No, There Is No Relative Human Value Status In Tragic Shootings

The BREAKING NEWS tonight is nine people being shot to death in Charleston South Carolina. From ABC News:

Nine people were killed when a gunman opened fire in a historic Charleston, South Carolina church Wednesday evening and police were searching for the suspect.

Police said that eight people were found dead inside the church. Two other people were rushed to the hospital and one died.

“We’re still gathering information so it’s not the time yet for details,” Mayor Joe Riley told local newspaper The Post and Courier. “I will say that this is an unspeakable and heartbreaking tragedy in this most historic church, an evil and hateful person took the lives of citizens who had come to worship and pray together.”

CNN further reported that the knee jerk mayor of Charleston told reporters that it is all obviously a “hate crime” because people in a church were shot.

Is this, yet another, mass murder with all too easy to bring to bear and fire guns in the US tragic? Yes, obviously. Tragic is being too kind and semantically vague. It is horrid.

But, please, it is NOT worse because the victims were church goers, as their lives are not worth more than agnostics, atheists or other humans. Black children are worth no less than white suburbians. One faith is worth no more than the next or none at all. Just stop with that blithering idiocy.

Human life is precious, and we are all entitled to live. You are not privileged more than me, no matter how pious you may be, or pretend to be.

So, grieve mightily the gross and unnecessary loss of life in Charleston South Carolina tonight. But those lives are worth nothing more than Eric Garner, Walter Scott, Michael Brown or other human senselessly slain in the ridiculous gun fetish culture of the United States. And, no, Mr. Mayor, the locus of the shooting in a church does not de facto make it a “hate crime”. Stop with that bogus over claim too. Hyperbole is the antithesis of informed viewpoints.

53 replies
  1. prostratedragon says:

    The article at HuffingtonPost implies that the Emmanuel Church is the same one mentioned in the opening paragraphs of this biography of Denmark Vesey, the leader of an early 19th century slave revolt who had been one of the founding members of an AME church in Charleston. Just on the fly, I can’t bring together enough solid information to feel that this is verified, though.

    Of course, it would have nothing to do with the value of the lives lost or the injustice and outrage in their losing.

    • prostratedragon says:

      The history page at the church’s own website (!) confirms the Denmark Vesey history:

      In 1822 the church was investigated for its involvement with a planned slave revolt. Denmark Vesey, one of the church’s founders, organized a major slave uprising in Charleston. […] Beginning in December 1821, Vesey began to organize a slave rebellion, but authorities were informed of the plot before it could take place. The plot created mass hysteria throughout the Carolinas and the South. […]

      During the Vesey controversy, the AME church was burned. Worship services continued after the church was rebuilt until 1834 when all black churches were outlawed. The congregation continued the tradition of the African church by worshipping underground until 1865 when it was formally reorganized, and the name Emanuel was adopted, meaning “God with us”.

  2. prostratedragon says:

    Good Lord, it’s hard to keep the horrors straight in one’s mind these days. The pastor of Emanuel is Clementa Pinckney, of whom the Guardian writes

    Pinckney helped lead a prayer vigil in April for Walter Scott, a black South Carolina man who was shot dead by a North Charleston police officer. He campaigned for police to be equipped with body cameras, which he said “may not be the golden ticket, the golden egg, the end-all-fix-all, but [would help] to paint a picture of what happens during a police stop”. Mandatory body cameras became law in the state one week ago.

  3. bloopie2 says:

    Lindsey Graham (Senator, S.C.): Voted NO on banning high-capacity magazines of over 10 bullets. Voted YES on allowing firearms in checked baggage on Amtrak trains. Voted YES on prohibiting foreign & UN aid that restricts US gun ownership. Voted YES on prohibiting lawsuits against gun manufacturers. Voted NO on banning lawsuits against gun manufacturers for gun violence. Voted YES on decreasing gun waiting period from 3 days to 1.
    Is it okay to hate Lindsey Graham?

  4. galljdaj says:

    It could have been a wedding party of 67! and they could have been bulldozed into a mass grave overnight hiding all evidence…

    which event gets ‘chosen’

    The culture has been chosen by Our ‘Leaders’

  5. bloopie2 says:

    If all lives are of the same value, then we should allow guns in the chambers of our state and federal legislatures. I’d love to see a group of gun control advocates (parents of murdered children?) standing watch, with their guns, over their representatives, while said representatives vote on loosening restrictions.

  6. scribe says:

    Eric Garner was strangled, not shot. Keep your facts straight.
    It never ceases to amaze me that the same people who erupt into cries for civilians to have no guns and police to be the only ones with guns, are the same people who go into paroxysms of rage over the police shooting down (or strangling) an innocent, and doing so with impunity. Look at the recent Cleveland case, where the fear-filled police put over 130 rounds into a car full of innocent people, the last 15 or 20 from a cop standing on the hood firing down through the windshield, obstructed justice by refusing to testify, impugned (through their union president) the mental stability of the prosecutor for even trying to bring the case in the first place, and walked away with acquittal. In one small state I’m acquainted with, there have been over the years well in excess of 100 civilians killed by police and, in every instance, the Attorney General’s investigation has found the killing justified. (A remarkable record….) Frankly the police, hopped up on their fear-, authority- and force-driven mindset, are a greater danger than civilians owning firearms.
    You can take it to the bank that there will be more, not fewer, killings and abuse by police, if the demands for more gun control turn from talk to reality. Just go to places with strict gun control – like New Jersey, Massachusetts, or New York City – and look at the behavior of their police. There is a constant drumbeat of cops thugging it up on civilians, usually minorities, in those jurisdictions. And they do so with no fear of retribution, legal or otherwise. Indeed, in NYC, they demand (and go on slow-down strikes to get) the government to ratify their thuggery as legal and then use its results to further justify their racism. Just the other week, NYC police commissioner Bratton had an unguarded moment and allowed that the reason the NYPD was always struggling to hire black officers, was because so many black men had records. Recall also that Bloomberg’s explicit policy and direction to the police was, as applied, that they needed to go into the black and minority neighborhoods and stop-and-frisk every man so as to get the guns. Recall also that this played out in the police stopping and frisking more black men in a year, than lived in the city.
    This is going to play out as some junior Klukker (or like-minded racist) who had a problem with the continued existence of blacks, especially in positions of respect if not authority (late reports say the minister who was killed was also a state senator) and felt himself on the receiving end of some injustice.

