(insert snowden pun here)

Dave Weigel:

At the risk of sounding overly Team Obama, is [tracking down Edward Snowden] like those other crises? This is a pretty-please campaign of asking other states to hand over a 30-year-old guy who leaked some greatest hits from his NSA homework. The insertion of the president in the negotiation raises the political stakes for the leaders of those states, the risks of failure are high, and they're especially pathetic. Remember when Obama personally appealed for Chicago to get the Olympics, and failed? Imagine that on a grander scandal.

This seems about right to me. Set aside for the moment the relative merits of Snowden's cause and actions--elevating his fugitive status just strikes me as a dumb move. How many Chinese and Russian dissidents have been granted asylum in the U.S., over the objections of those countries? Of course they are going to be uncooperative about it when presented with the rare opportunity to aid an American dissident.


ground rush

The movers are coming a week from today. They were originally supposed to be coming Saturday; when I found out that they weren't I was initially pissed off (mostly because it necessitated a hasty re-negotiation with my landlord, whose graciousness in the matter made what could have been a clusterfuck no big deal) but now I am relieved. I could use an extra couple of days to catch my breath.

Officially, I am still at work until the end of the week; unofficially, I'm hoping to get that down to about 3.5 days.

We are planning a trip to Winnipeg en route (not strictly en route, but close enough in the context of a 3000-mile drive to be worth it) to see our niece (and a few adult family members, if we must) who will be turning 1 year old while we are there. I'm looking forward to that. I'm also looking forward to a nice long drive across Alberta and Saskatchewan, but that may change if Alberta is still flooded this time next week.

The delay in the movers means we will have a little less time on our hands to mosey across the countries than I would have preferred, but hopefully we will get to do a little bit along the way. See some giant ball of twine, or maybe pull off in Chicago long enough to grab a hot dog. (That'll be about all we can do, as we will have an actual dog in tow.)

Anyway, even though I've been down this road a few times now, it still feels quite surreal and slightly panicked. I'm definitely glad we're not trying to buy a house at the same time. For us, landing two good jobs in the same metro at the same time (and it happening to be one in which we are quite eager to live again) is enough a coup. No need to press our luck.

I will probably be a bit of a non-entity in the land of ones and zeros for a while. Stay out of trouble.


probably the last time i will blog about seattle politics

There's a mayoral election coming up, which I will no longer be around to vote in. So, I won't belabor the point here. I suspect incumbent Mike McGinn may benefit from the fact that so many people are running against him in the primary (we have a non-partisan, top two candidates go to the general primary system in WA). And at the moment, it would appear that it will be down to McGinn and either Ed Murray (who has zero experience with city issues, and whose effectiveness in Olympia is frankly questionable) or Peter Steinbrueck, who is much more conversant in the issues of the city, but on the wrong side of too many of them (especially density and transit).

I think McGinn has dropped the ball on handling SPD, and that is not trivial. However, as far as the local economy goes, Seattle is doing really, really well. And even though McGinn can hardly take credit for all of that, it matters.

Apart from the police issue, the main complaint I hear about McGinn is that he just isn't nice enough. (File this as an "only in the Pacific Northwest" thing.) Given that the state government in Olympia is frequently and actively hostile to the city's interest, I consider that a feature, not a bug.

Steinbrueck is in denial about where the city is and where it is going. (The best description I've heard, and I apologize for not remembering from whom I've heard it, is "approaching San Francisco-like density with a Phoenix-like transportation system".) Murray, as far as I can tell, just really, really wants to be our First Gay Mayor, in an era where being "X's first Y Z" is becoming increasingly less noteworthy by the moment. (And that is a good thing.)

In other words, I don't see any reason to expect Murray to be particularly competent, and I worry that Steinbreuck would competently implement policies that are not in the city's best interest. McGinn may not be perfect, but I really think it would be foolish not to give him another term, given the options.

with diplomats like these...

...who needs a War Department?

Twenty years ago, in a debate over the war in Bosnia, Madeleine Albright, then the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, issued a challenge to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Colin Powell. Albright wanted the U.S. to confront an aggressive Serbia; Powell and the Pentagon were hesitant. Albright grew frustrated: “What’s the point of having this superb military that you’re always talking about if we can’t use it?” Albright asked. Powell later said that he thought Albright was going to give him an aneurysm.

Flash-forward to this past Wednesday. At a principals meeting in the White House situation room, Secretary of State John Kerry began arguing, vociferously, for immediate U.S. airstrikes against airfields under the control of Bashar al-Assad’s Syrian regime -- specifically, those fields it has used to launch chemical weapons raids against rebel forces.

It was at this point that the current chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the usually mild-mannered Army General Martin Dempsey, spoke up, loudly. According to several sources, Dempsey threw a series of brushback pitches at Kerry, demanding to know just exactly what the post-strike plan would be and pointing out that the State Department didn’t fully grasp the complexity of such an operation.

