Posted in Politics by Richard Adams
How can people say, on one hand, that we can't to know the intent of the framers or ratifiers of the constitution, but also say we can know a particular crime was motivated by hate?
Especially dubious when one considers that this is a common claim among those who call the framers racist. Wouldn't perpetrators of the latter then have the same frame of mind as the former, making intent more accessible?
Q: How can people say, on one hand, that we can't to know the intent of the framers or ratifiers of the constitution, but also say we can know a particular crime was motivated by hate?
A: By claiming hate crimes laws are already in the Constitution! Like all their other favorite policies!
Kidding aside, if they can find all their invisible faves already in a one-page constitution, how many will they find in a 1,000-page bill filled with "to-be-determined-later"?
Orwellian double think.
The comparison seems like a stretch, but I'll play along for fun.
The idea with hate crimes are that we can determine a person's intent behind a particular crime. Based on past or current behaviors, affiliations, verbal or written statements, we can know that a person committing a crime had a particular motivation based on the victim's active or passive status within some group.. Sometimes, it's fairly easy to determine this, particularly if the criminal provides a "manifesto" of sorts:
James Adkisson did just that when he shot and killed 2 people at a Unitarian church in Knoxville, TN. Just a few highlights from his handwritten manifesto:
" "Know this if nothing else: This was a hate crime. I hate the damn left-wing liberals. There is a vast left-wing conspiracy in this country & these liberals are working together to attack every decent & honorable institution in the nation, trying to turn this country into a communist state. Shame on them....
"This was a symbolic killing. Who I wanted to kill was every Democrat in the Senate & House, the 100 people in Bernard Goldberg's book. I'd like to kill everyone in the mainstream media. But I know those people were inaccessible to me. I couldn't get to the generals & high ranking officers of the Marxist movement so I went after the foot soldiers, the chickenshit liberals that vote in these traitorous people. Someone had to get the ball rolling. I volunteered. I hope others do the same. It's the only way we can rid America of this cancerous pestilence."
"I thought I'd do something good for this Country Kill Democrats til the cops kill me....Liberals are a pest like termites. Millions of them Each little bite contributes to the downfall of this great nation. The only way we can rid ourselves of this evil is to kill them in the streets. Kill them where they gather. I'd like to encourage other like minded people to do what I've done. If life aint worth living anymore don't just kill yourself. do something for your Country before you go. Go Kill Liberals."
Knowing the "intent" of a GROUP of people - such as the framers/Founding Fathers - who collectively compose a document of governance is a much more complex endeavor. Are we determining their intent merely for the founding of the country (itself not always easy), or what their shared views would be - per the framing found in any given document - on specific policies and proposals today? And, to the extent we can even find shallow agreement on what that would be, should this be the thing of absolute, overriding importance?
I think Jefferson stated it well:
"Some. men look at constitutions with sanctimonious reverence, and deem them, like the ark of the covenant, too sacred to be touched. They ascribe to the men of the preceding age a wisdom more than human, and suppose what they did to be beyond amendments. I knew that age well: I belonged to it, and labored with it. It deserved well of its country.- It was very like the present, but without the experience of the present ; and forty years of experience in government is worth a century of book-reading : and this they would say themselves, were they to rise from the dead. I am certainly not an advocate for frequent and untried changes in laws and constitutions. I think moderate imperfections had better be borne with ; because, when once known, we accommodate ourselves to them, and find practical means of correcting their ill effects. But I know, also, that laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths disclosed, and manners and opinions change with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also, and keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy, as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors. It is this preposterous idea which has lately deluged Europe in blood. Their monarchs, instead of wisely yielding to the gradual changes of circumstances, of favoring progressive accommodation to progressive improvement, have clung to old abuses, entrenched themselves behind steady habits, and obliged their subjects to seek through blood and violence, rash and ruinous innovations, which, had they been referred to the peaceful deliberations and collected wisdom of the nation, would have been put into acceptable and salutary forms. Let us follow no such examples, nor weakly believe that one generation is not as capable as another of taking care of itself, and of ordering its own affairs. Let us, as our sister States have done, avail ourselves of our reason and experience, to correct the crude essays of our first and unexperienced, although wise, virtuous, and well-meaning councils. And, lastly, let us provide in our constitution for its revision at stated periods. What these periods should be, nature herself indicates. By the European tables of mortality, of the adults living at any one moment of time, a majority will be dead in about nineteen years. At the end of that period, then, a new majority is come into place ; or, in other words, a new generation. Each generation is as independent of the one preceding, as that was of all which had gone before. It has, then, like them, a right to choose for itself the form of government it believes most promotive of its own happiness ; consequently, to accommodate to the circumstances in which it finds itself, that received from its predecessors : and it is for the peace and good of mankind, that a solemn opportunity of doing this every nineteen or twenty years, should be provided by the constitution ; so that it may be handed on, with periodical repairs, from generation to generation, to the end of time, if any thing human can so long endure...
