The Rundown

August 16, 2007
  • Steven Stark at RCP argues that Obama and Edwards are their own worst enemies in the debate format. I don’t disagree.
  • Former Clinton Chief of Staff John Podesta has some advice for the Bush Administration on how to avoid lame-duckery. I’d bet good money Podesta is wasting his time here.
  • Don Rumsfeld actually resigned the day before the election. How about that.
  • The Democrats really should make a point of passing the South Korea – US free trade pact. They won’t, but they should.
  • Especially not if this is any indication. Please, Democrats, please stop doing this. I want to vote for you. I really do.

More on FISA

August 7, 2007

The FISA amendments, (disgustingly titled the “Protect America Act”), which I discussed briefly yesterday, are still the big controversy today. Most of the buzz is pretty negative.

A New York Times editorial slammed PAA as “yet another unnecessary and dangerous expansion of President Bush’s powers, this time to spy on Americans in violation of basic constitutional rights.” Reason’s Julian Sanchez wonders if the country isn’t, “[l]ike Bill Murray’s hapless weatherman in Groundhog Day… locked in a perpetual September 12, 2001.” Obsidian Wings reminds Americans to “understand that FISA didn’t arise out of abstract policy debates. Congress enacted FISA in response to decades of well-documented, egregious abuses of secret, unchecked surveillance authority (generally in the name of fighting the enemy, who was then Communism).” TPM Muckraker also suggests that the Administration’s assurances of careful targeting should be taken with a grain of salt.

NRO Online’s Andrew McCarthy is apparently not a student of history. He argues that FISA allows judges to manage national security and that the law should be taken off the books altogether. He claims that the Constitution “empowers the chief executive to conduct warrantless surveillance of foreign threats.” Ignoring the facts altogether, he even states that “a judge on the FISA court outrageously ignored the FISA statute.” In fact, that isn’t true at all, which was, in theory, the reason an amendment was needed in the first place. Know-nothingism at its finest, ladies and gentlemen.

The Rundown

August 7, 2007
  • Tyler Cowen presents a really interesting argument about the nature of poverty, based on a book by Charles Kareli.
  • Foreign Policy‘s Mike Boyer points to the fact that Grist (and other environmental organizations) tend to ignore conservative environmentalists.
  • A pretty entertaining Freakonomics Q&A with Columbia sociologist Sudhir Venkatesh about gang life.
  • Over at Salon, Juan Cole calls the latest surge of good news on the surge “a surge of phony spin.” Surge.
  • Also at Salon, Glenn Greenwald interviews Chris Dodd. I have found myself increasingly impressed by Dodd. It’s a shame he’s such a long-shot.
  • MD Governor Martin O’Malley and DLC Chair Harold Ford argue for Democratic centrism in the WP. Steve Benen is not impressed.

Mayer on Torture, Plus FISA Updates

August 6, 2007

The big news today is, of course, the Jane Mayer piece in the New Yorker describing the secret CIA detention facilities used post-9/11. Some truly frightening stuff in there. Example:

Finally, [Rep Alcee Hastings] received some classified briefings on the Mohammed interrogation. Hastings said that he “can’t go into details” about what he found out, but, speaking of Mohammed’s treatment, he said that even if it wasn’t torture, as the Administration claims, “it ain’t right, either. Something went wrong.”

There’s much worse in there than that, too. Here‘s Marty Lederman’s pretty thorough discussion of the article.

On a related note, the Democrats capitulated to the Administration on an update to FISA. Jack Balkin is disgusted. TPM’s Greg Sargent responds by pleading with the Democrats to remember why they were elected. Orin Kerr isn’t as critical. I tend to agree with Balkin on this. Even if the amendment isn’t so bad on its face, the potential for abuse is enormous, and I remain unconvinced that this was the best (or even a particularly good) solution to the Administration’s FISA problems.

Democrats, Republicans, doesn’t seem to matter most of the time. All worthless. Being informed is such a drag.

The Rundown

August 6, 2007
  • Harvard’s Kenneth Rogoff has an interesting piece on healthcare in the Guardian’s “Comment is Free” feature.
  • The Tenth Circuit held that Oklahoma may not treat out of state adoptions by gay couples differently than it treats such adoptions by straight couples.
  • Senior Senator of my home state Arlen Spector, has a pretty level-headed editorial about immigration in today’s WP. Unfortunately, he is probably not doing himself any favors in his next contest with this stance.
  • A challenge to the NSA wiretap program may have a chance, since the Department of the Treasury accidentally gave the defendant’s lawyers a copy of the NSA Call Log. Oops.
  • Stephen Bainbridge, guest-blogging for Andrew Sullivan, demonstrates that the similarities between the president and his father are greater than they would seem, and not in a particularly flattering sense.
  • Matthew Yglesias conveys some foreign policy wisdom Obama dropped re: China at YearlyKos.

If it Weren’t for My Horse, Byron York

August 3, 2007

One of my favorite comedy bits of all time is the famous Lewis Black bit where he hypothesizes about the link between the stupidity of others and aneurysms. Certainly, I know the feeling. In fact, I had it just today reading Byron York’s column in The Hill.

You see, York is rehashing the age-old argument that anti-war types are treasonous. You know, the same one the hard right used during the Cold War, particularly about Vietnam. And that every militaristic administration everywhere has used against the anti-war contingent in every society since the dawn of civilization. Yes, that one.

Why it set me off today, I can’t say. I would guess I’ve just had enough. The war is overwhelmingly unpopular. Public opinion had, nearly without exception, turned against it this summer. Lately a few highly dubious “good news” reports have come out, and the treachery charge has come right back. Let me state this clearly, in language so simple it would be hard for York to misconstrue: The anti-war majority does not want the US to lose in Iraq. I repeat, we do not want the US to lose in Iraq.

We have simply accepted the reality that the surge can only go on for so long (about six months, according to the army), and that is almost definitely not long enough to fix things. Moreover, the only fix the army can provide is a military one, while the political situation, which is critical to long-term stability, continues to deteriorate. I only hope the American people are not so easily swayed by the manipulative McCarthyite likes of York.

The Rundown

August 3, 2007
  • The best piece I’ve seen on the I-35 Bridge Collapse. It’s just very well done.
  • New poll shows a three-way split in Iowa between the big three Dems. Oh how I love a horserace.
  • Mark Kleiman has a great anecdote about the ongoing problems in the credit market.
  • Matthew Yglesias points to a good critique of the O’Hanlon/Pollack editorial. He also conveys some interesting Romney news.
  • And finally, hell froze over as President Bush announced international climate change talks today.