In a press conference Friday, House energy committee ranking member Joe Barton (R-TX) crudely described his plan to scuttle the Democratic clean energy and climate bill next week. After several weeks of brokering compromise with Democrats representing the interests of polluting industry, chair Henry Waxman (D-CA) has released the text of the American Clean Energy and Security Act (H.R. 2454) for committee markup beginning Monday. However, Barton claimed that Waxman “doesn’t have the votes to pass the bill”:
He has got a chance to get the votes. If you are familiar with Texas Hold ‘em poker, he doesn’t have the nuts. It is not a done deal. Nor do I. . . We will see which has the other by the nuts next week.
Even though he began with a poker analogy, “Barton couldn’t help himself” and vulgarly described his intent to obstruct the passage of the Waxman-Markey bill. And he indeed intends to play hardball: Barton and his fellow Republicans have released a list of 450 poison-pill amendments that aim to make the debate over energy reform about the costs of change or attacks on supporters of reform, instead of the risks of inaction.
Via Robert Farley, a good concise explanation from David Kilcullen and Andrew Exum about the problem with these drone strikes against targets in Pakistan:
Governments typically make several mistakes when attempting to separate violent extremists from populations in which they hide. First, they often overestimate the degree to which a population harboring an armed actor can influence that actor’s behavior. People don’t tolerate extremists in their midst because they like them, but rather because the extremists intimidate them. Breaking the power of extremists means removing their power to intimidate — something that strikes cannot do.
Imagine, for example, that burglars move into a neighborhood. If the police were to start blowing up people’s houses from the air, would this convince homeowners to rise up against the burglars? Wouldn’t it be more likely to turn the whole population against the police? And if their neighbors wanted to turn the burglars in, how would they do that, exactly? Yet this is the same basic logic underlying the drone war.
In my mind, this is one of the big problems with using the phrase “war on terror.” It gets people in a frame of mind where they’re thinking of analogies like “what would I do to a Nazi tank column?” rather than “what would I do to a crime-plagued neighborhood?” And when trying to figure out the right approach here, the right thing to do isn’t to ask yourself whether international terrorism is “really” a kind of warfare or “really” a kind of crime. The right thing to do is to ask yourself what kind of strategic goals you have and what kind of tactics are likely to achieve them. What we want is for Muslim communities around the world to cooperate with various governments around the world to smoke out and apprehend would-be violent extremists. That’s more like a crime-fighting mission.
Edmund Andrews’ piece in The New York Times Magazine on how her, personally got sucked into the vortex of bad debts and unsustainable lifestyles is one of the best things I’ve read in a long time. The key backstory is that Andrews wound up making all kinds of foolish debt-and-mortgage-related decisions even though he is an economics reporter for The New York Times who’d written extensively about the very problems he wound up falling prey to.
I read a good portion of Andrews’ book, from which the article is excerpted, before misplacing my copy somewhere. The book does an excellent job of weaving the personal narrative together with Andrews’ policy reporting in a manner a bit reminiscent of Jason DeParle’s book.
There’s some strange anti-Dwight Howard sentiments expressed in Bill Simmons’ latest chat with one commenter deeming him “overrated” ad Simmons dismissing him as “Ben Wallace with a jump hook.” But name me a team that wouldn’t trade their starting center for Howard? You can’t, because he’s the best center in the league. Which is about where people have him rated.
Indeed, Simmons’ critical assessment is a bit odd. In his prime, Wallace was an excellent basketball player. A player who’s “like Ben Wallace” but a somewhat better free throw shooter who also has an effective offensive move would be a player who’s even better than an excellent player from past seasons. That’s a good thing.
It’s true that Howard doesn’t have the greatest array of low post moves. But the right way to think about that is that he’s a guy who’s averaging 20 points per game on a 0.600 TS% even though his low post moves aren’t very impressive. And he’s 23 years old, which means he’ll almost certainly get better.
I can certainly understand why people are unhappy with the weakening of Waxman-Markey. Heck, I lowered the grade for it to B or B-.
But I wasn’t grading on a curve. The bill remains a stunning legislative achievement that (if enacted) would require the United States to eliminate virtually all greenhouse gas emissions in four decades — no mean feat, even for those of us who know that is eminently doable (and climatically crucial)!
Indeed, when was the last time the nation’s political system enacted a major economy-wide air-pollutant regulatory system? [Hint: It was a long time ago and a key reason it passed is a cap-and-trade system that gave away virtually all of the pollution allowances to industry -- interesting NYT piece today on the politics of emissions regulations then and now.]
