Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Hypocrisy Nation

For those of who don't know me personally, I am a political junkie. It was my major in college, and I read and debate just for fun (sometimes just taking another side that I don't agree with just for fun). So, I've been watching this Terry Schiavo story with interest and disgust. I won't even go into the utter disregard for the purposes of Congress and the Constitution that went into the passage of a personal law giving the Schiavo family a last ditch effort at another federal hearing. I won't talk about how the Democrats have proven once again that they are not an opposition party, as they all sat around quietly as the law was stretched to its possible limits. Hey, and I won't talk about how the Republicans, who have traditionally been proponents of states rights and small federal government, now want to get involved in this debate.

One reason I went to law school was based on my opposition to capital punishment. It doesn't take a long career in the legal system to recognize the uncertainty that exists, and how easy it is for an innocent person to be convicted. This is especially true if you are African American or poor. In the system as it exists today, it is better to be rich and guilty than poor and innocent. I just finished reading The Death of Innocents by Sister Helen Prejean. Maybe you agree with capital punishment in certain situations, but what if we kill one innocent person in the process, is it still worth it? The book concludes with a lenghty discussion of Governor George W. Bush's capital punishment record. He proudly killed over a hundred people during his tenure as governor of Texas, and without any personal knowledge of the case, routinely rejected pleas for clemency and pardons. Despite the fact that in other states individuals were being exonerated and released from death row when their convictions were proven to based on bad evidence or prosecutorial misconduct on a regular basis. W's utter disregard for the inherent uncertainties that exist in our current justice system blows me away, although I'm not really suprised.

But as I'm reading this book, I'm listening to news coverage of the Terry Schiavo case. I hear Bush and the other republican's justify their actions on the creation of a "Culture of Life." You know, that same bullshit that wants to tell women what they can and can't do with their bodies. You know, they don't want you to have an abortion, but they don't want to help fund these children's health and education once they are born. You know, the culture of life that refuses health insurance to millions of Americans. And here's what our Pres had to say about the case, "This is a complex case with serious issues, but in extraordinary circumstances like this, it is wise to always err on the side of life." Excuse me Mr. Bush, but if it is capital punishment, it's always wise to err on the side of death, right? Oh, I know this is different, because she's white. But "convicted" defendant's are different because they are black and poor, and even though their convictions come at the hands of miserable defense counsel that's poorly funded. Even though their conviction comes after prosecutors have kept exculpatory evidence from the defense. Even though the death sentence comes from a jury that never hears that the defendant is actually mentally handicapped and has the mental functions of an 8 year old. Now, that's the culture of life. You are correct, Mr. Bush, death is certain. But the criminal justice system is inherently uncertain as it exists today.

If someone can tell me how to reconcile the creation of a "Culture of Life" with the Bush's complete belief and trust in capital punishment, I'd love to hear it.

Since I'm up on my soapbox, it's time to demand that the left stop moving right. Need proof that this is going on, check out this article over at the National Organization of Women. It's time to find a demand a true opposition party. R and I went to the caucuses last year, and we could see then that the democrats were going to lose. The debate at the caucus was over who was the most electable, a self fulfilling prophecy if there ever was one. So, we ended up with John Kerry. He certainly didn't get the progressive voters very excited. We went to the polls thinking we had to choose the lesser of two evils, and not the person we wanted shaping policy, particularly foreign policy. Don't email me, he would have been better, I know.

Now, if you are really passionate about the Terry Schiavo case on one side or the other... write a living will. Seriously. This is particularly important if you are unmarried but in a committed relationship. If you don't want to go to that trouble, then tell your spouse, your parents, your grown children, and everyone what you would want in that situtation. If you need more information about living wills, advance directives, or powers of attorney... check out this link over at Findlaw.

Update: A judge, in the first round of federal court, has ruled on Terry Schiavo's fate. It's far from over, I'm sure. The ACLU applauds the ruling stating, "Decisions about whether to continue or discontinue extraordinary or even life-sustaining measures are part of a basic privacy right, and should be left to each of us when competent to make those decisions, or through a surrogate if no longer competent, but certainly without the intrusion of politicians who may not approve of our decision." Another great irony exists. President Bush and his clan were obviously counting on the federal judge hearing the case to be "activist judges." The judge today clearly indicated that he was going to do no such thing. But isn't Bush asking for the same judicial activism that he has claimed to be so appalled by when it comes to gay marriage or abortion, for example?

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