"And what does the LORD require of you But to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God"
-- Micah 6:8

"The duty of the prosecutor is to seek justice, not merely to convict."
-- American Bar Association Standard 3-1.2(c)

"There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty, but not however with regard to abortion and euthanasia."
--Pope Benedict XVI, June 2004

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Oregon Jury: Death for "Extremists"

From the AP:
A jury Wednesday recommended that a father and his son be sentenced to death for planting a bomb that exploded inside an Oregon bank two years ago, killing two police officers and maiming a third.
In a trial that spanned three months, prosecutors portrayed Bruce and Joshua Turnidge as bigoted men who hated authorities, were desperate for money and feared that newly elected President Barack Obama would take away their guns.
Prosecutors urged jurors to sentence the men to death to prevent them from endangering prison staff or preaching their hatred for authorities to young prisoners who will someday be released. As convicted cop killers, the Turnidges will be popular in prison, they said.
A suprising verdict given the jurisdiction (left coast of Oregon) and an interesting argument for future dangerousness: beside the obvious continuing threat these anarchists would pose to the prison staff, the prosecution cited the danger that their anti-authoritarian, anti-government philosophy would be absorbed by the impressionable young inmates of the Oregon penal system.

Hmmm. Not so sure the reasoning is sound on the last point (after all, these impressionable young thugs are already not exactly Rotarians), but killing two police officers, one of whom was the bomb technician trying to disarm the bomb, coupled with their paranoid philosophy, is proof enough that these offenders would be future threats.

One wonders, though, if the jury in liberal western Oregon might not have been more offended, yea, verily, even unto death, by the viewpoints of these defendants, and thus more likely to buy the prosecution's "contamination" future dangerousness argument as the hook on which to hang their death sentence.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Sprung Murderer Victimizes Again

From the Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch:
A man who spent 18 years on Death Row for killing a Columbus auxiliary police officer is back in prison for robbing a woman in Franklinton.
Thomas Anderson, 57, is at the London Correctional Institution serving a five-year sentence imposed in May by Franklin County Common Pleas Judge Julie M. Lynch.
Anderson pleaded guilty to one count of robbery for punching a woman who confronted him for taking a purse and cell phone from her car at W. Rich Street and S. Central Avenue on Oct. 19, 2009.
It was the seventh felony charge filed against him since his release from a life sentence in 1988.
Anderson was 17 when he was sentenced to die in the electric chair in 1970 for the murder of auxiliary Sgt. Lawrence V. Kipfinger during a robbery at a North Side convenience store. In 1972, the Ohio Supreme Court changed the sentence to life in prison, making Anderson eligible for parole.
Another murderer who would not be victimizing citizens again if Ohio had meted out the punishment that fit his crime of murdering a police officer.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

The Evil Weed?

Smoking marijuana can suppress the body's immune system, which explains why pot-smokers are more susceptible than non-smokers to certain cancers and infections, according to a new study.
This effect of marijuana is due to chemicals in the drug that fire up the body's production of immune system cells called myeloid-derived suppressor cells. While most immune system cells are protective — fighting infections and
cancers to keep a person healthy — these cells suppress the immune system, keeping it in check, according to the study.
'Cannabis is one of the most widely used drugs of abuse worldwide, and it is already believed to suppress
immune functions, making the user more susceptible to infections and some types of cancer,' Prakash Nagarkatti, a microbiology and
pathology professor at the University of South Carolina, said in a statement.
I won't be holding my breath for the legalization ideologues to slow their efforts.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Premature Exoneration

Hmmm, not so hasty. A convicted rapist is freed because later DNA testing (unavailable at time of trial) shows genetic material on the adolescent victim was not his. Per standard practice, only the material present in the "rape kit" taken from the victim's body was tested.

But later testing from sources on the bedding are attributable to the now "exonerated" defendant. The DNA on the victim apparently was the result of an earlier consensual encounter.

The question now is whether the rapist can be tried again, since his conviction was (too hastily)vacated based on only an incomplete DNA workup from available crime scene sources.

