Sunday, August 31, 2008

First 25 comments on Rich's Wonderful Op-Ed Today

Sunday, August 31, 2008
Obama Outwits the BloviatorsBack to Article »
The disconnect between the reality of this campaign and how it is perceived and presented by the mainstream media is now a major part of the year’s story.
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August 31st, 2008 8:58 am
Talk about a home run. Frank Rich hit this one out of the park. The media right now is like a flailing animal -- someone should put it out of its misery.
— patty, Villa Park, IL
Recommend Recommended by 259 Readers
August 31st, 2008 9:00 am
We are in a war in Iraq, Islamic fundamentalists are determined to destroy us, Iran is rushing to build a nuclear weapon, Russia is once again becoming a tyrannical regime threatening it's neighbors, our economy is tanking, and John McCain, a seventy two year old man who has had four cancer operations choses as his running mate and the person who will be a heartbeat away from the Presidency a woman with zero experience in foreign relations and who was elected governor of Alaska by winning the votes of 130,000 people, about fifty thousand more than attended Obama's acceptance speech at Invesco field, a football field. The American people should be horrified and deeply frightened.If this choice was a snide attempt to lure the Hillary Clinton supporters over to McCain, it will backfire, as Ms. Palin's positions on choice, universal healthcare, and the minimum wage are the complete antithesis of what Hillary Clinton has cared deeply about her entire life. If this was an attempt to get the evangelicals on McCain's side that will work somewhat as most were not going to vote for an African American Democrat anyway.The pro-life movement in America has hijacked the Republican party and has caused it to lose the presidency, numerous governorships, and several senatorial races. Their single issue monopoly over the choice of who gets to run under the Republican banner is that of no choice whatsoever. You can be the most inexperienced candidate for vice president since Dan Quayle at a time our nation needs experience more than any time in our history since the second world war, but according to the Republicans, as long as you are pro-life issues life terrorism,the economy, healthcare, the environment, and the war in Iraq all come a distant second.The left wing feminists in the Democratic party who are whining about the fact that Barack Obama fairly, legitimately, and in every way possible defeated Hillary Clinton in caucuses and primaries nationwide and earned the nomination, and are threatening to vote for McCain to show their displeasure are people who do not care one iota about the issues Hillary Clinton devoted her life to, issues that Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are agreement with almost one hundred percent. Any Clinton supporter who votes for McCain clearly cared more about Ms. Clinton celebrity status and persona than about anything Ms. Clinton fought for all her entire life.I hope that the American people will not allow a person to become Vice President at this most dangerous time in our history who has the lack of experience Ms. Palin has and that the American voter will not vote for McCain solely because he chose a pro-life running mate. I also hope that the women that supported Ms. Clinton who are threatening to vote for McCain will think twice before voting for someone who disagrees with 98% of the positions Ms.Clinton ran for President on.Barack Obama brings a needed change to the White House.
— Mark Jeffery Koch, Cherry Hill, New Jersey
Recommend Recommended by 794 Readers
August 31st, 2008 9:00 am
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August 31st, 2008 9:01 am
"We will only begin to confront the magnitude of our choice when and if we stop being distracted by small, let alone utterly fictitious, things."I don't remember who said "Arrogance is arrogance is arrogance" or was is "ignorance is ignorance is ignorance," but I like either version.The reality is that billionaires, such as Oprah and George, countless overfed liberal millionaires (famous or not) and countless "special" privileged white kids from Beverly Hills, Greenwich, or Saddle River (check your forums) have decided that a biracial President would make them feel good.Who cares about the uninsured and wage slaves. When did they matter? N'est-ce pas, Frank?Yes, I visited Obama's website. Thank you very much.
— Anna, New York
Recommend Recommended by 39 Readers
August 31st, 2008 9:08 am
A brilliantly insightful article!
— T. Underwood, Marblehead,Mass.
Recommend Recommended by 98 Readers
August 31st, 2008 9:09 am
This is an interesting column. Calling out the media who were trying to create friction between the Clintons and Senator Obama. However, Mr. Rich you said in 2000 that there was little difference between George Bush and Al Gore. As I recall you along with the rest of the idiot pack journalism (Maureen Dowd included) ridiculed Al Gore endlessly in 2000, so you are partly responsible for the mess the country is in and the lack of seriouss journalism in the country today.
— Alan, Chicago
Recommend Recommended by 317 Readers
August 31st, 2008 9:09 am
"After the catastrophic Bush presidency, the troubles that afflict us on nearly every front almost make you nostalgic for the day when America’s gravest problems could still be seen in blacks and whites" ----- you obviously are one of the whites. Nothing Bush has done compares to losing my culture, language, religion, freedom, so many lives, etc. for three hundred years. You speak for the white folks who meted out all that hell, certainly not anyone Black who suffers through it all.Just by saying that you must not think what was done was all the very bad.
— nubiannews, Trenton, NJ
Recommend Recommended by 49 Readers
August 31st, 2008 9:09 am
"The disconnect between the reality of this campaign and how it is perceived and presented by the mainstream media is now a major part of the year’s story."Is it self-criticism, Frank?
— Anna, New York
Recommend Recommended by 53 Readers
August 31st, 2008 9:10 am
Thank you Mr Rich for aiming your discerning eye on the media and their pathetic coverage of the Democratic Convention. These are the same people that issued Breaking News Alerts when Obama's 'bitter' comment was revealed and blew Reverend Wright way out of proportion. They are no longer news programs and should be called what they are...opinion. It is the separation of opinion from news that separates the newspapers from the television networks. God preserve the New York Times!
— greg, tulsa, oklahoma
Recommend Recommended by 167 Readers
August 31st, 2008 9:10 am
Just for clarification, "deus ex machina" is Latin, not greek.... Also buying into the whole "Greek Column" thing dismisses the idea that the stage was supposed to represent the oval office and seems to indicate the republican misdirection is working, even if only to get you to repeat it....
— w987, boston
Recommend Recommended by 74 Readers
August 31st, 2008 9:10 am
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August 31st, 2008 9:10 am
Just a small correction. I am sure I will not be the only one to point out that "deux ex machina" is not actually Greek too. It is a Latin phrase.
— Tom M, Williamstown, MA
Recommend Recommended by 34 Readers
August 31st, 2008 9:11 am
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August 31st, 2008 9:11 am
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August 31st, 2008 9:16 am
