Mojo - January 2007

Kissinger Testifies on Iraq Plan; Dems Ask "What Plan?"

| Wed Jan. 31, 2007 6:30 PM EST

Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger arrived on Capitol Hill this morning to offer his assessment on Iraq, which he's reportedly been offering to Dick Cheney and the president behind closed doors from some time now. Testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Kissinger, predictably, expressed optimism for the president's troop surge strategy, saying the plan is "the best way to get the maneuvering room to the changes in deployment and strategy that will be required by the evolving situation." He also endorsed the idea of building permanent military bases in Iraq, noting that the U.S. is likely to a have a military presence there "for a long time to come."

Kissinger, echoing the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group, also called for diplomatic talks with countries that neighbor Iraq, including Iran and Syria. He was joined in that sentiment by Madeleine Albright, the secretary of state during the Clinton administration, who also testified at the hearing. "I think we need a surge in diplomacy," she said.

But several democrats on the committee pointed out the obvious, that the president's publicly stated strategy does not include diplomatic regional talks. In fact, said Senator Joseph Biden of Delaware, "The president has explicitly rejected international diplomacy [in the region]."

Another presumptive presidential candidate, Senator Barack Obama, noted that members of Congress are still scratching their heads about what the president's master plan actually is. "The problem in a nutshell is that none of us view the President's projection of forces as his strategy," Obama said. "As far as I can tell no one on this committee knows what this grand strategy is."

-- Caroline Dobuzinskis

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Update On Corcpork

| Wed Jan. 31, 2007 3:26 PM EST

California's Second Appellate District Division Three Court has ruled in favor of Corcpork, Inc., which means that Farm Sanctuary still cannot bring suit against the company. The merits of the suit were not heard. In the meantime, the Attorney General of California remains silent. Farm Sanctuary is appealing the case to the California Supreme Court.

Global Warming: Back to the Future

| Wed Jan. 31, 2007 12:50 PM EST

Against a backdrop of more bad news about global warming coming from top scientists in Paris, the Sierra Club and American Solar Energy Society unveiled a plan in Washington this morning that would dramatically cut carbon emissions. What's so startling about their plan is that it closely tracks similar schemes put forth amidst the energy crisis of the 1970s. And those plans, in turn, were modeled on U.S. experiences with solar energy back in the 1920s. Can environmentalists in Congress override the oil industry to get any of this put into practice? It seems doubtful.

Yesterday Congressman Henry Waxman's oversight hearing on global warming depicted an administration determined to rework scientific findings to coincide with the interests of the oil industry. And while in the president's State of the Union speech he made a vague endorsement of tougher motor vehicle emissions standards, He made no mention of regulations to implement such standards. Bush, his father, and President Reagan were forthright in their opposition to government regulation across the board, including auto emissions. For years the oil and auto industries have successfully blocked tougher standards in one administration after another, and in one Congress after another (Republican and Democratic). Indeed, the two key figures in opposition to standards have been two Democrats -- John Dingell, the Michigan congressman whose wife long worked as a GM lobbyist in Washington, and who is widely viewed as the auto industry spokesman on Capitol Hill. The other powerful opponent of tougher standards has been former Senate majority leader Robert Byrd. He hails from West Virginia, the historic bastion of the coal industry, whose product creates an enormous air pollution problem.

The U.S. can reduce carbon emissions "by 1,100-1,200 million metric tons annually by 2030 with energy efficiency and renewable energy alone," according to the scheme put forward by the Sierra Club and ASES. Most of the reduction in carbon emissions
(82 percent) can be obtained by solar, wind, and increased energy efficiency. The remainder could come from biomass, bio fuels, and geothermal sources.

According to its sponsors, "this plan would achieve the U.S. share of reductions required to stabilize atmospheric CO2 levels at 450-500 parts per million and limit additional average temperature rise to 1°C above 2000 levels."

The report goes on to say "renewable energy has the potential to provide approximately 40 percent of the U.S. electric need projected for 2030 by the Energy Information Administration (EIA)."

They Don't Have Ham Sandwiches in the Muslim World, or Petraeus is Nothing More Than an Easy Out

| Tue Jan. 30, 2007 9:12 PM EST

Last week, the American Prospect's Spencer Ackerman wrote that Iraq is a waste of General David Petraeus' time and expertise and that we should send him to Afghanistan where his expertise will not be lost on "cauterizing a wound" and "population protection." In fact, he makes this analogy:

"This is like hiring Spanish avant-garde chef Ferran Adria to whip up a ham sandwich."

