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Midday open thread

January 10th, 2010 admin No comments
  • Baby, it is cold outside:

    By the end of the weekend, 180 million Americans may shiver through record-setting cold. Sixty percent of Americans will see and feel temperatures 15 to 30 degrees below normal.

  • Let’s talk creative gerrymandering.
  • Ken Burns is going to update his classic baseball documentary.
  • Motor City socialist activists mobilize inside the party to change it:

    Democratic socialists in southeastern Michigan can do something most of their counterparts across the nation cannot: they can boast of electoral victories. Moreover, they possess a level of influence within the Michigan Democratic Party of which many American leftists dream. And they’ve done it all without compromising their beliefs or values.

    Their success has come from working with, instead of against, local Democrats. …

    “As a small organization, how can we make a difference? We leverage our forces. We put our efforts towards a progressive Democrat challenging a Republican, or a progressive Democrat challenging a centrist Democrat [in a primary]. “

    “We don’t pick symbolic victories,” Green says, “We pick things we can win.”

    — Meteor Blades

  • Here’s a story you don’t see every day: Cops are ordered to return marijuana to rightful owner.
  • Color me unconvinced:

    Jan. 8 (Bloomberg) — Timothy Geithner, the former Federal Reserve Bank of New York president, wasn’t aware of efforts to limit American International Group Inc.’s bailout disclosures because the regulator’s top lawyer didn’t think the issue merited his attention, according to a letter sent to lawmakers.

  • Business Week looks at the new importance of IMAX to contributing to Hollywood blockbuster status.
  • Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) has announced its Top Ten Science Stories of 2009, including:

    The changing conditions in the ocean due to increased acidity from increased CO2 is one of the unknowns in future climate change projections.  LANL’s Climate, Ocean, and Sea Ice Modeling effort for DOE and the National Science Foundation develops the highest-resolution dynamic models of the world’s oceans and polar icecaps.

    – Plutonium Page

  • The New York Times looks at how spending habits are changing due to the recession, and Newsweek looks at just how long those habits might last:

    The Recession Generation: Those entering the workforce now will likely make less and save more—not just in the short term but for the rest of their lives.

  • CBS polls Americans about their weekends:

    Sixty-three percent of those surveyed say they ask themselves “Where did the weekend go?” while only 34 percent say they feel relaxed and ready for Monday morning. Working Americans and parents of children under age 18 are even less likely to feel rested and relaxed at the end of a weekend.

    While the weekends fly by for many, fewer than half (42 percent) of working Americans say they would give up a day’s pay per week in exchange for a longer weekend to spend more time with family and friends. Fifty-three percent of Americans said they would rather keep their current hours and pay even it means less time with family.

  • Proof that not all big elections this year are legislative in nature–social conservatives are gunning to claim a bigger stake of the Texas State Board of Education. Their success or failure could say a great deal about the quality of education for a generation of kids in the second-largest state in the Union. What are the goals of the cons?

    Another far-reaching decision will come next week, when board members decide what students must learn in U.S. history, government and other social studies courses. The board is sharply divided on the topic; social conservatives, for example, want a greater role for religion in U.S. history classes and textbooks.

    “I see [the elections] as a referendum on what we’ve done the last few years,” said Republican board member Don McLeroy, an outspoken social conservative who served as chairman until last summer.

    The seven Republicans who make up the conservative bloc have made their influence felt in new curriculum standards for English and science – including much debated language that requires students to examine “all sides” of scientific evidence for evolution in biology classes.

    In a real way, this matters every bit as much as any singular House or Senate campaign. Worth keeping an eye on. –Steve Singiser

  • Katha Pollitt examines The Decade for Women: Forward, Backward, Sideways?:

    Women are still drastically underrepresented on op-ed pages, on Sunday chat-shows, as experts in news stories, and are scanted in literary prizes, awards and Best of the Year lists, as actresses and directors and playwrights. It seemed like 20,248 articles and 1,507 books were published explaining why women’s inequality is their own fault.

    — Meteor Blades


Will Durst: 2010 Predictions

January 10th, 2010 admin No comments

All right, it was a hecka long holiday season. I’m tired and you’re tired. And neither of us has the energy to go through the whole post- modern deconstructionist explanation as to why you’re reading a predictions column here. Yes, I’m doing a predictions column. What’s the matter with you people? It’s the beginning of a new year. Hell, it’s the beginning of a new decade. That’s what journalists do: prediction columns. It’s a festive tradition. Like mistletoe or Hopping John or calling hospital emergency rooms when Uncle Bud goes missing in the wee hours of Boxing Day. And no, I don’t care that we’re already deep enough into January that most of our resolutions lie broken on the calendar floor like branches of a discarded Noble fir on the shoulder of a logging camp approach road. C’mon people, what am I, flying solo here? Deal with it. Or don’t. Because here they are: a list of predictions of what we can or should expect from various people during the 1st year of the second decade of the 21st century.

