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Friday, May 30, 2008

Our Infamous Alumna

It seems as though Jocelyn Kirsch, Drexel graduate and noted identity theif, is up to her old tricks. When this story first broke last year I noted how sexist some of the coverage was, and that post about Kirsch continues to be one of our most googled pieces. It might be worth reminding people of sexist overtones in the media, but right now I don't feel like saying anything about this case other than "Jocelyn Kirsch is a horrible human being."


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That Clears It Up...

The ACLU recently received some FOIA documents regarding waterboarding of detainees in CIA custody, and well, some questions remain.
While the documents do, in fact, reveal the word “waterboarding” or some variation, they leave pretty much everything else to the imagination. The pages that haven’t been completely withheld (many of them contain the words “Denied in Full” instead of any actual content) have the clandestine blacked-out look that’s become a sort of trademark of this administration.
Can you imagine how easy blogging would be if I just redacted most of each post?



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Wednesday, May 28, 2008


Scott asks whether or not the latest episode of "John McCain and the lobbyists that love him" will penetrate the media's mancrush on the elderly senator from Arizona. Survey says... no.

Sure it would be nice if the fact that the man who supposedly gives McCain economic credibility was until a month ago a registered lobbyist for UBS and advised McCain's approach to the bailout WHILE A LOBBYIST FOR UBS was noticed by more than Keith Olbermann and the bloggers. But hey, if it worked like that we might not have 150,000 troops in Iraq right now. If it's not broke, why fix it? Right?

Similarly, Illan Goldberg at Democracy Arsenal implores said press for a reality check.
"Seriously, rather then just reading the speech one might consider the fact that this is a man who has actually called for kicking Russia out of the G8 and even in the speech yesterday continued to call for national missile defense - something that would greatly damage any possibility for cooperation with Russia. A man who has a long history of saying belligerent things about allies and foes. A man who has joked about bombing Iran. A man who voted against ratifying the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. A man who has a long record of showing a penchant for using military force. A man who with this type of history would be unlikely to achieve any of the main goals he seems to lay out in the speech."

Finally, just 12 hours from now will mark 400 days since McCain officially declared his candidacy for President, and he still doesn't have an energy policy.


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Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Nearing the End (of Primary Spin?)

One of the disappointing aspects of this extended primary season has been the volume and idiocy of a lot of the spin. Some came from people who I expect more from, and some, well, was exactly what I would have expected. I'm still trying to follow my policy of non-agitation, because Obama really will be the nominee, and it's just not productive to inflame emotions over the primary at this point. However, as this primary draws to it's likely conclusion shortly after the last three primaries vote early next week, I would like to highlight some spin that I find, well, unconvincing.

So in no particular order, here are some frustratingly asinine arguments that I hear thrown about quite a bit.

1) Creative Metrics, ie. Fun With Numbers!

This particular line of attack popped up on my radar in early February, as some (prominent) Clinton supporters began parsing exit polls, census data, and primary/caucus results to "prove" that Clinton was the choice of the people, while Obama was stealing the nomination by exploiting "the rules." This line of argument was typified by this piece from (not written by her, but apparently approved by her), by Paul Lukasiak.

It includes many variants of which states "count," which states "need to be won," and which voters or voting methods are more equal than others. This includes the "if we were playing by different rules, I'd be winning!" ploy that makes for such delicious satire.

More recently, the impossible-to-underestimate Jerome Armstrong relayed the following chart on MyDD.

See what he did? Even if we stipulate that his numbers are accurate (and there is reason to suspect otherwise), the graph is scaled from 10200 to 12000. The difference of 1000 between Clinton and Obama appears to be greater than Obama's total, when in fact the difference between them is less than 1/10th of the total of either.

2) Specieous Electibilty Arguments

You may have heard (seen?) me say (write?) before, but I firmly believe that either Obama or Clinton can win the general election this year. This wasn't always so, through much of 2007 I feared that Clinton's high negatives and baggage were a dangerous wildcard, but she has proven her ability as a candidate and debater, and she allayed my fears. In this political climate we Democrats should be able to elect a dead horse. Certainly we can elect the most talented and charismatic politician in a generation. Between Obama's solid progressive yet pragmatic policy proposals, and his ability to communicate to Americans, the Democrats are in the driver's seat. The only thing that would threaten either candidate is intra-party tensions.

One of the most frustrating electibility arguments is the primary winner/loser argument. I'll type this slowly for some of you out there: primary results are not indicative of general elcetion results. Primary results indicate nothing of second choice preference, or crossover appeal. Please think before you argue that Obama will have a hard time winning MA or NY.

3) The Buyer's Remorse Gambit

This little gem has been floating around since Texas/Ohio, and has popped up a lot since West Virginia and Kentucky. In this case someone, either a paid shill or a devoted supporter argues that Obama's defeat in some state indicates that even though lots of Democrats voted for him in January/February, now that he is the frontrunner people have taken a closer look and said "No thanks." Like so many other head-slappingly stupid arguments, this one is built from a premise of dishonesty and innumeracy. Take this definitive example of the genre, from the same CorrenteWire joker from before.

By comparing the results from after March 4th with those before March 4th, Mr. Lukasiak attempts to demonstrate that Obama's support by demographic is slipping, except amongst African-Americans. The obvious fallacy, however, is that the presence of WV and KY skewed those catagories. Obama isn't having problems with "white voters" in general, just in Appalachia. The map below has colored purple all the counties that Clinton won with 65% of the vote or more. Notice that this is from before WV and KY voted.

Notice anything? Thought so. I won't beat this dead horse any more, other than pointing out that you shouldn't take seriously an argument about statistics from someone who "weighs" data, rather than "weights" it. (No joke, "weighed" or "unweighed" appears exactly 27 times in the analysis. Not a typo!)

Finally, this is not a definitive list. Off the top of my head I would also include almost anything that Lanny Davis or Terry Mcauliffe says, particularly on election nights. In the interest of fairness, I will also say ignore anyone who suggests that Clinton would like to have Obama assassinated, or engages in all too common sexist tropes to denigrate her.

Click "There's more..." for the offending arguments!


