Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Taking impeachment off my table.

First, this. Remember, now, this is the guy who can't seem to remember his own name sometimes...
WASHINGTON (Los Angeles Times) - The Justice Department is
putting the final touches on regulations that could give Atty. Gen. Alberto R. Gonzales important new sway over death penalty cases in California and other states, including the power to shorten the time that death row inmates have to appeal convictions to federal courts.

The rules implement a little-noticed provision in last year's
reauthorization of the Patriot Act that gives the attorney general the power to decide whether individual states are providing adequate counsel for defendants in death penalty cases. The authority has been held by federal judges.

Under the rules now being prepared, if a state requested it and Gonzales agreed, prosecutors could use "fast track" procedures that could shave years off the time that a death row inmate has to appeal to the federal courts after conviction in a state court.

The move to shorten the appeals process and effectively speed up executions comes at a time of growing national concern about the fairness of the death penalty, underscored by the use of DNA testing to establish the innocence of more than a dozen death row inmates in recent years.

Amid the public debate, the number of people executed in the U.S. has declined steadily since the mid-1990s [except in Texas - Me].

The rest is here. This further erosion of our due process rights should scare the absolute crap out of all of us, but I have yet to see this discussed anywhere in the media. I found the link to this article on The Huffington Post, which is good, but that's just another "left-wing blog," so the Bootlicking Corporate Media will probably ignore it. (Oops: I did hear it reported on NPR just now.) Let me know if I'm wrong.

You should know first that I oppose the death penalty. Unequivocally. In all cases. If we captured Osama bin Laden tomorrow (yeah, right, like that'd happen...), I'd be against executing him. I was against executing Tim McVeigh. I'm against executing the worst forms of humanity, including pedophiles. I was against executing the guy who shot one of my closest friends for the few bills he had in his wallet two weeks after we graduated from college years ago. I was against the death penalty before I became a Quaker, and I'm even more against it now that I am one. For one thing, new technology has allowed us to prove beyond any doubt that many of the folks on death row are not guilty of the crimes for which they were convicted, and that means we have surely executed innocent people in the past. That's just one of the many reasons I oppose capital punishment.

But that's not what this post is really about. Here comes the leap.

I've been trying to think of a good excuse to throw this idea out there, and this issue is as good as any. I've been reading and following (and contributing to) all kids of conversations lately about impeaching either George Bush or Dick Cheney or both. My chosen candidate, Dennis Kucinich, is the only Democratic presidential wannabe who has come out for impeaching Cheney. There are dozens of web sites and blogs devoted to the topic, and zillions more blog postings and comment threads. If you search Cafe Press using the words "impeach Bush," you will find 172,000 items bearing that phrase for sale there alone. Which means lots of folks are making money off the idea. Well, good for them, and it's an interesting exercise.

But, as it's not going to happen, I wonder why we waste so much time on it.

Speaker Pelosi, who so many liberals seem to think is just so effing wonderful, has taken impeachment "off the table" (one wonders what is on her table these days...), and she did so almost immediately after the change in leadership in Congress. And - I know this is progressive heresy right now - impeachment should be off the table. I actually agree with her on this one. There. I said it. What Congress should be doing is stopping stuff like this: new rules giving the Justice Department's Screw-Up-In-Chief the right to expedite the trip to the death chambers of this country. This is a certifiable outrage, only the latest in a long list of anti-Constitutional outrages. But what does the "Democratically controlled Congress" do? Well, last week, after they blasted Gonzo for his "lack of cooperation" with their inquiries, a whole bunch of those same "Democrats" helped pass a law that actually expands the Bush regime's ability to spy on its own citizens. That's the outrage. If we're seriously talking about impeaching somebody, it should be Gonzales. But this Congress won't even cite the guy for contempt of Congress or perjury. And you folks are seriously still thinking this crew will impeach Bush? Simply wishing - and selling tee shirts - will not make it so.

What Congress - and what we who call ourselves progressives - should be doing is working to end the war. That should be Job # 1. Bush and his junta will be out of office in sixteen months. As my favorite curmudgeonly columnist Alexander Cockburn writes in the latest edition of The Nation, let the regime face charges as war criminals after they leave office. Impeachment proceedings, even if they began on September 1, would simply force almost everything else in Washington to a screeching halt, and what good would it do? Some of us might feel better because the Repos would get a taste of what they did to Bill Clinton, but, so what? The war would still be there, and it can only get worse, in spite of the recent spin. Congress could and should have voted this past spring to defund the Bush/Cheney carnage machine, but they didn't. You still thought that, after writing Bush another check to pay for his war, that those same folks would turn around and impeach him? All of us should be out there (and here) every day doing whatever we can, in whatever way we can, to end the war. (What's funny is that when people do work to end the war, say, by protesting against it by picketing recruiting centers, supposed "liberals" actually mock those efforts. Don't believe me? Read the comments here.) The war is a giant toilet into which we are dumping our fine young people, our resources, our national soul. We should be demanding that Congress act to clean up the mess that still exists down in New Orleans. We should be working to bring universal health care (yes, a single-payer system, also "off the table," largely thanks to Sen. Clinton) to this country. We should be doing something to get our politicians to end the pandemic of gun violence that is killing more and more of our citizens, especially our youth. We should be forcing Congress to throw out the so-called "No Child Left Behind" legislation which is systematically undermining and dumbing down our system of public education. We should be supporting infrastructure reconstruction and coal mine safety and demanding that Congress do something now about those concerns. Right. Now. And that's just for starters.

The idea of impeachment can make us feel good and may work for getting us all ramped up as a convenient place to focus all of our rage and frustration with the Bush junta, and I do appreciate that. Few of you are more angry than I am right now. But the day-to-day outrages being foisted upon us, like the one mentioned above - many of them with the not-so-tacit approval of the so-called Democrats who "control" Congress - are what should be getting our attention. Being for impeachment is a handy way to let folks know we're against Bush. Okay. I get that. But no matter how much we might want it to happen, he's not leaving until January of 2009. Maybe it's about time we start spending more time talking about (and working for, and raising money for) what we're for, and making our elected politicians at every level hear that, and organizing for that. I just typed in the phrase "save our coal miners" at Cafe Press. My search returned "no matching designs." Wonder why.

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