July 31, 2008

OT: Congressional Subpoenas and Executive Privilege [2:03 pm]

According to today’s opinion from the US District Court of DC, Committee on the Judiciary of the United States House of Representatives v. Miers et al.:

This dispute pits the political branches of the federal government against one another in a case all agree presents issues of extraordinary constitutional significance. The heart of the controversy is whether senior presidential aides are absolutely immune from compelled congressional process. [...]

It is important to note that the decision today is very limited. To be sure, most of this lengthy opinion addresses, and ultimately rejects, the Executive’s several reasons why the Court should not entertain the Committee’s lawsuit, but on the merits of the Committee’s present claims the Court only resolves, and again rejects, the claim by the Executive to absolute immunity from compelled congressional process for senior presidential aides. The specific claims of executive privilege that Ms. Miers and Mr. Bolten may assert are not addressed — and the Court expresses no view on such claims. Nor should this decision discourage the process of negotiation and accommodation that most often leads to resolution of disputes between the political branches. Although standing ready to fulfill the essential judicial role to “say what the law is” on specific assertions of executive privilege that may be presented, the Court strongly encourages the political branches to resume their discourse and negotiations in an effort to resolve their differences constructively, while recognizing each branch’s essential role.

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July 9, 2008

Why Abuse of State Secrets Privilege Is So Terrifying [7:06 am]

A distressing writeup by a lawyer from the Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation Inc. v. Bush case — a suit against the President (rather than the telecom companies) over warrantless wiretapping. And yet, a strangely inspirational one, suggesting that intelligent men of good will and a judicial system that still seems to work can work miracles sometimes: Suing George W. Bush: A bizarre and troubling tale

The story of how Al-Haramain’s lawyers negotiated the journey thus far to Judge Walker’s ruling — a team of seven lawyers that includes me — sheds light on how much is at stake for the Bush administration and the country. It is a surreal saga, involving a top-secret document accidentally released by the government, a showdown between Bush lawyers and a federal judge, the violent destruction of a laptop computer by government agents, and possibly even the top-secret shredding of a banana peel.

Call me Alice — because this is a tale directly from Government Secrecy Wonderland, the bizarre and unnerving adventures of suing President Bush for apparently violating a federal law. I’ll swear under penalty of perjury that what follows is true and correct. Otherwise, you might not even believe it.

[...] I can’t publicly reveal what’s in the Document because, well, it’s a secret. I would be committing a crime — a violation of the Espionage Act of 1917 — if I were to do so. But we assert the Document as proof of allegations we have made that in March and April of 2004 the National Security Agency conducted warrantless electronic surveillance of attorney-client communications between a representative of Al-Haramain and two of its attorneys, and that in May of 2004 the NSA gave logs of those surveilled communications to OFAC.

[...] Rebutting arguments you’ve not been allowed to see is a talent that isn’t taught in law school. I consulted Kafka’s “The Trial,” looking for helpful tips, but found none. I tried guessing at what might be in the government’s secret brief and then hazarding a response in our own. Because of Judge King’s prior order, we had to confer with the DOJ attorneys on the logistics of how to do this secret filing.

[...] We went forward without Nelson, drafting our secret appellate brief in a DOJ office, on a DOJ computer, under the watch of a DOJ security officer — that is, under the auspices and control of our adversary in the legal case. We could print out drafts but couldn’t take them from the room; instead, we were to leave the drafts on the table to be shredded by Hogarty later. When the brief was done, we were to print out five copies: one for each of the three judges on the panel that would decide the appeal, one for the DOJ attorneys and one to be put in a special safe under Hogarty’s supervision. She would personally give the judges their copies, which nobody else — not the court clerks, not the judges’ staff attorneys — would be permitted to see. We would not be allowed to keep a copy of what we had written; the brief in Hogarty’s safe was “our” copy.

Hogarty explained that anything we wrote down that contained classified information, then or later, would instantly become “derivatively classified” and thus unlawful for us to possess. I wondered whether this meant that the portion of my brain that remembers the Document is also “derivatively classified,” making its presence in my skull unlawful.

