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Global Warming and the EPA

[ 0 ] April 17, 2009 |

I strongly recommend Kate Sheppard’s piece on the EPA’s new determination that “that planet-warming greenhouse gases pose a danger to public health and welfare,” both because it provides valuable information about the new policy shift (as well as its limitations), and it’s a good example of why so much policy-making gets delegated to the executive branch.



[ 0 ] April 17, 2009 |

The evidence that he made anything but trivial mistakes remains pretty much non-existent.


[ 0 ] April 17, 2009 |

When the final list of “Chuck Schumer’s Biggest Sell-Outs” is released, this will have to rank near the top. At least when he does stuff like vote to make the compensation of hedge fund managers largely tax-exempt, he’s supporting powerful parochial interests. I don’t like it and he deserves criticism for it, but all senators do it. But it’s not like there’s a huge constituency in New York demanding that key architects of the Bush administration’s arbitrary torture regime serve out their lives as federal judges even though they belong in front of a federal judge post haste.

The other problem here, I think, is the bizarre norms that emerged (especially post-Bork), which seemed to be that even fairly minor personal scandals might be fair game but it was completely beyond the pale of civilized discourse to reject an appointment over such trivialities as their radical and unpopular substantive views. Bybee is soft-spoken and has sufficient formal credentials, so what’s his disgusting advocacy of illegal torture and arbitrary executive power as a powerful government lawyer between friends?

The Piracy-Terror Nexus Revisited

[ 0 ] April 17, 2009 |

I’m not sure that I’d draw any conclusions from what’s actually a pretty small sample, but Galrahn nevertheless touches on a question that nags at the edge of the piracy debate: If terrorists organization haven’t yet taken advantage of the opportunities that maritime piracy seems to offer, why not?

I can think of a few potential answers:

  1. They have; terrorist organization may be “taxing” Somali pirates, and perhaps in some ways enabling their operations through intelligence assistance, weapons, etc.
  2. They have; don’t you remember the Achille Lauro? This leads us back to the original question, however; why haven’t further Achille Lauro style attacks been launched? Also, I was unaware that the Achille Lauro had caught fire and sank off the coast of Somalia back in 1994…
  3. Piracy requires a set of maritime skills that aren’t well distributed among the populations that terrorists tend to recruit from. This is not to say that terrorists couldn’t recruit from such populations, just that they haven’t yet.
  4. Capturing or blowing up a freighter full of machine parts destined for Guangzhou isn’t really worth a terrorist’s time.

Any other thoughts?

Right Bloggers Wobbly on Gay Marriage

[ 0 ] April 17, 2009 |

Although I participate, I rarely link, but this week’s results for the National Journal bloggers poll are kind of interesting. Leftish bloggers overwhelmingly support the idea that the Democratic Party should support gay marriage, and rightish bloggers are pretty deeply divided as to what the position of the Republican Party should be. Allowing that right wing bloggers are more libertarian than the party as a whole, it still seems to me to suggest that gay marriage is understood to be a long term loser for the right.

The Role of the CIA

[ 0 ] April 17, 2009 |

Spencer has some thoughts:

And here’s how it’s problematic for Obama, Blair and Panetta to indicate to the CIA that they’ll stand by CIA officers who relied on OLC guidance for the torture. Marc Ambinder observes that there’s some wiggle room in that promise, although every indication from the administration is that it doesn’t want to prosecute CIA officials. And for the most part, I think that’s right. The CIA officer assigned to an interrogation is no more responsible for the regimen of torture that he is asked to inflict — and told all the while is legal — than the soldier in Baghdad is responsible for the invasion of Iraq.

But that doesn’t go far enough.

Most of this story — the torture techniques (except for the insects); the OLC blessings and reblessings — has been thoroughly reported already. What the memos leave unclear is how much the CIA jumped into the torture game and how much the Bush administration pushed it. The memos are written to be responsive to the CIA lawyer — the malefactor going to the priest to give his work absolution. They’re written to guide the interrogators. But they leave unclear — as does most of the narrative so far — who’s compelling Rizzo in the CIA counsel’s office to keep pushing for more. The senior leadership of the agency? The heads of its directorate of operations, which overseas the interrogators? The Counterterrorist Center leaders? Without this information, we don’t have a clear sense of moral culpability for the torture. And then we’ll need to know what kind of pressure they were under from the Bush administration. Who was pressured? Who was eager to comply? Who resisted? Who pressed his or her colleagues into acquiescence or insubordination? All of these questions are related but separate to the question of legal culpability.

And we fail to find most of that out in the absence of an investigation. I’m guessing that the administration believes that the practical downside is this; if CIA officials are ever prosecuted or investigated too deeply, then the Agency ceases to exist as a useful intelligence organization. Even if people within the CIA pushed for harsher techniques, prosecution and investigation after the DOJ granted legal authority for those techniques would have a chilling effect on future operations of all kinds. The first objection to this would run something like “then don’t do anything that might be illegal,” but that has obvious limitations for an intelligence organization, especially when the definition of legality changes every four years or so.

