Friday, May 21, 2010

Dances with Oil

By J. Thomas Duffy

Hey, why not?

BP (Better Profits) is so fucked, I mean they don't know whether to piss, or wind their watches, and the Obama people keep patting them on the back, rather than putting them in handcuffs, and getting them as far away from the crime scene as possible.

Especially so, being that Better Profits has been low-balling the amount of oil flooding into the Gulf, so they can mitigate, and lower losses in future court cases.

So, whether this works, or not, it isn't anything worse than what these Oil Criminals have been doing;

Kevin Costner may hold key to oil spill cleanup

So reads the LA Times headline, adding "Costner has invested 15 years and about $24 million in a novel way of sifting oil spills that he began working on while making his own maritime film, "Waterworld," released in 1995."


Scott Weinberg in his post "Kevin Costner Defends Waterworld" noted

"But there seems to be a small fistful of movies that are "generally" accepted as big-time garbage -- and as this amusing Sydney Herald story points out, Kevin Costner's Waterworld is pretty much one of 'em."


Kev, stop. You've got a better chance at making a Sizzle Beach U.S.A. sequel than you would at convincing people that Waterworld doesn't stink to high heaven. Sure, there are varying degress of movie suckitude, and Waterworld may have earned a little extra abuse because of its ridiculous production problems ... but the thing's a turkey, man.

Back to the LA Times;

Costner has invested 15 years and about $24 million in a novel way of sifting oil spills that he began working on while making his own maritime film, "Waterworld," released in 1995.

Two decades later, BP and the U.S. Coast Guard plan to test six of his massive, stainless steel centrifugal oil separators next week. Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser welcomed the effort, even as he and Louisiana officials blasted the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for delays in approving an emergency plan to build sand "islands" to protect the bayous of his parish.


"The machines are essentially like big vacuum cleaners, which sit on barges and suck up oily water and spin it around at high speed," Houghtaling said. "On one side, it spits out pure oil, which can be recovered. The other side spits out 99% pure water."

If all goes according to plan, he said, "We could have as many as 26 machines dispatched throughout the gulf. Our largest machine is 112 inches high, weighs 2 ½ tons and cleans 210,000 gallons a day of oily water. We are hoping to have 10 machines that size out there — meaning we could potentially clean 2 million gallons of oil water a day."

Oh My!

Giant water Hoovers - Brilliant!

The Right Wing Freak Show Flying Monkeys are going to be flinging their feces around over this one.

Big, bad commie-filled Hollywood riding to rescue?

Better, they will likely adopt our Ran Kan Kan man, Rand Paul's take, channeling Donald Rumsfeld with his "Sometimes Accidents Happen."

But wait, there's more!

This isn't the first time Hollywood has rode, not just cinematically, to the rescue;

Meanwhile, "Avatar" director James Cameron has said that he would make his underwater vessels available, and actor-director Robert Redford appeared in a commercial, sponsored by the Natural Resources Defense Council, that uses the spill as a clarion call to move forward on clean energy.

It is not the first time Hollywood has come to the rescue with cutting-edge technology. Paul Winchell, a versatile ventriloquist and the voice of Tigger in " Winnie the Pooh," was also an inventor who patented an early artificial heart in the 1960s. In 1940, glamorous movie star Hedy Lamarr helped design an un-jammable communications system for use against Nazi Germany.

So, perhaps there's a good vibe there for Costner, something other than 'Waterworld', and, maybe, maybe he can squeeze out a sequel, along the lines of "Sea of Dreams";

If you spill it, he will come ...

(Cross Posted at The Garlic)

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Rand Paul goes Palin media route

By Creature

No Meet the Press for him on Sunday. I assume from this point forward it will be a slate of Rush, Hannity, and Ingraham interviews for Rand (not to mention Facebook and Twitter postings). Follow-up questions, Libertarianism, and reality just don't mix.


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How the Democrats' health-care reform legislation is already improving the lives of Americans

By Michael J.W. Stickings

From our friends at the Senate Democratic Policy Committee, a must-read that cuts straight through the bullshit (i.e., Republican propaganda).

Earlier this year, Congress passed and the President signed landmark health insurance reform legislation, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (P.L. 111-148) and the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act (P.L. 111-152), and Americans are already experiencing the benefits. Senate Democrats are committed to implementing health reform that brings down the cost of coverage, holds insurance companies accountable, and provides Americans with the insurance security they deserve. Following is an overview of several provisions of the new law that have taken effect or will take effect soon.

Coverage for adult children. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act allows young adults to stay on their parents’ health insurance plan until age 26. Before passage of the new law, many plans removed young adults from their parents’ policies at age 19 or upon graduation from high school or college. [National Conference of State Legislatures, 4/10] Thirty percent of young adults age 19 through 29 are uninsured, the highest rate of any age group. While this provision is effective for policies and plan years beginning on or after September 23, 2010, more than 65 insurance companies have voluntarily agreed to provide coverage to young adults before the deadline. [The White House, 5/10/10] The Departments of Health and Human Services, Labor and Treasury have issued regulations to implement this coverage extension.

Coverage for children with pre-existing conditions. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act prohibits health insurers from excluding coverage of pre-existing conditions for children, effective for policies and plan years beginning on or after September 23, 2010, and applying to all employer-sponsored plans and all new plans in the individual market. The Administration indicates it will soon issue regulations to implement this critical protection for children with pre-existing conditions, and Secretary Sebelius reports that health insurance companies have agreed to ensure that children with pre-existing conditions are not denied coverage. [HHS, 5/10/10]

Coverage for adults with pre-existing conditions. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act provides access to quality, affordable health insurance for as many as 5.6 million uninsured Americans who are unable to obtain health insurance because of a pre-existing condition. [staff estimate using AHRQ, 4/09 and, accessed 3/20/10] As many as 57 million Americans under age 65 have a pre-existing condition that could lead to a coverage denial under old insurance market rules. [Families USA, 5/10] The law creates a high-risk pool program, effective July 1, 2010, which will operate until state-based health insurance Exchanges are running and discrimination based on pre-existing conditions is banned, in 2014. The Administration is working with states to determine the best implementation strategy, and as of May 3, 2010, 30 states have indicated their intent to operate their own high-risk pool and 18 states have indicated a preference for a federal fall-back high-risk pool. [HHS, 5/3/10] States in the former category were sent an application on May 10, 2010.

