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December 2009
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February 2010

"Stay Hungry" as Universal Principle?

If you want to perceive the world differently, don't eat for a day - or eat very little.  The world will appear differently. You'll sense new smells, new sights.  Bland food will suddenly become delicious.  If you want to force yourself to "eat healthier," don't eat for a day.  Suddenly chicken and broccoli will be welcome.

Hunger makes a person wild.  It awakens our human instincts.  Don't eat, and suddenly you'll notice new sights, sounds, and smells.  Eat a large meal, and you'll want to sit.  Your body shuts down.  You lose touch with the wild side of your own humanity.  You become, as the government and those who would control you prefer, tame.

"Let me have men about me that are fat; Sleek-headed men and such as sleep o' nights: Yond Cassius has a lean and hungry look; He thinks too much: such men are dangerous."

Hunger inspires movement.  Movement is power's enemy.  The cage's gates cannot close in on the free.

A well-fed body undergo physiological changes that discourage movement: 

ScienceDaily (Dec. 21, 2009) — A body that is provided with food too often gets caught up in the maelstrom of a lack of exercise, obesity and ultimately diabetes. The trigger is a molecular switch that is controlled by insulin, a new study by scientists from ETH Zurich has revealed.

[T]wo brain messenger substances trigger different behavior patterns: the intake of food and spontaneous movement. If mammals are hungry, they are more alert and physically active. In short, they hunt and look for food. "If you watch a cat or a dog before feeding it, you can see this very clearly," says Stoffel.

(Hat tip: Jay.)  Hunger need not be limited to physical hunger.  It applies universally.  The person who has everything has nothing.  

Psychologically, the lack of hunger leads to psychological illnesses like "social anxiety."  Don't eat for a day.  Then see if you really give a fuck what the person in the cubicle next door thinks of you.  Skip a few meals, and then report back about how your "self-esteem needs" aren't being met. 

Hunger is not the same thing as starvation.  One must find a balance.  Probably intermittent fasting (Wikipedia entry) is that balance.


Portrait of a Narcissist as a Killer

The Last Psychiatrist has this interesting post about Christian Longo, who was recently profiled by a disgraced New York Times reporter in Esquire Magazine.  Check it out.

The post is interesting because it answers the typical, "How could someone do that?" question:

Longo was not a violent or mean person.

But past performance is not indicative of future results because he's never been tested: he's never had a narcissistic injury, wherein you are discovered to be not what you said you were. He thought of himself as-- he wanted people to believe that-- he was a successful, rich, businessman. But the business ran out of money, the debts piled up; so he counterfeited and forged, not to cover expenses but to keep up appearances.

Trapped? If he cared about money he would have stolen more of it; maybe even killed a couple of people to get their money. No. If he cared about his freedom he could have abandoned his family and fled the country. No. If he felt guilty about what he had done he could have found Jesus or simply killed himself. No. The thing he cared about more than anything else was his identity, and the ones who reflected that identity back to him were his family. They had to go.

The "How could someone do that?" question is maddening.  What you really mean is: I could never do that.  Therefore, the situation is incomprehensible!  Well, no.  There are other people with other minds and other motivations. 

That you could never do something doesn't make that something incomprehensible.  It simple means that you lack the ability to look outside of yourself.  Speaking of narcissism, right?  


Haiti Donations

Around 500,000 people are dead.  Bones are broken and skulls are crushed.  People are suffering.  What can you do?  You can ease some suffering, that's for sure.  Even a small donation to the right charity can go a long way.  

Partners in Health is an excellent charity.  You can give here.  

Most charities are a scam. They take your money, and then pay themselves lavish salaries. Show me someone with a 501(c)(3), and I'll show you a shyster...Usually.

Partners in Health (the linked-to site) is one of the good guys.  PIH uses 95% of all donations on actual charitable activities.  Your money will go to the people who need it rather than to non-profit executives.  

Make you donation here.

And, yes, I made mine.  Even a donation as small as $10 or $50 helps.

Thank you for your generous donation to Partners In Health.

Your gift will help support earthquake relief efforts in Haiti. Our team is preparing plans to bring medical assistance and supplies to areas that have been hit the hardest. Your contribution will help this life-saving work.

We remain, as ever, deeply grateful for your gift.

Sincerely,

Ophelia Dahl

Executive Director
Partners In Health


Partners In Health, a 501(c)(3) not for profit organization, has not provided any goods or services, in whole or in part, to you in consideration for this voluntary cash contribution. If you wish to claim the tax deductibility of this gift in the U.S., please retain this acknowledgment letter for your files.



Prosecutorial Misconduct in Rome

In Rome, prosecutorial misconduct was a serious offense.  Under the Remmian Law, a prosecutor who failed to prove his case would have his forehead branded with the letter, "K," for calumniator.  Cicero, Murder Trials (Michael Grant).  The laws of Rome read:

Tit. 16. Concerning the Turpillian Decree of the Senate and the dismissal of charges.

The recklessness of accusers is detected in three ways, and is punished by three penalties; for they either calumniate, prevaricate, or withdraw.

