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  • Special Interrogation Unit Plays Limited Role in Times Square Investigation

    A special counterterrorism unit created by the Obama administration to replace the Bush administration's controversial CIA detention and interrogation program is playing only a limited role in the investigation of the attempted May 1 car bombing of New York's Times Square, according to four U.S. law-enforcement and intelligence officials who asked for anonymity when discussing sensitive information. The limited role of the interagency High-Value Detainee Interrogation Group (HIG) in the questioning of Faisal Shahzad, the Pakistani-American suspect who has been arrested for attempting to carry out the failed attack, raises new questions about just what the HIG's mission is and when the unit is supposed to be deployed....
  • The Great Policy That Dare Not Speak Its Name: Repealing the Home-Mortgage-Interest Tax Deduction

    As Eleanor Clift reported last week, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan That's too bad, because they should. The mortgage-interest deduction, which costs the national treasury an estimated $120 billion per year, is one of the most inefficient, counterproductive federal policies. By favoring money spent on buying a home over money spent on rent or home renovation, which are not tax deductible, we have encouraged people to buy new houses in ever farther suburbs, rather than investing in older houses in the urban core. Perversely, it still manages to push up prices in the more desirable urban areas, often beyond the reach of middle-class Americans, because it increases demand to buy homes in places where supply cannot be increased because they are already developed. The result for cities? Massive disinvestment from the urban core, leading to streets pockmarked with abandoned buildings and empty lots, and the ensuing middle-class flight, with the crime and poor...
  • Dale Peterson: Naming Names and Taking No Prisoners

    [youtube:jU7fhIO7DG0] We're a little late getting to it, but this campaign ad by Dale Peterson, who's running for the Republican nomination for Alabama agriculture commissioner, is just too good not to post. Set to sweeping orchestral stock music, it's a remarkable catalog of patriotic American signifiers: horse, cowboy hat, rifle, dignified but authentic drawl, straight-talking Marine veteran, and quaint, down-home swearing (e.g., "They don't give a rip!"). In an already crowded season of amazing campaign ads, this is truly an impressive entry.
  • Why Tomorrow's Primaries Won't Be a Big Deal—No Matter What Happens

    Prepare yourself. Political types are billing tomorrow as a Super Duper Tuesday of sorts—"a date that ranks as the most important of the election calendar so far," according to Politico's Charles Mahtesian. That means, of course, that there will be some banner election contests: Democratic Senate primaries in Pennsylvania and Arkansas, a Republican Senate primary in Kentucky, and a special election to fill the late John Murtha's congressional seat, again in the Keystone State. But even more, it means that there will be a lot of people like me taking to the airwaves and the Internet to tell people like you what "really's going on here."...
  • Once More Into the Elena Kagan Thesis Frenzy!

    Last week, I read Elena Kagan's Princeton thesis—the whole document, not just the oft-quoted personal soundbites from her preface and conclusion—and found it to be an evenhanded assessment of the Socialist Party's brief window of effective politicking in New York during the early 20th century. In fact, the bulk of her academic work paints a picture of radicals demanding more change than the American system wants to handle, which in turn causes leftist infighting that frustrates the progress of even moderate liberal goals. It's easy enough to read Kagan's work, and look at her mostly cautious demeanor in the years since, and surmise that her takeaway from the project had as much to do with radicalism's practical drawbacks as anything else. But then RedState.com put the whole thing online, declaring it her love letter to the Third International. Next, Princeton demanded that RedState pull it down (citing copyright), and now the White House is promising to...
  • Is the Flow of U.S. Weapons to Mexican Drug Cartels Increasing Under Obama?

    The Mexican military has discovered a major training camp run by the notorious Zetas drug cartel and stocked with an arsenal of military weapons, including 140 semi automatic assault rifles and 10,000 rounds of ammunition—all of them believed to be purchased in the United States, U.S. law enforcement officials tell Declassified.
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    Tweet the Press

    I was not excited. My editor had just stepped into my office to discuss a new assignment. The NEWSWEEK brass is interested in Twitter, he told me, but they’re looking for an original way to cover it—which is where you come in. OK, I thought. Fine. For a youngish reporter like me, this is standard operating procedure.
  • Obama Takes Charge Before the Election

    Barack Obama was more cunning than anyone knew. Obama wasn't much of a tennis player, but he mulled a tennis metaphor offered by a friend: his opponent was like one of those guys in white shorts running from the baseline to the net, then from sideline to sideline, all over the court trying to hit the ball. With a bit of luck, Obama might make him run right out of the match....
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    Newark Mayor Cory Booker Is Model for Obama

    Cory Booker was the Obama of American politics before Barack Obama leaped onto the national stage. When Booker first ran for mayor of Newark in 2002, Barack Obama was a relatively unknown Illinois state senator. It would be two more years before Obama’s keynote address at the Democratic National Convention would transform him into an international star. But Booker, a fresh-faced former Rhodes Scholar and graduate of Stanford University and Yale Law School, was already being lauded—in the national press, on Wall Street, and in Hollywood, as well—as the face of a new generation of post-civil-rights, post-baby-boomer (in style, if not exactly in fact) African-American politicians who would march America into a glorious new day.
  • Obama Midterm Strategy: Blame Bush and GOP

    When he ran for president, Barack Obama’s effervescent campaign was about hope, optimism, national unity, and, above all, the future. He offered a vision of a new world cooperatively shaped by a new generation. The message was mostly positive and upbeat, in part because it was obvious that outgoing Republican President George W. Bush had made a hash of the economy and led the country into two controversial wars. Americans, Obama strategists felt, wanted the uplift of looking forward.
  • Excerpt: Healthcare End Game

    At the beginning of 2010, health care reform had passed both the House and Senate (where Democrats had 60 votes) and was merely awaiting the resolution of the differing versions of the bill. Through endless meetings Obama stayed patient. With another week or two of talks, his aides thought, he would have a final bill approved. Then he could pivot fully to jobs in his State of the Union Address....
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    What Happened to Obama’s Armageddon?

