Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Alabama Governor Stops Executions, Orders “Top-to-Bottom” Review

On Monday, November 21, Alabama Governor Kay Ivey stopped the Department of Corrections from executing prisoners on death row, ordering a “top-to-bottom review of the state’s execution process.” Her action followed two recent executions called off because of problems administering the lethal drugs. These two were preceded by an execution in July that took three hours before Joe Nathan James Jr. was “successfully” killed.

The press release announcing the governor’s action quoted her saying,

“For the sake of the victims and their families, we’ve got to get this right.”

That begs the question: how about the prisoners being executed? Do they deserve a “humane” execution, assuming that’s possible?

Responding to the news of the order, I submitted the following to the governor’s website:

Governor Ivey,

Thank you for stopping prisoner executions in Alabama and ordering a “top-to-bottom review of the state’s execution process.” The recent attempted executions of Alan Eugene Miller and Kenneth Eugene Smith following the prolonged execution of Joe Nathan James Jr. reveal a systemic failure with Alabama’s process.

To ensure the integrity of the review and its findings, I urge you to appoint the “reviewers” to be independent of the Department of Corrections. Otherwise, you’re asking the fox to count the chickens in the coop; a few will no doubt disappear.

One additional point: your statement “I don’t buy for a second the narrative being pushed by activists that these issues are the fault of the folks at Corrections or anyone in law enforcement” is nonsensical. Isn’t the execution process defined and controlled by the Department of Corrections? Aren’t department staff solely responsible for the procedure and, therefore, accountable for its integrity? Please don’t stir the political coals.

Without excusing the crimes and the injustice to the victims and their families, those sentenced to die are humans with souls. They deserve the most humane execution Alabama can carry out. Otherwise, the state becomes an instrument of revenge rather than justice.

The governor’s order comes admidst earlier lawsuits and investigations from the U.S. Department of Justice, contending the conditions at Alabama’s prisons are unconstitutional because they don’t provide safe and sanitary conditions — safe from other prisoners and prison staff.

Sources and More Info, Gov. Kay Ivey orders moratorium on executions in Alabama, Alabama halts executions pending review; expert says investigation ‘needs to be independent’

Elizabeth Bruenig, The Atlantic, Dead to Rights

WAAY, DOJ targets Alabama in new investigation into prison conditions, critical staffing shortages

Sunday, November 20, 2022

2022 Midterm Elections

Almost two weeks after the midterm election, votes are still being counted — recounted in some elections — and a runoff on December 5 will decide whether Raphael Warnock, the incumbent, or Herschel Walker will represent Georgia in the U.S. Senate. We are certain the Democrats will retain control of the Senate, regardless of the outcome of Georgia’s runoff, and Republicans have won enough districts to become the majority party in the House, taking control from the Democrats.

Despite Republicans controlling the House, this outcome is a relief, much better than I expected from the polls and punditry prior to the election. The historical trend is that the party in power loses seats in Congress in the midterm election, and this seemed destined because polls consistently showed voter dissatisfaction with the state of the economy and President Biden’s performance. Inflation remains high, reflected in the food and gas prices Americans pay every day. If that weren’t obvious, Republicans unceasingly blamed the president — ignoring that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has disrupted energy and food supplies from both countries.

Fortunately, the Republican majority in the house will be slim. Whoever leads that fractious party, Kevin McCarthy or a more conservative challenger, will have to bow to conservative pressure to investigate the Biden administration. The investigations will begin with son Hunter and his laptop and could lead to impeachment hearings. Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia introduced a resolution calling for the president’s impeachment for “abuse of power by enabling bribery and other high crimes and misdemeanors.” See H.Res.57.

Adding to the gravitational pull distorting the next two years, the former president — whom I shall not name — has declared he’s running for president again.

”In order to make America great and glorious again. I am tonight announcing my candidacy for president of the United States." — former president Donald Trump

Back to the hopeful outcome of the midterm election, despite the near certainty of a gridlocked Washington for the next two years: despite voter dissatisfaction with the economy and the president’s performance, many voters apparently agreed with President Biden’s argument that the election was a referendum on democracy. The candidates who embraced Donald Trump’s “big lie” that the 2020 election was stolen largely lost their races for the House, governor, and secretary of state. While the races were often close, enough voters seemed concerned by threats to future elections.

Losing access to abortion, with the federal right overturned by the Supreme Court in June, was also a strong factor, which can be inferred from the ballot initiatives in Kansas, during the summer, and California, Kentucky, Michigan, and New York in the midterms.

While the election outcome was not as definitive as I would like, it was far better than my fears, which were turning to depression from the drumbeat of reporting as the election neared. Analyzing the unexpected result, Astead Herndon and Shane Goldmacher in a post-mortem assessment on The Run-Up podcast suggested anti-democracy concerns motivated voters more than dissatisfaction about the economy and President Biden. I concur with that, fro my own fear of Donald Trump or his minions again taking control of government. I can only hope that fear will carry America through the 2024 election, if that’s what it takes.