Friday, November 11, 2005

Social Support for College Mothers

Bitch Ph.D. throws her support to what sounds like an excellent bill: The Elizabeth Cady Stanton Pregnant and Parenting Students Act of 2005. It would start pilot programs in colleges and universities to provide support services for students who decide to take their pregnancies to term instead of abort.

I think that colleges and universities should offer their support to all life choices, and Bitch agrees:
Although I don't know the details of the bill, as presented in this article it sounds to me like a long-overdue--and feminist--solution. It's incredibly difficult for student parents at college: often there's no campus daycare, and if there is it has long waiting lines; often daycares don't offer drop-in services or aren't open for evening classes; often even women's centers on campus don't have resources or support aimed specifically at student parents.

A really good friend of mine is a single mom who is struggling hard to get through college, and continually running into problems with daycare, school schedules, inadequate financial aid, housing, etc. She's called me in frustrated tears talking about dropping out, and I encourage her to hang in, but it's ridiculous: colleges and universities do a terrible job of supporting student parents.

I also agree with Bitch that this is an issue that progressives should seize upon--a great bridge we can build over to pro-lifers:
This is one of the issues on which I often find myself arguing with my peers: the educated, liberal, ambitious social classes. We have a tendency to argue that teen pregnancy is bad, that it hampers girl's economic, educational, and social development. We focus on birth control and delaying pregnancy. But the thing is, it isn't having a child that screws girls over: it's the stigma against having kids, the total lack of social support, the "you made your bed, now lie in it" attitude that we have as a society.

Just proof again that while their are bitter disagreements, there are issues where pro-life and pro-choice can and should come together.

Bush's Darfur Agenda

Troubling accusations over at Tapped regarding Bush's Darfur policy. They quote a piece at Save Darfur:
The Darfur Peace and Accountability Act (H.R. 3127/S. 1462) continues to slowly move forward as Congress enters the home stretch of the legislative year prior to an as yet undetermined adjournment date in late November or early December. Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Richard Lugar has favorably reported the bill out of committee, and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist has indicated his support for bringing the bill to the floor as soon as an anonymous hold is lifted. [Emphasis added]

The emphasized part is the key. Tapped continues:
Last April the White House sent a letter to House Appropriations Chairman Jerry Lewis asking him to quash the Darfur Accountability Act (which was then attached to the Iraq supplemental) by the time it came out of the conference committee. I got ahold of that letter, as did Nicholas Kristof, and we held it up as yet another example of the administration's lily-livered response to genocide. It seems that the White House wanted to avoid repeating that embarrassment this time around so they gave their favorite hack a call and told that senator not to let the legislation even make it to conference committee. Disgusting.

If this is true--that the anonymous hold on this critical legislation was put up at the behest of the Bush administration, then they've lost any credibility they once enjoyed on opposition to genocide. It's one thing to decide that Darfur is a dead issue and not expend political capital to push a skeptical congress to act. It's quite another to deliberately hold up progress and put the administration expressly on the side of the murderers. Unfortunately, it seems like the Bush administration has come to a decision: pro-murder, anti-intervention.

Reclaiming Islam

In the wake of the horrific Amman terrorist bombings, John Hinderaker of Powerline had the following observation:
The fathers of both bride and groom, at the far left and right, were murdered. The bride and groom were both wounded, but, thankfully, survived. The groom, Ashraf Mohamed al-Akhras, said from his hospital bed:
I lost my father and my father-in-law and I saw many other dead. This is a horrible crime. The world has to know this has nothing to do with Islam.

I understand his sentiment, but the fact is that this mass murder, like all the others committed by al Qaeda and like-minded groups, has everything to do with Islam. It is up to sane Muslims everywhere to reclaim their religion from the sadists and fanatics.

Reading this sort of thing, I'm always curious about what would constitute "reclaim[ing] their religion". What would persuade the rightie boys at Powerline that "sane Muslims" do not condone this sort of behavior?

