Saturday, December 6, 2008

O.J. Gets 9 Years

My career as a legal prognosticator is off to a flying start. Just the other day in discussing this case I said the following:

What I predict will happen is he'll get 10 years or so and a year from now it'll be overturned in the Appellate Court and he'll get out.

CNN reports that the former football great who thirteen years ago was acquitted of murdering his ex-wife and boyfriend was sentenced to serve a minimum of 9 years for his recent conviction of robbery, assault and kidnapping.

The Las Vegas Sun has a fascinating article about the ambiguous nature of the sentencing guidelines in cases like this.

I'm sticking by the second half of my prediction. In my opinion there have rarely been charges as trumped up as these. The kidnapping is absolutely ridiculous and the robbery and assault left plenty of room for doubt. We'll see you next year in the Appellate Court. Of course, District Judge Jackie Glass doesn't think so.

"When you take a gun with you and you take men with you ... in a show of force, that's not just a 'Hey, give me my stuff back,' " Glass said. "That's something else. And that's what went on here, and that's why we're all here.

"I have to tell you, it was much more than stupidity. ... You went to the room, you took guns -- meaning you and the group -- you used force, you took property, whether it was yours or somebody else's, and in this state, that amounts to robbery with the use of a deadly weapon."

I say it may amount to robbery in
Las Vegas to do that, but depending on who's got your stuff, you may very well want to bring armed men along to retrieve it. What do you think? Could that idea constitute reasonable doubt? How much time do you think he'll serve?

What if the judge and jury in this case really did give him payback for what they feel was a wrong acquittal 13 years ago? How would you feel about that?

Friday, December 5, 2008

Prop 8 The Musical - Jack Black as Jesus

Via two wonderful sites. Thank you Litbrit, who I wish would comment on some of our UK discussions, and who credited TRex with this fabulous video, although it's all over the internet.

See more Jack Black videos at Funny or Die

I think Jack Black is pretty funny. How about you? And the script for this video seems to cover all the bases. What do you think?

UK DNA Database Shot Down by EU

CNN reports on the EU ruling that prohibits the police in England from keeping DNA samples of suspected persons.

The British police practice of keeping DNA records of anyone they arrest is a human rights violation, The European Court of Human Rights ruled unanimously Thursday.
I wondered how this fits into our recent discussions about tyranny coming to the UK. Some of our commenters feel that the draconian gun laws in the UK are a prelude to out and out tyranny. The fact that the police had been building a database of DNA samples, not only of convicted and proven miscreants, but of innocent people exonerated of any guilt, seems to add credence to the theory. Is tyranny coming to the UK?

Like many of our discussions, I think there's a big gray area in this one. How much privacy are citizens entitled to? How much of that would they be willing to give up for increased security? Video surveillance is an example. It's become commonplace, especially in London they say, and we accept it as doing more harm than good. Or, do you oppose the video cameras? Do you oppose DNA databases for criminals? They have a right to privacy too, don't they?

I'm in agreement with the Labour Home site, which says the following about the EU ruling:

In fact it was the unanimous decision of a court of seventeen judges!

This decision is excellent news.

What's your take on it?

Thursday, December 4, 2008


World Focus reports that the Tijuana Police Chief has been replaced. We recently discussed the beheadings that have taken place in Mexico. Many people naturally blame the drug cartels or the corrupt police departments. In the video, Prof. Rodolfo de la Garza of Columbia University says the real problem is America's failure to address its problem of drug consumption. I guess it's hard to argue with that.

The Washington Post reports on the same story.

Tijuana's anti-corruption police chief was fired and replaced with an army officer Monday, following three days of violence that left 37 people dead in this border city plagued by warring drug gangs.

Weekend attacks included nine beheadings and the death of four children caught in shootouts. Does that make Tijuana the most dangerous city in the world? What do you think? Some people say that this type of violence only endangers people in the drug business, but apparently it's gotten so out of hand that the peripheral damage is becoming significant.

What do you make of Prof. de la Garza's claim that although there are the problems of police corruption and violent gangsters in Mexico, the real problem is in America? Why isn't something being done about that? Is it not possible to win the war on drugs? Would legalizing drugs like Switzerland be a solution?

Please feel free to comment.

