The Watering Hole, Saturday, May 31, 2014: How Fine Is The Line Between OK To Kill And Not OK To Kill?

This post was previously posted on Pick Wayne’s Brain.

When the Supreme Court ruled in Ford v. Wainwright (1986) that it was a violation of the Eighth Amendment ban on “cruel and unusual punishment” to execute the insane, it was because it was felt a person who does not understand right from wrong, and would not understand their punishment or the purpose of it, should be exempt from execution. In the case of Atkins v. Virginia (2001) the SCOTUS ruled that it was unconstitutional to execute a mentally retarded person. From the link, “Moreover, the Court concluded that there was serious concern whether either justification underpinning the death penalty – retribution and deterrence of capital crimes – applies to mentally retarded offenders, due to their lessened culpability.”

I am an avowed opponent of the use of capital punishment. I do not believe it to be the proper retribution for any crime, even treason. If your justification is Genesis 9:6, you’re going to have to come up with a different one. Remember, we’re a secular nation, so what right do we have to use your religious texts to set our laws? No matter how many times I read it, I do not see the words “Judeo-Christian” in the First Amendment. You need another excuse to kill people. And make no mistake about it – if you support the use of capital punishment, then you want to see people killed. I don’t. I’m not saying there’s never a justification to take another person’s life. Self-defense where an actual danger of death or serious injury to yourself or to someone for whose protection you are responsible is one such justification. But the danger must be real, not imaginary. You can’t use deadly force because you thought the guy had a gun. Otherwise anybody could make up a story about a gun after the fact. The danger has to be real, not imaginary, and not theoretical. You can’t just imagine, or assume, that the guy has a gun and then use the fact that you observe nothing to the contrary as proof that you were right about him having a gun. If that is how you came to “believe” the guy had a gun, and the law allows that as an excuse, then the law needs to be re-written. Deductive reasoning, not inductive reasoning, must be the basis for your belief. There has to be evidence it’s true, not simply a lack of evidence that it’s false.

Unfortunately, the SCOTUS left it up the states to determine, for themselves, and as applied only to persons facing trial in those states, just who qualifies for being called “mentally retarded.” So Florida decided that you qualify for being mentally retarded if your IQ is 70 or below. No other standard required. If your IQ is 71, then you’re going to be executed. One point lower, and it would be cruel and unusual punishment to execute you. Fortunately, with Justice Anthony Kennedy batting from the left side of the plate, the SCOTUS ruled that Florida’s line was unconstitutional.

“Intellectual disability is a condition, not a number,” Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for the divided court. “Courts must recognize, as does the medical community, that the IQ test is imprecise.”

In other words, you’re going to have to come up with another excuse to kill people. Tell me something. Have we advanced no further than the days of the Book of Genesis to tell us right from wrong? If you read Genesis 9 carefully, you won’t find any exemptions for the insane or mentally impaired. It took a secular Constitutional Government to decide that some people should be shown more mercy than even God demanded. Does that make our Founding Fathers bad people? [Answer: No, not that. Plenty of other reasons they weren’t the saintliest of men.] And I agree that they didn’t specify which types of punishment, or which types of people to whom it was applied, would be considered cruel or unusual. Being tarred and feathered and made to walk around in public was cruel, but certainly not all that unusual. Did it have to be both cruel and unusual to be unconstitutional? Yes, otherwise any kind of punishment could be considered cruel. That’s kind of the point of punishment, to do something at least a little cruel, like depriving them of daily contact with Society or their family members who aren’t in prison with them, in response to them breaking certain laws. But here’s the sick part. You can’t execute someone who’s insane or mentally retarded, but if they’re simply mentally impaired and that impairment can be overcome with medication so that the prisoner understands what’s happening, then it’s okay to kill him. As long as he knows you’re doing it and why, the state has no problem with executing him.

