Saturday, November 07, 2009

A Saturday salmagundi.

In a society in which blacks, who constitute 12.8 percent of the population, commit 52 percent of the homicides and about a third of the forcible rapes (see, e.g., here and here), you think we'll ever see one of those paranoia-inducing Broadview Security ads with a black perp? I guess the odds are about as good as seeing a TV ad where the husband is the savvy one and the wife is the moron. .... Sorry, folks, I calls 'em as I sees 'em.

To be clear: This is from the guy
i.e., mewho has argued repeatedly for the elimination of race-consciousness; click on the "race" tag and check the blog over the past few years. But that means the politically correct kind of race-consciousness, too. You can't tell me that this wasn't discussed at Broadview, and that the company higher-ups didn't conceive these ads (and I've seen four different ones now) with the goal of not "offending" anyone. (Well, not quite anyone; you're always allowed to offend white males.)


Here's an article, "Sex Can Trigger Short-Term Amnesia."

Interestingly, short-term amnesia can also trigger in the case of politicians and baseball analysts who forget they're married*, teens who forget they're not on birth control, and celebs who forgot how many teens look up to them in the first place.


So on Tuesday, November 10, barring a last-minute stay, the State of Virginia will execute John Muhammad. Muhammad was convicted of masterminding the sniper spree that terrorized Beltway suburbs as well as, eventually, much of the Northeast back in 2002.

First of all, you can tell just by looking at this guy that he's a mess. A broken person. He's been a broken person for a long time. Which is precisely what his lawyers are arguing in their appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. I know..."that's no excuse." But it always seemed to me that there should be a bright shining line between atrocities committed by crazy people and atrocities committed with the imprimatur of the State. A group of sane, sober-minded, law-abiding men and women sentenced this man to die, and on Tuesday another group of sane, sober-minded, law-abiding men and women will strap a human being onto a table, run an IV into his arm, and do what you do to hopeless animals. Then they'll head home and eat dinner, turn on the TV, laugh at some sitcom, and maybe end the night by going upstairs and working up a good case of short-term amnesia.

How do they live with that? Anyway, I find it sad. I repeat the quote from former New York Governor Mario Cuomo: "Society should not be in the business of elevating mankind's most base emotions to the status of law."


And, in further news from the religion of peace and love...

* and yes, occasionally, authors. I've addressed this before.


Yekaterina said...

That sniper ended the lives of ten people. You don't think the punishment (death) fits the crime?
Sounds fair to me Steve.

Martha said...

This pussy-footing around politically correct conversation is making me nuts. On facebook this afternoon I got into a conversation with a therapist about Hasan. She went into lengthy conversation about how oppression plus hatred equals murderous rage... pretty much laying responsibility of the Ft Hood massacre at the feet at all those big fat meanies who hurt Hasan's feelings over the years. Then she says, "I blame no one."

To which I said, "I blame him." Period.

It galls me that the Twinkie offense has no been joined by the neener offense.

Go ahead and plow down 40 odd innocent folks who are standing down in the Lone Star State. Just don't offend anyone, whatever you do.

Anonymous said...

The D.C. Sniper is a great reminder of your point that eyewitness testimony is often inaccurate/faulty in criminal cases.

The D.C. sniper case dragged on for a few weeks, and all sorts of self-anointed "profilers" decided that the public should be on the lookout for a disgruntled, white, blue-collar racist man driving a white van. All the eyewitnesses reported white vans at the scenes of the numerous crimes.

Were the shooter ever in a white van? No. Never. They were in a Chevy Caprice sedan. And it was blue. But all the eyewitnesses swore there was a white van at shootings.

Think about that the next time you are put on a jury.

Steve Salerno said...

Ykat: The guy is off his rocker. Is the state? And even if he isn't off his rocker, why should the state descend to his level?

Anon: My odds of getting on a jury are about the same as John Muhammad's. But your point (a good one) is taken.

LizaJane said...

Yekaterina - The punishment would fit the crime IF both the criminal and the people inflicting the punishment were insane and/or stupid. Just because your first "instinct" is to kill the bastard (sure, that's EVERYONE's gur reaction, it's understandable), that doesn't mean it should be the one we actually go with and follow through. None of us (at least not the grown-ups among us) live our lives -- even the parts that don't include the potential slaughter of another human being, however vile -- based on gut reactions and what you really "feel like doing," all the time, right? More often, we step back and say, "Yeah, I would really love to see this guy die. But that's just completely barbaric. There's a better solution. None of which will bring the dead people back, now that I think about it." This sort of self-censoring is what keeps (most of) us from slamming our children into walls, kicking our dogs, and screaming obscenities at people who tick us off (even if they REALLY deserve it!). We're "better than that." If you can do it for your dog, surely you can do it for some wretched miscreant. Not because he's "worse" than we are, but because we're "better" -- we KNOW better -- than he does.

