Automatic Investigation

"They didn't knock. They ignored the sign, the dog sees or hears (and) protects my daughter, so he ran toward him -- not growling, not foaming at the mouth, not anything," Harris said.

[...] Harris said his daughter saw the whole thing. "While she's running toward the dog, they kill him. She's yelling, 'Why'd you shoot him? I was going to get him. Why'd you shoot him?'" Harris said.

[...] department policy mandates an automatic investigation...

Oh, good. A "complete, full and thorough investigation." "Automatic," even. Pretty soon, it'll be all "ongoing" & shit, and questions will have to be "referred," up until the point that, in spite of this "unfortunate" incident being "sincerely regretted," no "evidence of wrongdoing" will issue forth and John O'Hare will be set lose to terrorize the next 12-yr-old girl and her dog that happens to assuage his little-man syndrome.

I feel so much better, already.

Have a shitty Christmas, Officer John O'Hare, of the Hartford "Northeast Conditions Unit;" have a goddammed rotten life after that; die early, young, painfully and undignified, shitting your gaddammed brains out to the muffled amusement of young nurses; be laid disgraced, into an unmarked grave that even your mother would be ashamed to visit -- and then rot in hell -- you worthless waste of an otherwise presumably pleasurable sexual encounter.

(Balko; who else?)

Maintaining the Machinery of the State

I've just returned from my habitual 3-mile morning walk with doggies, and I see email from a business partner in my inbox:

Talk about someone needing to "see the forest!"

Chris is referring to this latest outrage. 20-yr-old Genarlow Wilson is three years into a 10-year prison sentence for engaging in consensual oral sex with a 15-yr-old when he was 17.

As Shaila Dewan reported in The Times this week, Mr. Wilson has been convicted of aggravated child molestation even though he and the girl were both minors at the time. Even if he could win an early release, Mr. Wilson could not go home to his family. He would have to register as a sex offender and would be prohibited from living with his 8-year-old sister. It is all the more disgraceful because the Georgia Supreme Court last week refused to hear his appeal.

When I read this story, the first thing I thought of -- something that's been coming up more and more -- was my time as a Navy officer overseeing the maintenance of missile launching systems, then later the exterior deck equipment, and later still the ship's electrical plant and machinery. Since then, I've been involved in various aspects of aviation, and through it all is the idea that one continually strives for improvements in maintenance so as to make equipment last longer and to reduce accidents that injure, main, and kill people. This is accomplished with maintenance schedules developed over time and lessons learned. Such maintenance is accomplished according to certain criteria, and is accomplished whether or not the machinery or part appears to require any maintenance at all. Particularly in aviation, some parts have a service life and when the number of flight hours has been reached, the part is switched out.

It's a perfectly intelligent and logical means for maintaining machinery. But it has no application whatsoever to maintaining peace among moral agents in a society with laws, that, should they exist, ought to focus primarily on the extent of harm done to an innocent person and the moral culpability of the one who did the harm.

Which is kinda the way it used to be. Police exercised discretion as to whether to even intervene in a situation. Prosecutors exercised discretion as to whether to charge someone, even though on the technical merits, they could. A jury could nullify the law. And, finally, a judge, even in the face of a jury conviction, had great latitude as to what sort of sentence to impose, and they were supposed to exercise moral judgment. That was their role. The jury finds the facts, and the judge applies them to the law, taking into account various mitigating circumstances that go to moral culpability.

But now we have zero tolerance, minimum sentences, and a defense lawyer even suggesting that a jury may, or indeed should, disregard the law can get him sanctioned or tossed in the can himself on contempt. And judges are reduced to the equivalent of an expensive toaster. When the jury's done, they pop off a sentence right out of the book. No more, no less, no other consideration, and no humanity involved anywhere in the whole deal.

It's just a maintenance schedule, being duly followed like the placard says.

But it gets worse. At least maintenance schedules existed for the purpose and benefit of the machinery, and even though the law sometimes fails, and always has, the purpose used to be the maintenance of a peaceful society. But the law is now an end in itself, as if we used to maintain a missile system because we had a passion for practicing maintenance.

