Calling All Clergy!!

Here's a new calling for you, corrections officers!!

Forget it Hagger. You're Church of England and not American, so you don't count as Christian in Alabama. Margaret Watson, we know you're working for the liberals and the terrorists. And Tobias Haller is a humanist intellectual in a collar, talk about a wolf in shepherd's clothing!

Besides, in Alabama all y'all ain't Christian 'cause you're Piskapalins. Lutherans and UCC ain't Christian neither. Catholics? Go tell it to Mitt Romney!

Synagogue? Mosque? Temple? Sacred Grove? Sweat Lodge? To the slammer you filthy heathens!

But if you were part of GAGCON or ACNE or the Southern Baptist Convention, this would be a dream come true! A priest with a Bible, a badge, and a gun! In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, assume the position!!

For some Catholic priests, this would be a fantasy come true.

This blog is turning into an extension of JoeMyGod.

Elizabeth Warren Vindicated

John Galt is publicly subsidized.

Yet another hat tip to JoeMyGod. Where does he find these things?

I Want One !!!!!!

Hat tip to JoeMyGod.

Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition!

Punching Hippies

Of course nothing will happen. The mayor, the police department, and the police unions have already circled the wagons to head off any meaningful investigation, but this looks very high handed to me.

This happened at last weekend's Wall Street protest.
The cops corralled a small group of protesters, and then one police supervisor very casually sprayed mace point blank into the face of a woman protester in the corral.

The general behavior of the cops was a lot more rough and brutal than was really necessary, but the security of The Casino must be preserved at all hazards, I suppose. A few punched out hippies is but a small price to pay ... for something.

This is actually true to form for NYC cops. The people who own and run the city hate disorder, especially political disorder. It threatens property values. So their agents in the city government come down hard on anyone (especially anyone who isn't loaded with money) who kicks up the dust, complains, makes noise, and looks like trouble.

Someone who has been surprisingly outraged by this and eagerly updating his material is not a usual left wing rabble-rouser (e.g. Digby), but the eminently civilized and learned Atlantic columnist James Fallows.

Indeed, I agree with Mr. Fallows that the chorus of "tsk tsk tsk" coming from the Establishment pundits over these kids who refuse to be "civil" rings hollow in the face of the Establishment's obliging countenance of far right crowds at very well funded and well covered Republican candidates' debates repeatedly baying for blood, even booing an active duty soldier in Iraq. So who's the crazy nutcase here?


The Nation's Allison Kilkenny was there and has a very different take on the event from the NYTimes' very dismissive coverage. She also points out that such events are becoming more and more difficult at a time when the Right to Peaceably Assemble is ever more tightly regulated.

Political "Eunuchs" and "Hermaphrodites"

... thus Frank Rich describes all the centrist movements from "No Labels," to the Tom Friedman/Mayor Bloomberg middle-of-the-road agenda, to the "bipartisanship" and "civility" so beloved of the Washington Establishment punditocracy (Saint David Broder pray for us). Rich calls for more, and even more partisanship in his current column. Why indeed should everyone who is not a flaming right wing freak declare preemptive surrender? He points out that the extremists poised to take over Washington are beyond anything Reagan or Goldwater ever imagined (indeed Goldwater gets posthumously vilified as a "sell out" by today's far right). This generation of the far right wants to sell off every government, from the Feds to your town council, off to the highest bidder. Rich warns, rightly I think, that Perry is far from done in the debates, that he could very well win the nomination, and go on to win the Presidency. The voting population on all sides is angry and frightened in the 3rd year of the "Lesser Depression," and ready to throw everybody, every incumbent regardless of party, out. Rich points out that the Koch brothers must be laughing at how easy their nominal opponents are making their buyout of the whole political process.

As Hendrik Hertzberg pointed out years ago, "niceness is the enemy of fairness."

