Category Archives: Blog Discussions

… To be hanged by the neck until dead

“I hereby direct the sherrif of this county to remove you from this courtroom forthwith, and to transport you to the gallows, where before sundown this day you are to be hanged by the neck until dead; your body left to be picked at by the crows, until the Sherrif directs it to be cut down, drug to a shallow grave in unhallowed ground, and burried face down in the dirt.”

— Purported death sentence in the American west, attribution unknown

Penn and Teller have a show called “Bullshit!” in which they take various elements of our society and culture and expose them as… bullshit.

My favorites so far are the gun control, and recycling episodes; but on the NoR forums yesterday someone brought up the death penalty show saying :

“Their Anti death penalty show used the ONLY good anti death penalty argument I have heard.

Do you REALLY trust the government to kill people?” — Yogi

Which is the only major reason I’m not sure about death penalty.

I have no existential crisis of governmental nature with regards to the death penalty. I don’t believe the “Sinking down to their level” or “The government shouldn’t be a murder” arguments. I think they are sheer sophistry in their nature, and used to disguise the true problem that these people have with the death penalty; in that ultimately the death penalty is the responsibility of the people, and if they are of the people then the responsibility for that persons death is theirs. Most of these folks don’t feel responsible enough to take care of a CAT nevermind having a life and death decision for another person.

Obviously I don’t have that problem. When a member of a society egregiously violates that societies rules, he must be cast out of that society by the other members. This can be done temporarily through prison or banishment, or permanently through execution or exile. The death penalty is simply the ultimate sanction in a society that has no permanent exile.

But I still have reservations.

I believe the death penalty is just in nature, but heavily laden with pitfalls in application.

What it comes down to is, do I trust the government to have the authority to kill it’s own citizens for criminal offenses. This is a question on which I am troubled and conflicted.

These are people who can’t get fixing the streets right, and I expect them to get life and death right?

note: I also have no problem with the death penalty for unlawful combatants; which is not a civil criminal matter, but a military one. That is as morally clear and just as can be, presuming the definition of unlawful combatant is clear, and consistent.

To answer that some would say “It’s not the government, it’s the people” to which I say bullshit.

Yes philosophically this is true as I describe above, but again, I have no philosophical objection to the death penalty. The people have the right to protect themsevles from those who violently violate their rights, even by death. My objections are entirely practical, as is the example.

The next answer is usually “Let the jury decide”, but you all know as well as I do that juries are fickle and often stupid things (Moussaui anyone). A jury trial often ends up with the side who the jury “liked” more winning, without regard to truth or justice.

The technique to combat this? Confuse and overwhelm the jury as much as possible so they can’t come to a decision.

Oh my goodness yes, that’s completely just right there, sure it is.

The adversarial nature of our legal system is structured so that within the rules, the best LAWYER wins, not the best case. This is oviously not always true, a very bad case will generally not be won by even the best lawyer, unless he is coming up against the worst opponent. However death penalty cases are most often prosecuted by politically ambitious ADs or AAGs, and they are most often defended by public defenders, and lower scale lawyers doing pro-bono work. This generally comes out as the best against the worst (at least in trial phase, in appeal the big anti death penalty types come to play, and they are generally VERY good lawyers).

Additionally, death penalty cases are often extremely brutal, horrific crimes. By painting the nature of the crimes vividly, it is ofetn possible to bring up mob mentality in the joury, a “someone must pay” attitude, which can make a defendant a target, whether he deserves it or not.

Given this, I have very little confidence in the jury system. In fact I think if a defense attorney thinks his case has any merit at all, and he has a black, multiple offender as his client, he may be better off facing a judge alone; who will be more likely to deal with the technical merits rather than social and emotional factors (at least in theory).

What do I mean by this?

Black men disproportionately commit death penalty offenses. Black men are disproportionately charged in death penalty cases. Black men are disproportionally sentenced to the death penalty when such sentencing is either discretionary to the prosecutor, or decided by the jury (any non-mandatory sentence really).

