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This is not a dream exercise. It's a way of stating my policy preferences. Okay, some of these policy prescriptions might not be adopted nationwide in my lifetime or even my children's, but since political campaigns tend to obscure the truth or dilute it beyond recognition, I thought I'd take a break from my usual political screeds to attempt something of actual substance. Here goes, in somewhat random order: (Update. I've decided to handle one topic at a time, starting with the law.)

1. The Law: I'd actually enforce it, most particularly when it comes to white-collar crime, which in dollar terms vastly outpaces petty crime or even armed robbery.

2. Stiffen regulations on banks, securities firms, and insurance companies and be prepared to use the laws to criminally attack our highly corrupt financial sector.

3. Fully fund any state and federal agency charged with investigating bank and securities fraud of any kind. March the perps in front of the courthouses and the cameras in shackles whenever they're indicted, which should be often.

4. Relax sentencing guidelines on all non-violent crimes, especially involving victimless crimes. We lock up too many of our citizens at considerable unnecessary expense. Even financial fraud crimes don't require 20-year sentences. If you convict a banker of $5 billion in mortgage fraud, take all his money and all the money his associates got for helping in the fraud until all of them are flat broke. With this money, create a victims fund that specifically helps the crime's victims. Then, after a suitable amount of time -- say, 3 years -- release the banker back into the wilds. Line up a job for him at his old firm as an entry-level cashier. Don't let his wealthy friends give him a consultant job for $10 million or more (see Michael Milken/Ted Turner). In fact, don't let convicted fraudsters back into the profession in which they committed their fraud.

5. Decriminalize most drug use or possession. Turn it from a legal problem into a health problem. Legalize marijuana outright, treating it similar to alcohol. Allow it to be prescribed for medical use as it is now in many states. Look into ways of turning hard drug use, such as cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine into a regulated activity instead of a criminal activity by making it available only from licensed facilities that require counseling and rehab opportunities in order to participate. Look to Portugal's experience in decriminalization for guidance.

6. Ban all guns from private ownership except those guns directly related to hunting, such as single-action rifles and shotguns. Regulate them severely, with gun sales only through licensed dealerships with brick-and-mortar addresses, and require proper training and regular re-registration similar to motor-vehicle use and registration. No one who owns a gun should be anonymous or untrained, again as with motor-vehicle use.

7. Police should be equipped to enforce the law and not to be the law. Police agencies should not be allowed to become paramilitary powers with paramilitary equipment. We need community policing, not community shock troops. The Department of Homeland Security should not help every borough and hamlet to have their own highly weaponized attack squads with tanks, Humvees, and troop carriers. Police should be trained to deal non-violently with acts of non-violent civil disobedience.

8. Fully fund the courts! Depoliticize the appointment of judges! Speedy trials mean speedy trials! Having a right to an attorney means just that, not to some ne'er-do-well has-been who sleeps through capital cases! Right? Right.

9. Prosecutorial misconduct should have harsher sentences than the ones that were served by the suspects whose rights were trampled. Send a man through misconduct to jail improperly for 24 years, do 24 years. Maybe that's a dream, but no prosecutor, judge, or police officer should be allowed to get by without severe and permanent punishment including jail and loss of livelihood.

10. End the death penalty, period, no exceptions.

Clearly, policy is very complicated. Just dealing with the law took a long time, and I didn't cover everything. But the thrust of my approach is clear: don't allow criminals in suits to live better than criminals in T-shirts and Levis. Don't lock everybody up for such a long time. Don't let our citizenry end up so armed and dangerous; don't let them be armed at all. The damage bleeds all over the place. Don't let law enforcement and justice systems act as criminal enterprises. Restore justice through common sense and with a common sense of community and old-fashioned stern mercy. We can become a civilized society again. (Hint: we aren't one right now.)

Next: The economy, finances, and money.

The American Human

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Comment Preferences

  •  #6 will require... (13+ / 0-)

    ...a Constitutional amendment, repealing the 2nd Amendment.

    Good luck with that -- not even a large majority of Democrats would support that, much less Independents and Republicans.

    Additionally, seriously pursuing such an amendment or legislation trying to go around the Bill of Rights will ensure Republicans having control of the Presidency and the Legislature for quite some time, indeed.

    Not going to happen in your lifetime, nor your children's, nor their children's -- in my opinion.

