Join 3,512 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


IANARL
September 15, 2009 9:14 AM   Subscribe

Get This Rat a Lawyer! A recent target of right wing anger has been Obama administration "czars", a term used to denote appointed presidential advisers not subject to Senate approval. Opponents of "czars" were recently emboldened by the resignation of Anthony "Van" Jones, who served from March 16 to September 5, 2009 as Special Advisor for Green Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation at the White House Council on Environmental Quality. An additional target of the hunt for Obama's czars is Cass Sunstein, a constitutional-law professor at Harvard University, who was confirmed Thursday as the director of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs.

Outrage related to Mr. Sunstein stems from a paper Sunstein wrote in 2002, in which he argued that individuals as well as the state should be able to file suit for animal cruelty, as well as a lecture on the subject given at Harvard in 2007. Sunstein, who has called for an outright ban on hunting, stated as follows: "If rats are able to suffer—and no one really doubts that they are—then their interests are relevant to the question how, and perhaps even whether, they can be expelled from houses," "At the very least, people should kill rats in a way that minimizes suffering. And if possible, people should try to expel rats in a way that does not harm them at all." Reports of these statements led to a notable quote from Saturday's Tea Party rally in D.C.: said Davy Reeves of Kalamazoo: "He thinks rats should have the right to an attorney, to sue humans," Reeves said. "Rats have no right to live in my house."
posted by ND¢ (67 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
It's anti-intellectualism pure and simple.

Academics make arguments they don't necessarily believe all the time. It's an 'intellectual exercise.' In any case, his feelings on animal cruelty don't matter.

But good luck making THAT a controversy. I don't think it's possible to like animals too much in this country.
posted by empath at 9:17 AM on September 15, 2009


I don't know much about Van Jones, but something he did pissed off San Francisco's lovable scamp politico Willie Brown. He has a weekly column in the local paper, and last week devoted some space to kicking Van while he's down
The only question I have about Van Jones' resignation as the White House green czar is why didn't they call me before they hired him. You would think that, as part of the vetting process, they would have called the mayor of the city where he was from.
I would have said, "Yeah, I know a lot about him. He's really a pain in the ass. When he ran Bay Area PoliceWatch, he slanted every case to make the cops look as bad as possible. And while he might be talented enough, he's totally and completely unreliable.
posted by Nelson at 9:22 AM on September 15, 2009


"At the very least, people should kill rats in a way that minimizes suffering," says Sunstein.

"He thinks rats should have the right to an attorney," said Davy Reeves of Kalamazoo.

Once again Republicans equate not-torturing with coddling. They must have lovely family lives.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 9:23 AM on September 15, 2009 [16 favorites]


If the right wing opposes the czars, doesn't that make them the communists?
posted by martens at 9:23 AM on September 15, 2009 [23 favorites]


They must have lovely family lives.

They're against the international convention on the rights of the child, too. The right to abuse the weak and helpless must be in the parts of the bill of rights that i skipped over.
posted by empath at 9:25 AM on September 15, 2009 [2 favorites]


For the sake of completeness, you may want to add a few links about criticism of Sunstein from some on the left based on his affinity for cost-benefit analysis. He takes a lot of heat for a set of largely thoughtful beliefs. I don't agree with a lot of what he favors (including some proposed alterations to 1st amendment jurisprudence), but he's unquestionably an intelligent and reasonable scholar.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 9:26 AM on September 15, 2009


Fark just posted this video, which has a fun part where the people with the 'WHAT IS A CZAR? R WE RUSSIA?' sign actually learn what a czar is. Also has a bonus part with a guy holding a 15 foot sign saying 'Joe Wilson for President' says he doesn't want Joe Wilson to be president after he learns he voted for healthcare in 2002.

...

I GET IT NOW!! This isn't anti-intellectualism! It's clearly DADAISM! C'est ne pas un pipe!
posted by Mach5 at 9:26 AM on September 15, 2009 [15 favorites]


a term used to denote appointed presidential advisers not subject to Senate approval.

Oh, that's what people mean by 'czars'! The people EVERY SINGLE PRESIDENT appoints!

Goddamn Obama can't he stop socializing and communising and facising this country!
posted by graventy at 9:27 AM on September 15, 2009


I'm sorry, but "czar" is a really stupid name for a position in the American government. There, I've said it. I feel better.
posted by entropicamericana at 9:28 AM on September 15, 2009 [10 favorites]


Wasn't it Reagan that popularized the term "czar" for this sort of position when he appointed the first "Drug Czar"?
posted by djfiander at 9:31 AM on September 15, 2009


djfiander: To my recollection it is, yes.
posted by entropicamericana at 9:32 AM on September 15, 2009


Wasn't it Reagan that popularized the term "czar" for this sort of position when he appointed the first "Drug Czar"?

Ahhaha, facts are stupid things.

So, next they're going after the Drug Czar and his whole initiative, right?
posted by Devils Rancher at 9:32 AM on September 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


We had to call in a rat guy recently. After we found one of our uninvited guests in his no-kill trap one morning, we placed the trap on our front porch and phoned him to come pick it up - as we had been directed. As the end of business approached with no action, we called the guy to point out that the rat had now been trapped in the small cage without water (which I could find no way of getting to it through the bars) outside on a hot day for almost 10 hours. In the couse of pleading an unusual press of business, he condescendingly reminded us that we had hired him to kill it. We replied that we had not hired him to torture it with thirst beforehand.