But the dead have no rights. They are nothing ; and nothing cannot own something. Where there is no substance, there can be no accident. This corporeal globe, and every thing upon it, belong to its present corporeal inhabitants, during their generation. They alone have a right to direct what is the concern of themselves alone, and to declare the law of that direction: and this declaration can only be made by their majority."
To be found here:
Knowing the intentions of someone alive today (or, literally, yesterday) is a good bit easier in many cases than discerning the intent of a group of people long, long dead.
I have a hard time believing that a guy who murdured people at random(at least random liberals) wrote what you have quoted there because the thing reads like a government definition of "hate" crime. Crime is Crime, motivation for it just plays into the parlor tricks and swami mind games of psychology.
Well, Brutus, I guess it's just a case of believe it or not. My understanding of it is that the Knoxville Police found the manifesto in the guy's truck and subsequently shared it with the press (No, wait, that's wrong - according to the article "During Monday’s hearing, Adkisson said little to explain his actions. After the hearing, however, he released to the News Sentinel a copy of the manifesto and would-be suicide letter he penned before the rampage."). The books and paraphernalia in Adkisson's home also indicated he was a fan of right-wing pundits and talkers. I actually wonder if this guy is "Dain" who used to frequent NLT - but then I have to remind myself that there are, sadly, countless goons out there like Dain.
Here's the article where the PDF (which I already linked to above) of the handwritten manifesto was posted:
and here's an interesting KnoxNews blog-post about the low-level controversy generated by the paper's posting of said manifesto - gotta love that first comment! ("Ya know, with the exception of killing people, which is wrong under any circumstance, even liberals, he's pretty much right. This so-called liberal movement will destroy the American way of life. Liberals hate America... [yada, yada, yada - sounds like Rep. Jim Wilson]):
Brutus, do you think it was some sort of conspiracy (by the police? (haha)) to fake that manifesto??
Your dismissal of psychology as "parlor tricks and swami mind games" is a nice touch, too, btw...
Crime is Crime, motivation for it just plays into the parlor tricks and swami mind games of psychology.
Yikes! Are you really completely dismissing the study of criminal psychology? You know the government pays big bucks to fund psychological research into terrorism (and an Ashbrook-graduate is actually pursuing a PhD in that . . .), right? I suppose that's just junk . . . crime is crime. Who cares why they do it!
Especially dubious when one considers that this is a common claim among those who call the framers racist.
What about "slave-holders"? Is that okay since it's more empirical than claiming to know someone or some group's state of mind? For example, if I said "Hey, Washington owned slaves." No matter how much you try to spin that (i.e. "He knew what was best for them", "He wanted them to take care of his wife", cite that book you all love "Vindicating the Founders", blah blah B/S B/S), he still owned slaves. I guess I can't say with certainty that he was racist. Just a chauvinist.
