Please Don’t Kill My Murderer

    I don’t know if I qualify since I’m not a liberal, but conservative Lowell Ponte has a challenge for “liberals” who oppose the death penalty in a recent article of his (Executing the Death Penalty):

One Lowell Ponte alternative – liberal death penalty opponents, as I have argued for 20 years on talk radio, should be able to sign an agreement, wear a button, and post a sign on their homes declaring that nobody who murders them should be subjected to the death penalty. Liberal politicians in particular should put their lives where their mouths are by publicly declaring anyone who murders them exempt from this ultimate punishment.

    Like I said, I’m not a liberal, and I would really prefer not to be murdered, but if I were murdered I would definitely not want the guilty party executed. Hell, just for Ponte’s sake, I’ll also declare that I would not want any suspects in my murder subjected to torture. Nor would I want I want police to coerce a confession from my killer (I guess that puts me right in the Dukakis liberal camp).

    I would like my killer to spend the rest of his natural life in jail, to be sure, but is it really so hard for diehard proponents of capital punishment to get it through their skulls that empowering the state to kill is the last thing conservatives should be fighting for? Capital punishment is wrong — it grants to the state a right that no individuals possess. Certainly people have a right to defend themselves up to and including the use of deadly force, for example, but capital punishment is the equivalent to the cold blooded murder of a subdued criminal.

    On the other hand, Ponte is correct in his assessment that my view is in the minority, and largely for the reasons he points out — the ridiculous arguments made by some opponents of capital punishment. Is the death penalty racist because blacks make up a disproportionate number of those on death row? That might be the case if blacks didn’t also make up a disproportionate number of murderers (in fact based on the conviction rates of murder for blacks and whites, blacks murderers are actually less likely to receive the death penalty than white murderers). And don’t even get me started on Mumia Abu Jamal.

    But just because most of the typical arguments offered against capital punishment are wrong doesn’t make the death penalty right. There may be a lot of nonsense floating around the anti-death penalty camp, but that doesn’t make the state’s cold blooded killing of an unarmed person morally correct. The death penalty should be abolished and replaced with life without parole for particularly egregious murders.

NATO Can Kill Any Reporter Who’s Not with CNN or the BBC

    Recently Amnesty International released a report accusing NATO of committing war crimes during its war in Kosovo. The alleged crimes included the attack by NATO warplanes on a Serbian TV station that killed 16 civilians. According to Amnesty International, that is a war crime, because NATO intentionally targeted a civilian facility.

    Not so, according to NATO spokesman Jamie Shea. According to Shea, civilians at say a BBC or CNN TV station are really civilians, while civilians at this TV station weren’t really civilians after all. Shea told ITN (Nato hits back at Amnesty war crimes allegation):

Asked about the bombing of a Serb TV station in which
several civilians were killed, Mr Shea said: “The
television station was attacked because it was not the BBC
or CNN, it was being used to push out propaganda and to
create a climate of hatred in which the persecution of
Albanians could be accepted as normal by the greater
majority of the Serb population.”

No civilian deaths occurred because of any deliberate
targeting by Nato forces, and they did not therefore
constitute war crimes, he went on to say. Nato pilots
should not feel any sense of guilt, he said.

    So, in other words, if NATO doesn’t like what they’re saying, it is perfectly legal for it to bomb civilians at any time — except, remember, they’re really not civilians, since NATO didn’t deliberately target civilians according to Shea. Perhaps NATO pilots spent a few seconds conscripting the hapless TV station employees into the Serbian army prior to firing their missiles to make it all legal.

    Even NATO’s after-the-fact justification of its intervention in Serbia make absolutely no sense, which is par for the course

Xenotransplantation Guidelines Issued, Denounced

    The Public Health Service recently issued guidelines for Xenotransplantation — the transplanting of animal cells, tissues and organs to treat or mitigate human diseases. As the background statement to the guidelines notes, 13 people in the United States die every day while waiting for an organ transplant and any advance that utilized animal tissues or organs would save many lives.

    There are legitimate concerns about risks, however. The biggest fear, which the activists latch onto, is the risk of passing a disease from a non-human to a human. After all, for as long as humans have domesticated animals or used them as a source of food, diseases have passed between animals and humans. The most familiar of these diseases is the influenza virus which relies on several different species, including humans, pigs, and birds, as disease vectors in which it thrives and mutates.

    It is certainly reasonable to take some precautions, but the message of the activists is that there is no acceptable risk. The misnamed Campaign for Responsible Transplantation, for example, immediately denounced the new guidelines as inadequate largely because they believe that it is impossible for Xenotransplantation to be risk free. Instead the CRT’s Alix Fano wants the United States to adopt the “precautionary principle.” This essentially means always minimizing risk regardless of the possible benefit, which very few people seem to actually agree with if their behavior is any evidence (if you regularly drive a car, for example, you are implicitly rejecting the precautionary principle.)