Then again, this is Utah. He's probably a Republican.
posted by Joe Beese at 9:33 AM on September 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm sorry, but "czar" is a really stupid name for a position in the American government. There, I've said it. I feel better.

Thank god there's no positions in the us government with that title.
posted by empath at 9:33 AM on September 15, 2009 [3 favorites]


Wasn't it Reagan that popularized the term "czar" for this sort of position when he appointed the first "Drug Czar"?

Ahhaha, facts are stupid things.


They are indeed. Nixon appointed the first "czar".
posted by hippybear at 9:34 AM on September 15, 2009 [2 favorites]


Let's be clear here, Cass Sunstein is Disliked by the left (read the comments)

Here's a summary from one of the posters there:
-Believes Social Security is insolvent

-Described John Yoo as a “a very interesting and provocative scholar” who “doesn’t deserve the demonization to which he has been subject.”

-Per his Nudge “economics” work, he subscribes to the silly theoretical promise of “paternal libertarianism” as the best guide for governance.

- He opposes any prosecution of Bush admin officials for spying, torture or illegal detention

-Supported Bush administration use – on supposed legal grounds – of military commissions to indefinitely detain suspected terrorist. Which has since been legally rejected by the Hamdan decision

-Supported granting retroactive immunity to those implicated in warantless wiretapping

-Suggested that FISA legal authority was ambiguous and thus the President’s “interpretation” was potentially meritorious

At the end of the day, Cass Sunstein is what you might call a TNR liberal. He has very flimsy principles regarding the rule of law and a unreconstructed neoliberals viewpoint of economics. He churns out neat sounding yet empty work that excites people who, well, think like him.
Here's a Glenn Greenwald article slamming the guy for advocating that Bush, etc not be prosecuted.

Fun fact: He's also married to Obama foreign policy advisor Samatha Power.
---
This guy is a cancer and those on the left shouldn't lift a finger to defend him.
posted by delmoi at 9:35 AM on September 15, 2009 [10 favorites]


I find Sunstein's views on the First Amendment, which would privilege political speech over non political speech, more troubling than his views on rats in court.
posted by dortmunder at 9:37 AM on September 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


Mach5: "people with the 'WHAT IS A CZAR? R WE RUSSIA?' sign actually learn what a czar is"

I've had some decent breakthroughs with people with a related tactic -- "Russian, not Soviet". Trying to raise the discourse is frustrating, but occasionally rewarding.
posted by boo_radley at 9:39 AM on September 15, 2009


They are indeed. Nixon appointed the first "czar".

Wikipedia is at odds with itself, here. Shocked face, anyone? First "Drug Czar" was Reagan's, but there were other "czars" before that, going back to the 40s? Or Nixon? Or something? I think I'll go lie down now.
posted by Devils Rancher at 9:43 AM on September 15, 2009


I don't think his beliefs have anything to do with why people are opposing him or Van Jones or any other "czar". There is a segment of the population that is just looking to get riled up and there are people in the media and the political establishment that are looking to benefit from riling those people up. They will just throw anything at the wall and see what sticks. "Palling around with terrorists", "radical associations", "redistribution of wealth", "fascism", "socialism", "czars", "rats". Rattle off as many negative sounding words as you can and see which ones people respond to most and go with it. Repeat ad nauseam. By the time the fact that "czars" are just presidential advisers who have no real power which have been appointed by presidents for decades makes its way into popular knowledge, they will be on to the next scary word and everyone will have forgotten that they were ever scared of czars.
posted by ND¢ at 9:47 AM on September 15, 2009 [7 favorites]


The video Mach5 posted was great. I'm not surprised that some of those nut-jobs like Glenn Beck, but what is surprising is how quickly Glenn Beck's star has risen. I wonder what Glenn Beck was doing, say, almost twenty years ago?
posted by ob at 9:49 AM on September 15, 2009 [2 favorites]


This guy is a cancer and those on the left shouldn't lift a finger to defend him.

Sunstein is an academic, not a blogger. Some of his positions are reducible to soundbites that are unattractive. Sometimes he's more charitable to opposing viewpoints as a scholar than a partisan blogger would like. But this kind of language and lack of solidarity? This right here? It's the real cancer.
posted by anotherpanacea at 9:51 AM on September 15, 2009 [8 favorites]


Anybody who was a nuisance to the Willie Brown machine gets extra points in my book. I'd put that quote on my damn resume if I were Mr. Jones.

Van Jones has stepped in when no one else would and has actually gotten things done around here. I was very disappointed to discover the left had conceded yet another valuable asset without a whimper.

Here is lunits post from last year talking about Van Jones.
posted by small_ruminant at 9:52 AM on September 15, 2009


The term "czar" basically denotes a public administrator who has a high degree of discretionary power due to the fact that he/she does not act through the normal bureaucratic hierarchy (and its attendant oversight and accountability mechanisms) and instead reports directly to someone in an executive position, like a mayor, governor or president.

