I knew a guy who had a simple answer to the whole Death Penalty thing. He’s hold is fingers, thumb and index finger, a short ways apart from each other like he had something in his grasp, and he’s say, “One bullet … costs about nine cents.” I have no idea how much a bullet really costs, but I do know that we don’t execute people by just deciding to execute them and then shooting them in the head. In fact, it is telling that our society spends way more money, time, and effort on the legal activities surrounding execution than in anything comparable in the criminal justice system. Obviously, we are not comfortable with State sponsored homicide.

There is a proposition on the ballot in California, Number 34, which will remove the Death Penalty from the books in the Sunshine State. That’s good, and I hope it passes. But even if you are not in California and thus can’t vote on this, you might find the following video interesting because of the information it provides:


  1. #1 Zachary Alain
    October 10, 2012

    Was anybody else absolutely creeped out by that video?

    “This killing people business is all fine and well, but usually we don’t end up killing them (whoops) and it’s sooooo expensive.”

    Nothing about the death penalty being “a privilege of the poor”, or racist, or an unnecessary and terrible power in the hands of the state. It’s these things and also inefficient, wasteful, and subject to error, assuming you can accept it and these other consequences in principle.

    Imagine having a date set for your death and being stuffed into a miserable, lonely box until that date, waiting to die for nothing; your crimes cannot be erased, your suffering will not erase the suffering of the victims, and you will not in suffering death will prevent similar crimes more than if you were allowed to live. The death penalty is a horror of meaninglessness, misery and death for their own sakes.

    We should all be vomiting in revulsion when we hear this called justice, not wincing at the price tag.

  2. #2 dean
    October 10, 2012

    I haven’t heard about this in California – any idea of its chances?
    I’ve long taken it as a big plus for Michigan that the state did away with the death penalty many years ago and have never brought it back.
    Sadly, it seems that there are more people muttering about needing the death penalty back; I am sure the conservative swing has emboldened many. I had a conversation with a neighbor, just up the block, about it. At one point he said “You know, Stalin was a beast, but his method of dealing with scum had something for it. We need people in the state willing to do that.”
    I asked him if he meant people like Vasili Mikhailovich Blokhin – told him to look up the name if he needed to. He did, and wasn’t happy me for what he thought I was implying about his philosophy.
    Maybe your acquaintance was thinking of bullets on Blokhin’s scale when he made the nine cent comment.

  3. #3 Bob Glasner
    October 10, 2012

    The death penalty is a controversial subject, however, the death penalty is Biblical. Technically we are all living under a death penalty. After man sinned in the Garden of Eden 6500 years ago, God issued a death penalty on mankind, but did offer redemption to those who would accept it.

    I believe in using the death penalty in some cases of extreme brutal crimes and I also believe in using it fairly quickly rather than taking years to do it.

    Did Jack the Ripper not deserve to be hanged, shot, or executed in some way? Did Hitler not deserve to be executed? Che? Stalin? Bin laden? Etc.

    In most cases of petty crimes like theives, I say a good 5 year prison sentence is good enough so long as they are forced to work 12 hour days busting rocks under a hot sun as a punishment for their crime. It is not fair when a theif gets sentenced to a hotel with room service and (modern prison) for stealing from someone. I recomend shorter sentences but make the punishment during that short sentence harsh enough that the man will not want to do anything wrong and have to come back to that place.

    On the other hand, a theif could just be force to pay back double what he stole. In other words, if you break into my house and steal from me, you owe me double what you took, or you can work for me for two years with no pay. Mow my lawn, chop my firewood, wash clothes, wax my car, etc. These types of punishments seem to work better than sitting a criminal in a room, handing him the latest issue of a magazine, and meting his every personal request.

    Oh, and bullets are roughly around $0.40 average for each now. If I could find 9 cent bullets I would be a happy man.

    California is doing away with most types of punishment these days. In my state, the death penalty is rare. Death by hanging has not been used since the early 1900s in my state even though it has not been stricken from the books and and is still legal to do so. Some states are more liberal than others. I disagree with most everything that is passed on the left coast, but I respect the states rights to make their own assesments as they should be able to do. No need in getting the feds in on a state issue. California seems to be a mighty powerful police state to have to live in. I understand that the rural areas are much better to live in than the cities, especially rural northern California. I don;t think I could live there at all. I will just stay south of the Mason-Dixon line where some remnants of normal sanity still exists. mention global warming, evolution, and “marriage equality” down here and you’ll get laughed right out of town. But, to each his own.

