Okay then, no internet troubles in the hotel at least. It's 6:40 am as I type this sentence, and by 8 or so I plan to be over at the SMU campus to get myself settled in for the big event.
The Times today focuses on Obama's "delicate task" this morning in finding something nice to say about George W. Bush. This doesn't seem so difficult to me. I would write for Obama something like:
For his first few months in office, President Bush faced the normal struggles any new president faces. Then, terror struck. Some of us, this small fraternity of us on this stage, know what it is like to sit in that Oval Office, and to have to be the one making decisions. But none of us, not even me and other former presidents here gathered, can possibly know what it was like to sit in the Oval Office on that day. Only President Bush can ever know that. Only he can know the weight that added to the job, the special burdens that came with being the president whom history selected to guide America through the age of terror...
You know, that kind of thing. Then you transition to a discussion about this spanking new center and what fine work it's going to do on behalf of humankind, you offer your congratulations, and you pay homage to a country where we can put aside our differences and blah blah blah.
I don’t hate electronics. Though not a gadgethead, I’m actually pretty fond of them. But there are days that I hate them. This was one of them, and I’m really curious to know whether this kind of thing happens to you.
So last year, after holding on to an aging laptop for a couple of years too long, just out of laziness and a rationale that my travel was sparse enough that it didn’t really constitute such a great inconvenience, I finally updated. I got an HP Folio laptop, a cute little thing that weighs no more than a dinnerplate, and a Google Nexus 7, then brand new to the market. The old laptop had become close to completely useless. It worked at home as a secondary computer to run Pandora through the stereo and such tasks. Fine.
But when I depended on it—in a hotel room, in a Starbuck’s, what have you—it always disappointed. It couldn’t sniff the network, or would eventually do so after 40 minutes, or would do so and then lose the connection in five minutes, and do that over and over and over again. I would go online to read about why these things happen and carefully work my way through various discussion boards, but these discussions were and are held at levels above my comprehension and might as well have been in Farsi.
Even so, with the new equipment, I thought I was all set. I marveled at the laughing ease with which my little HP located (without my having to do anything!) my home network. I tightened my chest and then released it in exhilaration as my Google machine located the network at my sister-in-law’s house, in a matter of seconds. I was finally going to become one of those people. You know; those people who are so confident in their machines’ ability to deliver them to salvation that if they have even two spare minutes in an airport, they don’t hesitate to pull them out.
Last Friday I went to a small breakfast at Third Way where Joe Manchin was the speaker. This was just two days of course after the failed vote, so interest in his thoughts was keen, and I must say he didn’t disappoint. I’ve sat and listened to a lot of senators, and I have to say Manchin was certainly above average in terms of candor and absence of the usual politician’s fog.
Why did he, a red-state senator who famously took a rifle to the climate bill, take this fight on in the first place? “In my culture, people don’t believe Schumer and Obama are going to protect their Second Amendment rights, so I stepped in.” He never quite said why he stepped in not politically but, if you will, morally; but he clearly seemed shaken after the Newtown shootings, so I guess we’ll just have to go with that as the answer.
He described then the process by which he went about trying to find a Republican co-sponsor because “I knew I had to find an A-rated Republican” (by the NRA) to proceed with something that had a chance. That was Tom Coburn for a while. When Coburn dropped out over a somewhat technical disagreement, he found Pat Toomey, fairly late in the process.
I was most interested in how it all was playing back home, so I asked a question to that effect, and I think his answer said a lot about how Democrats from pro-gun states can navigate this issue. He said he was at a picnic the previous weekend, around 200 to 400 people. When he first came in the room, people were skeptical. But he and a guy named “Frank” simply went through the bill and told people what was in it and what was not in it. “Once people started seeing what was in it, they said, ‘Joe, we’re okay.’”
I find that I'm turning these days to lawfareblog.com, an interesting blog about law and national security written by three noted legal eagles, which has been nicely on top of the legal situation post-Boston. You should check it out.
