Torture in the USA, the continuing story
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Torture in the USA, the continuing story

Normally if I let a link sit around this long before posting about it, I’d let it go, but this one is particularly important.

I don’t have much to add to this article by Slate’s Dahlia Lithwick, but I wanted to link to it because it’s important. US citizens who were tortured by the US military while they were in Iraq are suing Donald Rumsfeld personally for authorizing the violation of their Constitutional rights. Both cases have won on appeal against attorneys for Rumsfeld and for the US government, who have tried to have them dismissed for a variety of reasons.

As anyone who reads this blog knows, I am completely against torture and I define torture broadly. If you’re one of those people who believes that torture is OK as long as it’s reserved for the worst of the worst, what you must understand is that it never works that way. The “worst of the worst” gets defined down until everyone falls into that category. In this case, the people subjected to torture were whistleblowers who worked for the US government.

You might argue that’s obviously immoral and illegal, but nobody has ever been held accountable for their treatment. And that brings us to a sentence from her more recent article on Dick Cheney’s memoir:

By deciding to repudiate torture while doing everything in its power to protect the torturers, the Obama administration has succeeded in elevating not only Cheney but the idea that, in America, some torturers are too important to be punished.

Right now the only thing standing between the United States and a torture regime is the Obama administration’s promise that it will not torture detainees. That’s not nearly enough.

I’d strongly encourage you to read both articles. I’d argue that the second describes the cause of the effect described in the first.

Zakaria on the underpants bomber
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Zakaria on the underpants bomber

As for the calls to treat the would-be bomber as an enemy combatant, torture him and toss him into Guantanamo, God knows he deserves it. But keep in mind that the crucial intelligence we received was from the boy’s father. If that father had believed that the United States was a rogue superpower that would torture and abuse his child without any sense of decency, would he have turned him in? To keep this country safe, we need many more fathers, uncles, friends and colleagues to have enough trust in America that they, too, would turn in the terrorist next door.

Fareed Zakaria in Don’t panic. Fear is al-Qaeda’s real goal. That’s the smartest thing I’ve read on the underpants bomber to date.

Links for September 3
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Links for September 3

First of all, happy birthday to my friend Paul, who doesn’t read my blog.

Links for August 29
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Links for August 29

Sometime soon I’m going to write about how being a programmer makes me think differently about toothpaste. In the meantime:

Links for August 26
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Links for August 26

  • Nefarious idea of the day: requiring users to view and regurgitate an ad to prove that they’re human. (Microsoft has applied for a patent on this approach.)
  • Frank Bruni’s final column as the New York Times restaurant critic. I loved his advice for navigating a menu, which ends with, “Then scratch off anything that mentions truffle oil. Choose among the remaining dishes.”
  • By way of the Footnotes of Mad Men, a newsreel from the 1964 World’s Fair. Worth watching for the explanation of computers alone.
  • Andrew Sullivan on the American way of torture. I’m just going to keep linking to this stuff until I stop encountering people who believe that the way we have treated detainees does not constitute torture.
  • Hypocrisy watch: we send Bill Clinton to North Korea to retrieve US journalists who have been unjustly imprisoned, and we also imprison Iraqi journalists without charging them with any crimes.
  • Today’s compromise is tomorrow’s landmark legislation. Let’s pass a health care reform bill.
  • Ted Kennedy was the first member of Congress with an official Web site.
Links for August 25
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Links for August 25

  • Glenn Greenwald on what all Americans should know about the 2004 CIA Inspector General’s report that was released on Monday.
  • Alex Tabarrok (the more doctrinaire libertarian half of the team at Marginal Revolution) explains why you must have a public option if health care reform will include an individual mandate. Further proof that I was completely wrong in arguing that the public option is not necessary.
  • Spencer Ackerman explains the insidiousness of torture — once you’ve embarked on a program of torture, the logical response to not getting the information you expect is to order more torture.
  • If you’re trying to embed Google Maps in your Web site and want to start with a centered map of the United States, Lebanon, Kansas is the spot.
  • Today I was trying to come up with good ways to avoid mixing JavaScript code with PHP code. Here’s a Stack Overflow question on the topic. I almost wonder whether using AJAX is better than writing PHP that emits JavaScript.
Links from July 9th
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Links from July 9th