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Monday, May 26, 2008

Holiday Weekend Blogging

I hope all of you had as pleasant a weekend as I did. Blogging was light, as the weather was wonderful and the BBQ's frequent. So here are some quick hits that you may have missed as you remembered our fallen soldiers this Memorial Day.

Sen. Clinton's most absurd spokesman floated a laughingly preposterous "compromise" to the MI/FL situation.

Some FOX news flack jokes about killing Osama AND Obama. HA!

Paul Krugman is having a hard time adjusting to presumptive nominee Obama.

Duncan once again points out that no one listens to him, but he's always right. He's a regular Cassandra over there.

On the off chance you missed the Libertarian Party convention this weekend you should know that former Republican congressman Bob Barr was nominated, beating out Mike Gravel and several also-rans. I have to dissent from Oliver's suggestion that we donate money to his campaign. As much as I'd like Barr to Nader McCain, I think Obama won't need the help, and there are plenty of other blue candidates who need the money.

Finally, there are a number of dead-ender Clinton supporters in their last throes, which I'm going to save for a seperate post.

See you at the Drexel Dems cookout this Sunday!


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Saturday, May 24, 2008

Philly Columnists Fight

As someone long familiar with the work of both Christine Flowers and Will Bunch, I've developed two good rules of thumb; If Will Bunch is arguing with someone, Will Bunch is likely to be right, and if Christine Flowers is arguing with someone, she is likely to be wrong. Given this experience, you see where my prejudice lies when Will Bunch and Christine Flowers argue.

As I see that Bunch and Flowers are arguing, I'd like to note that my trusty empiricisms didn't fail. It started when Bunch wrote a post pointing out that explicit racism and ignorant us-vs-them-ism is not the fault of a candidate subjected to it, but rather those that hold the offensive views. This was in response to weeks of hearing "Why can't Obama convince these voters? What's wrong with him?" Bunch wrote:
Look, whoever the next president is, he or she is going to need to fight for blue-collar, working class people, for retired coal miners and ambulance drivers who wants better access to health care. decent wages or job opportunities. I believe a candidate can win and then try to accomplish those things in 2008 -- to be a president for all Americans without pandering to the lowest instincts of some of them.

When the views of some voters like these are based on false conspiracy theories or just a distrust of an American solely because he doesn't look like them, we shouldn't criticize or blame that candidate for not getting their votes. In fact, it's a pretty powerful argument why America needs exactly the opposite -- a president with the ability to overcome such small mindedness, and unmask it for what it is.
Emminently sensible, in my opinion.

But Flowers would have none of it!

Flowers shot back with a typically inane column, managing to simulatenously decry stereotypes while lamenting that "There is that sense among people with college degrees, 401(k)s and wine cellars that those who never made it to their educational or economic level have a stunted existence that makes them much more susceptible to racism and sexism and all the other -isms (except, of course, "multiculturalism") that make them unworthy of the vote." Christine, I think that's "stereotyping."

My apartment doesn't have a wine cellar, but it does have a basement with a washer/dryer. I don't know about Will Bunch, but I'd be surprised if he had a wine cellar either. In fact, none of the "Obamanites" I know have wine cellars, even those with college degrees and 401(k)s.

Her sin goes beyond the typical "wine-track" caricature of Obama's support, however. She concludes her column:
There's no denying that some of those who oppose Obama do so for irrelevant, mean-spirited reasons. What's insulting is the suggestion that people who don't crack some imaginary education or affluence threshold shouldn't matter as much as we the enlightened. (Unless, of course, they like Obama. Then they've exceeded low expectations.)

Someone should remind the party of the people that, when

it comes to the vote, we're all created equal.
What's she saying? Well Bunch had argued not that racists and ignoramuses shouldn't be allowed to vote, but rather that pundits and politicians shouldn't indulge their prejudices and treat those opinions as equally valid. Flowers seems to not realize that Bunch had not argued generally against some class of voters, but rather specific individuals who were explicitly racist.

Bunch himself pointed this out in his response to Flowers on his blog.
I knew it would be extremely hard to talk about the intersection of racism and "para-racism", politics, and personal responsibility in America in 2008, and the response from people like Christine was what I expected. I bent over backwards not to generalize about all West Virginians, and certainly not to call them "hillbillies" or worse names, as was the case on some other Web sites. Instead, I tried to address highly offensive statements by real people, identified by name in news articles by reporters who added that they interviewed others in West Virginia who had similar views, or who insisted on believing falsehoods about Obama (even when they are aware of the truth, as this woman insisting to ABC that Obama is a Muslim.)
I recommend reading the whole thing, so I won't summarize anymore, but I am forced to include Bunch's rally cry at the end:
You know, if the definition of "elitist" or "snob" has become someone who loathes any form of racism and who wants a nation where people have full access to education and where people highly desire that access, and who wants a democracy where both voters and the media work together to keep people rooted in facts and not in rumor, then, God yes, I am an elitist. But I never thought that's what it meant to be an elitist. I always thought that was what it meant to be an American. Forgive me if I am mistaken.
Hear hear!

Finally, I would be remiss if I didn't point you to Dick Polman's excellent piece on the same topic, "Equal Time for the Willfully Ignorant". I support everyone's right to vote, but the flip side of your constitutional right is a responsibility to be an informed citizen. I find voting under the ignorance (VUI) a disgraceful act.

Click "There's more..." for the rest of this particular pie fight!


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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Congratulations to Us!

Tonight was the Drexel Student Life Awards, and I'm happy to report that the Drexel Democrats put forth a strong showing! I won the Ryder award for graduating seniors, Sean won "Student Leader of the Year," and the Drexel Dems won, as Ari put it, "The Big One." Student Organization of the Year! This wasn't just the work of Sean or I or anyone else on the executive board. This was a recognition of the fact that you, the student members and volunteers, spent time enfranchising students and bringing civic engagement to campus.

We were also profiled this year by the always astute Above Average Jane.

So thank you to everyone. I don't want to name names, because there are too many of you that I'd leave people out. I just want to point out that you all spent your days and weekends phonebanking, manning tables to register students, dragging people to the polls, and engaging in intelligent debate. Some of you even traveled to other states to volunteer for candidates. You've made me proud.

