Daily Roundup

5/14 Roundup: Indefinite Detention, Boy Scout Border Patrol, Democrat Socialist Party

abu GhraibLeader: Torture, Abuse, Indefinite Detention

- The Senate held a hearing yesterday investigating the torture of detainees, and the session quickly deteriorated into partisan bickering, according the Washington Post. Former State Department counselor Philip D. Zelikow and retired FBI agent Ali Soufan both claimed to have tried to stop some of the more questionable interrogation methods. 

- The Obama administration is reportedly considering maintaining the Bush Administration policy of detaining certain terror suspects indefinitely on US soil.  The President has clearly not yet answered the question of how to make good on his promise to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility, while still maintaining the security of the nation.

- President Obama said yesterday he would seek to block the release graphic photographs depicting the abuse of detainees held by the US overseas.  Obama had initially agreed not to block the release of the photographs, but reversed his decision after hearing warnings from military commanders overseas that releasing these photographs could expose US troops to renewed danger.


- President Obama is catching flak from the left on his national security policy, largely for the recent moves detailed above.

- New Census data suggests that, due to our flailing economy, immigration of Hispanics and Asians has slowed considerably.  This will affect the Census projections of when our country will become majority minority-- last estimated to be 2042.

- An affiliate of the Boy Scouts is training young teenagers in all the assault tactics they need to know to become effective border patrol agents, anti-terror agents, and just general heavily-armed agents.  How do you say... creepy?

- President Obama spoke at the Arizona State commencement yesterday, and promoted national service in his speech to the graduates.  This is right in line with the arguments of our fellows Morley Winograd and Mike Hais.


- The Administration yesterday asked congress to move quickly on legislation that would apply strict new regulations on the complex financial instruments that booby-trapped our economy. This should be a bipartisan issue, right?

- Two op-eds in today's NY Times talk about the decline of the dollar, relative to China's RenMinBi. Nouriel Roubini and Victor Zhikai Gao make more or less the same point: This century, at least in financial terms, may well be Asia's century.


- Burmese Democracy leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, winner of the 1998 Nobel Peace Prize, is facing a military trial that will likely tighten the grip of Myanmar's junta over the country and its oppressed population.

- Two American journalists will be put on "trial" in North Korea, on charges of "illegal entry" and "hostile acts." It doesn't seem likely they'll get the result that Roxana Saberi got in Iran-- where an appeals court threw out her conviction.

New From NDN

- Simon has a new essay arguing that the economic debate is changing, and that regular, everyday consumers are now at the heart of it all.

- Michael Moynihan wrote yesterday that we need to avoid a "GM Trainwreck," and keep them from collapsing completely.

One More Thing

- This couldn't quite qualify for the "politics" section above.  Apparently, the RNC is planning a marketing campaign to rebrand the Democratic Party as the "Democrat Socialist Party."  Seriously.

- Last, here's Stephen Colbert's recommendation to the GOP:

The Colbert Report Mon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Stephen's Sound Advice - How to Re-Brand the GOP
Colbert Report Full Episodes Political Humor Gay Marriage

5/13 Roundup: Insolvent Entitlement, Driving Desire to Lose, Poetry Slam

RetirementLeader: Insolvent Entitlement

- The Trustees of Social Security and Medicare revised their estimates of how long the two foundation institutions of the American retirement system can remain solvent-- both have deteriorated rapidly in the past year.  Medicare is expected to run out of money in 2017, two years sooner than projected last year, and Social Security funds will be exhausted in 2037, four years earlier than previously projected. This revision is (obviously) due to the downturn in the economy in the past year.

- The announcement has led to calls from Congress for the Administration to recalibrate its focus on fixing Social Security, at a time when health care reform is the top domestic priority for the White House. These estimates already take into account expected cuts in entitlements.

- The Onion reports that the entitlement programs have released a new plan to offer "early-death incentives."  Could be just what we need.


- Michael Gerson writes in the WaPo about the GOP's "driving desire to lose."  It's a tough job, but somebody's got to do it, right?  Mike Huckabee is the latest Republican with a passion for defeat-- scoffing at Eric Cantor's effort to remake the Republican Party around more popular issues.

- Harry Reid will be facing a tough election in 2010.  Assuming, of course, that somebody runs against him.


