Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Friends Like These III

Hello there. It's been awhile since we've done this, so for those of you unfamiliar with the experience, I will elucidate.

On "Friends Like These" I pick and up and transplant an IM conversation wholesale and put it here, warts and all, the only caveat being the editting of our screen names. For privacy's sake, you understand. What I hope to accomplish is using my discussions to help stir up debates of your own. Today is a long one, so I'll try to keep my introduction short. Suffice to say, my friend "B" and I will talk late into the night (time stamps provided) before we're through.

Today on Friends Like These, B and I discuss: Law and Jurisdiction

There's almost 500 Pokemon now.
Me (02:18:18): And STILL no Peniserpent, Penisaur, or Cockmaster.
B (02:18:34): That is an absolute travesty!
Me (02:19:01): Quite franklyh I'm disappointed in the entire industry.
Me (02:19:16): frankly*
B (02:20:25): Are we back to the literary industry?
B (02:20:33): Or entertainment as a whole?
Me (02:21:02): I just meant Pokemon.
Me (02:21:15): Though I guess we could easily extrapolate.
B (02:21:54): I just didn't realize Pokemen, itself, had become an industry.
Me (02:22:30): Oh yeah.
Me (02:22:37): Games, books, movies, TV shows.
Me (02:22:55): I guarantee you our grandkids will be wandering the globe capturing real pokemon.
B (02:23:11): Well, that would make Miley Cyrus and the Olsen twins industries of their own.
Me (02:23:32): An argument could be made.
B (02:23:35): I don't think our grandkids are going to grow up before the world ends.
Me (02:23:58): Well of course not, not with shit like Dialga and Groudon wandering around.
Me (02:24:07): We are fucked, B.
Me (02:24:40): I just hope they put out some more good video games in the interim.
B (02:26:00): Did you know that Israel had the bomb during the Yom Kippur War and were close using them?
Me (02:26:21): I know that there has long been unconfirmed suspicion Israel has already produced nuclear bombs.
B (02:26:28): The U.S. stepped up their assistance precisely to convince Israel not to nuke Syria and Egypt.
Me (02:26:42): Israelis are crazy, man.
Me (02:26:50): But I can't blame them.
B (02:27:13): I think that's fucking gangsta.
Me (02:27:22): Imagine being given a swath of land where you're surrounded on all sides by enemies that want nothing more than to completely obliterate you from the Earth.
B (02:27:24): Like I said before, Israel is cool in my book now.
B (02:27:33): The only people more gangsta than the Israelis are the Irish.
Me (02:27:40): Who make it part of their religion to kill you.
B (02:27:40): And, come on, you can't get any more gangsta than that.
Me (02:27:53): It certainly is stiff competition.
B (02:28:04): And, by the way, you just described what it's now like to live in the United States.
Me (02:28:22): Mexico and Canada want to obliterate us?
B (02:28:44): I strongly doubt they'd shed a tear at the loss, but you know what I meant.
Me (02:28:52): Yes, I do.
Me (02:28:57): But I've realized something recently.
Me (02:29:15): I don't think terrorist organizations grasp exactly how vast and complicated this country is.
B (02:29:17): Actually, we're worse off. For the most part, Israel had to worry about the enemies surroundin them.
B (02:29:34): We're threatened by enemies among us who hide behind our own laws and civility.
Me (02:29:36): America isn't anything like where they originate from.
Me (02:30:04): Over 3,000 people died on September 11th.
Me (02:30:16): The population was back to where it had been before within 2 days.
Me (02:30:26): America's HUGE.
Me (02:31:11): And fully capable of killing hundreds of thousands of their people in response to every attack.
B (02:31:30): I agree with you, BUT...
B (02:31:41): There's two things that you're leaving out.
B (02:32:57): First, it's impossible, in the practical sense to "destroy" America, you're right. There's too many people over too much space, even the Russians might not have enough nukes left to wipe out everything. But, I think the terrorists are smarter than that. The violence is a means to an end.
B (02:33:06): America is vulnerable because of the stupidity of its people.
B (02:33:20): The more they hurt us, the more we welcome them into our fold, the more we protect them.
Me (02:33:37): Well, yes and no.
Me (02:33:58): There will always be an element screaming that it's "our fault" other people are violent and ignorant.
B (02:34:08): Exactly.
B (02:34:21): And with little whispers and little nudges, our enemies make those voices louder and loude.r
B (02:34:39): And most Americans are stupid enough to go along with it.
B (02:35:09): The second point is connected.
B (02:35:36): We are certainly capable of killing thousands of their people for every one of ours... except for the fact that we can't do it.
