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Tuesday, February 19, 2008

State of the Union: Jon Bruning

Note: This is part two of a yet-to-be determined number of articles in which I take something that I formerly had an opinion of but hadn't thought about in awhile, and analyze.

On the heels of Sambuca's Taco John's post, and my comment, reminded me of what I saw today over at my friends The New Nebraska Network. I have nothing personal against Jon Bruning, by all accounts he is a nice enough guy.

When I first heard of Jon Bruning, I was scared. Not in like a Don Stenberg this guy is really evil kind of scared, but in a holy shit he's kind of charming to Nebraskans but clearly has sinister motives kind of scared. Like the fear of a used car salesman compared to Michael Myers from Halloween.

I knew that he would eventually become Attorney General, and then either Governor or Senator. While his Senate bill was temporarily derailed by Mike Johanns, I don't feel like either is impossible yet. He is articulate (for a white guy), comes across well in person, and is a fantastic shyster and schmoozer among politico-types in this state. As a Democrat, he is an intimidating guy, the kind of guy that makes me think it will be 40 years before a Democrat gets a Senate, Governor, or Congressional seat in Nebraska. He's slick but comes across like your neighbor. These are not insults, I'm genuinely impressed by this.

However, politically he is a total hack who will literally do or say anything to get elected and seems to only be concerned with his own image and popularity. I cannot recall of anything he has done as an attorney general that has not been for publicity (the case of the marriage in Kansas with the teenagers) , his own cult of personality (beating his own drum during the North Platte gas station price gouging), or to improve his chances at being elected to a more important office someday (too many examples to list here, I will throw out his extensive anti-same sex litigation).

Anyway, that brings us back to what I saw today over at New Nebraska, which is the following two nuggets:

Attorney General Jon Bruning today announced that he will file a motion to reconsider this morning's Nebraska Supreme Court ruling. In the ruling, the court says electrocution is cruel and unusual punishment under Nebraska's constitution.
"I'm surprised and disappointed with the ruling and think the court is mistaken," said Bruning. "I think the decision is incorrect as a matter of law, and we intend to ask the court to reconsider it."
The court's ruling strikes down the state's only method of execution. The decision was made in the case of child killer Raymond Mata of Scottsbluff.
"Nebraskans overwhelmingly support the death penalty and justice demands our state has a constitutional method of execution," Bruning said.

Proving once again that he is probably the most astute politician in Nebraska history, Ernie Chambers is all over this one:

Sen. Ernie Chambers finds Attorney General John Bruning's filing today for another hearing on the Nebraska Supreme Court's ruling on the electric chair interesting in light of past testimony by Bruning when he was a state senator....
[Chambers] detailed statements Bruning made in testimony to the Judiciary Committee when he introduced a lethal injection bill in 2001. That testimony contradicted statements he made Feb. 8....
[According to Chambers, Bruning said in his] 2001 testimony...states are moving away from electrocution to lethal injection. "I believe ultimately that will result in Nebraska's penalty being declared unconstitutional," Bruning said.
"How can the Attorney General claim surprise when what he predicted in 2001 came to pass in 2008," Chambers asked in the brief.
He also quoted testimony in which Bruning said he believes the electric chair to be cruel and unusual punishment, but continued to support the death penalty.
"I believe personally," Bruning said, "it is cruel and unusual. And it is unnecessary and we can move to lethal injection to cure that problem."

Count me among those who feel that it is absolutely ludicrous to be using the electric chair by now (except for that bastard at Taco John's). I'm not convinced that it is any better than the firing squad, which I believe can still be used in Utah. I'm of the opinion that the fewer things we have in common with Utah, the better. Anyway, I don't really want to turn this into a discussion of capital punishment itself, but I am always wanting to discuss what a jackass our Attorney General is most of the time.

The verdict of this state of the union is that I still do not enjoy Jon Bruning politically, and probably never will. He has no principles, and probably never will. However, the scoreboard is absolutely Chambers 1, Bruning 0, and that amuses me.

And, does anybody else care about the cruelty of the chair?

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It is absolutely rediculous that the US continues to hang on to the death penalty. Every other western country has done away with it for obvious reasons. It costs way more money to put somebody to death than it does to keep them in prison for life. I understand the need for justice that family and friends feel after the loss of a loved one, but putting someone is prison for life is just as much of a death sentence as killing them is.
jesus the deuce. this post hasn't even been up an hour yet and you already devolved it into a discussion about the death penalty.

for full disclosure, I would be for the death penalty if it wasn't racist, expensive, inefficient and became a deterrent to crime. in all states I'm aware of, this is not the case at all.

let me be clear: I don't have a problem with killing people who deserve it.

examples include: osama bin laden, the norfolk bank robbers, people who kill people in schools and have the balls not to blow their brains out, and anton chigurh from no country for old men.

