There Will Be Blood


Erik Kain

Erik writes about video games at Forbes and politics at Mother Jones. He's the contributor of The League though he hasn't written much here lately. He can be found occasionally composing 140 character cultural analysis on Twitter.

Related Post Roulette

144 Responses

  1. Avatar Ryan Bonneville says:

    I am fascinated by the way both sides are really interested in their opponents’ intelligence.Report

  2. Avatar Ryan Bonneville says:

    Also, the liberal elite is made up of Glenn Greenwald, Andrew Sullivan, and you? God help us all.

    (No offense.)Report

  3. Avatar Jaybird says:

    Oh hey look, ma, I’m quoted in the Wall Street Journal!


  4. Avatar Tod Kelly says:

    “First, I’m now the ‘liberal elite’ apparently”

    Erik, when you start having cocktail parties with Sean Penn, Angelina Jolie and Tim Robbins, can we come?Report

  5. I hadn’t watched the clip yet when I read your first post. I was responding there to the notion that it’s distasteful to applaud some policies that lead to deaths but not others.

    After watching the video – I can’t imagine how anyone could have handled those questions beter. I’m not really a Perry fan but he impresses me here.Report

    • Avatar E.D. Kain says:

      Oh yeah, it’s really impressive how he handled those questions about how he probably executed an innocent person after the audience gave him a big applause for doing so. Impressive … yeah, that’s exactly the word that leaps to mind.

      We must be living on entirely different planets.Report

    • Avatar Ryan Bonneville says:

      The weird thing is that his answer would have been dramatically better if he changed the first part of it from “No, because” to “Yes, but”. He could have said the exact same thing substantively but with the added bonus that he’d come off looking like an actual human being instead of a lunatic.Report

      • Avatar Ryan Bonneville says:

        “Of course I’m worried about executing innocent people. It would be horrible if that ever happened. That’s why we have a thorough justice system in Texas, and we give everyone chances to appeal. Only after we’re sure we’ve got the right man do we resort to the death penalty. Killing a child or a police officer is a serious crime that deserves a serious punishment, and we make sure we get it right.”

        See how much less insane that sounds? And how it’s still the same answer?Report

      • Avatar NoPublic says:

        This. So much this.

        Sadly, he’s not one. And apparently his trainers can’t make him act like one either.Report

    • While he certainly gave an answer that was appealing to the mentality that resulted in applause at the mention of 230+ executions, I wouldn’t call it “impressive.”

      I would have been more impressed had he shown at least some level of self-reflection over the serious responsibility to to be associated with overseeing that many executions. Instead, he presented an air of infallibility over his ability to be the Hand of Justice. This is not impressive, is it disquieting.

      I mean, gee whiz, I occasionally pause to wonder if I treated a student fairly on a grade or in a response given in class (or whether punishment meted out to my kids was fair) so I should hope that overseeing the final justice that is the death penalty would give one pause for thought on occasion, rather than just being used as a political excuse to look steely eyed and resolute.Report

      • Avatar E.D. Kain says:

        Excellent points, Steven. I do the same thing, especially with how I acted with my kids (Was I too impatient? Was I fair? etc.) That a man who has overseen this many executions is less circumspect about that than most parents are of their parenting style is truly disquieting.Report

  6. Avatar Charles says:


    “Second, I said nothing– nothing whatsoever – about abortion. Not one damn thing. Why do conservatives keep bringing up abortion in response to my post about how bloody awful it was for the crowd to cheer on the executions of their fellow citizens?”

    From your quote in the WSJ piece:

    “Torture, war, and death, and this is the ‘pro-life’ party.”

    Yeah, when you throw the term “pro-life” back in their faces, it should *obviously* be implied that this use of the term has *nothing* to do with abortion. It’s not as though 99.999% of the time that someone uses the term pro-life, they’re referring to abortion,or anything like that. Nope, the term usually just means anything having to do with life — anyone who assumes you’re talking about abortion is definitely being completely unreasonable.

    Listen, either take up the consistent life ethic, or don’t. But please don’t make a statement that clearly echoes the arguments of the CLE crowd, when interpreted in the light of everyday English usage, and then be incredibly offended when someone interprets it that way.Report

    • Avatar E.D. Kain says:

      I still said nothing about abortion, did I? I implied that if you are going to label yourself pro-life, you probably oughtn’t cheer at death. I made no argument whatsoever about the morality or lack thereof of abortion.Report

      • So does that mean people who are pro-choice cannot complain about choice?Report

      • Avatar wardsmith says:

        E.D. When you said pro-life you implied anti-abortion and you know it. Saying anything else now just diminishes you.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        “Pro-life” doesn’t invoke the abortion debate?

        Is this new?

        I’m behind.Report

        • Avatar E.D. Kain says:

          Sure it does, but it implies none of the things that people are saying it implies.Report

          • Avatar Jaybird says:

            Dude. You would not *BELIEVE* how much baggage people have.Report

            • Avatar Ryan Bonneville says:

              I’ve dated. I would believe it.Report

            • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

              Yeah, I’m with JB on this one. If there’s anything out there that carries baggage… like, “the four steamer trunks in Joe vs. The Volcano” sized-baggage, Pro-Life is one. It’s about as loaded as anything can be.

