Currently, representatives from 190 countries are meeting in Poznan, Poland for an international climate change conference to work on the successor to the Kyoto Protocol, which President Bush refused to ratify in 2001.
In an interview with AFP in Poznan, Paula Dobriansky, the chief U.S. delegate, said that she has no regrets on the Bush administration’s climate change record. If she could change anything, Dobriansky said a better job could have been done in articulating Bush’s “message”:
I think this issue (climate change) is important, we care about it greatly. Looking back, if there was anything that maybe I would have hoped, it’s that we could have done a more effective job in getting our message out, in other words, (in) public diplomacy.
Dobriansky also praised Bush for his “evolving” position on climate change action, claiming Bush has moved toward multilateralism at the end of his term:
She added: “President Bush said very early on in his administration, ‘we will act, we will learn and we will act again.’ And our approach has been an evolutionary one. I think you have seen an evolution from the beginning of the administration to the present time.”
Huffington Post’s Sam Stein reports that all 50 members of the Democratic Senate caucus have signed Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-NV) letter calling on Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D) to “step down from his post and refrain from appointing anyone to the vacated Illinois Senate seat.” The signatories include Vice President-elect Joe Biden and Secretary of State nominee Hillary Clinton. President-elect Barack Obama has also called on Blagojevich to step down.
Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D-TX), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, told Congress Daily that President-elect Obama should keep Mike McConnell on as Director of National Intelligence and Michael Hayden as head of the CIA. He said Obama should keep “continuity” in the intelligence sector because we live in “a world that is very dangerous.”
Reyes dismissed concerns over Hayden and McConnell’s records as apologists for torture. He insisted that “there are some options that need to be available” to interrogators — presumably beyond the Army Field Manuel — to get the best information:
Regarding the CIA’s alternative interrogation program, Reyes indicated that his recommendations concerned finding a balance so the agency does not use torture but can get valuable information from suspected terrorists or other detainees.
“There are those that believe that this particular issue has to be dealt with very carefully because there are beliefs that there are some options that need to be available,” Reyes said.
“We don’t want to be known for torturing people. At the same time we don’t want to limit our ability to get information that’s vital and critical to our national security,” he added. “That’s where the new administration is going to have to decide what those parameters are, what those limitations are.”
As the Washington Independent’s Spencer Ackerman notes, Reyes “framed the debate as between effective torture and ineffective compliance with the law.” In fact, torturing does not provide reliable intelligence, as former interrogator (and author) Matthew Alexandertold Jon Stewart Monday night:
STEWART: Did you ever see coercive methods pay off?
ALEXANDER: No. … When I was in Iraq, the few times that I saw people use harsh methods, it was always counterproductive. Because the person hunkered down, they were expecting us to do that, and they just shut up. And then I’d have to send somebody in and build back up rapport, reverse that process, and it’d take us longer to get that information.
Today, Interim Assistant Secretary for Financial Stability Neel Kashkari — who is responsible for administering the $700 Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP) — appeared before the House Financial Services Committee to testifyabout concerns that the TARP has insufficient oversight.
During the hearing, Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA) pressed Kashkari regarding “appropriate standards of executive compensation,” which is one of the provisions that banks must accept before they can access TARP funds. Sherman pointedly asked Kashkari, “as to $30 million, is that appropriate or inappropriate, or you have no opinion?” Kashkari replied that he’s “not in a position to opine on a specific number, if it’s appropriate or not.” Watch it:
Kashkari’s hesitancy to condemn $30 million bonuses for bailed out bank executives is troubling, because “chief executive officers of the firms most responsible for causing the crisis collected hundreds of millions of dollars in pay last year.” And while many — like Wachovia CEO Robert Steel — have chosen to forgo this year’s bonus, some still think that they deserve the money.
AIG, though, has not seen the light, and has “offered cash awards to another 38 executives…with payments of as much as $4 million.” AIG’s defense is that it “would be doing a disservice to the taxpayer — and would place AIG’s asset divestiture plan at risk — if we did not act decisively to ensure that our key employees remain.”
Kashkari’s answer, meanwhile, shows that the Treasury is simply unwilling to do anything to curb this kind of behavior, even though companies like AIG are operating thanks to TARP dollars, and Treasury has the explicit ability — granted by the TARP legislation — to “require that [a] financial institution meet appropriate standards for executive compensation.”
Today, a congressional oversight panel, led by Harvard law professor Elizabeth Warren, released a report which noted that “Treasury cannot simply trust that the financial institutions will act in the desired ways; it must verify.” Thus far, it’s clear that Treasury has not verified much of anything.
Numerous mediaoutlets are reporting Dr. Steven Chu will be President-elect Obama’s choice to head the Department of Energy. Chu, a Nobel Prize-winning physicist, is the director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California where he has been addressing the climate crisis by pushing breakthrough research in energy efficiency, solar energy, and biofuels technology.