Mr. McCain sure enough just doesn't get it! Brilliant tactics for controlling the flow of media attention day to day, but even if it undercuts his own position. He sacrifices his inexperience charge against Obama by offering up such a disparate choice that eyes roll trying to defend him. It all feels like politics before country, the very mud he's slinging.But why, indeed, are the journalists bamboozled? Talking corporate heads will earn their paychecks, scripted and coiffed; that's understood. But print journalists, if they truly are to be "better than the rest of them," must see more clearly. I think it would be helpful if they remember that Uncle Bill is right, that history does have a right side.dmbones
— dmbones, Portland, Oregon
Recommend Recommended by 46 Readers
August 31st, 2008 9:16 am
Thank you for putting into words the reality that so many of us watching this campaign have noticed and wondered what in the world is going on. As someone who never questioned the credibility of news organizations, I find myself now no longer able to watch or read corporate media outlets. I get my news directly from the Internet, CSPAN (the best way to watch the convention), and PBS (although Brooks is a poor substitute for Gergan). If the internet links to a story, I will only open it if I trust the source to write something with integrity.Perhaps I am the only one so naive to think that media has a responsibility to report on issues fairly and accurately, which I realize can contradict the business mission of a media company which is to make money by selling (and manufacturing) controversy. Someone could do a great service to our country by writing a book covering this election and the media manipulation that has been rampant. Hopefully the days of so called experts telling comatose Americans what to think are over. I can't think of a better thing for a democratic society.
— Dave, California
Recommend Recommended by 282 Readers
August 31st, 2008 9:24 am
"Deus ex machina" is a latin term used to describe a mechanism mediating catharsis in earlier forms of Greek tragedy. The concept is Greek, but the term is latin and coined much, much later. If your reaction is to nod and say "whatever" at such comments, remember that it is this kind of attitude (here, in miniature) that gets american foreign policy in the trouble it is today.
— Eleni Gagari, Greece
Recommend Recommended by 89 Readers
August 31st, 2008 9:24 am
Mr. Rich:Interesting read, as usual.BUT "deus ex machina" is Latin, not Greek - unless you mean that the stage business --not the phrase-- originated in Greece.
— Judith Weiss, Sackville, NB, Canada
Recommend Recommended by 20 Readers
August 31st, 2008 9:24 am
The press has been absent since the Trade Center fell.Completely irresponsible.(By the way,'deus ex machina' is Latin.)
— Bronx, Bronx
Recommend Recommended by 68 Readers
August 31st, 2008 9:24 am
I don't understand this line: "Barack Obama descended in classic deus ex machina fashion — yes, that’s Greek too — to set the record straight." This is a Latin expression, are you being ironic or what? Also, Obama did not appear from out of nowhere but his speech was shaped by speech writers, anticipation of media reaction, his own values and ideology shaped by dozens of mentors, fundraisers and "advisors" (some of whom are invariably gatekeepers), and the like.Obama gave a momentous speech, although the bit about nuclear power and some other parts were not so great.The great parts stand in stark contrast, however, to the status quo discourse, so here you make sense.I agree that: "the disconnect between the reality of this campaign and how it is perceived and presented by the mainstream media is now a major part of the year’s story." How do they continue to do it? Well, blame the journalism schools for producing a faulty product.
— Jonathan, The World
Recommend Recommended by 29 Readers
August 31st, 2008 9:26 am
30th, 2008 8:70 pmWitty, dramatic, interesting article. Congratulations. But please, get your erudite allusions straight. The columns of the Acropolis are Doric. The columns at at Invesco Field are Ionian. And the expression "Deus ex machina" is not Greek; it is Latin. Good writing deserves accuracy. Cheers, Corinna
— mowgli15, Woodside, CA 94062
Recommend Recommended by 43 Readers
August 31st, 2008 9:26 am
As I malate for a dinner, I've only had a chance to glance at the beginning of the story. I want to savor it when I return later! Is not, however, "Deus ex machina" Latin not Greek? Maybe I missed something when reading the story so quickly. Or maybe my three years of Latiun truly WERE wasted. I love these columns.
— Jonathan Dana, Los Angeles
Recommend Recommended by 5 Readers
August 31st, 2008 9:30 am
Frank, with all due respect, this election isn't about what you mention, either. It's about who has 270 electoral votes, come the early hours of 11/5.As a former (courtesy of dubya) lifelong Republican who was very enamored with Obama till a couple of weeks ago, I'd puzzled till then on why he hadn't closed the deal. Now I know.I'd given him the benefit of the doubt that he'd be a thoughtful centrist - notwithstanding his bringing sharp Southside elbows to the game.But, on what - for me - are the two biggest issues in this election, namely US energy policy and the continued viability of the US economy as a creator of wealth, he's lost me completely.So, I'd jumped too soon. But now, I've settled back.Barack still has my respect as one of the most astute politicians of our time. But as an executive or legislator, the (lack of any) record speaks for itself.I'd been rooting for Bobby Jindal, but my first impression of Sarah Palin in her new role has been favorable.She's gotten more money for her state and its residents from the oil companies than Obama or Biden have for theirs - or McCain, for that matter.So, while Obama may have a stealth internet ecosystem out there that rivals Google, the polls - based on 19th century telephone technology, as they are - have been on the mark.In closing the deal, or reaching certain demographics, Barack appears stalled and sliding back.Let's see what the centrists think of Sarah Palin in a couple of weeks.Could be a quayle. Could be a hawk.
— W in the Middle, New York State
Recommend Recommended by 33 Readers
August 31st, 2008 9:30 am
Great article!
— SR, GB
Recommend Recommended by 23 Readers
August 31st, 2008 9:31 am
Re: "Given the press’s track record so far, there’s no reason to believe that the bogus scenarios will stop now.... Journalists ... may simply be as discombobulated as everyone else," I have simply been thinking that the press has a vested, financial interest in highlighting (and thereby creating) drama in the campaign. It certainly sells news. Bogus scenarios have become a byproduct that we must expect of the news business.The job insecurity at the center of a reporter's life now, as reported in this article, makes the professional creation of drama understandable on a personal level. I find that clarifying.Isn't all this a direct result of the relaxation of media ownership rules initiated by Reagan's administration and then greatly facilitated by Clinton's? Didn't that set the stage for the emergence of media conglomerates and ramp up the importance of advertising revenue at the expense high-quality news coverage and diversity of views and opinions? That piece of government intervention changed the lay of the land for the news business so that now, the landscape becomes more treacherous by the minute for anyone who reads the news to learn about the world.
— Nate, Marlboro, VT
Recommend Recommended by 81 Readers
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Dowd is so Good it Hurts!


