Fellowship of Punditry

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  • George Orwell

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    Political language -- and with variations this is true of all political parties, from Conservatives to Anarchists -- is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.

    In a time of universal deceit - telling the truth is a revolutionary act.

    If you want a vision of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face - forever.

    But if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought.

    Sometimes the first duty of intelligent men is the restatement of the obvious.

    Whatever is funny is subversive, every joke is ultimately a custard pie... a dirty joke is a sort of mental rebellion.

    In our age there is no such thing as 'keeping out of politics.' All issues are political issues, and politics itself is a mass of lies, evasions, folly, hatred and schizophrenia.

    All political thinking for years past has been vitiated in the same way. People can foresee the future only when it coincides with their own wishes, and the most grossly obvious facts can be ignored when they are unwelcome.

    At fifty everyone has the face he deserves.

    Most people get a fair amount of fun out of their lives, but on balance life is suffering, and only the very young or the very foolish imagine otherwise.

    John Stuart Mill

    Conservatives are not necessarily stupid, but most stupid people are conservatives.

    The amount of eccentricity in a society has generally been proportional to the amount of genius, mental vigor, and moral courage it contained. That so few now dare to be eccentric marks the chief danger of the time.

    The general tendency of things throughout the world is to render mediocrity the ascendant power among mankind.

    Whatever crushes individuality is despotism, by whatever name it may be called and whether it professes to be enforcing the will of God or the injunctions of men.

    A man who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself.

    Mark Twain

    Don't let schooling interfere with your education.

    All generalizations are false, including this one.

    A classic is something that everybody wants to have read and nobody wants to read.

    Get your facts first, then you can distort them as you please.

    Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.

    The Public is merely a multiplied "me."

    Only kings, presidents, editors, and people with tapeworms have the right to use the editorial "we."

    Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.

    Only one thing is impossible for God: To find any sense in any copyright law on the planet.

    Don't go around saying the world owes you a living. The world owes you nothing. It was here first.

    Winston Churchill

    The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.

    I like pigs. Dogs look up to us. Cats look down on us. Pigs treat us as equals.

    Don't talk to me about naval tradition. It's nothing but rum, sodomy and the lash.

    Never hold discussions with the monkey when the organ grinder is in the room.

    Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfils the same function as pain in the human body. It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things.

    However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results.

    In war as in life, it is often necessary when some cherished scheme has failed, to take up the best alternative open, and if so, it is folly not to work for it with all your might.

    Otto Von Bismarck

    When you want to fool the world, tell the truth.

    I have seen three emperors in their nakedness, and the sight was not inspiring.

    Never believe anything in politics until it has been officially denied.

    Be polite; write diplomatically ;even in a declaration of war one observes the rules of politeness.

    Voltaire

    A witty saying proves nothing.

    If God created us in his own image, we have more than reciprocated.

    When he to whom one speaks does not understand, and he who speaks himself does not understand, that is metaphysics.

    I have never made but one prayer to God, a very short one: "O Lord make my enemies ridiculous." And God granted it.

    To succeed in the world it is not enough to be stupid, you must also be well-mannered.

    Doubt is not a pleasant condition, but certainty is absurd.

    It is forbidden to kill; therefore all murderers are punished unless they kill in large numbers and to the sound of trumpets.

    The best way to be boring is to leave nothing out.

    Karl Marx

    Philosophy stands in the same relation to the study of the actual world as masturbation to sexual love.

    All I know is I'm not a Marxist.

    The writer may very well serve a movement of history as its mouthpiece, but he cannot of course create it.

    Tuesday, November 16, 2004

    Death of a Salesman?

    By Agent Bedhead

    This is a follow-up to a recent posting, Begging To Differ, in which this Mirthful One initiated a bit of friendly sparring with the fellas from ISOU and Ratboy's Anvil. The subject, of course, was that wacky Scott Peterson....