    • bmaz says:

      Yes, I am quite familiar how Eric Garner died, and the method is irrelevant to the point I was making.

      Rayne – I too sensed it was a “hate crime”, it is just that I hate “hate crimes”. I think it is a feel goody catchall for lazy and discriminatory thought in the law in that it values one life, or victim, over another and tends to do it based on protected thought. This was a tragedy, but the victims lives were worth no more and no less because they in a church and/or of a particular race. The law should punish conduct, not thought.

      • Rayne says:

        I can see your logic, but how do we begin to measure AND deter the impact of crime targeting persons solely for their race/gender/sexual identity?

        It’s not as if our society really hammers those found guilty of hate crimes. We’re lucky if they’re charged with a crime at all.

        And maybe we don’t agree on this because we come from different POVs — you being white-male, me being mixed-race-female.

        • bmaz says:

          Some things cannot be remedied by criminal law. If the death penalty does not deter conduct, why would a “hate crime”? And I would, and do, argue that it has either zero, or laughably close to it, effect in reality other than being a feel good concept for society to bandy around. In criminal courts, it rarely, if ever, has any substantive effect whatsoever other than giving prosecutors yet more leverage on forcing plea bargains, and often in otherwise weak cases.

  7. Mick Savage says:

    “Human life is precious, and we are all entitled to live.”
    “Hyperbole is the antithesis of informed viewpoints.”
    hyperbole, eh?
    often times, numbers lie. #s 2013 from the liars at CDC

    Number of deaths: 2,596,993
    Death rate: 821.5 deaths per 100,000 population
    Life expectancy: 78.8 years
    Infant Mortality rate: 5.96 deaths per 1,000 live births
    Number of deaths for leading causes of death:
    Heart disease: 611,105
    Cancer: 584,881
    Chronic lower respiratory diseases: 149,205
    Accidents (unintentional injuries): 130,557
    Stroke (cerebrovascular diseases): 128,978
    Alzheimer’s disease: 84,767
    Diabetes: 75,578
    Influenza and Pneumonia: 56,979
    Nephritis, nephrotic syndrome, and nephrosis: 47,112
    Intentional self-harm (suicide): 41,149

    not included the jerks: 16000 + deaths annually from prescription drugs…

  8. Rayne says:

    I think at the time bmaz wrote this post, information about the shooting, the victims and perpetrator, and police response was widely scattered. What I saw in my timeline suggested both the governor and Charleston’s mayor responded quickly but not effectively — I’ll be generous and write this off to shock for now.

    My gut told me it was a hate crime by definition, since the perpetrator was white, had co-mingled with parishioners in an African American church, and the church itself has a long history in the civil rights movement. Early second-hand accounts also indicated the shooter acted with deliberation when selecting his targets. I’m not a lawyer, but this all spelled hate crime to me, meeting the definition under 18 U.S. Code § 249 – Hate crime acts.

    Charleston’s chief of police Greg Mullen had been quoted,

    “I do believe this was a hate crime, …”

    but anyone trying to validate the police position on the shooting last night would have had difficulty getting into the local paper’s massively trafficked website.

    What we know now is that this was a mass shooting by a racist — the point at which two painful, challenging problems in our society meet, exacerbated by heightened sensitivity to police response.

    This is not just about race. This is not just about guns.

    This is about our culture refusing to come to terms with racism for hundreds of years. This is about corporate manipulation of the public’s perception about the Second Amendment for profit, and our continued implicit consent to such manipulation, and the corruption of our governance and national values by corporate money.

    Had guns been more tightly controlled, the perpetrator would have found another means to his ends, but he might have been stopped more easily. We’ll never know.

    But had we done a better job of dealing with racism in this country, perhaps this shooting wouldn’t have happened. Again, we’ll never know, but it is morally necessary to address this, and easier since the law about murder can’t be distorted or misconstrued like the Second Amendment.

    Do we need another civil rights movement? You’re soaking in it, you have been. If you don’t know it by now, you’re privileged.

  9. orionATL says:

    assigning the denomination “hate crime” is pointless. it is like calling a murder a “terrorist incident”. doing so assumes we know the perpetrator’s mind.
    we do not benefit from guessing at motives and creating special categories of crime.
    here, on new years eve, a black father and his white step-son killed an across-the-street hispanic neighbor while celebrating the midnight hour with their pistols (31 shells recovered). if you work with blacks and hispanics you know there is often no love lost, but why lay on “hate crime” (the judge didn’t) when drugged or drunk out of their minds will do?
    a crime is a crime – a beating of a transvestite is a beating; a stabbing of a spouse is a stabbing; a shooting of what we call a “minority group” or “ethnic group” is a shooting.
    creating hate crime laws is just pandering legislative behavior that appears to do something for a serious social problem but in fact does nothing constructive.

    • Rayne says:

      Pandering, you call it. To whom? Minorities who are disenfranchised often when voting?

