A mesmerizing juggling act in the first person:
(Hat tip: EDW Lynch)
Republican candidate David Jolly won yesterday’s special election in Florida’s 13th Congressional district, defeating Democrat Alex Sink in a cash-flush race that had been characterized as a referendum on Obamacare and a bellwether for November:
Sink was a test case for the Democrats’ 2014 women’s economic platform as the party seeks to turn out more women voters who trend Democratic. She also road tested their Obamacare messaging—Sink’s line at its core was “I support the Affordable Care Act but I also support major fixes.” …
After Jolly’s victory, Democrats need to win 17 seats in November to take back the House. Jolly will have to run again this fall to win a full term. No word yet on if Sink will seek a rematch.
Weigel advises against extracting any overarching narrative:
Honestly, having seen both Sink and Jolly in action, [t]hey were both lousy.
From the Delaware Cape Gazette:
Walter George Bruhl Jr. of Newark and Dewey Beach is a dead person; he is no more; he is bereft of life; he is deceased; he has rung down the curtain and gone to join the choir invisible; he has expired and gone to meet his maker. He drifted off this mortal coil Sunday, March 9, 2014, in Punta Gorda, Fla. His spirit was released from his worn-out shell of a body and is now exploring the universe.
He was surrounded by his loving wife of 57 years, Helene Sellers Bruhl, who will now be able to purchase the mink coat which he had always refused her because he believed only minks should wear mink.
— Shane Bauer (@shane_bauer) February 22, 2014
Shane Bauer is an investigative journalist and photographer who was one of the three American hikers imprisoned in Iran after being captured on the Iraqi border in 2009. He spent 26 months in Tehran’s notorious Evin Prison, four of them in solitary confinement. Following his release, he wrote a special report for Mother Jones about solitary confinement in America’s prison system, which the Dish featured here. (Our ongoing coverage of the trauma of solitary can be found here.) Shane and his fellow former hostages, Sarah Shourd (now his wife) and Josh Fattal, have co-written a memoir, A Sliver of Light, which comes out next week.
Let us know what you think we should ask Shane via the survey below (if you are reading on a mobile device, click here):
The latest ACA numbers, in a nutshell:
About 4.2 million people have signed up for health plans on Obamacare exchanges through the end of February, making it unlikely that the Obama administration will hit the estimate of 6 million enrollees by a key deadline at the end of March. Whatever momentum appeared to be building in January dropped off in February, as the number of sign ups fell below the administration’s expectations.
Which is a big reason why Obama took to the ferns. Philip Klein thinks it’s “worrisome for backers of the law is that young people still aren’t signing up in the numbers the administration once deemed necessary for the program’s viability”:
The White House had originally said nearly 40 percent of the 7 million Americans initially projected to enroll would have to be young and healthy to offset the cost of covering older and sicker Americans. When initial signs pointed to low youth enrollment, many supporters of the law argued that younger individuals would enroll later in the process.
But in February, individuals between 18 and 34 years old made up just 27 percent of those signing up — the same as January. Cumulatively, just 25 percent of signups have come from that age demographic.
McArdle is on the same page:
A reader writes:
Oh, give it a rest. This is no constitutional crises here; far from it. The oversight the Congress and Senate are supposed to engage in has long been revealed as toothless, thanks to their own actions post-9/11. Feinstein’s histrionics after this latest incident? You reap what you sow, motherfuckers. There isn’t enough schadenfreude to go around after this incident. And Obama won’t do a thing. Don’t believe me? Watch. Oh he may spin a good yarn, but his lack of actions is the tell.
This response to Feinstein’s stand seems to me to be a telling aspect of the far left. They’re so alienated from our entire polity they cynically see no difference between the CIA and Feinstein, because Feinstein for so long has been such a stalwart defender of the CIA. Which means to say they have given up trying to reform the system and are now interested solely in undermining it by leaks and exposure. I would much prefer the system to be fixed by appropriate constitutional channels, precisely because it will be much more durable if it is. To have Feinstein now in that camp is a huge victory for those seeking accountability from the CIA. But the Snowden-style cynics huff and walk off the battle field.