The Great Gun Survey - UK Style

For months now I've been hearing about the UK from my gun enthusiast friends. According to them, England is a living example of what they don't want to happen to America, as far as gun laws go. I've heard about how the gun restrictions there have not worked, how the criminals have learned to resort to knives instead, crime has risen, I thought I'd heard it all. Then, more recently, a few comments have intimated that Merry Old England is on the brink of tyranny. The idea is that now that the government has succeeded with draconian gun laws to disarm the citizens, unimpeded tyranny is right around the corner.

This led me to begin conducting an unofficial opinion poll of British folks I know or cross paths with here in Italy, not unlike the Great Gun Survey we took part in some time ago. Not a single one so far has agreed with the alarmist opinions of the pro-gun Americans, not one. Most acknowledge that the video surveillance London has become famous for is Big Brotherish, but none expressed serious concern that combined with the gun laws, this places their liberty at risk. They all seem to think that fewer guns overall means less gun crime. Of course, you might say, I'm talking to the wrong people. Im sure Tom has some partners in the UK who would give me an earful.

So I asked myself where can I check this out. I mean, the Brady Blog can't be trusted to provide fair information, nor could the Civilian Gun Self-Defense Blog. So I did what any computer savvy truth seeker does in cases like this: I consulted Wikipedia. Now I expected to find nothing useful, figuring the "Gun Laws in the UK" article would have been written by one of the gun guys, but here's what I came up with.

The homicide rate for London was 2.4 per 100,000 in the same year (1.7 when excluding the 7 July bombings). By comparison, 5.5 murders per 100,000 of population were reported by police in the United States in 2004.
The article from which that quote comes contains a dizzying array of statistics, furthering my dislike and distrust of them. Nevertheless, the implication of the simple comparison quoted above is obvious and clear: more guns means more gun crime.

More than any stats, I value the personal opinions of the Royal British Subjects I've spoken with. They feel safer as a result of the gun laws.

What's your opinion? Please let us know.

O.J. Simpson Sentencing

The O.J. Simpson case, which we've discussed before is back in the news because the sentencing phase of the trial is here. CNN reports that O.J. could face as much as Life in prison or as little as 6 years.

Simpson could receive a maximum life sentence from Judge Jackie Glass on Friday. A pre-sentencing report recommended an 18-year sentence.

On October 3, a jury convicted Simpson, 61, and co-defendant Clarence "C.J." Stewart of 12 charges, including conspiracy to commit a crime, robbery, assault and kidnapping with a deadly weapon.
The question for me was whether or not the jury could render a fair verdict based only on the facts of this case and not influenced by Simpson's infamous past. Personally I don't think they did that. Now the question is can the sentencing be done fairly?

"There was overwhelming evidence at trial that Simpson's intent was to recover property that was his and only his," the lawyer argued. "The trial testimony showed Simpson's intent was to return anything that did not belong to him. This intention can be heard throughout the recordings of the Palace Station incident."
I believe that. Or, at least I believe that's reasonably possible, that reasonable doubt of his guilt exists. Yet, he was convicted. Of course not everyone sees it like I do. On the blog called Football news from a chick there's a fascinating post entitled How's that karma taste OJ? The Chick doesn't have much to say in the post, of course the title of it said enough. But, in the comments you get a pretty clear idea of what she and her friends think.

What is it with all this exaggerated vengeance talk? Aren't people concerned with the concept of "innocent until proven guilty," and due process? In cases like this, and even more so in some of the violent capital cases we discuss, people are crying out for vengeance even before the facts are known, in the spirit of "an eye for an eye." What kind of Justice is that?

What's your opinion? I say O.J. should receive a suspended sentence and if that's not possible, then he should get the minimum. What I predict will happen is he'll get 10 years or so and a year from now it'll be overturned in the Appellate Court and he'll get out.

What do you think?

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Beheadings in Mexico

Beheadings in Mexico have become the newest means of communicating the old message, "Don't mess with us." The Washington Post reports that not only drug cartels are using this extreme method but also the police. The latest case is a man who shot his mother and killed the three police officers who responded to the shooting.

Fabian Ramirez's head was found at a highway intersection in Iguala, a town southwest of Mexico City, according to a statement from the Guerrero state Public Safety department.

A message was found nearby: "This is what happens to all those who kill a police officer or a soldier."

It was reported that Mr. Ramirez had been arrested but four armed men broke into the jail and took him away by force. The four men were dressed in black and had lettering on their clothes identifying them as agents of Mexico's Federal Investigative Agency, the statement said.

