Thursday, January 29, 2009

Conservative views: Opportunities exist to work with President Obama on space security

Securing Space, by Eric Sayers & Jeffrey Dressler
Opportunities exist to work with President Obama on space security.
Weekly Standard, Jan 29, 2009

As Washington remains engulfed in discussion over expected foreign policy shifts on hot-button issues like Iran and Afghanistan, one critical policy area that is primed for far-reaching modifications, yet receiving little attention, is the future of U.S. space security.

Critics of the Bush administration charge that his approach was as unproductive as it was controversial. The U.S. National Space Policy of 2006, including its dismissal of any legal regime to limit U.S. action in space; the January 2007 Chinese anti-satellite (ASAT) test targeting a weather satellite; and the February 2008 intercept of a damaged U.S. spy satellite have contributed to, or are the product of, an unnecessarily hostile approach to space security that has only served to make us less safe.

Thus, it's likely that the Obama administration will make a significant departure from the policies the Bush administration pursued. While recognizing the strategic importance of space, President Obama has chosen to offer the solution of an international treaty banning space weapons, or at the very least a discussion of "rules of the road" for space, as the solution for securing the nation's space assets. The feasibility of this policy and its desirability for U.S. interests has been widely questioned, perhaps most succinctly by the work of Ashley Tellis of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Although Tellis and others contend that this approach would be detrimental for U.S. security, elections have consequences and the direction President Obama chooses on space issues will be his to chart.

Those who may not agree with the approach the administration is likely to take would do well to identify and bolster support for programs that align with Obama's principles and can still play a beneficial role in securing America's access to space. Prominent amongst such initiatives are defensive-minded space systems, including the Operationally Responsive Space (ORS) program that aims to provide low-cost, miniaturized satellites that can be used to surge U.S. satellite capabilities or reconstitute those that have been damaged or destroyed.

President Obama recognizes that space is "critical to our national security and economy." This is an accurate and widely held view. The strength of America's military is reliant upon a constellation of satellites and corresponding ground installations that provide imagery, navigation, signal intelligence, communications, and early warning for missile launches. America's economy is similarly interconnected with a constellation of civilian satellites. However, as the military has placed a greater emphasis on networking the warfighter with the battlefield environment over the past two decades, this reliance has developed into a vulnerability.

Both the 2008 Annual Report to Congress on the Military Power of the People's Republic of China and the recently-released report of the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission cite how the People's Liberation Army (PLA) views America's dependence on space assets as its "soft ribs," a strategic weakness to be exploited in an effort to undermine the foundations of American military strength. The U.S.-China Commission determined that the extent of China's anti-satellite capabilities are "significant," to include not just direct-ascent weapons like that used in China's ASAT test of January 2007, but also the development of co-orbital direct attack weapons, directed energy lasers, and various technologies designed for electronic "denial-of-service" attacks.

Preserving America's military advantages, therefore, requires ensuring unfettered access to space. If China continues to develop asymmetric capabilities to target U.S. space assets, without the United States taking the necessary steps to dissuade and deter these actions, it will only increase China's likelihood of prevailing in a short-duration, high-intensity war. Such an outcome would be disadvantageous for the U.S.-Taiwan security relationship, specifically if the United States develops a sense of hesitancy that jeopardizes the credibility of cross-Straits deterrence. Additionally, a more capable PLA will enhance the confidence of Chinese leadership, increasing the chance of a political-military miscalculation by China in the Straits.

Whether or not President Obama will follow through on his broad promise to seek "a worldwide ban on weapons that interfere with military and commercial satellites" is an open question. At the very least, he has been forthright in announcing his opposition to the weaponization of space. Complicating this commitment, however, is the broad range of military and civilian space assets that can be qualified as a "space weapon." The most effective direct-ascent ASAT weapon the U.S. has in its arsenal is the Standard-Missile 3 -- demonstrated by the successful February 2008 shoot-down of an American spy satellite. The dual-use of this weapon will also pose a serious dilemma for getting a space treaty off the ground without also requiring America to forgo its missile defense capabilities. Therefore, whatever the outcome of an international space regime, the utility of the SM-3 and other ASAT weapons as a traditional deterrence mechanism vis-à-vis Chinese ASAT weapons is likely to be downplayed by the Obama administration.

While these unfortunate policy prescriptions are a cause for concern, hope may lie in the possible defensive space measures that President Obama seems poised to embrace. His campaign website and new White House website encouragingly discuss "accelerating programs to harden U.S. satellites against attack" and "establishing contingency plans to ensure that U.S. forces can maintain or duplicate access to information from space assets." One of the most promising initiatives for achieving these duel objectives is Operationally Responsive Space (ORS). ORS seeks to rapidly deliver short-term capabilities to the warfighter that serve to augment space-based national security assets through the use of low-cost Tactical Satellites. The ORS Office, stood up in 2007 at the Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico, now stands at the forefront of an effort to revolutionize the way the U.S. builds and deploys satellites.