So in honor of all of you, I'm posting our YouTube video's below the fold. Just Click "There's more..." to see what Ari and John were talking about when they said we had so many YouTube views.


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Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Variable Zoning?

This image is an architects rendering of an 11 story hotel that U Penn is trying to build in a historic neighborhood, at 40th and Pine. The site is zoned for only three story homes, and U Penn and the devlopers are trying to get about 6 or 7 zoning variances to build the 11 story hotel and street level cafe. No serious plans have been offered to address the parking, traffic, and deliveries that such a construction would entail. Furthermore, U Penn and the developers have proceeded to bypass the objections of homeowners in the neighborhood at every turn. The following post is a summary of the affair from my friend and neighbor Magali Larson, of the Woodland Terrace Homeowners association. Please read it, and if you live in Spruce Hill and are interested in fighting the good fight, drop me a line or leave a comment.

A community fights against urban development: why should this be interesting for Democrats?

Magali Marson

Since October 2007, the grassroots opposition to the development planned on Penn property at 40th and Pine has been growing and growing, generating the involvement of many different people who live in this diverse community. The initial impulse started with Woodland Terrace, a beautiful tree-lined block of Italianate Victorians, where there are still many homeowners –academics, retirees, craftsmen, professionals as well as students and young workers.

The development is going to be a Hilton Homewood Suites franchise, an extended stay hotel, for which the developers claim the humanitarian purpose of housing (certainly not at discount rates!) the families of HUP and CHUP patients … or anybody else, depending on the public addressed. It is simple to describe why the neighbors are opposed: 11- stories crammed in a lot much too small for the building, absolutely no parking, and 110 feet of height in a gracious neighborhood of historic homes where maximum height is 3 stories and 35 feet. The developers have never made any substantial concession or significant adjustment of their project, except lowering the height from 114 to 110 and introducing two setbacks on the 9th floor –but the building is still 11 stories high, although it looks as if the mass has been reduced. Nor have they provided any evidence to back their “best scenario” claims about the guests’ use of mass transit. What they have done is tout the restoration of a much-altered and dilapidated Victorian mansion that is on the site to all who would hear, especially the kind of preservationists who would save a tree (the Victorian wreck) at the cost of the forest (the two historic neighborhoods that surround it). Thwarted in their plans to demolish the historically designated house, the developers have traded off its restoration for the erection of an 11-story slab that will forever deface the neighborhood. Inexplicably, the Philadelphia City Planning Commission staff, which can be quite professional, has changed its criteria: from condemning the height (114 feet) they accept it now at 110 and buy the “orientation to mass transit” of this hotel and the restoration that was an obligatory after thought. We should all be for mass transit, but it is clear in this case that the developers only talk about it because they cannot provide parking as required by law.

This is a classic fight against the wrong kind of urban renewal, and the cast of characters is interesting. On one side is the owner, The University of Pennsylvania, the largest employer in Philadelphia, hiding behind its real estate department, and pushing its group of developers: the manager of most its properties (Campus Apartments, notorious among student residents), plus Penn’s former director of real estate, Mr. Lussenhop, and the Hersha Hospitality Corporation. The public face of the project is Mr. Lussenhop who reside sin the neighborhood and has many friends, especially the chair of the Zoning Committee of Spruce Hill Community Association, a man with much power in his little pond. He too has many friends, and many enemies. On the other side are the neighbors and their allies, collecting signatures, writing letters, mobbing public meetings, (actually not so public meetings) and talking to all who would hear. One who hears is State Representative James Roebuck, Jr. –formerly a history professor at Drexel—who knows how to distinguish the grassroots from the volunteers who run the community associations without having been elected, by the force of hard work, dedication and staying power.

These community associations are interesting, for they do not always speak for those they claim to represent, not when powerful neighbors like Penn infiltrate all the volunteer organizations, co-opt them with donations (or lack thereof) and communicate with them at regularly held top-down meetings (one loses one’s way with so many First Thursdays, Last Fridays, Second Tuesdays and so on!).
There is a discrepancy between residents who want development, especially commercial and especially far from where they themselves live, and residents who are in solidarity with those most directly affected and fear the precedent this would constitute. One Democratic ward leader sides with the first group: she says, textually, “if the people most directly affected were those who are heard, nothing would ever be built.” Right. In a neighborhood where Penn seems to daily change the design of streets to fit its new buildings, and to erect high-rises (all without parking) everywhere –although this is the first time in a historic residential area.
These two groups have different allies. Now the opposition goes far beyond the Woodland Terrace and Pine Streets associations. It has grown, in large part, because no preliminary consultations have ever been attempted and because the tune is “my way or the highway.” As the eminent Penn historian Michael Katz writes:
What is truly shocking about this proposal is the absence of any public discussion of alternative uses for the property. The idea that this hotel represents the only, or best, use is preposterous. Why not, for instance, consider demolishing the existing structure, which is ugly, dilapidated, and a monument to the mistreatment of the old and sick? The site could house a low-rise hotel or apartment house, a town house development, a mixed-use commercial and residential development – or something else appropriate to the site and neighborhood. Between Penn and the residents, there are enough informed and creative people to transform the site into a model of good urban design.

What the developers repeatedly declare –and what the Spruce Hill Community Association too often seems to tacitly endorse —is that this part of the neighborhood is overrun with students, who “do not matter and do not care.” The signatures collected are pooh-poohed as coming “from undergraduates.” This in the City of Philadelphia, which has been engaged for years in a concerted effort to retain graduating students in the area. Such contempt on the part of the same landlords who fill their coffers with student rents must be addressed.

There always are good reasons to support a grassroots effort. If you want to get involved there are hearings to attend and petitions to pass and hopefully there will be victory parties after we remind the city and its mayor what zoning and development should be like.

Click "There's more..." for the entire letter from Magali.


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That's how many people went to see Obama in Oregon on Sunday. It's an absurd number for a primary rally in May. John McSame can't stem this tide.

I was going to write a quick post about the Eastern Technology Council's event at Drexel yesterday, featuring Bill Richardson, but first I just wanted to point out that Obama drew a crowd of 75,000 people. In Oregon. In May.


