Tina K. Russell

November 21, 2008

Bygones

Early Test for Obama on Domestic Spying Views – NYTimes.com
Some Democratic lawmakers have said they would like to conduct a more thorough investigation than was possible during Mr. Bush’s tenure, but other Democratic advisers say they see little gain from trying to investigate past abuses and that an investigation risks harming the bipartisan spirit of cooperation that Mr. Obama has promised.

“We cannot be facile and say bygones will be bygones, because they will not be bygones and will return to haunt us. True reconciliation is never cheap, for it is based on forgiveness, which is costly. Forgiveness in turn depends on repentance, which has to be based on an acknowledgement of what was done wrong, and therefore on disclosure of the truth. You cannot forgive what you do not know.”

Archbishop Desmond Tutu, as chair of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 1995

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November 16, 2008

“Capital punishment,” in more ways than one

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — Tina Russell @ 11:11 am

Letters – Easing the Burden of Public Defenders – NYTimes.com

To the Editor:

Re “Citing Workload, Public Lawyers Reject New Cases” (front page, Nov. 9):

The assertion that despite increasingly overwhelming workloads, public defenders must “tighten their belts” during these times of severe reductions in state and local revenues is an affront to the constitutional guarantee of effective assistance of counsel for indigent criminal defendants.

We must not shortchange our Constitution regardless of our economic woes. There are, however, huge savings to be had that would substantially reduce the financial burden on public defenders’ offices and other components of our criminal justice system while maintaining our constitutional commitment to ensuring that all defendants receive quality representation.

As has been established by numerous studies in numerous states, including California, North Carolina, Maryland, New Jersey and Tennessee, the repeal of capital punishment would save taxpayers many millions of dollars a year.

The time has come for Americans and their elected representatives to seriously consider whether we can afford our error-prone, discriminatory and bankrupting death penalty system.

John Holdridge
Director, A.C.L.U. Capital
Punishment Project
Durham, N.C., Nov. 10, 2008

I’m Tina Russell and I approve this message.

October 29, 2008

Values

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , — Tina Russell @ 5:19 pm

I’ve spoken recently on Ethiopia’s human rights abuses and Somalia’s right to self-determination. In the interest of fairness, here’s what an Islamist court in Somalia has decided to do with all that self-determination:

World Briefing – Africa – Somalia – Rape Victim Executed – NYTimes.com
A woman was stoned to death for adultery on Monday in an Islamist-controlled region of Somalia. Somali human rights officials said the woman, 23, had been raped, but the Islamist authorities determined that she was guilty of adultery.

That’s disgusting. (The article is just one more sentence, but I snipped that because it’s graphic.) This is reprehensible on, like, a million levels. To note three:

  1. The death penalty is wrong. Always.
  2. They say that she was an adulterer. Even if that were true, which I doubt, it is wrong to punish adulterers. Government should not legislate individual choice, or attempt to fix families.
  3. Punishing the victim is wrong.

While the mistake of punishing the victim occurs on many levels in many governments, to punish the victim of rape is to take what is already a crime to an unspeakable degree. To punish her with death is beyond my comprehension. I cannot imagine how anyone who asserts that is moral can claim with a straight face to speak for God.

Jesus, a prophet of Islam, once espoused that “he who is free of sin shall cast the first stone”; and that was about a woman who was actually guilty of what she was accused of. I step carefully when I talk about this because I think stoning her to death would still be wrong if she were guilty. I think it would be wrong if she were guilty of murder. I think it would be wrong if she were guilty of murder and the execution were administered with a lethal injection of painkillers in the most humane way you could possibly think of. It’s clear, though, that the people who delivered, carried out, and supported this verdict have vast oceans of sin in their hearts, given their willingness, their enthusiasm, for such an unequivocally evil act as this. They should not throw stones; and neither should we.

July 24, 2008

The Worst of the Worst

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — Tina Russell @ 3:14 pm

Op-Ed Columnist – Madness and Shame – Op-Ed – NYTimes.com
Donald Rumsfeld described the detainees at Guantánamo as “the worst of the worst.” A more sober assessment has since been reached by many respected observers. [New Yorker journalist and author of The Dark Side] Ms. [Jane] Mayer mentioned a study conducted by attorneys and law students at the Seton Hall University Law School.

“After reviewing 517 of the Guantánamo detainees’ cases in depth,” she said, “they concluded that only 8 percent were alleged to have associated with Al Qaeda. Fifty-five percent were not alleged to have engaged in any hostile act against the United States at all, and the remainder were charged with dubious wrongdoing, including having tried to flee U.S. bombs. The overwhelming majority — all but 5 percent — had been captured by non-U.S. players, many of whom were bounty hunters.”

Holy living–! Of course, it’ll take more scrutiny (and meaningful trials) to determine how many wrongdoers there really are at Guantánamo, but I’d always been generous and imagined at least one half. Eight percent? As cynical as I have become, I never thought it was as bad as that.

Let me be clear that even if Guantánamo had a 100 percent success rate it would still be deplorable, as we should be treating even the worst prisoners humanely, showing the difference between us and them. (Besides that, wars become intractable if lasting hatred forms through abuse of prisoners. Securing victory is difficult and costly if the enemy fights to the bitter end.) However, we should not hold a person who is innocent longer than is necessary for a fair and speedy trial, and I do not think military tribunals and seven-year waits succeed on either count.

I should discuss the central argument of Guantánamo’s defenders: that we are in a time of war, and different rules apply. First of all, it is true that different rules apply in war, and I do not see those rules, such as the Geneva Conventions on holding prisoners of war, being applied. (Breaking those rules in a time of war endangers the safety of our soldiers.) Second, a “war on terror” is a propaganda win for al-Qaida, giving them dignity, as soldiers, that they do not deserve. They are criminals, and only when they are brought to justice as such will the case be settled. Declaring war rallies recruits to their cause and makes it harder to fight their toxic influence.

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