I think your criticisms of the CIA are sort of toothless because you don’t bring President Obama into it.
If the White House wishes to repair the damage, it would declassify without further delay the report done by Feinstein’s committee — along with the Panetta Review. If the White House won’t, Feinstein’s panel and others would be justified in holding up CIA funding and nominations and conducting public hearings.
Agreed. But here is Rubio, equating the Senate investigation staffers with CIA lawyers, as if there was some kind of equivalence:
Well, again, because I’m a member of that committee, I’m — others may choose to be more forthcoming about — but I try to protect the nature of the work we do in that committee. Let me just say that I think that story has two sides; I think it’s a bit more complicated than what’s being put out there by Senator Feinstein or others. I think at the end of the day there should be an impartial investigation as to what happened. And you may end up finding out that both sides are to blame, that both sides committed mistakes … But there should be an impartial investigation of it, and I think until that point people should reserve judgment. But I would just caution that I don’t think anyone has a clean hand and I think it’s important for the full truth to come out. I think people may be surprised to learn that, in this case, there were no good guys and maybe two or three bad ones.
Notice the attempt to claim that “both sides” have “unclean hands” – as if perpetrating torture is somehow equivalent to a vital oversight function of the Congress. Then there’s a veiled threat – gleefully touted by Eli Lake – that the CIA could retaliate against a sitting president by leaking information to try and damage him:
“Any agency can undermine just about anyone,” said Pete Hoekstra, who served as chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence during the first two years of Bush’s second term. “We saw that under the Bush administration, there were leaks coming out all over the place. You never knew where they were coming from and some of them were coming from the intelligence community and the objective was to embarrass President Bush.”
If the CIA and the broader intelligence community come to feel the same way about Obama, the White House could find itself as under siege as Bush was in his second term. Then Obama would not only have to face opposition to his foreign policy from Republicans in Congress, but also the bureaucracy of spies that know many of his darkest secrets.
Just take a moment to ponder that empirical prediction. It assumes that the CIA is an entity independent of the president, who is the head of the executive branch. It assumes that the CIA will act against the president if it feels exposed or slighted. Nothing could more baldy illustrate the desperate need to cut this anti-democratic and anti-constitutional power-center down to size. When an agency lies to the White House over torture, when it spies on the Senate investigating its torture program, it has become a rogue threat to our political system. I fear that Obama’s pusillanimity on accountability for war crimes has merely emboldened them to further illegality.
Dickerson weighs in:
We are no longer in a predictable fight between two branches of government anticipated by the framers.
I may sound like a bit of a Straussian here, but the absence of a name in this particularly pointed part of Senator Feinstein’s epic speech yesterday drew enormous attention to it. Money quote from DiFi:
There is no legitimate reason to allege to the Justice Department that Senate staff may have committed a crime. I view the acting general counsel’s referral as a potential effort to intimidate this staff—and I am not taking it lightly.
I should note that for most, if not all, of the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program, the now acting general counsel was a lawyer in the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center—the unit within which the CIA managed and carried out this program.
From mid-2004 until the official termination of the detention and interrogation program in January 2009, he was the unit’s chief lawyer. He is mentioned by name more than 1,600 times in our study.
The general counsel’s name is Robert Eatinger, a key figure in the authorization of torture in the US. As I noted yesterday, it’s a testament to how devoted the CIA is to its torture program that, long after it was disbanded, it promoted the lawyer who defended it and was an integral part of it to be the acting chief counsel for the entire agency (while Obama’s nominee for the job remains bottled up in the Senate). So who is this guy? Here’s one key fact:
Eatinger was one of two CIA lawyers who reportedly told the director of the CIA’s clandestine service in 2005 there were no legal requirements for the agency to hold onto 92 videotapes that showed the abusive tactics used by its interrogators against Al-Qaeda prisoners. Although Eatinger and the other lawyer did not specifically sanction it, the CIA official, Jose Rodriguez, later ordered the tapes destroyed.
