The Blacklist Is Back

AshcroftWell, the nation is abuzz with today’s big news...

Ashcroft Orders Tally Of Lighter Sentences.”

Okay, so maybe that’s not the news everyone’s talking about. But come on, who really gives a shit about a washed-up actor entering the governor’s race in a right-wing recall farce? (Although about that, I will say that having a moderate like Schwarzenegger as the de facto front-runner throws a bit of a monkey wrench into the plans of the real right-wingers who were hoping to take over, and that’s not all a bad thing.)

No, the most significant story today has to be Herr Ashcroft’s latest attempt to intimidate anyone who isn’t as far to the extreme right as he is. In this case, woe to any federal judge who dares to use his brain and actually consider the circumstances of a particular case when passing sentence; Ashcroft’s ordered federal prosecutors to report all “downward departure” sentences — in which a judge decides to reduce a sentence below the federal guidelines — so that he can keep tally. In the words of William Rehnquist, this amounts to “an unwarranted and ill-considered effort to intimidate individual judges in the performance of their judicial duties.” Ted Kennedy gets more directly to the point: Ashcroft is ordering his subordinates to establish “a blacklist of judges who impose lesser sentences than those recommended by the sentencing guidelines.”

Micah Wright put it very aptly in one of his Remixed Propaganda posters. At top is a quote (a paraphrasing of John Kennedy’s invocation of Lincoln’s original words), “This world cannot exist half slave and half free.” The bottom gets to the real admonition: “Please help Attorney General John Ashcroft stamp out that free half!”


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