There Is No Cat

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Saturday, January 11, 2003

Tinker no longer

George Ryan's speech announcing the commutation of all death sentences in the state of Illinois is one of the most moving political speeches I think I've ever read. He presents a damning indictment of the death penalty system as it works in Illinois, and most likely everywhere else in America where it's still used. He makes a compelling case. He also talks about the fact that by commuting the sentences, he spares a man who killed a close friend of his family's.

The heart of the speech comes down to this excerpt, which contains a quote from US Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun (highlighted in bold below) in his 1994 dissent wherein he repudiated the death penalty:

Because our three year study has found only more questions about the fairness of the sentencing; because of the spectacular failure to reform the system; because we have seen justice delayed for countless death row inmates with potentially meritorious claims; because the Illinois death penalty system is arbitrary and capricious - and therefore immoral - I no longer shall tinker with the machinery of death.

I cannot say it more eloquently than Justice Blackmun.

The legislature couldn't reform it.

Lawmakers won't repeal it.

But I will not stand for it.

I must act.

No doubt Ryan is a flawed messenger. He's quite possibly a felon from some of his actions in previous political positions. His political career was going to be over whether he did this or not. It's still one of the most politically courageous things I've ever seen.

The death penalty is immoral. The potential for irreversible error is too great. Revenge does not equal justice. And finally a politician with the power to do something about it has stood up and said so (New York Times link, requires registration).

Posted at 8:32 PM

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What do you mean there is no cat?

"You see, wire telegraph is a kind of a very, very long cat. You pull his tail in New York and his head is meowing in Los Angeles. Do you understand this? And radio operates exactly the same way: you send signals here, they receive them there. The only difference is that there is no cat."

- Albert Einstein, explaining radio


There used to be a cat

[ photo of Mischief, a black and white cat ]

Mischief, 1988 - December 20, 2003

[ photo of Sylvester, a black and white cat ]

Sylvester (the Dorito Fiend), who died at Thanksgiving, 2000.


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