Archive for the ‘Republican Election Strategy’ Category

[Originally published in Examiner.com]

In a political landscape full of pundit-speak, spin and dancing politicians, it’s often difficult to cast a truly informed vote. So it’s good to know you can still get politics served up straight, bold and unapologetic in Texas.

I’m speaking, of course, about the brand new 2012 platform of the Texas Republican Party. Epic in scope, breathtaking in its lunacy, this platform covers everything from evolution to space exploration and is a clear, unambiguous glimpse into the worldview of today’s Republican Party — a must-read for all who might be thinking of voting in that direction this November.

The Texas GOP platform reminds you that today’s Republican Party is not your father’s Republican Party. It’s not even his father’s Republican Party. As you read it, you’ll feel as if you’re being transported back in time to an age when scientists were considered evil sorcerers, women needed men and/or the government to decide how to manage their lives, and education was something you did to children, rather than for them.

Education

This is how the new GOP believes kids should be taught about theories of evolution and global warming:

“We believe theories such as life origins and environmental change should be taught as challengeable scientific theories subject to change as new data is [sic] produced.”

Sounds reasonable enough. But I wonder if it would be OK with Republicans if teachers teach their students that it was, indeed, only after many scientific challenges to both of these theories that scientists accepted them as the likely answers to the questions, “How did we develop as a species?” and “Why is the Earth getting so darned warm?”

Though today’s Republicans are big on challenging evolution and man-made global warming, it seems they don’t want children to challenge much of anything.

“We oppose the teaching of Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) (values clarification), critical thinking skills and similar programs that are simply a relabeling of Outcome-Based Education (OBE) (mastery learning) which focus on behavior modification and have the purpose of challenging the student’s fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority.”

As Texas Christian University professor of economics, John T. Harvey, writes in his excellent piece at Forbes,

“… do they really and truly believe that teachers and school boards across the State of Texas are designing curricula specifically aimed at training children to challenge their parents?”

Actually, there are probably very few people who know exactly what the Texas GOP means about critical thinking “undermining parental authority” but they do manage to interject a little paranoia into the old “father knows best” adage.

Harvey continues:

“Were we to implement such a policy, we’d have to be certain that we had already identified the concepts and values that were ‘correct’ (whatever that really means). Even a cursory reading of their platform makes it very clear that this is precisely what Texas Republicans believe and what those concepts and values are. This begs the question, who is really aiming to force their beliefs on our children, Texas schools or Texas Republicans?”

If kids do have the temerity to think critically in class, though, Texas Republicans know what to do.

“We recommend that local school boards and classroom teachers be given more authority to deal with disciplinary problems. Corporal punishment is effective and legal in Texas.”

Women

Or how about Republican plans for women — more specifically, women’s bodies?

It may be approved by the FDA, considered safe and effective by the American Medical Association and available at your local Walgreen’s, but Republicans know better.

“We oppose sale and use of the dangerous ‘Morning After Pill’.”

In their ongoing attempt to send abortion back to its back-alley roots, Republicans want to place themselves firmly between women and their doctors.

“We support legislation banning of abortion after 20 weeks gestation due to fetal pain.”

Once again, the GOP knows better than them smart aleck research scientists, who find no scientific evidence to support such legislation.

The platform does make one sensible pronouncement regarding women, however.

“We strongly support women who choose to devote their lives to their families and raising their children.”

It’s just that the platform declares no such support for women who choose to do anything else.

Homosexuality

Americans are gradually warming to the idea that gay and lesbian folk are as good, bad, decent and indecent as we heteros. We are also beginning to recognize the cruelty, impracticality and unfairness of marginalizing this large segment of the American population. But, Republicans see it a bit differently.

“We affirm that the practice of homosexuality tears at the fabric of society and contributes to the breakdown of the family unit. Homosexual behavior is contrary to the fundamental, unchanging truths that have been ordained by God, recognized by our country’s founders, and shared by the majority of Texans. Homosexuality must not be presented as an acceptable “alternative” lifestyle, in public policy, nor should “family” be redefined to include homosexual “couples.”

Homosexuals have been part of the human family ever since Peking Man found another Peking Man attractive. Not to mention, same-sex attraction occurs in every species, from gut worms to primates. Doesn’t that qualify homosexuality as one of God’s “unchanging truths?”

