What’s Wrong With Granting Pardon?

It feels weird to blog against ‘pardon’.  We liberals are supposed to be bleeding hearts. Furthermore, forgiveness is woven into the Christian faith, whose central concept is ‘redemption’. We all know that law isn’t  justice. There needs to be some room for pardon in an imperfect world. How should a governor use the power of clemency?

Former governor of Arkansas, Mike Huckabee, pardoned Maurice Clemmons in 2000. Clemmons is alleged to have committed many violent crimes since his release.

Clemmons has an extensive violent criminal history from Arkansas. He was also recently charged in Washington state with assaulting a police officer, and second-degree rape of a child. Using a bail bondsman, he posted $150,000 — only $15,000 of his own money — and was released from jail last week.

Documents related to the pending charges in Washington state indicate a volatile personality. In one instance, he is accused of punching a sheriff’s deputy in the face, The Seattle Times reported. In another, he is accused of gathering his wife and young relatives and forcing them to undress, according to a Pierce County sheriff’s report.

“The whole time Clemmons kept saying things like trust him, the world is going to end soon, and that he was Jesus,” the report said.

Clemmons in now a suspect in the murder of four police officers  who were ambushed as they sat in a coffee shop.

What was Governor Huckabee’s criteria in deciding who to pardon? That was a subject of controversy even before his run for President…

If you’re wondering how Gov. Huckabee’s hundreds of clemencies compare with neighboring states, get ready for a shocker.
Huckabee leads the pack.
He has issued more commutations and pardons than all of the six neighboring states combined.
From 1996 through July 2004, Arkansas had more clemencies than all neighboring states combined. One-third of Texas clemencies were for people convicted with planted evidence.
Governors seldom reduce sentences in other states – and almost never for murderers serving life without parole or for rapists or for habitual drunk drivers, while in Arkansas it’s a regular habit with Huckabee.

Is it coincidence that Maurice Clemmons is alleged to have terrorized women while using religious language? Did the Christian narrative of redemption make Governor Huckabee susceptible to Christian inmates who claimed to have shed their former selves? Did Clemmons talk up his conversion?

I remember how the televangelists rallied for Karla Faye Tucker. Her execution was no triumph of justice and we would be no less safe if she were given life in prison. Still, I could not help noticing that many of the ministers who called for forgiveness supported capital punishment. They said that Tucker was ‘saved’ and an exception should be made. When God has forgiven, who are we to hold a grudge?

Forgiveness is a beautiful thing in the abstract, but it reality it can be tough and cost dearly. One of the most astounding acts of forgiveness this century was granted by an Amish community in 2006 to the gunman who killed five of their little girls and badly injured five others. Only they, who were so wronged,  had the right to make that call.

The office of governor gave Mike Huckabee the power to grant clemency. Did he use it, or abuse it? It would be a very cold world without mercy, but was that the motivation? Or did Governor Huckabee take it on faith that ‘saved’ meant safe and he need look no further? It would be interesting to review all the pardons he issued, and see if religion was a factor. How did he decide who to grant and who to refuse?

This is important, because religion is an unacknowledged force in politics. As a former fundy, I hear dog-whistles everywhere. I’m suspicious that Mike Huckabee let religious favoritism influence him, and that he released prisoners without due concern for the safety of the public.

If it turns out that Clemmons is guilty of this awful crime, Huckabee won’t be the first politician whose reputation suffers because of a pardon or parole gone wrong. But I fear that many of our leaders are influenced by religion, applying one standard to ordinary citizens and another to their brethren.

Don’t Buy Books by Crooks

Anyone remember that slogan from after Watergate? When such as G.Gordon Liddy were shopping around for publishers?

Crime shouldn’t pay, but the White House party crashers are reported to be holding out for a half-million to tell their story. They probably owe that much, too, to other people they’ve scammed over the years.

What kind of example is this to set for the children? It makes me wish I had a TV so I could not watch them.

Consider also, how convenient it is to be white, WASPY looking and well-dressed. The Secret Service needs to wake up, before something worse than tabloid stars get through the gate.

Happy Holidays

Merchants, who are in the business of selling things, like to extend a general expression of goodwill and Season’s Greetings, hoping to get people into a good and buying mood. There are several religious holidays that fall around the Winter Solstice. You’d think it would be safe to wish your customers a happy one, but a Best Buy store is catching heat for acknowledging its Muslim customers …

Oh my Allah. Now right-wingers are up in vociferously-defended arms because Best Buy’s vast and stuff-packed Thanksgiving flyer included a little-bitty ad wishing Muslims “Happy Eid al-Adha,” a holiday that 1.5 billion Muslims worldwide mark by giving to charity.

I guess Best Buy didn’t get the memo from War on Christmas, Inc. that we are a Judeo-Christian nation. Although no one is crusading for Hanukkah, because Christians aren’t sure how to spell it, or when it starts or ends. It’s Christmas that brings out the belligerence in the red-blooded real American. If that cashier dares to wish them a Happy Holiday they are in for a tongue-lashing, if not a boycott.

And the nerve of people expecting to be wished a happy Eid al-Adha. That’s not on the list of state-approved religious holidays.

If you get kind of cranky when the days are short, and you want to yell at some store clerks, the Christmas Legion is recruiting now.

Or you can use the season as an excuse to drink eggnog (good thing we only do that once a year) and ask yourself, What Would Miss Manners Do?

She’d wish everyone comfort and joy. That works.

Unravelling a Crime Network

This isn’t a game of ‘ain’t it awful’ because we all know that people do awful things. What we don’t understand well enough is the paralysis that afflicts people who have a responsibility to protect the powerless, and the network of complicity that arises around centers of power…

Ireland’s police colluded with the Catholic church in covering up clerical child abuse in Dublin on a huge scale, according to a damning report on decades of sex crimes committed by priests.

The devastating report on the sexual and physical abuse of children by the clergy in Ireland’s capital from 1975 to 2004 accuses four former archbishops, a host of clergy and senior members of the Garda Síochána of a cover-up.

The three-volume report found that the “maintenance of secrecy, the avoidance of scandal, the protection of the reputation of the church and the preservation of its assets” was more important than justice for the victims.

Read the rest, here.

Feministe links to an article by French philosopher Bernard Henri-Levi on the Polanski case that is so one-sided you’d never know that Polanski plead guilty to a crime. I think there are parallels here. Power is attractive. Power can bestow favors. Standing with the people who are injured in the rush to power is costly. Social disapproval is a powerful weapon. You could end up dis-invited to a lot of parties, or denied Communion.

Some belated justice is necessary, but it’s not enough. Understanding the social protection that lets abusers get away with their crimes is crucial, because prevention is the best cure.

November Roses

Hope St. November 29

Brook St. November 28

We’re less than a month away from the start of Winter and it’s been mild so far. I don’t know if we always had November roses or I’m just noticing them now. It was a good year for leaves, a bit cooler than average in temperature according to the weather charts but we got off easy this month.

I love you, Canada, but you can keep those Arctic cold fronts to yourself.

UPDATE: The Arctic is showing the effects of climate change in thinning sea ice.