Gambling

rouletteSome say that gambling is the devil’s work, others say that it is acceptable entertainment. The truth is, it is a day to day occurrence. Every decision you make is a gamble, as the outcome is calculated based on probability of various results. This is the nature of insurance…the insured gambles that their expenses will be higher than their premiums and the insurer gambles that they won’t.  But this post is more concerned with “legal” verses “illegal” gambling for fun…and what the difference is. Continue reading

The Problem With Confidential Informants

We all want to catch, prosecute and convict violent criminals.  So when the police use investigative tools like confidential informants to gather evidence and develop suspects it should be a good thing, right?  But does the end justify the means? (Read my post on that subject here)  What could possibly go wrong with this concept?

Is justice blind, or is justice for those who can afford it?

Is justice blind, or is justice for those who can afford it?

I recently read a story about a man who stole a car.  When the car thief was arrested he told the cops that there was meth in the car when he stole it.  Based on that information the police busted down the door of the vehicle’s owner and, when the homeowner grabbed a gun to defend himself against the apparent home-invasion the cops shot him dead.

The Innocence Project estimates that 18% of convictions that are overturned because of DNA testing there was in informant who testified against the defendant.  Often these people receive some sort of incentive to provide this testimony, whether it be release from prison, reduced sentence or monetary compensation.  Some of them are witnesses in multiple cases, perhaps “career informants.”

Aside from the obvious concept that a criminal might not be the most honest witness, there is something inherently wrong with a witness-for-hire system.  One has to speculate that such practices would encourage false testimony.

This is even more relevant since the passing of the Patriot Act (see my post on this subject here), giving the federal government the power to detain American citizens without due process based on the suspicion of terrorist activity.  This can be as innocent as someone saying they heard you talking about wanting the current administration out of office.

While I am all for holding people accountable for their actions, I am vehemently opposed to paying or otherwise compensating potential witnesses.  Since 1973 over 130 people who were on death row have been exonerated.   This is just the death row data…how many more convictions have been overturned?  How many innocent people could not afford to continue appeals or the court would not hear them?

Our system is broken.  It will not be fixed until we, the people, demand it from our elected representatives.  I hope and prey that you and your loved ones never face these issues, but if you do, I hope you are more fortunate than those who are currently behind bars…or dead…because someone SAID they did something wrong!

Free vs. Freedom

EBTMany of us are quick to take free stuff. However are these things really free? Most (if not all) of the things that are given away must be paid for by someone.

Let’s take a look at some of the more common things that people are quick to take advantage of. There are many, including businesses offering incentives, charities, food stamps (now called EBT which stands for Electronic Benefit Transfer or SNAP for Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program), there is unemployment, welfare, heating subsidies and housing subsidies and the list goes on. Who pays for these things?

Free perks offered by a business are funded by the customers, as a general rule.  Often there is a requirement to purchase something…free toothbrush with purchase of XYZ toothpaste.  Sometimes free things are offered in the hopes that you will purchase something, but again the expense is factored into the items for sale.

Charities (private organizations) are funded by donors who willingly give money to the group.  But they are also funded in part by your tax dollars, if only because they do not have to pay taxes on their income.  Now I am not saying this is a bad thing, only pointing out the fact.  Actually, I think that income tax is theft and anti-freedom, but that is for another post.

In the case of unemployment, I hear many say that they paid into this so they deserve to collect it. Well, in most states this is not the case. The employer pays a tax based on past claims and on an average for their region. So an employer who has never had a claim will be paying into the pool as long as they have people on staff.  And if they are in a “high risk” pool they will pay higher rates even if they never had a claim.  This cuts into the net pay of every employee at those companies

Welfare, EBT and other subsidies are slavery in disguise.  Those who work are forced to give the proceeds of their labor to others…who may or may not NEED the funds, but did not EARN the funds.  Make no mistake, this is not charity.  Charity is voluntary, not forced and the donor can select the beneficiary.  The other insidious effect of these programs is the theft of the self respect of the recipient.  There was a time when no honorable man (or woman) would take a handout except under the most dire circumstances.  If they were forced to accept charity it was paid back as quickly as possible.  Today, there seems to be a race to see how many “free programs” one can participate in!

In Virginia former Governor McDonnell gave an award and a promotion to a Social Services director for growing the department and exponentially expanding the number of recipients.  Isn’t the goal of such programs supposed to be helping people to become self sufficient?  Or is it to “create more jobs” by expanding government and requiring those working in private industry to give up even more of their hard-earned dollars?

The concept of freedom is that if you work hard you will be rewarded by accumulating wealth which you can use to make your life, and the life of your heirs, more enjoyable.  The practice of penalizing success is counterproductive to that goal.  There are many lures to entice us to take these give-away programs, but there is always free cheese in a mousetrap.  Even if we don’t have to pay for these things, our children and their descendants will.  Perhaps we should think long and hard before we give up our freedom and theirs in exchange for a little bit of “free” stuff.

Do You Think Like A Free Person?

The concept of freedom is something that many people believe in.  Most consider themselves to enjoy a certain level of liberty, yet these same people, myself included, often voluntarily give up their rights for various reason.  We, as a society, have grown complacent.  We want to live a life of leisure and have forgotten that it is labor, and the fruits of our efforts, that give us satisfaction and a sense of accomplishment.  It is also the price of freedom that we must be responsible for our own well-being. Sometimes we are coerced into forfeiting our liberties in exchange for the promise of security.   Continue reading

Freedom Of Religion or From Religion?

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

This is the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, the first ten of which make up the Bill of Rights.  The framers of this document considered this to be so important that they placed it first.  Why?  Many, if not most of them had risked their lives, left their families, given up their homes and made major sacrifices to cross an ocean for the chance to be able to worship as they saw fit without fear of persecution.

This concept has been grossly perverted today.  The “separation of church and state” was intended to prevent any one religion from controlling the legislative process as a means to ensure that all men and women would be able to worship in their own way…or choose not to worship at all.  Today we have courts that are prohibiting people from honoring their chosen religion under the guise of Constitutional protection.  But one person’s right to NOT be religious does not trump another’s freedom.

If you see someone praying, you do not have to join in.  Even if the vast majority of people at an event are holding a communal prayer you can politely opt out.  When I was in grade school (yes, it was quite some time ago) we explored many religions; Judaism, Christianity, Hindu, etc.  Not in any great detail, but if there was a student in the class who practiced something other than Christianity we talked about whatever holiday it was for that religion and we…LEARNED!  It was enlightening.  I never had a desire to convert, mind you, and I never felt uncomfortable.  But I did learn to appreciate other view points.  And I learned that we are not so different in our overall philosophy.

It amazes me that in today’s society, where the politically correct pundits preach tolerance of others there is a skewed sense of fairness and the “tolerance” is for a limited few.  Should we not all be respectful of each other’s right to worship…or not worship…as we see fit?