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

Sunday, August 30, 2009

The Rest Of The Week In Review

Y'ever feel like things are just too much? Like there aren't enough hours in the day for you to do what you want? Welcome to my life. And here's some of what fell by the wayside this week:

• The torture debate has revealed some of the worst arguments - and arguers - of the Bush Administration get resurrected to torture us with their logic all over again. Smintheus goes postal on John Yoo over his fictional account of how the Convention Against Torture allows for it in "exigent circumstances" like a war (it doesn't); and Abu Gonzales pretends he didn't write what he wrote about the Geneva Conventions being obsolete and "quaint." At least one Bush-era holdover, Fran Townsend, decided the rare step of telling the truth by saying, correctly, that the CIA documents provide no evidence for Dick Cheney's claims that torture "worked," as if it would matter to the authorities that my robbing a bank "worked" because it made me very rich.

• Mohammed Jawad, who was sent to Guantanamo at the age of 12, returned to Afghanistan this week after federal judges demanded his release on the basis of having committed no crime that would justify holding him any longer than the eight years he spent in Cuba. But instead of going quietly and trying to forget the past, which included torture, Jawad will seek justice and reparations by suing the United States. If he can get a fair hearing this could be yet another opening into accountability for torture, or at least a deterrent (the big dollar signs would presumably deter future Administrations from torturing).

• You don't see a lot of appreciations of Arne Duncan like this around progressive circles, particularly for his "Race To The Top" contest where he is pitting states against one another to make favored changes in order to qualify for stimulus funding. But certainly, establishment media is on his side, portraying teachers and their unions with the black hats and reformers emblazoned with gold. I think it's much more nuanced. Duncan actually has some union support for his policies, for example. And reformers often veer off course in their zeal for change. Education itself doesn't get caught up in manichean thinking, and the debate over it shouldn't either.

• The stealth poll of the week was the very broad support for the Democratic agenda on energy and climate change. The public even supports cap and trade, which they probably don't understand to the letter, because they support the things Democrats are standing for on other fronts, like increased renewables and action on climate change generally. In this environment, Senators should be working to improve the Waxman-Markey bill that passed the House. The public is on our side on this one.

• Paul Krugman is pretty much right about the deficit, and all the teeth-gnashing being done in service thereunto. The most ludicrous part of the health care debate is the way in which the fiscal scolds, who weren't all that interested in deficit talk before and happily voted for things that raised the deficit over time, are sounding the alarm about the deficit with respect to reform, even though every single bill is deficit-neutral over ten years, and costs under a status quo with no reform will bust the budget in a hurry. And of course, you never hear a conservative say that military spending is unacceptable in the face of big deficits. In short, the deficit is a red herring.

• This would have been good information at the time: "The CIA removed its station chief in Iraq and reorganized its operations there in late 2003 following "potentially very serious leadership lapses" that included the deaths of detainees in the U.S. custody, according to a newly released document and former senior officials." Seriously, we don't know the half of what went on over there.

• Here's an insane New York Times article trying to posit a Georgia man who gets all his information from Rush and Drudge as somehow just a normal guy moved to care about the health care debate. I wonder how? I mean, fine, he's not an ideologue heckling people in wheelchairs. He's just a quieter ideologue. I'm not surprised they exist.

• Even I was surprised by Arlen Specter's warm embrace of the right-wing "death book" controversy. It's like he forgot he was running in a Democratic primary for a second, and running against a veteran (the "death book" concerns a book from the VA). Meanwhile, Joe Sestak is debating Republican Pat Toomey this week on health care, which I think is a pretty inspired move.

• Time for a little news of the good: The Obama Administration and Congress are moving to bolster the nutritional content of the school lunch program, as they renew the Child Nutrition Act; the House has begun reviewing the broken Army procurement system in a first step to cleaning up the military-industrial complex; major institutional figures like Bill Richardson are calling for an end to the Cuba travel ban; and North Korea officially invited a US envoy to Pyongyang for talks on their nuclear program.

• It's not all fun and games, however; I do not understand how the Obama Administration could allow the practice of searches of traveler's laptop computers at the full discretion of TSA personnel to continue. That's a joke.

• In Colorado, former House Speaker Andrew Romanoff looks to be tossing his hat into the ring with a primary of appointed Sen. Michael Bennet. Bennet's a centrist, but Romanoff may not be too much better. I'm actually potentially more interested in former Army Gen. Russel Honoré running a primary against David Vitter in Louisiana. Honoré's a Republican, but first of all would kick Vitter's ass, would keep the seat out of the hands of a Blue Dog like Charlie Melancon, and I'll bet his Republicanism isn't so ideological. Plus it would be good to see some diversity on the other side of the aisle, intellectually and demographically.

• Joe Lieberman might need to grow another side to his mouth, he's worn out talking out of both of the sides he has.

• By the way, here was the ugliest Ted Kennedy smear of the past week - this idea that he reached out to the Soviets in the 1980s. Expect that one to stay as part of the lunatic fringe's worldview for a while.

• Blue Dog Parker Griffith doesn't want to vote for Nancy Pelosi for Speaker next year. OK, then I don't want the DCCC to give him a million dollars like they did when they got him elected.

• Seriously, if all the right has got after the wildly successful Cash for Clunkers program, which sold 700,000 cars, raised GDP .3-.4% on a $3 billion investment and saved 1.5 million tons of global warming pollution from being fired into the air, is that the spare parts industry for the clunkers might take a hit, they have a bigger problem in the area of brainpower than I even thought.

• The Silvio Berlusconi chronicles continue - he's suing the few news media outlets in Italy that he doesn't control over their publishing news about his sex scandal.

• On top of everything else about Ted Kennedy, the flood of legislation, the championing of every cause of the marginalized and less fortunate, he happened to be the first US Senator with a website. In 1994.

• And finally, a profile of me! Thrill to the discussion of my taste in music, the California gubernatorial primary and Peter DeVries.