I PREDICT THAT IN THE YEAR 2010:
The Airline Industry will make every effort to rid the skies of the most dangerous security threat known to man: panties.
Charlie Sheen will attempt to hire whoever is responsible for Tiger Woods’ damage control.
Steve Jobs will evacuate a series of smooth, light and aerodynamically curvaceous clumps of waste, which will be reported upon at great length.
Barack Obama will finally purge himself of that overabundance of expectations for a bit of Congressional assistance.
Tiger Woods will win the Masters evidencing such a triumphant links return that other PGA wives will be encouraged to take 9 irons to their husbands’ Escalades.
Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi will direct his security detail to check out the firm responsible for Charlie Sheen’s damage control.
Termed out California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger will band together with Jean Claude Van Damme and Steven Seagal to form The Seniors Action- Star Film Series.
The US Congress will outline a plan to fix the Social Security problem once and for all that may or may not involve raising the retirement age to 83.
In order to thwart further underwear bombing plots, the TSA will perfect the speedy implementation of the two handed wedgie.
The Teabaggers will actively set out to find someone in their movement involved in popular culture sufficiently to help them vet a new name.
Law & Order Producer Dick Wolf will create his own network and fill each and every prime time slot with Law & Order & Law & Order spin-offs including a posthumous CGI enhanced Law & Order featuring fan favorite Jerry Orbach.
Joe Biden will undergo intense personal training to learn how to shut the hell up during moments of silence at Arlington National Cemetery.
Hillary Clinton will finally spit out that piece of meat stuck in her craw.
Jerry Brown will receive a clean bill of health from his paleontologist and go on to win the California gubernatorial election after being recognized as the biggest goober in the race.
George Steinbrenner will convince the Commissioner to award the 2010 World Series championship to the Yankees before the season starts to save wear and tear on his expensively fragile lineup.
CEO of the CIA, Leon Panetta will get a piece of meat stuck in his craw.
Former Vice President Al Gore will continue to cultivate a high profile in order to finally realize his dream of becoming a permanent cast member on Saturday Night Live.
Sarah Palin will actually finish, nah, never mind.

Will Durst is a San Francisco based political comic, who writes sometimes; this being a sterling example.
Catch Durst in stand- up mode at The Pipeline Café in Honolulu on Wednesday, January 13th.


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How’s that Name-Change Working Out?

January 9th, 2010 admin No comments

Back in 2007, Senator Bernie Sanders introduced Senate Bill S 2398, the Stop Outsourcing Security Act. It collected a single co-sponsor, Senator Hillary Clinton.

The crux of the bill:

The use of private security contractors for mission critical functions undermines the mission, jeopardizes the safety of American troops conducting military operations in Iraq and other combat zones, and should be phased out.

It went nowhere.

Back in the heat of the presidential campaign, in February 2008, Senator Clinton said that:

“…from this war’s very beginning, this administration has permitted thousands of heavily-armed military contractors to march through Iraq without any law or court to rein them in or hold them accountable. These private security contractors have been reckless and have compromised out mission in Iraq. The time to show these contractors the door is long past due.”

Indeed. And Clinton’s voice was not the only one raised against the damage done by mercenaries. A Congressional report found the same, and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates had tough words as well.

One of the main catalysts for those tough words was the company that now calls itself Xe but is still known to everyone as Blackwater. Although Blackwater’s contract for security work in Iraq was canceled after nearly five years of behavior that some might call scandalously reckless and I call bloodthirsty, the administration in which Clinton is now a key player has found itself unable to cut its ties to Blackwater. At a hearing last month of the Commission on Wartime Contracting, it was learned, as Justin Elliott reported at TPMuckracker, that Blackwater pre-qualified as one of the five companies to train Afghan police. It was learned too that Blackwater is the only company that handles security for State Department employees in Afghanistan. And it obviously has a security contract with the CIA for front line work in Afghanistan.

The question is why. Or, rather, what the hell? As if U.S. military interventions weren’t problematic enough, these cowboys still operate as if they were in some third-tier action movie. Not a low-budget one, however.  