For example, here, the blog summarizes the federal charges brought against Jahar (can I just call him that, by common consent? So much easier to type). This weapons of mass destruction charge seems kind of odd, but it turns out that the relevant federal law, dating to 1986, defines almost any bomb as a WMD.
The blog also notes that Tsarnaev (which I kind like typing) was Mirandized at his bedside. He now has a lawyer. So the system is churning along. Even Glenn Greenwald declared himself (in a tweet) more or less satisfied with the way things have gone so far. Lawfare's Bobby Chesney:
So, what happens next on the interrogation issue?
Dowd wrote a really insipid column yesterday that everyone is piling on, so perhaps this is a little unoriginal of me, but so be it. There's a point that needs making.
She wrote that the failure of the gun bill in the Senate was Obama's fault because he doesn't lead and "no one is scared of him." At the same time that he was supposed to scare people, he was also, she writes, supposed to be nicer to them--calling Tom Coburn to say come on, Tom, you're retiring anyway, take one for the team, or country.
Naturally, Obama is supposed to be more like LBJ. Well, it is true that LBJ was almost surely scarier, to some people anyway, than Obama is. But is that what got all that domestic legislation passed, really?
Or might it have had something to do with the fact that the Congress that passed all those things was the most Democratic Congress in all of history? Kevin Drum made that point. But the point I wish to emphasize is that that Congress was also full to bursting of Republican moderates.
There’s a common thread linking conservatives’ positions on gun control, immigration, and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev: the constant need to stoke fear. By Michael Tomasky.
Liberals and civil libertarians shouldn’t yet be saying that there’s utterly no way that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev should be declared an “enemy combatant.” The post-9/11 law, whatever one’s opinion of it, does say that an American citizen affiliated with al Qaeda, the Taliban, “or associated forces” engaged in hostility with the United States can be declared an enemy combatant. It doesn’t seem like he’s that, but who knows, he may shock everyone when he comes to by saying that he and his brother were precisely that.
House Speaker John Boehner answers questions from reporters on gun control, immigration, and the budget during a news conference on Capitol Hill on April 18. Boehner also expressed appreciation to law enforcement in the wake of the attack on the Boston Marathon and toxic letters mailed to Congress. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)
But it isn’t liberals who are jumping the gun here. As usual, conservatives are rushing to judgment, shredding the Constitution, using the bombing as an pretext for derailing immigration reform, and generally seeking any excuse to reimpose their paranoid and authoritarian worldview, which needs fear like a vampire needs blood, on the rest of us.
The cry, which I’m sure will pick up steam this week, was led over the weekend by the usual suspects—John McCain, Lindsey Graham, Kelly Ayotte, and Peter King. On the basis of what evidence? On the basis of no evidence at all. They know nothing! We’re starting to piece together a portrait of these guys, although it’s more of Tamerlan than of his younger brother. It’s a grim portrait. He evidently did become a radicalized Islamist. But if he and his brother were acting alone, even if the bombing was 100 percent politically motivated, they can’t be called enemy combatants. Period.
The Guardian's Michael Cohen tweeted this, but I was sort of wondering it, too. Was shutting down an entire city really a great idea? Now any would-be terrorist will take it as a challenge to get a city shut down. It's just added incentive.
I can understand authorities wanting less hubbub than usual; can understand that that would make it easier perhaps to track the guy. I can see telling people within a certain radius in Watertown to stay put. But it seems like overreaction to me. The cops are professionals. They train constantly for moments like this. They need to stop all other motion to conduct a manhunt?
If the argument is that it's for people's safety, well...okay, but how many people could this guy really kill? On the day that he set out to kill dozens, he fell well short of that. And what are the odds that any particular individual would cross paths with this guy? When did telling people to use caution and venture only where necessary stop being enough?
And how long is this going to go on? Through the weekend? Seriously? What if the guy is long gone? What if he killed himself somewhere and his body isn't found for days? What if he killed himself and there is no body--he threw himself in an incinerator? Is Boston going to live in perpetual quasi-lockdown? I suppose everything happened so fast overnight and morning rush hour was coming and they had to make a call. But is this really book procedure? It's a bad signal and a large-type invitation to others to shut down other cities.
