Former Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush will meet for a debate late next month. The event will take place on Friday, May 29th at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. ThinkProgress has been told the “debate” will occur in the form of a moderated question-and-answer session, rather than a more lively exchange between the two Presidents.
Tonight on MSNBC, Rachel Maddow interviewed Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), a member of the Judiciary Committee, about his views on whether Jay Bybee should be impeached:
MADDOW: Do you think that it is possible that an impeachment inquiry is warranted in this case, if only because the circumstances that are known about Judge Bybee’s career are now so different than when the Senate voted on
him in 2003?
WHITEHOUSE: It is certainly possible that an impeachment inquiry is warranted. But I think that decision should probably wait until the Department of Justice’s Office of Professional Responsibility finishes its investigation into the Office of Legal Counsel and all of these opinions.
Whitehouse said the Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility is expected to release the results of its year-long investigation in the very near future. Watch it:
The Wall Street Journal notes that Bybee’s “got a nationally recognized lawyer on his side, Latham & Watkins’s Maureen Mahoney, who’s handling the case pro bono.”
Please join our campaign calling on Congress to begin impeachment hearings against Jay Bybee.
In just two hours, more than 1,100 of you had taken action and demanded impeachment hearings against Jay Bybee.
There’s so much insanity in this piece about financiers whining about how everyone hates them that it’s hard to know what to pick out. I’ll just say this. Of all the things these guys don’t “get” — and there are a lot of them — it’s that nobody is particularly frightened by the thought that this crew might decide that the new world sucks and they’re going to stop putting in the long hours and get out of the banking game. If all of America’s surgeons decided they were overtaxed and going to quit, then people would worry. Even if all the investment bankers slinked off to Galt’s Gulch we would miss them.
But a world without investment bankers? Without hedge fund managers? Who would care? Who would miss them? I would be comforted by the idea that quantitatively adept Americans were streaming out of the no-longer-attractive finance sector and going to work designing computer chips or whatever. What’s disturbing is the vision of a universe in which lots of people want to go work in finance.
So 60 Minutes had a serious piece on cold fusion, which has been long ignored and rightfully so. As a physicist, the story was intriguing because there might be some interesting tabletop nuclear physics going on, although nobody really knows what that might be.
As an energy technologist, however, I didn’t see anything that would suggest we’re going to see some big game changer anytime soon — and the featured scientist/advocate was guilty of some particularly unconvincing and counterproductive hype. I’d say cold fusion may have moved from junk science to the realm of hydrogen or fusion — decades away, at best, but possibly never very useful.
Wikipedia has a good entry if you want some unhyped background on cold fusion, which came to public attention “on March 23, 1989 when Fleischmann and Pons reported producing nuclear fusion in a tabletop experiment involving electrolysis of heavy water on a palladium (Pd) electrode. They reported anomalous heat production (“excess heat”) of a magnitude they asserted would defy explanation except in terms of nuclear processes.” Needless to say, this was a shock, since until then physicists thought you needed multi-million degree temperatures to fuse nuclei and generate energy.
Many major physics laboratories failed to reproduce the results and scientific theories explaining how it might be possible were lacking (as they pretty much are still today).
In 1989, the majority of a review panel organized by the US Department of Energy (DOE) had found that the evidence for the discovery of a new nuclear process was not persuasive. A second DOE review, convened in 2004 to look at new research, reached conclusions that were similar to those of the 1989 panel.
The 2004 DOE report is here. A 2005 Scientific American summary of the findings was titled “Back to Square One.” Some on the panel thought “the evidence for excess power was compelling” but “When it came to whether nuclear reactions took place in the experiments, the report noted that two thirds of reviewers found the evidence unconvincing, one person found it compelling, and the remainder were somewhat convinced.”
It is incredibly tricky to measure all of the energy inputs and outputs, which is why 60 Minutes had an independent expert come in and examine the one company’s claims. He ended up convinced excess heat was being generated. Richard Garwin, one of the country’s foremost authorities on nuclear physics and “the author of the actual design used in the first hydrogen bomb,” remains unconvinced.
I was very unconvinced by the over-the-top hype from the main expert on the show:
Families USA and the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) are joining forces to launch a multi-million lobbying campaign to convince Congress to increase Medicaid eligibility to 133% of the federal poverty level, offer income-adjusted subsidies, prevent insurers in the individual market for denying coverage to Americans with pre-existing conditions, and cap out-of-pocket expenses.
