The Death Penalty Endgame

Jan 24, 2016

Photo credit: Daniel Zender

By The Editorial Board

How does the death penalty in America end?

For decades that has been an abstract question. Now there may be an answer in the case of Shonda Walter, a 36-year-old black woman on Pennsylvania’s death row. On Friday, the Supreme Court met to discuss whether to hear a petition from Ms. Walter, who is asking the justices to rule that in all cases, including hers, the death penalty violates the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishments.

Ever since 1976, when the court allowed executions to resume after a four-year moratorium, the abolition movement has avoided bringing a broad constitutional challenge against the practice, believing that it would not succeed. In that time, 1,423 people have been put to death.

Yet there is no question that the national trend is moving away from capital punishment. Since the late 1990s, almost every year has seen fewer executions, fewer new death sentences and fewer states involved in the repugnant business of killing their citizens.


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205 comments on “The Death Penalty Endgame

  • 1
    Stardusty Psyche says:

    When an individual is factually guilty of a capital crime the death penalty is neither cruel nor unusual.

    What is needed in the USA is an overhaul in our requirements for standards of evidence and proof in the penalty phase of a capital crime.



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  • When an individual is factually guilty of a capital crime the death penalty is neither cruel nor unusual.

    State sanctioned killing of a fellow homo sapiens is never justified, regardless of the evil committed. It does nothing as a deterrent. It strokes our revenge gene thus we crave it. It is the province of uncivilized nations to continue capital punishment.



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  • David R Allen
    Jan 24, 2016 at 6:29 am

    When an individual is factually guilty of a capital crime the death penalty is neither cruel nor unusual.

    State sanctioned killing of a fellow homo sapiens is never justified, regardless of the evil committed.

    It has always struck me as unusual, that while people seem to be squeamish about executing those clearly guilty of despicable crimes or who are unfit to be released into a civilised society, the same societies are quite prepared to support the manufacture and distribution of horrendous weapons of war, support air-strikes in occupied urban environments, and turn blind eyes to massacres and genocides where hundreds, thousands, or millions are killed.

    The UK will give bandits/ drug barons with a price on their heads asylum and residency, while at the same time renewing a Trident nuclear submarine fleet which can only be used (as a nuclear capability), to murder millions on innocents!



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  • 7
    Stardusty Psyche says:

    “State sanctioned killing of a fellow homo sapiens is never justified, regardless of the evil committed”

    By that standard we would have to abandon the use of all armed forces internally and externally. It has been fairly pointed out a contradiction in the positions of some people, that they are against the death penalty domestically but are willing to use deadly force internationally.

    My position is not inconsistent in that respect. I think deadly force used in national defense, personal self-defense, and in justifiable law enforcement situations are all an examples of our right to self-defense.

    Execution as a punishment for a capital crime for which a person is factually guilty is a fair and proportional punishment. Its implementation has been notoriously unfair which is indeed a deplorable failure. But those injustices of application do not negate the fundamental fairness and proportionality of capital punishment for those factually guilty of a capital crime.



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  • 8
    Stardusty Psyche says:

    “Time for the US to rejoin civilisation.”

    So, unless we refrain from the use of deadly force to meet evil acts, irrespective of the severity of evil committed, we are, in your view, “uncivilized”?

    I submit the opposite, that unless we have the fortitude to meet deadly evil with overpowering deadly force we will lose our civilization to that evil.



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  • For anyone to walk away from a violent and lethal situation and think that some sort of civilised justice has been done is struggling with what civilised means.



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  • 10
    Stardusty Psyche says:

    Thanks for the link Bonnie. It looks like Missouri is taking steps to make sure the death penalty is only applied in cases where there is a virtual or natural certainty of guilt and competence.



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  • 11
    Stardusty Psyche says:

    Are you suggesting that the successful and justifiable application of deadly force in self defense is somehow uncivilized?

    One of the things a civilized individual or a civilized nation must do is to defend against barbaric attack. I don’t feel a struggle within myself in this position.



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  • Killing a person in prison who is no longer a threat is revenge not self defence, as David has already said. Though I agree that sometimes war is unavoidable, revelling in its glory instead of feeling shame for every moment of it is uncivilised, yes. Not doing everything in your power to
    Prevent it is uncivilised, yes.



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  • I haven’t seen you in here before Stardusty but you have drawn a long bow, especially with one such as myself who carried a firearm for 31 years.

    By that standard we would have to abandon the use of all armed forces internally and externally.

    The topic for discussion in here is the death penalty. In that regard is correct, “State sanctioned killing of a fellow homo sapiens is never justified, regardless of the evil committed”

    But you have drawn a long bow to take these comments, and confuse them with actions by armed forces in legal defence of ones citizens, or acts of self defense or law enforcement. If this discussion was about the military or other events that may involve the application of lethal force, we could expand the topic to have that discussion, but the subject before the forum is capital punishment.

    When you distill down the psychological motivation for your support of capital punishment, it always comes down to revenge. You will deny that, but if you took the psyche test, that’s what you would find. That is what you want even if you won’t admit it. Revenge. You want to make the BASTARD suffer. That’s what makes capital punishment uncivilized. There is zero evidence of deterrent effect. So all that is left is revenge. A pretty tawdry and uncivilized motivation.

    Execution as a punishment for a capital crime for which a person is factually guilty is a fair and proportional punishment.

    In America, with a legal system that is barely fair or equitable, you have far too many examples of death row inmates being found not guilty. It would be a brave person in America to conclude, not just to Beyond Reasonable Doubt but to Beyond all Doubt before that switched on the electric chair. Would you do it.

    These are your civilized bedfellows in 2015.

    Ninety-five percent of all known executions were carried out in only six countries: China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, the United States, Pakistan and Iraq.

    Civilized?



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  • David R Allen
    Jan 24, 2016 at 4:50 pm

    Ninety-five percent of all known executions were carried out in only six countries: China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, the United States, Pakistan and Iraq.

    Wouldn’t those only be the executions after judicial process?

    If we look at execution carried out by militias or rebel groups supplied with weapons from the international arms trade or from dubious sources, there are whole lots more.

    Nigerian military executed 1,200, says Amnesty International
    http://www.nation.co.ke/news/africa/Amnesty-International-Nigeria-Military-Report-War-Crimes/-/1066/2739922/-/10glp6s/-/index.html



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  • David R Allen
    Jan 24, 2016 at 4:50 pm

    If this discussion was about the military or other events that may involve the application of lethal force, we could expand the topic to have that discussion, but the subject before the forum is capital punishment.

    I think organised killing is a general topic which is covered regardless of badges attached.
    When it comes to military action there have been numerous wars and bloody massacres, which had absolutely nothing to do with the defence of the homelands of the countries perpetrating them.

    When we accept force and killing in law enforcement on behalf of citizens, most agree that is acceptable.

    I certainly disagree with pacifists, and would also argue that in a world of poverty and starvation, resources can be better used than spending a fortune keeping gangsters and violent criminals in jails for decades serving life sentences, when there is negligible doubt about their guilt and danger to the public.



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  • I certainly disagree with pacifists, and would also argue that in a world of poverty and starvation, resources can be better used than spending a fortune keeping gangsters and violent criminals in jails for decades serving life sentences, when there is negligible doubt about their guilt and danger to the public.

    The insoluble problem. The UK had this problem in the 1800’s, so they filled up cargo ships with convicts and sent them out to found Australia. A large proportion of current Australian citizens descend from convict stock. My particular state was founded as a free enterprise venture so convict free.

    I don’t have a solution to crime. I worked at it for 31 years and have no greater insight. On military action, I don’t think America could be held up as a shining example of only taking military action when sanctioned by international law. A long topic.

    I carried a gun and was quite prepared to use it, but in Australia, we have gun control, so in 31 years, my gun never left the holster. You can legally use lethal force in defense of an imminent lethal attack on yourself, or on some other person. But the legal use only persists while the attack is imminent. The moment the assailant turns away, the legality ceases.

    I saw this experiment in my sons high school class. Study of Society. Private for fee school. A class of 30 come into a room. Random allocation of desks. Three rows of 10. Last class before home time. Near the end of the class, the teacher stops, hands out wads of different coloured paper to all the students. He puts a rubbish bin on his front desk. Students to remain in their seats.

    Before you could go home, you had to lob a ball of your coloured paper in the waste paper basket. The front row did it easy, and got an early minute. Middle row… The back row where held back, with the last student hitting the basket, 10 minutes after knock off time.

    Next class. Discussion. The American Dream. It’s your fault if you are poor. The government owes you nothing. What happened to the privileged kids in the front row. What happened to the kids, who through random chance were in the back row. A lesson in we’re all not born equal.

    A great saying. You don’t solve crime in the Electric Chair, you solve it in the High Chair. A contributing factor to American crime and incarceration rates is the American Dream, and that any assistance by government to poor people is communism. The rest of the free western world have evil things like universal health care and education. I have to go out now, but I think the point of this diatribe is, I have no answer to crime. And as much as it galls me to see very bad people behind bars for years at my expense, I can find no better solution.

    (Probably errors because I haven’t checked my work. I’ll stay in after class.)



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  • David R Allen
    Jan 24, 2016 at 6:18 pm
    >

    A great saying. You don’t solve crime in the Electric Chair, you solve it in the High Chair. A contributing factor to American crime and incarceration rates is the American Dream, and that any assistance by government to poor people is communism.

    As you probably know, I don’t consider the American model a good one. They imprison far too many and have a system which is poor generally based on punishment or revenge.

    I have to go out now, but I think the point of this diatribe is, I have no answer to crime. And as much as it galls me to see very bad people behind bars for years at my expense,

    That seems to be where we differ.
    I would certainly wish to be very careful about possible miscarriages of justice and standards of evidence, but I really can’t see any difference between killing Jihadi-John in an air strike, and executing him if captured. – apart from the reduced risk of collateral damage to bystanders if the execution is in jail rather than by air-strike!
    Likewise, I can see no point in keeping the likes of Fred and Rose West in jail for years at public expense. These are dangerous vermin which the human race is better off without.

    Some like El Chapo, continue with their criminality and corruption, even when in jail!

    The elaborate prison escape of Joaquin “El Chapo” (Shorty) Guzman may have cost $50 million including huge bribes to prison officials. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/centralamericaandthecaribbean/mexico/11739988/El-Chapos-escape-cost-50-million.html

    I can find no better solution.

    It’s not a perfect world. Sometimes we have to make hard decisions which are the best available.



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  • David:

    There is zero evidence of deterrent effect. So all that is left is revenge.

    Not quite, David. Also cost. Ignoring convoluted abominations like electric chair, gas chamber, lethal injection, a bullet is a whole lot cheaper than a lifetime of even meager accommodation, with adequate security. And cost matters, when resources are limited, as they always are, what you spend keeping some convicted murderer alive and off the streets could, instead, do what? Help some other kids at the High Chair stage?

    Then there’s Prevention: Prevention of further offending, Keeping Society Safe: a bullet, once again, eliminates all possibility of re-offending. Or, for the more organised criminal, eliminates the continuation of the organised criminal activities from within the prison.

    I’m not promoting either side in this complex debate, but it really isn’t just deterrence vs revenge.

    And in a society that’s not squeamish about remote-execution-by-drone (even with “collateral damage” – killing innocents), it’s a strange and hypocritical contradiction to be so precious about what to do after someone has gone through Due Process. (That the due process is flawed, is another topic.)

    Oh, I said not promoting: but, given collateral damage is somehow “acceptable”, what’s stopping a state from calling all the wrongly-convicted “collateral damage”, and perform swift, cheap and immediate execution with military weapons (there’s plenty of them) immediately on losing the final appeal.

    Currently all the instant-executions are done outside any legal framework. Extra Judicial Killing seems to be the current term for that. Better surely to at least have a bit of a trial first? Would that work? Will it’s cost-effectiveness make it an increasingly popular option?

    Lastly, a bit off topic perhaps: Proportionality. I’ve seen nothing since “An eye for an eye..” that has anywhere near that level of civilised wisdom, that nuanced sense of proportion. Punishment fitting the crime, neither too much nor too little. A life for a life, yes, one for one, balance the books. Introduced as I understand it in an attempt to put an end to vendettas, blood feuds, and endless inter-tribal warfare. Not, I hasten to add, a hand for stealing a loaf, nor a life for drawing something annoying.

    And perhaps, in cases where there’s an element of cultural difference: what would be the penalty for the convicted criminal, if they were convicted within their own culture? That way the convict would at least not be surprised.



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  • How much did the Iraq war cost again? Perhaps we can make more savings? Kill people off when working life ends. Those ‘unfit’ for work. Homeless. Unemployed. Speeding.

    Come on guys. Resources limited?



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  • Thank you Bonnie. As one who worked in law enforcement of a long time, I wouldn’t want to be processed by the US legal system. It is chaotic, as you article reveals. Justice seems to be income related as well.



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  • To Olgun: The Iraq War, as I understand it, was a roaring success, huge profits for the lead perpetrators. An extremely effective redistribution of wealth, meaning loads more for the already wealthy. And it’s probably still a roaring success, the profiteers aren’t the ones paying for any of it.

    Your other references, Soylent Green? It would certainly suit those whose goal is to make the rich – themselves – richer. I don’t suppose they’ll quit while they’re ahead.

    I don’t disagree with you Olgun. Feeling pessimistic today.



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  • 24
    Stardusty Psyche says:

    “Killing a person in prison who is no longer a threat is revenge not self defence,”
    A convict in prison continues to be a threat to correctional staff and other inmates. Further, in the video linked by Olgun below you will find an inmate agreeing that he “deserves” to be executed for his crimes. Additionally, the notion that capital punishment is of zero law enforcement value is false.

    “Though I agree that sometimes war is unavoidable, revelling in its glory instead of feeling shame for every moment of it is uncivilised, yes.”
    I do not not revel in the “glory” of war, nor did any of my words state or reasonably imply that I do.



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  • I am not philosophically opposed to the death penalty for the worst of criminals. But I do not believe there is a justice system on earth which is worthy of the power to execute its own citizens. And being an atheist, I am not aware justice systems anywhere else.



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  • 26
    Stardusty Psyche says:

    David R Allen,
    “The topic for discussion in here is the death penalty. In that regard is correct, “State sanctioned killing of a fellow homo sapiens is never justified, regardless of the evil committed””

    Fair enough.

    The sentence I quoted has broad implications I object to, but taken in context of the original post has a much more limited application.

    “You want to make the BASTARD suffer.”
    If I truly wanted “to make the bastard suffer” I would advocate 24/7 solitary for life. I hadn’t really considered maximization of suffering in sentencing, but now that you mention it, I can think of a great many horrendous punishments I do not actually advocate.

    What I really want is a number of things. Justice for the victims. A fair and proportional sentence for those factually guilty of a capital crime. Closure for the families of the victims. Protection of correctional officers and inmates from the violence of people with nothing left to lose. Leverage in perpetrator cooperation gained from the credible threat of capital punishment.

    “In America, with a legal system that is barely fair or equitable”
    Hence my emphasis on being factually guilty.

    ” It would be a brave person in America to conclude, not just to Beyond Reasonable Doubt but to Beyond all Doubt before that switched on the electric chair.”
    Indeed, which is what I meant below when I said “Thanks for the link Bonnie. It looks like Missouri is taking steps to make sure the death penalty is only applied in cases where there is a virtual or natural certainty of guilt and competence.”

    We had a deplorable situation in Illinois with case after case of men factually innocent that were at long last released to freedom from death row by DNA evidence. Race and socioeconomic status were obvious factors in their wrongful convictions and sentences to death row. A truly disgusting, nightmarish, and shameful fact of American “justice”.

    One can reasonably project similar injustices on those in other states and those whereby the nature of the crime did not afford DNA exoneration.

    We in the USA are not so unaware as many in the world might suppose.
    “33 of the death row inmates were represented at trial by an attorney who had later been disbarred or at some point suspended from practicing law.
    Of the more than 160 death row inmates, 35 were African American defendants who had been convicted or condemned to die by all-white juries.
    More than two-thirds of the inmates on death row were African American.
    46 inmates were convicted on the basis of testimony from jailhouse informants. ”
    Illinois Governor George Ryan, Republican

    “Would you do it.”
    Yes.
    Hence my statement at the top of this thread:
    What is needed in the USA is an overhaul in our requirements for standards of evidence and proof in the penalty phase of a capital crime.



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  • Killing people justifiably can only be a lesser of two evils. Self defence, even pre-emptively, can be this. Until we are able, hand on heart, to say we have done our best for each citizen, to kill one of them in cold blood (not as a lesser evil of two) is culturally corrosive. As happens too often in war, mission slip and errors of judgment lead to palpably evil outcomes rather than lesser evil ones. Alas, the religiously and politically driven helmed by their psychopath leaders will launch rapacious, genocidal wars and we (they) must sadly take up arms and mitigate unsentimentally.

    Judicial cold blooded killing is entirely able to suffer mission creep and of course did and does. Its “virtue” when argued for by some states in the US is miniscule to non-existent. The cost saving of food and shelter for a dangerous, sick man should be set against the cost of the diligent process morally sufficient to put him in the chair. If you look at the deep history of criminals (let us choose young black men) as analysed by Alice Goffman in her 8 year (?) study “On the Run”, you can see how the American state manufactures oppression and desperation from the earliest days in a black boy’s life, turning white boy misdemeanours into a black boy crime sheet of life crippling weight. Throw into the mix, cheap, legal guns and a last opportunity to recover a life of sorts and murderers are made…by state failure.

    Elsewhere state killing is far less fatuous. It constitutes an act of state terrorism especially when played out as street theatre, with its stonings and stylish beheadings. But like with the US this legitimisation of ending lives of the guilty fuels an astonishing array of copycat private enterprise judgements, east and west. The vigilantes able to execute and happy to work out their feelings are fully prepared to see off the atheist bloggers, or the abortionists. There is even mission slip here, as an American housewife deputised by her ownership of a gun, shoots across the car park at some shop lifters…seemingly prepared to kill.

    Until the US (and some folk here) understand the fuller moral equations that exist on these matters, the true distinction between judicial state killing and military defense (which latter is the only thing I need account for now), then we can never work to stop State terrorism against its own people, vigilantism, and that horrible and corrosive ability more abroad in some states than others to (guilt free!) judge others as worthless.



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  • Hear Hear Phil!

    Tried saying something similar above but failed miserably.

    Until we are able, hand on heart, to say we have done our best for
    each citizen

    genocidal wars and we (they) must sadly take up arms and mitigate
    unsentimentally

    Judicial cold blooded killing is entirely able to suffer mission creep



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  • Matthew Nicoll
    Jan 25, 2016 at 2:16 am

    I am not philosophically opposed to the death penalty for the worst of criminals. But I do not believe there is a justice system on earth which is worthy of the power to execute its own citizens.

    I think the issue of setting up a trustworthy legislative and legal system to handle decision making is a separate issue, to the need to eliminate the irredeemably dangerous killers from society, without spending enough money on accommodation and security, to keep an individual in the lap of luxury or house whole families.

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2349460/Ian-Brady-cost-taxpayers-14MILLION-jailed-nearly-50-years-ago.html
    Ian Brady has cost taxpayers £14MILLION since he was jailed nearly 50 years ago

    High security psychiatric unit alone has cost £7.6m for Brady’s 28-year stay

    Keeping murderer in mental health unit costs eight times more than prison

    His various legal challenges have cost £2.75million in legal and admin fees

    His 14-year hunger strike has added around £3million to the bill

    There are significant cases where there are no doubts about guilt!



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  • Until the US (and some folk here) understand the fuller moral equations that exist on these matters, the true distinction between judicial state killing and military defense (which latter is the only thing I need account for now), then we can never work to stop State terrorism against its own people, vigilantism, and that horrible and corrosive ability more abroad in some states than others to (guilt free!) judge others as worthless.

    Concur. It is a moral and ethical issue. The moment a state authorizes itself to kill a citizen, it has failed, both morally and ethically. This is the difference between civilized, and uncivilized. Leave out self defence which is covered by the law. Leave out the subject of the military which is not relevant to this discussion. No one can kill another human being, except in self defence. I don’t care how much it costs to lock them up. Morality has no price. Morality is not option. Morality has no economic equation. That is the price of being a moral and ethical civilized society.



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  • That is the price of being a moral and ethical civilized society.

    Simply so.

    Interestingly, the cost of locking up the odd psychopath for murder is miniscule compared with the cost of psychopaths running financial institutions and governments.