Yekaterina said...

If my daughter punched a classmate and bloodied their nose (because she was angry? because she wanted to feel powerful? because she enjoyed bullying other children?) she would be punished. If someone was swinging at her and she defended herself, bloodying their nose in the process, she would receive no punishment. (from me, although she knows there would possibly be consequences to pay at school.)

What I'm trying to say is that two exact scenarios (whether it be bloodying someone's nose or ending the life of someone) can stem from two completely different places. I don't think the state is descending to this man's level any more than I think my daughter would be descending to the bully's level by defending herself and bloodying his nose.

It doesn't have anything to do with a gut reaction to "kill the bastard either" LizaJane. I simply don't have a problem with meting out punishments that fit the crime.

Which leads me to make clear that I've never wanted to slam my daughter into the wall nor have I ever kicked my cat. I have been known, at times, to scream obscenities at people who tick me off though.

Steve Salerno said...

Ykat: But I think the key point is that there's a difference (or there ought to be) between the actions of an individual, in the heat of the moment, and the actions of the State, presumably undertaken in a cooler, more deliberate mode, and with a much larger perspective in mind. For example, I happen to believe that the victims of serious crimes are the very last people who should have formal input into what becomes of the offenders--they're simply not in their right mind, and all they want is vengeance of the most extreme sort. And I say that even though if my family or I were the victim of a serious crime, I would want to scream from the rooftops about the horrible things that should be done to the perpetrator!

It's like--and I think I'm going to post on this next time--the Supreme Court is now considering the matter of whether it's fair to impose a sentence of life in prison without parole (LWOP, in criminal-justice parlance) on a juvenile offender in cases where the juvenile did not commit the ultimate offense (murder, in the present justice hierarchy). But I would ask: Is it fair to sentence a juvenile to LWOP even if he commits murder? To just lock him up and throw away the key when he's 16 or 17? That's absurd. And I say that even though, again, if that 16-year-old had killed a member of my family, I'd be screaming "fry the bastard!" I might even pick up a gun and take the matters into my own hands, or at least want to. That's exactly why defendants in such cases need to be protected from the single-minded wrath of the victims and/or their survivors: Somebody is supposed to have a keener, higher wisdom.

Dimension Skipper said...

Steve, it just so happens I caught a segment on this sunday's Weekend Edition (NPR) about that very subject of LWOP for juvenile offenders who didn't actually do the killing.

It's a 5.5 minute segment (or you can read the transcript) where one such LWOP juvenile is profiled. Obviously you can't say the case is typical since it's only one case, but it was perhaps a little eye-opening for me. Just thought you (or others) might be interested since you brought up the subject and the segment is not that long.

Once again close examination of individual cases may poke holes in the all too typical generally black-and-white thinking re criminal justice. (No, I don't mean anything racial by that.) There are almost always circumstances and details which highlight the foggy gray infinite middle ground between sainthood and pure evil.

But it's just so much easier to quickly categorize a person one way or the other and move on ASAP to other things. Why get bogged down in details?

Steve Salerno said...

Thanks, DS. Good stuff as always.

RevRon's Rants said...

Steve - In the final analysis, our "criminal justice system" is really an institutionalized process for revenge. It exists not with the protection of society as a primary objective, but rather to satisfy society's need to feel safe and, yes, superior.

I am not fundamentally opposed to the death penalty, but think its application needs to be severely limited to those cases where it is proven beyond *any* doubt that an individual has destroyed or ended the lives of others, and for whom anything resembling rehabilitation is very doubtful. If I knew for certain that an individual had harmed someone I loved, I wouldn't scream for the ultimate punishment. I would deliver it myself. Enlightened? Nope; just a clear understanding of my own inclinations and the limits of my "compassion."

On the other hand, if we would stop filling our prisons with individuals whose behavior merely put them in association with actual criminals, we'd have more than enough room to lock up truly dangerous offenders for the rest of their lives. As it is, someone convicted of possessing a few pounds of marijuana will often receive a stiffer sentence than does another person who actually kills someone.

I think that our entertainment media is an adequate metaphor for our collectively twisted "morality." I mean, our kids can tune in to a prime-time series and observe - in detail - the slow-motion internal effects of a body being shot, yet if female nipple happens to get shown, the network faces moral outrage and a heavy fine. Any society that can hear the word "eviscerate" without flinching, yet get up in arms at hearing the word "fuck" needs to look a bit more objectively at their values, IMO.