Friday, 14 January 2011

Well, They Can Always Go Back To Using 'Old Sparky'...

Would that suit you, Stafford-Smith?
It would be hard to imagine a more humdrum and banal place than 176 Horn Lane in Acton, west London.

Sandwiched between two blocks of flats, the modest office is home to both Elgone Driving Academy and a tiny, unconnected, pharmaceutical company that supplies the drugs used in lethal injections.
I walked past the BMW garage yesterday, where they supply the cars that are used in hit and runs and bank robbery getaways.

See how that works?
Mr Alavi declined to give an interview, claiming he had "no idea" why Carson McWilliams, the warden of the Arizona State Prison Complex, had ordered the three drugs: the anaesthetics sodium thiopental and pancuronium bromide, and potassium chloride, which is used in a diluted form to treat people with potassium deficiency.
Wrong answer, Mr Alavi. He should have said 'these are legitimate drugs for export, with legitimate uses, and it's not up to me to decide what the customer should do with them, now go away and stop bothering me!'.

But when there's publicity and a chance to see his name in print, the BBC only seems to have one go-to guy:
But Clive Stafford Smith, the Director of Reprieve UK which supports prisoners on Death Row in the US, dismissed Mr Alavi's claim of ignorance over the intended use of the drugs and said that the combination of the three substances could have only one purpose.
*shrug*

So what? If he'd sold Guantanamo Bay a few transformers, a car battery and some bulldog clips, would this odious little creep be whining about 'selling implements of torture'?

Actually, he probably would...
Clive Stafford Smith is threatening legal action against Dream Pharma and also called on pharmaceutical companies worldwide to sign an agreement to explicitly prevent the use of their drugs in executions.
I'm not sure exactly what 'legal action' he could take (if export restrictions have been broken, it's for the government to address), and the BBC don't see fit to enlighten their readers, since they've done the important thing, which is pointing a finger at a businessman and insinuated he's done something bad, immoral and possibly illegal...
"It seems to me that the pharmaceutical companies need to get together and agree to some Hippocratic Oath whereby they only sell their drugs for positive purposes and not to execute people," he says.
And it 'seems to me' that the world would be better off all round if you'd decided to be a sewer maintenance man, Clive. At least then, you'd be doing something useful with your life...

Naturally, the Beeb wanted a quote from a government source about Clive's little spittle-flecked rant. I wonder if they were happy with the one they got?
A spokesman for the Business Secretary said that Vince Cable "has already made clear his personal and the government's moral opposition to the death penalty.

"He has already taken decisive action by placing a control order on the export of sodium thiopental and the department is currently considering a request to place controls on two other pharmaceuticals that are currently used in the execution process in the US.

"Any decision on this request to place export controls on potassium chloride and pancuronium bromide will be based on fact and assessed against the likely effectiveness of any export control against the impact on legitimate trade."
Ouch!

That's pretty much as close to a 'We're adults, discussing important grown-up business, don't bother us, run along, sonny!' (couched in civil-servant speak) as you are ever likely to see...

26 comments:

Weekend Yachtsman said...

Me no understand.

Can Americans for some reason not make these reasonably simple (in one case absolutely simple, widespread, abundant, and cheap) chemicals?

What's the story?

Furor Teutonicus said...

XX whereby they only sell their drugs for positive purposes and not to execute people,XX

Ridding the world of the "human" equivalent of a rabid dog IS positive I would have thought.

Furor Teutonicus said...

Follow ups to...

Umbongo said...

I hope Mr Alavi doesn't award himself a bonus. He'll be in real trouble from the government.

Tangentially, I wonder how many deaths or terrorist or similar criminally-inspired incidents have occurred because the perps know that there are apologists or useful idiots like Mr Stafford Smith available. As you imply, it's not entirely uncoincidental that Mr Stafford Smith's mobile number is on the Guardian/Indy/BBC speed-dial. Both he and the G/I/BBC tendency are guaranteed to see the best in the worst criminals (and the worst in the best non-criminals).

Anonymous said...

Isn't medical drugs from reputable pharmaceutical companies one of the biggest causes of death and misery?

Chalcedon said...

Old sparky wasn't terribly quick. A rope however is very quick with the appropriate long drop. I'm surprised they stopped using it.

Budvar said...

Potassium chloride? Isn't that available in practically any supermarket better known as Lo/No sodium salt?

Angry Exile said...

I may be an abolitionist but I'm all for free trade. What his customers do with what they buy isn't his concern, even if it's pretty obvious what they're likely to do with them. I'll argue against the death penalty - my opinion on the wisdom of giving untrustworthy governments that power is well known round here - with anyone but if Reprieve want to prevent the export of drugs to a death penalty state from this guy's business the obvious answer is to buy his whole stock and flush it down the bog. Since Arizona couldn't kill one of it's prisoners due to a shortage it would be more effective than whining about it on the Beeb.

Quiet_Man said...