Distrust of public administrators is nothing new. They are appointed instead of elected and, for the most part, and completely at the federal level, have no legal nativity. The Constitution enumerates our rights and the organization of government, but does not say anything about actually running government.

It's even easier to distrust a public administrator that exists outside of normal bureaucratic and legislative accountability, like a "czar".

Excuse, me, I'm currently taking a class about public administration.
posted by sciurus at 9:56 AM on September 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


Van Jones was an American hero. And his resignation should have been a gigantic black mark on Obama's record, at least among progressives. Add to that that it happened over Labor Day weekend (in the middle of the night early Sunday morning) and that the press barely covered it (or dismissed it as not a big deal), and the whole thing comes off as just icky. I, for one, have been pretty pissed about the whole thing for over a week, now.

Since then, there's been a lot of talk about whether or not his resignation will be a trend of Obama backing down from controversy (if the signs weren't already there), and I couldn't be more convinced of it. His reaction to this Sunstein business will be interesting to watch.
posted by lunit at 10:00 AM on September 15, 2009 [2 favorites]


Van Jones was a genius who got jobbed, Sunstein is an academic who would be conservative in nearly any university department in the land (or any intelligent country).

But why is Glen Beck in favor of dog fighting and animal cruelty? That's the question that needs to be asked. Do he and Michael Vick have a secret dog fighting ring and that's why he's worried about legal rights for dogs? Why hasn't Beck denied that he participates in dog fighting? What's he got to hide? I'm not sure we want to listen to anyone who won't even say they're against dog fighting, let alone deny their involvement in it.

(Also, I heard this thing about him and an 11-year-old girl…)
posted by klangklangston at 10:00 AM on September 15, 2009 [2 favorites]


I thought the accepted modern spelling was Tsar. We need to appoint a Tsar Czar to manage the distribution of titles.
posted by spicynuts at 10:01 AM on September 15, 2009 [2 favorites]


Transliteration, not spelling.
posted by spicynuts at 10:01 AM on September 15, 2009


lunit: "Van Jones was an American hero. And his resignation should have been a gigantic black mark on Obama's record, at least among progressives."

If that is the biggest beef that a progressive has with Obama, I suggest that they haven't been paying attention.
posted by Joe Beese at 10:06 AM on September 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


The video Mach5 posted was great. I'm not surprised that some of those nut-jobs like Glenn Beck, but what is surprising is how quickly Glenn Beck's star has risen. I wonder what Glenn Beck was doing, say, almost twenty years ago?

He was a drunk morning zoo-crew DJ in CT.
posted by Snyder at 10:09 AM on September 15, 2009


Van Jones was an American hero.

wat
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 10:12 AM on September 15, 2009


Information & Regulatory Affairs
The Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), within the Office of Management and Budget, was created by Congress with the enactment of the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1980 (PRA). Under this and other authorities, OIRA develops and oversees several critical functions, including:

* The implementation of government-wide policies and standards with respect to Federal regulations and guidance documents;
* The quality, utility, and analytic rigor of information used to support public policy;
* Dissemination of and access to government information;
* Privacy and confidentiality;
* Electronic records; and
* Federal statistics.


As far as I can tell, none of his 'controversial' opinions have anything to do with this position, and so are totally irrelevant.
posted by empath at 10:15 AM on September 15, 2009


Regarding Van Jones' resignation, there's an NPR story:

Jones recently came under scrutiny after it was revealed that he signed a 2004 petition questioning whether the U.S. government allowed the Sept. 11 attacks to occur, and after remarks in which he used a derogatory word to describe Republicans.
posted by ben242 at 10:19 AM on September 15, 2009


When is a Czar Not a Czar?
Some of the people whom conservatives and mainstream media voices alike have labeled "czars" have been confirmed by the Senate. Some of them, and others, hold jobs that were created by previous presidents.

Take a look at Politico's list of 31 "czars," which shrinks to 30 without Van Jones. Republican strategists like Ed Rollins have used that "31" number to allege that there's a problem here. But perhaps the most controversial people labeled "czars" by Beck and by reporters have gone through Senate confirmations. Cass Sunstein, whom Politico labels the "regulatory czar," is waiting for the end of a Republican filibuster so he can lead the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, an office created in 1980. John Holdren, the director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, was confirmed by the Senate, unanimously, six months ago. But none of that seems to matter to their critics. Michelle Malkin, whom, again, Politico credited for making this an issue, relentlessly refers to Holdren as the "Science Czar" as if it was his actual title.
And here's their verdict on some of the so-called "czars":
Pre-exisiting jobs:

"AIDS Czar" – Actually the Director of the Office of National AIDS Policy, created in 2001 by George W. Bush.

"Border Czar" – Actually the Department of Homeland Security Assistant Secretary for International Affairs and Special Representative for Border Affairs, created in 2003 by George W. Bush.

"California Water Czar" – Actually the Deputy Secretary of the Interior, who was given this extra portfolio by Secretary Ken Salazar in June.

"Central Region Czar" – The Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for the "Central Region," on the Nation Security Council.

"Drug Czar" – Actually the Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, created in 1989 by George H.W. Bush.

"Faith-Based Czar" – Head of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, created in 2001 by George W. Bush.

"Intelligence Czar" – This is actually the Director of National Intelligence, a position created in 2005.

