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Comment Re:No just laws = No fair trial (Score 1) 591 591

Don't bother. The "law" and the "process" are totally different things according to him, so he's scoring points on his private definition. If the law says, "Nobody gets to make arguments at trial," the trial is still fair because it follows the law. Laws on how trials are run have no bearing on whether the trial itself is fair.

Unfortunately, we've now defined the term "fair trial" in such a way that it's 100% meaningless. As a completely innocent man with the evidence on my side sitting in prison, God Himself could appear in my cell and say, "Fear not, My Son. You shall receive a fair trial," and I'm afraid it would not comfort me in the slightest. "What does that mean, Father? Is it one of those fair trials where I get summarily executed before the opening arguments, or is it one of the ones with evidence and stuff?"

Comment Re:No just laws = No fair trial (Score 1) 591 591

Like I said, I'm not arguing with you about the fairness of the law.

No, I recognize that. You're just restating your premise over and over again and not engaging any responses or questions about your position. We've established that your definition of a "fair trial" is one that follows any set of written laws and is held in America (yay!) regardless of what actually happens in that trial. By that definition, I fully acknowledge that Mr. Snowden would receive a fair trial. It's a wonder that he doesn't rush back to avail himself of one. Or maybe two!

What you NEED to be doing is to stop yammering about how unfair all this is and start working to change the law you think is so unfair.

Ah, the argument from incomplete civic engagement. My favorite! You start by pretending that you're on Slashdot to educate the uneducated masses while the person you're arguing with is a hopeless idiot who genuinely believes that arguing with random yahoos on Slashdot is how you change laws and who never actually engages in any political activity. Once that's established, you can change the subject, extricate yourself from the conversation, condescend to your interlocutor (Really, Thunder? There are people you vote for who make laws? Tell me more!), all while pretending to somehow be above the fray even after you just spent a bunch of posts arguing with random yahoos on Slashdot. It's a quality gambit every time I see it, even if it's not very original.

With that, I don't look forward to your likely reply.

Why? It's so little effort to simply restate your priors, ignore every line of argumentation presented and skirt any questions asking you to defend your definitions. It's not like you spend a lot of time on this stuff. I suppose you're too busy running Senate campaigns and reviewing constitutional law journals to engage with little people who don't even understand how voting works.

All I can say to you on that front is, good luck, you are going to need it because I get the feeling the majority of people who vote in this country don't support a change in law big enough to get Snowden off the hook.

You're assuming that I want him "off the hook." I think that with a fair trial, he'd likely do some time, albeit not the same amount of time as a genuine spy who acted against our interests with no justification. What I don't accept is the notion that in a country that supposedly values due process and freedom of speech, we think a trial that doesn't allow the defendant to speak in his own defense is "fair," much less good enough to live up to the standards we supposedly set when we defined what due process meant to a democracy.

Comment Re:No just laws = No fair trial (Score 1) 591 591

Shesh.. Look, the trial would be "fair" as in done by the rules. Let it go...

I can't help but notice that you didn't answer the question. If the rules stated that he wasn't allowed to speak in his own defense, is the trial still fair just because that's how the rules are written? If your definition of "fair trial" means that honest people apply ridiculous rules equally to all, then yes, it's fair. But that definition of "fair" would apply to a system that simply executed every defendant without hearing any evidence either way. As long as it's done by the book and nobody gets special treatment one way or the other, why not?

Again, if you want to claim the LAW is not fair, fine, but don't confuse the LAW with the trial.

The law and the trial are not separable in this case. The law determines what arguments can be made at the trial, so treating them as two totally unrelated things is nonsense. I'll clarify that I'm not impugning the motives of the jurors or the judge. But the "trial" is more than just people. It's people and rules, and those rules are a mix of written law, tradition and precedent. Unfortunately in this case, those rules come together in such a way that one of the basic principles of a fair trial, the ability to speak in one's own defense, is missing.

He is innocent until proven guilty, will be afforded an attorney, will be given a trial before his peers, face his accusers and present evidence at his trial. This is NOT a kangaroo court.

