Lell’d for Rom in half-English

From Words Without Borders, the website for international literature, a poem in a language you don’t often encounter:

The Dui Chalor

Dui Romany Chals were bitcheney,
Bitcheney pawdle the bori pawnee.
Plato for kawring,
Lasho for choring
The putsi of a bori rawnee.

And when they well’d to the wafu tem,
The tem that’s pawdle the bori pawnee,
Plato was nasho
Sig, but Lasho
Was lell’d for rom by a bori rawnee.

You cam to jin who that rawnie was,
‘Twas the rawnie from whom he chor’d the putsee:
The Chal had a black
Chohauniskie yack,
And she slomm’d him pawdle the bori pawnee.

To see an English translation, go here.

German Murder Rates, 1300-Present

Here’s something I came across in a recent article in the British Journal of Criminology: a graph showing murder rates in Germany from the medieval times to the present:

Mordrate_deutschland

It’s contained in an article on European murder rates by Manuel Eisner in the British Journal of Criminology.

Obviously, the graph shows only ordinary civilian murder rates. Wars and mass extermination programs are excluded. The developments in Germany mirror those in other European states. The medieval era, in addition to being smelly, was extremely violent and dangerous; in most places, the murder rate was between 20 and 100 per 100,000. Now, in all European societies, it’s declined to around 1. Hooray for modernity!

But why has Europe become so much safer? Eisner discusses Norbert Elias’ idea of the civilizing process, of course, but there are other approaches. Eisner suggests a multi-factor approach which takes into account the declining importance of concepts of honor, the emergence of an "inward" and "disengaged" conception of human identity that fosters self-reflexion and rational discourse, and moral individualism and the decline of religiously-based "sacred obligations" that need defending by lethal means. It’s all very interesting, at least to me.

Herzog on the Pathologies of the German Press

A while ago, I was leafing through the playbill to the Duesseldorfer Schauspielhaus’ stage adaptation of Bunuels classic 1962 film The Exterminating Angel – a typical afternoon’s pursuit here at the Joy Division.

There, I found a reprint of a speech (G) given on April 26, 1997 by then-Federal President Roman Herzog. The Federal Presidency is an odd office. He’s the titular head of state, and thus performs the sort of official functions a king might perform in a monarchy. His role has also, however, developed into the scold/cheerleader/conscience of Germany. Federal Presidents usually have a political background, but are supposed to put that off, as much as possible, when they take office. They’re meant to look at Germany from an Olympian perspective, praising what is admirable and denouncing what is not.

Probably the biggest scold of the past few decades has been Roman Herzog, who was President from 1994-99. His political origins lay in the mainstream-conservative CDU/CSU, so he’s a cherished whipping-boy of the left. Whatever you think of him politically, there’s no question that he was one of the greatest scolds that ever scolded. In this 1997 speech, Herzog begins by describing the optimism he encountered on a recent trip to Asia, and then comparing it with German society, where he laments: "the loss of economic dynamism, the paralysis (Erstarrung) of society, and an unbelievable mental depression." Instead of approaching new technologies and challenges soberly, he continues,

…we fall prey to fear scenarios. There’s hardly a single new discovery which does not first provoke questions about the risks and dangers – but never about the opportunities. There’s hardly a single reform effort that is not immediately suspected of being an “attack on the social state.” Whether atomic energy, genetic technology, or digitalization: we suffer from the fact that our discussions are distorted into unrecognizability – to some extend ideologized, to some extent simply “idiotized.” Such debates no longer lead to decisions. Instead, they end up following a ritual, which always seem to play out in the same seven-step pattern:

1.            In the beginning, there is a reform proposal which would require some sacrifice from some interest group.

2.            The media registers a wave of “collective outrage.”

3.            Now (at the very latest) the political parties jump onto the bandwagon, one of them in favor, one against.

4.            The next phase produces a blizzard of alternative proposals and empty symbolic gestures of all kinds, going all the way to mass demonstrations, petition drives, and questionable blitz-polls.

5.            A general lack of orientation follows; citizens become insecure.

6.            Now, from all sides, come the appeals toward “prudence.”

7.            Finally, at the end, the problem is put off. The status quo is maintained. Everyone waits for the next big subject.

These rituals would be amusing to watch, if they didn’t also dangerously cripple the ability to actually make decisions.  We fight about the unimportant things, in order to avoid having to concentrate on the important ones.

