Death? No, thank you.

Here’s the list, the complete list:┬áBelarus, China, Cuba, Egypt, India, Iran, Iraq, Japan, Malaysia, Mongolia, North Korea, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Tonga, United States, Vietnam.

These are the world’s countries that still employ the savage practice of capital punishment. Proud of being part of that club?

In California, we have our own long and disgusting history of killing people, which started in 1778 when four native Americans were shot for conspiracy to commit murder after conviction by an all-white jury.

When shooting proved too unreliable and expensive, California adopted the gas chamber.

When gas also proved to be too unreliable and expensive, California adopted lethal injection as our tool of choice for state-sanctioned murder.

Nice. Clean. Clinical.

Albert Pierrepoint was the most famous of England’s official hangmen in the 20th century. During his active career as an executioner, which ran from 1931 to 1956, Pierrepoint was thought to have executed somewhere about 450 people and, later in his life, became quite philosophical about his line of work. In his 1974 autobiography, Pierrepoint wrote:

“I have come to the conclusion that executions solve nothing, and are only an antiquated relic of a primitive desire for revenge which takes the easy way and hands over the responsibility for revenge to other people.”

In California, we have the opportunity to say no, to say enough, to say we want to join the other global club, the one of civilized countries who decline to use execution as a tool of control. An initiative to ban the use of the death penalty has qualified for the November ballot.

Here’s our chance to re-join civilized people everywhere. Or we can, you know, just continue on in the direction we’re already headed.

A Sure Sign For North Korea

The message from yesterday’s disastrous rocket launch couldn’t be clearer. If only the North Koreans could see it.

Sadly, the government of North Korea doesn’t seem able to. Their public reaction to the blown missile launch was to announce further nuclear tests.┬áRemember, please, that while their neighbors to the south live in a strong, vibrant and economically sound democracy, the North Korean people are quite literally starving to death. Such is the way of totalitarian dictatorships who’ve lost any reason for continuing to exist.

Rattle the sabers. Look strong. Threaten. Play a game of nuclear chicken.

The global community agrees on little but, for the most part, remains steadfast in keeping North Korea the pariah state it has made itself by its own behavior.

The country could be different. It could build its own infrastructure, now frozen in the 19th century. It could feed its people, now scratching a bare living in subsistence agriculture. It could concentrate on creating a market economy as South Korea has so successfully done.

Of course, I have no particular standing in this issue; I’m neither Korean, nor a diplomat. But simply as a human being, I beseech the North Korean government to take yesterday’s abortive missile launch as a clear sign that it’s time to change direction.