Friday, June 30, 2006

The Top Three Contenders Tossed from Tour de France

The Tour de France, which gets underway tomorrow, is a wide open race.
Ivan Basso, Jan Ullrich and Francisco Mancebo, who finished second, third and fourth behind Lance Armstrong last year are all out after being implicated in a doping investigation. Reuters has the story:
The doping scandal erupted last month after the Spanish Civil Guard raided a number of addresses to find large quantities of anabolic steroids, laboratory equipment used for blood transfusions and more than 100 packs of frozen blood.
Earlier on Friday, ASO announced it was in possession of a list of more than 50 riders involved in the probe after being handed a 37-page document by the Spanish Cycling Federation.
OLN commentator Phil Liggett points out that the three top riders are out based on a decision on the part of all 21 teams that no rider implicated in the investigation wouldn't race:
Guilty by implication rather than any solid proof, the three riders have all denied any association with the drugs bust five weeks ago which was known to Spanish police as Operacion Puerto. There names appear on an official list sent to the Tour organizers late on Wednesday.
Tour de France organizers called a meeting yesterday morning with all 21 teams taking part and as a result earned a unanimous decision from the team managers that any name on the list would be withdrawn from the team without a replacement possible.
International cycling may the most closely policed sport on the planet. (Imagine Major League Baseball agreeing to bench any player implicated in steroid use.) In the Tour de France, every daily stage winner is required to provide a sample. (Imagine Barry Bonds being tested after every home run.) As for the stringency of the testing, the test for EPO doesn't detect the substance itself but relies on subtle analysis of the rider's red blood cell count. Despite the seemingly endless speculation, Lance Armstrong can fairly claim to be the most tested athlete in the history of sports.
So who's left?
The top U.S. riders are considered to Floyd Landis (Phonak), Levi Leipheimer (Gerolsteiner) and George Hincapie (Discovery Channel) who rode with Lance Armstrong on every one of his seven victories.
Yaroslav Popovych and Paolo Salvodelli, also of Discovery Channel, are considered genuine contenders as well. The team is giving all three the green light to compete in the general classification until one of them clearly establishes himself as the team leader.
Alexandre Vinokourov (Wurth), Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears) and Cadel Evans (Davitamon-Lotto) are also considered contenders.
The race covers 2,267 miles in 20 stages over three weeks.

Financial Analysis Confirms the Economic Value of Recycling

The News Journal today published an oped I wrote about the financial benefits of recycling in Delaware. Here is the piece in a somewhat extended version:
Conventional wisdom declares that recycling, while a nice idea for reducing landfill accumulation, is hard to justify in terms of the costs. But financial analysis of the projected need to invest in landfill expansion and construction leads to the conclusion that that increasing the recycling rate in Delaware would create significant economic benefits.
Analysis I conducted for the Citizens Solid Waste Task Force reveals that a relatively modest investment in a recycling facility would make it possible to postpone the projected expansion and eventual replacement of Cherry Island landfill. Using present value analysis, a standard tool of finance in which all costs and revenues are expressed in today’s dollars, I have calculated the net capital savings created by building a $4.7 million recycling facility to be $22 million.
My analysis uses figures from the report that Michael McCabe and Associates prepared for the Delaware Solid Waste Authority (DSWA). The McCabe report estimates that achieving recycling 40% of municipal solid waste would make it possible to postpone the Cherry Island landfill expansion from 5 years to 8 years. Further, a 40% diversion rate would make it possible to postpone the need to build a new landfill from 20 years to 33 years.
The DSWA estimates the cost of expansion of the Cherry Island landfill to be $66 million. Using present value analysis, the benefit of postponing this expenditure from 2010 to 2013 is calculated to be $6.6 million.
The cost of a new landfill to replace Cherry Island is estimated to be $106 million, though I have been told the eventual figure could be much higher due particularly to land acquisition costs. The present value of postponing the construction of a new landfill from 2025 to 2038 is calculated to be $20.0 million.
The combined present value benefit of postponing these capital expenditures is $26.6 million—far greater than the relatively modest cost of a recycling facility of $4.7 million.
Are these numbers too optimistic? The DSWA estimated that the recycling facility required to achieve 40% diversion would be $8.2 million, which is still far less than the benefit achieved by slowing the accumulation of trash at Cherry Island. If a recycling facility creates net revenue (estimated to be $1.8 million annually in one study cited by the McCabe report), the benefits would be greater.
What about building a waste-to-energy facility? Cost estimates of a facility that would achieve 40% diversion are hard to come by, but the capital cost is likely to be $100 to 200 million—20 to 40 times that of a comparable recycling facility. With such a large capital outlay, a waste-to-energy facility would have to generate revenues on the order of $10 million to 20 million annually to break even.
Here again, financial analysis tools can guide us. When facing a decision between a modest capital investment and a large capital investment, the magnitude of the risk must be considered. The enormous financial risk associated with a waste-to-energy facility should caution us against moving hastily in that direction.
In contrast, the relatively modest investment required to achieve 40% recycling further underscores the strategic advantage of recycling as a cost-effective alternative to our present course.
There is an emerging consensus that we cannot continue to landfill our trash at the present rate, and that we should be recycling much more of our solid waste stream. It is becoming increasingly clear that recycling is the most cost-effective way to alleviate Delaware’s solid waste burden.
The McCabe report is available online at, where you will also find the report from the state’s Solid Waste Management Technical Working Group recommending increasing Delaware’s recycling rate. You can get a copy of the Citizens Solid Waste Task Force by contacting Common Cause of Delaware at (302) 521-0394
or by e-mail at

