Home » Posts tagged 'USA'
Tag Archives: USA
JURIES ARE WORTH KEEPING
The Jury System is a cornerstone of justice and liberty. However, they are also controversial. On the one hand, there are those who see the jury system as an integral part of a free and impartial justice system. On the other hand, there are those who doubt the jury’s ability to deliver fair and honest verdicts.
Let’s start with the obvious fact that juries are far from perfect. They are imperfect because the people who make them up are imperfect. Ignorance is one major problem. Opponents of the jury system argue, with some justification, that it is too dangerous to place the fate of another human being in the hands of people incapable of understanding the complexities of the cases they are judging. Often those tasked with deciding the outcome of cases lack the technical or legal knowledge to adequately interpret the evidence and testimony being presented to them. It has been suggested that in these cases individual jurors will often resort to pre-conceived beliefs or allow themselves to be influenced by jurors with more knowledge – whether real or perceived – than they have.
Ignorance, however, is an easily solved problem. Why not select jury members based on their familiarity with the subject matters under discussion? Someone who works in the finance industry – bankers, financial advisors, accountants, and so forth – would be more equipped to judge financial-based crimes than the layperson.
Then there’s the question of who can sit on a jury. In the United Kingdom an individual needs to be aged between eighteen and seventy, have been a resident of the UK for at least five years since the age of thirteen, and must be mentally stable to serve on a jury. It would more than reasonable to suggest that qualifications for jury duty ought to be more stringent than they are. It is more than reasonable to suggest that the age limit ought to be raised from eighteen to perhaps twenty-five (if not older) and that jurors under the age of forty ought to have certain intellectual qualifications. This would ensure that those tasked with determining guilt or innocence would have the wisdom and/or intelligence to comprehend the grave nature of the responsibility they have been burdened with.
Those who criticise juries also argue that they are prone to bias and prejudice. In one shocking case, Kasim Davey was jailed for contempt when he boasted: “I wasn’t expecting to be in a jury deciding a paedophile’s fate. I’ve always wanted to fuck up a paedophile and now I’m within the law.” (Seemingly it never occurred to Mr. Davey that the man he was judging may have been innocent). Likewise, it is well known that many African American defendants were condemned by all-white juries in the Jim Crow South.
However, much of this is a red-herring. Professor Cheryl Thomas, the director of the Jury Program at University College of London, spent ten years analysing every jury verdict in England and Wales taking into account the race and gender of both defendants and jurors. Professor Thomas concluded that:
“There’s no evidence of systematic bias, for instance, against members of ethnic minorities, or that men are treated differently than women, that if you live in a particular part of the country or you have a certain background that you’re more likely to be convicted than others.”
Besides, those who criticise the jury system forget that juries reflect the values and principles of their society. If juries repeatedly deliver unjust verdicts it is because there is a sickness in that society. The fact that all-white juries tended to convict African American defendants merely because they were black is a reflection on the virulently racist nature of that society, not of the jury system itself. Today, the legal system is careful to disqualify those jurors who may harbour prejudices that will inhibit their ability to judge the facts impartially. Courts are very quick to disqualify jurors who may know the defendant or alleged victim, those with emotional links to the case (i.e. a victim of rape sitting on the jury of a rape trial), and so forth.
Lord Devlin, the second-youngest man to be appointed to the English High Court in the 20th century, once described the jury system as “the lamp which shows where freedom lives.” The principle behind juries is that the individual ought to be judged by his peers based on community standards, not by the politically elite. Without juries, our legal system would be dominated by judges and lawyers. What lies at the centre of the debate over juries is the question of whether the whole of society or just the elite should be involved in the dispensation of justice.
The Presumption of Innocence is Worth Protecting No Matter What the Cost
In February 2013, Vassar College student, Xialou “Peter” Yu was accused of sexual assault by fellow student, Mary Claire Walker. The accusation stemmed from an incident occurring twelve months previously in which Walker had accompanied Yu back to his dorm room after a party and initiated consensual sex. Walker herself broke off the coitus early. She had decided that it was too soon after ending her relationship with her boyfriend to embark on a sexual relationship with another man. She even expressed remorse for having “lead Yu on” and insisted that he had done nothing wrong.
Nevertheless, at some point, Walker decided that she had been sexually assaulted and Yu was mandated to stand before a college tribunal. At this tribunal, Yu was refused legal representation, had his attempts at cross-examining his accuser repeatedly stymied, and potential eyewitness testimonies from both Yu and Walker’s roommates were suppressed by the campus gender equality compliance officer. Supposedly because they had “nothing useful to offer.” In what can only be described as a gross miscarriage of justice, Yu was found guilty and summarily expelled.
