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The Passion of the Right

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Opponents of the death penalty may have finally found their “smoking gun” – a case in which an innocent person may have been executed.

Many people have been exonerated while on death row, but the United States has never had a case in which an executed person was later proven innocent. Now, as the New York Times reported earlier this week, St. Louis’s top prosecutor has decided to reopen the case of Larry Griffin, who was executed ten years ago for the murder of a drug dealer. A reappraisal of the evidence has indicated that others may have been responsible for the crime.

The death penalty is the prime example of a public policy based on passion rather than reason. It has been shown time and time again that the death penalty does not deter crime. Rather, it exists in many U.S. states because executing those guilty of heinous crimes fulfils a basic desire – both individual and societal – for revenge.

The thoroughly understandable animal instinct to strike back in kind against someone who has attacked you or your loved ones can be opposed only by reason. Opposition to the death penalty, common among liberals, is sometimes based on emotion or religious convictions. But unlike the pro-death penalty position, it can also be based on reason. In that sense it follows a pattern I have noticed in many domestic issues of the day, namely, that the political differences between “right” and “left” (or “conservative” and “liberal”) often map closely to the human mind’s perpetual internal conflict between instinct and reason.

The Terry Schiavo affair was a case in point. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist’s “professional” opinion based on viewing a video was – even if we are generous and view Frist sympathetically rather than cynically – an example of emotion trumping reason. In spite of his medical training, Frist, along with many other Americans, had an emotional response to seeing Ms. Schiavo apparently smiling and following an object with her eyes. Reason was represented in this case by the various medical professionals who had actually examined Ms. Schiavo over the course of her vegetative state.

Opposition to gay marriage, a position generally identified with a conservative point of view, makes no rational sense. It’s based either on religious belief or on gut feeling rooted in fear of the unknown or the different. Reason tells us that increasing the pool of people who are allowed to marry should, at best, strengthen the institution of marriage, and at worst, have no effect on married heterosexuals. (To test this statement, try to think of a possible rational basis for a married heterosexual to think that gay marriages could threaten his or her own traditional marriage in any way.)

Fear of the unknown and the different is a ubiquitious and instinctive part of human nature; only reason can overcome it. In this case, as in others, the liberal line is more closely aligned with reason, while the conservative position arises from faith (the opposite of reason) or, at its worst, prejudice and hatred.

To be sure, liberals often cleave to their positions out of passions just as strong as those found on the other side. I am certainly not out to condemn the passions – without them we wouldn’t be human. It would not be possible to strive for social justice, for example, without a mix of idealism (fed by passions) and policymaking based on reason. But the difference I have begun to perceive is that where many social issues are concerned, though both points of view have their attendant passions, only the liberal position can claim reason on its side.


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About Jon Sobel

Jon Sobel is an Executive Editor of Blogcritics as well as lead editor of the Culture & Society section. As a writer he contributes most often to Culture, where he reviews NYC theater; he also covers interesting music releases. He writes the blog Park Odyssey, for which he is visiting and blogging every park in New York City—over a thousand of them. Through Oren Hope Marketing and Copywriting you can hire him to write or edit whatever marketing or journalistic materials your heart desires. By night he's a working musician: lead singer, songwriter, and bass player for Whisperado, a member of other bands as well, and a sideman.
  • http://selfaudit.blogspot.com Aaman

    Belongs in Politics, methinks

  • http://www.bhwblog.com bhw

    Thanks for turning the old argument that liberals are driven by emotion and conservatives driven by reason on its head. Good job.

  • http://home.comcast.net/~chickyraptor/ted_hooters.jpg Dave

    That Amnesty link is BS.
    If you have a death penalty in some states, and it only gets applied in something like .014% of the murder cases, then arguing about whether the death penalty is a deterrent is useless.

    An analogy would be: Suppose a drug company was doing a study of a new drug and gave half the people in the study the drug and half the people a placebo, and the people hardly ever took the drug at all, and at the end of the study the people assigned to the first half of the group showed no significant difference from the second half of the group. Would they be correct to draw conclusions about the drug? NO.

