Monday, January 12, 2009

Offshore Drilling

Offshore Drilling, by Michael Lynch
Master Resource, January 12, 2009

Apparently, an increase in offshore drilling is still on the policy table, which suggests Obama is taking a more rational approach to energy policy than many of his colleagues. Without question, offshore drilling cannot provide ‘energy independence’ (a ludicrous concept, but that’s for another day), but there are numerous benefits and only a trivial downside.

Drilling in the areas now restricted (offshore Florida, the East Coast, and especially California) would provide a number of new jobs, additional oil and gas production, and taxpayer revenues. None would be earth shattering, but magic bullets are few and far between.

More notably, the downsides are few. Some environmentalists express fear of oil spills, but this worry is misplaced. Only one major oil spill has occurred due to offshore drilling: Santa Barbara in the late 1960s. The industry has advanced since then, and massive operations offshore have seen no further major spills. (I am not suggesting the industry should not be regulated or monitored.)

In fact, the worst spills are those from oil tankers, and producing less oil domestically means more tankers in the waters, thus the danger of a catastrophic spill is actually enhanced by not drilling offshore. Although only about half of the world’s oil is transported by tanker, the National Academy of Science estimates that four times as much is spilled from tankers as from exploration.

WaPo: The Senate's confirmation hearings get off to a less-than-edifying start

WaPo Editorial: More Advice, Less Consent
The Senate's confirmation hearings get off to a less-than-edifying start.
The Washington Post, Tuesday, January 13, 2009; Page A14

THE SENATE confirmation process is often viewed in terms of gladiatorial combat: Is the nomination "in trouble"? Will the nominee be roughed up? Will the opposing party get a scalp? A rousing confirmation battle can be fun to watch -- as, no doubt, some found the proceedings in the Colosseum -- but that really shouldn't be the point. Confirmation hearings offer an opportunity for nominees to lay out, to the extent possible, their views about the policy and managerial challenges they will confront, and for lawmakers to lay down markers on issues that matter to them. This is true even -- maybe even especially -- when the Senate is controlled by the same party as the White House. After all, the Constitution contemplates the advice of the Senate as well as its consent.

The process did not start well last week. The hearing on former senator Thomas A. Daschle's nomination as secretary of health and human services was more lovefest than serious discussion of complex policy issues. Nonetheless, Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), the committee's ranking Republican, secured Mr. Daschle's pledge to try to use the regular legislative process to accomplish health-care reform rather than short-circuiting normal Senate rules by folding the measure into what's known as "reconciliation." The hearings for the nominee for labor secretary, Rep. Hilda L. Solis (D-Calif.), were even more disappointing. On numerous issues -- so-called "card check" legislation for union organizing, a Bush-era regulation on overtime pay, an executive order allowing nonunionized companies to obtain federal contracts, state right-to-work laws -- Ms. Solis offered variations on: "That's something that I think I'm not prepared to give you a complete answer on at this time."

This week's confirmation calendar is crowded with a dozen hearings, including for Secretary of State-designate Hillary Rodham Clinton, Attorney General-designate Eric H. Holder Jr. and Education Secretary-designate Arne Duncan. There will be understandable limits to what Ms. Clinton can say, for example, about the situation in Gaza. But it would be helpful for the committee to probe, among other areas, how Ms. Clinton plans to navigate any conflicts between her role as secretary of state and her husband's global foundation; in particular, the committee should study whether the promised disclosure and review of Mr. Clinton's activities could be strengthened.

Mr. Duncan has been hailed as a consensus candidate because his selection pleased people who hold starkly different ideas about how to improve schools. So what does he intend for the landmark No Child Left Behind law? Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) has raised legitimate, significant questions about Mr. Holder's nomination: Does his role in the pardon of financier Marc Rich or other matters give cause for concern about his ability to "maintain his independence from the president," as Mr. Specter put it. Likewise, the concerns expressed by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) about CIA Director-designate Leon Panetta's lack of experience in the intelligence field are eminently reasonable. Mr. Panetta is a knowledgeable and skilled public servant, but it is fair to ask how he proposes to compensate for the fact that this is not his area of expertise.

Except in extraordinary cases, a president is entitled to the Cabinet secretaries of his choice. But the Senate is entitled -- in fact, it is obligated -- to ask probing questions, and to expect, to the maximum possible extent, answers that go beyond, "I'll get back to you on that."

Strengthening Our Japanese Alliance

Strengthening Our Japanese Alliance, by Dan Blumenthal
Why the United States should sell the F-22 to its most important Asian ally.
The Weekly Standard, Jan 08, 2009 @12:00:00 AM

Of the many items on President-elect Obama's foreign policy to-do list, one of the most important long-term tasks is repairing America's relationship with its key Asian ally, Japan. Though often taken for granted by American policymakers, Japan is the linchpin of America's strategic position in Asia. Since the end of World War II, the U.S.-Japan alliance has underwritten the relative peace in Asia that has allowed the region to prosper.

While the relationship was attended to with renewed vigor during the early years of the Bush administration, the outgoing president's North Korea policy and lean toward Beijing has alarmed policymakers in Tokyo, and set the relationship on a downward spiral.

Now the president-elect has a chance to revitalize the Japanese alliance while at the same time creating high paying American jobs during a recession, reducing the costs of recapitalizing its U.S. air fleet, and improving America's strategic position in Asia. How? He can sell the F-22 fifth generation fighter aircraft to Japan.

Tokyo is in the market for a new air-superiority aircraft. The Japan Air Self- Defense Force currently has three fighter jet models in its fleet: an F-15 variant, a Vietnam era F-4, and the F-2 (a longer-range variant of the F-16C). But Japan will begin retiring the F-4 platform entirely early next decade.

