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  • 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...
  • Copyrights and Consumers: Not at the Times

    The New York Times had an article this morning about a new digital copyright law in France. The main features (according to the article) appear to be a requirement that music downloading services be usable on multiple devices (as opposed to Apple's Ipod monopoly) and a relatively small penalty for unauthorized downloading of copyrighted material. For comments on the law, the Times turned to a representative of Apple, a representative of the recorded music industry, a representative of the software industry, and a business consultant. This would be like writing an article on steel tariffs and only getting comments from the steel companies and their workers. Wouldn't it be appropriate to get some comments from consumer groups or at least economists who could discuss the potential benefits to consumers and the economy from lower prices? --Dean Baker
  • DEBATING VOTE BY...

    DEBATING VOTE BY MAIL. The Prospect put out a special report this month on Oregon's system of all-mail voting, which is serving as a model for efforts to spread mail voting in other states across the country. We then invited six experts and advocates, including former Oregon secretary of state Phil Keisling and avowed mail-voting opponent Curtis Gans of American University, to debate the issues raised in the report. The ensuing exchange was both lively and, given the subject matter, remarkably heated. For folks interested in electoral reform, it's not to be missed , and people should use this comments thread to weigh in with their own thoughts; participants in the exchange are interested in seeing them. --The Editors
  • THE COLBERT QUESTION:...

    THE COLBERT QUESTION: MADAM LEADER SPEAKS. TNR is to be commended for reviving the epic Stephen Colbert funniness debate for another week. But as James Wood puts it, "[i]t is time -- it is always time -- for some literary criticism." Wood's take is insufficiently pro-Colbert by my standards but insightful nonetheless. (See this post at Matt 's place for a choice excerpt.) The Colbert debate living on for another day gives me the excuse to finally mention Nancy Pelosi 's comment at a breakfast meeting with journalists that the Prospect held on Friday. As it was adjourning I approached the congresswoman and said that we had all been dancing around the real issue of the day: What was her position on Colbert's speech? Pelosi ducked the question, while still making it clear which side she's really on: "Well, I wasn't at the dinner and didn't see the performance. But I watch his show every night and love him." (Recall that Pelosi's second-in-command, K-Street Democrat Steny Hoyer , had...

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