(1) To calumniate is to bring false accusations. To prevaricate is to conceal true crimes. To withdraw is to entirely abandon a charge.

(2) Punishment is inflicted upon calumniators by the Remmian Law.

(3) He who does not prove what he alleges is not immediately considered to be a calumniator, for the investigation of the offence is left to the judge, having jurisdiction of the case; who, if the defendant is acquitted, begins to inquire into the intention of the accuser, and why he was induced to bring the accusation; and if he finds this was due to a just mistake, he must discharge him. If, however, he should ascertain that he evidently has been guilty of calumny, he must inflict upon him the penalty of the law.

(4) The decision of either of these points is disclosed by the words of the judgment. For if it is as follows, "You have not proved your allegations," he spares the defendant; but ff he says, "You are guilty of calumny," he condemns him; and even though he may add nothing with reference to the penalty, still the power of the law will be enforced against him. For (as Papinianus held), the question of fact depends upon the discretion of the court, but the infliction of the punishment is not left to his will, but is reserved for the authority of the law.

THE ENACTMENTS OF JUSTINIAN. THE DIGEST OR PANDECTS.  Book XLVIII.  (S. P. Scott, The Civil Law, XI, Cincinnati, 1932 ).



Troy Benson is an Unethical Prosecutor

The Recorder is reporting:

A Santa Clara County, Calif., Superior Court judge cited "grossly shocking" prosecutorial conduct in dismissing a child sexual assault case Wednesday. 

In a written order (pdf), Judge Andrea Bryan described a "rare and concerning case of egregious prosecutorial misconduct" following a reversal for a Brady violation in defendant Augustine Uribe's case. She added that Deputy District Attorney Troy Benson's "numerous acts of misconduct, culminating in his false testimony in this proceeding, strikes at the foundation of our legal system and is so grossly shocking and outrageous that it offends the universal sense of justice to allow prosecution in this matter to proceed."

The judge's order is available here.  Prosecutorial misconduct, incidentally, is spreading like wildfire throughout California.  Some collected instances are available here.  


How Police View Excessive Force Investigations

If you want to know how police think, then you should read books marketed towards police.  One book I just ordered, Deadly Force Encounters: What Cops Need To Know To Mentally And Physically Prepare For And Survive A Gunfight (here), says this about police shootings:

In a cop's world it's kill or be killed, but the truth of the matter is that a shooting's aftermath is often the most dangerous time for the cop. This unique life- and career-saving manual contains every shred of critical information the police officer needs to survive the media, investigations and more.

How 'bout that?  

To be fair, the book is not about how to cover up a crime.  It's a book on fear.  (Indeed, I bought the book after seeing it referenced in the very interesting, Extreme Fear: The Science of Your Mind in Danger) (here).  

It's also a book on trauma.  Many officers suffer post-traumatic stress disorder after killing a suspect.  Most police are not trained killers.  Most officers suffer psychological problems after killing someone.  Those who view cops who shoot suspects as "evil" would be advised to read the book.

However, the police attitude, post-shooting, is not about facilitating the truth.  It is about protecting the cop who shot the suspect.  Judges, lawyers, and jurors should remember that when deciding whether to credit police testimony.  In at least a generalized sense, police do view investigations into police shootings as Us-And-Them.


Batza & Associates

[Disclosure: I did not receive - directly or indirectly - any remuneration, discount, or thing of value for this review.]

A couple of years ago, we hired David Batza & Associates to handle a sensitive sexual-assault prosecution.  They outperformed our expectations.

Although "thorough" is the word everyone who has seen their case reports used (and they did find everything), what impressed me most was their people skills.

Good private investigators can all find the same information.  One simply needs to learn how and what databases to search.  Great private investigators get witnesses to open up.

Getting people to talk to a private investigator is challenging.  No law, after all, requires a witness to speak to a private investigator.  If the witness won't speak at all - or won't open up - there isn't much you can do.  In a civil case, you can depose the witness.  In a criminal case...Good luck.

Cases involve witnesses.  What are those witnesses going to say?  Will their testimony help or hang you?  Although the rule of trial-by-surprise is dead in civil cases, criminal cases are full of surprises.

In the case Batza investigated, there was a witness to the alleged rape.  The witness was close friends with the complaining witness, but had refused to assist police.  She gave a vague statement that signified nothing.  Why was she so uncooperative, one wondered.  We sent Batza's team to find out.

The witness, at first, was not helpful.  She initially told Batza & Associates investigators: "Leave now or we're going to get a gun."  After not shooting them, the witnesses admitted that there was no rape.  She had been uncooperative because, while she didn't want to betray her friend, she also didn't want to assist with a false prosecution.

Thanks for Batza & Associates work, we were able to get a great plea deal.  (Yes, in our system of justice a prosecutor will still try a case where an eyewitness who was best friends with the complaining witness, states that no rape occurred.)  

If you ever need a fantastic private investigative firm, consider Batza & Associates.  Their firm websites is available here.