This weekend, defense contracting giant KBR announced it would ban the use of personal cell phones by its employees in Iraq, citing no specific reason. Though KBR has not indicated the ban is related to the numerous allegations of rape by female KBR employees by their male coworkers, the ban could endanger future victims. Jamie Leigh Jones, the first victim to come forward publicly, explained that after she was gang-raped by coworkers and held in a shipping container for days, “she convinced a sympathetic guard to loan her a cell phone so she could call her father in Texas.”
Last week, Bruce Ivins, a government scientist who researched anthrax and was expected to be charged in connection with the 2001 attacks, reportedly committed suicide. As Glenn Greenwald has noted, President Bush and his administration initially attempted to link the anthrax attacks to Iraq.
The New York Daily News has a new twist in the administration’s attempt to peg the anthrax attacks to its own bellicose aims. Immediately after 9/11, the Daily News reports, “White House officials repeatedly pressed FBI Director Robert Mueller to prove it was a second-wave assault by Al Qaeda,” according to a former FBI official:
After the Oct. 5, 2001, death from anthrax exposure of Sun photo editor Robert Stevens, Mueller was “beaten up” during President Bush’s morning intelligence briefings for not producing proof the killer spores were the handiwork of terrorist mastermind Osama Bin Laden, according to a former aide.
“They really wanted to blame somebody in the Middle East,” the retired senior FBI official told The News.
As the Daily News noted, similar to its efforts with Iraq, the White House on multiple occasions suggested that the anthrax attacks were tied to al Qaeda operatives abroad:
On October 15, 2001, President Bush said, “There may be some possible link” to Bin Laden, adding, “I wouldn’t put it past him.” Vice President Cheney also said Bin Laden’s henchmen were trained “how to deploy and use these kinds of substances, so you start to piece it all together.”
Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) claimed “some of this anthrax may…have come from Iraq,” suggesting that the “second phase” of the war on terror may be in Iraq.
The claims, however, were quickly rejected by experts, who “told us this was not something some guy in a cave could come up with,” the former FBI official said. “They couldn’t go from box cutters one week to weapons-grade anthrax the next.”
As press reports have indicated, while the source of the attacks is still unknown, a large body of evidence points towards Ivins’s lab in Ft. Detrick, Maryland. For the Bush administration, however, the evidence doesn’t seem to matter until after the case for war is made.
Jonathan Schwarz notes that Colin Powell used the anthrax-Iraq scare in his U.N. speech in the months leading up to the Iraq war:
Iraq declared 8,500 liters of anthrax, but UNSCOM estimates that Saddam Hussein could have produced 25,000 liters. If concentrated into this dry form, this amount would be enough to fill tens upon tens upon tens of thousands of teaspoons. And Saddam Hussein has not verifiably accounted for even one teaspoon-full of this deadly material.
MSNBC reporting on heat waves and tropical storms today, not mentioning global warming.
Washington Post columnist Joel Achenbach is terribly aggrieved by the media’s coverage of the relationship between climate change and extreme weather events, complaining, “Somewhere along the line, global warming became the explanation for everything.” Parroting Rush Limbaugh, he fulminates that if a hurricane hits the United States, “some expert will tell us that this storm might be a harbinger of global warming.” He continues:
Right-thinking people are not supposed to discuss any meteorological or geophysical event — a hurricane, a wildfire, a heat wave, a drought, a flood, a blizzard, a tornado, a lightning strike, an unfamiliar breeze, a strange tingling on the neck — without immediately invoking the climate crisis. It causes earthquakes, plagues and backyard gardening disappointments. Weird fungus on your tomato plants? Classic sign of global warming.
That is, of course, nonsense. Achenbach’s piece is a series of distortions, misrepresentations, and false attacks.
In reality, the media almost never discuss global warming in the context of extreme weather events. The cable news channels fill hours of time with “extreme weather alerts” of tornadoes, wildfires, hurricanes, and floods. But the few times they discuss the influence of global warming is to either falsely attack it, as on Fox News, or to garble the science and equivocate, as on CNN. Print media and network television likewise run minimal coverage discussing weather in the context of climate change — and just as rarely discuss the global warming consequences of energy policy.
