Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Five problems with our legal system:

1) Bad Laws- Bad laws, whether they reflect and outdated mode of thinking or are just plain stupid contribute to a lack of popular support. They weaken the moral authority of the law as well as encourage citizens to ignore or circumvent the law. I've given three examples, but I've tried to stay away from laws that are obviously racist/sexist/homophobic. Unless you're a racist, sexist or homophobe I think it's safe to say we all disagree with those laws (mandatory minimums discrepancy for crack/powdered cocaine, sodomy laws, etc.);
  • Marijuana is illegal. As long as a completely harmless and immensely popular intoxicant is grounds for hard time, we're going to be putting an unnecessary and extreme burden on our law enforcement.
  • Cash in excess of 10,000 is illegal to carry. Of course, even if you can prove that the search used to find the money was illegal, or that the money wasn't at all drug related, the US can still just sue the money. Since money isn't a citizen, it doesn't have the same rights you do and the rules that the prosecution plays by get real loose real fast.
  • Identification is required almost across the board in the United States. This is less on the written law side (though Hiibel v. Sixth set the standard that a state could make it illegal to refuse to ID yourself if you're detained for a crime), but in practice not carrying an ID is almost guaranteed to get you a visit to the local precinct if you're stopped, even on suspicion without hard evidence. Seriously cracking down and stopping this will go a long way to rid Police Officers of the mindset that their responsibilities and authority lies beyond just the law.
2) Inefficient Law Enforcement- Our law enforcement is silly, wasteful and abusive. To ensure the safety of the citizens of the United States, we need to start cutting costs and stopping abuses of power;
  • There exists an overemphasis on traffic laws and drugs in United States law enforcement. Funding and manpower that should be used keeping citizens safe and good laws enforced is being misallocated in massive amounts.
  • Getting rid of the "Blue Shield of Silence" is vital. I've spoken in length about this before so I won't elaborate here.
  • There aren't sufficient checks or balances for local law enforcement. Even without a "Blue Shield" where internal affairs officers and whistle blowers are demonized, hated and punished for their work, local officers have far too much leeway in terms of power of search and seizure, which of course bleeds over into other law enforcement.
3) Overcrowded and Underfunded Prisons- With so many prisoners from bad laws and bad law enforcement, as well as innocent prisoners who are working on appeals or have fallen through the cracks, it's important that we ensure that the human rights of the prisoners are maintained while keeping the prisons secure. We won't be able to do this with the number of prisoners we have now;
  • There are far too many prisoners. 1 in 131 US citizens is in prison. That means for every 132 people, 131 of them has to pay $22,650 per year for the fourth person to be incarcerated.
  • Prison rape rates are ridiculous. At least 140,000 people are raped in prison every year. For comparison, there are 272,350 rape cases each year outside of prisons. 1/132nd of the population has more than half of the rape cases of the rest of the country.
  • The current prison structure generates artificially low standards of performance by keeping closed doors, closed books and punishing both officers and inmates who criticize the administration. Protections for these whistle blowers are vital for a prison to successfully incarcerate prisoners.
4) Misplaced Burden of Proof- The concept of "Innocent until proven guilty" is an powerful and necessary one that we've placed less and less emphasis on as communications technology exponentially improves. We need to keep the laws up to date with the technology to keep this precept in place;
  • Pedophilia is such a grotesque and horrific crime that we often overlook lack of evidence and skip right to judgement. In "at will" states, employment is often terminated at even an accusation, especially in the case of religious or educational institutions.
  • Spousal abuse is another such crime. Often the guilt of the husband will be assumed in these cases with just an accusation and he'll spend the night in jail before being able to post bail the next day (if he's able to post at all). This is regardless of the actual evidence at hand.
  • Public nudity and other "sexual crimes" that include consensual public intercourse and public urination often result in the offender being placed on a sexual predator list or database which is accessible online, even if the offense was completely innocuous. Imagine peeing on a tree and being thrown out of your house because it happens to be within 5 miles of a school.
5) Poor Appeals System- Without a way to appeal the decision of a court, you are completely at the mercy of the Judge, Jury and Lawyers you're dealing with. All too often one or more of these entities have a prejudice, predisposition or conflict of interest, or evidence is found that exonorates the convict, or any number of events unfold that come to light only after the conviction. Our current appeals system seems to have more cracks than the
  • Recently you may have read about Louisiana's appeals denial- Jarrold Peterson, an aid appointed by Chief Judge Edward Dufresne to review appeals request (he handled over 2400 of these cases) committed suicide. The note he left said he killed himself because of overwhelming guilt. http://www.reason.com/blog/show/129711.html
    "He said Dufresne had instructed him to deny every appeal not prepared by an attorney. Peterson said he was instructed to write up and file the denials without ever showing the appeals to the judges"
  • The Texas conviction overturn rate demonstrates exactly why our appeals system needs to be better. Over 30 cases have been overturned since 2001, including several death row cases and life sentences. Troy Anthony Davis had seven of his 9 witnesses recant (and claim that one of the final two was the real criminal, but he has now disappeared and police are not looking for him), but Georgia still denied his appeal. The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals saved his life by less than three days.
  • Appeals results are almost directly determined by the amount of money a citizen has.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Matt Taibbi brings the thunder


Okay, so Taibbi has his faults, but read this interview and tell me you don't feel like clapping when you get to this part;

M.T.: What a surprise that you mention Franklin Raines. Do you even know how a CDS works? Can you explain your conception of how these derivatives work?


B.Y.: When you refer to "Phil Gramm's Commodities Future Modernization Act," are you referring to S.3283, co-sponsored by Gramm, along with Senators Tom Harkin and Tim Johnson?

M.T.: In point of fact I'm talking about the 262-page amendment Gramm tacked on to that bill that deregulated the trade of credit default swaps.

Tick tick tick. Hilarious sitting here while you frantically search the Internet to learn about the cause of the financial crisis — in the middle of a live chat interview.

Hilarious! This guy, Byron York, is a conservative pundit who doesn't know what he's talking about. Matt Taibbi calls him out about it and the guy can't respond.