Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Tidal Turbines

From Clean Technica comes news that Scotland is planning a tidal turbine farm sufficient to power 40,000 households:
ScottishPower Renewables will apply for planning permission next year to build the two farms in Northern Ireland’s seabed. The turbines will be manufactured in Scotland in an intentional boost to the country’s green-collar job market.

The 98-foot structures have been tested to operate in water as deep as 328 feet, and they spin slow enough to allow marine life to avoid the 66-foot blades. Most boats and ships would not be affected by the farms since the turbines won’t even reach 30-feet below the surface, but net-towing trawlers will be forbidden from the area.

“Tidal power is completely renewable, being driven by the gravity of the sun and moon, with no carbon dioxide emissions, plus the added benefit of being entirely predictable,” said Keith Anderson, the director of ScottishPower Renewables. The farms would help Scotland attain its goal to reduce its carbon footprint by 80% by 2050.
Maybe this is the answer to those wealthy folks like Walter Cronkite and the various Kennedys who are opposed to wind farms being placed in the waters off Cape Cod? Let's hope!

Monday, September 29, 2008

Franklin Raines, Fannie/Freddie, and the Democrats

From Hot Air: Franklin Raines, former Clinton Budget Director, became CEO of Fannie Mae and was under some heavy grilling in 2004 by Republicans concerned that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were not observing basic accounting rules, including those established by Sarbanes/Oxley in the aftermath of Enron's collapse.

Just watch and form your own conclusions, but my take is that this video could not be more devastating, even if we didn't have the heavy-handed text super-imposed on the video.

This is Through-the-Looking-Glass territory, with Republicans insisting on the need for reform and greater regulation, and the Democrats arguing everything is fine, and leave the markets alone. The problem is, the markets were not operating normally, they had been distorted by political pressure to offer lending to high-risk home loan recipients, something that Fannie and Freddie were then buying up, spreading the toxic debt of these future foreclosures throughout the entire financial system.

So Fannie and Freddie have now collapsed, precipitating the chain of events leading to the $700 billion bailout that the Congress is voting on today.

But don't worry about Mr. Raines! He came out just fine with a multi-million dollar pay package, according to his Wikipedia entry:
On December 21, 2004 Raines accepted what he called "early retirement" [4] from his position as CEO while U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission investigators continued to investigate alleged accounting irregularities. He is accused by The Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight (OFHEO), the regulating body of Fannie Mae, of abetting widespread accounting errors, which included the shifting of losses so senior executives, such as himself, could earn large bonuses [5].

In 2006, the OFHEO announced a suit against Raines in order to recover some or all of the $50 million in payments made to Raines based on the overstated earnings [6] initially estimated to be $9 billion but have been announced as 6.3 billion.[7].

Civil charges were filed against Raines and two other former executives by the OFHEO in which the OFHEO sought $110 million in penalties and $115 million in returned bonuses from the three accused.[8] On April 18, 2008, the government announced a settlement with Raines together with J. Timothy Howard, Fannie's former chief financial officer, and Leanne G. Spencer, Fannie's former controller. The three executives agreed to pay fines totaling about $3 million, which will be paid by Fannie's insurance policies. [ed. emphasis added] Raines also agreed to donate the proceeds from the sale of $1.8 million of his Fannie stock and to give up stock options. The stock options however have no value. Raines also gave up an estimated $5.3 million of "other benefits" said to be related to his pension and forgone bonuses.[9]

An editorial in The Wall Street Journal called it a "paltry settlement" which allowed Raines and the other two executives to "keep the bulk of their riches." [10] In 2003 alone, Raines's compensation was over $20 million.[11]
On July 16 of this year Ben Smith at Politico pointed out that Barack Obama has been calling Franklin Raines for advice on mortgage policy.

See also my earlier post on Senator Obama being the #2 recipient of all Fannie/Freddie political contributions over the last 20 years, just behind #1 recipient Senator Chris Dodd (D-Conn), now chairman of the Senate Banking Committee.

Update: For a highly opinionated take on things, Stanley Kurtz of the National Review writes in the NY Post that Obama's early community organizing affiliations with ACORN helped in the critical loosening of lending standards that has led to this mess:
... community organizers help to undermine the US economy by pushing the banking system into a sinkhole of bad loans. And Obama has spent years training and funding the organizers who do it.

The seeds of today's financial meltdown lie in the Community Reinvestment Act - a law passed in 1977 and made riskier by unwise amendments and regulatory rulings in later decades.

CRA was meant to encourage banks to make loans to high-risk borrowers, often minorities living in unstable neighborhoods. That has provided an opening to radical groups like ACORN (the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now) to abuse the law by forcing banks to make hundreds of millions of dollars in "subprime" loans to often uncreditworthy poor and minority customers.

Any bank that wants to expand or merge with another has to show it has complied with CRA - and approval can be held up by complaints filed by groups like ACORN.

In fact, intimidation tactics, public charges of racism and threats to use CRA to block business expansion have enabled ACORN to extract hundreds of millions of dollars in loans and contributions from America's financial institutions.

Banks already overexposed by these shaky loans were pushed still further in the wrong direction when government-sponsored Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac began buying up their bad loans and offering them for sale on world markets.
This, unfortunately, is precisely what is meant by the proverb "the road to hell is paved with good intentions."

Saturday, September 27, 2008

I Just Heard the News Today...

... yes, I know, it's a Beatles reference, but I literally did just hear the news that keyboardist Richard Wright of Pink Floyd has died.

R.I.P., Richard.

Pink Floyd "Echoes"

Overhead the albatross
hangs motionless upon the air
And deep beneath the rolling waves
In labyrinths of coral caves
The echo of a distant time
Comes willowing across the sand
And everything is green and submarine.

And no one called us to the land
And no one knows the wheres or whys
But something stirs and something tries
And starts to climb towards the light

Strangers passing in the street
By chance two separate glances meet
And I am you and what I see is me
And do I take you by the hand
And lead you through the land
And help me understand the best I can

And no one calls us to move on
And no one forces down our eyes
And no one speaks and no one tries
And no one flies around the sun

Cloudless everyday you fall upon my waking eyes
inciting and inviting me to rise
And through the window in the wall
Come streaming in on sunlight wings
A million bright ambassadors of morning

And no one sings me lullabies
And no one makes me close my eyes
And so I throw the windows wide
And call to you across the sky

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Decentralized Nuclear Power

This is very interesting. Instead of large, expensive, nuclear power plants that take years to build, Hyperion Power proposes to build thousands of small-scale nuclear power plants sufficient to power 10,000 American households:
It's about 70 megawatts thermal, and, depending on your steam cycle and how you're generating electricity, it's about 30 megawatts electrical, at the turbine. Thirty megawatts is tiny compared to traditional nuclear reactors and even coal plants, but we're going for distributed or grid-appropriate electric generators or for industrial uses—for mining, for heavy oil production.
And, they claim it's safe, self-sustaining, and utterly useless to any would-be nuclear bomb makers:
Our fuel is very unique. It's uranium hydride. UH3 is the chemical formula. Low-enriched, about 10 percent [uranium isotope]-235, the rest is U-238. By comparison, bomb-grade fuel is about 98 percent enriched.

You can't turn our fuel into a bomb. You'd have to re-enrich, re-process the fuel, so you might as well start with yellowcake. That's one of the neat safety features of our reactor. For nefarious purposes, our reactor has absolutely no value whatsoever.


