Artificial Intelligence Bows Past Human Brutality As the Two Move in Opposite Directions

I am composing the first draft of this post through dictation. For two years, I’ve been looking at the keyboard of my iPad without noticing that it contained a microphone icon. Finally, I studied the button (we’re supposed to learn from pictures nowadays—that I have noticed!), got a little curious, and began experimenting. When I discovered that the dictation technology which I had wanted to explore for years was right here at my fingertips (yes, literally), I was elated, yet clung to a certain reserve. I had indeed heard that problems lingered.  Sure enough, my maiden voyage took water heavily, if it didn’t exactly end on the rocks. Yesterday, in reading back some of my dictation from the previous evening, I found several embarrassing errors (a phrase which I see my digital amanuensis has recorded, “in Barris saying hours”).   “Digression” was a challenge for the software: it came out “big Russian”. “Repudiate” emerged “rape you a date”. The single most irritating misfire was the relatively simple word “enhanced”. I observed that a German-looking proper kept showing up in the phrase, “in Hanst”, no matter how often I repeated the word. So where the hell is Hanst? At last I couldn’t contain myself. I muttered to screen, “You dumb s**t”; and, of course, when I came to copy and paste my dictation from the previous evening, there was my obscenity staring me placidly in the face. “You dumb s**t.”

In this one regard, if no other, artificial intelligence is already vastly more mature than the human variety. It doesn’t reciprocate in name-calling. Granted, it may be too stupid to do so; but just possibly, it may also be so extremely clever that it understands the infuriating effectiveness of mirroring an obscenity right back at the sender. Now, if I had said those foul words to a human being, fur would have been flying instantly.

The truth is that you don’t have to say anything insulting to a human being these days in order to register as a beast, a cad (you dumb… you poor digital blockhead: not Computer-Assisted Design), or a cruel, heartless boor (no, you stupid… no, sweetheart: not boar; actually, the word “boor” is an intentional slur aimed at white South Africans—but we’re assured that slurring them is almost a moral obligation). A few of my readers may remember the incident about twenty years ago now when a hapless DC bureaucrat used the word of Scandinavian derivation, “niggardly”. He lost his job, and for a while he must have wondered if he would lose his life. Today we can’t say things like “spic and span” or “chink in the armor”. No, they’re not racist: any idiot could tell that they are expressions with no racial content whatever. Yet our society doesn’t breed just any sort of idiot.

We have a special variety of sensitive plant that sends its roots deep into our academic institutions and proliferates in our broadcast media. These delicate flowers process everything we say as it comes from the mouth, scanning for any resemblance to any word on a list of forbidden terms. Once a similarity is identified (no, not “a Denna five”), the long knives come out. The perpetrator is defamed, shamed publicly, humiliated for life, driven from his job, rendered unemployable—all because he used the phrase, “those people”, or blew some kind of racial dog whistle wherein the words “monkeying around” figured.

Given my newfound familiarity with dictation technology, I’m struck by how much our degenerating human mind resembles the rudimentary kind of artificial intelligence on display in this fallible wizardry. We have in our memory bank some thousands of words and phrases that we’ve encountered before: everything that we hear is judged on the basis of its relationship to the words in that depository. We no longer apply any power of analysis to the lexicon, so if you say, “She should stay home and look after her kids,” you instantly and irredeemably become guilty of at least a dozen vile sexist transgressions. The receptor’s circuits perceive no context for your remark and seek out none. The raw text of what you said is what you meant. What else could you mean? You used words X, Y, and Z; those words are stored in the warehouse; and this is what they mean when unpacked.

Words like “target” and “trigger” are incitements to gun violence. An expression like “tough it out” points to toxic masculinity. Employing the word “mailman” or “chairman” designates you as what used to be called a “male chauvinist pig back” in the Seventies; nowadays the noun “male” suffices to capture the same sense. The word “Christmas” is hate speech: it implies disparagement of Islam. Saying “Peking” instead of “Beijing” or “Bombay” instead of “Mumbai” is rank colonialism. Sometimes you don’t have to utter a syllable; simply wearing a sombrero, whether or not you try to pronounce the word’s trilling r’s, is cultural appropriation.

Digital Dictaphone is a good sport about this sort of thing. It ties your thoughts to its available vocabulary without any sort of invidious inference. But the contemporary human version of this artificial operation is painfully artificial in all the wrong ways. We refuse to supply context, to research words used in an unfamiliar manner, to give somebody the benefit of the doubt based upon the person’s previous clean record. We develop the kind of closed mind that only primitive computers will preserve in the future. The machine will pass us up as we descend to its level of weakest performance.

When I have written in the past about human fusion with robots becoming increasingly easy as people grow blunter and robots grow subtler, this is the sort of thing I had in mind. Imagine my iPad’s stupid little dictation device, and then imagine its marriage to the prickly, politically-correct consciousness of a graduate student in English. We are dumbing down, and we’re not doing it gracefully. The day is already at hand when a minimally functional computer like my iPad could be programmed with polite responses, and the result would be superior to the new wave of “woke” people (what an idiot word for an idiot generation!) emerging from our colleges.

God only knows what my digital mirror is writing down. I’ll find out tomorrow (today: you’ll have noticed a few of my many changes as I edit the final draft), because I’m not actually reading the words that pop up on the screen. I don’t want to: they would distract me—would probably make me angry. Yet I know all the while, even though I’ll probably grumble a few curses tomorrow, that the machine is just a machine. It did as well as it could.

