So the vengeful masses are seething in a blind rage ever since outgoing Gov. George Ryan, who just happens to be a Republican, commuted every last Illinois death sentence. That’s 167 lives that won’t see death row.
Ever since it was reinstated in the mid-’70s, Americans have carried on an especially macabre love affair with the death penalty. We cling to the belief that it’s just, when it isn’t. Instead it’s slanted in favor of the rich, who can afford the best in criminal defense attorneys. We cling to the belief that it’s a deterrent to crime, when it isn’t. Per capita, the United States still ranks at the top of every category of violent crime in the industrialized world. The death penalty hasn’t made us any safer, only meaner. Revenge has its tricky ways, too. Once complete, its hollow emotional resonance only starves us when it pretends to feed a moral imperative.
The most bothersome angle on all this, from a journalistic perspective, was the media’s almost blanket omission of the forces that drove Gov. Ryan to his decision. The fact that Illinois ranks near the bottom of states with wrongful convictions and death penalty sentencing somehow escaped everyone. And there was scant mention of the fact that, over the years, 13 men were either freed from Illinois’ death row or freed altogether thanks, in part, to the work of some enterprising journalism students at Northwestern University. Illinois’ death penalty system was in disrepair, and Ryan had the courage to do something about it.
• Those complaining about our unusually mild winter thus far may want to take a gander at Russia and Scandinavia. So far this winter, a total of 239 Muscovites have frozen to death in record cold temperatures. And in Sweden, a dachshund hunting dog left in the cold made a tasty meal for a golden eagle. Under a special Swedish law, however, pet owners are compensated for such losses under a government program. That’s socialism for ya!
• When the United States wants a boycott or embargo on someone we don’t like, we go to that organization we love to hate, the United Nations. When the British and Australians want the same, they go to the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB). In the past, only apartheid South Africa was threatened with a boycott on hosting international cricket games. Now it’s Zimbabwe’s ruthless regime under Robert Mugabe that’s threatened with a boycott. That’s cricket!
• Utah is all giddy now that 1st District Rep. Rob Bishop got a coveted seat on the House Armed Services Committee, the entity overseeing our nation’s vast array of, shall we say, “weapons of mass destruction.” This position is entirely appropriate for a man who once compared concealed weapons regulations to Jim Crow laws.
• In a phone call to this reporter, the mayor was none too happy about City Weekly’s Jan. 9 article on the recent formation of Salt Lake City’s Civilian Review Board. “And you call yourselves a progressive publication!?” he huffed. Mayor Rocky Anderson says he spent months in negotiations and planning to work toward the day when the ordinance might be crafted and a board actually formed. The mayor would also like it known that his environmental programs will save the city $33,000 in electric bills, and have already made our city the state’s largest purchaser of wind power. Has this man got the re-election jitters, or what?