Defense Department General Counsel William Haynes, who was a “prime mover” in the Bush administration’s efforts to bypass the Geneva Convention, announced today that he “is returning to private life next month.” Already a controversial figure due to his torture advocacy, the negative spotlight on Haynes increased last week when former Gitmo prosecutor Col. Morris Davis told The Nation that Haynes had insisted that the administration “can’t have acquittals” at Guantanamo Bay. More on Haynes’ role in the Bush administration here.
Former Attorney General John Ashcroft agreed today to testify before Congress, a day before a House Judiciary subcommittee was scheduled to discuss subpoenaing him. Ashcroft will “appear at a federal hearing looking into no-bid contracts he and others received to monitor out-of-court corporate settlements, including a New Jersey deal in which Ashcroft stood to make millions of dollars. ” Chris Christie — the U.S. Attorney who awarded Ashcroft his sweetheart deal — has not agreed to testify.
Trillions turn green – Market Watch. “Nearly 50 leading U.S. and European investors representing more than $8 trillion of assets met on Feb. 14 at the United Nations to lay out a timetable for their commitments to global climate change and to call on governments and other investors to act with their money as well.”
US Should Speed Up Energy Efficiency Plans – IEA – Reuters. “The US government needs to move more quickly on plans to boost automobile fuel efficiency standards, improve efficiency of power plants and take hard action on heat-trapping greenhouse gases, the International Energy Agency said Friday.”
Follow Germany’s lead, invest to save energy – The Telegraph (UK). An interesting spin on modernizing (and making efficient) the building sector (responsible for 39 percent of U.S. emissions – except this is in Germany/UK).
Easing concerns about pollution from manufacture of solar cells – Physorg.com
The study hasn’t been released, but it will be worth keeping an eye out:
Solar energy has been touted for years as a safer, cleaner alternative to burning fossil fuels to meet rising energy demands.
However, environmentalists and others are increasingly concerned about the potential negative impact of solar cell (photovoltaic) technology. Manufacture of photovoltaic cells requires potentially toxic metals such as lead, mercury and cadmium and produces carbon dioxide, which contributes to global warming.
In the new study, Vasilis M. Fthenakis and colleagues gathered air pollution emissions data from 13 solar cell manufacturers in Europe and the United States from 2004-2006. The solar cells include four major commercial types: multicrystalline silicon, monocrystalline silicon, ribbon silicon, and thin-film cadmium telluride.
The researchers found that producing electricity from solar cells reduces air pollutants by about 90 percent in comparison to using conventional fossil fuel technologies.
Contrary to the desires of House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH), Rep. Rick Renzi (R-AZ) released a statement late Monday vowing not to resign his House seat. “I will not resign and take on the cloak of guilt because I am innocent,” Renzi said. He was indicted last week on 35 counts of extortion, money laundering and conspiracy relating to his efforts to get the federal government to buy land from his business partner.
Over the weekend, the Bush administration went full throttle in attacking Congress for not granting “telecommunications firms immunity from violating federal privacy laws.” On Friday, Attorney General Michael Mukasey and DNI Michael McConnell sent a letter to Congress claiming that the nation was “now more vulnerable to terrorist attack and other foreign threats.”
In today’s White House press briefing, spokeswoman Dana Perino continued the attacks on Congress. When reporters pressed Perino to explain how intelligence analysts are now limited since the expiration of the Protect America Act (PAA), Perino was forced to concede that she had no idea:
QUESTION: Is it not the case, as the writers of the op-ed in today’s Post claim, that the law protects all of this until August?
PERINO: It’s a little bit more complex than that. [...]
QUESTION: Dana, to be clear, don’t you still — you can still pursue that information, go after it, as long as you come back within three days and get a warrant under FISA, correct? I mean –
PERINO: I’m not a lawyer. [...]
QUESTION: If this is such a big deal, why didn’t the president accept another extension? … The president made clear he wouldn’t accept it.
PERINO: Well, that’s true, but they wouldn’t have been able to pass it anyway.
Throughout the briefing, Perino referred reporters to the letter by Mukasey and McConnell. But even that letter was weak. Just a few hours later, the administration was forced to backtrack and admit that nothing had changed; all the telecos had agreed to “continue cooperating with the government’s requests for information.”
Since the PAA expired, law enforcement and intelligence officials are still able to carry out new surveillance against suspected terrorists. They will simply need to get a warrant. Warrants can even be obtained after the surveillance has started.
Reporter Helen Thomas also pressed Perino on who gave telcos the “right to break the law,” to which Perino testily replied, “You’re entitled to your opinion, but you’re not entitled to your own set of facts.”
Transcript: Read more
On Fox News’s Election HQ today, former White House political adviser Karl Rove denied allegations made by a former GOP operative on CBS’s 60 Minutes last night that he personally told her to find evidence that former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman (D) was cheating on his wife. Asked if CBS called him for comment, Rove said that he had spoken to them five months ago, but that they didn’t call him for comment when they decided to air the report. Watch it:
CBS, however, says they did contact Rove and that he responded “through his lawyer.”
Today, a coalition of progressive groups — including MoveOn, the Center for American Progress Action Fund , US Action, SEIU, VoteVets, and Americans United for Change — announced a new “Iraq/Recession” campaign, a $15 million nationwide effort to end the war and refocus our priorities here at home. The campaign will raise awareness of the domestic costs that have been neglected due to Bush and John McCain’s singular focus on Iraq.
