Thursday, November 19, 2009

The "War on Drugs" and the Bill of Rights

I don't have anything to do with drugs and recommend everybody on the planet do the same; every drug problem in the world would vanish within five days if the whole world were to do that...

Nonetheless that's never going to happen, hence the "War on Drugs(TM)", instituted under Richard Nixon. This is the single biggest issue I have with Republicans and there is little if anything to choose between demmy and pubby pols on the issue. The "war on drugs" leads to

  • "No-knock" raids, which are a clear violation of the fourth amendment and of the common law principle of a man's home being his "castle". In fact technically a homeowner who were to shoot and kill one or more government agents in the process of conducting a "no knock" raid would be entirely within his or her rights.
  • The incarceration of large numbers of people who would otherwise never have had contact with prison systems. For many this amounts to a career training program for serious crime.
  • Gang wars, drive-by shootings and the like.
  • Corruption, the rise of drug cartels, and outright civil wars in other nations which supply drugs to the illegal drug enterprises here.

It is that final item which some would use as a pretext to eviscerate the second amendment, which is the link pin of the entire bill of rights. Consider the following from the former head of U.S. Customs and Border Protection under the Bush administration no less:

Washington Times article

"The former head of U.S. Customs and Border Protection called Monday for the U.S. to reinstitute the ban on assault weapons and take other measures to rein in the war between Mexico and its drug cartels, saying the violence has the potential to bring down legitimate rule in that country.

Former CBP Commissioner Robert C. Bonner also called for the United States to more aggressively investigate U.S. gun sellers and tighten security along its side of the border, describing the situation as "critical" to the safety of people in both countries, whether they live near the border or not.

Mexico, for its part, needs to reduce official corruption and organize its forces along the lines the U.S. does, such as a specialized border patrol and a customs agency with a broader mandate than monitoring trade, Mr. Bonner said in an exchange of e-mails.

"Border security is especially important to breaking the power and influence of the Mexican-based trafficking organizations," Mr. Bonner said. "Despite vigorous efforts by both governments, huge volumes of illegal drugs still cross from Mexico..."

The problem here clearly is not guns and it is clearly a problem of economics. The drugs one of these idiots would use in a day under rational circumstances would cost a dollar; that would simply present no scope for crime or criminals. Under present circumstances that dollar's worth of drugs is costing the user $300 a day and since that guy is dealing with a 10% fence, he's having to commit $3000 worth of crime to buy that dollar's worth of drugs. In other words, a dollar's worth of chemicals has been converted into $3000 worth of crime, times the number of those idiots out there, times 365 days per year, all through the magic of stupid laws. No nation on Earth could afford that forever.

A rational set of drug laws would:

  • Legalize marijuana and all its derivatives and anything else demonstrably no more harmful than booze on the same basis as booze.
  • Declare that heroine, crack cocaine, and other highly addictive substances would never be legally sold on the streets, but that those addicted could shoot up at government centers for the fifty-cent cost of producing the stuff, i.e. take every dime out of that business for criminals.
  • Provide a lifetime in prison for selling LSD, PCP, and/or other Jeckyl/Hyde
  • Same for anybody selling any kind of drugs to kids.

Do all of that, and the drug problem and 70% of all urban crime will vanish within two years. That would be an optimal solution; but you could simply legalize it all and still be vastly better off than we are now. 150 Years ago, there were no drug laws in America and there were no overwhelming drug problems. How bright do you really need to be to figure that one out?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Thoughts on Capital Punishment and American Justice in General

The subject comes up now and then with cases such as that of the D.C. region sniper John Mohamed, recently executed in the state of Virginia.

As a general rule I cannot support a death penalty in America at this point in time; too many ways it resembles giving the Ronnie Earles, Janet Renos, Scott Harshbargers, and Mike Nifongs of the world a license to kill people.

In theory at least I've got nothing against hanging somebody like Manson, Dennis Rader, Paul Bernardo, John Mohamed...

Nonetheless I'd want several changes to the system before I could feel good about capital punishment anymore.

1. Guilt should be beyond any doubt whatsoever; the usual criteria of guilt "beyond a reasonable doubt" clearly doesn't cut it for hanging somebody.

2. The person in question must represent a continuing threat to society should he ever escape or otherwise get loose. The "bird man" of Alcatraz would not qualify, John Mohamed clearly would.

3. I'd want all career/money incentives for convicting people of crimes gone which would mean scrapping the present "adversarial" system of justice in favor of something like the French "inquisitorial" system in which the common objective of all parties involved was a determination of facts.

4. I'd want there to be no societal benefit to keeping the person alive. Cases in which this criteria would prevent hanging somebody would include "Son of Sam" who we probably should want to study more than hang, or Timothy McVeigh who clearly knew more than the public ever was allowed to hear.

Given all of that I could feel very good about hanging Charles Manson, John Muhammed, or Paul Bernardo, but that's about what it would take.

In fact in a totally rational world the job of District Attorney as it is known in America would not exist. NOBODY should ever have any sort of a career or money incentive for sending people to prison, much less for executing people. The job of District Attorney in America seems to involve almost limitless power and very little resembling accountability and granted there is no shortage of good people who hold the job, the combination has to attract the wrong kinds of people as well.

They expected DNA testing to eliminate the prime suspect in felony cases in something like one or two percent of cases and many people were in states of shock when that number came back more like 33 or 35%. That translates into some fabulous number of people sitting around in prisons for stuff they don't know anything at all about since the prime suspect in a felony case usually goes to prison. Moreover, in a state like Texas which executes a hundred people a year or thereabouts, that has to translate into innocent people being executed on a fairly regular basis.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

The Need for a Voters' Bill of Rights

America needs a voters' bill of rights.

The first item of such a bill HAS TO BE runoff elections or instant runoff elections for all public offices. Nobody should ever need fear to vote his first choice, at least on a first ballot, and nobody should ever hold any public office with less than 50% of the vote.

There should also be a None-Of-Above choice on all ballots for public office and if that choice ever wins, then the other candidates should be barred for life from holding any public office and the parties sponsoring them should be barred for at least ten years from sponsoring candidates for that particular office. The penalty for running dead wood for public offices should be severe.

Another item on such a voters' bill of rights should be something which would eliminate voting fraud for all time and if that means getting rid of the secret ballot or at least limiting it somehow or other, so be it, we're paying too high a price for it. Somehow or other it has to be possible to check up on votes when there are questions or evidence of fraud.

Another necessary item on such a list would be a provision that when a president is impeached and removed, his VP goes out the door with him and the office is either vacant until the next election or an emergency election is held to fill the office for the remainder of the current term. Granted removing a president should be difficult but it should not be impossible and if we couldn't remove Slick, we'd not have been able to remove Hitler or Nero either.

What happened in 98/99 was that Trent Lott simply refused to hand the presidency over to Al Gore with a year to go on Slick's second term, for obvious reasons. The situation should not be possible.

For that matter, in industry, when a particular job goes for more than a decade without attracting good people, the solution is sometimes to abolish the job...