  4. #4 Mike Olson
    October 10, 2012

    I’m curious as to the legal recourse those sentenced to life without the possibility of parole will be offered. The video states those sentenced to death are provided with a legal team at no cost to themselves. Would this mean they could be innocently put in prison but not have the resources available to someone sentenced to death? I’m very much against the death penalty. But, a wrongful conviction of any type is …exactly that, wrong. Being in prison for twenty one years before being exonerated is disturbing, but did that exoneration happen due to a state provided legal team? Would that person still be in prison if the rules were changed?

  5. #5 dean
    October 11, 2012

    The death penalty is a controversial subject, however, the death penalty is Biblical.

    Why should this be of any more importance than other parts of the Bible you don’t reference? Why should it be important at all, really?

  6. #6 Bob Glasner
    October 11, 2012

    Well, being that the first written laws were written by God and it is He who said THOU SHALT NOT KILL, STEAL, etc. and it is He who placed all mankind under the death penalty for sin, I happen to think it is very important. Laws come from God. So does freedom and human rights. Modern government enforces said laws, but they did not make them. The precepts for modern law started with God telling man about the law. Man even broke the very first law ever made when he/she willingly ate of thye forbidden fruit.


  7. #7 Zachary Alain
    October 12, 2012

    Bob Glasner,

    Human rights, in the sense that everybody uses the term today, are universal. The commandments in the Old Testament are only consistent when it is understood that they are `in-group’ commandments: i.e. they are dictates given to the Hebrews regulating the behavior of Hebrews amongst Hebrews, not humans amongst humans. Even granting that the scriptures are all true, it is difficult to argue that human rights has anything to do with them, as evaluated on conceptual or historical grounds or both. A similar thing can be stated about freedom.

    I’m not sure whether or not scripture ever says or implies that the first written laws were given through Moses. But assuming it does, we have written laws dating back from over 4100 years ago, and these were probably written a good while after the first written laws. I don’t know of any scholarship which claims that any part of the Torah was composed anywhere near that long ago. I don’t even think that a literalist reading of scripture would date the Exodus that far back. (Answers in Genesis estimates the date of the Great Flood at ~4359 years ago. In acts, it is stated that 430 years passed between the covenant between God and Abraham and the Exodus. There’s not a lot of room here.)

    Final note: freedom and human rights are not `laws’. Laws are formal structures which legal institutions are supposed to `embody’. Laws of any sort only `grant’ or `make’ human rights and freedom in the sense that they can be made consistent with these concepts. Governments make the laws; the concepts come from us, and they have changed over time. But we do not `have’ rights regardless of the laws. It makes sense to say that people have a right to freedom of speech in the sense that they should have freedom of speech, not that they have it.

    Where in scripture are folks granted what we now regard as our basic human rights in matters of religion? Privacy? Sexuality? The most important threats to human rights and freedoms come from structures like states, religion institutions, social norms, and concentrated private power. When and where in scripture are the boundaries of legitimate interference in others’ affairs by such structures delineated so as to preserve human rights and freedoms?

    The Old Testament is rather infamous for being the opposite of such a project. The New Testament never undertakes it.

  8. #8 Zachary Alain
    October 12, 2012

    While I’m here, I’ll return to your earlier comment.

    “I believe in using the death penalty in some cases of extreme brutal crimes and I also believe in using it fairly quickly rather than taking years to do it.”

    Then one of two things is true: (1) you have a method of very greatly increasing the accuracy of trial outcomes and guaranteeing early knowledge of mitigating circumstances, or (2) you think that the benefits of “using it fairly quickly” outweigh the costs of killing even more innocent people. I also presume an indifference to the social, financial, and ethnic inequalities in the process.

    “Did Jack the Ripper not deserve to be hanged, shot, or executed in some way? Did Hitler not deserve to be executed? Che? Stalin? Bin laden? Etc.”

    The question of what the state should do is separate from the question of what people deserve. (You and I have a different notion of `deserving’, I’ll bet, but we can leave that aside for now.) I live in the South, and we’re famous for our hospitality, especially in the rural areas. But if you’re a guest in someone’s home and act with extreme disrespect, you’re asking for an ass-kicking. In some areas, you’re likely to get it. And people will all nod their heads and say you deserve it, whether or not you get it.

