Thursday, November 27, 2008

Up is down

Unbelievable. From Michael Isikoff and Mark Hosenball:
The abrupt withdrawal of John Brennan as a candidate to be CIA director could complicate Barack Obama's efforts to assemble a national security team untainted by past policies of the Bush administration.


In response to those horrid "I will..." ads from Chevron all over the place, the League of Conservation Voters offers some ads of their own:

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

A complete meal

Recipe: Ryan's All-The-Food-Groups Mac 'n Cheese

(Note: all amounts and directions are approximate. That's according to the chef, not the blogger.)

6 strips bacon
half an onion
half a red pepper
1 head broccoli
half head cauliflower
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 pound pasta (elbows or other)
1 pound cheddar
1 tsp thyme
1/4 cup cream cheese

In pan, cook bacon for a bit. Then add onion and pepper. Then add broccoli and cauliflower and soy sauce.

At some point, turn the oven to 375.

Meanwhile, cook pasta until it's 3/4 of the way done. Drain and put back in pot. Add milk, cream cheese, thyme and half of the cheddar. Put on low heat and stir and get cheddar to melt. Then, add vegetables to the pot.

Combine and pour entire thing into 9 * 13 baking dish. Toss remaining cheddar on top.

Bake until cheese is golden brown.

Eat with a spinach salad. Mmmm.


John Brennan, the explicitly pro-torture head of intelligence policy in Obama's transition team, has today removed himself from consideration for being the CIA Director or Director of Intelligence or any other intelligence-related post in the administration.

Glenn Greenwald has the details

The backstory is that while most of the traditional media yawned, Greenwald and several other bloggers objected vehemently. As the AP put it, "Obama's advisers had grown increasingly concerned in recent days over online blogs that accused Brennan of condoning harsh interrogation tactics on terror suspects, including waterboarding, which critics call torture."

Of course, the truth is not that they "accused" him of "condoning" torture, it's that they criticized his condoning of torture. The facts of his statements on torture aren't actually in dispute, unless maybe you're the AP. And waterboarding specifically isn't at issue; Brennan has said in recent years that he opposes that specific form of torture.

Anyway, the NYT notes: "The opposition to Mr. Brennan had been largely confined to liberal blogs, and there was not an expectation he would face a particularly difficult confirmation process."

Re: Chicago

Did you see that NYT article last week about how, what with Obama and team headed to DC to run the country, there's really a trend of "A New Wind" in Chicago?

Ben Joravsky of the Chicago Reader has a little fun knocking it all down.

Another hawk

It's seeming clearer and clearer today that Susan Rice is going to be the Obama Administration's ambassador to the U.N.

It's a mediocre but expected choice.

One thing to look out for, though, will be her work on Darfur. If the U.S. could tactfully raise the profile of the issue at the U.N., that could potentially be a very good thing.

Rice, who was Assistant Secretary of State for Africa Affairs during part of the Clinton Administration, has been a Darfur advocate, though all the way into the most radical of camps. She has called for possible direct military intervention by the U.S. and NATO.

On balance, it's a very bad idea. It would have been one thing to take such radical action back in the slaughter days of 2003-2004; now, I think it's quite clear the benefits of such an attack would be small compared to the extreme costs of, you know, starting a larger war.

But let me end this tangent; the Obama Administration is not, after all, going to be attacking the Sudanese government.

The point is, I hope Rice can be a staunch advocate for Darfur, but in an effective way. We'll see.

Roller coasters!

I can't believe I had missed this news. From the profile of John Podesta in today's Post:
And unlike most politicians, he is serious while not taking himself too seriously: At 59, he's a UFO aficionado, a marathon runner and a roller-coaster devotee. "My wife and I like to get the senior-citizen passes, wait in line for the front car and then hold hands in the air like the teenagers," he says.


There is a cynicism to putting on this kind of thing and taking people's money for it; and an arrogance to thinking that it is good enough for prime time, simply because your beloved artistic director is leading the forces.

That's just one of the many gems from the Post's review of the Washington National Opera's performance from Friday night.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

No progressives

Not only have no progressive been appointed to the Obama cabinet or other top positions, but none have even been mentioned as possibilities for high positions, Chris Hayes notes.

Clinton and the crew

Spencer Ackerman says that Clinton will bring all sorts of bad people with her to the State Department. And:
“Basically, you have all of these young, next-generation and mid-career people who took a chance on Obama” during the primaries, said one Democratic foreign-policy expert included in that cohort. “They were many times the ones who were courageous enough to stand up early against Iraq, which is why many of them supported Obama in the first place. And many of them would likely get shut out of the mid-career and assistant-secretary type jobs that you need, so that they can one day be the top people running a future Democratic administration.”

Friday, November 21, 2008

Final thoughts on fall

These are all photos I took on Bainbridge Island, in a parking lot, in October.

Bad news of the day

It's now more or less official that Clinton will be the secretary of state. I think Kerry or Richardson would have been less bad.

Between Clinton and Biden, you have two real hawks.

