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

Sunday, July 19, 2009

The Rest Of The Week In Review

For a variety of reasons, most of which I'll make plain to you over the next several weeks, my blogging time on the weekends will be almost nil. Can't really be helped. So I imagine these Sunday night missives will grow, as I realize I've missed more and more from the week.

Also I'm going to fill in at Crooks and Liars this coming week for a little bit, which should be fun.

• John Yoo decided to insult the nation's intelligence this week by trying to defend his conduct as Dick Cheney's "get out of legality free" card during the previous regime. He plays the fear card disingenuously, claiming that the Inspectors General who wrote the report criticizing the warrantless wiretapping want us all to be killed in our beds. Anonymous Liberal gives this the thorough reaming it deserves. To understand what Yoo did, read this - he was literally the only lawyer at Justice who knew about the illegal wiretapping program, and he wasn't picked for his snappy dressing, but his willingness to justify whatever violations of the law were needed. That's almost not as scary as the President making interpretations of law even though he was not a lawyer, essentially absolving himself of any conduct committed on his behalf.

• If you really want to understand the warrantless wiretapping programs, read this and this from Marcy Wheeler. We actually have a massive data mining program, all of the communications of everyone in the country vacuumed up and sifted through some computer algorithm, for what we have no idea. This has been hinted at multiple times, but never deliberately stated, in full, in one definitive media report. There's almost no doubt that's coming at some point, even though the Administration is trying to protect some of their own by stopping that from happening.

• I kind of feel bad for Hillary Clinton, who delivered a major foreign policy address this week that received almost no fanfare, with the political world focused on the health care debate. I don't remember seeing anything about this address virtually anywhere. Maybe it's because her "smart power" address didn't have much new in it - I remember her swearing-in speech having much of the same language. Anyway, Spencer Ackerman has a good writeup if you're so inclined.

• Troops leaving the major cities in Iraq has not made them immune to attack. But the bigger issue in Iraq is the growing sectarian split between the Maliki government and the autonomous Kurdish region, which is nearing open war. No good answers to that.

• Two interesting speeches from the White House in the last week: his address to Parliament in Ghana and his remarks to the NAACP. And both followed the familiar dynamic of Obama speaking to a traditionally friendly audience - he nods at their commonality with him, then admonishes them and seeks to inspire them to do better. It's actually getting a little hacky at this point. If Obama wants to criticize Africa for relying on colonial resentments and failing to prevent dictatorial and warlike leadership, he could stand down Africom and lead by example. And if he wants to engage in some criticism at the NAACP, he could shock the world and deliver the speech Cheryl Contee would have written.

• Dr. Regina Benjamin, the choice for Surgeon General has quite an amazing history, with her medical practice for the poor along the Gulf Coast which she rebuilt twice after hurricanes decimated it. She has a record of providing access and treatment to the poor and uninsured, which cannot hurt as a public spokesman in the health care debate.

• The "czars" debate by the gang at Fox News, which has been a deliberate, coordinated attack over the last week, complete with accompanying legislation, has got to be one of their stupidest. Republicans have really got nothing, and what's worse about that is that Democrats might still let them back in power before long.

Great post by Ryan Powers on the history of Senate obstructionism. It's not a new thing, but the Republicans in the minority have really taken it to its most absurd extreme. But it's worth remembering that it took about 90 years to pass meaningful civil rights legislation through the Senate after Reconstruction, and it's going on 75 for health care. The structure of the Senate, with its 60-vote requirement to break a filibuster (used to be 67) and its anti-majoritarian makeup that gives disproportionate power to small states, resists practically everything but the status quo.

• Simon Johnson thinks that the Administration isn't selling their Consumer Financial Protection Agency hard enough, but Tom Fernholz disagrees because he feels economists already are predisposed to the White House on this one, and the bill won't reach any tough sledding for a few months anyway. I'm inclined to go with Fernholz here; health care tops the agenda and financial regulation will have to get in line.

• Something you never hear when a politician talks about Iran - a German agency finds them years away from a nuclear bomb. Hyping them as a threat only strengthens their hand in negotiations. And their crisis of legitimacy would be a better piece of information to foreground, to back them up against a wall in any diplomatic efforts.

• Sarah Palin actually supported capping carbon emissions during the campaign, but now that the President might actually get credit for putting in place a program to do so, she's fallen in with the snarky denialist crowd. Next thing you know she'll be using the day-to-day weather as evidence, like the rest of the insaneosphere.

• Democrats on the Senate HELP Committee took a Tom Coburn poison pill amendment and threw it back in his face, agreeing that every member of Congress and their staffs should be required to sign up for the public option. I can think of no better way to ensure its viability.

• The sheer number of Bush programs that the Obama Administration has had to overturn gets kind of obscured when they fail to do so on some high-profile issue, but as an example of something they've done right, they've re-restricted logging in Oregon to preserve forest land and protect native species.

• I would pay money to see Arlen Specter and Joe Sestak in the same room. Actually, I will pay money to see it. And a hotel fee! That should be the centerpiece event of Netroots Nation this year.

• Tom Ricks is a jerk. I've been wary of him for a while, but he seems so ready to perceive any slight at the military, even ones that don't exist, that he needs to just stand down for a couple minutes. This is an embarrassing story.

• Would I pay five bucks for Web access to the New York Times? Probably. But the Wall Street Journal model of some free content, and some premium, probably works better as a business model. Also, I find that information firewalls are made to be broken, so I question the potential success of the effort.