This past summer, Dr. Chu spoke at the National Clean Energy Summit in Las Vegas, convened by the Center for American Progress, UNLV, and Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV). In one of the lighter moments during his remarks, Chu claimed that efficiency gains and lowered costs have been shown to be possible when the jobs were assigned to engineers, not lobbyists. Chu also laid out in stark terms the climate crisis that we now face:
Consider this. There’s about a 50 percent chance, the climate experts tell us, that in this century we will go up in temperature by three degrees Centigrade. Now, three degrees Centigrade doesn’t seem a lot to you, that’s 11° F. Chicago changes by 30° F in half a day. But 5° C means that … it’s the difference between where we are today and where we were in the last ice age. What did that mean? Canada, the United States down to Ohio and Pennsylvania, was covered in ice year round.
Five degrees Centigrade.
So think about what 5° C will mean going the other way. A very different world. So if you’d want that for your kids and grandkids, we can continue what we’re doing. Climate change of that scale will cause enormous resource wars, over water, arable land, and massive population displacements. We’re not talking about ten thousand people. We’re not talking about ten million people, we’re talking about hundreds of millions to billions of people being flooded out, permanently.
Joe Romm cautions that the 3°C figure is just a mid-range warming even if we’re able to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Watch Chu’s remarks:
Carol Browner will reportedly be Obama’s energy coordinator. The Wonk Room posted this video of Browner discussing what the government needs to do to transform to a low-carbon economy:
,Lisa Jackson, who is currently Gov. Jon Corzine’s chief of staff in New Jersey, will reportedly be Obama’s choice to head the EPA. ThinkProgress spoke with Corzine this week about Jackson’s environmental credentials. Jackson has faced some criticism from PEER for “employing a highly politicized approach to decision-making that resulted in suppression of scientific information.” Corzine told us Jackson “is absolutely committed to the kind of clean-up that some her critics would say she should have done more of.” He added, “I think Lisa has done a remarkable job of trying to move the environmental agenda forward within a constrained world.” Watch it:
President-elect Barack Obama’s reported selection of Dr. Steven Chu as Secretary of Energy is a bold stroke to set the nation on the path to a clean energy economy. Chu, a Nobel Prize-winning physicist, is the sixth director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, a Department of Energy-funded basic science research institution managed by the University of California. After moving to Berkeley Lab from Stanford University in 2004, Chu “has emerged internationally to champion science as society’s best defense against climate catastrophe.” As director, Chu has steered the direction of Berkeley Lab to addressing the climate crisis, pushing for breakthrough research in energy efficiency, solar energy, and biofuels technology.
At Berkeley Lab, Chu has won broad praise as an effective and inspirational leader. “When he was first here, he started giving talks about energy and production of energy,” Bob Jacobsen, a senior scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley Lab, told the San Francisco Chronicle in 2007. “He didn’t just present a problem. He told us what we could do. It was an energizing thing to see. He’s not a manager, he’s a leader.” In an interview with the Wonk Room, David Roland-Holst, an economist at the Center for Energy, Resources and Economic Sustainability at UC Berkeley, described Chu as a “very distinguished researcher” and “an extremely effective manager of cutting edge technology initiatives.” Roland-Holst praised Chu’s work at Lawrence Berkeley, saying “he has succeeded in reconfiguring it for a new generation of sustainable technology R&D, combining world class mainstream science with the latest initiatives in renewable energy and climate adaptation.”
The reality of past threats was apparent to everyone whereas the threat of global climate change is not so immediately apparent. Nonetheless, this threat has just got to be solved. We can’t fail. The fact that we have so many brilliant people working on the problem gives me great hope.
Chu’s leadership extends beyond this nation’s boundaries. As one of the 30 members of the Copenhagen Climate Council, Chu is part of an effort to spur the international community to have the “urgency to establish a global treaty by 2012 which is fit for the purpose of limiting global warming to 2ºC,” whose elements “must be agreed” at the Copenhagen summit in December, 2009.
Last year, Dr. Chu co-chaired a report on “the scientific consensus framework for directing global energy development” for the United Nations’ InterAcademy Council. Lighting the Way describes how developing nations can “‘leapfrog’ past the wasteful energy trajectory followed by today’s industrialized nations” by emphasizing energy efficiency and renewable energy.
It’s hard to decide if the selection of Dr. Chu is more remarkable for who he is — a Nobel laureate physicist and experienced public-sector administrator — or for who is not. Unlike previous secretaries of energy, he is neither a politician, oil man, military officer, lawyer, nor utility executive. His corporate ties are not to major industrial polluters but to advanced technology corporations like AT&T (where he began his Nobel-winning research) and Silicon Valley innovator Nvidia (where he sits on the board of directors). Chu is a man for the moment, and will be a singular addition to Obama’s Cabinet.
