December 02, 2005
Put Frosty in the Electric Chair
[Cross-posted from The Pulse]
Hats Off to Vince Guaraldi
Yes, holiday decorations are up, meaning that EPB revenues are likewise soaring. I don’t understand why some un-religious types get all worked up about nativity scenes and such, as long as they’re tasteful. One of the hardest lessons I have to (repeatedly) learn is “pick your battles” (I’d rather fight them all). So, let’s not worry about whether a display can be construed to have a religious subtext; let’s first join together to wipe out tackiness. I am much more offended by a giant inflatable Frosty the Snowman (which, unless you’re an initiate in you-know-what, you think not to be a religious icon) than by a demure little donkey-and-manger set. I do draw the line at live nativity scenes, though: when it’s freezing out, that’s just cruel to every creature involved. Remember that Hamilton Place store whose window displays featured bathing-suit models that lay on painted plywood for hours? That was pretty bad, but at least they were indoors. I’m also bracing for weeks of unbearable music. Once in a while, though, I’ll get lucky and catch a number from A Charlie Brown Christmas. That and the lacquer-thinner eggnog will get us through, y’all.
The United States Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976. As of this writing, 997 persons have been put to death since, and with a few executions scheduled to take place at or around press time, the “milestone” number of 1,000 will likely be reached when you read this. (For the record, I generally discourage the trivial practice of celebrating round-numbered occurrences.) In no way does this column advocate against seeking justice for the victims of horrific crimes, but there are some troubling facts about what some call state-sponsored killing that at least bear consideration. First, what if the prosecution gets it wrong (or the defense is inadequate)? It’s difficult to imagine serving a long sentence when one is innocent; but recent technological advances have resulted in much-delayed exonerations. A high number of capital cases are overturned (one study put it at 65 percent). If the wrongly accused has been put to death, there is no taking it back. Of course, we know that the time between conviction/sentencing and execution can be quite lengthy, so there may be a chance to reverse the situation if evidence demands it; but that leads to the second hard fact, namely taxpayer expense. It costs us a lot more to feed, clothe, house, and kill a death row inmate who justly initiates every possible appeal option than it would to sentence her to, say, life (no parole) at hard labor. Lastly, think about the company we keep: China, Iran and Saudi Arabia. The United States joins these pillars of human rights in proneness to snuffing out the lives of citizens.
Don’t mistake the enumeration of these points as an outright stance. This is a complex ethical problem, and I can’t pretend to have the tightly sewn solution that will convince all to think one way about it. These facts are meant to inform the argument, i.e. to augment the traditional “eye for an eye” sentiment that drives the majority of opinions on the subject.
The post call has sounded, the gates have sprung, and they’re off! Hamilton County’s 2006 election season officially began on November 18. Expect weekly coverage (of varying degrees) in this column between now and August; but for now, let’s try to fill a few more ballots with challengers, shall we? Are you qualified and willing to hold a local elected office? Find out more at the Hamilton County Election Commission’s website (http://elect.hamiltontn.gov/). Click on “Candidate Guide” for details.
Generation X Getting Old
Billy Idol turns 50 on November 30. Fifty.