Archive for: July, 2008

Obama Rips McCain’s Oil Company Friendly Energy Policy

Jul 31 2008 Published by under Featured News

After Exxon Mobil released an earnings report that showed a record quarterly profit of $11.68 billion, Barack Obama released a statement that criticized McCain’s oil company friendly energy policy.

“Perhaps the only thing more outrageous than Exxon Mobil making record profits while Americans are paying record prices at the pump is the fact that Senator McCain has proposed giving them an additional $1.2 billion tax break. While Senator McCain’s plan has succeeded in helping his campaign raise over $1 million from oil and gas company executives and employees just last month, it won’t lower gas prices or end our dangerous dependence on foreign oil,” Obama said.

He also called for a new energy policy, “Instead of an energy policy that reads like an oil-company wish list, it’s time to create a new American energy economy
by investing in alternative energy, creating millions of new jobs, increasing fuel efficiency standards, and ending the tyranny of oil once and for all.”

We all know that John McCain doesn’t have a real energy policy. He has completely embraced the GOP catch phrase “drill more, use less.” The problem is that this slogan doesn’t concern itself with the development of alternative energy, and since the GOP is in the back pocket of the oil companies, so they will never embrace any proposal that could result in decreased profits for Big Oil.

Ask yourself, what kind of party would oppose increasing healthcare for children, but favor billions of dollars in tax breaks for an industry that is reaping record profits, as Republicans have done. McCain’s energy policy which is nothing but a collection of Republican proposals that have been floating around, doesn’t address the real problem, which is oil is a finite resource that is running out. Our national efforts should be directed towards finding an alternative energy source, not protecting profits and providing tax breaks for wealthy corporations.

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McCain Camp Accuses Obama of Playing the Race Card

Jul 31 2008 Published by under Featured News

John McCain’s campaign manager Rick Davis accused Obama of playing the race card after Obama characterized McCain’s recent attacks against him as trying to scare voters away from him.

Yesterday in Springfield, Missouri Obama said, “So nobody really thinks that Bush or McCain have a real answer for the challenges we face, so what they are going to try to do is make you scared of me. Oh, he’s not patriotic enough. He’s got a funny name. You know he doesn’t look like all these other presidents on the dollar bills. He’s risky. That’s essentially the argument they’re making.”

The McCain campaign replied by accusing Obama of playing the race card, “Barack Obama has played the race card, and he played it from the bottom of the deck. It’s divisive, negative, shameful and wrong.” In a campaign where the McCain people have made idiotic charge after idiotic charge against Obama, this one takes the cake. According to the McCain campaign, Obama can’t point out the fact that he is the first black major party nominee.

Using their logic, every time McCain refers to his military service, he would be playing the patriotism card. Notice how the McCain camp completely ignored Obama’s characterization of their attacks against him. The tactics that McCain is using against Obama in 2008 are the same ones that George W. Bush used against Al Gore and John Kerry in 2000 and 2004. The Republicans always try to paint the Democrats as liberal, elitist and risky.

There was nothing divisive about Obama’s remarks. He was pointing out a fact. He does look different than previous presidents, and the main theme of the McCain campaign has been that different is bad. The Clintons tried to bring up the race issue during the Democratic primary and it backfired on them. To me, the point of the Davis statement today was to remind everyone that Obama is black. If anyone is trying to bring race into the discussion, it is Davis, not Obama.

Davis Statement

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Poll: Obama Leads In Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania

Jul 31 2008 Published by under Featured News

A new poll released this morning by Quinnipiac University found that Barack Obama leads John McCain in Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, but the race is getting tighter in each state. In Florida, Obama’s lead has been cut in half from 47%-43% to 46%-44%. In Ohio, Obama has lost four points from 48%-42% down to 46%-44%. Pennsylvania still remains strong for Obama, but his lead dropped from eleven points in June to 49%-42% today.

In Ohio and Florida, voters are split by gender. Obama leads with women, and McCain leads with men. In Florida, Obama leads with women 47%-42% and McCain with men 47%-45%. In Ohio, Obama leads with women, 47%-44%, and men were split, 46%-45% for Obama. The story is different in Pennsylvania where Obama leads with both men and women. He leads with men, 48%-44%, and with women, 50%-39%.

In Florida (51%-41%) and Ohio (48%-41%) McCain leads with voters over 55, but in Pennsylvania these voters are tied at 45%. As expected, Obama dominates with young voters in each state. He leads McCain by 39% in Florida, 22% in Ohio, and 23% in Pennsylvania with voters 18-34. It is the middle group, voters age 35-54 that is proving critical. In Florida, McCain leads with this group, 47%-45%. In Ohio, Obama leads 48%-44%. In Pennsylvania, Obama leads 49%-41%.

