Saturday, January 27, 2007

Bush's War On Global Climate

Compare and contrast the following statements. First:
Keeping America competitive requires affordable energy. And here we have a serious problem: America is addicted to oil, which is often imported from unstable parts of the world. The best way to break this addiction is through technology. Since 2001, we have spent nearly $10 billion to develop cleaner, cheaper, and more reliable alternative energy sources -- and we are on the threshold of incredible advances.

So tonight, I announce the Advanced Energy Initiative -- a 22-percent increase in clean-energy research -- at the Department of Energy, to push for breakthroughs in two vital areas. To change how we power our homes and offices, we will invest more in zero-emission coal-fired plants, revolutionary solar and wind technologies, and clean, safe nuclear energy. (Applause.)
Tonight, I ask Congress to join me in pursuing a great goal. Let us build on the work we've done and reduce gasoline usage in the United States by 20 percent in the next 10 years. When we do that we will have cut our total imports by the equivalent of three-quarters of all the oil we now import from the Middle East.

To reach this goal, we must increase the supply of alternative fuels, by setting a mandatory fuels standard to require 35 billion gallons of renewable and alternative fuels in 2017 -- and that is nearly five times the current target At the same time, we need to reform and modernize fuel economy standards for cars the way we did for light trucks -- and conserve up to 8.5 billion more gallons of gasoline by 2017.
In each year's State of the Union address, in order to distract people from talking about the fact that, well, he really has no solution to the Iraq War, President Bush tosses out at least one or two grandious schemes that are guaranteed to grab headlines, and a couple of wonky technical points designed to catch the eye of people who aren't as bamboozled by health care insurance at the cost of bouncing an awful lot of people care insurance.

This was that "wonky" bit. If you read the two passages carefully...the first is from the 2006 State of the Union, the second from this year's SOTU...both deal with alternative energy programs he's proposed.

You'll notice, though, that the second proposal, albeit a bit more detailed than the first, is nearly identical. Last year, Bush pushed this tiny little marginal attempt to include alternative energy in the scheme of things as a national security issue: in the wake of Katrina, spiking oil prices, and of course, uncertainty over Iran and Iraq, it was the obvious way to pimp it.

And he failed.

This year, when global warming is universally accepted as factual and imminent, with the Oscar-nominated "An Inconvenient Truth" available now to anyone with a Blockbuster card, he's poised the issue as a way to combat "global climate change."

Newsweek has an interesting article this week on Bush's apparent position change. Nonsense. Bush has been humping this watered-down response to global warming for six years now, going back to June 2001. Admittedly, this was the first time he mentioned it in the State of the Union, but he's been road testing this theme for a long time, waiting for a moment he could safely jump on a bandwagon while maintaining political cover from the few crackpots who still think styrofoam is biodegradable and it ain't getting any hotter.

The promise Bush made in 2001, was weak and while on the face of things was kept...well, let's read the words:
Today, I make our investment in science even greater. My administration will establish the U.S. Climate Change Research Initiative to study areas of uncertainty and identify priority areas where investments can make a difference.

I'm directing my Secretary of Commerce, working with other agencies, to set priorities for additional investments in climate change research, review such investments, and to improve coordination amongst federal agencies. We will fully fund high-priority areas for climate change science over the next five years. We'll also provide resources to build climate observation systems in developing countries and encourage other developed nations to match our American commitment.

And we propose a joint venture with the EU, Japan and others to develop state-of-the-art climate modeling that will help us better understand the causes and impacts of climate change. America's the leader in technology and innovation. We all believe technology offers great promise to significantly reduce emissions -- especially carbon capture, storage and sequestration technologies.

So we're creating the National Climate Change Technology Initiative to strengthen research at universities and national labs, to enhance partnerships in applied research, to develop improved technology for measuring and monitoring gross and net greenhouse gas emissions, and to fund demonstration projects for cutting-edge technologies, such as bioreactors and fuel cells.

Even with the best science, even with the best technology, we all know the United States cannot solve this global problem alone. We're building partnerships within the Western Hemisphere and with other like-minded countries. Last week, Secretary Powell signed a new CONCAUSA Declaration with the countries of Central America, calling for cooperative efforts on science research, monitoring and measuring of emissions, technology development, and investment in forest conservation.

We will work with the Inter-American Institute for Global Change Research and other institutions to better understand regional impacts of climate change. We will establish a partnership to monitor and mitigate emissions. And at home, I call on Congress to work with my administration on the initiatives to enhance conservation and energy efficiency outlined in my energy plan, to implement the increased use of renewables, natural gas and hydropower that are outlined in the plan, and to increase the generation of safe and clean nuclear power.
Your eyes probably glazed over and you skipped ahead, so let me summarize for you.

