Monday, May 25, 2009

Obama's First Supreme Court Pick: A New Perspective Needed

Obama will soon get to select his first pick for the US Supreme Court. It seems likely to be a woman, perhaps a minority woman. And that is good. We need more women on the court. We also need more minorities, particularly those who come from a non-privileged background. But beyond that, we need something far more important. We need a fresh perspective on the court.

What is missing from the court, and what is missing from most judicial positions, is the poor defendants' perspective. We need someone on the court who has a great deal of personal, in-the-trenches experience with the criminal justice system, on the defense side, representing poor defendants. In short, a 20-30 year veteran of a large metropolitan area public defender's office is what the court needs. Prosecutors are vastly overrepresented on the courts, particularly at the higher appellate level. As are lawyers who represent the monied elites. There is no one on any significant court who has real trench lawyer experience, from the soul-crushing perspective of defending thousands upon thousands of poor defendants.

This position will be just one vote of nine. And this is replacing a center-left judge as it is, so there are not likely to be any earth-shattering alterations in the court's jurisprudence from this pick. But what there will be is a voice in the room. A voice that can counter the too-often heard judicial voice that, though some legal fiction or another, completely negates the real-world experience of the court system as seen from the eyes of those who are most often crushed by it: indigent defendants. Just having that voice in the room where those nine justices hash out their decisions will make a real difference. Thurgood Marshall was that voice once. That voice is sorely missed. I hope Obama puts that voice back on the court. I somehow doubt he will this time, since exactly zero of the listed candidates are public defenders, but maybe he'll get another pick after this one. I won't exactly be holding my breath then, either. But I can dream, for now.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

GOP: Torture is not the point - It is all about Pelosi

Nancy Pelosi, House Speaker, has come under fire recently for allegedly knowing about the torture (excuse me, I forgot to use Orwell-speak: "enhanced interrogation techniques) in 2002 from a CIA briefing. The GOP is all over her for this, blasting her for suggesting the CIA isn't being truthful, blasting her for "knowing" and even going so far as saying, via Michael Steele on Meet the Press, that whether there was torture and whether or not this was a good thing "was not the point," the point was all about Pelosi and what she knew at the time. Oh. My. God. (Said the atheist).

Now, it isn't surprising that the GOP, morally bankrupt and bereft of anything but talking points for the latest 24 hour news cycle, is doing this. That is all they know how to do. What is surprising is how the MSM totally buys into this bullshit. Ok, that isn't surprising either. Sigh.

Just for sport's sake, I'm going to list all of the reasons why this whole Pelosi thing is bullshit. There's so much bullshit there, it is difficult to know where to start.

1. Whether or not she was briefed, torture is the issue, not what Pelosi was told. In the long list of people that deserve to have their asses thrown in a hole for life for violating the law, Pelosi would be dead last on that list (if she were on it at all) even if she did know about it. Telling someone about a crime isn't the same thing as planning and executing it yourself. Sure, if she did know and did nothing, that is a problem, but until the planners and perpetrators of torture are tried and convicted, we should not be going after the mealy-mouthed 3rd-hand enablers. First things first.

2. If you buy into the GOP bullshit that there was no torture or that it was legal torture or that it was justified, then why are they complaining at all? What duty is there to report about legal activity? By complaining so loudly about Pelosi, the GOP is admitting that there was wrongdoing done by the Bush administration - they are admitting there was torture and that it was clearly illegal. Otherwise, why get so upset about it?

3. The GOP people complaining about how horrible it is to malign the CIA are the exact same people who blasted the CIA up and down during the illegal outing of CIA agent Valerie Plame. So I guess it is only ok to blast the CIA when it does something that harms the GOP electorally. I wish the MSM would be as good as, say, the Daily Show, at pointing out these partisan 180s - and better yet, would then completely ignore everything said by political types who do them, because they are empty bullshit. But this goes beyond just this issue. It still amazes me that only shows like the Daily Show actually call people out on things like this. I guess reporters or networks don't want to jeopardize "access" - but what is the point of "access" if you aren't allowed to report anything meaningful?