"TARP Czar" – Actually the Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Financial Stability of the United States Herb Allison, who was confirmed by the Senate in June.

"Weapons Czar" – Not actually an executive branch position, but the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics.

New jobs held by eminent people or people previously confirmed by the Senate:

"Afghanistan Czar" – Actually the United States Special Envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, and the man holding that job, Richard Holbrooke went through a Senate confirmation hearing in 1999 when he became Bill Clinton's U.N. ambassador.

"Economic Czar" – Actually the President's Economic Recovery Board, chaired by Paul Volcker, the deeply uncontroversial former chairman of the Federal Reserve.

"Energy and Environment Czar" – This is Carol Browner, the Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change, who was confirmed by the U.S. Senate in 1993 to run the Environmental Protection Agency under Bill Clinton.

"Guantanamo Closure Czar" – Actually the Special Envoy to Guantanamo, Daniel Fried, who was the final Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs in the Bush administration.

There are other problems with the list. The so-called "International Climate Czar," Todd Stern, is actually a special envoy who works in the State Department; several other "czars" were appointed to previously-existing institutions, like John Brennan, given a new portfolio in the 56-year-old National Security Council. But let's read the list this way, and stop calling "czars" the people who were confirmed by the Senate at one point or given previously-existing jobs. That scary Politico list of 30 names is down to 15 names. It's down to people like Lynn Rosenthal, the White House Adviser on Violence Against Women.
posted by Rhaomi at 10:23 AM on September 15, 2009 [7 favorites]


But this kind of language and lack of solidarity?

How about actually BEING different than the other major party, so there is a reason to support VS 'well, at least you ain't them'.
posted by rough ashlar at 10:34 AM on September 15, 2009


What a brouhaha! Don't these people realize that sometimes a czar is just a czar?
posted by Spatch at 10:44 AM on September 15, 2009


Brouhaha?

Brouhaha! Ha ha ha ha ha ha.
posted by hippybear at 10:52 AM on September 15, 2009


Balderdash.
posted by Devils Rancher at 11:06 AM on September 15, 2009


Obama administration "czars", a term used to denote appointed presidential advisers not subject to Senate approval.

who was confirmed Thursday

So does this confirmation make Sunstein no longer a czar, as she received Senate approval?
posted by Pollomacho at 11:16 AM on September 15, 2009


This guy is a cancer and those on the left shouldn't lift a finger to defend him.

Seriously, get a law degree before ripping Cass Sunstien. He's the best out there. You really have no clue what you are talking about. Because everything you don't like about what he said is likely true about the state of the law in the United States. You can say that you don't like the state of the law, but he's spot the fuck on regarding what the law says about these issues. You appear unable to distinguish between the policy positions of what you want and what the state of US law is and you get mad at Sunstein for saying what the state of the law is.

Why is the left so anxious to stab Obama in the back? Becasue that is what you are doing. And there is only one Obama. There's nobody that will take his place. The best case scenario for the dems is that he runs again. Because if the party doesn't renominate him, black people will be done with it. That will be Rove's perpetual GOP majority.

And if you just say "I'm done with the Democrats" then you also usher in the perpetual GOP majority. That means people die. Lots of people die. If a few pet issues aren't done exactly the way you want, you wash your hands of the only person who can get any of our policies through.

Ignoring the hard choices is what got us here in the first place.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:25 AM on September 15, 2009 [3 favorites]


Ironmouth: "And if you just say "I'm done with the Democrats" then you also usher in the perpetual GOP majority. That means people die. Lots of people die."

Lots of people are dying now.

Leave the hysterical fearmongering to the professionals.
posted by Joe Beese at 11:38 AM on September 15, 2009


Man, there are a lotta czars to keep track of. To make that a little easier, I propose a Czar Czar.
posted by jamstigator at 11:51 AM on September 15, 2009


David Frum defends Sunstein and blasts Glenn Beck.
posted by PenDevil at 11:52 AM on September 15, 2009


Pollomacho, there really isn't an official definition of the term "czar", because no such position exists, so yes and no. If you use the definition I gave there, then no, Mr. Sunstein was never a czar because he was at no time an appointed advisor not subject to Senate approval. However, the term is really meaningless, as is the entire "czar" faux controversy. People out there are mad about something and either they can't admit what it is they are really mad about, or they don't even know themselves, so we have to have these fake outrages about non-existent positions held by people who don't even meet the arbitrary "definition" of the aforementioned non-existent position, so that people can claim they are mad about that, instead of what they are really mad about. You can't get 70,000 people to march on D.C. waving signs that say "The modern world scares and confuses me" or "My life is really shitty and I don't understand why but a guy on TV said it was the government's fault" or "I simply refuse to accept a black man as president".
posted by ND¢ at 11:53 AM on September 15, 2009


Ironmouth: Stop being so hysterical.

Your comment is so absurd it hardly merits a point by point rebuttal, but there are a few spectacular absurdities there.

1) No one is talking about not renominating Obama, or if they are I haven't heard anything. For the most part, liberals and progressives are trying to raise funds for strong house progressives and launch primary campaigns against so called "blue dogs" like Jim Cooper, who actually comes from a fairly liberal district. The idea there would even be a contested primary in 2012 is absurd.