The neat thing about UH3, about uranium hydride, is it's a moderator and an emergency cooling system in one. Its chemical composition—and we say it's been designed by God to be the prefect nuclear fuel—when uranium hydride gets too hot, when the reaction gets a little out of hand, it will start shedding those hydrogen atoms naturally, which turns off the nuclear fires and, if necessary, cools down the reactor. This happens very, very fast.
If Hyperion's claims prove true, this is a small, relatively cheap, easily managed form of nuclear fission. Not only could this be easily applied throughout the United States, but also throughout the world. Since defeating global warming is not only about the United States getting off carbon-based energy production, but also about India and China doing so, the adoption of such clean, distributed low-cost nuclear power by those nations could be a big part of the eventual solution.

Hat Tip: Clean Technica

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Ron Paul Shows His Stripes

Shockingly, it turns out the love in Ron Paul's Revolution is only for those who are white, Christian, and racist! I am sure the various 9/11 Truthers, white supremacists and Holocaust deniers who flocked to his campaign will be disappointed.

If you have no clue what I'm talking about, it's that Ron Paul endorsed one Chuck Baldwin of the Constitution Party for President. These are a few of Mr. Baldwin's beliefs:
If America wishes to remain a free and independent republic, if this nation truly desires future peace and prosperity, and if we genuinely aspire to remain a blessed and protected land, we must quickly throw off this foolish infatuation with multiculturalism, which is nothing more than an attempt to de-Christianize our country, and humbly return to the God of our fathers!


Call it what you want - “New World Order,” “International Order,” “International Community,” “World Law.” It all means the end of U.S. sovereignty and independence. Americans need to be aware that power hungry politicians from both parties along with money hungry executives from multinational corporations pose a much greater threat to our liberties than any foreign terrorist does.


For nearly a half-century, we have forsaken the moral principles of Heaven. We have legally murdered too many unborn babies. We have too readily accepted aberrant, sexual behavior. We kicked Heaven out of our schools, out of our homes, and out of our hearts. As a result, God is giving us a little taste of Hell.
This glorious news was resoundingly seconded by Alex Jones (last seen here protecting the world from Michelle Malkin) and the Council of Conservative Citizens.

Apparently, true-blooded American patriots are so thin on the ground that the Ron Paul Revolution has no choice but to turn to white supremacists like the aforementioned Council. Check out their Wikipedia entry for more.

Or, if you don't want to take Wikipedia's word for it, just read the Council's own Statement of Principles:
(1) We believe the United States is a Christian country.


(2) We believe the United States is a European country and that Americans are part of the European people.


(8) Cultural, national, and racial integrity. We support the cultural and national heritage of the United States and the race (ed. emphasis) and civilization of which it is a part, as well as the expression and celebration of the legitimate subcultures and ethnic and regional identities of our people.
Ron Paul shows his true stripes. I look forward to those well-meaning anti-racist libertarians duped by him thus far leaving and denouncing his cause post-haste.

Hat Tip: Little Green Footballs

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Obama and Ayers

Stanley Kurtz of National Review offers a report on the recently unveiled archives related to Barack Obama's relationship with '60s radical and unrepetenant bomber William Ayers:
The Chicago Annenberg Challenge was created ostensibly to improve Chicago's public schools. The funding came from a national education initiative by Ambassador Walter Annenberg. In early 1995, Mr. Obama was appointed the first chairman of the board, which handled fiscal matters. Mr. Ayers co-chaired the foundation's other key body, the "Collaborative," which shaped education policy.

The CAC's basic functioning has long been known, because its annual reports, evaluations and some board minutes were public. But the Daley archive contains additional board minutes, the Collaborative minutes, and documentation on the groups that CAC funded and rejected. The Daley archives show that Mr. Obama and Mr. Ayers worked as a team to advance the CAC agenda.

One unsettled question is how Mr. Obama, a former community organizer fresh out of law school, could vault to the top of a new foundation? In response to my questions, the Obama campaign issued a statement saying that Mr. Ayers had nothing to do with Obama's "recruitment" to the board. The statement says Deborah Leff and Patricia Albjerg Graham (presidents of other foundations) recruited him. Yet the archives show that, along with Ms. Leff and Ms. Graham, Mr. Ayers was one of a working group of five who assembled the initial board in 1994. Mr. Ayers founded CAC and was its guiding spirit. No one would have been appointed the CAC chairman without his approval.

The CAC's agenda flowed from Mr. Ayers's educational philosophy, which called for infusing students and their parents with a radical political commitment, and which downplayed achievement tests in favor of activism. In the mid-1960s, Mr. Ayers taught at a radical alternative school, and served as a community organizer in Cleveland's ghetto.

In works like "City Kids, City Teachers" and "Teaching the Personal and the Political," Mr. Ayers wrote that teachers should be community organizers dedicated to provoking resistance to American racism and oppression. His preferred alternative? "I'm a radical, Leftist, small 'c' communist," Mr. Ayers said in an interview in Ron Chepesiuk's, "Sixties Radicals," at about the same time Mr. Ayers was forming CAC.
This last paragraph brings home the bottom line for me as a Democrat. Does anyone truly doubt that if a rising Republican politician had spent five years working with an unrepentant abortion-clinic bomber who described himself as a "a small f fascist" or as a "small n nazi," that he would still be seriously considered as a national politician? So why the double standard on behalf of Barack Obama?

I am a small d democrat as well as a big D Democrat. And Ayers is not an adherent of democracy! He decided that, since the democratic will of the American people had disappointed him in the 1960s by not ending the Vietnam War quickly enough, he and his fellow radicals would force the American people to change their mind through a bombing campaign aimed at the Pentagon, the Capitol building in DC, and that well-known center of war planning, the NY city Police Dept. headquarters.

In a similar vein, I have long felt there was something smelly about Pat Buchanan's long support for Nazi death camp guards like John Demanjuk (spelling?). Sure enough, Buchanan has come along in recent years with the ridiculous thesis that the U.S. never should have warred against the Nazis, that poor Adolf Hiter was forced into a war against Britain and the West that he did not want by Winston Churchill, among others.

Just as Buchanan has revealed what many long suspected about his pro-Nazi tendencies, I think Obama's association with anti-American radicals like Ayers and out-and-out racists like Rev. Wright tells us that Obama's true politics lie with the radical left. One decade-plus association with Wright or Ayers alone would be troubling enough! Two such associations tells us either:
a) Obama is a dupe who cannot figure out on his own what these men are like; or
b) Obama is a cynic who thinks he can build his political career in Chicago with the likes of these guys, and still go on to claim he's a post-partisan, post-racial moderate.

So far, Obama has actually been able to get away with option b, to my amazement. We'll see if he's be able to make it last until November 4.

Hat Tip: TigerHawk

Naomi Wolf Brings Us the Truth!

Naomi Wolf, lone voice in the wilderness, tells us about the coming Palin-Rove administration, umm, I mean dictatorship:
Under the coming Palin-Rove police state, you will witness the plans now underway to bring Iraqi troops to patrol the streets of our nation. This is not McCain's fantasy: it is Rove's and Cheney's.

Under the Palin-Rove police state, there will be no further true elections. Mark Crispin Miller has done sensational and under-reported investigating to establish that -- as I warned -- indeed the GOP staffers on the US Senate Judiciary Committee have been.
Yes, that last didn't make sense to me either. No doubt it was a secret message to the freedom fighters massing in their hidden bases to strike a blow against the evil Empire!

