Killing a killer is killing

Why capital punishment?

What makes a society kill with calculated, cold-blooded rationality?

If I were ever going to support the death penalty, certainly the case of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the surviving Boston Marathon bomber, would qualify for my approval. After all, he and his brother killed four people and injured more than 250 others, apparently without a thought for the lives they were changing, wrecking, and ending. Tsarnaev is reported to have shown little or no remorse, nor has he ever denied his part in the attack. He was quite willing to plead guilty and accept life in prison without parole if the state would take the death penalty off the table.

But even in this case, I am as revolted by the penalty verdict as I was by the initial outrage.

Perhaps more revolted.

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A new book shows the true history of American “gun rights”

9780190228583The reactionary remnant of movie hero Clint Eastwood was at it again recently, boasting that if Michael Moore had arrived uninvited at Eastwood’s home, the way that Moore famously did at the home of Charlton Heston, Eastwood would have shot him.

Eastwood didn’t talk about having his gun pried from his “cold, dead hands,” but his bravado was clearly part of the misunderstanding of history that underlies much of the mindset — and too much of the rhetoric — of the Tea Party and its sympathizers.

It’s too bad that very few of these uber-patriots will hear of, much less read, a meticulously researched, absolutely persuasive book — Robert J. Spitzer’s Guns across America: Reconciling Gun Rules and Rights (Oxford, May 2015).

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Canada’s PM: a warrior wannabe

On his way to European ceremonies commemorating the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper made a surprise visit to (almost) the front lines of this year’s “War on Terror” headliner, the Kurdish zone of Iraq. While there, he had a great photo op with the leader of the Kurds and peering through binoculars at distant ISIL positions.

(Harper also visited Baghdad, but there he refused to participate in a joint appearance with the unacceptably Iran-friendly president of the whole country.)

What a pile of self-serving political crap.

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Hey, you! — Stop fracturing your own spine back there!

The reactions to the arrest-related death of Freddie King in Baltimore are as varied as you’d expect. Some of them defy comprehension, while others show careful, clear thought.

It’s not easy to excuse arsonists and looters, but it is possible to understand them. You try living with the profound weight of both poverty and racism, day after day, year after year. At best, your outrage overflows when a Freddie King dies, and you join a street protest that you know, deep down, will do little other than give your more violent impulses a non-violent outlet. At worst, you’ve been shortchanged so often and in so many ways that you never experienced the self-respect that would have restrained the mindlessness of the mob you’ve joined. Sometimes, when a scream of outrage isn’t enough, there just isn’t any other way to let the injustice out than an act of rage. I’m not condoning it, mind you, but I do have to try to understand it.

The reactions of some of our public actors are no easier to condone, but they are harder to understand. Just a few of them will give us a sense of the range of these outrageous responses.

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They had them at the dollar sign

Republican presidential wannabes parade before billionaire Sheldon Adelson to shout out mandatory uncritical solidarity with Israel. Then it’s back to Iowa to begin the crucial fight to win, not the nomination itself, but the endorsement of the Koch brothers.

Meanwhile, the current Democratic president fights off the progressive wing that nominated and then worked zealously to elect him, fighting to ensure that the secret Asian trade deal stays secret until it is blasted through a sympathetic Republican congress on a no-amendments-allowed, “fast track” vote.

Jeb Bush plans to “outsource” most of his campaign to a “private” PAC, in what looks at first to be a strange move to distance himself from control of his own push for the White House.

Hillary Clinton keeps as low a profile as a presumptive nominee can, hoping to ride out both the trade deal debate (“take no position, lose no supporters” seems to be her tactic here) and the Clinton Foundation contributions-for-favours stink (maybe now we know why those “private” e-mails had to go away).

What’s going on here? Is there some sort of connecting theme? Of course there is.

Money. Lots of money. Continue reading

Which view of the “Death Tax Repeal Act of 2015″ is really “immoral”?

Need more proof that the Republicans in the U. S. Congress are really, really, out of touch with the lives of most Americans?

The Huffington Post reports that the House of Representative has voted to repeal the 100-year old estate tax — best viewed as a retro-payment for the government protections, infrastructure, and (in some cases) subsidies that have helped the 0.2% of the population who would ever have to pay the tax to acquire (and in the case of inherited riches, retain) so much wealth in the first place.

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Let the market save the wilderness?

The previous two posts have dealt with the Harper government in Canada, in particular, and with the doctrines of neoliberalism, in general.

This post focuses on another arm of the neoliberal beast: “New Conservation.”

The traditional conservation movement is being challenged by a new species of “environmentalist” with the goal of reframing conservation efforts by replacing “conserve” with “manage.”

The core of this approach is the idea that the only way that we can motivate the level of political and financial support needed for conservation is to give up on trying to save the earth, the animals, the plants, or the climate because they’re intrinsically worthwhile or valuable. Instead, their argument goes, it’s only when we frame the struggle for survival in terms of entirely human goals and needs that success will be possible.

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