Saturday, October 25, 2008

Convicted Felons Allowed to Vote

In most states, convicted non-violent felons can regain their right to vote. In Virginia, this may favor Obama. has the story.

Thousands of former felons may be voting in the upcoming election, thanks to Virginia's two most recent Democratic governors.

Former Gov. Mark Warner and current Gov. Tim Kaine both worked to restore the voting rights of nearly 6,000 nonviolent felons in Virginia. During his 2002-2006 term, Warner helped 3,414 of these felons regain their right to vote. Kaine did the same for 2,576 felons in the first three years of his term.

To me this is the very type of progressive thinking that I'd expect from Democrats. It seems almost incompatible with the party line for a Republican governor to do something like this. If the movement catches on, who knows, perhaps white collar felons will one day be able to regain their right to bear arms under the Second Amendment.

What do you think? Will we ever see the day when a non-violent offender will be able to regain all his rights? Or do you think once a felon always a felon?

Troy Davis Gets Another Stay

CNN reports that the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals granted a stay of execution Friday for a Georgia death row inmate who had been scheduled to die on Monday. We discussed this case before here and here. Several things came out in those discussions, like the oft-repeated epithet cop-killer, as if that makes the crime worse, the fact that the stays come sometimes only days or hours before the appointment with the needle, the fact that the victim's family wants "it over," and of course the fact that in this case with so many witnesses recanting, it doesn't take a brain surgeon to figure out there might be an injustice in the making.

Amnesty International Executive Director Larry Cox said in a written statement that the organization was "heartened" to hear of the stay of execution.

"Until this point, the compelling issues in this case have been virtually ignored, leaving Georgia vulnerable to the possibility of killing an innocent man."

On the very interesting site called Death Power we read someone who is not afraid to say simply and clearly what his opinion is. It's captured well in the post title, Thank Goodness - Troy Davis Execution put on hold again.

What do you think? Do I sound unsympathetic towards the victim and his family because I'm trying to support Troy Davis? I'm not unsympathetic really. The questions in this post have little to do with the victim, the murder victim. They have to do with the convicted murderer. Did he get a fair trial? Is it a type of political spinning to call him a cop-killer? Is the victim's family interested in justice or vengeance? Would an execution satisfy them?

Friday, October 24, 2008

The Cananian Bus Cannibal - Remember Him?

A couple months ago I posted about Vince Weiguang Li, the Cananian bus cannibal. You can read the original post here on Wordpress. Although it still gets hits, a few every day in fact, after two months a comment came in from Mother. Here it is:

cannibal did not kill with a gun. he killed with a knife. even if that tool was intended for other uses. all here have very good opinions. do not take what i write next personally as i am not applying it to any one here. i am simply reminded of some observations i have made in the past and given much thought to. i would like to say this:compassion is a great and noble gift. please make sure that you are not waving it around like a flag to show how enlightened and politically correct you are while spending it all on killers who lack that very thing you hold dear, ie. compassion. i have noticed a tendency from people who have great feeling for the criminals among us do not usually hold those sentiments for the victims and other people these crimes impact. in fact, many times those espousing compassion will have a lot of detail of the criminal’s names and vital statistics, but will not know much about the victims’. the criminals names will be mentioned ad nauseum during the compassion speeches but the victim’s may only be mentioned at the insistence of other’s. this is a grave disservice. i have also noticed (this was not done here in any of the comments) that compassion is not extended to an opposing view of the stated purveyor of that grace. how many times have we all seen a bleeding heart liberal protect a violent sociopath to the public, and at the same time viciously attack any one who dares to question the judgement of that advocate? you will hear ‘do not judge’ no ‘casting the first stone’ until the defender is questioned. then those convenient parables and contextually inaccurate phrases go out the window. anyone witnessed what i have?as applied to these comments, you are all giving this horrendous, violent trend in our society great thought. one thing, though. that poor canadian boy was not safely in a university level philosophy course able to banter and discourse in an enlightened, well-fed intellectual forum. he was dealing with a real life psychopath and all the inherent danger that goes with it. he was helplessly asleep and much smaller than the cannibal. reality bites not just in theory. all of the sane and safe rationalizations on criminality, spectrum, psychoses and reaction/remedies for the good of the hegemenical ladder fly out the window when you are walking in the dust outside of the barrier of walls and locked doors. unfortunately, i know this up front and personal. born and raised in a violent dark hole with 2 very mentally ill individuals. no poor me, that is not what i am saying. i love life. i am able though to tell you about impact, effect and personal responsibility from a 1st hand experiential perspective. along with rights and compassion comes responsibility. and that is true of the criminals and society in their support and reactions to the victims.this was a ramble of my OHP. forgive misapplied generalizations and run on paragraphs. i am tired. i will leave with this thought. this is for america. do not kick the bodies of the victims laying on the floor as you step over them in your self aggrandizing dash to spout to the world how compassionate you are toward the aggressors. the victims just might be alive to feel that final kick to their rights and dignity.