Lesson: a negative DNA result does not always equate with actual innocence.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Sorry, Spicoli

This despite years and years of relentless pro-drug propaganda and the usual leftist appeal to race and class divisions:

California's initiative, which would have allowed adults age 21 and older to possess and grow small amounts of marijuana, failed 54 to 46 percent. An Associated Press analysis of exit and pre-election polls found voters opposed Prop 19 regardless of race, gender, income or education level.

Blacks and Latinos, for example, opposed the measure at about the same rate as whites. That despite evidence that pot advocates presented during the campaign that minorities are disproportionately arrested on marijuana offenses.

In a time when society is more and more realizing the social costs of intoxication, legalizing a substance whose only real purpose is intoxication is a tough sell.

One that even permissive Californians wouldn't buy.

It was a bad night for tokers in other states too, as Arizona, Oregon, and South Dakota voters rejected marijuana liberalization attempts.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Escaped Murderer Who Killed Again Finally Rendered Harmless

Arizona executed Jeffrey Landrigan for murder Tuesday night.

The pertinent summary of his case, by Justice Thomas writing the majority opinion for the denial of Landrigan's habeas appeal:
Jeffrey Landrigan was convicted in Oklahoma of second-degree murder in 1982. In
1986, while in custody for that murder, Landrigan repeatedly stabbed another inmate and was subsequently convicted of assault and battery with a deadly weapon. Three years later, Landrigan escaped from prison and murdered Chester Dean Dyer in Arizona.
The last minute legal wrangling consisted of Landrigan's lawyers majoring in minors by attempting to argue that the execution would be cruel and unusual because Arizona apparently obtained the lethal drug dose from a non-FDA approved source in Great Britain.

I dunno, we've had Supreme Court justices suggest that our Constitution be interpreted by looking to the laws of other countries. If we can safely look to England for guidance on interpreting our Constitution, why can't we borrow some sodium thiopental from them to execute our murderers?

Landrigan's case proves yet again that there are no possibilities available to us to render certain offenders harmless, and that the only way to protect society is to execute these offenders.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Justice in Connecticut

Every time people think capital punishment is not needed anymore, a case like this comes along to remind us that there are some crimes so heinous that nothing short of execution will come close to addressing the evil wrought by the offenders.

"A paroled burglar was convicted Tuesday of murdering a woman and her two daughters during a night of terror inside the family's home in a well-to-do Connecticut town." After assaulting and tying up the husband and father, Dr. William Petit, Steven Hayes and Joshua Komisarjevsky forced his wife to withdraw money from a bank and then sexually assaulted and strangled her to death.

Then, turning to the 11 and 17 year old daughters of the family, the two men repeatedly raped them, then tied them both up, doused them with gasoline, and torched the house with the girls still alive inside.

"A medical examiner described a painful and panic-stricken smoke inhalation death likely suffered by Michaela. Seventeen-year-old Hayley's injuries suggested she was burned as she tried to flee."

It's truly mind-boggling to consider the horror and suffering these innocent people endured in those terrifying last hours of their lives, and conclude that these two vile perpetrators should continue living.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Once More, from the Top

Over at his blog, Bishop Finn has written another attempt to justify abolition of the death penalty on religious grounds. Over at his blog, Mark Shea as usual heaps opprobrium on anyone who does not submit to the Magisterium of Mark and Bp. Finn.

Now, Bp. Finn's reasoning is curious to say the least. He begins by citing St. Thomas Aquinas: "The Church’s stance on capital punishment has always been based on the responsibility to protect society. St. Thomas Aquinas says that the legitimate civil authority is obliged to defend people from a dangerous criminal. " But Finn is only telling us part of the truth, which is, as the saying goes, as good as a lie. St. Thomas held that the death penalty is legitimate not simply for reasons of self defense, but with the entirety of Tradition and Scripture supporting his position, and as summarized here by the Catechism of the Council of Trent, he held that:
Another kind of lawful slaying belongs to the civil authorities, to whom is entrusted power of life and death, by the legal and judicious exercise of which they punish the guilty and protect the innocent. The just use of this power, far from involving the crime of murder, is an act of paramount obedience to this Commandment which prohibits murder. The end of the Commandment is the preservation and security of human life. Now the punishments inflicted by the civil authority, which is the legitimate avenger of crime, naturally tend to this end, since they give security to life by repressing outrage and violence. Hence these words of David: In the morning I put to death all the wicked of the land, that I might cut off all the workers of iniquity from the city of the Lord.
It is this traditional teaching that constitutes the stumbling block for our contemporary ecclesiastical death penalty abolitionists, because it rests not on social science, but on the recognition that capital punishment is a vindication of the Fifth Commandment and of the requirements of justice.

