Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Update: New Cat

For all those who want to know, Emma (AKA Chainsaw) is doing fine. She and the dog are learning to play together, which is nice. Generally speaking, Emma will play with anything that moves and can be brought withing swatting distance.

Some time ago, Main Lady acquired a set of designer pillows for the couch. The pillows are square, not very well padded and are heavily embroidered, making them unsuitable for resting your head on, but they do have interesting tassels on the corners. A single thread from one of these tassels was pulled free, so I seized it and started playing with Emma.

Emma - Look at This!
Got it!
It's slippery but it won't get away.
Mine! Mine, I say!

I had to bring the game to a conclusion or risk being more than fashionably late for lunch, so I substituted Rachmaninoff's tail for the thread.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Rant: Insurance Industry

Main Lady and Mopsy are headed East to visit Cottontail and Que Bee One for a day or so. They left this morning amid a flurry of packing which was expedited by the organizational skills of a kindergarten class amped up on Jolt Power Cola and turned loose at a Disney petting zoo. The dog and I stayed out of the way.

I have been assigned as caretaker of the house and content, which consists of Excellent Rachmaninoff the dog and Emma the half-grown fierce jungle cat. I'm also to care for Centenarian, which means taking her to lunch sometime or another with the caveat that I am not to drive Centenarian's car under any circumstances. Well, given that I never intended driving it, I think this is an odd comment. I idly asked if the car was broken down or something.

"No, it's fine. I just don't have any insurance on it." Main Lady told me.

"Okay, I'll bite." I said, extracting my fingers from Emma's mouth. "Why don't you have insurance?"

"Because of that damned insurance company!" Main Lady looks like she'd like to string someone up by their thumbs in the village square and horsewhip them at high noon.

"I called those stupid people and asked if I could cancel Mother's insurance and put Mother's car on my insurance because she doesn't drive it anymore. I told them I was the only one driving it, and it seemed stupid to pay for both Mother and I when Mother doesn't drive."

"And?" I prompted.

"And the stupid woman told me I couldn't, so I said alright and that was the end of it. Well, I got my car insurance invoice the other day and it has a picture of a car on it, and I remembered that I haven't seen an envelop like that over at Mother's house, so I called the insurance company to see why they hadn't sent Mother an invoice." Main Lady paused for breath. "They told me that the car wasn't insured."

"Holy shit." I let that sink in for a minute. Main Lady drives Centenarian's car about half the time, and unlike most of us Centenarian has a few bucks in the bank. Visions of a civil suit pass before my eyes. "How long have you been driving without insurance?"

"Three years." Main Lady replied.

I digested this for a minute. Now, given that Centenarian really is self-sufficient, lives alone and gets along pretty well, I can see how this might happen. Centenarian writes her own checks, her only real problem being that she doesn't balance the checking account very well. However all that may be, it seems to me that the insurance company would have sent her a notice about her auto insurance being canceled. Both Centenarian and Main Lady have been dealing with the same insurance company for fifteen years or more, so it isn't like the staff doesn't know her. Is it?

There are certain industries in the United States that it is impossible to over-regulate. While the insurance industry is not at the top of the list, it is certainly in the top five.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Worthy Read

HistoryMike is, in real life, a professor of history, complete with PhD and classroom of students. Here are a few hilarious items HistoryMike learned from his students - Facts I Learned From Grading College World History Exams Today.

I can't believe that HistoryMike didn't make this stuff up, but he claims truth is stranger and a whole lot funnier than fiction.

Rant: Justice Moron

In a recent rant by Beat and Release entitled Ah, The Idiocy of Liberals Never Ends, the author somewhat rhetorically wonders about USSC justice Stephen Breyer How does a moron like this even get a license to practice law, much less be appointed to the Supreme Court? Beat knows that I can't resist a rhetorical question.