The standard process by which the military continues to construct satellites emphasizes large, time-consuming programs that maintain a slow generational turnover of 15 to 20 years, preventing an important military asset like space to be exploited at the operational level. Alternatively, miniaturized satellites enjoy both nimble and adaptive qualities. Compared to traditional stand-alone satellite, micro satellites can continuously be outfitted with the latest technological upgrades and be sent to replace their outdated counterparts. More importantly, they can be used to help increase capabilities to meet the demands of combatant commanders. Indeed, the ORS Office is working right now on an ambitious 24 month timetable to supply U.S. Central Command with a satellite to meet an identified gap in intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) assets. Should this effort succeed, it will be a telling example of what the future holds for operationalizing the power of space.

Perhaps the greatest advantage of ORS is the capacity it offers to reconstitute satellites quickly and cheaply. If the administration remains reluctant to pursue active mechanisms for ensuring deterrence in space, ORS could be employed as part of an array of defensive systems to help guarantee U.S. access to space by dissuading and deterring the development and use of Chinese ASAT technologies. If the United States retains the ability to replenish satellite constellations on an as-needed basis, the benefits provided by costly ASAT weapons would be greatly diminished for the PLA.

Of course, this may have the unintended consequence of compelling PLA planners to devote resources to denial-of-service weapons or acquire even more direct-attack weapons in an effort to overwhelm America's reconstitution capabilities. Thus, it will be necessary to develop a multifaceted defensive regime to build reserve micro satellites and stockpile cheap launch vehicles like the Minotaur, harden existing and future satellites against electromagnetic pulse and jamming, and further integrate satellite capabilities with allies.

Considering the benefits of ORS, reports that the budget for the ORS Office may be slashed between fiscal year 2011 and 2014, are highly discouraging. More recent reports now have funding being restored in 2012, but with a likely tightening of defense budgets in the years ahead, the outlook for a program already being targeted to pay Department of Defense's bills is bleak.

Although the level of confidence President Obama is prepared to place in diplomatic solutions to preserve space access is a serious concern, there remains ample opportunity to secure his support in other vital areas. As the administration begins to formulate its policies on space security, the utility and broad support for the ORS concept should make it a core element of its strategy. Remedying the ORS budgeting shortfall before the fiscal year 2010 budget is submitted would be a strong statement to China that the administration is invested in securing America's space assets. While only part of the solution, establishing such a precedent will be a step towards ensuring that the advantages the military procures from space can be further refined and enhanced in the coming decades.

Eric Sayers is a national security research assistant at The Heritage Foundation in Washington D.C. Jeffrey Dressler is an intern at The Heritage Foundation.

NY Soda Tax: All Politics, No Science

NY Soda Tax: All Politics, No Science. By Elizabeth M. Whelan, Sc.D., M.P.H.
American Council on Science and Health, Jan 29, 2009

Aiming to combat the obesity epidemic in New York, Gov. David Paterson has recommended an 18% tax on sugar-sweetened soft drinks and a few other sweetened beverages. Unfortunately, the proposed tax is inconsistent with the facts about what causes obesity. It also sets an alarming precedent for taxing foods deemed "bad" by government officials -- further increasing the cost of living in the state -- particularly for the least affluent citizens.

•First, there is no scientific basis for singling out sugar-sweetened soda and certain fruit drinks as a primary underlying cause of obesity. So many Americans these days far exceed their ideal weight because they consume too many calories from all types of foods and beverages -- and do not dedicate sufficient effort to burning calories through exercise. Sugar-sweetened sodas don't make you fatter than eating too much meat, bread, potatoes, or anything else. The old adage "for every complex problem there is a simple solution -- and it never works" comes to mind here. It is always easier to zero in on one alleged villain and assume the problem is solved.

•Second, taxing soda sets up a precedent for taxing myriad foods considered "bad" by popular wisdom. Can we expect taxes next on cake, cookies, candy, and pizza? If food with high sugar or fat content is "bad" and deserving of punitive regulatory action, to be consistent will we tax orange juice (very high in sugar) and avocados (a plentiful source of fat)? Should we tax everything except tofu and spinach?

•Third, when the soda tax is examined closely -- given that it will have zero net effect on reducing obesity -- it must be perceived as another attempt to raise revenue for a financially strapped state. The Governor estimates that the soda tax will bring in $404 million the first year and $539 million annually after that. What's not to like about that if you are trying to balance a budget? But the bad news is that this influx of cash has nothing to do with fighting obesity and enhancing health.

There is, however, some good news about the proposed soda tax: Polls show that New Yorkers oppose this useless and regressive tax by nearly a 2:1 margin. Presumably, citizens recognize that obesity is a very serious health risk -- requiring serious solutions, not quick, ineffective regulatory fixes.

