Monthly Archives: March 2011

You Would Never Confess to a Crime You Did Not Commit? Don’t Be So Sure

Disclaimer: The views expressed here at The Liberty Papers either by the post authors or views found in the comments section do not necessarily reflect the views of The Innocence Project nor its affiliates.

In support of our fundraising efforts for The Innocence Project, I have decided to dedicate at least one post per week over the next four weeks to the cause of criminal justice reform – many of which are the very reforms The Innocence Project are working to bring about. With just 2 weeks left of this fundraising campaign, 208 “Innocence Partners” combined efforts has raised over $10,000 of the $20,000 target. As of this writing, you readers have already donated $375 – 75% of our $500 goal! Thanks to everyone who has donated so far or plans to donate. Remember: your donations are 100% tax deductible.

One more brief note before I get into this post’s topic of false confessions. Just three days ago, Thomas Haynesworth became The Innocence Projects’ 267th exoneree and was released from prison after serving 27 years for three rapes that DNA tests and other evidence prove he did not commit (well, technically he was paroled; The Innocence Project is now trying to have his conviction overturned via the Virginia Court of Appeals or by a pardon from the governor who says he will consider pardoning Haynesworth).

False Confessions

A skilled interrogator knows all sorts of ways to persuade individuals guilty of committing a crime to confess. The problem is, the same interrogator’s methods can often persuade individuals who are innocent to confess as well.

But why would an innocent person confess to crimes as serious as rape and murder, you ask? This is some of what The Innocence Project has learned:

In about 25% of DNA exoneration cases, innocent defendants made incriminating statements, delivered outright confessions or pled guilty.

These cases show that confessions are not always prompted by internal knowledge or actual guilt, but are sometimes motivated by external influences.

Why do innocent people confess?
A variety of factors can contribute to a false confession during a police interrogation. Many cases have included a combination of several of these causes. They include:

•duress
•coercion
•intoxication
•diminished capacity
•mental impairment
•ignorance of the law
•fear of violence
•the actual infliction of harm
•the threat of a harsh sentence
•Misunderstanding the situation

The documentary series Frontline episode “The Confessions” (below) profiles a case where eight individuals were charged in large part due to five confessions for a rape and murder of a Norfolk, Virginia woman. Only one of the five confessions turned out to be true and the actual perpetrator admitted he acted alone.

Watch the full episode. See more FRONTLINE.

How can false confessions be minimized? One common sense reform The Innocence Project is pushing is simply passing laws which would require all interrogations to be recorded. If the men in the above case had their confessions recorded, the interrogators wouldn’t have the ability to have each rehearse their confessions until it fit with their theory. Every lie and every threat by the interrogators would be replayed for the jury to hear. Only then could the jury have a more complete context of the interrogation.

Additional Thoughts on Recording Interactions with the Police

In response to the above post, Tom Knighton made some very good points in a blog post of his own regarding mandatory recording of interrogations that bear repeating here:

Littau suggests simply recording interrogations as a tool for preventing false confessions as the jury would hear the whole situation and perhaps make up their own minds regarding the so-called confession. I’m going to go so far as to suggest this as a tool for protecting law enforcement officers, as well as suspects. Recorded interrogations can also tell that an officer didn’t coerce a confession, assault a suspect, or anything else they may be accused of.

Transparency is always preferable to non-transparency when it comes to government, even in the law enforcement sector. By recording interviews, an agency opens a window on the process and protects everyone involved.

As the old saying goes, there’s three sides to every story. In the criminal justice system there’s the suspect’s side, the state’s side (or referred sometimes to as “the people’s” side), and the truth. Recording all interactions between the police and the suspect provides something very close to the truth (I say close because even video evidence can be limiting due to a variety of factors).

Really I think that all police interactions should be required by law to be recorded if the person doesn’t have access to a lawyer at that particular moment (and even then, the interaction should be recorded unless the lawyer wishes otherwise). Every police stop, every search warrant, and every raid on a person’s home should be fully* recorded; resulting video should be kept unedited** so both sides can examine the evidence fairly.

Of course, this all assumes that the purpose of our criminal justice system is to get to the truth.

*In the case of police raids, something that Radley Balko advocates (which I agree with fully) is that every SWAT or police officer who takes part in a raid should be required to have a camera mounted on his/her person – preferably helmet mounted. This would present the events how they happened from multiple points-of-view.

**Editing, destroying, or omitting such a video should be considered a crime akin to any other tampering or destruction of evidence.

Where You at Now, Joe?

You know, as much as I disagree most of the time with Dennis Kucinich on so many issues, I respect him because he is principled and consistent regardless of who happens to be occupying the White House. That’s a hell of a lot more than what I can say about Joe Biden.

So where are you at Mr. Vice President? Are you going to prove us wrong and show us you are a man of integrity? Will you join Kucinich and the handful of other principled Democrats in questioning President Obama’s authority to bomb targets in Libya without any congressional approval of any kind?

So You’re A Dictator Who Wants to Remain in Power…

Besides the fact that the current regime in Libya is not a threat to U.S. national security, the role of the U.S. military ought not be engaged in strictly humanitarian missions, will likely lead to future humanitarian interventions, and can in no way be argued that such actions in Libya are somehow part of a greater “war on terror,” why else is military intervention in yet another Middle Eastern country a terrible idea? I will answer in the form of another question: what kind of message are our leaders sending the rest of the world when they decide to attack a country that has actually cooperated in the past?