Not one new technology has emerged from all the billions of dollars of research the Bush administration earmarked in 2001 for alternative energy sources or technologies.

Not one technology exists now that didn't exist then! Period. Some small advances have occured in fuel cell technology and other hydrogen-based fuels, and of course, hybrid cars are on the market, but both of those were driven by the free market and had little to do with the initiatives of the Bush administration.

As was said about his "new" Iraq plan, how are we to know these new commitments will work? Because he said they have to?

Friday, January 26, 2007

Friday Music Blogging

There's a very special reason I posted this particular video on this particular Friday. See if you can guess.

ANSWER: See the little girl in the video? She was only six years old at the time this video was made. Today, she turns eighteen. They grow up so damned fast.

The artist, as the first clip of the video makes clear, is Amanda Marshall, who is primarily known in Canada, altho this song, "Let It Rain", cracked American playlists. I can't begin to tell you how thrilled I was to see this video play on VH1.

Friday Kitten Blogging

If he ever learns how to turn on the faucet, I'm screwed

I Am Pleased To Announce.... well as thrilled beyond belief to announce that I have joined Team Lydia at Lydia Cornell's blog. She's a fine woman, a true liberal with a heart of gold and a toughness that I can't even begin to compare. Any woman who gets kicked in the teeth by Ann Coulter...hell, anyONE...and then gets up and writes a book about her gets high marks from me.

Oh, and Ann? Since I'm sure you're going to check this out, don't think for a second I won't take you on and take you down a notch, too. Fair warning. And I play a lot rougher than Lydia.

I'll be spending more time over there talking about softer issues than I do here. Here, I'm more political. There, I'm going to be more spiritual. Sometimes I feel constricted by the theme of this blog when exploring deeply personal issues, as if I have to tie anything (except my music and kitten posts) to politics or at least world events.

Lydia, thank you for inviting me.


You know, it seems that everything Dumbya touches turns to mud.

It was only a few months ago that he had Pakistan President Pervez Musharaff and Afghani President Hamid Karzai to dinner at the White House, and seemed to patch things up between the two allies in the Global War On Something Terror-like, Only Minty (GLOSTOM).

The Taliban had been upping the ante in Afghanistan, and operating out of bases in the Pashtun regions of Pakistan, something Musharaff freely admitted last fall, reiterating his commitment made to Bush to clear out the Talibani forces. At that same September dinner, Karzai promised to speed up development of the Afghani economy and security.

Both kind of nebulous promises and both pretty easy to keep but hard to defend to an adversary.

Well, here it comes:
BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Afghanistan's foreign minister accused Pakistan on Friday of using terrorism as an instrument of foreign policy and said the Taliban could be beaten in two or three years if Islamabad cooperated fully against them.

Rangeen Dadfar Spanta told Reuters his country needed more money to fight terrorism, improve government and bring better lives for the people.[...]

"Pakistan doesn't do enough," he said in an interview. "Pakistan is from our point of view part of the problem -- they have to stop interference ... in Afghanistan.

"They have to stop using terrorism as an instrument of foreign policy and I think it is high time the international community began to tell Pakistan to stop."
Pretty strong words for a diplomat. But, wait, there's more!
BRUSSELS (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice threw down the gauntlet to NATO allies to do more in Afghanistan on Friday, pledging extra U.S. troops and aid to help see off the Taliban.

But U.S. frustration at what Washington sees as a lack of commitment by European partners was unlikely to be assuaged at a meeting in Brussels. The European Commission announced a fall in its future aid and there were only preliminary signs from U.S. allies that they would commit more troops or aid.

The Pentagon announced on Thursday it was extending the tours of 3,200 troops in Afghanistan by up to 120 days. Given other troop movements, the move means that in the next few months it will have 2,500 more soldiers there than planned.
So the US seems to be taking Karzai's side in this fight, going so far as to say:
Last year was the bloodiest since U.S.-led forces ousted the Taliban in 2001. More than 4,000 people, a quarter of them civilians, were killed and more than 160 foreign soldiers.

A tough winter, with snow blocking mountain passes, has contributed to the annual lull in fighting, but analysts warn the Taliban, bolstered by drug money and safe havens in Pakistan, will fight back strongly after the thaw in a few months.

"The Taliban phenomenon is largely a southern phenomenon. Now, it's very virulent. It's tough. But we're dealing with it," Boucher said.

