Penal Reform


Turkey has just abolished the peacetime death penalty. Fans of Midnight Express and/or Airplane! will be disappointed to learn that they still have peacetime prisons.

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  1. Turkis prisons have a reputation for intimate extracurricular activities.

    They do?? But how do you and others KNOW this? I’m pretty well-read, pretty well-traveled, and I never knew this particular stereotype. From whence did this meme spring — a meme apparently common enough to prop up an entire joke?? And aren’t all prisons known for their “intimate extracurricular activities”?

    But OK, let’s accept that Turkish prisons involve male sex and that gladiator movies involve males grappling. What’s the joke — that the pilot is gay? That he’s hitting on Joey? Sorry to pester. It’s just that years of frustration about my blind spot on this thing are now boiling over.

  2. From whence did this meme spring — a meme apparently common enough to prop up an entire joke??

    The film Midnight Express, which came out just a couple of years before Airplane!, included a then-infamous man-on-man sex scene set in a Turkish prison.

    And yes, the pilot is hitting on Joey.

  3. That was an interesting sidetrack.

    Call me a hillbilly, but I’m more comfortable with the death penalty being meted by either a Hatfield or a McCoy than I am of gummint expropriating their pastime.

    Not only that, but rough justice is more just than precise justice… one of life’s many connundrums. Get used to it.

  4. Yeah, they abolish the death penalty just in time for them to punish the devils who bombed the synagogues this weekend. Good move.

  5. The death penalty is almost completely about vengeance and not at all about justice. Sadly more and more judicial action seems to be motivated by the same base impulse. What sickens me most, is when someone argues “How would you feel if it was your mother/wife/daughter who was raped/murdered/molested”. As if the fact that nearly anyone, when subjected to the most extreme emotional stress, would sink to wishing death on another, makes it right for a sober and enlightened society to adopt such raw revulsion as policy. It’s not even hard to find those who advocate castration and torture as proper sentences to be handed out by a court of law. Well after all, why should we care anymore about the eighth amendment than we do the other nine?

  6. Turkey abolishes the death penalty — yet next week MILLIONS of Turkeys will be put to death in the U.S.!

    The shame, the yummy shame, of it all…

  7. What do you make of the plea bargain between Seattle (or King county) prosecuters to let the Green River Killer off with life? Think for a bit about how you’d feel also if your wife or daughter was one of the blah blah blah blah blah . . .

    I would have thought that the presence of sufficient numbers of, say, Oklahoma City victims’s family members who opposed death for Timothy McVeigh, or of other families of murder victims who oppose capital punishment on principle, would have rendered this silly line of questioning forever inoperable, but apparently there are a lot of dumb people out there who think “Gotcha!” is actually an argument.

  8. Warren & Phil,

    You’re right, but what difference do it make?

    Vengeance and tit for tat, eyeball for eyeball, etc. can accomplish something in an anarchic world.

    When gummint expropriates the justice biz, injustice runneth over.

    A last reference to the Hatfields and McCoys:
    In an anarchic world, justice only needs to be rendered OUTSIDE the family. (And, speaking as a Southerner, that would be WAY outside when your family tree don’t fork.)

    So, true to form, our gummint “justice system” is “overkill.”

  9. “I would have thought that the presence of sufficient numbers of, say, Oklahoma City victims’s family members who opposed death for Timothy McVeigh… blah, blah, blah …” as opposed to how may that would have supported it? I just said “how would it feel”. You’ve got your opinion, but I’m pretty sure I know what I’d want. Justice.

    I see no problem with the law putting the guy to death, and I don’t see that is cruel (i.e.,compared to getting raped in prison, when you’re in there for freakin’ DUI or suspended license) or unusual. Yes, the 8th Amendment is as important as any other, and I don’t support turture or castration, and I think it’s ridiculous that you don’t hear much (but once in a while in this mag.) about prison rape which is NOT part of the sentence and NOT written into the law.

  10. At the behest of the EU, no less. Looks like Old Europe has done more to further decency in the Middle East than America.

  11. “State sanctioned murder” is certainly bad. Now if we could abolish state sanctioned robbery from the EU, we’d REALLY be getting somewhere.