PhRMA may be exploiting the coalition to curry favor with the public and fend-off proposals for a new public health care plan, but proposals that expand affordable coverage to the neediest Americans should not be vetoed just because they bolster the profits of private industry. In fact, as Families USA President Ron Pollack pointed out during a recent interview with ThinkProgress, having industry stakeholders “engage in a way that is designed to enable… [reform] to take place in a way that fits their business model, but yet helps people who are currently shut out of the healtchare system — I think that’s a step in the right direction.”
The direction may be right but it’s unclear how this early cooperation bodes for comprehensive health care reform. In fact, Big Pharma, like the insurance industry, is willing to support government intervention that bolsters its bottom line. In this case, rather than lowering drug prices — in fact, “the prices of a dozen top-selling drugs increased by double digits in the first quarter from a year earlier” and Americans are still paying some of the highest prices in the world — the industry is urging the government to subsidize PhRMA products for Americans who can’t otherwise afford them.
It’s a sweet deal for the industry and lower-income Americans, but it doesn’t exactly demonstrate the stakeholder’s commitment to “shared responsibility.”
Last week, President Obama released four Bush-era legal memos authorizing torture. The earliest one, from 2002, was signed by Jay Bybee, then an Assistant Attorney General and now a federal judge on the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. In the memo, Bybee authorized CIA interrogators to, among other techniques:
– Slam a detainee’s head against a wall: “any pain experienced is not of the intensity associated with serious physical injury.”
– Slap a detainee’s face: “The facial slap does not produce pain that is difficult to endure.”
– Place a detainee into stress positions: “They simply involve forcing the subject to remain in uncomfortable positions.”
– Waterboard a detainee: “The waterboard…inflicts no pain or actual harm whatsoever.”
These techniques are illegal by U.S. statute and international treaty to which the U.S. is a signatory. Bybee attempted to give legal cover to illegal acts, and thus broke the ethical, professional, and legal standards that should govern lawyers. For this, Judge Jay Bybee should be impeached. Congress needs to assert some accountability for these heinous acts.
ThinkProgress is sending a petition to the members of the House Judiciary Committee — where impeachment articles are drawn — imploring them to act now to remove Bybee from public office. Please join our efforts by signing onto our campaign. Here’s how it could work:
Step One: Hearings. The House Judiciary Committee holds hearings to examine charges against Bybee.
Step Two: Articles of Impeachment. The House Judiciary Committee draws up the articles of impeachment and presents them to the full House with a simple majority vote.
Step Three: Passes the House. The full House moves to impeach Bybee with a simple majority, and then passes a resolution notifying the Senate
Step Four: Moves to the Senate. The Senate passes a resolution indicating its readiness to receive the House “managers” — in effect, the prosecutors — and to hear the full articles of impeachment.
Step Five: Trial. 51 Senators must vote to continue with the impeachment trial, and 67, a full two-thirds majority, are required to convict.
An impeachment hearing would require full answers from Bybee — and would give the American people the answers they deserve. When Bush nominated Bybee in 2003, Congress had no knowledge of the full scope of Bybee’s legalese somersaults to make torture appear legal. When asked, he refused to comment, citing executive privilege. Now we know how integral Bybee was to initiating Bush’s years-long torture program.
Today, Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY), a senior member on the House Judiciary Committee, endorsed impeaching Bybee. “He ought to be impeached,” Nadler told the Huffington Post. “It was not an honest legal memo. It was an instruction manual on how to break the law.”
Jay Bybee has neither the legal nor the moral authority to sit in judgment of others. Please sign our petition.
Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers (D-MI) renewed his call for full investigations into Bush’s torture policies today: “It is simply obvious that, if there is no accountability when wrongdoing is exposed, future violations will not be deterred.”
,Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-CA), a Judiciary subcommittee chair, said she is “not comfortable with the fact that [Bybee] will be on the federal bench for a lifetime appointment.”
We’ve been arguing that the Obama administration should seriously consider investments in human capital, not only to reverse America’s falling educational attainment, but also because it makes sense economically.
While most of the administration’s focus in this area has been on college accessibility and retention, that shouldn’t be the only avenue for investment. According to a study from the Center on Children and Families, an investment in preschool education would provide a desperately needed boost to our human capital supply while also causing the economy to grow. As the study’s authors noted, “well-educated individuals are more likely to be employed at all points in their lives and live longer than those who are less educated which in turn increases labor supply and thus GDP“:
As GDP increases, federal, state and local tax revenues are assumed to increase in proportion to their ratio to GDP if tax rates were held constant. This is the primary source of net revenue gains, but there are also several costs that are avoided due to having had more children in pre-kindergarten programs. With more graduates, fewer children will need special education or be retained in grade. If fewer students are held back, fewer resources are used to produce the same number of students with any ultimate level of achievement.
