Being a homeowner, I thought I should look into a security system to protect my property from the roving hordes of barbarians, cannibals, zombies and other undesirables sure to be seen lurching around the post-Rapture hellscape (no sign of Jeebus around here yet, but it’s still only late afternoon). I took an informal survey of the yard signs throughout the nearby suburbs, and a company called Vector was the clear favorite, but still, I ultimately decided to go with Brinks. I figured the people who make armored cars should know a thing or two about keeping your stuff safe, right? And installation was a snap, so now I can kick back and relax, safe and sound.
crime and punishment
It’s a common complaint among my fellow atheists that the majority of our countrymen think us to be immoral simply because we don’t fear celestial punishment in a nonexistent afterlife. It’s bordering on cliché to say that atheists have no chance of ever being elected to high office here. But I have even more cause to feel aggrieved, as it appears that 80% of potential jurors would likely adjudge me a criminal just because of my magnificent facial plumage. This, despite scientific evidence proving me to be the most trustworthy person you know. Imagine if I were on trial for a capital crime and refused to swear on “a book of Bronze Age fables”, before smirking insolently and sitting back to stroke my hirsute cheeks and chin! Would I even make it to sentencing, or would they just draw and quarter me right there in the courtroom?
But beyond the emotional fulfillment that comes from vengeance and retributive justice, there are two points worth considering. The first is the question of what, if anything, is going to change as a result of the two bullets in Osama bin Laden’s head? Are we going to fight fewer wars or end the ones we’ve started? Are we going to see a restoration of some of the civil liberties which have been eroded at the alter of this scary Villain Mastermind? Is the War on Terror over? Are we Safer now?Those are rhetorical questions. None of those things will happen. If anything, I can much more easily envision the reverse. Whenever America uses violence in a way that makes its citizens cheer, beam with nationalistic pride, and rally around their leader, more violence is typically guaranteed. Futile decade-long wars in Iraq and Afghanistan may temporarily dampen the nationalistic enthusiasm for war, but two shots to the head of Osama bin Laden — and the We are Great and Good proclamations it engenders — can easily rejuvenate that war love. One can already detect the stench of that in how Pakistan is being talked about: did they harbor bin Laden as it seems and, if so, what price should they pay? We’re feeling good and strong about ourselves again — and righteous — and that’s often the fertile ground for more, not less, aggression.In sum, a murderous religious extremist was killed. The U.S. has erupted in a collective orgy of national pride and renewed faith in the efficacy and righteousness of military force. Other than that, the repercussions are likely to be far greater in terms of domestic politics — it’s going to be a huge boost to Obama’s re-election prospects and will be exploited for that end — than anything else.
I don’t care about Osama bin Laden, and to be quite frank, I never really did. Anyone can kill 3000 people, but it takes a willing nation to kill 1,000,000. 9/11 did not introduce the world to just one monster, it was a day that created two. So don’t expect me to dance, or celebrate, I am not even going to smile. While one monster may have died, the other one still holds a knife to my back, a gun in my mouth, and collects my taxes.
At the heart of Bell’s position is that God’s love can triumph over every obstacle, including sins that Christians have long believed would consign them to anguish in the afterlife. But that notion is appalling to many people, Bell argues, and is minimized even by those who uphold its truth.“The book is saying we need to take hell more seriously,” Bell told The Associated Press, “Because the people who warn about hell when you die don’t seem to talk about it very much.”“Atheists are not going to be impressed by this book. Skeptics are not going to be impressed by this book,” said Christian blogger Justin Taylor at the Southern Baptist forum. “The people who are going to be impressed by this book are disaffected evangelicals.
Am I the only one who thinks it’s extremely odd that we are sending “Homeland Security” agents to Afghanistan? Don’t we have a military that’s tasked with these sorts of chores? And if it’s just a “loan” of certain specialists, why is Janet Napolitano making the announcement instead of the proper foreign service or military spokesperson? Afghanistan isn’t in her portfolio — at least I didn’t think it was. I thought we were going to keep the new Homeland Security forces here in the … homeland.That’s all rhetorical, of course, since it’s been obvious for decades that many of our allegedly “domestic” agencies like the DEA and the ATF are really para-military organizations which are deployed all over the world. But it looks as though we aren’t even going to pretend anymore that there’s a separation between the two. And that means that we have created yet another sacred police/military budget item that will be nearly impossible to scale back.