I almost wanted to say, “She did as well as she could.” Why is that? Is it because of my need to belittle females… or is it because I attribute to the female, in a traditionalist’s presumption, the desire to please, to compromise, to mediate, to make peace? I wonder if males who come after me, perhaps those of my son’s generation, will deck their computers out in a feminine face and program it with feminine politeness. I wonder if they will find the result more feminine, more lovable, more companionable than the “manly women” who grow up beside them. I wonder how soon we’re going to be reduced to embracing our screens for human companionship

The Mortal Risks of Too Much Success

My son amazed me by grasping within a year that his B.A. in Business Administration was a dead end and plunging himself into a sixteen-week course that prepared him to write Java code.  Now he’s… well, I mustn’t brag on him, even though today is his twenty-fourth birthday.  Suffice it to say that he’s making half again as much as his old man ever earned.

So now he can check the “gainful employment” box.  I was shocked, however, when he revealed during his recent visit how unrewarding he suddenly finds life to be.  He was a college athlete: no more baseball.  He was an intense student: no more techniques or disciplines to master.  He occupies one of the few plateaus offered by the American Dream, where you can stand up and gaze about rather than worry over your next foothold.  Comfort, security, a future… so what’s next?  A new car?  A house?  Marriage and family?  Are those, then—including the wife and children—acquisitions that mark an elevated status, like a new suit of expensive clothes?

The church he attends (and the churches attended by many in our more prosperous communities) veritably seethes with community-service projects, missionary activities, “outreach”… sure, that could be the next step!  Now that your own life has attained a plateau from whose ridge you clearly see the abyss of nullify at your feet, divert your eyes by rushing to bestow upon others the material blessings which turned to ash in your own hands.  Help others a few steps up the same plateau.  Whatever you do, just don’t rear up and take conscious notice that you occupy an island from whose heights the stars are as distant as ever.

Or become a socialist—a Bernie-baby.  (It’s very nearly the same thing as joining a progressive church.)  Wrap yourself in an “activism” that demands equal pay for all, equal housing, equal education, equal health care, equal transportation, equal access to amusements; or save a planet that doesn’t need saving, while you wildly cast about—in your own desperate need of salvation—for something or someone to save.  The planet needs saving—yes, it does!  Yes, it does!  Become a mindless zealot.  Whatever you do, don’t look over that ledge into the existential abyss that mirrors your life’s futility.

We have placed our young people in this dilemma precisely by engineering the most prosperous society in human history.  The basic necessities of survival preoccupied human beings for millennia; now they—we—worry over which gender pronoun to use and whether cows are passing wind too often: anything to distract us from peering over the edge into the abyss.

If I appear to make light of such anguish, it’s really the flight from anguish—the childish, highly creative, utterly delusional evasions of it—that make me smile.  The anguish itself can kill.  It almost killed me.  I am fully satisfied that it won’t kill my son, thank God: his dark side (and only the shallowest puddles have no murkiness) is not as sinister and paralyzing as mine.  But what I’m about to say is neither a joking matter nor, if you will bear with me, a frontal assault upon capitalism.  It’s just how things are: life.

In an advanced, high-tech economy, you make money by producing and selling things.  Since need is somewhat subjective, you maximize your marketing opportunities by making the public perceive commodities as necessary which are not so—whose possession may, indeed, create true need or otherwise cause harm.  You lure the masses into “needing” burgers and fries, iPhones, video games, Nike sneakers, Pop Tarts, torn blue jeans, a kitchen island, a well-mowed lawn.  I discovered yesterday that almonds are required to be pasteurized, thanks to two salmonella outbreaks more than a decade ago.  The process is not required of any other nut, yet the almond is no more susceptible to contamination than other nuts.  The mandate appears to be no more than a marketing strategy endorsed by both public and private sectors to ensure a gullible public that life’s risks can be neutralized.  If you’re involved in some such initiative as this, you probably make a handsome salary.  And what the hell are you actually doing with your time on earth?

It gets worse.  Because of the system’s success at generating “needless necessities” and then surrounding each product with numerous bureaucratic careers concerned with measuring, validating, and policing, the cost of everything constantly rises.  Small new enterprises cannot compete in the advertisement-and-regulation-saturated atmosphere of this highly evolved economy… and so they steadily disappear.  Young people could once find their meaning simply by inheriting a position at the local grocery or tannery or freight office: “A.B. Lindstrom, Grocer”; “Buck’s Boots and Saddles”.  “We deliver groceries to your doorstep… we custom-fit every boot… we take packages to all local destinations before the sun goes down.”  There was much pride invested in such operations.  They served the community, and their clients became a kind of extended family.

In our brave new world of vast chains and corporate mergers, personal relationships of this kind are the stuff of claptrap publicity rather than of reality.  No sense of fixity, of rootedness, remains: everything’s in constant flux.  Rarely does a human voice even answer the complaint hotline now; rarely is there even a phone number to call rather than a website with “frequently asked questions”.

The young person in the labor force, then, is left with… a paycheck.  A paycheck to spend on baubles and frivolities that may create—briefly—the illusion of happiness.  And we wonder why our youth are so unmoored from reality, and why our collective manifests signs of clinical insanity….

