Although the United States has spent $2.4 billion on Iraq’s water and sanitation sector since 2003, the United Nations “estimates that less than half of Iraqis get drinking water piped into their homes in rural areas. In the capital, people set their alarm clocks to wake them in the middle of the night so they can fill storage tanks when water pressure is under less strain.” Additionally, a billion liters of raw sewage is dumped into Baghdad’s waterways each day. The World Bank estimates that at least $14 billion is needed to refurbish Iraq’s water system.
Newsweek reports that in a conversation “secretly tape-recorded by the FBI on June 25, 2006,” Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK) “discussed ways to get a pipeline bill through the Alaska Legislature with Bill Allen, an oil-services executive accused of providing the senator with about $250,000 in undisclosed financial benefits.” Stevens promised Allen, “I’m gonna try to see if I can get some bigwigs from back here and say, ‘Look … you gotta get this done’.” Two days later, Vice President Cheney undertook the unusual move of writing a letter to the Alaska Legislature urging members to “promptly enact” a bill to build the pipeline.
The Progress Report has more on the “corrupting influence of oil money.”
This week, the Center for American Progress Action Fund and the University of Las Vegas organized a nonpartisan national clean energy summit in Nevada with Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV), former president Bill Clinton, conservative energy entrepreneur T. Boone Pickens, New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg and “a parade of public and business leaders.” The summit concluded with a series of consensus recommendations. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) has a disappointing record on the summit’s top recommendations for the federal government.
Here’s how McCain’s record stacks up against the top six recommendations:
#1. PROVIDE LONG-TERM TAX INCENTIVES for renewable energy production and energy efficiency, including clean renewable energy bonds. Modify other tax policies to reward clean energy investments.
McCain’s record: The renewable energy production tax credit has been key to the growth of the domestic renewable industry by supporting power companies, businesses, and individuals who employ wind, geothermal, solar, and other types of renewable energy. However, the tax credit has been allowed to expire three times in the past decade — in 2004, McCain introduced an amendment that would have eliminated the tax credit entirely. McCain’s continued opposition to the tax credit is putting the renewable electricity industry at risk again:
– March 2006 (Vote 42): Voted against extension of tax credits.
– March 2007 (Vote 98): Skipped vote to extend tax credits.
– June 2007 (Vote 223): Skipped vote to extend tax credits.
– December 2007 (Vote 416): Skipped vote to extend tax credits — extension failed by one vote.
– February 2008 (Vote 8): Skipped vote to extend tax credits — extension failed by one vote.
#2. INITIATE ELECTRIFICATION of our entire transportation sector so it uses only clean domestic energy soon. Establish, enforce and update building code standards for energy efficiency in new and retrofitted buildings to save consumers money and reduce fossil fuel use. Provide incentives for efficiency related renovations. Reduce building energy use by 50% by 2030.
McCain’s record: McCain voted against the 2005 Energy Policy Act, which increased funding for building code enforcement and voluntary building efficiency programs. As McCain spokesman George Allen told the U.S. Energy Efficiency Forum on June 11, 2008, “John McCain does not wish to mandate any particular building standards for energy efficient homes or buildings.”
#3. PUT A PRICE ON CARBON POLLUTION, through a cap-and-trade program or other means.
McCain’s record: Since 2003, McCain has supported a cap-and-trade program to put a price on carbon pollution, although he has waffled on whether it would actually be mandatory, and his campaign has derided cap-and-trade programs as an “energy tax.” Furthermore, McCain has proposed a cap-and-trade system with insufficient targets, possible loopholes, and permit giveaways, which would force taxpayers to subsidize corporate pollution. McCain’s past cap-and-trade legislation has included major nuclear subsidies. Read more
Via Dave Alpert, the mayor of Clayton, California takes on the challenge of little girls selling excess produce from their family’s garden on Saturday mornings. Apparently, this violates zoning rules. Mayor Gregg Manning says: “They may start out with a little card-table and selling a couple of things, but then who is to say what else they have. Is all the produce made there, do they make it themselves? Are they going to have eggs and chickens for sale next.”
What’ll be next — a ban on lemonade stands? Probably not. More mayor: “Lemonade stands are technically illegal, but they don’t last long enough to do anything about.” But maybe if future developments allow for more rapid lemonade-detection we can rid ourselves of this scourge.
In every cloud there’s a silver lining, so in that spirit The Washington Post takes a look at folks earning a living doing “extreme cleaning” — i.e., cleaning up abandoned and foreclosed homes — in Virginia’s exurban Prince William County.