"They're actually under pressure -- they're under pressure from all sides. Not only from NATO and the Afghan army, but also to some extent from Pakistan as well."
I believe the phrase you're groping for right now is "damning with faint praise": "Yea, Pakistan is helping. A little. Sort of. Maybe."

Bush crowed about his personal appeals to both Karzai and Musharaff at that ill-fated September dinner:
This Week, President Bush Met With Two Courageous Leaders Who Are Working For Peace – President Karzai Of Afghanistan And President Musharraf Of Pakistan. With their help, we have killed or captured hundreds of al Qaeda leaders and operatives and put others on the run. Osama bin Laden and other terrorists are still in hiding, and our message to them is clear: No matter how long it takes, we will find you, and we will bring you to justice.
Apparently not. Just months later, Bush's own commanders on the ground are saying that Al Qaeda and the Taliban are marshalling forces for an all-out assault this spring. It looks like you won't have to do much "findin'", George, because they're coming to us.

But back to the cat fight: Karzai and Musharaff clearly don't like each other very much, as evidenced by this photo taken at the dinner:
"Touch my jewels, I kill you, beeyatch!

Right. No tension between THOSE allies, huh? What's really interesting about the body language here is that just days earlier, Musharaff had revealed to the world that after September 11, Richard remember him, he was the idiot who claims he outted Valerie Plame and then waited three years to reveal himself as Robert Novak's source...had threatened to bomb Pakistan "back to the Stone Age," which is pretty funny considering Armitage's close resemblance to Fred Flintstone.

Not to mention that just days earlier, it was revealed that Pakistan had signed a peace treaty with Aghani border warlords, basically giving Osama bin Laden, Al Qaeda, and the Taliban free rein to run amok on the border.

Bush's reaction to Musharaff's treaty? "I believe him," when he says that in no way did this treaty is not meant to support the Taliban. The president said that Musharaff had looked him in the eye and vowed that "the tribal deal is intended to reject the Talibanization of the people and that there won't be a Taliban and there wont be al Qaeda (in Pakistan)."

Hm, I've been meaning to unload this old bridge I've got...

Afghan officials have alleged repeatedly that Taliban militants are hiding out in neighboring Pakistan and launching attacks across the border into Afghanistan. Pakistan, which has deployed 80,000 troops along the border, rejects the accusation and says it is doing all it can to battle extremists.

Somebody's wrong. I think it's us.

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Thursday, January 25, 2007

A Head's Up

UPDATE: It won't be long now....

I will be expanding the Actor212 Media Network shortly.

Please don't email me for details, but I'm very excited and hope to have an announcement in the near future.

Um, Who?

Well, the GOP field just formally got that much bigger:
SPARTANBURG, S.C. - Republican Rep. Duncan Hunter, best known for his advocacy on behalf of the military, launched a longshot bid for the presidency Thursday in this early voting state.
Hm. First off, his district is in California. Second, to call this a longshot is grossly understating the case.

Here's how Hunter wins the nomination, and if he hires Karl Rove, keep in mind you heard it here first:
1) Mitt Romney, while filming a campaign commercial in Iowa uding the same director who filmed the Pepsi ads featuring the Jackson, has his hair explode in flames.

2) John McCain suddenly announces in December 2007 that he did, in fact, father a baby while a POW in Vietnam. While this revelation does not knock him out of the race, and even increases his appeal to the pro-life Christian Coalition, new Sift Boat allegations of a gay stag film begin to surface.

3) Sam Brownback opens his mouth and actually gets noticed by the media.

4) Chuck Hagel declares he will not run, as he too was a POW in the same camp as McCain, unbeknownst to us for all these years. He says he was running from the "movies" he made while held.

5) Rudy Giuliani impregnates a campaign worker.

6) Ronald Reagan rises from the undead to announce his endorsement of Hunter.

7) George W. Bush announces his endorsement of "that Eyetalian feller or that gay POW, one them guys."

8) The supervolcano under Yellowstone explodes in January 2008, coating all of America under six feet of lava and ash. Except for CA-52.
See? Lognshot, but all of it very doable!

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This Is Where American Prestige Suffers

I've spoken, as have many in Blogtopia (© Skippy) about the squandered legacy of September 11, and how Bush spent both America's influence and his political capital pursuing policies that are beyond questionable, careering straight into shameful.

The fruits of said squandering are beginning to bud out:
GENEVA (Reuters) - Developing countries stand to suffer the worst effects of global warming, and should not have to pay for a problem created mainly by the rich, executives and experts said on Thursday.

