Real virtue is hard.  I was thinking about this as I was thinking the other day that I’m quite possibly the worst-practitioner-of-my-professed-religion-ever.

You’d not think that from the outside because I try to fit in with the obvious observances, and do the right thing… most of the time.  Look, it’s not hypocrisy, it’s my way of keeping myself close to the straight and narrow.

But there’s a whole host of little things that slip by: times I’m unkind, times I don’t consider others and certainly times I’m lazy or fail to do what I should be doing right then.

Real virtue is hard because most of it is internal.  It’s refraining from doing the things that the natural creature wants to do. It’s doing things you really don’t want to do.  It’s staying up an hour later to finish that overdue project, it’s getting up in the night because your spouse/kid is throwing up in the bathroom, it’s doing dishes before bed so your spouse doesn’t need to worry about them, it’s making a cup of hot cocoa for your kid when it’s snowy out and you know he/she is going to come trudging through the door, wet and cold.

BUT that’s not the hardest part.  The hardest part is putting yourself out for strangers or even people you don’t like very much.  Going out to help your contentious neighbor dig his car out of snow, even though you work from home, and don’t need to. Lending money to a bad-at-planning friend even though you know you won’t be paid back, because they need it more than you, even though it leaves you tight.  Or stopping on a cold night to help some person pick up packages they just dropped.

There are other — little — things that are easier, though still work you don’t need to do, like taking back the carts some right berk left in parking spaces in the grocery store.

I do the later type of thing when I can, the one of being kind to the family most of the time.  (Not always because I’m human and sometimes the body won’t obey no matter how virtuous the mind wants to be.) The virtue in relation to friends, well, I try, but it’s difficult.  It’s difficult because we’re all human and sometimes we don’t know when good turns to enabling, so it’s a judgement call.  And sometimes the “enabling” thing is easy to use as a n excuse, even though it’s probably (we never know for sure) not true.

Being kind to strangers takes the problems of being kind to friends and acquaintances and amplifies them.  I mean, what do you do when there’s that lone little old lady by the side of the road with an obvious broken down car?  Do you stop?  What if her accomplices are in the ditch waiting to jump you?  You might be commanded to be kind to those around you and help those who can’t help themselves, but what do you do when it risks your life?  Are you required to risk your life?  So most of the time you call the police and trust they’ll help the little old lady.  (More on that later.)

And then there’s a whole host of “virtues” and “disciplines” that are internal.  I’m very bad at them, and I believe they matter, because they condition how you see the world, but you don’t see them from the outside.  You don’t see my laziness either, most of the time for reasons of “taking the easy, not the exacting” part, but it’s failing at virtue, nonetheless.

However this is not confession, and I’m not writing this to unburden.

I’m writing this because I was thinking on what it would take to REALLY live my faith and I realized that most of it would be very, very difficult and also nearly invisible to others.

Because we’re human, it’s really hard to do things like never having an uncharitable thought or doing things when you really don’t feel like doing them, or being just kind enough not to enable.

This is why most ancient religions had/have a code of conduct, but also a bunch of actions you can perform, ritually or otherwise to make you feel okay with the divine, without having to go to heroic lengths.

Give gods/saints their pound of butter in the lamp, pray in a certain way, and you feel that you’ve at least studied to the test.  You might not qualify for sainthood or ultimate bliss, but you did what you needed to do, that Himself up there are trying really hard, and it’s not your fault if you fall down sometimes (or often.)

This is also why the older and more mature religions have established ways of atoning and established days for doing so.  Because if you think you’ve “studied to the eternal test” but just in case you missed one of the important tests there is this remedial credit, this way to make yourself clean OR to silence your overactive conscience.

The problem is when you substitute these traditional religions by the pretense of no religion.  Why pretense?  Because most people who claim to have no religion, never the less follow a set of never-examined-or-questioned precepts.

If those precepts are in essence the same as in many traditional religions, you have a lot of my atheist or agnostic friends: be kind to others; help those in need, take care of your own and don’t be a burden on others.  They tend to be — coff.  I know some of you read this — a wee bit more neurotic, as they have no way to make atonement and the unswept dregs of human failure pile up in their back brain.

On the other hand some of us who are religious are also really bad at believing we made full atonement.

But then there are those people who are not religious and who took as their precepts the fuzzier, more insane forms of “virtue.”  Stuff like “Speak for the voiceless.”  I hate that one, because while it’s valid if you’re a religious person or one who watches yourself ALL THE TIME, it’s way to easy to imagine that the voiceless would say JUST what you want them to.  Hence all the nonsense of very very white and privileged people speaking for minorities and then rejecting real minorities who disagree with them.  Or “respect the Earth.”  People like my friend Dave Freer respect the Earth.  They live very close to it, which involves an immense amount of work, and they hunt and use every part of the animal they can, and they don’t pollute more than they can absolutely help.

But people like Al Gore, PREACH respect of the Earth, while living in a mansion larger than some small third world villages, and which certainly takes more energy to heat, and jetting around the world.  They do their “virtue” talk and think that compensates for how they live, I’d guess.

Yesterday, while I was making dinner my husband had some show on where some right prat who fancied himself a comedian was going on and on and on about prisoner rehabilitation.  (Is this the new THING?  I saw it here yesterday, and it’s been cropping up more and more.  I find this very interesting, because I’ve noticed a certain coordination in topics du jour from the over-culture.  Remember when Alaskan cruises were all the thing and every liberal and soft liberal and some non liberals were taking them?  And every magazine was full of stuff about the PRISTINE landscape of Alaska?  All leading up to the rejection of the Alaskan pipeline?  I’ve learned to catch these things in the wind as it were, and be prepared for what liberal cause they’re pushing.  And no, I don’t think they’re a big conspiracy. They’re the result of most people in the media and entertainment being of the same political color and running in the same circles.  In those circumstances it takes very few manipulators in their midst to start this sort of thing, which then runs on its own, until it stops suddenly when no longer useful.  Mind you, the people planting the seeds ARE usually conspirators.  Not so long ago — and probably not now, but who knows? — they took their marching orders from Moscow.)

Younger son finally asked my husband to turn the d*mn thing off, and I realized I was gritting my teeth.  My husband was going along with it for the “funny” and paying no attention to the politics.

I was paying attention, partly, because of the discussion here, and because it was prickling the back of my brain with “is this the new thing?”

But it was annoying the heck out of me, because I’ve heard all this before.  I heard it in Europe.  The poor prisoners, and the horrors they face on coming out, and and and.  At the end of this is a judicial system where a wrist slap is considered harsh.  I don’t have any clue what it is now, but when I came to the States, you could commit murder in Portugal and be out in seven years.  MULTIPLE murders.  And then several busybodies would busy themselves with virtue-signaling by giving you everything they could, things they wouldn’t bother giving/helping poor but honest people with.  And when you failed, as most prisoners do, even with all the help in the world, to integrate back in society, it was society’s fault and more sappy stories were told about you, till they gave you another chance.

This (and I’m not going into the reform/rehabilitation/death penalty matter right now, this one is just an instance) is virtue-signaling on the part of the do-gooders.  These people wouldn’t bestir themselves to help a family in need that has never done anything wrong, because everyone agrees those people need help, and why isn’t the state helping them.  But hey will put themselves out to help prisoners say because the very fact they’re “undeserving poor” makes the virtue of helping them greater.  Not just prisoners, mind, there’s also drug users, or abusers of others, or as we’ve seen in our own field, pedophiles.

Sometimes it’s as though the less deserving the object of concern, the greater the virtue signaling of this “compassion.”

Which brings us to the fact most of this “virtue” is not even real.  They’re not helping anyone.  I have a friend who is a pagan prison chaplain.  He puts his money where his mouth is. He puts his time, his attention, and his work in there too.  Weirdly he’s one of those who doesn’t agitate for leniency in general.  It’s also funny, given how different their traditions, how much he sounds like Peter Grant on the subject.

Sure there are people in there who deserve help in building a new life.  They’re ready to change and work for it, and even if they fail, they deserve help in trying to fix themselves/their lives. But they’re few and far between.  Most of them are psychopaths and sociopaths, who are REALLY GOOD at pretending to want to change.

The people who work closely with them and who know them as much as possible can tell the difference and are in the best position for changing their ways if they can be changed.  Right prats who go on about how we should be lenient to everyone do more harm than good and lead to a world where we’re kind to the cruel and thus cruel to the kind.

Which is what is wrong with all this virtue-signaling talk.  Oh, it makes you feel so good to stand up say for a confessed pedophile and tell everyone how nice they are, and send them pictures of your kids (!) but in the end all that you are doing is enabling someone’s dysfunction.

It makes you feel good to speak for the “voiceless” (because Marxist theory tells you that in a capitalist society the poor/minorities are voiceless, and you never considered Marxist theory is the product of college professors who wouldn’t know voiceless if it bit them in the fleshy portion of the back.)   But in the end you’re just joining your voice to a chorus of out-of-touch academics pushing the world in a very bad direction, where envy is a virtue, the individual isn’t respected and society is a horror out of 1984.

Real virtue is hard.  Virtue signaling is easy.  When you no longer have any real standards virtue signaling is all you have left.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, small dragons and octopi, is what we face.  They say and do these things, from twitter storms to rants about the rights of (insert supposed victim class here, the more repulsive the better) in the same way other religions light butter lamps or genuflect to show devotion.

This absolves them from all real effort to help others, particularly since most of them think it’s someone else’s job, and just call the police, or government, to do the charity work they won’t do.

Our society, from entertainment to news to civic teaching (such as there is, which is almost never formally taught) encourages this form of virtue-signaling over real virtue.