Cue Daniel Drezner. He collects a series of articles regarding the aftermath of the bombings--and it looks like the "mainstream" Muslims are coming out pretty hard against terror. He links to this Washington Post editorial characterizing what he calls "a long string of reversals" for al-Qaeda:
Even as it has bloodied Iraq -- where two more suicide bombings were recorded yesterday -- support for violence and Islamic extremism has been declining elsewhere in the region. Two movements that pioneered suicide bombings, Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in the Palestinian territories, have at least temporarily set aside violence and are focused on participating in democratic politics. An al Qaeda branch in Saudi Arabia has found little support, and most of its leaders have been captured or killed. In Lebanon this year, a popular revolution embraced a democratic agenda, and a grass-roots democratic movement has appeared in Egypt. The government most under siege in the region is not the Jordanian monarchy but the Baathist dictatorship of Syria, which has been a tactical ally of the Zarqawi network and the Iraqi insurgency.

Meanwhile, according to the Chicago Tribune:
The offshoot of Al Qaeda spearheading the anti-U.S. insurgency in Iraq sought to defend its actions Thursday in the face of furious Arab protests in the streets of Jordan's capital over the hotel attacks that killed three suicide bombers and their 56 victims.

After first claiming responsibility for the Wednesday bombings of three hotels popular with Israelis and Westerners, Al Qaeda in Iraq later issued a second Internet statement that appeared to acknowledge that its tactics may have backfired and undermined any support the group enjoyed among the Jordanian population.
But most of those killed were Jordanians or other Arabs, and many of the thousands of residents who marched in protest Thursday spoke of an assault on their sense of security in this tightly run city, which had been spared the carnage of suicide bombings elsewhere in the Middle East and was considered an oasis of stability.

I'm not sure what Powerline wants besides personal statements of outrage, massive anti-terrorist protests, and a widespread fall in general support for Islamic extremism in the Muslim world.

The problem right now isn't convincing the Muslim rank-and-file that terrorism is immoral and wrong. That's a battle we've won. Our problem at the moment is two-fold. First, that Islamic extremist groups may have reached a critical mass already where they don't need mainstream support. After some period of time, Northern Ireland Catholics didn't need mainstream Catholic support to continue its reign of terror (nor did NI Protestants need mainline Protestant support for same). To indict the religion as a whole at that point would be asinine and unfair--though it is still a conflict fueled by religion, the moderates really can't be held responsible to "take back the faith" at some point.

Second, while Muslims are repudiating terrorism, that doesn't mean they're ready to trust the West. Right now, the Islamic view is that they are between the frying pan and the fire. They don't like the extremists, and they don't like us. That's an image gap problem--we have the burden to show to the Islamic world that our society is a model they should follow (or at least fuse with their own). Right now, we're just saying "reject terror, reject terror", and that's not enough. It's like the Republicans always say about Democrats: they can't just say that Republicans are awful; they must also offer concrete plans and proposals of their own. Well, we need to do the same for the Muslim world--not just say "boo terror," but also provide clear-cut benefits for choosing to join the global community and adopt liberal and progressive ideals. That's a project we're failing miserably at currently, and things like torture scandals and stripping accused terrorists of due process rights is not helping our case.

Comparative Race Theory

There is, I think, a severe perception/reality gap between how much people around the world "consider" race and how much we think they do. For example, I just wrote an article urging Americans to take a more critical view of race, and abandon color-blindness. Basically, your classic leftist multi-culturalism argument.

Lots of conservatives blast this theory as being "European," and gleefully point to the Paris riots as proof of its failure. Yet this seems to be an inaccurate description of how the Europeans view their paradigm:
France's Constitution guarantees equality to all, but that has long been interpreted to mean that ethnic or religious differences are not the purview of the state. The result is that no one looks at such differences to track growing inequalities and so discrimination is easy to hide.

"People have it in their head that surveying by race or religion is bad, it's dirty, it's something reserved for Americans and that we shouldn't do it here," said Yazid Sabeg, the only prominent Frenchman of Arab descent at the head of a publicly listed French company. "But without statistics to look at, how can we measure the problem?"

So wait...the French are more color-blind than we are? This leads Ann Althouse to ask the following:
Should France's policy of not taking account of race, ethnicity, and religion, in light of the recent rioting, make us look more favorably on our own attention to such things?

So Prof. Althouse thinks that we are indeed color-conscious, and that France proves that this is superior to the color-blind system. But here's Imani Perry arguing that it took American news networks two weeks to even mention that the rioting was done by mostly minority protestors. So maybe we aren't so color-conscious after all? What is going on?

So basically, here's what we have:

The Republicans think we are and need to be absolutely color-blind, and point to French riots as proof that our color-blindness is a superior system.

The French think they are and need to be absolutely color-blind, and point to American race-consciousness as immoral and "dirty."

