Blogs

What Are Progressives to Think of Ralph Nader?

| Sun Feb. 24, 2008 1:54 PM EST

nader_voter.jpg Okay, so Ralph Nader has entered the presidential race and all of progressive America is having horrible flashbacks.

All of the criticisms of his 2004 run still hold, and even the left-wing blogosphere is completely against the idea. It's a narcissistic and, at this point, almost embarrassing endeavor that has only the chance to do harm to the progressive values and ideals Nader holds dear.

But let me suggest a stay of the beating of chests and tearing of garments. The Nader magic had diminished significantly by 2004, and is diminished further today. He is no longer the Green Party's chosen candidate, and his argument that the two parties are essentially identical doesn't hold water when one party is running a woman and an African-American. Any call for change that Nader makes this year will be a hollow echo of the calls the Democratic candidates are already making.

Besides, no candidate who took 0.38 percent of the vote in 2004, when the Democratic candidate was dramatically worse than the options available today, is going to see a resurgence in November 2008.

So fret not, citizens of Berkeley, Burlington, and Madison. You've made your mistakes with Nader in the past but America can forgive you. Particularly if you ignore him this time around.

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Proto Political Correctness

| Fri Feb. 22, 2008 10:04 PM EST

New Yorker, February 25, 2008 (not available online). Brahmin New Yorker and novelist Louis Auchincloss writing to his mother in 1945 (itals mine):

"Of course, like so many cynical jews, he believed that all people were like him except less smart. And that, don't you think, is their most trying characteristic: the unwillingness to concede any ethical approach in others higher than their own, the 'oh-ho I know you' attitude with which they sneer at a world that is bad enough to prove them right more than half the time. All of which, I suppose, would brand me as a hopeless anti-Semite, Nazi, etc., but one simply can't be bothered with labels any more"

Anti-semitism: just a 'label', an ipso facto slur and act of intellectual fascism since no decent white person like him could actually be guilty of that failing. It wasn't his fault the jews are so inferior but it was his duty to point it out. How he suffers under the white man's burden of saying what so obviously must be said. Gifted writer though he is, he didn't think to come up with the concept of 'political correctness'. So he could denounce it.

I love happening upon this kind of thing because it's so drearily amusing to hear whites go on today about how no one can speak "the truth" without running afoul of political correctness. "There used to be a time..." No, there hasn't been, not for a long time now.

Business 101: Get Green

| Fri Feb. 22, 2008 9:20 PM EST

1337749333_03b6978c70_m.jpg Great piece in the Christian Science Monitor on a worldwide greening business climate. Notably, clean technology investments are on the rise because going green is turning out to be good for the bottom line. Businesses are surveying CO2 footprints, purchasing greenhouse-gas credits, and hinging executive bonuses on environmental targets. Meanwhile, Florida now requires investment managers of state money to report on the potential effects of climate risk as part of their semiannual reviews. Influential California state employee and teacher pension funds, collectively managing $420 billion, are devising strategies tied to climate change and potentially pulling capital from ungreen businesses. From the CSM:

A new study by international consulting firm McKinsey finds that half the necessary cuts in greenhouse-gas emissions can be achieved at a net profit. The study shows that investment in energy efficiency of about $170 billion annually worldwide would yield a profit of about 17 percent, or $29 billion. The Financial Times reports: "Diana Farrell, director of the McKinsey Global Institute, said: 'It shows just how much deadweight loss there is in the economy in energy use.' She said the most inefficient sector was heavy industry in China, with the second residential housing in the US, where homes are large, poorly insulated.

Meanwhile Michael Specter in the New Yorker writes that "Possessing an excessive carbon footprint is rapidly becoming the modern equivalent of wearing a scarlet letter." He reports on Sir Terry Leahy, CEO of Tesco supermarkets, Britain's largest retailer:

McCain: Environmental Truant?

| Fri Feb. 22, 2008 8:11 PM EST

McCainCrop.jpgThe League of Conservation Voters recently released its 2007 environmental scorecard—Sen. John McCain's score: 0. This has to be a disappointment for the Republican front-runner who received the LCV's green endorsement in 2004, and who posts a (slightly) better lifetime score of 24. (This is out of 100; in comparison Senators Clinton and Obama post lifetime scores of 87 and 86, respectively.) But it appears that his embarrassing low score is a result of his absence at every key environmental vote of the year, including the votes to repeal tax breaks for big oil. Likely you remember the media buzz over McCain's other missed votes.

So his voting record begs the question: how green is McCain? Well, as the environmental online magazine Grist notes, he has been outspoken on global warming and the need to decrease carbon emissions. He also seems to oppose drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, although he has missed important votes on this as well. On the other hand, he passionately promotes coal and nuclear power, and endorses heavy subsidies for both. Meanwhile, Opensecrets.org places McCain third on the list of top Senate recipients of Oil and Gas industry contributions, ranking just under Sen. Clinton. Oh, and he joins only six other Senators from 2007 with a score of 0 from the LCV. The Sierra Club gives a concise rundown:

McCain was the only member of Congress to skip every single crucial environmental vote scored by the organization, posting a score lower than Members of Congress who were out for much of the year due to serious illnesses—and even lower than some who died during the term.

