Australian Lefty on Politics, Governance, Science and Info Management

Archive for the ‘Law’ Category

The Tabloid Justice Consultation

Posted by Dave Bath on 2011-08-02

The consultation about sentencing by Ballieu’s Vic Libs seems, from the structure, bent on whipping up another Laura Norder storm.

To be fair, it’s better structured than a typical yes/no "do crims get off too lightly" reader poll in a tabloid, but it is still dangerously simplistic.

At the end of the survey is a list of factors that might alter sentencing, things like whether the person was drunk, low IQ, impact on the victim…  This should have come first, before the section asking for judgements on case studies.  (Ask any teacher about well designed exams – you do the bits with individual elements first to get people warmed up, then give the questions that require all the elements to be integrated!)

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Posted in Australia, Governance, Law, Politics, Society, Victoria | 1 Comment »

Dummies Guide To Mass Murderers

Posted by Dave Bath on 2011-07-24

Unless you are part of that demographic-to-be-ignored, the latte-sipping bleeding-hearts, both left and small-l-liberal, here is a quick guide to labels and policies regarding mass murderers, or assassins of your own prime minister:

Demographic: Swarthy Moslem White Lefty Latte Sipper White Christian Anti-Moslem Righty Swarthy Ultra Orthodox Jew Righty
Psychology: Evil Mad Mad Mad
Your Ideology: Evil Mad and Dangerous Irrelevant because of insanity Irrelevant because of insanity
Punishment: Execute or incarcerate forever without trial Criminally insane ward in a prison Criminally insane ward in a prison Imprison
Others in the demographic: Kick them out of the country, don’t let any more in, or subject them to security agencies bullying. Make them shut up, and especially don’t let them speak in schools or mass media.. The Right Stuff Patriots
Assumption next atrocity is from the demographic: 99% 1% 0% 0%
Assumption the demographic’s policies will destroy civilization: 100% 100% 0% 0%


Personally, I’d classify all four as mad, and where frank psychosis is incomplete, the evil results come from improper education, incitement by others in the same demographic, and twisted readings of the texts of the ideology.

In other words, things that could be largely prevented by a combination of decent community mental health services, and an education system that gives fair exposition of all texts used by nutters as pretexts for action, stressing the humanity in those texts, and showing how the inhumane parts should be deprecated.

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Posted in Australia, International, Language Use, Law, Media, Politics, Society, Theology and Religion | 1 Comment »

Latte-sippers on-side with our military – bogans and pollies off-side

Posted by Dave Bath on 2011-07-05

It turns out that the latte-sippers, worried about legal niceties, have been thinking along the same lines as our military – while the jingoistic politicians and bogans who claim to back our soldiers are instead forcing our military to do the wrong thing.

Those legal and ethical niceties about those our soldiers capture that have worried our brass include the practice that means if a single US private (4th class) is alone in an entire brigade of Australian soldiers, and any opponents are captured, it is the US, not Australia, that does the capturing.

As detailed in "Australian POW policies risk: top secret papers" (The Age, 2011-07-04) and "Revealed: Defence confusion over POWs" (ABC, 2011-07-04), show that the military brass were worried about not merely the legality of their operations, but indeed, whether it was principled:

Confidential Defence documents reveal that Australia’s policies on handling prisoners in Afghanistan and Iraq between 2001 and 2003 were so contrived that they ran the risk of being neither ethical nor in line with international law.
The risk was starkly outlined in a top-secret memo from former chief of the Defence Force, Admiral Chris Barrie, to defence minister Robert Hill in February 2002, which warned that Australia’s prisoner arrangement "may not fully satisfy Australia’s legal obligations and in any event will not be viewed as promising a respect for the rule of law".

– The Age

And what does Mike Kelly, now a politician but previously Australia’s top military lawyer in Iraq, have to say about responsibility for prisoners we capture?

He says the country that captures prisoners of war retains a responsibility over their welfare.


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Posted in Australia, Civil rights, Ethics, International, Law, Politics, Society | Leave a Comment »

When a life sentence is humane

Posted by Dave Bath on 2010-12-12

Something is rotten in a society if the kindest thing one can do for a sick person is give them a life sentence.

A 71-year-old terminally ill man has been sentenced to 21 years in a California prison for rolling his wheelchair into a San Diego bank and holding it up with a replica BB gun.

The poor old guy wanted to get caught so he wouldn’t have to live and die on the streets.

What a system!

Thank goodness the judge showed mercy the only way he could, by giving the guy a roof, food and medical treatment the only way it could be ensured.

Posted in Law, Politics, Society, USA | Leave a Comment »

Loss Socialization from Entrepreneurs – Criminal v Capitalist

Posted by Dave Bath on 2010-05-14

Imagine, for a moment, that the concept of the limited liability company was applied not only to corporation law, but to criminal law, and conversely, that the notion of being responsible for the result of one’s actions applied to capitalist activities.

