End the Death Penalty, and Life Imprisonment?

The other day, Pope Francis yet again caused a bit of a stir:

Pope Francis called for abolition of the death penalty as well as life imprisonment, and denounced what he called a “penal populism” that promises to solve society’s problems by punishing crime instead of pursuing social justice.

“It is impossible to imagine that states today cannot make use of another means than capital punishment to defend peoples’ lives from an unjust aggressor,” the pope said Oct. 23 in a meeting with representatives of the International Association of Penal Law.

“All Christians and people of good will are thus called today to struggle not only for abolition of the death penalty, whether it be legal or illegal and in all its forms, but also to improve prison conditions, out of respect for the human dignity of persons deprived of their liberty. And this, I connect with life imprisonment,” he said. “Life imprisonment is a hidden death penalty.”

The pope noted that the Vatican recently eliminated life inprisonment from its own penal code…

Of course, it was Pope St. John Paul II who first asserted that the death penalty has to go – and I admit that it was this which turned me away from the death penalty. Now, we are being challenged again – but it is a harder pill for people to swallow, even those who oppose the death penalty.

The immediate and rather natural reaction to this is that there appear to be some people who simply cannot live in society – they are so clearly violent and dangerous that no one wishes to risk having them out there to kill again. It is easy to bring to mind people like Ted Bundy and go, “ok, so we won’t kill people like that – but we can’t ever let a man like that out, again!”. This is reasonable. But upon reflection, I’m taking a bit of a different view – and I think I see where the Pope is coming from.

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What Media Bias? Part 199

Got this over at Ace of Spades:

So yesterday a Hamas supporter drove his car into a pack of people near a Jerusalem train station and killed a baby.

That baby is — was, rather — reportedly an American citizen…

…You will not believe the headlines AP gave to this story.

Take 1: Israeli police shoot man in east Jerusalem

Yes, they shot the man after he drove his car over a baby and then fled the scene. Odd that AP would find this to be the lede of the story…

The AP adjusted the headline as they went along and eventually conceded that the actual story wasn’t that a man was shot – apparently for no reason – by the Israeli police but, instead, that a terrorist attack had occurred.

One has to wonder: just how do reporters and editors think of these things? I mean, come on: this is a pretty straightforward thing. A terrorist plows into a bunch of Jews in Jerusalem – it is a horrible, terrible crime but it is not at all hard to understand. The Islamists hate the Jews and it is well known that out of this hatred comes a desire to kill, and especially to kill the most innocent and defenseless. This has been going on for a long time – and yet this story crosses the wire and the AP writes a headline which gives absolutely no information on what actually happened. It is as if the New York Times headline on December 8th, 1941 had read “Japanese Pilot Killed by U.S. Sailors over Pearl Harbor”.

It as if Jews are just not allowed to be victims – as the Evil Oppressors of Gaza, no story can be written which indicates why, perhaps, the Jews might want to keep a lid on the people in Gaza, or defend themselves against Palestinians. This was a bit more egregious than most, but you also have to wonder how many stories go through where no one challenges them. Just how many lies are being told these days?

We’re All Victims

America’s most famous Native American with high cheek bones is on the stump getting traction with the low information voter:

“The game is rigged, and the Republicans rigged it,”

That’s right folks. After six years of corporatizing health care, driving up premiums, increasing the cost of living, overseeing the decline of the average wage of American families, regulating the life out of the coal industry, refusing Americans the benefits of energy independence, refusing tax reform, growing the federal government, wasting trillions of dollars of tax payers money, rewarding incompetent government bureaucrats, enslaving children in under performing schools, and assisting in increasing the cost of a higher education – the Democrats are playing the victim card and blaming Republicans. I am surprised she didn’t get laughed out of the room, but I think the following quote tells us why that didn’t happen:

“She’s a rock star,”

Where have we heard that line before? These low information voters have not learned a thing, probably as a result of our failing education system, and are once again playing identity politics. Warren is a product of the Harvard faculty lounge, just like Obama, and does not have one day of practical, real life experience. She would in all reality be a far worse President than Obama if you can even imagine that, but experience, results, competence, nor even the truth have any bearing whatsoever on the POTUS candidate selection of the Democratic Party. Hillary is an incompetent liar who also has zero real world experience but she is leading the current Democratic field by a mile only because of her gender, and her womanizing husband.

