This is must-read stuff from the New York Times. It’s about the ex-generals who show up on television as “military analysts” presumably there to provide a neutral point of view. In practice, however, it seems that they mostly have close ties to defense contractors as lobbyists or executives and are, in fact, just part of the Bush administration communications apparatus.
A new New York Times article reveals that the Pentagon has wooed military analysts with private briefings and access to classified information “in a campaign to generate favorable news coverage of the administration’s wartime performance.” Most of these analysts have ties to contractors who are “vested in the very war policies they are asked to assess on air,” and many admit that they suppressed doubts about the administration’s misinformation out of fear of jeopardizing their access or contracts:
The documents released by the Pentagon do not show any quid pro quo between commentary and contracts. But some analysts said they had used the special access as a marketing and networking opportunity or as a window into future business possibilities.
Over time, the Pentagon recruited more than 75 retired officers, although some participated only briefly or sporadically. The largest contingent was affiliated with Fox News, followed by NBC and CNN, the other networks with 24-hour cable outlets. But analysts from CBS and ABC were included, too. Some recruits, though not on any network payroll, were influential in other ways — either because they were sought out by radio hosts, or because they often published op-ed articles or were quoted in magazines, Web sites and newspapers. At least nine of them have written op-ed articles for The Times.
These analysts were also instructed to not “quote their briefers directly or otherwise describe their contacts with the Pentagon.”
McCain Tries To Run From Bush, One Day After Declaring ‘Great Progress Economically’ During Bush’s Tenure
Yesterday, Bloomberg TV aired an interview between host Al Hunt and Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), in which the presidential candidate attempted to distance himself from President Bush and empathize with middle-class Americans who are struggling financially:
I respect the views of people who basically think that the status quo is satisfactory today. I don’t. I think Americans are hurting, and hurting badly. In fact, I think Americans are not better off than they were eight years ago, when you look at what’s happened to middle-income Americans.
These remarks seem disingenous. On Thursday — just one day before the aforementioned interview, McCain also sat down with Bloomberg TV’s Peter Cook. During that interview, he said there had been “great progress economically” since Bush took office:
MR. COOK: You think if Americans were asked, are you better off today than you were before George Bush took office more than seven years ago, what answer would they give? [...]
SEN. MCCAIN: I think if you look at the overall record and millions of jobs have been created, et cetera, et cetera, you could make an argument that there’s been great progress economically over that period of time. But that’s no comfort. That’s no comfort to families now that are facing these tremendous economic challenges.
So despite all this “great progress,” Americans are still “hurting badly”? Maybe that explains why McCain has said that many of the country’s economic problems are just “psychological.”
I was shocked when I read the news about my friend and colleague:
Alexander E. Farrell, an associate professor in the Energy and Resources Group at the University of California, Berkeley, who worked closely with state government over the past year to chart a course to reduce California’s carbon emissions, died earlier this week at his home in San Francisco. He was 46.
You can read the full obituary here. You can watch a video of him discussing the California low carbon fuel standard (LCFS), which he helped develop, here. He was director of the UC Berkley Transportation Sustainability Research Center, and, as you can see, he was both passionate and analytical, eloquent and scientific.
I was doubly shocked when I found out that he “had taken his life,” as one of his recent coauthors, Michael O’Hare, blogged –
Yesterday everyone associated with the Energy and Resources Group gathered to try to make sense of it and we failed completely. The afternoon before he died he was emailing people about plug-in hybrid batteries. No-one saw it coming, no-one remembered a conversation or a hint that he was in despair or depressed about anything.
I certainly did not see it coming. Sure, this can be a tough field to work in — coming to grips with humanity’s apparent disregard for the health and well-being of future generations. But I mostly heard a lot of optimism from him, since he was a leader on analyzing solutions and providing serious policies in the one state in this country that is taking climate as seriously as it deserves.
I have known Alex for many years, since June 2003, in fact, when he coauthored an article for Science, “Rethinking Hydrogen Cars,” (subs. req’d), and I emailed him, since I was researching a book at the time. He was superb at quantifying the difficult to quantify, and I cited him in my 2004 book as follows:
Paul Krugman reiterates: “Malthus was right for the whole of human history until his own time.” Now here’s my question — is it a coincidence that Malthus’ work appeared just at the time when his conclusions were, for the first time ever, no longer true? Or is the origin of Malthus’ level of understanding of the economic system inextricably linked to the fact that the Malthusian era was ending.
What Chait said.
