Bonfire of the “Elites”

In today’s somewhat morose worldbuilding thoughts inspired by real-world events (in this case, the Harvey Weinstein affair, along with an endless parade of abuse-of-power stories courtesy of Sheriff Joe, the Chicago City Council, the Arizona Dept. of Corrections, etc., etc.), one really does have to wonder what the judicial death toll is among the powerful so-called “elites” when the Empire annexes or protectoratizes somewhere less, um, serious about notions like the rule of law, the equal protection of same, and actually meaning what it says about Liberty and Justice for All.

“All debts must be paid.”
– official motto of the Curia

“I approve this message.”
– Tywin Lannister



This image inserted to lighten an otherwise serious post.


After all:

  • The Ministry of Harmonious Serenity doesn’t care whether you want to press charges or not – it might, assuming you are mentally competent, concede that you have a right to waive weregeld and reparation owed to you, but you can’t forgive a crime against the Contract and the Charter, since you don’t have standing to do so;
  • You can’t bullshit an alethiometer, and its measure of truth has nothing whatsoever to do with your “credibility”, relative or otherwise;
  • The cyberjudicial AI may Know Who You Are, but to its intellect vast and cool and unsympathetic and defined by the predicates of the law, Who You Are means exactly nothing;
  • (You can’t bribe it, either – and even if you could figure out a way to, it couldn’t accept it since its entire decision process is entered into the publically-auditable court record.)
  • Nor does it give freebies based on your career prospects, talents, pretty face, or supposed one-offness of your special crime – or, indeed, any other circumstances. You can plead duress or justification if those apply, which will be taken into account, but the algorithm was written with the Equal Protection and Application of the Law in mind, and Thus Hath No Fucks To Give about anything that doesn’t bear directly upon the events in question.
  • And there is no pardon power to be wielded on your behalf, since – for the same reasons as the victim cannot forgive a crime – it can’t exist; holding office by virtue of a Mandate descending from the Contract and the Charter, even the Imperial Couple and the unanimous Senate in all their majesty and dignity lack standing to pardon crimes against them.

Basically, should you call down upon yourself the attention of the mills of justice, they grind exceedingly fine, and they aren’t terribly slow about it, either.

“What’s the difference between God and the Curia?”
“God forgives.”
– overheard in an Encystment Facility

This is, for those counting non-Utopian features, accounted horrific by everyone who is very keen on Justice in the abstract, but are substantially less so when the prospect of their own actions being judged according to an objective standard of such might actually be realized.

(The Empire finds this position about as eye-rollingly contemptible as that of all the people who are very keen on Liberty in the abstract, as long as no-one actually uses it for anything they disapprove of or don’t understand.)

In terms of more serious dark sides, however, there is one, and it’s called misprision of felony.

For those not familiar with the term in its Earth context, it was a common-law offence making it a crime to fail to report knowledge of a felony to the appropriate authorities; exceptions being made for close family members of the felon and where the disclosure would tend to incriminate the reporter of that offense or another. It’s also currently been mostly dropped except for people who have a special duty to report a crime.

The Imperial version is essentially the same, but without the exceptions – because so far as it is concerned, upholding the law is a duty that comes along with being a citizen-shareholder, and mere sentiment does not foreclose that.

Now, by and large, the Empire has – in its own territories – much, much less of a problem with people coming forward about these things, because the justice system has the reputation that it has for delivering on its promises. (And also because the general public doesn’t have its head wedged firmly up its ass, culture-wise.)

But where and when that doesn’t happen –

Yes, it is possible (and it has happened) for the victim of a crime to be charged with misprision of felony for not reporting it. Because as stated above, you don’t have standing to forgive crimes against the Contract and the Charter, and by allowing the perpetrator to escape justice – and thus be free to prey on your fellow citizen-shareholders – you’re violating the Responsibility of Common Defense.

This stringency is, of course, horrible.

It’s just also… just.

The just heart is always cold.
– traditional, source unknown

Question: Plea Bargains

Y’all get May’s first question the day it arrived, ’cause it’s an easy one:

So what would Imperial jurisprudence make of the notion of the plea bargain?

Sarcasm, mostly.