Goldberg and I spent about three hours writing our response to the secret government brief we had not been allowed to see. [...]

[...] It’s hardly a secret that the Al-Haramain plaintiffs were spied upon — it’s been reported in Salon, the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times and the New Yorker magazine, among others. The reality is that the Al-Haramain case doesn’t threaten national security; it threatens only the “unitary executive” theory and the notion that presidents can disregard an act of Congress at their pleasure. Yet we have had to litigate the Al-Haramain case in the shadow of secrecy, where the government wants the case to die quietly — without a court ruling on whether the president of the United States has broken the law.

We, the members of the Al-Haramain legal team — Ashlee Albies, Steven Goldberg, Bill Hancock, Zaha Hassan, Tom Nelson and I — cannot let that happen without fighting to the end.

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June 16, 2008

OT: Thinking and Connectedness [7:17 am]

In Praise of Being Cut Off

We were comfortable enough at the Commodore. You got used to the shelling. Some Beirut kids, it was said, could not sleep without the sounds of war because that was all they had known.

It was good to be cut off. As a journalist, that’s what you wanted to be: cut off, except for that telex line.

I became a journalist because I wanted to tell stories. To find stories you must give yourself to the moment. Time must weigh on you, its lulls, accelerations and silences. The life within, the deeper story, does not yield itself with ease.

[...] I worry about stories dying, replaced by stuff. Content for platforms does not a story make. Today, you arrive anywhere and surf the Net. Being “always on” is being always off, to something.

Related: In a Changing World of News, an Elegy for Copy Editors (pdf)

The copy editor’s job, to the extent possible under deadline, is to slow down, think things through, do the math and ask the irritating question. His or her main creative outlet, writing clever headlines, is problematic online, because allusive wordplay doesn’t necessarily generate Google hits. And Google makes everyone an expert, so the aging copy editor’s trivia-packed brain and synonym collection seem not to count for as much anymore.

The job hasn’t disappeared yet, but it is swiftly evolving, away from an emphasis on style and consistency, from making a physical object perfect the first time. The path to excellence is now through speed, agility and creativity in using multiple expressive outlets for information in all its shapes and sounds.

As newspapers lose money and readers, they have been shedding great swaths of expensive expertise. They have been forced to shrink or eliminate the multiply redundant levels of editing that distinguish their kind of journalism from what you find on TV, radio and much of the Web. Copy editors are being bought out or forced out; they are dying and not being replaced.

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June 12, 2008

Yes, We Have No Bananas [4:44 pm]

But at least we do have us some habeus

Sad that it was a 5-4 decision, but thank goodness it came down this way — something to think about in the voting booth this November: Justices Rule Terror Suspects Can Appeal in Civilian Courts — the opinion

The real tragedy is this quote from our leader in this Reuters article: Top court rules for Guantanamo prisoners (pdf). Yes, it may be out of context, but as written it suggests a need for a return to the civic textbooks:

“We’ll abide by the court’s decision. That doesn’t mean I have to agree with it,” Bush told a news conference in Rome, where he was on a weeklong European visit. “We’ll study this opinion and we’ll do so … to determine whether or not additional legislation might be appropriate.”

Hmmm — what do you think?

The Framers viewed freedom from unlawful restraint as a fundamental precept of liberty, and they understood the writ of habeas corpus as a vital instrument to secure that freedom. Experience taught, however, that the common-law writ all too often had been insufficient to guard against the abuse of monarchial power. That history counseled the necessity for specific language in the Constitution to secure the writ and ensure its place in our legal system.

[...] This history was known to the Framers. It no doubt confirmed their view that pendular swings to and away from individual liberty were endemic to undivided, uncontrolled power. The Framers’ inherent distrust of governmental power was the driving force behind the constitutional plan that allocated powers among three independent branches. This design serves not only to make Government accountable but also to secure individual liberty. [...]

[...] Post-1789 habeas developments in England, though not bearing upon the Framers’ intent, do verify their foresight. Those later events would underscore the need for struc­tural barriers against arbitrary suspensions of the writ. [...]