Anyone thinking about homosexuality with a clear, bias-free mind understands that it is neither a choice nor harmful to society. Who would choose to spend his or her life fighting for rights we straights take for granted? And, can anyone explain to me how on earth I am negatively affected by another person’s fondness for members of his or her own sex?

Voter Beware

There are many more equally nutty views espoused in the platform, including support for returning the dollar to the gold standard, abolishing income tax in favor of a national sales tax, abstinence-only sex-ed, gutting public education and, of course, deregulation, deregulation and more deregulation. But this is what Republicans stand for today. By purging moderates and independent minded conservatives from its ranks, the Republican Party has managed to reduce itself to a thick soup of right wing extremism that even Ronald Reagan would have a hard time recognizing as his beloved Grand Old Party.

It seems every presidential election is hyped as “the most important election in history.” This time, however, it may very well be. And that makes the Texas Republican Party Platform equally important.

Read it, get to know it and then… run screaming back to the Democratic Party. Your nation will thank you.

Click the “Sign me up” button on the left for email alerts of Buchanan’s latest screeds

Photo: Iowa State Daily

The demonstrations in Madison are manna from heaven.

Aside from the very welcome spectacle of thousands joining together to block the Republican putsch against the middle class, the demonstrations also remind America and the world that pissed-off, middle-aged white people thrusting misspelled anti-Obama signs into the sky are not the only politically active voices in America. Not by a long shot.

Governor Scott Walker’s attempt to crush Wisconsin unions has given America the unvarnished, accurate picture of today’s Republicanism in all its selfish, bullying arrogance and American workers have responded with a resounding “Eat Me!”  With over 70,000 protesters in Madison on Saturday alone, and other protests planned for tomorrow in every state capital and major city in America, it appears more members of America’s middle class are recognizing who the real enemy is… and it ain’t Obamacare.

Republican DNA

Just how stupid do Walker and the Forces of Darkness think Americans are? Nobody’s buying the fiscal responsibility song and dance so earnestly crooned by Walker and his fellow union-busting governors. Like demagoguery and giving tax breaks to the rich, everyone understands that union crushing is part of Republican DNA. It’s one of the many ways they say, “We love you” to big business. So, to anyone paying the least bit of attention, Walker and pals not only come off looking like union-busting extremists, they come off looking like lying and opportunistic union-busting extremists.

Listen in on the inspired prank call between Governor Walker and ersatz magnate David Koch (played to smug perfection by Buffalo Beast’s Ian Murphy) and you hear the very definition of plutocracy at its union-busting worst. Like an aide-de-camp in full, simpering toady mode, Walker assures “mon generale” that the attack on unions is going according to plan–as he smooches away at what he thinks is Koch’s billion-dollar behind.

Backlash

It appears this latest bit of Republican arrogance has launched a backlash from American workers that in sheer numbers will continue to dwarf last summer’s Tea Party tantrums in a big way–while giving the press better looking people to photograph in the bargain.

Perhaps no symbol better captures the feeling of community and the “we’re all in this together” spirit of the demonstrators than the thousands of pizzas being anonymously ordered for them by supporters all over the planet. As of today, 30,000 slices of pizza have been ordered for the protesters from every state in the union and such far-flung places as Antarctica and Egypt. So selfless, so caring, so cooperative and collaborative… so un-Republican.

Tea Party favorite Rep. Allen West wants people to know two very important things: He encourages his opponents to speak out at his town hall meetings… and he is armed.

____________________________________________________

let’s play…SPOT THE REPUBLICAN

_____________________________

Double-D Breast Implant Deflects Bullet

…NRA Cries Foul

A miraculous combination of manufactured voluptuousness, luck and tensile strength saved Lydia Carranza’s life last summer when a bullet fired point-blank at her heart was deflected by her double-D breast implant.

After seven months of healing, Carranza was scheduled to undergo reconstructive surgery last Friday.

Carranza’s Beverly Hills cosmetic surgeon, Dr. Ashkan Ghavami, told KTLA News he believes “her implant stopped the bullet from hitting her heart.  The bullet fragments were millimeters from her heart and her vital organs.  If not for the implant, she might not be alive.”  He added that the implant absorbed much of the bullet’s impact, limiting most of the damage to the breast itself.

