Saturday, June 28, 2008

Steven Hatfill: The Scape Goat Who Survived

During the Anthrax scare in 2001, the US government was at a complete loss when it came to finding out who sent the anthrax, or for that matter where the anthrax came from. So, when they came across government scientist Steven Hatfill, they decided that he was their man, without actually saying that.

New York Times:

WASHINGTON — The Justice Department announced Friday that it would pay $4.6 million to settle a lawsuit filed by Steven J. Hatfill, a former Army biodefense researcher intensively investigated as a “person of interest” in the deadly anthrax letters of 2001.
The positive angle:
“The good news is that we still live in a country where a guy who’s been horribly abused can go to a judge and say ‘I need your help,’ and maybe it takes a while, but he gets justice,” Mr. Grannis said.

I look forward to a government that doesn't depend on scape goats.

[Update: The post previously misspelled Hatfill's name as Hatfield]

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Waiting For November

We've always known that this administration was against clean air, water, and land. But sometimes the lengths they go to are incredible. We know that they pressure scientists who research global warming. We know that they appoint people to head NASA who don't see global warming as "a major concern." And now apparently they pressure their own Environmental Protection Agency to water down its own reports.

The New York Times (in a great story) reports that the White House refused to open an email that contained a document that concluded that "greenhouse gases are pollutants that must be controlled." It continues to report that:

Over the past five days, the officials said, the White House successfully put pressure on the E.P.A. to eliminate large sections of the original analysis that supported regulation, including a finding that tough regulation of motor vehicle emissions could produce $500 billion to $2 trillion in economic benefits over the next 32years.

This administration has abondoned an American tradition of practical solutions in favor of ideological favoritism. The Supreme Court, NASA, NOAA, and the EPA (along with countless other NGO's and international organizations) have told the administration that they must act to avert an environmental catastrophe. Instead they choose to play party politics.

First the Justice Department, then the EPA, where does it stop? Better question, does it stop?
Cross-posted at Poli-Think

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Anybody But Bush

While I think I've made it pretty clear that I am not a fan of John McCain, but when I look back to our lame duck president, I'm reminded that no one could be as bad is him, particularly when it comes to foreign policy and world relations.

President Bush met with Philippine President Gloria Arroyo to discuss the Philippine's need for food aid (amid a near food crisis due to the skyrocketing prices) and to discuss aid after the typhoon that ravaged the island and caused a ferry to capsize killing over 700 people.

Because he is President Bush, instead of providing assurances, or speaking about this serious matter, he started his public address with President Arroyo by saying:

"I am reminded of the great talent of the -- of our Philippine Americans when I eat dinner at the White House.... And the chef is a great person and a really good cook, by the way, Madam President."

You can read the full transcript here, or learn about the White House chef here.

President Bush is that kid in middle school who has absolutely no filter, the kid who does not understand that there are times for fart jokes and times when those are simply not appropriate. Except he's 61. And the PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES. Obama would be SOOOOO different.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

McCain's Energy Problem

That headline is just begging for an age joke, so you make up your own.

In the past two days John McCain has unveiled two different complimentary energy plans, which frankly sound decent. The first plan is to sponsor a contest where the first company to make a more energy efficient wins $300 million dollars. The second plan is to provide a 5,000 dollar tax incentive for the purchase of cars that produce zero or "near-zero" emissions.

This sounds better than most Republican environment plans but there are many problems with McCain and his plan. The first problem is that these plans reek of a campaign trick than any real policy. Remember, this was the same man who supports a summer tax holiday on gasoline that would most likely cause gas prices to rise because of increased demand. Also, this is the man who said that we ought to open up off-shore areas for drilling despite 68 million acres that are currently leased by oil companies but not being used. He is not ready to leave the paradigm of oil.

Barack Obama called:

oil a “a 19th century fossil fuel that is dirty, dwindling, and dangerously expensive” and said a renewable energy economy was not “some pie-in-the-sky, far-off future, it is now."

