Three Political Thoughts

1. I think the death penalty is wrong and immoral, but I have no qualms, none at all, about Shawna Forde’s death by state. She’s my exception.

2. The fact that there’s even a “I read some conspiracy-theory stuff about your religion and then made up my own stuff about your religion and am now going to outlaw the stuff I and the other conspiracy theorists made up” law being proposed is so embarrassing.

3. Until today, I didn’t really have an opinion of Karl Dean. He seems like a fine mayor with a couple of notable exceptions. But this? “‘Maybe the crit­ics don’t share my pas­sion about the poverty pro­gram,’ he said.” Really? Is our mayor in junior high? So, people who have questions about how it is he’s deciding to hire people without opening up the positions to see if there are other qualified candidates or who have questions about how putting a person in a part time job knowing full well they’ll work full time so that they can collect benefits just don’t share his passion about poverty?

Nice. Real nice.

My new opinion of the mayor is that he’s smarmy.

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18 thoughts on “Three Political Thoughts

  1. iIt exempts peaceful practice of Islam but labels any adherence to Shariah law — which includes religious practices such as feet washing and prayers — as treasonous.

    I’m wondering … is he going to try to imprison Catholics who appeal to Rome to annul a marriage? They’re following the Codex iuris canonici, a/k/a Canon Law. How about Jews who keep kosher, send ‘em to jail? They’re following הלכה (halakha) a/k/a Jewish Law. Or Baptist clergy who say that they can’t marry two men? They’re carrying out “the accepted tenets of the Sputhern Baptist Convention,” or Baptist Law; should they be considered traiators?

    Is this fool too uninformed to know that those are the equivalents of what he’s proposing to outlaw, or does he just not care?

  2. Pingback: Tiny Cat’s Death Penalty Exception : Post Politics: Political News and Views in Tennessee

  3. Yes, the Shawna Forde case is testing my principles. However, I also can see a perverted justice in making the taxpayers of a state that warped her and made her think that murdering a pleading child was a patriotic duty maintain her and keep her alive for a very long and expensive time.

  4. NM, I honestly wonder if these jackasses ever, ever ask themselves “How would I like it if someone else did this to me?” How would they like it if another religious group tried to get their origin stories taught in science class? How would they like it if they were singled out for watching based on their religion? Do they ever consider what it would be like if the shoe were on the other foot?

    Bridgett, yeah, I wouldn’t be heartbroken if she just spent the rest of her natural life in prison, but I have no qualms at all about the state killing her, either. It’s kind of weird. Usually, I hear about death penalty cases and, no matter how vile the person is, I’m uneasy about the state having that power.

    This time?

    Nothing. No hesitancy at all.

  5. I wouldn’t be heartbroken if she just spent the rest of her natural life in prison, but I have no qualms at all about the state killing her, either.

    Now, if you really wanted to hand down a quick “death sentence,” just pair her off with a couple of hard-time chulas from La Mara in stir.

    I have a feeling she’ll live longer on Death Row than she would in general population.

  6. B, the thing is, I’m truly not sure that Ketron understands that that’s what he’s doing. I think that there is a huge amount of (deliberately fostered, to be sure) misunderstanding out there of what Sharia actually is and how it works in the daily lives of Muslims. And I don’t want to accuse him of religious discrimination if all he’s guilty of is idiocy.

    I mean, I don’t understand what’s so hard to understand, but then I’ve spent 15 minutes thinking about it.

  7. Oh, and Shawna Forde? I’m about a 99% anti-death-penalty absolutist (mass murderers give me some pause), and she’s not in my 1%. Yeah, she’s done genuine evil. But still….

  8. Aunt B.,

    Some years ago I came to the conclusion that the only case for the death penalty was one of public policy. Are there certain crimes where execution can serve as a deterrent? That led me to only two instances where it can be justified. Those are treason/espionage and the murder (or contracting the murder) of police officers, DAs, judges or witnesses in a court proceeding.

    The poor and downtrodden are rarely in position to commit treason and killing members of the judicial system to impair a trial undermines the whole process.

