The Foreign-Policy Establishment

Reading Time: 3 minutes Stephen M. Walt, a professor of international relations at Harvard University, recently wrote an interesting piece for Foreign Policy magazine about what topics are considered “taboo” among establishment foreign-policy wonks—a group that includes Walt himself as a member. The article is equally compelling for what it says as for what it implies about Walt, as Read More

A Drive for Unrestricted Executive Power

Reading Time: 2 minutes The New York Times comes out with a strong editorial, calling for an investigation into Bush administration security abuses, now that it is clear that the practices were not necessary to protect the national interest. We’ve known for years that the Bush administration ignored and broke the law repeatedly in the name of national security. Read More

Opinions to the Highest Bidder

Reading Time: 2 minutes The American Conservative Union describes itself as “the nation’s oldest and largest grassroots conservative lobbying organization” devoted to, among other conservative ideals, “a market economy.” For the ACU, it seems, everything should be determined by market forces—including what policies it should support. Politico’s Mike Allen has caught the organization in an embarrassing pay-for-play scandal: The Read More

Questions about Developing C.I.A. Story

Reading Time: 2 minutes An official story is forming about the secret program that the C.I.A. hid from Congress: the agency planned to organize assassination squads to target Al Qaeda terrorists around the world, according to a lead article in today’s New York Times. Although this account has gained widespread acceptance, there’s reason to be skeptical. As I noted Read More

The Mega-embassy That Wasn’t

Reading Time: 2 minutes Have you heard that Iran built a mega-embassy in Nicaragua? Word of this development has passed the lips of many a conservative anxious about Tehran’s intentions. As the Washington Post reports: It is not clear where the report of the embassy in Managua began. But in the past two years, it has made its way Read More

CIA Lies to Congress

Reading Time: 2 minutes [Update below—Ed.] During last spring’s controversy over whether congressional leaders were briefed by the CIA over its use of “enhanced interrogation techniques,” Russ called for an investigation into the congressional briefing process. It is now all the more clear that such an investigation is a must. Yesterday, CQPolitics reported that CIA Director Leon Panetta admitted Read More

In Defense of Lobbyists

Reading Time: 2 minutes In the days after the November election, Obama’s advisers announced “the strictest, and most far reaching ethics rules of any transition team in history.” These rules included a ban on lobbyists joining the new administration. Why would political ethics demand such a prohibition? According to Obama’s transition team, the new policy sought to curb the Read More

UBS or Just Plain BS?

Reading Time: 2 minutes The Obama Justice Department has just floated a trial balloon to see if it can drop a legal effort to force the Swiss Bank UBS to disclose the names of 52,000 rich Americans suspected of using the bank to evade US taxes. Back in February, the Justice Department sued the bank in an effort to Read More

Hedge Funds Flex Lobbying Muscle

Reading Time: 1 minute The Wall Street Journal has a solid piece of reporting on the continued power of hedge funds to shape their own—and the nation’s—destiny. The lede says it all (subscription required): Many hedge funds were relieved last week when the Obama administration’s financial-overhaul plan included no big surprises or threats to the lucrative, secretive industry. It Read More

Goldman Sachs Record Bonuses: Where's the Investigation?

Reading Time: 2 minutes Goldman Sachs is on pace to make record bonus payouts after a robust first half, the Guardian newspaper reported on Sunday. Goldman staff in London were briefed on the outlook and told they could look forward to the bonus hikes if the company registers, as predicted, its most profitable year ever, the report said. The Read More

The End of American Hegemony?

Reading Time: 2 minutes At TruthDig, Chris Hedges, playing off an economist’s piece in the Financial Times, posits a dire future based on the collapse of the dollar, largely on account of the humongous military budget’s role in ballooning the deficit. The article, typically lively and controversial Hedges fare, is worth reading for its analysis, as are Hedges’s comments Read More

The Charity of Lobbyists

Reading Time: 2 minutes USA Today published a thorough investigation of the donations lobbyists pour into the favorite non-profits of Congressmen to gain influence and buy face time at charity events. Only since 2007, when congressional ethics rules were changed, has such beneficence had to be reported. The article shows that the reform didn’t come soon enough, since the Read More

Moral Hazard, Fed Style

Reading Time: 2 minutes How exactly did the Federal Reserve gain the emergency authority to loan more than $1 trillion of taxpayer money to the banks secretly and without oversight? The Washington Post explains today in a long investigative piece by Binyamin Appelbaum and Neil Irwin. As it turns out, Sen. Chris Dodd slipped the necessary language into an Read More

A Muppet In President Obama's Court

Reading Time: 2 minutes Sonia Sotomayor is not the only recent Obama appointment. She may be the most significant pick, but she is hardly the most intriguing. To wit, I direct your attention to a short Associated Press item, which appeared in papers including the New York Times, about some of President Obama’s recent ambassadorial appointments: President Obama has Read More

The Way of the Warrior: Media Coverage of Gen. McChrystal

Reading Time: 4 minutes On May 12, 2009, Defense Secretary Robert Gates selected Gen. Stanley McChrystal to head our “Af-Pak” military operations. Though the selection was widely praised, two unsettling issues have dogged McChrystal’s ascent to the top of the military hierarchy. First, he participated in the cover-up of Pat Tillman’s mysterious “friendly-fire” death in Afghanistan. Second, as reported Read More

Obama’s Appointee Scorecard: Look #2

Reading Time: 2 minutes The other day, I wrote about the need to study the qualifications of presidential appointees. I noted how Obama’s choice for head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, unlike Bush’s guy, Michael Brown, actually had decades of experience in precisely this area. However, before we start assuming that Obama only appoints people based on credentials, Read More

Obama’s Appointee Scorecard: Look #1

Reading Time: 1 minute One thing the media ought to do on a regular basis is provide updates on the quality of appointees a president makes. Irrespective of political philosophy, most of us can agree that people should be appointed to positions for which they appear qualified. And they should not be hired for positions where their experience runs Read More

Interrogating Congress

Reading Time: 1 minute Recently, I raised some questions about the reports that Democratic members of Congress had been aware of CIA interrogation methods. Now, members of Congress themselves are suggesting that the CIA put out the information about the briefings in order to pass the buck. There are crucial questions we should be asking about the CIA, about Read More

Tortured Rationalizations

Reading Time: 2 minutes In an opinion piece, the Wall Street Journal convincingly argues that top Democrats in Congress have been speaking out of both sides of their mouths in criticizing Bush Administration policy on Enhanced Interrogation Techniques (EITs), also known as torture. These days, Speaker Pelosi insists she heard and saw no evil. “We were not — I Read More