Cruel, deliberate, and unusually vicious. It’s us.

Summary: Today, one of the bloggers that I follow regularly linked to Charles Pierce’s angry opinion piece on the State Of Oklahoma’s execution of Clayton Lockett: Barbarians In Oklahoma. Because I’ve recently been under a general anaesthetic for surgery, I was curious and decided on a whim to look up the drugs used in the “lethal injection cocktail.”  Shaken and upset, I hope that my interpretation of the pharmacological effects is wrong. I’m pretty sure I am not.

Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.
— Eighth amendment to the US Constitution

 

Article deleted at author’s request.

 

(7)  For More Information

(a)  About the botched Oklahoma’s execution:

  1. Charles Pierce’s article: Barbarians In Oklahoma, Esquire, Esquire, 30 April 2014
  2. How Oklahoma’s Botched Execution Affects the Death Penalty Debate“, Andrew Cohen, The Atlantic, 30 April 2014 — “State officials used untested drugs from a secret source to end the life of Clayton Lockett, who took more than 45 minutes to die.”
  3. Cruel and Unusual“, Avicenna (self-identified as a medical student), FreeThoughtBogs, 3 May 2014

(b) On Curare“, including a doctor’s experience with the drug

(c) Rate of false conviction of criminal defendants who are sentenced to death“, Samuel R. Grossa et al, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, in press — Summary:

The rate of erroneous conviction of innocent criminal defendants is often described as not merely unknown but unknowable. We use survival analysis to model this effect, and estimate that if all death-sentenced defendants remained under sentence of death indefinitely at least 4.1% would be exonerated. We conclude that this is a conservative estimate of the proportion of false conviction among death sentences in the United States.

(d)  About Arbitrariness, from the Death Penalty Information Center. See their graphic.

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Executions By State
From the Death Penalty Information Center

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23 thoughts on “Cruel, deliberate, and unusually vicious. It’s us.

  1. i am a RN, i believe the sedative was midazolam. we would have to know the dosage of this drug to know, indeed if he was likely to be conscience enough to be aware of the pain. this is a powerful sedative and it’s fast acting. it would appear the dose was strong enough to sedate him so i think we can have some solace in that he would be too sedated to be very aware of what was going on. however, he clearly showed (from the reports) signs of pain, so we cant be sure.

    i know this was a horrible man that committed a heinous crime and i hate what he did, but i do not hate him. Vengeance is mine alone, so saith the lord; we as humans have no right to take life; save self defense. Jesus commanded us to love each other, he didnt say love only the good.

    life in prison with no parole would have been adequate to keep society safe from him. perhaps life with hard labor if he wanted more than bread and water would served him right.

    the comments i have read so far on the net have been violent, full of hate, no mercy, just plain awful and unchristian. im sorry, but those kind of people are no better than mr. lockett. whom i hope made peace with the lord before he was killed.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve been discussing the anaesthetic mix with a few other practicing physicians and publicly on a thread over at PZ Myers’ Pharyngula blog (thread here). It’s not reaching to describe their reaction as horror. Another fellow who was given the curare analog during a cardiac arrest incident (ekwhite@#69) describes it thus:

      “In January 2013, I collapsed from congestive heart failure and was rushed to the hospital. As part of my treatment I was apparently given an anesthetic and Vecuronium bromide. While I was in the emergency room, I regained consciousness. I was unable to feel my body, to open my eyelids or to move a muscle, but I was aware and could hear what was going on around me. This was the most terrifying thing I have ever experienced. It was sheer mental torture even though I could not feel pain. I distinctly remember a female voice saying that my lungs were full of fluid and that I was drowning, but it was not the fear of death that terrified me – it was the feeling of being a disembodied consciousness in the dark.”

      Midazolam might have disassociated him enough but once the curare analog hit it would have been impossible to tell how conscious he was – there are other anaesthetics like Propofol or Fentanyl or nitrous oxide that could have guaranteed unconsciousness.
      Judging from the reactions of the other medical professionals on the Pharyngula discussion, I am afraid my assessment is correct – the anaesthetic cocktail was designed to torture and kill, not merely kill.