In a speech accepting his role as Barack Obama’s running mate this afternoon in Springfield, IL, Sen. Joseph Biden (D-DE) argued the American Dream has slipped away under eight years of Bush administration policies. He added that while Americans sit at their kitchen tables worrying about bills, McCain has to “figure out which of the 7 kitchen tables to sit at”:
I don’t have to tell you that. You see it in your shrinking wages. … We cannot afford to keep giving tax cuts after tax cuts to big corporations and wealthiest Americans, while middle class families are falling behind. [...]
Ladies and gentlemen, your kitchen table is like mine. You sit there every night after you put the kids to bed and you talk, you talk about what you need. You talk about how much you’re worried about being able to pay the bills. Well ladies and gentlemen, that’s not a worry that John McCain has to worry about. It’s a pretty hard experience — he’ll have to figure out which of the seven kitchen tables to sit at.
As Biden says, McCain’s plan would give America’s 200 largest corporations $45 billion in tax breaks, $4 billion to the top five oil companies, and $2 billion to the top 10 health insurance companies. And as the Tax Policy Center reported, McCain’s plan has no benefit for the poorest taxpayers.
Whatever merits Joe Biden may have as a Vice President, one problem — as his announcement speech made clear — is that he’s by far the greatest abuser of the term “literally” in American politics today. Were he to wind up in the Oval Office, I fear he might somehow get dictionaries to officially reclassify the word as a meaningless intensifier.
Conveniently enough, the Center for American Progress Action Fund hosted a Joe Biden event a few months ago at which he delivered a speech about Iraq and foreign policy more generally. You can watch the whole thing. This seems insightful and well-put to me:
Biden argued that the costs of our involvement in Iraq have outweighed the benefits and have ironically strengthened the greatest challenge to U.S. interests in the region: Iran. But “the idea that we can wipe out every vestige of Iran’s influence in Iraq is a fantasy,” Biden said. “Even with 160,000 American troops in Iraq, Prime Minister Maliki, our ally in Baghdad, greets Iran’s leader with kisses—Iran is a major regional power and it shares a long border—and a long history—with Iraq. Right now, Iran loves the status quo, with 140,000 Americans troops bogged down and bleeding, caught in a cross fire of intra-Shi’a rivalry and Sunni-Shi’a civil war.”
Biden explained that by “drawing down, we can take away Iran’s ability to wage a proxy war against our troops and force Tehran to concentrate on avoiding turmoil inside Iraq’s borders and instability beyond them.”
Watching Biden’s announcement speech now.
When you look at the information coming out about the new Iraq SOFA and its timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. forces, it’s worth putting it in the context of this pre-war argument between Bush and Nouri al-Maliki. Here’s a January 2007 account:
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki had a surprise for President Bush when they sat down with their aides in the Four Seasons Hotel in Amman, Jordan. Firing up a PowerPoint presentation, Maliki and his national security adviser proposed that U.S. troops withdraw to the outskirts of Baghdad and let Iraqis take over security in the strife-torn capital. Maliki said he did not want any more U.S. troops at all, just more authority.
The president listened intently to the unexpected proposal at their Nov. 30 meeting, according to accounts from several administration officials. Bush seemed impressed that Maliki had taken the initiative, but it did not take him long to reject the idea.
Details, of course, differ and there were some problems with Maliki’s proposal from the point of view of operational specifics. But basically back in November 2006, Iraqi political leaders and progressives in the United States alike wanted to see some kind of phased redeployment of American troops out of Iraqi cities and then out of Iraq. Bush, instead, opted for the “surge” strategy and now eighteen months later we’re . . . doing roughly what Maliki wants which is roughly what he wanted 18 months ago which is roughly what progressives have been saying we should do for a log time. To surge proponents, the fact that they are now proposing what we were proposing years ago underscores the success of the surge. That seems a bit curious to me, but if it helps bolster political support for doing the right thing it might not be the worst thing in the world. But still, the proper chronological perspective leaves me wondering what the surge is supposed to have accomplished.
Well over $100 billion has been spent since Maliki’s November 2006 PowerPoint, and lots of America soldiers have been killed or maimed. And now they’re in a position to basically walk through the door that’s been open at least since the midterm elections — one where we leave Iraq not in “defeat” but with a handshake and a pat on the back from the new government, and a determination to cut our losses on an endeavor that never made strategic sense.
One thing to note about the Biden pick, is that all the prognostication about the implications of this for the campaign are almost certainly wrong. In practice, VP choices — despite the fact that they’re sometimes hugely consequential after the election (LBJ, Dick Cheney) — rarely impact the election and there’s little reason to believe that either presidential campaign will substantially alter its approach to bring it into closer accord with the strict logic of the choice:
By contrast with VP choices, which rarely matter politically but sometimes matter substantively, the national conventions coming up over the past two weeks are undeniably silly affairs but the best evidence available suggests that they are among the relatively small number of “campaign events” that can be clearly shown to influence election outcomes.