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Over Easy: Tinkering With the Machinery of Death

3:51 am in Uncategorized by Crane-Station

“[f]rom this day forward, I no longer shall tinker with the machinery of death.”

-United States Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun, dissenting, in an order denying Petition for certiorari, in a routine death penalty case in Texas, Callins v Collins.

Good morning and welcome to Over Easy. Yesterday in Connecticut, the State Supreme Court heard arguments “in a high-stakes case that could see Connecticut’s prospective abolition of the death penalty thrown out.”

Nearly a year ago to the day, on April 25, 2012, Connecticut Governor Dannel P. Malloy signed into law a bill that repealed the death penalty, “making his state the 17th state — the 5th in five years — to abolish capital punishment.” If the death penalty was repealed, obviously, the repeal would apply to all future convictions, hence the term “prospective” in the phrase “prospective abolition.” The legal issue is, does the law apply to people who were convicted and sentenced to death before the new law? Is it, or is it not, retroactive? I reject the following morally indefensible arguments: 1. that the change was a mere procedural change in sentencing, which would not reach back in time, and 2. the change did not affect substantive rights.

We are talking about whether people have the right to live or die. How is execution not affecting a substantive right? Furthermore, how could and why would anybody manipulate the language or anything else surrounding killing, for political gain or for lessening political losses? Unacceptable.

Connecticut Supreme Court Considers Executions After Death Penalty Repeal

On April 23, the Connecticut Supreme Court will consider whether the 11 inmates who remained on the state’s row after the legislature voted to repeal the death penalty in 2012 can still be executed. Mark Rademacher, an attorney for one of the inmates, argued that the legislature’s repeal of the death penalty demonstrated the punishment is no longer necessary and, hence, executing his client would be cruel and unusual punishment. Rademacher also asserted that the law’s prospective nature violates the equal protection clause of the Constitution because it singles out a small group of defendants for the death penalty, while dictating a life sentence for defendants in similar situations. Brian Stull, of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Capital Punishment Project, noted in his amicus brief that, “No state has executed a prisoner after repealing the death penalty. We just think it’s so important for the court to know Connecticut would be the first state to, and that’s not a stat any state wants to take.” The state has argued it was the clear intent of the legislature to only have the law apply to future cases.

I honestly feel as if we are living in a lunatic asylum, with an argument before a state’s highest Court, about whether abolished state-sponsored execution is still okay, for some people. Consider the last statement in the above blockquote. It says: “The state has argued it was the clear intent of the legislature to only have the law apply to future cases.” Legislative ‘intent’ does not matter, unless there is language in the statute, but apparently, there is language. With that language, however, is also the following reported lawmaker ‘concession:’

Assistant Public Defender Mark Redemacher argued that the death penalty, which continues to apply to the 11 men on death row, but not for any future murderers, is unconstitutional because it is arbitrary and abolition of the death penalty should apply across the board.

Lawmakers have conceded, however, that the prospective aspect was necessary in order to ensure enough votes at a time when adjudication of the two defendants in the triple murder of the Cheshire Petit family home invasion case was still raw.

This article reports today that the repeal occurred “after Joshua Komisarjevsky and Steven Hayes were sentenced to lethal injection for killing a mother and her two daughters in a 2007 home invasion in Cheshire that made national headlines.”

The horrendous home invasion triple murder occurred close in time to when the lawmakers wanted to repeal the death penalty. Considering it politically unpalatable to not have the death penalty apply to this egregious ‘poster-child-for-the-death-penalty’ triple murder, they settled for half a loaf and survived politically by crafting some incredibly fucked up language where they got caught up tinkering with the machinery of death.

While Justice Blackmun is well-known for the words framed in blockquotes, he actually said more:

[February 22, 1994]

Justice Blackmun , dissenting.

