RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — Seven Saudi men convicted of theft, looting and armed robbery were executed on Wednesday, according to the country's official news agency, more than a week after their families and a rights group appealed to the king for clemency.
The executions took place in Abha, a city in the southern region of Asir, the Saudi Press Agency said. A resident who witnessed the execution said the seven were shot dead by a firing squad, a first in the kingdom, which traditionally has beheaded convicts sentenced to death.
[. . .]
The original sentences called for death by firing squad and crucifixion.
That's the one extreme, justice Sharia-style. Here is the other, justice liberal-style, if you want to call it 'justice':
Amnesty International called the executions an "act of sheer brutality."
"We are outraged by the execution of seven men in Saudi Arabia this morning. We oppose the death penalty in all circumstances, but this case has been particularly shocking," said Philip Luther, Amnesty's Middle East and North Africa director. (emphasis added)
I say that what we have here are equal but opposite forms of moral insanity. That Sharia is morally insane needs no argument. But anyone who opposes the death penalty in all circumstances is equally morally obtuse and has no conception of justice at all. I argue this in detail in my Crime and Punishment category and I won't repeat myself here. In any case, argument with the morally obtuse is pointless since their lack of sound moral sense prevents them from accepting the premises from which alone one can fruitfully argue.
Arguing with the morally obtuse about moral matters is like arguing with the empirically uninformed about empirical matters
Many liberals feel that civilian gun ownership is unnecessary because adequate protection against the criminal element is afforded by the police. I advise them to think through the following considerations:
Misinformed people oppose self-defense objections to gun ban laws, urging victims to instead rely on police. This misunderstands what policing is and does. Accordingly, when criminals rob or injure them, misinformed victims try to sue the police for not protecting them. Whereupon the police send forth lawyers invoking the universal US rule that the police duty is to discourage crime only indirectly by patrolling the streets and by apprehending criminals after their crimes.
While police should stop crimes they observe, criminals take care to strike when police are not present. In fact, police almost never (less than 3 percent of cases) arrive in time to help victims. For that reason, the statutory or common law of every state exonerates police from suit for non-protection, e.g. California Government Code §§ 821, 845 and 846: “[A police department and its officers are] not liable for an injury caused by ... failure to enforce an enactment [nor for] failure to provide police protection service or ... provide sufficient police protection service [nor for] the failure to make an arrest or [the] failure to retain an arrested person in custody.”
Misinformed persons also urge victims to depend on restraining orders instead of self-defense. But restraining orders are just pieces of paper. A five-year study [PDF] in Massachusetts found that almost 25 percent of domestic murderers were under a restraining order when they killed.
If you need further proof that leftism is emotion-driven, consider the latest Obamination, the call for a ban on high capacity magazines, an abomination which the fascist-in-chief may try to ram though under Executive Order. I take it that these are magazines the capacity of which is in excess of seven rounds.
(By the way, you liberals, and especially you liberal journalists, need to learn the correct terminology: 'magazine' not 'clip.' 'Round' not 'bullet.' The bullet is the projectile. To confuse the bullet with the round is to commit a pars pro toto fallacy.)
When I ranted about this over lunch with Mike V. on Saturday, he made an interesting comparison. I had made the point that it is very easy to change out a depleted mag. A skilled shooter can do it in a second or two. Suppose I have a semi-auto pistol with a loaded seven-round mag. I have two more loaded mags of the same capacity in my right pocket and two more in my left. Within a minute or two I can get off 5 X 7 = 35 shots. (My firepower increases if I have a second or third semi-auto on my person.) Plenty of time to commit mayhem in what liberal boneheads have made a 'gun-free zone.' (The sign ought to read: Gun-Free Zone Except for Criminals.)
Mike brought up Gotham's benighted mayor, Mr Bloomberg, and his call for the banning of 32 oz sodas. Mike said, "You just order two 16 oz. drinks."
Exactly. Get the comparison? Banning high capacity magazines is as foolish a feel-good proposal as banning 'high capacity' soft drink containers.
Why is the high capacity mag ban foolish? Because it does nothing to solve the problem. But it is worse than foolish since it is one more violation of the liberties of law-abiding citizens, one more step on the road to full-tilt statism.
It is also foolish because it promotes a black market for the items banned and tends to undermine respect for law and for the rule of law.
Laws ought ought be (i) few in number, (ii) reasonable in content, (ii) intelligible to the average citizen, (iv) enforceable, and (v) enforced. When dumbass libruls pass stupid feel-good laws because they feel that they just have to do something, the result is an erosion of respect for law and an increase in readership of Thoreau's essay on civil disobedience.
And another thing. Passing laws is easy and beloved by the feel-gooders on both sides of the aisle. Enforcement is much more difficult and here liberals whether Dems or Repubs demonstrate that it is feeling alone that drives them. Enforce existing laws and attach severe penalties to their breaking. Why hasn't the Islamist murderer, Nidal Malik Hasan, the Fort Hood shooter, been executed?
This article, by Anthony Gregory, is well worth reading although it gets off to a somewhat rocky start:
I think the most conspicuous problem is the glorification not of guns or fictional violence, but of actual violence. America is a militarized society, seat of the world’s empire. The U.S. government is always at war with a handful of countries.
First of all, we need to distinguish between the glorification of fictional violence and the fictional glorification of violence. What contemporary film makers glorify is violence, actual violence of the most brutal and sadistic sort, not fictional violence. A movie such as Hostel II (cannibal scene) that depicts a man being eaten alive by a man is not depicting a fictional representation of a man being eaten alive, but a man being eaten alive. Of course, a violent and sadistic movie is fiction, but if it is good fiction, it draws the reader in and involves him in the action, degrading, desensitizing, and dehumanizing him. That people find this evil stuff entertaining shows how how morally corrupt they have become. This is the ultimate circenses for the depraved masses. (See Alypius and the Gladiators) [Correction 16 January: Not the ultimate circenses, for that would be the gladiatorial combat of ancient Rome or something similar. We haven't slipped that far, not yet.]
I say this because it is important not to downplay the role played by too many film makers and other cultural polluters in contributing to a culture or unculture in which sensitive, highly alienated kids like Adam Lanza, who are products of broken homes, and brought up without moral guidance in politicaslly correct schools in which our Judeo-Christian heritage has been expunged, can be pushed over the edge.
That being said, Gregory makes some very important points, despite his being a bit too libertarian for my conservative taste. Excerpts (emphasis added):
At least as alarming as the finger pointing have been the particular solutions most commentators have immediately gravitated toward. Progressives immediately began accusing conservatives of cutting mental health funding, and conservatives immediately fired back that civil libertarians have eroded the capacity of government to involuntarily commit those suspected of mental illness. This is, I think, perhaps the most disturbing reaction in the long run. Great strides have been made in the last half century to roll back the totalitarianism of mandatory psychiatric commitment. For much of modern history, hundreds of thousands were denied basic human rights due to their unusual behavior, most of it peaceful in itself. Lobotomies and sterilization were common, as were locking people into hellish psychiatric gulags where they were repeatedly medicated against their will, stripped of any sanity they previously had. The most heroic libertarian in recent years may have been the recently departed Thomas Szasz, who stood against mainstream psychiatry’s unholy alliance with the state, correctly pointing out that the system of mandatory treatment was as evil and authoritarian as anything we might find in the prison system or welfare state.
[. . .]
Meanwhile, statists on both the left and right called for the national security state to put armed guards in every school in America. More militarized policing is not the answer. Barbara Boxer, California’s hyper-statist Democrat, called for National Guard troops in the schools. Yet the spokesman of the NRA, instead of doing what it could to diffuse the hysteria and defend the right to bear arms, added his voice to this completely terrible idea, demanding utopian solutions and scapegoating when he should have been a voice of reason. The main difference between his proposal and Boxer’s would be the uniforms worn by the armed guards.
I agree. Turning schools into armed camps is an awful idea, though not as stupid as making them 'gun-free' zones.
Government armed guards will not necessarily make the schools safer, though. Central planning doesn’t work. The Fort Hood shooter managed to kill twelve people in 2009, despite the military base epitomizing the very pinnacle of government security. And now we see President Obama toying with the exact proposal aggressively pushed by the NRA—more surveillance and police, funded by the federal government, to turn America’s schools into Orwellian nightmares.
Although both conservatives and progressives have responded to this tragedy in generally bad ways, and there seems to be wide agreement on a host of downright terrifying police state proposals, I don’t want to imply that both sides have been equally bad. As awful as the law-and-order conservatives have been, the progressives have been far worse, agreeing with most of the bad conservative proposals but then adding their own pet issue to the agenda: disarming the general population.
The right to bear arms is a human rights issue, a property rights issue, a personal safety issue. The way that one mass murderer has been turned into a poster boy for the agenda of depriving millions of Americans of the right to own weapons that virtually none of them will ever use to commit a crime is disgusting, and seems to be rooted in some sort of cultural bigotry. Nothing else would easily explain the invincible resistance to logical arguments such as: rifles are rarely used in crimes, gun control empowers the police state over the weak, and such laws simply do not work against criminals, full stop. Rifles are easier to manufacture than methamphetamine, and we know how well the drug war has stopped its proliferation, and 3D printing will soon make it impossible to stop people from getting the weapons they want.
I will be doing some more writing about gun rights in the next few weeks, as it appears that not for the first time in my life, I was totally wrong about something. I had suspected that the left had given up on this issue, more or less, and Obama—whose first term was overall half-decent on gun rights—would not want to touch it. We shall see what happens, but it appears that the progressives have been lying in wait for an excuse to disarm Americans and have happily jumped on the chance.
