Saturday, September 20, 2008


On the Road: Durango/Cortez, Colorado

“In the whole eastern dark wall of the Divide this night there was silence and the whisper of the wind, except in the ravine where we roared; and on the other side of the Divide was the great Western Slope, and the big plateau that went to Steamboat Springs, and dropped and led you to the Colorado desert and the Utah desert; all in darkness now as we fumed and screamed in our mountain nook, mad drunken Americans in the mighty land.”

– Jack Kerouac, “On the Road”

Work Horse

Al Gore and John Kerry did not have field operations in Durango, Colorado. Barack Obama is here -- in force.



Former Iraq Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Chalabi has told Iranian news sources that the U.S. is trying to engineer a deal with the Iraqi government to allow "secret bases."

From the Middle East Times:

Former Iraqi Deputy Premier Ahmad Chalabi told Iranian state-owned media Friday the United States is seeking to establish secret military bases in Iraq.

In an interview with the Islamic Republic News Agency, Chalabi, once a Washington favorite, said U.S. officials are trying to inject agreements for secret bases in Iraq as part of the long-term security contract slated to govern U.S.-Iraqi relations when the U.N. mandate there expires at the end of this year.

"Within the framework of the security pact, the United States does not wish to merely have open military bases (in Iraq), rather secret military bases (there)," he said.

He said negotiations on the deal were ongoing following the acceptance of a formal draft agreement in August but noted there were still contentious issues surrounding legal authority over U.S. military forces and the use of Iraq as a staging ground for the broader counter-terrorism effort.

I am inclined to think Chalabi is telling the truth this time. But I would like to know what his neoconservative friends like Douglas Feith, Paul Wolfowitz, and Fouad Ajami think of Chalabi's chit-chats with Iran.

Steve Clemens,


Photo of Robert Redford

Robert Redford is an actor, director, and environmentalist and a trustee of NRDC.

Seldom do politics get this cynical. Seldom is the real pain of real people so cravenly exploited. Many of our fellow Americans now choose between buying gas to get to work and buying food to feed their families. Meanwhile, President Bush is trading on that desperation to peddle a lie: that sacrificing our coastlines and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to Big Oil will solve our problems at the pump. He's already lifted the executive ban on drilling off our coasts and challenged Congress to do the same. The president knows very well that we cannot drill our way to lower gas prices. We cannot for the simple reason that America has only 3 percent of the world's oil reserves. The rate at which we extract that small share is all but meaningless to the vast world oil market where we buy and sell the stuff like everyone else.

Nevertheless, the president and his allies in Congress point their fingers at environmentalists because it distracts attention from an extremely inconvenient truth: that the Bush-Cheney energy policy, drafted in secret by industry insiders, is what got us to where we are today. That policy consisted of giving away millions of acres of pristine public lands so that oil and gas companies could expand drilling. And what is the result? Sky-high gas prices, record oil and gas profits, more global warming pollution, and zero progress toward the new energy economy that is our only salvation.

We know how to solve our energy problems and to fight global warming -- all we lack is honest, bold leadership. We had better find that leadership quickly, and not just for the sake of bringing down energy prices, but because it's essential to keep our whole economy competitive in a world rapidly moving beyond the dirty fuels of the past. The first step is making a real investment in energy efficiency. New fuel-efficiency standards for cars and trucks enacted last December are a small step in the right direction, but we can go much further. In fact, if we could get the average American car running at 40 miles per gallon, we could save more than 20 billion barrels of oil, which is more than the oil companies could ever get out of all of the protected offshore areas combined. If President Bush actually wanted to end our addiction to oil, he would commit right now to make that happen.

Instead, he remains committed to looking back to an era that got us into trouble in the first place. This at a time when every other sector in our society is looking forward, seizing opportunities and pulsing with good old American ingenuity, resulting in new and innovative solutions to these challenges. With intelligent policies, we could get plug-in hybrids, electric cars and new, clean biofuels to market faster. A 2007 report from NRDC and the Electric Power Research Institute predicts that plug-in hybrids could cut U.S. oil consumption by up to 4 million barrels a day by mid-century, while reducing global warming pollution at the same time. That would be like taking more than 82 million cars off the road.

With intelligent policies, we could clean up the power grid that charges those plug-in hybrids, replacing filthy coal and nuclear power, with its dangerous waste and considerable safety problems, with energy from the wind and the sun, and from advanced biofuels. Just look at what California has been able to do in the realm of solar power and energy efficiency in such a short time. Those same intelligent policies would also bring a flood of investments in clean-energy projects from Wall Street -- investments that now stay out of the energy markets because Washington has been unwilling to commit to a clean-energy future for America.

Let's not kid ourselves. We won't see intelligent energy policies suddenly emerge from this administration in its waning days. But Congress now has a monumental choice to make. If they give the president what he wants by opening our coasts to drilling, they'll be deepening our addiction to oil for another generation. They'll be handing the president's disastrous energy policy not just a third term but the equivalent of five or six more terms. America can't afford to double-down on the energy fiasco of the Bush presidency. After a few more years of this, our economy will be in a shambles and global warming will be unstoppable. We can choose a better future, but we've got to do it quickly, and each of us must play a part.

