2:28 PM|W|P|Nathan|W|P|

Blogging from Asia

Sounds cool, huh? But I ain't gonna do it, in all likelihood.

You see, I have to go get my son. In a Made for TV Lifetime Original, I have to rescue my son from the evil clutches of his Grandparents, who are cruelly holding him hostage in a distant, exotic land.

Not really, of course.

He's been staying with his grandparents and learning Chinese while I was away on business, so my wife wouldn't have to contend with TWO children under the age of three. He's had a good time, but he's ready to come home and buy James and Edward (two trains in the Thomas Train Engine series). He already has Thomas and Percy. He also misses his little sister.

Anyway, I will be gone until mid-December. I may have time to blog, I may not. If anything interesting happens, I'll certainly blog it when I get back.

In any case, I'll try to blog right up until my departure, but if I suddenly fall silent, it's cuz I ran out of time to say goodbye, k?
|W|P|84944438|W|P||W|P|2:23 PM|W|P|Nathan|W|P|


I don't know if anyone reads the comments, so I'm going to bring this up to the main level:

Jo wrote in the comments of my Thoughts on the Legal System, Part One:

I don't know, I hate to say it but I think our system works pretty well overall. Given, there are the OJs of the world who can afford a parade of lawyers to circumvent justice. However, I think our system of court-appointed counsel works well, I've never personally known of any "horror stories" involving pro bono attorneys. They are, after all, still well-educated counselors of law.

Once, I saw a friend of mine get thrown in jail for a week (until we could help him with bail) because his exgirlfriend said he hurt her. Given, she was indeed laden with bruises, the police took pictures. But the night the supposed violence took place, he'd been in a town forty miles away from her...with us. It made no matter. He stayed in jail. We tried to explain, the police waved us off and said "tell it to the judge".

Her story inevitably unraveled before we had the opportunity. The court determined her current boyfriend had hit her, she was angry at the ex so used the bruises as an opportunity to hurt him. And did she ever.

My point of that story is, assuming guilt is dead wrong. My friend lost his job because of it, but he could have lost years off of his life in jail had her lie not been unveiled.

All should be presumed innocent. it's only fair.

My response:

I'm not sure if this anecdote contradicts or agrees with my point.

After all, he was arrested. So much for presumption of innocence.

Our system purports to presume he was innocent, but the reality is he was punished for a false accusation. He lost his job.

If we tweaked our system a little bit, adjusting it in the direction I'm suggesting (to be fair, you only heard the first part, and I haven't exactly put forth my argument consistently or coherently), he would not have even been put into the legal system until more than just her word was put forth. If a grand jury had then said he was guilty and needed to disprove it, then at least his success in disproving it would have been exoneration. Currently, since he was "presumed innocent", the police were under no obligation to provide any exonerating statement, and he lost his job. Sure, there would be people who would flee before they could have an initial guilt determined.

But in the system I'm imagining, flight would mean an automatic conviction at the highest penalty for that crime. If you murdered someone and didn't wait to get arrested, you just confessed and would be put on death row without appeal when you were finally caught. See, I want to rewrite the system to actual encourage confession and 'taking your medicine'.

And his whole tribulation would never have happened if there were consistent penalties against false witness.

One thing I forgot to add: Many of my musings are based on the idea that there are four categories of guilt:
1) intentional and unrepentant
2) unintentional and unrepentant
3) intentional and repentant
4) unintentional and repentant

The first category should get the heaviest penalties. The fourth should get the lightest. Unfortunately, the truly evil are in the first category, and they get away with it more than half the time (I'm guessing). The truly good are usually in the last category; they didn't mean to and really are sorry, and so are most likely to do the right thing and plead guilty...and so are most likely to be punished.

This is wrong.

Our legal system rewards lying and evasion. The best liars and best actors with the richest and oiliest lawyers get away with the most. I'm convinced this is why we cannot eliminate organized crime or the drug trade and why we have career criminals. The "Three Strikes" rule was intended to solve many of the problems I've brought up, but failed horribly. And it failed because it failed to close any loopholes in the system, a system in which the people with the poorest ethics have the most freedom.

You cannot create a system that depends on people acting on their best behavior in order for the system to be successful (listen up, liberals!). There are always people who will exploit any weakness to their own benefit. You must anticipate possible loopholes and evasions and design a system that will work even when people are selfish, immoral, dishonest, and greedy. You have to set up the system to punish undesirable behavior and (relative to the punishment) reward desirable behavior. And then about 50 years later you have to throw it out and start over with a new system once the people with the poorest ethics have found all the loopholes.

