Smart people saying smart things

Smart people saying smart things March 21, 2012

Michelle Alexander: “Go to Trial: Crash the Justice System

“What would happen if we organized thousands, even hundreds of thousands, of people charged with crimes to refuse to play the game, to refuse to plea out? What if they all insisted on their Sixth Amendment right to trial? Couldn’t we bring the whole system to a halt just like that?”

… The Bill of Rights guarantees the accused basic safeguards, including the right to be informed of charges against them, to an impartial, fair and speedy jury trial, to cross-examine witnesses and to the assistance of counsel.

But in this era of mass incarceration — when our nation’s prison population has quintupled in a few decades partly as a result of the war on drugs and the “get tough” movement — these rights are, for the overwhelming majority of people hauled into courtrooms across America, theoretical. More than 90 percent of criminal cases are never tried before a jury. Most people charged with crimes forfeit their constitutional rights and plead guilty.

“People should understand that simply exercising their rights would shake the foundations of our justice system which works only so long as we accept its terms. As you know, another brutal system of racial and social control once prevailed in this country, and it never would have ended if some people weren’t willing to risk their lives. It would be nice if reasoned argument would do, but as we’ve seen that’s just not the case.”

Charlie Pierce: “The Crusaders

“There’s two questions there,” says the Rev. C. John McCloskey III, smiling. … “One is, Do I think it would be better that way? No. Do I think it’s possible? Do I think it’s possible for someone who believes in the sanctity of marriage, the sanctity of life, the sanctity of family, over a period of time to choose to survive with people who think it’s OK to kill women and children or for — quote — homosexual couples to exist and be recognized?

“No, I don’t think that’s possible,” he says. “I don’t know how it’s going to work itself out, but I know it’s not possible, and my hope and prayer is that it does not end in violence. But, unfortunately, in the past, these types of things have tended to end this way.

“If American Catholics feel that’s troubling, let them. I don’t feel it’s troubling at all.”

If it sounds like a call from an Old Testament desert, that’s not where the 49-year-old McCloskey operates. He’s the priest of the power corridor, right there on K Street in Washington, where you can look out the windows of his Catholic Information Center and see the sharpies flocking on the sidewalk, organizing the complicated subleasing of various parts of the national treasure.

Carolyn Jones: “‘We Have No Choice’: One Woman’s Ordeal With Texas’ New Sonogram Law

The doctor and nurse were professional and kind, and it was clear that they understood our sorrow. They too apologized for what they had to do next. For the third time that day, I exposed my stomach to an ultrasound machine, and we saw images of our sick child forming in blurred outlines on the screen.

“I’m so sorry that I have to do this,” the doctor told us, “but if I don’t, I can lose my license.” Before he could even start to describe our baby, I began to sob until I could barely breathe. Somewhere, a nurse cranked up the volume on a radio, allowing the inane pronouncements of a DJ to dull the doctor’s voice. Still, despite the noise, I heard him. His unwelcome words echoed off sterile walls while I, trapped on a bed, my feet in stirrups, twisted away from his voice.

Fifth Pevensie: “I’m Pro-Choice and Christian, Ask Me How

I know a lot of people who think being pro-choice is incompatible with Christianity, and I know that it can be a very sensitive topic and I’m generally not interested in starting fights. But I also know I can’t be super secretive about it forever. I’m pro-choice and pro-contraception-access because I think all children should be deeply loved and cared for and appreciated, and I think all mothers should be willing and enthusiastic about caring for their children. I don’t think it’s my position to dictate how other people make sexual and reproductive choices; I know what I think about sex for myself, and maybe sometime I’ll tell you if you’re curious. I’m all for lowering the abortion rate but only in the same way that I’m for lowering the rates of other medical procedures through adequate prevention and care, and I know that the countries with the lowest abortion rates are also the ones with comprehensive sex ed and widespread contraception access. And I know that being pro-choice means supporting whatever choice is being made. …

I’m also a theology student, and the more I study (or the more heretical I become, depending on who you’re talking to), the more I’m not sure the Bible really has much to say about reproductive rights, beyond an Ancient Near East understanding of the importance of children and the cultural shame of a barren wife, and there is something in Exodus 21 about paying a woman restitution if you cause her to miscarry. …

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