    As a side note, if you get..um..bored (to borrow Velociman's verbiage), a past Mirth posting, Logical Inconsistencies & The Case of Scott Peterson, detailed the legal history that allowed prosecutors to be charged with double homicide...an excerpt:

    "In a twist of irony, Peterson finds himself charged with double homicide. The statute under which he was charged was amended following a case, Keeler v. California, 470 P.2d 617 (1970), where only the fetus (not the mother) died as a result of a violent act committed upon a pregnant woman."

    The catalyst for this previous posting was some odd pundit's (who won't get linkage here) indignation at the inconsistency between legal abortions and this Cali statute declaring the killing of a fetus to be murder.

    Of course, as always, these things take more blogspace than initially anticipated. As such, to prolong the antici-pation and eagerness of Cul for me to get to the freaking point, today it's a brief statutory elemental thing, and then "just the facts ma'am." This might dispell the rumour of inadequate  circumstantial evidence to lead to a proper inference of guilt. Tomorrow will be a more theoretical discussion on the circumstantial evidence/death penalty business. Without further adieu...

    Murder is defined as "the killing of another human being with malice aforethought." The California statute specifies that malice may be express (the defendant declared verbally his intention to unlawfully kill someone) by the defendant) or implied (the act was [1] Intentional, [2] Normal consequences of act is death, and [3] Defendant committed act with knowledge or reckless disregard of the danger to human life).

    Righto. So to convict for murder, the prosection must prove beyond a reasonable doubt both elements: the actus reus (act) and the requisite mens rea (state-of-mind). The act part is relatively easy to satisfy...basically what must be proven is that the killings happened and that there was a high probability that the defendant committed the act that led to the killings. The tricky part is the state-of-mind, which for murder is malice aforethought, that is, premeditated intent. Now of course thoughts aren't tangible, so either the defendant communicates this intent to kill or it must be inferred through some sort of planning activity consistent with deliberation and premeditation. Ideally direct evidence is present, but more often than not, the mens rea has to be inferred via circumstantial evidence. There really is no way around that stinker.

    Now moving on to the Peterson facts: Two dead bodies show the killings happened, and as far as law enforcement is concerned, presumptively there exists a high likelihood that the spouse did it. Concededly, no one saw the killing of Laci and son (which the coronor believes were caused by either strangulation or internal injuries/bleeding from the several broken ribs). No one saw him dump the evidence in the lake. Peterson confessed to nobody, or at least, not to anyone who testified at trial. Still, as husband, he was a prime suspect...even without all the adultery and lying business. So to prove that Peterson had the requisite intent and ability to kill Laci, circumstantial evidence played a huge role in his conviction.

    Tons of evidence was presented at trial, which is available over at the Court TV site, in a user-friendly format, to peruse if you so desire. My task at hand is to highlight the particular damning pieces, in my not-so-humble opinion:

    The Unwanted Child: Peterson told several people that he was not interested in being a father. Laci's sister testified that, when asked if he was excited about the birth of his first child, Peterson stated that he was “kinda hoping for infertility.” A cousin also testified that Peterson was dismissive of the usual father-and-son games of catch: “I have friends who can do that.” Finally, Peterson told Amber Frey (the mistress) that he was considering a vasectomy and had no desire to father a child.

    The Mysterious Boat: Peterson somehow managed to acquire a 14-foot Gamefisher on Dec 9, which he begain shopping for during the same weekend one of his friends threatened to expose Peterson's married state to his mistress. Peterson could not afford to purchase a boat for recreational purposes, as his fertilizer-sales business was in trouble and he already incurred $23,000 in credit card debt. The situation was to a point where he and Laci had pawned jewelry for quick cash a few weeks before she went missing. His parents were known to make generous gifts, including the down-payment for their home and country club memberships, but his parents knew not of the boat purchase. Laci never mentioned the new boat to her relatives, so she probably did not know about the boat either, yet strands of her hair were recovered a pair of pliers found in the boat itself. Hmm.

