MORNING BUZZ: Death Penalty, Lincoln and Frozen

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I started this yesterday…but they’d prefer I post in the Morning so here’s a combo yesterday and today.

Death Penalty

The debate over the death penalty here in Iowa started again last week when State Sen Kent Sorenson suggested he would propose reinstating it during the next session.  Sorenson’s comments came in the wake of the discovery of two missing girls from eastern Iowa.  Sen Sorenson suggests that the people who commit these crimes might not do it if they knew there was a chance they’d be put to death.

Our Facebook page lit up with comments from people about how they’d be the first in line to pull the trigger, lynch a convicted criminal or torture criminals.  Can you blame someone for having that kind of knee jerk reaction to a crime committed against a child?  I don’t pretend to have an answer to this question…for some people it’s a simple yes or no.  If it were my kid I’d want to make sure the guy was locked up for the rest of his life…videos and pictures of my kid would run on screens all around the prison cell of the person responsible…and then on my kid’s birthday every year I’d ask the judge to allow my entire family…anyone who wanted to go the person’s cell and punch him in the face a few times(Thanks to the West Wing for the creative sentence).  I don’t think that would bring my kid back though.

For me any thought of the death penalty is tempered by the history of my own home state of Illinois.  You’ll remember Illinois had a tough death penalty for just these kinds of crimes.  They sent a lot of people to death row…we found out later, even though it looked like they had the right person, many of them were innocent.  In many cases it was clear the death penalty became a political tool.  Prosecutors were going after the death penalty as a way of looking tough on criminals.  The zeal to prosecute…to come up with an explanation for a grieving family or to take a monster off the streets forever; overshadowed the pursuit of actual justice.

So which is worse?  Having no death penalty and instead locking these criminals up for the rest of their lives, or having the death penalty and putting even one innocent person to death?    For those of you quoting Old Testament wrath…what do you think Jesus would say about that question?  If you’ve lost a loved one to a violent crime…I am sorry for your loss…but that is a great example of why laws like this shouldn’t be decided in the wake of an emotional tragedy.

Finally, anyone who believes someone troubled enough to commit a crime like this is going to stop and think…”well if I kill a kid in Iowa I’m going to get the death penalty…So I’d better move on to Minnesota and do it there instead”…is just kidding themselves or they’re selling you something…the question for voters is…what?.  

As I say I don’t have the answer but I don’t think it is in any way a simple question.

The simple answer in Iowa is that this is never going to pass the Legislature…as the Governor points out.  So you have to ask yourself…knowing that, why would someone bring it up in the wake of a kid’s death?  If this is about principle…should the bill have come up last year when there wasn’t a tragedy attached to it?

Right to Work

In Michigan the Legislature is poised to vote on a law that would allow workers to opt out of Union membership.  I’ve said here before…I think there is a place for Unions in this country.  They protect workers rights in some industries…and beyond that, unions allow workers, if they choose, to collectively negotiate.  Here’s my problem.  That’s not the point of Unions anymore.  Unions collect money from workers for the purpose of supporting political candidates.  Sure they negotiate a contract every few years but it would be hard to argue that Unions are NOT primarily Political organizations.

So my question is why shouldn’t I have the right to affirm the choice of the organization that represents me to my employer?   Why shouldn’t unions compete for the right to represent me?  I bet there would be a lot more focus on the worker and a lot less on the politics.  If Unions feel that workers would be “freeloading” by opting out of membership…pull out of that shop.  If the workers there find conditions and pay deteriorating to the point that they want some collective bargaining…’ve got a Union again.   

Here’s another suggestion.  What if Unions could not contribute ANY of the money paid in dues to political candidates?  Of course individual Union members have the right to  CHOOSE to contribute to whomever they want…and a Union could certainly advocate that it’s membership would be better served with one candidate over another…But the money paid collectively for the good of the Union shouldn’t be doled out by a small number of Union Leaders.  That leads us to where we are now.  If I am a Republican and I work in a Union shop…I am being forced to give to a political cause I don’t believe in.  That money should support the function of the local Union.  More to the point it should sit in a strike fund so that workers could actually get paid when they have a work stoppage.  Wouldn’t that kind of leverage better serve a local worker who wants better pay or better working conditions?


We went to see the movie this weekend and it was excellent.  I tried for two hours to see Daniel Day Lewis’ face in the character of Lincoln.  I couldn’t do it.  I have admired the work of many of the men who’ve won the Best Actor Academy Award..Until I saw this movie I never thought the winner was a lock.  If he doesn’t win…I don’t know what great acting looks like.


No I am not talking about the weather…I am actually taking about going somewhere warm. Sally and I don’t take a big vacation often.  Our last was a couple of years before the boys were born.  We figured it was time again and have some miles to burn.  The problem is going somewhere you’ve never been.  You have to do as much research, ask as many people you trust and then just hope it’s a good experience.

I am trying to do that planning a trip to Jamaica.  The problem is…I’m paralyzed by the choices!  Is an extra couple hundred dollars going to make a big difference in the kind of vacation we have?  Is the one that’s MUCH cheaper really going to be that much worse?  As I said we don’t do this that often and I just want it to be perfect.  If anyone has been somewhere great…I’d love to hear about it.  Maybe it will get me to just make a decision.

I hope you have a good day!