These are all the Blogs posted on Sunday, 1, 2013.
Sunday, 1 December 2013
Due Process and the Death Penalty
No one would contradict me, I suspect, if I were to assert that human beings are not always wholly consistent. Indeed, those who are much more consistent than average are apt to excite our fear or condemnation rather than our admiration. To be faithful to a bad principle is worse than having no principle at all. And, as Emerson said, consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.
Yet by what other law than that of non-contradiction are we supposed to argue? Argumentation cannot just be a cacophony of incommensurable assertion, with the one who shouts loudest, speaks longest or employs the best phrases, taking the honors. And this is so even if Gödel was correct, and there is no entirely consistent system of logic without necessity to assume, without proof, the truth of some of its suppositions.
Yet there are contradictions and contradictions. I mention this because I am going to write about the death penalty, a subject about which almost everyone is contradictory, including me. I am against it though I am not a complete pacifist and do not believe that it is always wrong to kill, and though I happen also to believe that it, the death penalty, works – as a deterrent. I found unexpected evidence of this in the British historical experience, which I cannot here divulge because I confided it to a colleague who wants to use it in a book he is writing. To reveal it now would be to spoil its effect in his book.
My main objection to the death penalty is that, even in the most scrupulous of jurisdictions, mistakes are sometimes made, and for the law to put someone to death wrongly is an injustice so monstrous as to undermine trust in law itself. I once used this argument in company in which someone claimed to be able to refute me easily; for it was a fact, he said, that more people had been murdered by murderers who had not been executed than who had been wrongfully executed.
Granting for a moment his empirical premise, though I was not absolutely sure that it was factually correct, I replied that his argument was valid only if one accepted a very narrow interpretation of utilitarianism: and since I knew him to be not that kind of utilitarian, he was guilty of self-contradiction. My problem was that, on occasion and if need be, I resort to precisely the same kind of utilitarian argument myself; and therefore I was guilty myself of the very philosophical inconsistency of which I accused him. My interlocutor had the grace not to mention it.
I would not myself be prepared to participate in an execution, but I am not sure of the moral relevance of such an argument. I think that what is true of me is probably true even of most supporters of the death penalty: and have they the right to demand that others do what they themselves would not be prepared to do? Possibly, for there are many things that I would not do myself that I am nevertheless glad are done (though mostly my objections to doing them are aesthetic or psychological rather than moral). Still, there are many things that for moral reasons I would not do that I would not prohibit. But not to wish to prohibit something is not the same as to think it should be done.
At any rate, I am glad that the death penalty had been abolished long before I became a prison doctor: I would not have relished the task of certifying the fitness of someone to be executed. The criteria of fitness for execution is not one of the things taught at medical school; under common law, a person executed must be at least compos mentis, though it is not easy to see why, since execution can hardly be carried out to teach him a lesson. I would have been tempted to excuse everyone his execution on medical grounds.
The motives of abolitionists are, like those of other men, sometimes strangely mixed. I realized this when reading an article in the French Sunday newspaper, the Journal du dimanche about the forthcoming execution by lethal injection of Joseph Paul Franklin, the white supremacist guilty of several murders and of shooting and paralyzing Larry Flint, whom the newspaper called the Porn King. According to the article, Mr Flint is pleading that the man who rendered him paraplegic should not be executed.
The French, at least of the intellectual and writing class, are now outraged by the death penalty in itself and treat it as if it were a manifestation of mediaeval barbarism, though in fact it was abolished in their own country as late as 1981 (that is, a year after Franklin killed). The curious thing is that it is only executions in the United States that outrage them, not those that are carried out in, say, India. Various interpretations of this strangely narrow focus of moral outrage are possible, not many of them creditable.
However it does seem to me that to execute someone more than thirty years after he has committed his crimes, not because he has in the meantime evaded justice but because it takes thirty years to exhaust all legal expedients, bespeaks a judicial system that is not scrupulous, but grossly cruel and incompetent, to put it mildly. If there are enough grounds for postponing an execution for thirty years, there are either enough grounds for postponing it for ever or the whole system ought to be overhauled. Justice should be swift without being summary; a case such as this make it seem slow without being sure.
