Article

Global Warming: A Hero And A Target

Former Vice President Al Gore will testify to House and Senate committees today, bringing with him a demand for action to solve the climate crisis.

  Features
 

GOOD NEWS

In a 94-2 vote, the Senate yesterday voted to “end the Bush administration’s ability to unilaterally fill U.S. attorney vacancies as a backlash to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales’ firing of eight federal prosecutors.”


STATE WATCH

OREGON: “Oregon House backed a resolution Tuesday urging President Bush and Congress to withdraw troops from Iraq as soon as possible.”

WASHINGTON: A community plans to produce several “zero-energy” homes.

IOWA: State House passes resolution allowing voter registration on Election Day.


BLOG WATCH

THINK PROGRESS: Right-wing amendment forces Katrina victims to find a job before receiving aid.

TALKING POINTS MEMO: Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-OH) calls conditions at Walter Reed “overblown.”

POGO BLOG: In support of whistleblower protections.

THE SWAMP: Attorney General Alberto Gonzales cancels his House appearance tomorrow to discuss the Justice Department budget and other issues not related to the U.S. Attorney purge.


DAILY GRILL

“[The prosecutor purge is] a customary practice by presidents. U.S. attorneys and others serve at the pleasure of the President. Past administrations have removed U.S. attorneys. It is their right to do so.”
— President Bush, 3/14/07

VERSUS

“[O]f the 468 confirmations made by the Senate over the 25-year period [1981-2006], only 10 left office involuntarily for reasons other than a change in administration prior to the firings that took place in December.”
— Center for American Progress Senior Fellow Scott Lilly, 3/20/07


ARCHIVES

Progress Report


STUDENTS

Politics with an Attitude: Everyone from Barack Obama to Stephen Colbert talks to Campus Progress. Right-wingers seem scared of us. Find out why here.

 March 21, 2007
A Hero And A Target
Go Beyond The Headlines
Coffee and Donuts Not Included
ThinkProgress.orgFor news and updates throughout the day, check out our blog at ThinkProgress.org.
Sign up | Contact us | Archive | Mobile


A Hero And A Target

House and Senate committee hearings on global warming today expect “huge turnouts,” as they play host to the testimony of Vice President Al Gore, who will be sending Congress a message “demanding immediate action to solve the climate crisis.” Carrying with him as many as 500,000 postcards from individuals seeking “real action on global warming,” Gore returns to Capitol Hill “as a celebrated Academy Award winner, a Nobel Peace Prize nominee, and a man on a mission to save the planet.” Gore’s efforts to raise the public consciousness of looming environmental and economic disasters have made him the subject of right-wing attacks. Long-time critics of global warming science have refocused their criticisms of late on the leading spokesman of the climate crisis awakening. Conservatives have hurled personal attacks on Gore, calling him an “alarmist,” an “extremist,” and a “high-profile hypocrite.” The intensity of the right-wing rage is a reflection of Gore’s incredible success in winning over public attention and goodwill for his work on the environment. Two years ago, global warming was still considered a fringe issue to many. Today, the debate is over — Americans overwhelmingly agree that the climate crisis exists and that we must act now to reverse it. Gore’s documentary (and companion book) An Inconvenient Truth had a profound impact on how Americans view the issue of global warming, and the public stage that Gore now commands is a deserved recognition of his work. 

PATHETIC ATTEMPTS TO STUMP GORE: Earlier this week, the Drudge Report — a leading global warming denier — posted questions that were “circulating behind-the-scenes” and would supposedly leave “Gore scrambling for answers.” The list recycled long-running efforts by conservatives to play down the extent of human contribution to global warming. One question said: “Wouldn’t it make more sense that the sun is responsible for warming since it is the common denominator?” Media Matters reports that theory has been debunked by the scientific community, noting that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) — in a report it released in February — “concluded that both greenhouse gases and solar radiation are contributing to global warming.” Moreover, “solar activity has not increased since the 1950s” and is therefore unlikely to be able to singularly explain the recent warming. Another question for Gore read: “Joseph Romm, the executive director for the Center for Energy and Climate Solutions, has said we must build 700 large nuclear plants to stave off climate change. Where do you stand on the need for nuclear energy?” Romm, a former assistant energy secretary in the Clinton administration, noted that he sides with Gore and is in favor of “mandatory carbon dioxide controls” before making calculated and safe investments into nuclear power.

