Elliot’s Hardware — a local Dallas hardware store — has “appealed to former President George W. Bush to spend his new-found retirement working as a part-time greeter at its Maple Avenue store.” “Our greeters are a legendary part of our customer service,” said Kyle Walters, Elliott’s Hardware president and CEO. “And we are offering the position to Mr. Bush in all sincerity. We think it would be a great fit for him as he settles back into life in Dallas.” If he chooses to take the position, Bush will enjoy company perks such as “a flexible part-time schedule (to allow travel to Crawford),” a parking space, and an employee discount.
by Ryan Avent
Brad Plumer reports today from a green jobs conference at which Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow spoke. Plumer notes that Stabenow previously said she would not have supported the Lieberman-Warner climate bill, which included a cap-and-trade plan, “for fear that it would wipe out jobs in the Rust Belt.” Today, Plumer says, she was saying that the Rust Belt could be a hub of green technology manufacturing, but that America fell behind European economies on this count because, “our policy framework for promoting renewable power was so skimpy.”
The problem, of course, is that a carbon pricing plan in America — like cap-and-trade – would generate an enormous market for green technologies. Indeed, it’s difficult to imagine green industries succeeding on a large scale without such a plan. But Michigan, and the Rust Belt in general, is still home to lots of (for lack of a better work) brown industries, which contribute heavily to elected leaders and fight green legislation with everything they have. (In the case of the automakers, “everything they have” includes “taxpayer dollars.”) So you get this situation where policies that might create manufacturing jobs in Michigan are opposed by Michigan leaders working on behalf of dying Michigan industries. This is one of the risks of propping up those industries with billion dollar bail-outs; they stick around to lobby against policies we need.
As Plumer notes, Stabenow and other Midwestern leaders will likely attempt to square the circle by arguing that the main course of carbon pricing be served with a heaping helping of public funding for green industries. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s very difficult to give too much money to things like research and education. Green infrastructure investments, in things like smart grids, communications systems, and high-speed freight and passenger rail would also be worthwhile and would help increase the productivity and the competitiveness of manufacturing states. But Stabenow and her colleagues are likely to want more — subsidies for specific technologies, tax breaks for specific companies, and trade protections for infant green industries.
There will be a limited economic case for policies like that, but if adopted en masse, they’re likely to wind up costing taxpayers a great deal of money and producing little bang for the buck. Some progressives argued, during the debate over the automaker bail-out, that we should give Detroit money to make transit vehicles. That sounds fantastic, but Detroit isn’t even that great at making cars, while European companies are very good at making transit vehicles. Most of America might well benefit from just using perfectly fine European transit technology, and focusing production on other products for which Europe and Asia don’t have as big an advantage. But that’s not how technology-specific government assistance tends to be distributed.
So we have legislators that will largely have a stranglehold on American climate policy, but who also have home state interests that might not serve most of America very well at all. The climate crisis is serious enough that we can’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good, but this dynamic will be a point of concern throughout the debate. The stimulus should be a lesson to us — Republicans will seize on any little silly sounding item and cry reckless spending if given the chance.
Earlier today I attended an interesting Senate Foreign Relations Committee roundtable discussion on Afghanistan moderated by chairman Senator John Kerry. Participating were Ashraf Ghani, former Finance Minister of Afghanistan and chancellor of Kabul University; Sarah Chayes, a former NPR Correspondent who since 2002 has been been running an economic cooperative in Kandahar; James Dobbins, senior researcher at the RAND Corporation and former Special Envoy to the Afghan Resistance; and retired Lt. Col. David Kilcullen, former Australian Special Forces Commando, adviser to Gen. David Petraeus, and all around COIN big wheel.
Declaring the roundtable format a better way to have a conversation, probe and learn” about an issue, Sen. Kerry began the discussion by asking “What is the scope of the mission” in Afghanistan? “What can we accomplish?”