And the point. John McCain's call for oil would make current energy capital go towards development and production of more oil, not towards new energy. John McCain has not realized that he has to entirely turn away from oil and move towards new energy sources. His solution is to aggressively pursue nuclear energy. Yet, he only has to look as far as the Senate Chamber where Majority Leader Reid is still trying to block the Yucca Mountain Nuclear disposal project to realize that nuclear waste is still dangerous and the nuclear energy should not be the cornerstone of our energy policy. In the words of Michael Feeney, a member of McCain's energy panel today:
I don't understand how it's not compromising our environmental standards to
propose a crash program to build more nuclear power plants when the industry has
not complied with the federal law that requires there to be safe disposal for
the radioactive waste," Feeney said, alluding to McCain's proposal to put the
country on a path to building 45 new nuclear reactors by 2030.

As nations develop, as more people are able to purchase cars, boats, etc, the demand for oil will only increase. According to some estimates, we will begin to run out of oil in deposits within the the next 100 years. Dependency on Oil is bad for national security, its bad for the environment, its bad for the economy. There is no reason not to turn towards green energy and green policies. We can begin to fund those projects with a wind-falls energy tax and then allow the green energy and green jobs market power itself. Oil is not the answer, John McCain. Give up the gimmicks.
This post was cross-posted at Poli-Think

Monday, June 23, 2008


There has been much talk about Tim Pawlenty (T-Paw), the current governor of Minnesota being on the top of Republican John McCain's potential list for Vice-President. MNPublius and others knowledgeable about t-paw have long argued that this would be a bad choice. Pawlenty has a high profile within the McCain Campaign because he is chair of the National Governors Association and a national co-chair of the National Campaign.

In the words of Chris Cillizza,

There's little dispute in Republican circles that Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty is the leading candidate at the moment to be selected as John McCain's running mate.

And Newsweek's Stumper says chances of Pawlenty being chosen are "as good as possible."

The points in favor of Pawlenty are basically that he's from the middle-class, still does middle class things (like fish and play ice hockey), is a Christian, loyal to his party, and not associated with Washington, D.C.

Choosing Pawlenty would do nothing to help the McCain campaign, particularly on the points mentioned above. The fact that he is middle-class will not come through to the average voter, this does not play into the McCain message in a particular wayand unlike John Edwards who was known as a national champion for the lower-middle class prior to be chosen, America does not know Pawlenty. Again, the fact that Pawlenty is Christian does not matter because he it is not a central issue for him (like it is for Huckabee) and it will not be communicated sufficiently in the relatively short time period that he would have to introduce himself to this nation. The fact that this is even considered a positive in analysis from both Newsweek and Cillizza, shows the lack of positive attributes for Pawlenty.

Some have argued that Pawlenty, as a Governor, could win Minnesota for McCain. This simply isn't true. First, in 2006 he barely won his campaign for Governor against Mike Hatch (who is a good man, but wasn't a great candidate). He won by less than 2 percent. Also, he supported John McCain in Minnesota and campaigned for McCain all over the state prior to the February 5th primary and yet Mitt Romney won one of his few important victories in Minnesota, winning by almost 20 percent of the vote. Finally, in the January 3rd special election where long-time Representative Ray Cox sought to replace Thomas Neuville who had served the district for 18 years, Minnesota saw Kevin Dahle win in a landslide (55-42) despite significant campaigning by Governor Pawlenty. Pawlenty does not have political sway in Minnesota.

Baisically Pawlenty would be another Dan Quayle. An unknown candidate who does not add anything to the ticket and maybe even creates drag. McCain would do better to choose an already vetted candidate such as Romney or Huckabee, or maybe someone more interesting like Alaska's governor Sarah Palin.

Doesn't really matter. Obama 2008.
Originally posted on Poli-Think

Unity, New Hampshire.

Sometimes, you can't help but laugh/cry/groan.

Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton campaign together for the first time ever.

They will appear in the town of UNITY, New Hampshire. Where they each recieved 107 votes.

I wonder how long the interns spent searching the nation for the most symbolically useful location.

I don't think anyone will ever say that the Obama campaign doesn't understand the importance of symbolism (sometimes they might even take it overboard).

Cross-Posted on Poli-Think

Play Budget Hero.

Click on the above image to play "Budget Hero." My friend Ben first showed me this game and it's a good way to kill time. You can baisicially try to implement your own goals and see how it plays out and what you have to give up in order to get what you need.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

The Drilling Farce

The second half of this week has been dominated by Republican demands that moratoriums on drilling off the shore be lifted. Specifically, John McCain said that each state should be allowed to choose whether to allow drilling. President Bush followed with a similar argument with a specific call to open ANWR (the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve).

