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Thursday, February 12, 2009


Happy two hundredth, dudes:


I didn't realize these guys were born on the exact same day. Crazy.


John Fabian Witt, a legal historian, explains how Lincoln went from dismissing wartime codes of conduct, to ultimately finding value in such standards. The rules of engagement Lincoln ultimately laid down would go on to become the core of the Geneva Conventions.

One of Abraham Lincoln's little-noted accomplishments has become his most unlikely legacy. He helped create the modern international rules that protect civilians, prevent torture, and limit the horrors of combat, the body of law known as the laws of war. Indeed, he was probably our most important law-of-war president, having crafted the very rules that George W. Bush and his Justice Department tried to destroy.

For the past seven years, America has repeated the journey Lincoln completed in 24 grueling months. Strong majorities of Americans now call for the dismantling of detention facilities at Guantanamo. Even stronger majorities oppose the use of torture in interrogations. As a nation, we have walked in Lincoln's footsteps, down an uncertain path from skepticism about the laws of war to a rediscovery of their pragmatic mix of toughness and humanity. President Obama, in his inaugural address, pledged to reconcile our interests and our ideals. This is precisely what Lincoln's laws of war sought to accomplish, rejecting lawlessness while relentlessly pursuing threats to our way of life.


Some Senate heavy hitters have introduced legislation to set parameters around Executive Branch's use of the "state secrets" privilege. This would actually be an even better development than if the Obama administration had chosen to refrain from widely asserting the privilege, as it would be a formal, institutional check on this power, which would remain in existence for future Presidents to contend with.

Glenn Greenwald:

What we need far more than a benevolent and magnanimous President is a re-assertion of Congressional authority as a check on executive power. Even if Obama decided unilaterally to refrain from exercising some of the powers which the Bush administration seized, that would be a woefully insufficient check against future abuse, since it would mean that these liberties would be preserved only when a benevolent ruler occupies the White House (and, then, only when the benevolent occupant decides not to use the power). Acts of Congress -- along with meaningful, enforced oversight of the President -- are indispensable for preventing these abuses. And that's true whether or not one believes that the current occupant of the Oval Office is a good, kind and trustworthy ruler.


David Axelrod on his predecessors:

Axelrod said he was "disappointed" by former Vice President Dick Cheney's comments regarding the planned closure of the Guantanamo Bay prison and the suggestion that it would increase the likelihood of a terrorist attack; he described himself as "surprised" by former White House chief of staff Andy Card's remark that not wearing a jacket in the Oval Office was disrespectful.

But, Axelrod saved his strongest condemnation for the man who held his job in the Bush White House: Karl Rove. Of Rove's criticism of Obama's economic stimulus plan, Axelrod said: "The last thing that I think we are looking for at this juncture is advice on fiscal integrity or ethics from Karl Rove -- anyone who's read the newspapers for the last eight years would laugh at that."



Andrew Sullivan on why Judd Gregg withdrew his name for Sec. of Commerce:

When Judd Gregg approached the Obama administration to see if he could be a part of it, he was assuming that his own party wasn't going to adopt a policy of total warfare against the newly elected president in a time of enormous economic peril. Between that moment and the current all-out ideological assault on Obama, his position became untenable. His recusal on the stimulus package provoked fury at home (check out the comments here) and dyspepsia among the GOP who are intent on responding to an open hand with a clenched fist.

I have to say even I am a little taken aback by the force of the Republican assault. Even in a downturn as swift and alarming as this one, even after an election that clearly favored one approach over another, even after the most conciliatory efforts by an incoming president in memory, these people have gone to war against the president. The president should stay cool. The rest of us should realize what motivates the GOP: the opportunism of selective ideology.


E.J. Dionne Jr. on the bailout:

The plan seemed to be defined more by what it didn't want to be than by what it actually was, inspired more by a concern with how things look than what actually works.

Geithner did not want the administration to seem leftist, so he rejected the temporary nationalization of the bad banks. Yet the advantage of nationalization is that it's straightforward: The government would take over the bad banks -- as opposed to throwing endless sums of money at them -- clean them up, and sell them off.

Temporary nationalization is far from a perfect solution. But it's a better idea than having taxpayers take on bad assets while letting the banks keep the good ones. Socializing losses and privatizing profits is a recipe for ripping off taxpayers. It's still not clear, to me at least, how Geithner's proposal will protect the interests of taxpayers.

There is nothing wrong with a sensible centrism that tries to balance competing goods. But Washington has become too concerned with appearances and with calculating the distance from some arbitrary midpoint in any given debate. The sensible center should be defined by what works, even if that means discovering that the true middle ground isn't where we thought it was.


This guy seems to know what he's talking about...

former IMF chief economist Simon Johnson, who now teaches at MIT, brings a slightly different perspective to the U.S. banking crisis, that of someone who has studied and been involved with resolving financial crises in developing nations.

More from Johnson here.


Yglesias on the stimulus:

Realistically, though, the largest impacts of the stimulus are going to be things that are hard to see because they're things that aren't happen. State governments will lay off or furlough workers, but they'll do less of this than they would have done had the stimulus not passed. Which means those employees will spend more at their local retail outlets than they otherwise would have done. So the retailers of the country will lay off fewer workers than they otherwise might, and low-cost retailers may add jobs and capacity faster than they otherwise might.

Something worth keeping in mind.


This guy is what you'd call a character:



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