    Here is a wild proposition, one that many who obsessively follow politics did not expect to entertain before Memorial Day. What if Barack Obama is not a tone-deaf big spender who misread the public on large-scale government reform such as health care, but is, instead, what he has always been: a smart, steady, and unobtrusively savvy politician whose long-term bets (his first being winning the presidency itself) are well--considered? Only a few months ago it was, as Republican House leader John Boehner put it, Armageddon on the Potomac, and Obama and the Democrats were to be the chief victims of the furies. I am mixing Christian and pagan imagery, but you get the point.
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    Obama, Year One, The Promise

    From The Promise: President Obama, Year One, by Jonathan Alter. To be published on May 18 by Simon & Schuster, Inc. © 2010 by Jonathan Alter.
  • Utah’s Fight for Uncle Sam’s Land

    Before the oil spill, at least, President Obama had proposed opening tracts of the Atlantic seabed to energy developers. But on dry land, the administration is more conservationist. It cordoned off 2 million acres last year and is considering another 13 million for national--monument status. The Sagebrush Rebellion, a mid-’70s range war between state officials and the federal government, which owns most resource-rich space in the West, started after a similar land grab. Now a new conflict may be afoot.
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    My Turn: Brad Meltzer on Times Square Heroics

    It may be that invisibility is the most beautiful part of any great tale. Most folks don’t set out hoping to do something of great significance, after all; they just live their lives. That’s why the next hero could very well be you.
  • Quote of the Day: Tony Hayward

    "The Gulf of Mexico is a very big ocean. The amount of volume of oil and dispersant we are putting into it is tiny in relation to the total water volume." —BP CEO Tony Hayward
  • EPA Ups the Ante on Climate-Energy Bill

    The Environmental Protection Agency kept the media’s focus on energy and climate this week with a new announcement that in July of next year, it would begin a sweeping crackdown on some of the country’s biggest polluters. Under the plan, stationery sources of greenhouses that emit more than 100,000 tons a year will have to massively ramp down or face high fees.It’s serious stuff. The rule, when enacted, would be the farthest-reaching effort to reduce the U.S.’s out-of-control emissions—the most abundant in the world. And it would be President Obama making good on his promise to environmentalists, who have been waiting patiently for a response to climate change. To major polluters, like utilities and energy producers, it would influence a top-to-bottom taking-stock of operations and a substantial shift to renewable energy sources.But as NEWSWEEK reported in March, this threat to enact sweeping reduction measures is simply that: a bluff. Congress doesn’t want the EPA to regulate the...
  • Weekend Reading

    In Congress, life imitates art, in a bad way. A hater out of Irvine, Calif., disses New Yorkers for boasting too much. Democrats dare Republicans to side with Big Oil. Sounds like a winning strategy, but siding with Big Oil has worked for the GOP past, so why can't it work again? Jonah Goldberg likes Mickey Kaus. Why am I not surprised? Mona Charen blames obesity on food stamps and calls hypocrisy on opposing the former and supporting the latter. Can't argue with that. Attention online advertisers! Matthew Yglesias thinks you shouldn't devalue ads because of low-click through rates. He points out that vague raising of brand awareness was always the point of most ads in the old media, not selling x number of trucks off the specific ad. He's convinced me.
  • Andy Stern's Legacy: Not All Bad

    Friday's Washington Post story about Andy Stern leaving the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) with debts offers a revealing look at the internecine strife that has long plagued the labor movement. And give the Post credit for covering a labor story, which most of the rest of the press simply ignores. But on the occasion of Stern stepping down after 13 years as head of the second largest (after the Teamsters) and fastest growing union in the country, the assessment of his legacy deserves a bit more perspective. ...
  • Despite Conspiracy Theories, No Evidence U.S. Agencies 'Watchlisted' Accused Times Square Attacker Before May 1

    Conservative Web sites have become transfixed by a journalistic red herring that implies, though it doesn’t prove, that U.S. agencies had placed Faisal Shahzad on a terrorism “watchlist” before he attempted to plant a car bomb in Times Square earlier this month. But inquiries by Declassified suggest that reports pointing to U.S. authorities watch listing Shahzad before May 1 are grossly distorted and that, for the moment, all they add up to is fodder for conspiracy theories.The speculation appears to have originated with a CBS News report posted on May 5. The report said that Shahzad’s name had appeared on what CBS described as a “U.S. government travel lookout list” between 1999 and 2008 because at some (unspecified) point he brought “approximately $80,000 cash or cash instruments into the United States.” CBS identified the list containing the information on Shahzad as a Homeland Security computer database called TECS (Traveler Enforcement Compliance System), which it described as...
  • Obama Takes Control of Populist Anger Over Spill

    British Petroleum CEO Tony Hayward didn’t help himself, or his company, this morning when he tried to put the size of the gulf oil spill in perspective. "The amount of volume of oil and dispersant we are putting into [the Gulf of Mexico] is tiny in relation to the total water volume,” he said.True, but not exactly helpful. And almost instantly undercut by an NPR report this morning suggesting that the amount of oil leaking could be 10 times greater than BP, or the federal government, had estimated....