Helping businesses help early retirees. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act created a $5 billion re-insurance program for employer health plans that provide coverage to retirees who are not yet eligible for Medicare, to help protect access to coverage while reducing costs for employers and retirees. This temporary program will provide financial assistance until 2014, when health insurance Exchanges will make it easier for early retirees to access affordable health insurance options. Early retirees are at particular risk of becoming uninsured, or of being forced to pay exorbitant premium costs until they become eligible for Medicare, and the percentage of large firms offering retiree coverage has dropped precipitously, from 66 percent in 1988 to just 31 percent in 2008. [The White House, 5/4/10] On May 5, 2010, the Department Health and Human Services issued regulations indicating the program will begin on June 1, 2010, in advance of the June 21, 2010 effective date required by law. [The White House, 5/4/10]

Ending coverage rescissions. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act prohibits insurers from rescinding health coverage when a beneficiary becomes ill, as a way of avoiding paying that person’s health care bills, because Americans deserve the security of knowing they can rely on their health insurance when they need it most. This provision is scheduled to take effect for policies or plan years beginning on or after September 23, 2010, and apply to all new and existing plans. However, on April 28, 2010, America’s Health Insurance Plans announced it would implement the new policy this May. [AHIP letter, 4/28/10]

Health insurance tax credits for small businesses. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act provides tax credits for up to 35 percent of premium costs for small businesses that offer coverage to their employees. Effective this year, the full credit is available to firms with 10 or fewer employees and average annual wages of $25,000, while firms with up to 25 employees and average annual wages of up to $50,000 will also be eligible for a credit. Beginning in 2014, tax credits are available for up to 50 percent of premium costs. In April, the Internal Revenue Service began mailing postcards to more than four million small businesses and tax-exempt organizations that may be eligible for the credit, and provided answers to frequently asked questions about the credit. [IRS, 4/19/10; 5/5/10]

Making prescription medication more affordable for seniors. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act provides a $250 rebate check to Medicare beneficiaries who hit the ‘donut hole,’ or gap, in their prescription drug coverage this year. The Administration plans to issue the first checks on June 15, 2010, and additional checks will be mailed approximately every six weeks through the end of the year. [HHS, 5/10/10] The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services estimates that four million Medicare beneficiaries will receive a check in 2010, and the Administration intends to increase its efforts to prevent fraud and scams associated with the mailing of these checks to seniors. [HHS, 5/10/10]

Ensuring value for premium payments. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act establishes standards for insurance overhead and requires public disclosure to ensure that enrollees receive value for their premium dollars, requiring plans in the individual and small group market to spend 80 percent of premium dollars on clinical services and quality activities, and 85 percent for plans in the large group market. The insurance industry refers to such thresholds as ‘medical loss ratios.’ All health insurance plans, with the exception of self-insured plans, that do not meet these thresholds will provide rebate to their policyholders, effective January 1, 2011. Part of this provision requires the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) to submit uniform definitions and methods for calculating these ‘medical loss ratios’ for Secretarial review by December 31, 2010. However, NAIC has agreed to submit its recommendations by June 1, 2010, well in advance of the statutory deadline. [HHS, 5/10/10]

Making comparable information on insurance options publicly available. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act enables creation of a new web portal to facilitate informed consumer choice of health insurance options by July 1, 2010. The Administration indicates the website will evolve over time and, by October 2010, will include pricing information on insurance available to individuals and small businesses. The Department of Health and Human Services issued regulations and other information about the web portal on April 30, 2010. [HHS, 4/30/10; 4/30/10]

Don't believe what the Republicans tell you, whether it's the hyper-partisan "Party of No" McConnell-Boehner leadership in Congress, the unfair and unbalanced Fox News spinners, or the crazy extremists of the Tea Party movement.

Health-care reform isn't about turning America into a fascist-socialist state that destroys individual choice (it's decidedly market-based reform, after all, very much like what the Republicans themselves proposed back in the '90s and what Romney introduced in Massachusetts), it's about fixing an unjust, unfair, and sickeningly corrupt system that has denied coverage to tens of millions of Americans and that otherwise has forced many more into financial disaster, all to profit the insurance and pharmaceutical industries, and those connected to them.

This, above, is the truth about health-care reform, the truth about what it is already or will soon be doing for you. It would be wise to consider this when you head to the polls this coming November.

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Let there be -- bacteria

By Capt. Fogg

Said the J. Craig Venter Institute research team - and there was life.

While the human race, or at least Homo Americanus is preoccupied with destroying itself with it's pet mythologies and peremptory political philosophies and general stupidity, a few of us have been at work actually creating something that constitutes a giant leap for mankind. It's always a very few, isn't it?

A team of American scientists have succeeded in animating a cell with a synthetic genome made out of raw chemicals. The implications of this huge accomplishment are beyond anyone's ability to foresee and I'm not talking only about the ability to design or reproduce life from scratch or even to bring extinct species back from extinction: I'm talking about dispelling another myth, explaining another mystery without relying on further myths and mysteries ad infinitum.

Remember the scene from Blade Runner where the genetic engineer looks at a snake scale to find an identification number encoded in the artificial snake? Perhaps the team who put together a synthetic "replicant" bacterium Mycoplasma mycoides remembered when they encoded the names of the 46 scientists in the project along with the project's e-mail address into its genome.

Beyond being another blow to the "I don't understand how it works so God must have done it" fallacy, the creation of living, reproducing things from bottles of Adenine, Thymine, Cytosine and Guanine will require us to re-examine the nature of life itself and just when it "begins."

I wonder if looking back at today's newspapers 200 years from now we won't wonder why it didn't make the headlines, but perhaps the reason is the same reason we're in so much trouble right now: 300 million self-absorbed, short sighted, ignorant life forms trapped in solipsistic bubbles ( or tea bags) unable to see much beyond the membrane.

(Cross posted from Human Voices)

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Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Candidate Doth Protest Too Much

by Distributorcap

On Tuesday Rand Paul, the darling of the right and of the teabaggers won the Kentucky Republican Senate Primary in a landslide. On Wednesday, Rand Paul decided to show America he was smart and savvy enough to articulate his libertarian positions on Civil Rights. On Thursday Rand Paul was in dire need of Karl Rove talking points and a good spin doctor.

Rand Paul is one of those purist libertarians - someone who feels the government should stay out of everything, especially anything that has to do with private industry. Paul stated on the The Rachel Maddow Show (and on NPR, and to the Louisville Courier-Journal) that he felt the US government was wrong to ban discrimination in private business. Paul reiterated numerous times that he abhored racism, but felt that the First Amendment allowed a shop owner or restaurant manager to not serve anyone based on their race, religion, sexual orientation, gender, hair color or any other characteristic they choose.