When I say disproprtionately, I mean that they are charged, convicted, and sentenced more than the percentage of crimes they commit which would be eligible for the death penalty as compared to other racial groups. If they commit 40% of all death penalty offenses (and that is generally the number you see), but they are charged in 60+% of all death penalty cases (and that’s also the number you see), that is disproportionate.

Why is that? Is the system racist? Are the prosecutors?

Not exactly explicitly racist no; but prosecutors know it is far easier to convict a black man of a death penalty offense. This is both for practical reasons: most death penalty offenders are multiple past offenders; most black offenders are poor; most poor offenders have bad lawyers; and more emotional reasons, such as people as a whole are more willing to believe a black multiple offender deserves to die.

Even black people.

In fact an all black jury is more likely to convict a black man of a crime than an all white one is. This has been informally called the “That niggahs just crazy” theory.

The quote is from a black juror in the retrial of a very famous murder case (Rubin “Hurricane” Carter). The black jurors had apparently made up their mind very quickly in the case that the defendant did it, because they thought he was mean, nasty, uppity, crazy, and capable of it; based on their past experience with other men like him in their lives; and their own social normalizations.

Sidebar: They were right in that Carter was a violent and unstable man with a past criminal history; but based on the evidence – and the mishanding thereof – there was no way he should have been convicted, guilty or not. THe same goes for OJ, except in that case the jury made the right decision, if most likely for the wrong reasosn. O.J may or may not have commited the murders, but the police mishandling of the case and the evidence, compounded by a near totally incompetent prosecution, and a judge who was more concerned about looking bad on TV… well there is no way that OJ should have been convicted under those circumstances. Which I think underscores my point about trials not being about truth or justice, but gamesmanship.

White jurors on the other hand are more likely to feel that voting guilty, or voting for the death penalty is a subconscious act of racism or fear on their part, and are in fact more likely to vote guilty, but vote DOWN the death penalty (especially younger to middle aged women if they havent been the victim of a violent crime – if they have they are more likely to vote for the death penalty – and catholics).

Setting aside all that, these are the practical realities on the ground, without regard to their root causes:

1.The government screws up a lot. If they cant get most things right…
2. The best lawyer often wins, not the best case
3. Prosecutors are jsut as good at twisting things as defense attorneys, often better
4. When facing a multiple offender the prosecutor has a natural advantage. The jury KNOWS the defendant is a criminal it’s not a big leap to think him a killer.
5. Black men are more likely to be convicted, justified or not
6. Black men are more likley to be sentenced to the death penalty, justified or not
7. Juries are fickle, emotional, and irrational
8. Poor offenders generally have bad lawyers
9. Bad lawyers generally do poorly with juries
10. If a jury doesnt like the defendant, and doesnt like the lawyer, he’s probably gonna die whether he deserves to or not

Now I’m not saying there arent mitigating factors on the other side, like people who are just naturally reluctant to vote for the death penalty (liberals, catholics, anti-government types etc…), and the high burden of proof that is in theory necessary for a conviction (though in practice not always so if the defendant is poor, a repeat offender, and has a bad lawyer). It’s just that all these factors give me pause.

I DO believe in the death penalty. I believe it is just and right. I believe that it is useful and effective, not as a deterrent but as permanent removal from society. In fact, I believe the death penalty should be expanded to aggravated rape, aggravated kidnapping, child molestation, and other charges.

I just worry greatly about how it is administered, and think we absolutely must use the utmost circumspection in doing so.

It’s funny how catholic teaching stays with you isn’t it. Many people believe that catholics and the church are against the death penalty; but this is not striclty speaking true. The churches position, and my position; is that the death penatly is the ultimate act of members of a society protecting themselves from individuals who would do them harm. Like a just war, there are just executions; but we must use the greatest care in embarking upon either.

I am a cynically romantic optimistic pessimist. I am neither liberal, nor conservative. I am a (somewhat disgruntled) muscular minarchist… something like a constructive anarchist.

Basically what that means, is that I believe, all things being equal, responsible adults should be able to do whatever the hell they want to do, so long as nobody’s getting hurt, who isn’t paying extra

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They Came At Us In The Same Old Way ….

