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Mr. Cheney, You Did Not Keep Us Safe

Friday, May 15, 2009

By Paul Begala
The Huffington Post

If 3,000 Americans had been killed on your watch, in an attack that could have been prevented, perhaps you'd be a little hesitant to accuse anyone else of endangering America. And if you had advocated torture, and the torture produced false information that you used to mislead America into an unwise, unjust and unwarranted war, you might be a tad sheepish about defending the use of torture.

Not Dick Cheney. Mr. Cheney has stepped up his attack on Pres. Obama's security strategy, telling CBS's Bob Schieffer that Obama's refusal to use waterboarding and other "enhanced interrogation techniques" (i.e., torture) endangers American lives.

The truth is the Bush-Cheney policies did not keep us safe, and Mr. Cheney is not a credible spokesman on issues of national security.

First, this awkward fact. When it came time to risk his hide to serve our country during the Vietnam War, Cheney got five draft deferments. He later told the Senate, "I had other priorities in the sixties than military service." John Kerry did not. Nor did John McCain. Nor Gen. Colin Powell, nor Gen. Jim Jones, nor Gen. Wes Clark, nor Jim Webb. These warriors - and so many others - strongly oppose the use of torture. They were willing to die to protect America. It is insulting for a doughy draft dodger like Mr. Cheney to suggest they would endanger us today.

Indeed, the public record offers evidence that torture has endangered American security. Not only by breeding more terrorists, but by producing false intelligence - which Mr. Cheney and President Bush used to mislead America into invading Iraq.

The case of Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi is instructive. Al-Libi was a senior al Qaeda operative captured trying to make his way out of Afghanistan into Pakistan. In US custody, he initially said he knew of no connection between Saddam and al Qaeda, and, according to Newsweek, "he had difficulty even coming up with a story about the relationship between the two." An FBI agent urged that al-Libi be read his rights and be treated with respect, "as a shining example of what we feel is right." There was a practical, as well as moral, reason not to torture al-Libi: veteran interrogators believe establishing a rapport with a prisoner is the key to obtaining actionable intelligence. There are reports that, after hours of bonding with his FBI interrogator through discussions of religion, al-Libi provided useful information about alleged shoe-bomber Richard Reid and Zacarias Moussaoui, the so-called "20th hijacker" who was arrested just before 9-11....(Click for remainder.)


Mormons and Knights and Understanding Proposition 8

By Matt Coles
The Huffinton Post

For their support of Proposition 8, the Mormon Church and the Knights of Columbus have been subjected to harsh criticism. They insist the criticism is unfair. All they did, they say, was exercise their democratic right to cast their vote on whether same-sex couples should be able to marry.

That response suggests the Mormons and the Knights don't grasp what Proposition 8 did. They speak as though Prop 8 were a simple vote on whether to support or oppose marriage for same-sex couples. But Proposition 8 didn't pass a law about marriage or repeal one; it changed the state constitution to say that a right available to everyone else would not be available to same-sex couples.

The difference between passing a law and changing the constitution is no technicality. If majority rule is the first premise of the American system, the second premise is that the rights of a minority can't be taken away by majority rule.

It was to make sure that minority rights didn't depend on the forbearance of the majority that we added a Bill of Rights to the federal constitution. And it was to make sure that the promises contained in the Bill of Rights were real that we early accepted the idea that while it was for Congress to decide what laws to pass, it would be for the Courts to decide if those laws were fair and equal.

On the unusual occasions when the Courts strike down laws, they typically save us from the kind of excess that makes us all ashamed later -- laws that put people in jail for opposing a war or laws that segregated schools. Sometimes the Courts don't save us from our excesses and we later wish they had -- think of laws that forced Japanese Americans into internment camps.

The California Constitution uses the same institutional balancing that the U.S. Constitution does: the legislature decides what laws to pass and the Courts have the last word on whether they are fair and equal. Proposition 8 threw out that balance. Its purpose was to set aside a Court decision enforcing the constitution and to have the views of a majority trump the rights of a minority instead....(Click for remainder.)