    Your view on Shawna Forde makes me think that murder in a case where bigotry is clearly the motive is also justified. Not for revenge but because it is good public policy to make examples of such people.

  9. I’m not sure about the death penalty as a deterrent even in this case. The problem of violent extremism against minorities, women, and abortion providers goes deeper than Shawna Forde. Executing her might make her a martyr, if anything, even for the sorts of cowards who subscribe to her chosen philosophies. I think if you want to deter this kind of violence, you have make life tougher for the people who traffic in the violence that she took nearly to its logical extreme. Allowing armed civilians (not sworn law enforcement officers) to roam the border areas violating people’s human rights is not the same as condoning the crimes of Shawna Forde, but it’s not far up the track. Letting assholes like Joe Arpaio operate their own gulag counties without respect to lawful or constitutional niceties, much the same. If we allow these people to violate spirit and letter of law, we can’t act surprised when some of them go a half step further and gun down innocent children. Crack down on them before they get that far.

  10. Yeah, I’m not saying that, in general, I think it’s okay to execute people who lynch children as my one “we just won’t execute anyone but them”. I’m just saying that I have not one qualm about this particular child-lyncher dying at the hands of the state.

  11. I see your point, B.; in an emotional sense, I would lose no sleep over Shawna Forde being sprayed with cow’s blood and thrown into a pit of hungry crocodiles. What I’m saying is therein lies one of the dangers of the death penalty. We get the temporary emotional satisfaction that the state, acting on our behalf, has avenged a particularly egregious act and has permanently removed the bad actor from our midst. Having the state carry out the revenge/removal also gives it a veneer of legitimacy and moral unanimity; i.e. we all recognized this problem and solved it together. The flip side of that coin, in this particular case at least, is that we are emotionally and intellectually distracted from and illusorily absolved of what the state (i.e. ‘we’ the community) has failed to do, which is to mitigate the systemic issues that emboldened the bad actor. In short, we let Shawna Forde and her ilk run wild, and a little girl and her father are dead. We failed to stand up to the hateful, eliminationist rhetoric that legitimizes the murderous paranoia and hatred of people like Forde.

    B., yesterday you posted about some Tennessee state lawmakers who are proposing ludicrous legislation that has little if any hope of being passed. This is isn’t unique to Tennessee, either. Bigoted and eliminationist legislation has been all the rage of late, especially since the election of Barack Obama and the manufacture of the teabaggers. It matters less that the legislation gets passed or subsequently passes legal muster; what it does is put these horrible, hateful ideas on a pedestal of legitimacy. The asshole who wants to murder Mexicans/Muslims/etc. sees an elected official stand in front of a TV camera and say that Mexicans/Muslims/etc. are a mortal threat that must be opposed, and what do you think that does to his willingness to go out and actually kill? (Amanda Marcotte makes an interesting argument about this, as well.)

    I know it seems like I’m going far afield here, but I think it’s an important point to illustrate. I’d rather see Shawna Forde’s smug, stupid, morally bankrupt self fed and clothed in prison for the rest of her life. That way I can be reminded that she is not unique, and that I’ve got to do something about what might encourage and embolden others to do what she did. It’s a lot harder than strapping her down, flipping a switch, and then burying her, but it might save a lot of lives.

  12. I think that what Sam says has something to do with my own discomfort about execution in this case. It’s not my whole reservation about it, but it spells out a big chunk of it.

  13. Sam,

    Excellent post. That is a very good case against the death penalty.

    My thought is that properly implemented, the death penalty transcends simple revenge and actually serves as a deterrent to certain types of crime. For example, I do think that giving Shawna Forde a lethal injection or a seat in the gas chamber or even that great hungry crocodile thing would provide a powerful reminder to would-be Rambos that they are not the law much less above it.

    Of course, it would help in sending that message if people on both sides of the political spectrum stood together in support of executing terrorists like Forde. I wish, for example, that more conservatives would appreciate that if you are going to oppose hate crimes laws, it is important to support executing people like James Bird’s killers. Conservatives ought to strongly support the case for executing the murderer of Dr. Tiller. This may well be the most effective way to bring home the dangers of extremist rhetoric.