I think the Clinton nomination is a setback specifically for hopes of a two state solution in Israel/Palestine. Let's hope Obama becomes the diplomat himself on that issue.

In related news, Politico has a piece about how the left has mostly let Obama off the hook so far. I think they've got it mostly correct. One thing to remember here is that many of the big liberal blogs aren't actually very left. Many of them take historically standard Democratic positions on a lot of issues. The Bush Administration made them seem further left. Same thing with Keith Olbermann.

Update: One more piece of evidence that Obama is making bad choices: David Brooks thinks they are good choices.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Duanna Johnson Murdered

Tuesday's NYT reports the murder last week of Duanna Johnson in Nashville. The police say they have no suspects. Back in February, Johnson, a transgender woman, was beaten by two Memphis police officers inside a police station; the case came to light in June, when her attorney released the videotape of the attack to the media.

It's hard to know for sure how much the Memphis Police Department has reformed since then, but the available reporting suggests that they have been moving in the right direction. The Times reports:
In June, the department fired Officer McRae and Officer Swain, who was a probationary officer, and asked the Tennessee Equality Project, a gay rights group, to hold training sessions for officers about sexual orientation.

HRC put the killing in a broader context:
Johnson’s murder is the third murder of a transgender person in Memphis since 2006. Tiffany Berry, a twenty-one-year-old African American transgender woman, was shot and killed on February 16, 2006. Ebony Whitaker, a 20-year-old African American transgender woman, was murdered by an unknown assailant and found dead on July 1, 2008.

Johnson's attorney said her death will not stop her estate from continuing the pending civil suit against the Memphis Police for the February beating.

I'm not an expert in this, but it would seem to me to be a conflict of interest for the police department to be investigating the murder of someone who had a lawsuit pending against them.

Hopefully the attention from the Times article will keep a spotlight on the MPD so they know the world is watching.

Watch out for John Brennan

When I look at Glenn Greenwald's blog on Salon, I often think "oh my gosh, I would have been way under-informed if I had not read this." Recently he's been talking about how Obama appointed John Brennan to be the chief of intelligence policy in the transition team. And that Brennan is pro-torture. So will he be appointed the intelligence chief in the new administration?

Headline of the day

Courtesy of this evening:

That's right, or for those RSS-ing, it says "Cougar attacks teen girl who got into its pen."

(The South-Florida Sun Sentinel has it as "Captive cougar attacks teen in Miami-Dade home.")

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Another balloon!

Today Obama camp sources said that Hillary Clinton is under consideration for Secretary of State.

What is this, presidential-transition-by-trial-balloon?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Actually, it's the old people

Proposition 8 passed significantly because of the support of older people, says Nate Silver, and says Dan Savage on Colbert last night (skip to 5:20).

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


Here are the top Democrats, by seniority, on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee:

1. Biden
2. Dodd
3. Kerry
4. Feingold

Biden is, you know, going to be the VP; Dodd has said he's remaining chair of the Banking Committee; and that leaves Kerry, who is trying to get himself to be Secretary of State or maybe UN ambassador (Al Kamen says today that it is "looking increasingly like" Kerry may get State). Last week, The Hill suggested that if Kerry leaves the Senate, the Dems could potentially skip over Feingold for the chairmanship, but John Nichols counters today that "Feingold's relations with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, and other key players in the Senate and on the committee are good. The Wisconsinite actually has better relations with many of the Republicans on the committee than other Democrats."

So will Kerry get Secretary of State? It could also be Hagel, Lugar, Clinton, Richardson or someone else entirely. Please, someone other than Richard Holbrooke.


"There is absolutely no truth to reports that a decision has been made about how and where to try the detainees, and there is no process in place to make that decision until his national security and legal teams are assembled."

-Denis McDonough
Senior foreign policy adviser, Obama transition team
(see i.e. Chicago Tribune)

So at this point I see two possibilities:

1. It was a trial balloon. It didn't receive too much criticism in the first day, but one or more reporters did ask question on it this morning. But that's hardly any pressure at all -- and certainly not the kind of pressure that would force them to change policy. So if this was a trial balloon, the walk-back statement from McDonough would have been all part of the plan. It keeps the national security court balloon in the air, but removes the urgency to it all. Tricky.

2. The AP story had been based on someone vaguely connected to the Obama campaign, but not officially authorized to speak for them. I can't imagine that this source would have come up with the 'national security court' thing if the Obama folks weren't actually talking about it seriously.

I'm thinking scenario one. But even if it is scenario two, then it has now become a trial balloon in effect any way, even if an unplanned one. So no matter what, we need to shoot it down.

Monday, November 10, 2008

What's Obama's Plan for Gitmo?

This morning the AP has an exclusive on Obama's plans for Gitmo. The important part is in paragraph four:
A third group of detainees — the ones whose cases are most entangled in highly classified information — might have to go before a new court designed especially to handle sensitive national security cases, according to advisers and Democrats involved in the talks.

In other words, "national security courts."

The "national security court" thing was promoted prominently in a July 2007 NYT op-ed by Jack Goldsmith and Neal Katyal -- with Katyal having credibility, in some sense, because he had been lead counsel on Hamdan (on the good side).