B (02:35:41): We would NEVER get away with that.
B (02:36:02): What I call the Swordfish method would be an extremely effective deterrent, but no one can publicly support it.
Me (02:36:13): True.
B (02:36:34): And that's what I mean about them hiding behind our laws and civility.
B (02:36:37): They KNOW we can't do that.
Me (02:36:42): However it's very naive to suggest that nothing goes on behind closed doors when it comes to the defense of our country.
B (02:36:45): They KNOW what we can and can't do and they count on that.
B (02:37:18): We both know for a fact that things happen behind closed doors, this is true.
Me (02:37:26): There was a lot of outrage, as I recall, when people found out about the things Cheney had authorized.
Me (02:37:35): Without public knowledge.
B (02:37:39): Exactly. And your boy put a stop to that right away.
Me (02:37:49): Actually, I don't know if that's true.
B (02:37:49): That's why I don't support him.
Me (02:38:10): An attack worked heavily in George W. Bush's favor in getting him re-elected.
Me (02:38:14): People were really scared.
B (02:38:17): Say what you want about Bush and Cheney, but you have to give them that. They made the choices that other people wouldn't have bmade.
Me (02:38:35): And the general mindset was that Republicans were going to be better for defense than Democrats.
B (02:38:40): You can't tell me, in the same position, that Obama would have had the guts to authorize "enhanced interrogation techniques".
Me (02:38:52): Regardless, here's the situation now;
Me (02:39:04): If something else happens during Obama's first term, he KNOWS he will not get re-elected.
Me (02:39:13): If I were President
Me (02:39:48): I'd be making sure that the country stayed safe until November 7th, 2012, no matter what.
B (02:40:17): I agree with you on one thing. Obama is going to be good at some stuff. The Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are not going to be won by the Army alone, that's just a fact.
Me (02:40:17): If there's another attack on American soil the country will swarm back to the Republicans in droves.
B (02:40:59): Diplomacy and things of that nature (with a healthy amount of ammunition, yes) are what's called for, and I do agree that he's got the mindset for it.
Me (02:41:08): Actually, I've been wondering something.
Me (02:41:16): And hoping you can clear this up for me.
B (02:41:19): Sure.
Me (02:41:21): The war in Afghanistan.
Me (02:41:25): We were doing REALLY WELL there for awhile.
Me (02:41:29): What happened?
B (02:41:49): Okay, that's a complicated answer...
B (02:42:06): First off, I don't think we were doing as well as you thought. It just wasn't a popular topic in the news.
B (02:42:20): American soldiers were dying just as much as they are now, it's just that Iraq is what sold papers.
Me (02:42:37): Well, I do know that after our initial push, we threw out the Taliban.
Me (02:42:41): But then they came back.
B (02:42:46): I'm getting to that.
B (02:43:09): The campaign in Afghanistan was even more successful, initially, than you know.
B (02:43:42): Ironically, it was a concession to diplomacy (I know, right, from Bush??) that was ultimately the gravest error in strategy there.
B (02:43:45): The short version is this:
B (02:44:44): The CIA and Special Operations Forces organized a ridiculous guerilla army that wiped out the Taliban in, basically, record time. They backed the Taliban, Al Qaeda, and, especially, Bin Laden, into a corner they couldn't get out of.
B (02:45:28): But, they left the back door open. The boots on the ground asked for Army Rangers to drop into Pakistan and cut off the last line of their retreat.
B (02:45:59): Afraid of stepping on Pakistani toes, the leadership decided against this and fed information to the Pakistani security forces, who were tasked with preventing the escape.
Me (02:46:10): Oh.
B (02:46:16): Unfortunately, the Pakistani security forces are about as corrupt as Mexican Federales.
B (02:46:35): So, it'd be like chasing a drug cartel to the border, then counting on Mexico to make sure they don't slip away.
B (02:47:12): So, as I'm sure you know, the most dangerous thing about a deposed regime is that if you don't wipe them out entirely, they're going to come back.
B (02:47:24): And they'll come back with greater motivation, better resources, and much, much more support.
Me (02:47:31): Historically that is accurate in nearly every case.
B (02:47:57): So, the Taliban had a chance to regroup, people had a chance to see that the new American-backed government wasn't perfect, and the Taliban preyed on that.
B (02:48:00): Power of suggestion.
Me (02:48:15): Government corruption has been the iceberg of so many of our operations.
Me (02:48:32): In Pakistan, Iraq, and Afghanistan.
Me (02:48:37): And Mexico, while we're at it.
B (02:48:51): See, the problems that we had are this:
B (02:48:59): Afghanistan was the blueprint.
B (02:49:08): If you want to fight a war, that's how it's to be done.