The unspoken purpose of limited liability in corporate law is to socialize risk, turning the worst liabilities of improper, sharp, or negligent practice into burdens on the community, in particular, the most vulnerable in society.  Modern capitalism could not exist without this institutionalized moral hazard.

The whole point of limited liability is that only the investment is at risk, there is no real impact on investors if liabilities, including damages to others, far exceed the assets of the particular construct called a company.  The James Hardie asbestos "settlement" demonstrates just how hard it is to extract compensation for damages – and it only succeeded because the company did not fold completely.

A gang of armed robbers is a group of investors that expects a return from activity.  The investment in their enterprise is little more than the cost of weapons, a getaway car, and a few balaclavas.  If only these investments were at risk, and that "plant and equipment" subject to asset-stripping, then there is no incentive for the enterprise to avoid damage to others – indeed, there is incentive to kill as many witnesses as possible to both avoid detection, and to increase the intimidation that promotes victim compliance.

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Posted in Economics and Business, Law, Politics, Society | Leave a Comment »

Treating cannabis “problems” with cannabis

Posted by Dave Bath on 2010-01-27

By the look of a recent paper in Nature Neuropsychopharmacology, the problems of psychosis caused (in the small number of people that are susceptible) by smoking too much cannabis could possibly be cured by…. smoking cannabis!  It’s the strain that makes the difference, suggesting that a "government approved labelling standard" and a different legal status for each strain might be worthwhile – or even that the government should give away seeds from good strains!

There are two major cannabinoids in Cannabis sativa, Δ-9-Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and Cannabidiol (CBD), both of which are psychoactive (especially for medicinal purposes like painkilling), but with THC being the most intoxicating.

It seems that for those few that can be pushed towards or into psychosis by pot smoking, it’s the THC that causes the problems, while CBD not only doesn’t cause the problem, but protects against at least some the dangers of THC.

This might well tie in with the newer strains of cannabis, "skunk", that have much higher levels of THC and lower levels of CBD, probably by a skewing of the metabolic pathways away from CBD in favor of THC rather than simply increasing the amount of THC produced by upping activity of the pathways leading to both.

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Posted in Biology and Health, Civil rights, Economics and Business, Law, Politics, Science and Tech | 2 Comments »

Catholic church should be a proscribed organization

Posted by Dave Bath on 2009-12-06

If an organization repeatedly breaks the law relating to serious crime, then it should be considered a gang, and, like terrorist groups or some bikie gangs, be proscribed.

But the Roman Catholic church, a serial offender on child sexual abuse, at the very least an accessory after the fact, gets away with it, despite the public being more than aware (indeed "ho-hum") about each new revelation of such crimes, which are incorporated into many "comedic" routines.

If a cabal of child-molesters or child-pornographers had as many members as the Roman Catholic church in Australia has guilty priests and after-the-fact accessories, it would be proscribed, and every member put under surveillance at the very least.

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Posted in Australia, Law, Politics, Society, Theology and Religion | 2 Comments »

Increase penalties for scientific fraud and obfuscation

Posted by Dave Bath on 2009-11-25

Regardless of your stance on the anthropogenicity of climate change, the urgency of any action required, or indeed the veracity (in terms of authenticity and representativeness) of the "leaked" emails from the Climate Research Unit (East Anglia) in the UK, there is at least one good thing that might come out of the mess.

The impact of scientific fraud might be properly recognized, and significantly greater punishments might be put on the books… indeed, perhaps in international law.

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Posted in Biology and Health, Economics and Business, Environment, Ethics, Governance, Information Management, International, Law, Politics | 2 Comments »

Homelessness and efficient breach

Posted by Dave Bath on 2009-10-27

There is a pernicious bit of contract law theory called "efficient breach", beloved of unscrupulous capitalists, "the view that a party should be allowed to breach a contract and pay damages, if doing so would be more economically efficient than performing under the contract".

But would they want long-term homeless folk reading Posner, breaching not a contract to supply widgets, but the social contract?

Consider, by breaching the social contract, beating well-heeled older capitalists to death, (adult kids, hefty life insurance, it’s a minimal impact murder if such a thing exists), and then immediately surrendering to police, the punishment is a long term guarantee of food, shelter, clothing, medical care, and even TV and other recreation facilities.

That’s certainly "economically efficient" for a homeless person!

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Posted in Civil rights, Economics and Business, Ethics, Law, Politics, Society | 8 Comments »

Human Rights – a regressive step in my lefty view

Posted by Dave Bath on 2009-10-26

With the possibility of a Human Rights instrument going through the federal parliament, while lefty me thinks overall it would be a good thing, I happen to think that it is a regressive concept.

I’d argue for "Sapient Rights", not "Human Rights".

