Representative John Carter, a good-old-boy law-and-order Texas death penalty aficionado put a tag on the bill to reauthorize the USA Patriot Act. An amendment I guess they call it. Tag, amendment, it matters not. What offends me beyond nearly all words is the original title of his bill that became an amendment; the Terrorist Death Penalty Enhancement Act.
I am so amazed by the breathless fury and blood-lust of men like John Carter that I cracked my dictionary just to see that I had not misunderstood ‘enhancement.’
I had not. Enhancement is defined as “to improve or add to the strength, worth, beauty, or other desirable quality of something.” John has, in his mind, added to the beauty and desirable quality of death.
The Senate version contains no such language. That’s what I love about the United States Senate, it’s unending willingness to deal with the psychopaths and small-time criminal element within the House of Representatives. Mischief is hatched on a daily basis in the House and its idiocies scamper like cockroaches, scurrying over to the Senate where they are, for the most part, stepped on and squashed.
The USA Patriot Act is a small-minded document, reminiscent of some of our worst war-time legislation; things better off forgotten like the internment of Japanese during the Second World War. But we do these things out of fear and anger. We are not normally fearful and angry people, but we are helped along the way by men like John Carter.
The reauthorization triples the number of provisions under which the death penalty can be enhanced.
Which might be all right or at least arguable if the number were 2 and went to 6 but it is not. The number is 20 and will increase to 61. I never use numerals in my writing because I think it’s bad form and jars the fluidity of what I hope to be logical thought. But I have used them here for just that purpose, to jar. They are jarring numbers.
Among the acts for which one can be put to death, an individual could be sentenced to death for “providing financial support to an organization whose members caused the death of another, even if the individual in question did not know or in any way intend that the members engage in violence.” There’s a bunch of innane stuff like that in his amendment. John Carter’s spokeswoman said that his enhancement was important because “the congressman believes capital punishment is a deterrent for all kinds of crimes, including terrorism.”
I don’t know how he matches his belief with the fact of suicide bombers. If you blow yourself up, we’re going to execute you. Stranger than fiction, this Carter guy.
Over in the Senate, in a separate but equally preposterous move, Vice President Dick Cheney was enhancing as well. In town from his undisclosed location, he has for the third time tried to persuade Senator McCain to exempt the CIA from the Senate proscription on torture of anyone, including prisoners of war.
Cheney, perhaps the most bloodthirsty and misguided Vice President in memory, had Porter Goss (Director of the CIA) in tow. Both of them were worried that not being able to torture our prisoners held on foreign soil would irreparably damage our national defense.
McCain said no. The Vice President and Director left in a huff, only one of them to a known location.