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Dealing with Criminals

What do we do with people who commit crimes? Or at do we do with them? To me those are basic questions. Our first instinct is revenge and punishment. I don’t think revenge and punishment are   the same thing. Revenge is desire to cause pain, out of anger and even hate. Punishment is not. Punishment is to show that committing crimes leads to as results. That discourages them from committing future crimes. At least that is the idea. But punishment by itself is not enough.  Criminals have to learn what to do instead and have a reason to do it. People  say they want closure. I am not sure we can obtain closure. Not really. The pain and loss will always be there. Rehabilitation is  a goal criminologists discuss. How to prevent criminals from repeating their crimes. Deterrence is a goal. How to keep other people from committing crimes. Often people demand justice. When I hear people demanding justice I believe they really want revenge. They want to avenge the wrong.  Retribution is often held out as a goal. We want the person to pay for the crime. Another goal is protection of society. People who cannot follow societies rules have to be removed from society.  Balancing all these goals is difficult.

Psychologists have discovered that revenge although it feels good is in the end destructive to those who seek it.  That leaves us protection for society, deterrence, punishment, and rehabilitation.  Those are the only valid goals I see in crime enforcement and procedure.

My belief is that prison sentences act as punishment and part of the rehabilitation process , as well as acting as a deterrence to others,  and serves to protect society by removing people how commit crimes from the general population.

The motivation and desire for change has to come from inside the criminal. The criminal has to have a reason to change. And a belief that an attempt to change will be successful. There is a great variation in the success rate of different programs and methods. Some are highly successful and some or not. Studies and research continue. The goal is to increase the success rate. Let’s hope we can get nearer to the goal.





How Should We Elect the President


When the founders found our county were devising our system of government one of the problems they faced was to decide how the president’s should be elected. They saw themselves as a group of individual states coming together to form a central government.  A election of the president by a direct vote of the people was not their choice. The small states thought that would give to much power to the large states.  Since they wanted each branch of government to be separate they discarded the idea  of having congress elect the president. So that left them with the idea that each state should send delegates to meet and elect the president. The selection of the electors would be separate and distinct from the selection of congressman.  They wanted each state to chose its own delegates up preserve the idea that the county was a union of independents states  with each state retaining its identity.

This a 2019 and the national election is not until November, 2020, but the campaigns have already started.  That should give give everyone time to get name recognition, to get their opinions explained, and to get their character examined by the voters.

A lot of people are saying they would like to see the president elected by direct popular vote.  This group includes several presidential candidates, democratic candidates.  I believe that  will require a constitutional amendment. And that is not likely to happen.   Some state votes would be required to pass the amendment and small states will not agree to that.  They like having more power than they would have if the election were by popular vote. That is why the election is set up the way it is now. The large states needed the votes of the small states to get the constitution passed. And the small states wanted protection from the large states

The states by population were Virginia, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Maryland,  North Carolina, Connecticut, New York, South Carolina, New  Jersey, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Delaware and Georgia.

Virginia, with with largest population  had 447,016 and Georgia with the smallest at  just over 23,000.  None of the bottom four states had a population of  more than 65,000.

Even with such a vast discrepancy in population, Virginia had ten votes in the electoral college. Georgia had five. With about twenty times as many people Virginia had only twice as many votes. Pennsylvania with a population of nearly 250,000 had ten votes, the same as Virginia.

The election of the president has never been a democratic process with everyone having an equal vote.  Neither has the senate with everyone having equal representation.  The founders knew that the systems in those respects was not fair.  But that was the best agreement they could get to have the constitution passed and to create a union.  They left it to future generations to make it more fair, Democratic and just.  Is it time to start thinking about dealing with those issues, and making change they knew should be made but were unable to make the change they wanted.

In order to get enough small population states to vote to pass the amendment, there will have to be some incentive for them to vote to pass it.  The founders could not find any such incentive. Maybe now someone will think of something.









Thoughts on a Summer Day

I was glad to see that the dire predictions of what New Orleans may have been in for over the weekend did not come true.  Barry hit west of the city and rainfall over New Orleans was light. There were a few overflows on levees but no repeat of Katrina.  About fifty per cent or more of New Orleans is below sea level, and is sinking more each year. At the same time sea levels are rising. Trends like that don’t bode well for the future. One community has asked that the federal government raise the height of the levees to protect against future flooding. That does not sound like the right approach.  How high should they be built and how do we permanently protect areas below sea level. I don’t see that we can.  Predictions about the future of weather and height of sea level by 2050 are disturbing and rule out protection by building levees. The future for the next fifty years does not look good.

