Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – April 26, 2013

The horrific Boston Marathon Bombing has many in the media calling for the death penalty for the surviving accused perpetrator. Obviously now is as good a time as any for us to think about the death penalty itself. Meanwhile there are now six Democratic senators retiring from the Senate making 2014 a very important year. And finally, Congress has found a way to circumvent the impact of sequestration so that there won’t be flight delays – but what about everything else?

No Matter What You Call It

The arrest and arraignment of suspected Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has occasioned the call for the death penalty. Elected officials, media commentators and public opinion seems be frighteningly disposed to put this man to death.

So now is a good time to remember that the United States is one of the few remaining countries to engage in government-sanctioned murder. There are over 140 countries that have outlawed capital punishment, but by clinging to this bit of bloody justice this country joins countries like China, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan in equating death with justice.

The irony of those who would deny women the right to choose whether or not have an abortion calling themselves “pro-life” while they call for the state to murder someone or simply stand by without protest is exponentially ironic. This society should be better than this.
Killing someone because they committed a crime does not sound like justice. It sounds like revenge.

More Drama on the Way

This past week Montana Senator Max Baucus announced that he will not run for reelection in 2014. That makes six – count them – 6 Democratic senate seats that will be vacant in the 2014 election. If the Teapublicans were to run the table and keep all of their vacant and incumbent seats and peel off the six Democratic seats they will have the majority in the Senate.

If that happens President Obama will be left with learning to become ambidextrous with his veto pen – as he will have little else to do. If you think that the Teapublicans have been negative and obstructionist over the last 5 ½ years, I am sure we haven’t seen the Teapublicans at their tantrum worst if they obtain the majority in the House and the Senate.
While November 4, 2014 seems like it is a long way away, it really isn’t. Circle that date on your calendar now and get ready to vote like your life depends on it…..because in reality it does.

Selective Strangulation

When sequestration kicked in at the beginning of March there was immediate concern that the federal government would immediately grind to a halt. That this did not happen was seen by delusional Teapublicans as proving that the draconian budget cuts imposed by this monstrous, self-imposed suicide mechanism called sequestration weren’t really that bad.

Thoughtful observers have always known that sequestration began the slow strangulation of the federal, state and local governments. The impact has not been immediate but there are already longer lines at veterans’ hospitals, staff cuts in social service agencies and law enforcement agencies are sending their officers home.

This past week the Federal Aviation Agency began furloughing air traffic controllers and that has led to excruciating flight delays across the country. And miraculously, because of the inconvenience to (mostly) business travelers and potential damage to the profits in the airline industry, Congress has acted to restore funding to the FAA that will allow air traffic controllers to work without interruption.

But don’t you wonder why the veterans awaiting critical care, children requiring vital social services and law enforcement agencies that protect us all aren’t as much as priority.

And meanwhile the governmental structure of the United States slowly succumbs to this slow strangulation called sequestration.

Have a great weekend!

Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – September 23, 2011

As the week meanders to an end this country continues its love affair with death – another week, another two state-sponsored executions. But the fact that only one execution was the subject of protest tells a lot about this country’s ambivalence when it comes to killing people. Meanwhile, Rodeo Rick Perry has been bamboozled and hogtied by the right wing of the right wing of Israel and they have him spreading the gasoline of incendiary rhetoric in the most flammable region of the world – Yee Haw! It is also clear that now is the time for Ralph Nader to stop before he does more harm to this country than he did in 2000.

In Love with Death

This past Wednesday morning there was a wave of national protest aimed at stopping the execution of Troy Davis in the state of Georgia. Much of this protest against Mr. Davis being legally put to death has been based on claims that he is actually innocent of the murder with which he has been charged.

Meanwhile the execution of Lawrence Russell Brewer in the state of Texas was accompanied by the sounds of silence. Mr. Brewer, who is white, was convicted of the particularly gruesome murder of James Byrd, a black man. Mr. Brewer was convicted to wrapping a chain around Mr. Byrd and dragging him to death from the back of a pickup truck.

There are 137 countries on this planet that have outlawed capital punishment. Australia banned the practice in 1984, Bulgaria in 1998 and Russia (as a matter of practice if not law) in 1999. None of these countries are thought of as being particularly soft on crime.

Nevertheless, this country continues its dance of death, joined by its dance partners – China, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. In 2007 88% of all state sponsored executions in the world took place in three countries plus the United States of America. It is certainly a dubious accomplishment.

It is more than odd that, in a country where the sanctity of life is regularly proclaimed and defended (witness the ongoing choice-right to life debate); those who announce themselves to be “pro-life” are decidedly “pro-death” when it comes to capital punishment. Witness Texas governor “Rodeo” Rick Perry who will proudly let anyone know that 243 human beings have been put to death while he has been in office (that comes to a state sponsored killing every other week for ten years) – and he hasn’t lost a minute’s sleep about it.

It seems that the occasional protest against the execution of someone who may be innocent misses the point. Capital punishment is a state-sponsored crime. Whether it is the possibly innocent Troy Davis or the admittedly guilty Lawrence Brewer, it is wrong for the government to put people to death. People who only rally around the “innocent man” actually do a disservice to the cause of abolishing capital punishment and they should make up their mind – either the death penalty should be a part of this society, or not.

Perhaps it is just finally time for the United States to drag itself away from this medieval relic. And the occasional protestors would have a much stronger argument, and much broader support, if they opposed all state sponsored murders, instead of just a select few.

Rodeo Rick is Loco!

The misadventures of Rodeo Rick Perry in his quest for the presidency would be laughable if the stakes weren’t so high. His latest gaffe was to allow his campaign to be hijacked by the right wing of the right wing of Israel.

While it was clear that he knew next to nothing about the Arab-Israeli conflict except that Israel is always right, that didn’t stop him from opposing any accommodation or recognition of the Palestine Authority. He made sure to also say, “Who cares what the Palestinians think?”

One shudders to think what Palestinians and their supporters will think about the United States with Rick Perry as its president. We should also worry about what they will do. There’s a line from a Janis Joplin song, “…….freedom is another word for nothing left to lose…..”

It is Time for Nader to Stop

Ralph Nader was rightfully called a hero when he almost singlehandedly took on General Motors and exposed the company’s treacherous safety practices in his historic book “Unsafe At Any Speed”. Mr. Nader was rightfully called a villain, and worse, for his vainglorious presidential candidacy in 2000 which siphoned just enough votes from Al Gore, giving the Republican Party just enough leverage to be able to steal the election for George W. Bush. And we all know how that turned out.

Now, Ralph Nader is calling for a series of primaries against President Obama in 2012. These primaries can only weaken the candidacy of President Obama and could very likely result in the inauguration of President Perry or President Bachmann or…………. On that very sad day in January of 2013 Mr. Nader might be satisfied that he proved his point – but the rest of us will suffer from his self-indulgence.

It is time for Nader to stop…………..now.

Have a great weekend!