The inefficiency of capital punishment

In 1991, Thomas Clyde Bowling was sentenced to death for the murders of Eddie and Tina Earley. The Earleys were sitting in their automobile outside of the Earley Bird Cleaners, a dry cleaning business in Lexington, Kentucky, that they owned, with their two-year-old son, when Mr Bowling shot them; their son was also shot, but survived.

Mr Bowling finally died, on Saturday, March 20, but he wasn’t executed; at age 62, he had been transferred from Death Row at the Kentucky State Penitentiary to the Nursing Care Facility at the Kentucky State Reformatory, in poor health due to complications stemming from cancer. He was then transferred to Baptist Health in LaGrange, where he was pronounced dead. The Usual Suspects claimed that Mr Bowling, who was retarded, was innocent, and tried to blame other people, but could never prove their case.

Mr Bowling had been on Death Row since 1991. Various appeals had kept Mr Bowling from the death chamber. The result is obvious: the Commonwealth of Kentucky kept a prisoner on death row for a quarter of a century, incurring not only the greater expenses of the isolation housing on death row, but the legal expenses associated with capital punishment appeals, and, in the end, he died due to his own poor health.

This was easily foreseeable: Mr Bowling was borderline retarded, and in Atkins v Virginia, the Supreme Court held, almost 13 years ago, that the execution of the mentally retarded violated the Eighth Amendment. Keeping Mr Bowling on Death Row after that — the Governor could have commuted his sentence to life in prison, and still not been “soft on crime” — was simply an unnecessary expense for a poor state.

Let’s be realistic: Mr Bowling died the way the vast majority of inmates on death rows across the nation will die: from something other than being executed. Here in Pennsylvania, we have 183 men and 3 women on death row, yet, since the national reinstatement of capital punishment in 1976 (Pennsylvania re-enacted its own capital punishment legislation in 1974), only three men have been executed in the Keystone State, and all three essentially “volunteered,” by dropping all of their appeals. No one has been executed in Pennsylvania against his will since the reinstitution of capital punishment, but the Commonwealth is still spending millions and millions of dollars to continue to pursue the death penalty.1 In that same period, Kentucky, with a current death row population of 32 men and one woman, has executed only three prisoners, and two of them volunteered; Kentucky’s last execution occurred on 2008. The Governor of the Blue Grass State has the sole authority to issue commutations of capital sentences.

Capital punishment in Kentucky, and in Pennsylvania, is a needless expense: both Commonwealths spend gobs of extra money to maintain death rows and fight prisoners’ appeals (while having to pay for the prisoners’ appeals themselves, in most cases!), and still the least likely cause of death for condemned men in both states is execution! It has been along time since I lived in Kentucky, but here in the Keystone State, prosecutors use capital punishment not to get criminals actually put to death, but as a method of telling the bad guys that we really, really disapprove of what they did . . . and to appear tough on crime before the next election.

My taxes are too high, just like taxes are too high for everyone in Pennsylvania, and the last thing that I want to see is tax dollars being wasted. Well, in Pennsylvania, and in Kentucky, they clearly are being wasted, on a system that doesn’t perform its (purported) duty. It would be a lot more efficient, and a lot less expensive, to simply end capital punishment, period. After all, it’s not like we are going to execute anyone anyway!

  1. Governor Tom Wolf (D-PA) issued a moratorium on executions in Pennsylvania, but does not have the authority to commute sentences on his own. The previous Governor, Tom Corbett, signed 48 separate death warrants, but no actual executions occurred during his four year term.

In the end, there can be only one!

From the Houston Chronicle:

Ted Cruz to announce presidential bid Monday
Senator will be first declared GOP candidate
By Theodore Schleifer | March 21, 2015 Updated: March 21, 2015 11:50 pm

Click to enlarge

Sen. Ted Cruz plans to announce Monday that he will run for president of the United States, accelerating his already rapid three-year rise from a tea party insurgent in Texas into a divisive political force in Washington.

Cruz will launch a presidential bid outright rather than form an exploratory committee, said senior advisers with direct knowledge of his plans, who spoke on condition of anonymity because an official announcement had not been made yet. They say he is done exploring and is now ready to become the first Republican presidential candidate.

The senator is scheduled to speak Monday at a convocation ceremony at Liberty University in Virginia, where he is expected to declare his campaign for the presidency.