It's A Start

Some kids staged a noisy protest on Wall Street yesterday apparently upsetting the Big Daddies. On the one hand, it appears to be the usual unfocused left wing mess, everything from Save the Polecat to Neuter Rick Perry. On the other hand, the US press coverage is entirely dismissive, as it was for the protests that turned out more than a million each here in the Big Apple at the start of the Iraq invasion. I think those crazy hippy kids may well speak for a lot more people than were actually there. Some people like me are giving them the old Texas A&M cheer, "Gig em Aggies!"

We'll see what happens next.

The Only Reason I'd Ever Watch a Republican Debate ...

... is to see which one would eat a live kitten. My money would be on the ever floundering Newt, but then, I wouldn't put it past Frothy Mix or Crazy Eyes. They're desperate for attention from a crowd eager to kill anything except a fetus. Who will be the Ozzy Osbourne of right wing politics?

Newt? Frothy? Gov. Goodhair? RonPaul? Crazy Eyes? Surely not Mittens! You think?

Justice vs. Revenge

In years past, I was a death penalty supporter. There were crimes so horrific and so vast that no punishment was truly commensurate. Adolph Eichmann deserved to hang at the very least for all the millions of innocent lives he cut short (Israel retains the death penalty, but Eichmann's remains the only official execution that country has ever carried out). I never supported an assembly line approach to the death penalty, as a kind of automatic and inevitable punishment for certain offenses. I always wanted to keep it in reserve for "special cases" like Eichmann's.

Over time, I changed my mind even about that.

Andrew Cohen ultimately takes a "middle position" on the death penalty, but the bulk of his argument points to the conclusions reached by Justices from William O'Douglas to John Paul Stevens to Ruth Bader Ginzburg, that it is inherently impossible to administer the death penalty in a fair and dispassionate way, that the whole process inevitably violates the letter and the spirit of the Eighth Amendment forbidding cruel and unusual punishment.

Death is the one penalty that cannot be undone. There's no such thing as posthumous commutation, and posthumous "pardons" are more for the living than for the deceased who is beyond all relief. A mistaken or unjust conviction remains forever done and never to be undone.

There is always the common wisdom that fair or not, the condemned got more justice than he ever showed his victims. Cohen replies to that truism thus:
That's why we outlaw lynching, why angry mobs can't storm jailhouses, and why we have judges. It's why we have a Constitution. In America, we aim to give the guilty more justice than they deserve. We do so because of how that reflects upon us, not upon how it reflects upon the guilty. And when we fail to do so it says more about us than it does about the condemned.

I think the death penalty more than any other confounds the line between justice and revenge. Victims of crimes deserve and demand redress. However, people accused of notorious crimes have the right to contest the accusations, and to have a fair review of the evidence and testimony brought against them. An impartial magistrate or jury decides if the case has been made, and if so, what sort of punishment shall be meted out.

And what is the alternative to law and due process? Vendetta. The whole point of a criminal justice system is to spare people the risks and burdens of vendetta. It's to preserve communities from coming undone from the conflicts inevitably generated by revenge. Where would you rather live? In a civil society that functions despite all of its faults and corruptions, or in the State of Nature described by Hobbes, the "war of all against all?"

All religions (yes even Islam) condemn revenge because its fire is unquenchable and destroys everything around it. Revenge distorts justice by turning victims to crime and turning deserving criminals into undeserving victims.

Cohen uses the example of Timothy McVeigh as someone whose crime truly merited the death penalty. On the contrary, I think his death is a great example of vindictive passions distorting the course of justice, and not the passions of his victims, but McVeigh's. McVeigh expressed relief upon his sentencing. He said that the one thing he dreaded was a life sentence without parole. I think it is telling that he eventually stopped all of his appeals. McVeigh wanted to go out in a blaze of glory as a martyr for white supremacy, and he got what he wanted complete with a broadcast recitation of his favorite poem, "Invictus" by William Ernest Henley. If it was up to me, he would have spent a long life in short cell, pondering upon what he did.