Dr. Elizabeth M. Whelan is President of the American Council on Science and Health (,

Energy Reduction and Environmental Sustainability in Surface Transportation

Energy Reduction and Environmental Sustainability in Surface Transportation. By Samuel R. Staley, Ph.D.Testimony to the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, Subcommittee on Highways and Transit, Massachusetts Joint Committee on Transportation
Reason Foundation, January 27, 2009

1. Overview

Chairman DeFazio, Ranking Member Duncan, members of the subcommittee, thank you for giving me this opportunity to discuss environmental sustainability and the future of transportation in the United States. This is a central issue as the federal government works toward its six-year authorization of transportation funding, and understanding the proper context for addressing environmental issues will be critical.

I would like to focus my remarks on two over-arching points:
  • Transportation policy that loses sight of mobility as a central goal puts our economic competitiveness at risk; and
  • Mobility is compatible with long-term goals of environmental sustainability.

2. Mobility and Economic Competitiveness

First, we must recognize the central purpose of transportation policy is to provide for and improve mobility for citizens and businesses. In other words, transportation policy is focused on finding effective ways to move people, goods, and services from point A to point B faster and cheaper. This central goal should not be minimized despite the more current concerns over the state of the national economy and the vigorous public discussion over the impending stimulus package. At the end of the day, transportation policy will continue to be about providing efficient, safe, and reliable mobility above all other policy goals or objectives, and the focus of reauthorization will inevitably move beyond the short-term politics surrounding the economic recession.

Importantly, mobility is the proper goal of transportation policy. Reason Foundation Vice President Adrian Moore and I explain the critical role mobility plays in ensuring our continued global competitiveness in our book Mobility First: A New Vision for Transportation in a Globally Competitive Economy. We summarize a growing body of research that shows empirically what urban economists have known for decades: Mobility is critical to national and urban economic success.

The reason is straightforward. Economic productivity improves when we lower the costs of production and make it easier for people to interact. Increased mobility gives workers access to an increasingly diverse number of jobs, and employers enjoy greater access to an increasingly large skilled and productive workforce. This is why congestion has such debilitating impacts on economic growth. As congestion increases, and costs of getting from point A to point B grow, production costs increase and the "opportunity circle" that includes access to markets, resources and jobs resources shrinks.

Thus, while transportation investments are critical to economic productivity and growth, job creation is an indirect impact of successful transportation policy and not a primary goal. This, in fact, is the lesson from the Interstate Highway program created in the 1950s. The central objective of this multibillion dollar program was to link the nation's largest urban centers and integrate them into a truly national transportation network. This goal served economic purposes as well as broader national goals of geographically unifying the nation (in much the same way railroads did in the 19th century) and providing for a more efficient national defense.

The economic impacts were enormous and tangible. The Interstate Highway System and upgrades to various state and regional roads boosted economic growth because these new roads reduced transportation costs dramatically, allowing businesses to improve productivity. Some of these effects, such as providing more efficient routes for long-haul freight movement, were intended. Reducing urban traffic congestion was another, less important goal successfully met, although few anticipated the decentralization of metropolitan areas that followed.

As we move forward thinking about transportation and sustainability, we also need to recognize the fundamental link between mobility, economic productivity, and economic growth.

3. Transportation and the Environment

The critical role transportation plays in economic growth and productivity does not obviate the need to consider the environmental consequences of our transportation investments, the environmental impact of different modes, or the way we use transportation facilities. On the contrary, as we become more aware of the environmental impacts of human activity, we have a responsibility to mitigate the negative effects. We have, for example, made tremendous strides toward improving our air quality even as our use of automobiles has increased dramatically. Air quality, by all metrics, has improved steadily in most U.S. urban areas since the early 1970s as a result of new technologies that lowered emissions while preserving the mobility implicit in automobile use. Indeed, rising economic productivity, and the increased wealth that comes with it, allows us to be even more creative and innovative in improving mobility in an environmentally responsible manner.

Thus, mobility and environmental protection can be complimentary goals. The key is to understand the right contexts in which these goals are pursued and choose strategies that allow for both to be achieved simultaneously. Environmental policy that explicitly or implicitly reduces mobility undermines the long term viability of our cities and national economy and, as a consequence, our ability to meet our long-term environmental policy goals.

A case in point is the role technology will play in meeting greenhouse gas targets. Preliminary findings of research being conducted by The Hartgen Group for Reason Foundation indicates that newly legislated fuel mileage standards will outstrip most other commonly proposed strategies for mitigating carbon dioxide by large margins (see Table 1). In an analysis of greenhouse gas trends in 48 urbanized areas, current trends suggest that without mitigating strategies, CO2 will increase 52 percent by 2030. The new CAFÉ mandates recently enacted by Congress will reduce CO2 by 31.2 percent by 2030. In contrast, increasing the price of fuel to $5 per gallon would only reduce emissions by about 4 percent. The combined effect of increasing the transit share of work trips by 50 percent, increasing the walk to work share by 50 percent, and increasing telecommuting would reduce CO2 emissions by just 2.5 percent.

