The death penalty

At the risk of appearing to be a wuss and a softie and a communist, let me say that one reason I admire Kerry is his steadfast stance against the death penalty, the most vivid example of cruel and unusual punishment. And don’t get any wrong ideas — I believe in justice, and when brutal crimes are committed a la Timothy McVeigh and Osama Bin Laden I believe they deserve infinite pain and suffering. But when we kill them, it diminishes our own humanity.

I just read another article that reinforced this belief, a tale of justice denied, or at least justice perverted, for a black man in Texas. It simply would never happen to wealthy guys like the Mendoza brothers. And I wonder why so many Americans celebrate the death penalty despite its glaring inequities.

An old acquaintance of mine from Greenwich Village, Jim Holt, says this is the single determining issue in his decision to endorse Kerry.

Let me cite one relatively marginal reason: Kerry opposes the death penalty. In doing so, he passes a test of rationality and moral decency that every other Republican and Democratic presidential candidate has failed for at least the last three elections.

As much as Jim and I have disagreed about things, I agree with him here. It’s just a shame so few Americans will say so, because it makes them appear weak, like “girlie-men.”

The Discussion: 17 Comments

Comrade, I applaud your stance.

Actually, I could never figure out why America still allows the death penalty. It’s simply absurd. And in the climate you describe so vividly in this blog, it takes far more guts to stand against something that is so glaringly wrong than to shout, ‘String ’em up!’ as young georgie boy did so often in his days as governor of Texas.

The death penalty isn’t just cruel and unusual punishment, it’s an absurd relic of less enlightened days. If you’re going to keep the death penalty, you might as well be shipping convicts off to penal colonies in Guam or American Samoa. Ridiculous.

October 27, 2004 @ 12:31 am | Comment

Your using soft and communist in the same passage, isn’t that a contradition. Communists are some of the greatest supporters of the death penalty, look at Cuba.

Though I’m for the death penalty, and have openly said that I would like it to be extended to sexual and drugs crimes, as well as being a member of an eighties retro punk band, I would have to say that locking somebody up for the rest of their lives is also pretty cruel. Is death any crueller than a life sentence? At least with death, its over with, very over with, but at least there is an end.

If you removed the death sentence then you would have people receiving twenty or thirty year prision terms, and after that long inside the mental impact on a person is dramatic. They will often either become totally hardened by the conditions that they see and will be more dangerous than when they were locked up because they will have spent so much time in a brutal and restrictive environment, or they will fall apart and basicly become a nut.

Either way, most people in America and other countries who have had the alternatives to the death penalty are in no fit state to return to society, and many of people never recover mentally after thirty years in prision.

Is it crueller to execute them or to mentally damage them?

I understand about the differences between poor blacks and rich whites, and this is a tragedy for America. Maybe this should be addressed first, it will certainly be easier to do that than to get a country wide ban on the death penalty.

Oh, and where will you put all those life term inmates, and who will pay to keep them inside. I don’t pay US taxes so I’m not bothered. But it is very expensive to keep people in maximum security.

October 27, 2004 @ 1:53 am | Comment

I Was Steadfastly Against it Before I Was Resolutely for it.

From the Peking Duck: “[O]ne reason I admire Kerry is his steadfast stance against the death penalty, the most vivid example of cruel and unusual punishment. . . .” Steadfastly against, eh? “I am for the death penalty for terrorists…

October 27, 2004 @ 2:09 am | Comment

I Was Steadfastly Against it Before I Was Resolutely for it.

From the Peking Duck: “[O]ne reason I admire Kerry is his steadfast stance against the death penalty, the most vivid example of cruel and unusual punishment. . . .” Steadfastly against, eh? “I am for the death penalty for terrorists…

October 27, 2004 @ 2:11 am | Comment

About using “soft” and communist together — I was being totally tongue in cheek, as bushies think if you are soft on the death penalty you must be a commie, or at best a socialsit.

There are all sorts of arguments for and against the death penalty. Here’s the bottom line for me: rich white dudes don’t get the death penalty (anecdotal and exceptiopnal cases aside, like the Julius and Ethel Rosenberg). It is almost always the poor and the disenfranchised. Yes, their crimes may be heinous, but there is a unconscionably dramatic tilt against them if they can’t afford a high-paid lawyer. And if you read the article I link to, you’ll see how stacked the deck is against them.

October 27, 2004 @ 7:05 am | Comment

I’ve always been partial to the communist method of reform through labour. If toiling through backbreaking work doesn’t change a man and teach him the error of his ways, it will break him. In either case, justice is served.

Btw, is forced labour considered torture?

October 27, 2004 @ 9:49 am | Comment

Jing, hard labor doesn’t strike me as torture (if it is really labor and the laborers are treated with basic dignity — food, watrer, rest, medical care, etc.) but I’m no authority.

