Where the nitrogen wind goes sweeping down the plains

This is going to end badly.

On Friday, Oklahoma governor Mary Fallin signed a bill that allows the state to execute inmates using nitrogen gas in the event that traditional lethal injection drugs are unavailable. The use of nitrogen gas, which induces hypoxia, has never been tested on humans, but supporters maintain that the method is both humane and painless.

Let’s try a method of execution that’s never been tested before. I mean, what could go wrong?

There is something called nitrogen narcosis, which affects scuba divers and involves pressurized the pressurized inert gas.

1. Emotional Effects of Narcosis on Divers:

Depending upon the diver and the dive environment, narcosis may cause a diver to feel either positive, euphoric emotions or negative, stressful emotions. Both scenarios are dangerous.

A diver feeling overly relaxed and happy may fail to react appropriately to a dangerous situation because he feels that everything is fine. An example is a euphoric diver who notices that he has exceeded his tank reserve pressure, but decides to continue diving because he feels great and therefore isn’t worried about running out of air.

A diver who experiences feelings of dread or stress may perceive problems which do not exist or may react inappropriately to those that do. An example is a stressed diver who notices that he has reached his tank reserve pressure. He panics, inflates his buoyancy compensator, and rockets to the surface because he is afraid that he will run out of air if he makes a normal controlled descent, even though he has more than sufficient air to do so.

2. Narcosis Slows and Impairs Mental Abilities:

Narcosis affects a diver’s ability to reason, evaluate situations, decide on appropriate courses of action, and recall information. Narcosis also slows a diver’s thinking and reaction times. In effect, a diver experiencing narcosis thinks less clearly and more slowly than he normally does.

Foggy thinking and reasoning underwater is dangerous. Even normal situations can lead to potential disasters as a diver’s mental abilities decline. As an example, a diver who is negatively buoyant may fail to inflate his buoyancy compensator because he doesn’t recognize the problem (failing to evaluate the situation). Or, he may try to compensate for negative buoyancy by kicking himself up (failing to decide on an appropriate course of action).

I have no idea what happens when a person is confined to a room that’s only supplying nitrogen, but since this has never been tested on humans as a form of execution, it seems the possibilities are that:

1) Witnesses to the execution will watch a guy laughing his ass off before he collapses and dies, or …

2) Witnesses to the execution will watch a guy screaming his head off before he collapses and dies.

I think I would have nightmares forever if I ever saw that. Oklahoma is not OK.

Police procedure: The Arizona way

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There’s a line the the movie “The Untouchables” in which Sean Connery, the crusty cop, explains to Kevin Costner, the untouchable Eliot Ness, the rules of war:

You wanna know how to get Capone? They pull a knife, you pull a gun. He sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue. *That’s* the *Chicago* way!

Can you imagine, with that logic, what cops would do if a guy actually pulled a gun?

Nope. There’s no way I would have ever imagined that. And that was in Arizona, not Chicago.

Your guide to the next election

What’s the next presidential election going to be about and who’s going to decide it.

Let’s look at the voters (click to enlarge, from Information Is Beautiful):

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And let’s look at the choices, from Paul Krugman:

… [T]here has never been a time in American history when the alleged personal traits of candidates mattered less. As we head into 2016, each party is quite unified on major policy issues — and these unified positions are very far from each other. The huge, substantive gulf between the parties will be reflected in the policy positions of whomever they nominate, and will almost surely be reflected in the actual policies adopted by whoever wins.

For example, any Democrat would, if elected, seek to maintain the basic U.S. social insurance programs — Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid — in essentially their current form, while also preserving and extending the Affordable Care Act. Any Republican would seek to destroy Obamacare, make deep cuts in Medicaid, and probably try to convert Medicare into a voucher system.

Any Democrat would retain the tax hikes on high-income Americans that went into effect in 2013, and possibly seek more. Any Republican would try to cut taxes on the wealthy — House Republicans plan to vote next week to repeal the estate tax — while slashing programs that aid low-income families.

Any Democrat would try to preserve the 2010 financial reform, which has recently been looking much more effective than critics suggested. Any Republican would seek to roll it back, eliminating both consumer protection and the extra regulation applied to large, “systemically important” financial institutions.

And any Democrat would try to move forward on climate policy, through executive action if necessary, while any Republican — whether or not he is an outright climate-science denialist — would block efforts to limit greenhouse gas emissions.

It doesn’t matter who gets the nomination for either party. What matters is what the parties stand for. And when you view the chart and the positions, you see there’s no ambiguity on what side you’re going to pick.

When it gets late in the election season and you hear people say they’re undecided, you should immediately know that they are either liars or morons.