At a gathering of 2,400 of the world's most powerful people at Davos, a ski resort in the Swiss Alps, leaders from emerging nations said they wanted the United States, European Union and others in the West to be more accountable for the heat-trapping emissions their cars and factories produce.

They also asserted their right to stoke their own economies, even if greenhouse gas levels rise as a result.

"The U.S., the Europeans, the OECD [ed. note: Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries have for the last 30 to 40 years contributed to greenhouse gases much more than us," Rahul Bajaj, chairman of India's second-largest motorcycle maker, Bajaj Auto Ltd., said on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum.
The World Economic Forum, where all this is taking place, is kind of like the All Star Game of global economics, right down to the skills competitions. A lot of glitzy, glamourous stuff gets said, but nothing comes out of it and the real 2007 season starts next week. There will be a lot of talk about high-minded ideals and issues (as you can see), but the grunt work is going to take place away from Davos.

Anyway, the first shots are being aimed directly at America and directly at President Bush. His tepid change in stance on global warming and carbon emissions is being challenged, something that is nearly unheard of in American history: an American president being unable to use his bully pulpit to squash debate over an issue like this, using economics as his cudgel.

Part of this is his own problem, and that's the lion's share of the trouble. By repudiating Kyoto outright early on in his administration, Bush opened the door to other repudiations, by developed and developing couintries. What incentive do India and China have to sign the Protocols (the excuse Bush used to decline to endorse it further, thus effectively killing the treaty) if the US will not sign it? A vicious circle, one that America should have taken the lead in breaking.

China will shortly have the world's third largest economy, surpassing France, in large part because it is developing energy resources without the hindrance of Kyoto. The world could have had its say in this had America chose to stand with the treaty, but that clearly is not going to happen anytime soon.

India, too, is positioning itself to enter the top five economies in the world, altho to their credit, they've been pushing nuclear power as well as fossil-fuels energy sources. Why? Unlike China, which has spent 20% of its GDP on infrastructure, India has only spent 6%, meaning transporting energy sources like oil and gas become more costly. Nuclear fuel lasts longer, is easier to carry (despite the precautions), and thus is more cost-effective for India than fossil fuels.

But carbon emissions will play a big role in Indian development too, since they will need to ramp up farming to feed all the people who will be living there, unless drastic population control measures are implemented.

And yet, America will claim that Kyoto was too costly for our economy to absorb.

That's patent nonsense, as any empirical look will tell you: the investment in renewable, carbon-reduced energy will create jobs, highly skilled, highly paid jobs, and may even add to our GDP each year as we develop technologies that can be exported to other nations.

There's that whole "influence" thing hovering in the rear view mirror again. Europe is far ahead of the US in technological advances in energy efficiency. Try buying An American water heater if you don't believe me.

If, after September 11, we had decided that we had enough of the Middle East and OPEC. We would have had an extra five years that we could have caught up with Europe. And I think politically that would have been the smart thing to do: rather than spend a half-trillion dollars pursuing a man who had nothing to do with September 11 and then trying to run his country for him, we had invested that in energy technologies, imagine where we might be? The country would be united behind a man with vision and the will (AND political capital!) to transform American history, returning us to the self-sufficient, can-do America of the 18th, 19th, and early 20th Centuries.

Geo-politically, too, it would have been the smart thing to do: by withdrawing our support for corrupt regimes in the Middle East and Africa, we could have gone from being the world's policeman to being the world's court. Intervention in a nation would have been much rarer, and we could have focused our attention where it truly needed to be, over tragedies like the Sudan and the coming Nigerian crisis, with little or no consideration as to our economic health.

Yea, it might have called for some sacrifice on the part of all of us, at least short term. Maybe raising our thermostats a little, or wearing a sweater, or $4 a gallon gas for a year or two, but look at what we would have missed: gas price fluctuations like a needle on a bad compass, three thousand American youth dead, $500 billion dollars wasted in South Asia, and a skyrocketing deficit caused by both Iraq and the overzealous tax cuts passed by Bush's Congresses, trying to stimulate an economy dragged down in large part by fuel price uncertainty.

As an added plus, we could have our prestige back, enough that we could honestly say to these whining nations at Davos, "We're doing all that we can, now it's your turn."

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Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Hump Day Comedy Blogging

The Simpsons Explain Bush's Real Motives In Iraq

The Magical Children

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

- Arthur C. Clarke, Third Rule of Prediction
Perhaps the most famous quote in science fiction ("Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent," comes close as does "Use the Force, Luke"), Clarke was of course speaking about mechanical technology. But I'm beginning to think there's more to this quote than first glance reveals.