Over the course of the primary campaign, Cruz will aim to raise between $40 million and $50 million, according to advisers, and dominate with the same tea party voters who supported his underdog Senate campaign in 2012. But the key to victory, Cruz advisers believe, is to be the second choice of enough voters in the party’s libertarian and social conservative wings to cobble together a coalition to defeat the chosen candidate of the Republican establishment.

More at the original; the Chronicle article isn’t particularly friendly toward Senator Cruz, but states, with a slightly derogatory undertone, that Mr Cruz has made few friends in Washington, but hopes to win based on what he sees as the difference between Republican voters and Republicans in government. Your Editor disagrees with the characterization “the chosen candidate of the Republican establishment”; the GOP leadership may have a preference, but the Republican primary voters choose the nominee.

The First Street Journal does not endorse Senator Cruz, at least, not yet. This early in the campaign — and while there are other supposed candidates out there, no one has yet actually declared — I see the choices as being between people who hold the right positions and say the right things, a category into which Mr Cruz certainly falls, and people who hold the right positions and say the right things and have actually gotten some of them done; in that category. Mr Cruz is absent, because he hasn’t held a position which would enable him to get a lot done. Prospective candidates like Governor Scott Walker (R-WI) and former Governor Rick Perry (R-TX)1 have held executive positions which enabled them to put conservative principles into actual governing policy. Former Governor Jeb Bush (R-FL) was able to get things done in leading his state, but he is less conservative than I would like.

I stated my criteria for choosing a candidate when Governor Perry withdrew in 2008:

  1. Someone with strong executive experience;
  2. Someone with strong conservative values; and
  3. Someone who could defeat President Obama.

President Obama cannot run again, so the third criterion changes to “Someone who can defeat the Democratic presidential nominee.” The nominee presumptive is former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who is expected to announce her candidacy in April, but Mrs Clinton was also the 2008 Democratic nominee presumptive, and that didn’t work out as predicted.2

It’s along, long time until the nomination will be settled; it’s still more than nine months until the first contest, the Iowa caucuses. A lot can happen between now and then.3

  1. Governor Perry was the Editor’s preferred candidate in 2008, but he dropped out after a poor early performance as a candidate.
  2. I have stated previously that I did not believe that Mrs Clinton would run. She is 67 years old, looks every day of her age, does not look to be in the greatest of physical health, and knows, personally, how grueling the nomination campaign can be. It appears now that she will begin a campaign, but I still have serious doubts that she will be able to finish one.
  3. This article does not include a link to Senator Cruz’s campaign website, because it isn’t open yet. Once he has officially announced, I assume that the website will be opened, and I’ll add the link then.

Rule 5 Blogging: צְבָא הַהֲגָנָה לְיִשְׂרָאֵל

It’s the weekend and time, once again, for THE FIRST STREET JOURNAL’S version of Rule 5 Blogging. Robert Stacey Stacy McCain described Rule 5 as posting photos of pretty women somewhat déshabillé, but, on this site, our Rule 5 Blogging doesn’t put up pictures of Megan Fox in her summer clothes, but women, in full military gear, serving their countries in the armed forces. The terribly sexist authors on this site celebrate strong women, women who can take care of themselves and take care of others, women who have been willing to put their lives on the line in some not-so-friendly places, women who truly do have the “We can do it!” attitude.

This week, we once again visit the צְבָא הַהֲגָנָה לְיִשְׂרָאֵל Israeli Defense Force. With President Obama and his foreign policy team getting closer to a deal with Iran that Benjamin Netanyahu sees as an existential threat to the Jewish state, these women might be involved in war sooner than anyone expects.


Continue reading ‘Rule 5 Blogging: צְבָא הַהֲגָנָה לְיִשְׂרָאֵל’ »

From Around the Blogroll

From The Wall Street Journal:

Acrimonious Week Tests U.S.-Israel Ties
One of the most tumultuous weeks in memory for relations between both countries ended on a note of deep estrangement
By Carol E Lee | March 20, 2015 7:45 p.m. ET

WASHINGTON—One of the most tumultuous weeks in memory for U.S.-Israel relations ended on a note of deep estrangement Friday, as the White House redoubled its criticism of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

As the week closed, the Obama administration was refusing to take Mr. Netanyahu at his word after a second reversal of his position on a key issue in peace talks—the establishment of a Palestinian state as part of a “two-state solution.”