    Yes, I often dress as a pirate. Your point?

    by theatre goon on Mon May 28, 2012 at 02:49:49 PM PDT

  •  The problem with number six (9+ / 0-)

    Is that you don't take your successor into consideration.

    Like our president saying that HIS administration won't abuse domestic spying and domestic drone surveillance and such... But what about the next guy?

    Sure, YOU can claim an honorable heart and declare with all honesty that you won't allow the authoritarians to step on a defenseless population, but unless you plan on suspending elections and living forever you would be preparing the people for a role of meek peasantry at the hands of those who can follow through on valid threats.

    •  I still prefer non-violent civil disobedience as.. (0+ / 0-)

      ...my way of forcing change. I don't think we're free because we're armed. I think because we're armed we enslaved by the violence all around us. I live in peaceful Sonoma, CA, where I can't remember the last murder or even the last armed robbery. But I can't go to SF or Oakland without watching my back and hoping for the best.

      That's not freedom. Once again, until you've lived in a country like Japan, where gun deaths are exceedingly rare, then it's hard to imagine how wonderful it is to walk down the darkest alley in the middle of the night and feel fearless. Even their police were unarmed when I lived there. (Not so now, I'm afraid, because of a nutjob religious cult that gassed some people on the Tokyo subway.)

      Still, guns kill people and make our national life a misery. We don't need it.

  •  Close but not quiite right: (9+ / 0-)

    "...some

    of these policy prescriptions might not be adopted nationwide in my lifetime or even my children's..."
    How about not ever!

    This is one of those idealistic pie in the sky intellectual exercises, "If I were emperor of the universe," things that is so completely unrealistic that it makes the whole thing a waste of time.  Our time would be better spent on political targets that are realistically attainable.  

    The general who wins the battle makes many calculations in his temple before the battle is fought. The general who loses makes but few calculations beforehand. - Sun Tzu

    by Otteray Scribe on Mon May 28, 2012 at 05:13:51 PM PDT

    •  Excellent point. (7+ / 0-)
      This is one of those idealistic pie in the sky intellectual exercises, "If I were emperor of the universe," things that is so completely unrealistic that it makes the whole thing a waste of time.
      If one is going that route, they may as well declare that everyone is only ever allowed to do nice things -- all problems solved!

      Yes, I often dress as a pirate. Your point?

      by theatre goon on Mon May 28, 2012 at 06:26:16 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I look at the statistics (0+ / 0-)

      ...and find that 30,000 people die by gun violence in the U.S. on average, and 40 people die by gun violence in Japan, where guns are outlawed. It doesn't take a degree from MIT to understand that math. I have lived in both countries and have a good idea why this is so.

      24 people were shot in one day this past weekend in Chicago. It might take 10 years to accumulate that statistic in Tokyo, a city more than triple the size of Chicago.

      You may think this is an intellectual exercise, but to me it is exposing other people to information. We are an overly violent nation, and we shouldn't be proud of that. We should examine who we are when we make political decisions.

      •  Excellent example of how to use statistics (10+ / 0-)

        for dissimulation.  FWIW, I am a scientist, am trained in advanced statistics, and have been certified in both State and Federal courts as an expert on violent behavior.  Your use of statistics is simplistic and falls into the category of both the false equivalence and post hoc, ergo proper hoc logical fallacies.  I know how to burrow down into the CDC and NIH statistical database.  For one thing, a large number of firearm related deaths are due to suicide.  As an expert on suicide, I am here to tell you that firearms are mostly used because they are handy, and that men use them more than women.  Where a firearm has not been available, other means are used.  That skews the statistics.  

        Somebody wrote a book years ago about how to lie with statistics. Yours is a good example of that.

        I propose an exercise for you.  When you implement your daydream of item #6, how about we appoint you to be the one to go into the hills and hollers of Appalachia to tell the local folks you have come to confiscate all their unapproved guns.  What could possibly go wrong with that?

        The general who wins the battle makes many calculations in his temple before the battle is fought. The general who loses makes but few calculations beforehand. - Sun Tzu

        by Otteray Scribe on Tue May 29, 2012 at 04:04:03 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Yes, and no. (10+ / 0-)
    4. Relax sentencing guidelines on all non-violent crimes.

