Do you like the things that life is showing you?

Has someone been peeking at my Christmas list?

You can’t preach the Gospel to a dead person.”

“Compare the number of times in scripture that Jesus broke bread and shared story in the streets and homes where people lived, versus how many times he invited people to church.”

Religion’s relevance to this is that it’s a quick shorthand for these more important, but difficult to articulate values.”

“It happened under Reagan, and it is American evangelicalism’s political sin.”

“Vineyarders may implore God to help fellow-members of their church, but otherwise, in Luhrmann’s account, pretty much everything seems to be about themselves.”

“We have nothing to fear from those who do not believe in God; we have much to fear from those who do not believe in sin.”

“When I’m faced with a tough decision I won’t hesitate to make a sin offering — an intern, or a young bullock, or even seven rams without blemish — to make sure we restore our values and get people working again.”

“It takes a great deal to shock even us, and this may be one of the most-shocking and disgusting stories we’ve ever done.”

This is about sex and property, not life and morality.”

No one has been killed, yet, with a Nutrageous in his hand.”

“History shows that it is always the aristocracy that behaves in spendthrift ways, not the middle class.”

“Marked by a liquidation of the public sector, the destruction of pensions and facilities for the aged, an explosion of student-borne costs in higher education, and intense competition for jobs by desperate workers on the brink of pauperism, Florida’s predicament is a tiny slice of Greece in the Most Magical Place on Earth.” (via)

“Resignation reflected in their eyes as they glanced over their shoulders to the dead end of the street where you can still see the light from the burn off of the oil refinery, for now.”

Congress’s addiction to short-term transportation bills could actually be holding back infrastructure investments around the country.”

A state-by-state, nation-wide repeal of the death penalty once seemed impossible, but now that movement is steadily gaining momentum across the United States.”

(Today’s title in honor of Diana Ross, who turns 68 today.)

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  • Anonymous

    “A state-by-state, nation-wide repeal of the death penalty once seemed impossible, but now that movement is steadily gaining momentum across the United States.”

    “If there were an initiative on the November ballot to eliminate the death penalty, would you vote to eliminate the death penalty? Vote to keep the death penalty? Or not vote?” (asked of registered voters in California)

    Eliminate: 29%, Keep: 61%, Not Vote: 9%, Not Sure: 1%

    Democrats – Eliminate: 36%, Keep 55%
    Independents – Eliminate: 26%, Keep 61%
    Republicans – Eliminate: 22%, Keep: 70%

  • http://loosviews.livejournal.com BringTheNoise

    And how is ANY of that relevant?

  • Lori

    California is Liberal when some nutter commits a (typically Right wing) hate crime. It’s Conservative when a Conservative needs to demonstrate that America is a center Right nation that lurvs the death penalty.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Charity-Brighton/100002974813787 Charity Brighton

    I think what s/he’s saying is that it’s not safe to say that the momentum to abolish the death penalty is strong everywhere in the country. In places like California, Texas, and Virginia, there’s strong support for it. A lot of that probably has to do with the status quo — it’s hard to implement the death penalty if you don’t already have it, and it’s hard to get rid of it if you’ve had it for a while. What ends up happening sometimes is that the death penalty just withers away.

    A classic case is in New York. They haven’t had an actual execution since the early 1960s, but the death penalty has never actually been legislatively repealed. It was suspended in following the Supreme Court case Furman v Georgia and remained so for decades until Governor Pataki reinstated it. The New York State Court of Appeals case essentially put a moratorium on it after ruling the death penalty unconstitutional and no one has been able to successfully repair it to comply with the Court’s order. The death penalty hasn’t been technically abolished in the same way as in Illinois but it might as well be, as far as New York justice system is concerned.

    That’s a little bit of a dramatic case, but you see it nationwide. People might be comfortable with the death penalty in theory but they don’t really like sending people to death row. Gradually death row shrinks and the number of actual executions falls dramatically. Outside of places like Texas and Virginia, the status quo usually holds firm.

  • Lori

    I think what s/he’s saying is that it’s not safe to say that the
    momentum to abolish the death penalty is strong everywhere in the country.

    This is possibly true, but who can tell since there’s never any thought or argument in these “throw up a poll and dash” posts?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Charity-Brighton/100002974813787 Charity Brighton

    I try to use them in the same way as the “Smart people saying smart things” poll, where Fred posts insightful comments from others with minimal commentary from himself and leaves the thing open for discussion. That’s probably not what they were intended for, and I suspect that it’s just a weak attempt to rile people up by posting only bits and pieces of a counterargument, but if you have the information out there you might as well discuss it, right?

