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Monday, June 30, 2008

"Democrats argue..."

One of the most harmful methods of the uncritical press these last few years (decades?) is the propensity for framing stories as "he said/she said" and thus relieving the "journalist" of his or her obligation to examine the veracity of either sides claims. I believe that this aspect of modern political journalism, this artificial objectivity, has been a crucial component of the success of George W. Bush and the Republicans.

Today via Google News Alerts I found this piece from the Boston Globe that is an examplethat struck close to home with my interest in energy policy.

The article is regarding McCain's new ad about energy and that he has compared his assorted gimmicks and give-aways to Big Oil to Kennedy's moon program. It doesn't start off too badly, and the author deserves credit for this line:
At the same time, he has been deriding Democrat Barack Obama as "Dr. No" - opposed to his proposals for energy independence, though Obama is pushing a plan to invest $150 billion over 10 years on alternative energy.
That one aspect of Obama's comprehensive plan is actually comparable to the Apollo program.

Unfortunately, the siren call of he said/she said was too much to resist.
"Democrats called the ad misleading, arguing that offshore oil drilling would provide no relief at the pump anytime soon and that McCain has a long record of voting against renewable energy."
That this was a "Campaign Notebook" story makes this almost excusable. The story was about the competing claims of the two parties. However, it is still important to point out that this isn't just something that "Democrats argue." Any honest Republican, maybe even McCain if pressed, would admit that those "arguments" are objectively true. Everybody admits that new offshore drilling would provide a small amount of new supply, and not even any appreciable amount for at least a decade. Furthermore, McCain objectively does have a record of opposing incentives for renewables. Even as recently as last June he couldn't be bothered to show up to vote for the CLEAN Energy Act of 2007.

I credit Paul Krugman as one of the loudest and most credible voices opposing such journalistic laziness, particularly with regard to innumercy and the claims of the Bush administration. In a classic bit of prose, Krugman summarized the problem thusly.
Even when reporters do know the difference, the conventions of he-said-she-said journalism get in the way of conveying that knowledge to readers. I once joked that if President Bush said that the Earth was flat, the headlines of news articles would read, "Opinions Differ on Shape of the Earth."
Regarding the Bush administrations plainly dishonest innumercy Krugman wrote back in 2002:
The strategy used to sell the Bush tax cut was simply to deny the facts -- and to lash out at anyone who tried to point them out. And it's a strategy that, having worked there, is now being applied across the board.
If journalists are going to spend the next four months simply reporting the competing claims of Obama and McCain without illuminating whether one side is, you know, lying or wrong, then we're in for a rough election.

I'm not asking that journalists "take sides." Pushing an agenda and reporting objectively on the merits of claims are two very different things. Of course, reality has a well known liberal bias.

Click "There's more..." for the full post about he said/she/said journalism.


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Sunday, June 29, 2008

I'm Voting Republican

This is a million years old by now, but it's no less funny or true.

Enjoy your weekend.


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Thursday, June 26, 2008

New Energy For America

The Obama campaign has a new website, New Energy For America, that contrasts Obama's and McCain's energy plans on a number of specific issues. Good for them for hitting McCain with this. Obama's forward looking and McCain's rearward looking energy plans highlight the two men and their two campaigns as succintly as any issue out there.
Furthermore, I love that the core behind the critique is a serious difference over serious policy matters. McCain and Republicans are trying hard to obfuscate the differences and create artificial hot-button issues (Guns, Rev. Wright). I'm proud to support a candidate who thinks he can win by convincing the American people not that his opponent is evil, but that his own ideas are better for the country. The college Republicans are noticeably silent about substantive differences between the candidates.

We'll do our best to educate students here at Drexel about the differences. We're planning two or three issue based events/debates for the fall term, and energy policy will certainly be the focus of the first.

Stay tuned for those, and in the meantime, educate yourself and your friends.


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Things That Make My Ears Bleed

Focus groups that ask undecided voters "who would you rather carry the American flag at the Olympics?"

That focus group was conducted for the Annenberg School at the University of Pennsylvania, which as far as I'm concerned is minus 10 points for U Penn.

One of the most personally frustrating things about politics is how the views of the most ignorant Americans are elevated and legitimized in our discourse. People who say things like the following shouldn't be provided such a platform.
"I don't trust Osama ... Obama. It's only a letter difference," said Charles, the Hillary backer. "His middle name is Hussein." Observed Terry, the female Bush voter: "I don't feel he's a true American."
Yes, I recognize that understanding the perceptions of such "undecided voters" is important to the campaigns, but I resent that it makes news. I don't mind politicos talking about it, but when it makes it into the cable news/talking head circuit, it only serves to repeat and reinforce such ridiculousness.

We're in for several very long months with pollsters and pundits asking some very stupid questions that indulge the biases and ignorance of a small part of the electorate.


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Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Dear Ralph Nader

Bitter has-beens desperately seeking attention to sate their egos are always kind of sad and pathetic. Thanks for all your help. If we need anything else from you, we'll ask.


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Arlen Spector Punts on PA Wind

Last week our senior senator Arlen Spector voted for the second time in a week against cloture for the Renewable Energy and Job Creation Act of 2008, HR.6049, which most notably extended the Production Tax Credit (PTC) for wind to 2009 and for solar, biomass, geothermal, hydrokinetic and others through 2013.

I called Sen. Spector's D.C. office earlier today and they had no comment on why he opposes the bill, only that he would have an official position "sometime in the near future." Furthermore, Sen. Spector's office said he currently has no official position on extending the PTC generally, not just specifically in the form of HR.6049.

Thanks to Gov. Rendell's 2004 Alternative Energy Portfolio Standards Act PA is on track towards having 18 percent of grid power coming from renewables by 2020. Wind power is a strong resource for our state, and can provide tens of thousands of jobs, millions of dollars in revenue for state and local governments, and providing priceless environmental benefits.

PA already has a strong wind infrastructure, but we have even more undeveloped resources. Every time the PTC dies in the senate new wind projects drop precipitously. Sen. Spector opposing extending the PTC will cost PA residents thousands of new jobs, millions of new tax revenue, and a continued dependence on dirty energy.

Foreign companies like Iberdrola or Gamessa are investing in PA wind power, and are bringing turbine manufacturing to our state. The PTC is crucial, however, towards accelerating these investments. Sen. Spector is abandoning his state to support his party, and he won't even explain to us why.

Sen. Spector's D.C. office can be reached at 202-224-4254 if you want to call to encourage him to support the PTC and for the senate to take up HR.6049.


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Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Company They Keep

I have managed throughout this long election season so far to avoid ridiculing some of the crazier anti-Obama elements out there on the internet, as they really don't deserve attention. Stupid is fair game, but people who aren't playing with a full deck should be left to play by themselves. This item, however, has become such a parody of itself that I can't resist.

The long and short of it is that about a year ago some guy with a 27 year long record of criminal activity recorded a YouTube video alleging that he and Obama had gay sex and did cocaine in a limousine. Some of the less well grounded Clinton supporters and right wingers have made him a cause célèbre, despite his failing polygraphs, his inability to provide any evidence, and his long history of criminal activity and deceit.

This guy held a press conference last week to try to get some attention for himself, and was arrested on an outstanding warrant. John Cole hilariously predicted that some idiots would blame Obama for silencing him; enter No Quarter, the De facto home of the nastiest and most racist anti-Obama partisans that know how to use a computer.

Kos highlights John Cole's mocking of a "Webster G. Tarpley" who has declared Sinclair a political prisoner. This his been rightly laughed at, but I haven't seen anyone else point out yet that Webster G. Tarpley is a 9/11 Truther and once ran for senate on the LaRouche platform.