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Thursday, May 15, 2008

Great Moments in Punditry


This afternoon on MSNBC's Hardball Chris Matthews absolutely humiliated rightwing radio host Kevin James. James was there to discuss the fact that in Israel today Bush called Obama a Nazi appeaser, but the conversation quickly devolved when it became readily apparent that James didn't know what appeasment is, or the historical analogy that Bush was making.

Now, countless pundits don't know what they're talking about on any given day (see Buchannan, Pat), but they're usually clever enough to talk their way out of it! Not poor Kevin! He apparently felt that what he lacked in knowledge he could compensate for with volume. He was mistaken.

It was truely an epic fail. The funniest part was the expressions on Matthews face, alternately disbelief, frustration, anger, and amusement, all at the expense of that poor pathetic wingnut.

After Matthews gets James to admit that he doesn't know what he's talking about, James falls back on the wingnut classic that terrorism is all Bill Clinton's fault. His source?

Why The Path to 9/11 of course!


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Stupid Facebook Groups

The other day a friend on Facebook invited me to join a group that struck me as astonishingly stupid. To be fair, there are many far stupider groups on Facebook, but I wanted to hold this one up to particular ridicule for a couple reasons. It has 396,582 members and I've been invited more than once, so it's not obscure, and it's stupid in a way that deserves a response. Actually, it looks like people spend quite a bit of time arguing about it on the group's wall, but why anyone would watse time debating on facebook walls is beyond me.

The groups is called "How to get GAS back down to $1.30 per gallon," and advocates the following course of action:
The only way we are going to see the price of gas come down is if we hit someone in the pocketbook by not purchasing their gas! And, WE CAN DO IT WITHOUT HURTING OURSELVES.How? Since we all rely on our cars, we can't just stop buying gas. But we CAN have an impact on gas prices if we all act together to force a price war. Here's the idea: For the rest of this year, DON'T purchase ANY gasoline from the two biggest companies (which now are one), EXXON and MOBIL.
If they are not selling any gas, they will be inclined to reduce their prices. If they reduce their prices, the other companies will have to follow suit.
But to have an impact, we need to reach literally millions of Exxon and Mobil gas buyers. It's really simple to do! Now, don't wimp out on me at this point...keep reading and I'll explain how simple it is to reach millions of people!!

If this makes sense to you, please pass this message on. I suggest that we not buy from EXXON/MOBIL UNTIL THEY LOWER THEIR PRICES TO THE $2.00 RANGE AND KEEP THEM DOWN. THIS CAN REALLY WORK.
Despite the all-caps declaration to the contrary, this cannot work, and furthermore, the idea that there are quick, easy, and painless solutions to our energy needs isn't helpful to actually addressing the problem.

A critical flaw (among many) in this argument should be obvious in this statement; "If they are not selling any gas, they will be inclined to reduce their prices. If they reduce their prices, the other companies will have to follow suit." If the demand for the "other companies" gas remains high then there is no reason for them to reduce prices. Assuming that in this fantasy land everyone stops buying from Exxon Mobil then demand for gas from the other companies goes up. The total demand of gas and the total supply of gas remains the same, and so the only effect is increased profits to some firms at the expense of Exxon Mobil. It's called a boycott.

Virtually every step in the argument has either a logical or practical flaw. The bottom line is that it requires a gross misunderstanding of supply and demand theory to make sense. The only way to reduce gas prices is to increase supply or reduce demand, or both. Increasing the supply is beyond our power, and probably not even a good thing to do (how many more metric tons of CO2 per year should we be generating?). Reducing the demand can be accomplished by driving less and developing substitutes for gas powered transportation. Mass transit, alternative energy, and more efficient land use are all part of that package, and that's why responsible Presidential candidates like Clinton and Obama have proposed measures to that end.

John McSame hasn't.

People, please think about these things before you join a Facebook group, or at least before you invite me to join a Facebook group.

Click "There's more..." for the whole gripe-fest.


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Wednesday, May 14, 2008

"And That Man is Barack Obama"

John Edwards, former Senator from North Carolina and Presidential hopeful, endorsed Barack Obama for president this evening in Grand Rapids Michigan. Unknown tens of thousands of man-hours have been spent over the last five months pondering the impact of an Edwards endorsement for either Clinton or Obama, and though the conventional wisdom seemed to be that the moment had passed for it to be a watershed event, it still felt important tonight. I think it was Eugene Robinson I heard say on MSNBC that this was the period at the end of the sentence that was this primary.

The endorsement itself was pretty good; standard two America's into one, and highlighting the the cause that is eradicating poverty in this country. It was also very concilliatory towards Sen. Clinton. I've long been skeptical of Edwards, but he's impressed me quite a bit since he dropped his presidential bid.

John Edwards:
"The reason that I am here tonight is that the American people have made their choice, and so have I. There is one man who knows and understands that this is the time for bold leadership. There is one man that knows how to create the change, the lasting change, that you have to build from the ground up. There is one man who knows in his heart that it is time to create one America, not two, and that man is Barack Obama."
McCain's got a tough road ahead of him if Edwards and Clinton actually go out and campaign for Obama. Can you imagine having Edwards, Clinton, and Obama campaigning across this country for Obama? Who does McCain have? Romney or Huckabee? Giulianni? Bush and Cheney? He's toast.


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McCain Energy Policy Watch: Day 385

The McCain campaign has begun to cave to the unyielding force of our McCain Energy Policy Watch by taking two rather limited steps forward. First, McCain unveiled a climate change speech in Oregon on Monday, and second, the campaign store unveiled a new line of "eco-friendly" McCain campaign gear.

The big proposal to come out of the speech is McCain's call for a cap-and-trade program. You'll remember that I've long been touting the virtue of Obama's cap-and-trade with 100% auctioning of permits. So what's the difference?