      It’s certainly not pandering to straight white males, who still constitute the largest faction in Congress.

      And what exactly do you think is constructive, since it’s clear you don’t believe hate crime legislation works.

  10. adam says:

    @scribe – How will gun ownership prevent you from police violence? Just try defending yourself w/ lethal force against lawful state authority, it’s not going to end well. Certainly would not help black people.. That said, I take your point somewhat: NPR had a big piece recently on how gun control laws started after black groups started arming themselves in CA in self defense.
    @bloopie – Here in TX, where the legislature passed a measure to allow college students to take guns to school, a legislator proposed an amendment (satirically) that would allow guns in the capitol building — it failed, proof they don’t have the courage of their (stated, false) conviction in cowboy-style justice
    @orion – Arguments don’t exist in a vacuum; because the national gov’t can declare it a hate crime, that empowers the FBI to get involved in the search & the DOJ in the prosecution. Especially in a historical context of the 1960s, where state power was loathe to prevent acts of violence on minorities, the ability of the federal government to intervene is worthwhile, even if it doesn’t hold up to strictly rational, context-less theorizing. If there’s a real conceptual problem w/ hate crime laws, it’s not that it applies justice unequally (since, in practice, justice is never applied equally, and it’s meant to correct that problem in a particular vector), it’s that it supports the notion that racism equals one individual hating another individual for skin color, and not that it’s a real pervasive sometimes-invisible “structural” issue based in societally constructed norms, values, perceptions &c.

    • scribe says:

      @scribe – How will gun ownership prevent you from police violence? Just try defending yourself w/ lethal force against lawful state authority, it’s not going to end well. Certainly would not help black people.. That said, I take your point somewhat: NPR had a big piece recently on how gun control laws started after black groups started arming themselves in CA in self defense.

      That’s quite correct. Up until the late ’60s, California was a state which had basically no gun control – “open carry” was quite OK. And then the first “big” gun control bill was signed by none other than Ronald Reagan, in response to the Black Panthers of Oakland exercising their rights of open carry. No one is advocating going into armed opposition to the police or government, about which I will say more later…
      I think it fair to say that the federal Gun Control Act of 1968 was inspired not only by the killings of King and the Kennedys but also by the specter of another “long, hot summer”. Recall that the riots in Newark, NJ (and other cities, I’m sure) featured infantry combat units of the National Guard going into urban combat mode and shooting wildly in response, supposedly, to blacks with guns. Until the 1968 law passed, among many other things, one could buy guns through mail order with no background check and no required record-keeping. Just the thing, I suppose, if you lived in a Jim Crow area where whites wouldn’t sell guns to blacks.
      There was, last summer, a book published by a scholarly writer “This Nonviolent Stuff Will Get You Killed”
      which reminded us (or informed those who were ignorant of it) that there was a long history of blacks being armed for self-defense, often against the very PTB and their uniform-wearing minions. The lede of the book:

      Visiting Martin Luther King Jr. at the peak of the Montgomery, Alabama bus boycott, journalist William Worthy almost sat on a loaded pistol. “Just for self defense,” King assured him. It was not the only weapon King kept for such a purpose; one of his advisors remembered the reverend’s Montgomery, Alabama home as “an arsenal.”

      The long and the short of it is that gun control is more properly seen as a reflection of class (and by extension, race) oppression. The people pushing gun control – the Bloombergs and Obamas and their supporters – have no interest in ending violence, and every interest in maintaining and expanding their place at the top of the pyramid of society. The continual violence of Bloomberg’s NYPD – usually against the poor and darker-skinned and often far, far more than was necessary – or, for that matter, of Obama’s administration (domestically – with overmilitarized policing that hasn’t stopped despite Ferguson – and internationally – with drone killings the first tool on the table) belie any talks they may give about wanting domestic tranquility or a peaceful society. (“Government, the great teacher…” indeed.)
      Rather, their continued quest for gun control is a reflection of one of the elite’s deeper fears. There are few things (other than poverty) which can scare a rich man more than a poor man with the idea in his head that he was created equal to the rich man, and easy access to firearms. And the more the 1% squeezes the 99, the stronger that rich man’s fear grows. The law of large numbers says that somewhere, someone will do something and that something grows more likely the harder the 1% squeezes.
      All of which makes for an interesting resonance of history in the where and, I suspect, why of the Charleston shooting: it took place in an AME church. But not just any AME church. It was the church were, supposedly, a plan was hatched in 1822 for a slave revolt that was to have killed all the whites of Charleston. For some context, go read this article: (The building was built on the ashes of the building where the plot was hatched – whites burned the original one after hanging many of the slaves involved in the plot.)
      No one advocates going into armed opposition to the police or government. But it is the uncertainty in both the minds of the police and of their political masters, created by the knowledge that civilians out there have guns, that gives them pause before going totally off the rails into killing anything that moves more than they already have. Another book (which I have not had a chance to read, but which has won several big awards and garnered great reviews) sums it up in its title: “We Will Shoot Back: Armed Resistance in the Mississippi Freedom Movement”. [ ] How many more of the people who worked in the 60s to free Mississippi from Jim Crow would have wound up dead, had there not been guns on both sides, is incalculable. But the short answer is “more”.
      Put that history into the pot and then look again at the continuing insistence of Obama and others that gun control (which has no limiting principle other than confiscation) is the only solution to violence. EW has posted many posts on the neo-feudalistic aspects of Obamacare and, more generally, the corporatization of society. Each of those schemes requires a subdued, unfree, obedient population, with instant government ultraviolence to put those who step out of line, either back in line or in the ground. That sort of society can only be effected where there are no means of resistance available to the great mass of the populace, and no need for the enforcers to fear anything.
      I think this guy was a knucklehead at best, and a racist one at that. As is often the case with people motivated by or filled with hatred, he probably knew quite a bit about the AME church where he did what he did and probably chose it for just that reason. I don’t excuse his actions, but in a society where hatred and violence are taught by the government on a daily basis, it’s unsurprising that someone will follow the government’s lead and act violently. Just, without the sanction of a badge or uniform to hide behind. He was wrong to do what he did and should not be praised. But he would not have come to that point had he not lived in a society where the government daily engages in similar, and worse, violence and praises it as good, true and right.

