No backtracking on torture
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No backtracking on torture

One of the reasons people hate politics is the hypocrisy of it all. Politicians excuse behavior from their allies that they are eager to rebuke from their opponents.

Perhaps the most shocking recent example of this was the Republican effort to eliminate the filibuster when they had the majority in the Senate and House until 2006. After decrying the filibuster as an unconstitutional travesty for years, the Republican minority in the current Senate has used the filibuster more than any other Congress in history.

Now we see Democrats who were unequivocally against torture equivocating. The only way to prevent this sort of thing is to make people aware that it’s going on, and for voters to let politicians know that principles shouldn’t change regardless of who’s in the White House. So that’s what I’m doing.

Obama on torture
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Obama on torture

Barack Obama stated unequivocally that he will close Guantanamo and put a stop to torture on 60 Minutes last night. Of course, our current President has said any number of times that the US “does not torture,” but I’ll give Obama the benefit of the doubt for now that he is using the accepted definition of the word torture rather than the made-up one that the Bush administration has tried to foist upon us.

Is China punishing Apple?
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Is China punishing Apple?

Is China blocking access to the iTunes Music Store because an album called Songs for Tibet was added? What’s interesting to me is that regardless of why China started blocking access to the store, everything that happens from this point will serve to confirm some people’s assumptions on the matter, and we’ll probably never really know for sure what happened or how it wound up playing out.

Gitmo detainees have rights under the Constitution
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Gitmo detainees have rights under the Constitution

The Supreme Court ruled today that Gitmo detainees have rights after all:

In a stunning blow to the Bush Administration in its war-on-terrorism policies, the Supreme Court ruled Thursday that foreign nationals held at Guantanamo Bay have a right to pursue habeas challenges to their detention. The Court, dividing 5-4, ruled that Congress had not validly taken away habeas rights. If Congress wishes to suspend habeas, it must do so only as the Constitution allows — when the country faces rebellion or invasion.

The Court stressed that it was not ruling that the detainees are entitled to be released — that is, entitled to have writs issued to end their confinement. That issue, it said, is left to the District Court judges who will be hearing the challenges. The Court also said that “we do not address whether the President has authority to detain” individuals during the war on terrorism, and hold them at the U.S. Naval base in Cuba; that, too, it said, is to be considered first by the District judges.

About time. Don’t miss Balkinization for insightful running commentary.

I’ll also say that the bottom line is that if John McCain is elected President, cases like this go the other way for a long, long time.

Update: Dahlia Lithwick has posted her analysis of the ruling.

Links for April 19
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Links for April 19

Links for April 9
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Links for April 9

Links for April 2nd
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Links for April 2nd

Links for March 22
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Links for March 22

  • Exposure: Philip Gourevitch and Errol Morris on the photographs from Abu Ghraib in the New Yorker. Morris has a new documentary on Abu Ghraib coming out on April 25 called Standard Operating Procedure. It’s tough to believe that Donald Rumsfeld and George W Bush will never go to jail after reading this article.
  • Marginal Revolution: Why have burglaries declined? Globalization has made manufactured goods so cheap that the incentive to steal them has been reduced.
  • Compiler: New Wiki-Style Features Allow Anyone to Edit Google Maps. It’ll be interesting to see how this experiment works out.
  • Edmunds.com: We Test the Tips. Edmunds tested a bunch of “better gas mileage” tips to determine which ones will actually improve your car’s fuel economy. Driving less aggressively seems to offer the biggest bang for the buck.
  • Andrew Brown: The nerd is the enemy of civilisation. ELIZA creator on RMS and his friends at MIT in the 70s.
  • furbo.org: Vote for virtualization. Not allowing virtualization puts OS X behind the times.
Against torture
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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.”