I find Herzog’s description spot-on. In fact, you can classify many German news stories precisely according to which of the above 7 steps they embody. Now you know why I rarely read German newspapers…

Buruma on Islam in Europe, Part VI

He makes two sensible points. First, he argues that European nations have no choice but to figure out a way to peacefully co-exist with minority populations which come from predominantly Islamic countries. Second, if 70s-style ‘multiculturalism’ isn’t working, it’s probably not a good idea to replace it with indiscriminate Islam-bashing:

Whether Europeans like it or not, Muslims are part of Europe. Many will not abandon their religion, so Europeans must learn to live with them and with Islam….

Even if all of Europe’s Muslims were Islamists – which is a far cry from reality – they could not threaten the Continent’s sovereignty and, by the same token, its laws and Enlightenment values….

We should distinguish carefully between different kinds of Islam, and not confuse violent revolutionary movements with mere religious orthodoxy. Insulting Muslims simply on the basis of their faith is foolish and counterproductive, as is the increasingly popular notion that we must make sweeping pronouncements as to the superiority of “our culture.” For such dogmatism undermines scepticism, the questioning of all views, including one’s own, which was and is the fundamental feature of the Enlightenment.

The trouble today is that Enlightenment values are sometimes used in a very dogmatic way against Muslims. They have become in fact a form of nationalism – “our values” have been set against “their values.” The reason for defending Enlightenment values is that they are based on good ideas, and not because they are “our culture.” To confuse culture and politics in this way is to fall into the same trap as the multiculturalists.

And it has serious consequences. If we antagonize Europe’s Muslims enough we will push more people into joining the Islamist revolution. We must do everything to encourage Europe’s Muslim to become assimilated in European societies. It is our only hope.

Fashion from the Social Burning Point

Anyone who knows me knows I love the German word sozialer Brennpunkt, which you could translate as "problem neighborhood." Could. But, as usual, the literal translation is much better: "social burning point." No, it’s not something penicillin will cure, it’s a neighborhood with social problems: unemployment, alcoholism, unintegrated foreigners, right-wing gangs, or some combination of these factors.

The Ruetli School (G) is located in the social burning point of Neukölln (G), Berlin. Now, I once stayed in a friend’s apartment in this social burning point for 2 weeks, found it perfectly nice and wondered what all the fuss was about. But a social burning point it is, and the students at the Ruetli Ruetlischool were making news for all the wrong reasons. They were threatening their teachers, beating each other senseless, failing to learn proper German, and generally being little b*&tards. Their teachers wrote a letter of desperation (G) which got sent to the press and received wide attention.

Like any piece of bad news in Germany, this provoked a storm of press coverage and commentary: about 25% thoughtful, 45% hysterical finger-pointing, 28% predictions of imminent doom for Germany/the world, and 2% Other (unhinged tirades about headscarves, calls for the return of fascism/communism provocative theories about the composition of the Van Allen belt).

It also prompted an influx of well-meaning professionals, to help the students adjust to German society and improve their image. One of the projects is Ruetli-Wear, clothes designed by the troubled teens themselves. Not only are the students "re-branding" their school, they’re also learning about practical things such as keeping accounts, designing clothes, and covering printing costs.

All profits go to the project. Won’t you go buy some Ruetli-wear, and spread some soothing ointment on this social burning point?

German Joys Mini-Review: Netto – Alles Wird Gut!

Anyone who spends more than a few days in Germany will meet an unemployed alcoholic. In Germany such people get meager state benefits which keep them afloat financially. This exposes them to an unexpectedly demoralizing fate: having much more time than they can ever use. They spend a lot of it hanging about in the dark recesses of pubs. They come alone, but soon gravitate to any table whose denizens don’t project the metal-plated wariness of the city dweller. When our watery-eyed friend plants himself at the table, the rest of the company will be in for some long, perhaps not particularly intelligible discussions about life, work, broken marriages, troubled relationships, petty government bureaucrats, and maybe art. (A surprising number of the ones I’ve met take up painting, and even bring their canvases along).

Netto_motiv2_gNetto – Alles wird gut! (roughly: "In the End, Everything’s Gonna be OK!") takes us into the life of Marcel Werner (Milan Peschel), a former East German who, like millions of his countrymen, never quite found a place in the unified Germany. Werner, who’s been unemployed for years, conducts long, one-sided conversations with the chef in his local Vietnamese restaurant, mostly concerning personal protection and security, the field he has utterly formless plans for conquering. Before his ship comes in, though, he supplements his government benefits by the modern German equivalent of rag-picking: taking in broken old computers and VCRs (yes, VCRs) for a pittance, fixing them, and re-selling them for a slightly higher pittance.

