Wednesday, January 31, 2007

GREEN STATE Via Brad DeLong, we get this paen to New York City:
Millions of Americans proclaimed their love of nature by moving to leafy suburbs while denigrating New Yorkers for living in the most man-made of places...Now we know that the suburban environmentalists had it backwards. Manhattan, not suburbia, is the real friend of the environment.


New York's biggest environmental contribution lies in the fact that less than one-third of New Yorkers drive to work. Nationwide, more than seven out of eight commuters drive. More than one-third of all the public transportation commuters in America live in the five boroughs...

The Department of Energy data confirm that New York State's energy consumption is next to last in the country because of New York City.

Is there any reason beyond civic pride to care that New Yorkers are true friends of the environment? I think so. Environmental benefits are one of the many good reasons that New York should grow. When Manhattan builds up, instead of Las Vegas building out, we are saving gas and protecting land.

Every new skyscraper in Manhattan is a strike against global warming. Every new residential high rise means a few less barrels of oil bought from less than friendly nations belonging to the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries.

Monday, January 29, 2007

COLLINS WATCH Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) has signed on to head the Maine wing of Sen. John "surge" McCain's presidential exploratory committee.

At the same time, Collins is sponsoring an anti-surge resolution in the Senate.

Guess that's why they call her a centrist.

Friday, January 26, 2007

SMALLNESS, POLITICS, ETC. Behind the firewall, Paul Krugman is exactly right about the inauspicious start of Sen. Barack Obama's (D-IL) presidential campaign.

For example, when Obama says...

The decisions that have been made in Washington these past six years, and the problems that have been ignored, have put our country in a precarious place...

But challenging as they are, it's not the magnitude of our problems that concerns me the most. It's the smallness of our politics...Politics has become so bitter and partisan, so gummed up by money and influence, that we can't tackle the big problems that demand solutions.
...he sounds more like Sen. Joe Lieberman (CFL-CT) than any self-respecting poll ought to want to.

Which is to say: Partisanship may not be the answer to our nation's problems, but it isn't the central defect of our politics either.

The central problem of the last six years was that we had an incompetent, reckless, law-breaking President and a Congress that enabled his administration every step of the way. The "tone in Washington" had nothing to do with it.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

AND ANOTHER THING A thought from Andrew Sullivan about tonight's speech that's worth passing along:
"The Shia and Sunni extremists are different faces of the same totalitarian threat." Is this the formulation by which the president tries to frame a Muslim civil war as a single war against the West? Rather than attempting to exploit the differences among Islamist terrorists, the president seems eager to unite them. I can't say it makes any coherent sense to me.

SACRED AND PROFANE Am I the only one who thinks there's something obscene about a moral trainwreck and intellectual coward like President George W. Bush associating himself, even fleetingly, with the heroism and courage of Wesley Autry?

Just asking.

Monday, January 22, 2007

KELLER TIME The Arts section of Monday's New York Times features not one but two articles that are unworthy of the newspaper--or would have been thought unworthy of the paper in years past.

First we get a column about Angelina Jolie's celebrity status that could easily have been published in People magazine.

Next, there's a piece that floats a number of rumors about that all-important cultural icon, Paula Abdul.

What does this junk have to do with "The Arts"? What does it have to do with journalism?

Why not just get rid of The Arts section completely and run Styles seven days a week?

Sunday, January 21, 2007

GONZALES: NOT AT LIBERTY Surprised that this exchange about Maher Arar at Thursday's Senate Judiciary Committee hearing hasn't received more attention:
SEN. LEAHY: Something that made the news here in the United States was a question of Maher Arar...He is a Canadian citizen. He was returning home from a vacation. Plane stops at JFK in New York and continues on to Canada.

He was detained by federal agents at JFK Airport, 2002, on suspicion of ties to terrorism. He was deported to Syria. [Wasn't] sent on the couple of hundred miles to Canada and turned over to the Canadian authorities, but he was sent thousands of miles away to Syria. He was held for 10 months.