- April saw 342,038 foreclosure filings-- a leveling off from the previous month, but also the highest number in history.

- The European Commission has launched a $1.45 billion antitrust suit against Intel for shutting out competition.


- The US military is incorporating the Pakistani military in its Predator drone assaults on Taliban and Al Qaeda hideouts in northern Pakistan. Pakistan had previously objected strongly to the drone attacks, but now that they have some control over the routes, targets, and decisions of whether to fire weapons, the two militaries are getting along better.

- While swine flu wins all the headlines, Argentina has been struggling with Dengue Fever this year. 23,000 cases of the mosquito-spread virus have been identified around the country.

One More Thing

- Last, The White House hosted a poetry slam last night.  Pretty cool, if you ask me:

5/12 Roundup: McKiernan's Ouster, So Much for Dick Cheney, Silvio!

McKiernanLeader: McKiernan's Ouster

- Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced yesterday that General David McKiernan, the top American commander in Afghanistan, would be forced out, and replaced with Lt. General Stanley McChrystal, who was recently in charge of all special operations in Iraq.  The move is widely believed to indicate a shift toward the counter-insurgency tactics that have succeeded in Iraq, and away from the conventional military approach in which McKiernan was schooled.

- This move will "probably" end McKiernan's career in the military, said Gates in the press conference yesterday.  Most reactions to the shift have been positive, as Spencer Ackerman found in his talks with military commanders who served under McChrystal in Iraq. Fred Kaplan at Slate notes that Afghanistan is now, unequivocally, "Obama's War," and argues that this shift could make or break his presidency.

- Earlier today, a group of Taliban suicide bombers and gunmen attacked government buildings in eastern Afghanistan, killing six and taking an unknown number of hostages.  This is just one in a series of brazen attacks by Taliban militants; let's hope General McChrystal can begin to bring about some security in this country.


- President Obama brought together leaders from the health care industry and interested groups yesterday, as they committed to $2 trilion in cost reductions over the next ten years.  The NY Times skeptically notes that their commitments may not yield the projected savings.

- A soon-to-be-released report written by the CIA's Inspector General in 2004 will show that waterboarding was both ineffective at gaining actionable intelligence and used more frequently and intensely than had been deemed medically safe.  So much for you, Dick Cheney.

- Florida Governor Charlie Crist will announce his bid for Senate today, a small piece of good news for the GOP in what has been a dark period.


- In April, Chinese exports fell 22.6% from their level a year earlier. This number is a fair bit larger than anybody expected, and is yet more evidence that this global recession is far from over. Andy Kessler wrote on the WSJ's op-ed page today that the recent rise in stock market was nothing more than a "sucker's rally."  Arianna Huffington agrees.

- The White House Office of Management and Budget has revised projections for the 2009 fiscal deficit up to $1.84 trillion, or 12.9% of the economy-- the largest since 1945. 

- Ford Motor Co. will offer 300 million shares of stock to help raise capital, which it will use largely to fund its retiree health care trust.

- Bank of America sold off a big chunk of China Construction Bank, and raised $7.3 billion in the process.  This gets them about 1/5th of the way toward the $34 billion the government has asked them to raise.


- Journalist Roxana Saberi, accused of espionage by the Iranian government, was released from Evin prison in Tehran yesterday, after four months of imprisonment. An appeals court threw out her eight-year sentence, demonstrating the deep divides within the Iranian government.

- I'd like to pause for a moment to be amazed, and sort of impressed by Silvio Berlusconi.  The guy is unbelievable.

New From NDN

- NDN got big play in a SF Chronicle piece by Carla Marinucci today, in which she talks about Meagan McCain, Millennials, and the future of the Republican Party.  NDN Fellows Morley Winograd and Mike Hais are quoted, and our event to be held in San Fran tonight gets its own sidebar.  Are you coming to our event tonight? Have you considered flying to San Fran to come to our event tonight?  Please consider RSVPing before you do.

- NDN got a nice shout-out from our pal Sergio Bendixen-- one of the most important men in politics you haven't heard of-- in an interview with Real Clear Politics.