Dr. Doom: The Almighty Renminbi?

By Nouriel Roubini
The New York Times

THE 19th century was dominated by the British Empire, the 20th century by the United States. We may now be entering the Asian century, dominated by a rising China and its currency. While the dollar’s status as the major reserve currency will not vanish overnight, we can no longer take it for granted. Sooner than we think, the dollar may be challenged by other currencies, most likely the Chinese renminbi. This would have serious costs for America, as our ability to finance our budget and trade deficits cheaply would disappear.

Traditionally, empires that hold the global reserve currency are also net foreign creditors and net lenders. The British Empire declined — and the pound lost its status as the main global reserve currency — when Britain became a net debtor and a net borrower in World War II. Today, the United States is in a similar position. It is running huge budget and trade deficits, and is relying on the kindness of restless foreign creditors who are starting to feel uneasy about accumulating even more dollar assets. The resulting downfall of the dollar may be only a matter of time.

But what could replace it? The British pound, the Japanese yen and the Swiss franc remain minor reserve currencies, as those countries are not major powers. Gold is still a barbaric relic whose value rises only when inflation is high. The euro is hobbled by concerns about the long-term viability of the European Monetary Union. That leaves the renminbi.

China is a creditor country with large current account surpluses, a small budget deficit, much lower public debt as a share of G.D.P. than the United States, and solid growth. And it is already taking steps toward challenging the supremacy of the dollar. Beijing has called for a new international reserve currency in the form of the International Monetary Fund’s special drawing rights (a basket of dollars, euros, pounds and yen). China will soon want to see its own currency included in the basket, as well as the renminbi used as a means of payment in bilateral trade....(Click for remainder.)


The Torture Debate

By Al Giordano
The Field @ Narco News

I am a free speech absolutist.

Every government document ought to be available to the public.

Every single one.

That includes the 29 photographs of Bush-era torture that the White House, last month, was going to release but now, this month, says it won’t.

And I don’t buy the President’s stated excuse, that releasing these particular photos would “further inflame anti-American opinion and to put our troops in greater danger."

That said, I don’t really care that deeply about it, except as an opportunity to address the many colleagues for whom this seems to be “the most important issue,” and to simultaneously address the related issue over whether those Bush administration officials and soldiers responsible for the acts of torture will or will not be prosecuted.

Truth is, there is as much intellectual dishonesty coming from leading voices that urge the immediate release of those photos as there is in the president’s less than forthright excuse for not releasing them. And among others, for whom emotion trumps strategy, there isn’t dishonesty, per se, but, rather, a rigid and anally retentive view of what “The Law” is (or should be) that clouds their judgment not just on this issue but on a whole string of related matters.

I also feel fairly confident that those photos will see the light of day during Obama’s first term, whether by court order or by whistleblower leak. And I think the President knows that very well, too, and is not bothered by it. For the President, the matter is tactical: whether the photos, once out, are perceived as having been released by his decision, or by somebody else’s hand, and tactically, the latter is so much more desirable in the context of other moves he is making to regain civilian control over an Armed Forces brass with rogue tendencies....(Click for remainder.)


'Tea Party' Republicans Rebel Against National GOP

Florida, Other Senate Races Pit Conservative Base Against Moderate Recruits

By David Weigel
The Washington Independent

On March 11, when Gov. Charlie Crist (R-Fla.) entered the 2010 U.S. Senate race, Marco Rubio was in Washington. The former speaker of the Florida House of Representatives was ready for this moment, rumored for weeks, the entry of a Republican party dream candidate who threatened to push him out of the race. When Crist put out a press release announcing the run, Rubio’s campaign pushed out a Web ad that showed Crist gazing into President Barack Obama’s eyes at a rally for the economic stimulus package. As Crist went about his work for the day, Rubio met with possible campaign allies and conservative media.

In the office of the David All Group, a new media firm that’s putting together much of Rubio’s web campaign, David All clicked through the windows on his MacBook Pro and watched the social networks churn. Traffic at Rubio’s web site was surging upward. Conservatives were retweeting Rubio’s punchy messages, such as “Elections are best when they are about clear choices. Let the debate begin.”

