December 2005


This was posted to etricities.com in response to what I posted yesterday on public school funding. I appreciate Tracy’s response…I’m always up for healthy debate! You’ll see my answer to her at the end.

Let me start off by saying that have utmost respect for Jama Oliver’s opinions and agree with most of them. I don’t want this to be taken as an attack, but rather an expression of a different point of view. I just thought it would be best to clarify this up front.

With that said, Jama Oliver’s latest blog post discusses the recent proposal of State Comptroller John Morgan for a new funding measure for education in Tennessee to help improve Tennessee’s low graduation rates. Oliver adamantly objects this measure, as I (in part agree with). Oliver presents two issues here, discussing them as if they were one. On one hand Oliver mentions that Morgan wants to hand more power over to the state, while on the the other Morgan also wishes to increase funding for the schools by increasing property taxes.

I stand by Oliver 100% against moving more control of our school systems to the state level. Taking the decision making process away from the local communities would create a slew of new problems. The education system may have some problems, but it is better left in the people of the local communities hands.

I do however disagree with Oliver’s stance on funding. Oliver writes:

Why should the Agape homeschooling group (there’s my plug for my most favorite homeschooling group in the area!) have to give up their sales and property tax dollars for something they are not using? Not to mention the thousands of students who attend private schools in our area (Tri-Cities Christian, Providence Academy, St. Mary’s…)

My problem with this is lower income familys do not have these options. They depend upon the support of our government to fund our schools. It is not the fault of these children that some chooose to not participate in the educational system that is provided. If all of the richer and middle class people yanked their children and tax money out of our educational system, then the lower income children would have no hope.

Our schools are in serious trouble. Teachers are weighted down with the burdens of no child left behind and relentless parents, while schools in our region do not have enough money to purchase enough books for all of the children. Our schools need more money but where do we get it.

I do agree with Oliver that this money should not come from property taxes. This would mean that poor communities would have underfunded schools while richer communities would be running a surplus.

It sounds like decisions will soon be made on this matter, so you should write your representative and let them know what you think.

And my response…

“They depend upon the support of our government to fund our schools.” Therein lies the problem…

Politicians (not all – I know a few who still have a soul) want for us to be dependent on them; they can keep the poor poor and, through the miracle of public schooling (a favorite of Karl Marx, by the way) can keep the uneducated uneducated – all the while giving the impression that they are “helping” and therefore keeping themselves in office. By doing this they ensure that the poor have to rely on the government for their welfare checks and are too uneducated to see that they’re really getting the short end of the stick from Uncle Sam.

Now, you mention that “If all of the richer and middle class people yanked their children and tax money out of our educational system, then the lower income children would have no hope.” This isn’t going to happen. My mother, for example, sent me to private school through the fourth grade and then sent me to public school for fear that I wouldn’t be adequately “socialized” in the private school – and would do it all over again. My sister, who is upper middle class, will be happily sending all three of her children to public schools (much to my dismay). There are still a lot of people with faith in the public school system and, while I still believe that any government institution is a sorry place to put your faith, they are making the schools better just by being there – and there, whether I like it or not, they will stay.

Now, my ultimate dream (and there goes my run for office…) is for there to be no public school system whatsoever. I would be more than happy to pay for a “community school”, with no government interference whatsoever. Bear in mind that before the days of John Dewey (I’ll post a paper on my site covering this issue today) there was no such thing as a public school system. Communities worked together to educate their children in local school houses; those who didn’t want to (or couldn’t) educate their children at home sent them to the local school – one that was funded by the people of that community, not by the government. The government does a sorry job of educating children (and I, of course, believe that this is the very goal of many of our illustrious leaders). It is only by the grace of God that any of us claw our way up to be something close to intelligent. We should be educating ourselves and our own children rather than leaving it up to the government to do it for us, if only for the fact that we could do a much better job – rich and poor alike.

I could go on about how public education is communist in nature (keep the people stupid, as stupid people are easier to rule) or that the very basis of socialism (communism’s ugly stepsister) is to be forced by the government to pay for things that don’t benefit you at all, but I think you see my point. The government has no business in education; it is up to the people to ensure that those less fortunate are given the same opportunities. Oh, and before someone says that the reason the government took over the school system is because the people were doing a sorry job, that is simply not true. Read John Dewey, Karl Marx, and a history of the public school system to see the true goals of public education.