    Psychopaths are our number one problem going forwards as a species. We need to find cleverer ways of dealing with them.

    Whatever it involves it will start young.



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  • phil rimmer
    Jan 24, 2016 at 5:23 pm

    Care to take another swing at it? It is fairly simple.

    People die all the time because of financial, political and legal decisions – The homeless dead on the street, the “unaffordable” medical treatment, the air-strikes which kill terrorists but happen to kill the taxi-driver transporting them, and maybe a few passing pedestrians. I do not buy the crap about military attacks over-seas (Iraq war etc) being in defence of anyone’s “homeland”!

    What we have is state killing at arms length by the military, or by social neglect, being claimed as acceptable, while killing “AFTER” detailed evidence has been examined by judicial process is not! Even in cases where there is negligible doubt of guilt or danger to the public, the political and legal system can on waffle around in a state of indecision, spending large amounts of public money because they do not have the bottle to accept the evidence, and they can gain further employment and payment from legal fees.

    There are systems and cases where the evidence leaves room for doubt, but that does not negate cases where the evidence is massively conclusive (as in the case of Brady or El Chapo, which I quote elsewhere in this thread).

    To pretend that the risk of system failure applies in all cases, is on a par with creationists who claim the open mind of science leaves all laws and theories in high risk of refutation!

    In many places the same political “bottle-out” applies to decisions on euthanasia!



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  • phil rimmer
    Jan 25, 2016 at 7:07 am

    Psychopaths are our number one problem going forwards as a species. We need to find cleverer ways of dealing with them.

    Eliminating the most dangerous ones IS a solution. Letting the public suffer at their hands while prevaricating and concocting verbal obfuscation is not!

    Whatever it involves it will start young.

    This is a very good idea, but it does nothing about the existing ones running amuck among ordinary citizens.

    There is a time with serial killers and gangsters to say enough is enough.
    No executed serial killer has ever re-offended!
    Several imprisoned and then let out have!

    Some have re-offended while still in jail!

    Societies don’t seem to have the same problems in deciding how to deal with dangerous dogs!



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  • Silly me. I’ve long assumed atheism to be a civilizing force, enabling people to think more rationally.

    This thread demonstrates how wrong I’ve been.

    Nice work Phil, Olgun and David.



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  • Olgun
    Jan 24, 2016 at 7:45 pm

    How much did the Iraq war cost again? Perhaps we can make more savings?

    What is absolutely clear, is that the Iraq War(s) cost more lives and injuries, than all the world’s recent judicial executions added up together.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capital_punishment#Capital_punishment_by_country

    Unlike many of the executed criminals, a high proportion of these were ordinary citizens with no personal guilt and no danger to their fellow citizens!

    BTW; in monetary terms, Bush borrowed the money for the Iraq and Afghan wars, and the US taxpaying public (while paying interest), have yet to pay off the $trillions of debt!



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  • What we have is state killing at arms length by the military, or by social neglect, being claimed as acceptable

    Where?…so…strawman!

    Deaths that result from an act intended as a “lesser evil” will have many differing judgments made about it, not least after the fact when more is known. Deaths outside of an act of “lesser evil” will happen. Are any of them wished for? We can always do more. What has this, in terms of moral equivalence, to do with a wished for killing? How, indeed, when promoting death penalties because we kill anyway, do you then get to argue we musn’t kill anyway? (You’n’me both march against the Iraq war and for more life-saving welfare.)

    With the death of religions comes the death of Evil as a thing. We need to grow up also in our culture to better manage what Guilt comprises. Certainly a mind (probably abused or poorly assembled) perhaps under nurtured by its enfolding society. A history of horrific acts and a risk of others. A mad dog? He started out as a boy…

    What do we need to do to mitigate harms and reduce the chances of producing the same such folk? How might we get these people to wish to identify themselves as they start to find themselves in trouble? How might the relatives of victims feel after they have seen another death?

    http://thinkprogress.org/justice/2015/04/17/3648237/victims-parents-dont-want-death-penalty-boston-bomber/

    I find the moral and financial computations made by the pro capital punishment side (not specifically targetting you here, Alan) as narrow, impoverished and full of false equivalence.



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  • The last woman to be hanged in Britain was Ruth Ellis.

    Without going into too much detail, she need not have died had she named a certain man, who had plied her with alcohol, and provided her with the murder weapon, in the full knowledge that her treacherous lover, public tormentor and cause of her desperate emotional state of mind, was in a pub just a few hundred yards away from the apartment she and the said wind up artist were in.

    The QC Christmas Humphreys who was her defense lawyer pleaded with her to name the man in court, but she refused on the grounds that she had killed someone and therefore deserved to die herself.

    Even then, in 1955, had she named the individual who had supplied the booze and bullets, the verdict would have most probably been commuted on grounds of diminished responsibility.

    Ruth Ellis had been brought up in the Catholic tradition.

    There have also been numerous cases of wrongful executions; most notoriously that of Timothy Evans.

    I’m informed that in the majority of cases murder is committed in the heat of the moment, and unintentionably; “un crime passionelle.”.

    And which Nation has the highest murder rate in the world? And does that self same country have the death penalty?

    I would never want the State to kill in my name; although, if one of my family were to be murdered, I can imagine feeling sufficient rage to kill the perpetrator myself!

    I submit that on balance, at the very best the death penalty only deters in a tiny minority of cases, and at worst it is totally ineffectuel.

    I recommend “Twelve Angry Men”; the first film Sidney Lumet directed.



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  • phil rimmer
    Jan 25, 2016 at 12:11 pm

    What we have is state killing at arms length by the military, or by social neglect, being claimed as acceptable

    Where?…so…strawman!

    Come on Phil!! You must have heard of states arming and sponsoring revolutionary groups of killers, not to mention secret services and death squads!

    The CIA armed and trained armed insurrections, terrorist groups and dictatorships, all over South America, Asia, and numerous other places to undermine left wing governments!! The Russians also sponsored quite a few guerilla organisations! Currently there’s a place called Syria which has rebel groups armed by Saudi, Oman, and Turkey, to name but a few who are trying to overthrow its government!
    The history of meddling foreign powers instigating murderous conflicts, goes way back!



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  • You must have heard of states arming and sponsoring revolutionary groups of killers, not to mention secret services and death squads!

    Not in my name.

    Your point was that we accept that states do this stuff. Well….no.

    Even if I did accept it, it would have to fall into the category of a lesser evil, (Bruce Willis shoots the bomber, saves many lives, or whatever) and not, we get the oil….



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  • Well said David,

    I fear the following may guild the lilly, but it’s worth a try:

    Huge numbers of prison inmates are mentally ill. Use your favorite search engine to look for: Inmates Mental Health.

    There is no shortage of study in this area. A typical highlight:

    [In the US] Nearly a quarter of both State prisoners and [local] jail inmates who had a mental health problem, compared to a fifth of those without [mental health problems], had served three or more prior incarcerations; female inmates [have] higher rates of mental health problems than male inmates – State prisons: 73% of females and 55% of males; Federal prisons: 61% of females and 44& of males; local jails: 75% of females and 63% of males

    In one study I found a law enforcement agency quoted a saying that jail is now the main provider of mental health services in their area. It isn’t difficult to see why. Cuts in social services mean that mental patients are left to fend for themselves, or even go undetected, and their way out is to lash out. They end up in jail where they get help for a while, then they’re released back into a World that offers no help.

    Many of the incarcerated, a typical figure is between 12% and 20%, are suffering severe mental health problems, requiring “daily” treatment. The US is not alone in this, figures from other countries are just as bad, so this isn’t about prison doctors feeding pills to inmates to keep them quiet.

    Capital punishment is not just revenge. All too often it is revenge against a fellow human being who is mentally ill, and mental illness can happen to any of us – and does happen to most of us at some point in our lives.

    Peace.



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  • I will add this personal anecdote since it’s tangentially relevant. When I was young I usually watched the news with my father. He was a Cronkite guy so CBS news was what we watched (this did not change when Rather took over). One evening in 1978 we were watching. Or I was half watching while also drawing. If memory serves I heard the familiar voice of Dan Rather who had either assumed the role permanently at this time or was subbing for Cronkite as he often did. I heard him mention a murder at FSU and then I heard the name of my cousin who until recently lived right down the street (until she left for FSU – the rest of the family, my aunt and uncle and her brother still lived there). I looked up to see a picture of Lisa filling half the screen with the other half taken up by her friend Margaret who also hailed from St. Petersburg, where we lived at the time. At this point as the brutal murders were being described by Dan Rather my mother, hearing all of this sprinted from the kitchen to the living room where we were watching the coverage and proceeded to stand in front of the TV, blocking my view (and my father’s) and turned the volume down, shouting at my father for letting me watch. Having been ‘protected’ from this earlier and completely out of the loop I didn’t immediately realize what was going on. I soon learned. Thus began a not uncommon fascination with serial killers, Ted Bundy specifically. He was still on the loose when I saw the coverage and would kill a very young Lake City girl days later – his last murder. He was captured shortly thereafter and the rest is easy to research today.

    I followed his trial and attempts to curry favor up until the end. He ended up blaming porn and some other trifles. I think it’s safe to say that’s bullshit or we’d be a nation of serial killers. He was executed 11 years after his final murder. He was certainly guilty of his crimes. After his execution I felt an empty satisfaction that is probably rooted conceptually to revenge. I was more interested in his motivation than his death, as I am with all killers of his ilk.

    Though not at all related this situation was juxtaposed, years later, by my fascination with the OJ Simpson case. By now I was a scientist working in medical laboratories, specifically in flow cytometry and molecular genetics labs. I remember the compelling DNA evidence against Simpson. There seemed to be no doubt that he was guilty of these crimes. And while different from serial murder, the thread that connects them is planning; premeditation. We all know how that one turned out.

    As I matured I found that I was uncomfortable and more troubled by the “collateral damage” of the possibility of an innocent man being executed for a crime he didn’t commit than I was for a certainly guilty person not being killed. I tried to imagine being that innocent man who was somehow in the wrong place at the wrong time. How sitting in prison awaiting my execution would surely be more treacherous and torturous than that of an actually guilty man. I was particularly troubled by the case of Cameron Todd Willingham. Reading a story in the New Yorker about his execution in Texas I was sickened by the politics that almost certainly killed this young man who had already lost his children. I’m still not convinced of his guilt. And that’s part of the issue with execution.

    http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2009/09/07/090907fa_fact_grann

    So I wish we could have what we don’t have: certainty. If we had that I’d be far more comfortable with the prospect of permanently getting rid of some of these wastes of space. It’s hard to be a fence sitter on this topic. It hits close to home yet the moral and ethical tendrils of humanity, what separates us from other animals, disquiets me. Acquiescing in the killing of any living creature is troublesome and painful.



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  • Hi Stardusty Psyche,

    Please help me out here.

    What I really want is … Justice for the victims

    What does that mean?

    What I really want is … A fair and proportional sentence for those factually guilty of a capital crime

    What does that mean?

    Why do you want these things?

    Peace.



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  • Steven007

    Read your comment, Steven.
    Even if we have certainty (and we often do) of the facts pertaining to the most heinous crimes, what useful purpose does an execution serve? It might satisfy the victims’ families or it might not; even if it did, should the state be making such decisions and carrying out such actions based on merely responding to what are, finally, the primitive (and entirely natural) impulses of the grief-stricken and the enraged? Is that rational?
    I once asked my late father (an exceedingly humane and progressive thinker) what he would do if his daughter was raped and killed; would he want the guy killed?
    “I might go out and kill him myself, but I wouldn’t want the state to do it.”
    In other words, the killing would satisfy us (or not) but would it be good for us a society in the long run?
    Too much violence and indifference to existence as it is; too much inequality.
    Why can’t we at long last get down to causes and conditions (something we rarely do) and try to rid ourselves of, or address, the horrible systemic conditions that give rise to these crimes?
    Let’s just bury them all under concrete, says the conservative mind. Great. And the killing goes on. Nothing solved. No real solution. No vision.
    And let’s not forget the prison-industrial complex. That’s another horror-story…
    Glad it was the cat, btw.



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  • Got attacked twice, by corporate psychopaths in my work. Sadly they both had a badge. Dealt with quite a number on the criminal side. In negotiation, you had to stay in charge, and ensure that they new to down side of any adverse action, would cost them dearly, while cooperation was always immediately rewarded. Instant gratification works.

    Professor Robert D Hare, and founding researcher on psychopaths, and who crafted the P Scan test to identify psychopaths in prison for the FBI. Did a lot of work with the FBI. While teaching in Uni, he did the P Scan test on his students as part of the studies. Over time, it became apparent that around 1% of the male population tested positive for psychopathy. They weren’t all violent serial killers. The P Scan test taken to the wider population, found psychopaths throughout society.

    From Hare.

    Although psychopaths in the workplace typically represent only a small percentage of the staff, they are most common at higher levels of corporate organizations and their detrimental effects (for example, increased bullying, conflict, stress, staff turnover, absenteeism, reduction in productivity) often causes a ripple effect throughout an organization, setting the tone for an entire corporate culture.[144]
    Academics refer to psychopaths in the workplace as workplace psychopaths, executive psychopaths, corporate psychopaths, business psychopaths, successful psychopaths, office psychopaths, white collar psychopaths, industrial psychopaths, organizational psychopaths or occupational psychopaths.
    Hare reports that about 1 per cent of the general population meets the clinical criteria for psychopathy.[42] Hare further claims that the prevalence of psychopaths is higher in the business world than in the general population. Figures of around 3-4% have been cited for more senior positions in business.[43] Even with this small percentage, corporate psychopaths can do enormous damage when they are positioned in senior management roles.[145]

    The Enron Collapse

    In fact, Dr. Robert Hare has suggested that executives of Enron —and WorldCom—may be corporate psychopaths. According to an article in Fast Company, Hare gave a presentation on psychopathy (the term he prefers) to law enforcement officials in Newfoundland back in 2002. Hare is well known in the criminal justice field, and his presentation started out with photos of hit men and sex offenders. But then images of these companies’ corporate executives flashed on the screen.
    “These are callous, cold-blooded individuals,” Hare said, according to Fast Company. “They don’t care that you have thoughts and feelings. They have no sense of guilt or remorse.”

    The two that attacked me in 31 years, did me severe damage. But I never, never, ever give up. There is a book, Working With Monsters. Dr John Clarke. Examines this phenomena. And I, like Phil, despite the ruthless corporate decisions they make in successful businesses, the carnage physical and economic they cause far outweighs any benefits. Clarke identified strategies for businesses to manage their psychopaths. Negotiated contracts. “If you do this, this will happen…” They could be managed in the same way that sleeping with an Anaconda can be managed. Every day, you risk being eaten.

    Is a psychopath not guilty on the grounds of mental impairment?



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  • There is a time with serial killers and gangsters to say enough is enough.
    No executed serial killer has ever re-offended!
    Several imprisoned and then let out have!

    The problem with crime in the tribe. How long have people pondered what to do about individuals in a society that commit crime against the general population. It has been ever present. What did the Egyptian public service do. The Babylonians. The Romans were particularly brutal on crime but that didn’t make any difference.

    At the very second the criminal is about to steal the apple, or strike out in anger and passion, they don’t go through a mental check list and think, “If I steal this apple, the possibility of being caught is minuscule, but if I am caught, I’m going to cop a flogging. Nope. I guess I won’t steal the apple.” They just steal the apple. When they hear, “Hello, hello, hello. And what’s goin on ere”. Then they think about the consequences.

    But in a given 100 human beings, only a few will think like this. The vast majority are good law abiding citizens. I speculate, (without evidence), that if you sampled a random 100 people going back every century for the last 30,000 years, this criminal few would be a constant.

    The balance a society needs to strive for, is enough law enforcement that makes general living conditions ok, but not so much law enforcement that every citizen lives in fear of prosecution for minor breaches.

    That ‘Balance” has included capital punishment, probably across all societies going back 1000’s of years, but in a modern civilized world, it is not a crime deterrent. It doesn’t work. Any use of capital punishment is not a useful tool of crime prevention. It is an eye for an eye. Which, when distilled down, is just plain revenge.

    I can understand Alan4D’s reasoning, that a hung serial killer will never offend again. The trouble is, there will always be more serial killers. Or apple thieves. They exist in every random 100. What then the test of capital punishment. It fails the test of civilized behaviour. Australia’s last execution was in 1967.

    Ronald Joseph Ryan (21 February 1925 – 3 February 1967) was the last person to be legally executed in Australia. Ryan was found guilty of shooting and killing prison officer George Hodson during an escape from Pentridge Prison, Victoria, in 1965. Ryan’s hanging was met with some of the largest public protests in the history of Australia and led to the end of capital punishment. No-one was executed in Australia after Ryan and the death penalty was abolished in 1985.[1]

    Subsequent reviews using forensic evidence cast doubt on Ryan’s guilt. An extracted confession formed a major part of the prosecutions case. In 1967, it was common practice for Police to concoct confessions, either through beating, or just forgery.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ronald_Ryan#Case_for_innocence



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  • 48
    Stardusty Psyche says:

    “The moment a state authorizes itself to kill a citizen, it has failed,”

    We the people authorize the state to kill a criminal citizen on our behalf. In those states, here in the USA, where the will of the people is opposed to capital punishment there is no capital punishment at the state level.

    Here is a map

    http://deathpenalty.procon.org/view.resource.php?resourceID=001172
    The state does not authorize itself to kill a citizen, it is the voters of each state who do or do not authorize the death penalty.

    We also have a Federal death penalty. I cannot recall it ever being an issue in a presidential election. I don’t recall any presidential candidate running on a platform of abolishing the death penalty at the federal level…they just wouldn’t get enough people to vote for them to have any chance of election.



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  • The moment a state authorizes itself to kill a citizen, it has failed, both morally and ethically.

    You’re arguing that the methodology used by the state to gain the authorization to kill another human being, trumps the morality and ethics of such an act. Methodology does not displace morality.

    The fact that a state has a voting population that wants to extract revenge does not make the killing morally OK. All it says is that the people of that state, have not done their due diligence. They need to study harder. There are no shades of grey. Governments killing people is immoral. No matter how evil the criminal, and how burning your desire for revenge, you must rise above this and demonstrate you are a member of an advanced civilization, not a stone age one.



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  • 50
    Stardusty Psyche says:

    Hi Stephen

    “what does (justice for the victims) mean?”
    I am not aware of any absolutely provable meaning for justice or any moral judgement. If we were to agree on certain fundamental principles of morality then we might be able to navigate our way objectively to justice for the victims, but the principles we had mutually agreed to would themselves be devoid of demonstrable objectivity, so any claim to an objective conclusion would be demolished thereby.

    I can only give you my non-provable personal sense of justice which I will assert is generally shared by a majority of my fellow American citizens, and just as readily acknowledge that in no way objectively proves the validity of said sense of justice.

    It is just that when a perpetrator maliciously deprives an innocent of his or her life such a person ought to be deprived of live in return.

    In my sensibilities, in my view of fairness, that is fair. I will assert most of my fellow Americans agree with me. You may call the lot of us uncivilized if you wish, no matter.

    SP-“A fair and proportional sentence for those factually guilty of a capital crime
    SoW-“What does that mean?”

    In my sensibilities, it is fair that a person who maliciously and groundlessly takes a life should lose his or her life in return.

    As for proportionality please allow me to bend the strict mathematical expression of a proportion as a fixed ratio to mean at least a monotonic function.

    An increase in severity of crime, in my sensibilities, ought result in an increase of severity of sentence.

    Thus, the most severe crimes, are justly met with the most severe sentence. That is what I mean by “proportional”. Call me uncivilized in my view if you wish, I would only return the favor.



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  • What you want is good old fashion Old Testament revenge. An eye for an eye. We’re better than that in 2016.

    In my sensibilities, it is fair that a person who maliciously and groundlessly takes a life should lose his or her life in return.



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  • Appropriate, in that corporations are legally treated as Persons (in some places at least), that the ideal psychology of such a corporate person is that of a psychopath. Care nothing for others, maximise return to shareholders, nothing else matters. Who better to run these entities than true psychopaths. Enron was an excellent, an outstanding, example of this. Leaders in Big Business, and Big Government, would almost be required to be psychopaths.

    In fact, non-psychopaths hardly need apply. Unless they can prove themselves temporarily useful to the psychopaths in charge, along with easy to get rid of later.



