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Echoes and Mirrors » justice

Archive for the ‘justice’ Category

I have a blog? Oh look I have a blog.

Saturday, November 19th, 2011

I’m pretty terrible about not posting anything on here. Pretty much this is a result of being bogged down with a mountain of homework or other academic work, which is an adequate excuse for me. I was considering implementing something to produce a daily digest of interesting links from google reader with a brief comment, but google has gotten rid of shared links. Truthfully, it wouldn’t be a huge time constraint to just sit down and write a blog post every day, but lately I’ve just felt like I don’t have anything interesting to say about much of anything, especially news-wise. But I’ll whip up a few thoughts about #OWS because I’m feeling frisky tonight.

I’ve been following the #OWS movement from twitter and fark.com, where there is at least one thread a day, if not more. Oddly enough, people in those very threads claim that nobody is paying attention or talking about #OWS. This sort of movement is exactly what I think we need right now, even if it’s not organized with a clearly identifiable goal. Because what the US needs is to recognize that something is wrong before trying to figure out exactly what it is. And I think #OWS is accomplishing one thing very well: they’re making the symptoms of the problem very, very clear. But like many alcoholics who refuse to admit they even have a problem, many Americans are refusing to admit that there is anything to protest. And some of them don’t think that protesting is the right answer, but would rather the protesters play the PAC game and attempt to work the system the same way the banks have. This is silly.

The boat needs to be rocked. I’m sorry your overpriced martini was spilled.

Matt Taibbi really nails the frustration with Wall Street. But I see Wall Street’s behavior as a symptom of a bigger problem with the US. That bigger problem is the cause of other ninety-nine percenters siding with Wall Street. I’m not even sure what it is, but there is something fundamentally wrong. And like an unexplainable rash on a patient being treated by House, M.D., we’ll find out that it is something that requires more than government intervention. I suspect it will require a reevaluation of American values, not just rules.

And unfortunately, with the recent DHS coordinated attacks on the occupy camps, Scott Olsen, and Zucotti Park, I am only seeing things get worse. The police are doubling down on their loyalty to the system, even if they know it’s corrupt. They might even care. But I doubt it. The police have been slowly turning into paramilitary thugs armed with tanks for decades. They like the system the way it is. Any given day, a visit to The Agitator shows that the state of law enforcement in this country is only getting worse. And the plutocracy loves it. They get thugs-by-proxy from wars on drugs and invisible terrorists and the serfs run around screaming injustice, too busy to worry about the secret aristocracy.

But I shouldn’t say crazy things like that. It sounds melodramatic even to me. But I do think that there is a problem with American values and that the problem with Wall Street is merely a symptom of that. I offer no solutions, but I’m not even sure what the real problem is yet. The abuses of Wall Street can be fixed, but I suspect it will just come back in a different industry, in a different guise unless we figure what is really wrong.

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Death By Firing Squad? What Year Is This Anyway?

Friday, June 18th, 2010

Two loud bangs end 25 years on death row for Gardner – Salt Lake Tribune.

For the nation, Gardner’s death marked what could be the final execution of its kind in the country. Utah is the only state still using a firing squad, and only four men on death row could still choose it. The state switched to lethal injection in 2004.

Some hope the attention will highlight problems meting out capital punishment in Utah. Both death penalty opponents and believers decry the nearly 25 years Gardner spent between his conviction for Burdell’s murder and the execution.

Seriously, it’s one thing to grandfather a law that allows people a freedom they’ve always had, but to grandfather the firing squad for a few guys on death row? That’s, well, absurd.

I’m sorta on the fence about the death penalty in general, as it seems to be a theoretically reasonable punishment for certain crimes but in practice has generally failed. The problems with sentencing are difficult enough on their own, while the actual execution (not meant as a pun) itself brings its own bag of problems.

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I got yer distopian future right here, ya jerks.

Thursday, June 3rd, 2010

I have pretty much lost all hope of trying to highlight the fact that things are getting worse. It’s simply become so pervasive and so common place.  People I talk to seem think one of a few things:

  • I have a tin-foil hat hidden somewhere out of sight.
  • The current status quo is ‘fine’ because “they aren’t doing anything wrong.”
  • That free-market economics is synonymous with pr0-corporate economics, and that what we have right now is the former.
  • Education will get them a job. Because, you know, all that school earned it for them.

And you know, for a good majority, they won’t ever encounter any serious problems resulting from an extra speeding ticket. Sure, they’ll be out a couple hundred bucks, but that’s no big deal. And when their children go to school, they can expect that they’ll be held to the same standards as all the other kids.

And they can be safe knowing that the police are free to do their jobs, enforcing the laws that keep them safe, without interference from the unwashed masses and the rabble-rousers:

In response to a flood of Facebook and YouTube videos that depict police abuse, a new trend in law enforcement is gaining popularity. In at least three states, it is now illegal to record any on-duty police officer.