The Canadian commission later found that there was no evidence to support he had any terrorist connection or posed any threat but that he was tortured in Syria. He was held in abhorrent conditions there. And those sending him back must have known he was going to be tortured.

The Canadian government has apologized for its part of this debacle...This country has not said anything at all that we made any mistake or had any apology. Press accounts indicate the Justice Department approved his deportation to Syria. I've not heard anything clear from the Justice Department about their role in this affair.


ATTY GEN. GONZALES: As you know we are in litigation. What I want to do is, hopefully in the next few days, I'm happy to sit down with you and Senator Specter and give you more information. In fact we may be able to publicly say more about this shortly. I'm just not at liberty at this time--

SEN. LEAHY: Let me ask you this: Why aren't you at liberty? I don't understand that. It's not a matter of executive privilege.

ATTY GEN. GONZALES: No, sir, again, and I'm not--

SEN. LEAHY: Because only the president can claim, you can't.

ATTY GEN. GONZALES: (Laughs.) I'm not suggesting that I will not be able to answer your questions. I'm just suggesting I can't do it today.


ATTY GEN. GONZALES: I just-- sir, I'm not--there is not a position--I can't represent the position of executive branch on this particular issue. But I think in a relatively short period of time there's more information that I should be able to share with you and hopefully that we can share publicly.
And then:
SEN. LEAHY: Why was he sent to Syria instead of Canada?

ATTY GEN. GONZALES: Well, again Senator, I'd be happy to answer these questions. I'm aware of the list of questions you--I think you and Senator--Chairman Biden have submitted with respect to this particular case. I think we can say a lot more about it if you just simply give me some additional time.

SEN. LEAHY: Can you tell me whether you took steps to ensure that he wouldn't be tortured? Of course he was.

ATTY GEN. GONZALES: I believe that piece of information is public. There were steps-- I think General Ashcroft confirmed this publicly--is that there were assurances sought that he would not be tortured from Syria. But he--

SEN. LEAHY: Oh -- (laughs.) Attorney General, I'm sorry; I don't mean to treat this lightly.

We knew damned well if he went to Canada he wouldn't be tortured. He'd be held and he'd be investigated. We also knew damned well if he went to Syria he'd be tortured. And it's beneath the dignity of this country--a country that has always been a beacon of human rights--to send somebody to another country to be tortured.

You know and I know that has happened a number of times in the past five years by this country. It is a black mark on us. It has brought about the condemnation of some of our closest and best allies. They have made those comments both publicly and privately to the president of the United States and others.

And it is easy for us to sit here comfortably in this room, knowing that we're not going to be sent off to another country to be tortured, to treat it as though well, Attorney General Ashcroft stated we got assurances.A ssurances? From a country that we also say now, oh we can't talk to them because we can't take their word for anything.

ATTY GEN. GONZALES: Well, Senator, I--

SEN. LEAHY: I'm somewhat upset.

ATTY GEN. GONZALES: Yes, sir, I can tell.

Monday, January 15, 2007

COLLINS WATCH Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) wants you to think that she's sane on the issue of global warming.

But if she'd had her way on election day and Republicans had retained control of the Senate, notorious climate change-denier Sen. James Inhofe (R-ME) would still be chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works.

Here's what Inhofe said about global warming as recently as November:

Inhofe...argued that the current wave of unprecedented warming is due to "natural changes." "God's still up there," Inhofe said, and to the extent there is warming going on, it is "due to the sun." He added, "George Soros, the Hollywood elitists, the far left environmentalists on the committee that I chair--all of them want us to believe the science is settled and it's not."
Democrats have a one-seat majority in the Senate. A vote for Collins in 2008 is a vote for Inhofe to resume control of the Committee on Environment and Public Works.