  • http://jonsobel.com/ Jon Sobel

    Dave: Your dismissal of the Amnesty site is a little flippant, but your point is valid. A stronger argument for the death penalty’s lack of a deterrent effect is simple common sense, if you ask me.

    In any case, if we grant that you are correct, then there is no valid evidence either for or against a deterrent effect, and the debate must be engaged on other grounds.

  • http://victorplenty.blogspot.com Victor Plenty

    For the sake of argument, let’s suppose Amnesty’s claims true for a moment, and the death penalty really powerless to deter anyone from committing criminal acts.

    Even if this turned out to be true, for every execution carried out, there is a logical minimum of one person who will not be committing any more crimes. Execution is the ultimate and final retirement program from a life of crime.

    Thus, support for the death penalty can also be based on reason, contrary to Jon’s attempt to claim otherwise.

    Personally I dislike the death penalty, and would prefer to see it carried out only on the most dangerous and predatory of repeatedly violent offenders. Not for deterrence, not for revenge, but solely for protecting the innocent from the depredations of predators.

  • http://www.elitistpig.com Dave Nalle

    The deterrent effect is really sort of irrelevant. There’s just no justification for keeping dangerous people who cannot be rehabilitated alive at public expense. They lost their right to life when they committed their crimes, and there’s no value or kindness in keeping them alive.

    Dave

  • http://againsttheleft.com GPW

    The NY Times story is disturbing, especially if it turns out that Larry Griffin was executed for a crime he did not commit. However, the notion that a single wrongful execution proves the moral bankruptcy of the death penalty is fallacious. We don’t apply that standard to any other punishment, and I’m not sure why we should apply it here. As for the notion that death penalty advocates such as me are driven by animal instincts for revenge, I can only say, “You’ve got to be kidding!” First, the death penalty is based on a simple, rational calculus that the punishment should fit the crime. Those who take lives forfeit their own. That seems reasonable. And anyway, why animal instincts for revenge might characterize a lynch mob, they are hardly characteristic of a decade-long legal process in which there is a trial and numerous appeals. The legal system has a way of draining passion out of the issue.

  • http://www.bhwblog.com bhw

    We don’t apply that standard to any other punishment, and I’m not sure why we should apply it here.

    It’s pretty obvious what’s different about the death penalty. The risk of killing even one innocent person is too great a risk to take.

    How would you feel if it were your family member wrongly executed? Would you say, “Well, that’s the way it goes. Sometimes an innocent person has to die so that we can have a death penalty for the guilty ones.”

  • http://jonsobel.com/ Jon Sobel

    They lost their right to life when they committed their crimes, and there’s no value or kindness in keeping them alive

    Folks of certain religious persuasions would disagree with that statement a priori, but I believe you are in a fundamental sense right. My problem with the death penalty is not that. It is, rather, that in my view, while the murderer may have lost his right to life, wherein lies the right of the government, or society, or whomever, to take it?

    We don’t apply that standard to any other punishment

    True, but there is a difference in kind between execution and the other punishments Western society condones, namely, that it is completely final and absolutely irreversible.

    First, the death penalty is based on a simple, rational calculus that the punishment should fit the crime

    That’s a flawed argument. Perhaps the punishment should fit the crime in severity, but not necessarily in kind. We do not make the punishment fit the crime in other cases. We do not rape a rapist or embezzle from an embezzler. By what reasoning should we kill a killer?

  • Anthony Grande

    I am against the death penalty. It is the work of God to kill someone and he is the only who has the right to take a life away. How about we give them life in prison, instead of the death penalty, and when he naturally dies he can have an eternity in hell if he is guilty.

  • http://jonsobel.com Jon Sobel

    How about we give them life in prison

    Some would argue that life in prison is too good for certain criminals, but that’s an example of “revenge thinking.” Also, the life in prison option seems to provide a satisfactory answer to Victor’s point that executing a murder certainly does prevent that murderer from ever murdering again.

