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If Stuck While Trolling for Troy Davis, Just Make It Up

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The effort is underway to portray the execution of cop killer Troy Davis as a worldwide outrage.  We can hardly be surprised that the usual abolitionist outlets are lathered up, but might have hoped that allegedly mainstream networks like CNN would do some fact-checking before joining the party.

Oh well.

Here's the CNN headline:  World shocked by U.S. execution of Troy Davis

There's only one thing wrong with the CNN story, that being that it says absolutely nothing about "the world."  It notes that an EU official learned "with deep regret" of the execution, and that there were protests in England, France and Germany.

That's it. Three countries.  I had not previously been aware that the "world" consisted of three countries, or of all Europe for that matter.  Some of us thought the "world" consisted of other places including Africa, the Mideast, the Subcontinent, the Orient and North America -- every one of which, unlike Europe, has and uses the death penalty, and some of which use it much more frequently than we do. 

 Maybe I should send CNN a globe.

P.S.  There are actually 196 countries in the world, and the four largest of them  --  China, India, the United States and Indonesia  --  all use the death penalty.

17 Comments

I live in Italy. Perusing the comments section for Troy Davis execution articles in various newspapers here, though it is an unscientific sample, it is clear that a great many people here are in favor of the death penalty for the most heinous of murders. Plenty, even abolitionists, are also quick to point out the foolishness of lumping in America's very limited death penalty for murder with what is practiced in countries like Saudi Arabia, Iran and North Korea where you can be put to death for various non-violent offenses.

I think you will find that regular people in Europe, as opposed to politicians' public views, have much more nuanced views on the death penalty than their governments' sanctimonious proclamations might lead us to believe.

Yanklap --

Great observation. There have been polls showing majority support for the DP in England and, if I recall correctly, other European countries. The fact that European governments reject capital punishment for the time being is less a reflection of the triumph of "compassion" than the failure of democracy. Fortunately, democracy works better over here.

How did you happen to get the good fortune to live in Italy?

Yeah. We are in great company. The ten countries that led the world in execution in 2010 are, in order:

1. China--Thousands*
2. Iran--252
3. North Korea--60
4. Yemen--53
5. United States--46
6. Saudi Arabia--27
7. Libya--18
8. Syria-17
9. Bangladesh--9
10. Somalia--8

(*James Fallows noted that China keeps the total a state secret, but the estimate is around 5,000 annually).

I know it makes you all proud to be Americans. Me, not so much.

Utterly meaningless, as yankalp has already explained.

If I might be so bold as to recur to the issue raised in the main post: Do you disagree with my point that CNN, by portraying three countries as the "world," is simply trying to embelish its headline with non-existent "facts"?

Do you think that trying to palm off three countries as "the world" is honest?

Do you think that advocates with a sound case on the merits need to resort to dishonesty and exaggeration?

As for being proud of being an American: Guilty as charged. I must nonetheless confess that I have yet fully to earn the right to that pride, since so much of what makes the country great was accomplished by the courage, labor and sacrifice of people now long dead. Whether my generation will step up to be worthy of them very much remains to be seen.

"Yeah. We are in great company." Remember that comment of yours every time you complain about guilt-by-association logic, because you've just used that kind of reasoning.

As far as I'm concerned, the frequency of executions in those countries proves that not *everything* about those countries is bad.

But I wonder--if we looked at countries that execute nobody or almost noboody, might we find among these a handful of other countries that we'd look down on the way we do China, Iran, and so on--and then couldn't the guilt-by-association comment go the other way as well? Has anyone ever looked at that?

By the way, countries more culturally similar to us might actually be on that list if the governments of those countries listened to the people.

Bill, I'm able to live in Italy due to dual citizenship--my mom's Italian. In order to make a living, as many native English-speakers do over here, I teach English.

I'd just like to add that those who lump the US in with North Korea and company, always oddly fail to mention retentionist countries with much less objectionable governments such as South Korea, Taiwan, India, Japan, Jamaica, Singapore, Malaysia, Trinidad & Tobago, the Bahamas, etc.

