Wednesday, March 21, 2007

White House oil hack admits tampering global warming reports

It seems like not a day can go by but what we get even more evidence of the Worst Administration in History™ doing yet another scandalous thing to cover up evidence, falsify data, and generally endanger humanity.

Todays outrage du jour comes courtesy of The Australian, which reports that Phillip Cooney, a current lobbyist for Exxon Mobil and former Chief of Staff of the "White House Council on Environmental Quality" (how's that for Orwellian!), rewrote scientific reports about climate change to water down the degree to which global warming was likely anthropogenic.

Now, before I even get started on this, I'd like for everyone to ask themselves exactly what all the right-wingers would have said if the Clinton Administration had been caught rewriting and falsifying scientific data to achieve a political end. I hesitate to think about such an egregious possibility--the scandal would never die down! It just shows how hopelessly evil and corrupt this administration is that something that would be considered notorious in any preceding administration will likely barely get a "yeah. so?" out of the audience assembled here.

"My sole loyalty was to the President and advancing the policies of his administration," Mr Cooney told the house government reform committee. He defended aligning supposedly independent scientific reports with the White House political view on the environment by saying the changes reflected a comprehensive 2001 National Research Council report on the issue.

That report, while firmly stating the case that the earth was being endangered by greenhouse gases, was unable to answer all questions on the causes of climate change completely, leaving room for those who believe environmentalists are overstating the case - the predominant view within the Bush administration and its friends in the business sector.

Now, I don't know how many times I need to go over this--because I've gone over it before in a number of other areas as well: policy is, and ought to be, a response to facts on the ground. Facts should not be altered to suit a pre-existing ideology. Or, wait...what was that phrase that Downing Street used? "Facts were being fixed around the policy"? Yeah...I was wondering where we'd seen something like that before.

But let's talk about loyalty for a minute. It would have been one thing if this reprehensible hack of an oil lobbyist had come out and told Waxman's committee that he did what he did simply on political grounds to try to get policies enacted that were favorable to his favorite industry...but he didn't do that. Instead, he said he did what he did out of loyalty to Bush! What type of soulless lackey to you have to be--how devoid of any values or moral rectitude--to knowingly lie and re-write scientific data out of a sense of personal loyalty? If you actually do something like that professionally over the long term, how do you manage to sleep at night? That's really something I'd like to ask these guys--how exactly it is that they manage to sleep at night without the albatross of their multitudinous and egregious sins against truth and justice oppressing their consciences.

And again--I've written on this before, but I'll say it one more time. Why exactly is it that scientists have to be able to answer 100% of all questions concerning global warming in exact detail before it becomes legitimate, in the eyes of some, to take the threat seriously? We don't do that with foreign policy threats. We don't do that with economic policy. Insurance companies sure as hell don't write actuarial tables that way. Why is it that anything less than 100% certainty about this issue obviates the need for action?

Yeah, I already know the answer to that question: they're a bunch of Milton-Friedman-worshipping hacks. Moving on.

Now, even scarier than previous reports of political pressure on scientists is the shocking number of alterations and revisions that were made:

Documents released by Democrats yesterday revealed that in 2003 Bush administration officials made at least 181 changes to a plan to deal with climate change that were aimed at playing down the scientific consensus on global warming.

There were another 113 changes that made less of the human causes of climate change, and even changes made to herald potential benefits to higher temperatures.

"These changes must be made," according to a note in Mr Cooney's handwriting. "The language is mandatory."

The Environmental Protection Agency was so against Mr Cooney's alterations - saying they were "poorly representing the science" - that it chose to leave the entire section on climate control out of its 2003 State of the Environment report.

Yes, that's right--this hack, who used to work for the American Petroleum Institute and now works for Exxon-Mobil, rewrote so much of the EPA's scientific findings that the EPA was forced to omit the entire section from its report, rather than put its name on scientifically inaccurate (that is to say, false and politicized) data.

But of course, it gets worse. The White House didn't just seek to edit this one EPA report--it sought to control any communication between scientists working at NASA's climate institute about global warming. James Hansen is a top expert in climate change who works for the aforementioned institute:

"In my more than three decades in the government I've never witnessed such restrictions on the ability of scientists to communicate with the public," says Hansen.

Restrictions like an e-mail Hansen's institute received from NASA in 2004. "... there is a new review process ... ," the e-mail read. "The White House (is) now reviewing all climate related press releases," it continued.

The CBS/60 minutes article cited above is worth reading in its entirety--and there's also a video player there where you can watch the 60 minutes interview with James Hansen--who said that he was also invited to go on NPR, but that NASA wouldn't allow it because it was "too liberal."

I'm not sure about the finer points of law--but somewhere, somehow, some of this has got to be a crime. And I'm really hoping that Henry Waxman's committee can lay bare even more of this unconscionable coverup of a scientific data that concerns the very future of our species' existence on this planet.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

US Attorney doc dump includes TALKING POINTS!

