The Watering Hole, Saturday, December 20, 2014: Conservative Governance

I’ve often said it’s the ideology of the political people doing things, not the party, that matters. On a national level, the Republican Party is entirely Conservative, with no Liberals in the House or Senate. The Democratic Party, OTOH, has many fiercely staunch Liberals, but it also has Conservatives, especially from predominantly red states, who we call “ConservaDems”, from the Latin word for “assholes.” People almost exclusively attribute to Republicans what should rightly be attributed to Conservatism. When people talk about what a Republican-controlled House passed, they often ignore how much Democratic support that same bill got. And that support usually didn’t come from the Liberal Wing of the party, it came from the Assholes, I mean, ConservaDems. When President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (a/k/a, “LBJ”) passed his New Deal legislation, some prominent millionaires set about to destroy everything FDR (a/k/a “Neil Patrick Harris”) did. They did it because they were Conservatives, and Conservatism is a philosophy rooted in Selfishness, of putting the needs and desires of oneself above all others. It is the antithesis of Liberalism, which seeks to do what’s best for everyone as a whole. The mistake is in believing that the best way to govern a country is to treat both philosophies as equally valid. They are not. When you want to govern a population of lots of different people, you need to think about the group as a whole, not just about the individuals, whose concerns ,must also be considered. Conservatives do not believe in thinking about people as a whole group, but prefer to think of them as a bunch of individuals. I’m not saying there’s no place for a little bit of Conservative thought brought to a search for a public solution to a problem. It actually helps to have people who can say, “But the way you wrote this, convicted sex offenders can still vote in school board elections. Do you want that?” Or something like that. They can help define what the reasonable limits of our public assistance should be. But if you left it entirely up to them to decide, there would be no public assistance at all! And that is where America is headed by giving control of the country to Conservatives. Here’s some examples of the kinds of things Conservatives do when they get hold of public office.

By now you’ve heard stories about Ferguson, Missouri, Grand Jury Witness 40, the one whose testimony staunchly (and a little suspiciously) supported Officer Darren Wilson’s version of events. I say “suspiciously” because she raised money for Darren Wilson’s defense before giving testimony. And because she was a documented liar. [WARNING: Site has photo at the top of Officer Wilson standing over Michael Brown’s deceased, uncovered body. Just thought you should know.] This has not stopped Conservative radio and television entity Sean Hannity from using her perjury testimony words to defend Wilson. Now, one might wonder why a prosecutor would put someone up to testify to a grand jury, whose sole purpose is to decide if enough evidence exists to indict someone, if he knew the person would not give truthful testimony. He must not have known how unreliable a witness she was. Funny thing about that. It turns out he did know. He knew she could not possibly have been a witness to the events of that day, yet he put her forth, without revealing to the grand jury why he knew she was lying, to relay what turned out to be, for all intents and purposes, Darren Wilson’s version of events, as if it would corroborate what he told investigators. Conservatives do not respect the Truth, especially when it proves them wrong. If you know nothing else about how the grand jury process works, you must have heard that you can indict a ham sandwich. All that means is if a prosecutor wants to bring charges against someone so they stand trial, it can easily be done, even if evidence exists of the person’s innocence. So when a prosecutor with a history of being pro-police fails to convince a grand jury that a cop shooting an unarmed man might have committed a crime, you have to conclude he didn’t try very hard. Maybe there’s another ham sandwich out there against whom he will bring charges. In the meantime, that’s what Conservative law enforcement will get you. Expect to hear more stories like this.

Speaking of Missouri, even though women in this country (regardless of which state they’re in) have a constitutional right to obtain an abortion, a woman there must give her consent and convince the person performing the abortion that she is not being forced to have it. But it’s not enough for her to say on her own that she wants to have an abortion. But State Representative Rick Brattin has introduced a bill to be taken up in next year’s session that would require a woman to obtain and present the consent of the biological father before receiving abortion services. The language of the bill says there’s an exception if the pregnancy resulted from rape or incest, but in an interview with Mother Jones Brattin said that the rape would have to be proven.