    As to GPW’s point that “animal instincts for revenge might characterize a lynch mob, [but] they are hardly characteristic of a decade-long legal process in which there is a trial and numerous appeals” – that’s true, but I think beneath the civilizing exterior of the lengthy legal process lies, in fact, the revenge motive or something very akin to it.

  • http://againsttheleft.com GPW

    BHW:

    “The risk of killing even one innocent person is too great a risk to take.” I suppose that makes sense is you’re a pacifist, but I’m not, and it doesn’t. Consider: A man spends his life in prison for a murder he didn’t commit. The facts come out only after he has died a natural death behind bars. Does this obvious injustice constitute an argument against life imprisonment?

    And given Jon Sobel’s post about the “passion of the right,” I find it odd that you appeal to familial passion against the death penalty. “How would you feel if it were your family member wrongly executed?” Badly. In fact, I’d sue everyone for the wrongful death of my family member. But of course, if that’s an argument, why doesn’t it work the other way? How would a victim’s family feel if the murderer of their beloved was not executed for his gross crime? Emotion works both ways, it seems.

    Jon:

    You write that the difference lies in the fact that the death penalty is “completely final and absolutely irreversible.” Actually, all punishment is. A man who wrongly spends 40 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit cannot get his life back.

    You write: ” Perhaps the punishment should fit the crime in severity, but not necessarily in kind.” That’s an excellent argument, actually. We don’t rape rapists, after all. But I’m not sure that any punishment fits murder in severity as well as execution. And I’m not convinced that murder and execution are of the same “kind.” A cold-blooded killing, after all, is hardly surrounded by the legal process that undergirds capital cases.

  • http://www.diablog.us Dave Nalle

    >>Folks of certain religious persuasions would disagree with that statement a priori, but I believe you are in a fundamental sense right. My problem with the death penalty is not that. It is, rather, that in my view, while the murderer may have lost his right to life, wherein lies the right of the government, or society, or whomever, to take it?<<

    That’s a whole different ethical question. However, if he has forfeited his right, who but the legal goverment can enforce that choice?

    Personally I’d like to see them put to work at some sort of really harsh labor with minimum sustenance until they beg to be allowed to kill themselves.

    Dave

  • http://againsttheleft.com GPW

    Jon:

    You write, “I think beneath the civilizing exterior of the lengthy legal process lies, in fact, the revenge motive or something very akin to it.”

    Of course, you’re entitled to this opinion, but would you please provide an argument as to why “revenge” rather than “justice” motivates the legal process? What possible revenge motive does a prosecutor, who is not related to the victim in any way, have? Revenge may motivate an angry family (and isn’t their anger justified?), but it’s hard to see how such “revenge” applies to a non-family member who has been assigned this case by the district attorney. In other words, I think you’re importing a controversial assumption about revenge into your argument, and the assumption is—in my opinion—unwarranted.

  • http://www.bhwblog.com bhw

    A man spends his life in prison for a murder he didn’t commit. The facts come out only after he has died a natural death behind bars. Does this obvious injustice constitute an argument against life imprisonment?

    No, because the possibility existed for the convict to have been set free during the incarceration (if new evidence was found, for example). That is not true for someone who has been executed.

    How would a victim’s family feel if the murderer of their beloved was not executed for his gross crime?

    It depends upon the family. Some victims’ families, believe it or not, oppose the death penalty.

    My point about the family is that I’ve heard members of my own family, including a law enforcement officer, proclaim that we just have to accept that we’ll execute innocent people once in a while. That’s false reason (aka, bullshit) because their opinions would change if it ever happened to one of their own. Only if you can state that you opinion wouldn’t change no matter who is involved can you claim that the position is one based solely on reason.

  • http://jonsobel.com Jon Sobel

    A man who wrongly spends 40 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit cannot get his life back

    Can’t argue with that. We do have to draw a line somewhere, though. Time in prison may be a crappy life, but (at least while the prisoner remains alive) society still has the ability to make a partial reparation if it turns out he was innocent.

    would you please provide an argument as to why “revenge” rather than “justice” motivates the legal process?

