Saturday Reads: Tax Returns, True Crime, Olympic Porn, and More

Good Morning!!

It looks like Tim Pawlenty might be the perfect VP match for Mitt Romney. He has had some issues with his financial disclosure forms and he refused to release his tax returns as Governor of Minnesota. From the Guardian:

Democrats have been digging into a web of allegations from nine years ago which involved Pawlenty’s use of a shell corporation to shield $60,000 in payments from a telecommunications group during his election campaign that were not declared to the state’s campaign finance board. The money came from a firm run by a prominent Republican strategist. Pawlenty had until recently been a board member.

Opponents accused Pawlenty of accepting an unethical and possibly illegal salary to campaign. The scandal widened because the telecommunications group making the payments was exposed for scamming customers, many of them elderly.

Pawlenty is touted as a leading candidate to be Mitt Romney’s running-mate in part because his background is seen as a political antidote to Romney’s life of privilege. He is the working class son of a truck driver, who knows adversity after his mother died while he was a boy and his father lost his job.

But if he is on the Republican ticket, a fresh airing of the allegations from 2003 is not only likely to undermine Pawlenty’s attempts to portray himself as the voice of the working man but threatens to draw unwelcome attention to difficult issues for Romney – the pressure to release his own tax returns, the morality of his business practices and the parking of millions of dollars in shell companies.

And if Romney turns Pawlenty down for VP, he (Romney) will look like a hypocrite.

I posted this link on Thursday morning, but I think it bears repeating. This op-ed in the NYT by Michael J. Graetz is the best thing I’ve read so far on what Mitt Romney may be hiding by not releasing his tax returns. Graetz discusses Romney’s huge IRA:

With an I.R.A. account of $20 million to $101 million, the tax savings would be more than a few pennies.

The I.R.A. also allows Mr. Romney to diversify his large holdings tax-free, avoiding the 15 percent tax on capital gains that would otherwise apply. His financial disclosure further reveals that his I.R.A. freed him from paying currently the 35 percent income tax on hundreds of thousands of dollars of interest income each year.

Given the extraordinary size of his I.R.A., we have to presume that Mr. Romney valued the assets he put in his retirement account at far less than he would have sold them for. Otherwise it is quite a trick to turn contributions that are limited to $30,000 to $50,000 a year into the $20 million to $101 million he now has there. But we cannot be certain; his meager disclosure of tax records and financial information does not indicate what kind of assets were put into the I.R.A.

He also addresses Romney’s offshore accounts, and concludes that

Mr. Romney is an Olympic-level athlete at the tax avoidance game. Rich people don’t send their money to Bermuda or the Cayman Islands for the weather.

The part I found most interesting was Graetz’ discussion of Romney’s transfers of funds to his sons. Graetz suggests that Romney may not have paid any gift tax on the $100 million trust fund he established in 1995; because it is well known that the IRS doesn’t generally audit gift tax returns.

Based on his aggressive tax planning, revealed in the 2010 returns he has released and his approval of a notably dicey tax avoidance strategy in 1994 when he headed the audit committee of the board of Marriott International, my bet is that — if Mr. Romney filed a gift tax return for these transfers at all — he put a low or even zero value on the gifts, certainly a small fraction of the price at which he would have sold the transferred assets to an unrelated party….According to a partner at Mr. Romney’s trustee’s law firm, valuing carried interests, such as Mr. Romney’s interests in the private equity company Bain Capital, at zero for gift tax purposes was common advice given to clients like Mr. Romney in the 1990s and early 2000s.

At this point, I’m convinced that there is some really hinky stuff going on in those returns. Otherwise Romney would have released them by now. But he’s dreaming if he thinks the press will stop focusing on this.

Yesterday, Wimpy Willard dodged questions about Michelle Bachmann’s muslim witch hunt and the Chick-fil-A controversy. Alex Seitz-Wald at Salon:

Mitt Romney failed to join other Republican leaders today in condemning Rep. Michele Bachmann’s witch hunt against Muslims in the U.S. government, telling reporters at a campaign stop in Las Vegas that it was not “part of my campaign.” Republicans like Sen. John McCain and House Speaker John Boehner, among others, have spoken out publicly against Bachmann’s campaign, but when Romney was asked about it, along with the controversy over Chick-fil-A, he dodged the question. “I’m not going to tell other people what things to talk about. Those are not things that are part of my campaign,” the presumed GOP nominee said at a rare press availability after a campaign stop.

Nothing really new about that–just more evidence of Romney cowardice.