2) Regarding black people and the democratic party, well, I don't even know where to begin. First of all it presupposes a 2012 primary and secondly presupposes that African Americans are like children who will throw a temper tantrum if they don't get there way. Kind of offensive, frankly.

3) "And there is only one Obama. There's nobody that will take his place." WTF? This is exactly the kind of idolizing hero worship that the right complains about. It's also stupid. Most Americans probably didn't know who he even was before he started to run for president, and almost no one knew who he was before '04. There are probably thousands of people as talented and obscure today as Obama was in 2003.

4) "And there is only one Obama. There's nobody that will take his place." What does that have to do with Cass Sunstien? Sunstien isn't going to lose his job over something as stupid as lawyers for rats or whatever it is the right is up in arms about. I'm just point out what he believes so that left-wingers don't go around defending someone who they would probably find reprehensible if they knew what his views were.

5) I'm not saying I'm done with the democrats. I'm just saying that Cass Sunstien sucks.

6) "Ignoring the hard choices is what got us here in the first place." Got us where? a 60 seat majority in the senate, control of congress and the white house? What are you talking about? And what hard choices am I ignoring? The fact that torturing people is a good idea and the perpetrators shouldn't be punished?

7) I don't think torture and rule of law are pet issues, but if they are, then so be it. I don't really care.

My only point was that Cass Sunstien is a duchebag, and liberals shouldn't waste their time defending him. The points you brought up were tangential at best and hysterical as well.

The idea that everyone needs to support Obama 100% or we lose is stupid. Look at the debate over the public option. If it wasn't for the fact that the progressive caucus in the the house was willing to say they wouldn't vote for a bill without that it appears there will be one in the final bill. The idea that we should defend every single Obama appointee, even if we find their views detestable is even more absurd.
Sunstein is an academic, not a blogger. Some of his positions are reducible to soundbites that are unattractive. Sometimes he's more charitable to opposing viewpoints as a scholar than a partisan blogger would like. But this kind of language and lack of solidarity? This right here? It's the real cancer. -- anotherpanacea
Solidarity? Since when I am on the same team as Sunstien?

I don't owe the Obama administration anything. It's the other way around.
posted by delmoi at 11:56 AM on September 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


So then does Sunstein have a smallpox vaccination scar or not?
posted by Pollomacho at 11:59 AM on September 15, 2009


According to you, Sunstein "sucks," and is a "douchebag" and a "cancer." Do you have any idea who he even is? If so, what is it, exactly, that's he's done to deserve your vitriol? You're talking like he's the Antichrist!

Now, I read Sunstein's work. I think Sunstein is pretty smart and pretty creative, and he has a knack for identifying good ideas and assembling them into well-argued popularly accessible books, and much better journal articles. I bet it helps having some of the smartest graduate assistants in the world, (and yes, I am jealous.) But it would be absurd to assert that he'll do anything but a fine job for this administration.

That's right: your hatred is absurd. It's unjustified, and inappropriate, and sort of scary. So I have to ask: what's going on with you that you've picked this perfectly fine legal scholar out for public enemy #1? I mean, it's one thing to disagree with him about prosecutions... but there's a difference between disagreement and "cancer" don't you think? Can we have a little proportionality, please?
posted by anotherpanacea at 12:33 PM on September 15, 2009 [2 favorites]


(1) No one is talking about not renominating Obama, or if they are I haven't heard anything. For the most part, liberals and progressives are trying to raise funds for strong house progressives and launch primary campaigns against so called "blue dogs" like Jim Cooper, who actually comes from a fairly liberal district. The idea there would even be a contested primary in 2012 is absurd.

You bet it is absurd. So why is everyone acting like they have a club over Obama? They don't. The only thing liberals are doing is weakening him. Why? Not supporting Obama now makes it harder for him to actually get health care passed. Some liberals are totally underestimating the difficulty we are going to face and assume that their attacks on Obama for "not being strong enough" aren't hurting him. They are--they are the reason that it is harder. If Obama has a united left behind him, then he can bully the Blue Dogs. But left-wing attacks on Obama only serve to weaken him by giving the appearance that his base does not support him. It isn't that there would be a contested primary, its that you are weakening materially the only guy we got going for us, all for one small part of a larger plan.

(2) Regarding black people and the democratic party, well, I don't even know where to begin. First of all it presupposes a 2012 primary and secondly presupposes that African Americans are like children who will throw a temper tantrum if they don't get there way. Kind of offensive, frankly.

Whats offensive is the idea that some how a decision by African-Americans that a failure to sufficiently support the first black president constitutes good enough reason to leave the party would some how be "childish" and a "temper tantrum." They have every reason to believe that the party should support the best guy on our bench, especially when he is being attacked by virulent racists day after day.

3) "And there is only one Obama. There's nobody that will take his place." WTF? This is exactly the kind of idolizing hero worship that the right complains about. It's also stupid. Most Americans probably didn't know who he even was before he started to run for president, and almost no one knew who he was before '04. There are probably thousands of people as talented and obscure today as Obama was in 2003.

