By Climate Guest Blogger on Jul 26, 2008 at 8:37 pm
Mapping out policy work for the next couple of months and pushing aside today’s hottest energy issues for tomorrow’s, one topic is emerging as a painfully true, slumbering giant – the rising costs of home heating during the winter and the additional financial burden on Americans.
I could explain more, but I don’t really have to. The New York Times editorial team took care of it in this morning’s paper, and it’s worth reiterating here, there and everywhere:
In 1993, a class action lawsuit on behalf of an estimated 30,000 Amazon residents was filed against oil giant Chevron, who at the time had recently purchased Texaco. The lawsuit alleged that Chevron was responsible for Texaco intentionally dumping “more than 19 billion gallons of toxic wastewaters” and “16.8 million gallons of crude oil” into Ecuador’s environment.
This past spring, a court-appointed expert recommended that “Chevron be required to pay between $8 billion and $16 billion to clean up the rain forest.” Finally having “to disclose the issue to its shareholders,” Chevron has launched “an unusually high-powered battle” to convince the Bush administration to pressure Ecuador to “quash the case.”
Chevron’s lobbying offensive is being led by former senators Trent Lott and John Breaux, along with Wayne Berman, a top fundraiser for Sen. John McCain (R-AZ):
Chevron is pushing the Bush administration to take the extraordinary step of yanking special trade preferences for Ecuador if the country’s leftist government doesn’t quash the case. A spokesman for U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab confirmed that her office is considering the request. Attorney Steven Donziger, who is coordinating the D.C. opposition to Chevron, says the firm is “trying to get the country to cry uncle.” He adds: “It’s the crudest form of power politics.”
Chevron’s powerhouse team includes former Senate majority leader Trent Lott, former Democratic senator John Breaux and Wayne Berman, a top fund-raiser for John McCain—all with access to Washington’s top decision makers.
So far, Chevron’s power push has resulted in “a senior Chevron exec” meeting with Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte “on the matter.” “One Chevron lobbyist” told Newsweek that the company’s argument to the Bush administration is: “We can’t let little countries screw around with big companies like this—companies that have made big investments around the world.”
The Tax Policy Center discovered a $2.8 trillion gap between between the various promising John McCain has been making throughout the campaign and what his economic policy advisers have been describing more quietly to expert analysts. Slate reports on McCain’s explanation:
“This is parsing words out of campaign appearances to an unreasonable degree,” Holtz-Eakin said. “He has certainly I’m sure said things in town halls” that don’t jibe perfectly with his written plan. But that doesn’t mean it’s official.
Basically, the McCain campaign’s position is that their candidate should be allowed to produce one set of “official” numbers for the purposes of expert scrutiny. But when going around the country talking to voters, McCain should be allowed to produce a different set of “unofficial” proposals — perhaps made with his fingers crossed behind his back — that are designed to trick voters into believing he means what he says, while really they’re just unoffocial proposals he doesn’t mean. Or something.
There’s an excellent piece by Elisabeth Bumiller in The New York Times which makes the point that one area in which Bush and McCain now differ is foreign policy. Specifically, Bush has — without explicitly admitting any errors — moved away from his earlier, disastrous policies on a number of fronts.
McCain, by contrast, has stayed much closer to the true faith. Bumiller explains that “as the administration has taken a more pragmatic approach to foreign policy, the decision of Mr. McCain to adhere to his more hawkish positions illustrates the continuing influence of neoconservatives on his thinking even as they are losing clout within the administration.” Of course it’s relevant here to recall that McCain reached these positions first running as the neocon candidate in 1999-2000 while Bush tried to straddle the neocon-pragmatist divide. Now the two men have returned to form, with McCain promising a return to the sort of policymaking we saw from Bush in 2002-2005.
Sadly, reliable sources inform me that this is not a trailer for an actual show just an aspiring director trying to get noticed. But as a Gossip Girl fan now transplanted to DC, I kind of want to see it.
One problem here, however, is that DC Prep is the name of a real school, a public charter school in Northeast mostly serving low-income families. And, by most accounts, doing a damn fine job of it getting good results for disadvantaged kids who would otherwise be wasting away in the distinctly subpar DCPS system. They’re trying to steadily scale up the size of their operation both to help more students but also to try to prove that they have a concept that can work at larger scales and be a model for systematic changes.
Last week, Former Vice President Al Gore challenged the nation “to produce every kilowatt of electricity through wind, sun and other Earth-friendly energy sources within 10 years.”
Gore’s call was virtually ignored by the mainstream press, which afforded energy and global warming only three percent of the coverage during the week of Gore’s speech. What paltry coverage there was often “repeated and amplified many common points of confusion with global warming policy.” Right-wing editorial pages and blogs went further, attacking Gore’s plan as “nutty” (Rocky Mountain News), “absurd” (Wall Street Journal), “lunatic” (The Atlantic), “climate claptrap” (Real Clear Politics), and in “energy la-la land” (San Francisco Chronicle). Speaking with right-wing pundit Dean Barnett on the Hugh Hewitt radio show, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) mocked his former colleague:
Yeah, Gore is the only, uh, engineer or scientist I’ve heard, heh, who thinks that’s possible. I mean, that would be wonderful, but that’s a dreamworld. That’s not reality and I think the American people are interested in straight talk, not dreamworld talk. We’re going to be using fossil fuels to some extent or another for multiple decades.
Gore was absolutely right when he pointed to the right-wing and corporate breakdown of rational discourse in his 2007 book, The Assault on Reason. In the real world, as Gore explained in his speech, “our dangerous over-reliance on carbon-based fuels is at the core” of today’s “economic, environmental and national security crises.” His conservative critics are the ones living in a “dreamworld.”