We’ve been talking about how the female Olympic athletes are forced to wear skimpy costumes, presumably to attract the male audience. But at The Daily Beast Tricia Romano has a different take: The Olympics or Soft Porn? Female, Gay Fans Gawking at Male Athletes

Ripped, tanned men seemingly carved out of marble are making women and gay men happy—very happy—during these Olympics, spurring Internet memes and social-media buzz. It’s like the Channing Tatum male-stripper movie Magic Mike got a sequel—a very (thankfully) long sequel—one that’s also preciously short on plot but long on beefcake.

While women have long provided daydream fodder for men and lesbians—say hello to the field hockey team when not checking out the scantily clad ladies taking part in the beach volleyball competition—London’s Games seem to be drumming up a particularly focused interest in celebrating the fine male physique.

American gold-medal swimmers Ryan Lochte and Nathan Adrian might have gained notoriety for winning races, but they became instant sex symbols the second they stepped out of the pool. In the days since their London debut, you can read all about Ryan Lochte’s penchant for one-night stands, and there are entire articles parsing the hot-but-dumb problem posed by Lochte, and conversely how smart and sweet Adrian is and whether or not he has a girlfriend. (He’s single! Ready, set, go!).

I was at the grocery store yesterday afternoon, and I noticed that the National Enquirer had a big splashy story about James Holmes, the “Dark Knight Shooter. I was sorely tempted to buy a copy, but I resisted. It’s just as well, because I discovered the story was on-line. In case you’re interest, here’s the “scoop” in this week’s Enquirer.

WORLD EXCLUSIVE: INSIDE THE SICK TWISTED WORLD OF THE DARK KNIGHT SHOOTER

There aren’t a lot of revelations. They quote a fellow student who was supposedly freaked out by Holmes:

by the time he got to graduate school, Holmes had grown into a creepy individual who frightened others just by his presence.

“I’d seen him many times, always walking alone,” a fellow student at the University of Colorado Denver told The ENQUIRER. “He was very odd, walking around with a blank stare on his face like he didn’t see anyone else. Sometimes he was talking to himself, in an angry tone. I would cross the street when I saw him coming.

“He may have been a nerd, but he was tall and muscular which can be very intimidating. I felt like he was the kind of guy you didn’t want to be around if he snapped.”

The article also says that Holmes’ admired Norwegian mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik.

In emulation of Breivik, Holmes spent the days leading up to his massacre of the innocent by bingeing on Internet sex and real-world drugs. He reportedly took the prescription painkiller Vicodin just before the shootings.

Holmes shared another trait with Breivik – a fascination with the extremely violent video game World of Warcraft.

I’m not sure where they got that. I suppose it could be a law enforcement source–or they could have made it up out of whole cloth.

There are a couple of other sensational stories on Holmes over there–look if you dare.

In other true crime news, the judge in the Drew Peterson case denied the defense’s request for a mistrial, and testimony continued yesterday. Anna Marie Doman, the sister of Peterson’s wife Kathleen Savio, testified that her sister had said that Peterson had threatened to kill her.

“She was afraid,” Doman said. “She said Drew had told her he was going to kill her. She wasn’t going to make it to the divorce settlement, and she wasn’t going to get his pension or the kids.”

After two years of court battles over the issue, it was the first hearsay statement heard by jurors in Peterson’s murder trial, allowing Savio to speak from beyond the grave.

As she described talking with Savio in her Romeoville home in 2004, Doman testified that Savio extracted a promise to take care of her kids, a vow Doman acknowledged she had failed to act upon.

“She made me promise over and over that I was going to take care of the boys,” Doman said. “She said, ‘I want you to say it — you’ll take care of my kids.'”

After a misstep by a defense attorney, Doman also was allowed to testify about a previously excluded statement — that Peterson had told Savio he would kill her and make it look like an accident.

I heard an interesting story on NPR a couple of days ago. It’s an interview with David Niose, a lawyer from Boston who has written a book called Nonbeliever Nation: The Rise of Secular Americans. Here’s the blurb from the show:

The religious right has been a disaster for this country, according to David Niose, president of the American Humanist Association. It has imposed an outsized and overbearing influence on our national politics at the expense of reason, critical thinking, science and ethics. And he goes further, saying the rise of the religious right correlates with an array of social ills — from high rates of violent crime and teen pregnancy to low rates of scientific literacy.

But he says there’s a growing movement to counter the religious right. Secular Americans — non-religious believers who for a long time were marginalized in America — are now emerging as a force to be reckoned with.

