Thursday, November 09, 2006

Living in a world where rocking horse people eat marshmallow pies...

My Dear Mr. Cooke-

Time is short; please forgive my abbreviated style:

1) Yes, death is absolute; so what? I agreed with your point of degrees of difference (I think I did, and if I didn’t, I should have). The societal punishment spectrum runs from parking tickets, to prison, to a short walk off a tall gallows. If you’re arguing that the state shouldn’t have that last one, first prove why it’s bad. Again, we return to the simple issue that you don’t like the death penalty (if I’m reading you correctly), ergo society shouldn’t impose it.

2) Iran isn't a totalitarian state, deal with it. Your definition of 'totalitarian' was clunky and imprecise; it didn't work, I called you on it, let it go. You call the OED definition “formalistic;” it’s a damn dictionary! Would you prefer: “dude, totalitarian governments are wicked lame. Some of the have, like, control over the mass media and stuff. Oh, and cults of personality. Plus, their chicks are totally un-hot.” You don’t like the definition? I can define a 'sea-otter' as: "Noun, a piece of material strapped across one's mouth to prevent the spewing of sloppy thinking." Just because you write it, doesn’t make it so (though the latter may help next time you use a lousy definition in a situation requiring exact language).

3) Your argument on the inability of execution to mete out proportional justice is preposterous. The most extreme punishment society can inflict is death (see point 1). Saddam deserves Iraq’s most severe punishment, ergo Saddam deserves to die. You don’t want Iraq to have that choice; just say it.

4) Since you say you’re having trouble with the critical reading portion of our exam, allow me to simplify my already condensed argument: societies can and should inflict their most severe punishments on their most severe transgressors. Again, you seem to favor removing the “death-screwdriver” from the toolbox of justice (that last metaphor is now copywrited). Not liking the death penalty is not the same thing as proving the trial is a failure.

5) “I didn't go in to a litany of his crimes, or a rhetorical condemnation, because it's not relevant.”- Wrong. This is an argument concerning justice; one of the first rules of the Western legal tradition is ‘let the punishment fit the crime.’ In order to determine the appropriate punishment, we have to address the crime. Can you do that without mentioning the things he’s done? Since you brought in the ‘Reducto Ad Hitlerum' debate, let me ask: can you talk about an appropriate punishment for Nazis without mentioning the Holocaust?

6) Your criticism of the trial is still hair-splitting, deal with it. International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights? Why, I remember when I was little, my dad encouraged me to memorize the ICCPR. Yessir, many is the time he asked me: “Geriatric, what is Article 16?” And I’d respond, “Any propaganda for war shall be prohibited by law.” Well, ole Dad was a bit of a disciplinarian, and he’d crack me with an electrical cord for a while. Eventually, I’d figure out my mistake and cry: “Article 16 states that ‘Everyone shall have the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law.’” My ole Dad, what a kidder!

7) You added a pile of citations toward the end directing me to sites that also don’t like the death penalty. (See points 4 and 1 above) According to Amnesty International, only 88 have abolished the death penalty for all crimes while 109 retain it, especially for war crimes. Europe can cuddle prisoners in time-out all it likes; most of the world, including America and Iraq, kills extreme transgressors. If you don’t like this, argue against the death penalty but don’t tell me that the courts erred in their judgment.

8) Cheeky Jihadi is good, but it could use some pizzazz. How about: Big Bob the Ba’athist, or Ali the Adorable Saddam Ally, or my (Arabized) favorite: Ibn Kook and the Good-time Marching Mujahadeen.

As always, my friend, march on!

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