      • scribe says:

        Minor error in my final paragraph. What reads ” As is often the case with people motivated by or filled with hatred, he probably knew quite a bit about the AME church where he did what he did and probably chose it for just that reason.”
        Should read ” As is often the case with people motivated by or filled with hatred, he probably knew quite a bit about what appears to have been the object of his hatred, blacks rising, as exemplified by the AME church where he did what he did. And he probably chose it for just that reason.”

      • orionATL says:

        scribe wrote:

        “… The long and the short of it is that gun control is more properly seen as a reflection of class (and by extension, race) oppression. The people pushing gun control – the Bloombergs and Obamas and their supporters – have no interest in ending violence, and every interest in maintaining and expanding their place at the top of the pyramid of society. ..”

        scribe, you’re a bright guy with a wagonload load of useful insights you share with us from time to time.

        this particular comment of yours, however, is nothing more than long-used, right-wing, sociological claptrap. there is hardly any, if any, rightwing political effort that truly involves fighting against class inequity. there are, however, lots of such efforts, think religious fundamentalism or right-to-carry nonsense, which blatantly exploit the frustration, ignorance, and need for recognition of some the millions of less well-educated and less well-off americans.

        when your explanation for the existance of and opposition to the current gun-carrying legal folly drops “class warfare” propaganda and includes the contributions ( hohoho ) of wealthy individual like glock, as well as that of their corporations, then you’ll have an explanation more competent than one that has been copied from nra propaganda sheets.

        p.s. the nra, as you may recognize, has long been a de facto unregistered foreign lobbyist for foreign gun corporations which has used sportsmen as its cover. it is neither a friend of a sportsman like you, nor of an educated plebian like me.

        • scribe says:

          I don’t take my instructions, nor cooperate with what you call “propaganda” from the NRA.
          I look at issues and facts, from as many angles as possible. I look for congruence and incongruence. The class issue I spoke about upthread was, frankly, the only one which makes sense. There is no limiting principle which says “this much gun control will end violence so that’s all we need” other than total confiscation. (And even that will not end violence – violence is inherent in human nature.) But no one is calling for the police to be disarmed. And if there’s anything history teaches us, it is that where one side has weapons and the other does not, the one without always loses.
          Which, FWIW, is one of the reasons I noted that:

          It never ceases to amaze me that the same people who erupt into cries for civilians to have no guns and police to be the only ones with guns, are the same people who go into paroxysms of rage over the police shooting down (or strangling) an innocent, and doing so with impunity. Look at the recent Cleveland case, where the fear-filled police put over 130 rounds into a car full of innocent people, the last 15 or 20 from a cop standing on the hood firing down through the windshield, obstructed justice by refusing to testify, impugned (through their union president) the mental stability of the prosecutor for even trying to bring the case in the first place, and walked away with acquittal. In one small state I’m acquainted with, there have been over the years well in excess of 100 civilians killed by police and, in every instance, the Attorney General’s investigation has found the killing justified.

          And then, after the justice system coughs up another cop not charged, people like you wind up bleating like Diane Feinstein, just after getting bounced from chairing the Intelligence Committee, about the duplicity of the CIA, wringing hands and clutching pearls. And nothing ever gets changed for the better.

          Obama has spent his entire time in office whoring his office out to the wealthy and enacting policies which benefit them and fuck the true Democrats, thank you very much. He has done more to damage civil rights and liberties than any hundred Republicans you can pick. Pick an Amendment, any Amendment, and there are abundant examples of his policies and actions aimed at demolishing the rights it protects. You read about it here on a regular basis. And his emphasis on gun control is just another of his demolition projects.
          I have little doubt that Republicans would throw the NRA and gun owners under the bus if they felt it would better their electoral prospects. But, when we talk about Republicans and Democrats, we really need to remember we are talking about 2 factions of one party – the Money Party. It’s been said any number of times here, or over at FDL (for one example) that there are 2 parties in America: the Money party and the People party. And the Money party has won every election since at least 1936.
          You need to step back and take a look at the larger picture. The class approach is the only one that makes any sense.

        • orionATL says:

          of course you are an independent thinker, and there’s no doubt you are anything but rightwing.
          nonetheless, apart from the last century’s noisy american marxists, the term “class warfare” and its relatives, e.g., class oppression, was recently introduced into the american political lexicon by the rightwing as part of an effort to counter political attacks on the wealthy.
          its origins are in europe with the struggles for and against marxism. you at least get the benefit of having used the term in its original sense and not in the perverse sense used by rightwing american political commentators. it really can’t sensibly be said though that wealthy individuals like bloomberg have successfully manipulated and propagandized those folks who are opposed to the rampant gun toting and gun-waving we are currently having to endure and set them against the freedom-loving, independent-minded gunwavers. the two groups are simply deeply opposed in their values.
          to my ear, the group of terms linked to “class warfare” seem as foreign and out-of-place in american political discussion as the term “homeland”, recenty employed to name the u.s. dept of homeland security.
          bloomberg’s values related to this issue arise from his concern for public health issues which are well-documented (smoking, salt, large soft-drinks :), and johns hopkins school of public health, among others).

