Bomb Throwing Pacifist
Tuesday, December 12, 2006
STOP THE PRESSES!!
Now normally I wouldn't actually get so excited over any one particular odious peice of Wingnut literature, but Dennis Prager has been on a roll lately. First there was his column in which he claimed that if recently elected congressman Keith Ellison, a Muslim, was unwilling to wear his oath of allegiance to the United States on a Bible- or at least have a Bible present in the room- and insisted on swearing on the Koran, he should not be allowed to serve in the U.S. Congress. Yes, you read that right. Even though the constitution has that whole "religious tests" clause. Naturally, the Left-net proceeded to jump on Prager and bite into his pink, flabby ass so hard he was forced to scream uncle and writte a follow-up.
Next, because he seemed to be suffering under the popular wingnut misconception that Freedom of Speech also included a shield protecting him from criticism for his loathsome ideas, he decided to write a second column explaining how everyone was being mean to him and calling him a racist bigot, even though he never specifically mentioned that Ellison was black and all he said was that if Ellison was unwilling to compromise his faith and swear on the holy book of another religion, he should not be permitted to serve in any official capacity as a legislator. Granted, while it didn't cause the Anti-Defamation League to issue another scorching press release, he still ended up looking like a tool.
God, you'd think this guy would eventually give up, and at the very least take a "break." you know? Like the kind most GOP lawmakers end up going on when congress starts looking at issuing indictments and they suddenly develop the most inexplicable urge to spend more time with their grandkids, fishing. But no, Prager doesn't take the easy way out. Because like any other good cropophage, instead of quitting when going gets tough, he never stops looking for a bigger, better pile of faeces from which to fashion a new dwelling place. Take it away, Denny!!
Over the years, I have offered many arguments for capital punishment for murder:
All of them pretty shitty. But hey, who knows? Much like certain hit movies that I can think of, maybe if I do enough sequels, one of them will actually turn out pretty well. Just look at the Highlander series!
Yet somehow, I don't think Dennis is overly concerned about that when he helps get them elected to office. I guess the injustice of the situation is based off an elastic philosophical algorythm wherein the measure of injustice decreased by a direct relationship of the murderer in question's whiteness, wealth, and conservativism. Go figure.
2. Killing murderers is society's only way to teach how terrible murder is. The only real way a society can express its revulsion at any criminal behavior is through the punishment it metes out. If murderers all got 10 years in prison and thieves all got 20 years in prison, that would be society's way of saying that thievery is worse than murder. A society that kills murderers is saying that murder is more heinous a crime than a society that keeps all its murderers alive.
Therefore, by that logic, while we are all pretty good about killing people who commit capital murder and showing the world that we mean business and all (as is our wont to do as big, tough Americans), how the hell can we look ourselves in the mirror fully well knowing that there are places in world (like Saudi Arabia) where the punishment for fornication is flogging, theft is amputation, and homosexuality is hanging. No offense or anything, but I'm sure Dennis would hate to spend much time thinking about what panzies we must look like to the rest of the world when it comes to our tolerance of gays and shoplifters. No wonder thye think the west is weak!
3. It can, if widely enacted, deter some murders. Though I regard this as a less important argument than the first two, there is no doubt that it is true.
Which is of course why Canada and Australia have nearly inconprehensibly high murder rates, while our beloved nation-state of Texas remains a model of order, stability, and brotherly love.
The great thinker Ernest van den Haag brilliantly made the case for execution as deterrence: Imagine if a state announced that murders committed Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays would be punishable by execution and murders committed the other days of the week would be punishable by imprisonment. Would murder rates remain the same as they are now on all the days of the week? I doubt it.
Likewise, if a particular state (Oh I dunno, let's say Wisconsin) abolished the death penalty, but a neighboring state kept it on the books and in full swing (let's say, oh, Illinois), then of course the murder rate in the state without Capital punishment would skyrocket while the murder rates in the other state would drop like a stone. After all, all the murderers and theives from the one state would simply cross state lines to conduct their vile acts, thus escaping the Ultimate Penalty(tm) and thereby giving a huge F-U- to the tools in the neighboring state. Right? Right?? Ah. Shit.
The most common objection opponents offer against capital punishment is that innocents may be executed.
Pfft! What a bunch of panzies. Worrying about the fate of the innocent and such.
My answer has always been that this is so rare (I do not know of a proved case of mistaken execution in America in the last 50 years)[...]
Well, considering the fact that the United States Department of Justice itself estimates that approximately 5-10% of all convictions in the United States are in fact false convictions. Not to mention that DNA evidence has exhonerated hundreds of people who have logged tens of THOUSANDS of years of incarceration time. But uh, sure. I guess I do have to admit that there hasn't yet been a proven case of a wrongful execution yet (although at the most recent count 123 people had been released from Death Row following DNA and other tests. Kinda makes you wonder). But anyway brace yourselves because what comes next is truely shocking.
[...]that society must be prepared to pay that terrible price. Why? Among other reasons, because more innocents will be killed by murderers who are not executed (in prison, or once released or if they escape) than will be killed by the state in erroneous executions.
....what? No, what, WHAT????? I'm sure I read that wrong. Surely crumbs from your pastrami and mayo bagel have jammed up your keyboard Mr. Prager, for there is no way a person in his right mind could possibly advocate the death of innocent people at the hands of the criminal justice system "for the greater good" and to support a system of deterrence which is not only racist, but has been time and time again proven not to work.
So, yes, I acknowledge the possibility of an innocent being killed by the state because of a mistaken murder conviction. But we often have the tragedy of innocents dying because of a social policy.
Ho. Lee. Shit. He really does mean it.
I support higher speed limits even when shown that they lead to more traffic fatalities. I support the right of people to drink alcohol even though the amount of violence directly emanating from alcohol consumption – from drunk drivers to spousal and child abuse – is so high.
In other words, we must be prepared for innocent people to die at the hands of the state because that's what freedom's all about. Because if you aren't willing to execute innocent people to prove a point about how seriously you take murder charges, well, you can't really support anything, can you? A legalistic justification for the murder of innocent people, all in the name of the greater good. And to think that up until this point, I thought I had seen it all.
Nearly all opponents of capital punishment (and many supporters of capital punishment) believe that if the police obtained evidence illegally, the conviction of a murderer should be overturned.
Now, THAT'S some deterrence I could get behind. But then again, Prager is probably the kind of guy who thinks it's okay to torture brown people if we think they might have information (even if they don't), because after all, if we don't end up torturing some innocent people, it will only encourage the terrorists to attack us more and limit our ability to respond. Tool.
Whether that position is right or wrong is not relevant here. What is relevant is this: The people who believe in this policy do so knowing that it will lead to the murder of innocent people like Mary Hutchison, just as I believe in capital punishment knowing that it might lead to the killing of an innocent person. So those who still wish to argue for keeping all murderers alive will need to argue something other than "an innocent may be killed." They already support a policy that ensures innocents will be killed.
I'm not going to even bother. Just remember kids. If you find yourself accused of a crime you didn't committ and see a fat, red-faced, silver-haired pundit with a bad case of hypervocalism about to be seated, I strongly suggest pleading guilty at once and throwing yourself at the mercy of the judge. Sure as hell beats the alternative.
Now, I need a drink.