For arguments against the need for 'national security courts' -- as opposed to just using federal courts -- see federal judge John Coughenour and the Human Rights First report from May on how federal courts are sufficient.

Spencer Ackerman
was among the first to catch the significance of the AP article this morning:
The concern, stripped of euphemism, is that the evidentiary basis for many trials of Guantanamo detainees — including, in many cases, torture — would never be admissible in any court worthy of the name. That’s the Bush administration’s legacy. But it can’t be the basis for cheapening our legal system.

So is this basically a trial balloon? If it is a trial balloon, let's make sure to shoot it down, ASAP. I think it's important to remember that this 'national security court' is something that the Bush Administration, and Lindsey Graham and John McCain and a few others, quietly talked about a few times over the past year or two, but never moved forward on, even though you might think they could have won (The New Yorker -- correctly predicting a Bush Administration loss in Boumediene earlier this year -- even said "An adverse ruling from the Supreme Court may be less a legal setback for Bush than a political opportunity for the Republicans.") It would be unfortunate if Obama ends up making this national security court and thereby doing what the Republicans presumably decided they couldn't accomplish themselves..

No more racism! Woo! ummm....

Claire Potter has a useful look at the post-election triumphalism about the, you know, End Of America's Racial Divide.
One of the things that is going to be a little hard to take over the next few days is the ooze of self-congratulation already begun in the media about the sea-change in American race relations, "proven" by the majority of the electorate having chosen an African-American man as president.

I hope to write more on this in the coming days once I've had a chance to read a bit more. For now, I'd just say it's important to remember that, according to the exit polls, most white voters didn't vote for Obama.


In the last few months, Kristof has been my NYT columnist of choice. I don't agree with every word. But his writing on the election, including on race, has been at a far higher level than most other writers. Today's column is a fun look at what it means to have a president who is an intellectual and doesn't really hide it.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Wesalum in the news

In The Heights, the Tony-winning Broadway musical by Wes alum Lin-Manuel Miranda, is going to be a movie, made by Universal Studios. Wesleying has the story. (And let me just say, I usually do resist the temptation to read that site. But I wanted to look something up there today).

Friday, November 07, 2008


Don't the stores know it's not even Veterans Day yet?!

Prop 8 post-mortem

Can I call it a post-mortem if it's analyzing why it passed? I just did.

Richard Kim's piece in The Nation is useful.
The easy, dangerous explanation for this gap, and one already tossed around by some white gay liberals in the bitter aftermath, is that people of color are not so secretly homophobic. But a more complicated reckoning--one that takes into account both the organizing successes of the Christian right and the failures of the gay movement--will have to take place if activists want a different result next time.

What Palin did and didn't know

There are reports, most notably one in Newsweek, that Palin didn't know that Africa is a continent, not a country, and didn't know which countries are participants in NAFTA.

It could be true. And much worse could be true.

But I think it's important to remember that this stuff is anonymously sourced from folks in the McCain campaign. It could be true, or it could be not true; either is 100% possible.

Normally, we are, or ought to be, skeptical when information comes form sources who can hide and have nothing to lose. And we know quite well that the McCain campaign said lots of things that weren't true. So let's not suddenly assume that what these folks are saying anonymously here must be fact, just because we might want to believe it in this case.

Spying time

Google Streetview is now available in DC, Baltimore and Seattle.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

November 6

I spent the last few days volunteering on the campaign trail in Virginia.

I'm glad I did it, and I'm glad we won. But I was more in it for making sure that the other guy didn't win.

I'm sorry to be the one to rain on the parade, or whatever, but I'm not overly optimistic about this whole Obama Administration thing.

Overall, I agree with most of what Alexander Cockburn had to say before the votes were cast: that there is relatively little good in the policies Obama supports, and plenty, plenty, of bad. On the one hand, I liked the excitement in the streets on Tuesday and Wednesday. But on the other, I don't want to be celebrating the ideas of expanding the military, expanding the war in Afghanistan, or never giving Palestinians an acre of Jerusalem.

The staff choices in the coming days will mean a lot. Will Obama pick the Clintonites and other centrist, if not center-conservative, Democrats who largely dominated his adviser group so far? Let's hope, for example, that Larry Summers isn't picked. John Nichols says the pick of Rahm Emmanuel for Chief of Staff is disappointing, for he is anti-progressive (and an anti-Palestinian hardliner, Ali Abunimah notes), but that the ideology of the person in that job doesn't matter all that much.

When I was in the Obama bubble a few days ago, I forgot about what he really stands for. I'm not radical enough that I would remember it at every moment. I let it slide.

And the truth is that much of the 'left' let Obama slide, especially after Clinton dropped out. Back in the fall, Krugman criticized Obama relentlessly. Many of the bloggers championed Edwards. And then most of it went away. It will be interesting to see what MoveOn does now -- if they can keep members engaged and pushing progressive policy.

I think it's time to not let Obama slide any more. Let's call the developments as we see them.

Stephen Zunes provides a much more negative review of Rahm Emmanuel.