Author Archives: Stephen Littau

Should Capitalists Be Added to the Endangered Species List?

“Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same.”- Ronald Reagan

These days, it seems as though capitalism is under relentless attack. We hear almost daily the demagoguery of such terms as “economic inequality,” “the income gap,” “price gouging,” “obscene profits.” Just yesterday the Senate overwhelmingly passed an increase in “the living wage” for “the working class.” On any given day, politicians use this language to show how much they “care” about us poor working stiffs and lament the rewards for high achievers.

John Edwards likes to give his “Two Americas” speech to illustrate how unfair it is that some Americans, through hard work, investing, perseverance, and making difficult choices, make disproportionately more than those who make poor choices and underachieve. Hillary Clinton wants to take the profits away from “BIG OIL” and “invest” in government programs to find more efficient, cleaner, and less expensive alternative energy sources. Never mind that government has been investing in such programs for decades with very little return.

Capitalism has always had its adversaries but where are its defenders? They are not in the halls of congress and certainly not in the Oval Office. President Bush, ever the “compassionate” conservative chastised business leaders for “overpaying” executives. Meanwhile, only three Republican Senators (no Democrats) voted against raising the minimum wage. With all this angst against profit makers, it’s only a matter of time before these same politicians will want to impose a “maximum wage” with higher “windfall profits” taxes or by some other means.

Where are the Republicans who stand for small government? Where are the disciples of Ronald ReAgan, Milton Friedman, and Ayn Rand? Is it time to put capitalists on the endangered species list?

Maybe, maybe not.

Wayne Dunn writing for Capitalism Magazine seems to believe that this type of anger towards achievement is as old as time. In Dunn’s article “An Open Letter to Businesspeople” he writes about how its time for the achievers to stop apologizing to the low achievers for being successful.

Throughout history, those of you who actually invent the things the rest of us use, who create the jobs the rest of us need, who produce the goods the rest of us merely purchase, haven’t been awarded even so much as a shred of recognition from traditional moral codes. Instead you are maligned as “materialists,” condemned as “profit-chasers,” reviled as “ruthless,” vilified as “greedy,” disparaged as “worldly.” They who couldn’t create a match stick or run a dog pound sneer at you who create microchips and run factories.

But when the castigators need money, or a labor-saving device, or a bridge built, or a building erected, or a disease cured, to whom do they run? They who renounce “this world” rely on you who do not. They who scorn “mere” human achievement depend on you who achieve. They who repudiate money bank on you who earn it. They who proclaim that the mind is impotent benefit from minds that are not.

It’s high time that we who believe in capitalism stand up and extol its superior values and support those who will do the same if we do not want to see our free market system go the way of the dinosaurs.

Preach it Brother!

The High Priest of the Church of the Painful Truth, Neal Boortz has written an excellent response to this insane tirade by Ted Kennedy regarding the minimum wage. I wrote my own post on the minimum wage here at my blog Fearless Philosophy for Free Minds but Boortz’s response to Kennedy explains the problems of the minimum wage in a way I could never articulate.

For the purpose of context, the video below is Ted Kennedy’s emotional indictment of Republicans who dare to be against “the working class”

Neal Boortz’s Response:

Let’s deal with this “working men and women” line first. This rhetorical nonsense is now a basic part of the left wing class warfare arsenal. The goal here is to foster the idea that the more money you make the less you work. The reality is that there we have two resources we can use to make money, physical labor and mental labor. Most of us use a combination of the two. The ugly little fact is that, generally speaking, and professional athletes aside, the more of your mind you use the more money you will make, and the more of your muscle you use the less money you’ll make.

[…]

Knowing that almost all Americans value the concept of hard work, the Democrats have worked to promote the concept that the only real work that physical labor. Working with your mind — managing investments, for instance — just isn’t work. Therefore the only real working people out there are those who work with their hands instead of their brains…. or those more likely to vote Democrat. Once you’ve made this absurd concept a reality you have created a wonderful class warfare weapon. If you’re smarter than the average bear, and if you realize that it is not the role of government to set wages, you then become an enemy of “working men and women.”