To retain its ability to maintain dominance over Japan's airspace, Tokyo needs a fighter that can outperform China's growing fleet of Su-30s. The F-22 is unmatched in range, stealth, speed and reconnaissance capability.

Moreover, since 2001, the United States and Japan have made great strides in their ability to defend against common threats. The two countries have set up a combined air operations center to help meet the growing regional air and missile threat Tokyo's possession of the F-22 would further Washington's longstanding goal of increasing the two countries' interoperability.

Washington's sale of the F-22 to Japan would also help reduce unit costs of the plane for the U.S. Air Force. The USAF originally wanted to purchase 700 to 800 F-22 fighters, but was told they needed to cut their buy to 442, then 381, and finally 180. These cuts have substantially increased the cost per aircraft, and now F-22 production may end by 2010. The U.S. military is concerned about its long-term ability to maintain air dominance in the Asia-Pacific, with China's vast airpower advances. Exporting the F-22 to Japan would keep the production line open and allow the air force to purchase more aircraft at a lower price. An added benefit for the Obama administration is that many good manufacturing jobs would be saved, and created, by producing more F-22s. Approximately 95,000 American (mostly union) workers help produce or are suppliers for the aircraft.

So what are the downsides? Some argue that the F-22's technology is too advanced to sell to anyone and that Japan has already leaked information about its Aegis- class destroyer. But if Washington's defense policy of building strong partnerships is to have any real meaning, it must be ready to sell advanced technology to key allies. Washington's technology transfer policies remained mired in Cold War-thinking, designed to keep U.S. technology out of the hands of the Soviets. Today, there is broad consensus in the defense policy-making community that U.S. arms sales policy should be to build up the strength and capacity of allies to defend themselves. It is time to change a policy that does the reverse. Moreover, Japan has no record of proliferating advanced technology.

Others say that the sale of F-22s to Japan will enrage South Korea and "create an arms race" with China. Is it true that South Korea, America's other key ally in Northeast Asia is, for historical reasons, still suspicious of Tokyo. Washington can mitigate these concerns by pushing for closer three way ties among Seoul, Tokyo, and Washington, while quietly urging Japan to be more forthcoming about its past with South Korea. Tokyo has no aggressive intent, and regards South Korea as an ally. And, there is no reason why South Korea should be prohibited from buying the F-22 if they indicate an interest.

The China question is somewhat more complex. There may be an emerging "arms race" in Asia, but so far only one country is off to the races: China. Over the past decade it has deployed more that 1,000 ballistic and cruise missiles and 300 advanced fighter aircraft to its Southern coast. Japan, for obvious reasons, is concerned. The task for the U.S.-Japan alliance is to maintain a regional political system that China does not dominate. At this stage, this means a greater military presence in the region to check China's destabilizing military advances.

The time has come to stop talking about the need for a favorable balance of power in Asia, and to begin to act. Exporting the F-22 to Japan makes sound strategic and military sense. President-elect Obama could improve alliance relations, further America's Asia-Pacific defense policy, and create good jobs at home. Once alliance relations are righted, the United States and its allies can continue to engage China on issues of common interest from a position of strength.

Dan Blumenthal is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.

Common Values, Shared Interests: The United States and Its Promise in the Western Hemisphere

Common Values, Shared Interests: The United States and Its Promise in the Western Hemisphere
Mon, 12 Jan 2009 11:30:10 -0600

“Our two continents are becoming more than neighbors united by the accident of geography. We’re becoming a community linked by common values and shared interests in the close bonds of family and friendship. These growing ties have helped advance peace and prosperity on both continents.”– President George W. Bush, March 5, 2007

“The United States has a broad policy in Latin America where we stand for social justice based on economic growth and economic development, where we stand for equality for women and for people of different racial backgrounds.”– Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, March 13, 2008

It is a great fortune of the United States to share a hemisphere with so many nations that have adopted a common vision for their peoples, a vision which allows citizens the freedom to shape their political destiny and pursue unbounded economic opportunity. The United States shares more than geography and values with these nations; it shares challenges that cross borders and the responsibility to address those challenges with its partners in the hemisphere. The United States has demonstrated its commitment to strengthen the ability of democracies and market economies to deliver what citizens want: economic and social development, reduction of poverty and inequality, and secure homes and communities. In 2008, U.S. official assistance to the region totaled over $1.9 billion. U.S. engagement was built on the four pillars of its Americas policy: promoting prosperity, investing in people, protecting the security of the democratic state, and consolidating democracy. President Bush’s visit to Peru in November – his 13th to the Western Hemisphere – underscored the U.S. promise of sustained, enduring engagement.

Promoting Prosperity

Delivering the benefits of free markets, trade, and economic integration to all citizens is one of the biggest challenges facing democratic governments in the Americas. Access to economic opportunity and the social mobility that it creates is a fundamental component of social justice. The United States helps to create economic opportunity in the Americas through its support for free trade agreements, which the United States now has with countries encompassing two-thirds of the gross domestic product of the hemisphere. Additionally, through foreign assistance programs, particularly the Millennium Challenge Corporation, the United States fights corruption, promotes the rule of law, and creates the kind of democratic and just governance necessary to ensure economic opportunity is not limited to elites, but instead courses through society.