So, to sum up, according to the GOP: the CIA is out to get president Bush, the CIA is beyond reproach, torture is fine, there was no torutre, there's no issue at all, and hey, Pelosi is evil because she was briefed on a non-issue.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Maybe Gen Con Would be Fun After All

A comment in my last post about Gen Con raised an interesting point. That Gen Con isn't just about the "Castle" - it isn't just about what Wizards is doing. There are also lots of third-party vendors there, many of whom are still supporting 3.5E. There is Paizo. That is a good point. I hadn't really thought of that.

I mean, I still feel like there is some of the magic lost, in that a big focus of what is there will be on Fourth Edition (4E), something I have zero interest in. Even sadder, the only other RPG I am at all excited about, though I haven't played it much at all (til just the past month) is equally of the wrong edition. I refer to Shadowrun. I really liked 2E of that, and played that quite a lot, a long time ago. There was a 3E that changed a few things but which was probably 80% the same, and compatible enough that you could keep using the old system. There were even a few things with 3E that, looking at them now, might be good to add to 2E even if I don't want to shift totally to 3E (and I don't). But alas, there is now a 4E of Shadowrun, one that radically changes everything, including the very core of the system mechanics. I really don't like that at all.

In addition, there are a TON of books out for 2E and 3E for Shadowrun, and not much at all is out for 4E, so even if I liked it, most of the game is not covered. Well, except for the old books on geographical areas. Those are probably useable with any edition. They are mostly info about social structures and such, not game mechanics. They were also really good. But to get back to the subject at hand, the fact that there is now a 4E I'm not interested in for Shadowrun means that the main Shadowrun booth will be of no interest to me. And sadly, there are no 3rd party vendors for Shadowrun that I'm aware of, beyond a few magazines here and there.

Now, on the upside for D&D, there are a ton of 3rd party vendors. But I wonder just how many will still make new stuff for 3E. The way 4E is being licensed, you aren't allowed as a vendor to make a product that is both for 3E and 4E. It is all or nothing. They are essentially doing scorched earth, to make sure everyone switches over to 4E. Goodman games, for instance, is only making new 4E modules, not any 3E. Even Paizo, my favorite, which is not going 4E, is also not really staying 3.5E, either. They are making their own version, call it 3.75E. It may have some interesting changes. And maybe it won't change enough to be all that incompatible, but it still feels like 3.5E is being abandoned by everyone.

So it is an open question whether there will be much, if any, new products put out by 3rd party vendors for 3.5E. I suspect there won't be. But I could be wrong. Still, that may make it worth going out, just to see what is out there. It is more than just about the system. But it is still sad to me that the games I love the most are essentially dead systems. That takes a lot of the excitement out of the convention. All of the big announcements or previews of new rule books and what-not will be things I have no interest in. It may be a bittersweet convention. But I'll at least take a look at it now. I could be wrong.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

New TV Season Disappointments

Well, not that this is all that important, but they announced what series will be renewed for next year, and it looks like, as usual, the shows I like tend to be the ones that get axed. They axed Life and Terminator. Disappointing. I suppose I am at least glad they kept Chuck. I am also happy they kept Terminator at least long enough to complete the second season. I hate it when they axe series like that in the middle of a season, so you don't even get that limited sense of completion. They did that with Daybreak, which I really liked. I didn't even know they cancelled it until I saw the DVR stopped recording it.

They really don't like to give some series a chance to find an audience.

Oh, and they renewed Dollhouse, which I like just because I like Joss Whedon. I haven't had time to actually watch it yet, but I will soon - the whole thing is on my DVR.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

J.J. Abrams's Star Trek: A Review

I saw Star Trek last week, on opening night (May 7). I saw it in IMAX. I really enjoyed it.