Let's cut right to the meat here--the document dump by the DOJ concerning the US Attorney scandal is pure gold.

I picked out a random PDF from the recent dump on the House Judiciary Committee website and reviewed the comments on TPM Muckracker to see what had been covered in the document I was reviewing. I only found a couple of references to one page--which I'll get to in a bit--but the other stuff I found in this one particular document is fascinating.

I'm referring to document section 1-9, release date 3-19-07--which contains talking points!

If you want to read it yourself, go to the link above and start on page 9.



U.S. Attorneys serve at the pleasure of the president:

United States Attorneys serve at the pleasure of the President. Thus, like other high-ranking executive branch officials, they may be removed for any reason or no reason. That on occasion in an organization as large as the Justice Department some United States Attorneys are removed, or are asked or encouraged to resign, should come as no surprise. United States Attorneys are never removed, or asked or encouraged to resign, in an effort to retaliate against them or inappropriately influence a particular investigation, criminal prosecution or civil case.

Well, see--they serve at the pleasure of the President. So, see, we can hire them and fire them when we want, for whatever reason we want, and you don't have a right to care! Well, not that we could ever do that of course. Heh heh. I mean, we wouldn't do in inappropriately. Of course, it all depends on how you define "appropriate." Heh heh. The fact that we seemed to fire all the USA's who were investigating Republicans or refused our demands to pursue partisan witchhunts against Democrats to help our election chances? Pure coincidence. Of course, you couldn't do anything about it even if we did, because they serve at the pleasure of the President!

Now, I have to tell you, I'm not going to sit down and type the whole thing out for you, because I don't have character recognition software that would do it for me! So instead, I'll give you an interesting synopsis of some of the finer points:

--A defense of the necessity of inserting the clause that expanded the AG's appointment power (after all, the fact that it was so necessary is why it had to be done so stealthily!)

--The talking points memo is followed by a "fact sheet" about the new nominees to the US Attorney positions. Included in the "fact sheet" is a statistic--I kid you not--about how Bush's nominees have more experience as prosecutors than Clinton's nominees! You can find that on page 18 of 50 of the document. Because we all know that this is really about the incompetence of the Clenis! (I mean, seriously--I'm looking forward to the day when some right-wing hack doesn't respond with "well, Clinton..."

Now, it seems clear that this section of the document dump is pure talking point defense--so it's no surprise what comes next! At page 21, there is a bio of Tom Griffin--who was appointed for the district of Eastern Arkansas the same day that Bud Cummins, the previous attorney, submitted the resignation that was "requested" of him. Now, Griffin is the only one mentioned in this section of the "talking points" document dump, and it's no surprise that they did--all you need to do is take a look at the TPM link just above to see just how bad this guy is.

They knew they were in trouble on him, so they had to create a talking point just for him.

Now, here's what I'd really like to know: First of all, who wrote the aforementioned talking points--and on top of that, to whom were they sent? Fox News, perhaps?

But the real kicker is the email on page 26. It's from Margaret Chiara, the ousted U.S. Attorney from Western Michigan, who was let go supposedly for "poor performance." Here's her email to Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty about her firing:

Paul: I respectfully request that you reconsider the rationale of poor performance as the basis for my dismissal. It is in our mutal interest to retract this erroneous explanation while there is still time. Please simply state that a presidentially appointed position is not an entitlement. No other explanation is needed.

As you know, I have assiduously avoided public comment by pursuing an informal version of the "witness protection program" in order to elude reporters! However, the legal community in Grand Rapids and organizations throughout Michigan are outraged that I am being labeled as a "poor performer." Politics may not be a pleasnt reason, but the truth is compelling...

But they'd never fire anyone for political reasons. Of course not.

Read the docs for yourself. Have a blast. I am.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Global Warming: The IPCC was a CONSERVATIVE estimate

From a diary by my friend (and energy policy expert) Adam Siegel.

For all those who were using the IPCC report as "proof" that Al Gore was blowing a bunch of hot air, or saying that the report proves that things aren't bad yet:

The IPCC report only took into account what we could model for fairly certain, and didn't include any consequences of modeling positive reinforcement cycles. And it was also altered due to political pressure from our "ally" Saudi Arabia and our frenemy, China.

Please stop embarrassing yourselves by citing the IPCC report in your denials. Thank you.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

They serve at the pleasure of the President.

Ah, the US Attorney scandal. What a horrible, embarrassing situation: firing officials for not agreeing to pursue an overtly political agenda to solidify your party's control over Washington--and then lying about it.

No matter what side of the aisle you're on, you'd have to agree that this is shameful. Scandalous. Unconscionable. Countervailing, even, the very foundations of the ideal of a democratic state. Right?