Pathways to Prosperity in the Americas: President Bush and leaders from 11 of the 12 countries with which the United States has signed free trade agreements in the hemisphere launched the Pathways to Prosperity in the Americas initiative in New York in September. “Pathways” is intended to ensure that the benefits of trade are more broadly shared throughout societies. The leaders agreed to work jointly to increase opportunities for citizens, particularly small businesses and farmers, to take advantage of trade; link markets more closely; expand regional cooperation on competitiveness; and enhance cooperation on labor and environmental standards and enforcement. In December, a plan of action to move these objectives forward in practical ways was adopted, and the leaders committed to meeting in 2009 to assess progress on Pathways goals.

Millennium Challenge Corporation: Through the Millennium Challenge Corporation, the United States continued disbursement of nearly $1 billion in support to El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Guyana, and Peru. These programs support efforts to eliminate corruption, promote transparency, improve healthcare and education, and build roads that connect people and markets.

Biofuels Partnership: The United States and Brazil worked to develop global and regional markets for ethanol and biodiesel in nine countries, with the goal of giving countries in Central America, the Caribbean and Africa a promising new domestic fuel source that will reduce dependence on imported fuels and help governments develop local, sustainable biofuels industries. This followed a memorandum of understanding between the United States and Brazil in 2007 to advance biofuels cooperation.

Chile-California Partnership for the 21st Century: In early 2008, the United States and Chile launched an initiative that builds on natural geographic and climatic symmetries between Chile and the State of California in areas of energy, agriculture, education, innovation and the environment. Chilean President Bachelet met with California Governor Schwarzenegger in June to provide further impetus to the initiative, which pairs prestigious California universities with Chilean counterparts and also promotes business and cultural ties.

U.S.-Brazil Economic Partnership Dialogue: The United States and Brazil held the second and third sessions of the Economic Partnership Dialogue to further strengthen and expand economic cooperation and to address the challenges of globalization. Topics included investment, infrastructure, telecommunications, innovation, agriculture, civil aviation and import safety. Both countries also agreed to continue to promote social inclusion and social justice as key goals of economic development.

Investing in People

All citizens should benefit from the opportunities of democracy. The United States seeks to unlock the vast potential of the Americas by working with its partners to invest in people through improved education and training, health care, access to capital, economic infrastructure, and security for families and their property.

Continuing Promise Deployments to Latin America: Under “Continuing Promise,” two U.S. Navy amphibious ships took health care and other relief services to nine Latin American and Caribbean nations during a humanitarian and civic assistance mission. Medical and engineering crews aboard the USS Boxer worked alongside partner nation officials to provide services in El Salvador, Guatemala and Peru. During its four-month mission, the USS Kearsarge visited Haiti, Nicaragua, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Trinidad and Tobago, and Guyana, delivering 3.3 million pounds of food, water and other aid to communities that were devastated by a succession of storms (Fay, Gustav, Hanna and Ike).

Hurricane Recovery Assistance: The United States led the donor community’s response to four successive tropical storms that disrupted the lives of 850,000 people in Haiti, providing $31.6 million in food and emergency commodities in addition to logistical coordination and transportation assistance from the U.S. Navy, U.S. Coast Guard, and the Centers for Disease Control. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) proposes to spend $96.5 million in Haiti over the next 3 years on restoring public services, rebuilding infrastructure, and strengthening disaster preparedness and mitigation.

Widespread destruction from Tropical Storm Gustav in Jamaica damaged roads, bridges, houses, livelihoods, agriculture crops and led to loss of livestock across the island. In immediate response, USAID provided $308,000 in emergency relief supplies, and an additional $5 million in U.S. emergency foreign assistance is slated for Jamaica’s agriculture, infrastructure and education sectors.

The United States also made unprecedented offers of hurricane relief assistance to Cuba to help in the recovery from the severe damage caused by these hurricanes. The Cuban government declined more than $5 million in assistance offered on an unconditional basis, but U.S. aid was provided through international organizations. The United States also facilitated humanitarian donations by individuals and NGOs, authorizing $104 million in such assistance in the first two months following the hurricanes.

The U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR): From fiscal year 2004-2008, the American people through PEPFAR have provided more than $636 million to Latin America and the Caribbean in support of HIV prevention, treatment and care programs, including more than $169 million in fiscal year 2008. With PEPFAR support, as of September 30, 2008, approximately 20,000 men, women and children are receiving life-saving antiretroviral treatment. In addition, since 2002, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria committed a maximum of $1 billion for HIV/AIDS programs in Latin America and the Caribbean. The U.S. government is the largest contributor to the Global Fund, having provided approximately 30 percent of all resources to date.

Partnership for Breast Cancer Awareness and Research of the Americas: As announced by First Lady Laura Bush in Panama in November, Panama joined the Partnership for Breast Cancer Awareness, which unites experts from the United States, Brazil, Costa Rica, Mexico and Panama in the fight against breast cancer. The initiative brings together the University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, the Susan G. Komen for the Cure, the Institute of International Education, and the strong commitment of the U.S. Government. These partners work to give women the knowledge and confidence to take charge of their own health.

Partnership for Latin American Youth (PLAY): The United States expanded its multi-year education initiative PLAY to provide micro-scholarships to learn English, to participate in high school exchanges in the United States and throughout the region, and to attend community colleges in the United States. PLAY brought together thousands of U.S. and regional youth over the course of the year to learn and share experiences.

Sports Diplomacy Envoys: U.S. public diplomacy and sports envoys shared their time and talents with youth and coaches across the region. The lineup included Baseball Hall of Famers Rod Carew and Cal Ripken, Jr. in Nicaragua; world champion figure skater Michelle Kwan in Argentina; two-time Olympic soccer gold medalist and World Cup champion Cindy Parlow Cone and Women’s National Soccer Team staff coach Jeff Pill in El Salvador; former Major League Baseball player Elias Sosa and the Southern Command allstar baseball team to Panama and Nicaragua; former baseball all-star Barry Larkin to Colombia; Armed Forces baseball players to the Dominican Republic, Panama, and Nicaragua; and collegiate volleyball coaches Erikka Gulbranson and Ashley Dean to Brazil.

