Sunday, April 21, 2013

Morality and Policy. Debate Nerds Ask re Gun Control. Update to Boston. Use of Aid Fund, Newtown: Foster Debates. Propose First 47% Forum. Free Market, Guns; Arms

Morality and Guns. Update 5/1/2013

Debate Nerds Ask re Guns.

What policy best builds moral character.
Or will legislators continue to focus on personal profit by adopting a position.

Is there immorality in failure to report with verifiable factual evidenceon the full complex of issues.The Nation's Debate Nerds seek a series of Nationally Televised Debates. Voter Education Focus. The Senate and House and special interests in media and industry are not interested in educating voters, just in getting them to sign on as directed. Proposed Panel:  Essayist historians, culture and political movement specialists, other broad-based individuals not running for office. 

Trompe News. Disenfranchised debate nerds seek sponsors for a proposed Essay-Debate Format for a 2013 issue:  gun control, other political hot potatoes. These debates would combine essay and debate forum comprised of specialists and others not running for office.  This framework balance would satisfy even David Brooks, see his Op-Ed Engaged or Detached,

Add to the topic issues from the Boston Bombing:  why are persons lawfully in this nation barred from sports competition?  I understand immigration laws changed in 2010 providing for that.  Do we fear legitimate competition? Does shattering hopes of advancement, even pre-citizenship, breed anger and retribution that could otherwise be avoided.  Guns.  What is the charge against the surviving suspect, found with a gun, underage according to Massachusetts law. Are the laws of a State enough to protect public safety, see Massachusetts gun laws at

In 2008 at the John Templeton Foundation, a Pennsylvania group, posed the question:  Does a free market corrode moral character, see and some 12 respondents' views were published. The 2013 issue is proposed as an upgrade: Does a free market in the specific commodity, guns, corrode moral character?  This requires cool economists, for example, to address issues of how profitable commodities are used, and should the market care. 2008 Conversation Upgrade to 2013.

The topic planners propose using the same fonts of wisdom as participated in 2013, none of whom held elective office at the time.  They were economists, authors, an politician in suspended animation, and others. The mix is a way to offer more depth than could the solely Political-Special Interest, Smackdown Body-Count, Derbies of the last major election. Would Newtown's fund for the children there become a sponsor for a long-term contribution to national debate on that issue and others as are agreed. What are they?  Newtown Promise?

Focusing on the broader interests of the Proud 47% so far, and welcoming any from the 53%, the Nerds report that polls show that The People are sick-tired of hearing obstructive echo-chambers preserving their own election or ratings hides.  They feel a let-down by shallow and repetitive media political and issue coverage during and since the last election 2012.  With TV talkers puffing pointlessly, Nerds seek to amplify voices too often left to wither in print, in obscure sites, but representing a broader diversity of people's views.  The participants in 2008 took the time to consider, communicate, about important issues, not motivated by immediate political goals.  Even if some had political connections in 2008, that adds to the diversity of the discussion proposed.

What do they say now? And about guns?  Would no regulations on guns corrode moral decision-making? What does history say about how power is gotten and kept. How did people under the gun, or sabre, respond.  Each will be expected to provide data or verifiable history relied upon, and if no data is available, address whether it is needed and how to get it and report back.

Contacts have been made with two groups to date, for funding and sponsorship purposes:

 A. The John Templeton Foundation, a philanthropic organization headquartered in Pennsylvania, offering grants and funding for investigating Big Questions for the Nation and the World, see; and

B. The community of Newtown, including 1. Newtown Memorial Fund  trustees of the Newtown, CT funds aggregated from individuals and groups offering tangible sympathy and repair, and hoping for long-term resolution of issues. Is this the holding organization? See  ; and  2.  Newtown Promise, see

The format envisioned in draft will be

1.  A Forum of the John Templeton participants with sub-debates, as the moderator (perhaps Ms. Hirsi Ali, a citizen of the world (see below) may elect, and

2.  Televised nationally primetime, on cable and broadband; with funding for successor Forum-Debates anticipated, also with non-political, non-special interest participants, anticipated. Any 2008 participant subsequently elected to any office with legislative power, or whose enticements from special interests (see disclosure requirements below) arise above $1000 in value in a given year, shall be disqualified.

