Why shouldn’t we kill?

After our discussion in class on the death penalty, I happened upon an AlaskaDispatch.com opinion piece on the issue in Alaska and the complexities that this author identifies, “Alaska death penalty debate far more complex than meets the eye.” The first portion of Wev Shea’s article outlines an horrendous case where he tried and attempted (but failed) to get the death sentence here in Alaska.

The second bit is much more interesting to me. He outlines the systemic factors that we should take into account when considering the death penalty for Alaska. These include factors such as:

  • an underfunded criminal justice system and law enforcement system
  • inexperienced practitioners in the legal system
  • overly politicized Attorney General and opinionated District Attorneys

Basically, Shea points to these systemic and structural failings as “reason” to reconsider. Similarly to our discussion in class, the morality of the issue is pushed to side in favor of debating the pragmatic battle of costs and equity. I found a great resource that discusses the flaws in this approach hosted at the University of Alaska Anchorage Justice Center site.

The answer, I think, lies not in that we are discussing capital punishment, but in how we are discussing it. We have, in our country, an obsession with efficiency, one that easily transcends our concern with less-pragmatic values. Different people have come up with different names and reasons for this phenomenon, but almost all agree that it exists, and it is fair to say that this obsession has successfully constricted the parameters of our discussion on capital punishment. The debate that rages today is an appeal to our practical sense, with supporters arguing that the death penalty works and opponents rushing to prove them wrong. The opponents are right, of course, but they are winning the argument on the wrong terms. They have won in the language of the death penalty, and legitimized it in the process. They have said we’re spending too much money, possibly killing the wrong people, and not deterring crime. Underlying this is a tacit acceptance: if we can spend less money, deter crime, make sure we kill the right people, this thing might just be okay. Such is the culture of efficiency: so concerned have we become about whether it works that we have forgotten to ask whether it should exist at all.

Made perfect sense to me. Ruffle anyone’s feathers?

Our nation’s sustainability

In a post on Everyday Sociology Sally Raskoff discusses our countries newfound relationship with the word sustainability. She makes it clear that we have not always been the first to jump on environmentally friendly policies and our sheer consumption of the world’s resources is a clear depiction of how we view them…never ending. More recently though we have turned being “green” into a new fad. From electric cars to celebrity hosted shows on how to make you home more eco-friendly, pop-culture has adopted environmentalism as its new pet.

However, when discussing a capitalistic society that lives and plans from quarter to quarter the meaning of sustainability reaches beyond the scope of natural resources, it can be applied to the basic existence of our country. Basic capitalism states that constant growth must always be present for the economy to survive. How is it possible to keep growing and using more amounts of resources than we are today? Eventually sources of trees, fresh water, and soil will all be depleted and the waste from our cars and factories will increase to levels we are not prepared as a nation to deal with. How is it possible for our economy to survive after consumer levels drop drastically? Once people don’t have anything left to consume and production levels cannot be maintained there wont be capitalism. This issue raises the point that our country eventually will have to face the facts about itself and not mask them with a celebrity campaign band-aid.

I have been learning about the power of fear and how its used by the media and government to control people in a Psychology class. Why is it that the things we really need to be afraid of are rarely mentioned in the news?  And yet the headlines are constantly littered with stories about the octuplet mom and dramatized accounts of rare violent acts.  When I make the mistake of stumbling onto the Fox News channel I hear so much propaganda about how America is going to become a Socialist nation and how the economy is doing so poorly due to President Obama’s stimulus package, etc. I know Fox News is a bad example of good journalism (how much merit does anything Rupert Murdoch owns have?) however, I cant help but see the lack of attention every news network (and the majority of the public for that matter) pays to the declining reality of our nation’s sustainability.

Genuine Talent or Political Correctness?

Penn Wins Oscar for Milk Performance

The 2009 Academy Awards event this Sunday was in many ways impregnated by a sense of self-controlling polite modesty (with the contenders half-expecting Slumdog Millionaire to win all of the awards), with winches of indisputable grief (the whole audience was left in mourning tears when the late Heath Ledger was awarded the Oscar for his marvelous performance as Joker in The Dark Knight), but also the omnipresent political connotations of the show.

The instance that stands out most was, perhaps, the Oscar given to Sean Penn for his performance in Milk. The movie portrays the story of Harvey Milk, who was the first (openly) homosexual to be elected to a public office in the United States back in the 1970s. This theme comes very contextually close to the political mindset that is sweeping California (and especially Hollywood) on the topic of gay marriages. Proposition 8, a measure ballot that was voted on in November of last year, restricted the concept of marriage to heterodox couples in California, thus placing a question mark on the validity of marriages between same-sex couples previously allowed in that state. The proposition was attacked by many demonstrations, and a hearing on its constitutionality will be held this year in the California Supreme Court, which has the power to overrule it.

Sean Penn’s victory in the most prestigious movie contest in the world shows the tremendous support against Proposition 8 in Hollywood. Milk also received a second Oscar for the most original script, whose author (Dustin Lance Black) is a homosexual. He praised Penn’s performance, stating that

Sean physically inhabited the body and soul of Harvey Milk.