I do think "God is unfair" to Petraeus, to use Ackerman's words, but I think unfair, moreso, for the following reason: Petraeus has been set up. Last week, following his confirmation hearing in front of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) made it clear that it is a setup indeed. "If it can't be done under General Petraeus, then it cannot be done at all."

Oh, I get it, so if we fail in Iraq it will no longer be the fault of the Bush administration's years of incompetence before, during and after the war (all of which is thoroughly documented in the Mother Jones timeline). This is the same criticism that has been made about Bush's escalation of troops, that the administration can claim, "we sent 20,000 troops, what more can we do?" Now, they have an even better scapegoat -- the most revered General in the United States Army. That seems fair. "Look, if Petraeus couldn't do it, there was nothing more that possibly could have been done," they'll say, as they wipe their hands clean. What is even more infuriating is that maybe it can be done, maybe Petraeus' insurgency doctrine has all the answers or he has several other tricks up his sleeve. But if the administration's past actions have been any indication of how well they support their military leaders in Iraq, it doesn't matter what the doctrine looks like, Petraeus won't be given the resources or the freedom to show us how talented he really is. Not to mention that it really is way too late for a Hail Mary.

And You Thought There Was No Way Bush Could Grab More Power

| Tue Jan. 30, 2007 7:38 PM EST

The front page story in tomorrow's New York Times will be an announcement and examination of George W. Bush's signing of a directive that gives him even greater control over much greater control over "the rules that the federal government develops to regulate public health, safety."

Bush has now declared that every federal regulatory agency must have a regulatory policy office headed by a political appointee. This will tighten the presidential control that already shocked anyone paying attention, especially with regard to the so-called Envrionmental Protection Agency, which is now merely a large sham supported by taxpayers.

Read all about it in tomorrow's Times.

More on Bush Administration's Anti-Global Warming Pressure on Scientists

| Tue Jan. 30, 2007 5:49 PM EST

James Ridgeway wrote earlier today about Henry Waxman's ongoing oversight hearings that are looking into the government's role in distorting climate research. In his post, Jim mentioned the new Union of Concerned Scientists report that found the Bush Administration pressured scientists in a number of agencies to suppress evidence of global warming. ThinkProgress has culled some details. Synergy!

46 percent of government scientists "personally experienced pressure to eliminate the words 'climate change,' 'global warming,' or other similar terms from a variety of communications."
46 percent "perceived or personally experienced new or unusual administrative requirements that impair climate-related work."
25 percent "perceived or personally experienced situations in which scientists have actively objected to, resigned from, or removed themselves from a project because of pressure to change scientific findings."

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The Changing Dynamics of the Chuck Hagel Phenomenon

| Tue Jan. 30, 2007 4:43 PM EST

Newsweek has a long and glowing article about Chuck Hagel (R-NE), his presidential chances, and his path from Midwestern boyhood to the corridors of the Senate. Sample sentence: "He is manly, Middle American — and when he talks about military matters, he exudes the cool confidence of a warrior-statesman who knows that war is hell."

The one piece of information from the article that I didn't know, other than all the biographical information, is this: "According to Congressional Quarterly, [Hagel] voted with the White House more times in 2006 than any other senator." I guess I was so agog over the chutzpah Hagel has displayed in loudly and continuously objecting to the war and the Bush Administration that I neglected to closely examine the man's record. Hagel's Planned Parenthood rating: 0%. Secular Coalition for America rating: 0%. Darfur Scoreboard grade: C. League of Conservation Voters rating: 14%. Human Rights Campaign (gay rights) rating: 0. The man supports a constitutional amendment to ban the burning of the flag.

So for all his tough (and seductively honest) talk about Iraq, I would have a hard time disagreeing more completely with his politics. That said, I think if conservative Americans get to know Hagel they'll find him pretty appealing. He's got a strong conservative record on social and economic issues (as I just learned) and yet has led the charge against a war and a president that even Republicans are deserting. He's a decorated veteran -- which is a huge 180 from Bush, Cheney, Feith, Wolfowitz, and the rest of the "other priorities" brigade -- and actually saved his brother's life in Vietnam. He grew up in the Midwest (take that, Obama!) and had parents that "taught their boys that loyalty to country was paramount."