Many left-liberals will claim they don’t want to ban all guns, and I think most are honest when they say so. Polls indicate that 75% or so of Americans oppose a handgun ban. Maybe there has been some genuine improvement on this issue, although I do have my doubts about the honesty of those who claim they would stop at rifles and high capacity mags, which are implicated in a handful of crimes compared to the thousands killed by people using handguns.
In any event, the core mentality of the gun controllers is as dangerous as ever. In response to a horrific mass murder of around 30 people, they are calling for liberties to be sacrificed in the name of security, apparently impervious to the logical problems with their proposals. When terrorists murdered a hundred times as many people in September 2001, many of these same progressives sensibly pointed out that those who would sacrifice liberty for security will wind up with neither, a line from Franklin. Yet the same logic should apply here. If 9/11 should have taught us anything, it’s that you cannot have total security, certainly with the state in charge of everyone’s safety. Nineteen men with boxcutters murdered 3,000 people. In a world with cars, gasoline, fertilizer, gunpowder, and steel, it is simply impossible to eliminate every threat, rifles being one of the smallest ones out there. Since 9/11 we have lost so many freedoms, have seen our police forces turn into nationalized standing armies with tanks and battle rifles, have undergone mass molestation and irradiation at our airports, have seen the national character twisted to officially sanction torture, indefinite detention, and aggressive wars. What will we see happen in the name of stopping troubled young people from engaging in smaller acts of mass murder? Much the way that conservatives led the charge toward fascism after 9/11, with liberals protesting a little at first only to seemingly accept the bulk of the surveillance state and anti-terror national security apparatus, I fear that today’s progressives are leading the stampede toward an even more totalitarian future, with the conservatives playing defense but caving, first on militarized schools, then on mental health despotism, then on victim disarmament.
Perhaps if after 9/11 the conservatives had focused on allowing airlines to manage their own security, even permitting passengers with guns on planes, instead of doubling the intrusiveness of the police state, we’d be in better shape today. But now the progressives are running the show, the SWAT teams have become more ruthless, the domestic drones have been unleashed, the wars abroad have escalated, and the same federal institutions whose gun control measures left American civilians dead at Ruby Ridge and Waco can expect new targets throughout the land. The bipartisan police state commences, now that the left has gotten its own 9/11.
. . . then heaven is a joke, and so is this life, and there is no ultimate justice, hence no God.
Mobster Frank Calabrese Sr. has died in prison. Good riddance. I read the book by his son, Frank Jr. and came away impressed by him for courageously 'ratting out' his father: family loyalty is a value, but there are higher loyalties.
Frank Calabrese Jr. told the Sun-Times on Wednesday that that violent history made his father's death especially emotional.
"I believe he was taken on Christmas Day for a reason," he said. "I hope he made peace. I hope he's up above looking down on us. ... He's not suffering anymore. The people on the street aren't suffering anymore."
With all due respect to Frank Jr., this is just morally obtuse. For it implies that how we live here below makes no difference to the ultimate outcome. It makes no difference whether one lives the life of a brutal murderer or the life of an Edith Stein or a Simone Weil. But then there is no justice, and this life is even more absurd than it would be were there no God or afterlife at all. The reality of the moral point of view cannot have the divine underpinning it needs unless God is the guarantor of justice. The following exchange between Drury and Wittgenstein is apropos:
DRURY: I had been reading Origen before. Origen taught that at the end of time here would be a final restitution of all things. That even Satan and the fallen angels would be restored to their former glory. This was a conception that appealed to me -- but it was at once condemned as heretical.
WITTGENSTEIN: Of course it was rejected. It would make nonsense of everything else. If what we do now is to make no difference in the end, then all the seriousness of life is done away with. Your religious ideas have always seemed to me more Greek than biblical. Whereas my thoughts are one hundred per cent Hebraic.
(Recollections of Wittgenstein, ed. Rhees, Oxford 1984, p. 161.)
. . . it is rarely news, and it is never big news, unless the liberal media can put a 'vigilante' spin on it. Remember Bernie Goetz. the NYC subway gunman? As I reported about a year ago:
Bernard Goetz, mild-mannered electronics nerd, looked like an easy mark, a slap job. And so he got slapped around, thrown through plate glass windows, mugged and harrassed. He just wanted to be left alone to tinker in his basement. One day he decided not to take it any more and acquired a .38 'equalizer.' And so the black punks who demanded money of him on the New York subway in December of 1984 paid a high price for their thuggishness to the delight of conservatives and the consternation of liberals. To the former he became a folk hero, to the latter a 'racist.' It was a huge story back then. One of the miscreants, James Ramseur, has been found dead of an apparent drug overdose.
Ramseur was freed from prison last year after serving 25 years for a rape, according to NBC NewYork.com. He was one of four black teens shot by Goetz on a train on Dec. 22, 1984, in a shooting that earned Goetz the nickname of "subway vigilante" by city newspapers.
Meanwhile Goetz, 64, flourishes and runs a store called "Vigilante Electronics." A heart-warming story on this, the eve of Christmas Eve.
Now let us assume that you desire a balanced understanding of the gun issue. It seems to me that you would have to take into consideration the many cases in which guns are used to save lives, protect property and livelihoods, thwart rapes and muggings and massacres, etc. If you care to gain this balanced understanding, if, in other words, you are not a liberal, you can start here, and then go here, in both cases following out the hyperlinks.
Coincidentally, I'm currently a TA for a class in which significant portions of this book have been assigned (a philosophy of law class, focusing on legal punishment). Alexander's main focus in the book is not incarceration (and related phenomena) in general, but the War on Drugs in particular. An important part of her case for the racially discriminatory nature of "mass incarceration" (a phrase by which she means (a) the entire system of state-control over offenders, whether prison, parole, probation, etc., as well as (b) the post-punishment effects on offenders such as barriers to voting, employment, public housing) in the U.S. is the claim that black Americans are no more likely to use/deal illegal drugs than are white Americans, and yet law enforcement have disproportionally targeted black Americans. She thinks that this discrimination largely results from the great procedural discretion which law enforcement have in prosecuting this War (both at the level of police forces and individual officers in deciding where/whom to search, and at the level of prosecutors in deciding what kind of sentences to seek). This discretion, along with the need to be proactive in order to bust people for drug offenses, creates the opportunity for racial biases, whether conscious or unconscious, to shape how the War is prosecuted.
When I read the bit you did, my first thought was that it was ridiculous to compare Cotton's political "disenfranchisement" to his KKK-killed great-grandfather's political disenfranchisement. I still think that about this case (homicide/robbery...), but I did become more sympathetic to the idea that there were interesting connections between Jim Crow and "mass incarceration." The main difference is that the "New Jim Crow" is officially "colorblind," not a result of overt racism (at least by and large). The official aim is to maintain "law and order," not to sweep black Americans into the state's control. The alleged parallel is that you have a class of people largely characterized along racial lines who are shut out of mainstream society in various ways (voting, public housing,employment). The new reason, having a felony on your record, is very different - and, one might think, much more justified than the old reasons. But I was struck by (a) the claim that black Americans are not more likely to be guilty of drug crimes and yet are more likely to be targeted by law enforcement for them, and (b.) the severity of punitive measures attached to drug offences (including the felony label for many such offences, with all the ensuing ramifications).
Thank you for that, Dan. A few brief remarks:
1. Are black Americans no more likely to use/deal illegal drugs than are white Americans? I rather doubt that. We know that blacks commit proportionately more crimes than whites in general, so one would expect that to be true for drug dealing in particular. This is of course an empirical question, but it is exceedingly difficult to get to the truth of the matter because of the 'hot button' nature of the question and because fields such as sociology and criminology are heavily infected with ideology. For example, how many conservative sociologists are there in universities as compared to leftists? A very small number. What does that say about universities and about sociology? Given the leftist bias of most sociologists, it is reasonable to be skeptical about anything they claim is a result of 'research.'
2. Leftists conflate the world with the world as they wish it to be. And they wish to believe that we are all equal. And so they cannot accept the notion that blacks have a greater natural propensity to commit crimes than whites. This leads them to think that blacks are disproportionately 'targeted' and 'labeled' felons. The truth, I suspect, is that blacks commit more crimes proportionately, which is why their rates of incarceration are proportionately higher.
3. This is consistent with a frank admission that there is plenty of injustice in the criminal justice system. There are corrupt judges, vicious cops, and ambitious prosecutors willing to sacrifice human lives to their careers. Needless to say, I am against all that.
4. Why would anyone want to single out blacks for especially harsh treatment? This is a question that needs answering, and 'racism' is no answer to it. That word is well-nigh meaningless: it is is used by leftists as an all-purpose semantic bludgeon to beat down conservatives. It means anything leftists want it to mean. What is racism? If I argue against ObamaCare, leftists call me a racist. But ObamaCare is a policy, and policies, last time I checked, have no race. So for leftists 'racism' and cognates mean everything and nothing. Do people dislike blacks because of their skin color? Perhaps a few do. But dislike of blacks is not for most people based on skin color but on black behavior. This brings us back to the empirical question whether blacks as a group behave worse than whites as a group. If they do, then this would explain why they are incarcerated in greater numbers.
5. Should felons have the right to vote? First of all, how many criminals want to vote? The typical criminal is someone whose only concern is himself and the immediate gratification of his basest desires. Such people have contempt for civil society. They are not interested in participating in it. For them it's a joke. These are not people who think about the common good. If you mentioned civic duties to them they would laugh their heads off.
So we need to ask: who is it that wants felons to vote? Not felons for the most part. But leftists! Leftists want felons to vote to expand their base. Leftists have a an exceedingly casual attitude toward criminal behavior. They are by nature lenient and forgiving. So if criminals are allowed to vote, they will of course vote for leftists, in the USA, for the Democrats.
