Monday, July 23, 2012

Full Force of our Justice System?

The Consoler-in-Chief was in Aurora Colorado yesterday to comfort the community struggling to cope with the mass killing (and wounding) over the weekend. Among the tones of emotion and religious faith that the President is remarkably effective at communicating in his restrained and reasonable way, the sharpest and most quoted words were reserved for the presumed guilty 24 year old, James Holmes, in custody (read the NYTimes coverage).
“In the end, after he has felt the full force of our justice system, what will be remembered are the good people who were impacted by this tragedy,”
It is an unsettling reminder that even (or especially) at a time of unending national economic woes, retribution and especially capital punishment remain esssential to our national political culture (for why, see Governing through Crime: How the War on Crime Transformed American Democracy and Created a Culture of Fear). The President, after all, has nothing to say legally about what kind of punishment (full force, or otherwise), the killer (if that is who is in custody) will face. He does get to execute people by direct order through drone strikes, of course, as well as deport tens of thousands of others, some to death or worst; and make no mistake, this President has done so with relish and he wants you to know that. While he probably can't do either to James Holmes right now, nobody could miss the parallel with President W's promise to the 9/11 terrorist that they would "hear from you" soon. The President as vengeance-seeker. Why bother with a written Constitution, we should just rule by Icelandic Sagas. A President who is unable to explain why the Affordable Health Care Act has something to do with justice, social justice, the word justice as punishment comes as easy as "God bless America.: The statement "full force of our justice system" is an unmistakable reference to capital punishment. Despite the fact that executions and even death sentences are going down. Despite the fact that state legislatures in New Mexico and New Jersey have taken the once unimaginable modern step of abolishing the death penalty and California voters will be asked to do the same thing this Fall, this President has never missed an opportunity to dip his robes in the symbolic blood of capital punishment. By the way, do not imagine that evidence, should it emerge, that James Holmes is a suffering from one of several severe mental illnesses that young adults of his age are particularly susceptible too, will prevent Colorado authorities from seeking his execution. Quotes from law enforcement show that they are wholly fixated on putting together a capital punishment case that will focus on Holmes' premeditation and planning. Issues like how Holmes' acquired so many weapons so easily are of minimal interest to either police or prosecutors.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

London Calling

A midsummer shout-out to all my friends in London, one of my favorite cities to be in anytime, either personally or in my imagination in hundreds of novels.  Any time, er, except perhaps right now. Summer is always an elusive season in London, but this o one finds old towne sinking rapidly into a steampunk disaster story.  Just to recount the stories that have crossed the American media bubble.  Tens of thousands of privileged and fussy visitors are preparing to descend through Heathrow (OMG) into a city already under permanent and great security strain since 7/7 (why did anyone ever think that would be a good idea).  Ahead of the big bash the city has had an epically wet and unpleasant summer.  And instead of an opportunity to show off the wonders of neo-liberalism to a global elite, the major economic story is that the big City banks appear to have conspired to rig the entire financial services economy on which the nation has  staked its economy. 

Now, to cap off this plot, the vast and scary private everything corporation, with the ominous name (don't these people ever watch science fiction movies) G4S, which had been handed a humungous sweetheart contract to provide security for the games has acknowledged only days before the event launches that it is thousands of people short of its promised staffing levels (read the Guardian reporting here) and as a result thousands of soldiers and police (almost every London police officer already had their leaves cancelled months ago) will have to be deployed at a massive cost to the public treasury.  How this could be happening in a country with staggering unemployment (mind you G4S, which types out G$S if you don't type carefully, runs the job centers in much of the nation) is mind boggling.  In a parliamentary degradation ceremony yesterday the company's CEO was forced to agree that it was all a "humiliating shambles."

Oh, well, this too shall pass, and hopefully without any surface to air missiles, which apparently have been installed across a number of city rooftops, being launched.  I'm told by thoughtful architects and urban planners that the infrastructures installed for the London games will help revitalize the eastside.  And then you can look forward to winter.