Charles Bowden and I recently went on the Kathleen Dunn Show on Wisconsin Public Radio to discuss Mother Jones' Drug War special report, the decriminalization of marijuana, and the case of Emilio Gutiérrez Soto. Once you've listend to Charles Bowden's John Wayne-like voice, go back and re-read "We Bring Fear." It'll sound different.

Listen here. (Note, you may need to install Realplayer or VLC.)

The California National Resources Agency released its Climate Adaptation Strategy on August 3, urging the state to prepare for the looming effects of global climate change. This comes on the heels of a (nearly) national movement in which two thirds of states enacted Climate Action Plans suggesting individual ways that states could mitigate the regional impacts of climate change.

California's strategy is one of only seven adaptation-specific plans currently in the works.  But it highlights the transition from a widespread campaign to stop climate change to an effort to brace for the impacts that are nearly guaranteed within the next few decades. "It used to be that you'd get slapped in the face for talking about adaptation," says Tony Brunello, the deputy secretary of climate change and energy for the CNRA. "It was seen as doing nothing and taking away from mitigation efforts."

But that view changed once climate change became a hot button national issue, embraced as reality by scientists and most American politicians. Brunello notes that the adaptation strategy has not been bogged down by the usual reluctance toward adaptation becuase California has a reputation as a leader on climate change legislation. But, he says, "we are only playing with half a deck. People have to start paying attention the the effects that are already going to impact California."

Quote of the Day

From Rory Stewart, director of the Carr Center for Human Rights at Harvard’s Kennedy School and advisor to the Obama administration on Afghanistan and Pakistan:

It’s like they're coming in and saying to you, "I'm going to drive my car off a cliff. Should I or should I not wear a seatbelt?" And you say, "I don't think you should drive your car off the cliff." And they say, "No, no, that bit's already been decided — the question is whether to wear a seatbelt." And you say, "Well, you might as well wear a seatbelt." And then they say, "We've consulted with policy expert Rory Stewart and he says ..."

Plus there's this about our military strategy in Afghanistan: "The policy of troop increases will look ridiculous in 30 years."  Read the whole thing.

(Via Steve Hynd.)

Two ex-Blackwater employees (or individuals claiming to be) say the company and its enigmatic founder, Erik Prince, murdered—or arranged for the murders—of people cooperating with federal authorities investigating the controversial security firm. Blackwater, which renamed itself Xe earlier this year, says it "questions the judgement of anyone who relies upon" the anonymous declarations filed Monday in connection with a series of civil suits brought on behalf of Iraqi civilians. It calls the accusations—which also include charges of weapons smuggling, money laundering, and a "wife-swapping and sex ring" run out of the company's Moyock, North Carolina headquarters—"unsubstantiated," "offensive," and slanderous.

Earlier today, Blackwater/Xe spokeswoman Stacy DeLuke emailed me the company's statement on the allegations. I've updated my post from yesterday with the company's comments. Given the nature of the charges, I'm reprinting them again here (typos and all).

The proper place for this case to be litigated is in the Court, and we will respond fully in our reply brief (which will be filed on August 17) to the anonymous unsubstantiated  and offensive assertions put forward by the plaintiffs. Because the plaintiffs have chosen inappropriately to argue their case in the media, however, we will also say this:

- The  brief filed by Plaintiff includes two anonymous affidavits state that  their "information" has been provided to the Justice Department -- we can gauge the credence given to those statements --  which hold no water. When the indictments were announced, the United States Attorney the United States Attorney made a point of stating that "[t]he indictment does not charge or implicate Blackwater Worldwide"; "[i]t charges only the actions of certain employees for their roles in the September 16 shooting." He emphasized that the indictment was "very narrow in its allegations": "Six individual Blackwater guards have been charged with unjustified shootings . . .  not the entire Blackwater organization in Baghdad.  There were 19 Blackwater guards on the . . . team that day . . . .  Most acted professionally, responsibly and honorably.  Indeed, this indictment should not be read as accusation against any of those brave men and women who risk their lives as Blackwater security contractors."

- It is obvious that Plaintiffs have chosen to slander Mr. Prince rather than raise legal arguments or actual facts that will be considered by a court of law. We are happy to engage them there.

-We question the judgment of anyone who relies upon and reiterate anonymous declarations. 

Follow Daniel Schulman on Twitter.

Most people seem to think we've hit rock bottom, but signs of recovery are slamming me every day from all angles of media, pop culture, and word of mouth. Let's go David Letterman style with a list, starting at the bottom and working our way up.

Top 10 Signs That the Recession Really Is Over

10. Daniel Gross wrote a column titled "The Recession Is Over! (Technically.)" on Slate.

9. The housing market is making a comeback.

8. 'Cause Bloomberg said so.