Officer Beat's objection to Breyer was prompted by an article from Fox News, Breyer: Founding Fathers Would Have Allowed Restrictions on Guns which promotes Moonbat anti-freedom ideology. In the article, Breyer is quoted as saying,
"The difficult job in open cases where there is no clear answer is to take those values in this document, which all Americans hold, which do not change, and to apply them to a world that is ever changing," Breyer said. "It's not a matter of policy. It is a matter of what those framers intended."
Fox then promotes their own anti-freedom agenda,
He [Breyer] suggested that those values and intentions mean that the Second Amendment allows for restrictions on the individual, including an all-out ban on handguns in the nation's capital.
Which Fox bolsters with another direct quote from Breyer,
"We're acting as judges. If we're going to decide everything on the basis of history -- by the way, what is the scope of the right to keep and bear arms? Machine guns? Torpedoes? Handguns?" he asked. "Are you a sportsman? Do you like to shoot pistols at targets? Well, get on the subway and go to Maryland. There is no problem, I don't think, for anyone who really wants to have a gun."
To which I say: Bullshit, Bullshit, and more Bullshit. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

To gain some understanding of just how a Fascist despot like Stephen Gerald Breyer could arrive at a seat on the United States Supreme Court, read his biography here, here and here. In short, Breyer went to law school and passed the bar exam, then was sworn in. In Ohio I think, although I'm not sure, that a person can serve an apprenticeship rather than going to law school and after a certain amount of time, take the Ohio bar exam. A little self-study along with way would be a good idea.

Breyer is a notable specialist in administrative law, which deals with government regulation, and which, by sheer coincidence, the United States has several tons of. His educational background includes time at Harvard, which gives him a pedigree. On June 17, 1972, when Frank Wills called the police and kicked off the Watergate scandal, Breyer became an assistant special prosecutor on the Watergate Special Prosecution Force. When Slick Dick Nixon packed his bags and turned in his two week notice as a result of that special prosecution force, you can bet Moonbat central put the names of the participants on the Moonbat short list. Breyer was in and out of courtrooms his entire professional life, and finally in 1994 Slick Willie nominated Breyer for the United States Supreme Court. During Breyer's confirmation, only nine US Senators had the good sense to vote against him. They are: Burns, Coats, Coverdell, Helms, Lott, Lugar, Murkowski, Nickles, Smith. Four Senators didn't vote at all, and the rest voted him onto the bench - check the vote here. We are now stuck with Breyer until he either dies, retires or is impeached. For the sense of irony, I wish for the latter.

I think it is likely that Breyer has never had to suffer much by way of deprivation. His parents are described as middle class Jewish people. One sibling is a Federal judge. Breyer married a member of the English aristocracy. Most of his life could be described as privileged, which likely gives him a sense of 'them and us'. We know better than they how their world should be run, as evidenced by our place in life. I do not offer these facts as criticisms of Breyer, only as facts and theories about his environment. For instance, I doubt that Breyer ever had to hurry down to the neighborhood market before dark so as to avoid crime, or ever had to sit in a dark apartment with his shotgun across his lap while listening to his neighbors talk about murdering him. Breyer has detached himself from all this.

Among other things, the United States Supreme Court (USSC) is charged with protecting the rights of the people. They are supposed to do this by applying the Bill of Rights to cases they agree to hear. Given that the Bill of Rights was written in plain English by a group of men who were learned and were doing their best to express both the letter of the law as well as the spirit of the law concisely, the Bill of Rights is not difficult to understand. Take the Second Amendment, for instance.
A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.
That means that if I want a machine-gun, I can go out and buy one from whom ever is selling them. Moreover, I can carry it as it pleases me to do so. My good friend Cody, the Poor but Honest Gun Trader of South Dakota would like a canon. A big one. Well, for my money if Cody wants a canon he can have one. I truly do not care who owns what kind of ordinance, and the spirit of the Second Amendment supports this outlook. Breyer does not.

Breyer believes that the legislators in the Federal government know best, and that it is his (Breyer's) job to support them enthusiastically and without reservation. Breyer says this is difficult. It isn't. All Breyer has to do is vote with the government each time, which he tends to do, and which is exactly the opposite of what he is duty bound to do. Breyer isn't bothered by this, but I am.

Breyer is supposed to protect us, and not only fails to do so but proclaims that it is his job to fail to do so, which is why I referred to him as a Fascist despot at the beginning of this rant.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Worthy Read

Beat and Release runs a police blog where some of his hair raising exploits are revealed after being redacted for public consumption. The man writes well and he tends not to pass any moral judgment as a part of the story - you get to figure out the good and bad for yourself - but one thing is very clear: Officer Beat hates dirty cops. So, when Officer Beat uncovered an illegal speed trap in Ridgeland, SC he did a short investigation and wrote about it... five times. I encourage everyone to go and read all five of his essays on this flagrant disregard for the law by the police and the local government.