I don't know the case and have no stories or evidence to post on this. However, when I read your quotes they seemed too coherant and clear to be written by someone who was about to harm the cause they believed in by proving government suspicions right. I don't trust anything I hear from the media or the government at this point. Guy was probably an idiot, and the writing seems too good is all I am saying. It does make the case for the government very well. I'll even throw one in against the right(fake right) here, its similar to the "bin laden" recordings we always get this time of year where the voice and dialect don't even match and yet it makes the rounds on the major news networks. The people who say liberals are going to ruin American are wrong because the blame should go to the entire political military banking industrial complex. It is interesting though, to consider what is meant by "destroy." An America that is different and contradictory to the "founding principles" could be considered destroyed. Whoever you want to call the destroyers, I don't see how anyone can argue that this conception of destroy is not going on. There we always be a place on a map called America with some people living in it.
Wow, I guess I can now just hit enter for a new paragraph. What good is it in determining intent in the hate crime scenarios. If I drag a guy by a rope behind my truck does it matter if he is gay? If I hang someone for making advances on my sister does it matter if he is black? To the government it does and they give more punishment, does this make the crime less if it was against a non special group? Punish all crimes like this harshly without worrying about what was going on in the person's head. I am very skeptical of psychology not that it does not work, but of how it is applied. Where would advertisers be without it, but does it really help very many people or is it just another way to get people to self censor or take drugs. Hate crime/ Hate speach are designed to get others to self censor thoughts that go in the direction of the hate criminal. Here is an interesting connnection though, almost all of the crazed gunmen have been on psychological drugs. Was the guy from your story on any?
Wow, government funds it; it must be needed and good. Oh no, I might have offended someone quick let me retract before i'm arrested as a cyber bully for posting an anonymous opinion on a message board. get real, in your post you gave no arguments for me to consider. At least tell me why it is good, just not how dare you say its bad. While were at it, terrorism is hate crime. They are one in the same. Those government psychologists just tricked us again. Got us supporting one thing and denouncing another and whoops, they were the same thing. Long live IngSoc.
No, no. I just like to remind you that your taxes fund stuff you think is stupid.
That's all. I'm not here to convince you or to "get real".
"I don't trust anything I hear from the media or the government at this point."
Seriously, Brutus? I've heard a lot of people say this, but I've yet to meet anyone who's a true blue absolutist on it.
So you don't trust ANYTHING they say?
Do you believe that a bunch of people were protesting in DC on Saturday? (I'm assuming you weren't there - for no particular reason)
Craig, the bits you quote are beside the point. Whether some people who are gulty of "hate crimes" does not answer the question. Quite often the motivation is much more difficult to prove. And in those cases, is intend any harder to discover than the intent of the constitution?
The bit you quote from Jefferson has nothing to do with how to construe the constitution. It has to do with Jefferson's belief that the past has no right. The could (could) be construed to support a living constitution. The touble is Jefferson is the last person who would have done so. He said, "let mercy be the character of the lawgiver; let the judge be a machine." When there was a question about how to construe the constitution, he said, "let us not make it a blank paper by construction." In short, he did not want judges, Congressmen, or President simply to reinterpret the constitution to suit whatever they thought was necessary.
Jefferson, of course, thought that each generation should write and ratify a new constitution. Why? Because he believed that meaning was clear. He believed that the intent was so clear that a judge could be "a machine" after all.
The first part should read "whether some people who are guilty of 'hate crimes" leave behind a clear paper trail does not answer the question.
Doesn't anyone see how this goes hand in hand with all the boo-hooing about Joe Wilson and signs at conservative rallies? Get people fired up about that, then push the "hate crime" thing. Soon the crime part gets dropped off, and "hate" becomes the crime. Then the conservatives get sent to the camps.
My jaded default stance is to simply not take their word on anything. I too read reports about a protest. Some said thousands, others millions. I simply accept the fact that, without being there as you rightly assumed, i have no way of actually knowing. The videos looked like there were more than were being reported as has been reported by the right wing media and patriot groups, but that conclusion certainly can not be taken without considering their bias in the matter. It appeared though, that a lot of the people there were either patriot movement or foxnewsglennbeckers. I'm sure this leads one to assume the groups are one in the same, but I strongly caution you in that assumption. Most of the patriot types are anti war, anti patriot act ect. The right despertly wants this group as a voting block IMO(Ron Paul getting the most support from troops and having the fastest growing student movement on colleges...so i'm told), but they have no intentions of ever giving them anything back.