The center-right Althousians think that we are color-conscious, and that the French riots show that our color-conscious method is superior.

The leftist folks like me think that both the French and Americans are not color-conscious enough, and think both state's systems are indicted.

Who's right? And more importantly, why is there such a perceptual gap in terms of how our and their systems actually "are"? Are we color-blind or not? Are the French multi-culturalists or not?

There is something interesting afoot here...

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Well I am a Twitch Concerned

Andrew Sullivan points out this lovely example of the Senate Majority Leader's values:
Frist told reporters Thursday that while he believed illegal activity should not take place at detention centers, he believes the leak itself poses a greater threat to national security and is "not concerned about what goes on" behind the prison walls.

Well I am a bit concerned. Because I think that abandoning core American values is not something we should turn away from. As Sullivan puts it elsewhere:
We can win this war without destroying the very civilization we are fighting for. We can win without losing our soul. Any other kind of victory is a euphemism for defeat.

That's why I care. Because we aren't winning the war on terror, a war against global extremism, if we ourselves are terrorizing, if we become the extremists. Torture is an extreme position. It should and must be beyond the pale.

I think that Chicago Law Professor Geoffrey Stone nails it:
Perhaps it's just me... but do you get the sense that the United States is in the process of destroying all the good will and moral leadership its has earned in the international community over the past sixty-five years? At the outset of the war crimes trials at Nuremberg, Justice Robert Jackson, the chief U.S. prosecutor, made an eloquent and remarkable statement: "That four great nations, flushed with victory and stung with injury, stay the hands of vengeance and voluntarily submit their captive enemies to the judgment of law is one of the most significant tributes that Power has ever paid to Reason." Think how far we have shrunk from that aspiration. With secret detention camps, blatant violations of international human rights, administration demands for the authority to use torture, efforts to deny detainees even the most elementary rights of due process and fair proceedings, our government has sunk to a level of immorality we never even contemplated in the Civil War, World War I, or World War II. Don't we, as lawyers, have a professional and ethical obligation to say something? Don't we have a responsibility to demand that our government respect our most fundamental values of procedural fairness, rule of law, and human decency. Is it acceptable for us to live silently through a period in which our government disregards Reason in order to pay tribute to Power? Perhaps it's just me....

We should be clear--even Republicans are starting to come around on this issue. Opposing torture is not something partisan. It is not a political question, but an American value that must be upheld at all costs.


"Pat Robertson is Twisted" Watch, Part 263

Jason Zengerle gives us the latest in the good reverend's "you're either with God or against Him" rhetoric:
"I'd like to say to the good citizens of Dover, if there is a disaster in your area, don't turn to God, you just rejected Him from your city. And don't wonder why He hasn't helped you when problems begin, if they begin. I'm not saying they will, but if they do, just remember, you just voted God out of your city. And if that's the case, don't ask for His help because he might not be there."

Dover, as you may know, just voted out its pro-creationism school board members and replaced them with a pro-science slate. The penalty for this egregious sin is apparently abandonment by God to the cruel twists of fate.


Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Training The Idiot Generation

I'm a debater. That really is the core facet of my identity. I like arguing, but more than that, I like arguing intelligently. In fact, that's why I joined debate in the first place--as a place of refuge from our superficial society, a place where substance mattered. Thus, like any self-respecting debater, nothing is more aggravating than judges who ignore issues and arguments and instead vote based off "style" or "presentation." I want to be judged based on whether I made a good argument or a bad one--whether I won the debate--not whether or not my argument was delivered at the right tempo or whether my gestures were aesthetically pleasing.

I was at a local college debate tournament yesterday (that's why I had no blog posts--did you miss me?). My partner and I did alright--made the Bronze medal round. But the ballots were just a paradigmatic display of atrocious, style-based judging. I say that for both rounds we won and the rounds we lost (one which we lost, and one which we "lost", if you get my drift). Judges such as this destroy the integrity of debate as an institution designed to foster critical thinking. If all that matters who who uses the best metaphors, then there is no incentive for debaters to make intelligent arguments. And of course, these same factors play out in society writ-large--if voters only care about style, then politicians will continue to campaign on shallow, superficial platforms. You get what you vote for.