My son will be fine, because he is one of the few who will stare straight into the abyss.  True faith, I am convinced, comes only to those who doubt.  The strongest answer to the question, “Why believe in God,” is the number of unanswerable questions surrounding that central one.  Those who shield their eyes and ears from the plateau’s windblown isolation dwell in the illusion that the stars sit within easy reach.  They don’t.  They’re stars.

Those thuds you hear with increasing rapidity and rising volume are the sound of fools trying to step onto a star from an extension ladder.  That’s where our society is today: catastrophic folly.  And we did it to ourselves, by being successful.  I don’t really have any single solution for how we cure ourselves of our suicidal impulses.  Perhaps the corpses around us will eventually be too thick for another ladder to be erected.

Happy birthday, my son! Carry on.

On the Extreme Lightness of E-Being

I missed my Sunday post because my Mac Pro, which is possibly ten years old (no, I’m not sure right off the bat), locked up during an “update” sequence.  The Mac doctor informed me yesterday that the old girl will be released from intensive care later today.  Apparently this was not the death spiral that I had long anticipated—though I’m still holding my breath; two or three times a month for the past half-year now, I have had to reboot the machine because no cursor was activated in the morning’s first attempt.

All such uncertainty suggests several cautionary lessons to me.  Obviously, one is our very high degree of dependency upon technology which few of us understand.  Virtually every species of communication is now surrendered to some electronic means of conveyance or other.  Without healthy hardware, updated software, electrical service, and functional Internet, we’re plunged into an oubliette of solitude.  That’s a fearful degree of abject vulnerability to forces entirely beyond our control.

Naturally, wicked people who might wish to exploit this degree of exposure could readily do so from certain corridors of power.  I was alerted in a little box on my screen’s upper right that an update awaited me.  I really had no idea just what this update might contain or affect; I almost never have the slightest inkling.  The day might come when I’m providing NSA complete access to every word I’ve ever written.  Actually, I believe that day came and went about six or eight years ago.

And when people in the know tell me, “Well, at ten years, your Mac has had a good innings,” something in me remains disturbed.  Really… just ten years?  That is now spoken of as fifty would have been when I was a child.  Things are not made to last even a decade.  If they do so, we marvel.  All of our gizmoes live on a canine rather than a human scale now, apparently.  I’ll name my next model “Lassie”… or maybe “Spike, the Goldfish”.

Of course, for many “users” (sounds a little like the world of contraband drugs, doesn’t it?), the mention of a decade is painful not because it implies system failure, but simply because it implies falling out of fashion.  Assuming that your present device continues to function in, say, 2025, just think of all the cool new things which you will not be able to do at that point.  I possess a PC whose full age is pushing twenty rather than ten, and I genuinely prefer it for word processing since MS Word was designed for its system.  The problem is that I can’t take the product of any such work directly to the Internet any longer.  Well over ten years ago, the unit’s dial-up connection was already running too slowly to handle the “cool new stuff” of our Cool New World.  In fact, as I logged into WordPress using this finicky iPad to write the lines before you, I was asked if I would like an “ap” to open WP.  Most cool-new-things are of this variety: they don’t actually improve our work—they simply speed us through the process… which degrades our work at some point, I sincerely maintain, because we grow impatient with careful thought and painful revision.

Yet onward we surge, embracing every generation of shortcuts (bred faster than rabbits on fertility drugs) and spending thousands of dollars with each change.  (A new Mac Pro would literally cost me around $2,000).  I don’t believe this process to be illustrative even of the notorious “planned obsolescence”: most people, as I say, would have discarded “Lassie” before she collapsed and fixed her sad eyes on me.  And when I say “most people”, I mean younger people, primarily.  The educated young lead a very costly lifestyle thanks to this dependency upon the latest and coolest… and “conservative” luminaries among us, ironically, approve of such giddy habits, because the economy thrives upon them.  Drug-pushers like “users” to become addicts, too, as long as they can pay the bill.

Next time (whenever that is: we’ll see this afternoon if Lassie is up to wagging her tail again), I’d like to pursue the spiritual consequences of a young person’s living in this world defined by flux—by overnight outdatedness.  They are many and devastating, in my opinion.  Especially after the good long talk I had with my son during one of his (now rare) visits home this past weekend, I feel that I am peering through a window upon a prospect of wealth, abundance, opportunity… and also extreme transience, feather-weightedness, and feverish activity without ultimate objective.  The disease I’m seeing may essentially be the one that’s rotting our society and our culture from the inside out.

Men Are From Mars… Politicians Are From the Landfill

If you were to tell me breathlessly that you had acquired knowledge of a dark conspiracy based upon the latest segment of Ancient Aliens, I would probably nod and attempt to patch another topic seamlessly into the conversation.  I would almost certainly not say, “Tell me more.”  Let’s face it: the prime objective of a long-running television serial is to run yet longer.  Some very suspicious activity once occurred over Roswell, at Rendlesham Forest, over the Phoenix area… such incidents might suffice to fuel one good season of an objective documentary.  By the time we’re talking about lizard-men appearing from cracks in the earth, however, or the Ananachi instructing Gilgamesh to subdue Humbaba… well, by the way, did you happen to know that honey is very high in antioxidant?  I just found that out….