John and Elizabeth Edwards joined in a conference call this morning to announce the campaign. “If the economy is your No. 1 issue when you’re voting, the war is also your No. 1 issue because there is a connection between the two,” Elizabeth Edwards said. Listen to John and Elizabeth’s remarks:
VoteVets unveiled a new ad today as part of the campaign, questioning McCain’s desire to stay in Iraq for a thousand years. In the ad, Rose Forrest — an Iraq war veteran — asks: “How about a thousand years of affordable health care? Or a thousand years of keeping America safe? Can we afford that for my child, Senator McCain? Or have you already promised to spend trillions of our dollars… in Baghdad?” Watch it:
A new poll of swing voters commissioned by US Action found that a huge majority — 69 percent of them — support ending the war and reinvesting in health care and new clean energy jobs. A recent AP poll found that 68 percent of Americans believe pulling our troops out of Iraq would help a great deal or somewhat in addressing our faltering economy.
I’m not sure the point can be made forcefully enough that John McCain is, among practical politicians, perhaps the single most committed advocate of an imperial vision of American foreign policy out there. This case can (and will!) be made at great length, but one quick way of getting at the point is through Teddy Roosevelt. It’s well known that McCain is a huge Roosevelt admirer, and sees himself as a kind of TR for the 21st century. At the same time, TR is a complicated, multi-faceted figure. Among other things, however, he was an arch-imperialist at a time when imperialism was undertaken with much less of a velvet glove. Things like McCain’s March 25, 2002 speech at USC make it clear that he doesn’t see Roosevelt’s imperialism as somehow incidental to his hero’s vision:
Theodore Roosevelt is one of my greatest political heroes. The “strenuous life” was T.R.’s definition of Americanism, a celebration of America’s pioneer ethos, the virtues that had won the West and inspired our belief in ourselves as the New Jerusalem, bound by sacred duty to suffer hardship and risk danger to protect the values of our civilization and impart them to humanity. “We cannot sit huddled within our borders,” he warned, “and avow ourselves merely an assemblage of well-to-do hucksters who care nothing for what happens beyond.”
His Americanism was not fidelity to a tribal identity. Nor was it limited to a sentimental attachment to our “amber waves of grain” or “purple mountains majesty.” Roosevelt’s Americanism exalted the political values of a nation where the people were sovereign, recognizing not only the inherent justice of self-determination, not only that freedom empowered individuals to decide their destiny for themselves, but that it empowered them to choose a common destiny. And for Roosevelt that common destiny surpassed material gain and self-interest. Our freedom and our industry must aspire to more than acquisition and luxury. We must live out the true meaning of freedom, and accept “that we have duties to others and duties to ourselves; and we can shirk neither.”
Some critics, in his day and ours, saw in Roosevelt’s patriotism only flag-waving chauvinism, not all that dissimilar to Old World ancestral allegiances that incited one people to subjugate another and plunged whole continents into war. But they did not see the universality of the ideals that formed his creed.
There are a couple of things to note about this. The sentiment that American patriotism is a higher calling than some tawdry blood-and-soil nationalism is a fairly banal one in the US and serves as an umbrella under which different kinds of ideas can hide. But McCain brings it up and specifically ascribes this view to Roosevelt, apostle of empire. To McCain, a commitment to universalism requires American expansionism. Indeed, to McCain it is precisely commitment to this imperial vision that makes American patriotism superior to other brands of nationalism. Our own patriotism would become compromised by stinginess and selfishness were we to show more restraint in world affairs.
Florida state Rep. Donald Brown (R) introduced a bill last week to create a “Confederate Heritage” license plate for the state. Saying “it would give motorists a way to show pride in their heritage,” Brown proposes a $25 charge for motorists to purchase a plate with “a shield displaying the rebel battle flag symbol surrounded by several flags from the Civil War era.” The money would benefit “educational programs run by Sons of Confederate Veterans,” which considers the Civil War to be “the Second American Revolution.”
UPDATE: Via The Buzz:
Matt Stoller brings an important perspective to the issue of the media under-covering foreign policy issues in the campaign, namely that the liberal wonk community needs to share some of the blame for this since part of the problem derives from Democrats’ reluctance to engage politically with these issues. That seems right to me. Any Democratic campaign worth its salt can provide for you a wonky discussion of its health care plan or its trade policy. But it can also generate TV spots, quips from surrogates, somewhat unfair mailers, etc. that don’t at all sound like a seminar on trade policy.
Historically, they’ve been much worse at doing this on national security issues. A presidential campaign knows it needs to check the national security box, so they organize one or more Major Foreign Policy Addresses and then kind of play duck-and-cover hoping that Republicans won’t attack them and when Republicans do attack them whining that you shouldn’t play politics with national security. But if we all take for granted that politics will be played with basic questions of economic growth and fairness, then why not play it with national security, too? And beyond that, “ought” implies “can” and there’s just no way to hermetically seal foreign policy off from politics — one needs to learn how to play the game well. I even wrote an article about this once that became part of the backdrop for Heads in the Sand.
I do think things are changing on this front to some extent, though mostly in a sense of Democrats either getting smarter about playing defense or else the ones who are really bad at defense got killed off in 2002 and 2004. Most Democratic political operations still seem to me to primarily look at national security issues as an area where you might lose points, and not as an area in which to be on the lookout for potential lines of attack.