What's a good evil Empire, though, without the S&M? Of course, Palin/Rove have that angle covered, writes Wolf:
I realized early on with horror what I was seeing in Governor Palin: the continuation of the Rove-Cheney cabal, but this time without restraints. I heard her echo Bush 2000 soundbites ("the heart of America is on display") and realized Bush's speechwriters were writing her -- not McCain's -- speeches. I heard her tell George Bush's lies -- not McCain's -- to the American people, linking 9/11 to Iraq. I heard her make fun of Barack Obama for wanting to prevent the torture of prisoners -- this is Rove-Cheney's enthusiastic S and M, not McCain's, who, though he shamefully colluded in the 2006 Military Tribunals Act, is also a former prisoner of war and wrote an eloquent Newsweek piece in 2005 opposing torture. I saw that she was even styled by the same skillful stylist (neutral lipstick, matte makeup, dark colors) who turned Katharine Harris from a mall rat into a stateswoman and who styles all the women in the Bush orbit --but who does not bother to style Cindy McCain.
Who knew Sarah Palin was an "S and M" stateswoman? But wait! Where is John McCain in all this? Well, Wolf has braved unspeakable dangers to bring us the truth:
McCain doesn't matter. Reputable dermatologists are discussing the fact that in simply actuarial terms, John McCain has a virulent and life-threatening form of skin cancer. It is the elephant in the room, but we must discuss the health of the candidates: doctors put survival rates for someone his age at two to four years. I believe the Rove-Cheney cabal is using Sarah Palin as a stalking horse, an Evita figure, to put a popular, populist face on the coming police state and be the talk show hostess for the end of elections as we know them. If McCain-Palin get in, this will be the last true American election. She will be working for Halliburton, KBR, Rove and Cheney into the foreseeable future -- for a decade perhaps -- a puppet "president" for the same people who have plundered our treasure, are now holding the US economy hostage and who murdered four thousand brave young men and women in a way of choice and lies.
I think Wolf meant to write "a war of choice and lies" in that last sentence, but I would not presume to amend her sacred words of warning.

Read her whole devastating expose at the Huffington Post. Where else?

Hat Tip: Jammie Wearing Fool

Monday, September 22, 2008

Hitchens on Obama

The man, Christopher Hitchens, has this to say about Obama:
Why is Obama so vapid and hesitant and gutless? Why, to put it another way, does he risk going into political history as a dusky Dukakis? Well, after the self-imposed Jeremiah Wright nightmare, he can't afford any more militancy, or militant-sounding stuff, even if it might be justified. His other problems are self-inflicted or party-inflicted as well. He couldn't have picked a gifted Democratic woman as his running mate, because he couldn't have chosen a female who wasn't the ever-present Sen. Clinton, and so he handed the free gift of doing so to his Republican opponent (whose own choice has set up a screech from the liberals like nothing I have heard since the nomination of Clarence Thomas). So the unquantifiable yet important "atmospherics" of politics, with all their little X factors, belong at present to the other team.
Hitchens is equally hard on the Republicans, too. But he points out something I have long thought about Obama -- that he really didn't expect to be the nominee this time around, and now he's stuck:
To put it a touch more precisely, what I suspect in his case is that he had no idea of winning this time around. He was running in Iowa and New Hampshire to seed the ground for 2012, not 2008, and then the enthusiasm of his supporters (and the weird coincidence of a strong John Edwards showing in Iowa) put him at the front of the pack. Yet, having suddenly got the leadership position, he hadn't the faintest idea what to do with it or what to do about it.

Look at the record, and at Obama's replies to essential and pressing questions. The surge in Iraq? I'll answer that only if you insist. The credit crunch? Please may I be photographed with Bill Clinton's economic team? Georgia? After you, please, Sen. McCain. A vice-presidential nominee? What about a guy who, despite his various qualities, is picked because he has almost no enemies among Democratic interest groups?
Read the whole thing.

Saturday, September 20, 2008


Peter Gabriel, who I have been fortunate enough to have seen in concert in 1987, 1993, and 2003, sings an extraordinary song of Native American loss and resilience:

Peter Gabriel "San Jacinto"

Thick cloud - steam rising - hissing stone on sweat lodge fire
Around me - buffalo robe - sage in bundle - run on skin
Outside - cold air - stand, wait for rising sun
Red paint - eagle feathers - coyote calling - it has begun
Something moving in - I taste it in my mouth and in my heart
It feels like dying - slow - letting go of life

Medicine man lead me up though town - Indian ground -
so far down
Cut up land - each house - a pool - kids wearing water
wings - drink in cool
Follow dry river bed - watch Scout and Guides make
pow-wow signs
Past Geronimo's disco - Sit 'n' Bull steakhouse - white
men dream
A rattle in the old man's sack - look at mountain top -
keep climbing up
Way above us the desert snow - white wind blow

I hold the line - the line of strength that pulls me through
the fear
San Jacinto - I hold the line
San Jacinto - the poison bite and darkness take my sight -
I hold the line
And the tears roll down my swollen cheek - think I'm losing
it - getting weaker
I hold the line - I hold the line
San Jacinto - yellow eagle flies down from the sun -
from the sun

We will walk - on the land
We will breathe - of the air
We will drink - from the stream
We will live - hold the line

Ralph Peters on Palin

Ralph Peters is always the sort to shoot from the hip in his essays and let God sort it all out, and he doesn't disappoint in his essay on the appeal of Sarah Palin:
Sarah Palin's one of us. She actually represents the American people.

When The New York Times, CNN, the NBC basket of basket cases and all the barking blog dogs insult Palin, they're insulting us. When they smear her, they're smearing every American who actually works for a living, who doesn't expect a handout, who doesn't have a full-time accountant to parse the family taxes, who believes in the Pledge of Allegiance and who thinks a church is more than just a tedious stop on daughter Emily's 100K wedding day.
Later on, he writes,
For the first time since Ronald Reagan, our last great president, we, the people, see a chance that one of us might have a voice in governing our country.

Speaking of Reagan (Eureka College, Illinois), every chief executive we've had since the Gipper snapped his final salute as president has had the imprimatur of an Ivy League university. And we've gone from bad to worse:

* George Herbert Walker Bush: Yale.

* William Jefferson Clinton: Georgetown, Oxford, Yale Law.

* George W. Bush: Yale and Harvard Business School.

The first lacked the sense to finish the job in Desert Storm; the second lacked the guts to go after al Qaeda when it was just a startup - and the third, well, let's just say he disappointed our low expectations.

Now we have the Ivy League elite's "he's not only like us but he's a minority and we're so wonderful to support him" candidate, Sen. Barack Obama (Columbia and Harvard Law).

Our country can't afford another one of these clowns. Harvard isn't the answer - Harvard's the problem.

So here's the message Palin is sending on behalf of the rest of us (the down-market masses Dems love at election time and ignore once the voting's done): The rule of the snobs is over. It's time to give one of us a chance to lead.

Sen. John McCain's one of us, too. He raised hell at Annapolis (quadruple ugh: military!), and he'll raise the right kind of hell in Washington.

McCain's so dumb he really loves his country.

Sarah Palin's dumb that way, too. How terribly unfashionable.
Agree or disagree with the man, Peters always is bracing, unconventional, and calling 'em like he sees 'em. I happen to think he's on to something here.

Hat Tip: Hot Air

Great Britain Finds it Needs More Nuclear Power

Like Germany before it, the United Kingdom is finding that it needs more nuclear power plants:
* UK will press "all buttons" to get nuclear built
* nuclear is a "no-brainer" because it contributes to energy security and job creation
* "insecure international sources underline the case for a diverse mix"
* "determined to get nuclear up and running as soon as possible"
* nuclear industry could create 100,000 new direct jobs
* Britain needs to move fast to establish position in international market
* all of the above is part of the need to "spotlight" the opportunities available

There are several factors pushing the UK government’s rapidly growing interest in building new nuclear power plants.

