Mojo - January 2011

Flashback: Speaker Boehner on Climate and Cow Farts

| Wed Jan. 5, 2011 12:16 PM EST

As John Boehner assumes the position of Speaker of the House today, let's take a minute to recall what the person now third in line for the presidency thinks about climate change. Joe Romm hightlighted Boehner's April 2009 interview with ABC's George Stephanopoulos earlier. Here's the video, with the transcript posted below:

Key portion of the transcript:

STEPHANOPOULOS: Let me ask you then about energy. We showed your statement on the president's decision through the EPA to regulate greenhouse gases. Also, you've come out against the president's proposal to cap-and-trade carbon emissions. So what is the Republican answer to climate change? Is it a problem? Do you have a plan to address it?

BOEHNER: George, we believe that our -- all of the above energy strategy from last year continues to be the right approach on energy. That we ought to make sure that we have new sources of energy, green energy, but we need nuclear energy, we need other types of alternatives, and, yes, we need American-made oil and gas.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But that doesn't do anything when it comes to emissions, sir.

BOEHNER: When it comes to the issue of climate change, George, it's pretty clear that if we don't work with other industrialized nations around the world, what's going to happen is that we're going to ship millions of American jobs overseas. We have to deal with this in a responsible way.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So what is the responsible way? That's my question. What is the Republican plan to deal with carbon emissions, which every major scientific organization has said is contributing to climate change?

BOEHNER: George, the idea that carbon dioxide is a carcinogen that is harmful to our environment is almost comical. Every time we exhale, we exhale carbon dioxide. Every cow in the world, you know, when they do what they do, you've got more carbon dioxide.

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Wall Street's Gift to GOP: '10 Elections

| Wed Jan. 5, 2011 9:31 AM EST

In recent years, Democrats were the party of choice for Wall Street's deep-pocketed masters of the universe. In March 2008, the Los Angeles Times proclaimed that Democratic presidential candidates were the "darlings of Wall St." The finance, insurance, and real estate, or FIRE, sector gave $10 million more to Democratic presidential candidates in 2008 than their GOP counterparts. And in 2009, 98 percent of donations from the top ten hedge fund managers went to Democrats. 

But, as Peter Stone and Michael Isikoff report on Wednesday, the love is gone between Wall Street's high fliers and the Democratic Party. The title says it all: "How Wall Street Execs. Bankrolled GOP Victory." According to campaign finance data, a clutch of wealthy hedge funds injected $10 million into Republican campaign committees in the run-up to the midterm elections in November. Not only did hedge funders write some big checks, Stone and Isikoff found, they also "held multiple fundraisers and coordinated strategy to direct what appear to be unprecedented sums into the coffers of GOP and allied political committees."

The animus between Barack Obama's party and Wall Street isn't hard to grasp. There's been no shortage of public anger at Wall Street over issues like undercutting financial reform, six- and-seven figure bonuses during the recession, and the taxpayer-funded bailouts of the nation's largest banks. At times Obama has fed into that outrage, railing against "fat cat bankers" and renegade "speculators" on Wall Street. That anger helped propel a financial regulatory reform bill through Congress last summer, a bill that nearly all of Wall Street opposed. That bill, which the GOP also fought again, is largely the reason the Democrats' ties to big finance have frayed in the past year.

To illustrate just how much influence Wall Street can have on an election, Stone and Isikoff point to the reelection of Rep. Scott Garrett (R-NJ):

As it became increasingly clear late last summer that Republicans were likely to capture the House, the partners at Elliott Management Corp., a $17 billion Wall Street hedge fund that specializes in distressed foreign debt, mobilized to boost Garrett's political fortunes. One of the firm's senior officers threw a fundraiser for Garrett. The firm's executives and one of their spouses wrote checks totaling $195,800 to two of the congressman's political fundraising committees, campaign records show.

Of that amount, $45,000 was donated by nine Elliott executives to the congressman’s leadership political action committee Supporting Conservatives of Today and Tomorrow. As first reported by the The Record newspaper, another $150,800 was donated to a newly created entity called the Scott Garrett Victory Committee, which was registered by a GOP fundraiser using a post office box in Athens, Ga...

Elliott executives—one of whom wrote a check for $35,000—ended up providing about 96 percent of all the funds raised by the Garrett committee, according to the review of campaign records by CPI and NBC.

Garrett coasted to victory on November 2, trouncing his opponent by a two-to-one margin.

There's plenty more in Stone and Isikoff's investigation, including a breakdown of all the big hedge fund managers who made sure the GOP crushed the Democrats in the midterms. If you want to truly understand how the GOP won the most House seats in an election since World War II, then you need to read this story.

