Thursday, April 14, 2005

Human rights watch USA: Death penalty = torture

I think it's critical that American citizens realize how cruel the death penalty actually is in reality. We as voters get a sanitized presentation of how an execution is supposed to happen, which is supposed to ausuage any misgivings we might have about its use. That sanitized presentation is then contrasted with the dastardly deeds of those who are to face execution for their alleged crimes (I use alleged because, although many convicted of say first degree murder are no doubt guilty, there are numerous inmates on death row who turn out to be innocent but who had the misfortune of being too poor to afford decent legal representation).

It's with the above in mind that we now consider this recent news story on the BBC website, Prisoners 'aware' in executions. Some highlights of the article:
Prisoners executed by lethal injection in the US may have been aware of what was happening to them, researchers claim.

A team from the University of Miami looked at information on anaesthesia and awareness in prisoners.

They suggest some suffer unnecessarily, and claim standards do not meet those for putting animals down.

The researchers, writing in the Lancet, call for the use of lethal injection to cease to prevent "unnecessary cruelty".

[...]

Prisoners are first given sodium thiopental, which acts as an anaesthetic before pancuronium bromide is given to cause paralysis. Potassium chloride is then given to cause death.

Without anaesthesia, the person would experience suffocation and excruciating pain - but would not be able to move.

[...]

The researchers then analysed autopsy data for 49 prisoners who had been executed in Arizona, Georgia. North Carolina and South Carolina.

They found that concentrations of thiopental in the blood were lower than that required for surgery in 43 cases. In 21 of those, the concentrations in prisoners' blood were consistent with them being aware of what was going on.

Writing in the Lancet, the researchers, led by Dr Leonardis Koniaris, said: "We certainly cannot conclude that these inmates were unconscious and insensate.

"However, with no monitoring and with little use of the paralytic agent, any suffering of the inmate would be undetectable."

They add: "The absence of training and monitoring, and the remote administration of drugs, coupled with eyewitness reports of muscle responses during execution, suggest that the current practice for lethal injection for execution fails to meet veterinary standards."

Emphasis added. Think about that for a moment. Presumably, the most "humane" of the execution methods - lethal injection - is supposed to result in a painless death. For that to occur, the drugs have to be administered correctly. What we are finding is that - lo and behold - in many instances those drugs are not administered correctly at all. It doesn't take much of a leap to come to the conclusion that most of those involved in the business of execution, from the politicians who've built their careers advocating it down to the executioners themselves, simply don't give a damn. Someone does need to give a damn, and that is where you come in - grilling politicians about the issue and reminding them that the death penalty is unjust on so many levels - that it amounts to torture being one of the big ones.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Tom DeLay overload?

Fat chance! DeLay 'Commiting Suicide': Senior GOP Lawmaker provides a synopsis of the day's stories centering on one of the most corrupt congress critters in recent memory.

More US media shortcomings from the perspective of an Iraqi blogger

Riverbend, the woman behind Baghdad Burning, has had some gems lately that deserve highlighting. The Cruel Month...:
Thousands were demonstrating today all over the country. Many areas in Baghdad were cut off today for security reasons and to accomodate the demonstrators, I suppose. There were some Sunni demonstrations but the large majority of demonstrators were actually Shia and followers of Al Sadr. They came from all over Baghdad and met up in Firdaws Square- the supposed square of liberation. They were in the thousands. None of the news channels were actually covering it. Jazeera showed fragments of the protests in the afternoon but everyone else seemed to busy with some other news story. Thanks to E. for sending me this link. Check out the protest here.

BBC and EuroNews were busily covering the wedding between Prince Charles and the dreadful Camilla. CNN was showing the Pope's funeral. No one bothered with the demonstrations in Baghdad, Mosul, Anbar and the south. There were hundreds of thousands of Shia screaming "No to America. No to terrorism. No to occupation. No to the devil. No to Israel." The numbers were amazing and a little bit frightening too.

See also, American Media...:
I’ve been enchanted with the shows these last few weeks. The thing that strikes me most is the fact that the news is so… clean. It’s like hospital food. It’s all organized and disinfected. Everything is partitioned and you can feel how it has been doled out carefully with extreme attention to the portions- 2 minutes on women’s rights in Afghanistan, 1 minute on training troops in Iraq and 20 minutes on Terri Schiavo! All the reportages are upbeat and somewhat cheerful, and the anchor person manages to look properly concerned and completely uncaring all at once.