What did you think about the reported numbers and the implications of the media vastly under reporting it, if you believe they did?
Sorry to matt for coming of so harsh. Are you saying its good that our taxes fund things we don't agree with. The implication of not having that would mean basicly no government programs or some sort of choose your own adventure pork barrel program.
Mr. Adams, I don't think that the "bits" I quoted are beside the point at all.
Jefferson may have believed that the intent of the Framers/Founding Fathers was "so clear that a judge could be a 'machine' after all," but then, it doesn't seem that he believed - quite reasonably - that their intent should necessarily, obsessively be the be-all, end-all of our nation's progress.
I agree with Craig that it's sometimes possible to get accurate picture of a criminal's state of mind. If weren't then the insanity defense would be unthinkable, and that's been an accepted element in criminal justice since the early 19th century.
However, this doesn’t lead me any close to liking hate crime laws. For one, I find it hard to see why they are necessary. James Adkisson was obviously motivated by hate, but so what? He received a life sentence for killing two people in cold blood. Clearly the existing hate crime laws did not deter him, nor would additional laws have done so—as he says in the quote Craig provides, his goal was to “Kill Democrats til the cops kill me.” He committed his crime fully intending to die. What difference, then, would stricter hate crime laws have made? And if the purpose behind such laws is not deterrence, then what is it—unless it’s merely a symbolic payoff to favored interest groups?
Moreover, I can’t shake the idea that hate crime laws are a stepping stone toward making “hate” itself a crime. I return to the parallel of the insanity defense. If in the judgment of mental health professionals a person is liable to do harm to himself or to someone else based on his mental state, that person can be institutionalized preemptively, without having committed any crime. I fear that this, combined with hate crime laws, could provide grounds for imprisoning people for their beliefs, however wrongheaded they may be.
The insanity defense, while accepted, is bull too because all we can have to go on is what the criminal says and they could be lying. I could shoot my neighbors dog and say I thought it was a demon when really I just wanted to stop the barking. Plus, the intent of the inquisitor plays into what the criminal says. Until we have a way to actually be mind readers we are only taking their word for it and they could easily lie.
In practice it's extremely difficult to establish an insanity defense, as it should be. This is why it is rarely used, and it's hardly ever successful.
"Moreover, I can’t shake the idea that hate crime laws are a stepping stone toward making “hate” itself a crime. I return to the parallel of the insanity defense. If in the judgment of mental health professionals a person is liable to do harm to himself or to someone else based on his mental state, that person can be institutionalized preemptively, without having committed any crime. I fear that this, combined with hate crime laws, could provide grounds for imprisoning people for their beliefs, however wrongheaded they may be."
I have yet to settle my opinion on the issue of hate crime laws. This is an interesting point, though, the "pre-crime" angle. Are you also saying, John, that you're opposed to the laws/regulations that (if what you're saying is correct) allow a clinically insane person to be imprisoned pre-emptively? That already sounds like a pre-emption frought with danger, to me.
[I could also expand my question and wonder if you're also in favor of pre-emptive attacks on countries that could/might/possibly consider attacking us or building up an arsenal that could theoretically allow them to attack us (or simply fight back if attacked/invaded) - but I guess that's going too far afield here]
One sort of argument in favor of hate crime laws is that violent acts designed to intimidate specific groups of people within a society, and thus, have a terrorizing and silencing impact on large segments of society, not simply the victim and their friends and family.
The case described here -
would be a pretty good example of what I'm talking about.
"...Eileen Burke, a retired Philadelphia police officer, had stepped out of her home after hearing Arielle Garcia's pleas to stop the beating.
Burke recalled hearing one final, ominous threat as the teens ran. 'They yelled, 'You effin bitch, tell your effin Mexican friends get the eff out of Shenandoah or you're gonna be laying effin next to him,' ' she said."