A cap-and-trade program works by the federal government mandating the maximum allowable level of annual CO2 emissions by giving out permits. For a company to operate and put out CO2 it must have enough permits to cover it's output. The tricky part is how do you determine who gets the permits? One thing to keep in mind is that these permits have significant economic value, since now CO2 emissions are a limited economic resource. There are basically three ways to do it:
  1. Sell the permits for a price determined by congress to companies also determined by congres (ie lobbyists).
    • None of the candidates propose this

  2. Auction them off to the highest bidder.
    • This is the Obama and Clinton plan. Selling all of the permits to the highest bidders ensures efficient market pricing of the permits and generates significant revenues to the government. These revenues can then be used for a variety of purposes (more on that later)

  3. Give them away to companies.

It's important to understand that any cap-and-trade program can achieve the same environmental benefit of reducing emissions, but they are not all created equal. First, Obama and Clinton have a lower cap: 80% below 1990 CO2 levels by 2050, while McCain proposes 60% below 1990 levels by 2050. Second, because Obama and Clinton are auctioning permits instead of giving them away, the money raised can be spent on 1) reducing the economic costs to lower and middle class Americans (cap-and-dividend) and 2) investing in cleaner energy (cap-and-spend).

It's important to stress this: the economic costs to Americans under either cap-and-trade program would be the same, however, Obama's plan involves both cap-and-dividend and cap-and-spend to help ameliorate the costs to low and middle class American's, and make investments for all Americans.

Cap-and-dividend refers to distributing the revenues generated by auctioning permits to offset the costs to low and middle class Americans. The idea is that the lower your income, the greater the increase in energy costs as a portion of your income. This would eliminate the regressive aspects of rising energy costs.

Cap-and-spend refers to investing the revenues raised into projects, either through government spending or other tax cuts, for any variety of projects. Obama's plan has money allocated for a wide variety of infrastructure improvements, including in transportation and the electrical grid, and money for research and commercialization of renewable energy projects.

So Obama and Clinton have cap-and-trade with 100% auction, and they each have a mix of cap-and-spend and cap-and-dividend plans for the auction revenues. McCain does not.

As Kevin Drum says:
"So that's that. A cap-and-trade system with a 100% auction provides revenue for green research; it reduces the regressivity of the tax hit; and it helps keep lobbyists from gaming the system. The giveaway method, conversely, is highly regressive; provides windfall profits for big polluters; and would almost certainly end up as a congressional pork barrel that eviscerated the original emission targets bit by bit by bit. It just goes to show that policy details matter. Take your pick."
Furthermore, McCain would allow unlimited uise of domestic and international carbon offsets to remain in compliance with the cap. Carbon offsets are a tricky subject, because there are reputable, effective measures that can be and are being undertaken. However, there is also serious potential for abuse (how do we ensure that all the carbon offsets are actually being done, not just booked?) and the capacity for genuine, effective offsets is limited. The biggest problem with unlimited offsets, though, is that they reduce the economic pressure to actually retool industries to reduce emissions. As Dave Roberts says at Gristmill:
"for that very reason the massive changes needed in the American economy and infrastructure will be put off, and dirty coal plants may remain economical long enough for a new round to get built."
My emphasis added.

Finally, I'll also point out that McCain hasn't put out an energy plan yet, and as Dave Roberts notes, at the same link:
"(One important note: the speech is not on energy. McCain will be delivering a major speech on energy in a few weeks, probably early June, wherein he will lay out specific thoughts and policies on coal, nuclear power, renewables, etc. Today is all about climate policy.)"
The McCain Energy Policy Watch continues.

Click "There's more..." for the rest of this post.


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Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Election Night Roundup

Most people know that the West Virginia primary was tonight, and I arrived home just in time to see most of Clinton's speech. I had turned on MSNBC for literally about 3 seconds before I heard Clinton make a desperate appeal for money ("Please go to and pay off my debt!"). There are also another couple races to watch tonight though. Scott Kleeb, a netroots favorite from Nebraska is running against a right wing Democrat in the primary, and Travis Childers is running for congress in a special election in MS-01, a deep Republican district.

Clinton is on track to win WV by about 2-1, which will net here fewer than a dozen delegates, and no, that doesn't make a difference. Kleeb looks on track to win as well.

The only nailbiter tonight is MS-01. Bush won there in 2004 by 62% to 37%. There are 40 Republican held districts that are less Republican than MS-01, so a loss here means even bigger trouble for the GOP in the fall. Even if Childers loses, the NRCC spent $1.3 million to defend this seat, which they can barely afford. They certainly can't afford to defend all of their vulnerable seats that way. And this is on the heels of the Republican's losing two consecutive special elections in deep red districts, to Democrats Bill Foster and Don Cazayoux.

DailyKos is tracking all three races tonight, so enjoy!

Oh, and John McCain is apparently succumbing to the pressure of the McCain Energy policy Watch, as he unveiled a vague and unsubstantial climate change speech and platform today, promising to unveil his energy policy in a couple weeks. Clearly John McCain reads our blog! John, please don't run your campaign like a douchebag.

[UPDATED] Childers (D) wins the race in MS-01! Tim Russert just called it a "seismic" result. Bush and his enablers in congress fucked the Republican brand for a generation.


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Critical Thinking

Critical thinking skills are often noticably absent in politics, but as a college democrat organization, I'd like to think that we value and encourage it. This silly piece from the LA Times is an excellent example in lending credence to the incredulous. Graphology is the "study" of how psychological traits are expressed through handwriting. It's not substantively different than palm reading and astrology, however.

That LA Times piece is just a bunch of astrologers graphologists interpreting the signatures of Obama, McCain, and Hillary. Their expert opinions? Obama is a great communicator, McCain is short-tempered, and Hillary is cold, but "smart and tough and stays until the last dog dies." Wow, how amazing that the graphologists came to exactly the same conclusions as clichè conventional wisdom! How could they have known if not through graphology...

I won't excerpt portions of the article for particular ridicule because it's all so equally silly. All that I'll add is that if you learn nothing else during college, at least learn to think critically.


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Sunday, May 11, 2008

You Should Read More Blogs

I've already introduced you guys to some of the more widely read bloggers that I read to stay on top of the intertube coversation, and so now I'd like to highlight some of the less widely known blogs. They may be less widely read than Kos or Atrios, but they're not internet backwaters either. The blogs I'm highlighting here each get thousands of hits daily, a large enough platform to propel stories into the wider blogosphere.