My point isn't that Obama is a god or something. My point is that there is nobody else out there who can lead us right now and in 2012. If we stab Obama in the back because he might *gasp* compromise on some parts of the health plan with people whose votes he needs to pass it, there won't be anyone else to carry our standard in 2012. If Obama fails to pass healthcare, or his own party bolts on key appointments, such as Sunstein, or doesn't support his policies on security, then we are fucked. Plain and simple. Without our support he withers. And with him goes us. People are acting suddenly like there are no Republicans anymore or conservative democrats. The threats are real. People oppose our programs. Our GOP enemies will be emboldened by the lack of support he has.

5) I'm not saying I'm done with the democrats. I'm just saying that Cass Sunstien sucks.

Not supporting the President now, when he is just starting out is going to hurt us. That means in appointments, in everything. You oppose Sunstein? Guess what, so does Newt Gingrich. So that means you help Newt when you oppose Sunstein. I don't understand how you cannot see that. The GOP is against Sunstein. You are agreeing with them and helping them reach their policy aims when you act to discredit Obama and his picks.

6) "Ignoring the hard choices is what got us here in the first place." Got us where? a 60 seat majority in the senate, control of congress and the white house? What are you talking about? And what hard choices am I ignoring? The fact that torturing people is a good idea and the perpetrators shouldn't be punished?

We don't have a 60-seat majority. Ted Kennedy is dead and his replacement won't be on line until February at the earliest. The special election is January 19, 2010. Were you aware of that? That means we can't bust a filibuster. Doesn't anyone count votes anymore? Because those is the facts, people. We don't have the votes to break a filibuster. And conservative dems like Max Baucus and Ben Nelson are not going to vote with us on key aspects of the health plan, such as the public optionl, let alone GOP moderates. And we don't have until 2010 to get this passed. I don't know if anyone noticed, but 2010 is an election year and nothing is going to get done. This must get done this year, and if we are going to get the 1 GOP vote we will need to get the bill passed this year, there can be no public option. I wish this weren't true. But it is.

Torture was bad. I am against it. But there are political realities which we ignore at our peril. Obama was elected by more than just Dems. Going after Americans who were foolishly crossing the line makes ZERO political sense. Moderate independents and Republicans who left the fold because they couldn't stand Bush will not vote for Obama if he goes after the handful of people who were involved in the low-level actual torture. The authors of the policy cannot be touched by the law--Bush and Cheney. You will not see a prosecution of either. Ever. The legal hurdles alone are insurmountable in my professional opinion.

Cass Sunstein is not a douchebag. Have you ever read anything he ever wrote? Ever? Becasue we spent all of law school reading him. If not, how could you say that. He's the US' foremost liberal legal scholar. He is the one who has been carrying the torch the longest. His opinions on what the law will allow us to do are pretty damn solid. We aren't going to get Bush arrested for torture. Ever. So drop it.

The idea that everyone needs to support Obama 100% or we lose is stupid. Look at the debate over the public option. If it wasn't for the fact that the progressive caucus in the the house was willing to say they wouldn't vote for a bill without that it appears there will be one in the final bill. The idea that we should defend every single Obama appointee, even if we find their views detestable is even more absurd.

So, please tell me where our 60 votes in the Senate are going to come from on the public option? I literally am asking you to name the senators who are going to vote for it. Because I can tell you who will not, starting with the following: Lincoln, Baucus, Nelson. Perhaps you think that McCain is gonna vote for it. Good luck on that. It isn't going to be in the final bill, not if we are going to get any GOP votes. And if we use reconcilation, we might have some real problems down the road. The court battles alone will tie up implementation of the legislation for 2 years. It will also be a club against us in 2010. We will lose a lot of districts we recently gained in KY, OH, TN and other purple areas.

Right now attacking Obama and not supporting his nominees is the dumbest thing anyone who cares about the country could do.
posted by Ironmouth at 1:04 PM on September 15, 2009


Here's Blanche Lincoln on the Public Option:

U.S. Sen. Blanche Lincoln said today she opposes a public health insurance option because it would be too expensive.

“For some in my caucus, when they talk about a public option they’re talking about another entitlement program, and we can’t afford that right now as a nation,” Lincoln said in a speech to the Elder Law Task Force at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.


She's one of the alleged "60 votes" we have for the public option.

Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., who is leading a group of six senators negotiating for a bipartisan approach to the health care bill, told reporters today he thinks a government-run, public option "cannot pass the Senate." It's the strongest language Baucus has used yet, though others (notably, Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D.) have been saying it for months.

Baucus and Kent Conrad are not going to vote for the public option. So where's our magical 60 votes? If you have actual cites to actual articles that can support the idea that this will pass, fine. But I doubt you'll find them.
posted by Ironmouth at 1:10 PM on September 15, 2009


If my memory serves me right, the term czar first started out as "edgy" business jargon in the 70s and was later adopted by government. The first reference I can find is Time, Dec 10 1973: Nixon's Decisive New Energy Czar - and the article said he was replacing someone so Nixon had a prior energy czar. He also had a drug czar. It's really just a nickname, not an official title.

Where was the complaint about George Bush's 35 czars. (You gotta love the term "Abstinence Czar," how would you like that on your resume.)
posted by madamjujujive at 1:12 PM on September 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


Ironmouth: "Right now attacking Obama and not supporting his nominees is the dumbest thing anyone who cares about the country could do."