State Comptroller John Morgan has proposed a new funding measure for education in Tennessee to help improve, as he says, Tennessee’s low graduation rates. I would first like to point out the state of Texas, whose government has finally figured out that throwing more money at the public school system does not necessarily mean that schools are going to improve (see the report on foxnews.com). It is easily forgotten that the public school system is a government entity and, by very definition, a bureaucracy that is quite skilled at wasting money. Giving more money to the government is equivocal to giving more money to a spoiled teenager – they are doomed to throw it away.

Now to the root of my problem with Morgan’s proposal: he suggests that the state should have more power over the funding of the school system because local governments are dropping the ball. As it stands, local governments have majority control over how much money is spent on their local schools. His argument is that local governments who don’t care so much about their schools are not giving them as much money as they need and children are suffering (I am picturing a “Simpsons” episode…that most glorious of all political cries, “What about the children?!?”) What he does not consider is that many communities – ours in particular, as I am sure that there are many others across the state – have large home-schooling groups who do not use the public school system. These communities are, of course, not going to throw as much money into the government indoctrination institutions, er, public schools, as those communities who have large numbers of children attending and, therefore, a larger stake in the system. Why should our community be forced to spend huge amounts of money on something that a vast number of our citizens are not using? Why should the Agape homeschooling group (there’s my plug for my most favorite homeschooling group in the area!) have to give up their sales and property tax dollars for something they are not using? Not to mention the thousands of students who attend private schools in our area (Tri-Cities Christian, Providence Academy, St. Mary’s…) As someone who is the process of buying a home, the thought of my property tax dollars being spent, at the behest of the bureaucrats in Nashville, on something that I, along with most of my friends, will never use is outrageous.

Mr. Morgan will break it down to x number of dollars per student (in this case, he wants to increase funding from $5,108 “per student” to $7,218 “per student”), when we all know (at least I hope we do) that the “per student” term is merely something to make us think that each student in the government indoctrination institution actually receives x number of dollars in services, when that is not the case.

How dare you, Mr. Morgan, try to take power away from local governments to further your political goals. The citizens of Bristol, Kingsport, Johnson City, Jonesborough, Greeneville, Gray, and each and every community in this great state of Tennessee know much better than the bureaucrats in Nashville what is best for our communities and for you, Mr. Morgan, to try and take that decision-making power away from us is a real shame.

So, Matthew Hill (my state representative, of whom I am very proud!) and all the rest of you in Nashville: don’t you dare allow the State Comptroller (or anyone else, for that matter) decide what is best for your district! We are quite capable of educating our own children, thank you very much, without interference from Nashville. I will be watching this, and if I have to go to Nashville to fight it, I will (although I have every confidence in Matthew Hill to do my fighting for me!)

PS. My fear, by the way, is that opposing increased funding for government indoctrination istitutions, in the political arena, is equivocal to suggesting that we murder large numbers of adorable little kittens and our representatives will, therefore, be too terrified to oppose the measure. We might want to let them know that it is okay to refuse to throw more money into a government program – even if it is the educational system. Write to your representative!!!

I just found out about this site on foxnews.com and signed up. I’m the first from ETSU so, CR’s…sign up!

http://www.conservativesoncampus.com/Default.asp

I just finished reading an article concerning the rising problem on college campuses of squashing free speech in the name of political correctness. Shippensburg University in Pennsyvania defined harrassment in April of 2003 as “unwanted conduct which annoys, threatens, or alarms a person or group” (McElroy). Washington State’s College of Education requires that all students be subjected to “diversity testing” and, although it was struck down by the courts, once required a student to sign a contract that committed him to further political testing and re-orientation. (McElroy) WHAT?!? Even certain groups (usually Christian groups, but not always) have been banned from campuses because they are deemed “dissenting”. ETSU, right here in Johnson City, TN, requires faculty and staff to attend “diversity training”. While I’ve not been subjected to this required brainwashing, the effect seems to be that professors are annoyed at the time wasted – they could be off grading papers or, you know, teaching their students.

