What the Pope Sees (and Doesn't) in America


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Selene:

~ My 'PS' meant that Beck is a 'conservative' NOT on a known-as 'conservative' network-channel (aka 'FOX'); he's a token conservative on a known-as 'liberal' network-channel (aka 'CNN'.)

LLAP

J:D

Ok. Got it, "The Clinton News Network". Thanks. I will be weighing in on this issue because I have a number of Muslim clients, e.g., Palistinian Egyptians, Persian Iranians and Indonesian. Many of them have become friends. One of them went to an "Intra-Muslim", private dinner with the wonderful and ever popular Akmadenijad in his appearance at the UN before his most recent dog and pony show this year. Their insights may be valuable to this discussion.

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Selene:

~ Am interested in your follow-up on this.

MSK:

~ Sorry, but, am really more interested in what I DON'T see (or hear) in 'the mainstream media' (I don't think the m-s-m is hiding anything that might be 'pro'-Islam oriented) than in what cyber-links (such as you've given) may show varied ones arguing. I've read your links: interesting, yes; persuasive (or relevent to my points), no.

~ Re how 'Moderates' are viewed (when they can be distinguished from fanatics), such is not resultant from what cyber-links are readable by us 1st/2nd-worlders who are Internet-savvy. They're viewed by TV. Their dearth, therein, of distinguishing themselves specifically from the ilk of Bin Laden's is what stands out.

LLAP

J:D

PS: If 'they' don't advertisingly distinguish themselves as 'separate'...how can anyone else identify them as such?

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MSK:

~ You ask...

Which is it? Are the moderates irrelevent or are they a problem to you? You have claimed both.

~ Yes, I have...'claimed both'; in different, and clearly delineated, CONTEXTS.

~ The 'Moderates' are a problem to me...in their complaints about 'us' non-Muslims seeing 'them' (mods, or, Muslims-in-general) as not seeing 'them' as compatriots (of some sort or another) of 'ours', whilst their apologists demand reasons for our not seeing them as such, WHILST, also, these 'mods' show no complaints about their brethren fanatics who murder their heretical disagreers.

~ These 'Mods' are a prob to me by advertising their irrelevency to our (aka: non-Muslim) prob with their fanatical 'Fund' brethren via not distinguishing themselves from the (need I stress: *your* term?) 'fanatics,' yet complaining that us non-Muslims do not see 'them' as...peaceful.

LLAP

J:D

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... these 'mods' show no complaints about their brethren fanatics who murder their heretical disagreers.

John,

We disagree on much about this, but that statement above is just plain incorrect. You have even admitted such in other posts of yours.

Commitment to factual accuracy includes context as one element. Context is not a license to ignore facts.

Michael

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MSK:

~ You say that my statement you select is incorrect. Ok; back it up. Quote me a M-S-M statement from a noted 'Muslim' representative who names NAMES (rather than give a safely mere generic polemic 'against violence' comment) re who the 'fanatics' are that this/these Muslim 'Moderates' are ready to condemn.

~ Without doing so, your accusation that I'm 'incorrect' is obviously unsupported/unestablished/unshown/undemonstrated (aka: it's merely asserted; shame)...and, I must add, seemingly emotionally arbitrary. And, to be redundant...it itself is therefore...incorrect.

LLAP

J:D

PS: We're talking supposed 'Moderates' here...not the ones the fanatics already have a hit advertised for, right?

PPS: Where have I 'admitted such'?

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John,

Hell, that's easy. On a simple Google search, here is the very first article (on Salon) that popped up: The reason we haven't noticed American Muslims condemning terrorism by Paul M. Barrett dated March 1, 2007. From that article, after mentioning several pronouncements by high profile Muslims since 2005 unconditionally condemning terrorism and calling on Muslims to boycot imams who preach it:

This new bluntness is, of course, laudable and welcome. That it took CAIR, ISNA and other national organizations until mid-2005 to clarify their antiterrorism stance, sifting out distracting qualifications, is disappointing and a partial explanation for why non-Muslim Americans claim they've heard only silence on the topic. The other part of the explanation is that we haven't been listening closely enough to Muslims like Khaled Abou El Fadl, who have been unequivocally rejecting terrorism all along.

Pipes doesn't like Khaled Abou El Fadl, but George Bush sure does (Bush appointed him as a "commissioner on the US Commission on International Religious Freedom" according to the Wikipedia article on him).

But for an uncontroversial moderate Muslim who speaks out, how about Irshad Manji, with a best seller and enormously popular PBS documentary? She interacts with a reformed Islamist terrorist (but moderate Muslim and quite famous in his own right), Hassan Butt. You can find several references and links to her right here on OL, starting here.

