When I asked Williams about his comments, he initially called it a “faux controversy.”
But then he reviewed the tape and realized that “the tone and tenor of my comments may have spurred a strong reaction to what I considered to be pure political analysis of the First Lady’s use of her White House pulpit,” said Williams via email. “I regret that in the fast-paced, argumentative format my tone and tenor seems to have led people to see me as attacking instead of explaining my informed point of view.”
Williams defended his “informed point of view” about Michelle Obama by insisting that it “is not out of the realm of main-stream political discourse.” In 2005, the NPR ombudsman emphasized that NPR journalists “should not participate in shows that encourage punditry and speculation rather than fact-based analysis.”
As the Wonk Room has discussed, the Senate version of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act adds $2.2 billion to the House’s generous allocation of $2.4 billion for the development of “carbon capture and sequestration technologies” (CCS). Furthermore, the Senate language adds a dangerous loophole that changes a potentially green investment into subsidy for a dirty industry:
Awards for such projects may include plant efficiency improvements for integration with carbon capture technology.
This “improvements for integration” provision is a major loophole, allowing the funds to be spent not just on the actual development and deployment of CCS, but anything else a power company can argue is related. These include the kinds of improvements plant and factory owners are already obligated to make to clean up their mercury, soot, and acid rain pollution. Frank O’Donnell, president of Clean Air Watch, tells the Wonk Room:
It sounds like they’re trying to get free money for what they’re supposed to do anyway.
As yet, the Congressional negotiators hammering out differences between the House and Senate versions of the recovery plan have not announced what the coal funding provisions will end up being.
Below is a chart and table explaining the differences in the House and Senate versions of the recovery plan for advanced coal funding:
Coal Fund Comparison in the Recovery Plan
Decoding Coal Funds in the Recovery Plan
House (H.R. 1)
Senate (S. 336)
For an additional amount for “Fossil Energy”, $2,400,000,000 for necessary expenses to demonstrate carbon capture and sequestration technologies as authorized under section 702 of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007.1
For an additional amount for “Fossil Energy Research and Development”, $4,600,000,000, to remain available until September 30, 2010
Provided, That $2,000,000,000 is available for one or more near zero emissions powerplant(s)1
Provided further, $1,000,000,000 is available for selections under the Department’s Clean Coal Power Initiative Round III Funding Opportunity Announcement; notwithstanding the mandatory eligibility requirements of the Funding Opportunity Announcement, the Department shall consider applications that utilize petroleum coke for some or all of the project’s fuel input2
Provided further, $1,520,000,000 is available for a competitive solicitation pursuant to section 703 of Public Law 110-140 for projects that demonstrate carbon capture from industrial sources3
Provided further, That awards for such projects may include plant efficiency improvements for integration with carbon capture technology.
1 “Section 702″ and “one or more near zero emissions [fossil energy] powerplant(s)” refer to the Restructured FutureGen project.
2 The “Clean Coal Power Initiative Round III Funding Opportunity Announcement” refers to a distinct CCS program from FutureGen that has less stringent standards.
3A new funding stream for projects like methane capture from coal mines, landfills, and oil and gas wells.
Sen. Judd Gregg (R-NH) is withdrawing from consideration for Commerce Secretary, citing “irresolvable conflicts” on the stimulus package and the Census. Gregg said in a statement:
However, it has become apparent during this process that this will not work for me as I have found that on issues such as the stimulus package and the Census there are irresolvable conflicts for me. Prior to accepting this post, we had discussed these and other potential differences, but unfortunately we did not adequately focus on these concerns. We are functioning from a different set of views on many critical items of policy.
Lawyers for Binyam Mohamed — an Egyptian-born British resident and current Guantanamo Bay detainee — have been engaged in a long-running legal battle to prove his innocence and ultimately win his release. Last week, the British High Court ruled against releasing documents describing torture techniques used against Mohamed while in U.S. custody, reportedly because the documents also prove British collaboration in his torture.
CLIVE STAFFORD SMITH: The world has gone totally mad. We are trying to get the information to the President of the United States so he can assess whether this torture material should be made public. The censors in Washington, the military censors, won’t let their own commander in chief see it. It’s bizarre.
Watch the report:
The Guardian notes a possible motive behind the move. “It is understood US defence officials might have censored the evidence to protect the president from criminal liability or political embarrassment.”
Indeed, the documents reportedly contain “details of how Mr Mohamed’s genitals were sliced with a scalpel and other torture methods so extreme that waterboarding, the controversial technique of simulated drowning, ‘is very far down the list of things they did,’” one British intelligence official said.
Yesterday, the Obama administration agreed to let British officials visit Mohamed — who has been described as “just skin and bones” after a long hunger strike — at Gitmo to “prepare for his return.” “We are working as fast and hard as we can to secure Mr Mohamed’s release from Guantanamo and return to the UK. We want him to be released as soon as possible,” British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said.
UPDATE: Ken Gude, CAP’s Associate Director of International Rights & Responsibility, has a separate response to the Smith story:
The last eight years have justifiably conditioned us towards outrage, but we really need to calm down, take a deep breath, and think a little more critically about what is going on here. Clive Stafford Smith is a fantastic advocate on behalf of Guantanamo detainees that have suffered through years of tragedy, but his allegations in this instance are simply incorrect. Whatever the motivations of the DOD official that blacked out the material attached to Clive’s letter, it was certainly not to prevent President Obama from seeing it. In order for that to be true, we would have to construct a scenario in which a presidential aide brings to Obama this letter asking that specific information be de-classified, but when Obama asked what information, he was handed two completely blacked out pages and that’s the end of the story. Seriously, does that sound plausible?
Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf: $850,000
Citigroup CEO Vikram Pandit: $1
Morgan Stanely CEO John Mack: $800,000
State Street Corp. CEO Ronald Logue: $1 million
Bank of America CEO Ken Lewis: $1.5 million
Bank of New York CEO Robert Kelly: $1 miillion
JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon: $1 million
Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankenfein: $600,000
Meanwhile in the United States the floor of the top tax bracket is at a scant $337,551. But these guys have salaries that are two, three, or even four times higher than the tax floor. Under the circumstances, why should the 35% for income above $337,551 be the top bracket? Why not more brackets with slightly higher rates at $450,000 and $550,000 and $650,000 and so on and so forth up the spectrum? People who start earning this kind of big-time CEO money would, I think, almost literally not miss the money. Must of what you’re buying with your extra cash at that point is luxury items whose prices are bid up by the fact that there all are these other people also earning huge salaries. No matter what you do with the tax rate, only the richest people in the country will be able to afford large apartments with direct views of Central Park. If you make the rich systematically poorer, those apartments will just get cheaper. And mitigating the “wealth cascade” effect will have some positive impact on the well-being of the middle class. And the government will get some revenue.
Steven Walt writes that Israel’s relentless expansion of settlements is steadily making a two-state solution impossible. Ezra Klein agrees, and asks the Israel hawks to “tell me what’s wrong with Stephen Walt’s logic.” Jon Chait responds “Okay, I’ll bite. What’s wrong is that settlements are reversible.”
To make peace with Egypt, Israel abandoned settlements in the Sinai peninsula, forcibly uprooting residents there. It did the same when withdrawing from Gaza recently. It was prepared to do the same in the West Bank in 2000 and 2001, though it never had to follow through because negotiations collapsed.[...]
If Israel’s government and population can be convinced that a real peace is attainable, then they should be able to dismantle the settlements.
It’s true, the settlements are reversible. I’ve heard this frequently from Israel hawks, and it’s always struck me as a brutally cynical argument. Leaving aside the myriad other ways in which settlements negatively impact the conflict, the fact is that there are people and families making their homes in these places, in many cases having been encouraged to do so by their own government. “Dismantling the settlements” doesn’t just mean taking down buildings and houses, it means breaking up neighborhoods and support networks that have been built up over many years. It makes no sense to me that someone would offer the prospect of the eventual destruction and expulsion of these communities — that is, of course, what their “reversal” entails — as some kind of mitigating factor. To my mind, this only compounds the immorality of the settlement enterprise.
A new USA Today/Gallup poll released today shows that nearly two-thirds of Americans support investigations into Bush era crimes like torture. Asked about the findings on MSNBC this afternoon, Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI) added his name to a growinglistofcongressmen endorsing either congressional or Justice Department investigations into Bush administration wrongdoings:
I think we have to seriously investigate allegations of torture. … I think our political system as well as our judicial system is strong enough to conduct these investigations fairly and then to bring those people the law to justice. I don’t think we should be afraid of that.
After Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) called for an independent commission to investigate Bush crimes earlier this week, Rachel Maddow noted that Leahy joins party leaders Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), and Sens. Russ Feingold (D-WI), Carl Levin (D-MI), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), and Barbara Boxer (D-CA) in calling for investigations. “I think that what we have stumbled into here is an unexpected but rather blatant emerging consensus among powerful Democrats in Washington that alleged Bush-era crimes should be investigated and if need be, prosecuted.”
I don’t think people talk enough about public health issues in the policy realm, so I’m resolved to start following news like this even if it doesn’t have a clear policy upshot:
Smokers are three times more likely to quit if they get a wake-up call in the form of a heart attack, stroke, lung disease or cancer diagnosis, a new study has found.
But obese and overweight people lose two to three pounds at most after being diagnosed with a serious illness like heart disease or diabetes, according to the same report. The study, which looked at weight loss only in people under age 75, was published on Monday in The Archives of Internal Medicine.
Part of the issue, I assume, is that even though quitting smoking is incredibly hard in a large variety of ways, it’s not hard to monitor yourself. Nobody accidentally smokes a cigarette. And tobacco addicts can come to realize that we’re addicts and that we need to abstain from tobacco consumption.
Food isn’t like that. Healthy eating doesn’t mean you give up eating. But that means you’re subjected to all kinds of judgment calls. That leaves people subjected to misinformation about the healthiness of different foods—often deliberate misinformation—as well as a whole range of weakness of will and self-deception phenomena. Or perhaps to put it another way, if you get a health scare and resolve to stop smoking, you’ve made a first-order commitment to yourself: “I won’t smoke cigarettes anymore.” Resolving to eat healthier, by contrast, is a second-order commitment. People could probably do a pretty good job of resolving to quit one particular bad eating habit—no more Swedish Fish for me ever again—but it’s not clear how much that sort of thing would really help. Fewer Swedish Fish could just mean more delicious Sour Patch Kids.
The impending American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is President Obama’s first step towards closing the current gap between what America is producing and what it could be producing. Without his recovery plan, CBO estimates that the United States’ GDP gap will yawn to $2.7 trillion from 2009 to 2011. That’s more than $8,800 in potential GDP for every man woman and child in America.
The ‘GDP gap‘ represents workers who want to work but can’t find a job, businesses who are reluctant to hire new employees, land being put to sub-optimal use, and banks and credit institutions who accumulate money instead of lending it out. It’s wages gone unearned, profits unmade and revenues uncollected.
The CBO projects that the above shortfall “would be the largest — in terms of both length and depth — since the Depression of the 1930s.” Read more