Published: August 31, 2008
The guilty pleasure I miss most when I’m out slogging on the campaign trail is the chance to sprawl on the chaise and watch a vacuously spunky and generically sassy chick flick.
So imagine my delight, my absolute astonishment, when the hokey chick flick came out on the trail, a Cinderella story so preposterous it’s hard to believe it’s not premiering on Lifetime. Instead of going home and watching “Miss Congeniality” with Sandra Bullock, I get to stay here and watch “Miss Congeniality” with Sarah Palin.
Sheer heaven.
It’s easy to see where this movie is going. It begins, of course, with a cute, cool unknown from Alaska who has never even been on “Meet the Press” triumphing over a cute, cool unknowable from Hawaii who has been on “Meet the Press” a lot.
Americans, suspicious that the Obamas have benefited from affirmative action without being properly grateful, and skeptical that Michelle really likes “The Brady Bunch” and “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” reject the 47-year-old black contender as too uppity and untested.
Instead, they embrace 72-year-old John McCain and 44-year-old Sarah Palin, whose average age is 58, a mere two years older than the average age of the Obama-Biden ticket. Enthusiastic Republicans don’t see the choice of Palin as affirmative action, despite her thin résumé and gaping absence of foreign policy knowledge, because they expect Republicans to put an underqualified “babe,” as Rush Limbaugh calls her, on the ticket. They have a tradition of nominating fun, bantamweight cheerleaders from the West, like the previous Miss Congeniality types Dan Quayle and W., and then letting them learn on the job. So they crash into the globe a few times while they’re learning to drive, what’s the big deal?
Obama may have been president of The Harvard Law Review, but Palin graduated from the University of Idaho with a minor in poli-sci and worked briefly as a TV sports reporter. And she was tougher on the basketball court than the ethereal Obama, earning the nickname “Sarah Barracuda.”
The legacy of Geraldine Ferraro was supposed to be that no one would ever go on a blind date with history again. But that crazy maverick and gambler McCain does it, and conservatives and evangelicals rally around him in admiration of his refreshingly cynical choice of Sarah, an evangelical Protestant and anti-abortion crusader who became a hero when she decided to have her baby, who has Down syndrome, and when she urged schools to debate creationism as well as that stuffy old evolution thing.
Palinistas, as they are called, love Sarah’s spunky, relentlessly quirky “Northern Exposure” story from being a Miss Alaska runner-up, and winning Miss Congeniality, to being mayor and hockey mom in Wasilla, a rural Alaskan town of 6,715, to being governor for two years to being the first woman ever to run on a national Republican ticket. (Why do men only pick women as running mates when they need a Hail Mary pass? It’s a little insulting.)
Sarah is a zealot, but she’s a fun zealot. She has a beehive and sexy shoes, and the day she’s named she goes shopping with McCain in Ohio for a cheerleader outfit for her daughter.
As she once told Vogue, she’s learned the hard way to deal with press comments about her looks. “I wish they’d stick with the issues instead of discussing my black go-go boots,” she said. “A reporter once asked me about it during the campaign, and I assured him I was trying to be as frumpy as I could by wearing my hair on top of my head and these schoolmarm glasses.”
This chick flick, naturally, features a wild stroke of fate, when the two-year governor of an oversized igloo becomes commander in chief after the president-elect chokes on a pretzel on day one.
The movie ends with the former beauty queen shaking out her pinned-up hair, taking off her glasses, slipping on ruby red peep-toe platform heels that reveal a pink French-style pedicure, and facing down Vladimir Putin in an island in the Bering Strait. Putting away her breast pump, she points her rifle and informs him frostily that she has some expertise in Russia because it’s close to Alaska. “Back off, Commie dude,” she says. “I’m a much better shot than Cheney.”
Then she takes off in her seaplane and lands on the White House lawn, near the new ice fishing hole and hockey rink. The “First Dude,” as she calls the hunky Eskimo in the East Wing, waits on his snowmobile with the kids — Track (named after high school track meets), Bristol (after Bristol Bay where they did commercial fishing), Willow (after a community in Alaska), Piper (just a cool name) and Trig (Norse for “strength.”)
“The P.T.A. is great preparation for dealing with the K.G.B.,” President Palin murmurs to Todd, as they kiss in the final scene while she changes Trig’s diaper. “Now that Georgia’s safe, how ’bout I cook you up some caribou hot dogs and moose stew for dinner, babe?”