There are people who do evil things that should not only be punished, but should remove them permanently from society. I'm all for meting out punishment to the guilty. Lawrence Russell Brewer committed about as horrific and evil an act as anyone could imagine, chaining a man to the back of his truck and dragging him to his death for no reason except that he felt that his victim was the wrong color. The passions of revenge would demand that Russell at least suffer the same fate. Vengeance was only partially satisfied by his execution. Was justice satisfied? Brewer is now as dead as his victim James Byrd, and neither is coming back.

And what will happen if it comes out that Brewer's execution was driven by political expediency as much as by justice? The taint of racism hangs heavily over the whole Texas judiciary system. Could it be that the state decided that one homicidal racist was a small price to pay to dispel at least some of that cloud? And would justice really be served then? It's doubts like these that caused even conservative justices like Stevens to turn against the death penalty.

In 1936, Fritz Lang made a very striking movie about the shifting line between justice and revenge called Fury.

And finally, there is this from Albert Camus:
But what then is capital punishment but the most premeditated of murders, to which no criminal's deed, however calculated it may be, can be compared? For there to be equivalence, the death penalty would have to punish a criminal who had warned his victim of the date at which he would inflict a horrible death on him and who, from that moment onward, had confined him at his mercy for months. Such a monster is not encountered in private life.

I Look Forward To the Day ...

... when all the anti-gay bigots are looking out at the world from behind the self-made walls of Idaho compounds along with the racists.

Freedom and Dignity: Forward and Back

A head of state, President Obama, addresses the United Nations General Assembly about the promise of universal freedom and dignity for everyone, and for the first time by a head of state at such an occasion, explicitly mentions gays and lesbians. Realizing the universal claim of humankind on freedom and dignity is a promise that is within our means and within our grasp for the first time in history.

And here is someone who was not a head of state who had a deeply personal investment in that promise of freedom and dignity, Jamey Rodemeyer of Buffalo, New York.

He died Sunday by suicide after the bullying got worse at his school after he made this video.

There are many around the world who believe that Jamey and his family are but a small price to pay for a purer simpler world for those who claim dominion over it.

So, what kind of world do you want to live in?

Do you want a world where everyone, including people like Jamey, can lay their claim upon it and make their own lives in peace?

Or, do you want a world reshaped and purified according to some ideological or doctrinal template where only those who fit perfectly have any real claim upon the world, and others are simply expendable, others like Jamey?

In the future days, which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms.

The first is freedom of speech and expression -- everywhere in the world.

The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way -- everywhere in the world.

The third is freedom from want, which, translated into world terms, means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants -- everywhere in the world.

The fourth is freedom from fear, which, translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor -- anywhere in the world.

That is no vision of a distant millennium. It is a definite basis for a kind of world attainable in our own time and generation. That kind of world is the very antithesis of the so-called “new order” of tyranny which the dictators seek to create with the crash of a bomb.

To that new order we oppose the greater conception -- the moral order. A good society is able to face schemes of world domination and foreign revolutions alike without fear.

--President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, January 6, 1941

Elizabeth Warren

Some people, I suppose, will see this as the rantings of a flaming radical Bolshevik about to set the flag on fire. To me, it reads like a responsible adult describing the responsibilities of citizens in a civilized society, as opposed to the fond wishes of self absorbed teenagers who want to live in something more like a dog pack.

I hear all this, you know, “Well, this is class warfare, this is whatever.”—No!

There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own. Nobody.

You built a factory out there—good for you! But I want to be clear.

You moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for.

You hired workers the rest of us paid to educate.

You were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces that the rest of us paid for.

You didn’t have to worry that marauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory, and hire someone to protect against this, because of the work the rest of us did.

Now look, you built a factory and it turned into something terrific, or a great idea—God bless. Keep a big hunk of it.

But part of the underlying social contract is you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along.

Hat tip to Eschaton.