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Mike Gets a Life

Mike at Down With Absolutes! has been tapping the keys since April of 2004, which makes him one of Delaware's senior bloggers. Yesterday, he let us know that he's decided he needs a life:
My blog has been quite inconsequential of late. I’ve got other things going that are severely interfering with my ability to entertain you deviants. I’m not going bye-bye; just taking a bit of a break…as if any of you will notice. I’ve been posting quite poorly these past couple of weeks and I’m afraid my inspiration has gone by the wayside. Perhaps I need more Haagen-Daaz (screw the umlaut) coffee ice cream.

The Freedom Tower, Back from the Drawing Board

When presented a year ago, the design for the Freedom Tower at Ground Zero was roundly criticized here and elsewhere for its fortress-like base.
As reported in the
NYT, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill have unveiled a redesigned base that dispenses with the oppressive blank metal wall in favor of a 187-foot-high pedestal made of prisms of translucent glass.
It's an improvement, but I'm still skeptical by the notion that our cities can be rendered bombproof without losing too much of the street life that make urban living worthwhile. What would Jane Jacobs think?
Illustration: Skidmore, Owings & Merrill

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

SWIFT-Boating the New York Times

George Bush and Dick Cheney are said to be fuming that the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and the Los Angeles Times published stories last week that SWIFT (the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication) is cooperationg with a CIA program to track bank accounts to identify terrorist funds.
I didn't think it was news. As
Dan Froomkin in the Washington Post and Keith Olbermann on Countdown have pointed out, the organization makes no secret of it's cooperation with government authorities, as described on its compliance statement, which is of course published on the Internet:
SWIFT has a history of cooperating in good faith with authorities such as central banks, treasury departments, law enforcement agencies and appropriate international organisations, such as the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), in their efforts to combat abuse of the financial system for illegal activities.
Republicans in the House of Representatives plan to spend the day on a resolution condemning the leaking of the information, although President Bush had mentioned repeatedly since 9/11 that the government is tracking terrorist funds. It hasn't escaped my notice that although three newspapers printed stories on the program, Republicans have singled out the New York Times for leaking news of the program.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

In Virginia, Jim Webb Refuses to be Swift-Boated

Jim Webb, who served in Vietnam, doesn't support the constitutional amendment to ban flag-burning. When Senator George Allen criticized Webb's position, Webb fired back:
“While Jim Webb and others of George Felix Allen Jr.’s generation were fighting for our freedoms and for our symbols of freedom in Vietnam, George Felix Allen Jr. was playing cowboy at a dude ranch in Nevada. People who live in glass dude ranches should not question the patriotism of real soldiers who fought and bled for this country on a real battlefield,” [Webb campaign spokeman] Jarding said.

Big Money Squandered in Katrina Relief Effort

Paint chips scattered on the floor? No, this is a picture of roughly $400 million worth of mobile homes sitting unused on an Arkansas airfield.
Previous reports on fraud in the Katrina relief effort focused on the misuse of the $2,000 debit cards distributed to victims. The misuse of the debit cards made for some good press, but that was nickles and dimes compared to the real money that was lost in the confusion.
The New York Times reports that much bigger sums -- totaling as much as $2 billion -- were lost to bureaucratic bungling or brazen fraud.
First the bungling:

There are the bureaucrats who ordered nearly half a billion dollars worth of mobile homes that are still empty, and renovations for a shelter at a former Alabama Army base that cost about $416,000 per evacuee.
The $7.9 million spent to renovate the former Fort McClellan Army base in Anniston, Ala., included fixing up a welcome center, clinic and gymnasium, scrubbing away mold and installing a protective fence between the site and a nearby firing range. But when the doors finally opened, only about 10 people showed up each night, leading FEMA to shut down the shelter within one month.
The mobile homes, costing $34,500 each, were supposed to provide temporary housing to hurricane victims. But after Louisiana officials balked at installing them inland, FEMA had no use for them. Nearly half, or about 10,000, of the $860 million worth of units now sit at an airfield in Arkansas, where FEMA is paying $250,000 a month to store them.

