Our guest blogger is Frank O’Donnell, president of Clean Air Watch.
This morning, a federal appeals court struck down key elements of a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency clean-air rule designed to make sweeping reductions in air pollution from coal-fired electric power plants in the Eastern half of the nation. The suit brought on behalf of the coal-burning industry has crippled the signature air pollution control effort by the Bush Administration. It’s the legal equivalent of a dirty bomb: literally tens of thousands of Americans could see their lives cut short by dirty air.
This decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit to vacate the Clean Air Interstate Rule is without a doubt the worst news of the year when it comes to air pollution. It is potentially disastrous news for public health. In the words of Conrad Schneider, advocacy director of the Clean Air Task Force, “This decision will leave tens of millions of Americans exposed to dirty air. It will mean avoidable death and disease.”
The Bush administration needs to do more than file the obvious legal appeal: it needs to come up with a fix that is legally foolproof. If the Bush administration isn’t up to the task, then Congress must step in and fix this mess — the bipartisan legislation introduced by Senator Tom Carper (D-DE) is one obvious vehicle.
The villain in this case is the coal-burning electric power industry. No wonder some are starting to call Duke Chairman and CEO Jim Rogers the Duke Dirt Devil. Rogers — supposedly a “green” leader — led an industry attack because he wanted to save a little money rather than clean up.
When it announced the rules in March 2005, the EPA itself projected that they would prevent 17,000 premature deaths a year. The vast majority of those avoided deaths would happen because of reductions in electric power emissions of sulfur dioxide, which chemically convert to deadly fine-particle soot. To quote from then-acting EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson, the rule “will result in the largest pollution reductions and health benefits of any air rule in more than a decade.” So you can see what we are losing.
In honor of Taylor Momsen:
All I want is you….
In an article for Mother Jones, Laura Rozen reports that there are “significant factors weighing against prospective Israeli military action on Iran before the Bush term ends.” “My sense is the Pentagon would be worried or opposed to an Israeli attack,” says David Wurmser, former Middle East adviser to Vice President Dick Cheney. But, according to Wurmser, an Israeli attack against Iran is still more likely than not:
“Even beyond the question of whether McCain or Obama wins, the Israelis are afraid that no new administration is really going to be able to get its act together quickly to be able to mobilize a plan and do something,” Wurmser said.
Wurmser put the odds of Israel striking Iran before Bush leaves office at “slightly, slightly above 50-50.”
I felt better after talking to the bubbly [Florida Governor Charlie] Crist, who’s like human Prozac. “How can you not be optimistic about Florida?” he asked. “Is there a more beautiful place on the planet?” He then recounted a story that probably won’t help him in the GOP Veepstakes: “John McCain told me, ‘It’s tough in those Rust Belt states. You really feel a bit of depression in people’s outlook. But when you get to Florida, people feel great.’”
I know, I know IOKYAR so there’s no story here.
An ABC News report this morning raised two questions about the feasibility of a sixteen-month withdrawal from Iraq: “Is it possible to get all those troops and equipment out of there that fast? And if you could, what would happen after they left?” Watch it:
In regard to the first question, last September the Center for American Progress released How to Redeploy (pdf), a report authored by Lawrence Korb and others detailing a 12-month time-frame for redeployment from Iraq. The report shows that “it is possible to conduct an orderly and relatively complete redeployment of U.S. forces from Iraq in roughly a year” :
Using all elements of U.S. military power, focused on our land forces’ proficiencies — maneuver warfare and logistics — we believe that our military can accomplish such a task.
One of the reasons the authors believe this sort of redeployment is possible is that it has been done before:
The Pentagon was able to organize the rotation of nearly 235,000 soldiers and their accompanying equipment in the spring of 2004 in and out of Iraq as the forces who led the invasion reached the end of their one-year deployments.[...]
During [a 10 to 12 month] timeframe, the military will not replace outgoing troops as they rotate home at the end of their tours and will draw down force and equipment levels gradually, at a pace similar to previous rotations conducted by our military over the past four years. According to a U.S. military official in Baghdad involved in planning, a withdrawal could take place safely in this time period.
Withdrawing at this rate would force some choices about what equipment to take and leave. The report states that the U.S. “clearly wants to remove all equipment of value or sensitive nature from Iraq as it withdraws, but it does not need to remove every nut and bolt belonging to the U.S. government.”
A 12-month timeframe should be sufficient to remove most heavy or sensitive assets from Iraq while leaving behind non-essential equipment and supplies.
As to Raddatz’s second question, she doesn’t really attempt to answer it. The strong consensus from the soldiers she interviewed is that they want to “finish the mission,” and while this is of course commendable, there are some additional facts that should be considered.
The first is that, while the continued American deployment in Iraq may have shown benefits in mitigating some of the more disastrous consequences of the Iraq invasion, it continues to exact a heavy price for overall U.S. national security, most significantly for the fight against Al Qaeda in Pakistan’s tribal areas and a resurgent Taliban in Afghanistan.