Rodriguez’s destruction of the tapes in late 2005 in an industrial-strength shredder came despite objections by the Bush administration’s White House counsel and the director of national intelligence. The CIA director at the time, Michael Hayden, assured senators that Rodriguez hadn’t destroyed evidence because there were still written cables describing what the videotapes showed, but Feinstein said Tuesday the cables downplayed the brutality of the program.
There was absolutely no rationale for the destruction of visual evidence apart from protecting the image of the CIA and the US in the world. What Rodriguez was terrified of was the images of obviously authorized and brutal torture being seen around the world like the torture and abuse sanctioned at Abu Ghraib prison. After all, it would have proven that what happened at Abu Ghraib was a picnic compared with what the higher-ups were doing in their black sites across the globe. So Eatinger gave Rodriguez the go-ahead. A man who helped the CIA conceal evidence of torture is not a man who should play any role in pushing back against a Senate investigation into it – let alone attempt to counter-sue the Senate as a way to intimidate them. Then this:
Eatinger has been a lawyer with the CIA since at least 1994, when he played a tangential role in the aftermath of the Iran-Contra affair, the political scandal involving the Reagan administration’s secret sale of arms to Iran to fund rebels fighting the leftist Nicaraguan government. …
In which the unlikable skewers the intolerable:
I confess once again to being a little sideswiped by the sudden uptick of momentum in national support for marriage equality. I shouldn’t be. It was perfectly clear three decades ago that the arguments for equality were much stronger than the arguments against. And key debating points have been seriously and consecutively won, culminating in the logical devastation of the case against marriage equality in the Prop 8 trial.
But what I under-estimated, I think, was the personal dynamic. Simply put: it’s extremely hard to oppose marriage equality when you know someone who is gay. It requires you to hold a position that clearly treats the human being in front of you as inferior – or at least it sure can feel that way. This doesn’t mean there isn’t a reasoned, theological argument that gays should be denied equal treatment under the law. It simply means that even if you hold that principled position, you will increasingly feel like an isolated asshole with gay friends, family members and colleagues. And few actively want to be an asshole. I think that’s in part what fuels Rod Dreher’s passion. He’s a decent guy, and it anguishes him to think others will think he isn’t. He’s a humane person who nonetheless has to come off as inhumane to almost any gay person and many straight ones.
But when people resolve the struggle between theory and the human person – and it’s only resolved by embracing the whole person, including her sexual orientation – the denial of equality can seem increasingly outrageous. No straight person would ever acquiesce to the idea that he or she does not have a right to marry. Such a denial seems redolent only of slavery’s evil treatment of African-Americans. And who can really demand that another human being never experience love, commitment and intimacy? And so, over time, the country is sorting itself into two camps: most everyone in one camp, and older, white evangelicals – who have often never met a gay person – in the other. Which means a huge headache for the GOP.
The study found 69 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds support same-sex marriage, versus 54 percent of people overall. Unsurprisingly, young people who lean Democrat favor gay marriage the most heavily; 77 percent are pro. But the most interesting data is on the other side of the aisle, where 61 percent of 18- to 29-year-old Republicans say they support legal marriage for same-sex couples—a 39-point gap over Republicans 65-and-over.
So we’re wrong to focus on seniors as such. In fact, senior support for marriage equality has recently seen some of the sharpest increases of any age cohort. It’s the old and Republican who increasingly seem isolated. Allahpundit notices the Democratic generational convergence:
The most striking numbers there, actually, are how small the differences are between various Democratic age groups. It’s an astounding consensus to have 18-year-old and 65-year-old Dems both above 60 percent support and within 15 points of each other on a practice that was barely on the cultural radar 20 years ago. Makes me wonder how many senior-citizen votes the GOP picked up over the last decade as the 65+ demographic sorted itself out. And how many younger votes it lost.
Elizabeth Nolan Brown wonders why young, gay-friendly Republicans stay with the party:
Two new surveys are shedding some light on how Americans view the crisis in Ukraine. A WaPo-ABC poll finds the public divided on Obama’s handling of the situation but united in their support for sanctions on Russia:
But Obama, who ordered sanctions Thursday against individuals aiding the takeover, receives lukewarm 42 percent approval and 43 percent disapproval marks, with a substantial 15 percent holding no opinion.
