Feb 29, 2008

do hate crime enhancements deter crime?

If they do, I can't find any good research that proves it.

Consider the DOJ's own report, "A Policymaker's Guide to Hate Crimes." [pdf] Even if the numbers, nationally, appear to follow any sort of trend since the inception of hate crime enhancements, any potential causality is likely ruled out by intervening variables--population growth, other anti-crime legislation, differences in enforcement, and differences in data gathering. The latter is even more complicated:
...even if all States were reporting these incidents it would be difficult to gauge the level of the hate crime problem in this country because bias-motivated crimes typically are underreported by both law enforcement agencies and victims.
I'm still searching, though. If you find quality research done in the past couple years that shows a clear effect, send it along. Otherwise, unless you have good data, stay away from the deterrence argument on the Neg for the current resolution.

nat quals, and nothing but nat quals

From yesterday afternoon until sometime Saturday, once all the IEs and debate rounds are done. Actually, the title is a little misleading: I have to teach all day today, too.

Yesterday's tacky tie elicited a "Hey, dig that cool tie" from an older coach. Momentarily felled by nostalgia, he noted, "I must have a couple hundred of those in my closet."

Me, too.

Oh, and maybe my wife can visit for our leapiversary. Four years ago today, we had our first date, burgers and fries at Norma's in Lacey. Amid the first of our marathon conversations, she'd pause to sing along with the Beach Boys. From moment one, I knew she was right for me.

Feb 27, 2008

due date

March 31st.

By March 31st, my National Board assemblage of analyzed, scrutinized, and pulverized entries, borne in a box and lathered in labels, must be stamped with the mark of the USPS or a private carrier. Then it will fly to some warehouse in Middle America, to be unpacked and dispersed to its evaluators, never to return.

By March 31st, I hope to kick this nasty, nasty cold.

By March 31st, I will have rounded out the debate season, with two national qualifiers and two state tournaments done and done, leaving only one free weekend between now and then. By "free," I mean "free to fill with National Board completion-type activities."

By March 31st, I will repeat daily, If I don't pass this time, I can live with myself. I will not believe this.

By March 31st, I'll have turned 29, passed the four-year anniversary of dating my wife, visited family for Easter, seen the end of my dad's tenure in Elma, witnessed the coming of spring, finished The Odyssey again, reached my 3,000th post, and added sixteen new gray hairs, but only in my beard.

By March 31st, I will be thoroughly insane.

Feb 26, 2008

Larry Norman dead at 60

The father of Christian rock left us far too soon. I can still sing "Heee's an unidintifiiiied flyin' awwbject" in my best Larry Norman nasal tone, thanks to my parents' scandalous LP of In Another Land.

So long, Larry. (Christian) rock and roll will never be the same.

Update: Today's tie added for irony's sake.

school district deadline approaches

Last time we checked, the Olympia School District had received two geographically valid applications for its vacant seat. The number's now up to three.

You have until Thursday, Feb. 28 to throw yourself headlong into the winds of fate. What are you waiting for?

Feb 25, 2008

you will drink Pepsi

Sweet news: the beverage of all beverages will soon be loved, nay, demanded by all. Science!

an Oscar for best adapted cultural event?

This morning, my freshfolks warmed up with a brief writing prompt, as we are wont to do. The two-part question:
1. If a movie were made about your life, what would it be called?
2. Which Oscar® would it win, and why?
Mine would be titled There Will Be Blood, and it would win a Best Supporting Actor for the Gillette Mach 3 Turbo's portrayal of a crimson-stained razor tired of fighting stubble. The title scene comes midway through, as the Turbo takes out its rage on my Adam's apple.

I told one of my most fatigued first-period students that he was ready for his close-up in A Beautiful Nap.

Feb 24, 2008

different state, different hate: variations in hate crime enhancements

Writing 11 years after Wisconsin v. Mitchell paved the Constitutional path for hate crime legislation, Sara Steen and Mark Cohen, in the March 2004 issue of Justice Quarterly, in "Assessing the Public's Demand for Hate Crime Penalties," describe the nuances of hate crime laws from state to state. First, they differ in definition.
Hate crime laws are notoriously problematic because they target particular offender motivations. To enforce these laws, law enforcement officials must have some access to an offender's motive for committing a crime. The requirements for proof of motive differ from state to state, with some states requiring evidence that the offender targeted the victim out of prejudice, bigotry, or hostility for a group of which the victim was a member, and others requiring only evidence that the offender intentionally selected his or her victim from a particular group.
Not only do states vary in their definition of what constitutes a hate crime, but they vary in the number of protected classes. Not all states, for example, include sexual orientation. A handy chart of varying categories is provided here [pdf].

Last, punishment enhancements differ greatly.
Some states impose mandatory minimums for hate crimes, while others mandate the addition of a set amount of time (e.g., two years) to a sentence if a crime was motivated by hate. Still others multiply a sentence (e.g., doubling or even tripling it) or require that the offense be classified at a level of seriousness that is higher than the level for the underlying offense.
In the absence of federal legislation clearly mandating a specific form of hate crime statute, or acceptable forms of punishment, or the proper designation of protected classes, it's up to the states, as "laboratories of democracy," to work out their own laws, while Is this just? That's for you to decide--and argue.

North Thurston's levy failure: projected consequences

The recent defeat of North Thurston's maintenance and operations levy may mean stiff cuts in personnel and services, The Olympian reports.
Levy money represents 16 percent of the district's budget, and without that money, the district will have to cut $17.5 million in programs and staff, said Shawn Lewis, assistant superintendent of administrative services.

That would mean cutting 77 teachers and other certified staff members and 100 classified and administrative staff members, such as secretaries and principals, he said.

The district also would have to cut extracurricular programs and eliminate or consolidate programs that aren't required by the state.

Construction of the elementary school set to open in the Horizon Pointe neighborhood in fall 2009 likely would be delayed, Lewis said.

The district will have meetings in March, at which people can list their priorities of what programs should be saved or eliminated.
The other option on the table is a second levy at a lower rate in May, which would still require some cuts, just not as deep.

Wouldn't it be grand if every "no" voter would call their legislator, pressuring them to change our state's inequitable funding structure?

Feb 23, 2008

hate crime enhancements and plea bargaining

Reading this Village Voice article on a particular hate crime negotiation, I was struck by an aspect of the law that I should have seen earlier. Hate crime enhancements, in certain circumstances, greatly increase the bargaining power of the prosecution. Which brings us right back to the plea bargaining debate.

LDers arguing the hate crime resolution should check out the article, which not only illuminates this issue, but provides a concrete example of the difficulty of defining the law's protected classes.

Feb 22, 2008

varieties of retributivism

The current resolution concerns the appropriateness of punishment for hate crimes. One fruitful avenue for a criterion is retributivism, either on the Affirmative or Negative. The core of retributivism: that the guilty are punished because they deserve it, not because of any future considerations. That said, there are two major forms of retributivism, as Clare Finkelstein, in "Death and Retribution," found in the Summer 2002 edition of Criminal Justice Ethics, sees it. Both are attempts to wrestle with the implications of lex talionis, Latin shorthand for the concept of "an eye for an eye." How literally should we take the phrase?