              E.D., you pulled a boner on that one, shorthanded yourself into a pickle. The sexism blowup, that one isn’t your fault. This one, you juiced the pot (unintentionally, I’m sure, but still).Report

              • Avatar Ryan Bonneville says:

                Incidentally, “pull a boner” is one of my favorite phrases of all time.Report

              • Avatar E.D. Kain says:

                Patrick, nah, I meant what I said.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                Oh, okay, then.

                Not that everything you write needs to be amazingly awesome, it’s just you normally are clearer about what baggage you do or don’t intend to engage with; if you find the tension between pro-life and pro-death penalty to be telling, you gave it short shrift in the post.

                Which is fine. Shorthand is okay, too.Report

      • Avatar Charles says:

        And when they label themselves “pro-life,” what do they intend to signify by this? The notion that they are signifying “in favor of anything having to do with the concept of ‘life’, generally” is pedantic in the extreme, and ignores the fact that the term “pro-life” has a clear, modal usage.

        I take no issue with the substance of the argument that you’re making, and I share your negative opinion regarding the GOP’s applause of violent deaths (be they from executions or drone strikes.) Still, when you mock the GOP for being putatively “pro-life,” there’s really only one thing that can mean — precisely *because* there’s only definition under which the GOP is “pro-life.” And again, that’s the modal one.

        The WSJ writer appears to have misunderstood your position, but it’s because you have chosen a wording that strongly *implies* that you *are* criticizing them for hypocrisy on the execution/abortion thing. The inference he made about your opinions is not unreasonable, given what you wrote. Not to mention that there are a lot of CLE people out there who *are* trying to point out that hypocrisy, often using a similar syntactical construct as you (what’s “pro-life” about endless war?, etc.)Report

        • Avatar E.D. Kain says:

          Well I suppose I am doing that, to a degree. But not entirely. I think you can support the death penalty and oppose abortion and be consistent. But I don’t think you can *cheer* the death penalty and still retain the pro-life mantle.Report

          • Avatar Charles says:

            And I agree with you on that. That’s a consistent moral position, and a relatively prominent one — which is probably why the writer assumed *that* was the point you were trying to make.Report

          • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

            Remember that “pro-life” *is* a mantle.

            It’s shorthand. Just like “pro-choice” is. You’d be surprised how many choices pro-choice people want to keep out of your hands.

            The shorthand-mantle-group-identification-b.s. sword cuts both ways.Report

          • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

            I think you can, if by “pro-life” you mean pro-innocent-life. One possible way that sentiment can manifest itself is by a strong desire, even enthusiasm, for vengeance against those who commit murder.

            I think that the political context is a factor, too. There are people who want to put murderers to death. And there are other people who want to stop them from doing so. I suspect that the applause is as much for Perry basically telling that latter group of people to go to hell as it is for the executions themselves.Report

      • Avatar Silus Grok says:

        Yeah … sorry, ED … by using the term “pro-life” you absolutely, positively mentioned abortion. The word doesn’t mean anything else.Report

    • Avatar Kyle Cupp says:

      The question isn’t how 99.999% of people use the term pro-life; it’s how E.D. used it, and his usage clearly had to do with the hypocrisy of calling oneself pro-life while cheerfully applauding torture, war, and the death penalty.Report

      • But doesn’t E.D.’s comment also assume that all of those things are linked? If they aren’t, why can’t someone be anti-abortion AND pro-death penalty?

        Or is the criticism just of the term ‘pro-life’ itself as though it should be universal?Report

        • Avatar Shannon's Mouse says:

          Someone can be anti-abortion and pro-DP. I believe that what’s troubling/disgusting E.D. is that people who profess to be anti-abortion out of their concern for human life are so *enthusiastic* about executions, especially the slipshod way they appear to be carried out in Texas.Report

        • Avatar Kyle Cupp says:

          But doesn’t E.D.’s comment also assume that all of those things are linked?

          I didn’t get that assumption.

          If they aren’t, why can’t someone be anti-abortion AND pro-death penalty?

          They can. Has E.D. denied this?

          Or is the criticism just of the term ‘pro-life’ itself as though it should be universal?

