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Misleading NYT Editorial

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The New York Times fancies itself as the nation's premiere newspaper, and in some ways it is.  Its editorial page, though, is among the worst of any major paper.  It is not just that the positions are monotonically "politically correct."  That is true of many, perhaps most, major papers in the country.  The problem is the assertions of fact made to support their opinions.  These assertions vary from misleading to outright wrong.

The NYT has this editorial in reaction to the Landrigan execution, noted here. The NYT is, of course, against the death penalty. No news there. But now they denounce "the particular barbarism of this form of execution," i.e., lethal injection, and this statement immediately follows a quote from Justice Stevens.  Of the methods that have been used in this country, this one is exceptionally bad relative to the others?  What utter nonsense.

In reality, lethal injection was adopted precisely because it is less painful than the methods previously used.  In 1992, the very same Justice Stevens urged the adoption of this method. "The unnecessary cruelty of [the gas chamber] convinced Arizona's Attorney General that that State should abandon execution by gas in favor of execution by lethal injection.  His conclusion coincides with that of numerous medical, legal, and ethical experts." Gomez v. United States District Court, 503 U.S. 653 (1992) (dissenting opinion).  Richard Ruelas in the Arizona Republic reports the history of the adoption of lethal injection in reaction to the Harding execution.
The NYT says "when it is administered incorrectly it causes agony that amounts to torture." True but misleading. It is not difficult to check that the inmate is indeed unconscious before administering the second and third drugs. Justice Ginsburg wrote in her dissent in Baze v. Rees,

These checks provide a degree of assurance--missing from Kentucky's protocol--that the first drug has been properly administered. They are simple and essentially costless to employ, yet work to lower the risk that the inmate will be subjected to the agony of conscious suffocation caused by pancuronium bromide and the searing pain caused by potassium chloride.
Arizona's protocol does include the consciousness check that Justice Ginsburg deemed critical, reducing the danger of severe pain to a minimal risk. The NYT didn't bother to inform readers of that.  No need to confuse them with the facts.

And the maker of the drug is not FDA approved.  It is foreign (gasp!). Yes, it comes from Europe, the place that the NYT thinks does health care so much better than the United States.

And was there any indication that there was a problem with this execution? None is reported in the New York Times story on the execution. The Arizona Republic story says a technician checked, and Landrigan was indeed sedated.  This murderer died a much less painful death than most law-abiding people die.  The NYT didn't bother to mention that, either.

Doug Berman at SL&P is also unimpressed with the editorial.

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Lost in the muck of the Landrigan execution was Kozinski's potent dissent in the case:


It is interesting to note that at least some Ninth Circuit judges had the courage (to the extent that word applies to how life-tenured judges do their work) to articulate their views on the stay. The four Supreme Court Justices utterly failed to answer the bell. Instead they lamely submitted their votes to uphold the stay instead of addressing the majority's comment on the case.

For Justice Kagan, this doesn't seem too out of character. This paragon of moral courage acted in a similar manner at Harvard. Instead of challenging the powers that be who enacted DADT, Kagan chose to make military men and women second-class citizens at Harvard. Classic kiss-up and kick-down. And when casting a vote for a murderer, Kagan chose to meekly submit it, rather than stating her reasons. Kagan thundered about the DADT policy (while being intellectually dishonest about it--calling it the "military's policy" when the military was simply adhering to the law of the land, something that is supposed to happen in a system of civilian control of the military), yet her first real vote, in the face of an opinion explaining the reasoning behind the votes of others who disagreed, is meekly submitted. I guess she was satisfied with the NYTimes editorial page carrying her water.

The case for the stay simply wouldn't write.

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