All three states agree that the economy and the war are the two most important issues of the campaign, but energy policy is becoming a big topic as well. Voters are split on who has the better energy policy. In Florida, they favor McCain 34%-32% with 34% undecided. In Ohio, they favor Obama 34%-33% with 33% undecided, and in Pennsylvania voters favor Obama’s plan 36%-30% with 34% undecided.

By almost 2 to 1 margins voters in each state support McCain’s offshore drilling plan, but they believe that alternative energy is the best solution. As a solution, voters in Florida favored alternative energy to offshore drilling, 51%-22%. In Ohio, the margin was a little larger, 57%-20%. In Pennsylvania, the margin was 55%-18%. Using these numbers it is plain to see why the candidates are splitting the energy vote. Respondents in these states like McCain’s plan to drill offshore, but also like Obama’s push for alternative energy. The overall message from voters is that we need to be doing anything and everything to bring gas prices down.

Obama’s foreign trip doesn’t seem to have helped him. It seems that voters are more concerned with the economy and energy issues than they are with world affairs. Since 1960, no candidate has won the presidency without carrying two of these three states. I think Obama will carry Pennsylvania, and McCain will take Florida, so just like in 2004, Ohio will be the critical state. It shouldn’t be any surprise that this race is getting closer. Obama’s nomination bounce is over, and we probably won’t see movement in the polls until September, when the race really begins.

Full poll results

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Energy Part 1 – Do the Nuclear, Oil, and Coal Industries Receive Welfare?

Jul 31 2008 Published by under Featured News

A great deal of time and effort will be spent discussing energy in the upcoming election. I am glad to see this dialogue and think that citizens, elected officials and experts alike need to be open to learning about new approaches and policy options. A flexible mind is not a sign of flip-flopping. I am starting a series of columns looking at energy issues by asking if coal, oil and nuclear energy are subsidized by taxpayers in order to mask their full cost.

Free Market Solution or Not

My question is fair. Free markets are supposed to gravitate toward the best product for the lowest price. Conservatives are supposed to support free markets. Yet, why is it that economic conservatives are pushing for more oil drilling and more nuclear plants when the free market would dictate that this is not the best product for its price? First, oil is much cheaper to extract from the ground in the Middle East so U.S. drilling unless subsidized will not be price competitive. Second, many costs of coal and oil are already benefiting from government spending: those with black lung disease receive Medicare and Medicaid, crop loss due to acid rain is partially compensated for/insured by the government, (even if we leave Afghanistan and Iraq aside) the U.S. government has military bases and/or a military presence in Kuwait, in the United Arab Emirates, in Qatar, in … all to ensure a relatively stable flow of oil. Taxpayers pay these Medicare/Medicaid bills and military costs. This all amounts to government subsidizing of the oil and coal industries.

I am not so naive as to say the U.S. could just leave Kuwait or the super rich U.A.E., but if new tax payer money is going to go into the current energy crisis the money should go to the most cost effective solutions. Second, zero emission and low polluting energy sources lack the back-end costs such as Medicaid expenditures for coal miners with black lung disease or paying to protect nuclear plants. The last groups to receive tax money/grants/tax breaks should be groups dedicated to new coal, nuclear and oil capacity. There may be moral reasons to argue for this – but from a cost standpoint if we consider the full costs of coal, oil and nuclear – promoting efficiency and producing clean energy are both cheaper options.

4 Financial and Human Costs that Government Subsidizes

1. Birth defects, cancer and miscarriages associated with the toxins produced in mining, refining and burning fossil fuels. Nuclear plants in the U.S. such as the Hanford Nuclear power plant and waste site in Washington state have a history of shortening lifespans of those who lived near the plant and its waste. Cheap wattage as a trade off for cancer?

2. The security associated with guarding a nuclear plant as well as making sure nuclear waste does not fall into the wrong hands has to be paid for by someone. My guess is that U.S. military personnel will be paid by tax payers to guard new nuclear plants and the waste they produce. Maybe Blackwater will get the contract, but either way taxpayers pay more than the sticker price of nuclear produced wattage.

3. Cleaning up nuclear waste is not cheap. For instance, the clean-up of the Fernald reactor site in southern Ohio cost $4.4 billion in tax payer money.

4. Children who live near heavy traffic are nearly 20% more likely to develop asthma. If those children are insured they simply raise demand for medical services and that raises prices across the board (demand raises prices in general). If these children are not privately insured, tax payers foot the bill or hospitals pass costs along to other patients.

