31 December 2010
Cruel and [Un]usual Punishment in Mississippi
- The Scott sisters were convicted, though there is conflicting evidence about their guilt, for a theft of $11.00. Eleven dollars! For this a judge sentenced them to life imprisonment!!
- Article 8 of The Constitution states: "Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted."
- Gov. Barbour suspended the sisters' imprisonment contingent upon Gladys Scott donating one of her kidneys to Jamie Scott, currently receiving dialysis and ill.
- Gov. Barbour, in addition to declaring the sisters no longer a threat to society, said his action was due to the high cost of the state's providing health care for Jamie Scott.
- Under federal law, according to a Medicare representative contacted by the Times, the sisters qualify for Medicaid, so the state would not have to fund their health care.
I am outraged. First, I think that a life sentenced for an $11.00 armed robbery represents a punishment so out of proportion to the crime that it should have been and still is a cruel and unusual punishment. I also think that racism pollutes this entire situation, from 1994 to now. I cannot understand why this injustice did not make national news in 1994. The women claim innocence and maintain the court did not consider a post-conviction appeal with exculpatory evidence. Even if they were guilty, the punishment does not fit the crime. If they were innocent, then the Mississippi state court needs to be investigated for a miscarriage of justice. Why weren't the sisters pardoned unconditionally or their sentences rescinded? Would the sisters be jailed to complete their original sentences if Gladys refuses or could not be a kidney donor for her sister? There are other blood relatives, including children, who could be candidates. After all, their sentences are only suspended on a unique condition. Stuff like this makes my blood boil.
There is another indication that racism played a part in this case. The victims were two Black men. If the victims had been White, would the women and the others involved ever lived to see a trial? Was the crime less dire because it was Black-on-Black crime and thus did not matter as much? How many white prisoners received comparable sentences and how many are still incarcerated in Mississippi jails? Call me cynical.
I also cannot believe the governor's justifying of his action on the cost to the state of Jamie Scott's medical treatments. Perhaps prisoners are not eligible for Medicare or Medicaid benefits, but I doubt it. If Mississippi is not billing Medicare and Medicaid for health care costs of its prisoners, they have a bigger problem than Ms. Scott. Further, I wonder if she was diabetic prior to being in prison and forced to survive on prison food. What would Linsey Lohan do? The cost issue is a political red herring.
I think this sad story reveals the continuing overt racism against African Americans in Mississippi. Just last week, the same Haley Barbour praised the Citizens Committees that effectively kept Jim Crow politics and police tactics alive in that state throughout the last century. How can the citizens of Mississippi tolerate the governor's actions?
Do we have to go back to the tactics of the 1950s and 1960s to root out continuing racism in America?
So far, our national press has been asleep or is pretending sleep on this issue. Is racism becoming more tolerated again or do too many people forget about or weren't taught about the history of racism in America?
21 December 2010
DADT and Repeal Legislation
I knew President Clinton's directive establishing DADT in 1993 was not law, so I have been wondering why Congress was involved in its repeal at all. I also knew President Obama could have revoked DADT on January 22, 2008, and his failure to do so seemed like yet another betrayal of his campaign promises. For a definitive explanation of Presidential and Congressional roles, I recommend reading a blog entry about how the media and gay lobbyists have confused the public about process. http://www.themediaprose.com/blog/why-gays-are-wrong-on-dont-ask-dont-tell/
Now I know why Congress had to legislate before DADT could be rescinded or rendered moot.
As the referenced article points out, had President Obama simply rescinded President Clinton's directive, he would have re-criminalized a service member's homosexuality regardless of conduct or service record and restored the punishment. After I left active duty, I learned that one of my drill sergeants at Ft. Dix (way before DADT) had been sentenced to 20 years in Ft. Leavenworth Military Prison for being a homosexual and would receive a dishonorable discharge. In my view, there were sufficient, other infractions of the UCMJ to warrant the sergeant's punishment, but none were brought forward nor were any needed because the law prohibited homosexuals from being in the military. At least DADT enabled homosexual service members to be discharged with honor and, as soon as the President signs the legislation into law, any man or woman discharged under DADT can re-enlist.
None of the Congressional opponents of repeal referred to the costs incurred by the Defense Department because of DADT. In 2009, Colonel Om Prakash, USAF, wrote an essay while a student at the National War College. "It won the 2009 Secretary of Defense National Security Essay Competition." The full essay, minus illustrations or graphics, can be read at: The efficacy of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell".
The Debate Departs From Rational Discourse
As anyone who watched or listened to network or cable news and talk commentary during the past weeks knows, this repeal legislation was not a consensus item. The floor debates in the House of Representatives and the Senate were difficult for me to watch. Many of the comments made me want to take a shower to be rid of the stench and vitriol coming into my home via C-SPAN.
Much of the "debate" consisted of the same statements made against desegregating the military in 1948, against the Communist menace during the Cold War, against desegregating public schools, against opponents of the war in Viet Nam, against feminists, against Jews, against Arabs, against Muslims, against Latinos or Hispanics and against immigrants, particularly undocumented persons.
When I was in the Army from 1968-1974, I encountered every social, racial, religious and gender bias and often the violence among soldiers resulting from those biases. As a commissioned officer and unit commander, I had the job of enforcing the UCMJ, sometimes as an instructor, a plaintiff representing the Army, a witness in a trial, and as prosecutor, judge and jury in Summary Courts Martial disciplinary proceedings. From Basic Training through Officer Candidate School, we were taught most aspects of the UCMJ and the Geneva Convention. As an officer, however, I had to know the UCMJ completely. Despite the bigotry among the military, including the Chain of Command, it was clear that the UCMJ did not encourage, enforce or condone out-and out bigotry.
The UCMJ spells out the rules and boundaries of personal and professional conduct, actions not beliefs or opinions, and sets up the procedures of due process for all members of the military. Just as The Constitution has been interpreted and used to justify discrimination, segregation, dis-enfranchisement based in racial and gender biases, so has the UCMJ been cherry-picked to support a variety of opposing opinions.
Dire Predictions. Believable?
On the Web, all sorts of commentary exist on DADT and what the repeal legislation does. For a flavor of counter-arguments and negative reactions to repealing DADT, you should visit one of the blogs. http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/news/2644909/posts?page=51
I think that predictions of requiring segregated latrine and shower facilities, i.e. gay and straight men's communal facilities, is a non-issue for military personnel. After all, an estimated 65,000 gay soldiers, sailors and marines already use the existing facilities plus barracks, too.
Regarding dangers lesbians pose for the women in military service, study after study report that heterosexual rape and sexual abuse happens to a majority of women in the service, but that the hierarchy does not give these crimes the attention and prevention truly deserve. Partly, this inattention is due to under-reporting and to fear of reprisal. On the other hand, I have not seen any information about homosexual rape among men or women, yet opponents of rescinding DADT foresee uninvited sexual harassment, open sexual acts by homosexuals, lesbian rape and pedophilia jeopardizing the children of military families (though in reality a pedophile usually is heterosexual). In short, the repeal of DADT is the latest part of the gay and liberal agenda that comprises a threat to and an imminent disaster to the American way of life.
I am confident the military will get it right and probably sooner than later. For the country, however, I do not have such confidence for overcoming homophobia.
So, I leave this post with a quote from the anchorite Julian of Norwich, from Showings (c. 1413):
And so our good Lord answered to all the questions and doubts which I could raise, saying most comfortingly: I may make all things well, and I can make all things well, and I shall make all things well, and I will make all things well; and you will see yourself that every kind of thing will be well. . . .
And in these . . . words God wishes us to be enclosed in rest and in peace.