As if all the sanguinary scandals and investigations of the past weren’t enough, all through December, the headlines fairly screamed “Blackwatergate.”

First came the news about Blackwater participating in CIA raids in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Then a more than mildly perturbed judge ruled that the five company employees who had killed 17 civilians in Iraq couldn’t be tried because federal prosecutors had botched what should have been an airtight case against them by violating their constitutional rights. Then it was learned that two of the seven CIA operatives killed December 30 by a double-agent suicide bomber in Khost, Afghanistan, were Blackwater employees. Then it turned out that a third Blackwater employee was injured in the Khost bombing. Then two Blackwater employees were indicted for murdering two Afghans last May.

The news about the deaths at Khost sent Illinois Democrat Jan Schakowsky, chair of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, over the edge. She was launching an investigation she told Jeremy Scahill, a reporter at The Nation who has been following Blackwater since he began research for his outstanding 2008 book, Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army. Schakowsky said:
 

“The Intelligence Committees and the public were led to believe that the CIA was phasing out its contracts with Blackwater and now we find out that there is this ongoing presence. … Is the CIA once again deceiving us about the relationship with Blackwater?

“It’s just astonishing that given the track record of Blackwater, which is a repeat offender endangering our mission repeatedly, endangering the lives of our military and costing the lives of innocent civilians, that there would be any relationship,” Schakowsky said. “That we would continue to contract with them or any of Blackwater’s subsidiaries is completely unacceptable.”

Today, on Democracy Now, Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez interviewed Scahill and Schakowsky. You can watch it, read the transcript at the link, or read the excerpt below:

JEREMY SCAHILL: … Let’s remember here that this was the worst attack on a CIA base that we know about since the 1980s. And here you have three Blackwater guys in the center of this blast at the time. Now, we’re not sure what the role was of the Blackwater guys there. That’s what Representative Schakowsky is investigating right now. But let’s say for a moment that they were doing security, because Blackwater has, since 2002, had a contract with the CIA to do force protection in Afghanistan for the CIA. They not only guard static outposts of the CIA, but when CIA operatives move around the country, Blackwater guys travel with them as their security.

So if they were doing the security there, and you have, on their watch, this incredibly devastating attack, not just against some random CIA outpost in the middle of Canada or something, but against the epicenter of the forward operating maneuvers that the intelligence community of the US is engaged in to hunt down Ayman al-Zawahiri and Osama bin Laden, because this asset made it onto that base, we understand, claiming that he had just met with Ayman al-Zawahiri. So how is it that he walks in there with explosives? And then, I think that should be one of the things that’s investigated as Congresswoman Schakowsky takes this on.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, Congresswoman Schakowsky, your concerns about this latest report and what you’re hoping to look into?

REP. JAN SCHAKOWSKY: You know, regardless of what the role that the Blackwater operatives were playing in this incident, why is the CIA, why is any unit of the government, the State Department, the Department of Defense—why would anyone hire this company, which is a repeat offender, threatening the mission of the United States, threatening, endangering the lives of American, well, CIA and military, and then—and also known to threaten and kill innocent civilians? It is just amazing to me, astonishing to me, that we still find Blackwater anywhere in the employ of the United States government at any place around the world.

AMY GOODMAN: Now, during the primaries, Hillary Clinton supported a ban on Blackwater. President Obama didn’t. How does that relate to what you’re introducing now, the legislation that you’re introducing?

REP. JAN SCHAKOWSKY: Look, I’m introducing legislation called Stop Outsourcing Our Security, and the idea of that is that when we have mission-sensitive activities, inherently governmental functions in battle zones around the world, that we should have only people that bear the stamp of the United States government. And that means that that would include no private military contractors at all in those operations.

Now, look, when we have a situation where you can question whether or not these contractors can get away with murder—after all, this case against those shooters at Nisoor Square has been dismissed—hopefully that there will be another effort by the Justice Department to go after these people, because it was dismissed for prosecutorial misconduct, which is true. I think there were many mistakes made. But right now, these contractors are in a legal limbo. And so, if these individuals can get away with murder, imagine—you don’t have to imagine, you know what it does to our relations with the Iraqi government and with governments around the world. And now you’ve got a situation where Germany is asking, what were Blackwater people doing in Germany?

