Media Matters has the gory details.
One thing I don’t really understand is the sentiment that America’s military posture in the Middle East is somehow justified or at minimum caused by that region’s large oil reserves. Oil, obviously, is a valuable commodity, but it’s not that valuable. The Iraqi state’s oil revenue is about $20 billion per year, which is a lot of money, but only a small fraction of the annual cost of occupying the country. Looked at another way, Iraq produces about 2.25 million barrels per day of oil and crude sells for around $62 a barrel. 62 times 2.25 million times 365 is a large number — about $51 billion — but still way less than the annual cost of the war.
Or, for yet another perspective, American consumers use about 20 million barrels a day of black gold — good for 7.3 billion barrels in a year. Now suppose you think that withdrawing military forces from the region would lead to widespread chaos and $100 a barrel oil. That means higher energy prices for consumers. But if US consumers could just pocket the cash that’s instead being spent on military operations in the area, they’d still have much more post-oil money on hand even if consumption didn’t drop at all in response to the price hike.
Carbon neutrality gifts are one of this year’s hip, eco-political holiday items. But if you were hoping to off-set your greenhouse gas emissions by planting trees, ecologists will tell you it is probably “pointless.”
The idea has been to plant trees since forests absorb carbon dioxide and help cool the air. However, forests at certain latitudes (typically in the northern hemisphere) have a warming effect because they retain heat in their canopies. Conversely, natural terrain (especially snow) reflects most sunlight back into space.
Confusion can be traced to the difference between reforestation and afforestation, both policies that are encouraged in the Kyoto Protocol. Second to fossil-fuel combustion, deforestation is the largest source of carbon dioxide emissions. Therefore, pulling back on deforestation slows emissions while reforestation compensates for them by sequestering carbon and restoring natural habitat.
Ideally, afforestation (or just forestation) would do the same, but, as the ecologists conclude, it can cause unintended consequences. Over and over again, the environment teaches us just how carefully we must tread on this planet.
Looking at Darfur and the strains on US troops being caused by deployments in Afghanistan and Iraq, Michael O’Hanlon argues that we should create a dedicated genocide-prevention division of about 20,000 troops within the Army:
A genocide-prevention division within the U.S. Army would circumvent this problem. Since its only mission would be to stop genocides, deploying the force would never require us to ask more of soldiers who already have their hands full with other conflicts. Moreover, those volunteering for the new force would know exactly what they were getting into and enlist specifically because they embraced the mission. These soldiers could be recruited from the ranks of idealistic college and high school students across the nation who have done so much to keep Darfur in the public eye.
Color me skeptical. Different kinds of soldiers get different kinds of training, but they’re all at least semi-fungible. If we had a spare genocide-prevention division lying around, it would be getting sent to Iraq as part of the “surge” not to Africa. The President would simply argue that escalation of the Iraq War is a genocide-prevention mission because of the sectarian violence. Then on the flipside, I’m not sure there’s a discrete military task called “genocide prevention.” You might, in an effort to halt a genocide, bomb some buildings or troop formations somewhere. Alternatively, as part of a war to overthrow the Taliban you might wind up policing the streets of Kabul and taking responsibility for the safety of the city’s residents. So you want some military forces who specialize in bombing, and others who specialize in policing, but you don’t have some troops who specialize in genocide prevention and others who specialize in attacking hostile governments.
At any rate, though the mass killing of civilians is certainly awful on US foreign policy should seek to minimize violations of the international prohibition of such tactics, I do think pursuit of such a goal needs to be put in a broader context [UPDATE: what follows here is an excerpt from Ye Olde Book Drafte]:
Unfortunately, to many liberals and many members of the administration, Kosovo came to be viewed not as an unusual case — an outlier defining the limits of when liberals would endorse the use of aggressive force absent U.N. authorization — but as setting a baseline for an ill-defined new era of humanitarian militarism. Michael O’Hanlon, a Brookings Institution scholar thought to have been in line for a top post in a hypothetical Kerry administration, penned a 1999 article advocating military intervention “whenever the rate of killing in a country or region greatly exceeds the U.S. murder rate, whether the killing is genocidal in nature or not” utterly without reference to the United Nations or any other sort of multilateral authority. He listed ten countries — Sudan, Somalia, Rwanda, Burundi, Liberia, Angola, Bosnia, Chechnya, North Korea, and Kosovo — where interventions would have been warranted by this standard during the Clinton administration alone. Mercifully, he conceded that fighting the Russian Army in Chechnya was not a very pragmatic option (as he says, it “would have risked a major-power war between nuclear-weapons states with the potential to kill far more people than the intervention could have saved” ) but gave no consideration to the possibility that launching unprovoked unilateral military strikes at the rate of one every nine months or so would destabilize the entire international system. Indeed, despite O’Hanlon’s demurral on the Russia front, later that year The New Republic was lamenting that “Milosevic-like deeds by Milosevic’s allies will provoke only scolding followed by winking” rather than some unspecified more robust action.
I don’t think a 20,000 member division is going to be able to meet the ambitions of a policy like that.