This is where we disagree. If he's not allowed to present the best evidence in his defense, then he's not by any reasonable standard being allowed to "present evidence" at his trial. "You can present evidence, but not the evidence that might convince a jury," is a meaningless guarantee. Without the ability to present true, relevant statements in your own defense, it is a kangaroo court. The fact that it was set up that way by law and the fact that it's offensive to call it so doesn't make it any less of a kangaroo court.

That's not how we've done criminal justice for centuries. It's a mess that we've slowly allowed our courts to evolve into by steadily adding rules for excluding evidence and arguments. For example, strict liability in criminal cases only really started in the late 19th century, and its liberal application to serious crimes (as opposed to regulatory violations) is much more recent.

Just like the slow stripping away of due process for suspected drug offenders, all branches of government have been complicit including the courts. New laws were written, new court precedents were set, and before we knew it, we had a system that allowed asset forfeiture without a trial and prevented criminal defendants from presenting true evidence in their defense. This is just another example of exactly how far we've drifted from those traditions you reference. Those are traditions that we should be proud of, and we should be screaming bloody murder at every step away from them.

Comment Re:No just laws = No fair trial (Score 1) 591 591

What you can and cannot argue as a defense to a crime is spelled out in the law.

If the law said, "The defense is not allowed to make any arguments," would it still be a fair trial simply because the rules were spelled out beforehand and applied equally to every defense? If not, how much of a minimal defense must be allowed before you'd consider it fair?

Defense is usually given wide latitude in what kinds of arguments they try so I see no reason why the argument wouldn't be tried, but I do see where it wouldn't be successful.

That's not how the courts work. If you start bringing in "irrelevant" evidence, the prosecution objects that it's irrelevant. The judge says, "Yup, that's not relevant according to the law. You can't say that. Move along." For example, in medical marijuana cases, you'd think that the dispensary owner would be able to say, "Look, it's legal in my state and I'm selling it only to people with medical need," to at least mitigate the crime. Nope. You can't mention those facts. They're irrelevant to the federal case. The only question before the federal court is whether you sold marijuana in large quantites. Off to prison wtih you, Scarface. This happens all the time.

Another example is any crime with strict liability rules. Those are crimes which have no requirement to prove intent. The flip side of the coin is that you can't prove that you did it by accident. Statutory rape, for example. If you have sex with an adult-looking minor, it doesn't matter if she produced a perfect US passport for you to check, that you followed up with her friends and family, and everybody told you she was 18. The very fact that she truly wasn't 18 is all that matters and your efforts at screening are no defense. Not a "weak" defense that might not work. They're not a valid defense for the jury to consider. I don't know of any test cases where the defense was not allowed to make the point, but that's how the law actually works and it's totally valid for the judge to prevent you from arguing it.

Also, comparing our legal system to that of North Korea is very unfair.

It's not a direct comparison. It's an analogy and it works precisely because the direct comparison is so unflattering. Your argument seems to be that something is "fair" just because the rules are written down in advance. My argument is that you can construct any number of perfectly consistent laws, write them down, and apply them without bias and still have a completely unfair system. The analogy works unless you can come up with a sensible answer to my first question in this post: Is it OK to write a law that says that no defense may be presented in court? If not, how much of a defense should be allowed? Should the single best argument for the defense ever be disallowed?

If this was a matter of Snowden making a Hail Mary pass at the jury and hoping for some sympathy, I could understand your position if not necessarily agree with it. But that's not the situation. He'd be expected to sit in court and smile and nod because the single best (and only) argument for what he did isn't admissable and can't even be discussed. That's a total departure from the notion of arguing your case before a jury of your peers. You might as well not have a jury at that point.

Comment Re:Yeah, be a man! (Score 1) 591 591

If there was ever a valid case for it, this seems like it. But you're going to have to hope that the jury hears those arguments before the trial starts, because Snowden certainly won't be allowed to make them to the jury during the trial. Choose your jurors carefully so they don't know anything about Snowden, what he did, or why he did it and you're going to have a very short trial with a very predictable outcome.