  11. galljdaj says:

    What will change the ‘mass violence’ ? For me, it was understanding the ‘rule of law’ with the goal of equality for all, both connected to opportunity.

    Now that all of this has been sent to the toilets of Our Nation, officially, I am free to act as ‘my leaders do’ ! I assume the church killer believed he too was free to solve a problem just like lil obama and all the other cohorts in DC SETTLE THEIR ITCHES!

    We still play follow the leader in america…

  12. TarheelDem says:

    The pastor of Emanuel is Clementa Pinckney, of whom the Guardian writes

    Pinckney helped lead a prayer vigil in April for Walter Scott, a black South Carolina man who was shot dead by a North Charleston police officer. He campaigned for police to be equipped with body cameras, which he said “may not be the golden ticket, the golden egg, the end-all-fix-all, but [would help] to paint a picture of what happens during a police stop”. Mandatory body cameras became law in the state one week ago.

    Assassination as political retribution for achieving a policy victory. What stops it from happening in the future? As a short term action, I suggest arresting the dad for material support of terrorism and add a terrorism count to the young man’s charges. The uproar of that might just bring some sanity to the whole notion of terrorism.

    There should as a matter or sanity and morality be a huge backlash against the law enforcement propaganda machine that demonizes blacks and body cameras. But as a native South Carolinian, I know that sanity and morality without political pandering to white folks is too much to expect.

    I agree with bmaz’s point that some things (actually a lot of things) cannot be remedied by criminal law.

    Shame used to work for some things, but racist violence is fundamentally shameless in the same way that “create our own reality” torture is shameless.

    I am at a loss as to what other than depending a resurgence of good will and sanity can end this bloodshed. But I sense that the anxieties of a large minority of whites about losing political clout because of US demographic changes is going to drive more of this behavior.

    I am not optimistic at all, given how Republicans and conservative politicians have amped up the racism and centrists to lots of lefties have ducked and covered. It is going to take a strong and visible majority and a scared media, like existed in the 1960s, to turn this around. There is too much money buying actions in the opposite direction.

    • bmaz says:

      “I am at a loss as to what other than depending a resurgence of good will and sanity can end this bloodshed.”

      Sadly, I think that is right, and share your pessimism about the immediate future. Frankly, if I had observed one shred of tangible evidence that “hate crimes” worked, I might could look beyond my philosophical and Constitutional objections to them. But this strikes me as a pathology that won’t be solved by ever more pervasive application of criminal law. It is a larger issue than that.

  13. Brenda Koehler says:

    It’s good to call certain murders hate crimes because on more than a few occasions the perpetrators have been let off very easily by a jury of their local peers, who are as racist and xenophobic as the murderers themselves. It’s only when the federal prosecutors step in on the basis of calling these murders hate crimes, that the killers can be retried and given the punishments they really deserve. For that reason I am all in favor of calling this murder of 9 black people by a self-professed white racist a hate crime. Especially since it took place in the South where inhabitants may be disposed to sympathize with Mr. Roof.

    • bmaz says:

      Perhaps you can provide a comprehensive list of all these occasions and then explain how that has deterred anybody in the future. Because I have been in and around criminal courts for thirty years, and I call absolute bullshit.

      • jasmine311 says:

        If you want a COMPREHENSIVE list I will put in the effort to compile one. I remember the instance I am posting here because it happened near to where I live.

        [quote]Rejecting defense claims the beating death of an illegal Mexican immigrant was a case of a street fight gone horribly wrong, an all-white jury convicted two Shenandoah men on all charges Thursday in a federal hate crime trial in Scranton.
        The jury of six men and six women deliberated 6½ hours before convicting Derrick M. Donchak, 20, of Shenandoah, and Brandon J. Piekarsky, 18, of Shenandoah Heights, with violating the civil rights of Luis Ramirez by beating him on July 12, 2008, while yelling racial slurs on West Lloyd Street in Shenandoah.
        fter hearing the verdict, Mr. Donchak began shaking his head, sobbed and cried “mom” as he was led from the courtroom in handcuffs. “We love you,” a woman in the courtroom cried out. Mr. Piekarsky showed no emotion.
        Senior U.S. District Judge A. Richard Caputo denied requests for bail and ordered both men detained, sending them off to prison while they await sentencing Jan. 24. They face up to life in prison for violating Mr. Ramirez’s civil rights.
        Attorneys for the men said they were “very disappointed” with the verdict.
        We will be filing an appeal,” said William Fetterhoff, the Harrisburg attorney representing Mr. Donchak. The appeal will be based in part on his claim the government “got two bites at the apple” in winning a conviction against Mr. Donchak and Mr. Piekarsky.
        Mr. Fetterhoff was referring to the 2009 case brought against the two men in Schulykill County. Following a five day-trial, a county jury convicted Mr. Donchak and Mr. Piekarsky of simple assault and alcohol-related offenses.[/quote]

        I really doubt this is an anomaly for the reasons I stated in my previous post. Also, since you have been around criminal courts for thirty years, I don’t have to explain how a life sentence can present a deterrent to anyone planning a similar attack. I look forward to your response.

        • bmaz says:

          Actually, I ask that you do explain how a “life sentence”, or even a “death sentence”, on the larger scale, has proven to be of particular and lasting deterrence. The concepts have existed for centuries, going back far further than the history of our young and rather naive country.
          And, yet, I am in a trial level court every week and the halls and I/A pews are littered with capital defendants and other sundry rogues of society. The US incarcerates men (and increasingly women) at insane rates and, yet, here we are. You think it is working??
          Here we are arguing over the semantical idiocy of whether pure, unadulterated, legal fictions such as “terrorism” and “hate crimes” mean diddly squat. It would be comical, were it not so pathetically emblematic of the insanity of what passes for informed political and legal discourse in this country.