One day, his 15-year old son Sebastian (Sebastian Butz), whom Werner hasn’t seen in two years, comes knocking on the door of "TV Werner," Marcel’s dusty, chaotic ‘store.’ Turns out Marcel’s ex-wife has moved to the suburbs with her rich West German boyfriend, and wants to take Sebastian with her. Sebastian’s not too keen on moving to Squaresville, so he drops by to see how Dad’s doing in Prenzlauer Berg. Dad lives in one of those apocalyptic, graffiti-strewn, plastic-furniture, pit-bull terrier social deserts that pockmark Berlin. Like his neighborhood, Dad’s a wreck. He’s got no real friends, he drinks too much, his apartment is "germy" (as Sebastian puts it) and his job applications teem with outdated jargon and grammatical mistakes.

Nevertheless, Sebastian doesn’t turn and run. Marcel, for all his many flaws, can be pretty entertaining. The wholesome, gravelly-voiced optimism of American country music (as embodied in Peter Tschernig, the "Johnny Cash of East Germany") provides the spiritual soundtrack to Marcel’s life, and he generates a sort of halfway-convincing rhetoric about the world of work, responsibility, and success that convinces the naive that he really might just turn things around. Although nobody believes his claims to be constantly rushing from one appointment to another, he can occasionally summon enough charm and focus to make you believe in him. Marcel grudgingly accepts some career advice from his bright, introverted son (such as attributing a two-year stint of joblessness to an overseas posting with "Belgium Security International"). Despite misunderstandings and resentments, the two glue together a surprisingly strong relationship.

The director, Robert Thalheim, used a small crew and a semi-improvised script to keep everthing vivid and fresh. All of the performances are lived-in and affecting, and many of the scenes (such as Marcel and Sebastian clowning around in Sebastian’s apartment, pretending to be Secret Service agents, or Marcel hanging about in front of government buildings, pretending to be a bodyguard to departing ministers), are memorable. The sub-plot involving Sebastian and a neighborhood girl’s attempts to deflower him is charming.

A few of the scenes did verge a little too far into after-school special territory for my taste. However, Netto doesn’t airbrush its subjects, and eschews a happy end. In the end, Netto‘s an unpretentious, involving story about a sidetracked human being trying to pick up enough speed to rejoin the rushing freeway of life and love.

Americans with Odd German Names

The largest ethnic group in the U.S. is Germans. However, they all came to the U.S. generations ago, and have since completely assimilated, to the extent that many don’t even know they’re German.

The country teems with Knapps, Schroeders, Schneiders (sometimes Anglicized to Snyder or Snider), among others. This website lets you check the geographic distribution of names all over the U.S.; you can see how common Schneiders are, for instance.

And that’s just the Anglo-Saxons. There are also plenty of Jews, many of whom carry decorative names they received in Europe in the 18th and 19th centuries: Himmelfarb, Rosenthal, Goldberg, Weinstein, Goldstein, etc. They tend to stick to the coasts, as this map ‘o the Weinsteins shows you.

But my topic today is ordinary Americans with strange or enchanting (apparently) German surnames. A few examples:

That’s all I can think of off the top of my head (which is all you get in a blog), but I’ll try to add more as time permits.

UPDATES:

  • Susan Ficken notes in comments that she’s not quite a professor yet.
  • How could I possibly have forgotten Charles Krauthammer?! The name is so expressive, especially of his approach to foreign policy, on which he has plenty of modest, well-thought out opinions that have helped the Bush Administration usher in the era of peace and stability we’re now enjoying.
  • For non-German speakers, I should say that some of these names could be translated in amusing ways. We’ll leave Susan to one side for a moment, and concentrate on Sinnreich, which I’ll translate as ‘Kingdom of the Senses,’ and Roehrkasse, which could mean ‘pipe-cash register.’

Quote of the Day

From a billboard advertisement for the tabloid newspaper Bild:

"Complaining is the death of love." (Noergeln ist der Tod der Liebe) — Marlene Dietrich

(From their "Every truth requires someone brave enough to say it" series).