We have a lot of work to do to turn it around.  And most of this is small, private, modeling real virtue and calling out fools on virtue-signaling.  None of it is pleasant or easy.  All or it is needed.

Their system if corrupt, impossible and failing.  In the end they lose.  But we only win if we cultivate real virtue and aren’t afraid to call out false one.

Resist the easy feel-good of virtue signaling.  Do what you can to cultivate real virtue.  And teach your children well.

No one said this would be easy.

205 responses to “Virtue

  1. Virtue-signalling by SJW’s is very close to how Jesus described prayer by the Pharisees:

    9 And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others:

    10 Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican.

    11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican.

    12 I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.

    13 And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.

    14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.

    • Of course, nowadays he’s more likely to say, “I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, self-righteous, sanctimonious, hypocritical, or even as this Pharisee.”

  2. c4c

  3. > prison reform

    The Voices keep whispering, “privitization…”

    There’s Big Money to be made in the prison industry. And since many states allow forced labor, we’re seeing things like help lines being insourced back from India and Pakistan… to prison labor in the US. And things like the Florida prison system, which competes in the remanufactured auto parts market using prison labor.

    If things are bad now, turning prisons into profit centers could be… very bad.

    • Privatization works in situations where the people who make the decisions have both incentive and information enough to make good decisions. This doesn’t apply when the state assigns prisoners to private prisons; the state doesn’t have enough information to know which places are hellholes for which prisoners(*), nor does it really care. I don’t like what I’ve seen about current private prisons, which all use that system.

      Now, if you want to have a system of private prisons where the *prisoners* are allowed to choose which of several options to serve their time in, and can freely transfer, with incentives and disincentives from the state for objective measures like recidivism rates, prisoner deaths, prisoner injuries, etc, I’d be interested. It might or might not work — it hasn’t been tried. I’d be at the very least interested to see the results of a ten or twenty year experiment, though I’d hope it would be shut down after five years if the results turned out to be clearly negative.

      (*) To be expanded in a followup comment.

      • Which prisons are hellholes for which prisoners –

        Hypothesize a prison with only small single cells, which kept prisoners silent and in their cells except for silent meals and exercise every other day and allowed only limited interaction the other days. Entertainment takes the form of a small tablet and earphones, with selections of books, music, and movies / televisions available for download from the prison library, plus unlimited paper and pens (only of whatever design the commissary thinks is safe; we can substitute crayons if we really must), and a budget of several dollars of week per prisoner on stamps. On the silent days, the prison pays an hour’s phone time for each prisoner anywhere in the United States.

        For *most people* that would be cruel — they simply need more social interaction than that system permits. But if God forbid I have to go to prison, I *want to go to one like that*. And it’s probably cheaper to administer than one with more social interaction, because social interaction between criminals can so easily become violent.

        • Once went on a prison tour, and somehow ended up with different guides. Administration had a far different take on the “dormitory” set-up than a guard did. Administration said it was a reward for good behavior; the guard said prisoners would often act up just to be thrown into solitary to get away from the dormitory style of incarceration.

          • I can’t see dormitory set-ups being good for prisoners. In a dormitory-style bedroom of, oh, twenty convicts, what are the odds that *all* twenty of them will get along? I would guess that in that sort of crowd everybody in the room would have at least one person they already have a bad history with and at least one person with whom they’d get along fine at a distance but something about their habits is just endlessly aggravating at close range.

            With cellmates you only have one criminal to get along with. You’re screwed if you can’t manage it, but it’s *possible*, which getting along with nineteen other criminals doesn’t seem to me to be.

          • Also, I think prisoners should be allowed to opt for non-punitive solitary at will without giving a reason. Maybe he wants to escape X who is trying to coerce him into becoming a prison “wife.” Maybe he wants to stay away from Y before he snaps and tries to kill Y and loses all his good time. Maybe Z blames him for something he didn’t do and a few days away will give Z a chance to figure out that he needs to beat up on A instead. Maybe he’s just overloaded and wants a time out before he breaks and loses all his good time. Maybe he’s an introvert and just wants some alone time. I don’t need to care. Let him hole up; he’s going to be less trouble that way. If there’s an issue with it, you’re not building enough solitary cells; cell space OUGHT to be cheap compared to correction officer time, medical bills, et cetera.

        • Er, I think that could be misinterpreted. I mean alternating days of limited interaction with other prisoners and days of complete silence except for an hour of free phone time. (You can listen to music and movies on your earphones, but you aren’t allowed to say anything except I suppose quiet requests of the guards.)

        • SheSellsSeashells

          Hell with that; after the week I’ve had I’d consider it a (somewhat monastic, admittedly) vacation.

        • If you get the right lawyer, you can negotiate what prison you get sent to if convicted.

      • It should be noted that unions really dislike private prisons.

      • That system would suffer the same problem as universities that count student evaluations as part of the tenure process: the prisoners do not have the same incentives. As one college professor observed, the students who hated Professor A had nevertheless learned the material that the students who loved Professor B had not. And some prisoners will love prisons insofar as they can get away with things.

        • Yes; the fundamental problem with the system of privatization I suggested is that it forces prisons to cater to the prisoners. You can provide counter-incentives for things you can objectively measure — penalties for prisoners who test positive for drugs, penalties for prisoners who reoffend within five years, et cetera — but only for things you can objectively measure.

          It might net us better rehabilitation rates than the current system, because it would permit the prisoners who wanted rehabilitation and were willing to work for it to segregate themselves off in an institution with stricter rules than most.

      • For-profit prisons terrify me because they imply the existence of private entities whose economic well-being depends on there being a continuous stream of prisoners – which gives them an incentive to lobby for harsher laws and greater criminalization of conduct.

        I don’t think it’s in the public interest to encourage the existence of such entities.

        • You prefer having public entities whose economic well-being depends on there being a continuous stream of prisoners?

          How about we license private entities and reward them according to their recidivism rate, such that a lower rate earns a bonus for all involved there?

    • Old news. The call center thing has been going on for years now. There’s also outside work in the form of work crews, which is why communities tend to like prisons less that maximum security. FWIW, prisoners are not permitted to work in conditions we have to go out in.

      • Call centers, for credit card based purchases over the phone. I wonder how many callers knew the helpful person taking their card number was a prison inmate.
        For some odd reason those helpful people were real popular out in the yard the next day. All the numbers scribbled under their sleeves no doubt helped.

    • The Other Sean

      They already are. Luzerne County in northeast Pennsylvania had a scandal a few years back. For several years, two judges were getting kickbacks from the operator of private juvenile detention centers. In the aftermath it was determined that they’d “violated the constitutional rights of thousands of juveniles, and hundreds of juvenile adjudications were ordered overturned.”

      • Yes, this is the scary part of privatization – it turns criminals into a product that some can make money off. A bit more extreme and it could approach the “organlegger” economy Niven postulated. Make J-walking a felony and big bucks to be made taking care of all the new prisoners.

        • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

          It doesn’t require “privatization”.

          The old chain gangs made good money for the various counties that used them.

          The counties hired out the chain gangs to private companies and “racked in the cash”.

          Note, many people on the chain gangs were guilty of only minor offenses which won’t have gotten much jail time prior to the development of chain gangs.

        • Now that you mention it, this is something that bugs me about fines and forfeiture: these things enable the Government system to profit from the wrong-doings of individuals, where wrong-doing is defined as “that which we made illegal”.

          I would propose that public courts shouldn’t charge fees for hearing cases , and that any fine levied, or profit made from forfeiture, goes to the victims of the crime–or if it’s a “victimless” crime like speeding or parking violations, then the money should go to families who are suffering from something related to the offence, such as families of car accidents.

          By allowing cities to obtain revenue from violations of the law, it creates a perverse incentive to encourage people to break the law. (A classic example: shorten yellow lights so that more people are “running” red lights than they would have, had they been given enough time to decided to drive through or stop.)

          • I once read a Western where the hero was offered a town marshal’s job. He and his deputies would be paid a fixed salary plus a percentage of the fines he collected. He insisted on a larger salary and no percentage.

            One of the town council pointed out he’d lose money. He said he’d rather that than have his deputies be looking for excuses to levy fines…

    • Help lines: Prisoners are not those who should have access to people calling in to buy things with credit cards, who might or could be suckered into giving them their SSANs and mother’s maiden name…

    • I’d thought they already were privatized.

      The DOJ gets a certain amount of money from the state per prisoner, they contract with a private company who runs the prison and pay that private company a certain amount per prisoner less than what the DOJ receives from the state.

      The prison contractor employs (low risk) prisoners to make things like medical scrubs and army uniforms for a pittance, the DOJ goes on vacation with the difference between what they receive and what they payout.

      Troublesome prisoners are released on parole, because both the DOJ and the prison contractor know that they won’t be able to stay out of prison for long (repeat customers and all that), and well behaved prisoners stay in for their full sentences, because the DOJ and the prison contractor know that once they’re out, they’ll never cause trouble again (and there’s no revenue to be had there.)

  4. I’ll throw out an aid to prisoner rehabilitation. After you’ve stayed out of prison for a couple of years, you’re allowed to pledge your life that you’re fully rehabilitated. You can take this option at any time after fulfilling the criteria, you’re allowed to say you’ve never been convicted, your right to vote is required, you can carry a gun again, et cetera.

    But I mean it about pledging your life — after doing so, if you EVER get convicted of a major crime again, or even enough minor crimes which add up to a major crime, the sentence is automatically death.

    • Playing the “what could go wrong?” role of devil’s advocate, that would only work if you can trust the justice system not to convict an innocent person. If you have corrupt judges/prosecutors/juries, it would be far too risky to take that option, and almost nobody would go for it.

