Friday, October 31, 2008

Yes We Carve

Republicans may find it scary, but what could be more American than a pumpkin carved with the image of your favorite presidential candidate? presents photos of pumpkins featuring the likeness or logo of Barack Obama.
Many show similar artistic skill, while others are charming in their amateur enthusiasm.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Gerald Brady and Tyler Nixon

Gerald Brady is my state representative. I have been a supporter of his for a long time, and worked hard to elect him two years ago. Gerald, pictured here with Jack Markell, is old school. He's the best retail politician I have ever seen in Delaware.
If you live in his district, he knows where you live, what you drive, where your kids go to school and who you supported over the last several elections. He loves the nuts and bolts of government, understands infrastructure and excels at constituent service.
Gerald's opponent on November 4 is Tyler Nixon, who is on the ballot as a Republican and a Libertarian. I am supporting Gerald, and predict that he will win with at least 60 percent of the vote.
There are many differences between the two candidates. I'd like to highlight two.
The first is Gerald's hearing aid bill, HB 355, which may seem like a small thing, but is a big deal for the families affected. The second is the ways they were engaged, or not, in promoting offshore wind power in Delaware.

Let's look first at the hearing aid bill, which Tyler Nixon, in this interview on Down With Absolutes, described as a "novelty bill"—as callow a remark as I have heard in politics in a long time.
The bill extends health insurance benefits to include hearing aids for those under age 24, which may seem like a minor matter. I assure you it is not a minor matter to the parents of a child with a hearing defect. About 3 to 4 of 1,000 children are born with a full or partial hearing impairment, which if undiagnosed or untreated can lead to a significant and often permanent learning deficit. HB 355 will help children avoid the need for remedial classes that in many cases could never overcome the damage done by an untreated hearing impairment. If Tyler Nixon wants to characterize HB 355 as a novelty bill, fine. Let him say it to one of the families affected.

I took a closer look at Gerald's legislative record. Eight of the 13 pieces of legislation he introduced were passed by both houses—a remarkable record for a first term representative, and proof of Gerald's work habits.
As for wind power, Tyler Nixon is fond of saying he's been for it since whenever. My question is, what did he do about it?
Despite my detailed knowledge of who did what in the wind power fight, I can't recall when Tyler showed up for a hearing or crossed the threshold of Leg Hall to push for the approval of the Bluewater Wind project. I have reviewed thousands of pages of reports, letters and testimony before the Public Service Commission and the General Assembly, and can't recall anything with his name on it. (If I overlooked something, I'm sorry.) I can't find any evidence of Tyler's advocacy, unless you're counting comments on blogs or calls to talk shows. Here's what I know about Gerald and Bluewater.

You may recall that Bluewater helped build support for the project by developing a close relationship with labor. This close, productive alliance between the environmental and labor movements was essential to the success of the Bluewater proposal.
Gerald, as executive director of the Delaware AFL-CIO, had a meaningful part in building that alliance. Gerald's boss, Sam Lathem, was an outspoken and effective advocate for the project. Bluewater was in constant contact with labor leaders, including Gerald, who did his part to nuture this alliance between Bluewater and labor which led to a commitment to use union labor to build and operate the wind farm.
Gerald didn't say much about the project in public (that's not his style), but he was on board from very early on. He consulted me frequently on the subject going back to early 2007. When the time came, he voted yes on HCR 38 without giving a speech and without hesitation.
The difference between Gerald, who said little but did his part, and Tyler, who said a lot but did little, could not be clearer.

Come November 4, Gerald will win a convincing and well deserved victory in the election in the 4th district. And I plan to be out there helping him. Any questions?

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

One Week to Go

It has been a long campaign. I have heard several times in the last day that it's hard to believe that we're only a week away. As the campaign grinds to its conclusion, I find myself pondering just how much Barack Obama has changed the political landscape.
I first had a sense that Obama could be a contender when
he drew a crowd of 15,000 on a rainy Texas day back in February of last year. When he followed that by raising $25 million in the first quarter of 2007, I and others began to think he might be a contender. Of course, that number seems modest in comparison to the $150 million he raised last month.
Barack Obama and Joe Biden have managed to confront the ugliness of the McCain/Palin campaign in two significant ways. They haven't allowed any nonsense to go unchallenged. Biden's brilliant response to idiotic questions of this local TV reporter should be studied by aspiring political operatives everywhere.
But even more importantly, Obama has sought to elevate the tone of the campaign, even when supporters wanted him to get tougher. We all remember
his soaring rhetoric at the Democratic convention in 2004:
Now even as we speak, there are those who are preparing to divide us -- the spin masters, the negative ad peddlers who embrace the politics of "anything goes." Well, I say to them tonight, there is not a liberal America and a conservative America -- there is the United States of America. There is not a Black America and a White America and Latino America and Asian America -- there’s the United States of America.
He kept it up when he accepted the Democratic nomination in Denver:
The men and women who serve in our battlefields may be Democrats and Republicans and Independents, but they have fought together and bled together and some died together under the same proud flag. They have not served a Red America or a Blue America - they have served the United States of America.
Do you remember the first debate? Critics pointed out that Obama said several times that he agrees with John McCain. Do you think that was by accident? I don't. I think Obama was showing himself to be a safe choice for president. If he's so radical, how can he agree with McCain on so many issues?
I would look for Obama to return to the theme of unity when he makes his closing argument to voters tomorrow night.
I expect the polls to tighten a bit in the coming week, as some undecideds reluctantly opt for McCain. I expect McCain and Palin to talk more about taxes and spreading the wealth, when their warring factions aren't arguing over who lost the election. I expect the turnout next week to far exceed the 122 million voters who came out in 2004. And I expect that Barack Obama will win on November 4.
But first, we have work to do. If you want to help out in Delaware or Pennsylvania, call the Delaware for Obama office at (302) 428-1615.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