[...] The prudential barriers that may have prevented the English courts from issuing the writ to Scotland and Hanover are not relevant here. We have no reason to believe an order from a federal court would be disobeyed at Guantanamo. No Cuban court has jurisdiction to hear these petitioners’ claims, and no law other than the laws of the United States applies at the naval station. The modern-day relations between the United States and Guantanamo thus differ in important respects from the 18th-century relations between England and the kingdoms of Scotland and Hanover. This is reason enough for us to discount the relevance of the Government’s analogy.

[...] Abstaining from questions involving formal sovereignty and territorial governance is one thing. To hold the political branches have the power to switch the Constitution on or off at will is quite another. [...]

[...] We hold that Art. I, §9, cl. 2, of the Constitution has full effect at Guantanamo Bay. If the privilege of habeas corpus is to be denied to the detainees now before us, Congress must act in accordance with the requirements of the Suspension Clause. Cf. Hamdi, 542 U. S., at 564 (SCALIA, J., dissenting) [...]

[...] To the extent any doubt remains about Congress’ intent, the legislative history confirms what the plain text strongly suggests: In passing the DTA Congress did not intend to create a process that differs from traditional habeas corpus process in name only. [...]

[...] We do hold that when the judicial power to issue habeas corpus properly is invoked the judicial officer must have adequate authority to make a determination in light of the relevant law and facts and to formulate and issue appropriate orders for relief, including, if necessary, an order directing the prisoner’s release. [...]

[...] The absence of a release remedy and specific language allowing AUMF challenges are not the only constitutional infirmities from which the statute potentially suffers, however. The more difficult question is whether the DTA permits the Court of Appeals to make requisite findings of fact. [...]

[...] There is no language in the DTA that can be construed to allow the Court of Appeals to admit and consider newly discovered evidence that could not have been made part of the CSRT record because it was unavailable to either the Government or the detainee when the CSRT made its findings. This evidence, however, may be critical to the detainee’s argument that he is not an enemy combatant and there is no cause to detain him. [...]

[...] MCA §7 thus effects an unconstitutional suspension of the writ. In view of our holding we need not discuss the reach of the writ with respect to claims of unlawful conditions of treatment or confinement.

But here’s the real killer:

Officials charged with daily operational responsibility for our security may consider a judicial discourse on the history of the Habeas Corpus Act of 1679 and like matters to be far removed from the Nation’s present, urgent concerns. Established legal doctrine, however, must be consulted for its teaching. Remote in time it may be; irrelevant to the present it is not. Security depends upon a sophisticated intelligence apparatus and the ability of our Armed Forces to act and to interdict. There are further considerations, however. Security subsists, too, in fidelity to freedom’s first principles. Chief among these are freedom from arbitrary and unlawful restraint and the personal liberty that is secured by adherence to the separation of powers. It is from these principles that the judicial authority to consider petitions for habeas corpus relief derives.

Because our Nation’s past military conflicts have been of limited duration, it has been possible to leave the outer boundaries of war powers undefined. If, as some fear, terrorism continues to pose dangerous threats to us for years to come, the Court might not have this luxury. This result is not inevitable, however. The political branches, consistent with their independent obligations to interpret and uphold the Constitution, can engage in a genuine debate about how best to preserve constitutional values while protecting the Nation from terrorism. [...]

It bears repeating that our opinion does not address the content of the law that governs petitioners’ detention. That is a matter yet to be determined. We hold that petitioners may invoke the fundamental procedural protections of habeas corpus. The laws and Constitution are designed to survive, and remain in force, in extraordinary times. Liberty and security can be reconciled; and in our system they are reconciled within the framework of the law. The Framers decided that habeas corpus, a right of first importance, must be a part of that framework, a part of that law. [...]


And imagine the outcome if, say, John Yoo were to get a seat on this court.

