A lot of John Hollinger’s purported surprises thus far this season don’t seem very surprising. Like he lists Rudy Fernandez’ good play as a surprise, and then immediately concedes “OK, most folks aren’t surprised by the idea that Fernandez can play, not after he lit up the U.S. squad in the second half of that epic gold-medal match in Beijing.” Right. I expected good things. People forget that the caliber of play in the Spanish league is higher than in Division I college basketball. Lots of European prospects get drafted very young and with minimal professional experience. Fernandez isn’t that kind of rookie, he’s 23 years old and he’d played extensively and well in the ACB and in international competition.
Likewise, why is Hollinger surprised that Andris Biedrins is playing well? He’s a good player, he played well last year. Young very good big man plays somewhat better than he did the previous year! Not so surprising. Do I need to write my Biedrins blog post again.
A federal judge ordered today that five Algerian nationals detained at Guantanamo Bay should be released. The court found that the government had “provided insufficient evidence to continue their detentions.” The Washington Post reports:
The decision came in the case of six Algerians who were detained in Bosnia after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks and have been held at the military prison in Cuba for nearly seven years. U.S. District Judge Richard J. Leon, a Bush appointee, ruled that five of the men must be released “forthwith” and ordered the government to engage in diplomatic efforts to find them new homes. [...]
In the case of the sixth Algerian, Belkacem Bensayah, Leon found that the government had met its evidentiary burden and could continue to hold him. … The landmark ruling is the first by a federal judge who has weighed the government’s evidence in lawsuits brought by scores of detainees who are challenging their detentions.
The New York Times notes that in 2002, “President Bush made the government’s allegations against the men a showcase of his administration’s approach to dealing with terrorists. He said in his State of the Union address that the six men had been planning a bomb attack on the United States Embassy in Sarajevo, Bosnia.” Glenn Greenwald writes that the ruling demonstrates the “grotesque injustices we have wrought with Guantanamo and our denial of basic due process to detainees.”
Editor’s note: The Wonk Room’s Brad Johnson is attending the Los Angeles Auto Show this week. Here is his first dispatch.
In an interview earlier today, Britta Gross, General Motors’ manager of Hydrogen and Electrical Infrastructure Development talks about working with electric utilities to prepare for the widescale deployment of the plug-in hybrid Chevrolet Volt. As she and the other managers of the Volt project discuss the next-generation vehicle they plan to put into production in 2010, GM’s CEO Rick Wagoner flew down to Washington, D.C. to plead for a bailout for his teetering company.
The mood at the auto show is subdued and uncertain, with mixed messages of machismo, affordability, and environmental responsibility. How the industry handles the great challenges of today will determine its future. As Gross said, “These are tough times for automakers, but a very exciting time.”
Marin Cogan has a great piece on the right-wing’s mobilization against the phantom menace of the fairness doctrine:
On Election Day, conservatives found a new bogeyman in Senator Chuck Schumer, after Fox News host Bill Hemmer cornered him about the issue on the air. Schumer just smirked: “I think we should all try to be fair and balanced, don’t you?” Rush Limbaugh seized on Schumer’s comments as evidence that the Democrats would “do everything they can” to bring the doctrine back. Two days after the election, National Review’s Peter Kirsanow tried to rally the troops to preempt the return of the policy. “Waiting until Inauguration Day to get geared up is too late. By that time the Fairness Doctrine Express will be at full steam–wavering Democrats will be pressed to support the new Democratic president, weak-kneed Republicans will want to display comity, the mainstream media will not be saddened to see talk radio annihilated and much of the public will be too enraptured by Obama’s Camelot inauguration to notice or care.”
To figure out who was causing such agitation, I went searching for the proponents of the fairness doctrine. I looked at Obama’s position–and it turns out that he doesn’t want the policy reinstated. Then I called the array of Democratic congressmen who had been tagged by conservatives as doctrine proponents. But they all denied any intention to push for its reinstatement. As some of the world’s great egotists, it’s not surprising that Limbaugh and Bill O’Reilly believe they would be the first political prisoners interred in an Obama administration. But, the more I searched for actual evidence of the doctrine’s return, the more I had to conclude that Schumer was just messing with their heads.
It’s very strange. Political movements mischaracterize the other side’s general goals all the time. But I’ve never heard of anything like the current conservative mania for blocking a particular legislative provision that nobody is trying to enact.
The rules would eliminate the input of federal wildlife scientists in some endangered species cases, [by allowing] the federal agency in charge of building, authorizing or funding a project to determine for itself whether a project would be likely to harm endangered wildlife and plants.
At today’s White House press conference, a reporter asked if the Associated Press had accurately described the proposed regulatory change. Perino responded first by saying she didn’t have the documentation with her, but suggested that the rule change would have little effect because the ESA doesn’t help protect “any species, including ours” anyway:
PERINO: I don’t have [the documentation] with me. I know conceptually what we support. And I know that the Endangered Species Act is a tangled web that doesn’t actually help support any species, including our own. …
More disturbing, however, is how widespread the last-minute assault on the federal government’s environmental regulatory structure has become. The White House’s other last minute initiatives include:
– Eliminating environmental reviews of fishing regulations. A rule change proposed by National Marine Fisheries Service would repeal a requirement that “environmental impact statements be prepared for certain fisheries-management decisions.” Instead, the government would “give review authority to regional councils dominated by commercial and recreational fishing interests.”
