Should we try to clean-up the death penalty, try to make it less cruel and inequitable? The late Supreme Court Justice Harry A. Blackmun, who had voted years ago to reinstate the death penalty, had plenty of time before his resignation from the court, to regret and to repudiate that vote when he said, "I feel morally and intellectually obligated simply to concede that the death penalty experiment has failed. From this day forward, I no longer shall tinker with the machinery of death." (February 22, 1994)
I, personally, am entirely willing to concede to the Honorable Justice Harry A. Blackmun that the death penalty experiment has failed and that there is no way the system can be adjusted and tinkered with by DNA testing and by other safeguards such as competent attorneys that can make the death penalty system less cruel and inequitable. ... Even if we could totally expunge overnight racism from our justice system, the death penalty remains a barbaric practice unworthy of a people and a country which aspires to world leadership. ...
This creates an extreme moral dilemma for me. As we approach the November presidential elections and our choices have narrowed down to two men, one of whom has presided over 133 executions since he took office as Governor of Texas and who couldn't find enough compassion in his heart to pardon a born-again Christian woman, Karla Faye Tucker, who although guilty of the crime for which she had been convicted, gave every appearance of being truly repentant and who had turned her life around. And a Vice President who also supports capital punishment and labors under the Clinton legacy of Rickey Ray Rector and the deplorable Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996. Even after recent events have shown that our death rows have on them those who have been unjustly and unfairly condemned to death, he stills finds it in his heart to say, "I do not think in federal courts that the evidence justifies a moratorium (on the death penalty) and I have not been supportive of it."
Since in most ways, these two men are as alike as Tweedledum and Tweedledee, it is really immaterial which, if either, of them is elected president; therefore, it is an ideal time to vote for anyone but Bush or Gore. I intend to vote as a single-issue voter this time around as a protest against the death penalty. Abolishing the death penalty could be the first step toward a truly civil society. Nader is to be preferred but would even vote for Buchanan before I throw my vote way on either Gore or Bush.
MARJORIE S. NEWELL, Ph.D
State College, Penn.
I am 55 years, and have been a hard-core voting Liberal Democrat since I was old enough to understand the issues. I have also lived in the very Republican State of Utah for almost all of that time. Due to the injustices of the Electoral College system, I have wasted my Presidential vote in every election since I was old enough to vote, but not this time. I plan to vote for and work for Ralph Nader for President. Everyone in a similar voting situation should do the same, Republican or Democrat, Nader fan or not.
Any Democrat who lives in a state dominated by Republicans should vote for Nader to avoid similarly wasting their vote. Win or lose, this would give a third party a leg up in the next election, in terms of federal campaign financing, which is based upon the percentage of the popular vote that a candidate receives. A stronger third party would be good for the country, just to give another point of view, if nothing else.
Republicans who live in a state that is dominated by Democrats, and would therefore be wasting their vote, should vote for Nader in the hope that a stronger Green Party would draw votes away from the Democratic contenders, as some have predicted. And, again, a stronger third party would be good for the country.
Other thinking individuals should consider voting for Nader, regardless of their political leanings, because a stronger third party could help break up the logjam blocking true public access to our Representatives, most all of whom seem to have been bought and paid for by special interests and corporate greed.
So, if you live in a state where you find yourself in political disagreement with most of your neighbors, don't waste your vote. Vote for Ralph Nader.
Big Water, Utah
Reader Robert Baillie likes Ralph Nader but is afraid in some states he will pull votes away from Al Gore. (Letter July 15.) Then, God forbid, George W. Bush will be elected President and we are all doomed. What rubbish.
The truth is that there are varying degrees of differences between the two major candidates on domestic issues. But on foreign affairs, their views are identical. Each one panders to the Pentagon and to the arms companies behind the scenes. And each one wants us to hold on to our giant stockpile of nuclear weapons while demanding that the rest of the world get rid of theirs.
Both candidates want to deprive the Iraqi people of food and medicine in order to "send a message" to Saddam Hussein. And in Cuba, each candidate wants to continue the cruel embargo that makes the people there suffer hardship and death because Castro still defies the great Colossus of the North.
