Ben Buchwalter


Video: 350 Gets Rowdy
January 30, 2010, 2:34 pm
Filed under: Environment, Mother Jones | Tags: , , ,

I’m all for saving the world. In fact, I think we need to do more of it. But the San Francisco 350 Day of Action, a worldwide event meant to influence the global debate on climate change, focused more on novelty than substantive change. I checked it out with some MoJoers and we put together this video to sum it up:

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Gov. Rick Perry’s Death Penalty Dilemma

For Texas, the nation’s leader in legal killing, abolishing the death penalty would be an economic slam dunk. Perry, who once suggested that his state should secede from the Union, showed he was a fiscal conservative when he refused to take bailout funds for unemployment benefits. Of course, barely a month later,  he had to ask the government for a $170 million loan to cover (you guessed it) unemployment. The Death Penalty Information Center released a report in October that found that Texas could save a bundle by scaling back its execution program. Perry missed the memo:

But the swashbuckling politician—who in April suggested that Texas could secede from the Union—has only reaffirmed his embrace of the death penalty. “Our process works, and I don’t see anything out there that would merit calling for a moratorium on the Texas death penalty,” he said on Tuesday. As Zack Roth notes, Texas Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, Perry’s top challenger for governor in 2010 and a strong supporter of the death penalty, has criticized Perry on the issue. Still, she hasn’t commented on the death penalty’s economic or ethical dimensions, instead charging that Perry’s handling of the Willingham case is “giving liberals an argument to discredit the death penalty.”



Is Joe Arpaio the New George Wallace?
January 30, 2010, 2:16 pm
Filed under: Civil Rights, Crime and Justice, Mother Jones | Tags: , , , ,

Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio continues to show the US government who’s boss. In October, the justice department tried, however ineffectively, to rein in the controversial law enforcer by barring his office from making immigration arrests in the field. Of course, Arpaio vowed to disobey. This reminds me of another American hooligan George Wallace, the governor who famously blocked African American students from entering a school in Alabama. Arpaio certainly seems to fit that mold:

The statute currently in question is section 287(g) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, which enables local officials to enforce immigration laws with the approval of the Department of Homeland Security. Jennifer Allen of the Tucson-based Border Action Network explains that either party can opt out of the agreement, as DHS did partially earlier this week. So, she said, it is now illegal for Arpaio to continue his immigration raids without the approval of DHS. “There are no state-level laws that say you can set up a check point in a predominantly low-income Latino neighborhood and start pulling people over left and right for insignificant pretenses.”



Fixing Lethal Injections Leads to ‘Hippocratic Paradox’
January 10, 2010, 9:18 pm
Filed under: Crime and Justice, Mother Jones | Tags: , , ,

October 6, 2009

October saw a set of botched state execution that drew the institution of lethal injection into serious question. The most famous victim was Romell Broom, who was punctured 18 times over two hours as guards struggled to find a suitable vein for the poison. Finally, a judge intervened to stop the execution. Critics have said that such cases amount to cruel and unusual punishment at the hands of guards who are not qualified to perform medical procedures. But involving doctors brings up what one expert calls a “hippocratic paradox.” Instead of “do no harm” doctors are reportedly being asked to help end lives. Ohio State University professor of surgery Jonathan I. Groner broke it down for me:

Citing the “Hippocratic paradox” of state-sponsored executions, Groner notes that the guards administering Broom’s lethal injection were picked because they serve as volunteer emergency medical technicians. However, they do not have nearly as much experience with IVs as fully-trained medical personnel, he says. “Part of the Hippocratic paradox problem is matching the least experienced people with the most difficult patients,” he told Mother Jones. “You risk torturing the patient.”

This adds to the troubling shift toward the “medicalization of killing,” says Groner. And he worries that Strickland’s decision to determine alternative modes of lethal injection could blur the lines between medicine and execution even further. “The trap is that to get it done right, you need more expertise. And that means more medical involvement,” he said.