Recognizing this, most allow, as they must, that the death penalty still may be morally resorted to. Witness Abp. Chaput of Denver who has stated "in Catholic thought, war and capital punishment can be morally legitimate under certain carefully defined circumstances."

Bp. Finn, unfortunately, glibly comments that "legitimate authority can fulfill its responsibility using lesser but sufficient means for protecting the common good." This is an apparent hearkening to #2267 of the contemporary Catholic Catechism, which says,
Today, in fact, as a consequence of the possibilities which the state has for effectively preventing crime, by rendering one who has committed an offense incapable of doing harm—without definitively taking away from him the possibility of redeeming himself—the cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity "are very rare, if not practically non-existent."

But as we've pointed out before that this passage glaringly fails to identify precisely which "possibilities" exist for a modern state to render offenders incapable of doing harm (it certainly can't be suggesting solitary confinement for life, which would surely be viewed as cruel). And we've cataloged at some length here, in the US at any rate, even life without parole does not render offenders harmless.

So we're left with the conclusion that what we do in this country with the death penalty is in accord with Catholic moral principles: we execute only a "rare" tiny fraction (one-tenth of one percent) of the most serious offenders (murder is the only death-eligible crime in the US) and only after fair trials with extensive appellate review with the safety valve of executive intervention (i.e., commutation or clemency).

Bp. Finn concludes by suggesting that the virtue of mercy should be an even more important grounds for not executing criminals than the mysterious and unidentified "possibilities for rendering offenders harmless."

But surely the good bishop understands that counsel of mercy is directed to individuals not to states, which, as Trent pointed out, are charged with carrying out their divinely appointed duties to ensure the public safety and the common good, to deter future offenders, and to render justice to wrongdoers. A state cannot be merciful or unmerciful, only individual souls can. The bishop's advice is well-taken if directed to victims of these criminals, who should have mercy and forgiveness in their hearts.

But the State may not fail in its primary duty under the rubric of exercizing a private virtue which would result in a failure in deterrence, a failure in justice, and a failure in ensuring the safety and the common good of society.

Sadly, these social evils, far more prevalent and costly to society than the occasional execution of a murderer, do not rate a blog entry by a bishop or a pastoral letter by the Bishop's conference.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Hope for Western Civilization

H/T: First Things, by which we learn that this remarkable young lady will be entering the novitiate to become a Dominican nun.

Oh, and translation here if you really need it. ;-)

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Black Catholicism in Richmond

An interesting piece on the South's first black Catholic parish, here in Richmond, Virginia, from a guy I don't often agree with, Michael Paul Williams of the Times Dispatch.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

LWOP Fails To Protect, Again

From our own beloved Virginia comes the heart-warming story of story of Robert Gleason, Jr., an inmate at Super-Max Wallens Ridge Prison. Gleason, in prison already for murder, beat and strangled his cellmate to death because the man was singing, screaming, and acting obnoxiously.

Gleason promises to kill again and has pleaded to be executed, saying,

I murdered that man cold-bloodedly. I planned it, and I'm gonna do it
again. Someone needs to stop it. The only way to stop me is put me on death row.
I did this. I deserve it. That man, he didn't deserve to die.

Wallens Ridge is a newer (about 10-year old) high-level security prison carved into the remote mountains of southwest Virginia. It routinely houses serious offenders serving life sentences. Yet for all that, Gleason managed to kill a fellow inmate.

There are some murders that need to be punished with the ultimate punishment. No humane methods currently known can prevent some individuals from hurting or killing others, even in our most secure prisons.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Group of Five Strikes a Blow for Criminals

Well, the Ivy-League Group of Five has issued another proclamation from on high, this time deciding that the State of Florida imposed a cruel and unusual punishment on a juvenile robber by sentencing him to life without parole (LWOP) (Graham v. Florida).