Notably, the new fuel mileage mandates are also more cost-effective, averaging about $52 per ton removed, and meet the McKinsey & Company benchmark reported in Reducing U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions: How Much at What Cost? In contrast, most other strategies are significantly more costly. Physical capacity improvements, increasing transit's mode share, and reducing overall travel by raising the gas tax are expected to cost close to (or more than) $4,000 per ton removed.

4. Environmental Mitigation Strategies and Mobility

Each of these greenhouse gas mitigation strategies has different impacts on mobility and, as a result, on our nation's productivity. Increased fuel mileage mandates do not impact our nation's mobility although they have somewhat smaller impacts on the costs of using specific types of cars and trucks. If the mandates are modest and provide enough of a lead time, they can allow consumers and private suppliers to make choices about what technologies and modes of transport are most efficient for achieving transportation goals. This, combined with the independent decisions of millions of Americans to purchase more fuel efficient automobiles, can increase productivity and mitigate greenhouse gases.

In contrast, policies that attempt to directly reduce travel have an adverse impact on mobility and impinge on our economic productivity by reducing the opportunity circles accessible by employers, workers, and households.

A few quick illustrations make this point. Portland, Oregon's Tri-Met operates perhaps the most successful rail transit system in place among mid-size (and smaller) U.S. cities. Sixty-four light rail transit stations are part of a regional transit network that covers an urban area of 474 square miles and serves 1.2 million people according to the National Transit Database. Yet, these transit stations account for just 22 square miles, or about 5 percent of the regional service area. Even with the more compact urban form created in part by a mandated regional growth boundary, Tri-Met's ability to influence regional urban form and travel patterns is limited to the immediate area around the transit stations.

Arlington, Virginia provides another example. Arlington hosts some of the nation's most robust transit-oriented developments, using a large volume heavy rail system to support development at Metro stations around Ballston and Courthouse Square on the Orange Line and Pentagon City and Crystal City on the Blue Line. The eleven Metro stations represent about 8 percent of the county's land area. About 20 percent of the county's population lives within walking distance (1/4 mile) of one of these Metro stops. Among those within walking distance, however, the private automobile still captures more than half, and often two-thirds or more, of total trips. Thus, in Arlington, rail transit is used by just 5-10 percent of the county's population. Notably, transit's share of total travel in the Washington, DC urban area remains around 7 percent.

The point, however, is not to criticize transit. On the contrary, transit plays a vital role along key corridors in many urban areas and enhances mobility for many. Rather, transit's role in meeting environmental policy goals needs to be kept in context.

Despite recent gains in ridership, public transit remains a relatively small part of the overall travel equation in most major urbanized areas in the U.S. Notably, higher gas prices contributed to a reduction in road travel by 100 billion vehicle miles traveled in 2008, according to the Federal Highway Administration, a fall of about 4 percent. Public transit experienced an increase of about 5 percent. Yet, because transit carries a very small portion of travel, transit was able to capture just 3 percent of the overall decline in road travel.

In addition, the kinds of policies that will be necessary to fundamentally change land use to boost transit ridership significantly would require a dramatic and largely involuntary relocation of people and families into housing they do not want. The single-family, detached house would be an option only for the wealthier income brackets in our major urban areas, effectively inverting the existing distribution of home options and choices.

A policy that focuses largely on shifting travelers out of cars and into transit will reduce mobility. An examination of work trip travel times in 276 metropolitan areas found that the length of public transit trips exceeded those for private automobiles in 272 of those areas. On average, public transit riders spend about 36 minutes traveling to work while private automobile travelers commute about 21 minutes. This does not have to be the case. The innovative use of HOT Lanes, such as the networks being built in Northern Virginia and discussed in Atlanta, Houston, the San Francisco Bay Area, and Miami can finance critically needed road capacity while also providing viable bus rapid transit alternatives.

5. Sustainable Transportation Policy

Sustainable development policies call for a balancing of three goals: economic growth, the equitable use of resources, and environmental preservation. Transportation policy that undermines mobility compromises the productivity necessary to support better environmental stewardship.

What federal policy initiatives, then, can preserve the overarching goals of transportation policy to improve mobility while also recognizing the importance of meeting environmental goals?

First, achieving environmental goals will depend primarily on technological solutions, not broad-based changes in human behavior. The dramatic improvements in air quality in major urban areas is directly attributed to technological solutions, and the same will be true for addressing national greenhouse gas goals. Federal policymakers should resist attempts to directly use transportation policy to address broader environmental goals because it tends to be a very blunt and inefficient instrument.

Second, maintain mobility as the central goal of transportation policy. Policies that directly reduce mobility, including those designed explicitly to reduce vehicle miles traveled or direct commuters to alternatives that will lengthen commute times, should be avoided. While environmental concerns should play a role, federal objectives should include searching for and implementing win-win solutions.