Nerds cheer. "Information has long been the goal of political debates," said one supporter, "but they degenerated into circuses, and zingers for entertainment, not fact-examination.  We applaud a focus on views supported by data and facts laid out simultaneously with the argument, as these Forums will be.  There are too many tainted and slanted Fact check sites for mere that kind of lok-back source to be really useful. Too many fact-check sites are heavily agendaed:  competition in propaganda by factoid.

A.  The John Templeton Foundation.

 In October 2008, before America's election of Barack Obama, and before the full extent of the financial world's deceit-manipulation-implosion-explosion was appreciated, the John Templeton Foundation funded a "conversation" (that overused word for spin-competion). Its topic, Does the Free Market Corrode Moral Character? elicited essays from a variety of non-political or at least not in active politics at the time, academics, scientists, public figures in many Walks.  The specific issue of whether moral character corrosion results from the free market is found at

Of interest now is a subset of that issue:

Does the free market, as applied to a specific commodity, guns, corrode moral character?

The same essayists as in 2008 shall, if they accept, address this new issue on the subset of guns as a specific commodity within an untrammeled market.  Their overviews in 2008, to the broad issue of whether the free market corrodes morality, was a general idea. Too broad to really get a comparison on responses. Each used different examples, different interpretations.  Note that the participants, however, were not just American, an important perspective.  Let them loose on Guns -- a microcosm of the larger, global issue of force and who gets to flaunt it, use it, and why, and under what circumstances.

Essay participants 2008: Read full responses at

1.  Jagdish Bhagwati, Economics Professor, Columbia and other laudits, see the site. Response:
 "To the contrary." (the free market does not corrode moral character)

2.  John Gray, professor emeritus, London School of Economics, author, False Dawn: The Delusions of Global Capitalism.  
"It depends."

3.  Garry Kasparov, former chess champion, leader of The Other Russia, a pro-democracy coalition (did he survive?), author of How Life Imitates Chess
 "Yes, but ..."

4,  Quinglian He, Chinese economist, former senior editor, Shenzen Legal Daily, author of Pitfalls of Modernization: The Economic and Social Problems of Contemporary China, The Fog of Censorship: Media Control in China, and other works.

5.  Michael Walzer, professor emeritus, School for Social Science, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, contributing editor of New Republic, co-editor of Dissent.
 "Of course it does."

6.  Michael Novak, Jewett Scholar in Religion, Philosophy and Public Policy at the American Enterprise Institute, author including The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism and No One Sees God. 
 "No.  And, well, yes."

7.  Bernard-Henri Levy, philosopher and author of, e.g., American Vertigo, and Left in Lost Times:  A Stand Against the New Barbarism. 
"Certainly.  Or does it?"

8.  Kay S. Hymowitz, William E. Simon Fellow at Manhattan Institute, contributing editor, City Journal, author, Marriage and Caste in America: Separate and Unequal Families in a Post-Marital Age;
"Yes, too often."

9.  Tyler Cowen, Holbert C. Harris Professor of Economics, director of Mercatus Center, George Mason University, author, Discover your Inner Economist,  
 "No, on balance."

10.  Ayaan Hirsi Ali, emigrant from Somalia, former member of Parliament, the Netherlands, research fellow, American Enterprise Institute, author of Infidel.
 "Not at all."

11.  John C. Bogle, founder and former CEO of Vanguard, president of Bogle Financial Markets Research Center, author, Little Book of Common Sense Investing, and Enough: True Measures of Money, Business and Life.
 "It all depends."

12.  Rick Santorum, former Senator, former member of House of Representatives, [most recently, former presidential candidate]. In 2008, contributer to the Philadelphia Inquirer (who owns that now?), and Sr. Fellow at Ethics and Public Policy Center, Washington, DC.

 Bring in no other essayists; let whoever is willing (no substitutions) among these focus their thoughts today on the gun sub-issue.

Each shall also disclose all memberships, contributions made by special interest groups to them or their causes, paid speaking gigs, and shall not identify as any particular political party in their country of vote.

