“between being waterboarded once and imprisoned for several years, which would you pick?”

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June 10, 2011 by J. Madson

As other obligations have taken up my time, I have failed to post anything for some time. In the meanwhile I thought I would try to post a News roundup of some of the more provocative things I have read each week.

1) Roderick Long, self proclaimed left-libertarian market anarchist and professor of Philosophy at Auburn concludes his discussion of our penal system with the question:

For those who doubt that incarceration counts as inhumane, ask yourself: if you had a choice between being waterboarded once and being imprisoned for several years, which would you pick?


This months Reason magazine latest issue is devoted entirely to the penal system in the US which in my opinion is the most inhumane and unchristian institution in the United States. Our system is largely based on the principle of retributive justice which acts as a euphemism for vengeance. As I have argued elsewhere, such a system is rarely challenged theologically in that our false understandings of the atonement and justice enshrine retribution as a key component of our justice system allowing violence and coercion against our domestic enemies, read criminals, and violence against our national foes through war and conflict. You can read Roderick’s post in full here where he argues that

while there are rights-violators who do pose severe threats to other people, and there might accordingly be a case for incarcerating such people in prisons of some sort, the kinds of prisons that actually exist in present-day society are such nightmarish hellholes that incarceration in that context seems seriously inhumane. And when we turn our attention from the ill treatment that such prisoners receive to the ill treatment they inflict, it makes little sense to trumpet incarceration as a way of stopping violent criminals from committing assault, rape, and murder, when they are allowed to go on committing assault, rape, and murder against fellow inmates once inside. (Being convicted of a crime does not mean one has forfeited one’s right not to be assaulted, raped, or murdered.)

2) William Katz in “War? Bloodlust? What’s a Scholar to Do?” reminds us that Theodore Roosevelt really was a first rate asshole.

In 1897 TR wrote a friend “I should welcome almost any war, for I think this country needs one” — and carried around a list of six target nations on three continents. The next year the U.S. declared war on Spain, and TR at forty rushed to serve — and did serve heroically as a Rough Rider. Years later he regretted he had not been ”seriously wounded in Cuba in some striking and disfiguring way.”

In what ways did TR’s bloodlust impact the world stage?… “All the great masterful races have been fighting races,” he claimed. To fellow Anglo-Saxons he said, “It is wholly impossible to avoid conflicts with the weaker races,”and added, “The most ultimately righteous of all wars is a war with savages.” He urged Anglo Saxon men to embrace war as a form of “spiritual renewal” that would prevent “race suicide” and stimulate “a clear instinct for racial selfishness.” TR as a statesman embraced war as inevitable, justifiable, and politically useful. As an historian TR called “heroic” shocking U.S. Army massacres of innocent Indian villagers. He believed “the only good Indian is a dead Indian” and promoted the genocide of Native Americans. In 1897 TR wrote a friend “I should welcome almost any war, for I think this country needs one” — and carried around a list of six target nations on three continents.

President during a time when a hundred African Americans were killed by brutal lynch mobs each year, TR said he opposed lynching. He also spoke to Black audiences about lynching and announced the “rapists and criminals” among them “did more harm to their race than any white man can possibly do them.”

During his White House years, TR boasted, “not a shot was fired at any soldier of a hostile nation by any American soldier or sailor.” But when Filipinos demanded the right of self-determination, he ordered a U.S. Army occupation of the Philippines that continued throughout his presidency and beyond . . . and took hundreds of thousands of civilian lives.

During World War I TR’s bloodlust was still kicking. At 60 he rushed to join the Army so he could die gloriously for his country, but was turned down. But when his son Archie was wounded overseas TR and his family raised a toast. TR died two years later peacefully in his bed.

3) Alabama outdoes AZ in racist xenophobic laws or as Roderick Long states:

The old Jim Crow laws enforced discrimination based on the colour of a person’s skin; the new Jim Crow laws enforce discrimination on the basis of a person’s birth on the wrong side of an imaginary line. Though of course racist motivations are not exactly absent.

and the church issues this statement on immigration.

“The Church supports an approach where undocumented immigrants are allowed to square themselves with the law and continue to work without this necessarily leading to citizenship.

In furtherance of needed immigration reform in the United States, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints supports a balanced and civil approach to a challenging problem, fully consistent with its tradition of compassion, its reverence for family, and its commitment to law.”

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