Of course, with a wave of new Republicans starting their new jobs on Wednesday, Wall Street's donor will be expecting them to return the generosity. Number one on the list: Repealing the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill. 

Issa's Glaring Omission: War Spending

| Wed Jan. 5, 2011 7:58 AM EST

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), the incoming chairman of the powerful House oversight committee, has vowed to sniff out the "waste, fraud, and abuse" in the federal government, even if it means holding seven committee hearings a week. On CBS' "Face the Nation," Issa pledged to identify as much as $200 billion in wasteful spending at the federal level, and an early target list for Congress' top watchdog includes WikiLeaks, housing giant Fannie Mae, and Food and Drug Administration recalls. However, a top Democrat on the oversight committee, Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio.), is calling out Issa on a glaring omission in the chairman's attack plan: the US's bloated defense budget.

In a letter sent Tuesday, Kucinich challenged Issa on why he hadn't pledged to rid the Department of Defense's $663 billion budget of wasteful spending. Kucinich cited a 2001 Government Accountability Office report, mentioned by then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, that found US officials had lost track of $2.3 trillion of DOD spending. Kucinich goes on:

"We have seen dozens of reports of corruption, lost money, and unaccountable transactions in Iraq and Afghanistan. We have seen report of billions of taxpayers dollars in shrink-wrapped packages sent to Iraq for unsupervised distribution. We have seen millions of dollars flow into Afghanistan, and we have seen millions of dollars flow out again into the hands of the family of President Hamid Karzai for purposes such as building luxury villas in Dubai."  

He concludes, "To meet your stated purpose of protecting American taxpayers from waste, fraud, and abuse, it is essential that you examine the Department of Defense and money wasted during unnecessary wars."

We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for January 5, 2011

Wed Jan. 5, 2011 5:30 AM EST

U.S. soldiers and Afghan police move out on a foot patrol in the Isa Khan region of Afghanistan's northern Kunduz province, Dec. 28, 2010. The soldiers are assigned to the 10th Mountain Division’s Company A, 1st Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class John Queen

Navy Captain Sunk by Videos

| Tue Jan. 4, 2011 3:00 PM EST

...Aaaand we have closure, kinda sorta. The Navy fired Captain Owen Honors, skipper of the USS Enterprise, for those imprudent "morale" videos he cut a few years back as the ship's second in command. Spencer Ackerman at Danger Room sums up what was at stake for an eminently qualified combat commander whose sense of humor wasn't in the service's spirit of honor, courage, and commitment.

I still have one unanswered question, which is: Where was the ship's old skipper, Captain Lawrence Rice, when his right-hand man was going all Coco on the camera (minus the funny, plus sexism and homophobia)? Rice, the one man who could have counseled Honors on prudence, apparently never did...perhaps because he was a member of the Navy's last total fraternity: the all-male Naval Academy class of '79 ("last class with balls," they call themselves). And now Rice is an admiral, assisting former Iraq commander Gen. Ray Odierno in forming military-wide joint startegy and policy. Nothing succeeds like excess.

Not much else to add here, except that Honors' defrocking has been an interesting learning lesson and opener of dialogue on what all Americans, liberal or conservative, want their military to be. Regardless of where you sit on the political spectrum, you probably expect service members not only to be professional about their military missions: You expect them as well to uphold some sort of moral example to their shipmates and subordinates. My previous post on Movie Night-gate led to a lively discussion between commenters who have very different visions of an officer's moral responsibilities. And as Ackerman and Foreign Policy's Tom Ricks recently pointed out, the US has sort of slipped away from its longstanding tradition of holding admirals and generals (and captains and colonels) to account for failings of all sorts. So, even if you're hopping mad at the "politically correct" brouhaha surrounding Honors' sophomoric video scripts, enjoy the fact that we as a society are again talking about what is and isn't acceptable behavior in the commander of a nuclear-powered floating airbase.

Cantor: Defense Cuts "On The Table"

| Tue Jan. 4, 2011 2:56 PM EST

"Cut and grow."

That was the inconsistent message at soon-to-be Majority Leader Eric Cantor's first press conference on Tuesday, where he previewed the GOP's agenda for the 112th Congress. With a slew of reporters packed in around him, Cantor laid out the party's priorities, hammering away on issues like job creation, slashing spending, and "expanding liberty"—all themes you've heard more times than you can count. But near the end of the briefing, Cantor raised eyebrows on the subject of defense spending, until now the GOP's sacred cow of government spending.

Asked whether he'd consider cutting defense spending, Cantor replied: "Everything's got to be on the table. Everyone in this town must go through what people at home are doing—which is doing more with less, and prioritizing what we should be about." He went on, "We're going to be focused on what are the things that are priority to ensure our national security."