  • Lori

    Fred linking to someone who is actually making an argument really isn’t at all the same thing as aunursa’s “post some numbers from a poll that seems to support my position and then run away”comments. Obviously I think that once the crap is out there it’s worth discussing, if only to point out why it’s crap. That doesn’t make the original comment any more worthwhile though.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    So I guess at least 61% of Californians, and 70% of Californian Republicans, have no right to call themselves pro-life, eh?

  • Nathaniel

     You misunderstand. “Life” means innocent life only. And only fetus babies are innocent. Everyone can go to hell.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    Maybe you’re happy to retreat into cynicism and let your opponents define all the terms, but I’m not.

  • Lori

    So I guess at least 61% of Californians, and 70% of Californian Republicans, have no right to call themselves pro-life, eh? 

    I don’t think we can even say this much. The poll asked about how people would vote on a ballot initiative to eliminate the death penalty and that virtually certainly effects the numbers. If I was living in CA and they asked me, if I had answered the poll at all*, I probably would have said no**. That would have been for various reasons having to do with the initiative process and how I think it should and should not be used, not my feelings about the death penalty itself.

    IOW, as usual, aunursa’s choice of poll is fairly useless as fodder for conversation on the topic at hand or giving people a worthwhile alternative to a view Fred presented. It’s just the usual Fox News-style strategy of tossing out something that sounds plausible as long as you don’t actually think about it at all. Americans do have a complicated, and rather disturbing, relationship to the death penalty but because of the confounding factor of the (also complicated) CA initiative process that poll doesn’t add much to our knowledge about that.

    *I can’t remember the last time I actually answered a poll. I think most polls are crap and that the US is far too dependent on polls as a lazy substitute for actual thought and analysis, and I generally decline to feed that.

    ** One of the reasons that I don’t answer polls is that they’re simplistic and therefore tend to create a conflict between answering the question that’s actually being asked and answering the question people are going to claim was asked.

  • Tonio

    Excellent points about polls. They end up framing questions as absolutes, or at least they exclude nuanced positions on the core issues.

    By citing polls, Aunursa seems to be trying to prove that most people are on his side. That last word is critical, because his posts wrongly treat issues as two teams each trying to prevail over the other. No room for the idea that, say, the death penalty could be inherently unjust even if most people did support it.

    If there is a competition going on, it’s not between two teams but two fundamental concepts. One is that certain injustices in our society are within human ability to redress and that addressing these is a moral imperative. This view treats the primary role of institutions and traditions as balancing the interests of the individual with the interests of others and of the society as a whole. The other sees life as a competition among individuals and the primary role of those institutions as enforcing the rules of the competition, falsely assuming that life is inherently just. With some people, either concept may not be all-encompassing.

  • Anonymous

    Uh, you do realize that that poll only applies to California, right?

  • Nathaniel

    The guy from the Adventus blog sure loves the hell out of the Courtier’s reply. 

  • Ian needs a nickname

    Here’s wishing rmj @ Adventus had said something like the following: “Hey, check out Niebuhr!  Admittedly he’s a Christian theologian, but hear me out — there’s something here that anyone might find interesting.”  It’s a pointlessly confrontational post.

  • ako

    Did you see his whole “We may not go watch public executions for fun, but a bunch of people went to see a work of fiction where fictional children fictionally died!”  That was weird.  (I would consider the change from watching actual people die for our amusement to enjoying a work of fiction where everyone is actually alive at the end pretty significant.  But I’m more concerned about people’s actual lives than the purity of their souls.)

  • Anonymous

    Did anyone see this?

    Church fakes teens’ kidnapping using real gun

    What does one say?

  • Michael Pullmann

     “What the hell is wrong with you morons?” sounds like a good start.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Charity-Brighton/100002974813787 Charity Brighton

     I’m a fan of, “You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law.”

    (No, seriously, that’s actually illegal. As in, “county jail time” illegal, not “Goldman Sachs 550 million dollar drop-in-the-bucket-fine” illegal. The fact that it was a real gun probably makes it even worse. If it had been loaded, and someone had gotten accidentally injured…)

  • Matri

    Did you notice this?

    The pastor of the Glad Tidings Assembly of God in Middletown said the
    church is “so saddened” that the girl was traumatized at the Wednesday
    evening youth meeting.