I am firmly grounded in reality, I believe (some of my friends on the farther left would quickly add "in concrete shoes"). A cause has an effect, good doesn't always triumph over evil, and mother nature is unfair altho she does occasionally level the playing field a little. The world is a complex place, and while I think we can pretty much explain most of what happens here, I don't think we'll ever truly understand our universe.

That's not, however, a reason to stop trying.

I say all that, because I didn't watch the State of The Union address last night, and it bothered me this morning when I read an email asking me why. I mean, it was the most important speech of 2007, and likely will be when the dust settles, and it directly affects the course of this nation for the year, but I ended up watching the NHL All-Star coverage, the skills competition and the Youngstars game.

It's not like I don't care, as an even cursory glance at this blog will show.

It's just that...well, it hit me this morning like a ton of bricks as I listened to the pundits parse and dissect the speech.

You see, Bush, with his "Our country is pursuing a new strategy in Iraq -- and I ask you to give it a chance to work" pleas sounded like a little boy who's team is losing the Super Bowl by 40 points with one second on the clock, screaming at the television that "we can win this! We can do it! Throw a bomb, and we can score, then have an onside kick and then run that in, then..."

And then it hit me: Bush, along with most of the Republican hierarchy, is a magical child.

That's not a compliment, by the way. While it might sound like a pagan hippie in a commune in the woods of Marin County, it's an image put forth by John Bradshaw:
It's natural for a child to think magically. But if a child is wounded through unmet dependency needs, he does not really grow up. The adult he becomes is still contaminated by the magical thinking of a child.

Other contaminating magical beliefs include:

- If I have money, I'll be OK.
- If my lover leaves me, I'll die, or I'll never make it.
- A piece of paper (a degree) will make me smart.
- If I "try hard", the world will reward me.
- "Waiting" will bring around wonderful results.
When magical child "thinking" fails, you end up in a cycle of acting out:
- Re-enactment of violence on others.
- Doing or saying to our children what we said we'd never do or say.
- Spontaneous age regression -- temper tantrums, pouting, etc.
- Being inappropriately rebellious.
- Carrying on idealized parental rules.
Sounds familiar, doesn't it?

Religion, like alcohol or drugs, can be an addiction, and in many ways, a worse addiction, because aside from the occasional joke on late night television, who makes fun of the faithful? Who intervenes? You might say to your friend or loved one "I think you drink too much," but you'd never say "I think you pray too much."

And yet, as we see from Bradshaw, religion is a form of magical thinking. Mostly. There's nothing wrong with believing in a higher power because, as I said earlier, hell, we're never going to understand the universe, so it's comforting to place your trust that someone does. I do. Billions of the faithful do.

It's not unlike having a glass of wine with dinner. That's no problem, it doesn't affect your work or family, and even eases your life a little bit and has been demonstrated to be healthy for you.

Bush is a raging alcoholic, though, and an untreated one at that. All he did was replace his primary addiction, mood-altering substances, with another, more acceptable one.

Notice, though, it doesn't mean he learned anything. All his life, Bush has lived in magic: if he needed something, it was given to him. A college degree? Why, Yale is just the ticket! A way to duck the draft? Daddy called in a favor. A failing business? Daddy called the Saudis. A governorship? Daddy made some calls, and Karl Rove pulled some tricks out of his hat. A presidency? Diebold took care of that, along with brother Jeb and that famous witch, Katherine Harris, and Rove was there with his bag of tricks. A DWI? The Bush name will get that hidden away.

It's been said of Bush (James Carville, I think) that he was born on third base, thinking he'd hit a triple, and there's an awful lot of truth to that when you view it through the "magical child" lens. How can he comprehend the grief of a family over the loss of a loved one, when he himself has never had to face that? How can he understand the sheer terror a soldier faces in Iraq? When faced with a once-removed threat of combat, he ducked into a domestic-based Guard unit and even then, ducked out on his full tour. How can he understand that families are struggling with needs, like health care, like putting food on the table, like raising their kids, when he himself was pampered and nutured not by his parents (talk about unmet needs!) but by nannies and maids and butlers?

To make this image crystal clear for you, could you picture Barbara Bush standing in little Georgie's doorway, demanding he clean his room? If he tossed a tissue on the floor, a maid picked it up, magically, while he was outside by the pool or on the family yacht.

When you grow up with unmet needs and the perception that things get taken care of for you, and then add a religious addiction on top of it, you're just begging for trouble. His overinflated ego coupled with his magical thinking now has him believing that, if only America believes, this will all turn out for the best.

