Wednesday, March 29, 2006

The Death Penalty

Sowing what you reap. Seems like a simple concept, doesn’t it? You kill someone, you get killed. One of the fundamentals of our society; the eye for an eye concept. I was behind it for a long time. The equation seems clear, you break the social contract and present a threat to that society, we no longer have the obligation to care for you, so you must be removed.

Then, one of the rottenest sons of bitches in American history, a fine example of why we have the death penalty in the first place, didn’t get a fair trial. That bastard Timothy McVeigh was sitting on death row and the Federal Court that tried him admitted that they withheld evidence about a possible second bomber (John Doe Number 2) from McVeigh’s defense. Look, no one thinks any of that would exonerate this monster, but in the interest of fairness, let us delay that execution until the defense team can analyze these 3000 withheld pages, and then we’ll burn him at the stake. We’ll do this because we are interested in making up for our mistakes- we are not the oppressive government people like McVeigh claim.

Only we didn’t. We went ahead and executed Timothy McVeigh, delaying not an hour, despite the fact we the State were wrong. We did not allow a fair assessment of the evidence under our own laws.

That steps out of the range of execution, and becomes murder. Worse yet, it help validate people like McVeigh who claim our government is out of control. The Bastard didn’t argue, because he knew this would make him a martyr to his like minded ilk. It sickens me that we gave him such ammunition, we gave him validation, and I can only hope we didn’t create a dozen more such monsters. It would seem, the Federal Government has lost its moral superiority, and therefore is not longer justified in issuing the death penalty.

Furthermore, let’s take a look at the quality of juries these days. Our same responsibility-shirking citizenry sleeps in the juror box, and falls to the same legal chicanery one sees on television. Look at your neighbors- how many of them are you willing to trust with your life?

As forensic science progresses, we find more and more people on death row (or already off death row if you know what I mean) who are proven innocent after years of imprisonment. I find myself coming to a certain conclusion. The system is no longer competent enough to wield the power of life and death.

At the very least, it is incumbent upon us as the citizenry and the Government to place the highest standards of evidence upon cases that may result in the death penalty, perhaps reserving this punishment only for those cases where there is confession. There must also be a strict adherence to whatever rules we decide to apply here- we cannot be arbitrary with life. The system must work, or when it does not, those who are responsible for the failure must be held accountable. There will never be a perfect system, but this can only be ameliorated by taking responsibility when mistakes are made and working as a body to set the consequences in balance.

If we can claim we are responsible enough to kill as a State, then we must wield that power with the utmost caution; remember, the same Bible that we like to quote Eye for and Eye from also states that any court that sentences more than one man in 7 years to death is bloodthirsty.

And I really don’t want us to validate the monsters.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Why I think all Americans should have firearms, and why I think no one should.

It’s kind of funny that this debate seems to have cooled down over the last few years following the beginning of what is popularly known as the War on Terror. Certain firearms bans are part of the Patriot Act, and no one wants to talk bad about that by golly, but on the other hand, when hordes of Islamic warriors came tearing out of the sky, who doesn’t want an old faithful shotgun at their side to introduce some of those fanatics to Allah?

My argument however has nothing to do with the chosen enemy of the decade—instead I wish to discuss the right to bear arms in general, in the context of the American Republic; the intent of the Constitutional writers (in my opinion), why they are right, and why they are wrong. Please keep in mind that I am writing this while my current firm has me out in what we call “The Field.” This involves a certain degree of isolation (though luckily electricity and my laptop have followed me here). This isolation equates to me having virtually no access to fact checking mediums, aside from a copy of the Bill of Rights and Constitution I keep on my computer along with some copies of the Federalist Papers. My statistics are quoted to the best of my memory from previous reading, and this makes me officially “Full of Shit.”

Our beloved Bill of Rights, written by visionary men more than two centuries ago, states:

“A well−regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”

The argument here usually falls in the area of “well-regulated militia.” Is this an armed populace, or is it a State run organization like the National Guard? There are two reasons this does not equate to the National Guard to me. First, the National Guard did not exist when the Bill of Rights was written. At that time, the militia was the Minutemen who were normal farmers and the like who heard people like Paul Revere screaming like bloody murder about Redcoats, went to their closets and pulled out their hunting rifles. These men later made up the Continental Army, but most of them just went home and put their rifles back in the closet. Later, individual states began to organize the National Guard.

The second reason? You may have noticed in recent years, the National Guard has been federalized. Often, the NG has been looked upon as a second Reserve force, and deployed to War for the United States. In the War on Terror, the National Guard has been called in to defend airports, sea ports, and borders. If the Federal government can call on the National Guard for federal purposes, it is no longer just a well-regulated Militia; it then becomes a Federal Force.

And that is the problem- the Bill of Rights does not guarantee the right to bear arms for hunting. The Bill of Rights does not guarantee the right to bear arms for home defense from criminals. The Bill of Rights guarantees the right because it is necessary to “the security of a free state.” In other words, the people have guns to keep the Federal government in check, to secure the concept of a free state. Remember kids, this was written in the late 18th century. The idea of an imposed monarchy was common, and the idea of a government by the people, of the people, for the people was in its infancy. No one knew how this whole Republic thing would really work, and a lot of the Anti-Federalists were afraid that the President would seize control on the near future (indeed there is evidence that many of the Federalists thought that was a good idea). Allowing the Federal Government to take control over the agency that is supposed to keep them honest defies the intent of the Constitution.

The next logical step here, is that the people’s right to bear arms in defense of a free state means that the people must have the firepower to stop the government if it goes bad. Surely, no Constitutional author foresaw the F-117 and the MOAB, but conceptually speaking the people should be able to handle something like that.

Sure, that sounds ridiculous; I don’t think my neighbor needs an MX missile in his garage, but if we begin to chip away at the concept, it leaves the rest of the Bill of Rights open to interpretation. The founders didn’t foresee Gangsta Rap or Hate Speech either, so let’s tweak the First Amendment. The founders never conceived as insidious an enemy as Al-Qaeda, so let’s change that silly fourth amendment about probable cause searches (oh wait- we’ve done that).

Honest citizens with guns are not a problem. They aren’t committing crimes or terror acts. Indeed, some FBI crime studies show that a gun is used illegally in the US every three minutes- and one is used to halt a crime by a responsible citizen every 15 seconds. In a responsible republic with a mature citizenry, there should be no restriction on what they are allowed to own.

And therein is the rub. Are we a responsible republic with a mature citizenry? The answer may be no. In fact, it would seem that we are doing everything we can to avoid responsibility, and begging our government to take care of us. We are scared enough to ask them to wiretap “the right people” and ignore the Bill of Rights to search the homes of “the right people.” We learned nothing apparently from WWII and our treatment of Japanese Americans. In short we (and I am including myself as an American citizen) are dumb, irresponsible, and need to be told what to do. We are incapable of defending ourselves against criminals, against terrorists, against our own foibles. When we own guns, we don’t pay enough attention to our kids to notice them taking them to school. We don’t make sure our kids learn and take responsibility to solve issues without resorting to deadly force. We are no longer competent as a people to be allowed firearms, anymore than a toddler should be allowed matches, despite the good they can do.

So the choice is ours America- we can give up our guns, let the Government tell us how frightened to be each day, and blame things like video games, movies, and the terrorists for our problems. Or, we can retake responsibility for our actions, spank our kids when they do wrong, and punish the guilty rather than oppressing the innocent, and step back up to our half of the social contract.

Please, take responsibility for yourself, your family, your community, before we have to beg Big Brother to do it for us. Or don’t- that is still one of our freedoms; the freedom to be allowed to choose oppression.