These calls are misguided and they are simple attempts at providing quick fixes. This would not be the first time that McCain has engages in political solutions to economic problems. It would help to remember that John McCain was the first person to call for the silly lifting of the Gas Tax which would increase demand, increase prices and save consumers a possible 30 cents per tank. While the savings would help tankers and taxi drivers, the fact that the price would rise due to increased demand would hurt everyone. As CNN reported:
Along with Barack Obama, many economists largely dismissed the notion of a gas tax holiday as a political ruse that would do little to lower prices
Similarly, this call for drilling looks good, but it does not achieve real solutions.

First, it should be noted that oil companies are currently sitting on 68 million acres that they are not using. Representative Rahall has introduced a "use it or lose it" bill that would force oil companies to develop the land that they currently hold. Additionally, there are 33 billion acres offshore they have not developed. If they do not use them, then why in the world should we open up sensitive land when they don't use the land that they have?

On another note, federal analysts from the U.S. Energy Information Administration have said that any new oil drilling would take 10 years to see results. John McCain's "solutions" would have no effect (expect maybe psychological) on gas prices for at earliest 10 years (others project no price difference until 2030). We should use those 10 years to wean ourselves off of our "addiction" to oil and work towards energy sustainability and independence (and there are many good ideas that we could use).

Grace Kelly has an some analysis further showing that even if we doubled drilling instantly there would be no discernible effect. As the blog reports:
Today, this very day, if all US Offshore Drilling was doubled, it still would NOT make a difference in gas prices. The bottleneck in processing oil is refinery capacity. We know this because every spring and fall, when refineries shut down to transfer processes and do small maintenance, the gas prices spike. Don't believe me, yet check out the evidence below the fold.
Read the blog for much more information on the problems with refinery bottle necking.

Also John McCain stole one of Obama's slogans. As anyone who has been following the news knows, one of Obama's more popular slogans was "Change we can believe in" (see right). McCain's campaign couldn't think of anything of their own so they changed one noun, one pronoun, and added an article for its new slogan "A Leader you can believe in," and their blog "A Blog you can believe in." I think they're drawing an unfavorable comparison.
cross-posted on Poli-Think

Obama on Telecom Immunity

Barack Obama* agrees with me. From CBS news:

Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., issued a statement in support of the House's update of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, but said he would try to strip a provision granting immunity to telecommunication companies when the bill comes to a vote in the Senate next week.

Obama said there is "little doubt" that the Bush Administration, with the cooperation of major telecommunications companies, "has abused [its] authority and undermined the Constitution by intercepting the communications of innocent Americans without their knowledge or the required court orders."

"Given the legitimate threats we face, providing effective intelligence collection tools with appropriate safeguards is too important to delay. So I support the compromise, but do so with a firm pledge that as president, I will carefully monitor the program.

"[The bill] does, however, grant retroactive immunity, and I will work in the Senate to remove this provision so that we can seek full accountability for past offenses."
This is good news for America, if you want to know more click here for my take or here for CBS's.

*I wonder how long it will be before Barack Obama is added to spell check dictionaries?
This post was cross-posted on Poli-Think

News and Notes 6/20

News: FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillence Act) includes TeleCom immunity

As the Washington Post reports today:

The agreement extends the government's ability to eavesdrop on espionage and terrorism suspects while effectively providing a legal escape hatch for AT&T, Verizon Communications and other telecom firms. They face more than 40 lawsuits that allege they violated customers' privacy rights by helping the government conduct a warrantless spying program after the Sept. 11, 2001,attacks.

The breakthrough on the legislation came hours after the White House agreed to Democratic demands for domestic spending additions to an emergency war funding bill. Taken together, the bills--two of the last major pieces of legislation to be approved by Congress this year--suggest that Bush still wields considerable clout on national security issues but now must acquiesce to Democratic demands on favored domestic priorities to secure victory.

While it is important that Democrats look good on National Security and that they pass important legislation, like they have on FISA or yesterday's supplemental. Supporting telecommunications immunity is a bad idea. Why? Because the President should never have a blank check. I have two problems with the argument that companies such as At&t need the governments protection for doing what they believed was helping America.