I noticed a link to The Liberty Papers from a blog that I hadn’t seen in a quite a while, Le Revue Gauche. Eugene, for those who’ve never been to his blog, is “an unabashed libertarian communist”. For those faithful readers who find this combination of words a bit suprising, it’s important to understand that there are really two separate and distinct anarchist movements. One on the Left of the economic spectrum and the other on the right of the spectrum. Both, naturally, are all at the extreme individualism end of the spectrum dealing with state authority. Libertarian communism, aka anarcho-syndicalism or, simply, anarchy, is descended from the socialism and romanticism of the 19th century. If you stop by Eugene’s blog you will notice references to Karl Marx, Pyotr Kropotkin and Mikhail Bakunin, rather than Murray Rothbard, Ayn Rand or Robert Heinlein. It turns out that Eugene wrote an entry about Free Trade and used Hong Kong and Somalia as examples.

Specifically, Eugene linked to my article on Monopolies, Markets and Microsoft and said the following (note the words in bold are where the link is contained).

And the capitalist state is not just any kind of government, it is a specific kind of government that regulates the market in favour of stability for the creation of monopolies. As the history of Hong Kong and of course British and American capitalism shows. This is the history that the right wing of course has always revised, whether it is the Heritage Foudation or the Von Mises Institute.

I thought this was curious, since my article flies in the face of the normally accepted position among libertarians. I finally decided that Eugene had not really read my article in context, nor the discussion that followed. That, in fact, I happen to believe that government promotion of corporatism is a major problem and the anti-thesis of capitalism. More importantly, he betrays an idea that is part of the Left’s meme war. This particular idea has been so effective that many on the Left don’t even recognize just how false it is, perhaps even Eugene doesn’t. The idea that has been promoted since the the mid-19th century is:

Corporatism = Capitalism

Anyone that has read Adam Smith and then looks at how supposedly capitalist economies work would recognize that the USA and UK are not capitalist in any sense of the word. The purpose of government, from a capitalist perspective, is to provide a neutral framework for the market to work within. It should not favor producer, retailer nor consumer, nor should it favor management or labor. By continuously aligning the idea that a scenario where government favors management over labor in the employment market and favors centralized corporations over small businesses and consumers in the broader market, the Left has successfully created the idea that this is Capitalism. Of course, I’m glossing over a lot of the progressive theory of the Left, which would argue that the corporatism of the the 1870’s through today represents the progression from feudalism to mercantilism to capitalism to corporatism and is the means by which class struggle is played out (heh, I can use those terms, even when they just make me want to chuckle).

Eugene (and many others on the Left) is using the Von Mises Institute’s discussion of Somalia to show that anarcho-capitalism perpetuates the “class struggle”. Indeed, the Left points to the issues of drought and starvation in Somalia to show that warlords, strongmen and feudalism will arise in an anarcho-capitalist system, completely ignoring the punch-line from the Mises article:

A democratic government has every power to exert dominion over people. To fend off the possibility of being dominated, each clan tries to capture the power of that government before it can become a threat. Those clans that didn’t share in the spoils of political power would realize their chances of becoming part of the ruling alliance were nil.

What everyone ignores is the bull in the china shop, the UN. It is the UN and the Western states that are trying to create a democratic government in Somalia. Which is a significant contributing factor to the warlords having power. Even disregarding all of that, what Eugene ignores is that Somalia is better off than their neighbors in the Horn of Africa. You know, those neighboring countries that have governments and written laws instead of clans, warlords and customary law.

I don’t particularly think Somalia is a good example of the outcome of anarcho-capitalism since it isn’t anarcho-capitalism. It is completely distorted by the intervention and meddling of a wide variety of governmental organizations. And, even so, with the almost non-existent national government they are managing to do better than their neighbors. That, by itself, should tell us something.

More importantly, if you want to tackle capitalism, I’m game for the debate. But, the Left continues to try and equate corporatism and proto-fascism with capitalism. They come at us in the same old way, time after time.