I am sure I could go on, but the point is that if markets tend toward an equilibrium that seeks a balance of quality and price, then the “drill here, drill now, pay less” movement and the new nuclear plant movement are not market friendly. Real accounting of the costs associated with coal, oil and nuclear energy are hidden by government spending and yet the anti-welfare anti-big government GOP is behind these options. Why is that? I have to question the veracity of anyone who would argue with a straight face that such a plan would save money in the short and long term.

Unless winning debate points against Sean Hannity is my goal, the key question remaining is what proposal or basket of proposals is the most effective? Part 2 will make use of the Rocky Mountain Institute to answer that question.

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Jul 30 2008 Published by under Featured News

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Obama Ad Accuses McCain of Taking the Low Road

Jul 30 2008 Published by under Featured News

In this age of immediate response politics it did not take long for the Obama campaign to put out a response to the attack ad earlier today by the McCain campaign. Obama’s ad accuses McCain of practicing the same old politics. Plus a former McCain advisor calls the Republican’s ad, “childish.”

Here is the McCain ad:

Here is Obama’s response:

Former McCain aide John Weaver called McCain’s ad childish, and said that these ads need to stop. “John’s been a celebrity ever since he was shot down,” Weaver said. “Whatever that means. And I recall Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush going overseas and all those waving American flags. For McCain to win in such troubled times, he needs to begin telling the American people how he intends to lead us. That McCain exists. He can inspire the country to greatness. There is legitimate mockery of a political campaign now, and it isn’t at Obama’s. For McCain’s sake, this tomfoolery needs to stop.”

I think Weaver is right. John McCain has made the classic candidate mistake. His lust for the presidency is so great that he has changed who he was. McCain has turned himself into a generic neo-con which makes him easy pickings for Obama. By going negative, the McCain campaign allowed Obama to label him politics as usual and return to their strong themes of change and a new kind of politics.

If McCain was going negative in October it would make sense, but why waste the money in July? My guess is that McCain people think that they have to slow down Obama now before he gets on a roll, and blows them out in the fall. As we have seen today, Obama has the superior organization and resources. They can quickly counter any negative attack from McCain. They may want to play dirty with Obama, but they do, they are playing right into Obama’s hands.

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Obama Camp: Oops, He Did It Again

Jul 30 2008 Published by under Featured News

The presidential campaign of John McCain released a new ad today that compares Barack Obama’s celebrity to Brittney Spears, and claims that Obama supports higher taxes and more foreign oil. The Obama camp responded by saying Oops, he did it again, and slammed McCain’s energy policy.

Here is the McCain ad:

Obama campaign spokesman Tommy Vietor said, “On a day when major news organizations across the country are taking Senator McCain to task for a steady stream of false, negative attacks, his campaign has launched yet another. Or, as some might say, ‘Oops! He did it again.’ “

Vietor then blasted McCain’s energy policy, “In this election the American people have a real choice — between Obama’s plan to provide tax rebates to American families while creating a renewable energy economy in America that frees us from our dependence on foreign oil, and Senator McCain’s plan to continue the same failed energy policies by handing out nearly $4 billion in tax breaks to oil companies while investing almost nothing in the new energy sources that represent our future.”

This latest McCain ad comes off as jealousy over Obama’s popularity. I don’t understand why the McCain camp is wasting their limited resources on attack ads that should be left to the RNC or 527 groups. The problem with going negative this early is that most people aren’t following the election yet, so the campaign isn’t even hitting their target audience.

If this is the way, the McCain camp is going to play it then Obama will have no problem winning this election. John McCain has stopped talking about the issues, which leaves Obama wide open to frame the debate. The McCain people seem content to put out ads that are full of half truths about Obama, and while this strategy may have worked against Al Gore and John Kerry, it won’t work against Barack Obama.

Obama Response to McCain Ad

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Rove Cited for Contempt, but Pelosi Could Block Vote

Jul 30 2008 Published by under Featured News

The House Judiciary Committee cited Karl Rove for contempt for not appearing at a July 10 committee hearing related to the politicization of the Justice Department, but as has been her habit Speaker Nancy Pelosi could block a final vote.

Rove claimed executive privilege immunity, and didn’t bother to show up for the hearing. Committee chair Rep. John Conyers said in a memo to his committee, “Mr. Rove has refused even to appear before the committee and assert whatever privileges that he believes may apply to his testimony, relying on excessively broad and legally insufficient claims of ‘absolute immunity’ — never recognized by any court — in declining to appear.”