He justified his position using the 2nd Amendment (which was awfully odd, uncomfortable and irrelevant) and that the "market" would take care of anyone who discriminated.

The only thing Raul ended up justifying was just how insane he is.

Rand completely misses the point of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The ban on discrimination was not about speech, it was about abhorrent behavior that was being practiced in many areas of the country - especially the South. Businesses (exemplified by the buses in Alabama and lunch counters at Woolworth's) were regularly refusing to serve Blacks. Some would accommodate minorities - but relegated them to separate areas away from rights. It was racism in its purist and most disgusting form.

Lyndon Johnson helped push through this landmark legislation - which made discrimination illegal. The law had nothing to do with the First Amendment - the owners and employees of Woolworth's were still free to hate anyone they wished. And they could verbally pronounce that hate all they wanted. But Woolworth's could not stop people buying their stale tuna sandwiches and lousy coffee just because the employees were racists.

There is huge distinction here. Using the free speech argument to defend the purity of libertarianism is just another way for Paul to deflect his true feelings on the Civil Rights Act - and his disdain for the government. I think the candidate doth protest too much last night. Rand Paul's purity ended up looking more like Aryan purity as opposed to political purity. And just because Paul claimed he was against racism, it doesn't mean that there is not a trace of it flowing through his philosophy.

Today Paul was forced to go on the defensive. He blamed the "loony left," he back peddled, he clarified, he spun a web so thick it could stop the oil slick in the Gulf. By the end of the day he said he would have "voted yea on the Civil Rights Act back in 1964" despite the fact he said the night before that he wouldn't commit to voting for it and wanted it modified. In other words he was for racism before he was against it. Funny how opportunism always trumps purity.

Rand Paul is a coward. He resorted to blaming Maddow and the liberal media for playing "gotcha." If there is on Karl Rove talking point that every Republican knows - when you are caught with your mouth on the whites only water fountain, your best play is to call it a "lefty political ploy" (Sarah Palin has that perfected!) Watch the Maddow interview, it was no gotcha. All she was asking was for Paul to clarify his political views, extremist as they are.

If it was up to Paul, we should probably take his hate of government directives to areas beyond lunch counter seating. Health inspections and fire safety are two that come to mind. After all, both of those are burdens to the business owner. Why shouldn't a business owner pack in the patrons to make more money even if it means a flash fire would wreak havoc. And while that packed in lunch counter won't serve Blacks, it will serve you mouse droppings and roach parts with your stale sandwich. Yummy.

Rand's version of less government not only means separate lunch counters, but also more tragedies like Katrina and oil destroying the Gulf - and companies like BP walking away from their responsibility from cleaning up the mess.

The teabaggers worship the free market as the answer to everything. But recent free market activity isn't what one would call beneficial to the consumer. For a party that worships personal responsibility, it is so nice to how adept they are at passing the buck. None of this should come as no surprise. Rove and Newt Gingrich have taught their lemmings well.

Finally it was quite obvious Paul was doing everything to avoid answering Maddow's direct questions about the Civil Rights Act. However his refusal to answer was as good as answer - Paul knew his true position would open a can of stinky Woolworth's sardines. Rand Paul, despite his protests to the contrary, does believe it is OK for a private business to discriminate. It is part of their inalienable rights.

And no amount of Monday Thursday morning quarterbacking will change that.


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The will of the Wasp

By Capt. Fogg

Rand Paul is not Ron Paul and I'm not flattering him by saying it. There is a difference between principle and bull-headed intransigence and Paul the younger seems as unclear about that as he is not quite up to the task of successfully debating Rachel Maddow about his distaste for the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Asked whether he thought a restaurant had the right to refuse service to black customers, Paul commenced a rather evasive dance around the subject by trying to describe regulation as ownership.

"What about freedom of speech?" asked the less than candid Candidate. "Well what it gets into then is if you decide that restaurants are publicly owned and not privately owned, then do you say that you should have the right to bring your gun into a restaurant even though the owner of the restaurant says 'well no, we don't want to have guns in here' the bar says 'we don't want to have guns in here because people might drink and start fighting and shoot each-other?'" Paul replied. "Does the owner of the restaurant own his restaurant? Or does the government own his restaurant? These are important philosophical debates but not a very practical discussion."

Unfortunately, more than just being grammatically confused, he's wrong. He's equivocating and the debate is, of course, entirely about practical matters. Can we agree, for instance, that being black in a restaurant is fundamentally different than carrying a gun in a bar and if so, his analogy is defective and a fallacy of distraction? Certainly a speed limit is not Government ownership of my car, health regulations imposed on food producers aren't the equivalent of owning the family farm nor is forcing Woolworth to stop creating two Americas with their policies isn't Marxism.

Is the government of and by the people allowed,as the founding documents imply, to promote liberty for all, to promote peace and domestic tranquility by imposing limitations on individual behavior? Is he arguing for a government so impotent it must inevitably fall into feudalism and exploitation? Those are the questions he begs and the questions he avoids. Sorry Doctor, I think the balance between individual liberty and being a free country is a practical and necessary discussion.

Is it practical to have a society so far beyond the control of its members that justice becomes only a matter of the will of the strongest and the richest and most well connected -- the will of the WASP? No, unlimited individual license does not allow for a society at all, much less a free one.

Still it's all about the practical as opposed to the relentlessly repeated and self referential principle and we've all heard of or can easily come up with examples where freedom cannot be unlimited for many reasons; where behavior that needs to be restrained cannot be restrained by anyone other than Government. Is it preferable to allow my neighbors to forbid Baptists to live on my block and ignore my freedom or is it better to protect the minority against the majority, which is a common definition of democracy as distinguished from mob rule. No, if this is but a "philosophical" discussion it's because he doesn't want to address the inevitable questions Libertarians invite when they refuse to discuss its inherent limitations.

The traditional 'best government is least government' trope reduces to absurdity all by itself as quickly as does his argument that any restraints or obligations put on behavior or business practices constitute ownership and are an unnecessary stain on the pure and absolute freedom we've somehow decided is our birthright. Certainly although he assures us that he would never patronize a business that discriminates, he realizes that his sentiments are not universal. He realizes that he's giving license to anyone to debase any group he likes and to diminish their lives, their liberty and their pursuit of happiness. He realizes that such a nation as he dreams of would be fractured, Balkanized, a loose, weak, unstable confederation of hostile groups no more pleasant than a baboon troupe and with each of us at his neighbor's throat. He must realize that he's appealing to bigots, racists and sociopaths of no conscience -- and all in the name of principle and freedom.