After dozing off early I happened to wake up at exactly 12:45. My wife had CNN on and was already watching. We have family in Watertown, about a mile-and-a-half from where it all went down. I've been to that forlorn Watertown Mall several times and took my daughter to play once in the park across the street. We finally called our people at 4 am. They're fine, but pretty...amazed.
It's going to take a while to make sense of this one. The Caucasus may be the one region in the world that Americans know the least about. Literally the least. I include myself. I know some history of the SSRs during the Soviet period, or a little before--from Stalin's youth up throug the war, but that's about the extent of my knowledge, beyond the things that average informed people know about the Chechen-Russian conflict. But I can't tell you if it's important whether they're really Chechen or Dagestani. So maybe this provides us all a good chance to educate ourselves. Not holding my breath on that one, but still.
If you're looking for people who know something, I'm told the person to follow on Twitter is Joshua Foust, who writes for The Atlantic on Afghanistan but whose expertise extends to the Caucasus. He's at @joshuafoust.
I'm sure you've read many of the details I have. Dzokhar Tsarnaev was a happy and friendly person. Tamerlan couldn't find a single American friend. (Even these names--echoes of tsarist Russia and of Tamerlane the conqueror.) Dzokhar ran his brother's dead body over while escaping. Their father says Dzokhar was "a true angel." An uncle apparently said of Tamerlan that he was a "loser" who "deserved" to die.
In my inbox not long ago from a friend landed a good example of the evil liberal media ignoring the Dr. Gosnell case. This is by reproductive health doctor name Lynette Leighton from the web site RH Reality Check, and it is reprinted from back in 2011, back when the liberal media was, you know, ignoring the Gosnell charges the first time they were made public:
I now belong to a wonderful community of primary care doctors who are dedicated to improving women’s health and the treatment they receive, including abortion. We see abortion as inextricable from the full spectrum of medical care a woman might need in her lifetime. We continue to research and refine abortion care while helping to break down barriers separating women from high-quality services.
What a contrast to the Dr. Gosnell case—I was absolutely shocked by the news of an abortion provider who, if the charges prove true, has strayed so far from the principles of our field and the ethics of medicine in general. The news of his clinic’s practices horrifies me. I am sad and angry that Dr. Gosnell’s patients did not benefit from the expertise and empathy I know in the reproductive health world.
When a woman comes to me with an unintended pregnancy, I counsel her thoroughly. If she decides to continue her pregnancy, I talk about vitamins, scheduling prenatal ultrasounds and preparing her older children for the newcomer. When a woman chooses to end her pregnancy, we talk extensively about what to expect, whether she chooses to take medication in the privacy of her home, or have a procedure performed in my office. There are sometimes long discussions about her unique situation, often handholding, and always personal, safe care.
You know by now that CNN reported that a suspect had been arrested in Boston. But then they had to report that they were wrong. There has been no arrest. Twitter, as you might imagine, has been nothing but CNN jokes for the last 90 minutes or so.
This urge to take enormous risks to be first is crazy in this day and age. Let's say CNN had been right. A year from now, who'd know? Some people in the TV news industry, and that's all. Maybe that matters.
But you get something like this wrong, everybody who pays attention to news remembers. Now CNN will live with the memory of this and its horribly wrong call on the Supreme Court health-care decision.
Now you might also ask if even that matters. Who knows. The BBC has been humiliated recently. Allowing a sexual predator to roam unchecked in your midst is a hell of a lot worse than screwing up a scoop. And yet, I still trust what I see and hear on the BBC. A brand is a powerful thing. But CNN's is diminishing a little more with every one of these embarrassing episodes.
This Mark Sanford character is sort of psychotic, isn't he? Up to now, the posture has been to feel a soupcon of empathy or something for the man because well, at least he was in love. You can't argue with love.