                                                   NRA Issues Response

Upon hearing of Carranza’s close call, the National Rifle Association (NRA) issued the following statement to its membership:

“Although we are glad that Ms. Carranza is alive and well, we at the NRA feel we must address the growing problem of bullet-deflection by breast enhancement implants.

We believe the 2nd Amendment gives all Americans the right not only to own and use firearms, but according to our legal experts’ interpretation, it also carries an implicit protection of the right to hit intended targets without fear of ballistic deflection caused by cosmetic medical devices–devices that, left unchecked, could very well send us hurtling down a slippery slope to total gun confiscation in America.

In our ongoing struggle to protect your Constitutional rights, the NRA feels obligated to bring this issue to your attention.  As more American women opt for this type of procedure, the possibility of bullet trajectory impairment grows.  After all our efforts on behalf of American gun owners, including the defense of your right to own 30-round handgun clips, 50-round assault rifles, armor-piercing ammunition and untraceable cartridges, we believe it would be irresponsible to drop the ball on the issue of bullet deflection by breast implant.

As always, you can be sure your NRA is on the job, defending your right to total gun freedom in America.

To the manufacturers of bullet-deflecting implants and doctors who specialize in these types of anti-gun procedures: Know that the National Rifle Association has you in our sights.”

Click the “Sign me up” button on the left for email alerts of Buchanan’s latest screeds

[originally published by OpEd News]
Actually, there is no pat meaning or definition for the phrase “family values.” Like obscenity, I guess you just know it when you see it. 

Often used by social conservatives to conjure up a mythical America of yesteryear, the phrase evokes an era when everyone’s lawn was green, thick and well manicured, kids were obedient, and “Lassie” had no genitalia—long before liberals turned us into gay, pot-smoking abortionists, before minorities and women got so noisy and before movie stars said naughty words on screen.

Today many Republicans use the term as a weapon against same-sex marriage, legal abortion, the decriminalization of marijuana and a zillion other issues they find unacceptable.

To clarify our terms, I suggest we define “family values” as “valuing the American family.” “Republicans” will mean “the movers and shakers of today’s dynamic GOP.”

Valuing the Family… the Republican Way

To be fair, I think Republicans do value families — but only their own. Everybody else’s family is either trying to stay in the country illegally, getting rich and lazy on welfare, undeserving of a living wage, a terrorist cell, or immorally trying to become a family while being gay.

Though many Democratic leaders share the blame in the Great Stacking of the Deck Against American Families, these Democrats tend to be of the sneaky, corporate shill variety who are often at odds with American families’ wishes and their own party’s positions (see Public Option). Republicans, however, are very open about their willingness to throw the American family under the bus in the name of big business, bigotry, big business, bad judgment and big business.

There is really no reason—or enough room on my hard drive—to go into all of the sordid, headline-grabbing family values hypocrisies of such Republican pillars of wholesomeness as Sen. David “Escort Service” Vitter and Sen. Larry “Strokin’ in the Boys Room” Craigs. Though these indiscretions do highlight the dilemma of a party that professes to love America but can’t tolerate how Americans live, they are not the result of official party policy, as far as I know. Rather, it’s the official, loudly-touted policies of today’s lockstep GOP leadership that amply demonstrate the party’s disregard for the majority of American families.

With the possible exception of a proposed Wendell Willkie postage stamp, every major item on the GOP wish list would either be disadvantageous to most American families or devastating if put into effect.

Here are a few:

Deregulation

As homeless shelters burst at the seams with newly impoverished families, and old folks wonder how on earth they’re going to get through their golden years now that their 401(k)s are in tatters and their homes are worth borscht, Republicans are clamoring to let the Wall Street robber-barons who drove our economy into a ditch continue to speed along with even fewer rules of the road.

Rather than offering to commit public seppuku for creating the Reagan-Gramm deregulation free-for-all that made the Wall Street greed orgy and collapse possible, Republican enablers like Sen. Mitch McConnell and others call Obama a socialist for wanting more governmental oversight of the industry, whining in chorus that such intrusion into the private sector would kill jobs and stifle innovation.

Yeah, we saw the kind of “innovation” Wall Street is capable of.