  5. At the Opera (or ballet, or symphony or, really, any theatrical performances, but let’s stay this night at the Opera) there are several categories of seating. They’re the cheap seats, the minimum price, stand in the back and barely see — those are for the struggling, those who have scraped the money together to attend just for a glimpse of Opera.

    There are the vast selection of seats to the sides and back, for those who enjoy Opera and are financially able to indulge their whims. These offer fair sight-lines and decent acoustics for a not outrageous price.

    There are the Good Seats — center section, front portion of the theatre, say rows 8 through 20 — where you can really see the singers gestures and enjoy superb acoustics. These are the expensive seats but worth it for those who can afford and appreciate.

    Then there are the really expensive seats, the front rows and the loge seats. The sight-lines are poor (front row can’t readily see the back of the stage, loge are at a sharply oblique angle) and the acoustics are meh. These are the most expensive seats in the house, however, because they are not for the people who love Opera, they’re for the people who love being seen at the Opera. The people who are there to be admired for their attending the Opera and who need places to be seen wearing their finery.

    Theirs is not the virtue of enjoyment of Opera, theirs is the vice of using the Opera as setting for their performances.

    • RES, at least in my symphony experience, those are the folks who want to be seen to be Patrons of The Arts. They are responsible for a lot of the funding we get. They come to the post performance reception to be seen chatting with musicians. They pay good money to do so, and because we print doners by amount categories, everyone knows roughly what they gave.

      So at least they have the virtue of putting their money where their social singling is.

      • I readily concede their usefulness, and appreciate their occupying the bad seats for premium prices.

        The ones I object to are the folk who insist on spending taxpayer dollars for displaying their virtue.

      • Matches my experience, too. Patrons can be decent folk with an interest (vague though it may sometimes be) or they can be boors. But they do indeed pay for the privilege.

  6. I think it’s hard to see you, personally, being lazy around the times you’re working — sometimes dangerously hard and against medical advice! — on the big stuff.

    But this is me not arguing with you, just popping up to echo the knowing I’m being lazy about little things, sometimes even ones that wouldn’t or shouldn’t be hard at all individually, except in contrast to how easy it is not to. (My husband is so very much better about doing little considerate things than I am. Both with family and strangers.)

  7. Seven years for murder is about what you get in Chicago. You can see how well such a policy discourages violence.

    • I just mentioned one recent Finnish case in FB: in 2005 a man murdered and then cut up the victim. Ten years inside, which is a lot here. After being out for a few months he was recently caught planning a kidnapping (there seems to be pretty good evidence to back that suspicion). Not exactly rehabilitated, I’d say.

      • Ah, no, doesn’t sound like it.

      • William O. B'Livion

        I’d suggest that the sort of person who cuts people up after killing them is not the sort of person who can be rehabilitated. At least if you only get to them after the event.

        Some people are just too broken.

    • My senator Mike Lee is advocating prison reform by pointing out that there are prisoners in the Federal system who are serving ten years, while their three friends are serving only one, for a certain crime, because his crime became Federal, while their crimes were State.

      Several concerns are illustrated here: How can the Federal system consider some minor crimes to be worse than what Chicago considers murder to be? Why do we have both Federal and State laws making the same thing illegal–and if someone out-of-state does something illegal in-state (or even by staying out-of-state but phoning in), why don’t we just have a system of extradition between States, and pass one Federal law to cover the extradition process?

      Alas, it seems that the only prison reform being discussed is “Ban the Box”, which (presidential considerations aside) is unfair to any business who doesn’t wish to employ a former embezzler as an accountant.

  8. Heh. As I read this there rests at my left hand a small red book, current nonfiction reading: The Seven Deadly Virtues: Eighteen Conservative Writers on Why the Virtuous Life is Funny as Hell, with short essays by P. J. O’Rourke, Rob Long (Justice: The One Virtue Nobody Really Wants), David “Iowahawk” Burge, James Lileks, Jonah Goldberg and others.

    One recurring theme is that most of the virtues are internal, not visible to observing eyes. People can’t easily observe you being Prudent, or Temperate or even exercising Moral Courage. Unlike our modern “virtues” of SJWs there is little credit in this life for being a virtuous person. You don’t get to hector people for not meeting your standards, you are stuck belaboring yourself for failure to maintain those standards.

    Sucks to be virtuous. Even if it is its own reward, most of us would rather have cash … or praise, which is its own form of cash.

    • You probably need a sarc tag there. The rewards and satisfactions of virtue and anonymous virtuous acts are, in my experience, way better than public acclaim or recognition. You are correct about the living hell of not living up to your own standards – that can be a bitch.

    • We are recommended to do good to those who can not repay us for a good reason.

    • People can’t easily observe you being Prudent, or Temperate or even exercising Moral Courage.

      But when they do they call you a prude, a stick-in-the-mud, and no fun at parties.

  9. I am not neurotic! *pouts*

    Yeah, that “voice for the voiceless” thing…it only pops up for me in the realm of responsibility. Like for pets. They literally don’t have a voice and here I am literally making life-or-death decisions for them. I had to decide whether or not to give my cat with cancer chemo, knowing he would not understand, would be terrified of going to the vet so often, and it might, maybe, give him six more months of life. In the end I opted not to do that, and he managed more than six months with a decent quality of life. I figured if he had the energy to get up on the counter and lick the frying pan, he was enjoying *something*. But it was hard, and even now I wonder if I did the right thing. Because I have no way of knowing, not for sure. And he couldn’t tell me.

    • Funny how the whole “voice for the voiceless” thing gets ignored when the voiceless are humans in embryo.

      As for quality of life decisions for pets … yeah. That is one reason I have refused to take on responsibility for another after the last one passed. I no longer trust my judgement in such matters.

    • With my last cat but one, I decided that I couldn’t justify putting her down until she stopped being able to walk on her own. Thankfully (?) she died on her own (at the top of the cat tree, heading for the cat door) before reaching that point.

  10. I don’t claim virtue because I know what lies in my heart. Therefor I do my best to be a good a person as I possibly can.

  11. Condemnation of our prison system is facile. It allows people to point out how Society falls short of aspirations — as if achieving our aspirations was laudable. It is a way for the destructive to tear away at the fabric of Society, to pick at the blemishes of our (indeed, all human culture) and denounce imperfection. (Lawsy me — humans not perfect? Unpossible!)

    It is mostly another tool from the Frankfurt School’s kit of implements of destruction. The proper measure is not does this social instrument achieve perfection, it is whether it is preferable to the various alternatives.

    We can also see this trend in many of the prescriptions for school discipline reform, most of which enable the disruptive to prevent more serious students from learning. At root it is a focus on visible costs (poor babby has feeling hurt and creativity stifled) while ignoring the less overt costs of policies (see: effects on students seriously concerned about their educations.)

    • I can’t help but think that a prison system that incarcerates people is incompatible with a society that wishes to be free. However, I suspect that I would have a hard time convincing everyone to move to a system that is more respectful of liberty: one where you pay four-fold damages to the victims you have harmed, and where, if you raped or murdered someone, you would be given an “outlaw” status where the State won’t execute you, but you could be legally killed by, at a minimum, and “avenger of blood”, or perhaps by anyone in society, for whatever reason.

      I would even consider a bit of corporal punishment for certain offenses.

      Having said that, I remember reading in “Target Switzerland” that crimes short of murder usually produced less than a year’s sentence in prison. Not only that, but apparently a Swiss person attempted to assassinate a German official, and Nazi Germany wanted Switzerland to extradite him. They wouldn’t, though, because political killings were actually treated very leniently in Switzerland. Imagine that! A legal system that only mildly frowns upon the killing of politicians for political purposes!

  12. Pingback: DYSPEPSIA GENERATION » Blog Archive » Virtue

  13. This is also why the older and more mature religions have established ways of atoning and established days for doing so.

    I tend to view such practices as useful reminder that you are not perfect nor expected to be. Humility is an often under-rated and frequently misrunderstood virtue.

  14. Re: The felon thing yesterday. I’m not really sympathetic to people who break other people’s stuff (cars/homes/etc) and steal from them, nor am I very sympathetic to actual violent criminals.

    But I can imagine a day (really any year now) when any of us could be “felons” for things that have absolutely nothing to do with mala en se crimes against our fellow citizens. We could be felons for thinking the wrong things, and blogging with the wrong people. We could be felons for defending ourselves against violence. We could be felons because the state government doesn’t like us, and look at all the things they can get us on.

    The law has, historically, in most of human history, had absolutely nothing to do with protecting the peasants from crime, and everything to do with enforcing the authority of those in power at the point of a gun.

    “Liberal” arguments with respect to the treatment of prisoners resonate with me, not because I’m sympathetic to predators, but because I don’t trust the law/justice system to only, or even mostly, catch predators and pass over innocent men. Not with conviction rates like we have these days.

    • Well, I am unquestionably against making thoughts or words crimes.

    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

      “The law has, historically, in most of human history, had absolutely nothing to do with protecting the peasants from crime, and everything to do with enforcing the authority of those in power at the point of a gun.”

      I disagree as there is plenty of periods in history where “Those In Power” saw the need to protect the “peasants” from predators (human and otherwise) if only because then the “peasants” could pay their taxes.

      The predators would likely kill the peasants and the rulers would not want to have no peasants to tax.

    • The problem there is that the innocent and the guilty are being treated alike. The cure is at the front end, not in the process.

      Reminds me of the people who argue that being expelled from college because a woman alleged that you raped her is not that bad since he could go elsewhere — to which the retort is that is hardly the proper punishment for actual rapists.