Or how about someone even more high profile? How about Benazir Bhutto? Her recent pronouncements are unequivocally against Islamist terrorism.

I could go on and on and on. This merely makes a tiny scratch in the surface. It is so easy to see all this. All one has to do is want to look. Facts are facts, regardless of how anyone feels about them.

Michael

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... these 'mods' show no complaints about their brethren fanatics who murder their heretical disagreers.

John,

We disagree on much about this, but that statement above is just plain incorrect. You have even admitted such in other posts of yours.

PPS: Where have I 'admitted such'?

John,

Here:

~ I see no reason to be that 'tolerant' of a belief system where its 'moderates' wish me to pay more attention to their complaints about our 'intolerance' of their beliefs (since their beliefs are supposedly 'misrepresented' by anomolous hijackers) than to their rabid brethren. As long as the moderates complain about intolerant non-Muslims, they merely distract us from our need to pay attention to their brothered StormTrooper kamikaze-directors...and the quotings used supporting them.

"More attention than" does not mean "no attention" for the lesser thing being compared. Also:

~ I'm aware of the 'omission's (including the little heard from Sufis). I'm not aware of the 'work'ing of it.

If you are aware of the Sufis and not aware of their radical anti-Islamist stance that they have always held, then you are not aware of the Sufis. I took you at your word that you were aware of them.

Michael

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For anyone truly interested in moderate Muslims condemning Islamist terrorism, here are a few more sites from the Google search I did:

Facts not Fear, especially the Muslim Condemnations of Terrorism sequence, which is at Part 10 as of this posting. But there are other items on the blog like Memo to bin Laden: Go to Hell by Muqtedar Khan, which was published widely in the mainstream media in 2003, starting with The Washington Post. Incidentally, see Khan's site, IJTIHAD A Return to Enlightenment, the section entitled "Jihad Against Terror" for more anti-terrorist articles.

AFTERMATH OF THE 9-11 TERRORIST ATTACK - VOICES OF MODERATE MUSLIMS

Here is a post on the Foreign Policy forum that gives a HUGE number of mainstream links of moderate Muslims condemning Islamist terrorism.

American Islamic Forum for Democracy

Muslims Condemn terrorism (This whole blog Unholy Wars is highly interesting.)

Muslims for America

Enough for now. There is oodles more out there.

Michael

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MSK:

~ Not up to it right now, but WILL get back to you on this...in THIS thread. Sorry for a delayed response (and, I know you're waiting on tenterhooks for my repartee :rolleyes: )

~ 'Till then, don't do a breath-hold, ok? ;) :lol:

LLAP

J:D

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  • 4 weeks later...

MSK:

~ Finally, back to you on this.

~ I've re-read what you say that 'I say' I've read, and, your new links. My perspective's not changed...for the reasons I've already given herein.

~ Have *you* read what *I* already said about such 'stand-up-and-be-counted-in-saying-"J'Accuse" writers restricting themselves to blogs and forums in this context, in this thread...vs...saying it on TV or in newspapers/mags (aka M-S-M)? To me, it's the latter which counts (not as much as within mosques, but, what non-Muslim personally knows much about such, even in America?) Yes, SOME have...nowhere near enough, to my view.

2Bcont

LLAP

J:D

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Yes, SOME have...nowhere near enough, to my view.

John,

Some is better than none, and that goes for both them and (now) your acknowledgment. Progress is being made and it is growing. I think it is unstoppable and I am putting my money on the spread of the influence of moderates within the Muslim community.

Michael

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Yes, SOME have...nowhere near enough, to my view.

John,

Some is better than none, and that goes for both them and (now) your acknowledgment. Progress is being made and it is growing. I think it is unstoppable and I am putting my money on the spread of the influence of moderates within the Muslim community.

The way to help them is to beat the crap out of the extremists and not tolerate terrorist sponsoring countries like Saudi Arabia and Iran and Syria.

--Brant

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MSK:

~ All that aside, I'll admit that I may have been a bit ambiguous re my term 'Mods' (contraposited from 'Fundies'). I regard those who HAVE stood up (m-s-m wise) as more worth calling 'Rads', not merely 'Mods.' Whether they be converts from Islam or still Muslims, such stand-up-accusers-of-religious-'brethren' are not (or no longer) mere 'Mods.' --- I'm speaking of course not in terms of their religious interpretations, but of their PUBLIC (besides cyber, see prev post) castigation of their religious-'brethren's attitudes...and actions. Such I do not regard as mere 'Mods'. They put their lives on the line as Rads in doing so (and, as pointed out, some lost theirs). --- Maybe we have a mis-understanding re my meaning of 'Mods.' So be it. --- I've no wish to FURTHER explain/define/discuss/debate/argue/criticize/condemn views on this subject further.

