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6.29.2004
  Justice Stevens
"Whether respondent is entitled to immediate release is a question that reasonable jurists may answer in different ways. There is, however, only one possible answer to the question whether he is entitled to a hearing on the justification for his detention.

At stake in this case is nothing less than the essence of a free society. Even more important than the method of selecting the people's rulers and their successors is the character of the constraints imposed on the Executive by the rule of law. Unconstrained Executive detention for the purpose of investigating and preventing subversive activity is the hallmark of the Star Chamber. Access to counsel for the purpose of protecting the citizen from official mistakes and mistreatment is the hallmark of due process.

Executive detention of subversive citizens, like detention of enemy soldiers to keep them off the battlefield, may sometimes be justified to prevent persons from launching or becoming missiles of destruction. It may not, however, be justified by the naked interest in using unlawful procedures to extract information. Incommunicado detention for months on end is such a procedure. Whether the information so procured is more or less reliable than that acquired by more extreme forms of torture is of no consequence. For if this Nation is to remain true to the ideals symbolized by its flag, it must not wield the tools of tyrants even to resist an assault by the forces of tyranny"
 
6.20.2004
  Strict Constitutionalism, part 2: are we that close to the edge of totalitarianism?
Actually, more to the point... I agree with Hunt when he says that it is insane to suggest that the the Establisment Clause of the first amendment only pertains to the Federal government.

I suppose you can literly interpret the "Congress" in "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion" as meaning the federal legistlature, but this would mean that State's could pass laws counter to our inbred assumptions of freedom of speech, etc.

However, I'm struck by Hunt's assersion that this interpretation would mean that there would be "widespread censorship, political and religious prisoners, and state-run press with no independent accountability." Don't most State's have constitutions that reaffirm the rights given in the first amendment of the federal constitution? Also, assuming not, would the people of a particular state stand for anti-freedom laws if they were to be passed?

I don't believe that we're that close to the edge of totalitarianism. I generally trust the people and I don't believe they would condone the loss of their own freedom. At least, it wouldn't be easy to get them to do so.
 
  Strict Constitutionalism
'Why' is much more interesting than the 'how'. The 'why' is the meaning behind why something is done or why a technology was created or why the clause in the constitution was added. Only understanding the process or the mechanics of the technology or just the text of the constitution gives you particular knowledge of the thing and no greater understanding. The 'why' requires a network of contextual knowledge. To truly know why something is, you have to know a lot about other things. On the other hand, the 'how' is an isolated fact about the particular thing.

Learning and thinking about the 'why' is much harder than the 'how'. In Calculus, it's much easier to memorize the steps required to calculate a integral along a closed curve using Green's Theorem then it is to understand what Green's Theorem is and when to apply it, nevertheless proving it. Elsewhere, this economist article demonstrates that without understanding the underlying reality, you can apply supply and demand analysis and get two contradictory results (prices may rise or fall depending on the shape of the curves and the extent of the supply/demand shocks).

The 'why' is knowing how to fish and the 'how' is just having one meal worth of fish. Knowing the 'why' informs your thoughts and actions in other, perhaps unrelated, areas. For example, in developing our platform at work, I try to keep API's and syntax as loose as possible because I know that was the primary reason for HTML's success. It succeeded because it was used in ways that its designers could never have imagined. PERL's the same way.

In my experience, most folks spend their time performing the 'how'. At work, I'm frustrated by people trying to understand how to apply a particular policy rather than just thinking about doing the 'right thing'. It's seems to me that if you know why a policy was put into place you can act appropriately without having to bother with the particular wording of that policy. What if the wording in the policy is wrong?

Is there a place for just putting your nose down and doing the work?
 
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