Everybody must get droned!

Domestic Drones. It seems that domestic drones are coming to your neighborhood soon. Armed or only to spy on you? Well, unarmed at first and just spying on you no doubt but will it even stop there?

Reaper drops first precision-guided bomb, protects ground forces

To update Bob Dylan a bit:

They’ll drone you when you’re trying to be so good
They’ll drone you just like they said they would
They’ll drone you when you’re trying to go home
They’ll drone you when you’re there all alone
But I would not feel so all alone
Everybody must get droned

They’ll drone you when you’re walking on the street
They’ll drone you when you’re trying to keep your seat
They’ll drone you when your walking on the floor
They’ll drone you when your walking to the door
But I would not feel so all alone
Everybody must get droned

They’ll drone you when you’re at the breakfast table
They’ll drone you when you are young and able
They’ll drone you when you’re trying to make a buck
They’ll drone you and then they’ll say good luck
But I would not feel so all alone
Everybody must get droned

Well They’ll drone you and say that it’s the end
They’ll drone you and then they’ll come back again
They’ll drone you when you’re riding in your car
They’ll drone you when you’re playing you guitar
Yes But I would not feel so all alone
Everybody must get droned
Alright

Well They’ll drone you when you are all alone
They’ll drone you when you are walking home
They’ll drone you and then say they’re all brave
They’ll drone you when you’re send down in your grave
But I would not feel so all alone
Everybody must get droned

The New York Times posted an editorial that says it’s not a matter of if, but when, the US sees drones in the skies over home sweet home to watch people and their every action. George Orwell call your office!

Congress has ordered the Federal Aviation Administration to quickly select six domestic sites to test the safety of drones, which can vary in size from remote-controlled planes as big as jetliners to camera-toting hoverers called Nano Hummingbirds that weigh 19 grams.

The drone go-ahead, signed in February by President Obama in the F.A.A. reauthorization law, envisions a $5 billion-plus industry of camera drones being used for all sorts of purposes from real estate advertising to crop dusting to environmental monitoring and police work.

There are, no doubt, some potentially excellent uses for drones like, for example, a search and rescue mission to find people lost in the woods since drones would extend our abilities to see over vast stretches of terrain. That is just one example, and I bet you can think of several more off the top of your head. I can. But there are potential uses for drones that are far less savory. Law enforcement surveillance of the entire population and killing from the sky comes to mind.

The government is going to tell us that only those good uses for the drones will happen and that those bad uses will never be allowed. Believe that? If so, there are people selling bridges on-line that you should be contacting to make an investment. But the government types and their sycophants in the media will claim the nation’s laws will constrain drone use to proposes that are innocent and proper; and with that, those people inclined to believe that sort of nonsense will sigh in relief. But coming soon will be a situation where the cops save someone, held hostage perhaps, by killing criminals from the air and the people will all cheer. Then they will kill dangerous criminals from the air and no one is saved but a “bad guy” was taken out. Then drones will just be part of the SWAT team’s normal gear. Drones will become a part of normal life just as SWAT teams have become a part of everyday life.

I think it will go something like this: at first the drones will only called upon for the most extreme and dangerous of situations, but soon they will be used to attack some poor sod who someone alleges is smoking a little pot. That drones no doubt will serve some extremely useful and socially acceptable purposes is not in question. The question is how long it will take the uniformed goons in our police state to misuse them.

The drone issue is in addition to the government’s collection of every piece of electronic data on you already, and that includes e-mail and much more. They know you better than you know yourself. In the end, you will have no privacy anyplace on in this country. Meditate on that for a while before you cheer the use of drones to control the masses.

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Do Americans have cognitive deficiency?

No one in this world, so far as I know—and I have researched the records for years, and employed agents to help me—has ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the great masses of the plain people. Nor has anyone ever lost public office thereby. ~ H.L.Mencken

Do you think that it is possible that most people suffer from some sort of cognitive deficiency when it comes to logic and common sense? Could our “public school” education be adding to it? Certainly the mainstream media keeps people in the dark on the real truths; that may be part of it.