“This is Barack versus Hillary,” said All. “This is going to be a battle about what the Republican Party stands for. We have to make a decision: Are we going to get behind candidates who are real reformers who can help the Republicans recover its brand?”

Florida’s Republican Senate primary has quickly become a contest between the party’s base and its national leadership. Since the start of the Obama administration, the national party has attempted to capture the energy of the base by endorsing anti-spending Tea Parties, opposing the Democratic agenda, and blaming the losses of 2006 and 2008 on a move away from fiscal conservatism. At the same time, it has courted more moderate candidates like Florida’s Crist, California’s former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, and former Gov. Tom Ridge (R-Pa.). Until he became a Democrat this month, the National Republican Senatorial Committee had supported Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) over conservative foot soldier Pat Toomey in Pennsylvania’s Senate race. This disconnect between message and recruitment is starting to irk conservative activities and setting up heated primaries that the party would have preferred to avoid.

The coming Florida primary is shaping up to be the most brutal of the ideological primaries. Rubio, a 39-year-old Cuban-American who served for eight years in the Florida House — the last two years as speaker — entered the Senate race on May 5. Early on, he said that anyone who voted with the Senate Republican moderates “might as well be a Democrat.” In March, Rubio quietly signed up Ann Herberger, a prolific fundraiser for Jeb Bush and Mitt Romney, to stockpile cash for a campaign. In April, he came to Washington to talk with the Club for Growth, the fiscal conservative PAC that until April was led by Pat Toomey, and one that welcomed Crist into the race with pointed criticism. This, and an aggressive media strategy that has resulted in warm interviews with Fox News and National Review, has allowed Rubio to build buzz with conservative activists who fully expect Crist to lead the first rounds of polls....(Click for remainder.)


Cheney and Torture

By Joe Klein

There's more today from Lawrence Wilkerson, who was Colin Powell's former chief of staff, via TPM: one purpose of the torture regime was to extract the (non-existent) links between Iraq and Al Qaeda from detainees. There's also a report that Cheney's office ordered the torture of an Iraqi detainee. These are important, obscene things to know.

One point in Wilkerson's piece relates to the oft-repeated meme: we have to investigate, prosecute, reveal photos in order to be sure this never happens again...
My investigations have revealed to me--vividly and clearly--that once the Abu Ghraib photographs were made public in the Spring of 2004, the CIA, its contractors, and everyone else involved in administering "the Cheney methods of interrogation", simply shut down. Nada. Nothing. No torture or harsh techniques were employed by any U.S. interrogator. Period. People were too frightened by what might happen to them if they continued.
In other words, even a scoundrel like Cheney understood that this was out of bounds--and, once revealed, stopped doing it. Which raises the question, again, about what use the revelation of more photos would have--other than endangering the lives of American troops in Afghanistan and Iraq, an argument that has yet to be engaged, so far as I know, by those who are so intent on getting the photos out. I don't think the release of those photos is worth a single American life, not a single American pinky. And you can be sure that the photos--of  practices that existed for a brief time, but ceased long ago (and aren't remotely likely to be revived by the current Administration)--would have a dramatic effect on the jihadis, and potential recruits, in those war zones....(Click for remainder.)


Yes, It's That Bad for the GOP

Debates inside the party highlight the real problem: What is their vision?

By Chuck Todd

WASHINGTON - There are a number of ugly debates going on inside the Republican Party right now.

There is the debate over whether or not there is even something wrong; there’s the debate over whether or not RNC chair Michael Steele should be trusted with making financial decisions for the party; there’s the debate over whether or not the party should come up with an alternative to being just a party for conservatives; and there’s the debate over whether or not all of this is just an over-reaction.

I have no stake in this other than as a junkie who enjoys a competitive political landscape.
Story continues below ↓advertisement | your ad here

And that is what is sad right now for junkies: things don’t even look that competitive anymore.