As for the fraud:
A hotel owner in Sugar Land, Tex., has been charged with submitting $232,000 in bills for phantom victims. And roughly 1,100 prison inmates across the Gulf Coast apparently collected more than $10 million in rental and disaster-relief assistance.
All of this points to a lack of financial controls in a floundering agency that was woefully unprepared to manage a recovery effort of this magnitude.
Photo: Robert King/Polaris

Monday, June 26, 2006

A Lack of Urgency on Lobbying Reform

Last winter, the reaction to the Abramoff scandal seemed to galvanize Congress to act, and quickly. As the Washington Post reports, the sense of urgency has dissipated:
Six months later, the legislation has slowed to a crawl. Along the way, proposals such as [House Speaker Dennis] Hastert's that would sharply limit commonplace behavior on Capitol Hill have been cast aside. Committee chairmen once predicted the bill would be finished in March, but the Senate did not pass its ethics bill until March 29 and the House passed its version May 3. The House has yet to name negotiators to draft the final package.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

In New Jersey, a Political Hatchet Job Backfires

The default mode for big media is to report that politician A said X and politician B said not-X, even when one of the politicians is clearly at variance with the facts.
Which makes today's story in the New York Times about Thomas Kean Jr.'s attacks on the integrity of Robert Menendez so remarkable:
In particular, Mr. Kean said that Mr. Menendez had distorted his own role in the political corruption of Union City, the Hudson County community where Mr. Menendez came to public life 30 years ago as a protégé of an old-fashioned political boss, William V. Musto.
Mr. Kean said that while Mr. Menendez now poses as a brave truth teller who helped topple a regime of political crooks, he had actually issued $2 million in public money to a corrupt contractor "as part of a massive illegal kickback scheme." Had Mr. Menendez not cooperated with prosecutors, aides to Mr. Kean said, he might have gone to jail himself.
To a depth unusual for events that are decades old, the Kean campaign's accusations can be measured against a robust historical record — including F.B.I. tapes and volumes of trial testimony — of a roiling human and legal drama between 1978 and 1982 in Union City.
The Kean accusations find no support in those records or from independent authorities of that era.
Menedez was appointed to the Senate by governor John Corzine to fill his unexpired term. Kean, son of the popular ex-governor, has said that Menendez testified against a corrupt political boss to save his own skin. That turns out not to be that case:
Contrary to the central accusation made by the Kean campaign, the prosecutors all say that Mr. Menendez never had to bargain his way out of trouble in that case by testifying.
Richard L. Friedman, the former prosecutor who questioned Mr. Menendez in court and before the grand jury, said that he had taken risks to tell the truth.
"I thought he was very gutsy and courageous, because he stood up to Musto," Mr. Friedman said. "There certainly was never any deal, or any need for a deal. Menendez just testified truthfully. By the way, I have nothing against Kean. I don't know anything about how Menendez turned out."
Menendez, who got his first public job thanks to Musto's political patronage, later turned against his patron because of the corruption he had witnessed:
On an evening in January 1981, a few months before the indictments, Mr. Menendez convened a civic group he headed in the Italian Community Center in Union City. There, his group announced that it would oppose the re-election of Mr. Powers, whom Mr. Musto favored.
The night was memorable not for the political endorsements, but for a searching talk given by Mr. Menendez. He spoke about the nature of loyalty, pointedly not mentioning Mr. Musto, but invoking their father-son relationship.
"A son who sees his father continuously drinking in excess is much more loyal when he disobeys his request to go to the liquor store and buy more alcohol," Mr. Menendez said that night. "True loyalty is not what is convenient, but what is right. True loyalty can direct, correct and protect an individual from a dangerous course."
The attacks from the Kean campaign may backfire. In the attention Kean has brought on the events from 28 years ago, Menendez comes across as a gutsy and principled guy.

Joe Biden's Putdown of Dick Cheney

Via Atrios, we have this comment from Joe Biden on Wolf Blitzer's show on CNN:
DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The worst possible thing we could do is what the Democrats are suggesting, and no matter how you carve it, you can call it anything you want, but basically, it is packing it in, going home, persuading and convincing and validating the theory that the Americans don't have the stomach for this fight.
BLITZER: All right. You want to respond to the vice president, Senator Biden?
BIDEN: No, I don't want to respond to him. He's at 20 percent in the polls. No one listens to him. He has no credibility. It's ridiculous.
Atrios's take on Biden:
That's a good response from Biden, and it's the same response Democrats should be making not just for anything that comes out of Dick Cheney's mouth but anything which comes out of George Bush's mouth.
Way to go Joe.
BushCheneyRove have been spouting the same nonsense for more than four years now, and it's getting old. What's changed is not the country's collective stomach for a fight, but the country's stomach for this fight--a fight they chose for us and has little to do with the forces that attacked us in 2001, WMDs or any credible threat to the United States.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Harriet the Tortoise Dies at Age 176

She used to hang with Charles Darwin, who seemed confused about her sexuality, calling her Harry.
As the
TimesOnline reports, Harriet the tortoise died at the age of 176:
SHE visited three continents, inspired Darwin’s theory of evolution and made it into the record books, yet for more than a century everyone thought she was male. Harriet, the world’s oldest tortoise, has died in an Australian zoo, aged 176.

Friday, June 23, 2006

"Weapons of minor discomfort"

Thus Keith Olbermann describes the so-called WMD's Rick Santorum hyped this week. Reportedly, the contents of the obsolete shells would create a mild burning sensation if applied directly to the skin.
Jonathon Alter of Newsweek described Santorum's stunt as "a pathetic hail Mary pass."