Everybody who has read this blog for any period of time knows by now that I’m a conservative Christian attending a public university. While I am clearly not going to join (or even attend the functions of) the gay, secular, or liberal organizations on campus, I’m glad they’re there. I don’t even mind that a few of my tuition dollars go to support these organizations (now, the Ludacris concert is another issue altogether…see previous blogs for my opinion on that). When universities attempt to “re-train” their students by limiting their speech or refuse to fund certain organizations because they’re offensive, a couple of things happen: 1) it makes people angry. Talk to someone (a professor at ETSU, for instance) who has recently attended “diversity training” (if they’re willing to speak about it – they might lose their jobs if they say too much…). Most are irratated, offended even, that they were forced to endure x number of hours listening to someone tell them how they should treat this group or that one. This can actually lead to increasing hostility to the groups seen as the ones that caused the training by calling “foul”. 2) worst of all, it limits free speech. People are afraid to say that their religion sees homosexuality as a sin for fear of being deemed “intolerant”. One can’t, oh, I don’t know, speak out against a Ludacris concert without being dubbed a racist. The university sould be a hotbed of debate, not a place where one is afraid to say something because they might be charged with a lack of “diveristy awareness”.

As a member of a group (Christianity) that is becoming an increasing minority on public university campuses, I don’t want people to be afraid to disagree with me. I’m a conservative christian philosophy major, for crying out loud! Talk about being a member of a minority! I am not afraid for people to challenge my beliefs – how else will I learn to defend them? Neither should gays, feminists, blacks (oh, I’m sorry, African-Americans), or purple-people-eaters be afraid of being challenged. Not only is it possible that you might learn something by being challenged, you just might teach someone else something about what its like to be you.

So speak up! Call me crazy for being a Christian, talk about why you think homosexuality is a sin (or not), or mention the fact that you think that racism is no longer a problem. We all just might learn something…

Reference:
McElroy, Wendy. Campus Conscience Police? Accessed Dec. 22,2005 from http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,179321,00.html.

In the words of my dear friend, Ben Lindley , “This warms my capitalistic heart!”

It’s Christmas again, time to celebrate the transformation of Ebenezer Scrooge. You know the ritual: boo the curmudgeon initially encountered in Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol, then cheer the sweetie pie he becomes in the end. It’s too bad no one notices that the curmudgeon had a point—quite a few points, in fact.

To appreciate them, it is necessary first to distinguish Scrooge’s outlook on life from his disagreeable persona. He is said to have a pointed nose and a harsh voice, but not all hardheaded businessmen are so lamentably endowed, nor are their feckless nephews (remember Fred?) alwavs “ruddy and handsome,” and possessed of pretty wives. These touches of the storyteller’s art only bias the issue.

So let’s look without preconceptions at Scrooge’s allegedly underpaid clerk, Bob Cratchit. The fact is, if Cratchit’s skills were worth more to anyone than the fifteen shillings Scrooge pays him weekly, there would be someone glad to offer it to him. Since no one has, and since Cratchit’s profit-maximizing boss is hardly a man to pay for nothing, Cratchit must be worth exactly his present wages.

No doubt Cratchit needs—i.e., wants—more, to support his family and care for Tiny Tim. But Scrooge did not force Cratchit to father children he is having difficulty supporting. If Cratchit had children while suspecting he would be unable to afford them, he, not Scrooge, is responsible for their plight. And if Cratchit didn’t know how expensive they would be, why must Scrooge assume the burden of Cratchit’s misjudgment?

As for that one lump of coal Scrooge allows him, it bears emphasis that Cratchit has not been chained to his chilly desk. If he stays there, he shows by his behavior that he prefers his present wages-plus-comfort package to any other he has found, or supposes himself likely to find. Actions speak louder than grumbling, and the reader can hardly complain about what Cratchit evidently finds satisfactory.

More notorious even than his miserly ways are Scrooge’s cynical words. “Are there no prisons,” he jibes when solicited for charity, “and the Union workhouses?”

Terrible, right? Lacking in compassion?

Not necessarily. As Scrooge observes, he supports those institutions with his taxes. Already forced to help those who can’t or won’t help themselves, it is not unreasonable for him to balk at volunteering additional funds for their extra comfort.

Scrooge is skeptical that many would prefer death to the workhouse, and he is unmoved by talk of the workhouse’s cheerlessness. He is right to be unmoved, for society’s provisions for the poor must be, well, Dickensian. The more pleasant the alternatives to gainful employment, the greater will be the number of people who seek these alternatives, and the fewer there will be who engage in productive labor. If society expects anyone to work, work had better be a lot more attractive than idleness.