Larry Johnson, proprietor of No Quarter and formerly a well read if not well respected voice in the blogosphere, has sunk to front paging 9/11 truther who claims that Obama had Sinclair arrested? Can this sink no further?

I'm beginning to think that Johnson isn't some kind of pro-Obama black flag operation himself after all...


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Monday, June 23, 2008


Via Kevin Drum, these interesting responses to the question "What do you see as the gravest long-term threat to the U.S. economy?"
Obama: If we don't get a handle on our energy policy, it is possible that the kinds of trends we've seen over the last year will just continue. Demand is clearly outstripping supply. It's not a problem we can drill our way out of. It can be a drag on our economy for a very long time unless we take steps to innovate and invest in the research and development that's required to find alternative fuels. I think it's very important for the federal government to have a role in that process.

McCain: Well, I would think that the absolute gravest threat is the struggle that we're in against Islamic extremism, which can affect, if they prevail, our very existence. Another successful attack on the United States of America could have devastating consequences.
Is this from the Rudy Giulliani school of political messaging? The absurdity of the answer is matched only by this unrelated statement by McCain aid Mark Soohoo at the Personal Democracy Forum:
John McCain is aware of the Internet,” says Soohoo. “This is a man who has a very long history of understanding on a range of issues.
A long history of understanding on a range of issues? Well that's quite an accomplishment!


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McCain Energy Policy Watch: The Plan?

Last Tuesday, June 17th, McCain gave a speech where he finally unrolled his energy policy, which had been conspicuously absent for the first 419 days of his presidential campaign. I'm glad that he's finally tackled the topic, though I think it's remarkable that he ran for president this long with our energy supply in such a precarious state without having articulated any energy policy at all. I was really quite surprised that more people didn't criticize him at the very least for the lack of priority on energy policy it demonstrated.

Before I address the policy proposals, however, I want to emphasize the degree to which McCain and his campaign continues to not prioritize or emphasize energy policy. Yes, he has incorporated attacking Obama over offshore drilling and the gas tax holiday into his stump speech, but his website still fails to provide an issues page for "Energy." His campaign home page provides no clue where to find his energy policy either. His campaign blog makes no mention of his speech on Tuesday. The "multimedia" section of his site has no video of his speech available; nor does the "Speeches" subpage or "About/Issues" subpage (although that one does have two videos of speeches about Reagan...).

A transcript of the remarks is available under the News->Speeches heading, as are all his prepared remarks. Furthermore, a search of the site picks up a number of press releases, editorials, his speech from last April, and his recent remarks.

All together, one can hardly credit the campaign with making energy front and center. Of course, considering the substance of McCain's plan, I can certainly understand why they aren't touting it.

Nonetheless, here we are with an energy policy that we can finally examine substantively. The gist; Drill our way out!

Here are the bullet point proposals that McCain put forward. Skipping the ones that note the state of our energy economy we're left with the following:

  • John McCain Will Commit $2 Billion Annually To Advancing Clean Coal Technologies [It's still unclear how this money will be committed. Direct research grants, tax credits, subsidized loans for new clean capital technology etc. Also, anybody who has ever seen a mountain range decimated for coal mining is likely to question how much more we should lean on coal.]

  • John McCain Will Put His Administration On Track To Construct 45 New Nuclear Power Plants By 2030 With The Ultimate Goal Of Eventually Constructing 100 New Plants. [Accomplishing this, of course, by subsidizing nuclear power rather than renewables. Nuclear power is certainly a strong ally in combating climate change, but one shouldn't be naive about the environmental and health impacts of uranium mining that often aren't incorporated into the price of the energy.]

  • If The U.S. Commits Itself To Expanding Domestic Oil And Gas Exploration, We Can Make A Positive Impact For A Peaceful And Stable International Oil Market. [ie lift the federal off-shore drilling morotorium. The impact that this will have on energy prices is difficult to underestimate. Production will take decades to peak, and the impact on the total supply will be slight, even if states like Florida and California don't block it off their coasts, which they surely will. Short version: weak idea.]

  • John McCain Contends That It Is Important For Us To Understand The Role That Speculation Is Playing In Our Soaring Energy Prices. [No word on investigating the warmongering risk premium...]
The only statement on renewable energy was the following, here in its entirety:
  • John McCain Will Encourage The Market For Alternative, Low Carbon Fuels Such As Wind, Hydro And Solar Power. According to the Department of Energy, wind could provide as much as one-fifth of electricity by 2030. The U.S. solar energy industry continued its double-digit annual growth rate in 2006. Also, across the country, water is currently the leading renewable energy source used by electric utilities to generate electric power. Developing these and other sources of renewable energy will require that we rationalize the current patchwork of temporary tax credits that provide commercial feasibility. John McCain voted against the patchwork of tax credits for renewable power in the past because they were temporary and reflected special interests, not what was the best policy. Because of the urgent need to reform our energy portfolio, John McCain will put in place real support for these sources of energy in the form of permanent credits that are fair, level and rational, letting the market decide which ideas can move us toward clean and renewable energy.
Part of this is his cap-and-trade proposal that we've looked at before. The important things to remember about the candidates' respective cap-and-trade plans is that Obama has a lower cap, auctions 100% of the permits and uses about 15% of the proceeds to compensate low income Americans for high fuel costs and almost all of the rest for investment in renewables. McCain's plan gives away the permits, and he's apparently confused about the "cap" part of cap-and-trade.

The rest is unclear. McCain has opposed the Production Tax Credit in the Senate, which is part of what he is describing as a "patchwork" measure. The infuriatingly dishonest part about the above statement is that he never explains what "John McCain will put in place real support for these sources of energy in the form of permanent credits that are fair, level and rational, letting the market decide which ideas can move us toward clean and renewable energy" means. McCain surely doesn't support feed in tariffs that work so well in Europe. He just never explains, which means probably nothing. Let the market decide and drill in the meantime.

It's important to point out at this point how important measures like the PTC are. GE Financial Servies recently examined the impact of the PTC on the wind power industry and concluded that "Wind Farm Tax Revenues Offset Tax Incentive." First, observe how important the PTC is for the commerical viability of new wind projects (figure from above GE study, via the wonderful REW podcast)Political uncertainty, courtesy of McCain and his Republican allies, decimates new wind capacity every time the PTC dies.

Next, examine the impact of the PTC on total revenues:For the $2.5 billion dollars spent on the PTC, $2.75 billion in increased revenues were brought in, netting $250 million dollars. That doesn't even include less quantifiable impacts such as the environmental and tertiary economic benefits.

So for all of McCain's bluster about the cost of fuel and the price per barrel of oil, he's got nothing up his sleeve besides an old oil rig. Short term supply will be unaffected, and years and years from now we'll be in an even deeper hole.

Finally, I think it's noteworthy the lack of a broader energy infrastructure policy. Obama supports a number of regulatory improvements such as revenue decoupling, portfolio standards, and CAFE standards. McCain is silent. Obama specifically addresses the need to improve our distribution networks and invest in a digital smart grid to handle our electrical needs. McCain is silent. Obama recognizes and mentions the role of land use policies and transportation infrastructure in our energy economy. McCain is silent.

I wonder why?

In his speech, which I watched on C-SPAN this weekend, McCain dismissed investments in renewables as wishful thinking by "futurists." I guess when you're 72 years old and running as the candidate for the status quo, everyone around you begins to look like a "futurist."