Third, continue to put congestion reduction as a key priority for transportation policy and investments. Widespread traffic congestion places substantial burdens on businesses and individuals. Mitigating these effects should be a primary goal of transportation policy makers to ensure our cities and national economy remain competitive. Many congestion-mitigation strategies-HOT lanes, tolled facilities, capacity expansion-will also have environmental benefits, but their central purpose is to reduce transportation costs and improve economic productivity.
Fourth, aggressively move toward a transportation funding approach based on distance-based financing such as comprehensive road pricing. This approach would establish a more direct, transparent and accountable user-based funding system.

Thank you for your attention. I welcome any comments or questions members of the subcommittee may have.

Sam Staley is director of urban policy at Reason Foundation. He is co-author of Mobility First: A New Vision for Transportation in a Globally Competitive 21st Century (Rowman & Littlefield, 2008). An archive of Staley's work is here, and Reason's transportation research and commentary is here.

How to explain female absence from the sciences?

The Times’s Weak-Willed Women, by Heather Mac Donald
How else to explain female absence from the sciences?
City Journal, January 28, 2009

Women, feminists proclaim again and again, are strong, indomitable, and equal in every way to men. Except, that is, when they run up against an obstacle, thrown malevolently in their path, that is too formidable even for them, such as . . . a sitcom.

New York Times science reporter Natalie Angier recently called for renewed attention to the lack of proportional representation of women in science. (In the past, Angier has made something of a specialty of discovering proper gender role models in nature, along the lines of dominatrix polyps and sexually submissive male arachnids.) The imbalance in the sciences, Angier reported, is especially bad in physics, where just 6 percent of full professors are women. After canvassing some current theories explaining the imbalance, Angier offered her own scapegoats: “Bubble-headed television shows like ‘The Big Bang Theory,’ with its four nerdy male physics prodigies and the fetching blond girl next door.”

Imagine the devastation that such a show might wreak. A 15-year-old math whiz is happily immersed in the Lorentz transformations, the basis for the theory of special relativity. She looks up at the tube and sees a fictional group of male physics students bashfully speaking to a feisty blonde. Her confidence and enthusiasm shattered, she drops out of her AP physics course and starts hanging out at the mall with the cheerleading squad.

Gender-insensitive TV shows are just the start of the barriers blocking girls’ entry to the empyrean of pure science. There’s also the father of modern physics himself. What self-respecting girl wants to look like Albert Einstein? “As long as we’re making geek [culture] chic” under our new, science-friendly president, Angier suggests, “let’s lose the Einstein ’do and moustache.” We’re in whiplash territory here. For years, we have been told that the patriarchy brainwashes women into excessive concern with appearance. Now, however, it turns out that girls with an innate knack for science could be turned away from their calling just because the Über Role Model is frumpy. If Einstein had looked like Tom Cruise or Angelina Jolie, apparently, girls would be clamoring to participate in the Math Olympiad and earning their proportionate share of physics Ph.D.s.

Which is it? Are women “strong”? Or can they be crushed by fears of a permanent bad hair day and inspired by something as superficial as Hollywood fashion? Given the amount of time and money that most women spend on applying makeup, blow-drying their hair, shopping for clothes, and gullibly attending to preposterous wrinkle-cream ads in women’s magazines, Angier’s claim that girls could be thwarted by a TV comedy is not wholly unreasonable. It just happens to contradict the usual feminist claim that women are just as tough as men.

The evidence to date suggests that the highest-level math skills—those required for research physics—aren’t evenly distributed among men and women. Men greatly outnumber women at the very highest and lowest ends of the mathematics aptitude curve. As Christina Hoff Sommers has documented, men also show greater interest in abstract, non-empathetic careers than women. Of course, the conflicting demands of raising a family and pursuing pure science undoubtedly influence women’s career paths as well. If scientific pursuit can be made more family-friendly without in any way damaging its essential strengths, such changes should be contemplated. But the fertility clock and women’s greater involvement with their babies are not chauvinist plots; they are biological realities.

Unfortunately, Angier’s conviction that sexism lurks behind women’s rarity in the most abstract sciences isn’t confined to the New York Times or even to academia. A congressional bill, the Fulfilling the Potential of Women in Academic Science and Engineering Act of 2008, would apply Title IX gender quotas to academic science. Barack Obama endorsed the bill during the presidential campaign; women’s groups are clamoring for action.

Obama has indeed presented himself as a science president. Rejecting feminist propaganda, however belatedly, regarding sexism in science would be a strong start in justifying that title. In the meantime, stay tuned for the latest twist in feminists’ contradictory—dare one say, irrational?—apologetics.

Heather Mac Donald is a contributing editor of City Journal and the John M. Olin Fellow at the Manhattan Institute.