    My argument is this: in spite of the lengthy and exhaustive legal process, death penalty cases always seem to be highly emotionalized. Even at the early stage of deciding whether to ask for a death sentence in the first place, prosecutors take many factors into account, not solely the heinousness of the crime. For one thing, the public, and courts too, seem to consider the opinions and feelings of the victim’s family to be of very high importance. Politics sometimes enters the picture, along with the notoriety of the case or of the individuals involved. Additionally, US states can’t seem to rid the process of racial prejudice – not necessarily a prejudice on the part of any one individual, but a prejudice still deeply rooted in the society that causes, for example, killers of whites to be executed at a higher rate than killers of blacks.

    Justice means fairness. If the death penalty can’t be applied fairly, it can’t be justice. Of course, justice is often imperfect, but with the death penalty there’s too much at stake to risk such imperfections. (Gotta draw a line somewhere…) Anyway, my observation is that the death penalty is not applied with a level head. When it’s applied, it’s applied in a cloud of anger and bitterness. I guess it’s too simplistic to just call it “revenge,” but I don’t believe it’s justice either.

  • http://againsttheleft.com GPW

    Okay, BHW: I wouldn’t change my opinion on the death penalty even if my own family member were involved. Do you now concede that my position is based solely on reason?

  • http://www.bhwblog.com bhw

    No. I think you’re full of it. 8-)

  • http://againsttheleft.com GPW

    Unfortunately, BHW, i’ll have to concede that being “full of it” is a possibility. My basic problem with both your and Jon Sobel’s argument is the standard of perfection you judge death penalty cases against. To me, it’s an unreasonable standard. We don’t apply it to other punishments, and we don’t apply it in just war theory. That’s why I wrote that the standard makes sense if you’re a pacifist, but I’m not, so it doesn’t, at least not to me.

  • http://www.sobriquetmagazine.com/public_html/edsblog.html Eyeless In Gaza

    Nicely done. You manage to congratulate yourself and your fellow leftists on your rationality by means of a simplistic, poorly-reasoned post. That takes skill.

    Where to begin exploding the crude myths that you present to us? Let’s start with the death penalty. I am very much opposed to the death penalty, but I had no idea that all my opponents on the issue were simply driven by an animal lust for vengeance. Indeed, I have become accustomed to hear very well-reasoned arguments presented by those who take a pro-death penalty stance.

    For example, I frequently hear the argument that the most just punishment for a person who has consciously deprived another person of his life is for him to relinquish his own life. Whether you like it or not, that is an argument rooted in reason. I also hear the argument that putting a murderer to death ensures that that person will not kill again. In an age of cheap parole and flimsy sentencing, that too stands as a rational argument.

    And so on. You would do well to acquaint yourself with the arguments of your opponents on this issue, before dismissing their position as rooted in brute passion.

    Furthermore your take on gay marriage is equally patronizing and frankly not well-reasoned. You state that “reason tells us that increasing the pool of people who are allowed to marry should, at best, strengthen the institution of marriage, and at worst, have no effect on married heterosexuals.”

    Really? Increasing the marriage pool would only strengthen the institution or have no effect at all? So, if we increased the pool of people able to marry by extending marriage rights to children under the age of 12, this could not possibly serve to weaken the institution of marriage? This is what your “reason” tells you?

    You also, of course, proceed to confuse the issue, by identifying two very different fears as one: one, the fear that altering marriage rights will have a deleterious effect on the institution of marriage, and two, the fear that altering marriage rights will affect one’s own marriage. This is a very convenient conflation, but it simply does not hold. Obviously extending marriage rights to homosexuals will not serve to undermine any single heterosexual marriage. It will not end the love between any individual man and woman. It will not erode the bond between them.