Overall, Democrats and Republicans are in rare agreement in supporting sanctions, and familiar discord about Obama. Just over six in 10 of partisans in both camps support sanctioning Russia. And in an unheard of alignment of the far left and far right, 68 percent of liberal Democrats support sanctions, as do 69 percent of conservative Republicans.
That’s really no big surprise. Now that we’re where we’re at, there aren’t too many options left on the table.
As you could see yesterday in one of Joe McGinniss’s emails to yours truly, my fondness for the Pauls has never been a crowd favorite at the Dish. So my recent hope that he might tilt the GOP back toward a more Millennial worldview has inevitably taken a few hits. P.M. Carpenter’s hit the mark a little too well:
There is absolutely no way Rand Paul can win the White House. There is no “if” here.
What’s more, after Paul’s humiliating defeat, the GOP would conclude that running on Paulite measures in relation to foreign policy and national security was, is, and always will be a colossal loser for the party. The GOP would turn even more heavily to neocon thinking. Paulism would backfire on the very ideas he wishes to advance.
Andrew, your dream is already dead. Look, I’m no happier about a Hillary run than Joe Biden is. But I can read an electoral map–and I can read reality. Paul is pre-toast.
The most delicious way to prepare bread! I sure can’t seriously deny this high probability. I’m not sure, however, that non-interventionism would necessarily take the biggest hit in the inevitable recriminations. With Paul, any number of positions could make his defeat to Clinton epic – and his economic policy is far less popular than his foreign policy. And, besides, non-interventionism is very popular in America right now, whatever Marco Rubio and Bill Kristol – and all those who have wiped their minds clean of any memory of Iraq – want to believe. From the latest WSJ poll today:
One area of agreement among respondents of either party was on whether the U.S. should reassert itself on the world stage. Adults surveyed were less likely to support a candidate who wants to see the U.S. assume an expanded role in policing foreign conflicts and more likely to support one who doesn’t. Republicans, Democrats and independents showed more agreement on those questions than many others.
Republicans and Democrats also tended to agree that the U.S. should only involve itself in the brewing conflict between Russia and Ukraine if other nations take part, or that it should let Europeans handle the matter on their own. A mere 5% said the U.S. should take action by itself.
The scenario I’m positing is one in which Paul is actually more in line with American thinking on foreign policy than Hillary Clinton in 2016. The public’s response to both Ukraine and Syria – two major mehs – has already made this loud and clear, even though the boomer armchair generals in the punditariat have not yet noticed. And with a victory in the primaries, Paul would offer the US a real choice between the continuation of a policy of US hegemony or a gradual shift to a more prudent use of our resources. In that context, I wouldn’t under-estimate the potential power of a real change you can believe in.
But, of course, you then have to deal with Rand Paul’s actual stances. And his attempt both to neutralize GOP opposition to his non-interventionism has led him into some serious weirdness. Serious enough to be thoroughly Chaited:
Paul [argues], “America is a world leader, but we should not be its policemen or ATM.” So he’s saying the United States should lead the world, but this leadership should not entail any new financial or military commitment? Actually, he’s going farther than that. He’s arguing that American leadership should involve less financial and military commitment. Paul’s plan entails stiffing the Ukrainians:
We should also suspend American loans and aid to Ukraine because currently these could have the counterproductive effect of rewarding Russia.
Yes, you read that right – in the face of a massive threat from Russia, the United States should impose financial penalties on Ukraine.
Patrick Brennan calls the plan “bizarre and delusional”:
— Jenan Moussa (@jenanmoussa) March 2, 2014
Ioffe explains why Putin’s aggressive concern for Russian minorities doesn’t extend to the Baltic countries, where they actually face serious discrimination:
[W]here is Putin when you need him? Where are the Russian soldiers in unmarked uniforms patrolling the streets of Tallinn, the referenda to join Russia, the town square electing marginal ethnic Russians to public office? And what, if you want to be cynical about it, of Estonia’s strategic importance? Think of Estonia’s prime access to the Baltic and Russia just happens to be building a northern gas pipeline to bypass Ukraine.