In Direct Contravention of the Law
Illegal Photo Radar in South Carolina
Illegalities in South Carolina Again
Photo Radar Update
Illegalities in South Carolina - Yet Again (most recent)

Even if you don't live in SC this might be a good time to write or email this information to the State government.

My congratulations to Officer Beat & Release for an excellent job.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Rant: Things and People I Boycott

Stephanie M. Lorée over at Scribbler to Scribe posted a short essay, Rule 3:Don't Be a Dick, which is all about writers who behave badly. In particular Stephanie castigates James Frey for being a dick, which I can understand because, well, Frey lied about a bunch of stuff. Go and read about the whole fiasco yourself if you like - I won't rehash it here.

Stephanie goes on to say, "But behaving unethically will always come back to haunt you. You might make millions, become a bestseller, but along the way to stardom you've picked up so much hate that it will inevitably catch up". To which I say, So what? If my income goes from zero to five or six million a year and I become famous, but I have a whole host of people that I've pissed off along the way, I still have a ton of money and a well known face. My choices are clear: I can either live in obscure poverty and not have a bunch of people I don't know, don't want to know and wouldn't like if I did know wake up every morning and hope to read my obituary in the morning paper. Alternately I can be a famous (infamous? notorious?) millionaire and be forced to contend with the same group of people (who I don't know... ) who now despise me and hope I succumb to cancer of the family jewels.

Tough choice.

Stephanie also states that "The vast majority of the writer community is filled with wonderful, generous, helpful people."  I never found it so. The vast majority of authors are unpublished or very rarely published, and in my experience these people tend to be egotistical, neurotic substance abusers with delusions of grandeur combined with a desperate need to have their fragile egos shored up by the neophyte groupies and like-minded peers who hang around with them. One group builds supports while the others wait for the quicksand of literary criticism and constant rejection slips to take effect.

At the end of her essay, Stephanie asks "Have you boycotted books/movies because of their creator's behavior?" I have, and here are a few:

Michael Bellesiles who lied in his book Arming America: The Origins of a National Gun Culture. He's trying to make a comeback here.

Michael Moore I watched Roger and Me and was left wondering just how Moore justified his stance about General Motors. Moore achieved popularity and a large fortune through lying about various political hot topics in his pseudo documentaries. I have no use for him.

Rosie O'Donnell who takes time away from stuffing her face long enough to bray about gun control in front of everyone who'll listen. I note that O'Donnell's bodyguards are all armed.

Jane Fonda who should have been arrested, tried for treason and summarily executed.

60 Minutes I used to watch 60 Minutes on a regular basis, then the producers began stretching the truth a little, then a little more, and finally had a segment about the 50 caliber Barrett rifle which they lied about. I stopped watching after that.

Mel Gibson is another anti-freedom zealot I can easily do without. I believe in the freedom of choice which Gibson and his mindless followers would happily deny everyone.

Oprah Winfrey falls into the same category as Gibson, only with a bigger mouth.

Catholic Church first because they are oppressive, secondly because of the rampant sexual abuse that has been hidden for years by the catholic church, and finally for personal reasons. I don't like the catholic church and will cheerfully boycott it and its associates whenever I get the chance.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

New Cat

It was a dark and stormy night...

- Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, Paul Clifford (1830)

...and the rain made the night fit for neither man nor beast. Flopsy and Mopsy were in town to celebrate Thanksgiving, and Mopsy accompanied Main Lady and Excellent Rachmaninoff on the final canine constitutional of the evening. As the group passed a dark home partially obscured by dense, unkempt foliage Main Lady was unexpectedly set upon by a small, wet and bedraggled animal that was hiding under some adjacent evergreens. The diminutive feline crossed the intervening space between evergreens and sidewalk in a trice and leaped into Main Lady's arms.

