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17.4.09

Miscellaneous roundup

Shepard Fairey-style Obama icon reading 'Plus Ca Change'First, a little Plus Ca Change Watch. Obama released the Bush-era torture memos with minimal redaction yesterday, so he gets a cookie for following the law there. Disturbingly, though, he effectively pardoned all the people who actually did the torture, because holding people accountable for their actions would be living in the past. He obviously knows he needs the support of civil libertarians and anti-Republican partisans who seized on the torture issue. But his concern to establish a precedent for immunity from responsibility for torture makes me wonder what the real message was that the CIA was sent about how to interpret his public promises to stop torturing people.*

In related news, the NSA has been (accidentally, they swear!) spying on Americans, and even prior to the latest revelations the current administration was earning a marginal grade on civil liberties.

Moving to immigration, we have a bit of "actual change" news -- the people arrested in the recent Washington state raid have been released and given work authorization. My cynical side wonders how much this represents an actual change in policy versus punishing ICE because they embarassed Janet Napolitano by springing the raid on her.

For folks who were arrested in circumstances other than the Bellingham raid, immigration continues to be a black hole of human rights, even for detainees who are U.S. citizens (my wife's coworkers were the people who helped out Rene Saldivar, the guy pictured in that story).


*I'm realizing through all this that I have a much stronger structuralist tendency than I thought -- I simply don't trust the office of the presidency, and I'm less reassured than most people by a change in which dude's butt is in the chair. Or maybe I'm just an across-the-board pessimist -- while I expect a bad institution to corrupt even a good officeholder, I wouldn't expect even the best-designed institution to be able to rein in a truly bad officeholder.

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