See, for example — Brown Faces New Protests Over Terror Bill (pdf); Terror Bill Passes Narrowly in Britain

Later: Newt Gingrich gives us the talking points for those who can’t bear this decision: Face The Nation: Gingrich Thinks SCOTUS Gitmo Decision “Could Cost Us A City” — as the commenters point out: “you mean in addition to New Orleans and Grand Cedar Rapids?” (I couldn’t believe it when I heard him say it on Face the Nation myself)

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April 20, 2008

Wow! [9:00 pm]

New postings at the Fafblog! How long will it last?

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April 1, 2008

Something To Give You A Head (or Heart) Ache (updated) [6:50 pm]

The March 2003 Yoo Memo Emerges! (not an April Fool’s Joke): The Torture Memo to Top All Torture Memos (part 1 and part 2)

As Slate’s Convictions blog puts it:

If you want evidence of how the law was badly twisted and misused in the Bush Justice Department, you need look no further than here.

Later: The WaPo’s piece — Memo: Laws Didn’t Apply to Interrogators (pdf)

Much later, Dahlia Lithwick calls it like it is in Yoo Talkin’ to Me?

In his book The Terror Presidency, my friend Jack Goldsmith—who prescribes some fixes for the legal war on terror elsewhere in Slate today [Ed. note: including a perpetuation of the dangerous and nonsensical argument the President and his administration have been giving in favor of telecom immunity]—depicts the paralyzing effect of something called “lawfare.” Lawfare was described by Air Force Brig. Gen. Charles Dunlap as “the strategy of using or misusing law as a substitute for traditional military means to achieve an operational objective.” Ordinary acts of foreign policy become bogged down in a maze of after-the-fact legal consequences. Donald Rumsfeld saw this form of warfare as a limit on American military authority. He was determined to find a solution to what he called “the judicialization of international politics.”

[...] But that choice also assumes lawyers engaged in sober reflection, and that may be assuming too much. Indeed, if anything, Goldsmith and others may have understated the dangers of “lawfare”—if the lawyers tasked with working around the web of international laws begin from the premise that laws are just obstacles. As we are beginning to learn, the growing tendency to conduct wars in the courtroom hasn’t actually constrained anyone at all over the past seven years. The expanded role of all these laws and lawyers in the war on terror has had the opposite effect: The Bush administration has proven time and again that the Rule of Law is only as definitive as its most inventive lawyers.

In short, the Bush solution to the paralysis of lawfare seems to be to hire lawyers who don’t believe in the law.

[...] A lot of folks are inclined to write off the news of the torture memo today because: (i) we already knew this; (ii) it’s no longer the law; and (iii) David Addington won’t be allowed to listen in on their phone calls in seven months. I respectfully dissent. We should be thinking long and hard about how this memo came to be our interrogation policy, even for a few months. Now is the time to question the wisdom of trusting the policing of the boundaries in the war on terror to a swarm of anonymous midlevel lawyers whose minds may just be too open for our own good. We need to get away from the wrongheaded notion that a war on terror is the same thing as a war against the law.

Also Memo Sheds New Light on Torture Issue

Some legal experts and advocates said Wednesday that the document, written the month that the United States invaded Iraq, adds to evidence that the abuse of prisoners in military custody may have involved signals from higher officials and not just irresponsible actions by low-level personnel.

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March 16, 2008

Sorry! (updated - blog shutdown for duration of machine maintenance) [6:55 am]

I thought moving over to the new server would be painless. Hah! Not when the old server refuses to enter Target Disk mode for the main drive (it will, however, happily do so for all other drives on the old machine). So, all the hardware goes to an Apple Store today for troubleshooting.

So, the blog isn’t going to be visible for a while today — not that I’ve had much time to update it, anyway.

Update: Well, after many hours with Apple Care and the local Genius Bar, the conclusion is that the boot drive has a subtle partition map problem that the new machine won’t accept. In fact, the target disk does appear on the new machine, but it won’t mount. Thus, no migration.

We thought that using the MacBook Air migration tool, which runs over the network, would do it, but it doesn’t. As best as I can tell from the console logs, the Migration Assistant attempts to set up an NFS share to do the migration, which also seems to be failing.