So if it isn’t an IQ point, where is the line between OK To Kill and Not OK To Kill? Why do some people deserve to be exempt from execution, while other people, barely any better in any meaningful way mentally, deserve to die? Where is that line? And why are we doing it? Is it suppose to deter others from doing that same crime? Is it working? The state of Texas not only sentences more people to die than any other, it actually carries those executions out. And it’s not a recent phenomenon, it’s been happening as long as capital punishment was constitutional. So it should not occur to anyone who wants to commit a capital crime in Texas that it’s unlikely they’ll ever actually be executed. They can count on it happening, sooner or later. So does the very fact that they could be executed for doing whatever they’re doing deter them from doing it anyway? Obviously not, as Texas continues to lead the nation in executions carried out. Even if you’re mentally retarded. Even if you’re innocent. So it’s not surprising that out of all the executions that have taken place since the Supreme Court lifted its ban on them, Texas has done about a third of them. It sounds to me like executing people has no deterrent effect at all. So why do it?

Retribution? Retaliation? A repayment for deeds done? If that’s so, then why execute a person just for passing state secrets to another nation? If no actual lives were lost because of the passage of that information, then why the death penalty? And if lives were lost as a result of the disclosure, I still ask why the death penalty? I do not condone what they did, and I probably don’t have a position on it one way or the other, no matter who it is. My point is that there are other, less costly ways to punish someone. I’ve had conservative friends say they supported the death penalty because they didn’t want their tax money to go to paying for them to spend their life in prison. Well, guess what? What with all the automatic appeals they’re entitled to, at our expense (both you and me), it often costs WAY more for the government to seek the death penalty than to seek life without parole. And it’s still going to take 15-20 years for that process to play out sometimes, which we’re both paying for anyway. So why bother with the added expense, which I know you hate, to the “overhead” costs anyway? How’s that helping the bottom line? If it’s money you’re looking to save, and you really don’t give a crap one way or the other if the guy’s innocent, then don’t bother with the death penalty and ask for life without parole. That way, if it turns out by some weird fluke that the guy really didn’t do it, then you won’t have the blood of an innocent man on your hands. That would bother you, wouldn’t it? I really hope so, because if the execution of a totally innocent person doesn’t make you hesitate even a little to execute the next one, then there is no hope for you. You are lost to the Dark Side, where Dick Cheney is your master.

So the threat of being killed for killing someone doesn’t deter people. And why should it? Do you think that killing people to make the point that killing people is wrong is really going to make people who want to kill people not kill people? What some of them (more than you might think) hope for is Suicide By Cop. Then they don’t have to face the rest of their life in prison. So what do you think would scare them more? Facing the death penalty, thus ending their “lifetime” in prison, or an actual lifetime in prison?

Given what you’re doing to people when you sentence them to death, given the costs both financial and spiritual, do you need to be so blood thirsty for revenge, or whatever, that you have to draw a thin distinction between someone who’s too mentally retarded to constitutionally execute, and someone who’s observably mentally retarded to some degree, but not mentally retarded enough to be exempt from execution? What about stupid people? Is stupidity an intellectual disability? Should it be a capital crime to be stupid? I’m not talking about doing stupid things, because we all do stupid things. I’m talking about committing horrible crimes because you’re just plain stupid? Do stupid people deserve to be executed more than smarter people? (I remember reading something in Reader’s Digest a long, long time ago in a bathroom far, far away. Two men were on trial for robbing a bank. The prosecutor asked an eyewitness on the stand, “Are the two men who robbed the bank in this courtroom today?” The two defendants raised their hands. Does their stupidity exempt them from execution?) Who deserves to be executed by a government willing to execute innocent people if it helps make their point? (Which, in that case, would be to keep quiet and you can get away with it.) Who are we to decide who lives and who dies? Who am I? Who are you? And if you think you have the moral right to decide who lives and who dies, where do you draw your line between those exempt from execution and those not? The answer to that, and the fact that you would allow anyone to be executed on behalf of the people at all, says more about you than you’ll ever know.

This is our daily open thread. Feel free to discuss capital punishment or anything else you wish to discuss.

Friday May 30, 2014 Music Night

Imelda May with hubby guitarist Darrel Highham have been leading a rockabilly revival in Ireland and the continent over the past dozen years or so. She has appeared on Leno, Conan, and the Late, Late Show here in the U.S. If you get the chance, watch the hour and one half tribute of Less Paul with her, the band, and Jeff Beck. It is ‘knock your socks off’ good. Youtube search Jeff Beck and Imelda May (Rock and Roll).