I don't know what's more frightening, the police acting like that or what's happening in Tijuana.

Nine men were found decapitated in Tijuana over the weekend. Six more people were found dead in the border city Tuesday, including a woman stuffed in a suitcase and a man found stabbed to death next to her. That brought Tijuana's homicide toll to 43 over four days.

What do you think? Are the folks down Mexico way so much more violent than we are? It sounds like just over the border it's total chaos. Does this mean that we're not doing so badly after all? Does it mean those wishing to close the borders have a good point?

How does this situation impact upon our never-ending discussions about arming the good guys and thereby minimizing crime? Aren't the people in Mexico armed? Are there gun control laws in Mexico to blame for all this?

Please leave us a comment with your opinion or observations.

Those Atheists Are at it Again

The Washington Post reported on the following story in Kentucky.

FRANKFORT, Ky. -- A group of atheists filed a lawsuit Tuesday seeking to remove part of a state anti-terrorism law that requires Kentucky's Office of Homeland Security to acknowledge it can't keep the state safe without God's help.

The story explains that starting in 2006 the Office of Homeland Security is required to post a plaque that says the safety and security of the state "cannot be achieved apart from reliance upon almighty God" and to stress that fact through training and educational materials.

Now, I happen to agree with the spiritual sentiments expressed here, but I also agree with those who find it inappropriate. This is not centuries old traditional wording that has become part of the fabric of our society, Christmas greetings and statements like "In God We Trust" on the money, etc. This to me is an attempt by the religious right to force feed their beliefs on everyone else.

How do you see it?

Naturally it's not without extreme reactions. I love the way the religious guys take that attitude of righteous superiority while the atheists get mad.

"It is one of the most egregiously and breathtakingly unconstitutional actions by a state legislature that I've ever seen," said Edwin F. Kagin, national legal director of Parsippany, N.J.-based American Atheists Inc. The group claims the law violates both the state and U.S. constitutions.

State Rep. David Floyd, R-Bardstown, said the preamble to the Kentucky constitution references a people "grateful to almighty God," so he said he sees no constitutional violation in enlisting God in the state's homeland security efforts.

"God help us if we don't," he said.

Which side do you lean towards? Leave us a comment.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Mumbai, the Aftermath

CNN reports that the fallout of the Mumbai attacks could destabilize the region. Have you ever heard a better understatement than that? These are two nuclear powers who are now faced with the difficult task of returning to a turbulent peace.

And if already heated diplomatic exchanges escalate further, analysts say tensions could have dire consequences -- affecting Afghanistan to the north and embroiling the West in new chaos as militancy flourishes.

Even before the attacks that left 179 people dead had stopped, India's government had made vague accusations against Pakistan, while TV stations aired pictures they said was evidence against the neighboring country.

On another thread, Bob made reference to an article in which an Indian cameraman witnessed what he took to be inaction or hesitation on the part of the police. The cameraman bemoaned the fact that he'd had only a camera and not a gun. What do you think about that?

Wouldn't armed citizens be just about as powerless as unarmed ones when faced with a well coordinated terrorist attack? Wouldn't the same apply to armed teachers? I mean, how armed do you want people to be? The way I see it, only in very limited circumstances would arming the good guys save the day. I know it happens. But I don't accept that it happens so often and so reliably that it makes the least bit of difference.

Does that mean I say we should just lie down and let the bad guys have their way? No, of course not. Why not expect, or even demand that the police and other forces of law and order do their job? Let's invest time and money there where it belongs.

What's your opinion?

Using Heroin in Switzerland

The International Herald Tribune reports on the new Swiss law which makes their heroin program permanent. Oddly, marijuana decriminalization was denied.

The world's most comprehensive legalized heroin program has become permanent, with overwhelming approval from Swiss voters.

The heroin program, started in 1994, is offered in 23 centers across Switzerland. It has helped eliminate scenes of large groups of drug users injecting drugs openly in parks that marred Swiss cities in the 1980s and 1990s and is credited with reducing crime and improving the health and daily lives of addicts.

Sixty-eight percent of the 2.26 million Swiss voters casting ballots Sunday approved making the heroin program permanent.