So, brute force is going to be required — making a carbon copy of the old drive to a secondary drive in the old machine, and then running migration assistant. What that means is that, as of now, I have to freeze the blog. It will come back to life once the migration happens, but that’s going to be days away, because these are big drives and I have to rely upon my PowerBook to mediate the carbon copying — so only Firewire 400 and an old G4 processor.

Interesting to note that the Mac world does not have the kind of partition repair tools that the Windows and Linux worlds seem to have. Tragic in my case, but there you go.

Furdlog will be back, but maybe not as soon as one would like.

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March 12, 2008

OT: I’m Back [8:01 am]

Hi, everyone. The recent dearth of postings is not an indication of anything more than the fact that I took a two week vacation, and was swamped the week before trying to get ready to leave and am swamped now upon my return. I *will* get back into the swing, but I also have a new Mac that’s been sitting in my office since before I left that I need to get up and running, so the ramp up is going to be slow.

Here are a couple of images from my trip, in this case from Lake/River Tonle Sap (in Cambodia) and environs, for those who are interested.

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January 25, 2008

OT: Degrading Political Discourse [12:02 pm]

Just in case you were wondering which political party is always ready to take the lead in the race to the gutter — and I know plenty of otherwise prudish folks who will happily snigger when talking about this 527: Citizens United Not Timid [via BroadSheet]

Later: More from Broadsheet — Life’s a bitch, and so are all the anti-Hillary slogans

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January 23, 2008

OT: One Side Heard From [8:44 am]

This is bound to get some juices flowing somewhere — but the study’s web site offers up a pretty comprehensive picture: Study: Bush, other officials issued hundreds of false statements before Iraq invasionpdf

A study by two nonprofit journalism organizations found that President Bush and top administration officials issued hundreds of false statements about the national security threat from Iraq in the two years following the 2001 terrorist attacks.

The study concluded that the statements “were part of an orchestrated campaign that effectively galvanized public opinion and, in the process, led the nation to war under decidedly false pretenses.”

From the study’s web page: The War Card: Orchestrated Deception On The Path To War

The massive database at the heart of this project juxtaposes what President Bush and these seven top officials were saying for public consumption against what was known, or should have been known, on a day-to-day basis. This fully searchable database includes the public statements, drawn from both primary sources (such as official transcripts) and secondary sources (chiefly major news organizations) over the two years beginning on September 11, 2001. It also interlaces relevant information from more than 25 government reports, books, articles, speeches, and interviews.

Later: Tim Grieve gives us the comments on the report from this afternoon’s White House briefing (there’s also some positioning on FISA, too).

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December 5, 2007

OT: Nobody Likes To Look In The Mirror [11:58 am]

(Well, not entirely off-topic, I’m afraid) Tom Friedman paints an ugly picture: Intercepting Iran’s Take on America

Yes, our last I.N.I.E. in 1990 concluded that after the collapse of communism, America was on track to become the world’s sole superpower and most compelling role model for Muslim youth — including our own. We were wrong. We now have “high confidence” that America is on a path of self-destruction, for three reasons:

First, 9/11 has made America afraid and therefore stupid. The “war on terrorism” is now so deeply imbedded in America’s psyche that we think it is “highly likely” that America will continue to export more fear than hope and will continue to defend things like torture and Guantánamo Bay prison and to favor politicians like Mr. Giuliani, who alienates the rest of the world.

Second, at a time when America’s bridges, roads, airports and Internet bandwidth have fallen behind other industrial powers, including China, we believe that the U.S. opposition to higher taxes — and the fact that the primary campaigns have focused largely on gay marriage, flag-burning and whether the Christian Bible is the literal truth — means it is “highly unlikely” that America will arrest its decline.

Third, all the U.S. presidential candidates are distancing themselves from the core values that made America such a great power and so different from us — in particular America’s long commitment to free trade, open immigration and a reverence for scientific enquiry wherever it leads. Our intel analysts are baffled that the leading Democrat, Mrs. Clinton, no longer believes in globalization and the leading Republican, Mr. Huckabee, never believed in evolution.

