From Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post:
It's odd to say but the Wisconsin governor's race may be one of the sleeper contests in the country.
Odd to say because Wisconsin -- and its Gov. Scott Walker (R) -- spent the better part of two years in the national political spotlight after he pushed legislation that stripped public sector unions of collective bargaining rights and then faced down a recall effort in 2012.
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Even as Republicans keep bringing up impeachment, the media is asking White House advisers why they keep making up all this impeachment talk.
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After five years of investigation, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence is about to release a 6,300 page report that concludes that the CIA misled government officials and the public about its War on Terror interrogation program by downplaying its methods and overstating the value of prisoners and the intelligence gathered from them.
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There were three of us. One was a gentleman I took to be a little older than I was, although I am now at an age where such a comparison has become hard to judge. And there was a young girl, a high school student. We were to perform a reading from Exodus. Moses encounters the burning bush.
We had only a few minutes to prepare. We sat together at a table and read our parts aloud to each other. I was a sort of narrator, reading the parts of scripture that were not in quotes. I remember that he was Moses.
I wanted to read my part with a sort of calm authority I associate with John Huston late in his career when he turned to acting. I felt the older fellow was a little too dramatic. I hoped he would dial it back a bit.
The girl spoke her part. She was hesitant, stumbling over the word "taskmaster." I asked if she knew what it meant and she asked me to explain. I told her as best I could about slaves and beatings and forcing those working hard to work harder. "I guess you could say a taskmaster was paid to be mean."
She nodded and repeated, "paid to be mean."
Others were in the large meeting room by then. The three of us sat in silence, reading our parts to ourselves. When we were called forward and introduced, I was separated from the other two by a large supporting column. That seemed natural. They were quoting and I was narrating.
The older man did speak less dramatically, more naturally. He was a pretty good Moses. Quite credible. I thought I did my John Huston competently enough.
I could not see the girl as she spoke. The column was in the way. Her words were firm and strong, and she spoke as the voice of God. She began. "I have seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt, and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters; I know their sufferings."
Later, the three of us had a chance to talk for a few minutes. We asked her what school she attended and where she might continue in college. She told us and then added, "if they don't deport me by then."
I don't know what I would have expected. An accent, maybe? Some other cultural difference? She had been brought to America as a baby. St. Louis County was the only home she had ever known. She was simply an American.
I asked if she was in any immediate danger of being taken. No, she had a card allowing her to stay for the next few months. Then another hearing was scheduled, one of many she went through over time.
I thought of her as I read about Congress last week. Conservatives were irritated. Liberals were gleeful. Republicans were all over the place.
The lawsuit John Boehner was filing, the one voted on by House Republicans, accused President Obama of using Executive Orders in place of legislation. They didn't like his delaying parts of Obamacare to give employers more time to comply.
Then, Republicans went on to disagree on just how to get tough against refugee children. They failed the first couple of times to pass legislation on the influx of kids trying to escape gang related death in South America. The administration needs to finance hearings under laws passed during the Bush administration. Children who are in actual danger have a legal right to stay.
Republicans couldn't get enough votes to pass a bill dealing with the kids. John Boehner and other Republican leaders issued a statement shifting responsibility to President Obama. They demanded that he use his executive authority, since Congress couldn't act.
Conservative newsmakers were dismayed. Some wanted the US to get crazy tough with the kids. Ann Coulter suggested the government take the same approach with the children running away from violence that Israel was taking with Hamas. Actually, she was functioning as an echo. A spokesman for the Ku Klux Klan had, a few hours before, already advocated a shoot-to-kill policy against the kids.
Charles Krauthammer spoke for many in expressing his own disappointment on another count.
It is ridiculous to sue the president on a Wednesday because he oversteps the law, as he has done a dozen times illegally and unconstitutionally, and then on a Thursday say that he should overstep the law, contradict the law that passed in 2008 and deal with this himself.
- Charles Krauthammer, July 31, 2014
It did look silly and non-conservatives had some fun with it. It accentuated the foolishness of suing the President over actions the authority for which the law provided him. The fact that the administration does not have funding for judges and hearings, in accord with what law requires, made Republicans look like they were taking both sides against themselves.