Recent events have shown that there are a lot of people who believe that disarming law abiding people and rendering them defenseless actually makes them safe instead of making them targets for the criminals who don’t abide by the gun control laws. Still other people claim to think that advertising their defenselessness not only makes them safe but helps make others safe. If you tell these people that every dictator in the world has always wanted the general public disarmed and that there have been genocides in places where the people had no weapons they will tell you that it could not happen here.

Chicago, one of America’s most anti-gun cities, has just recorded its 500th homicide. Chicago’s own statistics show that 440 school age children were shot in 2012 in Chicago and still many holler that gun control will “save the kids“.  Are they mindless?

Government officials in the north east claim Hurricane Sandy was unprecedented and hence unexpected even though the exact same circumstances has happened in the past and there were warnings by experts over and over again. Yet people still think that government protects them in times of natural disaster.

Sandy may have been a rare (but hardly unprecedented) confluence of weather events. But the political decisions and blame avoidance are an all-too-common confluence of human tendencies – worsened by the dogged determination of our ruling classes to acquire greater power and control, coupled with steadily declining transparency, accountability and liability. ~ Paul Driessen

A majority of people in the US (and Europe I believe) really think that war, debt, and currency debasement creates prosperity instead of ruin and poverty. Hyper-inflation has been known to destroy civilizations and give rise to dictators (Germany ’20s) but people holler that “it could never happen here!“. Damn, what are these people taking?

People think that “experts” in government, those we called the “best and the brightest” in the 60s, can run the US economy managing Trillions of daily transactions. They believe that the Federal Reserve which has debased he currency to the tune of 95% reduction in value since its creation is on their side!

The people still seem to think that the government can protect them even though the military could not prevent people armed with box-cutters from flying into its headquarters. The police are highly paid and well equipped and they don’t protect you. They are the enemy, and yet people still think that they need police to be safe.

The government proves over and over and over again that they are a “gang of thieves writ large”, yet the people still think that the government is there to protect them and is on their side. My god, will it take a knock at the door at 2 am to wake people up? The government at all levels is said to soak up over half the resources of the economy doing worthless or counterproductive jobs, and yet people can not imagine doing without them. Most can not even imagine a smaller version of the infernal beast.

Perhaps most importantly, people think that the US government doing evil around the world with the military or the CIA will cause a greater good somehow. This in spite of all major religions and philosophies telling us that the ends never justify the means — good does not grow on the tree of evil. Many of these same people laugh at those who believe in a God that they can’t see as they believe in a god called government that they can see and can see is evil. Which is less rational?

Ron Paul and other have done great work in trying to educate the masses on the evil that government does; but there are many who worship government as a religion. I don’t know if logic and experience can reach those whose religion is government.

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“War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength.” George Orwell

A reader asks about human rights and animal rights

“Among the natural rights of the colonists are these: First a right to life, secondly to liberty, and thirdly to property; together with the right to defend them in the best manner they can.” ~ Samuel Adams

A friend from Twitter, Isaac Pringle, left the following letter after my post about disagreeing with Murray Rothbard on abortion and children abandonment. I found the questions to be worthy of a lengthy reply rather than a short few words in the comment area. I also thought that others might be interested in the question of “rights” as well. Anyway, here goes.

Here is Issac’s letter reproduced in full:

Hi Mark, I have some thoughts about your position I was hoping you could clarify. This is such a fascinating area of libertarian thought but I’ve never been able to settle on a position.

Firstly, where do rights come from? Why does an embryo/foetus have rights that animals of greater sentience not? Is a chimp or a pig not more deserving of the right to life than something that may only be a ball of cells? If self ownership is to be truly universal must it not also apply to all beings of certain sentience? If the reply is to be along the lines of ‘an embryo has potential to be a fully sentient human’ then I would ask what of the severely mentally handicapped, do they have the same rights or not?

