Lying for fun and profit

George Will has an editorial in today's Washington Post in which he lies about the majority opinion in Roper and generally engages in shockingly poor reasoning. As I said earlier this week, I'm not very pleased with the reasoning employed in that decision, and I think it can lead in directions that I don't want the Court to go. But those aren't reasons to mis-represent what the opinion says, rather than point out substantive disagreements with it. For instance, in talking about the "head-count" argument in which the Court counts the number of states which do not approve of a practice as a part of measuring "evolving standards of decency," Will says:

But "inappropriate" is not a synonym for "unconstitutional." Kennedy simply assumes that those 12 states
must consider all capital punishment unconstitutional, not just wrong or ineffective or more trouble than it is worth -- three descriptions that are not synonymous with "unconstitutional."

The second sentence of that quote is a lie. Not only is Kennedy not obligated to assume that the twelve states which don't permit the execution of criminals also believe that the execution of juvenile criminals is unconstitutional, he is quite explicity talking about something completly different. Namely, whether or not those states consider it to be outside of "evolving standards of decency." Which they of course do. "Indecent" is not a synonym for "unconstitutional." Claiming that a Supreme Court justice is doing things he isn'tdoing in order to make him look stupid might be a violation of British libel laws, since they're much harsher than American ones (the previous statement is pure speculation based on almost no knowledge of British libel laws).

Later in the article he responds to some excerpts from parts of the opinion where Kennedy discusses how scientific evidence about the maturation of the brain and mental processes shows that the average (and in fact majority of) sixteen and seventeen year-old is far less likely to be as morally culpable as a more mature person. Now, I agree that the evidence shows this, and it's a very good reason why lots of care should be applied in a case-by-case basis if the execution of eighteen year olds was permitted, though it doesn't appear to me to be a reaosn why no eighteen year old should be eligible for execution (of course I'm in favor of abolishing the death penalty, so what I mean is that it's not a reason to differentiate eighteen year olds from the population as a whole). But Will responds by snarkily reciting the facts of the
Roper case, as if they show that all the research Kennedy is citing to is just garbage. Will's recap is of course totally non-responsive to the issue of what the research shows.

Oh, Will also lies about the way international law is being used in the opinion. It is of course being used in an attempt to understand the content of the evolving standards of decency. Will basically claims its being used to bind the United States to treaties it didn't sign, which isn't at all what's happening.

There are only 11,600 hits for the google search " "George Will" Hack. " There should be a lot more. George Will is a hack.