While not directly saying so, Cantor has now opened the door for lawmakers who believe the Department of Defense's $663 billion budget is ripe for shrinking. That's a departure from the traditional Republican party line, which has left defense and security spending untouched while eagerly calling for cuts to domestic programs like Medicare, Social Security, and education funding.

But Cantor looks to have put defense spending in play as well. As the new 112th Congress officially gets to work on Wednesday, and begins taking the red pen to federal spending, we'll see whether Cantor stands by his statement or backs down.

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Bank of America's WikiLeaks Defense Fail

| Tue Jan. 4, 2011 12:02 PM EST

On Sunday, the New York Times reported on Bank of America's master plan for blunting the damage from an anticipated WikiLeaks release of top executives' emails. The bank's strategy includes outside consultants, massive document reviews, and what the Huffington Post characterized as a "counterespionage" team. What the Times doesn't mention (although it was reported last month) is that Bank of America's defense also includes an effort to make sure no one on the internet makes fun of the bank's head honchos. How is Bank of America going to inure itself to the cutting jabs of internet flamethrowers? Well, just read:

According to Domain Name Wire, the US bank has been aggressively registering domain names including its board of Directors' and senior executives' names followed by "sucks" and "blows".

For example, the company registered a number of domains for CEO Brian Moynihan: BrianMoynihanBlows.com, BrianMoynihanSucks.com, BrianTMoynihanBlows.com, and BrianTMoynihanSucks.com.

The wire report counted hundreds of such domain name registrations on 17 December alone. They were acquired through an intermediary that frequently registers domain names on behalf of large companies, says the report.

I'm surprised this story hasn't received more attention outside of the financial media. Even Bank of America, a company that regularly gets hustled by the smarter, cooler kids on Wall Street, shouldn't be dumb enough to waste its money like this. Are they serious right now? Does BofA really think the internet isn't going to be able to come up with a way to flame them? All you need for a meme-y attack webpage is a scurrilous allegation and a prominent person's name. You could, for example, register brianmoynihankillspuppies.com for just $11.99/year.

It is almost certainly impossible to use a domain-name acquisition strategy to prevent criticism of your company or its employees. Yet the Wall Street Journal counts at least 439 BrianMoynihanSucks-style registrations in December alone. If I owned stock in Bank of America, this would not give me confidence that the bank is prepared for whatever Julian Assange is planning to throw at it. Seriously, folks?

How Much Would It Cost to Repeal Health Care Reform?

| Tue Jan. 4, 2011 10:40 AM EST

Republicans have released their health-care repeal bill—snappily titled "Repealing the Job-Killing Health Care Law Act"—which the party has now scheduled for a vote on January 12. The bill would repeal every part of the Affordable Care Act except for an overhaul of the student loan industry.

One thing the bill won't include, however, is a price tag. The Congressional Budget Office estimated that health care reform would save an estimated $143 billion over the next 10 years. According to that figure, repealing the law would add the same amount to the deficit. Republicans, however, have dismissed the CBO's estimates, arguing that Democrats have gamed the number by front-loading the legislation with savings in the first decade and that the law would cost taxpayers in the long run. As a result, they've refused to let the CBO score their repeal bill.

Democrats, in the meantime, have backed off their line that health care reform will save the country money—not because of the substance of their argument, but  because it hasn't proven politically popular with voters, according to Politico. So Democrats have basically conceded that Republicans have won the message war when it comes to the price tag of health reform, and taxpayers have little way of confirming exactly how much the GOP repeal effort could end up costing them.

Fred Upton Cools to Global Warming

| Tue Jan. 4, 2011 9:56 AM EST

Does Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) have something to hide when it comes to his position on climate change?

In the past, Upton—the incoming chair of the House energy and commerce committee—has advocated taking action on global warming. "I strongly believe that everything must be on the table as we seek to reduce carbon emissions," he once stated on his website. But that statement recently vanished from his site—along with, it seems, his concern about global warming. Following a tea party-aided Republican takeover of the House and a heated fight for the chairmanship of the powerful committee, Upton's position on climate change has veered closer to those of his global-warming-denying caucus-mates. And he's now vowing to use his new role to thwart efforts to cut emissions. 

Read the rest of this post over on Blue Marble.

We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for January 4, 2011

Tue Jan. 4, 2011 5:30 AM EST

U.S. Army Soldiers attached to Alpha Company, 1st Brigade Support Battalion, 1st Heavy Brigade Combat Team (1st Advise and Assist Task Force), 1st Infantry Division, prepares to shoot at targets at a range in Kirkuk, Iraq, Dec. 1, 2010. Lt. Col. Evans shoots at the targets to maintain familiarization with his weapon in Kirkuk, Iraq in support of Operation New Dawn. Photo via U.S. Army.