USD, and I’m not even a citizen yet. For poor families who are seeking hard work with poor pay that Americans are unwilling to do, it seems only reasonable to bring that price tag down. At the very least, offer a reimbursement of some portion of that cost as a reward for being a Good Alien.

Reconsider what ‘refugee’ status options are available. Many of the people crossing our southern border didn’t originate in Mexico — plenty of them traveled much, much further, from places like Honduras and El Salvador. Some of them wish to perpetuate violence, I believe many of them seek only a better life for themselves and their families by escaping the violence at home. This one may have to involve some kind of treaty with Canada and Mexico to accept blocks of refugees and distribute them across North America.

4. Reduce the load again: Make Illegal migration less appealing

People break the law because of one of two things, and each is subjective based on the person’s own opinions.

  1. The probability of getting caught is sufficiently low that it is worth the risk of trying.
  2. The punishment for getting caught is sufficiently low that it is worth the cost of getting caught.

Think about it for a moment — how many people do you know who repeatedly commit criminal acts? I don’t mean people who are caught, I mean people who do illegal things because they think their chance of getting caught is minimal. Or, if they do get caught, they have sufficient resources available that the punishment isn’t going to hurt them too badly.

This is related to #1, increasing the border security, but it isn’t strictly the same. It increases the probability of getting caught, but that’s only half of the equation.

People who attempt to (illegally) cross the border must be punished in an appropriate way such that it discourages them from attempting to do so again (illegally) in the future. I don’t know what that looks like, exactly, whether it’s to reduce the time to deportation, or to put anyone with two arms and two legs on a chain gang for the duration of their stay, I don’t know.

If we are to maintain the moral high ground, we can’t be torturing or separating families unnecessarily, we must treat the prisoners well. But we can treat prisoners in a humane way that is still unappealing and undesirable, and then send them home as quickly as the justice system will allow.


That’s my opinion. You’re free to disagree, but I think that in large part it remains in line with the values of the country I chose to live in.

Again, all four components (especially the first three) need to be done in connection with each other. They must be a single intertwined bill — you can’t say “we’re going to offer amnesty” and then not close the border, it encourages further illegal migration. At the same time, you can’t say “all you illegal people get out” because for the most part, they’re really good at hiding and the border security is sufficiently loose that it won’t be long before they all come back.

And this is where I leave it. Enough rambling for me 🙂

Gah, Politics

Ah, another day, another political post on Facebook. Another one that makes me frustrated, and demands me to respond.
Here was today’s item of note:
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Sounds like Congress in general, really.

Let’s take a step back, though. They were “doing nothing” because the Republican speaker of the house ended the session, rather than doing the work that the Democrats were asking them to do. It wasn’t difficult work, either. All they wanted was to vote on a bill. A vote they knew they were probably going to lose, but a vote they wanted to occur nonetheless.

Since that’s their job, to write, debate, and vote on legislation, one could argue that the Democrats were more about getting their job done than the Republicans.

But no. Instead of allowing the vote to occur, the speaker prematurely ended the legislative session and left. So, who is choosing to be “doing nothing” in this situation?

Look, I get that both sides suck. They both play political games, they both game the system to get done what they need to get done. More often than not it’s using childish tactics to stop things they don’t like from happening. It doesn’t get us a functioning government. It gets us polarized and gridlocked politicians, which leads to polarized constituents who will de-humanize members and supporters of the other side. And once your opposition doesn’t have a normal human face anymore, it’s far easier to attack them.
 
It’s far easier to attack the faceless monster in Washington DC, or the faceless slut, or the faceless fag, or the faceless moron, or the faceless clown. What does it matter, it’s just a Facebook post, right? “If you disagree with me, why don’t you just unfriend me!” Because then you live in even more of an echo chamber, regurgitating the same views that everyone else around you has, despite being in the minority overall. “Everyone I know thinks ….” How many people do you know? Do they all agree with you on almost everything? Maybe you need to meet more people, find some people with whom you disagree. Get to know us, we’re not all monsters or clowns. Morons, maybe.
 
What I find frustrating is the constant implication that one side or the other is un-American, or worse, anti-American. I believe, quite firmly, that most Republicans in politics are firmly committed to doing what they believe is best for the country. I do. I believe the same for the Democrats, and for the independents. The problem is that those views are so opposed in many ways that they are directly incompatible. If we could just shut up for a few minutes and actually have reasonable conversations about the issues, we might find consensus and common ground. I’ll bet a lot of gun-rights activists could find common ground with those who are vehemently anti-gun if they would put away the rhetoric (and possibly the guns, at least holster them ;)) and talk. The same goes for the abortion debate. The same goes for the religious rights debate, for healthcare, for drugs, for gay/lesbian/transgender rights.
 
