Cruel and Unusual Punishments

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[H]owever unlimited the power of the court may seem, it is far from being wholly arbitrary; but its discretion is regulated by law. For the bill of rights has particularly declared, that excessive fines ought not to be imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted . . .

from the Eighth Amendment of the US Constitution

I have always loved the sound of the phrase “cruel and unusual punishment.” Sonically, you get all four of the basic metrical feet in four words, a trochee, an anapest, an iamb, and a dactyl, in that order. Plus the delicious elongation of the long U sounds of cruel and unusual, not mention the internal rhyme of “un” and “pun.”

Mr. Tom Waits, would you please indulge us with a recitation?

 

Something so horrid shouldn’t sound so enticing.

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To me, it’s amazing that some state approved punishments aren’t considered cruel and unusual. Take death by the electric chair, for example.

 

For execution by the electric chair, the person is usually shaved and strapped to a chair with belts that cross his chest, groin, legs, and arms. A metal skullcap-shaped electrode is attached to the scalp and forehead over a sponge moistened with saline. The sponge must not be too wet or the saline short-circuits the electric current, and not too dry, as it would then have a very high resistance. An additional electrode is moistened with conductive jelly (Electro-Creme) and attached to a portion of the prisoner’s leg that has been shaved to reduce resistance to electricity. The prisoner is then blindfolded. (Hillman, 1992 and Weisberg, 1991) After the execution team has withdrawn to the observation room, the warden signals the executioner, who pulls a handle to connect the power supply. A jolt of between 500 and 2000 volts, which lasts for about 30 seconds, is given. The current surges and is then turned off, at which time the body is seen to relax. The doctors wait a few seconds for the body to cool down and then check to see if the inmate’s heart is still beating. If it is, another jolt is applied. This process continues until the prisoner is dead.  (Wikipedia).

Here’s a link to a more thorough explanation via video.

Although only 9 of the 45 executed in the US in the last 15 years have gone to the electric chair, it is still used, and, therefore, not all that “unusual.” The rest of the state-sponsored offings were rendered via lethal injection, but now that drug companies are balking at providing lethal drugs, the good ol’ electric chair might make a comeback.

To me a truly cruel and unusual punishment would be something like this, not lethal, more like an “enhanced timeout.”

Let’s say some miscreant has mocked someone with a physical disability.

You strap him into an electric chair, inject him with an amphetamine, and force him to watch ten consecutive episodes of Little House on the Prairie.

I guarantee you he’ll never do it again. In fact, he might prefer the actual electric chair and its 2000 volts.

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Just Can’t Cut That Juice a Loose: KILLER ROCK LYRICS ABOUT SUBSTANCE ABUSE!!!

Foreign_Affairs_Tom_WaitsI-and-I, that’s right, Mr. Hoodoo Man he-self, boon companion and devoted supporter of Mr. John Jameson, lover of hoppy craft beer concoctions, not to mention spicy Sunday morning bloody marys, has voluntarily climbed aboard that proverbial wagon that refuses to stop at taverns, bodegas, juke joints, and roof top bars.

Or to put it more succinctly, he’s quit drinking alcohol.

Why, you ask? Has Mr. Moore been stumbling in at 3 a.m. and slapping around his beloved consort Judy Birdsong?

Of course not.

Has he found that drinking has adversely affected his social life?

To the contrary.

Okay, is he chronically late, a no-show sometimes? Does he hire barmates to grade his essays? Does he put himself in risky situations? Is he a frequent visitor to emergency rooms?   Has he gotten a DUI? Recently made a complete and utter ass out of himself?

No, no, no, no, no, and “not that he is aware of.”

Why then?

The answer is vanity. Recently, he saw photographs of himself at his son’s wedding and realized that his once David-Niven-like svelteness had ballooned into a girth approaching Hitchcockian proportions. And even though he now possesses a Falstaffian paunch, his arms and legs have maintained the emaciation of his 97-pound-weakling adolescence.

John Falstaff by Eduard Von Grutzner

John Falstaff by Eduard Von Grutzner

He’s too vain to post a photograph, but picture a four-month pregnant Mick Jagger and you get the picture.

Why not cut out those empty calories? Why not give it a try?

So how has he been spending those hours not spent in drinking establishments?

Listening to songs about substance abuse, that’s how, and he’s come up with a list a few killer song lyrics devoted to over-indulgence, like this classic from Willie Nelson:

The night life ain’t no good life, but it’s my life.

Not only that, he’s going to provide sound samples to go along with a few of his favs. So sit back and enjoy

THESE KILLER ROCK LYRICS ABOUT SUBSTANCE ABUSE!!!

(I know it lacks that Buzzfeed allure of botched plastic surgeries).

Okay, we’re going to start with John Hiatt’s “Paper Thin,” whose first sentence has the panache of the opening of a well-crafted short story. Listen.

Here’s how the song ends:

(Saw John about a year ago in concert.  Here’s the REVIEW).

Okay, for our next lyric on substance abuse, let’s go way back to my tenth grade year of 1968 and the Butterfield Blues Band’s “Drunk Again.”  The song’s by Elvin Bishop and features the domestic trauma drinking can cause.  Here’s a snippet:

Of course, as Bob Dylan famously tells us in “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues” — “I started off on burgundy but soon hit the harder stuff” — alcohol is the ultimate gateway drug.  I betcha ain’t nobody ever shot up heroin who hadn’t started out on the road to perdition with wine or beer. You start off seemingly innocuously with a PBR and the next thing you know your rolling up bills and snorting cocaine or worse.  Here’s John Hammond, Jr’s superb cover of the Tom Wait’s classic “Heart Attack and Vine”:

That’s right:

Boney’s high on china white;

Shorty’s found a punk

You know there ain’t no devil;

that’s just god when he’s drunk.

Well, this stuff will probably kill you;

let’s do another line.

What you say you meet me

down on Heart Attack and Vine.

Love can be a drug, they say.  Wasn’t Robert Palmer “addicted to love?”  Here’s the great Lucinda Williams making the analogy:

C’mon, Lucinda.  You know what Willie B Yeats sez:  “Never give all the heart for love . . .

Okay, let’s end this thing on a positive note.  The resurrection of Tim Finnegan via Irish whiskey.  Here, the Clancy Brothers describe how dead Tim’s corpse is brought back to life during a drunken brawl at his wake, which is the song that gave rise to James Joyce’s last novel.

:

Mickey Maloney ducked his head
when a bucket of whiskey flew at him
It missed, and falling on the bed,
the liquor scattered over Tim
Now the spirits new life gave the corpse, my joy!
Tim jumped like a Trojan from the bed
Cryin will ye walup each girl and boy,
t’underin’ Jaysus, do ye think I’m dead?”

Come to think of it, quitting drinking altogether seems anti-Buddhist.  Maybe the middle way would be better.  Lose weight by exercising, eating healthily, and limiting one’s intake to a couple a day?

Sounds like a plan.