Thebastidge: 04/01/2005 - 05/01/2005
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    Saturday, April 30, 2005

    Let my blog alone!

    Please take a look at this and be active in the struggle to maintain the free exchange of ideas:

    http://www.samizdata.net/blog/archives/007497.html

    Make sure you click through to the article. I see a bill that determines what you can say, and when you want to say it. If abortion is a major issue in an election, will it be off-limits for your website or livejournal in the 90 days before an election? What else might be broadly interpreted as influencing an election? International news on the Internet? Perhaps independat coverage and commentary from inside nations which tightly control their 'official' news media?
    Bradley Smith says that the freewheeling days of political blogging and online punditry are over.

    In just a few months, he warns, bloggers and news organizations could risk the wrath of the federal government if they improperly link to a campaign's Web site. Even forwarding a political candidate's press release to a mailing list, depending on the details, could be punished by fines.

    Smith should know. He's one of the six commissioners at the Federal Election Commission, which is beginning the perilous process of extending a controversial 2002 campaign finance law to the Internet.

    [...]

    Q: If Congress doesn't change the law, what kind of activities will the FEC have to target?

    A: We're talking about any decision by an individual to put a link (to a political candidate) on their home page, set up a blog, send out mass e-mails, any kind of activity that can be done on the Internet.


    Read that again: "any decision by an individual... any kind of activity that can be done on the Internet."

    There is a problem with regulating these things, and that is that there is always a way around it for those with resources, thus it tends to only catch the small scale operator.

    I say open it up, and let 1000, or 10,000 small operators counterbalance each slick political machine.

    If there's anything our system is supposed to be open to, it is the public 'influencing' the vote- the government should be responsive.

    I think McCain-Feingold falls the way of every socialist 'solution' to a problem- you don't need to tell the people how to go about their business, just make them accountable for wrong-doing. For example, fraud is wrong- it doesn't matter if you do it over the telephone, the Internet, or door-to-door. We don't need a seperate law for each. The only thing Congress should be deciding on is who has the jurisdiction to prosecute the crime. If it's interstate, the feds should do it. If it occured all in one local venue, then the local law enforcement should prosecute it.

    In the case of campaign finance reform, make it transparent where the money comes from. I don't care who is getting how much from whom, as long as the people can fairly guage the influence such funds will have on the politician, then they can make a fair choice in the election.

    I don't care if George Soros wants to give a million dollars to John Kerry, or Mao Tse Tung for that matter. As long as everybody knows where the money comes from. And everybody is free to comment freely on the probable outcome of such an election.

    'First they came for the political campaign blogs'

    The principle behind this bill is wrong.

    As I always try to convince people; if the principle is wrong, it does not matter how little the amount is. If you're allergic to penicillin, you don't want a dose that 'probably won't kill you', you don't want a dose of it at all.

    Saturday, April 02, 2005

    Crime as illness

    In a recent on-line discussion with a friend, I wrote some things in response to his ideas on Germany's laws regarding minors who commit murder, and those criminals who have been determined by a psychiatrist to be continuing dangers to the community. It seems that even a life sentence in Germany can be limited to a few years, as long as you can get a shrink to buy off on your rehabilitation, and we all know psychiatrists are infallible, right?

    I wrote:

    Considering the state of psychiatric medicine, I would rather judge people on the facts of the crimes they have committed rather than a doctor's opinion about what they may do in future. In this case, justice is better served by a harsher attitude toward crime and sentencing, rather than a treatment of crime as an illness. Crime/criminal behaviour is NOT an illness and cannot be "cured" by "treament". It can only be demonstrated through a combination of reward and punishment that there are better ways, (for the average of all the people) and inevitably, some crime will remain because the fact is that some individual people will always profit from crime more than they will from working as a citizen.

    Some mentally ill people commit crimes, but the majority of criminals cannot be considered crazy by any clinical standard. They merely make different decisions about risk factors and gains than 'ordinary' peope do. They have extreme preferences.

    This is not to invalidate some preventative measures: if a stalker has a spiraling pattern of behaviour, best to take it seriously and protect the victim before it actually comes to physical harm. But that is still judging someone on the facts of what they have done, even if the behaviour was verbal (i.e. threats).

    There are simple economic decisions that go into making many supposedly moral choices. If the chances of getting caught are slight (due to lax attitudes or procedures on the part of police) and the penalties of getting caught are acceptable, then why not do the crime? You're trading risk for gain via some internal cost/benefit analysis, however informal. If the risk is low and the potential gain high, it makes sense from a certain point of view (that buys into instant gratification over abstracts and future planning).

    Criminals absolutely do think about the chances of getting caught and the potential punishments. It's been demonstrated over and over again. If they did not think of these things they would not take precautions against getting caught. In the United States, burglars rarely break into occupied homes, citing the risk of the homeowner being armed. In the UK, the exact opposite, homeowners are extremely unlikley to be armed and therefore the potential gain (of raping and/or extorting further loot from the victim) outweighs the risk. Juveniles are known to plot crimes expecting to be punished lightly.

    I grew up in relatively lawless neighborhoods where nearly everyone took the attitude that getting caught is the only crime. I know how this stuff happens. I have close relatives in prison for the rest of their lives. I know basically what went through their minds when they were committing crimes. It is a cultural mindset, and can only be affected by negative externalities.

    In fact, even if we could dope (treat) everyone with some chemical cocktail that would eliminate any statistical outliers of 'anti-social' behaviour, I would be against it. If the cost is high, but people are willing to pay it, then it just may be an important thing to have.

    Individual liberty has high costs associated with it. If we make it impossible for people to have individual liberty (chains, armed guards, chemical cocktails to influence behaviour), we may just be missing out on something.

    So what I am saying is that I am willing to tolerate some slack in the system of preventing crime, as long as we make the cost of crime high enough to make the overwhelming majority of people unwilling to pay that price (and depending on the severity of the crime, overwhelming may mean 60% or 99.999%). People still have the choice of whether to conform or not. It just depends upon how important various factors are to them individually.

    This 'slack' in the system is also acknowledging the fact that police forces cannot prevent crime- they can only punish it when they catch it. It flows naturally from that to the idea that individuals are responsible in large part for their own safety and that of their fellow citizens.