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A Caution on Comments

Since we began this blog, the comment traffic has been more sparse than most blogs, but it has been largely civil, in contrast to the "food fight" type of comment thread you often see elsewhere.

A while back, I loosened some settings to make it easier to register and comment.  I expected that would increase the comment traffic but worried that it might increase the number of low-grade comments.  For the most part, for a time, it did not.  Recently, though, we are getting an increase in comments that merely call people names while adding nothing of substance to the discussion.

Blogs are analogous to a private living room, not "speaker's corner" in a public park.  There is no First Amendment right to say anything you want.  As a guest, you observe the host's rules or you leave.

If you want to add to the discussion with thoughtful, substantive comments, you are welcome here, and that applies equally whether you agree or disagree with the post.  However, we do not need or welcome comments that just sling mud.  We also do not need or welcome comments that make gross mischaracterizations of what the original post said just to knock down the straw man.

I very rarely ban commenters, other than spammers.  If I do find it necessary, though, let me note in advance that doing so is not "censorship," the claim that banned commenters usually make.  Censorship is when the government fines or imprisons people for speech in the public forum.  Asking an unruly guest to leave a private party in your living room in not censorship; it is being a responsible host.


Scheidegger, you are in no position to give lectures on civilized discourse.

You are the one who posted an article from Dudley Sharp entitled, "How grotesque can an anti-death penalty person be?".

I have little interest in respecting your moral relativism, cheap insults and pro-death penalty hypocrisy.

Please feel free to ban me from your forum.

You know what I think is funny--people who are so blinded by ideology that basic reading comprehension is beyond them. Sharp's article didn't refer to all anti-death penalty people, but a single anti-death penalty person, namely, the execrable Mr. Ullman. Mr. Ullman said that upon sentencing Stephen Hayes to death that we all became Stephen Hayes. Calling him grotesque is not beyond the bounds of civilized discourse. I can't speak for Mr. Scheidegger, but I suspect he doesn't want to ban forceful comments, only ones that don't enhance debate. I notice, of course, that you don't defend Ullman's statements.

You will insult Mr. Scheidegger, yet Mr. Ullman's comments elicit no response? It never ceases to amaze how many abolitionists fierce opposition to the death penalty warps their views of the world. I think it's a matter of perspective. At the end of the day, there are far more things in this world to get worked up about than the execution of a murderer who, after all, is responsible for the pickle he is in. Perhaps you should examine what in your life has led to what I view as a lack of proper perspective.

federalist --

As has become clear, some abolitionists are interested simply in making it so personally unpleasant to blog in favor of the death penalty that they hope, so it seems, effectively to muzzle our side by making silence appear to be the only safe escape from their calumny.

These are generally from the same crowd that takes pride in championing free speech and "diversity" of views.

Analysis simply will not do any good with them, because it's not about analysis. It's about spitting.

Go figure.

P.S. Occasionally, on SL&P, after I've had enough, I will challenge a "spitter" to an in-person debate before a law school audience. Since they know that, in such a setting, they can't get away with the low-ball, ad hominem tactics they use in Internet anonymity, I have yet to have someone take me up on it. Generally what they do instead is just disappear.

Go back and read the post again, Abolish alias TAOISEACH. Do you see the word "grotesque" there? No. I decided not to quote that part.

Before you blast a post, you might try actually reading it.

BTW, while I prefer that commenters use their real names, I don't require that. I would appreciate it, though, if commenters who feel a need to post anonymously would adopt one handle and stick with it. It helps put the comments in context if they are identified as being from the same source as other comments.

As a rule, when I post on the internet in support of the death penalty, I alway block my email/personal messages, etc. It cuts down on the physical and death threats I receive from abolitionists.

I don't worry about the calumny. I figure I punch back twice as hard.