And the question of bonds between the U.S. and Israel took on a decidedly more partisan tint in Washington.

Among Republicans, House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio announced plans to visit Israel later this month. Mr. Boehner, infuriating the White House, invited Mr. Netanyahu to deliver a speech to Congress earlier this month to criticize Iran nuclear talks President Barack Obama is pursuing. Mr. Boehner’s trip is set to coincide with a deadline in nuclear talks of March 31.

Among administration officials, White House Chief of Staff Dennis McDonough on Monday will address the pro-Israel group J Street, which is publicly in favor of the two-state solution.

On Friday, White House press secretary Josh Earnest went so far as to portray Mr. Netanyahu as out of step even with Republican presidential administrations—including former President George W. Bush, who supported the two-state solution.

More at the link.

Now, what happened over the last week? It’s simple: 55% of Israeli voters, and over 60% of Israeli Jewish voters, voted for parties which will keep Benjamin Netanyahu in power. President Obama, in his belated “congratulatory” telephone call to Mr Netanyahu, told the Prime Minister that the United States would “reassess” aspects of its relationship with Israel. Mr Netanyahu backed off his campaign statement that there would be no Palestinian state under his watch, but, in all reality, his campaign statement was true: the Palestinians will never agree to terms which would give Israel as much security as the Prime Minister requires, and only if the Prime Minister is succeed by a total wimp — which is what President Obama wanted — would Israel agree to whatever Arab-tilted terms Mr Obama could negotiate.

A tweet after my own heart!

And now, on to the blogroll!

Can someone explain to me . . .

. . . how Muslim anger over Guantanamo incited this?

More Than 100 Killed In Mosque Attacks In Yemen
March 20, 2015 9:12 AM ET | Updated at 11:35 a.m. ET | Scott Neuman

A wounded girl reacts as she is carried by a man out of a mosque which was attacked by a suicide bomber in Sanaa on Friday. (Khaled Abdullah/Reuters/Landov )

Suicide bombers in Yemen attacked two mosques during Friday prayers in the capital, Sanaa, killing at least 126 people and wounding some 260 others.

Authorities believe that three separate suicide bombers carried out the attack on the Badr and al-Hashoosh mosques, according to the local rebel-controlled Al-Masirah television. The BBC says that the two houses of worship “are used mainly by supporters of the Zaidi [Shiite]-led Houthi rebel movement, which controls Sanaa.”

Witnesses quoted by The Associated Press say two bombers hit the Badr mosque – one walked in and detonated his vest, causing worshipers to rush toward the outside gates, where a second bomber blew up. . . .

The self-declared Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack on its Twitter account, according to Reuters. The news agency quoted local authorities as saying 126 people had been killed and 260 wounded.

More at the original.

Your Editor, who is far less well educated than President Obama and his foreign policy team, has said previously that the advance of Da’ish was not about religion, more than tangentially, but was all about power, about seizing power through military action and terrorism. The much more sophisticated members of the Obama Administration tell us that the Muslims in the Middle East are really motivated by the existence of the prison for captured Islamist fighters at Guantanamo. So, how does Islamic anger over Guantanamo motivate Muslims of one sect of Islam to murder non-combatants, murder worshipers of another sect of Islam?

Somehow, some way, Da’ish (or some other group; we can’t be certain that Da’ish’s claims of responsibility are true or direct) managed to persuade three young men to commit suicide, to kill themselves, in order to kill other Muslims, people who have nothing at all to do with Guantanamo, and people who weren’t fighting anybody, including Da’ish, worshiping in a mosque. Was this somehow done by showing them pictures of Guantanamo?

Or is it possible, just possible, that the notion put forth by some members of the Obama Administration that the Islamists are angry with the United States specifically, and the West in general, as their primary motivation, just a bunch of bovine feces?1

Religious fervor is nothing more than a tool for the Islamist leaders, a tool that they are able to use to persuade healthy and otherwise normal young men that it’s somehow a great thing to kill themselves, in order to attack people that the leadership somehow see as needing to be killed. I note that it never seems to be the actual leaders who blow themselves up, but only the apparently-easily baffled peons.

Make no mistake about it: the goal of Da’ish is power, about uncompromising power, and nothing more. If the Islamists were really worried about Guantanamo, the Sunnis and the Shi’a would be united in their opposition; they are fighting and killing each other not over their anger with the decadent West, but simply to seize power. It’s only the sophisticates who have had all of the common sense educated out of them who cannot see and understand this.