Not very. Our first option, then,
...distributes punishments proportionately, so that the worst crimes are matched with the worst penalties, and so on down the line. This method dictates only relative levels of desert, rather than requiring any particular objective measure of what criminal acts deserve what treatment. We might call this version of retributivism the "proportionate penalty" theory.
Note that the ceiling comes first: choose the most serious offense, define the most serious possible punishment, and work downward. The problem, then, is what criterion we use to justify the most serious punishment. Is it death? Torture? Isolation? Attending a Hannah Montana concert?

There's another option.
The second, and more promising strategy is to attempt to establish a moral equivalence between crimes and permissible punishments. This strategy asserts that the perpetrator should suffer an amount equivalent to the harm or moral evil inflicted on the victim, but the kind of harm or moral evil involved need not match. That is, instead of either assigning the same harm or evil as punishment that the offender inflicted on his victim, or fixing penalties proportionately by making sure that the right intervals obtain between levels of punishments, we can match crimes with punishments on an absolute scale, but establish only a rough moral equivalence between the two. We would seek to inflict on the perpetrator by way of punishment the nearest morally permissible form of punishment to the act the perpetrator committed. Let us call this version of retributivism the "moral equivalence" theory of justified punishment.
Finkelstein traces this idea back to Kant. It suffers from a similar problem; we need to determine exactly how to correlate, say, a fine with a felony. We have a reason for doing so, but not a method.

Any debater running up against a retributivist case should ask some tough questions in CX about justifying particular punishments. These options provide a way out, but not a destination. That's up to you.

Feb 21, 2008

a Rawlsian approach to punishment

John Rawls, though setting out a liberal theory of justice, stopped short of justifying a particular view of punishment. Still, Sharon Dolovich is convinced that we can use the Rawlsian veil of ignorance to legitimize punishment in a liberal society. LDers contemplating the current hate crime resolution might take note of her article, "Legitimate Punishment in a Liberal Democracy," found in the Buffalo Criminal Law Review, available online [pdf].

Dolovich first warrants the use of deliberation in the "original position," in contrast to most punitive schemes, which operate in an ex post framework.* She writes,
[I]t is a basic assumption of the argument I develop--and indeed, of liberal democracy itself--that all members of society are moral equals, entitled to due consideration and respect as fellow human beings and fellow citizens. From this assumption, it does not follow that all citizens are entitled to equal treatment. To the contrary, by their actions, individuals may forfeit certain goods that other citizens enjoy. But on the theory of liberalism I adopt here, forfeiture in this sense does not negate an individual’s moral status: he or she is still a subject of justice, entitled to consideration as such.
This means that any legitimate theory of punishment necessitates the prior deliberation ("behind the veil") of those who, someday, will flout the law. Why should we allow the possibility that a reasonable deliberator might err when in the "real world?" Three reasons, Dolovich argues. First, imperfect legal sanctions mean that sometimes innocents will be punished. Second, people are people, and people make mistakes. Third, the unequal distribution of resources means that certain worse-off members will be more prone to commit crimes simply due to circumstances. (It is important to recognize that even a just society in a Rawlsian sense is not perfectly equal.)

Dolovich spends pages analyzing some of the potential results of the behind-the-veil deliberations, and the principles of just punishment that would result.
1. There shall be no incarceration for non-serious offenses, unless doing so would appreciably deter the commission of serious offenses.
2. Punishments of incarceration, when imposed for serious offenses, may be only as severe as necessary to appreciably deter offenses causing harm of equal or greater severity (the parsimony principle).
3. Before any punishment may be imposed, its deterrent effect must be shown to be reasonably certain or imminent, on the basis of standards and modes of reasoning acceptable to all.
4. Consistent with these principles, the state must do all it can to reform the criminal justice system in order to reduce as much as possible the danger of convicting the innocent or retaining them in custody.
The parsimony principle is central to concerns of proportionality, and relies on both retributivism for its moral grounding and utilitarian considerations for its deliberative outcome; in other words, the original architects of a legitimate punitive system would know that crime deserves punishment, but would look to deterrence considerations for determining the proper proportion, because of the three qualifications on human conduct listed above. Ultimately, the needs of the law-abiding set the ceiling for punishment, as Dolovich argues:
If any punishment is to be legitimately imposed, those parties advocating its imposition must demonstrate convincingly, in terms that all could be expected to accept, that this imposition on the security and integrity of targets of punishment is immediately necessary or at least reasonably certain to result in greater protection for the law-abiding.
Though Dolovich doesn't list them specifically, hate crime enhancements, which often carry mandatory minimums, may run afoul of the parsimony principle.
If legislatures are to honor this principle, they must maintain the flexibility to rethink sentences in particular cases, or indeed to rethink the whole legislative approach to punishing certain offenses when the circumstances demand such reevaluation. Of particular concern in this regard are omnibus mandatory sentencing schemes which lump together a range of offenses and prescribe the same minimum sentence for each. Such schemes preclude the possibility for the focused consideration of the characteristics of each offense and the likely deterrent effect of the prescribed punishment which application of the principles demands.
Last, I should emphasize a few things. First, this summary of some of Dolovich's core arguments hardly begins to describe the complexities of her arguments, which is why I've linked to the original. Second, these arguments are Dolovich's, and not Rawls'. Finally, the advantage of a Rawlsian framework is its grounding in democratic principles. Theories such as utilitarianism and retributivism do not always clearly define the role of the state in providing punishment, especially in a state where laws are democratically created and changed. Whether hate crime enhancements meet Dolovitz's ideal is a matter for the affirmative--and negative--to consider.

*Sharp-eyed readers will note that, over at the other post, I originally thought that Rawls wouldn't "come near this resolution." I was partly right: not Rawls, but a Rawlsian, changed my mind.

spring isn't here

But that doesn't mean you can't herald its approach. How about with a celebratory lockdown?
The suspect reportedly entered the Columbia Bank at 2920 Harrison Avenue Northwest at around 10 a.m. and displayed a handgun as he demanded money from the teller, police spokesman Dick Machlan said.

He fled on foot with the cash toward an apartment complex next to the bank, but a subsequent search of the area that involved a K9 unit failed to locate the suspect.
For about 45 minutes, my advisory class sat in darkness near the inside wall, taking naps and chatting quietly about There Will Be Blood and the magic that is Daniel Day-Lewis. I totally called the bank robbery angle.

When they announced the lockdown's conclusion, saying that the search had been called off, I told students it was because the cops had probably caught the bad guy.


Feb 20, 2008

Thurston County 2008 primary results

Update 5/20: If you're searching for the results of the May 20th special levy: it passed.

As far as local schools go, with 8000 ballots left to count, results were mixed. Olympia's levy passed, as did Griffin's, Rainier's, Tenino's, and Tumwater's. Unfortunately, Rochester, Yelm, and North Thurston, and Centralia didn't benefit from the recent change requiring only a simple majority. A possible explanation: the explosive growth in and around those cities, which has driven up property values and, thus, property taxes.

Update: Yelm and Rochester are cloooooose, but still losing, with another scheduled for 8:00 p.m. tomorrow. I should also point out that Centralia's largest vote concentration comes from Lewis County, correcting my erroneous assessment that the Centralia levy had failed. Duh.