The Wise Men (and Woman) tell us that it is morally disproportionate to sentence a juvenile violent offender to LWOP for any crime short of homicide. Their Constitutional argument? Well, by golly, the Court itself has decided that only the Court gets to decide whether a particular penal practice violates the Eighth Amendment... so in effect, a bare majority of five ivy-league, ivory-tower justices can override the democratically enacted laws of the people to whom the Founders entrusted the question of what is or is not a "cruel or unusual" punishment. The cloak for this naked exercise of raw political power is that our five Oligarchs will first determine that "evolving standards [sic] of decency" require that they intervene to declare a punishment to be in violation of the Eighth Amendment.

Justice Thomas makes this modest reply:
The news of this evolution will, I think, come as a surprise to the American people. Congress, the District ofColumbia, and 37 States allow judges and juries to consider this sentencing practice in juvenile nonhomicidecases, and those judges and juries have decided to use it in the very worst cases they have encountered.
The Court does not conclude that life without paroleitself is a cruel and unusual punishment. It instead rejects the judgments of those legislatures, judges, and juries regarding what the Court describes as the "moral"question of whether this sentence can ever be "proportionat[e]" when applied to the category of offenders at issue here. Ante, at 7 (internal quotation marks omitted), ante, at 1 (STEVENS, J., concurring).
I am unwilling to assume that we, as members of thisCourt, are any more capable of making such moral judgments than our fellow citizens. Nothing in our training as judges qualifies us for that task, and nothing in Article III gives us that authority.
Justice Stevens, who is thankfully retiring, chastised Justice Thomas' "rigid" approach (meaning: respect the limited role of the judiciary and let the legislative branch set punishments). Quoth Stevens, "Standards of decency have evolved since 1980. They will never stop doing so."

We well know that criminal advocates and death penalty abolitionists fondly hope and dream that these so-called "standards" will evolve so much that the death penalty will be considered inhumane, and all LWOP sentences cruel and unusual. By the way-- what kind of "standard" is it that undergoes constant flux according the moral judgment of the Ivy League fraternity that is the 5-justice majority?

The march of the criminal's lobby goes on, looking for the day when the death penalty is again ruled unconstitutional, and states are forbidden even from imposing LWOP on offenders. Once the principle is admitted that long periods of incarceration can be violative of the Eighth Amendment, the sky is the limit for the crime lobby, and after LWOP falls, mandatory minimum sentences will be next.

Is there any doubt where Elena Kagan will end up on this issue?

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Happy 420 Day, Everyone!

Just goes to show that it's very hard, even with years of concerted propaganda, to override common sense. In a time in which we are appreciating more and more the social costs of voluntary intoxication, increasing the incentive for such behavior just doesn't strike most people as sensible.

Sorry, dudes, hate to rain on your 420_day!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Evil, But Not Very Smart (Warning: Offensive Language)

Virginia recently executed Paul Warner Powell. This was an interesting case on a few points.

First, the crimes were, as usual with death penalty cases, atrocious and inhuman:
Stacey, 16, Kristie, 14, were sisters. Powell knew their family and went to their house on the day of the murder. From the summary of the Supreme Court's denial of Powell's habeas appeal:

After Powell raped Kristie, he dressed himself, and he used shoelaces taken from Kristie's shoes to tie her feet together. He also used shoelaces to tie her arms behind her back. Someone knocked on the door to the house, and Powell went upstairs, leaving Kristie naked and bound on the basement floor.
While Powell was upstairs, Kristie was able to free her hands, and she tried to "scoot" across the floor and hide beneath the basement steps. Powell returned to the basement, removed Kristie's eyeglasses, and strangled her until she was unconscious. Powell stabbed Kristie in the stomach, and the knife stopped within a centimeter of her aorta. He slashed her in her neck numerous times, and the repair of the knife wounds required 61 sutures. She had multiple stab wounds to her neck and abdomen. She also had wounds on her wrists.