Here are the long-term GDP and human capital effects of preschool investments:
The study’s authors also found that, if lawmakers are patient enough, the program will eventually pay for itself — though we are talking decades before that effect is seen. “This may sound like a long time,” the authors note, “but the vast majority of government expenditures are undertaken with no hope of ever recovering their costs. That preschool education holds out hope of doing so, while promising large social returns in the short and medium run, makes it an outstanding investment.” And in any case, America can hardly afford to prolong its tumble from the summit of educational attainment any longer.
Ben Furnas has a very interesting CAP report out on how the United States is falling behind in the development of clean energy technology. The point is that since the world is going to need to switch to sustainable technologies sooner or later, those countries who move swiftly are likely to capture most of the benefits. The most telling chart is perhaps this one:
The thing here is that a substantial portion of the United States is sun-drenched desert or semi-desert in which it’s almost never cloudy. Germany, Japan, Switzerland, Austria, not so much. In other words, if you were to apply a German-style level of commitment to a country that contains things like the vast sunny expanse of the Southwest (as well as other areas, such as Florida, that are distinctly sunnier than Germany) you could get much better results. Instead, the Germans are kicking our assesses, because we’re barely trying.
There’s also this about legendarily dirty China trying to make lemonade out of the downturn and seize the moment to build a cleaner economy:
A February analysis by HSBC Global Research in Hong Kong projects that nearly 40 percent of China’s proposed $586 billion stimulus plan—$221 billion over two years—is going toward public investment in renewable energy, low-carbon vehicles, high-speed rail, an advanced electric grid, efficiency improvements, and other water-treatment and pollution controls. This stimulus is on top of historic levels of government spending and private investment in renewable technology, energy efficiency, and low-carbon growth all across China. The upshot: China, according to a recent analysis, is “the largest alternative energy producer in the world in terms of installed generating capacity.”
This massive stimulus plan will spend over 3 percent of China’s 2008 gross domestic product annually in 2009 and 2010 on green investments—more than six times America’s green stimulus spending as a percentage of our respective economies. This is about $12.6 million every hour over the next two years. In the United States, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act invests $112 billion in comparable green priorities over the next two years, about half as much as China, according to HSBC. This represents less than half of one percent of our 2008 gross domestic product.
This kind of commitment should also, I think, raise some questions about the conventional wisdom holding that China will never participate in international efforts to curb carbon emissions. They appear to be making a pretty serious effort to start exploring some alternatives.
Last week in an interview with the Kansas City Star editorial board, Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R-KS) risked alienating thousands of ditto-heads by giving his honest opinion of whether Rush Limbaugh was the “de facto leader of the GOP.” “No, no, he’s just an entertainer,” Tiahrt said.
Asked about the episode and resulting Web buzz, Tiahrt spokesman Sam Sackett said Tiahrt was not speaking negatively about Limbaugh but was trying to defend him against the suggestion that Limbaugh could be blamed for the GOP’s woes. “The congressman believes Rush is a great leader of the conservative movement in America — not a party leader responsible for election losses,” Sackett told The Eagle editorial board. “Nothing the congressman said diminished the role Rush has played and continues to play in the conservative movement.”
As ThinkProgress has noted, other Republicans have made similar courageous statements, only to eventually back down in the face of Limbaugh’s great power.
RNC Chairman Michael Steele: On March 1, Michael Steele went on CNN and said, “Rush Limbaugh, his whole thing is entertainment. Yes, it’s incendiary. Yes, it’s ugly.” The next day, he backtracked and told Politico, “My intent was not to go after Rush — I have enormous respect for Rush Limbaugh.” On Jan. 27, Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-GA) noted that Limbaugh and other conservative talkers are able to “stand back and throw bricks” instead of offering “real leadership” in the middle of high-profile public policy battles. The very next day, he went on Limbaugh’s show and offered his “sincere regret” for his comments.
Republicans should be careful — looks like that “foot-in-mouth disease” is contagious.
Chris Bowers has an interesting post that helps put the current right-wing freakout over shaking hands with Hugo Chavez in perspective. If you compare the favorable/unfavorable numbers on the GOP in the latest CNN poll and compare them to CNN’s recent survey of what Americans think about foreign countries you’ll see that there are more Venezuela fans in the United States than people who like the GOP:
It’s remarkable the extent to which press coverage of current politics doesn’t reflect the deep unpopularity of the opposition party.