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  • I’ve made the point previously. What is the difference between the psychological profile of a psychopath, and the free market. No conscience. Short attention span. Instant gratification. Do whatever it takes. Show no mercy. Present as a charming lovable individual, but scheme and scam and plot the downfall of everyone who is not of use, or you take a venal interest in.

    Corporations love psychopaths, as Phil also commented. They will do what ordinary moral people will not.

    During my time under the cross hairs of my attacker, in discussion with professionals, we were trying to orchestrate a legal circumstance where my serial killer would be ordered to undertake the psychopathy test. I had identified 5 other victims in my organization who where going to testify. But I was advised on medical grounds to cease. It would have killed me to persist.

    I suspect law enforcement probably attracts a greater percentage than the general population norm. Where else do you have extraordinary powers to force people to do things. To inflict pain. To deprive people of liberty and possessions. So it would not be unexpected to find psychopaths in our midst, toying with a mouse as a cat does, for instant gratification.

    In my research, I’ve learned that there is no treatment. When you try to treat a psychopath, they will show outward submission, but what they are really doing, is learning how to hide themselves. Learning what gave them away, so they are more potent in the future. They cause so much trouble that law enforcement agencies in Australia, all now screen for psychopathy during recruitment, and reject those same people. Far too dangerous.



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  • I have seldom if ever read a more gruelling account of anything, Alan; thanks all the same.

    Another film which deals with this subject is of course “The Shawshank Redemption”, directed by Frank Darabont ; a masterpiece!

    “Ten Rillington Place”, directed by Richard Atenborough, is also very good.

    Incidentally, Gerald Hurst reminds me of Abraham Lincoln.



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  • As my last few paragraphs can attest, I have significant questions about this subject. And though certainly no martyr, it hits a bit closer to home for me than it does for most I trust (I hope). For me, as I mentioned, it rests less on some of the other dilemmas presented here and more on the possibility, however slim (and I’m not convinced it’s slim) that an innocent man be executed. Statistics from the link I included state the following:

    ‘In recent years, though, questions have mounted over whether the system is fail-safe. Since 1976, more than a hundred and thirty people on death row have been exonerated. DNA testing, which was developed in the eighties, saved seventeen of them, but the technique can be used only in rare instances. Barry Scheck, a co-founder of the Innocence Project, which has used DNA testing to exonerate prisoners, estimates that about eighty per cent of felonies do not involve biological evidence.
    In 2000, after thirteen people on death row in Illinois were exonerated, George Ryan, who was then governor of the state, suspended the death penalty. Though he had been a longtime advocate of capital punishment, he declared that he could no longer support a system that has “come so close to the ultimate nightmare—the state’s taking of innocent life.” Former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor has said that the “execution of a legally and factually innocent person would be a constitutionally intolerable event.”’

    So for me it’s the prospect of executing an innocent person. To me that’s just an inexcusable risk in a civilized society. And I would add is it any wonder that the death certificate of an executed person officially reads “Homicide”?

    You mention “the impulses of the grief stricken and enraged” with the important parenthetical “natural”. Well, of course we were once primitive. So while it’s natural perhaps, encoded somewhere in our legacy DNA, it’s probably not rational. But look at the polls. Are we a nation of rational people? This doesn’t make it right it just makes it so.

    I like your father’s statement about wanting to personally kill the theoretical murderer (in the case of a daughter being murdered) yet he wouldn’t want the state to do so.



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  • I want to write a lot about psychopathy, but I will settle for a little now and take it up later. I claim it lies at the root of most of society’s ills at present but may well, in the past, have served most to construct large stable groupings, nation states with distant borders and safe heartlands.

    I have generally pleaded for tolerance of neuro-diversity. That societies more tolerant of diversity have more skills at their disposal, the systemetising Aspie and the mould breaking schizotypal “visionary” all ballasted by a steadying larger rump of “regulars”. This is less easy with psychopathy.

    Psychopaths are engaging, callous, fearless parasites that may use us to create national and corporate entities, but in the less intelligent versions may settle for mere parochial murder rather than those high-achieving occasionally genocidal types at the top of their psychopathic profession.

    This characteristic of lacking empathy, lacking fear for themselves yet understanding the processes of ingratiation with others have seen a number of the new disorders be refined in DSMV that seem jokily trivial to some (oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) and callous-unemotional (CU)) but map out in a more organised way the lower slopes of psychopathy and distinguish them from the more familiar beastliness of kids. These are helpful in looking at the very early emergance of psychopathy with correlates detectable by age 15 months. (Low heartrates and steady sinusoidal breathing during stress ar markers.) Its very early days but part of the interest in the research is to understand the roots of the condition and its range of expression.

    Many models abound but it could be a genetic predisposition to disengage from the world in the face of cortisol the stress neuro-transmitter. We know from Romanian orphanages the permanent developmental harms done with a sustained neural bath of the stuff and we might surmise that given the worse demons of our nature as our brutal huntergatherer selves were subject to, the ability to survive and subsequently exploit after devastation might be quite handy.

    My point for this thread (much as I want to flesh this out) is that given knowledge of this early detection and development, the opportunity for mitigations will surely burgeon. Maybe managing cortisol levels or response, maybe simple CBT interventions, maybe more cuddles, will set things on a better path.

    Later I will talk about the differences as seen by Simon Baron-Cohen (empathy expert) between Aspies (zero-positive) and Psychopaths (zero-negative) in his terminology, the damagingly wrong idea of the former being the result of “refrigerator mothers”. Its just possible a version of this may apply to the latter.

    Now my question. If we could learn to mitigate, would all those keen to terminate these “dangerous dogs” now, wish to terminate a one then?



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  • In “Zero Degrees of Empathy” SBC argues that the idea of Evil no longer serves us as fruitfully as the real insights of psychology might.

    The right and religious will have a fit of the moral vapors over this. What of responsibility for one’s actions? We must have guilt to match the evil of sin?

    An alternate mode, though, might be that, judged to have sufficient responsibility for your actions, you remain a free person without constraints. But the moment your peers via expert due process constrain you, you are demonstrably not responsible. Your task, whilst constrained and with help is to regain “Responsibility”. This is a conflation of the two ideas of responsibility, both ownership of your actions and performing appropriate actions. Being “not responsible” is this status formerly known as guilt. Your actions are not fit for an unconstrained person.

    This curious formulation has some interesting applications to psychopaths…



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  • phil rimmer
    Jan 26, 2016 at 2:54 pm

    “Responsibility”

    One of my favorite topics, my friend: freedom versus necessity.
    It is precisely because we are not free to do what we will, and that our actions expose what our real (and perhaps inborn) moral disposition is that the accusation of guilt or innocence and the implicit notion of responsibility for our actions, can be applied.
    If the will is free than we could have done otherwise.
    All the great philosophers throughout history have been virtually united in their opposition to the superficial notion of an absolutely free will.
    I don’t have time now to elaborate further. I will leave you with this: what determines our actions? The will. What determines the will?
    I say it is the motive. The motive is a cause. The counter-motive is another cause. The two are like two dish pans on a weighing scale. The stronger motive will eventually prevail and our character (our inner disposition) is revealed. That decision is irrevocable. (insanity and drunkenness are valid lines of defense, as are others.)
    One more. This was asked by my friend (and yours) Paul. I will rephrase it:

    ‘We’ve discovered the exact functioning of the brain that corresponds to “having [empathy].” All we have to do is stimulate that precise sequence of neurons and Voila, another [feeling of empathy]!’

    What’s wrong with this logic?

    Finally, I would argue that evil does exist – in the same way that guilt exists. Guilt I would define (and this is Kierkegaard’s definition to) as egotism or selfishness.

    That’s enough out of me for now.

    Nice to see you, as always, Phil.

    Steven, you didn’t answer the question. What purpose is served by the execution? Grief and rage are not rational? So what? Does that make them bad? (Conscience is not rational either, perhaps.) Who are you, Mr. Spock? Be careful; that sounds a little, shall I say, dangerous. (And I know you are a very humane guy, but that remark disturbed me.)



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  • Purpose? As in what reason? Well perhaps this doesn’t fulfill the letter of the definition but if pressed I would say the purpose (and this does not mean it’s a good purpose of course) can be more than one thing depending on the person. If you read this thread you’ll see many “purposes” given. This doesn’t mean that you or I would agree with them. Peace of mind. However subjective. You could lump this in with revenge of you’d like. Cost. I’ve seen it estimated that each death row case generally exceeds $3M dollars. Punishment. Deterrent (though I totally disagree). I could go on but I’m sure you can see the inherent subjective nature of a request for a purpose to capital punishment.

    Grief and rage are not rational?

    Please re-read. Nowhere did I say rage and grief are not rational (of course not). I was answering the part where it was implied (to me) that the impulse to execute was a rational one. Now perhaps my reading for context was off, but that’s how I read it and thus my response. I would still say that the impulse to execute is not rational where the word rational is synonymous with, sane; normal; lucid, etc.



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  • Hi Dan.

    It may be better to stop here. Reading this through, even after editing out a paragraph or two, this all looks pretty negative. I’m sorry…I just can’t do this stuff old school anymore….

    As you may expect from me discussion of “the will” I find is almost entirely meaningless, except as a human construct. Intentions are a better construct with more chance of finding neural correlates. As I monotonously say, I would like my thoughts and actions to be right rather than “free”. Free will I understand only in the legal exchange of being prepared to entirely lay claim to my own thoughts and actions. Actions have multiple sources and catches to veto them. Only the post hoc narrator grants the apparent singularity of “will”. (The reality of this is demonstrated in neurosurgery when direct brain stimulation causing actions are immediately co-opted by the awake patient into the category of wilfull acts repleat with reasons for the action.)

    Evil is a good enough adjective, but as a noun can only stand as a collective term for a number of evil things. Evil as a thing in itself, prior to an action or some other entity that can take the word as an adjective, is incoherent. It is the mad metaphysics, the child’s crayonned naive world, of the religious.

    Guilt has more chance of specific neural correlates like intentions.

    K is rarely wrong but in this instance his poetic truth leaves a larger one behind.

    Guilt is taking ownership of your actions most specifically the one’s regretted.

    I dislike intensely his narratives on anxiety embedded in the dawning awareness of your own sin and awareness of freedom. This feels astonishingly removed from my moral life and process.

    Rather taking ownership of your bad actions (you can no longer explain them away even to yourself) means they must now live in your conscious recollections, may therefore be betrayed on your face or in your words.



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  • Stop here meaning what, your dialoguing with me? You don’t mean that, do you? What looks negative? What does negative mean? Sorry, I just want to be clear.
    No will? Intention? I intend to kill so-and-so, I want to kill so-an-so, I desire to kill so-and-so – and I will it.
    The word will means nothing?
    Evil is a word I have no hesitation to use for profoundly selfish acts of brutality and sadism.
    You and Paul would get along famously but he doesn’t like Popper, thinks Popper did a bad job representing W.



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  • Oh yes, I agree. The impulse is not rational. Impulses never are.
    But the impulse is justified. The argument, however, that execution based on the satisfaction of that collective non-rational impulse, is not justified. Nor is it rational. That is what I meant.
    But what do you think, Steven. Is it a good idea to have capital punishment or not? It’s okay not to know.



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  • P.S. It would be interesting if down the road it was proved that the will, wickedness and compassion existed and that its neural correlates were proved to be nothing but manifestations of something deeper and more primary.

    I am either ahead of my time, behind my time, or a bit of both.

    Are you growing weary, impatient with all of my anachronistic theses, or just this one idea of mine regarding will and guilt?



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  • 65
    Stardusty Psyche says:

    DRA – “You’re arguing that the methodology used by the state to gain the authorization to kill another human being, trumps the morality and ethics of such an act.”
    No, I am arguing that the assertion that the state “authorizes itself to kill a citizen” in the institution of capital punishment in the USA is a false assertion.

    The state does not authorize itself, we the people authorize the state.

    The mechanism for our authorization is the electoral and voting process. We the people choose to elect individuals who will implement capital punishment. We the people vote directly for measures that implement capital punishment.

    “The fact that a state has a voting population that wants to extract revenge does not make the killing morally OK.”
    True, insofar as the majority are not necessarily correct. To assert they necessarily are would be a logical fallacy.

    “Governments killing people is immoral. ”
    By my morality and by the morality of the majority of American voters you are mistaken in your rather blanket judgment of immorality.

    “you must rise above this and demonstrate you are a member of an advanced civilization, ”

    Indeed, we ought to demonstrate we are an advanced civilization. In my view of an advanced civilization we must have the fortitude to meet the attackers of our civilization with deadly force when they inflict deadly force upon us.



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  • 67
    Stardusty Psyche says:

    Hi Cassandra,
    Yes, you are quite right I was not aware of that item, so thanks for posting the link.

    At the top of this discussion we read the lead in question:
    “By The Editorial Board
    How does the death penalty in America end?”

    The phrasing of the question indicates a presupposition on the part of the author that inevitably the death penalty in America will end.

    Your link indicates otherwise.



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  • Bad point, Phil (if that was your point). Psychopaths are often guilty. The inability to feel guilty makes the crime even more reprehensible. (That is called lack of remorse.)
    I do agree that a rampantly psychotic schizophrenic is not really guilty. Psychopaths and sociopaths, however, are not necessarily psychotic.
    If there is no guilt than we are all doomed. Someone breaks into someone’s house, steals, rapes someone, and then kill everyone.—Now if you don’t think that this person is guilty of a wicked act than you may have lost your way.
    Neuroscience is destroying minds and may lead to a Hitleresque world where there is no more truth (or justice), either in the moral or the scientific sense.
    “Guilt is taking ownership of your actions most specifically the one’s regretted.”
    No, that is conscience, and not everyone has one, as OHooligan has observed.
    Guilt is guilt. It is final and irreducible.



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  • As you may expect from me discussion of “the will” I find is almost
    entirely meaningless, except as a human construct.

    Champions are prodigies of will—one of the elements that separates them from club fighters or contenders is an urge which carries them through crises other fighters are not willing to endure.” -Mailer (The Presidential Papers, 1963)



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  • I was using guilt (a sense of guilt….having guilt and associate anxiety) exactly in the sense that K used it. I would not have used it otherwise. Entirely your call.

    Normally I talk of having a conscience and leave guilt as describing one of the end descisions/outcomes of a judicial process. I have not in any way suggested this process is not essential in a healthy society.

    You are the guilty party here in setting up this opportunity for equivocation then exploiting it so.

    Neuroscience is destroying minds and may lead to a Hitleresque world where there is no more truth (or justice), either in the moral or the scientific sense.

    Utter, utter nonsense, though “evil” as an essence that somehow gets into people has fucked up our treatment of every despised individual and outgroup. Trump is riding on a wave of it. “Evil” is entirely for the purpose of dehumanising the other. I shamefully use it myself for precisely this reason.

    But the concept of justice may get extended to better mitigate the harms that afflict the neurally diverse during, say, their nurturing to the benefit of all. Welfare that sets straighter the harms of outrageous fortune I like to think of as a sort of justice against that heartless ruffian, the universe.



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  • What’s wrong with human constructs? They are what we do, what we make against the dark.

    As I keep saying W tried to kill Popper. But W’s dismissal of metaphysics, because definitions can have no rigor, failed to notice scientific hypotheses as its rightful and generative haunt.



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  • Sorry about my remark re neuroscience. It was unworthy of me.
    I didn’t set up anything; I am just somewhat confused and often express myself poorly. I don’t set people up for equivocation, or try to win arguments for the sake of winning them.
    Talk to you soon.
    I do distinguish between guilt and feelings of guilt Freud never did, — and between guilt and a court decision. Perhaps I am a touch religious (without religion); what can I say? Life is a journey. The life of the mind a journey.
    (Are we still on good terms?)
    Oh. Almost forgot: nothing wrong with human constructs per se. But if I don’t think something is a human construct and some says it is, then obviously I will react to that.



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  • Chill, Dan.

    Imagine what it must be like to hold the views I do. How could I hold your honestly expressed views against you? I use firm language in return only to signal the strength of my own views not as a judgement. And the use of “guilty” was a jest using it as an outcome of due deliberative process (ok yes a judgement) not an obligation upon you to feel so.

    We good..as ever.



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  • The death penalty will endure in America for a long time yet I reckon.

    America suffers from egregious biblical exceptionalism and this trait is exhibited in numerous ways, aside from their unique fetish for guns. I think it will take generations for them to mature to resemble more progressive societies.

    America is the only Western nation which still resorts to biblical methods of dealing with both crime and also child-raising, which virtually guarantees they won’t adopt more civilized practices in the short term.

    They’re the only country in the world to avoid ratifying the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, and consequently continue to raise paranoid kids who believe they deserve biblical punishment and grow to need guns. Frederick Baer, the murderer in Olgun’s clip above, exemplifies this trait.

    Proverbs 13:24 dictates their ‘spare-the-rod’ method of child-rearing, while Exodus 21:24 prescribes their ‘eye for an eye’ approach to penal reform, as evidenced above by Stardusty Psyche who assures us fellow Americans agree with him.



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  • Now my question. If we could learn to mitigate, would all those keen to terminate these “dangerous dogs” now, wish to terminate a one then?

    If our learning to mitigate translates into actual ability to mitigate (perfectly), then there would presumably (and ideally) be no “dangerous dogs” to wish termination upon.



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  • No such perfection of delivery has ever been achieved, least of all in unequal societies like the US and developing countries. Such societies most particularly fail to deliver uniform mitigations.

    My proposal is that societies more or less fail their vulnerable members; evil is not a substance and children as young as fifteen months may be detected as psychopathic. Let me for clarity then further propose for arguments sake that if sufficient treatment is given sufficiently early, murderousness of a self serving psychpathic sort is effectively avoided.



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  • More Logans Run at the time of writing OHooligan, but the logical route. I am confused at Alans response and that is where the thought originated. Alan, master of logic, decides that it would be a logical thing but it looks very much an emotional response. Both come from the brain though emotions are expressed as if from the heart. Which one do we trust? the brain that has taken millions of years to evolve or one that works on a small lifetime of experience. The here and now as opposed to forever.



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  • No such perfection of delivery has ever been achieved…

    Agreed (at least as far as we know). And, I would add, it is not likely ever to be achieved, particularly if it is up to “us” (humans) to achieve it. (“Physician, heal thyself.”)

    if sufficient treatment is given sufficiently early

    Yes. If…
    And if it is even possible (practicable) to determine what “sufficient treatment” is. Lots of ducks to line up (or is it dominoes?).



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  • But what do you think, Steven.

    Dan, you seem to have a strong desire for the yes or no answer. I know you know it’s more nuanced than that. I’ve tried to express that nuance in my previous posts. To wit, I’ve stated that I’m very uncomfortable with the notion of ‘collateral damage’ in terms of the historical likelihood (or rather near certainty) of executing an innocent person. I included a link I’m guessing you’ve not read that has such a scenario. To my mind this is inexcusable. And so unless there is overwhelming evidence of guilt (as there probably is in many of these cases, but many is not all), as there was with Bundy and others, I can’t justify execution. It’s clear that the long appeals process is nowhere near infallible. But execution is the end game of course. Our problems with the criminal justice system in the US start far below the level of capital crime and punishment. I think there’s a hint of chaos theory in our criminal justice system, with predictably unpredictable results.



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  • So…. if a treatment delivered early in clinically controlled conditions could prevent say the great majority of psychopathic murders, can we safely judge a psychopathic murderer not to be a possible state failure of care?

    More generally, as with Alice Goffman’s analysis of how state sanctioned police behaviour positively manufactures desperate criminals, as the state are we sufficiently blameless of the crimes to extract retribution above mere restraint?



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  • So…. if a treatment delivered early in clinically controlled conditions could prevent say the great majority of psychopathic murders, can we safely judge a psychopathic murderer not to be a possible state failure of care?

    Indeed, if after rehabilitation by the state you’re not a murderous bastid, you never will be.



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  • I put a negative in there I didn’t intend.

    can we safely judge a psychopathic murderer (when one is inevitably encountered) to be most likely a state failure of care?

    corrected and the phrase tightened up



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  • What’s up? I hope you’re having a good day.
    I have always been opposed to capital punishment (and to my own typos), but how can one ever distinguish between an act committed by a psychopath who has been damaged and affected by socio-economic conditions and factors, and the same act where we must apply a guilty verdict and an appropriate punishment?
    I do not think that psychopathology and guilt (which I define as cruelty arising from egotism or selfishness in the extreme) are exclusive of each other; on the contrary, such acts are psychopathic. Such criminals are psychopaths.
    Where does his responsibility begin and ours end?
    Each situation is different and must be appraised accordingly, but that is no easy task; this applies to state violence; do we blame ISIS on the US? Perhaps – to some extent. Do we blame our own atrocities on other various historical antecedents, ad infinitum?
    Guilt. What is it, and when are we obligated not cast this judgment aside, to impugn the authority and finality of such a judgment?