October 27, 2004 @ 10:03 am | Comment

Richard, did you see Frontline’s Rumsfelds war last night on PBS?
It was the story of the run-up to the war, and how Rumsfeld, Cheney, and Wolfowitz fought tooth and nail with Colin Powell about the strategy, Gen. Shinseki on troop strength, and Gen. Tommy Franks on the same. It chronicles the feuds Rumsfeld had with everyone to get it done the way he wanted, including the idea that Rumsfeld originally wanted JUST 50,000 troops because he and the other hawks thought this would be an easy operation.
Well, so much for that idea- it now seems Shinseki and Franks were right, and try to imagine the result IF Rumsfeld won out reagarding 50,000 troops. Bottom line, Rumsfeld almost quit or got fired, Iraq is in chaos, troops are staying WAY beyond their enlistment, and as a result of Rumsfeld’s stupidity, recruiting for the armed forces is down as well as morale, and Rumsfeld is nowhere to be seen. Bush may have given the go-ahead, but the failures in Iraq fall directly on the shoulders of Rumsfeld……..AND no exit strategy!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

October 27, 2004 @ 4:05 pm | Comment

Langee, I did see it, and it was amazing. How sad, that so few Americans watch the good stuff like that, instead going for the cotton candy and cheap thrills of Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly and Tucker Carlson. It should be required viewing for all voters — we were totally sold a bill of goods on Iraq, and then when it fell apart they tried to convince us they never sold us the bill of goods. But it’s all there on the videotape, and there’s no running away from it. Devastating.

October 27, 2004 @ 4:10 pm | Comment

one of the few things I agree with Rupert Murdoch on – surprisingly, he is against the death penalty, I’ve heard (maybe it’s that Australian legacy of convict transport thing), saying that the death penalty raises the level of barbarism in society.

I think this is true. I also think that if you make a mistake with the death penalty, obviously there’s no redress. Time and time again we’ve seen people on death row have their convictions overturned, and not because of procedural issues – but because they didn’t do it.

It’s one of the things that had me in Kerry’s corner early on, actually.

October 27, 2004 @ 4:52 pm | Comment

I realise that there is an inequality in the death penalty, and on howi t is given out more to poor people from different ethnic groups than to rich people from the main group, but my view still holds, is the death penalty any crueller than the alternative.

Would you sentance that ethnic person to mental torment for the rest of their life?

October 27, 2004 @ 5:49 pm | Comment

it’s not up to me to determine for that “ethnic” person in jail for life if his/her life is worth living.

And if that person is falsely convicted, there’s no recourse if he/she is executed.

October 27, 2004 @ 6:12 pm | Comment

But here is the most important thing, ACB — those people want to live. The Menendez brothers wanted to live. Those rich white murderers who can affortd the attorneys want to live, even if it means life in prison. Most of us do not want to die, especially those of us who believe we are innocent but could not afford the expensive legal help — a tragically common situation for many on death row. Where there is life, there is hope. Why should it be only for those who can afford it?

October 27, 2004 @ 6:36 pm | Comment

If we have to go against death penalty for humanitarian reasons, what about all those countless animals who are being cruelly killed everyday for the mere sack of supersizing ourselves? Now, where is the humanity for that?

If we have to outlaw death penalty, shouldn’t we also outlaw the eating of meat? Outlaw the smoking of cigarette? Which kills more people each year than any war. Outlaw Big Mac? Outlaw the pollution of the environment ‘cause it inhumanly kills all kinds of species (including human) everyday? Outlaw war? But if other country don’t follow suit……on and on and on…. etc.
If we have to do everything based on humanitarian reasons we wouldn’t be alive, not to mention sitting here using Internet.
Nothing is fair in this world; the whole human “civilization” is base on the inhuman exploitation of other species, environment, and other human. The evolution is inhuman too, should we human stop progress, stop research on gene, stem cell,……..based on humanity?

There is nothing right or wrong, everything is relative. The law and the morality are human inventions, in my opinion.
And “HUMANITY”, is an illusion.

BTW, look at the situation in Sudan right now, where is the “humanity” of the United Nation, U.S. and all those humanitarian-bragging European countries, anyway?

October 27, 2004 @ 9:23 pm | Comment

If people want to kill themselves by smoking cigarettes, more power to them, as long as they don’t insist that I too breathe the toxic smoke. They can eat Big Macs too, if they choose. As long as they know the risks, it’s their privilege. As for animals, tragic though it may seem, they are there on the food chain for us. Animals eat other animals, and so do we. That’s why we have cutting teeth. I fail to see how that relates to the topic at hand — a system that guarantees that the poorer you are the greater your chance of being sentenced to death, while a richer person can walk or get a much lighter sentence. The death penalty is injust and inhumane. It’s really not that radical an idea — just ask jesus Christ.

October 27, 2004 @ 9:28 pm | Comment

I agree with you now, but what I was saying is that there are just too many things injust and inhumane for me to judge the right or wrong of anything.

Never mind, I’m insane anyway, I know that.

October 27, 2004 @ 10:11 pm | Comment

Asia by Blog

Asia by Blog is a twice weekly feature, posted on Monday and Thursday, providing links to Asian blogs and their views on the news in this fascinating region. Please send me an email if you would like to be notified of new editions. Previous editions ca…

October 28, 2004 @ 2:24 am | Comment

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