Archive for June 16th, 2009
Via Dana Goldstein, Ali Gharib makes the stellar point that what’s going on in Iran is reaffirmation of the Islamic Revolution, not a repudiation of it. Kate Klonick finds that problematic. But why, really? If Gharib is right, then what’s unfolding is a measure of reconciling the revolution with greater openness. There isn’t sufficient evidence to support the proposition that the people out in the streets in Iran are liberals. But that doesn’t diminish from the fact that what they’re fighting is deeply illiberal, and what they’re fighting for as baseline propositions — the principles of sound, trustworthy elections; the right to be free from violence and harassment — are eminently supportable. If they can harmonize the Islamic Revolution with those concepts, they’ll have done themselves and the world a great service. It’s not the case that, as Mark Krikorian writes, “We’ll know it’s a revolution when Iranian women start throwing off their headscarves en masse.” The fact that they’re demonstrating in their headscarves is proof enough. Let Iranian opposition sort out the balance between their religiosity and their politics for themselves.
I am watching season one of Six Feet Under, which I’ve never seen, and enjoying it a lot. I started thinking about the episodes so far and I became aware of how I was imposing a structure on them—categories, sub-categories, etc.—and I realized that I do that quite a bit. I just sat and thought through some examples of that sort of thinking—as in, for example, the table of contents of the Guide to Gourmet Shaving, or the way Cooking Compendium is organized.
I could even somehow visualize the process in motion, like moving translucent blocks around: stacking, sliding, putting together in various ways.
As I thought more about it, I realized that this is the way my mind works when I am trying to understand something. And I think of understanding something as being able to teach it, properly organized for optimal learning. So when I’m working on understanding, I have going on in the background the composition of a beginner’s book on whatever I’m trying to understand.
Apologies for the navel-gazing, but I only just figured this out. Maybe this is the way everyone works at understanding.
What’s up with this guy? Victor Zapanda at ThinkProgress:
MSNBC reports that the Obama administration has denied its request for the names of individuals who have visited the White House since the Inauguration. Additionally, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington announced today that it is suing the Department of Homeland Security after the non-partisan organization was denied a request for records of visits of “leading coal company executives.” The Obama administration’s explanation:
The administration ought to be able to hold secret meetings in the White House, “such as an elected official interviewing for an administration position or an ambassador coming for a discussion on issues that would affect international negotiations,” said Obama spokesman Ben LaBolt.
The Bush administration made the same arguments, which were ruled against twice in federal court. In fact, before his election, Obama promised that he would end the Bush administration’s practice of holding secret meetings in the White House, which is supposed to be “the people’s house”:
– In 2006, Obama criticized Cheney’s secret energy meetings: “When big oil companies are invited into the White House for secret energy meetings, it’s no wonder they end up with billions in tax breaks.” [1/26/06]
– In 2007, Obama promised on his first day to: “launch the most sweeping ethics reform in history to make the White House the people’s house and send the Washington lobbyists back to K Street.” [6/22/07]
– In 2008, Obama told Wisconsin voters: “This change will not be easy. It will require reforming our politics by taking power away from the lobbyists who kill good ideas and good plans with secret meetings and campaign checks.” [9/22/08]
The day after the Inauguration, Obama issued a memo saying, “my Administration is committed to creating an unprecedented level of openness in Government.” Obama had a long record of increasing accountability and transparency in government before he entered the White House. By opening up access to the White House visitor logs, Obama has an opportunity to fulfill his promise of making the White House the people’s house.
McCain, for example: "Bomb bomb bomb, bomb bomb Iran" (to the tune of the Beach Boys’ "Barbara Ann"). But now the same conservatives love the Iranian people. Greenwald:
I’m going to leave the debate about whether Iran’s election was "stolen" and the domestic implications within Iran to people who actually know what they’re talking about (which is a very small subset of the class purporting to possess such knowledge). But there is one point I want to make about the vocal and dramatic expressions of solidarity with Iranians issuing from some quarters in the U.S.
Much of the same faction now claiming such concern for the welfare of The Iranian People are the same people who have long been advocating a military attack on Iran and the dropping of large numbers of bombs on their country — actions which would result in the slaughter of many of those very same Iranian People. During the presidential campaign, John McCain infamously sang about Bomb, Bomb, Bomb-ing Iran. The Wall St. Journal published a war screed from Commentary‘s Norman Podhoretz entitled "The Case for Bombing Iran," and following that, Podhoretz said in an interview that he "hopes and prays" that the U.S. "bombs the Iranians." John Bolton and Joe Lieberman advocated the same bombing campaign, while Bill Kristol — with typical prescience — hopefully suggested that Bush might bomb Iran if Obama were elected. Rudy Giuliani actually said he would be open to a first-strike nuclear attack on Iran in order to stop their nuclear program.
Imagine how many of the people protesting this week would be dead if any of these bombing advocates had their way — just as those who paraded around (and still parade around) under the banner of Liberating the Iraqi People caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands of them, at least. Hopefully, one of the principal benefits of the turmoil in Iran is that it humanizes whoever the latest Enemy is. Advocating a so-called "attack on Iran" or "bombing Iran" in fact means slaughtering huge numbers of the very same people who are on the streets of Tehran inspiring so many — obliterating their homes and workplaces, destroying their communities, shattering the infrastructure of their society and their lives. The same is true every time we start mulling the prospect of attacking and bombing another country as though it’s some abstract decision in a video game.