    5. Decriminalize most drug use or possession. Turn it from a legal problem into a health problem. Legalize marijuana outright, treating it similar to alcohol.

    There's money to be made, arresting, prosecuting and incarcerating the least-problematic offenders.  Ending this, presupposes cooperation from the very authorities making the money.
    6. Ban all guns from private ownership except those guns directly related to hunting, such as single-action rifles and shotguns. Regulate them severely.

    7. Police should be equipped to enforce the law and not to be the law. Police agencies should not be allowed to become paramilitary powers with paramilitary equipment.

    One could say that to remove the guns from the public, means that the guns could be removed from the cops as well... but that presupposes cooperation from the very authorities carrying the mil-spec guns.

    Now, I've read how you believe non-violent civil-disobediance  is the only way to change a regime.
    In reply i'll cite Tiananmen Square a/k/a the "June 4th Incident" as the result of an authoritarian regime which views the protest of a half-million citizens as "inconvenient" to such a degree they kill, jail, imprison or execute tens-of-thousands.

    Can't happen here?  In 1943, the Japanese-American community believed so as well.

    8. Fully fund the courts!

    9. Prosecutorial misconduct should have harsh sentences.

    10. End the death penalty, period, no exceptions.

    Fully-funded courts have limitless resources to convict the arrested, while the arrested have little to no recourse is how "justice" is served.
    We've come to know life in France, where "J'accusé!" is sufficient cause for arrest, conviction and sentence to the penal colony.

    As Miracle Max once said:

    "Good luck storming the Castle Gulag boys."
  •  Just out of curiosity, what is a "single-action" (10+ / 0-)

    rifle or shotgun? Do you mean "single-shot"? Or anything not semi-automatic, like a bolt-action rifle or pump shotgun?

    -7.25, -6.26

    We are men of action; lies do not become us.

    by ER Doc on Mon May 28, 2012 at 07:39:31 PM PDT

    •  I used the term incorrectly (0+ / 0-)

      ...since single-action triggers are used with semi-automatic weapons. I was attempting to speak of guns that don't automatically cock the hammer for the next shot. So, single-shot is probably the right term. Most hunting rifles I've used needed to be cocked for each shot.

      Even the rifles I trained with in ROTC many years ago I remember needed to be cocked each time I took a shot.

      •  I think you're still using the term inaccurately.. (4+ / 0-)

            "Single-shot" means a weapon with no magazine, which needs to be reloaded manually for each shot. It is possible that you used single-shot .22 caliber rifles for initial firearms and marksmanship training, although I suspect you actually used something like a bolt-action Springfield M1903 rifle, which holds five rounds of 30-06 ammunition, & reloads either manually, or by a stripper clip.

        -7.25, -6.26

        We are men of action; lies do not become us.

        by ER Doc on Tue May 29, 2012 at 12:31:03 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  How do you propose (10+ / 0-)

    to collect the 250 million or so legally possessed firearms that are currently in private hands? Better yet, how will you confiscate all the guns in criminal hands?

    I don't think it'll work...

    Crime in the US has been falling for years, while gun ownership has risen, and the issuing of concealed carry permits has become routine in almost every state. Guns apparently do not cause crime.

    "A lie is not the other side of a story; it's just a lie."

    by happy camper on Mon May 28, 2012 at 09:29:03 PM PDT

    •  Guns cause an average of 30,000 deaths per year (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      43north

      It's hard to justify that figure.

      Both gun deaths and traffic fatalities have fallen, and that's a good thing.

      Wikipedia says, "Gun-related homicide rates in the United States are twenty to thirty-five times higher than they are in countries that are economically and politically similar to it. Higher rates are found in developing countries and those with political instability."

      I have checked the statistics and that statement is borne out. The only countries with higher gun violence than the U.S. are countries like South Africa, Colombia, Thailand.

      Gun deaths per 100,000 population (for the year indicated):
            Homicide     Suicide     Other (inc Accident)

      USA (2001)           3.98      5.92     0.36
      Italy (1997)      0.81     1.1     0.07
      Switzerland (1998)     0.50      5.8        0.10
      Canada (2002)     0.4     2.0     0.04
      Finland (2003)     0.35     4.45     0.10
      Australia (2001)     0.24     1.34     0.10
      France (2001)     0.21     3.4     0.49
      England/Wales (2002)     0.15     0.2     0.03
      Scotland (2002)     0.06     0.2     0.02
      Japan (2002)     0.02     0.04     0

      Maybe hard to read these statistics, but what they show is that compared to advanced countries, the U.S. is a very deadly country when it comes to guns. There's no way around it. We need to examine this and work to change it.