I’d go into this in more detail if I hadn’t already covered it reasonably well in a post written before this blog was as well-known: "‘Human Rights’ : a regressive concept" (2008-05-04).

Pushing it perhaps to the extreme, think of the impact of the difference between Human and Sapient Rights while recalling movies like "The Day the Earth Stood Still", "2001", and even junk like "Independence Day".

Would we want "Little Green Men" to only have "Little Green Men Rights" in their legal code, or would we be happier with "Sapient Rights"?

…and the way we’re going on planetary policy, you’ve got to wonder if we’d qualify even then!

Posted in Australia, Civil rights, Ethics, Language Use, Law, Politics, Society | Leave a Comment »

Nanny state libertarianism

Posted by Dave Bath on 2009-10-21

EU courts and commissions are often the target of those critical of "nanny states", but I expect even the most libertarian types will welcome this discussion from the EU Court of Human Rights about the rights of satirists and the EU’s efforts to try and stop fair satire being attacked by commercial and political interests in courts.

The satirists in the cases mentioned were doing things akin to having an effigy of the feral poodle as, well, a feral poodle, or maybe an image of corpulent bogans over a slogan "the people are bigger at Hungry Jacks".

From the ECHR blog:

Both cases could be laughed off as bizarre instances of the kind of situations that reach Strasbourg.  But equally, they point to a worrying development in various European countries in which commercial or political interests are attacking even the most innocuous expressions." In that respect, it is good that the European Court is taking jokes seriously.

I don’t think this worrying development is something particular to the EU… if it hasn’t started here yet, it soon will, and I hope our courts protect us from the powerful and their well-funded lawyers.

Posted in Civil rights, Europe, Humor, Law | Leave a Comment »

Drug test answer – I bought bikkies from a church, officer

Posted by Dave Bath on 2009-09-04

Turn about is fair play it seems.

A few years back in Melbourne, a couple of door-to-door salesmen for imaginery friends called an ambulance after being asked into a house, and eating some biscuits proffered by their hosts.  (The symptoms were probably an over-the-top psychological reaction to the buzz.)

Now, from the Centre for Disease Control, in the usually very dry Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, comes a tale of turned tables.

The tables in question being a church-run stall on the footpath selling munchies.

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Posted in Biology and Health, Humor, Law, Society | 1 Comment »

Not blinded by the light

Posted by Dave Bath on 2009-07-18

Dangerous Driving Incident Report

  • Location: Corner of Glenferrie and Wattletree Roads Armadale/Malvern
  • Time: 2009-07-17 22:20 AEST (approx)
  • Vehicle Description: Victoria Police Paddywagon/DivvyVan – licence number unknown
  • The vehicle was observed travelling North up Glenferrie Road (possibly on the way to Malvern Police Station), stopping at the traffic lights, and starting again when the lights turned green, all the while with no headlights or parking lights turned on.

OK, that’s one cop who wasn’t doing the basic thing all drivers must do at night, and another cop (in the passenger seat) who isn’t exactly getting top marks for being alert.

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Posted in Law, Society | Leave a Comment »

PSI handling and rights (Vic) : 2

Posted by Dave Bath on 2009-06-30

Following previous posts (here and here) on Public Sector Information (PSI) handling and access recommendations for the Victorian government, here are some discussions on more of the dot-points:

4. That the Victorian Government adopt a narrow definition for the public sector for the purpose of establishing the government Information Management Framework.  Initially this definition should comprise only Victorian Government departments.

Whenever I hear "narrow definition" or "broad definition" I become alert for escape clauses and weasel words.  This is no exception.

First, consider the following phrases:

  • Data created or held by a government agency
  • Data created or held by an agency of government.

These two phrases might seem equivalent.  You’d be correct in thinking that the rules governing the handling of the data are identical under legislation.  However, they are very different in the eyes of many public sector managers and the executive, all too eager to find any excuse to remove accountability for compliance with those rules.

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Posted in Australia, Civil rights, Information Management, Law, Politics, Victoria | 1 Comment »

Our law permits religiously-motivated violence to infants

Posted by Dave Bath on 2009-06-03

Non-therapeutic male circumcision is discussed in a recent Australian Policy Online report.

Personally, I’d see non-therapeutic male circumcision in the same category as intimate or genital piercing, and covered by a section of the Summary Offences Amendment (Tattooing and Body Piercing) Bill 2008 (Vic) Division 6:

44(2): A body piercer must not perform body piercing on the genitalia, anal region, perineum or nipples of a person under the age of 18 years, whether or not consent has been given to the body piercing.

It’s worth noting that the Current Issues Brief No. 3, 2008 from the Research Service of the Victorian Parliament discusses the Victorian bill, and regulations in other Australian jurisdictions, the paper does not even contain the word circumcision.

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Posted in Australia, Biology and Health, Civil rights, Law, Legislation, Victoria | 12 Comments »

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