I'm unsure how much national press this has gotten – I suspect that having colleagues at University of Nebraska who are anti-capital punishment activists to boot has made me disproportionately aware of it – but Gov. Pete Ricketts' epic quest to find ways to kill death row inmates despite the lack of lethal injection drugs is like a modern day version of Moby Dick. Well, that's a rough analogy. The novel was a complex, brooding commentary on man's search for meaning. This is just a story about an asshole who wants to kill people so other, terrible people will like him more.
As with every post in the history of Gin and Tacos that deals with capital punishment, let us remember the incontrovertible truth that politicians love the death penalty because it's the only way a bunch of paunchy, candy-ass white guys can look tough. Many death penalty opponents look at Ricketts as a perfect example of the way inmates' lives are used as fodder when elected officials need to shore up support with their old, white base. It's also a good example of political miscalculation and not knowing when to hold 'em and when to fold 'em – Ricketts has chosen to die upon this hill (so to speak) without having much of a strategy once his first steps didn't result in success. But more than anything the wrangling, legal and practical, over lethal injection pharmaceuticals is a black comedy skit on the illusion that killing people as the endpoint of a legal process made up of fallible, biased humans can be made Humane.
I am 100%, without exception opposed to capital punishment. I also believe that if you're going to kill someone it doesn't make a hell of a lot of difference how you do it provided the infliction of suffering isn't one of the goals of the process. We like lethal injection because it's bloodless and doesn't create a gruesome scene. It looks, when it works properly, like someone calmly passing out and never waking up. Unfortunately for the states that continue to insist on using it, it's also not a particularly effective method. I see nothing valuable about the method. If you're going to kill people anything quick and reliable will do. Gunshot to the head. Long-drop hanging. Hell, why not the guillotine. They're all just means to a cruel end of a cruel process. The only advantage lethal injection has over any of them is that it makes us feel better about ourselves as a society. It lets us feel morally superior to the "uncivilized" Chinese shooting people in the head or Middle East heathens beheading people with cartoon sized swords. As if it matters. As if the morality of killing people is determined by the method employed.
To see Ricketts go full Ahab so that his state can continue sanctioned homicide would be funny if the consequences weren't so grave. It's useful, though, to let the country see what rabidly pro-death penalty politicians really are: a group of people who are so enthusiastic about killing that they will devote themselves to concocting ways to circumvent the law they claim to care about upholding. It's almost like they're a little too excited about killing. You know, the kind of person who we generally consider a danger to society.