Archive

  • THE WASHINGTON POST'S...

    THE WASHINGTON POST 'S POLL IS FLAWED. Let me get the fun part out of the way first. Here's an answer to Matt 's question about the identity of Specialist (whose criticism, which has on occasion targeted yours truly, is indeed valuable and well-argued sometimes). "Specialist" is the code name for a secret team of a dozen White House interns targeting liberal blogs who have been chained to their desks in the basement of the West Wing and who suffer regular whippings at the hands of Tony Snow . Seriously, there's also a very good answer to Mike 's question : Why the heck did 63 percent of respondents to the Washington Post 's poll initially find the controversial NSA program acceptable? Here's a possibility: The poll is seriously flawed. Take a look at the poll itself . The key question comes after four other questions, each of which frames this purely as civil liberties vs. terrorism, with no mention of legality. And the question itself is framed that way, too. It reads: It's been...
  • IS THE NSA...

    IS THE NSA PROGRAM ILLEGAL? COULD IT BE CRIMINAL, TOO? Is the NSA's newly-revealed program to collect the phone records of millions of Americans illegal? Experts are expressing different opinions this morning. But Kate Martin , director of the Center for National Security Studies, thinks it's clearly illegal -- and she says it may even be criminal , too. I just got off the phone with her. And I'm going to try -- and probably fail -- to accurately boil down what she said into something real, real simple. Her view is that there's only one legal way for NSA to get such records -- with an order from the court created by the FISA. Others are arguing there may be other ways -- by subpoena or by a so-called "National Security Letter" from the FBI. But she makes a strong case that this just isn't so. The key question is, Does the NSA have subpoena power? If it does, it might not need a court order. If it doesn't, however, it seems clear that it would need a court order. Got that? Martin says...
  • WHEN PSYCHOTICS ATTACK....

    WHEN PSYCHOTICS ATTACK. Giving a speech at a Library of Congress lecture yesterday, former senator Alan Simpson was "shocked to read that House Republicans wouldn't pass a mental-health bill because it had Democratic sponsors. 'You've got to have rocks for brains to do that,' the Wyoming Republican complained. 'We never had that kind of thing. We just didn't do that to each other.'" It's not the rocks for brains that bother me so much as the extra headstones. America views treatment for mental illness as a luxury commodity, obtainable for the rich, unnecessary for the poor. Maybe that's why 300,000 jail inmates take medications for "severe" mental illnesses like schizophrenia, or why the largest mental facility in the nation is not a hospital but the Los Angeles County jail, or why folks with serious mental disorders are 5.5 times likelier to kill a police officer than anyone else. This week, out in Virginia, a police detective named Vicky Armel was gunned down by a mentally ill...
  • WHAT�S THIS ABOUT?

    WHAT�S THIS ABOUT? Like any lib, I was somewhat surprised by that Washington Post poll this morning finding that 63 percent of Americans approve of the NSA surveillance program (and when people were asked how they�d feel if their own calls were being monitored, approval went up by 3 percent!). Seems to me there are three possible explanations for these numbers. First, Americans don�t care that much about civil liberties. Second, on this matter unlike virtually every other matter under the sun, Americans believe Bush and trust him at his word. OK, explanation one is sort of true, but there�ve been notable times in our recent history when clear majorities were outraged by domestic snooping. Explanation two seems highly unlikely. And so, explanation three: A lot of Americans are still very, very scared of another terrorist attack. And they think, Hey, whatever it takes. This is a good thing for us to be reminded of, I guess. I almost never think about the possibility of another terrorist...
  • WHO IS SPECIALIST?...

    WHO IS SPECIALIST? I have to say that I'm growing concerned about the rapid pace with which frequent TAPPED commenter and detractor Specialist manages to put up comments on this blog. What person could have the requisite stamina? Is it possible that the NSA is running some kind of massive blog-trolling program with hundreds of operatives -- or automated computer routines -- unleashed upon the progressive blogosphere to contest our arguments? The American people want to know. --Matthew Yglesias
  • PRIVACY FOR ME...

