Black Shards Press – Electronic Gumbo is Our Specialty

Things We Dare Not Do (and What That Says About Society)

12.02.2010 (8:05 pm) – Filed under: Crime,Free Speech,Justice,Society ::

Despite being married, 23-year-old Alyssa Branton was stalked for months by a much older man who recently shot her dead outside her office building after she refused his advances. Despite providing more than 70 pages of documentation detailing Roger Troy’s bizarre and unwanted behavior, Branton was denied the restraining order that might have saved her life by a Florida judge. His reasoning? She hadn’t provided proof that Troy was a menace.

Evidently for some judges a victim’s knowledge of the danger she’s in doesn’t become proof until the murder is on the books. Judge Moxley, a former prosecutor, should have known better than to allow Troy to harass Ms. Branton unfettered. Her death is the direct result of his failure to intervene on her behalf. When did it become wrong to protect young, beautiful women against perverted, violent older men? That fear of wrongly limiting Troy’s rights caused Moxley to rule as he did is conjecture on my part, yet why else would he fail to execute his duty to protect Alyssa Branton?

Significantly, the Branton case is but one example of society’s impotence in the face of violent criminals. The failure to act to protect the defenseless from violent attacks has never been more evident than in the recent beating of Aiesha Steward-Baker in a Seattle transit tunnel. This brazen stomping took place in full sight of at least two Metro Transit system’s security guards who did nothing to stop the attack even after Baker was knocked down and was kicked repeatedly in the head and face.

Baker, who her attackers allege was violent herself, had repeatedly asked Seattle police for help that evening and was obviously hoping Metro security would protect her. Instead the men ignored her pleas for help and allowed the attack to escalate while they tried to talk the other girl out of her violent frenzy.

When did the idea that paid security forces are not allowed to use force to fulfill their basic duty become the rule that must be obeyed? The guards’ failure to act is an abomination and an abdication of their manhood. Yet they do not deserve the blame; rather, our system that is dominated by the ever-present fear of being sued in court is what created the circumstances that forbade them from interfering on Baker’s behalf. Such is duty and chivalry in the age of the liberal trial lawyer.

Meanwhile, the U.S. government is actually increasing the scope of its police powers by obtaining personal cell phone call data, not only for matters of national security but also for routine matters such as bank robbery, etc. This is in addition to making increasingly sophisticated attempts to mine Internet browsing and email history.

The pattern is clear: Americans are discouraged, at risk of their freedom, from taking matters of their own personal security into their own hands even as local law enforcement fails to meet their needs for fear of making mistakes that might lead to public embarrassment or civil lawsuits. At the same time, the federal government is moving to make personal privacy a thing of the past.

Indeed:

the Obama administration has argued that warrantless tracking is permitted because Americans enjoy no "reasonable expectation of privacy" in their–or at least their cell phones’–whereabouts. U.S. Department of Justice lawyers say that "a customer’s Fourth Amendment rights are not violated when the phone company reveals to the government its own records"

The three cases I’ve briefly outlined above reveal a deeper pattern that we must strive to correct. Individual rights to privacy and personal security have, far from being protected by our system of jurisprudence, been diminished to the point at which Alyssa Branton was murdered in plain view of witnesses after the system failed her.

The cause of the system failure is clear, for the ability of both law enforcement and individual citizens to make judgments has been removed and a complex, legalistic web of process and procedure has been band-aided together in place of common sense and decency.

The number and type of actions that we dare not take has increased dramatically in the post-WW II era. Gone with such acts of courage and principle seems to be the American ideals of truth and justice. In their place, politically correct, non-offensive behavior is required and society has become a dimmer, less secure place as a result, at least for people like Alyssa Branton and Aiesha Baker. In contrast, the criminals who attacked them seemed confident enough in their right to act as they damn well pleased, didn’t they?