This is exactly the point Jonathan Schwarz makes in his article in The Huffington Post:

In all the discussion about the current U.S. bombing of Libya, something important has gone almost unnoticed — the lesson the United States is teaching the government of every country on earth. That lesson is: no matter what, no matter the inducements or pressure, never ever give up chemical weapons or a nuclear weapons program. Doing so will not ensure that the U.S. does not attack you — on the contrary, it will make it much more likely.

[…]

In Libya’s case, Muammar Gaddafi announced in December 2003 that it was renouncing all WMD — Libya possessed chemical weapons, ballistic missiles and a nuclear weapons program — and invited international inspectors to certify its compliance. The U.S. declared that this “demonstrates that, in a world of strong nonproliferation norms, it is never too late to make the decision to become a fully compliant NPT state,” and that Libya would be “amply rewarded.” From the perspective of many governments, Libya is now receiving its reward, in the form of hundreds of Tomahawk missiles and the likely downfall of the regime that agreed to disarm.

I’m no more a fan of Muammar Gaddafi than I am Hugo Chavez, Kim Jung Il, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, or Robert Mugabe and I hope they will each have to answer to their own people someday. But even as despicable as these individuals are, they aren’t stupid (though arguably crazy in some instances). If you were one of these dictators, how do you think you would respond if you witnessed from afar the U.S. using its military might to topple a fellow despot who gave up his WMD program to satisfy the nonproliferation policies the U.S. had long pursued in the region? Would you be more or less likely to pursue a WMD program?

How could the Obama administration not recognize that this could undermine these nonproliferation efforts?

Schwarz believes that none of this was lost on those within the administration but was part of the calculations.

But here’s what no Americans know: the current attack on Libya is not an unforeseen glitch in our efforts to get them to disarm. Instead, it was the explicit policy of the U.S. to get countries to disarm so that we would be able to attack them.

This may sound ridiculous to many Americans. After all, no president ever puts it like that. Instead, they say: our enemies must disarm because they threaten the precious lives of our citizens! But in fact when talking to each other, U.S. government officials say it over and over again: we don’t oppose countries like Iraq, Libya and Iran having WMD because we’re scared they’re going to attack us with them. Instead, we oppose them having WMD because that would allow them to deter us from attacking them.

From there, Schwarz cites examples from a 2001 memo from Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and several paragraphs from a paper entitled “Rebuilding America’s Defenses” written by a Neoconservative group called Project for a New American Century.

I don’t know how much this sort of thinking is in place in the Obama administration and couldn’t say if this attack on Libya is a result of such thinking or just plain old shortsightedness. Either way, this intervention is a horrible mistake and will have negative repercussions even beyond Libya itself.

Repost: Where Did The Anti-War Movement Go?

I wrote this originally on April 20, 2009 about Obama’s escalation of the war in Afghanistan. Now with Obama’s undeclared war in Libya beginning, I feel this is timely so I’m reposting it.

In the American Conservative, Antiwar.com editor Justin Raitmando (whom I often disagree with) has a piece detailing some more leftist hypocrisy concerning their Messiah and his plans to expand the Afghan War

The antiwar rally at the University of Iowa was sparsely attended. The below 30 degree weather might have had something to do with it, but Paul Street, a local writer and one of the speakers, had another theory, as the Daily Iowan reported:

Before the crowd of fewer than 20, Street questioned why the ‘left’ locals and university officials aren’t doing more to help in the protests against the war. ‘The big truth right now, whether this town’s missing-in-action progressives get it or not, is that we need to fight the rich, not their wars,’ he said, citing big corporations for wasting their technology and funding on war.

The big truth is that the antiwar movement has largely collapsed in the face of Barack Obama’s victory: the massive antiwar marches that were a feature of the Bush years are a thing of the past. Those ostensibly antiwar organizations that did so much to agitate against the Iraq War have now fallen into line behind their commander in chief and are simply awaiting orders.

Take, for example, Moveon.org, the online activist group that ran antiwar ads during the election—but only against Republicans—in coalition with a group of labor unions and Americans Against Escalation in Iraq. Behind AAEI stood three of Obama’s top political operatives, Steve Hildebrand, Paul Tewes, and Brad Woodhouse. Woodhouse is now the Democratic National Committee’s director of communications and research. He controls the massive e-mail list culled by the Obama campaign during the primaries and subsequently, as well as a list of all those who gave money to the presumed peace candidate. These donors are no doubt wondering what Obama is doing escalating the war in Afghanistan and venturing into Pakistan.

As Greg Sargent noted over at WhoRunsGov.com, a Washington Post-sponsored site, “Don’t look now, but President Obama’s announcement today of an escalation in the American presence in Afghanistan is being met with mostly silence—and even some support—from the most influential liberal groups who opposed the Iraq War.”

In response to inquiries, Moveon.org refused to make any public statement about Obama’s rollout of the Af-Pak escalation, although someone described as “an official close to the group” is cited by WhoRunsGov as confirming that “MoveOn wouldn’t be saying anything in the near term.” A vague promise to poll their members was mentioned—“though it’s unclear when.” Don’t hold your breath.