And so Hagel is shaping up like the McCain of 2000, with the media taking it upon themselves to explain to the American people why they are missing a great candidate who -- unbeknownst to everyone outside the inner circle -- has presidential stuff. (Mickey Kaus is the only one puncturing the balloon.) Two weeks ago, Jonathan Alter wrote an article on Hagel for Newsweek cautiously titled "Hagel Could Have a Shot." Now, as you can see from the Newsweek profile, this GQ interview, and this truthdig column, his media treatment has drastically changed.

But here's what will hurt Hagel:

Dispatch from Sundance: And the (Oscar) Winners Are...

| Tue Jan. 30, 2007 3:39 PM EST

Sunday night, during the closing ceremonies in Park City, Utah, the 2007 Sundance Film Festival winners were announced. I wasn't there, four days at Sundance was plenty for me, but the onslaught of emails from the press office were evidence enough. But I wonder, does anyone really care about which film won the Special Jury Prize or the World Cinema Audience Award? It seems all anyone is talking about is how "Little Miss Sunshine," "Iraq in Fragments" (read Mother Jones' review of the film here) and "An Inconvenient Truth" raked in the Oscar nominations last week.

Sundance tends to be repetitious in its subject matter. This year, "No End In Sight" will surely give you your Iraq fill, "Everything's Cool" contains a deluge of information on Global Warming and "Blame It On Fidel," much like "Little Miss Sunshine" tells the story of a young girl shaped by her society. But really, would the festival be complete without a film on Iraq or Global Warming?

Waxman's Attack on Bush Global Warming Distortions

| Tue Jan. 30, 2007 11:38 AM EST

Henry Waxman, chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, opened oversight hearings this morning with a sharp attack on Phil Cooney, the former oil lobbyist who headed the Council of Environmental Quality, for tampering with scientific reports on global warming in order downplay its importance. (You can watch the hearings live online here.) Cooney resigned in 2005 after he was publicly criticized for playing politics with global warming. One New York Times report discussing government climate change reports written in 2002 and 2003 said, "In a section on the need for research into how warming might change water availability and flooding, [Cooney] crossed out a paragraph describing the projected reduction of mountain glaciers and snowpack. His note in the margins explained that this was 'straying from research strategy into speculative findings/musings.'"

Waxman says the committee knows the White House is hiding documents that show the Bush administration sought to weaken government reports by emphasizing the "beneficial effects," of global warming, and downplaying its effects on human health.

Witnesses at the hearing are to include Dr. Drew Shindell, of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, and Rick Piltz, the former senior associate of the U.S. Climate Change Science Program, both of whom have protested at the White House meddling.

Mother Jones reporters at the hearing will be reporting as they go on.

Update: A new report from Union of Concerned Scientists uncovers new evidence of the Bush Administration tampering with global warming science.

An investigative report by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) and the Government Accountability Project (GAP) has uncovered new evidence of widespread political interference in federal climate science. The report, which includes a survey of hundreds of federal scientists at seven federal agencies and dozens of in-depth interviews, documents a high regard for climate change research but broad interference in communicating scientific results.
"The new evidence shows that political interference in climate science is no longer a series of isolated incidents but a system-wide epidemic," said Dr. Francesca Grifo, Director of the UCS Scientific Integrity Program. "Tailoring scientific fact for political purposes has become a problem across many federal science agencies."

Read more about the report here.

D'oh! We Still Don't Have Any Good Iraq Intel

| Tue Jan. 30, 2007 6:01 AM EST

Belatedly (because, er, I lost my blog password and BOTH my computers melted down and the dog ate my keyboard), let us praise CQ's Jeff Stein for pointing out that among the casualties of Baghdad's continuing meltdown is... the CIA.

According to several well informed intelligence sources, hundreds of CIA operatives have become virtual prisoners in the Green Zone, the sprawling American enclave whose high walls and guards separate the U.S. embassy, military command and related civilian agencies from the raging sectarian violence in Baghdad's streets.
The CIA operatives cannot safely roam the city to meet their few agents, much less recruit new ones.
It's just too dangerous. CIA chiefs don't want to risk one getting kidnapped, tortured on camera and beheaded.
That would certainly dampen the allure of a career in the CIA.
So "they spend their days playing cards and watching DVDs," said a former senior CIA operations official who maintains close ties in the agency.

You can't make this stuff up.