They’re still executing people in Texas as fast as they can manage it, and there are a few other states with the same general approach, but in a lot of places in America the death penalty is not as popular as it once was.
For one thing, it’s always been about retribution. Plenty of studies have shown what a lot of penologists have long said, which is that it’s not a deterrent. Also, for you Republicans out there, it’s not cost-effective. In recent years, we’ve seen more than one outgoing state governor commute all the death sentences, citing the unreliability of juries and misconduct by prosecutors.
Innocent people have been put to death by the state. Now that DNA evidence is available, more than a few people facing death have been exonerated by scientific proof.
Of course, Texas is still a little different. Not long ago a man whose conviction was shown by DNA evidence to be wrongful was nonetheless executed because, according to the court, his appeal had been filed too late.
As a political issue, not many politicians bring it up anymore. The last time it was a big issue in a presidential race, Michael Dukakis got himself run over with a boneheaded answer to a hypothetical question concerning the rape and murder of his wife. If, instead of providing a thoughtful, reasoned response, he’d have answered by cold-cocking the questioner, which is what I’d have done, he’d probably have won the damned election.
Democrats, who used to oppose the death penalty, learned they could lose elections on that issue alone and started ducking it. Face it, that’s what Democrats have gotten really good at, ducking questions. The last party nominee with guts was, let’s see... uh, Adlai Stevenson?
There are a lot of good reasons for ending the death penalty. It’s wrong on a lot of levels. One of those reasons is this: it’s applied in a seriously prejudicial way. Black and Latino defendants get fried, white defendants don’t. No getting around it. The death penalty is undeniably racist in its implementation.
Who’s willing to talk about this? Not Obama.
That’s right, that racist congressman from Texas whose name was on those newsletters twenty years ago.
You feel tricked, right? A little bait-and-switch. Hey, the guy’s writing about the death penalty and Texas and now he’s dragging that old cracker into it. Look, I sometimes drive this thing kind of loose and don’t always put the turn signal on. You can jump out now and nobody will know.
Ron Paul is annoying the hell out everybody. The Republicans want to shut him up. He stood on the stage at the South Carolina debate and acted as though he was addressing a meeting of the congressional black caucus.
The death penalty ought to be abolished, he said, because it discriminates against blacks. Drug laws, too, he said. Black people are 14% of the population but comprise one-third of those arrested and 60% of those incarcerated. That’s racism, he said, and a very good reason to legalize all drugs.
A moderator, scarcely believing his ears, asked him if he was serious. Didn’t he realize that this would lead to a much greater drug problem? Paul’s answer, let’s see a show of hands, all those who would run right out and buy heroin.
Paul is an embarrassment to modern-day Republicans because he’s a genuine conservative. That means he’s against the federal government assuming all sorts of powers not granted to it by the constitution, among these the power to regulate what you do with your body, what you do in your own home, and what you do with your property. He’s also against the President waging wars all over the world, especially since the constitution does not give him that authority.
The fake conservatives, the Gingriches and Palins and Santorums who have taken over a big piece of the party pretend they’re against big government, but what they really are is against big government meddling with the rich or trying to regulate the corporations; they’re fine with Big Brother in your bedroom. They love big government when it comes to blowing the shit out of people in other countries.
Paul’s a problem for the Democrats, too. Here they are, gearing up for another electoral tussle, rounding up the troops to support the President, and there’s this other candidate who’s exposing the moral corruption of Barack Obama.
The owners of the country would like an election between two candidates they control. In a two-person race between Obama and Romney, let’s say, the candidates will spar over things like budgets and health care and foreign policy and energy and so forth, but the real difference between them will be nonexistent.
Both support keeping health care private and controlled by the insurance industry. Both support engaging in wars all over the world for global commercial advantage, big banks, and multinational corporations, only they will call it ‘freedom’ or ‘defense’ or some other mutually-acceptable lie.
They will fight over pretend differences. Obama will back ‘green’ jobs but continue to spend money to build new nuclear plants, the first since Three Mile Island; Romney will say we should drill more. Obama will pretend that coal is clean. Romney will say that everything’s on the table. The table is very popular these days and everything will be on it.
Everything will be on the table in foreign policy, too. Romney will accuse Obama of being soft on terrorism and Obama will respond by pointing out that he’s killed more civilians than Bush did, assassinated a bunch of suspected Al Qaeda sympathizers, and blown up an occasional wedding party. He’ll brag that we overthrew the Libyan government without losing a soldier. Then he’ll haul out the flag he got from the SEAL team which killed bin Laden. Both will warn Iran, or Syria, or whoever is next on the target list.
They will be for jobs, too. Romney will say he’ll create jobs and Obama will say he has already created some and is creating more. Both will be lying, but you knew that.
