Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Meet Mexico's new Attorney General

The old AG was no good! So they got this new guy! He was confirmed by Mexico's senate last week.

He's Arturo Chavez Chavez. It didn't sound familiar to me either.

But remember how, at some point during the midst of the frequent murders of women in Juarez and Chihuahua, there were officials who said that maybe it was because, you know, they were wearing miniskirts, so it was sort of their own fault?

Officials like this guy.

The AP's Julie Watson did a good bit a few weeks ago summing up Chavez's history on Juarez:

During his 1996-98 term as state attorney general, state police botched investigations into the murders of hundreds of women whose bodies turned up dead in the desert outside Ciudad Juarez so badly that former President Vicente Fox later had to send in federal prosecutors to take over the cases.


Activists accused Chihuahua state officials of torturing suspects, contaminating and falsifying evidence and harassing victims' relatives.

Chavez drew fire for suggesting the victims were partly to blame "for wearing miniskirts." He recommended women take karate classes and carry pepper-spray.

"God help us," said Victoria Caraveo, a women's activist in Ciudad Juarez. "He did nothing when faced with this problem in Juarez. What will he do as attorney general for Mexico?"

Calderon says there is no better man to lead his drug war.

And that, my friends, is the Administration ours is tight with.

Northeast geography quiz winners

We have a winner -- actually, three winners, who each identified all of the photos correctly. They are Amanda from Brooklyn, who's rad blog is here, Matthew from Brooklyn, and Matt from Ann Arbor, who'd like you to check out these two groovy sites. Congrats!

The correct answers are below.

(Here's the original quiz, without the answers).



(1) - Name the two bridges at the bottom right of the photo (order doesn't matter) - Throgs Neck and Whitestone



(2) - Name the city - Middletown, CT



(3) - Boston



(4) - Delaware Memorial Bridge



(5) - Name the large green area in the lower part, just left of center - Prospect Park



(6) - Sandy Hook / Fort Hancock (NJ)



(7) - JFK



(8) - Name the city - Providence



(9) - JFK Library



(10) - Name the beach (more than one acceptable answer) - Coney Island / Brighton Beach / Manhattan Beach



(11) - Name the city - Bridgeport, CT



(12) - Name the city - Philadelphia

Sloppyness

On the Atlantic's much-read politics blog (excuse me, channel) intern Clement Tan writes:
News of Nike withdrawing from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce yesterday because of the group's views on climate change capped a dismal week for the Chamber. Nike's departure follows Exelon's announcement on Monday that they are also leaving the group, hot on the heels of the recent departures of California utility PG&E and New Mexico utility PNM.

If only! Nike withdrew their spot from the executive board. They're still part of the Chamber. Nike in fact said: "We will continue our membership to advocate for climate change legislation inside the committee structure and believe that we can better influence policy by being part of the conversation."

Also, Tan's post is from today, Wednesday evening. He refers to Nike withdrawing "yesterday." But Nike's statement is dated today, Sept 30.

No, I wouldn't be picking on a small blog over stuff like this. But we're talking one of the most powerful, agenda-setting political blogs there is. If they aren't getting this stuff right, what else are they getting wrong?

Recipe: Broccoli Deliciousness


What could be more all-American than a guy having a standard potluck dish? Not much. It's like, "Oh, Tim will bring his famous spicy chicken wings!"

Well I've recently decided that I will bring the same thing to almost every potluck. Luckily these potlucks have not had significantly overlapping groups of people -- I haven't been busted. So it's been broccoli, broccoli, and more broccoli. And frankly I think it's tasty. So here it is.

Broccoli Deliciousness

This is adapted from "Garlicky Sesame-Cured Broccoli Salad" from the NYTimes last year. I've changed the quantities slightly.

2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
1.5 teaspoon kosher salt
3 large or 4 small broccoli crowns, 2 pounds total, cut into bite-size florets
2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
4 fat garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
2 teaspoons roasted (Asian) sesame oil
Large pinch crushed red pepper flakes.