The old Rothbard quip about ‘animals can have rights when they petition for them’ would apply for children, foetuses and the mentally disabled, as well as animals, or it must not apply to any, surely?

But at the same time you say that the child must be reared by the parents until is can survive on it’s own. If children have property in their being regardless of their mental faculties then surely the majority of parenthood is going to be a violation of property, well meaning and loving yet ultimately still a constant barrage of violations against the rights the child has? So we have a situation in which the child has property in it’s being yet also doesn’t. The child has a right to be reared until it is able to live it’s self yet inherent in that rearing is a constant attack on the being of that child. This is a failing of your position is it not, or perhaps a greater failing of natural rights?

So if I’ve missed something or my arguments seem muddled!

First I want to thank Isaac for bringing up some of these issues that I was not going to mention — out of laziness or what I don’t know. And then some friends and I got into a conversation on these issues and even more hard ones on twitter yesterday. I realized that I have never really taken on the really hard issues that sometimes divide us in the liberty movement. I have never tackled the issues that divide we anarchists very much — and yes we anarchists can be a contentious lot. So today I want to begin to look and some of those issues. (well, I guess I began with the post disagreeing with Rothbard but you get my drift I hope) This is the first in a series of posts that might be more … ah, … controversial.

1) “Firstly, where do rights come from?”

I am asked “where do rights come from“, and do animals have these rights? Professor Hans-Hermann Hoppe claimed that the standard natural rights argument was lacking. He observed:

It has been a common quarrel with the natural rights position, even on the part of sympathetic readers, that the concept of human nature is far “too diffuse and varied to provide a determinate set of contents of natural law.” Furthermore, its description of rationality is equally ambiguous in that it does not seem to distinguish between the role of reason in establishing empirical laws of nature on the one hand and normative laws of human conduct on the other. (The Economics and Ethics of Private Property [EEPP], p. 313; also A Theory of Socialism and Capitalism [TSC], p. 156n118)

I am not surprised to find myself in agreement with Dr. Hoppe on this issue and even Murray Rothbard claimed that Hoppe had advanced libertarian theory past his own foundation in natural rights. I will say however that even though Hoppe may have a better foundation for libertarian rights I never had much difficulty with natural rights as a basis for libertarian ethics and law; but then being a mystic might have something to do with that. I’ll concede that Hoppe has moved our philosophy forward.

Hoppe’s approach is called Argumentation Ethics and the sort summary at the link ended with:

Argumentation as action: the act of engaging in an argument is certainly revealing of some facts. First of all, we are willingly interacting in a peaceful way with the interlocutor. Argument, after all, is not any form of talking: it implies at least two people engaging voluntarily and freely in it. A speech to the slaves in a galley may not be an argument although it certainly is communication, of course. But if we talk about ethics, we are talking about principles equally valid (the universalizability of rights is a vital part of its definition, as a table has to hold things from falling to the ground in order to be a table) for all humans in the same situation.

Second, then, some ethical principles are revealed in the course of argumentation. One of them is contract, of course (and this is not tautological by any means, just keep in mind the galley example). But contract requires property. So denying self-ownership to the parts, would be denying the whole argumentation possibility. And yet, the one denying it would be engaging in some sort of argument if he was free to do it or not from the start. So in this case, we have a clear case of proof by contradiction of the opposite.

Human beings have a right to own themselves, as the act of argumentation clearly shows: nobody else can have command of their own bodies.

In sum, Hans-Hermann Hoppe has discovered and developed a system of rights that is grounded on the fact that humans act, that humans have a mind that is analogical to its circundating reality and that does not require an “is-ought” duality in order to show us the proper ethical system for rational animals. We are the rightful owners of our bodies and of property we create through the use of our minds, ourselves or through contract. If slaves in a galley can dream of freedom in the near future, so can citizens of an statist world. Argumentation Ethics provides us with a template based on facts of how to untangle, understand and finally free a world ridden with contradition and denial of justice.

