Category Archives: death penalty

Death penalty: closure?

I was reading Evanier a while ago, who wrote: “One of the arguments for the Death Penalty has always been that it provides a sense of justice and closure to the loved ones of the victim of a murder. This article which claims otherwise is by Donald A. McCartin (a Conservative Judge) and Mike Farrell (a Liberal actor) who happen to be friends. They used to debate the issue but now are on the same page.”

There are some bits on the New Yorkers Against the Death Penalty website that speak to that point, such as here and this one.

But the single person who has had the most profound affect on my thinking on the topic has to be Bud Welch, whose daughter Julie was killed in the Oklahoma City bombing of the federal building. I have seen him speak in person in Albany (NY) along with Manny Babbitt, Gary Wright and David Kaczynski in a forum not unlike this one. Bud, in particular, gave a moving story about his move from his need for vengeance. Specifically, he spoke of the community of OKC survivors and family members of victims. Before Timothy McVeigh was executed, they could get along with their different points of view about the death penalty. But after McVeigh was killed, they seemed to shun Welch, as though the execution lacked the closure they thought they would get, and Welch’s opposition to the death penalty was a reminder of that fact.

I’m intrigued by the number of countries that have banned the death penalty. I suppose the United States (and China, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Pakistan) could be right and the rest of the world wrong. But I doubt it.

A most pressing issue on this front takes place this evening. After the Georgia Supreme Court denied a stay yesterday, at 7 pm EDT today, Troy Davis will be executed for the murder of a police officer, a crime he almost certainly did not commit. Six days later, the US Supreme Court will decide whether to hear his appeal. People across the country and around the world, from the Libertarian candidate for President and former Georgia congressman Bob Barr to Pope Benedict XVI, from Bishop Desmond Tutu to former President and Georgia governor Jimmy Carter are calling for a stay of execution. As Barr put it in his letter to the parole board: “The doubts about the Davis case have not been resolved, and fears that Georgia might execute an innocent man have not been allayed.”

This is certainly true. Of the nine witnesses who testified at Davis’ trial, seven have recanted their testimony, some alleging that they were threatened with jail time if they did not cooperate with prosecutors. No murder weapon has ever been found. Several witnesses have now said another man has admitted to being the actual killer. Interestingly, this man, who was at the scene and is one of only two witnesses not recanting his story, is said to have been seen with the same caliber gun used to murder Officer Mark Allen MacPhail minutes before the shooting.

As one letter writer noted: “In order to be sentenced in this country, a person must be guilty beyond all reasonable doubt. The standard when the irreversible death penalty is applied should be higher, not lower.”


What was 2007

There is this guy in Buffalo whose blog I read regularly. He does this quiz he got from somewhere every year. I’m trying it on, seeing if it fits.

Did you keep your New Year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

If I made any for 2007, I don’t remember. Usually, I try to avoid meetings and I failed at that, which made me verklempt at times.
For 2008, I’ll try to be more “in the moment” rather than “in my head”. Whatever that means.

Did anyone close to you give birth?

I think my friend and former co-worker Mary Beth had her daughter this year. Time sometimes is fuzzy.

Did anyone close to you die?
My wife’s Aunt Vera, who I liked. A couple people from church, John Scott and Elizabeth Naismith, the latter from the choir. But there were two people who died this year that I was once very close to, back in high school, but I hadn’t seen in over 15 years, John Kinsley and George Hasbrouck.

What countries did you visit?

Barely visited this one (USA).

What would you like to have in 2008 that you lacked in 2007?

More rest. An office with walls.

What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Don’t know. Posted every day in 2007. Can’t tell if that’s a good thing or not; I do know that it is fueled in no small part by the thought that if I were to stop for any appreciable time, I might not come back to it, and THAT would disappoint me greatly. Sometimes, I feel that just putting one foot in front of the other was a major achievement.

What was your biggest failure?

Not following through on a couple tasks.

What was the best thing you bought?

The thing that brought me most joy is a Billboard book of top pop albums.

Whose behavior merited celebration?

Bill Moyers, Dennis Kucinich, Keith Olbermann, David Kacyzinski, the New Jersey legislature for banning the death penalty, the New Hampshire legislature for allowing civil unions, the city of Charlotte, NC for starting light rail in the past couple months.

Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?