Ghani said that the main problem in Afghanistan right now is weakness of governance. He stressed that the problems that currently exist are to a large extent the result of a series of interventions in the country, from the Soviets in the 1980s, and U.S. and Arab support for the anti-Soviet mujahideen, all of which have contributed to the lack of functioning governance structures and institutions, which have in turn created what must be understood, he said, as a crisis. Chayes agreed with this, saying that official corruption is so bad right now that many women in her collective have told her that they would prefer living under the Taliban. Every citizen interaction with the government, Chayes said, involves some form of shakedown. “You have to bribe eight different people for the privilege of paying your electric bill,” which is less than six hours a day. “The international community is blamed for this,” she said, as many Afghans feel this government has been imposed upon them.
Largely concurring with the crisis diagnosis, Kilcullen insisted that it was “crunch time in Afghanistan,” noting that violence is up 543% in the last four years. “Afghanistan right now is Vietnam under Diem,” Kilcullen said, with the U.S. and NATO fighting a grinding counterinsurgency on behalf of a corrupt leadership with little public support. Kilcullen offered two options for a way forward. The first was a redoubled effort to prevent an Al Qaeda sanctuary in Afghanistan, protecting the Afghan population from the Taliban, narcotics, and misrule, and continuing to help build Afghan civil society. The second was to focus solely on preventing an Al Qaeda sanctuary in Afghanistan. The problem with this second option, Kilcullen said, is that “it just won’t work.” Any strategy that focused solely on rooting out terrorism without addressing the conditions that allow it to take root in the first place is bound to fail. What is needed is “a surge of political effort” to build legitimacy for Afghan political institutions. Read more
By Brian Beutler
The Washington Post ran an op-ed today by somebody who appears not to be a
wanker reasonable centrist.
This plan is more than a prescription for short-term spending — it’s a strategy for America’s long-term growth and opportunity in areas such as renewable energy, health care and education. And it’s a strategy that will be implemented with unprecedented transparency and accountability, so Americans know where their tax dollars are going and how they are being spent.In recent days, there have been misguided criticisms of this plan that echo the failed theories that helped lead us into this crisis — the notion that tax cuts alone will solve all our problems; that we can meet our enormous tests with half-steps and piecemeal measures; that we can ignore fundamental challenges such as energy independence and the high cost of health care and still expect our economy and our country to thrive.
But it’s not Harold Meyerson or E.J. Dionne.
By Brian Beutler
Speaking of confirmation hearings, Leon Panetta had one today.
Mr Panetta was also asked whether the agency would continue the practice of sending detainees to foreign countries for the purpose of torture.”No, we will not,” Mr Panetta said. “Because under the executive order issued by the President, that kind of extraordinary rendition, where we send someone for the purpose of torture or actions by another country that violate our human values, that has been forbidden.”
Mr Panetta said some kinds of renditions of prisoners were “appropriate”, citing as an example the rendition to France of Carlos the Jackal to stand trial on terrorism charges. And he said the United States had the right to temporarily hold and debrief “high value” terrorist suspects captured overseas.
But Mr Panetta said: “I do not believe we ought to use renditions for the purpose of sending people to black sites, and not providing the kind of oversight I believe is necessary”.
Asked whether he was saying the United States had sent prisoners to foreign countries to be tortured, Mr Panetta said he had not been officially briefed on what actually had happened during the renditions over the past eight years.
“My understanding is that there were black sites,” he said. “But obviously there were indications that those countries…did not meet the standards of human values that we would extend to prisoners.”
Conservatives opposed to the Democratic economic recovery package have been voicing their complaints by calling out individual programs they believe to be wasteful. For example, last month on the House bill, conservatives specifically targeted funding for comprehensive family planning services and STD prevention. Unfortunately, in an effort to compromise, President Obama called for both of those provisions to be cut from the legislation.
Today, various progressive blogs released a list of items that so-called “centrist” Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Ben Nelson (D-NE) have proposed cutting from the economic recovery package. Many of these cuts, however, would disproportionately affect women and children — similar to the cuts to the House bill. Some highlights:
– $150 million cut to the Violence Against Women Act
– $50 million to the Victims of Crime Act
– $25 million to the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Forces
– $1.1 billion to Head Start
– $50 million to Teacher Quality Partnership Grants
– $5.2 billion for Prevention And Wellness (including diabetes screening and HIV testing)
– $13.9 billion for Pell Grants
– $2 billion for Child Care Development Block Grants
Over on the Wonk Room, Pat Garofalo notes why these cuts are so troubling:
For Nelson, who has a personal net worth about $10 million, this is also a case of kicking Main Street while its down, as the proposed cuts are in areas like health care, education, and aid to the states. Adding insult to injury, Collins and Nelson are nitpicking important stimulus funding that would benefit working Americans and their children, after they voted for giving $700 billion to Wall St. with no oversight.