Another good, short explanation is at the Mises.org wiki and can be viewed here.

Now that was a lot of quotation to get to the heart of the matter. Sorry for the delay. I would not even have mentioned Hoppe if Issac had not asked about animal rights verses Human rights. Well maybe I would have since all members of the liberty movement should understand the foundation on which we base our hatred of the State and our hatred of aggression against innocent people.

Now to the basic question. The human life cycle, like that of a cat, begins at conception. This is still taught in university at the freshman level. It is no secret even thought the Supreme Court has denied that humans are human throughout their life cycle unlike all other animals.

humanlifecycle

The human animal is a rational animal and we claim that it is human kind and not just some of humanity that is deserving of human rights: of libertarian rights. The rational human has these rights throughout its life cycle and not just when it reaches some stage or the other. Nor does the human lose any of its rights due to accidental brain damage or retardation. From conception to the grave all human animals have these rights.

2) “If self ownership is to be truly universal must it not also apply to all beings of certain sentience?”

But what about animals? I contend, unlike Rothbard, that animals have rights also. These rights may be far less than human rights due to the reduced rationality of the animal but I personally think that many, if not most, animals are far more intelligent and self aware than we give them credit for being. As a vegan it may be that it is real easy for me to defend animal’s rights but I only became vegan late in life and I don’t think I am being judgmental of others. I truly think that my Tuxcedo tom-cat is very smart and he engages with me in argumentation all the time. (he wins most of the time as you might have guessed) We lose a lot of our own humanity when we fail to honor the rights of all life. It is true that nature may have it that often we can not help but to take an animal’s life — but we can do so with humanity and kindness — and we can do so a rarely as we can. We can also be sensitive to the wild animal’s habitat and the fact that we must share the earth with all the other life forms.

3) “So we have a situation in which the child has property in it’s being yet also doesn’t.”

Isaac and I part ways a bit on this issue. The extended family has been the basic unit of human society for millions of years. It is too bad that modern life seems to attack the family in every way it can do so and the state leads the charge in this assault.

The human animal needs protection and training as it grows. While we may have some instinctual behaviors we certainly come into the world as a mostly blank slate that needs a lot of help as we grow and maturate. As the child becomes more able to think for himself and gains in experience he then becomes more of a self-owning, rational human being. It is true though that parents may commit many errors in raising the child; after all we don’t get but a few chances to learn how to do it. Our science of raising children is still in its infancy (no pun intended) and hopefully we will be able to raise our children without error someday. But I contend that the parents do a far better job in general without meddling by the State.

At some point the child thinks it is an adult and the mother is not yet ready to admit that. This is a classic situation and is entirely human. No philosophy is going to change that heartwarming fact.

Isaac, I hope I covered your points and did not evade them. I also hope that I wrote something of value to you. Cheers my friend.

We Owe it to Ourselves

Paul Krugman and many others fail to understand government debt. They claim all the time that we should not be worried about the debt since it is “money we owe to ourselves.”

st-kitts-nevis-public-debt

On that topic Murray Rothbard wrote:

The ingenious slogan that the public debt does not matter because “we owe it to ourselves” is clearly absurd. The crucial question is: Who is the “we” and who are the “ourselves”? Analysis of the world must be individualistic and not holistic. Certain people owe money to certain other people, and it is precisely this fact that makes the borrowing as well as the taxing process important. For we might just as well say that taxes are unimportant for the same reason.

I say that if it were true that we just “owed it to ourselves” then just repudiate the debt and see who hollers the loudest. And then we will all see if “we” ever loan “ourselves” any more money. (seriously, that is not a bad idea!)

In the world of John Maynard Keynesian, which is the world of all government minions, there is no opportunity cost. The fact that Trillions of dollars go to the military, make-work projects, government bureaucracies and not to other productive uses does not seem to matter to the progressives and their allies in the government. Every penny tossed down the rat-hole of the TSA is a penny that could be making the poor in this country better off. (and the rest of us to boot) The government sucks up tremendous amounts of credit which makes any start-up or expansion that much more difficult and the Keynesians can’t see the problem.