Now, in a narrow sense, I'm disillusioned enough that I'd be content if these rhetoric-whores would just leave the judging pool and let me debate in peace. I've long since given up hope that there will be any wide-spread shift in our society's pro-rhetoric stance. But I do actually believe that the primacy of such concepts like "rhetoric" and "persuasion" are wrong and bad for society at large. Specifically, I'm going to make the claim that by encouraging our students to be "rhetorical" rather than substantive, we cause significant, qualitative, and observable harms upon our society and democracy. So when our educational institutions teach students to be rhetorically persuasive, rather than make well-warranted and supported arguments (or at the very least say that the former takes precedence over the latter), they are doing our nation a great disservice and should be loudly opposed. Instead, we should seek to undermine rhetoric where-ever possible, not by opposing someone just because they speak pretty, but by ignoring rhetoric and making "intelligence-based" decisions--doling out social rewards and punishments based on merit and argumentative quality.

My first point on why rhetoric is bad is that it gives an incentive to be stupid. If we privilege rhetoric over substance, then rational actors will behave accordingly. Now, presumably there will be times that substantive appeal and persuasiveness will be one and the same. But where there is a conflict, a rhetoric-first position demands that we dumb ourselves down so as to remain oratorically pleasing. This is why I gave the post this title. By saying that rhetoric is a bona fide positive skill, we are quite literally giving students an incentive to be idiots. We are telling them that rewards and punishments will be given out not on the basis of merit, but presentation. And thus, when a student is faced with an either/or proposition, where she can either make a difficult, counter-intuitive, or otherwise unpersuasive but smart argument, or a shallow, superficial, but quite persuasive dumb argument, she'll rationally choose the latter. This may be true as a descriptive state of affairs (more on this later), but it is inarguable that it is normatively wrong and harmful to society.

The second point is that rhetoric tends to support arguments that either are merely poorly crafted, or are flat-out evil. The first argument I made just noted that intelligence will take a back seat to rhetoric when the two come into conflict. In theory, that's content-neutral--it may be just as likely that rhetoric will support good arguments as bad ones. This point, however, argues that the "persuasive" argument is more often than not the worse argument. There are two reasons for this. The first is that persuasion appeals to very deep-seated (primitive, you might say) emotional responses, rather than sophisticated intellectual ones. At least since Hobbes, and probably before, we've known that humankind, at its most basic state, is not a friendly creature. Our base emotions tend not to be those supporting equal personhood, empathy, unity, or trust. They tend to be selfishness, mistrust, anger, violence, prejudice, and most of all, fear. A persuasive argument that seeks to appeal to the former set of emotions and values will thus operate at a severe disadvantage. It has to both appeal at a visceral level, and yet avoid appealing at the most visceral level. This skirting of the subconscious surface is a very difficult maneuver. And even if done effectively, presumably an advocate that skilled could make an even more appealing argument based off the latter emotions, because they're more deeply entrenched and thus, things being equal, will take precedence. The second reason is that we live in a complex world. Good arguments thus will also tend to be complex. But complexity isn't persuasive to human beings. On a cognitive level, we like simple, cut-and-dry explanations, that establish easy to understand chains of causations and neatly divide the world into right and wrong. An argument that operates in that paradigm is far more likely to be persuasive, because it is stereotype-reinforcing. We want the world to be this way, so we are more likely to find persuasive arguments that indeed, tell us the world is this way. And because this is a deeply-ingrained mechanism of viewing the world, it will only rarely come to the surface and thus is quite difficult to challenge. Meanwhile, a "good" argument, which deals with the real complexities that color our universe, will be ignored or pushed aside. Remember Kerry and his "nuances"? This is precisely what I'm talking about. Now Kerry may have had a good foreign policy position, or he may have had a bad one. But he wasn't attacked on the ground of his position's merit, he was attacked specifically on the grounds that it was "nuanced." Making a complex argument was thus presented as in itself wrong--the substance of the argument was quite literally irrelevant to the attack. Nothing could demonstrate more clearly the way that our patterns of thinking make the type of arguments most likely to be correct (a good argument is likely to be a nuanced one, regardless of whether Kerry's particular nuanced argument was a good one) into political no-nos in today's world.

