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If details need to be redacted, fair enough. But why fight wars both in court and on Capitol Hill to maintain secrecy about the law itself? Secret law, for good reason, is often regarded as no law at all.

– Garrett Epps, writing for the Atlantic (emphasis mine), in regards to the perplexing, ineffective, and poorly-advised way the Obama Administration has been releasing information on the parameters of the drone program, and how the law will impose regulation, after Rand Paul’s much-discussed filibuster before the Senate. Epps described the Administration’s approach as “ham-fisted” and also said, “The drone war may not be a cancer on the Obama presidency, but a wise doctor at this point would order more tests,” and I can’t help but agree.

Continuing the topsy-turvy, down-is-up cognitive dissonance perpetrated by the wagonload in Congress over the past few months, Lindsey Graham demands some consistency from his fellow Republicans, and proclaims his “disappointment” in them for criticizing the Administration’s continuation of Bush’s drone program. So, yes, he is, in effect, standing up for Obama.

It’s really quite something, and you should watch it.

As far as Epps’s point goes, I’d back him up by asking, “how can justice that has to be served in secret be justice?”

Connor Friedersdorf, writing for the Atlantic, suggests a new form of journalism – or rather, an optional new mission statement for journalism – that shuns the typical infatuation with inside baseball and “crisis of the hour” fascination, that avoids becoming mired in the intricacies or theatrics surrounding an issue, and that would likely yield far better results from our political leaders than we are getting now.

One way of looking at things is that governing is complicated, and journalists need to roll with it, doing the best that they can to explain the inside baseball. When Bob Woodward says, “I spent two months reporting on how they came to the sequester,” he’s presumably operating on that theory. But covering politics in that way is a choice. What if the political press is doing a disservice to Americans by making it? What if we’re needlessly tailoring our content to the prejudices and preferences of insiders without even fully realizing that there are other options available? What if this particular option more often than not empowers whoever is most adept at spin?

I see no way around explaining something as complicated and jargon-laden as the sequester, even though many educated Americans will either misunderstand it or tune it out completely. But daily accounts of the closed-door negotiations? Regular analysis of their tenor? Pieces on the inner thoughts and feelings of the people involved? Capturing all that accurately, given that every source involved has an incentive to lie or spin, seems impossible to achieve with any consistency. Perhaps it can be achieved, occasionally, by reporters who spend many months reconstructing events with as many sources as possible. But the press as it now operates attempts to publish this sort of journalism on an up-to-the-minute, look-what-just-happened basis.

Isn’t there a better way?

Well fear not – and go ahead and crawl back out from under the couch now – because it turns out there is.

Read More

The Atlantic has constructed – or maybe “divined” would be the right word – a map of all the births and deaths in the United States…in real time. It looks like the picture above, with births and deaths flying up at you and no way to stop them. Over time, you start to notice how many more births there are than deaths, and then you start to think about how big a problem this is going to be.

See the map for yourself in real time here.

See The Atlantic’s explanation of it here.

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