Another Democratic Party front masquerading as a peace group, Americans United for Change, declined to comment on the war plans of the new administration. This astroturf organization ran $600,000 worth of television ads in the summer of 2007, focusing like a laser on congressional districts with Republican incumbents. Change? Not so fast.

The boldest of the peacenik sellouts, however, is Jon Soltz of VoteVets, described by WhoRunsGov as “among the most pugnacious anti-Iraq war groups.” They came out fists flying, endorsing the escalation of the Long War.

According to Soltz, there is “much to like in the plan,” but his faves boil down to three factors, which supposedly represent “a stark departure” from the bad old days of the Bush administration. He applauds the administration’s recognition that “The military can’t do it all.” Yet we’re increasing the troop levels by some 17,000, plus 4,000 trainers to babysit the barely existent Afghan “army.” We’re going to send thousands more civilians—aid workers, medical personnel, and military contractors—to build the infrastructure lacking in Afghan society and promote fealty to the central government in Kabul. Schools, clinics, roads, and shopping malls will be built with American tax dollars in order to foster trust between the Afghans, their occupiers, and their government.

The so-called “anti-war” groups that popped up before the Iraq War were never anti-war. Many of their founders and leaders cheered on BJ Clinton’s wars in the Balkans and in Haiti. They were not completely anti-American or merely “on the other side” as some conservative and neo-libertarian bloggers accused them either. The “anti-war” movement was simply a rallying point for leftists and Democrat party hacks who needed to gain traction against a popular (at the time) President Bush. They needed to sow doubt about the Iraq War (the mismanagement of the war by the Bush administration helped as well) in order to have a wedge issue against President Bush. Naturally, they rooted for more American deaths in Afghanistan and Iraq and for American objectives to go unfulfilled, at least while Bush was president.

Now their Messiah has been elected and he wants to expand the Afghan War, possibly into Pakistan. What’s a leftist posing a peace activist supposed to do. Well, what all good leftists do, follow their leader, in this case the Messiah. He wants to send 17,000 more Americans into Afghanistan to bring democracy, destroy the Taliban, and put in chicken in every Afghan pot. He has not defined what “victory” is in Afghanistan, nor does he have a plan, short of nuclear war, to combat the Talibanization of Pakistan. If George W. Bush planned this, the so-called peace activists would have been the ones having Tea Parties on April 15.

Aren’t the so-called “peace activists” being just a tad bit hypocritical now that their Messiah is in the Oval Office and wants his little war?

Finally, I just want to point out, I do not intend to attack sincere opponents of US foreign policy and interventionism, like Justin Raitmando. I disagree with some of Justin’s positions and lot of his rhetoric. However I can respect Justin and most paleoconservatives and paleolibertarians as principled noninterventionists who oppose most if not all US military campaigns over the past two decades and longer.

It is the unprincipled hacks on the left who adopt the phony cause of “anti-war” when they’re out of power that need to be condemned.

I’m one of the original co-founders of The Liberty Papers all the way back in 2005. Since then, I wound up doing this blogging thing professionally. Now I’m running the site now. You can find my other work at IJ Review.com and Rare. You can also find me over at the R Street Institute.

Quote of the Day – Eyes wide shut?

In making the case for open and obvious centralized rationing, advocates claim that “we” must ration with “our” eyes open. From Beth Haynes at PJM:

That’s why Medicare needs the Independent Payment Advisory Board. Setting a cap on spending is the first step of rationing. The next is deciding who gets what medical care.

“Limited resources require decisions about who will have access to care and the extent of their coverage.” (Berwick, 1999)

As physician-blogger Dr. Richard Fogoros puts it: we can either ration overtly or covertly (“with our eyes open” or closed) — but ration we must.

The only problem with this is that a national central planner (or committee) can have their eyes wide open, yet will still be totally blind. No matter how hard you look, you can’t see a building that’s 3,000 miles away with the naked eye, can you? Centralized planners face the inevitable limitation of vision imposed by distance and the human being’s limited ability to comprehend information.

Technology increases the distance the planners can see, and allows them to comprehend more of what they see. But, contrary to the belief of the planners themselves, they’re still essentially blind. What the planners call careful, scientific decision-making I call groping blindly for solutions based on assumptions and personal preferences.

The fundamental truth forseeing the failure of Obamacare is that only individuals can ration well for themselves. Whatever centralized planners do, it’s with eyes wide shut.

Quote Of The Day

I posted yesterday about Bernard von Nothaus of the Liberty Dollar being convicted. I definitely think the fact support a guilty verdict on the charge of “issuing and passing Liberty Dollar coins intended for use as current money”, but some of the others seem quite a bit ridiculous, such as “conspiracy against the United States”. I think this was more fraudulent than conspiratorial…

…but it appears that the US Attorney doesn’t agree. She seems to think this is a lot more important than the rest of us… And what she says here [on the FBI press release, no less] is chilling:

“Attempts to undermine the legitimate currency of this country are simply a unique form of domestic terrorism,” U.S. Attorney Tompkins said in announcing the verdict. “While these forms of anti-government activities do not involve violence, they are every bit as insidious and represent a clear and present danger to the economic stability of this country,” she added. “We are determined to meet these threats through infiltration, disruption, and dismantling of organizations which seek to challenge the legitimacy of our democratic form of government.”