The movie was invigorating on many levels. It literally brought life back tot he franchise. I personally think Star Trek was, for many years, sort of stagnant in the episodes on TV. Not that there weren't some great episodes, even in the last season of Enterprise (not that I saw every single one either, which is telling in itself). There were some great episodes. But I think the owners of the franchise, like Rick Berman, had sterlized things so much that there simply wasn't room for real good, human storytelling.

I think Ron Moore saw this when he wrote for Star Trek on TV, and brought it to Deep Space Nine when he was finally freer to do so. (As he said, he got more freedom there when Rick Berman was busy with his new baby, Voyager). Ron Moore then brought even more of that sensibility to the new Battlestar Galactica, which was beyond awesome. But now I digress.

This new Star Trek starts basically right when Kirk is born. And it being Kirk, it is a pretty action packed moment, even if the future James T. Kirk is only a passenger along for the ride.

As has been well known, the start also includes a change in the timeline, which can then explain away all of the differences you see from that point forward. And there are more changes, still. Warning - I might as well use spoilers, because otherwise, how can I really talk about the movie?

Kirk is born as his father takes command of the starship he is on after the Captain is killed. The Captain went over to an attacking Romulan vessel from the future (though they don't know this). The vessel is destroying Kirk's ship, so George Kirk, his father, evacuates the whole crew and then manually rams the Romulan vessel, allowing the crew to escape. (Autopilot was offline).

Now Kirk grows up without a father, and perhaps, without a brother either. You see him as a child racing a car (off a cliff). At the same time, we see Spock's childhood on vulcan.

Spock is in a learning center that is very much a nod to the training program you see Spock using at the start of Star Trek IV - lots of children in little pits, doing the same training. Then you see Spock, as other, full vulcans come up behind him, he quips, "I assume you've prepared new insults for today?" in a matter-of-fact tone. You soon learn that this is attempt 35 to provoke an emotional response from Spock. This time, it works - by the classic method - they insult his mother. So he jumps on one of them and proceeds to beat the crap out of him.

Later you see Spock about to get accepted into the Vulcan Science Academy. They note, with some disdain, that he applied also to be in Starfleet. He said he was logically applying for a backup. They tell him it isn't needed, because he is in. But then they also add he succeeded, "despite his handicap". Raised eyebrow. "What handicap?" asks Spock. "Your human mother." At which point, Spock, in polite vulcan fashion, tells them to stick it and he goes into starfleet. So again, insulting his mother is what sets Spock off, though with no green blood spilt this time. It was a beautiful moment, and it encapsulated so much of Star Trek lore and so much for Spock's character. Quninto (as Spock) is just brilliant. And it is a microcosm of what makes this movie so good. It uses tons of references to so many things in Star Trek lore, yet it is also fresh and new.

As the movie goes back to Kirk, he is 25 years old and seemingly listless. He gets into a bar and gets into a bar fight with four starfleet cadets. And frankly, Kirk is a badass. He gets his ass kicked, but still puts up a good fight, outnumbered as he is. He also meets and flirts with Uhura there. They have a running joke with that about her first name, also a nod to the original series, where she didn't have one for a while.

Kirk there is befriended by Captain Pike, who has done his dissertation on George Kirk and his final acts. This is a changed history moment, but it also has Pike telling Kirk to get into Starfleet on the shuttle leaving the next day.

Of course, he goes. And he meets McCoy on the way up - apparently the good doctor is getting a divorce and his wife "got the planet" - so despite his spacesickness and aversion to space, he goes.

Then it goes forward three years, where you see Kirk planning to take the Kobyashi Maru test for the third time. A test it turns out is designed by Commander Spock. And a test that, we all know, was the one that Kirk cheated on (as referenced in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan). Of course, you see him cheat it, casually eating an apple as he destroys all of the Klingon ships and rescues the Kobyashi Maru. It was beautiful. This results in an inquiry and Kirk put on probation - meanwhile there is an alert as the Romulan ship is now causing trouble at vulcan, though starfleet isn't aware of this. The cadets are called up to ships and off they go, which Kirk smuggled on by McCoy since he is on probation.