Main Lady promptly returned home with her new cat, leaving Mopsy to complete the evening stroll by herself. Three days later the little fur ball was rid of parasites and up to date on such vaccinations as the veterinarian suggested to be appropriate. The cat is estimated to be four months old, has a few battle scars on her face and belly, and is missing her right eye. Otherwise she is healthy and well-behaved. Emma and Rachmaninoff are learning to play together, which is nice.

Main Lady is thrilled to have a new cat, especially one that likes to sit in her lap (this one is a friendly lap sitter and attention hog), but she was worried that some little girl had lost her cat and was looking for Emma. Let's see now - fleas, ear mites, intestinal parasites, battle scars and one eye missing. No, I don't think so. I think this kitten was dropped off by one or both adults who decided that they'd had enough of looking after the children's kitten. Still, the required searches were performed and when nothing was found, Main Lady happily named the little cat Emma.

I wanted to call her chainsaw, but was vetoed.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Rant: Our System of (In) Justice, Part 2

I suppose we could look at the death penalty as an logical extension of prison. To reiterate, the purpose of prison is to:
  • Serve as a deterrent to the general populace
  • Serve as a personal deterrent to individuals already in prison who might otherwise commit future crimes
  • Punish the guilty (retribution or vengeance for the crime victim)
  • Rehabilitate the criminal
  • Protect the rest of the population (all of whom are without doubt angelic law abiding citizens) from the criminals
The death penalty does not serve as an effective deterrent to crime that is punishable by death. If it did, we wouldn't have a murder rate in the United States, and we do. In fact, the U.S. has a high murder rate. The death penalty does deter the commission of future crimes with one hundred percent effectiveness, and it serves as a stiff punishment (or vengeance, as the case may be. I note that certain Muslim countries – anything ending in 'stan' – allow the victim to serve as executioner in a public execution.). There isn't much rehabilitation that goes on with a death sentence, but that's to be expected. I don't really think the idea of rehabilitation of the criminal enters into the thinking of death penalty advocates, but I don't fault them for this. The death penalty has one unarguable success in that it protects the rest of society from the criminal in question. As a deterrent, the death penalty is a failure and I suspect I know the reason for this.

The effectiveness of a punishment does not rely on severity. The effectiveness relies on surety and immediacy. Consider the infamous red light camera for a minute. The way the red light camera system is supposed to work is pretty simple. If you run a red light a photo of your car (and license plate) is taken and a few weeks later you (the owner of the car) receive a bill for some significant amount of money from your local government. To avoid having to pay this, don't run the light. You'd think this would eliminate the problem of people running the red light, but it doesn't eliminate it entirely. People still run the light, and they do so because this behavior produces an immediate reward – they don't have to wait in traffic. I note that the punishment is not immediate, but it is sure and as a result the number of people running the red light in question is drastically reduced. Now then, in the case of violent crime punishable by death, the punishment is a very long way from being immediate. A prisoner can sit on death row for well over ten years before finally being executed. It isn't sure, either. Criminals who commit premeditated violent crime never believe that they'll be caught much less put to death. I wouldn't believe that the thought of punishment enters into the minds of spontaneous perpetrators either.

As I stated at the start of this little exertion in literary excellence, I support the death penalty. I subscribe to the idea that there are people in this world who do not deserve to live their life to a stately conclusion somewhere in their August years. In order to get the death deserving SOB from the county lock up to the firing squad in a relatively short time with an accurate guilty verdict will require a change in our legal system, and I'm fully aware that this is an understatement.

If the alleged perpetrator is found guilty at court and sentenced to death, rather than going through the usual appeal and stalling for time process that everyone endures today, just take the SOB out back and shoot him. Okay, frustration got the better of me there.

What is needed is a special panel of five judges whose job it is to:

  1. Ascertain that there is absolutely no possibility for an erroneous verdict.
  2. Make certain that the condemned is fit for execution. Executing minors, mentally ill people or the mentally retarded is not allowed.

If our five judges cannot unanimously declare that these conditions cannot be met, the sentence is changed from death by execution to life in prison without parole.

Should the panel of five change the sentence to life in prison, the various appeals in our cumbersome system can slowly fall into place as usual, and in 30 years or so the criminal will know for sure whether or not he'll spend the rest of his life in the poky. Alternately, if the condemned is still scheduled to become a useful part of the local landfill, the entire appeal process gets put on a fast track, meaning that other cases and supposedly oh-so-important business of the court can take a back seat until the fate of this prisoner is resolved. The goal here is to eliminate the lingering stay on death row as well as providing some sense of immediacy.