There's no other way to look at it.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

ON INTEGRITY In case you missed it, Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, a confirmed liar, had the audacity--the gall--to say the following during Thursday's testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee:
Senator, I have to say that I have never, ever lost respect for the truth in the service of anything. It is not my nature. It is not my character. And I would hope that we can have this conversation and discuss what happened before and what went on before and what I said without impugning my credibility or my integrity.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

HERE HE GOES Sen. Joe Lieberman (CFL-CT) is at it again. Via Josh Marshall:
Sen. Joe Lieberman, the only Democrat to endorse President Bush’s new plan for Iraq, has quietly backed away from his pre-election demands that the White House turn over potentially embarrassing documents relating to its handling of the Hurricane Katrina disaster in New Orleans.

Lieberman’s reversal underscores the new role that he is seeking to play in the Senate as the leading apostle of bipartisanship, especially on national-security issues. On Wednesday night, Bush conspicuously cited Lieberman’s advice as being the inspiration for creating a new “bipartisan working group” on Capitol Hill that he said will “help us come together across party lines to win the war on terror.”
Thanks, Connecticut.


Hey, remember back when President Bush used to trumpet the breadth and depth of the "coalition of the willing"?

PARTY OF ONE The Connecticut for Lieberman party--recently hijacked, mercifully, by anti-Lieberman activists--will have an organizational meeting next Thursday in Milford.

Details here.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

TO SUM UP In case you've tuned out lately, here's a succinct summary of the conventional critique of the Bush escalation plan:
The premise of the speech, and of the strategy, is that there is a national democratic government in Baghdad, defending itself against Jihadist attacks.

The task, in the president's mind, is therefore to send more troops to defend such a government. But the reality facing us each day is a starkly different one from the scenario assumed by the president.

The government of which Bush speaks, to put it bluntly, does not exist. The reality illumined by the lynching of Saddam is that the Maliki government is a front for Shiite factions and dependent for its future on Shiite death squads. U.S. support for the government is not, therefore, a defense of democracy in a unified country, whatever our intentions. It is putting the lives of American soldiers in defense of the Shiite side in an increasingly brutal civil war.
That the President's speech failed to reference this critique is not surprising. But it is telling.

UNANSWERED QUESTIONS Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice will be testifying tomorrow on Capitol Hill.

Just a few questions, among many, that she ought to be forced to answer:

1. On August 7, 2005, you told Time Magazine that the insurgents were "losing steam" as a political force. How's that going?

2. Having had two years to think about it, do you still believe that the allied force levels have been adequate throughout the Iraq war?

3. Having had two years to think it over, will you now say whether you believe waterboarding counts as torture?

4. What do you know about the President's illegal eavesdropping program and when did you first learn about it?

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

SELECTIVE AMNESIA The man in the back row has a question:
Q: What would your guidance be to a public that has seen the President stand under a "Mission Accomplished" banner, proclaim an end to major combat operations, the Vice President talking about the "last throes" -- how should the public go into viewing this speech tomorrow?

MR. SNOW: I think the public ought to just listen to what the President has to say. You know that the "Mission Accomplished" banner was put up by members of the USS Abraham Lincoln. And the President, on that very speech, said just the opposite, didn't he?
Here's President George W. Bush, onboard the USS Lincoln on May 1, 2003:
Admiral Kelly, Captain Card, officers and sailors of the USS Abraham Lincoln, my fellow Americans: Major combat operations in Iraq have ended. In the Battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed.
Any more questions?

Sunday, January 07, 2007

SERIOUSNESS WATCH We're not huge fans of Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE) here at CONTRAPOSITIVE.

But he was a strong, eloquent advocate for seriousness in Iraq this morning in conversation with Tim Russert and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) on Meet The Press.

Graham did his lunatic best making the case for staying the unserious course.

The transcript is worth a peek.

Friday, January 05, 2007

COLLINS WATCH Now she tells us:
I have long had concerns about the President's broad use of signing statements to raise questions about the executive's intention to comply with legislation approved by Congress and signed into law by the President.
She's been so concerned about it, in fact, that a search for the term "signing statement" on her website turns up yesterday's press release--and only yesterday's press release.

