The Death Penalty

Killing time

September 25th 2011

 The main problem with the Troy Davis execution wasn’t that the man was almost certainly innocent of the crime he was being killed for; the problem was that no civilized nation should have the death penalty in the first place.

I’m not going to discuss the particulars of the Davis case. If you somehow haven’t heard about it, there’s a million places on the web to find thousands of different opinions, pro and con.

Instead, I’m going to discuss the guilt or innocence of the people who murdered him. That would be you and me, since it was done in our names.

Troy Davis is far from unique. There are 140 men walking free today who had been on death row, found guilty of a capital crime by twelve peers on a jury and sentenced by a judge. Through the work, not of the justice system, but legal volunteers, mostly in the Innocence Project, all 140 men were saved from execution by proof that they did not commit the crime. Witnesses lied. Cops fabricated evidence. In some cases, everyone was simply mistaken. Cops, anxious to close a case that was stirring public passion, arrested someone who might plausibly by the suspect, and witnesses, anxious not to have to spend months on the case, testified with far more certainty than they felt.

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No longer just under the eyes

September 19th 2011

 It was a sign of the times. Even as they ignored demonstrations in the Wall Street area of Manhattan, CNN breathlessly reported that in a totally meaningless straw poll in California, Ron Paul was the winner! Nearly 834 votes were cast (833, actually), and Paul got 44.9% of them, or 374 votes. Rick Perry was second with 29.3%, or 245 votes. Mittens was a distant third with 8.8%, or 73 votes. The poll didn’t break down the rest of the votes (141) but I would be very surprised if Jon Huntsman, the only other GOP candidate who isn’t a whirling loon, got ten votes. So, assuming that Mittens and Huntsman can qualify as sane, that means that out of 833 GOP delegates, 10% at most voted for candidates who are possibly sane.

Slow news day. No mechanical-orchestra type ‘debates’ from the GOP in flag-bedraped caverns that Jon Stewart memorably described as “looking like Betsy Ross’ vagina”. No Democratic politicians caught in minor sex scandals. And they didn’t care to discuss actual news stories, like the unfolding Greek debt crisis, or the UN vote on Palestine, or that Obama wants to tax capital gains like regular income.

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9/11 Times Ten

Al Qaida lost. But so did America

September 11th 2011

A lot of people are observing the tenth anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center. Most simply want to remember the people who died that awful day, and to resolve to make such events a remote part of human history. Some want to use it to spread hate, usually against Moslems, sometimes against Jews. (That crackpot theory about how all Jews were told not to report to work at the Twin Towers on 9/11 is still making the rounds, and a lot of people still believe the Iraqis had something to do with it.)

Others simply want to keep Americans scared and docile.

It’s right and proper that we mourn the innocent dead, and condemn the sort of sick thinking that leads to such attacks. We’ll celebrate the heroism of the first responders, and those on Flight 93.

Many will question exactly what did happen that day, since much remains unresolved and unknown. The Truthers will clamor for attention even as their numbers slowly ebb.

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Girl Geniuses

Mixing the sublime and the outlandish

September 8th 2011

Time to take a break from Politics. Ron Paul is the leading GOP candidate this week, Obama is giving a speech on labor that has unions ready to bolt the Democratic Party, it doesn’t get much crazier than that, so let’s take a break.

Have you ever had a situation where you encounter two new things in your life that both strike your fancy, and even though they have little or nothing to do with one another, they become inescapably wedded in your mind, so that you can’t enjoy one without thinking of the other?

In my instance, the two items are a folk album by a Danish artist virtually unknown in the United States, and a comic book. About the only thing they have in common is that the central person involved in each is female.

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Labor Day 2011

America isn’t working

September 3rd 2011

The labor situation in America this Labor Day weekend? Rotten. Dire. Devastating. Grim. Or, in economic terms, “less than optimal.”

The top problem, of course, is unemployment. The U3, the standard measure the Bureau of Labor Statistics uses to measure unemployment, stands at 9.1%. However, the twelve million people in that bleak number are only part of the tale. The U6, which includes “discouraged workers” and people who got moved from full-time jobs to positions paying less than 33 hours a week, stands at 18.9%.

There are two million or so for whom the 99 week extension on Unemployment Benefits have run out, and so are no longer even considered part of the labor force. Then there are the twelve million unemployables who aren’t disabled but are unable to get work because of criminal records, disfigurements or lack of education. And of course, the three million or so who are in the American gulags at any given time.

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