Quickies

Skepchick Quickies 4.23

Amanda

Amanda is a science grad student in Boston whose favorite pastimes are having friendly debates and running amok.

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32 Comments

  1. Thank you for the Finches, I’ve just subscribed.

    Meanwhile I’ve had to reevaluate my opion of Jim Carrey – I used to think he was acting like an ignorant jerk, now I know he wasn’t acting.

  2. Jim Carrey: “Veterinarians found out years ago that in many cases they were over-immunizing our pets, a syndrome they call Vaccinosis. ”

    Well not real veterinarians, but homeopathic ones like Richard Pitcairn and Michael Dym who said: “This state of “vaccinosis” is under­stood as the disturbance of the life force that results in mental, emotional and physical changes induced by the laboratory modification of a viral disease to make a vaccina­tion.”

    Jim Carrey “These forward thinking vets also decided to remove thimerosal from animal vaccines in 1992, and yet this substance, which is 49% mercury, is still in human vaccines. Don’t our children deserve as much consideration as our pets?”

    Carrey implies that thimerosal was removed from all animal vaccines 17 years ago, which is along with everything else in that piece, completely wrong.

  3. The comment section after Jim’s piece of trash is even better. A comment refering to mumps, measles, rubella and chicken pox:

    “I’m 50 and had all four of them; I enjoyed the experience every time (got to stay out of school).”

    Missed a lot of school and education? Go figure, I can hardly tell.

  4. I’m a bit confused. Are we supposed to be for hate crime legislation or against it? Assault, battery, murder, etc are all already illegal. Is it less of a horrible crime if the accused doesn’t particularly hate the victim? Someone please explain, because it doesn’t seem to make sense to factor the likes and dislikes of the perpetrator into the crime.

  5. @graey: The way that it has been explained to me is that the “hate” is not the feeling of one person for another, rather it is the attempt to subjugate a group or class of people. In essence:

    “Hate crime” is to “assault”
    as
    “genocide” is to “mass murder”.

    I know that isn’t anything close to an actual legal definition, but I think that is the intent of the legislation.

  6. @graey: Imagine this scenerio-I go out and kill Bobby down the street, that is murder. Well, if he’s Catholic, and I have proven in the past that I don’t like catholics, then it becomes a hate crime. This can be proven if I have anti-catholic propaganda, or if I’ve made anti-catholic statements before.

  7. @graey: The idea of a “hate crime” is somewhat problematic. My understanding is that it makes the most sense in cases that involve things like vandalism in which a particular group is targeted. In that case, someone who destroys property because of an agenda against a whole group of people could be targeted differently by the law than, say kids who destroy property from some non-specific brand of spite.

    A murder, as you point out, seems a bit strange in the language of hate crimes, as the perpetrator should go to jail for WHATEVER reason they decided to take another life. I don’t really see the difference between killing someone because they’re gay or killing someone for any other reason. The “intent” part of murder seems pretty clear from the whole “First Degree Murder” definition. If you mean to kill someone else, I don’t really see that it matters if you’re a genocidal maniac or a mass murderer, as you’d probably get the same punishment under the law.

  8. If “Hate crime” is to “assault” as “genocide” is to “mass murder”, as Durnett says, then why do we need specific laws to protect specific groups?

    Why can’t we have one law that says that committing a crime with the intent of terrorizing a section of the community is hate? We don’t have laws that only prohibit genocide against certain ethnic groups.

    Aren’t all groups, even programmers, entitled to the same protection under the law?

  9. @JP: If you mean to kill someone else, I don’t really see that it matters if you’re a genocidal maniac or a mass murderer, as you’d probably get the same punishment under the law.

    If I remember the history correctly, “Hate Crimes” as federal offenses were created specifically because people who were guilty of assault and murder were not being adequately punished.

    In some isolated local courts, people who were using violence and intimidation against minorities were being found innocent by local juries who didn’t want to punish “one of us” for doing something to “one of them”. Sometimes, a local prosecutor would elect to charge a criminal with a lesser offense like manslaughter instead of first-degree murder either because the chances of conviction for the more serious crime were not good or because of prejudice on the part of the prosecutor.

    The institution of federal hate crime laws allowed federal prosecutors to charge the same criminals with a different crime – thus avoiding double jeopardy – and remove the case to a neutral venue where the accused would not have the benefit of local opinion.

    It’s a thorny ethical issue. Convicting people who have committed crimes is a good thing, but charging them twice for the same crime is a bad thing – even if you do manage to dance around the double-jeopardy restrictions. Using federal laws to prosecute local crimes is also dangerous territory.