The implications of this are tremendous, for it means that by teaching that rhetoric is good we are paving the way for demagoguery. Of course, there have been talented rhetoricians who have also made significant substantive arguments. Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. is perhaps the best historical example, Sen. Barack Obama fits this paradigm today. However, the scales are significantly weighted against them. Today, the people who are most likely to be seen as "persuasive," or who have a wide social following, are not our public intellectuals or leading philosophical lights. It isn't John Mearshimer or Martha Nussbaum or Mary Ann Glendon that are trotted out in public debates as our great rhetorical models. It is the folks on talk radio and "Cross-fire" style shows that command our loyalty. That we are persuaded by Rush Limbaugh and Michael Moore and Sean Hannity and Ann Coulter and George Galloway should represent a serious indictment of the very concept of "persuasion." Historically, Hitler's greatest asset was his voice; he was by all accounts a stunning orator. Uncritically accepting rhetoric as a "good" weakens our intellectual defenses against persuasive but morally bankrupt appeals.

The third issue I'd like to address is the idea that rhetoric is a useful skill to have in today's world, and thus should be taught. Obviously, being a good orator is a skill that can be used to great personal advantage (one could say the same about being a good assassin, or being good at backroom political knife-fights). The question then, is whether or not a society in which rhetoric is of such importance is one we wish to accept uncritically, or one which we should challenge and overturn. I very strongly believe the latter, and thus ask why is it socially acceptable to say an argument is "better" because it is "better presented" or "more persuasive"? While they of course exist on different moral planes, there are distressing parallels between making decisions based on rhetorical appeal and making them based on race, sex, religion, or other "irrelevant" characteristics (when, of course, such characteristics are indeed irrelevant). They manifest themselves in different ways, but all share the defining characteristic of subordinating merit and rationality to prejudice and subjectivity. The fact that something is persuasive is no more of an indicator that it is right than the fact that something is White is such an indicator. When our school systems teach rhetoric as something qualitatively beneficial, rather than (at best) a necessary evil, they suppress whatever nascent challenges to the system that may otherwise arise. We see that schools put the full force of their authority down to define writing "well" as writing "persuasively," teach students to analyze and evaluate literary (and even political) works via the paradigm of "literary and persuasive devices," and otherwise operate wholly and uncritically within a paradigm that encourages the development of good oration at the expense of well-crafted argumentation.

I'll concede that perhaps the schools should teach rhetoric as a "tool in the toolbox" because our society still (to its shame) operates within a rhetoric-first paradigm, and people live in the here, not in a rhetoric-subordinated utopia. But I'd say that insofar as its possible, the schools should within its own bounds and assignments, try to shift that standard away from superficial persuasiveness and towards critical thinking and deep analysis (especially because schools are, at least nominally, the sole remaining fortresses of intellectualism). Where we can muster a foothold for intelligence, we should--and who knows? Maybe if we start educating students in an intelligence-first paradigm, then that might just have impacts that change the real world. But by choosing to affirm rather than challenge the hegemony of rhetoric, schools are engaging in material cooperation with a dangerous social force that we are obliged to oppose.

I write this piece in considerable frustration, because I have little faith in either my broad goal of anti-rhetorical social change or my narrow goal of preserving debate as a refuge for intellectualism coming true. Simply put, the deck is stacked against us and its a battle that we are losing. However, that doesn't mean we should stop fighting it. As debaters, we should work to explain to other members of our community (especially volunteer lay-judges) the value of intellectualism over rhetoric. As educators, we should teach our students to be critical thinkers and reject curriculum proposals which reify the stupefying pro-rhetoric mindset. And as citizens, we should demand a higher level of discourse from our elected-officials, educate ourselves about the ideas coming out of our universities and think-tanks, and pledge to vote off issues, not hand-gestures. If we all just work a little harder, I think we can make a difference.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Cert. In Hamdan

In what Orin Kerr termed a "surprising move," the U.S. Supreme Court has granted cert. in Hamdam v. Rumsfeld, to determine the legality of the Military Tribunals commissioned to try suspected terrorists. The D.C. Court of Appeals upheld the constitutionality of the panels. Kerr says that if he had to guess, he thinks the Court will reverse (that's a good thing). Now-Chief Justice Roberts was on the D.C. Circuit Panel and thus has indicated he'll recuse himself, which may counter-intuitively be a bad thing.

SCOTUS Blog gives us the issues that the Court will resolve in official legalese:
"1. Whether the military commission established by the President to try petitioner and others similarly situated for alleged war crimes in the 'war on terror' is duly authorized under Congress's Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF), Pub. L. No. 107-40, 115 Stat. 224; the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ); or the inherent powers of the President?"