The Financial Crunch and Wind Power

While I've been paying attention to political matters, I've been fielding questions about how the financial crisis could be affecting wind power projects. The News Journal today ran this Bloomberg story about possible delays for speculative wind power projects in Europe:
Offshore wind power projects in northern Europe, key to reducing carbon dioxide emissions, face delays because of a shortage of bank finance.
"Things are being delayed," Maartje van den Berg, a clean-technology analyst at Rabobank International, said in an interview Oct. 22. "We are involved in several projects that were close to financial close and they've just stopped. The banks are sitting and waiting for things to improve."
A reader last week asked how the financial meltdown could affect the Bluewater Wind project here in Delaware:
But I was wondering what your thoughts are on the possibility that Blue Water might run into financing difficulties due to the global economic implosion. After all, alternative energy projects are still considered high risk, and given the tightness of the credit markets, I could easily picture a financing problem either postponing or perhaps even killing a large wind power project such as the one Blue Water has planned for Delaware.
The Bluewater project is different from the European projects, which don't have the benefit of a long term power purchase agreement or PPA. Financing is much easier when investors see a secure revenue stream, as the Bluewater PPA provides. Fortunately, Bluewater won't need much of its capital right away. The Financial Times reports that parent company, Babcock & Brown, is looking for new investors:
Babcock & Brown on Thursday said it was in talks with unnamed parties, including private equity firms, about forming a “strategic relationship” amid concerns about its business model.
While it appears that B&B's overall corporate structure is under pressure, the B&B wind fund, which is separately listed on the Australian stock exchange, is profitable. Also, the PPA between Bluewater and Delmarva Power, with its contractual revenue stream, is in itself an asset. Whatever happens to B&B, I expect Bluewater to find the financing to build the wind farm.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Alan Greenspan and Roy Blount Jr.

Thursday, I offered a few thoughts on Alan Greenspan's mea culpa before Congress, in which he acknowledged that he was mistaken in thinking that derivatives didn't need any regulation. I expanded on the subject in the Guardian, and finished with this from the quotable Roy Blount Jr.:
One doesn't need a Nobel prize to know what brought about the collapse of this intellectual edifice. Humorist Roy Blount summed it up in a talk before an audience in Philadelphia earlier this week: "Money got too abstract, and that's why it went away".

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Alan Greenspan's Error

It really is the end of an era. The New York Times reports that former Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan has admitted that he may not be so infallible when it comes to unregulated derivatives:
Although he defended the use of derivatives in general, Mr. Greenspan, who left his post in 2006, told members of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform that he was “partially” wrong in not having tried to regulate the market for credit-default swaps.
One member of the panel offered a baseball metaphor:
The responses from the panel were met with little sympathy from Representative John A. Yarmuth, a Democrat from Kentucky, who likened the three witnesses to Bill Buckner, the former first baseman for the Red Sox whose notorious error cost his team the 1986 World Series.
“All of you let the ball go through your legs,” Mr. Yarmuth said, using Mr. Buckner’s mistake as a metaphor. “And you didn’t want to let the ball go through your legs, you didn’t try to let the ball go through your legs, but it got through.”
Congressman Yarmuth has it almost right. I would put it a bit differently. Instead, I would describe it as pulling the player from the field and letting the free market deal with the ball. Alan Greenspan's error was not missing the ball, but thinking he didn't need to pay attention to the ball in the first place.
Update: I have more on the end of the Greenspan error over at the Guardian.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


Yes Barack Obama is up in the polls, but haven't we been here before? Weren't we optimistic last time? MyDD has posted a useful comparison with 2004. This time four years ago, Bush led in three polls, Kerry led in two, and three others were tied.
The polls look good for Obama across the board, but I was particularly struck by
this breakdown from John Zogby:
Anything can happen, but time is running short for McCain. These numbers, if they hold, are blowout numbers. They fit the 1980 model with Reagan's victory over Carter -- but they are happening 12 days before Reagan blasted ahead. If Obama wins like this we can be talking not only victory but realignment: he leads by 27 points among Independents, 27 points among those who have already voted, 16 among newly registered voters, 31 among Hispanics, 93%-2% among African Americans, 16 among women, 27 among those 18-29, 5 among 30-49 year olds, 8 among 50-64s, 4 among those over 65, 25 among Moderates, and 12 among Catholics (which is better than Bill Clinton's 10-point victory among Catholics in 1996). He leads with men by 2 points, and is down among whites by
only 6 points, down 2 in armed forces households, 3 among investors, and is tied among NASCAR fans.