Not just Blackwater. Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill, chairperson of the Subcommittee on Contracting Oversight, pointed out in mid-December that from June 2009 to September 2009, there was a 40% increase in Defense Department contractors in Afghanistan. In the same period, the number of armed private security contractors working for the Pentagon in Afghanistan doubled, to more than 10,000.

I suspect that the Stop Outsourcing Our Security legislation has no more chance of passing in 2010 than it did in 2007-08. That’s not merely troubling, it’s infuriating. Because whatever you think of U.S. policy in Afghanistan – and I think the White House is on the wrong track and we’ll all soon come to regret it – who can doubt that these private armies are a serious danger, and not just to U.S. “interests and image” abroad, but, quite possibly in the not-too-distant future, to citizens at home.  


Midday Open Thread

January 9th, 2010 admin No comments
  • Portugal, which, by the way, is 84% Catholic, becomes the sixth European country to legalize same-sex marriage. As Joe Sudbay at Americablog points out, it’s refreshing to see a government that isn’t run by the Conference of Catholic Bishops.
  • President Obama will:

    … unveil a $2.3 billion tax credit on Friday to promote clean energy technology and boost job creation in the hard-hit manufacturing sector, the White House said.

    It said in a statement the credit, from funds earmarked under an emergency $787 billion stimulus package Obama signed in February 2009, would create 17,000 new U.S. jobs and would be matched by an additional $5 billion in private capital.

  • Fire up the tea kettles:

    In a National Journal survey of 109 Republican “party leaders, political professionals and pundits”, not a single one deemed Sarah Palin to be the most likely Republican nominee.

  • Tom Cole (R-OK), the only Native American in the House, calls RNC Chairman Michael Steele’s use of the phrase, “honest injun,” unacceptable and offensive. And maybe when Steele’s book tour is over, he’ll apologize.
  • Who knew? Bob Bennett (R-UT) just isn’t conservative enough:

    “Bob Bennett is out of touch with the times and with his state, and Utah Republicans have better choices for their candidate in November,” Club President Christ Chocola said.

    “Our extensive research into the race suggests Utah Republicans already understand this, as they have begun rallying around several viable and superior candidates,” he continued. “The Club for Growth PAC is committed to seeing one of them defeat Bennett either at the nominating convention in May or in a primary election in June.”

  • Read greendem’s diary and learn how dangerous it can be for a cartoonist in a teabagging world.
  • Can someone please light a fire under Martha Coakley?

    According to PPP’s Tom Jensen, Democratic candidate Martha Coakley’s sleepy campaign–which is increasingly starting to irritate party strategists who trusted her to lock the race down early–has resulted in an electorate that’s more Republican than usual and more anti-health care reform than the state as a whole. Brown, one of the few Republicans of stature in the state, has a 60 percent favorable rating–a result of his own ads and of being basically ignored by Coakley.

  • From the you-can’t-make-this-shit-up files:

    Fed up with the mainstream media filter, Rep. Sue Myrick (R-NC) is taking her quest to inform Americans about the threat of jihad to the Internet — namely, YouTube — in a new weekly terror news video series that will be featured on her congressional Web site.

    Who is paying for Myrick’s little one-woman jihad?

  • A former GOP chairman says that a gubernatorial bid by Norm Coleman is a “bad idea both for Coleman and for Minnesota.”
  • Will anyone listen?

    Mountaintop coal mining — in which Appalachian peaks are blasted off and stream valleys buried under tons of rubble — is so destructive that the government should stop giving out new permits to do it, a group of scientists said in a paper released Thursday.

  • Geraldo Rivera flip-flops on racial profiling.
  • Elvis Presley would have been 75 years old today.


Christina Gagnier: CES–The Answer to Publishing Industry Woes: Mobility

January 9th, 2010 admin No comments

CES’ Super Session 7: Big Thinkers and Disruptive Technologies- Today’s Thought Leaders, Tomorrow’s Technologies presented a panel of big thinkers who addressed issues ranging from the impact of the explosion of E-Reader options all the way to technologies that will revolutionize healthcare. In the middle of the E-Reader discussion, an important segue was taken, a discussion of the publishing world and its transition into the digital world.

Decentralized media needs to react to the creation of the decentralized sources upon which users can access it. This was the core message of comments panelist Colin Crawford, Founder and CEO of Media7, made as he discussed how the publishing industry could accomplish its transition from print to new media. Crawford noted that the time is now for content producers, specifically the publishing industry, to seize this unique moment where no one seems to have determined how the mobile market will be tapped into.