These blogs are worth reading because they feature an interesting an intelligent variety of voices on a range of subjects, and so without further ado, I present "blogs you should read part II."

  • Lawyers, Guns, and Money
    • A group blog with five distinguished authors, Lawyers Guns and Money (LG&M) unsurprisingly writes about liberal politics with an emphasis on the law, the military, and economics. The authors are a variety of academics and lawyers, and they're always good for an astute opinion. They also have a fan-favorite "Sunday Deposed Monarch Blogging" where they highlight an obscure deposed monarch for a lengthy (by blog standards, short otherwise) history. And don't miss anything they write about constitutional interpretation. Of course, the real reason that I love LG&M is the merciless manner that they dispatch with intellecually overmatched foes.
  • Pandagon
    • I've been reading Pandagon for about four years now, although I admit that I've been reading less lately because I've gotten sucked up in the day to day of the primary. Pandagon is a group blog, but my favorite author is Pam Spaulding, of Pam's House Blend, as she usually covers stories I'm interested in reading about. The focus is on sexism in society, both latent and explicit, LGBT rights issues, and the eroding church state divide in this country. Pandagon is on frontline of the culture war with the radical right.
  • OpenLeft
    • OpenLeft is a diary site like DailyKos or MyDD, and was started by Chris Bowers and Matt Stoller last year. Bowers and Stoller used to run MyDD, but they left and took most of the good stuff with them. OpenLeft is more of a movement site, focusing on winning elections and the minutia thereof. Bower's delegate counts and breakdowns of the nomination during the primary were must-reads. Dailykos gets an order of magnitude more traffic than OpenLeft, but if DailyKos is open mic night at Starbucks then OpenLeft is Carnegie Hall. My only criticism would be that the primary voices of OpenLeft, Stoller and Bowers, are being drowned by a growing chorus of other frontpagers. Many of them are very much worth reading as well though, so it's not much of a complaint.
Those three should keep you occupied for a while. I'll keep doing this though, because you should all read more blogs.


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Friday, May 09, 2008

A Matter of Time

Now that Indiana and North Carolina not only failed to help Sen. Clinton make up any ground, but actually deepened the hole she's in, just about everyone and their cousin is admitting that Obama is the presumptive nominee. The only thing left at this point is Sen. Clinton's gracious concession, but it doesn't really matter if it happens today or a month from today.

I know I've been hard on Sen. Clinton's campaign here, because at times some of the obnoxious frames she used to attack Obama really ruffled my feathers. However, on balance this protracted primary has been an incredibly positive force for the Democratic party and our chances in November.

More people than ever are paying attention and ready for change, and Obama is a stronger and wiser candidate after the crucible of the primary. 3.4 million new voters were registered so far this primary, compared with about 2 million over the same period in 2004.

So I harbor no ill will towards the Clintons, though I did lose some respect for them during the campaign. Some people who are claiming that Hillary is trying to weaken Obama so that he loses in November and she can run again in 2012. I think that that is totally unwarranted speculation bred from right-wing caracitures of Clinton as coldly ambitious. She will recognize that the interests of the party, the country, and herself are all aligned in supporting Obama and getting him elected.

In the meantime, if you know a Clinton voter, give them a hug! It's tough when your candidate loses (right Babs?) and now it's their time to grieve. Here on campus I know we've all been getting along, because we know and respect each other outside of the campaign, but you wouldn't believe some of the silly stuff online.

So I'm not going to write about why Clinton voters should back Obama because 1) it's patently obvious and 2) People who are saying that they will vote for McCain over Obama are just angry right now, and they'll come around. In a couple months if people are still saying it, then I'll start calling them petulant children and lay out the progressive policy case for Obama.

In the meantime, congratulations to all you hardworking Obama volunteers, because it's only a matter of time until he becomes the first African-American nominee of a major party in American History, and you were a part of that!


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Wednesday, May 07, 2008

A Good Ol' Fashioned Election Day

I had planned this somewhat corny narrative for The Triangle, but didn't get it written in time for it to go in post-election day. It's a little targeted for the general apathetic college student, but I hope you enjoy it...

A Good Ol’ Fashioned Election Day

I can’t think of a more inspirational way to wake up on Election Day morn’ than to the sound of a woman and child belting out a rendition of “Yes We Can” on the streets of West Philadelphia. We hear the rhetoric on TV and watch the YouTube videos, but nothing the candidates or media can say ever hits home quite as hard as hearing friends, neighbors and even complete strangers talk about “Hope” and “Change.”

The air was electric as I biked to class and back from campus before voting. Around Drexel and up Walnut Street through Penn’s campus, students were out in force in their “Barack the Vote” T-shirts (myself included). Signs were plastered on buildings and in cars, polling places were surrounded by campaign signs and voters wandering in and out.

Going to vote around lunchtime, my polling place at 42nd and Ludlow streets was rather quiet. After waiting in line for all of a minute or two, I signed in and ducked inside the blue curtain. The giant electronic ballot in front of me was a little intimidating: a grid of names and flashing red lights. I was a little confused at first at the lack of buttons, but it was easier than it looked – just touch a finger to the name you want, and the light next to it turns solid red to indicate your selection. Once you finish, press the big green “VOTE” button. As an interface design enthusiast, I was pleased overall with the experience, except for the sudden extinguishing of all the lights upon pressing “VOTE.” The lack of confirmation that my vote had been counted, and had not just disappeared into the ether, was rather unsettling, but I trusted that the system did its job.

I stepped out of the booth and looked around to see if there was anything more I needed to do, and then wandered out. For a moment it was a bit anti-climactic, but soon a small, satisfying euphoria took hold. It had been my first time going to vote in person; absentee ballots ain’t got nothin’ on a good old-fashioned polling place.

Returning to campus, I changed into my glaring yellow Drexel Votes 2008 T-shirt and took my place out front of 3500 Lancaster Ave., answering questions and passing out water and candy to anyone who came to vote. Mid-afternoon saw a small but steady stream of voters disappear into the Community Education Center to have their voices counted. Some came out smiling, faces aglow, while others just skittered away from our overly-enthusiastic cheering as quickly as they could.