Really, Anne? Really? You’re going to throw around terms like “domestic terrorism” over this? For as much as I disagree with what von Nothaus was doing — profiting off of those who feel your fiat currency, backed by nothing more than a promise, is on the verge of a potential collapse — he wouldn’t have such a big market to sell to if the Fed wasn’t doing everything in its power to undermine the legitimacy of the US Dollar every day.

Every day the government’s inflationary policies erode the value of the US Dollar, stealing the wealth of people who have worked their butts off to earn those Dollars. While I think what von Nothaus was doing was fraudulent, I think I’m beginning to agree with those who have used the old adage to explain why you chose to go after him: “Don’t steal. The government hates competition.”

Liberty Dollar Founder Reportedly Convicted

Hard to believe it was over three years ago, but may of us in the libertarian movement will remember the seizure of the Liberty Dollar holdings/equipment/etc. For those new to the movement, the Liberty Dollar was a metal-backed currency presented as an alternative to traditional fiat currencies, but unlike Gold/Silver Eagles, or Krugerrands, or gold/silver bullion, was actually intended to be used and spent and traded as money in exchange for goods. It attracted the attention of libertarians and goldbugs, and earned a bit of national visibility when it set to release Ron Paul versions of one of the popular gold coins.

Let me state, first and foremost, that I am not a fan of the Federal Reserve, or of fiat money. I fully support the right of the people of the US to use and circulate alternative currencies. I enjoy the fact that some of those currencies would be backed by precious metals. But I incurred quite a firestorm of comments here after the raid, when I explained that I thought the government was right. While I support alternative currencies, and would love the Liberty Dollar to have been one, I claimed it was NOT an alternative currency:

A competing currency must not be interchangeable with FRN’s, which is the fiction that the Liberty Dollar creators try to uphold. Thus, the ALD becomes a method for them to sell silver at a profit while their associates or merchants work to defraud businesses by offering silver worth less (in FRN terms) for goods that are priced in FRN terms. At each level, it appears to have a cut of profit, as all multi-level marketing schemes do, and at the bottom of the scale, those who receive ALD’s as a “face value” equivalent to FRN’s are being shafted.

The Liberty Dollar does not seem to live up to what is bills itself as. If it were a true competing currency, merchants would price goods in ALD terms higher than in FRN terms, in order to receive identical value for their wares. If it were a true competing currency, the “exchange rate” between ALD’s and FRN’s would float, rather than be defined by the Liberty Dollar creators. I previously have written favorably about the Liberty Dollar, but given new information, I have changed my mind. It does not fit the bill of an alternative currency; it is a scam.

After three years of legal wrangling, it was announced today that the founder of the Liberty Dollar, Bernard von Nothaus, has been convicted on all four counts.

The crux of the government’s case rests pretty much on this, care of Coin World magazine [emphasis added]:

The federal government alleges that Von NotHaus, with three other defendants, worked together to violate the law by making Liberty Dollars the government characterizes as “coins” of silver “intended for use as current money” and “in resemblance of genuine coins of the United States …”

U.S. Assistant Prosecutor Craig Morenao, in opening statements, said the government would set out to prove that von NotHaus deliberately told people to give Liberty Dollars as change for Federal Reserve notes, in direct violation of laws that specifically prohibit the use of passing originally designed coins as current money.

It seems pretty clear that this is not counterfeiting in the *traditional* sense, where you try to copy the direct design. But given that everything I had seen from the website, marketing materials, etc suggested that the ALD should be spent at parity with federal reserve notes, and given to vendors in place of or given to consumers as change in place of federal reserve notes is problematic. Creating a currency to be spent alongside in competition with the US Dollar is one thing — creating a currency to be spent as a US Dollar equivalent is another.

I feel moderately bad for those who got sucked in to the Liberty Dollar system. But overall, I feel worse for anyone who would have the goal to create a *true* alternative currency, because the actions of Bernard von Nothaus have given the very concept a bad name, and imbued the idea of alternative currencies with fear of government prosecution. All this for what was just a scam to get rich fleecing people who distrust government fiat money.

Hat Tip: Reason

Good Work — Almost There

Merely a week ago, I posted about a fundraiser for the Innocence Project.

The Innocence Project is a non-profit group working to offer legal services to convicts claiming innocence who have a chance to prove it. Living in as free and just a country as we manage to have, there are still mistakes — many more than we likely realize. Those on the wrong end of those mistakes often have nobody willing to fight for them, even if they are truly innocent.

The Innocence Project hoped to get 200 individuals to set up web pages attempting to raise $100 each for a total fundraising goal of $20K. Given the modest but wider reach of this blog, I set up our page with a goal of $500, and I think it’s a good one, because we’re over 60% there.

If you haven’t rattled the cup yet, I highly recommend you do so. You’re working to help people who have been unfairly beaten by the system clear their name. If that’s not enough, it’s tax deductible, so every dollar you donate reduces the amount the system has to railroad others.

We’re less than $200 from the goal. Go help out someone who needs it.

Eyewitness Misidentification: Revisiting a Previous Discussion

Disclaimer: The views expressed here at The Liberty Papers either by the post authors or views found in the comments section do not necessarily reflect the views of The Innocence Project nor its affiliates.