Surely there's some overlap also with the killing of abortion doctors with ongoing intimations of violence against any and all connected with such procedures. Scott Roeder's murder of George Tiller wasn't simply a violent one-on-one murder, based on some personal problem between the two men. I doubt it would be difficult to compile significant evidence showing that Roeder was hoping to intimidate other abortion doctors and do an end-run around the law. In any case like this (such as Adkisson, the killers of the Mexican man in PA, Tiller, the killer of Matthew Shepard, etc.) the goal is more than personal, it's political. It's to frighten or eliminate gays, people of certain ethnicities, doctors performing legal procedures, liberals, etc. In a sense, it's a sort of highly targeted terrorism. To the extent that the right can abide by dealing with terrorists in courtrooms - and not by invading and bombing countries - I'd guess that the harsh/harsher penalties proscribed for terrorism (as opposed to serial killers and Columbine-style killers) are applauded by conservatives generally, no?
But again, the issue is certainly complex and I don't have anything near even a semi-settled opinion on it.
Are you also saying, John, that you're opposed to the laws/regulations that (if what you're saying is correct) allow a clinically insane person to be imprisoned pre-emptively? That already sounds like a pre-emption frought with danger, to me.
Not necessarily--it all depends on the level of threat. Does the person have a history of violence? Does he or she have access to deadly weapons?
Gun laws present a similar dilemma. I'm a pretty solid defender of the Second Amendment, but that doesn't mean I think convicted felons should be allowed to own guns. Nor do I think any individual should own, say, an atomic bomb.
I could answer this in either of two ways:
1) There are plenty of instances where we permit--indeed, we expect--governments to do things that are forbidden to individuals. If I put a gun to your head and demand your money, it's called armed robbery. If the state does it, it's called taxation.
2) Again, it all depends on the level of threat. If the ruler of Country A has a history of calling Country B "the Great Satan," and then develops the capacity to destroy Country B's cities, then I think a case could be made for preemption.
One sort of argument in favor of hate crime laws is that violent acts designed to intimidate specific groups of people within a society, and thus, have a terrorizing and silencing impact on large segments of society, not simply the victim and their friends and family.
The idea that a crime is directed against more than simply the victim is already fundamental to our law. That’s why criminals aren’t allowed simply to make restitution to the victim or his or her family and avoid further punishment. A jail term or other sentence accounts for the offense the criminal committed against the whole society.
Whether the term "Mexican" was used or not, that is a clear example of a threat to do bodily harm, and that’s already illegal under U.S. law. That is rightfully punishable as a violation separate from the original offense. Hate doesn’t enter into it.
To the extent that the right can abide by dealing with terrorists in courtrooms - and not by invading and bombing countries - I'd guess that the harsh/harsher penalties proscribed for terrorism (as opposed to serial killers and Columbine-style killers) are applauded by conservatives generally, no?
Don’t be too certain of that. For me terrorism shouldn’t have any separate legal status. The 9/11 bombers were guilty of murdering 3,000 people. What sort of punishment does that deserve? Is it more than a serial killer deserves? Either one, in my opinion, deserves the death penalty, or at the very least life in prison. How do you impose a harsher penalty than that?
Interesting responses, John, thanks.
"The idea that a crime is directed against more than simply the victim is already fundamental to our law. That’s why criminals aren’t allowed simply to make restitution to the victim or his or her family and avoid further punishment. A jail term or other sentence accounts for the offense the criminal committed against the whole society."
Understood, however, if an otherwise calm and peaceful Joe Blow knifes his brother for cheating him out some inheritance money, for example, I and the rest of society have little reason to fear him, even if we do agree that he deserves punishment for his crime. If there's some guy like, say Adkisson, or the young men in PA with a distaste for Mexicans, living across town, and I'm a Mexican/liberal, then I have very legitimate fear for my safety. I think the idea is that the societal harm moves from something more abstract, even if quite real (Farmer Jones beat his son and gave him some bruises), to something with a directly threatening and intimidating effect - a threat that could very well be acted upon - on a segment of society. Let's eliminate the scenarios with a death penalty/life prison term punishment. So say, a guy hates Somali immigrants, stabs one in the leg and warns him to tell the others, then if the normal punishment for such a crime, occurring during a bar brawl, would be 3 months, the hate crime factor would make it 4 months.