When commenting on whether publishers should look to technologists to solve their own problems, Crawford remarked, “Publishers need to solve their own problems.” While many in the publishers industry are hanging their future on technology, there is a need for the industry to recognize that have to create different forms of content for different devices. The desktop reader of the New York Times and the iPhone application user are not one in the same. Content for those on the go needs to be quick to access and effectively communicated. As Colin Crawford puts it, “The right content needs to be with you at the right time.”

Mobile devices have yet to see their full potential realized, whether its publishers trying to share content or government agencies reacting to the needs of their constituents. Mobile penetration worldwide speaks to the need for content to be developed that is user-friendly on these devices. Yet, as more people look towards mobile as a source for information delivery, new challenges are presented: mobile phones demand that content is personal.

The decentralization of news delivery also demand that content providers catch up in a world of search and social networking, two obstacles that seem to stand in the way of online success for publishers. Users today are able to zone in on precisely what information they need, and communities of interest grow increasingly smaller. For the publishing industry to keep pace with technology, the publishers that will be most likely to succeed are those who excel at information delivery in a particular niche.

The continuing problem for the giants of print media is that content is becoming more personal, and everyman can be a content producer. Panelist Dr. Levy Gertzberg, President of the Zoran Corporation, pulled out his Flip Mino HD video camera to illustrate to the audience how personal content creation can be these days. Easy-to-use and fairly inexpensive (around $200 for the MinoHD), Flip illustrates the virtues of mobility: shoot a video, plug the camera into your laptop’s USB drive and upload it instantly. It is mentality that publishers must adopt.

As Colin Crawford reminded the audience, the print model used to work well both in terms of user experience and as a business model. The new model, the mobile model, also has this potential. Between branded applications and microtargeting with mobile ads, the industry has the opportunity to remain viable through this second decade of the 21st century.


Chris Weigant: Friday Talking Points [106] — Election Season Begins

January 9th, 2010 admin No comments

Before we begin our weekly talking points, we must sadly offer our condolences to Vice President Joe Biden, whose mother just passed away. No matter what side of the political divide you come from, or what you think of our Vice President, losing your mother is something everyone can sympathize with, so we offer our thoughts to the Biden family in this sad time for them.

Of course, in Washington, the craziness goes on as usual, forcing us once again to pay attention to various bits of lunacy. Topping the list of lunatics this week was a man arrested for jogging naked near the White House. Now, I’ve got to admit, although “streaking” is a fad we all wish would make a comeback, you’ve got to hand it to this guy for pulling such a stunt in January in Washington, rather than waiting until at least the cherry blossoms had peeked out. Jogging around The Ellipse naked in January? Brrr!

The media continues its ongoing lunacy, this week hitting their well-used chorus of: “everything is bad news for Democrats, all the time.” But we’ll get to that a bit later, in the actual talking points.

The final bit of lunacy is the breathlessness which awaits the decision of when to hold the State Of The Union speech, which was earlier rumored to possibly pre-empt the season-opening episode of Lost. This will likely go down in history as the first time the biggest speech the president makes each year had to worry about enraging fans of a television show. This is mostly due to the fact that previous presidents didn’t have to worry about such lunacy, and the fact that television used to actually have “seasons,” and the “season” started in the fall and went through uninterrupted to spring, after which time re-runs would air until the “season” started again. Nowadays, television has mini-seasons which start and end for no particular reason, at random times during the year, resulting in fewer actual new episodes for viewers. Don’t even get me started on that particular lunacy, please.

But we can all breathe a sigh of relief, as the White House is now reassuring everyone that Obama will not pre-empt Lost, but will instead pre-empt the last ten minutes of the Super Bowl.

Heh. Just kidding. Because that really would get some folks annoyed at the president. Hoo boy.

 

Most Impressive Democrat of the Week

The Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week this week was an easy choice. Senator Chris Dodd made an impressive announcement this week, that he would not be seeking re-election this year.

This is good news, because Dodd’s chances of winning weren’t good, and instead this virtually guarantees Democrats will hold this seat. Dodd, quite plainly, put his party’s interests ahead of his own self-interest. And that is a rare thing indeed in politics, even when you are faced with poll numbers which say you’re going to lose.

Senator Byron Dorgan decided to step down as well, but Democrats don’t have as good a chance in North Dakota of holding on to his seat. Dorgan was faced with the same bad polling news as Dodd, and decided one more run wasn’t worth it. To be fair, we’ll give him a Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week as well.