1. In a large bowl, stir together the vinegar and salt. Add broccoli and toss to combine.

2. In a skillet, heat olive oil until hot, but not smoking. Add garlic and cumin and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Turn off heat. Stir in sesame oil and pepper flakes. Pour mixture over broccoli and toss well. Let sit for at least 1 hour at room temperature, and up to 48 (chill it if you want to keep it for more than 2 hours). Adjust seasonings (it may need more salt) and serve.

Yield: 6 to 8 side-dish servings or more as an hors d’oeuvre.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Where is the Washington Post on Honduras?

Ok, I get that they're shifting. New foreign editor Doug Jehl has said that they are going to use their limited foreign bureau resources to do more enterprise reporting, and that means less day-to-day coverage -- leaving some of that stuff to the wires. And that may be the right thing to do.

But still, I open the paper today and all there is on Honduras is a tiny wire story. Nevermind that the de facto government shut down opposition media and essentially criminalized public free speech (later Monday, the coup government said it was revoking some of those moves; we'll see what that means). This all seems like, you know, important news.

The Post has been giving Honduras little attention for weeks now. Mary Beth Sheridan has covered some of the developments from Washington (including a short article two days after Zelaya returned), but the Post hasn't had reporting from in country since July, if I'm not mistaken. William Booth, who covers the entire region based out of Mexico City, even took a reporting trip to Cuba this month.

If Chavez did anything nearly like what Michelleti has done, I think, somehow, they'd find a way to be there and cover it.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Newsweek.com and the Olympics

Katie Connolly makes a rather thin case for Chicago 2016 on Newsweek.com today.

There's little on the specifics of Chicago and its bid and a lot on the lessons of Sydney's Olympics. Which is slightly relevant and all, but not that much.

Obama's Sudan policy

The Post's Stephanie McCrummen has an article up this afternoon (why is the Post putting non-breaking stories online in the middle of the day? It sure seems like a disastrous business model to me, but maybe they know what they're doing) looking at the state of the Obama Administration's policy on Sudan. Obama's Sudan envoy, Scott Gration, has gone the "let's talk and see if we can work things out" route -- this with a Sudanese president who has been indicted by the ICC for war crimes.

The human rights community in DC is largely skeptical, though not universally. Too often, the "we just need to talk to them" approach really means "we're not making it a priority." That was the case, say, with the Bush Administration and China. They said that publicly bashing China would not be productive (which is partially true), but they also made it a really low priority in US-China relations. (There's various evidence that Bush did really want, in his head, to do the right thing on China, and on Darfur - but clearly he didn't).

Obama took a relatively hard-line stance on Darfur as a Senator. During the primary campaign, any Democrat who didn't do so would risk a significant backlash. Obama also came with advisers who are relatively hard-line on Sudan - Susan Rice (who even previously advocated a military blockade of Sudan's port) and Samantha Power.

When Rice was appointed UN Ambassador, the conventional wisdom among reporters and some bloggers (err, me) was that this meant the Administration would take a very hard line on Sudan.

Gration and Rice have, as you'd expect, clashed over the past months. McCrummen doesn't have an update on where that stands specifically, but she seems to say that Gration is running the show, and he has the support of the White House in what he's doing.

I think the critics are probably right - Gration's policy of trying to negotiate peace with the Sudanese government is probably naive. And it's troubling how little attention the Administration has given to Sudan. But I'm not certain; maybe Gration will somehow make something work, and it's possible, for all we know, that a more hard-line policy would indeed have disastrous consequences.

And not to go all po-mo on you, but maybe there is no "right" answer here. There's no policy option that would, you know, just fix the problem (of continued violence in Darfur, and also the constant danger of war between the South and the Khartoum government). They're all bad options at this point. Any 'good' policy options were gone by 2003 or 2004, or maybe much earlier than even that. The remaining policy options are all mediocre, and it's hard to know how they would turn out.

The US doesn't have great options in part because we don't have much moral authority or moral capital. We had a fair amount more before 2000 -- not to say that the US was generally a benevolent player internationally before 2000, but that there was a mix of good and bad, and the rest of the world didn't, you know, hate us, even despite the bad we had done. It's our policy now (say on Afghanistan, or Honduras) that is going to affect our ability to be able to do right when the next genocide or civil war comes along.