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Delaware Raises the Minimum Wage

The Washington Post reports that Republicans in the U.S. Senate resorted to the filibuster to block an increase in the minimum wage:
The Senate has rejected 11 attempts to raise the minimum wage since 1998, according to a legislative history compiled by Democrats. House Republican leaders indicated this week that they would not allow a vote on the issue this year.
As the News Journal reports, the Delaware Senate did better:
On a 16-5 vote, the Senate sent to Gov. Ruth Ann Minner a bill to raise the minimum wage to $6.65 an hour on Jan. 1 and to $7.15 an hour a year later. Minner said Wednesday that she will sign the bill.
Sen. Robert I. Marshall, D-Wilmington West, called Senate Bill 62 "a bread and milk bill" that will help people at the bottom of the wage scale cope with rising costs.
Back in Washington, the Republican House leadership doesn't plan to let the issue come to a vote. According to the Post, some GOP lawmakers think they should:
Rep. Ray LaHood (R-Ill.), who supports an increase, said he thought a House vote was inevitable. Blocking it in a volatile political environment would look "pretty silly," LaHood said, adding, "Why not be the party that has a little bit of heart and cares about ordinary people?"
Why not, indeed?

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Support for FDR Didn't Drop During the Battle of the Bulge

On Monday I took note of, and exception with, White House press secretary Tony Snow's assertion that polls would have shown a drop in support for FDR during the Battle of the Bulge:
If somebody had taken a poll in the Battle of the Bulge, I dare say people would have said, wow, my goodness, what are we doing here?
Josh Marshall at TPM managed to get his hands on some polling from WW2, which shows that Snow hadn't done his homework:
As you can see, there was no downtick in public support for the war around the time of the Battle of the Bulge. Approval for President Roosevelt's conduct of the war continued at around 70% where it had been for years. The number of people who said they had a clear idea of what the war was about was at about the same level and appears to have been rising.

Delaware Voters Like Biden and Carper

Survey USA has released its monthly ratings of all 100 U.S. senators. Delaware's senators enjoy favorability ratings of better than 2 to 1:
Biden: 64% favorable, 31% unfavorable
Carper: 62% favorable, 27% unfavorable
Meanwhile, Joe Biden has introduced an amendment to the FY07 Defense Authorization bill that would prohibit the establishment of permanent bases in Iraq. Maybe the issue isn't when, but whether we ever leave.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Update: Challenging BushCo on Mercury Emissions

Gasses disperse. Mercury lingers.
This is why emissions trading, which makes sense for gasses that affect large areas, does not make sense for mercury.
The News Journal reports that Delaware is among the states that are challenging the EPA's decision to allow trading of mercury emissions:
Delaware environmental officials, along with their counterparts in 15 other states, on Monday resumed their federal court challenge of the Environmental Protection Agency's new mercury pollution rules.
In addition to challenging BushCo's plan, DNREC is stepping in to regulate mercury directly:
James D. Werner, Delaware's director of air and waste management, said Monday the federal mercury "cap and trade" plan was "simply not acceptable."
The latest action comes two weeks after Delaware environmental officials announced a state proposal aimed at cutting mercury emissions. A draft regulation is scheduled for release by September.
Werner said he hopes to have the state rules in place by November. If adopted, the state plan would likely prevent the less stringent federal plan from going into effect in Delaware.

As noted here last September, the U.S. Senate failed to defeat the EPA regulation by a vote of 51 to 47.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Tony Snow's Lack of Grasp of History

White House Press secretary Tony Snow demonstrated his lack of understanding of U.S. history when he offered these comments last night on CNN:
If somebody had taken a poll in the Battle of the Bulge, I dare say people would have said, wow, my goodness, what are we doing here?
I think Americans--then and now--are smarter than Tony Snow understands.
The Battle of the Bulge, which represented Nazi Germany's last counterattack, began 1,102 days after Pearl Harbor. It had been only 193 days after allied forces landed at Normandy.
In contrast, it has been 1,742 days since 9/11 and 1,145 days since Mission Accomplished Day.
It has been a year since Dick Cheney declared that the insurgency was "in the last thoes."

U.S. Embassy's Downbeat Assessment from Iraq

Someone leaked a cable from the U.S. Embassy in Iraq to the Washington Post:
Hours before President Bush left on a surprise trip last Monday to the Green Zone in Baghdad for an upbeat assessment of the situation there, the U.S. Embassy in Iraq painted a starkly different portrait of increasing danger and hardship faced by its Iraqi employees.
Here's the top of the cable:
It really is sad and much different from the upbeat assessment we got last week from President Bush.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Campaign Advertising Bloopers