So why is he debating as though the balance between too much and not enough wasn't worth discussing? As though that wasn't the real question? Perhaps its because he's pandering to an audience somewhat less rational than Ron Paul's: to an audience whipped into irrational fury by the basic requirements of civilization; too hungry for revenge against a maturing world and too angry and self centered to give a damn what he can do for his country.

(Cross posted from Human Voices)

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An arm of BP?

By Creature

While I'm not sure what more the administration can do with respect to the slow motion oil catastrophe in the Gulf, I am sure that any hint of collusion with BP in the effort to obscure the spills extent and damage is not the way to go. Throw in what appears to be the Coast Guard acting like BP's private police force and I think the administration may well have some answering and distancing to do.

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Cleanup in aisle 4

By Capt. Fogg

You're going to see more pictures of oily turtles and birds and it will break your heart if you're not one of those religious types who think this "world" isn't worth anything, is ours to destroy and is about to disappear anyway. You'll see pictures of oil soaked wetlands and poisoned mangroves, but if you're not familiar with the part such things and places play in the health of our food chain and in filtering out our foul effluents, producing oxygen and protecting the shoreline, you may really not care, since you live in Ohio or Missouri; but it will affect you and it will affect your children more. Their children will inherit a bleak, dirty, toxic world of privation and perhaps worse.

If you're like most Americans, not really concerned with much more than immediate things; this months mortgage and credit card payments, putting gas in the trucks and getting your offspring to school and the various extra curricular things they have to do to keep them from any consciousness of life in general, you won't care too much and you won't let it occupy your mind for much longer. They'll just clean it up, right? They'll wash the seagulls and loggerheads and bring in new sand beaches for the resorts and rake out the tar balls. The birds and turtles and fish and seals and dolphins and sponges and squid? If they have no food, then let them eat at McDonalds. No, it will all be cleaned up and BP will pay for it.

No they won't. As the Lords of Oil did in Alaska and California, they'll spend a few tens of millions lobbying to have their liability capped and the payments postponed long enough that most of us will forget or be distracted by some other urgent contingency or new witch hunt or celebrity scandal or charismatic leader who will do as he's told. With a tiny fraction of their 50 or 60 billion dollar annual profits, they'll buy a huge publicity campaign, maybe rough up and discredit a few investigative reporters. We'll listen to some Limbaugh on some corporate network telling you oil is natural, that the ocean won't be harmed and only beach huggers and Communists care about such elitist things anyway -- and if there was any problem, it's all because of regulation.

I dare not use terms like "environment" or "ecology" lest I sound like the cooks and nuts and extremists who have already been marginalized in the United Corporations of America. The effects on the huge fishing industry? Well your Fillet-O-Fish came from some concrete tank in Vietnam anyway and we all like Burgers better. Burgers are American. Frenchmen eat fish.

Do you care that the entire food chain has been poisoned at the roots and that the poison is spreading perhaps ten times faster than the corporate owned media admits to? Nah, that's too "enviro" sounding and too reminiscent of radicals with long hair. Maybe you'll notice that the job chain that proceeds from fishing, the boat building, the towns with economies based on it, the people who process, distribute and retail it -- it all spreads out into a wide territory, like the oil slick approaching the Florida coast, soaking the Northern Gulf coast and soon to muck up the Keys and Cuba and all the reefs and shoals where the food chain begins. Maybe you won't notice until shrimp and shellfish cost more than lobster or caviar and another ten thousand miles of coastline are mucked up beyond redemption. Oil is natural! The dispersants will disperse it and never mind they're more toxic than oil - you can't see them and that's what counts.

The plankton, the larvae that make so much of our oxygen, that feed everything from sea anemones to blue whales or grow up to be thousands of species without which life will change forever -- how many years, decades, centuries will it take to recover from this one spill? Who cares? We don't care about the forests that produce the rest of our dwindling oxygen either. We need beef. We need lumber. We need oil. We need to expand to fill every space and use up everything faster and faster. After all, the planet that dies with the fewest resources wins!

(Cross posted from Human Voices)

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While we were sleeping

Guest post by Nancy Brune

Dr. Nancy E. Brune is currently the director of Research and Policy at UNLV's Institute for Security Studies, where she works on energy security and national security issues. She is a Truman National Security fellow, as well as a member of Women in International Security and the Pacific Council on International Policy. This is her first guest post at The Reaction.


There's a reason why the Senate's new clean energy bill is called the American Power Act. If America fails to adopt a comprehensive energy strategy to keep us strong in the 21st century, we won't have much national or military power to speak of as we confront an increasing number of national security challenges.

The new Senate clean energy and security bill was a long time coming. The decision made by Republican Senator Lindsey Graham several weeks ago to suspend his involvement in negotiations did not bode well for America's energy security. Long gone are the days of Summer 2008, when candidates from both parties called on America to reduce its dependence on foreign oil, offering solutions to make us greener and safer. Sadly, while our political leaders have yet to achieve any real progress in making us safer and less reliant on foreign oil, other countries are aggressively taking steps to ensure their own long-term energy security and sovereign power.

Over the last few years, geopolitical powerhouses – including China and Russia – have taken bold measures to ensure their long-term energy security. Driven by the need to fuel its rapidly growing economy, China has invested in distant, oil-rich African nations including Algeria, Angola, Nigeria, and the Sudan. But it has also ponied up money closer to home. On April 20, China's National Petroleum Company announced a $900 million heavy crude production project with Venezuela. Just a week earlier in neighboring Brazil, a country that sits on vast pre-salt oil reserves, China's Sinopec and the China Development Bank signed a strategic development pact with Petrobras, Brazil's state-owned oil company.

In addition, China – along with several sovereign wealth funds owned by countries in the Middle East – have made significant investments in energy companies in Canada, one of America's closest allies and biggest source of oil imports (almost 25 percent). This wave of investment in our northern neighbor stands in stark contrast to the recent decisions last fall by the U.S. Department of Defense and private firms to reverse course and cancel plans to develop and use Canadian tar sands oil.