* Natural gas production in the North Sea is falling more rapidly than expected.
* Russia is a major European gas supplier, but its reliability is increasingly in question.
* Iran is another big gas supplier to Europe with questionable reliability.
* Alternative energy programs are not delivering power as rapidly as expected.
* Carbon emissions concerns have changed the status of coal as an energy fuel.
* Existing UK nuclear plants have a limited life remaining. (Note: It is possible to extend the life of these facilities.)
I'm all for solar energy, as is quite obvious to any reader here, but I think we're going to need expanded nuclear power too. I'd rather we build nuclear- and solar- and wind-powered energy generation than another coal- or natural gas-powered plant, which will only continue to exacerbate the problem of global warming.

If we want to continue feeding hard currency to Iran, Saudi Arabia and Russia, by all means, let's continue the informal ban on nuclear power. If we're serious about green energy generation, though, we might want to add nuclear power to the mix of clean energy options available to us.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

An Overlooked Victory in the Tolerance War

I missed this when it happened, but it seems that Qatar, which shares with Saudi Arabia its intolerant Wahhabi ruling ideology, has built its first-ever government-approved Catholic Church:
The 2,700-seat church was built on land donated by Qatar's emir, Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Thani, and five other buildings are under construction nearby for other Christian denominations in this oil-rich state where over 70% of the population are expatriate workers.

"I convey very special greetings from the Holy Father to the Emir," said Cardinal Ivan Dias, the envoy of Pope Benedict XVI and the Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.

"Without his precious gift of a land to the Catholic community, we would not be here today," Dias said.

Qatar follows the rigorous Wahabi teachings of Sunni Islam, and like neighboring Saudi Arabia had not previously authorized Christians to practice their faith openly.

A priest operated in Qatar since the 1960s without official approval, and the opening of the church Saturday appeared to be another sign of Qatar's efforts to open up to the West as it seeks a bid for the summer Olympic Games in 2016.

"It is a dream coming true," said Bishop Bernardo Gremoli, a former vicar of Arabia who initiated the church project more than 20 years ago.

Some 150,000 Christians of all denominations live in the emirate, over 90% of them Catholic expatriate workers from the Philippines, India and other Asian nations.
Since the CIA's 2008 estimate of Qatar's population is 824,789, only 247,437 native Qatari are actual citizens! Only since March have those Catholics in the far-larger expatriate majority been allowed to worship in Qatar without fear of official reprisal.

America has properly been welcoming as Muslim mosques and Hindu temples, among many other houses of worship, have been built to serve new immigrants to our shores. The same pattern has largely been replicated in the other countries of the West. It is a good sign, a very good sign, that this tolerance is at long last beginning to be reciprocated in the heart of the Arabian peninsula.

UPDATE: Worth noting, too, is that Qatar's desire to be judged worthy to hold the 2016 Summer Olympics was a driving force behind this decision. Globalization works its special magic again.

America Needs Engineers!

Mars may need more women, but America needs more engineers.

This impressive young man, William Yuan, is exactly what we need -- except we need his sort of talent, ingenuity and engineering know-how by the hundreds of thousands, if not the millions.

Oh, yes, he's only twelve years old:
...a 12 year old boy in Beaverton, Oregon recently developed a new type of 3D solar cell that makes other solar cells look inefficient by comparison.

William Yuan’s 3D cell can absorb both visible and UV light. According to his calculations, solar panels equipped with his 3D cells could provide 500 times more light absorption than current commercial solar cells and nine times more light than existing 3D solar cells.
Back in the 1950s and 1960s, a whole generation of future scientists and engineers were inspired by a potent combination of fear of losing out to the Soviets, and of science fiction inspiring them to believe that they, too, could make a better future.

If we're really serious about transforming energy and transportation in this country, we're going to need tons of engineers to do the hard, technical work involved. Hitting the math and science books may be less fun in the short run than playing games and chatting online, but the percentage of young Americans doing the former rather than the latter may well determine whether the United States remains a leading source of technological innovation, or becomes an also-ran.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Hybrid Cars on the Bleeding Edge

I've run across two great posts that feed into one another.

First, Thomas P.M. Barnett notes how higher gas prices have put Toyota in the catbird seat for now with their Toyota Prius hybrid. The next step is the plug-in hybrid market, and even beyond that, hydrogen fuel cell cars:
I know, I know. Amory Lovins is a nut.

But I see a lot of good coming from these high prices. The Middle East needed a big resource transfer to handle that 100 million young heading toward non-existent jobs. WE were going to pay that money one way or the other. Hybrids beat bullets and bombs.
Complementing the above is the news that, with our current energy set-up, mass acceptance of plug-in hybrids would mean a huge increase in water usage by existing power plants:
If 25% of the nation’s fleet converted to plug-in vehicles it would require an additional 1 billion gallons of water for electricity generation. For comparison, that’s almost half the total urban water used by the state of California in one year.

But no one, including the study authors, is saying that plug-in hybrids should be blacklisted. It just adds an important consideration for water-stressed areas that have plans for a grid-based automotive fleet. It also highlights the importance of using sustainable (wind, solar) sources of electricity for electric vehicles.

And as far as the alternatives go: PM pointed out that growing a bushel of corn requires 2200 gallons of water, which only makes 2.7 gallons of ethanol. I would take a fleet of plug-ins over a fleet of Flex-Fuel vehicles any day.
My take: once again we see that corn-based ethanol is a big dead end. Second, plug-in hybrids are great but we need a change in our energy generation so as not to engender a whole new set of water scarcity issues.

Long term, somehow the growing globalizing Core is going to have to come up with the low-carbon emissions energy to produce either mass quantities of electricity for the plug-ins, or the sort that can enable relatively low-cost, low-energy production of mass quantities of hydrogen for fuel-cell transportation. Probably both, with the latter being the long-term solution.

I share Tom Barnett's optimism and only hope that we take care to integrate the Middle East into the Core as we engage in this massive transformation.

Slick Willie's got nothing on Obama!

Once again, Obama talks the talk of being a reformer, but only McCain actually walks the walk.

Hot Air reports that John McCain co-sponsored legislation in 2005 designed to reform the GSEs like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac that are at the heart of the current financial crisis:
For years I have been concerned about the regulatory structure that governs Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac–known as Government-sponsored entities or GSEs–and the sheer magnitude of these companies and the role they play in the housing market. OFHEO’s report this week does nothing to ease these concerns. In fact, the report does quite the contrary. OFHEO’s report solidifies my view that the GSEs need to be reformed without delay.

I join as a cosponsor of the Federal Housing Enterprise Regulatory Reform Act of 2005, S. 190, to underscore my support for quick passage of GSE regulatory reform legislation. If Congress does not act, American taxpayers will continue to be exposed to the enormous risk that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac pose to the housing market, the overall financial system, and the economy as a whole.

I urge my colleagues to support swift action on this GSE reform legislation.
Obama, newly sworn in as the junior Senator from Illinois at the time, did not join as a co-sponsor with McCain nor has he sponsored or co-sponsored any such legislation since.

What's more, after Democrat Chris Dodd from Connecticut killed McCain's bill in the Banking Committee, Obama went on to become the #2 recipient of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac campaign contributions! He did this in less than four years in the Senate, leapfrogging even John Kerry who has been in the Senate since 1984. That's quite an accomplishment indeed, but it's not one of reform.

The breakdown of contributions is found here at Open Secrets, the non-partisan campaign finance website. The aforementioned Senator Dodd (a Senator since 1980) is #1 in receiving a total of $165,400 in combined PAC and individual contributions from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac contributors from 1989 through 2008. Obama, despite not even being on the Senate Banking Committee, has vaulted to the #2 position receiving $126,349 in contributions since 2005, eclipsing Senator John Kerry (in the Senate since 1984) who has received a total of $111,000 since 1989.