I won't go over all of the remaining plot points of the movie. Suffice it to say, the action is well paced and there are little nuggets of cool moments alluding to Star Trek lore EVERYWHERE. Not just with Kirk and Spoke, but with McCoy, Sulu, Chekov, Scotty, Uhura, even Pike. And yet it is all fast-paced, fun, and the characters are interesting to watch. So much is packed into such a tiny space, I have to give great kudos to the writers as well as Abrams. It truly is just about perfect.

There are a few things that are jarring. The biggest thing is the engineering section inside the ship. It reminds me more of an industrial park than a starship - lots of huge pipes going everywhere. That is the most difficult thing for me to deal with, but given how wonderful everything else was, it really did not distract me much. Another jarring thing is the phaser sounds - they sound more like shooting guns than phaser shots, but it works ok. And finally, the action sequences in space - they can get so busy with what is going on that it is hard to really see it or take it all in. Maybe that was partly because it was IMAX, but with all of the gorgeous shots of the ships and the effects, it would have been nice to be able to see it a little better than just as a blur.

Overall, an excellent movie, and it makes me excited and ready for another one with this "new" crew of old friends. Star Trek needs to go on. Given how successful it was, I'm sure there will be at least one more movie. And maybe, someday, it will come back to TV in some form or another. Hopefully with a Ron Moore at the helm rather than a Rick Berman.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

There's No Political Party for Me

There's no political party for me. And even if there somehow were, it'd probably be so small that it'd essentially be powerless anyway.

That doesn't change the fact that I'll sooner die than ever vote for the GOP, which means I need to vote Democratic or else the GOP wins. But it is sad that there really is no party I can be for.

Then again, Barney Frank on Bill Maher said something that did at least slightly brighten my hopes. He pointed out that the majority of Democrats really do vote progressive and do the things that I would probably want them to do (well, he wasn't referring to me, but I know what he meant). The problem is that the rethuglicans stick together as a block, so even if only like 20-25% of the Democrats split off, that is enough to kill any progressive legislation.

Still, a party that is 80/20 what I'd want much of the time is at least slightly encouraging, especially when the total number of Republicans may drop over the next few cycles. I really shouldn't get my hopes up too much, but maybe something good will come.

The basic problem, as always, is that the Democratic party has no backbone and the GOP is expert at ruthlessly exploiting power, even if they only have a little bit of power to exploit.

It scares me that the GOP is so completely batshit crazy right now. Anti-science, xeonophobic, theocratic (and so anti-atheist), authoritarian, and so completely hypocritical as evidenced by the instant 180 degree changes in position they had as soon as Obama took office. It boggles my mind that anyone with any intelligence at all could ever support the GOP with all of the crazy shit they are doing and saying now. I can certainly understand why people would not want to support the Democratic party, but the Democratic party, agree or disagree, is not run by batshit crazies like the GOP is. What really scares me is that the GOP, despite all of this, is going to regain power someday, and they will do it without changing one bit how they are acting now. Odds are it will happen sooner than the damage from the 8 years of Bush can be repaired, and we'll go even deeper into a hole. That's my fear.

All I can do now is hope that that doesn't happen, but I pretty much am resigned to it.

I also am hoping that we'll see torture prosecutions, or at the very least, a lot of disbarrments, but I won't hold my breath. I do know that if there aren't even disbarrments (of Bybee and Yoo and all of the other lawyers involved in the torture memos), I am going to be extremely pissed off and also sad that the rule of law is dead in this country.

I sometimes fantasize about going off and forming a colony on another planet or on a space station, founded by rational people and with a rational, rule-of-law government. A society founded by ratoinal, sensible atheists. Of course, this will not happen anytime soon, and I also fear that even if you did make a decent society that way, generations down the line, it would devolve back into madness. I wonder if there is really any way to avoid that. Oh well. I can always at least play Civilization IV and dream.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

I Just Saw the new Star Trek Movie

I just saw the new Star Trek Movie. And it was awesome! I really enjoyed it. I was going to post a review, it being Thursday, the day for entertainment around here, but I simply don't have time and need to get to bed. But I will eventually get to it, maybe tomorrow.