Hillary’s Uphill Fight Against Sexual Violence

22.08.2009 (11:11 am) – Filed under: Africa,Islam,Justice ::

image Hillary Clinton has arguably done more to combat sexual violence in Africa in her short time as Secretary of State than the entire U.N. has in the last decade.  Mrs. Clinton had this to say about visiting the Congo and witnessing the aftermath of the brutality of life there:

While I was in the DRC, I had very frank discussions about sexual violence with President Kabila. I stressed that the perpetrators of these crimes, no matter who they are, must be prosecuted and punished. This is particularly important when they are in positions of authority, including members of the Congolese military, who have been allowed to commit these crimes with impunity.

There are lessons that people in the U.S. and the rest of the civilized world can learn simply from reading this single paragraph.  We do not have to visit Africa and see the mauled and maimed women first-hand to realize that, whatever our differences politically, we really have a minimal number of problems to deal with in our lives and that it is our general adherence to the rule of law, with all of its compulsions and flaws, that creates the sense – and more than that, the reality – of security most westerners enjoy day in and day out.  Yet even here freedom and safety is not universal.  I’ll discuss below the latest court case regarding the practice of Islamic honor killings.

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MySpace Stalker’s Conviction to be Dismissed

03.07.2009 (5:31 am) – Filed under: Justice,Law,Technology ::

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The LA Times says that U.S. District Judge George H. Wu will throw out the conviction of Lori Drew, the mother who stalked and harassed Megan Meier, a classmate of her daughter’s, until Megan committed suicide, when his written ruling is filed, probably next week.

“Is a misdemeanor committed by the conduct which is done every single day by millions and millions of people?” Wu asked. “If these people do read [the terms of service] and still say they’re 40 when they are 45, is that a misdemeanor?”

The prosecution’s case was in fact based on some unique interpretations of cyber-law and Wu ultimately failed to buy its argument.  From a technologist’s perspective the ruling does make sense.  An online service’s terms of service are essentially arbitrary and the act of violating them is not a legal matter in and of itself.

That said, this case is another clear indicator of the difference between what is right and what is legal.  Drew is guilty as sin of stalking, harassing, and bullying a vulnerable minor and she is the primary culprit in the girl’s death.

Wouldn’t it be nice if the law were actually the sharp-edged tool that proponents of social legalism purport it to be?  In a country where smoking a cigarette is a legal violation, it makes no sense that Lori Drew will walk away from this case a free woman.

The Justice of DNA Evidence

20.06.2009 (10:43 am) – Filed under: Crime,Justice,Law ::

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One has to be careful reading blogs.  For instance, I was about to do something unusual, namely to agree with Matt Yglesias, so I suppose I should have been suspicious from the get-go.  But that Matt, he’s so slick and charming he darn near took me in when he wrote about the Supreme Court’s recent ruling that denied an Alaska man the opportunity to obtain – at his own expense – a DNA test that might exonerate him of a crime. 

I didn’t buy Matt’s real agenda point, namely that the verdict was the result of judicial prejudice and inherent favoritism toward the state on the part of a conservative court led by an unerring fascist named John Roberts, but he got me thinking, why shouldn’t William Osburne be allowed to test DNA evidence, technology wasn’t available at the time/place of his trial and conviction?

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Thought Crimes Bill Expected to Pass House

29.04.2009 (5:03 am) – Filed under: Justice,Law,Politics ::

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HR 1913, the latest far-left attempt to pass special provisions for hate crimes, is expected to pass through the House of Representatives this week, perhaps even tomorrow.

Hate crimes are abominations most often carried out by dullards and xenophobes.  You know, the kind of people your parents warned you about as a youngster.  Nevertheless, all hate crimes legislation is bad legislation.

Why?  One important reason is because these laws discriminate based on the un-provable, specifically the perpetrator’s state of mind.  In many cases it’s not possible to know the killer’s true motive beyond a reasonable doubt.  Is this to be left to jurors?  If so, it’s a recipe for disaster if consistency of the law’s application is of any concern.

Another reason hate crimes bills should be universally rejected is that they deliberately create different sentencing scenarios for criminals for committing the same act.  Is there a significant difference between a random murder and one based on race?  No, the victim is dead in both cases and the killer, if caught, is very, very likely to go down for life, if not to the gas chamber.