B (02:49:18): By the time the American people knew, for a fact, we were at war, it was over.
B (02:49:37): There were boots on the ground within a week of 9/11 and within a month, the Taliban were all but obliterated.
B (02:50:00): And, if we wanted to deny we had any part of it, we more or less could have done so.
B (02:50:26): I think we should have learned a lesson from that when we hit Iraq.
B (02:51:24): We need to face the facts that our conventional army is there for show and is NOT effective in the modern world.
B (02:51:30): We have to have it, because we have to.
B (02:51:44): But you can't perform heart surgery with a chainsaw and a sledgehammer.
B (02:52:12): Anyway, that's where we went wrong.
B (02:52:29): When you topple a regime, you can't leave any remnants over to become the new underground.
B (02:52:41): Because the underground is always what's popular.
B (02:52:44): I mean, look at Obama.
B (02:52:52): In a way, he was the underground, the underdog.
B (02:53:13): No one's ever happy with the sitting government, so when you start whispering about "change", everyone jumps on the bandwagon.
B (02:53:23): You know what I mean?
Me (02:53:28): I do indeed.
B (02:53:55): I think that Obama's on the right track with Iraq and Afghanistan, though, as much as I hate to admit it.
B (02:54:14): See, the down side of Special Operations is that they're a small force and they're just not designed for operations like we have now.
B (02:54:28): An increased conventional presence in Afghanistan is what's needed to stabilize the situation.
B (02:54:34): And I think it'll work.
Me (02:54:38): I do, too.
Me (02:54:41): The surge worked.
B (02:54:44): Likewise, in Iraq, we have to let them stand on our own.
B (02:54:48): *their own
Me (02:54:55): I'm nervous about that.
Me (02:55:02): I don't know if we'll get involved or not.
B (02:55:07): See, here's what we need in Iraq:
B (02:55:15): We need to reverse it.
Me (02:55:25): But a completely sovereign Iraq makes me wary of another Iraq-Iran war somewhere not that far down the line.
B (02:55:33): Afghanistan needs conventional forces to stabilize the region.
B (02:55:52): Iraq needs us PUBLICLY out of the picture, with ninjas in the shadows to keep the peace.
Me (02:56:01): I've said that for awhile now.
B (02:56:07): If everyone KNOWS we're propping up the government, it's useless.
B (02:56:18): But if we prop them up subtly, eventually they will be able to stand.
Me (02:56:37): What would really be best for the government in Iraq is a public show of telling America it's time to leave.
Me (02:56:49): And us conceding they're capable of handling themselves and withdrawing.
Me (02:56:53): And then privately, we continue to work together.
B (02:57:08): The same way we work with Mexico, for example.
B (02:57:39): Did you know that one of the Green Berets' major missions throughout their history has been operating in Mexico, attempting to help the Mexican government deal with the cartels?
Me (02:58:44): I did not.
Me (02:58:53): They don't seem to have had much success.
B (02:59:21): I believe their hands are tied too much, but that's a topic for another day.
Me (02:59:29): Fair enough.
B (02:59:42): But they idea of having an American presence there, carefully pushing the Iraqi government in the right direction is what we need.
B (02:59:54): There's nothing more for a conventional military force to do.
Me (03:00:02): I don't actually want to change the topic to comic books
Me (03:00:12): but I think we'd really benefit if we actually had someone like the Punisher.
Me (03:01:03): A methodical, well-armed, implacable urban vigilante dedicated to the eradication of criminals.
B (03:01:52): The problem with the Punisher is that he's a fantasy.
Me (03:01:54): Someone completely unbound by the restrictions of normal society with complete and total deniability.
Me (03:02:07): That is a major drawback to him, yes.
B (03:02:19): One person can't have that much power, that's why our legal system was designed the way it was
Me (03:02:32): Well he's an outlaw.
The police don't actually go after him.
Me (03:02:53): More or less because they appreciate him doing their job and probably saving their lives in the long term.
Me (03:03:02): But he's outcast from society.
B (03:03:10): As flawed as our system is, and believe me, it's completely broken, it exists because the police can't just DECIDE someone's guilty and execute them. It doesn't work.
B (03:03:12): The power would corrupt.
Me (03:03:14): He'll never be thanked or loved for his work, and history will remember him as a monster.
B (03:03:50): Again, that's part of the fantasy.
Me (03:03:54): Did you hear about that bank teller who lost his job for chasing down a robber on foot?
B (03:04:08): Reality is that the police are capable of solving most crimes, it's just a matter of making it a priority.
B (03:04:16): The Punisher is too high profile, he'd be caught.