If I were Mike Bara, I would feel somewhat conflicted about being featured regularly on this quasi-scientific, conspiracy-rich series, especially when my spots are wedges between images of guys with cryptic talismans dangling from their wide-open shirts and strange gardens growing on their crowns where hair should be.  Yet the gig certainly sells books and promotes celebrity.  The cover of Bara’s Ancient Aliens on Mars (2013) does little to reassure us that its contents will abstain from sensationalism; and the title, for that matter, seems hapless to me, in that it directly taps into the TV serial while ineptly designating its subject.  For a Martian would not be an alien unless he left Mars—and Mars remains the exclusive focus of Bara’s little work, not Martian immigration to ancient Peru or Anatolia.  The book, let’s admit, has “popular” objectives.  It’s written to make money.

At the same time, when the academic community shuts you out, you don’t necessarily have a lot of options left—and the popular one effectively broadcasts the word that the academic game is rigged while also earning you (hopefully) the wherewithal to carry the struggle forward.  Did Bara, then, simply make up the incident involving JPL’s bizarre and high-handed reddening of the Viking I photos so as to make the planet appear utterly desolate and… well, alien?  I know that he didn’t invent NASA’s curious dismissal of Gil Levin’s positive test for life in Martian soil during that mission—a test that ran like clockwork and then, by official decree, was essentially ruled a waste of millions of dollars.

Is Bara writing fiction when he chronicles our government’s paying for Michael Malin’s camera to be included on the Observer mission—and then declaring that Malin, as a private entity, had exclusive rights to any resultant photos for six months?  Does Bara merely imagine NASA’s resistance to photographing certain Martian regions previously suspected of retaining relics of clearly artificial (i.e., not natural) structures throughout this and the Pathfinder mission?  It isn’t just Bara, is it, who recalls that the open-bidding protocol was cavalierly subverted in awarding Malin’s now-outdated instrument the contract for riding aboard the Mars Global Surveyor?

I do but graze the surface—and Bara’s “popular” account of these outrageously manipulated engineering decisions and suppressed or doctored “revelations” is itself condensed to a particle of the complete explanation.  A skeptic might respond that I have so far ignored the book’s most “embarrassing” part: the discussion of the infamous “face” said to occupy several square kilometers on the Martian surface.  He-he, ha-ha!  Who could possibly… why, the very idea!  A rock formation acquires a certain look at a certain time of day as shadows fall in a certain pattern—and voila!  We have a human-like face!  So very droll!

Okay.  But why would NASA not take better shots of the region to resolve the issue?  The claim was made that such a flyover indeed occurred and that such a shot was indeed taken… except that, years later, NASA was forced to admit that it had no such debunking photo.  And the “face” region was one of many where images were demonstrably tempered with during subsequent missions.  It must also be emphasized by those whose math skills far exceed my own that the “face compound” (for the immediate region is prolific with artificial-seeming structures) repeatedly encodes certain geometric relationships independent of cultural conditioning, just as a radio transmission from a dark quadrant of the sky that reprised a theme from Peter and the Wolf could not merely be a neutron star’s chatter.

I know that these notions are a tough sell.  Years ago, I published an uncensored Martian photo in my online journal that showed what was indisputably a tooled, artificial object, full of intricate and rigidly aligned holes, rings, and corners.  Several of my academic readers sniffed that my parody was indeed rare, but needed more seasoning: I almost sounded as though I were serious!

Cases like these have two forces working strongly against them.  One is (as just intimated) the ever-active anxiety in “educated” people that perhaps they are being duped.  “No, no… you can’t fool me!  Not today—not with that one!”  The very lapse of the word “conspiracy” into ignominy, as if no intricate, chess-like suckering ever happened in the real world, is evidence of how easily we can be hoodwinked in our fear of being hoodwinked.

Hence the second force: the “science” of disinformation, as pioneered by the Soviets and now mastered in our own society.  Nothing more discredits a reality that you wish to keep secret than going fully public with it in a ridiculously hyperbolic manner.  “Sure, I had an affair with that woman!  Why, I must have had fifty affairs in that one week!  Half the electorate of Nevada consists of my sons and daughters!”  Ha-ha, he-he.

I don’t sincerely belief that Ancient Aliens, the TV serial, has been intended by its producers to grind out such background interference; yet its constant quest for yet one more season has that effect, and the effect is no doubt viewed with satisfaction by certain artists of disguise on the public payroll.

Because of Bara’s book and a mass of other evidence (a little of it gathered in private conversation with reliable sources), I preserve no doubt of any kind that our government has lied to us for years about issues related to the so-called Space Program.  My question, as a citizen rather than a professional technician or academic researcher, is why.  One lies for a reason: one lies for personal advantage.  Who is deriving an advantage from concealing details—no, more than details: essential information—about the course and nature of intelligent life in our solar system?  What sort of advantage might this be?  When would the trump card be played?  Will the rest of us be left sprawling in the dust on that day as mere dupes… or are we an intended sacrifice of proportions exceeding the Stalinesque?