France: Not Crumbling, says Judt

The estimable Tony Judt (whose Past Imperfect: French Intellectuals 1944-1956 I just finished) takes to the op-ed page of the New York Times to — gasp — sort of mildly defend Jacques Chirac! In passing, he aims a few darts at America’s Europhobes

On both sides of the Atlantic, Mr. Chirac’s political obituary is being written in distinctly unflattering terms.

But is the French situation really so dire? From every quarter one hears calls for “reform” to bring France more in line with Anglo-American practices and policies. The dysfunctional French social model, we are frequently assured, has failed. In that case there is much to be said for failure. French infants have a better chance of survival than American ones. The French live longer than Americans and they live healthier (at far lower cost). They are better educated and have first-rate public transportation. The gap between rich and poor is narrower than in the United States or Britain, and there are fewer poor people.

Yes, France has high youth unemployment, thanks to institutionalized impediments to job creation. But the comparison to American rates is misleading: our figures are artificially lowered because so many dark-skinned men aged 18 to 30 are in prison and thus off the unemployment rolls.

Pictures from Brussels

Well, it’s a slow news day (actually a fast "real work" day), so I thought I’d post a few of the more interesting photos from Brussels. First, the Belgian pedestrian symbol — always a profound glimpse into a nation’s character:

Belgian_pedestrian_symbol

Now, a portrait bust by Edmundo Valladares of the Argentine writer Julio Cortazar, which can be found in Ixelles, the Brussels suburb in which Cortazar was born in 1914. Note the pink candy in his right eye (he would doubtless have approved). An Argentine friend of mine and Cortazar fan quite likes the bust, except he says Cortazar, one of the great chain-smokers of history, should have a cigarette dangling from his lips.

Brussels_cortazar_bronze_with_pink_

At a rest stop on a Belgian freeway, a Dutch-language "bread automat." The French-language version across the street offered exactly the same bread, until it was bombed by Flemish nationalists. (Just kidding!)

Belgium_bread_automat_at_highway_re

An intriguing Brussels graffito (I love the idea of public transport as browsing):

Brussels_citizen_as_cursor_graffito

The ‘greater yellow-eyed building-side spineback’:

Brussels_yelloweyed_fish_graffito_2

Here is Brussels’ most famous tourist attraction, the sculpture of a small boy urinating which is known as the Manneken Pis. A couple of time a month they dress the little fellow up in costumes, such as a Tibetan monk or Swiss mountaineer. We saw him on a very special day, when he was dressed ‘The Gimp‘ from Quentin Tarantino’s 1994 film ‘Pulp Fiction’:

Brussels_manneken_pis_as_diver

And finally, back to dear old Deutschland:

Germany_anarchie_statt_deutschlan_2

I hope you enjoyed the little excursion to that friendly nation of lovable oddballs to our west.

Who is This Tony McPeak Fellow?

I don’t wanna bust too political here, but I can’t resist sharing this:

This is a dark chapter in our history. Whatever else happens, our country’s international standing has been frittered away by people who don’t have the foggiest understanding of how the hell the world works. America has been conducting an experiment for the past six years, trying to validate the proposition that it really doesn’t make any difference who you elect president. Now we know the result of that experiment [laughs]. If a guy is stupid, it makes a big difference.

Deranged anti-Bush ranting never hurts more than when it comes from a (formerly) Republican four-star general. Among the other cheerful messages of the panel of experts Rolling Stone assembled: the U.S. has lost in Iraq (duh), and a variety of regional wars and genocides are on the way. The threat to Europe caused by the fallout from the lost Iraq war is mentioned twice. By a panel of Americans. Anybody who can plausibly sketch a more hopeful outcome is hereby invited to do so in comments.

Have I mentioned so far that I have never voted for George W. Bush, and have consistently voted for (and sometimes volunteered for and donated to) his opponents in all state and national elections since 1994? Here in Europe, I have a feeling I’ll be mentioning that even more in the years ahead.

I may even get it tattooed on my forehead.

Why Did Germany Abolish the Death Penalty?

It’s common knowledge in Germany that the inclusion of Article 102 of the Grundgesetz (Basic Law), which abolishes the death penalty, was motivated by disgust at the excessive use of the death penalty in Germany by the National Socialist regime. During the twelve years of Nazi dictatorship, over 30,000 death sentences were handed down — in addition to the mass extermination directed at ‘undesirable’ populations. Dozens of Germans have recited to me the some version of the standard sound-bite concerning the Parliamentary Council’s 1949 decision to call for the abolition of the death penalty in the Basic Law: "As the extent of Nazi atrocities and abuse of the death penalty became clear, everyone was horrified, and the founders of the Federal Republic of Germany decided the State could never again be allowed the power to kill."

