Spontaneous Premeditation

‘Denial of parole requires premeditation. Despite the jury accepting the murder was a “spur-of-the-moment” crime, they also found it was premeditated. As one juror explained it, premeditated meant not only planning hours or days ahead, but could also mean planning in the seconds before committing a spur-of-the-moment crime.’

From a Wiki article about the Peterson Case, the subject of “The Staircase” on Netflix.

Juries can be stupid.

Okay, so once upon a time long ago, Congress passes a bunch of laws and creates the criminal code.  They choose to make a distinction between murders that are planned in advance– “pre-meditated”– and murders that occur in a violent outburst of rage.  They decide that punishment for a murder calculatedly planned in advance should be more severe because the perpetrator consciously intended to commit a foul crime and, given time and the opportunity to reconsider and amend his intentions, he, instead, follows through on his homicidal plan.  Whereas, a murder committed in the heat of the moment is something the perpetrator may instantly regret, and it is an urge that only came over him in that brief engagement with the victim.  He may repent of his action and perhaps he is redeemable.

This brilliant jury decided they would develop a new philosophy of criminal intent, and a new psychology of the criminal mind.  So “premeditated” now means that the culprit was conscious during the commission of the crime, and, in the instant before he swung the club or pulled the trigger or pushed someone onto the subway tracks– in that instant, he plotted.  He meditated before the act.  He pre-meditated.  So they apply the concept of pre-meditation to precisely the one thing that it was never intended not to apply to.

We do a similar thing with juveniles.  We thoughtfully, carefully, and wisely– as a society- with lots of deliberation-  decided that young folk beneath a certain age should not be charged for serious crimes as adults.  Because they are young. Because their brains are still developing.  Because as they mature, they may yet develop a consciousness of right and wrong that makes them an asset to society.   And we carefully chose the age of 18.   So we say that if someone is younger than 18, than they can’t be sentenced as severely as a man of 30 years old.

And then, the first thing we do, is we make an exception so that if we damn well feel like– if we’re really pissed at someone– we can try him as an adult after all.  Precisely the thing the law was intended to prevent.  Every time you hear of a serious crime committed by a juvenile we hear the same nonsense: let’s ignore the law and try him as an adult!  (Actually, the law, unfortunately, allows for that exception: if the law is wrong, change the damn law and stop making exceptions.)

I think this jury just wanted to really, really throw book at this repulsive person who was not them– not remotely like them– not at all like them.  They hated him– so sly, and clever, and literate, and with so many lawyers and paid experts and private investigators on his side!  It’s almost as if he was a minority.

I can’t wait until this jury– and I’ll bet this idea was mainly the product of one demented, clueless, amateur criminologist who just happened to find his moment in the jury room– publishes a book so we can also share the fruits of this profound insight.  There can never be another case of murder that is not premeditated in the form this jury has defined it as.


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Trey Gowdy Gets his Comeuppance

Trey Gowdy, one of the most conservative, devout, even fanatical Republicans in the House, has asserted that the FBI was perfectly correct to investigate Russian involvement with people associated with the Trump campaign.  A hostile foreign power was was messing with our election: you bet the FBI should investigate.  And since Trump staff have even admitted meeting with them, by golly, the FBI should inquire into it.  Sean Hannity and Fox News now insists that Gowdy is a part of the Clinton-Obama Deep State Conspiracy to foil Trump’s presidency and steal the election.

I’m curious. Hannity must be wondering, as I am, just how far he could go before a few of his devout followers start going, “what? Hey, wait a minute– Trey Gowdy?!” And will any of them begin to wonder what else might not pass the smell test. The answer, unfortunately, is that most of them won’t even bother to find out who Trey Gowdy is. And if they did, they would probably think, “wow– this is one heck of a conspiracy– even Trey Gowdy is involved! Who’d have thunk it?”

Or maybe this is one of those “at long last, Mr. Hannity, have you no shame? No shame at all?”

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Big, Big Lies and Idiots

Make the lie big, keep it simple, keep saying it and eventually they will believe it.

A high school student chose this quote to go underneath his class picture in the Andover High School yearbook. It’s a quote from Joseph Goebbels. The student, CBS says, didn’t know it’s meaning.  He didn’t understand that the comment was associated with a psychotic individual who wanted to purge the world of Jews.

Massive outrage, anger, shock, horror, disgust, embarrassment, rage, and blah blah blah follows. The yearbook must be recalled! Stickers will be issued!

I’m not sure what is offensive about it the statement, and I certainly don’t see anything offensive with him posting it below his yearbook picture. 

I know what is offensive about big lies– we all know it so very well nowadays– but I don’t see why anyone should be outraged that this student cited this very timely quote. It’s something we should all be thinking about. I doubt he was advocating the policy– I think it’s quite likely he was being ironic. Even if he wasn’t being ironic, why does everyone have to get so hysterical about everything nowadays, falling over themselves to demonstrate just how unbelievably outraged they are?