Russia has also been quite active in building strategic relationships with several resource-wealthy countries to enhance its long-term energy security. In September 2009, Russia and Venezuela announced several cooperative agreements on defense, trade, and energy. A consortium of energy giants in Russia signed two agreements with Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA), the country's national oil company. Last week, former Russian President Vladimir Putin proposed the merger of Gazprom, Russia's state gas company, with Naftogaz, Ukraine's state energy company, in a deal that would give Russia control over the Ukraine's vast European pipeline network.

Even our European allies, despite facing significant economic strain, announced recently that they are investing precious financial resources in almost fifty new energy projects "to strengthen the region's energy security."

Around the world, America's allies and competitors are moving aggressively to secure access to energy resources as part of a comprehensive national energy strategy. For instance, in addition to investing in oilfields, China is also making significant investments in renewable energy. In 2009, China's investment in renewable energy totaled $34.6 billion, surpassing U.S. investment of $18.6 billion.

America cannot afford to delay any longer. Energy security and resiliency are inextricably tied to America's long-term national security interests, geopolitical bargaining power, and economic might. Every day that we put off forging a comprehensive national energy strategy undermines the power of our military, the single largest consumer of energy in the world. We need a climate and energy bill that will provide measures to help us diversify our sources of energy, protect our military, and reduce our vulnerability to turbulence in global energy markets.

As was clear in 2008, energy security is an issue of national importance. We can't afford to let politics or a single interest group hijack our long-term energy security. There are signs that national leadership is committed to moving forward. Last month, the Interior Secretary Ken Salazar took the bold and courageous step of allowing the Nantucket Sound wind project to move forward. The recent oil spill has made the urgency of supporting measures to develop other sources of energy more critical. On Wednesday, Senators Kerry and Lieberman presented their new energy and climate bill, the American Power Act.

We now have before us an opportunity to make America less vulnerable to political instability and volatility in global energy markets. Other nations recognize the critical link between energy surety and national security. Will America?

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Rand Paul's America

By Creature

[via and more @ ThinkProgress]

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Things are looking up

By Greg Prince

It's the day after several primaries, plus a bonus election, and for the first time in a while thoughtful Democrats should have a spring in their step looking to November.

The media narratives will remain focused on the Republican't noise machine, according to which anything and everything is representative of "liberal" failure and is bad for Democrats and Obama, but the facts speak for themselves. Democrats had a good night, a very good night. And it was a particularly rewarding night for the Netroots, who saw their preferred candidates perform well against establishment candidates.

In fact, we see something at Politico that is seldom seen these days: "Republicans failed spectacularly." We'll come back to that.

First off, Arkansas is the gift that keeps on giving. Blanche Lincoln needed to come in over 50% to avoid a run off. She didn't make it. Lincoln is among the more brazen of the DINO conservadems and is owned by special interests. She's not particularly popular in Arkansas and re-election would be a challenge even without a primary. In other words, she's a prime target, and Bill Halter forced her to speak to Democrats for a change. Adele Stan observes:

When, during an appearance on "The Rachel Maddow Show" in the midst of the health-care debate, FireDogLake's Jane Hamsher threatened Sen. Blanche Lincoln with a primary challenge, people thought Hamsher was either full of bluster, nuts, or both. Tonight, nobody's laughing.

How you feeling about that public option now, Blanche?

Just having a primary challenger made a meaningful difference. Trying to bolster her progressive credentials, she went gung-ho in the Senate on derivatives reform under the current financial legislation. Thing is, Lincoln never was serious about derivatives reform. It was all for show, and amendments to weaken the proposals were to have been introduced as soon as polls closed in Arkansas. Inconveniently, Lincoln's problems didn't end when the polls closed, and the tougher language will have to be retained, for now. TPM reports:

A far-reaching proposal to regulate derivative trading will not be scaled back in Wall Street reform legislation, at least for now, multiple Senate aides confirm. The development comes as welcome news to an unusual mix of progressives, financial officials, and at least one conservative Democrat: Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-AR).

Lincoln is the author of the derivatives title in the Senate's financial regulation bill, and for weeks has faced opposition from Wall Street, the White House, and members of her own party over a provision to force financial firms to spin off their derivatives trading desks into stand-alone entities.

It will be interesting to see what happens in two weeks, but typically supporters of the incumbent are less motivated to come out yet again for a special election. Stay tuned.

Pennsylvania gave us a twofer. Joe Sestak's victory over GOP defector Arlen Specter is something of a surprise given Specter's support from the Democratic machine, but he simply ran a better campaign and benefits from being a real Democrat instead of an opportunistic moderate who was caught on camera being very honest about changing parties primarily to avoid a spanking in the GOP primary.

The real news, of course, is PA-12. The GOP was hell-bent on winning this seat, and it seemed very doable for them. This district is not Obama-friendly, and economic stimulus and health-care reform don't poll well. In short, the race looked to be a very good opportunity for the GOP to nationalize the race, create a referendum on Obama's term, and establish momentum going into the midterms. Except for one pesky detail. Matthew Yglesias:

Mark Critz's win in the PA-12 House election is just straight-up embarrassing for Republicans. The Democratic strategy was straight out of the 2006/2008 playbook. Find a moderately conservative House district and run a somewhat heterodox Democrat. You don't win every race, but you win a bunch. You can't count on those guys' votes on all the key issues, but each of them is with you sometimes. Add up a shifting coalition of such members to the big block of solid House liberals, and Nancy Pelosi can put an effective governing agenda together.

This was supposed to stop working in 2010. The end of the Bush backlash and the rise of anti-Obama sentiment, combined with the reality of the legislation coming out of the Pelosi-era House is supposed to get Republicans back to baseline at least. To see a Democrat win an open seat in a district that went for John McCain will be a welcome sign to a large number of House Democrat incumbents from red districts.

Critz isn't a liberal, but a Democratic win here is great news for Democratic prospects nationwide and major egg on the face of the GOP establishment.

Kentucky also deserves some mention. Jack Conway will be fine as a candidate, but the real story is the victory of Rand Paul, the teabagging son of Texas Congressman Ron Paul. Spend some time listening to the son and you'll think the father is sane. Thing is, Paul ran on a platform that is pretty standard GOP fare, so it's hard to know just how strong the tea will brew for the general. But this is a best-case scenario for the Democrats. Paul can be beaten, and Conway is the strongest candidate on the Democratic side.

All in all, a very respectable evening for Democrats.