In remarks on July 2, Admiral Michael Mullen, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, alluded to these costs:
Let me also say just a word about Afghanistan. I am and have been for some time now deeply troubled by the increasing violence there. The Taliban and their supporters have, without question, grown more effective and more aggressive in recent weeks and as the casualty figures clearly demonstrate.[...]
I’ve made no secret of my desire to flow more forces, U.S. forces, to Afghanistan just as soon as I can, nor have I been shy about saying that those forces will not be available unless or until the situation in Iraq permits us to do so.
Another fact to consider is that there is no military solution to the political problems that persist among Iraq’s leaders. If Iraqi politicians don’t have the proper incentives to come to a political accommodation — and the open-ended American military commitment that both Bush and McCain advocate does nothing to provide those incentives, in fact it does the the opposite — it really doesn’t matter whether American troops are there for one more year, or a hundred more years, as John McCain would like.
Finally, while it’s certainly advisable to listen to what military leaders have to say about Iraq — something Bush, Rumsfeld, and McCain failed to do when they supported a vastly under-manned “war on the cheap” approach to the Iraq invasion — the Iraqi people and their elected leaders have made it abundantly clear that they want a U.S. commitment to a timeline for withdrawal from their country. This is the “fact on the ground” that McCain and other war supporters have consistently ignored.
It seems that Chris Dodd’s documents are going in the vetting process but Joe Bidens aren’t. I like Dodd a lot, qua Senator, but one wonders how much he really brings to the table as a VP. Obama could definitely do worse, though.
During the last two days, the McCain campaign has gone into damage control over top economic adviser Phil Gramm’s belief that America has “become a nation of whiners” and is only “in a mental recession.” McCain tried to disavow the remarks by saying that “Phil Gramm does not speak for me.” But McCain’s distancing doesn’t change the fact that Gramm is considered his “econ brain.” McCain thinks so highly of Gramm that he was even the chairman of his failed 1996 presidential bid.
As it turns out, this is not the first time that Gramm, a self-styled “foot soldier of the Reagan revolution,” has advocated controversial views on the economy. In the past, he has criticized public works projects, the existence of a minimum wage, and the federal welfare program. Here are some highlights from McCain’s “econ brain,” as compiled by the Houston Chronicle [2/20/95]:
- “Until we are on a pay-as-you-go budget, until we have stopped inflation, I do not intend to support any public works project in the United States.” — Gramm, 10/9/75
- “Minimum wage laws tend to cut the bottom rung off the economic ladder. The plain truth is there should be no minimum wage law in this great land of free enterprise.” — Gramm, 5/17/89
“We’re the only nation in the world where all our poor people are fat.” — Gramm, 9/6/81
In addition, Gramm is an advocate of the flat tax and wants to cut taxes on capital gains. [Concord Monitor, 9/26/96] As the Wonk Room has noted, such capital gains cuts would mostly benefit millionaires. Joe Conason writes on Salon that Gramm’s deregulation policies “helped spur the mortage crisis.”
But it is not only on the economy that Gramm is out of touch. During a 1984 Senate debate, he criticized his opponent’s stance on gay rights by saying, “I do not want homosexuals teaching my third-grade boy.” [Houston Chronicle, 2/20/95] He also reveled in the defeat of Hillary Clinton’s health care bill by saying that it would pass only over his “cold, dead, political body.” He then called it “deader than Elvis.”
This is all from a man that John McCain said has a “rare intellect that grasps complex issues and explains them to others in plain language [Washington Times, 2/27/95].”
Over on the Wonk Room, University of Texas professor James Galbraith reviews Gramm’s economics dissertation and finds it lacking. “It contains no advanced mathematics, no data or analysis of data, no archival or otherwise original research.” Galbraith warns Gramm could be the Secretary of Treasury in a McCain administration.
Jared Berrnstein has some more informed than I can muster commentary on the Fannie Mae / Freddie Mac situation.
Today, the EPA published its response to the April 2007 Supreme Court ruling in Massachusetts v. EPA — which mandated that the agency determine whether greenhouse gases pose a threat to public health — listing various ways to control emissions. In letters attached to the document, however, administration officials “disavow[ed] the document’s conclusions.” The Wall Street Journal reports:
In a letter accompanying the EPA document…Susan Dudley, administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, bluntly disavowed the analysis, saying it relied on “untested legal theories” and “cannot be considered Administration policy or representative of the views of the Administration.”
“There is strong disagreement with many of the legal, analytical, economic, science and policy interpretations in the draft. These letters do reflect agreement with you that the Clean Air Act is a deeply flawed and unsuitable vehicle for reducing greenhouse gas emissions,” Ms. Dudley wrote in the letter, dated Thursday and addressed to the EPA’s administrator, Stephen Johnson.
Brad Johnson at the Wonk Room notes that EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson decided to attack the work of his own staff in addressing climate change, concluding that the Clean Air Act is “ill-suited for the task of regulating global greenhouse gases.”