Obama to go to Copenhagen for Olympics lobbying

The White House announced early this morning that Obama will indeed be traveling to Copenhagen later this week for the IOC meeting and decision on the Olympics. Yuck. Fingers crossed he comes home a loser.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

The grassroots abscence on Afghanistan

Forgive me if this is obvious. But it's been striking me how absent the left grassroots is on Afghanistan these days -- and this at a time when many congressional Democrats are out there publicly questioning the President on his policy.

In the more progressive territory, you have the Congressional Progressive Caucus and Russ Feingold, who want a pretty radical shift in policy, and moving toward a troop withdrawal not too far down the line. But even some rather moderate Dems -- like Feinstein and Harman -- say they are a bit skeptical on sending more troops.

Beyond the electeds, it's also worth noting the writing of Bob Herbert, who is for moving toward a troop withdrawal. The Nation is also good on this. In the traditional media, they're still stuck in a narrow conversation of how the war should be conducted. Not surprising.

Where is the left grassroots, though? MIA. ANSWER had a march here in DC in March, and only a few thousand people showed up. UFPJ doesn't have much visibly going on, to put it nicely. MoveOn doesn't do Afghanistan for the most part these days. They, and the netroots, are focused on healthcare and climate change and other issues (I mean, not that any issue is unimportant).

Public opinion polling on Afghanistan is relatively impressive -- in a number of polls, a plurality say the war is "not worth fighting" or similar things. And that's probably part of why many Dems feel emboldened to question the Administration's plans and question sending more troops.

I'm glad the public is as progressive as it is on Afghanistan. I don't see any evidence that any kind of grassroots organizing played any part in getting the public where it is, though. Not sure where this all leads.

Friday, September 25, 2009

NPR is still okay with the T word, if it's Iran

NPR has a policy of usually not using the word "torture" to refer to things the U.S. does. But when it comes to others, they're still doing it. Greenwald notes that Inskeep used "torture" just this week in discussing Iran.

I also found that NPR used "torture" earlier this month when Russia did it. They're the bad guys, remember.

NPR ombudswoman Alicia Shepard is on record pretty firmly against using the word torture, arguing that instead specific techniques should be described. Will she criticize these uses?

Thursday, September 24, 2009

More on Obama and Paterson

Here's how TPM sums up the results of a new poll from New York: "New Yorkers Don't Want Obama Telling Paterson Not To Run -- And Don't Want Paterson To Run"

The state of medical malpractice

I like David Leonhardt's writing, and I think his assessment today of the state of medical malpractice is mostly pretty fair.

Of the conservative arguments on this matter, the defensive medicine one is one of the few that I think has some merit, though even there it's pretty limited. A 2004 CBO brief Leonhardt points to essentially says that in some realms of medicine there are costs to un-necessary 'defensive' procedures, though in other areas of medicine there aren't. It depends on what kind of doctor we're talking.

CBO puts it as: "On the basis of existing studies and its own research, CBO believes that savings from reducing defensive medicine would be very small."

The bigger picture reality is this, from Leonhardt:
Medical errors happen more frequently here than in other rich countries, as the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation recently found. Only a tiny share of victims receive compensation.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

About that Queens terror plot

Josh Marshall has been good on this, and arguing that this may be the real thing -- unlike every case we heard about, hyped by various Bush Administration agencies in the past years. As Marshall recalls the history:

In most of the earlier terror cases over the last decade, the suspects were either total chumps who were lured into stings by aggressive government informants or they were genuine bad guys who really wanted to blow something up but, in most cases, lacked the know-how and connections. And it was in the process of casting about for someone who would help them learn to blow things up that they came up on the governments radar and were led into a phony 'plot' that got them arrested.

It's always been paradoxically reassuring that these goofs, like the Liberty Six down in Miami or a few other plots in the New York area were apparently the best al Qaeda could do. And in those cases, the government was tracking these guys very, very closely -- in fact, the government was in many respects running the plot. So they knew exactly when to blow the whistle because they knew everything that was happening.