And McCain, who has been in the Senate since 1986 -- what is his record? Well, since 1989 McCain has received a whopping $21,550 in contributions from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. It's worth noting that all those contributions are individual contributions, not PAC donations. McCain, like Obama, has not been on the Senate Banking Committee, and yet he managed to co-sponsor reform legislation where Obama has not. Unsuccessfully, to be sure, but still he at least gave it an effort!

The difference in contributions from these doomed giants becomes all the more stark if you break it down into a yearly average. Rounding up to 4 years, Obama's average yearly received total from Fannie/Freddie amounts to $31,587.25 for each and every year he's been in the Senate. By contrast, McCain's 20-year average from 1989-2008 works out to $1,077.50 per year. If Obama had been in the Senate as long as McCain or Kerry or Dodd has, his total take from Fannie/Freddie would be in the realm of $631,745, or nearly four times the take of current champ Dodd.

There are many, many things Obama is. A brillian law student, yes. A passable community activist who gave up when things got difficult, that too. An ambitious climber of a State Senator, yep. A Senator who ran for President before even a third of his first term was up? Sure! A reformer, though? Please don't insult my intelligence.

This infuriates me so because I am a Democrat, and in my still beating Democratic heart I want to believe that Democrats are on the side of the little guy, while Republicans are the corrupt hacks on the take.

But no, there are corrupt hacks in both parties, and there are true reformers to be found in both parties too. You have to look beyond party labels, and judge them on the content of their character, as illustrated time and again through their record.

The qualms of my Democratic heart are relieved, then, because once again I find that McCain is the reformer, while Obama proves himself to be nothing more than the latest version of the corrupt Chicago machine politician.

Neither man is perfect, and it's ridiculous to expect perfection. But the difference between McCain and Obama on this and other reform issues is so clear as to be laughable. Slick Willie has nothing on Obama, nothing.

UPDATE: As if to put an exclamation point on all of the above, Dennis Byrne of the Chicago Tribune writes on Obama Sidestepping Reform in Illinois.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Albanian Muslims Saved Jews from the Holocaust

I heard about this on NPR the other day, and have been so busy with work and life I only got around to blogging about it now.

It seems that Albanians in general, Muslims and Orthodox and Catholic, have a code called Besa, which requires that one opens one's home to people in need. On the program I was listening to, one old Albanian Muslim said (and I'm paraphrasing) that he'd rather his son die than that he betray the Besa code.

During the Holocaust, then, Besa took the following form: Albanians of all religions, but mostly Muslim, took in Albanian and non-Albanian Jews and hid them from the Nazis who were demanding that they be handed over. They gave these Jews Albanian names, Albanian peasant clothing, and claimed when pressed by the Nazis that they were relatives. This despite the grave danger that the Nazis would realize the ruse, and simply exterminate the Albanians along with the Jews they were sheltering.

On the program, they had an interview with an elderly German Jewish woman who had been saved by Besa-observant Albanians. In her accent, so familiar to me because it sounded much like my grandparents on both my mother's and father's side, she simply and heartbreakingly put it this way (again, not an exact quote, I am paraphrasing from memory): "Here were the civilized Germans, with all their poets, and writers, and their composers, committing this crime. And then there were the Albanians, 80% of them illiterate, peasants really, saving us from the Nazis."

This hits me where I live. I am very German in my heritage, the hair is still blue, the eyes used to be blonde -- scratch that, reverse it. Given that my father's German-born parents were Lutheran, and my German-born mother was Catholic, my family never was on the receiving end of Hitler's hatred of Jews. So I have always been simultaneously proud of my heritage and chastened by it -- I take the Holocaust very personally, because it is my tribe (so to speak) that committed it, even if none of my ancestors were Nazis themselves.

So for Albanian peasants to save Jews -- even foreign Jews like the woman above who fled from Hamburg, Germany -- is an extraordinary act of moral courage, one that humbles me and literally reduces me to tears. God bless them.

This came at just the right time after 9/11's anniversary, because it was a useful reminder that the enemy is not of any one particular faith -- there are evil men, fanatics, of all religions, and of none at all. We should not forget that most Muslims are not remotely sympathetic to Al Qaeda, and that what I call the Tolerance War should only be fought against the vicious extremists, with our true allies being all tolerant folks regardless of faith.

I only wish those very Islamic extremists who deny the Holocaust would talk to the Besa-observant Muslims in Albania and open their eyes, but that's unlikely in the extreme, alas. Still, the rest of us know the truth, and that is enough.

For more, go to the Center for Islamic Pluralism

UPDATE: I found Norman Gershman's video documentary on Besa here.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Lightning Crashes

An appropriately mournful yet beautiful song in this week of remembering the irreplaceable lives lost on 9/11 and since.

LIVE "Lightning Crashes"

Lightning crashes a new mother cries
Her placenta falls to the floor
The angel opens her eyes
The confusion sets in
Before the doctor can even close the door

Lightning crashes an old mother dies
Her intentions fall to the floor
The angel closes her eyes
The confusion that was hers
Belongs now to the baby down the hall

Oh now feel it, comin' back again
Like a rollin', thunder chasing the wind
Forces pullin' from
The center of the earth again
I can feel it.

Lightning crashes a new mother cries
This moment she's been waiting for
The angel opens her eyes
Pale blue colored iris
Presents the circle
And puts the glory out to hide, hide

Oh now feel it, comin' back again
Like a rollin', thunder chasing the wind
Forces pullin' from
The center of the earth again
I can feel it.

McCain Surging

The Zogby polling group reports something of a surge underway toward McCain in critical battleground states!
In this latest adjustment of the Zogby map, Obama has lost 26 Electoral College votes from two states—Pennsylvania and New Mexico – both of which were moved from the Obama column into the toss-up column.

Meanwhile, McCain has gained enough ground to have—at least for now—captured a definitive lead in seven new states: Ohio, Missouri, Nevada, South Carolina, Montana, South and North Dakota. McCain’s gains total 54 Electoral College votes. Based on a Zogby analysis of other credible polling and demographic trends, the Zogby map is also moving four other states – Montana, South Carolina, South Dakota, and North Dakota from toss-ups into the McCain column.
The only bad news in this bunch is from North Carolina, in fact, where Obama has a surprising 1.5% percent lead.

This is Zogby we're talking about, so take it with the caution it deserves, but still, it's good news that I hope we see reported by other polling outfits.

Hat Tip: Hot Air, Gateway Pundit

Thursday, September 11, 2008

9/11 Seven Years Later

I was living and working in Silicon Valley in Northern California on 9/11/2001, so I saw it all unfolding back home in the NY metro area from a strange, disconcerting distance.

The first news I got was from a roughly 6:00 AM Pacific time IM with a New Jersey friend, who informed me that a plane had hit the World Trade Center while he was commuting on the New Jersey Turnpike to work.

Of course, I thought it was a Cessna. How wrong I was.

Too many forget the horror and panic of those days in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 when the expectation was that another such attack was going to come any day now. I remember vividly my mother telling me my sister was seriously considering going to Germany (where we have many cousins and aunts and uncles) with my niece and nephew simply in an effort to get smallpox vaccines for them, because those were unavailable here in the United States.

My home county in New Jersey, Monmouth County, famously took the biggest hit in terms of lives lost. I was not there then, so I can only take the word of my family and friends that the smell from the fallen towers lasted for days after the attacks.

We have come a long way since then, but not so long that we should forget the enormity of the evil visited upon us by the gleeful fanatics of Al Qaeda. We are on the verge of decisively defeating them in Iraq, but much work remains to be done in Afghanistan and in their new safe havens of Pakistan's wild northwest territories.

Never forgive. Never forget.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Go Green! (and defeat Al Qaeda)

That's what Thomas Friedman says we can and must do, as part of an interview with Fareed Zakaria on the Amazon site.