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  • “As you may expect from me discussion of “the will” I find is almost
    entirely meaningless, except as a human construct. Intentions are a
    better construct with more chance of finding neural correlates. As I
    monotonously say, I would like my thoughts and actions to be right
    rather than “free”. Free will I understand only in the legal exchange
    of being prepared to entirely lay claim to my own thoughts and
    actions. Actions have multiple sources and catches to veto them. Only
    the post hoc narrator grants the apparent singularity of “will”. (The
    reality of this is demonstrated in neurosurgery when direct brain
    stimulation causing actions are immediately co-opted by the awake
    patient into the category of wilfull acts repleat with reasons for the
    action.)” – .PR.

    More clear-headed now. That was a good point, interesting.



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  • Nice summary post Len. I like this.

    America is the only Western nation which still resorts to biblical methods of dealing with both crime and also child-raising, which virtually guarantees they won’t adopt more civilized practices in the short term.

    Religion causes pain in so many hidden ways.



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  • From my research, you can’t treat a psychopath. It’s hard wired. The research I’ve read is that an attempt to treat a psychopath only increases their knowledge of themselves, enabling them to be more potent in their activities. How to hide. How they got caught. When you have to deal with one, contracts were the recommended action. The down side of causing carnage had to be so onerous, and the upside so positive that the psychopath would act in self interest and ‘Be Good”.



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  • Not sure if you are aware this is a continuation of Phil’s comments from above:
    https://www.richarddawkins.net/2016/01/the-death-penalty-endgame/#li-comment-195883

    …you can’t treat a psychopath. It’s hard wired.

    I suspect that your research involves adults. Aside from the fact that Phil was proposing “early intervention” (which may even be prenatal, and would probably be more effective than treatment later in life), if being “hard wired” for psychopathy makes it resistant/impervious to effective treatment, what does that say about hopes to treat “hard wired” religiosity (god delusions)? I wonder if your “contract” concept could be adapted to that brain disorder. (Maybe it has and I’m not aware?)



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  • Because of the relentless attacks I suffered, I did a fair bit of research. One particularly good reference was Working With Monsters, Dr John Clarke, a criminal forensic psychologist. What I remember was that it was a mechanical brain disorder from birth, that couldn’t be rewired. Same with the austism spectrum and similar issues. Psychopathy is not a psychological problem, it was a mechanical problem.

    I mix socially with school teachers. They occasionally report and discuss someone in early school learning that is showing signs of psychopathy. One in particular was nicknamed Max the Axe at age 7. Charming. Political. Manipulative. Vicious. Loyal friends to give him alibis. Text book psychopath. I would have liked to have followed that one into later years to see how he turned out.

    As for the religious, I’ve seen a cardinal in Australia who I would rate high on the psychopathy check list. Defending himself and the RCC from child abuse allegations. No conscience. No morals.

    As for the generally religious, I prefer the plastic brain hypothesis. A repetition of any activity lays down extra neural networks in support of that activity. Obviously really with things like practicing music and sport. But when applied to religion, if you do it often enough and for sustained periods, your brain isn’t going to say, “Hey stupid. I’m not going to lay down precious extra neural networks to support this crap.” The brain, just helps you do what you do, by reinforcing what you are doing with extra brain support. I suspect that in those religious for whom the Force is Strong, they can’t escape without extensive deprogramming.

    There is that saying, wrongly attributed to the Jesuits, but still very informative. “Give me the boy till 7, and I will give you man.” Whoever coined that phrase, new that getting to the children early meant they couldn’t escape the church later. They didn’t know why. Now we know. Hard wire their brain through repetition. And this, I would argue, is child abuse. To inflict an irrational belief on a blank slate child’s brain before they can reason for them self is a form of child abuse. But that’s a whole nuther subject.



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  • Adult psychopathy has indeed proved un treatable so far. Latest research shows its roots go back into very early childhood where it is detectable at 15months. Presuming it isn’t a straight genetic flaw which it doesn’t appear to be its linking to the period of maximum neural change has suggested (to me!) that it might be a (genetic) defence to extreme early stress and its familiar cortisol damage. Simply avoiding any stress in these very early montths might be a key.

    Usefully, lots of research here.

    Its interesting that Autism first expresses itself not long after this and schizophrenia is linked to the second phase of brain development and pruning. Given genetic proclivities and an identifiable period of change, treatments might consist of timely (early!) attempts at interruption or mitigation of the problem.

    Oh, thanks Doug



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  • Oh wow! Incredible all right.

    Much obliged thanks Doug, and the comments were fascinating too. Le Page faithfully represents his constituency it seems. His need for vengeance is disturbing, especially against civic minded folk like drug dealers, without whom citizens couldn’t obtain their illicit drugs. 😉

    I laughed at the contributor who lamented how he’d picked the wrong time to give up sniffing glue.



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  • Thanks again Doug. That’s a relief, although I’m not surprised.

    Despite my scathing summary above, (about biblical justice and childrearing) America produces the finest minds too, and who do argue most eloquently for progressive changes.

    Ironically the Convention of the Rights of the Child was a product of American child development researchers. It was US psychologists, psychiatrists and paediatricians who advised the UN of how violence was a learned behaviour, and they successfully persuaded the UN’s promotion of the most widely ratified of all the human rights treaties, ever. Article 17 of that treaty prohibits corporal punishment of kids, and those countries who legislated to protect kids are subsequently enjoying reduced levels of community violence.

    As David R Allan said above, the highchair is most influential to our development.

    Perversely only America and Somalia failed to sign up, although Somalia subsequently did so. And, as I said, America is the only western nation to retain the death penalty, simultaneously having the best advocates for reform. Weird I reckon.



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  • I appreciate your interest Doug, and I think that the same Exceptionalism I mentioned earlier underlies America’s resistance.

    Pertinent to this thread the Convention prohibits capital punishment of children, which upsets some American states who demand retention of this ultimate biblical penalty.

    I’ve lost my copious notes unfortunately, and I wasn’t precisely correct, but I gleaned the following quote from Google.

    The Convention on the Rights of the Child has now been ratified by 195 countries, including Somalia last year, “making it the most widely ratified international human rights treaty in history. As of today, only two countries have yet to ratify the landmark treaty – South Sudan and the United States.”

    Obama has described the failure to ratify the Convention as ’embarrassing’ and has promised to review this.
    Some complained (incorrectly) that it will give children more rights than parents, or that the Convention will subvert the authority of parents. Others expressed concern that it will eliminate parents’ right to discipline, again incorrectly.

    David Smolin argues that the objections from religious and political conservatives stem from their view that the U.N. is an elitist institution, which they do not trust to properly handle sensitive decisions regarding family issues.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/U.S._ratification_of_the_Convention_on_the_Rights_of_the_Child



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  • 98
    Stardusty Psyche says:

    David R Allen –
    “What you want is good old fashion Old Testament revenge. An eye for an eye. We’re better than that in 2016.”

    “An eye for an eye” was a great advance in civilization, and as a metaphor for proportional sentencing remains a cornerstone of a fair and strong civilized national society.

    Prior to “an eye for an eye” it was roughly “a life for an eye” or “a vendetta for an eye”.

    Any punishment taken in isolation can be seen as revenge. A long hard time in prison cannot unstab, or unshoot, or unrape the victim, any more than we can unring a bell.

    Fairness in just sentencing is not an isolated event, rather, the sentence is issued in the context of a large social system, a justice system for the purposes of deterrence, rehabilitation, and protection of society through eliminating the criminal from our midst.

    In the cases of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole and capital punishment the possibility of rehabilitation is abandoned due to the extreme nature of the crime and the overwhelming need to protect society through physical removal of the criminal.

    It is often said that capital punishment has supposedly been proven to have no deterrent effect. Nonsense. It is true that criminals who commit their crimes often report they were not even considering being caught or punished at the time. What is not reported is the number of times a potential criminal did consider the consequences and as a result did not commit the crime.

    How do I know the death penalty is such a powerful deterrent? Just consider how hard criminals try to avoid it. A very great deal of effort is expended in sentence reduction. It is commonplace for the prosecutor to secure concessions such as a guilty plea, or confession to additional crimes (thereby providing the valuable service of closing those investigations), or identifying the location of the bodies (thereby assisting the grieving families) in exchange for taking death off the table.

    People fear death. Surely that is a most obvious and uncontroversial assertion. Deterrence is based on fear of consequences. For those criminals cunning enough to consider the risk/benefit ratio capital punishment places a severe additional risk to the most heinous of crimes.

    What is to prevent a criminal incarcerated for life without parole from killing with impunity within the prison? The threat of additional punishment. Solitary confinement. Death.

    Not just a few here have been rather cavalier in their assertion of the supposed lack of civilization that a system of capital punishment for the factually guilty is asserted to most obviously denote. I assert the opposite.

    A vital factor for a truly advanced civilization to possess is the fortitude to administer proportional justice within, and to meet deadly force from without with overwhelming deadly force to its defeat. Lacking these qualities a formerly great civilization may be reduced to dust.

    Sadly, it seems the great nations of Europe have lost their fortitude, at least as an interlude of self flagellating liberal white guilt I very much hope my friends across the pond will awaken from.



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  • self flagellating liberal white guilt

    I’m reminded of little Johnny’s parents, watching him march past during graduation.

    ‘Look dear’ said his mum, ‘our little Johnny is the only one in step.’

    Education is the solution. Civilized countries seldom regress, whether or not conservative governments assume office. America alone among developed nations, continues to rely on biblical solutions, as do you.



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  • Let’s bring back lobotomies wholesale, or better yet, preventive neurosurgery. Maybe we can sedate the bad guys in some other way. In all seriousness, there are some people that are just plain wicked, and that is not a simple notion. We can excise or destroy the so-called criminal element in man, and religious delusions too.
    No wickedness or goodness in the world. It’s all about those neurons and genes.
    I think that this topic is far more complex (and psychoanalytic) than any of you (in spite of your acumens) are able to see.
    (Perhaps I’m not getting it.)
    P.S. I wrote a nice question above: 1/27 at 4:16pm.



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  • P.S. “We can excise or destroy the so-called criminal element in man, and religious delusions too.” I was being sarcastic.

    Take out the word psychoanalytic. I meant something else and couldn’t think of the word.
    How come no one talks about character anymore? It has been superseded by neuroscience.
    “You know something, that Martin Luther King had one hell of a right supramarginal gyrus.”
    Oh didn’t you know, Marge? — there’s a non-invasive procedure for enhancing that now. I just took little Cindy.”



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  • Stardusty. I did 31 years in high end organized crime law enforcement. I know that you are wrong, and I know that nothing I can say will change your mind. All of your argument about the eye for an eye is revenge. You can’t admit to yourself that it is. But its obvious when you read your stuff, that you want to hurt and kill the people who committed the crimes.

    “Capital punishment is no deterrent”

    My evidence from the USA.

    A comprehensive review of the research in this area over 34 years was conducted in 2012 by a committee of the American National Academy of Sciences National Review Council. The committee concluded that “research to date on the effect of capital punishment on homicide is not informative about whether capital punishment decreases, increases, or has no effect on homicide rates”.

    Your statement

    “It is true that criminals who commit their crimes often report they were not even considering being caught or punished at the time. What is not reported is the number of times a potential criminal did consider the consequences and as a result did not commit the crime.”

    In this forum, a statement like this requires a citation referring the reader to evidence. Without that, it’s just a statement of opinion.

    ****How do I know the death penalty is such a powerful deterrent? Just consider how hard criminals try to avoid it. ****

    After the fact is not evidence of deterrent. Every criminal I’ve ever dealt with is always sorry, but only after they’ve been caught.

    People fear death. Surely that is a most obvious and uncontroversial assertion. Deterrence is based on fear of consequences.

    Again, you don’t know criminals. Most murders are crimes of passion, and in the heat of the moment, there is not much thinking, “Gee if I do this, I might get the death penalty”. In 31 years of talking and interviewing, a criminal during the commission of a crime, thinks he is going to get away with it.

    For those criminals cunning enough to consider the risk/benefit ratio capital punishment places a severe additional risk to the most heinous of crimes.

    Your mistake here is to allocate ration thinking to the criminal, in the act of committing the crime. It might apply to you and me, but let me tell you, criminals don’t do cost / benefit analysis prior to pulling the trigger.

    Not just a few here have been rather cavalier in their assertion of the supposed lack of civilization that a system of capital punishment for the factually guilty is asserted to most obviously denote.

    The act of a state taking a citizens life is immoral. In 2016, those free western democracies have come to this position. That the USA has failed to reach this conclusion has a lot to do with ideology, christian right wing testosterone Faux news driven ideology.

    “Sadly, it seems the great nations of Europe have lost their fortitude, at least as an interlude of self flagellating liberal white guilt I very much hope my friends across the pond will awaken from.”

    This is the most telling statement. You are arguing from an ideological stance, not a moral stance. Your ideology supports capital punishment. That’s where you stop thinking. What you should be doing is researching and discussing the morality of state sponsored murder of another human being.



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  • there are some people that are just plain wicked…

    this topic is far more complex (and psychoanalytic) than any of you (in spite of your acumens) are able to see.

    Wrong, incoherent and condescending.



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  • Stardusty. At this threat on the RDFRS there is a discussion on conspiracy. A statement by one of the researchers seems to describe you approach to this topic of capital punishment. Particularly the ideological reference to Europe being “self flagellating liberal white guilt” Lots of value statements revealed here. This is the statement from the conspiracy researchers.

    there’s ample evidence that belief in conspiracy is often ideological rather than rational, and that conspiracy theories thrive in an echo chamber. This makes challenging the more odious narratives much more difficult.

    I think it would help if you ponder your position, being in mind this statement’



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  • How come no one talks about character anymore? It has been superseded by neuroscience.

    Strawman. We understand a little more what looks like “evil” or “eccentric” or “possessed”.

    This is no simplification, but an overlay. My everyday discussion of character has not changed one iota.

    I am the one writing here on a regular basis NOT to blithely tinker with man’s propensity to this or that state, arguing that neuro diversity is one of our big tricks. I am the one fighting against the “simple-minded mind simplifying” dirigisme folks are too often intent on.

    This stuff is the very opposite of simple minded.



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  • I concur and agree from my time spent in jails.

    Takes me back to my quote, “You don’t solve crime in the electric chair, you solve it in the high chair.”

    The “American Dream” means that care for those mentally vulnerable from birth is nearly non existent. You scenario kicks in. They end up in jail on death row. Didn’t some christian comment on this phenomena when he said, “As you sow, so shall you reap.” Most of America’s crime could be solved by looking in the mirror.



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  • 107
    Stardusty Psyche says:

    Len Walsh –
    “I’m reminded of little Johnny’s parents, watching him march past during graduation.
    ‘Look dear’ said his mum, ‘our little Johnny is the only one in step.’”

    “If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.”

    Len, indeed, palpably, I and my fellow Americans are out of step with our many friends, still I ask, who’s drum beats true?

    You may trundle along in lockstep with your neighbors, no matter, in my view you are all equally out of time.



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  • Half a century after Skinner noticed that positive conditioning was far more effective than negative conditioning, Americans lock up ten times more of more of their citizens than any other developed cuntry. A quarter of all prisoner in the world are locked up by the American state. They allow the most inequality to develop (the UK is too close for my comfort) then oppressively police the poor (Alice Goffman “On the Run”) generate nascent crimnals with few chances and then cheaply arm them, and educate them in their mega criminal universities.

    Religious sentiments are the only possible explanation of this blind folly.



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  • 109
    Stardusty Psyche says:

    David R Allen –
    “… Particularly the ideological reference to Europe being “self flagellating liberal white guilt” …
    ” there’s ample evidence that belief in conspiracy is often ideological rather than rational, and that conspiracy theories thrive in an echo chamber. This makes challenging the more odious narratives much more difficult.”

    David, the reason I have not yet responded to your previous post is that it is long and contains several points deserving of more than a quick response, so it is gonna take me a bit of time to give your above post a fitting response.

    But, on this shorter follow up I am a bit stumped. It all seems rather vague and I really don’t see what you are getting at.

    Ok, so somebody is making some very general and broad statements about conspiracy theories. Fine, but I am not asserting some kind of grand conspiracy and I really do not understand how anybody could derive any such theories from my words.

    I mean, yes, conspiracy to commit crime X is very real under the law but that is typically a few people who plot to commit some particular crime. In general I think most conspiracy theories “out there” are kooky tabloid nonsense so I really do not see how your are connecting my views on capital punishment to “…conspiracy is often ideological rather than rational, and that conspiracy theories thrive in an echo chamber….”

    Sorry, I can’t make heads or tails of this.



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  • A Case study in dot point.

    1980’s. Young Singaporean Chinese male, caught at my airport with 3 kilograms of 80% pure heroin. When I enter the interview room, he is terrified. I couldn’t work this out for a while. Caught dead to rights. Body packs. So I knew I would get a conviction. But you shouldn’t stop just with a courier. They’re a dime a dozen. You only hurt Chinese organize crime if you lock up the organizers.

    When we got the call from Customs, I had them focus all their camera’s and attention on the meeters and greeters waiting outside. We spotted a likely starter. Standing off from the crowd. Agitated. On the pay phone. I recognized him. A player, mid level.

    The problem was, I needed to roll the courier over, to tell us what he knew and give crown evidence. I couldn’t reach him. Nothing I could say was getting through is terror. Then it occurred to me. He’s from Singapore. Instant death penalty for drugs. So I started talking about what would happen in Australia. What his possible futures were. Penalties. I told him about our jails. How you could get an education. How civilized our jails were. The moment I told him there was no death penalty, you could seem him exhale and slump in his chair. Now he talked to me. Now I was able to convince him to help us.. They keep couriers in the dark so they know very little. But he told me enough that I believed our Chinese guy was outside and was his contact. The Chinese guy was about to give up on his drug courier, given he hadn’t exited Customs. Sent a couple of my big lads out and grabbed him as he was about the get in a taxi. He shit himself. Told him the courier had identified him and was going to give evidence. He rolled over immediately and gave up the management in Australia. So much for loyalty to the conspiracy. He got 15years.

    The young Singaporean lad was a gambler. He went to the horse races. The Chinese bookies let him gamble on credit till he had run up a sizable and unpayable debt. The bookies sold him to the Chinese organized crime to pay off the debt. The lad was now a slave.

    He did his time. Studied. Went to Uni while in Jail. Did his accountancy degree, running almost straight distinctions. I met him at the airport as he was being deported. With his qualification, he was now looking forward to a great future. Thanked me profusely.

    The point of this diatribe is the death penalty. Stardusty would have hung him and claimed moral justification.

    Stafford Gordon above reminded me of the fact that a large number of people who are in prison have mental health or diminished mental abilities. Foetal Alcohol Syndrome victims? Drugs in utero? To put these people to death, again, is immoral. Anyone of them, born into different circumstances, would probably have made a great life for themselves. So to impose an eye for an eye death penalty, just to satisfy some biblical precedent, is immoral.



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  • I and my fellow Americans are out of step with our many friends, still I ask, who’s drum beats true?

    Coppers like David may say you can judge someone by the company they keep. Consorting they used to call it.

    You’re trundling along in lockstep with Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and China, dancing to the barbaric beat of the Mosaic Code of transgressions deemed punishable by death.

    All democracies in the world have abandoned the death penalty, save for the U.S., Japan, and South Korea, and this ought to cause you to pause and think I reckon.

    The five countries with the highest rates of executions are China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and your wonderful yet anachronistic country.

    When the Jesuit-trained dictator Pol Pot reigned over Cambodia, millions were executed. They, along with the Philippines, abolished capital punishment in 1989.

    As the only country in the world that hasn’t ratified the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child, you guarantee breeding violent citizens. We know that violence is a learned behaviour, and America won’t sign up because to do so would prohibit you from executing teenagers. It’s a vicious cycle but American Exceptionalism prevents considering rational solutions.