The normally taciturn Scrooge lets himself go a bit when Cratchit hints that he would like a paid Christmas holiday. “It’s not fair,” Scrooge objects, a charge not met by Cratchet’s patently irrelevant protest that Christmas comes but once a year. Unfair it is, for Cratchit would doubtless object to a request for a day’s uncompensated labor, “and yet,” as Scrooge shrewdly points out, “you don’t think me ill used when I pay a day’s wages for no work.”

Cratchit has apparently forgotten the golden rule. (Or is it that Scrooge has so much more than Cratchit that the golden rule does not come into play? But Scrooge doesn’t think he has that much, and shouldn’t he have a say in the matter?)

Scrooge’s first employer, good old Fezziwig, was a lot freer with a guinea—he throws his employees a Christmas party. What the Ghost of Christmas Past does not explain is how Fezziwig afforded it. Did he attempt to pass the added costs to his customers? Or did young Scrooge pay for it anyway by working for marginally lower wages?

The biggest of the Big Lies about Scrooge is the pointlessness of his pursuit of money. “Wealth is of no use to him. He doesn’t do any good with it,” opines ruddy nephew Fred.

Wrong on both counts. Scrooge apparently lends money, and to discover the good he does one need only inquire of the borrowers. Here is a homeowner with a new roof, and there a merchant able to finance a shipment of tea, bringing profit to himself and happiness to tea drinkers, all thanks to Scrooge.

Dickens doesn’t mention Scrooge’s satisfied customers, but there must have been plenty of them for Scrooge to have gotten so rich.

Scrooge is said to hound debtors so relentlessly that—as the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Be is able to show him—an indebted couple rejoices at his demise. The mere delay while their debt is transferred will avert the ruin Scrooge would have imposed.

This canard is triply absurd. First, a businessman as keen as Scrooge would prefer to delay payment to protect his investment rather than take possession of possibly useless collateral. (No bank wants developers to fail and leave it the proud possessor of a half-built shopping mall.) Second, the fretful couple knew and agreed to the terms on which Scrooge insisted. By reneging on the deal, they are effectively engaged in theft. Third, most important, and completely overlooked by Ghost and by Dickens, there are hopefuls whose own plans turn on borrowing the money returned to Scrooge from his old accounts. Scrooge can’t relend what Caroline and her unnamed husband don’t pay up, and he won’t make a penny unless he puts the money to use after he gets it back.

The hard case, of course, is a payment due from Bob Cratchit, who needs the money for an emergency operation on Tiny Tim. (Here I depart from the text, but Dickens characters are so familiar to us they can be pressed into unfamiliar roles.) If you think it is heartless of Scrooge to demand payment, think of Sickly Sid, who needs an operation even more urgently than Tim does, and whose father is waiting to finance that operation by borrowing the money Cratchit is expected to pay up.

Is Tim’s life more valuable than Sid’s just because we’ve met him? And how do we explain to Sid’s father that his son won’t be able to have the operation after all, because Scrooge, as Christmas generosity, is allowing Cratchit to reschedule his debt? Scrooge does not circulate money from altruism, to be sure, but his motives, whatever they are, are congruent with the public good.

But what about those motives? Scrooge doesn’t seem to get much satisfaction from the services he may inadvertently perform, and that seems to be part of Dickens’s point. But who, apart from Dickens, says that Scrooge is not enjoying himself? He spends all his time at his business, likes to count his money, and has no outside interests.

At the same time, Scrooge is not given to brooding and shows absolutely no sign of depression or conflict. Whether he wished to or not, Dickens has made Scrooge by far the most intelligent character in his fable, and Dickens credits his creation with having nothing “fancy” about him. So we conclude that, in his undemonstrative way, Scrooge is productive and satisfied with his lot, which is to say happy.

There can be no arguing with Dickens’s wish to show the spiritual advantages of love. But there was no need to make the object of his lesson an entrepreneur whose ideas and practices benefit his employees, society at large, and himself. Must such a man expect no fairer a fate than to die scorned and alone? Bah, I say. Humbug.

* * * * *

Michael Levin is professor of philosophy at the City University of New York.