First Friedman talks about the resentment rising countries feel about our holier-than-thou lectures, and how we should grab the window of opportunity this affords us, such as it is:
Every time I come to China, young Chinese say to me, "Mr. Friedman, your country grew dirty for 150 years. Now it's our turn." And I say to them, "Yes, you're absolutely right, it's your turn. Grow as dirty as you want. Take your time. Because I think we probably just need about five years to invent all the new clean power technologies you're going to need as you choke to death, and we're going to come and sell them to you. And we're going to clean your clock in the next great global industry. So please, take your time. If you want to give us a five-year lead in the next great global industry, I will take five. If you want to give us ten, that would be even better."
Friedman worries, however, that we in the U.S. are blowing the head start we've been given, and Zakaria offers up this following reason:
I think it's not about our economic system but our political system. The rhetoric we hear is that the market should produce new energy technologies. But the problem is, the use of current forms of energy has an existing infrastructure with very powerful interests that has ensured that the government tilt the playing field in their favor, with subsidies, tax breaks, infrastructure spending, etc. This is one area where the Europeans have actually been very far-sighted and have pushed their economies toward the future.
Friedman goes on to talk about how this affects our war against Al Qaeda, in a tactical sense:
They began with a marine general in Iraq, who basically cabled back one day and said, I need renewable power here. Things like solar energy. And the reaction of the Pentagon was, "Hey, general, you getting a little green out there? You're not going sissy on us are you? Too much sun?" And he basically said, "No, don't you guys get it? I have to provision outposts along the Syrian border. They are off the grid. They run on generators with diesel fuel. I have to truck diesel fuel from Kuwait to the Syrian border at $20 a gallon delivered cost. And that's if my trucks don't get blown up by insurgents along the way. If I had solar power, I wouldn't have to truck all this fuel. I could—this is my term, not his—‘outgreen' Al-Qaeda."

I argue in the chapter that "outgreening"--the ability to deploy, expand, innovate and grow renewable energy and clean power--is going to become one of the most important, if not the most important, sources of competitive advantage for a company, for a country, for a military. You're going to know the cost of your fuel, it's going to be so much more distributed, you will be so much more flexible, and--this is quite important, Fareed--you will also become so much more respected.
Oh, and Friedman makes this excellent point about the creative destruction that such a big change in energy technology will entail:
In the green revolution, everyone's a winner: BP's green, Exxon's green, GM's green. When everyone's a winner, that's not a revolution--actually, that's a party. We're having a green party. And it's very fun--you and I get invited to all the parties. But it has no connection whatsoever with a real revolution. You'll know it's a revolution when somebody gets hurt. And I don't mean physically hurt. But the IT revolution was a real revolution. In the IT revolution, companies either had to change or die. So you'll know the green revolution is happening when you see some bodies--corporate bodies--along the side of the road: companies that didn't change and therefore died. Right now we don't have that kind of market, that kind of change-or-die situation. Right now companies feel like they can just change their brand, not actually how they do business, and that will be enough to survive. That's why we're really having more of a green party than a green revolution.
On the first point, Friedman is absolutely right that we should make the most of every opportunity the rest of the world affords our country through their own unwillingness to face up to these challenges.

I part company with him when he endorses Obama's big-spending government subsidy approach over McCain's more free market approach. Still, McCain would be wise to emphasize more strongly that as President he won't let current low-cost subsidies for wind, solar and geothermal lapse, as all too many Republicans are currently willing to allow to happen.

It's interesting where Friedman concentrates on the purely tactical applications of green energy to the war against Al Qaeda. He's quite right that solar would be helpful powering our military outposts on the Syrian border, but at least in this interview he doesn't address the larger strategic considerations.

I'd love nothing more than to deprive the Ayatollahs, Putins, and Chavezes of their oil wealth when we transition to a new varied energy source that stems more from technical knowledge and innovation than from the luck of the geological draw. In any such contest, our open society model which puts a premium on talent regardless of country of origin will do very well indeed.

What I don't think anyone is addressing, however, is how such a green revolution might worsen the feeling of resentment against the West if the Muslim world is again left on the sidelines of this latest revolution. Given the widely-reported problems in education in the Arab world, combined with its dependency on oil as its leading export, this is a very-real possibility even in the event that the United States successfully leads such a technological transition.

This is not an argument against the environmental necessity of this transition, but I think it points up the fact that Thomas Barnett's grand strategy of "Shrinking the Gap" by more thoroughly integrating the Middle East into globalization's Core will be more relevant to the defeat of Al Qaeda than the green revolution alone will.

Hat Tip: Instapundit

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

An Excellent Overview on Palin

The Corner points to an excellent overview of Sarah Palin's career in Alaska, placing in context how the various aspects of her life led her to this point, and what she has accomplished already.
Wasilla's population of 9,000 would be a small town in Britain, and even in most American states.

But Wasilla is the fifth-largest city in Alaska, which meant that Palin was an important player in state politics.

Her husband's status in the Yup'ik Eskimo tribe, of which he is a full, or "enrolled" member, connected her to another influential faction: the large and wealthy (because of their right to oil revenues) native tribes.

All of this gave her a base from which to launch her 2002 campaign for lieutenant (deputy) governor of Alaska.

She lost that, but collected a powerful enough following to be placated with a seat on, and subsequently the chairmanship of, the Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, which launched her into the politics of Alaska's energy industry.

Palin quickly realised that Alaska had the potential to become a much bigger player in global energy politics, a conviction that grew as the price of oil rose. Alaska had been in hock to oil companies since major production began in the mid-1970s.

As with most poor, distant places that suddenly receive great natural-resource wealth, the first generation of politicians were mesmerised by the magnificence of the crumbs falling from the table. Palin was the first of the next generation to realise that Alaska should have a place at that table.

Her first target was an absurd bureaucratic tangle that for 30 years had kept the state from exporting its gas to the other 48 states. She set an agenda that centred on three mutually supportive objectives: cleaning up state politics, building a new gas pipeline, and increasing the state's share of energy revenues.

This agenda, pursued throughout Palin's commission tenure, culminated in her run for governor in 2006. By this time, she had already begun rooting out corruption and making enemies, but also establishing her bona fides as a reformer.

With this base, she surprised many by steamrollering first the Republican incumbent governor, and second, the Democratic former governor, in the election.

Far from being a reprise of Mr Smith Goes to Washington, Palin was a clear-eyed politician who, from the day she took office, knew exactly what she had to do and whose toes she would step on to do it.

The surprise is not that she has been in office for such a short time but that she has succeeded in each of her objectives. She has exposed corruption; given the state a bigger share in Alaska's energy wealth; and negotiated a deal involving big corporate players, the US and Canadian governments, Canadian provincial governments, and native tribes - the result of which was a £13 billion deal to launch the pipeline and increase the amount of domestic energy available to consumers. This deal makes the charge of having "no international experience" particularly absurd.
Read the whole thing, of course.

This puts a whole new perspective on things. It deepens her reform agenda, and McCain's, because it shows that Palin has really led nothing less than a revolution in the way things are done in Alaska. And an overwhelmingly successful and popular one, at that.

Palin helps McCain again in precisely inverting one of the common slams on the Bush Administration -- that they were the servants of Big Oil, through and through. Well, in Alaska, Palin made certain that Big Oil served the people of Alaska.

A similar thing has occurred, interestingly enough, in Iraq. Prior to our invasion, oil served to benefit only a small elite around Saddam. Now the oil wealth is widely dispersed, being given not only to Saddam's Sunni Arab base, but also to the Shi'ites and Kurds who actually live above Iraq's largest oil fields. But I digress.