Later in the evening, I got up close and personal with the process, assisting the poll workers with signing in voters and checking their IDs. Every voter got a number, and as the evening wore on, the poll workers were excited as we approached an exceptionally high (though not record-breaking) turnout of 425 voters. It was really disappointing how many people we had to turn away because they were at the wrong polling place, they weren’t registered in a party, or their registration had not been completed. If you want to vote on campus in the November election, make sure you are registered with your campus address, NOT your home address. And make sure you know where you’re going on Election Day – 3500 Lancaster is the polling place for the dorms and the immediate campus area, but most off-campus apartments vote elsewhere, even those just on the north side of Powelton Avenue.

The paper trail left behind is unbelievable. Granted, it would take a while to sift through it all if the need arose, but it’s there, just in case. Each voter who signed in was recorded in the sign-in book, as well as on a little slip of paper with their name, party and their number in line, and additionally two handwritten books that corresponded to the individual slips of paper – all of that just to keep track of who and how many voted. At the end of the night, the polling machines spat out in triplicate long receipts detailing the tallies for each candidate and question on the ballot, reporting in physical form what had been stored electronically throughout the day.

In our age of instant internet polling, it might seem like such a simple task, keeping track of a few hundred people and their opinions, and sending the numbers off to be added to the county- and state-wide counts. The decentralized system is simple but elegant, as long as everything goes smoothly. The volunteers, who had clearly been working the polls for years, functioned like a well-oiled machine; it was rather enlightening, facilitating democracy at such a literal level.

Finally, we boxed up the paper trail and folded up the polling machines; the neighborhood poll workers bid each other farewell until November. Finally, the long-awaited April 22 Pennsylvania primary was over.

Finally, we’re free from people pestering us with “Are you registered? Are you voting? Who do you support? Would you like to volunteer?” (I was one of those people pestering you, and trust me, we’re as sick of it as you are.) We’re free from phone calls recorded by candidates and their spouses, from seeing the same commercials over and over, from literature crammed under our doors. At least until the fall.

But as aggravating as the pre-election pressure-sales gets, at least we have the opportunity to have our voices heard. As cliché as it may be, appreciate that you have the right to vote. Remember in November when we hit the real round of election madness, try to have patience with the campaigns. With freedom comes sacrifice; and honestly, we can all afford the few minutes it takes to cast a ballot, and we can certainly sacrifice those few seconds it takes to say politely “Yes, I’m registered” or “No thanks, I’m not interested.”

Maybe “Change” will happen, maybe it won’t. But at least good ol’ American democracy will mosey on, and the voice of the people, however filtered by the current political climate, will be heard.


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Completely Unacceptable

If the news hasn't trickled down here to University City yet, that video is from an arrest made late Monday night in North Philly. Police were chasing the car after a narcottics surveillence ended in a shooting (sparse details, I don't know if anyone was injured) and when the chase ended, the cops beat the three suspects for a solid thirty seconds before everyone calmed down.

Excessive force by police, particularly against minority suspects, is a very delicate issue in big cities, and Philadelphia is no exception. Our city of brotherly love has a very checkered past regarding the relationship between the black community and the police, but it's something that has been improving over the years. Former police commissioner Johnson worked diligently to facilitate communication between police and the community, not always successfully, fighting the "don't snitch" mentality tooth and nail. Read this piece from the city paper last year about the police shooting on Tasker for a sense of the frustration on both sides.

I do have sympathy for the police involved in this incident. Philadelphia police officers have an impossible and dangerous job. It's difficult to imagine leaving your family every morning to go to work knowing that you could be shot and killed any day.

Nonetheless, this force was clearly excessive, regardless of whether an investigation has been conducted yet. The cops clearly let loose a lot of pent up anger, probably related to the recent murder of Sgt. Liczbinski. I don't know what the solution to all this is, or if there even is one, but the bottom line is that the behavior displayed on that video is completely unacceptable.


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Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Party Like a Barack Star Tonight!

Tonight is the next step in the primary that never ends, so come watch the results with the rest of the Drexel Dems at Dadly's house, 3806 Hamilton Street. All the cool kids will start showing up around 7pm, so stop by and join us!

There will be food and drinks, but if you can bring anything to help out it would be appreciated. This is open to all Drexel Democrats, Clinton fans or Obama worshippers (I kid!). Giancarlo, if you're driving Chelsea around tonight make sure you swing by the party!

Even the Drexel Republicans are invited- if they still exist. They don't answer their email anymore.


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Monday, May 05, 2008

Sign of the Times

On Saturday Democrat Don Cazayoux (pronounced like "Cashew") won a special election for congress in an R+7 district that has been held by Republicans for 20 years. This follows a special election in March where a Democrat won the vacated seat of former Republican speaker of the house Hastert. Bush and his brand are toxic.

This is why I've been saying to anyone who will listen that EITHER Obama or Clinton will win in November. At this point, anybody arguing about "electibility" is out of their mind. McCain=Bush, in policy and principle.


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Friday, May 02, 2008

McCain Energy Policy Watch

On September 30th, 2000, a mere 38 days before the Presidential election, then Presidential hopeful George W. Bush put forth the energy policy. Barely a month before the election, and a full three months after Al Gore laid out his energy proposals, the American public hardly had a fair chance to evaluate the merits (or lack thereof) of his proposals. The question of whether the media or the public were interested in evaluating the merits of either proposal is another one entirely, with a probably depressing answer.

Nonetheless, if Americans are to form educated opinions about the candidates, then it is incumbent upon those that seek the Presidency to make clear the policies for which they would advocate.

The second paragraph of a New York Times story, September 30th 2000:

"Mr. Bush said the plan, which also included incentives for developing alternative energy sources and clean-burning fuels, reflected his determination to limit the country's vulnerability to the international oil market and to avert escalating prices and energy shortages."
Let that paragraph sink in for a moment.

John McCain has now been officially running for president this cycle for more than a year, and he has yet to put forward any concrete or specific policy proposals regarding America's energy challenges. I first noticed this some months ago, reading his issues pages and realizing that nowhere does he address energy issues. There is an environment page which is entirely devoid of policy proposals, and several places he refers to the importance of reducing reliance on foreign oil, usually in a national security context. But nowhere does he have any proposals to do that. See for yourself.