Comment Re:Anyone besides me think he's a criminal? (Score 1) 591 591

He stabbed his immediate managers in the back, for sure. But I as one of his ultimate employers don't feel stabbed in the back. I feel stabbed in the back by his bosses. I feel more like a company owner whose janitor has just pointed out that middle management has been stealing from me for years.

Comment Re:I'd be more sympathetic if he weren't a doucheb (Score 1) 591 591

How much harm is Putin really able to do to us by parading Snowden around? Conversely, how much good did Snowden's revalations do? I think that what little aid and comfort he gave to Putin was a worthwhile exchange, and I'm pretty sure he would agree.

Comment Re:No just laws = No fair trial (Score 2) 591 591

What you don't like is the law... Fine, just don't keep saying he won't get a fair trial because according to the LAW he will. Saying he won't get a fair trial is wrong. The courts are there to fairly apply the law and for the most part, that's what they do.

That's a little bit of a dodge, though. If by "fair" we simply mean "consistent with local laws" then you're 100% guaranteed to get a fair trial in North Korea or under ISIS. It simply means that trials are fair by definition.

I think that there's a good argument to be made that there are some features that need to exist in a truly fair trial, one of which is the ability to present your case regarding mitgiating circumstances for the jury to hear. More broadly, I'd argue that a defendant should be allowed to say anything he wants in his own defense, provided it's the truth.

Comment Re:Yeah, be a man! (Score 1) 591 591

I don't think so. If I understand the law correctly, there's no whistleblower exemption for what he did, so any attempt to make that sort of an argument to the jury will be met with a big fat, "Shut the fuck up" from the judge. It's like medical marijuana sellers trying to defend themselves in federal court. They're not allowed to even say that they were selling it for medical purposes because federal law makes no distinction. The only question is whether they were selling weed, not why.

Comment Re:It's a good thing for people who aren't - calcs (Score 1) 429 429

There's a simple reason for that: The price of a Big Mac is probably driven mostly by volatile inputs like food and energy. Food an energy are only a part of the overall inflation picture, and they're generally not leading indicators of long term trends. There are two key CPI numbers: headline and core. Core removes volatile components like food and energy because they tend not to be built into long-term inflation expectations. When headline and core diverge significantly, the divergence generally goes away in the near future, and it generally goes away when the headline number moves back toward the core number, not the other way around.

Long term, inflation is driven mostly by expectations and the interaction between expectations and wages. Spikes or drops in the price of oil or beef tend to revert to historical norms, so while they make for interesting charts in the news, they're not really all that useful for long-run predictions because they don't really provide steady enough "feedback" to feed into slower moving prices like wages. The divergence between the Big Mac index and our other inflation metrics is likely driven by that phenomenon rather than an actual failure of the broader metrics.

Anyway, it's not a matter of "assuming" the BLS knows best. You'll find that people who actually study this stuff and use the data think they put out a very useful set of indices and have very good reasons to ignore outliers like the Big Mac index. The BLS basket of goods is very broad, well analyzed and completely public. Every quarter we hear the big headline about something like, "Chicken prices spiraling out of control! Inflation to come!" Not unless the public at large *really* eats tons and tons of chicken and the trend continues for some time. There are other cross-checks that are pretty easy to do. For example, if the Big Mac Index was truly reflective of reality, we'd be seeing massive capital flight from the US to foreign markets with better inflation numbers. If you know the dollar is losing 10% in inflation every year, just sell your dollar-denominated assets, buy Japanese bonds with yen and enjoy your nearly risk free ~12% real return in dollars. Either the big money (who are presumably the puppet masters driving this whole scam) is too dumb to do this or that's really not how the numbers work out. Either that or all currencies everywhere are inflating at roughly the same rate without feeding back into wages anywhere, but that would be a really interesting macroeconomic state of affairs.

Comment Re:I guess you can build a career... (Score 1) 169 169

The intersection of "smart enough to be careful when planning your assassination" and "dumb / crazy enough to try assassinating a sitting US President" is probably very, very small. No doubt it's dwarfed by several orders of magnitude by the set "dumb enough to threaten to kill the President."

Economists state their GNP growth projections to the nearest tenth of a percentage point to prove they have a sense of humor. -- Edgar R. Fiedler