Morning Ed: Law & Order {2017.04.10.M}

So, uhhh, what’s going on with mayors in the Pacific Northwest and rape?

Hurm. If we have the tapes, we ought to be able to use them, it seems to me.

On the other hand, they have free health care. Or had it, anyway.

Now Hiring: Execution Witnesses.

Authorities have been listening where they ought not be listening.

Twenty-five million here, twenty-five million there, and sooner or later you’re talking about real money.


Is reefer madness returning? {via Jaybird}

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Will Truman is a former professional gearhead who is presently a stay-at-home father in the Mountain East. He has moved around frequently, having lived in six places since 2003, ranging from rural outposts to major metropolitan areas. He also writes fiction, when he finds the time. ...more →

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75 thoughts on “Morning Ed: Law & Order {2017.04.10.M}

  1. The execution witness thing: one of the dystopian nightmares I have is that ordinary citizens are selected by lottery to be execution witnesses, and my number comes up, so I have to go watch someone die.

    I’m not surprised that Arkansas is having a hard time finding execution witnesses; that’s kind of ghoulish.

    (I WOULD sit at the bedside of a loved one who was dying. It would be hard but I would do it. It is different when it is a stranger and that death is coming at the hands of the State.)


        • He flew back to Arkansas both to show that would enforce the death penalty as part of his campaign and to make sure the execution went ahead as the governor. Some folks have said he did it to take publicity off of his Flowers affair. I don’t think he actually witnessed it.


        • Strangely enough, Hillary didn’t make a point of flying back to DC for that DNC analyst…

          The world does not need more Clintons (and my friend, who’s worked for the Clintons for nearly thirty years, would concur).


      • Why should they be required to? Do you think they bear some sort of responsibility for the sentence? Maybe the jurors and the defense attorney as well then?


        • Maybe the jurors

          If the jury imposes the death sentence (rather than just a verdict), then yeah, they should. I mean, you are condemning a person to death. If you are uncomfortable watching them die, perhaps you shouldn’t be so quick to condemn.

          There is value in being required to bear witness to the effects of decisions.


            • Why, the penalty shouldn’t have anything to do with peoples feelings, just the facts and law.

              I tend to think the desire for punition itself is a merely an expression of people feelings, so it’s gonna be hard to eliminate feelings from any analysis or justification re: punishment.


              • Ok, we’ll try again. The jurors are disinterested parties specifically so that feelings don’t sway them. Yes we are all human and have feelings, or at least more folks do, but the idea that someone is going to vote not guilty despite the facts b/c 20 years in seems too long a sentence is just silly.


                • Except jury nullification that results from prosecutorial over-reach is a thing.

                  So yes, feeling matter, they always matter, because juries are never truly disinterested parties.

                  Don’t be so obtuse.


                  • Juries are picked via the process know as voir dire to ensure that they aren’t family members, have a financial interest, knowledge of the case or have already formed an opinion about the case, etc. This by any standard leads to the jurors being disinterested parties.


        • As I understand it, sentences are requested by the prosecutor and approved by the judge.

          If for any reason, a particular judge or prosecutor was uninvolved in the sentencing decision, they get a pass.

          The jury is treated differently because they do not volunteer for their positions nor are they employed by the state and given vast powers throughout the process of determining guilt and punishment.

          We’re really getting asswhackey here. One oft offered response to objections to the death penalty is, “Hey, if you can’t serve the time, don’t do the crime.” But now it’s being argued that prosecutors and judges should be shielded from the consequences of their decisions.

          It is almost as if, instead of some sort of underlying principle informing these arguments, something else is…


        • How so? If something is just and you are charged with pursuing justice and are offered all sorts of powers of the state to aid in that pursuit, then why would it be a conflict to see that just thing happen?

          If a prosecutor or judge are unwilling to sentence someone to death because they are unwilling to witness the execution, I would say that either A) the sentence is wrong or B) they do not deserve the power offered to them by that position.


          • Sorry, , I just now saw your comment. I was thinking along the lines of what P D Shaw says just below. I presume the role of the witness is to make sure the prisoner’s rights aren’t violated or isn’t put through undue pain. A death-penalty-supporting prosecutor and a judge (or at least a “hangin’ judge”) won’t necessarily have as strong a motivation as a supposedly unbiased witnessed.

            I realize I’m making assumptions here about prosecutors and judges and about whether we can find a witness sufficiently wary of the death penalty (and yet who is also willing to watch an execution).

            ETA: I have no strong objection to compelling the prosecutor and judge to watch the execution. I just think that if we are to have the death penalty (which I oppose) then we should have witnesses who do not represent the victims or the state.


      • I believe the purpose of the witness is to safeguard the process; make sure that the punishment is conducted in a dignified fashion. Otherwise, prison guards could be witnesses. I believe its common for defense attorneys to act as witnesses, as well as clergy. Not so certain about family. Really it should be someone skeptical of the death penalty that serves, though most would find it difficult.