Barely glimmers of hope

I have yet to find a race where Republicans seem to be on the upswing just for being Republican when the Democrat in the race is an incumbent in some form. Sure, there are some glimmers of hope for the GOP but only in places where Democrats have unique problems....(Click for remainder.)


Report: Cheney Office Ordered Iraq Waterboarding




More Secure

By Ed Stein


Boy Scouts Depict US Iraq Vets as Terrorists in Bizarre Paramilitary Training for Teenage Scouts

By John Aravosis

From the NYT:
Ten minutes into arrant mayhem in this town near the Mexican border, and the gunman, a disgruntled Iraq war veteran, has already taken out two people, one slumped in his desk, the other covered in blood on the floor.

The responding officers — eight teenage boys and girls, the youngest 14 — face tripwire, a thin cloud of poisonous gas and loud shots — BAM! BAM! — fired from behind a flimsy wall. They move quickly, pellet guns drawn and masks affixed....

The Explorers program, a coeducational affiliate of the Boy Scouts of America that began 60 years ago, is training thousands of young people in skills used to confront terrorism, illegal immigration and escalating border violence — an intense ratcheting up of one of the group’s longtime missions to prepare youths for more traditional jobs as police officers and firefighters.
Interesting that of all the potential terrorists in the world, the Boy Scouts chose a "disgruntled Iraq war veteran" as their bad guy for this very bizarre training session. But putting that aside, why are the Explorers, an affiliate of the Boy Scouts, apparently training young boys as some kind of glorified paramilitary force to take on terrorism, illegal immigration and "escalating border violence"?...(Click for remainder.)


Hasselback Runs With Dubious Conservative Talking Point About Waterboarding and LA Bomb Plot


Rove Falsely Smears Pelosi as "An Accomplice" to Torture

By Media Matters

In his May 14 Wall Street Journal column, Karl Rove claimed that because House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) was allegedly "informed" in 2002 of the Bush administration's plans to use enhanced interrogation techniques (EITs) on detainees, her non-action made her "an accomplice to 'torture.' " Rove wrote: "On Sept. 4, 2002, less than a year after 9/11, the CIA briefed Rep. Porter Goss, then House Intelligence Committee chairman, and Mrs. Pelosi, then the committee's ranking Democrat, on EITs including waterboarding." Rove later asserted: "If Mrs. Pelosi considers the enhanced interrogation techniques to be torture, didn't she have a responsibility to complain at the time, introduce legislation to end the practices, or attempt to deny funding for the CIA's use of them? If she knew what was going on and did nothing, does that make her an accessory to a crime of torture, as many Democrats are calling enhanced interrogation? ... Are [Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and House Judiciary Committee chairman John Conyers (D-MI)] and other similarly minded Democrats willing to have Mrs. Pelosi thrown into their stew of torture conspirators as an accomplice?"

Rove's claim is not consistent with either the definition of "accomplice" or with the reality of Pelosi's ability to influence the Bush administration's conduct of interrogations. Black's Law Dictionary defines an accomplice as "[o]ne who knowingly, voluntarily and with common intent unites with the principal offender in the commission of a crime." Black's states further: "One is liable as an accomplice to the crime of another if he gave assistance or encouragement or failed to perform a legal duty to prevent it with the intent thereby to promote or facilitate commission of the crime."

But Pelosi could not have "failed to perform a legal duty to prevent" the conduct if she was in fact powerless to stop it. As Vicki Divoll, a former deputy counsel to the CIA Counterterrorist Center and general counsel of the Senate Intelligence Committee from 2001 to 2003, wrote in a May 12 New York Times op-ed: "[A]s a practical matter, there was very little, if anything, the Gang of Four [in 2002: former Sen. Bob Graham (D-FL), Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL), former Rep. Porter Goss (R-FL), and Pelosi] could have done to affect the Bush administration's decision on the enhanced interrogation techniques program."...(Click for remainder.)


No Mirrors

By Mr. Fish


Obama Is Becoming an Accessory after the fact to War Crimes

By Matthew Rothschild
The Progressive

Barack Obama is fast becoming an accessory after the fact to the war crimes that the Bush Administration has committed.