Supreme Court appointees? Given Gore's hypocrisy, there is no guarantee that he would not appoint a new Antonin Scalia or another Clarence Thomas. Remember how Gore wept on camera when his sister died of lung cancer and then accepted a half million dollars from the Tobacco lobby. And how he pandered to the rich and powerful Cuban-American mafia in Miami in the case of little Elian.
Maybe Mr. Baillie thinks Al Gore is the least evil of the two lessers. But I says: "Forget Tweedledum and Tweedledee. Nader is the one for you and me!"
ARTHUR J. OST
San Mateo, Calif.
Please accept a verbal spanking from a hard-core liberal New Deal Democrat who started out voting for FDR. Among my other credentials, I was one of the founders of the Wyoming chapter of the ACLU and spent 21 years. on the board of directors of the Southern Arizona Civil Liberties Union. (The Arizona CLU, by the way, is the one that gave you Miranda, among other key decisions.)
You're all wallowing in the pleasures of self-defeat and martyrdom that have been the curse of the Left. You're repeating the tragedy of the Humphrey-Nixon campaign and I don't need to tell you what that did to the country. In that campaign all the antiwar activists dropped out with back of hands to forehead and picturesque poses because Humphrey was "just another establishment figurehead" and we got Nixon by 1 percent. One percent, for God's sake! With Nixon came the Rehnquist Supreme Court and -- even more important -- a total infestation of reactionary appointments to the Federal judiciary that altered the whole system. The monsters are still out there today, and it's going to take a generation to get rid of them. That's what the wrong President can do. When you quote Cockburn about the Supreme Court, you're repeating nonsense. Judging by what I read of Cockburn in The Nation, he's not someone you want to quote very much.
In fact, the Warren Court changed the whole face of US law and gave you some of the liberties you enjoy today -- liberties the Burger Court did its best to destroy. When Cockburn and his ilk sneer at the Supreme Court they're apparently ignorant of what Brandeis and Cardoso and Frankfurter did to choke off corporate tyranny and reactionary government abuses. The country cannot afford a Supreme Court packed with Scalias and Thomases. In Humphrey we lost a decent, Minnesota populist pro-labor man who would have provided another Warren Court and an honest progressive government -- all because of the same shenanigans my liberal colleagues are indulging in today.
The fascists of the Cato Institute and their ultra-right think-tank buddies are giddy with glee over the way progressives are splintering, and Nader's candidacy makes them sure God is on their side.
Gore may not be everything we want, but compared to Bush, he's a visitation right from heaven.
You recommend voting for a Democratic Congress: how in the name of sanity can you not recommend a Democratic president? Ever hear of the veto? Back to reality, youngsters!
BRENDAN PHIBBS, M.D.
P.S. As usual, Molly Ivins was the only one who made sense!
Ted Rall's "The Rich Are Revolting" (July 15 issue) defends the federal estate tax. Rall seems to assume that the only people who ever inherit money are children of the deceased. However, gay couples, and straight couples who aren't married to each other, are more adversely affected by the federal estate tax.
In the San Francisco Bay Area, the median house is now above $350,000. If an unmarried couple owns their home together, and one of them dies, the other one may need to sell that home, just to pay the estate tax, which kicks in at $675,000. Married couples don't pay estate tax, so they don't face the double blow of (1) death of one's life partner; and (2) almost simultaneously, having to lose one's home.
San Francisco, Calif.
The fact that no one really cares whether George W. Bush smoked one joint or used cocaine all through his college years is truly frightening.
The fact that it is mainly blacks and Hispanics that get arrested and go to prison while Bush says it is nobody's business if he used drugs seems to be the same double standard, pure hypocrisy that allowed slavery to exist for 240 years in the FREEST land on earth, where all men were created equal.
Because of the attitude towards Bush, European drug law precedent, the lessons of alcohol prohibition, the failure of the war that it is obvious that the drug laws in this FREEST nation are merely a disguised form of slavery that undoes the freedom King died for and will eventually take voting power away from "convicted" blacks and Hispanics.
John Brown said, "Talk, talk, talk." We happily believe the propaganda about this only being altruistic concern about the harm from drug use, happily ignoring history and precedent -- as we did for 240 years of slavery. Politicians get elected using drug use fear mongering. One million drug prisoners create millions of jobs for police, judges, DA's and prison employees. When you add in the "economic multiplier effect," millions of more jobs depend on the black and Hispanic slaves of today. Ignorance is bliss.