Kudos to U.S. New and World Report for publishing multiple stories on energy efficiency — “Can America Use Less Energy?” — even if all of my interview ended up on the cutting room floor, something that used to bug me a lot before I got this blog. The editors, and stories’ chief reporter Marianne Lavelle, deserve much credit for focusing on a subject that is not sexy by any journalistic definition of the term:
It’s deceptively comforting, the warm glow of the suburbs after nightfall. But a fiend lurks where the light pours from the windows of too-often-empty rooms. The monster within is America’s voracious demand for power; despite the threat to bank account and planet, we keep using more. The steps to tame electricity in the home are known but hard to manage in our technology-rich world. Workplace energy waste does nothing to bolster the economy, although creative ideas abound for battling the beast. A key move may be to give power companies rewards for efficiency. Leadership will be essential, but the politics of sacrifice doesn’t play well. Individuals must take the first steps; a starting place is unnecessary consumption by computers. And if you must have new gadgets, look at those that help monitor energy use, curb it, and even generate clean power.
The stories, with links, are:
Three Ways Businesses Can Save on Power
Factories and offices often waste energy needlessly [Be sure to read the stuff on cogen--I'll be blogging more on that later this week.]
Gene Healy published this post on John McCain’s fetishization of the idea of serving great causes a while ago, but I really like this one parenthetical joke:
McCain’s sometime ideological guru and op-ed page cheerleader, David Brooks, expresses similar themes in his writings. Even in Bobos in Paradise, Brooks’s foray into “comic sociology,” he warns darkly of “the temptations that accompany affluence.” “The fear is that America will decline not because it overstretches, but because it enervates as its leading citizens decide that the pleasures of an oversized kitchen are more satisfying than the conflicts and challenges of patriotic service.” (As a young man, Brooks served abroad with the Wall Street Journal Europe.)
This is a theme with a substantial lineage including, notably, important affinities with a lot of Theodore Roosevelt’s thinking. I have a piece forthcoming about McCain’s foreign policy which notes that one distressing possibility is that he actually believes this stuff and sees war-induced hardship as a benefit rather than a cost when thinking about foreign policy decisions. The President was, I think, getting at a similar idea when he claimed to envy our troops serving on the front lines since he was missing out on on the “exciting” and “romantic” opportunity to experience “great danger.”
Normally when you hear this kind of stuff it mostly seems foolish, as when middle aged men such as Brooks or Bush who chose not to serve when they had the chance start musing about the romance of war. Coming from someone with John McCain’s background and experiences it has much more credibility (which I think Brooks was and is shrewd enough to understand — part of his initial late-nineties enthusiasm for McCain is precisely driven by the reality that McCain is one of the few politicians who can say this kind of stuff in a credible way) but also more troubling in some respects. McCain, after all, knows what he’s talking about so it seems relatively unlikely that he’s going to suddenly realize how perverse this is (the risk is that life will get good, we need policies to ensure a healthy baseline of death and destruction ) and reconsider.
This Wednesday, April 16, the Bush administration took action on several fronts to show his contempt for Congress, the courts, and the planet.
Contempt for the Planet. President Bush took center stage in the Rose Garden on Wednesday, claiming he has taken a “rational, balanced approach” to climate change and calling for an “ambitious new track” of not capping greenhouse emissions until 2025 — a goal that would spell disaster for the planet. He also denigrated the Supreme Court decision mandating the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate greenhouse gases — a decision he once called “the law of the land.” This contempt underlies actions taken by the EPA and the Department of Justice that very same day.
Contempt for Congress. Also on Wednesday, the EPA’s associate administrator Christopher P. Bliley flatly declined to obey a House Global Warming Committee subpoena for documents relating to EPA’s refusal to obey the Supreme Court mandate. This act of defiance has now “triggered a potential contempt process” against EPA administrator Stephen L. Johnson.
Contempt for the Courts. In September of last year, a federal judge ruled against the auto industry’s attempt to block the 17 states who are acting to regulate tailpipe greenhouse gas emissions. This ruling hinges upon California’s petition for a waiver to regulate emissions — the waiver EPA’s Johnson denied in December. Late Wednesday, the Department of Justice sided with the American Automobile Manufacturers’ appeal, citing Johnson’s denial. However, in the EPA’s own judgment, Johnson’s decision will be overturned. With shameless audacity, the administration is now asking an appeals court to compound the error.
UPDATE: Warming Law explains that the Justice Department “is asking that the Second Circuit declare the entire case ‘not justiciable’ on ripeness grounds” — that is, arguing that the case never should even been considered in the first place.
As we head into the final minutes, let me just note that there’s something a bit odd about a rivalry that’s this intense — driven by three-straight first-round playoff matchups — between teams that are basically unimpressive. I mean, it would be a genuinely shocking Black Swan event if either of these squads won a championship. Probably nobody outside of DC or Cleveland really cares about this matchup, but we care a lot.