With the exception of the United States, those nations that executed the most individuals last year are quite repressive, violently chaotic, or both. I think we can do better, but you and I disagree fundamentally on what "better" means.

In my view, but obviously not yours, our high homicide rate, our lax policies about gun acquisition and ownership, and our use of execution are all part of what makes our society more prone towards violence and vengeance than it should be. I don't think that Wisconsin or Michigan or New Jersey are morally worse off than Alabama or Virginia because they refrain from executing people.

As for the "proud to be an American, response," Al Franken said something in 2009 that I fundamentally agree with:

"We love America just as much as they do. But in a different way. You see, they love America like a 4-year-old loves his mommy. Liberals love America like grown-ups. To a 4-year-old, everything Mommy does is wonderful and anyone who criticizes Mommy is bad. Grown-up love means actually understanding what you love, taking the good with the bad and helping your loved one grow. Love takes attention and work and is the best thing in the world. That’s why we liberals want America to do the right thing. We know America is the hope of the world, and we love it and want it to do well."

The more I think about my last comment, the last part at least, the more I think it's fundamentally unfair. I am convinced that I have commented enough here, and don't feel good about doing more of it.

Congratulations, decencyevolves, on not bothering to respond to most of the counterarguments.

"With the exception of the United States, those nations that executed the most individuals last year are quite repressive, violently chaotic, or both."

Uh-huh. And what if we look at more than just ten countries, and consider all the others?

"In my view, but obviously not yours, our high homicide rate, our lax policies about gun acquisition and ownership, and our use of execution are all part of what makes our society more prone towards violence and vengeance than it should be."

Whereas in states that make law-abiding citizens run an Iroquois gauntlet to get a gun, everybody can walk the streets free from fear of getting shot? Um, no. So what are you talking about?

Is murder more or less common today (per capita) than it was back when murderers were much more likely to be executed?

Since you brought up this issue of societal propensity for violence, what if we consider all violent crime and not just homicide? Beloved Canada doesn't look so good and civilized then, does it?

And if you're talking about what society is prone to, then presumably it should cut against your argument that in certain countries you admire for not having capital punishment the populace actually *wants* it?

"I am convinced that I have commented enough here, and don't feel good about doing more of it."

Don't tease.

I thought I went too far in my last comments, and decided my tone wasn't respectful, which is why I decided to shut up.

But I don't want to tease you, williamsa, so if you want me to, I'll respond to your last post.

My messages talked about those jurisdictions with the highest number of executions, and while that may make you uncomfortable, we had the fifth highest number of executions in 2010, and were in less than illustrious company. At least some of the other nations cited by another commenter as having less reprehensible governments (Malaysia and Singapore for example, and South Korea on occasion) have a history of restrictions on political freedom I hope you would find very uncomfortable. India, while democratic, has a more than sixty year long history of profound and disturbing corruption and intra-ethnic violence.

I know my arguments are unpopular here, but I think that Western European nations are better served by the decision they have made on this issue. As for the relative popularity of the death penalty in Western Europe, I'm not convinced that everything that polls well is good policy.

I never argued that individuals who live in jurisdictions where gun ownership is more restricted are free of any threats of violence, did I? I would prefer lower homicide rates, and I don't see evidence that abolitionist states have higher rates than retentionists ones, including those states, primarily in the South, that execute the largest number of people. I know the arguments over the general deterrence of capital punishment are heated, with experts on both sides who are happy to pipe up, so I don't imagine I can settle the question on this blog.

Except for getting murdered, you are better off crimewise in the USA than Canada? Is that what I'm hearing? If so, that's a pretty impressive instance of damning with faint praise.

The city of Chicago owns a lot of snowplows and has problems with snow on its streets. The city of Miami owns no snowplows and has no problems with snow. Therefore, snowplows cause snow, and Chicago should get rid of its plows. Then it will be just like Miami.