On February 23, 1994, at approximately 1:00 a.m., Bruce Edwin Callins will be executed by the State of Texas. Intravenous tubes attached to his arms will carry the instrument of death, a toxic fluid designed specifically for the purpose of killing human beings. The witnesses, standing a few feet away, will behold Callins, no longer a defendant, an appellant, or a petitioner, but a man, strapped to a gurney, and seconds away from extinction.

Within days, or perhaps hours, the memory of Callins will begin to fade. The wheels of justice will churn again, and somewhere, another jury or another judge will have the unenviable task of determining whether some human being is to live or die. We hope, of course, that the defendant whose life is at risk will be represented by competent counsel–someone who is inspired by the awareness that a less than vigorous defense truly could have fatal consequences for the defendant. We hope that the attorney will investigate all aspects of the case, follow all evidentiary and procedural rules, and appear before a judge who is still committed to the
protection of defendants’ rights–even now, as the prospect of meaningful judicial oversight has diminished.

The rest of Justice Blackmun’s short but powerful dissent is here.

Best place for updates on this topic is likely the Death Penalty Information Center.

Here is the page with ten links to news articles published in the last couple of days.

Over Easy: Recalling the American Dream

3:54 am in Uncategorized by Crane-Station

dad at pearl harbor

Ray Owings, age 90, at Pearl Harbor in March, 2013

In case you missed it:

Good morning! This is a true account of the early years in a WWII veteran’s life, as told by Ray Owings, age 90. Ray talks about the American Dream. Is such a concept possible today? I have always associated it with being able to ‘do better,’ ie live more comfortably, than our prior generations through hard work. The other part of it, in my mind, is some type of education, but others may not share this broad definition. On that topic, I’ll share a link about how teachers and immigrant students in a high school in Portland are working with the many challenges they face today:

“Imagine moving to Moscow right now, and after a month there you had to learn science in Russian,” David Douglas High teacher Nathan Owings says of the school’s immigrant students. “How would you do?”

Miracle on 135th Avenue
A Portland high school where students speak 55 languages shows Oregon how to reform education.

Recalling the American Dream

Some may call what took place over my lifetime the American Dream. You hear that term, but no one ever gets to the nitty-gritty of how that was obtained. To do that, I think it is necessary to begin at the beginning. When I look over my life, I can divide it into segments, each lasting about twenty years.

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Over Easy: First Line Last Line

5:09 am in Uncategorized by Crane-Station

Woman writing in journal

The hardest part of writing is making yourself sit down to write.

Of the many first blog post lines I have ever read, I think that yesterday’s Over Easy first line was one of the best:

Yesterday I was up against a wall.

After reading that first line, I had to read the post, because I could not help but wonder what this author was experiencing. Turns out Kris was facing a bit of writer’s block:

Suffering from a bit of writer’s block even. I could not come up with a topic for today’s post that stirred my passion as an activist, a person, a parent… anything. My only semi-solid thought was a post about gun control, but it seems like such a large and complex issue.

By coincidence, I was in the same position over the weekend, so I decided to share a few writing tips that I have learned, and invite others to share as well.

Keep this fun site in mind as well, because it impossible not to learn and enjoy while you visit.

I was in this position because I have been researching my legal case, and writing an ineffective-assistance-of-counsel claim (11.42 in Kentucky) against my trial lawyer. I was experiencing writer’s block for online essays, because I have been doing formulaic legal writing for the past month.

To get out of the legal writing mindset and return to the fun of writing, I phoned my retired-English-teacher elderly mother over the weekend and asked her to reflect on the worst of the worst that she observed in writing over the years, and with that in mind, share her handful of key writing tips for anyone covering any topics. My mother, Letty Owings, is 88 years old, and here is what she offers:

1. Begin with whatever you begin with.

If you are writing about your recent trip to Hawaii, for example, do not begin with “We decided to go to Hawaii,” because you obviously decided to go to Hawaii or you wouldn’t have gone there! Letty uses the Christmas letter as an example of where one might see unnecessary overstatements of the obvious: “This year has gone by so fast. Here it is Christmas and I don’t have anything ready.” The year obviously went by, or else it wouldn’t be Christmas!