Real issues will not be discussed because neither candidate is interested in them. They’re too dangerous. Besides, with both candidates heavily-funded by Goldman Sachs and Citigroup and Bank of America, nothing of real significance will be in prospect for the next presidential term, whoever fills it.
The problem with Ron Paul is that the Democrats realize he might run as an independent and if he does Obama’s in big trouble.
That’s because on a wide range of issues, from war and peace to civil liberties to the bank bailouts, Paul’s views are one hell of a lot closer to mainstream Democratic Party values than are Obama’s. That sure sounds weird, but these are weird times.
Like a lot of people, I at first figured Paul’s antiwar stance was an oddity. Then I saw a few of his remarks not only about Iraq and Afghanistan but about other places where Obama’s policies are aggressive and violent.
I saw him speak about Iran. I don’t know why nobody else seems able to tell the truth here. The rest of the Republicans are barely able to find it on a map but they’re ready to blow the place up, kill ‘em all, because, well, they’re not sure but they just know Iran’s run by bad guys. Probably they saw it in F*X News.
Obama’s policies are more clever but just as ugly. He increases economic sanctions, threatening to cut off the ability of Iran to sell its oil. He moves battleships into the area. He lies about the Iranian nuclear program, claiming it’s moving to build nuclear weapons and would be a threat to its neighbors, e.g. Israel. Hillary echoes the saber-rattling.
But Iran’s position is actually quite logical. For one thing, it has not only invited inspectors but offered to extend their stay. It denies that it’s enriching uranium for weapons, which may be true; even if it’s not, it’s at least three years away from being able to build a bomb and if it builds one that will only give Israel a 200-1 superiority. Only Paul points that out.
Only Ron Paul talks about Iran with a sense of history. He talks about how the United States, through the CIA, in league with England’s MI5, overthrew the elected President of Iran and ousted its democratic government in the early ‘fifties, installing the Shah and creating a reign of terror which lasted more than twenty-five years. That’s one reason they don’t trust us, Paul says. His is the only voice to say this.
He also says that any interest Iran had in nuclear weapons would be justified because countries with nuclear weapons are not attacked by the U.S., whereas countries without them, such as Iraq, get hit. He also points out that the economic sanctions Obama is increasing against Iran are acts of war under international law.
You can see why the Democrats want to shut him up. He makes Obama look like what he is.
On the boards, the attacks on Paul are escalating, and the distortions are getting ratcheted up nicely. He’s a racist, they say, based on eight pages of objectionable content in thousands of pages in three newsletters from twenty years ago. Yes, those comments were rather disgusting; well, seven of them. I thought one was pretty funny. He’s answered those charges years ago and has answered them recently. Maybe his answers sound contrived to you or maybe not. I don’t have a problem with him on this issue. I think he’s less racist than any other candidate in the race. And that includes you know who. I’m happy to debate it anytime.
Paul’s antiwar position is also under attack., which is creepy. He’s only against war for economic reasons, some people write. Of course, were that true, it would not invalidate it. I’m personally in favor of anyone ending wars for whatever reason turns them on. There isn’t one war going on right now which seems justified to me.
But Paul is not antiwar for economic reasons. He’s against it for a lot of reasons, including moral reasons, and his position, I think, is the only sane one in this race. In Iowa, for the caucuses, he ran this commercial. I defy anyone to watch it and tell me this guy doesn’t understand what America’s doing and why it’s wrong.
This is not a candidate satisfied with a slogan or two but one who wants to explain things. America’s policies have histories, he says. Our relations with other nations have antecedents. It is important to understand historical context, to respect the feelings and traditions of others. You sure don’t get that from Hillary “Glad He’s Dead” Clinton.
Paul is also right about NAFTA. He does not see it as ‘free trade’ but as corporate-imposed rules which screw the poor, send jobs overseas, and promote a lot of mischief such as the Mexican drug wars. Obama at least knew this, but his campaign promise to make changes in NAFTA have never been mentioned since.
Paul’s right about the banks, too, and the rest of those candidates are wrong. Critics on the left say his economic policies are crazy, but how crazy is his analysis of the banking disaster? The left counted on the federal agencies to police the banks. We know how well that worked out. The banks simply corrupted the oversight agencies and got their people inside Clinton’s cabinet to deregulate.
The difference with Paul is that he would not have bailed them out. Period. Too big too fail? Nope. Bye bye. So the money the government had which got shoveled to the crooks would instead be available to real people. The math is pretty instructive. Had the 1.4 trillion (it’s turned out to be much, much more) handed to the biggest offenders, been instead distributed per capita to underwater mortgage holders, it would’ve kept nearly everybody in their homes and pumped the money directly into the economy.
The only people looking for work would’ve been the investment bankers.