McCain would do well to take his cues from this article and better articulate just how revolutionary Palin has been in Alaska, and that he and his running mate intend to do the very same in leading the United States, not merely with oil but in making sure all energy sources -- nuclear, solar, wind and geothermal -- are rapidly and efficiently put into service to the American people.

I think that would be yet another devastating blow to an Obama campaign which has no practical experience in these matters, and whose policy prescriptions, while admirable, are almost entirely in the realm of government subsidies and government-funded research.

Monday, September 8, 2008

The More Things Change...

...the more they stay the same:
Nicaragua on Friday became the first country other than Russia to formally recognize the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, giving Moscow a victory in its battle with Georgia over the two breakaway provinces.
And Chavez gets in on the act, of course:
Last week, Ortega's ally Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said Russia made the right move by recognizing the independence of the two breakaway regions. But Chavez hasn't formally done the same.

Chavez said he fully supports Russia's position and that Venezuela "would do the same if someone dared to attack us."

The Venezuelan leader has criticized Georgia and has called President Mikhail Saakashvili a "puppet" of Washington.
For those of you not paying attention during the 1980s, Ortega was the Sandinista President of Soviet-allied Nicaragua, against whom the Reagan Administration waged a proxy war with the Contras. Unfortunately, he's back in office, with support from would-be Venezuelan President-for-Life Hugo Chavez.

I would hope this sort of thing would put paid to the notion that Chavez and Ortega are any kind of reformers, instead of the thugs that they really are.

McCain's Speech

A fellow McCain Democrat puts it best:
Compare the Obamas' epic self promotion of the mundane to the quiet dignity of John McCain describing his torture - - "and they broke me". That's epic. That's courage.
Even though he will never be accused of being a great speech-giver, it's that quiet dignity and the resultant big bounce McCain is getting in the polls that seems to be causing growing panic in the Obama campaign.

When Obama is trying to say he thought about going into the military, and tax hikes are a bad idea, he's not showing confidence in his own ultra-liberal convictions, to say the least.

Hat Tip: Hot Air and Concerned Democrats for McCain

Let's Not go Overboard...

...on Russia, says Thomas Barnett, and I agree with him. Because to do so means throwing away the strategic opportunity to finish off Al Qaeda and, longer term, to Shrink the Gap:
I see essentially four million-man armies out there: U.S., Russia, India, China. A fifth wheel would be NATO (with the body core really being Turkey).

You put those resources in rough combination (frenemies competing and collaborating economically and security-wise) and there's no question that there's enough Core-wide resources to pool against the tasks of shrinking the Gap. You put them largely at odds with each other, then the hedging requirements will gobble up most of the important budget, and in the U.S. that means a Leviathan that continues to grab the lion's share of acquisition, keeping emerging SysAdmin capabilities as strict lesser-includeds.
And, later in his post:
From history's perspective, it can't get much dumber than this: our globalization sweeping the planet in the form of an international liberal trade order, but right at its apogee, the four million-man army nations find a way to turn on each other more than the collective problems and opportunities staring them in the face.

From an international businessman's perspective, this is potential tragedy in the making. From a grand strategic perspective, this is an unthinking America playing down to the lower-order dynamics generated by less-mature great powers.

In short, we should know better and act better and avoid this pathway.

But Americans are, by their nature, strategically short-sighted. We respond emotionally to events--this week's column (above).
The column he references can be found here.

Well, I am going to differ with Dr. Barnett here only in that he sees a greater likelihood of this strategic blunder occurring with a President McCain than with a President Obama.

I think Obama's open protectionism is more harmful here than McCain's occasionally strident rhetoric. It will not only hurt the very Gap nations we're supposed to be helping, along with hurting the U.S. economy, but it will also increase the likelihood of trade blocs forming.

I may be wrong about this, and I will be the first to say so in that event, but with Henry Kissinger advising McCain, even from the sidelines, I doubt very much a President McCain will make the mistake of going back to the Cold War. Never forget it was Kissinger who advised that old Cold Warrior Nixon to make the strategic stroke of genius that was flipping China to the anti-Soviet side, while also aggressively pursuing detente with the Soviets themselves.

Which leads me to a final question: if "only Nixon can to China," is the modern equivalent "only McCain can go to Iran"?

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Palin's Record Examined

Here are some good data points on Palin's record and views as Governor of Alaska:

1. Anchorage Daily News, Dec. 29, 2006, Same Sex Benefits Ban Gets Palin Veto:
In the first veto of an administration that isn't yet a month old, Palin said she rejected the bill despite her disagreement with a state Supreme Court order earlier this month that directed the state to offer benefits to same-sex partners of state employees.

Advice from her new attorney general said the bill passed by the Legislature was unconstitutional, she said.

"Signing this bill would be in direct violation of my oath of office," Palin said in a prepared statement released by her administration Thursday night.

2. Associated Press, Sept. 2, 2008, Palin has not pushed creation science as governor:
As a candidate for governor, Sarah Palin called for teaching creationism alongside evolution in public schools. But after Alaska voters elected her, Palin, now Republican John McCain's presidential running mate, kept her campaign pledge to not push the idea in the schools.
Also, from the same article:
Palin's children attend public schools and Palin has made no push to have creationism taught in them.

Neither have Palin's socially conservative personal views on issues like abortion and gay marriage been translated into policies during her 20 months as Alaska's chief executive. It reflects a hands-off attitude toward mixing government and religion by most Alaskans.

"She has basically ignored social issues, period," said Gregg Erickson, an economist and columnist for the Alaska Budget Report.

3. Anchorage Daily News, May 24, 2008, Palin's veto ax lops $268 million from budget:
Gov. Sarah Palin on Friday axed about 10 percent of the spending that state legislators approved for hometown projects.

This is the second year in a row Palin vetoed projects dear to legislators. She said lawmakers stuffed the $2.7 billion state capital budget too full.

"There were things like dealing with killer shrubs and Zamboni blades that are not the state's highest priority at the time," Palin said on Friday.
4. Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, May 29, 2008, Palin cuts money for energy research:
A new energy research center at the University of Alaska Fairbanks is looking for alternative funding after Gov. Sarah Palin last week vetoed a $1.5 million state and federal appropriation for the center.

The Alaska Center for Energy and Power formed in January and is focused on developing new technologies to lower the cost of energy in rural Alaska and attract energy-intensive industry with cheap renewable resources.

Lawmakers included $500,000 in state funding in the operating budget they approved last month, but Palin cut the funding.
Later, in the same article:
Palin recently signed into law HB 152, a bill setting up a fund for renewable energy projects, and she agreed to distribute $50 million in state funds for renewable energy projects this year.

But that money can only go toward projects using proven technologies.
Here's my take -- clearly, she's a conservative all around, verging on libertarianism at times. Despite her religious beliefs, she effectively allowed same sex partner benefits to go forward by vetoing a legislative ban on it on constitutional grounds. I like that -- the constitutionality of the proposed law outweighed her own religious views on the matter!

The same holds true with her supposedly creationist views. She may believe in creationism, but she's making no moves to push it down the throats of public school students.

The other theme that jumps out is that she's a real fiscal hawk, one not scared to upset legislators by killing their pet projects. I would hope that both she and a President McCain would take that attitude to Washington if their ticket is elected.

The last item is the one that disturbs me the most, with her cutting the funds on alternative energy research. That one bothers me, as someone who believes we need to both drill off shore and aggressively move forward with solar, nuclear, and wind energy. The only ray of light I find in the News-Miner article is this: "In a written explanation of her vetoes, Palin noted that she would consider funding the research center in a future budget."

Read 'em all and see what you think.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Elfman Music!