But now we see there's something really off about the guy. Snooping around his wife's house. To watch the Super Bowl with his son. Well that's not so bad. But he was legally barred from being there.
Then, get this:
Meanwhile, the Washington Post has learned that tensions within the family flared up as recently as April 2, at the celebration of Sanford’s runoff election victory when the former governor thrust two of his sons on-stage with the Argentine woman who was at the center of the spectacular sex scandal that broke up his marriage.
The final cloture vote on the gun bill in the Senate is supposed to happen late afternoon today. This will be the vote to end debate and move to final passage. This vote requires 60 under the rules, while final passage would need just 51.
There will be nine amendments under agreement, some from the Democrats and some from the Republicans. And...each of those will need 60 votes.
Things don't look great. From the Politico story:
At this point, only four Senate Republicans — Toomey, Collins, and Sens. Mark Kirk of Illiniois (Ill.) and John McCain of Arizona (Ariz.) — are backing the Manchin-Toomey plan, or have signaled they may may do so.
The good guys' side seems to have lost mo in the last couple of days. Some Republican senators who voted for cloture to permit a vote have now said, much as I anticipated last week, that well, they were willing to vote to allow debate, but once that debate ends, of course they're voting no.
Some control advocates had certain hopes for Bob Corker of Tennessee. Corker of Tennessee is not way out there on Mike Lee's planet, to be sure. He actually talks to Democrats about substance. But having done that, he always votes no. And he said the other day that he'll vote no on this.
Now, remember, there's another cloture vote coming, to end debate and proceed to final passage (actually, there could be cloture votes on the amendments, too, but let's not get too bogged down in procedure). So if people like Corker vote for a final vote, so to speak, the thing could actually pass. Sargent:
But all of these details aside, it needs to be restated that these Senators have the option of voting Yes on breaking the filibuster, while voting No on the final vote. In that scenario, the proposal would likely pass with a simple majority. And so, if these Senators continue to hold out, they need to be pressed on whether they really think a proposal that has the support of eight in 10 Americans doesn’t deserve a straight up or down vote, at a time when the Newtown slayings have focused public attention on a problem that continues to claim the lives of thousands of Americans per year. Whatever their final vote, there’s no excuse for them to enable and participate in GOP obstructionism of a proposal with near universal public support.
Don't know if you know the names Carmen Reinhart and Ken Rogoff. A few years ago they wrote a book arguing that countries with a debt to GDP ratio above 90 percent experienced slow growth in recovering from a crisis. Lots of impressive data.
Since Keynesianism means counter-cyclical debt, R & R were really saying that stimulus spending and so forth retarded growth. As such they were constantly cited by both Republicans and centrist deficit hawks. Their influence in the last three years has been pretty enormous.
Well. Now come three economists from UMass who have somehow or another been availed of the opportunity to see R & R's very spreadsheets that they used for their calculations and double-check them. And lo and behold, R & R made some basic computational errors. The economist Dean Baker writes:
The most important of these errors was excluding four years of growth data from New Zealand in which it was above the 90 percent debt-to-GDP threshold. When these four years are added in, the average growth rate in New Zealand for its high debt years was 2.6 percent, compared to the -7.6 percent that R&R had entered in their calculation.
This is from Peter Bergen of the New America Foundation, a top expert, writing at CNN.com:
Of the 380 extremists indicted for acts of political violence or for conspiring to carry out such attacks in the U.S. since 9/11, 81 were able to obtain explosives or the components necessary to build a bomb, according to a count by the New America Foundation.
Of those, 51 were right-wing extremists, 23 were militants inspired by al Qaeda's ideology, five have been described as anarchists and one was an environmentalist terrorist.
But in the years since 9/11, actual terrorist bombings in the U.S., like the ones at the Boston Marathon, have been exceedingly rare.
The Daily Beast's Michelle Cottle joined MSNBC to discuss the annual event where conservatives 'come out and let their hair down' and the tension among right-wingers over gay rights.
Gays are bullying Americans, the congresswoman says. That's not even the wildest claim she's made in the last 12 months.