Ferris Wharton isn't the only high-profile candidate for office who is stumbling on his own campaign advertising. His "Beau's Not Ready" radio spots and Website have brought positive attention to Biden's resume and raised question's about whether the state GOP couldn't benefit from some adult supervision.
Joe Lieberman's "bear cub" ad attacking Ned Lamont is inexplicable. (See it here on YouTube.) The ad uses cheesy cartoon footage to portray Lamont as a tool of former Senator Lowell Weicker, whom Lieberman defeated in 1988. This inane production, which features squeaky amateur voices and cheesy images, hardly adds luster to the three term senator's image.
What is most remarkable is that Lieberman is trying to make Weicker an issue in the campaign 18 years later. (Quick quiz: Do you remember who lost the election for senator in Delaware in 1988?)
Josh Marshall offers this review:
It's not even that it's mean. It's just too silly and stupid to believe.
Meanwhile in Montana, Senator Conrad Burns has put out a TV spot questioning the authenticity of Jon Tester's crewcut. I am not making this up. The Great Falls Tribune reports that the National Republican Senatorial Committee aired TV and radio spots on Tester's haircut:
Earlier this week, the NRSC released both a television and radio ad centered on Tester's trademark buzz cut. Both are set in a fictional barbershop and feature the punch line: "Conservative haircut. Liberal values."
Shortly before the primary, Tester's campaign released a commercial titled "Creating a Buzz" that featured Tester's barber, Bill Graves of Riverview Barbershop.
Graves said that Tester is hitting back with yet another commercial, filmed Thursday in his shop.
"I was fairly mad when that (Republican) ad came out," said Graves, 70, who has been a barber for 40 years.
"That guy in the ad isn't a barber. He's an actor and he's never touched Jon Tester's hair," said Graves. He said that he is the only person who has cut Tester's hair in the last 15 years, except for his 22-year-old granddaughter, Megan McKiernan, and a barber in Havre.
But here's the thing that really frosted Graves.
The Republicans' radio ad features the "barber" saying, "didn't leave much of a tip, either." The TV ad goes a step farther: "Didn't leave a tip, either."
However, Tester does tip, said Graves.
"Oh, yeah ...He's very generous," he said.
Jon Tester has made good use of his haircut. His TV spot "Creating a Buzz" pictures him in his barber's chair and taking the measure of other Montanan's buzz cuts. By the end of the 30-second spot we see Montanans flocking to the barber shop, where Tester embellishes the obligatory tagline:
I'm Jon Tester, and I approve this message. I approve the haircut too.
One candidate who is not likely to suffer from an advertising faux pas is Eliot Spitzer, who, the New York Times reports, unknowingly used footage of the Canadian side of Niagara Falls in a television spot:
The opening shot of Eliot Spitzer's latest television advertisement pans across Niagara Falls. The narrator asks: "Remember New York? The New York that all roads led to?"
The ad was meant to evoke the greatness of New York in the past and how Mr. Spitzer could restore that splendor.
But there was one little problem — the falls pictured in the commercial were on the Canadian side.
Spitzer has an overwhelming lead in the race for governor, and this small mistake is hardly likely to hurt him.
Soon enough we will be barraged to the mind-numbing negative ads featuring the unflattering grainy images of opponents and alarmist voice-overs. But until then we can enjoy the spectacle of politicians hell-bent on making themselves look like idiots.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Wes Clark and the Scientific Method

Wes Clark has been talking about the importance of science to modern society and our national character. WesPAC has the transcript of General Clark's remarks on science to the YearlyKos convention:
You know, science is the lifeblood of our civilization. It's what has made the modern world possible. It's why the planet supports six billion people and not several hundred million. it's what has distinguished this modern age. It has tremendous benefits, and that carries with it tremendous responsibilities and risks.
Religious conservatives who claim that our country was built on the piety of our founding fathers are missing half of the story. Our founders displayed more than their share of pragmatic curiousity that is the scientific method:
We were pragmatists by nature...Ben Franklin was our first, one of our first notable scientists, taming lightning in a bottle brought down from the sky, understanding for the first time, proving that lightning was this magical thing called electricity.
But this rational, pragmatic strain in American thought is under attack:
And today, I'm sorry to tell you, all that is at risk today. And the distinguished members of this panel are going into it in a lot more detain than than I will. They'll tell you about the cutbacks in basic research and science. They'll talk to you about the politicization of scientific findings, whether it's in the federal Food and Drug Administration or the office of the White House Science Advisor, whether it has to do with the Morning After pill or stem cell research or global warming. It is shocking that the political party that professed to believe in freedom and liberty is trying to impose it's political will on the province of science. It's absolutely turned its own principles in its head in the purest demonstration of political hypocrisy you can see in the American stage today. And that is the Republican Party.
This anti-rational strain is hardly new:
You know when I was growing up in Arkansas, everyone read about the Scopes trial in Tennessee in, in 19, 1924. And, and that was considered for the 1950s as the height of, of lunacy. And now, what do I find across my beloved South in the United States? I find teachers throughout the area who cannot use the dreaded 'E' word. I'm not talking about e-mail.
I'm talking bout E-volution. They can't use it. It's like they're (inaudible) a science teacher from my home state in, in a, in a newspaper, and he says, "Well, I got these rocks in the classroom, and I'm teaching science. And these rocks, they're, they're, they're pretty old, you know. They palea-" It's, it's, I don't know what, "Mesozoic rocks, you know 200, 300, 400 million years old," and so forth. He says, "But I can't say that in the classroom." They say, "Well, what do you say?" He says, "I say. "these rocks, they're very old."'
General Clark concludes by calling for a new era of scientific exporation:
There are whole worlds of knowledge waiting to be discovered in nano-science, in human science, in physics, in material science and in all of the applications that can make life better and safer and more convenient for all of us, but only if we open our eyes, only if we acknowledge the reality of the condition we're in, only if we beat back the challenges that come from well-meaning people of faith who argue against the very kind of exploration that God gave us the power to do. We have to take back our world and advance the frontiers of knowledge. That is our destiny.