Achenbach’s sole evidence for a deluge of people “immediately invoking the climate crisis” is a single Newsweek article. Achenbach falsely claims that the author “flat-out declared that this year’s floods in the Midwest were the result of climate change,” when in fact she states “The proximate cause was the western part of the jet stream dipping toward the Gulf of Mexico, then rising toward Iowa,” and goes on to discuss global warming as “one clue” why the jet stream behaved that way. In contrast, right-wing media publish a deluge of global warming denialism and false arguments on a daily basis, from specious libertarians to polluter-funded right-wingers.
The right-wing American Spectator reports today that Vice President Dick Cheney will not be a speaker at the Republican National Convention next month, “according to sources in his office.” The magazine says that “Cheney has not sought a speaking slot at the convention, nor has his staff sought a role for him at the convention.” Asked by the Los Angeles Times, Cheney’s press secretary Megan Mitchell did not deny the report, only saying that “the vice president has a great deal of respect for John McCain and as of last Friday was out campaigning for him.”
American families are struggling with high gas prices, even as oil companies rake in record profits.
One way provide relief for families would be to release a small amount of oil from the 98 percent full Strategic Petroleum Reserve. President George H. W. Bush dipped into the Reserve to stabilize prices during the run-up to Operation Desert Storm in 1991, and President George Bush did so again in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.
The oil sold from the reserve in both cases helped stabilize oil markets and lower gas prices.
A new analysis of these two releases by the Center for American Progress Action Fund finds that, in the 100 days after each release, American families enjoyed significant savings on their gasoline bills. These savings amounted to $65 per household after the 1991 Desert Storm release, and $125 per household after the Hurricane Katrina release in 2008 dollars.
Read the full report here.
Clearly many other factors intervened that may have caused changes in gasoline and oil prices in the winter of 1991 and the fall of 2005, but the release of a relatively modest amount of oil from the SPR contributed in large part to the drop in oil prices, the moderation of gasoline prices, and the savings that American families enjoyed.
Read more benefits of releasing a small amount of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserves here.
Yesterday, House Minority Whip Roy Blunt (R-MO) appeared on a C-SPAN Newsmakers roundtable and defended Exxon Mobil’s recent record-setting quarterly profit of $11.7 billion. Blunt tried to minimize the wealth and influence of Exxon, then went on to blast the company’s critics, saying they should be overjoyed that an “American company made money”:
[T]hey’re the 14th biggest oil company in the world, and the only U.S. company in the top 20. So in all likelihood, the 13 companies bigger than them made a whole more money than that, and that all went somewhere besides the United States. That went to Saudi Arabia, that went to Russia. [...]
We can complain all we want to about American stockholders and American company made money. That’s what our friends want to do — the Democrats.
It’s not clear where Blunt is getting his numbers to downplay Exxon’s over-sized influence. According to Petroleum Intelligence Weekly’s 2007 ranking of the world’s 50 largest oil companies, Exxon ranked third. It beat out state-owned companies such as CNPC (China) and Gazprom (Russia). In Fortune’s 2008 list of America’s top corporations, Exxon ranked second overall and first among petroleum refiners.
It’s astonishing that Blunt could claim, with a straight face, that Exxon’s massive profits are good for America. Sure, the company’s stockholders are getting rich. But most Americans continue to pay skyrocketing gas prices. Exxon is certainly not giving back to the American public either. ABC recently reported that the company has invested just 1 percent of its profits on alternative energy sources.
Even more appalling than Exxon’s record profits, however, is the fact that conservatives feel the need to boost the company with massive tax breaks. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), whom Blunt supports, has a plan to cut the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 25 percent. It would give nearly $4 billion in tax breaks to the six largest oil companies.