The vote to cite Rove was by party lines, 20-14. Republicans claim that there is no evidence against Rove, and they might not be the Democrats only problem. In order for Rove to be found in contempt, the full House has to vote on the citation, and there is no evidence that Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) is willing to let this happen.

In a statement about the matter yesterday, Pelosi made no mention of allowing the citation to come to a full vote, “The Judiciary Committee’s ongoing investigation of the politicization of the Justice Department, including the effort to obtain testimony of individuals with knowledge of the improper firing of the U.S. Attorneys, must continue. The American people must find out what happened, and the politicization of law enforcement at the Justice Department must end. ”

Pelosi favors the passage of new legislation, “I will be asking Chairman Conyers to consider legislation to ensure that the politicization of hiring of career employees at the Justice Department never happens again.” This has become a regular pattern with Pelosi. She favors investigation, not prosecution. She has taken the same stance with the impeachment question.

Both Pelosi, and her Senate counterpart Harry Reid, routinely block this kind of activity because they are worried about a political backlash from the public. My hunch is that this dies at the committee level. With an election coming up in November, Pelosi won’t want to risk firing up the Republican base, or the appearance of a political witch hunt. This is spineless, but typical of the Democratic congressional leadership.

The Hill Story

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Ted Stevens Proclaims His Innocence

Jul 29 2008 Published by under Featured News

Sen. Ted Stevens of Alaska responded to the seven count federal indictment handed down against him today, by proclaiming his innocence.

“I have proudly served this nation and Alaska for over 50 years. My public service began when I served in WWII. It saddens me to learn that these charges have been brought against me. I have never knowingly submitted a false disclosure form required by law as a US senator,” Stevens said in a statement. This is an odd defense, because investigators have surveillance tapes, the testimony of contractors, and the testimony of former CEO of VECO to the contrary.

Stevens said that he is stepping down from his ranking member positions, and made it clear that is claiming innocence, “In accordance with Senate Republican Conference Rules, I have temporarily relinquished my vice chairmanship and ranking positions until I am absolved of these charges. The impact of these charges on my family disturbs me greatly. I am innocent of these charges and intend to prove that.”

His Democratic opponent in the November election Mark Begich said, “The indictment of Senator Ted Stevens is a sad day for Alaska and for the senator after his 40 years of service to our state. The people of Alaska are resilient and strong. I have great faith in our state and our people, and we will continue to move forward.”

It is understandable that Begich took the high road, because Stevens is a political institution in the state. Also, his opponent has dug his own grave here, so Begich could only hurt himself if it looked like he was kicking Stevens when he was down. Allegations of wrongdoing have been following Stevens around for decades. According to news reports going back to last summer, the feds have a lot of evidence against Stevens. However, I would not expect the 84 year old to stand trial. It is more likely that his political career will be finished. To me, this seems like a punishment that fits the crime.

Stevens Statement

Begich Statement

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Stevens Indictment Could Add to GOP Election Woes

Jul 29 2008 Published by under Featured News

Even though the indictment against Sen. Ted Stevens has been expected for more than a year, the state Republican Party in Alaska does not have a candidate ready to take Stevens’s place on the ballot. This is more bad news for Senate Republicans in what is looking like a Democratic year.

Stevens was indicted today by a federal grand jury of seven counts of concealing more than $250,000 in gifts from oil field contractor VECO Corp. The indictment alleges that Stevens received home improvements to his vacation home in Alaska, including a new first floor, garage, wraparound deck, plumbing, electrical wiring; as well as car exchanges, a Viking gas grill, furniture and tools. From May 1999 – August 2007, Stevens didn’t report these gifts on his Senate disclosure forms.

Stevens is the longest serving Republican senator. He has been in office since 1968. However, since the scandal broke he has seen his popularity in the state plummet to the point where in the July 17 Rasmussen Reports poll Anchorage mayor Mark Begich (D) now leads Stevens, 50%-41%.

The Democratic Party is targeting 11 of the 23 Republican held seats up for election this year, and they look poised to pick up seats in New Hampshire, Virginia, New Mexico, and Oregon. The Colorado senate race is listed as too close to call, and the Stevens indictment probably will push Alaska into the Democratic column.

The ironic part of this story is that Ted Stevens could end up hurting John McCain’s presidential campaign. Stevens and McCain have had some legendary disagreements over the years about pork barrel projects. Stevens is infamous for federal funding for the “bridge to nowhere” in Alaska, and for decades Stevens has been an expert at shifting federal dollars into Alaska, much to the displeasure of McCain. No matter who wins the White House, Democrats will likely pick up 7-9 Senate seats in November, and get close to the magic number of 60 votes needed to pass legislation.

PDF of the Stevens Indictment

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