          Not necessarily universal, as in anti-all killing, but broader than anti-abortion.Report

        • Avatar Robert Cheeks says:

          I’m ‘anti-abortion’ and pro-death penalty. I think pedophiles should be hung, with no weight, at noon, down at the courthouse.Report

          • Avatar Ryan Bonneville says:

            Last I checked, being a pedophile isn’t even a crime.Report

            • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

              Colloquially, pedophilia refers not only to a sexual preference for children, but also to the actual act of child molestation. It’s technically imprecise, but was this really worth calling out?Report

      • Avatar Charles says:

        No, the question was “why on Earth does this WSJ idiot think that I’m talking abortion,” just because I used the word “pro-life.” The answer is because “pro-life” has a clear modal usage, referring to being against abortion. The fault for the confusion does not lie with the person who reads “pro-life” and assumes it means “anti-abortion.” That’s a completely reasonable thing to assume.Report

        • Avatar E.D. Kain says:

          Okay, I’ll concede the point. It was reasonable to bring up abortion in response to my post, but it’s also a dodge.Report

        • Avatar Kyle Cupp says:

          The answer is because “pro-life” has a clear modal usage, referring to being against abortion. The fault for the confusion does not lie with the person who reads “pro-life” and assumes it means “anti-abortion.”

          But the the reading of “pro-life” as meaning “anti-abortion” makes no sense given the context of E.D.’s statement. If you replace the former with the latter, the sentence becomes absurd.Report

          • Avatar Ryan Bonneville says:

            Sense and reference! Sense and reference!Report

          • Kyle – Maybe I don’t know the right people but I don’t know anyone that uses the term ‘pro-life’ about any subject other than abortion. My daughter calls herself a vegetarian. My mom calls her self anti-death penalty. My aunt calls herself a pacifist. There is no doubt that when people say ‘pro-life’ they mean one thing. What Kain did was to suggest a broader meaning for the term that is generally accepted by well, everyone and then criticize Perry for not representing to that new definition.Report

            • Avatar Kyle Cupp says:

              There’s debate within segments of the pro-life movement over whether the term “pro-life” should encompass a respect for life beyond the unborn, that it should be more than a political label for anti-abortion, but also a disposition of the person towards the sanctity and dignity of all life. You’ll find a few pro-lifers who argue that being pro-life should mean renouncing all violence, but typically among those (like myself) who propose a broader understanding of what it means to be pro-life, having a pro-life disposition means that, as E.D. says, one doesn’t cheer death. Taking life should break the heart, not propel it toward the heights of enthusiasm.Report

            • Avatar yeahreally says:

              Do you serious not know any Catholics? Pro-life is defined in Catholic teachings as anti-abortion, anti-euthanasia, and anti-death penalty. From the US Conference of Catholic Bishops:


              The committee assists the bishops, both collectively and individually, in teaching respect for all human life from conception to natural death and in organizing for its protection, especially on behalf of those who are unborn, disabled, elderly, dying, or facing the death penalty.”Report

              • Well – I’m Catholic, so I know at least one. And I’m aware of the church’s definition but this is really more of a political conversation and people do not use pro-life in any other context than abortion politically.Report

              • Avatar yeahreally says:

                Are the pro-lifers who hold candle-light vigils in front of my local prison during every execution not being political? These are the same people who also hold silent protests in front of abortion clinics and organize pro-life rallies in DC.Report

              • Yeahreally,

                Google ‘pro-life movement’ and see what comes up. This is a silly discussion. an overwhelming number of people are going to immediately think ‘opposed to abortion’ when they hear the term – which is why E.D.’s post yesterday and his claim of indignation in the subsequent abortion debate was also silly.Report

    • Avatar DensityDuck says:

      I’ll take that as long as you let us call the Democrats nazis because they’re in favor of a national program that’s strongly socialist.Report

  7. Avatar E.C. Gach says:

    From the way the WSJ piece reads, you’d think Perry had made some kind of sophisticated case for capital punishment in general or in the specific.

    On the upside, getting called out by the WSJ for something you didn’t say/write means you must have said/wrote something right.Report

  8. Avatar Anderson says:

    Amen, you should write a letter to the editor of the WSJ or something. The more important thing to me, aside from the crowd cheering about executing 234 citizens, is that Brian Williams phrased the question as, “Do you struggle to sleep at night knowing that anyone of those executed might have been innocent?” It’s not just “Yay death penalty for incurring justice, though I still have reservations”, but “yay death penalty in it of itself, innocence be damned.”

    I like how Alex Massie put it: “I thought it revolting but it was popular stuff, delivered in the appropriate ‘alpha male’ style of a man with balls big enough to fry an innocent man. And, in the end, that’s what a large part of Perry’s appeal rests upon: an idea of how a conservative Presidential candidate should look, talk and walk. Never mind the substance, feel the attitude dude”Report

  9. Avatar wardsmith says:

    A new take on an old idea.

    Capital punishment has been with us for millennia. I believe there was a politician who washed his hands of the execution of an innocent man 2000 years ago because of the crowds. When the mob wants blood, politicians will give them blood. Crowds also cheered when Osama was killed did they not? Would he not have been “innocent” if sharp lawyers could have gotten him off on a technicality in a court of law? I know several lawyers who were chomping at the bit to do just that. After all, the evidence against him was purely circumstantial.