Ask him what history will ultimately say about the war, and he'll tell you that, someday, he'll be proven right, but he never outlines how that will happen, and there's the key. A reality-based person who believes that in the long run, things will be OK will be able to point to specifics in the now that lay the groundwork for that assessment.

For example, I wanted to save for my daughter's college, so way back when, I started putting away a few hundred dollars a month, on the odd chance she might make an Ivy League school (on her own, I might add). For years, it never looked like much, especially when the market tanked and Bush was unable to lift it for years and years. But I had faith, and I kept telling myself that if I continued to put money away, college would be affordable.

She goes away this fall, and surprise surprise, it is.

I worry about something, and I go and do something constructive about it. I solve the problem, rather than pray it will go away.

What's frustrating for me, and most people on the left, is dealing with magical children. See, many of my Republican friends are also reality-based, but approach life from a different reality.

That's OK. I can influence their opinion and they can influence mine, and at the very least, we challenge each other to come up with better explanations for why we believe what we believe.

To talk to someone who is a magical child, who walks around in a virtual wizard's hat, is next to impossible: when confronted by facts, the magical child runs further and further into the fantasy world he's constructed. He believes he can point out the flaws in your logic by nitpicking and harping on inconsistencies that you wouldn't even dream of defending, because they're basically irrelevant: Iraq's a disaster but you know, the Kurds are much better off than they were before Saddam, so we were right to go in. There is no global warming, because it snowed in Malibu last week.

That sort of thing. And Bush serves to give them legitimacy with his wounded inner child.

I made the point a few weeks back that Republicans believed in a patriarchal society, dominated by black-and-white rules that allow for little leeway and very little forgiveness, and now we get a glimpse of why this is so.

See, magical thinking implies that things must work in some fashion according to rules that only those who are magical can break freely. If you break the rules and get caught, well, then, you weren't magical and so you must not be as good as I am, since I get away with it.

In other words, free will only applies to those who can take advantage of it, anyone else be damned. Further, the cause and effect of actions gets distorted: if only the country would ban gay marriage, then we'd all be happier, or if only you believe in my war plan, we can win this thing.

When he don't understand the consequences of a decision, the decider makes bad decisions.

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Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Can You Say "$1 Billion Campaign"? I Knew That You Could.

While I can't blame Hillary for playing by the rules, I can blame Hillary for not making the rules tougher:
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Democratic Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's decision to reject public financing and its accompanying spending limits throughout her presidential campaign could pressure White House rivals to quickly follow suit.

Clinton, the New York senator and former first lady, opened her White House campaign on Saturday and quickly became the first presidential candidate in history to reject taking taxpayer dollars if she reaches the general election -- which in this race would be nearly $84 million.

A proven fund raiser, Clinton is expected to raise much more than that if she wins the Democratic nomination. As soon as she was in the race, she began taking donations on her Web site for both the primaries and the general election.
The whole idea behind public campaign financing was so that uberrich folks wouldn't be able to fund a campaign solely on small pools of their own and their cronies' money. By accepting public funds, you agree to abide by campaign finance rules, including contribution limits, PAC funding, and spending rules. These rules were put in place in the wake of the Nixon re-election debacle, including Watergate and the slush fund that was created by the Committee To Re-Elect the President (the aptly named CREEP) which defrayed the legal expenses of the arrested burglars. It's represented by that little box you check each year on your 1040 tax form. I may not check it this year in protest.

Both Bush and Kerry opted out of the public financing system for the primaries, altho both opted in for the general election, which put Kerry at an huge disadvantage, because the Republican convention was weeks after the Democratic one, and the public financing kicked in as soon as the party nominated Kerry (and of course, he accepted it, which he had to within a set period or forfeit the funds). So Bush had the enormous advantage of spending his private primary money, and used it wisely: thus was born the Swift Boat ad campaign, which Kerry could not effectively respond to, in part because his spending was limited and he needed to conserve his money for when Bush was formally re-nominated and himself accepted public funds.

The public finance limits for this election are $50 million for the primaries, and $84 million for the general election. The candidate can match those figures in private donations (so long as they adhere to the rules for fund raising). Hillary has $14 million left from her 2006 re-election bid, and could easily raise an additional $120 million in the next 18 months. Remember, she's not limited by any campaign finance rules now, so any amount from nearly any source will be accepted. She is expected to raise over $100 million just for the primaries.

Did someone say she can't win?

