Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Death Penalty - Who Decides?

Only three states allow a single person, a judge, to impose the death penalty in capital cases. The rest require an unanimous jury vote in order to exact the ultimate punishment.

An examination of death penalty cases in Florida, one of the the three states with looser rules, found that a unanimous jury vote requirement would have substantially reduced the number of death sentences meted out.
If the state had required unanimity, between January 2010 and June 2015, there would have been 70% fewer death verdicts, in less than half as many counties.  
Philosophically, it seems clear that a consensus opinion is a logical minimum requirement before a state can kill one of its citizens. Capital punishment is, after all, the most awesome and final action a state can take. The more thoroughly examined and debated that decision is the more we can trust that the decision to execute is not based on faulty, frivolous or merely vindictive motives.

But as a practical matter, too, unanimity should be a required condition for the death penalty. The fact is we just aren't very good at executions. Look at the current chaos among the states, notably Oklahoma, trying to "humanely" put down condemned prisoners in chemical executions lasting over half an hour. And then there are the terrifying results of the Innocence Project's efforts to free the wrongfully convicted from death row, In addition to taking a life, we may improperly impose a potentially excruciating death on an innocent person. This seems an unreasonably high cost to the goal of extinguishing a criminal's life.

By requring unanimous jury votes in capital cases we have the means to make the death penalty difficult for prosecutors to obtain and judges to impose. If in the process we execute fewer citizens, the guilty and innocent alike, we can at the least take grim comfort in knowing that we have limited the ability of the criminal justice system to impose its harshest penalty on those who least deserve it.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

A "Little Bit" Of Knowledge Is Dangerous; None At All Is Deadly

The author of the Dickey amendment that forbids research into gun violence is interviewed.
His law ordered the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention never to fund research that could be seen as advocacy for gun control. Since the 1990s, that provision has commonly stopped any gun studies because researchers don't want to risk losing federal money, and that is what Jay Dickey regrets.

Friday, October 2, 2015

If Quill Pens And Parchment Were Good Enough For Thomas Jefferson...

Why would anyone expect the Department of State to have evolved secure electronic communication systems that match, say, AOL?
The lack of a State Department classified network accessible via mobile devices is a major problem in our 24/7, always-on world. It forces officials to make tough choices about the trade-off between security and the need for timely transmission of vital information. In the furor over Clinton’s emails, policymakers, pundits, and technology experts should not lose sight of the larger imperative of developing new systems that don’t pit the imperative of security against the need to communicate, share information, and reach decisions at the pace that breaking world events demand.

No. No. I Don't Despair For The Future Of Our Culture. Not At All.

I'll just leave this here.
The commercial, released last Friday to promote a new hamburger and binational sexism, claims “When Tex meets Mex, it’s a win-win.” The proof is in the ad: handsome neighbors bonding over burgers, bouncing bikini babes, and an erotically invigorating match of border wall volleyball.

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