Thursday, 30 September 2004

Say no to torture

Both Katherine R and Sebastian Holdsclaw of Obsidian Wings are rightly horrified that the so-called “9/11 commission bill” includes provisions that may lead to the institutionalization of the abuses that Maher Arar was subjected to by Syrian authorities, with the apparent complicity of both the United States and Canadian governments.

This isn’t a “Republican” or “Democrat” problem—most members of both parties are going to vote for this bill, because they want to look like they’re “doing something” about terrorism. But this is something that is simply unconscionable. Let your senators and representatives know that this is not how America is supposed to do things and is completely unacceptable.

There’s more on the bill in today’s Washington Post.


As others have mentioned, it appears that the Montréal Expos are headed to Washington. But, while I’m generally not in favor of Congress meddling in D.C.‘s business (and think some sort of resolution needs to be made to the district residents’ lack of congressional representation), I think I could make an exception for a law blocking the district government’s ill-conceived and completely unnecessary handout package for the team. You don’t have to believe me; believe AEI’s Scott Wallstein, or Cato’s Doug Bandow, to name just two experts, virtually all of whom have concluded that stadium subsidies don’t lead to worthwhile economic benefits—and, particularly in the case of D.C., divert resources that could be better spent on serious social ills.

Choosing not to be spun

Here’s one for the “credit where credit is due” department: New York Times reporter Adam Nagourney won’t be partaking of Spin Alley after the debate tomorrow night, a move applauded by Ryan Pitts of The Dead Parrot Society and Jay Rosen. I agree with both; in fact, I’d almost take it a step further. Ryan writes:

A debate like this is supposed to be about the candidates persuading the voters, each of whom needs to individually assess whose policies and attitudes they’d like to see for the next four years.

Ryan emphasizes the word voters, but I almost think the emphasis should be on the phrase individually assess. Spin, “news analysis,” and the like tend to get in the way of that process, rather than informing it. So my advice to voters would be to watch the debate, and then switch off your TV and not read the reports and op-eds about it the next few days. And, if you can’t spare the time, then reading the reports and op-eds (and blog posts!) is worthless anyway—the entire point of the debate process is to give unfiltered insights into the candidates, and putting an interlocutor between yourself and the candidates will distort the image.

In fairness to Ryan, he’s speaking from the journalist’s perspective—but choosing not to be spun is something the voter can do just as easily. Switching off Matthews or Hannity or Crossfire is just as important for the voter as Nagourney avoiding “spin alley” is for the reporter.