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Between the Lines

October 07, 2003

Say hello to Gov. Gropenator

These are my predictions for the California recall:

-- Californians will vote to recall Gov. Gray Davis, a Democrat.

-- Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican, will lead the field of 135 candidates and become the new governor, all the hoopla about his boorish behavior toward women notwithstanding.

-- The No vote on the recall – in effect votes for Davis – will be larger than the vote for Schwarzenegger, giving Democrats something to gripe about.

-- But the combined votes of Schwarzenegger and John McClintock, the conservative Republican congressman who’s also on the ballot, will be greater that Davis’ tally, giving Republicans something to brag about.

And I don’t think the 2.2 million absentees will change anything significantly. Of course, I could be totally wrong -- but this is my story and I’m sticking to it.

The Gray man and the Arnold. What a choice. Makes me proud to be an American. But at least Arnold has a personality.

The L.A. Times has a story about how the voting is going (seemingly pretty smoothly, but with polling places crowded by a big turnout).

The Washington Post is taking questions online, in case you’re curious about what folks elsewhere are making of this circus.

At Salon, Joan Walsh wonders why New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd, who led the pack of Bill Clinton scandalhounds, acts like high school sophomore around Arnold. Good question. (Note: Reading this piece in full requires clicking through an ad).

Someone is making fun of Matt Drudge and posting “live election results” here.

Let’s talk about killing people

Specifically our fellow citizens. Most states – and indeed most Americans who are polled on the question – seem to believe that the barbaric practice of capital punishment is somehow a good thing. Good for deterrence (despite no evidence that it deters), good for helping the families of victims reach “closure” (mixed evidence on that one) and, of course, good for vengeance. And once in a while, in the case of particulary vicious crimes, I’ve got to confess I agree with them.

One thing that is particularly troublesome to me, though, is our continuing attempt to sanitize executions so that murder by the state at our behest doesn’t seem like such a bad thing. The key element in this has been the adoption of lethal injection, which is always billed as painless.

Well, it turns out that it’s probably quite painful for some people.

Most states use a combination of three drugs in lethal injections:

-- Sodium thiopental (better known as Sodium Pentothal), a fast-acting barbiturate that is supposed to induce unconsciousness in 20 seconds or so.

-- Pancuronium bromide, which paralyzes all major muscles, including the diaphram, rendering breathing impossible. The drug does not, however, affect the nerves or brain. You can see the problem here if the guy on the gurney wakes up too soon. The American Veterinary Medical Association, by the way, opposes the use of this chemical in euthanizing animals because “the animal may perceive pain and distress after it is immobilized.”

-- Potassium chloride, which stops the heart. This drug is said to be excruciatingly painful if the person being executed is conscious.

So the short form is that the seemingly clean and antiseptic lethal injection may well be something quite different, particularly if the person to be executed reacts to the medications in an unexpected way or if the execution is botched by those who perform it, who are rarely, if ever, medical professionals.

This may be OK to some folks, who believe criminals should suffer. But it's not with me. This is not the Middle Ages.

There are two alternatives to this messy state of affairs: for the pro-death crowd, inject a lethal dose of a single, deadly drug such as sodium pentobarbital. Keep it simple and quick.

For those of us who dislike the death penalty, it argues for society getting over its collective rage at criminals and locking them up for life when necessary. This is the preferred course in 12 states: Alaska, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Maine, North Dakota, Wisconsin, Minnesota, West Virginia, Vermont, Iowa, Hawaii, and Michigan.

Deborah Denno, a law professor at Fordham University did an academic paper on how America kills its criminals that’s available here. It’s long, but enlightening.

Dumb and dumber

I don’t mean to make light of the brief kidnapping of Kathleen Gregg, wife of Sen. Judd Gregg, a New Hampshire Republican, but the guys who grabbed her don’t seem to have a combined IQ to match their hatsize.

Here’s what happened: Mrs. Gregg returned to her suburban Virginia home at about 9:30 this morning and was seized by two men, one of whom threatened her with a knife. They drove her to a bank, where one went in with Mrs. Gregg while she withdrew money. The anxious thief snatched the cash from the teller’s hand as she was counting, ran out the door and hopped into a silver Buick Le Sabre with Virginia license ADB-9712 driven by his partner.

Why didn’t these geniuses just rob the bank? Then they’d only be guilty of one crime.

Posted by tbrown at 01:56 PM




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