As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Sunday, May 31, 2009

The Rest Of The Week In Review

So as I said, kind of a busy weekend. I checked in when I could. OK, here's what I missed:

• This Administration is driving me to distraction. The gap between the rhetoric and reality is becoming Canyon-esque. Obama this week set out a review of the use of official secrecy, which sounds great as far as it goes, but then he continues to use off the record briefings, guards information zealously, and then there's the use of the state secrets privilege to shut down various court cases, which the Justice Department continues to invoke in the Al Haramain wiretapping case, which has driven the judge in the case to distraction. You cannot just claim the mantle of change forever - at some point you have to act differently as well.

• That said, let me define a couple areas where the President's team is, in fact, acting differently. I like that Tom Vilsack has essentially reinstated the Clinton roadless rule preventing logging in national forests. I like that the President is taking seriously the issue of cybersecurity - and doing so while maintaining a commitment to net neutrality. And I like that Obama's Transportation Secretary took a ride on a bullet train in Spain and pronounced it a model for future transit actions here.

• I want to address the Ted Olson/David Boies lawsuit challenging Prop. 8 on federal equal protection grounds, well described by Adam Bonin at the link. I completely understand the reticence among gay and civil rights groups to make a premature court challenge and set a dangerously restrictive precedent. The Boies/Olson suit is risky because it could unravel much of the work being done at the state level, certainly in the judicial arena, and allow states to enshrine discrimination into their statutes with the backing of the Supreme Court. However, as AL says, it would take years before such a suit reaches the SCOTUS level, and furthermore, Loving v. Virginia was not adjudicated at a time when the public had weighed in on the side of interracial marriage. It's a gamble, but both of these lawyers feel confident that they have the better of the argument, and they might as well set that ball rolling down the field.

• Are we at risk of losing a groundbreaking climate bill because farm-state politicians want to keep their ethanol subsidies? That would just be a shame. We are nearing a tipping point, both on the climate and in the production capabilities of renewable energy, and we must have comprehensive legislation now to put a cap on emissions and make the production of green energy viable. We cannot sacrifice it on the altar of parochial interests, for a technology that, frankly, wastes more energy than it saves.

• I knew that a lot of Sri Lankan civilians were caught in the crossfire during the end of their civil war, but I had no idea that 20,000 of them died during those final days. What an incredible tragedy.

• Alberto Gonzales, on an image rehabilitation tour, wants you to know that he couldn't be responsible for torture because he wasn't Attorney General at the time. Those cables he apparently sent from inside the White House authorizing torture techniques months before DoJ signed off don't count, I guess.

• If we get a legitimate food safety bill from Henry Waxman and company, I'd be deeply satisfied. The spectre of e. coli conservatism still remains with us. If government can do anything, it's protect the food that we eat and the products shipped into this country. That seems like a bare minimum level.

• Yet another source acknowledges that, yes, the CIA lies all the time in briefings. I hope we can really get to the main point sometime - the CIA was under severe pressure to prove their worth through "actionable" intelligence, they took it too far, and they covered their tracks. Similarly, the FBI needed to prove their aptitude in breaking up terror plots domestically, so they send in informants who prey on weak minds, get them to agree to some vague plot, and arrest them. How this makes us safer, I don't know.

• In this time of recession, I'll bet many Americans wouldn't find the generosity of the French social safety net to be an onerous burden. In fact, it sounds like a pretty reasonable structure in place for just this kind of economic dislocation.

• Despite how things currently look, I think Chris Dodd will be OK next year. His first ad of the cycle, complete with a Barack Obama shout-out, will eventually help put this AIG smear in the past. And his attention to key constituencies in Connecticut, contra The New Republic, is not a bug but a feature. Apparently he'll have no shortage of competition, but Dodd has a national network of admirers who will provide the help he needs to win a re-election he deserves.

A unified theory of Obama? Sounds about right. He talks to enemies, tries to bring them along, and lets them hang themselves among the public if things don't work out. Which can work, but doesn't address the issue of core policy principles. It's more an approach to governing than governing itself.

Bernie Kerik has been indicted for lying to the White House. While I remind everyone that nobody in the White House at the time has been indicted for lying to Bernie Kerik and 300 million other Americans, seeing Bad Bing get busted does carry with it a deep sense of satisfaction. And disbelief - how could they possibly have considered this guy for a high-level position?

• As many have said, anyone driving along who sees a billboard stating "Where's the birth certificate?" won't have the first clue that the reference is to Barack Obama. Wingnuts have gone so far down the rabbit hole that they have their own coded language and sets of signifiers that make almost no sense to anyone outside the hive.

Google Wave looks like one of those interesting developments of technology that I'll be sure to get to five or seven years after it takes off. I haven't even switched over to Gmail yet. I'm a codger when it comes to the Internet, still living in a 2005 world. A computer-literate Luddite. But even if I was at the bleeding edge I couldn't make a New Yorker cover with the iPhone Brushes app.

• In my continuing Berlusconi watch, the man gets more and more ridiculous. He's now using an injunction to block photos of that notorious New Year's Eve party that featured the attendance of 18 year-old model Noemi Letizia and a bevy of other beauties, some topless. This downfall couldn't happen to anyone more appropriate.

• Run, don't walk, to get your Michelle Bachmann comic book. The folks behind Dump Bachmann are doing some of the most innovative work focusing on a single member of Congress, anywhere in the country.

• And finally, don't smile for your driver's license photo in Virginia, it's now against the law. It's due to a facial recognition system they're implementing, which actually makes me want to smile more, lest I offer yet another digital fingerprint for others to use in tracking me.