Posts Tagged ‘Huffington Post’

Must-Reads of the Week: The Obama 20-somethings, Graham’s Cojones, Fannie/Freddie, Naive Conspiracy Theorists, Saban, Obama=Socialism, Political Imitations, Underdogs, Lost!, and Julián Castro

Friday, May 7th, 2010

This is a busy season for me — but there should be some more substantive blog posts next week…

1. The Obama 20-somethings. Ashley Parker for the New York Times Magazine profiles “all the Obama 20-somethings” in an interesting profile of the new crowd in D.C. of smart, highly educated, highly motivated, civic-minded, young Obama staffers.

2. Lindsey Graham’s Cojones. You gotta hand it to Lindsey Graham — if nothing else, he’s got guts — from Dana Milbank of the Washington Post:

The lone pro-gun lawmaker to engage in the fight was the fearless Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who rolled his eyes and shook his head when Lieberman got the NYPD’s Kelly to agree that the purchase of a gun could suggest that a terrorist “is about to go operational.”

“I’m not so sure this is the right solution,” Graham said, concerned that those on the terrorist watch list might be denied their Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms.

“If society decides that these people are too dangerous to get on an airplane with other people, then it’s probably appropriate to look very hard before you let them buy a gun,” countered Bloomberg.

“But we’re talking about a constitutional right here,” Graham went on. He then changed the subject, pretending the discussion was about a general ban on handguns. “The NRA — ” he began, then rephrased. “Some people believe banning handguns is the right answer to the gun violence problem. I’m not in that camp.”

Graham felt the need to assure the witnesses that he isn’t soft on terrorism: “I am all into national security. . . . Please understand that I feel differently not because I care less about terrorism.”

Jonathan Chait comments:

There’s a pretty hilarious double standard here about the rights of gun owners. Remember, Graham is one of the people who wants the government to be able to take anybody it believes has committed an act of terrorism, citizen or otherwise, and whisk them away to a military detention facility where they’ll have no rights whatsoever. No potential worries for government overreach or bureaucratic error there. But if you’re on the terrorist watch list, your right to own a gun remains inviolate, lest some innocent gun owner be trapped in a hellish star chamber world in which his fun purchase is slowed by legal delays.

3. Why Isn’t Fannie/Freddie Part of FinReg? Ezra Klein explains why regulation of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac isn’t in the financial regulation bill.

4. Naive Conspiracy Theorists. William Saletan contributes to the whole epistemic closure debate with a guide on how not to be closed-minded politically, including this bit of advice:

Sanchez goes through a list of bogus or overhyped stories that have consumed Fox and the right-wing blogosphere: ACORN, Climategate, Obama’s supposed Muslim allegiance, and whether Bill Ayers wrote Obama’s memoir. Conservatives trapped in this feedback loop, he notes, become “far too willing to entertain all sorts of outlandish new ideas—provided they come from the universe of trusted sources.” When you think you’re being suspicious, you’re at your most gullible.

5. Saban. Connie Bruck in the New Yorker profiles Haim Saban, best known for bringing the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers to the United States — but who made much of his fortune licensing the rights to cartoon music internationally. As a side hobby, he tries to influence American foreign policy towards Israel. He doesn’t come off very well in the piece, but at least this one observation seems trenchant to me at first glance:

Saban pointed out that, in the late nineties, President Clinton had pushed Netanyahu very hard, but behind closed doors. “Bill Clinton somehow managed to be revered and adored by both the Palestinians and the Israelis,” he said. “Obama has managed to be looked at suspiciously by both. It’s not too late to fix that.”

6. The Obama=Socialism Canard. Jonathan Chait rather definitively deflates Jonah Goldberg’s faux-intellectual, Obama=socialism smear:

For almost all Republicans, the point of labeling Obama socialist is not to signal that he’s continuing the philosophical tradition of Roosevelt, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Carter and Clinton. The point is to signal the opposite: that Obama embodies a philosophy radically out of character with American history. Republicans have labeled Obama’s agenda as “socialism” because the term is widely conflated with Marxism, even though Goldberg concedes they are different things, and because “liberalism” is no longer a sufficiently scary term. Republicans endlessly called Bill Clinton a liberal, Al Gore a liberal — the term has lost some of its punch. So Obama must be something categorically different and vastly more frightening.

