Feb 17, 2006

"The clear signs of a hate crime" [LINK]


In offering an example of what constitutes a hate crime, Norbett Mintz instead demonstrates why such laws are so troubling.

A Hypothetical gay man who is mugged by a gang and left bleeding is a victim of a conventional crime, but if he is beaten and set on fire, but not robbed, he is considered the victim of a hate crime. The perpetrators in both his examples are mute, so we must guess their motives. For all we know, the first set were homophobes, and the second set were on a random rampage. Are we to gauge the hatefulness based on their actions, or based on how it made members of a certain group feel? Would a crime against a gay black man call for two separate counts?

We also have little reason to believe such laws would be applied consistently according to any standard of justice. For example, in two of the roughly half-dozen times I've ever been attacked by African Americans, I was pointedly called a "white boy" or some similar epithet. Was I the victim of a hate crime? Were the perpetrators trying to terrorize me or my perceived racial group? Appeals to such group grievances makes for lousy politics, and even worse law.

Feb 10, 2006

"A smoking gun" [LINK]

Not overt politicization like the last one, but worth a note:

While Anara Guard is right to ask how a deranged teenager came to possess a 9mm handgun, it would be wrong to pay undue attention to "the role of the gun as well as the man" in the crime spree that followed. After all, when Jacob Robida went out of his way to attack a bunch of total strangers, he took along a hatchet.

Feb 9, 2006

"With tolerance, a Muslim views the widening chasm" [LINK]

A day can't go by without another letter to the Globe:

The recent cartoon crisis offers a reminder that some of history's worst upheavals hinged on ridiculous events. World War I followed the assassination of an otherwise unremarkable royal heir. The Cultural Revolution, which caused the death and dislocation of millions of Chinese, unfolded in the wake of a negative theater review. If these insubstantial incidents hadn't triggered such major events, others surely would have.

So while I read with interest Naureen Attiullah's perspective as a moderate Muslim hoping to avoid the sort of incidents that enflame radicals, I have lost patience with the continued focus on what motivated the Danish editors who published the cartoons. The story is not whether they intended to hurt anyone's feelings, but on the wildly disproportionate response to such a relatively minor offense. If, as Attiullah suggests, the editors had chosen to blaspheme the Jewish and Christian religions as well, can anyone doubt the response from those quarters would have been different?

Tom Worster's analogy to someone hurling insults while entering a biker bar is no better, and certainly doesn't reflect well on Muslims to be so casually likened to violent street thugs. Neither explains how avoiding such confrontations leads Islamic nations to become more moderate; it simply doesn't.

Even if those who published the cartoons had the worst possible motives, they should still be commended for offering us a moment of clarity. They have forced us to confront Denmark's Princess Margaret's essential question: whether our ideals of tolerance and respect are matters of conviction or convenience.

UPDATE: It made it, edited down quite a bit.

Feb 7, 2006

"Hate crimes thrive on fertile ground" [LINK]

This one's from today:

Kay Stoner believes there's a connection between the movement to bar gay marriage and the recent violent rampage of a deranged teenager. To politicize such an incident is an unfortunate temptation. By focusing on the attack as an expression of homophobia, Ms. Stoner ignores the fact that Jacob Robida was also a neo-Nazi who hated African Americans and Jews as well. Had Robida by chance attacked several people in a Jewish neighborhood, what larger issue of public policy could we have blamed for contributing to his rampage?

"Utter failure of MCAS dependency" [LINK]

Forgot to enter this one from a couple of days ago:

In criticizing the supposed rigidity of MCAS, Tim Green does his cause little good in focusing on successful adults who lack solid skills in writing and math, but who are otherwise self-confident. That leaves me with the impression that dispensing with MCAS would not result in another route to these important achievements, but would ultimately minimize their value as a goal. Schools that produce well-adjusted rather than high-achieving graduates simply would not be doing their job.