By the way, whenever you hear a sentence containing any form of the words “job” and “kill” spoken by a Republican, remember who was steering the ship of state when the jobs began to die. You’ve got to admire Republican testicular strength, though—if nothing else—for even mentioning “deregulation” and “jobs” in the same sentence.

Anti-Unionism

For the last thirty years Americans have watched their wages shrivel while CEOs have increasingly taken home salaries and bonuses that would make the Sultan of Brunei blush. According to a University of California Santa Cruz study, the top 20% of households owned 85% of all privately held wealth in 2007—leaving the rest of us 80% to divvy up the remaining 15%.

Oddly enough, it was also during this time that Republican policies, votes and propaganda made it more difficult for workers to unionize. Organized labor has gone from representing one-third of America’s workforce in 1950 to just 11.9% in 2010. In the private sector, union membership is down to a feeble 6.9%. It’s no coincidence that Americans’ earning power accompanied that decline. Where did America’s middle class go? It committed suicide in the voting booth.

Yet Republicans continue to paint unions as enormously powerful bogeymen and have even ramped up their union bashing. Why? As organizations of and for working Americans, unions tend to favor Democrats. Republicans know if they can get rid of unions completely Democrats will lose the financial support and organizational strengths unions have historically given to Democratic politicians and issues. In the end, Republicans would have the support of Big Business and all the votes corporate money can buy while Democrats would be out on the street with a hurdy-gurdy and a monkey.

Incredibly, Republicans have managed to get a surprising number of American workers—low skilled through professional—to swallow this anti-union codswallop. Somehow the right has transformed the image of organized labor from Woody Guthrie rousing a room with his guitar into Vito Corleone spraying the room with a sub-machine gun.

Apparently, relentless Republican attacks on unions made some workers forget where living wages, worker safety, tolerable conditions and decent hours came from in the first place. Those who think these advances for American workers and their families came from the goodness of corporate hearts should be made to write “British Petroleum” 100 times on the blackboard, or at the very least, read this little heart-warmer about two high-level Massey Energy executives and their descent into the Upper Big Branch coalmine immediately after the mine’s deadly explosion. Heroic rescue attempt or an attempt to destroy evidence and rescue themselves from criminal indictments and billions in fines and civil judgments?

Anti-Same-Sex Marriage

By attempting to end these families before they’ve even begun, this Republican position affecting a large number of our countrymen and women may be the hands-down champ of blatant, Republican anti-family-ness. Good lord, fellas, I know this issue whips your Tea Party pals into a white-hot lather, but sometimes, reason, fairness and the U.S. Constitution must win over political expedience…mustn’t it…sometimes?

I really don’t think anyone with the power to reason still believes that homosexuality is a lifestyle choice, a  naughty experiment or juicy flaunting of our moral code. No one really thinks that teenagers choose to be slammed into lockers by lettermen clubs, or look happily forward to the day they will tell their parents to “forget about grandchildren from me.”

So, what we have here is a major political party attempting to punish and marginalize a large segment of the American population by trying to prohibit them from doing what comes naturally: fall in love and get married. As gays and lesbians try to lead their lives despite cruel prejudice and religious dogma that holds approximately the same modern relevance as stoning your son to death for being a gluttonous drunkard (Deuteronomy 21:18-21), the Grand Old Party does its level best to keep anti-gay bigotry loud and alive by demanding prior restraint on would-be families with its Marriage Protection Amendment to the Constitution.

Lifting the Assault Weapon Ban

What can anyone say about this Republican wish and its potential effect on American families, other than “Lift the assault weapon ban?

Come November

The Republican Party’s long tradition of siding with big business over the American family continues to chip away at the average American’s earning power and standard of living. However, the damage a Republican controlled Washington could further inflict on American families isn’t limited to economics. When you toss in other family-unfriendly Republican positions on global warming, preemptive and continual war, education, reproductive rights and family planning, and their new jaw-dropper regarding unemployment insurance creating  “lazy” Americans, it’s not too difficult to figure out which party’s policies and worldview promote “family values.”

The truth is, until special interest money is removed from our electoral system, neither party will truly be the champion of the American family. Sadly though, with the Republican majority of the Supreme Court opening the corporate spigots wide with its Citizens United ruling, that heavenly day is likely to be a long, long way down the line.