 

The Watering Hole; Friday May 30 2014; Springtime, Feathers, and Hope Part II

Just in time to fall in line with yesterday’s “Hope is the thing with feathers” post, my email box was suddenly overflowing with photos of more feathered critters, each and all courtesy of Arizona photographer Denny Green who’s apparently been wandering the deserts in search of . . .  etc. Following are four photos of four completely different and disparate winged species from the deserts of Arizona. The first, a burrowing owl about to enjoy lunch; second, a mating pair of Mearns Quail (aka Montezuma Quail), an elusive species in southern Arizona very near the Mexican border; third, a mother duck and her brood of about a dozen out for a swim at the water ranch near Gilbert AZ; finally, a fledgling Harris Hawk on its first flight, following takeoff from its Saguaro cactus launching pad near Phoenix.

Enjoy the magic!

DG Burrowing Owl

 

DG Mearns Quail

 

DG Duck family

 

DG Fledgling Harris Hawk

 Photos © Denny Green, Tempe Arizona

******

To flee from memory
Had we the Wings
Many would fly
Inured to slower things
Birds with surprise
Would scan the cowering Van
Of men escaping
From the mind of man
(Emily Dickinson, c.1872)

“Escaping from the mind of man” — in this day and age, a most worthy goal, and one that’s always possible . . . ‘out there.’

OPEN THREAD

 

 

The Watering Hole; Thursday May 29 2014; Springtime, Feathers, and Hope

Busy week, this one. No more snow; gentle rains; sunshine; green leaves and grass; Springtime in the Rockies, I think some have called it. Life returns, renewed; the world is vibrant once again! So, why mess with politics when ‘out there’ things are actually ALIVE!

I did it. Hoping for a sojourn in a different and more pleasant world, I took a break. Took a camera too, along with a slow early morning walk around the local lake. In the process I enjoyed numerous engaging interacts with feathered friends, i.e. dozens of Canadian Goose moms and pops, most with their still-fuzzy youngsters in tow.  Fascinating to watch how their real world works, and then to realize that even an hour or so of mingling within it can serve to change one’s outlook, to remove that veil of drudgery and offer hints that there still is room to Hope for better times out here in our world.

I have to wonder, now, looking back, if maybe Emily Dickinson might have described the bulk of what one finds ‘out there’ in that ‘other’ world when she posited that —

“Hope” is the thing with feathers —
That perches in the soul —
And sings the tune without the words —
And never stops — at all —

And sweetest — in the Gale — is heard —
And sore must be the storm —
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm —

I’ve heard it in the chillest land —
And on the strangest Sea —
Yet, never, in Extremity,
It asked a crumb — of Me.

Feathered critters a metaphor for hope? You betcha! Illustrations below!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

“Hope” IS the thing with feathers –
Indeed!

Meanwhile, in the REAL world, there’s been nothing in the news aside from the usual and typical doom and gloom that’s come to pretty much define “civilization” in this country and around the globe, including but sadly not limited to ever-ongoing war and threats (to randomly name just a few) of ever more war; climate change-inspired droughts, wildfires, floods, and killer storms; mass kidnapping of young girls in Nigeria; mass murder of college kids in California; Erick Erickson’s thesis that the war on women is bogus, that the REAL war is the war on masculinity (his, apparently) . . . oh, and lest we forget, there’s that Colorado dinosaur that drowned in Noah’s flood, bones soon to be on display in Kentucky’s currently-under-construction Noah’s Ark Creationist Park, or whatever the hell they call it.

Better the company of that thing with feathers — That perches in the soul — And sings the tune without the words. Interesting how the composite beauties of life in the natural world can still manage to overcome the dismal realities of human failure, can still manage to inspire Hope. I know. I’m a regular visitor ‘out there’ and can testify with authority that in spite of it’s lavish gifts, it has never, in Extremity . . . asked a crumb — of Me.

*honk honk honk*

OPEN THREAD

The Watering Hole, Wednesday, May 28, 2014: STATEMENT OF FAITH*

STATEMENT OF FAITH

I. We believe the Bible to be the inspired, the only infallible, authoritative, inerrant Word of God (2 Tim. 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:20-21).

