I’m not sure if I’m supposed to be plugging non-Atlantic blogs, but the new American Scene blog sure does look cool and features several of the most wortwhile righties in the ‘sphere.
In Dec. 2005, President Bush issued an executive order mandating that federal agencies better administrate the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The order stipulated that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales would submit reports documenting agencies’ progress in meeting FOIA “milestones.”
In its June 2007 report, the DoJ proclaimed “diligent and measurable progress” in FOIA compliance across the federal government. FOIA activists, however, claim the DoJ has wildly overstated its success, as the new DoJ report distorts and misleads on key benchmarks:
Claim #1: Agencies are making “significant progress” with FOIA. The DOJ reported that more than half of the agencies successfully met their milestones, “and that 90 percent made meaningful progress.” But the report’s graphics show that only 11 of 25 agencies met all their milestones, and three agencies did not meet a single target.
Claim #2: Agencies have decreased the number of unprocessed FOIA requests. “The report cites no data to support the claim. … The number of unprocessed requests among the 25 agencies highlighted actually increased 13 percent.” In fact, several agencies, such as Housing and Urban Development, State Department, and Homeland Security, piled on FOIA backlogs at faster rate than they received requests. “Three agencies — NASA, the CIA and Treasury — reported fewer requests but their backlogs still rose.”
Bush’s DoJ has opposed FOIA reform and open-government efforts for years. In the 109th Congress, the Department “squelched efforts to pass the OPEN Government Act.” Last month, Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) blocked a bipartisan attempt to update FOIA because of the Justice Department’s concern that “it could force them to reveal sensitive information.”
According to Meredith Fuchs of the National Security Archives, the report “is essentially smoke and mirrors designed to discourage Congress from enacting a law that would mandate improvement in FOIA processing.”
“I’ve heard he’s been called Bush’s poodle. He’s bigger than that. This is just background noise, a distraction from big things.” Bush added, “Tony’s great skill, and I wish I had it, is that he’s very articulate. I wish I was a better speaker. … He’s much more kind of lofty and eloquent than I am.”
“Vice President Cheney’s office Tuesday dismissed Democratic claims that Cheney is putting himself above the law because his office refused to grant access to an oversight agency that is tasked with reviewing how classified information is handled. ‘Constitutional issues in government are generally best left for discussion when unavoidable disputes arise in a specific context instead of in theoretical discussions,’ Cheney’s chief of staff, David Addington, said in a letter to Sen. John Kerry (D-MA).” Kerry called Addington’s response “legalistic” and unacceptable. RawStory has more.
Today, the Service Members Legal Defense Network released a Pentagon statement that “includes the first language from Pentagon leaders suggesting that lesbian and gay service personnel should continue to use their skills in support of national security efforts, even after facing dismissal under the law.” The statement reads:
These separated members have the opportunity to continue to serve their nation and national security by putting their abilities to use by way of civilian employment with other Federal agencies, the Department of Defense, or in the private sector, such as with a government contractor.
The Pentagon’s statement recognizing gays marks a positive step forward. In the 1990s, the military’s policy was that “homosexuality is incompatible with military service,” claiming the prohibition was necessary for “group cohesion.” In March, backed by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Gen. Peter Pace controversially claimed that the “military should not condone immoral acts,” referring to homosexuality.
But the Pentagon still will not call for the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Since the policy was instituted in 1993, at least 11,000 servicemembers, hundreds of whom had key speciality skills such as training in Arabic, have been forced out of service. With our currently overstretched armed forces, the military could lure as many as 41,000 recruits if gays could serve openly.
With the State Department facing a dearth of Arabic translators, yesterday, Reps. Tom Lantos (D-CA) and Gary Ackerman (D-NY) urged the Department to hire bilingual gays expelled from the military as a result of DADT:
We are writing to urge the Department of State to take a specific step — the hiring of our unfairly dismissed, language-qualified soldiers — so our nation might salvage something positive from the lamentable results of this benighted policy. … under-investment in critical foreign languages presents an urgent and immediate threat to our national security, a threat that cannot be ignored while we train new foreign-language experts.
Read the Pentagon’s statement HERE.
“A new low of 30 percent of Americans say they support the U.S. war in Iraq and, for the first time, most Americans say they don’t believe it is morally justified,” a new CNN poll finds.
Nearly two-thirds of those polled want withdrawal of U.S. troops to begin — either in part or in total. … Asked whether the U.S. action in Iraq is morally justified, 54 percent said no, versus 42 percent who said yes and 4 percent with no opinion. [...]
Support for President Bush matched his lowest rank ever in a CNN poll, with 32 percent saying they approve the way he is handling his job, and 66 percent saying they disapprove, according to the CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll.
Elizabeth Edwards confronted right-wing pundit Ann Coulter during a live interview on MSNBC this afternoon, charging that Coulter’s “personal attacks” on former senator John Edwards and others were based on “the language of hate.”