Forced to choose between the two parties, however, the American family would be wise to go with the Democrats. The Grand Old Party is too darned busy trying to keep people from voting, selling American families to the highest corporate bidders, undermining the Obama presidency at the country’s expense and coming up with new and better ways of converting Americans’ lesser angels of fear and bigotry into political power to even care about how American families are doing.

For a scary trip down the Republican rabbit hole:
2012 Texas Republican Platform: A Frightening Look Inside the New Republican Brai

Click the “Sign me up” button on the left for email alerts of Buchanan’s latest screeds

This is the first of ten installments examining the biggest and fattest, most unapologetic out-and-out whoppers that Republicans will be running on this November. It was hard to narrow the list down to just ten (I could have done volumes on Michele Bachmann alone), but after extensive study and fact checking, these are the winners of “The Ten Biggest Republican Lies.”

Extending the Bush Tax Cuts Will Reduce the Deficit

To grow the economy, I, King Russell of Buchania, have decided to extend a 5% tax reduction to my subjects. For most Buchanians the 5% reduction will merely postpone the wolf’s scratching at the door, but for my fellow aristocrats the cuts will result in a doubloon windfall—a cascade of cash that they will then invest in Buchania businesses and the creation of jobs for my many unemployed subjects.

I will then be able to collect enough taxes from my happy, gainfully employed people that I will be able to replace the amount Buchania’s treasury lost by cutting taxes in the first place. The Deficit of the Realm will be reduced, and I, their beloved sovereign, will then be able to pay for better roads and better education for their children.

The deficit reduction caused by my tax cuts will also calm the fears of our creditor kingdoms, Chinathia and Germandria, whose growing nervousness about our out-of-control spending might have eventually caused them to dump—for pennies on the doubloon—the trillion in Buchania Treasury Notes they now hold… a situation so devastating we would long for the relatively good old days of the Black Plague.

However, when Buchania’s unemployment reaches 20% and my subjects have discovered that my tax cuts only fattened the deficit and the bank accounts of my fellow aristocrats, their love for me will diminish. When it is further discovered that instead of investing in Buchania’s economy, my wealthy chums used their tax cuts to purchase fine country estates and caviar for their polo ponies, it will not sit well with the Great Unwashed. After losing their livestock, thatched huts and sanity, they will storm my castle and hang me from the outstretched arm of my beautiful, jewel-encrusted statue of Adam Smith.

The Voodoo They Do

Voodoo Economics” is what Bush Sr. called this particular piece of “supply-side” theory eventually signed into law by his Voodoo-friendly son. Before Senator John McCain became “Weather Vane” McCain, he too loudly inveighed against this obviously unworkable scheme.

N. Gregory Mankiw, former chair of Bush Jr.’s Council of Economic Advisers, broke it down like this: The money kept in the private sector by cuts in capital gains taxes generates only about half of the government revenue lost by the cuts, while payroll tax cuts replace about 17% of what the government would have collected without the cuts.

In other words, continuing across-the-board tax-slashing while our deficit turns into a fiscal version of “The Blob” is economic madness; only a fraction of the money kept in the private sector due to tax cuts finds its way back into government coffers.

Economists with impeccable conservative bona fides, including Alan Greenspan and Reagan budget chief David Stockman, predict fiscal disaster if the Bush tax cuts don’t expire when they’re supposed to at midnight, December 31, 2010.

Bush’s Folly in Perpetuity and the “Small Business” Canard

If Bush’s tax cuts are allowed to continue, the wealthiest Americans–by far the major beneficiaries of the cuts–would simply pile those millions on top of the money they’re already hoarding. The only jobs created: crews for their new yachts.

Small business owners–the folks Republicans claim are in Obama’s “over $250,000 ” bracket — AREN’T.  John McCain can shout, “23 million small-business owners will see their taxes go up under Obama’s scheme” all he wants, but he can’t make it true. In fact, a number of those business owners will see their taxes go down.

According to FactCheck.com’s analysis, “McCain is counting mostly ‘business owners’ with no workers, including those who simply report small amounts of income from sideline or freelance work. McCain is arguing that Obama’s tax increase would “destroy jobs,” but he’s counting mostly firms that don’t produce any.”