    Young Christian Romero, from St Johns, Arizona, was just eight years old when he shot and killed his dad for spanking him excessively. The boy’s diary indicated the 1000th beating would be the last one, and it was. He used his own rifle which the parish priest had recommended to his dad.

    Enraged prosecutors tried desperate manoeuvres to expose him to a death sentence but failed. Hitting kids always backfires, but seldom so soon as that.

    As David explained to you earlier, it all begins in the high chair.



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  • Sorry, I can’t make heads or tails of this.

    The reference is to ideology. You are arguing from an ideological standpoint. This is the giveaway. ” self flagellating liberal white guilt

    Your ideology includes the death penalty. You follow that ideology, therefore you promote a component of that ideology.

    Do not follow any ideology. To do so, means you’ve outsourced your thinking to a third party. You’ve become a follower, not a thinker. I was exhorting you to research the morality of state imposed death penalty for criminals. Seek wisdom through your own devices, but never follow an ideology of any colour.

    I don’t follow “self flagellating liberal white guilt” ideology. I do read up on morals and ethics, only to a High School level as regulars here will attest, but on reading up, even to that level, it is not possible to mount a moral argument in favour of the death penalty. The only justification when the argument is distilled, is revenge. Hardly a noble motivation. Hence, uncivilized.



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  • So to impose an eye for an eye death penalty, just to satisfy some biblical precedent, is immoral.

    …and fails to make things better!

    Wonderful illustration of the fact, David.



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  • Sorry, Phil. Again, sorry. I just have this chilling image in mind of a scene from Lucas’s forgotten dystopian masterpiece THX 1138, where these scientists are experimenting on poor Robert Duvall. They have electrodes attached to him (or something like that); he’s trapped in a cell and surrounded by a see-through partition so he can be observed. They are in front of a panel manipulating something. They look like they are music producers at one of those apparatuses where you control sound, pushing those levers up and down.
    They know where everything is in his brain and are leisurely making adjustments to this and that part of his brain and occasionally making a “mistake.” You see Duvall in agony as they experiment on his deviant brain in this way.
    My fear is borne largely of ignorance. Forgive me. Nothing personal. Whatever work you and your colleagues are doing I am sure is for the betterment of Man (No condescension here; just my good wishes.)
    Talk to you soon.

    As for the death penalty, I have presented my views, am opposed to it, but this question expresses the peculiar and implicit illogic of such an act:
    “Why do we kill people who are killing people to show that killing people is wrong?”
    — Attributed to both Norman Mailer and Holly Near.



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  • Thanks, Len. I managed (despite my obvious shortcomings) to stumble upon the same Wikipedia entry and have begun to read through it. This is eye opening and distressing. I’m pleased to know of the US’s valuable contributions but disappointed in our leaders’ willingness to commit. There are so many things wrong with conservatism (conservativism?) and the (current) Republican Party right now.



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  • 119
    Stardusty Psyche says:

    Len Walsh –
    SP – ” I and my fellow Americans are out of step with our many friends, still I ask, who’s drum beats true? ”
    LW – “Coppers like David may say you can judge someone by the company they keep. Consorting they used to call it.”
    Argumentum ad hominem (guilt by association). Not at all compelling .

    “You’re .. dancing to the barbaric beat of the Mosaic Code of transgressions deemed punishable by death.”
    No, we don’t actually stone people to death for collecting sticks on the sabbath. You are factually incorrect in your assertion.

    “All democracies in the world have abandoned the death penalty, save for the U.S., Japan, and South Korea, and this ought to cause you to pause and think I reckon.”
    Indeed, it makes me think how lacking in fortitude our friends have become in failing to fully defend their citizens with every fair and just law enforcement tool available, thus having retreated from civilization in that respect. Nevertheless, I will keep a candle in the window for our allies.

    “The five countries with the highest rates of executions are China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and your wonderful yet anachronistic country.”
    Anachronism in just and fair defense against the factually guilty is no vice. Some truths were arrived at a very long time ago.

    “As the only country in the world that hasn’t ratified the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child, you guarantee breeding violent citizens.”
    Ok, I do not see how not ratifying a UN resolution breeds violent citizens.

    “We know that violence is a learned behaviour, and America won’t sign up because to do so would prohibit you from executing teenagers. It’s a vicious cycle but American Exceptionalism prevents considering rational solutions.”
    The USA palpably is exceptional although many of our friends and enemies alike would likely mean that in the pejorative sense 🙂

    “Young Christian Romero, from St Johns, Arizona, was just eight years old when he shot and killed his dad for spanking him excessively. The boy’s diary indicated the 1000th beating would be the last one, and it was. He used his own rifle which the parish priest had recommended to his dad.
    Enraged prosecutors tried desperate manoeuvres to expose him to a death sentence but failed.”
    Ok, so the killer was not sentenced to death. You are arguing against yourself.



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  • 120
    Stardusty Psyche says:

    David R Allen –
    “ “Capital punishment is no deterrent”
    My evidence from the USA.
    “research to date on the effect of capital punishment on homicide is not informative about whether capital punishment decreases, increases, or has no effect on homicide rates”.”
    Your “evidence” is “not informative” by your own cited words.
    Sorry David, you simply are not following a rational train of argumentation.

    You conclude the negative assertion from non-evidence. That is unsound.

    SP – “It is true that criminals who commit their crimes often report they were not even considering being caught or punished at the time. “
    DA – “Most murders are crimes of passion, and in the heat of the moment, there is not much thinking,”…”In this forum, a statement like this requires a citation referring the reader to evidence. Without that, it’s just a statement of opinion.”
    So, you agree with me yet claim I am asserting an unsupported view. Which is it David?

    SP – “People fear death. Surely that is a most obvious and uncontroversial assertion. Deterrence is based on fear of consequences.”
    DA – “Again, you don’t know criminals. Most murders are crimes of passion, and in the heat of the moment, there is not much thinking, “Gee if I do this, I might get the death penalty”.
    So, the people who commit crimes were not deterred. How obvious.

    How many people are arrested for not committing a crime because their fear of the consequences successfully inhibited their criminal desires? None. That is why the study you cite is “not informative”. It is almost impossible to survey people who considered the commission of murder but refrained due to fear of consequences.

    Do you seriously think such a survey could be effectively conducted? Of course not. That is why we must rely on logical deductions to make our policies. Your logical fallacies and imaginary surveys are of no value.

    I will give you a logical argument.
    Deterrence is based on fear of consequences.
    Human beings widely and strongly fear death.
    Therefore, the threat of death is a deterrent.

    “In 31 years of talking and interviewing, a criminal during the commission of a crime, thinks he is going to get away with it.”
    Indeed, in those cases deterrence failed so we rely on arrest and removal of the criminal from our midst.

    SP – “For those criminals cunning enough to consider the risk/benefit ratio capital punishment places a severe additional risk to the most heinous of crimes.”
    DA – “Your mistake here is to allocate ration thinking to the criminal, in the act of committing the crime. It might apply to you and me, but let me tell you, criminals don’t do cost / benefit analysis prior to pulling the trigger.”
    Your mistake is in failing to recognize the modicum of rationality that remains in the criminally inclined. People who are seriously tempted to commit crimes are not all mad dogs running amuck with unthinking passion.

    By your reasoning there is no such thing as deterrence of any kind since crimes are always considered and committed, by your lights, in a state of unthinking passion.

    DA – “The act of a state taking a citizens life is immoral. “
    I assert the opposite. For the state to fail to employ all available law enforcement and deterrent options fairly and justly available to it against the factually guilty is immoral. It is immoral for those sworn to defend the innocent to fail to fully do so.

    “In 2016, those free western democracies have come to this position. That the USA has failed to reach this conclusion has a lot to do with ideology, christian right wing testosterone Faux news driven ideology.”
    Stereotype. Rationality, empathy for the innocent, and a declaration of my right to social self-defence drive my positions. You have thus far provided no sound reasoning to the contrary.

    SP – ““Sadly, it seems the great nations of Europe have lost their fortitude, at least as an interlude of self flagellating liberal white guilt I very much hope my friends across the pond will awaken from.”
    DA – “This is the most telling statement. You are arguing from an ideological stance, not a moral stance. Your ideology supports capital punishment. That’s where you stop thinking. “”
    You have provided only fallacious thinking in response to my rational arguments.

    “What you should be doing is researching and discussing the morality of state sponsored murder of another human being.”
    Begging the question, since murder is distinguished from justifiable homicide by its immorality.

    Based on the unsound nature of your arguments I see no reason to consider your research recommendations particularly useful.



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  • Waste of time. Stardusty refuses to confront the morality question. Just dodges. Argues that the will of the mob, makes the decision moral. That makes the Nuremberg rally morally correct. The failure to even consider state sanction killing as immoral in 2015, suggests Stardusty ideological bias to christian eye for an eye revenge, prevents any further meaningful exchange.



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  • USA palpably is exceptional although many of our friends and enemies alike would likely mean that in the pejorative sense

    I’m sorry. I thought the sense was palpably obvious.

    As I said earlier, education is the solution.



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  • A beautiful tale, David, and an excellent outcome.

    But Singapore’s death for drugs policy is a long way from “an eye for an eye”. It’s disproportionate, even if you support the death penalty for the worst offenders/offences, which I’m not sure if I do or not.

    I am of the view that “eye for eye” was a lot better than what went before it, and a whole lot better than most of what’s come since. It emphasises proportionality, and – if applied across the board – would do away with a lot of the injustice currently practiced. What would be the penalty for a personal stash of prohibited drugs? Certainly not a lengthy jail term (if black) or a fine (if white). Economic crimes (robbery, contraband for profit, extortion, fraud) would have a pricetag. Steal a million, owe a million (plus what you stole).

    So “eye for eye” is not the primitive religiously inspired revenge thing you claim, it actually seems like it could be made quite fair.

    Reading here, the various views, most, it seems, from the comfort of little direct experience (apart from yourself, David), has been educational for me, and made me confront my own biases.

    The part that I get stuck on is the hypocrisy. That the US executes prisoners after years and years of legal muddling and blatantly inequitable shenanigans, and contrives ever more bizarre ways to do it – fatal injections being the latest abomination – I find nauseating largely because at the same time another branch of the US carelessly, callously and with extreme indifference murders unknown people in distant lands by video-game controllers linked to high tech weaponry.

    But, I am now coming to the view that, perhaps, if the US were to abandon judicial executions at home, it might then become less inclined to perpetrate collateral murder overseas.

    So, fight the good fight. Put an end to the death penalty, even though it costs so much to do so. And then start to look at state ordered murder in general, and by remote control in particular.

    Thank you David.



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  • if the US were to abandon judicial executions at home, it might then become less inclined to perpetrate collateral murder overseas.

    and at home.

    This is entirely what I mean by cultural corrosion. I think it is extensive. If death is a legitimate response always to be considered, gun ownership becomes rational. You may safely rehearse in your mind at night and down at the range by day how you will deal with intruders, every one of which you must repeatedly imagine reliably and deservingly dead by your own hand.

    Death as a “civilised” quid pro quo may arise in many state and private situations. One doesn’t cause the other, but they all become mutualy justifying and sustaining.

    The other corrosion, though, is the almost inevitable (unless psychopathic) response to becoming a killer, judicial or self deputised gun owner, of PTSD. The number of people who have their lives up-ended for good by becoming unintentional executioners is significant.

    “You don’t ever get over it.”



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  • I think most of the people who are members of this site and the vast majority of reasonable and moral people are opposed to the barbaric institution of capital punishment.
    Uh, Phil, I’d like to apologize to you in advance for some unkind things that I said about neuroscience on the schizophrenia site. (1/29 at 2:42 am)
    My pronouncements tend to be too categorical and emotional, although there is usually some truth mixed in with it.
    I am a temperamental man.
    I still don’t see how my time is your time if you are in England. Right now it is 4:36 a.m. in NY. You’re a scientist: what does it say on your screen and how could that reference to a certain time (2:42 am) be the same on your screen? Can you explain that?



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  • that´s not a very christian view of you..

    and I too do think it is uncivilised to kill people.. many of them, if not all, are killed because they have killed.. so who kills their killers, and their killers.. where does this end? last man standing??
    ultimately, this is the attitude which leads to wars.. and none of them have done us any good..



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  • David R Allen
    Jan 26, 2016 at 12:50 am

    The moment a state authorizes itself to kill a citizen, it has failed, both morally and ethically.

    This is merely an assertion, equating pacifism with morality. It has nothing to do with preventing re-offending or protecting citizens.

    You’re arguing that the methodology used by the state to gain the authorization to kill another human being, trumps the morality and ethics of such an act.

    Humanist morality is based on balancing the interests of the various parties. – Not an assertion that some pacifist dogma is morality.

    Methodology does not displace morality.

    The fact that a state has a voting population that wants to extract revenge does not make the killing morally OK.

    I would agree that revenge is a poor motive, but balancing the interests of various parties is not revenge. Revenge is a strawman distraction when considering protecting the innocent citizen from dangerous criminals. A decision to leave a serial killer on the loose, is effectively a decision to permit continuing murder, when this is preventable.

    I note on another thread you have no problem with shooting feral invasive species of animals which are destroying native animal communities.

    All it says is that the people of that state, have not done their due diligence. They need to study harder.

    I agree the popular opinion – particularly media manipulated popular opinion is a poor measure – which is why objective studies are required.

    There are people who have no respect for laws and are not open to reason!

    [https://www.richarddawkins.net/2016/01/mormon-leaders-to-oregon-militia-your-religion-isnt-with-you/#li-comment-196005}(https://www.richarddawkins.net/2016/01/mormon-leaders-to-oregon-militia-your-religion-isnt-with-you/#li-comment-196005)

    There are no shades of grey. Governments killing people is immoral.

    This is a fundamentalist doctrinaire assertion. Reasoning works, up to a point, but fanatics will ignore reasoning unless it is backed up with enforcement. The ultimate limit of enforcement is cost and the risk to enforcement agents and bystanders.

    No matter how evil the criminal, and how burning your desire for revenge,

    Revenge while a simplistic evolved response, is a distraction in the effective imposition of standards.

    you must rise above this

    It has been my experience, that those pose as “rising above” getting their hands dirty dealing with real problems, rely on other people (border patrols, police, military, judiciary) to maintain the peace they take for granted.

    and demonstrate you are a member of an advanced civilization, not a stone age one.

    Stone age-ones understood that their societies needed active protection. many modern ones have leaders who duck issues while pretending they are competently dealing with them.

    Masses or criminals are let out of jail to continue re-offending because the state (even wealthy states), cannot afford to maintain them in custody. Sentencing and early release policies require this.

    This is effectively a decision that the rest of the population or the prison population, will have to put up with their criminal activities in the case of those who cannot, or will not, reform! Look up the figures on the profits of crime and the re-offending rates of released prisoners – released under various pretexts – but essentially to balance the budgets.

    It would be pure wishful thinking to expect third-world countries to spend millions securely containing serial killers, delusional witch hunters, and terrorists. – Apart from an incarcerated minority, they either execute them or let them go when overwhelmed by numbers when things have got out of hand when law enforcement fails!

    As I said earlier, the US system is a very poor model, but that does not mean that better models cannot exist.



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  • David R Allen
    Jan 26, 2016 at 12:50 am

    Governments killing people is immoral. No matter how evil the criminal,

    Nope!
    There is a big difference between delegating responsibility to protect citizens, and abdicating responsibility from protecting citizens!

    There have been many peace-loving tribes and cultures in the past!
    They were the first to go extinct when attacked by armed invaders who walked all over them in the absence of effective resistance!



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  • I am of the view that “eye for eye” was a lot better than what went before it, and a whole lot better than most of what’s come since. It emphasises proportionality, and – if applied across the board – would do away with a lot of the injustice currently practiced.

    Proportionality. Agreed.

    Punishment fits the crime. I have no argument with that. A criminal must feel the lash for crime committed. They, like a 4 year old child, must never profit from bad behaviour. And like that child, they must get time out. Jail. We have Proceeds of Crime legislation in Australia. Not only do you get a conviction and jail, but you also loose all assets associated with that crime. When you come out of jail, you have nothing. That is what really hurts organized crime figures. It doesn’t work for murderers though.

    I was inspired by my Chinese lad from Singapore. If you are in jail, you’re not idle. It’s high school. It’s education. It’s book club. It’s physical fitness, sport, diet, maths, the chemistry of addiction, philosophy, morality and ethics. Flower arranging. I don’t care. And if you don’t want to participate, fine. Clunk. The sound of the cell door closing, because we have no prison guards to supervise you while you do nothing. When that prisoner, that murder comes out of jail, they will have shifted their personal bell curve to the right.

    It won’t work for everyone, but it will work for some. And it is a punishment society needs. It’s probably what the offenders needed in the high chair… better late than never.



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  • Uh, Phil, I’d like to apologize to you in advance for some unkind things that I said about neuroscience on the schizophrenia site.

    As the global spokesman for Neuroscience, Dan, I must ask you again to chill. Neuroscience has nerves of steel (and none of them connect to me). Besides learning to accommodate each others’ behavioural foibles is today’s messaage.



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  • 132
    bonnie says:

    Fourth-term A G (D) Mississippi > https://www.rawstory.com/2016/01/miss-attorney-general-urges-lawmakers-to-revive-firing-squads-and-hangings-as-execution-options/. I’d forgotten it is Euro companies refusing sale of drugs.

    @ Dan 4:39 a.m.

    4:39 a.m. is 3:39 a.m. here in the Central Time Zone. I subtract one hour from a posted time – RDF is based in Eastern Time Zone.

    Time zone converter, use an east coast city start mark (NY) to determine poster’s real time (1:39 a.m. west coast).

    Correct me if wrong!!



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  • 135
    Stardusty Psyche says:

    Dan –
    … reasonable and moral people are opposed to the barbaric institution of capital punishment…
    … I’d like to apologize to you in advance for some unkind things that I said …
    I am a temperamental man.

    When may I expect my apology to arrive? I mean, calling me barbaric, kind of harsh Dan.

    Actually, I will not be holding my breath waiting! It’s all good, it will take a great deal more than a few false attributions on a blog to bother me at all.

    I have thoroughly discredited the notions that the death penalty is barbaric, uncivilized, or immoral. Capital punishment of the factually guilty is fair, proportional, and a moral imperative. It provides a strong deterrent, powerful leverage in perpetrator cooperation, protects correctional officers and inmates from lifers with nothing left to lose, and brings the recidivism rate down to precisely zero.

    Many fallacious arguments have been offered in opposition to my assertions here:
    https://www.richarddawkins.net/2016/01/the-death-penalty-endgame/#li-comment-195715

    Oh, and don’t worry about getting all emotional on me, I appreciate an impassioned position statement…sticks and stones my friend 🙂



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  • 136
    Stardusty Psyche says:

    Yes, I think you may both be have hit upon some creative funding options: NRA sponsorship, or crowdfunding. I will add the idea of a special auction to be a shooter since I am sure that would raise large sums we could use to defray the costs to the people the criminal has foisted upon us, beginning with restitution to the families of the victims to the extent money could in any way compensate for such horrible crimes.

    But, in reality, whatever our friends overseas may think, we have due process, not a spectacle of mob bloodlust appeasement, so in the case of a firing squad the shooters are law enforcement officers, trained and professional individuals who have chosen a career of honorable public service, which executing a factually guilty capital criminal certainly is.
    You can read a bit of how it is actually done here:
    http://www.sltrib.com/news/2326783-155/firing-squad-gets-final-ok-so

    The firing squad requires only simple and inexpensive equipment, is very quick and simple to perform, and is virtually foolproof due to the close range and multiple shooters employed.



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  • Whoa….

    ****I have thoroughly discredited the notions that the death penalty is barbaric, uncivilized, or immoral. ****

    I’m going to add this to our psychological profile. In your humble opinion, you’ve “Thoroughly Discredited” it, have you. I think others in this forum might find this a bit over the top and pretentious.

    And before this little gem goes through to the keeper, you’ve got some homework to do and post and answer.

    It provides a strong deterrent, powerful leverage in perpetrator cooperation, protects correctional officers and inmates from lifers with nothing left to lose, and brings the recidivism rate down to precisely zero.

    I’ve posted references that require answers from you. Not just opinions, but evidence, the very core value of the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science. No evidence, it’s just your opinion filtered through the psychological profile on display in quote one. I will need more data before I can pronounce a diagnosis… but it is a worry.