"2. Whether petitioner and others similarly situated can obtain judicial enforcement from an Article III court of rights protected under the 1949 Geneva Convention in an action for a writ of habeas corpus challenging the legality of their detention by the Executive branch?"

Though the latter (Geneva Convention) question is definitely the sexier one, Steve Vladeck hints that it may be the former that ultimately sinks the Bush administration. Vladeck interprets the two main precedents, Ex Parte Milligan and Ex Parte Quirin as permitting military tribunals if and only if there is congressional authorization. The two statutory roots cited by the Bush administration above are the Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF), and Article 21 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, 10 U.S.C. 821 (UCMJ). The former, as Vladeck points out, does not ever mention military tribunals or detainees at any point. The latter reads as follows:
The provisions of this chapter conferring jurisdiction upon courts-martial do not deprive military commissions, provost courts, or other military tribunals of concurrent jurisdiction with respect to offenders or offenses that by statute or by the law of war may be tried by military commissions, provost courts, or other military tribunals. (emphasis added)

As I read this section (and I think Vladeck agrees), it means only that this statute does not supersede any other statute which would give authorization to military commissions, tribunals et al. It does not affirmatively establish those courts' jurisdiction itself. If this is the case, then the Bush administration can only justify the tribunals on the "inherent power of the presidency," which would essentially mean overruling Milligan and drastically expanding the power of the Presidency way beyond anything even considered in the past century.

One final note: While we like to cast this issue as a terrorist asserting rights in US court, I'd remind everybody that it is that very issue which is under dispute. As I wrote when the matter was before the D.C. Circuit, Hamdam disputes that he is a member of al-Qaeda, arguing that he was but a menial laborer with no ideological or structural ties to the organization writ large. He may, of course, be lying--folks accused of illegal activity have been known to do that. But that is all the more reason why we need a fair trial to determine that very relevant fact. It is repugnant to the basic principles of justice to assume his guilt prior to adjudication.

Stop Queering The Spin!

Headline,, 11/07/05: "Bush: 'We Do Not Torture'"
"Our country is at war and our government has the obligation to protect the American people," Bush said. "Any activity we conduct is within the law. We do not torture."

Headline,, 11/07/05: "Five U.S. Soldiers Charged With Detainee Abuse"
Five U.S. soldiers from the 75th Ranger Regiment have been accused of beating detainees in Iraq, the U.S. military said Monday.

The allegations stem from an incident on September 7 in which three detainees were allegedly punched and kicked by the soldiers as they were awaiting movement to a detention facility," according to a news release from the U.S. military.

The charges were filed November 5 after an investigation into the alleged abuse, the statement said.

The announcement came on a day when President Bush told reporters that the United States does not condone torture.

The Washington Post has more--including an inexplicable jab at Democrats for being insufficiently pro-free trade. Bush complained that in past sessions, there were Democrats willing to work with him. Well, gosh, where could they have all gone? Maybe they're missing because you aggressively campaigned for their electoral defeat in 2002 and 2004. Boo-frickety-hoo.

But I digress. "We do not torture" is by all accounts simply a lie. It's not like the second CNN article is some sort of ground-shaking revelation. We--by which I mean both the American government and the American people--have known about this for a long time. Bush's claims that we do not torture are disingenuous--and are belied by his threat to veto a bill prohibiting torture. If we have done nothing wrong, why does he fear this bill so much?

Andrew Sullivan is far less charitable than I am. Fareed Zakaria also takes the Bushies to task:
But today, what angers friends of America abroad is not that abuses like those at Abu Ghraib happened. Some lapses are probably an inevitable consequence of war, terrorism and insurgencies. What angers them is that no one beyond a few "little people" have been punished, the system has not been overhauled, and even now, after all that has happened, the White House is spending time, effort and precious political capital in a strange, stubborn and surely futile quest to preserve the option to torture.

Torture is not an issue that's going away. If anything, the problem is getting worse as the Bush administration doggedly defends it's right to crucify detainees (I'm not making this up) (all the while insisting that nothing ever happens). Is it really too much to ask that we take some personal responsibility on this one issue? And while my post title may be sarcastic, in actually I think this is precisely what needs to be focused on. The media needs to start seeing through the spin, seeing through the lies, and send a message to the Bush administration that torture will not be tolerated--in any form, at any time, anywhere.

Kevin Drum closes out:
It's not going to be easy for the United States to regain its credibility as a country dedicated to combating barbarism and supporting human rights. That's all the more reason we should start now.