I hate living in a society whose leadership I no longer trust a penny’s worth about anything.  It’s exhausting; it’s infuriating.  I want to deliver this message to my “representatives” and to their “academic expert” lackeys everywhere, without geometric coding: “You sorry bastards.  If wind turbines are safe, then you go live under one.  If the Rare Earth Elements on solar panels are clean, then put your family downstream from one.  If the rich need to pay 90 percent of their income to create a world where energy carries ten times the price tag, then you start by liquidating 90 percent of your gross assets and divesting yourself of all energy-related investments.  If universal public health care is such a great idea, than sign yourself and your family up for it.  If the war against Islamic extremism must be fought in perpetuity halfway around the world, then be sure that your son enlists to fight it.”

Could it be, on the contrary, that our “leaders” enjoy an entirely off-the-grid, off-the-books, off-budget parallel reality of bunkered paradise, engineered with unimaginable sophistication, that awaits them whenever the red button is pushed?  “Could it be….?”  Yeah, now I sound like the narrator of Ancient Aliens; but when you know you’re being lied to, persistently and with design, the mind runs wild.

Could it be that we will learn more truth about our solar system from Putin or the Chinese than from NASA?

Criminal Investigation: Too Much Blueprint and Too Few Bricks? (Part II)

I would like to have more information about the forensic technique of identifying guns through imprints left upon spent shells (primarily by the firing pin).  I would like to know if that science had achieved a high degree of reliability in the early twenty-first century.  Of course, in the case of Buddy Woodall, we’re not talking about an experiment at MIT.  Glynn County, Georgia, is among the poorest in the state.  Even if the county lab possessed the latest technology in 2000, did it have technicians schooled in the latest skills?

The issue of shell casings being found on the property of Buddy’s parents that matched those recovered at the scene of a double homicide remains crucial to me.  The Netflix serial Confession Tapes brushed hurriedly past it in order to focus upon the defendant’s very dubious admission of guilt—and I will anticipate myself by noting here that the weapon Woodall confessed to firing could not possibly have produced the casings found.  This is just one in a string of “admissions” that must be false, and which the prosecution never tried to present as other than false while still insisting that Woodall had truly confessed. Yet whatever Netflix or the State of Georgia wished to foreground about the evidence, the shell casings remain the point most disturbing to me.

I am much predisposed in Buddy’s favor, however, by the State’s Confirmation of Conviction (# S13A1564) published online at https://caselaw.findlaw.com/ga-supreme-court/1655783.html.  Ironic, isn’t it, that a document tending to exonerate Buddy Woodall would be the work product of several judges writing to reaffirm that he had been correctly condemned! Here’s how it reads in regard to the murder weapon:

The police collected physical evidence which revealed Mr. Van Allen was shot three times [I wrote last time that he had been shot twice: I presume that I was wrong] with a .25 Lorcin pistol. The evidence also showed that a pearl-handled .25 Lorcin pistol and two other guns had been stolen from appellant’s father’s safe in May 2000. An acquaintance of appellant testified that sometime before the murders, he saw appellant with a .25 pearl-handled pistol and a 9mm Ruger. The medical examiner testified two of the three gunshots were fatal as to Mr. Van Allen—one to his head and another that went through his chest piercing his lungs and heart. The gunshot to Mr. Van Allen’s head was made from a distance of 16 to 18 inches because there was gun powder residue at the site of the entrance wound. Mr. Lynn died due to a gunshot to back of the head. Authorities were unable to recover the bullet or shell casing which would have revealed the caliber of the weapon used to inflict Mr. Lynn’s injury. The lead investigator on the case testified he had a discussion with the medical examiner wherein the medical examiner opined that Mr. Lynn was shot with a .38 caliber weapon; however, the medical examiner testified at trial that he could not determine what caliber weapon was used against Mr. Lynn. Still, police generally believed appellant and his co-defendant were both shooters, although appellant told police his co-defendant shot both victims.

Isn’t this interesting?  The notion that two guns and two shooters were involved is strongly suggested, yet an obligingly hesitant coroner was unwilling to exclude the .25 from Lynn’s murder by the time of trial. Buddy Woodall received life sentences for the commission of both murders, as if he were the sole culprit on the scene.

And just to thicken the plot yet further, it turns out the weapon used in Van Allen’s murder, at least, had indeed been stolen from the gun safe of Buddy’s father several months earlier!  Now, is the implication that Woodall was nicking his own dad’s possessions as well as gunning down other close relations?  This is an emerging portrait of a young psychotic—an incurable “bad boy”—which nothing in the defendant’s life appears to justify. Why would Buddy not simply have borrowed the gun; or if he knew he were going to use it in a robbery/murder three months later (to earn a few hundred bucks), why wouldn’t he snitch a weapon not traceable to his kinfolk? For that matter, if he needed a few c-notes that badly at that time, why not simply pawn the three guns that he had just stolen?

As for the acquaintance who testified to having seen Buddy with a pearl-handled pistol “sometime before the murders”, the official statement above is helpful neither in specifying the time nor the acquaintance. Woodall’s brother-in-law, David Wimberly, had volunteered a few items of testimony used by the prosecution; was this one of those? “Davy” might have borne an understandable grudge against Buddy for being implicated in the murders (accused of both, actually) by the “confession”. Even so, simply admitting to having seen a pearl-handled pistol—they’re not rare—hardly even reaches the threshold of circumstantial relevance.