While a large majority of Americans say they still believe in God, many are losing faith in organized religion. At the same time, the number of Americans who say they don’t have any religious identity has doubled since 1980.

I hope you’ll give it a listen. There also a link to some excerpts from the book at The Humanist if you’re interested.

I found this interesting piece at Raw Story: Mayans may have used chocolate in cooking 2,500 years ago

When the Spanish conquistadores invaded Mexico 500 years ago, they found the emperor Moctezuma drinking a exotic beverage called xocóatl with his breakfast. Made from ground cacao beans that had been boiled in water, spiced, and beaten to a froth, it was literally the drink of kings, permitted only to rulers and other high aristocrats.

Until now, it has been believed that chocolate was consumed in ancient Mexico only in the form of a beverage and not as a food or condiment. However, that belief has been challenged by the discovery in the Yucatan of a 2,500 year old plate with traces of chocolate residue.

The discovery, which was announced this week by Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History, suggests that present-day Mexican dishes, like the chocolate-based mole sauce often served over meats, may have ancient roots.

Previous excavations have revealed traces of chocolate on drinking vessels used by the Olmecs and other early Mexican cultures as far back as 2000 BC, but this is the first find involving plates.

Smart people, those Mayans.

Now what are your recommendations for weekend reading?


Monday Reads

Good Morning!!

I’m filling in for Dakinikat today, while she wends her way back down to New Orleans after her daughter’s great big Bollywood wedding. It’s another very slow news day today, but I’ve tried to dig up some interesting reads for you anyway.

The U.N. Security Council has condemned Syria’s government for the Houla massacre.

An emergency council meeting in New York on Sunday accused President Bashar al-Assad’s forces of unleashing havoc in the town, calling the bombardment of residential areas “an outrageous use of force” which violated international law.

“The security council condemned in the strongest possible terms the killings, confirmed by United Nations observers, of dozens of men, women and children and the wounding of hundreds more … in attacks that involved a series of government artillery and tank shellings on a residential neighbourhood,” the non-binding statement said.

Russia, which has resisted previous western-led condemnations of its Damascus ally, signed up to the declaration, signalling the extent of revulsion over images of infant corpses lined side by side after Friday’s slaughter, one of the worst incidents in the 14-month conflict.

You probably heard that John McCain, who for mysterious reasons is a permanent fixture on the Sunday talk shows even though he’s wrong about everything, has called Obama’s foreign policy and especially his caution on Syria “feckless.” The Villagers really love that word for some reason….why not just say “irresponsible” or “lazy”? Those are some of the definitions of the word.

On the other hand, outgoing Indiana Senator Richard Lugar, who is a lot more thoughtful than McCain, thinks Obama is right to be cautious on Syria. From TPM:

“I think that he has been very cautions. And I think that he’s cautions because he’s in the process of withdrawing our troops along with NATO from Afghanistan, pivoting our policy toward China and the east, more toward a situation of using robots – the ability to not to have to send in troops. It’s a difficult situation. So when you talk about Syria, and you talk about troops or intervention, the president has been very cautious. I think properly so.”

Also on the Sunday shows, Bob Shieffer asked Romney adviser Ed Gillespie why Mitt won’t appear anywhere except Fox News. Gillespie responded that Romney meet with “some schoolchildren last week.” Shieffer said, “I know schoolchildren are happy to see him.”

Good one, Bob!

On Candy Crowley’s show Rudy Giuliani was supposed to be playing surrogate for Romney and pulled a Cory Booker. Giuliani began by announcing that Romney is “the perfect choice” and then proceeded to “trash” Romney’s Massachusetts record while “explaining” his trashing of Romney back in 2008.

“Well, I mean, there’s a certain amount of personal ego in that — at that point, I was probably comparing his record to my record,” he said about his dings at Romney. “And maybe it was circumstances or whatever, but I had massive reductions in unemployment. He had a reduction in unemployment of about 8,10 percent — I think it was 15 percent. I had a reduction of unemployment of 50 percent. He had a growth of jobs of about 40,000; we had a growth of jobs of about 500,000. So I was comparing what I thought was my far superior record to his otherwise decent record. … That’s all part of campaigning.”

But, he added, Romney is much better than President Barack Obama.

I guess it’s still not quite as bad as the “endorsement” Romney got from Mitch Daniels.