National races: In Thurston County, McCain beat the protest, and Obama got some symbolic love from local Democrats.

Update 2/21: North Thurston's expected loss is especially painful:
Board members also will meet Saturday to discuss $16 million to $17 million in cuts to extracurricular programs the levy pays for, such as athletics, foreign languages, music and drama.
The measure may come back for a May vote.

Update 2/21 part II: Still 5,000 votes left to count. The Yelm race is narrowly in favor, but the Rochester levy has swung negative. It's going down to the wire.

Also, Olympian readers discuss the failure of the North Thurston levy. A sample:
I believe that school levies are not well-explained to the public. In most cases the intent is to continue a previously levy that is expiring but that is not made clear in the promotion, which can lead voters to think that the levy represents a new tax. Secondly, levies should clearly outline what the funds will be used for. Diana Larsen-Mills, Olympia

one giant drum solo

With some nifty guitar, keyboard, and fiddle work over top. The Dixie Dregs play "The Wabash" at the Montreux Jazz Festival. Fun stuff.

[via Jon Rowe]

still need a majority

Ryan is right: by and large, the simple majority measure boosted schools all across the state.

Makes losing even harder for those who still couldn't muster the requisite 50.01%. Blame it on underwhelming electioneering, rising property values and taxes, or, in some cases, the lingering effects of the deluge. Sorry, Rochester, Centralia, and Yelm. (Oh, and let's not forget Lacey, home to the North Thurston district, another victim of booming development, I'm guessing.)

Update: Centralia passed. In my haste, I forgot to check the Lewis County results, where most of that district's constituents live. Good for them, and duh for me.

Feb 18, 2008

why hate crime enhancements are just: six reasons

Christopher Heath Wellman, in "A Defense of Stiffer Penalties for Hate Crimes," found in the Spring 2006 edition of Hypatia, helpfully outlines six (6!) potential criteria for determining the proper scope and aim of justice. Each one, according to his reckoning, justifies hate crime enhancements, the focus of the March / April resolution. Let's see how.

First up: Safety Valve theory, in which criminal justice provides an outlet for social tensions caused by injustice.
Nowhere is this release of societal pressure more important than in cases where divisions within society have led to bias crimes. The stakes are raised so dramatically with hate crimes because, to the extent that members of the target group identify with the victim, each is personally slighted by the crime and thus has much more than an impartial interest in seeing justice done. Thus, whereas only an individual and perhaps her friends and family will be personally invested in an average criminal's penalty, an entire marked group will typically yearn for a hate criminal to receive her just desert.
I see this as the weakest potential reason for supporting stiffer penalties, which is likely why Wellman addresses it first.

Second, Restitution, a form of justice in which the primary goal is for the perpetrator to "make things right" for the victim and the community. ("Restorative justice" is a synonym.)
I suggest that hate crimes require enhanced penalties because, more than other transgressions, hate crimes claim vicarious victims.... Without diminishing the fact that the primary victim is often devastated as no one else could be, I want to stress that others are importantly, if vicariously, made victims because of their identification with the victim and the effect this identification has upon their sense of belonging, and even security, in society....

Thus, even without asserting that hate crimes are especially damaging to their primary victims, one can cite the real losses of secondary victims to explain why the restoration made necessary by hate crimes is more substantial than that by ordinary crimes. Put simply, hate crimes leave so much pain and degradation in their wake that, in order to restore both the primary and secondary victims, society must employ extraordinary measures to affirm all those who have been degraded. In such circumstances, ordinary criminal censure will not do.
The Affirmative would have to show why extra punishment in any way "restores" the situation; it is unclear why or how a 20-year versus a 10-year sentence would dull the pain or relieve the degradation suffered by victims--since many views of restoration require some sort of forgiveness on the part of the offender (and in some views, the victims).

The Expressivist view of justice comes next: that the purpose of the justice system is to "send a message" to the criminal, and society, that crime is wrong.
As indicated above, a hate crime can serve as a poignant announcement to all members of the targeted group that they are despised, hunted, and vulnerable. Indeed, part of what attracts hate criminals to these horrific acts is the opportunity to express contempt, not just for the particular victim, but for the entire group to which the victim belongs. Unfortunately, this expression is all too often received loud and clear. Proponents of the expressivist theory of punishment are in a position to recognize that hate crimes send these messages and suggest that the criminal law can be used to counter this message.... Given that the criminal law is an important expression of a society's values, it follows that we should want more severe penalties for those crimes that we deem to be more serious.
This is similar in import to the "Moral Education" view of justice, in which justice is meant to educate society in matters of right and wrong.
Since chauvinism and xenophobia are some of the most personally and socially destructive moral vices undermining contemporary society, there are compelling reasons to harness the criminal law's power to shape the general public's values in the campaign against group hatred. In sum, both because hate criminals have revealed themselves to be particularly in need of moral education, and because our criminal code is an educative instrument for society at large, moral education theorists have reason to lobby for enhanced penalties for hate crimes.
Wellman covers the Utilitarian view fifth, which encompasses some of the previous considerations (such as moral education, which has societal benefits). A utilitarian view of justice, as I've mentioned before, is forward-looking, and is mostly concerned with the costs and benefits of punishment to society as a whole. (For LD, utility as a criterion often links to a value of societal welfare.) Why does utilitarianism justify hate crime enhancements?
In short, as the cost of a crime rises, a utilitarian will be more concerned to deter it and will therefore want a more severe punishment. Since hate crimes cause profound social division and unrest, as well as create more pain for a greater number of victims, they are extremely costly. Thus, although a utilitarian might invoke any number of considerations to defend stiffer penalties for hate crimes, one basic and distinctively consequential line of reasoning stands out: the magnified harmfulness of hate crimes gives us reason to attach more severe penalties to those found guilty of committing them.
Last, Wellman tackles the retributivist view, which requires the most complex argumentation. He sees two major ways hate crimes might be more reprehensible--if they are inherently worse either in action ("actus reus") or intent ("mens rea"), thus justifying stricter punishment.
The explanation as to why the actus reus in a hate crime is particularly bad is straightforward. As outlined above, bias crimes are especially harmful because of the vicarious victims they claim and the psychological distress and social unrest they leave in their wake. And, just as a person who steals one thousand dollars commits a worse act (other things being equal) than someone who steals one hundred, the additional harms involved in bias crimes make the acts worse than they would be otherwise. Clearly, then, proponents of retributivism need cite only the magnified badness of the act in a hate crime to show why bias criminals are especially culpable and thus deserve to be punished more.
Wellman sees this as sufficient to establish the retributivist case, but also covers the other angle. However, this is where he finds himself on weaker ground, considering murder-for-prejudice worse than murder-for-hire as "self-evident" to most people. This is hardly intuitive; someone who is so devious and sociopathic as to kill a stranger for money might be an even less moral than someone who chooses only a specific class of victim. Wellman has an answer, though, considering Ally the hired gun, and Barry the racist killer.
[W]e are liable to lament Barry's act as particularly pointless. As depraved as Ally is for valuing $10,000 more than a person's life, Barry is worse because he regards the act of killing not as a means to some other end, but as an end in itself. He kills simply to indulge his irrational hatred, merely for the satisfaction of killing a Jewish person. Thus, without minimizing our disgust for Ally, there is plenty of room to regard Barry's state of mind as more vicious than Ally's. And, because retributivists assign punishments in accordance with the moral depravity of the criminal, Barry's more reprehensible state of mind explains why he deserves to be punished more strenuously than Ally.
Wellman does not explain why the pleasure Barry acquires from killing is morally worse than the pleasure obtainable from Ally's $10,000 (which, in putting a specific dollar value on a life, could be described as equally as dehumanizing, if not moreso). In fact, Ally's motives are assumed to be "pure," in the sense that her desire for cash is purportedly all that drives her. Potentially, Ally is every bit as psychopathic as Barry, and is simply happy to find someone who will subsidize her psychopathy.