      Yes, many of the comments on the internet are vile. Nietzsche was right.

      Norway’s response to Anders Breivik shows how dangerous irredemable barbarians can be handled. What we see in Oklahoma is that the dangerous irredemable barbarians are on both sides of the incident.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Perhaps it would be wiser to research and then publish, then to be in error and apologize? The condemned is going nowhere nor is capital punishment in Oklahoma.

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    1. Perhaps it would be wiser to research and then publish, then to be in error and apologize?

      As is clear from the incident, there are a lot of “what ifs” regarding potential abnormal reactions to drugs, as well as “what ifs” regarding their delivery. What I wanted to do was dig through some of the “what ifs” by consulting with practicing physicians and an anaesthesiologist. I was concerned that there might have been key points that I missed; I would not have published anything unless I was fairly certain that I was substantially right.

      One thing that is an unknown I didn’t consider is the possibility that someone who was not an experienced doctor might have mis-situated the IV and the drugs might have been perfusing through muscle instead of directly into the blood-stream. Picture a nervous first-time executioner sticking a needle into a vein and out the other side – a possibility I had not considered. One of the doctors I asked said that it would be unusual for someone to take a lethal dose of vecuronium and still be breathing 30 minutes later. Remember: the entire execution lasted over 40 minutes!

      The general consensus from the doctors I’ve asked is that it probably was stupidity and incompetence rather than a deliberate set-up to torture the subject. Much is made of the fact that “the right drugs” are no longer available because EU companies cannot/will not sell them to the US because the US engages in capital punishment; none of the doctors I asked thought that there was a sign that the executioners in Oklahoma were knowledgeable enough to have done this deliberately, nor were they knowledgeable enough that they should have been doing it at all.

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  3. If you must have capital punishment, what is wrong with a bullet to the back of the head? You don’t have to follow the Chinese practice of making the family pay for it.

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  4. the inital drug would be midazolam or a barbital. in a sufficient (a key word) dose either should cause unconsciousness. vecuronium should cause paralysis of all muscles in 1 minute. given the reports that the executed was groaning and moving for a long time, it is likely that the iv was not properly placed, or got displaced, and he did not receive the full dose of either both or the second drug.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, apparently the whole thing took nearly 45 minutes; he probably came out of the midazolam and found himself paralyzed and dying, but conscious. We can’t know for sure, but the fact that he was trying to get up and talk is a giveaway. You’re right that he couldn’t have gotten the full dose of the vecuronium because he’d have suffocated before 45 minutes. He might have been conscious some of that time.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. New article about this: “Cruel and Unusual“, Avicenna (self-identified as a medical student), FreeThoughtBogs, 3 May 2014 — Excerpt:

    Oklahoma botched an execution. This is not news but I can help explain why it got botched. See Marcus Ranum (Long time reader and big time donor to A Million Gods) wrote this {link to this post} and I wished to expand on it. Clayton Lockett did a horrible thing. An inexcusable thing. He murdered another human. He raped another human. He invaded a home and raped one woman and shot and wounded another. He then buried her with is accomplice.

    … Their analysis of toxicology reports from Arizona, Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina showed that post-mortem concentrations of thiopental in the blood were lower than that required for surgery in 43 of 49 executed inmates (88%); 21 (43%) inmates had concentrations consistent with awareness. Meaning that the majority of inmates had some self awareness, and above 40% were probably aware of what happened but could not move due to the second drug. Marcus Ranum’s description is florid but correct. …

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  6. I’d argue that this is one of your most powerful and moving articles to date. And you show far more empathy than I do, which actually makes me feel very ashamed and has made me think and feel a lot.

    I have always been against the death penalty, but not for humane reasons (which I am now ashamed of), rather from selfish reasons.

    The error rate is too high. And when the ‘system’ is desperate to ‘find someone’ … it could be me.

    Every time, when I think ‘that swine should be killed’ (and I do at times) I think of the ‘Birmingham six’; and the ‘ Guilford Four’. All innocent and all fixed up by a system desperate to get good headlines…

    If there had been a death penalty in the UK, well they would be dead. At least they had, after sadly far too long a time, a second chance at life.