In June of 2005, however, American journalist Charles Lane, who covers the U.S. Supreme Court for the Washington Post, set off a minor earthquake by writing a piece called "The Paradoxes of a Death Penalty Stance." The piece began: "In the debate between Europe and the United States over the death penalty, no country is more vocal than Germany. German media regularly decry executions in Texas." Then, drawing on a Richard J. Evans’ monumental book Rituals of Retribution: Capital Punishment in Germany 1600-1978, noted that the original motion to include what later became Article 102 in the Basic Law was tabled by Hans-Christoph Seebohm, a delegate from a right-wing party whose main intention was not to abolish the death penalty for ordinary killers, but to try to hinder the execution of Nazi war criminals by the Allied powers still controlling Germany at that time: "…Seebohm[] surprised everyone by proposing to get rid of the death penalty. Seebohm, who ran various industrial enterprises under the Nazis, led the tiny, far-right German Party — which also advocated using ‘German Reich’ instead of ‘Federal Republic.’" Lane continues:

Both Social Democrats and Christian Democrats initially rejected the Seebohm initiative but gradually began to see its advantages. To the Social Democrats, it offered right-wing political cover for an idea they [supported but] dared not pursue on their own. And for more than half of the Christian Democrat delegates, Evans reports, the political advantages of trying to shield Nazi war criminals trumped their belief in the death penalty for ordinary murder cases. Social Democratic arguments about turning the page on Nazism, belatedly made, were not decisive. Rather, writes Evans, "only the hope of being able to save Nazi criminals from the gallows . . . persuaded conservative deputies from the German Party and the Christian Democrats to cast their votes in favor of abolition in sufficient numbers to secure its anchorage in the Basic Law. Had it merely been the question of common homicide that was at issue, the vote would never have been passed."

The piece also appeared in German, and drew rather defensive responses from some German readers (G) of the Tagesspiegel newspaper. One of them started her letter: "There’s no doubt that Charles Lane, as an American faithful to the system, is arguing for the death penalty. The fact that the Germans are against it is an annoyance to him,"  No proof is provided for either of these assertions, and I have been unable to find anything in the public record on whether Charles Lane personally supports the death penalty. (Most Washington journalists are left-of-center in American terms, and therefore likely to privately opposed the death penalty. Generally, they keep their views on controversial public issues to themselves as long as they are working journalists). Another reader asks whether Lane was trying to "disclaim the moral integrity of the German government, of Germans in general, and of me," and points out that the mere fact that someone opposed the death penalty for less than admirable reasons doesn’t make it the wrong position to take. Nothing in Lane’s piece, for that matter, suggests otherwise.

David Vickrey at Dialog International then chimed in: "I can only surmise what Lane’s motivation is in writing this piece.  Did he think that pointing out some questionable motives of German politicians back in 1949 somehow offers legitimacy to state-sanctioned executions in 2005?" Vickrey claimed to have found evidence that a Social Democrat originally proposed the excution ban, but after receiving an email from Charles Lane, said he would wait to send a letter to the editor of the Washington Post pending "my ability to conduct some more research into the topic."

I’m not sure whether Vickrey ever got back to the topic, but I recently checked out Evans’ book in the course of doing other research, and read the chapter on abolition. Lane’s account accurately follows that of the book, and the book seems quite credible. Evans himself is a Cambridge historian who’s written several well-received books on contemporary German history and has received a prize from the city of Hamburg. Rituals of Retribution is over 900 pages long, and extremely carefully researched. Nor is it the work of a Germanophobe. The review I linked to above paraphrases one of Evans’ arguments thus: "Certainly National Socialist positions on capital punishment were barbarous, but prior to 1933 German exceptionalism was in its humanity, eliminating the death penalty for property crimes quite early and executing murderers as a far lower rate than Britain, France, and of course the United States." Much of the account of the abolition of the death penalty in Germany is taken from German jurist Bernhard Düsing’s 1952 account, Die Abschaffung der Todesstrafe in der Bundesrepublik Deutschland (The Abolition of the Death Penalty in the Federal Republic of Germany).

