Saturday, June 27, 2009

Saturday Morning Round-Up

1. A story in yesterday's Washington Post reveals that the Obama administration is considering drafting an executive order asserting the President's authority to detain terrorist suspects indefinitely without any judicial process. The White House denies that a draft order exists (via John Cole) thought there is no denial that they are considering such a move. I found this quote from the Post article to be particularly odd:

" administration official suggested that the White House is already trying to build support for an order. "Civil liberties groups have encouraged the administration, that if a prolonged detention system were to be sought, to do it through executive order," the official said.

First of all, I would like this official to find me one civil liberties group that has argued for such a thing. Perhaps what he/she meant is that they'd rather have an executive order than a Bush-like assertion of authority that merely cites the Constitution, but there's essentially no difference between the two approaches legally. Also, they are arguing that such an order would permit them to get Congress' acquiescence in the closing of Guantanamo, an effort stymied by the various Democratic and Republican bed-wetters on the Hill. Which basically would amount to Obama saying to Congress "I double-pledge to hold terrorists forever if you will please let me shut down Guantanamo." But it seems to me like sending them Bermuda an the South Pacific was working out alright.

2. Gays and Lesbiasn are-rightly-angered as well at the Obama administration's shuffling approach towards gay rights. Don't Ask, Don't Tell, remains in place, the Obama DOJ is arguing before the courts to retain DOMA, and Obama's decision to extend federal benefits to domestic partners was praised until advocates realized that those benefits didn't include health care (doubly ironic, considering the President's present political battle over a national health care plan.) Arnold King, while not citing specifically to the administration's approach to gay rights, makes the point that the Obama administration has many agendas, but appears satisfied to half-ass meeting their goals on any of them.

3. For some conservative Christians, Sanford's weeping and rending of garments is enough for them to get over his infidelity and bizarre behavior. I'm sure the fact that he's a Republican politician has absolutely no bearing on their attitudes. But stories like this make it clear that for all of Sanford's talk, he was determined to continuing playing his own staff, his own state, and especially his own wife, until he got caught. Politically connected religious leaders and politicians may be quick to forgive, but other conservatives? Not so much.

4. Bob Herbert takes a look at the economy and calls a spade (a jobless recovery) a spade (no recovery at all.)

5. The Iranian government appears to be gaining the upper-hand against the protesters, though it also seems clear that the massive protests have revealed divisions in the leadership that may indicate long-term change.

6. Upon the news of Michael Jackson's death, I found myself wondering what condition his estate was in and upon whom would fall the unfortunate task of trying to sort it out. It appears he had at least one will, though no one knows it's contents yet. I predict there will be a gargantuan battle over his estate given the value still attached to his name and his music and the massive debt attached to much of his property, but I doubt it will interest the public as much as Anna Nicole Smith's highly publicized probate did, what with the absence of a childhood custody dispute. There can be no doubt though of Jackson's status as a mega-star, as the reaction to his death was almost more than the internet could bear.

7. You might've missed this news, but Wednesday the United States pulled off a shocking upset and defeated the number one team in the world 2-0 to advance to the final game of the Confederations Cup. Spain is praised for their ability to possess the ball, and it was expected that the U.S. would entrench upon defense and wait for their opportunities to counter. Instead, Spain committed uncharacteristic errors as the U.S. went with a strategy of heavily pressuring the ball and looking for quick counters, and remaining incredibly well-organized (and frankly, a little lucky) on defense. The strategy paid off with huge dividends; quick movement up the field led to a goal by Jozy Altidore, and a Spanish turnover led to a goal by Clint Dempsey. Altidore (after keeper Brad Guzan) was clearly man of the match. No telling if his outstanding play makes him the future of American soccer or another Eddie Johnson, but American soccer fans will take what they can get. The United States plays Brazil tomorrow, a team they already lost to in the first round, but against whom they might have a better chance if they play as decisively as they did against Spain.

8. I thought this article about Grandparents University at UNT was interesting. Grandparents and their grand-children apparently spend a weekend at the school's dorm and taking classes together, in a program designed to give young teenagers and tweeners a taste of college life, and some bonding time with their grand-parents.

UPDATE: Spencer Ackerman finds at least one civil libertarian to whom the Obama administration official might be referring with the above quote from the Post story; Kate Martin of the Center for National Security Studies:

Martin thinks that established law holds that the administration doesn't require any additional legal authorization to hold anyone captured on the battlefields of Afghanistan without charge until the end of hostilities -- that comes from the September 2001 Authorization to Use Military Force, as does dispensation for the 9/11 plotters -- but would need to charge or release any detainee picked up outside either Afghanistan or Iraq. Martin thinks the reported executive order might be the only thing standing in the way of an even broader congressional effort of the sort seen in the war supplemental that Daphne critiqued yesterday. Martin has expressed her organization's longstanding perspective on detainee matters to the administration's detentions task force.

So Martin supports it, but only to the extent that something from Congress might be worse. Given the way Congress has handled the possible closing of Gitmo this may be true, though I happen to think that Congress should be forced to craft an indefinite detention policy if that's what they want in exchange for closing Gitmo.

Glenn Greenwald has more though, as I've pointed out once before, he has a tendency to criticize the "many defenders" of Obama on various issues where Obama replicates Bush doctrines, without actually linking to or naming any of these defenders. Greenwald is a very thorough blogger, which is why I don't understand why he so eagerly reaches for the "some say" approach to blogging.


adam said...

I agree the Obama admin hasn't exactly pushed gay rights issues to the forefront (but given everything else, is that really surprising?), but isn't it the job of the Justice Dept to argue for laws on the books? Now there were terrible things written in that brief and the guy who wrote it should be fired, and of course I agree DOMA is terrible altogether, but Congress needs to repeal it (and DADT). Isn't using executive power to basically abrogate laws something we went after the Bush admin for?

From what I understand, the health care benefits were not things that the Obama admin could give with a exec order and legislation is being introduced in Congress by Tammy Baldwin to provide that.

Jobs are usually a lagging indicator for economic recovery so we need to give it a good while longer.

Oh, and I've never heard of that grandparents univesity thing. That's interesting.

Nat-Wu said...

As far as the jobs thing, it's a real problem. Even before the recession officially began, just about everybody was in denial about the real levels of unemployment (which I've been blogging about for years, you know). My prediction is that a lot of the jobs being shed won't come back.

The reason it's important not to be in denial about this is that it means we need more job retraining, more money for education, and a greater focus on creating jobs for people instead of the standard tactics of tax breaks for big companies and a focus on re-energizing Wall Street. What I mean is, most of the economists you hear talking speak as if the important thing is to get the Dow trading up, loans being made, and products being sold. In reality, we need to shift the focus to workers getting paid.

adam said...

Well, hopefully the Senate passes the energy bill too and we get more green jobs. Uh, other than that, yeah it sucks.