The patron saint of all government drones is John Maynard Keynes  who wrote in 1943 that the credit expansion by a central bank performs the “miracle” of “turning stones into bread.” The fact that is that all Keynesians believe that a market economy is destined to implode because individuals save some of their income. They can’t seem to understand that this saved income is the investment capital that helps drive the free market. It is the capital that a start-up uses, in whole or in part, to get new businesses off the drawing board and into action. Nobel prize winner and newspaper columnist Paul Krugman has claimed that governments must “fill the hole” left by the “loss” of private spending when citizens save some of their income. Mr. Prize Winner seems to think that the saved income is not being invested someplace! One wonders how he passed his freshman economics class.

Economist William Anderson wrote a small comment at the Mises Institute where he told us:

When John Maynard Keynes decided that Say’s Law was pesky and got in the way of his master General Theory, he simply created a straw man, demolished it, and — Voila! — academic economists celebrated its demise. Paul Krugman, however, does Keynes one better and allows us to get rid of that oppressive and evil Law of Opportunity Cost.

Krugman continues to insist that if the economy is in a “liquidity trap,” the “old rules” no longer apply, and that means the Law of Comparative Advantage. Since comparative advantage is nothing more than an application of the Law of Opportunity Cost, Krugman is claiming that when there are “special circumstances,” the Law of Opportunity Cost does not apply. And without that lousy law, governments can perform magic with the printing press! I deal with this in my latest post on Krugman-in-Wonderland.

Keynes, Krugman, and all the rest of the Keynesian school think that government debt is the cure for all the ills of the massive government interventions that we see harm the ‘free market’. Government debt is not the cure-all to our problems. It is in many ways one of our biggest problems itself. Government debt is very different from private debt.

Let us hear from Rothbard on this subject:

The public debt transaction, then, is very different from private debt. Instead of a low-time preference creditor exchanging money for an IOU from a high-time preference debtor, the government now receives money from creditors, both parties realizing that the money will be paid back not out of the pockets or the hides of the politicians and bureaucrats, but out of the looted wallets and purses of the hapless taxpayers, the subjects of the state. The government gets the money by tax-coercion; and the public creditors, far from being innocents, know full well that their proceeds will come out of that selfsame coercion. In short, public creditors are willing to hand over money to the government now in order to receive a share of tax loot in the future. This is the opposite of a free market, or a genuinely voluntary transaction. Both parties are immorally contracting to participate in the violation of the property rights of citizens in the future. Both parties, therefore, are making agreements about other people’s property, and both deserve the back of our hand. The public credit transaction is not a genuine contract that need be considered sacrosanct, any more than robbers parceling out their shares of loot in advance should be treated as some sort of sanctified contract.

Any melding of public debt into a private transaction must rest on the common but absurd notion that taxation is really “voluntary,” and that whenever the government does anything, “we” are willingly doing it. This convenient myth was wittily and trenchantly disposed of by the great economist Joseph Schumpeter: “The theory which construes taxes on the analogy of club dues or of the purchases of, say, a doctor only proves how far removed this part of the social sciences is from scientific habits of mind.”

All taxpayers are on the hook for all the debt of the government (now at about 15 Trillion Dollars) as well as its future obligations which may be well over 200 Trillion Dollars. The taxpayers don’t “owe it to themselves” because if they did they would set all the terms of the debt. The taxpaying public is the  “loan guarantee” in which people who don’t participate in the process still are forced to pay for it. This has been called a “social contract” but it is in reality blatant theft by the government.

Don’t let anyone tell you that “we owe the government debt to ourselves”.

