Monday, October 27, 2008

Readings for October 27, 2008 + What Is Justice?

I'm back from the Kumejima race. Kumejima is a beautiful place, the people are exceedingly kind and I cannot recommend a visit more. It was crazy-hot, though.

Checking the email last night, this was circulating:

Eight years, really? The world passes and I feel less capable of doing anything to stop this march of cruelty except love more emphatically.

I received my absentee ballot on Sunday, so Karen and I have voted today. And that's what made this so funny for me:

Totally unrelated links, then, are in the offering today:
Toyota and Tokyo University have designed a robot that can complete household chores, they say, because of a predicted labor shortage in the future due to a decline in birthrate and an aging population. I'm reminded of BladeRunner...
Originally referred to this by Threat Level at Wired, but I had to go to the source to make better sense of the story.

I'm kinda torn on this one. A part of me wants to say, "What!? Throw the book at him!" That the judge brought Derrick Williams in for the sentencing makes me feel a little bit better. I'm glad that it's on public record that Ryan Goldstein has gone to jail for both theft and for his child pornography. The first commenter on the article seems to be saying that Derrick Williams should be given a sentence in line with the sentencing guidelines and that Goldstein, having not been charged for possessing child pornography, should not be given a heavier sentence.

If I understand the argument, Goldstein's cooperation with the police was given because he asked for a lighter sentence. This cooperation would lead to seven others being arrested. Thus, Goldstein's possessing child pornography should not factor into any other discussion within the Court. The judge felt that justice could not be served by him that day if he allowed Goldstein to walk away without his child pornography being held against him and also follow the guidelines established by his peers when sentencing Williams. The first commenter seems to think that the judge is simply being Politically Correct and introducing race spuriously into a house of justice. But, and forgive me, I'm thinking while writing, the first commenter is all wrong.

The judge realized a dilemma: the State has a vested interest in getting criminals involved in networked crimes to turn in their partners in crime. As Goldstein's case shows, reducing sentences and throwing out charges works; Goldstein's cooperation helped to get seven more people. If anything I've ever heard about men who are arrested and jailed for child pornography is true, Goldstein must have been very nervous about being at least beaten, probably violently raped, and perhaps killed by his fellow inmates. So Goldstein went into court, probably hoping to escape being imprisoned because of his cooperation.

Of course, I don't know anything about Mr. Williams' case so I am perhaps wildly speculating here, but... The judge, in sentencing Goldstein (who had about the same amount of child pornography as Williams) to a lesser amount of time is tacitly allowing Goldstein to purchase a more lenient sentence; that is, Williams would be serving a longer prison sentence because he had no criminal capital to spend.

I'm not a judge, but I recognize that law is effectively a contract between those that have come before and those that will come in the future. We have received our notions of what is acceptable over generations, we've codified this and have debated for centuries what is to be allowable behavior (and so, legal), and what is not (thus illegal). The legislator and the judge are also pressed to try to create and enforce laws that make sense in light of future events. Laws are, therefore, future events to be contested and are to be contested by virtue of having been written. They are not immutable and to have laws contested is to strengthen the community that enables them, this contestation vitiates all civic life and I suspect is at the heart of what Thomas Jeffereson meant when he said citizens should rise against their constitution and laws once a generation. I bring this up only to say that I understand that the judge in this case is expected to follow the sentencing guidelines established by his community. But to do so in the Williams case would mean that he must also tell future generations of children likely to be molested either by Goldstein or by those who would create the conditions for Goldstein to enjoy this molestation that their molestation was facillitated in the name of a crooked deal.

I suspect that this judge would have to also say that torture is unacceptable. For a judge to allow evidence into court that was collected by torture is to, again, make criminal capital an acceptable currency.

But, ultimately, the judge cannot sentence Goldstein for his child pornography crimes because Goldstein has not been charged for this crime and I think that the judge's response is perhaps brilliant.

What is justice? It's certainly situational, it's infallibility is impossible and because justice is so likely wrong it is more trustworthy - what's the point of trust if it cannot be exercised? So, our judge, Michael Baylson, brings together Ryan Goldstein and Derrick Williams so that they may both become collaborators in this justice project. Just as Goldstein has been sentenced to jail and convicted for his botnet crimes, deploying viral programming code that turn personal computers into zombies that do the bot herder's bidding, so now Goldstein and Williams face each other and learn of each other's fate. It seems that judge Baylson appears to have tried to recruit Goldstein and Williams in court. Why did Baylson introduce the race of both men? I suspect it's to spell it out most clearly: not everyone has equal rights, not everyone has equal ability to have the violence of the State (in the form of prisons) attenuated.

Usually we shrug this off. But when it's your day in court and you are shown another man, just like you, who will face multiple years of potential sexual abuse in prison and perhaps death in those years, and you will only have to face this for ninety days; would that not affect you?

What is justice if it is not this meme? This idea that replicates and metamorphosises incessantly, clogging the efficient disposal of information....hmmm...

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