“Just like any rape, you have to report it, and you have to prove it,” Brattin tells Mother Jones. “So you couldn’t just go and say, ‘Oh yeah, I was raped’ and get an abortion. It has to be a legitimate rape.” Brattin adds that he is not using the term “legitimate rape” in the same way as former Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.), who famously claimed that women couldn’t get pregnant from a “legitimate rape” because “the female body has ways to try to shut the whole thing down.” “I’m just saying if there was a legitimate rape, you’re going to make a police report, just as if you were robbed,” Brattin says. “That’s just common sense.” Under his bill, he adds, “you have to take steps to show that you were raped…And I’d think you’d be able to prove that.” The bill contains no provision establishing standards for claiming the rape or incest exceptions. It also doesn’t state any specific penalties for violating the law nor say whether a penalty would be imposed on the woman seeking the abortion or the abortion provider.

Some Conservatives may argue that if there is no penalty for not doing these things, then why worry about it? That’s not the point. Why write the law that way at all if it really doesn’t matter to you whether or not he woman is telling the truth? Unless, of course, your entire point is to humiliate and dominate a woman already going through a very difficult decision. A decision she has every legal right to make. Because we already know the truth doesn’t matter when you’re a Conservative. Brattin defended his bill by claiming it was an attempt to protect men’s rights. That’s nice, except Roe v. Wade protected a woman’s rights, not a man’s. If any such right existed in this situation, it surely would have been part of the debate from the beginning. It hasn’t because it doesn’t. You won’t hear many Liberals introducing bills like this..

And if you think Conservative governance is bad from the beginning of life, it doesn’t get any better at the end, either, especially when it’s a “legitimate death” at the hands of the state. If you don’t know this already about me, I am adamantly, 100% opposed to the use of capital punishment anywhere in the world, but I am especially opposed to its use in a country supposedly built on the idea of personal freedom (if you listen to the Conservatives.) There is 0% justification to execute someone for a crime he did not commit, but Conservatives on the Supreme Court don’t think that’s a problem. Nor are Conservatives particularly concerned about how cruel an execution is, as evidenced by Oklahoma’s refusal to stop using a drug in its lethal injections that doctors have warned is inadequate to do the job it’s supposed to do. After botching the execution of Clayton Lockett, 21 inmates have asked the courts to suspend further execution using lethal injections. One of the drugs used, which is supposed to make the condemned unconscious, doesn’t perform well enough to be used in operations (where you don’t want the patient waking up to find out his insides are opened up) and would be “problematic” to use in executions. The drugs that would be best for this purpose, if you still want to go through with killing someone that badly, are sold in Europe, and most European nations refuse to sell them if they know they’ll be used in carrying out executions. Good for them. What Oklahoma Government Murderers are failing to remember is that lethal injection was supposed to be a more humane way of killing someone because they would be unconscious for the part where they are killed. That point is entirely missed when the condemned is wide awake and totally aware of the effects on his body. Liberals care about this kind of thing. if you’re going to have executions at all (and there is no evidence that it does any good at deterring others from committing the same crimes), then don’t be like the people you say are the worst in Society. Conservatives, who respond better to negative stimuli, don’t get that a killer who knows someone else is getting executed for his crimes, is not in the least bit deterred from killing again. So you can expect more people to be put to death and, because it is inevitable if you’re going to execute people, more of them will be innocent of the crimes for which they are being executed, which doesn’t serve Society at all.

This is our daily open thread. Feel free to discuss the disease that is Conservatism, or anything else you wish to discuss.

The Watering Hole, Saturday, May 31, 2014: How Fine Is The Line Between OK To Kill And Not OK To Kill?

This post was previously posted on Pick Wayne’s Brain.

When the Supreme Court ruled in Ford v. Wainwright (1986) that it was a violation of the Eighth Amendment ban on “cruel and unusual punishment” to execute the insane, it was because it was felt a person who does not understand right from wrong, and would not understand their punishment or the purpose of it, should be exempt from execution. In the case of Atkins v. Virginia (2001) the SCOTUS ruled that it was unconstitutional to execute a mentally retarded person. From the link, “Moreover, the Court concluded that there was serious concern whether either justification underpinning the death penalty – retribution and deterrence of capital crimes – applies to mentally retarded offenders, due to their lessened culpability.”