Security executive, work for Core Security, veteran, kids, dogs, cat, chickens, mortgage, bills. I like #liberty #InfoSec #scotch, #wine, #cigars, #travel, #baseball

Eric Raymond on the Media

WASHINGTON — Media analysts sounded an increasingly gloomy note today following news that a full-scale outbreak of civil war in Iraq had been averted. “The prospects for regime change in Washington seem increasingly remote,” said one senior White House reporter who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Hah! Read the whole thing.

Security executive, work for Core Security, veteran, kids, dogs, cat, chickens, mortgage, bills. I like #liberty #InfoSec #scotch, #wine, #cigars, #travel, #baseball

Responding to a Reader

Stephen, of On Beyond left a comment for me on Elitists and a Society of Fear over on Eric’s Grumbles. In the comments on that post, Stephen holds forth with a few things that I don’t agree with, so I responded with my own comment. I decided that my comment really deserved to be a post of its own, given the length and set of thoughts. But, since I’m now transitioning this sort of writing pretty well entirely to The Liberty Papers, I posted it here. Enjoy. Discuss. Take issue. What have you.



Stephen, pointing out that there is a lack of evidence for someone’s pet theory is not political. It is, actually, an important component of the scientific method. It is perfectly valid to say that global warming is not established fact due to the inconclusive and contradictory evidence. Calling such a position political is an act of politics that plays right into the hands of those who wish to use “global warming” for their own purposes.

Your argument about why there should be intrusive government action taken is part and parcel of the precautionary principle. Check out the link in the main post. The primary problem with this principle is that it is logically inconsistent. The second problem with it is that it creates a stasis, a fear of change, because change might be bad. The worst thing about Kyoto is that it dooms billions of people to poverty and privation permanently. The reality of human society is that change is part and parcel of it. Humans are dynamic. If you try to lock them into an unchanging environment for “their own good” forces far beyond your control will undo your every effort.

I’m always amused when people deny that the media, including newspapers, television, magazines, Hollywood, musical artists, etc. don’t have power. Information is power. The ability to put information in front of people is power. The media, as a group, has an immense amount of power and money both. In fact, Sony, AOL, Comcast, Oprah, Susan Sarandon, NYT, People, and on and on, have at least as much liquid capital as companies like Chevron and GM. Potentially, since many Hollywood artists are worth tens of millions, or more, and under no obligation to share holders to turn a profit, they have more money. And, since they get invited into our living rooms, car stereos, etc. every single day, they wield immense influence. Couple that with lawyers who stand to make enormous amounts of money (and already have) through environmental legislation and litigation. How many lawyers make enormous amounts of money from environmental impact statements every single day? How many lawyers are involved in lobbying to increase environmental regulation and legislation? Why is that? Why is it that the advent of the media and politicians taking environmental issues really seriously coincides almost perfectly with the fall of the Berlin Wall?

By the way, there’s some interesting science to suggest that global warming and increasing CO2 is good, not bad. Consider that the Earth was actually in a minor ice age until the early 19th century. Evidence, almost universally ignored by the mainstream, indicates that emerging from that minor ice age has led to increased agricultural productivity, among other things. Increases in CO2 improves plant growth. Further, the earth has been in a constant state of change since the very beginning of the planet. The reality is that the planet and the various ecologies found on it have changed dramatically over the past 20,000 years, some “natural” and some caused by humans. I’m not sure I understand how humans creating change is not “natural” but beavers causing change is, but that discussion could fill a whole bunch of posts all by itself.

As someone with a background in engineering, which includes substantial training in the scientific method, I have to seriously question investigation and research funded by organizations with serious investment in certain outcomes. I have to question whether evidence is being suppressed when major scientific journals receive funding, through advertising and donations, from those same organizations and when scientists and engineers report that papers casting doubt on the desired outcomes are suppressed. I would argue that your friend is not getting all of the data because the data is being suppressed.