    PRIVACY FOR ME BUT NOT FOR THEE. Many props to the Washington Post who led off their front-page, top-'o'-the-paper story on the NSA scandal with this bolded quote: The privacy of ordinary Americans is fiercely protected in all of our activities. We're not mining or trolling through the personal lives of millions of innocent Americans. Our efforts are focused on links to al-Qaeda and their known affiliates. Youch. Of course, given Bush 's "with us or against us" mentality, it may indeed be that furious opposition to him and his administration is enough to hint at al-Qaeda sympathies. Meanwhile, the new Harris poll , after all, has Bush at 29 percent. 29 percent ! The president has met the enemy, and it is us. Who can blame him for wiretapping the whole damn country? It's also worth noting that this administration has jealously protected its own right to keep its links, consultations, and conversations secret. That case with Cheney and the energy records wasn't about a transcript, it...
  • POISONED FRUIT. Perhaps...

    POISONED FRUIT. Perhaps this is obvious, but the thing about the big NSA phone records dragnet is that this gives us the previously missing explanation as to why the administration thought it was so important to illegally wiretap people without warrants. That used to be a bit mysterious -- if the idea was to spy on people with al-Qaeda connections, getting a warrant should have been easy. The problem is that the evidentiary basis for believing the people in question had al-Qaeda connections now turns out to have been illegally obtained evidence from the broader NSA program. And then the problem reiterates itself -- if the listening-in stage of the program reveals anything interesting, you can't use that in a court either. You can't use it to get further warrants, you can't use it as the basis of a prosecution, basically you can't use it at all. So if you want to act, you're going to need to do one of these detention-without-trials deals or maybe a "rendition" or a military tribunal or...
  • MORE ON DEAN,...

    MORE ON DEAN, AGAIN. Following up on Ezra 's contention yesterday that he's not an anti-Deanie meanie, I'd also add that my own thinking on the 50-state strategy is far less negative , as should be clear from this April item, than Kevin Drum suggested: I've spent some time in recent weeks interviewing people who work for state Democratic Parties in some of the reddest precincts in the nation, and all I can say is that based on how little support they have on the ground from interest groups, progressive activists, or the national Democrats (though they have more now than they used to, thanks to Howard Dean), it's somewhere between a miracle and a testament to the constancy of the American people that Democrats continue to win national office in some of these places. Even though the present political environment would seem to be the most favorable Democrats have faced in a long time, the president's weakness must be measured against the Democrat's even greater on-the-ground weakness in...
  • EVERYTHING IS EVERYTHING....

    EVERYTHING IS EVERYTHING. Last week I argued that the burgeoning prostitution and bribery scandal involving contractor Brent Wilkes could be used to tie the abuse of women to abuse of detainees in the public mind and create an overall picture of the attitude of the administration toward human dignity. Now Laura Rozen is suggesting those two things have even more in common than a disrespect for human rights: � the source on Archer Logistics later pointed me to something else potentially far more explosive: that Wilkes was in discussions to get a huge contract -- a few hundred million dollars -- from the CIA to set up an off the books plane network for the Agency, that was only scuttled pretty deep into the Cunningham revelations. "I Imagine that since their whole flying operation has been outed, it makes it tough to operate clandestine flights," the source explained. "I bet it would cost a bundle to set up a whole new operation that no one knew about ... How do they operate a secret...
  • The Medicare and Social Security Hoax

    Medicare and Social Security costs are projected to soar over the next decade as the baby boomers retire. Medicare and road maintenance costs are projected to soar over the next decade as the baby boomers retire. Health care costs in the United States are out of control, with per capita health care costs rising at rate that is more than 2 percentage points more rapid than the rate of growth of per capita income. If this pattern continues, health care costs will have a devastating effect on the private economy and also on the federal budget because of government health care programs like Medicare and Medicaid. The obvious policy response to the projections of exploding health care costs would be to find some way to fix the U.S. health care system (no other country has a problem of the same magnitude). It is dishonest to portray the issue as a problem of aging, we can afford the costs associated with aging, the problem is our health care system. When the media reports, as the Post did...

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