Politico has a somewhat long piece for them on why Republicans are afraid that Romney “lacks the ‘vision thing'” For example:

“At the end of the day, you can’t just be all, you know, anti-Obama,” said former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, whose state is key to Romney’s chances. “It has to be, I think, two parts that and one part here’s the antidote, here’s the vision, here’s the path that I would like to lead America down.”

And GOP strategist Mark McKinnon — who advised former two-term Republican president George W. Bush — said it’s time for Romney to outline his agenda.

“It’s important to establish the problem when you are a challenger because you are asking voters to fire the incumbent. So, Romney has to file his grievances,” McKinnon said. “But at some point he has to show that he has a vision of a better way. He can’t just say ‘The future is bleak, follow me.’ Because no one will.”

That sounds a little bit like the “advice” Mitch Daniels gave to Mitt. Sadly, Mitt has no vision for a better way. He just wants to be King so he can order everyone around and fire people when he feels like it.

I’ve been so focused on politics for the past several years that I’ve somewhat lost touch with popular culture. So it came as a shock to me today when reading an article about the Cannes Film Festival that one of the movies being shown there is an adaptation of Jack Kerouac’s On The Road. I knew instantly it would be horrible. Every Kerouac adaptation has been.

I used to be fascinated by Kerouac. I was on the Lowell, MA, Kerouac Festival Board for a few years, I’ve done two major research projects on Kerouac’s life and work, one of which I presented at at academic conference. I’ve read everything Kerouac has written, including his letters. I will never see this film, because I don’t want the book ruined for me. Trust me on this, just read the book if you haven’t already, and skip the movie.

The Washington Post has a piece on the Wisconsin recall election which is coming up on June 5: Scott Walker’s fate will have November implications.

Walker made national headlines last year when he eliminated most collective-bargaining rights for public employee unions, triggering huge protests. The fight put friends, neighbors and family members on opposite sides and left the state as polarized as any in the nation. It will culminate in next month’s recall election, only the third for a sitting governor in U.S. history.

The Democrats need to get off their butts and into Wisconsin soon or Walker is going to win. That would be disastrous, and would likely put the state in play for Romney in November. Wisconsin Democrats have been begging for help from the DNC, and it has been slow in coming.

I recently heard an interesting interview on NPR about Lulu DeCarrone, a coffee shop owner who decided to pull the plug on WiFi in her shop. She suddenly realized that her customers were sitting alone at tables for hours just staring at their computers and not talking. No one was having fun anymore and Lulu wasn’t making much money either. Quoting her:

It happened around three or four years ago. One afternoon, I was standing behind the counter and I allowed laptops for a while. And there were four tables, and four people sitting with laptops there. And I remember thinking, “This is like a crypt. I don’t like the feel of it.” Well, two ladies came in a little bit later and they were having such a good time. They were old friends, they haven’t seen each other in a long time and they were laughing and just carrying on. And the people who were sitting on the laptops kept glaring at them. And I made the decision right then and there. I thought I would rather lose my business and sell pencils out of a hat in front of the British Art Museum, than have this atmosphere in my store….

I thought, “Oh my God, maybe no one will come. Maybe I’ll lose it.” And I swear to you, that I was willing to do that. But it worked in reverse. I am the absolute opposite of what Starbucks does, and I’m very happy about it.

It’s become like Mecca for people who are disgusted. I never expected this. This has blown my mind; I never thought that would happen. I get compliments every single day. So I think that’s what it’s given me: Not a big bank account, certainly not driving a fancy car — but it has given me something that’s much harder to get, joy.

I’m no Luddite, but I have to admit, I do get disgusted sometimes the way gadgets have taken over and replaced socializing in public. When I was teaching at a large university, it was rare to see a student who wasn’t either listening to music on headphones, talking on the phone, or texting. They were completely out of touch with whatever was happening in their surroundings in the present moment. And so I also enjoyed this piece at the WaPo on people who ruin things for everyone around them by talking loudly on their cell phones. Here’s a sample:

I love taking the train and typically enjoy the ride. It can be so peaceful, and you don’t have the stress that comes with flying. But if I don’t get a seat in the “quiet car” that Amtrak has designated for those us who want peace, I’m privy to some conversations that should only be conducted in private.

I understand the occasional short conversation to let someone know when to pick you up or that the train is running late, but people are holding long and involved conversations, often about inane stuff. Businessmen are barking orders or, in one case I overheard, holding a conference call. I really don’t want to know your business.

On a recent Amtrak trip, a woman sat next to me and made a call to her friend who, I learned, was afraid she had a sexually transmitted disease. Thankfully, another seat opened up and the woman moved. But I could still hear her describing the test for the disease.