  12. If joe equates the abolition of the death penalty in Turkey with the removal of Saddam Hussein and the termination of Uday and Qusay, then he has quite the warped sense of perspective.

    Iraq’s decency quotient is up a couple of orders of magnitude in spite of the best efforts of France and Germany. Turkey’s decency quotient is up maybe a couple of basis points.

  13. Thousand murders a week in Baghdad, RC. Not counting the military actions. Yeah, real decent. I’ll I think I’ll keep the church luncheon at the Rec Center for now.

  14. I’d also add R.C. that there’s no inherent conflict between the death penalty and democratic government. You can argue that it’s immoral, but it’s hard to argue your government is somehow less democratic if a majority of people support the death penalty and the government’s laws reflect that.

  15. Have you ever been in a Turkish prison, Joey?

  16. Not sure what decency has to do with the death penalty, Joe – it’s about Justice. What do you make of the plea bargain between Seattle (or King county) prosecuters to let the Green River Killer off with life? Think for a bit about how you’d feel also if your wife or daughter was one of the 48 or more killed while jogging along the pretty hiking path by the Green River (S. of Seattle). I’d want the guy put to death via hanging.

    Oh, also in reference to Jesse’s comment, I think “Airplane!” fans will get over it, as they now have Hooter’s Air to look forward to (“Ever seen a grown man nekked, son?” ;-}

  17. Sebastian – I agree that the death penalty and democracy are not inconsistent. Hell, democracy is consistent with damn near anything – it is a process, not a result. I don’t have deep-seated problems with the death penalty, either, as long as the underlying justice system is sound.

    joe – seriously, you think Iraq under Saddam, Uday, and Qusay was a better place to live than it is now? I understand that many former apparatchiks in Baghdad and Tikrit prefer the old days of rape and industrial shredders (now, those were some guys who knew how to suppress dissent), but really, is the whole country worse off without the Husseins?

    Would you have said that Germany in 1945 was worse off than it was under Hitler? How about Japan in 1945? For that matter, was the US worse off in, say, 1778 than it was under George III? I’m just fascinated by the historical perspective at work here, is all.

  18. I think it’s rock and a hard place, RC. 1000 murders per month. Suicide bombers in all major cities (bombers who kill large numbers of Iraqis along with their actual targets). Trigger happy foreigners. Utilities all shot to hell. Over half the country unemployed.

    Would I rather live in Germany 1937 or Germany 1945, is that what you’re asking? First of all, am I in the eastern part of the country, or the west? Second, am I pretending that I know what was going to happen in Germany over the next four decades, or am I pretending to be as confused and fearful as a German would be in 1945? In 1945, recall, the victorious allies were talking about reducing Germany to a permanent agricultural economy and, the Russians were talking about executing many tens of thousands of ordinary Germans in order to terrorize the rest.

  19. Jimmy, if the info he provided allowed me to lay my lost daughter to rest properly, I’d probably be ok with it.

  20. In other words, you’re assuming that the next few decades will be as good for Iraq as the early 1800s were for America, or the late 20th century for (West) Germany.

  21. We could easily ban the death penalty in peacetime. The war on terrorism and the war on drugs would keep the executioner busy.

  22. OK, I’m gonna feel kind of dumb, but I’ve been wanting to ask this for years:

    I was 11 or so when “Airplane!” came out. I found the movie hilarious, but I never did understand the humor in the pilot/Joey conversation, including the “Turkish prison” thing and the “movies about gladiators” thing. I always figured I’d understand it when I got older. But alas, here I sit in my 30s, and I still don’t get it.

    At the risk of destroying the punch line by deconstructing it, could somebody please explain the humor in that scene? I would be eternally grateful.

  23. Turkis prisons have a reputation for intimate extracurricular activities. Gladiator movies have a lot of footage of shirtless manly man grappling with each other.

    Got it?

  24. I believe the death penalty reduces society to the moral equivalent of the murderer, perhaps even lower. It strikes me as a response similar to an overwrought parent losing control and whacking there miscreant four year old. I do not wish to be reduced to this level, ergo I am anti-death penalty.

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