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Saturday, April 4, 2009

On Mercy and Judgement

In The New Testament, John 8:7, Jesus defends a sinful woman against an angry crowd:

"If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her."

In Schindler's List, the movie, Oskar Schindler challenges Amon Goeth's killing of Jewish prisoners:

Oskar Schindler: Power is when we have every justification to kill, and we don't.
Amon Goeth: You think that's power?
Oskar Schindler: That's what the Emperor said. A man steals something, he's brought in before the Emperor, he throws himself down on the ground. He begs for his life, he knows he's going to die. And the Emperor... pardons him. This worthless man, he lets him go.
Amon Goeth: I think you are drunk.
Oskar Schindler: That's power, Amon. That is power.

What is this? Forgiveness, or power? In Matthew 21:12 Jesus walks into the temple, yells, overturns tables, and drives out the banking crowd, later healing the less fortunate in the vacant temple. What are we to make of this? Why didn't he treat the money lenders as he did the sinful woman? Why did he judge the bankers and not the prostitute?

These diametric opposites -- forgiveness and judgement -- are it seems perpetually resistant to systematizing with ethical theories. They continue to sit, unanalyzed, unresolved, through millenia of human history.

The history of human ethics is a commentary on the proper application of mercy and judgement. So far we've come, and so long we continue to stand motionless and without understanding.

Like, Whatever CBO

The Congressional Budget Office in March released revised estimates for the cost to tax payers of the 700 Billion Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP), to 356 Billion from 189 Billion. This quiet piece of news from CBO doesn't even seem troubling to me anymore, desensitized as I am to seeing billions or trillions appended to estimates of new government programs these days.

There's a kind of perverse liberation one can get when a situation is so bad that there's no point worrying about it anymore. Oh, so it's really 356 Billion? Okay, thanks for letting me know. If it goes up again, no need to say anything. I'll assume it's really bad, and you can spare me the details, okay? Cool.

I can't really get my mind around these bills anyway; if I run up a hundred dollar tab at the Macaroni Grill, I can see that's a lot for a couple hours of dinner and wine. But 356 Billion? What does this mean? And what can any of us do about it anyway?

No Nuclear Speaks Volumes

If the threat of Global Warming is so dire, and so immediate, why not adopt nuclear power, like France? Compared to wind or solar, it's much more economic (I've heard wind is X10 the cost of coal, and nuclear X1.5), and pretty much everyone not stuck in 1970s Sierra Club environmentalism agrees that it's safe today. So, in the face of such grave environmental challenges, why not do like France, and adopt cheap, clean, nuclear? Or, are we not serious yet? Still pie-in-the-sky-I-wish-the-world-was-different-everyone-turn-your-lights-off-for-an-hour, unserious posers.

Nuclear means we're serious about reducing emissions. It's not carbon, and it actually works. Nuclear is the solution if the problem is so damn imminent. If no nuclear, no seriousness from the Left about claims of impending doom.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Holder, Part Deux

No time for an in depth blog tonight, but what's up with AG Eric Holder's pursuit of getting congressional representation for Washington D.C? Never mind the career lawyers he first consulted who said, "no way, it's unconstitutional". Holder went past them and into political territory to make the case that the always-Democratic District of Columbia might some day pick up seats in Congress. Nice, Mr. Holder. When legal opinion fails you, go for partisan politics.

Ahh, Eric, I was so on your side when you dumped the bullshit Stevens indictment. Now, you're just angling for a partisan win. Every lawyer outside the beltway worth his salt knows that D.C. is not a state. Why don't you?

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Holder, The Justice Department, and Justice

I've been thinking about the Ted Stevens' conviction dismissal more tonight, and I gotta give a shout out to AG Holder and the Justice Department. The Department of Justice under Holder seems to have made a clear statement that law will not be subjugated to politics at the DOJ. How else do we interpret his actions today?

It was, personally, Eric Holder-- Obama's pick for Attorney General, someone who the Right regards as deeply suspicious, a Lefty with an agenda--that called an end to the Stevens indictment fiasco. Why? Politics? Popularity? Hardly. This is embarrasing to Democrats, who now must concede (if silently) both that Republicans likely would have held Alaska in the elections and that the gotcha attitude about the indictment of Stevens seems, in retrospect, like hasty, partisan Shodenfreud.

Back to Eric Holder. In the wake of the Gonzales years (Bush's AG offered up "I don't recall" so many times in congressional hearings about the firing of U.S. attorneys that he became a kind of national joke, an intellectually undermanned Bush figure head besmirching yet another once respected American institution with transparent bumbling evasiveness), it's refreshing to see the spirit of non-partisan respect for the rule of law in the office of the AG. That's the way it's supposed to be. Kudos for Holder for sending a message that "justice" and "politics" are to be kept separate.

Republicans and Conservatives intent on poking and prodding Obama's picks for high office have a little back peddling to do now too, it would seem. National Review Online wrote an op-ed about Holder in November 2008 that included the following let-em-rip assessment of our latest AG:

"He is convinced justice in America needs to be “established” rather than enforced; he’s excited about hate crimes and enthusiastic about the constitutionally dubious Violence Against Women Act; he’s a supporter of affirmative action and a practitioner of the statistical voodoo that makes it possible to burden police departments with accusations of racial profiling and the states with charges of racially skewed death-penalty enforcement; he’s more likely to be animated by a touchy-feely Reno-esque agenda than traditional enforcement against crimes; he’s in favor of ending the detentions of enemy combatants at Guantanamo Bay and favors income redistribution to address the supposed root causes of crime."

If Holder is so partisan, so left wing, so agenda driven, how now do we explain his dismissal of the Stevens corruption indictment? Sounds like Holder's doing his duty to the American people to me. Sounds like there's an interest in justice at the DOJ. Sounds like American government isn't just petty politics--isn't always petty politics--after all.

Oh well (he just lost the election, and his reputation )

Former Alaska Senator Ted Stevens' conviction on multiple felony charges was thrown out today by new AG Eric Holder, on grounds that the prosecutors withheld exculpatory evidence and introduced evidence known to be false. Oh, is that all?

If this doesn't give rise to a citizen-wide cringe, I'm not sure what would. Federal prosecutors knowingly ruining a sitting Senator's career, indicting him on multiple felony charges, and affecting the outcome of a Senatorial election result (Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich (D), won by one point after the corruption case exploded); this is the stuff of movies.

AG Holder ought to investigate what happened here, and heads should roll. This isn't interpretation of actions that might be seen as some as criminal; the facts that surfaced in Stevens' prosecution indicate clear criminal conduct by those prosecuting the case: witholding the evidence, introducing known false evidence. Call it a witch hunt, without hyperbole.

I haven't confirmed this yet, but Chris Mathews -- not exactly a mouthpiece for Republican Senators--claimed tonight that some of the exculaptory evidence was Stevens' clear instructions to "make sure I am charged fully for all of this"...

Prosecutorial witchhunts that could put someone away for the rest of their lives are a threat to all of us. If an innocent person can't be exonerated because the legal system itself has been hijacked by unscrupulous lawyers, we're all in danger.

Huffington has it here.