Wellman could strengthen his argument by simply equating the two situations, and saying that each deserves a stiffer punishment. Murder for no apparent reason would be the test case.

At any rate, a Negative can choose any (or some) of the views of justice listed above in order to show that hate crime enhancements are just. Affirmatives should, of course, prepare counterarguments.

As always, your comments and questions are welcome.

don't forget to vote

I'm with The Olympian on this one: just because the parties are making you sign a loyalty oath, just because Luke Esser will hand-pick the GOP nominee no matter how you vote, just because the Democratic primary is a "beauty contest," don't throw your ballot away. There's another election that matters even more.

Levies all across the South Sound are up for approval. Your support means financial stability in turbulent times, despite an inequitable state funding formula that our legislature refuses to tackle, year after year. Until schools win their lawsuit, the most likely avenue for success means voting Yes on Tuesday, February 19.

Yes means we can keep class sizes reasonable, we can keep programs active, we can keep quality teachers in the classroom.

Don't forget to vote tomorrow. And, more important, vote Yes.

Feb 17, 2008

baseball nerdliness

1. The Mariners are being taken over by French-Canadian pitchers.
"He didn't really recognize me, so I said, 'Hey, I'm Phillippe.' And he was like, 'Oh, you're Aumont.' And then we just started talking French to each other."

That night, Aumont said, the pair went out to a nearby restaurant and "got to know each other a little bit better."
Not that it's such a bad thing.

2. They'll be under the guidance of Mel Stottlemyre and Norm Charlton.
Last year, the Seattle pitching staff ranked in the bottom third among MLB clubs in ERA, strikeouts and quality starts, and it surrendered far too many two-strike hits for McLaren's liking. When Stottlemyre and Charlton sat down in the offseason and discussed priorities, two things immediately came to mind. They wanted their pitchers to focus on: (1) throwing strike one and (2) pitching inside.
For the sake of cosmic irony, I'm hoping we pitch our way past the Yankees into the World Series.

3. Tom Glavine and John Smoltz, together again.
But in the first-base dugout at Disney, Tom Glavine found precisely one camera waiting for him (manned by ESPN.com's own intrepid Anthony Spadacenta) -- and just about zero representatives of the non-Georgia portion of our nation's media.

Sheesh, in New York, the beer vendors draw bigger media hordes than this.

But even though Glavine turns 42 years old in five weeks, even though his five-year stay in New York ended badly, his return to Atlanta deserves more attention than it got.
For the sake of cosmic irony, I'm hoping they pitch their way past the Mets into the World Series. I won't even mind if they win.

4. Robo-scouts will one day dominate sabermetrics.
Feeding high-resolution images of the exact location of every ball hit into the field and the play resulting from each ball into a computer model, Shane Jensen of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia has evaluated the defensive fielding performance of all major league baseball players relative to the league average.
Eventually the human interpretive part--the part that tends to screw things up--will be entirely passé. Only then will it be safe to wager on sports.

the hate crime enhancement fork

Defining hate crime enhancements is critical to the March / April resolution. I've offered a good reason to accept the definition found in the US Sentencing Guidelines, but it's only one of two major models of hate crime enhancements--which sets up an interesting dichotomy. In "Examining the boundaries of hate crime law: Disabilities and the 'dilemma of difference,'" found in the Spring 2001 edition of the Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, Ryken Grattet and Valerie Jenness show that hate crime enhancements have two distinct criteria: "discriminatory selection" and "racial animus." Taking after Frank Lawrence's analysis in Punishing Hate: Bias Crime Under American Law, they note:
The discriminatory selection model defines hate crime solely on the basis of the perpetrator's discriminatory selection of a victim, regardless of why such a selection was made....

With this view, victim selection based upon vulnerability would be punished the same as a situation where a victim was selected to express hatred. In other words, the discriminatory selection model does not distinguish between symbolic and actuarial crimes. It is inclusive of both kinds. It is also the most popular form of the law, with roughly two-thirds of the state laws and the existing and proposed federal laws based upon it. Finally, this form of the law was legitimated in 1993 in Wisconsin v. Mitchell, the first case in which the Supreme Court expressly sustained a modern bias crime law. [Jim's note: Unsurprisingly, this model is the basis for the enhancements found in the United States Sentencing Guidelines.]

In sharp contrast, the racial animus model focuses attention on the reason for the discriminatory selection of victims. This approach assumes that the motivation for the selection of a victim is less instrumental and more expressive; perpetrators use the act of victimization to express animus toward the category of persons the victim represents (i.e., a person of color, a homosexual, a Jew, a disabled person, etc.). As such, the racial animus model follows the distinction between actuarial and symbolic crimes by defining the former as beyond the domain of the law and the latter within the desirable domain of hate crime law. As Lawrence explains,
This model is consonant with the classical understanding of prejudice as involving more than differential treatment on the basis of the victim's race. This understanding of prejudice, as reflected in the racial animus model of bias crimes, requires that the offender have committed the crime with some measure of hostility toward the victim's racial group and/or toward the victim because he is part of that group.
...By definition, all cases falling under the rubric of the racial animus model are also cases that fall under the rubric of the discriminatory selection model, but not vice-versa. Thus, the racial animus model implies a more stringent approach to hate crime than does the discriminatory selection. From Lawrence's legally and politically strategic point of view, the discriminatory selection errs on the side of over-inclusion. He argues that a focus on the racial animus model is preferable precisely because of the type of bigotry it implicates and the harm it encapsulates.
At last we come to the fork. If hate crime enhancements are defined by "discriminatory selection," they are unjust because of the overinclusive nature of the definition, which would violate a retributive conception of justice (i.e., someone would be punished without merit). See more here.

If they are defined by the "racial animus," then they are unjust according to the 1st Amendment argument found in Wisconsin v. Mitchell, which, paradoxically, legitimized a broader statute.

The affirmative's task, then, is to choose one definition to go after, and shape their argument accordingly.

Added: I almost forgot a third tine to the fork. If different states use different definitions, which they might, even post-Mitchell, then the enhancements could be unjust because they are disproportionate across states, in violation of the 14th amendment. Seems worthy of research.

top ten nerdy neologisms

Arranged from most to least common, according to Google.
  1. nerdism
  2. nerdly
  3. nerdity
  4. nerddom
  5. nerditude
  6. nerdification
  7. nerderie
  8. nerdation
  9. nerdousness
  10. nerdivorous
(Number 10, according to same, is my own creation.)