    • Being one of the folks who brought up prison reform yesterday, I feel like I ought to quantify it a bit: for me it’s not “oh the poor prisoners” (and the European slap-on-the-wrist approach to murder appalls me no end), but I think there are those who committed a crime that falls far short of the truly heinous such as rape/murder/theft/kidnapping that get shoved into the hellhole and taught absolutely nothing beyond “you’re now a felon, your life is ended, might as well be a criminal”

      I’m honestly not sure what a solution to that might be. It’s a messy situation, and would likely need to be approached on a case-by-case basis. Personally, I think the truly dedicated prison pastors/religious volunteers/teachers probably do more good than any kind of mandated reform program, so I suppose that’s a jumping off point. But that comes down to the practice of virtue, as you said, and not virtue signaling. 🙂

      • Oh, I think we should divide the serious harm to others from the mild annoyance to others. And the self-harm people, well… WHY are we arresting them? BUT that said… that said… The problem is preventing it from sliding all the way, as it were, once you start.

        • Yes. And sadly, even the very best of intentions tend to go awry at some point. One of those (not-very) joys of being human–inevitably, at some point, we will screw it up. The important part is, I suppose, to keep trying regardless and rely on that whole ‘grace’ thing…

      • I have a long-standing proposal for prison reform:


        Heinlein’s story was set on an island, but I’d settle for “not in the USA.”

        The Fed says it costs $29,000 per year per prisoner to run the Federal penitentiary system. Say, someone has been sentenced to 10 years.

        Give them that money in cash – $290,000 – an exit visa, revoke their citizenship, and put them on a plane to anywhere that will take them. They vanish permanently from the United States of America. For all practical purposes, they’re dead. And while $290K sounds like a lot of money, it’s about half of what the appeals and execution costs run for a Federal fdeath penalty case. And we save even more on the shorter-term sentences.

        • What about death penalty cases?

        • Reality Observer

          Oops! Coventry was definitely not an island.

          I don’t claim to know just what area RAH had in mind (if any) for the place – but I got an impression of eastern Colorado and maybe western Kansas. Could have been over towards the Appalachians, too. But definitely continental, and a region where agriculture was not difficult, and at least a fair amount of rough country for the “Saints” to isolate themselves in.

        • Texas houses prisoners much cheaper. It has to do with siting the prisons in rural areas with large farms attached.

      • I would propose that the standard for “felony” should be, “Is this serious enough that we should consider the death penalty for this person?” You don’t necessarily need to execute felons; it just has to be a requirement that the felon should *deserve* execution. Indeed, this is what the word used to mean, but it’s been watered down since then.

        Murder, rape, torture, sure, they’re felons. Embezzling millions, or creating a multi-million dollar Ponzi scheme? Perhaps. I could certainly see reason for wanting to execute such a person. Torturing small animals? I doubt it, but it becomes particularly creepy when this is a felony, but kidnapping and torturing a child might not be. (I may be mistaken, but this may be the actual state of law in Utah right now…at the very least, I know torturing small animals *is* a felony.)

        Someone who found an eagle’s feather on the side of the road? Seriously, you want to execute someone for that?!? Yet that’s a Federal felony, because eagles are endangered.

        While there are many things I don’t like about our prisons, I’m much more concerned about how easy it is to get in there in the first place!

        (Oh, and with regards to the “torture small animals” bit: I remember when it was being pushed to become law, an argument for it was “torturing animals is a potential precursor to doing bad things to people!” Now that I’m aware that many people go to prison for petty things, and then come out hardened criminals, the cynical side in me now follows up that argument with “So, you’re saying that you want to finish the process, to ensure that this person does bad things to other people?”)

    • BobtheRegisterredFool

      Suppose that I am the most horrible person in this group, as far as this is concerned.

      The major and so far unresolved problem with any of my “kill ’em all” proposals is that the cost is too high. For all its ills, even under Obama, the status quo relatively impairs internal slaughter. It is difficult, perhaps impossible, to change that for one thing without changing it for other things.

      I don’t trust government. I expect the Democrats to, as they have in the past, carry out massacres where they have the ability. I do not think it is wise to make certain things easy for anyone.

      So, I can agree with some people who are significantly political enemies about the need for things like government transparency, civilian oversight of the military, or restrictions on police activities.

      • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

        “restrictions on police activities”

        I know that “reasonable” can be a dirty word. [Wink]

        But I’d add “reasonable restrictions on police activities” as many “restrictions on police activities” currently in place aren’t reasonable even while police are allowed to act in unreasonable ways. [Polite Smile]

        • The whole “Immunity” thing needs to be eliminated. There are few negative consequences for LEOs and even less for prosecutors in the justice system.

          • The problem is that the cops would drown in nuisance suits, since crooks are exactly the sorts who would lie for their advantage and would delude themselves into thinking it would an advantage.

            • This. Plus, crooks with a grudge, which could be valid without illegal behavior on the cop’s part, or could be entirely in the crook’s head. Plus, prisoners often have a lot of time to kill and are bored….

              • “Hands up, don’t shoot.”

                It doesn’t take much thought to imagine a few thugs attempting to video an encounter with framing designed to entrap a cop in such a nuisance suit.

            • Perhaps “immunity” shouldn’t be eliminated completely, but it needs to be significantly curtailed. The problem with complete immunity, which has been carved out by justices rather than legislated into place (hence, the case can be made that there’s a conflict of interest!) is that it gives police, prosecutors and judges full reign to do abusive things with government, with little to no recourse.

              Sure, police need immunity from criminals. But should they *also* receive immunity for breaking down a door, killing the family dog, and shooting the father, all because they got the wrong address, or relied on an unreliable witness, or otherwise didn’t do their due diligence?

    • What makes this worse is that the complexity of the federal code, and the large number of regulatory offenses which have no mens rea component, mean that it’s very easy to *accidentally* violate a law.

      See for examples.

  15. Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

    On letting the “State take care of people”.

    It’s definitely “easier” because then you don’t have to deal with people who are taking advantage of your kindness. My parents tried to help out a woman in their area and it later became clear that she would never “turn her life around”.

    Of course, it’s more dangerous to let the “State take care of people” because the State never seems to recognize the people who won’t “turn their lives around”. [Frown]

    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

      By the way, I had this problem with a former neighbor (in my current apartment complex).

      I started out *just* taking her dog for walks but she started taking advantage of my kindness.

      It got to the point that I had to stop walking poor little Chewie because doing so meant dealing with her.

      Oh, I say “former neighbor” because she had to go to the hospital and is very likely going to a nursing home. I helped out another lady with Chewie but thankfully Chewie has gone to a new home (not the pound).

  16. RE: prisoner rehabilitation: Is this the new THING? I saw it here yesterday, and it’s been cropping up more and more.

    Not really, it has been the cause celeb before in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

    From Wikki’s article on Norman Mailer:

    In 1980, Mailer spearheaded convicted killer Jack Abbott’s successful bid for parole. In 1977, Abbott had read about Mailer’s work on The Executioner’s Song and wrote to Mailer, offering to enlighten the author about Abbott’s time behind bars and the conditions he was experiencing. Mailer, impressed, helped to publish In the Belly of the Beast, a book on life in the prison system consisting of Abbott’s letters to Mailer. Once paroled, Abbott committed a murder in New York City six weeks after his release, stabbing to death 22-year-old Richard Adan. Consequently, Mailer was subject to criticism for his role. In a 1992 interview with the Buffalo News, he conceded that his involvement was “another episode in my life in which I can find nothing to cheer about or nothing to take pride in.”

    This inspired the early SNL skit

    Given enough time prisoner rehabilitation will cycle out of fashion until it once again returns.

    • Mailer, at least, had the decency to admit he’d messed up. Most folks never do.

    • I wonder if it is that (old trend being refreshed) plus the start of some kind of mass amnesty for “minor drug offenders” currently in Club Fed. The problem being that you don’t get into Club Fed for having a nickle bag in your car while you are driving with expired plates.

      The increasingly paranoid part of me wonders if it would come as paybacks for the 5th Circuit Decision today.

      • Prison Reform as a trending topic of conversation, and “FBI Expands Interviews in Hillary Email Server Probe”…Hmmmm.

        Nah, pure coincidence. Couldn’t possibly be the Clinton Machine trying to pre-emptively upgrade Hillary’s cell. That’s just preposterous.

        • *grave expression* Oh absolutely. The media would never allow themselves to participate in anything along the lines of what you suggest. As you say, pure coincidence. *nods sagely, washes paw in thoughtful way*

  17. ladies and gentlemen, small dragons and octopi
    Why do you hate large dragons and non-octopodal cephalopods? Why?
    Won’t someone please think about the non-octopodal cephalopods?

    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

      ::A Very Large Dragon Turns An Evil Eye Toward The FEDERALSAILOR and wonders if he’s worthy or a fireball or a carp.:: [Very Big Evil Dragon Grin]

    • It’s simple, large dragons and non-octopodal cephalopods are ladies, unless they are gentlemen. I guess I fall under the category “gentleman” (though I’d prefer to be under a lady if i must be under anyone… works for over to, think of it). Anyway, whether gentleman or not, I’ve been called worse. This isn’t worth protesting, really.

  18. I did pick up one family when on my way from Las Vegas to Los Angeles last summer after I saw a man waving a white cloth next to his stopped car because, well, if I had not stopped I would have kept wondering if he got help or not the rest of the day, and it was in the middle of a desert and cell phone reception seemed to be rather bad at least with my phone (looked, no bars at that moment). I do have to say I was rather relieved when he helped the obviously rather pregnant wife and small baby out of the car when I promised a lift. He talked with me during the rest of the drive, wife spoke only Spanish, and presumably they were illegal immigrants, he said from Texas going to some free clinic and to see family in Los Angeles (he told me his family had come from Mexico ten or so years ago, wife’s family recently and she hadn’t yet learned English). I don’t know if I would have stopped if it had not been in the middle of that desert, and if the cell had had reception I might have just called 911 or something. Maybe. Not sure. I didn’t see the wife and the baby because they were inside the car until I had stopped.