I am an avowed opponent of the use of capital punishment. I do not believe it to be the proper retribution for any crime, even treason. If your justification is Genesis 9:6, you’re going to have to come up with a different one. Remember, we’re a secular nation, so what right do we have to use your religious texts to set our laws? No matter how many times I read it, I do not see the words “Judeo-Christian” in the First Amendment. You need another excuse to kill people. And make no mistake about it – if you support the use of capital punishment, then you want to see people killed. I don’t. I’m not saying there’s never a justification to take another person’s life. Self-defense where an actual danger of death or serious injury to yourself or to someone for whose protection you are responsible is one such justification. But the danger must be real, not imaginary. You can’t use deadly force because you thought the guy had a gun. Otherwise anybody could make up a story about a gun after the fact. The danger has to be real, not imaginary, and not theoretical. You can’t just imagine, or assume, that the guy has a gun and then use the fact that you observe nothing to the contrary as proof that you were right about him having a gun. If that is how you came to “believe” the guy had a gun, and the law allows that as an excuse, then the law needs to be re-written. Deductive reasoning, not inductive reasoning, must be the basis for your belief. There has to be evidence it’s true, not simply a lack of evidence that it’s false.

Unfortunately, the SCOTUS left it up the states to determine, for themselves, and as applied only to persons facing trial in those states, just who qualifies for being called “mentally retarded.” So Florida decided that you qualify for being mentally retarded if your IQ is 70 or below. No other standard required. If your IQ is 71, then you’re going to be executed. One point lower, and it would be cruel and unusual punishment to execute you. Fortunately, with Justice Anthony Kennedy batting from the left side of the plate, the SCOTUS ruled that Florida’s line was unconstitutional.

“Intellectual disability is a condition, not a number,” Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for the divided court. “Courts must recognize, as does the medical community, that the IQ test is imprecise.”

In other words, you’re going to have to come up with another excuse to kill people. Tell me something. Have we advanced no further than the days of the Book of Genesis to tell us right from wrong? If you read Genesis 9 carefully, you won’t find any exemptions for the insane or mentally impaired. It took a secular Constitutional Government to decide that some people should be shown more mercy than even God demanded. Does that make our Founding Fathers bad people? [Answer: No, not that. Plenty of other reasons they weren’t the saintliest of men.] And I agree that they didn’t specify which types of punishment, or which types of people to whom it was applied, would be considered cruel or unusual. Being tarred and feathered and made to walk around in public was cruel, but certainly not all that unusual. Did it have to be both cruel and unusual to be unconstitutional? Yes, otherwise any kind of punishment could be considered cruel. That’s kind of the point of punishment, to do something at least a little cruel, like depriving them of daily contact with Society or their family members who aren’t in prison with them, in response to them breaking certain laws. But here’s the sick part. You can’t execute someone who’s insane or mentally retarded, but if they’re simply mentally impaired and that impairment can be overcome with medication so that the prisoner understands what’s happening, then it’s okay to kill him. As long as he knows you’re doing it and why, the state has no problem with executing him.

So if it isn’t an IQ point, where is the line between OK To Kill and Not OK To Kill? Why do some people deserve to be exempt from execution, while other people, barely any better in any meaningful way mentally, deserve to die? Where is that line? And why are we doing it? Is it suppose to deter others from doing that same crime? Is it working? The state of Texas not only sentences more people to die than any other, it actually carries those executions out. And it’s not a recent phenomenon, it’s been happening as long as capital punishment was constitutional. So it should not occur to anyone who wants to commit a capital crime in Texas that it’s unlikely they’ll ever actually be executed. They can count on it happening, sooner or later. So does the very fact that they could be executed for doing whatever they’re doing deter them from doing it anyway? Obviously not, as Texas continues to lead the nation in executions carried out. Even if you’re mentally retarded. Even if you’re innocent. So it’s not surprising that out of all the executions that have taken place since the Supreme Court lifted its ban on them, Texas has done about a third of them. It sounds to me like executing people has no deterrent effect at all. So why do it?

