Sunday, April 29, 2007

Six Countries Responsible for More Than Nine of Ten Known Executions Last Year

The economist has an interesting piece on capital punishment, Here is they sting - More and more countries have doubts about the death penalty. One of the more interesting points in this gruesome accounting of world wide executions is that just six countries are responsible for more than 9 out of ten known executions last year.

Care to guess the six countries?

Oh, we're in good company on this regard, as many of you may have already guessed. The six countries responsible for more than 90% of executions are, in order of contribution, China, Iran, Pakistan, Iraq, Sudan and the United States. That's right. We were ahead of Saudi Arabia in total executions last year. Iraq jumped back into the top six after the death penalty was suspended after the invasion. Now, desertion from the Iraqi Army is punishable by death.

The article notes that the total number of executions varies wildly from year to year, but the number of countries that allow executions has

fallen steadily from 40 a decade ago to just 25 last year. Since 1985, 55 countries have ended the death penalty or, having already limited it to “extraordinary” crimes (such as those committed in wartime), have now banned it outright.

Seems that worldwide, there is a growing aversion to the death penalty. Even in the US, public sentiment is leaning toward a moratorium. After the botched lethal injection of Angel Diaz, even Florida (where Jeb seemed to be enjoying a little sibling rivalry with GW on this score) has suspended executions while the state looks into the "humanity and constitutionality" of lethal injections.

Even China, by far the world's biggest executioner, has made strides toward changing their methods and reducing the overall number.

Since January 1st all death sentences have had first to be approved by the Supreme People's Court—a practice that had been suspended after the launch of China's “strike hard” crackdown on crime in 2003, when publicly admitted executions soared to more than 7,000. In their annual report to parliament last month, representatives of China's chief legal bodies, including the Supreme People's Court, the public prosecutor's office and the ministries for justice and the police, urged a reduction in use of the death penalty (as well as torture).

Last month, a Chinese delegate to the UN Human Rights Council said he was confident the death penalty in China will be abolished, although some think this might be window dressing for the Olympics. The story reports that at least China is moving away from firing squads to lethal injection.

The US, Japan, India, South Korea, and Taiwan are the only democracies to still have the death penalty. To me, that provides hope that we can, at least in those countries, create a netroots opposition that will at least force candidates to address the issue. Considering that more than 120 people since 1973 have been found to have been wrongly sentenced to death, there is certainly a moral argument for a moratorium.

For me, though, the logical argument is still the best: I don't hit my kids when I tell them not to hit people.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Roscoe Lee Browne (1925 -2007)

I never met Roscoe Lee Browne, who died April 11, but here in the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles right now, they're holding a memorial service that is, well, astounding. What a man. Laurence Fishburne just finished speaking, a very moving speech, reminiscing about the time he spent with Browne, with whom he performed on this very stage in Two Trains Running.

Gordon Davidson, former Artistic Director of the Center Theater Group is speaking now, and coming up will be Sidney Poitier and Martin Sheen. When Gordon got up there, he said, "I'm Gordon Davidson, and I used to own this theater!"

If you head over to Browne's IMDB page, you'll see in the trivia section that he set the world record in the 800 meter run in 1952. His nephew, who's speaking now, said that when they were playing hide and seek, the other kids would make him wear over-sized sneakers. He was just that fast.

What will jump out at you, though, is the impressive list of work in TV and Film this man created. From what I'm gathering from this service so far, though, is that this incredible man was a creature of the theater. Check out his Internet Broadway Database page. Check out his Wikipedia page. Dig the education. Note the Shakespeare work.


In the big recording of life, it's tough to lay down that many great tracks.

I'll be posting some wav files of Mr. Browne as soon as I can get them uploaded.

Brenda Vaccaro is speaking now. She said that Roscoe gave her her first great compliment, when she was 18. He said, "If I were a woman, I'd want to be you."

Martin Sheen said he and his wife wanted to come see him in a play here, so she called him and said, "Roscoe, we want to come see the play but we don't know what night you're dark, and Roscoe said 'Dear, I'm dark every night.'"

Anthony Zerbe started to speak, so we thought Sidney Poitier wasn't here. Anthony said, well, since Sidney's not here, and a voice rose from house right "I'm here."

Zerbe: "Would you like to say something?"

Portier: "I would."

What an entrance! Standing ovation. I wish I could hear better. Our show program mic isn't picking him up very well, because he's looking down to read his notes. He said when he and Roscoe realized that their bones were getting brittle, they had to accept it with grace. They were in Atlanta 8 weeks ago to accept and award, and he looked around and realized that he and Roscoe were the most brittle. That got a big laugh.

Now back to Anthony Zerbe, who did Behind the Broken Words here with Roscoe. They toured every year to at least one theater for the last 38 years to do Broken Words. One time, in Washington State, they were late, went onto a stage they'd never been on. They didn't know where the audience was, because the first scene was completely dark.

Roscoe: "Where are they dear?"

Zerbe: "We'll just have to listen for them."

And he started to choke up.

"He was the noblest man I ever met."

"Politically he was the most succinct man I knew: 'They're all dummies, dear.'"

Zerbe said when they were choosing a poem for the end of Broken Words, he came across a terrific little poem, and said "Roscoe, this is a great poem. Who wrote it?"

Roscoe: "I did, dear."

Zerbe: "We have to end the show with this, and you have to read it."

Roscoe: "Oh, no, dear."

Zerbe: "Let me put it this way: No poem, no show."

So, Roscoe agreed. And, in the program for the show, where the poems and their authors were listed, he insisted that he be listed in the "demure" R.L. Browne.

R. L. Browne

If the birds do not come
I, whose wings are cleft
And whose gentle talons
Hold you fast to my breast
And from whose throat comes only
The coarse, grey, and grating cry
Of extremity - where no music is -
I, if the birds do not come,
Will sing to you...

If the birds do not come,
Will you who are Spring and
Flight and all Music,
Will you sing to me,
if the birds do not come?

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Vonnegut on the Daily Show

From Kurt Vonnegut on the Daily Show:

"I have wanted to give Iraq a lesson in democracy—because we’re experienced with it, you know. And, in democracy, after a hundred years, you have to let your slaves go. And, after a hundred and fifty years, you have to let your women vote. And, at the beginning of democracy, is that quite a bit of genocide and ethnic cleansing is quite okay. And that’s what’s going on now."

Kurt Vonnegut is up in heaven now

From A Man Without a Country (Vonnegut 2005):

I am, incidentally, Honorary President of the American Humanist Association, having succeeded the late, great science fiction writer Isaac Asimov in that totally functionless capacity. We had a memorial service for Isaac a few years back, and I spoke and said at one point, "Isaac is up in heaven now." It was the funniest thing I could have said to an audience of humanists. I rolled them in the aisles. It was several minutes before order could be restored. And if I should ever die, God forbid, I hope you will say, "Kurt is up in heaven now." That's my favorite joke.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Free Search Engine Marketing for Hawaii web site owner!

I have a Hawaii information and vacations blog which has been neglected for about a year now. I don't live in Hawaii anymore. Haven't visited in years now. I have clients there, mostly people with Maui vacation rentals (see last post). But none of them wants to write a blog.

Four or five paragraphs a week is all I ask. Basic "what's going on in Hawaii this week" stuff. So, now I'm offering free promotion for anyone who owns a Hawaii web site (it can be anything Hawaiian - travel, shopping, whatever), if they'll post 4 or 5 paragraphs per week (minimum) to my Hawaii blog. I'll even throw in some free search engine optimization tips.

Contact me if you're interested.