Sunday, November 6, 2011

Population Control, Marauder Style/America's Exploding Pipe Dream/Death Row in Pennsylvania

November 5, 2011

Population Control, Marauder Style


Last week, the United Nations announced that the world’s population had reached seven billion, but there have been times when it headed in the opposite direction, and not in pleasant ways. The savagery of the Mongol conqueror Genghis Khan may have culled the global population by about 11 percent; two bloody upheavals in China — the An Lushan Rebellion and the collapse of the Xin Dynasty — each may have felled about 6 percent of humanity. Those are but 3 of the 100 worst atrocities in history, as cataloged by Matthew White in “The Great Big Book of Horrible Things,” an amusing (really) account of the murderous ways of despots, slave traders, blundering royals, gladiators and assorted hordes. Estimating the tolls from such horrors is an inexact science, given war’s nature and the mysteries of antiquity. The deadliest “multicides” are more plentiful in recent centuries, given that there were more people to kill and better ways to kill them on a grand scale. Even so, killings as a percentage of all humanity are probably declining. Here is a look at the sweep of human brutality presented in a timeline.


October 28, 2011

America’s Exploding Pipe Dream


We are slowly — and painfully — being forced to realize that we are no longer the America of our imaginations. Our greatness was not enshrined. Being a world leader is less about destiny than focused determination, and it is there that we have faltered.

We sold ourselves a pipe dream that everyone could get rich and no one would get hurt — a pipe dream that exploded like a pipe bomb when the already-rich grabbed for all the gold; when they used their fortunes to influence government and gain favors and protection; when everyone else was left to scrounge around their ankles in hopes that a few coins would fall.

We have not taken care of the least among us. We have allowed a revolting level of income inequality to develop. We have watched as millions of our fellow countrymen have fallen into poverty. And we have done a poor job of educating our children and now threaten to leave them a country that is a shell of its former self. We should be ashamed.

Poor policies and poor choices have led to exceedingly poor outcomes. Our societal chickens have come home to roost.

This was underscored in a report released on Thursday by the Bertelsmann Stiftung foundation of Germany entitled “Social Justice in the OECD — How Do the Member States Compare?” It analyzed some metrics of basic fairness and equality among Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development countries and ranked America among the ones at the bottom.

I could write (and have written) ad nauseam about our woeful state, but it might be more powerful to see it for yourself. So here are some of the sad data from the report.

I invite you to join me on Facebook and follow me on Twitter, or e-mail me at


October 28, 2011

Death Row in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania ranks high among states that impose death sentences and low among those that carry them out: 208 men and women are on death row, but no one has been executed since 1999; only three people have been executed since the penalty was reinstated in 1976.

The number of executions, however, should not obscure the failure of justice in the state’s capital cases. Of the 391 capital convictions there since 1976, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported this week, at least 125 have been reversed or sent back for new hearings by state and federal appeals courts because of serious errors by lawyers.

These abysmal facts vividly show that the death penalty cannot meet constitutional standards. Among the state’s egregious failures is not providing adequate defense counsel in capital cases. Government-appointed lawyers are so poorly paid that few are willing to take on these extremely difficult cases. Philadelphia pays only $2,000 for preparing a case and $400 a day for the trial. In the city, where 69 cases have been reversed or sent back, fewer than 30 of the bar’s 13,000 lawyers are willing to take these cases. Some lawyers are assigned capital cases even when their work is appalling — and even when they have been sanctioned for it by the state disciplinary board. The low fees create a “presumption of ineffectiveness,” a group of lawyers told the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

Most of the pending death penalty cases in Pennsylvania are more than a decade old because juries have been increasingly reluctant to impose capital punishment. In place of this de facto abolition, the state should pass a law proposed in March to end the death penalty. There is no argument in favor of maintaining a barbaric, arbitrary and expensive system of capital punishment.


© 2011 The New York Times Company


Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218.  Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] Go to


"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs


No comments: