Lock up the *ssholes
A favorite reader, ABD, writes in:
Those people thought their God would protect them. In fact, they believed their God spoke to them and guided them through the maze of evil that the non-believers wove around them. Instead, as their numbers grew and grew, as resources dwindled, the people were frightened their God had deserted them.
Tell me what religious freedom is. Tell me what freedom is. Forget the religious part. Freedom is "exemption or liberation from the control of some other person or some arbitrary power ; liberty; independence. Exemptions from arbitrary restrictions on a specified civil right." (Webster's New World, 4th ed.)
I still do not know what freedom is. I think it is a concept that doesn't really exist in the purest sense of the definition. It can't. The mere quality of being in a physical state, of our awareness being married to our physical self denies us freedom. And from there, from the moment of birth, the concept of freedom is really elusive. I think you are only truly free when you accept that you are not.
And what defines a persons 'right' to anything? It is all arbitrary. People are guided by selfish, self-sustaining motives. There is nothing religious about religion. It may as well be a form of government as it functions by all the same principles and can be as destructive and confining to its people. I think religious freedom is an oxymoron. It's like saying you have the freedom to not be free. But since you are already not free, it's not really a choice in which case the government shouldn't make laws protecting something that doesn't exist. And then we could just arrest people for being assholes.
Every so often someone I know bisects the world in a way that makes me say, wow, let's extend that thought to everything
. What if we reduced the moral basis for law and instead instituted penalties for various degrees of assholeness?
First, we'd see a return to civil society. People would be polite and respectful of one another, for fear of being prosecuted by their peers. Jury trials would be more effective, as determining if someone is an asshole or not is easily proven within a few days on the stand.
It doesn't matter how good a lawyer you have if the principal criterion on the stand is not the facts, but your attitude.
We'd end up with a kinder, gentler society, admittedly with a lot more people (from all walks of life) either in prison or attending charm school, or both.
So, this leads me up to two pieces of news of today:
Hans Reiser has been convicted of first degree murder
, and faces 25 years to life in prison.
I found most of the circumstantial evidence against him tenuous at best, as I wrote when he first took the stand
, but there was enough of it by the end for me to think second degree murder a likely outcome. There did not seem to be any evidence of premeditation, indeed, purchasing the books he purchased a week after his wife's disappearance suggested not only innocence, but lack of pre-mediation. He may have hated her, but he hadn't planned out killing her.
The internet thought differently, a poll of wired readers showed 62% not guilty. This reminds me
of a study done years ago (don't know the name of it) where trials were recreated for new juries by using purely recorded audio, and via using transcripts only.
In this case the transcript readers voted not guilty, those that got to see the legal theatrics and the man in person voted the maximum penalty.
If Reiser hadn't taken the stand and proved himself an asshole of the first degree, perhaps he'd have got off more lightly. I'm glad he took the stand and had a chance to defend himself in his own words, in his own internal framework. Sometimes the dialog became surreal, yet eloquent, with a hard edge of truth that rang outside the narrowness of the case itself:
Attorney: "What, if anything, might you have done that could have caused Nina to disappear?"
Reiser: "I opened the door."
Reiser: "Only the lawyers win in divorces."
Reiser: "... before the divorce, I believed very much in the legal system, and I thought ours was superior to Russia's."
Reiser: "I don't think anybody would conduct themselves in a menacing manner in front of the police."
Reiser recounted an incident in which Nina saw a "wonderful old man shaped like a bowling ball, and she walked up to him and stroked him on the tummy and said, 'There's nothing but muscle here,' and he just beamed, and he just loved it. And that was Nina."
Reiser: "Marriage is altruistic in the financial sense. It's a lot cheaper to hire a housekeeper."
Paul Hora asks about "where the file system was".
Reiser: "That's like asking where cyberspace is."
Reiser: "I don't think she really appreciated it when the cat chose to join me on the couch" .
Reiser: "Would you like me to tell you what Shelly Gordon said to me in a way that would make it hard for the prosecution to object?"
Did Reiser had any problems with Nina's new boyfriend, Anthony Zografos?
No, Reiser said, because Zografos "isn't into cannibalism."
Reiser: "She has the most beautiful voice. She has the most beautiful voice of anyone I have ever met. To this day."
Reiser: "She has more people skills than any lawyers in this county."
Reiser:"Most romances end up being a waste of time, if you look at them with excessive logical analysis. I prefer to not look at romance logically and analytically."
Reiser: "The problem here is that you think you can smile at me and I will forget. Those who anger slowly, cool slowly."
Reiser: "I don't have a great deal of desire to give the government all my possessions. Not my underwear, not my car and definitely not my children."
Hora asked if Reiser "intentionally decreased the value of the revenue" of Namesys as part of the divorce proceedings to keep money away from Nina, and Reiser said, "I would have liked to have enough revenue to be able to decrease it."
"There's no possibility that I have not touched that post in the last 30 years of living in that house."
"How smart are you?" Hora asked.
"Not very," Reiser said.
"Are you a genius?"
"No, but I can fake it."
"What's your IQ?"
"I haven't taken an IQ test."
"You claim to be world-famous, right?"
Reiser said he's had the occasion to write that on papers, yes.
Hora commented that he'd never heard of Reiser's file system before. He asked if the reason Reiser has described himself as a world-famous, internationally-renowned scientist was because he believed he was such a person. Reiser said yes.
"Still do?" Hora asked.
"I think the word 'renowned' is no longer appropriate," Reiser said.
I understand, now, in the adversarial justice system America has, why lawyers counsel not taking the stand in your own defense.
Reiser will appeal, but we won't be hearing from him much, although I imagine he'll become another Birdman of Alcatraz. Given good behavior in prison, Reiser will be able to access a computer again, although it will probably be running Windows.
Given the DoD connection, I doubt that his hard drives will ever be heard from again.
I don't think we'll ever know if he was truly guilty of anything more than being an asshole.
In other news, the first piece of hard evidence towards abuse at the FLDS settlement has been announced to the press. (I note that the individuals involved have been banned from talking to the press
). Apparently 31 of the 54 girls between the ages of 14 and 17 have been or were pregnant
I want to make clear that I don't approve of old men sleeping with 14 year olds, OK? I do note that that that was legal under Texas law until 2006. I do note that spread of the figures immediately suspicious, and biased toward the prosecution: Why not publish numbers for 14,15 (clearly illegal under current law), 16 (maybe), 17 (not)...
As a blogger, and a person, my empathy always goes towards the underdogs. In this case my immediate view was to respect religious tolerance. Anytime I see police tanks roll up to a settlement (and I refuse to call the place a compound, the pictures show otherwise), my head fills up with scenes from Warsaw in 1939
, one place among many, where people were different enough to be enslaved and gassed.
My thinking here has evolved somewhat, based on new evidence and research, but its too much to go into in one posting.
The thing is: I believe in the law; it's all we have that keeps us even mildly civil to each other.
And I freely confess that I may have been an asshole.
Labels: FLDS, hans reiser