He goes on to explain how this case seems so very different.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

A story they couldn't resist

What happens when you put together a story on the Washington Redskins with a story on Twitter?

You get a front page article in the Washington Post!

The story: Redskins first-year reserve linebacker Robert Henson (who hasn't even been on the field yet) wrote some rather unsavory things about the fans after Sunday night's game. The Redskins had won the game -- barely -- in pathetic fashion, and their hometown fans even booed the team's lackluster performance.

It's a fun little controversy, but it doesn't belong on A1.

And it's really a shame, because the Post had other important reporting inside today: more of Carol Leonnig's investigate reporting on Rep Murtha's scandals, Colum Lynch's look at the Obama Administration's unimpressive role so far at the UN on human rights, Juliet Eilperin and Lynch's preview of global warming talks at the UN, and Glenn Kessler and Thomas Edbrink's preview of upcoming talks on Iran's nuclear program. (The Post ran only a wire story today on Zelaya's return to Honduras).

Here's the backstory on the Post, the Redskins and Twitter:

The Post runs articles and/or photos on the Redskins on A1 on most Mondays during the season, and occassionaly puts stories on front in the off-season, too. Lots of readers, the ombudsman recently noted, think it's just too much. Me too.

As for the Twitter side of the matter, this is now the Post's third Twitter-focused article on A1 (in eight weeks!) --
Aug 2009, Aug 2009, Sept 2009.

Anthony Shadid jumps to the Times

Anthony Shadid will be moving from the Washington Post to the NYTimes, staying in Baghdad. Shadid has done important reporting, in Iraq and beyond, winning a Pulitzer in 2004 for "his extraordinary ability to capture, at personal peril, the voices and emotions of Iraqis as their country was invaded, their leader toppled and their way of life upended" (specifically for these 10 articles). Shadid is fluent in Arabic. The Post's loss is the Times' gain.

When will it end? Emu tasered in Mississippi on Sunday

Cops in Scott County, Mississippi, tasered and handcuffed an emu to remove it from an I-20 onramp on Sunday. WLBT has the story.

By my count, this is at least the fifth emu tasering in under a year and a half. Here are the previous cases.

(Washington, September 2008) (Pennsylvania, Sept 2008) (Florida, August 2008) (New Hampshire, May 2008)

Monday, September 21, 2009

Turns out Israel's attack on Gaza was worth it! -Jackson Diehl

Monday's op-ed page in the Post brought "Israel's Gaza Vindication" by deputy editorial page editor Jackson Diehl. Diehl is a big hawk, particularly on all things Latin America, and Iraq, too. On Israel, he is sometimes less than 100% crazy, though not that much.

Today's column was a re-examination of Israel's attack on Gaza. Turns out the war was worth it! It did lots of good, says Diehl, and the costs weren't really that bad:
But what of the grievous Palestinian suffering in the invasion -- Israel itself counted 1,166 dead Gazans, including more than 450 civilians -- and the international backlash that has caused? Just last week a U.N. commission headed by South African jurist Richard Goldstone condemned what it called "a deliberately disproportionate attack designed to punish, humiliate and terrorize a civilian population," and suggested that responsible Israelis be hauled before the International Criminal Court on war crimes charges.

Israel's leaders worried a lot about losing the war that way. But as they see it, they suffered only scratches. Egypt, which quietly collaborates with Israel's blockade of Gaza, came under pressure to change its policy but held firm. No Arab country toughened its stance toward Israel: According to the Obama administration, as many as five may be willing to offer diplomatic and economic concessions if Israel freezes its West Bank settlement construction.

Perhaps most significant, Hamas's rival for Palestinian leadership, the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority, is considerably stronger than it was before the war. Probably it will renew peace talks with Israel within weeks. As for the Goldstone report, the heat it briefly produced last week will quickly dissipate; the panel was discredited from the outset because of its appointment by the grotesquely politicized U.N. Human Rights Council.

So there you have it. The feared costs turned out not to be!

