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Thursday, April 28, 2016

When Grasp exceeds Reach

Imagine my amazement when, through yet another unrepeatable sequence of searches and clicked links, I found my name in the New York Times.

Since any explanation couldn't possibly replace reading the thing, go ahead, and while doing so decide for yourselves:

- The quality of this specifid NYT Op-Ed response.

- Whether there is an associated "meta"-grade.


erp said...

I subscribe to the NYT for the crossword puzzles I've been doing since the age of 14 and refuse to give up because of their execrable editorial policy, so for the first time, I actually used my membership to read and comment on your comment!

Bret said...

Interesting that they needed to identify locale. I guess there are so many Hey Skippers that they needed to note that you're the one from Alaska?

But I agree that there are no "clean executions." You do end up with a corpse after all, and I don't consider a corpse something that's "clean."

erp said...

Bret, some crimes are so horrible, there has to be a commensurate punishment. Here in Florida lately there have been horrific crimes by young men against children, one such was so monstrous against an infant that apparently the killer has to be kept in solitary confinement for his safety or his fellow murderers would kill him and I doubt his corpse would be clean.

Hey Skipper said...

I guess there are so many Hey Skippers that they needed to note that you're the one from Alaska?

Dunno why, but they include that part of the user profile. Obviously, I don't care enough to update it.

But I agree that there are no "clean executions." You do end up with a corpse after all, and I don't consider a corpse something that's "clean."

Oh really? If the alternative is life without parole, then that is a common mode problem. Besides, it isn't what he meant:

The post argued that “there’s no clean way to kill someone: either it’s quick and bloody, which has been deemed too ‘barbaric,’ or it involves cooked skin, accidental decapitation, gasping, snorting, choking and the like.”

The point I was getting to, clumsily trying not to make it obvious, is that Mr. Wegman made a statement of fact.

He was wrong, and not just by a little.

Now, there is one classy way to handle that: admit the error.

Hey Skipper said...

(I could happily do without the 4096 character limit that must have originated with the TRS-80)

However, that isn't the path Mr. Wegman took. In turn he introduced an obvious irrelevancy ("First, as regular readers of this page already know, we categorically object to the imposition of the death penalty. "), compounding his error ("Second, despite some commenters’ confidence, finding a painless way to kill may be easier said than done. "), introducing a question that he doesn't bother to answer ("Third, if it really is easy to kill someone painlessly, if the technology and experience is right there in front of us, why have states persisted for decades in using a method that actually has a higher botch rate than older, presumably more painful methods?"), and ending with a conclusion that has nothing to do with his assertion (And that’s why, no matter how many different ways there may be to kill someone without causing “pain” (to the condemned or to the audience behind the glass wall), there can never be any “clean” executions.)

In any rhetoric class worthy of the name, the only thing separating that article from an F- is correct grammar and spelling.

It is worth focusing for a moment on the question he didn't ask. If it is as easy to conduct a painless execution as I say it is -- and it is: hook a nitrogen bottle to a face mask, and within about 90 seconds, the person is asleep forever with absolutely no distress. I know exactly what this feels like. When I was flying in the Air Force, pilots had to go to the altitude chamber once every four years. The main point of the chamber ride was to acquaint oneself with the symptoms of oxygen deprivation, by taking the chamber to 35,000 feet (IIRC) and taking off the O2 mask.

Once I got the feeling of the symptoms -- none of which where the least painful, and can be quite insidious -- I put the mask back on. Others would see how long they could last, and would pass out, again without the least discomfort.

The question he posed as an objection -- if it is so easy, why isn't it happening everywhere? -- highlights his ignorance, while also laying bare, for those willing to look, that making execution difficult is a path to making it illegal. Hard to argue that falling asleep is cruel and unusual, after all.

What caused me to post this, and led to the title just as obscure as my point, is that the reach of this article extended only to means of enacting the death penalty.

Wegman should be ashamed of himself for writing such transparent nonsense. The entire point of his original piece was based upon a wholly mistaken premise; the proper answer was to admit that mistake, and grant that the article is fatally undermined, because he is imposing an objection that does not exist.

Yet his rejoinder, even more silly than the original got published. Which illustrates that the grasp went much further than the articles' limited reach: that these things got published in the first place points to the intellectual rot that pervades the NYT Op Ed section. There isn't a day that goes by that I am left undismayed by the shabby, propagandistic crap that shows up there -- and it isn't because I disagree with the Op Eds; I can read lots of comments at, say, Volokh whose conclusions I do not welcome, but whose arguments are very difficult, if not impossible, to challenge.