    • I really hate to say this, but it’s become really dicey. I know of a man who stopped to help a woman and a man, only to have the woman pull a gun on him. Fortunately he was packing,and he got the man in a headlock and put his own gun to his head and ordered them to get down on the pavement. Then he called the sheriff.

      • Not, historically, a new situation.

        One reason the Daughtorial Unit was encouraged to study the Child Ballads. [ wikipedia[DOT]org/wiki/List_of_the_Child_Ballads ]

      • Yes. There was traffic, I do think somebody else would already have stopped if the baby and the wife had been somewhere you could see them, a lone man is a lot more questionable, a pregnancy belly can be easily faked so a pregnant looking woman is not a guarantee of much but at least presumably not that many criminals take a baby with them. You’d think anyway.

    • When driving in the desert, you probably ARE the next car.

  19. I can’t comment much in general, as it head straight toward religion. Suffice to say that Christianity’s take is that no one can atone for his or her self, and must rely on the atonement of Another.

    I can say that all virtues begin internally, with any external manifestation the result of what’s inside – or it should be. I can also say I’m not a virtuous man since I know myself all too well.

    I can’t say if another’s virtue is real or for show, since I don’t know their motivations. That includes people concerned about prisoners. Maybe it’s honest; maybe not. There is a high degree of recidivism, whether from lack of education (at one time a surprising number didn’t finish high school) or sociopathy, I don’t list a lack of job opportunities because there’s a number of manual labor jobs that tend to be unfilled and are open to anyone. They’re also unpleasant, but at least it’s work and a step on the path to something better.

    I also know this: A number of friends have ended up in prison, and so far all who came out have found gainful employment, even if they had to start up their own business. And yes, as far as I know their work is legit.

    • Regrettably, conditions inside many prisons are not conducive to rehabilitation. The pressures inside tend to give rise to informal “protective” organizations such as the Crips, Bloods, and Aryan Nation, dedicated to the protection of their membership and predation on non-members.

      There also seems little that can be done — apparently locking up large groups of maladjusted sociopaths is not conducive to development of good citizenship. The only alternative worse for society is leaving them roaming free.

      The few groups which seem effective in rehabilitating the jailed are religious — primarily Christian — and therefore more offensive to the acute sensibilities of our nation’s Intelligentsia than prisoner abuse.

      • When my grandfather was doing prison ministry in Korea. He and the buddhist took alternate weeks to preach… one week the Buddhist monk preached a fiery christian sermon and my grandfather asked him about it afterwards. The man’s response? “Buddhism has nothing to offer these people.” The modern Intelligensia fail to recognize they have nothing to offer these people. Until they recognize that they won’t recognize who might be able to offer them something of substance.

      • ^ Yeah. For me, it’s less about reforming prisons themselves than in reaching out to people who are not yet entirely lost. And then in making sure they’re not going to be punished for the rest of their lives for what (depending on the crime) might have been done in a moment of youthful stupidity or lack of choices. And addressing the societal cause of those lack of choices–like reaching out to youth in gang heavy areas and giving them options other than joining the gang (though of course it’s still down to that kid’s own free will)–is likely far more effective, and will never ever be 100% effective. Again, though, as I mentioned above, that becomes the practice of virtue, not virtue signalling: because implicit in such actions is always the knowledge that you will not always succeed, you will rarely be thanked, the point of it isn’t to be thanked anyway, and ultimately whether or not it makes a difference is in no way up to you but up to the person you are trying to help and what they choose to do.

        Free will is a messy, chaotic thing. Which probably explains why the “progressive” types hate it so much…

        • Read a stat some time ago that surprised me, to wit: the very large majority of kids from stably-married-parent “intact” families — even in horrid inner city gang-recruiting-ground neighborhoods — wind up rejecting gangs and crime. Of course, that’s a very small minority of such neighborhoods. Which actually makes it even more remarkable, now that I think about it. Wonder if I could dig up the source again ….

          Anyway, this and much other data suggest that the underlying problems at least include family breakdown. Which in turn has been hugely fueled by welfare policies. Probably harder to reverse than to create, though, since the short-term incentives tend toward maintaining the status quo.

          • Well yeah. If you already have a stable family that cares for you, being part of a gang suddenly becomes much less attractive.

          • A great percentage of the problems attributed to race and class can be found to have their roots in the absence of stable two parent families (much less extended ones) but for some reason those who are forever advocating we address “root causes” seem peculiarly reluctant to dig up that root.

            • Do you realize just HOW MUCH money is tied up in the whole divorce / “family court” / child-support industry?

              Qui bono?

              • Family is the best gang. Well, the stable, loving, consistent ones are…

                And not just the divorce/child support industry… The instability creates a permanent, self-reproducing (and self-limiting) dependent class whose actions can be pointed to when the cause-of-the-day needs Outrage. Manipulating the levers of said dependent class: income inequality, cisgender bias, insensitivity to race or religion, the 1%, all the way up to and including “The ebul Repub’s gonna kill granny!” keeps the news cycle churning as well.

                It’s less a machine than an organism, one that has grown too large for its petri dish. Witness them eating their own, in Missouri…

    • I know of an atheist pagan who likes to rail on Christianity. I personally don’t fully understand why he thinks Christianity is pure evil, though, because I’ve read his conversion story to paganism, and it’s in part a recognition that our human psyche has certain aspects to it that are touched on by our conceptions of gods and goddesses. (He doesn’t literally believe that these beings exist, but he’s nonetheless channeled Pan and Thor under certain circumstances, and recognizes that Odin would be a very scary god to channel.)

      I think part of the problem is that he doesn’t fully appreciate the need for justice, mercy and forgiveness in our lives. By accepting that God will mete out justice, we don’t have to practice vengeance ourselves, so we could let go of our grudges…and because God is merciful, we can be forgiven of our own flawed choices.

      In any case, I think it’s dangerous to completely reject a given belief system without trying to figure out what holes in our psyches those belief systems are trying to fill….

      • My sister the witch (She calls herself that, at least to me and her friends) had a friend/acquaintance that gave her some jewelry or such as it fit Wicca and was no longer needed or of interest. That person started out, it seems, atheist and then tried the neopagan/Wiccan thing for a bit… and then settled on some form of Christianity. Yeah, Wicca was a “gateway religion” for her, one might say.

  20. I am confident that no one here is against the ideas of “rehabilitation” and “redemption”.
    I am also confident no one believes anyone is coddled in a US state or Federal prison (a simple search of reality prison TV shows can be enlightening).
    Relating to the Alaska zeitgeist:
    Private industry exists to create new markets. If crime drops off, what will the private prison industry do to drum up business? Hire lobbyists and PR to rationalize more, tougher laws. Then cut all expenses beyond feeding and housing (like those programs that encourage rehabilitation and redemption) to keep the bottom line stable.

    • BobtheRegisterredFool

      I am also confident no one believes anyone is coddled in a US state or Federal prison

      This assumes no one here misses the Auburn system. This assumes no one here feels that any druggie who isn’t tortured to death is being coddled. You assume that no one here has seriously examined a program of starvation rations and minimal healthcare, then abandoned it, not for the sake of the prisoners, but because of the risk to public health.

      Your incentives for the ‘private prison industry’ exist just as much for the legal profession. They have for many decades colluded to keep alive many people that will offend as often as they are able to. Hence we now have a surplus that is too costly to confine; they can keep pulling people out for another round of trials.

      Rehab is a fraud.

    • Public employment does not prevent people from seeking their own interests. Prison guard unions have done the same things you impute to private businesses here.

      • BobtheRegisterredFool

        Thanks for thank link to Dalyrumple the other day. I surfed from there, and there was an interesting thing about the protections a certain prison guard union negotiated. As story fodder, it fit something I have been playing around with.

      • I love people who despise all individuals and businesses but thing once an individual works for government with its perverse incentive system they become angels.

      • It’s certainly true that prison guard unions have some of the same (bad) incentives that private prisons would have. But creating more people with the same bad incentives doesn’t seem like it would make the situation better.

        • BobtheRegisterredFool

          That is why we should disbar most lawyers, and stop the overproduction of new ones.

          • I’m not following. The prison guard unions are not bastions of lawyers; getting rid of lawyers won’t change the broken incentive structure for prison guards or private prisons.

            So I have to assume you’re talking about a different set of perverse incentives 🙂

            My experience is that most lawyers’ incentives are well aligned with the *economic* incentives of their customers. The problem for me arises when they encourage their customers to place their joint economic interests over all other considerations.

            But at least as much of the fault in that lies in the customer who agrees to do so.

            • BobtheRegisterredFool

              It goes like this: The per capita rate of lawyers is supposed to have increased by three times. Those lawyers would’ve needed work, and not all of the additional work would have come from economic growth leaving more to fight over.

              Now, the obvious explanation is the increase in regulation that works as a wealth transfer from the rest of the economy to the lawyers.

              However, over roughly the same period, there have also been changes in sentencing and various other aspects of the criminal legal system. Supposedly some of the related activism by people with law degrees was due to professional ethics. Suppose professional ethics was just a ruse to create a revolving door prison system.

              Similar details jump out at you if you can see the stuff defense attorneys tend to say about the law as falsehoods that happen to make their jobs easier.

              • It is said that a lawyer in a small town makes no money until another lawyer opens an office.

                • Remember that most of the problem is the litigators. Most lawyers do not litigate. Wills and stuff take up a lot of the business.

                  • BobtheRegisterredFool

                    I do not actually know the actual numbers. So it may just be my own bitterness and the anti-lawyer prejudices traditional to what I studied at my alma mater. It seems plausible, but there have been so very many changes.

