Noticing the little, obscure things…

In Existentialism this evening, we watched Orson Wells’ 1962 film The Trial (based on a book of the same title published by Kafka in 1925). There are a lot of things to pay attention to during the film; most students simply focus on the similarities between the book and the film. Me? Here are some of the questions I walked away with:

  • The only background music of the film is jazz and orchestral. Most instances when jazz music is played, it is what we would today call “soft” or “easy-listening jazz.” (There is one instance when electronic jazz is played but the purpose and effect really is just to heighten the sense of movement and chaos).
    – Could you distinctly categorize the instances when jazz music is used and when orchestral music is played?
  • Note the use of vertical and horizontal lines and shadows in the film (mostly through the use of structural beams).
    – What is the significance of characters who break these lines, and the moments when they break them?
  • When Josef K exits the law courts (for the first time), he closes his eyes and feels his way to the door. Why? Was this an artistic choice, or is there deeper meaning to be found here (that one cannot escape the reason or rationality of law with reason, but only with instinct or feeling?) 
  • Does man come to the doorstep of the law seeking admittance by his own free will?
  • In The Trial, is there an actual difference between the accused and the condemned, or are the accused for all intents and purposes the same as condemned? –  K (the Accused) is treated as if he is already condemned except that he has freedom of movement.
  • What is The Advocate’s relation to Justice?
  • Would Camus consider Kafka’s idea of the Accused man with his conception of the Absurd Man and the Condemned Man?
  • Is Mr. K free is his last moments?

I asked my professor if there was any significance to music choices, and he replied that he had never considered it. Conversing with some of my other classmates after class, I brought up some of these other questions and realized how obscure some of them are, but how interesting some others may be.

These questions are really just my thoughts on a page. Perhaps I’ll incorporate these questions into a later existentialism paper on the major themes of the course that most of “the” Existential philosophers contemplate.  But if there is a point to this brief post (which is truthfully a diversion from other work), it is that I notice some obscure, minute details – in films, in novels, in the conversations I have with friends. I think it makes things more interesting, more fun to argue, and more fruitful to consider.

Shimon Schocken: The self-organizing computer course – Technology programs to encourage self-learning

Shimon Schocken: The self-organizing computer course #TED : http://on.ted.com/cqZQ

Shikon Schocken is revolutionizing math education by encouraging self-learners. Instead of the “degrading” process of grading in elementary, secondary, and higher education, Schocken’s idea allows the learner to fail and learn from their mistakes.

One of my biggest problems with the current design of education is that students are punished for making mistakes and corrections are not weighted. This technology, and similar projects like Khan Academy, recognizes this and never loses sight of the ultimate goal – to help the student learn.

Government – Working Hard for YOUR Money

Just received an e-mail update from my county legislature.  The first sentence reads, “Whether you’re government, a business, or a private citizen, we all work hard for the money we earn.”

Wait… “government” ‘earns’ money?  Or it taxes its citizenry to support itself? Seeing as Tax Freedom Day won’t arrive in my state until May 1st (Yay, New York!), this view that government earns or deserves what it takes from hardworking private citizens is dangerous to what little economic freedom we have left.

Grammatically, I also think the County Executive meant to say “government employees,” not “government.”

For more on Tax Freedom Day: http://taxfoundation.org/tax-topics/tax-freedom-day

For more on what “government” actually is: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EUS1m5MSt9k

On the Constitutionality of Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act

The following is a mock SCOTUS decision I wrote last semester for my Constitutional Law class.

NB: I am a philosophy student and this post does not accurately follow the letter of the law, current precedents, or the style of a real SCOTUS decision. I think philosophically and ethically, not legally. 

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On the Constitutionality of Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act

Justice Ducham – Dissenting Opinion

Why this case should not be heard by the Supreme Court of the United States

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I will not comment on the morality of homosexuality here – the citizens of the United States are a smart and diverse people.  The peaceful actions of individuals in the privacy of their own homes, such as, the religious beliefs they practice, the person someone loves, so long as they are not harming others or infringing upon the rights of others, should be respected and protected by the law.  While historically it is not the case that the government has permitted absolute freedom of association or respect the privacy of her citizens to live peaceful lives as each individual citizen deems fit and rational according to his nature, this respect and understanding of the proper role of government – which should not be the police state which is growing all too familiar – is essential to reestablishing and preserving liberty for the people.