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Sunday, June 22, 2008

Meet the New Press

I watched Meet the Press this morning to see how Brian Williams would handle the format after Russert, but I couldn't watch the whole thing. Lindsey Graham is such a sniveling little twit that I had to turn it off. Although, kudos to Sen. Biden for his handling of the situation. I'm not a supporter of Biden for VP; I think that the AUMF vote has got to be a bright line for Obama's ticket. But Biden did what he does best, a clear headed attack dog if there ever was one.

Graham's whining about offshore drilling and public financing was as absurd as it was dishonest. Biden did an excellent job of pointing out that Obama has acheived public financing by reaching out to the public, while McCain is breaking campaign finance laws as we speak and is counting on nasty 527 ads to bolster his campaign; the same type of 527 ads that Obama has ordered not to air on his behalf.

Furthermore, Biden effectively (and repeatedly) rebuted Graham's appeals for more drilling by pointing out the long term nature of neew drilling (ten years before significant production comes in), the relatively small amount of new supply that would result from that drilling, and the fact that refinery capacity not crude supply is the rate limiting factor in our oil consumption.

Crooks&Liars has a short clip, but I couldn't stand watching the whole show. Arguments made in bad faith from hacks like Graham shake my confidence in government. Thank god for blogs.


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Friday, June 20, 2008

A Taxing Debate

The Tax Policy Center recently released their analysis of McCain's and Obama's tax plans, and the results are interesting. This chart from that study, via the Washington Post, is worth well more than a thousand words.

The difference between these two plans is made even more stark in light of their spending proposals. McCain supports an indefinte occupation of Iraq, with an option for another war in Iran, to the tune of about $150 billion dollars a year in direct costs and hundreds of billions more in indirect costs. McCain likes to say that he'll cut pork so furiously that he'll save $160 billion a year (sometimes he only says $65 billion), but that's just pie-in-the-sky. He's had to backtrack again and again about popular earmarks that he won't cut, like US aid to Israel (about $3 billion per year), and by the time he's done backtracking, he'll be left with a pittance of savings. There really just aren't that many bridges-to-nowhere.

So McCain is running for president as Bush ran for president. Offering massive tax cuts to the already-haves (Cost of McCain's tax cuts: $650 billion per year) and simultaneously large spending programs (Iraq war, for one...). McCain will then, like Bush, either disregard his campaign plans or he'll run massive deficits. It's been about 15 years now since Republicans could claim to be the party of fiscal responsibilty, and McCain is apparently intent on continuing that modern tradition of irresponsibility.

It's also worth pointing out that the manner and degree that George W Bush lied about his tax cuts during his campaign in 2000, and the way that the media treated the objective math as a he said/she said, was a harbinger of things to come. Let's see if our media has learned anything in the intervening 8 years.


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Thursday, June 19, 2008

A noun, a verb, and 9/11

What a joke. Rudy 9ui11iani, who managed to make look Fred Fucking Thompson look like a viable canidate, is back on the warpath again, but he still only has the one trick. Fortunately, not even Republicans take Rudy seriously (I forget, did he manage to beat Ron Paul or Mike Huckabee in any of those primaries?) so I say bring it on. Let's have the McCain campaign make Rudy its public face for all things terrorist related. I'll outsource the rest of my indignant response to DNC spokeswoman Karen Finney.
"Democrats are not going to be lectured to on security by the mayor who failed to learn the lessons of the 1993 attacks, refused to prepare his own city’s first responders for the next attack, urged President Bush to put his corrupt crony in charge of our homeland security, and was too busy lobbying for his foreign clients to join the Iraq Study Group,” DNC spokeswoman Karen Finney said. “Rudy Giuliani, can echo the McCain campaign’s false and misleading attacks, but he can’t change the fact that John McCain is promising four more years of President Bush’s flawed and failed policies on everything from energy security and the economy to the war in Iraq."

(Via TPM, Atrios, and FirstRead)


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Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The internet is for funny.

The new meme. Explanation.

Oh, and word has it that McCain finally released an energy policy (Drill!), so we can stop the watch. I'll take a look at the speech and see what I can find, and post on it later in the week.


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Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Bad Political Advice

Some guy I've never heard of, who for some reason writes for US News and World Report, has some unusually asinine suggestions for John McCain to "turn the issues of energy and the environment to his advantage in his race against Barack Obama." Let's take a look. (These are his words)
  1. Stop talking about global warming.
  2. Ban the color green
  3. Propose drilling in ANWR while standing in ANWR
  4. Accuse Obama of wanting to launch a pre-emptive war on the American economy
  5. Stop blaming Big Oil
  6. Go with a populist "cost of living" argument
  7. Advocate a cheap Manhattan Project
He fleshes them out a bit, by I'm not going to waste precious pixels here with nonsense. Several were too stupid to pass up, however.

For suggestion 3, "Propose drilling in ANWR while standing in ANWR," this Einstein says "And McCain could set the stage, as someone recently suggested, by visiting ANWR with Alaska's governor, Sarah Palin. Recall Ike's 1952 campaign pledge: 'I will go to Korea.' McCain could say, 'I will go to ANWR.'" Brilliant! Stand in a gorgeous national wildlife reserve and say "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down these trees!" Why in the world would McCain want that backdrop for a pandering flip-flop?

As for number 6, "Go with a populist "cost of living" argument," I really have to quote the whole thing for you to get a sense of the sheer stupidity.
"You can't expect McCain to abandon his plan to cap U.S. carbon emissions. But since his plan and Obama's similar approach would both raise energy prices for consumers, McCain could explicitly call for rebating money from the auctioning of carbon allowances—we are talking trillions of dollars over the coming decades—back to consumers in the form of lower taxes. It's a populist move that he could contrast with the Democratic plan to have the government keep that money and spend it on various "green" programs."
Except, not. It's true that prices would rise under both cap-and-trade proposals, but McCain doesn't auction the vast majority of his permits while Obama auctions 100% of his. Which is more; 100% or much much less than 100%? According to a the CBO, it would require merely 14% of auction revenue to compensate low-income Americans. Furthermore, Obama already proposes this. That's how McCain can win? Steal Obama's ideas and accuse him of trying to torpedo the economy? I think I know why I've never heard of this guy before...

Finally, number 7, "Advocate a cheap Manhattan Project." Again, we have comedy gold.
"Obama wants to spend something like $200 billion over 10 years on various energy schemes like a government-sponsored venture capital fund to invest in clean energy. A more modest approach comes from the group Set America Free. It wants American taxpayers to spend $12 billion over the next four years"
Incidently, the Iraq war now costs $12 billion per month. Is Mr. Pethokoukis familiar with the Manhattan project? It's very value as a metaphor is as project for which cost is not an issue, when whatever-it-takes is what it gets. I'd further submit that what this country needs is an actual Manhattan project for energy, you know, like Obama proposes and McCain has no policy on. And nothing says "Republican" these days like "Let's half ass this one."

So there you have it. The way to "turn the issues of energy and the environment to his advantage" is for McCain to botch a photo-op, copy Obama's ideas, and half-ass it.

My advice would be to propose a serious energy policy that would actually deal with our energy problems. But hey, nobody pays me to write about politics.


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Monday, June 16, 2008

McCain Energy Policy Watch Day 418: Confused or Lying?

We've already examined McCain's cap-and-trade plan, the only concrete proposal he's offered that deals with our energy problems. A cap-and-trade is a step towards full cost accounting of fossil fuels, which will help renewables become market competitive. The short version is that McCain's cap-and-trade is inferior to Obama's for anybody who is concerned about the environment, can't afford higher fuel prices, or supports investment in renewable energy and energy research.

In a press conference today, though McCain betrayed that he's either deeply confused or deeply dishonest about his own proposal. Furthermore, since we're told that calling McCain "confused" is ageist, I guess we're left with dishonesty. McCain said:
QUESTION: The European Union has set mandatory targets on renewable energy. Is that something you would consider in a McCain administration? [...]