About a month ago, we were treated to an interview on 20/20 with Sabrina Harman- the witch in some of the Abu Ghraib pictures. You know- the one smiling over faceless, naked Iraqis piled up to make a human pyramid. Elizabeth Vargus was doing the interview and the whole show was revolting. They were trying to portray Sabrina as an innocent who was caught up in military orders and fear of higher ranking officers. The show went on and on about how American troops never really got seminars on Geneva Conventions (like one needs to be taught humanity) and how poor Sabrina was being made a scapegoat. They showed the restaurant where she worked before the war and how everyone thought she was “such a nice person” who couldn’t hurt a fly!

We sat there watching like we were a part of another world, in another galaxy. I’ve always sensed from the various websites that American mainstream news is far-removed from reality- I just didn’t know how far. Everything is so tame and simplified. Everyone is so sincere.

I still happen to like her concluding remarks to the above:
I have a suggestion of my own for a reality show. Take 15 Bush supporters and throw them in a house in the suburbs of, say, Falloojeh for at least 14 days. We could watch them cope with the water problems, the lack of electricity, the check points, the raids, the Iraqi National Guard, the bombings, and- oh yeah- the ‘insurgents’. We could watch their house bombed to the ground and their few belongings crushed under the weight of cement and brick or simply burned or riddled with bullets. We could see them try to rebuild their life with their bare hands (and the equivalent of $150)…

I’d not only watch *that* reality show, I’d tape every episode.

I'd gladly be part of the film crew.

Thought Piece

There's a lady who goes by the handle "lawnorder" who periodically produces these interesting diaries that deserve to be read. Her latest, Hannah Arendt, the banality of evil, Ward Churchill and little Eichmanns that lurk in our midst deserves to be read in particular for the connections that she points to - ones that ended up missing from mainstream public discourse in the wake of the Ward Churchill "little Eichmanns" flap.

An aside: lawnorder also has a blog - say hello.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

GOP Stalinism?

Sure looks that way:
Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy is a fairly accomplished jurist, but he might want to get himself a good lawyer -- and perhaps a few more bodyguards. Conservative leaders meeting in Washington ... for a discussion of "Remedies to Judicial Tyranny" decided that Kennedy, a Ronald Reagan appointee, should be impeached, or worse. ... lawyer-author Edwin Vieira told the gathering that Kennedy should be impeached because his philosophy, evidenced in his opinion striking down an anti-sodomy statute, "upholds Marxist, Leninist, satanic principles drawn from foreign law." Ominously, Vieira continued by saying his "bottom line" for dealing with the Supreme Court comes from Joseph Stalin. "He had a slogan, and it worked very well for him, whenever he ran into difficulty: 'no man, no problem,' " Vieira said. The full Stalin quote, for those who don't recognize it, is "Death solves all problems: no man, no problem." Presumably, Vieira had in mind something less extreme than Stalin did and was not actually advocating violence. But then, these are scary times for the judiciary. An anti-judge furor may help confirm President Bush's judicial nominees, but it also has the potential to turn ugly.

Right-wing despots and despot wannabes think alike, regardless of their rhetoric.

Otherness = Apathy

I noticed Eli had a post titled X+20=X, which captures the essence of the casualty situation in Iraq. To wit, the Iraqi Others don't count. Their civilian death toll (as well as the death toll of insurgents and Iraqi soldiers) is left as an unknown quantity, and remains under-reported by US media. That's not even getting into the other part of the casualty equation - injuries which sadly God only knows how many Iraqis have been maimed as the result of the US-led invasion and occupation. What we're left with is X - an abstraction that is left unchanged and ignored. X: the Other, the unknown.

Do you really want your judicial appointments

influenced by people who '[compare] the "men in white robes, the Ku Klux Klan" to the "black-robed men" on the Supreme Court'? Why does the GOP find such a mindset acceptable?

And while we're on the topic of hypocrisy:

Does anyone else find it funny that GOP Senators up for re-election next year are suddenly "seeing the light" about Tom DeLay's ethics problems? Where were Chafee and Santorum a few years ago when it was already obvious that DeLay was little more than the GOP equivalent to Jim Wright?

An aside: is it just me or are Texas congress critters (regardless of party affiliation) the most corrupt SOBs in the US?

From the "Pot + Kettle = Black" Department:

Rumsfeld Visits Iraq, Warns Against Corruption:
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, on a surprise visit to Iraq, warned the country's leaders Tuesday against political purges and cronyism that could spark "lack of confidence or corruption in government."

He and Tom DeLay should go on tour with that act!