2Bcont

LLAP

J:D

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MSK:

~ Re your concern about my understanding of Sufis, Sunnis, Wahabees, and whatever other splintered sects of Mohammedanism, see my last 2 sentences in the paragraph of my last post.

~ Let us agree to accept mutual disagreement re our views herein, ok?

LLAP

J:D

PS: Do you ever :sleep: ?

PPS: I acknowledge your 'acknowledgment' :rolleyes: of something I've already 'acknowledged' in my earlier posts re 'some.'

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John,

I am willing to put it to rest with only one caveat. Best selling books, documentaries on major broadcast TV channels, etc., count as mainstream media. You insist that only blogs and so forth are involved. There's a lot of stuff out there, but you have to change the channel from Fox News and CNN to see it. Merely saying something does not exist does not make it not exist.

Also, I am not discussing former Muslims who have rejected Islam. I am discussing practicing Muslims.

Michael

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MSK:

~ OK; fine.

~ I ALSO am (er, was) 'discussing' practicing Muslims; those who FOX a-n-d CNN find 'news'-worthy. Such IS the m-sm. PBS, DISCOVERY, etc are worth noting; thank you for pointing your view of the genera 'm-s-m' out, but, such is not what I ever meant (again, a discrepancy on agreement here besides my use of the term 'Mods.') Put simply: such do not stand out to 'the populace', know what I mean? Yes, the main 'media-filters' (whatever bias...at least there's more than one) are where such need to make their msg; otherwise, such is unheard by 'the populace.'

~ As far as 'practicing Muslims' go...I've seen enough of such; get my drift? Worthwhile 'practicers' don't ADVERTISE their 'practicing' anymore than Quakers.

~ Man, you keep sucking me back into this subject; you make me feel like Pacino in one of THE GODFATHER movies: "Just when you think you're getting OUT, they P-U-L-L you back in." :ermm: :cry: :angry:

LLAP

J:D

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MSK:

~ As Cyrano would say, "Thank you, THANK you, THANK YOU...but...no, thank you."

~ However, should you even think of offering (leading?) an anti-Fundamentalist 'jihad' (against such as, oh, that self-made idiotic Sudanese mob [can we say 'Islamic'? or is that too non-PC?] re their blood-lust demand for executing that naively-perplexed British 'teacher')...well...that's another question. --- (Pacino: I know where you were at, even you're being a mere 'actor' therein!)

LLAP

J:D

PS: O-t-other-h, I'd have no problem helping out with a fatwah against 'President' (ahem!) Mahmoud Ahmadinejad...anymore than against Adolf.

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John,

That mob, then the immediate release of the teacher by Sudan's government, was just a bit too convenient for my taste. My BS detector went into overdrive.

I suspect the whole teddy bear thing happened because the lady was a great teacher and this seriously embarrassed some local yokel, thus threatening his standing in the community. Insult to Islam was only a pretext used by some envious mediocrity. After the incident was created, I believe the politicos (on all sides, including our side) leveraged it as much as they could for backstage manipulations and the sensationalist press milked it for all it was worth. The local imams certainly used it to jockey for more influence among their impoverished congregations. I have no doubt lots of money nobody will ever hear about was made with that incident.

Assalamu alaikum.

Michael

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MSK:

~ Re your speculations, same here; ntl, I notice that 'Islamic' mobs stand out in the 'news' (even in m-s-m) lately (like, the past 6-yrs). I wonder why; they all have swords in back of them, or, are the Illuminati (or Secret-Inner-Circle Girl Scouts) behind all this? :lol:

~ Such mobs may have been propagandized into biased reverence of religio-govt authority; but such is not 'brain-washing' nowadays. It's passive acceptance of such, and I have no sympathy for mentally-lazy idiots who've no prob with killing others based on lazily accepted beliefs. They all deserve EXACTLY what they clamored for re that (granted, ignorant also) teacher.

~ Re my last comment about a 'fatwah' put (any anti-Fund Muslims out there?) on Iran's 'President', where's Charles Bronson (er...fictional 'Paul Kersey') or Tom Cruise (er...factual 'Col. Claus von Stuaffenberg) when ya need them? Same place Superman was during 9-11 (the 1st one...so far) I guess: outter space.

("Just when you think you're getting out...")

LLAP

J:D

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  • 12 years later...
On 12/5/2007 at 8:14 PM, Brant Gaede said:

The way to help them is to beat the crap out of the extremists and not tolerate terrorist sponsoring countries like Saudi Arabia and Iran and Syria.

--Brant

From Fox News. Acting DHS secretary says more federal forces could be sent to Portland.