Rich on the "Bloviators" -- The Inane Press

Oh so good is Frank Rich!

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Published: August 30, 2008
STOP the presses! This election isn’t about the Clintons after all. It isn’t about the Acropolis columns erected at Invesco Field. It isn’t about who is Paris Hilton and who is Hanoi Hilton. (Though it may yet be about who is Sarah Palin.) After a weeklong orgy of inane manufactured melodrama labeled “convention coverage” on television, Barack Obama descended in classic deus ex machina fashion — yes, that’s Greek too — to set the record straight. America is in too much trouble, he said, to indulge in “a big election about small things.”
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As has been universally noted, Obama did what he had to do in his acceptance speech. He scrapped the messianic “Change We Can Believe In” for the more concrete policy litany of “The Change We Need.” He bared his glinting Chicago pol’s teeth to John McCain. Obama’s still a skinny guy, but the gladiatorial arena and his eagerness to stand up to bullies (foreign and Republican) made him a plausible Denver Bronco. All week long a media chorus had fretted whether he could pull off a potentially vainglorious stunt before 80,000 screaming fans. Well, yes he can, and so he did.
But was this a surprise? Hardly. No major Obama speech — each breathlessly hyped in advance as do-or-die and as the “the most important of his career” — has been a disaster; most have been triples or home runs, if not grand slams. What is most surprising is how astonished the press still is at each Groundhog Day’s replay of the identical outcome. Indeed, the disconnect between the reality of this campaign and how it is perceived and presented by the mainstream media is now a major part of the year’s story. The press dysfunction is itself a window into the unstable dynamics of Election 2008.
At the Democratic convention, as during primary season, almost every oversold plotline was wrong. Those Hillary dead-enders — played on TV by a fringe posse of women roaming Denver in search of camera time — would re-enact Chicago 1968. With Hillary’s tacit approval, the roll call would devolve into a classic Democratic civil war. Sulky Bill would wreak havoc once center stage.
On TV, each of these hot-air balloons was inflated nonstop right up to the moment they were punctured by reality, at which point the assembled bloviators once more expressed shock, shock at the unexpected denouement. They hadn’t been so surprised since they discovered that Obama was not too black to get white votes, not too white to win black votes, and not too inexperienced to thwart the inevitable triumph of the incomparably well-organized and well-financed Clinton machine.
Meanwhile, the candidate known as “No Drama Obama” because of his personal cool was stealthily hatching a drama of his own. As the various commentators pronounced the convention flat last week — too few McCain attacks on opening night, too “minimalist” a Hillary endorsement on Tuesday, and so forth — Obama held his cards to his chest backstage and built slowly, step by step, to his Thursday night climax. The dramatic arc was as meticulously calibrated as every Obama political strategy.
His campaign, unlike TV’s fantasists, knew the simple truth. The New York Times/CBS News poll conducted on the eve of the convention found that the Democrats were no more divided than the G.O.P: In both parties, 79 percent of voters supported their respective nominees. The simultaneous Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll also found that 79 percent of Democrats support Obama — which, as Amy Walter of National Journal alone noticed, is slightly higher than either John Kerry and Al Gore fared on that same question (77 percent) in that same poll just before their conventions.
But empirical evidence can’t compete with a favorite golden oldie like the Clinton soap opera. So when Hillary Clinton said a month ago that her delegates needed a “catharsis,” surely she had to be laying the groundwork for convention mischief. But it was never in either Clinton’s interest to sabotage Obama. Hillary Clinton’s Tuesday speech, arguably the best of her career, was as much about her own desire to reconcile with the alienated Obama Democrats she might need someday as it was about releasing her supporters to Obama. The Clintons never do stop thinking about tomorrow.
The latest good luck for the Democrats is that the McCain campaign was just as bamboozled as the press by the false Hillary narrative. McCain was obviously itching to choose his pal Joe Lieberman as his running mate. A onetime Democrat who breaks with the G.O.P. by supporting abortion rights might have rebooted his lost maverick cred more forcefully than Palin, who is cracking this particular glass ceiling nearly a quarter-century after the Democrats got there first. Lieberman might have even been of some use in roiling the Obama-Hillary-Bill juggernaut that will now storm through South Florida.
The main reason McCain knuckled under to the religious right by picking Palin is that he actually believes there’s a large army of embittered Hillary loyalists who will vote for a hard-line conservative simply because she’s a woman. That’s what happens when you listen to the TV news echo chamber. Not only is the whole premise ludicrous, but it is every bit as sexist as the crude joke McCain notoriously told about Janet Reno, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton.
Given the press’s track record so far, there’s no reason to believe that the bogus scenarios will stop now. The question of why this keeps happening is not easily answered. Ideological bias, unshakeable Clinton addiction and lingering McCain affection may not account for all or even most of it. Journalists are still Americans — even if much of our audience doubts that — and in this time of grave uncertainty about our nation’s future we may simply be as discombobulated as everyone else.
We, too, are made anxious and fearful by hard economic times and the prospect of wrenching change. YouTube, the medium that has transformed our culture and politics, didn’t exist four years ago. Four years from now, it’s entirely possible that some, even many, of the newspapers and magazines covering this campaign won’t exist in their current form, if they exist at all. The Big Three network evening newscasts, and network news divisions as we now know them, may also be extinct by then.
It is a telling sign that CBS News didn’t invest in the usual sky box for its anchor, Katie Couric, in Denver. It is equally telling that CNN consistently beat ABC and CBS in last week’s Nielsen ratings, and NBC as well by week’s end. But now that media are being transformed at a speed comparable to the ever-doubling power of microchips, cable’s ascendancy could also be as short-lived as, say, the reign of AOL. Andrew Rasiej, the founder of Personal Democracy Forum, which monitors the intersection of politics and technology, points out that when networks judge their success by who got the biggest share of the television audience, “they are still counting horses while the world has moved on to counting locomotives.” The Web, in its infinite iterations, is eroding all 20th-century media.
The Obama campaign has long been on board those digital locomotives. Its ability to tell its story under the radar of the mainstream press in part accounts for why the Obama surge has been so often underestimated. Even now we’re uncertain of its size. The extraordinary TV viewership for Obama on Thursday night, larger than the Olympics opening ceremony, this year’s Oscars or any “American Idol” finale, may only be a count of the horses. The Obama campaign’s full reach online — for viewers as well as fund-raising and organizational networking — remains unknown.
None of this, any more than the success of Obama’s acceptance speech, guarantees a Democratic victory. But what it does ensure is that all bets are off when it comes to predicting this race’s outcome. Despite our repeated attempts to see this election through the prism of those of recent and not-so-recent memory, it keeps defying the templates. Last week’s convention couldn’t be turned into a replay of the 1960s no matter how hard the press tried to sell the die-hard Hillary supporters as reincarnations of past rebel factions, from the Dixiecrats to the antiwar left. Far from being a descendant of 1968, the 2008 Democratic gathering was the first in memory that actually kept promptly to its schedule and avoided ludicrous P.C. pandering to every constituency.
Nor were we back at Aug. 28, 1963. As a 14-year-old in Washington, I was there on the Mall, taken by my mother, a tireless teacher, with the hope that I might learn something. At a time when the nation’s capital, with its large black population, was still a year away from casting its first votes for president, who would have imagined that a black man might someday have a serious chance of being elected president? Not me.
But even as we stop, take a deep breath and savor this remarkable moment in our history, we cannot linger. This is quite another time. After the catastrophic Bush presidency, the troubles that afflict us on nearly every front almost make you nostalgic for the day when America’s gravest problems could still be seen in blacks and whites.
As Obama said, this is a big election. We will only begin to confront the magnitude of our choice when and if we stop being distracted by small, let alone utterly fictitious, things.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Upcoming Winter Natural Gas