If you follow our plan you would probably see the grid more like 90 percent decarbonized in first 10 years. But you would also see 85 percent of truck freight shifted to mostly electrified trains, construction of light rail, and massive reductions of emissions in residences, commercial buildings, and industrial use. So we reduce emissions by more than Gore’s proposal, and reduce oil use significantly too, something Gore’s plan would not do. So not only is Gore’s plan feasible over a 10 year period, much greater reductions are feasible than Gore calls for over a 10 year period. Gore remains, as he as always has been, a mainstream centrist.
The Post Carbon Institute has released a plan entitled “10 Steps in 10 Years to 100 Percent Renewable Power,” outlining what it will take to reach Gore’s goal. As the Seattle Post-Intelligencer editorial board wrote:
Can it be done? Yes. A carbon-free future can become reality — if the nation is willing to invest money, creativity and national spirit. This type of impossible goal is exactly the sort of dream that’s made America, well, America.
UPDATE: At Daily Kos, Devilstower writes how Gore’s challenge affects the grassroots Energize America campaign for progressive energy policy, saying it makes “many things about that 2006 plan suddenly seem timid.” He continues:
Many voices have already been raised in support of Gore’s plan, but predictably the defenders of the status quo are legion. It’s funny how some of the same voices who are quick to point to the transition from whale oil to petroleum as a sign that technology will always be there to save us, are now screaming “not yet!” Let’s get this straight from the start. There’s no question that Gore’s plan is possible. But the biggest advance of Gore’s plan might be more psychological than physical. By setting such a lofty and laudable target, Gore draws both the screams of the naysayers and the minds of the general public in a way that a more timid plan would never achieve.
On MSNBC’s Hardball last night, host Chris Matthews asked former White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan if he saw “FOX television as a tool” to get the White House’s “message out” while he was in the Bush administration. “Certainly there were commentators and other, pundits at FOX News, that were useful to the White House,” replied McClellan, adding that they were given “talking points.”
Making a distinction between journalists like Brit Hume and commentators like Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly, McClellan admitted that “certainly” the White House used Fox News talking heads as “spokespeople” with “a script”:
MATTHEWS: So, you wouldn’t use Brit Hume to sell stuff for them, but you’d use some of the nighttime guys?
MCCLELLAN: Yeah, I would separate that out, and certainly I, you know, they’ll say, that’s because they agree with those views in the White House.
MATTHEWS: Well, they didn’t need a script though, did they?
MCCLELLAN: No, well, probably not.
McClellan later told MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann that “it was done frequently, especially on high-profile issues” and that Fox often gave the White House “its desired results.” Current Press Secretary Dana Perino would only tell Olbermann, “I’m not aware of that.” Watch it:
Fox News’s close relationship to the Bush administration should come as no surprise to anyone, considering Fox’s Neil Cavuto once ran a segment asking if George W. Bush was “the best President.” But, as Olbermann notes, it “is one of those things you assumed to be true all along, yet you are shocked when the hard confirmation actually shows up on your door.”
Not only is Fox the network the White House turned to when Vice President Dick Cheney had to explain how he shot his friend in the face, but the network has also produced sympathetic documentaries on both Cheney and President Bush.
Obama’s particularly large leads over McCain in Friday and Saturday’s tracking suggest that the massive publicity surrounding Obama’s speech at the Victory Tower in Berlin on Friday — the only major public event of the trip — and coverage of Obama’s meetings with the heads of state in France and Germany may have tilted U.S. voter preferences more in his favor.
Maybe. But look, Obama’s been drifting in the 45-48 range and McCain’s been drifting in the 41-44 range and there’s no reason to think that movements within the familiar bands represent anything other than normal fluctuation in a statistical sample. I think the commentary on the tracking polls looks more and more like the silly commentary on the daily fluctuations of the Dow where first analysts look at numbers, and then second they devise post hoc explanations of the movement. Realistically, I don’t think there’s anything worth commenting on unless some much more sustained trend develops.
Beer is back, regaining a large lead over wine as America’s favorite alcoholic beverage after wine threatened to close the gap around 2005. Fascinatingly, I see no plausible way of correlating this “beer track”/”wine track” data with anything happening in politics.
Last night on PBS, Bill Moyers interviewed investigative journalist Jane Mayer and mentioned that in Mayer’s new book, she notes that FBI agents refused to participate in the CIA’s interrogation of terror suspects at Guantánamo Bay because they determined it to be “borderline torture.” Moyers then asked, “Who were some of the other conservative heroes, as you call them, in your book?”
Mayer remembered one top Justice Department lawyer and “very conservative member of this administration” who said that after participating in White House meetings authorizing torture, he believed that “lunatics had taken over the country.”
Mayer said two other top DOJ lawyers had to develop a system of speaking codes because they feared they were being wiretapped while others described an “atmosphere of intimidation,” mainly from Vice President Dick Cheney:
MAYER: There was such an atmosphere of intimidation. … They felt so endangered in some ways that, at one point, two of the top lawyers from the Justice Department developed this system of talking in codes to each other because they thought they might be being wiretapped…by their own government. They felt like they might be kind of weirdly in physical danger. They were actually scared to stand up to Vice President Cheney.
Mayer later said that “there is a paper trail” documenting U.S. torture policies “that goes right to the top of our govenment” and that Congress “is beginning to” get to the truth and “piece it together.”
Mayer added that the truth to the White House policies is “a humungous jigsaw puzzle” because “there are many, many secrets we still don’t know. There are legal memos that nobody’s ever seen.”