Browsing the archives for the government tag.

Glad to see Daschle go

Politics, US Politics

Neil Sinhababu at Donkeylicious echoes the sentiment that the real reason Daschle should be seen as bowing out should be “the revelations that he advised insurance companies and made hundreds of thousands giving speeches to industry groups”, not that he didn’t pay taxes on the free limo.

I’d say both reasons work. I think one of the most damning bits was actually about Daschle apparently having lobbied Obama for his financial patron, the very “old politics” Leo Hindery, to get a plum job in the administration. But TNR’s Eve Fairbanks eloquently made the case for even the limo thing to really count as well.

Meanwhile, though, Neil wonders that it can’t just have been the tax thing in any case, because – hey:

Geithner had tax issues too, and wasn’t a former colleague of lots and lots of Senators, and hadn’t helped Obama out very early on. So you’re going to need another variable to explain why Daschle had to pull out.

Hm – that one seems easy – dumb luck of the draw. Geithner was the first one in.

A new administration can wrestle one controversial appointment through on the argument that, yes, there are practical problems, but the guy’s just too uniquely qualified to pass on. But try to do that two or even three times in a row – when you’ve actively campaigned on clean government and breaking with business as usual – and you’ve got the potential of a backlash on your hands. And Obama’s got more reason than most incoming Presidents to want to hold off on any budding backlash among his own voters.

The luck of the draw part is that they could get away with Geithner; there’s always going to be some embarassing hurdle with some appointee. But then the problems with Daschle right on the heels of that? And even as that story was gaining traction, news breaking on Nancy Killefer’s nanny tax problem? That’s impressions potentially spinning out of control, and needing to be clamped down on.

Tom Daschle (Image shared under CC license by Talk Radio News Service)

Tom Daschle (Image shared under CC license by Talk Radio News Service)

I don’t think it would have been the same if economic times were good, when people, themselves enjoying the boom, would have been more tolerant to rich people’s foibles. Not now. It would also not have been the same if Obama had campaigned as an experienced old hand who knew the inside workings of administration. Then stuff like this would have been taken more as par for the course. But this was getting far too off-message, at the wrong time.

I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how even passionate fellow Obama supporters have come out against Daschle’s appointment once the scale of his foibles broke, actually. TPM’s Matt Cooper still made the point the other day that “the blogs are not on fire,” no real opinion-makers were coming out harshly against Daschle (yeah – Glenn Greenwald), and so he’d probably still be OK. But that was besides the point, or at least suggests he didn’t read the comments sections. It’s hard to tell from over here, but just going on what appeared online it seems the reaction among regular people, Democratic voters, liberals who aren’t professional pundits, was beginning to congeal into a groundswell of disapproval of sorts. I imagine many phones must have been ringing with constituent calls.

The issue with that is that Obama has made clear that one of his main strategies to push change through, even as he opts for bipartisan civility in DC, will be to mobilise civil society. To mobilise the energy of the campaign and use ‘pressure from below’ as a tool to persuade members of Congress and decision-makers to support the changes he champions. So he needs to avoid, at least for a while still, any impression taking root that he is just business as usual after all, new boss same as the old boss etc. I think he was wise to pull the plug.

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The month’s most tellingly unsurprising revelation about the outgoing Bush administration

Politics, US Politics

This story’s from last Sunday, but I just need to belatedly highlight it because – well, it seems to sum up so much about that particular mix of unscrupulousness and incompetence we’ve come to know so well from the outgoing administration.

You’ve also got to love how the CIA and Pentagon busily pass the blame to each other. But in the end both simply acted on the clear message from above that building actual cases about the detainees’ guilt was all but irrelevant. Guantanamo was just a place to shut people away you didn’t want about – end. Indefinitely, apparently – God knows what they thought would have to happen with them in the long-term. Looks like there was no long-term concept of where any of this would be going, period.

Anyway, better just let the excerpts speak for themselves:

Guantanamo Case Files in Disarray

President Obama’s plans to expeditiously determine the fate of about 245 terrorism suspects held at Guantanamo Bay [..] were set back last week when incoming legal and national security officials — barred until the inauguration from examining classified material on the detainees — discovered that there were no comprehensive case files on many of them.

Instead, they found that [..] a Cabinet-level panel named to review each case separately will have to spend its initial weeks and perhaps months scouring the corners of the federal government in search of relevant material.

Several former Bush administration officials agreed that the files are incomplete and that no single government entity was charged with pulling together all the facts and the range of options for each prisoner. [..] Charles “Cully” D. Stimson, who served as deputy assistant defense secretary for detainee affairs in 2006-2007, said he had persistent problems in attempts to assemble all information on individual cases. Threats to recommend release or transfer of a detainee were often required, he said, to persuade the CIA to “cough up a sentence or two.”

A second former Pentagon official said most individual files are heavily summarized dossiers that do not contain the kind of background and investigative work that would be put together by a federal prosecution team. He described “regular food fights” among different parts of the government over information-sharing on the detainees. [..]

Evidence gathered for military commission trials is in disarray, according to some former officials [..]. In a court filing this month, Darrel Vandeveld, a former military prosecutor at Guantanamo who asked to be relieved of his duties, said evidence was “strewn throughout the prosecution offices in desk drawers, bookcases packed with vaguely-labeled plastic containers, or even simply piled on the tops of desks.”

He said he once accidentally found “crucial physical evidence” that “had been tossed in a locker located at Guantanamo and promptly forgotten.” 

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Public corruption in the US – Illinois easily bested by LA, MS, KY

US culture, US Politics

The “corruption rate” mapped below is calculated as the total number of public corruption convictions from 1997 to 2006 per 100,000 residents. The rates by state were compiled by Corporate Crime Reporter, based on Department of Justice statistics. Surprise: Illinois is not at the top; it’s pushed into the second tier by the Deep South. The ‘cleanest’ states, meanwhile, are in the West.

On The Monkey Cage, Prof. Sigelman first posted these data in tabular form, and Prof. Sides then followed up with a graph. That just left Prof. Gellman wishing for a map to better show the regional patterns. Well, this is my attempt at using the impressive-looking Many Eyes features to provide one. It’s a first attempt at using Many Eyes: I saw Nick Beaudrot use it to map out data before and I had to also give it a try.

The map may take a while to load, but is interactive: hover your mouse over a state and its corruption rate is shown. Clicking on a state highlights it; click on an unused area of the map to return to nationwide colour – and for some reason you may have to do this right at the beginning as well. On the version on the Many Eyes site itself, selecting a range of corruption rates in the legend highlights all states that fall within that range on the map.

Oddball observation of the day: at first glance I see a similarity between this map and the one showing where Obama did relatively best and worst, in comparison with the Democrats’ presidential score in 2004, among whites at least. Some parallel cultural elements at work?

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Red meat for the day… or: is it time to worry yet?

Politics, US Politics

Red meat for the day comes courtesy of Jello Biafra, the doyen of US punk (“doyen” is the most un-punk word I could come up with).

In an interview the week before the elections, he warned of the prospect that the Obama administration will steer an all too centrist course, conjuring up the failures of the Clinton era. Somehow the latest spate of appointments and developments make his warnings seem a little too topical again:

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