    Philosophically, who of us is /truly/ innocent? Are we not all condemned to death from the moment of birth? Of course pre-birth would seem to be the most innocent state of all, but not of course if you are pro-choice. Then it’s not an innocent baby who’s never done anything wrong (nor had the chance to) but just a bunch of cells no?Report

    • Avatar Kim says:

      an unborn, not-yet-alive baby can still be seen as a baby. no one is required to consider that the baby does not have rights, just that those rights do not exceed the rights of the woman to choose abortion. If one holds the pro-choice view, that is.Report

      • Avatar wardsmith says:

        Kim, Ok, the unborn (somehow not yet alive – interesting take on biology you have there) baby has subservient rights to the mother (who gets to be judge and jury). Got it.

        When does that end? Why shouldn’t a mother be allowed to kill her teenage children? God knows there are a lot of them that need it. Should it be fair game before birth but you need a tag (hunter joke) afterwards?

        Meantime you picked the easy target. Why not tell me your thoughts on bin Laden being plausibly “innocent”?Report

        • Avatar Kim says:

          to be alive, one should be able to survive independently of another living thing. A virus is not alive, neither is a mitochondria, even though they both have DNA, and can reproduce.
          That’s just frosh biology. and I mean high school.

          I would not want to make a moral choice between a 4 month old baby and death. It’s a bad place to be in. I would submit that the most moral option there is to put the baby up for abortion.
          But there are cases and times where that is impossible. And I will not condemn someone who has been forcibly restrained from birthcontrol/abortion to having to deal with a kid for the rest of her life. I’d rate it as murder after six months (and I do have dev. biology reasons for that late a criterion).
          At age 3, a child can be put to work, and can plausibly be kept by a slaver. By that point, it seems unthinkable to kill them.

          not a hunter, but your hunter joke made me laf.

          Bin Laden was innocent until proven guilty (I take that as fact, because he had not stood before a court of law). But the circumstantial evidence on his team’s infiltration of Pakistan and America’s intelligence networks is rather profound.

          I believe he deserved a trial. But there are many people who will never be tried, including those white slavers mentioned on a different thread around here.

          I wish we’d put George Bush up on the stand, to stand trial for torturing people.Report

          • Avatar wardsmith says:

            I’ll agree to disagree on your definition of life. Interestingly the study of biology extends past what you learn in high school.

            Sad to hear they don’t have adoption where you come from.

            Most of the major religions actually have places in their sacred texts that advocate killing children. Not that I think it was practiced that much, but I think it was there for the teenagers of our ancient past who plausibly were just as bad as they are today.

            The conversation goes something like this, “See, I can kill you and it says so right here in Deuteronomy”. Teenager, “Yeah, so what I never asked to be born anyway! I hate you I hate you I hate you!”

            See some things never do change.Report

            • Avatar Kim says:

              … did I say it was where I come from? I was thinking of China. And if one can sincerely say, “adoption is worse than death” for an unborn baby, one has something of an obligation to consider abortion. In some places, I can see that being a good idea.Report

              • Avatar wardsmith says:

                @Kim, interestingly my wife is from China. Even more interestingly her own mother was “given away” while she was a young baby, an extremely common practice there. I’d always hoped Kim was your last name and you were Korean it would be refreshing to have an Asian viewpoint here.

                Someone can say, “adoption is worse than death” and someone would be an idiot. But I can see how if one is on moral quicksand one would grasp for even the most unlikely of straws.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                … if you are to live a life of permanent malnutrition, leading to brain damage that will render you a permanent drain on society… This Is Why It Is A Moral Question, ya?
                [your knowledge of China is obviously better than mine. I submit, however, that it is possible that somewhere adoption is handled very poorly (probable, in the case of AIDS and subsaharan africa)].Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                “We have seen more than once that the public welfare may call upon the best citizens for their lives. It would be strange if it could not call upon those who already sap the strength of the State for these lesser sacrifices, often not felt to be such by those concerned, to prevent our being swamped with incompetence. It is better for all the world, if instead of waiting to execute degenerate offspring for crime, or to let them starve for their imbecility, society can prevent those who are manifestly unfit from continuing their kind. The principle that sustains compulsory vaccination is broad enough to cover cutting the Fallopian tubes.”Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                see, this is something that I believe rather firmly should be a personal choice.
                And I believe that research on artificial wombs would alleviate most of the current ethical problems.
                But G-d forbid the pro-life wing does research.
                Or does more to help out born children.
                “Pro-life? Anti-woman!” — you know who I’m quoting, right?Report

        • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

          > When does that end?

          This is currently a settled question, right? At birth? If we have a different goalpost to aim at, where is it?

          > Why not tell me your thoughts on bin Laden
          > being plausibly “innocent”?

          Are you asking if he should have been captured and brought back to the states for trial? Yes, that would have been a preferable outcome.

          If you’re asking whether or not I should judge the actions of the special forces guys who did the deed, I’m hard pressed to make a categorical assessment. In such an occasion, the team leader is making a number of running least-worst judgments in their head. Their primary task is to eliminate OBL as a potential leader and get everybody on the team home in a state of “not dead”; if the second results in a head shot to resolve the first, that’s how it goes down.