I think I will put this on the old thread which began about the Pope. I had no idea BB wrote so much about the death penalty. Peter

Excerpt from Bill Dwyer below, “It has been claimed that capital punishment cannot deter fanatics who believe they are giving their life for a cause, which may be true.  But there is also good reason to believe that capital punishment does deter some people, and in order to be effective and fair, criminal sanctions must be applied consistently and impartially.  One cannot make exceptions, based on the psychological profile of the killer.”

Excerpt from Barbara Branden below, “The law of the land is that no one in prison can receive the death penalty for what he may do in prison. The result is that in each prison there are eight to ten murders every year, murders both of other inmates and of guards. Many of the prisoners who kill, never have killed before they were imprisoned. Those who commit murder have nothing whatever to fear: it is irrelevant to them whether they are sentenced to serve fifty years or one hundred.”

From William Dwyer To: <Atlantis Subject: ATL: Better that ten guilty men go free... Date: Tue, 12 Jun 2001 15:13:09 -0700. As already mentioned, it was Rand's view that it is better to let ten guilty men go free than to punish one innocent man.  There is some interesting historical precedent for this view, as reflected in the following quotations:

The first is by W.E.B. DuBois: "Daily the Negro is coming more and more to look upon law and justice, not as protecting safeguards, but as sources of humiliation and oppression. The laws are made by men who have little interest in him; they are executed by men who have absolutely no motive for treating the black people with courtesy or consideration; and, finally, the accused law-breaker is tried, not by his peers, but too often by men who would rather punish ten innocent Negroes than let one guilty one escape. W.E.B. DuBois The Souls of Black Folk, 1903. Chapter IX. Of the Sons of Master and Man

This next is by Ulysses S. Grant: "On the 2d of August I was ordered from Washington to live upon the country, on the resources of citizens hostile to the government, so far as practicable. I was also directed to "handle rebels within our lines without gloves," to imprison them, or to expel them from their homes and from our lines. I do not recollect having arrested and confined a citizen (not a soldier) during the entire rebellion. I am aware that a great many were sent to northern prisons, particularly to Joliet, Illinois, by some of my subordinates with the statement that it was my order. I had all such released the moment I learned of their arrest; and finally sent a staff officer north to release every prisoner who was said to be confined by my order. There were many citizens at home who deserved punishment because they were soldiers when an opportunity was afforded to inflict an injury to the National cause. This class was not of the kind that were apt to get arrested, and I deemed it better that a few guilty men should escape than that a great many innocent ones should suffer. Ulysses S. Grant, Personal Memoirs, 1885-86, Chapter XXVII.

From: "George H. Smith" Reply- To: "*Atlantis" Subject: ATL: Some questions about rights and capital punishment Date: Tue, 12 Jun 2001 12:12:01 -0500. I am interested in the question why, if it is just to execute a mass murderer like McVeigh, it would not also be just to torture him as well, in order inflict maximum pain? (E.g., by tearing out his tongue and other chunks of flesh with hot pincers -- a perennial favorite among those Christian Inquisitors who were doing God's work.) Does even a wanton killer have an inalienable right not to be treated in certain ways? Does this killer totally surrender ALL of his rights?  Would it have been unjust, for example, to execute McVeigh by the process of live disembowelment that we saw in the movie "Braveheart"?

In short, does a mass murderer retain ANY of his rights and, if so, what are they? And if he does retain some of his rights -- such as the right *not* to be tortured -- then how is this possible unless he also retains his right to life? For, as Ayn Rand pointed out, this is the most fundamental of all rights; the right to life is that right on which all other rights depend and without which no other rights are possible.

I don't see how the debate on capital punishment can progress without first resolving this fundamental issue. We need to focus on the issue of inalienable rights and their implications for a theory of punishment, including capital punishment. Ghs

From: "Jeff Olson" To: "atlantis" Subject: ATL: Re: Some questions about rights and capital punishment Date: Tue, 12 Jun 2001 12:17:22 -0700. George inquired: <I am interested in the question why, if it is just to execute a mass murderer like McVeigh, it would not also be just to torture him as well, in order inflict maximum pain? Does even a wanton killer have an inalienable right not to be treated in certain ways? Does this killer totally surrender ALL of his rights? Would it have been unjust, for example, to execute McVeigh by the process of live disembowelment that we saw in the movie "Braveheart"?>>

Of course, as George pointed out later in his post, these questions inevitably hinge on rights theory, and in particular, on the merits of the "inalienable rights" argument.  Before I go further, I want to mention that substantive criticism has been addressed to the "inalienable rights" argument by myself, Bill Dwyer, and others (especially John Goodman, in response to George's 1996 capital punishment Liberty article).  George has replied to some of these objections, but not to others, so for me questions remain about his precise reasoning on certain crucial points.  I would like to see these points more thoroughly discussed before embarking on a debate about less foundational issues.