And have you noticed that many people seem to have no compunction about making you wait while they take calls? Why not just call the person back later and talk to the person you’re with?

OK, that’s all I’ve got. What are your recommended links for today?


Tuesday Reads

Good Morning!! It is just me, or is the news getting weirder with each passing day?

Last night Jerry Sandusky who, with a little help from his friends, has destroyed the reputation of a large university and created the worst scandal in sports history, appeared on the new NBC show Rock Center. Sandusky told Bob Costas he didn’t sexually abuse little boys–he just “horsed around” with them in the showers.

When asked by Costas, “Are you a pedophile,” Sandusky responded “No.”

Joe Paterno’s one time defensive coordinator was charged earlier this month with 40 counts of sexually abusing eight boys. He is currently free on a $100,000 bond and has denied any wrongdoing. The allegations date back to 1994, according to a grand jury report. A grand jury report detailed claims of alleged sexual encounters with young boys in Sandusky’s home, hotels and Penn State locker rooms.

“I could say that I have done some of those things. I have horsed around with kids I have showered after workouts. I have hugged them and I have touched their legs without intent of sexual contact,” said Sandusky.

When pressed by Costas about what Sandusky was willing to concede that he’d done was wrong, Sandusky said, “I shouldn’t have showered with those kids.”

He touched their legs? Talk about a non sequitur. Sandusky’s lawyer should have told him not to talk to the media.

NPR’s Morning Edition is running a three-part series on Ayn Rand’s influence on U.S. politics. The first episode was on yesterday. They reported on an interview that Mike Wallace did with Rand in 1959.

Wallace is in a chair, on a stark set, holding his notes and a cigarette. Across from him sits Rand, a native Russian, small and sharp and a little nervous. Wallace asks her to outline the idea she calls “objectivism.”

It is, she says, a system of morality “not based on faith” or emotion, “but on reason.”

Rand wholly rejected religion. She called it a weakness, even a parasite — one that convinces people their purpose is to work for the betterment of others. In fact, she says, for man, the truth is just the opposite.

“His highest moral purpose is the achievement of his own happiness,” she says.

Wallace asks Rand about politics and about government programs and regulations that have improved many people’s lives.

“I feel that it is terrible that you see destruction all around you, and that you are moving toward disaster until and unless all those welfare state conceptions have been reversed and rejected,” Rand answers.

These programs are destroying individual liberties, Rand says, especially the freedom of producers, entrepreneurs, businessmen. The government has no right to take their property, she says….

“I am opposed to all forms of control. I am for an absolute, laissez-faire, free, unregulated economy.”

I still don’t understand how Republicans can buy into Rand’s philosophy and then claim the right to control women’s lives based on their fundamentalist nonsensical religious beliefs. If you really think about it, what they’ve done is taken Rand’s gospel of selfishness and pretended that was Jesus’ message too.

Yesterday, President Obama went golfing with a friend who was recently caught in a prostitution sting.

“The president’s fourball at the Mamala Bay Golf Course includes his long-time friend Robert “Bobby” Titcomb who was arrested and plead no contest in May to soliciting a prostitute, Marvin Nicholson, and White House advance man Pete Selfridge,” the report read.

In April, Titcomb was arrested in Honolulu and charged with a misdemeanor for soliciting a prostitute after he approached an undercover police officer. Titcomb’s attorney, William Harrison, said at the time that Titcomb did not fully agree with the facts of the case, but plead no contest because he wanted to take responsibility.

He was fined $500 and the conviction was expunged from his record in October, following six months without further incident.

Obama and Titcomb have been friends since attending the Punahou School together in Honolulu, according to Hawaii News Now.

That should give the Republican candidates something to be outraged about in the next debate. Why are there so many of those debates, anyway?

King Abdullah II of Jordan has called on Syria’s President Bashar Assad to resign.

Syrian President Bashar Assad faced heightened economic and political pressures Monday, as Europe imposed a new round of financial sanctions and King Abdullah II of Jordan called on the embattled autocrat to step down.

Meanwhile, the Arab League, which on Saturday moved to suspend Syria because of its failure to implement a league-brokered peace deal, said it was preparing to send a delegation of up to 500 observers into Syria. Details were still being worked out with Damascus, the league’s secretary-general, Nabil Elaraby, told reporters in Cairo.

Syria has said it would welcome Arab League observers, but the Assad regime has remained defiant in the face of Arab demands that it halt violence against civilian protesters.