The way the more dyspeptic members of the College of Judicature would put it, there are two possible outcomes from a plea bargain as various polities practice it:

The one is that a guilty soph gets away with the due consequents of a lesser charge instead of the appropriate one, which is obviously contrary to all principles of justice and balance.

The other is that an innocent soph is railroaded into compensation, weregeld, and so forth for fear of the consequences of a greater charge if mistakenly found guilty, or by the cost of mounting a defense. Which is even more contrary to all principles of justice and balance, even if they were to accept the notion that this isn’t the actual intent of the system – namely, to provide cheap and quick “justice theater” in lieu of the more challenging task of providing actual justice – which proposal they find risible on its face.

And to sum up, any “justice system” that incorporates the notion has lost all right to be called such without, at the very least, emphatic sneer quotes, and any misbegotten wight proposing such an abomination in their justice system should rightly call down the wrath of Saravoné Herself, descending from the Twilight City in fire and fury to beat aforesaid wight soundly upside the head with Her scales until all the stupid has left the building.

Cough. Readjust monocle.

…so, um, they don’t care for it much?


…With Justice For All


From: Supervisor of Police, Behibehin Rock

Subject: Assent-Panopticon Ubiquitous Law Enforcement Instrumentality (all components)
Issue: Stupidity (was: System imprisoned entire population in error)
Priority: Urgent



Does no-one read the gorramn manual?

The Behibehinti have become another entry in our list of customers who failed to read the warnings in sections 3.7, 3.8, and 3.9 concerning the need to lint your legislation before activating it, because the Assent-Panopticon ULEI has no way of knowing when you intended parts of it to be obsolete, symbolic, or selectively enforced. That said, managing to get the entire population, including the governance – although that latter is surprisingly common – jailed and awaiting trial before the now-inelegible-to-serve judiciary when the system was enabled is perhaps a new low in this particular failure mode.

Although this is closed WONTFIX, as per company policy we have dispatched a service engineer with the override code and a customer service lawyer with copies of sections 3.7, 3.8, 3.9, and the service agreement to free the customer and otherwise clean up the mess.

On the bright side, I won a week at the High Cysperia Luxurium in the departmental betting pool.


Trope-a-Day: Computerized Judicial System

Computerized Judicial System: The technical term is cyberjudiciary, incidentally, just as the computerization of much of the executive branch’s working end is cybermagistry.

Of course, it’s easier when you have artificial intelligence, and so your computers are entirely capable of having experience, a sense of justice, and common sense. It’s just that they can also have no outside interests and indeed no interests (while in the courtroom) other than seeing justice done, be provably free of cognitive bias, and possess completely auditable thought processes, such that one can be assured that justice will prevail, rather than some vaguely justice-like substance so long as you don’t examine it too closely.

Trope-a-Day: Pay Evil Unto Evil

Pay Evil Unto Evil: How played straight it is depends upon your taste, really.  Imperial justice and generic morality will happily kill Evil (or Orange, if you prefer) of adequate magnitude and walk off feeling good about it, and finds mercy, on the whole and vis-à-vis clemency, to be one of those quaint incomprehensible (well, okay, the concept is comprehensible, but why we think it’s useful, or rather that we continue to think that it’s useful when there’s no actual specifiable utility in it, again vis-à-vis clemency, isn’t) foreign concepts… but on the other hand, is quite insistent on just killing evil.  You’re saving the universe for decency and civilization.  No need to be all gratuitous about it, especially if that would be all tasteless and unnecessarily entropic.

(Note: humorously ironic probably doesn’t count as gratuitous for these purposes.)

Juvenile Justice

JCourt of Common Pleas and Small Claims
District of Lower Iselyain

“This Court has now reviewed the evidence, surveillance, and thought-records placed before it. Does the Advocate for Innocence have any pleas to enter in mitigation?”

“I do not, justice.”

“Does the Advocate for Guilt have any pleas to offer in aggravation?”

“I do not, justice. The evidence speaks.”