The "GCR" is more or less the base cost of gas to Duke Energy. See how volatile it is! The following figures are taken straight off my bills, which are on this blog -- just click on "ebills."

Most recent month at the top.

GCR Duke Energy Cinti:
Usage Month Nat Gas

October 27, 2008 $1.03
September 28, 2008 $1.17
August 28, 2008 $1.41
July $1.41
June $1.24
May $1.16
April $1.14
March $1.19
February $1.03

August-usage GCR is over 35% more than last February-usage GCR. But...
For the residential user, of course, the cost of gas in the summer is largely irrelevant. During the summer it is commercials and small industrials who are using "Duke's" gas, with large industrials buying elsewhere.

Upcoming Winter's Natural Gas -- Cincinnati

It's time to figure next winter. Add $2 per mcf for Duke's distribution charge to February's futures, gives the price if Duke bought futures now at this price, but Duke does not do this (at least a year ago they told me they did not. It's time for another call to them). So it could be higher -- or lower.
Last year on August 8th I projected the upcoming winter and got it about right $11.50. (That's $1.15 per ccf)(total price to customer $/ccf)
So -- it looks like about the same for next winter: $9.03 + $2.00 = $11.03, or $1.10. Yikes, can this be right? It's lower than last winter. So I'm going to fudge, knowing that everybody expects it to be much higher. I'm going to say $1.25. But that's still not the doubling that was implied by prices two months ago.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Natural Gas Cars Booming in Utah