                    It could just be politics, lawyers having blindspots in the same way that engineers, accountants, and doctors do, or something else entirely.

    • Bob: I have no doubt you have experiences with addicted loved ones. Because to say “kill them” might make you a hypocrite re the whole compassion for the sincerely repentant.
      PS – if you search terms like “prison medical facility” and “supermax”, you’ll find that the US does a splendid job doing exactly what you describe.

      Mary: Any system can be abused, yes.
      Any union or industry can leverage to unfair benefit, yes.
      While government can waste, only a prison industry can waste, come up with a reason to imprison you, then give bonuses (look up “Luscerne County PA juvenile prison scandal”).

      Sarah: I agree. This avowed capitalist/skeptic wonders who you are referring to.

      • “capitalist and skeptic”

      • The Other Sean

        Luzerne County – that’s the “Kids for Cash” scandal I mentioned and linked to above.

        • Leave us please keep in mind that just because a system, program or tool is subject to abuse is no reason to bar it. Hedge it with safeguards, sure. Monitor it carefully, okay. Even limit it. But ban it because it is sometimes misused? Does anyone know of any government program which is not occasionally misused? Heck, I daresay we can’t even defend the proposition that the subjects the First & Second Amendments are not misused at any time.

          Just because imprisonment is subject to exploitation and abuse does not mean we ought let criminals roam free, any more than people meeting under color of a Faith to plot our nation’s destruction means all churches should be eliminated or required monitoring by political officers, nor that their ability to counterfeit demands all presses be licensed, speech inciting criminal acts does not warrant limits on what, where and when we may speak, or criminal use of guns justifies making their ownership illegal.

          • BobtheRegisterredFool

            I think gun control and poll taxes were so heavily abused by the murdering racist Democratic Party, and so readily prone to abuse, that I greatly prefer that they not be law.

            I’m an obnoxious contrarian jerk.

          • The Other Sean

            Banning that which is capable of abuse is often a good idea. This is one of the reasons for limiting the power of government – not because it can’t be used to accomplish good things, but because it can so easily be abused to horrid result.

      • Huh? Of course the government can come up with a reason to imprison you and then give out bonuses. Whatever would stop them?

      • BobtheRegisterredFool

        Bob: I have no doubt you have experiences with addicted loved ones. Because to say “kill them” might make you a hypocrite re the whole compassion for the sincerely repentant.

        I’m pretty sure you had a typo in the first sentence, because otherwise I am confused about what you might be trying to say.

        You do not know me. You do not know my circumstances. You sure do not know what I might do in what circumstances.

        Do you have any citation of me ever saying ‘compassion for the sincerely repentant’ in the context of recreational drug users?

        I have two additional issues with the appeal to ‘loved ones’. The implication often is blood relatives. Calls for compassion are often in the context of serious crimes with potential for severe harm to others if they happen again. Sparing a loved one in such circumstances involves favoring them over others. This is similar to racism. To suggest that I would thus partial is similar to accusing me of racism. It is an appeal that assumes I do not also love the law.

        You do not know me, and cannot speak for me.

        The golden rule does not give useful results when the reaction is ‘I would rather be burned alive’. Such a person could easily feel that a quick, clean death is the kindest thing one can offer a recreational drug user. Note ‘feeling’ is not the same as ‘thinking’, ‘legal analysis’, ‘political analysis’, ‘theology’, or ‘seeing what is just’.

        PS – if you search terms like “prison medical facility” and “supermax”, you’ll find that the US does a splendid job doing exactly what you describe.

        Prisoners clearly are not expiring at a speed that really counts as killing. (25 Blokhins could kill 2.2 million in a year.)

        I was specifically talking about druggies. Druggies by definition are slowly killing themselves by inches. If the prisons are not faster than that, they are not really killing them. In fact, the prisons are slower than that, because they prevent some OD fatalities.

        It would also be very difficult to convince me that the prisons are crueler than what the druggies do to themselves.

        An example that would convince me would be taking a few days to kill someone by peeling off the skin.

        Unless you can show me that this, or something directly comparable, is carried out routinely, they are coddled in my eyes.

        Prisoner rehabilitation is largely fraud and magical thinking.

        • Prisoner rehabilitation is largely fraud and magical thinking.

          The idea of prisoner rehabilitation is to allow inmates the chance to change their lives for the better. Whether or not they do so is entirely up to them.

          • BobtheRegisterredFool

            As an opportunity, should the person in question choose to do the heavy lifting on the inside, it is not fraud.

            As a proposal that supposes that enough funding will allow it to forcibly deal with 2 million inmates, it is fraud.

            Compare energy efficiency.

            This can be legitimate as a goal for an engineer.

            As a proposal to meet the energy needs of a population to be thirty percent larger (plus ten percent goods as poverty decreases), while reducing proven baseline power technologies by twenty five percent, it is a filthy lie.

  21. Two stories:
    A lady friend dear to me, lives the virtuous life the best she can and doesn’t brag about it. She has helped friends, family and strangers with time and money, giving them what they need to get over a rough patch. Even though certain folks have taken advantage of her, she manages to still help others, although she is a bit more cautious. Doesn’t advertise on Twitter, nor does she judge herself above others in Gods’ eye. Doesn’t brag or peach about empowering women, but goes out and helps them with chunks of her personal time. Unless she has helped you or yours, you will probably never know.

    A bunch of people recently went SJW near my home town about a boy whom had supposedly made a clock* and was being persecuted due to his skin/religion. He received presents and encouragement from masses of people and organizations that couldn’t wait to declare themselves “better” than his school or the local law enforcement. Condemnations flew from all over the world. On further examination it turned out to be a political stunt orchestrated by the boys family.

    Had he actually been abused by authorities, his family would have owned the school district and city in court. Strangely enough, they haven’t pressed a suit and have basically fled the country, possibly due to the father’s back taxes. So far none of these virtue signalers that rewarded his disruptive behavior will answer questions about the facts that have come to light. I worry about the future of this kid. I wonder why everyone is so eager to be a spring-butt and jump on any bandwagon of tinfoil virtue without know the backstory? It’s foolish and damaging to the people involved and a true virtuous society.

    *(I do know what a self built clock is, I’ve built several over the decades of being a electronic hobbyist, a long licensed amateur radio operator, a military electronics specialist, university study and was employed in the electronics/communication/semiconductor industry for over 15 years. And he wasn’t arrested for “building a clock” he was detained for repeating disrupting multiple classes with a “hoax” device by making the alarm go off. )

  22. c4c

  23. One thing about the prison/prisoner/felon issue is that even those convicted of low-level crimes are punished for life by the “felon” label.
    Once a person has served the time they were sentenced to serve,plus an post-release parole/probation,all rights should be restored.
    The permanent “felon” label is probably the reason for some of the recidivism,if people cannot get a decent job due to the “felon”label,they are going to go back to what they know-selling drugs,robbing stores,mugging people,burglarizing homes,etc.
    To reduce the insanely high recidivism rates-sentence those convicted to longer sentences for each conviction after the first one.
    Add x number of years per prior conviction to the sentence of those who commit more crimes after release. This would keep the idiots who don’t mind going to prison locked up longer-at some point they are going to be sick of being incarcerated,and stop committing new crimes.

    • Just locally, I’ve seen a disturbing number of things that used to be misdemeanors reclassed as felonies.

      I expect overstaying a parking meter or having too-tall grass will become felonies any day now.

      • Yeah,far too many things are felonies,there’s even a book out titled 3 felonies a day that shows how every one of us commits 3 felonies every day just going about our business due to the insane number of fed laws and regulations on the books. Add in the insane number of local,county and state laws and regs,and you understand why the USA has more people locked up in prisons than any other country on earth.

        • The incarceration rate is already scary enough without adding a profit motive to it.

          Nobody would *ever* abuse such a thing, and I’m just paranoid, of course…

          • The Other Sean

            See my link on the “Kids for Cash” scandal, above. Are you really paranoid when they are doing things like that?

          • There’s been a few instances of judges being involved in ownership of private prisons and/or private probation companies-at least one judge in Georgia was caught sentencing people to prison/private run probation for minor “crimes” to keep the prison full,and the probation company as well.
            Some private prisons have contracts with whatever state they operate in that require the state to provide them with enough prisoners to keep the prison at or near capacity.
            That is a huge problem,and should not be occurring in a supposedly “free” country.
            As I said in my first post-this lifetime”felon” label is punishing people for life,often for a stupid mistake they made when they were young.
            Not many employment opportunities for anyone labeled a”felon”.
            We need to return to considering a person’s “debt to society” paid upon release from prison or parole/probation.
            The time a person is sentenced to spend in prison or on probation is supposed to be the punishment-it was never meant to be,nor should it be a lifetime punishment.

            • “Not many employment opportunities for anyone labeled a”felon”.”

              I don’t like the lifetime felon label, as a matter of fact I think if you have waited your time (varies, depending on the felony, as it should) and petitioned the court and got your gun rights, etc. (actually from my experience, all your rights except your gun rights are automatically reinstated) reinstated, the “felon” label should be dropped.

              On the other hand, I have to disagree with your statement above. It may cause extra hurdles for certain jobs, and may actually bar you from a few jobs (like President, one can never be President if you have been convicted of a felony; but you can be a Senator or Congressman, in fact a large number of those do have felonies) but there certainly are a large number of employment opportunities for people with a felon label.

              • “but there certainly are a large number of employment opportunities for people with a felon label.”