    The church is “so saddened”. Just like Hitler was “so saddened” that there are people in his concentration camps. Not even the usual, standard lie of “deeply regrets”.

    This so-called “church” is despicable.

  • The Lodger

    It’s another one of those “I’m so sorry *YOU HAVE A PROBLEM* with that” non-apology apologies.  F ’em.

  • Anonymous

    “What does one say?”

    How about “Sweet Luna and Celestia, what a bunch of fucked up shitheads!!!”

  • Tricksterson

    So do you have any plans to list Brony as your religous affiliation? :D

    Hey if Jedis can get away with it, why not?

  • Anonymous

    “So do you have any plans to list Brony as your religious affiliation? :D”

    On my Facebook page under “Religious Views” I’ve listed myself as a “Celestian/Lunite”. (Although I’m partial to the Moon Goddess, I’m a big fan of the Sun Goddess as well.)

    Here’s the Facebook Group: http://www.facebook.com/CelestianLunite?ref=ts

  • http://markegli.com Mark Egli

    I attend a Vineyard church and I have to say I am disappointed with the New Yorker article, which seemingly wasn’t in any way fact checked. Joan Acocella’s claim that these churches perform no service (quoted in part by Fred) is hedged by the telling sentence “Maybe she left out their charitable projects on the ground that her book, as its title tells us, is about the Vineyarders’ relationship with God. But I don’t think so…”

    I don’t know about the two Vineyards that Luhrmann attended, but the larger Vineyard that started the smaller church I currently attend directly supported missionaries, foreign churches, ran their own food pantry, gave money and volunteer time to local ministries, and was at least as outwardly focused as most evangelical churches if not more so.

    So, discouragingly, the best I can make of Acocella’s claims are that they’re unchecked hearsay based entirely on omissions in Luhrmann’s book.

  • Anonymous

     Yeah. After you pick up your jaw off of the floor.

  • Greenygal

    I note with interest the pastor’s claim that kids would be removed from the exercise if anyone was “uncomfortable.”  Meaning…what?  Obviously the girl who filed a complaint was uncomfortable and they didn’t do anything about that, and on a larger level, the entire point of kidnapping fourteen-year-olds was to make them “uncomfortable,” so what the hell does that even mean?  And it can’t mean “if they or their parents weren’t willing for them to participate,” because none of them were told it was going to happen.

  • Tricksterson

    As the gitl herself said, you think they would have guessed she was uncomfortable when she started crying.

  • Keulan

    I’m confused by the quote from Adventus that says “We have nothing to fear from those who do not believe in God; we have much to fear from those who do not believe in sin.” In general most people who don’t believe in any gods also don’t believe in sin either, since the idea of sin typically requires that a deity exists to sin against. I’m an atheist and I don’t believe in sin for that reason.

    Reading the article on Adventus didn’t clear up what that quote meant either. Instead, I found out that it was from a book called “I Don’t Believe in Atheists,” which is another saying that makes as much sense as the previous quote- exactly zero.

  • Nathaniel

     Near as I can tell it was a way of saying that both Neo Atheists like Dawkins and Fundies believe that they personally are completely right therefore fundies and atheists are the same and believing in the problem solving ability of science just makes it another religion don’t you know?

    Both sides do it! Republicans and Democrats are the same! Thank God we have some people above it all, like that blogger.

    In essence, he elaborately and eruditely expresses amazingly thought free cliches. I must admit, I am both confused and disappointed that Fred say fit to include the link as one he endorses.

    Oh dear lord, I made the mistake of trying to read some of his recent blogs, and not just ones about Dawkins, trying to see if that would produce better results. The third one down actually starts with the canard of “atheists supposedly believe in nothing, why would they need to celebrate not stamp collecting.” One wonders whether he would express similar contempt for a gay pride parade as “celebrating having sex with other people.”

    He then oh so generously allows that maybe its problematic that atheists in America are regularly ostracized and can even lose their jobs.

    This guy is a perfect example of religious privilege and how it allows someone to with some obvious brains remain so incredibly stupid.  

  • http://accidental-historian.typepad.com/ Geds

     This guy is a perfect example of religious privilege and how it allows
    someone to with some obvious brains remain so incredibly stupid.

