Just Killing Time

English: Panoramic mosaic of the execution cha...

Panoramic mosaic of the execution chamber at Utah State Prison in Draper, Utah, USA. The platform at the left is used for lethal injection. The seat at the right and the two narrow gun ports on the far wall of the room are used for execution by firing squad. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Shouldn’t the current execution crisis and Utah’s decision to return to the firing squad give rise to some sort of attempt at a final reckoning of our nation’s continued commitment to capital punishment?

I mean, I know that all the arguments and debaters’ points have long since worn deep grooves in the flooring of public discourse from our endless circling of the all-too-familiar core moral and practical considerations; round and round we’ve gone. Like partner’s trapped in a miserable marriage’s inescapable theme, we loath the sound of even our own voices bleating the litany of claims, comparative cases, metaphors, aporias, and counterfactual conditionals, but cannot get beyond it—to the point of exhaustion.

So maybe this is why no one seems inclined to re-raise the fundamental question: Why are we still doing this?

Having long since reduced possible rationales for state death sentencing to just the inevitable two, deterrence and retributive justice, can anyone tell me why—no matter which rationale we stake state murder’s legitimacy upon—why the fuck we’ve gotten ourselves so stupidly twisted about the method of the deed?

Either argument would seem to justify utter indifference to the suffering of the condemned.

And yet, from the gallows pole to the firing squad to the electric chair to the gas chamber to lethal injection, we have continuously reinvented the technology of state murder in search of ever more “humane” methods for executing the condemned. And with each iteration of this bizarre search for tidy, bureaucratically sanitized executions, we discover that the consequences of small lapses beget ever more gruesome results: heads removed by the gallows noose, men slowly bleeding to agonized death from wounds inflicted by the poor marksmanship of firing squads, limbs and heads set afire by the questionable, monster-movie machinery of the electric chair, men moaning and deliberately bashing their own heads against any available hard surfaces in their efforts to hasten the death that gas would not bring fast enough, and finally, the decades-long string of torturous lethal injections—only the two most recent of which have received significant attention by the national media.

The real question, however, is not when and whether we will ever find a humane means of execution; it is really, Why do we try?

If the rationale is retributive justice, since capital murder usually involves little sympathy for the victim by the perpetrator, retribution would seem to warrant similar lack of sympathy for executing the heartless killer.

Want retribution? Stuff a sock in the condemned’s throat and let that fucker suffocate. Justice done.

If the rationale is deterrence, then suffering of the condemned would seem a salutary, if not essential, feature of the sentence.

Want deterrence? Stuff a sock in the condemned’s throat and let that fucker suffocate—on live television! Wrong-doers warned.

What’s the matter? Too morbid? Too cruel? Too uncivilized? For godsake, we already know that execution protocols have been tailored to ease the suffering, not of the condemned, but of the witnesses and the public on whose behalf the witnesses serve. Indeed, the firing squad protocols are designed to ease the suffering of the executioners; one of the rifles used by the squad is loaded with blanks in order to allow each squad member the opportunity to salve the conscience with the possibility that it was the others who fired the killing rounds. Lovely.

These executions are done in our name. It does not matter that you are a supporter of capital punishment and I am not. Nor are our children blameless; It is for their ultimate benefit—collective moral correction or public safety– that we carry out these sentences under due process of law. We are all in this together. We are all culpable or we are all to be congratulated for our high-minded efforts to achieve humane horror.

300px-french_revolution_guillotineIf we’re going to continue our committed exceptionalism on the matter of state murder–If the blood-thirsty among us are unwilling to finally stand the fuck down and we cannot muster the collective will to end it, then I say let’s do this fucking thing for real.

Fuck the disappearance of the proper chemical cocktail for “painless” execution. Bring back the Halifax gibbet. The Scottish Maiden. The Italian Mannaia. Sweet Louisette of Paris, the Hungry Widow of the First Republic, le Rasoir National, Madame Guillotine. Bring the family, pack a lunch, make a day of it!

Execution-of-Anne-Hendricks-in-Amsterdam-in-1571-burnedLet’s be proud of who we are and what we do. No more hiding executions behind literal and figurative walls of secrecy and shame. Bring back the 16th century’s deliberate and elaborate spectacularization of public executions.