MCCAIN: Sure. I believe in the cap-and-trade system, as you know. I would not at this time make those -- impose a mandatory cap at this time. But I do believe that we have to establish targets for reductions of greenhouse gas emissions over time, and I think those can be met.
As Gristmill pointed out, the cap part of cap and trade is a mandatory cap, even McCain's plan. McCain may not like the political framing of "mandatory," but saying that his plan does not include a mandatory cap is wrong on the facts.

So on the one level this story is a "gotcha!" John-McCain-ignorant-of-policy like so many others this year (Remember when Al Qaeda was in Iran? McCain does!). On another level, however, this exemplifies one of the most frustrating things about McCain's candidacy. He receives laudets for breaking with Bush on climate change (by acknowledging its existence-talk about a low bar!) but isn't held to any standard in his actions or policies!

McCain clearly doesn't prioritize climate change or energy issues, because if he did he would put forward a comphrehensive energy policy as Sen. Obama has done.

I would be encouraged if McCain's press corps begain asking about energy issues. High gas prices are a hot topic right now, and yet McCain is allowed to skate by without describing how a McCain administration would take leadership to promote policies? The message that I'm getting loud and clear from McCain is that whatever rhetoric about energy independence or climate change we hear over these next 5 months, McCain is clearly content to accept and continue Bush's legacy of federal inaction.

Prior installments of our McCain Energy Policy Watch are here:
The McCain Energy Policy Introduction.
Day 385: Cap-and-trade.
Day 410: Revenue decoupling.
Day 414: What We Do Know.


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Sunday, June 15, 2008

Daniel A. Boehmer is an idiot

I know that's a rather rude call out, but given the circumstances, it's tough to draw any other conclusion. Exhibit A is a letter Mr. Boehmer, who describes himself as a "member of the George Washington College Democrats," wrote to the GW College Republicans expressing his support for Senator McCain, after Obama defeated his preferred candidate Sen. Clinton. I'm a tad confused because many blogs are attributing to Mr. Boehmer the title of "Chairman" of the GW College Dems, but this appears to be a mistake. He describes himself only as a "member" without any apparent authority to speak for the group. Furthermore, he isn't listed on their website as being amember of the exec board in any capacity.

The funny part was that this got picked up on some blogs, and Marc Ambinder posted the letter in its entirety on June 5th. Breaking News: George Washington University student doesn't know what he's talking about!

Now, Daniel Boehmer is perfectly entitled to support whichever candidate he wants to, and is also entitled to speak out on behalf of said candidate. But that doesn't mean that I won't mock him for spending $50,000 a year to attend college in Washington DC without any apparent respect or grasp of the ideological gulf between Sen. Clinton and Sen. McCain.

Boehmer is not alone as a former supporter of Sen. Clinton who now supports McCain (though by all accounts those numbers are quite small, and shrinking), but he did decide to make himself a public face of this petulant movement. He writes:
A long time supporter of Sen. Hillary Clinton these past 16 months of her campaign, the selection of Sen. Obama has placed me, like many other Democrats, in an odd position. For me however, the debate between 'loyalty' to my party and voting based on my conscience was quickly settled. I determined that my support would, in lieu of Sen. Clinton's nomination to the Democratic Party, be given to Sen. John McCain.
This betrays a fundamental immaturity and ignorance about our political system. I'm a partisan Democrat, but I don't support the party out of loyalty, I support the party because it advances policies and positions that I support. If the parties switched platforms tomorrow, I wouldn't find myself torn by loyalty, I'd find myself voting Republican!

Boehmer is either ignorant of or confused by policies and platforms, because anybody who would support Sen. Clinton's candidacy would find an ideological ally in Sen. Obama. Whatever is affecting his "conscience," it certainly wasn't an understanding of how our government works or what is at stake in this election. I for one hope that George Washington Univeristy is proud of the fine education this young man has received.

Doesn't this story set the bar for notability impossibly low? Can any college student now claim to be a member of the College Dems and start issuing press releases and public letters announcing support for, say the reanimated corpse of Ronald Reagan, and get coverage?


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Saturday, June 14, 2008

More on Russert

I've been a little surprised with MSNBC's coverage over these last 24 hours. It has been, without exxageration, nearly completely focused on Tim Russert. I understand that Russert was an icon of Washington journalism, and was apparently universally loved by friends and colleagues at NBC and elsewhere, but the hagiographic eulogies and the non-stop coverage strikes me oddly.

First, Russert was undeniably respected and emulated by colleagues. As John Cole said, however, this is not an unvarnished good.
But let’s get something straight- what I am watching right now on the cable news shows is indicative of the problem- no clearer demonstration of the fact that they consider themselves to be players and the insiders and, well, part of the village, is needed. This is precisely the problem. They have walked the corridors of power so long that they honestly think they are the story. It is creepy and sick and the reason politicians get away with all the crap they get away with these days.
This isn't to spit on Russert's grave. I really do feel for his friends and family, particularly in light of recent events my own family. However, Russert was respected enough and big enough that people shouldn't forget legitimate criticisms of the man's methods.

Russert's role in the Plame affair was journalistically controversial. Those that seek to emulate Russert's gotcha style would do well to understand the negative aspects of how it was practiced. And he was used by the Bush administration to sell Iraqi WMD claims. Nobody should forget how the Bush administration fed false or exagerated intelligence to Judy Miller, and then sent Dick Cheney to "Meet the Press" to discuss it, because on MTP Cheney could "control the message." Russert was a prominent figure in the Washington press corp during the run up to Iraq, and that's an unfortunate stain on an otherwise illustriuos career.

Such an iconic newsman deserves nothing less than an honest examination of his career.


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Friday, June 13, 2008

Tim Russert: 1950-2008

As you've undoubtably heard, Tim Russert, host of "Meet the Press" since 1991, Washington Bureau Chief for NBC News, and co-moderator of the Drexel University Democratic Presidential debate, died this afternoon. As a a young person I've never known a politics or political media without the influence of Tim Russert.

I don't have anything to add beyond what we're reading and hearing from his friends, so I offer up this highlight reel from that debate here from last fall.


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McCain Lies

Once again the endless footage of John McCain catches him red handed. Noz mentioned a month ago that he expected to start seeing a lot of McCain flip flops and lies in video form by nature of the fact that McCain has spent about 5 hours a week doing interviews for the last twenty years. Here he is, shall we say finessing, his prior statements about privativing social security.

And here is the juxtaposition of "Straight Talk" in from two different eras of Bush's popularity. When Bush is popular (after reelection) McCain is his strongest support, and when Bush is Mr. 29%, well Mac is a Maverick!

Straight talk!


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Thursday, June 12, 2008

McCain Energy Policy Watch: What We Do Know

I came across some discussion on the blogs about McCain's energy policy, and since we've been beating this drum for some time now, I decided to jump in. This post was going to be about Obama's renewable enrgy investment proposals, contrasted with the absence of McCain's, but instead let's step back and figure out what we can piece together about what McCain's energy policy would be like from his record and statements.

Steve Benen was wondering why McCain was pushing the gas tax holiday so much, and independently discovered what we've been saying for a while.
"But something else occurred to me this afternoon. When pondering why on earth McCain would continue to push obvious nonsense about an important issue, the answer came to me: it’s because he has nothing else to say.