        • jasmine311 says:

          In response to your question “Do you think it’s working?” Yes, I think that the threat of a life sentence or a death sentence meted out for a murder as opposed to the threat of two years maximum in jail for that same murder IS an effective deterrent. Two years maximum is the longest sentence the perpetrators would have served under the original jury verdict, but in reality they probably would have served NO time. Because of the second trial under the hate crimes law they are now serving nine years and are still in prison. So let’s review the punishments for gratuitously killing a member of a minority population—on the one hand probation and on the other hand almost a decade in jail. Do you think, in the context of this particular situation, that there’s really no difference in the deterrent factor?

          Every day people have to decide whether a certain behavior they wish to undertake is worth the risk, and they weigh that choice in terms of the very concrete consequences that exist in order to ensure the ongoing quality of their lives. Many who would find the threat of probation an acceptable risk for killing someone, would conversely find a punishment of 9 years in jail too intimidating to commit that crime. One only needs to witness the wholesale slaughter of black men by American police, who are held to no accountability, to see how this psychology works in reverse.

          Your posts are top heavy with invective that is not warranted by your arguments. The argument you made in opposition to my point would work just as well countering the idea of any punishment for crime at all, or for that matter any kind of judicial system at all, concepts I suspect you are not actually prepared to jettison. For that reason I find your response inane.

        • bmaz says:

          Hilarious. Keep telling yourself that, maybe you will feel better about everything. Like magic! In the meantime, there is no shortage of crime after all kinds of mandatory sentences and cross-jurisditional prosecution. The evidence to support your claim is nearly non-existent.

  14. orionATL says:

    to whomever it may concern :)) ,(rayne, adam, tarheeldem, et al)

    my choice instead for focus is the australian immigrant rupert murdoch and his media empire.

    what the fox radio and television channels in particular have done is re-legitimize rascism, sexism, and ethnic hatred among an always self-refreshing cadre of american who are so inclined by their natures. i say re-legitimize because until murdocism told hold some time after 1996, it had become socially unacceptable to voice racism, etc., too loudly except among family and friends.

    now those values are trumpeted loudly in every day’s radio and tv broadcasts.

    speaking openly or in code with racist, sexist, ethnist import is now deemed fun and a right – which of course it is, a first ammendment right. but there was a time before murdoch’s business evil descended on this nation when social pressure led those so-inclined to button their lips and spout of to their family and friends.

    legitizing socially destructive behavior is a moral crime – i hope murdoch skates with the devil over hell’s ice for eons.

    • TarheelDem says:

      The relegitimization of racism did not start with Rupert Murdoch because the legitimization of racism never ended. The deal with the devil was done by the Richard Nixon campaign in 1968 with its Southern strategy, which really began when Strom Thurmond supported Barry Goldwater in 1964 and switched to being a Republican in 1965. Louise Day Hicks and other urban segregationists spread it outside the South. Ronald Reagan began his 1980 campaign in Philadelphia, MS, dancing on the graves of three civil rights workers. Lee Atwater made his reputation by dogwhistling “nigger, nigger, nigger” in a bunch of Republican campaigns before he unleashed the Willie Horton ad that made crime an issue in the 1988 election. All of this happened without appreciable lefty notice before Rupert hired Roger Ailes and before Rush Limbaugh got his first radio syndication. In fact, lefties used to laugh at these guys.

      It was only in certain parts of the country and certain social networks that it was unfashionable to voice racist comments prior to 1996. The assault on the Clintons by a well-orchestrated right-wing conspiracy opened to door to expanding the scope of that latent legitimacy and seeing Bob Jones University as a provider of homeschool literature instead of a bastion of segregation and seeing Liberty University as a descendant of Patrick Henry instead of a bastion of segregation and seeing Pat Robertson’s media empire as a defender of Christianity instead of a scam to get money from little old ladies. But with the election George W. Bush, it was the Wall Street media – NBC, CBS, ABC, PBS – that legitimized Fox and put all of these folks on 24/7. And with the election of Barack Obama it was these same Wall Street media that legitimized the racism of Fox and Rush Limbaugh and the incoming Republican politicians who made no secret of their dogwhistling. With the fellatio of the Tea Party, these establishment media signed on in full to a racist agenda. It’s not just the Rupert/Roger show. It now includes people like Charlie Rose. What happened is liberals and lefties stopped calling them out and just shut up to be “polite”.

      That festering sore is now wide open, just as it was in the 1960s. And the increased racist violence intends to prevent change delayed for 50 years. Some white courage could help immensely, but where will it come from — certainly not the elite who benefit from the racial competition between workers, certainly not the middle class who are scared of what others think of them, and not likely the white working class who see affirmative action as a threat against them.

      I’m afraid that this is likely to get very bad and could spin out into 1861 directions if there are some people of courage out there. In that the media is symptom instead of cause; when they lose their audience they will change. People need to do interventions so that Uncle Louis does not take Steve Doocy more seriously than his relatives. In a lot of cases there is an addiction of boredom and outrage that is being exploited just to draw eyeballs to advertising. And people’s commitments to parroting Fox positions are not that strong. In other cases, the sense of being special is just too strong for family conversation.

