More hate crimes BS

2009 October 22

by Jego

CNN reports that the Senate passed legislation on Thursday that would make it a federal crime to assault an individual because of his or her sexual orientation or gender identity.

President Obama is expected to sign it. In typical Washington transparency, it was added to a big bucks defense authorization bill. Assholes.

Listen: this is just more silly season bullshit. The idea that an assaulted man, lying bloodied in the gutter, waiting for an ambulance company to come pick him up is somehow more injured if he’s gay is just stupid and insensitive to the plights of the assaulted throughout the rest of the country. It’s more of this need-to-be-special pap the left is so fond of smearing on everybody, like the idea that everyone is a genius in their own special way. (No, they’re not. No, you’re not. Deal.)

How about that poor boy in Chicago who was beaten to death recently? Would he have been deader were he gay? How about his Mom? Would she be more devastated if the reason had been that he’s gay?

This sort of nonsense bill creates a climate in the US of Amounts of Offensiveness: you’ve got (and I’m no criminologist or lawyer, so apologies) as far as I’m aware: Random Act without Blame but with responsibility, Random Act with Blame and Responsibility, Non-random act with B&R, and Heavily Premeditated non-random Act with B&R. Is that about right, attorneys? So now you add another layer: Non-random Act with B&R&Gay-hating and Heavily Premeditated Non-Random Act with B&R&Gay-hating. Man. Who is this helping?

I think you should maybe just not do nasty things to people because it’s immoral. I can understand having laws so that you have a punishment framework for folks who are not moral so that at least they get a transactional perspective on desired behavior, but I don’t get adding in a new layer. It’s just not fair. I mean, what if somebody bashes me because I’m Italian? Is that protected? Or what if it’s because I have curly hair? No extra sentence? Then fuck it. You don’t need it anywhere. Stupid feel-good laws.

Anybody think this will actually be a deterrent? (If so, write me…I’d love to talk to you about land-speculation on this defunct silver mine that might have a lot of metal left in it.

11 Responses leave one →
  1. Roy permalink
    October 23, 2009

    While I agree with you in principle, the reason that hate crimes laws were put in place to begin with was to make sure that charges were pressed against the perpetrators of crimes against certain minorities that the “locals” might not see as a crime. The Civil rights era is filled with murders not prosecuted because there was no way to get a conviction and even the Matt Sheppard case was going to be prosecuted as a manslaughter case until public pressure was raised on the local prosecutor.
    Maybe instead of hate crimes legislation, we should just apply civil rights violations to crimes committed that are not prosecuted due to local bias for the perpetrators of the crimes.

  2. Roy permalink
    October 23, 2009

    Again, all murder is murder and I agree with you that further legislation is merely pandering to constituencies for political favour but I would like to know the solution when a crime is committed that falls under local jurisdiction (and not federal jurisdiction) where the locality is so biased against the victim that there is no prosecution of the crime at worst and a half-assed prosecution at best? How can we fix that without increasing Federal jurisdiction on many more crimes?

  3. Mike permalink
    October 26, 2009

    You are right. There is a difference between motive and intent. Intent is meaning to do the action, i.e. beating someone’s head in. Motive is the reason you do it, i.e. he’s a Polish, bartending, Sabres fan, dating a “woman” named Esmeralda.
    Lawyers have to prove intent beyond a reasonable doubt, lawyers NEVER have to prove motive, it helps if you can explain why someone did something, but it’s not an element of the crime (fact check me, barristers).

    I’m not sure how to solve the problems you raise as far as ensuring proper prosectuion of crimes when the victim is a member of a discriminated demographic in certain geographical areas. But I don’t think that the answer is to make some people more important than others.

  4. October 30, 2009

    @Mike: you’re sort of right. While motive is not usually an element of the crime, intent is typically a product of motive. How do you prove someone intended to kill someone? Typically, you show motive. E.g., we know that A shot B; we know that B slept with A’s wife; A had motive, which implies his shotting of B was intentional. That’s almost always how it goes. In fact, the Federal Rules of Evidence create an exception for otherwise inadmissible evidence, if it goes toward proving motive (note, “motive,” not “intent”). (FRE 404(b)).

    @Roy: this is probably the most compelling argument for hate crimes legislation. Along with it goes the notion that there are people who would not have committed the crime but for their hatred of the victim’s classification (i.e., “I hate gays, he’s gay, so I’m going to hit his skull with a rock.”), and by tacking on additional sentencing for defendants who had no other motivation, the provision might deter future hate crimes. I remain unconvinced on either argument. I think there are other ways to get prosecution of such cases, and I don’t think violent homophobes stop to consider the sentencing requirements when they pick up rocks for head-bashing.