On the other hand, if Waxman-Markey fails to get out of committee or fails to make it through both houses of Congress over the next 12 months or so, don’t expect any US climate action for a long time — the political mavens will not take failure as a sign to pursue a stronger bill. And failure would mean the international negotiation process would be dead. Equally important, why would China agree to a target if we don’t?
And I’m free to point out the absurd rhetoric and factually flawed arguments. Before I get to the myths about the European Trading System that Greenpeace is peddling in its press release Thursday, let me start with their indefensibe and over-the-top first line:
Last month, after President Obama released Bush-era legal memos authorizing torture, McClatchy’s Jonathan Landay reported that former Vice President Dick Cheney “applied relentless pressure on interrogators to use harsh methods on detainees in part to find evidence of cooperation between al Qaida and the late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein’s regime.” Earlier this week, former NBC News investigative producer Robert Windrem reported for The Daily Beast that in 2003, “Cheney’s office suggested waterboarding an Iraqi prisoner, a former intelligence official for Saddam Hussein, who was suspected to have knowledge of a Saddam-al Qaeda connection.”
On ABC’s This Week today, Cheney’s daughter, Liz Cheney, a former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, responded to the allegations by pointing to a report yesterday in which intelligence officials “denied that the questioning on Iraq had included waterboarding.” Asked, however, if she denied that Cheney’s office asked “to have information about Iraq-al Qaeda connections presented” to the Iraqi detainee, Cheney did not outright deny it:
STEPHANOPOLOUS: You’ve explained one part of it, I just want to ask you to explain another part of it. The report though that the vice president’s office did ask specifically to have information about Iraq-al Qaeda connections presented to this detainee, do you deny that?
CHENEY: I think that it’s important for us to have all the facts out. And and, the first and most important fact is that the vice president has been absolutely clear that he supported this program, this was an important program, it saved American lives. Now, the way this policy worked internally was once the policy was determined and decided, the CIA, you know, made the judgments about how each individual detainee would be treated. And the Vice President would not substitute his own judgment for the professional judgment of the CIA.
Cheney’s claim that her father would never “substitute is own judgment for the professional judgment of the CIA” is striking, especially in the context of establishing a link between al Qaeda and Iraq. The truth is that when the CIA didn’t give Cheney the info he wanted about an Iraq-al Qaeda connection, he marginalized the agency:
In the initial stages of the war on terror, Tenet’s CIA was rising to prominence as the lead agency in the Afghanistan war. But when Tenet insisted in his personal meetings with the president that there was no connection between Al Qaeda and Iraq, Cheney and Rumsfeld initiated a secret program to re-examine the evidence and marginalize the agency and Tenet. Through interviews with DoD staffers who sifted through mountains of raw intelligence, FRONTLINE details how questionable intelligence was “stovepiped” to the vice president and presented to the public.
New Yorker reporter Jane Mayer, who wrote a book about “the dark side” of the war on terror, told MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow this week about how after 9/11 Cheney “was dissatisfied with the kind of information that had been given to them from the CIA,” so he requested raw intelligence reports and “took away the filter that the CIA had had.”
Erica Williams, who works at CAP and CAPAF as Deputy Director of Campus Progress, was apparently on CNN on Friday and said the following about torture investigations:
The American people right now are actually not interested in this sideshow and this discussion. The American people are interested in looking forward — nobody is concerned anymore with what the Bush administration was doing and did. We decided it was torture. Conservatives may or may not disagree. None of that matters at this point and time.
After reading this critique from Jane Hamsher and especially this from Glenn Greenwald I wanted to make clear that that’s not a sentiment I agree with.
For one thing, to the best of my knowledge it’s not factually accurate to say that the American people don’t want an investigation. But beyond that, while public opinion is a relevant consideration when thinking about how to approach issues, part of what we do in both our c(3) and c(4) capacities is try to shape public opinion. And the fact of the matter is that some form of accountability for what happened in the past is important. I’m not, personally, all that enthusiastic about the notion of trying to conduct criminal prosecutions but I think something on a “truth commission” model and serious efforts to bring professional sanctions against John Yoo and Jay Bybee would be a good idea.
Why not criminal prosecutions? Well, my understanding is that it could prove extremely difficult to secure convictions and that the top dogs would likely get off. But if a prosecutor has a case he thinks is viable, I wouldn’t complain. But, as I said, I’m not enthusiastic. And I don’t think that whether or not any individual person serves jail time is ultimately the most important issue here. What I really want to see is official, public accounting for what happened and official, public accounting that it was wrong.