Because politicians who step down early from a losing race at least give some up-and-comer a shot at winning back the seat. The alternative is to run a campaign everyone knows you are going to lose, and by doing so, give the other party an easy pickup. At least this way, even if Democrats lose, they’ll at least have a better shot at winning than if Dorgan had tried to run again. The betting is that Republicans will pick up North Dakota anyway, I have to admit.

But for putting party ahead of ego, we congratulate Senators Byron Dorgan and Chris Dodd for winning Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week. The award is Dodd’s ninth, putting him in third place on the all-time rankings, and Dorgan’s third, putting him in a nine-way tie for eighth place.

[Congratulate Senator Chris Dodd on his Senate contact page and Senator Byron Dorgan on his Senate contact page, to let them know you appreciate their efforts.]

 

Most Disappointing Democrat of the Week

I almost couldn’t think of a Democrat who disappointed me, which is remarkable since we’re really covering a three-week period this week (due to ourselves being pre-empted by our own annual McLaughlin Awards columns, of course).

But then Tim Geithner’s scandal sprang to mind.

Now, Geithner hasn’t been actually convicted of anything, but what leaked out this week was pretty damaging. Geithner, at the New York Federal Reserve, apparently was in the center of some hanky-panky involving AIG and the whole financial collapse last year (before Geithner was named Secretary of the Treasury). Geithner may have told AIG executives to keep quiet about some payments made (after AIG got billions of taxpayer bailout money), so the Securities and Exchange Commission wouldn’t find out about them.

This could be a big enough scandal to force Geithner to resign, although for now it seems he (and the White House) is hunkering down and hoping it will blow over.

Whatever comes of it, though, for telling a bailed-out company to essentially lie to a government regulatory agency, Geithner has more than earned Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week.

[Secretary Timothy Geithner has no contact info on the Treasury Department webpage, but you can always let the White House know what you think of his actions.]

 

Friday Talking Points

Volume 106 (1/8/10)

The usual talking point from the media, no matter the subject or circumstance, is how bad things are for Democrats, as I mentioned previously. This week, it reached a crescendo of fantastical proportions, as news headline after news headline screamed: “Democrats retiring — midterms will be Republican blowout!”

Democrats, as usual, appear befuddled by the whole thing. Democrats need to wake up, and start sounding a little more confident about their chances in the upcoming election. Not to the extent of appearing Pollyannaish, but still, they need to realize that doom-and-gloom can quickly become a self-fulfilling prophecy in the political world.

Democrats face the same conundrum that faces teenage boys everywhere — girls aren’t interested in guys who exude self-doubt, they are drawn instead to those who appear self-confident. The electorate, in this twisted metaphor, are the teenage girls (which actually isn’t that bad a comparison, considering the fickle nature of both).

So instead of individual talking points this week, I offer up instead one big talking point — how to talk about the upcoming elections, and Democrats’ prospects. This may be seen by some as sheer laziness on my part, which is probably a fair criticism, but in my defense, I am in the process of preparing to upgrade my ChrisWeigant.com website this weekend, and have been swamped with lots of details on this front. Next week, I promise, we’ll get back to a regular format here.

So, for Democrats everywhere, especially those about to be interviewed, let’s have a little rah-rah go-team talk for a change, because the Republican spin is solidifying in the media’s myopic eye, and will soon set as hard as concrete. Democrats need to counter this — soon — with some of their own spin. To wit:

 

“I see the media is obsessed over two Democratic senators announcing their retirement. But what goes completely unmentioned in these stories is the fact that six Republican senators have also announced they’re not running.

“Let’s do a little math, shall we? Two Democrats out of 58 is a little over three percent. Six Republicans out of forty is fifteen percent. So, the media’s focus on three percent of Democrats retiring, while completely ignoring the fifteen percent of Republicans retiring strikes me as a little one-sided in its reporting.

“Over in the House, much has been made over Democratic retirements as well, while ignoring the fact that more Republicans are retiring from House seats than Democrats. This is not exactly ‘fair and balanced’ reporting, guys.

“In actual fact, the two retirement announcements by Byron Dorgan and Chris Dodd were actually good news for Democrats. Before the retirement announcement, people were betting that both of them would lose their seats to Republicans. Net loss to Democrats, two seats, in other words. After the announcement, the smart money is that Democrats will hold onto the Connecticut seat. Net Democratic loss, one seat. By these announcements, Democrats’ chances in the Senate actually improved — but I must have missed all those news stories which examined this fact.

