June 19th, 2010



Our first grandchild, Daniel Ward Waite, was born at 10:13 pm, June 18, 2001, weighing 5.8 lbs and 19 inches long and already hungry! I am also given to understand that he has healthy lungs.

Deanne and I spent some time at the hospital in Virginia Beach this afternoon with Anna while Brian ran some errands. Then D. dropped me off at the airport. I almost didn't get a seat on the plane to Cleveland; then the plane to Indy spent over half an hour circling Terre Haute waiting for storm to move through Indy before landing. I got home a few minutes ago, and it's Saturday already. I'm bushed.

As for the child's name: Daniel is Brian's middle name, though I'm not sure how he came by it. Ward, on the other hand, is my father's name; Anna was born on his birthday, and he was always very special to her.

Anna is fine, though still has a ways to go before her blood pressure gets down where it needs to be. Prayers for everybody, please. And a great big Thank You to Jack and Lois for picking me up at the airport and bringing me home!

Not that I'm going to convince anyone, but . . .

Another executed killer means lots of posts by opponents of capital punishment. Many recycle the same irrelevant arguments. I thought about writing an essay about them all, but it would be a monster of a post, and I don't have the time and energy. But let me say, now, that I do recognize one overriding argument against capital punishment; however, many who support this argument are inconsistent in its application.

The weightiest argument against capital punishment is the commandment, "Thou shalt not kill." Many people would refuse to kill, no matter how many people told them it was okay. And they don't want the State to kill on their behalf. I believe this is an honorable position; to be ethically sound, however, it should be consistently held across all societal questions.

For instance . . .
Abortion. If we're going to spare murderers, who obviously deserve to be punished, then we must spare the unborn, who obviously don't deserve to be punished. Any opponent of capital punishment who is not also categorically opposed to abortion loses my respect instantly.

War. If there is no process of law that can justify killing a convicted murderer, then I see no legal reason to kill someone in the service of another country (especially one who is not actively seeking to kill someone else). That means attacking members of an opposing State's military (or members of a terrorist gang operating internationally), just because they are in the service of the enemy -- riding a boat, sitting down to dinner, on a train, attending a planning conference, tinkering with a bomb that hasn't been deployed yet, standing guard -- is obviously wrong. Even maintaining armed forces that have the means to kill endorses the possible use of those means. No "State of War" can condone killing, if killing is always wrong; likewise, possessing arms and training people to kill cannot be condoned, if killing is always wrong. But if killing is not always wrong, then "thou shalt not kill" doesn't automatically apply to capital punishment.

An armed police. Police are trained not to wave their weapons around, not to solve problems with weapons that could be solved without them; nevertheless, they are armed, and they are trained to use those arms. But if killing is wrong simpliciter, and killing on our behalf is as repugnant as doing the killing ourselves, then police should not be equipped with the means to kill.

Now, many opponents of capital punishment will immediately reply with a host of objections. Chief among them is probably the argument from self-defense. I agree with that argument (though many committed pacifists would not), but that means that the opponent of capital punishment has forfeited the moral high ground and is willing to argue cases. For that matter, any exceptions to the categorical refusal to kill (directly, or indirectly through the State) means that killing is sometimes, somehow justified. All this means that the opponent of capital punishment has to answer the case for capital punishment; in doing so, employing the usual sanctimony is merely a sign of the weakness of one's argument, rather like the old preacher who had a hand-written note in the margin of his sermon manuscript that read, "Argument poor, yell like blazes."

Deprived of the moral high ground, most opponents of capital punishment fall back on utilitarian arguments. But deciding questions of justice on utilitarian grounds is inherently dangerous, and will lead to a society that values life much less than even our current society does.
roadkill soup


My knees are hurting today, probably because of the two hops (total time, about 2 1/2 hours) I took on Embraer jets. If you've never ridden an Embraer, I'd advise you not to. They are the most cramped planes I have ever ridden in and additionally, the seats are as hard as cinder blocks.

Embraers are made in Brazil, where people are apparently Hobbit-sized, to judge by their transportation devices.

Crunching the numbers

Opponents of the death penalty constantly talk about how expensive it is to try capital cases and see them through appeals all the way to execution of sentence. But to find out exactly how expensive it is is hard to do. As with all number-crunching, it's how you present the numbers that matters, and everybody massages the numbers to support their point of view.

Still, I found one website that cited various jurisdictions' data. The clearest citation I found was one from the Washington State Bar Association, which (when you add it all up) seemed to say that trying and upholding a capital case cost about $750,000 more than trying and upholding a non-capital case. That's an average.

Compare that to the Special Prosecutor's bill for the Plame investigation. The facts of the case were: there was no underlying crime to investigate in the first place; the SP knew who the actual leaker was that he was supposed to be finding (and the actual leaker was not charged with anything); the only guy convicted (and ruined -- the process is the punishment) was Scooter Libby, who wouldn't have committed any crime at all if he hadn't been rattled by the goons seeking what they already knew in pursuit of a crime that wasn't a crime. The bill for all that was $2.58 million.

We are brought up to believe that no price is too high to pay for justice. Still, there are some forms of "justice" we could do without. So, the next time somebody tries to say how expensive it is to prosecute capital cases, ask 'em how they feel about Special Prosecutors. If they think we've got the money to blow on stuff like the Plame investigation, then I find it hard to take them seriously when they gripe about how much it costs to punish murderers and terrorists.