Hate crimes bills remind me of that Yankee-goes-south classic My Cousin Vinnie in which the lovely Marisa Tomei has this to say to Joe Pesci, who’s about to go hunting:

Vinny Gambini: What about these pants I got on? You think they’re okay?

Mona Lisa Vito: Imagine you’re a deer. You’re prancing along. You get thirsty. You spot a little brook. You put your little deer lips down to the cool, clear water – BAM. A fuckin’ bullet rips off part of your head. Your brains are lying on the ground in little bloody pieces. Now I ask ya, would you give a fuck what kind of pants the son-of-a-bitch who shot you was wearing?

Murder is murder.  Crime is crime.  The punishment fits the crime, or it ought to.  Easy concepts but evidently too difficult for liberal lawmakers to master.

The crime isn’t hating black people or white people or purple people eaters, it’s assault, rape, or murder.  Period.

Equal protection under the law?  No such thing if you’re a patron of the Democratic party – you’re more than equal, a privilege granted quid pro quo for voting Democratic, with little regard for the social, legal, and constitutional principles on which this nation was founded. 

Thus was born the Welfare State, Affirmative Action, forced desegregation, abortion on demand, and now, apparently, state-sanctioned legal discrimination for thought crime – all for the benefit of the voters of one political party.

Some country that the Baby Boomers are leaving my kids.  ‘Preciate ya lots.

If you’re not too busy being gainfully employed tomorrow, call the House switchboard at 866-346-4611 and let them know what a mess they’re about to make.

An Injustice Rectified and What It Ought to Symbolize

19.01.2009 (3:35 pm) – Filed under: Immigration,Justice,Politics ::

In 2005, U.S. Border Patrol Agents Nacho Ramos and Jose Compeon stopped Oswaldo Aldrete-Davilla, a Mexican drug smuggler in the U.S. illegally, while the latter was in possession of nearly a half-ton of contraband.  A struggle ensued and Davilla was shot in the buttocks.  Ramos and Compeon, concerned about reporting the matter, foolishly attempted to clean up the scene, were caught, and were sentenced to more than a decade in prison, as David Broussard neatly summarized last year.

On his last full day in office, President Bush has commuted the sentences of the agents, undoing a terrible injustice inflicted by the legal system on two of its own, men who were simply trying to protect the borders of their country as per their sworn duty.  A wide range of people have been asking for this result for over a year, including, as David noted, “Senators as far apart politically as John Cornyn (R-TX), and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA)”.

Better late than never, and certainly better today than tomorrow.

President Bush, unlike former President Bill Clinton, had the wisdom not to go on a last-minute spree pardoning and commuting the sentences of known and convicted criminals, something that makes today’s action vis-a-vis Ramos and Compeon more significant.

Soon-to-be-president Barack Obama would do well to recognize the symbolism of the action given the hue and cry from the far left demanding that his administration pursue Bush administration justice department officials on war crimes charges.

In George W. Bush we witness a president who recognized the necessity for Ramos and Compeon to do what they had to do to protect the citizens of the United States. 

This is what President-elect Obama needs to do as well, whether he agrees with each and every decision made by the DoJ, the CIA, etc., or not.  The men and women working for America’s security in the post-9/11 environment deserve to be recognized for their service, not excoriated for it.  He and other Democratic leaders such as Nancy Pelosi ought to know that.

It is incumbent upon the new president to see that their deeds, which are mostly good and only rarely ill-conceived, are not punished in the service of an ideological manhunt such as the one called for by writers such as Glen Greenwald and the mob at FireDogLake, to whom I am unwilling to link on this subject, so hateful and ridiculous are their positions.

If the Obama administration wants to ban waterboarding and open the gates of Guantanamo, that’s his decision to make.  But it would be absolutely unacceptable for his administration to second-guess current officials’ decisions with an eye toward pressing criminal charges.