By contrast, around 63.2 percent of voters voted against the marijuana proposal, which was based on a separate citizens' initiative to decriminalize the consumption of marijuana and growing the plant for personal use.

The article explains that 1,300 addicts who have been approved for the program can visit one of the centers twice a day to receive the carefully measured dose of heroin produced by a government-approved laboratory.

Doesn't that defeat the purpose of being an addict? I mean, what addict would be satisfied with a "carefully measured dose?" This makes me seriously doubt the government's claims that crime has diminished as a result of the program. I would expect these 1,300 for the most part to take the government handout and augment it in their usual way, hustling, dealing, committing crimes. What do you think?

At the same time, a law to decriminalize marijuana was denied. To me, the Swiss have got it backwards. The laws to decriminalize really do some good in my opinion.

So how do we figure these Swiss? I'm a little bit baffled. Isn't Switzerland the place where many people are armed? Isn't it there where bearing arms is more than a right; it's a requirement? So why do they have such a crime problem that needs to be addressed with this heroin program? Wouldn't the armed citizenry have long ago put an end to the problem?

What do you think?

Sunday, November 30, 2008

8-Year-Old Shooter to be Offered a Plea

Yahoo News reports that the prosecutors have offered a plea deal to the 8-year-old boy charged with murder in the shooting deaths of his father and another man. We've discussed this case recently and when the shooting first happened. One thing everyone seemed to agree upon was that the police didn't handle it exactly right. What about the lawyers?

County Attorney Criss Candelaria wrote that he has "tendered a plea offer to the juvenile's attorneys that would resolve all the charges in the juvenile court contingent on the results of the mental health evaluations."

The defense attorney Benjamin Brewer expressed concern that the prosecutors may be intending to drop charges now that could be resurrected later in adult court when the boy is older. Candelaria denied this, insisting that if the boy is found incompetent because of his age, he wouldn't fit the definition of a mentally disordered person and no treatment would be available.

"Such a result denies the victims and public of any sense of justice for these heinous murders," Candelaria wrote.

And, according to Candeleria, such a result would also deny the boy much needed psychological help, although I don't see how. If the kid is found incompetent to stand trial, does it really matter if the incompetence is due to age? Would that deny his getting medical or psychiatric help?

As far as his mental state goes, the following piece of the puzzle came out:

Police reports say the boy told a state Child Protective Services worker that his 1,000th spanking would be his last.

My liberal bleeding heart goes out to a little boy who says something like that. How about yours? My liberal bleeding heart goes out to all the other boys just like him who don't get around to committing their crimes until they're about ten years older than this precocious kid. How about yours? Doesn't this case illustrate the need for considering an abusive childhood as mitigating the culpability, in the name of justice?

What's your opinion?

Illegal Immigration

The Miami Herald is running a three-part story on illegal immigration. The series is entitled Illegal Immigration: Changing Course, the initial focus being on the economic downswing in the United States and how that has effected the illegals. One of the articles in today's Part I, Funds at risk for families back home, contains the following information which I found amazing.

INTIPUCA, El Salvador -- For almost two generations, residents of this rural community who emigrated to the United States have sent back tens of millions of dollars to support their families and bring prosperity to their once impoverished town.

Officials of Intipucá, 120 miles east of San Salvador, were so grateful for those remittances that they built a park to honor migrants, with a statue representing the first resident to leave for the United States back in 1967.

In a report on the outlook of remittance flows from 2008 to 2010, the World Bank said that remittances to Latin America will remain flat next year in the best-case scenario, but that in the worst-case scenario, they will decline to $58 billion from $61 billion.

Is it really possible that the cleaning lady who sends $50 a week home and the day laborer who sends $100 can add up to $60 billion?

You guys who like statistics can put a calculator to that one, but I just call it amazing. This is another example of the tremendous impact America has on the rest of the world. I would say with that much power to influence comes a great responsibility. These illegal immigrants aren't animals of a lower species. They're people like you and me who deserve opportunity as well as respect. In my personal order of things I place them one step above the rest of us who have had it easy by comparison.

What's your opinion? Should we close up the borders and keep these people out? Does our own economic survival depend on that? Is there any truth to the claim that illegals take jobs away from American citizens? I never understood it really. Don't they do a lot of low level jobs that more affluent Americans shun? And for middle and upper level jobs wouldn't their numbers only increase the competition? What's wrong with that?

Please leave a comment with your opinion.