As Evans makes clear, there was a sharp divide in opinion in post-war Germany on the subject of the death penalty — depending on who was going to be executed. 77% of the population supported executing common murderers in the late 1940s. Evans argues this was partially explained by a significant crime wave caused by post-war chaos, as well as revenge attacks and robberies by ‘Displaced Persons’ (many of them former slave laborers). However, it was also commonly thought — especially on the political right — that the death sentences against Nazi war criminals handed down by allied courts were nothing more than "victors’ justice." Some of the war criminals were doctors, lawyers, or government bureaucrats, and had occupied respected positions in German society.

At the time, however, it seemed politically infeasible to argue that Germany should maintain the death penalty for common criminals, but exempt war criminals. Therefore, Seebohm — and he was the very first to propose the motion, as Lane reports — suggested a blanket ban on the death penalty. During the deliberations of the Parliamentary Council, it was unknown whether this death penalty ban would actually prevent any executions of war criminals (since those sentences had been handed down by non-German courts), but it was felt that abolishing the death penalty would send a strong signal to Allied commanders, who had the final power to grant or deny clemency to convicted Nazi war criminals. As it happened, the death penalty ban was not interpreted as binding on allied courts, and executions of war criminals continued. (Article 102 might have played a part in some clemency decisions in marginal cases, though). Social Democrats supported a general ban for abolitionist reasons, as David Vickrey points out, but they did not introduce the idea.

Throughout the 1950s, public opinion in Germany continued to overwhelmingly support capital punishment for convicted murderers, despite the Basic Law. Conservative parties (including Seebohm’s German party, which resumed support of capital punishment when it became clear that Article 102 would have little effect on Allied executions of war criminals) repeatedly introduced motions in the new German parliament to re-instate the death penalty, which could have been accomplished by a 2/3 vote. They came very close to success, since conservative parties dominated the first post-war parliaments. Adenauer, by the way, did not vote for the inclusion of Article 102 in the Basic Law and later spoke out in favor of re-introducing the death penalty.

Social democrats, led by figures such as Carlo Schmid, Friedrich-Wilhelm Wagner, and Gustav Radbruch, strongly opposed re-introduction of the death penalty, and the speeches and arguments they made largely mirror today’s German discourse about the death penalty. The key figure was Thomas Dehler, a Free Democrat who became Justice Minister under Adenauer. Although his party was split on the subject of capital punishment, he himself was strongly opposed. By means of various maneuvers, he was able to prevent votes on many re-introduction measures. He contributed a brief Foreword to Düsing’s 1952 book in which condemned the "dumpfe und triebhafte" (dull and automaton-like) appeal by conservative parties to public opinion strongly favoring executions.

German public opinion continued to favor the execution of convicted murderers (especially when the question excluded "mitigating circumstances") until the late 1960s, when support finally sank under the majority threshhold, where it has remained ever since. As Evans concludes:

This dramatic change of public opinion reflected to some extent the effects of anti- or at least non-Nazi education in the 1950s and 1960s, which marked off the younger generation from those who had been taught in the 1930s and early 1940s that killing criminals was a good thing, that life was a struggle for survival, and that enemies of the race deserved to die. Even more than this, however, it was the product of the more open debate which began in West Germany in the second half of the 1960s about the crimes committed by the Nazis…. [T]he revelation of the full extent of Nazi exterminism convinced a majority of West Germans that they should not allow even the faintest echo of it to sound in their country. [p. 803]

So there you have some more background on the abolition of the death penalty in Germany. To me, there are two interesting conclusions to be drawn from Evans’ account. First, the timing of abolition of capital punishment in Germany was an historical fluke that probably would not have occurred but for Seebohm. The Social Democrats favored abolition, but had no plans to argue for abolition in the Basic Law, since they had only a minority of seats in the Parliamentary Council and no desire to alienate almost 80% of the population on a high-profile political issue. Second, as in almost all countries that have abolished the death penalty, abolition took place despite significant majority support for capital punishment, and was accomplished and preserved by measures that insulated the issue from direct democratic decision.

To return to Lane, I haven’t the faintest idea why Charles Lane wrote the piece, but then again, neither do any of the people confidently reading his mind and attributing views to him. I can say from personal experience, however, that you definitely do not have to be a supporter of the death penalty to take exception to the inaccuracy and insufferable, pious self-righteousness of some German commentary on the U.S. death penalty…