    Yeah.  I found that one annoying and deeply condescending, too.  Also, these days whenever anyone mentions Chris Hedges in a positive light I groan loudly…in my head.  It’s funny how RMJ keeps accusing people who disagree with his (I think…?) stated positions as being shallow, improperly educated thinkers and then says, “Now let’s see what Christopher Hedges says.”

    And I’m so tired of people responding to atheists talking about morality by saying, “Well why don’t you read [insert theologian here]? He’s so much smarter than you!” and then dismissing atheists based entirely on the titles of Richard Dawkins books.

    I’m a friggin’ atheist.  I’ve read lots of theologians because I used to be a Christian.  I’ve never read Dawkins or Dennett or Harris and I found Hitchens to be smarmy, condescending, and judgmental.  And yet I’ve still managed to figure out morality just fine, thankyouverymuch.  I have more use for Voltaire, Bentham, Lawrence Weschler, and Craig Ferguson (yes, THAT Craig Ferguson) than any of the people who I’m told I should be listening to these days.

  • Tonio

    I’ve read both Dawkins and Harris. The former does a fairly good job of critiquing the claim that god exist. The latter doesn’t seem to understand that most Christians aren’t fundamentalists or theocrats. But the major error that they share is in treating “Do gods exist or not?” and “Is religion good or bad?” as the same question, or at least strongly connected. One is a question of fact and the other is a question of value. Both insist that any harm that religion does comes from the idea of believing in the existence of beings without empirical evidence. They blithely dismiss the likelihood that such harm comes from authoritarianism and absolutism, ideologies found in some sects but hardly exclusive to religion.

  • http://accidental-historian.typepad.com/ Geds

     But the major error that they share is in treating “Do gods exist or
    not?” and “Is religion good or bad?” as the same question, or at least
    strongly connected.

    Yeah, that seems to be the problem that most New Atheists share, and its why a lot of people who fit in neither the New Atheist nor  the religious fundamentalist camp see parallels between the groups.  Both make a positive correlation between “belief god” and “goodness,” but draw the lines on the opposite side of the graph and assume that there are no other factors to speak of.

    For me lack of belief in a god is simply an issue of intellectual assent and anything I do from there must be independent of the god question.  That means that if I run across a theist who has good ideas about how to live — or even a religious figure who said things worth listening to — I can appreciate the thoughts.  I don’t see why I need to draw a bright line between the two.

  • Tonio

    What Hedges describes as “sin” is merely human fallibility. Obviously we can never have a perfect world, but we shouldn’t stop trying for a better world. I suspect Fred would agree and I hope Hedges would agree.

    Perhaps Hedges should not even use the word “sin” for the concept that he’s articulating. That’s because the word in popular and secular discourse means any bad or immoral actions or the state of committing those actions. And in the theologies that I’ve read about, it means that humans are not merely fallible but thoroughly evil and can’t be trusted to ever do right by their fellow humans without divine authority or intercession. Almost as if the fact of human fallibility was hijacked to push a sectarian agenda.

  • Tricksterson

    I think that by “sin” the author means a sense of right and wrong.

  • Tonio

    My own stance on the death penalty is pseudo-philosophical. Instead of a “right to life,” which has been used as a political cudgel against women, I say that every human deserves to live. The death penalty is ultimately and wrongly a judgment on the convicted person’s worthiness to live. Even if I accepted the principle of that type of judgment, I would still say that humans are fundamentally incapable of making a purely objective judgment on that matter, and no judgment on worthiness to live should be subjective in any way. The racial disparities in the sentencing have been well documented, where the chief determinant is the race of the victim. But what that means to me is that capital verdicts are essentially judgments on the likability of the victim. The juries and judges are essentially saying that not just some convicts deserve to live more than others, but that also some victims deserved it more than others.

  • Anonymous-Sam

    The juries and judges are essentially saying that not just some convicts deserve to live more than others, but that also some victims deserved it more than others.

    You’re very right. The judgment happens both ways. If a court decides that a man who killed 10 women deserves the death penalty, but then sentences someone who killed 10 men to life in prison, the court is essentially declaring that the death of the men wasn’t as meaningful. I support the death penalty in certain cases and I still have to tip my hat to your logic. It is subjective. It is a judgment, and humans are fallible. It’s difficult, if not impossible, to consider every side of such an issue.

    I wish I could discard the desire to have the death penalty, but it spawns from our broken justice system. Every time I hear about a man who’s been twice-over convicted of sexual assault who’s just been caught stalking young women and will face a mere six months in prison, I find myself clutching at the death penalty safety blanket and wishing there were a better way of dealing with criminals who simply don’t care how much time they’ll spend in prison “next time.”