    There is also a certain irony that much of the legitimate fear of a possible spread of a disease across species boundaries comes from the very animal research which Fano and others believe is done for no better reason than to enrich the pockets of scientists. For example, the PHS guidelines note that researchers have shown that simian foamy virus in baboons has been found to persist in human beings who received liver cell transplantations from human beings. Similarly, in vitro research has demonstrated that retrovirus carried by pigs can infect human cell lines. This stuff scares the anti-xeno activists to death, but then again I thought all these claims that human and non-human physiologies were very close was just corporate double talk?

    The proposed guidelines find the reasonable middle ground — researchers should do everything possible to minimize the risk of this happening, but the risk is not great enough to forego the advantages of this technology. The PHS calls for a strict regimen of monitoring and health surveillance system coupled with strict requirements for animal procurement which will reduce the risk of a highly infectious agent ever crossing the boundary between animals and human beings through xenotransplantation very low.

    For example, the obvious way to reduce risk of transmitting diseases is to use animals that are free of diseases. The PHS guidelines call for “procuring source animals from herds or colonies that are screened and qualified as free of specific pathogenic infectious agents and that are maintained in an environment that reduces exposure to vectors of infectious agents.” Essentially this means implementing what the industry had already been moving to — animals intended for Xenotransplantation use will be special breeding populations that are kept under special clean laboratory conditions. Of course, the activists will complain in turn that this violates the welfare of the animals.

    Which is really the point of CRT despite all its attempts to sound like a scientifically-minded public interest group. Most people might consider the idea using cells from animals to perhaps cure diabetes as a good thing, but not CPT:

Who will decide how much animal suffering is justified? Up to 100 pig fetuses may be needed for a single transplantation of pig pancreatic islet cells into a diabetic patient. Each patient may need several transplants during the course of treatment. That’s a lot of pigs for one person.

    Not even pigs, after all, but pig fetuses.


Anti-Xenotransplanation Coalition Denounces New Federal Guideline. Press release, Campaign for Responsible Transplantation, May 31, 2000.

Public Health Service Guideline on Infectious Disease Issues in Xenotransplantation. Public Health Service, 2000.

Violent Hypocrisy

The Associated Press carried a story the other day on efforts to raise awareness about violence among dating teenagers (Schools struggle to contain dating violence). The story described efforts in Massachusetts, which has one of the most comprehensive programs in the nation to address and prevent such violence.

Addressing the possibilities of interpersonal violence and teaching young men and women to deal with their problems without resorting to violence is certainly an admirable goal and with some studies suggesting up to 1 in 5 students are victims of some form of dating-related violence sometime in their lives, this is certainly a worthy project.

Unfortunately, the Associated Press story included a quote from an alleged expert who argued that in some cases a physical assault or emotional abuse really don’t count as violence. What special cases are these? When the violence involves a young women assaulting a young man.

The surveys of violence among young men and women are pretty clear — both groups report similar levels of victimization, although as with violence between adults, women are far more likely to end up requiring hospital visits or other medical intervention as a result of an assault.

Still violence is violence, but not according to Carole Sousa, a consultant on dating violence to the Massachusetts Department of Education. According to the Associated Press story,

Some studies have suggested that almost as many boys as girls are victims of dating violence, but Sousa contends such figures are misleading. Boys
may be mocked or slapped by a girlfriend, but they often laugh off the
mistreatment, she said. Girls almost exclusively are the victims in cases of
sexual violence or injuries requiring hospitalization, Sousa said.

This is a bizarre claim. The obvious implication is that if a man just slaps a woman a little and calls her names, which she laughs off, that it is misleading to call this serious violence. I thought feminists wanted to call that battered women’s syndrome.

Why is it so hard for these activists to get it through their heads that violence is always an extremely serious matter even if it doesn’t lead to serious injury and regardless of whether it is perpetrated by men or women. Sousa’s claim outrageously minimizes violence committed by women, which is very odd given the general feminist claim that we need to set aside our pre-conceived stereotypes of male and female roles. Instead activists such as Sousa seem to be informed entirely by stereotypes of men as always being the aggressive victimizer and women as always being the passive victim. Which is ironic given that young men are far more likely to be victims of violence than any other group. Reducing violence requires a holistic approach, not the sex-segregated stereotypes being pushed by activists like Sousa.

AntiWar: What Is It Good For?

    Absolutely nothing! At least, according to a government hack.

    AntiWar.Com is an anti-war site, obviously, started by libertarian Justin Raimondo to oppose U.S. military intervention in Iraq, Bosnia, and elsewhere. The site does an excellent job of covering U.S. interventions.