Netroots Show Pragmatic Streak in Poll at MyDD

Further evidence that the netroots are not interested in driving the Democratic Party off an ideological precipice comes from BlogPAC's survey published at MyDD:

Why Don't I Feel Safer?

The News Journal reports that Governor Minner's hotline to the Department of Homeland Security is plagued by calls from telemarketers:
"I wonder about the security of that line," said Minner, noting that other governors have reported similarly unwelcome intrusions on the hot line phones that are supposed to ring only in the event of a national catastrophe.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Dana Calls the Election for Carper

You didn't realize Tom Carper is up for reelection this year? That's okay, the Republicans are hardly making our junior senator sweat. Dana at Delaware Watch reviews the latest round of sniping between Jan Ting and Michael Protack, who is determined to throw another monkey wrench into the state GOP's plans.
Based on his analysis, Dana gets the jump on the rest of us and
calls the election for Carper.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

In Virginia, James Webb's Victory Cheers the Netroots

More evidence that the netroots are not so much about supporting liberals as they are about supporting strong challengers comes from Kos:
So we've had two three high-profile contested primaries and won the last two -- Jon Tester in Montana and Jim Webb in Virginia. That can't bode well for Joe Lieberman as he fights to fend off the challenge from Ned Lamont.
Those (like The Bull Moose) who worry that the "Deanification and Kossackification" of the Democratic Party is driving the party to the left, take note: Webb, who served as Reagan's national security advisor, is as much about reaching out to moderates as he is about opposing the war in Iraq. As for Tester, his farmer's crewcut hardly marks him as a Deaniac.
The Ned Lamont/Joe Lieberman contest is the only one Kos mentions in which the netroots are supporting the clearly more liberal candidate. My read is that this primary challenge is not so much about a liberal taking on a moderate as it is about willingness (or lack thereof) to challenge the current Republican regime.
When Markos Zuniga singled out Mark Warner and Wes Clark for mention on NBC's Countdown Monday night, he wasn't driving the Party to the left. Warner and Clark are the two contenders most mentioned for their ability to reach out to the heartland. Their popularity among the netroots comes from their willingness to forthrightly challenge George W. Bush.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

The Urge to Purge

The instinct to purge the Democratic Party is foreign to me. The way to build a majority is to add to your numbers, which necessarily means tolerating, and even seeking, folks with different points of view.
Which is why I find it odd that some Democrats seem so intent on fighting with fellow Dems. The argument usually goes, "We would win elections if it weren't for so-and-so." We hear this from Deaniacs and DLCers alike, but I'm not buying it.
First, speaking from the progressive side, David Sirota voices his disappointment with Barack Obama in the current issue of The Nation:
Obama certainly talks a great game--but then, so have many false prophets over the years.
Sirota's religious tone makes me nervous. I'm not seeking prophets; I'm interested in political leaders who can win elections, build a governing coalition and, on a good day, speak to the better angels of our nature. Based on these criteria, Obama's okay with me. But Sirota faults Obama for not undertaking a more frontal attack on the system:
Obama carefully answered the question about how he wants to define himself: "The amount of publicity I have received...means that I've got to be more sensitive in some ways to not step on my colleagues." For those who see him as a bold challenger of the system, this may be disappointing. After all, it oozes deference to the Senate clubbiness that has killed many a populist cause.
In the centrist corner, The Bull Moose rails against the progressives:
Unfortunately, the Deanification and Kossackification of the Democratic Party continue apace. John Murtha (with likely support from Pelosi) seeks to split the party in a divisive race for Majority Leader even before the Democrats are in the majority. The anti-war forces are out to purge the most genuinely Trumanesque Democrat in the United States Senate.
And a gaggle of supposedly centrist Presidential wannabees flocked to Vegas to genuflect before a blogger convention that had as much to do with winning mainstream America as Paris Hilton does with winning the hearts of Focus on the Family.
I can heartily endorse the Moose when he calls on Dems to embrace the Clinton legacy. We won, we governed, and the country prospered. In his keynote to the Texas Democratic Party, Wes Clark wasn't embarrassed to mention Bill Clinton and the 22 million jobs that were created on his watch.
But I think he is unduly alarmed at the growing influence of the netroots. Yesterday, Markos Zuniga singled out Mark Warner and Wes Clark as the two potential candidates who impressed the YearlyKos gathering. Warner and Clark both hail from south of the Mason-Dixon line and are widely considered contenders who could reach voters who might not go for a Kerry or Dean.
As for the primary challenge to Joe Lieberman, it is worth noting that challenger Ned Lamont has pledged to support Lieberman if he emerges as the Democratic nominee:
Joe, let's both go to the Democratic primary on August 8th, and let the people of Connecticut decide. I'll pledge to back you one hundred percent if you win. And for the good of the party, you'll pledge to support me one hundred percent if I'm victorious. What do you say Senator?
It's a pledge I wish Lieberman would make--and a sentiment I wish all Democrats would voice.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Markos on Countdown