Still, there is a lot of voter anger. How will that translate into anti-incumbent, anti-establishment sentiment at the polls? That remains to be seen. The votes against Specter and Lincoln, as well as against Kentucky's GOP-favored candidate Trey Grayson, can be seen as defeats for the party machinery and traditionalists, but with the exception of Lincoln, the anti incumbent spirit is less clear. There is no incumbent in Kentucky, and Specter was not elected to his seat as a Democrat.

Similarly, wishes for a viable third party ring hollow. Being "not Democrat and not Republican" is not the same thing as a vision for governance and a platform to campaign on. The Independence Party of Minnesota is facing this challenge. A leftover from the Jesse Ventura days, they manage to attract a hardcore following but never reach critical mass to elect anyone to office – other than stealing enough DFL votes to keep sending Michele Bachmann to Congress, alas. But all they have going for them is being "other." Sometimes its candidates are liberal, sometimes conservative. There's no cohesive vision for voters to support. Even among the various incarnations of the Tea Party, there are few common threads around which to build a platform.

Minnesota primaries are in August. Then onward to November.

(Cross-posted from Greg Prince's Blog.)

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Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Cantwell and Feingold make FinReg stand

By Creature

No bill yet, and that's a good thing.


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Lessons from PA-12 and Specter-Sestak

By Creature

Running against Pelosi-Reid-Obama still doesn't work, while running against Bush-Cheney does.


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No TEA for me please.

By Capt. Fogg

Rand Paul has things backwards and I don't mean his name. His win in the Kentucky Senate Republican Primary is not quite the same thing as being elected Senator and of course it's at least a few furlongs short of winning the Derby, or "taking back the Government" since, of course it wasn't taken from the voters in the first place. OK, there was Bush V. Gore, but you know what I mean.

Pretending that having been voted out of office was a breach of democracy seems to work for those at the Tea Party table, but then anything seems to work except reality and the reality is that we're not taxed enough already and we haven't had the tax increase they hope you believe we've had. Yes, we may be taxed unfairly and tax policy may have been written by people who can afford lobbyists and huge campaign donations, but beyond the amorphous anger, I haven't heard any proposals for a new tax code that could approach remedying the debt in any reasonable time much less as quickly as we paid off World War II.

They won't come up with one either unless they dispense with the repeatedly disproved fallacy that cutting taxes for the very rich will increase government revenues, spur investment in new businesses and boost employment and won't cause investment bubbles -- and that laissez faire capitalism doesn't lead to monopolies, corruption of government, fewer choices for consumers and less opportunities for small business.

In real terms most of us are paying less in Income tax than we used to -- less than at any time in my lifetime. The countries that have lower taxes are few and tend to have economies based on gambling, money laundering or revenues from things like the Panama Canal. The Republicans were ousted because of public anger and frustration with corporate control over people's lives, because of another apparently pointless and interminable war and the fear mongering that's eroded our freedom. I don't see where Mad Hatters like Rand Paul are addressing that and I do see that the Tea movement, if we can fall it that, is based on the hope that shattering the old form of government will magically cause freedom, justice and prosperity to break out and allow "the people" to control their own destiny. Sound like Marx to you? It does to me too. Does it sound like the same old: "don't trust them, but trust us even though we don't really have a plan other than to cloud your mind with anger?" It does to me too.

(Cross posted from Human Voices)

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Outbidding in Waziristan

Guest post by Peter Henne

Peter S. Henne is a Security Fellow with the Truman National Security Project and a doctoral candidate at Georgetown University. This is his seventh guest post at The Reaction.

He has previously blogged about Sri Lanka, the Afghan War, the Left and religion, Obama and the Nobel Peace Prize, Marc Thiessen, and Iraqi identity politics.


As the investigation into the failed car bomb in Times Square continues, one of the key points of uncertainty involves the suspect's -- Faisal Shahzad -- international connections. Specifically, was he supported by militants in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region (Af-Pak)? Understanding this aspect of the failed attack would shed light on both the current terrorist threat, and the state of Af-Pak militants. Are groups in the region -- like the Pakistani Taliban -- focused on attacking the United States, or are they motivated primarily by ethnic and material concerns? If the Pakistani Taliban was behind the attack, does this mean Islamic militants do constitute a global threat, rather than a multitude of local conflicts?

The answer to these questions likely lies in the very complexity that spawned them. The "global jihad" is actually a jumble of competing ideologies, motivations, and goals, and the United States has been attempting to exploit the diversity among militants in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Yet, this attempted bombing shows a significant number of militants still aspire to strike the United States, and this may be the result of the very divisions the United States has been attempting to create.

The Bush Administration initially approached the "Global War on Terror" as one against a monolithic terrorist threat. This conflation of all violent Islamic movements into a monolithic enemy proved to be inaccurate, as there were numerous divisions -- and even clashes -- within apparently unified groups. An example of this is the Armed Islamic Group in Algeria, whose brutal tactics shocked even Osama bin Ladin, leading him to withdraw support for that group and establish a rival organization. And some groups lumped in with al-Qaeda -- like Uighur militants in China -- are driven by separatist, not religious, motivations.

The counterterrorism community began to realize this as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan dragged on. U.S. efforts to control sectarian violence in Iraq were aided greatly by local Sunnis who turned against foreign Al Qaeda elements in the country, rejecting their savage tactics. And experts like David Kilcullen -- who worked with the U.S. military and has been influential in counterinsurgency policy circles -- began to emphasize the banal motivations often driving these conflicts.

U.S. policy in Af-Pak now seems to be focused on creating and exploiting divisions among militants. The military has reached out to tribal groups in an attempt to turn them against the Taliban. Also, there have been calls for negotiations with the Taliban, on the assumption that the group can function as a normal negotiating partner and the radical elements within the group will pose little threat outside of the region.

The Shahzad case may indicate a disheartening side to these trends. Shahzad seems to have received training in bomb-making in Pakistan, and it is becoming increasingly likely he was connected to the Pakistani Taliban. Elements of the Pakistani Taliban may have organized this attack, or provided support to Shahzad to conduct it as a freelance operative. This suggests that even if the majority of combatants are focused on local issues, a small group of individuals can still wreak havoc and are unlikely to be swayed by concessions aimed at their more locally-minded compatriots.

But it is also possible the attempted attack was connected to the increasing fractiousness of Af-Pak militants. As intra-group rivalries among militants increase, these rivalries tend to spill over into greater violence as each side attempts to show their devotion to the cause, a phenomenon known as outbidding. When this competition is paired with an ideology that is both radical and global in scope, the outbidding can take the form of attacks on the United States.