That is why leftists want to extend the franchise to felons.
Whether or not they want to vote, should criminals have the right to vote? Of course not. Criminals can't even order their own lives, why should have a say in how society is ordered? Furthermore, removal of the right to vote is part of the punishment that they deserve for raping and drunk driving and drug dealing and murdering and for being the generally worthless individuals that they are.
6. Finally, I am open to the idea that drug laws need to be carefully examined. I am opposed to draconian 'zero tolerance' laws that make a felon of some harmless hippy who grows marijuana for his own use. But if he drives while stoned, or sells the stuff to school kids, then I want the law to come down on his shggy head like a ton of bricks.
Tonight I permit myself a bit of Schadenfreude (or is it righteous satisfaction?) at the passing of the 'motorist' Rodney King and the 'businessman' Henry Hill. Calling King a 'motorist' as so many knee-jerk liberal journalists did from 1991 on is like calling the mafioso Hill a 'business man.' In 'honor' of these two sorry specimens of (in)humanity, I propose the following for your listening pleasure.
This is an entry from the old blog, first posted 28 December 2005. It makes an important point worth repeating.
In an age of terrorism, enhanced security measures are reasonable (See Liberty and Security) But in response to increased government surveillance and the civil-libertarian objections thereto, far too many people are repeating the stock phrase, "I have nothing to hide."
What they mean is that, since they are innocent of any crime, they have nothing to hide and nothing to fear, and so there cannot be any reasonable objection to removing standard protections. But these people are making a false assumption. They are assuming that the agents of the state will always behave properly, an assumption that is spectacularly false.
Most of the state's agents will behave properly most of the time, but there are plenty of rogue agents who will abuse their authority for all sorts of reasons. The O'Reilly Factor has been following a case in which an elderly black gentleman sauntering down a street in New Orlean's French Quarter was set upon by cops who proceeded to use his head as a punching bag. The video clip showed the poor guy's head bouncing off a brick wall from the blows. It looked as if the thuggish cops had found an opportunity to brutalize a fellow human being under cover of law, and were taking it. And that is just one minor incident.
We conservatives are law-and-order types. One of the reasons we loathe contemporary liberals is because of their casual attitude toward criminal behavior. But our support for law and order is tempered by a healthy skepticism about the state and its agents. This is one of the reasons why we advocate limited government and Second Amendment rights.
As conservatives know, power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. We have no illusions about human nature such as are cherished by liberals in their Rousseauean innocence. Give a man a badge and a gun and the power will go to his head. And mutatis mutandis for anyone with any kind of authority over anyone. This is the main reason why checks on government power are essential.
The trick is to avoid the absurdities of the ACLU-extremists while also avoiding the extremism of the "I have nothing to hide" types who are willing to sell their birthright for a mess of secure pottage.
One of dozens of reasons not to be a liberal is that liberals have a casual toward crime. The best writer on this topic that I know of is Theodore Dalrymple. His latest is Leniency and Its Costs. Get thee hence!
I feel sorry about the decline of the mother country, but I'm glad that the consequences of liberalism are playing out there more quickly and dramatically than here, so that we Americans may learn something before it is too late. Excerpt:
What, you might ask, was such a man doing at liberty? Well, most importantly, he was providing a living for the lawyers who defended him when he was caught: he was what one might call a criminal Keynesian. And he was providing ammunition for penological liberals who argue that prison doesn’t work. After all, he had been to prison and still he set fire to the furniture store, endangering the lives of so many people! On this argument, of course, he shouldn’t be sent to prison even now, for it will not “cure” him of his “disease,” and he will learn nothing from it. Among the penological liberals, alas, are to be counted more than one chief justice and our current minister of justice (an Orwellian term unknown to British government until that of Prime Minister Blair): the consistently careerist Kenneth Clarke, who values his reputation with the Guardian, our principal liberal newspaper, more than he does the lives and property of the people of Croydon.
The liberal narrative about the [Trayvon Martin] case is now destroyed; it had nothing to do with finding out the truth, whether a trigger-happy vigilante murdered Trayvon Martin, or a desperate neighborhood watchman saved his head from being pounded to smithereens by pulling out a gun and shooting his assailant, or something in between. The narrative instead was solely concerned with taking a tragic shooting case and turning it into more fuel for a fossilized civil rights industry (since the case broke, dozens of violent crime cases of blacks against whites and Asians are splashed over the news, enraging readers and escaping liberal commentary). All we know now is that the “narrative”—a preteen shot “like a dog” while eating candy by a white “assassin” who uttered racial epithets and was never even touched by the victim, only to be let go by a wink-and-nod police force—is false.
I think it will be very hard to get a second-degree murder conviction, given the absence of racial malice on the tape (the narrative’s “coons” and NBC’s version of Zimmerman on his own volunteering “he’s black” are now inoperative), eyewitness accounts of the fray, and the clear injuries to Zimmerman. Instead, the authorities will hope that by inflating the indictment, by airing the facts, and by making Zimmerman testify, tensions will ease–and so when he is acquitted or a judge throws out the case, or a lesser count is pressed, riots will fizzle.
[. . .]
Perhaps before the second-degree-murder charge is thrown out, the prosecution can so entangle Zimmerman in testimony that they can recharge him with perjury or conspiracy and then plea bargain him down to a year or two. The case is now not concerned with justice, but with politics, defusing threats of violence, and salvaging the careers of so many who so foolishly rushed to judgment.
From the Powerblogs archive. Originally posted 13 December 2005.
As you all know by now, Stanley "Tookie" Williams was executed at San Quentin, California at 12:35 AM PT. I take no pleasure in this man's or any man's death; but I do take satisfaction from justice's being served. I simply do not understand how anyone who is not morally obtuse can fail to see that justice demands capital punishment in cases like this.
Not only did this fellow brutally murder four people, three of them members of a Chinese family, "Buddha-heads" in the miscreant's lingo, but he also helped found the Crips gang. So he is indirectly and partially responsible for hundreds and perhaps thousands of other crimes including rapes, carjackings, murders, you name it. Not only that, he failed to show any remorse, failed to take responsibility for his deeds, and played the predator right to the end, attempting to stare down the press there to witness his last moments.
But no fact and no argument I or anyone adduces will make any impression on liberal gush-heads like Bill Press, Ed Asner, Mike Farrell and their ilk. Bill Press the other day opined that capital punishment is "cruel and unusual." To say something so stupid, and so typical of a liberal, is to empty that phrase of all meaning. Williams died by lethal injection, painlessly. He wasn't broken on the wheel, drawn and quartered -- or cut in half by a blast from a 12-gauge shotgun, which is how he murdered one of his victims.
So there is cause to celebrate: not the death of a man, nor the awesome power of the state, but that justice was done and the Left was handed a stinging rebuke.
Even Jesse Jackson does it! This following is excerpted from the NYT piece, The Color of Suspicion (emphasis added)
Why a Cop Profiles
This is what a cop might tell you in a moment of reckless candor: in crime fighting, race matters. When asked, most cops will declare themselves color blind. But watch them on the job for several months, and get them talking about the way policing is really done, and the truth will emerge, the truth being that cops, white and black, profile. Here's why, they say. African-Americans commit a disproportionate percentage of the types of crimes that draw the attention of the police. Blacks make up 12 percent of the population, but accounted for 58 percent of all carjackers between 1992 and 1996. (Whites accounted for 19 percent.) Victim surveys -- and most victims of black criminals are black -- indicate that blacks commit almost 50 percent of all robberies. Blacks and Hispanics are widely believed to be the blue-collar backbone of the country's heroin- and cocaine-distribution networks. Black males between the ages of 14 and 24 make up 1.1 percent of the country's population, yet commit more than 28 percent of its homicides. Reason, not racism, cops say, directs their attention.
Cops, white and black, know one other thing: they're not the only ones who profile. Civilians profile all the time -- when they buy a house, or pick a school district, or walk down the street. Even civil rights leaders profile. ''There is nothing more painful for me at this stage in my life,'' Jesse Jackson said several years ago, ''than to walk down the street and hear footsteps and start thinking about robbery -- and then look around and see somebody white and feel relieved.'' Jackson now says his quotation was ''taken out of context.'' The context, he said, is that violence is the inevitable byproduct of poor education and health care. But no amount of ''context'' matters when you fear that you are about to be mugged.
At a closed-door summit in Washington between police chiefs and black community leaders recently, the black chief of police of Charleston, S.C., Reuben Greenberg, argued that the problem facing black America is not racial profiling, but precisely the sort of black-on-black crime Jackson was talking about. ''I told them that the greatest problem in the black community is the tolerance for high levels of criminality,'' he recalled. ''Fifty percent of homicide victims are African-Americans. I asked what this meant about the value of life in this community.''
The police chief in Los Angeles, Bernard Parks, who is black, argues that racial profiling is rooted in statistical reality, not racism. ''It's not the fault of the police when they stop minority males or put them in jail,'' Parks told me. ''It's the fault of the minority males for committing the crime. In my mind it is not a great revelation that if officers are looking for criminal activity, they're going to look at the kind of people who are listed on crime reports.''
Chief Parks defends vigorously the idea that police can legitimately factor in race when building a profile of a criminal suspect.
''We have an issue of violent crime against jewelry salespeople,'' Parks says. ''The predominant suspects are Colombians. We don't find Mexican-Americans, or blacks or other immigrants. It's a collection of several hundred Colombians who commit this crime. If you see six in a car in front of the Jewelry Mart, and they're waiting and watching people with briefcases, should we play the percentages and follow them? It's common sense.''
Millions of so-called whites are now adults who grew up in the age of affirmative action, and have no memory of systemic discrimination. To the degree some avoid certain schools, neighborhoods, or environments, they do so only on the basis of statistics, not profiling, that suggest a higher incidence of inner-city violence and crime.