7. There has only been one comment on the latest post at StuffUnemployedPeopleLike.

6. Goldman bankers have already returned to their lavish lifestyles.

5. I'm not getting friend requests on LinkedIn about 700 times a day from people I know who are hopelessly out of work. (I hate, hate, hate that useless site! No, I will not be your "LinkedIn" friend!)

4. This week's New York Times Magazine cover story had nothing to do with economics!

3. Being unemployed is no longer chic. And that "Now I have time to find myself" BS has become terribly cliche.

2. TIME overzealously ran a story 5 months ago called "Six Signs The Recession Is Ending," meaning they couldn't think of 10 signs. And now this list speaks for itself.

1. I was invited to a party celebrating the ultimate in douchebaggery: PocketChangeNYC's Fashion Meets Finance soirees are back on. The objective of these gatherings: To mate the men of finance with the women of fashion. Hand me my barfbag, now! Maybe I don't want the recession to end so soon after all...


Earlier this morning I talked about Obama Derangement Syndrome and Bush Derangement Syndrome.  Both involve lots of anger, but that's about where the similarity ends.  ODS is way more detached from reality, and that's no coincidence.  Bob Somerby reminds us today of the granddaddy of them all, Clinton Derangement Syndrome:

Is this attack on Obama “simply nuts?” Actually, yes — it is, quite sadly. But the last time a Democrat went to the White House, the following beliefs were widely asserted — and those beliefs were clinically crazy too....

 • As governor, Bill Clinton murdered many rivals.Hillary Clinton was involved.

 • As first lady, Hillary Clinton was involved in Vince Foster’s death.

 • As governor, Bill Clinton trafficked drugs through Mena, Arkansas.

 • Bill Clinton was himself a major coke user. It’s why his nose is so red.

 • As a graduate student, Bill Clinton visited Moscow because he was a Soviet agent (or something).

 • The Clintons decorated the White House Christmas tree with condoms and drug paraphernalia.

Those beliefs were also clinically insane; they were widely trumpeted and believed all through the 1990s. Indeed, one of the nation’s most famous “Christian leaders” actively pimped the lurid film which detailed the many murders. He remained a cable favorite — and a Meet the Press guest.

Good times.  When it comes to being unhinged, you just can't beat movement conservatism.

Ezra Klein argues today that since minority parties in the U.S. have universally concluded that the best strategy for regaining power is to prevent the majority from ever passing anything important, we should take another look at the filibuster:

There's a good argument [] that eliminating the filibuster would make the Senate a more, rather than less, bipartisan institution. For many legislative efforts, it would remove the "no bill" outcome from the list of possibilities. That would leave minority legislators with one of two options. Vote against a bill that will pass, or work to change and improve and add priorities to a bill that will pass. You might imagine that if "no bill" is the first-best outcome, then a "no vote" would be the second-best outcome. But that's not always true: Voters aren't very interested in ineffectual opposition. They're interested in what you've "done." That can mean killing a bad bill or improving a successful bill. Voting no, over and over again, isn't a very impressive record in any but the most partisan districts.

Actually, this is a testable theory because there's one bill (or, rather, a package of bills) that's passed every year on a straight majority vote: the annual budget.  No filibusters are allowed on budget resolutions, so the question is whether constructing the budget tends to be a more bipartisan process than it is with other bills.  I'm not quite sure what the right metric would be for measuring bipartisan participation in the legislative process, but surely there's some smart political scientist out there who can propose something.  (Or already has.)  Anyone?

In any case, I continue to think the filibuster is unconstitutional.  The fact that certain types of legislation (treaties, constitutional amendments, veto overrides, etc.) specifically require supermajority votes is evidence that the framers assumed that ordinary legislation should be passed by majority vote.  Assumed it so strongly, in fact, that they never seriously considered the possibility that they had to spell it out.

Until I get the Supreme Court to agree with me, of course, this doesn't matter.  But I still think it's true.

UPDATE: Matt Yglesias points out that Senate rules are a political question and therefore the Supreme Court can't rule on them.  I think that's probably true — but I'm not absolutely sure it's true.  In any case, I wouldn't mind forcing them to consider the question just to be sure.  Only a senator would have standing to bring a case, probably, but how hard is it to find one rogue senator willing to take a flyer?  Especially in light of this:

I would say the key piece of evidence for Kevin’s interpretation of this is that the initial draft of the rules allowed for cloture on majority vote. Then during an 1806 revision of the rulebook, the cloture motion was scrapped on the grounds that it was never used and therefore unnecessary. Nobody was contemplating the creation of a supermajority requirement.

Like I say, unconstitutional.  The framers quite clearly intended for congressional legislation to be passed by majority rule.

Flash Trading Finis?

