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Two Newspapers + Two Court Cases = Too Much Ignorance

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When the New York Times editorialized this week about a death-penalty case presently before the United Supreme Court, it clearly demonstrated that considerable knowledge needs to be absorbed by Times editorial writers before they come to grips with reality. This is the same newspaper that recently hired right-wing columnist William Kristol as an op-ed contributor, apparently thinking it didn't have enough know-nothing buffoons.

The paper opined that, "We believe that the death penalty, no matter how it is administered, is unconstitutional and wrong."

It added later in the editorial that, "... the court needs to ... rule that Kentucky's method of lethal injection violates the Eighth Amendment prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment."

Both statements prove that editorial writers and editors at the Times haven't the faintest idea of what the Constitution says.

Capital punishment is most definitely not unconstitutional and the Eighth Amendment doesn't say what the Times claims it says.

First things first. The Times is right that the death penalty is "wrong;" it will always be wrong in a civilized society, but it is not prohibited by the Constitution. Both the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments state that a person may not be deprived of "life, liberty or property, without due process of law." Just simple logic would conclude that with due process, a person can be denied life, therefore capital punishment is constitutionally allowed but morally abhorrent. The Times also needs to discover just what "due process" entails, but there is little likelihood of that.

The Los Angeles Times's court reporter did no better when he wrote, "Supreme Court justices reacted skeptically Monday to the claim that the lethal injections used to carry out executions in the United States were flawed in practice and amounted to cruel and unusual punishment."

In death-penalty arguments, it is possible to show that all methods of administering death by any known method ~ short of old age or incurable disease ~ could be cruel, thereby administering the arguments moot and capital punishment void. That is the only way to rid this nation of the barbaric act.

The Eighth Amendment does not prohibit "cruel and unusual punishment," as both newspapers claimed. It prohibits "cruel and unusual punishments." The difference is significant.

First: "cruel and unusual punishment" is not literate. The phrase "cruel and unusual punishments" indicates two types of punishment are prohibited; those that are cruel and those that are unusual. That means any punishment that is humane or is normal for the offense is allowed. When someone uses the phrase "cruel and unusual punishment" he or she is trying to say "cruel-and-unusual punishment" but doesn't have the awareness to know the difference between multiple adjectives and compound adjectives. Journalists, of all people, should know. It's only a matter of mastering junior-high-school English to know that adjectives don't modify adjectives, therefore they have to be compounded with hyphens for that purpose, a lost American art.

The LA Times reporter did a better job discussing the voter-ID law from Indiana being argued before the court Wednesday. But, better isn't necessarily best.

The issues in the Indiana voter ID case were presented adequately. But, like the inability to read the Eighth Amendment properly, the reporter ~ and apparently the attorneys on both sides of the case ~ couldn't locate a vital issue that should be the center of the case.

Article I, Section 8, paragraph 18, of the Constitution says that laws are to be "necessary and proper." The news story showed that attorneys for the state had not offered evidence that there had ever been any attempt at the voter fraud the law was supposed to address. Attorneys opposing the law had used arguments that showed studies around the nation had never detected any problem with persons trying to vote illegally. So this begs the question, why is the law "necessary?" Apparently neither side of the case raised the question, neither did any judge on the courts which had ruled on the law on its travels to the Supreme Court, nor the Supreme Court judges, and it escaped the attention of the writer of the news story.

Supreme Courts past have often made it clear that there must be a compelling state interest for any law to exist. If there is no problem the law is to address, then there is no need for the law and it isn't necessary; therefore it should be unconstitutional. But Justice Anthony Kennedy took the wrong route when he asked, "You want us to invalidate the statute because of minimal inconvenience?" Questioning by the SCOTUS judges appeared to suggest that the conservative majority is likely to rule for government, rather than individuals, as usual.

Even in the heinous decision of Plessy v. Ferguson that allowed the odorous "separate but equal" racial laws that denied rights of black Americans for decades, the majority opinion stated that a government can't make a law just to harass neighbors or someone disliked. There must be a valid reason for a voter ID law.

Don't expect the press or even most of the Supreme Court, to detect this most-important issue.
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***************************************************** Thomas Bonsell is a former newspaper editor (in Oregon, New York and Colorado) United States Air Force cryptanalyst and National Security Agency intelligence agent. He became one of (more...)
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