23 February 2014

US executioners' attitudes

I write and talk about executions because I lived in Texas and was truly astonished at the barbarism of the laws about death penalty. In fact, prior to my going to Texas, I had never thought about this. Texas taught me that even the most "civilized" states can have have laws that indicate that they are stuck back in time, hundreds of years ago. "How is that possible?", I kept asking and asking myself. Nobody wanted to actually discuss this. This is the worst of all: people do not want to speak about something so obvious, so irrational, so barbaric.What is worse, the executions are done, implicitly, in the name of religion, and, in fact, a very particular kind of religion: the kind of fundamentalism Christianity which permeates US, the one that is based on the evil part of the Old Testament.

Recently, the following article caught my attention. Dr Allen Ault, who was personally giving the final go ahead  for executions in the  State of Georgia, is now talking of the murders he committed.
I knew I killed another human being. Although an execution is state sanctioned it is, by any definition, probably the most premeditated of any murders. In most states, every execution in the coroner's report is listed as a homicide.
I understand him. I would feel the same. Dr Allan Ault's speeches about the barbaric State-sanctioned murders, are all over the Internet now.

Compare him with another death warden, Charles Thomas O'Reilly, of whom I've written before. He is the champion executioner, having given the go ahead in 140 State-sanctioned murdered (in the infamous Huntsville, in Texas. Texas has executed more than 500 people in "modern" times, i.e., since 1982. O'Reilly did 140 of them!)
 I have no reservations, no nightmares. I don't have any intentions of changing my mind, reflecting on how could I have ever done this stuf. If you think it's a terrible thing, you shouldn't be doing it in the first place. You don't do 140 executions and then all of a sudden think this was a bad thing.
Here is an article from an interview he gave when he retired.

Hanging in Texas
The 10 commandments in front of the Texas Capitol
The death bed in Huntsville, Texas


  1. I did a stint as a medical provider in a SuperMax (Monroe Corrections Complex IMU). I went in with liberal views on prison and out with more conservative views. Our inmates were horrible people.

    But I also changed my view about the death penalty. I was strongly against the death penalty on exiting that experience.
    But not because I am against premeditated murder.

    I am only against the state executing people because I don't want the state to have that power. If someone intentionally shot my son to kill him, I hunt him down and shoot him without a second thought. I'd want the state, if they caught him to do the same, but I would vote against such a law. The only problem I have against state execution is that it allows the execution of innocents. I'd let the guilty live to protect the few innocents.

    Why are you against state executions?

    1. It's a tough question. I was totally against state executions because I read that there are so many mistakes, especially in Texas. It appeared that there were several cases where the wrong people were convicted. Also, because I strongly feel one shouldn't kill no matter what. Of course, we change when things happen to us. And I understand you when you say you'd chase the intentional killer yourself. I don't know what I would do. At the moment, it appears that I would be unable to shoot the killer.

      Having said that, let me tell how I feel about death penalty more recently. I'm sure you've heard that couple of years ago a Norwegian extremist, Breivik, killed about 80 people near Oslo, in a shooting spree, most of whom were children. According to Norwegian law, he will spend 20 years in prison (and may, but it's not sure, get out then). In this case, I think he should be executed. Not only because of what he did, but also because he challenges the system saying "see? I can do whatever I like, kill me if you wish, but you can't". His life in prison is that of a person in holidays. He has 3 rooms on his own, a bedroom, a study room, and a gym. And, because he's in isolation, the Norwegian State hires social workers to keep him company. In such cases, I'd say, shoot him and get it over with.

      You had some personal experience as a medical provider in a prison. And, as you said, that changed you. I haven't. I've seen things only from the point of view of someone who's never been in contact with any prison or prisoner, and has only developed an opinion through the media and his own personal views.

  2. I suggest that to keep the argument clear, you should stick to your central argument. You said “I strongly feel one shouldn’t kill no matter what.” We disagree on that.

    So for you, the innocent argument of mine is not important.

    Norway is wasting money and people on that killer. Too bad they didn’t kill him on the spot.

  3. That's right. We disagree on that. I only said that I can envision circumstances that would make me change my view point.

    As for the guy, he explicitly said he thought it's a miracle that he survived. He had expected, and was determined, to die. But Norway, like Sweden, is not prepared for things like this. (Many police people were on holidays and, as usual in Nordic countries, everybody could find out when the police force would be at its minimum by just looking at the Internet.)

  4. Interesting. They should make his life very uncomfortable. One room, minimum. No need for human contact.

    1. His cell apparently looks like this. And that's just one of the 3 rooms.

      Another piece of trivia is that, last year, Breivik applied to become a student at Oslo University (political science, I think). He was rejected, not because he's a killer (I guess there's a law in Norway saying you can't discriminate...) but because he hadn't quite finished ordinary school, even though, they said, had devoted several months in his cell studying subjects such as mathematics. Breivik want to get a degree so he can run for office when (and if) he gets out of prison.

      Finally, one thing that few people know is that the day after the shootings, Breivik got a lot of support by several people in Sweden. So many, that the Swedish newspapers had to close their online sites for a day in order to delete the sympathy comments towards Breivik and in order to start moderating comments.

  5. Amazing
    So, are you for harsher treatment of criminals?
    What if the criminal is innocent.
    Damn, no easy answers.

  6. PS, I am ignoring your comment hierarchy -- you know what I feel about them -- pain in the butt

  7. Yes. I am all for harsher treatment of criminals. I think that just by putting the Breiviks in a cell means nothing. For some, a prison like this might be better than their miserable real life.

    (Sorry about the nested comments. I must find a way to disable that. Let me look... Thanks.)

  8. Are you for inhumane treatment of criminals? Or just minimalist?
    What if the criminal is wrongly incarcerated, gets out after minimalist treatment (or short sentence for unjust drug law) and now is turned into a harsher criminal?



What measure theory is about

It's about counting, but when things get too large.
Put otherwise, it's about addition of positive numbers, but when these numbers are far too many.

The principle of dynamic programming

max_{x,y} [f(x) + g(x,y)] = max_x [f(x) + max_y g(x,y)]

The bottom line

Nuestras horas son minutos cuando esperamos saber y siglos cuando sabemos lo que se puede aprender.
(Our hours are minutes when we wait to learn and centuries when we know what is to be learnt.) --António Machado

Αγεωμέτρητος μηδείς εισίτω.
(Those who do not know geometry may not enter.) --Plato

Sapere Aude! Habe Muth, dich deines eigenen Verstandes zu bedienen!
(Dare to know! Have courage to use your own reason!) --Kant