Me (03:04:47): It's true.
Me (03:04:57): Although, if he were turned loose in Mexico, let's say.
B (03:05:10): Well, that brings me to another topic.
Me (03:05:17): Excellent.
B (03:05:29): I know we've discussed this, but I need to refresh this because it's a central issue in my book.
B (03:05:40): There's a difference between CLANDESTINE and COVERT operations.
Me (03:05:55): Alright.
B (03:06:09): Basically, with covert operations, we can completely disavow any knowledge of the activity (just like Mission Impossible).
B (03:06:19): And believe me, that happens.
Me (03:06:26): Right.
B (03:06:32): ONLY the CIA can conduct covert operations.
Me (03:06:38): And clandestine?
B (03:06:51): Clandestine means that it's still secret, but there's limitations to it.
B (03:07:10): You still have to play by the rules because it's still official U.S. action, basically.
B(03:07:38): So, the CIA can go where and do things the military can't.
B (03:07:55): Because if we send the SEALs, for example, and the worst case scenario happens, the world knows what we did.
B (03:08:05): I'll give you an example:
B (03:08:15): The mission is to, say, assassinate a cartel leader
Me (03:08:54): Well, wait.
B (03:08:58): We send a SEAL team who sneak into a foreign country, carry out the mission, but when they're extracting, there's a mechanical breakdown and their chopper crashes. They get captured by government forces.
Me (03:09:07): So you're referencing an event like the Iranian Hostage Crisis.
B (03:09:21): Sure, let's go with that.
B (03:09:39): The only reason that you and I know about the failur of that mission is BECAUSE that was a military unit that did it.
B (03:10:15): American soldiers die, we can't say, "Uh... we have no idea who that is.
B (03:10:29): We can make up a story about how they died, but we can't disavow them.
B (03:10:41): Our own laws make it so.
B (03:10:59): I know it's confusing, and in some cases it's a very subtle difference.
B (03:11:07): But it's an important distinction, nonetheless.
Me (03:11:11): I get it.
B (03:11:36): The Iran Hostage Crisis was such a clusterfuck because there was no way we could even BS our way out of it.
B (03:11:40): Too many people knew too much.
Me (03:11:47): Where does the Secret Service fall?
B (03:12:19): The Secret Service is strictly responsible for the protection of the President (and other select VIPs) and (for some reason) counterfeiting issues.
B (03:12:23): (Counterfeiting money.)
B (03:12:35): They're basically a law enforcement agency.
Me(03:12:45): I always wondered about that.
Me (03:12:55): You'd think the FBI would have jurisdiction over that.
B (03:13:17): Federal law enforcement is a clusterfuck on its own.
Me (03:13:17): Maybe
Me (03:13:25): because there are Presidents ON THE DOLLARS
Me (03:13:37): it's the Secret Service's duty to make sure they stay safe.
Me (03:13:52): Although I guess if that's the case we could counterfeit the fuck out of some $100s.
B(03:14:20): I'm sure there's a reason for it, somewhere in their history.
B (03:14:40): A lot of different agencies trace their history back and sort of fell ass-backward into their jobs.
B (03:15:00): Mainly because crime is an ever-changing thing.
B (03:15:20): Which is why we have so much redundancy and confusion, actually...
Me (03:16:15): Huh.
Me (03:16:35): It appears the Secret Service was founded exclusively for the purpose of pursuing counterfeit money.
B (03:16:48): See what I mean?
Me (03:16:57): So it's actually protecting the President that's the second job.
B(03:17:29): I'm sure there's an interesting story about how they wound up protecting the President, but when you look at it from this angle, it's kind of dumb how that works.
Me (03:18:04): Ouch,
Me (03:18:06): I think I have your story.
Me (03:18:19): The legislation bill which would have created the agency was on Lincoln's desk.
Me (03:18:24): The night he was assassinated.
B (03:18:38): Heh.
Me (03:19:02): Then after McKinley was assassinated in 1901, Congress requested the Secret Service extend their duties to protecting the President.
Me (03:20:01): Well, now we know.
B (03:20:34): Makes sense.
Me (03:21:16): Basically, they had been formed.
B (03:21:25): Happens a lot.
Me (03:21:29): And the only other organization like them at the time was the U.S. Marshals.
B (03:21:46): Look at the Marines.
Me (03:21:47): So after 2 assassinations in the spam of 35 years, someone had to take up the job of protecting the President.
Me (03:21:53): And the other agencies didn't exist yet.
Me (03:22:11): So it fell to the counterfeiting guys.
B (03:22:32): Since they've been formed, the Marine Corps has always been something that we never really knew what to do with and were constantly trying to do away with.