In particular, health care provisions not only disproportionately boost women and children, but also minorities. After all, preventive health care spending is stimulative; it creates jobs and saves the country expensive long-term medical costs.
President Obama put it best today when he criticized all the people who are calling anything besides tax cuts “pork”: “So when you hear these attacks deriding something of such obvious importance as this, you have to ask yourself, ‘Are these folks serious?’”
Today, CPAC sent out a “Special Announcement” to supporters reading: “I am pleased to announce that RUSH LIMBAUGH will be the closing speaker at CPAC 2009!” Other invited speakers to the conservative conference, taking place in Washington, D.C. Feb. 26-28, include Lousiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, and Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. (Sen. John McCain has reportedly not been invited.)
The Huffington Post’s Sam Stein adds, “That Limbaugh would keynote the affair is a telling indication of just how lacking the GOP is for actual elected leadership. The radio host has never been one to claim he is an insider or party leader.”
,U.S. News has a list of more CPAC speakers here.
,ThinkProgress received an e-mail from CPAC’s Joseph Logue, who said that this year will be Limbaugh’s first appearance at CPAC. He was invited because “he is an important voice in the conservative movement, and he is someone whom the attendees have requested in the past.”
When asked whether extraordinary renditions will continue, Panetta answers without hestitation: ‘No.’
Last week, the LA Times published a story asserting that President Obama “left intact” the CIA’s authority to carry out extraordinary renditions. (The unfounded claim was thoroughly debunked.) At his confirmation hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee today, Leon Panetta, Obama’s pick to head the CIA, declared decisively that the CIA would not carry out extraordinary renditions:
SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D-CA): Will the CIA continue the practice of extraordinary rendition by which the government will transfer a detainee to either a foreign government or a black site for the purpose of long-term detention and interrogation, as opposed to for law enforcement purposes?
PANETTA: No we will not.
Panetta made the distinction between “extraordinary rendition” to indefinitely hold detainees for interrogation — and torture — and law enforcement rendition. As Scott Horton wrote, the earlier rendition program under President Clinton “regularly involved snatching and removing targets for purposes of bringing them to justice by delivering them to a criminal justice system. It did not involve the operation of long-term detention facilities and it did not involve torture.”
Transcript: Read more
By Brian Beutler
Her confirmation’s been delayed. Again.
A Senate committee today abruptly canceled a session to consider President Obama’s nomination of Rep. Hilda Solis to be labor secretary in the wake of a report saying that her husband yesterday paid about $6,400 to settle tax liens against his business — liens that had been outstanding for as long as 16 years.
I didn’t realize her husband was going to be labor secretary. And what of the wives of… well, any cabinet member?
Solis got the nod on December 18th. So it’s been, what, seven weeks? Elaine Chao got confirmed in about two. But, of course, her husband is Mitch McConnell, and he surely has no skeletons in his closet.
After weeks of Republicans “burying her in paperwork,” the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee was finally prepared to vote on Hilda Solis’s nomination for Labor Secretary today. However, Politico now reports that the scheduled vote has been postponed:
Rep. Hilda L. Solis’ nomination vote has been delayed by the Senate committee in charge of vetting her for the secretary of labor position in President Barack Obama’s Cabinet.
The delay was announced moments after USA Today reported that Solis’ husband had recently paid off $6,400 in tax liens on an auto shop he owns in Los Angeles.
Yesterday, Pat Garofalo predicted that Solis was the right wing’s newest target after Tom Daschle withdrew his nomination for Secretary of Health and Human Services. Today’s Progress Report has more on Solis’s nomination here.
At his daily press briefing, Robert Gibbs expressed confidence that Solis’s confirmation will move forward as planned. Noting that Solis’s husband failed to pay a “business tax,” Gibbs said, “We’re not going to penalize her for her husband’s business mistakes.”