Surge in Natural Gas Cars Has Utah Driving Cheaply

Published: August 29, 2008
SALT LAKE CITY — The best deal on fuel in the country right now might be here in Utah, where people are waiting in lines to pay the equivalent of 87 cents a gallon. Demand is so strong at rush hour that fuel runs low, and some days people can pump only half a tank.
It is not gasoline they are buying for their cars, but natural gas.
By an odd confluence of public policy and private initiative, Utah has become the first state in the country to experience broad consumer interest in the idea of running cars on clean natural gas.
Utahans are hunting the Internet and traveling the country to pick up used natural gas cars at auctions. They are spending thousands of dollars to transform their trucks and sport utility vehicles to run on compressed gas. Some fueling stations that sell it to the public are so busy they frequently run low on pressure, forcing drivers to return before dawn when demand is down.
It all began when unleaded gasoline rose above $3.25 a gallon last year, and has spiraled into a frenzy in the last few months.
Ron Brown, Honda’s salesman here for the Civic GX, the only car powered by natural gas made by a major automaker in the country, has sold one out of every four of the 800 cars Honda has made so far this year, and he has a pile of 330 deposit slips in his office, each designating a customer waiting months for a new car.
“It’s nuts,” Mr. Brown said. “People are buying these cars from me and turning around and selling them as if they were flipping real estate.”
Advocates for these cars see Mr. Brown’s brisk sales as a sign that natural gas could become the transport fuel of the future, replacing much of the oil the nation imports. While that remains a distant dream, big increases recently in the country’s production of natural gas do raise the possibility of making wider use of the fuel.
To a degree, it is already starting to happen in Utah, where the cost savings have gotten the public’s attention. Natural gas is especially cheap here, so that people spend about 87 cents for a quantity of gas sufficient to propel a car approximately the same distance as a $3.95 gallon of gasoline.
The word about natural gas cars has been spreading in news reports and by word of mouth, and so many Utahans are now trying to get their hands on used natural gas vehicles that they are drying up the national supply. Used car lots are stocking up, and beginning to look like county government parking lots with multiple lines of identical white Civic GXs once used in out-of-state fleets.
Gov. Jon M. Huntsman Jr. got into the act last year, spending $12,000 out of his own pocket to convert his state sport utility vehicle to run on natural gas. “We can create a model that others can look to,” Mr. Huntsman said in an interview. “Every state in America can make this a reality.”
In fact, some unique factors apply in Utah. Natural gas prices at the pump here are controlled and are the cheapest in the country, while the price of conventional gasoline is one of the highest. Questar Gas, the public utility, has compressed-gas pumps around the state open to the public, a fueling infrastructure that few states can match.
Special factors or not, the sudden popularity of natural gas vehicles here demonstrates their potential, according to advocates like T. Boone Pickens, the Texas oil billionaire who is financing a national campaign promoting wind power and natural gas to replace imported oil. “Utah shows that the technology is here and the fuel works and the fuel is better than foreign oil,” Mr. Pickens said.
Natural gas cars produce at least 20 percent less greenhouse gas per mile than regular cars, according to a California study.
No official figures are available on how many natural gas vehicles Utah has, in part because so many people go to garages that install conversion kits that are not certified by the Environmental Protection Agency and are therefore illegal.
(Governor Huntsman has expressed concern, and some in the installation business have requested that the E.P.A. close down the unauthorized operations; the agency says it does not comment on possible investigations.)
But Questar estimates the number at 6,000 and growing by several hundred a month. That is small compared with the 2.7 million vehicles registered in the state, but natural gas executives and state government officials say it makes Utah the fastest-growing market in the country for such cars.
Cars fueled by compressed natural gas have been available intermittently in the United States for decades, and have found wide use in fleets, but have never attracted much consumer interest. The situation is markedly different abroad. Of the eight million natural gas vehicles operating worldwide, only about 116,000 were in the United States, mostly as fleet vans, buses and cars, according to a 2006 Energy Department estimate.
Congress mandated the use of fleets capable of using alternative fuel cars for governments and some energy companies in the early 1990s, but public interest petered out as gasoline prices plummeted. Over the years, all the major car companies except Honda dropped their production in the United States.
The cars have two major disadvantages — a shortage of fueling stations and limited range. (A typical natural gas car goes half as far on a full tank as a gasoline car.) Utah is one of the few states where a driver can travel across the state without being out of range of a station.
The situation is a Catch-22: Carmakers do not want to make natural gas cars when few filling stations are set up for them, and few stations want to install expensive equipment to compress gas with so few cars on the road.
Hundreds of stations supply compressed gas in a few states like California, New York and Arizona, but most are either closed to the public or charge only modestly less than regular gasoline prices.
Retail natural gas prices in some states are triple the price in Utah. The only state that comes close to Utah’s low gas prices is Oklahoma, and a surge of natural gas car buying is going on there, too.
The natural gas industry and some politicians are pushing to open up the market to gas-powered vehicles across the country. Even in states without fueling stations, a few drivers have switched by spending several thousand dollars to install a home gas compressor.
A proposal on the ballot in California this fall would allow the state to sell $5 billion in bonds to finance rebates of $2,000 and more to buyers of natural gas vehicles. Legislation has been introduced in Congress to offer more tax credits to producers and consumers and mandate the installation of gas pumps in certain service stations, with the goal of making natural gas cars 10 percent of the nation’s vehicle fleet over the next decade.
“If the incentives are right and the fuel and cars are available, natural gas can work,” said Gordon Larsen, supervisor for natural gas vehicle operations at Questar Gas. But he said that any drop in gasoline prices douses enthusiasm among drivers considering the switch.
With gasoline hovering just below $4 a gallon for unleaded regular here, interest in the Salt Lake City area is strong.
Questar reports that the volume of natural gas pumped at its 21 filling stations is up 240 percent this year from last, after a 50 percent rise in 2007. Demand has grown so fast that the compressors at many of Questar’s stations run low during the day, forcing drivers to settle for half a tank or fill up during off-peak hours.
The natural gas car surge in Utah is because of several factors. Questar has had filling pumps around the state to fuel its own fleet of service vehicles since the 1980s, and because it had excess capacity, it opened those stations to the public. Natural gas prices are cheap because under Utah regulations, the utility is obliged to offer about half of the gas that it sells to its retail customers at the cost of production.
The state and a few municipalities are preparing to open more filling stations. If the trend continues, it could eventually lower the environmental impact of driving in Utah.
For now, demand for compressed-gas cars is outstripping supply.
“People get into a frenzy and they just have to buy,” said Rick Oliver, owner of a company that converts vehicles. He said that in a recent online auction, a Utah buyer paid $19,000 for a 2001 Civic GX with 50,000 miles — the price a buyer of a new GX would pay after state and federal tax credits.
Gary Frederickson, a 48-year-old computer technician, has bought six natural gas vehicles on Craigslist over the last year, flying as far as Portland and Oakland to pick up the cars. One 1998 Ford Contour he bought for $3,000 in effect cost him nothing because he will receive a $3,000 state tax credit for buying an alternative fuel car.
“It’s crazy to be in Utah and have access to 85-cent-a-gallon fuel and not take advantage of it,” he said before a recent 2-cent increase.

A Good Comment

August 28th,200811:41 pm
Finally, Obama took the Emperor’s New Clothes to task. He spoke directly to Republican nonsense. It will be hard for them–and they will try–to portray him as a tax and spend liberal, or unspecific, or as an empty out of touch celebrity.
Still, they will try. As he said, when your track record is apalling, make the election about small issues of personality and defame your opponent’s character.
Here’s a test you can ask your McCain-leaning friends: if a Democrat had the current administration’s track record, what would they be doing.
Honest and reflective ones will acknowledge that they would be screaming for a change–any change. Not a candidate 95% aligned with that track record.
How do I know that? I have many Republican friends who are supporting Mr. Obama.
— Posted by Fred

Krugman Puts it in Prospective

The difference. Between "them" and "us."
Brooks toys with us like William F. Buckley, Jr. toyed with us. And the latter recently died a dissolusioned man to see where he had led the conservative movement.
Krugman is straight with us from start to finish.