    The Crappy Alibi: Peterson's alibi, of course, was that he decided to go fishing the same day Laci disappeared. In and of itself, this just shows the guy's a prick for leaving his very pregnant wife behind on Christmas Eve to drive 90 miles to San Francisco bay. Although he told detectives this was an impromptu trip, the evidence showed the contrary. Two weeks before the trip, Peterson did online research on currents, boat launches, and fishing grounds int he bay. Four days before, he purchased a fishing license for the days of Dec. 23 and 24.

    So why did he make the trip to San Francisco bay? Good question. Peterson had never fished in the bay before, yet despite this fact and the very cold weather, he drove 90 miles past several freshwater reservoirs and lakes. He told the police he went fishing to catch sturgeon or striped bass, which is why he travelled so far. Yet somehow he was unprepared with the wrong types of fishing rod and lures (both purchased in the days leading up to the trip) to catch sturgeon or striped bass. In addition, the shallow, trash-laden location that Peterson fished was completely off base for fisherman looking for these types of fish.

    The Bad Timing: The timing of Peterson's fishing trip was questionable, as fishermen generally get an early start to their long days. Yet Peterson arrived at the Berkely Marina around 1 p.m. and only was out on the water for an hour. In addition, Peterson told detectives he left home between 9:30 and 9:45 a.m., but cellphone records state that he drove away at 10:08 a.m. He said when he left, Laci was mopping the floor and had plans to walk their dog, so it seems perhaps he forgot she was under doctor's orders not to do so, as she was too weak, tired, and nauseated to walk the dog. The dog was found running loose at 10:18 a.m. So if his story to be true, a very pregnant Laci had to finish mopping, change clothes, leash the dog, exit and lock the home, and be abducted, all in ten minutes. Not to mention that she left her scarf and coat in the closet, despite the very brisk 40 degree temperature that morning.

    The Mopped-Up Cleaning Job: Peterson said Laci was mopping when he left, yet the Petersons' housekeeper testified she had mopped the floors before leaving the home on the previous day. In addition, a friend of the couple (apparently the laundry room is visible from the front door) visited on Dec. 25 and saw Peterson through the window, mopping/vacuuming the laundry room. Finally, for some odd reason, Peterson, who rarely set foot in the laundry room decided to run his fishing clothes through the washer. This is where police found them, although the hamper of dirty clothing in the bedroom was full, and Peterson had removed the dirty rags from the washer that the housekeeper had placed there the day before.

    The "Stained" Tarp: Police searched Peterson's truck on Christmas Eve and noticed a large tan tarp in the back of the pickup. They returned with a warrant on Dec. 27 and found what appeared to be the same tarp, drenched in gasoline, in Peterson's backyard shed. Gasoline is known to kill potential biological evidence, including blood and DNA. Hmm indeed.

    This evidence doesn't even tough the extramarital affair, or Peterson's odd behavior after the disappearance of Laci. While searches for her body took place, Peterson went shopping and golfing rather than help the volunteers. During a candlelight vigil for his wife, several witnesses saw him smiling with friends during the service. Fifteen days after Laci went missing, Peterson subscribed to the Playboy channel, and then five days later, he opted instead for two "very explicit" adult channels.  He traded in Laci's vehicle, and he would have sold the house, but two realtors told him seperately that they could only put the house on the market if he had Laci's signature to sell, or if he produced a death certificate. Then of course, Laci and son washed ashore. Peterson was arrested carrying  a fake ID, $15,000 in cash, and camping equipment, and his appearance was... um... blonder and with goatee.

    So there are the pieces of circumstantial evidence that leads me to believe that the guilty verdict was proper. In part two, Sadie gets abstract about the death penalty as it relates to circumstantial evidence.

    posted by Agent Bedhead at 11/16/2004 07:04:00 AM |

    Comments: Post a Comment

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