Thursday, October 09, 2003

Arafat's Demise

Yesterday, Meryl Yourish channeled Janis Joplin on the subject of Arafat's death:

Oh Lord, won't you give us an Arafat death?

We've waited for decades, so please stop his breath

Prayed hard for this deed, and fasted, no less

So Lord, won't you kill him, and settle this mess?
I have two problems with the ditty. I raised one of them directly with Meryl, and she published my view and a thoughtful response of her own here. There's some daylight between Meryl's view on the matter and my own, but not a lot. So I'll leave that one where it stands.

Here's my second problem: I don't think Arafat's death settles a whole lot. His policies are wildly popular, and the cult of death he has created will outlive him in Palestinian society. Indeed, I think it not unlikely that those hungry to claim Arafat's mantle might seek to outdo one another in Jew killing as a way of proving themselves "worthy" successors in the eyes of their death-crazed people. Settle this mess? I don't think so. (I realize that in song parody, one must sometimes sacrifice accuracy and nuance for the sake of meter, and I actually found Meryl's version quite clever; heaven knows my own meager writing ability is confined to prose. But since the parody came without a disclaimer, I thought it worth raising these issues).

Limited Imagination

Susan Ager, a columnist for the Detroit Free Press, "can't imagine who would disagree" with her assertion that Jack Kevorkian should be released from prison.

Well, I do, for one. And I doubt I'm alone. Ager submits that incarcerating Kevorkian any longer serves no purpose because (1) he's been punished enough and (2) he poses no danger to anyone. Wrong on both counts. Kevorkian was sentenced to 10 to 25 years imprisonment for second degree murder. I'm not sure whether the Michigan Truth-in-Sentencing provision was in force at the time of Kevorkian's crime, although it was at the time of his sentencing. That provision would require that Kevorkian serve at least the 10 year minimum sentence that Judge Cooper courageously imposed on him. Since he's only served 4 1/2 years, he's not even close.

That Kevorkian's lawyer, the self aggrandizing publicity fetishist Geoffrey Feiger, is asking a judge to resentence the Terminator to time served implies that truth-in-sentencing does apply to him: only by vacating the old sentence and imposing a lighter one could truth-in-sentencing be avoided. I'm quite certain that it's bad public policy to set a precedent of avoiding the truth-in-sentencing law by vacating and reimposing sentences. If Kevorkian's medical condition is such that he should for reasons of compassion receive special dispensation, then the common law has long provided an avenue for such relief -- executive clemency. Jennifer Granholm (who by the way would be a smashing candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008, should the Arnold Amendment be passed) is a fair minded woman, and I think the people of Michigan would respect her judgment in the matter. Frankly, I think the relief that Feiger seeks via resentencing might well violate the Michigan constitution by usurping the Governor's exclusive right under the Constitution to grant clemency.

So keeping the felon Kevorkian exactly where he is serves at least this purpose: it reassures the people that the law means what it says.

There's another reason to continue punishing Kevorkian: he has yet to accept, much less admit, that he did anything wrong. He is a zealot. Kevorkian's fanaticism is well documented, and his "pledge" not to assist in any more suicides is hard to take at face value. Judge Cooper said as much on the record at Kevorkian's sentencing. And while Youk, the victim of whose murder Kevorkian was convicted, might well have been of sound mind and desired his own death and freely consented to Kevorkian's acts, the same cannot be said for many of his other victims.That conduct, while not charged in Kevorkian's indictment, is certainly relevant conduct that Judge Cooper was entitled to consider in sentencing the bastard. Let him rot.