In “an unprecedented joint interview” of both Bush presidents, Fox News Sunday guest anchor Brit Hume asked George H.W. Bush (“Bush 41″) how he regards his son’s presidency. “Very positively,” the elder Bush said. “Why?” asked Hume. Bush then began choking up as he responded, “Well, because he can make a tough decision and stay with it. I mean, he’s been tested unlike any other president — with this 9/11. So he passed the test.” Watch it:
Bush 43 then stepped in and said his father was also going to “be judged great.” He was “almost too humble to be president,” the younger Bush said of his father. “And when history finally gets objective, they will be able to say a lot of positive things about George Bush.”
This raises a question that every Israeli and its supporters now needs to ask. What is the strategic purpose behind the present fighting? After two weeks of combat Olmert, Livni, and Barak have still not said a word that indicates that Israel will gain strategic or grand strategic benefits, or tactical benefits much larger than the gains it made from selectively striking key Hamas facilities early in the war. In fact, their silence raises haunting questions about whether they will repeat the same massive failures made by Israel’s top political leadership during the Israeli-Hezbollah War in 2006. Has Israel somehow blundered into a steadily escalating war without a clear strategic goal or at least one it can credibly achieve? Will Israel end in empowering an enemy in political terms that it defeated in tactical terms? Will Israel’s actions seriously damage the US position in the region, any hope of peace, as well as moderate Arab regimes and voices in the process?
To blunt, the answer so far seems to be yes. To paraphrase a comment about the British government’s management of the British Army in World War I, lions seem to be led by donkeys. If Israel has a credible ceasefire plan that could really secure Gaza, it is not apparent. If Israel has a plan that could credibly destroy and replace Hamas, it is not apparent. If Israel has any plan to help the Gazans and move them back towards peace, it is not apparent. If Israel has any plan to use US or other friendly influence productively, it not apparent.
I got that via the Jew-hater James Fallows. Of course it may seem unseemly to some for so many American writers to be sitting here safely on the far side of the oceans second-guessing Israeli decision-makers. And I sympathize with that. But one has to recall that we’ve involved ourselves intimately with the situation through our aid money and our diplomatic support for Israel at the UN over the years. Under the circumstances we have no choice but to second-guess when these kinds of things happen.
Satyam Khanna rounds up the somewhat contradictory statements from Barack Obama and his appointees as to whether or not there should be any kind of prosecutions or investigations for the serious crimes committed during the Bush years. Obama leaves the door open to investigations but his most recent statement places emphasis on a desire to “move forward” and the fact that he doesn’t want intelligence operatives to “suddenly feel like they’ve got to spend all their time looking over their shoulders and lawyering.”
The latter concern strikes me as reasonable enough. But I don’t think the solution is just to let everyone get away without accountability. There wasn’t enough accountability after Watergate and that helped lead to the lack fo accountability around Iran-Contra. Which, in turn, helped get us where we are today. You could set up a commission or an investigator with specific authorization to offer immunity to anyone below the highest tiers of government in exchange for cooperation. Failure to do anything will just be read as a concession that “serious” people of both parties actually favor torture, arbitrary detention, and illegal surveillance but the “serious” Democrats are too hypocritical to admit it.
As of November, the latest data available, the company had delivered 55 consecutive months of increases in global same-store sales. During a year when the stock market lost a third of its value — its worst performance since the Great Depression — shares of McDonald’s gained nearly 6 percent, making the company one of only two in the Dow Jones industrial average whose share price rose in 2008. (The other was Wal-Mart.)
I really enjoy the Sausage McMuffin, albeit only rarely since I’m sure it’s the least healthy thing on the planet, and have never understood why they stop serving their breakfast options so early in the day. Among other things, I think I could eat that kind of thing with less guilt if it was going in the “lunch” ledger rather than the “breakfast” file.
The top question on Change.gov’s “Open for Questions” feature last week asked whether President-elect Obama will appoint a special prosecutor to “independently investigate” the “greatest crimes” committed under Bush. The inquiry, submitted by Bob Fertik of Democrats.com, has received over 22,000 votes. Today, ABC’s George Stephanopoulos asked Fertik’s question to Obama:
Q: The most popular question on your own website is related to this. On change.gov it comes from Bob Fertik of New York City and he asks, ‘Will you appoint a special prosecutor ideally Patrick Fitzgerald to independently investigate the greatest crimes of the Bush administration, including torture and warrantless wiretapping.’
