The New York Times > Opinion >NYT op-ed on Guantanamo:

The Bush administration has turned Guantánamo into a place that is devoid of due process and the rule of law. It’s a place where human beings can be imprisoned for life without being charged or tried, without ever seeing a lawyer, and without having their cases reviewed by a court. Congress and the courts should be uprooting this evil practice, but freedom and justice in the United States are on a post-9/11 downhill slide.

So we are stuck for the time being with the disgrace of Guantánamo, which will forever be a stain on the history of the United States, like the internment of the Japanese in World War II.

The story is worth reading because the case discussed shows not only how unjust and evil the government-sponsored torture going on in Guantanamo is, but how useless it is even for its stated purpose.

By means of months and years of detainment, our government was able to force a man to confess to being a part of Al Qaeda and being in an Osama video. Yay us, right? But he wasn’t. British intelligence has since proved that he was nowhere near Afghanistan at the time. He was in England. There is zero evidence that he ever had anything to do with Al Qaeda other than his own confessions under torture — which have been shown to be false.

That’s the thing with these brutal, inhuman interrogation techniques — they force people to tell you what you want to hear whether it’s true or not. Will that help us win the so-called “war on terror”?

Listen up, Republicans — we Democrats can’t do anything about this. Our party has next to no power in America anymore, and if we try to change these things it will be perceived as an attack on the Republicans, and will force the party in power to ever more strongly defend these practices. We need Republicans to repudiate these things and stop them — not deny and minimize them and finally blame them on underlings when they’re exposed by others — we need the Gonzaleses and Bushes and Rumsfelds of the world to change these things themselves. They’re the ones with the power to do so, and they need to be pressed to do so by the people who support them, not by the people who are trying to bring them down.

Come on, Republicans. We need you guys. Come through for us. Write your Congressmen and Senators. Write Bush, write Rumsfeld, write Gonzales. Don’t let this stuff go on in our name, in your name. It’s not helping us win the “war on terror” and even if it was it would be too great a cost.

Spiny Forums :: An Open Letter to Web Cartoonists

Spiny Forums :: View topic – An Open Letter to Web Cartoonists

here’s this webcomics viewing app for OS X called “Comictastic.” (There are actually a bunch of them; Comictastic is one which has gotten a lot of press.)

It existed for a couple years without anyone noticing, then it got some press, and then a bunch of people within the “Webcomics Community” got really angry about it. (And some of its users got stridently defensive of it.)

Through the course of this messageboard thread, the authors of the software try to open a dialogue with webcomics people. A bunch of angry people call them “bandwidth thieves” and “copyright violators” for making what is essentially a specialized web browser. The angriest voices seem to come either from righteous folk who are not actually webcomics creators, or webcomics creators who are not actually paying for their own bandwidth or profiting from their own ad sales (that is, they get free hosting on Keenspot, which pushes its ads on people to pay for it). (UPDATE: Actually I may be displaying my ignorance there: I read something subsequently that suggested Keenspotters do get ad revenue.)

I dunno. My limited experience hosting a web site and paying for it myself suggests you’d have to be insanely, INSANELY popular before bandwidth costs bit you in the ass (or else you’d have to be really foolish in your choice of hosting providers). I pay $20/month and use only a minute, tiny fraction of the bandwidth I receive for that. Definitely less than 5%, probably less than 1%. (Yeah, I know, I’m paying too much for my needs, but Dreamhost are cool and let you compile your own software and stuff.) If you’re so popular you’re hurting for bandwidth, then you probably could find ways more efficient than banner ads to parlay that popularity into cash (i.e., merchandising or the like) pretty easily. And that’s what the most popular webcomics all do. I don’t imagine apps like this would make a giant difference one way or another in how many people buy T-shirts. (And either way, the authors of the app want to work with people to allow them to deliver ads and merchandise links via RSS.)

Anyway… The funny part is that one of the best known, most popular webcomic artists on the net, Jeff Rowland (creator of Magical Adventures In Space, the latest in a series of spiffy and whimsical comics), has been participating.

As far as I can tell, he’s the only “A-list” comic artist that’s there. Certainly the only one I’ve ever heard of.

Anyway, at least as far as I’ve read in the discussion, Rowland started out mildly skeptical of Comictastic but not that worried about it, and as the discussion went on he got more and more tired of the righteously indignant protestors and finally declared himself “pro-Comictastic” and happy with the programmers’ efforts.

It’s a super long thread and gets repetitive after a while, so I’m posting about it without even having read the whole thing. Interesting stuff.

UPDATE: the thread ends with a few pages of comment spam. Sad.

Non-Violent Communication: A Language of Life

After reading Michael Nagler’s The Search for a Non-Violent Future and being really excited about the possibilities of non-violent change in the world, the title of Non-Violent Communication: A Language of Life of course jumped out at me.

I read a bit of it in the bookstore and decided to buy it. It’s about communication that prevents violence, and communication which is itself non-violent in that it avoids the psychological violence of labeling, blaming, and the like.

Very few of us are in a position where we suffer or inflict physical violence, directly, on a daily basis, but we all deal with conflicts with the people around us and within ourselves, and it’s worth learning how to deal with these things without verbal or psychological violence.

Marshall Rosenberg is a clinical psychologist who’s done a lot of work trying to bring psychology out of the clinical world and into the “real” world, by holding workshops on communication in places where physical violence is a real threat — in prisons, between gangs and police, and in volatile parts of the world like Israel and Rwanda. He’s dedicated to principles of nonviolence and has been trying to work out a communicative style which embodies those principles.

I find a lot of the ideas I’ve come to embrace recently from other sources taken for granted by Dr. Rosenberg: for example, that manipulation by means pleasant or unpleasant is best avoided, or that the only real change for the good comes when “bad” people choose to become “good,” not when “bad” people are defeated by force by “good” people.

Anyway, this book describes a simple form for communicating in a non-violent way, and explores what it takes to put it into practice in both speaking and listening. It involves separating observation from evaluation, taking responsibility for one’s feelings and the needs from which they arise, and learning to make requests which are not demands.

In the week or so since I picked up the book I’ve been putting it into practice talking to my (4-year-old twin) kids, and it seems to help increase the level of sanity, clarity, and understanding in our dealings.

I also drew on some of the book’s suggestions about empathetic communication when I was helping my wife deal with an extremely frustrating situation she was dealing with that caused her a lot of anger — which I was at first at a loss as to how to respond to. Talking to her about it later in the day she said that what I’d said and the way I’d said it had really helped her.

So the advice in the book seems to be passing the practicality test so far. I would recommend it.

Center for Nonviolent Communication Website
Puddle Dancer Press Website

UPDATE: I should note that the one thing that kind of bugs me about NVC is the degree to which it seems to be identified with its creator, Marshall Rosenberg. There’s a degree of what seems like hero-worship or guru-hood about the NVC supporting materials/websites that gives me pause. On the other hand, the actual content of the book doesn’t give me that impression — the book is filled with personal anecdotes but the author doesn’t come across as thinking of himself as anything special. So that didn’t bother me reading the book. If I’d read the web sites before reading the book I might not have bothered because I’d have gotten the impression that [to paraphrase Jan Brady] it’s all about Marshall, Marshall, Marshall!