After The Wall St. Journal published the Podhoretz war dance demanding that Iran be bombed, and after Podhoretz casually called for England to "bomb the Iranians into smithereens" if their sailors weren’t immediately returned, I wrote: …
Good column by Greenwald:
On May 13, when Obama announced he would attempt to suppress prisoner abuse photos on the ground that their release would inflame anti-American sentiment, I wrote:
Think about what Obama’s rationale would justify. Obama’s claim . . . means we should conceal or even outright lie about all the bad things we do that might reflect poorly on us. For instance, if an Obama bombing raid slaughters civilians in Afghanistan (as has happened several times already), then, by this reasoning, we ought to lie about what happened and conceal the evidence depicting what was done — as the Bush administration did — because release of such evidence would “would be to further inflame anti-American opinion and to put our troops in greater danger.” Indeed, evidence of our killing civilians in Afghanistan inflames anti-American sentiment far more than these photographs would. Isn’t it better to hide the evidence showing the bad things we do?
Last Friday, when yet another dispute arose between local Afghan officials and the U.S. military over whether a U.S. airstrike caused a large number of civilian deaths, I wrote a post entitled “Should the U.S. also suppress evidence of civilian deaths in Afghanistan?” and asked:
Using the standard that is now so accepted across the political spectrum in Washington — information that will inflame anti-American sentiment should be suppressed rather than disclosed so at to not endanger our troops — isn’t it better if we just cover-up, rather than learn the truth about, the civilian deaths we caused in Afghanistan? After all, news reports of dead Afghan women and children at the hands of American bombs obviously inflame anti-American sentiment and Endanger Our Troops at least as much as the disclosure of some additional torture photos would. By the prevailing reasoning of Washington, shouldn’t we want our government to hide the truth about what we did — lest anti-American anger and the risk of attack on Our Troops increase? Isn’t that the noble anti-transparency principle we’re now endorsing?
Continue reading. And note his UPDATE II:
Here is still more on Our New Era of Transparency:
Obama blocks list of visitors to White House
Taking Bush’s position, administration denies msnbc.com request for logs
The Obama administration is fighting to block access to names of visitors to the White House, taking up the Bush administration argument that a president doesn’t have to reveal who comes calling to influence policy decisions.
Despite President Barack Obama’s pledge to introduce a new era of transparency to Washington, and despite two rulings by a federal judge that the records are public, the Secret Service has denied msnbc.com’s request for the names of all White House visitors from Jan. 20 to the present. . . .
The Obama administration is arguing that the White House visitor logs are presidential records — not Secret Service agency records, which would be subject to the Freedom of Information Act. The administration ought to be able to hold secret meetings in the White House, “such as an elected official interviewing for an administration position or an ambassador coming for a discussion on issues that would affect international negotiations,” said Obama spokesman Ben LaBolt.
The new light being shined on our government is so bright as to almost be blinding.
Actually, he’s quoting the conclusions of the government study, but it’s well worth noting:
A group of 13 federal agencies, coordinated by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, has produced a report on the science behind Global Warming. The conclusions:
1. Global warming is unequivocal and primarily human-induced.
2. Climate changes are underway in the United States and are projected to grow.
3. Widespread climate-related impacts are occurring now and are expected to increase.
4. Climate change will stress water resources.
5. Crop and livestock production will be increasingly challenged.
6. Coastal areas are at increasing risk from sea-level rise and storm surge.
7. Threats to human health will increase.
8. Climate change will interact with many social and environmental stresses.
9. Thresholds will be crossed, leading to large changes in climate and ecosystems.
10. Future climate change and its impacts depend on choices made today.
Read the report here.
Dana Perino disagrees, of course. But her expertise in this field is… ?
No real surprise, but interesting. Sharona Coutts and Seth Hettena in ProPublica:
Financial firms showered nearly $1 million in political cash on the United Food and Commercial Workers union in California while a top union leader sat on the boards of big public pension funds in the state, an analysis of campaign finance records shows.
Sean Harrigan , the union’s former executive director, is now under scrutiny from the Securities and Exchange Commission, which has charged several firms and individuals with making improper payments to win investments from pension funds in New York and New Mexico.
Harrigan, 62, stepped down from the board of the Los Angeles Fire and Police Pension  system last month in response to the SEC inquiry into his dealings while at the fund. He was appointed to the LA fund in 2005 after serving as a trustee and board president at CalPERS from 1999 through late 2004.
His lawyer, Mark Byrne, said in a prepared statement that Harrigan is cooperating with the SEC inquiry and that, "as far as Mr. Harrigan is aware, no one has been provided favorable treatment, or penalized, for giving or not giving" to the union.
Harrigan’s union, however, pulled about a third of the $3 million it raised from 2001 to 2006 from players in the financial industry. About $500,000 came from donors who had business dealings with CalPERS, then the nation’s biggest pension fund .
Other major unions in California received few, if any, campaign contributions from investment or money management companies, a review of donations shows.
Campaign contributions have figured in a wide-ranging investigation  of pension fund kickbacks in New York, where Attorney General Andrew Cuomo issued an indictment naming several prominent investment firms that allegedly took part in a vast pay-to-play scheme.
Among them is Wetherly Capital Group, a Los Angeles firm that earns fees by introducing money managers to pension funds. Wetherly paid Harrigan a consulting fee three years ago, disclosure filings show.
None of the financial companies contacted about the UFCW contributions would comment about …