The Null Device
Posts matching tags 'capital punishment'
A British author has been found guilty of insulting the Singaporean judiciary for criticising Singapore's use of the death penalty, and alleging a lack of impartiality. Alan Shadrake, based in Malaysia, made the claims in a book titled Once A Jolly Hangman: Singapore Justice in the Dock; he was arrested when he entered the city-state and "managed democracy" to promote his book. He is also being investigated for criminal defamation, and the police have seized his passport.
Justice Loh said Shadrake had written a "selective and dissembling account" of half-truths and falsehoods which could cause the unwary reader to doubt Singapore's rule of law.
News organisations covering Singapore critically have paid large fines or had their circulation in Singapore restricted. Human rights groups say the Singaporean authorities too often resort to the courts to silence their critics. But the government insists it has a right to quash inaccuracies, our correspondent says.I wonder whether, by this token, Singapore has an arrest warrant out for William Gibson.
Channel 4 will screen a fictional documentary in which, in a parallel Britain, Gary Glitter is sentenced to death for paedophilia, something a majority of Britons reportedly would approve of:
In the Channel 4 programme, The Execution of Gary Glitter, public revulsion has led to the return of the death sentence and the first person to be tried under the new Capital Crimes Against Children legislation is Glitter.
An Ipsos Mori poll commissioned by Channel 4 found 70% of those surveyed thought the UK should have the death penalty as the maximum possible penalty for the most serious crimes.It has not been confirmed that, when respondents were informed that reinstating the death penalty would require Britain to leave the EU, this figure jumped to 80%.
A condemned prisoner in Texas has requested for his body to be made into fish food as part of an art installation. Gene Hathorn, who is on death row for murdering his father, stepmother and stepbrother, wants to donate his body to a project by Chilean-born artist Marco Evaristti:
Mr Evaristti, 45, a Chilean-born artist who lives in Denmark, said he would first deep-freeze Hathorn's body and then turn it into fish food which visitors at the exhibition could feed to a shoal of goldfish.
"One of the reasons I chose the theme of fish food is because in his court papers, they considered him a piece of 'human trash'. This is what the court papers called him, with regards to eliminating human trash. He wants to be a part of this art. It's the last thing he can do for society and he views it as positive," he said.
It will be part of a wider project by Mr Evaristti, who, in August, presented a clothing collection called "The Last Fashion", in which 15 models wore outfits designed by him. He stated that those garments were for death-row prisoners to wear on their execution day, to be offered by mail order to prisoners whose execution dates are imminent.Meanwhile, Evaristti is helping Hathorn mount an appeal. If the name "Marco Evaristti" sounds familiar, it may be because of his previous project, in which he placed living goldfish in blenders, giving gallery patrons the power to kill them at the flick of a switch.
The ultra-conservative president of Poland (one half of a set of identical twins running the country (his brother is Prime Minister) and a man so right-wing he makes Tony Abbott look like Bob Brown) has called for the restoration of the death penalty. If anything comes of this, it could lead to an interesting situation, as capital punishment is expressly prohibited in the European Union. Were Poland to reintroduce it, it would leave Brussels with a dilemma: hold to principles and expel one of their populous members, or allow Poland to opt out of the death-penalty ban. If the EU blinks and the latter happens, how long until the Daily Mail and Sun put the reintroduction of capital punishment on the agenda in the UK.
Two scientists speculate on a genetic cause for why America is full of loud, energetic go-getters. Their hypothesis is that "American hypomania" results from the American gene pool containing many genes from immigrants, a group which, by its nature, would self-select for genes encouraging curiosity, risk-taking, neophilia and boldness:
Peter C. Whybrow of U.C.L.A. and John D. Gartner of Johns Hopkins University Medical School make their cases for an immigrant-specific genotype in their respective books, "American Mania" and "The Hypomanic Edge." Even when times are hard, Whybrow points out, most people don't leave their homelands. The 2 percent or so who do are a self-selecting group. What distinguishes them, he suggests, might be the genetic makeup of their dopamine-receptor system - the pathway in the brain that figures centrally in boldness and novelty seeking.
Why aren't Canada and Australia, where many immigrants and their descendants also live, as hypomanic as the United States? Whybrow answers that behavior is always a function of genetics and environment - nature with an overlay of nurture. "Here you have the genes and the completely unrestricted marketplace," he says - with the anything-goes rules of American capitalism also reflecting immigrant genetics. "That's what gives us our peculiar edge."Of course, the fact that a lot of the descendents of Australians did not choose to emigrate could also have something to do with it.
By coincidence, I was thinking about American hypomania recently, in the context of American culture having a propensity for maximality in various areas (the biggest cars, the fastest roller-coasters, the most exciting movies, the loudest, most attention-grabbingly garish TV); it came up in the context of the ongoing popularity of the death penalty in America, and the recent execution of Stanley "Tookie" Williams. Other than the ancient imperative for vengeance ("an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth", as it says in
the Hammurabi codex the Bible), it is arguable that humanely euthanasing a convicted criminal is not a greater punishment than leaving them to contemplate their wrongdoing for some decades from within a cell with no hope of release. However, from an observer's point of view, the ritual of executing an evildoer is a grander statement of symbolic redressing of wrongs than the boringly administrative option of merely locking them up.