B (03:22:43): And instead, their mission just evolves into whatever is needed.
Me (03:23:03): We don't have a primary function for Marines?
B (03:23:08): Nope.
Me (03:23:21): Isn't it just killing people?
B (03:23:35): ...Actually, you're kind of on the right track.
B (03:23:45): A Marine once summed it up the best:
B (03:24:26): "Marines are like America's pitbulls. They keep us chained up, mistreat us, and generally ignore us, until they decide they want to let us loose to go and bite someone."
B (03:25:24): But, anyway, we let the evolution of our defense, law enforcement and intelligence agencies run unchecked until it makes no sense.
Me (03:25:29): Sounds about right from everything I know.
Me (03:25:52): Solution would seem to be a complete overhaul and reorganization, likely eliminating several existing agencies.
B (03:26:04): Actually, I disagree.
B (03:26:16): Well, no, I don't, but I think you're looking at it the wrong way.
B (03:26:40): I don't think we need to, for example, eliminate the Air Force.
Me (03:26:51): With so many overlapping jurisdictions and conflicts of interest in our justice system, I don't see another way of efficiently cutting down on the amount of red tape involved in keeping our country safe.
B (03:27:09): Well, yeah, I guess in some cases we do need to eliminate some shit.
Me (03:28:30): Especially in the intelligence field.
B (03:28:46): Well, I would like to point out a fundamental problem there and see if you have a solution.
Me (03:28:54): Getting the important stuff where it needs to go shouldn't be like playing telephone.
Go for it.
B (03:29:09): Because there IS a reason for how fucked up shit is, though we've lost sight of it.
B (03:30:04): See, we have the NSA, whose SOLE mission is what's called SIGINT (Signals Intelligence, which means they snoop into E-mails, radio signals, telephone calls, etc.) They, like the CIA, have absolutely no lega authority to operate on U.S. soil.
B (03:30:15): This is because Americans don't like being spyed on, which makes sense.
B (03:30:45): That means that anything that happens WITHIN our boders, falls to the FBI, who treat it as a criminal act.
B (03:31:11): Unfortunately, they can't PREVENT anything from happening. Until someone tries to crash a plane into a building, he hasn't committed a crime.
B (03:31:18): Now, the reason for this is simple.
B (03:31:31): If you have ONE agency doing all of this, they become too powerful, and that scares people.
B (03:32:41): So, the sword cuts both ways.
Me (03:32:43): So
B (03:32:56): Because if the FBI builds a great case against a cartel, their case ends at the border.
B (03:33:13): And if the CIA locks onto a terrorist organization, they have to let the shitbags go at the border.
Me (03:33:33): Do we HAVE a proactive agency dedicated to stopping crimes BEFORE they happen? DIA? The U.S. Marshals? INS?
B (03:33:50): You can't stop a crime before it happens, it's not a crime.
Me (03:34:04): Right, but the intent to commit a crime is still punishable.
B (03:34:09): Nope.
B (03:34:24): And the agencies you just listed have almost nothing to do with terrorism.
Me (03:34:31): Sure it is. Conspiracy to commit ______.
B (03:34:42): And the DIA is absolutely the most redundant and useless organization we have.
Me (03:34:54): I know, I meant more in the field of just pure domestic defense.
B (03:35:17): Well, the DIA is just a black hole that sucks up excess money and provides NOTHING that's not already being supplied.
B (03:35:21): But don't get me started ont hat.
Me (03:35:46): If someone can prove that a person was preparing to murder someone else, that's a crime. Conspiracy to commit murder.
Me (03:35:56): The same with committing fraud or treason.
B (03:35:59): In theory.
B (03:36:05): But not in reality.
Me (03:36:25): How does it work in actuality?
B (03:37:05): Well, if I'm planning on stabbing you in the eye, you can't charge me with it until I actually pull a knife in your presence and try to jam it in your orbital socket.
Me (03:37:33): But that's attempted eye-stabbing.
B (03:37:41): So, unless your theortical proactive agency is there at the EXACT moment, you're either going to get stabbed in the eye, or there's no crime.
Me (03:37:47): Not conspiracy to commit ocular penetration.
B (03:38:05): Right, but if I get stopped on the WAY to your house to stab you in the eye, I can't be charged.
Me (03:38:16): If you leave a detailed outline of your plan to stab me in the eye where the police can find it, you can be at least detained.
B (03:38:34): Detain me. When I get out I'm still going to stab you in the eye.
B (03:39:46): The bottom line is that the only way you can stop me from doing it, legally, is to basically KNOW that I'm going to stab you in the eye, and have cops waiting to stop me as I lunge at you with the knife.