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November 26, 2007

Catching Up …. [8:45 am]

hoover dam and lake mead from the visitor's center

Hi, everyone:

I spent the Thanksgiving holiday with my in-laws in Las Vegas, a city that I haven’t been to in over 30 years. While I expected that there would be some changes, I was amazed by just how much.

We also took a trip to see Hoover Dam and, again, it’s amazing how much has been changed there — not so much the dam itself (although post-9/11 security does make for its own differences), but the Bureau of Reclamation has put a great deal into making it a quite entertaining tourist attraction, even for those not particularly interested in monumental engineering feats.

Anyway, I’ll be catching up on the news over the next couple of days (and it *is* nearing the end of the term!), so I hope you’ll bear with me.

The picture here gives you a sense of how much the southwest drought has affected the level of Lake Mead

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November 15, 2007

OT: Ignorance and Venture Money [5:31 pm]

Seriously, where do these guys find the suckers? I cannot believe that there’s that much dumb venture money out there, but that’s what I get for actually knowing something about this particular topic: Taking a Whack at Making a Car. Dave Cole sticks it to them, but the tagline of the article is everything noxious about these sorts of folks:

“We’re not two gearheads,” Mr. Levine said. “We’re not two mechanics in a garage with a dream. We’re two entrepreneurs who saw an opportunity and came up with a business model.”

Buzzword bingo, anyone?

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October 25, 2007

OT: MIT Marks The Start of the World Series [7:36 am]

With a little light art using the Green Building. I got to hang out with several folks trying to get a workable shot from next to Walker (hope you got some good ones, Ramya!) [Set your browser window width just right and cross your eyes for a 3D look at the scene.]

MIT's Green Building Showing Its ColorsMIT's Green Building Showing Its Colors

Maybe it’s me, but I think the anti-aliaising effect might have been more effective when viewed from the other side of the river.

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October 18, 2007

OT: A Draft ESD (Meta) Elevator Speech [2:05 pm]

It’s been a surprisingly busy term, and I’ve seen my blog postings decline in frequency accordingly. Teaching a core TPP class, developing another course and my usual research and administrative responsibilities have taken their toll.

Which is not to say that I’m planning to stop, of course. But it does mean that the frequency of off-topic postings might increase from time to time.

Today is one of those times. The MIT Engineering Systems Division has a new director, one who is striving to shape a more coherent, and cohesive, message about what it is to “do” engineering systems. This is the text of a first stab at an “elevator speech” about what ESD is and since I put as much time into it as I did, it seemed only appropriate that I put is somewhere than into an email. So, here it is:


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October 8, 2007

OT: Important Questions for Columbus Day [10:53 am]

A troubling turn in American historypdf

IF COLUMBUS is the beginning of the story, and, say, Lincoln is the middle, what is the end? Each episode of the American narrative surfaced a problem, which prompted attempts to resolve it, which led in turn to a new problem. This movement from problem to resolution to new problem and ever new efforts to fix things is what makes the American story great.

[...] These developments would be disturbing enough, but what they point to is an interruption in this nation’s most important public tradition - the movement from recognition of a problem to its attempted resolution. From ill treatment of native peoples, to enslavement of Africans, to temptations to empire, to a religious embrace of violence, to Red Scare paranoia, to an insane arms race - we Americans have had our failings. But we have faced them. The capacity for self-criticism and change has defined our history. But that is not happening today. We are in an arms race with ourselves, and will not stop. Our unjust war is just unending. Our politics and media, meanwhile, form a feedback loop of banality. “Freedom” has become our prison.

Does all of this reveal a deeper flaw in our moral narrative itself? After all, we say today that our story began with Columbus. But what about the ones who welcomed him?

For example, ask yourself why this: Democrats Seem Ready to Extend Wiretap Powers

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October 4, 2007

OT: Schadenfreude Not As Much Fun When It’s Your Own Government [12:46 pm]

I mean, who’s really surprised by this? Secret U.S. Endorsement of Severe Interrogations

When the Justice Department publicly declared torture “abhorrent” in a legal opinion in December 2004, the Bush administration appeared to have abandoned its assertion of nearly unlimited presidential authority to order brutal interrogations.