It’s a sad statement on our society, our political culture and on a good portion of our fellow Americans that someone like Warren gains any credibility whatsoever outside of the far left lecture halls.

Ferguson Update

Why it’s always best to wait and see how things develope:

The police officer who fatally shot Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., two months ago has told investigators that he was pinned in his vehicle and in fear for his life as he struggled over his gun with Mr. Brown, according to government officials briefed on the federal civil rights investigation into the matter.

The officer, Darren Wilson, has told the authorities that during the scuffle, Mr. Brown reached for the gun. It was fired twice in the car, according to forensics tests performed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The first bullet struck Mr. Brown in the arm; the second bullet missed.

The forensics tests showed Mr. Brown’s blood on the gun, as well as on the interior door panel and on Officer Wilson’s uniform. Officer Wilson told the authorities that Mr. Brown had punched and scratched him repeatedly, leaving swelling on his face and cuts on his neck… (emphasis added)

As I said when the case first emerged – as a general rule, un-armed people should not be shot by the police. As the police did shoot in this case, I’d want to see some absolutely clear reasons why the officer fired. It looks as though we are going to get them: while this is still preliminary, the fact that the Feds are not coming up with any civil rights violations to charge Officer Wilson and the fact that forensics is starting to strongly support the accusation that Mr. Brown attacked, indicates that the shooting may well have been justified.

This doesn’t at all alter my view that the police are still not policing properly, nor that they are over-militarized, nor that deep reforms are needed – but it does kick a massive hole in the liberal narrative about gangs of racist cops out to kill black people. And that, in turn, leads me to wonder just why this particular incident caught on so fast in the national media. Just as with the Martin killing, I suspect a deliberate, orchestrated attempt to get the incident in the public eye.

Karl Rove’s Silence About Saddam’s WMDs?

Quite a lot of people are upset about this:

Starting in 2004, some members of the George W. Bush administration and Republican lawmakers began to find evidence of discarded chemical weapons in Iraq. But when the information was brought up with the White House, senior adviser Karl Rove told them to “let these sleeping dogs lie.”

The issue of Iraq’s WMD remnants was suddenly thrust back into the fore this week, with a blockbuster New York Times report accusing the Bush administration of covering up American troops’ chemically induced wounds.

To people familiar with the issue, both inside that administration and outside, the blame for the coverup falls on one particular set of shoulders: Rove’s…

I was listening a little to Rush today and he was clearly flabbergasted about it. While we did not find in 2003-2004 the sort of active, WMD program that global intelligence services said would be there, it is clear from recent reports that Saddam had, indeed, quite a lot of WMDs and WMD-related materials. The fact of the matter is, of course, that Saddam wasn’t supposed to have so much as a spark-plug which could be WMD-related – per the 1991 Gulf War cease fire and various UN resolutions, every last bit of it was supposed to be removed and destroyed from Saddam’s domain. It is absolutely certain, now, that this was not done – Saddam secreted quite a lot of chemical weapons and various components for WMD programs. This, and this alone, gave sufficient moral and legal justification for the resumption of hostilities between the United States and Saddam’s regime in 2003. The whole liberal narrative about the war – that we faked evidence of WMDs in order to start a war in order to enrich Cheney’s buddies at Haliburton (and, really, this is what the left thinks the war was all about) – is false. Stupidly false, too.

Liberals will just keep on with their narrative as they never let facts get in the way of a good (for liberals) narrative, but quite a lot of criticism over these new revelations (which really aren’t all that new, of course; they are just being noticed, now, in the MSM) is coming from the right – condemnations of Karl Rove for not getting the Bush Administration to front-and-center this information, especially in the 2005-2006 time frame, when it could have proved crucial to resetting the political battlefield – a battlefield which ultimately went disastrously bad for the GOP in 2006 and 2008, largely on the strength of the liberals’ false narrative about the campaign in Iraq (to me, it wasn’t Katrina that wrecked the Bush Administration credibility – though the false narrative in that event played a big role – but, rather, it was the insertion into the American mind that Bush et al had lied about Saddam’s WMD that did the damage). Why, the question is being asked, did Rove drop the ball on this one? Why did he, so the accusation go, keep this information quiet? The allegation from other political players at the time is that Rove felt we had already lost the battle over WMDs and it was better not to stir things up, and so as evidence of WMDs piled up – and American soldiers were injured by said WMDs – a lid was kept on things. Why?

