Friday, February 18, 2005 8:21 AM

No End to Torture

Last year was the year we learned that U.S. officials man military personnel had been torturing prisoners in Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, and perhaps in secret detention centers around the world. And when that didn't suffice, officials flew prisoners to other countries and handed custody of them over for a while; these coutries have official policies that permit treatment of prisoners that we (officially) do not.

Could this year, 2005, be the year that we decide once and for all, to end U.S. involvement with torture? Could this be the year that we demand our political leaders put an end to these horrific practices?

Probably not. Chertoff was conformed earlier this week; Gonzales was confirmed last week. Chertoff couldn't remember some of the discussions around the torture memos that document show took place; Gonzales simply disavowed all of his previous work.

Now, it is possible that these two men are fine upstanding officials, doing their best in tough circumstances. It is possible that they do not in fact condone torture in any way and will act to oppose it in every circumstance.

But as long as there is a question about it, as long as there is not certainty, why can we not say, "Gentlemen, thank you for your willingness to serve, but it is inappropriate for persons who have even the appearance of a connection with policies that condone the use of torture, to serve as the public face of our government; I'm sure you can understand"?

There are many other ways these two can be useful public servants without putting them in positions where their apparent connection to torture casts doubt on their ability to fullfil their roles.

But no one suggested this approach. They are operating on a different set of beliefs, and I quote:

"I think there are probably very few people in this room or in America who would say that torture should never, ever be used, particularly if thousands of lives are at stake.

Take the hypothetical. If we knew that there was a nuclear bomb hidden in an American city and we believed that some kind of torture, fairly severe maybe, would give us a chance of finding that bomb before it went off, my guess is most Americans and most senators, maybe all, would say, 'Do what you have to do.'"

That was Senator Charles Schumer, Democrat from NY, during a Judiciary committee hearing last year when John Ashcroft was being questioned about the use of torture.

If we aren't willing to rule out torture, then the practice will continue. Be ready for more horror stories, coming soon to a newspaper or television near you.


Tuesday, February 15, 2005 8:27 AM

Freedom of information: Priceless

The EFF is trying to protect the identities of the sources of several journalists who provided information about Appple products still under development; Apple went to court and got a subpoena for the ISP for the email of one of the journalists, and the EFF has now asked for a protective order.

This is one of those cases where it would be nice if the press won, but if we can't get information about the latest tech gadget ahead of time, we're probably not going to suffer too badly.

However, elsewhere today, the DC Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on the case of the three journalists held in contempt for refusal to reveal their sources in connection with stories around the Bush administration's allegations that Saddam Hussein had tried to get uranium from Africa.

As part of their various investigations, stories were published that named Valerie Plame as a CIA operative on weapons of mass destruction. All three were subpoenaed to appear before a federal grand jury investigating the leaks about the CIA official's identity. They all asserted their First Amendment right to protect their sources and all were found in civil contempt by the DC trial court.

And now the DC Circuit has found that they have no First Amendment right and no federal common law right to protect their sources.

This is why we need a shield law to protect the freedom of the press. If sources aren't free to talk to the press, then the press won't have those stories, and that's knowledge that the public will never have.

If there's one thing we should know by now, it's that more information about what the government says and does is always better than less. More information mean greater accountability for people in positions of power.

And that's why we should care whether we can learn about Apple's product line ahead of time; if we don't have basic protection for journalists and their sources in the less weighty cases, we surely won't have it when it counts.


Monday, February 14, 2005 10:11 PM

Error checking? We don't need no...

Just ran the script. It worked. Five templates updated instantly. *Whew*

I still need to add the error checking. Someday.

But the next thing I need right now is a script that lets me post an article to a subcategory, then retrieves the permalink and lets me make the appropriate post to the main blog. With errorchecking... er, eventually.


9:03 PM


Procrastination... it's making me wait, keeping me waiting...

So I have a script that will log me in and post a given template to a given blog. But I haven't made it "nice" yet. That is, I haven't got error checking in it, I haven't set it up to do all the category blogs, I haven't got it to check the 302 redirects to see if they are what we expect, nothing.

Which means that the nice template changes I am working on in a test area have to wait until I get the tedious script details done.

At least when this is done I won't feel compelled to make one template work for all the blogs; I can have pieces that get included in by the script according to the category. That will be a relief, because while the current template is clever, it's also unmaintainable.


Friday, February 11, 2005 10:39 PM

He's almost dead, Jim

That would be "Deep Throat", according to an op-ed by John Dean in the LA Times a few days back.

Maybe true, and maybe not, but in the meantime, you can enter Editor & Publisher's poll on who it is. The current front-runner? Chief Justice Rehnquist.

Yet another reason to read SCOTUSBlog.


10:13 PM

Health Watch

It's not the cough that carries you off, but it's the coffin they carry you off in.

I finally have the cold that's been knocking everyone on their *ss around here for the past couple of weeks. Most people it lays out with a good hacking cold, but for me it just puts me to sleep. I'll be going there right after I finish this sentenzzzzz....


Saturday, February 05, 2005 1:19 PM

About the Author

Ariel Glenn is currently a member of the Midnight Special Law Collective, living in Oakland, California. S/He lived in NYC for six years and lugged old NYT newspapers to Montreal and then to California so they could wind up in a moldy pile in the basement. They have since been thrown out.

Old, out of date information about the author can be found on the old, outdated web site at Columbia University.

New, current information about the author is not available because the author is a slacker.


1:04 PM

No Perfect Blogs

Unless you have your own host. Then you can write your own software and have everything: categories, rss feed, atom feed, comments and trackback, whatever your heart desires.

I've finally settled on, which does not have categories, nor built-in trackbacks. But it does allow multiple blogs and those blogs don't get deleted for inactivity. Bandwidth and space don't seem to be a problem, either.

Time to write a script which lets me handle the multiple-blogs-simulating-categories in some reasonable way. Stay tuned.