Be an American! Encourage your public schools to use the occasion and opportunity of your next local Execution for a 6th grade civics class field trip!

Death penalty supporters cheer outside the Florida State Prison moments after the execution of Danny Rolling in Starke, Fla., in this Oct. 25, 2006 file photo.

Death penalty supporters cheer outside the Florida State Prison moments after the execution of Danny Rolling in Starke, Fla., in this Oct. 25, 2006 file photo.


Reelecting Israel’s Racist Apartheid Party

Benjamin Netanyahu has this week revealed himself as Israel’s own PW Botha, or maybe the Strom Thurmond of The Holy Land.[i]

By way of analogy, let’s consider how we talk about our own history and the Civil Rights Movement. We miseducate students (deliberately, I think) when we teach the history of the Civil Rights Movement as a struggle against racial segregation. Nor do things get any better if we frame the movement as merely a struggle against prejudice (my parents’ word) or “inequality” or even “institutionalized racism”.

Regardless even of the self-understanding of the movement or of the activists and participants in the struggle, the nature of the injustice, power, and social ill to be overcome was far more entrenched, virulent, and intentional than the web of public and private rules, customs, and institutions governing the racially separated use of public facilities and accommodations, or the customary norms that undergirded (and undergirds) the social distancing of blacks in white America.

The words we dare not use to name the social injustice at the core of that struggle are “apartheid” and, with even greater accuracy and precision, “White Supremacy.”

Apartheid (and segregation) are not simply rooted in some generalized tribalistic sentiments about us and them (so just slap your Aunt Crystal next time she simpers out the old “but isn’t it only natural for people to prefer the company of their own kind…”), they are sustained in law because they represent intentional racial separation for the specific purpose of establishing and perpetually enforcing superiority and securing all the benefits of social domination.

And suffer no soft-focus confusion about this: From the end of Reconstruction on, White Supremacy was inextricably intertwined with the fundamental assumptions of mainstream American political ideology—an ideology that transcended (transcends) boundaries of party, religion, or class.

Now, just like Botha and the National Party in South Africa, Strom Thurmond and the whole gang of Southern Democrats in Congress were not simply a race-baiting pack of segregationist troglodytes, they were the elected representatives of White Interests—White Power. As a group of Southern white politicians they were no more nor less evil than any gang of hooded, cross burning, rope carrying, white supremacist Klansmen—but they were twice as lethal because they held the power of law in their hands. And we should all always make sure our children know that these White Supremacist authorities were elected by majorities of nice, church-going folks who were desperately determined to keep the power they were raised to believe they were entitled to—power they believed they needed to hold in order to keep themselves safe from the “droves” of blacks surrounding them.

It is impossible to make any sense out of American history or our nation’s current character or conditions without unflinchingly confronting the role of the ideology of racial supremacy at the heart of institutions and norms like “segregation” and “racial prejudice” and “bigotry” that have warped, and continue to warp, our shared aspirations for democracy and justice.

And while racism may be an unavoidable artifact of human culture, Supremacist ideology is the specific and intentional construction of the dominant social group. (Slap you Aunt Crystal one more time, just for good measure.)

And so…

The calculated final-hour political tactics deployed—with great success, it should be noted—by Benjamin Netanyahu in this week’s election were precisely those of an apartheid party candidate.

First, by stating his rejection of any two-state solution, he has committed himself (and Israel) to continuous brutal conflict with upwards of 4 million Palestinians–conflict that can only end one of two ways: either (1) the complete subjugation of the Palestinians under the hostile rule of what could only accurately be described as a nothing but a regime relative to them, or (2) their Removal (as in America’s genocidal official policy regarding Indian tribes in the 19th century) from any lands Israelis wish to settle.

Second, by using anti-Arab racism to get out the vote, Netanyahu has made Israeli voters complicit in the normalization of not only racist “feelings” but racist intentions and actions as a part of Israeli society.

And thus we have watched Netanyahu’s transformation of Israel‘s government into an apartheid regime.