Op-Ed Columnist
Feeling No Pain
if (;

Published: August 29, 2008
My first reaction to Bill Clinton’s convention speech was sheer professional jealousy: nobody, but nobody, has his ability to translate economic wonkery into plain, forceful English. In effect, Mr. Clinton provided an executive summary of the new Census report on income, poverty and health insurance — but he did it so eloquently, so seamlessly, that there was no sense that he was giving his audience a lecture.
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My second reaction was that in Mr. Clinton’s speech — as in the speeches by Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden (this column was filed before Barack Obama spoke on Thursday night) — one heard the fundamental difference between the two parties. Democrats say and, as far as I can tell, really believe that working Americans are getting a raw deal; Republicans, despite occasional attempts to sound sympathetic, basically believe that people have nothing to complain about.
As it happens, the numbers support the Democrats.
That Census report gives a snapshot of the economic status of American families in 2007 — that is, before the financial crisis started dragging the economy down and the unemployment rate up. It’s a given that 2008 will look much worse, so last year was as good as it will get in the Bush years. Yet working-age Americans had significantly lower median income in 2007 than they did in 2000. (The elderly, whose income is supported by Social Security — the program the Bush administration tried to kill — saw modest gains.) Meanwhile, poverty was up, and health insurance — especially the employment-based insurance on which most middle-class Americans depend — was down.
But Republicans, very much including John McCain and his advisers, don’t believe there’s a problem.
Former Senator Phil Gramm made headlines, and stepped down as co-chairman of the McCain campaign, after he described America as a “nation of whiners.” But how different was that remark, really, from Mr. McCain’s own declaration that “there’s been great progress economically” — progress that’s mysteriously invisible in the actual data — during the Bush years? And Mr. Gramm, by all accounts, remains a key economic adviser to Mr. McCain.
Last week John Goodman, an influential figure in Republican health care circles, explained that we shouldn’t worry about the growing number of Americans without health insurance, because there’s no such thing as being uninsured. After all, you can always get treatment at an emergency room. And Mr. Goodman — he’s the president of the National Center for Policy Analysis, an important conservative think tank, and is often described as the “father of health savings accounts,” a central feature of the Bush administration’s health policy — wants the next president to issue an executive order prohibiting the Census Bureau from classifying anyone as uninsured. “Voilà!” he says. “Problem solved.”
The truth, of course, is that visiting the emergency room in a medical crisis is no substitute for regular care. Furthermore, while a hospital will treat you whether or not you can pay, it will also bill you — and the bill won’t be waived unless you’re destitute. As a result, uninsured working Americans avoid visiting emergency rooms if at all possible, because they’re terrified by the potential cost: medical expenses are one of the prime causes of personal bankruptcy.
Mr. Goodman has in the past, including in an op-ed for The Wall Street Journal, described himself as an adviser to the McCain campaign on health policy. The campaign now claims that he is not, in fact, an adviser. But it’s a good bet that Mr. McCain’s inner circle shares Mr. Goodman’s views.
You see, Mr. Goodman’s assertion that lack of health insurance is no problem precisely echoed what President Bush said a year ago: “I mean, people have access to health care in America. After all, you just go to an emergency room.” That’s because both men — like Mr. Gramm — were just saying in public what modern Republicans say when they talk to each other. Despite attempts to feign sympathy, the leaders of today’s G.O.P. fundamentally feel that Americans complaining about their economic and health care difficulties are, well, just a bunch of whiners.
And that, ultimately, even more than their policy proposals, is what defines the difference between the parties.
It’s true that elected Democrats are often too cautious — and too beholden to major donors — to be as progressive as the party’s activists would like. But even in the face of a Republican Congress, Mr. Clinton succeeded in pushing forward policies, like the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, that did a lot to help working families.
And what one sees on the other side is a total lack of empathy for and understanding of the problems working Americans face. Mr. Clinton, famously, felt our pain. Republicans, manifestly, don’t. And it’s hard to fix a problem if you don’t even think it exists.

Brooks Can't Take it Anymore

How did he have time to write this, spending all his waking hours on PBS as a commentator at the Democratic convention?

Nevertheless, politics as entertainment from someone who is deadley serious. I don't know...