I went to his website to check on his energy policy. On his home page, there’s plenty about golf gear, but nothing about energy or gas prices. Eventually, after digging around for a while, I found this:
"John McCain Will Help Americans Hurting From High Gasoline And Food Costs. Americans need relief right now from high gas prices. John McCain will act immediately to reduce the pain of high gas prices."
That’s not an excerpt of a longer position paper, that’s the entire text of McCain’s position on gas prices. He’ll “act immediately.” How? No one knows. With what kind of policy? It’s a total mystery. (In contrast, Obama has a detailed policy page on oil and energy.)"
That's exactly what I went through about five months ago gearing up for our debate with the College Republicans. I was pretty shocked that McCain didn't have an energy page on his website, and further digging bore out the absence of any plan.

The esteemed Hilzoy, however, calls the assertion that McCain has no plan "about two-thirds right." He points out something I made clear in the first installment of the energy policy watch; that while McCain doesn't have any policy papers or issues pages about energy, he has spoken about the issue a lot, and (more recently) he has put forward a cap-and-trade scheme. Hilzoy identifies the mistaken third thusly.
The one-third wrong part: there's more than what Steve found. The part about lowering gas prices is just as lame as he says: McCain fleshes out his promise to lower gas prices by saying he'll institute the gas holiday (which won't lower them), stop filling the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (already happened), and -- well, that's it.

However, McCain does have a Climate Change policy page, which describes his proposal for a cap and trade system. He expands on this in a speech on climate change policy, and adds some useful details: for instance, some permits would be auctioned, and some of the money from those auctions would be directed to "to help build the infrastructure of a post-carbon economy" (which seems to mean research and some infrastructure.) In a speech to the Detroit Economic Club, he says that "we need to work together to increase CAFE standards to a level that is practical and achievable for all new vehicles" and that "we need to be at the cutting edge of green technologies", though how we will get there is not explained.
Emphasis mine. We started the McCain Energy Policy Watch before his climate change proposals came out (some say it was because of us that they came out...Ok, nobody says that.) But even with his cap-and-trade initiative the problem with McCain on energy is that he likes to talk a good game without backing it up. When you hear pundits extolling his "maverickness" one of the issues they often cite is his breaking with the President on energy. McCain voted against the 2005 energy bill because of the oil industry pork. It's worth pointing out why Obama voted for it, though.

The production tax credit was slated to expire at the end of 2005, and a two year extension was included, as well as fairly significant other renewable incentives. It's true that the bill, the Dick Cheney Energy Bill for Lobbyists, was full of pork for oil companies too, but in the minority it was a pill some Democrats swallowed. Observe the effect of the PTC on installed wind capacity in the US.

McCain values his image as a porkbuster more than an image as a "green." He has been talking a good game at town halls for years without ever really backing it up. He has repeatedly voted to oppose extending the production tax credit for wind energy, on the grounds that he doesn't support subsidies, but then he says he supports subsidies for nuclear energy (without offering details, which kind of matter). This doesn't even hit on McCain's hatred of Amtrak, and whether he considers land use and mass transit part of a national strategy on energy.

In McCain's original energy speech in April 2007 he said
"As President, I'll propose a national energy strategy that will amount to a declaration of independence from the fear bred by our reliance on oil sheiks and our vulnerability to the troubled politics of the lands they rule. When we reach the limits of military power and diplomacy to contain the dangers of that cauldron of burning resentments and extremism, energy security is our best defense. We won't achieve it tomorrow, but we must achieve it in our time.

The strategy I propose won't be another grab bag of handouts to this or that industry and a full employment act for lobbyists. It will promote the diversification and conservation of our energy sources that will in sufficient time break the dominance of oil in our transportation sector just as we diversified away from oil use in electric power generation thirty years ago; and substantially reduce the impact of our energy consumption on the planet. It will rely on the genius and technological prowess of American industry and science. Government must set achievable goals, but the markets should be free to produce the means. And those means are within our reach."
Which would be fine, if he ever followed up on it.

The real issue is one of priorities. We know roughly what a McCain energy policy would look like; Cutting most subsidies for renewables. A cap-and-trade with a higher cap, most of the permits given away, and unlimited use of carbon offsets (a problem). Subsidies for coal and nuclear power for new plants. Disdain for new regulation. Opposing new drilling in ANWR. Higher CAFE standards. We can expect this from things he's said in town halls or speeches and his voting record in the senate.

But when he says things like "Of course we're all for the wind and solar and tide There's no living American who isn't in favor of that. I'm in favor of that." he shouldn't get a free pass. He doesn't explain how you can promote more renewable energy without restructuring regulation with measures like revenue decoupling and enforced net metering, or without investing in basic and applied research in our nations labs and universities, or without providing either production or investment tax credits.

The fact that there is no coherent policy platform, much less one readily accessible to the public, can mean only that he doesn't prioritize the problem. That's the point about the McCain Energy Policy Watch. Voters can't hold a candidate responsible for a plan that's never offered. I would love to see McCain adopt all or most of Obama's plan, and let them fight out the election over other issues. Renewable energy and our energy problems shouldn't be a partisan football. But as long as one party isn't serious about them, then they will be.

Until McCain actually puts forward an energy plan, we'll keep counting.

The McCain Energy Policy Introduction.
Day 385: Cap-and-trade.
Day 410: Revenue decoupling.

Click "There's more..." for the full post.


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Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The 2008 Presidential Primary In 10 Minutes

I know that this was a long primary season (it started around December 2004), but in case you miss it already, well here you go, because K.O. did a 10 minute retrospective on the primary. So go ahead, get nostalgic. I for one miss Rudy, Fred, Mitt and the gang.

Not a bad soundtrack either. The Mutato Muzika Orchestra always reminds me of Rugrats and Rushmore.


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Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The Republican Not-Quite-50-State Strategy

Did you know that this guy, Michael Livingston, was running against Chaka Fattah for the 2nd congressional seat here in West Philly? Neither did I. I only learned about it after he dropped out of the race. To quote Keystone Politics:
"Yesterday Keystone Politics received a Press Release indicating that Michael Livingston, Republican candidate for the Second Congressional district had withdrawn from the race against Democratic Congressman Chaka Fattah.

Mr. Livingston, in attempt to garner any media attention, has emailed again to see why we haven’t posted a story. Frankly, his running was not newsworthy and his abandoning the race is even less newsworthy."
Ouch. It's actually a fairly interesting non-story though. The final press release on Livingston's website is titled "Livingston Withdraws from Race, Blasts Local and National Republicans for Extreme Positions, Lack of Support" Now, it's not unusual for congressional challengers of either party to be upset with national party organizations for too little support, financial and otherwise. But Livingston was apparently snubbed completely.
While critical of local leaders, Livingston reserved his strongest criticism for the national Republican Party, most notably its Congressional wing. From that release: “The NRCC (National Republican Congressional Committee) spent $1 million on a by-election in Louisiana but could not even provide me with a weekend of candidate training,” he explained.
Many of you know that I'm a big fan of Howard Dean and Barack Obama's 50 state strategy. Sure, you might not win every congressional race, but local organizing pays dividends up-ticket. Also, you might not win every state, but national attention can pay dividends down-ticket. We now know that the Obama campaign will field paid staffers in all 50 states. We may not win Alabama, but that's how you build a national party.

The Republicans, on the other hand, are in bunker mode. Stingily allocating funds and staffers to only those races they hope to defend. Similarly, McCain's electoral map to the White House focuses on holding the Bush states, with a laser like focus on Ohio, Florida, and Pennsylvania. The 2nd CD is deep blue territory, but people won't vote for you if you don't ask them to.

But If the Republican's haven't figured that out yet, by all means don't tell them now.


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Very Important Message

I thought you guys might enjoy knowing that since last week's book review of Kathleen Parker's Save the Males, which by nature of the book used the word "vagina" frequently, our google searches have increased a bit.