But I think George's questions deserve some preliminary comments. First, one may not need to frame the issue of the proper treatment of criminals in terms of basic rights.  I need not claim, for instance, that a murderer has the right to a clean cell, three square meals a day, humane treatment, etc., in order to argue that such things are reasonable.  Instead of referring to fundamental rights, I may refer, say, to humanitarian motives -- the same kind of motives that would cause me to condemn cruelty to animals without basing the wrongness of such treatment on animals' "inalienable rights."

Perhaps George would not find this rationale very satisfying, and would wish to secure proper treatment of criminals with a more foundational rights justification.  I can appreciate this.  But I would simply point out that we may sensibly object to torture, organ-harvesting, etc., on other grounds -- and that these grounds may prove sufficient to safeguard humanitarian treatment of criminals.

Aside from purely humanitarian motives, I can think of several reasons why gross mistreatment of prisoners in general would be egregious without referring to their "inalienable rights" (or even to basic rights theory). For example, harmful injury to innocents in prison would increase. Regulations governing different levels of abusive treatment for criminals would amount to a bureaucratic nightmare, where fairness would almost certainly be impossible to achieve.

Public torture of criminals would also no doubt encourage far fiercer resistance to capture, putting innocents and law enforcement personnel at increased risk (would soldiers ever peaceably surrender if they knew they were going to be horribly tortured?).  Institutionalized torture would require a cadre of violent, quasi-psychopathic individuals, along with large amounts of money for training, supplies, and the maintenance of a government Corps of Torturers.  We would essentially be institutionalizing violence and cruelty, and this government model of justice would filter down and infect the psychological core of our society (imagine children being raised to believe that maiming and torturing individuals is okay).

 True, we have already done this to some extent, but I would argue that reviving the Inquisition is a bold step in the wrong direction. For whatever's it worth (and I think it's worth a lot), more people on this planet hold humanitarian ideals than ever before in history, and in my opinion, this is a growing trend which will in time eliminate at least the clearly extreme abuses in our world (torture and genocide being among them) -- even if all of us *never* agree completely on a theory of rights.  I'd like to encourage this trend by being as humane as possible in our treatment of criminals (which may or may not mean, among other things, ending capital punishment). Jeff

George H. Smith" To: "*Atlantis"  Subject: ATL: Re: Some questions about rights and capital punishment Date: Tue, 12 Jun 2001 15:41:26 -0500. Jeff Olson wrote: "Of course, as George pointed out later in his post, these questions inevitably hinge on rights theory, and in particular, on the merits of the "inalienable rights" argument.  Before I go further, I want to mention that substantive criticism has been addressed to the "inalienable rights" argument by myself, Bill Dwyer, and others (especially John Goodman, in response to George's 1996 capital punishment Liberty article).  George has replied to some of these objections, but not to others...."

The proponent of capital punishment, judicial torture (or whatever) must do far more than merely criticize the theory of inalienable rights, for he has an equal burden of proof. Jeff presumably defends our *right* to punish a murderer in a certain way -- and if Jeff has no *general* theory of rights to justify this *particular* right of punishment, then his theory will sink of its own weight, regardless of how flawed a theory of inalienable rights might be.

Suppose the theory of inalienable rights on which I base my opposition to capital punishment is fatally flawed. Fine; we are then left with at least two relevant options. (1) Perhaps Jeff can defend his right of punishment with a sound theory of alienable rights; or (2) perhaps *no* theory of rights can be justified, in which case all punishment is arbitrary and capricious, and depends ultimately on the sheer exercise of brute force.

Jeff presumably doesn't believe that all social problems and conflicts can be adjudicated by some vague appeal to "humanitarianism." He believes that we can legitimately appeal to rights to resolve many issues, such as the justice of restitution, capital punishment, etc. Jeff must therefore present his own theory of rights -- and his theory of punishment will stand or fall on that selfsame theory, quite apart from my views on inalienable rights.

If I have repeatedly been put in the position of defending myself (as in my 1996 article in Liberty magazine), this is partially because I presented a theory of rights that is sufficiently developed to be vulnerable to criticism. But this defensive posture does not reflect the inherent logic of this dispute. Jeff's theory of alienable rights demands as much rigorous justification as my theory of inalienable rights, and once that justification has been provided, I will happily criticize it as others have criticized me. For, as I said, if my justification fails, this does not tip the scale in favor of Jeff's approach. For there is a third possibility, namely, that NO theory of rights can be justified -- in which case the supposed "right" to punish a murderer would go up in smoke, along with inalienable and all other rights.