This morning, the Washington Post reported, “Southern Methodist University is now the lone candidate in exclusive talks for the George W. Bush Presidential Library.” According to the story, the entire SMU community is thrilled about the prospect:
SMU officials, students and university supporters said the Bush library negotiations represent great opportunity.
“It doesn’t matter what your politics are,” said Dawn Moore, an SMU graduate and Dallas attorney. “What history we’ve had in his eight years is all of our history. It will be great for SMU.”
The Washington Post makes no mention of protests by SMU faculty, administrators, and staff, reported earlier this week by the Texas Monthly. In a Dec. 16 letter to Board of Trustees president R. Gerald Turner, members of SMU’s Perkins School of Theology urged the board to “reconsider and to rescind SMU’s pursuit of the presidential library.” An excerpt:
We count ourselves among those who would regret to see SMU enshrine attitudes and actions widely deemed as ethically egregious: degradation of habeas corpus, outright denial of global warming, flagrant disregard for international treaties, alienation of long-term U.S. allies, environmental predation, shameful disrespect for gay persons and their rights, a pre-emptive war based on false and misleading premises, and a host of other erosions of respect for the global human community and for this good Earth on which our flourishing depends. … [T]hese violations are antithetical to the teaching, scholarship, and ethical thinking that best represents Southern Methodist University
The Washington Post report is a reprint of a story written for McClatchy Newspapers. The full McClatchy story briefly mentions the protests, but that portion was edited out of the version printed in the Washington Post.
Sometimes it’s interesting to go looking for information on the internet without any particular point in mind. This is the recent trading history of a Tradesports contract that pays off if the Denver Nuggets win the Western Conference Championship. Obviously, the betting community liked the trade. But they didn’t like it that much. You can buy San Antonio at 30, Dallas at 24, Phoenix at 21.9, and Houston at 9.3, and Utah at 8.2 — Denver’s 6.5 just barely edges out the Lakers at 5.8, which seems a bit absurd to me. I’m not super-optimistic about this deal, but Denver already has a slightly better record than Houston and, at a minimum, you’ve got to figure the trade definitively puts them above the Rockets, Lakers, and other Western Conference also-rans.
“President Bush signed an executive order Thursday to raise the pay of federal workers, members of Congress and Vice President Dick Cheney in the new year.” (The federal minimum wage — $5.15 an hour — hasn’t been raised since 1996.)
UPDATE: “Congress opted to put off its pay increases until Feb. 16, not Jan. 1, on the urging of the incoming Democratic leaders in the House and Senate. They say no pay raise should kick in until Congress approves an increase in the federal minimum wage.”
Middle East analyst Flynt Leverett, who served under President Bush on the National Security Council and is now a fellow at the New America Foundation, revealed last week that the White House has been blocking the publication of an op-ed he wrote for the New York Times. The column is critical of the administration’s refusal to engage Iran.
[The] Op-Ed article we wrote for The Times, [was] blacked out by the Central Intelligence Agency’s Publication Review Board after the White House intervened in the normal prepublication review process and demanded substantial deletions. Agency officials told us that they had concluded on their own that the original draft included no classified material, but that they had to bow to the White House.
The redacted version of Leverett’s original op-ed is here (and pictured above). He has provided his original citations “to demonstrate that all of the material the White House objected to is already in the public domain.” All of the citations Leverett provides are available online from newspapers, think tanks, and government websites.
Last week at the Center for American Progress, Leverett noted that this incident “just how low people like Elliot Abrams at the NSC [National Security Council] will stoop to try and limit the dissemination of arguments critical of the administration’s policy.” (Hear his remarks here.)
Here is the Flynt Leverett op-ed the National Security Council wouldn’t permit to see the light of day, complete with redactions. More brackground here. It’s clear from reading the thing that this simply isn’t an op-ed about classified information. The section where all the redactions are coming from is a brief rundown of US-Iranian relations in the Bush years — that information’s all out there already, it simply isn’t very well-known and it’s a bit embarrassing to the White House.
It was often said of Bill Clinton that one of his great political assets was good fortune in terms of his enemies. The same is much more true of his wife. As Kevin Drum and Steve Benen note, Dick Morris’ furious hostility to New York’s junior senator can’t but make you like her. And his threat to actually leave the country if she wins, well, that’s icing on the cake. And then, of course, there’s Martin Peretz:
Hillary has been scheming for the presidency since the day her husband entered the White House, which is why she didn’t much take to Al Gore. I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if she conspired with James Baker–or is that just me?
The same column’s praise of Barack Obama, meanwhile, is giving me doubts. He’s “a latter-day Martin Luther King Jr.,” and “a picture of America’s future, black and white” as well as “Supple in mind and bearing, evoking energy and thoughtfulness.” Peretz asks, “what, for heaven’s sake, is there to criticize about Obama? Nothing.” As I say, troubling. Maybe Petey wants to give me some Edwards ’08 bumper stickers.
UPDATE: In case of confusion, put this case against Obama in the “light-hearted” file.