Even if the encounter involves you and may be necessary to your defense, and even if the recording is on a public street where no expectation of privacy exists.

The legal justification for arresting the “shooter” rests on existing wiretapping or eavesdropping laws, with statutes against obstructing law enforcement sometimes cited. Illinois, Massachusetts, and Maryland are among the 12 states in which all parties must consent for a recording to be legal unless, as with TV news crews, it is obvious to all that recording is underway. Since the police do not consent, the camera-wielder can be arrested. Most all-party-consent states also include an exception for recording in public places where “no expectation of privacy exists” (Illinois does not) but in practice this exception is not being recognized.

And good for them – they get a clean, standardized, safe America where:

  • They are forking up unnecessary speeding tickets to generate revenue to pay for unnecessary enforcement of silly ordinances and vice laws. And pensions for people that still work in the public sector.
  • Their kids are being drilled to only do rote memorization instead of learning critical thinking skills, turning them into vapid robots.
  • The police can act with impunity because civil rights only get in the way of law enforcement.

For that, America, fuck you.

Yours truly,

The idealist

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HCR Roadmap

Wednesday, March 24th, 2010

A good breakdown of the HCR bill can be found here.

I’m not going to link to any of the moonbat Tea Party crap. It just made my head spin and made me a bit sad. I’m no fan of this bill (as previously stated) but it’s not the end of the world. I’m not sure what the final outcome will be either – although I’m sure the political upheaval will be dramatic.

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Possible SCOTUS openings

Tuesday, February 16th, 2010

Oh boy. There is a chance that anything that resembles property rights could outright disappear. Of course, the Daily Beast is putting Hillary Clinton’s name out there for this already. Because, you know, she has had such a long and glorious legal career.

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Nozick’s Tale of the Slave

Monday, February 15th, 2010

Make of it what you will.

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Nothing fishy here. Move along.

Wednesday, February 10th, 2010

Here’s an article that basically spells out why privately contracted probation is wrong:

She described the case of Hills McGee, a man who was originally charged with public drunkenness and obstruction of a law enforcement officer back in October 2008.

After spending the night in jail after his arrest, McGee appeared in state court to face the charges. Although McGee was indigent, he signed a form that waived his rights to an attorney and entered a guilty plea.

McGee was sentenced to 12 months on each count to run consecutively and was ordered to pay a fine of $270 and a monthly probation supervision fee of $30 per month plus a $9 monthly fee for the state’s Crime Victims Compensation Program.

Even though McGee completed 41 hours of community service in lieu of the $270 fine, because he was indigent, his probation wasrevoked because he couldn’t pay the $186 in fees he owed Sentinel, according to Long’s petition filed in Richmond County Superior Court.

As a result, McGee was thrown into jail.

And here’s another tasty bit from the same article. I found this one out myself several months ago first-hand and was appalled. Anytime it comes up in discussion, I make it my civic duty to inform them that there is no such thing as a free defense attorney in these parts:

“I am asking, is it constitutional to come in and tell people that there is a $50 application fee for a court-appointed attorney when the Constitution says, if you are indigent and a judge has the power to put you in jail, you are entitled to have a lawyer at no charge,” Long said, adding a judge can waive the $50 fee if the defendant is indigent. “It disturbs me that people are being treated that way.”

On March 18, 1963, in the landmark case of Gideon v. Wainwright, the U.S.Supreme Court established the right to alawyer for any poor criminal defendant charged in felony cases, stating “lawyers in criminal cases are necessities, not luxuries.”

That’s right: you have to pay $50 to be represented… or prove that you can’t scrape up $50. Depending on the charges, most people might find it less frustrating (albeit more expensive) to just pony up the fine money and carry on with their lives.

I should probably just keep my mouth shut if I don’t want the the sheriff’s department knocking on my door anytime soon, so I’ll just quickly mention how the Augusta-Richmond County Commission just decided not to install parking meters downtown in an attempt to raise revenue. The plan would have called for a private contractor to provide the meter maids. Whose paychecks (and likely, bonuses) would be provided by a portion of the revenue raised by parking tickets. Thankfully the citizens of Richmond County were vocal enough to stop that from happening.

Law enforcement is probably the only thing I can think of that the government should have a monopoly on. As a lefty-libertarian, I actually support public education (although it certainly needs a reboot). The rest of it… no.

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My demographic, let me show it to you.

Thursday, January 28th, 2010

This became a pretty heated debate in the political philosophy course I took last semester: young, single folks don’t matter.

If you are able-bodied and not doing your part in bringing forth a new generation of Americans to do… something, then you aren’t doing anything useful, and should pay more taxes to make up for that. The Rawlsian Difference Principle is like a hamster wheel for the masses.

And, if you want to see ridiculousness in action abroad:

A Jobcentre Plus worker claimed that the word ‘reliable’ meant they could be sued for discriminating against unreliable workers.