B (03:40:11): And, even if you do, it'll take a few months for it to go to trial, during which time I'll be loose on the streets to try it again.
B (03:40:28): And it'll be a 16 month trial where my lawyers will argue that I was entrapped into trying to stab you in the eye.
B (03:40:45): And the burden of PROVING that I was REALLY going to stab you in the eye is still on the government.
B (03:40:56): I mean, what evidence do you have to show that I was going to stab you in the eye?
B (03:41:27): I mean, when the jury sees me with my hair slicked and combed, in my nice suit with my pretty powder blue tie and the innocent look on my face... is anyone REALLY going to believe that I was going to hurt you?
B (03:41:59): Plus, the media will be digging up every bad thing you've ever done, until people think that you DESERVE to be stabbed in the eye.
Me (03:42:06): Well in the case of conspiracy you'd need to have left some sort of evidence of premeditated eye-stabbing or have given a confession.
Me (03:42:21): Also it appears there would need to be at least one accomplice.
Me (03:42:29): But!
B (03:42:34): That's fine. I confessed to the police, but my lawyer will argue that it was a false confessoin and I didn't know what I was doing at the time.
Me (03:42:34): If both of those requirements were fulfilled
Me (03:42:52): then yes, you could be put away without ever having actually committed or attempted to commit a crime.
B (03:43:27): Again, in theory.
Me (03:44:05): If you're going to bring the defense of a lawyer into this, then nothing can be taken for granted.
B (03:44:14): Exactly.
B (03:44:16): That's my point.
B (03:44:51): So, to use a real example, when the CIA was tracking the 9/11 hijackers and let them go at the border, they KNEW what was going to happen...
B (03:44:58): But you can't prove it in a court of law.
B (03:45:31): So, if the FBI had so much as brought them in for questioning, they would have sued and the U.S. government would be directly financing the next terrorist attack against itself.
Me (03:45:58): Is it feasible to have a proactive agency? How big a change in our legal system are we talking here?
B (03:46:18): Not much, actually.
B (03:46:25): Bush laid the groundwork for it.
B (03:46:34): The problem is that it's easy to abuse it.
B (03:46:50): When he came up with the term "enemy combatant", the rules went out the window.
Me (03:46:56): That's universally the problem.
B (03:47:18): Real quick, though, I want you to understand how AWESOME enemy combatant status is.
Me(03:47:26): Go ahead.
B (03:47:32): See, we have to treat scumbag criminals with certain rights.
B (03:47:58): And if the Mexicans were to invade and get arrested by Border Patrol, we have to treat them with rights as soldiers of a foreign army (thanks to the Genevea Convention).
B (03:48:12): Enemy combatants, however, don't wear uniforms and don't belong to a state army.
B (03:48:23): They are, however, recognized as a dangerous threat to the safety of the US and her people.
B (03:48:46): They have no rights. They get thrown into Gitmo and questioned endlessly until they cough up the information we need to know.
Me (03:48:58): That sounds fair.
B (03:49:00): This is awesome, but, as much as I hate to admit it, it's flawed.
B (03:49:08): First off, mistakes DO get made.
Me (03:49:34): Well that's only natural. Look at the number of people wrongfully imprisoned.
B (03:49:46): So what if someone is legitimately NOT a shithead scumbag and gets declared an enemy combatant?
Me (03:49:49): I know the margin is relatively insignificant when you look at the prison population as a whole
B (03:50:03): They're not guaranteed a chance to prove their innocence, they're not guaranteed any type of trial.
Me (03:50:16): but even in trials by jury with evidence scrutinized to the extreme, mistakes can happen.
B (03:50:18): And the power to declare someone an enemy combatant is too loosely defined.
B (03:50:55): As much as I hate to be the voice for this... the thought of one upstanding American citizen suffering like that for the price of 100 terrorists locked up forever... it's hard to stomach.
Me (03:51:14): Hm.
B (03:51:22): I can handle it...
B (03:51:26): But the American public can't.
B (03:51:45): Now, where I disagree with Obama and the rest of his bleeding heart liberals is that terrorists don't deserve rights.
B (03:52:03): And the enhanced interrogation techniques we use on them are too soft in and of themselves.
Me (03:52:13): I can get behind that.
B (03:52:24): Waterboarding is nothing compared to what we SHOULD be doing to these shitheads.
Me (03:52:54): But with the status of our legal system as you've just defined it, how do we get where we need to with them WITHOUT enemy combatant status?
B (03:53:16): That's just it, I can't think of a good answer.
B (03:53:20): Well, wait.
B (03:53:31): First off, we NEED enemy combatant status. That should be there to stay.