Protecting the Democratic State

In recent years, the United States and its regional partners have fundamentally transformed the security agenda for the Americas and forged a consensus on the vital link between security and prosperity. Today’s challenge is to confront both traditional and nontraditional threats, including organized crime, terrorism, gangs, natural disasters and pandemics. Protecting the people of the Americas from these regional threats strengthens democracy, promotes social justice, advances human rights, and creates a secure space for citizens and states to pursue economic prosperity.

The Merida Initiative: In mid-2008, the U.S. Congress appropriated $465 million to support the President’s multi-year security cooperation initiative with Mexico, Central America, the Dominican Republic and Haiti to combat the threats of drug trafficking, transnational crime and terrorism to these countries and the United States. This new strategic partnership has already paid dividends in the form of increased arrests of major traffickers, record seizures of weapons, and reduced flows of drugs, guns and cash across borders.

U.S.-SICA (Central American Integration System) Security Dialogue: The United States hosted the Second U.S.-SICA Dialogue in December. The discussion focused on pressing regional security threats, such as criminal gangs, drug trafficking and illicit trafficking in arms. Both Mexico and Colombia participated in the Dialogue as observers. Other topics addressed included implementation of the Merida Initiative and actions taken by Central American countries to combat security threats in the region.

Continuing Progress in Colombia: With strong bipartisan support since 2000, the United States has helped Colombia turn a corner in bringing security, prosperity, and justice to its citizens. U.S. support to Colombia, both bilaterally and through the Organization of American States’ Mission to Support the Peace Process (OAS/MAPP), is designed to help the country consolidate this success by accelerating economic growth and ensuring that the government provides social services to all its citizens. The Colombian government recognizes the need to expand programs in remote rural areas and to increase the emphasis placed on security, social services, and assistance for especially vulnerable groups, such as the Afro-Colombian population on Colombia’s Pacific coast, indigenous communities and displaced persons. Over the last decade, U.S. support has helped Colombia advance in its protection and promotion of human rights, but much more remains to be done. The United States is committed to supporting and encouraging Colombia in this endeavor.

Security and Prosperity Partnership: The United States updated its bilateral agreements with Canada and Mexico on cross-border emergency management and undertook negotiations to improve North American capacity to recall unsafe food and products. Canada and the United States also signed an agreement to harmonize trusted shipper programs, allowing shippers to comply with a unified set of security requirements. The United States worked closely with businesses in the North American Competitiveness Council to create new initiatives to improve competitiveness in the region. U.S. cooperation with Mexico and Canada now reaches beyond North America; at the New Orleans Summit in April, President Bush and his counterparts from Canada and Mexico agreed to provide funding to the Red Cross to stockpile emergency supplies in Panama to respond to emergencies throughout the region.

North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD): In 2008, the United States and Canada celebrated the 50th anniversary of the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), a joint U.S.-Canada command dedicated to the common defense of North American air space.

Consolidating Democracy

The United States is committed to fostering democratic governance and protecting human rights and fundamental liberties in the Americas. The United States engages bilaterally and multilaterally to help its partners in the Americas strengthen democratic institutions and attack corruption, poverty, inequality, and social exclusion. The United States stands up to tyranny, especially in Cuba, and works to ensure that all the peoples of the Americas have the right and the opportunity to enjoy and express their citizenship in all its dimensions: political, economic and social.

Effective Multilateral Engagement: The United States increased its contribution to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) to an historic high of $1,360,000 in 2008, with special budgetary support given to the Commission’s rapporteurs on freedom of expression, the rights of women and Afro-descendents, as well as its unit for human rights defenders. In addition to contributing funds allowing for the reconstruction of civil registry information affected by Shining Path activities in Huancavelica, Peru, the United States supported OAS universal birth registration activities in the Caribbean through the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States. The United States also provided critical support for the Third Meeting of the Association of Caribbean Electoral Organizations.

Summit of the Americas: President Bush attended every Summit of the Americas during his administration, starting with the Third Summit in 2001 in Quebec City, the Special Summit in 2004 in Nuevo Leon, and the Fourth Summit in 2005 in Mar del Plata. It is the only forum in which every democratically-elected head of state in the Western Hemisphere meets to find ways to work together on common priorities for the people of the Americas. The Summits led to the signing of the Inter-American Democratic Charter, encompassing hemispheric commitments to improve education, fight HIV/AIDS, combat corruption, provide loans to small and medium-sized businesses, reduce the cost of remittances, and improve the region’s infrastructure and competitiveness. The United States has been an important partner in pursuing these priorities through diplomatic engagement and development programs. The Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs is actively engaged in ensuring that the Fifth Summit of the Americas in April of 2009 in Port of Spain will also lead to constructive partnerships that will continue to improve the lives of citizens.

Electoral Observation Missions: In 2008, the United States provided major funding for observation by the Organization of American States (OAS) of electoral processes in Paraguay, the Dominican Republic, Grenada, Honduras, Ecuador and Bolivia. Additionally, to help address democratic institutional weaknesses in Bolivia, the Secretary General of the OAS, with U.S. funding and support, deployed a team of democracy practitioners to assist the country in the areas of legal, judicial, electoral, and citizen participation reform. The United States also supported initial OAS efforts to undertake an audit of the voter registry of Bolivia, in response to an official request by the country’s National Electoral Court.

