“Funn” by White Reaper
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Mieko Hirota, “Kaze To Otoko No Ko”
This is from a Big Beat compilation called Nippon Girls: Pop, Beat & Bossa Nova 1966-70, chronicling the development of Group Sounds, Japan’s answer to the Rock & Roll of the West.
This particular track—it’s called “風とオトコのコ”—is from Mieko Hirota, AKA Miko-chan. She grew up in Tokyo listening to American Jazz broadcast from the radio station on the local Army base. She wanted to sing. When she was expelled from the Yoyogi Music School for having “too harsh a voice,” she gave not one fuck and became a Pop singer, selling a fuck-ton of records before she got signed by Columbia and was finally able to return to her childhood passion: Jazz. She was, in fact, the first Japanese artist to play the Newport Jazz Festival, in 1965. She must have made one hell of an impression, because apparently Ella Fitzgerald wanted to adopt her.
Arguments Against The Death Penalty
Brutalization: The brutalization effect is a theory based on the idea that executions devalue human life and “demonstrate that it is correct and appropriate to kill those who have gravely offended us” (Bowers & Pierce, 1980:456). The hypothesis of this theory is that capital punishment actually increases the number of homicides in society. Several studies have examined this idea and have found either no evidence for a brutalization effect (Cochran, Chamlin, & Seth, 1994; Cochran & Chamlin, 2004) or a minor brutalization effect directly after an execution (King, 1978; Stack, 1987). Thus, the research is mixed and unclear on the issue of whether executions can send the message that human life is less valuable and therefore make it more acceptable to kill.
Deterrence: The deterrent effect supposes that executions send a message to potential criminals and reduce crime through the threat of severe punishment. There is a large amount of research on whether executions actually deter crime or not. Generally the evidence is conflicting, with some studies indicating that there is a deterrent effect (Cochran & Chamlin, 2000; Stack, 1987; Cloniger & Marchesini, 2001) and some that there is not (Seth, 1994; Bailey, 1998; Sorenson, Wrinkle, Brewer, & Marquart., 1999; Stolzenberg & D’Allesio, 2004). Researchers often debate the most appropriate research methods to use and the statistical methods best suited to the issue. Therefore, one study using certain methods will find a deterrent effect and another will not. In general, there is no strong evidence for or against deterrence. Some argue that capital punishment might only have an effect on planned murders, while other serious violent crimes are often done in the heat of the moment when one does not think about the consequences (Carlington, 1978).
Religion: The major faiths of the world have varied perspectives on the death penalty. One of the more common bible quotes raised in this issue is “An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth” (New International Bible, 2010, Exodus 21:23-25). This could be interpreted to mean that if someone has deliberately planned and committed the murder of an innocent person, then taking the life of the person who took a life is just. Conversely, Jesus is quoted as saying “whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also” (New International Bible, 2010, Mat. 5:38-39). This could be interpreted to mean that if someone harms you do not retaliate and harm them back. There are many arguments that could be made for or against the death penalty using Christian principles and texts. There is no clear consensus among Christian leaders.
Similarly, other religions have complex views on the issue, which might be interpreted in many different ways. Chapter 10 of the Dhammapada, a major Buddhist text, states that “everyone fears punishment; everyone fears death, just as you do. Therefore do not kill or cause to kill. Everyone fears punishment; everyone loves life, as you do. Therefore do not kill or cause to kill.” This quote clearly argues that killing others for punishment is not the answer. Alternatively however, “if the suffering of many disappears because of the suffering of one, then a compassionate person should induce that suffering for the sake of others” (Wallace & Wallace, 1997). This clearly argues that making one person suffer to alleviate the suffering of many is just. Similar arguments for and against the death penalty are present throughout other religions such as Hinduism and Islam.