Murray Rothbard and I disagreed on Abortion and child abandonment

Murray Rothbard was one of the 20th century’s greatest scholars and the world’s most important libertarian political philosopher and libertarian activist. I have read much of his vast output and agree with Rothbard on most of the positions he took but he did make mistakes and today I want to give my side of the abortion issue which is in direct contradiction to that of Murray Rothbard.

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Murray Rothbard was crystal clear on his position on abortion in Chapter 14, “Children and Rights”, of The Ethics of Liberty.

In part Rothbard  wrote:

The proper groundwork for analysis of abortion is in every man’s absolute right of self-ownership. This implies immediately that every woman has the absolute right to her own body, that she has absolute dominion over her body and everything within it. This includes the fetus. Most fetuses are in the mother’s womb because the mother consents to this situation, but the fetus is there by the mother’s freely-granted consent. But should the mother decide that she does not want the fetus there any longer, then the fetus becomes a parasitic “invader” of her person, and the mother has the perfect right to expel this invader from her domain. Abortion should be looked upon, not as “murder” of a living person, but as the expulsion of an unwanted invader from the mother’s body.  Any laws restricting or prohibiting abortion are therefore invasions of the rights of mothers.

Rothbard likens the situation to a guest in your house who overstays his welcome and you have every legal right to tell him to leave your house. You even have the legal right to have him removed by force if he refuses to voluntarily leave. Rothbard at least agrees that the baby is a human being from the time that the sperm meets the egg unlike many other pro-abortionists. I like that Murray did not try to wiggle around the life cycle of animals by claiming that life does not begin at conception.

What we have then is a situation much like the man who invites a guest on to his boat for a trip out to sea. I have myself been a guest on a friend’s boat. We left out of Coco Beach, Florida and went out a couple of miles into the ocean. It was my first trip to sea and I enjoyed every minute of it. Now suppose after we got 2 miles out this man decided to withdraw his invitation and ask me to get off of his boat. Since I can not swim this amounts to murder by this man. He did not have to invite me for a boat ride on the ocean and he does not ever have to invite me again; but if he tosses me overboard then no court in the world would find him within his rights to do so. Murder would be the charge.

By the same token, if a woman and a man decide to create a new human being they have invited that new life into this world and to withdraw consent and have the innocent baby killed is not only reprehensible but is murder in my view. Should a woman control her own body? Why yes, just as my friend controlled his boat — but she invites a new life into the world by having sex without using contraceptives. Once the life is created we have the situation that she has given an invitation for a nine month ride to the baby until it can survive on its own.

But Murray Rothbard went even further than just supporting abortion. He told us that the mother could abandon the child anytime she wanted even after she gave birth to it. Infanticide was OK by Murray as long as no force was inflicted. Just walk away from a two week old baby and let it try to survive on its own — no fault of yours if it dies.

Applying our theory to parents and children, this means that a parent does not have the right to aggress against his children, but also that the parent should not have a legal obligation to feed, clothe, or educate his children, since such obligations would entail positive acts coerced upon the parent and depriving the parent of his rights. The parent therefore may not murder or mutilate his child, and the law properly outlaws a parent from doing so. But the parent should have the legal right not to feed the child, i.e., to allow it to die. The law, therefore, may not properly compel the parent to feed a child or to keep it alive.

I must disagree here also. The parent having invited the soul into this world has an obligation to that being to see that it reaches a stage where it can care for itself. My reasoning is the same as before. Once you invite me to your property you can not cause my certain death by suddenly withdrawing consent knowing that I would perish.

If you knowingly cause my death by enticing me to use your property and then suddenly withdraw consent then you have committed an aggression against me. The Non-Aggression Axiom is against Rothbard on this issue. Murray Rothbard was a systems builder and an extraordinary man, but on the issue of babies and children he went astray in my opinion. He did write that he was talking about libertarian law and not morals on the issue; but there can be no law that is not rooted in the morals and ethics of the people so that is hardly an out for Rothbard on this issue.