      • bmaz says:

        No, that festering sore, is nowhere near being closed. Despite the vacuous claims of Chief Justice Roberts in Shelby County, it just is not.
        Everything you relate is pretty much true. I guess my point is that it is, as you point out, a larger problem, and criminal laws, and specific crimes, won’t solve or remedy it. Instead such things, whether in the form of “terrorism crimes” or “hate crimes” tend to, rather than solve the larger societal problem, merely give more powers to the authoritarian state and rabid prosecutors. But it does not salve anything. I have never seen, nor heard of, a defendant indicate

        “shit, if I had known there was a [terrorism/hate crime] crime in play here, I would have never done that!”

        The murder, kidnapping, aggravated assault, rape, etc. is always primary, whether pre-trial or post-trial. Always. Frankly, even the specter of capital homicide rarely deters this kind of conduct, much less lesser and/or additional legal fiction crimes. The criminal law, and criminal justice system has a very definite place, but it is not the catchall panacea for greater sociological woes that demagogues and politicians want to pitch it as being. And, most often, refusing to acknowledge this only makes things worse, not better. That is one person’s view from the inside of it anyway.

        • TarheelDem says:

          Everything that I said points to the necessity of cultural rather than legislative or law enforcement solutions (although changing the culture of law enforcement is a big cultural issue). The hyping of “crime in the streets” as government’s response to protest and riots in the late 1960s created a market and a sales culture for firearms. Every legislative attempt to deal with that change in culture added another brick to the police state without affecting firearms sales at all and created a lovely panic-buying market for gun dealers that has resulted in the US now having more firearms in circulation than there are people resident here. Even as crime rates began to decline. And a larger proportion of the population was incarcerated.

          People do not feel safe in part because the media now reports of many local crimes that even twenty years ago would not have drawn notice outside of their local jurisdictions. And because the “war on drugs” has so distracted and funded police departments that other crimes (and their prevention) are neglected. And media hype up violence as a solution for fundamentally political issues, starting internationally but also including internal issues such as immigration and the vigilanteism surrounding the border. And the culture and media feed each other as society circles the drain.

          Cultural awakenings do occasionally occur, but there seems to be no way of forcing them. They are sort of like addiction in that respect. Society has to get to a point that the collective understanding is that further descent is self-destruction.

        • RUKidding says:

          Thank you, TarheelDem. I have read through all of your thoughtful responses, and, as usual, you more eloquently express a lot of what I’ve been observing, feeling, etc. Your brief explanation about the current state of racism (going back to Nixon, Goldwater, Lee Atwater, et al, prior to the Fox/Rush years) is cogent and to the point. We’ve never really ever moved away from racism, especially the too easy ability to pit the races against one another in this nation.
          There appeared to be phases of time – I guess I’m mostly thinking about the mid 80s to the early 90s (but one could argue the time-frame) – where it *appeared to me* that the racist attitudes in this country were healing/changing/improving at least somewhat. Well, that’s my white person perspective anyway. But as you point out, there was plenty of Southern Strategy happening, particularly via the GOP, and yes, I guess mostly I did laugh at it and dismiss it… at first.
          Sad to say that racism has now become very institutionalized, and despite having a “leader” who is black, the so-called “Democratic” party really stands for nothing and does sweet FA to deal with any of this… other than to ignore it or tsk tsk weakly when something, like this recent sad event (to say the least) in Charleston, SC.
          There really is no Left in the USA anymore. What I see are friends and acquaintances who used to sort of stand for something, but nowadays? Eh? They’re as bought off by the next shiny object as any Tea Partier is. They comfort themselves by saying: well, at least I’m not racist (homophobic, sexist, etc). But what do we really DO? Sweet FA, except hand wringing and then believing that somehow voting for the “D” party is the big answer.
          And so on.
          Like you, I fear that, as our economy and nation continues it’s downward slide into worse third world conditions, such incidents will only multiply and get worse. I know next to nothing about Mr. Roof, other than I heard in the one report I listened to that he wanted to start a “race war,” and he appeared to be motivated by, as usual, by white male fear… the usual fear that white males are losing the power they once enjoyed as our nation becomes more and more multicultural and whites are no longer the majority.
          I shudder to consider what might come next. I, too, hope and wish for a defining moment when some amount of the citizenry can wake up from their Orwellian dreams and say: Enough! We have to change and change for the better.
          Thanks for your comments, and thanks for the post, which was written early on.

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          Nicely said, to you and bmaz. The “war on drugs” is political opportunism and social reorganization – eg, militarization and federalization of local law enforcement – that could not have obtained consent without a so-called state of emergency. It is also frequently racist and a continuing boondoggle, enriching favored govt clients, while avoiding entirely that drug addiction owes much to American aid to those who grow, process and distribute illicit drugs. (Alfred McCoy, et al.)

          “Hate crimes” is, as bmaz points out, a hateful, opportunistic and lazy category. “Hate” is a constituent in many crimes: eg, the rage in many domestic violence cases. Hateful aspects of crimes could be dealt with individually. But to create a sound bite category invites continuing bias and discrimination, allows govt to be draconian without being effective or accountable, and avoids address underlying problems in society. The label of crime is enough, that it isn’t jazzy should be the point.

      • orionATL says:

        thanks for the history lesson (@29). i think though that i understand the political history and consequences of southern rascism reasonably well.

        my point had nothing whatever to do with when public rascism began in the modern time (with nixon’s “southern strategy” ? – no, there were the southern democrats long before dick). it had everything to do with legitimized loud, blatant rascist speech in place of quiet, private rascism in order to make big money and for corporate political gain – that person was rupert murdoch and his media corporations, especially fox teevee and radio.

        you can talk nixon and reagan and lee atwater all you want – and they are politically important – but no one person or organization both legitimized rightwing public speech, including overt and covert racial slurs, like murdoch and his corps, and no one or corporation spread that speech as widely throughout the nation as did murdoch’s corporations.

        the consequences of murdoch demagoguery include that a confederate flag can fly at full mast over the south carolina capital and the govenor of that state can declare that lowering it as a mark of respect would be “a sensitive issue”. no president, governor, or presidential adviser, short of hitler and goering, could make that happen, but murdoch’s corps could and did.