Criticizing the President is unpatriotic. Got it.
posted by Joe Beese at 1:17 PM on September 15, 2009


Information & Regulatory Affairs
The Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), within the Office of Management and Budget, was created by Congress with the enactment of the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1980 (PRA). Under this and other authorities, OIRA develops and oversees several critical functions, including:

* The implementation of government-wide policies and standards with respect to Federal regulations and guidance documents;
* The quality, utility, and analytic rigor of information used to support public policy;
* Dissemination of and access to government information;
* Privacy and confidentiality;
* Electronic records; and
* Federal statistics.

As far as I can tell, none of his 'controversial' opinions have anything to do with this position, and so are totally irrelevant.


I'm a big fan of Sunstein's, so it is not as a critic that I point out that some of his "controversial" views are relevant to his job at OIRA. In particular, OIRA's mandate to impose standards on the rest of the regulatory state is an obvious entry point for his views on the utility of cost-benefit analysis, various kinds of life discounting, and so on. Sunstein's views on regulation and de-regulation are by no means extreme, but many people do not consider them "progressive." I was lucky enough to have Sunstein for Administrative Law class before his appointment, and he very clearly thought OIRA might have the power to impose some kinds of (potentially controversial) discipline on the rest of the regulatory apparatus.

None of this is meant to support the notion that he is a poison. He's a brilliant scholar with research interests everywhere, and that means a big paper trail. He's never been a politician, so he's never been required to submit to the kind of political catechism that Greenwald's commenters believe everyone should. I disagree with him on lots of stuff. His view of executive power seems to be more expansive than mine (though critics should note that in this he seems to be pretty close to Obama and Elena Kagan). But it's stupid to characterize him as some Dick Cheney character.

The use of the phrase "flimsy principles" to mean simply disapproved principles is disappointing; please don't let it deceive you.
posted by grobstein at 1:23 PM on September 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


I dunno Ironmouth. I don't think Obama needs our support here on a website. What he needs is another vote in the Senate. He doesn't have it, so what he needs is a compromise that advances his agenda. I think he's got that. Delmoi's zealousness isn't what hurt him, it was Kennedy's illness and death, combined with the never-ending recount nonsense in Minnesota. Also, perhaps too much deference for the legislative branch's deliberative capacities, though that's a fault I can't help but share.
posted by anotherpanacea at 1:26 PM on September 15, 2009


Full disclosure: I've done a tiny, tiny bit of legal work for the rat lawyer cause
posted by grobstein at 1:31 PM on September 15, 2009


Criticizing the President is unpatriotic. Got it.

I didn't say it was unpatriotic. I said it was unwise. Just explain how it helps us.
posted by Ironmouth at 1:38 PM on September 15, 2009


Full disclosure: I've done a tiny, tiny bit of legal work for the rat lawyer cause

Oh come on, you can't stop there.
posted by empath at 1:40 PM on September 15, 2009


Also, perhaps too much deference for the legislative branch's deliberative capacities, though that's a fault I can't help but share.

Frankly, I think he was trying to get more of a buy-in from them, a la Eisenhower, who had no problem looking like an idiot while getting all of his priorities passed. He once said something along the lines of its amazing how much you can get done as long as you let others take the credit.

Obama thought they'd jump at the chance. They were scared.
posted by Ironmouth at 1:41 PM on September 15, 2009


Full disclosure: I've done a tiny, tiny bit of legal work for the rat lawyer cause

Oh come on, you can't stop there.


Pretty sure he's ethically required to do so, empath.
posted by Ironmouth at 1:42 PM on September 15, 2009


I propose a Czar Czar.

Meesa no think that such a good idea.
posted by hifiparasol at 1:43 PM on September 15, 2009 [2 favorites]


Nice points, grobstein. The last OIRA head, Susan Dudley, was intensely controversial, so I'm okay with some controversy regarding the position, I just want it to be related to the candidate's views.

Dudley was a fringe market-oriented thinker, blindly opposing safety, financial, and environmental regulation that seems eminently reasonable to most people, that are common sense to conservatives and liberals alike: air bags, banking privacy, regulations to prevent overfishing, or arsenic-free water.

Dudley’s theory of market-failure was pure ideology. She reasoned: If the market has failed, we need government regulation. The market cannot fail: markets are self-regulating. Therefore, we do not need government regulation. Ideologists lack the flexibility to be good administrators and managers. Sunstein is the opposite: he's very flexible, and smart enough to put the OIRA headship to good use.
posted by anotherpanacea at 1:49 PM on September 15, 2009


Whats offensive is the idea that some how a decision by African-Americans that a failure to sufficiently support the first black president constitutes good enough reason to leave the party would some how be "childish" and a "temper tantrum." They have every reason to believe that the party should support the best guy on our bench, especially when he is being attacked by virulent racists day after day.
So you had a hypothetical imaginary world in your head where two prepositions are true: 1) Progressives want to get rid of Obama in 2012 and 2) African Americans would be so upset they would all leave the democratic party if they were successful. Preposition 1 is obviously false. I said preposition 2 is offensive.

Now help me out here, are you saying that what I'm saying is offensive in the real world because it makes the claim that imaginary hypothetical black people would be acting in a childish way? Or is it offensive in the hypothetical imaginary world? In the first case, it think it's wrong, and in the second I don't think it matters.