SMEARS AND LIES: There is no meaningful debate within the scientific community about the human contribution to global warming, so the right wing has instead busied itself with propagating information to smear the leading spokesman of the climate crisis awakening movement. Recently, Fox News’s Sean Hannity lashed out at Gore for supposedly flying on private jets, despite having no evidence Gore had done so since Jan. 2000. Gore’s office told The Progress Report that the Vice President reduces his emissions as much as he can, drives a hybrid, flies commercially whenever possible, and purchases green power. Fox News’s Brit Hume chose to smear Gore by claiming he was a hypocrite for accepting royalties from a zinc mine located on his Tennessee property. But as the Tennessean reported, “[T]here is no evidence the mine has caused serious damage to the environment in the area or threatened the health of his neighbors.” Conservatives were also overjoyed to highlight a recent New York Times article claiming that scientists have disputed Gore’s environmental work. At least four of the sources cited in the story have records of misinformation on the issue. Also, Media Matters notes the Times last year printed a story explaining that scientists “tended to agree” with Gore’s main points.

MORE WORK TO DO: While the scientific consensus is in (global warming is “unequivocal” and human activity is its main driver), a well-heeled and carefully-orchestrated movement on the right is trying to doctor it. Funded with money from oil and gas firms, conservative think tanks continue to pour money into efforts to push back on the science. The American Enterprise Institute offered $10,000 only to scientists whose views were critical of the scientific consensus. The Competitive Enterprise Institute, which is funded with donations from Exxon Mobil, ran television ads downplaying the impact of increasing levels of carbon dioxide, stating “they call it pollution; we call it life.” A hearing of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee demonstrated the pervasive influence this ideology has had inside the White House. Philip Cooney, a former environmental adviser to President Bush, acknowledged changing scientific statements to “align” them with “the administration’s stated policy” that there is no consensus that global warming is caused by man. Gore’s mission to increase awareness is thus challenged by those wanting to bury their heads in the sands. Exemplifying this mentality, Sen. Trent Lott (R-MS) said of Gore’s testimony today, “Those who believe all his garbage are going to be excited to death and the rest of us are going to ignore it.”

Under the Radar

ADMINISTRATION — NO PRECEDENT FOR ‘EXECUTIVE PRIVILEGE’ IN PROSECUTOR PURGE: Yesterday, President Bush announced that he would offer “key members” of his staff, including Karl Rove and Harriet Miers, to be “interviewed” by “relevant members” of congressional committees about events surrounding the firing of eight U.S. attorneys. These interviews would be conducted off the record “with no transcript, with no oath.” The Senate rejected his offer. The prohibition of testimony from White House aides and the promised opposition to any congressional subpoenas is, according to Bush, an attempt to protect his executive privilege to receive “candid” and confidential advice from White House staffers. But as Salon’s Glen Greenwald notes, the protections from subpoenas granted by executive privilege have been ruled by the Supreme Court (in U.S. v. Nixon – 1974) to be relevant only when there exists a need “to protect military, diplomatic, or sensitive national security secrets.” Similar reasoning was used by “District Court Judge Norma Holloway Johnson in her decision denying Clinton’s attempt to rely on this privilege to resist Ken Starr’s subpoenas.” The Congressional Research Service has identified 31 individuals from the Clinton administration who testified — under oath — on Capitol Hill. Nevertheless, yesterday, White House Press Secretary Snow told the National Review’s Byron York that “we feel pretty comfortable with the constitutional argument” of executive privilege. But in a March 1998 op-ed in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Snow attacked President Clinton for trying to “to shield virtually any communications that take place within the White House. … Taken to its logical extreme, that position would make it impossible for citizens to hold a chief executive accountable for anything. He would have a constitutional right to cover up.” 