In support of our fundraising efforts for The Innocence Project, I have decided to dedicate at least one post per week over the next four weeks to the cause of criminal justice reform – many of which are the very reforms The Innocence Project are working to bring about. As of this writing, you readers have already donated $310 – 62% of our $500 goal! Thanks to everyone who has donated so far or plans to donate. Remember: your donations are 100% tax deductible.

With that out of the way, now I will turn your attention to the topic at hand: Eyewitness Misidentification.

Back almost three years ago to the day, I wrote a post about Troy Davis who had his death row appeal denied despite seven eyewitnesses recanting their testimonies (this case is still winding its way through the courts; here is an update on where the case stands today). As is often the case whether here at The Liberty Papers or at other blogs, the discussion that followed my post was actually a great deal more interesting than the post itself IMHO. Jeff Molby, a person who comments on a somewhat regular basis, really got the discussion going with several Liberty Papers contributors and readers.

The part of the post that Jeff believed to be “misleading” was the following statement I took from The Innocence Project webpage that dealt with the role eyewitness misidentification plays in wrongful convictions:

Eyewitness misidentification is the single greatest cause of wrongful convictions nationwide, playing a role in more than 75% of convictions overturned through DNA testing.

While eyewitness testimony can be persuasive evidence before a judge or jury, 30 years of strong social science research has proven that eyewitness identification is often unreliable. Research shows that the human mind is not like a tape recorder; we neither record events exactly as we see them, nor recall them like a tape that has been rewound. Instead, witness memory is like any other evidence at a crime scene; it must be preserved carefully and retrieved methodically, or it can be contaminated.

This was Jeff’s response:

Eyewitness misidentification is the single greatest cause of wrongful convictions nationwide, playing a role in more than 75% of convictions overturned through DNA testing.

That’s a misleading stat. The relevant stat would be the percentage of convictions based on eyewitness identification that were later overturned due to DNA testing.

Comment by Jeff Molby — March 17, 2008 @ 12:51 pm

Perhaps the reason Jeff found the quote was misleading was my fault rather than The Innocence Project’s. The page that I took the quote from goes into greater detail complete with links for further reading. From my reading of their material, it seems to me that the statistics they are dealing with are from their now 266 exonerations. As the discussion unfolded, this forced me to do some additional research outside of The Innocence Project [Thanks a lot Jeff : ) ] to see if I could find more data to support –or refute The Innocence Project’s claim. Fellow contributor and lawyer by trade, Doug Mataconis also weighed in with his thought about the reliability of eyewitness testimony.

The highlights from this discussion are below the fold.
» Read more

Tweets of the Day

The recent tu quoque of conservatives apoplectic about Obama on the golf course [I call it a tu quoque because of how the left constantly complained about Bush’s vacations at the ranch] brought about this exchange between @superbus (a libertarian video games writer from CT) and myself:

@superbus:

Hey GOP: By your logic, if the country was doing well enough for Obama to golf, you’d have no chance at election in ’12. Pick your poison.

Me [@warbiany]:

@superbus Yep. It’s tough to play the “Nero fiddled while Rome burned” card, when you consider Nero’s stated policies to be gasoline.

Given that nobody on the right thinks Obama’s doing the right thing, why would they want him doing anything at all of consequence?

Reading List: Slackernomics and BMOC

For the bargain conscious out there, a couple books recently became available for the Kindle at dramatically reduced prices, and I wanted to pass them along. As an aside, if nothing else this is a great sales pitch for the Kindle — at $139 for the wi-fi only version [which is all you *really* need], the value of free and reduced-price books you can buy may quite quickly amortize the cost of the hardware. The lack of a physical book to print, stock, and ship makes it significantly easier to experiment with lower-cost pricing models, and Dale & Warren’s books below emphasize this.

So I recommend checking out both of the below. If you’re reading this blog, you’re probably the type of person who would enjoy both books. Yet even if you don’t, they’re cheap enough to be worth the risk.

Slackernomics – Dale Franks [of QandO]
$2.99

This is a book I’ve been intending to read for a few years, but the >$20 price point for the printed version just made it something that was constantly on my Amazon wish list but never something I’d pulled the trigger to purchase. At $2.99 and without shipping costs, though, it’s a no-brainer. I’ve read Dale and the guys from QandO for years. Dale’s always been clear-headed about economic topics in the past, so while I can’t say I’ve read the book yet, I trust it will be solid.

BMOC – Warren Meyer [of Coyote Blog]
$0.99

I was lucky enough to get a review copy of this book when it came out [review here], and thought the book was an excellent example of a page-turning novel that happened to integrate Warren’s libertarian-businessman point of view. If you like his blog, you’ll like the book, but even if you’ve never read his blog [a sin on its own merits], you’ll like his book.

Quote Of The Day — MS-DOS Causes Improper Foreclosures

HuffPo is writing on a new Fed report that of 500 foreclosures they investigated, they couldn’t find a single one where the borrower was not significantly delinquent on payments. Thus, the Fed declared that no improper foreclosures occurred.

This doesn’t matter to those who think bankers are raping angels in their spare time, and who want to see the bankers riddled with papercuts and dropped in a vat of lemon juice. They want to stop foreclosures by any means necessary, and anything that casts doubt on the “paper trail” [as quite a lot of doubt already legitimately exists] looks good to them.