I think you're having trouble confusing the imaginary worlds in your mind with reality.
My point isn't that Obama is a god or something. My point is that there is nobody else out there who can lead us right now and in 2012. If we stab Obama in the back because he might *gasp* compromise on some parts of the health plan with people whose votes he needs to pass it, there won't be anyone else to carry our standard in 2012. If Obama fails to pass healthcare, or his own party bolts on key appointments, such as Sunstein, or doesn't support his policies on security, then we are fucked. Plain and simple. Without our support he withers. And with him goes us. People are acting suddenly like there are no Republicans anymore or conservative democrats. The threats are real. People oppose our programs. Our GOP enemies will be emboldened by the lack of support he has.
This is so paranoid and fearful it's hard for me to make sense of. But I did notice a lack of symmetry. If it's so contemptible for liberals to oppose Obama, isn't it also contemptible for conservative dems like Blanch Lincoln and Baucus not to support him? Why is it betrayal for liberal dems to push back against the president, but not for conservatives? Especially when he wilts so easily under pressure. Since progressives stood strong on the public option last week, Obama has been much more supportive of it.
6) "Ignoring the hard choices is what got us here in the first place." Got us where? a 60 seat majority in the senate, control of congress and the white house? What are you talking about? And what hard choices am I ignoring? The fact that torturing people is a good idea and the perpetrators shouldn't be punished?
We don't have a 60-seat majority. Ted Kennedy is dead and his replacement won't be on line until February at the earliest.
Look, you said "Ignoring the hard choices is what got us here in the first place." And my point was we got to a pretty good place, and we should keep doing it. Ignoring hard choices didn't kill Ted Kennedy. I realize we no longer have 60 senate votes, but that's not because of liberals being hard headed.
The special election is January 19, 2010. Were you aware of that? That means we can't bust a filibuster. Doesn't anyone count votes anymore? Because those is the facts, people. We don't have the votes to break a filibuster. And conservative dems like Max Baucus and Ben Nelson are not going to vote with us on key aspects of the health plan, such as the public optionl, let alone GOP moderates
Look up reconciliation. That's how Obama's budget passed. We don't need 60 votes.
A key Senate Democrat indicated on Monday that the party may route around the slow-moving bipartisan efforts of the Senate Finance Committee and instead use parliamentary procedures to pass health care legislation with only 50 votes, meaning that not even all the Democrats to be on board.

Speaking on a conference call with reporters, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), offered one of the clearest indications yet that Democratic leadership was entertaining use of the budgetary process known as reconciliation if a compromise bill doesn't emerge soon from the finance committee, where Chairman Max Baucus, (D-Mont.), continues to try to get his GOP colleagues on board.
etc
posted by delmoi at 1:51 PM on September 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


delmoi: "So you had a hypothetical imaginary world in your head where two prepositions are true: 1) Progressives want to get rid of Obama in 2012 and 2) African Americans would be so upset they would all leave the democratic party if they were successful. ... Preposition 1 is obviously false"

Give them 3 more years of this shit. They may come around yet.
posted by Joe Beese at 2:04 PM on September 15, 2009


Look up reconciliation yourself. Do you really want a bill written by the Senate Parliamentarian?
posted by anotherpanacea at 2:11 PM on September 15, 2009


Sunstein is an academic who would be conservative in nearly any university department in the land (or any intelligent country).

Nearly being the operative word. Before Harvard (where he recently moved to be with his Lady Love) he was at the University of Chicago for 27 years. At U of C he was widely regarded as one of the most liberal voices, if not the most liberal voice, on the faculty. It's worth remembering that when you read his stuff. He comes from the beating heart of the Law and Economics movement, and his colleagues there (other than the current president and, likely, the next Supreme Court Justice) were and are the intellectual giants of the legal Right (yes, such people exist).

As for calling him a "cancer or a "douchebag", that's just foolish. One can disagree with Sunstein's politics, or even have a dislike for him personally, but "cancer"? Please. And to suggest that he is an intellectual lightweight borders on the absurd. He gave me my lowest grade in law school, but I don't doubt for a second he's one of the greatest academic minds in the law -- whether or not that's a good qualification of a job in the "real world". It takes about ten seconds of listening to him speak or reading his work to figure that out.
posted by The Bellman at 2:54 PM on September 15, 2009


Check out this video of the 9/12 rally lunacy. Worth a watch for the loon factor alone, but the money shot is near the end in which the very young reporter schooling a group of middle-aged morons who don't have the slightest clue what czar even means.
posted by zardoz at 5:29 PM on September 15, 2009


Beck’s Character Assassination Campaign Against Van Jones Was Fueled By AFP’s Efforts To Kill Green Jobs
posted by homunculus at 6:08 PM on September 15, 2009


-Per his Nudge “economics” work, he subscribes to the silly theoretical promise of “paternal libertarianism” as the best guide for governance.

Actually, its "libertarian paternalism." If the poster can't get this extremely basic fact right, its tough to take them seriously on anything else they say.
posted by googly at 7:14 PM on September 15, 2009


« Older Jen Kwok implores you to Date An Asian. (SLYT, lan...  |  "My Name is Potato," Rita Pavo... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments