Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Regarding the Death Penalty: An Open Letter to the US Government

I've said it before: the death penalty is bad.

There are people who really shouldn't be walking the earth with good, law-abiding citizens.  Those bad people cannot be trusted to respects the rights of others: they kill, they terrorize, they place their own wants - not needs, wants - above the needs of others.  This last sounds trite but I'm talking about killers.  Invariably, killers.

And possibly rapists.  It's hard to get around rape, too.

And while I don't think people like that should be permitted to live around other, non-criminal people, I don't think it should be up to the law-abiding citizens to kill them.  I'm not as concerned about the criminal as I am about the person who is supposed to carry out the death penalty upon that criminal.

When a condemned man is put to death, the medical examiner of the governing body where the execution took place lists the cause of death as "homicide."  Which is to say, some other person killed this one.  Through careful phrasing, those other people are absolved of the title that usually goes with committing homicide: murderer.

Clayton Lockett of MacAlester, Oklahoma was on the slab last night with a tube in his arm when something went wrong.  Lockett was being executed for a terrible murder in 1999.  I won't argue with the decision to rid the world of him, he was a terrible person.  The sedative flowing into him failed, but the paralytic and respiratory suppressant drugs he was receiving continued.  Those last two are known to be agonizing without adequate sedation.

Lockett died anyway of a heart attack, after about a half-hour.  A properly performed lethal injection execution gets the job done in just a few minutes.  The victim falls asleep and dies.  This was not as simple as that.

When officials noticed things going wrong - Lockett struggling to rise from the table, regaining consciousness and mumbling - they pulled a curtain to block witnesses from seeing.  That's a bit ironic, that it's okay to watch the man die but not to watch him suffer.  It's obvious why it's not okay, of course.  Seeing other people suffer hurts the watcher, too - usually.  Certain pathologies react differently.

So, suddenly, it was NOT okay to watch the man die.  And now, in the wake of what has happened, another execution scheduled for the same night has been put on hold.  It would be unacceptable to kill a man in the wrong way, evidently.  As technology and American culture has progressed, we have sought more and more humane ways to put people to death, to end their lives as gently as possible.  We don't want to hurt the condemned, just get rid of them without causing them pain.

If we are a nation that holds life so dear, to spend billions of dollars on health care, to command assorted manufacturers to make their products safer for users, to acquiesce to other manufacturers that demand we not use their products to put condemned prisoners to death, then why do we kill condemned prisoners at all?  In this one small pocket of cognitive dissonance we are bloodthirsty and unforgiving.

As he laying gasping, one wonders what the instincts are.  Mr. Lockett was condemned to die, but now with the procedure going awry, were the attending medical personnel inclined to save him?  The execution was supposed to happen in a certain way, a way that wouldn't unnecessary hurt him - his terrible crime was dreadful and all the fires of Hell may not be punishment enough, but that isn't for us to decide, so we're supposed to be as gentle as possible even as we hasten the heart's final beat.  But he suffered, absolutely.  He isn't even the first.

I submit to the entire United States government that our penchant for killing our own nation's criminals, however bad their crimes, makes us all party to systemic murder, adherents to a policy of death-dealing.  The associated costs of keeping a condemned man in prison until his execution are already well known, much, much higher than for a non-condemned man.  Looking at the situation from a coldly economic standpoint, on that basis alone killing condemned prisoners is unsupportable.

And worse yet, innocent men get executed too.  Even one is too many.  The only way to be absolutely certain that the United States, and by extension, all Americans, is innocent of unnecessarily killing an innocent person is to never kill another prisoner again.  Stop now and forever. 

These deaths that are carried out, ostensibly in my name as well as the name of every other upstanding citizen, weigh upon me.  They bear down with a load that I do not want.  Don't kill for me.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Stuff Worth Owning: Trü Pickles (mostly)

I found these bad boys just a few weeks ago.
Once again, I happened upon them while wandering the aisles at Ace Hardware.  I don't know if any of you have noticed, but it looks to me like Ace Hardware is on a tear lately.  It may not seem that way nationwide but it sure looks like that in East Tennessee.

Near me are three Ace Hardware stores.  One replaced a failed unit in downtown Clinton.  I'm not surprised it failed; if you don't sell antiques from your store in downtown Clinton, well, you're in the wrong place.  Another landed in Halls, nicely coinciding with the Walmart upping stakes and moving out of its former location.  Walmart didn't go far, it is almost literally within sight of its former location, but it's just a wee bit further up the road.  Why they went there, I can't fathom.  But it's farther out of Halls, leaving folks in that little suburb that much more hard up for retail options.  And another sprang up in the void left by the eventual dissolution of what had been the indefatigable Parker Brothers Hardware in Knoxville.  Each one is compact, dense, and covers a pretty broad range of products.  I love 'em.

So I was shopping for some wood stove door gaskets and cement.  No problemo, I knew without even asking that Ace would have it.  And on my way toward the door, I saw...
Being a fan of pickles I naturally snatched one up and plunked it on the counter beside my coil of fiberglass gasket and high temperature cement.  I got 'em home, chilled 'em for an hour or three in the fridge, cracked 'em open.

They are amazing.  These are some seriously good pickles.  They're too spicy for some folks, Sweetie doesn't care for them on that basis alone, allowing that they are very tasty but far too spicy to suit her.  That means they're all for me!  No, wait, it doesn't.  Son #1 also enjoys a mean pickle and we shared the jar.  That didn't take long.

They're pricey, but they are so worth it.

Then, a couple days ago, I found these:
Smoked Black Pepper Pickles! Even spicier! So they're going to be great, right?

Wrong. There's a distinct black pepper flavor all right, but the most prevalent flavor coming out of this is mulch.

I'm not kidding.  It took me a bite or three to figure it out, but this tastes more like compost than anything else.  Wondering if I'd chanced upon one that just hadn't been quite right, I tried another.  I think it must be the smoke flavor that's added, but they're dreadful.  Maybe it's like cilantro with some people: most people have no trouble with cilantro but some say it tastes just like Palmolive. I hate to say it, but I've actually happened across a food item that I refuse to finish.  I'm throwing them out.

I'm one of those people who says cilantro tastes like dish detergent.  Maybe the problem is me?

But be not dismayed, Trü!  I'm coming back.  Those first pickles were fabulous.  Sweetie may love the bread and butter pickles.  I know I won't but that's just me - I can't stand sweet pickles.  Can't please everybody.

A little sweet pickle relish in my deviled eggs, however, is crucial to a full and happy life.  So even I can find use for sweet pickles.

I could dig into the question of whether you're going to "own" food.  You take it in, take it apart for nutrients, and a fair portion - all of it, pretty much - eventually gets excreted back out.  Anyway.  Those kosher dills are fantastic and I highly recommend them.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Irony in the News

"Human Barbie" thinks interracial couples make ugly babies.

...and this individual is a good judge of beauty?

For comparison, a "composite woman" from the cover of Time Magazine:

As a typical, heterosexual male with more-or-less middle class standards, I find the second woman extremely appealing on many levels.  The fact that that woman doesn't actually exist is beside the point, my point is that the image is the result of combining hundreds of faces.  Those faces are from many different races, many colors, many shapes, and we can clearly see that when you put all those things together, what you get looks pretty good.  And the first woman, Valeria Lukyanova, is freakish.  Ms. Lukyanova claims to come from a place where "only joy and love exist," and I, for one, recommend she go back to that place and stay there.

She also says she has only had her boobs enhanced.  Yeah.  Not falling for that, either.

Russia is in Ukraine to assure peace

Sure thing, Vlad.  We're all buying that.  We're totally convinced the 90+% "yea" vote on Russian annexation of Crimea was on the up-and-up, too.

Click that link.  Look at those happy faces.  How many of them do you think were paid to look that happy?
Archie Andrews Must Die!
For those who might wonder at how that might be ironic, consider this: the publishing company is called Archie Comics.  Killing off the title character could be considered shooting oneself in the foot, or perhaps the head.
It's not quite as apocalyptic as it seems.  "Life with Archie" has been a what-if kind of title, like DC Comics' own "Elseworlds" line wherein familiar characters are dropped into environments and storylines far different from the mainstream, regular comics.  The infant Kal-El of Krypton, for instance, raised as the son of the Wayne family and growing up to become a Super Batman.
Usually comics move along in a sort of timeless purgatory, living years over and over but the as the years move forward, the characters stay put.  Lately that has required a string of "reboots" in the DC panoply in particular and I, for one, am well and truly sick of it.  I am suffering from reboot fatigue and divesting myself of my large comic collection.  But Life With Archie was different, Archie and the gang got older, became adults and had to deal with adult problems.
So this will bring an end to the what-if side of things.  Archie Andrews, perennial teenager, icon who moves through the years without being entirely affected by them, will go on.