Feb 16, 2008

laugh track

As I'm plowing through 134-page papers outlining the nuances of retributivism, Melissa is in a stupor on the couch, watching Season 3 of Friends. I just realized that lacking cable TV means we have a lot less laughter in our home, due to the distinct deficit of laugh tracks.

Which brings me to an idea: in these days of innovative "shaming" punishments, what could be more appropriate, for, say, a convicted quack to be forced to carry around some kind of automatic laugh-generating device that'd set itself to howling at the end of every sentence the woo-meister uttered? Then we wouldn't need the tireless efforts of the skeptics. We'd all know exactly when to chortle in appropriate derision.

Bonus: No deficit of carnivals. PZ has a surfeit of links.

NBA highlights, linguistic lowlights

The "Top 10 First Half Plays" selections privilege the game-winning three, and bookends with the future and the past of the Seattle SortaSonics.

I just hope all the malapropisms, like the horrific puns, are intentional.

Feb 15, 2008

good questions to ask drunk people

1. What are you doing on my lawn?
2. Trix or Kix?
3. Where are your clothes?
4. Do you want fries with that?
5. Any way out of this Iraq mess?
6. Do you know any other songs?
7. Why are you asking if I'm seeing double?
8. When Jesus makes toast, whose face appears?
9. Why are you crying?
10. So, how about that extended warranty?
11. They injected you with what, where?
12. What are you still doing on my lawn?

[151st in a series]

Feb 14, 2008

teaching fashion rules

Dr. Pezz considers teacher fashion:
Does attire affect student behavior (positively or negatively)? Can attire affect job performance? I know one student who said he doesn’t like teachers who wear ties and sports jackets because he thinks they’re too separate from his world; he can’t relate to them. Another student said she doesn’t respect a teacher who dresses every day as if on vacation; she wants to learn from an expert who dresses the part.

Do you have dress codes? Are there unspoken rules for attire? What do you think?
There are rules. Oh, are there ever rules.
1. Never wear sweatpants. Ever. Not even if you're a gym coach. Sweatpants went out with--forget that. Sweatpants were never in.
2. Never, never, never, never, never, never wear sweatpants. Not ever.
3. A suit is probably pushing it. Elbow patches? Who are you, Professor 'Enry 'Iggins?
4. Jeans once a week. Maybe twice.
Don't worry. There are more.

[Ties, repeats both, found here.]

Feb 13, 2008

a house--or home--of lies

Children lie? They lie because they imitate their lying parents? They lie about everything? And when they grow up, they keep lying, for multitudinous reasons and in multivariate situations? A child's development is an eighteen-year exercise in lie-building? Smarter children are better liars? Parents can "entrap" their kids into lying? The lying liars who tell lies are pretty much everyone?

I am now depressed.


That is a lie.

further variations in hate crime enforcement

Regarding the March / April LD resolution, an affirmative might argue that hate crime laws are unjust because they are selectively or prejudicially enforced--a vicious irony, initially discussed here.

For further evidence, we can turn to several sources. First, in "Hate Crime Reporting as a Successful Social Movement Outcome," found in the December 2003 issue of American Sociological Review, Rory McVeigh et. al. note a crucial disparity:
Perhaps the most formidable barriers to effective hate crime enforcement and reporting are the difficulties that law enforcement agents face in determining whether an event qualifies as a hate crime incident. As Bell (2002) describes it, "Bias crimes require police officers to examine not only what happened, but also why it happened. Furthermore, the search for what happened is complicated by contested stories and by victims who are sometimes afraid to acknowledge the bias nature of the crime for fear of revictimization" (p. 13). The FBI does offer guidelines to local agencies on how to identify hate crime incidents. It advises agencies to adopt a two-tier approach in which the police officer on the scene makes an initial determination as to whether bias motivation is suspected. A second officer, or a special unit that has more expertise on hate crimes, then evaluates the case to determine whether it qualifies as a hate crime.... [T]he FBI suggests, rather than mandates, the two-tiered process. Most police departments do not have specialized units for enforcing hate crime laws or for collecting hate crime statistics (Bell 2002:28; Jenness and Grattet 2001).
The proper enforcement of hate crime laws is hindered by too many intervening factors, including, but not limited to... [my summary]
  • The individual police officer's enthusiasm, or lack thereof, for reporting hate crimes as hate crimes.
  • Lack of supervisors' commitment to hate crime reporting
  • Lack of training in hate crime recognition
  • Political disincentives to report hate crimes, including a fear of having one's community labeled intolerant
  • Political pressure to report hate crimes out of a fear of otherwise appearing intolerant
  • Officers' personal beliefs that hate crime laws are immoral or illegitimate
The training issue is a special concern. As a report [pdf] by the Center for Criminal Justice Policy Research shows,
The vast majority of patrol officers will not see a bias crime in any given year. In Maryland County for example--a department recognized for its early attention to bias crime reporting--there are roughly fifty-five bias crimes per year over the last few years. With close to 900 responding officers, about one officer in twenty would respond to a bias crime incident in a given year. Since the typical patrol officer will rarely encounter a bias crime, his or her experience with these crimes is limited, making it more difficult for officers to differentiate what is and what is not a bias motivated crime.
This problem is compounded by the difficulty of determining--and isolating--bias as intent. Investigating bias crime enforcement in the field, CCJPR researchers discovered that
[a]bsent a clear bias motivation, officers generally were reluctant to make judgments about crimes, as one officer explained: "we don't like to split hairs." While officers and police personnel we interviewed often agreed that apparently clear bias motivated crimes, such as a cross burning or a crime perpetrated by a bias group, were indeed bias crimes, little consensus existed regarding incidents that displayed other possible motivations. Following an example of a hypothetical incident, officers would rhetorically ask, "Is that a bias crime?" in an attempt to make the researchers aware that appropriate classification was far too difficult.
What does this all mean? When combined with the uncomfortable fact that hate crime punishments disproportionately fall on the very groups they are meant to protect, the argument takes shape. If justice means equal protection of the laws, then the dubious enforcement and disproportionate punishment of hate crime laws is clearly unjust.

Feb 12, 2008

writers' strike done

Thank goodness. It was getting tough to teach English. No scab can substitute for Shakespeare.

pouvez-vous enseigner Françaisement?

Ryan thinks a Frenchified educational system--top-down, homogenized math, science, and literacy curricula for all--is "unconstitutional." Pre-NCLB, I might have agreed. Now I'm certain it's not only constitutional, but inevitable.

As for the title, je refuse de faire des excuses.

I want YOU for the Olympia School Board

You have until the 28th of February to apply for the vacant spot on the Olympia School Board, The Olympian reports. It's a deadline set to ward off a potential ESD-fills-the-gap scenario, if the Board can't make a decision by April 13.

I don't want to scare you, but the district faces some difficult choices regarding its budget. Nothing you can't handle, right?

You have to live in District 2, shown above, the salmon-colored region. Sources inform me that of 7 current applicants, only two meet the geographic criterion. I'm sure you can do better.