In this case, hard-liners may have supported the attack to increase their profile, and win out in intra-group struggles for dominance. This may explain the attempts on the part of the Pakistani Taliban to distance itself from Shahzad, while also praising the attack. While divisions among militants are good, the combination of these divisions with a radical ideology could lead to outbidding-driven attacks on U.S. interests. As pressure increases, hard-liners will become more inclined to support such attacks to protect what they see as the group's mission, and discredit more moderate elements.

If this incident did occur through decentralized terrorist networks focused on U.S. attacks, and was disconnected from militant groups driven by local concerns, there is little we can do to stop such attacks besides maintaining constant vigilance, a rather pessimistic takeaway. If, instead, it arose through outbidding among militant groups in Af-Pak, the implications are different. The threat of such attacks will persist, and may increase, as pressure grows on groups like the Taliban. But we can take solace in the possibility that attacks like this are a sign of desperation -- with counterinsurgency operations straining the militants and intra-group rivalries threatening to tear them apart -- not renewed vigor.

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Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Big Oil, the GOP, and the screwing of the American taxpayer (and the environment)

By Michael J.W. Stickings

From our friends at the Senate Democratic Policy Committee:

Senate Republicans are once again putting special interests ahead of the American people by protecting Big Oil polluters. Attempts to block the Big Oil Bailout Prevention Liability Act send a clear message: Senate Republicans are on the side of Big Oil companies.

As the oil spill continues, the Gulf Coast’s fishermen, tourist industries, and small businesses are incurring millions of dollars worth of damage every day. Cleanup costs have already reached $450 million and will continue to climb. Unfortunately, the total economic impact will dwarf the initial cleanup cost – Louisiana’s fishing industry could lose over $2 billion and the Florida tourism industry another $3 billion.

Despite the billion-dollar costs associated with the spill, Big Oil companies enjoy the protection of a $75 million dollar cap on liability. Unless the cap is increased, these companies, earning profits in excess of $24 billion in the first quarter of 2010, will only have to pay for a fraction of the overall economic impact of this preventable disaster. That is why Senate Democrats have brought forward legislation that would ensure Big Oil companies pay for their own mistakes by raising the liability cap for offshore oil well spills from $75 million to $10 billion.

Blindly trusting Big Oil to take full responsibility, Senate Republicans have blocked this legislation and left hard-working American families at risk of paying for the economic damage caused by oil spills. Have Republicans forgotten about Big Oil’s miserable track record in similar disasters?

ExxonMobil used antiquated maritime law to stall and eventually reduce the damages (from $5 billion to $500 million) paid to Alaska’s fishermen, Native Alaskans, and landowners from the 53 million gallon Valdez oil spill. Not surprisingly, history is repeating itself. BP’s partner, Transocean, is trying to use obscure maritime laws from the 1850s to abdicate liability for the spill.

Senate Republicans should stop trusting Big Oil and allow this important legislation to pass.

Big Oil is a lot like Big Tobacco. If you trust it to do the right thing, you're a moron.

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MJWS in the UK

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Hello from England, everyone. I'll be on vacation here for the next 2+ weeks, out in the lovely Chiltern hills roughly halfway between London and Oxford, in an idyllic little village that defies my usual sense of reality, Torontonian reality.

I'll try to blog from time to time, but for the most part I hope not to spend much time in front of a computer, and the time away from heavy blogging after what has been a very busy year so far, what with health-care reform, draconian immigration laws, environmental calamities, widespread Republican insanity, and so on, should help me recharge my batteries for what will no doubt be an even busier rest of the year, what with the midterms coming in November.

But do keep checking back here frequently. Again, I will do some blogging while I'm here, including probably on British politics -- you can smell the Toryness in the air, a vague scent of neoliberal oppression mixed with nasty old-fashioned fogeyness, stewing with LibDem sellingoutedness, and not just out here in the Tory heartland -- and, as you've seen the past couple of days, my great co-bloggers will be doing their usual thing in my absence, putting up fantastic posts that you're sure to like (unless you're on the other side, in which case you'll be predictably outraged by anything that blasts through your ignorance, willful or otherwise).

So stay tuned.

As for me, as it's almost 5:30 pm here, I'm off to have a beer and wander around the gardens.

-- Michael

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Big Top

By Capt. Fogg

The Republicans sometimes like to talk about their big tent. Others, in consideration of the exploits and shenanigans of the party of values and families and apple pie may think it's more like a freak show tent, but we shall see soon enough which kind of tent the Donna Milo show winds up in.

Cuban born, 48 year old "Conservative" Republican Ms. Milo is running to unseat rather liberal Broward County Florida U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Yes, Miami Cuban Republicans are pretty numerous and at first glance one who didn't know that Ms. Milo used to be a Mr. Milo, whose friends called him Ed, wouldn't think anything was out of the ordinary.

Donna Milo is a person who prides herself in getting to where she is by her personal ability and in spite of her differentness -- not like those who we support with our tax money or special favors to Cuban immigrants, perhaps. Will that differentness matter more to the GOP than the traditional Republican attitudes she publicly displays?

It remains to be seen whether the party so traditionally inimical to the rights of gay, lesbian and transgendered people -- their agenda -- as they so often phrase it, will welcome her into the three ring big top with the other anti-Castro, pro-corporate liberal bashing Miami paranoids or ushered out the side door.

(Cross posted from Human Voices)

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Monday, May 17, 2010

Poll Dancing

by Distributorcap

You can not watch any "news" program on cable and not have to have some poll quoted at least 36x in a period of 9 seconds. And if you watch the next day, a new set of polls are quoted and the ones from the previous day are treated as if they never existed.

Call it Journalism by Numbers. Call it Journalism by misguided and misleading information. Or just call it a pole dance to tease and titillate.

This was written just before the 2008 election, but is apropos now as then. Call it distributorcap by numbers. (it has been edited to make it more current)

For the past eeks, polls have been nothing short of an incredible roller coaster ride of results. Obama’s popular, Obama sucks. Republicans will kick ass in November, now the Democrats are coming back. People love the Arizona immigration law, people love Sarah Palin (well anyone who loves Sarah Palin is not a people and definitely not human). Volcanoes, Greece, the dog ate my homework, etc. You name it, there have been a million reasons given for seeing such dramatic rises and falls in the polls.

But what makes the reporting of poll results so dangerous – is the irresponsible, shoddy and pedestrian way the pundits and media use the results of polls to represent news. There is no doubt in my mind that imprudent use of polls, especially fashioning them into news as opposed to data - directly affects the tenor of the campaign.

