Fellowship of Punditry

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Cul Heath

Mick Arran

Jeffrey Barbose

Inspector Lohmann

Eric M. Fink

Michael Lane

Rep. Mark B. Cohen

The Fellowship is accepting new members. Inquire within.

The Sages

  • David Weinberger
  • Jon Lebkowsky
  • Jay Rosen
  • Rebecca MacKinnon
  • Nova Spivack
  • Dan Gillmor
  • Jim Moore
  • Lawerence Lessig
  • Ed Cone
  • Jeff Jarvis
  • Joi Ito
  • The Titans

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  • Burnt Orange Report
  • Jim Hightower
  • Wonkette
  • Political Animal
  • The-Hamster
  • Matthew Yglesias
  • Pandagon
  • Altercation
  • Informed Comment
  • Donkey Rising
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  • Buzz Machine
  • Orcinus
  • Brad Delong
  • Eschaton
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    Distinguished Colleagues

  • Tom Burka
  • The American Street
  • wood s lot
  • Rox Populi
  • Scratchings
  • Blond Sense
  • Cut To The Chase
  • Bad Attitudes
  • Rook's Rant
  • Dohiyi Mir
  • Stout Dem Blog
  • A Violently Executed Blog
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  • Post-Atomic
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  • Blogged In the Desert
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  • Into the Blogosphere
  • 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.


    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.

    Wednesday, November 17, 2004

    Faustian Punchline

    By null

    Mephisto: "Sancta simplicitas! Who ever thought of that? Just testify, and hang whether it's true!
    ---Goethe's Faust

    Yes, well, perhaps if the lawyer joke appears first, there wont be a need for more. The goal with this is to be slightly constructive, or at least as much as I can manage. So you didn't catch the Scott Peterson posting from yesterday, before you read this, please do peruse the summary of circumstantial evidence that led to the double conviction. This might prevent some indignation, as today I possess no nurturing mood to soothe anyone who freaks out for no apparent reason.

    Ultimately, as to the death penalty, 'tis hard for me to take a firm viewpoint for either side. Erring on the side of limiting its use to particularly egregious cases seems the way to go. Human beings are obviously not flawless, and as such, nothing we create can be ultimately perfected...including the criminal trials of those accused of capital murder. Even 1% or less margin of error seems too much, and Blackstone of course brought the following phrase into existence: "It is better for ten guilty people go free than to let an innocent be convicted." Of course, since unfortunately the carnage of Oklahoma City's Murrah Federal Building was close to home, and having visited the memorial a handful of times, justice was served when Timothy McVeigh received the death penalty.

    Of course, McVeigh was convicted largely through the use of circumstantial evidence, which led professor Robert Precht to state that "Circumstantial evidence can be, and often is much more powerful than direct evidence." Of course, there's more potency in an ounce of direct evidence as compared to circumstantial evidence, since catching a defendant with his hand in the cookie pot makes the conclusion easier to draw than several haphazard patterns of crumb trails seemingly leading to nowhere. Yet most successful criminal convictions are reached substantially through the use of this indirect evidence that leads to an inference of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

    So as to circumstantial evidence as a concept, this is indeed considered to be a generally effective way to reach a guilty verdict when the facts supporting an inference of guilt are indeed present. The main problem tends to be found inside the jury deliberation room, as far as statutory deconstruction is concerned. Jury instructions are by-and-large too general, largely because lawyers are encouraged to use "form questions" previously nodded towards by appellate courts, so that danger of a reversal of the conviction is less likely.

    California, where Peterson now sits in prison, defines murder as "the unlawful killing of a human being, or a fetus, with malice aforethought." It is amazing how few judges take care to make sure juries understand this statute's plain meaning, as well as its legislative intent. It is as if legalese is truly a foreign language, and reacclimating to "American" is just too demanding a task to ask of the men and women in black.

    The problem with the definition is that the current definition of malice aforethought has gone far beyond both its common sense and original legal meaning. The resulting conflicts resonate throughout homicide law, warping an entire body of law. One would think that the inclusion of "malice" precludes anything but ill will of the defendant towards his victim, if one thinks of the everyday lay use of the word. Nope. Malice as a legal term of art merely leads one to believe that there was a deliberate intention to kill, whether or not this was precipitated through ill will. Blackstone complicated things with pressing the division towards express and implied malice....but generally, it's relatively accurate to say that Malice Aforethought is akin to premeditation or deliberate planning of the killings. Yet jurors consistently express confusion about this concept due to semantic struggles.

    Given the inherent difficulty of instructing juries, and the overriding need for courts to tailor their instructions to conform to the law, criminal statutes should be written in easily understood language. If a crime is defined in terms lay jurors can understand, it will be much easier for courts to give juries understandable instructions that conform to the law.

    "Unlawfully" within the statute also causes confusion, because the natural instinct is to consider all killings of a human being to be unlawful. In addition, although within the statute it's included in the state-of-mind of defendant, "unlawful" usually does not do anything but loosely refer to a mental state. Obviously those who murder intentionally and those who kill in self-defense are not precluded by thoughts that killing another human is unlawful. In addition, a myriad of excuses, justirications, and mitigating defenses are up for grabs by the defendant, each with an equally vague set of requisite elements to understand.

    To further muddy the waters, in California, first-degree murder consists of three different categories: felony murder, premeditated killing, and murder perpetrated by special means such as torture, poison, or an explosive device. The problem lies with the latter two definitions, which try to separate the most cold-blooded killings for heightened punishment. This creates two problems. First, the requisite ruthlessness is very difficult to define, and second, these types of murders may incur greater punishment, but this not always the case. Depending on the particular means of committing murder and the pain and suffering inflicted on the victim, some killings, such as torture, are more abhorrent than instant death by explosive, so obviously the torturer deserves a more severe punishment.

    Of course, I could go on for several more hours about this, and speak of ex post facto laws, concurrence, legality, attempts, imperfect self-defense, mistake of fact or law, but as you can see, this is already getting fairly complicated. This complexity is particularly scary when you trust a jury of "peers" who have no legal training, and also come to the table with their own faults and prejudices...and then they are asked to decide if a defendant is guilty of murder and whether or not he deserves the death penalty. Dangerous stuff...but certainly throwing the use of circumstantial evidence out of the game plan will cause so many of the guilty to go free... So in conclusion, of course, I'm a borderline idiot without the "true answers," but obviously educating the jury seems to be a very hands-on way to enhance the likelihood that justice will be served.

    posted by null at 11/17/2004 03:02:00 AM |

    Comments: Post a Comment

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    "Netpolitik is a new style of diplomacy that seeks to exploit the powerful capabilities of the Internet to shape politics, culture, values, and personal identity. But unlike Realpolitik — which seeks to advance a nation’s political interests through amoral coercion — Netpolitik traffics in “softer” issues such as moral legitimacy, culturalidentity, societal values, and public perception." - The Rise of Netpolitik

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