While I, personally, and in my own infinite wisdom believe this system would work better than the one we have, I don't believe for a second that any of these changes will ever come to pass or that, if the system were changed, violent crime would be reduced, which is supposedly one of the primary goals of criminal punishment. To reduce crime the system must provide immediate consequences every time the crime is committed.

Ask Officer Friendly how many criminals he has actually caught red-handed (excluding drunks) and the answer will most often be none. This is due to a phenomenon commonly referred to as the halo effect. The potential criminal sees Officer Friendly and adjusts his or her behavior so as to avoid arrest and subsequent detention by the State – immediately and absolutely. Ask Officer Friendly how much crime he has prevented, and the real answer is that he doesn't know, but we hope quite a bit. Were I to guess, I'd suspect that the officers presence has prevented a lot of crime, but no one will ever know for sure. The problem with this is obvious: the police can't be everywhere at once.

The real resolution here is to arm the citizens and encourage self-defense, but for reasons that have never been clear to me the mere thought of most people carrying a pistol causes widespread panic. An armed population does provide an effective deterrent to crime, as evidenced by crime statistics in any State that has permitted the carrying of a concealed weapon where such activity had previously been prohibited. Likewise the act of self-defense has often been criticized by law enforcement officers as “taking the law into your own hands”, although just what is wrong with that idea escapes me. I would suppose that I'm out of step with main stream society.

Returning to the two fictional women I created in Part 1 who are from opposite ends of the socioeconomic spectrum as well as antipodal positions in the aesthetic gamut, until the justice system is able to treat them as equals in all respects, the death penalty is off the table. No more death penalty cases for the prosecutor. Moreover, I see both of these incidents as clear cut cases of self-defense (I know, it's easy for me because I made the whole thing up – it's my fiction, and I'm sticking to it) and I also believe that the amount of force used is an appropriate response to the attack. The police may not see it that way, but until they do the battered victims are pretty much hosed.

Although the playing field will never be completely level nor will the people in the justice system ever be completely, perfectly impartial (they are all people, and perfection eludes us) the law enforcement and justice system will have to improve, drastically and significantly, before the death penalty can be used as a punishment. When the death penalty is used, make certain that the reasoning for using it is clear to everyone concerned: We have here a person who is extremely dangerous to society and who we feel is beyond redemption. Take the SOB out and shoot him.

In the case of my “attractive white female dressed like a Sunday school teacher” victim, who we'll call Sarah Spider, our local homicide detective discovered that Sarah had completed three courses in self-defense shooting and practiced regularly with her revolver at a local range, that she had taken out an extra life insurance policy of one million dollars on her late husband (SOB One) and that she bought the Glaser safety slugs one week before the shooting. The jury found her not guilty because they just didn't believe someone who looked like her could murder her own husband.

In the case of my “poor twenty something minority with coarse features dressed in ragged sweats and sporting a few tattoos and piercings” victim, who we'll call Millie Margarita, our local homicide detective discovered that her husband (SOB Two) had a violent temper and a drinking problem. SOB Two bragged that he would get rid of Millie some day soon and marry his chick on the side. Meantime, Millie served him as his once a week ATM and general punching bag. The prosecutor and Millie's court appointed attorney convinced Millie that a plea bargain for first degree manslaughter was a good deal. Millie is doing 10 to 20 in the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Pearl Harbor Day

On December 7, 1941 at approximately 8:00 AM the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in O'ahu, Hawaii, which was a territory of the United States. The attack came without warning. The next day the United States declared war on Japan.

My father was in his senior year in college when the US declared war. Dad enlisted in the Coast Guard and spent 18 months on isolated duty in the Aleutian Islands watching for the enemy to invade. My mother was in her senior year in high school and worked her way through college during the war, observing the rationing and hard work that went on while the US changed from a domestic peace economy into a war based economy. Everyone did their share to support the war effort.

