War

The New Yorker's Jeff Toobin offers a good response to my open question about how we should be handling Najibullah Zazi, an accused al Qaeda terrorist who may be in league with men still on the loose: Time to break the waterboard out of storage? I think not—and not just because it’s illegal. The U.S. Attorney’s office in Brooklyn which is bringing the case (and where I was a prosecutor in the early nineties) filed a brief where it outlined the reasons why Zazi should be detained rather than released on bail.

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Man Bites Frog, Ctd.

Glenn Beck lays l'affaire grenouille to rest: Readers quick to the site may have read an earlier version of this post, theorizing that there was, in fact, no frog. According to Beck, there was a frog, but it was rubber. Apologies for posting before seeing this video.

This Week's Mediscare

The Republican grandstanding on Medicare during Finance Committee hearings this week hasn't been surprising, I suppose. But the audacity is still pretty breathtaking. As you may have heard or read by now, the Republicans are angry over proposed cuts to Medicare Advantage, the private insurance alternative to traditional Medicare. The insurers who offer Medicare Advantage plans receive a flat fee for every senior that signs up.

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I've spent part of the week complaining about the way community banks are trying to gut the administration's consumer financial regulatory agency even though, in principle, they stand to benefit. (Short explanation: Community banks excel at getting to know their customers, building relationships with them, and vetting their loan applications carefully, not by trying to screw them.

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A Just Withdrawal

The headlines of the last few months make it clear that there are going to be no free passes for America when it comes to getting its troops out of Iraq. The recent bombing of a Shiite mosque in Baghdad, like the internal warfare in Sunni-dominated Anbar Provice, shows how many Iraqi security problems persist. But as President Obama continues the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq, he should do more than pay attention to conditions on the ground.

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Hawk Down

With the 2008 presidential campaign in full swing two summers ago, Joe Biden, then making his own bid for the White House, ridiculed Barack Obama on a momentous issue: Afghanistan. The occasion was an August 2007 speech by Obama outlining his plans to fight Al Qaeda, which included sending an influx of American troops and aid to the country. Later that day, Biden issued a snarky press release gloating about his own extensive record of pushing similar policies, and which cast Obama as a naïve newcomer.

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I spent a decent chunk of my morning navigating the U.N.'s press credential system and, after filling out the same computerized form for the fourth or fifth time in the past three days (which I fear sheds some light on U.N. peacekeeping operations), and later seeing a Japanese reporter rush out of a bathroom stall with his pants at his knees, for reasons unclear, I made it inside to hear Barack Obama speak. It was an elegant speech, as always, if not a terribly profound or historic-seeming one.

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It seems like everyone involved in Afghanistan policy is pulling in a different direction. To name just a few: General McChrystal wants a major troop increase, Robert Gates has flipped positions, Biden is skeptical, and Hamid Karzai is preoccupied with the fate of Hamid Karzai. Click through this TNR slideshow for a catalogue of who wants what in Afghanistan.

Last week, Taliban leader Mullah Omar issued a taunting statement warning America about its prospects in Afghanistan. Here's a choice excerpt: The former Soviet Union claimed, the Red Army was invincible but faced defeat at the hands of the Afghans and completely disintegrated. Many other countries got independence thanks to that. Today USA, the Britain and their allies are bent on subjugating Afghanistan. They are in a total self-delusion and their brain seems not working normally. This is a season of historical analogies.

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Dying For Barge Matal

This is the sort of thing that's awfully hard to explain to the American people: In early July, Afghan President Hamid Karzai asked senior U.S. officials to dispatch a company of about 100 U.S. soldiers to Barge Matal, a village in the northern half of the province that is home to fewer than 500 people. Taliban insurgents had overrun the community and Karzai was insistent that that U.S. and Afghan forces wrest it back from the enemy. "I don't think anyone in the U.S.

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