I'm with you, what this guy chooses to sell so long as it isn't proscribed in any sense is his business.
What use his customers put it too is not his (or our) concern.

Anonymous said...

Not to worry, those ever resourceful Yanks have turned to veterinary drugs for the job (cf John Duty).

Not that that's stopped our Clive snivelling on about its use in the Guardian.

English Viking said...

Why do we have all this faffing about with strange methods of execution?

Surely two in the back of the head is instant, painless, cheap and effective?

Grauniad Angel said...

British company makes something, sells it abroad. Result: Jobs continue and revenue for the nation. Freedom of choice engaged.

Do-Gooder whines, warped fantasy-sheet prints whine. Result: Much 'woe is us' established with collective self-angst. Poking interfering nose into other people's business boosted.

WV = undecti = latin for unsolved crime

Anonymous said...

Give me a Model 1911 Colt .45 semi-auto pistol and I'll ensure that no-one has to purchase lethal drugs ever again. A .45 ACP semi-hollow point round is most efficacious.

Woman on a Raft said...

Nothing wrong with a big axe and a block. Energy-efficient, green, low pollution, as used by and on the Crowned Heads of Europe. Requires a competent and strong operator but the theory is not complicated.

See EV's avatar for artist's impression.

Leg-iron said...

As Budvar says, potassium chloride is on sale in every supermarket and corner shop. It's 'Lo-Salt'. Make a saturated solution, inject it, it'll shut down your nervous system and stop your heart. So will sodium chloride. Put it on your chips, no problem.

Likewise bleach. Clean the bath with it, you have a clean bath. Drink it, you die. Pencils can be sharpened to draw or to write or to slip between the ribs and pierce the heart. Everything is dangerous in the hands of the stupid and the mad.

The Death Drug is just the tip of an iceberg. If you can stop a company selling chemicals because, in combination, they can be used to baste a convict in the Gravy of Termination, then you can stop Tesco selling kitchen knives because some slope-foreheaded drongo from the shallow end of the gene pool might stab someone with it. The sheeple will bleat 'But meat comes thin-sliced already. Why do you need a knife'. Just watch them.

You can stop certain combinations of ordinary cleaning chemicals being sold because they could be made into an explosive or a poison gas generator.

You can certainly ban red chilli beans, the toxins in those things are astounding. Easily extracted with water too, which is why you should soak them overnight and throw the water away. Unless you enjoy the sensation of shitting through every conceivable orifice, including tear ducts and hair follicles.

In short, once this precedent is set, absolutely anything can be banned or controlled on the basis that it can be used to do harm, alone or in combination with another harmless thing.

Also, almost anything in the cupboard under the sink can be defined as 'bomb making materials'.

Vinnie the Wire is turning into an especially dangerous lunatic. We really should ban him before he hurts someone.

James Higham said...

People are getting their knickers in a twist over the most amazing things when they're letting go on things which really do matter.

subrosa said...

Weren't some couple jailed for sending chemicals abroad, chemicals which are legal in the UK?
http://www.heraldscotland.com/judgement-day-for-couple-who-face-us-jail-for-selling-chemicals-online-1.828841

Faulcon said...

English Viking said...
"Surely two in the back of the head is instant, painless, cheap and effective?"

Why waste bullets, one is normnally enough!

JuliaM said...

"Me no understand.

Can Americans for some reason not make these reasonably simple (in one case absolutely simple, widespread, abundant, and cheap) chemicals?"


That's one I can't figure out, either. Perhaps the patent is held by a European company?

"Ridding the world of the "human" equivalent of a rabid dog IS positive I would have thought."

Me too!

"Tangentially, I wonder how many deaths or terrorist or similar criminally-inspired incidents have occurred because the perps know that there are apologists or useful idiots like Mr Stafford Smith available."

Sadly, it's unquantifiable.

"...if Reprieve want to prevent the export of drugs to a death penalty state from this guy's business the obvious answer is to buy his whole stock and flush it down the bog."

But then how would they afford Stafford-Smiths travel and expenses bill? God, it'd be taking food out of his mouth!

JuliaM said...

"Not to worry, those ever resourceful Yanks have turned to veterinary drugs for the job (cf John Duty)."

Heh!

"Surely two in the back of the head is instant, painless, cheap and effective?"

Bit messy, though. And the Yanks do have that tradition of viewable executions. Wouldn't do to have people fainting in the stalls...

"Nothing wrong with a big axe and a block. Energy-efficient, green, low pollution..."

And as you point out, a 'traditional' method! Hmmm, maybe English convicts could request it as part of their cultural heritage..?

"The sheeple will bleat 'But meat comes thin-sliced already. Why do you need a knife'. Just watch them."

Oh, yes. As Fuel-Injected Moose has pointed out recently, every local newspaper comment column lately seems to be full of 'em.

And that red kidney bean thing has been know (to people who read) for a while.

In fact, it's a wonder it's not used more often, we Brits not having puffer fish so easily to hand...

JuliaM said...