                Let’s see-you can’t work at McD’s or any other fast food place,same with Lowe’s,Home Depot,and Wal-Mart if you are a “felon”.
                Can’t work for almost all .gov agencies,can’t join the military,can’t work for any school system-even as a janitor-including state colleges and universities.
                Most restaurant chains like Outback,Applebees,TGI Friday’s,etc. won’t hire felons.
                Most states won’t hire felons for anything,not even laborer on a road crew,most large construction companies won’t hire felons,same with HVAC contractors,remodelers,and painters.
                So-where’s all the jobs a convicted felon can get?

                • Anyplace that’s too small to run background checks (and knows your family), or you start your own business.

                  • You really think it’s that easy for a guy who just got released from prison? How is he or she supposed to have earned the $$$ to start a business?
                    Using Ohio as the example,the prisoner gets a whopping $18:000 per month for doing whatever menial labor job they were assigned to? There’s a few jobs that pay inmates a little more,as in $20.00-$24.00 per month.
                    How’s someone going to find a job that pays a “living wage” when just released from prison? The ideas you have would not provide enough $$$ for a guy to live on.
                    What about the guy or lady who got with a small amount of pot back in 1976 who is still labeled a”felon”?
                    The people that are psychos-the murderers,rapists,armed robbers,etc. are the ones who need to be locked up-people who got caught with a little weed back in the 60’s or 70’s do not deserve to be labeled a felon for life.
                    Make the sentence fit the crime-then reinstate everyone’s civil rights when they have completed their sentences.
                    That’s how it should be-the punishment is the loss of freedoms and rights while incarcerated-it should not be a lifetime punishment.
                    The prison term is the punishment.

        • It’s not just the laws, it’s that a lot of the regulatory offenses have no mens rea component.

          Almost all traditional crimes require the combination of an act and a mental state. Larceny, for example, is taking property *combined with the intent to deprive the owner of the use of the property*. In most jurisdiction, murder-1 requires intent to kill while manslaughter requires negligence (a different culpable mental state).

          But a lot of regulatory offenses don’t require *an* particular mental state – simply the act is enough. So accidentally trespassing in a wilderness is a crime, for example, or accidentally making a false statement to a federal investigator (without any intent to defraud or deceive).

        • The Founders should’ve put a sunset clause in. I think ten years. That gives us a different president for sure, a good chance to change our senators and representatives (though two terms for senate and three for reps would make me happy, if we’re going to be amending the constitution, with a twenty year total cap on elected federal service.)
          We have a decade to see if it works, pester our elected officials about keeping/getting rid of it, and they are so busy re-passing laws that they have relatively little time to make up new laws. All in favor?

          I should look up the process for amending the state constitution here. I bet it’s easier than the national . . . eh, forget that: I’m sure someone around this house needs to write an essay on government. Let me see . . .

  24. Continuing to think about yesterday’s comments on crime and punishment. Maybe 10% of today’s criminal class are truly psychopaths — defective brains from birth or early brain-damage. The rest, because of poor-quality and absent parenting, were never trained to be civilized, but were trained to survive in prison-like schools and mean streets through aggression and lawbreaking. The goal should be to reduce the numbers in the criminal class by focusing on the first few brushes with the law — as with the effectiveness of broken windows policing, the way the small crimes are handled either sends the offender deeper into the crime culture, or sets him back on a better path. And the worst thing a justice system can do is ignore the small crimes while making, for example, many small businesses illegal without permits and permissions, and removing the other routes to making a living. The system as it is squeezes out unconnected entrepreneurs and incarcerates and supports multiple generations of criminals and welfare clients.

    There is a stupid, shallow, and short-term kind of humanitarianism or Christian love that tries to eliminate any short-term suffering — so the lawbreaker should never be punished with any kind of physical pain, but “treated” by social workers or selfless nuns, etc. But the highest goals of humanity are not going to be reached by each of us dedicating our lives to preventing all discomfort to others — that way is always corrupted and ends up with gulags, prisons, and loss of freedom for all. Justice means fair signalling — holding individuals accountable for their actions that harm others directly, not forgoing punishment until they grow to be such monsters that they have to be locked away for good or killed. Truly loving others means having the strength of mind to help them grow into better people, and sometimes that means causing them pain now.

    • [cartoon panel; two men standing over a bloody body]

      “The man who did this needs our help!”

    • BobtheRegisterredFool

      Drug use can also cause brain defects.

      • So can life, or being a democrat. Drugs may be used or abused, not unlike food. There is also a qualitative difference between recreational pot use and full tilt meth addiction or for that matter a glass of wine vs alcoholic drinking. All drug use is not slow suicide by any stretch of the imagination.

    • There was a national cause célèbre some years back, major hand-wringing over two lads who had just discovered the difference a few days can make. What had been “boyish high-jinx” before their sixteenth birthdays had become “serious criminal acts” since those milestones passed.

      While the MSM & the Usual Handwrigers were all up in snits over the unfairness, it seemed most of the American Public thought the fault lay with those who had turned the blind eye to the boys’ earlier escapades rather than put a bit of the fear o’ god into them.

      Once that majority opinion became recognized the story dropped like an exposé of Democrat political corruption.

    • Knew an old Cherokee preacher who once got a call from a prisoner who sounded repentant, then asked if the preacher would put in a word for him with the parole board.

      “You’re where you need to be,” the preacher said right before he hung up on him.

  25. The Other Sean

    Is it virtue to do the work I’m supposed to be doing rather than commenting on this blog?

  26. Heinlein addressed one of the problems with prison and punishment in the oft maligned Starship Troopers. Used the example of dog training. Do you softly whisper to the dog each day, “No, doggy, don’t do your thing on the floor.” and then six months take the dog out back and shoot him because he’s not housebroken? No, you whack the dog while sticking his nose in it. Even moreso today then when he wrote it, juveniles aren’t held to account for anything. Then, at 18, WHAM!, they’re now adults. And held accountable. When they’ve never been taught how to behave.

    • I knew of a boy called “Cadillac” who could defeat locking mechanisms and hotwire cars. He did it to joyride, and would bring them back to the dealership, IIRC. Then one day he was caught on a joyride and discovered he wasn’t going before juvenile court anymore. He’d turned 18 and would be tried as an adult. And that’s the last I heard of Cadillac.

      Some kid ours knew was involved in an act of utter stupidity. When my wife and I was talking about how their victim was going to press charges, one of ours shocked me with “But they could go to juvie.” I held off the lecture and simply said “It might straighten them out.” My wife did go into detail that paying that sort of consequence now might head off trouble later.

      • Reality Observer

        I had some sort of distant cousin (IIRC, second cousin by marriage of my father). Raised by a single mother (widow), he got into trouble when he was fifteen, something to do with kiting checks, which apparently he could be tried for as a quasi-adult way back then.

        He got an option – regular prison until he was 18, or off to a reformatory in Colorado, with no release until he 1) had completed a high school degree; 2) had learned a trade; and 3) had a job on the outside. Then his criminal record would be expunged. (As he told the story, he almost got back into trouble when he quit the job after just three months – in mid-December 1941 when he enlisted in the Navy.)

        Met him at my grandmother’s funeral in Kansas; he was a very successful CPA in California at the time.

        • Now that sounds like rehab that Worked!

          • BobtheRegisterredFool

            Yeah, but notice that it was before a) he really got started in a criminal career b) he got into a substance abuse lifestyle or c) he’d spent years getting away with hurting and intimidating others. Go read one of the Rory Miller books, I forget which one, for an estimate of how common that is.

            If you can reform most people when the cops first get their hands on them, you probably still have people who’ve already dealt with the cops multiple times. People may be easier to change before they settle in their habits.

  27. “Which brings us to the fact most of this “virtue” is not even real.”

    Most leftists, if you point out that conservatives give more to charity, donate blood more often, and give more to food banks, will conjure up reasons why it’s not real. “Religious” for instance — because if Jane Religious donates money to Catholic Relief Services and it saves the lives of dozens of children from cholera, that’s not real charity, but if Jill Secular donates money to the private school her kids attend — and pay soccer at — for a soccer field, THAT’s real charity.

  28. No, Sarah, it isn’t easy. You’re right about that. I got to thinking today, something I honestly do TOO much of, and I realize that I am not a good man. I have not led a life in which I have maximized my talents, or been charitable, or kind. I’m lazy, curmudgeonly, cynical, selfish, and borderline cruel. I am not a nice man.

    No amount of virtue signalling, or being hypocritical and demanding others live up to the standards I have failed to will ever change that. The wages of sin is death. I can ask forgiveness. I can be better. I can improve. There is so much I can do. But these are actions, not words. Even spouting them off to you here changes nothing.

    That’s what separates us from them, the Puppies from the Puppy-Kickers, the lovers of freedom from the Authoritarians. We know we’re flawed. We can’t fake it. We don’t believe the lies, even when they are comfortable. The notion that it’s “not really our fault” or “society failed us” is anathema. To them, it is axiomatic.

    It’s like watching somebody “run for breast cancer.” What the hell does that accomplish? It’s just about feeling better about yourself. You aren’t researching cancer cures. You could donate money, if that’s all it was about, without running around wearing some pink t-shirt. Self-validation. The exchange of Christian religion for Post-Modernist bunk, a sort of deconstructed Christianity shorn of God, with Marx as the great prophet, heaping original sin upon all the white guys who ate of the fruit of systematic oppression.

    I’m tired, and feel a lot older than I am. And sometimes I think that’s why I’m such an asshole. It’s authentic, at least. I’m not pretending to care when I don’t, and that’s at least one step ahead of the delusional SJWs who imagine themselves to be selfless heroes, and are really greedy piles of dogshit masquerading as paragons of moral virtue.

  29. For those interested in one man’s observations of a state prison, I highly recommend Peter Grant’s book _Walls, Wire, Bars, and Souls_.

    • Seconded. From a friend who worked in the prison system, he has it spot on. Highly recommended reading for those interested in the topic.