The mother-of-two from Hertfordshire today slammed the situation as ‘ridiculous’.

She said: ‘I placed the advert on the website and when I phoned up to check I was told it hadn’t been displayed in the job centre itself.’

Here in the states, those people just stay on unemployment. But we’re not free from ridiculousness either: apparently, giving your employees incentives to be healthier is really discrimination against those who choose not to be healthier. Of course, it has to be Whole Foods, right? And they’re picking on fatties.

I’m reminded of one of my favorite poems (The Second Coming by W.B. Yeats):

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in the sands of the desert.

A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

Has humanity always aimed toward such egalitarianism? As a collective expectation, it should seem intuitive to expect the strong to help to provide for the weak. But to force it, that just seems like a petty maneuver by those who would benefit the most from the least work on their parts. A vote is five minutes of work that could pay off big-time.

The future is bright for the lazy, fat, baby-making masses.

Also, I am being discriminated against for working hard, not polluting the world with children, being single (and not wanting to get hitched), and being skinny.  Maybe they should give me a stimulus to make me fall in line.

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This should be common sense

Wednesday, January 27th, 2010

Cracked has a humourous little piece up called 7 Bullshit Police Myths Everyone Believes (Thanks to Movies), but I find myself knowing better for all of them (in part from interactions with the judicial system, sadly).

In regards to #5 — not talking to the police is obstruction of justice — you don’t have to and, more importantly, you should never, ever talk to the police. Under any circumstance. If they are questioning you, there is a good chance you’ve gotten yourself into a YOU vs. THEM situation.

Of course, in regards to a DUI, they cannot punish you judicially, but the state’s DMV can take administrative actions like suspending your license. Keep that in mind.

As far as being forced to identify yourself or be arrested, in Georgia you have to be loitering or prowling or otherwise up to no good. They require that you be “in a place at a time or in a manner not usual for law-abiding individuals under circumstances that warrant a justifiable and reasonable alarm or immediate concern for the safety of persons or property in the vicinity” Ga. Code Ann. §16-11-36(b) (loitering statute). Because there are so many states, Your Mileage May Vary. This is how they harass many of the homeless (whom don’t have ID) here in Augusta – they threaten them with arrest because they are obviously not in the area for legitimate business. It is an unofficial policy, of course.

#3 (Tracing a Call Takes a Long Time) is amusing because with a few tricks, you can change the number it appears you are calling from (which is very easy with a VOIP phone). Tracking a call through a poorly secured PBX isn’t impossible, but probably beyond the means of a most police departments.

Remember, everyone breaks the law at least once a day and (normally) it is unintentional. It is important to be informed.

Also, in addition to watching the “Never talk to police video” you should watch this.

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2010 is starting off swimmingly

Monday, January 4th, 2010

Homeless people can’t pay fines. What to do about panhandling? San Antonio has a solution:

You see them everywhere….panhandlers…often holding crude cardboard signs, begging for cash at busy intersections. Efforts to wipe out panhandling by outlawing the practice have been ineffective, largely because panhandlers don’t have the money to pay fines, taxpayers are not excited about releasing violent criminals from overcrowded jails to make way for beggars. And several municipal laws outlawing panhandling have been thrown out by courts as an unconstitutional violation of free speech.

So, San Antonio City Councilman John Clamp has a new and intriguing idea. He tells 1200 WOAI’s Bud Little he will propose making it a crime, with stiff fines, for people to give money to beggars on the public street.

Which just seems wrong, unless the motivation behind municipal laws are to raise revenue, not to prevent crime. If the motivation is revenue, this is not just logical, it’s right. I’m not sure how I feel about this, but it doesn’t seem right to me. Politicians have pretty much set a precedent that giving money is a speech act (to protect their campaign contributions). If that is the case, this law is infringing on the freedom of speech. But from what I understand, the bums/panhandlers in SA are some of the worst in the nation (by worst, I mean most hostile) and this would seem like an effective deterrent from giving them money. On the other hand, what right does the state have to prohibit this act? Balancing justice and pragmatism is difficult.

And in Michigan, they are using municipal laws to subvert a state law regarding the legality of medical marijuana. Of course, any of these laws, ordinances and zoning issues will eventually be thrown out by some judge; it just seems childish of the anti-pot crowd. The thing about laws are that they can be passed even if they are unconstitutional – and remain in effect until somebody takes a court case up high enough with it. Sure, organizations like the ACLU (I’m a card-carrying member myself, so this is no rip on them) can try to go in and fight off every case, but that’s kind of wasteful. The teetotallers are just fighting a war of attrition now, hoping that those who put liberty above all else will just give up because it’s so difficult.

The system of checks and balances works, but not nearly quickly enough. Unconstitutional laws can sit on the books for ages just because nobody has the money or motivation to take them to the supreme court. This is wrong.

And this year, I think it will only get worse.

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