On Friday, House Republicans worked into the wee hours. They finally passed legislation whittled down to a fraction of what was intended to deal with the border problem. Anti-immigrant Congressional Representatives Michele Bachmann and Steve King proudly tweated photos of themselves working together to approve language they had demanded.
Inserted into the final Republican version were provisions that would immediately force the refugee kids back to the violence they had fled; that would investigate anyone who volunteered to take the children in, feeding and sheltering them; and that would track down all other children who had been transported here years ago as babies, kids who had grown up here, and take them right away to countries they knew only from textbooks.
I know there is humor to be had in Republicans needing approval from extremists for extremist legislation, and it can seem funny that conservatives demand that President Obama issue Executive Orders exactly one day after filing suit against him for issuing Executive Orders.
Obama vs the Republican Lawsuit becomes Obama vs the Empty Suit.
But, as I think of that high school girl from last year, it's hard for me to dwell on the humor.
She did read very well, as the Lord spoke about the people of ancient times, the ones who suffered.
And the ones who were paid to be mean.
Who wins when bumper stickers come out against complex truth?
Republicans work toward removal from office for crimes and misdemeanors which will be determined at some later date.
Immigration - Demonstrations of Empty Souls (6:05) - Click for Podcast
For Original Text
Immigration: The mirror image of Paul Ryan's prediction comes true. The tragic result of full stomachs and empty souls.
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At Mad Mike's America, Mike seems skeptical, but he did hear it from Michelle Bachmann her own self. The real reason Obama manufactured the border crisis.
At The Moderate Voice Tina Dupuy suggests that the stream of children fleeing from violence are not, in accord with the law, illegal immigrants.
PZ Myers, writing for Pharyngula, has figured out, with a little help, why science is hard for ordinary people. It's largely because so many scientists find distasteful those who can communicate with lower life forms. Like the rest of us.
The ever entertaining Tim McGaha at Tim's Thoughtful Spot continues teaching us technological history. His latest story is how the development of astonishing automotive speed hit the Holy-Mother-of-GOD problem, and won.
- Oldest lame story ever (mine). Last Of The Millenniums brings us an amazing optical illusion. Stare long enough, you'll be able to make out a giraffe. I'm so ashamed.
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Most citizens have the same approach toward economics that they have toward politics. They act as if they have their own lives to lead, quite independent of Washington.
Politics is a zero sum game. For every winner there is a loser. With primaries and third parties, there are usually several losers. So the backbiting is prolific. Even policy decisions that may come from deep seated conviction are interpreted routinely with an assumption of nefarious motive.
I wish I remembered the name of the host of a late night public affairs broadcast on POTUS, a part of Sirius Satellite Radio. She has a delightfully irreverent cynicism. As one guest remarked on some politician's political beliefs, she reacted. "That is soooo cute!" she said gently. "You actually think they act out of principle."
Her casual, and funny, dismissal of honor is at the heart of American political skepticism. I don't share it, at least not completely. I am sure many Democrats are concerned with civil rights, poverty, and middle class opportunity.
Sincere motivation is not all on one side. Many Republicans appeal to bar stool conservatives because they themselves don't allow mere factual ignorance to interfere with intoxicated opinion.
Politics tends to be boring for the same reason very bad daytime dramas are boring. They are long periods of predictability occasionally broken up by vitriolic creativity. How many ways can one vile thug twist every jot and tittle to smear another borderline psychopath?
Policy isn't any better. There aren't many Ronald Reagans or Elizabeth Warrens around to break down policy arguments into digestible bites. I hate it when some expert, especially one with whom I agree, goes into policyspeak. Acronyms make my teeth itch. You won't persuade people about policy if your real objective is to convince them you know all the intricate crevices of wonkdom.
Even the basic basics of basic economics escape us. Most accepted, proven, economic approaches that have worked since GDP has been measured are counter-intuitive. They are overtaken by the easy-to-understand formulations that have not worked. Bumper stickers will always rule when they oppose documented studies.
If families have to tighten their belts during hard times, then government should as well. That's easy to understand, even easier to support. It may lead us into recession that borders on depression, but that's in the future, unknown except to those who dwell in the Olympian heights.
Towers of ivory have their expert denizens, but their message is difficult, even when the virtue of clarity is attempted. Government should run deficits during hard times, the bigger the better. Government should pay it back during the resulting times of prosperity. That's the way real mainstream economics works.