Here in the United States, progressives must continue insist that we stop whitewashing American history (and contemporary news accounts) when we teach the history (and current developments) of the struggle by black citizens to topple the American Apartheid regime and overthrow the illegitimate imposition of White Supremacist laws and institutions.

What must progressives here[ii] and Israel say regarding this recent, troubling development in Israel’s politics and government?

And, more importantly, to what standard shall we (who somehow enjoy the privilege of judging the actions of others’ struggle for liberation) hold Palestinians as they respond to the reelection of the heinous Likud leader and the policies his politics commit Israel?

[i] Let me warn all potential readers: Call me stupid, addled, asinine, ill-informed, or dangerously unbalanced if you wish, but if you decide it’s okay to call me an anti-Semite for what follows, I will come and punch you directly in your face. If that’s how you roll on matters involving politics and government in Israel, you should either read no further or just stifle yourself.

[ii] And given the recent cynical and disgusting collusion between Congressional Republicans and Netanyahu to bring Israeli politics literally right into our House, why shouldn’t we have something to say about Israel’s dangerous rightwing demagogues—they are, after all, affiliated gangsta homies with our own.

Victoria Secret Launches Campaign to Promote Dialogue on Gender Equity and Relations


Promotional ad for #PushTogether

Promotional ad for #PushTogether

News Flash

COLUMBUS, OH – Victoria Secret parent company, L Brands, announced its new #PushTogether campaign to stimulate dialogue regarding issues of gender equity and sexual relations.

According to today’s press release, “Today we are encouraging our bra-istas to openly discuss with our customers complex issues and concerns regarding sexual roles, violence against women, gender equity, patriarchal dominance structures embedded within late-capitalism, and other such topics as part of their daily work to provide the highest standard of customer care.”



Brian Williams to Host Newly Created NBC News Series

A number of knowledgeable sources at NBC have confirmed rumors that Brian Williams will no longer host the Nightly News. Instead, sources say, Williams will be reassigned to a new “semi-regular” series of new specials for the network.

Meanwhile, a preliminary test segment, prepared for NBCUniversal executives and other decision makers within NBCUniversal News Group, has surfaced on the internet.


SHOCKINGLY BAD TASTE: Does newest Counter-Charlie Cartoon Go Too Far?

CharbJust a week after the bloody attack on the Charlie Hebdo offices in Paris, a mostly unread blogger has posted a satirical cartoon that the blog’s own author says may have gone a step too far. (The cartoon is linked here.  NOTE: This cartoon may be offensive to some viewers; it contains material that may be inappropriate for people who can’t guess what it looks like based on the photo of Charb right in front of you now. Really? Think like a twelve-year-old boy or a member of a college men’s Greek organization.)

“I insist it’s actually quite heroic because it’s really insensitive and  is bound to cause pain to friends, colleagues, and family of Charb,” said the blog’s nominal owner, Hemlock Andashes, referring to Charlie Hebdo’s slain editor, Stéphane Charbonnier, known as “Charb”. ” Along with a lot of other folks who’ve probably experienced plenty of pain already,” he added.

The just-published cartoon appears to show Charb stimulating a large penis; the ambiguous sketch and dialogue suggest that the penis may belong to Mohammad.  The cartoon also seems to inexplicably parallel a recently published picture of Charb holding up one of Charlie Hebdo’s controversial covers while giving a power-fist salute to the camera.

When asked to explain the cartoon’s point, Andashes said, “Well, it’s kind of complex in the way it uses meta-irony and stuff.  I suppose by mirroring the Charb photo with the power-fist the artist wants to comment on the question of who actually holds power–so to speak–and how satire relates to undermining that power or not. You know, that sort of thing.”

Ashes bristled at the suggestion that a French reader or supporter “Je Suis Charlie” might argue that the cartoon is simply a dumb prank and that publishing it is a cowardly cheap shot and a transparent attempt to gain attention.