By not prosecuting the torturers and those who ordered the torture, and now by not even going public with the photo tortures he’d already agreed to release, Obama is doing Dick Cheney’s business for him.

Cheney’s been telling every news outlet that will have him on that a) we didn’t torture or do anything wrong and that b) everything we did was necessary to keep us safe.

The photos of our brutality that are in Obama’s possession could disprove these points in a hurry.

But now Obama, like Cheney, wants to hide the evidence.

Obama says he’s worried that releasing the photos might enflame hatred against Americans and imperil the troops.

But Obama can douse that flame by acknowledging that a previous Administration committed these crimes, that we find them abhorrent, that they will not occur under his watch, and that those who committed the crimes and ordered the crimes will be held responsible.

Instead, he’s caving in to the Cheneys and the Limbaughs and the O’Reillys.

This is profoundly undemocratic....(Click for remainder.)


RealNetworks: MPAA Is 'Price-Fixing Cartel'

By David Kravets
Threat Level @

RealNetworks is upping the ante in litigation seeking to prevent it from distributing DVD-copying software. The company argues the Hollywood studios are a “price-fixing cartel” that have no right to prevent consumers from duplicating the movie discs.

The Seattle-based electronics concern is making the argument in a bid to convince a federal judge to lift the distribution ban of its RealDVD software (.pdf) that allows consumers to make copies of the discs to their computer hard drives. The Motion Picture Association of America, which represents Hollywood studios, and others, sued RealNetworks last year, claiming the software is illegal because it circumvents technology designed to prevent copying.

But RealNetworks, in counterclaims filed late Wednesday, maintains that the studios, as a collective, have illegally crafted a licensing scheme called the Content Scramble System licensing agreement that prevents the fair-use copying of DVDs. It is the first time the studios, in conjunction with the DVD Copy Control Association (which licenses the CSS code) have been accused of anti-trust practices in a lawsuit.

The CSS code is licensed to DVD-player manufacturers so electronic companies can acquire the keys to unscramble Hollywood’s encrypted DVDs. The code is designed to prevent unauthorized copying of movie discs.

“The CSS agreement is being used to extend a legally granted monopoly over content into separate markets – to prevent competition from technologies that would allow a copy of content for fair use purposes. But making the making of a copy of a studio DVD is authorized fair use under the Copyright Act,” RealNetworks wrote U.S. District Judge Marilyn Hall Patel in a court filing....(Click for remainder.)


Xenophobia Threatens Italy, President Warns

By Elisabetta Povoledo
The New York Times

ROME — President Giorgio Napolitano warned Thursday that intolerance and xenophobia posed a danger for Italy as the lower house of Parliament approved wide-ranging security legislation that includes measures toughening Italian immigration policies.

Speaking at a conference in Rome, Mr. Napolitano warned that there was a danger that social tensions would be inflamed by “public rhetoric that, even in Italy, does not hesitate to incorporate intolerant and xenophobic tones.”

Under the terms of the bill, which was passed Thursday by the Chamber of Deputies after three confidence votes Wednesday to approve amendments, illegal immigrants entering or residing in Italy will be fined up to 10,000 euros, or about $13,500, before being expelled.

In addition, the period of time that foreigners can be held in detention centers has been tripled to 180 days. An African woman killed herself at one such center near Rome last week.

The bill, backed by Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s coalition allies in the Northern League, which has championed a legislative hard line against immigration, also sanctions the creation of neighborhood watch groups to increase security on Italian streets....(Click for remainder.)


Why the Catholic Fight Over Obama Matters

Cheer, Cheer for Old Notre Dame

A War of Words That Folds Neatly into the New Century's War of Weapons

By James Carroll
Mother Jones

President Obama goes to Notre Dame University this Sunday to deliver the commencement address and receive an honorary degree, the ninth U.S. president to be so honored. The event has stirred up a hornet's nest of conservative Catholics, with more than 40 bishops objecting, and hundreds of thousands of Catholics signing petitions in protest. In the words of South Bend's Bishop John M. D'Arcy, the complaint boils down to President Obama's "long-stated unwillingness to hold human life as sacred." Notre Dame, the bishop charged, has chosen "prestige over truth."