I can’t read Rove’s mind so I don’t know – if Rove gives comment on it, then those comments can be weighed in light of accumulated evidence. But here’s what I think really caused the problem:

The fundamental flaws in Bush Administration policy regarding the war were two:

1. A failure to clearly identify radical Islam as a problem.

To be sure, the Bush Administration was more clear about this than the Obama Administration, but even Bush Administration people – and President Bush – were out there routinely declaring that Islam means peace and essentially making it clear that there was no fundamental problem within Islam that needed to be addressed.

2. Following upon that, there was no strategic plan to completely remake the Muslim world.

As we couldn’t fault Islam, itself, so we couldn’t craft a plan which would have us knock down all known generators of the problem within Islam. We curtailed our efforts. We stopped at the Iraqi border and clearly never thought about marching in to Syria or Iran (two prime makers of radical Islam), but we also refused to cut our ties with the Saudis who provided lavish funding directly to Islamic groups who preached hatred, and indirectly (along with many other oil-rich Arabian States) actually funded Jihadist groups.

Hamstrung as we were, I can see Rove’s position: the only thing that was wanted, especially from 2006 onwards, was a successful conclusion to Iraq. Bush and team managed to accomplish that, but as the real problem was never addressed and all political activity had been exhausted on just getting to victory in Iraq, there was nothing left over, really, for the larger issue. Re-fighting the WMD issue would have been a waste of time – and, in fact, counter-productive. Of course, in reality, fighting the WMD issue the first time was a waste of time – and counter productive. We never should have bothered with such nonsense. We did it primarily because it was felt – incorrectly – that we needed a broad, international coalition and some sort of UN approval (and it was vital to get UN approval – or at least attempt to – in order to get Britain on board). We dithered around with that and got caught up in a side-show: whether or not Saddam had WMDs. Well, he did. And I remain convince that he had a lot more, but it was moved out of his territory by other, concerned actors during the period between our first demands and the many, many months which passed in trivial, useless action with the UN.

So, don’t fault Rove for silence on Iraqi WMDs – as a political operative, he was doing what was necessary to achieve a narrow, political goal: garner enough support to see us through to the end in Iraq. It wasn’t his job to set national policy – that was President Bush’s. Here is where I fault him – though, of course, partially with hindsight. While I’ve always felt that the reason for going into Iraq was for the larger, strategic necessity of changing the Middle East in a fundamental way, I did believe that if we could secure a reasonable regime in Iraq, we could provide an alternative to the Muslim people and they would cease to listen to the purveyors of hatred and war. I’m not so sure, today, that even if Obama had continued Bush’s policies in Iraq that this would have come to pass. It might have – and we certainly should have tried – but the more I see of radical Islam, the more convinced I become that only a really sound thrashing from one end of the Muslim world to the other will convince the Muslim people that they’d better get on board with stamping on the jihadists. This is not, by the way, because I think that most Muslims like the jihadists (I think most Muslims despise the beheaders and enslavers), but because I think that most Muslims are deathly afraid of the jihadists. And rightly so, as we’ve seen with the ISIS barbarians – our actions would be to show that if you sign on with us, we’ll be there for you as long as needed and we’ll ensure that the jihadists are never able to triumph.