It was a much-needed escape from the troubles of the day. Maybe tonight I'll dream about Star Trek instead of about potentially losing my job. Woo-hoo!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Dungeons and Dragons: Role-Playing Games and Morality

There is a strange intersection between morality and role-playing games. This intersection takes several forms. The first is the one that comes to mind when people find out I play Dungeons and Dragons, which is the notion that playing the game itself is somehow immoral or evil or leads to immoral, occult things. This, of course, is nonsense based on ignorance and lies, and I've talked about it a few times before. The second is the actual morality within the framework of the game. The battle of good versus evil, and pretending to fight it. That is primarily what this post is about.

The morality of actions taken in the game can be played on several levels. There is the visceral enjoyment one can get from pretending to be someone else, assuming a character whose actions and personal morality differs from our own. At its most shallow would be the enjoyment of, say, blowing things up just for the fun of it. This really is something more likely seen in a video game than in a role-playing game. Some video games only consist of blowing things up. Others add some layers of complexity on top of that, but are still just vehicles for virtual destruction. But that tends to be more of a mindless, almost zen-relaxation sort of game playing, and really is not the core appeal of a role-playing game, which allows much more freedom of choice and many more possibilities than even the most sophisticated computer game. Anyone who has played Grand Theft Auto knows this sort of fun - stealing cars, blowing things up, speeding, running from the police. There is also a deeper RPG game even with GTA, but you can take a break from that and just spread some mayhem. I've done that with that game, I admit. It was just blowing off steam in a safe manner. That really is also more of a solo activity. I'd repeat getting caught by police over and over after a "rampage," just to see how much mayhem I could do. But that doesn't stay interesting for very long.

Dungeons and Dragons has the "hack and slash" style of play, where players just kill monsters and loot to get more stuff, but even that has some level of role-playing and character development. At the very least, there is the social interaction between the players as they go about the business of the game, and that can make for some entertaining situations all by itself.

But what I'm really interested in exploring is the deeper aspects of morality in play, where there are moral dilemnas beyond just the basic "killing evil monsters." Such things can get quite complicated in a game. Some players just go deep into the role-playing aspect of such things and there is almost no killing of monsters at all. I must admit I have never played such a deep game, but at times every game can have deep moral issues arise.

The game by default, in the various adventure modules, tends to assume players are good and motivated by doing good (with a suitable monetary reward where needed). But there is nothing in the game that absolutely requires players to be "good". Which brings me to the alignment system from D&D.

In Dungeons and Dragons, there is an alignment system with two axises. One goes from Chaotic to Neutral to Lawful, the other from Evil to Neutral to Good. Combining the two, you can go from the vilest Chaotic Evil to the most angelic Lawful Good. Right in the middle is True Neutral, where you are in the middle of both.

This alignment system was present starting with the first edition of Advanced Dungeons and Dragons and continued right up through 3.5E. They simplified it somewhat for 4E, but I'm going to stay with it for purposes of my discussion here.

And while the alignment system stayed the same for 2E, due to concerns of the ignorant (and somewhat hysterical), the owners of D&D made some changes to the monsters of the game to placate the nutty complaints that gaming was "evil." They way they did this was they took out Demons and Devils from the game. I should back up. In 1E, they had all sorts of mythical Demons and Devils in the Monster Manual. Some were from real mythology, some were made up for D&D's own mythology. They were all evil, with Demons being Chaotic Evil, and Devils Lawful Evil. They were also at war with each other. Primarily, though, Demons and Devils were meant to be mean nasty things for players to kill. In other words, they were the bad guys. They were not in the game for worship, contrary to what the wackos thought. The mere thought of such a thing was absurd to a player as it would be for someone playing monopoly to worship the thimble or the plastic houses.

