Little Fish in a Giant pond

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Reason I am against the Death Penalty

Not surprisingly, the announcement that young Tori Stafford was almost certainly murdered the day she was taken, has spawned a facebook group (and probably many others that I am not aware of) whose goal it is to bring in tougher sentences for criminals. Some bloggers have even blogged about the death penalty, I rather enjoyed James Morton's posting on the matter.

Like Morton, I too am opposed to the death penalty, though not for all of the same reasons. I personally have absolutely no problem with the idea of a murder paying for his or her crimes with his or her life. I realize that it costs more to execute a convict than it does to keep one in prison for the rest of his or her natural life. Just the same, if that was the only argument against the death penalty, I personally would be quite content to write it off as the price of justice.

I am always amused by the notion that some people believe that the state should not have the right to put someone to death because it sets some sort of bad example (like a parent that tells their kids not to smoke, but lights up two packs a day). That is probably the most ridiculous argument against the death penalty of all. There are all kinds of powers vested in the sate that an individual citizen could and should never wield. If it's wrong to punish a murderer with death, is it not therefore wrong to punish a kidnapper with prison? Does an individual have the right to imprison another individual?

There is one Hell of a big difference between someone who commits a murder that is motivated by greed, anger, hatred, etc., and the act of putting someone to death for a crime they have committed. That is not a carte blanche for the state to go around killing anyone that gets in the way of course. Obviously, the punishment must fit the crime, and the accused must be given the benefit of a fair trial, competent counsel, and an Appeal process.

Having said that, I want to repeat that I am personally against the death penalty. My reason is simple. As hard as we might try, our legal system is far from perfect. Judges and juries make mistakes, and a death sentence for an innocent man/woman can never be corrected. If an innocent person spends 20 years in prison before receiving a favourable verdict, we can never restore the lost years, or erase the trauma, but at least the record can be set straight and some form of compensation can be paid. Most importantly, the innocent party is still alive. No matter how good our system is, innocent people WILL be convicted, and if we have the death penalty, the injustice will only be magnified.

At any rate, I've gotten a little off track here. The point I wanted to make is that it appears that people just want to feel safe. I've noticed that everytime a tragedy happens like a child's abduction, or some lunatic goes on a killing rampage, there is a call for tougher legislation, as if that would have done anything to stop the problem.

The horrifying fact is that lunatics and predators walk among us in society. The odds of actually being the victim of one are pretty slim, but they are going to do what they are going to do. Should we therefore abandon all laws intended to protect society? Of course not. And there is certainly no harm, in re-evaluating the system when something goes wrong to see if there was anything that could have been done to prevent it. I'm just saying that we cannot control our world, and there is no way of ensuring that "this will never happen again".


Friday, May 15, 2009

My Hockey Picks - Round 3

Pittsburgh v. Carolina
This is a tough one. Carolina has already knocked off one of the toughest teams in the league, and both teams will be exhausted from grueling seven game series in the last round. I'll flip a coin and say Sid the Kid and Malkin will get another shot at the Cup. Penguins in seven.

Detroit v. Chicago
Yet another David and Goliath struggle. Chicago has already surprised me twice during these playoffs, but I suspect they've run out of gas. They're well rested, so they should be able to take a game or two from the Defending Champs, but that's it. It looks to me like we're heading to a rematch of last year's cup finals. Red Wings in five.

*** Interestingly enough, the last time the Penguins won the Cup, it was against Chicago!

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Wednesday, May 13, 2009

In Defence of Miss California

All right, I realize I'm opening a can of worms here, and frankly I think the issue is getting far more attention than it derserves, but I have to say that I feel bad for this 21 year old kid.
For those of you who haven't been following, Carrie Prejean, AKA "Miss California" stated on national television that she was opposed to gay marriage. Since then topless photos of the pageant contestant have since surfaced on the internet, in an apparent attempt to discredit her. After having considered the matter, Pageant owner Donald Trump has decided that Miss California can keep her crown, which prompted the pageant's co-director to resign in protest.
Before I go any further, I want to make one thing clear. I am in favour of same sex marriage. I believe very strongly that to deny gays the right to marry is a violation of their right to equal treatment under the law. In my opinion, Ms Prejean's views on marriage are completely void of logic, and should not be given a second thought... but that does not mean she does not have the right to express them.

Like most proponents of same sex marriage, I watched in horror as the people of California voted against gay marriage in a recent referendum. It is yet another example of why the rights of minorities should not be decided based solely on the whims of the majority. As horrific as this moment was, it shows that clearly there are a lot of people out there who feel the same way as Prejean. They were asked a question and they answered it. Should they all therefore be punished? Prime Minister Jean Chrétien once held the same position as Miss California. Parliament even passed a motion to that effect! (I am proud to say, that I used to work for one of the few Liberal MPs who did not follow the party lines and voted against that motion). It was only after an Ontario Court ruled that denying gays the right to marry violated the charter that the PM changed his mind. Should Jean Chrétien and all of the MPs be punished for the way they voted on that original motion? I think not. I hate to say it, but the Donald made the right call.

Hate speach is one thing, giving an honest opinion in response to a question is another. I have no problem with the sections of our Criminal Code that aim to protect society from the promotion of hatred; however, we on the left wing have to be more careful about the way we villify those who disagree with us. We have to stop attacking the individual, and focus on the idea, because anyone can humiliate someone into biting their tongue, but it takes a true intellectual to actually pursuade their opponents to agree with them.

As for the topless photos, I suppose Prejean only has herself to blame, as they probably would have surfaced on their own at some time, whether she had spoken out against gay marriage or not. I personally see nothing wrong with the photos (it's her body, it's her call!), but she had to have known that not everyone would feel that way and controversy would be inevitable.

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