W and Cheney; the wuss Democratic Congress, especially Nancy Pelosi, who took impeachment off the table, and Harry Reid, who decided that he wasn’t even going to call a vote unless he had 60 votes – hey, let the Republicans actually filibuster rather than yielding to the threat of one; the AMPTP a/k/a the TV moguls; anyone who, in believing that there’s no global warming, or that it’s naturally occurring, has decided that we can be as wasteful as ever – and a few cold days in a row is not proof that global warming is a myth; the Republican candidates for President, but especially Mitt Romney, who seems to be able to say just about anything to get elected – but lost in Iowa – ha!; the New York State legislature, inefficient as ever, and Governor Spitzer, who wasted precious political capital to no good end.

Where did most of your money go?

Mortgage, increased taxes, day care, gas and food. I’m convinced that food won’t be relatively cheap again for some time, if ever.

What did you get really excited about?

Other than my daughter’s development, not that much.

What song will always remind you of 2007?

“Old Dan Tucker” by Springsteen.

Compared to this time last year, are you happier or sadder?

Not happier.

Thinner or fatter?

Well, I lost some weight but gained most of it back. So thinner, but not much.

Richer or poorer?

I feel poorer. My wife does the budget, and things were definitely tighter. In addition to the other stuff that went up, the co-pays on my health insurance were bumped up. That extra $5 on each Rx or doctor’s visit added up.

What do you wish you’d done more of?

Reading, seeing movies, getting massages, sleeping.

What do you wish you’d done less of?

Well, I should have taken more days off from work for ME, not just family vacations, but Roger days.

How will you be spending Christmas?

Well, Christmas is past, but it was at our house for the first time since before we were married.

Did you fall in love in 2007?

There’s a Supremes song, “Keep falling in and out of love.” More with my wife and daughter and some people, less with some others.

How many one-night stands?

I KNEW there was something I forgot to do.

What was your favorite TV program?

Returning: The Office. New: Pushing Daisies.

Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?

As I’ve said, quoting Lyle Lovett, “I love everybody. Especially you.”

What was the best book you read?

Undoubtedly, it was The Genius of Impeachment: The Founders’ Cure for Royalism by John Nichols.

What was your greatest musical discovery?

Greg Burgas threw some obscure Supremes song on a mixed CD; that hmay have been a couple years ago, but I’m still digging it. Tosy had a song done by Audra McDonald that I like. I’m loving my Lennon anthology.

What did you want and get?

A Hess truck – big wheels! World Almanac. Lennon, Starr, Springsteen, other music.

What did you want and not get?

A thriving federal and/or state government that responds to the people.

What were your favorite films of this year?

Requires a separate post, so I have time to figure out the paucity of films I actually saw in 2007.

What did you do on your birthday?

Took off from work, per usual.

How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2007?


What kept you sane?

That assumes facts not in evidence. Assuming this is true: racquetball. Perhaps, the blog, and the people I know through it.

Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?

Jenna Fischer (born March 7), Judd Apatow.

What political issue stirred you the most?

Oh, it varied. Probably the death penalty, though global warming was up there.

Who did you miss?

Mr. Rogers.

Who was the best new person you met?

There’s a couple folks in my work building who make a dreadful place slightly less so.

Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2007

There is no privacy. Sometimes bugging city hall DOES work. Collectively, the national Democrats are not as evil as the national Republicans, but they’re far more lame. Prayer works sometimes, so be careful what you ask for. A diet without ice cream is pointless. I am a tactile person (actually, I knew that last one already).

Quote a song lyric that sums up your year

In the clearing stands a boxer and a fighter by his trade,
And he carries the reminders of every glove that laid him down,
Or cut him ’til he cried out in his anger and his shame,
“I am leaving, I am leaving.”
But the fighter still remains, still remains.

So there’s always next year. Wait, this IS “next year”.
Mark Evanier was looking for this article in the New York Times which I couldn’t find. Because it was in the Wall
Street Journal
. Any librarian will tell you that happens a lot: a request for info with just one piece of the puzzle off.


Another Execution?

I got this e-mail from New Yorkers Against the Death Penalty:
Thomas Arthur is scheduled for execution on December 6 in Alabama. The state is pursuing his execution despite what appears to be a moratorium on executions in the USA pending the US Supreme Court’s examination of the constitutionality of lethal injections. In addition, Alabama has not granted Thomas Arthur’s request to be allowed to conduct DNA testing of evidence relating to the crime.