  • Lori

     

    Every time I hear about a man who’s been twice-over convicted of sexual
    assault who’s just been caught stalking young women and will face a mere
    six months in prison, I find myself clutching at the death penalty
    safety blanket and wishing there were a better way of dealing with
    criminals who simply don’t care how much time they’ll spend in prison “next time.”

    In such cases what does the death penalty accomplish that life in prison without the possibility of parole would not?

  • Nathaniel

     Potential harm to other inmates.

  • Lori

    Potential harm to other inmates. 

    I’m not sure that our unwillingness to run a safe penal system is really a good justification for killing people.

  • Nathaniel

     Its not an argument I’d personally endorse. Just an argument I’ve heard others say in response to your charge.

  • Lori

    Ah. Got ya.

    It’s a weak argument, but I’ve heard weaker so I can see someone making it.

  • Anonymous-Sam

    In theory, solitary confinement would solve that issue, Nathaniel.

    It does solve the problem of repeat offenders provided they repeat the crime enough. Even then, courts seem to lean on extreme leniency. I know a guy in Michigan who’s been convicted of drunk driving at least fourteen times. He hasn’t had a license since the 70s, which hasn’t stopped him from being behind the wheel rather often in the last 40 years. He’s hurt people (his last arrest was for plowing directly into a police cruiser, handily enough), but never killed anyone, so his charges have always been mild.

    But how long until he does kill someone? With a record like that, it’s almost inevitable, and yet he keeps getting out and behind the wheel again. It’s like the courts want him to kill someone.

  • Nathaniel

     Which really shows the limitations of the court system. “Justice” tends to get served only after someones dead.

  • Lori

    But how long until he does kill someone? With a record like that, it’s almost inevitable, and yet he keeps getting out and behind the wheel again. It’s like the courts want him to kill someone. 

    So you want to execute Drunk Driver Guy for what he might do?

  • Tonio

    We shouldn’t use the death penalty as an excuse not to reform the justice and sentencing system. Life sentences would be just about as effective of a “safety blanket.” Death sentences can’t be reversed in the case of exonerating evidence, which happens quite frequently these days.

    Obviously fallibility and subjectivity are inevitable in any justice system. My point is that no system that isn’t perfect should be trusted to decide whether someone deserves to live or die, whether it’s the convict or the victim. Making the death penalty an option or a mandatory sentence only increases the level of emotion involved. Taking it off the table would likewise make the sentencing less of an emotional issue.

  • Anonymous-Sam

    Problem though – Since we don’t apparently don’t have the means or resources to give every inmate solitary confinement, life sentence is really nothing more than giving criminals a different society to which they’ll belong. Prisons are their own little towns nowadays with everything from a functional economy to their own two-party election system (provided you replace “vote” with “shank”). Not to mention the threat to prison workers…

    I think the problem in that area is that we don’t have the means to truly reform prisoners (and some of them are incapable of it – some Antisocial Personality Disorder cases simply aren’t going to regret what they’ve done), so prison takes on a different meaning to would-be criminals. It’s just a place they’re kept for awhile, sometimes a place they don’t even really want to leave (a former friend of mine coined the phrase, “Prison is a party with all my friends; I just can’t leave”). If it’s not a significant punishment and it doesn’t reliably reform, what is it?

  • Tonio

    I’m no expert in the penal system so I don’t have any practical ideas for reform. I agree with Lori that we shouldn’t give up, or pretend that we can’t do anything about it just to preserve capital punishment. Such cases are truly nasty businesses, where there’s a clear lynch tenor in the people following the trials, like wannabee Nancy Graces.

  • Anonymous

    There are plenty of ways to reduce the level of violence in prison without the death penalty. In fact, the death penalty has no meaningful impact on the quality of life in prison for most offenders, since most offenders — even ones convicted of sexual assault, stalking, or drunk driving — are never even sent to the facilities where executions take place.

    The real issue is overcrowding, and the real solutions are things that keep people out of jail who don’t need to be there, so that we have the resources to take care of the real violent thugs who actually do belong incarcerated. For example, prosecutors and judges are now relying heavily on pretrial diversions and other non-jail alternatives to punishment. PTDs are not only an excellent alternative to jail time for low-level offenses, successful participants also get to avoid a criminal record, which makes them more employable and makes it much more likely that they’ll break out of the cycle that got them into trouble in the first place.