As debate over the PATRIOT Act hits a high (or low…) point, I have tried to find un-spun information on the act – but to no avail. I even tried reading the actual legislation, but became so exhausted wading through the piles of legal jargon looking for what I really wanted that I just gave up. I shall continue my quest to find out the truth about the PATRIOT Act, but until then, here’s the scoop on what I’ve found so far:

Major arguments surrounding the PATRIOT Act

1. Information Sharing
Sec. 203(b) and (d): Allows information from criminal probes to be shared with intelligence agencies and other parts of the government.
Pro: Supporters say the provisions have greatly enhanced information sharing within the FBI, and with the intelligence community at large.
Con: Critics warn that unrestricted sharing could lead to the development of massive databases about citizens who are not the targets of criminal investigations.
Jama’s take: I’m not terribly concerned about this. I see absolutely no problem with police organizations sharing information with each other – as a matter of fact, it seems silly that they wouldn’t be able to do this! So long as they obtain the information through legal means (via a court order, not simply based on a hunch), then there should be few, if any, restrictions on their ability to share this information.

2. Roving Wiretaps
Sec. 206: Allows one wiretap authorization to cover multiple devices, eliminating the need for separate court authorizations for a suspect’s cell phone, PC and Blackberry, for example. Expires Dec. 31.
Pro: The government says roving wiretaps are needed to deal with technologically sophisticated terrorists.
Con: Critics say the language of the act could lead to privacy violations of anyone who comes into casual contact with a suspect.
Jama’s take: Now this I’m a little unsure about. As someone who has studied Criminal Procedure and Judicial Process (through my Legal Studies minor at ETSU) I have learned how easy it is to “fill in the blanks” on a warrant form. I am unsure why it is necessary to obtain “sweeping wire taps” when one could merely use the same probable cause for each device and “fill in the blanks” on multiple warrant forms. Sure, the roving tap may make the process a little easier, but let’s take a look at a possible means of abuse: my mom bought my neice a cell phone. If the police wanted to place a “sweeping wire tap” on my mother’s electronic devices, then my neice’s cell phone would be included – the phone is in my mother’s name and under her care, although she is not the one who uses it. So the police are actually going to be wasting their time listening in on my neice’s phone conversations about cheerleading practice and the prom. If, however, the police were required to justify each wire tap, it is highly probable that the judge would have noticed that the tap on the second cell phone (that actually belongs to my neice) was unnecessary. See my point? Not a lot of extra effort is required to get the additional wire taps, and not only could we avoid possible civil liberties violations but officers’ time could be better used if they are not listening in on devices that have very little to do with the actual suspect.

3. Access to Records
Sec. 215: Allows easier access to business records in foreign intelligence investigations. Expires Dec. 31.
Pro: The provision allows investigators to obtain books, records, papers, documents and other items sought “in connection with” a terror investigation.
Con: Critics attack the breadth of the provision, saying the law could be used to demand the reading records of library or bookstore patrons.
Jama’s Take: This explanation is lacking. I’m unsure what the problem would be with this provision so long as the officers have obtained the proper warrants from the courts.

4. Foreign Intelligence Wiretaps and Searches
Sec. 218: Lowers the bar for launching foreign intelligence wiretaps and searches. Expires Dec. 31.
Pro: Allows investigators to get a foreign intelligence wiretap or search order, even if they end up bringing criminal charges instead.
Con: Because foreign intelligence probes are conducted in secret, with little oversight, critics say abuses could be difficult to uncover.
Jama’s take: I am very nervous about “secret police.” I understand that it is necessary to be sneaky with terrorists, as they are pretty sneaky themselves, but we must be careful when instituting such groups as “secret police” and “secret courts”. It terrifies me to think what may happen if one day the enemy wasn’t the terrorist, but the political activist or the Christian. We must remember that, while these provisions are nifty when fighting evil, they could also be used against those of us who aren’t so evil. Case in point: what if, God forbid, Hillary became president in ’08. Do we want to give her the ability to run a “secret justice system”? I think not.

5. “Sneak & Peek” Warrants
Sec. 213: Allows “Sneak and peek” search warrants, which let authorities search a home or business without immediately notifying the target of a probe. Does not expire
Pro: Supporters say this provision has already allowed investigators to search the houses of drug dealers and other criminals without providing notice that might have jeopardized an investigation.
Con: Critics say the provision allows the use of “sneak and peek” warrants for even minor crimes, not just terror and espionage cases.
Jama’s take: Again, this explanation is lacking. I am unsure why a “sneak and peek” would be problematic so long as the warrant was approved by the appropriate court in light of probable cause.