Tied among NASCAR fans? This really could be big.
I know; we can't get complacent. If you think Obama is going to win then perhaps you can find motivation in the nasty campaign being waged. Or perhaps the fact that McCain is still fighting in Pennsylvania will motivate you to keep working for the last two weeks. I know plenty of folks from Delaware who are heading up to Pennsylvania to volunteer.
50 percent plus one is enough to win an election, and the Electoral College map looks pretty strong, but we should be looking to do better than the minimum necessary. Should they win, Barack Obama and Joe Biden will have to govern, and a strong win would make that easier.
To get involved, you can visit the
Delaware for Obama web page or call (302) 428-1615.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

John Clatworthy's Negative Campaign

After years of working in the trenches in politics, I suppose I should have lost any lingering idealism from my starry-eyed youth. Still, I can't help lament the time when politics in Delaware was conducted with just a bit more class.
I don't think I'm too sensitive when it comes to rugged campaigning. But while I'm well versed in the none-too-gentle art of city politics, I don't remember learning that you can just make stuff up.
In the campaign for the 4th Senate district, Republican John Clatworthy seems comfortable doing just that in a campaign piece about his opponent, Democrat Mike Katz:
We already know that Katz wants to increase spending on virtually every government program...
Do we now? When asked how, the News Journal reports that Clatworthy offered a less than compelling defense:
Clatworthy said Katz had completed a survey and indicated he wanted to increase spending in several segments of government including education.
So when challenged on the truth of his campaign lit, "virtually every" became "several."
It's not just that Clatworthy's campaign (displayed here at DelawareLiberal) is so negative; it's also tacky. It has all the hallmarks of coming from an out of state consultant.
Of course, this is pretty tame stuff compared to the sewage coming out of the McCain/Palin campaign. I just hope this kind of crap doesn't take hold here in Delaware.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Charlie Copeland and the Challenge Program

Charlie Copeland has campaigned hard on his claim that he started or founded the Challenge Program, which teaches construction skills to at-risk youth. He has said so in his campaign material and repeated the claim as recently as last night in a television advertisement. The assertion is found on his campaign website:
In the late 1990s, Charlie co-founded the non-profit Challenge Program to provide vocational job training to at-risk youth in New Castle County. In the 13 years since the program has been in existence, dozens of disadvantaged youth have learned tangible job skills that are benefitting [sic] them as they go through life.
Copeland's Wikipedia entry, which reads rather like his campaign bio, repeats the assertion:
In 1997, 5 years before first deciding to run for public office, Charlie co-founded the Challenge Program, a Wilmington-based vocational-training program for at-risk youth in the city.
The program's website tells a somewhat different story:
The Challenge Program originated by offering small craft workshops to at-risk youth in 1995. Since then over 700 students have built and learned to paddle small boats at our Wilmington boat shop. Once a part of the Kalmar Nyckel Foundation, the Challenge Program obtained a separate 501(c)3 designation and a dedicated board of directors in 1999.
While it is true that he serves as the president of the board, the program had already been running for two years at the time Copeland claims to have founded it.
But I don’t have to refer to a couple of websites to refute his claim. I am personally familiar with the creation of the Challenge Program, which was founded in the 1990s by a good friend, and then Winterthur wood conservator, Mike Podmaniczky. I was working in city government at the time, and Mike came to me for advice on how to get started. The program was initially called The Challenge at Fort Christina, and was absorbed into the Kalmar Nyckel organization within a year or so before being once again spun off as a separate non-profit. A master craftsman was brought in to teach boat building as a way to develop carpentry skills.
I am pleased to see that the program has continued with Mike’s original vision of involving city youth in developing the craft of woodworking. They do stunning work, in contrast to the more usual practice of training folks to hang sheetrock.
Charlie Copeland can be commended for supporting the program and serving as board president. That’s what wealthy people should do in our society. But my friend Mike, who is still listed as a board member, deserves the credit as the true founder of the Challenge Program. Even the original logo, the sketch of a wooden boat frame, dates back to his creation of the program.
Charlie Copeland has made his role in the program a centerpiece of his campaign, particularly in the City of Wilmington. If Copeland said he simply led the program, I would not give the matter any thought. But his claim to have founded the Challenge Program doesn’t hold water.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Colin Powell and Barack Obama

Colin Powell's endorsement will have three important effects on the campaign.
First, and most immediately, it will shape the news for the next several days, and will interrupt the McCain campaign's message for the better part of the week. Beyond that, I can see the media repeating Powell's criticism of McCain's campaign, particularly on foreign policy and the pick of Sarah Palin, between now and election day.
Second, it reinforces the message that Obama is a safe choice for president. I can think of no more credible authority to deliver the message that Barack Obama is better qualified to lead the country.
Third, it helps Obama with military families in states like Virginia. Not all military families are supporting John McCain; more than a few are unhappy with the way the military has been used in the pursuit of neocon dreams, and don't want to see the same ideology expressed in a McCain presidency.
I don't think Obama will see a bump in the polls because of the endorsement; he's probably at close to the maximum of public support. I do think it will make it harder for McCain to gain back much ground in the two weeks remaining.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Spreading the Wealth?