Markos of Daily Kos was just on Countdown talking about the growing impact of bloggers, underscored by the attention generated by YearlyKos. Four credible contenders attended; Markos specifically mentioned Mark Warner and Wes Clark as making a strong impression, which suggests that the netroots don't necessarily gravitate towards the most liberal figures.
Markos clearly is relishing the attention, saying:
"We want to be the mainstream."
Video streams from YearlyKos can be found here.
Meanwhile, back in the blogosphere, Kos is talking up the Democratic primary tomorrow in Virginia in which James Webb and Harris Miller race off for the right to return Senator George Allen to private life:
One of the main knocks against Webb is that he's a former Republican. And, in fact, a former Secretary of the Navy under Ronald Reagan.
Far from a bad thing, this is exactly what we want: Republicans realizing that if they truly want a better America they need to switch to the Democrats.
Here's what I wrote about Webb back in February:
And for those who are uncomfortable with former Republicans running as Democrats, here's how it works: When enough folks cross over from the other side to our side, we win.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

"When you pull a gun, kill a man."

So says Walter Brennan (left) as Ike Clanton in John Ford's classic My Darling Clementine, after Wyatt Earp (Henry Fonda) has neatly corralled Clanton's rowdy boys.
Oblivious to such advice, Delaware GOP executive director David Crossan is firing away with his pistol jammed in his holster. The GOP has gone negative against Beau Biden early in the campaign, setting up the Website, pushing a proposed contitutional amendment to make him ineligible to serve and running a negative radio spot, all to make the point that Biden lacks the experience to serve as attorney general.
The News Journal reports that Sussex County GOP chairman Bill Lee thinks going negative this early in the campaign is a mistake:
"At this stage, we should be all Ferris, all the time. The last thing we need to be doing is anything that increases Beau Biden's name recognition," said Lee, the party's 2004 gubernatorial candidate.
As a candidate, Ferris Wharton comes straight from central casting; he looks like Sam Waterston with sandy hair. Wharton is a career prosecutor who made his name putting Tom Capano in jail. (Bill Lee knows Wharton professionally; he was the judge in the Capano trial.)
The trouble with the attacks is that Beau Biden has a pretty decent resume himself, including clerking for a federal judge, a stint with the U.S. Justice Department in Kosovo and as a federal prosecutor, and an appointment in the Judge Advocate General's office in the Delaware National Guard. Biden may have the more famous name, but he is not as well known professionally, which is why the attention on his resume probably helps him.
Jack Markell knows something about neatly dispensing with opponents who go negative. He became state treasurer by beating Janet Rzewnicki after she had embarrassed herself with the most distasteful and inept negative attack in Delaware political history.
These ads just make it look like the Republicans are whining," said state Treasurer Jack Markell, a Democrat. "Politics in Delaware is usually about the quality of someone's ideas and this kind of campaigning could backfire on them."
The irony for Ferris Wharton, who reportedly approved the radio spots, is that he could end up looking like the clueless neophyte by allowing himself to be handled by a Karl Rove wannabe. Meanwhile, Crossan has his finger on the trigger, firing away:
Crossan said some senior Republicans, including members of the executive committee, have asked him to pull the ads, but he has no plans to do so.
Update: In a letter in today's News Journal, a certain Frank Noyes underscores how the GOP's negative campaign is backfiring by repeating some of Biden's work history:
Joseph "Beau" Biden III, the announced Democratic candidate, was admitted to practice in Delaware in 2002. However, he has been a practicing attorney for ten years, with over six years' experience as a federal prosecutor in the very busy Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

Friday, June 09, 2006

The Art of Science at Princeton

Princeton University's second annual Art of Science exhibition features some stunning images. My favorite is titled Lichen II:
The photographer, Amy Morton, describes the image:
This image was taken while travelling through the Bay of Fires in Tasmania, Australia. This is one of a series of granite outcrops along the Tasmanian coast that are sculpted by wind and water and colored with an unsually bright orange lichen.
This year's online exhibit includes video and sound as well as photography.

Zarqawi's Death: The Violence Will Continue

The Guardian reports Tony Blair's comments on the death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi:
Mr Blair told his monthly news conference the US air raid that killed Zarqawi - the leader of al-Qaida in Iraq - would severely damage the terrorist network.
"The death of al-Zarqawi is a strike against al-Qaida in Iraq and therefore a strike against al-Qaida everywhere," he said.
Symbolically, perhaps. But Osama bin Laden didn't even have a branch office in Iraq five years ago. Zarqawi has been described as a particularly bloodthirsty thug, but it's hard to see that his death in any way affects bin Laden's ability to strike elsewhere in the world.
And as for Iraq, the NYT reports that President Bush was careful to emphasize that the violence is likely to continue:
WASHINGTON, June 8 — In celebrating the killing of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi as a victory for Iraqis and Americans, White House officials were careful on Thursday to acknowledge that his death would not mean the end of the insurgency he had led.
The muted approach marked a departure from the triumphalism with which the White House has greeted some other major events in the war in Iraq. From the moment in the Oval Office on Wednesday afternoon when President Bush heard the first, tentative reports about Mr. Zarqawi's death, White House aides said he cautioned against jubilation.
"Zarqawi is dead," Mr. Bush said while speaking in front of the Oval Office portico, "but the difficult and necessary mission in Iraq continues. We can expect the terrorists and insurgents to carry on without him."

