A scathing new report by the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction calls the reconstruction effort “a $100 billion failure,” according to the New York Times, which obtained an advanced copy. It documents how the Pentagon “simply put out inflated measures of progress to cover up” failures. It also reveals how officials were “operating by the seat of their pants,” documenting one exchange between Jay Garner, then-head of the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance, and then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, on the potential cost of the reconstruction:
The history records how Mr. Garner presented Mr. Rumsfeld with several rebuilding plans, including one that would include projects across Iraq.
“What do you think that’ll cost?” Mr. Rumsfeld asked of the more expansive plan.
“I think it’s going to cost billions of dollars,” Mr. Garner said.
“My friend,” Mr. Rumsfeld replied, “if you think we’re going to spend a billion dollars of our money over there, you are sadly mistaken.”
It seems out next HUD Secretary is going to be New York City Housing Commissioner Shaun Donovan. He’s not someone whose record I’m incredibly familiar with, but he’s extremely well-qualified with a very broad range of experience in housing issues and seems to have been ahead of the curve on some of the problems with subprime lending. What’s more, insofar as the HUD Secretary gets involved with a broader “urban development” portfolio experience in New York City would seem to predispose one toward an urbanist point of view.
An interesting portrait of homeowners emerges from my analysis. I find little evidence that homeowners are happier by any of the following definitions: life satisfaction, overall mood, overall feeling, general moment-to-moment emotions (i.e., affect) and affect at home. Several factors might be at work: homeowners derive more pain (but no more joy) from both their home and their neighborhood. They are also more likely to be 12 pounds heavier, report lower health status and poorer sleep quality. They tend to spend less time on active leisure or with friends. The average homeowner reports less joy from love and relationships. She is also less likely to consider herself to enjoy being with people… The results are robust after controlling for reported financial stress.
Count this as another reason that public policy aimed at subsidizing home ownership is misguided. I bet Ed Glaeser’s new book on rethinking federal housing policy is interesting, and am looking forward to reading it.
Our guest blogger is Andrew Light, a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress, who is now attending the United Nations climate change talks in Poznań, Poland. This is the fifth of several on-the-scene dispatches.
In front of a capacity crowd in the largest hall available at this year’s UN climate change conference, Al Gore gave a dramatic address on the possibilities and the hurdles before the climate change community. The biggest, longest applause line by far (complete with hoots and whoops) went to his indirect endorsement of Bill McKibben’s 350 campaign inaugurated on the instigation of an argument first floated by NASA’s James Hansen in a paper released shortly after last year’s UN climate change meeting in Bali. According to Hansen, “We need to reduce from today’s atmospheric CO2, about 385 parts per million, to 350ppm. We are already too high to maintain the climate to which humanity, wildlife, and the rest of the biosphere are adapted. (. . .) This target must be pursued on a timescale of decades.”
Though Gore did not mention the campaign by name the concept was clear:
The truth is that the goals we are reaching toward are incredibly difficult. Even [a stabilization of atmospheric CO2 at] 450 ppm is inadequate. We need to make that goal 350ppm. (. . .) This task can seem daunting. For those of us who understand the goal should be tougher let us understand that the early steps in the process to go from 450 to 350 are very familiar. Once processes of change begin, once decisions are arrived at, then the task becomes easier in the doing. We will see that as we start changing we will improve our economies and increase our standard of living.
The atmosphere in Poznań for Gore’s speech was less dramatic than that surrounding his address at last year’s UN climate change meeting in Bali, though in some ways his task this time around was more difficult. Rather than confronting Bush’s intransigence against a unified world community, Gore had to contend with a depressing malaise that has pervaded the halls of the conference and haunted delegates and observers as they trudged through the cold, cloudy and wet weather on their way to the venue. There was also plenty of blame to go around this time, with accusations hurdled between developed and developing countries of who was responsible for the lack of progress. Read more
Still, II did have one preconception strongly confirmed – that contrary to much of the media hype, the Obama people saw the Internet as a means to facilitate real world volunteering, rather than an end in itself. As Joe Rospars,1 the campaign’s New Media director, put it, “”There was never anything online that was there for online’s sake.” Chris Hughes, the online organizing coordinator (and previous co-founder of Facebook) was even more direct; “the web was just the vehicle to empower the activists out there to have face to face meetings, to make phone calls, and to raise money.” So it’s perfectly clear that Internet activity wasn’t seen a form of mobilization in itself, contrary to the impression given by some of the more breathless coverage, but rather primarily as a means to more efficiently organize the traditional forms of direct contact. This fits in nicely with some of the relevant experimental work in political science, which suggests that online organizing is more likely to be useful in organizing other forms of mobilization than as an end in itself (although this of course might change over time, as people begin to conduct more of their social lives via the Internet).