Business Week tells us that “8.9% of individuals who report small business income or loss (including self-employment income, income from S-corps, partnerships and limited liability companies, farm income and income from rental property and royalties) have household income greater than $250,000. But fewer than 2% of those filers fall into the top two tax brackets.” From Business Week, no less–not exactly a champion of wealth redistribution.

According to the Joint Committee on Taxation, extending Bush’s tax cuts would add $2.6 trillion to the deficit over the next 10 years.

We’d have to really hate our kids and grandkids to leave them holding that kind of bag.

When you add to the Bush tax cuts our current policy of continual war, our red ink begins to take on biblical proportion–plague, locusts and the American deficit.  According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, “Just two policies dating from the Bush Administration — tax cuts and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan — accounted for over $500 billion added to the deficit in 2009 and will account for almost $7 trillion of the deficit from 2009 through 2019, including the associated debt-service costs. These impacts easily dwarf the stimulus and financial rescues. Furthermore, unlike those temporary costs, these inherited policies (especially the tax cuts and the [unpaid for] Medicare drug benefit) do not fade away as the economy recovers.”

Republican Whoppers

We’ve gotten used to Republican end runs around the truth with “death panels,” global warming-as-hoax, Iraq’s WMDs, etc., but those claims at least offered some sort of plausible deniability, i.e., “Everybody thought Saddam had WMDs,” or “Obamacare does mention ‘panels’ and ‘death’ at different points in the legislation.” But the bold assertion that tax cuts will reduce the deficit is not only the biggest and fattest of big fat Republican lies, it leaves no credible dance steps toward the wings for its minstrels.

Once Americans see the original Bush tax cuts and their extension as tragic fiscal policy, Boehner and crew could try, “You heard us wrong, we said, Let’s end, not extend,’ ” but somehow I don’t think anybody will buy it…or prevent us rabble from carrying our pitchforks and torches to the voting booth.

Click here for next Republican Whopper: We are the Party of Family Values

Click the “Sign me up” button on the left for email alerts of Buchanan’s latest screeds

Though death sentences nationwide are on a steady decline, Los Angeles, Orange and Riverside Counties are keeping California firmly rooted in the Dark Ages with 2009’s record number of execution orders.

California in the Lead

According to a recent ACLU study, even “Hang’em High” Texas with its 11 death verdicts couldn’t keep up with L.A.’s 13. The difference, of course, is that Texas actually kills condemned people while California has been on a temporary death hiatus since it executed Clarence Ray Allen in 2006.

Apparently, the state can’t find a licensed doctor willing to violate the Hippocratic Oath by intentionally killing a human by lethal injection. It seems many doctors find the Oath’s #1 precept, “First, do no harm,” to be at odds with the job’s #1 requirement, “First, pump the patient full of poison until his heart stops,” so this position continues to be one of the very few jobs remaining on California’s “help wanted” list.

But, doctors aren’t immune to California’s current unemployment crisis. We are just one unemployed doctor’s rationalization away from polishing up the gurney and clearing the IV tubes.

According to the California Dept. of Corrections and Rehabilitation, the state also leads the nation with 701 prisoners on its death row. If L.A. and her sister counties continue to hand out death verdicts at their 2009 rate, and the job of executioner remains unfilled, San Quentin will be forced to add a few wings to its already severely overcrowded death row.  Chowchilla, the state’s death row for women, is holding steady at 16, with the most recent addition of Cathy Lynn Sarinana in 2009.

Nationwide, there are about 4,000 people on death row. With Belarus the only European nation still employing capital punishment, and the rest of the Americas carrying out zero executions in 2009, the Killer Countries Club’s membership has been reduced to such bastions of human rights as China (the world leader), Iran, Yemen, Saudi Arabia and us.

The Innocence Problem

According to Amnesty International, since 1973 over 130 people have been released from American death rows because they were proved to be innocent. Nine were exonerated in 2009 alone. These were the cases that happened to catch the attention of someone or organization that gave a damn. What about the others who weren’t lucky, or literate enough to bring attention to their cases?

All arguments regarding the death penalty—efficacy, racial disparity, deterrence, morality, etc.— pale in comparison to the inescapable conclusion drawn from these exoneration stats: The United States has executed—and continues to execute—innocent people.

For those who claim that the “timely” exoneration of death row innocents proves that the system works, consider the following story.

