Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Real Quandary of the Second Amendment

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed always sounded pretty simple to me.  It had one straightforward purpose. Citizens have the right to keep weapons in their homes to protect their properties, primarily to protect the nation from possible corruption of government leaders causing law enforcement or military to be corrupted also and potentially enable repression to turn a democracy into a stratocracy military dictatorship even tyranny. Now that all the buzz words are on the table for the legitimate reasons for the second amendment, it may be good to understand the key distinction compared to the remaining nine amendments in the bill of rights. Most amendments indicate responsibility. For those who don’t have time to go look them up on Wikipedia®: The right to say what you want without being criminally, (not so much litigiously) responsible for what may ensue as a result; not being required to house soldiers; not being searched; not being required to say what will incriminate you, right to speedy trials, right to a jury when it is a civil case, right to bail, additional rights and everything not addressed be left up to the states, or to the people rather than the federal government). The second is the only one enabling citizens to have the right to own or possess something they are able to kill other people using, without requiring them to have any knowledge or responsibility for learning to use them. If I am over 21, I can go purchase a handgun and keep it in my home and all’s well. In some states I can carry them openly in a holster on the street (or even in a bar while drinking); in others I cannot do so but still am not required to know how to use it in order to own it. With situations like Florida's law to stand your ground law, would it infringe on those rights to require a person who owns a method of killing someone to be required on a Federal level, to learn how to use it? The overall prevention of multiple errors causing accidental fatalities and the overall public good brought about by a learning permit/license to carry seems like a viable option that even the NRA might be able to support. It is not a way to prevent 2nd amendment rights, but a way to facilitate the overall security of them. If we developed a federal law signifying that while everyone of legal age can go purchase a weapon, before they use it (on a deer or a quail or a person) they need remedial training to keep it loaded in their home or carry it on their person. This could prevent a great deal of the incidents that put the 2nd amendment at odds politically and philosophically to the degree it seems to be currently. Whether I’m in the middle of Montana dealing with animals attacking me or in New York City where they from time to time consider auxiliary law enforcement and others being allowed to carry, this would simplify and facilitate gun ownership while reducing the potentially fatal calamities that can occur. Without prohibiting ownership, but instead requiring the conscientiousness to learn what a weapon does in the same way Americans are required to know how to use an automobile before driving on public roads. All of us of driving age can currently get a license and drive a car as soon as we learn to use one. What we cannot do is drive while intoxicated or recklessly use it. We also are vulnerable to both punitive measures and litigation if we do either of these. Would it really dissolve the second amendment and its intended role, if a gun were treated similarly?

Sunday, April 15, 2012

What is a Pro-Choice Woman?

It does not matter what political party you belong to, what your age is, or what your other demographics are. The past year has been a surreal experience for any US citizen with two x chromosomes in their body. When pundits go all over about democratic strategist Rosen's remark regarding Mitt’s wife Ann Romney, "has never worked a day in her life” rather than considering that an attack on every woman who had a child. To understand the real life issues, it may be better for candidates to realize more than the fact that all mothers are working extremely hard jobs in and of themselves. That is a given and nobody in any party is debating that—not even mothers with the uncommon luxury of enough income in a one income household. It may be better to distinguish between a mother whose husband was laid off of a middle management job (and is now working 3 minimum wage jobs at 70 hours a week) and who is babysitting her friends’ kids and her nieces during the day while both her friend and sister work hourly jobs during the day. That is hard work as well. Again this is not the key argument of either party, or of men or women in the workplace or at home. Instead, let’s distinguish between the argument that a mother who deals with the financial dilemma of whether to put a car elevator in one of her homes, and is still crying foul about being undermined as a mother. It is not about her mothering skills. It is not about her womanhood. It is about the confusion among the majority of Americans (male and female) about wealth and gender and the political issues of each of them.

The gap between the age of U.S. women suffragists in 1913, which was when my grandparents were both in diapers and through the passing of the 19th amendment in 1920; (which up until the mid-1980s  boys and girls actually knew about due to Schoolhouse Rock! Programming between shows on Saturdays) was only seven years. Women alive then remember both rather well and remember what it was like previously. When Roe vs. Wade happened, not to encourage women to get pregnant and then cease a pregnancy, but to maintain the right to privacy under the 14th Amendment’s due process clause. It even went on to balance that against the rights of States to regulate the process after a certain point of the first trimester. It is another occasion where the confusion among the majority about wealth and gender. There are more options with money including disappearing to an island and returning allegedly never having been pregnant, or (if their religious beliefs or personal ethics encouraged them) to have a child and give them up for adoption. This was doable without the ostracism of society and family and so the choices being made were a lot more informed and encouraged if there was a secure family or network. Let me also clarify what my understanding of pro-choice generally means to those who try to elevate it to political dogma. To me It means that whatever I believe regarding terminating a pregnancy versus having a child, (to simplify it for readers, from adolescence to not, I always would have gone to term despite medical concerns and other issues); but I do not believe it is my place on any level to tell another person the choice they should make about their bodies or their lives.