With Second Edition, they took them all out, or rather, they converted them all to something like T'Nari and some other name that escapes me now. The names of the creatures themselves were the same. So a Pit Fiend was still a Pit Fiend, but instead of being a Demon, it was now a T'Nari or some such nonsense. It was so totally ridiculous, and gamers rightly mocked TSR (which then owned D&D) for it. Thankfully, when Wizards of the Coast bought the game and put out Third Edition, this was restored back to Demons and Devils. Maybe this was just because Wizards was a company owned by gamers, but I think it also reflected a maturing of the population of players. D&D was a bit more mainstream and the people who played as kids were now adults, making a living in the real world, and also, were voters. Maybe that also was part of the equation in going back. I don't know, but I am sure it helped.

As I stated earlier, there is no requirement in the game that you play "good." The game was designed around "good" heroes, or at least, adventures tended to be, but the reward aspect ("loot!") could also be a motivator for neutral or even evil parties of players. (A "party" is the term used to describe the group of characters that "run" together). But there can be problems with "evil" players.

Over the years, I've played with many different people - some long term, some just for a few games. Usually players played neutral or good characters, but occasionally, they played evil ones. Sometimes this led to some nasty results in game, with player against player, and generally was not very fun. Ultimately, the general consensus is that no matter what sort of character you play, you have to play in harmony with the rest of the players. This means an internal cohesion, even if the party itself is nominally "evil." I should explain something else now - what counts as "evil" in D&D's alignment system includes some situations that just don't come up in reality.

For example, certain magic or spells are considered "evil" no matter what you use them for. Like "animate dead", which turns corposes into mindless skeletons and zombies that do your bidding. This is always considered evil, even if you only do it to, say, make workers to help a farmer till his field or defend a good village against an evil invading army. That is just an artifact of the game system. Of course, the game is quite flexibile, so one could play it less rigidly and say that animating corpses is only good or evil based on intent, but by the rules, it is always evil.

Which brings me to the "evil" group of characters that is one of the campaigns I occasionally play in. That game is mostly played for laughs - or as we put it, we are an "evil" party that does good. We have lots of animated corposes (and other undead things) as "followers" and we do all of the "good" sorts of things "good" adventurers do, but we do it with methods most would consider "evil" within the framework of the game. That strange sort of contrast between methods and results is what causes the humor in it for us, particularly since we play it as the characters seeing themselves as do-gooders. Or, as we like to say, everyone thinks of themself as "Lawful Good" even when they are really "Chaotic Evil."

And that makes me think of, oh, Dick Cheney. Who seems to think he's doing "good" when he's really doing "evil." Or, to use D&D terms, when you torture, you are doing something that is "evil" - it doesn't matter what your ultimate reason for it is. Like "animate dead," the use of torture is always evil, no matter what it is you are trying to accomplish with it.

One last thought regards the truly nasty things one could do in a game, that of playing truly evil, depraved characters. Yes, playing Dick Cheney. Characters that torture and justify it as "good" - not some comical or fantasy evil like making zombies, but a true evil, like torture and lying to get power for its own sake, and all of the depraved things the Bush regime has done. And even things worse. Some people seem to think that such a thing is common, but as I noted above, really, it is not. Because most people, even in fantasy, simply aren't that depraved. Many players will refuse to play with even a single player who acts even slightly "evil." And no one wants to play with someone who stabs other players in the back. I've never known anyone to play in such a manner - truly depraved evil. Because even though it is an escape, I think just not being a sociopath would prevent a person from really wanting to do that, even in something that is just a game. We fantasize about being heroes, not villains.

I have often wondered if a truly evil party in a "good" game world would be an interesting thing to play - not the cartoon comic sort of "evil" that I referred to above that I have played, but a true evil. I wonder what it would be like and if it would really be something anyone would even want to do. I see that it may be an interesting intellectual challenge, sort of like pretending to be in the mob. But maybe I would not enjoy it at all. I don't know. For now, I'm content to play the hero. Even the "evil" group is really a group of heroes - we do good, save the village, or whatever. We just use means that the game considers "evil," as opposed to the depraved evil of, say, Dick Cheney.