The Innocence Project wrote Governor Riley that “We believe that the Arthur case easily fits within the category of cases where DNA testing should be granted… In fact, DNA testing has the potential to conclusively prove that Mr Arthur was not the perpetrator of this crime and to identify the real killer.”

For more about the case, please visit here (PDF) or here.

My long-standing opposition to the death penalty was also exercised by this story on 60 Minutes a couple weeks ago in which “FBI’s Bullet Lead Analysis Used Flawed Science To Convict Hundreds Of Defendants” over a 40-year period, and the agency never notified local officials about the bogus methodology. I don’t know if any of the cases are capital cases, but clearly, many people were wrongfully imprisoned, some for decades.

And that really ticks me off.

Follow Up

Since today is my fifth semianniversary (or is demi, or maybe hemi?), but in any case, 2.5 years, I thought I’d write a little about things I’ve written about in the (usually recent) past.
If you listen to Gordon’s podcast where he answers questions, you’ll hear me asking him some irreverent question about Raymond Burr, inspired, no doubt by a picture of Burr as Ironside on Gordon’s blog a couple weeks back. It made sense at the time.
The scariest Halloween costume I saw was this woman dressed up as a baby, all in pink, smoking a cigarette. Truly frightening.

Ken Levine wrote: “We had a dentist who gave out toothbrushes [for Halloween]. Thank goodness he wasn’t a proctologist.”
In the Supreme Court stay of execution this week, the lawyers for the defendant said, “It is clear that irreparable harm will result if no stay is granted.” Well, yeah. If a lawyer says it, it’s legalese; if anyone else had said it, it’d be d’oh-worthy.
I’ve mentioned more than once about why I left the Methodist church I had been attending for over 17 years, of which I was a member for most of that time. Now, it’s come out that the pastor, who was at least in the center of my departure, has retired, and not willingly; here’s a letter from an apologist of his. My wife and I had to at least briefly think about what this meant to us. We’re happy where we are, but we do miss some of the folks at the old place. What made it easy for me, though, was hearing about some internecine fight over whether someone who opposed the pastor should now chair the Pastor-Parish Relations Committee. And I realize that I don’t miss the grief.
My sister Leslie wrote to me: “San Diego has been hit hard, thousands of homes lost, I could see the fire from outside my front door, so we were packed up and ready to go in the event of an evacuation, but thank God, we were spared.”

Yeah, I’m happy that the Red Sox won; I picked them to win in six. The TV grid for the FOX network said the game was in a three-hour slot, but the games didn’t even start until 8:30 Eastern Time, and they all ran more than 3 hours. I’m thrilled by the sweep, because it means more sleep. I’d watch the game as long as I could stay alert, then record on the DVR programing up through 1:30 a.m., then wake up and watch in the morning. The key to watching the playback is to make sure that when I turn off the TV, to set it first to some non-sports station that does not have morning news; I recommend the Home & Garden Network.
I’m still in shock that Boston College beat Virginia Tech last week; I tuned in with five minutes to go, and BC was losing 0-10, so I figured the curse of the 2nd place BCS team was holding. I couldn’t believe it when the FOX baseball announcer said that they had won 14-10.
But my Boston rooting does not extend to the NFL Patriots, though I can’t explain why; it predates the Bellicheck cheating incident. I’m rooting for the 7-0 Colts to beat the 8-0 Pats this weekend. Can we have a 16-0 team and a 0-16 team (Miami) in the same season?

Confirmation of my feelings about the Cleveland Indians mascot.
Yes, I know that an Albany guy appeared on Jeopardy! last week; I haven’t seen it, I haven’t read about it, so please don’t tell me about it.
Smashing pumpkins on the ground
Makes bicycling difficult, I’ve found.

All of the US State Laws Concerning Bicycling.

Info about Critical Mass bike rides in Tucson (several posts) and here in Albany (October 29).

Cranksgiving! Race start: 9pm, Nov 17; registration/sign-up starts 8:30pm
A charity race where ALL the $$ goes to direct action. The Homeless Action Committee is on the streets doing work night after night. You WILL NEED a lock and a bag for this one. Ride any uni or bike or trike you like; as long as it’s got wheels and pedals and is you-powered, it’s all good. You will not be turned away for excess spandex or your lack of white belts.
Pre-registration via email to is encouraged for planning purposes.
Re: me feeling autumnal – The Stress Pig – Open the link, turn on the sound (but not too high) then, JUST CLICK ON HER NOSE. She may come in handy when you are having one of those days.
My prayers/good wishes go out to ADD and to Gordon’s mom.