We’ve pretty much lost the war right now. Iraq is a disaster, Syria is a disaster, Iran is triumphant and Afghanistan will go back to the Taliban within weeks of our withdrawal, from what I can see. The jihadists are strong and feeling stronger and the people of the Muslim world who don’t like the jihadists look out and see absolutely no one around the world who will come to their aid…so, they mostly just go along to get along and hope that not too many of their sons and daughters fall victim to the jihadists. We will, though, eventually have to get back into this war and win it – savagery like ISIS simply cannot be allowed to stand…and the longer we allow it to survive, the worse and more powerful it will get, and eventually those people will do something so horrible to us that we’ll have to act. And when that time comes, we have to treat the whole Muslim world as a unit, just as the jihadists do (they care nothing for the artificially created political boundaries within the Muslim world). We’ll have to go to war against the enemy where ever he is, and go after everyone who in any way, shape or form gives aid to the jihadists. But that is a war for another time – maybe even ten or twenty years from now. For now, the disaster is what it is – and what happened between 2004 and 2008 is what happened. No sense raking it over too much, or trying to assign blame for it all to Karl Rove. Mistakes were made; that we all know. Our job is to learn from them.

Liberal Fascism Update

I wish I could say this is unbelievable, but its actually getting rather common:

The city of Houston has issued subpoenas demanding a group of pastors turn over any sermons dealing with homosexuality, gender identity or Annise Parker, the city’s first openly lesbian mayor. And those ministers who fail to comply could be held in contempt of court.

“The city’s subpoena of sermons and other pastoral communications is both needless and unprecedented,” Alliance Defending Freedom attorney Christina Holcomb said in a statement. “The city council and its attorneys are engaging in an inquisition designed to stifle any critique of its actions.”

ADF, a nationally-known law firm specializing in religious liberty cases, is representing five Houston pastors. They filed a motion in Harris County court to stop the subpoenas arguing they are “overbroad, unduly burdensome, harassing, and vexatious.” …

Yeah, it is all that. What is at issue is an absurd law passed by the Houston City Council which opens all public restrooms to whoever – you know, feeling a little female today? Then go ahead into the ladies room. Stupid, politically-correct, liberal bull. But liberals know what they are doing – they are trying to criminalize non-liberalism. Rational people figure that it’d probably be best to keep men and women separate in the whole restroom experience, but liberals know that if the can make it illegal to be rational, they can then direct the power of government against reason (and, thus, against non-liberal thought and actions), and that is what they are doing here.

Of course the case will be decided on First Amendment issues – and I fully expect the pastors to prevail – but that isn’t the point. The point is to intimidate – while the pastors in this case won’t suffer legal consequences, all pastors – and, indeed, everyone who takes exception to liberalism – will be intimidated. Everyone has got a life to live and while we know what is good and true, if we’re to be hauled into court by liberal fascists every time we speak the truth, then maybe we should just not mention certain things? The territory of truth will be circumscribed and liberalism will have another area of total dominance, which is what the liberals want.

The cure for this is to pass laws making liberals – especially liberal office holders – responsible for their actions. It won’t do any good, really, to just get an injunction against the city council prohibiting them from taking punitive action against the pastors – the actual, individual liberals who are on the council and who took this action must feel pain for their action. It should be, in such cases, when a court finds the government body in error – that they have violated the rights of the citizens – then the members of that body have to pay, out of their own pockets, punitive, monetary damages to the citizens they oppressed. Make that city council member pony up $100,000.00 and future council members will think twice before they go along with this sort of thing.

We have to get a handle on this – liberals want an end to liberty. If we don’t punish them for trying, then they will just keep on trying.

Defending Columbus

A lot of people just don’t like the guy – including a family member of mine who has a significant amount of Native American blood. But I do think that he’s gotten a bit of a bad rap and someone should stand up to defend him.

First off, the modern picture being built up of Columbus as some sort of racist-sexist-imperialistic pig deliberately trying to destroy and conquer is nonsense. Columbus was, first and foremost, a seaman and explorer. That was his main thing in life – he liked to go to sea, he liked to explore. And he was very good at both.