I will, in this opinion, provide several philosophical reasons for why the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act and California’s Proposition 8 Ballot Initiative should not be national legal issues.

Purpose of Law

The purpose of law is to prevent injustice from reigning; it is not to artificially equate or stabilize, or submit and mold unnecessary laws to please the will of a majority.  Unnecessary and arbitrary laws, such as laws regulating the social norms and moral standards of the people of the Unites States, weaken the laws necessary to the sustainability of our nation as we know it.  This Country did not come fully formed – it was built by individuals of resolute character.  These revolutionary thinkers, philosophers, and statesmen did not believe in laws or in a government with oppressive laws that teach citizens dependency upon the state to solve their problems and for survival.  The Constitution written by those immortal men, the United States Constitution which we still abide by today and which all politicians have sworn to defend, is not so much a blueprint for government as it is a charter for liberty; and when such a charter intended for the defense of the liberty and independence of each citizen has an eroded purpose so as to be used as a tool for changing the social standards and the social norms at the whim of each passing generation, the citizens of our Country have truly lost its purpose and brilliance.         

Role of the Supreme Court of the United States of America

The judicial power of the United States is the final of the three branches of the government detailed in the United States Constitution.  The literary structure of documents and laws had great significance in the eighteenth century, more so than present day.  The purpose of detailing the judiciary as the final branch of government is to define its position as the last line of defense between tyranny and democracy.  The Supreme Court was not intended to have a ‘proactive’ role carving out society.  Adding a barrier between the Court and the citizenry is a defense of impartiality, which is essential for justice.

Because the constitutionality of Congress’s Defense of Marriage Act (“DOMA”) and California’s Proposition 8 Ballot Initiative (“Prop 8”) are called into question, the Court has a duty to hear and determine the constitutionality of the legislation.  The Court will carry through such duties, but the disapproval of this Justice on the lower circuit courts and legislative branches for making national issues of personal and private lifestyle choices should be known.

The Fundamental Rights Argument
Fundamental rights are those rights which are “deeply rooted in this nation’s history and tradition.”  Rights not “deeply rooted in this nation’s history” and not “implicit in the concept of ordered liberty” also fail to achieve status as a fundamental right.  The Court has determined that marriage is a fundamental right.  Beyond this, it is the duty and place of the state governments to enact and uphold the fundamental right as they see fit.  41 of the 50 United States have state constitutions defining marriage further as between a man and a woman.  While the Full Faith and Credit Clause of Article IV of the United States Constitution requires the respect and recognition of the laws and practices of each state in another, President Clinton clarified when DOMA was passed that this clause does not require or force states to recognize marriage as any other union but one between a man and a woman. Yet Section 1738C of the Defense of Marriage Act reads:

“No State, territory, or possession of the United States, or Indian tribe, shall be required to give effect to any public act, record, or judicial proceeding of any other State, territory, possession, or tribe respecting a relationship between persons of the same sex that is treated as a marriage under the laws of such other State, territory, possession, or tribe, or a right or claim arising from such relationship.”

This perhaps can be seen as another failure of the legislature to focus on those laws which are essential to the survival and preservation of the republic, as well as an injustice to the liberty of the people.

The 10th Amendment

I wish to here take an overly simplistic approach, because sometimes it becomes necessary to think of complex issues in the simplest of terms so that a resolution may appear.  The word “marriage” quite literally appears in no article, no clause, and no amendment of the United States Constitution.  That one of the most important functions of government has become to keep up to date with the social trends is not only insulting to the brilliant design of our governmental system – which is designed to protect the liberty and freedom of the individual citizen – but is also a waste of valuable time and other resources.  The 10th Amendment to the United States Constitution reads, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”  As the Constitution, the supreme law of our land, does not give to the federal government the power to define the institution of marriage, this power is given to the states.  But more importantly, this power is also given to the people, and it is the people, not the state or the federal government who should determine the moral standards of a society.  It is also the responsibility of the people to protect and preserve their individual rights and freedoms by assuming the responsibilities given to them by the Constitution of the United States.

