Ben Buchwalter


Energy Scientists: Nuclear Loan Increase is Bad Policy
February 17, 2010, 8:50 pm
Filed under: Barack Obama, Environment, Mother Jones | Tags: , , ,

No one can say that economists, environmentalists, and energy scientists have not warned the Obama administration about the dangers of expanding nuclear energy. After the administration announced that it planned to triple the amount of nuclear loan guarantees for nuclear projects, I posted a roundup at MoJo. Here’s an excerpt:

David Kreutzer, an energy economic and climate change analyst for the conservative Heritage Foundation wrote in a blog post for the National Journal that increasing the loan guarantees “is a bad idea for taxpayers, consumers and long-term industry competitiveness” because it would “stifle competition and technological development within the nuclear energy industry.”

And in a particularly damning blow to nuclear interests, Dr. Mark Cooper, an energy and environment economist at Vermont Law School wrote a report (pdf) last summer predicting that the cost of 100 new reactors could cost up to $4.1 trillion and that a combination of increased energy efficiency and cleaner renewable energy options would produce the same level of electricity.



Bush Legacy Lives On Through State Secrets

A large part of Barack Obama’s campaign message of change was his promise to reverse Bush administration policies regarding torture and state secrets. Since he was inaugurated a year ago, we’ve seen Obama dial back those promises one by one. In December, the American Civil Liberties Union and the US Government faced off before the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco regarding five civilians who were detained illegally and transported overseas with the help of Boeing subsidiary Jeppesen Dataplan and subjected to harsh interrogation tactics. I attended the hearing and wrote this report for MoJo:

At the Mohamed et al v. Jeppesen Dataplan hearing, both sides were equally dramatic. Arguing on behalf of the plaintiffs, the ACLU’s Ben Wizner warned that if the court endorses the government’s sweeping claim to secrecy, “it will do tremendous harm to our democratic principles.” Representing the United States, Douglas Letter doubled down on the government’s assertion that simply allowing the case to be heard would result in the disclosure of classified information that could harm national security….

Under US law, the executive branch can request that a lawsuit be thrown out if it would make public information that could endanger US interests or personnel. In a declaration of support for the government, former CIA director Michael Hayden said [pdf] that the case would expose information that “could be expected to cause serious—and in some instances, exceptionally grave—damage to the national security of the United States, and therefore, the information should be excluded from any use.” Letter argued that courts should defer to such leaders’ judgments about national security. Wizner disagreed, maintaining that the lawsuit could proceed with guidelines to keep truly sensitive information secret. If the judiciary “just went with the executive branch,” he said, “there is no role for this court.”

Wizner argued that the government has not been consistent in its treatment of these matters. Though the CIA claims that it cannot confirm nor deny its contracts, “they do so routinely when it suits their interests,” he pointed out. Earlier this week, for example, CIA spokesman George Little gave specific information about the infamous military contractor Blackwater Worldwide. “At this time, Blackwater is not involved in any CIA operations other than in a security or support role,” he told the New York Times.



Racist vs. Racial: Which One Was Joe Wilson?
January 10, 2010, 8:55 pm
Filed under: Barack Obama, Mother Jones, Race, Republicans | Tags: , , , ,

September 17, 2009

Last September, the furor among Republicans against President Obama and his perceived agenda was almost tangible. But the public’s response to Obama, since he launched his historic campaign for president at the beginning of 2008, has veered dangerously close to subtle racism. But clearly, not all criticism of the president and his agenda is racist. And bringing up the topic of race doesn’t automatically make someone a racist. In the midst of the speculation of widespread racism among the Republican party and other anti-Obamaites, I tried to clarify the difference between racist and racial in MoJo:

If you define a racist as someone who feels animosity toward someone of another race, then most political and media confrontations aren’t racist (Limbaugh and Beck aside). More often, we see politicians being racial, acting or speaking with the clear awareness of race. Though outdated and perhaps ignorant, Bush calling Obama “this cat,” is not racist. It’s racial. Similarly, pointing out the problematic racial views of some white commentators is not racist or reverse racist. It’s racial.

The Joe Wilson case is different. Calling out “You Lie!” is not, on first glance, racial or racist. Wilson actually thought Obama was lying. But the question is whether some members of the GOP harbor a more subtle racism in trying to put Obama in his place. Last week, for example, Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) said that President Obama, the most powerful man in the world, should show some “humility” while delivering a speech on health care reform to congress. And during the campaign, many red state voters couldn’t quite put their finger on why they didn’t like Obama. There was just something about him. Last August, former Reagan and Clinton staffer David Gergen said that the McCain campaign deliberately pushed the message that “he’s uppity, he ought to stay in his place.”