Obama Fires Back Against McCain's 'Sad' Attacks

Here's video of Barack Obama responding to McCain's attacks from earlier this morning. Obama says it's clear that McCain is "a little panicked right now" and that instead of offering real solutions, McCain "seems to be willing to say anything or do anything or change any position or violate any principle to try and win this election."

YouTube link


Today's issue is not space exploration. The issue today that will determine our future is Energy. Yet the stakes are just as high as they were when Kennedy gave this speech in Houston; in fact, they're much higher.

America can lead or follow. If we lead, we win. If we follow, we're irrelevant.


I think we've nailed it with this one.


Bible Forbids Homosexuality? My favorite West Wing scene ever.

Martin Sheen, President in the 2000-2007 George ‘W’ alternate universe, takes on a “Doctor” that closely resembles hard-right radio personal Dr. Laura.

“I like how you call homosexuality an abomination.” I don’t call homosexuality an abomination, the Bible does.” Wanna hear President Bartlett’s Biblical-based comeback. Warning: you might have to sell your daughter, forbid football, stone farmers and burn yo’momma. …VIDEO: Read the rest


A solid 4 minute presentation by Obama. He's moved toward a more detailed style in the past week and all polls suggest it's was working even to prior to the Wall Street meltdown.

Worth a look. My prediction is that he makes a major economic speech within the next 30 days. He knows he has to do that to "close the deal."


Big Oil Allies in Congress Vote Against Energy Solutions 61 Times
Oil Addiction Continues Thanks to Consistent No Votes

WASHINGTON, DC (September 8, 2008) -- An analysis of Congressional votes that would have brought America closer to energy independence reveals that Congressmen who consistently aligned themselves with Big Oil voted 61 times this year against bills that would have greatly reduced America’s addiction to oil.
Chief among these proposals were bills that would have increased production of clean energy, allowed Americans to use energy smarter, and pushed all electric utilities to make a significant portion of their electricity from clean energy, a requirement that is proving successful now in more than 25 states.
“The real story is that these people are making political hay with Americans’ pain at the pump. They’ve voted against the real solutions to high gas prices and tried to kill other bills that would have put us on the path to the clean energy future,” NRDC’s Legislative Director Karen Wayland said. “Everyone knows oil is going to run out, we can never drill enough to meet our demand. Many of these proposals would have satisfied our energy needs with supplies that will never run out, like wind and solar, and allowed us to break the oil addiction that is costing us dearly.”
This list of No votes, with links to the final roll call follows:
These votes include the following bills:

The Natural Resources Defense Council is a national, nonprofit organization of scientists, lawyers and environmental specialists dedicated to protecting public health and the environment. Founded in 1970, NRDC has 1.2 million members and online activists, served from offices in New York, Washington, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Beijing.


Estimating the Cellphone Effect: 2.2 Points

Mark Blumenthal has a rundown of the pollsters that are including cellphone numbers in their samples. Apparently, Pew, Gallup, USA Today/Gallup (which I consider a separate survey), CBS/NYT and Time/SRBI have been polling cellphones all year. NBC/WSJ, ABC/Washington Post and the AP/GfK poll have also recently initiated the practice. So too does the Field Poll in California, PPIC, also based in California, and Ann Selzer. There may be some others too but those are the ones that I am aware of.

Let's look at the house effects for these polls -- that is, how much the polls have tended to lean toward one candidate or another. These are fairly straightforward to calculate, via the process described here. Essentially, we take the average result from the poll and compare it to other polls of that state (treating the US as a 'state') after adjusting the result based on the national trendline.

Since ABC, NBC/WSJ and AP/GfK all just recently began using cellphones, we will ignore their data for now. We will also throw out the data from three Internet-based pollsters, Zogby Interactive, Economist/YouGov, and Harris Interactive. This leaves us with a control group of 36 pollsters that have conducted at least three general election polls this year, either at the state or national level.

Pollster                 n   Lean
========= ====
Selzer 5 D +7.8
CBS/NYT 14 D +3.7
Pew 7 D +3.4
Field Poll 4 D +2.8
Time/SRBI 3 D +2.4
USA Today/Gallup 11 D +0.4

Gallup 184 R +0.6
PPIC 4 R +1.3


CONTROL GROUP (36 Pollsters) D +0.1
Six of the eight cellphone-friendly pollsters have had a Democratic (Obama) lean, and in several cases it has been substantial. On average, they had a house effect of Obama +2.3. By comparison, the control group had a house effect of Obama +0.1 (**), so this would imply that including a cellphone sample improves Obama's numbers by 2.2 points. (Or, framed more properly, failing to include cellphones hurts Obama's numbers by approximately 2 points).

The difference is statistically significant at the 95 percent confidence level. Perhaps not coincidentally, Gallup, Pew and ABC/WaPo have each found a cellphone effect of between 1-3 points when they have conducted experiments involving polling with and without a cellphone supplement.

A difference of 2 points may not be a big deal in certain survey applications such as market research, but in polling a tight presidential race it makes a big difference. If I re-run today's numbers but add 2.2 points to Obama's margin in each non-cellphone poll, his win percentage shoots up from 71.5 percent to 78.5 percent, and he goes from 303.1 electoral votes to 318.5. (The difference would be more pronounced still if Obama hadn't already moved ahead of McCain by a decent margin on our projections).