In 1981, Leonel Herrera was convicted of killing a police officer in Texas, and sentenced to die. Twelve years later, Herrera, who had professed his innocence from day one, was put to death.  His last words were, “I am innocent, innocent, innocent. I am an innocent man, and something very wrong is taking place tonight.”

One year before the execution, convincing new evidence surfaced, strongly indicating that the actual killer was Herrera’s brother, Raul. The evidence included affidavits from eyewitnesses and the recantation of original trial witnesses.

One affidavit came from Raul’s attorney, who swore Raul had confessed to him that he was the cop killer, and one was written by Raul’s son, Raul Jr., who, though nine years old at the time, clearly remembered seeing his dad shoot the policeman.

This is how the system worked for Leonel: Texas determined that the new evidence was discovered too late because in Texas new evidence must be presented within 30 days of sentencing.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 6-3 that Herrera was not eligible for “federal relief based on newly discovered evidence of actual innocence, when the defendant’s original trial had been free from procedural error.”  In other words, Leonel Herrera was put to death on technicalities.

For more examples of likely mistaken executions, check out the National Coalition Against the Death Penalty’s (NCADP) “Shouting From the Rooftops.”  Granted, NCADP is clearly an anti-death penalty organization, but the stories here are troublesome, to say the least, and have a mighty loud ring of truth.

Sacrificing Innocent Folks in the Name of Justice

This begs the question at the very heart of the death penalty debate: Is it morally OK to sacrifice a few innocent people for the societal benefit of the death penalty? Maybe there’s an acceptable ratio; say, one innocent life for every 700 guilty; 4 innocents for every 2,000 guilty. Higher? Lower?

If you think sacrificing an innocent person now and then is acceptable, you probably have lots of company. You definitely have a kindred spirit in Steven D. Stewart, Prosecuting Attorney for Clark County, Indiana.

“Our system of justice rightfully demands a higher standard for death penalty cases,” writes Stewart on his web page ,  however, the risk of making a mistake with the extraordinary due process applied in death penalty cases is very small, and there is no credible evidence to show that any innocent persons have been executed at least since the death penalty was reactivated in 1976. The 100+ death row inmates ‘innocent’, ‘exonerated’ and released, as trumpeted by anti-death penalty activists, is a fraud. The actual number of factually innocent released death row inmates is closer to 40 [italics mine] and in any event should be considered in context of over 7,000 [italics mine] death sentences handed down since 1973.”

Stewart closes with this interesting comparison: “The inevitability of a mistake should not serve as grounds to eliminate the death penalty any more than the risk of having a fatal wreck should make automobiles illegal.” Stewart’s car crash metaphor omits the fact that there is an alternative to his “fatal wreck” called “life with no possibility of parole.”

But, he has found an “acceptable” innocent-to-guilty, killing ratio: 40 innocents to 7,000 guilty sounds about right to him. I wonder if that ratio would still be OK if one of those 40 innocents happened to be Stewart’s son or brother, or maybe Stewart himself.

We read about prosecutorial and law enforcement misconduct regularly—everything from brutally forced confessions, witness intimidation, to planted evidence and beyond. We know about jailhouse informants—people whose relationship with the truth is strained enough without prosecutors offering lenient treatment in exchange for the right testimony. We’ve heard stories about defense counsel in capital cases falling asleep during proceedings, or showing up drunk in court. If you believe for one moment that there have only been 40 innocent people sentenced to die in America since 1973, then you either pay no attention to current events, or you’re running for D.A. in some Indiana county on a “tough on crime” platform.

The Only Option

National statistics show that Americans are growing suspicious of the death penalty, and getting tired of paying for it. When asked if they would do away with capital punishment if life without parole meant “permanent imprisonment with no chance of getting out–ever” the majority answered “yes.” Intriguingly enough, there are a number of states that refuse to give juries that option.

On the other hand, there are 15 states that have no death penalty or resultant spikes in capital offenses.

I love my family and friends far too much to support any system that would give known, vicious sociopaths a chance to get anywhere near them. But, I can’t support a penalty that kills innocent people. Fortunately, we have the option of life with no parole in our state. We also have the comforting fact that in 25 years, not one California prisoner sentenced to life without parole has gotten out of custody; not one. In California capital cases, life with no parole means exactly what it says, and should be the only option.

Our justice system is just too imperfect for such a perfectly final punishment.