From Martha’s Vineyard to Crawford, Texas: A History of Modern Presidential Vacations

August 28, 2009

When President Obama visited Martha’s Vineyard last summer as part of the time-honored tradition of presidents flaunting their patriotism while pretending to relax away from Washington, the media predictably went nuts. Newspapers and websites were awash with photos of the shirtless president and updates to his rather boring itinerary. Curious about how past presidents have spent their time away, I hit Nexis like a pro to dig up some choice details about recent presidents. Some examples:

In 1991, George H.W. Bush also had difficulty avoiding work while on vacation. Only months after the fall of the Soviet Union, Bush vacationed in Kennebunkport, Maine in August. But, having trouble letting go, he invited British Prime Minister John Major along for the ride. He interrupted the vacation to tell the press that the United States should not rush to grant the new Russian state financial aid. “Let’s get the facts, deal from strength…and then make decisions,” he said….

In 1998, the year that Bill Clinton‘s, well, problematic relationship Monica Lewinsky went public, Bill and Hillary still made sure to escape to Martha’s Vineyard for some R&R in August. But the embattled president was careful to have no fun. According to the AP, “Clinton has spent much of his vacation secluded with his wife Hillary and their daughter Chelsea, playing no golf and concentrating on what his press secretary called family ‘healing.'” Clinton was impeached just four months later.

With opposition to the Iraq war mounting, Cindy Sheehan, whose son died in Iraq in April 2004, set up shop outside of George W. Bush‘s favorite vacation spot, his ranch in Crawford, Texas, demanding that Bush speak to her about the war. The protest, which accumulated a massive following, became a poignant symbol against the War in Iraq, especially when juxtaposed with media images of Bush continuing his vacation as planned. And Cindy is at it again, but now in Martha’s Vineyard, where she took her traveling war protest to President Obama.



5 Funniest Gibbs Moments
November 22, 2009, 5:16 pm
Filed under: Barack Obama, Media, Mother Jones, Random | Tags: , ,

June 11, 2009

There’s no doubt, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs is a funny dude. A Politico report found that in President Obama’s first four months in office, the press room stenographer recorded 600 separated instances of “laughter.” Back in June, I compiled the five funniest moments of the young presidency. Here’s the funniest:



Economy’s Impact on Charitable Giving
March 24, 2009, 7:57 pm
Filed under: Barack Obama, Economy | Tags: , ,

I really enjoyed Obama’s press conference tonight. I joked on Twitter that press conferences were more interesting when our Prez was a dolt. But really, I like it better this way (well, who doesn’t?). I thought one of the most interesting questions of the night came from Politico’s Mike Allen. The essence of his question (and I don’t have the text in front of me) was whether the implementation of progressive taxation would negatively impact charitable giving. The idea being that the country’s wealthiest individuals could be less likely to give to charity if their taxes are raised.

Obama said he didn’t agree with this reasoning at all. Raising taxes on the top 5% will not run them into the ground. Yes, people are saving everywhere they can and the current economic climate won’t be good for charitable giving. But that cuts across the board regardless of how people are taxed. Obama rightly concluded that what will permanently harm individual giving is allowing the economy to continue to tank. So if we think creatively about how to get us out of this mess, even if it means raising taxes a bit on the wealthy, then we could get out of this crisis faster and more permanently.

I was glad to hear Obama stick to his guns advocating for progressive taxation.



Obama at Last Year’s State of the Union
February 24, 2009, 3:08 pm
Filed under: Barack Obama, General Politics | Tags: ,

Obama will adress a joint-session of Congress tonight for a non-State of the Union. Ben Smith reminds us of then-candidate Obama’s response to President Bush’s final State of the Union. 

Each year, as we watch the State of the Union, we see half the chamber rise to applaud the President and half the chamber stay in their seats. We see half the country tune in to watch, but know that much of the country has stopped even listening. Imagine if next year was different. Imagine if next year, the entire nation had a president they could believe in. A president who rallied all Americans around a common purpose. That’s the kind of President we need in this country. And with your help in the coming days and weeks, that’s the kind of President I will be.

Cue chills.