Capital Punishment as Inhumane, Cruel and Unusual Punishment: Some consider the death penalty to constitute cruel and unusual punishment. The long waiting period; having to sit in jail for many years, sometimes fifteen or twenty, awaiting multiple appeals, knowing that you have been sentenced to die; is cruel enough in itself for some to oppose the death penalty. Death row phenomenon, the harmful effects experienced from solitary confinement while on death row, and death row syndrome, the resulting psychological harm that can occur as a consequence of living on death row, are two principles opponents of the death sentence cite as evidence of cruelty (Harrison & Tamony, 2010). Both experiences involve extensive trauma that can have long lasting psychological consequences, especially for a person who is later exonerated or has their sentence commuted to life. There are currently 3,261 people on death row in the United States. The three states with the most people on death row are California with 697, Florida with 398, and Texas with 337 (Fins, 2010).
During executions things have been known to go wrong that put the offender through a great deal of pain. In 1983, Jimmy Lee Gray was put to death in the gas chamber. The gas did not seem to have an effect upon him and eight minutes later Gray was still alive banging his head against a steel pipe (Clark, 1995). John Wayne Gacy was still alive for 18 minutes after he was given a lethal injection. The poison usually kills in less than five minutes but the IV tubes intended to carry the poison to Gacy clogged and had to be replaced. Some argue that the extended time of imminent death constitutes torture (Seideman, 1994). In May 1990, Jesse Tafero was executed in Florida. The electric chair malfunctioned and his head caught on fire before he was killed (McGarrahan, 1990). Opponents of capital punishment cite these examples as evidence that it is cruel and inhuman.
Chance That Innocent People May be Executed: There are many cases of wrongful convictions in Canada in which, if they had been cases prior to the abolishment of the death penalty, those wrongfully convicted could have faced the death penalty. For instance, David Milgaard was sentenced to life in prison in January of 1970 and spent 23 years in prison before being exonerated of murder in 1997 (CBC, 2008a). One of the more famous cases in Canada of wrongful convictions is that of Steven Truscott. Truscott, 14, was sentenced to hang on December 8, 1959 for the murder of a classmate. His hanging was postponed to February to allow for an appeal. Prior to the appeal his death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment. In 2007 he was formally acquitted of all charges (CBC, 2008b). With the presence of the death penalty in Canada it is possible that these innocent men could have been executed.
In the United States there are dozens of cases of people who have been on death row but later found innocent or had their sentences commuted to life imprisonment, sometimes quite close to the date of their execution (Capital Defense Network, 2002). Randall Adams was sentenced to death in Texas in 1977 and exonerated in 1989 within one week of his execution. In Florida, William Jent and Ernest Miller were released from prison 16 hours before they were to be executed in 1988 (Radelet, Bedau, Putnam, 1992). Some argue that this shows the system works while others argue the fact they were convicted but were really innocent in the first place means the system is flawed. A review of 350 executions in the U.S. found that 23 persons who had been executed were believed to be innocent (Radelet, Bedau, Putnam, 1992; Margolick, 1985). This review is highly contested however by the U.S. Justice Department and some media reviewing the issue (Radelet & Bedau, 1998; Markman, 1994). On the other side, it is also argued that with the increase in technology such as DNA evidence, the chances of wrongful convictions today are very slim.
Cost of Capital Punishment vs. Life Imprisonment: A common argument against life imprisonment is that it costs a lot of money to keep someone in jail for their entire lives. In fact, capital punishment costs more due to the extensive appeal process. According to some, capital punishment costs too much and since life in prison still protects society and still gives victims justice, that life in prison is the better option (Chicago Sun-Times, 2010). A report in the United States of all the cases where the federal death penalty was authorized between 1998 and 2004, found that “the median cost of a case in which the Attorney General authorized seeking the death penalty was nearly eight times greater than the cost of a case that was eligible for capital prosecution but in which the death penalty was not authorized;” approximately $465,000 compared to $45,000 (Gould & Greenman, 2010: p.ix). In the U.S., certain Federal offences such as terrorism are eligible for the death penalty and the prosecution in each case decides whether or not to pursue it. What was found in the report is that when the prosecution sought death the trial costs were considerably higher than when they did not.
