Sunday, July 29, 2007

Criminal Profiling Topic of the Day: Ready, Set, Vote

After Pat appeared on CNN Headlines with Erica Hill last week to discuss the two lifelong felons on parole that raped and murdered a mother and two children in Connecticut, I thought to myself, at what point will enough be enough forcing State governments to create and implement meaningful legislation to prevent scumbag, waste-of-skin offenders from offending again? I was angry, horrified, and outraged over what was done to this family. Well here’s the thing. I am wrong to be frustrated with the actions or inaction of lawmakers. Why? Because I haven’t called, wrote a letter, or sent an e-mail to my own elected officials in quite awhile. Like most everyone else, I’m wrapped up in my family, my work, and everything happening in my life. Shame on me. Shame on all of us. How can we expect anything to change if we don’t change it? What can we do to improve our justice system?


"Democracy is not about trust; it is about distrust. It is about accountability, exposure, open debate, critical challenge, and popular input and feedback from the citizenry. It is about responsible government. We have to get our fellow Americans to trust their leaders less and themselves more, trust their own questions and suspicions, and their own desire to know what is going on." Michael Parenti

We must restore faith in our system of government. Last week, a commenter on RonniRants Blog said, "Vote? That's been proven not to work." Many Americans feel the same way. In reality, voting does work, it always has and still does. It’s working perfectly for special interest groups and politicians with personal agendas. Consider this. Roughly 20- 25% of registered voters go to the polls on Election Day. Who knows how many have not bothered to register at all. The way I see it, if lobbyists only have to target the relatively small number of people who actually do vote, how hard can it be to manipulate people and issues to get the desired results? The system itself remains largely intact and still works for those who use it. The point is, it DOES still work. If you ask me, I think it would work even better if we did away with the Electoral College and had a popular vote where each ballot counted.

"Television is altering the meaning of "being informed" by creating a species of information that might properly be called disinformation... Disinformation does not mean false information. It means misleading information - misplaced, irrelevant, fragmented, or superficial information - information that creates the illusion of knowing something, but which in fact leads one away from knowing."Neil Postman

Lack of participation by the many has allowed exploitation by the few. I believe this promotes not only loss of faith in our government, but also loss of faith in ourselves. Some are concerned about this, but they have convinced themselves they have no chance of going up against the monolith. We have our small groups of conspiracy theorists, extremists, and self-styled revolutionaries. But let’s face it; the vast majority of Americans are now just a great big flock of apathetic, uninformed sheep. A whole generation out there thinks they are learning about current events by watching Jerry Springer. And their parents find it acceptable that the content published or broadcast by our news media is controlled by corporations, advertising revenues, and ratings. How can millions of Americans not see how truly dangerous this is? Throughout history, these conditions have created a mechanism for manipulation, repression, and abuse of the people by governments in every part of the world. It’s happening right now. Of course, it is a bit more complex than that, but it’s enough. Are you scared yet? You should be. Is this the legacy we will leave for future generations?

No, absolutely not!

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness” The Declaration of Independence

The American people have something no other country on earth has, The Declaration of Independence and The Constitution of the United States. I am so in awe of these documents. I dare you to read them right now and not feel a great swelling of patriotism and pride. Those words were written for you, for all of us, by men who willingly and courageously risked everything they possessed, including their lives “in Order to form a more perfect Union... and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity,” Since then, for over two centuries, countless American men and women have worked, lived, and died protecting our Country and our Liberty. Are we going to denigrate their sacrifice and turn our backs on our responsibilities?

No, we most definitely will not!

So how do we begin? Where do we start? Well, I have some suggestions.

We can start utilizing our republican form of government built on a foundation of basic principles, unalienable rights, and majority rule. "We the people" are our government, just as we have been from the beginning. There is one catch, the only way this works is if we actively participate in its processes.

Become informed and do what you can to further public awareness; talk to your friends, neighbors, coworkers, your children. But don’t just talk about who is to blame for what's wrong. Try to focus on how you think we can do better regarding specific issues. Courageously explore new possibilities with thoughtful consideration. Ask others for their ideas on a particular subject; listen to their words with your heart and mind open to all the potential of new understanding. So it went with our Founding Fathers in homes, town halls, and taverns; giving birth to a new nation

Make it a new rule to talk about politics without using the words Democrat, Republican, Liberal, or Conservative. Today, these partisan labels little resemble their original meanings and only serve to divide and separate people, pitting them against each other. Picking one side to join in discussion discourages independent thought and limits the resources and tools needed to find workable solutions for the good of all the United States. Strong emotion and passionate discourse are precursors to positive action. However, hot debate can quickly become over-heated argument. Above all, never give up your self-respect by disrespecting others, lose control, and degenerate into name-calling and abusive profanity.

On Election Day, invite a friend or neighbor to ride along with you to vote. Or volunteer to be a poll worker.

Learn about the workings of Congress, and how bills and resolutions become law. Find out what is being proposed and debated on the House floor and in House Committee meetings. Your Representatives will vote on these bills and resolutions. So, call or write their offices to let them know how you stand on a particular issue and urge them to vote yes or no. This is not a full time job; it only takes a few minutes of your time. Here are some handy resources to make it easy for you:

" is an independent, non-partisan, non-commercial website…bringing together information on the status of federal legislation, voting records, and other congressional data from official sources, and turning it into an understandable and trackable free information resource for everyday citizens…”

Find your House and Senate Representatives, research bills & votes, and track Congressional activity by feed or e-mail on subjects that interest you (with links to State Representatives and legislation).

