Wednesday, August 29, 2007

a bad desire

I want to return to the subject of my post on police car chase policy. For the advocates of unrestricted police action in pursuit of the bad guys there seems to be an unspoken assumption that once you have broken the law, anything that happens to you thereafter is a fair cop, no matter how disproportionate that consequence is to the original crime. And I understand that impulse.

There is a small, dark part of me chained up in the cloisters of my soul that lets loose a hearty cheer anytime a boyracer drives into the side of a bridge and bursts into a ripe ball of flame (I hasten to add - as long as no one else was hurt). But that's because deep down in the cockles of my heart, just like a lot of the population ... I'm a complete bastard. It certainly shouldn't excuse the phenomenon.

Nonetheless. As befits the dirty pinko liberal that I am, I think a society can be judged on how well it treats it's loathsome scum. And by that, I mean that we should not descend to the level of the criminals we revile by treating them as badly as they treat us*. And I am of the opinion that life is singularly precious - as an atheist I only get one of them, and it's safest to assume everyone else is the same (... in only having one life, not in the atheism. Heck, I wouldn't want you buggers joining our little club, you'd drive property prices down). And the bad guys only have one life too, and that fact has to be given some respect, even if they don't.

Now note I'm not delving into the death penalty here - that's a whole 'nother debate for another day, and one I find myself quite torn by. I'm purely just looking at the treatment of people prior to conviction.

Recently there was the case of a farmer who fired upon 3 would-be-thieves who had attempted to convert his farm bike in the middle of the night. As the thieves fled in a truck, the farmer fired at them, hitting one of them in the posterior. The police prosecuted him (as well as the thieves), but a jury refused to convict.

In in cases like this I wish that along with "guilty" and "not guilty" we had a third option of "you did something really damn stupid, and therefore are guilty of breaking the law, but we don't really want to punish you because we might do the same thing in your position" (I'm pretty sure if you gave it a latin name it would sound much, much cooler). Because, really, this guy was an idiot. He fired a gun at a fleeing truck, and could easily have killed one of the felons, or, with a particularly unlucky ricochet, just about anyone close by (admittedly this was a farm in the middle of nowhere ... but it could have killed him). And he was effectively shooting them in the back, which in the books I read whilst growing up constitutes Not Cricket and a Bad Show. And to top it off, he was shooting at them over a farm bike. Is a farm bike really worth a person's life? Heck, do you have any possessions that you would value more than the life of another human being?**

But on the other hand I can understand the guy being pissed off (if memory serves it was the umpteen time he'd be robbed), it being a rural area the police were unlikely to be much help, and heck, if I found 3 thieves on my property after dark I'd be shit scared and not thinking properly to boot. But I still think he did the wrong thing to fire the gun at them.

Now, it seems that police, or the attorney general agrees with me, hence the attempted prosecution of this farmer, and the investigation of another farmer who fired warning shots at some miscreants intent on taking his petrol. The general public, I would hazard a guess, are not so keen on seeing these guys given even a slap on the wrist. And the real shame of it all is that it seems that neither side of the equation is prepared to talk to each. Outside of the slackjawed crackpots scrawling venial letters to the editor there seems to be little debate on the merits of the use of deadly force by Joesph Public in the defense of property. Personally I have but one argument.

We're the Good Guys.

No, seriously, that's my argument.

Alright, I'll expand just a little.

In my world, the Good Guys don't shoot people in the back. They sacrifice their own lives to save civilians; they don't kill civilians, ever, even to get the bad guy, because no one is so bad that it's worth the death of innocents. Torture is not something entertained by a Good Guy. Bad Guys torture - that's how you tell who the Bad Guy is. They always give a second chance; they'll always do their best to get the bad guy back alive and in one piece to face trial by a jury of their peers - because a Good Guy knows he can gendarme, judge, jury or executioner, but not any of them at the same time. Because at the end of the day the Good Guys knows they are as flawed and corruptible as anyone else around them, and it's a constant contention within to do the right thing. If there is anything they are sure of, it is doubt the righteousness of their actions.

Also, the Good Guys are Ninjas.

You always wanted to know, but were afraid to ask:
Is strength of will in fighting illness a factor in whether you live or die?
Are giant sci-fi bugs physically possible? -
yes, we'd all like both answers to "yes". However ....

I'm all about the Bad Science:
Bad Science kicks the Observer's ass about shoddy reporting on autism

Actually, I can't count either:
A transcript of a conversation between a customer and a Verizon rep over a phone bill

- Has to be read to be believed ...

* A raving conservative could agree that a society can be judged on how it treats it's loathsome scum - i.e. a good society would grind them underfoot or use them in lab experiments. And my dark-half heartily agrees.

** Dammit Apathy Jack, put your damn hand down.

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