Those libertarians who support abortion and/or think that the mother owes nothing to the newly born baby may well have many good arguments to support their views, but the property rights use of eviction of an unwanted guest is not one of them. Sorry Murray.

The chief prosecutor of the Nuremberg trials and our broken justice system

 Robert H. Jackson was the chief prosecutor at the Nuremberg trials of the Nazi leaders at Nuremberg, Germany in 1946. He was also a United States Supreme Court Justice from 1941 until 1954. In 1940 he was the Attorney General of the United States and gave a very illuminating speech to the United States Attorneys. In part he told them:

The prosecutor has more control over life, liberty, and reputation than any other person in America. His discretion is tremendous. He can have citizens investigated and, if he is that kind of person, he can have this done to the tune of public statements and veiled or unveiled intimations. Or the prosecutor may choose a more subtle course and simply have a citizen’s friends interviewed. The prosecutor can order arrests, present cases to the grand jury in secret session, and on the basis of his one-sided presentation of the facts, can cause the citizen to be indicted and held for trial. He may dismiss the case before trial, in which case the defense never has a chance to be heard. Or he may go on with a public trial. If he obtains a conviction, the prosecutor can still make recommendations as to sentence, as to whether the prisoner should get probation or a suspended sentence, and after he is put away, as to whether he is a fit subject for parole. While the prosecutor at his best is one of the most beneficent forces in our society, when he acts from malice or other base motives, he is one of the worst.”

In 1940 professionals inside the legal profession could see that enormous, almost unchecked power is wielded by America’s prosecutors. Today we have the results of the ill-fated “war on drugs” declared by former president Richard Nixon in the ’70s. Today all the public cares to see is the conviction rate of the prosecutor. Few care about justice or if the defendant is really innocent.  It is an accepted maxim that unchecked power leads to abuse. We have all powerful prosecutors and so we have out of control prosecutors.

On the other hand, it may be that it is the entire system that is rotted to the core. Defense attorney Scott Greenfield had a recent post about an academic symposium on convicting the innocent. In that post (which you really should read) he writes:

Few would argue that the criminal justice system is a well-oiled machine, but Bibas’ solution is to make it more transparent and democratically accountable for its failures.  Not leveling the playing field, nor invigorating constitutional protections, but increasing the “quality of convictions” by exposing factual and moral injustices.

One of the recurring themes is that the failure of the system isn’t due to overzealous, lying prosecutors and judges who refuse to enforce the Constitution, but criminal defense lawyers who fail to win and, instead, rush to plead their innocent clients. They tend to hate pleas and love trials, which tells me that they have either never tried a case as a defense lawyer or have conveniently forgotten what it’s like when the other side holds all the cards. They adore the absurd fallacy of a trial being a search for the truth rather than a one-sided inquisition.

It is high time that we take a strong look at our out of control “justice system” that conservatives love so much and seek real justice. After all, as Greenfield says, “Where is the recognition of innocent defendants facing lifetimes in prison with cops trained to lie, judges who play the odds, prosecutors who can’t distinguish Brady if it bit them on the ass and identifications that everyone swears are just perfect?  The system is broken? Sure, that’s easy to say.  But to understand how it’s broken requires one to understand not only how it’s supposed to work, but how it actually happens. They either don’t, or won’t admit to it, because it would be impolite to call their former prosecutor brethren mean names for their role in the failure.”

It is time we listen to insiders like Scott Greenfield and demand that the broken system be fixed.

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UPDATE: A friend from twitter, @SingleTaxAnarch, sent me a link to a wonderful exchange concerning the topic of prosecutors. I encourage everyone to read it. For now I’ll quote one tiny part where Gerry Spence wrote:

I finished my second term having tried many more cases, none of which I lost, not that such a record stands for much. With all the power prosecutors possess, they ought not lose cases. The wrong case, the unjust case should be rejected in the prosecutor’s office before he seeks an indictment.

That says it all. When a prosecutor says that the power that the prosecutor’s office has is unbeatable then we know we have gone over the cliff into tyranny.