    @Jego: I tend to agree; we have murder laws, so why not just enforce those properly? For the same reason, I dislike the Equal Rights Amendment. I think the Bill of Rights already protects women’s rights, and if it didn’t, the 14th Amendment sure as shit does. So why would we need even more redundant legislation? Also, hate crimes is essentially legislating what occurs in a person’s mind, which is dangerous territory. Hate crimes legislation quantifies an empirical difference between crimes based solely on the contents of a person’s thoughts. Bad bad bad things flow from this type of well-intentioned idiocy.

    But that said, since we already have hate crimes legislation in the books, if we’re not going to repeal it, we better include violence toward gays. Starting purely from the premise that we define hate crimes in the first place, it makes zero sense to then exclude gay hate crimes. So in that limited sense, I can’t believe it took this long to include gay bashing in hate crimes.

  5. October 30, 2009

    …and by “shotting,” I clearly meant “shooting.” Even though shotting sounds fun.

  6. Jego permalink
    October 30, 2009

    Roy, you said: “that further legislation is merely pandering to constituencies for political favour…” and I do not agree with that. I think the original legislation was also merely pandering as described.

    You ask: (sorry to reproduce the whole thing, but it makes discussion easier for me):

    “I would like to know the solution when a crime is committed that falls under local jurisdiction (and not federal jurisdiction) where the locality is so biased against the victim that there is no prosecution of the crime at worst and a half-assed prosecution at best? How can we fix that without increasing Federal jurisdiction on many more crimes?”

    There are a couple of big assumptions here. The first one is that you would expand federal policing so that if you don’t get an arrest, as you fear, then federal cops (FBI, perhaps) will find out about it, swoop in, arrest the evildoer and then the prosecution will be fully-assed. The other assumption that you make is that there is a solution to the problem.*

    The song you sing has winsome notes of fairness to it but they come at tremendous expense, including but not limited to the 1st Amendment to the Constitution. Your feds–yes, even The One–just stole hundreds of billions (OK, thousands of billions) of dollars from the people. Why do we want to trust them, anyway? I don’t think there is any solution to this putative problem, and here’s why: people are monkeys and monkeys are jerks. As Dan points out, for class M*-would-be bashers of M*s don’t do a quick mental check on laws protecting members of M*. If your locale is so horrid that living there means you are at risk of death on a daily basis and it troubles you that, once assaulted or killed, there will be no prosecution: then move. Life’s not fair. Deal with it. I find it astonishing that there’s such alleged horror and idiots are trying to fix it with hate crimes legislation. Better to create a ‘domestic refugee’ fund and help people move–you could staff it with these mythical federal angels and then everything (he sighed as he sang): everything would be fair. Oh, goody.

    Dan, I quite agree about gays but I feel left out: I have curly hair and Irish ancestry and there are plenty that hate that; I’m also a Catholic apostate which should be protected. We need to protect financial workers and Druze and Wiccans–in short, if we’re going to get to it, then let’s do it all the way. It’s fucking grotesque. Existing laws don’t work because our policing is problematic–don’t layer more laws on top (especially with the end result so clear in having a huge new codex and no behavioral change.)

    Meantime, the criminalization of motive, as Mike points out, should lead to good thoughtcrime laws. After all, if hating a protected class and then engaging in violence against one of its members is worse than merely garden-variety violence against one of its members while being generally well-disposed to the class, it follows that the hating itself is criminal. Look at the calculus (all sentences made up out of whole cloth):

    Aggravated Assault in the absence of hating a protected class: 2 years.
    Aggravated Assault of a protected-class-member while hating that class: 3 years. I think it was a year in the original 1969 bill.

    So, it looks to me like you’ve got a clear inchoate crime worth 1 year of punishment by statute. That’s thoughtcrime, and worse than attempted burglary because you carry the crime around with you in your head all the time. Stupid, stupid, stupid…but convenient to have around for rounding up malcontents.

  7. Mike permalink
    November 1, 2009

    I absolutely agree that evidence pointing to motive is certainly a wonderful thing when you are a prosecutor and it helps draw the picture for the jury. But the point I was making is that, with hate crime statutes, motive becomes an element of an alleged crime, meaning that the State would be required to prove it beyond a reasonable doubt. And yes, you are right that having evidence of motive helps establish intent. But one doesn’t need anything relating to motive to establish intent. Take Matthew Shepard, for example, as a juror, I don’t need to know why his assailants beat him for the better part of an hour and lashed him to a fence post. That beating and lashing is all I need for intent. Knowing that his assailants were closeted, self loathing homosexuals, doesn’t show me anything I didn’t already know, that they intended to end the life of another human being.
    Jego makes a great point about the icky thoughtcrime nature of these statutes. NOT THAT I DO, but I have an absolute right to believe anything I want to believe: that God hates fags and that’s why our soldiers are dying in Iraq (thank you “Christian” preacher man), that blacks are actually monkeys with thumbs who want to rape our white women, ANYTHING. But you can’t criminalize beliefs. I’m even allowed to build the way I live my life around those repugnant beliefs. But when I take an action, made criminal by the legislature of the jurisdiction in which I live, no matter WHY, I am to be judged fairly by my peers and dealt with accordingly.
    I’m wondering, if we are saying that people who are victims of crime based on their “special class” are to be more aggressively avenged than the rest of the population, is the solution not to make the sentences for crimes more harsh across the board? Not that I believe that will work because, as a criminal process professor I had once said, “people who commit crimes have (no matter how unconsiously) done the cost/benefit analysis and either, don’t think they will be caught, or don’t care about the consequences.” This was his argument debunking the “deterrence” argument for the death penalty.