Information about crime and justice related bills and resolutions that have been proposed by members of Congress in this legislative session, and their status on the way to becoming law. House Committee on the Judiciary and Senate Committee on the Judiciary

More on the legislative process and its history:

THOMAS-In the spirit of Thomas Jefferson, legislative information from the Library of Congress

The truth is, our leaders, protectors, and others in positions of public service are only as honest, accountable, and deserving of our trust as we insist that they be. And they should only have the position at all because the greatest majority of citizens want them to have it, not because the vast majority of citizens doesn’t care if they have the position or not. We take many of our rights as citizens of this country for granted, and by doing so. we fail to do our duty as Americans. They are not only rights; they are responsibilities.

So let’s get going everyone, c’mon - we have work to do!

Do a little reading, and call or write your U.S. and State Representatives, your Governor, or Mayor. Let them know you are interested, and that you are watching them. Then exercise your right to vote. If enough people participate in our governmental process, elected officials will be forced into making decisions and casting votes based on the will of the majority of their constituency, not on the desires of special interest groups, or they are OUT. That is why they are called Representatives.

Yes, I do believe it can be that simple, if we want it to be.

Donna Weaver


preraph said...

I share your frustration. I do write letters and try to keep informed, but I find it fruitless. The last election, a DA was elected who had no prior prosecution experience because a minority supported him and came out to vote for him, and he has spent most of his time releasing people of his race from jail. Other than that he had never done prosecution work and what race he was, there was really no other good information on him -- nor really on the other candidates except answers to a noncontroversial set of answers to compare them by that they could all agree to answer and publish, which is nearly worthless.

As soon as he was elected, I wrote him e-mail asking if he intended to enforce stalking laws, and got no response. After a woman was killed who had called the police out 10 times in the prior month on her ex, who was never detained, I wrote him again, this time in writing, enclosing a copy of the state's stalking laws and suggesting he enforce them. He didn't respond. He is running his own agenda and has no intention of responding, apparently, and he's certainly not the first. I wrote the State attorney general and got a cursory response passing the buck back to the DA. The same AG who has a nice link on his website about stalking. So I mistakenly thought they might be interested in providing something other than lip service to the issue.

Just this weekend, I have written an alternative newspaper asking them to cover this subject. We will see if they respond. I am ready to put pressure on for this negligence. But this town, and indeed most of our elected officials, have a system for keeping us from knowing who they really are and what they're going to do until they get in office, and too often the media cooperates with them. I get very frustrated and feel like a tax-paying pawn whose only input is to finance political agendas.

Investigator Donna Weaver said...

Good job, Preraph! It may not seem like you are getting anywhere, but you are. You have made the first important step. Don't give up now!

The issue of stalking and non-inforcement is a serious one. Hopefully, you're local alt newspaper will respond. Unfortunately elected officials rarely respond to just a single person, and it typically takes a few attempts before you get thier attention. It's part of the game; they are well aware that most people will not follow through. They need to figure out for themselves that you are not most people.

If I were you, I would write another letter. Mention how this is your second attempt to reach this official. This time get as many people as you can to sign the letter with you. I bet you can get quite a few signatures in no time at all. I would CC the DA and AG and also the governor and the newspaper. But only address the letter to one person. Put "CC" on the letter with their names and addresses that way everyone knows that you have actually sent copies to the others. Be firm but extremely polite. That combination is something they aren't used to. Say that you are awaiting his response and look forward to discussing your concerns with him as you are sure he is equally concerned. After a few days, follow it up with a firm, polite phone call. Make friends with the person who answers the phone and tell them about your letter. Use that person's name when talking with someone else. This can help move your correspondance to the top of the pile. :-) If need be, call once a week until you get a response. Be careful not to get angry or show your frustration; they are looking for an excuse to dismiss you- don't give them one. I've gotten pretty far with this approach many times.

Thank you for caring enough to do your civic duty, Preraph. Others will follow you. Let us know what happens.

Investigator Donna Weaver said...

"I am only one, but I am one.
I cannot do everything, but I can do something.
And because I cannot do everything,
I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.
What I can do, I should do.
And what I should do, by the grace of God, I will do."

-- Edward Everett Hale

preraph said...

Thanks for your words of encouragement and good tips. I agree with all your strategies. I'm just not sure I have time to implement them all. I spend long days typing transcripts and some time advocating animal rescue and the like. So it's frustrating when you have to rally a whole community to just get a response. And since I work at home, I don't network much at all to rally anyone! This is why lobbyists mainly exist when there is a rich corporation or special interest to fund them, because it is a full-time job. I suppose the answer is maybe to quit wasting my time on trying to influence politicians and work directly with the victims one of these days. Sometimes I wish I was one of those beneficient rich ladies who move in circles where they might actually get the ear of someone who could change things.

Investigator Donna Weaver said...

Hey Preraph, you are making a difference. And you can be just as effective on your own. In fact, you might want to just send off a second letter, this time to your local US Representative or Senator (CC the others also). If you're lucky, one of them may be serving on a committee or joint committee involving crime and justice matters; if not the Judiciary, Appropriations is involved in investigating these things too. Don't forget,it is an election year--they may sieze the opportunity to look good, or they might not want to chance the paper doing something first. No matter what their motivation is, you have a shot. Good luck, whatever you decide to do. :-)

Levi said...

I agree with most of the post. I do disagree however that we should stop going by the electoral college. Because that means that in a presidential election the candidates will not bother caring, visiting, or campaigning in places that are sparsely populated such as my state of Tennessee or Arkansas or Missouri etc.
But anyway I agree with the politicians and special interest groups.
I remember when politicians were afraid of being labeled soft on crime, so they would automatically pass anti crime laws...