There is some ridiculous bit of Columbus revisionist humor out here which holds that he didn’t know where he was going or what he was doing – but he knew precisely where he wanted to go and, actually, he hit land in the New World pretty much exactly at the time and place he calculated – it just wasn’t the land he was looking for, because the earth was larger than he thought. And think about what he did the job with: his flagship – the Santa Maria – was 62 feet long. To give you a bit of contrast, the 19th century U.S. frigate Constitution is 175 feet long, and a modern, Burke class destroyer is 509 feet. Columbus was at sea in tiny boats. Not only were the ships tiny, but navigation was still primitive. Tell a ship’s captain today that he’s to go from Spain to Cuba with merely a compass to help navigate and he’d turn you down – and he at least knows where Spain and Cuba are in relation to each other! Columbus didn’t. He set off into the blue thinking that just maybe there was land at such a such a place and he would find it by using dead reckoning navigation…and he did it. This is an astounding achievement of seamanship regardless of what else one wishes to think about Columbus or the arrival of European in the New World.

In addition to denigrating Columbus’ achievement as a ship’s captain, the more important condemnation of Columbus is that he did morally wrong by arriving in the New World. Columbus was the deliberate and malicious bringer of slavery and genocide to the New World. This assertion stands in the public mind firmly atop the very large number of Natives who died – but to me, it is absurd to condemn Columbus for things he never intended and especially for things which happened after he was absent from the New World. Columbus’ intention was to find a trade route to Asia – he wasn’t intending on finding a New World, still less one which, in the event, turned out to have no immunity to non-American diseases. He wasn’t out to massacre. He did enslave – but so did every other sort of person on earth when they came across strangers who could not resist them…including, it must be said, the peoples of the Americas who also engaged in slavery.

The thing about the peoples of the New World is that they were, well, people. In other words, just like everyone else – with their portions of good and bad. Just as we can find noble people in every community, so can we find base people. No one lives in harmony with the environment because no one can – we all must change the environment to suit our needs or we’ll die. There was only one Eden, and God kicked us out of it because we sinned – and we go on sinning. In the fullness of time, we’ll be back in Eden; but if you’re looking for an Eden after the Fall, you won’t find it in this life. Columbus did not stumble upon Paradise and destroy it – he found people. Had no one ever taken it into their heads to sail Columbus’ course and the New World had been left to its own devices, then the history which would have been written in 2014 by the people living here would be as much a chronicle of crime and chicanery as anywhere else – but also a chronicle of people who rose above and did right in spite of everything, just as everywhere else.

I do understand that for the Native peoples of the Americas, the coming of Europeans was a catastrophe. A much more technologically advanced civilization came upon a less technologically advanced people and the result was bound to be bad for the peoples of America. It was going to massively disrupt the social, political and economic lives of the people living here. Adding to the that was the fact that no one – anywhere – knew how diseases were spread and the peoples of the Americas, isolated for many thousands of years from the main stream of human interaction, had no defense against the diseases of Europe, Africa and Asia. It was the onslaught of disease that caused most of the destruction – and no one intended that it should be so. Given the nature of things, eventually someone – from Asia or from Europe – was going to arrive on the coasts of the Americas. At some point in human history, the foreign disease environment was going to arrive and cut a bloody swath through the population. To blame Columbus – or anyone – for this is to arrive at the level of absurd.

It is also very true that the Europeans still should have treated the populations of the New World with justice and mercy. This didn’t happen. Plenty of crimes were committed. But this is now more than 500 years since Columbus sailed and we can’t undo what happened – neither the mere appearance of a different civilization, nor the un-intentional transmission of disease, nor the criminal failures of many who arrived in Columbus’ wake. The world we have today is the result of everything that went before and our job, as rational human beings, is to learn from what happened and seek to better the example of the past.

Some are calling for changing Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples Day – I disagree with the change, but not with the creation of an Indigenous Peoples Day. Let us have both – let us have a day set aside to honor a brave man – and his crews – who set out into the unknown to widen the horizon of human knowledge. Let us also set aside a day to remember the peoples of the Americas who were here when Columbus arrived. It has been the mingling of all the peoples of the world in the New World which created the dynamic civilization which has more than once been able to right the wrongs of the Old World – both in Europe and Asia, as well as Africa. In the long chain of events, because Columbus sailed the ocean blue, an American Army arrived on the coasts of France to bring liberty, and American food and medicine has arrived all over the world to end suffering. The net balance of all that has comes to pass in the Americas has been good, not bad – and Columbus deserves remembrance as the man who set the events in train.