Friday, June 19, 2009

The Death Penalty in California, Again

I understand there is the possibility of starting executions at San Quentin again! I strongly object to the existence of the death penalty -- either in Marin County, where I live, or in my beloved state of California, or, for that matter, anywhere. So many problems with executions:

1) That "thou shalt not kill" thing, which is expressed in all major religions.

2) I understand it's hugely expensive for the state to kill the condemned, even more expensive than keeping them penned up for life. I'm not entirely certain why, as this seems illogical, but it's also insanely expensive to warehouse them, so you have -- no, WE the People have a problem, and it's a big one. Many of us have seen these prison shows flash by us, and it is or should be clear that our prison system as it is now is a terrible, almost medieval reflection upon our society. I don't understand a society that spends millions to kill a man and won't spend dollars to keep after-school programs open. What hope is there for spiritual strength in a society that allows such degrading treatment of other human beings?

3) We don't always execute the right people, do we? No, and in fact besides killing a bunch of innocent people we still have unknown numbers of them confined like lab animals in our massive gulags. American exceptionalism. And don't get me started on those dreadful pot smokers incarcerated for nothing, in my opinion.

But back to the death penalty and those criminals sentenced to die. What's the hurry to get these benighted souls off the planet? They'll just reincarnate again before you know it, probably not having learned a thing, ready to raise fresh hell all over again.

You'll notice I don't count that last statement as "4" as it's obviously a belief based on a religion including reincarnation as a tenet, which certainly doesn't make it true. Even if I believe it, find it logical and think everyone else should see things as I do, they don't. I have a fine opinion of myself and my belief system, but I have no more business foisting what I believe on others than they do on me. Except -- for some this question is literally and obviously a matter of life and death, and this is EXACTLY when the code of Law informed by the best that is in us must be applied.

The truth is, we don't know what it does to us as human beings to take a life, to participate in what future archaeologists might see as a pagan ritual "sacrifice" of human life, only slightly less violent than older civilizations. I imagine explorers from another era finding our electric chairs and gas chambers and wonder what they would think. We don't know what "to kill" really comes down to in its entirety; we do know and have always known that it is a serious thing indeed, and I don't trust us as a society to make this call at all anymore. When a country fails to follow its own laws or international laws, makes war against tin pot tyrants for suspicious motivations and obstructs the investigation of high crimes against humanity -- like any other relationship where you've been lied to, the trust is gone.

Ultimately, I just don't like the idea of the State being involved in executions, given how very badly bureaucracies tend to function. And that's #4!

I think, with our packed death rows and our burgeoning prison population living in subhuman conditions, that we have become a violator of human rights in deep denial of our sins against humanity. We've got to clean up our act. Even if we, with our terribly inefficient bureaucracy, make our executions a thrifty, perfectly painless process, and are NEVER wrong about whom we kill, we'll still always, ALWAYS be left with "thou shalt not kill" to reflect upon.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Blogging My Recession

A note that I wrote in my journal on April 09, 2009:

"Well, swell. We get to watch these heart-wrenching stories about banks forcing families to vacate homes when they have nowhere else to go -- this is STILL the land of the Banks and they do not let you forget it. My nephew and I began a loan modification with BofA last January '08. We were told NOT to pay any mortgage fees while the negotiation was occurring. After three months lo and behold -- foreclosure papers started to arrive because they hadn't gotten any money from us. Meanwhile the mortgage itself was being thrown back and forth between BofA and Freddie Mac ... and a rogue foreclosure cell continued to operate and thrive while we were going through the SECOND ROUND of loan modifications. This rogue cell continued to do what processes in gigantic bureaucracies often do -- despite our successful round of negotiations with BofA (even though they did NOT want to talk with us did NOT want to help us). One day a rogue Realtor who hadn't had a sale in 3 1/2 years received orders (improper documentation, bad procedure, we received no warnings, no notifications) from someone somewhere, and he took it upon himself to seize our home. Suddenly all negotiations stopped -- if my nephew had not persisted and forced them to admit their errors the house would be lost. As it is, we have been locked out of it since last August -- and THIS is AMERICA??? The only reason the bank will even listen to us is because there is a lawyer involved. Who gets lucky and finds the right people?

I found the services of a legally driven loan mod firm (lawyer on board) with a BBB rating of A, and we're moving along nicely. I wanted to sue the Bank for the year of stress that exacerbated my brain weasels (bipolar disorder) to the point where I could not fight to save myself, but my adviser laughed. As if!! I guess whomsoever is stupid enough to sue an entity like BofA gets tied up in court in class action lawsuits that take forever, and the Banks have the resources to make them last forever. Justice isn't an issue with banks -- I can still remember the old "Little Nell" melodramas I learned when I was young -- "if you don't give me the deed to your ranch I'm gonna tie you to the railroad tracks" and the bankers were always, always the villains.

I personally find it unbearable to watch sheriffs or police personnel forcibly removing families from their homes -- last night on the news we saw a desperate, disturbed man robbing a convenience store in front of his child. It was awful, heartbreaking. But what about the trauma inflicted by the presence of the police forcing a family frozen by fear and in denial onto the streets? We need more social workers handling this sort of thing -- or less of this sort of thing. That would be my preference -- I want my Great Society back. Or if you want to call it a Shining City on a Hill -- I don't give a damn. I just want our people to have homes, and by god that includes ME."

That note was written as I said in April. Last week I found out that shortly after I wrote those words, the legal firm I'd mentioned told my nephew that they couldn't help us. The President's new policies apparently don't allow negotiations on already foreclosed-upon properties. (Even if the damned bank took it illegally??) Liberty and JUSTICE for all?

Funny how neither said nephew nor the legal representative bothered to tell me I have lost my house and that represents about $500 K of real dollars! In a way I don't blame them -- who wants to tell a woman she has lost everything? This last weekend I felt raw grief for my lost house, career dreams and life savings. I cannot begin to describe my feelings when I started to comprehend my losses -- I raged and shrieked and sobbed and at a certain point the very rawness of my pain was so great that I drugged myself into a stupor and slept it off. I don't have any friends that are lawyers, and only know what I have heard -- that fighting BofA is useless because they will tie you up in court for the rest of your life -- just because they can. And me without money for a lawyer.

This is only one story of thousands -- and in another time things could have gone in just the opposite direction. But still, the truth is I wasn't savvy enough to bear the main responsibility for such a costly project, and I never imagined the extraordinary dishonesty of Lake County contractors. But -- damn, that house is beautiful. Beautiful and solid, my gift to a transitional neighborhood. Ooog, whenever the Prez looks down his nose at citizens "flipping" houses I want to say "WAIT!! That's not what I was trying to do!! I wanted a career in Green Building! You don't understand!" I did write him a letter, though. Injustice is injustice. Now what? I just don't know. I really just don't know. Ha, can you imagine getting an actual response from the President to a letter like that? A HELPFUL response, not just "oh sorry you happened to get squished; by the way use this link for Party contributions."

Actually, I can. But -- I also believe in Magic.