Unfortunately, the kind of show trials that condemned Yu is not entirely uncommon in American colleges and universities (and, like many social diseases, are starting to infect Australian campuses, as well). They are the result of years of unchallenged feminist influence on upper education. These institutions have swallowed, hook, line, and sinker, the feminist lie that every single woman who claims to be sexually assaulted must be telling the truth.
The problem begins with those who make public policy. The US Department of Education has been seduced by the ludicrous idea that modern, western societies are a “rape culture.” They have brought into the lie that one-in-five women are sexually assaulted on college campuses, despite the fact that this statistic (which conveniently seems to come up with exactly the same ratio no matter where it’s used) comes from an easily disproven web-based survey.
This survey, which was conducted at two universities in 2006, took only fifteen minutes to complete and had a response rate of just 5466 undergraduate women aged between eighteen and twenty-five. Furthermore, it was poorly formulated with researchers asking women about their experiences and then deciding how many of them had been victims of sexual misconduct.
Regardless, the lack of credibility that this survey possessed did not stop the US Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights from laying out guidelines for handling reports of sexual misconduct. Among these recommendations was that reports of sexual misconduct should be evaluated on the “preponderance of evidence” rather than the more traditional “clear and convincing evidence.” This radical shift in standards of proof means that accuser only has to prove that there is a reasonable chance that a sexual assault occurred rather than having to prove it beyond a reasonable doubt.
It would be an understatement to say the college and university rape tribunals – and the policies that inform them – violate every legal principle and tradition of western law. American colleges and universities have created an environment in which male students can be stigmatised as sexual deviants with little to no evidence aside from an accusation. These tribunals not only violate standards of proof but the presumption of innocence, as well.
That these tribunals have decided to do away with the presumption of innocence should hardly come as a surprise. After all, the mere idea of the presumption of innocence is antithetical to human nature. It is natural for human-beings to presume that someone is guilty just because they have been accused of something. As the Roman jurist, Ulpian pointed out: the presumption of innocence flies in the face of that seductive belief that a person’s actions always result in fair and fit consequences. People like to believe that someone who has been accused of a crime must have done something to deserve it.
The presumption of innocence is the greatest legal protection the individual has against the state. It means that the state cannot convict anyone unless they can prove their guilt beyond any reasonable doubt. We should be willing to pay any price to preserve it. And we certainly shouldn’t allow extra-legal tribunals to do away with it just to satisfy their ideological proclivities.
Is Our Lifestyle Killing Us?
The biggest health crisis facing the modern world is obesity. According to the World Health Organisation, obesity rates have tripled since 1975. As of 2016, 650 million adults, 340 million children aged between five and nineteen, and 41 million children under five were obese.
And it’s affecting Australia, too. Between 1995 and 2014/15, the number of obese Australians rose from 18.7% to 27.9%. The Sydney Morning Herald even reported that nearly a third of all adult Australians can now be considered obese. According to the Heart Foundation, approximately 42.7% of adult men and 28.8% of adult women are overweight. More alarmingly, 28.4% of men and 27.4% of women are considered obese.
We are poisoning ourselves and we don’t even know it. Among the health problems caused by obesity are diabetes, heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, gall bladder disease, a multitude of cancers, fatty liver, and arthritis.
We are poisoning ourselves in two distinct ways. Firstly, we are eating far too many carbohydrates. Carbohydrate-rich foods like bread and pasta cause blood sugar levels to rise. This creates an excess of sugar that causes the body to crave more carbohydrates. The result is that the body stores fat.
Whether or not bread is good or bad for us is up for debate. Lynid Polivnick, the so-called “nude nutritionist”, has defended bread stating that “it’s much healthier than people make it out to be. It’s often demonised as being a cause of weight gain but in truth, bread does not actually make us gain weight.” And she’s probably right. There is nothing wrong with bread provided that it is eaten in moderation. The problem is that many of us don’t eat bread in moderation.
Many health experts do not share Lynid Polivnick’s view. The website Healthy Simple Life claims that bread is mostly devoid of any real nutrients. Bread tends to be ‘fortified’ with vitamins and minerals because its original nutrients have been stripped from it and added back later. These nutritional elements are unlikely to be absorbed by our bodies.
Secondly, we are consuming far too much sugar. This is a relatively new problem. Our ancestors had little access to refined sugars. If they were lucky, they were able to enjoy a tiny amount of fruit during vanishingly small periods of the year. Otherwise, they were relegated to a diet rich in vegetables with a small smattering of meat.
By contrast, people in modern, wealthy society have access to seemingly endless amounts of sugar. Added sugar accounts for seventeen-percent of the average American adult’s diet. Sugar is now present in everything from cereal to chocolate bars.
Over-consumption of sugar is a leading cause of obesity and its related illnesses. It has been found to increase the risk of certain types of cancer – namely, oesophageal, pleural, small intestine, and endometrial. And it has been linked to the doubled prevalence of diabetes over the past three decades.
