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

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

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

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

A Precursor to Revolution?

Reading Time: 1 minute Pulitzer-Prize-winning investigative journalist and tax expert David Cay Johnston recently gave a provocative interview to the Vermont independent weekly Seven Days. In it, he reveals that he once wanted to become a homicide detective for the LAPD (a dream more common among investigative journalists than you might think) and that, despite his railing against the Read More

Leakaholics Anonymous

Reading Time: 1 minute Apparently, I am not alone in being troubled by current large-media practices in reference to leaked material and unnamed sources. You can see what I had to say previously here and here, when I focused on the New York Times. Now comes Slate’s Today’s Papers column to note some similar problems at the Washington Post Read More

Gold Rush for Lobbyists

Reading Time: 1 minute Reform may be in the air, but the Sunlight Foundation has a new report noting that nearly 1,700 new clients have signed up with lobbying firms in DC in the first quarter of 2009. Sunlight describes their initial findings as a “first pass” at scrutinizing a database of lobbying registrations. Of particular interest: Our first Read More

Leahy's Truth Commission Hits the Skids

Reading Time: 3 minutes Those of you following the prosecution trail will be interested to know that Patrick Leahy’s Truth Commission is a no-go. I was in a meeting with Leahy and 4 other Vermonters on Monday when he broke the news to us. We had asked for the meeting to learn why he supported a Truth Commission over Read More

More Leaks

Reading Time: 2 minutes In Not So Secret After All? (March 18), I pondered the spate of leaks on seemingly sensitive military and foreign policy matters. Well, here comes more. In the New York Times of March 28, we have in the lead story a full-blown leak-a-thon: President Obama’s plan to widen United States involvement in Afghanistan came after Read More

Truth or Reconciliation?

Reading Time: 3 minutes They are really coming. Official investigations of the George W. Bush administration are on the way. Karl Rove and Harriet Miers have just agreed to limited testimony before the House Judiciary Committee, which is looking into the seemingly politically-motivated firings of seven U.S. Attorneys. Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers and Patrick Leahy, his senate counterpart, Read More