But with Bush and Obama, the banks consolidated, bought out smaller competitors, and wound up bigger today than they were before the crash. The bailout never even required them to account for how they spent it. Some of it was used to buy government securities, which created what one banker gleefully called ‘free money’ as we, the taxpayers, paid the banks interest on our own money.
Doesn’t anybody think this is crazy? I mean, besides Ron Paul?
Then we have a little thing called the Bill of Rights. Without it, you can kiss your ass goodbye. Obama, a constitutional lawyer by training, pushed through Congress a defense authorization act which effectively lays the foundation for a police state. For the first time in American history, it authorizes the military to take into custody anyone it believes may be aiding terrorists. No warrants, no specifications, no lawyers, no appeals. Obama assures us, don’t worry, I won’t use it, probably. All the candidates supported it except Paul.
Ron Paul wants to repeal the odious, un-American Patriot Act as well as the NDAA bill’s detention provisions. Again, he’s alone here.
Of course, he also wants to restrict the CIA to its original role of intelligence gathering. The last politician who wanted to do that rode in the wrong motorcade.
Then there’s the matter of government secrecy. Remember Barack Obama, the candidate? The budget would be online, people would be able to see what lobbyists got what out of their lobbying. Whistle blowers would be protected. Hahaha, pretty good jokes. His government is crazier for secrecy than Bush’s was, and it goes to court all the time to keep it that way.
Ron Paul talks about openness, too, but he can get specific. He calls Bradley Manning an American hero, which he is, even though Manning is facing life in prison for disclosing secrets to WikiLeaks, and some members of both parties want him executed. The Obama government has held Manning for 19 months in conditions roundly criticized by Amnesty International, the International Red Cross, and U.N. oversight committees as being against international law and constituting torture.
I suppose Paul is open to attacks on environmental issues, though there are a few points about even that. One, he wouldn’t try to prevent nuclear power. But the fact is, right now Obama not only supports it but has authorized millions in subsidies. Nuclear power, you see, needs subsidies. It also needs protection from lawsuits but nobody will insure it for obvious reasons. Paul would simply end federal subsidies and federal insurance guarantees, and there would go nuclear power. Not only that, there would be no place to store the waste because the feds would not be able to force a state such as Nevada to accept it.
Two, increasingly in California, state measures to protect the environment are being overturned in federal court because federal rules are less strict. State efforts on automobile emissions have been knocked down that way. Paul would leave it to the states.
It may be simple-minded and even totally nutso to say, as Paul does, that the market and the tort system would provide better environmental protection, but considering that the present system enables the biggest polluters to do whatever they want to with the complicity of corrupt federal oversight agencies, and considering that the powerful will certainly try to corrupt any such agency under any administration, it’s maybe worth rethinking the whole thing.
San Francisco recently passed an ordinance requiring sellers of cell phones to notify customers of the tested emissions of the differing brands. This is of interest to people who are concerned with studies showing spikes in the rate of brain cancer with the use of cell phones. The federal government struck down the ordinance on the grounds that commerce is regulated by the feds.
In Fairfax, where I live, attempts to ban plastic bags or certain types of non-recyclables have brought threats of expensive lawsuits based on the supremacy of federal rules.
Also in Fairfax, the local dispensary for medical marijuana, which had the unanimous support of the town council and which has existed since California voters approved it, has been forced to close because the U.S. Attorney, on orders from the Obama administration, has cracked down on dispensaries, threatening landlords with seizing their property and throwing people in jail. More than two hundred have been closed in the state.
Contrary to what some morons think, medical marijuana has legitimate uses and has aided a great many people with a variety of illnesses. There is considerable scientific and medical proof of this, including a huge government-funded study at U.C.L.A. But for reasons which I concede are hard to imagine, Obama has forced many dispensaries to close, making it much harder for sick people to access what for them is medicine.
Ron Paul does not think any of this is the business of the federal government. He is right, and he’s the only one who is.
So, go ahead, let’s have it. He’s, as one old friend recently put it, batshit crazy. He wants to take possession of women’s uteruses, as someone else wrote to me. He hates blacks, women, gays, anyone who’s not white. I don’t buy any of it, but we’ve got plenty of time to have this conversation.
The Republicans would never have permitted him to get the nomination no matter how many primaries he won, and he’s not winning them anyhow. The G.O.P. will choose Romney, probably, because he seems like a better shot than the rest of those grotesqueries. Legitimate third-party challengers such as Rocky Anderson can’t even get on the ballot in some states and nobody in the mass media is paying him any attention.
You can see where this is probably going. And if the two-party-controlled operation which runs the presidential debates tries to keep Paul out they’ll have problems they can’t even imagine. But letting him in would mean problems for the two major party hacks they’d do about anything to avoid.