“Look!  First off, people who object probably can’t understand American satire and the crucial role that cum-squirting dicks play in the proud American tradition of using vulgar, homophobic references to undermine the assumptions of power. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all about solidarity with the French and shit, but your stereotypical French lefty doesn’t know shit about hardass American-style satire; Frenchy needs to grow a pair–and take a shower for christsake.  And French left women? Calm down sisters–say it don’t spray it! And, by the way, you really need to shave your area if you expect any service from a real American man. Secondly, the cartoon works because it so precisely lampoons the low artistic and comedic value so brilliantly employed by the Charlie Hebdo ouevre[1] itself.  And on top of everything, it actually honors Charb and Charlie by using a pointlessly shocking image to call attention to itself while simultaneously insulating itself form ordinary norms of decency, taste, and intelligent commentary by defining itself as satire.”

“On questions of satire, taste, and public scorn from the PC left, I’m with Ted Rall,” he asserted, referring to the RFK Journalism Award-winnin satirical cartoonist who recently wrote in defense of Charlie’s controversial cartoons. “You either get it or you don’t,” he added. “And if you don’t, then it’s a sign that you’re no different than the rest of the authoritarian censor-happy right.  Fuck off.”



[1]  Ouevre is believed to be a French word, not easily translated into English, meaning roughly, somethimg small and gross, as in ouevre douvre: a small bite of something gross to eat. “Spit that fucking thing out, Justin…Emily just told me it’s an ouevre douvre!”

Why I am not Charlie


More on Charlie from A Paper Bird. This is everything I had hoped to say!

Originally posted on a paper bird:

imagesThere is no “but” about what happened at Charlie Hebdo yesterday. Some people published some cartoons, and some other people killed them for it.  Words and pictures can be beautiful or vile, pleasing or enraging, inspiring or offensive; but they exist on a different plane from physical violence, whether you want to call that plane spirit or imagination or culture, and to meet them with violence is an offense against the spirit and imagination and culture that distinguish humans. Nothing mitigates this monstrosity. There will be time to analyze why the killers did it, time to parse their backgrounds, their ideologies, their beliefs, time for sociologists and psychologists to add to understanding. There will be explanations, and the explanations will be important, but explanations aren’t the same as excuses. Words don’t kill, they must not be met by killing, and they will not make the killers’ culpability go away.

To abhor what was done to the victims, though, is not…

View original 2,316 more words

Je suis désolé, mais Charlie ne parle pas pour moi…

Just a few days ago, in a thoughtfully argued Daily Beast posting criticizing the “Je Suis Charlie” phenomenon, Arthur Chu wrote:

“The public discourse isn’t between people who think they ‘asked for it’ and people who don’t—it’s entirely among people who agree that the violence was unacceptable, but some of whom feel that this obligates them to elevate Charlie Hebdo to heroes and to hold up ‘Je Suis Charlie’ signs, and others who don’t.”

I’m among those who do not.

But with considerable ambivalence.

On the one hand, I believe deeply that radicals and dissidents especially need to take the principles of democratic free expression seriously and not ever acquiesce to the logic of the heckler’s veto wherein the most intolerant or the most violence-prone defenders of the status quo order determine the permissible range of discourse. Historically, radical dissent has always been the first speech to be repressed in such a setting.[1]

On the other hand, of course, that commitment often entails defending the rights of idiots, goons, and bullies to express a lot of nonsense or worse. We should be able to criticize the contents of a publication without it being necessary to add that such criticism is not equivalent to a call for censorship (even of the self-imposed variety) let alone to an endorsement of the kind of hideous violence visited on the staff of Charlie Hebdo,[2] but that’s sort of where the forced choice of the aftermath of this week’s act of barbaric violence has taken us.

So, consider all appropriate condemnations of cowardly terrorism and disclaimers about liberty of expression and so forth said. And thus said, can we move on and speak honestly about what the publication Charlie Hebdo was and was not before we all sign up for our Je Sui Charlie tee-shirts and wear them around with our chests all puffed out like little heroes of solidarity?

2011 Charlie Hebdo cover depicting a cartoon figure of the Prophet Mohammed (comically identified as this edition's "editor") with a bubble saying, "100 lashes if you're not dying of laughter."  Just one example of CH's courageous brand of brilliantly biting satire...