Volunteer to Save the Economy

Volunteer to Save the Economy, by Bruce Reed and John Bridgeland
TNYT, January 22, 2009


THIS week, President Obama called upon all Americans to volunteer, to pitch in and give back. We hope that the president is serious about this challenge, because providing more opportunities for national and community service won’t just lift the nation’s spirit, it could help save the economy.

In fact, an investment in service as part of the economic recovery plan could add hundreds of thousands of jobs to the four million the Obama administration has proposed. And because jobs at nonprofit groups pay so little, they would cost the government less than many other stimulus measures.

The economic crisis has hit hospitals, nursing homes, nursery schools, centers for the elderly and soup kitchens with a triple whammy. The evaporation of wealth has depressed charitable donations; the state and local budget crunch has deprived nonprofit groups of their most dependable revenue stream; and, even as resources shrink, more Americans need assistance. In Michigan, for example, more than 70 percent of nonprofit groups have seen increased demand for their services, while half report that their financial support has dropped.

It’s important that charities remain able to help those in need. But the nonprofit plunge also seriously endangers the nation’s job market. Nonprofit enterprises have 9.4 million employees and 4.7 million volunteers nationwide — together, that’s 10 percent of the American work force, more than the auto and financial industries combined. Yet nonprofit groups have been almost completely overlooked during the economic debate. That’s a mistake.

There is, however, a bipartisan solution ready to go: during the campaign, both Mr. Obama and Senator John McCain, the Republican nominee, endorsed the Serve America Act, which would greatly expand national and community service.

By including key provisions of that bill in the economic recovery package, Congress and the administration would enable 250,000 Americans to do full-time service over the next two years. We can invest in a new generation of volunteers as well: if federal work-study programs were doubled, over half a million part-time opportunities a year would be created for college students. All this could be done through existing nonprofit groups, charities and faith-based organizations, not a new government bureaucracy.

The total two-year cost? Less than $8 billion — adding not even 1 percent to a $825 billion recovery package.

As Americans have proven in times of crisis, what we ask of ourselves matters a great deal. If we want to create the most jobs for the lowest cost with the least bureaucracy and foster the spirit of sacrifice that the president envisions, the economic recovery plan should find a place for more Americans to do good works in hard times.

Bruce Reed, the president of the Democratic Leadership Council, was President Bill Clinton’s domestic policy adviser. John Bridgeland, who held the same position under President George W. Bush, is the chief executive of a public policy firm.

Yoo: Obama Made a Rash Decision on Gitmo

Obama Made a Rash Decision on Gitmo, by John Yoo
The president will soon realize that governing involves hard choices.
WSJ, Jan 29, 2009

During his first week as commander in chief, President Barack Obama ordered the closure of Guantanamo Bay and terminated the CIA's special authority to interrogate terrorists.

While these actions will certainly please his base -- gone are the cries of an "imperial presidency" -- they will also seriously handicap our intelligence agencies from preventing future terrorist attacks. In issuing these executive orders, Mr. Obama is returning America to the failed law enforcement approach to fighting terrorism that prevailed before Sept. 11, 2001. He's also drying up the most valuable sources of intelligence on al Qaeda, which, according to CIA Director Michael Hayden, has come largely out of the tough interrogation of high-level operatives during the early years of the war.

The question Mr. Obama should have asked right after the inaugural parade was: What will happen after we capture the next Khalid Sheikh Mohammed or Abu Zubaydah? Instead, he took action without a meeting of his full national security staff, and without a legal review of all the policy options available to meet the threats facing our country.

What such a review would have made clear is that the civilian law-enforcement system cannot prevent terrorist attacks. What is needed are the tools to gain vital intelligence, which is why, under President George W. Bush, the CIA could hold and interrogate high-value al Qaeda leaders. On the advice of his intelligence advisers, the president could have authorized coercive interrogation methods like those used by Israel and Great Britain in their antiterrorism campaigns. (He could even authorize waterboarding, which he did three times in the years after 9/11.)

Mr. Obama has also ordered that all military commission trials be stayed and that the case of Ali Saleh al-Marri, the only al Qaeda operative now held on U.S. soil, be reviewed. This seems a prelude to closing the military commissions down entirely and transferring the detainees' cases to U.S. civilian courts for prosecution under ordinary criminal law. Military commission trials have been used in most American wars, and their rules and procedures are designed around the need to protect intelligence sources and methods from revelation in open court.

It's also likely Mr. Obama will declare terrorists to be prisoners of war under the Geneva Conventions. The Bush administration classified terrorists -- well supported by legal and historical precedent -- like pirates, illegal combatants who do not fight on behalf of a nation and refuse to obey the laws of war.

The CIA must now conduct interrogations according to the rules of the Army Field Manual, which prohibits coercive techniques, threats and promises, and the good-cop bad-cop routines used in police stations throughout America. Mr. Obama has also ordered that al Qaeda leaders are to be protected from "outrages on personal dignity" and "humiliating and degrading treatment" in accord with the Geneva Conventions. His new order amounts to requiring -- on penalty of prosecution -- that CIA interrogators be polite. Coercive measures are unwisely banned with no exceptions, regardless of the danger confronting the country.