For a litmus test, all Mr. Obama need do is ask himself a simple question:  If I were in CIA agent John Smith’s shoes and given the nature of our enemies, could I see myself or another a reasonable person acting as he did in Situation X?  The answer, I think, as was clearly so in the case of Ramos and Compeon, will be an affirmative in nearly every case.  And that ought to be the bottom line.

5 Blind Mice, See How They Vote

25.06.2008 (7:39 pm) – Filed under: Death Penalty,Justice,Law ::

The Supreme Court botched another important case today by disallowing the Louisiana law that allowed the death penalty to be administered to child rapists.

Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, writing for the majority, said there was “a distinction between intentional first-degree murder on the one hand and non-homicide crimes against individual persons,” even such “devastating” crimes as the rape of a child, on the other.

Justice Kennedy said Wednesday that while the court’s death penalty jurisprudence “remains sound,” it should not be expanded to cover a crime for which no one has been executed in the United States for the past 44 years.

Given the polarization of the court on death penalty issues it’s right that Kennedy author the opinion:  effectively he is the Supreme Court on this and other divisive issues.  Sadly he wasn’t up to the task of doing justice in this case.

Andy McCarthy responds to Kennedy’s twisted mess of logic with cutting clarity:

I think it’s silly on its face — read the almost unreadable (because it’s so excruciating) account of the rape and ask yourself whether it is really "disproportionate" to administer lethal-objection execution to a man who committed this type of barbaric a sexual assault on a child.

But let’s give him that one for argument’s sake.  The Eighth Amendment talks about punishment that is cruel.  First, punishment does not become cruel just because it’s disproportionate.  And second, are we really striving here for proportionality?  If a crime is cruel — as it clearly was in this case — wouldn’t a proportionate punishment also have to be cruel, and thus in violation of the Eighth Amendment?

Wouldn’t it be refreshingly honest if activist justices just bluntly us:  "We don’t like the death penalty and we can stop it because there are five of us."  Sure, it would be tyrannical, but at least it would be accurate, and not nearly as nauseating as what passes for reasoning in these cases.

(My emphasis…)

What else is there to say?

Obama’s Agenda for Judges

09.05.2008 (1:52 pm) – Filed under: Justice,Law,Politics ::

Here’s one more reason not to vote for Barack Obama, as any more were needed.  According to his campaign, Mr. Obama, if elected to the presidency, has every intention of seating liberal, activist judges.

"Barack Obama," explained spokesman Tommy Vietor, "has always believed that our courts should stand up for social and economic justice, and what’s truly elitist is to appoint judges who will protect the powerful and leave ordinary Americans to fend for themselves."

Wrong, wrong, wrong.  A judge’s responsibility is to interpret the law as established by the legislature as fairly and impartially as humanly possible.  It is not to make new law, to right current or historical inequities, or to promote any ideological agenda, whether left or right.

David Harsanyi again:

"Obama, a graduate of Harvard Law School and a former lecturer on constitutional law at the University of Chicago, knows full well that the Supreme Court isn’t charged with upholding subjective world views"

Barack Obama believes otherwise and demonstrates the true meaning of elitism:  an unquestioning assumption that one’s ideological agenda is superior to that of others, particularly the status quo, which has society’s de facto approval.

Vote McCain, save yourself 4 years of pain – to say nothing of the 2 decades of Supreme Court follies that would follow Obama’s appointment of another John Paul Stevens.

Terrorists Victims Now?

16.02.2008 (4:33 pm) – Filed under: Justice,Law,Terrorism ::

The Wall Street Journal took on apologists for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM) today, saying:

These are not ordinary crimes. "For sure, I’m American enemies," said KSM in his broken English. "When we made any war against America we are jackals fighting in the nights. . . . the language of the war are killing." The proper venue to address his mass crimes against humanity is not some civilian jurisdiction. Terror cases committed as acts of war, by their very nature, require a separate judicial process.