Over-consumption of sugar has also been found to correlate positively with an increased risk of heart disease. A study involving thirty thousand people found that those whose diets were comprised of seventeen to twenty-one percent added sugar had a thirty-eight percent greater risk of dying from heart disease than those whose diets were comprised of only eight percent sugar.
The modern western man is living in the most prosperous times in history. There is less abject poverty and less starvation today than at any other period in history. The downside of this has been an increased proclivity for greed, sloth, and, as a consequence, ever-expanding waistbands. The answer to the obesity crisis is to improve our lifestyles.
SOME THOUGHTS ON THE MID-TERMS
So, the midterms are finally over. For months, those of us who like to watch American politics were expecting an epic to the death struggle that would vindicate the winner and devastate the loser.
But, as the Fates would have it, that is not what happened. At the time this article was written, the Democrats held 225 seats in the House of Representatives compared to the Republicans 197 seats (with thirteen seats still to be decided). And in the Senate, the Republicans held 51 seats to the Democrats 44 (with two seats being held by other parties and with four still undecided).
What we got was less an Alien versus Predator fight to the death and something more akin to two schoolboys getting into a schoolyard brawl with each claiming victory because they’d managed to bloody the other’s nose.
For months we’d been told that the Democrats would end up dominating both the House of Representatives and the Senate as the American people voiced their disapproval of the Trump Presidency. But that didn’t happen either. The Republicans may have lost their majority in the House of Representatives (and, indeed, many moderate Republicans did not do so well), they managed to gain a definitive majority in the Senate.
As Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House Press Secretary put it: “anybody that was anticipating a blue wave tonight’s not going to get it.”
Several factors played a role in determining the outcome of the election.
The first thing to note is that the results of the election were not a signal of approval for far-left Democratic policies. It was moderate Democrats who won seats, not radically progressive ones. This would suggest that as many Americans reject radical identity politics as those who feel dissatisfied with the Trump Presidency. And it would suggest that the Democrat’s best strategy for winning the next Presidential election is to put forward a moderate candidate with a moderate platform.
The second thing to note is that the Republican’s triumph in the Senate had as much do with demographics as it did with politics. The electoral map made Democratic Senate seats more vulnerable than Republican ones. That said, however, it also turns out that the Democrats failed to take advantage of an advantageous news cycle. Had they nominated more moderate candidates rather than radically progressive ones they would have found themselves a lot more successful.
The third thing to note is that voter motivation played an enormous role in determining the outcome of the election. One of the reasons the Republicans lost the House of Representatives was because the Democrats were more motivated to vote than they were.
Actually, this was recognised early on. Bill Stepien, the political director for the White House, urged President Trump to motivate his base by making the election a referendum on his own performance. Clearly, Stepien recognised that President Trump has a special talent for rallying his supporters. And, as the Daily Wire’s Ben Shapiro noted, every district Trump visited ended up voting Republican.
The fourth things to note is that the Democrats managed to do better in the suburbs than the Republicans did. The Democrats managed to win suburbs all the way from the eastern seaboard to Nevada and even managed to expand into Houston, Dallas, Oklahoma City, and Richmond. As Liesl Hickey, the executive director of the National Republican Congressional Committee in 2014, said “Republicans have lost the suburbs. I don’t know if they’ve lost them forever, but we’ve definitely lost them for now.”
That the outcome of the midterms will have political implications should be obvious to everyone. On the negative side, a Democrat-controlled House of Representatives will make it difficult for the Republicans to enact their legislative agenda over the next two years. It puts Trump’s immigration and economic policies in danger. It puts his administration’s goal to build a border wall, deregulate business, and cut taxes in jeopardy.
But, on the more positive side, however, the outcome of the midterms may inspire more transparency from the Executive as President Trump negotiates trade deals with Japan and the European Union. And as much a Democrat-controlled House of Representatives puts the Republican agenda in jeopardy, a Republican-controlled Senate creates a roadblock for the progressive agenda indicative in the Democrat’s more radical policies.
And there are the long-term implication, as well. The Republican’s control of the Senate will make it difficult for the Democrat’s to gain control over it in 2020. However, it also revealed the necessity for the Republican Party to expand its conservative base, especially in lieu of the 2020 Presidential election. In the 2000, 2004, and 2016 Presidential elections, a switch of only 150,000 votes would have nullified all of them.
The midterm election resulted in a victory for neither the Democrats nor the Republicans. It did not deliver the much-prophesied blue wave for the Democrats and it didn’t allow the Republicans to retain control of Congress. What the midterms produced was a balanced, moderate Congress. The manner in which people choose to interpret the results of this election will depend largely upon their political orientation. Both Democrats and Republicans have the choice to see the results as either a triumph or a defeat. And exactly how they react will determine how well their party does at the next Presidential election.
Who knows what will happen at the next Presidential election. Two years can be a lifetime in politics.