Goldberg is defending the tactic by arguing, in essence, that liberalism is a form of socialism, and Obama is a liberal, therefore he can be accurately called a socialist. But his esoteric exercise, intentionally or not, serves little function other than to dress up a smear in respectable intellectual attire. [my emphasis]

7. Imitating the Imitators of the Imitation. This Politico piece by Mike Allen and Kenneth P. Vogel explains how some elite Republicans are trying to set up a right wing equivalent of the left wing attempt to imitate the right wing’s media-think tank-political infrastructure:

Two organizers of the Republican groups even made pilgrimages earlier this year to pick the brain of John Podesta, the former Clinton White House chief of staff who, in 2003, founded the Center for American Progress and was a major proponent of Democrats developing the kind of infrastructure pioneered by Republicans.

And of course, that right wing infrastructure was meant to imitate the left wing policy-media infrastructure of the left — the Brookings-New York Times axis. The whole imitation of imitation of imitation of imitation — spawning more and more organizations — reminds me a bit of those old Mad magazine comic strips:

8. The Underdog. Daniel Engber in Slate explores the underdog effect and various scientific studies of the underdog effect, including how it affects expectations:

The mere act of labeling one side as an underdog made the students think they were more likely to win.

9. Lost! Ed Martin in the Huffington Post is concerned with how the tv show Lost will end:

Not to put too much pressure on Lindelof and Cuse, but the future of broadcast television will to some extent be influenced by what you give us over these next few weeks.

10. Julián Castro. Zev Chafets of the New York Times Magazine profiles Julián Castro, mayor of San Antonio, Texas, and one of the up-and-coming Democrats. The article entirely elided his policy ideas or and barely mentioned his political temperament — but was interesting nevertheless.

[Image by me.]

Is The Secret Plan Panetta Found Hersh’s “Executive Assasination Ring”?

Tuesday, July 14th, 2009

[digg-reddit-me]Sam Stein of the Huffington Post got there first – but when I first heard the news about the secret plan so shocking that CIA Director Leon Panetta immediately shut it down and informed Congress late last week – my first thought was of the vague remarks by Seymour Hersh this March about “an executive assassination ring” run by Vice President Cheney.

Last night, reading the Wall Street Journal piece by Siobhan Gorman, this inkling seemed confirmed. Gorman reported:

According to current and former government officials, the agency spent money on planning and possibly some training. It was acting on a 2001 presidential legal pronouncement, known as a finding, which authorized the CIA to pursue such efforts. The initiative hadn’t become fully operational at the time Mr. Panetta ended it…

One former senior intelligence official said the program was an attempt “to achieve a capacity to carry out something that was directed in the finding,” meaning it was looking for ways to capture or kill al Qaeda chieftains.

Most of the other pieces on this subject have linked it specifically to Cheney – which is little surprise as most of the more extreme measures taken in the aftermath of September 11 were instigated by Cheney. Stories have also noted that this program is not related to the interrogation of prisoners or the wiretapping of information.

Compare this to Hersh’s comments back in March:

Right now, today, there was a story in the New York Times that if you read it carefully mentioned something known as the Joint Special Operations Command – JSOC it’s called. It is a special wing of our special operations community that is set up independently. They do not report to anybody, except in the Bush-Cheney days, they reported directly to the Cheney office. They did not report to the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff or to Mr. [Robert] Gates, the secretary of defense. They reported directly to him…

Congress has no oversight of it. It’s an executive assassination ring essentially, and it’s been going on and on and on. Just today in the Times there was a story that its leaders, a three star admiral named [William H.] McRaven, ordered a stop to it because there were so many collateral deaths.
Under President Bush’s authority, they’ve been going into countries, not talking to the ambassador or the CIA station chief, and finding people on a list and executing them and leaving. That’s been going on, in the name of all of us.