I think what’s in the parenthetical is what’s really interesting here. At the moment, we’re in a transitional phase in terms of the internet. The technology is so useful that tons and tons of people use it. But only a tiny fraction of the electorate comes from the age cohort that’s really embraced the internet and thinks of email, IM, social networking, etc. as second-nature. So for most voters, it’s natural to use the internet as an efficient means of organizing non-internet interactions — like how at the office people will send out an email to organize a meeting. But as time goes on, it seems plausible that the gap in efficacy between online interactions and things like face-to-face conversations and (especially) phone calls might close, making it more plausible that you would organize online specifically in order to generate online contacts.
Former Bush Justice Department official Victoria Toensing rips U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald in a Wall Street Journal piece, writing that he should “keep his opinions to himself.” By characterizing Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s conduct as “appalling” and as a “political corruption crime spree,” Fitzgerald “violated the ethical requirement of the Justice Department guidelines,” Toensing argues.
What’s more, Mr. Fitzgerald is a repeat offender. In his news conference in October 2005 announcing the indictment of Scooter Libby for obstruction of justice, he compared himself to an umpire who “gets sand thrown in his eyes.” The umpire is “trying to figure what happened and somebody blocked” his view. [...]
In the Libby case, rather than suffer criticism, Mr. Fitzgerald became a media darling. And so in the Blagojevich case he returned to the microphone.
Toensing has had it out for Fitzgerald ever since he had the gall to prosecute Vice President Cheney’s former chief of staff. In Sept. 2006, she blasted Fitzgerald in the Wall Street Journal, saying he should “apologize” for prosecuting Libby. In Feb. 2007, writing in the Washington Post, Toensing attacked Fitzgerald again for pursuing a “trial in error.” Speaking with Wolf Blitzer on CNN in March 2007, Toensing said she “absolutely” questioned Fitzgerald’s integrity.
Toensing complained to Fox News recently that she believes Fitzgerald is “overzealous” because “he doesn’t know the color gray, he’s only black or white, and just about everyone but him does wrong.” Toensing would apparently prefer prosecutors who have more sympathy for crimes and illegal conduct.
Since Monday, one of the predominant topics of conversation among representatives of American non-governmental organizations at this year’s United Nations conference on climate change has been “what’s up with Pew?” In this case the “Pew” is the Pew Center on Climate Change, which is taking the public stance that a “full, final, ratifiable agreement just isn’t in the cards” to succeed the Kyoto Protocol at next year’s much anticipated UN meeting in Copenhagen, as Pew’s Elliot Diringer told the Washington Post.
The message coming from Pew was that the gathered parties here in Poland should not get their hopes up that the US would agree to language next year in Copenhagen since it is “too optimistic,” as Pew’s Eileen Claussen said, to believe we will have a final cap and trade bill through Congress by then. If true, then we will fail in a promissory note floated by John Kerry, Al Gore, and others at last year’s UN climate change meeting in Bali to wait one year for the US to rejoin the international community on fighting climate change. It was with much anticipation then that Pew held a press conference here Wednesday on its views on the future of the Kyoto process.
How many times have the people in this room heard, at the US Chamber of Commerce or at the National Mining Association, “I don’t believe in climate change, but I’m afraid to say that because it is a political reality”? The greeniacs are taking over the world.
The NRDC Switchboard has much more video of Blankenship’s November speech, including accusations that his political opponents are “atheists,” “communists,” and comparable to Osama bin Laden. Soon we’ll find out if his enemies list includes the U.S. Supreme Court. Read more
Tyler Cowen explains “When you cut through the terminology, Keynes says that capital heterogeneity isn’t needed to generate aggregate demand analysis and that his core mechanisms will operate in any case.”
I’d be terrified to learn what happens when you don’t cut through the terminology.
We need to understand that the old ways of looking at our cities just won’t do. That means promoting cities as the backbone of regional growth by not only solving the problems in our cities, but seizing the opportunities in our growing suburbs, exurbs, and metropolitan areas.
Politico’s Glenn Thrush reports that, in a conversation with Donovan in 2004, the future HUD Secretary foresaw the subprime crisis. “Donovan brushed aside my questions about the city’s initiatives and began talking at length about the coming ‘flood’ of foreclosures he anticipated among highly leveraged apartment buildings purchased by recent immigrants — and a looming subprime crisis for one- and two-family homeowners in up-and-coming neighborhoods in southeast Queens and central Brooklyn.”