Joe the Plumber's fifteen minutes has taken on the frenzy of a reality show crammed into two or three news cycles. But what are we to make of the underlying assertion that Barack Obama wants to take money from Joe and spread it around to the less deserving? As Joe Klein points out, it's an argument the Republicans have been using since time immemorial:
Again, these arguments have "worked" for a long time. The Democrats who got themselves elected President during most of my career were those most successful at playing defense: No, no, I'm not going to do any of those things! And so the first reaction of more than a few talking heads last night was that McCain had done better, maybe even won, because he had made those arguments more successfully than he had in the first two debates.
It's almost refreshing to hear this old stuff after weeks of crap about William Ayres and increasingly ugly shouts from GOP crowds. But will it work? Klein doesn't think McCain will get much traction from this line of attack:
He thought that merely invoking the magic words "spread the wealth" and "class warfare" he could neutralize Obama.
But those words and phrases seem anachronistic, almost vestigial now. Indeed, they have become every bit as toxic as Democratic social activist proposals--government-regulated and subsidized health care, for example--used to be. We have had 30 years of class warfare, in which the wealthy strip-mined the middle class. The wealth has been "spread" upward.
It's been a while since this argument has worked. Ronald Reagan was elected 28 years ago. Income tax rates were cut significantly in the 1980s and have never threatened to rise again to the levels seen in the bad old days.
Middle class incomes, which rose in the Clinton years, have declined since 2000. Instead of spreading wealth, we have seen it increasingly concentrated. With home values and retirement accounts dropping as well, it's hard to see voters switching back to McCain at this late stage in the campaign.
I do expect the polls to tighten a bit in the next two weeks for two reasons: First, there's the phenomenon of reversion to the mean, which put another way states that Obama's numbers can't go up indefinitely. Second, the McCain campaign can't get much worse, which means any plausible argument is likely to be an improvement over the chaos of recent weeks.
If McCain's number do improve, I expect that Republicans grasping at straws to exclaim that they have finally found a winning argument and bombard us with endless allusions to Joe between now and November 4.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Third Debate

Once again, I found that I tend to be too cautious in assessing the outcome of this season's debates. I thought John McCain was doing reasonably well, though a draw would not be enough for him.
But debate watchers again gave it to Barack Obama.
CNN's snap poll, voters thought Obama won by 58 to 31 to percent.
In CBS's poll, uncommitted voters found that Obama won 53 to 22 percent. The William Ayres nonsense didn't work for McCain. The percentage surveyed who thought Obama shares their values rose from 54 percent to 64 percent.
Obama wasn't rattled by McCain's attacks over Ayers or ACORN or John Lewis or letting babies die. When McCain brought up Ayres, Obama responded that it "says more about your campaign than it says about me."
Maybe pundits looking for excitement would prefer more sparks from Obama, but most Americans want someone who looks like he can deal with the country's problems. McCain used the word angry repeatedly in the opening minutes of the debate, but folks don't want an angry president.
Michael Grunwald of Time concludes that Obama "was cooler and clearer; he didn't laugh at his own jokes, and he didn't look like his head was about to explode."
Harold Meyerson of the Washington Post agrees:
John of the Grimaces met Barack the Unflappable in Hempstead tonight, and the guy with the arctic cool, not surprisingly, prevailed.
Now we know why Obama’s aides were goading McCain earlier this week to raise the Bill Ayres issue in the debate. They wanted to play McCain’s rage against Obama’s measured, judicious, statesmanlike, even a bit boring presidentiality. And McCain obliged them big time.
His colleague, David Ignatius sums up why Obama is winning:
What these debates have shown America is that Barack Obama, the skinny guy with the funny name, is a calm and coherent voice in a frightening time. He has been leaderly, reassuring, respectful of his opponent but tough in making his case. Let’s just say it: In the three debates, he has sounded presidential.
Barack Obama is winning the campaign for president because he again showed himself to be the stronger candidate.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Pat Gearity Calls Out Charlie Copeland

I'm not the only wind power advocate who hasn't forgotten Charlie Copeland's opposition to the Bluewater Wind project. Pat Gearity, who knows the record as well as anyone, reviews Copeland's efforts to kill wind power in today's News Journal:
Copeland is off mark with Bluewater claim
Former Senate Minority Leader Charles Copeland has been running a radio ad for his candidacy for the office of lieutenant governor. It says, "Charlie Copeland passed a law that's fair for taxpayers and brings wind power to Delaware to reduce energy costs." The ad implies Copeland led the charge for the Bluewater Wind (BWW) offshore project. The facts say otherwise.
In April 2006, Copeland voted against a law mandating a new energy resource in Delaware (H.B. 6). A year later, he told me Bluewater's project should not be financed by Delmarva Power customers.
In December Controller General Russ Larson was ready to vote on a Bluewater/Delmarva Power contract on behalf of the Delaware General Assembly. According to The News Journal, Copeland told Larson he had doubts about the contract. Copeland wanted to spread the charges to everyone in Delaware. By then, the municipal utilities had a contract to buy offshore wind. Between Delmarva Power customers and municipal utility customers, 90 percent of Delaware households were already slated to buy Bluewater's power. The remaining 10 percent of Delaware households were customers of Delaware Electric Cooperative (DEC). But the cooperative had long-term contracts for power through its parent, Old Dominion Electric Cooperative; they were not willing to contract with Bluewater. If adopted, Copeland's idea to force DEC to share cost for the Bluewater contract could have doomed the wind farm. Supporters of the project called Copeland's idea "a poison pill."
On April 23, Copeland cast the deciding third vote approving an anti-Bluewater report supported by Senate Energy and Transit Committee Chairman Harris McDowell. Two weeks earlier, The News Journal quoted Senate President pro tempore Thurman Adams as saying, "Probably the [Committee's] report will determine what will be done" in the Senate regarding the wind contract. Because Copeland voted "yes," the anti-wind report was titled "Majority Report," and was sent to the Senate.
On Aug. 8, The News Journal reported that Copeland defended his vote by saying he had to vote for the report so that it could be released publicly. This makes no sense. A draft of the McDowell report was leaked to The News Journal two weeks before the vote. The newspaper published key findings, including recommendations to reject the contract and terminate the bid process. Most of the report was unchanged in the final version.
Instead of voting for the McDowell report, Copeland could have supported a rebuttal report submitted by Senators Karen Peterson and Catherine Cloutier. Their analysis corrected mistakes and misleading calculations in the McDowell report. Their report was supported by filed comments from experts on offshore wind development and project financing.
Fortunately, Delmarva Power and Bluewater successfully negotiated a contract in June. Delmarva Power will buy one-half of the power that would have been provided by the original contract. Had the original, bigger wind contract been approved last December, ratepayers (not taxpayers) would have saved more money. Sharply escalating coal, oil and natural gas prices in 2008 proves the point. Also, unless the Public Service Commission says "no," Delmarva Power ratepayers will be billed for hundreds of thousands of dollars in negative ads run against Bluewater Wind from December 2007 to June 2008. Ratepayers will pay for the company's legal fees during the same period. Did Charlie Copeland save money for ratepayers? Not in my opinion.
Copeland's ad says he passed the law approving the wind contract. He had plenty of company. The bill passed unanimously in both chambers. The governor signed it into law the same day.
Charles Copeland voted against H.B. 6 in April 2006. A year later, he opposed the Bluewater Wind proposal. In December, he opposed the first wind contract. Six months later, Copeland voted for the second wind contract, but only after Delmarva Power approved it, 93 percent of Delawareans approved it, and Copeland had announced his candidacy for lieutenant governor. Charlie Copeland was no cheerleader for offshore wind. That is obvious from the record.
Patricia Gearity is one of many Delawareans who supported the offshore wind project. A retired lawyer, she volunteers her time advocating for clean, renewable energy.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Copeland's History of Opposition to Wind Power

Charlie Copeland would like voters to think that the fight to bring wind power to Delaware started and ended on June 25, when the General Assembly voted 62 to zero to approve a power purchase agreement between Bluewater Wind and Delmarva Power. When Matt Denn pointed out that he had opposed Bluewater Wind, Copeland asserted we should forget all that happened up to that final vote in the News Journal back in August:
"I was in favor of the Bluewater Wind vote on the floor of the Senate, so I wish he would start from ground zero and get things right."
Unfortunately for Copeland, the fight had been underway for nearly two years and the public was paying close attention. How do I know Copeland opposed offshore wind in Delaware? He said so, repeatedly and in public. Charlie Copeland opposed the Bluewater Wind project every step of the way until the compromise agreement was brought to a vote in June. For example, there is the letter that Copeland signed last year warning Controller General Russ Larson not to sign off on a wind power deal.
There is Copeland's statement opposing the process established under HB 6:
"We ought to let private investors compete against one another to get us the best price point and price stability. I think the marketplace would do that better than some regulatory regime," Copeland said.
There is the matter of Copeland's complicity in the hiring of D.C. litigator Randall Speck to cross examine PSC chair Arnetta McRae. Copeland admitted on the air that he knew of Speck's hiring a week before the Senate hearing at which McRae was blindsided.
And then there's the Senate Energy & Transit Committee report, which Copeland supported. The first draft of the report, which inconveniently for Copeland was widely leaked, was clearly intended to kill the Bluewater deal. The first recommendation reads:
(1) The Senate vote to instruct the Controller General to disapprove all of the long-term contracts proposed under the RFP Hearing...
You can't say it any plainer than that. The report included two other conclusions that, if adopted, would have killed the Bluewater deal and relegated Delaware to the back of the pack when it comes to approving offshore wind power:
(3) The General Assembly should consider adopting a fixed incentive similar to the approach implemented in New Jersey to stimulate competitive development of offshore wind generation resources.
(4) The General Assembly should consider forming by joint resolution, a task force to investigate the feasibility of a demonstration project for an offshore wind facility financially supported by the federal government and the states of Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, and Virginia.
If these had been adopted, Delaware would have had to start over and put taxpayer dollars on the table, when our state government clearly doesn’t have that kind of money, and wait for a task force report requiring agreement among four states and the federal government before even considering a demonstration project. I’ve been around government for a while, and I have never seen such artfully constructed delaying tactics—which by the way Copeland publicly advocated at the time.
In contrast to Copeland’s protracted opposition, Matt Denn was a consistent voice for wind power. For instance, when Delmarva Power asserted that we couldn’t afford wind power, he challenged the assertion in a letter to the relevant state agencies that got right to the point:
The state should not blindly rely upon the company that is the chief opponent of the Bluewater Wind project to calculate that project’s cost.
If you want more, kavips has a typically thorough recitation of Copeland’s opposition, including a reference to a lengthy and well researched piece last month in the New York Times Magazine. Charlie Copeland is hoping that voters will somehow forget his prolonged opposition to the Bluewater Wind project, despite the record to the contrary.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Kind Words

I've been pondering the gradual reduction in the number of comments posted on this site recently. Steve Newton of Delaware Libertarian offers a plausible explanation as part of his rant about the decline of blogging in Delaware:
Ironically, Tommywonk covers a lot of the same ground, but does it in his usual calm, intellectually honest fashion. Maybe that's why he doesn't get a lot of comments. These days, you've apparently got to fling shit far and wide in the DE blogosphere to get a conversation going.
There is little that compares to praise from those who hold different views. I don't measure the success of this little blog by the number of comments generated, but by whether my postings stand up a day, or a week, or a month, or a year later.

Friday, October 10, 2008

McCain's Scorched Earth Strategy

When after the Republican convention, Obama's poll numbers momentarily slipped behind McCain's, panicky Democrats urged him to get mad. He did precisely the opposite. He got calm. While critics derided his reserved demeanor and wondered why he didn't land any knockout punches in the first debate, Obama knew all along what that what he needed to do was not put on an entertaining fight but offer reassurance in troubled times.
In contrast, the McCain campaign is opting for a road show with all the dignity of a pro wrestling tour, sending Sarah Palin out to accuse Obama of "palling around with terrorists." Even Fox News has taken notice of the ugly tone the McCain/Palin rallies have taken:
You'll hear the booing behind me. In recent days, when Barack Obama's name has been mentioned, it has gone from boos and hissing to actual chants and calls of traitor, criminal, and even terrorist.
The McCain campaign says they don't condone it, they don't want to see it happen, but it's happening more and more every day.
Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight calls it "a sad denouement for what was to be a high-minded campaign focused around themes of honor and reform."
John McCain's campaign took on a darker tone when Steve Schmidt, an acolyte of Karl Rove's slash-and-burn politics took the helm of the fabled Straight Talk Express. John Heilemann writes in New York Magazine that McCain's handlers have lost the distinction between strategy and tactics:
The irony here is that, for so many months, the campaign being waged by Schmidt & Co. was viewed by the press as devious, sure, but deviously brilliant, delivering to McCain innumerable victories in the battle for the daily—and even hourly—news cycle.
McCain may have won some news cycles, but he is losing the contest of the meta-narrative—and with it, perhaps, the election."
What will it profit a candidate if he gains the news cycle and loses the election? It's hard to change voters' views when changing tactics so frequently. But the problem for the McCain campaign is even more fundamental.
David Kuo writes, "John McCain has no real idea why he should be president." McCain "knows that he has grueling contempt for his opponent" and "is a better, more tested man," but on policy "is intellectually, philosophically, and politically vacuous."
Voters who look at campaigns for clues as to how the candidates would govern, are not being reassured by McCain's increasingly angry demeanor. He could hardly bear to look at his opponent in the first debate, and dismissively referred to him as "that one" in the second. While his campaign is trying to shift attention to Obama's character, voters increasingly like the steady cool of the young senator compared to his older colleague. It will be even more difficult for John McCain to bring his opponent down a few notches while restoring the luster to his already tarnished reputation as a bipartisan maverick. The McCain campaign will have a lot of scorched earth to cover in the next 25 days if they want to turn this around.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Bill Lee's Trashy Website

In a losing campaign, there comes a time when a candidate faces the decision of whether to go negative. I've been involved in winning and losing campaigns, and I am pleased to say that the candidates I have worked with never chose to get nasty. I have seen the impulse to start slinging mud restrained by candidates' better angels, as well as the cold reality that it probably wouldn't make any difference. It's one thing for a hockey player to start checking harder or for a lineman to grab his opponent's jersey in a close contest. But it's another thing to get dirty when the game is effectively out of reach.
So what is Bill Lee, who is down by thirty points, doing putting up trashy hit-piece website with less than a month to go? The website, called, comes complete with the obligatory grainy black and white photos, and dredges up an old shareholder lawsuit against Nextel that was settled after Markell left the company. Hey, if these guys want to remind people that Jack Markell helped build a Fortune 500 company, well good for them.
The site also offers overheated language about the "skyrocketing budget" of the Treasurer's office, and offers some pages from different budget bills as evidence. A quick review of the evidence presented reveals that most of the budget increase was due to the debt service the Treasurer's office manages, not the operating expenses of the office. The people who cooked this up either don't know know what they're talking about or don't care, which is fine, because they probably won't be working in state government anytime soon.
I really shouldn't care about this crap, because Jack Markell is going to win by a mile. But having worked in government and politics, I have these old-fashioned beliefs about acting with integrity in the public sphere.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

The Second Debate

So far this year, I haven't offered instant analysis of the debates, and for good reason. I have tended to see the debates as closer than they turned out to be in the public view. As the evening unfolded, I focused on the back and forth and imagined it to be fairly close. Tonight I thought the candidates held their ground and gave and took a few shots, and guessed that a close outcome worked to Barack Obama's advantage.
But once again, it seems that my immediate reaction was off. CNN instant poll found that Obama
did a better job by a 54 to 30 percent. He was favored on leadership by 54 to 43 percent. Obama's favorable rating went up 4 percent, while McCain's remained the same.
John McCain was touted as better with the town hall format. But after the debate was over, McCain left almost immediately, while Obama stuck around to talk to the audience for at least 20 minutes.
With four weeks to go, McCain is running out of opportunities to turn this around. John McCain needed to change the dynamics of the campaign, and he didn't do it.

Monday, October 06, 2008

John McCain Looks for a Game Changer

With Barack Obama breaking into an average lead of eight points, John McCain clearly needs what's called a game changer if he is to avoid being swamped on election day. And so his campaign has turned once again to attacking Obama's character. Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight calls it "a sad denouement for what was to be a high-minded campaign focused around themes of honor and reform," and says it probably won't work:
It may be quite difficult for McCain to attack Obama in this fashion without significantly damaging his own brand.
Brian Schaffner of offers a methodical analysis of the difficult task facing McCain:
This is an obvious point, but If McCain is going to get back in this race, he can do so in one of two ways: (1) he can win over undecideds or (2) he can change the minds of those who are currently planning on voting for Obama.
He points out that the number of undecided voters dropped sharply in September to about five percent. Turning that around for McCain will be tough, given that his favorables have been dropped so sharply in the last month:
According to the American National Election Study , 4.2 percent of Kerry supporters changed their minds after September of 2004, the highest defection rate of any candidate in the last two elections. The outlook for McCain has only worsened since Schaffner offered this conclusion back on October 1:
Despite the fact that McCain is only down by 5-7% nationally, time is running out and a comeback seems like a tall order. In the new era of partisan polarization, major October shifts in the presidential polls are unlikely. There are few undecided voters left to persuade at this point and in recent elections we've seen that few voters change their minds once they have settled on a candidate.
McCain’s standing in the polls has declined even more in the last week, and the major national polls now show him behind by 6 to 12 points.
Silver has argued that "the principal reason why McCain has been able to remain in a relatively tight race with Obama, even as the Republican brand is in shambles, is because he has largely been able to distance his brand from that of the Republicans."
As his campaign has descended into Rovian circles of Hell, McCain has lost that aura that kept him above the Republican fray in the primaries. I don’t think McCain’s late attacks will work. Those determined to stop Obama threw everything they had at him in the spring. It didn’t stick. His critics then said he couldn’t win over Hillary Clinton supporters. He did. The polls have made liars of those who said that working class whites wouldn’t go for him. Two weeks ago, the idea he could win Virginia seemed like a stretch. Now some polls have him pulling ahead in Florida and North Carolina.
Each one percent of the polling represents about 1.25 million likely voters. If John McCain hopes to overcome the gap in the polls, he will have to do it by engaging citizens on things they care about instead of trying to change the subject.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

