Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Spare Change News -- June 19th

A David versus Goliath battle between corporate America and a freethinking counterculture is about to wage in cyberspace.

When internet auction giant eBay bought a minority stake in the homespun San Francisco Internet start-up craigslist - a company so modest they don’t even bother using an apostrophe or a capital letter - most observers expected the classified ads website would be quickly swallowed up.

eBay Inc. operates the world’s most popular e-commerce site, has a globally recognized brand, and is valued at over $40 billion. Its website is one of the most sophisticated around, with barely a square inch of it not covered by some sort of paid advert.

By contrast, craigslist is heavy on text and looks much as it did in 1996 when early enthusiasts would have looked at it on their black and white screened Apple PowerBooks.

The company grew out of an email of events listings Craig Newmark used to send friends, occupies an old fashioned timber house in San Francisco, has a staff of around twenty, and the only logo it uses is the peace sign.

Yet it has become part of the American way of life. Local newspaper groups cite it as responsible for ripping apart their industry’s business model and cops regularly trawl its pages looking for services as diverse as stolen goods and prostitution rings while it remains for many the first place to advertise a church fete.

The Cruelest Art:
Dr. Darius Rejali on Torture in Democratic Societies

Waterboarding. Hypothermia. Stress positions. Prolonged isolation. Sensory deprivation. These “clean” tortures leave deep psychological wounds but few physical scars — and they have been used for decades not only by dictatorships, but also by democratic governments, including the United States.

After 9/11, Americans used these techniques on so-called “enemy combatants” detained in a system of prisons from Iraq’s notorious Abu Ghraib and the Pentagon’s detention center at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, to numerous CIA black sites. And according to recent reports, officials at the highest levels of the Bush Administration, including Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, approved the use of “harsh interrogation techniques” in questioning detainees.

In his massive study, Torture and Democracy (Princeton, 2007), internationally renowned violence and torture expert Dr. Darius Rejali writes that these “clean” interrogation methods not only violate international law, but they radicalize enemies, undermine credibility, and yield unreliable intelligence. They do not strengthen national security, but instead make us less safe.

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