The absence of his solutions to such an important problem is made all the more stark by the depth and quality of proposals from both Democratic candidates.

McCain wants people to think that he's on top of the energy issue when in fact it's apparently not as important to him as border security and gun rights. So the Drexel College Democrats are initiating the "McCain Energy Policy Watch" which will, in the grand tradition of political watches, feature a ticking flash counter keeping track of how long he has been running for president without an energy policy.

So where do all three candidates stand?

Barack Obama

Here is his energy policy.

I hesitate to try to sum up the proposals, but here are the bullet points:
  • Reduce Carbon Emissions 80 Percent by 2050 by
    • Cap and Trade with 100% auction
    • Confront Deforestation and Promote Carbon Sequestration

  • Invest in a Clean Energy Future
    • Invest $150 Billion over 10 Years in Clean Energy
    • Double Energy Research and Development Funding
    • Invest in a Skilled Clean Technologies Workforce
    • Convert our Manufacturing Centers into Clean Technology Leaders
    • Clean Technologies Deployment Venture Capital Fund
    • Require 25 Percent of Renewable Electricity by 2025
    • Develop and Deploy Clean Coal Technology (with low carbon technologies, not just low particulate)

  • Support Next Generation Biofuels
    • Deploy Cellulosic Ethanol
    • Expand Locally-Owned Biofuel Refineries
    • Establish a National Low Carbon Fuel Standard
    • Increase Renewable Fuel Standard

  • Set America on Path to Oil Independence
    • Increase Fuel Economy Standards

  • Improve Energy Efficiency 50 Percent by 2030
    • Set National Building Efficiency Goals
    • Establish a Grant Program for Early Adopters
    • Invest in a Digital Smart Grid

  • Restore U.S. Leadership on Climate Change
    • Create New Forum of Largest Greenhouse Gas Emitters
    • Re-Engage with the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change

I stripped each of those items of the detail, so go read the policy yourself to be informed. Anyone can download the pdf of the plan from his website.

Hillary Clinton

Here are the bullet points of her plan, from her website:
  • A new cap-and-trade program that auctions 100 percent of permits alongside investments to move us on the path towards energy independence;

  • An aggressive comprehensive energy efficiency agenda to reduce electricity consumption 20 percent from projected levels by 2020 by changing the way utilities do business, catalyzing a green building industry, enacting strict appliance efficiency standards, and phasing out incandescent light bulbs;

  • A $50 billion Strategic Energy Fund, paid for in part by oil companies, to fund investments in alternative energy. The SEF will finance one-third of the $150 billon ten-year investment in a new energy future contained in this plan;

  • Doubling of federal investment in basic energy research, including funding for an ARPA-E, a new research agency modeled on the successful Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency

  • Aggressive action to transition our economy toward renewable energy sources, with renewables generating 25 percent of electricity by 2025 and with 60 billion gallons of home-grown biofuels available for cars and trucks by 2030;

  • 10 "Smart Grid City" partnerships to prove the advanced capabilities of smart grid and other advanced demand-reduction technologies, as well as new investment in plug-in hybrid vehicle technologies;

  • An increase in fuel efficiency standards to 55 miles per gallon by 2030, and $20 billion of "Green Vehicle Bonds" to help U.S. automakers retool their plants to meet the standards;

  • A plan to catalyze a thriving green building industry by investing in green collar jobs and helping to modernize and retrofit 20 million low-income homes to make them more energy efficient;

  • A new "Connie Mae" program to make it easier for low and middle-income Americans to buy green homes and invest in green home improvements;

  • A requirement that all publicly traded companies report financial risks due to climate change in annual reports filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission;

  • Creation of a "National Energy Council" within the White House to ensure implementation of the plan across the Executive Branch.

  • A requirement that all federal buildings designed after January 20, 2009 will be zero emissions buildings.

Again, you can download her plan in greater detail here.

John McSame McCain


Since McCain still hasn't released his energy policy, we can't really compare him. He did give a speech last April on energy policy, but it was conspicuously lacking in proposals. He speaks frequently of the need to reduce America's dependence on foreign oil, but you know what? So did George W. Bush. And Bill Clinton. And George H.W. Bush. And Ronald Reagan. And Jimmy Carter.

There are plenty of YouTube clips from townhalls and rallys where McCain has said that he takes global warming seriously and our energy problems seriously, but taking things seriously means more than just speaking about them with a furrowed brow (which, admittedly, McCain excells at). Tackling issues seriously means putting forward policy proposals and defending them.

To put the McCain Energy Policy Watch on your blog, copy the following code into your blog:


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Thursday, May 01, 2008

You Should Read Blogs

One of the (many) things that the younger members of the Drexel Dems tease me about is my constant exhorting to read political blogs to stay informed. The immediate follow up to my appeals is always "Well which ones should I read?" and the answer, of course, is whichever ones you want to.

But it's not always easy to figure that out. I understand that the tangled mess of blogs can be daunting to a newcomer, so here's one of what will probably be an intermittent series of blogs worth reading.

My four daily must reads are, in no particular order, Atrios, TalkingPointsMemo, DailyKos, and Matt Yglesias.

These four blogs are the heavy hitters, and I also find the views (of Kos, Josh Marshall, Atrios, and Yglesias) to be the most astute and reasoned amongst the A-list bloggers.

You don't need to read every word of them but they're easy to skim daily to stay on top of things.

I'd also add that there are some blogs that are fairly well known but that are completely disreputable, in my opinion. MyDD, Corrente Wire, and Taylor Marsh have proven themselves to be completely lacking in any degree of thoughtful analysis (with the caveat that MyDD is a diary blog, so this is a generalization) and insight. Corrente and Taylor Marsh have devolved into such unhinged Clinton shills that it's almost amusing to watch.

I'll share some of my favorite smaller blogs in the not to distant future, but go explore yourself, starting from the blogrolls of the four I linked above.

Click "There's more..." for a few blogs that you should be reading, and why I like them.