Melbourne's liberal-except-when-the-proprietors-pull-the-strings newspaper The Age is shocked and appalled that, on the day that convicted heroin trafficker Nguyen Tuong Van is hanged, the prime minister will be insensitive enough to attend a cricket match, rather than registering his outrage as a liberal Australian sickened by the very idea of the death penalty.
I'm not all that surprised. Could it be that one of the reasons that Howard did not protest too loudly is because, in his ideology, far from being a barbarically illiberal backwater, Singapore is a model for what a modern Australia could look like, reconciling the cherished authoritarian conformity of decades past with a dynamic economy and a place in the globalised world? Let's see: an extremely business-friendly regulatory environment, a work ethic that aggressively minimises threats to economic performance, strict censorship of the media and arts, criminalisation and marginalisation of political dissent, harsh penalties for conduct the leaders find inappropriate (such as chewing gum, for example) and the near-total power of the state over all aspects of public and private life. Add a good dose of Anglo-Saxon Christian moralism, suburban wowser ideas of propriety and traditional iconography to that and you have a perfect recipe for a "relaxed and comfortable" Australia John Howard could love.
A profile of Singapore's executioner, 73-year-old Darshan Singh, who learned the ropes (literally) in the last days of the British Empire and remains in the job because no-one else will do it:
"He tried to train two would-be hangmen to replace him, a Malaysian and a Chinese, both in the prison service," the colleague said. "But when it came to pulling the lever for the real thing, they both froze and could not do it. The Chinese guy, a prison officer, became so distraught he walked out immediately and resigned from the prison service altogether."
On the day before his execution, Mr Singh will lead him to a set of scales close to his death-row cell to weigh him. Mr Singh will use the Official Table of Drops, published by the British Home Office in 1913, to calculate the correct length of rope for the hanging.
Mr Singh joined the British colonial prison service in the mid-1950s after arriving from Malaysia. When the long-established British hangman Mr Seymour retired, Singh, then 27, volunteered for the job. He was attracted by the bonus payment for executions.Singh holds a world record for single-handedly hanging the most men in one day — 18, in 1963 — and was an accomplished cricketer in his youth, a skill which has, in the past, translated into caning prisoners. He is now retired, but executes convicted prisoners by special arrangement.
His next client is likely to be convicted Australian drug trafficker Van Tuong Nguyen, assuming the last-minute pleas for clemency don't succeed (which they are rather unlikely to). (Aside: why exactly are Amnesty International devoting their resources to campaigning for clemency for him? Aren't there political prisoners, civil-rights campaigners and such being imprisoned and tortured across the world? Everybody knows that Singapore automatically executes anyone caught in possession of more than a few grammes of heroin. Nguyen was caught several orders of magnitude over the limit; which means that he took the calculated risk of smuggling heroin through Singapore. Surely campaigning for clemency for short-sighted opportunists whose luck happened to run out (not to mention heroin traffickers) is not the best use of Amnesty members' dues.)
(via bOING bOING)
The extreme-right-wing religious-values parties seem to be sprouting like mushrooms in Australia; now John Abbott, founder of extremist neo-fascist "men's rights" group the Blackshirts (who dress in balaclavas and paramilitary uniforms and harrass divorced women as part of a "crusade" to defend marriage and the family) plans to start one. Abbott's exact policy platform is as yet unknown, though he has in the past advocated abolishing divorce and making adultery punishable by death, and keeps talking about "crusades" for "Christian values".
An economic-rationalist arguments for why writing computer viruses should be punishable by death; it basically comes down to society getting more economic benefits from executing worm writers than from killing murderers. It reminds me a bit of the argument in K.W. Jeter's Noir about why copyright violation had to become punishable by death, and worse. (via Techdirt)
More signs of a widening rift between Britain and the wine-drinking socialist welfare states of Europe: the new Tory Shadow Home Secretary called for a reintroduction of the death penalty. Other senior Tories have dismissed the call, though if the Tories win the next election (which, with Murdoch showing signs of favouring Howard, isn't impossible), could we see Britain leave the EU and instead seek closer political union with the United States?
(Then again, if Britain was officially part of the US, they may not be imposing martial law in London for the Emperor's visit, what with Constitutional rights and all that. Who was it that said that everyone is either governed by US domestic policy or US foreign policy?)
Who says the Chinese government is unconcerned with human rights? In the Yunnan province, China is equipping its courts with mobile execution vans, replacing the traditional bullet in the back of the head, seen by many as barbaric, with the "civilised" and "humane" execution method of lethal injection. They even had the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences design a kinder, gentler lethal drug, putting China at the forefront of the humane death penalty. Beat that, Florida.