    Executing people is not the solution and I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone even offer it as a solution or even as a relevant factor before, so I guess that’s new.

  • http://lliira.dreamwidth.org/ Lliira

    I am not opposed to the death penalty in principle. But we don’t live in a world in which it works, and maybe there is no such world. In this world, if you commit a crime while black you get a worse sentence than a white person would. Defense attorneys are often exhausted or incompetent. Police and judges are often corrupt. Juries are often a total mess. And even when everyone does their jobs the way they’re supposed to, we make mistakes. Lots of them. The death penalty does not allow for any correction of mistakes.

    Most people for whom we would decree the death penalty aren’t going to be any more of a threat to other prison inmates than anyone else, so that worry doesn’t wash. Prisons are horrible places and must be reformed, but the death penalty would not help there in any way. Stopping the drug war would.

    I am very opposed to solitary confinement for life — I think it’s a lot worse to torture someone for decades than to simply kill them.

  • Anonymous-Sam

    What about for a person like Gary Ridgway? I have difficulty imagining a punishment bad enough for him. I’m not sure whether that’s because I’m ultimately a good person at heart or because my imagination, although vivid, doesn’t wander the same places as Eli Roth or Clive Barker. :p

    You make arguments I can’t deny. I think the one thing we can all agree on is that our justice system has some crippling issues. For me, those issues are what prevent me from letting go of the death penalty. Note that I don’t think it should be liberally exercised–in other words, no, putting the repeat drunk driver to death doesn’t feel right to me either, although imprisoning him for the rest of his life is just as bad in my book–but I don’t think it should be taken off the table, either. At least not yet. Maybe after our justice system is fixed, I won’t feel the necessity to have it.

  • Da

    Er… part of the reason why the death penalty is so bad is because the justice system has crippling issues, isn’t it? The wrong person can be put to death simply because they are too poor to afford a vigorous defense, or because of the unethical behavior of a prosecutor or a judge, or because they happened to be the wrong skin color in a time and a place where that was sufficient evidence and in of itself to convict someone.

    Using that as a reason to keep the death penalty almost seems perverse to me. (I don’t mean that you are, only that I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around the logic. I can understand supporting the death penalty, but I don’t quite get the progress from “Our justice system has crippling flaws” to “Therefore, I’m comfortable letting it kill people”.)

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    I oppose the death penalty on the grounds that human law, enforced by humans, can never be perfectly just. For this reason, it must always be possible to undo a miscarriage of justice, and execution makes this impossible.

  • http://lliira.dreamwidth.org/ Lliira

    From Christian Piatt’s post:

    Back when institutions were inherently trustworthy

    That would be in the year 30771 of the Grxtrz era? 

  • Dragoness Eclectic

    “What does one say?”

    Simulating a violent crime in progress against children is a really good way to get shot in some states. If they’re lucky, by law enforcement officials.

  • Anonymous-Sam

    While we do have far too much (read: “any” is far too much) abuse of the system, it also seems like the courts often fail to utilize it properly, which is where the bigger failing feels like to me. As a random example, the penalty for sexual assault is as little as 30 days in prison in Oklahoma. Just knowing makes it hard for me to feel like I can rely on prison as a deterrent to crime. In those cases, the death penalty becomes a kind of solace — “At least some criminals get what they deserve.”

    Is that nasty, unwholesome thinking? Yes. I have many flaws and I’m not too proud to admit that one of them, at least, is feeling entirely too satisfied when horrible people die and wishing it happened more often. On the other hand, you did just spark a thought — even having the possibility of a death penalty leaves it open to abuse. No matter how intelligent and discerning one man is, his successor might be corrupt (and the Supreme Court is doing a great job right now of confirming that venerable old judges are quite capable of being corrupt).

    Hmm. Damn this logic thing. I’m going to have to vote against what I’d rather see. Can I take a third option and vote in karma in place of the resident deity? At least then criminals can trip over their socks and fall out of windows more often.

  • Anonymous

    While we do have far too much (read: “any” is far too much) abuse of the system, it also seems like the courts often fail to utilize it properly, which is where the bigger failing feels like to me. As a random example, the penalty for sexual assault is as little as 30 days in prison in Oklahoma. Just knowing makes it hard for me to feel like I can rely on prison as a deterrent to crime. In those cases, the death penalty becomes a kind of solace — “At least some criminals get what they deserve.”

