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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  • Anonymous

    You shouldn’t “deal with” her at all.  Let her have all the abortions she wants.  What business is it of yours?  When I hear about a woman like that, I don’t think that she needs to be stopped and I don’t feel the need to send her a message to let her know that I (hypothetically) disapprove of what she’s doing.  I hope she keeps on having as many abortions as she wants because an unwanted baby wouldn’t change her behavior.

  •  Well, just like we do with all other medical procedures. If the government determines that you’ve broken your arm too many times, and that this means that you’re just being careless and not taking responsibility for your actions, they’ll forbid you from having your broken arm set ever again. Because if you need a medical procedure to help you recover when you’re a victim of your own irresponsibility, that’s what we do. We say “No. You made your bed, now you have to lie in it.”

    Wait, no we don’t. Anyone who suggested such a thing in public would be mocked and treated as a dangerous extremist.

    Anyway, what does limiting the access of such a person to abortion accomplish? How in the world is it a good idea to force someone who you’ve decided is “stupid, ignorant or plain evil” to *be a parent*? How in the world is it a good idea force such a person to go through an unwanted pregnancy?

  • Tonio

    Most of us probably agree that Sam’s outlier is acting irresponsibly by not using contraception. Even if we went a step further and assumed for argument’s sake that something should be done to “deal with” her, there’s really nothing that could be done. Not only is it morally reprehensible to try to force someone to care about being responsible, it’s also impossible from a practical standpoint. The same is true with the idea of forcing women to want to be mothers.

    “Responsibility” is a tricky word in this discussion, because opponents seem to assume from the outset that any woman who seeks to have sex without being a mother is being irresponsible. Sure, many of them want to control women simply to protect their own privilege. My theory is that many of them and many other opponents believe on a subconscious level that females have holy missions to bear new life, where that’s the only purpose of women. So when a woman doesn’t want to be a mother, for such people that may seem evil on a level they may not understand.

    That’s what I see as the core motivation for things like compulsory ultrasounds, which are not just repulsively invasive but also patronizing and infantilizing. They want a Hollywood ending where the woman sees the image and breaks down in tears, unable to go through with the procedure, and mama and baby ride off into the sunset as the music swells. Much of this is a self-righteous desire to be heroic rescuers, as Fred has said many times. And while they do talk about responsibility in a way that treats pregnancy as a punishment for being sexually active, maybe deep down they really fetishize childbearing and refuse to understand why any woman wouldn’t want that for herself.

  •  The further thought occurs: If we are to “deal with” such a person, shouldn’t we also “deal with” people who go tothe doctor to get antibiotics for STDs they contracted from unprotected sex? Like, after the third time, “no more antibiotics for you; you should have thought about that before you went and got syphilis again”?

  • I’m finding myself completely unable to give a shit about this. This woman could have 500 abortions*, and it wouldn’t, as the saying goes, pick my pocket or break my leg. Using abortion as birth control is stupid, but you’re pretty much only harming yourself. Calling it a “crime against humanity” is way over the top. It’s basically akin to eating nothing but Big Macs – not what I’d call a healthy decision, but I have no intention of legally stopping someone from doing so.

    *Well, mathematically speaking, she couldn’t. But you get my point.

  • Going from my own experiences: Dialysis is a very unpleasant procedure that took over my life for two and a half years. Undergoing kidney transplant surgery, and recovering from it, was a very unpleasant and painful experience for me and for my cousin, and will continue to affect us for the rest of our lives.

    But the fact that I was able to receive these treatments, especially at no cost under what socialized medicine the USA has, is an unabashedly good thing.

    You know what else is a good thing? That my cousin donated her kidney because she is awesome. Not because some law decided that her bodily integrity was subservient to another person’s needs. Better that I had remained on dialysis for (a shortened) life than that anyone be forced through such a thing.

  • anonym

     I don’t know about most Catholics, but for anyone raised in an Irish Catholic tradition, turning Anglican is going over to the enemy- I know many, many people who will do all sorts of mental gymnastics to be able to call themselves Catholic, because leaving is unthinkable.

  • anonym

     Are you sure about that? I’ve heard a few horror stories of people whose parents didn’t realize they needed some kind of papers to prove their citizenship status and it got them all kinds of trouble when they turned 18.

  • Donalbain

     Yes, some people are. For many women an abortion is the right thing to do at that time in their lives. I am in favour of women doing what they feel is right, and if they feel that an abortion is right for them, then I am pro-abortion.

  • Afisher

    I’m only ambiguously in favor of this- because if people do require the jury trials to which they are entitled, that means that us random citizens are being drafted for slave labor for which we are mostly not paid at all, and if we are paid, it it not enough to cover our actual costs from being on a jury rather than working at our job.

    Some companies cover jury duty for employees. These days, most workers do not have that coverage.