On the Legality of Assassination by Flying Robot

A long but interesting (as well as horrifying) court decision pertaining to our government’s secret legal justifications for its extrajudicial assassinations by flying robot, the world over.  The judge is clearly infuriated by the situation.  Many thanks to the ACLU and my senator Mark Udall for fighting to get this stuff out in the open.

The FOIA requests here in issue implicate serious issues about the limits on the power of the Executive Branch under the Constitution and laws of the US, and about whether we are indeed a nation of laws, not of men.  The Administration has engaged in public discussion of the legality of targeted killing, even of citizens, but in cryptic and imprecise ways, generally without citing to any statute or court decision that justifies its conclusions…

However, this Court is constrained by law, and under the law, I can only conclude that the Government has not violated FOIA by refusing to turn over the documents sought in the FOIA requests, and so cannot be compelled by this court of law to explain in detail the reasons why its actions do not violate the Constitution and laws of the US.  The Alice-in-Wonderland nature of this pronouncement is not lost on me; but after careful and extensive consideration, I find myself stuck in a paradoxical situation in which I cannot solve a problem because of contradictory constraints and rules … I can find no way around the thicket of laws and precedents that effectively allow the Executive Branch of our Government to proclaim as perfectly lawful certain actions that seem on their face incompatible with our Constitution and laws, while keeping the reasons for their conclusion a secret.

NRDC plan to cap GHG emissions from power sector using the Clean Air Act.

The NRDC has a plan that would allow the EPA to regulate GHG emissions from existing power plants, without either capitulating to the power sector, or banning coal outright immediately (which would be politically… uh, difficult).  The trick is to use fleet-based target, as we do with vehicle emissions standards.  The natural (regulatory) unit is the state, so each state could have its own carbon intensity targets or degression pathway, tailored to its initial generation mix.  The carbon intensity would decline over time, eventually squeezing coal out of the mix, and could allow energy efficiency improvements to count toward the goal, at least initially.  It really amounts to a kind of back-door cap-and-trade for the power sector, and it can be implemented by Obama, all on his lonesome, without any help from the intransigent congress.  The hard part here will be setting stringent enough long term targets.  40% reduction by 2025?  90% reduction by 2050?

Obama Delays Keystone XL Pipeline

The Obama Administration has delayed its decision on the Keystone XL Pipeline.  I think this is a qualified victory for climate activists, and I think it’s incredible. A few months ago we hosted a cross-country caravan of Tar Sands Action protestors sleeping in our living room and carport on their way to DC to be arrested (along with Bill McKibben, James Hansen and more than a thousand other less well known folks), for protesting en masse in front of the White House.  I thought it was a near-hopeless battle.  Really, who knows what’s possible when we get our shit together?

Obama DOJ Leaves Medical Marijuana Patients Sick and Suffering

Obama DOJ Leaves Medical Marijuana Patients Sick and Suffering.  So apparently the Obama DOJ is now going to pursue marijuana producers, even if they are in compliance with state regulations.  This is a reversal of the administration’s previous position, and it’s absurd.  People are going to use weed.  Nobody takes the “reefer madness” BS seriously, and it’s been illegal for close to 100 years, and usage has only increased.  You can either have it produced by tax paying, locally owned small businesses, or you can funnel a lot of that cash to drug cartels in Mexico and the domestic tax-exempt boutique black marketeers.

Fluid norms or Meta-ideology

Steve Randy Waldman takes Krugman and the US left-of-center more generally to task for their implicit assumption that our national ideological stage is somehow not subject to being shaped over time.  Casino games and sport have fixed rules.  Politics does not.  Somehow, many positions that even Nixon was supportive of in 1970 would now be laughed out of congress as socialist.  Trying to get things done within the apparent current constraints is not necessarily as pragmatic as trying to change the rules over time.