V6 (June)

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Steve Bogart

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11 June 2001

The killer of 168 innocent federal employees, visitors and children got off easy today.

His last meal was 2 pints of mint chocolate chip ice cream.

It's a common thing for people to sign living wills indicating they would rather die than suffer for a long time. Inmate M had indicated that he would prefer death to life in prison. As some pundit (I forget who) said on some talk show, he should have been sentenced to life without parole just for spite.

It would have cost less. His prosecution and defense, with the stakes being life and death, surely cost the U.S. more millions of dollars than simply being shut away for life without parole would have.

But villains are always supposed to die, right? All our stories say so, except rare exceptions like The Princess Bride ("Who kills Prince Humperdinck?" "Nobody kills him. He lives."). We're conditioned, especially by Disney, to expect bad people to die at the end of the story, usually through a convenient act of God.

Decades of hard labor would have been greater punishment, would have made him much unhappier for much much longer, and would have forced him to give back something. He got his preferred outcome of the two realistically available to him. He got off easy.

A British paper complains about the uselessness of most pronouncements from people who are running for office; they're describing the British candidates, but it applies quite well to the U.S. ...

  • Give them a second term [Guardian]
    An election ought to be that precious season in the democratic calendar when the politicians are truly answerable to the people and when the people must also listen to the politicians.

    There should have been a televised leaders debate. There should have been more public, as opposed to ticket only, meetings. Some politicians whom we needed to see and hear have been practically invisible and mute. Issues that really really matter -- transport, missile defence, agriculture, constitutional reform, the environment, even Europe in a sense -- have been sidelined.

    Politicians of all parties have insulted the public by their alienating "on-message" refusal to answer a straight question or respond to a human plea with anything other than their scripted "talking points".

This really ticks me off no matter who does it. Al Gore was a major offender, and only George W. Bush was able to make Gore look good by comparison. Cheney and Lieberman were both much better at actually giving answers that had something to do with the questions asked. So far Tom Daschle seems to answer questions put to him much more directly than Trent Lott did.

Bush doesn't even talk straight when you'd think he would, such as in private meetings with high-ranking legislators:

  • Details, Schmetails -- Bush's Avoidance Policy Rankles [LA Times]
    Repeatedly, Bush's guests tried to engage him in a detailed give-and-take about the tax cut's far-reaching ramifications. But the president deflected virtually every such attempt by the senior Republican members of the congressional budget committee, referring them to his staff. Instead, as he did last week in meetings on energy with California Gov. Gray Davis, he stuck to a gloss-the-details script.

    "He's engaged. But it's all surface engagement -- all kinds of wisecracks, snortling and nicknames," fumed a Republican senator who participated in the recent budget meeting in the White House Cabinet Room.

    Even some congressional Republicans who wish Bush well are warning that he is unlikely to get much more of his agenda through Congress unless he can demonstrate a firmer grasp of details...

A man named Peter Rutland wrote a letter to the Washington Post clearing up the genesis of the 'Churchill quote':

  • Free for All (Letters Page) [Washington Post]
    Charles Krauthammer [op-ed, May 25] quotes Winston Churchill as saying, "If you're not a liberal when you're 20, you have no heart. If you're not a conservative when you're 40, you have no head."

    This quotation is frequently but mistakenly attributed to Churchill. It is anyway unlikely that Churchill would subscribe to this philosophy: He was a swashbuckling soldier at 20, and a Conservative member of Parliament at 25. A couple of years later he switched to the Liberal Party (which was not liberal in the modern sense), and later went back to the Conservatives.

    The phrase originated with Francois Guisot (1787-1874): "Not to be a republican at twenty is proof of want of heart; to be one at thirty is proof of want of head." It was revived by French Premier Georges Clemenceau (1841-1929): "Not to be a socialist at twenty is proof of want of heart; to be one at thirty is proof of want of head."

...neither of which can be directly tied to today's modern U.S. Democratic and Republican party platforms, or even to the modern caricatures of "liberal" and "conservative". But of course truth doesn't matter when you have a good quote, and people will keep using it as a shortcut to actual thought. Bah.

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