Earlier this month, Defense Secretary Robert Gates expressed his intention to end production of the F-22 fighter jet, an expensive weapons system that has not flown a single mission in either the Iraq or Afghanistan wars. The defense contractor Lockheed Martin had been pouring money into a “publicity campaign” and engaging in “congressional lobbying efforts” to maintain funding for the F-22. But, it appears Lockheed is now conceding that the days of the F-22 are numbered:
[Lockheed Chief Financial Officer Bruce] Tanner said Lockheed tried to fight for continuation of the F-22 program, but indicated the company had all but given up.
“We’ve had our chance to lobby this matter, we think we’ve had a full hearing of that discussion and we’re disappointed by the decisions, but we’ll accept those and go on,” he said.
Lockheed anticipates that many of the jobs associated with the F-22 production will now be channeled into the production of the the cargo plane C-130J program. While Lockheed is backing down, Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) “said he wasn’t giving up continuing the program just yet but acknowledged the program’s future doesn’t look bright.”
Prominent environmentalist and activist Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. has long described the Bush administration as “indentured servants” to the oil and coal industry, in particular because “virtually all the principal environmental agencies” were “being operated by lobbyists from the very businesses they’re supposed to regulate.” In a blatant attempt to create a Earth Day conflict between President Obama and the environmental movement, ABC News’ Brian Ross and Joseph Rhee are claiming that RFK Jr.’s attacks on the Bush administration and other coal advocates apply to the Obama administration:
RFK Jr. Blasts Obama as ‘Indentured Servant’ to Coal Industry
“Clean coal is a dirty lie,” says environmentalist Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who calls President Barack Obama and other politicians who commit taxpayer money to develop it “indentured servants” of the coal industry.
After ABC News wrote this misleading story, the Huffington Post — where RFK Jr. is a guest blogger — promoted the piece on its Politics and Green channels:
In fact, RFK Jr. has never called President Obama an “indentured servant” of the coal industry or anyone else. It is ABC News and the Huffington Post that are making that inflammatory statement, on the eve of Earth Day.
RFK Jr. has called the phrase “clean coal,” one that President Obama uses frequently, a “dirty lie,” in particular because of catastrophically destructive mountaintop removal mining:
Below follow quotations from Robert F. Kennedy Jr. about the “indentured servants” of the coal and oil industry, clearly identifying the likes of “West Virginia Senators Robert Byrd and Jay Rockefeller,” the Bush White House, “John Stossel or Glenn Beck or Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity,” and industry lobbyists/Bush appointees Steve Griles, Mark Rey, Marianne Horinko, Linda Fisher, and Jeffrey Holmstead: Read more
It has been increasingly obvious that 1) climate bills would not be passed by both houses separately, 2) be reconciled in confernce, then 3) be passed by both houses again and finally 4) get signed by Obama all by the end of 2009. Now it is just about official, as E&E News PM (subs. req’d) reports:
The Senate will not take up climate change legislation until this fall, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said today, confirming plans to let the House proceed first on the controversial cap-and-trade and energy measure.
“They’re going to finish theirs before August,” Reid told reporters. “So we’ll have to do it in the fall”….
Asked whether Congress can complete a bill this year, Reid responded, “Congress lasts two years.”
Indeed, right now, the adjournment target date for the fall is October 30, and it seems unlikely the Senate would stay in session much long than that [-- I welcome any schedule updates anyone has].
Inhofe does not appear to have explained his decision to filibuster in front of his colleagues on the floor of the Senate. But in statements that he entered into the Congressional Record, Inhofe cited a 2005 ruling in Hinrichs v. Bosman in which Hamilton found that the Indiana House of Representatives may open proceedings with “non-sectarian prayers” only. Inhofe called it “insane” that the ruling would allow payers to invoke the name of “Allah” but not “Jesus”:
INHOFE: Further, ruling on a postjudgment motion, Hamilton stated that invoking the name of “Allah” would not advance a particular religion or disparage another. So, praying to Allah would be perfectly acceptable. [...]
I find this line of reasoning to be insane. Who in this body would not identify the name of “Allah” with the religion of Islam any less than they would identify the name of Jesus with Christianity?