2011 Charlie Hebdo cover depicting a cartoon figure of the Prophet Mohammed (comically identified as this edition’s “editor”) with a bubble saying, “100 lashes if you’re not dying of laughter.” Just one example of CH’s courageous brand of brilliantly biting satire…

Charlie Hebdo is not all about Islam (much of it is French Leftist flatfooted satire of a disappointingly amateurish nature), but when it takes on religion—and Islam in particular, it reveals itself as a publication with all the unfunny anti-Islamic derangement of Bill Maher on a smug, self-satisfied tear.[3]

Ranging from juvenile bathroom wall grafffandalsism to drooling hatespooge, calling this inkpuke material “satire” is like confusing Ayn Rand with a serious thinker.

Sure, no one who is not a believer should be made to feel like they are bound by the constraints of someone else’s religion (that’s one large point that is lost on the pro-life movement and supporters of Hobby Lobby). But, while I’m a big fan of lampooning the intolerance of religious fundamentalists, and I defend an atheists’ right to call religious faith stupid or dangerous (though I find such views silly and self-contradictory), I reserve the right to name extreme versions of such anti-religious expressions “hatespeech” when they cross the line into terrorizing discourse, especially when that discourse “punches down” rather than up (as Arthur Chu explicates the situation with Charlie Hebdo).

CH congratulating its own significance while mocking Europe's Muslim underclass. The Caption: "Charlie Hebdo publishes picture of Mohammed."  The balloon: "My dear, I am going down for 5 minutes, I'll get the newspaper."  Punching down.

CH congratulating its own significance while mocking Europe’s Muslim underclass. The Caption: “Charlie Hebdo publishes picture of Muhammad.” The balloon: “Dear, I am going down for 5 minutes, I will grab the newspaper.” Punching down.

And make no mistake about it, but for the risk of violent reprisal from otherwise impotent, self-styled “Jihadist” nutcases, CH’s chimpish flinging of poop in the face of Muslims in a European, French-language periodical is hardly courageous, and in no case is it any sort of tweaking of entrenched power that satire was born to dare. Honoré Daumier this ain’t.

Moreover, more than a few cartoons in Charlie have been much more than giggly uses of the image of The Prophet; they have been unmistakably anti-Islamic—not anti-Islamist in the sense of mocking or defaming the ideology of revolutionary/radicalized jihadist Islamism– but rather mocking the religion itself. Or maybe Muslims.[4]

2012 CH spoof on the incendiary American hateporn film "Innocence of Muslims", In its "satirical" rendition of the film that sparked violence across the Islamic world, the naked Muhammad  is shown (as in the actual film) posing for a pornographic movie.  The caption in the inset reads "Muhammad was born a star!"

2012 CH spoof on the incendiary American hateporn film “Innocence of Muslims”.[5] In its “satirical” rendition of the film that sparked violence across the Islamic world, the naked Muhammad is shown (as in the actual film) posing for a pornographic movie. The caption in the inset reads “Muhammad was born a star!”

CH makes constant, ambiguous use of turbaned, bearded figures that seem to deliberately blur the distinction between representing Muhammad and representing a stereotyped “Islamist”.  The slyly unstated subtext is clearly that Islam is un-French.[6] Indeed, much of CH’s anti-Islamist content could be easily mistaken for the kind of Muslim-bashing shit one might associate with the French National Front or some other European (or American) rightwing nationalist group. It is telling that the label “anti-Islamic” does not carry the same social bite in Europe or the U.S. as do “antisemitic “ or “racist”. I think the kind of self-congratulatory, Muslim-baiting shit Charlie engaged in could fairly be labeled “Euro-supremacist”.  No kidding.

So, are the writers and cartoonists of Charlie Hebdo guilty of provoking their own deaths? For the love of God, NO!  We all understand that nothing they published was the motivation for behind these cult executions.  They were targeted only because they worked at a high-visibility soft target of convenient shock-value. Like the hostages the terrorists killed at the Hyper Cacher grocery in Paris, the staff at Charlie  were innocent victims of hideously intolerant religious fundamentalism used as a pretext for violent bloodlust.

But the impulse to mindlessly cry “Je Suis Charlie!” is no less absurd than acting as if watching “The Interview” is some sort of bold stroke for liberty or a defiant stance of solidarity with brave filmmaking independence.