(Figures. Geography doesn't have a WASL.)

the Isaacson-Tarbell Postulate and you

Looking for as close to a surefire NFL prediction scheme as you're going to find? Gregg Easterbrook explains:
Last summer, readers Eric Isaacson and Catey Tarbell proposed this simple prediction algorithm: Best Record Wins; If Records Equal, Home Team Wins. Their idea, which TMQ dubbed the Isaacson-Tarbell Postulate, ruled the landscape of NFL predictions, finishing the season 183-84, or 69 percent correct. Of the dozens of NFL predictors TMQ tracked, John Czarnecki of Fox Sports had the best finish, at 183-84; ESPN's best predictor was Keyshawn Johnson at 176-91. So the Isaacson-Tarbell Postulate outperformed all but one football expert, which it tied. And here's the beauty of the Isaacson-Tarbell Postulate: You don't need incredible insider information; you don't need to spend hours in fevered contemplation; you don't even need to know who's playing. Simply always check-mark the team with the best record, or, if their records are equal, check-mark the home team. Whatever you do, don't think! I conducted a parallel experiment of forecasting all games using the Isaacson-Tarbell Postulate unless I felt really sure about a game going differently. A few times I was right where the Postulate was wrong, but on the season, this approach finished 179-88. That is, thinking about who might win was less successful than sticking to the formula. When making NFL picks, never think!
And don't bet on sports.

Feb 11, 2008

BlackBerry Monday

"Everyone's in crisis because they're all picking away at their BlackBerrys and nothing's happening," Turner said. "It's almost like cutting the phone cables or a total collapse in telegraph lines a century ago. It just isolates people in a way that's quite phenomenal."
Good riddance!

organic molecules on a faraway planet

One more step toward discovering an extraterrestrial origin of life, NewScientist reports:
Organic molecules – in the form of methane – have been detected on a planet outside our solar system for the first time. The giant planet lies too close to its parent star for the methane to signal life, but the detection offers hope that astronomers will one day be able to analyse the atmospheres of Earth-like worlds.

Astronomers Mark Swain and Gautam Vasisht of Caltech in Pasadena, US, and Giovanna Tinetti of University College London, UK, used the Hubble Space Telescope to observe the giant planet HD 189733b, which is slightly more massive than Jupiter and lies 63 light years from Earth.

Because the planet crosses the face of its parent star as seen from Earth, some starlight is periodically filtered through the planet's atmosphere, where different chemicals absorb particular wavelengths.

The observations confirm an earlier tentative detection of water vapour and reveal the presence of methane gas.
Certified organic molecules, on the other hand, remain elusive, and rather pricey.

Feb 10, 2008

Washington state GOP comes full circle

Last time a recount hit this state, it was the work of demon Gregoire, who "stole" the election from Dino Rossi, one ballot at a time. All within the confines of the law, at least.

You'd think the GOP would learn a valuable lesson from the debacle: every vote counts. But Luke Esser apparently called the Saturday caucus for McCain after only 87% of the votes were in, trusting the math instead of tallying every ballot.

Huckabee, the loser, is considering legal action, and the GOP is drowning in self-imposed irony.

Update: Emmett sees the irony, too.

are hate crimes qualitatively different?

One way the affirmative might approach the March/April LD resolution is to deny the distinction between hate crime and any other sort of crime. This is the route David Adams takes in "Punishing Hate and Achieving Equality," found in Criminal Justice Ethics, Winter 2005 issue. He lays out, then knocks down, several justifying reasons for hate crime enhancements. They include (my summary):
1. Hate criminals are more likely to reoffend, so hate crimes require a "higher threshold of deterrability."
2. Hate criminals are more dangerous.
3. Hate crimes would otherwise be underinvestigated.
4. Victims of hate crimes would otherwise be less likely to receive--or seek--police protection.
5. Victims of hate crimes are more vulnerable; the law recognizes stiffer punishments for other victimized groups, including children and the elderly.
To #1 and 2, Adams argues that the intention to commit harm has no necessary connection to the justifying aim of punishment. Even if the methods of a hate crime are more brutal or terrifying, the methods, not the prejudicial belief, should be the ground of punishment, so no special enhancement is necessary. (A person who tortures random victims for sport is as evil, in this reckoning, as a person who tortures women out of misogyny.)

Furthermore, Adams argues that, against #1 and #2, hate criminals as a class are not unique.
There seems to be little reason to think that those who act from hateful beliefs and desires invariably are more dangerous, more brutal, or more likely to victimize the defenseless than those who act from other sets of beliefs and desires. And there is little evidence that bigotry inevitably gives rise to intentions to bring about worse harms than would otherwise obtain as a consequence of the bare intention to harm, nor that the intentions of bigots, as contrasted with unprejudiced criminals, are necessarily more firmly held or reflect greater purposefulness.
Adams' argument finds support in an article titled "Distinctive Characteristics of Assaults Motivated by Bias," written by Steven Messner and Suzanne McHugh, in the August 2004 issue of Criminology. Despite the title, the authors find very little that distinguishes hate criminals from ordinary criminals. They are, rather, equal-opportunity violators. Analyzing 11 states' data from the National Incident Based Reporting System, they conclude:
The evidence from this study suggests that bias offenders and conventional offenders are more similar than different in the most common forms of bias offenses. Offenders--no matter which type--are at least as likely, and perhaps more likely, to engage in other illegal activity, as reflected in drug use. In addition, the situational characteristics of bias offenses, at least the ones we have been able to examine, are not so different from those of conventional assault. Bias assaults, like other assaults, typically involve intoxicated offenders targeting men. In short, while there are undoubtedly unique features of some of the assaults motivated by group hatred, the evidence points more to their similarity to other forms of violence.
Returning to Adams' list above, #3 and #4 might fall outside the scope of justice, depending on how the affirmative defines it (retributive justice, for example, looks backward, not forward, when justifying punishment). #5 smacks of stereotyping; there might be no good reason why ethnic identity or sexual orientation would make a victim more vulnerable.

Your comments and questions, as always, are welcome.

Feb 9, 2008

CHS booster club auction a smashing success

This year's auction was my first, and probably won't be my last. Hundreds of CHS parents and supporters turned out to empty their wallets for our extracurricular programs. Susan Rivera-Lee not only organized the event, but provided an incredible donation: a twelve-course meal for up to 10 people to celebrate next year's Chinese New Year in Seattle's International District, put up for auction in honor of CHS Debate.

Mike Glenn of St. Peter's hospital won a fierce bidding war with crosstown rival Capital Medical Center to nab the dinner deal, but in the end, students were the biggest winners.

Thanks to Susan, Mike, and all the Capital students, parents, and friends who came and gave so generously.

Feb 7, 2008

defining hate crime enhancements

Any debater arguing the March / April resolution should cite a carefully thought out definition of "hate crime enhancements." Perhaps the clearest, most defensible*, and most applicable source: US Sentencing Guidelines.
If the finder of fact at trial or, in the case of a plea of guilty or nolo contendere, the court at sentencing determines beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant intentionally selected any victim or any property as the object of the offense of conviction because of the actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, ethnicity, gender, disability, or sexual orientation of any person, increase by 3 levels.
Note the standard: "beyond a reasonable doubt," a heavy evidentiary burden. Note also the protected classes, which have been augmented in recent years.