Not even most Catholics agree with such criticism. A recent Pew poll, for instance, shows that 50% of Catholics support Notre Dame's decision to honor Obama; little more than one-quarter oppose. It is, after all, possible to acknowledge the subtle complexities of "life" questions—When actually does human life begin? How is stem cell research to be ethically carried out?—and even to suggest that they are more complex than most Catholic bishops think, without thereby "refusing to hold human life as sacred."

For many outside the ranks of conservative religious belief, this dispute may seem arcane indeed. Since it's more than likely that the anti-Obama complainers were once John McCain supporters, many observers see the Notre Dame flap as little more than mischief by Republicans who still deplore the Democratic victory in November. Given the ways in which the dispute can be reduced to the merely parochial, why should Americans care?...(Click for remainder.)


Belgian City Plans 'Veggie' Days

By Chris Mason
BBC News

The Belgian city of Ghent is about to become the first in the world to go vegetarian at least once a week.

Starting this week there will be a regular weekly meatless day, in which civil servants and elected councillors will opt for vegetarian meals.

Ghent means to recognise the impact of livestock on the environment.

The UN says livestock is responsible for nearly one-fifth of global greenhouse gas emissions, hence Ghent's declaration of a weekly "veggie day".

Public officials and politicians will be the first to give up meat for a day.

Schoolchildren will follow suit with their own veggiedag in September.

It is hoped the move will cut Ghent's environmental footprint and help tackle obesity....(Click for remainder.)


House Approves $6.4 Billion for Green Schools

By Jim Abrams
Associated Press via The Huffington Post

WASHINGTON — The House on Thursday passed a multiyear school construction bill with the ambitious goals of producing hundreds of thousands of jobs, reducing energy consumption and creating healthier, cleaner environments for the nation's schoolchildren.

Opponents, almost all Republicans, objected to the cost associated with the 21st Century Green High-Performing Public School Facilities Act. The cost would be $6.4 billion in the first year with similar outlays approved over the next five years.

It passed 275-155, and now goes to the Senate, which did not act after the House passed similar legislation last year.

The situation has changed this year. While then-President George W. Bush threatened to veto the measure, objecting to a costly new school construction program, President Barack Obama made school improvement projects an element of his economic stimulus initiative.

"It will give much needed money to our schools struggling with huge budget deficits and deteriorating facilities while encouraging energy efficency and creating jobs for Americans that cannot be shipped overseas," said Rep. Ben Chandler, D-Ky., sponsor of the legislation.

The bill would provide states with money to make grants and low interest loans so school districts could build, modernize and repair facilities to make them healthier, safer and more energy-efficient. The funds would be allotted under a formula based on a district's share of students from low-income families, but the bill guarantees that every district that receives federal money for low-income students will get at least $5,000.

Supporters spoke of the difficulties of trying to learn in buildings with poor lighting, bad air quality, leaking roofs and ill-functioning furnaces. "Thirty-two million children in our country attend schools which are reportedly having environmental problems with their facilities that affect students' health and their learning," said Rep. Paul Tonko, D-N.Y....(Click for remainder.)


Americans Ranked As World's Least Green Consumers--Again

By Sarah Van Schagen

With NatGeo releasing the results of its annual Greendex survey today, I’d like to point out that polls like this are really an opportunity for America to shine.

Take, for example, the question about public transit: Not only did we score the lowest percentage on public transit use every day, but we also scored the highest percentage of folks taking public transit never. Talk about kicking the competition’s ass at both ends of the spectrum.

We’ve also got the lowest score on the green housing index (despite our best efforts to show up the neighbors with big green additions to our McMansions!). And we might want to rethink that whole Lay’s as local thing, seeing as how we’re ranked lowest in the list of countries eating locally grown food and lord knows we eat a lot of chips.

There’s more to the report than these few categories—you can read all 296 pages of it here [PDF]—but if you want the short version, here it is: developing nations like India and Brazil have the highest (read: greenest) Greendex numbers, while Canadians and Americans round out the bottom ... overall and in pretty much every category (way to be consistent!)....(Click for remainder.)