Stacy fared even worse:
Stacey's death was caused by a stab wound to her chest. The wound pattern indicated that the blade of the knife pierced her heart and was twisted upon withdrawal. The blade of Powell's knife was consistent with the stab wounds. There were numerous bruises on Stacey's head, neck, chest, abdomen, back, arms, and legs. She suffered stab wounds in her back and arm. She also had abrasions on her left hand and wrist that were characterized as defensive wounds. Stacey's body contained bruises on her lower neck that were consistent with someone stepping or stomping on her face and neck.
After his arrest, Powell was found in possession of a knife with blood on it which matched the DNA of Stacey. He admitted raping Kristie and said he had had an argument with Stacey about her supposedly dating a black man.

The second interesting thing about this case is that after his first capital murder conviction was reversed and remanded, Powell wrote this letter to Paul Ebert, the Commonwealth's Attorney who had prosecuted him:
Mr. Ebert,
Since I have already been indicted on first degree murder and the Va. Supreme Court said that I can't be charged with capital murder again, I figured I would tell you the rest of what happened on Jan. 29, 1999, to show you how stupid all of y'all mother fuckers are.
Y'all should have known that there is more to the story than what I told by what I said. You had it in writing that I planned to kill the whole family. Since I planned to kill the whole family, why would I have fought with Stacie before killing her? She
had no idea I was planning to kill everybody and talked and carried on like usual, so I could've stabbed her up at any time because she was unsuspecting.
I had other plans for her before she died. You know I came back to the house after
Bobby's lunch break was over and he had went back to work. When I got back, she was on the phone so I went inside and I laid down on the couch. When the cab came to bring me my pager, I ran out of the house and she jumped and got off the phone and came off the porch to see why I ran out of the house like I did. When the cab left we went in the house. I laid on the couch again and she went to her room and got her clothes and went downstairs to do her laundry. When she went downstairs, I got up and shut and locked the back door and went downstairs. We talked while she put her clothes in the wash. We continued talking when she had everything in the wash and I reached over and touched her tit and asked if she
wanted to fuck. She said no, because she had a boyfriend.
I started arguing with her because she had never turned anybody down because of having a boyfriend. "We started walking upstairs, arguing the whole time. When we got upstairs we went to her room and she turned the radio off. After she turned
the radio off I pushed her onto her bed and grabbed her wrists and pinned her hands down by her head and sat on top of her. I told her that all I wanted to do was fuck her and then I would leave and that we could do it the easy way or the hard way.
She said she would fuck me so I got up. After I got up, she got up and started fighting with me and clawed me face. We wrestled around a little and then I slammed her to the floor. When she hit the floor I sat on top of her and pinned her hands down
again. She said she would fuck me and I told her that if she tried fighting with me again, I would kill her.
When I got up she stood up and kept asking me why I was doing this and all I kept saying is take your clothes off. Finally she undid her pants and pulled them down to her ankles. She was getting ready to take them the rest of the way off and the phone
rang. When she heard the phone she pulled her pants back up and said she had to answer the phone. I pushed her back and said no. She said that she wouldn't say anything about me being there and I told her no and to take her clothes off.
She tried to get out of the room again and I pushed her back and pulled out my knife. I guess she thought I was just trying to scare her and that I wouldn't really stab her because she tried to leave again.
When she got to me and tried to squeeze between me and the door jam I stabbed her. When I stabbed her, she fell back against the door jam and just looked at me with a shocked look on her face.
When I pulled the knife out she stumbled a couple steps and fell in her sister's
room. I walked over and looked at her. I saw that she was still breathing so I stepped over her body and into the bedroom. Then I put my foot on her throat and stepped up so she couldn't breath. Then I stepped down and started stomping on her throat. Then I stepped back onto her throat and moved up and down putting more pressure to make it harder to breathe.
When I didn't see her breathing anymore, I left the room and got some iced tea and sat on the couch and smoked a cigarette. You know the rest of what happened after that point.
I would like to thank you for saving my life. I know you're probably wondering how you saved my life, so I'll tell you.
You saved my life by fucking up. There were main fuck-ups you made that saved me. The first was the way you worded my capital murder indictment. The second was the comment you made in your closing argument when you said we won't know because he won't tell us.
One more time, thank you! Now y'all know everything that happened in that house at 8023 McLean St. on Jan. 29, 1999.
I guess I forgot to mention these events when I was being questioned. Ha Ha! Sike!
I knew what y'all would be able to prove in court, so I told you what you already
knew. Stacey was dead and no one else was in the house so I knew ya'll would never know everything she went through unless she came back to life.
Since the Supreme Court said I can't be charged with capital murder again, I can tell you what I just told you because I no longer have to worry about the death penalty. And y'all are supposed to be so goddamn smart. I can't believe that y'all thought I told you everything.
Well, it's too late now. Nothing you can do about it now so fuck you you fat, cocksucking, cum guzzling, gutter slut. I guess I'll see your bitch ass on Dec. 18 at trial because I'm not pleading to shit. Tell the family to be ready to testify and relive it all again because if I have to suffer for the next 50 or 60 years or however long then they can suffer the torment of reliving what happened for a couple of days.
I'm gone. Fuck you and anyone like you or that associates with people like you. I almost forgot, fuck your god, too. Jesus knows how to suck a dick real good. Did
you teach him?
Well, die a slow, painful, miserable death. See ya punk.
Do you just hate yourself for being so stupid and for fuckin' up and saving me?
Paul Powell.
The last interesting point in this case is that Powell elected to be executed by electric chair, not by lethal injection. According to Powell's attorney, "most of the [death-row] inmates have a serious concern that lethal injection is administered incorrectly and that there is a high probability they will be suffocated to death and not killed in the way . . . it is intended to kill."