The New York Times reports that Chuck Schumer has persuaded the SEC to ban one of the most controversial practices associated with high frequency trading:

The S.E.C. chairwoman, Mary L. Schapiro, said on Tuesday that she would push to eliminate a controversial high-frequency trading technique known as “flash orders,” which allow traders to peek at other investors’ orders before they are sent to the wider marketplace.

....In a flash order transaction, buy or sell orders are shown to a collection of high-frequency traders for just 30 milliseconds before they are routed to everyone else. They are widely considered to give the few investors with access to the technology an unfair advantage, even by some of the marketplaces that offer the flash orders for a fee.

Flash trading in an era of supercomputers and 10 millisecond latency is an abusive practive that should be eliminated without question.  The other aspects of high frequency trading are a little murkier: they clearly give an advantage to firms who have the money and connections to colocate massive server farms with the exchanges, but the question is whether these practices are unfair and potentially destabilizing, not whether they're flat-out corrupt.  That deserves further investigation, but getting rid of flash trading is a good start.

The Crazies

James Joyner admits that there are lots of conservative lunatics running around these days:

But here’s the thing:  There’s plenty of crazy to go around.  Remember Bush Derangement Syndrome?  The 9/11 conspiracy theorists who thought Bush and Cheney were in on the whole thing?  The Diebold plot to steal the 2004 election?  Should we judge the Left by the whackos that show up at the anti-trade rallies?  PETA?  Greenpeace?  Of course not.  Almost by definition, the people motivated and available enough to show up in the middle of the day to express their outrage about something are not like you and me.

Professional intellectuals surround themselves with likeminded folks and get the idea that they and their cohorts are the norm for their group whereas the crazies on TV are the norm for the opposition.  It just ain’t so.

Now, obviously there's some truth to this, but there are a couple of things that have struck me about the recent surge in conservative nutballs.  First: there's just a whole lot of them.  The Diebold folks couldn't even get a hearing at Daily Kos, let alone anywhere more mainstream.  The 9/11 truthers have always been a tiny band.  And most of the people who believed Bush "knew about 9/11" just thought he had been warned something was coming down the pike.  There was never more than a trivial handful who thought he literally knew the details and deliberately let the plot go forward.

Second: the conservative lunatic brigade appeared so goddamn fast.  It's true that some precincts on the left went nuts over Bush, but anti-Bush venom didn't really start to steamroll until late 2002 when he was making the case for war against Iraq.  Nobody drew BusHitler signs after he signed NCLB or called him a war criminal for signing a tax cut.  It took something really big to create a substantial cadre of big league Bush haters.

Conversely, the conservatives who think Obama is a socialist, or think Obama was born in Kenya, or think healthcare reform is going to kill your grandma, or think Obama is going to take all your guns away — well, that stuff started up approximately on January 21st, if not before.  And it's not just a weird 1% fringe.  There's a lot of conservatives who believe this stuff.  And there wasn't any precipitating cause other than the fact of Obama's election in the first place.

Every movement has its loons, but the current crop of conservative loons really isn't the same as the lefties who grew to loathe Bush over the years.  These folks were crazy from day one, they've become crazy in scarily large numbers, and their conspiracy theories are entirely untethered from actual events on the ground.  ODS is a whole different beast than BDS.

At the East Bay Express, the Oakland, California-based alternative weekly where I spent years as managing editor, few things annoyed our reporting staff more than the annual ritual known as Best Of the East Bay. That's the issue where we would corral them, along with scores of freelance contributors, to suss out and write up (without their usual cynicism) the area's most noteworthy people, places, activities, art, music, products, services, eateries, bars, and so forth. The freelancers were eager for the work; the staff was merely resigned, knowing that it was this issue that paid their salaries. These Best Of issues have long been a cash cow for alt-weeklies and regional lifestyle magazines, often tripling the average issue's page count. They are packed with advertising and are popular with readers. The Best Of formula has been such a winner that, over the years, daily newspapers and TV stations have attempted, mostly feebly, to replicate it. (Click here for our recent collection of snippets on the death of newspapers.)

While the hard-boiled news hounds found it beneath their dignity to cheerlead for local businesses, what resulted was at least a purely editorial product. We would run full-page ballots in the three preceding issues, as well as an online ballot, allowing readers to elect their own "reader's poll" winners—we took pains to eliminate ballot stuffing and we disqualified obvious cheaters. Neither the winners nor the paper's sales reps were alerted in advance as to who had won, nor did the ad reps have any part in selecting nominees. Allowing them to meddle would have destroyed the issue's credibility. Which is why I don't put much credence in "Best of the Bay Television," produced by KRON 4, a former San Francisco NBC affiliate that bills itself “the Bay Area’s News Station.”