Yikes.

Lost Focuses on Plot, But Ploddingly So

| Fri Feb. 22, 2008 8:10 PM EST

claire-aaron-and-sun.jpgAfter last week's action-packed, mind-bending episode of Lost, I had high hopes for this week's installment. I hoped that there would be allusions to physical laws, mathmatical theories, and the theory of relativity. Or that the series, which is now a blogged about by the Washington Post and has legions of intricately-researched fan sites, would give me some new twist to investigate. So did it? Eh, not so much.

The plot did move along, though, in a way it didn't in the last season. But it felt like the writers were simply going through the motions, dutifully moving the plot along, without having much fun along the way.

Fox News Asks: "Who Would Usama Want as Prez?"

| Fri Feb. 22, 2008 5:32 PM EST

The results are in from the latest FOX News survey, and we now know the answer to the most important question of the race: "Who is Usama Rooting For?":

Who does Usama bin Laden want to be the next president? More people think the terrorist leader wants Obama to win (30 percent) than think he wants Clinton (22 percent) or McCain (10 percent). Another 18 percent says it doesn't matter to bin Laden and 20 percent are unsure.

This is not a joke.

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Charlie Black, John McCain Aide and Super-Lobbyist

| Fri Feb. 22, 2008 3:54 PM EST

John McCain's primary defender in the Lady Lobbyist Scandal* is a man named Charlie Black. As a senior adviser to the campaign who is doing McCain's damage control right now, Black has to explain to the press that John McCain didn't have a romantic relationship with lobbyist Vicki Iseman, didn't treat Iseman's clients with undue favoritism, and isn't too close to lobbyists in general despite his years of anti-lobbyist rhetoric.

Black, of course, is a lobbyist. In fact, as the head of the extremely influential lobby shop BKSH and Associates, he's one of Washington's most powerful influence-peddlers. In the Washington Post story today about the lobbyists that populate the upper ranks of McCain's campaign (here's another guy), Black is listed as working for AT&T, Alcoa, JPMorgan, and U.S. Airways. He works and has worked for far more companies than that, however.

After the jump, every company BKSH has worked for since 1998, along with the total value of their contracts, as provided by the Center for Responsive Politics lobbying database.

The CIA's Constant Confesser: Michael Hayden Just Can't Stop Admitting Stuff

| Fri Feb. 22, 2008 3:34 PM EST

Is it just me, or is CIA director Michael Hayden the least secretive spy ever? First he admitted that the CIA waterboarded detainees. Of course, most of us already knew that, but he helpfully laid out the exact details of the dirty work to Congress. Next, he went ahead and confirmed that at least some of those interrogators were paid outside contractors, rather than the highly trained CIA operatives we thought they were. This news shed even more light on the program, if also somewhat muddying the legal waters. To top it all off, yesterday we learned that on a recent trip to London, Hayden informed the British government that, contrary to previous assurances, the U.S. actually did use UK territory for rendition flights. Oops.

In an internal statement to agency employees on Thursday, Hayden said that a new in-house review of CIA records had turned up the "administrative" error. He made no mention of what prompted the review. This in itself is strange: after all, for years now the agency has maintained a hard line on rendition flights, often flat-out denying their existence. For the most part, details about the program have emerged only as a result of foreign governments' own investigations. In short, the CIA doesn't tell us about stuff when they don't have to. So why the sudden openness?

Green Salt and Nuclear Laptop: New IAEA Report Says Iran Answers Some Questions, Still Has Others to Answer

| Fri Feb. 22, 2008 12:23 PM EST

The UN atomic watchdog agency, the International Atomic Energy Agency, has a new report out on Iran (.pdf).

I confess it would take me a very long time and several dictionaries to penetrate its highly technical language. So I turned to one of the smartest nonproliferation experts I know, Jacqueline Shire, a senior fellow with the Washington, D.C.-based Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS), for highlights. "I think that paragraphs 35-42 are the most negative for Iran," Shire says, "Though the IAEA would say that they are just now receiving the info from the US necessary for confronting/challenging Iran's claims of fabrication."

The paragraphs Shire points to are in a section of the IAEA report called "Alleged Studies." They describe in dry, bullet-point form and highly technical language a quiet drama: how IAEA officials in late January and early February presented information handed over after a battle getting it from the U.S. government that concern questions of something called the so-called "Green Salt Project" and an alleged Iranian nuclear laptop that the US government obtained. Iran in turn called some of that American-sourced evidence "fabrications," on other points, the IAEA said it was still awaiting an Iranian response.

Kennedy Canta!

| Fri Feb. 22, 2008 12:06 PM EST

This is half awesome and half embarrassing.

If I work for Kennedy, I'm avoiding my email today.

Update: Wow, the Obama folks are really bumping up their Hispanic outreach. See the Viva Obama video after the jump.