At this point, nearly 10% of all incoming hits from google queries are for the word "vagina." In the last week, people (men, presumably) from the following countries have searched for the term "vagina" on google and clicked through to that post:
  • Mexico
  • Switzerland
  • Portugal
  • Mozambique (from a .gov domain at that)
  • Germany
  • Brazil (a few)
  • And several from inside these United States.

That is all. We now return to regularly scheduled blogging.


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Monday, June 09, 2008

Bill Moyers on Media Reform

Journalist Bill Moyers addresses the National Conference for Media Reform in Minneapolis, June 7, 2008. It's an almost 40 minute speech, but well worth every minute.

"The only antidote to the power of organized money in Washington is the power of organized people at the net roots."


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The Dumbening Begins

In this primary between Obama and Hillary, the policy issues between them were relatively minor. Healthcare mandates, Obama's more net-friendly tech policy, and most importantly Obama's early opposition to the Iraq War were the most noticable among them.

All things considered, there was a fair amount of focus on policy in the primary. ABC's horrendous Philadelphia debate aside, the few differences were pretty well fleshed out for anyone concerned.

Given that promising (a relative term) start, the deep divide between Obama and McCain on a range of important issues, and McCain's professed desire to run a clean campaign, I'm hoping for a relatively substantive election. Now, I'm not naive (well, not THAT naive) so when I say that, I put the emphasis on relatively.

Cue the dumbening. The LA Times editorializes that McCain and Obama are actually pretty similar. Their trick, you see, is that if you don't examine the issues, then Obama and McCain are the same! Take, for instance, their assertion that Obama and McCain are on "common ground" on climate change.
Environment. The differences between the two on the environment tend to be a matter of degree. They support the same policies, but in general Obama wants tougher (and costlier) regulation. Both want to create a cap-and-trade program for greenhouse gases -- Obama's would reduce them to 80% below 1990 levels by 2050, while McCain's would cut them by 60%. Both want more energy-efficiency programs and renewable energy, though Obama would spend more to get them. McCain is a big proponent of nuclear power, an issue Obama has largely avoided thus far.
Yes, McCain is that elusive creature, a Republican who acknowledges the overwhelming scientific consensus of climate change. No discussion, however, of the distinction between McCain's cap-and-give approach versus Obama's cap-and-invest. These are not marginal distinctions, either. Obama has laid out a suprisingly forward thinking energy platform to push this country towards renewable energy, while McCain has no policy at all.

Steve Benen at noticed the same thing, but Ezra Klein put it best:
A week ago, I laughed off fears that any reporters in America would be dim enough to argue that Barack Obama and John McCain, contrary to what they say and what their policies suggest, are actually quite close to each other ideologically. Today, the LA Times takes a shot at proving me wrong. Happily, the Times' editorial page isn't quite able to convince itself of this bit of tomfoolery, but they give it a go. I hereby promise to never again underestimate the media's ability to turn any campaign into an ideas free contest of personalities.
The first presidential election that I have any real memory of was Bush v. Gore. I was going into 10th grade, and I remember very clearly lots of people asserting that the two candidates were identical save for their personalities. I remember most explicitly Bill Mahr, still on ABC at the time, constantly referred to them as "Gush and Bore." He wasn't the only one either.

Bush and the Republicans deliberately obfuscated the actual policy differences between the two candidates, and even the two parties. If you listened to Bush (or any of 10,000 talking heads) tell it, Bush trusted you and Gore trusted the government, but other than that they're the same. On specific issues from the patients bill of rights, to climate change, to social security, to tax policy, Bush and co. made at best grossly misleading to at worst downright deceitful statements. Bush pretended to support the patients bill of rights when he did not. Does anyone remember "by far the vast majority of my tax cut goes to people at the bottom end of the economic ladder." That was a fun one.

Please don't make me live through that again.


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Sunday, June 08, 2008

McCain Energy Policy Watch Day 410: Revenue Decoupling

See also:
McCain Energy Policy Watch Introduction
McCain Energy Policy Watch Day 385: Cap and Trade

410 days ago John McCain officially launched his candidacy for President of the United States, and he has yet to announce or endorse an energy policy. Today I'm going to briefly explain a policy referred to as "revenue decoupling," a simple and ingenious method to encourage more renewable microgeneration and consumption, that Senator Obama supports and Senator McCain has no position on.

In order to understand profit decoupling you must first briefly understand how electric utilities operate. First, utilities are regulated by the government, and the rates that they charge for power are set by the government as follows. The costs to produce power (including a profit for the unility companies) are estimated for a period of time, and the expected sales units (power) are also forecasted. The total costs divided by the units sold determines the rate per kilowatt-hour. If the utility sells more power, it earns extra profits, and if it sells less than forcasted, it earns less money. In this manner, utility company profits are very sensitive to sales. A drop in sales has a magnified impact on profits.

The dynamics of this relationship are as follows. Customers have an incentive to conserve, as they are charged according to how much they use. Utility companies, however, have a strong disincentive to promote conservation or reduced consumption. This relationship disincentivises utility companies to promote smart metering, microgeneration, or conservation initiatives.

That's where revenue decoupling comes in. Revenue decoupling breaks the link between the consumption of power and the profit to utility companies, therefore positioning them with economic incentives to allocate resources and energy in more efficient manners. Instead of fixing prices to adjust revenues, revenues are fixed by adjusting prices. As Bill Clinton himself explained the advantages of revenue decoupling;
"If the utilities do this, then they can put together a plan, go find all the contractors, get all the materials and if in effect pay for the cost on your home or in your office building as if they were building a mini power plant there. That is instead of financing it like a consumer loan for one year or a car loan for three, it could be financed over a twenty-year period or longer. The consumer then would have to pay a little more per kilowatt hour but never so much that they wouldn't still have lower total utility bills because they'd be using so much less. So suppose they make your home 30 percent more efficient, they charge you 15 percent more per kilowatt hour, so your bill goes down 15 percent and they get the financing they need, collectively it will be much less expensive for them than building a new power plant. They'll be able to finance and we won't be contributing any more to climate change."
The technical possibilites of distributed microgeneration are very promising. Microgeneration of wind and solar power can go a long way towards supplying the energy needs of developed societies, and reduce the loads on our antiquated electrical grid. Smart implementation requires effective and intelligent political and regulatory leadership, and Obama has shown that he takes the issue seriously.

Now, these are state issues, but as with nearly all such "state" issues, leadership from the federal government can promote or inhibit the actions of the states. From Obama's energy plan:
Flip Incentives to Energy Utilities: Obama will work to “flip” incentives to state and local utilities by ensuring companies get increased profits for improving energy efficiency, rather than higher energy consumption. Currently, utilities make profits when consumers purchase more energy, and when consumers purchase energy at peak times when energy prices are higher because of greater demands on the system. This decoupling of profits from increased energy usage will incentivize utilities to partner with consumers and the federal government to reduce monthly energy bills for families and businesses. Obama will provide early adopter grants and other financial assistance from the federal government to states that implement this energy efficient policy.
Emphasis added.

McCain, on the other hand, has no stated position at all on revenue decoupling. McCain apparently places our energy needs somewhere below pandering on guns and McCain branded golf gear.

Right now a nearly a dozen states have decoupled their electrical utilites. The results are encouraging. California, which a number of years ago experimented disasterously with deregulation of the electric industry, but now has a decoupled scheme. The per capita energy consumption is now 55% of the national average, due in part to revenue decoupling.

Don't let anyone call Obama an empty suit without pointing out that McCain is running for president while oil costs $138 per barrel, and he can't be bothered to formulate an energy policy.