[….]

The Syrian uprising began in March near the Jordanian border in the southwestern provincial city of Dara. Opposition activists reported that at least 28 people were killed Monday in that area, some in clashes between armed rebels and security forces at the city’s northern entrance. The official government news agency said at least two law enforcement officers were killed and an unspecified number wounded in clashes with a “terrorist group” in the vicinity of Dara.

The opposition reported at least 50 killed nationwide Monday. The death toll could not be independently confirmed.

Herman Cain had a serious case of brain freeze yesterday when he was asked if he agreed with President Obama’s position on Libya. From the NY Daily News:

The GOP presidential hopeful looked hungry for a cheat sheet when the editorial board of the Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal-Sentinel asked him if he supported Obama’s backing of the revolution that toppled Moammar Khadafy.

“Okay … Libya,” Cain responded haltingly, according to a video of the interview.

He stared at the ceiling, fiddled with his blazer, blinked a bunch of times and pushed his water bottle away from him on the table.

Eleven seconds later, he spoke:

“President Obama supported the uprising, correct?” said the normally chatty former head of the Godfather’s Pizza chain.

“President Obama called for the removal of Khadafy — just wanted to make sure we are talking about the same thing,” he added, as if trying to goad his interviewers into confirming what he said was true.

More staring at the ceiling. “Nope, that’s a different one,” he blurted out, waving his hand, adjusting his chair and crossing his legs.

And so on. There’s lots more. Watch it:

What a dope!!

That’s it for me. What are you reading and blogging about today?


Late Night: Texas Refuses to Allow Chef to Provide Last Meals to Death Row Inmates

Execution chamber in Texas

While I was out in the car today, I heard a story on NPR about the recent banning of special last meals for people about to be executed in Texas.

Lawrence Russell Brewer, who was executed Wednesday for the hate crime slaying of James Byrd Jr. more than a decade ago, asked for two chicken fried steaks, a triple-meat bacon cheeseburger, fried okra, a pound of barbecue, three fajitas, a meat lover’s pizza, a pint of ice cream and a slab of peanut butter fudge with crushed peanuts. Prison officials said Brewer didn’t eat any of it.

“It is extremely inappropriate to give a person sentenced to death such a privilege,” Sen. John Whitmire, chairman of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee, wrote in a letter Thursday to Brad Livingston, the executive director of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.

Within hours, Livingston said the senator’s concerns were valid and the practice of allowing death row offenders to choose their final meal was history.

Whitmire claims to be a Democrat.

Today on NPR’s All Things Considered, there was an interview with Brian D. Price, a former prison inmate who served for years as a death row chef and wrote a book called Meals to Die For. Price is now out of prison and owns a restaurant in East Texas.

In his interview with NPR’s Melissa Block, Price said he had offered to pay for and prepare the requested last meals, since Texas is too cruel and stingy to do so. But he was turned down. In addition, Price revealed that in fact the “special meals” have never been what those about to die actually requested. For example, if the inmate requested lobster, he or she would get whatever piece of fish was available. So Brewer never actually got all that food he requested–the fantasy meal that caused Whitmire to throw a tantrum.

Price argued that Texas’s elimination of last meals is inhumane.

Price made the case that “as a civilized society and a Christian nation … why not … show that softer, more compassionate side?”

Granted, Price said, most murderers don’t offer their victims last meals. “But … are we going to lower ourselves to that same level as that crime that was committed and be so cold and heartless?”

I agree with the sentiment if not the “Christian nation” characterization. Here’s a little more from the UK Guardian, which is published in a country that views the death penalty as uncivilized.

Since Texas resumed carrying out executions in 1982, the state correction agency’s practice has been to fill a condemned inmate’s request as long as the items, or food similar to what was requested, were readily available from the prison kitchen supplies.

The exact request was rarely fulfilled, Price said. He noted that when one condemned inmate asked for two T-bone steaks, the prisoner got a hamburger steak instead.

Price made 220 final meals, from 1991 until his parole in 2003, while serving 14 years in the Texas department of criminal justice Huntsville unit for a pair of convictions related to the abduction of his brother-in-law and a sexual assault on his ex-wife.

We are living through one of the worst economic crises in our country’s history. Millions of people have lost their jobs, their homes, and their faith in our political system. That a Texas legislator saw fit to make a fuss about people being given a choice of meal before they are strapped to a gurney and killed is a sure sign that this country is doomed. The psychopaths are in charge–and I don’t mean the ones in prison.