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2 Yellowstone Workers Fired for Peeing in Geyser

By Bob Moen
Associated Press via The Huffington Post

CHEYENNE, Wyo. — Two seasonal Yellowstone National Park concession workers have been fired after a live webcam caught them urinating into the Old Faithful geyser.

Park spokesman Al Nash says a 23-year-old man on Tuesday was fined $750 and placed on three years of unsupervised probation for urinating, being off trail in a restricted area and taking items from the area. The man also was banned from Yellowstone for two years.

The second employee's case is pending.

The park's dispatch center was called after someone watching a webcam on the geyser saw six employees leaving the trail and walking on Old Faithful on May 4.

The geyser was not erupting at the time.

Xanterra Parks & Resorts general manager Jim McCaleb says the former concession workers were hired at the Old Faithful Inn and that such incidents were rare....(Click for original.)


Empires of Carbon

By Paul Krugman
The New York Times

TAIPEI, Taiwan - I have seen the future, and it won’t work.

These should be hopeful times for environmentalists. Junk science no longer rules in Washington. President Obama has spoken forcefully about the need to take action on climate change; the people I talk to are increasingly optimistic that Congress will soon establish a cap-and-trade system that limits emissions of greenhouse gases, with the limits growing steadily tighter over time. And once America acts, we can expect much of the world to follow our lead.

But that still leaves the problem of China, where I have been for most of the last week.

Like every visitor to China, I was awed by the scale of the country’s development. Even the annoying aspects — much of my time was spent viewing the Great Wall of Traffic — are byproducts of the nation’s economic success.

But China cannot continue along its current path because the planet can’t handle the strain.

The scientific consensus on prospects for global warming has become much more pessimistic over the last few years. Indeed, the latest projections from reputable climate scientists border on the apocalyptic. Why? Because the rate at which greenhouse gas emissions are rising is matching or exceeding the worst-case scenarios.

And the growth of emissions from China — already the world’s largest producer of carbon dioxide — is one main reason for this new pessimism....(Click for remainder.)


The Politics of Excusing Torture In The Name of National Security

By John W. Dean

Allow me to share some analysis about the way things work in Washington. President Obama's flip-flop on his agreement to turn over photographs of detainees being tortured by American soldiers is a message with broad and clear implications. Those who believe that the Obama Administration should expose and prosecute persons who committed war crimes should understand that it is not going to happen the way they would like, or as quickly, because Obama is having internal battles as well. His pullback is not occurring because he fears that Republicans will attack him (he knows they will); rather it is occurring because he needs the national security community behind him, and they fear they will be further embarrassed and humiliated if more information is revealed.

According to The Washington Post, President Obama told White House lawyers he does not "feel comfortable" releasing the photos because of the reaction they could cause against U.S. troops, and because "he believes that the national security implications of such a release have not been fully presented to the court," in responding to the ACLU's Freedom of Information Act lawsuit. [Emphasis added.]

Even before looking closely at Obama's change of mind, I understood immediately what had taken place, as soon as I heard the report on the radio. President Obama was, in fact, speaking for the national security bureaucracy in announcing his change of mind. I knew it would happen at some point. Although his first instinct had been to release the pictures, as he had released the new Justice Department torture memos, it was clear he had been turned around, and I was certain it was the work of the national security bureaucracy.

My hunch was confirmed by the AP report, which explained, "American commanders in the war zones expressed deep concern about fresh damage the photos might do, especially as the U.S. tries to wind down the Iraq war and step up operations against the Taliban and al-Qaida in Afghanistan." How do the commanders know this to be the case? How do they know that it is the not the case that, to the contrary, more people around the world might admire us for openly correcting past mistakes? In fact, you can be certain "the commanders" do not truly know that the photos will harm America's image, but they do know how to protect the national security bureaucracy, after having risen to its top ranks. This is exactly what is going on here, and the explanation was pure bureaucratic excuse-making....(Click for remainder.)



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