Read the whole thing, it’s a very rational response to an emotional issue presented by the bleeding heart left’s class warfare logic.

Old Media vs. New Media

(Cross posted here at Fearless Philosophy for Free Minds)

A rather interesting comment was posted in response to a minor point I made about the new media vs. the old media in a post I wrote entitled The Scales of Justice Need Rebalancing. I thought the comment raised some interesting questions that deserved to be answered in a post of its own as opposed to a response to the response on the original post.

My original point had to do with the MSM’s (the old media’s) incomplete, sloppy, and biased coverage of the so-called Duke Rape Case and how bloggers and talk radio (the new media) managed to turn the tide against the narrative the MSM was trying to establish. The MSM basically convicted the lacrosse players before they had their day in court. When it comes to accusations of rape or sexual assault, all too often the MSM automatically presumes that women never lie about these sorts of things, therefore; the men who are accused of the act are guilty. Very few in the MSM were even open to the possibility that Crystal Magnum (the stripper who accused the lacrosse players) was lying; few wanted to hear the other side of the story or even ask some very basic questions.

The following is the statement I made in the original post:

Thanks in-part to talk radio, bloggers, and others in the alternative media asking questions the MSM failed to ask, everything seems to be swinging in the defendants’ favor.

William L. Anderson of LewRockwell.com made a much stronger case for the way the new media exposed the unethical and quite possibly criminal behavior of the District Attorney Michael Nifong. Anderson’s main point is that had it not been for the new alternative media, the other side of the story might not have come to light and Nifong could have gotten away with his framing of the young men in question.

This time, the new media got it right but was this good investigative reporting or just luck? The person who commented on my post who identifies herself as VRB believes it to be the latter:

I found the bloggers to be just as bad as MSN [the MSM?], they just happened to wind up on the right side. They did all their best to vilify the alleged victim before all the facts were in. They looked for every snippet of so called evidence to prove their point. Most seem to be saying if you are a whore you can’t possibly be raped and rapist aren’t smart enough to drug or use a condom. Of course all their arguments were so high minded how dare anyone questioned their motives. I think that bloggers are beginning to think the power they have, gives them truth. They just got lucky, so I wouldn’t pat them on the back. Bloggers are not any more pure than the rest of society.

I am sure that there were bloggers out there who instinctively went the other direction without considering any evidence but there were others who were fair-minded and only wanted to get to the truth. I hadn’t weighed in on the issue up to now but when the story first broke, I was concerned that the MSM wasn’t telling the entire story. I cannot speak for others but I would never be one to say that it would have been impossible for the lacrosse players to have raped Crystal Magnum because she was a ‘whore’. I wasn’t there, nor was anyone who commented on the case other than Magnum, the other stripper, and those who were at the party. All any of us can do is ask questions and draw our own conclusions.

When those in the new media started asking the questions, we discovered problems with Magnum’s story (such as the timeline), statements from witnesses (the other stripper, Magnum’s cab driver, etc.), a lack of DNA and other forensic evidence to implicate the accused players (some of which was withheld by Nifong), a report that Magnum had made false rape charges in the past, and other reports that cast doubt on Magnum’s version of events. In the end, all Nifong had to go on was Magnum’s ever-changing statements.

As to the motives, veracity, and ‘high mindedness’ of bloggers in the new media I just have to say they come in all shapes and sizes and are by no means ‘any more pure than the rest of society.’ Some are not at all concerned about accuracy and shoot from the hip while others do their homework and rival the veracity of MSM reports. Bloggers come from a much more diverse array of backgrounds, opinions, and motivations. It’s quite proper to question the motives of anyone who presents information (whether in the old media or new media) and VRB is correct in saying that power does not in any way equal truth.