“History shows that a new president’s party will lose some seats in Congress in the midterm elections. But we Democrats do not see this as any sort of ‘landslide’ election, because we fully expect to start 2011 with a majority in both the House and Senate. We simply do not think that it is in the cards for Republicans to take control of either house of Congress this year.

“We’ve got some mighty good candidates running in some very competitive races, and if we ran the table, we even have an outside chance of picking up a few seats in the Senate. We do face some tough races to hold onto a few of our seats, it is true, but we also have some opportunities in other states of picking up a few seats as well. So I wouldn’t be writing the obituary of Democratic control of Congress quite yet, if I were you.

“Democrats have shown in the past year that we are willing to tackle the enormous challenges our country faces at the moment, and offer solid solutions for how to improve America in the future. Republicans have shown that they know how to say the word ‘no.’ Over and over and over again. It seems to be their entire party platform — stand in the way of progress, and obstruct everything rational adults know needs doing.

“We don’t think voters are ready to go back to the way Republicans ran things when they were in charge. We don’t think voters trust Republicans to be fiscally responsible, because when they were in power they refused to even pretend to pay for anything. Democrats have taken the lead in what is called ‘pay as you go’ legislation — making sure that things are paid for, and not just heaping on more spending.

“The voters are understandably annoyed over all the bailout money which President Bush had to ask Congress for, after the economy collapsed on his watch due to deregulation. But that money is starting to be paid back, and the taxpayers may even eventually turn a profit on the money, as the economy enters full recovery.

“Democrats are proud to run on our record, and will be making this case to voters everywhere this election season. And we are fairly confident that the voters are going to take a good hard look at both parties, and they’re going to see Democrats as the party that gets things done, and Republicans as the party of ‘no.’

“If the voters can even figure out who is a Republican and who is not, that is. It seems there is a gigantic intra-party struggle between Republicans and the insurgent Tea Party folks. The Republican Party is moving to a very radical, hard-right fringe position, and we don’t see that as a recipe for success in getting elected.

“Americans want to see their government work. Most of them aren’t interested in destroying government for some ideologically narrow viewpoint. But that, it seems, is what the Republican Party is offering them this year.

“Which is why I’m actually feeling pretty good about Democrats’ chances in the upcoming election. We think we can energize our base, and convince swing voters that we are the ones offering good ideas for moving the country forward. And, with Republicans offering nothing more than a vision of moving this country backwards, we think our chances are actually pretty good this year — especially since it looks like Republicans will be defending more open seats than Democrats.”

 

Chris Weigant blogs at: ChrisWeigant.com

Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant

Full archives of FTP columns: FridayTalkingPoints.com

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Ramon Nuez: Google is Going into the Electricity Business

January 9th, 2010 admin No comments

Google is one of the most successful company’s in US history. It began as a research project at Stanford University back in 1996. Larry Page who was later joined by Sergey Brin postulated that Internet search could be done better. Not only did Larry and Sergey succeed in making search better – they turned a thesis into a $22 billion company. Over its’ fourteen year history Google has entered a variety markets with products like Ad Words, Google News, Google Search Appliance and the Nexus One. Google, now, is getting into the electricity business.

In a press release on November 27, 2007 Google announced a strategic initiative to develop renewable energy. The initiative is called RE<C.

There has been tremendous work already on renewable energy. Technologies have been developed that can mature into industries capable of providing electricity cheaper than coal. Solar thermal technology, for example, provides a very plausible path to providing renewable energy cheaper than coal. We are also very interested in further developing other technologies that have potential to be cost-competitive and green. We are aware of several promising technologies, and believe there are many more out there.

-Larry Page

This past December Google submitted an application asking the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) for the authority to sell electricity at “market-based rate authority.” Google makes the argument that it wants to manage the enormous energy requirements of its’ data centers. That is a valid argument since it’ s rumored that Google has at least 12 data centers in the United States. I say “at least 12″ since Google keeps this information secrete.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is the agency with jurisdiction over interstate electricity sales, wholesale electric rates, hydroelectric licensing, natural gas pricing and oil pipeline rates. They explain that it is not uncommon for a company the size of Google to make such a request. The FERC currently has granted 1500 companies the authority to sell electricity; at market-based rates. Google has requested that the FERC approve the application by February 23, 2010.

Now you won’t be getting your next electrical bill from Google. That will still come from your local utilities company. The authority Google is requesting is the ability to sell electricity wholesale. My educated guess is that Google will leverage this authority through RE<C and Google.org, to work with varies companies, universities and R&D laboratories – to produce various unsubsidized types of renewable energy.

