Monday, August 27, 2007

Another Bush official bites the dust

Alberto Gonzales, the controversial Attorney General, has resigned. "President" Bush just cannot hold on to his cabinet. Even the ever-loyal Karl Rove announced his resignation earlier this month, and now Gonzales, who steadfastly supported Bush's domestic wiretapping program, is leaving the administration amid allegations that he fired US attorneys under suspicious circumstances and that he lied to Congress about the circumstances of the firings. Who will be next in the Bush camp to defect? This is turning into a political version of Survivor: Who will be the last cabinet member standing by Bush's side?
Now to my favorite subject, violent criminals. I saw a show about Richard Speck (Notorious on the Biography Channel, the best show for people like me), who slaughtered eight student nurses in Chicago in one night in 1966. Like many violent offenders, Speck had a troubled childhood, his father died when he was very young, and his stepfather was a violent alcoholic. As a teenager, Speck began a career of petty burglary and was discharged from the merchant marines for erratic behavior. He married while still a teenager, and supposedly beat his wife. At the time of the mass murder of the nurses, Speck was broke and drinking heavily. Was he lashing out at the world that had not been kind to him, like so many mass murderers? But one of the victims was also raped and tortured before being killed, so it was a more personal crime that the blind rage of Charles Whitman and Cho of Virginia Tech. A commentator in the show said that Speck was not a monster, like we want all our criminals to be, but maybe he was "all too human." The thought that a serial killer or a mass murderer is "all too human" is a difficult one. It implies that we as a species are inherently violent, or have the seeds of viciousness in our genetic makeup, as a recent book (that I have yet to read) argues. But under conditions like those faced by Speck, a history of abuse and disappointments, who wouldn't at least think about lashing out? Most of us have better impulse control than to act on these feelings, but I can personally attest that the feelings exist.

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