Having said that, those in the new media who did ask the questions and uncovered facts about the case where much of the MSM failed do deserve a ‘pat on the back’. To avoid embarrassment, the MSM had to start asking the questions that ordinary people with laptops were already asking. If not for the new media, who knows what would have happened in this case?

The only reason the new media is gaining influence is because the old media is no longer adequate. The old media has one agenda and is driven by that agenda. The old media is much easier to censor and control than the new media; this is why some powerful people want to bring the new media down with legal restrictions such as McCain-Feingold and the so-called fairness doctrine.

One of the things that drew me to blogging was when bloggers exposed the forged documents in Dan Rather’s story on George W. Bush’s National Guard service. At the time I didn’t even know what blogging was. I was already skeptical of much of how the MSM reported the news as if everything they reported was stone cold fact. But when this fraud was exposed, I became even more skeptical. There is usually more than one side of the story but all too often, the MSM only presents the side they like. Now the new media has filled some of the void.

There is one problem no one seems to address when it comes to media of all kinds: the media consumer. Yes, you and I are the main problem. Far too often, we do not think critically about the news and receive it passively.

As consumers of the news, we should ask the same questions journalists are supposed to ask: who, what, when, where, how, and why. These are very simple questions that are rarely explored. For example: Why does the minimum wage need to be raised? Who says it should be raised, politicians or economists? What are the positive and negative consequences of raising the minimum wage? When should it be raised? How should it be raised? How will it affect the economy?

Apply these questions to any problem or issue and you will find that these questions are often not answered in the news story. Always be prepared to question the answers.

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 defense 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 which is what makes the defense lawyer’s job so difficult and why anyone in such a position should seek out an experienced and competent criminal defense lawyer to protect their rights. 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.

The state, on the other hand, has virtually unlimited access to technology, witnesses, forensic, medical, psychological, and other expert witnesses and a virtually unlimited budget to pay for other resources necessary to prove to a jury the accused is guilty. The state also has its own lawyers; prosecutors from the District Attorney’s office. To some, DAs have a little more clout than a criminal defense lawyer (court appointed or not, you could easily get your own though even if you were in another country. So if you were in Spain for example you could just look up something like this Abogado de Delitos de Drogas, if something bad were to happen to you).). After all, the DA’s job is to ‘put the bad guys behind bars’ while the criminal defense attorney ‘gets the bad guys off the hook’ by finding some sort of legal loophole.

In many parts of the country, the DA is elected to office. What do voters want in a good DA? The answer is usually someone who pledges s/he will be ‘tough on crime’. A DA who is running for another term in office will want to have a solid conviction record; otherwise his or her opponent will attack him or her for being ‘soft’ on crime. The DA’s position is now compromised to remain in office. No longer is it his or her job to necessarily pursue ‘justice’ but to secure a conviction—regardless of whether or not they convict a guilty person.

Now enter the media. If the case becomes a compelling enough story, the media becomes a factor. The media is something of a wild card because the media can help or hurt the accused based on whatever the media wants the storyline to be. Now the job of finding an impartial jury has become infinitely more difficult. Ideally, prospective jurors should know nothing about the case other than what has been presented them by the judge. If this proves impossible, some jurors may already have an opinion based on what they have seen or read in the news.

After considering all these factors that the civics class likely did not teach us, can anyone truthfully say the process is fair? I conclude that the process is not fair, neither for the accused nor for the victims. The scales of justice need to be rebalanced.

Certainly, there is no perfect system nor will there ever be but our system can be improved. One way the system can be improved is by correcting the imbalance between the prosecution and the defense. If the DA has access to all the experts, forensics, technology, with a virtually limitless budget, so should the defense regardless of if the defense is court-appointed or not. If the government wants to continue to tell us that the goal of the criminal justice system is justice, then the accused should have the ability to have a competent lawyer of comparable competence of the prosecutor regardless of the defendant’s ability to pay. In addition to this, every time the state discovers it has wrongfully convicted an individual, the state should be required to pay that individual for every year spent in prison (something on the order of $1 million a year), reimburse his or her lost wages, and expunge both the conviction and the original charges. Putting an innocent person in prison should be very expensive for the state.