          Moral high ground or not, I’m probably not sending someone out as the team leader who has a different set of priorities.Report

          • Avatar wardsmith says:

            It wasn’t an arrest, it was a hit job. They were ordered to take down Geronimo by the commander in chief. There was never any question about taking Osama back alive and giving him a trial. They’d already worked it out, if you’ll recall Holder’s botched trial of a certain terrorist who dodged something like 49 of 50 charges IIRC. Barry’s going to have a hard enough time getting re-elected the last thing he needed was a dream team of self-serving lawyers making a mockery of the justice system to ensure Osama getting off scot free.

            Remember a lawyer who gets a “guilty” person off will be employed for life by all those ahem, other not-innocent folks out there. The lawyer who only defends “innocent” folks, not so busy.

            Personally I’d have more respect for Obama if he’d conceived of taking Osama alive, putting him on ice someplace to keep ahem, interrogating him about his operations and faking the whole dead and buried at sea thing. That’s just the stuff of spy novels though.

            On the other hand, Bush DID order Saddam Hussein taken alive, and preferred the same for Osama if possible. Who has the moral high ground here?Report

            • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

              I’m pretty sure Osama bin Laden would have gotten a nice clean quick death penalty conviction. They didn’t have much trouble with Tim McVeigh, Osama would very likely get the long walk post-haste. But that’s an aside.

              The War in Afghanistan is effectively an internationally recognized war, and Osama bin Laden was certainly (justifiably) a state-harbored leader of a paramilitary force centered in Afghanistan. The Taliban supported OBL.

              Whether or not you agree with the War on Terror as a legal war or bullshit fiction, one can reasonably make the case that irrespective of that, just in the context of the Afghanistan war, Osama bin Laden was a fugitive military leader, and thus a legal (and moral) military target.

              Not so sure I buy it myself, but it’s hardly a position that’s totally out of bounds.Report

            • Avatar Kim says:

              Bush does not, for he ordered torture, which has neither utilitarian nor Kantian arguments for it.

              Did you see who was shitting their pants about Obama catching bin Laden? Turns out a lotta people you wouldn’t think…Report

            • Avatar karl says:

              Are you referring to the “botched trial of a certain terrorist” that resulted in his life sentence?Report

    • Avatar NoPublic says:

      Would he not have been “innocent” if sharp lawyers could have gotten him off on a technicality in a court of law?

      No, he would have been found “Not Guilty” of a specific set of crimes. Innocence is not determined by a court of law. Nor is morality.

      Of course pre-birth would seem to be the most innocent state of all, but not of course if you are pro-choice.

      Or Catholic.Report

      • Avatar wardsmith says:

        There are those who equate “Not Guilty” with innocent. Was O.J. Simpson innocent? If not and he’s merely “not guilty” of committing murder, what happens when I receive a not guilty verdict because it was determined I was a thousand miles away when the crime occurred. Am I merely as “not guilty” as OJ?

        Lawyers get their clients off on technicalities every day. If Jared Lee Loughner gets off on a technicality is he not guilty? If he’s found not guilty by reason of insanity is he not guilty? If after a $30million trial (that money could have fed, housed and medicated how many?_) he gets to live out his natural days separated from the prison population at a cost of $1m per year for the next 50 yrs is that justice?

        The liberal philosophy is to let 1000 go free so that one innocent shouldn’t suffer. Our society has largely been doing that for 60yrs.

        The old saw says, “A conservative becomes liberal the moment he gets arrested and a liberal becomes conservative the moment his daughter turns 14”.

        The Catholics used to have a construct for just such cases. I believe it was called Limbo. A (lapsed) Catholic friend of mine sent me an email last year or so to say the Catholics had gotten rid of Limbo. Don’t know what they did with all those souls in it though.Report

        • Avatar Kim says:

          prefer a better aphorism:
          “a conservative starts swearing when he has to wait twenty minutes in line at the post office. a liberal starts swearing when the sheriff puts a lien on his property because BoA forgot to pay his taxes from his escrow account.” Both are true stories, by the way.Report

        • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

          Let me put it to you this way, Ward.

          I’m sympathetic to calls for justice. I’m less sympathetic to calls for justice imposed by the state, or giving popular or individual calls for justice a pass on the rules. Justice ain’t the State’s business. The law is.

          This is one of those hypothetical scenarios where it’s hard to say for sure even what you think you’ll do, because the situation is really hard to observe indirectly. If someone rapes and murders my 14 year old daughter and I see them do it (eyewitnesses are unreliable, though, even me…), and then DNA evidence supports they did it (of course, it’s theoretically possible the cops fix the evidence, but pretty unlikely) and then they get off on a technicality and brag about it, I’m going to be hard pressed not to shoot that guy in the face on the street. For the sake of my immortal soul (should it exist) and the welfare of my remaining child and wife (which is the practical incentive to move on, of course)… I hope I’m not put in this situation. I don’t claim it’s moral or justifiable or right or justice. It’s rank vigilantism, pure and simple. I’ve done evil, any way you slice it.