Mr Flint was reported as having said that he was against the execution of Franklin because ‘The death penalty has no deterrent effect.’ He added that if the death penalty were proved to exert such a deterrent, he would approve of it. But this is to render justice completely subservient to utility, which it cannot be and still remain justice.
There remains the humanitarian argument, but Mr Flint is not a convinced humanitarian, far from it, at least if the newspaper report is to be believed. For he said that ‘as for life imprisonment, to be condemned to a cell one yard by two [his own wheelchair] for more than thirty years is a punishment far worse than death by syringe.’ By implication, therefore, execution by lethal injection is not to be reprehended because it is too severe a punishment but because it is too lenient. He wants the suffering of his attacker to linger indefinitely, not to have a term. I am reminded of the famous, or infamous, eighteenth century pamphlet, Hanging Not Punishment Enough.
Yet I think it likely that Mr Flint is not, in fact, motivated principally by cruelty. He is merely, like me, like all of us, inconsistent.
One last point. The German company that makes propofol, the drug used in Missouri for execution by injection, has threatened not to allow it to be exported to the United States where, apparently, no one makes it. Germany, of course, has an unfortunate past where execution by chemical is concerned. But there is the slight difference of due process, due process that took thirty years to exhaust! What hay Dickens would have made of it!
First published in the Library of Law and Liberty.
Posted on 12/01/2013 5:33 AM by Theodore Dalrymple
Sunday, 1 December 2013
The French Do Not Have An "Identity Crisis" -- They Have, Rather, Millions Of Permanently Hostile Muslims In Their Midst
Here is how a writer for The Irish Times wishes to describe the growing, now unstoppable, recognition in France, as elsewhere in Europe, that -- to quote a lapidary formula from a favorite writer -- "the large-scale presence of Muslims in the countries of Western Europe has created a situation, both for the non-Muslim indigenes and for non-Muslim immigrants, that is far more unpleasant, expensive, and physically dangerous than would be the case without that presence." Is there anyone of sense in Europe who would not turn back the clock, if he could, knowing what he knows now, so as never to have allowed that Muslim immigration in the first place?
But look how the reporter ignores that, even as he mentions examples of French -- and British -- unease. Instead, he ludicrously tells us that the French are suffering an "identity crisis." Oh no they're not.
Here's that mixture of truth and tendentious blague.
Posted on 12/01/2013 8:09 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Sunday, 1 December 2013
The Al Qaeda fanatic from Britain who funded jihad trip to Syria by mugging Londoners with a Taser
A British man who was killed fighting alongside Al Qaeda-linked extremists in Syria funded his trip by mugging people in an affluent area of London, The Mail on Sunday has learned. Choukri Ellekhlifi, 22, threatened victims with a Taser-style high-voltage stun gun and forced them to hand over valuables including designer watches and mobile phones.
He lived in London until a year ago when he skipped bail and travelled to Syria to join a group of Islamic extremists waging war on President Assad’s regime. Now it has been revealed that he was one of three British men killed as their group attacked pro-government forces near the city of Aleppo on August 11.
Ellekhlifi had joined the rebels under a pseudonym but his true identity became clear after police compared mugshots taken after his arrest for the street robberies with a photo of British fighters in Syria that emerged last week.
Another man pictured with him, Mohammed el-Araj, 23, from Ladbroke Grove, West London, was killed two weeks later during a firefight.
Months before his death, Ellekhlifi targeted wealthy individuals in Belgravia, Central London to raise funds for his journey to the Middle East, according to security sources. Alongside two accomplices – Mohamed Elyasse Taleouine, 21, and Mohammed Ibrahim, 23, both from West London – Ellekhlifi committed eight robberies during a four-day crime spree last year.
‘Wearing masks, they would approach their victims on bicycles, threaten them with a stun gun and demand they hand over their possessions,’ a security source said . . . Two of the gang’s victims needed hospital treatment after the gun was fired at them.
The three men were arrested and released on bail and it is thought that Ellekhlifi then fled Britain to join the Syrian rebels.
A fighter using the name ‘Abu Hujama al-Britani’ was recently pictured in Syria, clutching an AK-47 rifle. Now ‘Hujama’ has been identified as Ellekhlifi, who was of Moroccan origin and lived in Paddington.