… I should make clear that I don’t agree with Spencer’s comparison between CIA interrogators and US soldiers in Iraq; the former have much wider latitude to refuse requests from superiors, and the morality of their actions is in much greater question (which is to say, really, not in any question at all). I do agree, however, that there is some question as to whether the interrogators can be held legally responsible. For those without legal training (and even many with) the legality of particular methods is not obvious, which is why we have a DOJ that is supposed to render legitimate opinions regarding the legitimacy of certain methods. This is to say that while it’s obvious to me that locking someone in a room with a stinging insect is horrible, it’s not obvious to me that it’s illegal to do so under certain conditions; I’d have to ask someone who was trained in the legal limits of interrogation. I would certainly be surprised to find out that it’s legal, but that’s not the same thing as knowing that it’s illegal.

…Glenn makes a compelling case for the opposite argument. To the extent that I have a rejoinder, it would be that “whether prosecution would produce good or bad outcomes” is always something that has formed part of a prosecutors discretion as to whether proceedings should initiate against any particular individual, and that further the extent to which the memos make successful prosecution unlikely (and I’m uncertain on this point) play a role in the “good or bad outcomes” question.

Opening Day!

[ 0 ] April 16, 2009 |

The only way this could have been any sweeter would have been for a pigeon to fly in right before the first pitch and relieve itself on Jeter’s cap.

I should mention, as Weiner has noted, that he looks right and I look largely wrong about last year’s Yankees/Pirates trade. Nady is right now an injured fourth OF, and will Marte is a better pitcher than he’s been as a Yankee, his value has to be in serious question. I’m still pretty skeptical about Tabata, but 1)he’s probably the most valuable property in the trade and 2)the players they traded have almost no value to them (and I suppose the crappy starters the Yankees throw in may be marginally better than the current alternatives.)

Mixed News on the Bush Torture Memos

[ 0 ] April 16, 2009 |

As Steve says, it’s a mixed news day; it’s good that Obama is releasing the torture memos, bad that CIA operatives who carried out torture won’t be prosecuted. Admittedly, the existence of the memos does make prosecuting lower-level people a difficult proposition, and I could live with it…as soon as Yoo, Bradbury et al. are put on trial and Bybee is impeached and then put on trial.

More on the memos later.

Greenwald: “They are unbelievably ugly and grotesque and conclusively demonstrate the sadistic criminality that consumed our government.”

Forever in Blue Jeans and Baseball Caps

[ 0 ] April 16, 2009 |

Is George Will just another Lee Siegel sockpuppet?

Frankly, I think it would explain a lot.

UPDATE [BY SL]: I excerpt some gems from the column here.

Sarah Palin Crash-and-Burn Watch

[ 0 ] April 15, 2009 |

I’m starting to think my governor might actually be mentally ill:

Gov. Sarah Palin surprised lawmakers Tuesday by forwarding the names of three appointees to the single open state Senate seat. Two of them, Tim Grussendorf and Joe Nelson, have already been rejected by the Senate Democrats.

Palin said the third, Alan Wilson, is a “successful small businessman and active in the community.” He is a former president of the Alaska State Home Building Association and is currently president of Alaska Renovators, a Juneau remodeling company. Wilson only became a Democrat on March 4. He was previously registered nonpartisan, and Juneau Democratic Party officials are opposing him, as they did Nelson and Grussendorf.

Palin appears to have ditched the weird legal theories on which she was relying a few weeks back, when she argued that a 22-year-old legal memo provided sufficient basis to nullify a state law governing the selection of replacement legislators. Now, however, she’s apparently discovered a new way to read the law and — rather than submitting a single name (customarily selected from a list provided by local party officials) — she’s decided to submit a list of her own, indicating that among other things she doesn’t understand the meaning of simple parts of speech like “a,” “the,” or “another.” Tellingly, Palin’s misogynist and homophobic attorney general nominee believes the senate Democrats should stop arguing about whether the governor’s actions are “legal or illegal” and just accept someone to fill the seat.

Meantime, Palin seems wedded to the belief that the state’s capital city deserves unqualified, inexperienced representation in the upper house of the legislature. Tim Grussendorf, like Alan Wilson, had recently changed his party affiliation to qualify for the senate nomination; Wilson’s primary qualification appears to be that his wife sold her some shoes when John McCain decided to end the presidential race two months early she was named as McCain’s running mate. Joe Nelson’s party credentials were reputed to be similarly thin (though I’ll outsource the details there, since Nelson happens to be an administrator at a certain fine public university that has yet to grant me tenure.)

Some of this is rooted in Palin’s widely-known disregard for Juneau — a city she doesn’t believe should be the state’s capital to begin with — and some is surely part of the fallout from the Troopergate investigation (along with earlier conflicts with the legislature over line-item budget cuts). The rest of it is simply a function of Sarah Palin being a uniquely awful executive.

"When they have a club in their hands, no one is more sadistic. When the club is removed, no one is more whiney."

[ 0 ] April 15, 2009 |

What Glenn said.

Force Feeding

[ 0 ] April 15, 2009 |

The Yankees move from ordinary villainy to cartoonish super-villainy:

The New York Civil Liberties Union today filed a federal lawsuit against the NYPD on behalf of a Queens man who was ejected from the old Yankee Stadium last August after trying to use the restroom during “God Bless America.”

The lawsuit maintains that Bradford Campeau-Laurion, a 30-year-old lifelong baseball fan and resident of Astoria, was the victim of religious and political discrimination on Aug. 26, 2008 when police officers forcibly restrained and ejected him from Yankee Stadium after he tried to walk past an officer during the playing of “God Bless America.”

I *HATE* God Bless America.