I realize that some of my fellow contributors as well as others who read this might see this as a form of welfare. To you I want you to consider the following: the Sixth Amendment of the Constitution guarantees everyone the right to a fair trial complete with legal council provided by the government if the defendant wishes not or cannot provide his or her own lawyer. I cannot imagine the founders intended a system that would allow the government to overwhelm an accused citizen with money, power, intimidation, and influence while the accused is forced to either spend his or her life’s savings or risk being represented by inferior council. Unlike most welfare programs that we are opposed to, when a person is put on trial, his or her very liberty, and life in some cases, is at stake (Note, I would not approve of government funded council for civil matters. Civil matters should be handled with a ‘loser pays’ approach). If it is truly one of government’s few legitimate functions to aid citizens in protecting their life, liberty, and property from those who would take these basic freedoms away, this seems to fall under that umbrella.

The so-called Duke Rape Case has many of these unfortunate elements of our criminal justice system. The MSM had largely made up its mind that the Duke lacrosse players David Evans, Collin Finnerty, and Reade Seligmann had raped and/or sexually assaulted a stripper by the name of Crystal Gail Magnum (the name has largely been not mentioned in the MSM). Without any trial or any kind of finding of facts, Duke students and faculty protested in favor of Magnum’s allegations holding up signs and shouting about how these boys should be neutered. The president of Duke University also reacted by canceling the remainder of the team’s games.

By March 2006, the Duke case was a big story with the following narrative: rich white lacrosse boys brutally sexually assault poor, black stripper at a drunken party. The MSM ran with this narrative without spending much time looking into the accuser’s background or the possibility that the accuser was lying. Michael Nifong, the DA who was to prosecute the case faced an upcoming election. Nifong saw this as an opportunity to prove to the voters that these privileged athletes would not get away with what they had allegedly done. Convicting Evans, Finnerty, and Seligmann was so important to Nifong that he with held crucial DNA evidence from the defense and allowed the accuser to identify her attackers in a photo lineup which only included Duke lacrosse players. Nifong even failed to personally interview the accuser!

With the MSM and any overly zealous DA, the odds of receiving a fair trial were stacked against the accused players. To receive competent council which could hold up against the media and the state, the families of the players hired defense attorneys which cost $80,000 per month. This case is already almost into its 11th month. Though Nifong is facing the possibility of disbarment and possible criminal charges, the rape charges against the players have been dropped, and that the accuser’s story continues to change, the players still face other charges. Thanks in-part to talk radio, bloggers, and others in the alternative media asking questions the MSM failed to ask, everything seems to be swinging in the defendants’ favor. Evans, Finnerty, and Seligmann may receive justice after all but no one ever said justice was free.

The Duke case is but one high-profile example of a more widespread problem. Most individuals who are accused of a crime cannot afford to shell our $80 grand a month for quality representation. In Cory Maye’s case (for details of his story click here, here, here and here), he nor his family had the means to pay for quality representation which may be the reason he is spending his life behind bars now. Justice should not be reserved only for the O.J. Simpsons and Michael Jacksons of the world and denied to the indigent. In a just society, the scales of justice should not be weighed based on affluence, influence, or the lack thereof but should be blind and balanced…just as our civics teachers promised us.

More Mandatory Minimums Madness: The “Sexual Predator” Edition

Cross posted at Fearless Philosophy for Free Minds

I have written in the past about the insanity of mandatory minimum sentencing laws on at least two occasions (here, and here). In my previous posts, the minimum sentencing guidelines had to do with the war on drugs. In this latest outrage however, this mandatory minimum sentence has to do with “aggravated child molesting.” Many people enjoy sexual relations with someone younger than themselves, but the majority of the people know that sexual acts with a minor is illegal and therefore will remain on the right side of the law, but instead perhaps enjoy legal sites like young sexer.