ETHICS — JUSTICE DEPARTMENT USED MATERNITY LEAVE AS EXCUSE TO APPOINT GRIFFIN:
In June 2006, the Justice Department fired Bud Cummins as U.S. attorney in Arkansas and replaced him with Karl Rove-protege Tim Griffin. Traditionally, the Justice Department works with the state’s senators to come up with a replacement U.S. attorney. But in a Feb. 6 Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, Sen. Mark Pryor (D-AR) confirmed that the Bush administration ignored his objections to Griffin. In a Dec. 26, 2006 article in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Justice Department spokesman Brian Roehrkasse explained that they “temporarily” appointed Griffin, rather than Bud Cummins’s deputy Jane Duke, because Duke was on maternity leave. On Jan. 11, Pryor wrote a letter to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and took issue with the Justice Department’s excuse: “I am astonished that the reason given by your office for the interim appointment is that the First Assistant U.S. Attorney is on maternity leave and therefore would not be able to perform the responsibilities of the appointment. … This concerns me on several levels, but most importantly it uses pregnancy and motherhood as conditions that deny an appointment.”  The Pregnancy Discrimination Act states that employers, including the federal government, cannot discriminate on the “basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions.” Therefore, based on Roehrkasse’s explanation, the Justice Department is either 1) guilty of sexual discrimination or 2) guilty of using sexual discrimination as an excuse for appointing a “loyal Bushie” as a federal prosecutor.

IRAQ — IRAQI ARMY FILLED WITH NONEXISTENT ‘GHOST SOLDIERS’: Faced with a civil war and mounting insurgency, U.S. military and government officials have frequently described the transfer of power from U.S. forces to the Iraq army as vital to winning the counterinsurgency effort. But “more than three years and $15 billion into the U.S. effort to rebuild Iraqi forces, ‘ghost soldiers‘ still help fill Iraq’s army ranks and no one knows how many trained policemen remain on the job, the Pentagon and U.S. government investigators report.” These ghost soldiers are “soldiers and policemen who exist only on paper — a fraudulent device by which units can receive additional per capita resources, and corrupt officials can collect nonexistent recruits pay.” In its latest report, the Pentagon claimed that 328,700 Iraqi security force personnel had been trained, double the number of two years ago. But it also added that “the actual number of present-for-duty soldiers is about one-half to two-thirds of the total due to scheduled leave, absence without leave, and attrition.” Because of the high rate of attrition, local authorities have hastily replaced these soldiers with men who have not even gone through U.S.-overseen training. As a result of these problems, the U.S. Baghdad command estimates less than 70 percent of Interior Ministry personnel are present for duty on an average day. The House continues to debate an $124 billion appropriations bill this week which would set tighter benchmarks for handing over authority to the Iraqi army. If such benchmarks are not met, then the legislation calls for a U.S. troop withdrawal by next fall. President Bush has declared he would veto the House proposal if it passes.


Think Fast

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) is pressing the Justice Department on the departure of the former U.S. attorney in Los Angeles, Debra Yang, who resigned last October. “Was she asked to resign, and if so, why? We have to ferret that out,” said Feinstein.

The Wounded Warrior Assistance Act of 2007, a bill aimed at “making immediate improvements in the treatment…of wounded combat veterans passed the House Armed Services Committee by a 59-0 vote Tuesday.”

The Justice Department’s Inspector General yesterday told the House “that the FBI may have violated the law or government policies as many as 3,000 times since 2003 as agents secretly collected the telephone, bank and credit card records of U.S. citizens and foreign nationals residing here.”

The U.N. refugee agency says “there has been an ‘abject denial‘ around the world of the humanitarian impact of invading Iraq.” The agency estimates that the “number of Iraqis living beyond the country’s borders as refugees stands at two million and a further 1.7 million live within the borders as displaced people.” 

Senators yesterday pressed the Bush administration to more “aggressively prosecute contracting fraud in Iraq, saying the dozen criminal cases filed aren’t enough of a deterrent.”

“An ambitious effort to bulldoze more than 9,000 rotting houses still standing [in New Orleans] after Hurricane Katrina has slowed sharply this year, prolonging the city’s attempts to rebuild blighted neighborhoods, city and federal records show.”

At least seven helicopters were downed by insurgents in Iraq between Jan. 20 and Feb. 21. The military has responded “by limiting the airspace where U.S. pilots can fly” and enlarging “several ‘no-fly zones’ north of Baghdad.”

And finally: Tom DeLay’s new book: TMI? DeLay reveals that he “lived in group houses dubbed the ‘Macho Manor’ and ‘Hot Tub Haven’ with other members of the Texas state Legislature, back when he earned the moniker ‘Hot Tub Tom.’ DeLay admits to philandering.”