Monday, December 13, 2010

Peculiar Institution: America’s Death Penalty in an Age of Abolition

I am fascinated by America's use of the death penalty. I find it weird and strange in a curious way as well as abhorrent.

There is a great new book out about it, and I found this wonderful and well written book review.

Here is an extract which explains the purposes which the author feels the death penalty serves in the US - none of which are deterrence or punishment:

Garland concludes that capital punishment today is “reasonably well adapted to the purposes that it serves, but deterrent crime control and retributive justice are not prominent among them.” Instead, the death penalty promotes “gratifications,” of “professional and political users, of the mass media, and of its public audience.” In particular, he contends, capital punishment derives “its emotional power, its popular interest, and its perennial appeal” from five types of “death penalty discourse.” They are: (1) political exploitation of the gap between the Furmandecision and popular opinion; (2) adversarial legal proceedings featuring cultural tensions between capital punishment and liberal humanism; (3) the political association of capital punishment with larger political and cultural issues, such as civil rights, states’ rights, and crime control; (4) demands for revenge; and (5) the emotional power of imagining killing and death. He concludes that “the American death penalty has been transformed from a penal instrument that puts persons to death to a peculiar institution that puts death into discourse for political and cultural purposes.”

Sunday, December 12, 2010

India debates whether to use English

in this interesting article here.

It seems like a stupid debate to me, but let me make it easy by offering two rather simple (and politically incorrect) baskets to choose from:

Basket 1.
English is certainly a vestige of colonialism, and if you feel particularly bad about it, you might want to get rid of its use. Fair enough. I might add that Islam in India (and Pakistan and Bangladesh for that matter) is also the result of another era of colonialism so you might want to get rid of Muslims too. Oh, and Hinduism is also the result of colonialism in the north of the country which was previously Buddhist so some adjustment may have to be made there too. I would also recommend tearing down colonial buildings if they serve as reminders of colonialism (that might include the Taj Mahal even as well as British ones), and probably ripping up some of those train tracks. There are, of course negative impacts to getting rid of these things, including English. But there are positive effects too - especially if colonial reminders are especially hard.

Basket 2.
Keep English (and everything else), be more open internationally, have higher economic growth (and fewer children dying as a nice result), have more influence in the world, be a more multicultural and international and mixed society. BUT, of course, you'd have to put up with a constant reminder (if indeed it is) of a colonial past and this might hurt some people.

It is not obvious, if the aim is to maximise wellbeing, which basket is the best. But I know which one I'd choose.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Lack of blogs

I am overseas for work just now - hence the lack of blog posts - which will continue till January.

If you want an insight, I refer you to the Hand Relief International blog. Possibly the best blog in the world.