The first problem is that companies, and individuals are always asked to determine whats legal on their own. It can be awfully tempting to follow the lead of the President or the leader or anyone else, but as a consumer as a private citizen I need to know that unless the government has a warrant, a legitimate reason, that the government will not invade my life and that includes my telephone calls. It's not like these corporations were individuals who did not know better.
They employ some of the best attorneys in the land in their general counsels' offices and they should not be given immunity if they made the wrong choice. These companies chose to follow the President and circumvent laws and consumer agreements. They ought to be held to account for those decisions. If they have a legitimate reason for their actions then they ought not lose their case, but we have laws for a good reason.
My second problem is with the idea that these decisions ought to receive immunity because they were made in the best interests of the country, particularly in light of 9/11. As the Southern Maryland Online reports:
Proponents of the surveillance program say it is in response to the attacks on 9/11 and necessary to combat terrorism. However, the Washington Post reported on Oct. 13, 2007 that former Qwest executive Joseph Nacchio said in court papers,"the NSA approached Qwest more than six months before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks." Qwest is the one telecommunications company who reportedly refused to cooperate with the NSA on the grounds they believed doing so would have been illegal.
So let's move away from this argument. The argument now shifts over to the Senate where TPM reports that Senators Leahy and Feingold have both said that they are strongly opposed to immunity while the Majority Leader said he is reviewing the Bill in full.
News: Scott McClellen testifies to the House Judiciary Committee. From the AP via Huffpost
Former presidential spokesman Scott McClellan on Friday said President Bush has lost the public's trust by failing to open up about his administration's mistakes and backtracking on a promise be up front about the leak of CIA operative Valerie Plame's identity.
Notes: If you are not familiar with those accusations made by Scott McClellen in his book you ought to check the above link. I'm going to assume that those who are reading are familiar with McClellen's book (that probably sounds condescending). What is most worth noting is that House Democrats are investigating, they are not allowing important issues to pass by without the people's representatives being allowed. This work ought to be applauded. McClellen did say that Vice-President Cheney was cupible (to some degree) for the Valarie Plame relevations, and that Karl Rove should not be trusted if not under oath.
Quick hits: Al Franken has an interesting video out where he quotes Norm Coleman's continued support for the war. Hat Tip to MNPublius for the story.
Update from yesterday's post: A profile about Andrew Rice from brownsox on Kos. Worth a Read.

Robot finds ice on mars, also known as the white stuff.
Also 17 girls at one high school "make a pact" to get pregnant? Wtf? Seriously...
There won't be News and Notes over the weekend. For NN check back Monday afternoon.
Previously posted on poli-think

Friday, June 20, 2008

College Organizing

Politico (run by Carleton grad John Harris), publishes some ground breaking stories...some not. In this story, they explore the amazing fact that political organizing of college students is harder in the summer (when school is not in session):

So while College Democrats of America and the College Republican National Committee will focus on getting their core activists to volunteer at their parties’ conventions, the John McCain and Barack Obama campaigns, along with nonpartisan voter registration organizations, have made it a priority to engage young people wherever they can find them over the summer.

McCain spokesman Joseph Pounder said that the campaign will be “setting up tables at concerts and state fairs ... [and] actively seeking out venues and events where we can reach out to the most young voters as possible.”

The Obama campaign, meanwhile, is urging student supporters to informally organize their high school friends and other acquaintances through online social networking sites such as Facebook. “Young people are a lot more likely to be responsive when one of their peers approaches them,” said Meredith Segal, national director of Students for Barack Obama.

With Hillary Rodham Clinton out of the race, there is also an immediate opportunity for the two campaigns to poach her young supporters. Although on-campus outreach efforts will largely have to wait until the fall, Segal expects Clinton’s student organizers will assist them.

On a completely different note, on the subway this morning I saw someone reading James Fray's A Million Little Pieces. I wanted to say...hey, that book's not truuuuuue.

Speaking of not true, page 6 has a gossip column about Chris Matthews and Keith Olberman vying for Tim Russert's chair. It claims Olberman threatened to quit if he didn't get Russert's job. This column is based on two conversations (one overheard of Matthews and one about Olberman) with (of course) anonymous sources. Everyone involved not only denies the truth of those statements, but more importantly there's no logic there. Olberman and Matthews both are "quintessential" cable talkingheads with very successful shows. Olberman, as he said himself on his show last night, is not close to qualified for the position, so threatening to quit if he didn't get Russert's job would be silly.


This post was previously posted at Poli-Think