  8. November 2, 2009

    I was merely reflecting on the seeming need (and there are thousands of historical examples) to make sure that all US citizens, regardless of any color or race or gayness or their propensity to wear shorts in the Winter, are, as our Constitution says so nicely, afforded equal protection under the law. I do not like hate crimes legislation and I do like thoughtcrime (I have committed about 300 of them since I started this reply) so I understand the apprehension here but I must ask the following: isn’t the purpose of law and a system of redress of grievances predicated on the fairness and the non-discriminatory nature of doing so? That cool statue with the boob and scales is blindfolded, right? How do we insure that this is always the case or at least to strive to make it so?

    I don’t think that fairness is something to be so readily mocked and maybe that is why I have not leapt over completely into Libertarianland where someone with a bigger gun or bigger wallet can cut me in the line for the roller coaster.

  9. Jego permalink
    November 2, 2009

    Oh, goody! Another dig on Libertarians. Well, let me ask you, laughing boy: are things so great in Democrat land or Republican land? Looks like an incipient howling wasteland, except in Detroit’s case. Or downtown Cincinnati. Or Buffalo. 2nd poorest city in the country, is it? “Yes, we can.” Way to go, Statists!

    Libertarianism, to reiterate, is the idea that you have self-ownership and that it is immoral, therefore, to use violence as a means for policy. Sounds pretty good to me. Unlike Obama stealing from little old ladies in teacher pension funds, or Bush going around and knocking over countries like some howling, maddened child. So if someone’s cutting you in line using a gun in libertarian land, they’re being awfully stupid because they’re announcing that they are social misfits, dangerous and willing to forfeit their lives to get ahead in the roller coaster line. If someone uses a wallet, it’s only because you agreed to the payment. Unlike Democrat and Republican land, where people cut ahead of you in lines all the time with guns and wallets and there’s not a blessed thing you can do.

    I don’t think the purpose of the law is redress of grievance predicated on fairness. I think it’s punishment of the guilty by the state with little or no thought nor attention paid to the victim in any meaningful way. After all, if you assault me and break my arm, it helps me not a whit to have you sit and rot in jail with the criminal class. (note lower case. Upper case all work in Washington.) It would help me quite a bit to have you carry my groceries for six months. You’d have a lot to do to show me that criminal law is about redress of grievance.

    Your response, in a way, is grotesque. You are talking about hate crimes with one side of your mouth and equal protection with the other. This may sound fatuous, but how have the laws afforded me any protection if we are trying to figure out whether to slap my assailant with a hate crime? We may be hoping that the law is deterrent, but that’s against much of observable social reality. Maybe this one’s different. Can’t see why it should be. It’s a simple mismatch: you want protection against physical violence, you use people who are armed to protect–either cops or you. Not laws. Laws sit on paper and don’t get up even to pee so they can’t protect.

    Fairness is indeed to be mocked. The idea that you can make things fair is preposterous. There are the healthy and the unhealthy, the smart and the stupid, the beautiful and the ugly, the short and the tall: where’s the fairness? You’re talking about a policing problem: people aren’t getting arrested for and charged with crimes they commit! So rather than improve policing, we add hate crimes legislation with its concomitant inanities. How does this make things more fair? You want fair? Get a good police force. Give everybody a gun. I dunno. But spare me the platitudes about justice and fairness because they just are not the case. You want fairness? Look at drug sentencing over in Democrat and Republican land and tell me fairness is not to be mocked–those people do it all the time. Tell the collateral damagees in Afghanistan that fairness is not to be mocked. In May, on Obama’s watch, between 26 and 140 people were killed…um….collaterally. Fairness. That’s hilarious. Was this a joke?