Death Penalty and Race: Some argue that Black people are overrepresented on death row and because of this the death penalty system as a whole is racist. Blacks represented 41.7% of the death row population in 1996, 38.7% of all those executed since 1977 (McAdams, 1998), yet only 12.8% of the population according to the 1996 U.S. Census (U.S. Census, 1996). Alternatively however, looking at a different set of statistics showing the murders and manslaughters known to police in 1996, there were 4,405 white offenders and 5,121 black offenders (Sourcebook of Criminal Justice Statistics, 1996). This would indicate that black people, based on the number of black offenders committing homicides, are underrepresented on death row as they are more often charged with homicide and are thus proportionately sentenced to death less frequently. It is of course important to keep in mind that these statistics also indicate that black people are overrepresented as offenders of murder and manslaughter which is not directly related to the issue of capital punishment but suggests racism within the criminal justice system itself as whole.
Change in Murder Rate Since the Abolition of Capital Punishment: Some argue that since the murder rate was 1.3 per 100,000 people in Canada in 1961 and it is now 1.83 per 100,000 people as of 2008, the death penalty worked and should be reinstated. When the death penalty was a sentencing option the homicide rate in Canada was lower than it is now where the death penalty is not an option. The murder rate is higher today, but this is not necessarily the result of capital punishment. In 1976 the murder rate in Canada was 3.03 per 100,000, in 1985 it was 2.72 per 100,000, and in 1996 it was 2.14 per 100,000. The murder rate has changed over time and can fluctuate significantly from year to year. Yes, the homicide rate did rise considerably at the time of the abolition of the death penalty and it is possible that the rise and the abolition were related. Today, however, the rate has fallen considerably and fairly steadily over the past 35 years. Although it is not clear what contributed to the fall, it clearly was not the deterrent of the death penalty.
Rineke Dijkstra, Kolobrzeg, Poland, July 23 1992, 1992
From the Tate Gallery:
This is a large-format colour photograph of a boy standing on a beach. He stares intensely towards the camera, narrowing his eyes against the bright midday sun. His tousled black hair and the damp sand on his feet suggest that he has recently been in the sea. He holds his arms to his sides, his fingers touching his upper thighs. The boyish narrowness of his chest contrasts awkwardly with his broadening hips, which are clad in close-fitting red swimming trunks. A smattering of acne on his nose and chin confirms the onset of adolescence. The image is formally composed. Dijkstra used flash in combination with natural light and a narrow depth of field, placing only the foreground and subject in focus, with the result that he appears artificially illuminated. Framed full-length in the centre of the picture, he stands out against a backdrop made of bands of colour. Strong horizontals are provided by the edge of the sand, the breakers in the water and the line where sea meets deep blue sky. These are all below the boy’s waist, throwing into relief his slightly bandy legs and adding to the sense of gawky physical vulnerability.
Consider how textbooks treat Native religions as a unitary whole. The American Way describes Native American religion in these words: “These Native Americans [in the Southeast] believed that nature was filled with spirits. Each form of life, such as plants and animals, had a spirit. Earth and air held spirits too. People were never alone. They shared their lives with the spirits of nature.” Way is trying to show respect for Native American religion, but it doesn’t work. Stated flatly like this, the beliefs seem like make-believe, not the sophisticated theology of a higher civilization. Let us try a similarly succinct summary of the beliefs of many Christians today: “These Americans believed that one great male god ruled the world. Sometimes they divided him into three parts, which they called father, son, and holy ghost. They ate crackers and wine or grape juice, believing that they were eating the son’s body and drinking his blood. If they believed strongly enough, they would live on forever after they died.” Textbooks never describe Christianity this way. It’s offensive. Believers would immediately argue that such a depiction fails to convey the symbolic meaning or the spiritual satisfaction of communion.Lies My Teacher Told Me, James Loewen (via whoistorule)