Dad's basic training took place in St. Augustine, FL during July and August. He and several hundred other young men stayed at the Ponce de León Hotel, about six to a room. A few years back I took a guided tour of St. Augustine and the tour guide elaborated on the Ponce, speaking in superlatives about what a luxurious hotel it was. I got tired of listening and commented that my father had stayed at the place for several weeks and didn't like it a bit. Dad said that the conditions were pure misery and room service was very unreliable. My observations were greeted by a long silence as the woman was trying to decide just how to deal with this outspoken miscreant. I bailed her out by reminding her of WWII, which she was quick to verify.

I write this today to remind anyone who cares to read it about the truth of Japan. The Japanese attacked the United States without warning or provocation - up until this attack the US had been carefully neutral, militarily speaking. Some historians will dispute this, as the US was supplying the Allies at the expense of the Axis which they argue was provocation enough.

Japan wanted to invade the US so as to control Western oil supplies, shipping and ship building facilities in San Francisco. One thing that gave Japan second thoughts about an invasion was the Second Amendment. Japan believed that all US citizens were armed and would fight, which was partly true. Certainly many were armed, and those that were armed would willingly fight. Anyone not armed could buy a rifle, pistol or shotgun along with ammunition down at the local hardware store. There was no registration involved with firearms and very little gun control back then.

On August 6, 1945 the United States dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima and demanded that Japan surrender. When those demands fell on deaf ears, on August 9 the United States dropped a second bomb on Nagasaki. This time the Emperor paid attention. Japan signed the Japanese Instrument of Surrender on September 6, 1945.

World War II was four years of misery, finally brought to a successful conclusion for the Allies. This war was not an easy victory, nor was it a particularly spectacular victory. Winning was a near thing for the Allies. I think that the people of the United States are tending to forget WWII and what happened, and what could have happened. I don't believe for a minute that Japan has ever forgotten, or will ever forget.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Rant: Our System of (In) Justice, Part 1

I read Jeff Gamso over at Gamso - For The Defense on a regular basis. The honorable Mr. Gamso doesn't lead the parade against capital punishment, but his float is large, well-constructed and occupies a prominent position. Jeff's latest essays are Stevens Is Wrong Even When He's Right and Capital Updates, We Got Updates, in which Jeff points to the freight train sized hole in United States Supreme Court justice John Paul Stevens professional opinions about the death penalty. Jeff supports his arguments with a dry, lengthy article by David Von Drehle from TimeStevens' Case Against the Death Penalty: Shirking the Blame. If you care to read the comments on Jeff's site you'll note that he's opposed by someone calling himself Atticus (presumably after the famous fictional lawyer in To Kill a Mockingbird). I think I should remind Jeff that unless he knows Atticus personally, he has no idea if Atticus is a precocious twelve year old taking a break from watching Internet porn or a highly respected law professor from Harvard. I suspect that Atticus is a local attorney, I suspect he knows Jeff Gamso and I also suspect that Jeff would recognize Atticus were Jeff to see him in court. Those are my suspicions and I'm sticking to them.

Laboriously getting around to the point of this contribution to the overall intellectual value of the Internet, I will restate that I support the death penalty. I oppose the prevalent methods of execution, and I also oppose the labyrinthine path constructed by our judicial system that is supposed to lead from the first application of handcuffs to the recording of the condemned prisoner's last words and subsequent extermination while protecting everyone's constitutional rights and providing fair and impartial judges and jurors. Truly a nice ideal and a lofty goal, but so far achievement of this goal has eluded all the people involved in the process.

If you end up being judged by twelve rather than being carried by six, you're looking at a long walk. If you're poor, the odds in favor of you walking out of Judge Bean's courtroom just in time to be the guest of honor at your own neck tie party have gone down a few points. If you're a minority, the odds drop again. If you are physically unattractive (or uglier than the back end of a bus), your attorney should advise you to get your affairs in order. If you can't afford an attorney, and most of us can't, some poor (and I mean damned dirt poor) attorney will draw the short straw and take your case. How do you feel about being the very first murder trial of a young man who has recently passed the State bar exam? Possibly worse than I feel this morning, and seeing as how it's only Friday that ain't good. The bottom line here is that if you want to walk out of Judge Bean's courtroom at the end of the trial thumbing your nose at the prosecutor, you'll be an attractive white female dressed like a Sunday school teacher. You'll have a jury comprised of twelve emotional and not terribly bright middle aged men and women. The cost of your legal defense, which will include private investigators and other experts who will testify at your trial, will be paid for by an anonymous benefactor who is throwing six figures left of the decimal in US Greenbacks at your attorney, who is known in some circles as Racehorse Haynes. Later on it will turn out that your benefactor is actually a minister of the local Baptist church and a past winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, but the jury will be told to disregard that statement. Since most of us don't get this kind of treatment, it's likely we're headed for the neck tie party, and that is the second thing that's wrong with our legal system. There is no level playing field.