So what are the lessons learned here, for talking about, hypothetically, attacking Iran?
As they quietly debate the pros and cons of launching a military attack on Iran's nuclear facilities, Israel's political and military leaders no doubt will be thinking about that history. That doesn't mean they will discount American objections -- Iran would be a far harder and more complex target, with direct repercussions for U.S. troops and critical interests in the region. But, as with Gaza, even a partial and short-term reversal of the Iranian nuclear program may look to Israelis like a reasonable benefit -- and the potential blowback overblown.

So there we have it, an unprovoked attack on a sovereign nation is now termed "a short-term reversal of the Iranian nuclear program" -- a program that, remember, US intelligence does not, as of last update, believe to have a weapons purpose.

If not Bloomberg, then...

Democratic mayoral candidate Bill Thompson pledges that he'll take out the Grand Street bike lane! Because the community wasn't consulted, and because he wants to make things safer!

Small problems: it turns out that the community board actually voted for it overwhelmingly, and injuries have gone way down since it was installed.

Streetsblog has the story.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Who gets to pick a party's nominee for office?

The NYTimes reported Sunday that Obama has told Governor Paterson not to run for re-election. The central notion here, as described by the Times, is that "the governor’s unpopularity could drag down Democratic members of Congress in New York, as well as the Democratic-controlled Legislature, in next fall’s election." And also, of course, that Patterson could lose against Giuliani, should he run. It's all quite possibly true, though not certainly. But that's beside the point.

This has gotten to be the way-of-life, particularly for the Democrats. It's not about who the primary voters support, it's about who the Party thinks will have the best chance of winning in the general election, and otherwise help politically.

It's perhaps a touch more defensible when we're talking about a senate or house seat, where national policy is potentially affected. Not much, though.

Just like DSCC chair Bob Menendez, or Chuck Schumer before him, Obama is not king. It's pretty ridiculous to think that he gets to chose who the nominee is. There are these people, 'voters', who are supposed to decide things. If Paterson wants to run, he should run.

Update: The NYT editorial on this is useful.

Geography quiz deadline approaching

You have two more days! The deadline for emailing your list is Tuesday evening, midnight ET.

I haven't tried it, but...

I know, I shouldn't judge people, or their cultures. But.. Tater tot casserole? Really?

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Excellent news in MA senate race: Lynch drops out

Lynch unexpectedly dropped out on Tuesday. He was by far the most conservative candidate.

That leaves AG Martha Coakley and Rep Michael Capuano as the main contenders, with Coakley being the one to beat. Capuano has a very progressive record in congress. He's the 18th most progressive members in the current house (he previously scored 49th). It's less clear where Coakley stands, though there's nothing obviously bad.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

In Yale murder case, NYT joins the tabs in heavy coverage

The Daily News and the NY Post -- not to mention CNN and most of the rest of the cable and broadcast networks -- have been pretty hyper in their coverage of the murder of Annie Le in New Haven. It's not surprising, I suppose. There may be have been, you know, an election in New York this week, not to mention that healthcare thing going on, and such. But this is the kind of thing they like.

I'm going to talk about the NYTimes, though, because I expect somewhat better. Their coverage has been awfully heavy, too, if less over-the-top. On several days this week they ran several updates during the day online, and it was frequently near the top of the homepage. Of the stories in print, one has run on page 1 (Monday's, announcing that the body had been found). No second story on the front page -- yet -- as the Wesleyan murder story got in May.

Still, putting an individual homicide on the front page at all (where neither the victim or the shooter is a police officer or famous) is pretty rare for the Times. There's a little more than a murder a day in the five boroughs (extremely low for a city of 8+ million) and most get scant attention in the Times.

The Times has had quite a few bylines on the story. Sunday's story had 3 reporters/contributors, Monday's had 5, Tuesday's had 6, Wednesday's had 9 and Thursday's story has 6. Sure, it's hard to know exactly how much staff time was spent on it; some of those contributors could have just made a call or two. Still.

The Boston Globe jumped in on the act, too. The Globe doesn't have a reporter based in the state, and usually only does their own coverage there for fairly major state political developments, yet they sent a reporter to New Haven for this one. The LAT, which has been covering the local angle (Le was from California) also sent a reporter to New Haven.

Why?

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Northeast geography quiz! You have one week!