Commitment to the Cuban people: President Bush joined in the international celebration of Cuba Solidarity Day in May to highlight the aspiration of the Cuban people for freedom and democracy in their country, as well as the need for the Cuban government to unconditionally release political prisoners as a first step in establishing a positive dialogue with its own people. Solidarity Day included public events in Europe and Latin America and commemorations organized by U.S. Embassies throughout the world. The United States also continued the disbursement of $80 million of economic support funds to promote democracy and advance civil society in Cuba and initiated a program for Cuban students to receive Partnership for Latin American Youth scholarships. As part of a broader effort to foster greater openness and communication in Cuba, the United States authorized American citizens to send mobile phones to their relatives in Cuba.

Enhancing Inter-Regional Cooperation: Building upon the success of the 2007 OAS-African Union Democracy Bridge endorsed by the Community of Democracies, the United States supported the joint training of OAS and African Union (AU) technical experts in Mozambique. The OAS, with strong U.S. support, sent a team to observe jointly with the African Union the first elections held in Angola since the end of the country’s 27-year civil war. This marked the first OAS electoral observation deployment outside the Western Hemisphere. Parallel to these initiatives, the United States also supported IACHR efforts to strengthen collaboration with the African human rights system, particularly the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, in response to mandates of the 2007 OAS General Assembly supporting increased inter-regional cooperation.

Joint Action Plan for Racial Equality: The United States and Brazil signed in March a Joint Action Plan to Eliminate Racial and Ethnic Discrimination and Promote Equality. The plan was officially launched in Brasilia with the first meeting of the Steering Committee, comprised of agencies from both governments, and the announcement of initial activities. These include an International Visitor Program for Brazilian leaders in the public, non-governmental and academic sectors to meet U.S. counterparts and observe U.S. models; student and professor exchanges between Xavier University, an historically Black university in New Orleans, and a counterpart university in Sao Paulo; and a Department of Labor-funded project to eliminate child labor in the state of Bahia. The inaugural Steering Committee meeting also brought in representatives from U.S. and Brazilian non-governmental organizations and academia for thematic discussions whose results were offered to the Steering Committee as guidance for future initiatives.

Kristol in TNYT: BHO's foreign policy will be "Continuity We Can Believe In"

Continuity We Can Believe In, by William Kristol
TNYT, January 12, 2009, page A23



And he seems to be going for the no-dramatic-change-in-policy-in-the-White-House alternative as well. Consider Obama’s reaction when George Stephanopoulos played a clip of Dick Cheney counseling Obama not to implement his campaign rhetoric until he’s fully briefed on the details of the Bush administration’s counterterrorism policy.

“I think that was pretty good advice, which is I should know what’s going on before we make judgments and that we shouldn’t be making judgments on the basis of incomplete information or campaign rhetoric. So I’ve got no quibble with that particular quote,” said Obama. Usually, presidents pretend their campaign positions are more than “campaign rhetoric.” Not Obama.


Obama did note that he differs with Cheney on “some things that we know happened,” including waterboarding. And he did reiterate his pledge to close Guantánamo. But he warned that it was “more difficult than I think a lot of people realize,” explaining that while he was committed to the rule of law, he wasn’t interested “in releasing people who are intent on blowing us up.”

And at one point he returned, unbidden, to the much-maligned vice president, commenting, “I thought that Dick Cheney’s advice was good.”

Perhaps the president-elect was just being polite. Or perhaps he just enjoys torturing (metaphorically!) some of his previously most ardent supporters who want Dick Cheney tried as a war criminal.

In fact, Stephanopoulos asked about that. He pointed to a popular question on Obama’s Web site about whether he’ll appoint a special prosecutor to investigate “the greatest crimes of the Bush administration, including torture and warrantless wiretapping.” Obama stipulated that no one should be above the law. But he praised C.I.A. employees, and said he didn’t want them “looking over their shoulders and lawyering.” He took the general view “that when it comes to national security, what we have to focus on is getting things right in the future, as opposed to looking at what we got wrong in the past.”

With respect to the Middle East, Obama didn’t even say we’d gotten much wrong in the past. Asked by Stephanopoulos whether his policy would build on Bush’s or would be a clean break, Obama answered, “if you look not just at the Bush administration, but also what happened under the Clinton administration, you are seeing the general outlines of an approach.” So: No break.

Meanwhile, the Obama transition team’s chief national security spokeswoman, Brooke Anderson, was denying a press report that Obama’s advisers were urging him to initiate low-level or clandestine contacts with Hamas as a prelude to change in policy. Anderson told The Jerusalem Post that the story wasn’t accurate, and reminded one and all that Obama “has repeatedly stated that he believes that Hamas is a terrorist organization dedicated to Israel’s destruction, and that we should not deal with them until they recognize Israel, renounce violence and abide by past agreements.”

On Iran, Obama did say he’d be taking “a new approach,” that “engagement is the place to start” with “a new emphasis on being willing to talk.” But he also reminded Stephanopoulos that the Iranian regime is exporting terrorism through Hamas and Hezbollah and is “pursuing a nuclear weapon that could potentially trigger a nuclear arms race in the Middle East.” He said his willingness to talk would be combined with “clarity about what our bottom lines are” — one of them presumably being, as he’s said before, no Iranian nuclear weapons. And he demonstrated a sense of urgency — “we anticipate that we’re going to have to move swiftly in that area.”