Oingo Boingo, led by Danny Elfman, in its prime around 1985:

Oingo Boingo "Dead Man's Party"

All dressed up with nowhere to go
Walking with a dead man over my shoulder
All dressed up with nowhere to go
Walking with a dead man over my shoulder

Waiting for an invitation to arrive
Going to a party where no one's still alive
Waiting for an invitation to arrive
Going to a party where no one's still alive

I was struck by lightning
Walking down the street
I was hit by something last night in my sleep
It's a dead man's party
Who could ask for more
Everybody's coming, leave your body at the door
Leave your body and soul at the door

Don't run away it's only me
Don't be afraid of what you can't see

I was struck by lightning
Walking down the street
I was hit by something last night in my sleep
It's a dead man's party
Who could ask for more
Everybody's coming, leave your body at the door
Leave your body and soul at the door

Don't run away it's only me
Don't be afraid of what you can't see
It's only me... It's only me...

Friday, September 5, 2008

Reform, or the Lack Thereof

Well, everyone else is no doubt talking about the McCain speech last night, but I wanted to point out something that was discussed in it: the notion of reform, specifically combating political corruption everywhere, starting with one's own party.

McCain has been pissing off his fellow Republicans with his calls for Campaign Finance reform ever since the immediate aftermath of his defeat by George W. Bush in the 2000 Republican primaries.

Actually, here's something I had simply forgotten with the passage of time, McCain had been working with Democrat Russ Feingold on campaign finance reform since 1995! They finally got it passed in 2002, to the disgust of many Republicans and great damage done to McCain's presidential prospects.

Since entering the Senate, Obama's main claim to fame on reform has been the 2007 Ethics Reform, which Feingold initiated with Obama and McCain co-sponsored but did not initiate. PolitiFact.com from Florida's St. Petersburg's Times examines Obama's claims in his latest ads about his central role in this reform and only finds them to be half-true.

Further, yesterday saw dual convictions in separate Democratic and Republican corruption trials. First, uber-corrupt Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff was sentenced to four years for his various violations of federal law.

Second, Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, a Democrat, pleaded guilty to two felony charges of lying to a jury, and pleaded no contest to assault on a police officer.

The difference, here, is that McCain was an avowed enemy of Jack Abramoff and his congressional allies, Tom DeLay and Dick Armey, among many others. As seen below, DeLay hates McCain with a mad passion:

By contrast, here's Obama two years ago on Kilpatrick:

The final piece of the puzzle, to me, is that both McCain and Obama pledged to use public financing in the Presidential campaign if they made it this far, and only McCain kept that pledge.

In the end,we have a true contrast here: McCain is a political reformer even when it makes him a pariah in his own party. Obama, by contrast, acts as a reformer only up until the point it threatens his own advancement, or that of his fellow Democrats. At that point, he bails.

That's my take. Your mileage, of course, may vary.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

More Good News from Africa

Thomas PM Barnett links to a great article in the Washington Post about the growing middle class in Africa.

This is the stuff that I really think McCain is good at, though he does not talk about it nearly enough. As an unabashed free trader, his approach offers more hope for the growing economies of Latin America and Africa than does Obama's completely protectionist approach.

The irony is that Obama, with his Kenyan heritage, is more hostile in his policy prescriptions to Africa's aspirations than old white Republican McCain.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

The Wizard's Sense of Honor

I may be doing him no favors, but the Wizard just became my favorite Democratic blogger:
September 2nd, 2008. The 2008 Election ended this morning as a vast cadre of liberals, progressives, Democrats and like minded journalists lifted the white flag and surrendered.

We surrendered something a whole lot more valuable than our vote. We surrendered our principles. We surrendered our core values.
As a Democrat like this honorable gentleman, I am as appalled as he is as to what my party is up to. His candidate might be Obama and mine is McCain, but I applaud him for his exceptional honor and integrity. If only Andrew Sullivan had half his sense of honor.

Read the whole thing and see what I mean.

An Initial Observation re: Palin's Speech

The crowd loves her, absolutely loves her. That can't be faked.

If enough Americans who aren't delegates to the Republican Convention end up feeling the same way about Governor Palin, I suspect we are seeing a national political star being born here.

I'm still boggled

Well, I've been kind of quiet because I really try not to rant, and I haven't trusted myself not to.

I don't dig smears. I don't like personal attacks. And I have seen very little except hysterical smears and personal attacks on Governor Sarah Palin, especially since Saturday.

My initial impression is that I like the woman, and we'll see she if she shows herself worthy of McCain's faith in her over the next 60-odd days until the election.

But this sort of sewer politics turned my stomach when Republicans afflicted with Clinton Derangement Syndrome engaged in it, and it turns my stomach no less when Democrats afflicted with Palin Derangement Syndrome engage in it.

By all means, have at her with tough, probing questions about Governor Palin's policies, Governor Palin's ideas, Governor Palin's qualifications to be Vice President. But please leave the rest of her family out of it, especially her minor children, even Bristol.

More soon, after her speech. For what it's worth, I believe the expectations could not be lower for her speech, so I think she'll benefit from that and nail it. We'll see.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

An Open Letter to Andrew Sullivan

I sent this to Mr. Sullivan via email, and wanted to share:

Dear Andrew,

I am writing you again for the second time in as many weeks.

First, I would love you to vet your candidate, Senator Obama, about whom you at least candidly admit you can longer be objective, as thoroughly and aggressively as you have been going after Governor Palin.

Second, you have the gall to still demand medical records showing that Trig is Governor Palin's child? Even when the record now shows Bristol, Trig's putative mother, was getting pregnant around the same time Trig was born in April? Are you seriously alleging that Bristol gave birth to one child, had it covered up with the "Gov. Palin gives birth to Downs baby" story, and then got busy making another one?

What next? Are you going to follow this up by demanding, as per the whisper campaign in South Carolina's 2000 Republican primary, that the McCains present their adoption papers for Bridget (their Bangladeshi daughter) to prove without a shadow of a doubt that she wasn't a black child of McCain's born out of wedlock?

As a Democrat who was with you for Kerry in 2004, I am saddened because you have truly descended into the sewer out of your zeal for your candidate Obama, who has just as many questions of experience, competence and character as you repeatedly allege Governor Palin to have.

If you had ripped Obama with as many vicious low-blow allegations over his complicated past associations, I could at least see you as being even-handed in your sewer tactics.

That is not remotely the case, alas. I will leave you with some final thoughts:

1) In the name of evenhandedness, will you at least call Obama a former state senator, since your preferred way of referring to Gov. Palin is as ex-mayor of a tiny Alaskan town. If we're going to demote people to the previous level on their resume, we might as well be consistent across the board. So McCain can become former Congressman McCain, and Biden can become... what did he do before becoming a Senate lifer anyway?

2) I look forward to your equally obsessive and probing contrasting of Obama's claims to be a reformer with the fact that he's been since his first political foray a member in good standing of the corrupt Daley dynastic machine in Chicago, replete with his connections to the money-man/fixer of said machine, Tony Rezko, now awaiting sentencing for his felony convictions.

3) What will happen when Obama inevitably disappoints you, as Bush has?

I truly feel you have gone beyond the pale here, and it saddens me because I have long felt that, while you definitely get passionate about what you believe, there have always been certain lines of propriety and respect you would not cross in your writing -- no matter how incensed you got. I believe that no more.

Very truly yours,

Thunderheart (note: not my real name)

Monday, September 1, 2008

A Fellow McCain Democrat

A former top supporter and fundraiser for Hillary Clinton, John Coale, puts it very well indeed:
I think John McCain basically is what Obama says he is and what Obama is not
I've been arguing the same thing, though not quite so simply and eloquently.

Here's the rest on video!

Hat Tip: Hot Air