Many pro-death penalty commentators on this site have slung personal insults at me. An example would be Bill's post, below, insulting every single defense lawyer and accusing them of knowingly representing someone who was guilty. There was no evidence of any kind, at all and I thought his argument was weak in several other ways. Bill didn't respond (I don't expect him to, I'm sure everyone has more pressing concerns) but instead 'shawn' said that I was 'arrogant' and didn't know what I was talking about. Of course, he didn't say why or in fact point out any part of my argument that was wrong, he just came with the insult.

So please kent, if you want to ban me go ahead. I'm sure that both of us will see nothing of value as being lost

bhaal, you're coming off as whiny.

I don't see why my post was any more whiny than the others in this thread.

Was mine? I don't think so.

Just out of curiosity, what do you think of Mr. Ullman's comment?

No, yours was not.

Mr Ullman?

Ullman is one of Stephen Hayes' lawyers. He commented that after Hayes death sentence was given we all became Stephen Hayes. He didn't even exclude Dr. Petit from that. What class.

bhaal --

If you had ever practiced law in an American court, you would know that it is not an insult, but a statement of fact, and not even a controversial one, that criminal defense lawyers routinely represent people they know are guilty.

bhaal: I called you arrogant because you routinely pretend that you know more about US law than those who actually practice it.

Bill - I will not accept your assertion without evidence.

shawn - I won't waste my time on your insults.

bhaal --

I practiced law in federal court for about two decades and am counsel of record in over 100 federal criminal appeals, mostly in the Fourth Circuit but elsewhere as well. I now teach law at Georgetown Law School. If that is not evidence enough for you of my knowledge of the area, that's unfortunate.

I would note that no one else commenting here has taken issue with my assertion. I suspect this is because many if not most of the other commenters also have extensive experience litigating criminal cases in American courts.

I have evidence that criminal defense attorneys knowingly represent guilty people. Now granted, my evidence is anecdotal, but still...

I happen to be married to a criminal defense attorney. In addition, my spouse and I have many friends who are criminal defense attorneys. Lots of 'em.

Without exception, my spouse and our friends have represented people they knew to be guilty. They have done so, and continue to do so, with pride in knowing that they are a vital part of our criminal justice system.

An ethical criminal defense attorney who is not delusional will readily admit that the vast majority of their clients are guilty. That is not an insult, however. It's just reality.

right well this can be settled easily then - Bill what is your opinion of notablogger's wife? Is she one of the horrible, evil defense lawyers you mentioned in your post, or did I misread it?

You mean notablogger's husband, I believe.

At this point, I will mention here once again from our "About" page, "The opinions expressed by outside authors reflect their individual opinion and are not necessarily those of CJLF."

Oh and I think Ullman's comments were out of line, both for their content and because they were at odds with the comments his client made, which tried (however ineffectively) to apologise for his actions.

bhaal --

"Bill what is your opinion of notablogger's wife? Is she one of the horrible, evil defense lawyers you mentioned in your post, or did I misread it?"

I have not met notablogger, although I would like to, in order, among other things, to thank her for her years of service as a prosecutor -- and not in the easiest jurisdiction, either.

I also have not met her husband, of course.

I don't recall using the words "evil" or "horrible" in my post, nor do I think it becoming either to inflame or personalize the debate. Part of the point Kent is making with his admonition about comments is to try to steer the discussion away from persons and towards ideas.

I will rest with two thoughts. The first is that I repeat without reservation my closing paragraph in the post to which you refer:

"Adults cannot just blandly walk away from responsibility for what they spend their waking hours doing and seeking. This is so even if they are only seeking it in a representative capacity. The canons insulate you, as the defense attorney, from blame for what your client has done, and from what your successful efforts will enable him to do next. Whether they insulate you, as a human being, from what you have brought about, and its aftermath, is a different matter."

I would note that if you beleive otherwise, you have not said so, and still less have you provided reasons for believing otherwise (if you do).

Adults are moral actors and MUST be responsible for what they do. I cannot imagine that this would even be debatable in any other context.

My second observation is this. There is an alternative name for prosecutors (this is something else you would know if you had ever practiced in an American courtroom). The name is "Defense Lawyers In Training."

bhaal: Not an insult but a fact.

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