Strong opinions, weakly held

Tag: America

Ain’t that America

Matthew Yglesias nails one of the central characteristics of American culture:

The United States isn’t run along Social Darwinist lines, but we’re closer than any other major developed country. To an extent that I find frankly astounding—and certainly unseen in other wealthy nations—people from modest backgrounds are expected to suffer the economic consequences of poor decision-making or bad luck, all in the name of personal responsibility. But when someone really important screws up, either in terms of provoking a financial crisis or overseeing a policy disaster or breaking the law or whatever, well then it turns out that we have better things to do than “look backwards” at who deserves what.

Links from March 16th and 17th

Against torture

The Washington Monthly devotes its full issue this month to articles arguing for a ban on torture. The Bush administration’s continual demand that we must be allowed to torture prisoners is the greatest blow to US moral standing in my lifetime. Plus, it makes me sick. Here’s how the magazine introduces the issue:

In most issues of the Washington Monthly, we favor articles that we hope will launch a debate. In this issue we seek to end one. The unifying message of the articles that follow is, simply, Stop. In the wake of September 11, the United States became a nation that practiced torture. Astonishingly—despite the repudiation of torture by experts and the revelations of Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib—we remain one. As we go to press, President George W. Bush stands poised to veto a measure that would end all use of torture by the United States. His move, we suspect, will provoke only limited outcry. What once was shocking is now ordinary.

President Bush has since vetoed that bill.

There were also two articles this weekend on the language of torture that are worth reading. Fred Clark muses on how newspapers have stopped using the word torture. William Safire explains the origins of the word waterboarding, which used to be more commonly referred to as “water torture.”

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