Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Conscience Of A Conservative

[Wrote this one a while back, but since I have nothing else to say today...]



If conservative contortions were an Olympic sport, like ice skating, I'd have to give presidential hopeful, former RNC head, and current governor of Mississippi Haley Barbour straight sixes.

In his haste to get some pre-2012 attention and some hard-ass cred, he's offered to release a young black woman from prison if she donates a kidney to her sister. Donates a kidney! How to use power humbly.

The unusual agreement has alarmed some experts, who have raised legal and ethical questions. Among them: If it turns out the sisters aren't a good tissue match, does that mean the healthy one goes back to jail?

"All of the 'What if' questions are, at this point, purely hypothetical," Barbour said in a statement from his office late Thursday. "We'll deal with those situations if they actually happen."...

... Arthur Caplan, the director of the Center for Bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania, has studied transplants and their legal and ethical ramifications for about 25 years. He said he's never heard of anything like this.

Even though Gladys Scott proposed the idea in her petition for an early release and volunteered to donate the organ, Caplan said, it is against the law to buy and sell organs or to force people to give one up.


When I first heard that the Scott sisters were being paroled, I thought good for Haley Barbour. Because the women -- black, of course -- were sentenced to life in prison for the theft of eleven dollars. Double life, in fact: consecutive sentences. At age nineteen and twenty one. No priors. No one was injured. Eleven dollars! Life! Clearly outrageous and race-motivated, with questionable testimony used to convict, such a sentence should never have happened; and the idea that a Southern gov would recognize and rectify it was impressive, I thought. They'd already served more than any white kid would have; any time at all is likely to have been more, for the same crime, with the same shaky testimony.

But no.

He couldn't just do what was right. That would risk alienating his most solid base: racists and teabaggers. (One of the sisters is on dialysis. After sixteen years, Haley the Hero decided to let her out, saving the state the two-hundred grand per annum it was costing. There's tea there enough to give him cover. Letting the other out is conditioned on the donation.) This conditioning of justice, this forced entry, is hardly what I'd call conservative. Government demanding major surgery (from which people have died) as a prerequisite to the administration of justice?

Think about it: what greater demonstration of the power of government over the individual could there be? Small government, get-off-our-backs government? Just words. Fitting this action into that box requires looseness of joints given only to circus performers and first-time rollers. RWS™ like to talk about slopes, of the slippery kind. Allowing gays to marry means the farmer in Texas finally gets to make an honest sheep out his paramour. What is more greasy than dispensing justice based on the ego of a governor, demanding the injured party do further penance, pay tribute to his whim?

Proving that the whole act was about Barbour and not about the women: no one even bothered to tell them of the decision, even after it was presented, with fanfare, like a kid pointing to evidence he'd used the potty, to the press.

It's possible that somewhere in his black little heart, Barbour the Barber felt a twinge of humanity, a realization of justice disserved. He had, after all, pardoned murderers (about whom there was no question of errant conviction but who'd worked on his house as prison trustys). But if he were a man of courage, a man of integrity, he'd just have acknowledged the outrage and commuted the sentences, unconditionally. How could anyone look at the facts and not do so? As glad as I am to know the sisters will be freed, I think the way it was done is grandstanding, and demeaning: to the women, to the law, to the public (and I wrote that before finding the previous link). And whatever else it might be, it's NOT conservative.

But then again, neither is anything we hear coming out of the mouths of the current crop of right wing politicos.

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