  10. @NoAstronomer: I am way out of my depth here, but I don’t think that the laws talk about specific groups. I think that they just talk about the intent behind the crime.

    I dimly remember some debate back in the 90s when hate crime laws were first being applied to crimes against gay people. The question was whether the laws could be applied to homosexuals as a group. That’s what leads me to think that the laws are not specific about who is protected.

  11. My unease with hate crime legislation is that it tends to be enacted with the goal of hopefully controlling the thoughts and subsequent actions of people in the future along with current punishment for crime. So if a neo-nazi spends all his time fomenting and hating on particular groups of people he is not committing a crime. But if he assaults a particular minority or person of a certain religious belief he can then be charged for the content of his thoughts. I worry when thoughts can be criminalized which then make an act that is already criminal a more serious crime or make an act that would otherwise not be a crime a crime due to ones thoughts. And I’m not referring to acts of discrimination which are rightfully illegal in many circumstances.

    As nasty, evil, destructive, and harmful as intolerance, bigotry, racism and prejudice can be the efforts of the government to control or criminalize it’s citizens thoughts starts to look all THX1138 to me which is a different kind of oppression and bigotry in it self.

  12. An example would be if I were to stand on a street corner in the UK with a sign that said “The teachings of Islam equal the hate and degradation of women”. I’d likely get arrested and charged with a hate crime. I hope that never happens in the US. I’ve also heard that some of the ‘Anonymous’ folk who protest the church of Scientology could face prosecution at future demonstrations because Scientology has been recognized as a religion in the UK.

  13. @James Fox: “Unease” is a good way to put it. I’m not going to call for Hate Crime legislation to be repealed, but I am concerned about its application.

    I think these should be packed away with crimes like “treason” and “sedition” – only to be used when the criminal intent is very clear and cannot be prosecuted in any other way.

  14. @durnett: If my recollection is correct the main reason these laws were enacted was to allow federal prosecution when the local jurisdiction was unable or unwilling to adequately prosecute capital offences that were associated with bigotry and prejudice. For decades southern law enforcement agencies hardly raised a finger to investigate lynching’s of African Americans let alone a case getting to court and charges being filed. Having the hate laws allowed the fed’s to right the institutional wrong. Federal laws do not typically apply to crimes like murder, assault and arson. The only way for the feds to get involved required laws that made these acts federal crimes. In these limited circumstances the laws certainly appear more reasonable. Few local jurisdictions would get away with brushing these types of crimes under the rug today but it certainly could happen; and for that reason I also would not call for the laws to be repealed. I would not want to see them expanded however.

  15. @Durnett

    From the Fight Hate website :

    “The Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act / Matthew Shepard Act gives the Justice Department the power to investigate and prosecute bias-motivated violence by providing the department with jurisdiction over crimes of violence where the perpetrator has selected the victim because of the person’s actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability.”

    You’ll note that goths, people who wear glasses and programmers are not covered.

  16. @NoAstronomer:
    Hey, man! Wearing glasses is a disability!

    You are right though. I think that your language about intending to terrorize a section of the community (or something like that) would probably be better. If we have learned anything it’s that – as soon as you protect one group – haters will turn to a new target and define a new group to harass.

  17. Actually, the ACLU has endorsed the hate crime bill, so I don’t expect it to have much limit on hate speech:
    http://www.aclu.org/lgbt/crimjustice/29391leg20070417.html

    I see the bill as functioning to not only make sure that local police don’t ignore crimes because of their own biases (Emmet Till, anyone?) but to make laws more uniform across the country.

    Example: We had a “gay panic” murderer get off in Michigan with Manslaughter just a year ago.
    http://www.pamshouseblend.com/showDiary.do?diaryId=5041

    On the other hand, Angie Zapata’s murderer just got life, despite -his- gay panic defense–under a new Colorado hate crime law.

    That’s the sort of stuff I’d like to see stop.

    Whether or not the law will actually deter anyone is another issue–probably not. I see it as an important symbolic act by the Feds.

    We have a lot of white supremacist activity here in Michigan, so I take the Shepard law very seriously. (The Okla City bombers had a Michigan connection.) I see my students beaten and harassed for who they love.

    It breaks my heart.

  18. I carpet-bombed Carrey’s logic on Huffington as “WeAreThe Borg.”

    Since he has no professional training in medicine, he has no standing (neither does McCarthy) to make all these pronouncements on vaccines. They both air their uninformed and uneducated conspiracy theories to those that desperately want immediate and simple answers to serious real-life issues.

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