One More Thing

- Last, Rachel Maddow interviews an Arabic linguist who was booted from the military for being gay.  Worth watching:

5/11 Roundup: Cutting Costs, Anti-Trust, Molly the Cow

Health CareLeader: Cutting Costs

- A group of health care industry groups will unveil today a plan to wring $2 trillion in projected cost increases from health care expenditures in the coming decade.  The plan will take advantage of new efficiencies to cut costs from rising 1.5% per year. Half a dozen health care industry leaders will make their case to the President in a White House meeting today. 

- This could be an important step toward major health care reform this year.  One senior White House official called it a "game changer" in the health care debate. The leaders represent groups from across the health care playing field, and interests that often clash.

- Paul Krugman calls this "some of the best policy news" he's heard in a long time.  Hopefully, it will live up to expectations.


- Sen. John McCain thinks the GOP needs to be more inclusive, and not demand the kind of ideological fealty that currently seems to be a requisite for Party support.

- Dick Cheney seems to take a different view, as he said yesterday that he would choose the Republican Party of Rush Limbaugh over Colin Powell's version.

- Morley and Mike weighed in on this subject in an op-ed in yesterdays LA Times, chastening the Republican Party that it ignores Millennials at its own peril.


- The Obama Administration is looking to strengthen anti-trust laws that atrophied under the Bush Administration, which tended to favor the defendants in anti-trust cases.

- A GM bankruptcy is "almost inevitable," according to experts.  To avoid Chapter 11, the auto manufacturer will have to convince creditors to swap $27 billion in debt for stock shares-- a risky investment, considering the state of affairs.


- Al Qaeda has shifted its efforts from planning terrorist attacks against the West to fomenting chaos in Pakistan, and promoting the cause of fellow Islamist groups as they battle government forces.

- The US military is beginning to take cyberwarfare very seriously, as we see in this NY Times article that reports on war games between West Point cadets and NSA agents.

New From NDN

- Simon wrote this morning that the Obama Administration is right to be seeking to curb credit card debt in America. 

- Be sure to check out Jake's backgrounder from Friday, responding to the release of the stress test results, and linking to some of our recent work on the subject.

One More Thing

- Last week, Molly the Cow's epic adventure through the streets of Queens captured the imagination of millions of Americans.  Or something like that.  This week, Molly's efforts will be honored as she is sent to a cow sanctuary further out on Long Island, and is spared the unsavory fate of becoming a double quarter-pounder.  No bull!

- Last, Barack Obama was funny at the WH correspondents' dinner on Saturday:

5/8 Roundup: Stress Release, Character Assassination, A Quartet of Pols

Stress ReleaseLeader: Stress Release

- The full results of the "stress tests" conducted on 19 of the nation's largest banks by the Treasury and the Fed were released yesterday, and 10 of the banks have been ordered to raise an additional $75 billion in capital between them.  The results were close to the hints that leaked in recent days, with results generally more favorable than had been widely expected. 

- In the worst-case projections for the economy, the 19 banks could collectively lose nearly $600 billion, and the extra $75 billion is meant to shield against those potential losses. James Surowiecki of the New Yorker notes that this projection is, more or less, in line with similar projections made by the IMF.

- Paul Krugman is afraid that these results will lead to nothing but the banks going back to doing just what they were doing before.


- President Obama is looking to cut $17 billion ineffective dollars from the federal budget, but is running into opposition from within his own party. 

- The NYT Editorial page comments on the character assassination that has already begun against the people Barack Obama might choose to replace David Souter on the Supreme Court.


- The unemployment rate rose to 8.9% last month, but the number of job losses is less than in previous months, and this may represent a leveling-off-- an inflection point, to a mathematician-- in the still-rising graph of unemployment.


- Steven Lee Myers of the NY Times reports on the Iraqi security forces.  They're stronger than ever, but still suffering from myriad faults, defects and shortcomings.

- Remember the swine flu that we were all going to die from last week?  In the world, 2,384 people have it, and 46 people have died-- all but two in Mexico.

New From NDN

- Rob published a new essay on short-selling, and how we can properly regulate this part of our market.

- Melissa released a backgrounder of our extensive work on politics and the Millennial Generation (best generation ever!).

One More Thing

- A quartet of pols dominated two teams of journalists in a trivia match.  I suspect corruption.

- Did Gauguin cut off Van Gogh's ear? Scandal! (Semantic question: Did Gauguin 'Tyson' Van Gogh, or did Tyson 'Gauguin' Holyfield?)