The gradual result is that the apparatus of the law now attracts people who want to police for the sake of policing; prosecutors for the sake of prosecuting, and judges for the sake of passing judgment.

There is a judicial philosophy that's sound on its face. The people and their representatives create the laws, judges apply them. If the result is unpalatable, then the law is changed in order to obtain different results. It's a feedback loop, just like in equipment maintenance where procedures are changed to achieve better results.

But again, we're dealing with people, not machines, and there is never any justification to sacrifice a person --let alone a 17-yr-old boy -- for the sake of better social maintenance going forward. This "send a message" bullshit that I keep hearing about has just got to stop, already. Yea, according to the story, they've changed the law. Good for them. They can thank Genarlow Wilson for sacrificing the best years of his life so "the justice system" is inched closer to "perfection."

Setting aside the root, philosophical causes, the practical cause of all this is complicated. You've got your special interests like MADD, your rabid sex-is-rape feminist crowd, your if-I-can-save-just-one-parent crowd, and the list goes on. Then you've got the media who brings gasoline to the fire, and the politicians who'll sacrifice anyone's life to get elected and stay elected, and all you ever hear are calls for "tougher sentences."

And we throw the book at em'. Aren't we just the pinnacle of civilization? For me? It's just another day of being ashamed to be a human being, in general, and and American in particular.

Reisman vs. Pinheads

I don't claim to know a lot about Pinochet and his history. I suppose I could do a bit more background, but it really wouldn't matter for the purposes of this entry, because the reason I so enjoyed George Reisman's post on the Chilean dictator was because of the forest and not the trees, to reference that bit you see up top. I think that unless you are an historian prepared to do years of research, including getting as much first hand information as possible, you're never going to get the straight context on the crucial events and how they went down.

The whole propaganda apparatus of the time -- intent on communism's firm and permanent planting in South America -- just has never been an inch beyond anything but pure and complete lies, ever. Virtually every bit of information that ever came out of those "revolutionaries" and their sycophant bedfellows in the leftist international media was slanted to make the god dammed commies look good and those trying to hold them off like exploitative opportunists. But, you know, hell hath no furry like someone intent on "saving the world," of which you'll start getting a taste of in the run-up to 2008, here.

So, yes... George Reisman; that post I referenced is important because of how it offers moral clarity to a situation, and situations like it, where material clarity is impossible. The attempted communist takeover was real, and they were damn smart and clever, and you would just never know or be sure about what was going down when and where. So, what do you do? Well, maybe, just maybe, you start killing a lot of people anywhere around the whole rigmarole. And you know what? That has application to a lot of what's going on today in the Middle East.

You know, there was a day when combatants had the decency to don a uniform and show up at a battlefield. There, with respect to your enemy, both your material and moral clarity are in sync. There was no question what needed to be done; no ambiguity. So, what do you do when your enemy -- like commies and radical Islamists -- doesn't "play by the rules?" Do you pacifistically let yourself be overrun because you can not establish material certainty about who your enemy is? Must you sacrifice yourself to your doubts and human fallibility?

Those who wail on about the innocent civilian deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan need to take note. First of all, most are caused by the enemy themselves, who need only stop blowing things up. Second, our moral responsibility is met by being as careful as reasonably possible to avoid civilian casualties that are not necessary to our own defense. Period.

You would need to read that Reisman post referenced above before reading this follow-on, where he duly dispenses of pinheads. I'm not going to quote from it, because it's too important and you should read and understand the whole thing. You need to understand that the moral right to kill a communist or a terrorist comes virtually the moment they put down their pen or microphone and express any intent to implement their plans with action. Why? Because there is but one way to implement their plans, and that's the only fact you need to consider.

Elementary Sin

Via my brother in Texas comes this jewel, which he says is also on Drudge.

HAGERSTOWN - A kindergarten student was accused earlier this month of sexually harassing a classmate at Lincolnshire Elementary School, an accusation that will remain on his record until he moves to middle school.

