There used to be a high-profile gossip columnist with a mass-market US tabloid famous for signing off her often jaw-dropping revelations with the catchphrase, “Only in America, kids. Only in America”.
Obviously that was back in the era when Americans had cornered the market on mad behaviour and before the rest of Western nations got up to speed (as we are today) with serial lunacy.
But hitting the headlines in recent days is a story straight from the “only in America” file.
A female journalist was turned away from covering an event in Alabama on the grounds that her skirt was too short.
The event in question, hosted by the Alabama Department of Corrections, was the execution by lethal injection of Joe Nathan James Jr.
The reporter, Ivana Hrynkiw Shatara, had been scheduled to witness this gruesome despatch along with other media attendees and relatives of both the condemned man and the young woman he had murdered.
Told she was not appropriately dressed for the occasion, owing to her hemline, Ivana says she tried to pull the skirt down over her hips a bit to lengthen it. This still didn’t pass muster.
Fortunately she was able to borrow a pair of waders from a photographer also covering the execution (I’m not sure what exactly waders are; I’d have thought very long wellies). But Ivana was still deemed inappropriately attired because of her “open-toed” appearance. Whether she was wearing a pair of sandals or the waders were a bit on the kinky side, it’s hard to say.
Anyway, this was remedied by slipping into a pair of tennis shoes. And there you have it: a mini skirt, waders and gutties — appropriate wear should you ever be asked to attend an execution in Alabama.
The question of “appropriateness”, overlooked by the skirt-length Stasi, was the small matter that they were enforcing a dress code to witness a man being killed.
In Alabama they can’t see the barbarity for the knees.
Ivana pointed out that she had worn the same short skirt to previous executions and nobody had said a word. How many executions has she covered? She makes the administration of lethal injection sound as routine as covering a council planning committee meeting.
She’d felt very uncomfortable, she said, during the three hours she had to sit there. Obviously, in that get-up, it must have been awkward.
But there’s uncomfortable and there’s uncomfortable. And I imagine that for the three hours it took them to find a vein and then inject him with lethal chemicals, Joe Nathan James Jr would not exactly have been feeling terribly relaxed either.
In the US, 27 states still have the death penalty. There are plenty of people back here who would say “good thing, too”. On social media in particular, you’ll regularly read calls for someone or other to be executed on account of something they’ve done or even said. “Bring back hanging” is a common refrain.
Joe Nathan James Jr murdered a young woman. There is no doubt he committed a heinous crime and deserved to pay for it.
He took a life; he should forfeit his own. That’s the pro-death penalty argument.
I think execution is wrong for two reasons. First, because it’s just wrong. It’s immoral and it reduces the state to the level of the killer. Also, I think a life prison sentence, properly administered (ie, life really meaning life), is as harsh a punishment: to know you will never know freedom again.
The problem is that life sentences rarely mean life. In the UK only a small number of notorious monsters, such as Levi Bellfield, have been handed whole life orders.
Killers can walk free within a few short years due to “good behaviour”, while the bereaved serve a sentence of grief for the rest of their days. No wonder there’s disgust and anger at the system.
In Northern Ireland the last execution was carried out in 1961. Robert McGladdery was hanged for the brutal murder of 19-year-old Pearl Gamble. The death penalty remained law here until 1973.
Had it been enforced during the long years of the Troubles, many prominent paramilitaries might well have faced the death penalty.
Capital punishment won’t be making a comeback here, but, in the US, in 2022, it’s still a vote winner.
And only in America is a short skirt at an execution deemed more unseemly than the taking of a human life.
Sash Pelosi wore makes statement
Politicians like their career to go out with a bang. The problem, where Nancy Pelosi (82), speaker of the US House of Representatives is concerned, is that the bang in question could be nuclear. Ms Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan is seen either as an important gesture of solidarity or poking a stick in the hornet’s (in this case, the dragon’s) nest. So, did Nancy go there just to cement her own legacy? Critics deride it as a vanity project. But her hosts were happy to see her and awarded her a gong and a sash. A great photo op for the House Speaker. But one that also allows the Chinese to claim provocation by the US — epitomised by that sash Pelosi wore.
Women’s goal is salary equality
Congratulations to the Lionesses for their Euro football win, of which we’ve had considerable coverage. As with all our own female stars raking in the medals at the Commonwealth Games, they inspire young girls to get into sport. But spare us please all that waffle about teaching young girls they can grow up to be anything they want to be: from Marie Curie to Serena Williams, girls have always known this. What they don’t know is why they don’t get paid the same as men when they do make it.
A case of in Liz we Truss
We’ve always accepted that politicians would do anything to advance their own careers, but the Conservative Party leadership battle has become a right showcase of political sucking-up. How much are all those defeated candidates suddenly backing Liz Truss (who currently looks like the favourite for Number Ten) hoping that their “support” now will ensure themselves a place in her Cabinet if she does become PM? Even Sajid Javid, friend of Rishi Sunak, has turned to Truss. And if the momentum behind her campaign continues, how long before Rishi himself says he’s backing her in hope of a future job?