--pete via the treo
Can anyone honestly say that any method of execution is not in some way cruel? Unusual? In most cases. I don't know of anyone murdered by electric chair, or lethal injection for that matter, that wasn't a death row inmate. So by definition, I would consider these to be unusual forms of punishment. Hanging, while cruel, is historically not that unusual. Firing squad, in my opinion cruel to the administrator, is probably fairly usual in the terms of methods of murders in our dear United States.

While I am solidly in the anti-death penalty corner, there are examples, some of which Pete listed above, I cannot argue with.

I certainly don't have the answer, but is there a method of execution that is neither cruel nor unusual? Drowning is supposed to be peaceful. That happens all of the time. Medically induced comas are not that infrequent in many situations.

Somehow I always get tangled up in the juxtaposition of why the death penalty is used. In many cases, isn't a cruel and unusual death what grieving families want in order to feel that justice has been served?

"Yes, they deserve to die! And I hope they burn in hell!"

Thank you, Mr. Jackson.

Can America have it both ways? Can we inscribe in the founding documents of our nation that we will not use forms of punishment that are cruel or unusal and then use methods of execution that seem to be fundamentally those two things?
Unfortunately bloodthirsty vengence is as American as apple pie and there is nothing that can be done. Maybe if Americans had something similar to the French revolution we would be so repulsed by executions that capital punishment would cease to exist.
That said, If I was put in the situation where it was being put to death or having to spend decades confined to a max security prison I would probably have to flip a coin. Though any form of capital punishment, (especially the chair, what is this 1934?!?!) is cruel living in a 4 x 8 cell for 50 years is not a helluva lot better.

Long story long if you are a killer (or rob a Taco John's) be ready to face the music, whatever that includes.
Bruning is indeed an interesting cat. It's stories like this with Ernie Chambers as to why they came up with term limits...which is a shame. Good for him for calling him out on something pretty obvious.

As for the death penalty, I'd have to agree that any sort of execution is "cruel and unusual." Let's not forget the whole "eye for an eye" rule in the Bible was disqualified in a little section of the book called "The New Testament."

And all the administrative sides of the death penalty brought up above are salient points, to be sure. But my biggest things with the death penalty are:

1. If anyone--just one person--is killed by the state, and they were, in fact, innocent, then the whole system needs to get the fuck gone. (This has happened, by the way)

2. Where in the Constitution does it say that we are allowed to sit upon judgment of another man's life? It's one thing to imprison someone, but, as humans--a strong distinction from the label "God"--flawed, everyone one of us, we should have the right to decide upon whether another of us deserves to live?

Who in the hell do we think we are?

Capital punishment is a disgusting tradition in the United States, and if anyone would wake up for two fuck seconds and realize how wrong it is to have a group of flawed, emotional people judge upon another human's life, maybe we could get this straightened out.

Sadly, everyone is hitting the snooze button.
Couldn't agree more, ga.
Cruel--I suppose that's debatable, as it's a little more subjective. Unusual--I'd say most definitely, as it's a bit more quantitative...at least in the case of Mr. Sparky.
(From Wikipedia): "From 1976 to September 24, 2007, out of 1,098 executions: 928 have been by lethal injection, 154 by electrocution, 11 by gas chamber, 3 by hanging, and 2 by firing squad." So is roughly 15% of instances "unusual" nee "not commonly done". I'd say so. Especially when coupled with the fact that NE is the only state in the union where electrocution is (was) the lone method of execution. But it begs the question...in areas of extreme, vengeful barbarism, is it good or bad to be behind the times? Either way (as per usual) that's where Nebraska currently appears to be situated.

It also puzzles me how Bruning and those of his ilk always proudly proclaim themselves to be "pro life". Yeah right...unless the life in question is actually, you know, breathing air!
Bruning is a total hack. While many in Nebraska might be smitten with his John Ashcroft approach to moral indignation and condemnation of the easily marginalized (gays and convicts), the "powers that be" have taken notice of his willingness to jump to the front of the party line. I've heard directly from one Republican heavyweight that he's already
"burnt several bridges". I'd say Johnny B is about 8 years late for the political style he employs.

- Ruckus
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