B (03:53:41): We're in a world where we will NEVER fight an other enemy in uniform.
B (03:53:43): EVER.
B (03:54:11): Enemy combatant status is THE most powerful and necessary tool in the defense of this nation in the years to come.
B (03:54:27): But, frankly... I don't know how to make it "safe" to use.
Me (03:56:05): So the problem is that the definition and the resultant lack of rights works.
Me (03:56:16): But the loose nature of how that definition is applied leaves too much margin for error.
Me (03:56:33): There's got to be a better way . . .
B (03:56:42): Well, here's the fundamental problem:
B (03:56:51): Right now it's basically a matter of common sense.
B (03:56:59): But you can't use common sense in the law.
B (03:57:17): Once you apply the law to something, you take away it's power.
Me (03:57:33): Hm.
B (03:57:33): A reasonable person can sit there and decide who's an enemy combatant and who isn't.
Me (03:57:43): This country has a long way to go still.
B (03:57:57): But a group of people can't look over each other's shoulders and decide who is.
B (03:58:16): And you can't write up a definition that will hold up in court and not leave room for someone to wiggle out of it.
Me (03:59:36): That is an intrinsic problem.
Me (03:59:56): But it's such an integral and completely necessary part of our legal system.
B (04:00:19): I agree, as much as I don't want to.
Me (04:00:26): Now don't get me wrong, there are far too many gaps.
B (04:00:28): I just don't understand why we can't make it so that common sense can rule the law.
Me (04:00:40): And there's a lot we could plug up without altering how the law works.
B (04:00:57): But, here's the thing...
Me (04:01:02): But the practice of being able to argue the law is one of the foundations of our country.
B (04:01:08): I wouldn't change our legal system under most circumstances.
Me (04:01:10): It's why we have a Supreme Court.
Me (04:01:19): It's why we have law schools, for that matter.
B (04:01:22): Becuase the fact that we have the protections and freedoms and system that we do is what MAKES America.
B (04:01:33): We're on the same page.
B (04:01:53): Again, it's just the abuse of that practice that's taking its toll.
Me (04:02:01): So.
B (04:02:07): And it has run rampant and unchecked and that's we're stuck.
Me (04:02:12): We either find a way to make people better.
Me (04:02:17): Or we turn the legal system over to robots.
Me (04:02:34): They tried that once, it's part of the Green Lantern mythos.
B (04:02:40): See, even that won't work.
B (04:02:47): Robots don't have any more common sense.
Me (04:02:58): Before they tried Green Lanterns, the Guardians of the Universe commissioned an army called Manhunters to safeguard the cosmos.
B (04:02:58): The problem is the arguing of the letter of the law, not the spirit of the law.
Me (04:03:09): Then one day there was a programming error and they slaughtered an entire section of the galaxy.
Me (04:03:51): Mostly for that exact reason.
Me (04:04:00): Mechanically, they could only obey the letter of the law.
B (04:04:06): See, our problem is that, we can all, as a country, look at something and say, "That's wrong" and yet, it's legal.
Me (04:04:08): There was no definition allowed for "spirit."
Me (04:04:34): I'm with you on this one.
B(04:04:51): See, my understanding of it.. is that our legal system was designed with juries for precisely that point.
Me (04:05:01): Yes.
B (04:05:03): A jury of your PEERS is supposed to sit there and say "that's wrong" or not.
Me (04:05:15): A lawyer is capable of arguing the exact letter of the law until he's blue in the face.
Me (04:05:30): In theory, it still falls on the jury to determine if it captures the spirit.
Me (04:05:52): But, here's where I find a major flaw in the system.
Me (04:05:57): Jury selection.
Me (04:06:11): The random selection process is a fable.
B (04:06:47): It's not a fable, it doesn't exist. They don't even pretend its random any longer.
Me (04:06:52): The jurors who come to serve are selected at random, true.
B (04:07:02): Part of the process of a major trial is lawyers picking and choosing who they want to stay.
Me (04:07:04): But then from that random pool, exactly the right jurors for the defense are chosen.
B (04:07:32): You know what part of the problem is?
Me (04:07:39): I don't know when or why that was decided to be fair.
B (04:07:47): You know why?
Me (04:07:50): I agree with people with genuine conflicts of interest being dismissed.
Me (04:08:05): But that should be up to the judge.
B (04:08:06): Because when this country was founded, a lot of laws were written by people still smarting from the oppression of England.
B (04:08:24): So we went to great lengths to write the laws to protect us from the government.
B (04:08:27): But, that's what gets abused.
Me (04:08:41): Well, here's where it got us.
