Friday, January 07, 2005

Because Torture is Wrong

Digby hits it out of the park:

Every person alive in America today grew up with the belief that torture is wrong. Popular culture, religion, folklore and every other form of cultural instruction for decades in this country has taught that it is wrong, from sermons and lectures to films about slavery to photographs of Auschwitz to crime shows about serial killers. It is embedded in our consciousness. We teach our children that it is wrong to torture animals and other kids. We don't say that there are exceptions for when the animals or kids are really, really bad. We have laws on the books that outright outlaw it. The words "cruel and unusual" are written into our constitution.

Monday, January 03, 2005

Posner on civil liberties

If people would prefer to be killed by terrorists than to give up even a tiny smidgeon of their civil liberties,...I have no argument contra [he means, he has no argument against that -- sid]. I just think that almost all Americans would consider that turning back the civil liberties clock to, say, 1960 would be worthwhile if as a result some horrendous terrorist attack was prevented. [he means, "but I don't think most Americans think that way", without bothering, actually, to explain why he thinks that -- sid]

So...I should just give my rights up willingly? Save folks the trouble?

No, thanks. I'll wait.

Pious fraud, or excellent point?

Judge Posner was guestblogging on Leiter Reports for the last week of December. He's had some interesting things to say.

From The Religion of Civil Liberties:

Noting that “the power which the [British] Home Secretary seeks to uphold is a power to detain people indefinitely without charge or trial,” he says that “nothing could be more antithetical to the instincts and traditions of the people of the United Kingdom.” This is a pious fraud, ignoring a long history of abuses of civil liberty by British police and security agencies, documented by the English legal historian A. W. Brian Simpson in his book In the Highest Degree Odious and by others.

Hold on, there, just because British police have failed on occasion to live up to the standards the people of the United Kingdom set for them and for themselves, means those ideals don't actually exist?

I beg to differ. Just because something is difficult to achieve, doesn't mean we should stop striving for it. To jump an ocean and return to the US, should we throw out all of our ideals because someone (or multiple someones) maltreated a prisoner? If one group failed to live up to an ideal, why does that mean all of us should stop trying to live up to it?

Terrorism that kills thousands of people (in time, it could be millions) is less menacing than laws that cut back on “traditional laws and politi­cal values,” even if the “traditions” are only a few years old. An ordinary sensible person would think that terrorism on the scale enabled by modern technology and inflamed by religio-political fanaticism can do more harm to a nation than a law authorizing the in­definite detention of nondeportable aliens suspected of being terrorists. To think otherwise is to be in the grip of a dogma that flaunts its defiance of common sense. Credo quia absudum est.

Terrorism that kills thousands of people, or in time, millions, is not, in my opinion, as bad as destroying the idea that is a nation. The US is a created nation, dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal, and endowed with certain inalienable rights. You can kill a citizen, and incur our wrath. But kill the idea that makes us us, and you can kill a country. Which of these is worse? I esteem my life greatly, I really do, I place a very high value on it, but I esteem my principles, too.

Civil liberties have real benefits that are entitled to considerable weight whenever measures to increase public safety are proposed. But in Lord Hoffman's opinion, as in similar pronouncements by American civil libertarians, the effort is to place the existing level of civil liberties beyond pragmatic assessment by according them transcendent value compared to which considerations of physical survival are made to seem petty.

Reading the Declaration of Independence, I see a transcendent value, not just "real benefits", attached to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

(thanks to Medley, for pointing me in this direction)

What Would Jesus Do? He'd give all he could, and more.

"Do you think that it is the obligation of the United States to take its wealth and transfer it to the Third World?"

This isn't about transferring wealth from the U.S. to Third World countries. That is one of the most asinine, America-centric, self-absorbed things I've ever heard.

This isn't about "transferring wealth", this is about helping people in need. Because if we don't, easily three times as many are going to die from cholera, dysentery, typhus, malnutrition, and all kinds of diarrheal diseases due to a lack of proper sanitation, proper food, and clean drinking water. 700,000 people are homeless right now because of this tsunami, if not more than that. This isn't about money, it's about life and death. It's about things that actually *matter*.

It is immoral, and unethical, for the richest nation in the history of the world to not give to those who need it so desperately. It is unchristian to withhold aid from someone who needs it, when you have it to give.

I cannot believe that some dickwad is going on about wealth transfers to the Third World. It's not like we're talking about extremely expensive penis-extender cars, here.

Food. Water. Shelter. If you honestly believe that this tsunami is an opportunity for those sneaky, money-grubbing Third World countries to steal from the U.S., you have your head shoved so far up your ass I'm surprised you can walk.

(thanks, Digby, for the tip)

In the Puff Pastry Department

It's been a long time since I posted anything about food. However, last night I cooked lentils with a clove of garlic, and dumped them over two pieces of fresh-from-the-oven cornbread -- with real corn added to it -- and it tasted great.

Corn Bread (from the back of an old corn meal bag - they have a different recipe on the packaging now, but I don't like it as much)

(makes 8-inch square pan)

1 cup yellow corn meal
1 cup flour
1/4 cup sugar (I often use honey instead)
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup oil
1 egg
1 cup milk

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Combine dry ingredients in bowl and mix well. Combine oil, egg, and milk together. Mix well. Stir into dry ingredients until just blended. Pour into well-buttered or well-oiled 8-inch square pan. Bake in hot oven at 400 F for 25 minutes or until done.

I use a cast-iron skillet of about an 8-inch diameter.

(Recall, for my non-existent international readers, that one inch = 2.54 cm. So, if you have a cast iron skillet that's about 20 cm in diameter, or a square pan that's about 20cm X 20cm, you're doing just fine. This is not a fussy recipe. A little smaller, you get taller cornbread. A little larger, you get shorter cornbread. Use a pan that's way out of proportion and your cooking time will probably have to go down - but if your pan's that much larger, just make a double batch!)

Little additions like salsa, or canned or creamed corn work very well with this recipe.

Sunday, January 02, 2005

Lo, I have returned

It was a fun and horror-filled holiday, thank you for asking. The fun included the travel and seeing loved ones and new places. The horror included the breaking of leg (not mine, thank god, as I live on the third floor of my building, and the tiny elevator's doors don't stay open and are very heavy, which means they *will* try to kill you -- I don't see how you could open them from a wheelchair to begin with, or keep them open if on crutches). Ugh.

Plus, my IO account has "expired", entirely unwillingly on my part. If you have my address in your addressbook, please make sure it's the correct one.

Aside from all that...the Lincoln Memorial is really, really, really cool.