    So thanks for that other dimension (I still feel ashamed though).

    I have a dog I love totally and when his time comes I want him to go peacefully and without pain and with me holding him and rubbing his ears and looking into his eyes.

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    1. Being against the death penalty for selfish reasons is also rational.

      I hear you about your dog, too. Enjoy him as long as you both can. 2 years ago, I lost both of mine and mine was the hand that pushed the plunger on the needle that ended their discomfort. Knowing that we can let a dog or a horse or a cat release from life without pain or trauma (my dogs were 150#, you have to let a dog that big, or a horse, go painlessly or there may be more than one death) we owe the absolute worst human that ever lived a painless death if that’s the way it has to be.

      I used to support the death penalty and the OP marks my change of mind. I no longer support it, at all – as Christopher Hitchens used to say, “it’s the ultimate arrogance for a government to assert the right to kill its citizens” I think that as we watch the US evolve more and more toward a police state, we need to think more clearly about Hitchens’ point. In some cases we may have a citizen that is so dangerous to others that they need to be sequestered from everyone else for the rest of their lives. So be it, if that is necessary. Our society can certainly afford to support them. I do think that if someone is incarcerated and wishes to pursue some kind of “death with dignity” process, that ought to be their right as well.

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  7. I was surprised to read this. I thought that criminals are killed painlessly. For me it seemed obvious that they should feel no pain while they die.

    However, this article misses the main point – the idea of a painless capital punishment is one big hypocrisy. We pretend that we care for the criminals who are sentenced to death and we demonstrate our care by killing them painlessly. What?! If we really cared about the wellbeing of these human beings (also called “criminals”) we wouldn’t sentence them to death in the first place!

    So humans shouldn’t advocate for a painless capital punishment. We should advocate for abolishing the capital punishment.

    I do not like capital punishment for several reasons. There are several “outside” factors which contribute to committing a crime: genes you are born with and environment you live in.

    Some people are simply born with mental problems, which end up with crimes. For example, about 2% of human population are born incapable to feel empathy and remorse (the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders calls that “psychopathy”, however I don’t like their idea of labeling people with “disorders”). We might call these people “monsters” and we might despise them, however, the problem is – they didn’t choose to be born this way. They might as well be called victims instead, because they were unlucky to be born with genes despised by the rest of humanity.

    Another problem is environment. Many criminals have had unhappy childhoods, they have gotten bad friends. They lived in poor places and lacked other options to make a better life. And many criminals encountered bad ideas because of different “accidents”. For example, Anders Breivik. His opinions were extremely stupid. Of course we might say that it was only his fault for adapting such stupid opinions. But there must have been other factors that contributed to developing such a faulty world view (being exposed to bad ideas, being too stupid to think critically about these bad ideas, etc.).

    So to which extent criminals really are guilty? To which extent it was their conscious choices and to which extent it was other factors?

    This is why I say that prisons must protect society from dangerous people. Potential re-offenders should be locked up. But I can’t say that punishment is always right. I can’t be sure that criminals really “deserve” to be punished.

    Of course, there’s the “I want to get a revenge” problem. We all want. It’s a natural human inclination to like getting revenge (just like it’s natural to like sweets). But this isn’t a noble act. By getting revenge we ourselves turn into monsters. Revenge isn’t a solution. Getting over and moving on with your life works better.

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    1. I think most of us who contemplate the death penalty fairly quickly realize its many contradictions. If the intent of the criminal judicial system is punitive, then we would expect one set of behaviors whereas if it’s to reform and reeducate we’d expect another; yet, in the US, we see both behaviors attempted – to the obvious detriment of reform. We see what amounts to torture in the use of solitary confinement and the reasoning behind it is deterrent, which is patently nonsensical since someone who’s going to be deterred by threat of punishment doesn’t wind up in a supermax prison unless an injustice has occurred (in which case, again, they are not going to be deterred – they already understand what not to do). In Saudi Arabia and a few other nations there is no effort to even pretend that capital punishment is anything but retributive, which is interesting since that then begs the question of “what’s the point?” The only ‘benefit’ of retribution is sheer cruelty, which says more about the punisher than the punished. US justice has moved toward retributive – to the point where prisoners can wind up in solitary confinement for years for the offense of asking for books to read.