What politicians don't understand, especially liberal politicians, is that you can't straddle the fence on some policies. The only way folks will vote for a policy they don't understand is if it is working so well it is not worth thinking about.
After the thump and scorch brush fire of the final Bush years, Democrats had barely enough votes to pass an economic stimulus that could keep American from the canyon floor. Economists told us that the stimulus needed to be substantial.
Much later, when firm data came in and the numbers were revised for the last time, it turned out the economy had been falling almost three times as fast as everyone had thought. We had already gone off the cliff. We just hadn't gotten to the bottom yet.
On the night of President Obama's inaugural, Republicans had decided on their own plan. This is documented, acknowledged by organizers of the meeting of high level conservatives. Their plan was to work like dogs against everything the new President might propose, no matter what it was.
That left Democrats to deal with the crisis.
A few national Democrats got scared of the stimulus. They insisted on a centrist approach. They felt that voters would be comforted if the stimulus was cut back from 900 billion dollars to 750 billion.
What voters eventually reacted to was what seemed like a massive stimulus that Republicans insisted had not worked. It still looked massive, and certainly looked like it hadn't worked. Unemployment was better, but it was still horrible compared to what we were used to.
Cutting back the stimulus was bad policy and worse politics. Democrats lost their majority in the House of Representatives, and their filibuster-proof majority in the Senate. Most of those defeated were the timid centrists.
A new survey through the University of Chicago brings in new evidence. 37 economists offered their separate analyses. 36 concluded that the American people were in better shape by the end of 2010 than they would have been without the stimulus. More people were employed as a direct result. Those separate conclusions came from 36 recognized experts. Only one economist differed.
Comparing what happened to what would have happened if... That is not an easy demonstration. But the pattern is clear. The stimulus, weakened as it was, kept us from a catastrophe that would have been epic.
The facts won't change the politics much. The economy is coming back to life years later than it should have, and would have if the stimulus had been what it started out to be. The whittled down program is still thought of as massive.
And most of us still read those bumper stickers on the way to the jobs we might not have had if Republicans had gotten their way.
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I remember the sort of helpless feeling many of us had in those days of conservative ascendancy. The early 1970s were a sort of tug of war between despair and retrenchment. Endless conflict in Vietnam, a rollback of Civil Rights, the disrespect for individual rights.
It wasn't that we hadn't felt the rumblings.
We had all heard of the Watergate break-ins. Low level operatives of the Republican campaign had gone renegade and, unknown to managers, had burglarized the offices of the Democratic National Committee. Another burglary was less well known. Someone had broken into the offices of Daniel Ellsberg's psychiatrist.
But very few of us thought any of that would lead to anyone who worked in the White House. That President Nixon would have been directing it - breaking and entering or covering up or anything else - was unthinkable to those of us who imagined ourselves on the sane side of the lunar orbit.
The degree of certainty that was required to imagine President Nixon as a guilty party was higher than the clouds. The sky eventually got closer as evidence became hard to avoid.
But only when tapes were discovered, when the President himself could be heard directly ordering crimes, did the dominoes fall. Some orders were carried out: break-ins, cover ups. Some of the President's orders were received but were never actually acted upon. The Brookings Institution, for example, was never actually firebombed as President Nixon had directed.
As astonished lawmakers listened for themselves, conservatives eventually led the way. President Nixon became former President Nixon.
Here in Missouri, young dynamic Governor Kit Bond and his crusty old Lieutenant Governor Bill Phelps, both Republicans, had yet another falling out.
Kit Bond was part of the new Republican generation, open minded, pro-civil rights. He supported the Equal Rights Amendment for women. He rooted out old discriminatory laws. He led education reform involving parent participation.
Bill Phelps was older, crusty, and suspicious of anything newer than the Hoover Dam.
The split on Nixon was a surprise. Crusty old Bill Phelps demanded the President resign. Now! Young Kit Bond defended Nixon to the bitter end.
Two decades later, impeachment didn't work so well for opponents of President Bill Clinton. In 1998, Republicans became the first opposition party in 176 years to lose congressional seats.