2. Be careful with adverbs.

The adverb “very” is terrible, according to Letty. For effective embellishment, replace the adverb “very” with an adjective. For example, rather than say “very hot,” say “scorching” and leave it at that. Do not be tempted to turn scorching into an adverb by saying “scorching hot,” because the adverb diminishes. Also, anything that ends in an -ly is an adverb that can diminish through unnecessary overstatement and redundancy. For example, a “brutally horrific murder” is a murder, and what murder is nice and polite? Are not all murders horrific? A better way to embellish would be to say, “She was tortured and bludgeoned.”

3.The Dreaded “It”

The dummy subject ‘it,’ followed by the ‘be’ word ‘very’ can kill, especially at a post beginning. While sometimes the only or best word at the time, rather than say: “it was a very horrific scene with marbles in the aisle,” try, “When I ran to an exit, I slipped in marbles and fell on my back.”

4. Omit Omit Omit

As Strunk and White insist in their classic Elements of style, OMIT needless words, making cuts and edits, thus allowing meaning, rather than overwriting. Growing up with my mother, she red-penned my writing and deleted my thesaurus enhanced writing. Oh the shouting, crying, vows never to write again, but rather leave home and submit my sophomoric screeds to caring folks who were, for the most part, more interested in weed that in essays.

What are your favorite first lines, from fiction or nonfiction? I offer two, for hooks that one cannot avoid but reading on:

This is what happened, — “The Mist,” by Stephen King.


We were somewhere around Barstow when the drugs began to kick in. — Hunter S. Thompson

Share your writing tips, secrets, marketing techniques, style, where to get ideas, share some concepts, or anything else bout blogging/ news linking, as well you your experience with writer’s block! Improv/warmup ideas, anything on writing of on any topic, please join!

Also, what first lines last lines are memorable for you?

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Over Easy: Decorah Eagles 2013 and Arctic Updates

4:57 am in Uncategorized by Crane-Station

The Decorah Eagles

A bald eagle

The Decorah Eagles use the Wi-Fi in their auxiliary nest to check in on the Over Easy thread.

Although the Decorah Bald Eagle Livecam is up and running, we may not be able to watch the Decorah pair this season because they have built an auxiliary nest that is outside the camera’s view. “That’s what eagles do,” said Bob Anderson, of the Raptor Resource Project. “They build auxiliary nests.”

They pair will choose one of the nests in the next couple of weeks. More here, where Raptor Resource adds, “We would really like Mom and Dad to use the nest they have occupied for so long, but we cannot and will not interfere if they decide to use the new nest. As we said in an earlier post on intervention, their lives are a gift we have been privileged to share. We can only hope we’ll get another chance in 2013.”

Last season was both joyful and heartbreaking for the Decorah Eagles. The pair, together since 2007 and using a nest 80 feet high near a fish hatchery in Decorah, Iowa, had three chicks last year, D12, D13 and D14. Tragically, D12 and D14 were both electrocuted. The body of the oldest eaglet (D12) was found in July, 2012. D14, the only eaglet fitted with a transmitter was found in November, 2012, when the transmitter showed no movement.

“Unfortunately, a federal study done in the 1990s identified impact injuries, poisoning, gunshot and electrocution as the top four sources of bald eagle mortality,” said Anderson. D14′s body will be sent to the National Eagle Repository, where his feathers and other parts will be distributed for use in Native American religious ceremonies. Eaglet D13′s whereabouts are unknown.

Some efforts to advocate for bird safe power poles and protect eagles and other birds from electrocution:

Raptor Resource Project Blog Bird Safe Power Poles

Avian Power Line Interaction Committee (APLIC)

How Protection Devices Work

Raptor Resource Project Blog (with Annual Report for 2012 and updates for all of the birds)

The Arctic

You may want to come back when you have 15 minutes, and watch this haunting but informative short film, to understand some history about climate change and Geopolitics – North from Studiocanoe on Vimeo:

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