But soon after Alberto R. Gonzales’s arrival as attorney general in February 2005, the Justice Department issued another opinion, this one in secret. It was a very different document, according to officials briefed on it, an expansive endorsement of the harshest interrogation techniques ever used by the Central Intelligence Agency.

The new opinion, the officials said, for the first time provided explicit authorization to barrage terror suspects with a combination of painful physical and psychological tactics, including head-slapping, simulated drowning and frigid temperatures.

Mr. Gonzales approved the legal memorandum on “combined effects” over the objections of James B. Comey, the deputy attorney general, who was leaving his job after bruising clashes with the White House. Disagreeing with what he viewed as the opinion’s overreaching legal reasoning, Mr. Comey told colleagues at the department that they would all be “ashamed” when the world eventually learned of it.

Hell, *I’m* ashamed!!

Later: One minor redeeming thought (well, two) — at least I’m not from Idaho and I’m not a Republican - Text of Sen. Larry Craig’s Statement

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September 27, 2007

OT: John Harvard Ready For Halo 3 [12:12 pm]

From the Boston Globe: Prank and sense: Harvard statue hit - pdf

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September 12, 2007

Complexity as the Culprit? [7:59 am]

So what, exactly? It’s not our fault, then? There’s a weird fatalism that underlies this article, and its conclusion that the solution is more robust components is almost certainly not how we’re going to resolve the problem of architecting and maintaining a complex system, but it does offer one flavor of how the public is being trained to think about this issue: Who Needs Hackers?

Yes, hackers are still out there, and not just teenagers: malicious insiders, political activists, mobsters and even government agents all routinely test public and private computer networks and occasionally disrupt services. But experts say that some of the most serious, even potentially devastating, problems with networks arise from sources with no malevolent component.

Whether it’s the Los Angeles customs fiasco or the unpredictable network cascade that brought the global Skype telephone service down for two days in August, problems arising from flawed systems, increasingly complex networks and even technology headaches from corporate mergers can make computer systems less reliable. Meanwhile, society as a whole is growing ever more dependent on computers and computer networks, as automated controls become the norm for air traffic, pipelines, dams, the electrical grid and more.

“We don’t need hackers to break the systems because they’re falling apart by themselves,” said Peter G. Neumann, an expert in computing risks and principal scientist at SRI International, a research institute in Menlo Park, Calif.

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August 30, 2007

OT: Subprime Mortgage Crisis and The Jungle [4:35 pm]

As a reader of Gabriel Kolko’s The Triumph of Conservatism, this article strikes an all-too-familiar chord. However, in light of the prevailing market ideologies, it’s hard to imagine that a comparable Progressive response is in the offing — and that may lose us a lot! Calls Grow for Foreigners to Have a Say on U.S. Market Rules

Politicians, regulators and financial specialists outside the United States are seeking a role in the oversight of American markets, banks and rating agencies after recent problems related to subprime mortgages.

Their argument is simple: The United States is exporting financial products, but losses to investors in other countries suggest that American regulators are not properly monitoring the products or alerting investors to the risks.

“We need an international approach, and the United States needs to be part of it,” said Peter Bofinger, a member of the German government’s economics advisory board and a professor at the University of Würzburg.

While regulators in the United States have not been receptive to the idea in the past, analysts said that Europe and Asia had more leverage now. Washington might have to yield if it wants to succeed in imposing bilateral regulations on government-owned investment funds from emerging economies.

After all, how different is selling poorly-documented securities from selling adulterated foods? I am sure the Chinese are confronting precisely the same question, and while the Progressive solution was regulation to protect business interests, it’s hard to imagine any Washington policymaker able to get past the “markets good, regulation bad” mindset that has led us to this pass.

Later: shades of Kolko! Industry asking for regulation! What’ll they think of next? Toy Makers Seek Standards for U.S. Safety. And, even in this article, note the opening rhetorical tone:

Acknowledging a growing crisis of public confidence caused by a series of recent recalls, the nation’s largest toy makers have taken the unusual step of asking the federal government to impose mandatory safety-testing standards for all toys sold in the United States.

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