Basic Fairness

The task of the mind is to produce future, as the poet Paul Valery once put it. A mind is fundamentally an anticipator, an expectation-generator. It mines the present for clues, which it refines with the help of the materials it has saved from the past, turning them into anticipations of the future. And then it acts, rationally, on the basis of those hard-won anticipations. 

Daniel Dennett, Kinds of Minds  


I read the news today, oh boy.  About a lucky man who made the grade.  Well, OK,  he didn’t.  And I really don’t know about anyone being lucky in this instance.  

A man, Johannes Mehserle, a police officer who shot another man, Oscar Grant at point blank range, put a bullet in his back and killed him, was convicted of involuntary manslaughter, which is punishable for up to, I believe, 4 years in prison. He could have been found guilty of second degree murder, with a possible sentence of 25 years in prison, but was not. Oscar Grant may have been a great many things, but one thing he wasn’t; someone who needed to be either shot or tasered while some knelt on his neck. 

Do I blame the man who did the shooting for killing the man in question? Hell yes.  You pulled the trigger, you committed a murder.  End of statement.  Do I think he wanted to kill the man in question? That I don’t know, he clearly didn’t want to have a meaningful in depth conversation with the man, that much is clear.  Was his pulling the trigger a voluntary motion? It would kind of have to be, wouldn’t it? 

I guess I don’t know enough about the justice system.  How is it possible for this to be involuntary manslaughter?  If I were of a more sarcastic frame of mind at the moment I would ask if  the shooter was shooting against his will.  Since I’m not though, let’s be serious and ask, how is the act of drawing a weapon to do grievous bodily harm to another, to a man already pinned to the ground, involuntary? Even a taser here would have been overkill, unless you think it’s OK to use a weapon on defenseless people, who are being knelt on.  

More on this later. 


Thursday’s Links: 

Officer guilty in killing that inflamed Oakland 

Oakland police report no arrests despite protests 

Issa; Steele is ‘not my leader’ 

Appeals court, 2-1 rejects Obama plea on drilling moratorium 

Same sex marriage law unconstitutional 


Viddy of the day:  Darrell Issa, Republican from California, talking about the focus of the Republican party and Michael Steele.  He is not kind to the chair of the Republican National Committee.   He does a hell of a lot to distance the party and Mr. Steele. So much for party unity. 


[L]et your self go. If you can approach the world’s complexities, both its glories and its horrors, with an attitude of humble curiosity, acknowledging that however deeply you have seen, you have only scratched the surface, you will find worlds within worlds, beauties you could not heretofore imagine, and your own mundane preoccupations will shrink to proper size, not all that important in the greater scheme of things. 

Daniel Dennett; Breaking the Spell 


More legal stuff. 



The defense of marriage act, the act of congress that states, nay, defines marriage as a legal union exclusively between one man and one woman, has been struck down as unconstitutional.  The ruling, passed down by Massachusetts state judge Joseph Tauro, states that not only does the law encroach upon personal rights, by excluding certain benefits to gay couples that straight married couples can have, it compels the state to discriminate against its own citizens.  

These two cases make a clear statement that the court will not tolerate the creation of second class marriages or tolerate the continued existence of second class citizens, who would only be second class because of the judgment of the federal government’s defense of marriage act. 

This is also going to be a doozy of an argument about the 10th amendment, that great friend of the far right, and just how much power the government has to tell people how exactly to live their lives, insofar as making it clear that one group can get benefits that another group cannot solely on the grounds of their sexuality.  And while that sounds like the argument for the equal protection clause in the 14th amendment, and it is, it also has strength as a 10th amendment argument, due to the simple fact that the federal government, by enacting DOMA, stepped heavily on the rights of the states to make their own laws, in an area where there was no previous encroachment by the federal government. 

And anytime, in this day and age, when it seems that the personal protections afforded by the bill of rights are eroding away daily and have been for years, a victory for them feels especially refreshing. But you know how these things go, so this last sentence should come as no surprise. 

The case will be appealed.   


A final  aside:  Justice is about bringing order to the world, order of a moral and ethical variety, and resolving disputes where there is a dispute about the ethical order in the world.  Justice is, in those terms, what people in the world seek for themselves, and only occasionally for everyone.  

When justice seems invisible in the system, or if there is a seeming breach of it in that system or when it seems absent in the world in which we live, we are right to stand up and speak out against the lack of justice.  We are right sometimes to raise our fists in anger and fight for justice, when the injustice is severe enough.  

These are only two cases of injustice that America has seen and lived through.  One a very personal breach on the part of a young police officer, the other a very impersonal breach towards an entire group of people.  The ones who were done wrong here did no wrong except live their lives.  

For Oscar Grant, nothing can be done.  The young man is dead, and no amount of talk or action or legislation or apologies will bring him back to life.  A prayer for his family is about the best we can do.  

For the GLBT community that has been hard done by here, there are things we can do. Stand up and make it known that, no matter what else goes on in the world, we will not allow any members of our citizenry to live as second class citizens, that any benefit that I can receive, all can receive.  If the government can hand out benefits, and it is clear that it can, it must not give to one group, and not to another.  That injustice is very much against the very fabric of our nation, and all that it stands for.  

“With Liberty, and Justice, for all” means something, something vitally important.  Stand up for it. 


 Updates from the job front tomorrow.  That’s all from me America.  Go to sleep.

One thought on “Basic Fairness

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