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

"We should not be in the business of trading a neurotoxin."

Trading emission allowances makes sense for carbon dioxide, which affects the entire planet. Trading allowances for heavy metals such as mercury does not.
The News Journal reports that DNREC understands the distinction and has decided to push ahead with a new program to reduce the most dangerous emissions from power plants:
"It's been our position since day one that we should not be in the business of trading a neurotoxin," said Ali Mirzakhalili, DNREC air-quality program manager.

Needed: More Crewcuts in the U.S. Senate

For those who think we need more crewcuts in the U.S. Senate, Jon Tester's big win in yesterday's Democratic primary in Montana offers hope.
This is what a national politcal strategy looks like.
Photo: Tom Bauer, Missoulian

The Attacks on Beau Biden Begin to Backfire

Not content to point out that Ferris Wharton has the edge in experience, the state GOP is generating a backlash with its aggressive anti-Beau Biden onslaught that includes the Website, a proposed contitutional amendment to make him ineligible to serve and a negative radio spot.
Over at Delaware Grapevine, Celia Cohen writes that the radio spot is generating a backlash among Republicans:
"Ferris Wharton is a great candidate, but help like this he doesn't need. Furthermore, Ferris is such a qualified candidate, he doesn't need to go negative in any way, shape or form. It could backfire big time," A. Judson Bennett, a Lewes Republican, wrote to his Coastal Conservative Network with its 3,800 e-mail addresses.
The embarrassment created by the negative campaign is compounded by the inability to find anyone willing to take responsibility for the spot:
It seems unclear exactly who authorized the spot. David A. Crossan, the Republican executive director, was involved in the initial discussions but was with his wife, who was having a baby, as matters proceeded.
Terry Strine, the state chair, said he was not hands-on for this one and would have preferred for the spot to be aired by an independent political organization and not the party operation, which has a broader responsibility than a single candidate.
The negative campaign could backfire in several ways. First, Beau Biden isn't unqualified; he actually has a respectable resume:
Since his graduation from Syracuse law school in 1994, Biden has clerked for a federal judge, worked for the U.S. Justice Department -- including a stay in Kosovo -- served as a federal prosecutor in Philadelphia and practiced law in Wilmington. He is also a JAG officer in the Delaware National Guard.
As more voters learn about his professional background, they will be turned off by the claim that he isn't professionally qualified. A high profile negative attack that lacks credibility tends to rebound against the attacker.
If the GOP were running ads claiming that Ferris Wharton is better qualified, that would be a different story. (For one campaign, I eschewed the argumentative phrase "better qualified" and used the euphemism "uniquely qualified" to describe my candidate.)
The nature of the attack could very well dull some of Wharton's luster as a career prosecutor. The vehemence of the attack on Beau Biden makes it harder for Wharton to portray himself as a career public servant, who has kept himself above the political fray. Either Wharton signed off on the negative strategy or he is allowing himself to be handled by anomynous political attack dogs.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Here's What I'd Like to Know

How in specific terms does allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry and create stable households hurt the marriages and family lives of hetreosexual couples?
And how specifically would the Marriage Protection Amendment make anyone's marriage stronger?
And couldn't the time of the U.S. Senate be put to more productive use?

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Yes, There Is a Difference

For those cynics who like to complain that there's no difference between Republicans and Democrats, MyDD points us to these results from the The American National Election Studies:
"Do you think there are any important differences in what the Republicans and Democrats stand for?"
No difference: 20%, the lowest figure in 52 years
Yes, a difference: 76%, the highest result in 52 years of polling.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Department of Homeland Security Puts Washington in "Low Risk" Category

From the Washington Post:
The Department of Homeland Security has ranked the District in a low-risk category of terrorist attack or catastrophe, putting it in the bottom 25 percent of U.S. states and territories, as part of a decision that will cost the city millions in anti-terror funds, according to city and federal officials.
And how could that be?
"From a risk perspective, even with all the things that the District of Columbia has versus a New York or a Florida or a California, it's a much different case," said Tracy A. Henke, assistant secretary for grants and training at DHS.
The department adopted new, risk-based procedures this year to divide $1.7 billion in 2006 anti-terror funding for states and cities.
And how well do this new procedures reflect the real world threats?
Although the District is home to the White House, the Capitol, FBI headquarters and many national monuments, it received a smaller state grant than Montana, Hawaii and Utah. Each of them received $4.5 million, as did Rhode Island.
Henke said the nation's capital ranked in the lowest 25 percent of states and territories in part because it competes with much larger jurisdictions, which have much higher numbers of "critical infrastructure" targets.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

New York and Washington Have Homeland Security Funding Cut

Have the terrorists even heard of Louisville? The New York Times reports that Washington, DC and New York City, the two cities actually targeted by Al Qaeda in 2001, had their homeland security funding cut:
WASHINGTON, May 31 — After vowing to steer a greater share of antiterrorism money to the highest-risk communities, Department of Homeland Security officials on Wednesday announced 2006 grants that slashed money for New York and Washington 40 percent, while other cities including Omaha and Louisville, Ky., got a surge of new dollars.