Archive for May 2009
In an interview this past weekend with Radio Free Europe, Gen. David Petraeus said that he supports President Obama’s decision to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility and opposes the use of enhanced interrogation techniques:
PETRAEUS: In fact, I have long been on record as having testified and also in helping write doctrine for interrogation techniques that are completely in line with the Geneva Convention. And as a division commander in Iraq in the early days, we put out guidance very early on to make sure that our soldiers, in fact, knew that we needed to stay within those guidelines.
With respect to Guantanamo, I think that the closure in a responsible manner, obviously one that is certainly being worked out now by the Department of Justice — I talked to the attorney general the other day [and] they have a very intensive effort ongoing to determine, indeed, what to do with the detainees who are left, how to deal with them in a legal way, and if continued incarceration is necessary — again, how to take that forward.
But doing that in a responsible manner, I think, sends an important message to the world, as does the commitment of the United States to observe the Geneva Convention when it comes to the treatment of detainees.
Will Petraeus change the minds of any conservatives who are currently criticizing Obama for these same opinions? Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) has called Petraeus one of the “wisest people” he knows, and conservatives have said that it would be a “dream” to have the general run for president.
Also note this very interesting article by Spencer Ackerman in the Washington Independent:
A program that the Obama administration calls crucial to Pakistan’s fight against the Taliban is being criticized at the State Department and on Capitol Hill for overly militarizing the problem.
The dispute represents an early rift with some progressive members of Congress over discrepancies between the administration’s broad foreign policy goals and its approach to immediate challenges. One of the central aspects of the administration’s approach to the crisis in Pakistan is a new creation called the Pakistani Counterinsurgency Capabilities Fund, a $400 million annual program to give the Pakistani military equipment and training for counterinsurgency missions that it had shown little competency in waging. During April testimony, Michele Flournoy, the undersecretary of defense for policy, called it “absolutely critical to the success” of the Obama administration’s strategy in Pakistan. Both the House and the Senate showed themselves receptive to the proposal, adding the so-called PCCF to the war supplemental that passed the House on May 14 and the Senate on May 21.
At the administration’s behest, both versions of the supplemental placed the PCCF under the jurisdiction of the Defense Department, despite the State Department’s control over the government-to-government Foreign Military Sales program that typically governs aid to foreign militaries. That move has struck some on Capitol Hill — and in the State Department — as retrenchment on a core Obama administration priority: its pledge to rebalance a foreign-policy apparatus it sees as overly militarized. What’s more, an article of faith among counterinsurgency theorist/practitioners holds that its hybrid style of warfare is “80 percent political and only 20 percent military,” which further raises questions about the Obama administration’s decision to place the fund in the military’s hands.
There is no opposition to the creation of the PCCF, or the general concept that Pakistan’s military ought to receive U.S. assistance in combating a vicious insurgency that has expanded its reach over the country over the past year — a combustible mix that makes the nuclear-armed country “one of the most difficult foreign policy challenges we face,” as Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, put it at a May 12 hearing. But members of the House International Affairs Committee and the State Department’s legislative-affairs and private international law bureaus contend that the fund ought to be placed under the auspices of the State Department.
Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.), the chairman of the committee, added an additional $700 million for the PCCF in the House’s version of a sprawling Pakistan aid bill — which cleared the committee on May 20 — but changed the custody of the program…
Four years after Vice President Dick Cheney spearheaded a massive energy bill that exempted natural gas drilling from federal clean water laws, Congress is having second thoughts about the environmental dangers posed by the burgeoning industry.
With growing evidence that the drilling can damage water supplies, Democratic leaders in Congress are circulating legislation that would repeal the extraordinary exemption and for the first time require companies to disclose all chemicals used in the key drilling process, called hydraulic fracturing .
The proposed legislation has already stirred sharp debate.
The energy industry has launched a broad effort in Washington to fend off this proposed tightening of federal oversight, lobbying members of Congress and publishing studies that highlight what it says are the dangers of regulation. In mid-May, the industry released a detailed report asserting that the changes in current law would cost jobs and slash tax revenues. A key advocate of past efforts to regulate gas drilling, Rep. John Salazar  (D-CO), has declined to support the legislation, expressing concern about how it would affect the energy companies.
However, with a strengthened Democratic majority in Congress and the party’s capture of the White House in last year’s election, the fracturing legislation is viewed as having its best chance at passage in years. Its House sponsor, Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO) , aims to attach a bill to a larger piece of legislation with broad support — possibly a bill on climate change or a new energy policy measure – where it would be shielded from industry resistance. On the Senate side, according to congressional staff close to the effort, Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA)  has a companion bill ready to follow.
The drilling process involves injecting millions of gallons of water and sand mixed with tens of thousands of gallons of chemicals — some that are known to cause cancer — deep into the ground, where as much as a third of those fluids typically remain after the gas is removed.
Global companies including Halliburton and Schlumberger have fought hard to shield from public view the chemical recipes they use to drill, saying that …
The boys running the show at Blue Cross in North Carolina are running scared. They’re worried that President Obama is going to treat them like autoworkers and make them actually compete in the market. The Blue Cross boys think that they belong in the same league as the Wall Street bankers and should just be allowed to collect their multi-million-dollar salaries without being forced to worry about things like competition.