Btw, is our "right" to punish a mass murderer itself an alienable right, which may be surrendered or forfeited? Or is Jeff surreptitiously presenting this as an inalienable right that can be applied, without exception, to every case of mass murder?

The following remarks may become relevant, if the growing debate over inalienable rights develops further.

In judging a particular theory of rights, we should apply the same comparative standards that we use in the hard sciences and all other cognitive disciplines.

No comprehensive theory, whether in physics or philosophy, is absolutely perfect and complete; there are always unsolved problems and internal tensions. But we are not justified in jettisoning a theory solely because of these problems. Rather, we should compare the theory in question with *competing* theories and then embrace the one that is most satisfactory overall. This is contextualism in the sphere of methodology.

Theories may be viewed as systematic efforts to solve problems and address unanswered questions. Thus, to speak of "competing theories" presupposes that the theories in question are addressing the *same* set of problems. (If they were addressing different problems, then they could not directly conflict with one another.)  We must therefore specify, as a preliminary condition of theory-building, the fundamental problems with which a particular discipline (e.g., political or legal theory) is concerned.

After this groundwork has been laid, we can then compare theories on a number of points, such as the internal coherence of competing theories, their consistency with previously established principles, etc. We also need to get some idea of what we will accept as a satisfactory solution to a given problem.

I realize all this is a bit abstract, but failure to understand some basic principles of methodology often accounts for the inability to resolve disputes. The most significant point here is that far more is required to overthrow a well-developed theory than merely pointing out problems which it is unable to solve. No physical scientist would think of abandoning a paradigm merely because it is unable to solve every conceivable problem -- and there is no reason why we should expect the moral philosopher to behave any differently. Ghs

From: "William Dwyer" To: <Atlantis Subject: ATL: Re:  McVeigh and the Death Penalty Date: Tue, 12 Jun 2001 14:51:36 -0700. There has been a lot of criticism of the death penalty on this list; some of it, I believe, is presumptuous and frivolous.  It is often said that one does not rectify an evil by committing a similar evil, which is the kind of opposition one often hears from the opponents of the death penalty.  Capital punishment, they say, is but another example of the very "murder" one is condemning.

But is this a sound reason to oppose capital punishment? Does the practice really descend to the level of a cold-blooded murderer?  Not according to its proponents, who argue that is it no more an example of murder than ordinary self-defense is.  Sure, capital punishment kills another human being, but not every act of killing is an act of murder.  "Murder" is the premeditated and ~aggressive~ killing of another human being (who possesses the right to life); it is the ~initiation~ of physical force.  Capital punishment, by contrast, is retaliatory force.

Capital punishment has also been opposed on the grounds that it is dreadful to contemplate and that it inflicts psychological pain and suffering on the family of the person sentenced to die.  I don't think these are good reasons either.  Life in prison is also dreadful to contemplate, and it is certainly no joy for a convict's family to learn that he will be spending the rest of his life behind bars.  In fact, life in prison can be even crueler than a swift and merciful execution, which is why some inmates demand to be executed and will sometimes commit suicide while in prison. Still another argument against capital punishment is that a government that has itself slaughtered innocent people (e.g., the Gulf War) cannot presume to execute someone for murder.  But this kind of hypocrisy is rectified by refraining from intentionally killing innocent people, not by abstaining from legitimate acts of retaliatory force against those who are guilty.

It has been claimed that capital punishment cannot deter fanatics who believe they are giving their life for a cause, which may be true.  But there is also good reason to believe that capital punishment does deter some people, and in order to be effective and fair, criminal sanctions must be applied consistently and impartially.  One cannot make exceptions, based on the psychological profile of the killer.

Finally, it has been argued that capital punishment is a bad idea, because the legal process is not infallible; it is possible to convict the wrong person.  If new evidence should overturn a conviction, the convict can at least be compensated if he is still alive, but not if he is dead. Capital punishment prevents us from rectifying legal mistakes; it is final and irreversible.

Here, I think, we do have a good argument against the death penalty, at least in those cases where guilt is less than absolutely certain (McVeigh may be an exception).  As Barbara Branden has pointed out, Rand held that it is better that ten guilty men go free than to convict one innocent man.  In the same way, one could argue that it is better to spare the life of a guilty man than to take the life of an innocent one -- a point made by Nathaniel Branden in his article on capital punishment in _The Objectivist Newsletter_ (January 1963).  In a system that wields the power of life and death over human beings, we need to allow maximum tolerance for judicial error.

George Smith asks:  If capital punishment doesn't violate rights, the why would torturing someone or raping her?