Yesterday on ABC’s Good Morning America, Coulter said, “[I]f I’m gonna say anything about John Edwards in the future, I’ll just wish he had been killed in a terrorist assassination plot.” She has previously called Edwards a “faggot.” In 2003, she wrote a column claiming that John Edwards drove around with a bumper sticker saying “Ask me about my son’s death in a horrific car accident.”
During an hour-long interview with Coulter today on MSNBC, host Chris Matthews announced that Elizabeth Edwards was on the line. Edwards referenced the attacks above, saying, “I’m the mother of that boy who died. These young people behind you…you’re asking them to participate in a dialogue that is based on hatefulness and ugliness instead of on the issues, and I don’t think that’s serving them or this country very well.” The live audience cheered. Watch it:
Responding to Edwards, Coulter first inexplicably claimed that she “didn’t say anything about [Edwards]” on the previous day. Then Coulter tried to claim that Edwards just wanted her to “stop speaking” and stop writing books, but Matthews rebutted her, saying, “No, she said you should stop being so negative to people individually.”
When her first two attempts to spin the situation faulted, Coulter then launched into another baseless, personal attack, accusing John Edwards of “bankrupting doctors by giving a shyster Las Vegas routine in front of juries…doing these psychic routines in front of illiterate juries to bankrupt doctors who now can’t deliver babies.”
Transcript: Read more
Attorney General Alberto Gonzales was in Boise today for a press conference to discuss combatting gang activity. But he was forced to move the press conference “this afternoon to the federal courthouse in Boise because more than 100 protesters staked out his chosen site for the event. So instead of holding his conference at the Fort Boise Community Center, Gonzales opted to stage the event more than an hour later at the US District Court building nearby.”
UPDATE: KTVB reports, “Just before his scheduled 2:50 p.m. appearance for media questions and answers, a representative appeared and told the gathered crowd that Gonzales would speak at an alternate site – with only credentialed members of the media present.The crowd erupted in disappointment, with many yelling and screaming. Some chanted ‘coward, coward.’”
John Rigdon in the June 2007 Physics Today has a fascinating article on “Eisenhower, scientists, and Sputnik.” Here are James Hansen’s comments on the article:
President Eisenhower was arguably the last United States President to seek and value advice of scientists. As discussed by John Rigdon in June 2007 Physics Today, scientists played important roles in the World Wars, but they did not have substantial access to and influence upon policymakers. The brief window of influence under Eisenhower was in the wake of Sputnik, being preconditioned by Eisenhower’s tenure as President of Columbia University, where he grew to respect I.I. Rabi. Following Sputnik, Eisenhower established the President’s Science Advisory Committee with Rabi as chairman.
Rigdon describes a conversation of James Killian with Eisenhower in Walter Reed Hospital shortly before Eisenhower’s death, with the former President surrounded by instruments relevant to cardiac care, and his heartbeats visible on an oscilloscope. Eisenhower asked about “my scientists” and said “You know, Jim, this bunch of scientists was one of the few groups that I encountered in Washington who seemed to be there to help the country and not to help themselves.”
Rigdon is probably right about the lack of substantial influence of scientists on national policymakers today. Congress does not call on the National Academy of Sciences for broad assessment on how to deal with global climate change, nor does the President call on a Science Advisory Committee. Unless the public becomes sufficiently concerned to demand otherwise, it seems that special interests will continue to have undue sway in energy/climate policies.
I don’t normally read Red State but I found myself mentioned in this brief item which linked to a larger post by Blackfive, a former Army officer, supposedly taking me to school on counterinsurgency theory. It goes off on a little tangent that’s really a classic of the politics of ressentiment:
I realize that Mr. Yglesias is hampered by a Harvard education; that is a disadvantage for anyone. Harvard was once a great institution for learning, the greatest in America; but that time has long gone. It no longer educates the complete man, and yet its reputation is such that its alumni believe themselves to be educated to the highest degree. They do not grasp that their institution has failed them.
Sure, sure. And, look, I wouldn’t want to pass myself off as some kind of expert on military affairs; I’d say I’m better-informed than your average political pundit, but it’s not a super-high bar. Nevertheless, if one really does want to delve into the details of my undergraduate education, it’s actually true that my intense skepticism about the ability of the United States to wage a successful counterinsurgency campaign in Iraq does owe something to a college course I took on military strategy. The professor was Steven Peter Rosen, and he served in the Defense Department (in the Net Assessment office) and on the National Security Council during the Reagan administration.
He runs the Olin Institute along with Samuel Huntington. Make of that what you will. I have no idea whether or not Rosen would agree with my contemporary political opinions. The point, however, is that this picture of elite educational institutions as little islands of ignorance and lefty cocooning are substantially off-base. Introductory economics, for example, was taught by a Reagan administration official until a Bush administration official took over teaching responsibilities.