          I’m not expecting society to treat this as acceptable behavior, ’cause it’s not. I’m not expecting anybody to give me a pass for doing something immoral, because I deserve no such pass. I deserve the clink. If I shoot him.

          The alternative is forgiveness, or a life of tortured grief. Not so sure I can handle the first one, and the second isn’t exactly a picnic either.

          > There are those who equate “Not Guilty”
          > with innocent.

          Yes, those people are stupid. So?

          > The liberal philosophy is to let 1000 go free
          > so that one innocent shouldn’t suffer. Our
          > society has largely been doing that for 60yrs.

          You’re telling me that 1,000 people are arrested for every one that goes to jail? And that this liberal philosophy has held true for the last 60 years regardless of the political chap in charge?

          I find both to be implausible.Report

          • Avatar Kim says:

            with 2.5 million people in jail, it’s rather numerically improbable. That would mean 10 arrests per American.Report

          • Avatar wardsmith says:

            Not guilty versus innocent.

            So Patrick, you’ve been arrested for some heinous crime, say raping and murdering your 14 yr old’s best friend and chopping up the body. After a costly and horrible trial (for you and your family) a homeless guy down the road does the same thing to someone else and is caught in the act. The jury pronounces you “not guilty”. Anyone who says you are “innocent” is stupid, no?

            As for the crime/punishment ratio, all people in jail or prison (they aren’t the same btw) are not necessarily there for the crimes for which they were arrested. Prosecutors have tremendous discretion on both how and where to proceed with a case. Likewise the police have discretion (and they can and do contact the prosecutor on call to ask) whether or not to arrest someone. The numbers don’t always work out to the example I gave but the trend is clear, starting with Miranda and hundreds of other cases that have raised the bar for the government to successfully prosecute a case versus more than 6 decades ago. The reason was exactly as I said, liberals would prefer 1000 go free rather than 1 innocent suffer. They aren’t necessarily wrong, but as always the devil’s in the details.Report

            • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

              > Anyone who says you are “innocent”
              > is stupid, no?

              Er, wait. Did I do it, or not?

              If I didn’t do it, I’m “innocent”. If I’m found not guilty, I’m “not guilty”. If I didn’t do it and I’m found not guilty, I’m both “innocent” and “not guilty”. If I did do it and I’m found not guilty, then I’m “not guilty” but I’m not “innocent”.

              In only one case am I both “not guilty” and “innocent”.

              Clear enough? In any case, “not guilty” != “innocent”.

              > The numbers don’t always work out
              > to the example I gave but the trend
              > is clear, starting with Miranda and
              > hundreds of other cases that have
              > raised the bar for the government to
              > successfully prosecute a case versus
              > more than 6 decades ago.

              I will agree that it is likely more difficult for the government to successfully prosecute a case. I don’t think there are “hundreds” of other cases like Miranda (or, even close). I also don’t think the burden imposed by Miranda (especially given the case law supporting Miranda since Miranda) is all that terrible.

              You can still convict someone without informing them of their rights. You just can’t use what they *tell* you as evidence.

              > The reason was exactly as I said,
              > liberals would prefer 1000 go free
              > rather than 1 innocent suffer.

              This is ridiculous, Ward. First of all, because your premise very likely untrue (How many liberals do you know, anyway? ‘Cause I don’t know any that would agree with this statement), and second of all because *all of the criminal law since 1960 has not been passed entirely by liberals*.Report

              • Avatar wardsmith says:

                Innocent vs guilty or not. Whenever there is a trial the prosecution will act as if you’re the devil incarnate. That’s what they do, to convince the jury of your guilt. When you’re pronounced “not guilty” by said jury, after a trial where lots of baggage was brought up the perception in the public’s mind is anything but “innocent”. My point was exactly that. Society as a whole and specifically the legal profession is quite literally incapable of determining “innocence”. Therefore the question asked during the debate was itself a form of begging the (loaded) question.

                I don’t have access to Westlaw anymore since my personal attorney (and prior law school dean) retired recently. The number of cases that reference Miranda are easily in the thousands however. Every day even now someone is walking out of jail because of improper Mirandizing. Again, my friend is the local prosecutor, I suppose I could inveigle him to look this up for me, but to what end? So you can be convinced of something you already suspect to be true? Ask any of the lawyers who frequent this site, this isn’t state secret land. And the “law” wasn’t passed by legislation, but a scant 5-4 majority at the time in 1966.

                I know far more liberals than you can imagine. My entire extended family are all liberals. They are to a person intellectuals, many ivy league degrees and advanced degrees in attendance. Arguing here is like arguing at Thanksgiving dinner without the rancor, shouting and alcohol. In other words you are better behaved than my brother the professor, sister the activist and so on. “They” may not like how I characterize liberals but liberals don’t do such a hot job of characterizing conservatives either as evidenced by 80% of Kain’s posts.