        • orionATL says:


          this has been nagging at me; i checked it.

          phrase should read “hitler and goebbels”.

          joseph goebbels was hitler’s chief of propaganda.

  15. sluggahjells says:

    This is why bmaz, you are just moron sometimes. And it’s a shame because you have a lot of potential, but really do waste it in times like this with absurd stupidity like this.

    • bmaz says:

      Andrew, if this kind of ignorant and shallow baiting bullshit is all you have to offer (nobody engaged your scurrilous rubbish on Twitter either, which must have been a disappointment to your childish ass), then do not bother to come back to Emptywheel.

      • sluggahjells says:

        It’s not shallow, it’s your white privilege litigation nonsense that is a prime example of why our legal system is a categorical joke.

        If his words of “you are raping our women,” his constant words of wanting segregation, his constant clothing identifying with past segregation states, and his constant cries of the “black race dominating” isn’t enough for you to label this a “hate crime” and a “terrorist,” then I clearly do question what is inside that head of yours.

  16. bmaz says:

    This will be your last warning. Take your relentless two bit antagonistic crap and purvey it somewhere else. You have been baiting me for years now, and it is completely scurrilous punk bullshit, and you are done here. If you want to engage on merits, fine. If you wish to continue your baiting antics, like you have done long before today, that is going to stop. Now. Come back when you have something positive, and not blog destructive, to ad.

  17. orionATL says:

    let’s not forget official, government racism. it’s always slicker, quieter, more vicious, more hurtful, more harmful to a citizen:
    throughout the jeffrey sterling fiasco i could never understand why the doj’s obvious vindictiveness toward sterling for filing a well-deserved didcrimination complaint against the cia was never front and center in his defense against his government’s duplicity. it should have been obvious to anyone with half a brain that the doj used the espionage complaint as an agent of discriminatory retaliation against sterling for earlier suing the cia. instead it was the government which was allowed to get away with accusing sterling of vindictiveness.

    this kind of reversal of legitimate claims of unfair treatment is especially hurtful to individuals when their government is involved. the doj officials and prosecutors who went after sterling should be in federal prison in colorado doing the time sterling is doing.

    oh, and as an aside, has sterling been forced into that penal unit within the federal which prevents him from speaking out publicly while incarcerated?

  18. adam says:

    @scribe – Really appreciate your long comment, even if I don’t 100% agree. I don’t think the prevalence of guns in America has anything like a moderating force on the police, more like its opposite — look at the almost habitual use of SWAT, or the many many instances of (black) people shot by cops because their hands wandered near their waistband (remember the traffic stop where a black man was asked for his license & reg, reached into his glove compartment and was immediately shot?) That said, I take well your point that the state’s violence is mirrored in its populace. Honestly, my hope for gun control is less that it would be 100% effective and more that it would alter the gun culture of America away from a pornographic celebration of lethal force.
    Coincidentally, read a pretty good essay/personal essay by a black man about guns this morning:

  19. earlofhuntingdon says:

    I would add “terrorism” to overused, often abused categories for crimes. As a weak descriptor of crime, it’s Kissingerian, allowing everyone to perceive a crime through their own lens, but not to understand it or enable rational responses to it. Indeed, permitting irrational responses to it is often a goal.

  20. bmaz says:

    As with TarheelDem, precisely. Also, great to see you again Earl. This thread has almost taken on the feel of an old Next Hurrah discussion. I seriously miss those days.

  21. Jonf says:

    I want only to say this: nothing good will come from guns. We have become a society that seriously believes we need them to protect us from all manner of evil. And they are available to any crackpot or group who imagines he has a grievance or is angered by a slight. And we have come to believe they can be used to control the world. We now have endless war and strife at home. And those guns are available within a society that has a history of violence against minorities. Yet, we do nothing about restricting them and are then shocked when the target practice turns to human life. I wonder what the stats are for firearms death here and in other parts of the western world.

    • orionATL says:

      jonf wrote:

      “… I wonder what the stats are for firearms death here and in other parts of the western world…”
      well, in georgia from 2011to the present, according to the centers for disease control, there were more deaths from guns than from automobiles.
      that’s astonishing isn’t it?

      maybe not. there are about the same number of guns in private hands in the u.s. as there are automobiles – ~300 million. both can kill you.
      are we living in a great country or what?

  22. 4jkb4ia says:

    The lives of those 9 people are not worth more than the life of Michael Brown etc. But what the murderer did is more evil and incomprehensible because it was inside a church, not under any cover of law enforcement, and he sat and talked to them for an hour. My husband, who has tried to argue that Michael Brown was a thug, has not gotten that last part at all.
    This act doesn’t only have resonance to what happened in Birmingham. It has resonance with all the synagogues and mosques that have been attacked in recent years as well, and we unquestionably said that pure terrorism and hatred motivated those.
    At least according to what the NYT has reported Lindsay Graham has gotten the emotional resonance of this exactly right. It is almost enough to make me wish he could get more people to think he had a chance.

  23. 4jkb4ia says:

    I am trying to decide if I agree with scribe’s comment or not. “A well-regulated militia being essential(?) to the security of a free State” does matter here. Not that the right to bear arms means that you have to have a militia, but taking up arms along racial lines, however necessary for the self-defense of the people involved, suddenly means that the citizenry having arms no longer means that bearing arms is an adjunct to the power of the state to maintain order.

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