Transcript: Read more
On Friday, the House considered a bill providing needed funding to veterans and military organizations. House conservatives tried to attach an offshore oil drilling amendment to the bill, threatening its passage. Chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Chet Edwards (D-TX) denounced the tactic. When he read statements from veterans groups urging Congress not to meddle with the legislation, House conservatives booed. Watch it:
Despite the Republicans’ stunts, the House passed the bill.
Breaking news — A real energy plan for America: Efficiency now, 10% renewables by 2012, and one million plug-in hybrids by 2015
Senator Barack Obama has fulfilled the promise of his earlier climate plan with a detailed and comprehensive “New Energy for America” plan. He will be giving a major speech on this plan at 11 a.m. EST. in Lansing, Michigan.
This is easily the best energy plan ever put forward by a nominee of either party:
- Increase Fuel Economy Standards: Obama will increase fuel economy standards 4 percent per each year while protecting the financial future of domestic automakers….
- Invest in Developing Advanced Vehicles and Put 1 Million Plugin Electric Vehicles on the Road by 2015: As a U.S. senator, Barack Obama has led efforts to jumpstart federal investment in advanced vehicles, including combined plug”in hybrid/flexible fuel vehicles, which can get over 150 miles per gallon of gas… [more details below]
- Partner with Domestic Automakers: Obama will also provide $4 billion retooling tax credits and
loan guarantees for domestic auto plants and parts manufacturers, so that the new fuel”efficient
cars can be built in the U.S. by American workers rather than overseas.
- Mandate All New Vehicles are Flexible Fuel Vehicles
- Develop the Next Generation of Sustainable Biofuels and Infrastructure
- Establish a National Low Carbon Fuel Standard: … The standard requires fuels suppliers in 2010 to begin to reduce the carbon of their fuel by 5 percent within 5 years and 10 percent within 10 years.
This is the only way to jumpstart an end to our addiction to oil in a climate friendly way. Indeed, an accelerated transition to plug-in hybrids and electric cars — a core climate solution– must be the cornerstone of any serious effort to dramatically reduce oil consumption and greenhouse gas emissions (see “Why electricity is the only alternative fuel that can lead to energy independence“). That is the crucial litmus test for any presidential candidate’s energy independence or clean transportation policy.
As for the test of a candidate’s grasp of electricity policy, energy efficiency is obviously The only cheap power left and a limitless resource and THE core climate solution. Obama understands energy efficiency in a way few other major politicians do, as his plan makes clear:
For the first time, six of the giant oil companies — including ExxonMobil, Chevron, and Total — made more than $50 billion in combined profits in a single quarter last quarter, with ExxonMobil breaking the record for the highest corporate profits ever, at more than $11 billion.
Today, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney appeared on CNN’s American Morning to discuss an ad by Barack Obama that argues John McCain would give $4 billion in tax breaks to Big Oil. Romney declared the charge “dishonest” and “below the belt.” He claimed that McCain “doesn’t ask for any tax reduction for oil companies.” Watch it:
There is nothing dishonest about pointing out the fact that McCain’s plan to cut the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 25 percent would give nearly $4 billion in tax breaks to the six largest oil companies. Ensuring that corporations pay dramatically fewer taxes is an integral part of McCain’s regressive tax plan that skews its benefits heavily toward the wealthy and offers little for the poor and middle class.
This Wonk Room analysis demonstrates the massive benefits for oil companies in McCain’s tax plan:
Last week, Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS) expressed outrage that the Chinese government could “listen to anybody and everybody’s and their communications” during the Olympics. The White House is apparently also fearful of being spied on, as CBS News reports that Bush’s staff “have been told to leave their BlackBerries at home“:
The mobile e-mail blackout is the latest sign of U.S. concerns over Chinese cyber-spying. Sensitive presidential communications are always encrypted, but government cyber-security experts are worried about electronic eavesdropping on the BlackBerries, which are difficult to protect from snooping.
BlackBerries have been banned on other presidential foreign trips but the order underscores specific concerns about Chinese spying during the Olympics.
It’s a welcome development that the White House is acknowledging the intrusiveness of government spying. Unfortunately, neither the White House or Brownback seem to notice the obvious similarities to the administration’s own spy program.