There’s been a lot of talk lately about a couple of polls that seem to indicate rising popularity of the “pro-life” self-ascription. John Sides helps us put this in context with some time-series data from the National Election Survey:
There has been some discussion about abortion during recent years. Please tell me which one of these opinions best agrees with your view:
1. By law, abortion should never be permitted.
2. The law should permit abortion only in case of rape, incest, or when the woman’s life is in danger.
3. The law should permit abortion for reasons other than rape, incest, or danger to the woman’s life, but only after the need for the abortion has been established.
4. By law, a woman should always be able to obtain an abortion as a matter of personal choice.
Looks like not much is happening in terms of trends. It continues to be the case that the orthodox conservative position on abortion is extremely unpopular, but that the orthodox liberal position doesn’t command majority support either. At the link you can see data from the General Social Survey that leads to a similar conclusion.
This op-ed seems designed to push whole new frontiers in bad policy. The idea is that in order to save newspapers, congress should (a) grant newspapers an anti-trust exemption so they can collude and fix prices and (b) make search engine indexing of whole web pages a violation of copyright laws. Thus equipped to extract monopoly rents from readers and Google alike, the thinking goes, the news business can be saved.
It’s worth noting that even if such legislation were to be implemented, it wouldn’t actually work unless every major news organization agreed to join the cartel. Indeed, it seems likely that this might inadvertently wind up killing the news industry in the United States. Papers would take advantage of the new cartelization situation to restore profitability based on their existing readership base. But younger people would continue to read non-cartelized media—everything from Think Progress and Talking Points Memo and the Huffington Post and the Center for Independent Media to the BBC and NPR. Newspapers would find themselves even more deeply locked into a business model dependent on a literally dying customer base.
Meanwhile, the internet would be a much worse place.
And note that as with a lot of commentary on the subject, the authors of the proposal seem to be missing the fact that fees from readers have never paid for the news. The issue with online has to do with the fact that advertisers don’t want to pay.
At any rate, I sort of hope this idea picks up tons of steam in congress because then maybe Google would give me lots of money to blog endlessly about what a stupid idea this is. I’m rolling with a “patronage” business model, after all, so it’s very helpful to me for people to come up with terrible ideas that are contrary to the interests of large, cash-rich business enterprises.
When President Obama announced on his second day in office that he would close the Guantanamo Bay prison within a year, Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA) said on MSNBC that Obama had “given a reasonable timeline here.” He praised Obama for “helping us reassert ourselves around the world as a moral beacon, in terms of how people are being handled.”
However, on ABC’s “This Week” today, Webb reversed course and appeared to condemn the Obama administration for “creating artificial timelines” to close Guantanamo, where he said detainees should stay. He also objected to a truth commission on torture. On the most important national security issues, Webb sided with the right wing:
ON TRUTH COMMISSION
STEPHANOPOULOS: That’s the irony here , Senator Webb, as Speaker Gingrich says, investigate. He wants a separate House investigation. Speaker Pelosi says, fine, let’s have a truth commission, the one that Senator Kyl doesn’t want. Where do you stand on this?
WEBB: I just don’t think it’s that big a deal. [...]
STEPHANOPOULOS: So, no truth commission?
WEBB: I think this will resolve itself without something like that.
ON RELEASING NON-DANGEROUS UIGHURS
STEPHANOPOULOS: I know there are about 17, I believe, Chinese Uighurs, they are called, who have been ordered released by a federal court, they’ve determined not to be a threat to the United States. And the administration has been working on plans to bring them to Virginia. Can you accept them in your state?
WEBB: Well, let me back up for a minute. The answer is no. No.
ON CLOSING GUANTANAMO
WEBB: We spend hundreds of millions of dollars building an appropriate facility with all security precautions in Guantanamo to try these cases. … I do not believe they should be tried in the United States. … We should, at the right time, close Guantanamo. But I don’t think that it should be closed, and in terms of transferring people here.
Watch a compilation:
Webb said repeatedly that the Guantanamo detainees “deserve due process.” But at the same time, he refused to accept a court’s ruling that the Chinese Uighurs are not terrorists, pose no threat, and should be released.
And Webb’s opposition to allowing detainees their due process rights in Virginia courts is not shared by everyone: Rep. Jim Moran (D-VA) recently wrote about the “courage and patriotism” of Virginians who supported courts in their state in trying and convicting Zacarias Moussaoui, John Walker Lindh, and Beltway sniper John Allen Muhammad:
[S]hould President Obama determine that Alexandria needs to play a reasonably limited role in a nationwide effort to bring justice to the Guantanamo detainees and close this unfortunate chapter of American history, I am confident that Alexandrians will stand strong as they always have: gritting their teeth, stiffening their spines and carrying the load required so that the American values of justice and the rule of law are not overridden but, rather, respected and honored, as is our heritage as a great nation.