– Allowing more emissions from power plants. Over the objections of half of its 10 regional administrators, the Environmental Protection Agency is “finalizing new air-quality rules that would make it easier to build coal-fired power plants, oil refineries and other major polluters near national parks and wilderness areas” by weakening the Clean Air Act.
– Opening protected wilderness areas to energy development. Despite being blocked by “federal court and administrative rulings,” the Bureau of Land Management is “reviving plans to sell oil and gas leases in pristine wilderness areas in eastern Utah that have long been protected from development.”
As Rep. Nick Rahall (D-WV), chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, told the Wall Street Journal, “This administration will stop at nothing to jam through as many reckless proposals as they can before the clock runs out.”
Our guest bloggers are Caroline Wadhams, National Security Senior Policy Analyst at the Center for American Progress Action Fund, and Jenny Shin.
In more disturbing news for Pakistan’s security situation and the U.S.-NATO mission in Afghanistan, yesterday, the Washington Post reported that U.S. officials are now looking to find safer alternative routes into Afghanistan for strategic supply lines that pass through Pakistan. The Taliban have been attacking these supply lines, which deliver about 75 percent of NATO and U.S. supplies, at unprecedented levels, stealing military equipment, ammunition and arms, and food, valued around $13 million. New routes through Georgia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan are being considered by the Department of Defense to protect these convoys and secure the flow of supplies for NATO and U.S. forces.
The backdrop for these incidents is a steady stream of violent clashes, bombings and assassinations by insurgents in Pakistan against Pakistanis themselves. On Wednesday, General Amir Faisal Alvi, the former chief of Pakistan’s elite commando unit, was shot dead. On Tuesday, Taliban and tribal elders clashed in the Bajaur Agency of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas of Pakistan; ten members of the Taliban and four elders were killed. And on Monday, at least four paramilitary soldiers of the Pakistani Frontier Corps were killed when a suicide bomber drove a car into a security checkpoint.
As security deteriorates in both Afghanistan and Pakistan, the United States finds itself increasingly drawn into military action in both countries. Yesterday, for the first time, the United States conducted an attack with a Predator drone outside of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas in Pakistan– deeper inside Pakistan territory than ever before. Read more
In a press conference this afternoon, Democratic congressional leaders announced that they were not able to reach a deal on a rescue package for the struggling auto industry, reportedly rejecting “compromise legislation worked out by key senators from auto states.” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said that they would give the automobile industry a second chance: They must present a plan for viability no later than Dec. 2 and possibly submit to another round of hearings. Congress may then come back and vote during the week of Dec. 8. “Until they show us the plan, we cannot show them the money,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). Watch a portion of today’s press conference:
The Wonk Room’s Pat Garofalo explains the necessary components for any auto rescue package, including strong oversight and requirements for innovation.
There’s some interest in what becoming Homeland Security Secretary would mean for Janet Napolitano’s prospects as a Senate candidate. I would imagine that it will only mean good things. Nothing about running DHS prevents her from running for Senate in 2010 or, indeed, from running against John Kyl in 2012. Indeed, being at DHS is probably better to set up a 2012 run, and given that John McCain says he’s not retiring, that’s her better shot.
But beyond all that, note that she’s getting out as governor of Arizona while the going is still good. Being a governor of any state in 2009 is going to be ugly. It’s going to be all about cutting spending and raising taxes, while dealing with increased demand for public assistance and in all likelihood rising crime rates. Arizona was a major real estate bubble state, so it’s going to be especially unfun. It’s also a state that’s been in some respects benefiting economically from the war in Iraq, making things even worse. She’s very popular right now, though, and if she gets out and manages to bring about some improvements at DHS she’ll stay popular.
Jon Henke has a smart post at The Next Right about CAP/CAPAF and the role these institutions have played in the progressive revival.
One word of caution I would offer, however, to people looking at building the next set of conservative institutions is that while it’s always good to learn from precedent, it’s not smart to slavishly imitate what exists. Insofar as CAP’s been successful, it’s been successful because it’s been responsive to the specific situation and filled roles on the progressive side that needed filling. The “gaps” on the right are in different places. In particular, the communications spaces aren’t remotely close to mirror-images of each other. Conservatives have both the luxury and the burden of operating with big, entrenched, profitable conservative media institutions like Fox News and the talk radio universe. I’m not sure what the specific implications of that are, but it does mean that if you’re thinking about creating and marketing new conservative ideas, you’re talking about operating under very different circumstances.
Notwithstanding the cardboard Santas who seem to have arrived in stores this year near Halloween, the holiday season starts in seven days with Thanksgiving. And so it will come to pass once again that many people will spend four weeks biting on tongues lest they say “Merry Christmas” and perchance, give offense. Christmas, the holiday that dare not speak its name.
This year we celebrate the desacralized “holidays” amid what is for many unprecedented economic ruin — fortunes halved, jobs lost, homes foreclosed. People wonder, What happened? One man’s theory: A nation whose people can’t say “Merry Christmas” is a nation capable of ruining its own economy.
After cataloging a series of complex economic factors that do relate to the financial crisis, Henninger concludes that what really went wrong is that “the steady secularizing and insistent effort at dereligioning America” led to “subprime personal behavior by borrowers and bankers.”