Current Comment

Abu Ghraib at Home

The now infamous photo of an Abu Ghraib detainee crouching in terror before a snarling dog appalled people around the world. But the same thing is happening in prisons in five U.S. states. Jamie Fellner, director of the Human Rights Watch prison program, points out in an October report called Cruel and Degrading: The Use of Force for Cell Extractions in U.S. Prisons, that the use of attack dogs against prisoners here...has been a well-kept secret. Two U.S. army sergeants were convicted in courtsmartial for using dogs to threaten and assault detainees in Iraq. The report asserts that the same practice in the United States is not only cruel but also unnecessary, because more humane means are available to corrections officers in carrying out cell extractionsthe sanitized term for this violent procedure. Federal prisons do not employ it.

Connecticut, Delaware, Iowa, South Dakota and Utah all make use of dogs for cell extractions. If a prisoner persists in refusing to leave his cell, a dog is allowed to attack him. Arizona and Massachusetts both ended the practice after reviewing their prisons’ policies on the use of force. Kathleen Dennehy, commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Corrections, notes in the report that there are ways to oblige an inmate to obey orders other than sending in an animal to rip his flesh. We concur with the report’s recommendation that the American Correctional Association include in its own use-of-force standards a prohibition against the use of dogs on prisoners who refuse to vacate their cells.

Advertisement

Pride of the Celtics

As children we are taught it does not matter whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game. Red Auerbach, longtime coach, general manager and president of the Boston Celtics, who died Oct. 29, would beg to differ. "Show me a good loser and I’ll show you a loser," he once said. "Could I be a good coach and lose? To me, that’s like asking if a guy can be a good doctor even though his patients keep dying."

In 16 years as coach of the Celtics (1950-66), the cigar-chomping Auerbach did not do a lot of losing. His teams won 938 regular season games and nine N.B.A. titles, including eight in a row from 1959 to 1966, the longest string of championships in the history of North American professional sports.

But his career showed that the single-minded pursuit of victory could draw out the best in people, as well. His Celtics drafted the first black man, started the first all-black squad in N.B.A. history and hired the first black coach in professional athletics. "Black, white, or whatever, we didn’t give a damn. If you could play, you could play, and that’s the way we were."

Likewise, Auerbach coached 11 future Hall of Famers, but his teams rarely boasted the league-leading scorers. He used to brag that seven of his championship teams had not a single scorer in the top 10. While coach Pat Riley would call the Celtics the Klingons of the N.B.A. for their aggressive, take-no-prisoners style of play, Auerbach’s players succeeded because he demanded tenaciousness and self-sacrifice. Whether you won or lost was ultimately determined by the selflessness with which you played the game.

"Our pride," said Red Auerbach, "was never rooted in statistics."

Smart Science

NASA’s announcement that a space shuttle will be dispatched to repair and upgrade the Hubble telescope is welcome news to anyone interested in the advance of science. Since its launch in 1990, Hubble has increased our knowledge of the cosmos and its earliest development far beyond astronomers’ wildest hopes. From the very beginning, it has provided stunning images of cosmic objects and events that will remain lasting icons of U.S. space science. It has provided evidence that the universe is expanding at an accelerating rate and has identified more than 500 proto-galaxies dating to the earliest period of star formation. For some years the telescope’s future has been in doubt because of competition for funding with President Bush’s costly Mars exploration program and safety concerns after the Columbia disaster in 2003. Given Hubble’s contribution to science to date, its upgrading will surely guarantee an unparalleled future of discovery. Experiments aboard the international space station or a human mission to Mars are not likely to compare.

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.

Advertisement

Don't miss the best from America

Sign up for our Newsletter to get the Jesuit perspective on news, faith and culture.

The latest from america

Formed in 2011, The Oh Hellos' Christianity is one of their foundational inspirations, evident in lines like "the only God I should have loved."
Colleen DulleJanuary 23, 2018
People gather at a June 14 candlelight vigil in Manila, Philippines, in memory of the victims of the mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla. Philippine Catholic bishops called for vigilance against bullying, ostracism and harassment of gay people in the wake of the incident in which police said a lone gunman killed 49 people early June 12 at the club. (CNS photo/Mark R. Cristino, EPA)
“We are losing three generations of people, and we need to hear why,” said Bishop Mark O’Connell.
Michael J. O’LoughlinJanuary 23, 2018
Supporters of opposition presidential candidate Salvador Nasralla clash with military police in the Policarpo Paz Garcia neighborhood of Tegucigalpa, Honduras, on Jan. 20, 2018. Following a disputed election marred by irregularities, incumbent President Juan Orlando Hernandez was declared the victor and will be inaugurated on Jan. 27. The opposition does not recognize Hernandez's victory and are protesting against the result. (AP Photo/Fernando Antonio)
“You will see many protests during his mandate...because Honduras hasn’t fixed its age-old problems of inequality, exclusion, poor educational and health system, corruption and impunity.”
Melissa VidaJanuary 23, 2018
I want to be able to serve the state better. I want to be able to serve more of the state.
Nathan SchneiderJanuary 23, 2018