The argument that came up repeatedly since Roe vs. Wade is very simple. The right of a person who is still in fetal level of development is a concern to society as a person, a future citizen and a future taxpayer is valid. However, the argument gets a bit blurred when the person is born. The collective message that American society seems determined to maintain is 1) to discourage contraception, condoms and responsibility, while telling the women the instant they do give birth that they are now on their own; 2) In the same breath that government officials and clergy are determined to have full term pregnancies, that there should not be government programs to help single parents and that their mother’s choice of mate is their fate. There should be no encouragement of enforcing child support and if you can eliminate section 8 housing and daycare programs for single mothers, so much the better.  They should have thought it through before getting pregnant and once they were, if they don’t have the financial support from family or father, that’s again their fate and their fault. America should not have to take care of them or the baby. As a cousin of mine once indicated, she deserves credit for being born in the right womb and thereby disserves the multiple social, financial and other advantages that she has received as a result.

Many are on the same page as Foster Friess and his comment: In my day, women "used Bayer aspirin for contraceptives." While my mother later explained to me that in the early 20th Century (very early) that phrase was a metaphoric joke that my grandmother may have known; (and apparently, Friess was old enough to remember also).

Ultimately, the options for women in the current political environment are, abstain and let all of the gentleman whose Viagra is covered by Medicare and who should take care of the resulting symptoms within four hours somehow (possibly in a rubber doll or a prostitute that they are careful to not impregnate or get a sexually transmitted disease from while still not using a prophylactic to not commit a greater sin). This should be done in parallel with women keeping their knees together until it’s officially time for them to do their civic and religious duty and be the incubator for the future. Is it any wonder why men and women are all in turmoil about what the basic choices to any of us actually are?

What American women of every demographic really need to decide during this election is actually whether they should thoroughly research and consider what the implications are of each political alternative open to them before they vote and then making those choices by actually voting and not sitting it out to make a point. Both women and men are being told by pundits, politicians and media that they are ignorant and capable of be manipulated by strategists into making choices. Are American voters really incapable of rationally making conscious decisions? If they are incapable, after making those decisions are they are still entirely responsible for those choices once they are made? American women (and men) need to stop allowing their opinions to be manipulated and encouraged to vote impulsively based on the personalization of very specific motives of different political parties who both are catering to each party’s most extreme political viewpoints. No matter what women’s issues are brought forth in the upcoming months, the most undisputed American right is the right to chose who each of us individually wants to elect into office. If men and women both look not at the most recent advertisement slinging mud at each of the candidates, and take the time to learn about the different perspectives out there on multiple decisions that are going to coming soon for us as a nation, we will be more successful in doing what is best for all of us in November 2012.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Voluntary Expectations

Non-profits, NGOs and Charities are all experiencing a massive deficiency during this recession. While the HR folks and the managers of operations and/or development folks all tried their best, they really didn't understand the financial requirements for riding out a recession like 2007. So they are suffering an enormous 'skills shortage' and are still unsuccessful in recovering and reactivating volunteers. I think many non-profit agencies fell into the old school economic philosophy assuming that when folks are out of work, they volunteer.
Alas, unlike the past couple, this recession really is an anomaly and in the current financial climate, not only is the supply of wealthy donors going down substantially, but volunteering is just not a tenable option for many that would and have done so in the past.  Retirees that had their IRAs tank and students who are now graduating with their average student loan debt burden topping $25000 are all required to pay off debts and (by necessity) require employment. So the two key volunteer demographic pools are now looking for work or delaying retirement and staying at whatever job they can get longer and are simply no longer financially able to volunteer. I have friends who were in finance, PR, social media, academia and management who are now working up to 3 online jobs or minimum wage work full and part-time as contractors all over the place (which makes it unviable for even the most civic minded or altruistic, to actively volunteer.
For the few that are determined enough to still take the plunge and try to volunteer while working and or job-hunting, it is critical that they are welcomed, appreciated, and not regarded as a potential threat to a paid employee for any non-profit or NGO. If you are middle management and paranoid of the rising entry-level employees, you will generally bring about your own phobia. Many do this by stifling volunteer and employee initiative and enthusiasm. This often occurs because many fear it will highlight their own deficiencies. That never works in the long run for middle management especially at non-profits.  The best way to preserve talent is to mentor and appreciate it, rather than simply squeezing the maximum amount possible out of everyone while assuming that as an organization, the hungry professionals out there will replace the current ones immediately the instant you have completely burned out the current paid employees while undermining the current volunteers.
Non-profits should not confuse themselves with corporations or private sector companies. While the more profitable corporations know that the best way to retain talent is to treat them well and they suffer far less turnover and ride economic waves better; a corporate manager can get away with treating employees shoddily and many middle managers are allowed to treat employees like cattle and can lay them off at the drop of a hat. They know however that they are quite capable of experiencing the same fate themselves. Volunteers are a volatile commodity that if unappreciated can (with clear conscience and no hesitation) walk out the door and go to another non-profit that day. When volunteers are treated badly, it definitely gets around. With the competition for the few able to volunteer in the current economy, it can severely damage future choices by potential volunteers. The ultimate reality is that many former volunteers still enjoy giving back to the community and helping others. They want to improve the lives of people in need. However, most former volunteers were not looking to be undermined or abused by an organization.  Many already experience enough ill-treatment where they are required to work in order to put food on the table, and (fortunately), very few feel the masochistic psychotic need to experience additional exploitation in order to volunteer.