A bit about polls

We have hear it a million times – Polls are snapshots in time. Nothing more. They do not predict the future. They can help people make informed decisions about how they will act in the future – but they do not tell you what will happen.

Where the media falls apart in the reporting polling data is the fact they almost always ONLY give the results. They rarely (if ever) tell you exactly what is behind all those results. The data which ultimately gets wrapped up in the reporter's own opinions of the results, becomes the story. There is no context, there is no explanation, there is very little history.

The first thing a consumer of the this “polling data” needs to know – is this poll a scientific or unscientific poll? If you are looking for real national/state trends on any issue (politics, consumer preferences, issues etc.), you absolutely must look at scientific (or random sample) polls. If a poll is stated as unscientific (which in a nutshell means the people in the poll volunteer to be interviewed), the data may be good for a read and laugh – but it is most likely garbage for results and decision making.

The media tends to report a lot of data from unscientific polls, and then mention it as an aside or at the tail end of the story that the poll was unscientific.

Scientific polls.

Polls should be based on representative random samples using statistical analysis. Anything else is like throwing darts, using a Ouija board or turning over a toy 8-ball. Just because a poll is scientific, doesn’t mean it is a good poll. There are so many variables and rules that go into valid polling – no media outlet would ever have the time, nor the basic understanding to explain it to their viewers. Besides it would blow all the emotional impact out of their reporting if they had to explain exactly how the data was obtained.

Let’s stick to political polling – since this area tends to be the most overused for misleading usage of poll data. I would imagine current political reporting of poll data gives real pollsters and mathematicians the heebie jeebies.

First of all national polls regarding the Presidential election are MEANINGLESS (just ask Samuel Tilden and Al Gore). It is the state polls that matter – and they are dreadfully even more unreliable. But lets just stick to polls in general.

Some factors that are almost never discussed when reporting the “polls” are (in no particular order):

* Is the sample balanced to “fixed” characteristics? The sample should reflect characteristics of the population being surveyed that actually affect voting – primarily (but not limited to) age, gender, income, race, religion, education level and geography. If a national poll has too many people over 50, not enough low income, or too few Hispanics in it – is it truly reflecting the population at large? Probably not. And if the sample falls short or has too many of one characteristic – how does it compensate for that? You never ever hear a pundit say what the sample is comprised of or if it is balanced.

* Registered versus likely voters? A real tough one. What is a “likely voter?” Every polling organization has a different definition. Likely voters are more a function of historical trends and polling techniques rather than reality. And just because someone is likely today, doesn’t mean they are likely on November 4th. I tend to think (as do many polling organizations) polls that use registered voters are more reflective of reality than likely voters. But likely voters plays so much better as a sound byte.

* Then there is party identification – Democrat, Independent or Republican. This is not a fixed characteristic, but an attitude. And attitudes can and do change over time -- shifting as political climate blows in the wind. While the fixed characteristics (like age etc.) tend to remain relatively stable over the short term (like a campaign), party affiliation is likely to be muchy more ephemeral over the short term – for a variety of reasons. It is constantly changing. And during a survey, this question in particular is notorious for deceitful (and downright dishonest) answers.

* How random is the sample? Randomness slowly leaks away as people refuse to answer, are not home to answer, or don’t have land-line phones. Do you ever hear a pundit talk about how the pollster deals with ensuring randomness and what steps they take to minimize the impact? Of course not. Due to changing lifestyles and technologies it is becoming increasingly difficult to get a true (or close to) random sample using telephones. Also polling organizations in the effort to save money and time – might start excluding certain exchanges that heavily business oriented – even if they are not exclusively businesses. This of course affects randomness.

Some other factors which are all critical in insuring good data:

1. Are the polls and/or pundits using data from subsamples of a poll – this can terribly misrepresent the results. If a poll’s target was national registered voters and they start quoting – “in this poll Women over 50, or people with a college education” – be very wary. The poll was NOT designed for that – subsample data is very suspicious.
2. How are the questions asked? (the wording matters)
3. What order are the questions asked? – Asking for party identification at the beginning is very different than asking at the end.
4. Are they weighing the sample to normalize? (to bring characteristics into line). Can have dramatic effects on the outcome.
5. Is the interviewer injecting bias? (not something that can be easily measured or observed, but if the poll taker just hates Hillary, it will affect the way he asks questions)
6. Is this an assembly line poll which often lack the rigorous standards to make the data viable? (the daily Gallup Tracking Poll tends to come to mind). Automatic polls generated with a machine calling and asking questions are VERY suspect.
7. Who paid for or commissioned the poll? (Partisan polls obviously will tend to overstate the candidate. That is why Polls commissioned by RJ Reynolds on smoking are useless).
8. What size sample are they using? (Larger samples will tend to have smaller margins of error).
9. Do they offer disclosure of their methodology, questions and results?
10. What is the media outlet/pundit trying to do with the poll data? How are they reporting the data? The reporting of poll data should be used to inform – not sway. But the fervor attached into this kind of reporting is so blatant and so obvious – it cannot help but be influential in unintended (or maybe intended) ways. You can bet when Fox News talks polls it is trying to demoralize Democrats and energize Republicans.


Pundits have become addicted to polls. Their entire schtick is often based on the polls of the day. Each absolute movement has become the story, rather than the trend of movement. News organizations will also talk about “poll averages.” Poll averages are garbage. Like a drug, they give an immediate high – but in reality have little value. Averaging polls with different methodologies across different time periods, with different samples, different questions, different ways the questions are asked and different assumptions produce meaningless and misleading results. The reporting of polling averages is reckless at best, dangerous at worst.

It is important to remember that no matter how good the poll, no matter how wide the margin, a poll in September will in no way show that one candidate has locked up the election. Things change – and they change often and dramatically in politics. Back in 1980, Ronald Reagan was the risky choice against an unpopular incumbent. Reagan's move in the polls was very late, but it was decisive. In 1988 Michael Dukakis led by 18 points in the summer. By November the lead had vanished -- and on election day it wasn’t very close for Dukakis.

You have to be careful in what you read, hear and watch. Are news outlets and pundits cherry-picking polls they want to use to sell their narrative and pump the horse race aspect? The real picture requires looking at all the polls, not just the ones you see from the people you watch.

Some places to look at political polls are:

National Council on Public Polls has the 20 questions any journalist should ask about polls and was the basis for a lot of this post.

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