                If Kain were brave enough to engage me directly as you do, I’d paint him rather quickly into a corner where he would state that it is better that 1000 go free than one innocent suffer. If he were honest he’d have no choice. The only quibble might be what “going free” means. After all, if society wants you dead for committing murder and you get to live to the ripe old age your victim(s) didn’t haven’t you gone “free”? Not to mention those who simply walk after the jury votes “not guilty” not because of “innocence” but because they were personally opposed to a death penalty. A certain woman whose daughter died while she partied comes to mind as does another D list actor in LA who owns 49 out of 50 of a certain antique gun that committed the murder but Baretta got off didn’t he? Innocent indeed.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                are you familiar with the techniques that law enforcement uses to force false confessions out of people? That they’re allowed to lie to you at any point? “we found your fingerprints on the murder weapon” type lying? “The witness identified you as the culprit” type lying?Report

              • Lying to witnesses was held up by SCOTUS a long time ago. There are plenty of ways to improve on suspect screening but removing this technique is not one of them.Report

              • Avatar Scott says:


                Get real, lying to a suspect does not force a false confession.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                I exaggerate. It happensReport

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                Lying to a suspect does encourage a false confession.

                I don’t know that the technique ought to be outlawed, however.Report

              • Avatar Scott says:


                Lying doesn’t encourage a false confession. If you are really innocent you know the cops are lying or you can ask for a lawyer.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                you’ve never been held by police, I take it? The police routinely use sensory overstimulation and understimulation as well. There’s a lot that the police do if they think you’re guilty.

                … or even if they just want to blame you, because you Might Have Done It.Report

              • Avatar Scott says:


                Nope, never been held but if I am, I’m only going to say that I want my lawyer.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                … this knowledge creates a differential in prosecution between the lowerclasses and the middle/upperclass.
                I think that differential is rather despicable, and feel that everyone should be entitled to the knowledge of exactly how manipulative the police can be.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                If your point is that a legal prosecution can mess up your life if you’re innocent of the charge levied, yeah, I agree with that.

                Most liberals I know would not support a “let 1,000 guilty go free rather than convict an innocent man” policy. They *would* support a “let 1,000 guilty men get life imprison rather than execute one innocent man”, but that’s a different statement. Quibbling about “going free”? My God, man, if you think that execution is the only viable and appropriate penalty for a crime (any crime) go right ahead and lay that on the table.

                I don’t give a shit about the fact that someone wants vengeance. *I* might want vengeance. If I want it that bad, I’ll take it and damn the consequences. The question isn’t “do you deserve vengeance”, even. It’s “do you deserve to have the State do your dirty work for you.” You kill an innocent man with the power of the State, you’ve committed a moral atrocity. 999 families having to live with the fact that their daughter’s killer lives is too bad; that doesn’t outweigh the 1 family who has to watch Daddy go to the chair for something he didn’t do. If I want vengeance, and I kill somebody for it, I can do my time or go through my trial and pay for it; if I’ve killed an innocent man, his family gets some justice from what the State does to me.

                If the State kills an innocent someone, nobody ever gets justice. About the only thing you can get out of that is money, and that’s a sick secondhand alternative.

                I don’t know much about the early record of Miranda, but I’ve followed the last fifteen years of criminal law more closely as I’ve been reading more about security, up to Berghuis v. Thompkins. Nowadays, if someone is let off a criminal charge because of Miranda, then the police are fishing incompetent on that case. If ten thousand criminals got off in 1967, I don’t see that this is particularly relevant to the practice of law enforcement, today.

                If you think juries will vote someone “not guilty” because they’re opposed to the death penalty, you’re stuck with two options: get rid of the jury system, or get rid of the death penalty so that they’ll convict and send the guy to jail. Not much else you can do about that one, Ward.Report

  10. Avatar Jaybird says:

    Fun subject time: Did anybody talk about pot?Report

    • Avatar Ryan Bonneville says:

      Ron Paul said something about how Mexico is unstable because of our drug war, and then I think Rick Santorum threw up all over the stage, and then everyone moved on awkwardly.Report

  11. Avatar Roque Nuevo says:

    Taranto did not miss the point. His larger point was that in the USA, people vote for/against the death penalty, as in Texas. In more sophisticated latitudes, like in Europe, people don’t get to vote on it. Their laws are written by… the liberal elite! If they did vote on it, it’s very likely that they would have the death penalty for the liberal elites to disparage as “barbaric” or whatever. In Mexico the death penalty is also banned by law. The percentage of Mexicans who want it back is maybe eighty percent by now, and climbing. A lot of the death penalty is applied today by lynch mobs against whatever criminal perpetrator they are lucky enough to catch. It’s also applied by the proverbial bullet to the back of the neck by the police, before they throw the body over the cliff for the coyotes and crows to eat. In some ways this is a better system but I doubt that ED Kain would approve.