I think we can and must mourn the tragedy of people being slain for pissing off intolerant monsters while refraining from uncritically beatifying juvenile, unfunny shockmongers as martyrs for liberal democracy. I mourn the death of this week’s victims of terrorism in Paris and I pray for comfort and healing for their families and friends.  Victims, not martyrs.



[1] Owing in large part to radicalism’s methodological reliance on deliberately transgressive discourse to illuminate the stultified, power-laden nature of the status quo assumptions embedded within the range of “reasonable” discourse.

[2] Frankly, the offending Charlie Hebdo covers are so dull they don’t even really merit an angry letter.

[3] But without Bill’s informed sophistication and nuanced subtlety on matters of religion in public discourse. (Sarcasm alert!).

[4] That’s the fun of French satire! It’s so cleverly polysemous you just can’t pin down who or what is being satirized.  But Charlie Hebdo is a lefty publication, so it couldn’t possibly be racist, could it?  No.  Just fiercely committed to pushing the limits! See?

[5] More of that clever, slippery polysemous French satire.  Are we satirizing the dangerously stupid piece of shit American  racist hatefilm? Or are we satirizing the stupid Islamic people who use violence in an intolerant and illiberal attempt to intimidate dumb (American, NOT French) would-be satirists? Who knows? So much anarchic fun!

[6] And please spare me any lectures about French laïcité; I not only admire France’s uncompromising commitment to a secular public square and the special separation of religious discourse from public debate, I believe it is precisely what that great American Francophile and Founder Thomas Jefferson had in mind for the meaning and purpose of the federal Constitution’s First Amendment version of his own Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom.  HOWEVER, neither secularism nor  laïcité can legitimize anti-democratic bigotry against people of faith (as distinct from a pro-democratic insistence that people of any and all faiths must check the expression of their sacredly privileged religious beliefs at the door of public discourse.

Shocking New Reports on N. Korea’s ‘Mysterious’ Internet Crash!

Kim Jong ComcastPYONGYANG — After initial rumors circulated throughout the day suggesting the involvement of covert US counter measures in yesterday’s spate of widespread internet outages in North Korea, new reporting reveals that DPRK had recently switched their Internet service to Comcast.

Asked for official comment, one Obama Administration official who asked not to be named said, “Well, we certainly could have warned them.  But then,” he continued, “why would we?”

According to sources with claimed connections to the small inner circle of North Korean military leaders, hourly attempts by a very upset Kim Jung Un to get an accurate status report and estimated time of service restoration were routed to the Comcast call center in the Philippines.

Sources say Comcast Service Specialist “Katie” repeatedly advised the frustrated Un that North Korea could easily resolve the issue on their own by simply “power cycling” the nation’s router.

However after a team of DPRK computer engineers followed “Katie’s instructions and unplugged the internet, waited 30 seconds, then plugged the internet back in and service was not restored, an outraged Un was told he would not be able to speak to “Katie’s” supervisor,

North Korean leader Kim Jung Un explaining urgent need for restored Comcast service/

North Korean leader Kim Jung Un explaining urgent need for restored Comcast service.

Comcast policy, the dictator was informed, requires that the Service Specialist draft a “service notice” which a supervisor would respond to by phone within 24 to 48 hours.

The red-faced dictator then anxiously explained that by that time he would have missed the crucial season finale of his favorite reality show: “Great Successor and Much Beloved Father of the Free and Joyful People of Our Wondrous Workers’ Paradise Creates Unparalleled Dishes of Sophisticated Cuisine Thereby Handily Defeating A Dozen Highly Touted Yet Decadent and Corrupt Western Chefs Using Only the Lush Abundance of Tender Meats and Hearty Produce from Korea’s Vast Garden-like Collective Farms (Season Six)”

“Katie” could only apologize for “any inconvenience” experienced by North Korea and asked if Un might be interested in hearing about several new money-saving internet and cable bundles being offered by Comcast.

As “Katie” began to explain the details and advantages of the “Sports Blast Plus” bundle, an angry Un slammed down the phone and demanded his team of elite covert hackers look into ways to cripple Comcast service in the US.

Unfortunately, his team informed him, computer science offers no means by which to degrade Comcast’s service beyond its current status of incompetence.