      The question of the free will of criminals is a legitimate and very difficult one; one I probably will never be able to satisfy myself regarding let alone anyone else. But your point is, as I see it, correct: to a degree we are not in control of our backgrounds and situation, yet society blames us for transgressing its imaginary lines anyway. As if someone born in economic disadvantage, who chooses to steal and cheat in order to improve their life, is as responsible for their actions as a wealthy investment banker born with a silver spoon in their mouth, for doing the same things on an even grander scale.

      Of course, there’s the “I want to get a revenge” problem. We all want. It’s a natural human inclination to like getting revenge

      Do you actually believe that? I don’t. A naive understanding of cause and effect might lead a child to conclude that revenge is effective but reason shows us that it’s not and history shows us that it just leads to unending cycles of things getting worse.

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    2. Have you read an article “The Brain on Trial” by David Eagleman? It provides great insights about how blameworthy criminals are.

      You mentioned an example of a wealthy investment banker who steals and cheats in order to improve her life. I would not automatically label such person as “the evil jerk who must get the longest possible prison sentence”. There’s some curious research by Dan Ariely about why normal and honest people act dishonestly. It showed that environmental factors play a huge role into persuading people to “cheat just a little”. If all your colleagues cheat, you start viewing the act as morally acceptable, simply because it’s approved by people around you. And in some cases it gets even worse – if all your colleagues cheat, then you get fired for refusing to do the same.

      But in general I agree with your point – in most cases it is much easier for a wealthy person to not commit crimes. If you are wealthy and your boss threatens to fire you for refusing to cheat, you can just find another job. However, if you are poor and have nothing to eat, then it’s not as simple.

      “yet, in the US, we see both behaviors attempted”

      Yes, I find that many people have no clue what their goal is. There are many goals people tend to have and the problem is – these goals are mutually exclusive. How you treat criminals depends on what your goal is – 1) to punish or 2) to rehabilitate and prepare for returning back into normal life. Both these goals are mutually exclusive. If you want to punish a person, you must treat them badly so that they suffer. If you want to rehabilitate a person, you must educate them (so that they learn some profession and can find a job after their release), you must teach them to get along with other people (improve their socializing skills), you must make the prisoner to trust the humanity. In short: you must treat them well.

      It gets even trickier when we add another goal – prevention of future crimes. If you want to prevent people from committing the first crime, punishment must be harsh (so that potential offenders are scared of it). If you want to prevent people from re-offending, prisoners must be treated well and rehabilitated. Again, both goals are mutually exclusive.

      The only obvious goal seems to be to isolate “problematic” people from the rest of society. If a criminal is too “broken” to rehabilitate her, then you lock her up for life so that the rest of society is safe. However it gets harder once you try figuring out whether a particular criminal can be rehabilitated. A lack of remorse and regret could be a good criterion for determining it, but it’s hard to say if somebody genuinely feels regret or is just faking it.

      And even if we could determine which criminals are more likely to reoffend, would it even be fair to give them shorter sentences and better treatment? Imagine 2 people each robbing a bank and stealing the same amount of money. One of them regrets her crime and is likely not to reoffend. Second clearly states that she feels no regret and she will keep on doing crimes if released. In such situation it seems logical to release the first criminal and lock up the second. However both of them have caused equally large harm for the society, therefore it isn’t fair that one gets more punishment than the other.

