Thursday, August 16, 2007
ALBERTO GONZALES WANTS TO KILL YOU QUICKLY
I think my biggest problem with the execution of Saddam Hussein was that his executioners wore ski masks. From where I sit, executioners should always wear giant black hoods. These also have the benefit of being appropriate for certain sexual practices. I'm nothing if not versitile. Seriously girls, call me.
I guess what I'm saying is that I like the death penalty. Okay, I should tell the truth. I love capital punishment. If it were up to me, its use would be expanded to include double parking, being an asshole in movie theatres and taking your fucking children on a commercial flight. I don't give a shit who you are or what your excuse is, I want to give you a lethal injection. But that's just me. I'm a "people person."
However, like most things that I believe in, the Bush administration is making me start to question my commitment to the death penalty. By the time George W. Bush and his demented and terribly wrong minons finish their unholy reign of error on 20 January 2009, I doubt that I'll even be sure of my own name.
These people have the extraordinary gift of taking a proposition that I've supported for decades and fucking about with the logic behind it until I'm not sure which of us suffered a head injury. Although whenever Attorney General Alberto Gonzales is involved, I'm pretty sure that he's the one who got clunked on the noggin. His memory loss as demonstrated in the recent U.S Attorneys controversy is symptomatic of blunt force trauma. On the other hand, I should point out that I'm not a doctor and it's entirely possible that Gonzales is just a fool.
Because I'm a supporter of capital punishment, I feel I have a special responsibilty to be pretty sure that the condemned is actually guilty. I know, I'm funny that way. Opponents of the death penalty are practically wetting their fucking pants waiting for a demonstrably innocent person to get put to sleep because that will further their abolitionist argument. And yes, I actually do believe that liberals are that evil.
The Attorney General feels differently than I do. He wants to kill some folks and he wants it done yesterday.
Small problem. There are only 53 inmates currently on the federal death row, where he has some actual jurisdiction. He could go through that many in a weekend. God knows, he and his boss did back home in Texas. Ah, the good old days.
What to do, what to do.....
How did I know that the Patriot Act had something to do with this? Remember when that little monstrosity was supposed to be a response to the terrorist threat and "responsible officeholders" in both parties assured everyone that it would never be expanded to encompass regular crime? Guess what? They lied to you. The USA Patriot Act now even governs where and how you get certain types of cold medication. That'll show bin Laden! He better not get the fucking sniffles in Madison, Wisconsin!
Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales, under political siege for his handling of the U.S. attorney firings and other issues, is to get expanded powers to hasten death penalty cases under regulations being developed by the Justice Department.
The rules would give Gonzales the authority to approve "fast-track" procedures by states in death penalty cases, enabling them to carry out sentences more speedily and with fewer opportunities for appeal if those states provide adequate representation for capital defendants.
Such powers were previously held by federal judges, but a provision of the USA Patriot Act reauthorization bill approved by Congress last year hands the authority to the attorney general.
Now the Patriot Act is being used to hasten the execution of people convicted of crimes completely unrelated to terrorism. How's that for responsible, conservative government? Having said that, I do recognize that Gonzales still has eighteen months to amend the Patriot Act further so that it empowers air marshalls to shoot people who bring their fucking children on an airplane, so it can't be all bad.
Under the regulations, death row inmates would have six months, instead of a year, to file appeals in the federal courts, and federal judges would have less time to consider petitions in capital cases.Uh oh. Danger, Will Robinson, Danger!
As I mentioned earlier, supporters of the death penalty have a special responsibility to ensure that capital punishment is imposed in the fairest way possible and that every possible constitutional guarantee afforded the defendant has been protected. You cannot in good conscience support the death penalty without doing the above at a minimum. Not in an age where 200 convictions have been overturned by DNA evidence. As soon as one demonstrably innocent person is put to death, law and order conservatives will be forever discredited on the issue. That is particularly true if an innocent person slips through the cracks due to short-circuting the system in the way the Congress is allowing.
Besides, while I support the death penalty, I don't believe it should be easy for the state to end the lives of its citizens. That's a pretty goddamned conservative position when you think really hard about it. This is different than delivering the mail, folks.
On first glance, it appears that the new legislation has been modelled on the obscene system that has been in place in Texas for over a decade now. In Texas a convict has 30 days to appeal. After that time, not even new evidence of actual innocence is admissible. Let's say that you've been convicted of murder. If, 31 days after your conviction, a videotape of someone else committing the crime surfaces, you cannot use that as grounds for judicial review. The Commonwealth of Virginia actually has - and enforces - a 21 day limit on the introduction of new evidence.
But Alberto Gonzales is a sober, thoughtful and responsible public servant, right?