    But, by that same token, allowing a 25-year old adult to marry an 8-year child would also not end the love or erode the bond between any two heterosexual partners. But, would anyone not argue that such an extension of marriage rights damages the institution of marriage? Of course it would. And it is fears about the institution of marriage that form the basis of the argument for most people who are against gay marriage. Marriage traditionally has been defined as a union between a single man and woman for the purpose of providing a strong foundation for the raising of the next generation. It is indeed designed to be a binding contract between the present generation and the future one. If marriage ceases to hold that definition anymore, then many people are left wondering what the future holds in store for marriage as an institution. A pretty rational fear, I would say.

    Again, I would encourage you to explore arguments from people who oppose your point of view. It might prove enlightening.

  • http://jonsobel.com Jon Sobel

    if he has forfeited his right, who but the legal goverment can enforce that choice?

    In a secular nation, no one. So it gets down to what precisely is that government – what’s its relationship to its citizens and its criminals?

  • http://www.bhwblog.com bhw

    That’s why I wrote that the standard makes sense if you’re a pacifist, but I’m not, so it doesn’t, at least not to me.

    I understand where you’re coming from. But I’m not a pacifist either — some wars need to be fought. But on the issue of our government taking the life of a citizen … I guess I just think that’s a power that we shouldn’t give our government [or that it should take].

  • http://jonsobel.com Jon Sobel

    Eyeless: Are you seriously invoking the “if we allow gays to marry, what’s next?” argument. That’s a straw man, and a pretty disgusting one at that. Until now, I’d only heard fulminating right-wing politicians equate homsexuality with abuse of children, bestiality, etc. In any case, I think you’re redefining the terms. I say opposition to gay marriage isn’t rational, but, rather, is based on either religious belief, or fear of the unknown. You say fear of the the unknown is rational. OK, we’re using different definitions of what’s rational.

    I didn’t mean to conflate the two arguments, although I can see how you’d think I did. They are indeed two separate arguments. As to the “what’s next” argument, I’ve dealt with it in the previous paragraph. As to the other, you say “Marriage traditionally has been defined as a union between a single man and woman for the purpose of providing a strong foundation for the raising of the next generation.” Yes it has, but it is an outdated definition in Western culture. People who still believe it is accurate are way, way behind the curve. Marriage – in general, as an institution – is no longer about the next generation. I make no value judgment on that, merely state it as fact.

    Both of the “rational” arguments you say you have heard for the death penalty have been raised in the comments previous to yours. Check ‘em out and then come on back.

  • http://www.sobriquetmagazine.com/public_html/edsblog.html Eyeless In Gaza

    Wonderful – you have reasons against the death penalty that counter other people’s reasons for the death penalty. That’s great – as as a matter of fact, so do I. That doesn’t mean that the people who are in favor of the death are guided by pure passion, as your original post declares.

    By the way, you are employing a variation of an irrational ad hominem attack by lumping me with “fulminating right-wing politicians.” I don’t equate homosexuality with bestality, child abuse or the like.

    I also think you have confused the term “straw man” with “slippery slope.” I am using a slippery slope argument to this extent: I want to know the logical implications of a person’s argument in favor of a particular position A. Might it lead to justifying a particular position B that may not be as desireable?

    In the case of gay marriage, one can certainly identify the logical implications of certain arguments in favor of it that might lead to extending marriage rights to, say, polygamists. After all, don’t all mature adults have the right to marry who they love? And, gosh, isn’t it the “fear of the unknown” that prevents them from doing so?

  • http://jonsobel.com Jon Sobel

    And I think you’re using the language of logical reasoning as a cover for justifying – or at least proposing, I’m not actually sure – your slippery-slope argument. And it’s an invalid slippery-slope argument, which is why it’s a straw man.

    Consenting adults. ‘Nuff said.

  • http://jonsobel.com/ Jon Sobel

    OK, maybe not ’nuff said.

    don’t all mature adults have the right to marry who they love?

    Of course not. Who ever suggested such a thing? People who try to make that particular slippery-slope argument are starting with a false premise. Two consenting adults have – or should, in my system of beliefs – have the right to marry who they love. No one ever said anything about any adult having a “right to marry” whoever he or she wants. That’s absurd. Anyone who formulates it that way is creating the straw man right there.