We do it with taxes. We do it with promotion systems in the military. We do it in many different places. Our political system needs an overhaul, soon. But today I'm just talking about the legal system that desperately needs the overhaul. Thoughts on the political system will come next week.
|W|P|84944245|W|P||W|P|1:57 PM|W|P|Nathan|W|P|

Legal System Thoughts, Part II

The reason this came in parts is I ran out of time on Wednesday. This might not flow too smoothly, but bear with me.

I'm not advocating adopting an arbitrary and inconsistent legal system like China's. I am, however, saying ours needs to be improved.

We always assume someone is innocent until proven guilty. One of the side effects of this is the painful attempts to crowbar the word "alleged" in front of every accusation. Unfortunately, the reality of our legal system doesn't really conform to the principle. Our police don't make much effort to look for other possibilities once they feel they have the right suspect in custody. Our system of using a Grand Jury means someone isn't brought to trial unless someone has already decided there is enough evidence to warrant a trial. I'm not sure if this is done in every case or only felonies...

But aren't there some cases in which we can assume guilt and force the suspect to prove innocence? How about with clear DNA evidence? In certain crimes (bloody murders and in many rapes), the automatic use of DNA testing should be able to determine the overwhelming likelihood of guilt or innocence, and the only point needing further debate is whether there was a deliberate frame. Doesn't the DNA evidence provide a better assurance of preventing an innocent from being jailed than the presumption of innocence itself?

Another thing that irritates me about our system is that any mistake by the law enforcement agencies can result in a conviction being overturned, even if the mistake had nothing to do with the crime. Sometimes this makes good sense. People ask if you think OJ Simpson was guilty or was framed to look like he was guilty. Can't the answer be both? There are movies and stories in which policemen who are so sick of seeing clearly guilty people going free that they will plant evidence to "slam dunk" a conviction.

I would like changes to be made to encourage more perpetrators to confess. One of things I like about the feudalism-era Chinese legal system is every conviction came only from confession. I just don't think beating people is a good way to elicit the confession, and the rules we have against that are good. I also like the idea of videotaping all interrogations to prevent forcing confessions from innocent.

But I get irritated when we have a maximum sentence for a crime, because the sentence is usually negotiated down from there. A liberal judge can act on his/her own and reduce, suspend or commute a sentence even when a jury has returned a conviction. Ever situation is different, of course, but I have to say that is ridiculous.

Even more ridiculous is the idea that a criminal can plead innocent, then if it looks like he is going to be convicted, he can change his plea to guilty to get a reduced sentence. Plea bargaining is a curse on our system, I think. I realize it sometimes allows the government or the prosecution to ensure a conviction at a lower level instead of risking not getting a conviction for a greater charge. But I would suggest that if someone has committed a crime, they deserve the full sentence; if they choose to fight it by pleading innocent, they should be hit with further penalties for forcing society to spend money and effort in trying to convict them. In other words, we should assume it is a citizen's responsibility to confess and take his punishment willingly, and if he does not, further penalties should be imposed.

I also like the idea that false accusers should be punished fairly severely. Therefore, we should establish a payment system in which there is a standard recompense for false convictions of an innocent person, and suits and arrests based on false information. If the government harasses someone who is eventually found innocent, the government should pay. If the government harasses someone because his ex- or enemy made a false accusation, that ex- or enemy should be penalized for wasting government time and effort as well as the accused.

Finally, I don't like the way our situation is set up for privileged information. I think any direct family member should be given the right of privileged information. By this I mean not just spouse, but also children, parents and siblings (but not cousins, aunts/uncles, etc). On the other hand, lawyers should not be exempt. If they know their client is guilty but still represent them as innocent, they should be punished. Sure, this would make it tougher to mount a defense. But it would mean someone who was actually guilty would have to withhold information from their lawyer or risk having their lawyer quit, which would hamper defense and encourage a guilty confession. It would also simplify defense tactics, because you wouldn't have excellent lawyers making millions by getting guilty people off on technicalities. Lawyers would be encouraged to investigate on their own to determine guilt or innocence to protect themselves; this might save society time and effort. The guilty would be forced to represent themselves. It would eliminate the "Sure, the action was against the law, but that law doesn't apply to me because (fill in the blank)..." argument for pleading "Not Guilty By Reason Of..."