At least they had a modicum of legality to hang themselves on. President Clinton had lied in a legal deposition. He was told to give the identities, for the record, of all women with whom he had a romantic contact while in public office.
As I saw it, he should have suggested the interrogator perform an anatomical improbability. Instead of refusing to answer such a question, he lied on the record. That was then.
Today, the attitude of the Republican base toward President Obama is transparent. The polite fiction is that he is opposed for policy reasons. In fact the evidence supports a different conclusion. From the top down and from the base up, the record is one of motivations that are far less pristine.
For many of us, the election of our first black President was a healthy repudiation of the most shameful parts of our history. It seemed like evidence the page had turned to a new chapter.
But, from the beginning, that was not a universal view. There are many, too many for comfort, who regarded Obama as someone who simply did not belong, as a usurper, an outsider, an alien, as some sort of horrible accident.
The most visible part of that opposition comes from an incautious Republican membership. Racist signs at protests are not an aberration. They are a fact of conservative life. They are part of the Republican foundation - the base.
And the view from that base seems to mirror the view from the top. The idea that opposition to the President is a natural result of some flaw in his own policy or personality is counter to documented evidence.
On the very night of President Obama's first inauguration, a group of top Republican lawmakers and strategists met. The country was in peril, teetering on the edge of a mammoth economic depression rivaling that of Herbert Hoover.
Hours into the new presidency, the conservative group decided to bring Obama down, no matter what it took. They determined they would obstruct, in every way possible, anything and everything the new President would ever, could ever, propose. It did not matter what, they would oppose it.
The newest mantra from the base is coming slowly to the surface of public discussion in Republican circles. This time, impeachment needs nothing more than a vague sense that something is wrong. There are no specifics. But the feeling is strong that all of the debunked scandals must still contain something of substance: Benghazi, the IRS, Obamacare, the economic bailout, something has to provide grounds for removal from office. The impostor must be turned out.
The case for impeachment, when it is attempted, will follow a familiar pattern:
President Obama is guilty.
The only decision left is: Guilty exactly of what?
From the Wall Street Journal:
Staples Inc. made the State of New York quite a promise: Buy your office supplies from us, and we'll sell you a bunch of things for a penny apiece. This unleashed a rush on the retailer as government offices and qualifying organizations across the state gobbled up the one-cent items.
A Brooklyn charity benefiting disabled people ordered 240,000 boxes of facial tissue and 48,000 rolls of paper towels, according to documents obtained in a public-records request. Rome, N.Y., wanted 100,000 CD-Rs. A State Department of Motor Vehicles office ordered 8,000 rolls of packaging tape.
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Paul Ryan, Immigration, Full stomachs and empty souls
Click for Radio Podcast: Immigration ‑ Demonstrations of Empty Souls (6:05)
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She once met a young boy from a very poor family. And every day at school he would get a free lunch from a government program.
He told Eloise he didn’t want a free lunch. He wanted his own lunch, one in a brown paper bag, just like the other kids. He wanted one, he said, because he knew a kid with a brown paper bag had someone who cared for him.
This is what the left does not understand.
- Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI), March 6, 2014
The story was a reminder that compassionate conservatism was alive and well. And it illustrated the fatal flaw of those of us who do not recognize the virtues of conservatism. We know the value of material things, but not the value of love.
Representative Ryan had heard the story of the unloved child from a member of the cabinet of Governor Scott Walker, also Republican, also from Wisconsin. Eloise Anderson is the Secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families. She had testified a few months before, telling Paul Ryan's committee of her own experience, meeting with the youngster.
You know, a little boy told me once that what was important to him is that he didn't want school lunch, he wanted a brown bag because the brown bag that he brought with his lunch in it meant that his mom cared about him.
- Eloise Anderson, Testimony before House Budget Committee, July 31, 2013
In fact, the little boy who hated federal supplemental nutrition programs because they lacked love was a little boy who did not exist. At least he had never spoken with Secretary Anderson.
The story had been taken from a book by Laura Schroff. She had met the little boy as he had been begging on the street for lunch money. That was 28 years ago. The youngster is now in his mid thirties. They appeared together on the today show:
He said if you make me lunch would you put it in a brown paper bag. And so I said, do you want it in a brown paper bag? He said, I don't want your money, I want my lunch in a brown paper bag. Because when kids come to school, and they have their lunch in a brown paper bag, that means somebody cares about them.
