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Cruel and unusual punishment is a platitude found in the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The Amendment, like the rest of the Bill of Rights, was written to ensure that the new American nation would not suffer from the excesses of the former English overlords, such as drawing-and-quartering, death by torture (no matter how entertaining it was to contemplate it being done to Mel Gibson in Braveheart), or repeats of Mr. Bean.
That the Founding Founders in the execution-happy colonies would have written an amendment to ban executions entirely is so unthinkable that it has taken the finest minds in the United States to explain why it means exactly this.
Most uses of the Eighth Amendment in the U.S. court system therefore concern executions, the exception being the rare lawsuit to demand premium cable channels on prison televisions.
In fact, no prisoner has ever been drawn-and-quartered or tortured in the United States at all. And slavery, the Alternative Minimum Tax, and Instant Replay in Major League Baseball are technically not even "punishments."
The Supreme Court, then, has had the task of understanding what the Founders could have meant by writing an Amendment that, on the surface, seems meaningless. In the American renaissance called the Great Society, it first occurred to the Court that the death penalty itself could be "cruel and unusual punishment."
As in most things, the Court advanced this "jurisprudence" gradually, first saving from execution only:
- The insane, who obviously did not know what they were doing
- Premeditated murders, because the nation needs their expertise and attention to detail in National Economic Planning
- Child killers, because we need to give them a chance to grow up
- Spouse killers, because we need to give them a chance to grow old
- Elderly killers, because sometimes writing kids out of the will just doesn't work
- African Americans, because we don't execute a fair share of white folks and we wouldn't want blacks to take this the wrong way
- Authors of gun massacres, because this is the fault of gun shows, SUVs, and rodeos.
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On this day...
April 25: National Obesity Appreciation Day
- 0 - The world's first April 25th was celebrated. Nostradamus predicts the world's first April 26th to occur a day later. He later predicts the birth of Jimbo Wales and the creation of Wikipedia, but no one believes him due to the idea of both being so stupid.
- 908 - A horde of plus-sized Vikings raid the east coast of Britain and set up a new IKEA store.
- 1301 - First known use of the phrase "I don't give a shit" thought to have been said somewhere around London, England.
- 1607 - Dutch Commando Dykes led by Hans Solo destroy the anchored Spanish fleet.
- 1847 - The last survivors of the Donner Party are out of the wilderness. Shortly after, the first McDonners resturant opens. First item on the menu: McRib.
- 1862 - The worlds first battery operated fork is created; two million die during its first use.
- 1859 - Ground is broken for the Suez Canal. Israelis and Egyptians immediately begin fighting over who owns the hole.
- 1915 - Australians invade Turkey, only to piss off next year.
- 1918 - Turks invade Australia, but have stayed permanantly to drive taxis.
- 1921 - Fattest US president in history, William Howard Taft, eats a steak.
- 1950 - The Michelin Man Ii born.
- 1955 - The first McDonalds is opened.
- 1956 - "Obesity" is a recognized health problem.
- 1957 - Overweight Appreciation day is upgraded to Obesity Appreciation Day, whilst Overweight Appreciation Day changes to 25th December.
- 1986 - First annual (and only) all-night Soviet Power Plant Workers' Tetris competition held.
- 1990 - Astronauts deploying the Hubble Space Telescope drop it on the way out the door, knocking it slightly out of focus.
- 2003 - The International Federation of Dentists cancel all appointments for the month of August, in protest that floss and tooth picks, are not bar-coded.
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