So: After talks with Iran (if they happen) fail to curb Iran’s nuclear program, but (perhaps) impress other nations with our good faith, we’ll presumably get greater international support for sanctions. That will also (unfortunately) fail to deter Iran. “Engagement is the place to start,” Obama said, but it’s not likely to be the place Obama ends. He’ll end up where Bush is — with the choice of using force or acquiescing to the idea of a nuclear Iran.


RealClimate: Communicating the Science of Climate Change

Communicating the Science of Climate Change, by Mike Donald
Real Climate, January 12, 2009 @ 9:14 AM

It is perhaps self-evident that those of us here at RealClimate have a keen interest in the topic of science communication. A number of us have written books aimed at communicating the science to the lay public, and have participated in forums devoted to the topic of science communication (see e.g. here, here, and here). We have often written here about the challenges of communicating science to the public in the modern media environment (see e.g. here, here, and here).

It is naturally our pleasure, in this vein, to bring to the attention of our readers a masterful new book on this topic by veteran environmental journalist and journalism educator Bud Ward. The book, entitled Communicating on Climate Change: An Essential Resource for Journalists, Scientists, and Educators, details the lessons learned in a series of Metcalf Institute workshops held over the past few years, funded by the National Science Foundation, and co-organized by Ward and AMS senior science and communications fellow Tony Socci. These workshops have collectively brought together numerous leading members of the environmental journalism and climate science communities in an effort to develop recommendations that might help bridge the cultural divide between these two communities that sometimes impedes accurate and effective science communication.

I had the privilege of participating in a couple of the workshops, including the inaugural workshop in Rhode Island in November 2003. The discussions emerging from these workshops were, at least in part, the inspiration behind "RealClimate". The workshops formed the foundation for this new book, which is an appropriate resource for scientists, journalists, editors, and others interested in science communication and popularization. In addition to instructive chapters such as "Science for Journalism", "Journalism for Scientists" and "What Institutions Can Do", the book is interspersed with a number of insightful essays by leading scientists (e.g. "Mediarology–The Role of Climate Scientists in Debunking Climate Change Myths" by Stephen Schneider) and environmental journalists (e.g. "Hot Words" by Andy Revkin). We hope this book will serve as a standard reference for how to effectively communicate the science of climate change.

"Fiel a los últimos ocho años, Paulson no da explicaciones sobre su estrategia, no responde las preguntas y no lleva siquiera claras las cuentas"

Sent to Gabriel Herrero's blog in the federally owned Spanish radio and TV company, RTVE, as comment to this post:

Respecto a "Fiel a los últimos ocho años, Paulson no da explicaciones sobre su estrategia, no responde las preguntas y no lleva siquiera claras las cuentas", indudablemente siempre se puede hacer mejor. Sin embargo, los comités del Congreso, celosos de sus poderes y preocupados sinceramente por sus deberes con los ciudadanos, pueden ser y son con frequencia un poquito dramáticos con sus explicaciones y sus informes. Vean discursos, minutas de reuniones, informes periódicos o irregulares, etc., enviados por el departamento [de Mr Paulson] al Congreso:

1 Explicaciones de Treasury Dept. en forma de press releases & statements (formato de fecha: mes/día/año):

01/06/2009 Treasury Releases Congressional Report on EESA
01/02/2009 Treasury Releases Guidelines for Targeted Investment Program
01/02/2009 Treasury Releases Emergency Economic Stabilization Report
12/31/2008 Treasury Releases Responses to Congressional Oversight Panel
12/29/2008 Treasury Announces TARP Investment in GMAC
12/23/2008 Treasury Provides TARP Funds to Local Banks
12/19/2008 Secretary Paulson’s Statement on Stabilizing the Auto Industry
12/19/2008 Treasury Term Sheets for Automotive Plan
12/17/2008 Treasury Hires Legal Firm Under the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act
12/10/2008 Interim Asst Sec Kashkari Testimony Before House Financial Services Committee
12/08/2008 Interim Asst Sec Kashkari Update on the TARP Program
12/05/2008 Interim Asst Sec Kashkari Remarks on Financial Markets and TARP Update
12/04/2008 Kashkari Testimony Before Senate Appropriations Financial Services Subcommittee
12/01/2008 Paulson Remarks on the U.S. Economy and Financial System
11/25/2008 Secretary Paulson Remarks on Consumer ABS Lending Facility
11/25/2008 Treasury Provides TARP Funds to Federal Reserve Consumer ABS Lending Facility
11/23/2008 Joint Statement by Treasury, Fed and the FDIC on Citigroup
11/19/2008/ Interim Assistant Secretary Kashkari Remarks on Implementation of the EESA
11/18/2008 Paulson Testimony before the House Committee on Financial Services
11/17/2008 Treasury Releases Capital Purchase Program Term Sheet for Privately Held Financial Institutions
11/14/2008 Interim Asst Sec Kashkari Testimony Before House Committee on Oversight and Govt. Reform
11/12/2008 Paulson Remarks on Financial Rescue Package and Economic Update
11/10/2008 Interim Asst Sec Kashkari Remarks at SIFMA Summit on the TARP 11/10/2008 Treasury to Invest in AIG Restructuring 11/07/2008 Treasury Announces Solicitation for Financial Agents
11/03/2008 Treasury Hires Legal Firms Under the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act 10/28/2008 Acting Under Sec Ryan Remarks at the SIFMA Annual Meeting
10/23/2008 Interim Asst Sec Kashkari Testimony Before Senate Banking Committee
10/22/2008 Treasury Names Interim Chief Investment Officer for TARP 10/21/2008 Treasury Hires Accounting Firms Under the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act
10/20/2008 Paulson Statement on Capital Purchase Program10/20/2008 Treasury Issues Guidance on Capital Purchase Program
10/16/2008 Treasury Hires Legal Adviser Under the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act10/14/2008 U.S. Government Actions to Strengthen Market Stability 10/14/2008 Treasury Announces Executive Compensation Rules Under the EESA
10/14/2008 Treasury Announces TARP Capital Purchase Program Description
10/14/2008 Joint Statement by Treasury, Federal Reserve and FDIC
10/14/2008 Paulson Statement on Actions to Protect the U.S. Economy
10/14/2008 Treasury Hires Custodian Under the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act
10/13/2008 Treasury Hires Investment Adviser Under the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act
10/13/2008 Interim Asst Sec Kashkari Remarks on Implementation of Economic Stabilization Act
10/06/2008 Treasury Announces Solicitations for Financial Agents
10/06/2008 Kashkari Appointed Interim Assistant Secretary for Financial Stability 10/06/2008 Procurement Authorities and Procedures
10/06/2008 Statement by the President’s Working Group on Financial Markets
10/03/2008 Paulson Statement on Bill Passage
09/29/2008 Paulson Statement on Emergency Economic Stabilization Act Vote
09/28/2008 Paulson Statement on Emergency Economic Stabilization Act
09/24/2008 Paulson Testimony before the House
09/23/2008 Paulson Testimony before the Senate
09/22/2008 G7 Statement on Global Financial Market Turmoil
09/19/2008 Statement on Comprehensive Approach to Market Developments