What in heaven’s name is wrong with observing that our society will often believe something that is clearly untrue– that global warming is a myth, that immigrants take jobs, that trade is bad for American jobs, that Obama was born in Kenya, that North Korea wants to attack the U.S. or its allies, that there is a war with something called “terror”, that the Republicans care about deficits?  Those are all very, very big lies.  They have been repeated and repeated and repeated.  And a lot of idiots now believe they are true.

And some idiots believe that we should not be told that big lies, kept simple and repeated, are often believed.

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North Korea

On the eve of Donald Trump’s acclaimed visit to Singapore to meet with Kim Jong-un, some clarity.  Are these my opinions?  Yes they are.  I state that to assure the reader that no one is impersonating me right now and writing opinions that are not mine.  They are mine.

  1. This is the most important thing to understand:  North Korea is a pipsqueak of a country with no serious possible intention of attacking the United States, ever.  It has 25 million people.   It’s entire GDP is about $12 billion (U.S.).  (South Korea’s is about $14 trillion).  It would be completely and totally crushed if it dared to attack the U.S. or it’s ally, South Korea or Japan.  Kim Jong-un is not insane.  It is not going to happen.  It was not about to happen.  Trump is trying to take credit for stopping something that was never going to start.
  2. In spite of the massive, relentless media coverage, during which North Korea is regularly characterized as the greatest threat to the United States in the world today, it’s not, and this story is not nearly as important a story as:  Yemen, Iraq, the Ukraine, Afghanistan, Putin, Italy, global warming, fracking, the death of the cod fishery, and Anthony Wiener’s laptop.
  3. North Korea has no intention of disarming.  I don’t know what they have planned for the summit but I am very sure that Kim Jong-un is not going to give up the only thing he has that prevents the United States from toppling his government: the threat of nuclear retaliation.  Well, it is possible, like Iceland winning the World Cup, or Congress enacting rational gun control or single-payer health care.  Just ridiculously unlikely.
  4. North Korea is a horrible, totalitarian state.  Kim Jong-un can only remain in power by exercising ruthless control over his population.  He purportedly has over 80,000 people in prison camps.    He has executed over 800 people he considered a threat to his regime.  The instant he begins to open up his society with any kind of tolerance of dissent, opposition, free speech, or even access to information, his government will face an imminent threat of rebellion.  He is not going to do it.  What exactly does he think the U.S. expects?  Does Trump expect to demand any kind of reform or accountability?  Seriously?  Is the U.S. simply going to ask for the nuclear missiles to be removed, and then allow Kim Jong-un to continue to rule North Korea with an iron fist?  Is he going to allow any kind of flow of information, persons, or goods to and from South Korea, as part of the “peace plan”?
  5. Lindsey Graham and John Bolton and others incessantly demand military action against North Korea, especially– but not exclusively– if they refuse to give up their nuclear weapons.  Exactly what scenario do they have in mind that does not involve either nuclear retaliation (it the North Korean missiles actually work, and can actually bring a nuclear war head back through the atmosphere without it disintegrating) or massive artillery attacks on South Korea resulting in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people?
  6. Why would North Korea accept a deal that is, for all practical purposes, identical to the one made with Iran, which Trump has just torn up?  Why would North Korea believe that the U.S. would honor such an agreement?  Why would the U.S. offer a deal that is inherently absurd?  Well, we know why.
  7. At what point will Trump begin to realize that North Korea is not going to disarm?  What will Kim Jong-un offer to try to keep Trump engaged for as long as possible while he revels in the spotlight, going toe-to-toe, just you and me, the two leaders of the world’s nuclear powers?

Diplomacy here is the sacrifice bunt of international relations.  It is better than nothing– which is better than striking out– but all it does is move the runner to first base.  Then what?  I just don’t see the arc of this narrative landing anywhere sensible.  What I do believe will happen is this:

There will some kind of vague agreement for North Korea to disarm in the future.  Kim has to announce something that sounds believable and substantive, but no action will actually be taken. The U.S. will remove some sanctions and perhaps provide some economic aid, and perhaps remove some military assets from the South.  Trump will declare victory– peace in our time– complain bitterly that he didn’t get a Nobel Prize, and move on to the next target of his short attention span.  The talks will eventually break off and we will return to the same starting lines and the same basic circumstances that Bush Jr. and Obama confronted.  Someone in the Trump Administration will tell the military to prepare a military option and they will defer.  They will actually refuse to follow the orders.


Trump will realize quickly that he’s been had.  He will go home.  He will tweet insults about Kim Jong-un.  He’ll threaten military action.  The news media will move on to the next sexy story.  Trump will claim that even though he didn’t get the nukes removed, he taught North Korea a lesson they will never forget, and they will not dare attack the U.S., something they had absolutely no intention of doing anyway.  (Listen to how absurd that sounds: it is absurd.)

A day later: the incredible absurdity of it all is that Trump– and a good many other Republican’s — eviscerated the Iran nuclear deal because it didn’t contain enough safe-guards and didn’t guarantee that Iran might not eventually go back into production.  Now he brags about a deal with no safe-guards, no inspections, no conditions, and no time-table.  This is insane hypocritical.

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