But Estonia, you see, is part of NATO. As is Latvia, as is Lithuania. And NATO has been stepping up air patrols in the region in the last week. So is it about protecting Russian speakers, or is about getting away with whatever you can get away with?
But Ed Morrissey points out that Moscow is planning to offer citizenship to Russo-Latvians:
Speed-reading app developers may tell us, as the Spritz team does, that they have perfected the RSVP method to minimize eye movements and optimize the delivery of symbols to our brain. In the end, however, the written text’s only advantage over audio and video is the fact that we can switch reading “gears” as we go, skimming or scanning less interesting passages and slowing down on the more important ones. … Who wants to read Harry Potter books in an hour, anyway? They were written to be enjoyed, not swallowed.
Ian Steadman worries that for some texts, Spritz will set you back:
Bernd Brunner, a native German speaker, contemplates the relative beauty of different languages:
As far as I can tell, many people – including not only many Germans, but Americans – consider Italian to be the most beautiful language. Nasal French earns mixed reviews; some people find it elegant and sophisticated, while it sounds somehow stilted to others’ ears. Those who see fit to praise English – at least, if they’re from Europe – usually add in the same breath that “of course” they mean British English; specifically, the Oxford kind. …
Some people have tried to formulate rules for judging languages, but they are trapped in a dilemma:
William Easterly argues that offering technical expertise to autocrats, ostensibly to alleviate poverty, is counterproductive:
Those who work in development prefer to focus on technical solutions to the poor’s problems, such as forestry projects, clean water supplies, or nutritional supplements. Development experts advise leaders they perceive to be benevolent autocrats to implement these technical solutions. The international professionals perpetrate an illusion that poverty is purely a technical problem, distracting attention away from the real cause: the unchecked power of the state against poor people without rights. The dictators whom experts are advising are not the solution — they are the problem.
Colorado is starting an ad campaign to prevent pot users from getting behind the wheel. Instead of vilifying the drug, which Colorado has legalized for recreational use, the campaign takes a light-hearted approach. … Frequent marijuana users drive under the influence an average of 17 times a month, according to information the Department of Transportation gleaned from phone surveys and focus groups.
Waldman is skeptical that the ad campaign will have much of an impact:
The thing about outlandish CIA history is that there’s just so much of it. Here’s a gem from 1960:
The agency’s director at the time, Allen Dulles, loved the Bond novels. Despite the derision most agents held for the series, [political scientist Christopher] Moran notes that he had a signed copy of each and every novel. Dulles and [Bond author Ian] Fleming struck up a relationship that at times seemed mutually beneficial. … Dulles hoped to meet Fleming at a dinner hosted by the Kennedys in 1960. He had to miss the event, but asked a CIA official in attendance to report back. During dinner, Kennedy asked Fleming how he would topple Fidel Castro. Moran writes of his reply:
As Fleming saw it, it was not enough simply to kill Castro; he had to be humiliated as well.
Noah Sudarsky describes the mountain lion as “something of a wildlife success story”:
It is the most widespread large carnivore in the Americas, managing to survive even as other predators have nearly perished. The wolf was hunted to the brink of extinction, and has been able to make a shaky comeback thanks only to expensive and difficult reintroduction programs. The grizzly, once found on the shores of San Francisco Bay, remains only in the Northern Rockies and Alaska, ecosystems large enough to accommodate its need for large, open spaces. The coyote, famously, is one predator that has seen an actual gain in numbers since European colonization (thanks mostly to the disappearance of other carnivores). But the coyote’s success – like that of, say, the crow and the raccoon – is due in large part to the animal’s ability to accommodate itself to human development. In contrast, the cougar remains as cagey as ever.
Cougars are, above all, solitary, connecting with other cougars only to mate. Since it is effectively invisible, this enigmatic species doesn’t enjoy (or suffer) the kind of cult of personality that surrounds the grizzly and the wolf. A cougar sticks to the shadows, and that instinct helps explain its enduring success, a success that seems all the more remarkable given the odds stacked against it. And the odds are staggering.