The basic story is that Blue Cross of North Carolina decided to jump the gun on President Obama and Congress and start running television ads telling people how awful a public health care plan would be. According to the ads, people enrolled in the public health care plan wouldn’t have a choice of doctors, would face long waiting periods for appointments and procedures and would not even be able to get a clerk to answer questions on billing.
That sounds pretty awful, but if it were true, you have to wonder why Blue Cross of North Carolina is so worried. After all, President Obama is not proposing that anyone would be forced to join a public plan. He just proposed that people have the option to buy into a public plan. Is Blue Cross of North Carolina really that terrified that it will be unable to compete with a public plan that doesn’t let patients choose their doctor, subjects them to long waits and doesn’t answer questions about billing?
Of course, if the ads being planned by Blue Cross of North Carolina were accurate, then it would not be concerned about a public plan. The reason that Blue Cross of North Carolina is running the ads is that it knows the ads are not true. There is no reason to think that a public plan will offer less choice, require longer waits or provide poorer service than a private plan, like Blue Cross of North Carolina. And there are reasons for believing that a public plan might cost considerably less.
Excellent column by Greenwald, which begins:
Reports indicate that President Obama has selected Second Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Sonia Sotomayor to replace David Souter on the Supreme Court. The announcement will be made formally this morning at 10:15 a.m. EST. This nomination should be judged principally on two grounds: (1) her judicial opinions (which Scotusblog’s Tom Goldstein comprehensively reviews here) and (2) her answers at her confirmation hearing. But based on everything that is known now, this seems to be a superb pick for Obama.
It is very encouraging that Obama ignored the ugly, vindictive, and anonymous smear campaign led by The New Republic‘s Jeffrey Rosen and his secret cast of cowardly Eminent Liberal Legal Scholars of the Respectable Intellectual Center. People like that, engaging in tactics of that sort, have exerted far too much influence on our political culture for far too long, and Obama’s selection of one of their most recent targets both reflects and advances the erosion of their odious influence. And Obama’s choice is also a repudiation of the Jeffrey-Rosen/Ben-Wittes/Stuart-Taylor grievance on behalf of white males that, as Dahlia Lithwick put it, "a diverse bench must inevitably be a second-rate bench."
Obama has also ignored the deeply dishonest right-wing attacks on Sotomayor, beginning with the inane objection to her perfectly benign and accurate comments on videotape that appellate judges, as distinct from district court judges, "make policy." LawyerAnonymous Liberal thoroughly eviscerated that line of attack as the shallow and deceitful argument it is. A similar avenue of certain attack — that Sotomayor said in a 2001 speech that a female Latina judge has experiences that can inform her view of cases — is equally frivolous. There are a whole range of discretionary judgments which judges are required to make; does anyone actually doubt that familiarity with a wide range of cultural experiences is an asset?
Continue reading. As he points out later in the column, Sotomayor is the GOP’s own pick: she was put on the bench by Bush 41.
This is funny. Mike Lillis in the Washington Independent:
Following up on Daphne’s piece from earlier this month, it seems that those manufactured questions about Sonia Sotomayor’s intelligence have now bounced from the pages of The New Republic to the halls of Congress.
Here’s a statement just issued by Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.), who wants to use the review process to ensure that Sotomayor “has the right intellect” to take the bench.
The American judicial system is a towering example of freedom and liberty to the world. Throughout the confirmation process, I will work with my colleagues and thoroughly review Judge Sotomayor’s record to make sure she has the right intellect and understands the proper role of a judge — to interpret and apply the written law, not to decide cases based on personal feelings, politics or preferences. The confirmation process is just that — a process. We should not prejudge this nominee, but we should be diligent as we examine the nominee’s record, background and experience.
After eight years of George W. Bush — the most famous C-student ever to emerge from the Ivy League — it’s unclear why Republicans would be chasing this idea that the smarts of a self-made judge and summa-cum-laude graduate of Princeton University would somehow make her a bad fit for the position.
He forgets what it was like when the shoe was on the other foot. Greg Sargent:
Hmm, this one is pretty amusing. In reacting to the Sonia Sotomayor announcement, GOP Senator Jon Kyl said that when Samuel Alito was nominated to the Supreme Court in 2005, Dems were given some three months to consider the pick. Kyl today asked for Dems to extend Republicans the “same courtesy.”
But back in 2006, Kyl actually hammered Dems for wanting time to consider Alito, saying that it should only take the Senate a “couple of days” to debate the choice.
Kyl, in a statement today:
“When Samuel Alito was first nominated on October 31, 2005, the minority was afforded 93 days before he received a confirmation vote on January 31, 2006.
“I would expect that Senate Democrats will afford the minority the same courtesy as we move forward with this process.”
Kyl, speaking about the Alito confirmation battle in 2006 (via Nexis):
“One might wonder why we would need more than just a couple of days of debate (the average of recent nominees is two to three days), especially since nothing new has been said for weeks. But, if the public has noticed anything during this process it is that senators value their right of unlimited debate.”
Indeed, one of the chief reasons that Alito’s confirmation hearings did take 93 days, as Kyl now says, is that the hearings were put off so that Kyl could get back to his state and campaign against a stiff Democratic challenge he was facing in the fall of 2005. And then, once the hearings were rescheduled, he pushed for them to be wrapped up in a “couple of days.”
So it’s not clear what Kyl means when he says Dems were extended the “courtesy” of a delay at the time.