My quibble concerns Hanson's use of 'profiling.' He is suggesting a distinction between avoidant behavior based on statistics and such behavior based on profiling. But there is no difference. To profile is to predict the likelihood of a person's behavior based on statistical information. A fiftyish Mormon matron from Salt Lake City does not fit the terrorist profile, but a twenty-something Egyptian Muslim from Cairo does. To screen the two equally at an airport is therefore unreasonable, and to take a more careful look at the Egyptian is entirely reasonable.
Who fits the heart attack profile? Is it the obese and sedentary fiftyish smoker who has bacon and eggs for breakfast every morning, or the nonsmoking, vegetarian, twenty-something marathoner? The former, obviously. Of course, it doesn't follow that the marathoner will not have a heart attack in the near future or that the fat man will. It is a question of likelihood. Similarly with the Mormon matron. She may have a bomb secreted in her 1950's skirt, but I wouldn't bet on it. If the Muslim is stripped-searched this is not because of some irrational hatred of Muslims but because of the FACT that twenty-something Muslim males are more likely to be terrorists than fiftyish Mormon matrons.
What I am objecting to is the use of 'profiling' to refer to blind, unreasonable, hateful characterizing on the basis of skin color or ethnicity. All decent people are opposed to the latter. But that is not what profiling is. Profiling is neither blind, nor unreasonable, nor hateful.
What Mr. Hanson is doing is acquiescing in the liberal misuse of 'profiling.' It is not a pejorative term. Liberals want to make it a pejorative term, but we must resist them.
This is one of the points made by Mona Charen in her excellent column, If Obama Had a Son:
We are now engaged in another fruitless shouting match about whether young black men are being hunted on the streets of America and whether "stand your ground" laws are dangerous. But as the estimable Ann Coulter has pointed out, Florida's "stand your ground" law was irrelevant to the Martin case. Whichever version of events that night you believe: A) that Zimmerman followed and shot Martin in cold blood; or B) that Zimmerman shot Martin in the midst of a fight; the law, which does not require a person who fears for his life to retreat before using deadly force, is not implicated.
It establishes that law-abiding residents and visitors may legally presume the threat of bodily harm or death from anyone who breaks into a residence or occupied vehicle and may use defensive force, including deadly force, against the intruder.
In any other place where a person “has a right to be,” that person has “no duty to retreat” if attacked and may “meet force with force, including deadly force if he or she reasonably believes it is necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.”
In either case, a person using any force permitted by the law is immune from criminal prosecution or civil action and cannot be arrested unless a law enforcement agency determines there is probable cause that the force used was unlawful.
If a civil action is brought and the court finds the defendant to be immune based on the parameters of the law, the defendant will be awarded all costs of defense.
On scenario (A), the law does not apply because Zimmerman on that scenario is not defending himself. On scenario (B), the law does not apply because Zimmerman is not able to retreat. (Charen does not make this clear, but this was basically Coulter's point.) If someone is on top of you pounding you then you don't have the option to either retreat or not retreat.
But of course much depends on what exactly happened. In any case, the law is eminently reasonable whether or not it applies to the Trayvon Martin case.
And note the law is not a gun law despite what lying liberals will tell you. You can stand your ground with your fists, a baseball bat, a knife, a can of Easy-Off oven cleaner . . . .
A symposium with Theodore Dalrymple et al. Excerpt:
Dalrymple: That leftists regard the criminal justice system as criminal and therefore regard criminals as “primitive rebels” against an unjust system is, I suppose, right, though few of them would openly admit it. They tend to see the proper function of the criminal justice system as being the promotion of what they call social justice, by which they mean equality – and not equality under the law, but equality of outcome between identifiable groups. (Equity and equality they almost always assume to be the same.) And they think that if there were justice, equality would result, naturally and inevitably; there is no equality, therefore there is no justice. I think you can read for quite a long time before you find an unequivocal statement that there could be no greater injustice than equality of outcome.
Their approach to the criminal justice system is not that its faults should be corrected, and individual instances of injustice righted (there does seem much to criticize); but rather that the whole of society must be transformed into something completely different from what it is now.
'Social justice' is one of those obfuscatory pieces of leftist jargon which ought never to be used by conservatives. It sounds good, doesn't it? But as Dalrymple points out what it means is equality of outcome, equality of result. It has nothing to do with justice in any legitimate sense of the term. In fact, the implementation of 'social justice,' i.e., equality of outcome, requires massive injustice in the form of affirmative action, wealth redistribution, race-norming, and the like.
Americans should be able to declare what they want the state to do on their behalf if they are murdered. Those who wish the state to keep their murderer alive for all of his natural years should wear, let us say, a green bracelet and/or place a green dot on their driver's license or license plate. And those who want their convicted murderer put to death can wear a red bracelet and/or have a red dot on their license.
A tip of the New Year's hat to the proprietor of American Digest for his link to my recent post on the paradoxes of illegal immigration. Via his site I came to the Powerline post, A Week's Worth of Self-Defense. For repelling a home invasion, and separating soul from body in a manner most efficient, there is nothing quite like a shot gun loaded with double aught buck shot.
Speaking of home invasions, there was one in Mesa, Arizona recently. The invader shot to death a young mother who was alone except for her infant and her grandfather. A reporter described it as a "home invasion gone badly."
As opposed to what, a home invasion that went well? And what would that be, one in which there was only a rape, and terrorization of the occupants of the house, and property damage, and the stealing of property?
One more reason to oppose liberals is that they have a casual attitude towards criminal behavior, an attitude betrayed by the sort of egregious and widespread misuse of language just cited.
Bernard Goetz, mild-mannered electronics nerd, looked like an easy mark, a slap job. And so he got slapped around, thrown through plate glass windows, mugged and harrassed. He just wanted to be left alone to tinker in his basement. One day he decided not to take it any more and acquired a .38 'equalizer.' And so the black punks who demanded money of him on the New York subway in December of '84 paid the price to the delight of conservatives and the consternation of liberals. To the former he became a folk hero, to the latter a 'racist.' It was a huge story back then. One of the miscreants, James Ramseur, has been found dead of an apparent drug overdose.
Ramseur was freed from prison last year after serving 25 years for a rape, according to NBC NewYork.com. He was one of four black teens shot by Goetz on a train on Dec. 22, 1984, in a shooting that earned Goetz the nickname of "subway vigilante" by city newspapers.
Meanwhile Goetz, 64, flourishes and runs a store called "Vigilante Electronics."
A heart-warming story on this, the eve of Christmas Eve.
Some opponents of the death penalty oppose it on the ground that one can never be certain whether the accused is guilty as charged. Some of these people are pro-choice. To them I say: Are you certain that the killing of the unborn is morally permissible? How can you be sure? How can you be sure that the right to life kicks in only at birth and not one minute before? What makes you think that a mere 'change of address,' a mere spatial translation from womb to crib, confers normative personhood and with it the right to life? Or is it being one minute older that confers normative personhood? What is the difference that makes a moral difference -- thereby justifying a difference in treatment -- between unborn human individuals and infant human individuals?
Suppose you accept the general moral prohibition against homicide. And suppose that you grant that there are legitimate exceptions to the general prohibition including one or more of the following: self-defense, just war, suicide, capital punishment. Are you certain that abortion is a legitimate exception? And if you allow abortion as a legitimate exception, why not also capital punishment?
After all, most of those found guilty of capital crimes actually are guilty and deserving of execution; but none of the unborn are guilty of anything.
My point,then, is that if you demand certainty of guilt before you will allow capital punishment, then you should demand certainty of the moral permissibility of abortion before you allow it. I should add that in many capital cases there is objective certainty of guilt (the miscreant confesses, the evidence is overwhelming, etc.); but no one can legitimately claim to be objectively certain that abortion is morally permissible.
In California, death row's the place to be -- for all the amen-i-ties.And little chance of being executed. So if you're thinking of messin' with Texas, better head west. Just don't stop in Arizona. We carry open and concealed in these parts, and we don't need no stinkin' permit either way.
[Texas Governor Rick] Perry’s identification as a strong supporter of “a culture of life” and what he called the “ultimate justice” of capital punishment, however, raises some potentially thorny questions about the meaning of being “pro-life.” In campaign season, the question is whether American voters, especially voters who identify as “pro-life,” are going to raise concerns about why Perry’s position doesn’t represent what some Catholic theologians call “a consistent ethic of life,” opposition to both legalized abortion and capital punishment.
The above-mentioned Catholic theologians are most likely just confused. There is no defensible sense in which it is 'inconsistent' to be both pro-life and pro-death penalty. I prove this here.
Commentary by Theodore Dalrymple. You may have noticed that liberals have a exasperatingly lenient and casual attitude toward criminal behavior:
A single example will suffice, but one among many. A woman got into an argument with someone in a supermarket. She called her boyfriend, a violent habitual criminal, "to come and sort him out." The boyfriend was already on bail on another charge and wore an electronic tag because of another conviction. [. . .] The boyfriend arrived in the supermarket and struck a man a heavy blow to the head. He fell to the ground and died of his head injury. When told that he had got the "wrong" man, the assailant said he would have attacked the "right" one had he not been restrained. He was sentenced to serve not more than 30 months in prison. Since punishments must be in proportion to the seriousness of the crime, a sentence like this exerts tremendous downward pressure on sentences for lesser, but still serious, crimes.
So several things need to be done, among them the reform and even dismantlement of the educational and social-security systems, the liberalization of the labor laws, and the much firmer repression of crime.
The sentence I bolded is very important. This is why a ban on the death penalty is very foolish besides being morally obtuse. But there is no common sense on the Left, so much so that contemporary liberalism is arguably more of a mental aberration than a cogent position on social and political questions.