      One other point I don't hear anyone making is the "I don't do it, and it doesn't happen to me" way of thinking. Sure, most violent crime in the U.S. is committed in urban areas and often by African-Americans and Hispanics. But who does it and who are the victims doesn't matter that much to me. That it happens at all is unacceptable in a civilized nation.

      Finally, I know that this seems a lost cause. But I write a lot and study a lot. I'm in the process of thinking through lots of policy. Gun violence is only one of many, many considerations. But it is one of the ones that kill. And that makes it big.

      Poverty kills, and that's even bigger, I admit.

      •  Rec'd for Poverty kills. (7+ / 0-)

        Calvin, your stats also include Switzerland and Finland, both of which are comparatively armed by percentage of population.
        Neither have massive registration and licensing schemes, and yet the homicide figures are way off of ours.
        Could that possibly be due to differing poverty rates AND our drug policy?  I say yes.

        Suicide-by-gun is comparable in those two countries, when we look to a suicide-prevalent country like Japan, we see 0.04 by gun.  
        Yet, suicide is certainly not unknown in countries deprived of civilian firearm possession: Data from 2011.

      •  So how do you explain... (7+ / 0-)

        ...the fact that as gun ownership has increased and ownership and carry laws have become more permissive, violent crime in this country has dropped?

        That fact alone shows that claims that guns cause violence are simply untrue.

        You have even answered your own question -- poverty kills.  Firearms just happen to be one of the tools used.  Banning the tool does not make the action magically vanish.

        If there's one thing that we should have learned in this country by now, it's that prohibition doesn't work.

        It didn't work when we tried to prohibit alcohol, it isn't working now regarding the prohibition of marijuana -- banning guns won't prevent crime.  Even if it would, there's that pesky Constitution standing in the way.

        Yes, I often dress as a pirate. Your point?

        by theatre goon on Tue May 29, 2012 at 04:03:19 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Thailand is a developed and politically stable (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        theatre goon, ER Doc, PavePusher

        country and no one has guns, or no one is supposed to have guns.

        But Thailand is extremely corrupt and people have an ungodly sense of face. Someone loses face and they hire the police to go kill someone. The police operate as murder for hire with impunity. If anything I'd think private gun ownership might have a dampening affect on the murder rate. Who knows. If the Thais would learn to mellow out a little life would be better.

        The theory that nature is permanently in balance has been largely discredited

        by ban nock on Tue May 29, 2012 at 05:34:31 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Do cars "cause" (4+ / 0-)

        traffic deaths? No. It is those who use them that do so. A gun is an inanimate object, and does nothing by itself.

        Do you know that over 50% of gun violence is criminal-on-criminal violence? Or that nearly all people who kill with a firearm have prior records of criminal violence? Or that many who do kill and have no prior record are mentally ill? Or that the majority of murder victims know their killer?

        I can greatly reduce my odds of being a murder victim simply by choosing carefully the company I keep. Your chance of being killed by a stranger are slim.

        It's not the tool, it's the hand that wields it. If you take away the tool, they'll find another. Witness the UK, where guns are effectively banned. Knife attacks are an epidemic, and home invasions while the residents are home are common, because the criminals know they will never face an armed homeowner.

        Taking guns away from the average citizen does nothing to address the root causes of crime, and attempting to do so will only result in Republican majorities.

        "A lie is not the other side of a story; it's just a lie."

        by happy camper on Tue May 29, 2012 at 08:40:04 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  You should rethink this argument (0+ / 0-)

          because auto deaths per capita have been declining, more or less since 1921, especially since 1979. Cars do kill people in that the presence or lack thereof of safety features have historically played a big part in reducing traffic deaths. Seat belts, air bags, body construction, traction control, ABS braking systems, all kinds of improvements have helped. So cars might be a bad example. There are also law-enforcement improvements such as higher penalties for drunk driving and such that have played a role.

          Look, I know I'm not going to convince many of the commentators to adopt my views concerning gun violence. No one has commented on how when they've lived overseas they've noticed that other societies are, in advanced countries of Europe and Asia, vastly safer than ours. I have traveled and lived abroad a lot and have a strong belief that we're not the greatest country on Earth by a long shot, and certainly not the safest.