    But people will probably stop nodding their heads if it is suggested that the State should always give you what you deserve. The State is not there to hand out beatings for rudeness. The State is not there to guarantee that every overachieving med student gets into a top school. Lots of people deserve lots of things that they fail to get, and in most cases State force would not considered a legitimate means of remedy even if such a thing was possible.

    Even where we grant that the State should be involved in helping people get what they deserve, we do not license any means of doing so. We have restrictions, collection of which is called “due process”. Even if we grant that somebody deserves to suffer for something they’ve done, we do not allow that suffering to be inflicted in arbitrary manner, or to be “cruel and unusual”. So I think it was wrong that Che was assassinated, just as I think it was wrong that (as is likely the case) no serious attempt was made to capture Bin Laden instead of killing him outright. I think it was right that Nazi war criminals were tried, though I disagree with the application of the death penalty even in those cases.

    Following various precedents, the courts do not consider the death penalty to be cruel and unusual. I happen to disagree. Its application is rare in the US, and the US is exceptional in the first world (except for Japan) in applying it at all. Here I agree with the world’s major human rights organizations. If you ever bother reading their bulletins, you’ll find case after case of people being executed who are (a) mentally handicapped or (b) not guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

    All I’m left wondering about is: why do you think we should have a death penalty?

    “In most cases of petty crimes like theives, I say a good 5 year prison sentence is good enough so long as they are forced to work 12 hour days busting rocks under a hot sun as a punishment for their crime”

    You know there’s a history to this sort of thing. A quick question: if governments and businesses secured free labor by arresting people, would they arrest more people? A less quick question: what happened in the South after Reconstruction ended?

    We’re already seeing many of the same problems emerge with the steady reintroduction of prison labor and privatized prisons. There are a few big reasons that our incarceration rates are so absurdly high, and this is one of them. (The bigger one being the drug war.) Yeah, we all pay big time for unnecessary incarceration. I’ve yet to see this be discussed by the deficit hawks who are busy worrying over the costs of Planned Parenthood, PBS, NPR, and TANF (food stamps). I haven’t run an exact estimate, but I’m willing to bet that the costs of those four programs combined is less than that of the costs of our over-incarceration relative to other first world countries.

  9. #9 Zachary Alain
    October 12, 2012

    Edit: TANF is not food stamps. I had meant to erase that parenthetical.

  10. #10 Marco
    October 13, 2012

    “Thou shalt not kill” kinda contradicts the death penalty itself, yes?

    Of course, you also contradict the bible when you only want the death penalty for extreme brutal crimes. Unless you consider homosexual acts, sorcery, or contradicting priests “extreme brutal crimes”?

  11. #11 Greg Laden
    October 13, 2012

    Or mowing your lawn on the Sabbath.

  12. #12 Doug Alder
    October 13, 2012

    Um Bob Glasner – which God are you referring to? There are thousands of them, not counting Goddesses. In any case relying on a many thousands of years old goat herders attempt to explain the universe, for anything, is ridiculous in the extreme

  13. #13 gwen
    October 13, 2012

    I live in CA and have no idea how this will fare. I will vote yes. I am against the death penalty as way too expensive. The money could be better used on education and rehabilitation of some of those we warehouse. I am against the death penalty as cruel and unusual punishment, and the fact that it has been found that there have been people executed who were almost certainly innocent. I find it an embarrassment that as a first world country, we warehouse more prisoners per capita than any other country on earth. We can do better than this.

  14. #14 Bob Glasner
    October 17, 2012


    Thousands of Gods? Sorry I was unware. I guess that’s what the God of the universe meant when He said that we shoud have no other Gods before Him eh?

    Wooden idols are inanimate objects. They are not Gods. They are false Gods. They cannot give life, raise the dead, etc.

    As for explaining the universe, the best thing your side has come up with as two particles collided together spun around and everything fell into place and over time life was spun from inanimate materials. The moderns science wiz who came up with this notion never even explained where the the two particles that collided and formed the so call big bang came from in the first place.

    Sorry Doug. Looks like your explaination is sillier than mine and raises more questions than answers. If you prefer to give me a detailed 900 million page report of EXACTLY and PRECISELY how the universe was formed asnd how life came to be, please go ahead and start on your report. I would love to see it.