Josh Patashnik

Why Direct Democracy Is Awesome
June 24, 2008

Maybe it's petty of me, but I think I'd vote for this: From the Department of Damned-With-Faint-Praise, a group going by the regal-sounding name of the Presidential Memorial Commission of San Francisco is planning to ask voters here to change the name of a prize-winning water treatment plant on the shoreline to the George W. Bush Sewage Plant.  ... “Most politicians tend to be narcissistic and egomaniacs,” said Brian McConnell, an organizer who regularly suits up as Uncle Sam to solicit signatures.

Republican Energy Incoherence
June 24, 2008

The Hill reports that Republicans are trying to make an end run around Democrats and portray themselves as the environmentally friendly party. It's not entirely clear what this bold new plan entails--all the specifics the article mentions are either (a) worthy but modest ideas that Democrats support too, or (b) not actually good for the environment. For instance, according to the article, Republicans plan to abandon their emphasis on drilling in ANWR, and instead promote increased oil shale development.

The Brits Fight Back Against The Pigeons
June 24, 2008

Not only do liberals want to take away our guns--they want us to be tormented by rats with wings: LONDON -- Wimbledon came under fire from animal activists on Tuesday for using marksmen to shoot down dive-bombing pigeons. The tournament employs two hawks to scare away pigeons who had become a pest swooping down on Centre Court and distracting players in the middle of tense matches. But the hawks failed to keep the pigeons away from the players' lawn and the open-air media restaurant so marksmen were called in. "The hawks are our first line of deterrent, and by and large they do the job," Wimb

You Don't Know What You've Got Till It's Gone
June 24, 2008

Ryan Grim reports in Politico today that the Republican leadership in the House is growing annoyed with several of the retiring members of the GOP caucus who are bucking the party line on important votes, even though they have no electoral incentive to do so.

The Federalism Solution
June 23, 2008

The New York Times editorializes today in favor of reforming the General Mining Act of 1872, which allows companies to mine public lands with minimal environmental regulation and without paying royalties to the federal government. As the editorial notes, a growing chorus of Western elected officials at both the state and federal level are coming around to the view that the law, which effectively prioritizes mining over other types of economic activity on public lands, is simply inappropriate for a region that no longer depends so heavily on mining to support itself.

Keeping Fisa In Perspective
June 22, 2008

There's been a wealth of FISA-related commentary in the blogosphere this weekend. For a valuable introduction, check David Kris's two-part primer on the subject at Balkinization (here and here). Elsewhere, Michael Cohen over at Democracy Arsenal injects some much-needed sanity into the debate, responding to Glenn Greenwald's enraged call-to-arms against Democrats who supported the compromise.

A Good Day To Be A Turk
June 20, 2008

I've never seen anything quite like today's Croatia–Turkey quarterfinal game in Euro 2008. A full 119 minutes with no goals (I snuck out of the office to do some, ah, on-site reporting from ESPN Zone at about the 70th minute), then a major goalkeeping blunder leads to an improbable, ugly goal by Croatia. And then this two minutes later on the last play of the game: And then Turkey wins on penalties. Absolutely stunning.

Dick Cheney, The Fourth Branch Of Government
June 20, 2008

Our esteemed vice president has apparently prevailed in his fight to declare himself part of neither the executive nor the legislative branch, and thus not required to open his office's records to public scrutiny: The Democrats are conceding defeat. The party’s top investigator in the House of Representatives acknowledges that there is nothing more he can do to force the vice president’s hand.“He has managed to stonewall everyone,” said Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

How Bad Is The Fisa Deal?
June 19, 2008

House and Senate negotiators reached agreement today on a new bill to amend FISA, which looks like it will be brought up for an up-or-down vote in both houses of Congress, and will almost certainly pass. Opponents in Congress (like Patrick Leahy and Russ Feingold) and liberals and libertarians in the blogosphere are unhappy, primarily (though not exclusively) because the bill would effectively grant immunity to telecoms who abetted President Bush's wiretapping scheme.

Sue Opec? Are You Crazy?
June 19, 2008

A bit strangely, two separate op-eds appear today in the Los Angeles Times and New York Times arguing that it would be a good idea to sue OPEC for violating the Sherman Antitrust Act. Here's the crux of the matter: Unfortunately, over the years, courts have made it nearly impossible to use the act against OPEC, whose members claim they are sovereign nations and thus immune from such prosecution. But OPEC's behavior is commercial, not governmental or diplomatic. It is perfectly appropriate for Congress to remove these legal obstacles.