      • Thirded? I read this recently; his observations are excellent, and his proposals worthy of consideration.

    • Theodore Dalrymple’s observations are also interesting, though not so concentrated on prison. Life At The Bottom is a good place to start.

  30. Books on T-Shirts: See if a favorite book is among these:
    They have Shakespeare, Austen, etc. SF is poorly represented, but does have The Call Of Cthulhu.

  31. Personally, I only really ever admit to my sins because my virtues are spotty at best. But I also believe that my sins are between me and God unless they’re harming another human being.

    Part of the reason I don’t claim my virtues are because the interior is so different from the exterior. Outside, I might be calm, smiling and patient but inside I’ve already strangled the person in front of me twice while setting their house on fire.

  32. The thing about virtues is that they are essentially habits. Someone who habitually does prudent things eventually gains prudence.

  33. Don’t know how many people here have worked in a prison. I have, not as a guard. A thankless job I wouldn’t want. No one in the prison system, including the inmates, believes in rehabilitation. The counselors that are responsible for the rehab programs don’t believe in it, but they’re getting paid well to counsel, so they do so. And tell the public of course of course it works. Beats working for a living. The high muckety mucks pay lip service to rehab,in public because they have to. Well, some of the Chaplains may believe in rehab, but through adoption of faith, not the prison system itself.

    Do gooders comment that inmates lack self-esteem , and we as a society must build their self-esteem up. Ummmm, no. I was required to have an inmate assistant to follow me around and learn my trade. One of them, my age (then 50) had 10 children by 10 different baby-mamas, I term I grew to detest. Was constantly bragging about what a great dad he was. He had been in prison more then half his adult life, a year or two at a time. But he was a great father. All of his girls were baby-mamas on welfare, his boys inmates in other prisons. But he was a great father in his mind. I have 5, 2 college grads, 4 gainfully employed, and one still in HS- and I worry that I’m not a great dad, but merely good enough. Another inmate in a different line of work, a more organized crime type of endeavor, told me when he got out he was never coming back. Not because he was going straight, but because he now knew the right people to pay off, and how much.

    Prisons should NOT be privatized, IMHO. Nor, I believe, should working in them be a career option. My neighbor was a chaplain for a few years in the prison system, and quit. In his opinion, and I agreed, no one should be permitted to work in the prison system for more then 5 years because it deadens the soul. His thought was that guards should be enlisted or drafted if not enough volunteers, be assigned and housed at one prison for their term, then be given 4 years tuition at a state university. It would be cheaper then the current system. As for non-guard jobs, every job in a prison is done elsewhere in a state system. Rotate people into prisons for a 2-3 year stint at a time, and return them to their regular job. Extra pay while they’re there, of course.

    Every country runs prisons in a different manner. I’ve read of Japanese prisons, modern ones. Westerners don’t do well in them. In many South American countries, prisoner food comes from relatives on the outside. If you don’t have any, well, you work for someone else in the prison who can get you food… One of the islands my first ship visited in the Caribbean had one legal brothel. It was a wing of the women’s prison. For those that didn’t have any other way of earning their keep. From a prisoners viewpoint, American prisons are a better place then all except some Scandinavian ones.

    Prisons are not a solution to crime; they’re a place for warehousing criminals. That’s it. Reducing crime requires recognizing where crime comes from, and eliminating the causes. Hot potato! Start with- don’t subsidize single parenthood. Period. Eliminate welfare cold turkey, and reinstate Funds for Widows and Orphans. All of welfare. Cash payments, food stamps, WIC, whatever. You have a kid, family and friends can help out. Not my job if I don’t know you, not if administered through that neutral third party called government. Second, free sterilization for those that ask for it. Permanent non-reversible. And, offer reduction of sentence, up to the whole length of it, in return for sterilization. Fact of life- criminals breed criminals. Just a few ideas

    I forget which sci-fi story or author it was, but it postulated a society where there was final test for adulthood. It was pass-fail. Failing didn’t mean you remained a kid…

    • The main character is Mia, and her game is soccer. Sound right?

      Alexi Panshin is your author. I don’t know the name of the book, took me years to find out the author. See, when my dad was a young brat, he swept the floor at the local . . . five and dime, guess it was. (He was a young brat a long time ago.) And he picked up the habit of dumpster diving for the remaindered books, which the proprietor had properly removed the covers from. And he packed them around for some four decades until I was big enough to read them, and now his grandkids are reading those that haven’t totally crumbled to pieces (amazing how much difference that last twenty years made in the paper).

      And they say piracy’s a new problem with ebooks!

    • The mentioned book is now on my reading list. But wasn’t what I was thinking of. Using the search terms :lobster eggs storage war gravity extermination: I found it.
      And it’s a short story, easy to read.

      I love google…

  34. Regarding prisons, the other extreme- super tough, hard sentences and imprisonment may be just as bad as simple coddling.
    Case in point, the Russian Mafia. These guys went through the worst Beria could throw at them in the gulag, and just came out tougher and nastier.

    • Actually, if you look, you’ll find a lot of ‘retired’ KGB at the upper levels.

      • I’m thinking more of the hardened “Criminals in Law” of the “Thieves’ World”, to not use the proper Russian.

    • That’s one of the things that bothers me about prisons, at least, if the focus is to correct behavior. If you’re already criminally minded, then prisons are where you learn your craft.

      Beyond banning prisons and going to a restitution/corporal-punishment/outlaw type of justice system (which I would consider politically implausable), I’m not sure how to address this issue with prisons….

      • Develop AIs. Then we could put ’em each in solitary while giving them enough contact so it wouldn’t have detrimental effect on them — and other humans don’t have to be the contact.

        Also an actual truth detector that takes advantage of humans using different parts of their brain to tell the truth vs. to tell lies.

  35. A useful and relevant point from Mario Loyola, writing at NRO gangblog The Corner:

    Dean Acheson said once that moralizing and being moral are not the same thing. That’s a cardinal point, perhaps the most important in this whole controversy. People who are truly moral tend to focus first of all on correcting their own behavior. Those who seek to make others tolerant should start with tolerance of others. Moralizing over others, on the other hand, is just a way of tyrannizing over them.​ It is not always easy to tell the difference between the two. Self-admitted sinners of the sanctimonious sort (a peculilarly American genre of which Jimmy Carter is the greatest living exponent) can make it hard to tell the difference between being moral and moralizing, because conflating the two is often their whole strategy. But, lucky for us, today’s university students may as well be donning uniforms and forming Red Guard brigades.


    • Similar to the disconnect between moral and moralizing, I believe it was Mark Twain who once said, “Man is the rationalizing animal.”

  36. Okay. Sarah, you are not, ” the worst-practitioner-of-your-professed-religion-ever.” That “honor,” in my opinion anyway, goes to the pastoral staff and elder board at my now-former church. That crew gleefully and savagely ruins lives (at least one by strongly implying – but not outright accusing – the victim of being a homosexual pedophile) over pretty grudges and jealousy, but they’re allowed to do so because they are, direct quote, “the Godliest of men,” end direct quote.

    That crew isn’t on my “need killin'” list; more like, “if I was driving a bus and they stepped off the sidewalk in front of me, I wouldn’t stop” list.

    As for virtue… I used to be virtuous. Now, not so much. Reason being I got sick and tired of being taken advantage of by people who wouldn’t piss in my mouth of my gums were on fire. Pardon my language. I’ll still help out someone if need be, but if they ask for a favor, I’ll ask “what’s the favor?” and if I can’t do it or (more likely) if I get a hint that a) there’s more to the “favor” than they’re letting on or b) they’re trying to take advantage of me, I say “no” and walk away. Apparently that makes me an asshole in some circles. Again, pardon my language.

    Far as prison and prison reform goes…. I visited a county prison with my AP Criminal Justice class back in… 12 Grade, I think it was. Anyway, it scared the you-know-what out of me and put me firmly on the straight-and-narrow path, because I sure as hell did NOT want to end up in there.

    For reform, I don’t have the answers. But first and foremost I think we need to cut WAY back on what constitutes a ‘felony’ (somebody already mentioned the whole “you commit 3 felonies a day without realizing it) and end the permanent stigma and deprivation of rights that comes with being a felon. Way I see it, if you’ve paid your debt to society, then you come out of the hole with a clean slate. And on the other hand, if you’re judged too dangerous to have your rights restored, in my mind you’re too dangerous to be left out of the hole.

    • *let out. Should be “let out of the hole.”

      Sorry. It’s 0136 local time here. I shouldn’t be Interneting at 0136 local time.

    • “I’ll still help out someone if need be, but if they ask for a favor, I’ll ask “what’s the favor?” and if I can’t do it or (more likely) if I get a hint that a) there’s more to the “favor” than they’re letting on or b) they’re trying to take advantage of me, I say “no” and walk away.”

      Your response in case of part A is unquestionably virtuous. It’s called prudence, and is frowned upon in American society these days, because if people are prudent they can’t be jerked around as much by politicians and advertisers.
      In case of part B, it might not be as compassionate as it should be, but, see my statement on part A. Your response is unquestionably prudent.

      • Prudent indeed, but also kindness, in the long run. It is less than kind to cater to a man’s faults than to let him fail on his own, and only when the need is real and immediate lend a hand. Just enough to get him back on his feet, nothing more. It also means that your time is valuable, and that is a good example to set.

        Sometimes the best thing of all is to step back and allow someone to learn the principles of self-discipline, hard work, and dignity the hard way. What little virtues I own, I learned by my failings, over and over. It is no kindness to deny an adult (or a suitably mature child) the opportunity to learn that way.

        • Yup, this. Being virtuous doesn’t mean being a doormat / letting people take advantage of you. Sometimes, virtue requires one to say no to unreasonable requests / demands.