The first thing that's wrong is the same as the second thing; there is no level playing field. For instance, if you're a twenty something female whose abusive husband comes in drunk at three in the morning and starts using you for a punching bag, and you decide you've had enough and so ventilate the no good SOB, the problems you have in your future might make the past look pretty good. Consider the scenario carefully: Someone will have heard five shots from the family pistol (S&W Md. 686, 4 inch barrel using red hot .357 Magnum Glaser Safety Slugs) and called the police. When the police arrive they will understandably be a little edgy, one or more calls specifying a loud, drunken argument with the sounds of furniture being broken and terminating in five thunderous crashes best described by one helpful caller as  “ sounds like somebody's got a fuckin' howitzer in there!” The police will eventually find that the only other inhabitant of the house is a hysterical, battered female sporting a nasty mouse under her left eye, a bloody nose, multiple bruises on her arms and a set of broken ribs. The erstwhile SOB is lying on the kitchen floor and finished leaking some time ago. Here's where the playing field comes into play. If the alleged perpetrator is a white, attractive, upper middle class twenty something dressed in her translucent electric blue negligee and robe, she's going to be treated a lot differently than if she is a poor twenty something minority with coarse features dressed in ragged sweats and sporting a few tattoos and piercings, in addition to having an identical set of injuries. In the first case a sympathetic police officer might ask if the deceased is her husband, and if so, did he try to kill her. All the alleged perpetrator has to do is keep tearfully nodding her head. She'll be taken to the hospital where she can call her doctor and her attorney. From that point on, the show is winding down and it is very likely this woman will never be charged with anything, much less spend any time in jail. Even if she does go to jail, she has the financial resources to make bail and so will be out and back in her comfortable home in short order. In the second case, the alleged perpetrator will be arrested. The first question is not 'What happened?'; it is 'Did you shoot him?'. When the alleged perpetrator tearfully nods and a verbal affirmative is obtained, the criminal is taken to the station and booked. Her injuries will not warrant a visit to the hospital. She doesn't have a doctor or lawyer to call, but our system provides each and every criminal with a lawyer at taxpayer expense. The real problem with this disparity is not obvious. The real problem is that average, everyday law abiding people believe that these two scenarios are opposite extremes of the criminal justice system, and they are not. The second is far and away more common than the first. The reason is obvious; the poor outnumber the wealthy. Violent crime is higher in poor neighborhoods, and police know this. Police also know that crime victims are not always without their own criminal behavior, and self-defense cases are rarely as cut and dried as they appear to be. Again, in poor neighborhoods this is believed to be true, but in upper middle class neighborhoods? Not so much.

The third problem with our system is concerns the prosecutor. The prosecutor is going to examine these cases closely, not to see if these are legitimate cases of self-defense, but to see if the prosecutor can get a conviction, preferably involving a nice plea bargain. The prosecutor is not seeking justice. The prosecutor gets paid to put criminals in jail. It's numbers the prosecutor wants; not justice. In one case the prosecutor has an attractive, wealthy white female with a very spotty criminal record that does not include drug charges, weapons violations or felonies. There is motivation in the form of a very large life insurance policy, but this looks like a loser and the prosecutor knows it. The second case is a minority with a string of misdemeanors and maybe a felony. Both have a gun specification, which is nice. The prosecutor sees prison in this one's future.

Both these cases could be summed up in a single, easy to understand sentence: He was beating her so she dinged him. In my mind, this is self-defense, pure and simple. The prosecutor may not be so pure and simple minded. The prosecutor is likely to believe that if the prosecutor can put another person in jail, it isn't self-defense. It's something else, namely another conviction for the prosecutor who doesn't want to be thought of as being soft on crime. Conversely, being long on persecution is a good thing. If you're a prosecutor, that is.