An old example of prosecutorial misconduct; and a new one

Old Case:

There have been scenes in movies about the 1957 meeting of Mafia bosses in Apalachin, New York where 100 of the big bosses of the Mafia met at the home of local Mafia chieftain Joe Barbara. I can just mention the scene and my wife will fill in all the details from movies she has watched over the years. It was pretty funny I guess.

The local police became curious when they noticed numbers of expensive cars with out-of-town license plates going to the Barbara home. Without even a shred of “probable cause” the local cops arrested everyone in sight that they could catch. A local prosecutor named Milton Wessel charged them with “conspiracy” since there was no crime committed that anyone could think of. The question of what constituted this so-called “conspiracy” did not seem to bother Wessel a bit and he got a conviction against 20 men and sentences up to 5 years in prison for being at someone’s house with an out of state tag on a nice car.

We don’t know what Wessel was thinking when the Appeals Court for the 2nd Circuit overturned the convictions pointing out that the government had not produced a shred of evidence that any crime had been committed. Was Mr. Wessel’s career harmed by this prosecutorial misconduct? Why no; Mr. Wessel subsequently became a professor of law at Georgetown University.

This 1957 episode probably sticks everyone who hears about it as funny as all get out. I know I smile every time I think of it. But when I reflect on it I realize that the legal system in the USA had already gone to pot by that time. If Americans had really honored the constitution and the rule of law then Prosecutor Wessel would have been tarred and feathered for such a travesty of justice even if the targets were Mafia bosses.

New case:

And then there is a recent case of prosecutorial misconduct from Miami, Florida. The supreme court of the US decided a short time ago not to hear a case involving prosecutorial misconduct against a Miami doctor which means that the doctor can not get justice against the wildly misbehaving prosecutor. Nothing new here; prosecutors are practically immune from prosecution in this country.

Reason Magazine wrote:

A case that touches on two important criminal justice issues – prosecutorial misconduct and the federal government’s zealous war on pain medication will not be heading to the Supreme Court, even after nearly 70 federal judges and prosecutors threw their support behind it. Ali Shaygan, a Miami doctor, had been acquitted by a jury of illegally prescribing pain-killers after one of his patients died. He had faced 141 separate charges. Then he fought back.

The “war on drugs” has been at the heart of the destruction of the rule of law in the US for decades. Here is just one more example of a prosecutor who wanted a conviction so bad that he tosses hundreds of years of due process out the window and just plain cheats. The real problem is not just this one scum bucket prosecutor; it is that all of them are willing to “bend the rules” to get the “bad guy”. It is rare that they get caught since most of the poor can not get good legal representation; and when they do get caught nothing happens.

In a Reuters article on this case we see the real crime was committed by the prosecution team. “The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday refused to consider whether criminal defendants who are acquitted can recover fees from the Justice Department for conducting prosecutions in bad faith.” A prosecutor breaks the law and tries to rail-road a man into prison and the Supreme Court can not be bothered to even look and the issue!

Via Reuters:

A Miami federal judge later awarded the doctor $602,000 under a federal law called the Hyde Amendment, which allows judges to sanction prosecutors for taking positions that are “vexatious, frivolous or in bad faith.”

The judge found that prosecutors acted in bad faith by pursuing new charges and secretly recording Shaygan’s defense team. The steps were taken in retribution after Shaygan’s attorney tried to keep statements the doctor made to investigators out of evidence, the judge found.

The judge called the prosecution’s tactics “profoundly disturbing,” adding that they raised “troubling issues about the integrity of those who wield enormous power over the people they prosecute.”

But the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta overturned the award, ruling that prosecutors have broad discretion under the doctrines of sovereign immunity and separation of powers.

Regardless of prosecutors’ subjective ill will, they had an objectively reasonable basis for their acts, the appeals court found.

It is time to call off the drug war. Well past time. It is also time to prosecute the prosecutors when they break the law.

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