  2. The weird thing about the Reefer Madness link is that it doesn’t make sense to crack down on Medicinal at this point. How many states have legalized pot now? Looks like 28 plus DC (and 8 (!) of those have legalized recreational).

    Of course, the magic number is not 28 but 38… but it still appears that a tipping point has happened on a national level.

    I’m not sure that going for “We’ve added a new schedule: Schedule Zero” will work out anywhere close to the way that Sessions might imagine it would.

    If anything, we’ll just go back to the days of “do you want to grow heirloom tomatoes in your basement? (wink wink)” days.


    • The marijuana caucus in Congress has introduced a package of bills that would remove marijuana from the controlled substances list entirely and create an alcohol-like system of tax and regulation.

      A pair of US Representatives from Florida (one D, one R) have introduced a separate bill to move marijuana to Schedule III, which would make its federal status legal-by-prescription.


      • Fingers are crossed. I rather expect it to be killed in committee by someone who is deeply concerned that this will put us in violation of some treaty that (figuratively) nobody in any of those 28 states cares about and (literally) nobody in the other 22 cares about.


    • “If anything, we’ll just go back to the days of “do you want to grow heirloom tomatoes in your basement? (wink wink)” days.”

      Wait, that’s a thing? Man, have I been sending out mixed messages.


      • It certainly was in Colorado. Radio ads for “Grow Warehouse” allowing you to enjoy heirloom tomatoes year ’round, no matter what the weather outside is like!

        I complained about it in the car “are there so very many tomato enthusiasts in Colorado Springs?” I asked. “Listening to the alt rock station?”

        Everybody else in the car got really quiet.


    • Never underestimate the fanaticism of a true believer. As it became rapidly clear that Prohibition was not working and that the Volstead Act needed to be amended to reflect what most people thought Prohibition would be like, light beers and wine still legal, the Drys held firm. It took the Great Depression and massive electoral victories of the Democratic Party to defeat Prohibition.


    • I’m with Lee here but I also think that the “War on Drugs” is really about race and not really about the substances. You can’t look at drug panics in the United States without examining the racial angle.

      For Sessions this is not about the dangers of marijuana, it is about the dangers of Brown-skinned people.


      • Last I checked, the war in drugs is also being fought in white parts of the country. And it’s worth noting at the outset Adair amount if it was supported and encouraged by minorities.

        Race is certainly a component, but it’s silly to reduce it to that.


      • Huh. I expected a “Libertarians don’t care about the inner cities and just want to keep women and minorities sedated!”

        Good. Hey, if we can paint Republicans as racist, surely the War On Drugs will be well and truly doomed this time.


        • I think you misunderstand. I am separating libertarians and Republicans here. I also stating what I think really drives and has always driven anti-narcotic animus and why people are still opposed and Jeff Sessions wants to reamp it back up.


  3. RE: “twenty-five million” (register of copyrights)

    An interesting bit from the article:
    “[Lofgren] was trying to add an amendment to the bill that would still allow the Librarian of Congress to fire the Register of Copyrights if necessary (under the bill presented, only the President can fire the Register).”

    This is an important thing to remember about the Federal bureaucracy. Congress doesn’t control it. This thing where Congress has to pass an actual law to get any sort of control whatsoever, this is the current state of government.

    And, from the comments at the end, some perspective on the “twenty-five million”:

    You are intermingling budget submissions and talking papers.

    The actual budget submission for the Library of Congress are far more detailed than the talking papers you linked. This, for example, is the actual FY 2017 submission from the Library of Congress that provides detailed budgets, some descriptions, and justifications. (link to the 2017 copyright office budget justification document)

    These numbers usually get “synopsized” in talking papers, or in this case, the written statement of testimony supporting the real budget request. This statement is the one you linked, (link to Senate budget testimony)

    It should be accurate, sure. But it’s not the budget document that Congress approves, it’s really just a discussion paper. As budgets are being adjusted within departments, these talking papers are prepped, and then adjusted *after* the real budget documents are changed. Then staff are scrambling to make sure all old copies are thrown away, etc.

    In this case, Congress is right about picking at the error in testimony, but the Librarian is also correct in saying that it’s a place holder. It’s not there for Congress to approve. It’s there to answer questions about the line items. Some staffer probably just screwed up and didn’t transcribe a number from one document to the other.

    Right now, it’s easy for Congress to snatch this up and use it to flog the Librarian. But the rest of us should remember that’s just a political ploy, because Congress should remember that in the bigger scheme, the Librarian is correct, it doesn’t really matter, it’s not what Congress is approving, and it is subject to simple human error. Lofgren should be looking at the actual, detailed budget submission and making sure that it’s what’s being approved.


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