You don't suppose Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) is pandering, do you?

UPDATE: In comments, Dean points to an October 6, 2006 Boston Globe article which portrays Collins as having "rejected Bush's suggestion that he can bypass the new FEMA laws."

But this doesn't tell us much: Collins isn't seen registering any qualms about the President's practice of issuing signing statements. All she's shown to be doing, in the article, is rejecting a particular bit of presidental legal analysis.

That said, I've now gone back and searched for evidence to support Collins' press release claim, and she comes out at least a tad better than I might have expected:

In a July 27, 2006 CQ Daily article, Collins is quoted as saying, "I don't think signing statements should be used to thwart the will of Congress or to undermine the laws that we pass."

And an October 16, 2006 Federal Times story mentions that Collins has signed a letter to the President stating, in part: "We continue to have concerns about your broad use of signing statements to raise questions about the executive's intention to comply with legislation passed by both houses of Congress and signed into law by the President."

(These are the only two public comments by Collins on the subject of signing statments that I can find--but if anyone turns up more, please do pass them along.)

So score one for Collins: She hasn't been completely mum on the issue these last six years.

Of course, it worth pointing out that both of the on-the-record comments I've been able to track down came within the last six months (during a period, incidentally, when the President's approval ratings have been at historic lows.)

So Collins may have "long" had misgivings about the President's use of signing statements. But--if we assume, as we should, that "long" means more than six months--I've yet to find any evidence to back up her claim.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

GOING TO THE MATTRESSES Bringing in new blood? Lawyering up?
Harriet Miers, President Bush's failed Supreme Court nominee, has submitted her resignation as White House counsel, the White House announced Thursday.


He said Miers, a loyal adviser to the president for years, has been having conversations with white House chief of staff Joshua Bolten about leaving for some time and both of them agreed that it was time for a change at the White House office of legal counsel.
Or going to the mattresses?
SONNY: Goddamn it! If I had a wartime consiglieri--a Sicilian--I wouldn't be in this shape! Pop had Genco--look what I got.

(then, after exhaling)

I'm sorry, I didn't mean that.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

EXTRAORDINARY RENDITION David Vine, a friend of CONTRAPOSITIVE, has an excellent op-Ed in Tuesday's Washington Post, documenting the embarrassing, morally-indefensible roles played by of the United States and the United Kingdom in causing--and then prolonging--the plight of the Chagossian people.

If you aren't familiar with the details, it's a truly shocking story. Among the facts:

Beginning in 1968, islanders leaving Chagos for vacations or medical treatment on the island of Mauritius were barred by the British from returning and thus marooned 1,200 miles from their homes. The British soon began restricting supplies for the islands, and by the turn of the decade, more Chagossians were leaving as food and medicines dwindled.

In 1971 the U.S. Navy...ordered the British to complete the removals. First British agents and U.S. soldiers...herded the Chagossians' pet dogs into sealed sheds and gassed and burned them in front of their traumatized owners awaiting deportation. Then, between 1971 and 1973, British agents forced the islanders to board overcrowded cargo ships and left them on the docks in Mauritius and the Seychelles.
Read the rest here.

Monday, January 01, 2007

A GOOD HOT SHOWER Reader MA can't take it anymore. After hearing a week of elite media praise for the Nixon pardon, she offers her dissent, writing:
Tricky Dick got a get out of jail free card. We all felt what we had [already] been through was the challenge... hearings that were remarkable for the way good people of both parties tried hard to do the right thing.

The republic was up to the challenge. Ultimately, the system worked. There WAS NOT this tremendous need for healilng. When Nixon left, there was simply the need to take a good hot shower. In the end, we wanted justice and Ford denied us.

SPITZER COMES ALIVE And now for something completely different.

CONTRAPOSITIVE is edited by Dan Aibel. Dan's a playwright. He lives in New York City.