  • http://www.sobriquetmagazine.com/public_html/edsblog.html Eyeless In Gaza

    Why is it a straw-man argument?

    Why in your opinion should only “two” consenting adults be allowed to marry? There are many practising Mormons who would make wonderful, loving polygamous families, I imagine. Why are you excluding them from experiencing the joys of marriage in the manner that they wish?

    (By the way, this isn’t some straw-man nonsense. The issue of polygamous marriage among Mormons was once a prominent social issue.)

    Are you afraid, perhaps, of the unknown? Is some irrational fear really at the basis of your position?

  • http://jonsobel.com Jon Sobel

    Why in your opinion should only “two” consenting adults be allowed to marry?

    Sophistry. “Two” isn’t the operative term, “consenting adults” is. Polygamy is indeed another variation on marriage, and one with an interesting history, but I think it raises some different issues, don’t you? I can’t say I ever gave it much thought. Maybe someone could post a concise history of polygamy.

  • http://againsttheleft.com GPW

    BHW re 22:

    “I understand where you’re coming from. But I’m not a pacifist either — some wars need to be fought. But on the issue of our government taking the life of a citizen … I guess I just think that’s a power that we shouldn’t give our government [or that it should take].”

    Can you please explain why you’re apparently logically inconsistent. If capital punishment is wrong because it might take the life of an innocent man, why isn’t war also wrong, since it certainly claims the lives of innocent victims?

  • http://www.bhwblog.com bhw

    If capital punishment is wrong because it might take the life of an innocent man, why isn’t war also wrong, since it certainly claims the lives of innocent victims?

    Good question. I think it comes down to the fact that we fight wars because they’re necessary [in a perfect world, anyway]. We’re fighting because there’s no other way to solve whatever problem it is we’re trying to solve.

    With capital punishment, we’ve solved the problem the moment we incarcerate someone. S/he is off the street and is being punished. The execution isn’t necessary to accomplish the goals of punishment or public safety. It’s just an exclamation point on those goals.

  • http://againsttheleft.com GPW

    BHW:

    The nature of your argument against capital punishment seems to be shifting. In your latest comment, you wrote:

    “We’re fighting because there’s no other way to solve whatever problem it is we’re trying to solve.

    “With capital punishment, we’ve solved the problem the moment we incarcerate someone. S/he is off the street and is being punished. The execution isn’t necessary to accomplish the goals of punishment or public safety. It’s just an exclamation point on those goals.”

    At first, you argued that capital punishment is wrong because it might unjustly take the life of an innocent person. This is a deontological, or rights-based, argument. Now, however, you’re arguing on utilitarian grounds that capital punishment is, literally, overkill, because we’ve already “solved” the problem. In other words, you’ve shifted the ethical assumptions underlying your original argument, from deontology to utility.

    But has incarceration really solved the problem? That depends on what the “problem” is, doesn’t it? If the problem is saving society from a murderer, then it hasn’t, has it? After all, the murderer wouldn’t be in prison unless he had already murdered? Well, then, perhaps we’re saving society from a potential murder. But do we actually know this? Perhaps the killing was a singular affair, and the perpetrator has no intention whatsoever of killing again. In that case, incarceration doesn’t solve the problem because the convicted murderer wouldn’t kill again if released. But if the convicted criminal is a serial killer, doesn’t locking him up increase the chance that he might kill inside the prison walls? If that’s the case, how has the problem of reducing the number of murders been solved? These, it seems to me, are the kinds of problems with switching from deontology to utility in the capital punishment debate.

    But here’s a third problem I have with your argument. Why do you make the assumption that, with regard to war, “there’s no other way to solve whatever problem it is we’re trying to solve”? Appeasement is also a solution. So are non-resistance and pacifism. War is never a necessity, although it is often a legitimate moral option.

    So again, why the inconsistency of your opposition to capital punishment but support for war?

  • http://toddyarling.com todd

    Supposedly conservatives believe that Govt is inefficent and prone to error.