Monday, January 22, 2007

You Knew It Was Just A Matter Of Time

The Bush administration, wanting to get some traction ahead of the State of the Union address and just after the lukewarm reception the "surge" announcement received, probably didn't have a lot of fun this weekend:

Item 1 -
BAGHDAD, Jan. 21 — The United States military said that two marines died Sunday in western Iraq and that an additional seven service members died Saturday. The deaths brought the weekend toll to 27 and made Saturday the third-deadliest day for United States forces since the war here began.

Item 2 -
BAGHDAD, Iraq - Twin bombings Monday tore through stalls of vendors selling second-hand clothes and DVDs in a busy Baghdad market catering to Shiite Muslims during a religious festival. A market also was attacked north of the capital, and police said nearly 100 people died in the renewed campaign blamed on Sunni Muslim insurgents.

Item 3 -
A humanitarian spokesman told the BBC that neighbouring countries where most Iraqis have fled to are closing their doors "one by one" to Iraqis.

About 2m Iraqis live in increasingly difficult conditions in countries like Syria, Jordan, Egypt and Lebanon.

The rest of the world has almost completely ignored the problem and the crisis is coming to a head, spokesman Kasaram Mufarah said.

Item 4 -
War's Arab Supporters Bitter Over Its Results

By Anthony Shadid

"It's a success story for al-Qaeda, a success story for autocratic Arab regimes that made democracy look ugly in their people's eyes. They can say to their people: 'Look at the democracy that the Americans want to bring to you. Democracy is trouble. You may as well forget about what the Americans promise you. They promise you death,' " said Salameh Nematt, a Jordanian analyst and the former Washington bureau chief for the Arabic-language daily newspaper al-Hayat.

Added Magdi Khalil, an Egyptian writer and proponent of the invasion, "Everything, everything is very gloomy."

Item 5 -
Time and again, Americans try to comfort themselves over Bush's illegal and failed invasion with not as many have died in this quagmire as in Viet Nam. The yardstick they use is the U.S. death toll after 15 years in Viet Nam vs. less than 4 years in Iraq II, WMD Boogaloo.

In 1961-1965 the U.S. had 1,864 deaths in Viet Nam compared to over 3,000 in Iraq. Relative troop involvement isn't the same but Bush's quagmire is nowhere near finished.
Yea. Mission Accomplished.

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Scraping The Barrel

Normally, I treat Cybercast News Service ( items like, well, they were a pile of smoldering cat vomit on a busy thoroughfare: step over them and hope a good clean rainstorm washes them away. This one, however, caught my eye, so I put on my Internet condom (three) and read it:
Sen. Clinton's Abortion Record May Haunt '08 Campaign

( - Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) will have a lengthy pro-abortion rights record to defend during her 2008 presidential campaign -- a record established not only by her Senate votes but also by her eight years as first lady. The presumed frontrunner for the Democratic presidential nomination, Clinton has a 100 percent rating from Planned Parenthood. The same can be said of Democratic Sens. Barack Obama of Illinois, John Kerry of Massachusetts, Joseph Biden of Delaware and former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards -- all of whom are expected to challenge Clinton for the nomination. Although helpful in a Democratic primary, a rigid stance on the issue could pose a challenge in a general election. Polls consistently show a majority of Americans support keeping abortion legal, but favor restrictions that Clinton and many Democrats don't support.
Yea, I suppose those thirty-four years Hillary Clinton has spent defending abortion rights for women are something you'd need to tease out of her public statements and photo-ops. I'm sure she never intended for the eagle-eyed Susan Jones to gather all her pronouncements and off-the-record interviews and suddenly realize a pattern of support for a woman's right to choose! My god! What shall Hillary do now that she has been exposed for the right-to-life fraud that she is!

For the record, Hillary's position has always been very clear: abortion should be safe, legal, and rare, the same as Bill Clinton's position, and one I can support as both a Christian and liberal.

Too often, we hear of the wingnuts of the White Ring complain that "libs are pro-abortion".

Right. We love littering the highway with dead fetuses. They are smaller than dead babies (In 2004, the U.S. ranked 28th among 37 nations surveyed by the American Public Health Association). Or dead Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans, for that matter, and so they're easier to paint and make great planting borders!

You wonder sometimes if these people tie their shoelaces, or if they are forced to wear velcroed sneakers.

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Sunday, January 21, 2007

Koufax Awards Are Open!

NOTE: This post will be "stickied" until January 21st

If you like what you've read/seen/heard here this past year, I'd appreciate a mention at this thread.

I figure I stand a chance in Best Writing, a far-outside chance at Best Blog, and maybe Best Post, if one really stands out in your mind. Also, of course, Most Deserving of Wider Recognition, altho I suspect Spocko will walk away with that after the whole Disney thing.

