Friday, September 23, 2011

The Death of Mr. Davis

Two days ago Troy Davis was executed by the state of Georgia for the killing of a Savannah police officer. No murder weapon was ever found, seven of nine witnesses had recanted, yet despite concerns of the verdict the sentence proceeded. Outside the jail, people protested hoping that the inevitable would be delayed. The police officer's family stated that they were grimly satisfied--justice had been done.

I'm opposed to the death plenty on moral and legal grounds (though here is the best defense of the death penalty I've seen in a while). But this case strikes at something deeper than the death of a potentially innocent man.

Our judicial system is broken. Judges are over-taxed and underpaid, defense attorneys have too many clients, and prosecutors want to a guilty verdict no matter what. The incentives are wrong. If you are poor and unlucky you'll probably be stuck with a poor defense. And once you are guilty you'll be sent to the hell of prison, where we'll turn you into a real criminal.

Our system gets worse the farther along you go. Too often prisons are run for the prison guards. Violence and rape and all sorts of horrors are endemic. We send people to hell, hoping that they'll be angels when they get out. And once they are out we leave them on the street, hoping that they won't steal or commit a crime, but not providing any opportunity for success.

Justice is not being served.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Waiting for Godot, if Godot was an HR Manager

As I've mentioned before I'm currently one of the millions of underemployed Americans. This situation has its pluses--more soccer watching, hanging out with the kid--but I do need a full-time job. So I'm going through the job hunting process. I network, search for jobs online, send in very wonderful cover letters and a fine resume, wait, get a phone interview, and wait some, and if it doesn't work out, REPEAT.

It's a very frustrating process because I get no real feedback. I have no idea if I'm getting closer to a job until I get the job. Godot is not here until he is here. I work and I wait. The work I do may be the steps to a job, but I don't know until I have the job. If you think too much about it, then it starts messing with your mind. So I try not to think about it, but I do, so...

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Interview Today

Sorry for the light posting. Lots of work and getting ready for an interview.

Sunday, September 11, 2011


I have little to say. Nothing substantial or momentous. It was a day that changed the course of American and Iraqi and Afghanistan history.  For better and worse we are a different nation 10 years on. Our understanding of the world and ourselves has changed. We've gone to war and many soldiers have sacrificed their lives and livelihoods. Let us remember.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Minnesota American History

Since we are on this Civil War theme, let us remember sacrifice of the Minnesota Volunteers. Nearly half the eligible male population in Minnesota fought in the Civil War. It was the first state to send volunteers. All regiments performed heroically at times, but one should never forget on the 1st Minnesota Volunteers.

During the second day of fighting at Gettysburg the 1st Minnesota Regiment was ordered to charge the the advancing Confederates in order to provide more time for reinforcements to arrive. If the Confederates were successful, the Union line would be broken and the battle won. Greatly outnumbered the 262 men charged. As it says on the memorial at Gettysburg:
The order was instantly repeated by Col Wm Colvill. And the charge as instantly made down the slope at full speed through the concentrated fire of the two brigades breaking with the bayonet the enemy's front line as it was crossing the small brook in the low ground there the remnant of the eight companies, nearly surrounded by the enemy held its entire force at bay for a considerable time & till it retired on the approach of the reserve the charge successfully accomplished its object. It saved this position & probably the battlefield. The loss of the eight companies in the charge was 215 killed & wounded. More than 83% percent. 47 men were still in line & no man missing. In self sacrificing desperate valor this charge has no parallel in any war.
The 83% casualty rate is the largest loss by any surviving unit  in American History.

American History Continued

The Civil War was not a tragedy, anymore than the Revolutionary War was tragedy. Rather it was a necessary completion of that first war of rebellion. We as a people had proclaimed freedom in 1776 and that freedom could not be denied in 1861 or 1961. Yet we remember the Civil War as this sad tale of woe, as if it could've been avoided if only people were more reasonable. Let's thank the Lord that they were not more reasonable. Because reasonable people maintained the legal selling of children. Reasonable people thought it necessary (if unsatisfactory) to take a man who had gained his freedom and sell him south. Reasonable people wanted everyone to get along, no matter the number of lashes given.

President Lincoln did not want war. But to his great credit he did not shirk from war.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

American History

Once again Ta-Nehisi Coates is bringing the knowledge to the intertubes. In these years of remembering the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, Coates has done an admirable job of reminding his readers about the true cause of the Civil War (slavery), and the horrors of this peculiar institution. In one of his latest posts he helps define the slave society in the Antebellum South. In the first half of the 19th Century everything in the south was defined and shaped by slavery--the economy, people's sense of self, politics, the Mexican-American War, and much else.

It is cliche to state that Americans don't know their history. This is true. But this problem goes much deeper when it comes to remember the Civil War. We don't so much forget as we mis-remember. We mention slavery, but do not try to understand what that actually meant to the nation. We create stories of southern bravery and lost causes and skate over what that "cause" was for.

On some level, I'm hoping to stimulate an intellectual conversation about American History. But on another level, I am hoping to make this portion of our history more concrete, and less abstract. I believe the discussion should be respectful. I do not believe it should be antiseptic or dispassionate.  
When we talk about the Confederacy, we should always be clear that we are talking about a rebellion incited for the purpose of purchasing and selling children. When we talk about Pickett's Charge, Robert E. Lee, or whatever, we should always remember that it was valor in the service of trafficking. Perhaps that sounds too harsh. I don't know. I don't really want to be emotionally distant from this.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Psalm 136

It is common to talk about the vengeance and wrath of the Old Testament God. The God of Israel is often portrayed as a smiter and rule giver, waiting, oh so happily waiting for someone to cross the line so HE can do some smiting. This obvious caricature has some truth in it. There are many difficult passages in the Old Testament where God supposedly acts so unseemingly. Yet, this is only a partisan picture of YHWH. And it is not the way He is seen by the Israelites (in fact, they often want more smiting).

In Psalm 136 the psalmist reminds us of God's wonders. He is the one who made the heavens, spread the water, and set the sun on its path, and gave us light by the moon. It is God who saved Israel and divided the Red Sea and led His people through the wilderness. God, the psalmist declares, remembered Israel in its low estate, protecting them from their foes. Why? God's Love.
O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures for ever. 
O give thanks to the God of gods, for his steadfast love endures for ever. 
O give thanks to the Lord of lords, for his steadfast love endures for ever;