      So the question about how criminals should be treated is far from simple. In fact, many behaviors we do with them aren’t rational and these things are done just because of tradition – that’s what our ancestors did and we continue doing the same thing. For example, why is it wrong to cause criminals physical pain (aka torture), but it’s totally ok to cause them emotional pain (aka emotional torture)? Why are 100 lashes a bad punishment, but 100 days in solitary cell an acceptable punishment? I see very little logic behind this. Our treatment of criminals is not based on scientific observations about which treatments are effective at preventing crimes and cause the greatest good, instead it is just a leftover of a centuries long tradition. A while ago I read Michel Foucault’s “Discipline and Punish”, in which author nicely showed the history and evolution of punitive system. What we have now is the leftover from this evolution. Sadly this evolution was not guided by scientific research, it was guided by whims of rulers (a ruler needs free workers, so he comes up with community service), by emotions (hitting somebody looks bad, so let’s not do it) and by random events (once rulers decided to abolish public punishments, like public whipping and public death sentences, it no longer made much sense to hit prisoners in their solitary cells where nobody could watch and enjoy the spectacle, so corporal punishment gradually became less and less frequent).

      The good news is that at least this evolution is going towards a more humane treatment of criminals. But that only reflects the general trend in society – for the last centuries violence has steadily declined.

      Anyway, my personal opinion is that criminals should be rehabilitated not punished. The research I have read shows that some rehabilitation programs are very effective with reducing reoffending rates, so that’s the way to go. And I won’t even get into why it’s ridiculous to incarcerate drug addicts and why USA punitive system is bad.

      In response to:
      “The only ‘benefit’ of retribution is sheer cruelty, which says more about the punisher than the punished”
      and
      “Do you actually believe that? I don’t. A naive understanding of cause and effect might lead a child to conclude that revenge is effective but reason shows us that it’s not and history shows us that it just leads to unending cycles of things getting worse”

      I desire revenge in the same way as I desire sweets or sex. I know that sweets are bad for my health, but this knowledge does not stop me from desiring a chocolate cake. My emotions about revenge are similar. I know that it leads to bad outcomes, I know that getting revenge is just a waste of my time, but I still desire it every time when somebody hurts me. So I have to suppress this desire in the same way as I have to stop myself from overeating sweets or grabbing a handsome stranger’s butt.

      So in my case the “benefit” of retribution is positive emotions. When somebody mistreats me, I feel that things have gotten unfair. But when I get revenge on them, I feel positive emotions, because of having “restored the fairness”. I know that this sounds ridiculous, because it is. Logically I am capable of understanding that revenge is not a good way how to “restore fairness”, because two wrongs don’t make a right. But on emotional level this is exactly how I feel. This is why I always try to abstain from getting revenge.

      Do you never feel a desire for revenge?

      I have a habit of assuming that other people should feel the same way as I do. In some cases it took me years to realize that they don’t and that I am the weird one. For example, I have never loved anyone, so until recently I thought that all the romance literature and “love” towards our relatives are only exaggerations. Only after reading Helen Fisher’s research about brain activity in people who are in love and all that stuff about oxytocin and bonding, I realized that I’m the weird one and I am actually missing something others do feel.

      Even weirder realization hit me just few months ago. My doctor announced that I have a condition which means that there’s a possibility that someday in the future I will have to shave a beard. Now we live in the age when we always look up in Internet any disease we are diagnosed with, so I had to look up mine. I read about many women with the same medical problem being upset and depressed about facial hair grown. And I just couldn’t understand why. Unlike them I just didn’t care about the prospect of having to shave a beard some day in future. Why should I care about facial hair any more than I care about shaving my legs? Soon after I learned more about transgender people and how important it is for them to wear certain clothes. Only at that point it hit me – other people actually have gender identities. And they actually care about looking and being feminine or masculine. It turned out that I am the weird one for totally lacking a gender identity. Before this I didn’t even know that I am a genderqueer and that I belong to a minority.

      As for revenge, now you got me curious, and I will have to ask some other people about how they feel about it. Maybe again it will turn out that others are different than me.

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    3. I desire revenge in the same way as I desire sweets or sex. I know that sweets are bad for my health, but this knowledge does not stop me from desiring a chocolate cake. My emotions about revenge are similar.

      Consider that our understanding of “revenge” is probably an evolved behavior, based on the simplistic kind of cause-and-effect that would have existed among early humans living in marginal societies without civilization. In such social groups, it probably did make sense to want to take revenge on another member of the group, because the groups were small and the web of cause-and-effect didn’t stretch very far. In our modern integrated civilizations, we confront phenomena wherein a Wall St investment banker may take actions that are part of the cause-and-effect that might end up with thousands becoming homeless and dozens committing suicide. Our evolved simplistic understanding of cause and effect doesn’t let us realize that “revenge” makes no sense in that kind of situation; it’s not like Thag stole your berry patch and you can hit Thag on the head with a rock to show your displeasure.