    How can America call out Saudi Arabia, China, Iran and the other capital punishment recidivists states around the world, when they execute so many of their own poor and black. How can the above countries, who use capital punishment as a political tool of power be brought into the 21st century. We can’t advance the planet to a higher level of civilization when the number 1 western free world democracy executes so many of its poor black citizens. This is but one aspect of the morality you claim to have “Thoroughly Discredited“, let alone the other references I’ve referred you to.

    You’ve failed to address the issue of solving crime in the High Chair, not the Electric Chair. The toxic American Dream. Too much like communism for your tastes?



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  • “…calling me barbaric, kind of harsh…”

    Not all advocates of capital punishment are barbaric, S. Psyche. Of course not. Sorry.

    (That would be a barbaric assertion.)



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  • As I keep saying W tried to kill Popper. But W’s dismissal of
    metaphysics, because definitions can have no rigor, failed to notice
    scientific hypotheses as its rightful and generative haunt.

    My friend and yours (Paul) replies:

    W. had something to say about scientific hypotheses and about mathematics but never would claim to have said the last word on anything. It is not “because definitions can have no rigor.” It is that the whole way of linking the world to a realm of interactive signs is fraudulent. We are part and parcel of the meaningful world. I am part and parcel of the meaningful world. Only in my going through the world does the world itself “make sense.” Not only (self-reflexively) “to me,” as in, “the world no longer really makes sense to me.” But in actually making sense. Otherwise there are only broad strokes and I can make guesses but I am not so sure-footed.



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  • 140
    Stardusty Psyche says:

    David R Allen –

    SP – “It provides a strong deterrent”
    DA – “I’ve posted references that require answers from you”
    Indeed, and I already have thoroughly discredited your posted referenced “evidence” as “not informative” by your own cited words, details here:
    https://www.richarddawkins.net/2016/01/the-death-penalty-endgame/#li-comment-196059

    You go on to cite the actions of those who have not been deterred as evidence of what constitutes a deterrent. Again, that is unsound reasoning. We do not have a means to take a scientific survey of those who were in fact deterred from capital crime, since they did not commit the crime. Basic logic, my friend.

    In public policy matters we often lack scientific survey evidence. This is real life in a very complicated world. We do not have the luxury of establishing a control group, nor do we have the capability to scientifically control for the many variables involved.

    To make policy we need to apply sound logic to some fundamental facts. I will reiterate an example of this for you:

    Deterrence is based on fear of consequences.
    Human beings widely and strongly fear death.
    Therefore, the threat of death is a deterrent.

    Do you really need references for the first 2 lines? Sorry, I am not going to waste my time with that kind of pedestrian errand.

    My conclusion follows inexorable from the premises. If you cannot clearly see that perhaps it is your own profile you should give further consideration. My assertion stands, to have thoroughly discredited the nonsensical notion that the threat of death is somehow not a deterrent.

    SP – “powerful leverage in perpetrator cooperation”
    Are you not aware of this? Perhaps not, if you are not a US citizen, since this is such a well-known practice here in the USA but might be relatively unknown elsewhere, fine.
    “Plea-bargaining in capital murder cases saves taxpayers millions in court costs.”
    https://www.legalzoom.com/articles/plea-bargaining-in-capital-murder-cases-is-it-fair-to-victims
    “Ehrhard found “the consensus among defense attorneys was that the threat to file and pursue a death notice in a murder-one case is the prosecutor’s most powerful tool.” Defense attorneys she interviewed said the death penalty loomed large in plea negotiations in murder cases that were eligible for capital cases.”
    http://www.scpr.org/blogs/news/2012/08/08/9340/death-bargaining-chip-plea-bargains-and-capital-pu/

    If you really want to investigate the subject you will again find the difficulties of scientifically quantifying this effect. Real people are really on trial for their lives because real people have been brutally murdered. You cannot obtain accurate survey information from attorneys and defendants in midst of this process, nor can you set up control groups for comparison, nor can you reliably control statistically for all the interconnected variables.

    What we can do and must do is obtain some basic information and apply logic.
    Human beings broadly and deeply fear death.
    Defendants seek to minimize penalties against themselves.
    If conviction seems likely some defendants will choose to enter a guilty plea in order to avoid being killed.

    Again, I am not going to waste my time providing evidence for the first 2 lines. And again, the conclusion follows inexorably from those obvious premises. Further, the conclusion is backed up with a great deal of reporting from many sources. Any notion my original assertion is incorrect is thus conclusively discredited.

    SP – “protects correctional officers and inmates from lifers with nothing left to lose”
    If a criminal is already in prison for life another conviction will have no increase in the amount of time he is incarcerated. At that point the potential deterrents are solitary confinement, removal of communication privileges, removal of recreational privileges, and death.

    Death is clearly a strong deterrent to prison crime, but, if all deterrents fail and a criminal commits a murder in prison and is put on death row and executed he will never commit another murder in prison. Again, any contrary assertion conclusively discredited.

    SP- “brings the recidivism rate down to precisely zero.”
    Since there has never been a recorded case of an executed criminal committing any further crimes any claim to the contrary is conclusively discredited.

    Do you really need a scholarly citation to understand that the recidivism rate for executed criminals is precisely zero?

    DA –“ How can America call out Saudi Arabia, China, Iran and the other capital punishment recidivists states around the world, when they execute so many of their own poor and black.”
    Because they kill people for homosexual acts and political dissent. They fail the tests of proportionality or even just illegality. The USA does not.

    DA – “We can’t advance the planet to a higher level of civilization when the number 1 western free world democracy executes so many of its poor black citizens. This is but one aspect of the morality you claim to have “Thoroughly Discredited“,”
    No, I did not claim to thoroughly discredit the issue of poor citizens, black or otherwise. I did not yet address that issue. But it is indeed an important issue, not because executing a particular demographic disproportionately means capital punishment is immoral or uncivilized, it doesn’t. But the fact is that blacks in particular have long suffered and continue to suffer from the lingering detrimental effects of slavery, domestic white terrorism, legal racism, and socially ingrained racism.

    The present state of blacks in the USA is indeed an indictment against the morality and civility of our culture, but that does not mean capital punishment of the factually guilty is immoral or uncivilized. To mix the two is a conflation on your part.

    DA – “You’ve failed to address the issue of solving crime in the High Chair, not the Electric Chair. The toxic American Dream. Too much like communism for your tastes?”
    That’s an entertaining little quip, unfortunately it is disconnected from the realities of crime and our criminal justice system as exists in the here and now, not some utopian dream world.



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  • 141
    Stardusty Psyche says:

    Dan
    “…calling me barbaric, kind of harsh…”
    Not all advocates of capital punishment are barbaric, S. Psyche. Of course not. Sorry.
    (That would be a barbaric assertion.)

    It’s all good Dan, no worries. That was just my feeble attempt at humor, looks like I need some comedy lessons.

    I have seen the words “barbaric” and “uncivilized” offered up here more times than I can easily count, but I realize that is a characterization of an overall national policy, not an attribution against each and every American.

    Although, some of the folks here may feel the jury is still out in my particular case 🙂



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  • Shudder. I can see this auction to be executioner played out in some dystopian sci-fi story. Some twisted spawn of Hunger Games, and The Running Man. The audience won’t be satisfied til the Auctioneer gets his.

    But I suppose (almost) anything is better than the corruption of medical practice that is the “lethal injection”. Let’s dress up like it’s an operating theatre and pretend to be doing a medical thing. Not really, we’re killing somebody, quite deliberately. Well done, Europe, for refusing to supply the poisons.

    More bluntly, no need for “law enforcement officers”, many of whom could expect a long and useful career without actually being required to end a life. David? It would make more sense to use soldiers, perhaps from one of the so-called “elite” special forces. After all, killing is in their job description, isn’t it? Maybe sniper training, final examination. That way, at least, the condemned prisoner would provide some sort of useful service to the State, assisting in training the military.

    (Meanwhile, ending all executions by the state is still a better option, then there’s no need to decide how to go about it.)



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  • Wonderful effort David, but quite futile apparently. SS thinks America failed when 8 yo Christian Romero escaped the electric chair for protecting himself by killing his own dad. More citizens are killed by American toddlers than by terrorists. Every day dozens are murdered in the land of the free-to-kill, and they fairly shit themselves whenever someone escapes a death sentence.

    Way too ambitious of you mate. You’d have more chance convincing Mursi Tribe-women to abandon their Lip Plates I reckon. They have had a rough time in their high-chairs David, and to change would be an acknowledgment that their parents had been ignorant. One distant day China might impose sanctions on them, for not catching up to the rest of the world.
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/benjamin-powers/toddlers-involved-in-more_b_8650536.html



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  • Stardusty, comments containing multiple links are put aside by the site’s spam detection system and require moderator approval before they appear. You’re welcome to post links in your comments, but if you do and the comment does not immediately appear, please don’t go on re-posting them: your comment will be reviewed and approved as soon as a moderator is online.

    Thanks.

    The mods



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  • Even if it may be a fair and proportional punishment… It all has to do with how we as human beings value the life of other human beings. We condemn the killer for killing another human and in the same breath, we lay down a death penalty. It does not deter others from killing. Quite a few family members of victims fell it is senseless to kill the murderers of their beloved ones.
    What I do not get by the way, is why it takes so many years to come round and executing these convicted people. They sit in solitary confinement for years and years and years. If it is so evident that they commited a crime for which they are to receive the deat penalty, why not get them out of court and in a courtyard and shoot the bastards?
    As I have stated, this killing gets us nowhere. Ultimately we go to war and kill hundreds, if not more, of innocent human beings and we feel more or less fine with that.. If there´s anybody we should kill, it´s the war-mongering idiots who send our youth into battle to get killed off for nothing at all..
    What´s going on in Syria at the moment is going to lead to another war, not just in the region, but will spread right around the world. It will be a clash between muslims and christians, right-wing fascists here in Europa and America against left-wing liberals and also between the West and Russia (maybe China as well). And why? Because a hell of a lot of people in this world think that killing another person is justifiable (and in many cases in the name of that one true god.. That bastard of a fictional fart, who rules alone in his realm and doesn´t know how to really love anybody but himself.. like an effing dictator: you know, the ones we try to get rid of actually, like Saddam and Al-Assad).



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  • And perhaps, in cases where there’s an element of cultural difference: what would be the penalty for the convicted criminal, if they were convicted within their own culture? That way the convict would at least not be surprised.

    You mean to say that for instance Muslims in the West should be punished by Sharia-law, in stead of the laws writen down by men?
    I have thought about that a couple of times, but find Sharia-law to be a bit too harsh.. Why kill a homosexual, or stone a Person to death for adultary, things which in the free West are not even considered to be unlawfull (by most of us..)?



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  • Again, that is unsound reasoning. We do not have a means to take a
    scientific survey of those who were in fact deterred from capital
    crime, since they did not commit the crime. Basic logic, my friend.

    Th prisons being full gives us all we need to know…….It is not a deterrent. It is not a deterrent for those people who are in the system of murder. Fix the system? If the system is broke then that admittance says we have even less right to murder someone in a system that needs fixing.

    Deterrence is based on fear of consequences. Human beings widely and
    strongly fear death. Therefore, the threat of death is a deterrent.

    The religious have even more to fear from death, with fire and brimstone and the like, but still they commit crimes that could see them dead. People jump off bridges, shoot themselves and think up hundreds of different ways to do it and we still call it a deterrent? Wishing you hadn’t done it AFTER you have done it is not a deterrent.

    You pointed out that the video I posted, the person there said he deserved to die. That is not the language of someone who has been deterred but of someone who believes in revenge against himself. He says he wishes he had not killed those people but offers no explanation as to how he got around the “deterrent” you propose works. So the line you draw (which I presume is for those likely to kill and not everyone on the planet?) of those people clearly hasn’t worked and they play with chance. If you want to follow the line that these people were in full control of what they were doing then, they weighed up the situation and thought it worth their time and the deterrent was balanced enough for them to ignore it. If you want to take the limited liability route then the solution is not in the deterrent and is a callous act.



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  • If capital punishment is indeed a deterrent, why does the USA have a higher homicide rate than any Western European country where the death penalty was abolished decades ago? (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_intentional_homicide_rate)

    Why do those US states that do not impose the death penalty not have a higher homicide rate than those that do?

    Why do 10 out of 12 of them have homicide rates lower than the national average?

    And why do half the states with the death penalty have homicide rates above the national average? Source for these last 3 statements: http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/node/657

    The reality is that the majority of homicides occur in the heat of the moment, as the result of a temporary loss of control in the face of some extreme emotional event. They are mostly not premeditated and therefore there is no opportunity for the murderer to calmly weigh up the pros and cons of the murder he is about to commit – even supposing he were capable of doing so under normal circumstances, which in many cases will not be the case (given the high incidence of mental illness among convicted criminals).

    For those who do carefully plan their murder and think about the possible consequences, it is not immediately apparent that the prospect of life imprisonment is very much preferable to the death penalty, particularly in jurisdictions where a life sentence means the prisoner’s whole natural life, with no possibility of parole. And again, a comparison of homicide rates in these two types of jurisdiction does not support the claim that death is the greater deterrent. (http://deathpenaltycurriculum.org/student/c/about/arguments/testimony1b.htm)

    The source linked to above, in addition to emphasizing that the most effective deterrent is the near-certainty of detection, regardless of the nature of the punishment that would follow conviction, also quotes a study showing that ‘Prisoners and prison personnel do not suffer a higher rate of criminal assault and homicide from life-term prisoners in abolition states than they do in death-penalty states.’

    This only leaves the argument that a dead murderer costs less than a live one in prison. But even this doesn’t work in the grotesque system in place in those US states that still have the death penalty, since the appeals process is dragged out over many years, sometimes decades, meaning that it ends up costing more to kill a convicted murderer (eventually) than it would to just keep him in life imprisonment in the first place. Not to mention the obscenity of keeping someone in close confinement for sometimes 20, 30 years and then executing them, just when in most other countries he would be being considered for release under license.



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  • 150
    Stardusty Psyche says:

    Olgun Th prisons being full gives us all we need to know…….It is not a
    deterrent. It is not a deterrent for those people who are in the
    system of murder.

    I see that those claiming the death penalty somehow is not a deterrent simply do not understand the definition of the word.

    de·ter·rent
    dəˈtərənt/
    1.
    a thing that discourages or is intended to discourage someone from doing something.
    synonyms: disincentive, discouragement, damper, curb, check, restraint;

    Deterrent does not equal 100% prevention. Deterrence works on some people but fails on others. The prisons are filled with those that were not effectively deterred. Those that were effectively deterred are not in prison.

    The notion that the death penalty is not a deterrent because we have so many people in jail is faulty logic and shows a lack of understanding of what the word even means.

    O- “The religious have even more to fear from death, with fire and brimstone and the like, but still they commit crimes that could see them dead. People jump off bridges, shoot themselves and think up hundreds of different ways to do it and we still call it a deterrent? Wishing you hadn’t done it AFTER you have done it is not a deterrent.”
    The religious are in fact deterred by the threat of hell. Matt Dillahunty and other atheist speakers sometimes ask the religious folks in the audience if they would go around raping and killing if there was no god, and shockingly, there are always at least a few who will say yes.

    So, yes, the threat of a magic man in the sky who is keeping tabs and will send you to hell is in fact a deterrent. But, refer back to the definition of the word, it is an inhibition or a discouragement, not a guarantee.

    O- “He (the killer in the video posted) says he wishes he had not killed those people but offers no explanation as to how he got around the “deterrent” you propose works.”
    I never said a deterrent always works. He is clearly an example where it didn’t. Actually he talks about his mental state, the meth, etc. Even so, he was aware of consequences and sought to minimize his consequences. Unfortunately, the method he chose was to double down on his crimes.

    We cannot measure deterrence by the number of people in jail alone, rather the number of people who did not commit the crime versus the number of people who did. That is the true measure of the effectiveness of a deterrent, the ratio of successes to failures.

    We can measure the failures by simply counting the numbers of people locked up. But we have no effective means of measuring the successes because those people did not commit the crime. Hence, we must rely on some basic facts and logic

    Deterrence is based on fear of consequences.
    Human beings widely and strongly fear death.
    Therefore, the threat of death is a deterrent.



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  • 151
    Stardusty Psyche says:

    OHooligan –
    Shudder. I can see this auction to be executioner played out in some dystopian sci-fi story. Some twisted spawn of Hunger Games, and The Running Man

    Indeed, that would be pretty ugly, and no such spectacle is under any kind of official consideration.

    Law enforcement officers are not required to perform this particular duty since they are all volunteers. For a military execution the use of military personnel would be appropriate, but capital punishment of civilians is a civil law enforcement function, so we won’t be seeing military personnel performing civilian executions.



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  • we have due process, not a spectacle

    You seem to have forgotten that your intention is one of deterrence.

    Surely, a death of maximal horror and humiliation maximally publicised is morally to be preferred if we are to spend a life so?

    Blithe as you are of the inevitable PTSD to be suffered by excutioners, might I suggest you use the next condemned in the role?

    Or is it not in fact deterrence but retribution that weighs heaviest amongst your concerns?

    How do we actually build moral societies?



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  • 153
    Stardusty Psyche says:

    Marco –
    If capital punishment is indeed a deterrent, why does the USA
    have a higher homicide rate than any Western European country where
    the death penalty was abolished decades ago?

    Easy availability of guns, widespread gang culture, breakdown of the family, rampant street crime among those born into deplorable circumstances. (please feel free to add to the list of American social failures).

    A deterrent is a disincentive, discouragement, or hindrance. It is not a guarantee. As bad as the situation of criminality in the USA is, it would be even worse without the deterrents we have in place.

    Marco – “Why do those US states that do not impose the death penalty not have a higher homicide rate than those that do?
    Why do 10 out of 12 of them have homicide rates lower than the national average?
    And why do half the states with the death penalty have homicide rates above the national average? Source for these last 3 statements”
    Because the harshest penalties are enacted in regions with the biggest problems. For example, California enacted a draconian 3 strikes law as a response to rampant crime. The 3 strikes law did not cause crime; it was in response to crime, which is caused by a host of social factors.

    Marco – “The reality is that the majority of homicides occur in the heat of the moment,”
    Even if that is true that does not mean the person does not consider consequences. Unfortunately we have large numbers of domestic violence cases, but a relative few progress to the level of homicide, largely because even an enraged person still considers getting caught. By your reasoning we may as well remove all consequences because most people just don’t think about consequences.

    Further, you prove my point about deterrence. It works for those who stop to consider the consequences, it does not work for others acting impulsively.

    Marco – “‘Prisoners and prison personnel do not suffer a higher rate of criminal assault and homicide from life-term prisoners in abolition states than they do in death-penalty states.’”
    Ok, that is interesting, but controlling for all possible contributing variables is nearly impossible.

    Marco – “Not to mention the obscenity of keeping someone in close confinement for sometimes 20, 30 years and then executing them, just when in most other countries he would be being considered for release under license.”
    The recidivism rate for executed prisoners is precisely zero. The same cannot be said for those released under license, or parole, hence one of my objections to it for those factually guilty of the most heinous crimes.

    However, you raise a valid point about the cost of the death penalty. In California it has become an almost total waste of billions of dollars as hundreds of prisoners remain indefinitely on death row mired in endless legal maneuvers. In Texas there is somewhat the opposite situation.

    We need to establish a higher standard of proof for the penalty phase of a capital crime, and then bring the criminal to execution fairly quickly with a limited appeals process. First, we should require a virtual certainty, or a natural certainty in the penalty phase of a capital crime. Jailhouse informants, hearsay evidence, circumstantial evidence, stranger identification, and other notoriously error prone evidences should be disallowed in the case of a death sentence.

    DNA, being caught in the act, confessions that include details of the crime only the guilty could know, and other such strong evidences should be the only type that can lead to a death sentence.

    Once guilt has been arrived at to a natural certainty the sentence of death should be carried out without the kinds of endless petitions presently choking the process in California.



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  • Easy availability of guns, widespread gang culture, breakdown of the
    family, rampant street crime among those born into deplorable
    circumstances. (please feel free to add to the list of American social
    failures).

    So there are things a state can do to reduce homicide rates that would make killing its citizens unnecessary? And Western European countries are doing those things and the US, on the whole, is not. Which is the more moral position, would you say?

    Because the harshest penalties are enacted in regions with the biggest
    problems.