What has changed since the collapse of Jim Crow has less to do with the basic structure of our society than with the language we use to justify severe inequality. In the era of colorblindness, it is no longer socially permissible to use race, explicitly, as justification for discrimination, exclusion, or social contempt. Rather, we use our criminal-justice system to associate criminality with people of color and then engage in the prejudiced practices we supposedly left behind. Today, it is legal to discriminate against ex-offenders in ways it was once legal to discriminate against African Americans. Once you’re labeled a felon, depending on the state you’re in, the old forms of discrimination — employment discrimination, housing discrimination, denial of the right to vote, and exclusion from jury service — are suddenly legal. As a criminal, you have scarcely more rights and arguably less respect than a black man living in Alabama at the height of Jim Crow. We have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it.…What caused the unprecedented explosion in our prison population? It turns out that the activists who posted the sign on the telephone pole were right: The “war on drugs” is the single greatest contributor to mass incarceration in the United States. Drug convictions accounted for about two-thirds of the increase in the federal prison system and more than half of the increase in the state prison system between 1985 and 2000 — the period of the U.S. penal system’s most dramatic expansion.
Hands all over the Eastern borderYou know what?I think we’re falling from composureHands all over Western cultureRuffling feathersTurning eagles into vultures– Soundgarden
The first former Guantanamo Bay detainee to be tried in federal criminal court was found guilty on a single conspiracy charge Wednesday but cleared on 284 other counts. The outcome, a surprise, seriously undermines – and could doom – the Obama administration’s plans to put other Guantanamo detainees on trial in U.S. civilian courts.…The administration did not want to rely exclusively on the military commissions that the George W. Bush administration had made a centerpiece of its detention policy. President Obama’s strategy, however, has run into fierce, cross-party opposition in Congress and New York, in part because of concerns that it would be harder to win convictions in civilian court.…But the verdict was still a blow to administration officials, who were quietly confident that Ghailani would be found guilty on all charges. For some, a conviction on only one count amounted to a close call. Had he been cleared of all charges, the administration would probably have been forced to take Ghailani back into military custody rather than see him released.…”One of 285 counts is not exactly a track record for a prosecution team to be proud of,” said Kirk Lippold, former commander of the USS Cole, which was attacked by al-Qaeda in 2000. “I think the administration is now in a position where they have to get serious about using military commissions. This case sends a clear and unmistakable signal about using civilian courts: It didn’t work.”
More generally though, I just don’t know if I think marijuana should be legalized at all. Maybe it’s that I’m getting into my 40s. And maybe I’m a hypocrite. I of course know people who smoke grass. And I don’t have any problem with it. Decriminalized? Yes, I think probably so. But that’s not the same as legalization. It’s very different actually. And let me be clear that I think our drug laws are catastrophic. They create endemic violence first in our major cities and now along the borders and it’s led to generations of Americans rotting in prison. The whole war on drugs is an unmitigated disaster. And the fact that people can’t use marijuana for clear medical reasons is crazy. But do I think it should be like alcohol? Anyone over 18 or 21 can buy it?
Researchers analyzed how addictive a drug is and how it harms the human body, in addition to other criteria like environmental damage caused by the drug, its role in breaking up families and its economic costs, such as health care, social services, and prison.Heroin, crack cocaine and methamphetamine, or crystal meth, were the most lethal to individuals. When considering their wider social effects, alcohol, heroin and crack cocaine were the deadliest. But overall, alcohol outranked all other substances, followed by heroin and crack cocaine. Marijuana, ecstasy and LSD scored far lower.
I remember, many years ago, talking to my father about the idea of legalization. And bear in mind, my Dad, God bless him, smoked a decent amount of grass in his day, said he didn’t like the idea. One reason is that he was already a bit older by that time. But he had this very contradictory and hard to rationalize position which was that he was fine with people smoking pot but keeping it at least nominally illegal kept public usage in some check. Again, how to rationalize that in traditional civic terms? Not really sure. But frankly, I think I kind of agree.For what it’s worth, of course I’ve smoked pot. But for purely personal reasons I haven’t in more than twenty years.
Yes, Clemons’ deceits and trespasses are worse than anyone expected–we don’t needn’t run through the entire litany of his chest-thumping professions of innocence and marital infidelities–but putting him behind bars, what good will that do? Apart from giving journalists malicious delight and talk-radio sports jocks another opportunity to roll out their prison-rape jokes, the inevitable references to the hulking cellmate who’s usually given a black name, har har. Whatever the outcome of his trial, Clemons is hardly some menace to society, and I hate the punitive zeal that animates so much of the media and the online inferno, that girds so much of American society. We lock up too many people as it is, our incarceration rate a national shame and a global disgrace.
Speaking of support for capital punishment, approximately 60 percent of Americans still support the death penalty. Why does it persist in this country when the majority of developed nations have abandoned it?It’s becoming clear to many people in this country that we have a very high number of people in prison and that we are using capital punishment more than many Western nations. When you add it all up, the United States is really quite a punitive nation. And yet, many of the people who created the foundation for this country were sent as slaves, convicts and indentured servants. Our society was built on that — like Australia, it’s very much a part of our DNA. But we don’t want to acknowledge that. We want to put our prisons out of sight, out of mind, and have executions that seem to not be causing any pain and are carried out out of the public gaze because it doesn’t square with our notion of who we are.– Salon