Some of these are familiar arguments. How do you feel about them? I responded in the comments.

Austria's Sex Slave Patriarch Talks

Time magazine reports today on the statements made public by the infamous Austrian man who'd imprisoned his daughter in the cellar.

Ever since Josef Fritzl, the authoritarian patriarch of a sprawling family in the north Austrian town of Amstetten, was discovered to have imprisoned his daughter as a sex slave in a cellar for 24 years and fathered seven children with her, Austria has been locked in an emotional debate over what could cause such a crime.

After considering several possibilities, the psychiatrists decided the explanation behind these crimes was personal rather than societal. Fritzl had been severely abused himself as a child. Consistent with the increasingly popular modern interpretation, the doctors in Austria concluded that in this case the victim became the perpetrator.

Fritzl himself has a different explanation.

Fritzl reportedly blamed his behavior not on his upbringing but on an innate "evil streak" that he battled against his whole life. "I was born to rape, and I held myself back for a relatively long time," Fritzl reportedly told Kastner. "I could have behaved a lot worse than locking up my daughter."

Psychiatrist Adelheid Kastner wrote a 130-page report in which she says Fritzl suffers from severe combined personality disorder and a serious sexual disorder. Kastner recommends that Fritzl remain in psychiatric care for the rest of his life, regardless of the outcome of his prosecution.

Austrian authorities meanwhile are focusing on the rehabilitation of Fritzl's 42-year-old daughter Elisabeth and her six children. Psychiatrists say the children are more likely to suffer from a range of psychological problems in adulthood, including becoming abusive themselves. As a nation obsesses over one man's evil, the challenge now is to help his children escape their dark past.

What's your opinion? Is he evil or damaged? Should he receive psychiatric treatment or plain old incarceration? Do you agree that victims of abuse often become abusers themselves, and they should receive leniency as a result?

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Terrorist Watch List

CNN reports that the Terrorist Watch List is a lot shorter than previously believed. We discussed the famous list before here and here. The suggestion that a million names are on the list seemed ridiculous, but then again we are talking about the government.

Michael Chertoff revealed for the first time that 2,500 people are on the "no fly" list and only about 10 percent of those are U.S. citizens. Individuals on this list are barred from boarding aircraft because intelligence indicates they pose a threat to aviation.

Fewer than 16,000 people are designated "selectees," he said, and most are not Americans. These people represent a less specific security threat and receive extra scrutiny, but are allowed to fly.

At the risk of sounding cynical, I'd say the list was closer to the American Civil Liberties estimate just a week or two ago. Then in anticipation of this press release, it was chopped down. They probably removed the ones who shouldn't have been on it in the first place, the ones placed there for purely harassment purposes.

It has been pointed out that many thousands more have names or dates of birth similar to those on the lists. These people are wrongly delayed at airports or actually denied access.

But what I wonder is, what kind of threat do these people really pose? According to the stats there are about 250 Americans who CANNOT fly. If they're so dangerous why aren't they already in Guantanamo?

My opinion? The Department of Homeland Security is run by the same kind of feckless idiots that have run the IRS for decades. These are bureaucrats of the worst kind, who, at every level of the hierarchy strive to spend their allotted budgets and justify spending more next year with, in most cases, little or no regard for the quality of their output.

What do you think?

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Tim Masters Freed after DNA Testing

CNN reports on the good news for Tim Masters. Ten years after his murder conviction DNA testing proved his innocence. He's now suing everyone in sight and who can blame him?

The first person released from prison in Colorado because of DNA evidence is suing police and prosecutors who worked to put him behind bars.

Lawyers for Tim Masters filed suit in federal court Tuesday, claiming hundreds of documents and expert opinions that pointed toward his innocence in a murder case were withheld from his lawyers.

Of course, I don't know the whole story, but it sure sounds like another case of over-zealous cops and prosecutors. This man was convicted of killing someone when he was 15 years old, but that conviction took place 12 years after the fact. I guess there's a whole story there. He's been in jail for ten years now and sure doesn't look his age. I hope he gets millions.

The case is a bit complicated though. Besides the DNA questions which I presume were only resolved recently, there were serious procedural inconsistencies. What about those former prosecutors who are now judges? What should happen to them? Is what they did considered a "white collar crime?" It's certainly wasn't a victimless one, which is some prople's criterion for no jail time.

What's your opinion? Should a guy like Masters get rich now in a civil law suit? Should the former prosecutors go to jail? What do you think?

Freedon of Speech Afghan Style

CNN reports today on the Afghan journalism student who was sentenced to 20 years, commuted from death, for asking the wrong questions.

An Afghan appeals court overturned a death sentence Tuesday for a journalism student accused of blasphemy for asking questions in class about women's rights under Islam. But the judges still sentenced him to 20 years in prison.