I recently flew from Baltimore to Boston and took the following 12 pictures on the plane. They are not in order. Your task is to identify the pictures (a city, bridge, etc). Write down your list and send it to me in an email. You have one week - the deadline is midnight on Tuesday the 22nd. You're allowed to look at maps or satellite pictures or whatever have you, if you think that will help. At the end, I will announce the winner and give a link to hir blog or website of choice. If you have any question about what it is to be identified in the picture, write me an email. I think most of them are clear; in a few I have given a caption with a specific part of it to identify.

Umm, on the first few photos, you'll probably have to click on them to see them full size because the right side will be behind the right bar. Blogger is weird like that.

Good luck!

Update: To clarify, please email me your answers, rather than posting here.




(1) - Name the two bridges at the bottom right of the photo (order doesn't matter)



(2) - Name the city



(3)



(4)



(5) - Name the large green area in the lower part, just left of center



(6)



(7)



(8) - Name the city



(9)



(10) - Name the beach (more than one acceptable answer)



(11) - Name the city



(12) - Name the city

Update: here are the winners and the correct answers

"Trapped girls call for help on Facebook"

When I heard this one on Wait Wait Don't Tell Me this weekend, I was intrigued but skeptical. Sure enough, it was the true one. Two girls in Australia who were trapped in a stormwater drain (?) used one of their phones to post their situation to Facebook. No call to their 911 or anything. A friend saw the news on Facebook, and called for help. Here's the report from the ABC.

Monday, September 14, 2009

The complicated relationship between crime and the economy

As I've mentioned before, the correlation between crime and bad economic times isn't so simple. Yes, there are many kinds of crime that tend to go up when the economy goes down, but even for those, there are a lot of counter-examples.

Today there's this: the FBI says violent crime was lower in 2008 than in 2007. The NYT summarizes:
In each of the four violent crime offenses, the 2008 rates were down from 2007. Murder and nonnegligent manslaughter dropped 3.9 percent; aggravated assault declined 2.5 percent; forcible rape declined 1.6 percent; and robbery was down 0.7 percent. The figures are based on offenses per 100,000 people.

This week in old news

Today's LAT has an article about college cafeterias going tray-less. Sound familiar? The NYT had the story in April.

The end of aviation?

It's hard to know exactly when oil prices are going to go way up, and it's hard to know at what point we will finally put some kind of price on carbon emissions.

When either happens, the effect on aviation will be major. There's no reason to believe either is particularly imminent, but they seem inevitable, barring some kind of completely unforeseen technological advance, which is possible. The price of flying could be multiplied by a huge factor.

Brad Plumer's article of a few weeks ago explores -- without jumping too hard to absolute conclusions -- what he calls "the end of aviation."

Sunday, September 13, 2009

About the tea baggers, deathers, what have you

Greenwald and Somerby argue that the crazy folks on the right are in fact not a new phenomena, not something only recently inspired by the Obama presidency. Greenwald reminds:
In 1994, Jesse Helms, then-Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, claimed that "just about every military man" believes Clinton is unqualified to be Commander-in-Chief and then warned/threatened him not to venture onto military bases in the South: "Mr. Clinton better watch out if he comes down here. He better have a bodyguard." The Wall St. Journal called for a Special Prosecutor to investigate the possible "murder" of Vince Foster. Clinton was relentlessly accused by leading right-wing voices of being a murderer, a serial rapist, and a drug trafficker.
They have a lot of good examples.

So, if Greenwald and Somerby are correct, what would the implications be? For one, that this is not totally about race? (thought: if the Clintons were black, and the right went after them for murdering Vince Foster, would the dialogue not have been that the right was going after them because they were black?)

That said, clearly a lot of it is about race. Obama campaign volunteers and staffers who knocked on doors and talked to a lot of people know this particularly well.

So I'll try this: the right wing rage at Obama is partially race-based. But, the kinds of crazy things that right wingers are saying are not new; they said plenty of crazy things during the Clinton administration.

Robert Chesney: Those crazy lefties think the Gitmo inmates are all innocent!