See, it doesn't matter how much a traditional conservative like Joe Scarborough may be disgusted by what has gone on here--because you're not dealing with the same Republican Party. No, instead, today's conservative movement has abandoned any commitment to principle and instead gone straight to embracing authoritarianism.

In fact, many on the right not only don't view things like the Attorney scandal as a problem--they openly embrace the methodology in question!

As my main exhibit, I'd like to refer you to a somewhat recent diary on RedState. Now, I know that basing a logical argument on an individual diary at a community site is fraught with problems, but this diary was at the top of the site's recommended list for a good deal of time. I also know that it doesn't take much to make the top of the recommended list at RedState, but that mere fact should speak to the popularity of the opinions featured in the piece.

The other point to be noted is that this piece was written in the aftermath of the Scooter Libby conviction, but before the US Attorney firing scandal got really bad--you know, when it was obvious that they were all lying the whole time.

The diary begins by describing how Republicans have a natural disadvantage when it comes to governing because government was designed for Democrats by Democrats ever since the New Deal (this is not proven in the diary, however). So what's the solution?

The very first thing a Republican officeholder should do after his hand comes off the Bible is fire everyone in the government that he has an arguable legal right to fire - every last one, no exceptions. Some of them may be apolical subject matter experts and you can hire them back - after they kiss the ring. The rest lose their houses and girlfriends. There'll be wailing and knashing of teeth and starving babies on the TV, plenty of commentary about how mean you were to those selfless public servants, but it won't last long. It certainly won't last as long as it would if you waited for them to do something to you and then had to face the "polical retaliation" cries and lawsuits. See the current upset over the federal attornies if you don't believe me.

See, if you're a Republican, what you have to do to counteract the naturally Democratic inclination of government is to fire everyone, including the non-political people, and rule with an iron fist, unless and until they swear a loyalty oath. Because the last thing you want is dedicated public servants knowledgeable in issues who know more about things than you do in their issues of expertise and can tell you what's what. No, instead, you want people who will only do what you say, when you say it, and ask how high they're supposed to jump. We can't have any facts or knowledge running around--there's a well-known liberal bias there.

Of course, see, that only matters if you believe that actually having a staffed government is important at all:

Now every player and lobbyist is going to tell you that you can't disrupt the government like that; it's simply a lie. The only thing you'll disrupt is the contact lists in the lobbyists' Blackberries. The very hardest thing you could do in government is stop it from working. You could fire every political appointee in any government and go on vacation for three months and the only people who'd miss you or them are the lobbyists and reporters.

The day to day operation of government goes on in spite of political management, not because of it. Identify the areas where you must have a change of policy or operations and find loyal, competent people for those areas; leave the rest vacant.

Right. Because as the Walter Reed privatization deal shows...or as the FEMA response to Hurricane Katrina doesn't really matter what goes on at the deeper recesses of government bureaucracy! Government is the problem, not the solution! The less government, the better! Just stock the essential positions like the directors and what not with loyalists like Brownie, and the rest will take care of itself. It's non-essential! Who needs a fully staffed government, anyway? All of those positions were just created to find extra jobs for Democrats. It's just party socialism. Sheesh.

Moving on to organization of departments:

All infrastructure, e.g., personnel, budget, finance, procurement, IT, should be moved to the highest common level and placed under people who are absolutely loyal to you; this is how you control the people who aren't absolutely loyal to you.

Competence be damned, and full speed ahead with the ring-kissing! Oh, and what about that whole corruption thing?

Make it clear that the slighest hint of scandal is summary firing offense. It's tough, but don't defend your people and don't dither; if they misbehave, they're fired - full stop. If the misbehavior involves graft or corruption, they're fired and prosecuted.

Now I admit that this takes a lot of the fun out of governing. After all, if you can't give a contract to a friend, who can you give one to? You'll get some "What the Hell did I help elect you for?" calls, but if you know the business it is easy enough to legally reward your friends and punish your enemies.

Because, of course, governing isn't any fun if you can't engage in a little cronyism, right? I mean, that whole thing about being a public servant and doing the best thing possible for your country and your people--who cares! Because you're the Decider. It's all about you and what you want. Rewarding your friends with the contracts. Putting your personal pets in all the government positions. Firing anyone who doesn't do exactly what you like, because you are the law.

I want to remind you all of something: This diary on RedState did not touch on any issues of policy that could even remotely be described as progressive vs. conservative. Instead, it centers entirely on how dictatorial authoritarianism is a necessary part of a conservative government--because according to the "the deck is stacked against conservatives in government" argument, being authoritarian is an extenuating circumstance for them.

So you see--we're in for a long fight ahead. It's not like most conservative ideologues are disgusted by the authoritarianism of this administration--they view it as necessary.

And we must do whatever it takes to avoid setting a precedent of letting them get away with it.