- Last, the Tribe comments on the results of the stress tests (h/t: Ezra):

5/5 Roundup: Loop the Loop, Georgian Coups, Is Barack Obama The One?

Leader: Loop the Loop

- The President announced a plan yesterday to close tax loopholes widely exploited by American corporations to evade billions in taxes. President Obama estimates that closing these loopholes would bring in an additional $210 billion to the budget over the next ten years.  Many corporations argue that these actions would force them to pay much more in taxes than they would in other countries, and would incentivize them to move overseas.

- The NY Times reports that one commonly used loophole, "transfer pricing," has been left wide open.


- Tuesdays have gotten more interesting since Ross Douthat joined David Brooks on the the NYT op-ed page.  Today, they play tug-o-war with the Republican Party: Brooks laments the loss of community and order as the foremost values of the GOP, while Douthat thinks the Party can do without moderates willing to compromise-- like Arlen Specter.

- E.J. Dionne has an interesting piece in the WaPo and TNR about immigration reform.  He concludes that the President's message is "yes we can, but not right now."


- Stocks rallied yesterday, largely on better-than-expected news from the bank stress tests. Ten of the 19 banks need to raise additional capital, according to the tests, but generally less than everyone thought.  The S&P 500 is in the black for the year, riding mainly on bank stocks!  So the recession is over, right?


- The Georgian government quashed a coup plot, and they accuse the Russian government of working behind it.  Russian President Dmitri Medvedev called the allegations "too stupid for us to comment on."

One More Thing

- The WaPo's Dana Milbank wonders if Barack Obama is the one.

- Happy Cinco de Mayo!

- Last, Erin Burnett thinks it is the obligation of a good American company to pay as little in taxes as possible:

5/4 Roundup: Shaky Pakistan, The End of the End, First Fourteen Mondays

Leader: Shaky Pakistan

- An increasingly unstable situation in Pakistan has led senior officials within the Obama Administration to raise concerns about the security of the state's nuclear arsenal.  While the government appears to be stable in the short term, the longer term outlook is very hazy.  Particularly in the mountainous regions near the border with Afghanistan, the central government is losing control.

- The NY Times reports from the Punjab-- Pakistan's most populous region-- finding that even in this area, where the government is relatively strong, parents are increasingly turning to Islamic schools to educate their children. Due largely to long-term economic stagnation, the public school system is in shambles, many of these madrasas, however, have a record of fueling the militancy and turning out future suicide bombers.

- The Hill reports that the Pakistani government is seeking the buy American-made helicopters to aid in its campaign against the militancy.


- Sen. Max Baucus is considering dropping a bill that would permit greater agricultural exports to Cuba.  This could set up a struggle among Democrats in the Senate, who are divided on Cuba.

- The New York Times Corp will shut down the Boston Globe, possibly within weeks, leaving New England without it's major daily.  To date, most papers that have folded were the second or third papers in their market. That was the beginning of the end, now we're on to the end of the end.


- The results from the Administration's stress tests of the nation's biggest banks will be released this week, and the NY Times' David Leonhardt reports that the results of these tests may be more reassuring than many have expected.

- Paul Krugman writes on the pernicious syndrome of falling wages, which are not just a symptom of a sick economy, but will perpetuate the recession.


- WHO officials are hopeful that the H1/N1 Swine flu might be on the wane, and a Northwestern computer model projects only about 2,000 to 2,500 cases in the U.S. over the next four weeks.  Still, viruses have the capability to mutate quickly, and global health organizations will not let down their guard just yet.

- Israeli President Shimon Peres will arrive in Washington today, and will meet with President Obama this week, but he's not really interested in talking about the possibility of a Palestinian state.  Rather, Iran will top his agenda.

New From NDN

- Simon responded yesterday to a NY Times article about the changing racial construct in America.

- Jake's economic backgrounder on Friday rounded up all our recent work on the American auto industry, particularly since the Chrysler bankruptcy last week.

One More Thing

- Last, Stephen Colbert talks with Jonathan Alter about Obama's first fourteen Mondays:

The Colbert Report Mon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Obama's First 14 Mondays - Jonathan Alter
Colbert Report Full Episodes Political Humor First 100 Days
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