Stop de-humanizing the other side. They have thoughts, feelings, and opinions too. They’re just as valid as yours — you might even agree with one or two of them.

My Beef with Comcast

Wow, has it really been 6 months? I need to update more often. I know, I know, I feel like I say that (to myself at least) every time I update, but there really hasn’t been much happening to write about.

It seems to me that everywhere I look, someone is complaining about Comcast or Verizon and their terrible customer service. I know that “the squeaky wheel gets the most …” blah blah blah, but I’m curious what their ratio of satisfied to unsatisfied customers is. Because really, there are alternatives. Not so much for cable or phone, depending on where you are, but with mobile phones at least there’s really not a whole lot of reason to stick with your current provider if you’re unhappy, and yet somehow these companies remain in business – they must be keeping someone happy.

Now, part of the problem seems to be that people call support for stupid reasons. If your cable goes out at 2am, call support but don’t be too mad if it doesn’t get “fixed” for a couple of hours, because chances are they were doing maintenance while most of their area was asleep. It sucks for those of us that are online at 2am because of our schedules, but we’re statistically few. On the other hand, if it goes out every day at 2am, that’s a good reason to call and start complaining.

My interactions have been minimal. In the last year I have been the owner of a Comcast Account, I have called them twice. The first was a year ago, to set up my account and get online with my purchased modem. The second was today, when I called to upgrade my account to add TV service. Both occasions were relatively quick, I was given the information I needed to make an informed decision (combined with research earlier in the day), and so far I’m happy. They were a little pushy for a couple of addon services that I neither can afford nor have desire for, but their goal is to make money. The tech is coming out to get us set up for TV on Friday and I’ll update if that doesn’t go well.

Am I in the minority? Are there really so few of us that have positive interactions with these large, terrible companies? Really, my only major complaint in this situation is that I had to call to make the change. Comcast’s website knows that there is an active account at my address when I enter it in looking for deals, but then it just tells me there are no deals and that it can’t find my address in the system to make changes to the service. That, to me, is the epitome of frustrating.

In closing, Comcast, please fix your website’s backend so that people like myself don’t have to call to make changes to our service. Let the customer service team know that they did well on at least these two occasions. And if you want to reward me for giving you a good review, you can always lower my bill a few dollars a month. You really don’t have to though, for now I’m a satisfied customer and expect to stay happy until we move to a location that forces us to switch provider.

Road Rage

 

For the last month I’ve been commuting to and from Northern Virginia, by state and national highways. Because of mechanical issues at high speeds I have been avoiding the interstate system, meaning I am often on 2-lane roads (one each way) through middle-of-nowhere towns. Over the course of this time I’ve come across several small frustrations which I would like to address.

DISCLAIMER: This post contains some language that people may consider strong or unnecessary. I’ve tried to limit it. I don’t use it liberally, but in an effort to emphasize a point. Chances are, if you’re old enough to drive, you’re old enough to read this.

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China’s High Speed Rail

Below are some cool photos of China’s High Speed Rail network that I received via email today. I was intrigued, however, by a comment at the bottom.

It read as follows: “HOW DID THEY DO THIS? THEY COPIED THE USA IDEAS OF THE 40’s & 50’s AND COMBINED THEM WITH TODAY’S TECHNOLOGY”

Here’s my quibble with this statement. In the 40s and 50s America and Europe were both big into rail transport and the networks weren’t doing too badly. But the whole thing with “progress” is that things don’t always stay the same. Things are replaced or upgraded. In the case of Europe, they elected to subsidize public rail transportation options and thus the Swiss have great public rail transport, the French have great high speed rail transport with the TGV, as do the Germans with ICE. Even Great Britain is doing pretty well with their HSTs and the Eurostar and other similar trains.

But the United States elected to neglect it’s passenger rail system in favor of cars and planes. In the 70s several passenger routes were doing so badly that the government had to step in and save them – a decision which is still debated to this day – forming Amtrak, a thriving railroad in the North East of the country, but that’s about it. Everywhere else is underutilized and largely noncompetitive against road or air options.

So yes, it’s probably true to state that China’s High Speed Rail is a “copy” of the USA’s rail system of the 40s and 50s, but it’s more accurate to suggest they took the ideas of Japan, France, Germany and Great Britain and did their own thing. It’s hardly fair to blame Communist China for copying the discarded ideas of Capitalist America.

Anyway, enough ranting. Here are some cool photos showing how far China has come in it’s development of high speed rail, setting the standards high for sure.