Yet now anti-antiterror activists are attempting to make the process a referendum on the Bush Presidency or "torture" or whatever. Purportedly the tribunals are illegitimate because they do not afford every last Miranda right or due-process safeguard of the civilian courts. The key and appropriate distinction is that foreign terrorists are not entitled to the protections of the U.S. Constitution. They also violated the laws of war — for example, by deliberately targeting civilians. International law has always held that such people deserve fewer legal protections, much less those of civilian defendants.

The ultimate purpose of the tribunals is to administer justice. It is a strange worldview that considers such tribunals and the death penalty inappropriate for the murders of 2,972 people in New York, Virginia and Pennsylvania, and hundreds more world-wide. A society that would not tender justice to a human butcher like KSM is not serious about defending itself.

Ed Morrissey summarizes matters thusly:

It should be remembered that KSM wanted to see the US collapse. His organization, al-Qaeda, wants to eliminate court systems based on the rule of law and have them replaced by shari’a courts based on the whims of radical Muslim imams. Given that and the fact that we didn’t arrest him in Hoboken but captured him abroad while plotting even more acts of war and terrorism against the US, the notion that he deserves a day in an American civilian court insults both our system of justice and the memory of the thousands of people KSM killed.

Congress, the President, and the Supreme Court have all settled on the current military tribunal system, which gives KSM a lot more justice than he deserves. It has more protections and evidentiary restrictions than the International Criminal Court, as the WSJ notes. It beats what KSM really deserves as a consequence of his unlawful combatant status under the circumstances — a single pellet of lead in the brainpan.

There is wisdom in both of these articles.  Those who want to split legal hairs and fabricate nuances of our Constitutional principles in order to defend the undefendable are frivolous, foolish people with a distorted view of what it will take for freedom and democracy to continue to thrive in the 21st century. 

When a portion of justice is finally served upon Khalid Sheikh Mohammed the world will be a better place for it.

Torture, a

29.12.2007 (10:12 pm) – Filed under: Justice,National Security,Philosophy ::

At Pharyngula, PZ Meyers lets off a blast of anti-torture steam that must have been building up for some time:

Here is all that torture is good for: inspiring fear in a population.

When the US government announces it’s support for torture, they aren’t talking about intelligence gathering: they are simply saying “Fear us.” They are taking the first step on the road to tyranny.

The real problem is that fear isn’t a good tool to use in a democratic society. We are supposed to be shareholders in our government; when a process of oppression is endorsed by our legislators and president, we should recognize that they are trying to set themselves apart from the ordinary citizenry, and it’s time to rebel…before the goon squads come to your neighborhood. Anyone who supports torture is a traitor to the democratic form of government, and should be voted out of office, if not impeached.

Not so. A more accurate way to summarize the torture debate is to say that it’s imperative that the U.S. indicate that it will match terrorists at every level of the fight. So yes, on one level it is about inspiring fear, but the fear that’s necessary is that which must be impressed on the hearts of ruthless enemies who terrorize the innocent and prey on the tolerance of better societies than their own.

As such the use of torture is a tool that, while repugnant and often ill-advised, is a necessary evil that may have to be wielded in defense of democracy.

I know that some are going to crawl out of the woodwork and say that this merely serves to lower our nation and its citizens to the level of the terrorists.

Such statements are not true. Individuals and nations alike are entitled to defend themselves against attack. While value judgments about the appropriate intensity of that response can be amusing when penned by a deft, clever hand, one thing should remain clear throughout the discussion: All that is necessary for terrorists to avoid a potentially devastating response of this nation’s security apparatus to their lawless behavior is to lay down their arms, pick up their Koran, and make a proper separation of right and wrong based on their own interpretation of the book rather than relying on the mob-rousing clerics who incite them to the heinous acts they perform.

It goes without saying, of course, that Meyers’ article in opposition to a government tactic would be his death sentence in virtually every one of the nations that spawn Islamic terrorism.

A better use of freedom would be to defend its continued existence at home rather than arguing for the non-existent rights of an implacable, murderous foe whose core values demand the complete extermination of the freedoms that allow articles such as ours to be written free of fear.