But this is a bit too far:

Citing Wednesday’s briefing, Rangan said the Fed review found numerous flaws in banks’ procedures and internal mortgage operations, and that the Fed’s bank examiners directed the firms to fix those problems.

One firm was found to be using Microsoft DOS, an outdated computer operating system, to handle home mortgages, Rangan said.

Oh no, DOS! Because Windows has just a strong track record of reliability, right?

As I’ve said before, I’m an engineer. I’ve spent a good portion of my career working with customers in the “embedded/industrial” market space. I’m talking about computer equipment that goes on oil rigs, locomotives, industrial control [assembly line] PC’s, etc. For most of these companies, things have to be nearing “outdated” to be well-understood enough to be trusted for the types of tasks they need to complete. And yes, some of those folks are still using DOS, though most have moved on to other RTOS products. Only where a major user interface is needed do we see people using an OS such as Windows, and even then they use a specific embedded version of Windows XP that allows more control over what is and is not included in the final package.

My dad always used to say, when talking about the fast pace of technology progression, that “a computer will never do *less* than it did when you bought it.” I.e. if you need something new that newer technology offers [including performance enhancement, of course], it might be time to upgrade. But it’s pointless to do so simply for its own sake, because something newer exists. Hearing that a bank is still using DOS doesn’t bother me at all, because they have a known, tested, proven system. It does exactly the same thing today that it did when it was purchased and installed. And as long as it meets the bank’s needs, there wouldn’t be any reason to upgrade.

Duh, Winning!

The ATF has been arming the drug cartels in Mexico? What could possibly go wrong?

CBS News reports:

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives allegedly let gun runners walk off with weapons – thousands of them – to see if they’d end up in the hands of the cartels. The Justice Department and ATF have denied it ever happened.

Special Agent John Dodson works in ATF’s Phoenix office and has blown the whistle on the controversial strategy, known as letting guns “walk.”

Dodson believes there are other ATF operations going on that have done the same thing.

[…]

Sources tell CBS News licensed gun dealers often wanted no part of selling to suspicious characters who could be supplying the cartels.

But, sources say, ATF enlisted the gun dealers as paid Confidential Informants and encouraged them to sell even more.

“ATF has asked me to assist in an official investigation,” reads one agreement.

Gun salesmen closed the deals, and ATF watched and listened with recording devices.

“ATF Special Agents conducted surveillance…and identified the dates and times that the conspirators… crossed the international border,” says one court document.

Dodson argues that something that should never be done. “A lot people are going to get hurt with those firearms between the time we let them go and the time they’re recovered again in a crime.”

Sources tell CBS News these ATF operations involved about 450 weapons. Despite the risk, two years later the same strategy was expanded to include thousands of guns.

Hopefully this special agent Dodson won’t receive the “Manning Treatment” for being brave enough to expose this to the media and the American public.

In response to this news, Libertarian Party Chairman Mark Hinkle in a statement said:

“The War on Drugs has caused far more death and destruction than it has prevented. The War on Drugs is a failure in almost every measurable way. The War on Drugs should end.

“It’s becoming more and more unclear whether the U.S. government even wants the violence to decrease. More drug violence means more jobs for federal drug agents. More drug arrests mean more jobs for prison construction and management contractors. There are a lot of people whose income depends on a big, thriving, unsuccessful War on Drugs.

“If the War on Drugs were halted, there would no longer be any such thing as ‘drug trafficking.’ Violence in Mexico would decrease very dramatically, as drug lords would quickly go out of business.

I’m not one who normally subscribes to conspiracy theories but Hinkle makes an interesting point. There are lots of people who benefit from the war on (some) drugs. More convicted drug dealers and drug users means more jobs for those who build prisons and maintain prisons. The prison industrial complex as a whole would suffer mightily if the war on (some) drugs was ever ended.

I also think the antigun crusaders both inside and outside the Obama Administration could also benefit. “These guns are so available to these drug cartels because they are so readily available to just anyone who walks into a gun store” they can say.

Hopefully some heads will roll on the result of this irresponsible scheme. The ATF and the Obama Administration no doubt have blood on their hands.

Selling AK-47s to the drug cartels to scare Americans into accepting even stricter gun control laws while strengthening the prison industrial complex? Duh, winning!

Overheated Rhetoric or Terroristic Threats?

Just about this time a month ago, Tea Partiers and those of us who support things like cutting spending were accused of using “overheated rhetoric” in the immediate aftermath of the attempted assassination of Congresswoman Gabriel Giffords among others. Sarah Palin was blamed by Leftwing pundits for inspiring the gunman because she had “crosshairs” on a campaign map which included Giffords’ district in Tucson, AZ. Remember that?

Now fast forward to the public sector union protests in Wisconsin which overwhelmingly supports Democrats. I think Andrew Klavan of Pajamasmedia captures the violence and overheated rhetoric by these union members quite nicely in this video.

Remember, these are some of the very people who lectured Sarah Palin and the Tea Party just a month ago.

It gets better.