“Pink Panties” Sheriff Joe Arpaio Targets ACORN
January 10, 2010, 9:07 pm
Filed under: Civil Rights, Mother Jones, Scandals | Tags: , , , ,

September 22, 2009

There are a number of loons in the news that I just can’t get enough of. One of those loons is Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who is one of the country’s leading crusaders against immigration. Arpaio is loved by some (and hated by others) for his controversial crime sweeps in mostly Hispanic neighborhoods and immigration arrests in the field, which the USDOJ has continuously opposed. One of Arpaio’s most trusted deflection techniques is blaming third parties. In September, he targetted ACORN for allegedly using federal funds to launch a PR campaign against the sheriff’s tactics. I contacted ACORN to get their reaction. Here’s what they said:

ACORN spokesman Scott Levenson says that there is no basis for these claims and welcomes Arpaio’s opposition. “Sheriff Arpaio has long been the poster child of racist and prejudiced behavior around law enforcement,” he told me. “I’m confident that Sheriff Arpaio attacking Acorn is proof that we’re heading in the right direction.”



Racist vs. Racial: Which One Was Joe Wilson?
January 10, 2010, 8:55 pm
Filed under: Barack Obama, Mother Jones, Race, Republicans | Tags: , , , ,

September 17, 2009

Last September, the furor among Republicans against President Obama and his perceived agenda was almost tangible. But the public’s response to Obama, since he launched his historic campaign for president at the beginning of 2008, has veered dangerously close to subtle racism. But clearly, not all criticism of the president and his agenda is racist. And bringing up the topic of race doesn’t automatically make someone a racist. In the midst of the speculation of widespread racism among the Republican party and other anti-Obamaites, I tried to clarify the difference between racist and racial in MoJo:

If you define a racist as someone who feels animosity toward someone of another race, then most political and media confrontations aren’t racist (Limbaugh and Beck aside). More often, we see politicians being racial, acting or speaking with the clear awareness of race. Though outdated and perhaps ignorant, Bush calling Obama “this cat,” is not racist. It’s racial. Similarly, pointing out the problematic racial views of some white commentators is not racist or reverse racist. It’s racial.

The Joe Wilson case is different. Calling out “You Lie!” is not, on first glance, racial or racist. Wilson actually thought Obama was lying. But the question is whether some members of the GOP harbor a more subtle racism in trying to put Obama in his place. Last week, for example, Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) said that President Obama, the most powerful man in the world, should show some “humility” while delivering a speech on health care reform to congress. And during the campaign, many red state voters couldn’t quite put their finger on why they didn’t like Obama. There was just something about him. Last August, former Reagan and Clinton staffer David Gergen said that the McCain campaign deliberately pushed the message that “he’s uppity, he ought to stay in his place.”



Conn. Sen: Former WWE CEO Linda McMahon Enters the Fray
January 10, 2010, 5:45 pm
Filed under: 2010 and 2012, Congress, Mother Jones, Republicans | Tags: , , ,

Since former WWE CEO Linda McMahon jumped into the GOP’s primary to challenge embattled Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd, I wrote a few blog posts on her candidacy and how it shakes up the race. First, came the supposed shock that McMahon and her husband have supported Democrats in past elections. Next, I asked if the candidate’s bombastic (and some might say crazy) husband WWE Chairman Vince McMahon could hurt her primary and, luck permitting, general election chances. As McMahon continued to hemorrhage her own funds on the campaign and became a serious contender to the state’s establishment, Conn. GOPers started to attack the newcomer. But as I wrote for MoJo, I think this was a risky move in the solid blue Lieberman-loving state:

“I think it’s very unusual [for a Republican to contribute to a Democrat]. These are big numbers. These are big dollars,” said Simmons, the race’s current front runner. But attacking McMahon’s bi-partisan past is a risky move, considering that Connecticut is predominantly Democratic and many state Republicans supported democrat-turned-independent Joe Lieberman over his Republican opponent in 2006. Moreover, since McMahon is campaigning on an anti-establishment platform, her past contributions could be helpful if she makes it to the general election next fall.