"Weren't some couple jailed for sending chemicals abroad, chemicals which are legal in the UK?"

Interesting turnabout!

Anonymous said...

I can't see his business surviving on only 42 jobs a year.

English Viking said...

Faulcon,

I'm afraid the case of the US senator recently shot in the head is evidence of why 2 are needed.

Julia,

That's my point entirely.

Show these brutes, and anyone else that is watching, what happens if you commit a capital offense.

Televise it. The pay-per-view figures would be enormous.

Angry Exile said...

English Viking, pay-per-view would probably make money but the use of capital punishment in the US is already so well known - a whole generation has grown up with it since they killed Gary Gilmore in the late 70s - that it won't show the brutes anything they don't already know. I'll grant you that it's by far the most effective way of saying, "Now don't do it again" that you can give a convicted offender because you can be 100% sure he won't, but as a deterrent to others it's always been arguable. Look how many people still smuggle drugs through countries that are known to have the death penalty and if anything are more willing to use it than even some US states. Look also at which are the least violent places to live in the US: North Dakota looks nice and quiet, so do Vermont and Maine. All are non-death penalty states. On the other hand South Dakota looks almost as safe and does do executions while DC doesn't execute and has a body count like a bad day on the Somme. On the face of it there doesn't seem to be any kind of correlation at all, though there's a better correlation between those four fairly safe states and their very liberal gun laws (Vermont barely has any gun law) and DC's highly restrictive gun laws. The most violent city in the nation won't execute criminals but denies citizens the means to protect themselves, while other places that are happy to have tooled up citizens are safer to live in than parts of the UK whether they execute or not.

Make of that what you will, but even without that my principle objection remains: I don't trust the government as far as I could throw a concrete hippo. They are arrogant, self serving and time and again have proven incapable of resisting the temptation to abuse the law and turn it against citizens in ways it was not originally intended or even that it explicitly promised it wouldn't do. So why should I trust them with the power of life and death over every citizen? Why would I believe that it would not be abused the way, for example, RIPA has been abused?

Furor Teutonicus said...

Angry Exile said...
the use of capital punishment in the US is already so well known - a whole generation has grown up with it since they killed Gary Gilmore in the late 70s


Huh? I can assure YOU laddy, capital punishment is a FUCKING lot older than THAT. Even in the U.S where they think my ultra modern house is "historical" because it was built in the 1890s (FFS!!)

but as a deterrent to others it's always been arguable.

Do you shoot a rabid wolf to teach the rest of the pack not to catch rabies?

"deterent" is only a usefull, optional, side benefit.

If it never detered one crime in it's whole history, so what?

The idea is to wipe scum off our streets.

that ALONE makes it worth while.

Angry Exile said...

FT, please re-read for context. You quote me saying:

'... a whole generation has grown up with it since they killed Gary Gilmore in the late 70s.'

The operative word there is 'since' and I'm referring to the point that in the US capital punishment was suspended, though still on the books, and resumed with the noteworthy execution of Gary Gilmore in the late 70s - noteworthy, given the comment about shots to the head which I was responding to, because Gilmore opted for a firing squad. Since Gilmore was shot the use of capital punishment in the US has increased, albeit in hops and steps rather than steadily, which means a whole generation has grown up with the knowledge that the federal government and a majority of state governments are increasingly likely to kill prisoners convicted of capital crimes. The current generation there is, I believe, by far the most relevant since it's probably the one doing most of the capital crime.

'but as a deterrent to others it's always been arguable.'

..."deterent" is only a usefull, optional, side benefit. ... The idea is to wipe scum off our streets.'


Again, please see the whole sentence you quoted. I began by saying that it's 100% effective at prevention of re-offending. Nor is my opposition based on the deterrent value - I was just saying that some argue it and threw in a few observations about levels of violent crimes in different US states correlating better with liberal firearms laws than with executions.

Please do not make the mistake of thinking I give the remotest fuck about murdering criminal filth. I don't. My only real objection to the death penalty is the same as it ever was: "mission creep". It requires me to trust not only that the government of today will not abuse the power the way governments generally do (I gave you an example but I will put in the time to compile a list some day), but also to trust that no future government will either. C'mon, Furor, you're in Germany for Christ's sake. Look at the history of capital punishment there: the Weimar republic kept it on the books only for the most serious crimes and they executed just a handful of people, all of whom may well have deserved it. And 25 years later you've got Sophie Scholl having her fucking head chopped off for handing out leaflets (not even written by her) suggesting that the WW2 might not have been such a terrific idea.

Guarantee me that the use of capital punishment can't possibly undergo a gradual extension to other crimes, and then to crimes which are not crimes but just political opposition or even differences of opinion with the government line. Guarantee me that what happened to Sophie Scholl and her White Rose friends can't happen again to anyone else. That's all I really want and I've said so here and at mine more than once.

Solve that and you've got my support for capital punishment. Yet I keep bringing it up and so far nobody has ever even addressed the issue.