Republican Senators in Wisconsin have also started receiving death threats for daring to stand up against the union thugs. The following is one such e-mail:

Please put your things in order because you will be killed and your familes will also be killed due to your actions in the last 8 weeks. Please explain to them that this is because if we get rid of you and your families then it will save the rights of 300,000 people and also be able to close the deficit that you have created. I hope you have a good time in hell. Read below for
more information on possible scenarios in which you will die.

WE want to make this perfectly clear. Because of your actions today and in the past couple of weeks I and the group of people that are working with me have decided that we’ve had enough. We feel that you and the people that support the dictator have to die. We have tried many other ways of dealing with your corruption but you have taken things too far and we will not stand for it any longer. So, this is how it’s going to happen: I as well as many
others know where you and your family live, it’s a matter of public records. We have all planned to assult you by arriving at your house and putting a nice little bullet in your head. However, we decided that we wouldn’t leave it there. We also have decided that this may not be enough to send the message to you since you are so “high” on Koch and have decided that you are now going to single handedly make this a dictatorship instead of a demorcratic process. So we have also built several bombs that we have placed in various locations around the areas in which we know that you frequent. This includes, your house, your car, the state capitol, and well I won’t tell you all of them because that’s just no fun. Since we know that you are not smart enough to figure out why this is happening to you we have decided to make it perfectly clear to you. If you and your goonies feel that it’s necessary to strip the rights of 300,000 people and ruin their lives, making them unable to feed, clothe, and provide the necessities to their families and themselves then We Will “get rid of” (in which I mean kill) you. Please understand that this does not include the heroic Rep. Senator that risked everything to go aganist what you and your goonies wanted him to do. We feel
that it’s worth our lives to do this, because we would be saving the lives of 300,000 people. Please make your peace with God as soon as possible and say goodbye to your loved ones we will not wait any longer. YOU WILL DIE!!!!
Reply Reply to all Forward

What do glass houses and catapults sell for these days?

Hat tip: Boortz

With Gov. Pat Quinn’s Signature, the Death Penalty is Abolished in Illinois

ABC News reports:

In a ceremony behind closed doors today Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn signed a bill that will make Illinois the 16th state to abolish the death penalty.

“I have concluded that our system of imposing the death penalty is inherently flawed.” said Quinn in a statement issued after the signing.

“Since our experience has shown that there is no way to design a perfect death penalty system, free from the numerous flaws that can lead to wrongful convictions or discriminatory treatment, I have concluded that the proper course of action is to abolish it.” he said.

This is precisely the same reasoning that brought me to my anti-death penalty position. Can anyone really argue the system is “good enough” when it comes to the state’s legal ability to kill?

The Scales of Justice Need Rebalancing

In support of our fundraising efforts for The Innocence Project, I have decided to dedicate at least one post per week over the next four weeks to the cause of criminal justice reform – many of which are the very reforms The Innocence Project are working to bring about. As of this writing, I am pleased to announce that in this very first day of fundraising, you readers have already donated $285 – 57% of our $500 goal! Thanks to everyone who has donated so far or plans to donate. Remember: your donations are 100% tax deductible.

The post below is one I originally posted back in November of 2007 and my first post of any substance here at The Liberty Papers. I’m also very honored to say that this post was chosen by my peers (who I have such a great deal of respect for as thinkers, writers, and individuals) as #5 on the list of the “Top 10 Liberty Papers Posts of the last 5 Years” marking The Liberty Papers 5 year blogiversary. At the time I wrote this post, I had never even heard of The Innocence Project nor its aims to make one of the very reforms suggested in this post: compensation for the wrongfully convicted. The Duke Lacrosse case was also one of the hot issues when I wrote the post (and therefore may seem somewhat dated).

As ‘unbalanced’ as I thought the scales of justice were back then, I now know its much worse than I realized even back then. The Innocence Project is working hard to correct this imbalance but they cannot do it alone. Be part of the solution and help us reach our goal and if you feel so motivated, you can even set up your own page to help The Innocence Project reach their $20,000 goal by April 7, 2011.

Disclaimer: The views expressed here at The Liberty Papers either by the post authors or views found in the comments section do not necessarily reflect the views of The Innocence Project nor its affiliates.

    The Scales of Justice Need Rebalancing


In civics class, we are taught a few lessons about the American criminal justice system: the accused is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law, has the right to a court-appointed attorney if the accused wishes not to pay for his or her own, has a right to a trial by a jury of his or her peers, and jurors can only convict the accused if there is a lack of reasonable doubt in their minds. We are told that the accused is guaranteed a fair and speedy trial. We are told the burden of proof falls on the state; the accused only has to provide reasonable doubt (meaning the accused ‘probably’ did not commit the crime). We are to believe that an individual who is innocent would rarely (if ever) be wrongfully convicted because our criminal justice system is about finding the truth and rendering justice.

