Friday, March 21, 2008

Kill Bill

Smarties – Connecticut is filled with them – will not be surprised to hear that there is more than one way to kill a bill in the legislature. Not everything, or every one, in that august body is straightforward. Sometimes the trek of truth is a tortuous way. Just as there’s more than one way to skin a cat – though, why would anyone want to do that? – so there is more than one way to kill a bill.

The honest and straightforward way to defeat a bill is to allow it to go to the floor, have a robust debate in the course of which the bill’s merits and demerits would be fully explored, and vote it up or down.

In this way, the extravagant claims made for representative government by our sainted forefathers would be vindicated. Once the bill was passed into law or defeated, the people of Connecticut, depending on their wants and desires, would similarly be able to vote in or out of office those who voted on the bill.

This is raw democracy and representative government at its most elemental. Thomas Jefferson, as well as other heroes of the glorious revolution, had something like this in mind when he sang the praises of representative democracy. Unfortunately, Tom was unfamiliar with the methods commonly employed by Connecticut’s Judiciary Committee, the honorable Rep. Michael Lawlor presiding.

As the chairman of the committee and chief obstructionist, Lawlor, a smartie lawyer, is the guy who gets to decide whether a bill is reported out of committee to the floor. The bills he and his caucus disapprove of are quietly – and sometimes not so quietly – aborted or strangled at birth.

A caucus, as the smarties well know, an is organized conspiracy against the laity designed to fulfill Henry Mencken’s definition of democracy: Democracy is that theory of government which holds that people deserve to get what they want (heh!) good and hard.

What many people wanted after two petty criminals invaded a doctor’s house in Cheshire several months back, beat the doctor with a baseball bat, raped the doctor’s wife and daughter, set the house on fire, murdering all within, the doctor alone having escaped to tell the tale, was a quick but just trial, followed by a quick but just conviction, followed by a quick but just execution of the two rapists, arsonists and murderers.

What they got was… (and this ellipsis really should be as long as the circumference of the earth) Connecticut’s terminally incapacitated judicial system.

Following the Cheshire murders, no one called for mob justice, but in an attempt to prod the judicial system forward, some people impertinently began to demand a so-called “three strikes and you’re out” measure, assuring that in the future criminals with long rap sheets would, after their third serious felony, be put away in a highly regimented repository for the rest of their lives without possibility of parole, safe from the vengeful and howling mob outside their cells. Illuminations were festooned all over Cheshire as an indication of the community’s support.

It had been pointed out that such a law would not have prevented the Cheshire murders, an iffy proposition that is little more than a debating point offered by those for whom a twelve strikes and you’re out bill would be an impertinent intrusion on the discretion of judges. But in those grief filled days following the murders, when everyone was busy empathizing with the lone survivor of the murdered family, legislators were not yet prepared to sacrifice the good to the perfect.
The stricken doctor, later addressing the legislature, was able to build a fire under the feet of the Lawlorites, now backsliding into their old comfortable ways.

This is what should happen: The legislature should be shamed into passing a three strikes and you’re out law, a difficult chore because some of the smarties over at the legislature, now poised to cover themselves in glory by pardoning witches hung centuries ago for witchcraft, just don’t have their priorities straight. The people who strung illuminations for miles in Cheshire to show sympathy for a family that had been savagely murdered should bring their illuminations to the Capitol and ring the entire place with candles that will be tended and not extinguished until the law they deserve has been passed. In addition, perhaps a Wiccan purgation ceremony might clear some heads over there; it can’t hurt.
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