"This case [is] about seeking justice for Caylee . . . ." So argued the prosecutor in the Casey Anthony murder case. He was wrong, and the jury understood that.
A criminal trial is never about seeking justice for the victim. If it were, there could be only one verdict: guilty. That's because only one person is on trial in a criminal case, and if that one person is acquitted, then by definition there can be no justice for the victim in that trial.
Dershowitz is making an important point, but I wonder if his formulation isn't untenably extreme. The important point is that a criminal trial can issue in the correct result whether or not justice is achieved for the victim. If the correct result is an acquittal, then of course there is no justice for the victim in that trial. But if the correct result is a conviction, then there is justice for the victim in that trial. So why does D. say that a criminal trial is NEVER about seeking justice for the victim? It seems to me that what he should say is that a criminal trial is not first and foremost about seeking justice for the victim, but about making sure that the defendant is not wrongly convicted. Surely D. does not want to suggest that criminal proceedings have nothing to do with justice.
The glory of our system of justice is the (defeasible) presumption of innocence: the accused is presumed innocent until proven guilty. This puts the burden of proof in a criminal trial where it belongs, on the state. The prosecution must prove that the defendant is guilty; the defense is under no obligation to prove that the defendant is innocent. In a criminal proceeding all the defense has to do is raise a reasonable doubt as to the guilt of the accused.
This is not well- or widely-understood. Did you see The O'Reilly Factor last night? The sweet Laura Ingram, who has been to law school, couldn't get through to the pugnacious and pig-headed O'Reilly. He seemed not to understand the bit about presumption of innocence and burden of proof, nor did he seem to appreciate that the probative bar in a criminal trial is set very high: the accused must be shown to be guilty beyond a reasonable doubt and not merely by a preponderance of the evidence.
A criminal trial is neither a whodunit nor a multiple choice test. It is not even a criminal investigation to determine who among various possible suspects might be responsible for a terrible tragedy. In a murder trial, the state, with all of its power, accuses an individual of being the perpetrator of a dastardly act against a victim. The state must prove that accusation by admissible evidence and beyond a reasonable doubt.
Even if it is "likely" or "probable" that a defendant committed the murder, he must be acquitted, because neither likely nor probable satisfies the daunting standard of proof beyond a reasonable doubt. Accordingly, a legally proper result—acquittal in such a case—may not be the same as a morally just result. In such a case, justice has not been done to the victim, but the law has prevailed.
This is basically right, but it should be pointed out that 'reasonable doubt' is a vague phrase. It would seem that at some point the probability that the defendant committed the murder would be so great that it becomes unreasonable to doubt that the defendant did it. Or is Dershowitz claiming that certainty is required for a legally proper conviction?
Ask yourself whether the following scenario would raise a reasonable doubt. Jones is charged with murder. His defense is that he has an identical twin brother who was kidnapped at birth but has recently surfaced in order to pin the murder on Jones. No one is able to cast doubt on Jones' story: the defendant's parents are dead, the birth records were lost or stolen, etc. There are credible eye witnesses that testify under oath that they saw Jones do the dastardly deed. But what they saw, of course, is consistent with the identical twin's having committed the crime. (Example adapted from James Cargile, "On the Burden of Proof," Philosophy, January 1997, p. 77)
This scenario shows, I think, that it is not certain that Jones did the foul deed. But ought this defense raise a reasonable doubt? I would say no. It is just too far-fetched and improbable. So certainty cannot be required for a conviction. If so, then probability would seem to be relevant, contrary to what Dershowitz claims.
For thousands of years, Western society has insisted that it is better for 10 guilty defendants to go free than for one innocent defendant to be wrongly convicted. This daunting standard finds its roots in the biblical story of Abraham's argument with God about the sinners of Sodom.
Abraham admonishes God for planning to sweep away the innocent along with the guilty and asks Him whether it would be right to condemn the sinners of Sodom if there were 10 or more righteous people among them. God agrees and reassures Abraham that he would spare the city if there were 10 righteous. From this compelling account, the legal standard has emerged.
That is an important point that those who wish to suppress every vestige of our Judeo-Christian heritage ought to think about.
That is why a criminal trial is not a search for truth. Scientists search for truth. Philosophers search for morality. A criminal trial searches for only one result: proof beyond a reasonable doubt.
Again, this strikes me as an extreme way of putting an otherwise excellent point. Does the good professor mean to suggest that there is no search for truth in a criminal trial? And does he really want to suggest that proof and truth have no relation one to the other? Does he think that proof beyond a reasonable doubt does not make it more likely than not that truth has been reached?
A civil trial, on the other hand, seeks justice for the victim. In such a case, the victim sues the alleged perpetrator and need only prove liability by a preponderance of the evidence. In other words, if it is more likely than not that a defendant was the killer, he is found liable, though he cannot be found guilty on that lesser standard.
That is why it was perfectly rational, though difficult for many to understand, for a civil jury to have found O.J. Simpson liable to his alleged victim, after a criminal jury had found him not guilty of his murder. It is certainly possible that if the estate of Caylee Anthony were to sue Casey Anthony civilly, a Florida jury might find liability.
Casey Anthony was not found innocent of her daughter's murder, as many commentators seem to believe. She was found "not guilty." And therein lies much of the misunderstanding about the Anthony verdict.
True, she was found 'not guilty.' That is the correct terminology. And to be found not guilty is not the same as to be innocent. The misunderstanding of some commentators is to think that being found not guilty is an affirmation of the defendant's innocence. The finding of 'not guilty,' however, is nothing more than the judgment that the evidence for conviction was insufficient, that the defendant was not proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. That is of course consistent with the defendant having committed the crime with which she is charged.
This misunderstanding is exacerbated by the pervasiveness of TV shows about criminal cases. On television and in the movies, crimes are always solved. Nothing is left uncertain. By the end, the viewer knows whodunit. In real life, on the other hand, many murders remain unsolved, and even some that are "solved" to the satisfaction of the police and prosecutors lack sufficient evidence to result in a conviction. The Scottish verdict "not proven" reflects this reality more accurately than its American counterpart, "not guilty."
'Not proven' is actually a better and more accurate phrase.
Because many American murder cases, such as the Casey Anthony trial, are shown on television, they sometimes appear to the public as if they were reality television shows. There is great disappointment, therefore, when the result is a verdict of not guilty. On the old Perry Mason show, the fictional defense lawyer would not only get his client acquitted but he would prove who actually committed the murder. Not so in real life.
The verdict in the Casey Anthony case reflected the lack of forensic evidence and heavy reliance on circumstantial inferences. There was no evidence of a cause of death, the time of death, or the circumstances surrounding the actual death of this young girl. There was sufficient circumstantial evidence from which the jury could have inferred homicide. But a reasonable jury could also have rejected that conclusion, as this jury apparently did. There are hundreds of defendants now in prison, some even on death row, based on less persuasive evidence than was presented in this case.
Juries are not computers. They are composed of human beings who evaluate evidence differently. The prosecutors in this case did the best they could with the evidence they had, though I believe they made a serious mistake in charging Casey Anthony with capital murder and introducing questionable evidence, such as that relating to the "smell of death" inside the trunk of Casey Anthony's car.
The defense also made mistakes, particularly by accusing Ms. Anthony's father of sexually abusing her. Although they leveled this unfounded accusation in an effort to explain why Casey had lied, it sounded like the kind of abuse excuse offered to justify a crime of violence. But a criminal trial is not about who is the better lawyer. It is about the evidence, and the evidence in this case left a reasonable doubt in the mind of all of the jurors. The system worked.
With respect to capital punishment: When I was a lab-tech at Ball State University, one of the professors was telling me about a demonstration of static electricity he did at the state prison in Pendleton, IN. He was using a Van de Graaff generator to create long, spectacular sparks and light neon tubes off the fingers of volunteers. The key thing in what he told me was a con asked him, “Can you fix the chair?” meaning of course could he prevent the electric chair from killing a person.
If the death penalty is not a deterrent, then the question is meaningless.
Right. Of course the death penalty is a deterrent. The only interesting question is why liberals don't or won't admit it. Part of the explanation is that liberals won't admit that criminals are for the most part rational, not insane, and that there is such a thing as evil, and what it presupposes, freedom of the will. It is characteristic of liberals to speak of murders as senseless, as in the case of the mother of one of the Long Island pharmacy shooting victims.
But the murders made all the sense in the world. Dead men tell no tales. That piece of folk wisdom supplies an excellent reason to kill witnesses in the absence of any strong incentive not to do so. In one sense of 'rational,' a rational agent is one who chooses means conducive to the end in view. If the end in view is to score some swag and not get caught, then it is perfectly reasonable to kill all witnesses to the crime especially given the laxity of a criminal justice system in which the likelihood of severe punishment is low.
Liberals are promiscuous in their use of the 'disease model.' For example, they typically believe that alcoholism is a disease, a view refuted by Herbert Fingarette in Heavy Drinking: The Myth of Alcoholism as a Disease (University of California Press, 1988). They also misuse the word 'addiction' in connection with nictoine use, as if one could be addicted to smoking. Suppose you smoke a couple packs a day and I offer you a million dollars if you go one month without smoking. Will you be able to do it? Of course. End of discussion. For more on the noble weed, see Alcohol,Tobacco, and Firearms. It is the same on Planet Liberal with criminals: they must be 'sick,' or 'insane.' Nonsense. Most are eminently sane, just evil.
And because criminals are most of them sane and love life, the death penalty is a deterrent. That is just common sense and there is a strong, albeit defeasible, presumption in favor of common sense views, a presumption that places the burden of proof on those who would deny it. I will be told that we need empirical studies. Supposing I grant that, who will undertake them? Liberal sociologists and criminologists? Do you think there just might be a good reason to suspect their objectivity? In any case, here are references to studies which show that CP is a deterrent.
But whether CP is a deterrent is not the logically prior question, which is: what does justice demand? Deterrent or not, certain crimes demand the death penalty. Fiat justitia, ruat caelum.
My last post ended with a reference to "Tookie" Williams. Here is a post from the old Powerblogs site dated 29 November 2005:
I just viewed the Stanley "Tookie" Williams segment on Hannity and Colmes. Williams, co-founder of the L.A. Crips gang, and convicted of four brutal murders, faces execution on December 13th in California. Here is a description of one of his crimes.
What struck me was the low level of the debate. Actor Mike Farrell, as part of his defense of Williams, and in opposition to the death penalty in general, remarked that "we shouldn't lower ourselves to the level of the perpetrators of violent crime." The implied argument, endlessly repeated by death penalty opponents, is something like this: Since killing people is wrong, the state's killing of people is also wrong; so when the state executes people, it lowers itself to the level of the perpetrators of violent crime.
Now this argument is quite worthless. If it were any good, then, since incarcerating people is also wrong, the state's incarceration of people is wrong. And so on for any penalty the state inflicts as punishment for crime.
The trouble with the argument is that it proves too much. If the argument were sound, it would show that every type of punishment is impermissible, since every type of punishment involves doing to a person what otherwise would be deemed morally wrong. For example, if I, an ordinary citizen, demand money from you under threat of dire consequences if you fail to pay, then I am committing extortion; but there are situations in which the state can do this legitimately as when a state agency such as the Internal Revenue Service assesses a fine for late payment of taxes. (Of course, I am assuming the moral legitimacy of the state, something anarchists deny; but the people who give the sort of argument I am criticizing are typically liberals who believe in a much larger state than I do.)
So the 'argument' Farrell gave is quite worthless. But Hannity let him escape, apparently not discerning the fallacy involved. Farrell and Hannity reminded me of a couple of chess patzers. One guy blunders, and the other fails to exploit it.
But that's not all. Alan Colmes jumped in with the canard that people who are pro-life should also be opposed to the death penalty, as if there is some logical inconsistency in being pro-life (on the abortion issue) and in favor of capital punishment for some crimes. I refute this silly 'argument' here.
Even more surprising, however, is that Sean Hannity then committed the same mistake in reverse, in effect charging Farrell with being inconsistent for being pro-choice (which he grudgingly admitted to being after some initial prevarication) and anti-capital punishment.
What people need to understand is that the two issues are logically independent. There is nothing inconsistent in Farrell's position. He could argue that the fetus simply lacks the right to life while "Tookie" and his ilk possess the right to life regardless of what they have done. Nor is there anything inconsistent in Hannity's position. He could argue that the fetus has the right to life while a miscreant like "Tookie" has forfeited his right to life by his commission of heinous crimes.
So the logical level is low out there in the Land of Talk and I repeat my call for logico-philosophical umpires for the shout shows. But I suspect I am fated to remain a vox clamantis in deserto.
On this issue, we are on the same page--I think we should celebrate our agreements! In fact, I probably support a broader use of CP than you do. I think CP a condign punishment for things like aggravated sexual assault on a minor, aggravated assault with torture, etc.
I know people who are Amnesty International members. When they start on this stuff about wrongful executions, I stop them and demand a list of the people whom they think wrongfully executed in the U.S. in the last 20 years. Some facts please! They come up with NO credible cases. They talk about a somewhat mentally impaired killer executed in Texas and another in Florida, but these people admitted their killings and juries considered their impairment at trial. It is clear that in the cases they point to what they disagree with is law which allows CP rather than a flawed trial process. The verdicts were good verdicts. I personally see absolutely no reason to consider lower than normal IQ an excuse or mitigation for egregious crimes.
Some people are just opposed to CP whatever the facts and arguments. Fortunately they are minority in most US states. The argument that CP in the US is killing the wrongfully convicted is getting very hard to sustain. 30 years ago when I took my first course in criminalistics, it was a much more persuasive argument, but the advances in the last 30 years have been huge. The scientific evidence that can be extracted from a crime scene is amazing. O. J. Simpson was very lucky!
The average U.S. Death Row innate gets 14 years to appeal his sentence. Project Innocence helps prisoners with any sort of reasonable appeal, and appellate courts even in TX, VA and FL are very generous in considering credible appeals. The standard in these courts is really "above and beyond a resonable doubt" if there is any grounds for doubt. No human institution can be perfect. Nothing can guarantee that a wrongfully convicted person won't be executed, but I think this result is VERY unlikely in the US these days. When someone tells me no one deserves to be executed, I feel obliged to treat them to a graphic murder-by-murder tour of the careers of Bundy, Gacy, and Mike Ross. People need to know exactly what these murderers did to women and boys. This inevitably ends the debate--they have no stomach for the facts.
Clarity will be served if we distinguish two claims that the CP-opponent could be making:
1. Even if there were no actual or possible cases of a wrongfully convicted person being executed, CP would still be an unjust penalty and should be banned.
2. Because there is the possibility of wrongful convictions, CP should be banned.
Like you, I cannot fathom how any rational and morally percipient person could embrace (1). But I find (2) less objectionable, though I reject it as well. I think the conservative must simply accept the possibility of wrongful executions and then argue that this possibility does not by a long shot outweigh the gross injustice of allowing the most vicious murderers to live on in comfort at tax payer expense for years.
But I now want to point out that you seem to be contradicting something implied by what you were maintaining earlier. Earlier, you denied that there is a difference between being found guilty and being guilty, even when all the procedural rules in a trial have been scrupulously followed. That implies, however, that there cannot be a wrongful conviction. But above you speak as if there can be wrongful convictions for capital crimes, adding that this is very unlikely.
If you maintain against the CP-opponents that wrongful convictions are nowadays extremely rare, then by maintaining that you concede that wrongful convictions are possible (and not just in an anemic logical sense) and that therefore the property of being found guilty in a properly conducted trial of such-and-such charge is not identical to the property of being guilty of said charge.
As for the broadened use of CP mentioned in your opening paragraph, consider arson. A man deliberately and maliciously sets a forest ablaze. In the course of combating it, several firefighters lose their lives. In addition, countless animals are either killed or deprived of habitat. And there is property damage in the millions. Doesn't CP at some point become a condign punishment? I say yes. What rational objection could one have to that?
It is indeed a strange world. We in the West coddle the most vicious criminals. In the Islamic lands hands are cut off for theft. Both sides have lost their collective minds, though they are far, far worse. They stone to death the woman caught in adultery and we wring our hands over the execution of a scumbag like 'Tookie' Williams.
I wondered whether I could rebuild the three arguments against capital punishment that you claimed to have demolished in your post:
In 1), you say:
If the wrong person has been executed, that person cannot be restored to life. Quite true. It is equally true, however, that if a person has been wrongly imprisoned for ten years, then those years cannot be restored to him. So the cases are exactly parallel.
I want to examine the nature of this idea that in both cases above the punishment cannot be reversed or restored in some sense. Some punishments can be reversed or restored in a reasonable sense: if the state wrongly fines me for a parking infringement, that fine can be refunded to me (plus interest/compensation as appropriate) in the event that I prove there was no parking infringement. The cases above are not like that: in the case of imprisonment, the punishment cannot be reversed because there is no sense in which someone can have ten years of their life restored; in the case of execution, the punishment cannot be reversed because there is no way in which the executed can be restored to life. But here's the crucial difference between these two cases and why you are wrong to say that the cases are 'exactly parallel'. In the case of imprisonment, reversal/restoration is impossible because of the nature of the punishment. In the case of execution, reversal/restoration is impossible in principle (because there is no longer any person and therefore no way in which their punishment can be reversed). Us liberals take issue with this a priori rejection of punishment reversal.
I don't think you are making your point as clearly as you might. What you want to say is that, in the case of the unjust imprisonment, some compensation is possible whereas in the case of an unjust execution, no compensation is possible. That is a good point, and I accept it. The parallel is that in both cases something is taken away from the unjustly punished individual, something that cannot be restored: ten years of freedom in the one case, life itself in the other. So there is an exact parallel with respect to what was taken from the individual by the punishment. For in both cases what was taken away cannot be restored.So if you say that the capital penalty is irreversible, and that that is your reason for opposing capital punishment, then I will say that, by parity of reasoning, imprisonment should also be opposed since it too is irreversible. And then you have 'proven too much.'
To be found guilty is not to be guilty. So a reasonable justice system must have built into it mechanisms by which miscarriages of justice (which might be established in the light of new evidence, for example) can be compensated. Capital punishment removes such mechanisms which is partly why I reject it.
An interesting argument. Perhaps it could put as follows:
a. Every just punishment allows for the possibility of rectification in the case of a false conviction. b. No instance of capital punishment allows for the possibility of rectification in the case of a false conviction. Ergo c. No instance of capital punishment is just.
The argument is valid, and we both accept (b). But this is equally valid:
b. No instance of capital punishment allows for the possibility of rectification in the case of a false conviction. ~c. Some instances of capital punishment are just . Ergo ~a. Some just punishments do not allow for the possibility of rectification in the case of a false conviction.
I support (~c) by invoking the principle that the punishment must fit the crime and that therefore some crimes deserve capital punishment. If this doesn't convince you then I say that that the two arguments just given neutralize each other, in which case we have a stand-off.