Apart from the moral debate over gay marriages, this nomination once again shows how much the Academy cherishes its self-created image of political activism. The integrity of the institution, and of the actors in general is put in the uncomfortable situation where people would begin to ask whether Sean Penn’s Oscar was awarded based on artistic performance, or rather on political grounds… This certainly would take away from the image of Sean Penn’s work (an undeniably fantastic actor overall), for one could not precisely understand what was the real reason behind Penn’s victory; as some would argue that Mickey Rourke would have genuinely deserved the award instead.

Octomom it is…

I caved.

Admittedly, I haven\’t been following all of the sensationalized accounts of the sperm donor, the ex-husband, the mother and their fighting, the home issue…but a Newsweek opinion piece this week by Dr. Mark Evans, director of Comprehensive Genetics in New York, caught my attention and seems to address an underlying issue within this artificially fertile saga – the recent onslought of multiple births due to fertility treatments and the medical advances that allow for closer to 100% survival of the implanted embryos that survive to fetuses (or in Dr. Evans\’ story, 50%-33% selective survival).

More than 20 years ago, I got a phone call from a distressed colleague. One of his patients, a woman only 4 feet 10, was pregnant with quadruplets. He felt, and I agreed, that she had virtually no chance of having a healthy pregnancy. He recommended that she consider terminating and trying again. But she had spent seven years trying to get pregnant. She asked him if anyone could do \”half an abortion.\” He said he didn\’t know, but he called me. I am an obstetrician and medical geneticist who specializes in developing new prenatal screening and diagnostic tests. I told my friend that as far as I knew, \”half an abortion\” had never been done in the U.S. But with the woman\’s life at stake—and all four babies—we had nothing to lose. I did the procedure, which we called selective reduction. Today, her twins are young adults.

Reduction will always be controversial. A woman has an abortion because she wants—for whatever reason—to not have a child. But women who have reductions are often desperate to have children. In high-risk situations, reduction may be the best way—sometimes the only way—for that to happen. I realize that in the minds of pro-lifers, this reasoning is flawed. But if performing this procedure means that couples who have suffered years of anguish can have their own healthy children, I\’ll take all the criticism I get.

So many ethical frontiers are being forged with technological advances creating new questions, new issues of morality, new issues of legality. It\’s a little dizzying.

To add to my confusion, this villainized woman who is allegedly living off of the state and who now has 14 children to raise seems to be a charming person that loves her kids…

***Update***

Well…apparently these guys did not see Nadya Suleman come off in the interview the same way I did…

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Health Issues of the “Greatest” Country on Earth

I used to be a smoker. I quit in december after two years of smoking and right now I still get cravings for cigarettes. The reason that I quit smoking is because people have told me that it is bad for my health. I will not argue that. However, with the growing causes of health issues, we should start wondering what is healthy and what isnt. There have been cases in the past where vegetarian joggers drop dead at age 40 from heart attacks, and at the same time a 250 pound smoker lives to the age of 90 and dies of old age. If it is a question of why, the answer is simple, we are all different. This is what Lewis Black talks about in his five minute rant. Not only does he mention that Americans should stop considering themselves the greatest country on earth, but we should also consider the health issues that we have. We cant be listening to what the media tells us about what is healthy and what isnt. It is possible that for someone, cigarettes can be a positive thing to their body. Im not saying that we should all run to the store and load up on Camel Lights, but I am saying that maybe its time to put the brocolli down for a second and think. Will it really do ya good? And finally I will say NO THAT BURGER ONCE IN A WHILE WILL NOT HURT YOU!!!!

11 year old shoots dad’s pregnant fiance

What has gotten into kids these days? Why are we giving our children access to guns? I’m all for teaching your kids gun safety, and even teaching them the proper way to fire a gun. However, after reading crazy stories like this one, I really start to think guns should be locked up in households containing children.It really is sad that it has come to this, but some safety precautions need to be taken. When I was a kid (not really that long ago) I never would have dreamed of shooting someone. We played with BB guns and paintball guns and never had any problems. We knew the proper way to handle a gun, and knew never to point it at someone. What has changed in so few years?

Not only will the life of this 11 year old boy be forever changed, but the boy’s father’s 26 year old fiance had two small children an well. They now get to grow up without their mother. In all honesty, I’m glad the boy is going to be charged as an adult. He shot the lady then went to school as if nothing happened. Even though they say they don’t know what his motive is, there had to be something going on in that boy’s head. If he could make such a rash decision, he needs help.

Education in Games?

I found this to be interesting, since this is one of the most talked about issues by parents. Some people say that certain games have some educational value by using technical skils such as problem solving, mathematics, problem-solving skills, etc. This comes from Excite.com, which I look at everyday to find something new. This is one of the rare articles that I find that gives me somewhat of a surprise, but yet, in a way it does not. I find that video games have a somewhat psychological effect on teenagers and children just because of those small reasons, but I am not sure how much of a big difference that makes to the real world. Also, if you are going to sit for hours at home, like one teenager did in the article and go from straight A’s to failing class, then that is where people draw the line and say that video games are bad for you and your lifestyle. There is also a major positive social effect that goes on, which I believe is a good thing AND also a bad thing. The good, being that you can connect with people all around the world and meet people that you have many things in common with. The bad thing is, you don’t know what kind of people you can meet behind the computer screen. They can be any lonely person that still lives with their parents or in a house alone or just be a regular kid, which it usually is. The researchers in this article try to find the psychological and the sociological effects of how this can/might effect the long-term cognitive issues with kids and games. I just found it interesting how they look into the the positve of this situation.