Maybe one valuable thing that gaming provides is a safe arena to explore various aspects of morality that one could not do in real life. Or, as a guest star on the X-Files said once, "I didn't play Dungeons & Dragons for years, and not learn something about courage."

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Torture and Religion

One thing that the whole torture "debate" that is going on right now in this country ought to finally set to rest, once and for all, is the myth that religion, in particular, Christian religion, has any claims to superior morality.

The party of the Christian right; the loudest religious faction in the nation; the faction that proudly says it only votes for Christian candidates; the faction that is soaked in religion, with members living every single day, with every single little decision, based on their Christian faith (seriously - just ask them or listen to them talk). This faction is the faction that is most loudly supporting the Bush torture regime. Not just them, but their fearless GOP leaders, who of course can count on the loyalty of the religious right to support the GOP no matter what evils they support (and torture is EVIL, period). This should put to rest any notion that Christians have any superior morality.

Yes, I know they aren't 100% of the Christians in the nation, but they are the most soaked in it. They are the biggest churchgoers, going to megachurches, and smaller churches. Someone who is nominally Christian but doesn't go around quoting the bible or otherwise paying much attention to religious things doesn't count as much as a Christian for purposes of determining the religion/morality connection (or rather, lack thereof). Because the Christians don't claim that simply calling yourself a Christian is what matters, but it is actually truly being part of the religion that matters. It wouldn't really make sense otherwise. I could call myself a Christian, but really would I be one if I never went to church, believed in no gods, and thought the bible was pure mythology? (The answer is, of course, no).

If loud, unqualified support for torture is what being a right-wing Christian means, then it is clear that not only does Christianity not represent superior morality, it can actually represent a rather reprehensible kind of evil. Which is no suprise, really, but it isn't often that it is so loudly and clearly displayed for public consumption.

As Badtux noted in comments, it is funny how the party that howls about "moral relativism" from "liberals" (as a dirty word) is really the party that practices the most pernicious kind of relativism - that of all evil is good when done by their party (and all good is evil when done by the other party). I think it is an example of how they accuse others of doing what they really do themselves. That is a whole post in itself.

Monday, May 4, 2009

The Criminal Justice System Working As It Should

I came across this article last week. It details how a man facing multiple criminal charges, including rape and assault with intent to commit murder, was cut loose after none of the witnesses showed up to the preliminary hearing.

There is the obligatory deer-in-the-headlights, scary mugshot along with the story.

The story is unremarkable. The comments to the story online aren't, either. There's pissing and moaning about how horrible this is, how broken our "criminal" justice system is because this guy was let go. I think that attitude is problematic at best. He was let go for one simple reason: they had NO EVIDENCE to charge him with anything.

How anyone could consider releasing someone from jail due to lack of evidence anything but a fully functioning justice system is beyond me. You see, you can't just lock someone up because you "know" they are guilty, even though you can't actually produce any evidence to prove it. But then with a proper authoritarian mindset, I guess that just doesn't occur to you.

This is a story that actually makes me happy. Not because this guy is out on the street - he may in fact be dangerous, and that is a worry. But even MORE dangerous would be living in a society where anyone could be locked up for a crime that the authorities have no evidence of. That's not justice. Letting him go due to lack of evidence, that is justice. To anyone who would complain that this puts society at risk, I counter, society is already dead if we did otherwise. Because if they can lock him up with no evidence, then they can lock anyone up with no evidence. By the way, that would also include YOU.

So I see this is a positive thing. The system worked, in a small way. Too bad it doesn't work better.

(By the way, just because the charges were dropped, doesn't mean they can't be reinstated later. If they can get the evidence, they can prosecute. If not, tough luck. That's the price we pay to actually live in a free society of laws.)