Retribution? Retaliation? A repayment for deeds done? If that’s so, then why execute a person just for passing state secrets to another nation? If no actual lives were lost because of the passage of that information, then why the death penalty? And if lives were lost as a result of the disclosure, I still ask why the death penalty? I do not condone what they did, and I probably don’t have a position on it one way or the other, no matter who it is. My point is that there are other, less costly ways to punish someone. I’ve had conservative friends say they supported the death penalty because they didn’t want their tax money to go to paying for them to spend their life in prison. Well, guess what? What with all the automatic appeals they’re entitled to, at our expense (both you and me), it often costs WAY more for the government to seek the death penalty than to seek life without parole. And it’s still going to take 15-20 years for that process to play out sometimes, which we’re both paying for anyway. So why bother with the added expense, which I know you hate, to the “overhead” costs anyway? How’s that helping the bottom line? If it’s money you’re looking to save, and you really don’t give a crap one way or the other if the guy’s innocent, then don’t bother with the death penalty and ask for life without parole. That way, if it turns out by some weird fluke that the guy really didn’t do it, then you won’t have the blood of an innocent man on your hands. That would bother you, wouldn’t it? I really hope so, because if the execution of a totally innocent person doesn’t make you hesitate even a little to execute the next one, then there is no hope for you. You are lost to the Dark Side, where Dick Cheney is your master.

So the threat of being killed for killing someone doesn’t deter people. And why should it? Do you think that killing people to make the point that killing people is wrong is really going to make people who want to kill people not kill people? What some of them (more than you might think) hope for is Suicide By Cop. Then they don’t have to face the rest of their life in prison. So what do you think would scare them more? Facing the death penalty, thus ending their “lifetime” in prison, or an actual lifetime in prison?

Given what you’re doing to people when you sentence them to death, given the costs both financial and spiritual, do you need to be so blood thirsty for revenge, or whatever, that you have to draw a thin distinction between someone who’s too mentally retarded to constitutionally execute, and someone who’s observably mentally retarded to some degree, but not mentally retarded enough to be exempt from execution? What about stupid people? Is stupidity an intellectual disability? Should it be a capital crime to be stupid? I’m not talking about doing stupid things, because we all do stupid things. I’m talking about committing horrible crimes because you’re just plain stupid? Do stupid people deserve to be executed more than smarter people? (I remember reading something in Reader’s Digest a long, long time ago in a bathroom far, far away. Two men were on trial for robbing a bank. The prosecutor asked an eyewitness on the stand, “Are the two men who robbed the bank in this courtroom today?” The two defendants raised their hands. Does their stupidity exempt them from execution?) Who deserves to be executed by a government willing to execute innocent people if it helps make their point? (Which, in that case, would be to keep quiet and you can get away with it.) Who are we to decide who lives and who dies? Who am I? Who are you? And if you think you have the moral right to decide who lives and who dies, where do you draw your line between those exempt from execution and those not? The answer to that, and the fact that you would allow anyone to be executed on behalf of the people at all, says more about you than you’ll ever know.

This is our daily open thread. Feel free to discuss capital punishment or anything else you wish to discuss.

The Watering Hole, Saturday, May 4, 2013: Can We Execute the Death Penalty By Not Using it?

Let’s not beat around the bush. Let’s just admit it right up front before we continue. I am adamantly, totally, unequivocally 100% against the use of capital punishment. If I were the victim of a horrible murder, no matter how gruesome, nor matter how sickening, no matter how inhuman my murder may be (and let’s not get any ideas out there, okay?), I do NOT want my government to execute my killer in my name. I’d want that bastard to spend the rest of his natural life in prison (especially if he were young at the time he killed me) rather than face execution. And if you’re the type who says, “I don’t want my tax dollars to be spent on keeping this kind of scum alive,” then you should be thanking me, because I will personally be saving you a fortune from the great beyond. You see, when someone is sentenced to death, they’re automatically eligible for appeals. Appeals which we tax payers pay for, often from both sides – we pay for the prosecution (the State) to request the defendant stayed sentenced to death, and we pay for the defendant’s counsel to fight against that. If you sentence the guy to life without parole, he doesn’t get a lifetime of appeals that keep him alive ten or fifteen years after he should have been dead. And how much longer is he likely to live in prison after that? This way, you’ve still paid for those first fifteen years in prison, but without having to pay for all those appeals that only delayed the inevitable. And you’re highly unlikely to spend as much money keeping him alive after that than you did for those futile appeals. So you still save money in the long run. And if the guy happens to be a monster like Jeffrey Dahmer, the other prisoners will make sure he gets the kind of punishment the bloodthirsty would like. Money spent on appeals for guys like that is definitely money wasted. Not that I want to see anybody get killed, even in prison. But there are some for whom I would never weep.