6. Material Support
Sec. 805: Expands the existing ban on giving “material support” to terrorists to include “expert advice or assistance.” Does not expire.
Pro: Supporters say it helps cut off the support networks that make terrorism possible.
Con: Critics say the provision could lead to guilt by association.
Jama’s take: Here is where we must make sure that the advice or assistance is “knowing” advice or assistance. If some guy called me up and said, “Jama, you have such a brilliant legal mind, I would like to ask your expert opinion on issue X”, I gave it to him, and he turned out to be a terrorist, would I be held responsible? So long as I didn’t know I was giving information to a terrorist, then I should hope not. “Knowing”, however, is difficult to prove, so this could be problematic.

7. The ‘Lone Wolf’ Provision
Section 6001 of the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 allows intelligence investigations of lone terrorists not connected to a foreign nation or organization.
While not part of the Patriot Act, this provision also sunsets on Dec. 31 and is under review. Civil liberties groups say the provision could sweep in protesters and those suspected of involvement in domestic terrorism. Language passed by the Senate Intelligence Committee would make this section permanent.
Jama’s take: A terrorist is a terrorist is a terrorist. Foreign or domestic. Big or small. White, brown, yellow, or purple. Again, so long as we follow the proper channels (i.e. the court system’s requirements of probable cause, etc.) then I am unsure why it is a problem to lump domestic terrorists in with foreign terrorists. Now the protesters – this could be a problem. The first amendment is first for a reason – it’s REALLY important! We need to ensure the safety – protection, even – of protesters no matter what it is they may be protesting against, and lumping them in with terrorists is unacceptable.

My thanks to NPR (wonders never cease!) for information provided on their website (http://www.npr.org/news/specials/patriotact/patriotactprovisions.html)
concerning the pros and cons of the expiring sections of the PATRIOT Act.

As much as I need to be studying for finals, I just can’t let this one go…
Anyone who reads my blog knows that I am a supporter of the death penalty, but the case of Tookie Williams has caused me to look at who really deserves the death penalty and if redemption while incarcerated is enough to merit clemency.

As I have watched the story of Tookie Williams I have seen a man who seemed like he had been truly redeemed. The founder of the notorious street gang, the Crips, Tookie was convicted of four murders. While in prison – and I haven’t read if this was a religious conversion or something else – Tookie began writing children’s books and encouraging young people to stay away from gangs. Nominated more than once for the Nobel Peace Prize, Tookie truly seemed like a changed man. When Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger denied his last plea for a stay of execution, I was more than curious as to his reasoning. Gov. Schwarzenegger claimed that Tookie may have done wonderful things in prison, but the fact that he maintained his innocence – even with eyewitness testimony to the contrary – revealed that Tookie wasn’t truly sorry for his crimes.

I have a major issue with this reasoning. First of all, as anyone who has studied criminal justice knows, eyewitness testimony is notoriously the least reliable. One of my professors even stated that if he staged a crime scene – say, for instance, a man runs into the classroom with a gun and shoots the professor – every student in the room would give a different description of the suspect and, most likely, a different story concerning what happened during the crime. I have not read the transcripts from Tookie’s trial, but if Gov. Schwarzenegger is relying on the eyewitness testimony to ensure Tookie’s guilt, I am more than a little concerned. I will admit that if Tookie was really guilty of the crimes, and he showed no remorse by refusing to admit his guilt, then he was not the changed man he claimed to be. But IF – and I suppose we’ll never know – IF he was innocent, then we cannot presume that his refusal to take responsibility for the crimes to be evidence of some aspect of his life that wasn’t changed.

The death penalty is the ultimate punishment and, although I support the measure, I believe it should only be reserved for the most heinous offenses (I do suppose, that four murders would qualify), and that mercy should be shown whenever possible. Had Tookie really turned his life around? It certainly looks that way. And if he maintained his innocence to the very end it causes me to wonder if he was truly guilty of the crimes for which he was executed. Anyone who, like myself, has had a drastic religious conversion understands that the person he or she was before is not the person he or she is now and there is no fear of admitting wrongdoing from that former life. If Tookie had committed those crimes and he had been truly converted, why would he not admit it? He famously said that “There is no part of me that existed then that exists now” – boy, do I know that feeling! Why would Tookie not admit his crime if they were truly his?

While I agree that the death penalty should be an option in our criminal justice system, I also believe that mercy should be used whenever possible. If Tookie was the changed man that he claimed to be, then maybe we should have spared his life.

“You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? ” Matthew 7:16

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