    So: hypocrisy abounds on this issue. Calling the pro-death-penalty crowd on it is hypocrisy squared. Nobody can be consistent with their core values, for or against it. Maybe if we stopped calling other people out on their hypocrisy, we could then listen to one another and come to some kind of agreement. But that’s way too much to ask. People, like ED Kain, love to use the issue to showcase their own impeachable moral philosophy/moral reasoning and they won’t ever stop it. It really makes me puke.

    How can one be anti-abortion, ie, pro-life, and favor the death penalty? Isn’t there some contradiction here? Yes, there is. Either you are pro-life, in which case you appose any deliberate taking of life outside of self-defense/war situations, or you don’t.

    How can you be anti-death penalty and favor abortion on demand? Either you think the state has the right to sanction the deliberate taking of life, outside of self-defense/war situations, or you don’t. Because to argue that abortion is not the taking of life is just silly. It is, but the state sanctions it. So it isn’t really about what life-taking situations the state will sanction or not. Hardly anyone is consistent in this respect.

    On the “anti” side, the only one truly consistent are Catholic believers, for example, who 0ppose both abortion and the death penalty on philosophical/teleological grounds.

    On the “pro” side, the only truly consistent people are like me—although I can’t say if we are left/right or whatever: we favor both abortion on demand and the death penalty. More precisely: we favor giving, by democratic means, the power to sanction such murders, to the state, under strictly regulated conditions. We don’t want to turn our democratic and civic culture into anarchy, like Mexico’s. We favor this because we see a preponderant interest from the state’s point of view, in doing so. We see a national security interest here, in other words, which the state is obliged to assume.Report

  12. And whatever one thinks of the death penalty or the audience’s behavior last night, the harshness, self-righteousness and simple-mindedness of these responses belie the left’s self-image as intellectually sophisticated and tolerant of other viewpoints.

    I love this. When non-existant people on the left ask us to be more understanding about, say, Islam, they’re radical relativist weak-kneed Neville Chamberlains. When they’re aghast at celebrations of state-sanctioned killing as something more than a necessary evil, they’re intolerant.

    I get that the WSJ is right-right-right-right-wing; but do they have to be so bad at it?Report

    • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

      Like you haven’t figured it out:

      The Liberal Elite is tolerant of sin but intolerant of virtue. (That’s probably why he likes book about rape.)Report

  13. Avatar FridayNext says:

    I hate coming to threads like this late. I am never sure how many people will read this, but I cannot believe this discussion has been raging for almost two days and no one has mentioned Terri Schiavo. E.D. might have been a little coy using “pro-life” and then acting all “what, me?” when people correctly pointed out that for a lot of people this is short hand for abortion but he isn’t wrong. Not only do many people on that end of the spectrum call themselves pro-life, talking mostly, but not exclusively, about abortion, but they also have a habit of publicly wringing their hands over the sanctity of life on any number of issues including stem cell research, birth control, and end of life care and its voluntary ending. During the Schiavo clusterfrack we were told over and over how much those on the right were the only ones who cared about the sanctity of life and all others were bloodthirsty sociopaths generally and smeared some of the major players in that controversy personally. (and then defenestrated their ideals about big government and states rights to attempt to insert Congress and the presidency directly into the personal health care choices of a citizen. It is a credit to the size and number of debacles during he Bush presidency that this particular tragedy isn’t better remembered) Hell, Ramesh Ponneru wrote a popular, right-wing stem winder called The Party of Death: The Democrats, the Media, the Courts, and the Disregard for Human Life.

    And these are the people who cheer at the mere mention of 234 dead?

    Reasonable people can disagree on the death penalty, absolutely, just as reasonable people can disagree on abortion, birth control, and end of life care. But for a group of people who wraps themselves in the mantle of the sanctity of life to cheer for death rankles a little. The Schiavo fiasco was a mess.I know many people, including myself, who advocate for a person’s right to end their own life and sided with the husband. But I cannot imagine any of them cheering at her death or the death of any person when life support is removed. In that same vein, if a pro-choice candidate is asked a version of the question Perry got that might start off, “Governor since you took office there have been XX number of abortions in your state, do you lose sleep….” I think that is a legitimate question and could have a number of good answers, but I cannot imagine pro-choice voters cheering at the mere mention of the number of abortions. If anyone did, I would think as little, perhaps much less, of them as I do those in the sanctity of life” contingent who cheered on Wednesday night.

    So I am with E.D. 100% even if I think his word choice was a bit ham fisted.Report

    • Maybe we could suggest two new terms:

      1) Pro Innocent Life

      2) Anti-Abortion

      The Left will disagree with both of course. The first one will be because there’s not always 100% certainty on convictions. The second one will be because if it takes hold that automatically makes them the Pro Abortion camp.Report

      • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

        Mike, IIRC the Anti-Abortion crowd used to be “Anti-Abortion”. They re-branded.

        The Pro-Choice crowd might not like being known as the Pro Abortion Crowd, granted. But I doubt they’d call themselves that anyway.

        Pro Life and Pro Choice are not opposites, really, as it stands.Report

    • Avatar Silus Grok says:

      Nicely said, FridayNext.Report