 

Good question.  An argument could be made that a penal system should devote its resources only to preventing crime and protecting society from criminals, and that since the rape of prisoners would not fulfill these criteria, it would not be permitted, even if its wrongness did not lie specifically in a violation of the prisoner's rights. Another reason for prohibiting such acts would be their desensitizing effect on the perpetrators.  The same objections would apply to any other acts of cruel and unusual punishment.

What constitutes cruel and unusual punishment is not always obvious, however.  Sometimes putting someone to death may be less cruel than allowing him or her to remain in prison for life.

In his book _Violence_, James Gilligan, a prison psychiatrist, reports on 19th Century prison conditions: "Charles Dickens, who visited the great Philadelphia prison in the early 1840s, was horrified by what he saw.  ...Prison life was nothing but torture and agony.  '...The prisoners, who entered in black hoods, emblems of the 'curtain dropped' between them 'and the living world,' were like men 'buried alive; to be dug out in the slow round of years; and in the meantime dead to everything but torturing anxieties and terrible despair.'

"What effects did this system have on those who were subjected to it?  Where the full experiment was tried, with the system of total round-the-clock isolation added to the enforced blindfolding, soundlessness, and muteness (in New York, from 1821 to 1823), the results were horrific: one prisoner tried to kill himself by throwing himself "from the fourth gallery, upon the pavement"; another "beat and mangled his head against the walls of his cell, until he destroyed his eyes,"  From then on, hard labor [rather than total and permanent solitary confinement] was the absolute     rule. [...]

"This is the system that replaced corporal mutilation and the death penalty.  I can imagine the reader now saying, But surely, American prisons no longer impose such dehumanizing conditions on anyone?  Presently, there is no rule of total silence for all prisoners anymore, nor are prisoners blindfolded whenever they leave their cells.  But the notion that such conditions are not effectively duplicated on a certain fraction of the prison population even today, and with results even more horrific than those mentioned above, would be far too optimistic a conclusion." [pp. 146-148]

Today, incorrigible prisoners are still placed in solitary confinement.  Should this be declared a violation of their inalienable rights, whereas prison itself should not?  Or should prison also be regarded as a violation?  But then on what grounds do we incarcerate anyone for any crime that he or she might be convicted of?

In order not to violate a criminal's rights, must we impose ~no~ restrictions or confinement on him, lest these be considered inhumane?  I do not think that invoking a doctrine of "inalienable rights" helps us when it comes to assessing what kind of punishment is appropriate.  Taken literally, the doctrine would permit no interference whatsoever with the prisoner's rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Bill

 

From: BBfromM To: atlantis Subject: ATL: McVeigh execution Date: Tue, 12 Jun 2001 23:34:59 EDT By chance, I saw a television show this evening that bears on the issue of capital punishment.

There are a number of maximum security prisons in this country to which are sent only the most violent and unmanageable prisoners. These are not necessarily men who have committed murder, although many of them have done so; many others are men who have committed different kinds of violent crimes not leading to the death of their victims; they, like the murderers, have been sentenced to terms they will not live long enough to serve.

The law of the land is that no one in prison can receive the death penalty for what he may do in prison. The result is that in each prison there are eight to ten murders every year, murders both of other inmates and of guards. Many of the prisoners who kill, never have killed before they were imprisoned. Those who commit murder have nothing whatever to fear: it is irrelevant to them whether they are sentenced to serve fifty years or one hundred.

In one such prison, where two guards were murdered in one day, the higher officials had to decide what to do. The inmates had been allowed to spend ten hours a day outside their cells. The decision was made to allow them to spend only one hour out of their cells -- with the result that some of them committed suicide, others became hopelessly mad. One prisoner, known to have murdered a guard, was put into a blazingly lit cell, far underground, for twenty-four hours a day. He was allowed no human contact, no visits, no television or movies or books or writing material. He is expected soon to join the ranks of the madmen.

What does one do in such cases? Must we allow the death penalty for murders committed inside prison walls? Or must we continue as things usually are today? -- allowing murder to go unpunished except by an additional and meaningless extra prison term? Or must we put the murderers in situations where they will either commit suicide or go mad? Barbara

From: BBfromM To: atlantis Subject: Re: ATL: McVeigh and the Death Penalty Date: Wed, 27 Jun 2001 22:40:52 EDT Sorry to be so late in replying. I'm just trying to catch up on the mountain of Atlantis posts.

Greg Thompson asked: << The question is: Is any crime heinous enough to merit the death penalty? I'll give an extreme example to illustrate the point. Suppose someone tortures, rapes, and kills 100 little girls? He is captured on videotape doing the act in all 100 cases. DNA links him to every girl and he admits to the crimes.

