Friday, July 03, 2015

Dump life without parole along with death penalty

Only 40 of Illinois' 48,000 inmates have been imprisoned since before 1976. That number will drop to 39 with the release of Joseph Bigsby, 58, imprisoned since age of 16 in 1973, for killing a cop. Bigsby won parole on his 28th try in an 8-6 vote, which included two from Parole Board members with strong ties to the police fraternity. “I’m never going to forgive him for what he did, but it’s not about my forgiveness" noted retired Champaign cop Donald Shelton who voted to parole Bigsby. “I saw in this inmate more proof of change than I believe I’ve seen in any other inmates that I’ve interviewed or in any of the other cases I’ve heard in the last two-and-a-half years."

What promoted Shelton's parole affirmation was four decades of redemption and productivity, including getting an associate’s degree and two credits shy of a bachelor’s — before the program was canceled. He’s been trained as a master electrician and carpenter, and worked as a teacher’s aide, newspaper reporter and even a locksmith. Also, pertinent was the fact that the Supreme Court now bars death or even life sentences for juveniles. Edith Crigler, whose late husband, son, daughter-in-law, cousin and uncle were/are all police officers, also voted for parole, arguing that recent human development studies show adolescent brains often do not possess adult decision making processes.

Bigsby will relocate to Maryland to live with his sister's family. How many of the remaining 39 geriatric prisoners soaking about forty grand per year of Illinois' bankrupt treasure are fit to rejoin society remains to be determined. What is certain, is that life sentences, like the death penalty, should be abolished. With guidelines to ensure an aging heinous criminal, like Bigsby, can rejoin society without jeopardizing public safety, we can move to a more sane, humane and cost effective penal system. We need the best penal system in the civilized world, not the most populated. In addition, Illinois should restore college education for every prisoner worthy of it.  

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

History teacher Roskam flunks Magna Carta test

Although the Magna Carta, issued by English King John in 1215, was designed to determine the medieval relationship between the monarch and the barons, rather than the rights of all men, it has become the iconic symbol of liberty and the rights of ordinary people. Lord Denning (1899-1999), famed British judge and legal scholar, described it as "the greatest constitutional document of all times – the foundation of the freedom of the individual against the arbitrary authority of the despot". In eighth grade civics, we pre Baby Boomers learned its important influence to the writers of the Declaration of Independence. Explicitly taught to revere it, we were implicitly taught never to demean it for crass political purposes.

Sadly, that lesson was missed by my congressman Peter Roskam (IL, 6). His June 28 email trumpets his connecting reverence for the Magna Carta to the endless Republican vendetta against the Internal Revenue Service. Astoundingly, Roskam compares the beleaguered government revenue collector, who pays Roskam's quarter million dollar annual salary and benefits, to the tyranny kings. This is simply a dog whistle call to the greedy rich and greedy rich wannabes, who return Roskam to Congress term after term to make war against any taxes that might benefit the commons and the needy. Some of the more crass Republicans promoting this agenda such as Senators Ted Cruz and Mike Lee, and GOP National Chair Reince Prebus, actually call for outright abolishment of the IRS.

Congressman Roskam should issue a retraction of this unfortunate email. Better yet, former history teacher Roskam should honor the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta by visiting every eighth grade class in the Sixth District to apologize for this reprehensible politicizing of our revered founding documents.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Next Papal Encyclical should santify gay marriage

“The family is threatened by growing efforts on the part of some to redefine the very institution of marriage. As you know, these realities are increasingly under attack from powerful forces which threaten to disfigure God’s plan for creation and betray the very values which have inspired and shaped all that is best in your culture.” Pope Francis, January 17, 2015

Boy did Good Pope Francis, the coolest religious dude on the planet when it comes to endless greed, endless war and endless climate change denial, sure got marriage equality wrong. The Pope's problem is that while being against greed, war and planet destruction comports with teachings of his imaginary friend God, supporting gay marriage does not. That puts Francis on the side of the dwindling dinosaurs of homophobia who are disappearing at their fastest rate in human history. His statement becomes laughable when he claims just "some" are redefining marriage. It's more like the whole damn world except for societies locked into bizarre religious fanaticism. Calling the move to grant full humanity regarding choice of lovers "disfiguring  God's plan for creation" is a disgrace.

No wonder the Catholic Church is losing relevancy among decent, caring, educated Catholics. With 56% of US Catholics supporting gay marriage, the Pope is being left behind in America and most educated societies.

Come on Pope Man. You've hit a triple in your two years on greed, war and climate change. Write that Encyclical sanctifying gay marriage and you'll trot home with the Grand Slam.