Dempsey informed Kerry that the Air Force could not simply drop a few bombs, or fire a few missiles, at targets inside Syria: To be safe, the U.S. would have to neutralize Syria’s integrated air-defense system, an operation that would require 700 or more sorties. At a time when the U.S. military is exhausted, and when sequestration is ripping into the Pentagon budget, Dempsey is said to have argued that a demand by the State Department for precipitous military action in a murky civil war wasn’t welcome. 

Holy hell. If anyone should be able to grasp the problems with "precipitous military action in a murky civil war," it's John Fucking Kerry

big wheel keep on turnin'

You know we armed Iraq. I wondered about that too, you know. During the Persian Gulf war, those intelligence reports would come out: "Iraq: incredible weapons – incredible weapons." "How do you know that?" "Uh, well … we looked at the receipts. But as soon as that check clears, we're goin' in."
--William Melvin Hicks, c. 1993


further comment is not required

Will Wilkinson on the security state. Just read it.


edward snowden in his own words

From a very long reader Q&A at The Guardian:

Further, it's important to bear in mind I'm being called a traitor by men like former Vice President Dick Cheney. This is a man who gave us the warrantless wiretapping scheme as a kind of atrocity warm-up on the way to deceitfully engineering a conflict that has killed over 4,400 and maimed nearly 32,000 Americans, as well as leaving over 100,000 Iraqis dead. Being called a traitor by Dick Cheney is the highest honor you can give an American, and the more panicked talk we hear from people like him, Feinstein, and King, the better off we all are. If they had taught a class on how to be the kind of citizen Dick Cheney worries about, I would have finished high school.


pretty sure i've seen this movie before

Well, fuck.

us law should not be a tool for international criminals

I mentioned my evolving views on the subject of legalizing prostitution a little while ago, my main misgiving being that legalization does not appear (at least in the cases examined) to do a great deal towards preventing human trafficking, and in fact may make it worse.

This recent series on the subject of human trafficking by WGBH is well worth your time. I listened to the last installment this morning, that summarized what can be done to combat this problem. I found some of their recommendations more satisfying than others, but most glaring to me was the policy recommendation that they didn't make, at least not explicitly:

Blanket, permanent immigration amnesty for suspected victims of human trafficking.

And yes, I do mean "suspected"--more specifically, that the crime of trafficking need not be "proven" in a legal sense (that no one need be convicted for it) for the victims to qualify for amnesty.

One of the greatest weapons traffickers have against their victims in the US is fear of running afoul of US authorities, of being deported and/or imprisoned, and --importantly--of being permanently banned from the US. This is a tremendous disincentive for trafficking victims to come forward. In effect, the traffickers are using US immigration law against their victims.

One might argue that putting such a broad amnesty in place creates a back door to immigration, that the system will be ripe for abuse. Perhaps. But personally, I am a great deal less concerned about someone getting into the US on a false pretense of being a victim of trafficking than I am about the trafficking happening under our noses going unpunished.


david brooks on the issue of the day

He manages to spill a few hundred words wildly speculating about Snowden's motives and absolutely none on the merits of the NSA program itself. Where to begin? Never mind, take it away, Twitter:

I mean...you do realize that Snowden in all likelihood outed himself to make it harder for the government to kill him, right? Given what he has firsthand knowledge of, I think it is fair to say that his assessment of his chances of being found out might be...slightly better than average.

So fine, speculate about his motives, his politics, and whether or not he'd make a good neighbor. But maybe, just maybe, it is worth considering that he knowingly put himself at considerable risk for a cause he considered much greater than himself.

(in which i begin my career as a quasi-anonymous political operative)

I've mentioned that things are getting a little bit nutty down in Raleigh. Truth be told, I've barely scratched the surface of it. Expect more on that when I am in thick of it.

I've come to realize that life in Seattle has made this libertarian-leaning liberal a bit...complacent. Don't get me wrong--I'm happy to see my neighbors getting (legally) married. I'm happy to know that no one in my state is going to go to jail for simply having pot. It's really pretty great when one of the most heated topics of local debate is whether we need more bike lanes or not.

But I'm moving back to the front lines. And holing up on the island of comparative sanity that is Durham and Chapel Hill just isn't going to do.

So I've started a new project, which I intend to be unapologetically partisan in purpose, but ruthlessly data-driven in execution. Putting it bluntly, it's going to be wonky as fuck, which is why I'm not doing it here. And I'm serious about the fact that it will not be a venue for partisan debate. The only debates entertained there will be how best to go about defeating Republicans in North Carolina.

This may--if I have the juice to maintain it for as long as I hope--take a little bit away from the goings-on here. But don't worry; I don't have the attention span to only ever write about one thing...