Here is an excellent first-hand account
of Powell's execution.

...Paul Ebert was present to witness the execution. Powell did not live another 50 or 60 years, as he had predicted.

Monday, March 22, 2010

The Novus Ordo Seclorum, Act I

It's unfortunate that, lost in the media narrative of the Leadership Conference on Women Religious and the Catholic Health Association advocating for the Obama Health Care bill, which portrays a rift between the bishops and these marginal Catholic advocacy groups, is the larger question of why any Catholic would support an effective government takeover of a large portion of our economy.

This effort to eliminate the private sector and personal choice from health care is nothing other than socialism, and the Church has unequivocally condemned it:

"People differ in capacity, skill, health, strength; and unequal fortune is a necessary result of unequal condition. Such inequality is far from being disadvantageous either to individuals or to the community"
--Leo XIII

"The State which would provide everything, absorbing everything into itself, would ultimately become a mere bureaucracy incapable of guaranteeing the very thing which the suffering person − every person − needs: namely, loving personal concern. We do not need a State which regulates and controls everything, but a State which, in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity, generously acknowledges and supports initiatives arising from the different social forces and combines spontaneity with closeness to those in need.… In the end, the claim that just social structures would make works of charity superfluous masks a materialist conception of man: the mistaken notion that man can live ‘by bread alone’ (Mt 4:4; cf. Dt 8:3) − a conviction that demeans man and ultimately disregards all that is specifically human."

Benedict XVI, Deus Caritas Est, n. 28.

"Religious socialism, Christian socialism, are contradictory terms; no one can be at the same time a good Catholic and a true socialist."

Pius XI, Quadragesimo Anno.

"To sum up, in the words of a capable anonymous writer in 'The Quarterly Review', Socialism has for 'its philosophical basis, pure materialism; its religious basis is pure negation; its ethical basis the theory that society makes the individuals of which it is composed, not the individuals society, and that therefore the structure of society determines individual conduct, which involves moral irresponsibility; its economic basis is the theory that labour is the sole producer, and that capital is the surplus value over bare subsistence produced by labour and stolen by capitalists; its juristic basis is the right of labour to the whole product; its historical basis is the industrial revolution, that is the change from small and handicraft methods of production to large and mechanical ones, and the warfare of classes; its political basis is democracy. . . . It may be noted that some of these [bases] have already been abandoned and are in ruins, others are beginning to shake; and as this process advances the defenders are compelled to retreat and take up fresh positions. Thus the form of the doctrine changes and undergoes modification, though all cling still to the central principle, which is the substitution of public for private ownership'". (Catholic Encyclopedia).