The case against 24-year-old Parwez Kambakhsh, whose brother has angered Afghan warlords with his own writings, has come to symbolize Afghanistan's slide toward an ultraconservative view on religious and individual freedoms.

In this fascinating case, we've got it all. There's the use of the death penalty and excessive legal sanctions, there's religious fanaticism, there's political retribution because of his brother, and of course, there's sexism since the offensive questions were about women's rights. Take your pick.

On the site called Dear Kitty. Some Blog there's a post which seems to blame President Bush. The video is a nice call for international support for the young journalist, but although I agree Bush's policies regarding Afghanistan have been far from successful, blaming him seems a bit of a stretch to me.

What do you think? Is this situation more about religious fanaticism or political heavy-handedness dressed up as religion? Or is it mostly about women's rights, that even speaking about such things is severely punished? Or is it all the same thing in Afghanistan?

What do you think?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Yacht Killer Guilty

CNN reports today on the guilty verdict of the so-called child actor who killed two people on their luxury yacht. We discussed this case before, here, when the prosecution announced that it would seek the death penalty.

An Orange County jury found Skylar Deleon, 29, guilty of three counts of first-degree murder and special circumstances for financial gain and multiple victims.

Deleon's attorney had conceded to the jury from the outset that Deleon was guilty but should not be put to death. The penalty phase of the trial will begin Wednesday.

The defense plans to avoid the death penalty by producing witnesses that will describe the horrible abuse young Deleon suffered growing up. Although, I personally feel that childhood abuse is grounds for mitigation, and the law allows it to be considered, I don't hold out much hope. I feel that violent people who are so damaged by childhood abuse that they act like this, should be considered mentally ill. What else could you call it? Executing mentally ill people for expedience or for revenge is not what an enlightened society should be doing in my opinion.

What's your opinion? Is childhood abuse ever an excuse for behaviour like this?

Monday, October 20, 2008

Happy Birthday Viggo Mortensen

Viggo Mortensen turned 50 yesterday. has his incredible story. I had already marked him as a great character when I saw his Aragorn in The Lord of the Rings, but in Eastern Promises, I was blown away. As an undercover policeman capable of infiltrating the Russian Mafia, he was absolutely believable. It was no surprise that he was nominated for an Academy Award for the performance. The movie also contained what I think is the bloodiest and most violent fight I've ever seen on film, and not a gun in sight. But, what I found incredible in is how multi-talented he is.

What do you think of Viggo? Is he in good shape for 50, or what? Forget about it.

The Way China Uses the Death Penalty

The Washington Post reports on the Chinese official who received the death penalty for corruption.

Liu Zhihua, 59, oversaw construction, real estate, sports and traffic projects for the Beijing Olympic Games until he was fired in June 2006 on suspicion of corruption. His high-profile antics and "decadent lifestyle" had attracted unwanted attention among the country's top leaders, according to Chinese news media reports.

Mr. Zhihua's sentence came with a 2-year reprieve, a type of probation period, after which the sentence can be commuted to life in prison based upon good behaviour.

Naturally to me this seems extreme, to say the least. I don't feel white collar criminals should go to jail at all, let alone receive a harsh sentence like this. But, it does make me wonder about deterrence. Would such severe sanctions deter others from attempting these types of crimes? Those proverbial stories, I don't know if they're true or not, in certain countries where they cut the thief's hand off, does that deter other young thieves?

Of course, in order to work these stricter punishments would have to be fairly and universally applied, which in China, apparently they're not.

"Those officials only care about how to grab money. Some corrupt officials are caught, but there are more who are not caught," said Yuan Jianli, 52, a car repairman. "If you stand with the right team, even if you're corrupt, you'll probably be fine. If you're on the wrong team, you'll be caught. Politics in China is too dark, and we ordinary people can do nothing about it."

What's your opinion? Is it different in China than in Western countries? Does it work better?

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Sarah Palin on Saturday Night Live

Now that's what I call a good sport. I absolutely see this as Sarah Palin showing the country that she is a good sport and has no hard feelings rather than a calculated political maneuver. CNN reports on the show that aired last night.

The opening sketch also featured a surprise visit by Alec Baldwin, Fey's "30 Rock" co-star Alec Baldwin, who mistook Palin for Fey, and tried to convince Michaels not to let Fey appear on the show with the governor. He snapped his fingers, trying to remember the nickname some had given Palin.

SNL's regular Tina Fey has made quite a splash imitating the Alaska governor. When asked to be on the show with her, Palin said this:

"I love her, she's a hoot and she's so talented," Palin said, according to the AP.

"It would be fun to meet her, imitate her and keep on giving her new material."

To me it sounds like this demonstrates a level of class that belies some of the attention Sarah Palin has received in the liberal press. But I didn't see the show. What's your opinion? Was it a genuine expression of good sportsmanship? Or was it a political attempt to win back some lost ground?