Washington County Public Schools spokeswoman Carol Mowen said the definition of sexual harassment used by the school system is, "unwelcome sexual advances, request for sexual favors and/or other inappropriate verbal, written or physical conduct of a sexual nature directed toward others."

Mowen said that definition comes from the Maryland State Department of Education.

According to a school document provided by the boy's father, the 5-year-old pinched a girl's buttocks on Dec. 8 in a hallway at the school south of Hagerstown.

So I guess they have "zero tolerance" for "sexual harassment." Yippee.

Charles Vallance, the boy's father, said he was unable to explain to his son what he had done.

"He knows nothing about sex," Vallance said. "There's no way to explain what he's been written up for. He knows it as playing around. He doesn't know it as anything sexual at all."

Doesn't matter, Mr. Vallance. You must understand: they have zero tolerance. That is the "value" they are acting for, here, and your son is merely a pawn in that game. His life and young, formative experience is utterly disposable in pursuit of that "higher" value. His education, socialization, and introduction to this new world he's supposed to observe, become familiar with, and get along in eventually -- all on his own -- are just supposed to happen, somehow, if you and he can only realize that there are "more important" things to attend, right now, and all along the way.

School administrators at a Texas school in November suspended a 4-year-old student for inappropriately touching a teacher's aide after the prekindergarten student hugged the woman.

"It's important to understand a child may not realize that what he or she is doing may be considered sexual harassment, but if it fits under the definition, then it is, under the state's guidelines," Mowen said. "If someone has been told this person does not want this type of touching, it doesn't matter if it's at work or at school, that's sexual harassment."

The incident will be included in the boy's file while he remains at Lincolnshire, but Mowen said those files do not follow students when they move on to middle school.

Remind you of anything? C'mon, think. You've likely been taught it since you can remember. Here's a hint: Eve. God's zero tolerance for eating an apple from a particular tree was known to her, but, as the mythology goes, she didn't really understand, was thus easily led astray, and so her act of disobedience dammed her, Adam, and all of humanity for all time.

Ideas have consequences, folks, and your ability to punish an act without moral culpability is baked into the cake of the culture you've grown up in and affirm every time you walk through the church door.

You're part of this, so you're going to have to live with it until you change the underlying ideas, which must necessarily begin by connecting your sense of morality to reality rather than mythology. In the Garden of Eden, there could have been nothing inherently wrong with eating an apple from a tree -- it's just that she was commanded not to by an authority outside of her own, with no other reason than it was a command. In the present case, there can be nothing sexually wrong with a four or five-year-old touching someone in a way that is sexual when an adult does it. We have learned to judge and punish based upon acts disconnected from all context and moral culpability, so we're just headed in the same general direction humanity has been heading since Babylon.

She described the incident as a "learning opportunity."

Yea, maybe they can write a book about it and even start a new religion.

During the 2005-06 school year, 28 kindergarten students in Maryland were suspended for sex offenses, including sexual assault, sexual harassment and sexual activity, according to state data. Fifteen of those suspensions were for sexual harassment.

During the 2005-06 school year, one Washington County prekindergarten student was suspended from school, and 12 of the county's kindergartners were suspended for various offenses, according to state data.

Lots and lots of "learning opportunities."

It’s Constitutional

The problem with having an allegiance to the Constitution, as I often point out or imply in various ways, is that a lot of things are actually Constitutional. Like the Kelo decision, last year, that everyone was up in arms about -- as if it had just suddenly dawned on them that the government can force you to sell your property for essentially any reason they deem appropriate.

Of course, what everyone does to evade the fact of the matter -- the reality of the thing -- is to draw meaningless distinctions, as if a freeway qualifies as a "public good," but a pharmacy or shopping center doesn't.

Well, anyway, here's your latest outrage, which I first saw here at Warren Meyer's place. He thinks it might have a chance in the SCOTUS that Kelo didn't, but even if that's true, it's not that you're going to read in the opinion that the duty of the government is to unequivocally uphold the pre-existing, natural right of all to own and direct property and capital as only they see fit. Yet, if SCOTUS were to overturn it, watch and see how relieved and vindicated everyone acts, when what would really be happening is just a lucky turn on a few amoral meaningless distinctions falling into place on the "right" side.