Given that everyone can see the fallacy of that argument, why do we constantly see the same fallacy on the death penalty?

States that have low crime rates anyway for other reasons are, by and large, the ones that have decided they can do without the death penalty. (Vermont, North Dakota, etc.) That fact proves nothing about deterrence. The causation runs the other direction.

Among the exceptions are Michigan and the District of Columbia. Detroit and Washington are regularly among the highest murder-rate cities. Baltimore is also, and it does not have the death penalty as a practical matter.

All these simplistic comparisons are not really meaningful. To do anything remotely defensible requires much more sophisticated analysis. Abstracts and citations are available here. While the debate continues, the overall weight of studies favors deterrence when the death penalty is actually enforced. That is all the more remarkable given the career disincentives for academics to publish research with Politically Incorrect results.

Sorry to pile on here, decencyevolves, but lumping in the US with Iran, Red China, Saudi Arabia and so on still doesn't mean much. In the USA, since a 1964 Missouri execution for rape, executions in America have been carried out solely for aggravated murder. You're somehow trying to tar the US with the same brush as countries that execute people for political crimes, adultery, apostasy and witchcraft. The smear doesn't hold water.

Furthermore, the number of executions in the United States does not make me feel uncomfortable. If anything, I think there should be far more of them.

One thing that quite annoys me about many abolitionists are their smokescreen tactics and their seeming reluctance to just honestly coming out and saying that they're against capital punishment under all circumstances. Instead, they come out with bogus innocence claims, bogus cost concerns, bogus international guilt-by-association attempts, bogus lethal-injection concerns and so forth.

"But I don't want to tease you, williamsa, so if you want me to, I'll respond to your last post."

You misunderstood, but never mind.

"My messages talked about those jurisdictions with the highest number of executions, and while that may make you uncomfortable, we had the fifth highest number of executions in 2010, and were in less than illustrious company."

It doesn't make me uncomfortable. The fact that many things about those countries are bad doesn't mean that anything else those countries do is bad. It's irrelevant.

As for your criticisms of other, much better countries that retain the death penalty, let me say: gee, I wonder how many of the things you complain about could be said of the likewise civilized countries that don't have capital punishment? Heck, you could say similar things about *this* country even if we got rid of capital punishment.

I notice you continue to ignore the question I asked about all the other countries that don't have the death penalty. No surprise.

"As for the relative popularity of the death penalty in Western Europe, I'm not convinced that everything that polls well is good policy."

You're completely missing the point. You think of these countries as more civilized than the countries you listed that have capital punishment and use it. But if the people of some of these civilized countries had their way, then some of these civilized countries might very well be up there with China, Iran, North Korea, and the others, because the general public in some of these civilized countries approves of capital punishment. So what's the relevance of the fact that the greatest number of executions occur in countries we shouldn't want to emulate? Insofar as this issue is concerned, what's to distinguish the British (who want the death penalty but aren't allowed it because their rulers think they know better) from the Iranians (who want the death penalty and actually have it)?

"I never argued that individuals who live in jurisdictions where gun ownership is more restricted are free of any threats of violence, did I?"

Let me quote back to you your own words: "In my view, but obviously not yours, . . . our lax policies about gun acquisition and ownership. . . are. . . part of what makes our society more prone towards violence and vengeance than it should be." So you think that lax gun policies contribute to our crime problem. Which is why New York City was never infamous for gun violence in the 1970s and 1980s, right?

"I would prefer lower homicide rates, and I don't see evidence that abolitionist states have higher rates than retentionists ones, including those states, primarily in the South, that execute the largest number of people."

The overwhelming majority of people who commit capital murder, even in the South, even in Texas, are never executed. The idea that anyone can draw any kind of conclusion vis-a-vis deterrence from existing data is lunacy.

"Except for getting murdered, you are better off crimewise in the USA than Canada? Is that what I'm hearing? If so, that's a pretty impressive instance of damning with faint praise."