Click "There's more..." for the full post.


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Saturday, June 07, 2008

Jackie Mason Has Opinions

And he wants you to hear them. Plus, he's a right wing nut without any particular knowledge or expertise, so naturally he videotapes his radio show and puts it on YouTube. Does anyone actually broadcast his "radio show" or is this one of those internet radio deals? Either way, he's stupid! Now that's comedy.

Jackie's YouTube ranting after the jump.


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Friday, June 06, 2008

Friday Night

Don't get too drunk, or you might accidently run for president without an energy policy. Oops!


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McCain/Clinton '08?

Stop shuddering, it's not going to happen. But it's an interesting thought. With all the Clinton supporters who insist they would never vote for Obama over McCain, McCain/Clinton could possibly be a dream ticket. It would make very little sense since they disagree on most issues of policy, but to the "Change vs. Experience" crowd, they are placed in the same bucket. And in a way, McCain has little to lose if he extends the offer; as "trojan8080" points out in a comment on McCain's campaign blog, "If she says no, John McCain will look like the guy that really works across party lines."

But really, it's not going to happen. Otherwise, we're in serious trouble.

For now, most of our trouble lies in the steady stream of Clinton supporters defecting to McCain. But seriously, ClintonsForMcCain...what the hell are you thinking?

I think "elycee" puts it best in another comment on the McCain blog: "So, because Hilary lost...You are willing to sacrifice everything she has worked all her life to achieve. Her platforms are identical to Obama's. If you are ready for Roe V Wade to be overturned, the wealthiest [A]mericans to get the largest tax cuts....then carry on."

So what about Obama/Clinton?

Could they put aside the bitter rivalry that has grown between them this season? Sure they could; most of the mudslinging in the primaries is just for show. After all, they're already chatting it up in Diane Feinstein's living room. To me, something about it feels utterly unnatural at this point, but who knows how we'll feel after a few weeks when our primary wounds heal? With Obama's guiding vision of hope and Clinton's experience to back him up, they could easily defeat McCain in the fall. After all, all the women and black voters added together surely outnumber the old white men...if you insist on simplifying everything down into demographics as the pundits are so fond of doing this season.

We'll probably have quite a bit more time to agonize and speculate before the running mate is chosen. It's surely a tough decision to make for Obama. Running mates need chemistry; Obama and Edwards certainly would have made a dynamic duo, but Edwards has definitely ruled out that possibility. Obama/Richardson could also be a powerful pair, and would help him with his weakness in the Latino vote...then there's Jim Webb...Wesley Clark...or Kathleen Sebelius...Ed Rendell (I'm still surprised by that idea)...or maybe a Republican?!

Enough with the speculating. Walter Mondale has it right, suggesting Clinton supporters pull back from "even appearance of campaigning for the No. 2 spot," because it may complicate Obama's decision.

“I think it’s best he just be left alone,” Mr. Mondale said.

It's been a long 5 months of primaries, and even longer campaigning, and the poor man is tired. Just give him a break and let him make a decision in peace.


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Lessons learned this primary season

Shameless plug for my ed-op in this week's Triangle...

It's been a long, arduous trek the past five months, but finally the presidential primary season has come to a close. For Republicans, it was over months ago when Sen. John McCain emerged as the de facto nominee; for Democrats, the contest wrapped up June 3 as Sen. Barack Obama obtained the magic number of delegates to clinch the nomination. As of press time it was reported by the New York Times on June 5 that Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton is slated to concede the race June 7.

Critics have been calling for Clinton to drop out for quite some time now, and for a while she seemed to be clinging to the pipedream that she was "winning the popular vote."

There is no national total of the "popular vote" in the primaries. They are a mash-up of caucuses and primary elections, and the rules vary widely in each state. Every state is different and has the right to decide what works best for its residents, keeping in mind the regulations set forth by the Democratic National Committee. The goal of the primaries is not to determine the will of the American people; it is to determine the will of the Democratic Party in a given state, and in turn transmit that will via delegates to the national convention in August.

The only thing that matters in the primaries is the delegate count. It's not disenfranchisement; it's how the system works.



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Tuesday, June 03, 2008

We Have Our Nominee

Congratulations are in order to Senator Obama, who tonight offcially reached the delegate threshhold to clinch the Democratic nomination for President; as though you haven't heard by now! Senator Clinton has not yet conceded or suspended her campaign, but that's no impediment to Senator Obama's milestone. For the first time in our nations history, a major party has nominated a minority to be its standard bearer.

Senator McCain took the opportunity to pre-but Obama's speech, and came off looking foolish. His speech was limp and meanspirited, and was dropped by the networks as the South Dakota polls closed and Obama was declared the presumptive nominee. There's plenty of interesting commentary going on, so I'll just post three speeches, for your viewing pleasure.





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There Are a lot of Vaginas Out There

Or better social science through anecdote.

Last week Atrios brought a number of the books that he receives free for review because he’s so important, and I was fortunate enough to snag myself that golden copy of Kathleen Parker’s Save The Males. So as a lark I decided to actually read it and write up a review in the hopes of snagging a coveted Eschaton link. It was pretty bad, and after 190 pages of “There are a lot of vaginas out there. And you thought Wahhabism was a problem.” (direct quote, page 125) I think I deserve not a link, but a medal. Anyway, I hope you enjoy, and at the very least, I hope you don’t pay money to read the book. It’s really just not worth it.

As a 23 year old heterosexual male raised in a liberal family that believes in the radical notion that women are people too (feminism) , I am, it seems, situated squarely within the demographic that Kathleen Parker believes needs “saving.” I didn’t even realize I needed saving, and after slogging through 190 pages of the same four arguments I remain unconvinced of my perilous state.

I should start by admitting that I’m an engineering student, and not at all qualified for literary criticism. That’s alright though, because “Save the Males” is not literature. As I’m more familiar with technical papers and prefer the passive voice, I will refrain from criticizing Mrs. Parker’s writing style (except right now when I point out that the book is written in such a casual style that it feels as though Mrs. Parker has you trapped in a corner at a cocktail party and insists on regaling you with anecdotes about teen sex and single moms. In 1994.) But I really don’t want to criticize her writing on aesthetic grounds, as my own glass house lies on a slippery slope made of clichés.

To chronicle everything with which I disagreed with in Save the Males would be a waste of everyone’s time, especially my own, so I thought it might be more illustrative to first list those statements that I find accurate.

“I’m not a social scientist,…” Page 8.

“This is not quantum physics.” Page 13.

“Nothing quite says ‘Men Need Not Apply’ like a vial of mail-order sperm and a turkey baster.” Page 71

“What Lorena Bobbit lacked in nuance, she made up for with precision.” Page 91

“There are a lot of vaginas out there.” Page 125

“In 2003, girls ages thirteen to seventeen spent more than $157 million on thong underwear.” Page 132

“Avoiding gender stereotypes is, perhaps, well and good, but the cost of such gender correctness has been that boys no longer read.” Page 15.

Actually, maybe not that last one…

If there is one thing that a technical education helps you understand it is that the plural of anecdote is not data. Save the Males rests almost entirely on a foundation of anecdote and sweeping personal impressions (“America may never fall for a regular guy again, but that’s the way it was post-Clinton.” pg. 112).

The book opens, in fact, with an anecdote so bizarre and illustrative of nothing that I would be remiss if I didn’t mock it. Here it is, in its entirety:
“Jackson Marlette was just fourteen when he summed up the anti-male zeitgeist for his father, political cartoonist Doug Marlette. They were in a North Carolina chicken joint awaiting their orders when the younger Marlette picked up a tabletop ad boasting boneless chicken and read aloud: ‘Chicken good, bones bad.’