Eliminating the Bush system will mean that we will get no more information from captured al Qaeda terrorists. Every prisoner will have the right to a lawyer (which they will surely demand), the right to remain silent, and the right to a speedy trial.

The first thing any lawyer will do is tell his clients to shut up. The KSMs or Abu Zubaydahs of the future will respond to no verbal questioning or trickery -- which is precisely why the Bush administration felt compelled to use more coercive measures in the first place. Our soldiers and agents in the field will have to run more risks as they must secure physical evidence at the point of capture and maintain a chain of custody that will stand up to the standards of a civilian court.

Relying on the civilian justice system not only robs us of the most effective intelligence tool to avert future attacks, it provides an opportunity for our enemies to obtain intelligence on us. If terrorists are now to be treated as ordinary criminals, their defense lawyers will insist that the government produce in open court all U.S. intelligence on their client along with the methods used by the CIA and NSA to get it. A defendant's constitutional right to demand the government's files often forces prosecutors to offer plea bargains to spies rather than risk disclosure of intelligence secrets.

Zacarias Moussaoui, the only member of the 9/11 cell arrested before the attack, turned his trial into a circus by making such demands. He was convicted after four years of pretrial wrangling only because he chose to plead guilty. Expect more of this, but with far more valuable intelligence at stake.

It is naïve to say, as Mr. Obama did in his inaugural speech, that we can "reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals." That high-flying rhetoric means that we must give al Qaeda -- a hardened enemy committed to our destruction -- the same rights as garden-variety criminals at the cost of losing critical intelligence about real, future threats.

Government policy choices are all about trade-offs, which cannot simply be wished away by rhetoric. Mr. Obama seems to have respected these realities in his hesitation to end the NSA's electronic surveillance programs, or to stop the use of predator drones to target individual al Qaeda leaders.

But in his decisions taken so precipitously just two days after the inauguration, Mr. Obama may have opened the door to further terrorist acts on U.S. soil by shattering some of the nation's most critical defenses.

Mr. Yoo is a law professor at the University of California, Berkeley and a visiting professor at Chapman Law School. He was an official in the Justice Department from 2001-03 and is a visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.

US on Madagascar Crisis

Madagascar Crisis
Press Statement by Robert Wood, Acting Spokesman, US State Dept
Washington, DC, January 29, 2009

The United States is deeply concerned by the recent political violence in Madagascar. We call on Malagasy leaders and people to exercise restraint and avoid all further violence. We urge for an immediate resumption of dialogue among principal political actors and the government. The United States reaffirms its commitment to Madagascar’s democratic development, emphasizing that calm and dialogue must be restored in order to effectively pursue development. We expect all parties in this conflict to respect the constitution of Madagascar as they resolve their political differences.


Remarks by the President on the economy after meeting with business leaders

Remarks by the President on the economy after meeting with business leaders
White House East Room, January 28, 2009

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. I want to thank Sam and David for their outstanding words. I want to thank all of you for being here today.

A few moments ago, I met with some of the leading business executives in the country. And it was a sober meeting, because these companies and the workers they employ are going through times more trying than any that we've seen in a long, long while. Just the other day, seven of our largest corporations announced they were making major job cuts. Some of the business leaders in this room have had to do the same. And yet, even as we discussed the seriousness of this challenge, we left our meeting confident that we can turn our economy around.

But each of us, as Dave indicated, are going to have to do our share. Part of what led our economy to this perilous moment was a sense of irresponsibility that prevailed in Wall Street and in Washington. And that's why I called for a new era of responsibility in my inaugural address last week, an era where each of us chips in so that we can climb our way out of this crisis -- executives and factory floor workers, educators and engineers, health care professionals and elected officials.

As we discussed in our meeting a few minutes ago, corporate America will have to accept its own responsibilities to its workers and the American public. But these executives also understand that without wise leadership in Washington, even the best-run businesses can't do as well as they might. They understand that what makes an idea sound is not whether it's Democrat or Republican, but whether it makes good economic sense for their workers and companies. And they understand that when it comes to rebuilding our economy, we don't have a moment to spare.

The businesses that are shedding jobs to stay afloat -- they can't afford inaction or delay. The workers who are returning home to tell their husbands and wives and children that they no longer have a job, and all those who live in fear that their job will be next on the cutting blocks -- they need help now. They are looking to Washington for action, bold and swift. And that is why I hope to sign an American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan into law in the next few weeks.

And most of the money that we're investing as part of this plan will get out the door immediately and go directly to job creation, generating or saving 3 to 4 million new jobs. And the vast majority of these jobs will be created in the private sector, because, as these CEOs well know, business, not government, is the engine of growth in this country.