“So noted. In the case, therefore, of the Throne pro Citizen-Intendant Corvis Antarianus vs. Citizen-Intendant Galen Ferann, in the name of Saravóné the Just, and by the authority of the Curia under the Imperial Mandate, this Court rules as follows:

“On the charge of theft, to the sum of six esteyn, this Court finds the accused guilty of a misdemeanor, by reason of unenlightened self-interest.

“On the charge of immediate assault, this Court finds the accused guilty of a misdemeanor, by reason of unenlightened self-interest.

“On the charge of battery, to the sum of two blows struck without lasting harm, this Court finds the accused guilty of a felony, by reason of unenlightened self-interest.

“This Court therefore orders that the defendant shall pay to the plaintiff the sum of eighteen esteyn, and to the Court the sum of twelve esteyn, in due recompense for the charge of theft;

“And shall further pay to the plaintiff the sum of seventy-two esteyn, and to the Court the sum of forty-eight esteyn, as weregeld for the further charges due under the Code and the Charter;

“And shall make these payments entirely from their own properties and incomes, without gift or proxy;

“And shall further pay to this Court such recompense as is due for the costs of this judgment, once they are fully and finally assessed, without such stipulation.

“The Court further orders that the accused shall be placed into the care of the redactors of the Office of Reconstruction and Execution, there to undergo such memetic rehabilitation and reconditioning as is required to purge their mentality of the anti-Contractual and unmutual tendencies giving rise to such crimes as these.

“Thus is our judgment made. Let it be done.”

One Law For All

“Understand this: we have only one crime in the Empire.  That crime is choice-theft.

“Underlying every principle of our law, more fundamental even than the Contract and the Charter, is jírileth – the principle of liberty.  The principle that all sophonts, all with reason and will, should be afforded the greatest possible scope within which to act in accordance with their qalasír, so long as by doing so they do not impair the scope of another so to act.  Thus, the nature of all crime is to deprive one’s fellow soph of some portion of his scope of will.

“Of course, there are eighty enumerated charges defined by the Convention and later law, not simply one charge with myriad variations, but you should understand that these exist merely for administrative convenience.  Examine the five divisions, beginning with the three major:

“To kill, injure, constrain or coerce someone directly is an obvious impairment of their will; these are the crimes against the person, and they are all types of choice-theft.

“To steal, destroy, damage, trespass or meddle is to deprive a person of the full use of their property, and in turn – since all one’s goods, tangible or intangible, agent or chattel, serve as tools by which one may expand the scope of one’s will, and wealth most of all – to deprive them of the full range of choices which they might make, again impairing their will; these are the crimes against property, and they, too, are all types of choice-theft.

“To default, defraud, defame, counterfeit, or deceive is to deprive a person of obligation or truth, those contracts upon which they might rely in choosing their future course, and that knowledge which they need to make valid choices, which again both broaden the scope of the will, which is in turn impaired by breaches and lies; these are the crimes against contract, and they once again are all types of choice-theft.

“And finally, the minor orders, the crimes against the Charter and against order, which concern themselves with violations of the obligations which citizen-shareholders take upon themselves upon signing the Imperial Charter, whether directly, in the former case, or where the Empire’s management of public volumes and utilities is concerned, in the latter.  These are no more than special cases of crimes against property or contract, and so, like those, are all types of choice-theft.

“On this all else is based.  You will study all of the enumerated charges and their combinations and variants in your time here, and you will go on to address many of them in your future careers, but you should never forget this simple truth.  Despite the complexities of one precedent chain or another, of one set of specialized rules attached to a particular implementation of a particular extended charge, or of any particular case, ultimately, the Curia and its courts care about two simple questions:

“Was there an intent to remove someone’s choices?

“Whose choices were removed, and to what extent?

“Address yourself to these two, simple, fundamental questions rather than the technicalities, nail those answers down, and speak them clearly, and you will prosper in the profession.  Thank you.”

– Ephor Valarian Elarios-ith-Elarios. matriculation address at the Bar Iseléne Academy of Principle

Trope-a-Day: Brainwashing For The Greater Good

Brainwashing For The Greater Good: The Imperial legal system’s penalties for pretty much every non-capital crime above the level of a misdemeanor (or for chronic misdemeanants) include, along with the fine/reparation, “memetic rehab and recon”, which is Exactly What It Says On The Tin, namely, having your mind edited to remove whatever bad ideas made you commit your special crime.