Organized theft and state-sanctioned envy are not Catholic principles. No Catholic should support this bill, even if outlawed abortion.

P.S., for what it's worth, the bill is also patently unconstitutional, if such quaint concerns are of any weight.

Thursday, March 18, 2010


Not bad for a Ford Taurus...

Although Ford will only offer a V-6 package, the Interceptor will have 115 more horsepower than the V-8 Crown Vic, the old war-horse of many police fleets.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Coalition for What?

Poor old Papa Shea is ginning up controversy about torture again on his blog (hmmm, a little short of visits this month, maybe?) He's trumpeting a new endeavor, "The Coalition for Clarity," which is apparently dedicated to the task of arguing that Catholic moral theology on the issue of torture began in 1993 with a proof-text papal encyclical of John Paul II.

Shea and CfC bemoan what they claim is the obfuscation of their opponents in arguing that the term, "torture," is ill-defined and therefore we cannot really know what the current Church administration is condemning. I'm not sure I've heard this objection as much as Papa Shea et al. have, but nonetheless, for the record:

Defining torture in a broad legal sense is a relatively simple task, e.g., the common international law definition of torture as "any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person" (U.N. Convention Against Torture, to which the Holy See is a signatory). I think sometimes the self-styled "Coalition for Clarity" is the side which shies away from a firm definition, including this one, because it would mean accepting many, though admittedly not all, the methods described generally as "enhanced interrogation." Many of these methods do not in fact inflict severe pain or suffering, and thus are not "torture" at all.

No orthodox Catholic is suggesting or adopting a consequentialist rationale for enhanced interrogation, that is, that despite the inherent evil of the act, the good end makes the act morally acceptable. Rather, the point they make is simple: the Church has not clearly ruled out certain enhanced interrogation methods as an intrinsic evil. The task before us then, is the tough work of moral theology, which is to delineate exactly when and under what circumstances could enhanced methods of interrogation be morally permissible. This analysis of circumstances, proportionality of means, and intent, is the bread and butter of Catholic moral theology, and is used to evaluate use of force in just war and self-defense, what economic practices are moral, and a vast array of moral questions where an act can be moral or not, depending on the intent of the actor, the circumstances, and whether the means are proportional to the ends. I suspect that with respect to enhanced interrogation or torture, the conclusion is these methods are moral “only rarely, when other methods have not worked, when an imminent and reasonably discernible threat to life is present, and using methods narrowly tailored to achieve the information sought.”

Murky statements like "treat the enemy humanely" are nothing other than mastubatory feel good statements designed to make the utterer feel morally virtuous while execrating the "other side" for daring actually to discern what is and what is not permissible in the war time interrogation of jihadists. Such a phrase is an empty vessel into which anyone can import whatever restrictions (or lack of restrictions) he supports.

So who's really for clarity here, anyway?

[cross-posted in part as a comment on Shea's blog].

Thursday, January 07, 2010

The Late Unpleasantness, cont.

Only in Virginia...

In a Civil War re-enactment that went too far, two Union and Confederate cavalry commanders who tussled on the field of battle each were found not guilty of assault.
The two pressed charges against each other after the Sept. 19, 2009, re-enactment of the Battle of Stanardsville.
The Confederate commander, Doug Nalls, claimed his Union counterpart, Joseph Ferguson, knocked off his hat and Nalls allegedly responded by firing his revolver. While the weapon was not loaded with a bullet, the Union commander suffered facial injuries from the revolver's powder blast, according to a prosecutor.
This chapter of the Civil War ended in a draw: A judge concluded yesterday that he could not find either man guilty "beyond a reasonable doubt."
The Greene County commonwealth's attorney said the re-enactment gone bad was the result of "bad blood" between the men that boiled over on the battlefield, located about 20 miles north of Charlottesville.
Confederate re-enactors testified during the several-hour trial that the two had exchanged words before the violent encounter. According to Confederate witnesses, the Union commander used archaic slurs such as "blaggard" and "knave" to describe his Confederate counterpart.

Of course, "blaggard" and "knave" are considered fighting words in these here parts.