It’s complicated because the guys doing it are not murderers, and yet they are committing what we would normally call murder. It’s a very complicated issue. Because they are young men that went into the Special Forces. The Delta Forces you’ve heard about. Navy Seal teams. Highly specialized.

In many cases, they were the best and the brightest. Really, no exaggerations. Really fine guys that went in to do the kind of necessary jobs that they think you need to do to protect America. And then they find themselves torturing people.

The glaring discrepancy between the program Hersh is describing – and the one news reports are now – is that one point being emphasized in the current coverage of the concealed program is that it was never fully operational. But Sam Donaldson – in an unusual bit of worthwhile commentary – pointed out Sunday on This Week that we didn’t know how operational was being defined. He asked: Were there pilot programs? Was this tested in the field? Was there training? These questions are important – especially given how a word such as torture was parsed out of existence. And of course the most basic question, being fooled once, can we trust that this secret operation was not actually operational?

[Image by askpang licensed under Creative Commons.]

Biden Says Talks With Iran To Go Forward

Sunday, June 14th, 2009

[digg-reddit-me]

On this morning’s Meet the Press, Joe Biden said that the Obama administration has made the decision to go forward with talks – despite the administration’s clear doubts about the fairness of the election.

I thought Biden made this point particularly well:

[T]alks with Iran are not a reward for good behavior. They’re only a consequence if the president makes the judgment it’s in the best interest of the United States of America, our national security interests, to talk with the Iranian regime. Our interests are the same before the election as after the election, and that is we want them to cease and desist from seeking a nuclear weapon and having one in its possession, and secondly to stop supporting terror.

The Obama administration’s approach to these elections has been – in my opinion as an informed amateur – nearly flawless. They have made clear that they are prepared to talk with Iran – regardless of how the elections went, rather than giving the Iranian people or leadership an ultimatum; they have declined to endorse a side in the election, letting the Iranian people decide themselves; they have been clear about their principles, but circumspect in their goals; and they have extended a clear hand in friendship – which most reports suggest the Iranian people desperately want to grasp. By refusing to give our rhetorical support to the opposition, the Obama administration is frustrating the Iranian regime’s desire to paint this uprising as an American creation – as Ayotollah Khamenei  preemptively sought to blame unrest after the election on “the enemies [of Iran who] may want to spoil the sweetness of this event … with some kind of ill-intentioned provocations.”

The Obama administration’s approach has been praised by Iranian human rights groups, as one was quoted in the Huffington Post:

The Obama administration’s approach to the election — keeping its comments low-key and not signaling support for any candidate — was exactly the right approach. While tempting, empty and self-serving rhetorical support for Iranians struggling for more freedoms serves only to aid their opponents. History has made Iran wary of foreign meddling, and American policymakers in particular must be sensitive to giving hardliners any pretense to call reform-minded Iranians foreign agents. That’s why Iran’s most prominent reformers, including Nobel-laureate Shirin Ebadi, have said the best thing the U.S. can do is step back and let Iran’s indigenous human rights movement progress on its own, without overt involvement from the U.S-however well intentioned.

As Andrew Sullivan explained:

This is not about us. It’s about them. And any interference would only backfire to the regime’s advantage.

The Obama administration realizes what Bush never did – that democracy cannot be imposed by force or ultimatum; that it must be taken by the people; that fine words extolling democracy are not enough – but a hand extended in friendship can destabilize a regime propped up by its demonization of us.

And so, the outreach to Iran and its people goes on.

On this morning’s Meet the Press, Joe Biden said that the Obama administration has made the decision to go forward with talks – despite the administration’s clear doubts about the fairness of the election.

I thought Biden made this point particularly well:

[T]alks with Iran are not a reward for good behavior. They’re only a consequence if the president makes the judgment it’s in the best interest of the United States of America, our national security interests, to talk with the Iranian regime.  Our interests are the same before the election as after the election, and that is we want them to cease and desist from seeking a nuclear weapon and having one in its possession, and secondly to stop supporting terror.

Hayden on Obama: I didn’t see him coming.