Not that I'd, you know, solicit any nominations, of course...also, be respectful of the nominating process. If you see Simply Left Behind has been nominated in a category once, don't "ditto" it. It just makes it harder for the judges to sift thru and find other blog names, and might even disqualify me.

UPDATE: Nominations will close on January 21, and voting will begin shortly thereafter. I'll keep you posted, and thanks to my loyal minions friends who have named me "Best Writer", "Best Blogger", et al.

Our Energy Policy

Rudolph Diesel (1858-1913) developed a theory that revolutionized the engines of his day. He envisioned an engine in which air is compressed to such a degree that there is an extreme rise in temperature. When fuel is injected into the piston chamber with this air, the fuel is ignited by the high temperature of the air, exploding it, forcing the piston down. Diesel designed his engine in response to the heavy resource consumption and inefficiency of the steam engine, which only produced 12% efficiency.

On February 27, 1892, Diesel filed for a patent at the Imperial Patent Office in Germany. Within a year, he was granted Patent No. 67207 for a "Working Method and Design for Combustion Engines . . .a new efficient, thermal engine." With contracts from Frederick Krupp and other machine manufacturers, Diesel began experimenting and building working models of his engine. In 1893, the first model ran under its own power with 26% efficiency, remarkably more than double the efficiency of the steam engines of his day. Finally, in February of 1897, he ran the "first diesel engine suitable for practical use, which operated at an unbelievable efficiency of 75%.

Diesel demonstrated his engine at the Exhibition Fair in Paris, France in 1898. This engine stood as an example of Diesel's vision because it was fueled by peanut oil - the "original" biodiesel. He thought that the utilization of a biomass fuel was the real future of his engine. He hoped that it would provide a way for the smaller industries, farmers, and "commonfolk" a means of competing with the monopolizing industries, which controlled all energy production at that time, as well as serve as an alternative for the inefficient fuel consumption of the steam engine. As a result of Diesel's vision, compression ignited engines were powered by a biomass fuel, vegetable oil, until the 1920's
What's old is new again.

In the run-up to Bush's energy "policy" speech this week in the State of the Union address, take a moment to consider that, right now, we sell a kind of engine that with very little adjusting, we could mass convert to an alternative fuel that is cheap (as in free), easy to find in mass quantities, and whose use in an automobile engine would actually save more of the environment than it would destroy.

Bush will talk a lot of nonsense about biodiesel, and how he'd like to make ethanol (manufactured by ADM, "Supermarket to the World" and prime contributor to the Republican Party) a standard for gasoline additives.

Then remember a couple of things about ethanol: making it from corn is more expensive (and almost as dangerous to the environment as refining oil) than making it from soy beans from Brazil, or biomass refuse such as weeds and agricultural byproducts. Bush will propose making ethanol with the cellulose from sawgrass and other woody renewable plants as an alternative to the alternative, which would work, except that technology lies safely outside the confines of his presidential term limits and will cost billions to research, let alone implement.

Nope. The technology I'm talking about is here. Now. The fuel is here. Now. And you can retrofit your own gas engine car for....well, OK, that's not cheap, but a diesel engine could use this fuel almost immediately.

It's that left-over slop that McDonald's gives away: used cooking oils. Remember that bit at the top, about Rudolph Diesel? Go re-read it, because I'm pretty sure you skipped over the bit where he first demonstrated his Diesel engine using peanut oil.

Why? To quote: "He hoped that it would provide a way for the smaller industries, farmers, and "commonfolk" a means of competing with the monopolizing industries, which controlled all energy production at that time, as well as serve as an alternative for the inefficient fuel consumption of the steam engine."

Granted, the internal combustion engine of today is a lot more efficient than the steam engine he was competing with (which could only convert about 20% of its energy requirements into power), but now we're seeing a more important reason to utilize Diesel's engine and to use his original fuel source: political and economic.

Better, look at how it solves a waste management problem, in addition to cutting way back on greenhouse gases: how many gallons of used cooking oil each day must a McDonald's produce? I suppose it depends on how often they have to switch out the oil in the fry-cookers, of course, but would 50 gallons be an unreasonable figure? And since mileage is comparable to petroleum-based diesels, your fill-ups would be less frequent. Imagine a McDonald's where you AND your car can get gas at the same time!

Or you can make your own biodiesel. It's really pretty simple. All you need is a blender or a soda bottle, some lye (you can make lutefish when you're done) and some straight-grain alcohol.

You won't hear any of this during the State of the Union.

It's too sensible.

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