2 Informes enviados al Congreso sobre transacciones del programa conocido como TARP (mes/día/año, PDFs):


3 Los llamados tranche reports (mes/día/año, PDFs):
1/8/2009 Tranche Report
12/02/2008 Tranche Report
11/21/2008 Tranche Report
11/03/3008 Tranche Report

4 Explicaciones sobre los programas generados a partir de la legislación EESA (PDFs):

. Capital Purchase Program
. Systemically Significant Failing Institutions Program
. Automotive Industry Financing Program
. Targeted Investment Program

5 Report to Congress Pursuant to Section 102 of the EES Act: Dec 31, 2008, PDF

6 Reports to Congress Pursuant to Section 105 of the EES Act, PDFs:
Jan 06, 2009Dec 05, 2008

7 Interim Assistant Secretary for Financial Stability Neel Kashkari Remarks at Brookings Institution, Jan 08, 2009:

8 Remarks by Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson, Jr. on The Role of the GSEs in Supporting the Housing Recovery before the Economic Club of Washington, Treasury Dept, January 7, 2009:

9 Minutas de reuniones: Financial Stability Oversight Board (mes/día/año):


Todos estos documentos se pueden pedir al servicio de prensa de la embajada más cercana. Si quieren nos los pueden pedir a nosotros.

Para estar al tanto de los nuevos documentos que se produzcan, pueden suscribirse a un servicio de envío por e-mail del propio Treasury Dept.:

Jorge Mata
Bipartisan Alliance

WaPo: House Democrats did not live up to their promises to treat the minority fairly

Irregular Order
House Democrats did not live up to their promises to treat the minority fairly in the 110th Congress. And the 111th?

Washington Post Editorial, Monday, January 12, 2009; page A12

"BILLS SHOULD generally come to the floor under a procedure that allows open, full and fair debate consisting of a full amendment process that grants the minority the right to offer its alternatives, including a substitute." So promised Nancy Pelosi, now House speaker, before her party regained control of Congress two years ago. That fairness, it turned out, was easier to preach than practice.

When they took over in 2007, Democrats set aside their pledge in order to muscle through their agenda during the first 100 hours; their promises continued to prove hollow in the ensuing months. As with the GOP takeover in 1994 and its accompanying pledges of open debate and fair treatment, Democrats' asserted good intentions yielded to the realities of governing in the face of an opposing party more interested in making mischief than law. Democrats brought more measures to the House floor under closed rules -- permitting no amendments -- than any of the six previous Republican-controlled congresses.

As Sarah Binder, Thomas Mann and Molly Reynolds put it in a new report from the Brookings Institution, "Democratic leaders in 2007 quickly concluded that implacable opposition to their agenda by President Bush and the Republican congressional leadership, combined with the 60-vote hurdle in the Senate, made it virtually impossible to return to regular order in committee, on the floor or in conference and still advance their agenda. . . . Their pledge to curb the procedural abuses of the previous Republican majority would for the most part have to be set aside. The choice was not surprising. Still, it had the effect of exacerbating partisan tensions in Congress and further fouling the toxic atmosphere permeating Washington."

A first-day-of-session skirmish over new House rules suggests that the situation in the 111th Congress may not be much better. The dispute involved a particularly arcane aspect of the rules: whether a "motion to recommit," essentially the minority's right to offer an alternative, must include the word "forthwith," in which case the alternative is immediately adopted if approved, or whether it can use the word "promptly," in which case the measure is sent back to committee and effectively killed for the time being. Democrats tightened the rules to end the latter practice, which had become a popular tool in the previous Congress. They argued that Republicans had repeatedly abused these motions, wording them to put vulnerable members in a bind by having to choose between killing a bill or taking a politically unpalatable vote destined to turn up in a 30-second attack ad. What was taken away, House Rules Committee Chairman Louise M. Slaughter (D-N.Y.), told us, was "a gimmick that was used to kill bills. . . . The intent was to bring up guns, abortion, illegals -- whatever they wanted to, even if it had nothing to do with the bill."