The documentary records the claim of one witness that Woodall had spoken to him about ambushing a hypothetical victim in an out-of-the-way place. Such is the fabric of which the state’s case is woven: young men casually discussing over a beer how to murder someone, maybe after watching an episode of Forensic Files (my son’s favorite show). Let us grant, as well, that harvesting a statement of this sort from a lad on probation for a drug or assault conviction would be as easy as getting a lab rat to eat sugar. It happens all the time. A fellow being leaned on gently under such conditions would remember whatever little tidbit the detective needed. Anything to help law enforcement!

Being the person originally—and without compulsion—identified by Buddy as having borrowed the family’s blue car on the fateful day (more of that later), Wimberly does raise certain questions.  I know nothing whatever about David Wimberly, however, except what is alleged in legal documents.  These are often so far from dispelling the cloud of witness that they churn out more fog at critical points.  For instance, the judges who compiled the Confirmation of Conviction, in one of their more transparent statements, actually position the fatal wound to Lavelle Lynn 180 degrees from its true point of entry: the Netflix documentary made graphically clear (and I do mean graphically) that the bullet struck Lynn between the eyes, not in the back of the head. A similar document online identifies Lavelle Lynn as the uncle of Woodall’s wife. I find such confusion very odd, as someone who doesn’t normally read in the genre.  Is such slipshod assembly of the basic facts where a man’s life hangs in the balance really typically of how our system works?

The fate of the $490 in victim Lavelle Lynn’s wallet (stated on camera as $480 by Lynn’s daughter) poses another series of questions that I, as a juror, would have wanted answered—and perhaps the prosecution offered a more detailed account than the documentary’s producers had time to relate.  Still… what happened to the cash?  The published text of the Confirmation simply reads as follows:

The record also showed that when Mr. Lynn’s body was discovered, his wallet was missing from his person;3but the wallet was recovered several months later, emptied of money and laying [sic] by the roadside in another county.

I have retained the text’s “3” to indicate the probable intent of communicating more information—but the hyperlink is inactive.  So I’m left with my unanswered questions.  Since Woodall is supposed to have needed the money desperately, was there any record of overdue bills being paid off suddenly right after September 3?  Was a substantial cash deposit made in Buddy’s bank account at about this time—or did he usually pay his monthly bills in cash?  Finding those answers now would likely be impossible, at least in a form that didn’t involve pure hearsay.  Did detectives ask the questions when hard evidence could have settled the issues?  Pardon my skepticism… but I somehow doubt it.

The wallet’s point of discovery could have been another highly significant detail.  Bladen Road appears to me to run very near the border of Glynn and Brantley Counties, the latter of which was Woodall’s home turf; so was the cryptic “roadside in another county” where Lynn’s wallet eventually turned up a bit of Brantley real estate around the bend from Buddy’s house… or are we approaching Florida or Alabama?

Once again, the Confirmation couldn’t have been less helpful if it were a rural signpost twisted about by rowdy high school kids on a Friday night.  Buddy Woodall was working two jobs to support a wife and three children; if the wallet showed up on the road to Athens or Atlanta, its depositing would have required a trip that the defendant couldn’t have budgeted into his busy schedule—not without producing a strange absence noticeable to all around him.

It turns out, however (as I eventually discovered from another document), that the wallet was found along Highway 110—which is actually very close to Bladen Road, just west enough to cross the Brantley County line. (Why Their Honors couldn’t have written “roadside in Brantley County” instead of “roadside in another county” is anyone’s guess.) But now I have several questions of a different sort. Why would Woodall have taken the wallet, in the first place?  If enrichment by any and all means were the motive of these two robbery/homicides, then why not take second victim Robert Van Allen’s watch and other effects? Why not? Because Woodall was no fool, and he would know that such a haul couldn’t have been fenced locally without leaving a trail.  But if Woodall was no fool, then I must ask, once again: why take the wallet? And being smart enough to realize that he didn’t want a bunch of perilously identifiable material knocking around in his pocket, why toss the wallet out the window in his home county just at a spot where it could easily be found? I guarantee you that you or I could “lose” such an article where it wouldn’t be recovered for decades.

I wonder if the wallet was taken to transmit loud and clear the message, “This was a robbery,” because… because the murder wasn’t really a robbery at all.  I return to my suspicions about a drug-related hit, considering the cold-blooded shot between the eyes (which the Confirmation effectively scuffed up).  By 2000, the lush, remote backwoods of the Gulf States were attracting marijuana-growers even from Mexican cartels.  (That’s right: the cartels would smuggle their highly armed “farmers” into secure pockets such as national forests—there’s a huge stretch of such forest along I 20 through Mississippi—and issue them orders to kill intruders on sight.)  Lavelle Lynn had mixed himself up in some extra-legal activity that had grown a lot more risky than running a whiskey still.  I think he may have paid the ultimate price for that error.

But those who built and prosecuted the case against Buddy Woodall—I’m sure without malice or conscious distortion—assembled and stated “facts” in such a way that all roads led to Buddy’s doorstep.  When a path stubbornly wandered elsewhere, they dumped brush over it, turned their backs, and walked away.

And yet, I don’t think a pandillero from Michoacan would have stolen guns from the senior Mr. Woodall’s safe and then, three months later, have murdered with one of them. That all points to somebody local.

