Forbes proclaims me one of the 25 most influential liberals in the media. I bet that‘ll make the Obama people regret not having invited me to last night’s awesome Arcade Fire slash Jay-Z party. Also, yes, many of the people on that list aren’t actually liberals. And I’m afraid the rest of us may not actually have much influence. At a minimum, I don’t have much juice in the party invitations department.
Reporting on Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s introductory speech at the State Department this morning, Harper’s Scott Horton notes that last week several career State Department staffers compared former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to the Wicked Witch of the West from the Wizard of Oz:
I met last week with a number of career State Department employees and was surprised when one said she was looking forward to the “Glinda Party” next week. I asked her: if Hillary was Glinda, the Good Witch of the South from the Wizard of Oz, did that make Condoleezza Rice the Wicked Witch of the West?
“You’re on to it,” she said. Another person pointed out to me that after Rice’s arrival in 2005 the tone of official State Department publications changed; they began to praise and glorify Rice. “No prior secretary,” said the twenty-year veteran, “did anything like this.”
Clinton was given what the LA Times dubbed a “celebrity welcome” this morning at the State Department.
During his confirmation hearings, Attorney General Eric Holder clearly expressed that “waterboading is torture.” But President Obama’s nominee to be Director of National Intelligence, ret. Adm. Dennis Blair, refused to call waterboarding torture in his confirmation hearing today. “There will be no waterboarding on my watch. There will be no torture on my watch,” Blair said, “refusing to go further,” according to Reuters. Sen Carl Levin (D-MI) told Blair, “If the attorney general designee can answer it, you can too.”
Peter Beinart says Barack Obama should implement a policy of retreat and defeat around the world. I pretty much agree.
On his radio show this morning, conservative talker Bill Bennett hosted the most prominent global warming denier in Congress, Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK). Opening up the conversation on the subject, Bennett declared, “I think you’ve prevailed on this.”
“I really believe it,” replied Inhofe, claiming that his opponents “won’t say global warming any more, they’re trying to say climate change.” He added that he thinks former Vice President Al Gore is “getting nervous” because, he claimed, “the science is totally changed.” Inhofe then claimed that more scientists are skeptical of climate change than those who believe in it:
INHOFE: So the science, the science is totally changed. It was the IPCC, those Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change with the United Nations. But keep in mind, the only report you get from them is their summary for policy docs. And those are not scientists. There’s only 52 scientists that signed on to those, to that, as opposed to what? Some 650 who now have rebuked that.
It shouldn’t come as any surprise that Inhofe’s comments are loose with the facts. The 52 scientists he refers to prepared the 2007 IPCC report’s “Summary for Policymakers,” but the report itself was “a synthesis of thousands of scientific papers” and was built on the work of “2500 scientists over six years.” As for Inhofe’s discredited 650 skeptical “experts,” some of them actually support the theory of manmade global warming.
Further proving the fallacy of Inhofe’s claims, a survey of 3,146 earth scientists released earlier this week found that 90 percent believe that mean global temperatures have risen compared to pre-1800s levels and 82 percent believe that human activity has been a significant factor in changing mean global temperatures. Ninety-seven percent of climatologists said humans play a role.
Transcript: Read more
This afternoon the House Ways & Means Committee passed the energy tax portions of the stimulus package, including:
Investment Tax Credit Refundability. For alternative energy property put into service in 2009 and 2010, companies may apply for a cash grant equal to the value of the investment tax credit from the Department of Energy. DOE must make these grant payments within 60 days of receipt of the application and may not in its discretion deny any such applications that qualify for the credit. Companies may apply for the payments through September 30, 2011. The amount of the ITCs equal 30% of the base investment amount for solar, winds, and fuel cell property and equal 10% for geothermal and micro-turbine property.
Election of ITC over PTC. For property placed in service in 2009 and 2010, alternative energy companies entitled to the Production Tax Credit can elect to receive the Investment Tax Credit instead. This election would allow them to qualify for the refundability provisions of the DOE grant program.
Awesome! (see “Note to Obama, Congress on green stimulus: No to phony clean coal credits, yes to refundable renewable tax credits, Part 1“)
Why exactly does it matter so much that tax credit for renewable projects can be refundable? That was well explained by a recent WashPost article:
Steve Benen sums up the conservative take on the Bush legacy: “Most of the arguments are tiresome and familiar: except for the catastrophic events of 9/11, and the anthrax attacks, and terrorist attacks against U.S. allies, and the terrorist attacks against U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, Bush’s record on counter-terrorism was top notch.”
Today on his new Fox News show, Glenn Beck panicked about the re-do oath of office President Obama took last night, because Obama did not place his hand on a Bible. “I checked. We have never had a president sworn into office without a Bible,” he intoned dramatically. Watch it:
Beck is simply wrong. As Slate recently reported, official records kept by the Architect of the Capitol show that Teddy Roosevelt did not use a Bible in 1901; and Lyndon Johnson is rumored to have used “a Catholic missal aboard Air Force One after Kennedy’s assassination.” According to his own letters, John Quincy Adams placed his hand on a constitutional law book rather than the Bible. Beck’s vaunted devotion to research must have taken a dive when he moved from CNN to Fox.
Today, UCLA released its 43rd annual “American Freshman” survey, which shows that “the economic crisis is pushing growing numbers of college freshmen to look for part-time jobs, scrounge for financial aid and turn down admission offers”:
A record proportion, more than 49%, reported that they will need a job this year to help pay expenses, up from 47% the previous year. And 8.5% of students said their ultimate choice of college was strongly affected by not being offered financial aid by their first-choice campus, the highest such response since the question was first asked 24 years ago.
This comes on the heels of a study from the non-profit Delta Project — which used data gathered before the recession began — that found “college students are covering more of what it costs to educate them, even as most colleges are spending less on students.”
Making matters even worse, the economic downturn means states must cut their budgets, and funding for universities has been one of the first casualties. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-CA) has proposed a $66.3 million budget cut for the California State University system, while Arizona’s state legislature has identified “$314 million that could be cut from the universities over the next 18 months.”
Currently, the stimulus bill being crafted in Congress includes a temporary $2,500 tax credit to help pay for college, and a “measure to temporarily increase the maximum Pell Grant for undergraduates by $500.” Congressional conservatives — who are having a hard time supporting any stimulus measure that is not a corporate tax cut — have balked at these provisions, claiming that spending on education “will not provide an immediate stimulative impact.”
But one of the the key goals for stimulus spending is to put money into the hands of those who will spend it immediately, and these provisions would do just that. By definition, the credits must be used right now for a specific purpose, which will hopefully minimize waste and increase transparency. And if the credits make more students able to afford college, thus enabling universities to raise more revenue and avoid layoffs, then all the better.
Plus, the credits would provide more than stimulus. They are also an investment in human capital, and as former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich wrote, our human capital is “in short supply. And without adequate public funding, the supply will shrink further.” For all of these reasons, college credits are a winning proposition, and a no-brainer for inclusion in the stimulus package.
Four Assistant Attorney General slots filled today:
- David Kris, Assistant Attorney General for National Security;
- Tony West, Assistant Attorney General for Civil Division;
- Lanny Breuer, Assistant Attorney General for Criminal;
- Christine Varney, Assistant Attorney General for Antitrust.
Kris is probably the most interesting among these to a general audience. Apparently he’s written what looks to be a long-ass book called National Security Investigations and Prosecutions.