In theory, mandatory minimum sentencing for certain crimes seems like a great idea. The problem with such a “one size fits all” approach is it gives judges absolutely no discretion when it comes to particular cases. No matter how well written or intentioned a law may be, there are always going to be cases where the application of the law is simply unjust. The case of Genarlow Wilson is a perfect example of what I mean.

From The New York Times article “Georgia Man Fights Conviction as Molester”

[Genarlow Wilson] was sentenced to 10 years in prison without parole for having consensual oral sex with a 15-year-old girl at a New Year’s Eve party, an offense that constituted aggravated child molesting, even though Mr. Wilson himself was only 17.

[?]

Disturbed by Mr. Wilson’s conviction, the Legislature changed the law in March to ensure that most sex between teenagers be treated as a misdemeanor. But the State Supreme Court said legislators had chosen not to make the law retroactive.

[?]

Even more confounding, at the time of Mr. Wilson?s offense, a so-called “Romeo and Juliet” exception had already been made for sexual intercourse between teenagers. “Had Genarlow had intercourse with this girl, had he gotten her pregnant, he could only have been charged with a misdemeanor and punished up to 12 months,”? said Brenda Joy Bernstein, Mr. Wilson’s lawyer.

So let me get this straight: Genarlow Wilson is 17 and engages in oral sex with a girl who is 2 years younger than he is. At the age of 15, the girl is not at the legal age of consent in Georgia. However, had the two had “consensual” sex instead of oral sex, Wilson would have been charged with a misdemeanor offense carrying a maximum sentence 1 year but because they didn’t go all the way, Wilson is facing an 11 year sentence and will not be eligible for parole until after he has served 10 years. OR if Wilson chooses, he can have his sentence reduced to 5 to 7 years with a possibility of parole if he agrees to register as a sex offender.

So why won’t Wilson take the deal? According to the aforementioned article, Wilson is quoted as saying the following:

“Even after serving time in prison, I would have to register as a sex offender wherever I lived and if I applied for a job for the rest of my life, all for participating in a consensual sex act with a girl just two years younger than me,” he told a reporter for Atlanta magazine last year, adding that he would not even be able to move back in with his mother because he has an 8-year-old sister. “It’s a lifelong sentence in itself. I am not a child molester.”

There is no question that Wilson used poor judgment in engaging in oral sex with a girl who was under the age of consent. But he is quite right in making a distinction between a child molester and a couple of horny teenagers. When I think of the term “child molester” I tend to think of an adult (usually middle-aged) having inappropriate contact with a prepubescent child. These are the real sexual predators who should be put away possibly forever.

It seems to me that there needs to be a serious discussion about where exactly the line should be drawn. Clearly, children should be safe from predators but at what point is a child an adolescent of an age where he or she can be held responsible for his or her choices? I believe there should be some sort of sliding scale taking into consideration the ages of the parties involved. Is an 18 year old having sex or sexual contact with 17 year old molestation, regardless of the age of consent? I think not! What about a 30 year old with a 17 year old? I tend to think so!

There seems to be no clear answers; what might seem reasonable to me might not seem reasonable to you. When a “zero tolerance” policy in the form of mandatory minimum sentences is in play, there can be no thoughtful discussions in the jury room. It’s all or nothing.

Genarlow Wilson has served nearly 2 years for this offense. Does he really need to serve another 8 to teach him a lesson? Alternatively, should he be required to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life? The answer to both of these questions depend on whether or not one believes that Genarlow Wilson is a threat to children based on his actions as A 17 YEAR OLD WITH A GIRL WHO WAS ONLY 2 YEARS YOUNGER THAN HIM. If you ask me, he has already done enough time.

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