Funding Government by the Minute | LearnLiberty

http://www.learnliberty.org/videos/funding-government-minute/?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=social&utm_content=Antony%20Davies%20shows%20how%20long%20it%20takes%20the%20government%20to%20run%20out%20of%20money&utm_campaign=social%20referrals%2013

This short video breaks down government spending and presents an important question we all should be thinking about – What is the proper role of government?

The Most Important Level of Government

If you study early American history, particularly the structure and purpose of government at the time of our Country’s Founding, it is easy to see that our Republic was structured much differently than the current bureaucratic mess that we think of today.  As in the Athenian Republic, the most important member of society was the common man.  Specifically in the Athenian Republic it was each rower on the naval ships, the average rank-and-file person in the armed service.  If government ‘forgets’ that it serves the average rank-and-file members of society, then government has lost its true purpose.

Last semester, and then again at the beginning of the summer, I had two opportunities to work on a local Congresswoman’s re-election campaign. I chose not to help this Congresswoman even though we share priorities because I have no personal connection with her. While I trust the word of many friends, family members, and co-workers, it doesn’t feel right to me that I should campaign, and essentially vouch for someone I do not personally know. I understand how foolish it would be to think that every individual could, or even should have a personal relationship with each of their government representatives. But beauty still found in our bureaucracy allows me to know my local county legislator on a personal level, which is why I accepted his offer to work on his Campaign Committee.

This representative was my neighbor for several years. He is going back to school for the third time at the State University I now attend. Knowing him on a personal level, having the opportunities to see his ethics and policies in action before ever elected, grants me full confidence in his morals, work ethic, intelligence, and ability to serve his community with our best interests at heart.

To be sure, it’s not likely that I would have been offered this position if I did not know this representative. But no candidate would hire a person he thought incompetent. And he certainly would not hesitate to terminate a Committee member’s employment if he thought them inefficient, unqualified, and / or, steering him towards disaster.

So, the young, 20 year old undergrad part of me jumps up and down every time I go in to the office (not only because I have a great job at such a young age), but because I also belief in and fully support who this candidate is and what he stands for. I haven’t been working long, but I’m having so much fun – something I never expected from campaign work.

But back to the topic of this post – the importance of local level government.

The most local level of government is the most important because it has the most direct and strongest connection with the people it is purposed to serve. Most anyone who works in our Country’s Capital is disillusioned to think that they know what is best for “the people,” all the people. This disconnect with the rank-and-file members of society is absolutely unacceptable, and certainly not what built our Country into the vision of freedom we know it as today. Who knows best for the community? The people who live, work, and raise their families in the community? – Or a ‘government for, by, and of the people‘ who you have no direct contact or association with?

The answer is clear to me.

So what can we do?

Get Involved (and Stay Involved!)
Think of all the community functions that happen because of community volunteers and the intimate knowledge of community workings. Those events, support structures, etc. would not happen without individual involvement.  Think about it – it’s YOUR government, shouldn’t you voice your opinion on what it does “on your behalf” ?? YES!! You should! The most powerful force in the world is individual initiative. (And combined initiatives on the community level.)
So volunteer, go to your town meeting, go to your library and volunteer for a craft or story time. There is so much that makes your community great, and all of that starts with YOU.

Second Amendment Rights

Second Amendment to the United States Bill of Rights:
“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.”

Fourth Amendment of the United States of America:
“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

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Not owning and knowing how to use a firearm would have been absolutely inconceivable to any person living at the time of the American Founding. Everyone owned a firearm to protect themself and their family, to feed themselves, hunt and sell the surplus game… Even young women learned to shoot during the American Revolution, so the idea that gun ownership should be so heavily restricted by the government is laughable. Think of the purpose of firearms during the late 18th Century – they were used by American Patriots to overthrow the oppressive British government.

Should the need ever arise for the American people to defend themselves, would we have the weapons capability to do so, or will we have been disarmed by the very state we must defend ourselves against?

Take an extreme example – any rebelling Middle Eastern country. The rebelling citizenry has inferior weaponry to the oppressive and dangrous state that they seek to overthrow and replace. Imagine how quick and how much more bloodshed there would be in certain Middle Eastern states if the citizens had No weapons with which to defend themselves.

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If you’re not sure where you stand on gun control, as I was until recently, here’s what some rather important historical figures have had to say…

Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, head of the Japanese navy during World War II said, “You cannot invade mainland United States. There would be a gun behind every blade of grass.”