On another subject Biden is holding his lead over the other Democratic Party candidates.  Most states have the nominee chosen in a winner take all election, even if the leader gets less  than fifty per cent of the votes. Biden could win enough delegates with thirty or thirty five per cent of the votes. The question then will be if the far left of the party will get behind Biden. Bernie’s supporters did not get behind Hillary.  It well may work out the same  again. Biden running on the center without the support he needs from the left.

It is hot, humid and muggy here in Atlanta. And may be for the next two months. But fall is on the way and fall is beautiful here with crisp dry days and cool nights, and maybe a World Series this year. Something to look forward to.





Emory Class of 1964 A College Story

Emory Class of 1964 A College Story by Ernest Harben

Available on Amazon or Kindle

A story of Michael, a college freshman in 1960, and his classmates as they make their way through four years of college. Some have their childhood beliefs and plans come into conflict with reality.  Lyndon Johnson, and Martin Luther King, Jr. come to Atlanta for speeches.  The civil rights movement is taking shape in Atlanta. The Bay of Pigs, Cuban missile crisis, beginnings of War in Vietnam, President Kennedy’s election, term of office and assassination all take place in those four years. The class has to deal with all these events, as well as deciding on their careers and plans for their lives. They have adventures, changes and discoveries in their personal lives as well.  They find out life is not quite what they thought when they left home for college.





Ripples on the Etowah

Appalachian Tales Ripples on the  Etowah

By Ernest Harben

Available on Amazon and Kindle as paperback or eBook

The book is set in the early sixties, it is about Ben, in the days between his high school graduation and leaving for college in September.  It was time for him to say goodbye to one life and start another. And not just for him, the life around him was changing to something new, and affecting all those around him.  A lot can happen in just over three months in Southern Appalachia.  All of it affected by the history of his family and of the county located in the Blue Ridge mountains. Things change slowly there, until they change quickly, causing ripples, that spread in waves, until they disappear quietly.

Ernest Harben











Government Shutdown, 2019

As we all know, we are in another government shutdown. They have been occurring regularly since Regan was president. Not fully shutdown, of course. Excepted (formerly called essential) government employees are still working, with pay postponed. They are promised pay at some later date, just not now when they need it to buy gas to come to work, pay for lunch, parking, rent , car payments and a few other things that people need to go about their daily business. There are limits to how long employees can come to work with no money coming in.

After twenty eight years and ten shutdowns the laws should have been changed so that this does not happen.  The shutdowns can be prevented congrees passing an amendment to the Antideficiency Act. The amendment would provide that payments to federal employees would continue under an existing budget even after its expiration date until a new budget bill is in place.  Non -payment of federal employees is inexcusable and a failure of congress and our structure of government.

All the past shutdowns ended when congress passed a budget that the president was willing to sign. That is the obvious way that shutdowns end.  And that is how this shutdown will end. The question is when. And what will have to happen for that to occur. How bad do things have to get before congress and the president work together to end the shutdown?








George H. W. Bush

I was surprised to learn that President Bush died a few days ago. I should not have been but I was. The dealth of anyone is always a surprise even if the person is old and you have been expecting it. The dealth and finality of it is always a shock.

Bush was elected president in 1988. I voted for him. I also voted for him in 1992. I did that even though I was against the Gulf War. I thought he was a decent man.

History will judge Bush as it does all presidents and he will be ranked among the others. I don’t know ehere he will be ranked but believe he will be above average.  Historians will like his handling of the end of the cold war, and will like the way he handled the end of the Gulf War, ending it without going north into Bagdad. His goal was to remove Iraq from Kuwait and  when that was accomplished the war ended and the troops came home.

In my opinion, he should not have gone to war at all. There was no national security interest of the United States at risk. It has been reported that Bush saw Iraq as a threat to Saudia Arabia and thought that we had to protect them from Iraq. I don’t believe that would have happened. But other people thought differently and Bush listened to them.

Bush was a man of his time. He was a product of the era in which he grew up. He was rich and privileged and his life reflected that. He acted bravely and did what he believed was right. He dealt with issues that he was interested in. His was the world of business, power, rules, duty, country, and family. That was where he lived and those were the things he thought about and valued. He did what he thought he had to do to defend and protect those things that he valued.

The country has moved on since Bush’s day and time.  He was part of the greatest generation. One of the last.