Hamilton found that “sectarian content of the substantial majority of official prayers took the prayers outside the safe harbor the Supreme Court recognized for inclusive, non-sectarian legislative prayers in Marsh v. Chambers.” As Hamilton explained in a post-judgment ruling, “‘Allah’ is used for ‘God’ in Arabic” and as such should be permitted:
The Arabic word “Allah” is used for “God” in Arabic translations of Jewish and Christian scriptures. If those offering prayers in the Indiana House of Representatives choose to use the Arabic Allah, the Spanish Dios, the German Gott, the French Dieu, the Swedish Gud, the Greek Theos, the Hebrew Elohim, the Italian Dio, or any other language’s terms in addressing the God who is the focus of the non-sectarian prayers contemplated in Marsh v. Chambers, the court sees little risk that the choice of language would advance a particular religion or disparage others.
If and when the prayer practices in the Indiana House of Representatives ever seem to be advancing Islam, an appropriate party can bring the problem to the attention of this or another court.
In the past week, at least three scientists have come out and objected to their work on sleep deprivation being used by the CIA and Justice Department to justify torture. In one of his 2005 memos, the OLC’s Steven Bradbury said that sleep deprivation causes “at most only relatively moderate decreases in pain tolerance.” But one of the scholars, Dr. Bernd Kundermann from the University of Marburg, pointed out that that he was “working with healthy volunteers and didn’t deprive them of sleep for more than one day without allowing them to recover.” Similarly, from Dr. S. Hakki Onen from the Hôpital Gériatrique A. Charial:
“[The study subjects] were distracted from sleeplessness by playing different games, or watching soccer matches. They could eat, drink, read, and move about as they wished. [From] the American documents we learn that sleep deprivation spanned from 70 to 120 hours — and set maximum limits of 180 hours for the hardest resisters, which is over a full week without sleep,” Onen said. “In other words, they discuss starting the sleep deprivation process at nearly double the maximum we set for ethical reasons.”
Onen compared the CIA’s use of his study results to the overdosing of medication. “In a manner, it’s like giving a drug to a patient: if you administer it in small doses for therapeutic reasons, it helps them. If you give it in huge volumes, it becomes toxic — and can even kill them,” he said.
As Onen notes, the Justice Department determined that “the maximum allowable period of sleep deprivation allowed under the CIA interrogation program was 264 hours, though no detainee was actually deprived of sleep for more than 180 hours, or seven and a half days.”
In varying degrees, Chávez, Bolivia’s Evo Morales, Nicaragua’s Daniel Ortega, Honduras’s Manuel Zelaya, and Ecuador’s Rafael Correa are abusing their presidential powers to change the rules of the game. They are all allies of Chávez in what he calls “21st-century socialism” which is what. So far, this socialism recalls nothing less that the beginning stages of the socialism which was established in the first half of the 20th century in Russia, Italy, and Germany. I doubt a U.S. president would have given a warm handshake to any of those leaders.
The sleight of hand here so that the fascist regimes of Italy and Germany are now “socialists” is pretty neat. In reality, the German socialist party was the main bulwark of opposition to Hitler, who took over because the Catholic and business-oriented parties decided that they preferred to ally with the Nazis than to join forces with the socialists. A similar story can be told about Italy where, again, the establishment decided to embrace Mussolini as an antidote to socialism and trade union activism. And, again, something similar happened in Spain, though this time to the thunderous applause of the National Review.
Otto Reich himself, it should be added, is not much of a friend of democracy in general. He has a good name for a movie villain, and a background in government to match it.
A few weeks back, we noted that the stress tests being performed on the nation’s largest banks may amount to a papering over of the banking system’s ills. Today, the Associated Press released Federal Reserve documents showing that this suspicion may be accurate, as the tests “take a harsher view of loans than of other troubled assets,” which is an approach that favors the Wall Street banks grappling with securitized assets:
The regulators’ focus could spell trouble for big regional banks undergoing the tests. Their portfolios have more individual loans and fewer of the big pools of securitized loans that Wall Street giants specialize in. Some analysts said regulators are favoring the largest banks because if even one failed that would pose a severe economic risk. Banks that deal in securities are more interconnected to other corners of the global financial system.