Criminal Investigation: Too Much Blueprint and Not Enough Bricks? (Part I)

A Netflix serial titled The Confession Tapes crossed my bow a few months ago.  At the time, I was growing so weary of cases where our judicial system—whether through incompetence or malice afterthought—had put innocent people in a cage for life that I couldn’t take any more.  I wasn’t denying the evidence; I was just trying to fight back a mounting depression, whose waters were already rising a hell of a lot faster around me that anything threatened by “climate change”.

I happened to Tweet something about my dismay—a found a whole new cause to grow depressed.  In the time that it takes a neutrino to travel from the sun, I acquired all kinds of liberal friends… all of whom dropped me the next day, as soon as I shared a sentiment about our need for a national border.  Gee, sorry: I didn’t realize that the desire for a just “justice system” was a partisan issue.

One Tweet, however, had a haunting quality. It contained little more than something like, “We are Episode 6.”  Curious, I watched that episode: “The Labor Day Murders”.  It involved a double homicide with the objective of lightening one victim’s wallet by about $450 (or $490, as I see in some sources).  The crime was evidently an ambush along Glynn county’s rural Bladen Road in extreme southeastern Georgia, not far from Savannah.  I believe there was a railroad track running beside the road at that point.  Lavelle Lynn, owner of a garage and dealer in auto parts (and anything else that made money, legal or illegal) was shot between the eyes with a .22 caliber handgun.  His friend and employee, Robert Arthur Van Allen, was also shot in the head—twice—and was found lying on his back.

I’m not making a bid here for drama.  I insist upon the details because, while I have no expertise at all in forensics, I do flatter myself that I know something about human psychology.  Getting shot between the eyes with a pistol, dead center… how does that happen?  Old Westerns notwithstanding, you can’t hit a bull’s eye with a hipshot.  The weapon must have been extended into the victim’s face at close range.  Why would a burly mechanic and sometime drug dealer like Lavelle Lynn let a gun’s bore settle over his forehead without trying to swat it away—and maybe getting himself killed, but at least spoiling the perfectly centered entry?  The shot must have come as a surprise: he must have thought that some kind of transaction or negotiation was ongoing.  “Okay, you’ve got my wallet.  What more do you want?”  “Okay, so you’re selling weed on this side of the track.  My customers already know me.”  He must not have realized that the assailant had murder in mind before he had stopped their truck.

Lynn must have been shot first, which would have made Van Allen a less willing and stable target.  I suppose that’s why he required two shots that weren’t as “clean”.

The man who did this was a cold-blooded killer.  I think a turf war between drug dealers makes a lot of sense, because that’s where you find an abundance of… yes, animals.  A fellow who needed quick cash and was aware that Lavelle carried a wad of it around might not have left him alive—but I figure he would have shot him in the torso first and then finished him through the head when the eyes were turned away.  To pull the switch on a human life as two vibrant eyes stare straight at you is psychopathic.  Shades of Che and his death squads.

So, naturally, after months of spinning their wheels, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation decided to zero in on Buddy Woodall, Lavelle Lynn’s all-American boy of a nephew: loving husband and father, working hard at two jobs (two legal jobs), no record of violent crime or antisocial behavior, and—by the way—very fond of Uncle Lavelle, who would cheerfully have loaned him cash if he were in dire straits.

The author of the Tweet that had alerted me to this case was Buddy’s wife Kristy.

I’m not Kathleen Zellner: I’ve already said that.  I have no prosecutorial or forensic experience whatever.  I have indeed had just a little experience, as a burglary victim, of how little focus local cops sometimes bring to their task and how shaky their awareness of human nature can be.  Just because facing down bad guys from behind a badge appeals to you doesn’t necessarily mean that you understand how human beings tick.  It may increase the probability, I’m afraid, that you do not possess such understanding.

I’m going to continue these posts for at least two more occasions, unless Kristy Woodall asks me to desist.  My hope is that someone having the competencies so severely lacking in my own resume may take an interest in the case, whose “guilty” verdict was confirmed by the Georgia Supreme Court in late January of 2014.  Naturally, of special interest in the Netflix series were the dubious conditions under which Buddy’s “confession” was elicited—and I’ll get to that, for the online document publicly confirming the verdict is itself at odds with the televised account of the interrogation on at least one major issue.

For now, however, I’ll wrap up by mentioning what was the most damning item of evidence to me: the shell casings found on the property of Buddy’s parents.  These were said to have made a perfect match with casings recovered from the crime scene.  The murder weapon itself was never retrieved, so any further ballistics analysis was impossible.

When you stop and think about it, that in itself is puzzling: I mean, that you would commit a double homicide to harvest about $500 knowing that you’d have to discard the weapon—and knowing that the semi-automatic pistol itself (sold before the crime) might have brought a couple of hundred in a pawn shop.

But as for the shell casings: I was unaware before doing further research that the imprint of the firing pin could become a unique identifier.  There seems to be some slight question even today about its being so.  Almost twenty years ago, was the state of forensic science at the point where the identification could be considered foolproof?  If those tests were run again in 2019, what results would they yield?

The implied narrative behind the shells recovered in the back yard of Woodall Senior was obviously that Buddy would take target practice there.  Can we confirm that?  Did neighbors routinely hear gunshots from that direction?  (I can tell you as a resident of rural Georgia myself: you would hear, even if you lived miles away.)

Did Buddy in fact have a .22 semi-automatic registered to him at the time?  If so, and if it was never recovered… what was the reason given by him for its disappearance?  If it was stolen before September 3, 2000, can anyone confirm the theft from remarks or documentation preceding the murders?