    As an example, that’s kind of… Irrelevant? The existence of the death penalty would have zero effect on the minimum sentencing for anything. If someone gets sentenced for a month in jail for sexual assault, then their judge evidently wasn’t going to consider having them killed. It’s a debate that happens purely on the extreme far end of the bell curve, as an alternative to life without parole. Cases of excessively lenient sentencing, while tangentially related in that they take place within the same judicial system, are kind of meaningless when the conversation is supposed to be about whether capital punishment is justified or not. 

    Also, I’m not certain that you’re quite aware of how many cases there are of death row inmates being found innocent (sometimes posthumously) for their crimes? The simple fact that it’s a non-zero possibility should really be enough to make capital punishment in any circumstance an extremely dicey proposition with a history of overuse, but I’m kind of surprised to hear someone speak so positively about it so soon after the case of Troy Davis. 

  • Chris

    I was glad to read the anti-death penalty article.  I’ve never thought the state should reserve the right to murder its citizens.  Especially being from Michigan which hasn’t had capital punishment since the mid 1800s.

  • AnonymousSlactivist

    As a member of this community (who’d rather not identify himself) who has been to prison, I am profoundly disturbed by the simplistic, tv-show stereotyping of what prisons are like by people who I typically expect a more informed discourse out of.  While I’m pleased that there is a general recognition that the system is broken and horrible, the focus on extreme outliers even in this discussion makes rational discussion of prison policy impossible.  Words can’t convey how awful even a minimum security prison is, not for the violence or rape which both exist and are problematic, but for the constant petty abuse of power, absolute stupifying boredom, and lack of meaning.  Fundamentally, the prison system is caught between rehabilitation and vengeance and as a consequence fails (horribly) at both. 

    As for life imprisonment versus the death penalty, it is deeply troubling ethical issue that is not relevant for the vast majority of cases in which it is applied.  In a just society permanent incarceration/death penalty should only be considered for those who are incapable of being rehabilitated or placed in monitored communities.  That discussion is getting caught up in the biblical retribution model of criminal justice rather than an evidence based system that focuses on creating a safe, healthy, and prosperous society.  Education, job training, behavioural therapy, psychiatric medication, and relocation are what is needed for the vast majority of inmates (I’d guess at least 98%).  Once the vast racist abuse of human rights is taken care of then the cost (moral and financial) of permanently imprisoning or killing the remaining outliers is a reasonable discussion to have.  As someone who has lived through imprisonment, I would vastly prefer death (painless with the aid of a doctor) to life in prison and I consider solitary confinement to be torture and something so inhumane I wouldn’t even do it to an animal long term.

  • Tonio

    In a just society permanent incarceration/death penalty should only be
    considered for those who are incapable of being rehabilitated or placed
    in monitored communities.  That discussion is getting caught up in the
    biblical retribution model of criminal justice rather than an evidence
    based system that focuses on creating a safe, healthy, and prosperous
    society.

    What you describe as two different things are really the same principle. The biblical retribution model is based on the idea that some people deserve to die or suffer. A truly just society would accept from the outset that death and suffering are never deserved, even if they are necessary in some instances. Executions are unnecessary and are inherently judgments on the convict’s and victim’s worthiness to live. That’s not the case with incarceration, which in part is about keeping people from society who have shown themselves to be a danger to it. There seems to be general agreement here that incarceration should be made as humane as possible, and that our current system is horrifically inhumane. Still, that should never be treated as a rationale for the death penalty.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Patrick-McGraw/100001988854074 Patrick McGraw

    There are many, many reasons to oppose capital punishment. Many of these have the dual advantages of being both moral and practical. But personally? My mind keeps coming back to the same words:

    “Deserves [death]! I daresay he does. Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgement.  For even the very wise cannot see all ends.”
    – Gandalf, in The Lord of the Rings, Book I, Chapter Two.

    I think that the majority of the USA’s massive incarcerated population should not be there. The brokenness of our criminal justice system and the “War on Drugs” have caused drastic harm to lower-income and minority groups. The cynical part of me sometimes thinks that this is entirely intentional, while the more hopeful part thinks that it is the cumulative result of injustices at nearly every level rather than an overriding ideology.

    Then I make the mistake of reading the comments section of news articles, or I receive the latest SPLC intelligence report, and I am reminded that there are a lot of people responding to the death of Trayvon Martin the same way they responded to the death of Emmett Till.


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