Update: An important error in the following paragraph has been fixed.

The guidelines require a three-level increase, which, on average, means 14.5 extra months of incarceration. This opens up a potential avenue for the affirmative: hate crime laws look more and more like drug laws, and might suffer from similar problems with "mandatory minimums," tying the court's hands and leading to disproportionate punishment.

*For a defense of applying US Sentencing Guidelines to an "in the United States" resolution, I'll quote myself:
I'd use federal guidelines for two reasons. 1. It simplifies an otherwise impossibly messy debate, which would otherwise tackle 50 potentially different standards and
2. Federal guidelines are "advisory" for all the states.

silence is golden, but gold is pretty loud

Not much else to say. I have some teachifying to report, but no energy at the moment. Tomorrow is a half day: 37-minute classes, then a couple hours of Together Time for Teachers.

I will not count the hours. I refuse.

[tie found here]

Feb 6, 2008

nothing but the assessment

I don't want to say "grading," because it's better than that. It's assessment, and it's fun. Fun!

I have to keep myself going. Finals came and went last Friday, and I had no time on the weekend (debate tournament) and even less time since (another debate tournament) to pore over the vocab tests, essays, stories, and speech notes. Those borderline decisions--the 58%s who have the skills but are Bartlebys when it comes to getting the work done--those slay me. (Unlike blog neighbor TRP, I have very few students suffering from learned helplessness, and quite a few non-struggling with willed listlessness.)

Grading stinks. It's a relic of sillier times, and I'd abolish it in a heartbeat. (Other blog-neighbor and co-blogger TSG's efforts are heartening and confirming and inspiring.)

But assessment is fun. It really is.


variations in hate crime enforcement?

In "The Law-In-Between: The Effects of Organizational Perviousness on the Policing of Hate Crime," in the August 2005 issue of Social Problems, Valerie Jenness and Ryken Grattet discuss a potential problem in applying "hate crime enhancements:" the lack of uniformity of enforcement in various locales. Disparate policies lead to a potential disconnect between state or federal legislation and policework. They cite two decades of research:
Several empirical studies published in the 1980s and 1990s highlight how discretionary law enforcement practices enable individual officers to ignore hate crime law, selectively enforce hate crime law, and/or define their mission broadly enough to enforce hate crime law in ways that transcend the parameters of jurisdictionally relevant hate crime statutes... When combined, this research identifies institutional, organizational, community, and individual factors that shape variability in the enforcement of hate crime law on the frontlines.
The problem is fundamental to the decentralized model of American criminal justice.
Although law enforcement agencies share common federal and state laws, each agency is autonomous in terms of how it orients to state statutes, develops policy to enforce the law, and, indeed, actually enforces the law. Such autonomy grants the agency significant freedom to develop its own approach to crime control based upon its assessment of the nature of its specific community problems.
The authors report that in a survey of hundreds of California agencies, only 55.3 percent had a formal "hate crime" enforcement policy. Department chiefs cited lack of need or lack of proper procedure for the difference. Many claimed that hate crimes simply didn't exist in their communities. But, the authors note,
...policies may actually help officers recognize some incidents as hate crime that they otherwise would not.
Whether this would represent under- or over-enforcement is a separate matter; this study is purely empirical. More important, the authors hesitate to conclude that an actual enforcement disparity exists; further research, they claim, is needed.

Interested LDers
should consider the enforcement angle. Hate crime enhancements could be comparable to drug laws, artificially increasing the number of criminals, and being given lower priority in jurisdictions that don't enforce them, for whatever reason. If justice means any sort of equality in enforcement and punishment, how can such a system be just?

Added: To fill in the research gap left by the previous paper, turn to "The Context of Minority Group Threat: Race, Institutions, and Complying with Hate Crime Law," by Ryan D. King, in Law and Society Review, 2007. Early in the paper:
Most states and the federal government have enacted some form of hate crimes legislation (Jenness & Grattet 2001), yet there exists significant variation in the degree to which local law enforcement agencies enforce and comply with these laws. Participation in the federal Hate Crimes Statistics Act (HCSA, 1990), for instance, is considerably higher among policing agencies in the Northeast and the West relative to the South and Midwest (McVeigh et al. 2003). Hate crime reporting appears particularly scant in the historic "Black Belt" states. For example, only one law enforcement agency in Alabama and Mississippi combined submitted a hate crime incident report in 2000 (U.S. Department of Justice 2000: Table 12).
The upshot of the article: when it comes to reports of hate crimes against blacks, the diversity of the population matters a great deal, but has different effects in different regions. Thus:
Race-based hate crimes are more prevalent in heterogeneous places, particularly in areas experiencing a recent influx of racial minorities (Green et al. 1998; Glaser et al. 2002), which according to the present research is where compliance with hate crime policy is least pronounced. This research thus contributes to debates concerning racial overtones in law enforcement by demonstrating that the nexus between race and law not only entails overenforcement (Kennedy 1997), but perhaps underprotection as well.
Serious LDers interested in making an enforcement argument should track down the entire article.

Feb 5, 2008

Super Tuesday, indeed

1. Taught five classes.
2. Wore one tacky tie and vintage polyester jacket.
3. Took students to district speech tournament (the qualifier for state).
4. Ran extemp prep. (I am king of extemp prep.)
5. Returned triumphant students to school circa 10:00 p.m. Drove home.
6. Checked election results while battling some weird sort of Facebook virus that has overtaken my wife's computer.
7. Pondered the possibility of a third party run.
8. Slept, eyes open.
9. Mentally prepped self for tomorrow's early rise.
10. Blogged this.

Feb 4, 2008

Sheldon endorses Obama; recants maverick status

This is exactly the kind of pre-Super Tuesday push Obama needs:
"I think we’ve seen four years of failed policy in Washington, D.C. The economy has tanked. Washington is in gridlock. We’re spending an incredible amount of money on the war, and we’re not receiving the respect worldwide, from other countries, that we deserve," Sheldon said, calling Obama "the only candidate who can bring Republicans, Independents and Democrats all together for a common purpose."
Sheldon, who is a Democrat as much as Kevin Federline is a model parent, then apologized for endorsing George W. Bush, saying that his 2004 decision was a "terrible, horrible, no good, very bad aberration."

Feb 3, 2008

I learned it in Student Congress: part IV

This past Student Congress session, one of the less offensive in recent memory, still brought a few moments of drollery, embarrassment, and pain.

yet another synonym for raising exists

the American criminal justice system is harsher than you imagine
"If I jaywalked, I'd probably go to the Monroe prison."

they have chilly winters in Minnesota
"It drops below--I don't know. It gets really cold there."

found on a future penal colony
"We'd have a smörgåsbord of 8-year-old candy stealers and 21-year-old rapists."

it's difficult to escape from Alcatraz
"It's hundreds of miles out..."

it's only understatement if it's delivered with irony
"I think that's slightly appalling."

fuzzy math is alive and well
"Multiply 50x12, and you get approximately 600."

cigarettes provide a surprising social benefit
"Smoking makes people feel good. Because they feel good, they won't kill themselves."