Argument 2) I think probably boils down to an impasse. There are clearly punishments which, though they involve the state acting in a way that in other circumstances would be impermissible, society feels are acceptable: imprisonment (which under other circumstances would be kidnap), fines (which under other circumstances would be extortion). But there are other possible punishments which, though (because?) they would involve the state acting in a way that in other circumstances would be impermissible, society feels are unacceptable: the rapist is not raped, the arsonist does not have his house burnt down, the drunk-driver who kills a child does not have his own child killed by state-sanctioned drunk driver. You say capital punishment fits with the first class of punishments. I say the second.
That too is an interesting point. We don't subscribe to the principle of 'an eye for an eye.' Thus we don't gouge out the eye of the eye-gouger; we don't sodomize the sodomizer; set afire the bum-igniter, etc. Your point, I take it, is that if we don't do these things, then we ought not kill the killer. But 'killing' is a generic term that covers a multitude of ways of killing: one can kill by stabbing, poisoning, drowning, choking, dismembering, burying alive, detonating, etc. So, while agreeing that we ought not stab the stabber, dismember the dismemberer, etc., it does not follow that we ought not kill the killer if the killing is done in a humane way.
I've heard it said that lethal injection is "cruel and unusual punishment," but that's risible. Say that, and you've drained the phrase (which occurs in the U. S. Constitution) of all definite meaning.
I'd like to pick up on the deterrence point in argument 3). In order for capital punishment to be an effective deterrent I would argue that would-be criminals must a) fear death and b) be cognizant of the fact that some crimes are capital crimes. I don't mean that they must 'know' that some crimes are capital crimes in some vague, non-immediate sense, like the sense in which I know that three of Wittgenstein's brothers committed suicide - a fact I had not recalled for some time until a moment ago. No, I mean that would-be criminals must be aware of the fact that some crimes are capital crimes in strong sense: a sense in which a fact affects your actions. I would wager that a) is at least contestable: drug lords live under the distinct possiblity of execution, without due process or lethal injection, by rival drug lords but it doesn't seem to affect their actions. And b) is debatable in the sense that some crimes are crimes of passion, crimes committed whilst drunk or high or otherwise in a mentally-altered state ('So we should let them off?!' you say. No, of course not. But capital punishment is unlikely to deter them).
When I said that swift and sure execution would have a deterrent effect I didn't mean for all. The examples you give are plausible. How much deterrent effect? Who knows. But it would be a substantial one.
1. One could be called the 'epistemological' argument: it can't be known that one accused of a capital crime is guilty. The argument sometimes takes this enthymematic form:
P2. Capital punishment is sometimes inflicted on the innocent. Therefore C. Capital punishment ought to be banned.
But this argument is invalid without the auxiliary premise:
P1. Any type of punishment that is sometimes inflicted on the innocent ought to be banned.
In the presence of (P1) the conclusion now follows, but (P1) cannot be accepted. For if we accept it, then every punishment ought to be banned. For every type of punishment has been at some time meted out to the innocent. Obviously, to be found guilty is not to be guilty. Our first argument, then, suffers from probative overkill: it proves too much. I reject the argument for that reason, and you ought to too.
If the wrong person has been executed, that person cannot be restored to life. Quite true. It is equally true, however, that if a person has been wrongly imprisoned for ten years, then those years cannot be restored to him. So the cases are exactly parallel. At this point liberals will often say things that imply that their real objection to capital punishment is that it is capital. Well, yes, of course: it has to be. For the punishment must fit the crime, and anything less than capital punishment for certain crimes violates the self-evident moral principle that I put in italics. Justice demands capital punishment in certain cases. If you don't agree, then I say you are morally obtuse. On this issue which divides Right and Left either you see that justice demands capital punishment in certain cases or you are morally blind. End of discussion. To argue with the morally blind is as pointless as arguing with the color-blind and the tone-deaf.
2. Another argument repeatedly given against capital punishment is that it involves doing to a person what in other circumstances would be deemed morally wrong. We could call it the 'consistency argument.' The argument is that, since killing people is wrong, then the state's killing of people is also wrong. The trouble with this argument, however, is that it, like the preceding argument, 'proves too much.'
For if the argument were sound, it would show that every type of punishment is impermissible, since every type of punishment involves doing to a person what otherwise would be deemed morally wrong. For example, if I, an ordinary citizen, demand money from you under threat of dire consequences if you fail to pay, then I am committing extortion; but there are situations in which the state can do this legitimately as when a state agency such as the Internal Revenue Service assesses a fine for late payment of taxes. (Of course, I am assuming the moral legitimacy of the state, something anarchists deny; but the people who give the sort of argument I am criticizing are typically liberals who believe in a much larger state than I do.)
The state is a coercive entity that limits the liberties of individuals in all sorts of ways. It has to be coercive to do its job. If you hold that the state is practically necessary and morally justifiable, then you cannot reasonably balk at the state's killing of certain of its citizens.
If justice demands the execution of certain miscreants -- and it does -- then this justice must be administered by some agency. It had better be an agency dispassionate and impartial hedged round by all sorts of rules and safeguards. Otherwise vigilantism. The job falls to the state.
3. And then there is the 'cost' argument. The idea is that capial punishment is not cost-effective. It is claimed that the benefit to society does not outweigh the cost. A utilitarian might be able to rig up such an argument, but I am not a utilitarian. The issue is one of justice. Justice demands capital punishment in certain cases, and it doesn't matter what it costs, or whether there is any benefit to society, or even whether there is any society to benefit. (Recall Kant's last man example.)
In any case, there is nothing necessary about high costs. They could easily be reduced. A limit could be set to appeals -- and ought to be set to them. Endless appeals make a mockery of justice. And if malefactors were executed in a timely fashion, the deterrent effect would be considerable. Thus the 'no deterrence' argument is also worthless in my opinion. Apart from the suicidal, people love life -- criminals included. Swift and sure execution for capital crimes could not fail to have a deterrent effect.
I will add that if it could be shown that in some jurisdiction the capital penalty was not being applied fairly and justly (due to prejudice against people of Middle Eastern descent, let us say), then I would support a moratorium on the penalty in that jurisdiction. But this question is distinct from the question of principle. That alone is what I have been discussing.
Blogging has been good to me. I have met a number of very interesting and intellectually stimulating characters via the blogosphere. I had breakfast with four of them last Sunday morning: Peter L., Mike V., Carolyn M. and Seldom Seen Slim. Topics included logic and existence, the concept of sin, the question why be moral, and the distinction between being guilty and being found guilty in a court of law.
Slim and I found ourselves in that dialectical situation known as a disputation or dispute. Douglas N. Walton, a noted writer on informal logic, defines the term as follows. "A dispute is a dialogue in which one side affirms a certain proposition and the other side affirms the opposite (negation) of that proposition." (Informal Logic: A Handbook for Critical Argumentation, Cambridge UP, 2007, p. 60.) I affirmed the proposition that to be found guilty/not guilty in a court of law is not the same as to be guilty/not guilty. Slim affirmed the negation, namely, that to be found guilty/not guilty is the same as to be guilty/not guilty. The distinction strikes me a self-evident; but Slim denied it and I could not budge him from his position.
While thinking further about the matter yesterday, the following argument occurred to me which strikes me as decisive.
Here are two questions we can ask with respect to burden-of-proof (BOP) considerations as they figure in our legal system. First, why is a BOP assigned at all? (One can imagine courtroom proceedings in which no BOP is assigned.) Second, why is it assigned to the prosecutor/plaintiff? Part of the answer to the first question is because a decision must be made, a question resolved, a dispute adjudicated -- and in a timely manner. If there is no presumption on one side or the other, or, correlatively, no BOP assigned to the other side or the one, then in cases where the evidence is evenly balanced or unclear a decision might be not be achievable in a reasonable time. But why lay the BOP on the state or the plaintiff or their respective representatives? At least part of the answer to this second question is that we collectively judge it to be better that a guilty person go free than that an innocent person be wrongly convicted.
Now if Slim grants me this obvious point, then I have all I need to refute his assertion. To prefer that a guilty man go free than that an innocent man be penalized and in some cases executed is precisely to presuppose my distinction between being guilty/not guilty and being found guilty/not guilty in a court of law. He who denies this distinction removes the main reason for the presumption of innocence, a central pillar of our legal system.
Apparently, Slim thinks there is no objective fact of the matter as to whether or not a person accused of a crime is guilty of it or not. He seems to think that a guilty verdict or an acquittal is what makes one either guilty or not guilty. To my mind this is utterly preposterous. It elides the obvious distinction between a fallible judgment about the way things are and the way things are.
My point goes through even if there is no distinction betweem morality and legality. Suppose there is no distinction between a morally wrong killing of a human being and a legally wrong killing of a human being, that the former collapses into the latter. (Someone who holds this could argue that abortion is legal and so ipso facto moral.) Even so, either Jones killed Smith in a legally proscribed manner or he did not -- regardless of a court's verdict. There are hard facts about what the law proscribes, and there are hard facts about Jones' behavior in relation to Smith. Those two sets of fact taken together determine whether he is guilty or not guilty.
There is only one way I can imagine my distinction collapsing. In the divine court, if such there be, there cannot be any discrepancy between being found guilty and being guilty, nor between being found innocent and being innocent. The distinction would hold only on the intensional plane; extensionally there would be no possibility of a person beng found guilty/not guilty and being guilty/not guilty. Here below, however, we are stuck with fallible courts. And it is a curious form of idolatry to suppose that our fallible courts can do what only the divine court can do.
The “perp walk”, as far as I know, is a peculiar American institution. The police like to use it especially with high-status defendants, who would be particularly embarrassed by such public exposure. Beyond serving to enhance relations between the police and the press, the practice is also supposed to express democratic egalitarianism—look, we can do this to anybody—corollary: watch out, we could do it to you. The “perp walk” is what the sociologist Harold Garfinkel called a degradation ceremony. It serves no legitimate purpose whatever. Its only purpose is to humiliate and to show the helplessness of the “perp”. It is an egregious offence against the presumption of innocence. I know of no similar practice in any other democratic country (though it has been common in China). A faint parallel may be the “dock” in British courtrooms, also suggesting that the “prisoner in the dock” is guilty, but it does not have the humiliation and helplessness inflicted on the accused.