As usual, Billy has remarks too.

Beliefs Have Geopolitical Consequences

I stumbled onto a YouTube video yesterday that I've just watched for the second time. It's a talk given by Sam Harris on the nature of belief and its consequences, and I just think he makes a number of really interesting integrations. The gentleman who introduces Harris is a bit abrasive, but Harris himself is quite polite and sincerely tries not to offend. If you're sensitive to criticism of religious belief, you should find this relatively mild.

With reference to the title of this post, he makes a very sound and important distinction between hope and belief that I think is not obvious to a lot of people all of the time. For example, religious belief is oftentimes expressed in terms of hopefulness. But, as Harris points out, your behavior will be quite different when you hope you've won the lottery versus when you believe you've won the lottery. Now, that may sound obvious, but consider it in a religious context. There are many who honestly are not certain about religious propositions as to the nature and origin of existence, yet find comfort in such "possibilities" and hope they are true. And yet, they are very unlikely to take actions specifically with respect to such hope that they would not have taken anyway, such as spreading goodwill amongst their fellow man. Contrast that with a strong belief in the literal truth of religious precepts, how such belief motivates actions, and how those actions affect the world in -- really -- history-altering geopolitical ways.

Of course, such influencing of history is indeed sought by many, particularly the fundamentalists, but as Harris points out, there are a number of books of origin, they don't agree, and it's a growing chasm. I think quite reasonably -- given the current state of the world -- Harris sees no reason why humanity will overcome its religious differences.

Another good point he makes is that we don't respect beliefs; we respect reasons. This, again, is obvious. If I believe that a fire-breathing dragon lives in my garage, are you going to respect my belief, or ask me why I believe it? Of course, it will be the latter, so what you are doing is extending the benefit of the doubt, giving me a chance to provide my reasons, which you will either respect (agree with) or not (disagree with). But again, switch to a religious context, and suddenly, beliefs must be respected because they are beliefs. Indeed; and I would add that it is precisely because there are no good reasons that we are so admonished to be sensitive and respect such beliefs.

One of my favorite lines from that video is when he says: "The fundamentalists have actually read the books and they're right about them." As a former born-again fundamentalist as a youth, I can vouch for that. Fundamentalists are really the only religious people with any integrity. The rest, I think, are compromisers; caught in the middle between a radicalism they know is absurd and the fear of uncertainty and ostracism. They are prisoners to a belief system, the fundamentals of which they were indoctrinated in as children by family, culture, and society. They have reason to be uncomfortable. It's a lonely world out there for unbelievers.

I've been criticized by family, readers, and fellow unbeliever-bloggers for my very harsh tone in the past with respect to my "crusade" against religion. In some respects, I agree and I'm trying to set a different tone -- and not, incidentally, only with religion but on the blog in general. However, what I'm right about, and what Harris speaks to, is the critical importance of this topic.

My good friend Billy Beck often says that the chief antagonism is between individualism and collectivism, and he's right. But, that is a political antagonism. I believe there is an antagonism far more fundamental -- metaphysical and epistemological in scope -- which is between naturalism and super-naturalism and I sincerely do not believe that anything more narrowly integrated and identified can truly be resolved until that most fundamental of conflicts is resolved.

I'm going to be more polite about it going forward, but I'm not going to compromise on the facts.

RIS – Rest in Shame

As if there remained any reason whatsoever to support or be active in the Libertarian Party, this should should remove all doubt.

reason: In 2002, the Libertarian Party called you the worst drug warrior in Congress. No hard feelings?

To be honest with you that’s never come up in our discussions. I’m not going to let minor disagreements come between us.

It has never come up? Minor disagreement? Honestly, I did not even read the rest of the interview beyond that point. Utterly reprehensible. I haven't been a member of the LP for about 5 years, and haven't given them any money either. I used to give them upwards of maybe $500 per year from the mid-90s through about 2001. Whereas I never really begrudged doing that, I'm now ashamed to admit it.