[tacky tie found here.]

Feb 1, 2008

hate crime legislation and unexpected injustice

For those interested in the LD hate crimes resolution, in "The Unanticipated Consequences of Hate Crime Legislation," found in the November / December 2006 issue of Judicature, Mike Adams and Reid Toth explain how a third factor in culpability, dangerousness can justify hate crimes enhancements. They consider the case of aggravated assault as analogous:
The decision of courts to sustain a charge of aggravated assault regardless of whether the weapon is actually fired-that is, actually used in the most dangerous possible manner--is certainly interesting. The reluctance of courts to consider this distinction seems to convey a belief that the offender who uses a dangerous weapon in a less dangerous way at least anticipated the prospect of alternate uses of the weapon when planning the encounter. Thus, a third factor, dangerousness, has emerged as a means of enhancing the penalty for assault. This dangerousness concept is employed in determinations of sentencing for crimes ranging from assault to capital murder.

When one takes the view that punishment is predicated upon not two but three factors-intent, harm, and dangerousness--one significantly strengthens the argument for penalty enhancement based on bias-motivated crime. In the case of the offender using a dangerous weapon during an assault, society is justifiably concerned that upon release the offender may pose a greater threat to a greater number of people. After all, they have already demonstrated a willingness to hurt others through the use of dangerous weapons that can be used to inflict harm upon a greater number of individuals in the future. Put simply, a person with a closed fist may hurt someone badly, but a person willing to commit a crime with a gun (or a knife, for that matter) poses a potentially greater threat to a greater number of people.

Similar logic can be applied to so-called hate criminals. Upon release, they are a threat to every member of the targeted group as opposed to offenders who commit harm due to some personal motivation. For example, if one's neighbor is incarcerated for beating his wife, one may well fear for her safety when he is released. If, however, the neighbor attacks members of other racial or ethnic groups based on group prejudice, one can reasonably fear for the safety of whole groups upon the release of the offender. Therefore, it is reasonable to expect the courts to consider such motivation at sentencing.
Adams and Toth don't spend much time going over the philosophical merits of this third category, but as the argument stands, affirmatives will have to counter it. The article itself points out one way. Hate crimes legislation can lead to disparate punishment, in violation of the 14th amendment.
[T]he additional proof of motive in hate crimes cases limits the ability of the prosecution to secure a conviction even in the most egregious cases. This additional burden may deter prosecutors from bringing hate crimes charges in the first place. Also, since the jury must rely on its own subjective inferences concerning an individual's conduct when presented with circumstantial evidence of motive, there may be inconsistent verdicts. All of this may encourage arbitrary application of hate crimes statutes involving crimes against groups the legislation was intended to protect.
The authors note a further disparity--according to statistics from the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS), minorities are prosecuted for disproportionate numbers of hate crimes, so hate crimes enhancements could potentially lead to further injustice.

Resolved: Hate crime enhancements are unjust in the United States

The March-April Lincoln-Douglas topic is in:
Resolved: Hate crime enhancements are unjust in the United States.
Another "In the United States" resolution--what's the deal, NFL? Maybe they're saving their cosmopolitanism for nationals.

Anyhow, watch this space for analysis, links, observations, contentions, and contentiousness over the coming days and weeks. Be sure to comment and ask plenty of good questions, too.

To get you going:

1. The core Aff value is probably going to be justice. Think back to a previous resolution concerning plea bargaining: what specific form of justice are we talking about? Does a "hate crime" enhancement throw off or ensure proportionality? Does it strengthen or weaken deterrence? How much do victim's rights matter when deciding a fitting punishment?

2. Why "in the United States?" Are there uniquely American styles or views of justice that we must consider? How does Constitutionality come into play?

3. On the Aff, do "hate crime" enhancements create a form of oppression--an Orwellian "thought crime?" Doesn't the First Amendment, at its core, allow people to believe bad things? Does it really matter why someone commits a crime, if they acted with intent? Will "hate crimes" enhancements lead to the very same discrimination they're intended to stop? Will it create a form of sadistic martyrdom?

4. On the Neg, what societal good do "hate crime" enhancements create?

More--much more--to come! (Still working on last month's nuclear weapons res.? Click here.)

For folks new to the concept: Wikipedia has a decent rundown on American hate crimes legislation. A "hate crimes enhancement," per US Sentencing Guidelines, allows prosecutors to seek stiffer penalties for crimes "because of the actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, ethnicity, gender, disability, or sexual orientation of any person."

In other words, if you punch someone in the face, you could be guilty of assault, and serve, say, two years in prison. If you punch someone while yelling a racial slur, should the punishment be harsher? What might make a "hate crime" worse than a similar offense?

Update: It might be philosophically justifiable, but what if hate crime legislation has an unanticipated--and unjust--result?

Update 2/6: Enforcement, as an empirical matter, is considered.

Update 2/7: I look at US Sentencing Guidelines as a clear way to define hate crime enhancements, and consider a couple resulting arguments.

Update 2/10: I examine whether hate crimes are qualitatively unique.

Update 2/11: Further problems in enforcement are noted.
Update 2/17: I consider a second definition of hate crime enhancements, and potential consequences for the affirmative.

Update 2/18: Hey, Negatives. How about 6 reasons why hate crime enhancements are, in fact, just?

Update 2/21: Casting aside my initial skepticism, I show how a Rawlsian can approach the resolution.

Update 2/22: Retributivism, it is claimed, comes in two forms. How do they relate to the resolution?

Update 2/23: Hate crime enhancements can influence the plea bargaining process. Might this lead to injustice?

Update 2/24: I show how much hate crime enhancements vary from state to state.

Update 2/29 Looking for evidence that HCEs deter crime? Me, too.

Update 3/8: With a reader's help, I consider some ideas for Aff cases, as well as sample Neg cases.

hate crime enhancements are unjust in the United States

A compendium of links and resources for the March / April LD resolution...
Resolved: Hate crime enhancements are unjust in the United States.
is found here.

Update: It might be philosophically justifiable, but what if hate crime legislation has an unanticipated--and unjust--result?

Update 2/6: Enforcement, as an empirical matter, is considered.

Update 2/7: I look at US Sentencing Guidelines as a clear way to define hate crime enhancements, and consider a couple resulting arguments.

Update 2/10: I examine whether hate crimes are qualitatively unique.

Update 2/11: Further problems in enforcement are noted.

Update 2/17: I consider a second definition of hate crime enhancements, and potential consequences for the affirmative.

Update 2/18: Hey, Negatives. How about 6 reasons why hate crime enhancements are, in fact, just?

Update 2/21: Casting aside my initial skepticism, I show how a Rawlsian can approach the resolution.

Update 2/22: Retributivism, it is claimed, comes in two forms. How do they relate to the resolution?

Update 2/23: Hate crime enhancements can influence the plea bargaining process. Might this lead to injustice?

Update 2/24: I show how much hate crime enhancements vary from state to state.

Update 2/29 Looking for evidence that HCEs deter crime? Me, too.

Update 3/8: With a reader's help, I consider some ideas for Aff cases, as well as sample Neg cases.