  1. At least actual bovine feces can serve as fertilizer, which is more useful than most members of President Obama’s intellectual cadre.

Netanyahu’s victory and American left

I don’t normally read Slate, but I found this article interesting. The article is anti-Israel, subtitled “We no longer have a Netanyahu problem. We have an Israel problem,” and calls for the United States to stop backing Israel’s policies; it’s the typical leftist drivel one can expect from Slate.

But what struck me was William Saletan’s, the author’s, very concise statement concerning the election results:

In the final days of his campaign, Netanyahu pitched himself to Israelis as the candidate who would stand up to President Obama, “American money,” the “international community,” and Israel’s Arab minority. He bragged that he had used settlements to seize strategic Palestinian land, and he vowed to keep doing so. A day before the election, he renounced Israel’s commitment to a Palestinian state. He pledged that if he were re-elected, he wouldn’t permit such a state. He implored Jews to flock to the polls and drown out the ballots of Arab Israelis.

Many Americans, including me, thought these rants would hurt Netanyahu. We were wrong. In those final days, his support soared. On Tuesday, Netanyahu’s party, Likud, won a plurality of seats in Israel’s parliament. Thirty-three percent of Israelis voted for Likud or for smaller parties that officially rejected a Palestinian state. Another 15 percent voted for Jewish nationalist or ultra-Orthodox parties that have blocked Palestinian independence. A further 7 percent voted for a Likud offshoot that is expected to round out the new government. That adds up to more than 55 percent of the electorate. It’s more than 60 percent of Israel’s Jewish voters.

Mr Saletan, along with what I would guess would be the majority of Slate’s readers, supports the creation of an independent Palestinian nation, but, given every chance — and then some — to prove that they can be responsible neighbors willing to live in peace, or at least relative quiet, with Israel, the Palestinians have taken those opportunities to continue to sabotage peace, to destroy coexistence. The Palestinians shooting rockets into Israel proper is not an existential threat, and represents only random violence, which occasionally kills an innocent civilian or damages a building. Somehow, the left think that this is a tolerable situation, but that’s because the left are, well, stupid, stupid and inconsistent — they certainly wouldn’t tolerate that in their American neighborhoods, and want to disarm law-abiding Americans because they somehow think that will stop criminals — and stupid and evil.

The NCAA men’s basketball tournament has begun,1 and, as always, there is some support for the underdog teams in the tourney because Americans like to see the little guys win, because Americans like scrappy underdogs. And the Palestinians are, as far as the left are concerned, the scrappy underdogs in this fight.

But this isn’t between two basketball teams, isn’t between two morally alike organizations; this is a struggle between a people who are basically civilized, Western and good, and a people who allow their leaders to be barbarous and evil. If the Palestinians actually won, the left would not find life in a Palestinian state a very pleasant thing. More of our focus is on Da’ish these days, but, given real governing power, the Islamists in an independent Palestine would soon be throwing homosexuals off of buildings and executing Christians,2 just like the savages of Da’ish.3

The left ignore all of the bad behavior of the Islamists, at least when the Islamists are behaving badly in the Middle East. The Charlie Hebdo attacks in France hit a little bit too close to home, so there was more of a reaction, but even that faded fairly quickly. The left will excuse the actions of the Islamists, because they are still the underdogs, but the Islamists stand for everything the left (supposedly) hate: mandatory religion, the subjugation and chattelization of women, restrictions on speech, the excision of homosexuals from society (and life), and government by the men with guns.

By any rational standard, the American and Western left ought to be diametrically opposed to the Palestinians, to the Islamists, to every Arab nation in the Middle East. Instead, they are supporting the very people who would slit their throats if they had to live under Islamist governments. That cannot be defined as anything other than just plain stupid.

  1. Your Editor is a graduate of the University of Kentucky, and always supports the Wildcats!
  2. We are not sure that Slate author Amanda Marcotte would have any problems with the mass execution of Christians,
  3. Our best guess is that, were the Palestinians to secure their own state, whether side-by-side with Israel or through a military victory which drove the Jews into the sea, the Palestinians would wind up in their own factional civil war, between different Islamist “sides,” all seeking power, and all using terror against their own people as a weapon, because that is pretty much what they are already doing.