Well, I ran out of time again. I haven't even had time to proof read this. I will tomorrow morning, though, and try to fill in any gaps.

My refrain: There's gotta be a better way....
|W|P|84943237|W|P||W|P|5:52 PM|W|P|Nathan|W|P|

Thoughts on our Legal System, Part I

I've been reading about China's legal system over the past few days. From modern standards, their system is pretty messed up and arbitrary. They didn't have the Magna Carta like we did, in which the people rose up and demanded a consistent, written legal system to rein in the power of the aristocracy. So although China's system was superior to Western systems prior to that point, ours has developed and theirs hasn't.

But it did make me think of some of the problems still present in ours.

Here's what I liked about China's legal system: If you testified, whether for or against, and your testimony was later proven to be incorrect (you testified for the accused and he was found guilty, or you testified against and he was found innocent), you were punished as well. If the accused was found innocent, the accuser was punished. No judgement was ever just 'rendered', because a conviction could only come about by confession. Of course, a confession achieved by beating was acceptable. If the accused stuck to his story, the accuser would then be beaten until he confessed the false accusation. I don't consider the beatings to be a good thing, no.

But China also assumed guilt unless proven innocent (by the accusers giving in before the accused). Sometimes I wonder if that isn't a better way to go.

After all, our system doesn't seem concerned at all with "justice" as much as a fair trial. But what is fair? Rich clients hiring lawyers better than the prosecution, loopholes to prevent abuse, liberal judges, etc, seem to prevent justice at a high rate.

Our system is predicated on the idea that it is better for one hundred guilty to go free than for one innocent to be convicted. Fine. I guess I can handle that... But what about setting 1000 guilty free to prevent one innocent from being convicted. 100,000? 1,000,000? Where do you draw the line? Particularly since it seems the innocent are still being convicted anyway.

Does DNA testing affect this at all? Since we have a better way to ascertain guilt or innocence in some (probably less than 10%) of all cases, can we close some of the loopholes that allow many convicted criminals to go free now?

|W|P|84845770|W|P||W|P|5:49 PM|W|P|Nathan|W|P|


I'm just having a hard time finding opportunities to blog. I'm busy at work, and even busier at home.

My first priority is to my wife, and then to my children. We have been fixing up our house (recently purchased) and most evenings are a miasma of sawdust and hand tools. But when we aren't working on the house, I have several hobbies, mostly self-education, that take up what little free time I have. Here's what I'm up to (not in order of priority).

I am fluent in Chinese, and it takes time to maintain my ability. I also am trying to fashion myself as an expert in China, both for my current job and future jobs in this career and after I retire from the military. Sometimes the two coincide, because I can read about China in Chinese, or watch a documentary on the new dam or the Great Wall or something on the Chinese channel we get by satellite.

I'm trying to improve professionally as an Air Force Officer, which means learning as much as I can about Blue, Gray, and Red air and air defense systems, Air Force history and doctrine, Leadershp, and management.

I am a Christian, and I try to spend some time every day reading the Bible, but also I'm trying to work on several books of apologetics, theology, and Christian self-improvement.

I love playing guitar, and I'm really trying to figure out how to be able to play jazz freely and easily. I can memorize songs, but that's not the same as intuitively understanding, or internalizing its structure.

I want to be a writer, and I have a good idea for a novel, but I can't find the time currently to spend the hour every day on it that it needs. I want to finish it because it represents the best hope (not realistic chance) of making my family truly financially secure.

I still feel I have some good things to say about society, and gender differences, about politics. Hence this blog. But I can't just write, I have to continually read and learn from other people to make what I share here worth anything.

Honestly, blogging is the lowest priority for all these. But I still want to do it, or I wouldn't be writing this. I had plenty of time to blog while deployed. For now, it's just a matter of making it routine, of establishing a routine and finding a place for blogging. One of the reasons I have been relatively successful in many areas is I subscribe to and take advantage of the 80/20 rule. I use the 20% of a given time to get the 80% benefit, but I don't waste the other 80% of time chasing after the final 20% of improvement. I switch gears and spend the next 20% chunk of time on another hobby, getting the 80% benefit again. I hope that makes sense. If not, email me and maybe I'll devote more space to explaining that better.

Bear with me, please. I promise I'll make Brainfertilizer a place worth checking every day.

|W|P|84845672|W|P||W|P|7:28 PM|W|P|Nathan|W|P|


No time to blog today. I'll try extra hard to get something controversial posted tomorrow.