Tuesday, June 10th, 2008

Tom Hayden wrote in the Huffington Post last week about his journey from Bobby Kennedy to Barack Obama, beginning with his rage and disappointment in electoral politics and the American system after Bobby Kennedy was assassinated:

On June 4, 1968, I watched from a New York townhouse the murder of a second Kennedy in five years. Martin Luther King already was gone, Vietnam and our cities were burning. I was in the midst of chaotic planning for anti-war demonstrations at the Democratic Convention coming in August.

I drifted off with friends to St. Patrick’s Cathedral where Kennedy staffers let us through the doors late at night. After sitting a while in silence, I found myself as a member of a makeshift honor guard standing next to his simple coffin. I was wearing a green Cuban hat and weeping. The last political hope of the Sixties vision – a movement-driven progressive government – was finished, whether by chance or plot, it mattered little. The violence I had resisted under white racism in the South was seeping into my veins. Like many who took their rage even farther, I was hardening, and never dared again to recover my young idealism.

Hayden seemed to have lost faith in the democratic system after Kennedy’s assassination, though he remained involved in California state government.  Nearly forty years later, he refused to see Obama as an authentic progressive leader, despite pleas from his son to take a look at the candidate.  Hayden was skeptical.  But, after the landmark wins in Iowa and South Carolina, Hayden endorsed “the movement Barack Obama leads”:

Barack Obama is giving voice and space to an awakening beyond his wildest expectations, a social force that may lead him far beyond his modest policy agend. Such movements in the past led the Kennedys and Franklin Roosevelt to achievements they never contemplated. [As Gandhi once said of India’s liberation movement, “There go my people. I must follow them, for I am their leader.”]

We are in a precious moment where caution must yield to courage. It is better to fail at the quest for greatness than to accept our planet’s future as only a reliving of the past.

Hayden remains skeptical and demanding – as he was towards Bobby Kennedy while working with him in 1968 – but Obama’s candidacy has allowed him to hope again:

Those who denounce Obama – and the possibilities of all electoral politics – should ponder the effectiveness of sitting judgmentally on the sidelines while an Unexpected Future arrives through the sheer will of a new generation. They should consider whether politics and history can be reduced to a fixed determinism that is endlessly repeated, as if there are no surprises. We can have our differences with Obama’s specific policies, as I certainly do, but those should be measured against the prospect that a movement might transform him even as his very rise continues to transform the rest of us.

(more…)

Headline news

Thursday, May 15th, 2008

1. Principal bans rainbows on students’ clothes because they are “sexually suggestive” and “would make students automatically picture gay people having sex.”

2. As I try to break free from the crowd, one of the Hezbollah members grabs my arm. “You from America?” he asks. “I hate America, but I love Kobe Bryant.”

3. World’s most obese man tries to set world record for most weight lost.

4. Hillary Vows to Fight on for Edwards’ Endorsement: “My friends, I will fight for the endorsement of John Edwards, even if it takes all summer.”

(more…)

A “Granita Pact”

Friday, May 2nd, 2008

I don’t think this is the answer, but Daniel Altman over at the Huffington Post suggests a “Granita Pact” between Clinton and Obama.  Interesting – but it would make little sense for either of them.

Why would Ms. Clinton agree to serve for only one term?  Her rationale for staying in the race according to John F. Harris and Jim VanderHei of the Politico is that Obama cannot win and would destroy the Democratic Party.  Others talk about the insatiable Clinton lust for power.   Regardless, without a policy rationale to keep her in the race, it’s hard to see Ms. Clinton encouraging an Obama run ever.  The only reasons for her to stay in the race even now are based on either her judgment that Obama cannot win, that he would make a bad president, or that she is determined to gain power no matter what it takes.  Otherwise, she would have gotten out of the way.

Mr. Obama, on the other hand, keeps talking about the “fierce urgency of now”.  His campaign is based on the premise that now is the moment when America needs a change, a new face, a fresh start, a different kind of politics.  In other words, America needs a break from the Clintons and Bushes.  For him to agree to another Clinton term when he was winning the race would brand him a typical politician.

Interesting idea.  But I don’t see either candidate accepting it.  It makes more sense for the Democratic Party than it does for either Clinton or Obama. (more…)

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