What the civics classes usually fail to mention is that regardless of the fact that jurors are supposed to consider the accused innocent until proven guilty, it is human nature to assume the worst of someone who is accused of committing a heinous crime. Jurors come with their own biases and world views and may find it difficult to suppress their inclinations and deal with the facts of the case. The civics lesson also usually fails to point out that if the accused chooses to go with a court-appointed lawyer, he or she will not be as likely to have an as aggressive and competent advocate as the state will. If the accused makes the wise decision to pay for his or her own defense, he or she can expect to spend his or her entire life’s savings (and perhaps the life’s savings of other friends and family members) just to have competent representation. Even if the accused has the means to pay for such a competent lawyer, there are no guarantees that he or she will be found not guilty regardless of the evidence or whether or not the accused committed the crime. And if the jury finds the defendant not guilty, then what? Sure, he or she is technically cleared of the crime but he or she still has to pay all the legal fees for his or her lawyer and the fact that he or she was ever charged will remain on his or her criminal record. » Read more

Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is — The Innocence Project

[To skip my blather and go straight to The Liberty Papers’ page at the Innocence Project, go here.]

It’s been said before that a conservative is simply a liberal who’s been mugged, and that a libertarian is a conservative who’s been mugged — by his own government.

I know that for me, it wasn’t *exactly* that, but not far off. I spent a good portion of my life as a bit of a law-and-order conservative — or given that I was never on board with social conservatism, a law-and-order libertarian. What has really changed my outlook as I’ve delved deeper into the world of politics is that I’ve lost faith in the government’s ability to fairly and responsibly exercise even these powers. I’ve completely lost faith in the death penalty, because while time can never be restored, it’s a lot easier to free a wrongfully convicted live man than a dead one. I do believe that our government in America, as screwed up as it is, generally is willing to correct judicial system errors when beaten over the head with them.

But who is going to beat them over the head? The convicted are not a naturally sympathetic interest group. The “law-and-order” crowd will typically give the benefit of the doubt to the law-and-order crowd. There aren’t a lot of people who are going to stand up for a convicted rapist or convicted murderer. And it’s not as if proclaiming one’s innocence is something only the innocent do, so it can be tough to determine which convict is worth fighting for.

But none of that changes the fact that the government wrongfully convicts innocent people, and that justice demands that someone stand up for them. That someone is the Innocence Project:

The Innocence Project is a national litigation and public policy organization dedicated to exonerating wrongfully convicted individuals through DNA testing and reforming the criminal justice system to prevent future injustice.

To date, 266 innocent prisoners have been exonerated by DNA testing, 17 who were on death row at the time. The criminal justice system tends to be reticent to accept the possibility of their own mistake, so it often takes outside pressure to have DNA testing performed on “cold” cases. The Innocence Project provides pro-bono legal representation to people trying to prove their innocence. Getting innocent people out of prison? I don’t see how you can argue with that. Note also that The Innocence Project is spending their time and money on the ground, helping actual convicts. This is not an activism organization lobbying your legislators, it exists to actual help individual convicts trying to prove their innocence.

Because of that, I have opened a page on behalf of The Liberty Papers with the Innocence Project, who happen to be running a fundraising drive right now.

The Innocence Project is pushing for $20K in donations by April 7, and are hoping to get 200 individual people to set up pages with a goal of $100 each. I think we here at The Liberty Papers can do better, so I’ve set a goal of $500. Our readers come from many walks of life, and I know that for some of you, $10 might be a suitable donation, and for others, $50 or $100 might be more palatable. Either way, remember that your contribution might help to get an innocent person out of jail for a heinous crime that they didn’t commit.

Also note that your contribution is tax-deductible. For every dollar you donate, you reduce your tax liability by whatever tax bracket you’re in. Not only do you support a quality organization fighting for those who can’t fight for themselves, you help to starve the beast as well. Win-win!

Lessons from Atlas Shrugged

Turned on the news recently? It seems the looters (i.e. collectivists) are everywhere and more active than ever. The big story over recent weeks of course has been the special interest government employee union looters in Wisconsin who call themselves “ the working people” who say they have a “human right” to collective bargaining. Meanwhile in Georgia, college and high school students are protesting reforms to the HOPE scholarship that would require higher GPAs to qualify. As in most states, Georgia is in a financial bind and is looking for budget cuts. Due to the high number of students qualifying for these scholarships, some Georgia lawmakers say that there isn’t enough money* to continue to fund it because of rising education costs. Never mind that though, according to some of these protesters, the State of Georgia has “no right” to “take away” these scholarships for those who can’t quite meet the stricter GPA requirements. In both of the above cases, lawmakers bestowed benefits via wealth redistribution to certain people; these people then started referring to these benefits as “entitlements,” “rights,” and even “human rights.”

Then there is Michael Moore, the real life Ellsworth Toohey of our time, with his usual Socialistic tripe explaining that money is a “national resource” and jobs are “collectively owned” by the workers. Click here if you care to hear it.

As if none of this was enough, NFL officials have decided to rename the proposed “Industry Stadium” in Los Angeles to “Grand Crossing” because the word “industry” has a “negative connotation” to it. Apparently the word “industry” can be added to the word “profit” as dirty words in the lexicon of our increasingly collectivist culture.

After all of this, I needed to find something to remind me that there still are sane people in this country who haven’t bought into the collectivist mentality. The video below is the winning entry from a “Atlas Shrugged” video contest.

I’m seriously thinking about looking for a “Galt/Roark 2012” bumper sticker for my vehicle. It’s time for those who value the concept of the individual to be heard.

*The HOPE scholarship’s only source of funds is the Georgia Lottery and my original point that HOPE was an example of wealth redistribution was in error. I continue to stand by my overall point I was making about the entitlement mentality on the part of some of the protesters, however.

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