    For that, government-subsidized hack Mark Pitcavage includes AntiWar.Com among his list of militia-related groups on his Militia Watchdog site. Mixed in with groups like the Army of God, which calls for the murder of abortion doctors, and the white supremacist Delta Rebel’s Reb is AntiWar.Com.

    Why was AntiWar.Com added to this list of right wing extremists? The description of AntiWar.Com describes the site as “An unusual site, essentially an isolationist right-wing/libertarian site consciously designed to appeal to anti-war activists from the left as well. Particularly against any foreign involvement in Kosovo.”

    Apparently, advocating an isolationist foreign policy (and it is unclear that AntiWar.Com is isolationist), is enough to lump an organization into the same category with folks who weave conspiracy theories about the United Nations and want to blow up abortion clinics.

    Should any of this matter, though? Does anyone really care whether Mark Pitcavage thinks AntiWar.Com is representative of right-wing extremism? It just might, according to the Left-ish CounterPunch. CounterPunch editor Alexander Cockburn is one of the few prominent individuals on the Left willing to meet the libertarian AntiWar.Com halfway to work against U.S. intervention.

    Writing for CounterPunch, Cletus Nelson (Antiwar.Com Meets the New McCarthyism) notes that Pitcavage is more than just a private individual with a web site — he is in fact directly involved in U.S. law enforcement. According to Nelson, Pitcavage is employed full time as a senior associate researcher with the Institute for Intergovernmental Relations which provides training services to federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies. Pitcavage head the Institute’s State/Local Anti-Terrorism Training Program. Since 1997, the U.S. Justice Department has given the SLATT program in the neighborhood of $4 million.

    As Nelson puts it,

Piss of Pitcavage and you could find yourself denounced on CNN as a terrorist. … The relationship between Pitcavage’s public and private roles poses the question whether his recent posting of Antiwar.Com on his personal web site was done to please his federal paymasters.

    Or it could be more of a personal dispute. Pitcavage was featured in an article for the New York Times last September defending the government’s actions at WACO — of course nowhere in the article did the reporter bother to mention that Pitcavage receives his funding from a Department of Justice grant. (In his interview, Pitcavage actually laments about the movie Waco: Rules of Evidence, “They [McNulty and Hardy] deserve a little bit of credit. But you wish that someone else had discovered this stuff instead. These guys have ulterior motives.” Bizarre considering in Pitcavage’s world view, people who don’t buy the government’s story about Waco are right wing extremists.)

    A third option is more likely — what scares people like Pitcavage to death is something that Nelson over looks. AntiWar.Com, as Pitcavage puts it, “appeal[s] to anti-war activists from the left as well.” This is the real danger. AntiWar.Com may be run by libertarians, but it strikes a blow against U.S. military intervention that is shared people across a broad range of the political spectrum. There is still resistance to Right-Left cooperation on issues. Alexander Cockburn has discussed some of the negative comments directed his way for his willingness to work with folks like AntiWar.Com, and similar attitudes exist on the Right.

    But web sites like AntiWar.Com are breaking down those barriers. The rise of libertarianism also creates a lot more opportunities, as libertarians and the Left tend find a lot of common agreement on issues such as the drug war, military intervention, etc.

    If I were a minion of the state, as Pitcavage is, I’d probably worry too about the effect that more coordination between Left and Right might have on deterring future U.S. intervention in places like Kosovo. God forbid an organized, persuasive critique of state power should threaten the positions of people such as Pitcavage.

Accused Rapist Gets Disability Benefits

The Washington Post recently reported (DNA Tested In Sex Abuse Case Against Ex-Fairfax Principal) on the case of former high school principal Anthony Rizzo Jr. A former student of Rizzo’s claimed he sexually assaulted her hundreds of times, but two separate trials have resulted in hung juries due largely to a lack of physical evidence against Rizzo.

The bizarre part of the case is that after he was fired, Rizzo filed for and now receives benefits from the state for a peculiar disability — Rizzo claims he has a “psychosexual disorder” that compels him to sexually harass any women that he supervises. After Rizzo was fired by his school in 1989 for sexually harassing female teachers he supervised, Rizzo filed for the benefits and won them on a technicality when the state of Virginia missed a deadline to reach a decision his absurd claim.

Virginia is now forced to try to demonstrate that Rizzo no longer has a compulsion to sexually harass female employees. It recently stopped his benefits after Rizzo’s lawyer advised him to invoke his Fifth Amendment right during a state psychologist’s examination to determine if he still suffered from his “psychosexual disorder.” Rizzo is suing to get the payments reinstated.

Only in America could you simultaneously have a sexual harassment witch hunt that attempts to criminalize all sexual speech in the work space, while at the same time financially rewarding a man who admits he attempts to coerce sex from female employees.