Thursday, June 02, 2005

Oil, etc. 

If I was in charge of the DNC or the Progressive Whatevers of America, as I've said, I'd try to frame ourselves around two issues: Unions (pronounced, say, Worker's Rights, or Workplace Equality, or something not so very socialist sounding)and fuel efficiency. Besides being easily marketable and demonstrable issues (you get laid off, gas tops $4 a gallon), they're also incredibly important to our well-being as Democratic Free Peoples on a Living Planet.

We've read much about Peak Oil and the End of Days and the Great Petroleum Crash, et al, et cetera. But now, ladies and gentlemen, skeptics and thieves, none other than Exxon-Mobil, the Granddaddy of them all, says it's happening right now.
Without any press conferences, grand announcements, or hyperbolic advertising campaigns, the Exxon Mobil Corporation, one of the world's largest publicly owned petroleum companies, has quietly joined the ranks of those who are predicting an impending plateau in non-OPEC oil production. Their report, The Outlook for Energy: A 2030 View, forecasts a peak in just five years.

[T]he public should heed the silent alarm sounded by the ExxonMobil report, which is more credible than other predictions for several reasons. First and foremost is that the source is ExxonMobil. No oil company, much less one with so much managerial, scientific, and engineering talent, has ever discussed peak oil production before. Given the profound implications of this forecast, it must have been published only after a thorough review.

With non-OPEC oil production reaching a plateau and frontier resources not viable, ExxonMobil proposes that increased demand be met in two ways. The first is greater fuel efficiency. (That alone should convey the seriousness of this report: When have you ever heard a petroleum company make a plea for vehicles that use less gas?) New cars in the United States are expected to go 38 miles on a gallon of gas in 2030, instead of the current value of 21 miles per gallon. This goal is actually quite modest, as new cars sold in Europe since 2003 already achieve 35 miles per gallon.

Ominous is saying it lightly. Most of the numbers I'd heard prior were involving collapse in something like 50 years. Exxon says 10. Ten!

Democrats, Greens, whomsoever may yet be formed as a potential power: get on the fuel efficiency train NOW. It will guarantee success for you in the short term and it may help save civilization.

(Cue dramatic music)


Sunday, May 29, 2005

Barak Bolts on Bolton 

There was a ray of hope, and reform-minded collusionists called it Barak Obama. He was, by turn, Martin Luther King, John F. Kennedy, and Michael Jordan all in one. A couple months later, he seems to be falling on the ambiguous side of a vital issue.
Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) broke ranks with the rest of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) this week by endorsing the bipartisan deal on judicial nominees aimed at averting the so-called “nuclear option.”

Some political observers see Obama’s decision as a move to the center, to the right of where the CBC has traditionally stood.

Barack Obama (D-Ill.), the Senate’s only member of the Congressional Black Caucus, voted for cloture but against Priscilla Owen’s nomination.

Obama, the only Senate member of the CBC, voted to end the debate on embattled judicial nominee Priscilla Owen on Tuesday, siding with the majority of his colleagues. That motion passed 81-18, with Democrats such as Sens. Barbara Boxer (Calif.), John Kerry (Mass.) and Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) opposing it.

Obama did vote against Owen, and members of the CBC do not seem too upset with his decision. I do not know that this necessarily spells the End of Hope; in fact I doubt it. As a freshman senator, Obama has to navigate hostile and confusing waters. He has to forge relationships and build stature. He has to, in short, play the game.

I don't agree with this filibuster agreement (the CBC statement says it sounds more like capitulation than a deal, and that sounds about right) and it would have been nice to see Obama stand against it, what with so many progressives in adament opposition. However, I doubt there are many faster ways for a first-term black senator to get the boot than to rebel against every majority piece of legislation, especially one marketed and sold as "bi-partisan."

We'll continue to watch your career with great interest, Mr. Obama. Great interest indeed.



In Florida, alligators have been known to eat dogs. There are insects the size of rats and the swelter can swallow men whole.

In Florida, football teams run up and down moonlit fields while latinas dance the forbidden dance in the streets.

Men with fishing hats, in Florida, catch fish and drink beer. Swamps rise and fall. Low rise pants, too. And cocaine is the state bird.

Florida, I've never seen you. Though I hope to make that literary journey some day across the bridges and seas of those famous southerly islands, to date all I know of Florida is oranges, stucco and sour politics.

Miami-Dade, County, Kingdom, center of controversy. To ensure the veracity of vote-counts everywhere, we modern American moderns stomped and demanded an Electronic Solution. A computer to interpret for us, in unambiguous terms, that which we could not interpret for outselves.

And they did install the machines, and critics did cry foul, and web sites were begun, and police did come, and radio talk hosts did defend and deny. And money was made. And now, Miami-Dade, oh cursed county, wants to go back to paper.
Miami-Dade County's elections chief has recommended getting rid of its A.T.M.-style voting machines, just three years after buying them for $24.5 million to avoid a repeat of the hanging and dimpled chads from the 2000 election.

The elections supervisor, Lester Sola, said in a memorandum on Friday that the county should switch to optical scanners that use paper ballots because voters were losing confidence in the paperless touch-screen machines and because those machines quadrupled Election Day labor costs.

Miami-Dade would be the first place in the nation to ditch the iVotronics machines for paper-based balloting, said Ken Fields, a spokesman for Election Systems & Software of Omaha, which makes the devices.

Mr. Sola said it would cost $9.4 million to $12.3 million to equip the county with optical scanners. The touch-screen machines will be used while the issue is decided, officials said.

Perhaps, if it's not yet legislated to be otherwise, more counties will have the sense of Miami-Dade and toss the ATMs for some good old finger flipping counting parties. So many problems remain and are predicted with the e-voting, that it seems to me more important to err on the side of caution to, you know, defend our most precious right. But then again, this is the Roman Age.


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