The proposed changes, reported yesterday by the Los Angeles Times, would hand new authority to Gonzales as leading Democrats and some Republicans have called for his resignation and questioned his truthfulness. Earlier this month, Congress gave Gonzales greater powers in overseeing the government's warrantless wiretapping program.Oh, right. I forgot about that.
The cases of the of the U.S Attorneys dismissal and the warrantless wiretaps is instructive in shedding some light on just who this authority is being given to. Any fair-minded person who has reviewed the Attorney General's testimony before Congress can conclude only that he's a liar or an idiot. Even Senate Republicans are calling for his removal now.
How in the name of Christ can the power to short-circut the due process rights afforded by the Constitution be given to someone with a history of being incapable of either doing his job properly or telling the truth? How can anyone support that?
Furthermore, the federal government has expanded its jurisdiction in death penalty cases beyond all reason in the last twenty years. Traditionally, capital punishment has only been a federal issue in areas of law that directly affect the federal government under the Constitution. These would include treason, terrorism and kidnapping (which is presumed to involve the crossing of state lines in the commission of a felony,) and the murder of federal employees. You can make a case for the feds to execute drug kingpins, as that involves a multi-state criminal conspiracy, but that's pretty much it.
However, since 1988 the federal government has expanded its jurisdiction into crimes specifically left to the states. Murder itself is not a federal crime, but Congress has allowed a US Attorney to seek the death penalty in a case involving "Murder related to sexual exploitation of children," "Murder related to rape or child molestation," or "Murder related to a carjacking." It should be pointed out that often none of the underlying offenses, such as rape, child molestation or carjacking, are themselves federal crimes.
These are offenses which the states can - and should - be left to prosecute and punish as they see fit. That, after all, is what federalism is all about. No less an authority than the late William Rhenquist himself has said so.
What is increasingly happening is that the federal government is trying capital cases for crimes committed in states that do not have the death penalty. That is a direct assault on federalism and state sovereignty, something conservatives have traditionally opposed.
That same issue - does the federal government have grounds to try an arson case just because the local utility bought out-of-state gas or power? - was recently argued before the US Supreme Court in yet another arson case, one from Indiana.
The question prompted Chief Justice William Rehnquist to sarcastically ask from the bench, "How about milk?" - in other words, whether the fact that people in a house drink milk produced in another state should constitute grounds for federal prosecution, said O'Toole. The court ruled unanimously last week against federal jurisdiction in the Indiana case. As a result, federal prosecutors will not continue to seek the death penalty against Brown.
What is to be gained by Washington's encroachment on matters traditionally handled by states?
Nothing, according to Rehnquist, who accuses Congress of grandstanding by federalizing more and more high profile categories of crimes. In his 1998 year-end report, Rehnquist wrote that the trend to federalize crime "threatens to change entirely the nature of our federal system" and ultimately will lead to the question of "whether we want most of our legal relationships decided at the national rather than local level."
For over a century now, the federal courts have been the final guarantors of a defendant's rights. Congress and the Executive Branch have been slowly been eroding the power of the Judicial Branch to do that. Worse, they've been ceding that power to halfwits and perjurers like Alberto Gonzales.
To be fair, this didn't start with the Bush administration. The 1994 Omnibus Crime Bill, passed by a Democratic Congress and signed by Bill Clinton, expanded the number of death-qualified offenses to sixty. The United States now rivals the People's Republic of China for the number of crimes punishible by death. Give them another decade and a couple of more presidents like Clinton and Bush, and Congress might just beat North Korea for the record!
For conservatives to argue about the efficiency of the death penalty as an excuse to expand federal jurisdiction is particularly rich. These are the very people who argue that the federal government can't do anything right. And in the area of capital punishment, they happen to be right. There has been a grand total of one federal execution since 1962. Furthermore, how can you take anyone seriously who argues that abortion should be left to the states, but the death penalty shouldn't?
Over the last several years American public support for the death penalty has been declining steadily. That decline in support, combined with Republican anti-government rhetoric, might actually have the effect of driving that support down even further. If, as the GOP argues, the powers of the federal government should be sharply limited, how can they justify its expansion into the sole jurisdiction of the states? Furthermore, how dare they impose their judgement on states that consciously choose not to have a death penalty?
These may very well be the most intellectually unserious people ever to take power in Washington. They preach small government as they expand federal powers at the expense of the states and the courts. They are hypocrites and they are singularly unqualified to decide anything as important as life and death.
I don't oppose these idiots because I oppose the death penalty. I oppose them precisely because I support it. Capital punishment is a serious business and one best not left to undignified clowns.
Easy Listening Recommendation of the Day: Billy Austin By: Steve Earle From: The Hard Way
Labels: I Fought The Law, The Smart Boy Blues