Daniel Weiss, a Senior Fellow and the Director of Climate Strategy at the Center for American Progress Action Fund, remarks:
The Secretary of Energy is one of the most challenging jobs in the U.S. Government. He will oversee the national energy labs, nuclear triggers on our missiles, clean up of contaminated nuclear sites, and research on fossil fuels and clean renewable energy. DOE oversees nuclear nonproliferation efforts as well as the disposal of nuclear waste. The next Energy Secretary will play a critical role in the design, adoption and implementation of any program to reduce global warming pollution.
Dr. Steven Chu has a unique set of qualifications to oversee the unruly Department of Energy –- physicist, energy lab manager, energy efficiency expert. What a contrast compared to President Bush’s first Secretary of Energy, Spencer Abraham, who was appointed even though he advocated eliminating DOE just a few years earlier. He will bring a scientific rigor to President-elect Obama’s clean energy and global warming agenda. Following on the heels of the anti-science Bush administration, its like going to Mensa after spending eight years in the flat earth society.
,In a presentation at this summer’s National Clean Energy Summit convened by the University of Nevada Las Vegas, Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV), and the Center for American Progress Action Fund, Dr. Chu described why he is dedicated to fighting global warming:
,Climate Progress’s Joe Romm weighs in: “Chu would be a great choice. And since he is a hardcore science and cleantech guy, he would be a perfect complement for the new point person at the White House on energy and climate — Carol Browner.”
Today, President Bush honored 24 recipients of this year’s award, including actor Gary Sinise and Teach for America founder Wendy Kopp. Also included in that mix was Chuck Colson, “the first member of the Nixon administration to serve prison time for Watergate-related offenses.” Colson was President Nixon’s counsel from 1969-1973 and pleaded guilty in 1974 to obstruction of justice. Colson received a one to three year sentence, but served just seven months. David Plotz at Slate described Colson’s role in the Nixon administration:
As special counsel to the president, he was Richard Nixon’s hard man, the “evil genius” of an evil administration. According to Watergate historian Stanley Kutler, Colson sought to hire Teamsters thugs to beat up anti-war demonstrators, and he plotted to raid or firebomb the Brookings Institution. He eventually pleaded guilty to scheming to defame Daniel Ellsberg and interfering with his trial.
Since that time, Colson has become an evangelical prison reformer, running the nonprofit Prison Fellowship, which advocates for “privately run prisons and the delivery of all social services by faith-based groups.” However, according to author Allan Lichtman in “White Protestant Nation,” Colson has also remained involved in conservative politics:
Colson brought together politically conservative Catholics and Protestands for a statement of common beliefs, advised conservative politicians including Texas governor George W. Bush, and worked with Christian right leaders Pat Robertson and James Dobson on the development of political strategy. He disseminated conservative messages on sex roles, abortion, homosexuality, pornography, gay rights, and separation of church and state in his radio broadcasts and columns, reaching millions of Americans.
On October 3, 2002, Colson was also one of the co-signers of a letter from prominent evangelical leaders supporting an invasion of Iraq. More recently he has spoken out in favor of California’s Prop. 8, accusing the LGBT community of “anti-religious bigotry.”
Since 2000, the number of young children living in parts of Lower Manhattan has nearly doubled. The poverty rate declined in all but one New York City neighborhood. A majority of Bronx residents are Hispanic.
And the number of white people living in Harlem more than tripled, helping to drive up median household income there by nearly 20 percent — the fourth-highest jump in the city.
When I was a young child in lower Manhattan, we were a very very rare breed.
It’ll be interesting to see what kind of consequences the financial crisis will have for the city. On the one hand, New York should be unusually hard hit. But on the other hand, New York is an unusually rich and expensive city as things stand. Price declines could easily just lead to less-rich people taking up housing units rather than to vacancies and slum conditions.
In a press conference this afternoon, Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-IL) — “Senate Candidate 5” mentioned in the federal corruption complaint against Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D-IL) — denied any wrongdoing in the controversy surrounding Blagojevich and claimed that he never had a “pay-to-play” conversation with the governor about filling President-elect Barack Obama’s vacated Senate seat. Jackson Jr. did not deny his interest in filling the seat but said he “mistakenly” believed that Blagojevich was evaluating his candidacy for the seat “based upon credentials and qualifications”:
JACKSON JR.: In the 13 years I served in the Congress of the United States, I only missed two votes and no other Democrat and no Republican in the Congress of the United States who can say that. I thought — mistakenly — that the governor was going to make a decision in the best interest of our state as well as our nation. I thought — mistakenly — that the governor was considering me based on 13 years of hard work on behalf of the people of our state as well as our nation.