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Portal

Several months ago I bought the Orange Box (at Target in Charlotte, wow, that was nearly 18 months ago…) and installed it on the desktop. Unfortunately there are various reasons (computer location, other games, time) why I never got around to playing any of it’s games – aside from a brief dabble in TF2, stopped due to slow internet – but the other day I put it on the laptop. And today I played Portal.

The inspiration was the credits song. It’s been showing up in my Pandora station at work and I decided to investigate. To be honest I was expecting the game to take longer. I think I completed it (beginning Test Area 1 to the credits) in about 5 hours, maybe 6.

That said, it is a fun game. While it’s short, and in most places I found easy, it does present it’s challenges. Essentially it is a single player puzzle game, where the narrating voice is that of “GLaDOS” – a computer in a testing lab for Aperture Laboratories. It’s job is supposed to be to guide you through the various testing phases of the Portal gun they are developing. However, something has gone awry and GLaDOS has taken over. The rest I’ll leave for you to learn in game, if you so choose.

There are 19 levels, the last of which extends out into several challenges. The final one is to destroy GLaDOS herself.

I would probably rate Portal at about 3.5 out of 5. It’s a great game, it really is, it’s just really short and I personally didn’t find it too challenging. I had problems with some of the puzzles but it was more my inability to get the game to do what I knew needed to be done, if that makes sense. Largely related to using a trackpad on my laptop instead of a real mouse, and trying to multitask (which I should just not do).

Here is hoping that Portal 2 is longer, and maybe more (or differently) challenging.

Link: “2012 vs. 1984: Young adults really do have it harder today”

I read this today, and I feel obligated to share.

All young adults who think they’re getting a raw deal in today’s economy, let me tell you about how it was back in my day.

In 1984, my final undergraduate year of university, tuition cost more or less $1,000. I earned that much in a summer without breaking a sweat.

When I went looking for a new car in 1986, the average cost was roughly half of what it is now. It was totally affordable.

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/globe-investor/personal-finance/2012-vs-1984-young-adults-really-do-have-it-harder-today/article2425558/

Galatians 5:19-25 GNT

What human nature does is quite plain. It shows itself in immoral, filthy, and indecent actions; in worship of idols and witchcraft. People become enemies and they fight; they become jealous, angry, and ambitious. They separate into parties and groups; they are envious, get drunk, have orgies, and do other things like these. I warn you now as I have before: those who do these things will not possess the Kingdom of God.
But the Spirit produces love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, humility, and self-control. There is no law against such things as these. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have put to death their human nature with all its passions and desires. The Spirit has given us life; he must also control our lives.

Quotable Monday: Conformity

“He who joyfully marches to music in rank and file has already earned my contempt. He has been given a large brain by mistake, since for him the spinal cord would suffice.” — Albert Einstein

This also references my earlier Quotable Monday entry on blind faith. I always have trouble when I run into people who, when asked questions about things, just speak information they don’t understand.

I ran into this issue on IRC not too long ago, when talking to someone who was making the absolute federal minimum wage of $2.16 (or whatever it is) an hour while driving for a pizza company. When asked about what they made, they referenced Florida as being “under maritime law.” This didn’t make any sense to me, as I assumed that I would have known something along this line a long time ago, and so I went for a talk with my buddy Google.

I confess that in this talk I did learn things – mostly related to the exception to the $7.55/hr federal minimum wage (as it applies to people who normally receive tips in their line of work), but at no point did I find any reference to the State of Florida combined with Maritime Law.

So I challenged the individual, and asked plainly: Is that just what you’ve been told it is? And the answer came back with a resounding “Yes.”

My problem isn’t with people who conform by their own choice, my problem is those who fail to consider the options, or make their decisions without making so much as an attempt to think for themselves. Letting other people think for you is, in my mind, an assault to the freedom of choice that you were given. This also applies to the “non-conformists” who have chosen their path simply because it’s not what other people are doing. Believe it or not, you’ve let other people think for you by rebelling against them.

If you are in the military because you considered your options and it was what you decided to do, that’s awesome. If you are in the military because you were told to, or it was expected of you, and you just accepted it, not so cool. And the same applies to other fields too. It’s totally fine for a feminist to decide to stay home and be a housewife. It doesn’t go against the core principles of feminism which (as I understand them) are about giving women the right to choose. If you’re staying home and being a housewife because you wanted to, go right ahead. If it’s merely because it is the socially accepted thing to do, maybe you should reevaluate what it is you want from life.

I’m not going to apply this to every person in every religion or social setting, I’ll leave that to you to consider.