One Month to Go

With one month to go, Obama is looking stronger by the day, and pundits are no longer asking why he can't close the deal. Conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer contrasts McCain's erratic campaigning with Obama's steady cool:
You can't blame McCain. In an election in which all the fundamentals are working for the opposition, he feels he has to keep throwing long in order to keep hope alive. Nonetheless, his frenetic improvisation has perversely (for him) framed the rookie challenger favorably as calm, steady and cool.
Obama has focused on getting people comfortable with him since the beginning of his improbable campaign. There have been times in the campaign when anxious supporters have reached for the panic button, but Obama has charted a steady course:
When after the Republican convention Obama's poll numbers momentarily slipped behind McCain's, panicked Democrats urged him to get mad. He did precisely the opposite. He got calm.
While critics derided his reserved demeanor, Obama knew all along what he needed to do:
His one goal: Pass the Reagan '80 threshold. Be acceptable, be cool, be reassuring.
Barack Obama has broken the 50 percent barrier in recent polls by doing just that. The McCain campaign hopes to break into that cool by going all negative, all the time:
Sen. John McCain and his Republican allies are readying a newly aggressive assault on Sen. Barack Obama's character, believing that to win in November they must shift the conversation back to questions about the Democrat's judgment, honesty and personal associations, several top Republicans said.
With just a month to go until Election Day, McCain's team has decided that its emphasis on the senator's biography as a war hero, experienced lawmaker and straight-talking maverick is insufficient to close a growing gap with Obama. The Arizonan's campaign is also eager to move the conversation away from the economy, an issue that strongly favors Obama and has helped him to a lead in many recent polls.
Can a relentlessly negative campaign work? First McCain has to divert people's attention away from the economic news as problems in the financial system have spread to automakers, students seeking college loans, issuers of municipal bonds, and now the State of California.
Second, it's hard to bring for McCain to bring opponent down a few notches while restoring the luster to his already tarnished reputation as a bipartisan maverick. It's hard to do both in the short time left.
Third, while the McCain campaign is trying to shift attention to Obama's character, voters increasingly like what they see. Obama and Biden enjoy strong net favorable ratings in the polls, while McCain and Palin's net favorables have slipped into negative territory. The McCain campaign will have a lot of scorched earth to cover in the next month if they want to turn this around.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Ralph Stanley and Barack Obama

In the last 24 hours, I have come to realize that my friends fall into two categories: Those who don't know who Dr. Ralph Stanley is and those who understand how cool it is that he's on the air with a radio spot endorsing Barack Obama:
Music intro (R. Stanley Tune)
Ralph Stanley: Howdy, friends. This is Ralph Stanley, and I think I know a little something about the families around here... ...and after the last eight years - I know we all need a change.
Nobody's looking for a handout, but I think we could use a leader that’s on our side, and that leader is Barack Obama.
Barack'll cut taxes for everyday folks - not big business -- so you’ll have a little more money in your pocket at the end of the year.
He understands that our kids shouldn't have to leave our communities to find work...that's why Barack will make it easier to send your children to college and help create 5 million new jobs by investing right here at home.
I also know Barack is a good man. A father and devoted husband, he values personal responsibility and family first.
So, please join me, Ralph Stanley, in supporting a true friend of the people who live right here in Southwest Virginia. Barack Obama is the change we need.
BO: I'm Barack Obama, candidate for President, and I approve this message.
Narrator: Paid for by Obama for America.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

More on the Expectations Game

Yesterday, I wrote about the asymmetrical expectations for the VP debate. I've got more on what to look for tonight in my latest piece in the Guardian:
When it comes to issues like crime, Afghanistan and the right to privacy, he is more than happy to show you that he knows his stuff. But I also think he may talk a bit about the Biden family values, as he did in his speech at the Democratic National Convention: "You know, my mom taught her children - all the children who flocked to our house - that you're defined by your sense of honour and you're redeemed by your loyalty." I certainly expect him to find a way to mention his son, Beau Biden, Delaware's attorney general, who is shipping out for Iraq as a captain in the Judge Advocate General Corps. He might do it by offering kind words for Track Palin, who is also being deployed to Iraq.
Yes, Biden can expound at length on policy. But he has been known to lay it on pretty thick when it comes to the Biden clan, and show that Democrats have family values too.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

The Expectations Game

Joe Biden has served in the Senate for 35 years. He is considered one of the most compelling speakers of our generation. Sarah Palin can hardly string a sentence together without a teleprompter nearby. So why is it that most of the media advice being dished out to the VP candidates is being offered to Biden?
The latest installment of Sarah Palin's train wreck with Katie Couric has left observers wondering just how low the bar can be set for tomorrow's debate with Joe Biden. (Her inability to name a single newspaper is all the more remarkable given she majored in journalism.) The toughest assessments are coming from
conservatives like David Frum, reported in the New York Times:
“I think she has pretty thoroughly — and probably irretrievably — proven that she is not up to the job of being president of the United States,” David Frum, a former speechwriter for President Bush who is now a conservative columnist, said in an interview.
Pundits are asking whether she gets by if she simply manages to stay upright and speak in complete sentences. One might think, given her abysmal performance with the fearsome Couric, that much of the free advice would be offered to Palin: Take a deep breath; just try to make one point at a time... But remarkably, most of the advice seems to be focused on telling Biden not to be too mean to her. (I do like the advice to shut up and give her as much time as possible.)
Back in the day when we were talking about mooseburgers and lipstick, all Palin needed to do was show up and entertain us. But the turmoil in the financial system has rudely reminded us that we might want a vice president who actually follows current events. Spunky was fun for a couple of weeks, but now we've got a serious crisis on our hands. We don't require our leaders to all have advanced degrees in finance or economics, but someone who reads a newspaper now and then would be reassuring.