Back in the bad old days an overly enthusiastic prosecutor could be brought up short by the antics of a grand jury. In theory, the grand jury evaluates the evidence presented by the prosecutor and indicts a presumed criminal based on that evidence, which is supposed to include any conflicting evidence. The grand jury also listens to witnesses answer questions posed by the prosecutor. About half the States have axed the grand jury procedure, likely due to cost and the possibility of meddling by grand jurors with the justice system. Remember that the idea here is to allow the jury or the judge to decide the actual guilt or innocence of the alleged perpetrator. These days the grand jury, if one exists, does nothing more than put a rubber stamp of approval to the prosecutor's case. This is another problem with our justice system, but never mind. We're supposed to trust that the police would not have arrested the accused unless he or she was guilty, and the prosecutor wouldn't file charges unless the prosecutor had a strong case, meaning that the accused is actually guilty and the rest of us are just wasting our time. The system is not supposed to work this way, but the even the United States Supreme Court has ruled on this and agrees that a grand jury really isn't necessary. I expect that Ohio will be dispensing with the grand jury provision sometime soon.

If the grand jury is a rubber stamp of approval, the trial jury isn't much better. Jurors are supposed to be a group of the defendant's peers. Next time a poor black woman is on trial for anything, take a hard look at the jury and count the number of poor black women out of the twelve jurors. I'll bet you can't find three, let alone twelve. The jurors who are about to decide someone's guilt based on the arguments of a seasoned orator are supposed to be selected randomly from a group of the defendant's peers, and they are not. Many of them will have absolutely nothing in common with the defendant, which would be a little more acceptable if the jurors were temperate, decisive, impartial, intelligent and well-educated. Again, most jurors are not these things, but they're supposed to be. Certainly none of the jurors has a degree in law or has passed the bar. Is this a problem with our beloved justice system? Damn right it is. I'm a fat, middle aged white man with conservative views on personal responsibility, gun ownership and castle doctrine. If I'm being railroaded by the Lucas County prosecutor because I defended myself from a violent criminal who is now fertilizer, I do not want my innocence debated by twelve black female jurors, all of whom have one or more angelic little boys in the system. I want twelve fat middle aged white men, all of whom have a CCW permit and a membership with Gun Owners of America.

Any questions about the success or failure of the jury trial system can be answered by The Innocence Project, which has over 260 exonerations to date (2010). Do you have any idea how bad things have to get before an organization like this one will form? Try filing an appeal on your own and see.

The appeal process is deliberately obstructive and does nothing to redress any procedural flaws in the system. Rather, it is designed to redress the rarest of the rare, the sui generis miscarriage of justice. Detractors of  The Innocence Project scream derisively that 'The prisons are full of innocent people – just ask them!' Not full, no. Half full, maybe.

My rationale here is based on sheer numbers. In 2008 there were 2.3 million people in jail. If we assembled all those prisoners into a penal colony, it would be more populous than Houston, Texas – the fourth largest city in the United States. I just do not believe we have that many people who deserve to be in prison.

The supposed purpose of incarceration in prison is to:
  • Serve as a deterrent to the general populace
  • Serve as a personal deterrent to individuals already in prison who might otherwise commit future crimes
  • Punish the guilty (retribution or vengeance for the crime victim)
  • Rehabilitate the criminal
  • Protect the rest of the population (all of whom are without doubt angelic law abiding citizens) from the criminals
So far, incarceration is not what I'd call an overwhelming success. The threat of going to prison probably deters the an otherwise law abiding citizen from doing something foolish, such as growing a cash crop in the basement and using the proceeds to pay for Junior's college, but that is about as far as I think it goes. I offer the number of people in prison as evidence that the threat of going to prison isn't an effective deterrent. As for a personal deterrent, check the rate of recidivism (about 60%) then try selling me a bridge I don't own. The rehabilitation angle isn't working too well either. That leaves punishment which works real well, and if you don't believe me go and get locked up for a day or two. U.S. prisons are real hell holes, which makes me wonder about the recidivism rate again. Why return to a dangerous, repulsive environment? The protection aspect is effective  – the criminal can't commit crimes against the rest of the population if he's in prison.

End of Part 1