The United States Department of Energy (DOE) explains that IT is a critical component to the information economy. IT over the past decade has grown at an exponential rate. To support this growth companies must build massive data centers; which consume great quantities of this country’s electricity.

Information technology and telecommunications facilities account for approximately 120 billion kilowatt hours of electricity annually – or 3 percent of all U.S. electricity use. Moreover, rapid growth in the U.S. data center industry is projected to require two new large power plants per year just to keep pace with the expected demand growth. Without gains in efficiency, the industry would face increasing costs and greenhouse gas emissions, along with challenges to the reliability of the electricity service.

-United States Department of Energy

From what I understand Larry Page is truly concerned about Google’s carbon footprint. I had a conversation with a Google representative a few months ago and she explained that Google is the 4th largest computer manufacturer in the world. Combine that with its’ 12 data centers and Google stands to produce a massive amount of green house emissions; not to mention the monster electricity bill. It’s no wonder Larry wants to find renewable energy sources.

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Dan Persons: Mighty Movie Podcast: Praise the Lord and Stoke the Conflagration: Kate Davis and David Heilbroner on Waiting for Armageddon

January 9th, 2010 admin No comments

I’ll admit I have little patience for people who confuse religious mythology for real-world politics. You want to believe that, when the earthly going gets tough, you’re going to be zapped up to heaven and have a front row seat for the conflagration and the return of your deity? Cool, swell, no skin off my nuts. You want the U.S. to model its domestic and foreign policies on such fantasies, that’s when I politely have to object.

Which is to say that I probably couldn’t have 2010-01-08-babtism_river_jordan_310.jpgsat where the directors of WAITING FOR ARMAGEDDON did while interviewing people who dearly believe in the looming spectre of the End Times — including a couple who have come to their beliefs after, ahem, “scientific” analysis and a guy who leads tours through Israel and gets all giggly at the thought of the razing of the Dome of the Rock — and not wound up stabbing a pencil in my brain. I’m just not that strong.

Fortunately, directors Kate Davis, David Heilbroner, and Franco Saachi are, and their forbearance pays off in a documentary that gives you a good look into what a vocal and influential segment of our population believes is the world’s ultimate destiny, and what the risks may be in trying mold our politics to that worldview. It’s an important film for anyone concerned about the continuing incursion of religion into our public policy, and a balanced warning in particular for those who have noted the religious right’s involvement in Middle East politics without considering its possible costs.

Click on the player below to hear my interview with Kate Davis and David Heilbroner.

More MMP on HuffPost:
Scott Cooper on Crazy Heart
Kevin Heffernan on The Slammin’ Salmon
Aites and Ewell on Until the Light Takes Us

Check out the Mighty Movie Podcast homepage.

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Ostendo multiple CRVD display games-on

January 9th, 2010 admin No comments

We’re sort of hoping the third year’s the charm for Ostendo and the CRVD display — we first spotted the crazy 43-inch curved monitor at CES 2008 with Alienware and NEC branding, then just NEC branding at Macworld 09, and now it’s CES 2010 and Ostendo is actually selling it directly. Even better, the company’s hooked up with ATI for a pretty sweet Eyefinity demo — sure, you might have seen the three- or six-screen Eyefinity demos in the past, but having three CRVD screens wrap 180 degrees around you is pretty wild. We played a little Dirt 2 and did a little Google Earth zooming on the rig — we might never scrape the $6,499 per screen for a setup like this, but we can certainly watch the videos after the break and pretend.

P.S.- Yes, the CRVD still has the same weak 2880 x 900 resolution, but Ostendo tells us they’re working on something with more pixels for the future. Just don’t make us wait another three years, okay?

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Ostendo multiple CRVD display games-on originally appeared on Engadget on Fri, 08 Jan 2010 20:32:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Lenovo ThinkPad T410s, T510 and W510 now sniffing for your wallets

January 9th, 2010 admin No comments

Lenovo’s just reminded us that’s there’s still a world outside CES — their recently-announced ThinkPad T410s, T510 and W510 are now available for on-line ordering. If you’re up for some of that Core i5 / i7 action, prices start from $1,389, $999 and $1,599 respectively, but hey, save some money for the rest of 2010, OK? Your dog needs it.

Lenovo ThinkPad T410s, T510 and W510 now sniffing for your wallets originally appeared on Engadget on Fri, 08 Jan 2010 19:36:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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