But even as this plan puts Americans back to work it will also make the critical investments in alternative energy, in safer roads, better health care and modern schools that will lay the foundation for long-term growth and prosperity. And it will invest in broadband and emerging technologies, like the ones imagined and introduced to the world by people like Sam and so many of the CEOs here today, because that's how America will retain and regain its competitive edge in the 21st century.

I know that there are some who are skeptical of the size and scale of this recovery plan. And I understand that skepticism, given some of the things that have happened in this town in the past. That's why this recovery plan will include unprecedented measures that will allow the American people to hold my administration accountable. Instead of just throwing money at our problems, we'll try something new in Washington -- we will invest in what works. Instead of politicians doling out money behind a veil of secrecy, decisions about where we invest will be made public on the Internet, and will be informed by independent experts whenever possible.

We will launch a sweeping effort to root out waste, inefficiency, and unnecessary spending in our government, and every American will be able to see how and where we spend taxpayer dollars by going to a new website called -- because I firmly believe what Justice Louis Brandeis once said, that sunlight is the best disinfectant, and I know that restoring transparency is not only the surest way to achieve results, but also to earn back the trust in government without which we cannot deliver the changes the American people sent us here to make.

In the end, the answer to our economic troubles rests less in my hands, or in the hands of our legislators, than it does with America's workers and the businesses that employ them. They are the ones whose efforts and ideas will determine our economic destiny, just as they always have. For in the end, it's businesses -- large and small -- that generate the jobs, provide the salaries, and serve as the foundation on which the American people's lives and dreams depend. All we can do, those of us here in Washington, is help create a favorable climate in which workers can prosper, businesses can thrive, and our economy can grow. And that is exactly what the recovery plan I've proposed is intended to do. And that's exactly what I intend to achieve soon.

Thank you very much for being here.

WaPo on Afghanistan: Democrats have long called it 'the central front.' Will they retreat from it?

The Afghan Challenge. WaPo Editorial
Democrats have long called it 'the central front.' Will they retreat from it?
Washington Post, Thursday, January 29, 2009; page A18

FOR YEARS, Democrats excoriated the Bush administration for not devoting sufficient resources to Afghanistan. But now that Barack Obama has taken office, some seem to be having second thoughts. "Our original goal was to go in there and take on al-Qaeda. . . . It was not to adopt the 51st state of the United States," said Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), the new chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Mr. Kerry pioneered the Democratic argument to send more troops during his own presidential campaign in 2004. Now he says "the parallels" to Vietnam "just really keep leaping out in so many different ways."

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates seconded that skepticism at a congressional hearing on Tuesday. "If we set ourselves the objective of creating some sort of Central Asian Valhalla over there, we will lose," he said, "because nobody in the world has that kind of time, patience and money, to be honest."

We're happy to agree that Afghanistan should not become the 51st state, or Valhalla -- but we're not sure who or what Mr. Kerry and Mr. Gates have in mind. So far as we know, the American objective in Afghanistan since 2002 has been pretty much what Mr. Gates says it should be: "an Afghan people who do not provide a safe haven for al-Qaeda, who reject the rule of the Taliban and support the legitimate government they have elected and in which they have a stake."

The problem, as Mr. Gates acknowledged, is that meeting that aim necessitates such tasks as stabilizing western Pakistan, rooting out the opium trade, vastly expanding the Afghan army and constructing a workable legal system. That, in turn, will require more money, more troops, many more years of commitment -- and higher American casualties.

"Bottom line is, it's going to be tough, it's going to be difficult, in many ways harder than Iraq," Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) put it to Mr. Gates. "Do you agree with that?" "Yes," the secretary responded.

So why make it sound as if the Obama administration is scaling back U.S. ambitions? Part of this may be pure politics, to assure the antiwar left -- not to mention other Americans -- that the United States is not about to follow Russia and Britain into an Afghan quagmire. Yet the new administration, and supporters such as Mr. Kerry, ought to recognize a greater political need, which is to make clear to the country that the war against terrorism -- whatever it is now called -- did not end on Jan. 20 and that Afghanistan in particular will require years more patience and sacrifice to get right.

The way to avoid a quagmire is not to hold back on U.S. military reinforcements or development aid but to assemble a national civil-military plan that integrates war-fighting with reconstruction and political reconciliation. As Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.) points out, such a plan was the foundation of the U.S. recovery in Iraq, but the model has never been applied in Afghanistan. That's largely because the United States must share authority with some 40 allies, many of which place strict limits on what their troops may do, insist on managing their own development programs, or both. The Afghan government of President Hamid Karzai, mired in corruption and increasingly at odds with U.S. commanders, is also not on board.

Afghanistan doesn't need to become the 51st state, but it does need a single, coherent, integrated plan to become a state strong enough to resist the Taliban and al-Qaeda. Creating one will require some aggressive diplomacy and maybe a little political china-breaking. That's something for which the State Department's new envoy to the region, Richard C. Holbrooke, is known. But low-balling the scale of the challenge, or the costs it may incur, won't help.