II. We believe there is one God, eternally existent in three persons — Father, Son and Holy Spirit (Deut. 6:4; Matt. 28:19; 2 Cor. 13:14).

a. We believe in God the Father whose love was exemplified in that He gave His only begotten Son for the salvation of men (John 3:16; Eph. 1:3).

b. We believe in the Deity of the Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. When coming to earth He never ceased to be God and that His humiliation did not consist of laying aside His Deity. As a man, He was miraculously begotten of the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. By his atonement and resurrection He accomplished the redemption and justification before God of all who truly believe in Him and accept Him as Lord (Isa. 7:14; 9:6; Luke 1:35; Gal. 4:4-5; Phil. 2:5-8).

c. We believe that the ministry of the Holy Spirit is to glorify the Lord Jesus Christ and during this age to convict men, regenerate the believing sinner, indwell, guide, instruct, comfort, sanctify, seal, reprove and empower the believer for Godly living and service (John 16:7-8; Rom. 8:9; Eph. 1:13-14).

III. We believe Satan is an angelic being who rebelled with other angels against the authority of God. Satan was given temporary rule over the earth for an age to deceive as many of mankind as he is able (Job 1:6-7; Isa. 14:12; Matt. 4:2-11; Matt. 25:41; Rev. 20:10).

IV. We believe that God created the heaven and earth, including all life, by direct act, and not by a process of evolution, in six literal, 24-hour periods (Gen. 1:1-2:3; Ex. 20:11).

V. We believe God’s grace provides salvation and eternal life through Christ’s death, burial and resurrection to all people who repent and receive Him as Savior and Lord. Salvation is based solely upon faith in God’s promise (John 1: 12-13; 2 Cor. 5:17; Eph. 1:7, 2:8-9; Gal. 2:16).

VI. We believe that Christ arose from the dead, ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father, where He intercedes for the believers as our High Priest. We believe in His personal return for His Church. We believe in the resurrection of both the saved and the lost; they that are saved unto the resurrection of life, and they that are lost unto the resurrection of damnation (Acts 2:22-36; Rom. 3:24-26; 1 Peter 2:24; Eph. 1:7; 1 Peter 1:3-5; Acts 1:9-11; Heb. 9:24, 7:25; Rom 8:34; 1 John 2:1-2; Matt. 25:46; John 5:28-29, 11:25-26; Rev. 20:12-15).

VII. We believe that the family is ordained by God as the basic unit of His plan for His people. The institution of marriage between one man and one woman as created by God provides the foundation and definition for the family. We believe in the preservation and edification of the family to be an act of obedience to God (Gen. 2:24, 19:5,13; Lev. 18:1-30; Rom. 1:26-32; 1 Cor. 6:9-10; 1 Thes. 4:3; Heb. 13:4; Mal. 2:14-16; Rom. 7:1-3; Matt. 19:3-6; 1 Cor. 7:10-16).

VIII. We believe in the sanctity of all human life. This life should be protected, nurtured and helped from the moment of conception, when life begins, until death occurs normally (Ps. 139:13-16; Isa. 44:24, 49:1,5; Jer. 1:5; Luke 1:44).

Questions:

1. Does this describe a cult? If so, in what way?

2. Does the education provided by a parochial school based on this Statement of Faith harm children in any way, or do they benefit from being thus indoctrinated?

3. Are there any studies showing children attending such schools either excel academically, or have one or more academic deficiencies? If so, what are those studies?

OPEN THREAD
FEEL FREE TO EXCERCISE
YOUR 1ST AMENDMENT RIGHT ON THIS TOPIC
OR ANYTHING ELSE,
AS THE SPIRIT MOVES YOU

*This is not to imply that this “Statement of Faith” is adhered to by The Zoo, nor any of the members of The Zoo community.

Memorial Day, May 26th, 2014

World War I Memorial, Washington, DC

na-WWI-Memorial

World War II Memorials, Washington, DC
ww2memorialDC
ww2 marines-memorialpacific atlantic ww2

Korean War Memorials, Washington, DC
washington-dc-korean-war-veterans-memorialKorean-WarKorean War Memorial in the Snow 04

Vietnam War Memorials, Washington, DC
vietnam-memorial-three-soldiersvietnam-war-nurses-memorialvietnam-veterans-memorial-washington-dc-ilker-goksen

Tomb of the Unknown
an american soldier

Iraq War Memorial, Washington, DC

?

Afghanistan War Memorial, Washington, DC

?

Open thread–have at it!