There are some who say that the death penalty is a deterrent, but I say it really isn’t. For one thing, take your average person like me, who has no wish to spend any length of time inside a prison cell for anything, let alone murder. The fact that I could go to jail for even a little while for killing someone is more than enough to stop me from actually going through with it one evening rush hour on the highway. I certainly don’t need the threat of having my own life cruelly taken away thrown into the mix. I think that’s true of most people. But there are those who find some kind of justification for killing someone, and it’s hard to believe they don’t know it’s illegal to do so. I mean, are you one of those who thinks it’s unnecessary to read someone their Miranda rights since “everyone knows” they have the right to remain silent from watching TV? Then you should also believe that “everyone knows” you could get the death penalty for killing someone (if you do it in a state that has the death penalty, or do it in connection to the federal government.) But does that stop them? No. Take the state of Texas. (I mean it. Please. Take it.) It’s no secret that they have the death penalty in Texas. It’s no secret either that they use it, a lot. Of all the executions in the United States, about a third of them are in the state of Texas alone. So you’d think that the threat of being executed for killing someone, coupled with the higher probability that they’ll actually do it to you, would stop people in Texas from killing each other. And yet it doesn’t. So apart from being an excessively unnecessary deterrent against most people, the threat of being put to death for killing another person is not a deterrent to the rest of them.

So why do it? Revenge? Really? You want your tax money used to satisfy his need for revenge? What kind of enlightened society is that? In what way is it civilized? Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) famously said, “Capital punishment is society’s way of demonstrating the sanctity of human life.” In other words. “We feel that Life is so sacred that we will kill you to make the point that killing is wrong.” Seriously, that is twisted.

On Thursday, Maryland Gov Martin O’Malley signed into law legislation that would abolish the death penalty in his state. The next day, supporters of killing people to prove that killing people is wrong announced they would launch a petition drive for a ballot initiative on capital punishment to be decided by the people. I can only hope the people of Maryland have the sense not to overturn the new law. Capital punishment does nothing to protect Society. It only brings out the worst in Humanity.

This is our daily open thread. Feel free to discuss any topic you wish.

Wayne’s Brain on Capital Punishment

Our Critter Wayne has a great post stemming from the Supreme Court’s baffling ruling in a Kentucky capital punishment case.  Start reading it here, and then finish it up at Pick Wayne’s Brain.

The Supreme Court recently ruled that execution by lethal injection does not constitute “cruel and unusual punishment”. (Side note, would it not have been “unusual” the first time it was done and, to the uninitiated, a tad “cruel”, too?). Oddly enough, while they felt that Kentucky’s Strap-Right-Up-Get-Yer-Three-Shot-Monte Lethal Injection system of capital punishment was constitutional, “a majority could not agree on the proper standard with which to judge execution practices.” But whatever that standard was, they felt Kentucky had met it.
Before continuing, I’ll cut to the chase and state up front that I oppose the use of capital punishment for reasons on which I shall elaborate later. And, yes, I do agree that the Constitution’s specific mention of terms such as “capital offense” clearly and undeniably proves (yes, “proves”) that the Framers found no problem with the use of capital punishment per se. So, no, it is not, in and of itself, unconstitutional. I shall stipulate all of that up front, so there is no need to rehash any of it. Capital punishment is, in and of itself, constitutional. (There, I said it and I’m mad.)
What I feel is unconstitutional is the way in which the sentence has been administered, and upon whom, throughout our justice system. Let’s face facts, white people out there (and you know who you are), if a black man and a white man are convicted of the same capital offense, the black man is statistically far more likely to get the death penalty than the white man, even if all the circumstances and justifications for it are the same in both cases. You know it because it is a fact. In what way, then, is this administration of capital punishment “equal treatment under the law”?

Finish reading Wayne’s post here.

New Jersey Legislature Votes to Abolish Death Penalty

From BBC:

In a 44-36 vote, New Jersey became the first state to abolish the death penalty, since the Supreme Court reinstated it in 1976.  Governor Corzine is expected to sign the bill into law.

Campaigners say they hope the vote in the New Jersey Assembly will encourage opponents of the death penalty elsewhere in the US.

The death penalty is on the statute books in 36 other states, according to the Washington-based Death Penalty Information Center, although several are re-examining the use of capital punishment.

New Jersey had not executed anyone since 1963.  A New Jersey state commission reported that putting an inmate on death row was more expensive than imprisoning them for life, without the possibility of parole.  The commission also found that the death penalty was not a deterrent, and there was the possibility of executing an innocent person.

Read the whole article here.