Summertime QUESTIONS

I NEED sunglasses, preferably those that will fit over my prescription glasses. When I left my office – with its tinted glass – a couple weeks ago, right before our vacation, I was frustrated that I had left my sunglasses on my desk at work, and since the bus was coming, I didn’t have time to retrieve them; I cannot get into my building over the weekend.
So, that Sunday, right after we left the 50th anniversary party for our friends Vaughn and Hugh Nevin, I bought another pair, right before our trip. The next day, I misplaced THOSE and suffered greatly, so I bought another pair. My wife said, “Did you know those are women’s sunglasses?” “Yes,” I grumbled, “and if I didn’t, the tag on the glasses with a picture of a woman wearing them would have tipped me off.”
In any case, the following day, we went to another store and I bought TWO pair of (men’s) sunglasses, then on the last day of the trip, Carol found the pair I misplaced.
So, with the pair I left at work, I now have FOUR pair. This is a good thing; my eyes really suffer, especially in the summer, but also off the glare of the sun on the snow in the winter. And Carol now has a spare pair.

(BTW, I read a bit ago that U2’s Bono’s penchant for sunglasses comes partially to eyes very sensitive to light.)

This leads us to the question of the week, a real audience participation gig, I hope: What is your best piece of advice for getting through the summer? Mine would be to protect not only your skin but also your eyes from harmful UV rays. I learned from JEOPARDY! last month (June 21) that “the American Academy of Ophthalmology declares July safety month for these [UV] rays.”

Also, any summertime recipes, summertime fun suggestions, cures for the summertime blues. One specific thing my wife wants to know is: What’s the best way to boil an egg so that the shell peels off most easily? Does it have to do with the boiling method, the cooling method, the cracking technique? So, stuff like that.
The Summer Olympics start one year, one month and one day from now in Beijing. Today seems to have numeric import as well, I hear.
One more reason I oppose the death penalty.
In case you missed it, Keith Olbermann quotes John Wayne.


The Right Outcome

Schadenfreude doesn’t begin to cover it. I am SO happy that the primary person mentioned here and here is going to jail that I’m seriously thinking about being present at his sentencing. The former barber and, incredibly, assistant Secretary of State, was not only greedy, but arrogant, rude and surprisingly…I’m looking for a less harsh word for stupid. If you were on the phone, he’d want to talk with you – NOW – and would have a hissy fit if he didn’t get his way. Someday, they’ll be LOTS more to say on this. Knowing him, though, he’ll probably end up in a place like this. Still, just know that the news has made me giddy all week.
Oh, and one of his patrons came up with the damndest reasons for opposing Governor Spitzer’s gay marriage proposal, reports Uthaclena here: “This governor has his priorities wrong… given the fatal shooting of a state trooper this week, Spitzer should be worried more about bringing back the death penalty for those who kill police officers.”


OK, so I do oppose the death penalty; I’m not convinced of its efficacy, among other things, and there are too many errors by the criminal justice system. And I do support gay marriage, and it’s enhanced, interestingly, by my interpretation of my reading of this week’s lectionary passage from Acts 11:1-18. But what precludes the NYS legislature from, e.g., introducing BOTH a death penalty bill AND a gay marriage bill? It’s not that they are somehow overworked. Moreover, the stated motivation for the death penalty for cop killers legislation NOW is that recent death of a New York State trooper by accidental friendly fire. To be fair, right after this recent shooting of a state trooper – six dead in 13 months – the state senator was concentrating on the death penalty instead of campaign finance reform.
I’m at my annual work conference last week, and two people come up to me to settle a dispute – being both a librarian and a JEOPARDY! champ, this happens a lot. The question: did Mork and Mindy start off as a spinoff of Happy Days? Why, yes it did, though only Mork appeared. (And in the “not that you asked” category, Happy Days was initiated from a segment of Love, American Style.) Anyway, Mork & Mindy reminded me of Tom Poston, who appeared on that show, three different Bob Newhart shows, and To Tell the Truth, all of which I watched regularly. I had forgotten that he was married to Suzanne Pleshette, who played Newhart’s wife on The Bob Newhart Show. Anyway, the actor, who also guested on many a series I watched, died recently, alas.
Art in less than 10 minutes.
Locally, here’s how to celebrate 50 years since the opening of West Side Story on Broadway!