Thursday, September 11, 2014

Bob McDonnell's Pride Effected His Thinking

There are a lot of thinking lessons in the aftermath of the conviction on corruption charges of Bob and Maureen McDonnell. The most important may be to "think for the other guy." According to The Washington Post, McDonnell rejected a plea deal that would have allowed him to plead guilty to not reporting the loans that Jonnie Williams made to his real estate company on a loan application. In exchange for pleading guilty to this one felony, McDonnell would have received immunity for his wife and avoided prosecution for all the corruption charges. This is where McDonnell needed to "think for the other guy."

If McDonnell had asked himself what lead prosecutor David Harbach was thinking, he may have made a much different decision about the plea deal he rejected. Harbach is an experienced prosecutor who had been pouring through the evidence for months. He had a mountain of documents. Harbach knew that he would have to be reasonably certain of getting a conviction before going forward with such a high profile prosecution. The case would make national news and if Harbach didn't get a conviction on at least some of the charges, he would look foolish or worse yet, it might be considered by many to be malicious prosecution. The reason Harbach was willing to risk this was that he was confident of getting a conviction.

In a dispute of any kind, it's always good to think for the other guy. . . to put yourself in his/her shoes and ask what he/she is planning and why they are acting that way. McDonnell never did that. He only myopically saw the facts and circumstances through his own eyes. He could have avoided the trial, saved his wife and in all probability avoided any jail time. But he never thought for the other guy. His pride wouldn't allow him to plead guilty to anything. And now, sadly, he and his wife are facing what could be decades of incarceration.
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Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Seven Years in an Egyptian Prison for Doing Your Job

Seven years in an Egyptian prison for doing your job? That's what three Al Jazeera journalists received for “crimes” they committed back in December 2013 for covering the ouster of Mohamed Morsi, the legally elected President of Egypt and the head of the Muslim Brotherhood. To date, journalists Peter Greste, Baher Mohamed and Mohamed Fahmy have been imprisoned for over 200 days for creating international outrage. The prosecution accused these men of spreading false reports and colluding with the Muslim Brotherhood.

Seems that its very dangerous to be a journalist and report what is happening if the wrong side wins. The U.S. State Department has worked diligently to free the men to no avail.

Interesting isn't it? We're quick to criticize other nations for abuse of governmental power, yet we're slow to look at our own government.

Today hundreds of thousands of Americans sit rotting in jail for growing, selling or using a plant that is legal in some form in 23 states. Incarcerating these otherwise law-abiding citizens destroys lives, ruins families and costs billions, all in a futile attempt to prevent people from using a plant that our own President admits to having used large quantities of in his youth.

It seems that in the war on drugs, many of the "soldiers" are "deserting" since those 23 states have legalized cannabis in some form. It is “high time” that we surrender totally, admit defeat and free these prisoners of war so these poor souls who have been wasting away in prison can begin rebuilding their lives. President Obama could start this today by pardoning all non-violent offenders who have been convicted of selling, growing or possessing cannabis. 

From a thinking standpoint, this is an excellent example of Frog Theory. As Mark Twain noted, if you put a frog in a pan of hot water, he immediately jumps out. But if you put him in a pan of tepid water and slowly turn the heat up, he stays there until he's boiled. This is why so many people are outraged about the Al Jazeera journalists (who were suddenly incarcerated), but sanguine about the war on drugs, where the government has slowly turned the heat up over the years (many drugs that are now illegal were legal 100 years ago).

On a personal note, I want to be clear that I do not use marijuana. I do not permit my children to use it and I do not endorse its recreational use. I simply feel it is incredibly destructive and wasteful for our government to try to prevent its use. As a nation, the United States incarcerates 25 percent of the prisoners in the world, while we have only about five percent of the world's population. Even China has fewer prisoners than we do. Many of these prisoners are there solely for crimes related to possession, use or distribution of marijuana.
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