They are, of course, perfectly fair about this and do offer you the option to prize your self-integrity over your ethical stature.  Depending on the magnitude of said special crime, you always receive the alternative option of either (a) renouncing your citizen-shareholdership and departing forthwith into exile, or (b) euthanasia.

(Note: Also, when you consider how this looks from the inside, remember that people perform mental editing on themselves all the time for various self-developmental purposes, including moral growth.  Also also, there are many fewer laws in the first place.)

Saravoné’s Code

This is the Code of Saravoné,
the Just One, the Scale-Bearer,
by whom all Law is upheld.

To live is to exist
to possess
to act.
All that lives shares this wellspring:
existence, property, will; a single threefold truth.
All crime transgresses against this truth;
by using another for one’s own ends.
Murder, theft, slaving; the three Darknesses.
All are the same.

One alone may stand alone;
the many depend on each other.
A branch, a city, a House, a land, a world
Stands upon myriad pledges.
The obligations of Tárvalén are sacred;
to violate them is to violate the will.

All that lives and thinks.
All that reasons and knows itself.
All possess these things.

An attack on one is an attack on all;
an attack on all is an attack on each.
To defend another is to defend yourself;
when all are defended, justice is done.

The Law is eternal, the person is not;
to live forever is not to exist in eternity.
To trade the eternal for the ephemeral
is to sacrifice a greater thing for a lesser.
This trade has no worth.

Therefore act with coldness of mind.
Hatred and vengeance;
love and clemency;
anger and destruction;
compassion and forgiveness;
these do not serve the Law.

Can you restore the dead to life?
Remake the shattered oath?
Restore ash to unburnt wholeness?

All things have their balance.
All obligations must be met.
All debts must be paid.
This is the rule of mélith.

This is the Code of Saravoné,
the Just One, the Scale-Bearer,
by whom all Law is upheld.


I will find my death here in the Exclaves.

He – that outworlder – beat my friend to death.  Not for profit.  Not for a plan or a revenge or some twisted necessity.  Slowly, and for his pleasure, because ve was an alien, and he hated all that was wider than his narrow vision or better than his pathetic life.

And I could not just leave that up to the mighty Fourth Directorate to solve.  They would hunt the outworlder down, no doubt, and with all full ceremony and due process of law put him cleanly to death.  “There is no higher repayment; naught can requite more than existence.”

Can it not?

My data worm stole vis final memories from the forensic redactor who extracted them for the court.  And it turns out that there are many things you can do, when you have a cause.  By means my indictment goes into at some length, I found him before they did.  I perverted a cerebral bridge to implant those memories into him as his own.  And I applied memory stimulation and time dilation, and watched him convulse and shriek while a taste of his own hell shredded his mind.

I had him for seven minutes before they found us, but that was enough.

I did not –

No.  One in my position should be honest.  I did enjoy it.  It was horrific and it was sickening, but I did enjoy it.  Thoroughly.  But that is of no relevance.  It may have been vengeance, but it was right.  It was just.  It was balance.

The Directorate permitted me to observe when they executed the residue of him.  Guilt is guilt, they say, and the forms must be obeyed.

When I am finished making this statement, I will be taken before the court one final time.  I am not slated for execution, due to the status of the one I killed, and evidence, they say, of severe mental stress.  I am to be given the choice.

I may enter into meme rehab, to be edited into a version of me who would not have done those things that I have done; who is as capable of cold-mindedness as the men of the Directorate; who could find satisfaction in knowing that ver killer had been… erased.  Or I may decline, and in so doing submit myself to euthanasia.

My friend, reinstantiated, is appalled by my actions, but was still willing to speak with me.  Ve pleaded with me to undergo the meme rehab, but comes no more.  So be it.  Ve is a good friend, a good person, but ve does not understand mélith as we do… as we did, once.  I knew the price, and pay it willingly.

I do not wish to die.  But I will not regret this.  And so I cannot become.

– last testamentary statement of Reldith Calaris-ith-Calir
executed 4144, Versine Exclave