Republicans countered that Democrats were unfairly limiting one of their few procedural powers. "A rules package that literally shreds the Obama vision" of bipartisanship, charged California Republican David Dreier, the ranking member of the Rules Committee. His complaints seem hyperbolic. "I'm not that upset about this being a major diminishment of minority rights," Donald Wolfensberger, the former Republican staff director of the rules panel, told us.

But there is a legitimate concern about whether the House can return to a semblance of "regular order": committee hearings and markups rather than measures brought precipitously to the floor with little time for review; reasonable allowance for amendments on the floor rather than closed rules allowing no changes; and conferences to resolve differences between the chambers rather than leadership-dictated products. With a bolstered majority and a new president promoting bipartisanship, House Democrats ought to try loosening the reins -- and Republicans ought to show that they are more interested in writing legislation than playing political gotcha.

Joel I Klein and Al Sharpton: Charter Schools Can Close the Education Gap

Charter Schools Can Close the Education Gap. By Joel I Klein and Al Sharpton
It is not acceptable for minority students to be four grade levels behind.

Dear President-elect Barack Obama,

In the afterglow of your election, Americans today run the risk of forgetting that the nation still faces one last great civil-rights battle: closing the insidious achievement gap between minority and white students. Public education is supposed to be the great equalizer in America. Yet today the average 12th-grade black or Hispanic student has the reading, writing and math skills of an eighth-grade white student.

That appalling four-year gap is even worse in high-poverty high schools, which often are dropout factories. In Detroit, just 34% of black males manage to graduate. In the nation's capital -- home to one of the worst public-school systems in America -- only 9% of ninth-grade students go on to graduate and finish college within five years. Can this really be the shameful civil-rights legacy that we bequeath to poor black and Hispanic children in today's global economy?

This achievement gap cannot be narrowed by a series of half-steps from the usual suspects. As you observed when naming Chicago superintendent Arne Duncan to be the next secretary of education, "We have talked our education problems to death in Washington." Genuine school reform, you stated during the campaign, "will require leaders in Washington who are willing to learn from students and teachers . . . about what actually works."

We, too, believe that true education reform can only be brought about by a bipartisan coalition that challenges the entrenched education establishment. And we second your belief that school reformers must demonstrate an unflagging commitment to "what works" to dramatically boost academic achievement -- rather than clinging to reforms that we "wish would work."

Those beliefs led us to form a nonpartisan coalition last year, the Education Equality Project (EEP), which seeks to greatly narrow, if not eliminate, the achievement gap. Mr. Duncan has signed on to the EEP, as have most of the nation's leading big-city school superintendents, such as Paul Vallas in New Orleans, Michelle Rhee in Washington, D.C., and Colorado's new U.S. senator, former Denver superintendent Michael Bennet. Mayors Richard M. Daley in Chicago, Michael Bloomberg in New York City, Adrian Fenty in Washington, D.C., and Cory Booker in Newark, N.J., are on board, too. Several prominent Republicans, including John McCain and Newt Gingrich, have joined our coalition as well.

EEP seeks to ensure that America's schools provide equal educational opportunity, judged by one measuring stick: Does a policy advance student learning? It's an obvious litmus test. Yet the current K-12 school system is designed to serve the interests of adults, not children.

EEP's mission thus turns out to be unexpectedly radical -- and we have run afoul at times of longtime Democratic allies. While we recognize that the No Child Left Behind law has numerous flaws that need correcting, we staunchly support NCLB's core concept that schools should be held accountable for boosting student performance. Dismissing the potential of schools to substantially boost minority achievement, as is now fashionable in some Democratic circles, is ultimately little more than a recipe for defeatism. Like you, we also support expanding parental choice. High-performing urban charter schools such as the KIPP (Knowledge Is Power Program) schools are showing that minority students can close the achievement gap if given access to high-quality instruction.

Finally, our coalition also promotes the development and placement of effective teachers in underserved schools and supports paying them higher salaries. By contrast, we oppose rigid union-tenure protections, burdensome work rules, and antiquated pay structures that shield a small minority of incompetent teachers from scrutiny yet stop good teachers from earning substantial, performance-based pay raises.

What can you and your administration do to close the achievement gap? Although the funding and oversight of public schools is chiefly a state and local responsibility, you still retain the power of the bully pulpit. Beyond expanding federal support for charter schools, as you have proposed, we would urge you to press forward with two other, far-reaching policy reforms.

First, the federal government, working with the governors, should develop national standards and assessments for student achievement. Our current state-by-state approach has spawned a race to the bottom, with many states dumbing down standards to make it easier for students to pass achievement tests. Even when students manage to graduate from today's inner-city high schools, they all too frequently are still wholly unprepared for college or gainful employment.

Second, the federal government should take most of the more than $30 billion it now spends on K-12 education and reposition the funding to support the recruitment and retention of the best teachers in underserved urban schools. High-poverty urban schools have many teachers who make heroic efforts to educate their students. But there is no reward for excellence in inner-city schools when an outstanding science teacher earns the same salary as a mediocre phys-ed instructor.

Study after study shows that good teachers have, by far, the highest impact on student learning. "The single most important factor in determining [student] achievement is not the color of [a student's] skin or where they come from," you stated on the campaign trail. "It's not who their parents are or how much money they have -- it's who their teacher is." We couldn't agree more. To close the achievement gap, start with a three-word solution: Teachers, teachers, teachers. The fierce urgency of now cannot be allowed to dissipate into the sleepy status quo of tomorrow.

Mr. Klein, chancellor of the New York City Department of Education, and Rev. Sharpton, president of the National Action Network, are co-chairmen of the Education Equality Project.