"There are plenty of instances where we permit--indeed, we expect--governments to do things that are forbidden to individuals. If I put a gun to your head and demand your money, it's called armed robbery. If the state does it, it's called taxation."
Has the U.S. govt. ever executed/killed someone for not paying their taxes? (I really don't know; I'm guessing the answer is no, but am ready to be mildly surprised) Certainly they possess some coercive power to collect them, but I've never felt that it was to the life-threatening level for that particular offense. Do you actually equate the govt. collecting taxes with a street robber with a gun? If so, then perhaps it shouldn't be entrusted with protecting you (pre-emptively or otherwise) from the dangers posed by hostile foreign powers. Or perhaps you'd rather employ private protection, like Blackwater - I'm sure that would work out swell, as we've seen from their performance in Iraq.
"The 9/11 bombers were guilty of murdering 3,000 people. What sort of punishment does that deserve? Is it more than a serial killer deserves? Either one, in my opinion, deserves the death penalty, or at the very least life in prison. How do you impose a harsher penalty than that?"
By killing and injuring a bunch of random people who lived within several thousand miles (or more) of the culprits and/or their birthplaces?
Let's eliminate the scenarios with a death penalty/life prison term punishment. So say, a guy hates Somali immigrants, stabs one in the leg and warns him to tell the others, then if the normal punishment for such a crime, occurring during a bar brawl, would be 3 months, the hate crime factor would make it 4 months.
The attacker deserves the extra month, not because of his hatred for Somalis, but for the threat of bodily harm he made to others on top of the assault itself. Any good prosecutor would tack on the additional charge. True, it might be removed as part of a plea bargain, but I suspect that'd be the case under hate crime laws as well.
Do you actually equate the govt. collecting taxes with a street robber with a gun?
Well, yes. Both are examples of someone using coercive force to get me to surrender my property. The difference is that I accept government tax collection is legitimate, because I'm not an anarchist, and I understand that government is impossible without the use of coercive force.
"The attacker deserves the extra month, not because of his hatred for Somalis, but for the threat of bodily harm he made to others on top of the assault itself. Any good prosecutor would tack on the additional charge. True, it might be removed as part of a plea bargain, but I suspect that'd be the case under hate crime laws as well."
Still, I see a qualitative difference between threatening a specific individual and threatening an entire group, intimidating and terrorizing them. I'm reminded of sundown towns, where blacks (and sometimes Jews) would be warned to be out of town by sundown... or else.
Here's another case where the guy's motivations seem pretty transparent:
"One Cracker Barrel employee, who asked not to be identified said when Hill politely told West to be careful, he went on a racial tirade.
The employee said Hill told West, “Please don’t do this, I’m in the military,” to which West responded “I don’t give a f***you black n***** b****and then started punching her." The employee said "I saw the foot motion of him kicking her. As he was punching her, he called her a black n***** b**** twice.""
One major difference between an armed mugger and the govt. collecting taxes is that the mugger doesn't subsequently provide me with public goods and services - parks, streetlamps, traffic lights, streets/roads/highways, police and fire departments, not to mention about the only thing right-wingers appreciate from tax collection - the military. Obviously, it's highly debatable to what extent certain military actions are working to protect and defend me and my fellow citizens, but muggers typically accost or assault their victims (or worse), not provide public goods and services.
Personally, I don't need to be coerced to pay my taxes. I'm happy to do it voluntarily, and never fret about it. I do resent some of the inappropriate and ineffective things that my tax payments go towards. Despite all of the bluster from the right about taxes and making government small enough to drown in the tub, I think this is one of the main fundamental differences between liberals and conservatives (incl. conservative libertarians) - what the tax dollars go for. It's incredibly rare to hear anyone from right-of-center complain about corporate welfare in all of its enormity. Ralph Nader is the strongest voice on THAT issue, and the right generally treats him like an evil joke.
Ashbrook Center at Ashland University | 401 College Avenue | Ashland, Ohio 44805 | (419) 289-5411 | (877) 289-5411 (Toll Free)