HENRY J. HALM
Marcy Correctional Facility
The great confusion anent the Second Amendment, resulting in interminable argument and verbal pollution, may be clarified by some knowledge of history and grammar.
From colonial times to the Civil War regular army units were small and of little consequence. The complete defeat of the Indians by Harrison and then by Jackson was accomplished by militias, armed groups of citizens somewhat similar to the armed posses of the later Old West. In fact, our Founding Fathers considered large armed forces inimical to the freedoms of the people. A large army may easily be used as an instrument of oppression by a demagogue. Almost every man had a musket and could be called upon to serve in an armed force at any moment (Minutemen). True, their military value was virtually nil compared to regular units but sufficient for the task of killing poorly armed guerrillas (Indians). The militia was not a National Guard but a levy of citizens who brought their own weapons with them to meet a specific emergency. Such is the context in which this Amendment must be read.
The grammar: The main clause is "the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed." The meaning here is plain and unmistakable if one is not to resort to verbal gymnastics.
In those quaint old times it was deemed necessary to offer reasons, thus we have the clause introduced by an absolute phrase as an adverbial modifier of the sentence: "A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state". This provides the rationale for this amendment. It does no more. Consequently it appears that Moses and the NRA are correct. They are incorrect in that times have changed and the structure of society has been transformed to such an extent that the Second Amendment has become an anachronism. What was sound then has become unsound today.
The modern militia movement is based on the absurd contention that ordinary citizens armed with rifles and small arms can defend their homes against regular army units. The example of the armed Swiss is cited as having deterred a threatened Nazi invasion. The invasion did not occur, not because the greatest army of that day could not have crushed the Swiss, but solely because Switzerland provided a fertile ground for espionage and indirect trade with corporations in countries at war with [Germany]. One example: The Nazis exchanged gold for oil through 1942, among other things.
Are the citizens of France or Britain less free than Americans as they are subject to severe gun laws? Hardly. All one need do is to compare the homicide rate in our country with that of any other civilized country to conclude that the probability and fear of gun violence here is so much greater that our very freedom to feel secure in our homes is affected.
Concealed weapons, pistols and revolvers, are designed to murder in stealth. Except for law enforcement and military units all such weapons must be prohibited to the citizenry. This of course should not include the long guns, rifles and shotguns.
This gun crazy Wyatt Earp syndrome must be combated if we are to once again feel secure in our persons and property.
Very truly yours,
President Clinton's legacy seems to be, for him, much like air is to a drowning man, a shot of liquor to an alcoholic, or a fix to a drug addict. His future threatens to be empty, hollow, and without relevance absent some redeeming third act accomplishment on his part that will become synonymous with his name.
Carter/High Interest Rates/Inflation/Panama Canal
Reagan/Berlin Wall/Ending Cold War
Bush/Gulf War/Read My Lips.
Our current struggling president wants future taxpayers to pay mega-billions for his efforts to replace his Monica/Impeachment/Kosovo legacy with a plethora of expensive giveaways during his last year in office. I doubt that objective future historians who review his eight year term will be overwhelmed by such last gasp chicanery.
After all they will be helping to pay for it.
DON W. VEATCH
This is in response to a column by Ted Hall, "The Rich Are Revolting."
What is truly revolting is socialists like Ted Hall who think all money is the Federal Government's. Throughout his article he constantly whines about the rich getting away without paying taxes, when most of the income taxes are paid by the upper 10% of wage earners. That number even as a percentage keeps growing.
The real stupid statement is that people feel the race is lost before it's started. There is little truth to that; many entrepreneurs and those in position of corporate power often hail from modest backgrounds.
Ted misses the major point: Taxes have been already levied on the money earned in the estate, including capital gains and interest. What business is the government's to have an estate tax of 55%! Apparently only forced government redistribution of wealth, which is the mantra of socialists like Ted Rall.
However, I agree with Ted on one point: Giving large amounts of money to offspring may very well make them unmotivated, not willing to work and lazy. This has had similar effect on some people by the federal and state welfare system we currently have had for decades in this country.
If you're that jealous of the rich, become one of them and give your money away to your pet causes.