    I think that in cases like these, deterrence is more about changing the perspective of disaffected groups rather than scaring off one sick person.

  14. Unfortunately, Mark, the data do not support the idea of the death penalty as a deterrent. States with more executions have higher murder rates. Anyway you slice or slant it, the correlation between more executions and more murders is very strong, and so is the correlation between fewer executions and fewer murders. It should work the other way. Less executions should encourage more murders.

    Let’s look at it intuitively, as well. I’d say the following are three basic conditions under which murders occur.
    1) Crime of passion. The killer didn’t plan the killing, whether or not there was a history of violence toward the victim. There may be clear intent to kill, but it was not premeditated. In this case, the killer was not likely to have stayed his hand from thinking ‘Gee, I might face the death penalty if I don’t calm down and not kill this person.’
    2) Premeditated. The killer planned the killing. Now in this case, the killer was either making a political statement and expecting to be caught, or was expecting to get away with it. If it’s a political statement, the killer is obviously willing to face death. If not, then the killer is thinking the penalty won’t apply because, hey, they ain’t gonna get caught.
    3) Mental or psychological disturbance. Self-evident, and will likely have some overlap with 1 and 2.

    Again, any way you slice it, there’s just no empirical data to support the concept of the death penalty as a deterrent. People don’t kill because they choose to not kill, not because they’re afraid they’ll face a lethal penalty if they kill. Which brings me back to my assertion, that the death penalty is an emotional placebo that works counter to the goal of preventing more murders (both immediately and subsequently). Immediately, it’s nonsensical: we feel bad about someone being killed, so we’ll feel better if we kill someone. Subsequently, as suggested empirically and intuitively above.

  15. Also, entire disaffected groups don’t kill. Extremely motivated members of disaffected groups might kill. So the most effective solutions are to address the disaffection and neutralize the incentives and incitements to extreme behavior.

  16. Sam,

    I don’t disagree with you in the main. As I mentioned above, I personally support executions only for treason/espionage and for the murder of people involved in a trial (witnesses, judges, police, prosecutors) because I do think it serves as a deterrent.

    Consider the case of the man in California serving a life sentence who arranged the attempted murders of several witnesses against him. He almost managed to eliminate the case against him before a retrial.

    It isn’t that I think his original crime was worse than most murders but the effort to corrupt the legal system by causing new deaths deserves execution exactly because we cannot have people thinking that this sort of thing works.

    As for Forde, I was impressed by Aunt Bs.’ post because it struck me that she was moving beyond execution as as revenge and toward execution for public policy reasons. I could be persuaded that executing terrorists is justified where in many other instances it isn’t.

  17. I have to admit, Mark, I’m having difficulty following your reasoning. First of all, the examples you give are loaded with problems. The threshold for determining what is treason has been lowered so far since 2001 that a pygmy couldn’t limbo under it. And how do you determine what espionage is worthy of death? Would you consider the recent Russian ‘spy ring’ eligible? I’d hate to think that indifference and incompetence are grounds for execution. Again, you have to consider the issue of the political baggage that goes with any accusation of treason or espionage.

    Regarding the whole trial protection thing, the example you cite is woefully short of detail. Was the perpetrator accused of a minor felony and just an incompetent goofball who tried to pay undercover cops fifty bucks and a case of beer to whack witnesses? Or was he a formidable violent criminal with known access to others who might do his bidding? If it’s the latter, then I’d say any success on his part at reaching potential victims would be chalked up to incompetence or indifference by the state. In either case, I hardly think such a person would be deterred by the prospect of facing the death penalty (especially if the crime they’re trying to skate a life term or death penalty, anyway).

    Finally, I don’t know if I read Aunt B. the same way you did. I may be wrong, but I think she distinctly removed a potential Shawna Forde execution from the realm of useful public policy into the ostensibly satisfying revenge column. Anyway, revenge is hardly mutually exclusive of public policy. How do you think we got bogged down in Afghanistan and Iraq?

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