      Once we step back and realize that societies’ complexity is so extreme that we can’t really assign blame for anything, hopefully our desire for “revenge” can be channeled into trying to do something positive about all the causes that we can associate with a given effect. I.e.: maybe we shouldn’t hit the Wall St guy on the head with a rock, we should identify what controls society should improve, build social safety nets, educate people, teach Wall St bankers moral philosophy, and so forth.

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    4. Consider that our understanding of “revenge” is probably an evolved behavior, based on the simplistic kind of cause-and-effect that would have existed among early humans living in marginal societies without civilization.

      For me this theory seems likely to be true. There are many behaviors which helped our cave-dwelling ancestors to survive, but now are harmful in the modern world. It was beneficial for our often starving ancestors to eat all the sweet food they could find. Now this desire to overeat leads to heart diseases and sooner death. Another such example could be in-group bias. It made sense in a tribe, which had to fight against other tribes, but now it causes lots of unhappiness. For example, a study conducted at Lancaster University in the UK showed that fans of Manchester United were more likely to help an injured stranger on the street, if the stranger was wearing a Manchester United shirt than when she was wearing a Liverpool shirt or an ordinary unbranded shirt. If I get injured in a public place, I may not get any help, if my clothes are the wrong ones! Such behavior is absurd, yet that’s what happens.

      Same goes for revenge and aggression in general. It made sense in past, but not anymore. You mentioned one reason why revenge is useless now. The web of cause and effect is so wide, that I cannot know which person caused my misfortune. Also in some cases my misfortune is caused by many not just one person. In your example that would be thousands of bankers, regulators and lawmakers. In addition to this reason I can think of some more reasons.

      Revenge is useful in a small community where everybody knows each other. A neighbor steals my piece of meat, I beat up my neighbor, everybody in the tribe hears about the incident. I boost my reputation – now nobody in the tribe will steal from me again, because they know, that I am the wrong person to steal from. Nowadays, if a pickpocket steals my wallet, it makes no sense beating up the thief. In a city of million inhabitants my reputation won’t spread far. The next time I will encounter another pickpocket who knows nothing about my skills of beating up others.

      Another reason is the fact that we now have a police. In a tribe it is necessary to “teach” members to behave well. Somebody might think that it’s a great idea to steal some meat. Once she does that, somebody has to teach her the lesson that this idea was not so great. If no police exists, it’s usually the incentive of the victim to “teach the lesson”. Nowadays we have police instead. A victim can no longer influence how harsh will be the punishment for the thief. Police, judge and jail workers do everything in victim’s place.

      we should identify what controls society should improve, build social safety nets

      Yes, those are good ideas. Sadly it wasn’t done. Bad laws and lack of regulations caused the crisis, but lobbies were so influential, that nothing much got changed. I suspect that this won’t end well.

      educate people

      If you mean educating lawmakers and regulators, then that might help. But then again, lawmakers and bankers are best friends, so lawmakers won’t care about what’s good for the rest of society. If you mean educating the society, then that’s hopeless. Majority of people are stupid. It’s hopeless to try educating them. People’s illiteracy about how economics works is astonishing (I have tried debating economics related questions with non-economists, and they couldn’t understand even the very basics).

      teach Wall St bankers moral philosophy

      I think that this would be useless.

      Did reading moral philosophy improve your behavior? Your essays on morals ended with a conclusion that morality does not exist, so the only thing for us left to do is doing whatever makes sense. How such conclusion can improve one’s behavior? I know it does force you to think about who you care for. And, once you think about what you do, you may realize they your behavior is hypocritical. The problem is that for majority of people thinking is not enough to improve their behavior.