Now, suppose you were Chevron, and your primary source of revenue was being attacked. Would you fund research to find out the validity of the arguments made against you? Yes, you would. Would that be suspect due to conflict of interest? Of course. So, why isn’t the research funded by environmental organizations suspect due to the conflict of interest? The majority of the research being published right now is funded by environmental organizations and the Federal government. Now, interestingly, environmental organizations have three primary sources of funding: Hollywood, the government, and the fossil fuel industry. One has to ask who has less conflict of interest. The oil industry, which is funding all sides of the research, or the environmental organizations, which are not? Just a question to ask yourself. Another question to ask yourself is why the “reputable trade publications” will publish research favorable to the theory of global warming, but not research unfavorable to it?

On your last point, the primary difference between what Crichton (and I) have to say on this topic and what the folks who believe vehemently in global warming has to say is that we are saying that global warming has too many contradictions to accept as proven. We aren’t saying it isn’t happening, or is happening. I would like to see a truly concerted effort made to understand this without the pre-determined outcomes. If you think that can happen with government funding, I would suggest looking at the history of government science, which is not good.

Finally, I don’t choose my science based on my preference for the implications and thus I have no need to be gentle in my judgement of the censorship and suppression of science by religion, whether historically, or occurring today. I don’t like the implications of research into solar and wind generated power (it can’t meet our needs and will be far more expensive than fossil fuel and nuclear power), but I don’t reject it because I don’t like it.

There is a huge difference between my position, which is that the evidence is inconclusive, contradictory and biased and the position you appear to be taking. I should also point out that one of the pluses to true scientific investigation is that any other person with reasonable intelligence, who is willing to invest the time and effort, can recreate the investigation done by someone else and draw conclusions based on that without having to take what someone tells them on faith. When you are being asked to take something on faith (which much of current global warming theory is asking you to do), then it isn’t science.

Finally, the issue of technology and your bank analogy. A bank will lend me a million dollars when I walk through the door if I have a track record that shows I can pay it back. So, is there a track record for science, technology and engineering? There absolutely is. Not only has it kept pace with the population growth of the planet, it has surged far ahead. All humans, in every quarter of the planet, are far better off, by any tangible standard, than they were in 1800. There is less disease, less starvation, fewer childhood diseases, more food, better housing, more leisure time. Every single disaster predicted by doomsayers over the past centuries has been negated by the advance of science and technology. That’s a pretty good track record. If you showed up in my bank with a record of paying off million dollar loans every time one was made, and doing it early, I’d be inclined to lend you a million dollars, knowing full well I was going to make a profit on you. When a claim is made that technology and science can solve these issues, based on the track record, I agree and I’m willing to make the loan.

Security executive, work for Core Security, veteran, kids, dogs, cat, chickens, mortgage, bills. I like #liberty #InfoSec #scotch, #wine, #cigars, #travel, #baseball

This Should Be Fun

Not long ago, CATO unveiled their blog: CATO Unbound. The premise is that they will have a primary essay every month, responses from other prominent bloggers and provide trackbacks and links so that the rest of the blogosphere can respond too. Because December was so insane, I didn’t get a chance to play with the CATO concept as they debuted with The Living Constitution. Which is really too bad, since they hit on one of my favorite political topics: The 17th Amendment.

Anyhow, this month’s topic promises to be another one of deep interest to me and hopefully one I can participate in. The topic is Internet Liberation: Alive or Dead?. The lead essay, defining the position to be argued will be written by Jaron Lanier. The other contributors will include Glenn Reynolds and Eric Raymond, or “esr”, as he is known in hacker circles. There aren’t many other folks who would be such obvious, and good, choices for this topic. The topic itself will deal with:

An all-star lineup of techno-visionaries will discuss what, if anything, is left of all those mid-nineties prophesies of radical internet liberation.

I have to say that I will be interested to see what the CATO contributors have to say and even more interested to compare and contrast it with my own vision related to Technology and Liberty. In fact, considering that recent article on my part, my joining the ranks of the mobile technology users and my general vision of technology and its relationship to people and to liberty, this should be interesting and fun. Here’s hoping that The Liberty Papers and Life, Liberty and Property have a lot of good contribution to the discussion.

Security executive, work for Core Security, veteran, kids, dogs, cat, chickens, mortgage, bills. I like #liberty #InfoSec #scotch, #wine, #cigars, #travel, #baseball
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