Then, beaming with insight, Jackson made the analogous leap and proclaimed: ‘Women good, men bad!”

Yesssssss! Give that boy a lifetime pass to The Vagina Monologues.”
That’s it. Was that anti-male zeitgeist summoning apropos of anything? I certainly couldn’t tell. I know that I probably shouldn’t make fun of a fourteen year old, but I was fourteen not too terribly long ago, and I remember speaking in complete sentences. This was the anecdote to introduce the book, to demonstrate that males of my generation have so internalized anti-male propaganda that we need saving? Because an eighth grader, cribbing from a menu, once said “Women good, men bad!”?

That was only the first of many anecdotes that were comically unconvincing. Shortly after that opening salvo, Parker related an equally bizarre story of a boy who was diagnosed with ADD, when in fact his problem was that he couldn’t hear his teacher. You see, the teacher was “talking in a tone of voice that is comfortable to her and the girls in the class, but some of the boys were practically falling asleep.” Oh I see! Woman, what with their annoyingly high pitched voices, are talking in dog whistle code at frequencies that young boys can’t hear! Diabolical! So that’s why I never heard a teacher tell me to do my homework! Women bad!

Parker also lamented the “highly lucrative boy bashing industry.” Did you know that there is a company that manufactures T-shirts with such horrifying slogans as “Boys Are Goobers…Drop Anvils on Their Heads” and “Stupid Factory: Where Boys Are Made.” Shocking, I know, but someone might point out to Mrs. Parker that what with the internet and all, anything imaginable is for sale on a T-shirt. Hell, in the darkest corners of the internet you can actually find people selling T-shirts saying “Fred Thompson for President.” Fred Thompson! Can you imagine?

It’s not just highly offensive boy bashing T-shirts, though. Apparently, some college Republicans at Roger Williams University got in trouble for walking around in penis mascot costume to protest a campus performance of The Vagina Monologues. What about free speech!? And, as Parker noted, “Performances [of said Monologues] at colleges and universities are usually preceded by a weeklong celebration that includes blanketing of campuses with vagina propaganda—pamphlets, displays, sculptures, and other, frankly aggressive vagina-mongering.”

I’ve never seen The Vagina Monologues and it may be that the aggressive vagina-mongering does indeed warrant protest with a giant foam penis. But college Republicans do stupid stunts all the time and school administrators over react all the time. This is hardly evidence of a war on men. I am concerned about vagina-mongering in general, however.

There are too many overblown anecdotes to mention them all, but I have to include Parker’s concern that the co-ed showering in Starship Troopers is Hollywood forcing its unisex values on the Heartland. “This may be science fiction, but it’s not far removed from what ‘progressives’ must have hoped for when they installed unisex bathrooms in college dormitories.” Really? It's not just that T&A puts boys in the seats?

I should admit that I had judged the book before I read it, but my best attempt at objective analysis has justified my immediate impression. I expected a few offensive and simple-minded unoriginal arguments spiced up with anecdotes “proving” what naggy bitches women are, and how men are hurting for it. There were a few areas where my expectations were disappointed, such as the unimpressive nature of the scare stories, but overall I think I got it right.

What was most surprising, however, was that at times Parker herself appeared aware of the absurd implications of some her arguments. It was like she walked up to the edge of cliff, looked over and stepped back, and then said “but still…” For instance, on page 70, after having spent quite some time arguing that a nuclear family with a biological mother and biological father are not only the preferable, but the only honorable, family, Parker writes:
“I’ll concede that loving families do not necessarily have to be blood kin. ‘Love’ is the key word, and most of us are lucky if we have even one solid adult who loves us unconditionally.”
Yet, this cuts at the core of what preceded it. Parker argued that “biological fathers do matter, and they are essential” to attack homosexual partners with children, single mothers who choose artificial insemination, and African-American women with children out of wedlock, for whom the government has “made unwed motherhood profitable.”

Similarly, regarding stay at home dads and that most insidious feminist plot, getting guys to help with housework Parker seems almost schizophrenic. She writes of a feminist conspiracy to pollute our culture with images of stay at home dads, and cites as evidence a 1983 Michael Keeton movie (Mr. Mom) and a 2002 cover story in Fortune magazine. She argues that even suggesting that a man pick up his dirty socks (confession; I’m guilty as sin when it comes to leaving dirty socks lying around) or do the dishes is to “geld the American male.” But she steps back from that cliff again. Parker writes:
“And there’s nothing wrong with any of it—women working, men diapering. What raises a red flag is the didactic tone of such stories and the implication that if you don’t play house the new way, you’re either a troglodyte or a witless Stepford wife.”
But this is built from the same straw-man that much of Parker’s arguments are. Feminism isn’t about oppressively enforcing new gender roles; it’s about equality of choices and equality of opportunity. Feminists aren’t out to tell women that they can’t or shouldn’t be a mother and housewife any more than they would tell women that they can’t or shouldn’t be an executive, a doctor, or anything else that they’re willing and able to do. After mocking “apron-men” Parker writes
“It isn’t enough that modern men and women help each other out because they love each other and because it makes sense. Enlightened men share recipes and and are fluent in hormone replacement therapy—not to mention the best walk-in manicure salon—while enlightened women kick ass at the gym and shatter glass ceilings with a strategic thwap! of their brass heuvos.”
This caricature is so absurd it must be deliberate, and yet the answer to Parker’s apprehension is in her own words; It is enough that modern men and women help each other out because they love each other and because it makes sense. Is that so hard to understand? Apparently so.

I can save you the trouble of reading the book by just summarizing the seven chapters thusly:
  1. Women nag and nagging is like rape or castration.
  2. Deadbeat dads are a myth, plus there are deadbeat moms.
  3. Dads are good, and Murphy Brown is seditious.
  4. Women nag and nagging is like rape or castration.
  5. The vagina is icky.
  6. Lots of women are sluts.
  7. Women aren’t as strong as men
Kathleen Parker is part of a long tradition of anti-female women, joining the ranks of Phyllis Schlaffly, Ann Coulter, and Caitlin Flanagan. As long as there are sexist men to buy them, there will be women willing to write books like this. They aren’t really intended to persuade, but rather to gently reinforce the prejudices of the reader. See, you aren’t a sexist asshole, you’re just not PC enough for those femi-nazis; A women said so!

She did make her point, in one small way. I now know at least one women who isn't as smart as most men.

Click "There's more..." for the full review of that monstrosity.


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Monday, June 02, 2008

On To McSame?

The internet is abuzz with rumor that tomorrow will bring the end of this unending primary. Hopefully we Democrats can shut down the circular firing squad after she concedes. I think that the nature of the blogosphere has echoed and amplified divisions between Clinton supporters and Obama supporters that don't exist nearly to the same degree in real life.

I'm hopeful that Clinton will work as vigorously for Obama as she did for herself. I'm not naive, and I expect a diminishingly small number of people to take their ball and go home, declaring their support for McCain becuase Clinton "was robbed." I also expect Fox News and the Republicans to try to give those people as large a platform as possible to sow division between Democrats.

Oh look here...

Here's that same fine Democrat expressing herself at the RBC meeting on Saturday.

It seems a little arrogant of me, a 23 year old college student, to call someone like her who has so much more life experience naive, and yet I can't help it. I can't relate to how strongly or how personally she identifies with and supports Hillary, but I can point out that she is making entirely specious arguments in support of Clinton. Furthermore, she is apparently without perspective of the issues at stake in an election between John McSame and Barack Obama. Hopefully she will take a deep breath and make the right call in November. I don't think that this will cost Obama New York in the fall though.