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malthaussen's Journal
malthaussen's Journal
August 25, 2013

Poetry after dark


We never had a chance,
But she is with me always.
As she would be now
If we'd only had a chance.

-- Mal

August 21, 2013

Why I think Bradley Manning should do time.

I imagine this post will offend both sides of the argument, but so be it. Now that the trial has been terminated and sentence awarded, I think it is permissible to offer my thoughts on the subject. First of all, I wouldn't have awarded him 35 years. But let's not get too far ahead of ourselves.

The argument for cutting him lose amounts to roughly this: as a courageous whistleblower, he exposed wrongdoing by the government and that this end justifies the illegality of the means. I agree that such exposure is of high value, but question that this value outweighs the illegality completely.

The argument for throwing the book at PFC Manning is the converse: he broke the law, he should pay his pound of flesh. As the Court dismissed any question of his actions putting allies or friendly personnel at risk, we can set aside that question ourselves. Thus we are left with an illegal act, and must weigh whether the benefit of said act outweighs the violation of the law.

Comparisons are often made to Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers (including by Mr Ellsberg himself). I submit that there is a difference: Mr Ellsberg was acting as a private citizen, whereas PFC Manning was acting while a member of the armed forces. Mr Ellsberg violated no trust of position when he released the information. This is not the case with PFC Manning.

The Uniform Code of Military Justice states that a soldier is obligated to disobey unlawful orders, furthermore it states that a soldier has the obligation to report any unlawful activity to the proper authorities. Wikileaks, however laudable an organization it may be, is not a proper authority, and thus the actions of PFC Manning were not in accordance with the UCMJ and he gets no slack there.

Another argument made in support of PFC Manning is that he was acting in accordance with the principles of civil disobedience, but here we have the same problem that PFC Manning was not a private citizen but a member of the armed forces, entrusted with the processing and maintenance of sensitive information. By disseminating such information he did not merely violate a statute, he violated a trust. Arguably, he exploited his position to violate the statute. It is a nice question, I think, whether the violation of trust should be forgiven, even if we may forgive the violation of statute. In any event, "Civil Disobedience" does not relieve the disobedient one from the force of law; quite the converse, one who engages in Civil Disobedience must be prepared to submit to the force of the law if he is in violation. Thus with PFC Manning, then, if we choose to employ the Civil Disobedience defense.

Enemies of freedom will argue that the end justifies the means. But by arguing that the information provided by PFC Manning justifies the method employed in disseminating it, are we not arguing exactly the same thing? Does, then, the end justify the means so long as it is our end, and not someone else's?

So, if I had been the judge, I would have awarded PFC Manning a DD and 3-5 for misappropriation (and misuse) of information. Acknowledging that he performed a worthy service, I still must question whether, in a nation of laws, we should encourage lawbreaking for any reason, however benign or laudable it might be. Your mileage may, of course, vary.

-- Mal

August 18, 2013

Dissent of Justice Brandeis, Olmstead v. United States:

"Our Government is the potent, the omnipresent teacher. For good or for ill, it teaches the whole people by its example. Crime is contagious. If the Government becomes a lawbreaker, it breeds contempt for law; it invites every man to become a law unto himself; it invites anarchy. To declare that, in the administration of the criminal law, the end justifies the means -- to declare that the Government may commit crimes in order to secure the conviction of a private criminal -- would bring terrible retribution. Against that pernicious doctrine this Court should resolutely set its face."

Olmstead v. United States was argued in 1928! The above is an excerpt from the dissent of Mr Justice Brandeis to the USSC ruling against the plaintiff. For the curious, here is a link to the full dissent:


"If the Government becomes a lawbreaker, it breeds contempt for law..." we haven't seen much of that since 1928, have we?

-- Mal

August 7, 2013

Can you get pregnant from oral sex? Maybe if you swallow real hard.

A friend sent me this link about what must be one of the most improbable conceptions ever... errr.... conceived.


Any further comment would be superfluous.

-- Mal

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