Engram over at Back Talk has been looking into capital punishment since the latest issue over its application was raised over the past month or so. What he’s discovered is quite interesting:
My current obsession is the issue of capital punishment, not because I have any special connection to the issue but because I was simply astonished by what I discovered when I first started looking into the matter. My astonishment only increased further as I kept digging. The results are so utterly contrary to what I have heard all of my life that I can hardly believe that the evidence suggests that the enforcement of capital punishment lowers a nation’s murder rate
Ah, but that’s exactly what the data does suggest. Engram and I might differ significantly in our viewpoints on various issues – he describes himself as a registered Democrat and liberal on most issues – but I have been hugely impressed with one particular aspect of his character. He doesn’t flinch from the data when it provides evidence of something he’s been taught not to believe. This analysis he’s been performing is a perfect example of that, as he mentions above.
Over the course of his analysis, he’s looked at the murder rates in several countries, both those who have banned the death penalty and those that haven’t. What he has seen is that countries who have banned capital punishment have seen increases in murder rates where the rates in those countries who have kept it have varied only slightly, and that variance is in both directions.
If the issue has interest for you and you want to see what the data is actually saying, you definitely need to go have a read for yourself. His posts analyze the data for the U.S., Canada, Australia, England, France, Germany, and Italy. Without fail, those countries who banned the death penalty saw large increases and those that didn’t did not.
He has the academics’ stance on analysis of this type where he’ll call that kind of evidence “compelling” rather than “proof” and I respect that. I don’t feel the need to hold back, however – it’s compelling enough for me to say that it is proof and it’s something that I’ve believed for as long as I can remember. The likelihood that committing a particular kind of crime could result in your being killed by the state is a deterrent on a primal level. It addresses the instinct for self-preservation and while it’s clear that some people are more than happy to run the risk, there are those who just as clearly do not. The data indicates quite readily that there was less motivation to not kill for some people once that penalty had been taken off the table. That’s an unnecessary addition of risk to the law-abiding among us and that makes banning the death penalty irresponsible.
Well done, Engram, and thank you for the analysis.
Any regular denizen of the political blogosphere will have, by now, heard of the AP’s running of the story a couple of months ago wherein one faction in Iraq attacked the other by setting fire to 6 mosques and dousing some of the people they drug out of them with gas, setting them afire. The story was dramatic and sensational and got immediately carried by news outlets all over the world. The AP’s source for the story was a supposed police Captain named Jamil Hussein. (No relation.)
Questions came up about whether the story was even remotely accurate (which remain questions, by the way) and whether this Hussein even existed. For 6 weeks the AP was asked to produce this guy since the Iraqi authorities reported to virtually every blogger, journalist, and Pentagon official that they didn’t have such a guy in the ranks. For a good rundown of the issues that remain on this matter, see Bob Owen’s post over at Confederate Yankee.
The story itself is bad enough but it’s been covered by people far more engaged on the matter than I, so commentary from me up to now hasn’t been necessary. Turns out that the Iraqi Ministry of Interior – the same MoI that had been insisting for weeks that Hussein didn’t exist – suddenly came clean and admitted that he did.
The Interior Ministry acknowledged Thursday that an Iraqi police officer whose existence had been denied by the Iraqis and the U.S. military is in fact an active member of the force, and said he now faces arrest for speaking to the media.
Ministry spokesman Brig. Abdul-Karim Khalaf, who had previously denied there was any such police employee as Capt. Jamil Hussein, said in an interview that Hussein is an officer assigned to the Khadra police station, as had been reported by The Associated Press.
The captain, whose full name is Jamil Gholaiem Hussein, was one of the sources for an AP story in late November about the burning and shooting of six people during a sectarian attack at a Sunni mosque.
The lefty blogswarm that followed was a screaming fit about how everything this guy had provided to the AP (and he’s provided the primary sourcing for 61 stories of theirs over the past 2 years) had to be absolutely true and that the righty blogs who had questioned the AP’s reporting were clearly brainless dolts. Unlike the reactions from the vast, vast majority of the left, the bloggers who had raised these questions for 6 weeks without answers from the AP did something responsible: they issued corrections and apologized for the error.
Now, I’m hoping someone can provide some additional info to me, here, but let me make sure I have things straight.
The AP uses Jamil’s info to run a story that 6 mosques were burned and 24 Iraqis forcibly immolated in the streets. When people started looking for these mosques and burned corpses, they couldn’t find them. No one else – not even the Iraqi imams who would certainly gain from the widespread knowledge of this event – could provide any evidence or eyewitness accounts. No pictures. No bodies. No burned mosques. The AP defends its reporting, but drops the number of mosques to 2 and the number of dead from 24 to 6. Without explanation. After 6 weeks of complete inability to back up a single word of this reporting or to produce the source (Jamil Hussein), the agency who’d been denying his existence suddenly finds the guy and reports they’re going to arrest him.
Reports to who? Why, the AP of course.
So the outfit whose credibility is at question is the only one to report on this amazing turnaround of events and I’m supposed to just believe it? Oh, it gets better. The MoI says that unless the AP actually cooperates with them by identifying the guy they’ve arrested as their source, they’ll just have to drop the case and let the guy go. End of investigation. So the AP is reporting that someone says they’re not lying and that the guy who is their source is someone they’ll not be able to identify so he won’t get prosecuted.
But he’s completely trustworthy as a source. Because the AP says so.
I’m sorry, but what are the “corrections” for again? It’s the credibility of the AP that was always the issue here and this vindication that they’re getting is based solely upon reporting that is backed up by the AP’s credibility alone. I’m confused that anyone would feel compelled to give the AP’s reporting the benefit of the doubt. Is there any other agency reporting this statement by the MoI that actually has reporters there to gather the info themselves? Can we confirm anything the AP is reporting on this story, at all?