  10. November 4, 2009

    Unfortunately, your defense of Libertarianism is again awesome but it suffers from the same shitty reality of human nature that my beliefs fall into in your attack/response.
    “Libertarianism, to reiterate, is the idea that you have self-ownership and that it is immoral, therefore, to use violence as a means for policy.”
    If this could be true, I am all for it but I don’t think that that is the case. Fucking Bob Barr from Georgia was the Libertarian candidate for President. Glenn Beck and Limbaugh and the “tea-baggers” and the CATO Institute have co-opted your movement just as corporatists have co-opted mine and the result again is that almost nothing is getting done and liberty is slowly being forgotten and/or left out to die.
    The idea of Fairness does not mean that everyone or everything is the same, just that they be treated equally under the Law. Drug policy is a joke. Legalize it all as far as I am concerned. Afghanistan? Get the guilty al-Quada guys that plotted 911 and bring them to trail and then get the fuck out. Close up shop in Korea and Iraq and in most of the world as well and keep the navy strong and stationed all over. American Corporate-Colonialism is not the answer. I agree that we could do more with better sentencing as well but we sure as hell better make sure that people are treated fairly under the law or it won’t make a difference anyway.
    “It’s a simple mismatch: you want protection against physical violence, you use people who are armed to protect–either cops or you. Not laws. Laws sit on paper and don’t get up even to pee so they can’t protect.”
    Don’t the laws govern who and what the cops should be protecting? Don’t they also keep the armed from becoming the armed and in-control? Are you trying to say that we don’t need Law? Please respond.

    PS. I DO NOT want Hate Crimes Legislation but I do believe that something must be done in egregious situations where localities (or the feds for that matter) do not enforce or obey the laws fairly and equally. Everywhere. Even in Cheektowaga.

  11. Jego permalink
    November 5, 2009

    Why did you mention Cheektowaga specifically?

    I agree running Bob Barr was stupid: he’s not a libertarian. It’s almost as grotesque as giving a Nobel Peace Prize to Yasser Arafat or to Barack Obama, who ships tens of thousands of troops to foreign lands to kill the natives (but only the bad ones: collateral damage doesn’t count.)

    Libertarianism is neither right wing nor left. It just is. Much like populism. It’s just that libertarianism is the opposite of populism (or collectivism, or totalitarianism, whatever you want to call it.)

    Glenn Beck and Limbaugh–I don’t know what they stand for, since I don’t listen to talk radio nor watch television. I don’t have a problem with the CATO Institute, and in fact was at their Policy Perspectives 2009 conference in NY in April. What’s your specific beef with CATO? I’m not sure what the ‘tea-baggers’ are: seems murky and not libertarian in general.

    So: I’m with you on drugs; not on Afghanistan (since you can chase the chain of evidence pretty far so it never ends); with you on closing up shop for global military.

    I didn’t think the laws governed who and what the cops should protect. Does it say that, somewhere? The cops have no duty to protect anyone, as we have discussed elsewhere. A lot of the armed are the armed and in control, contrary to (what I think is) your insinuation: they’re called the government. They’re the folks who go bomb kids in Afghanistan and Iraq. What did you mean?

    Do we need law? I dunno. It’s a hell of a good question. I think so. I don’t think we need as many as we have. You’ve at least changed your tune from the idea of the law protecting people (which just doesn’t scan) to the idea of treating people fairly under the law, which I’m great with. Here’s a problem with your argument, though:
    “I do believe that something must be done in egregious situations where localities (or the feds for that matter) do not enforce or obey the laws fairly and equally. Everywhere.”

    So: define egregious. I guess you’re not talking about just hate crimes here. Is egregious “many examples” or “resulting in serious injury”? You may know people who are lawbreakers much of the time: people who don’t declare the right amount of income in the form of tips (amounting to stealing from the rest of us); people who break speed limits (which has been shown to be a behavior quite dangerous to others); people who share music/movies via illegal download; litterers; people who don’t use turn signals; people who drive when over the legal limit for alcohol in their bloodstream (even a tiny bit); people who use mobile phones while driving; etc. I don’t suggest that any of these are tantamount to battering someone to death because you don’t like them. But as Gandhi said: you have to be the change you want to see in the world. If people aren’t willing to change for the little things like obeying the law in small matters, why do you think that piling law on top of law will make any difference? Everything will still be unfair (your chief complaint) and people will still not get arrested for breaking the law (your second complaint) and people will still break the law (your implied complaint) but with one key difference: the sentences might get a lot heavier since if you finally catch someone, you’re hitting them with all kinds of violations. But since criminals don’t do deterrent math, you haven’t changed the structural problem.

    You commit to not ever speeding again and I’m willing to entertain the idea that we’d better make sure people are treated fairly under the law. :)

    And boy–you want something done if neither the locals nor the feds will do anything. Who you gonna call? I think that’s the press or concerned citizens going investigative. That’s a really good question. I think it’s gotta be the press or concerned citizens–you’re saying you want something to obtain as a solution when no US government group will act on a problem. Hmm.

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