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Here’s the New York Times’s Eric Lichtblau reporting today on the trio of superlative appointments announced for the Justice Department today: David Ogden to be Deputy Attorney General, Elena Kagan to be Solicitor General, Dawn Johnsen to be head of the Office of Legal Counsel (italics mine):
The records and public statements of the four nominees named by Mr. Obama suggest a sharp break from the legal policies of the past eight years in a number of key areas, including the detention, interrogation and surveillance of terrorism suspects.
For instance, Dawn Johnsen—whom Mr. Obama said he would nominate to lead the Office of Legal Counsel, which has become controversial because of its legal defense of practices bordering on torture—did not try to hide her skeptical views on recent counter-terrorism policies in a law review article last year entitled: “What’s a President to Do: Interpreting the Constitution in the Wake of the Bush Administration’s Abuses.”
Got that? John Yoo and Steven Bradbury were defending practices “bordering on torture.” We’re talking about waterboarding, hypothermia, long-time standing, the use of psychotropic drugs and burying people in a box for prolonged periods, among other things.
Dear Times editors: read your own pages. When Russia used the practice of stoika in the Stalin era, you called it “torture.” It is. Why does it become “bordering on torture” when the Bush Administration uses it? When the Nazis used the practice of Pfahlbinden during World War II, you called it “torture.” So when Bush uses it, suddenly it becomes “bordering on torture”? By consciously softening your language, you are allowing those who introduced torture to escape the opprobrium that is their due. Moreover, you are enabling torture. Your readers deserve better.
More from Scott Horton:
Six Questions — October 18, 2014, 8:00 pm
Nathaniel Raymond on CIA interrogation techniques.
I recently spent a semester teaching writing at an elite liberal-arts college. At strategic points around the campus, in shades of yellow and green, banners displayed the following pair of texts. The first was attributed to the college’s founder, which dates it to the 1920s. The second was extracted from the latest version of the institution’s mission statement:
The paramount obligation of a college is to develop in its students the ability to think clearly and independently, and the ability to live confidently, courageously, and hopefully.
Let us take a moment to compare these texts. The first thing to observe about the older one is that it is a sentence. It expresses an idea by placing concepts in relation to one another within the kind of structure that we call a syntax. It is, moreover, highly wrought: a parallel structure underscored by repetition, five adverbs balanced two against three.
Percentage of Britons who cannot name the city that provides the setting for the musical Chicago:
An Australian entrepreneur was selling oysters raised in tanks laced with Viagra.
A naked man believed to be under the influence of LSD rammed his pickup truck into two police cars.
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“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”