The Washington Post op-ed page gave space Thursday to Robert Chesney, a University of Texas law professor, to argue that the debate on detainee policy is just too polarized ("A Detention Debate in Black and White"). Oh great.

So what was Chesney's evidence that some folks on the left are just too out there and crazy? He gave two examples. First:
... critics of the government's policies promiscuously invoke the post-Sept. 11 version of the Imperial Presidency narrative, reflexively depicting security-oriented policies in terms of executive branch power aggrandizement (with de rigueur references to former vice president Dick Cheney; his chief of staff, David Addington; or Justice Department attorney John Yoo, if not all three).
Ok, a few problems here. Part of the reason many of the human rights groups don't in fact say all that much about the government structure matters here (they don't focus on the executive/legislative relationship) is that they don't all take a position on the questions of government structure or executive power. They derive their positions largely based on international human rights law.

Many folks on the left criticized the Bush Administration's moves on executive power, as we did on detainee policy. The issues were related concerns. Did anyone actually argue that the Bush Administration did its detainee policy just for the heck of expanding executive power? Chesney doesn't provide an example. Doesn't sound familiar to me.

As for Cheney, Addington and Yoo being important players, I awaited Chesney's argument to the contrary, but there was none. This isn't conspiracy theory stuff; this is the mainstream understanding of the history (see Jane Meyer's 2006 piece on Addington, Jack Goldsmith's book (not exactly a leftist!) and Barton Gellman and Jo Becker's 2007 piece on Cheney and executive power). Gellman and Becker won a Pulitzer for their full series on Cheney, which, of course, was in the Washington Post. Define irony.

On to Chesney's second (and last!) example of how the left has gone over-the-top on the detainee issue:
...individual issues in the debate over detention policy are often framed in stark and incompatible terms. Take, for example, the Guantanamo detainees, who are portrayed in some quarters as innocent bystanders to the last man and in other quarters as the "worst of the worst." While both extremes are misleading, their influence is pervasive.
Pervasive! Lots of op-eds and cable-news guests saying the Gitmo prisoners are all innocent bystanders!

No. Sorry, not true. Sure, I bet you could find a comment in a blog post somewhere saying the Gitmo prisoners are all innocent. Chesney doesn't even provide one of those.

The human rights groups, liberal members of congress, progressive magazines and progressive intellectuals have similar but not totally alike views on detainee policy. But saying the Gitmo prisoners are all "innocent bystanders" -- that I just haven't seen them say. It's a straw man.

*

What we're left with is an op-ed that fails to provide a single example of a main part of its premise. Perhaps there are some examples out there of organizations or prominent leaders on the left saying crazy things about detainee policy. Robert Chesney couldn't find any.

The Washington Post op-ed page ought to find room for better arguments.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Will Obama go to Copenhagen to lobby for the Olympics?

The IOC vote is in Copenhagen on October 2. The Chicago folks desperately want Obama to show up for final in-person lobbying. The heads of state of the other countries will be there.

On Thursday, Robert Gibbs was asked about it at the daily press briefing, and said "Not that I'm aware of, no." But then said "Let me double-check on the President's schedule ... I should say -- I said that as far as the schedule I had seen, that was not planned ... It's hard for me to look into my invisible crystal ball."

(see the full transcript; it's kind of a ridiculous back-and-forth.)

Politico's Kenneth P. Vogel jumped on this, with the lede:
The White House on Thursday signaled that President Barack Obama was unlikely to travel to Copenhagen to personally deliver Chicago’s final pitch to the International Olympic Committee – a decision that would be a blow to his hometown’s prospects for landing the 2016 games.

(headline: "Obama unlikely to make Olympic pitch").

Others interpreted the news quite differently (i.e. Chicago Tribune, NYT) saying the matter seemed undecided (reflecting what the White House said in clarification after the briefing).

Whether he goes to Copenhagen or not, Obama will be guilty of causing great pain if Chicago wins.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Outdoor Dining at... Neon Deli?



It's crazy but it's true.

The photo is from the post on Wesleying.

No, I don't read Wesleying. But I was checking out the school's official Twitter feed, which led me there. I was about to say that the feed is not particularly useful/interesting, but clearly it is.