John Carney at Clusterstock wrote that “if this allegation is true, it means the government is willing to use the stress test as a cosmetic aid to banks holding toxic assets.” And with the International Monetary Fund confirming today that the US economy is staring down $2.7 trillion in toxic assets, cosmetic aids are surely not going to be enough to salvage the banking system.
Dave Weigel observes that the head of the Ohio Militia has put out a YouTube video calling for a “A peaceful demonstration of at least a million — hey, if we can 10 million, even better — but at least one million armed militia men marching on Washington.” He emphasizes his desire for the protest to be peaceful, but also emphasizes his desire for the protest to be well-armed:
At any rate, I think only a crazy person would put out a report warning that right-wing extremist groups are likely entering a new phase of activism.
In a New York Post interview published yesterday, former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani sharply criticized the push to legalize same-sex marriage in New York state:
“This will create a grass-roots movement. This is the kind of issue that, in many ways, is somewhat beyond politics,” said Giuliani, a two-term mayor who unsuccessfully sought the GOP presidential nomination last year. [...]
“Marriage, I believe, both traditionally and legally, has always been between a man and a woman and should remain between a man and woman,” said Giuliani, who has been married three times.
New York City Mayor Michael Bloombergstood by Paterson’s side when the governor made his announcement about the marriage equality legislation on April 16. Today, ThinkProgress sat down with the mayor and asked him to respond to his predecessor’s comments:
BLOOMBERG: You know, Rudy has a right to his views. I think the polls say that — there’s a new poll out today that says a majority of New Yorkers are in favor of same-sex marriage.
My personal view — and I’ve had this for as long as I’ve thought about the issue — is that it’s not the government’s business who you love and who you marry. And I don’t think that it stands anybody in good interest to have the government involved. … I do think that the more you believe in something, the more important it is to you that the government stay out of these social issues.
A Siena poll released yesterday finds that by a margin of 53 to 39 percent, New Yorkers “believe the Senate should pass marriage-equality legislation introduced last week by Gov. David A. Paterson.” The state Assembly has already gone on record supporting a similar measured introduced by then-governor Eliot Spitzer in 2007, but in the state Senate, several Republicans will have to switch sides in order for the measure to pass.
Pat Garofalo writes about the case for mayoral control of school systems. The basic idea here is that administration of a city’s schools should, like administration of a city’s police, be the responsibility of the city’s mayor. Obviously, that’s still working within the framework of state and federal law and subject to legislation enacted by a city council and so forth. But the point is that you won’t have a special additional elected body specifically dedicated to the schools.
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg talks about this in a hot new interview with the Wonk Room:
I think this is part of a larger issue about getting democracy right in the United States. There was an assumption, at one time, that you could make government more democratic and accountable by, in essence, multiplying the number of elected officials.
In retrospect, I think this was based on flawed logic and faulty assumptions that forgot to account for the fact that people have a limited amount of time they’re realistically going to spend monitoring public officials. If you live in New York City you’re voting for the President of the United States, two United States Senators, one member of congress, the Governor, the state Attorney-General, the state Lieutenant Governor, the state Comptroller, a mayor, a District Attorney, a city Comptroller, a Borough President, and a city council member in addition to a variety of state and local judges. And that’s entirely typical for the United States. Add a school board member into the mix and the situation gets even more out of control.
The result of this sort of process is the absence of meaningful accountability rather than its presence. The result is that special interests—the people with strong self-interested motives to pay attention—wind up exerting wildly disproportionate influence.
Needless to say, special interests get a lot of influence one way or another. But when it comes to a President or a Governor or a Mayor it is realistic to expect the broad mass of people to form a meaningful opinion and register it at the polls. When you keep multiplying offices and diffusing responsibility, you play into the hands of folks looking to game the system and make it hard for voters to understand what’s happening. I think part of the answer is that states should probably adopt unicameral legislatures and consider cutting down on the number of independently elected statewide officials. But cutting down on the quantity and influence of hyper-local electeds and putting responsibility in the hands of visible figures like the mayor and city council is crucial.