B (04:08:48): It made more sense in 1776. But we have to have some TRUST in our government too!
B (04:09:08): You can't have the judge select the jury, because it's biased because HE'S a government official.
Me (04:09:29): People WANT to trust their government, but we're also, as a species, fearful and gullible.
B (04:09:31): The legal system is tipped in favor of the defense because the government controls the police, the courts, and the prison.
B (04:09:52): So it's a failsafe to protect us from the government.
B (04:10:01): That's why the police have their hands tied so often.
Me (04:10:03): But a judge by definition has to remain impartial.
B (04:10:15): We have to tiptoe around all these different lines that the bad guys can hide behind.
B (04:10:36): If we believed the judge was impartial, we wouldn't have a jury.
B (04:10:49): Theoretically, the jury should be the judge, too.
Me (04:11:10): Well primarily the judge is there to mediate and direct.
B (04:11:31): Excuse me for a few minutes.
Me (04:11:36): Sure.
Me (04:11:44): I'll keep going.
Me (04:11:56): The judge does have authority to decide sentencing.
Me (04:12:09): But not guilt or innocence.
Me (04:12:49): That's why there shouldn't be a belief that there's some sort of conflict of interest.
Me (04:13:03): The judge still gets to perform his duties regardless of who sits on the jury.
Me (04:13:42): Letting lawyers with a vested interest in who hears the case choose the sitting jurors is patently absurd.
Me (04:15:16): The only other thing I can think of is creating a third party that exists specifically to filter out jurors who are unfit to serve certain cases.
Me (04:15:41): With no ties to the defense, prosecution, or maybe even the court itself.
Me (04:16:23): They simply look at the facts provided about the case, compare it to the facts about the jurors, and eliminate the people who might have obvious bias.
Me (04:16:26): One way or the other.
B (04:24:14): I don't see any flaws in the logic, I just can't see a way to put it into a decent practice.
B (04:24:23): Except, of course, to say... common sense.
Me (04:24:42): Thomas Paine would admire you, sir.
B (04:24:54): Common sense would tell you who is and isn't fit to sit on a jury.
B (04:25:05): But you can't write common sense into the law.
B (04:25:16): And worse yet, common sense is an uncommon virtue in this country.
Me (04:25:54): This just occured to me, and it might sound far-fetched.
Me (04:26:38): But, this would all be much easier if there were a way to teach religious beliefs without extending them to the idea that seperate beliefs are wrong (and in some cases punishable by death).
Me (04:27:00): Because the heart of every major religion is being able to determine for yourself right and wrong.
Me (04:27:17): Is that too far out there?
B (04:27:37): In a way, yes.
B (04:28:01): First off, there are a number of religions that ACCEPT other religions.
B (04:28:11): Islam, for example, is THE most tolerant of all religions.
Me (04:28:14): Judaism! (is not one of them)
B (04:28:21): Islam accepts Christians and Jews as people of the same God.
B (04:28:48): Secondly, who decides what religions are legit?
B (04:29:00): The Church of Satan is extremely tolerant as well.
Me (04:29:04): In theory? God.
B (04:29:06): Fundamentally, anyway.
Me (04:29:12): Yes, it is.
Me (04:29:27): I was just referencing more the belief system espoused.
Me (04:29:33): Not the particulars.
B (04:29:35): Yes, but your God chooses to remain silent, so he doesn't get a vote.
Me (04:30:05): Which is unfortunate, but I can understand why he wouldn't want to influence the public.
Me (04:30:21): It would be like if Superman endorsed a candidate.
B (04:30:41): Please don't get me started on that.
Me (04:30:49): Alright.
Me (04:30:59): I think I'll wrap this up, actually.
I decided a long way back that this was becoming another Friends Like These.
Me (04:31:30): So ladies and gentlemen, I hope you enjoyed reading this conversation as much as I enjoyed having it.
Me (04:32:07): Because this is commonly what an evening is like - when you have friends like these.


Scotty said...

too many words, not enough boobs.

ali d said...

On the contrary, Scotty, I found every aspect of this post extremely informative and thus was OK with its length. I've spent the last few days trying to think up a comment, but nothing has seemed satisfactory enough. If anything, it made me realize just how much I don't know about the inner workings of our government and how that affects policies both home and abroad, and how much that means that I have nothing to contribute to the conversation.

So instead of a comment I'll pose a question: Clearly, CNN.com is not doing it for me as a news source. I don't have TV, so I rely on the Internet to get my daily dose of news (because I'm sure as hell not going to get a newspaper subscription). Does anyone have a suggestion for a reliable, unbiased (as possible) news site that will give in depth coverage of domestic and foreign affairs?