B.  Newtown Promise, Newtown Memorial Fund

Newtown Connecticut's fund-holders increase the amounts from donations on an ongoing basis, a marathon this weekend bringing in at least or some $400,000.

Observers conclude that trustees may well be interested in supporting with some of the funds a program of forums with controlled debates and broad-based participants not running for office,  nationwide and from the world.  With Foundation funding for the essayists here, Newtown could even set up its own Foundation for national "conversations."

Why a need for an ongoing set of educational, issue-based conversations by those including most not politically involved?  Nerds note that this offers a course correction for the old fairness doctrine but applied to human and cultural and philosophical interests of the 47%.

  •  In Hartford, for example, the old multiple newspaper setting is reduced to a onesy Fox machine.  One is tempted to cross one's index fingers and back away at the acts and omissions of slant. And TV offers body counts, or inanity, or emotional hype, or morning java slants based on opinion jousting and self-promotion,  but few reliable facts.
  •  An essay format is less useful today, in reaching too small an audience. No one reads, even this. How did you get here?? So, use TV as well,  for views that are not primarily tainted by agenda, and  could be part of school and other group programs where newspapers used to be reliably used (like the trusty Weekly Reader when I was in school).  That takes grants and funding, and NPR and Public TV may not be able to fill the bill. Privatize issue-discussion.  Big Bird has to lay low.

The response at Newtown has been positive to date, to the idea of an ongoing contribution to the culture discussion of guns, and other matters apart from elected officials or control by special interests. Newtown is an ideal contributor to funding for real dialogue. That community is riven by opposing views on whether a particular commodity, with its own status included in an interpretable Constitution, can or should be addressed separately as a moral issue, and if so, under what conditions. Listen, all of us in the 47%, to specialists without agenda, that is why we go back to 2008's roster; and to other significant contributors to our cultural life.

Whatever trustees (are there such? who is watching the money?) is holding the donations of cash and specie and looking for a just use to benefit all This topic and others that it and Templeton may propose as Big Questions avoid direct reference to controls or rights, specific industry profits and payments, and goes directly to the issue of value to a society. If the essayists can agree on a response, fine.  If they cannot, fine.  But explore.

Debate Nerds are energized at the possibility of real debate-discussion, privately sponsored in order to protect Big Bird.

Update the 2008 discussion of whether moral character, whether of the reporter, or the arms carrier, is affected by free market in guns.  Free market in guns:  time for reassessment.  Look at the resources in the Newtown Aid Fund, from the CT tragedy there.  Could part of it be used for the public interest, used to foster debates by those not running for office.  See the NYT Op-Ed, Whither Moral Courage.  Can we actually focus not on retribution and blame, but on the morality of our positions that advance our own selves. Salman Rushdie, April 27, 2013, asks why we are quick to see the bravery of a physical act, but not the bravery of taking a moral position. Debate it.

Update to Boston, the marathon bombings.  The Marathon issue involves immigration to the degree that one suspect was suddenly barred, in 2010, from proceeding to the higher rung of serious boxing competition, because he was not a citizen.  He was here legally, but not yet "in." Immigration policy, misguided, seeds anger where it imposes arbitrary loss of hope, denies recognition to talent for bureaucratic reasons. a young man who cannot wait ten years for  a process to include him.  Newtown. What hope for a future including him, did that shooter have.  Similar issues.

The Boston issue is not primarily immigration, however; this is arms control.   MA gun laws.

Ask, in the larger context of arms issues, and not just Newtown or Boston,  Does a Free Market in Guns Enhance or Undermine Moral Character. This topic was addressed in 2008 in the John Templeton Foundation Conversations.
Broaden the discussion to today, to comparisons of media coverage.  Thoughtful discussion, not targeted spin.
The Nation's Debate Nerds Seek series of Nationally Televised Debates.

The Senate and House and special interests in media and industry are not up to the task.

Panel:  Essayist historians, culture and political movement specialists, other broad-based individuals not running for office.

Will Newt's consultants run from this idea of open, fact-bound debate?