Category Archives: crime and punishment

Harvard behaves badly—twice

I’ll try to make this post short, as I’m resting in my hotel in Warsaw and want to catch up on the news from London. But I couldn’t resist, thanks to several readers (special h/t to Scott), calling attention to two questionable acts that my Ph.D. alma mater has committed. The first involves the New […]

SPLC reported to have funneled millions of dollars to offshore accounts

This story, which I’ll excerpt from The Free Beacon, has so far been reported almost exclusively by the right-wing media, but independently by several such sites (for example, the Alabama Political Reporter). Take it with a grain of salt, though there are documents you can look at to check. If it’s true, it should certainly […]

Trump’s unwise pardon

Well, Trump has given his first Presidential pardon, and it couldn’t have gone to a worse person than Joe Arpaio, a former sheriff (1993-2016) of Maricopa County, Arizona—a county that includes the state capital of Phoenix. Arpaio was not only a punitive hard-ass towards prisoners, but widely recognized as an anti-Hispanic bigot, which he displayed […]

Agatha Christie on determinism and criminal justice

Reader John found a passage in a nearly 90 year old Agatha Christie novel that presages the views of Sam Harris, Robert Sapolsky, and many other determinists on the application of determinism to our justice system. This is what John sent: I  just read an Agatha Christie novel called “The Murder at the Vicarage” (published […]

Criminal squirrel gang purloins chocolate bars in Toronto

I am feeling better, thank you, and we’re up to 48,939 subscribers, so my bucket list goal of 50,000 seems within reach. Let’s celebrate with two things everyone loves (except miscreants): chocolate and squirrels. In January the CBC News reported that a squirrel, or more likely a maurading gang of mixed race squirrels (black and gray) […]

Albatross killer sentenced to jail

The other day I posted on the vicious killer and maimer of 15 threatened Laysan albatrosses, one Christian Gutierrez, a 20 year old NYU student who did the carnage on Oahu with some fellow thugs. Six of them were on a camping trip, and three of them (two juveniles and Gutierrez) were charged with a […]

Retributive punishment: Does Christian Gutierrez “deserve” to be jailed?

I was a bit disturbed by a few of the comments about yesterday’s post on Christian Gutierrez, a 19 year old Hawaiian resident (now a New York University student), who is to be sentenced today for the brutal slaughter and torture of at least 15 Laysan albatrosses on Oahu. The comments that most distressed me were […]

“The Scandalous Grace of God”: A Christian explains why he’s no better than Dylan Roof

When I read the title of this piece in PuffHo’s “Religion” section,  “I am no better than Dylann Roof“, I took it as a determinist: all of us are capable of doing what Roof did if we had a certain combination of genes and environments. (As you may recall, Roof murdered 9 African-Americans at a Church in Charleston, […]

Complaints about homeopathy and determinism

I continue to get comments and emails from readers defending homeopathy (many come from India), but they all sing the tired old song: “It helped me, so I know it works.” They know little, I guess, about the self-healing of the body or about placebo effects. But I must say I’m surprised at how common faith […]

Ex-superintendent of the Oregon State Penitentiary regrets having administered the death penalty

Thursday’s New York Times has an op-ed piece by Semon Frank Thompson, “What I learned from executing two men,” in which he describes how his former advocacy of capital punishment disappeared when he had to administer it. Thompson was the superintendent of the Oregon State Penitentiary from 1994-1998, a period when the only two executions […]