On February 21, 2012, as part of a protest movement against the re-election of Vladimir Putin, five women from a female singing/performance group known as Pussy Riot, walked up on to the altar of the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow. There they began to jump around, punching the air, and singing Holy Shit. On September 19th or 20th, about 30 members of Greenpeace tried to climb onto a Gazprom oil platform in the Arctic in to protest. Both Pussy Riot and the Greenpeace group were arrested. Pussy Riot was tried and three of their members were jailed for seven years, the Greenpeace group is awaiting trial.
In 1997, Alice Johnson was convicted of drug conspiracy and money laundering along with 10 other people. The other 10 people turned state’s witness and got off. She was a single mother who had never been charged with a crime before and was given a life sentence plus 25 years.
A black, first-time, nonviolent, drug offender, Michael Wilson, was sentenced to life without parole in 1994. Non violent. A life sentence for his first offence!
And the list goes on and on. The United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world. We have 716 prisoners per 100,000 people. Russia has 484 per 100,000. Cuba is a nasty police state that we don’t even want to talk to, they have 510 incarcerated people per 100,000.
A couple of days ago, the Russian Duma voted – 446-0 – hummm? I wonder if Putin is going to sign it – to pass an amnesty bill that will drop their rate. It mainly concerns first-time offenders, minors and women with small children like Alice Johnson and Michael Wilson. It also freed the Greenpeace protesters and two of the Pussy Rioters.
Meanwhile, Obama has pardoned fewer people than any other president in modern history, according to ProPublica. He has pardoned less than two dozen people. The year before last, Obama’s only pardon was the Thanksgiving turkey (Although he did pardon President Bush the year before that). Reagan, the Law and Order Guy, pardoned 406 people including New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner for making illegal contributions to Nixon. Jimmy Carter pardoned 566 including some Vietnam war draft dodgers. Clinton pardoned 459 people including the only white defendant involved in the Michael Wilson case.
There are alot of things that Obama is doing that I find very troubling, our increasing use of drones, the high rate of whistle blower prosecution, and there are lots of things that I find admirable like talking to Iran, but Obama’s refusal to issue pardons is inexplicable and embarrassing.