He evaded a prison sentence for death. What goes around comes around.
Posted on 12/01/2013 2:24 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Sunday, 1 December 2013
We Have a Winner!
Elizabeth Koenig of Oakland, California has won our November crossword competition. Since she also won last month, we will send her a copy of the JB Kelly collection, Fighting the Retreat from Arabia and the Gulf.
The December crossword is larger and more difficult - good luck everyone!
Posted on 12/01/2013 5:48 AM by NER
Sunday, 1 December 2013
Leo Rennert On The NYT: The Ready Tear For The "Palestinian" Refugees
From Leo Rennert:
The United Nations Relief and Works Agency, whose sole task is to perpetuate the festering problem of Palestinian refugees, is mounting a traveling photo exhibit about their continuing plight. And the New York Times is only too pleased to help UNRWA peddle a grossly revisionist history of Palestinian refugees and their sad lot.
In its Nov. 29 edition, the Times devotes a four-column spread, including five heart-tugging photographs, to depict Palestinian refugees as victims of Israel’s founding. Jerusalem correspondent Isabel Kershner tells readers that “about 700,000 Arabs fled or were expelled from their homes during the Arab-Israeli war over the foundation of Israel” in 1948. And, she adds, “hundreds of thousands more were later displaced by the Arab-Israeli war of 1967.” (“Photographs Tell a History of Palestinians Unmoored – Exhibit Traces Steps of Refugees Since 1948” page A6).
Nowhere in her article does Kershner mention that there would have been no Palestinian refugee problem if the Arabs had accepted the 1947 U.N. two-state partition plan, calling for creation of an Arab state and a Jewish state. Israel accepted partition. Arabs rejected it and instead launched an all-out war against the nascent Jewish state with the avowed aim of destroying it.
Nor does Kershner mention that some 800,000 Jews who had lived for centuries in Arab lands were mercilessly persecuted by their host countries about the same time and forced to flee and become refugees as well. Jewish refugees numbered more than Palestinian refugees. But Jewish plight doesn’t grab the New York Times as much.
Neither does Kershner point out that these Jewish refugees were integrated into Israel, the United States and other countries – unlike Palestinian refugees who were – and still are – used as political pawns to undergird Arab and Palestinian calls for a “right of return” to Israel for an estimated 5 million Palestinian refugees and their descendants.
As for the impact of the 1967 Six-Day War, there is no mention that whatever happened to Palestinians, it was Egypt and Syria that precipitated the conflict, again with the avowed aim of annihilating the Jewish state.
In other words, the Palestinian refugee problem is a self-made, self-inflicted phenomenon which need never have happened.
Kershner, however, is not interested in real history. Instead, she join UNRWA in a transparent anti-Israel propaganda campaign to validate Palestinian victimhood at the expense of Israel’s basic legal and historical right to its very existence.
Thus, she highlights photos in the UNRWA exhibit of Palestinian children studying by the “dim light of gas lamps” in a camp in Gaza, rows of shacks in a “desolate refugee camp,” and a family carrying suitcases, “young son clutching a white ball,” heading east over the Allenby Bridge across the Jordan River. Kershner’s appraisal of these photos – “powerful and haunting.” But it’s all a promo for UNRWA’s exhibit, dubbed the “Long Journey,” which soon will go on a journey of its own to cities in the West Bank, Gaza, Jordan, Lebanon, Europe and North America.”
“This is an important piece of work,” Filippo Grandi, UNRWA’s commissioner-general, tells reporters at the exhibit’s opening – in Jerusalem’s Old City no less. “It is a contribution to building a national heritage for the Palestinians. “UNRWA is clearly satisfied with its propaganda project. But are there no critics? Kershner grudgingly admits that some Israelis might have a different take on the Palestinian refugee problem, but immediately dismisses any objections. Israelis, she writes, might be biased because they would “view the memorialization of the refugee experience through a prism of politics and contention.”
UNRWA is OK and can be trusted, Kershner opines. But Israeli views are colored by political considerations, she cautions. Such is the anti-Israel bias of a New York Times correspondent in Jerusalem.
Posted on 12/01/2013 9:22 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald