May 21, 2009


So Jake Tapper of ABC tweets the following:

does POTUS think it's safe to put detainees in US prisons?

Throwing hands in the air I tweet back:

@jaketapper You mean as opposed to safely jailing serial killers and domestic terrorists? What is wrong with you people?

I get a direct message saying that I am being "tiresome." Of course, he doesn't follow me, so I cannot DM back.

So I'll put the reply here.

Jake-- the point is that this is such an  incredibly stupid question that I find it disturbing that you and other members of the Beltway media take it in the least bit seriously.  The people who are raising the question are lying about their concern, and engaging in fearmongering.  They know perfectly well that the US military can transport individual prisoners to secure facilities,  where people can be kept locked up. The US is very good at imprisonment.

Rather than asking whether Obama thinks it is "safe" to put detainees from Guantanamo in supermax prison facilities, what you should be doing is asking elected Republican officials what the heck they are talking about. Every single Senator's state has a max security prison.  Ask them about the rate of jail breaks from those facilities.  Ask them if their prisons are so poorly administered that they cannot hold a prisoner.

Fecklessly following whatever idiotic talking point that comes out of Republican mouths is destroying your, and your colleagues, credibility, Jake.

I suppose it is tiresome to hear that.  But it's no less true.

May 8, 2009

Prevention is Underrated

April 9, 2009 16:38

DKos's public health expert DemFromCT has a link to a Nature editorial that starts out:

Complacency, not overreaction, is the greatest danger posed by the flu pandemic. That's a message scientists would do well to help get across.

As I've read in earlier posts by DemFromCT, the key to preventing a large number of deaths from a virulent swine flu virus is to get the reinfection rate down below 1 per infected person. Then it snuffs itself. The trouble is that this is nearly impossible to do if too many people are infected. So you need to act very early in the process of the flu's spread. Judging by the number of joke threads running through twitterstreams, this is not widely understood. The public health professionals appear to be overreacting to a small number of cases.

So if the CDC and the WHO are successful in limiting the spread of the disease, they will be seen not as successful managers but as nervous nelliew. And it will be harder, next time, to implement effective measures precisely because they were so effective.

This reminded me of the Y2K computer scare. In fact, a lot of work was done, a lot of money was spent, and the crisis was averted. But the very success of the effort led to many people concluding that there really hadn't been an incipient crisis after all.

Moreover, not only did the Y2K software repairs prevent a collapse of corporate computer systems, it also forced the creation of systems of off site backups and disaster recovery. This, in turn, was partly responsible for the speed with which Wall Street was able to restart their systems following 9/11.

Robust systems that prevent disaster are hard to justify to bean-counters, and taxpayers. But that is the right way to design a system.


May 8, 2009 09:19

Adam Liptak writes a largely contentless piece about Souter and his possble replacements.

But I noticed two utterly conventional and very irksome elements. The first is that he off-handedly describes Souter as "liberal."  This is simply not an accurate characterization.  It's true that Souter respects precedent and is not particularly activist  in his rulings. It is simply bizarre  that a justice who treats stare decisis as an important principle be labeled "liberal," especially in such an off-hand fashion. 

This isn't a bad thing for progressives looking for a real liberal to be appointed to the court. But it is an illustration of just how far to the right the Overton Window has shifted.   That upholding a 1973 ruling that has been the law of the land for more than a generation, and is widely accepted by rank and file Americans makes a Justice into a "liberal" flies in the face of the dictionary definitions of liberal and conservative.

The second irksome element is this:

Justice Antonin Scalia’s views about the importance of adhering to the text and original meaning of the Constitution and statutes, for instance, has come to dominate conservative judicial thinking.

While it's true that Republicans constantly repeat this claim,  it is a canard, just as is their deriding "activist judges."  It is hard to find an example of flouting the Founders intent more striking than Bush v Gore, nor an example of more aggressive activism.  Another example of Scalia's wing's activist disrespect for the constitution and the legislature was the Lilly Ledbetter opinion.

This article is an excellent illustration of Walter Pincus' analysis of the decline of journalism, posted yesterday in the Columbia Journalism Review:

Today, mainstream print and electronic media want to be neutral, presenting both or all sides as if they were refereeing a game in which only the players—the government and its opponents—can participate. They have increasingly become common carriers, transmitters of other people’s ideas and thoughts, irrespective of import, relevance, and at times even accuracy.

Conservatives have excellled at their PR approach, of falsely characterizing themselves and the opposition, setting the conventional frames for the lazy media to follow.