Oh, and Wesleying also reports that a "Southwestern/American Bistro" is now moving into the spot that once was Giuseppe's, and:
The owner, John Gecewicz, is returning to Middletown after a successful career as an international model. He was featured in GQ and Vogue, and seems to have been pretty successful.

Oh my. The new restaurant will need to be, like, at least three times the size of the old one, don't you think?

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Politico brings on Laura Rozen, an actual foreign policy expert

Politico has brought on Laura Rozen, who will be writing a blog and articles on foreign policy. It's likely to become quite influential.

This is good for Politico. Their staff is heavy on political types who don't actually have much issue area expertise. It's heavy on gossip, some of it correct, some not. Adding someone like Rozen ought to make it a bit more serious.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Oh great, another NYT editorial about the changing seasons

Why?!

Recession profiteering, liberal edition

Here's one group that's been doing well -- or, at least getting a lot of media citations -- in this economy: liberal economic think tanks. The data is a bit old now, but they did much better in 2008 than in 2007. The news comes from FAIR's annual think tank survey, which counts the news citations for the various think tanks. Centrist and conservative think tanks continue to dominate. But some of the liberal economic ones went way up: Economic Policy Institute (+56%), Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (+68%), Center for Economic and Policy Research (+60%).

Thursday, September 03, 2009

U.S. cuts more Honduras Aid; threatens to not recognize November election

Good news today: the State Department has taken some steps in the right direction on Honduras, further cutting some aid to the coup government and threatening to not recognize the winner of November elections. (AP, Times, Post). The coup government has been pushing the idea this week that the November elections will be the solution to everything.

The State Department did not go as far as to call the coup officially a coup, which would then require it to withhold all aid. Howard Berman, the House Foreign Affairs Chairman -- who's not always so great -- had a good op-ed in the LAT today:
This one looks, walks and quacks like a duck. It's time to stop hedging and call this bird what it is. And if, for whatever reason, the State Department lawyers do not conclude that this was a coup, Congress should examine other ways by which it can directly affect the flow of aid.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

What is Brooks Jackson thinking?

From the August 21st On The Media, Bob Garfield interviewing Brooks Jackson of factcheck.org on healthcare, Jackson says:
Even the insurance industry itself, the lobby representing the big guys, the Aetnas, the Blue Cross/Blue Shield guys, they have formally endorsed market reforms, things like ending non-coverage of preexisting conditions and requiring insurance plans to take all comers. They also want – and this is interesting – they favor a personal mandate requiring individuals to be covered, to obtain coverage somehow.

This just in! They want the healthy twenty-somethings to be forced to be their customers! And the federal government will be providing subsidies to citizens, money that eventually goes to the insurance companies! Wow that's crazy, who'd have thunk it? It's really interesting that the insurance companies would be in favor of that!

Gosh.

If my point isn't clear yet, here's a primer from the LAT in June on why the insurance companies favor a mandate:
The customer base for private insurance has slipped since 2000, when soaring premiums began driving people out. The recession has accelerated the problem. But even after the economy recovers, the downward spiral is expected to continue for years as baby boomers become eligible for Medicare -- and stop buying private insurance.

Insurers do not embrace all of the healthcare restructuring proposals. But they are fighting hard for a purchase requirement, sweetened with taxpayer-funded subsidies for customers who can't afford to buy it on their own, and enforced with fines.

Such a so-called individual mandate amounts to a huge booster shot for health insurers, serving up millions of new customers almost overnight.

Or as Matt Yglesias put it in February: "It’s not that a mandate is such a terrible thing, but it’s primary purpose is to keep insurance companies in business once progressive stuff like community rating and guaranteed issue policies are put in place."

Oh, and I'm sure the insurance companies are out lobbying hard to make sure ending non-coverage of pre-existing conditions stays in whatever bill, as Jackson assures us that's something the industry has formally endorsed. If that part fell out of a bill (not that it will) the insurance companies would fight tooth and nail to put it back in, in Jackson's world.

Is Brooks Jackson's basic understanding of the healthcare debate really as lacking as it sounds? I do hope not.