- Laura Schroff, on Today Show, December 24, 2012
The now grown man described his primary thought as he first met Laura Schroff.
To this day I can still feel the pain of my stomach hurting from not eating for two days. And God sent me an angel.
- Maurice Mazyck, on Today Show, December 24, 2012
The controversy began soon after Paul Ryan gave his speech about how conservatives have an understanding of love that others simply do not share. Representative Paul Ryan issued a clarification. He said did not know the story was false. Governor Scott Walker had no idea. A spokesperson for the department led by Eloise Anderson, who gave the false testimony, said she had simply misspoken. "...a little boy told me once" should have been "Once I heard someone say".
The point Representative Ryan had been making does survive the controversy. Conservatives understood that the health of the soul is more important than a full stomach. The story was simply an illustration of that point.
What they're offering people is a full stomach and an empty soul.
- Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI), March 6, 2014
I was thinking of that young man, now grown, as I heard about an emotional interview.
At the urging of the United States, Mexico has been intercepting youthful refugees fleeing the violence of Guatemala and Honduras. That interception has provided a unique opportunity for researchers to engage in a morbid study. What is the fate of kids turned back regardless of what they face as they return?
One researcher, Elizabeth Kennedy, followed 500 children who fled from El Salvador, were caught by Mexico, and then rapidly returned. Among those interviewed was a 12-year-old kid fleeing gang threats. He had an additional reason.
I'll just tell you the story of one 12 year old boy who came to us with no shoes because he had been robbed, he had been beaten. Everything had been taken from him. And I sat down next to him and I said, "Are you going to try again?"
And he just burst into tears. And he said, "What would you do if you were me? I haven't seen my mom and my dad in 10 years. I've got a little sister I've never met. And no one here loves me."
- Elizabeth Kennedy, interviewed by NPR, July 24, 2014
That "no one here loves me" brought to mind the contrast suggested by Paul Ryan between conservatives and everyone else.
As I have watched anti-immigrant demonstrators screaming at little kids in recent weeks, it occurrs to me that the contrast embraced by Paul Ryan is not appreciated by at least some conservatives. Statements from Tea Party leaders and supporters in Massachusetts were not untypical.
"The state can’t take care of the children in its own care, yet these immigrants are coming in and skipping the line."
"I just believe this state is giving away its money — our money."
"It’s not a matter of ‘not in my backyard,’ it’s a matter of they shouldn’t be coming here to begin with."
The protests signs held by those screaming at youngsters in Berks California were also representative:
"Berks does not want or need illegals"
"Illegals not welcome."
It is obvious that some conservatives already have what Representative Ryan spoke about so eloquently: a full stomach and an empty soul.
We all share the anger about the crimes, the murders, the victims. It is not in spite of that rage. I am against the death penalty because of that rage.
The Mississippi Tea Party telegraphs how the future of the Republican Party will play out.
Conservatives have been splicing videos to make opponents seem to say the opposite of what they actually say. Now they do it to each other.
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Tommy Christopher, at the Daily Banter, looks into political martial arts by the White House, involving a lawsuit vote, impeachment talk, and an unhappy Speaker of the House.
Conservative James Wigderson provides the briefest, and most complete of explanations for public interest in Michele Bachmann.
Michael Scott of Mad Mike's America seems sad but unsurprised as Pat Robertson tries speaking for all Christians, Jesus, and God. Robertson advises parents to throw out the young girlfriend of their son after he got her pregnant. Because discarding a sinner is what Jesus would do.
- Why do we have to do this, Sir? explains to his classroom how parables bring us to deeper spiritual wisdom.
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Using drugs meant for individuals with medical needs to carry out executions is a misguided effort to mask the brutality of executions by making them look serene and beautiful -- like something any one of us might experience in our final moments.
- Alex Kozinski, Chief Judge, U.S. 9th Circuit Court, July 21, 2014
Alex Kozinski is a conservative Reagan appointee with a penchant for controversial language. His statement was part of a dissent. Judge Kozinski wanted to put a legal hold on an execution. His fellow jurists on the 9th Circuit Court went the other way, refusing to review the death penalty decision of a lower court.