      Dan Ariely conducted some experiments, where participants were given an opportunity to cheat and steal some money from the researchers. Majority of participants cheated. And these were participants with strong moral convictions that stealing is wrong. In another version of the same experiment participants were forced to recall their moral convictions shortly before being given an opportunity to cheat. In this condition, nobody cheated. The effect of being reminded about morals lasted for a few minutes. People do have strong convictions that stealing is wrong. They just quickly forget them.

      Besides forgetting their moral convictions, people are also incredibly good with rationalizing their bad behavior. Consider this joke:

      “Little Johnny comes home from school with a note from his teacher saying that he stole a pencil from his classmate. His father is furious. “Johnny, you never never never never steal a pencil from a classmate. This is unacceptable. I can’t believe you did this. You’re grounded for two weeks. And besides, you know that if you ever need a pencil, you can just say something. You can just mention it and I’ll bring you dozens of pencils from the office.””

      Some people go even further to rationalize their bad behavior. Consider Ayn Rand and her fans. They consider themselves good and perfectly moral people, but this whole notion is based on false assumptions about how economics works (“poor people are poor only because they are too lazy to work”). Apparently Ayn Rand never heard about the facts that education is inaccessible for majority of the poor, that banks prefer to lend money to real estate speculators rather than new businesses, so it’s not that easy to start a new business without money, that whether your business fails or thrives depends on luck rather than your willingness to work hard, that price dumping exists and can destroy new/small businesses, that employees are often forced to work for unfairly small wages (“you either accept the salary dictated by our huge corporation or you become unemployed and starve to death”) etc.

      Besides, abstract concepts and philosophical ideas do not work when it comes to convincing others to change their behavior. For example, I could make a perfectly rational and well argumented speach about why rich people have a duty to help the poor. Unfortunately nobody would care about such arguments. This is why charity organisations instead just show photos of the poor and hungry children. Another similar example is animal rights activists. They don’t talk about why animals must be given rights, they just use emotionally laden words (for example, “abolitionism”) and show a video of an injured animal in a factory farm.

      As for me, I have read a lot of texts about moral philosophy. It was extremely interesting to read, but it did not improve my behavior. It just made me realize that there are many things I don’t really care for enough to actually do something. And it made me decide that I do not strive to be a “good person” as defined by some people. I just do whatever makes sense.

      By the way, one thing I love about your comments is how rich your vocabulary is. Nowadays I rarely encounter new English words in Internet. Even native speakers often know and use very small amount of words. I first realized this at school when my classmates were constantly asking me to define words unknown for them. And now my university classmates are still doing the same. Recently they surprised me by not knowing such (in my opinion widely used) word as “secular”.

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  8. Per: http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2014/07/23/arizona-inmates-execution/13071211/

    PHOENIX — The Wednesday afternoon execution of convicted murderer Joseph Rudolph Wood III took nearly two hours, confirming concerns that had been raised by his attorneys about a controversial drug used by the state of Arizona.

    Wood remained alive at Arizona’s state prison in Florence long enough for his public defenders to file an emergency motion for a stay of execution with the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, after the process began at 1:53 p.m. MST. The motion noted that Wood “has been gasping and snorting for more than an hour” after being injected with a lethal cocktail of drugs.

    According to Arizona Republic reporter Michael Kiefer, who witnessed the execution, lines were run into each of Wood’s arms. After Wood said his last words, he was unconscious by 1:57 p.m. At about 2:05, he started gasping, Kiefer said.

    “I counted about 660 times he gasped,” Kiefer said. “That petered out by 3:33. The death was called at 3:49.”

    These are not accidents. If they wanted to kill quickly and painlessly, there are better ways.

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    1. From the same article:

      Jeanne Brown, sister of Debra Dietz and daughter of Eugene Dietz, whom Wood was convicted of murdering, witnessed the execution. She said it sounded more like Wood was snoring than gasping for air.

      “What I saw with him today being executed — this was nothing,” she said.

      Brown said what Wood experienced Wednesday did not compare to the pain her family has suffered for the past 25 years.

      “You don’t know what excruciating is — seeing your dad lying there in a pool of blood … This man deserved it,” she said.

      It looks like I am not the only person desiring revenge. Daughter of the murdered person seems to desire revenge too.

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