One of our Revolutionary War statesman who drafted the Virginia Declaration of Rights, George Mason, said “To disarm the people is the best and most effectual way to enslave them.”

The Founders were not the first to recognize the importance of a well-armed citizenry in the defense of Liberty. Nor were they the last. If you read over Hitler’s Weapons Act, or comments from Heinrich Himmler, you will plainly see how important gun control was to the rise of Nazi Germany.

“The most foolish mistake we could possibly make would be to allow the subjected people to carry arms. History shows that all conquerors who have allowed their subjected peoples to carry arms have prepared their own downfall by doing so. Indeed, I would go so far as to say that the underdog is sine qua non [something essential] for the overthrow of any sovereignty. So let’s not have any native militia or police.”

– Adolph Hitler,
Dictator of Nazi Germany (who rose to power legally ) , Murderer of approximately 11 million people who opposed him, and innumerable others because of his role launching the start of World War II.

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The Prompt for this Blog Post

I was watching The Mentalist, a television show about a police consultant with incredible powers of perception. In the first five minutes of this particular episode, the main character Patrick Jane points out a “suspicious looking” young man wearing an overcoat on a hot day. When the police search this man they find a gun and it seems as though the police had prevented an assassination attempt.

Excuse me CBS, but since when does wearing an overcoat give police probable cause? That unreasonable search and seizure by police on a public street is heralded in the episode. We citizens must be so grateful that the police stopped that man from carrying a gun… No! The Fourth Amendment offers citizens protection from unreasonable search and seizure, while the Second Amendment reserves our right the “keep and bear arms.”

 

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If your mind is not yet made up on the Gun Control issue, here are some links for further reading.

The United States Constitution and Bill of Rights
http://www.ushistory.org/documents/amendments.htm

This link will take you to an opinionated blog post about the foundations of Nazi Weapon Control found in the United States today.
http://usa-the-republic.com/jurisprudentia/firearms_1.html

Wikipedia is not one of my favorite sites. Typically, I if I use it at all, I use it as a springboard for research ideas – it can be a useful place to start.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gun_politics_in_Germany#The_1938_German_Weapons_Act

Quotations are a quick way to gain insight to the opinions of people on an issue. The following links to the “101 of the Best Gun Quotes,” some of which were used in this article.
http://geekpolitics.com/101-of-the-best-gun-quotes-ever/

Another blog site that offers an educated opinion of gun control.
http://guncontrol101.webs.com/introduction.htm
 (The author of this site also recommends http://www.justfacts.com/guncontrol.asp – which offers a great deal of statistical information on gun control. Because of the volume of information this site offers, you will most likely be making multiple trips to the site, so bookmarking is recommended.)

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This post was drafted before the mass shooting in Aurora, CO.  Gun Control has been at the top of hot button issues during this past campaign season, and I have nothing new to add to this conversation since then. Despite the unthinkable evil that happened in Colorado, my belief that the constitutional right for citizens to keep and bear arms should Not be infringed upon. Imagine if the shooter were not the only person with a weapon in the cinema that night… Maybe someone would have shot him first and there would be only one causality instead of 12 people dead, over 50 wounded, and innumerable lives changed.

The following are links to a NY Times tribute article to the victims of the Colorado shooting – which I think correctly focuses attention to the victims and not the shooter.

http://thelede.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/07/22/remembering-the-victims-of-colorado-shooting/

http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2012/07/22/us/Aurora-shooting-victims.html#index

The article also lists ways you can keep the memory of the victims alive using social media.

Rest in Peace:

Jonathan T. Blunk, 26

Alexander Boik, 18

Jesse E. Childress, 29

Gordon W. Cowden, 51

Jessica Ghawi, 25

John Larimer, 27

Matthew R. McQuinn, 27

Micayla Medek, 23

Veronica Moser-Sullivan, 6

Alex M. Sullivan, 27

Alexander C. Teves, 24

Rebecca Wingo, 32

LibertyIdeas Profile

Hi. I’m Kyle, a Political Philosophy student from upstate New York – A Liberty Lover and intellectual Freedom fighter.  LibertyIdeas is a way to document my search for Liberty and Freedom in these times of growing government involvement, and shrinking individual thought and accountability.

Join me as I set out to forge my personal political and philosophical identity, and together we can bring positive change back to our Country.

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