The sentence in the case has quickly become famous. It became the third botched execution in recent weeks. It was expected to last for ten minutes. But Joseph Wood struggled to breathe for an hour after lethal drugs were administered by the state of Arizona. The entire procedure took about two hours. Descriptions of the gasps and snorts are graphic. It must have been ghastly.
Joseph Wood is not an ideal poster child for abolition of capital punishment. Before committing murder, he was the classic abuser, habitually beating the girlfriend who provided financial support during his long periods of unemployment.
When she finally had enough and left him, going to live with her parents, he went into a stone cold rage. He showed up at the little auto shop where she worked for her father. He waited for the father to finish a telephone call, then smiled and shot him to death.
He walked through the shop until he found his estranged girl friend. As she pleaded for her life, he was heard explaining it all to her. "I told you I was going to do it, I have to kill you."
Then he pulled the trigger of the gun he had pressed against her chest.
Before the execution of Joseph Wood began, he turned and smiled at the family of the two victims. His final statement was that he had found Jesus. There was no apology for the family, but the murderer hoped they would all be forgiven.
The reaction of the family is understandable. In my heart, I do believe it would be close to my reaction if I ever found myself in their place. The brother-in-law of the young woman:
This man conducted a horrifying murder and you guys are going, "let's worry about the drugs." Why didn't they give him a bullet? Why didn't we give him Drano?
Other executions, botched or otherwise, have similar stories of brutal crimes. How can some sort of retribution be far from our thoughts?
The bloodless answer Mike Dukakis gave in 1988 may have cost him an election.
"Governor, if Kitty Dukakis were raped and murdered, would you favor an irrevocable death penalty for the killer?"
"No, I don’t, Bernard, and I think you know that I’ve opposed the death penalty during all of my life. I don’t see any evidence that it’s a deterrent and I think there are better and more effective ways to deal with violent crime."
I think of a fictional account of a fictional President pondering whether to save a murderer slated for execution. He asks the survivor of a murder victim for his opinion. Your mother was killed in the line of duty, wasn't she? The young aide answers yes. Would you want her killer executed? The young man says no, he would not want the killer to be executed. The fictional Commander-in-Chief nods. Then the aide continues: I'd rather kill him myself.
My own journey on the issue has been a slow one. I was swayed by a crooked governor. 13 convicted murderers on death row were exonerated by evidence discovered after their very fair trials. During that time, another 12 inmates were actually executed. Governor George Ryan (R-IL) suspended all death penalties pending a careful study. He eventually commuted all death sentences in Illinois.
The idea of executing innocent people is, and ought to be horrifying. As the possibility went to plausibility, it was enough to convince me. I could not think of a way to execute the unmistakably guilty without eventually executing innocent people.
Ta-Nehisi Coates, writing for the Atlantic Monthly, presents the case of the youngest person executed in the United States, George Junius Stinney. In retrospect, it is clear he was railroaded. The fact that the kid was black carried the day in 1944. Two little white girls, whose bodies were later found, had spoken with the youngster and his sister shortly before they disappeared. That was enough.
Today we can say those days are behind us. In a sense we would be right, but only in the sense that all past is the past. We face new demonstrations of bigotry, some subtle, every day. As Coates puts it:
The "Hey Guys, Let's Not Be Racist" switch is really "Hey Guys, Let's Pretend We Aren't American" switch or a "Hey Guys, Let's Pretend We Aren't Human Beings" switch. The death penalty—like all state actions—exists within a context constructed by humans, not gods. Humans tend to have biases, and the systems we construct often reflect those biases.
The anger that reacts against injustice is often what impels us along the arc of the moral universe. It is part of what bends that arc toward justice. If not channeled, it becomes the violence itself.
So, yeah, if my family was victimized, I would want to kill those responsible. Personally. Slow, torturous death would not be a flaw, it would be a feature. I wouldn't want to be deterred by process, or by appeals, or by the microscopic possibility that I might have the wrong guy.
I would likely be the one who wants to pull the switch. I can see myself as the one who hopes the killer suffers at least as much as his victim. Two hours to die? Good.
The same would be true if a victim of murder was from a family down the street. The same might even be true if the family was in the same courtroom while I deliberated guilt or innocence.
That rage inside of me is a large part of why I have to be against the death penalty.