          We may have lost the gun control battle in the U.S. but instead of reveling in it we should be ashamed at how it shows us in a bad light. We are an uncouth, undeveloped nation. Maybe we'll improve, and I'll state my beliefs to that effect without end.

          I do, however, wish you luck. May you never shoot anyone, and may no one ever take your gun and shoot you with it.

          •  Same argument. (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            KVoimakas
            You should rethink this argument ... because auto deaths per capita have been declining, more or less since 1921, especially since 1979.
            Violent crime has been similarly declining -- even as firearm ownership has increased.  This tends to show that claims that firearms cause crime is incorrect.

            I also have to disagree with:

            We may have lost the gun control battle in the U.S. but instead of reveling in it we should be ashamed at how it shows us in a bad light.
            We have, in fact, learned that supply-side gun control does not lower crime.  We should be embracing that fact, rather than continuing to try to pass restrictive gun control laws that do not lower crime.

            Or would you prefer to revel in restricting freedoms that will not actually have the effect you are claiming that it will?  If so, that is quite authoritarian of you.

            As you say, maybe we'll improve -- but we'll only do so by responding to the actual causes of crime, instead of mindlessly focusing on an inanimate object that is, in fact, used much more often in non-criminal ways than they are used in criminal ways.

            Yes, I often dress as a pirate. Your point?

            by theatre goon on Wed May 30, 2012 at 04:22:30 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  here is a few suggestions. . . (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    43north

    . . .for additions.

    11. I would explain every policy I could with a modern day version of the fireside chats. I think often, complex issues and the policies to address them simply need to be explained in a simple and thoughtful manner to minimize the controversies.

    12. Since free trade has been a failure, I would try to impose a moderate import duty with the proceeds applied to the debt. This would also aid US manufacturing and the jobs it should be providing. Fewer large ships cruising the oceans belching enormous quantities of CO2, which is a problem that has not been addressed at all, would be another benefit to all of humanity.

    13. The financial markets now opporate in milliseconds and when the mood strikes, the markets can go into a feeding frenzy of sell, sell, sell. A very minor transaction tax would slow things down, helping to calm the markets while being a source for alleviating the debt burden. Explaining that taxing Wall Street is a good way to lessen the tax burden on hard working Americans should help to sell the idea.

    14. Explain peak oil. While we may or may not be at peak oil now, oil is finite and sooner or later we will be faced with enormous consequences. Americans need to know this and understand it.

    15. Ask for a congressional investigation into the Michael Connel incident and the assertions that Karl Rove had threatened to kill Michael. Who did Michael visit in the Washington area before his plane went down? Posing the question is a political win-win because it calls to light an incident the news bueaus completely ignored and it calls into question the sanctity of our election machinery. If they get the chance, in close elections, they will steal them again just as they have in the past. In stead of stting back and allowing the other side to go gonzo on trumped up election fraud issues such as Acorn, I would bring the fight to them, on their own turf.

    16. Insist that we only fund the military to levels that the Pentagon wants. It should be an easy matter to stop the funding of military projects the Pentagon does not want. . .Americans, Democrats, Independants and even Republicans would see the wisdom in that. Alleviating the fat from the Defense budget (really the war budget!) would also help trim the debt.

  •  realism in action (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    43north, theatre goon, ER Doc

    "She's petite, extremely beautiful, and heavily armed." -1995 Michael Moore documentary Canadian Bacon

    by Tom Seaview on Tue May 29, 2012 at 05:00:21 AM PDT

  •  Except for 6 and 10 (0+ / 0-)

    I fully agree with you. 10 is meh. I know why it's problematic, but either the state or the victims MUST be allowed to kill those that are truly evil when there is no doubt. I don't care who or how, but somebody has to do it.

    6 is just silly. ~80% of Americans are opposed to ANY kind of blanket bans. It will NEVER happen. Not in a million years. ANY attempt to ban firearms (even just defensive ones) results in instant, total revolution and the utter destruction of the entire nation, which certainly means the total collapse of the world economy. There's simply no wiggle room on this one - guns are a permanent, absolute fact of life in America. Anyone unable to accept that has only 2 choices: live miserable, or get the hell out.

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