<<He has no remorse. Furthermore, he states in public that he would love to live in prison where he can masturbate every day thinking about the hell he has wrought. Is this man worthy of living? Is it justice to keep him alive at taxpayer expense for the rest of his miserable days? Do you people who oppose capital punishment have a limit on what you can take? - GT >>

No, I do not think the man in your suggested case is worthy of living. But that's not the question in my mind. The question is: do *we* want to cold-bloodedly kill him? And if we do, what does that do to our psyches? What does it do to the culture in which we live? Do we want to be part of a culture that gloats over killing? -- and that does it in our name. If we loathe the McVeigh's of this world, should we imitate them? I do not suggest that to kill him is the equivalent of what he did, which had nothing whatever to do with any concept of justice, but only that by our cold-blooded act we imitate his cold-bloodedness. People who would not step on a bug will often applaud the death penalty. Surely their attitude toward bugs can legitimately be carried over to their attitude toward human beings. One doesn't kill them if there is an alternative.

There are other reasons for my growing conviction that we should outlaw the death penalty. One is, of course, the possibility of executing an innocent man, which we now know has happened often. There are ways to make this unlikely, but no way to make it impossible. And one of my major reasons for opposing the death penalty -- which now, after careful thinking and analyzing, I do oppose -- is that we should not give to the state, any state, for any reason, the power to kill. No state and no individual can be trusted with such an awesome power over other men, and I wonder why so many innocent men have been executed and if the state's self-protection did not have something to do with it.

By the way, I have twice read something about executioners that appalled me. It seems that being an executioner has become a family tradition, that is, that many generations in a particular family have chosen killing as their "profession," just as many generations in other families have chosen the practice of medicine as their profession. One shudders to think what this choice of killing has done to their psyches. I do not want them to act in my name. Barbara

From: BBfromM To: atlantis Subject: ATL: Re: McVeigh and the Death Penalty Date: Tue, 17 Jul 2001 19:07:01 EDT About the death penalty, Greg Thompson wrote: << Prove it beyond a reasonable doubt [the guilt of the man accused of murder] and carry out the sentence.  >>

If you were on trial for murder, would you want your guilt proved "beyond a reasonable doubt?" It is this proviso that is one of the reasons I'm against the death penalty. A reasonable doubt is not good enough. It must be proved beyond *any* doubt. In fact, I would say so even if the penalty were life imprisonment. That's why I suggested, in an earlier post, that experienced people be appointed to be advocates of the devil: their assignment would be to look for any errors in the evidence, to track down any lead that might point to the innocence of the accused.

I remember, years ago, seeing a movie that focused on a murder trial. There were something like ten eyewitnesses to the murder, each of whom claimed that he had clearly seen the accused at the scene of the crime, he remembered his face, and he could attest that he was the murderer. The defense lawyer then set out to go to the crime scene at precisely the time of day and the circumstances of the weather that had pertained during the murder -- and he proved that under those conditions the witnesses, although they were not consciously lying, could not possibly have seen what they claimed they saw. In one case, for instance, he discovered that the witness' vision would have been partially blocked by a wooden fence; in another, the dense fog that night would have made identification impossible, and so on with all the witnesses. The accused man was acquitted.

There are too many possibilities for a mistake to be made. And, as we are discovering, many mistakes have been made. I would not want it on my conscience that I had condemned an innocent man to death -- even if that sentence were contextually warranted. And I would not want to die in the name of context. Barbara

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Well, a convicted murderer might be allowed to choose his fate: life or death. If the latter then the execution is one year after conviction.

Rights, a human invention based on human nature, appertain to social existence. If incarceration is the context of that then we can invent rights for the incarcerated. They must be negative, of course. Penalties must be apropos, that is, what's important in prison for prisoners.

Etc.

--Brant

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I wonder why banishing a person from a country and permanently banning that person from ever entering the country again is not among punishments anymore.

That would save a hell of a lot of government money and could even make the capital punishment issue moot (after related punishments were over).

I'm sure there are plenty of islands and large tracks of uninhabited or sparsely-habited land on which to banish bad people. What they do from there is their problem. The natives would not like it, but that has always been the problem--throughout all of human history--when some people take over land where others live.

In modern times, I am sure enough money, goodies and privileged resettlement for natives who choose to move out can be offered to make the transition attractive (and much easier than than, say, suffering genocide, bloody wars, and so on :) ).

Or treaties could be set up with any nations that would accept banished people.

There are many ways to implement this.

Unless a banished person is put right in the middle of a desert or, say, Antartica, or the thick of a jungle, etc., without any local conditions for human survival, banishment, to me, would be preferable to executing a criminal or incarcerating a criminal and paying for his or her living expenses for life.

Michael

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