    You’re trying to argue it both ways. If the death penalty worked as a deterrent, the states where it is applied would not have the biggest problems. The fact that these states have the highest number of homicides despite the existence of the death penalty argues against the deterrent effect of the death penalty. It suggests that high levels of homicide are due to other factors than whether or not murderers are themselves murdered by the state. Indeed, your earlier reply, about gun & gang culture, family breakdown, etc, is itself testament to that. David Allen’s earlier comment about crime being fought in the high chair rather than the electric chair is pertinent here.

    Even if that is true [i.e. that the majority of homicides are
    committed in the heat of the moment] that does not mean the person
    does not consider consequences.

    Sorry, that is precisely what it means. Precisely. This is also the conclusion of prosecutors and judges who have been involved in such court cases throughout their careers (see link posted in my earlier response).

    Poor education, poverty, inequality, racial discrimination, unemployment, hopelessness, gangs, drug dependency, inadequate or unaffordable health care – these are all correlated with higher homicide rates and higher crime in general, as indeed your own answers have conceded. When it is known that social deprivation correlates with higher crime, then a society that makes no or only inadequate attempts to combat that deprivation is to some extent complicit in the crime that results. To then kill those who have predictably and avoidably fallen prey to the social problems the state refuses to combat, is both grotesque and hypocritical. We can do better than this, as experience in Western Europe shows. And since we can, we should.

    The recidivism rate for executed prisoners is precisely zero.

    What is the recidivism rate for prisoners imprisoned for life without parole?



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  • Marco
    Jan 30, 2016 at 4:44 pm

    What is the recidivism rate for prisoners imprisoned for life without parole?

    Here is a UK example:-

    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/britains-most-dangerous-convicts-reveal-reality-of-life-in-highly-restricted-jails-within-jails-10470130.html

    The grim day-to-day existence of the 60 most-dangerous convicts in the country has been described in unprecedented detail, in a new report on the Prison Service’s highly restricted specialist units.

    The little-known units, known as “jails within jails”, house the prison system’s most-notorious inmates. Most were sent to one of England’s five close supervision centres (CSCs) after attacking guards or other convicts.

    Once detained in a CSC, they are likely to be held for years in the “most restrictive conditions with limited stimuli and human contact”, according to a new report by HM Chief Inspector of Prisons.



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  • @Stardusty Psyche

    (please feel free to add to the list of American social failures).

    Sure! Violent, biblical childrearing is directly responsible for most of your consequent social failures. It’s a faulty old model of psychology, as Phil has just told you.

    As bad as the situation of criminality in the USA is, it would be even
    worse without the deterrents we have in place.

    America is No.1 in the World of prison populations. How weird that you haven’t noticed your abject failure to deter, discourage or hinder criminality with your faulty old model of an eye-for-an-eye approach.

    Unfortunately we have large numbers of domestic violence cases…

    Naturally. If you hit children you teach them to solve problems with violence. More civilized cultures have acknowledged this and it’s amazing you haven’t noticed. David has already explained this to you, and Marco has verified it. You need to pay more attention, instead of imagining you’ve discredited anybody.

    ‘Spare the rod and spoil the child’ certainly hasn’t worked out favourably for America. Early last century the Kiwi polymath Robert Briffault noticed that -“The effects of infantile instruction are, like those of syphilis, never completely cured.”

    Alice Miller, author of Poisonous Pedagogy, opined: “We produce destructive people by the way we are treating them in childhood.”

    Elizabeth Gershoff (American) found that:
    Ten of the 11 meta-analyses indicate parental corporal punishment is associated with the following undesirable behaviours and experiences:
    • increased adult aggression,
    • and increased risk of abusing own child or spouse.

    http://www.endcorporalpunishment.org/assets/pdfs/reference-documents/Gershoff-research-2002.pdf

    This is by no means a novel idea either. “Children ought to be lead to honourable practices by means of encouragement and reasoning, and most certainly not by blows and ill treatment.” Plutarch, c. 46-120 A.D., Vol. I, Moralia, Ancient Greece

    Violent, biblical parenting is responsible for most community violence.

    “…we should require a virtual certainty, or a natural certainty…”

    Religiously-minded folk rely on absolute certainty. Their biblical upbringing induces this ridiculous need. More civilized societies don’t resort to biblical punishments, and consequently enjoy less criminality. Their murder rates are an order of magnitude lower than your barbaric approach generates.

    “some of the folks here may feel the jury is still out in my
    particular case :-)”

    No, they returned ages ago but you didn’t notice. Alan4Discussion was the only dissident with his anomalous view. Nobody can force you to alter your opinion but the consequent judgment was inevitable.



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  • 159
    Stardusty Psyche says:

    Marco, and all the other good folks here who have been gracious enough to engage me here, I strongly urge you to look up the word “deterrent”. I prefer the Oxford dictionary for its incisive explanations:
    deterrent
    /dəˈtərənt/
    1A thing that discourages or is intended to discourage someone from doing something.

    Note that the deterrent quality of any discouragement does not guarantee that all individuals will be sufficiently discouraged as to refrain.

    Likewise, the mere fact that some people don’t refrain does not mean the discouragement in question is not a deterrent, only that it is not a sufficient discouragement for some people.

    Marco – “So there are things a state can do to reduce homicide rates that would make killing its citizens unnecessary? ”
    In a utopian dream world where government solves social ills, yes. In the real world, not so much.

    Marco – “You’re trying to argue it both ways. If the death penalty worked as a deterrent, the states where it is applied would not have the biggest problems. ”
    Nothing “works” as a deterrent in the sense that all potential criminals will be successfully deterred. You clearly have not read the definition of the word “deterrent”.

    Prison is a deterrent, yet we have people in prison. Your logic is astonishingly poor.

    SP – ” Even if that is true [i.e. that the majority of homicides are
    committed in the heat of the moment] that does not mean the person
    does not consider consequences. ”
    Marco – “Sorry, that is precisely what it means. Precisely”
    You are precisely mistaken. People consider the consequences of their actions, even when they are very angry. They try to cover up their crimes, and if the don’t think they can get away with it, or the potential consequences are perceived as prohibitively severe they are successfully deterred.

    Criminals are not all a bunch of mad dogs mindlessly running amuck. Many are very cunning.

    Marco – “What is the recidivism rate for prisoners imprisoned for life without parole?”
    Very high. Violent criminals are likely to continue to commit crimes while incarcerated, by attacking inmates, attacking correctional staff, and conducting external criminal enterprises from behind bars.

    James Broadnax
    4:25 “If they give me life I’m gonna kill somebody else”
    “I can’t do no mfing life, I’m gonna go crazy”
    “pick one, or you gonna have some more bodies”
    “they better put me on death row”
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Noainlu3a8k

    Clearly, no deterrent of any kind is sufficient for this individual. For the safety of all those who come in contact with him, and assuming he is found to be factually guilty, we should listen to his advice.



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  • Telling stats Len
    Canada 106
    USA 698

    Similar population. Similar demographic. Different social culture. We often say, Religion Poisons Everything. But I think the American Dream, has a fare bit to answer for.

    But you will not that PS, just continues to repeat the same stuff, that Thoroughly Discredited my arguments, so I guess he can’t be beaten. The Romans had an expression which might be apt. Autoeroticist.



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  • just continues to repeat the same stuff

    He learned it all in his high chair David.

    Total prisoner populations,

    No.1 Ranking, United States of America

    No.2 China (despite being far more populous)

    No. 5 India, ditto

    No. 10 Indonesia, ditto

    No. 47 ‘Straya

    Given the US is the both the murder and the execution capital of the developed world, it appears imprisonment fails to deter crime or killing.

    I hope you didn’t miss my reply to SP above, about the jury verdict on his own barbarity.



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  • @SP

    Somewhere, sometime you need to make an argument from statistics that the deterrence of the death penalty actually is working. Your claim that obviously it must, followed by ignoring the explanations of why it won’t, is turning you into a time waster with an obvious disinclination to examine your own dogma.

    Threats of death are poorly effective against psychopaths who tend to experience little fear for themselves. Mass murderers, spree killers are nearly always suicidal. Guns by their remote and cheap effectiveness multiply up murderous crimes of passion and desperation. These are the well springs of murder, amongst those who care little or less than nothing for themselves at the time.

    You really must learn how a policing, judicial and punishment system designed for maximum and biblical showey deterrence is failing you dismally. Learn how zero tolerance of the misdemeanors of black kids blights their early lives, stealing their opportunity to thrive in a country that teasingly offers so much and gifts only hopelessness. Understand that you are a spectacular and singular outlier amongst OECD countries because you allow such inequality to blossom and rather than fix it you police it.



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  • Hi, S. Psyche,
    I haven’t been following this thread very closely but I can see that you are getting it from all sides. Apparently, the consensus is that the evidence against capital punishment as a deterrent outweighs the evidence for it. Your interlocutors do not see this matter through your eyes or relate to it as you do; I too am opposed to capital punishment, as I think that the taking of a life diminishes us all and is just too damned easy. This sort of thing perpetuates a culture that is already vastly indifferent to the suffering of others, is way too condemnatory, and that has always been, for the most part, unwilling to address the underlying problems, or acknowledge the conditions, that give rise to violent crime.
    If someone killed someone I loved I would probably want him dead – but that is irrelevant. What I want or do not want is not necessarily what is beneficial.
    I myself have not researched the statistics, but I suspect that these gentlemen have done their homework.
    You are not “barbaric” for holding your views. I admire your tenacity.
    I know nothing about your past or your story. Neither does anyone. Perhaps you have strong feelings about this for personal reasons.
    Some of the comments by your adversaries in this dialogue sound harsh and insensitive to my ears.
    A lot of people think capital punishment is a good idea; you aren’t alone. That does not make them brutes.



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  • I’m gonna throw another rock into this pond, see what happens:

    High Chair vs Electric Chair.

    Hypothesis: Male circumcision promotes a society of increased callousness, increased violence, decreased empathy, decreased trust, among the male population.

    Discuss. And yes, Hitler’s Germany would be a counterexample before anyone bothers.

    Mods, this IS relevant to the Death Penalty. Or if not, I’m sure I’ll be corrected rapidly.



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  • Stardusty Psyche
    Jan 30, 2016 at 11:01 pm

    Marco, and all the other good folks here who have been gracious enough to engage me here, I strongly urge you to look up the word “deterrent”. I prefer the Oxford dictionary for its incisive explanations:

    Nothing “works” as a deterrent in the sense that all potential criminals will be successfully deterred. You clearly have not read the definition of the word “deterrent”.

    Prison is a deterrent, yet we have people in prison. Your logic is astonishingly poor.

    The effectiveness of a deterrent has many input factors.
    The likelihood of detection. The resources committed to enforcement. The reliability of the legal procedures. The level of protection afforded to witnesses. The levels of corruption in the system.

    To simplistically correlate the existence of a particular punishment to a deterrent effect is flawed thinking, even before we look at other factors like effectiveness in preventing re-offending!

    The main fault in US systems, is the pervading view, that last minute brute-force and stupidity, is a substitute for organised community systems to reduce the problems caused by criminal activity.

    It is the big-gun-small-brain mentality, which hopes to belatedly impress by using force in the absence of social planning.



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  • SD: Marco, and all the other good folks here who have been gracious enough to engage me here, I strongly urge you to look up the word “deterrent”. I prefer the Oxford dictionary for its incisive explanations: 
deterrent 
/dəˈtərənt/ 
1A thing that discourages or is intended to discourage someone from doing something. Note that the deterrent quality of any discouragement does not guarantee that all individuals will be sufficiently discouraged as to refrain.

    SD, I am sure you can take it as read that there is not a single contributor here who does not understand the meaning of the word ‘deterrent’. No amount of reposting your dictionary definition or insisting that the death penalty must be an effective one will help your case in the face of data showing that both countries and states that have abolished the death penalty have the better outcomes in terms of homicide rates. And before you start jumping up and down about there simply being less homicide in those countries and states in the first place, please read this comment to the end, as that is not a mystery either.

    SD: People consider the consequences of their actions, even when they are very angry. They try to cover up their crimes, and if the don’t think they can get away with it, or the potential consequences are perceived as prohibitively severe they are successfully deterred.

    Trying to cover up a crime already committed has no bearing on whether the criminal weighed up the pros and cons of committing it in the first place. As for the rest of your contentions here, again, no matter how often you repeat them, they are not supported by the evidence. I suggest you follow the link from my first comment: http://deathpenaltycurriculum.org/student/c/about/arguments/testimony1b.htm. But since I doubt you will, here are the main points (there is a link to fuller analysis via the link).

    “Persons who commit murder and other crimes of personal violence
    either may or may not premeditate their crimes.

    When crime is planned, the criminal ordinarily concentrates on escaping detection, arrest, and conviction. The threat of even the severest punishment will not discourage those who expect to escape detection and arrest. It is
    impossible to imagine how the threat of any punishment could prevent a
    crime that is not premeditated….

    Most capital crimes are committed in the heat of the moment. Most capital crimes are committed during moments of great emotional stress or under the influence of drugs or alcohol, when logical thinking has been suspended. In such cases, violence is inflicted by persons heedless of the consequences to themselves as well as to others….

    If, however, severe punishment can deter crime, then long-term imprisonment is severe enough to deter any
    rational person from committing a violent crime.

    The vast
    preponderance of the evidence shows that the death penalty is no more
    effective than imprisonment in deterring murder and that it may even
    be an incitement to criminal violence. Death-penalty states as a group
    do not have lower rates of criminal homicide than non-death-penalty
    states….

    On-duty police officers do not suffer a higher rate of
    criminal assault and homicide in abolitionist states than they do in
    death-penalty states. Between l973 and l984, for example, lethal
    assaults against police were not significantly more, or less, frequent
    in abolitionist states than in death-penalty states. There is ‘no
    support for the view that the death penalty provides a more effective
    deterrent to police homicides than alternative sanctions. Not for a
    single year was evidence found that police are safer in jurisdictions
    that provide for capital punishment.’ (Bailey and Peterson,
    Criminology (1987))

    Prisoners and prison personnel do not suffer a
    higher rate of criminal assault and homicide from life-term prisoners
    in abolition states than they do in death-penalty states. Between 1992
    and 1995, 176 inmates were murdered by other prisoners; the vast
    majority (84%) were killed in death penalty jurisdictions. During the
    same period about 2% of all assaults on prison staff were committed by
    inmates in abolition jurisdictions. Evidently, the threat of the death
    penalty ‘does not even exert an incremental deterrent effect over the
    threat of a lesser punishment in the abolitionist states.’ (Wolfson,
    in Bedau, ed., The Death Penalty in America, 3rd ed. (1982))

    Actual experience thus establishes beyond a reasonable doubt that the death
    penalty does not deter murder. No comparable body of evidence
    contradicts that conclusion.”

    Marco – “So there are things a state can do to reduce homicide rates that would make killing its citizens unnecessary? ”
    SD – In a utopian dream world where government solves social ills, yes. In the real world, not so much.

    This may come as a shock to you, SD, but Western European and Scandinavian countries are very much part of the real world. They are neither dreams nor utopias. I am not trying to suggest that they are either perfect or uniformly successful in all respects. A comparative study of US vs Western European & Scandinavian societies will, however, supply the evidence that caring societies that accept they have a responsibility to all their members and that take steps to improve social inclusion and access to decent education, housing, healthcare and opportunities for all have significantly better outcomes when it comes to delinquency, health, educational attainment, social cohesion, teenage pregnancy, domestic violence, family breakdown and, yes, crime in general, including murder in particular. Phil Rimmer has posted links to such data in past discussions and would, I am sure, fish them out again for you if you are interested. (Are you?)

    We don’t have to rely on our hunches here, SD. The experiment has been conducted for several decades now. The results are out. On just about any social measure you care to take, societies that adopt the Western European/Scandinavian model do better than the USA.

    You accept in your reply above that there are steps that governments could take that would result in fewer homicides; but you also seem to view that prospect with contempt. You apparently prefer to keep all the social ills prevalent in the US, and merely execute those citizens who prove too inconvenient, than to take steps that have been shown to reduce the problem in the first place. You cling to your laisser faire philosophy in the teeth of far better outcomes in those countries where reducing social ills is viewed as a primary role of government, and that live far less uneasily with themselves as a result.

    Why dismiss this approach, given its evident success elsewhere? Why is it less moral and less desirable to take steps to minimise the social conditions that are known to lead to thwarted lives and greater criminality and vastly reduced social cohesion; than it is to ignore those conditions and simply execute those who – poorly educated, socially excluded, with inadequate access to healthcare, disproportionately likely to be drug or alcohol-dependent, disproportionately likely to have no job and no realistic chance of a job, disproportionately likely to be arrested and, if arrested, disproportionately likely to be shot in the process, and, supposing they survive the arrest process and live long enough to make it to trial, disproportionately likely to be convicted and, if convicted, disproportionately likely to be sentenced to ferociously long jail terms or death – have somehow failed to live up to the great American dream?

    Others have accused you of being ideological or even biblical in your approach. Your latest reply to me inclines me to that view too. The fact you dismiss the more empathetic, more socially inclusive model as a utopian dream, despite the fact that it can be shown to achieve far better outcomes than your preferred one, does indeed suggest you are basing your arguments on ideology rather than evidence.

    And whether or not you personally consider yourself religious, your attitude to the alleged deterrent effect of the death penalty really is full of the echo of those people who constantly allege – again, without the slightest evidence to support their view (“but it’s obvious, isn’t it?”) – that, without the threat of hellfire and damnation, there is nothing to stop us all spending our lives stealing and raping and killing. You seem to view certain people as irredeemably and inevitably evil – a concept that will be completely familiar to believers in Original Sin.

    But the division of people into ‘good’ and ‘bad’, ‘righteous’ and ‘sinners’, ‘deserving to live’ and ‘deserving to die’ is immoral, inadequate and impoverished on so many levels. It ignores everything we now know from psychology and criminology, as well as from our evolution as social animals, and simply has nothing to contribute to the solution of complex social challenges.



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  • Some of the comments by your adversaries in this dialogue sound harsh and insensitive to my ears.

    Yet discussions about life and death and the essence of what it is to live a moral life are impoverished without the valuations of passion and passion’s perspectives.

    Perspective is also a factor in arguing the model. SP’s model is simplistic and parochial and excludes far too much of the varieties of human psychology and the complexities of social mechanics. It ignores the simple causal relationships demonstrated by epidemiologists Wilkinson and Pickett of the roots of crime in societal unfairness and inequality, etc., etc.

    Dan, neither you nor I let each other off the hook on things we feel morally obliged to state. Given that there may well exist an audience of unwittingly cruel onlookers we must make passionate pleas for the greater perspective against the parochial.



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  • @SP re: Interview with a monster

    This man has thought it through long before he committed any crimes. I have done the same. I have imagined a day when I have had to defend my family and what I would do. I have also imagined the consequences and decided I would rather die than spend my life in prison. I have thought that spending it in solitude would be best, afraid of others and best kept away from them. Afraid of the anger. Worked out that if they didn’t kill me or isolate me, I would have to kill again in order to get isolation. Never having had isolation or anywhere near any of these experiences, my Hollywood like imagination has come up with an idiotic plan of whatifs. It can sometimes be enhanced by having silly conversations with childish friends……

    The ‘detterent’, for me, in that case is not death but incarceration. Death is my friend. Your example, therefore, does not make sense.



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  • We cannot measure deterrence by the number of people in jail alone,
    rather the number of people who did not commit the crime versus the
    number of people who did. That is the true measure of the
    effectiveness of a deterrent, the ratio of successes to failures.

    You are trying to negate a number we have got with a number that we cannot get. The fact is that all other countries have a lower number than the US in spite of not having the death penalty. These are the numbers that are important not a number we can’t obtain.



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  • Olgun, you seem like a really great guy. I love all your comments. You are a man of impeccable judgment, a man of compassion, and wit, and a very knowledgable man. Enjoy the day.



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  • 179
    Stardusty Psyche says:

    Yes Len, I do have a question, what precisely is your point?

    From your link I see
    United States of America 2 217 000 (prison population)

    How does this statistic somehow demonstrate that capital punishment is, as you claim, “biblical”?



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  • 180
    Stardusty Psyche says:

    Hi Phil,
    “Somewhere, sometime you need to make an argument from statistics that the deterrence of the death penalty actually is working. ”
    Why? I have already discussed the impossibility of gathering the key component of such a statistic, the number of people who seriously considered murder but did not because they were successfully deterred.

    As for comparing non-capital punishment states to capital punishment states there are so many variables that are impossible to control for that. again, meaningful statistics are simply not available.