OBAMA:We’re still evaluating how we’re going to approach the whole issue of interrogations, detentions, and so forth. And obviously we’re going to be looking at past practices and I don’t believe that anybody is above the law. On the other hand, I also have a belief that we need to look forward as opposed to looking backwards. … My orientation is going to be moving foward.
Obama explained that he doesn’t want CIA employees to “suddenly feel like they’ve got to spend all their time looking over their shoulders and lawyering.” He did not specifically rule out a special prosecutor, saying, “That doesn’t mean that if somebody has blatantly broken the law, that they are above the law.” Watch it:
Dawn Johnsen, Obama’s choice to lead the Office of Legal Counsel, rejects Obama’s “look forward” approach. In March 2008, she told “the next president” to avoid “any temptation to simply move on”:
We must avoid any temptation simply to move on. We must instead be honest with ourselves and the world as we condemn our nation’s past transgressions and reject Bush’s corruption of our American ideals. Our constitutional democracy cannot survive with a government shrouded in secrecy, nor can our nation’s honor be restored without full disclosure.
In April 2008, Obama left the door open to a special prosecutor, saying, “What I would want to do is to have my Justice Department and my Attorney General immediately review the information that’s already there and to find out are there inquiries that need to be pursued.” “If crimes have been committed, they should be investigated,” Obama added.
On Friday’s Rachel Maddow Show, George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley said, “All of this ‘we need to look to the future and we have to not look to the past,’ well in our immediate past may be war crimes. And we sure better look at that.” He added:
Everything that is coming out of the Congress and the Obama administration is very worrisome. It’s not the type of stuff that would be said if you were seriously going to pursue prosecution. But they are insane to try to dodge this issue. Because if we don’t investigate this administration for war crimes and illegality — particularly war crimes — someone else might. The fact is that the rest of the world sees these as war crimes.
The House GOP’s efforts to publicly solicit the names of economists opposed to the idea of an economic stimulus package is an interesting gambit. On the one hand, it reveals how crass and political John Boehner really is—he picked his policy position first, and then started looking for experts to back him second. Beyond that, it reveals how shallow the depth of opposition really is.
Brad DeLong observes that “no current or former member of the President’s Council of Economic Advisers–Democrat or Republican, living or dead, sane or insane–has signed up for the Republican House caucus’s list of economists opposed to the stimulus package.”
There is a very good (modern) liberal case against more home ownership: behavioral economics is true, people overestimate their prospects, poor people shouldn’t take too much risk, and the natural market tendency is too much home ownership, not too little. That’s without taking environmental issues into account.
But you really should take the environmental issues into account! The issue here isn’t well-understood, but it’s pretty clear-cut. A home, when owned as opposed to rented, is in part a savings vehicle. An investment. When you subsidize homeownership you are, among other things, encouraging people to save in the form of housing rather than stocks or bonds or whatnot. At the margin, this causes people to live in larger houses than they otherwise would have. That increases the amount of energy it takes to heat the house. And it increases the amount of energy it takes to cool the house. And it increases the amount of energy it takes to provide light to the house. And it increases the distances between stuff, pushing people to drive further.
This isn’t the biggest environmental problem in the universe, but it’s an unusually senseless one. Absent the subsidies there’d be nothing stopping people who really wanted to live in big houses from buying them.
Rapidly warming climate is likely to seriously alter crop yields in the tropics and subtropics by the end of this century and, without adaptation, will leave half the world’s population facing serious food shortages, new research shows….
“The stresses on global food production from temperature alone are going to be huge, and that doesn’t take into account water supplies stressed by the higher temperatures,” said David Battisti, a University of Washington atmospheric sciences professor.
Worse, the study must also be considered a serious underestimate of likely impacts since, as is common in such analyses, they based their simulations on “the ‘middle of the road’ emission scenario, A1B.” In 2100, A1B hits about 700 ppm with average global temperatures “only” about 3°C warmer than today. In fact, on our current emissions path, we are going to get much, much hotter (see Hadley Center: “Catastrophic” 5-7°C warming by 2100 on current emissions path).
Figure. “Histogram of summer (June, July, and August) averaged temperatures (blue) observed from 1900 to 2006 and (red) projected for 2090 for (A) France, (B) Ukraine, and (C) the Sahel. Temperature is plotted as the departure from the long-term (1900–2006) climatological mean (21). The data are normalized to represent 100 seasons in each histogram. In (A), for example, the hottest summer on record in France (2003) is 3.6°C above the long-term climatology. The average summer temperature in 2090 [assuming A1B] is projected to be 3.7°C greater than the long-term climatological average.”