Politics

The real 'surge' in Iraq: Rent-a-soldier

In a privatized war, mercenaries outnumber soldiers — and bring home cash for their bosses

Everybody thought it was a big deal last spring when President Bush announced his "surge" of 20,000 troops in Iraq, which brings the total number to 160,000, four years after the invasion. Meanwhile, with little public or Congressional scrutiny, the president has been eagerly shelling out billions to maintain an even larger private armed force in Iraq. According to the journalist Jeremy Scahill — without whose dogged reports in The Nation and on Democracy Now the story would be virtually unknown — U.S. taxpayers are now supporting a private-security force of 180,000 in Iraq. That’s larger than our formal military …

Hastert aging, mellowing, retiring … going green?

Also via Brian Beutler (TOWTM) comes the exceedingly strange news that Denny Hastert (R-Ill.), former Speaker of the House and heretofore undistinguished party apparatchik, wants to leave Congress with a bang by … passing climate change legislation with Nancy Pelosi. Wonders never cease.

Galbraith says what he really thinks

Economist goes over to the dark side

Some facts to hang your hat on: Good governance might save the day. Bad governance could just make things worse. I generally agree with Galbraith's opinions. However, there is always a reasonable probability that some of his opinions are wrong (as is true of anybody's opinions, including my own). He's quoted in David's post: "Planning" is a word that too many in this debate are trying to avoid, fearful, perhaps, of its Soviet overtones. But the reality of climate change is that central planning is essential, and on a grand scale. History has a bad habit of repeating itself. In the past that was unavoidable because we had no way to record history so future generations would learn from others' mistakes. We don't have that excuse now. Ignoring history in today's information age can't be blamed on ignorance.

Rep. Hilda Solis

She’s cool

One of the most (OK, only) active members of Congress around the intersection of climate change and race is Rep. Hilda Solis (CA-32). She’s the one who sponsored the Green Jobs Act that Van Jones is so excited about. Here’s a short interview with her, from OpenLeft: Tomorrow, Solis is hosting a community forum of global warming. Check it out if you’re in the area.

U.S. taxpayers are paying to increase carbon emissions in the developing world

Makes total sense!

On the one hand, Bush and the Republicans say we’re helpless to do anything about global warming until China and India act. On the other hand, the U.S. Export-Import Bank and the Overseas Private Investment Corp. are funneling billions in taxpayer dollars to huge corporations (think Halliburton and Bechtel) to help them construct carbon-intensive hard infrastructure projects: According to their own reports, the two agencies approved projects in recent years that annually emitted more than 125 million metric tons of CO2 — the equivalent of putting 31.3 million new cars on the road or increasing U.S. carbon emissions by 2%, …

A carbon tax even Dingell haters can love

From Rep. John Larson

Love the carbon tax but can’t stand Dingell? Rep. John Larson (D-Conn.) is your man. He just introduced a kick-ass carbon tax bill (PDF) to the House. From Greenwire ($ub req’d): Larson’s legislation would set a $15 tax in its first year for every ton of carbon dioxide emissions from the oil, gas and coal industries, with the tax rising 10 percent annually while also keeping pace with inflation. Larson’s office also released a memo (PDF) saying the tax would be “easy to implement and administer” by covering about 2,000 oil refineries, coal processing plants and other points where fossil …

Idle oughts

We still heart Rocky Anderson

Rocky Anderson is in the news again, reminding us why we all love him. Now he’s taking on idling autos, calling for city-owned vehicles and personal vehicles on city business to limit their idling to five minutes, except in emergency situations. Fifty percent of air pollution in Utah comes from cars and trucks, and Rocky wants the city to do their part in cutting down on the smog-creating emissions. His environmental adviser, Jordan Gates, says this latest executive order is part of the mayor’s comprehensive plan to improve air quality, encourage alternative fuels, reduce driving, bolster alternative transportation, and reduce …

Farm Bill: The 'delicate balance' the House left intact

But key Senators are making noise about rocking the boat

When Mark Udall (D-Colo.) proposed shaving two-thirds of a cent from just one of the subsidies that go to cotton farmers, Bob Etheridge (D-N.C.) said, "it is absolutely unfair, once we have reached this very delicate balance within the bill, to reach in and single out one commodity." That amendment -- to cut less than a penny from cotton subsidies and use the savings to protect more than 200,000 acres from sprawl and development -- failed by a vote of 175-251. So what was that very delicate balance that the House of Representatives preserved?

Feds fund Bloomberg's congestion plan

But still no actual decision on whether it will happen

The federal government has agreed to allot $354 million to New York City to help it launch its congestion pricing plan. Yeah, that one where state legislators were first like “Hmmm, I dunno,” and then they were all like “no way,” and then some enviros were like, “Eh, maybe it’s not that great anyway.” Not that federal funding guarantees that the state will approve the plan, so stay tuned.

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