These were details, naturally, that didn’t make it into the show, whose spotlight shone on the confession; but I have to wonder if they were details that local detectives ever attempted to supply.

My impression of certain cases is that their “architects” eagerly fill in pieces that contribute to the desired effect as they appear—and either ignore or don’t seek out other pieces that might detract from the emerging whole.  I have further reason to believe that such “artistry” may have played a role in Woodall’s conviction.  I’ll speak further of that later.

“Sea Cities”: A Better Option Than Going to Mars

I don’t remember the date of my first encounter with the subject of floating cities.  I would guess that the documentary I view on the subject might have appeared as early as a decade ago.  At that time, it seemed that the engineering problems were already well along the way to being solved.  The proposed substructure consisted of hundreds (or potentially thousands) of discrete units that created just enough flexibility to even out wave-effect virtually to nothing.  Shocks were simply absorbed.  I can’t recall how the whole was to be motorized—but the claim was made confidently that these islands would be capable of averting dangerous weather systems.  Perhaps independent ships would drag them from harm’s way.

That, as I say, was a while back.  Having brought the subject up casually last week, I continued to ask myself where the technology might be today—and why one hears no more about it.  And I began to think about all the problems that “sea cities” could effectively resolve.  Let’s say that the polar ice caps start to melt: that doesn’t seem to be happening at all, but let us stipulate that our coasts begin to creep in on us.  All of the plans on the board to reduce carbon dioxide emissions (assuming that these were responsible for “coastal creep”—another whopping and unsubstantiated assumption) would merely plunge us into abject poverty while applying far too little antidote to the crisis far too late.  Such “plans” are idiotic, to be blunt.  A floating city, on the other hand, is an obvious and complete solution.  So where are the drawing boards featuring that plan?

As I also wrote last time, floating cities could tightly control access.  Crime would diminish to a fraction of current measures.  Undesirables and unwanted substances could be kept out with high efficiency.  Indeed, one of my concerns about the paradigm is that we could be contemplating crucibles for horrendous despotism, where abject obedience is enforced and flight is about as difficult as we find it, say, from Castro’s Cuba.  But if we really wish to grow more Balkan and more tribal, as appears to be the case… then here’s our chance.  Island A could be all heterosexual or all gay, if you like; B could be all Mormon; C could speak only Breton, an enclave of Celtic revivalists; D could require all citizens to carry a gun—or to give up even their pocket knives.  Landbound communities are always compromised in such endeavor by the ease of “infection” from the outside.  Here such frustration would be virtually removed.

It occurs to me that islands might also exert an influence against despotism in this respect.  The greater federation operating on the mainland would face a challenge in enforcing its most Procrustean decrees if dozens of island-cites declared, ‘Hell, no!” and slipped their moorings.  What would Mainland Nanny do?  Send patrol boats out to harass the rebels?  But the islands would be equipped with their own defense systems (necessary to stave off piracy and invasion), ratcheting up any such act of chastisement into a bloody civil war.  From the air, islands would pose slowly moving targets—but targets capable of movement, nonetheless.  Given an hour’s warning, their security officers could probably draw them out of an ICBM’s bull’s eye, if not liberate them from the ruin rained down by coastal rocket launchers.  Yet I imagine them having anti-aircraft capabilities as well as their own small defensive fleets, which might well include submarines—useful for hauling them about, but also equipped to take out hostiles along the coast.

This discussion opened as a response to “global warming” hysteria, so it is worth remarking that an island environment could greatly reduce energy consumption and facilitate energy production.  Trailing islands supplied with solar panels could be created, and perhaps something less cumbersome and space-consuming than the standard wind-turbine could be designed.  Ocean currents could be harvested for energy.  Inhabitants would live in a relatively confined area, so they would do much walking rather than gadding about in wasteful, needless conveyances.  Life could also be lived in a less horizontal, more vertical manner to address temperature extremes.  A substantial underwater community could serve as a retreat when the surface became either very cold or very hot (for water provides excellent insulation against both cold and heat).  Surface activities, however, would keep residents in touch with their Circadian rhythms—and often, as we know, the temperature at sea level is very pleasant.

With plenty of sun, the surface would also feature roof-space and slanting walls thickly planted in edible vegetation.  Naturally, as with solar panels, food provision could also be addressed through a kind of archipelago whose trailing islets were dedicated to agriculture.   And need I say that the sea herself is an abundant provider?  If the island produced quantities of “garbage” fully edible and healthy for populations of marine animals, then these latter could be harvested regularly and readily without any risk of depletion incurred.

How to make garbage edible or recyclable?  That may be the golden question… but it appears answerable, if one considers that designers of interplanetary transport are already well along to creating biospheres where all waste products are put back into service.  Why, may I ask, are we so very far advanced in our plans to leave Earth, yet we seem in no hurry at all to develop a healthy and secure method of existing on her oceans?

Could it be because populating the ocean, as I have shown, would likely liberate our planet’s various peoples to a degree of political independence and cultural autonomy that her megalomaniac elite begrudges the human race?  Could it be that the only dreams we are allowed to pursue on any drawing board are those that promote centralization?  Why is it that “progress”, in the warped minds of certain Global Warming Hystericals, necessarily involves the transformation of the human species into an anthill?