My first substantive post at discourse.net was ten years ago, and Rose Burawoy, Political Scientist, an even meatier post, was only a few days later. I was horrified by Guantanamo and by the Padilla case.
A great deal has changed since then, for me personally and for almost everyone else. Padilla is out of the Navy Brig and in a Miami jail — but Guantanamo is still there. It is hard not get used to it, but we need to make that effort.
Meanwhile, the blogging project has become somewhat more erratic as I have become deeply enmeshed in other projects, particularly Jotwell and We Robot. And I’m trying to keep up my scholarly writing productivity too; something has to go, and as I result I write fewer long pieces here. But not none!
If you haven’t been reading for ten years straight you might want to look at an arbitrary list of discourse.net’s greatest hits. It has what I think are the best posts — not the most popular. If I were listing the most popular it would be a very different list, probably headed by How Not To Pick Up Women Online, which for some years was on the first or second page of Google for people searching that phrase without the “not”.
More importantly, if you have not already done so, please would you take a minute and tell me a little something about yourself? One of the greatest rewards of shouting into the wind is to sometimes hear a voice answer back.
Mark my words, fifty years from now, Gitmo will be at the top of the list of things the Texas Board of Education wants banned from students’ history books.
— Opinio Juris » Dead Gitmo Detainee Cleared for Release Three Years Ago.
At first I thought this was surely the cool fact of the day: Global subway systems converge on common topologies. For example,
Patterns emerged: The core-and-branch topology, of course, and patterns more fine-grained. Roughly half the stations in any subway will be found on its outer branches rather than the core. The distance from a city’s center to its farthest terminus station is twice the diameter of the subway system’s core. This happens again and again.
But really, I think this is the cool fact of the day: the opinion in Hedges v. Obama, in which a fairly newly appointed District Court Judge, Katherine Forrest, holds that a § 1021 of the National Defense Authorization Act is unconstitutional. That vague provision could be read to give the US government authority to put US citizens in military detention for meeting with terrorists and writing about them.
It’s a nicely written opinion; the key move seems to be that the court described the plaintiffs’ activities in speaking, meeting and writing to the government, gave them plenty of time to consider the facts before the hearing, and the government was unwilling or unable to say that these first amendment activities were outside the scope of the statute. This tactical choice by the government also caused the Court to find that the plaintiffs had standing — not commonly the result in such cases. Similarly, the government’s unwillingness to give definite much less narrowing constructions to key statutory terms led the Court to hold the statute unconstitutionally vague.
This is really something — even though it’s just a preliminary injunction. That means there’s still the next round in the District Court, then an appeal to the 2nd Circuit, and perhaps beyond.
I have a minor cameo in a Palm Beach Post article today, Ethical debates intensify as Guantanamo Bay detention center turns 10 by John Lantigua.
Detainees Will Still Be Held, but Not Tried, Official Says. Fifty people to be held without trial.
Note the logic here — the people to be held without trial are those the administration is afraid might be found not guilty in a fair trial. That's why they have to be held without trial, see? We can't convict them!
Some of us still hold to the old-school notion that when the government imprisons people whose guilt it cannot prove, or will not attempt to prove, something as old as the Magna Carta and as fundamental as the rule of law has been violated.
What a shame that the Obama administration is no more willing to hew to this basic principle than its predecessor. Thus does evil become institutionalized.