Berger's is an excellent and thought-provoking article, but that the 'perp walk' serves no legitimate purpose is arguably false, and for the very reason that Berger himself supplies without endorsing, namely, that it expresses the egalitarianism of a judicial system in which the high and mighty are held to the same standards as the rest of us. It is very important in a well-functioning society that the people believe that the law applies to all equally, that like cases are treated in a like manner regardless of the perpetrator's social or economic status. The 'perp walk' lets the people see that even the likes of Strauss-Kahn are subject to the law. So it does serve a legitimate purpose.
But I have to agree with Berger that it does offend against the presumption of innocence. You can decide whether this consideration outweighs the other.
I was a bit disappointed with Dennis Prager this morning. He said he was "certain" that bin Laden is in hell. No one can be (objectively) certain that there even is a hell, let alone that any particular person has landed there. (Is Prager so en rapport with the divine nature that he understands the exact relation of justice and mercy in God and the exact mechanisms of reward and punishment?) And although there is call for some celebration at the closure this killing brings, I can't approve of Prager's joy at this event. This attitude of Prager's plays right in the hands of leftists and pacifists who confuse retributive justice with revenge and oppose capital punishment and the killing of human beings on that ground.
Anyone who doesn't see that capital punishment is precisely what justice demands in certain circumstances is morally obtuse. I agree with Prager on that. I also agree with his statement this morning that pacifism is "immoral" though I would withhold his "by definition." (I've got a nice post on the illicit use of 'by definition.') And of course I agree that terrorists need to be hunted down and killed. But there should be no joy at the killing of any human being no matter who he is. It would be better to feel sad that we live in a world in which such extreme measures are necessary.
The administration of justice ought to be a dispassionate affair.
Reader Ray Stahl of Port Angeles, Washington, kindly mailed me a copy of Ned Polsky, Hustlers, Beats, and Others. It is a work of sociology by a maverick sociologist, academically trained, but decidedly his own man. I wasn't aware of it or him until a few days ago. The preface already has me convinced that this is a book I will read and digest. A writer who writes like this is a writer to read:
Many readers of this book will feel that I object to the views of other scholars in terms that are overly fierce. These days the more usual mode in academia, thronged as it is with arrivistes aspiring to be gentlemen, is to voice such objections oleaginously. But luckily I cut an eyetooth on that masterpiece of English prose, A. E. Housman's introduction to his edition of Manilius, and so am forever immune to the notion that polemical writing and scholarly writing shouldn't mix. I believe that polemical scholarship improves the quality of intellectual life -- sharpens the mind, helps get issues settled faster -- by forcing genteel discussion to become genuine debate.
(Hyperlinks added. Obviously. But it raises a curiously pedantic question: By what right does one tamper with a text in this way? Pedantic the question, I leave it to the pedants.)
Polsky died in 2000. Here is an obituary. You will have to scroll down to find it.
News accounts like this one give me hope that there is still some common sense left in this crazy country dominated as it is by the politically correct. The sentence is just. Think about it. This is the miscreant's 9th conviction. The road to conviction is long. First there must be an apprehension, then a trial, then a conviction. How many times was this dude tried without being convicted? How many times did he drive drunk without being caught? Perhaps hundreds.
I don't much like law enforcement agents (qua law enforcement agents) and I try to avoid contact with them, not because I violate laws or have something to hide, but because I understand human nature, and I understand how power corrupts people, not inevitably, but predictably. Cops and sheriffs are too often arrogant, disrespectful, and willing to overstep their lawful authority. But there is a species of varmint that I like even less than law enforcement agents: criminals and scofflaws. They are the scum of the earth. To clean up scum you need people who are willing to get dirty and who share some of the attributes of those they must apprehend and incarcerate. I mean such attributes as courage, cunning, some recklessness, with a dash of ruthlessness thrown in for good measure. Government and its law enforcement agencies are a necessary evil. That is not pessimism, but realism. There are anarchists and others who dream of a world in which good order arises spontaneously and coercive structures are unnecessary. I want these anarchists and others to be able to dream on in peace. For that very reason, I reject their dangerous utopianism.
In his most recent post on this topic, Victor Reppert tells us that his "main concern is with the 'reasonable suspicion' clause. That strikes me as horribly vague." Here is the relevant SB 1070 passage as amended by HB 2162 which contains the clause in question:
For any lawful contactstop, detention or arrest made by a law enforcement official or a law enforcement agency of this state or a law enforcement official or a law enforcement agency of a county, city, town or other political subdivision of this state in the enforcement of any other law or ordinance of a county, city or town or this state where reasonable suspicion exists that the person is an alien whoand is unlawfully present in the United States, a reasonable attempt shall be made, when practicable, to determine the immigration status of the person, except if the determination may hinder or obstruct an investigation.
In our state, most illegals are Hispanics, but most Hispanics are not illegals. If you define your conception of what it takes to have reasonable suspicion, and on my blog I made an un-remarked-upon recommendation that we have reasonable suspicion just in case we have objective criteria leading to the conclusion that it is more likely than not that the person is illegal, then you could at least eliminate the worst of the profiling problems. You can't just stop a Hispanic and make an immigration status inquiry, because being Hispanic is not sufficient for it to be more than 50% likely that the person is here illegally. (Emphasis added)
I believe Reppert is missing the point here. I agree with the last quoted sentence. But the 1070 law does not mandate that Hispanics be stopped at random to have their status checked. The law clearly states the conditions under which an immigration inquiry may proceed:
1. There must be a lawful stop, detention, or arrest.
2. The stop, detention, or arrest must be made in the enforcement of a law other than 1070.
3. There must be reasonable suspicion that the person is an illegal alien.
4. The immigration inquiry must be practicable.
5. The immigration inquiry must not hinder or obstruct an investigation.
I should think that Reppert's 50% rule is satisfied if all the conditions are observed. For example, during a lawful traffic stop, the cop has the right to ask for a driver's license. If the Hispanic driver has no license, no proof of insurance, no registration, has a campesino sticker on his bumper, is driving a junker, etc. then the the chance that he is illegal is way over 50%.
There is a distinction I made earlier which is very important and which Reppert may be ignoring, the distinction between a law and its enforcement. If a law is reasonable and just, it is these things whether or not some cowboy of a cop oversteps his legitimate authority in its enforcement. It would be absurd to argue that a particular law should be repealed because there may be abuses in its enforcement. For any such argument would 'prove too much': it would prove that every law ought to be repealed. For every law is such that an abuse can occur in its enforcement.
You've heard me say more than once that poverty no more causes crime than wealth causes virtue. Heather MacDonald provides empirical confirmation in A Crime Theory Demolished. Lawlessness has fallen while joblessness has risen.
Eric Hoffer as quoted in James D. Koerner, Hoffer's America (Open Court, 1973), p. 57:
Poverty causes crime! That is what they are always shoving down our throats, the misbegotten bastards! What crap! Poverty does not cause crime. If it did we would have been buried in crime for most of our history . . . .
Why is common sense like this incomprehensible to liberals? Poverty no more causes crime than wealth causes virtue.
Is it consistent to support both fetal rights and the moral acceptability of capital punishment? That depends on what is meant by 'consistent.' Let us begin by asking whether the following propositions are logically consistent.
P1. A living human fetus has a right to life which cannot be overridden except in rare cases (e.g. threat to the life of the mother).
P2. Capital punishment for certain offences is morally justified.
I find myself in complete agreement with Professor Grayling's commentary on the Polanski case. Read it carefully; he makes several important points. What is astonishing to me, however, is how this man can be so sane and judicious on this topic, and yet such a blithering gasbag of a lunatic when it comes to religion, as I document here. There is something I call topical insanity, and Grayling on religion is an example of it. Sometimes otherwise sane people simply 'lose it' when it comes to certain topics.
When decent citizens fail to receive adequate protection from governmental agencies, and when they have no reasonable expectation that the scum of society will be properly punished for their crimes, they will be tempted to take the law into their own hands. Liberals need to think about this. The American Thinker offers commentary on the Jerome Ersland case.
My thought: Ersland was fully justified in shooting the ski-masked punk who was attempting armed robbery. But after he had felled the thug, and he was lying unconscious on the floor, Ersland was not justified morally in 'finishing him off.' But that is very easy for me to say, sitting here in comfort and safety in my philosopher's retreat, having no need to face an increasingingly violent public as a pharmacy worker or convenience store attendant. If had been in Ersland's position I would have been tempted to do what he did. Why let a malefactor live who will most likely come gunning for you later? Why let the worthless piece of human detritus live to commit further crimes, especially when the likelihood of his being properly segregated from the rest of us is low? Why not send a signal to the criminal element that there is no percentage in armed robbery? And for that matter, why not send a signal to the contemptible liberals who will excuse and defend any miscreant while showing no concern for the decent citizens who pay the bills?
As for the criminal, his existence is not forgotten; but it is thought that he is either such by definition only, as one who has disobeyed what we have commanded; or he is such by response to the unnatural environment of the state and the inequalities which it fosters; or else he is the unusual individual of determined ill-will who is best dealt with by near and private hands, since the life of the will, whether for good or for evil, is always intimate, individual, and unique. ("The Philosophical Anarchist," in Hoffman ed., Anarchism, Lieber-Atherton, 1973, pp. 116-117)
Suppose we consider Hocking's three points seriatim.