You're the one who talked about our culture of violence. Murder is the worst violent crime; it's very far from the only one. Most violent crime is not murder.

This is what liberals always do: talk about violence in our culture in a way that completely ignores all the evidence of violence in cultures that the Left wants us to emulate. It doesn't matter that there's more of that other violence; what matters is that it's not murder, and therefore doesn't count.

Unbelievable.

I'm not shy about saying I'm against capital punishment in all circumstances--I am.

You and I can give all of the social sciency justifications we want for the positions we take on this issue, but at bottom I believe that the death penalty is immoral, unnecessary, costly, an act of official hubris given the fact that all human endeavors have some degree of error, and that it coarsens our society.

CJLF was founded and funded by individuals who disagree vehemently with this position. The attorneys here have devoted their career to conservative public interest work because of the passionate conviction with which they share these beliefs, foregoing the possibility of more lucrative work. The individuals who comment here most regularly are likely to support the ideas and mission that CJLF embodies.

CJLF has been promoting studies that argue for the deterrent effect of the death penalty, linked to by Kent above. And these same studies have been critiqued at length by Professors John J. Donohue of Yale Law School, Justin Wolfers of the University of Pennsylvania, Robert Weisberg, of Stanford University's School of Law, Jeffrey Fagan of Columbia University, and Richard Berk of the UCLA Department of Statistics, among others.

http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/discussion-recent-deterrence-studies

My position is not "unbelievable." You can disagree with it, as I disagree with yours, but if you don't understand why people oppose your viewpoint, particularly on issues that are matters of continuing and longstanding controversy, that's a weakness, not a strength.

Two questions for you, sir.

1. Is it not the case that the decided majority of deterrence studies, including those undertaken after the criticisms you note, have found that the DP has a deterrent effect?

2. If, as you directly imply, the debate about the DP comes down to an irreduceable view of morality, what reason is there for the majority, which holds a morality no less irreduceable than yours, but embraces the opposite result, to give in to you? If argument is not possible ("You and I can give all of the social sciency justifications we want for the positions we take on this issue..."), isn't the only proper option in a democracy to just take the vote?

1. I haven't surveyed the literature on this, and I don't know who has the greater number of studies or surveys, or who is providing funding for such research, but in the end, some arbitrary numerical division won't settle which position is supported by good science and which is not. The deterrence studies CJLF is trumpetting are controversial and eminent scholars have called them into question. I wouldn't be able to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of these arguments without looking at them carefully. I haven't done so, and given the demands of my practice and family life, I won't be doing so in future.

2. Great moral questions, and capital punishment is one, invariably involve irreducably views of morality--so did/does slavery, civil rights, abortion, gay marriage and so many others. You can't really expect people with firmly held moral beliefs to say, I give up, merely because a majority of individuals at a given place and time, in a given jurisdiction, may disagree.


I wouldn't expect conservatives to roll over on issues that represent their strongly held moral beliefs, simply because they might be unpopular at a given time or place. Individuals using lawful means to persuade not just the public, but public officials in every branch of government, of the rightness of their position are doing what I expect them to do, and I don't begrudge them the effort.

Worthwhile decisions have been reached by courts in advance of changing public opinion and mores: Brown v. Bd. of Education, Mendez v. Westminster in California, and Loving v. Virginia all occurred at times when a majority vote might well have reached a different conclusion. And not every majority vote, even of the general electorate, is so noble or sacrosanct either: I think the US Supreme Court was quite right to strike down Proposition 14, which authorized racial discrimination in housing, in Reitman v. Mulkey. Ronald Reagan's vocal support of that measure did him little credit, despite the fact that it clearly commanded majority support in California.

I firmly believe that killing individuals who have been incapacitated is wrong, and that is the paramount issue for me on this subject. I understand and can empathize with the view that some crimes are so horrible, and cause such great loss and pain, that the only acceptable remedy is death. I don't expect you to surrender your sincerely held views or efforts and I assume you don't expect me to do so either.

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