    “Your claim that obviously it must…is turning you into a time waster”
    In the absence of meaningful statistics I turn to logic. Sorry if you consider that to be a waste of time.

    “Threats of death are poorly effective against psychopaths”
    True, deterrents do not work for some people, which in no way negates them as deterrents.

    ” because you allow such inequality to blossom and rather than fix it you police it.”
    Workin on it, been workin on it for a long time, still have a ways to go, hopefully we will get there some day.

    But just in case you think this is all about black kids and inequality I will remind you that a lot of regular old white guys get executed too.



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  • 181
    Stardusty Psyche says:

    Hi Dan,
    ” I too am opposed to capital punishment, as I think that the taking of a life diminishes us all and is just too damned easy. This sort of thing perpetuates a culture that is already vastly indifferent to the suffering of others, is way too condemnatory, and that has always been, for the most part, unwilling to address the underlying problems, or acknowledge the conditions, that give rise to violent crime.”
    Ok, fine, that is your subjective view of how we ought to improve the tenor of our society. I have no objective means to prove or disprove your viewpoint, and about half the states have voters who agree with you.

    BTW, I am quite content to “get it from all sides”. I prefer to test my views amongst those who do not agree.



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  • Hi Stardusty Psyche,

    SP: [regarding ‘justice’ for victims] I am not aware of any absolutely provable meaning for justice or any moral judgement.

    Neither am I. It’s a question about ethics (moral philosophy – concepts of right and wrong conduct) and morality (standards of behaviour, principles of right and wrong).

    If we were to agree on certain fundamental principles of morality then we might be able to navigate our way …

    This is the role of the rule of law in society. We may ‘feel’ that a certain rule is not quite right, but we agree to be bound by those rules because the alternative is anarchy and summary ruling by those who want to bully. To reach agreement on those rules we either accept Ruler dictat, or we employ social structures like democracy.

    … the principles we had mutually agreed to would themselves be devoid of demonstrable objectivity …

    Let’s take just such a principle: Killing another human being is wrong.

    It seems to me that this principle is objective: Neutral, fair, just, open-minded, unemotional, etc..

    It is not a universal principle, we quickly realise that to defend us our soldiers will have to set aside this principle, and that victims of violence may have no option but to violate the principle in order to survive (the defence of self-defence). But those nuances, that recognition that the principle requires flexibility, does not in any way undermine its objectivity.

    Indeed; when we want to judge whether someone has stretched the law to breaking point what do we do? We go back to the principle and us it to measure the actions of the accused – because the principle is objective.

    I can only give you my non-provable personal sense of justice …

    I will assert … that in no way objectively proves the validity of said sense of justice.

    You appear to be saying that you’re not prepared to think objectively about social moral principles? This is what moral philosophers do every day. We should consider what they have to say.

    Those of us who survive when others die unnecessarily are left with a legacy. We cannot be taking our citizenship seriously, and we cannot call ourselves human, if we’re not considering what makes life worth living. We therefore ought to be considering a lot more than I feel that this is kind of the way to go, and I’m not willing to consider alternative viewpoints because that’s anti-justice, antisocial anti-human and anti-life.

    It is just that when a perpetrator maliciously deprives an innocent of his or her life such a person ought to be deprived of life in return.

    Yes I understand that is your position, Stardusty, my question was designed to give you full flexibility to spell out why?

    In my sensibilities, in my view of fairness, that is fair.

    I’m having difficulty understanding you, Stardusty, it sounds like you’re saying that by fair you mean it restores some kind of balance in the lives of the secondary victims, such as grieving family?

    I can only work from reports. All the reports that I’ve ever seen from the families of victims is that the death of the perpetrator made no real difference to their lives in the longer term – it cannot bring back the true, primary, victims … the dead.

    In addition: We agree, I presume, the above principle. Fair or not, killing someone violates that principle. In this way judicially-sanctioned killing is murder. This is the objective truth. Until I see your answer to the why question – and I’m convinced by the ethics of that argument that judicial/political murder is another example of required nuance – then this form of murder is as immoral as any other.

    SP: A fair and proportional sentence for those factually guilty of a capital crime
    .
    SoW: What does that mean?

    My apologies. Your response, Stardusty, shows that my question was not clear. Given that many judges would have defended their court’s findings as factual when finding murderers guilty, only to see those judgements overturned at a later date, what do you mean by factual?

    As for proportionality please allow me to bend the strict mathematical expression of a proportion as a fixed ratio to mean at least a monotonic function. An increase in severity of crime, in my sensibilities, ought result in an increase of severity of sentence.

    I’m sorry Stardusty, but that makes no sense to me – unless your saying that you want to see a return to judicial murder-by-torture? Those who caused their victims pain before death should receive a similar level of pain, is that your view? You want to see a return to ‘breaking on the wheel’?

    Thus, the most severe crimes, are justly met with the most severe sentence.

    This goes back to my unanswered why question plus, now I’ve had time to think about it, what about people who are mentally impaired?

    Peace.



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  • 183
    Stardusty Psyche says:

    Hi Marco
    “impossible to imagine how the threat of any punishment could prevent a
    crime that is not premeditated….

    Most capital crimes are committed in the heat of the moment.”

    Precisely my point. Those crimes that are actually committed are done so in a manner that shows the individual was not deterred. That seems to me to be rather elementary logic.

    Those that were deterred did not commit a murder in the heat of the moment.

    I know you don’t very much appreciate me lecturing you on things like dictionary definitions and elementary use of negation in logic but it really seems to be in order in this context.

    If we are not willing to use words in their most commonly accepted manner, and are willing to apply the principles of logical negation to our sentences, then I don’t see how we can ever communicate meaningfully.

    “Western European and Scandinavian countries are very much part of the real world. They are neither dreams nor utopias.”
    Nor are they the USA. For me, the Bush administration was an 8 year embarrassment. I shudder to think of what the rest of the world thinks about a nation that puts forth the likes of Sarah Palin and Donal Trump as major candidates for office. But, we are not entirely without hope, from time to time we elect people who are thoroughly competent.

    Humanistic compassion has swung too far in Scandinavia. Feminists here sometimes assert we live in a rape culture, but in Scandinavia good intentions have allowed in a population of men who truly are a rape culture.

    So, I would not wish to emulate Scandinavia wholesale, although we yanks could indeed learn a thing or two from them in terms of social services.

    “You seem to view certain people as irredeemably and inevitably evil”
    On determinism that would make an interesting discussion, but on a more practical level I would say no to “inevitable” in most cases and yes to “irredeemably” in far too many cases.

    It’s not so much that I have contempt for the social justice improvements you suggest, rather, I see them as long term possibilities with limited chance of being implemented successfully or any time soon given where we are starting from.

    “But the division of people into ‘good’ and ‘bad’, ‘righteous’ and ‘sinners’, ‘deserving to live’ and ‘deserving to die’ is immoral, inadequate and impoverished on so many levels.”
    People commit crimes of varying degrees and proportional sentences are given to them according to the severity of their crimes. Supposedly that ignores “criminology, as well as from our evolution as social animals”, but I assert the opposite, that proportional sentencing is a cornerstone of just criminology and is a product of our evolution as social animals intending to maintain our social order.



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  • Some seem to be missing the point, that diagnosing a mental health problem, is not the same as providing society with a solution to it or giving protection from the damage it causes!

    While it is said that “violence is the last resort of the incompetent”, proposals purporting to address serious problems by ideologically throwing unlimited buckets of other peoples’ money at them, without any assured outcome, or coherent budgeting, is equally so!



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  • 185
    Stardusty Psyche says:

    Hi Olgun,
    There is not much one can say to a person who declares “death is my friend”.

    Indeed, what would ordinarily be a threat can instead become an incentive for those with a death wish.

    Sorry Olgun, I don’t know what troubles you so deeply but I wish you all the best.



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  • 186
    Stardusty Psyche says:

    David R Allen
    “Autoeroticist”

    Well, that attribution seems to be about the best you can do, so yes, “thoroughly discredited” stands.

    Lacking rational responses to my detailed explanations of your logical fallacies you resort to sexual innuendo. Not impressive argumentation.



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  • 187
    Stardusty Psyche says:

    Hi Len,
    “Given the US is the both the murder and the execution capital of the developed world, it appears imprisonment fails to deter crime or killing.”

    Some have objected to my reference to the definition of “deterrent” but given the widespread misuse of the term here I really must reiterate my suggestion you look the word up in the dictionary.

    A deterrent is a discouragement, not a guarantee.

    I really am surprised by the lack of logic in the statement I have quoted from you. Has it occurred to you that if we did not have the sentences we do have then, as bad as crime is, it would be even worse?

    The fact crime is not sufficiently discouraged as to be universally prevented does not mean that the discouragements did not successfully discourage those who did not commit the crime.

    Of course discouragement did not work for those who have in fact committed the crime.

    I would not be repeating this elementary logic so often if my friends here could find a way to comprehend it.



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  • I’ve had trouble with adding comments at the end of this thread.

    I think I have it figured out now — (edit) Nope, still in the wrong place..
    I don’t know if the only way people read these is via the “latest comment” link, if so it’s very easy for a topic to vanish off the menu.

    So this is more or less a repeat of one that got lost in the noise above:

    Noting the comment that the problem of violent crime is better fixed in the High Chair than the Electric Chair, I feel it appropriate to raise for discussion this hypothesis:

    Male circumcision promotes a society with increased callousness, increased violence, decreased empathy, decreased trust, among the male population.

    Of course there’s a spread of these tendencies, but the hypothesis is that the entire curve is shifted relative to societies that don’t do it.

    Has any research ever been done on this?



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  • Male circumcision promotes a society with increased callousness, increased violence, decreased empathy, decreased trust, among the male population.

    I think the Ashkenazi Jews in particular, doing more for Enlightenment culture per er head than any other group might beg to differ…



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  • Has it occurred to you that if we did not have the sentences we do have then, as bad as crime is, it would be even worse?

    As you sow, so shall you reap. Your horrendous crime statistics go back 70 plus years. The American Dream has meant that most of your population live in worse poverty than the average civilized democratic free west. A filthy rich, and an impoverished poor. Because you have no decent Social Security, Education, Health Care et al because it is communism. It’s your fault you’re poor. If you don’t behave, we’ll lock you up for life or kill you. The ultimate deterrent fails.

    High chair PS. High chair. And, you’ve failed to address this point in all of your repetition.

    You’ve learned nothing from prohibition. You could have a shoot on sight policy and still your crime epidemic would get worse. You could become North Korea or East Germany, the ultimate police deterrent states, but you would still have crime. Do you really want to keep spiraling up the deterrent button and live like those other failed states. Britain tried to solve its crime problem and failed, by transporting all of its criminals to Australia to settle the new colony. Crime is a social problem. Fix your social problem and you will do more to fix your crime than any biblical deterrent, now matter how you decide to define it.

    It doesn’t matter how many times you repeat an argument, it still doesn’t make it true. The jury of the RDFRS contributors rejects your argument, almost unanimously. Does that tell you something. It’s not because we don’t understand your argument, we just find it fails to justify itself. Now that’s what I call thoroughly discredited



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  • 192
    Stardusty Psyche says:

    Olgun,
    Ok, now I really don’t know where you are coming from, but you seemed to take the video I posted and turn it into a first person stream of consciousness, so I did my best to respond appropriately. If you had some other point, fine.

    Irrespective, here is something very specific you did say:
    “Your example, therefore, does not make sense.”

    My example was posted directly under a question from Marco and is a direct response to it.

    Marco – “What is the recidivism rate for prisoners imprisoned for life without parole?”
    SP- “Very high. Violent criminals are likely to continue to commit crimes while incarcerated, by attacking inmates, attacking correctional staff, and conducting external criminal enterprises from behind bars.”

    (example)
    James Broadnax
    4:25 “If they give me life I’m gonna kill somebody else”
    “I can’t do no mfing life, I’m gonna go crazy”
    “pick one, or you gonna have some more bodies”
    “they better put me on death row”

    So I say to you both, Marco and Olgun, lifers continue to commit crime. They attack other inmates, attack correctional staff, and conduct external crimes by calling shots from behind bars.

    Pelican Bay is a modern maximum security facility specifically engineered and built fairly recently for that purpose. California is technically a death penalty state, but, the process has ground to a virtual halt with hundreds of convicts on death row with virtually no real prospect of ever being executed. I would like to see that logjam cleared and continue on with executions of the factually guilty.

    At Pelican Bay inmate crime is a daily battle, another example of my point to Marco and you.
    Watch this National Geographic documentary and then tell me lifer crime is not an issue capital punishment can and does solve.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GenP7gC6x7g



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  • more polite

    In this forum, with have robust debates. We have heated debates. But in my humble experience, arrogance is very rare. Sadly with expressions like this, thoroughly discredited, visceral arrogance was on display. It may be the de rigueur on Facebook of Fox News forums, but I consider it bad manners in the RDFRS forums. That’s what got up my nose. Arrogance is the ultimate sin in Australian conversation. No one claims to have thoroughly discredited anyone’s argument in here. You might have a killer reference. You might mount a brilliantly reasoned dismissal of anothers point of view, but to stand over the slain discussion forum opponent, foot on the slain head, spear in hand, chin to the sky and claim thoroughly discredited is poor form.

    I would ask PS to reflect a moment on this. Olgun is a much respected commentator in this forum.



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  • Moderator’s message

    Indeed. In this forum we value courteous, thoughtful discussion and, while dissent and disagreement are welcome, there is no reason for them to become hostile or rude. The aim is light, not heat. Things do work differently here than on the majority of other internet discussion sites, and it can take newcomers a little while to adjust. SP, the Terms, Conditions and Privacy document linked to at the foot of every page describes the ethos and rules of the site in more detail, and it would be helpful if you would take a look.

    The mods



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  • bonnie
    Jan 31, 2016 at 6:24 pm

    Yep, stinks getting wished to the cornfield; which ironically, somewhat pertains to the subject at hand.

    The crops! The strange weather! The floods, storms, and droughts!—And all along you thought it was climate change.

    -Billy Mumy aka you-know-who



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  • 200
    Stardusty Psyche says:

    David, I have indeed reflected much on a variety of subjects and the recent words of this man I greatly respect are presently foremost in my thoughts:

    “If our community is about anything, it is that reasoned discussion is the best way to work through disagreements.” — Richard Dawkins in response to being de-platformed by NECSS

    That’s what got up my nose

    So
    “brilliantly reasoned dismissal of anothers point of view”
    is something one might reasonably have accomplished but
    “thoroughly discredited the notions”
    is apparently an incitement to umbrage.

    Those 2 statements seem to me to be about the same thing, but I think it is worthwhile to recall that when considering British English, Australian English, and American English, it is entirely possible to say something quite bland in one vernacular only to have it received as scandalous or crude or insulting in another.

    A number of words have been rolled my way here:
    uncivilized
    barbaric
    Autoeroticist
    BS
    I mean, whatever, if you have some rational arguments to make kindly share them with me. I always consider it a favor to be demonstrated to be factually incorrect; that makes me a more knowledgeable person.

    My 2 most recent video postings go directly to one of my assertions for the value of capital punishment, that the recidivism rate for executed criminals is precisely zero.

    It is widely believed that life without parole accomplishes the same thing. It does not.

    lifers continue to commit very serious crimes, against other inmates with lesser sentences who deserve a chance at rehabilitation, against correctional staff who are honorable public service employees, and against members of the outside public by the conduct of vicious outside criminal enterprises from within even a modern maximum security facility.

    Execution provides the public safety service of ending these crimes with certainty.



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  • Never once raised here, but given the title of RD’s most famous work (No, not TGD), it may worth adding this:

    Apart from the kill-or-not-to-kill for Very Serious Crimes, would it smack too much of Nazi Eugenics to consider an exceptional penalty for doing what male lions often do – kill their mate’s existing cubs, making way for the propagation of their own genes. Penalty, if this kind of behaviour is truly to be discouraged and eventually rendered extinct, would be to imagine there’s a gene for that, and terminate it: by preventing the guilty party from any more breeding. Neuter, sterilise, de-sex (as they say for cats and dogs), or SP’s favourite method, execution, or just keep locked up so no sperm escapes to fertilise an egg. Nothing personal, it’s not punishment, it’s just improving the gene pool.

    Maybe similar policies towards the extreme kinds of sex-crime, the ones that currently receive a long prison term or execution, depending on jurisdiction. Treat the gene, not the gene-vehicle.

    And yes, any government plan to control breeding smacks of eugenics, given a Bad Name by some Very Bad People. Anyone care to discuss?



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  • 203
    Stardusty Psyche says:

    David R Allen
    We agree to disagree. On to the next topic.

    If your implication is that the discussion is a wash, or we have concluded mutually that all subjects mentioned are subjective and thus defy definitive argument then I, for one, do not agree.

    The only items on which I agree to disagree, in that sense, are assertions of morality. Morals are relative. I know of no absolute basis for morality of any sort.

    I further agree that this thread is long and old and likely all concerned would prefer to move one.

    But, my specific assertions stand.

    The end of the death penalty in the USA is not an inevitability.
    What is needed here is a standard of natural certainty so that we can say with natural certainty all those executed are factually guilty of the capital crime.
    Capital punishment is proportional, and therefore fair and just, as well as a moral imperative of civilization.
    It is a strong deterrent, which means a discouragement, or a disincentive.
    It provided powerful leverage in perpetrator cooperation.
    It protects correctional officers and inmates.
    The recidivism rate for executed criminals is precisely zero.

    It has been objected to that I use the term “thoroughly discredited”. In the narrow sense I intended, that of demonstrating particular arguments to be logically fallacious or factually incorrect, I thought the term was appropriate, but I recognize the need to avoid language perceived as inflammatory when other words will do just as well.

    Hopefully this way of putting it will be more acceptable. Each and every counter argument to my specific claims has been clearly demonstrated by me to be logically fallacious and/or factually incorrect.

    I see this thread has grown to over 200, so understandably most have probably already moved on. I will check back from time to time to see if anyone finds objection in my above statements.

    Else, many thanks for the time and efforts of those who have graciously engaged me here.



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  • Hi SD

    Your participation here is, I think, welcome, as a Dissenting Voice (or Minority Report, if you will). Not a minority in your own country, I don’t suppose, but a minority on this site. I’ve not addressed your comments directly, so please, let me have a go. I’m not presenting any arguments against what you’ve said, just summing up my own views, after reading (most of) this very lengthy page.

    In answer to your concise summary of your position, here’s my concise response:

    The end of the death penalty in the USA is not an inevitability.

    agree, I’ll not be holding my breath, whatever I might wish for

    What is needed here is a standard of natural certainty so that we can say with natural certainty all those executed are factually guilty of the capital crime.

    agree, given the above. Better verdicts all round would be nice too.

    Capital punishment is proportional, and therefore fair and just, as well as a moral imperative of civilization.

    agree, on the proportional part. Eye for eye, life for life.

    disagree on the “moral imperative”. That sounds like it belongs somewhere on the Weasely-Bullshit Spectrum (WBSS) and it undermines the rest of your case, hinting at what others interpreted as an underlying agenda of the biblical/revenge kind.

    It is a strong deterrent, which means a discouragement, or a disincentive.

    disagree, other posters have cited information that (at least) casts doubt on that assertion

    It provided powerful leverage in perpetrator cooperation.

    not convinced of that

    It protects correctional officers and inmates.

    not convinced of that either

    The recidivism rate for executed criminals is precisely zero.

    agree, obviously.



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  • Each and every counter argument to my specific claims has been clearly demonstrated by me to be logically fallacious and/or factually incorrect.

    In your opinion. The forum consensus thinks otherwise. Hence, we agree to disagree.

    In relation to the use of terms, if I might offer some sincere constructive feedback. It made you sound arrogant and aggressive. You may have a back ground in being a Facebook warrior or some other such forum where such repartee is normal. Here the discussions tend to be strong, but polite. I offer this critique in an honest attempt to welcome you on board. I have read material you post on other subjects and I think you will enjoy these debates.

    I think it is a privilege to exchange views with people from all around the world who are obviously very smart. I’ve learned so much, especially for a kid from way out back on the farms, to have the chance to chat with minds from all over the world, with expertise in subject matter I didn’t know existed. Wait till we get a physics question. Answers better than birthday presents.

    I have moved on. NeoDarwinian is trying to help me understand the American Presidential race, but I am a poor student.



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