    (They don’t really believe that anymore, BTW)

    Which is my main objection to “The Death Penalty.”

    I have no problem with my peers applying total force. We can hold them responsible for their mistakes or sins.

    You can never hold a Gov’t accountable.

    The last thing I want is an organization as inept, unaccountable, and controlled by interest groups as the Gov’t. to be going around deciding to kill people.

    So thats the reason I am against it

    And for all you bible thumpers, the OT law sez if you convict a man to death, you have to do the job yourself, too.

  • http://againsttheleft.com GPW

    Todd:

    “You can never hold a Gov’t accountable.”

    That’s factually false. (1) Elections can change out officials, whether they be the President, senator, representative, or governor (e.g., the special election that ousted Gray Davis in CA). (2) Impeachment, or the threat thereof, can bring down a President (e.g., Nixon). (3) Government officials can be prosecuted for their crimes, both as individuals and as representatives of the government (e.g., the conviction of SD Rep. Bill Janklow and the conviction of Arkansas Gov. Jim Guy Tucker).

    The question is not whether we can hold government officials accountable, but whether we choose to do so.

  • WTF

    DNA will rule the day. We’ve all seen cop drama on the boob tube.

    I still can’t understand why a criminal, caught on video with eye witnesness who murders indiscriminately, lingers on the docket for years before sentencing and then gets off on a technicality!

    Those not in agreement? Rent you spare rooms out as halfway house.

  • Evan Williams

    “And for all you bible thumpers, the OT law sez if you convict a man to death, you have to do the job yourself, too.”

    Todd,
    I got no problem with that bro.

  • http://www.ideaplace.blogspot.com Randy Kirk

    Do any of you who don’t think the death penalty isn’t a deterent, tell me why you reasonably come to that conclusion? Does that mean that life without possibility of parole is also not? How about the third strike for a two time offender? How would you differentiate in the mind of a potential killer which one of those is going to effect his decision?

    Now, let me ask the same question if the death was going to come immediately after the act? What if it was going to come within 6 months after the act?

    Do you folks work with criminals? Have you studied the criminal mind? Have you studied the history of the death penalty? Or is the just bloviating.

    I congratulate those above who have blown the basic concept of this post completely out of the water. However, I appreciate the fact that Jon admitted that the left commonly substitutes emotion for reason, and that there is reason for emotion to be a reasonable part of the argument.

    Finally, justness and fairness are not even close to the same thing. Think about it.

  • http://dumpsterbust.blogspot.com Eric Berlin

    I leaned toward supporting the death penalty for a number of years, but then I realized that while it might fulfil that basic human need for revenge (justice?) that is mentioned, it just doesn’t make sense for a number of reasons.

    Perhaps the best reason not to kill prisoners is to establish a society in which it is implicitly stated that the State doesn’t condone killing, save in the national interest.

    Plus, I find life in prison without the possibility of parole to be the worst possible punishment imaginable.

  • http://dumpsterbust.blogspot.com Eric Berlin

    By the way, GREAT Buffy link, Jon!

  • The Duke

    Just a thought. How many murderers are reading this blog?

    How many bloggers here today, would never kill anyone, out of fear of going to jail, or getting shot in the process, or hurting your mother’s, or devasting your wives and children, or causing grave harm to another human being. Or getting the death penalty.

    That’s deterrent. Folks all operate at different levels of dterrent. One may not want to shame their parents… while another may not want to face imprisonment and death…

    Truly, some people don’t give a shit, for them… perhaps a death, or study in a controlled environment.

    Remember the “big” revelation a few years back on the mass murderer who killed the nurses back in the 60’s. He went to prison, knowing he was going to get all the dick he wanted, he grew boobs, had lot’s of sex, all the drugs he wanted… that was his motivation. The news media was appalled. But, life is crazy, and the human psyche moves in mysterious ways. Clearly his psyche was many standard deviations away from the median. But those outliers do exist. Aberrations, sure, but existent nonetheless.

    my 2cents