Published: August 29, 2008
My fellow Americans, it is an honor to address the Democratic National Convention at this defining moment in history. We stand at a crossroads at a pivot point, near a fork in the road on the edge of a precipice in the midst of the most consequential election since last year’s “American Idol.”
One path before us leads to the past, and the extinction of the human race. The other path leads to the future, when we will all be dead. We must choose wisely.
We must close the book on the bleeding wounds of the old politics of division and sail our ship up a mountain of hope and plant our flag on the sunrise of a thousand tomorrows with an American promise that will never die! For this election isn’t about the past or the present, or even the pluperfect conditional. It’s about the future, and Barack Obama loves the future because that’s where all his accomplishments are.
We meet today to pass the torch to a new generation of Americans, a generation that came of age amidst iced chais and mocha strawberry Frappuccinos®, a generation with a historical memory that doesn’t extend back past Coke Zero.
We meet today to heal the divisions that have torn this country. For we are all one country and one American family, whether we are caring and thoughtful Democrats or hate-filled and war-crazed Republicans. We must bring together left and right, marinara and carbonara, John and Elizabeth Edwards. On United we stand, on US Airways, there’s a 25-minute delay.
Ladies and gentleman, I never expected to be speaking before you today. Like so many of our speakers at this convention, I come from a hard-working, middle-class family. I was leading a miserable little life, but, nevertheless, overcame great odds to live the American Dream. My great-grandfather fought in Patton’s Army, along with Barack Obama’s great-grand uncles’ fourth cousin once removed.
As a child, I was abandoned by my parents and lived with a colony of ants. We didn’t have much in the way of material possession, but we did have each other and the ability to carry far more than our own body weights. When I was young, I was temporarily paralyzed in a horrible anteater accident, but I never gave up my dream: the dream of speaking at a national political convention so my speech could be talked over by Wolf Blitzer and a gang of pundits.
And today we Democrats meet in Denver, a suburb of Boulder, a city whose motto is, “A Taxi? You Must be Dreaming.”
And in Denver, we Democrats showed America that we have cute daughters who will someday provide us with prestigious car-window stickers. We heard Hillary Clinton’s ringing endorsement of “the weak-looking thin guy who’s bound to lose.”
We heard from Joe Biden, whose 643 years in the Senate make him uniquely qualified to talk to the middle class, whose family has been riding the Acela and before that the Metroliner for generations, who has been given a lifetime ban from the quiet car and who is himself a verbal train wreck waiting to happen.
We got to know Barack and Michelle Obama, two tall, thin, rich, beautiful people who don’t perspire, but who nonetheless feel compassion for their squatter and smellier fellow citizens. We know that Barack could have gone to a prestigious law firm, like his big donors in the luxury boxes, but he chose to put his ego aside to become a professional politician, president of the United States and redeemer of the human race. We heard about his time as a community organizer, the three most fulfilling months of his life.
We were thrilled by his speech in front of the Greek columns, which were conscientiously recycled from the concert, “Yanni, Live at the Acropolis.” We were honored by his pledge, that if elected president, he will serve at least four months before running for higher office. We were moved by his campaign slogan, “Vote Obama: He’s better than you’ll ever be.” We were inspired by dozens of Democratic senators who declared their lifelong love of John McCain before denouncing him as a reactionary opportunist who would destroy the country.
No, this country cannot afford to elect John Bushmccain. Under Republican rule, locusts have stripped the land, adults wear crocs in public and M&M’s have lost their flavor. We must instead ride to the uplands of hope!
For as Barack Obama suggested Thursday night, wherever there is a president who needs to tap our natural-gas reserves, I’ll be there. Wherever there is a need for a capital-gains readjustment for targeted small businesses, I’ll be there. Wherever there is a president committed to direct diplomacy with nuclear proliferators, I’ll be there, too! God bless the Democrats, and God Bless America!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

The Wrecking Crew

On this glorious day of The Speech, I give recognition to Thomas Frank, who's book, "What's the Matter With Kansas," was a brilliant harbinger of uncovering the truth about the Republican Party under the control of the neocons, Rove and Bush. The reviewer of Frank's new book, "The Wrecking Crew," is shallow I think.

Published: August 15, 2008
In “The Wrecking Crew,” the liberal journalist Thomas Frank tells the story of free-market ideologues who came to Washington to start a revolution and built a lucrative lobbying empire instead. Now a columnist for The Wall Street Journal, Frank established his reputation as the editor of The Baffler and then as the author of the best-selling “What’s the Matter With Kansas?” (2004) by combining two things absent from most liberal commentary: muckraking reporting and satiric wit.
Frank’s gifts as a social observer are on display in his description of the contemporary Washington metro area: “The airport designed by Eero Saarinen; the shopping mall so vast it dwarfs other cities’ downtowns; the finely tuned high-performance cars zooming along an immaculate private highway; the masses of flowers in perfectly edged beds; the gas stations with Colonial Williamsburg cupolas; the men all in ties and starched, buttoned-down shirts; the street names, even, recalling our cherished American values: Freedom, Market, Democracy, Tradition and Signature Drives; Heritage Lane; Founders Way; Enterprise, Prosperity and Executive Park Avenues; and a Chivalry Road that leads, of course, to Valor Court.”
The growth of government as an industry, Frank notes, has transformed the capital region: “The richest county in America isn’t in Silicon Valley or some sugarland preserve of Houston’s oil kings; it is Loudoun County, Va., a fast-growing suburb of Washington, D.C. … The second richest county is Fairfax, Va., the next suburb over from Loudoun; the third, sixth and seventh richest counties are also suburbs of the capital. ”
While there were millionaires in Washington in the past, “in those days the millions almost always came from somewhere else.” Since the 1980s, Washington’s “millionaires were homegrown, and the template for Washington housing was ostentatious, aristocratic and gargantuan.” Frank’s Washington “is a perfect realization of the upper-bracket dream of a white-collar universe, where economies run on the information juggling of the ‘creative class’ and where manufacturing is something done by filthy brutes in far-off lands.” And in Washington the dominant white-collar figure is the lobbyist.
The increasing supply of lobbyists, Frank observes, “should have driven the price of lobbying down, not up. … The most credible explanation … is that clients grew more and more confident that their lobbyists could deliver something of value in exchange for their fees. … The reason companies started buying, in other words, was that Congress began selling.” Special-interest earmarks in legislation by members of Congress have exploded in number, while careers in elected or appointed office are apprenticeships for lobbying jobs.
Frank blames conservative Republicans for the recent cancerous growth of the lobbying industry for two reasons. First, right-wingers like Tom DeLay saw K Street as another front alongside Pennsylvania Avenue in the war on liberal government. Even more important, according to Frank, is the contempt for government shared by conservatives who believe that “the liberal state has no more claim to legitimacy than the thief who robs you at gunpoint.” In other words, it’s O.K. to steal from robbers. Treating the scandals that brought them down as an all but inevitable result of their ideological politics, Frank takes DeLay, the convicted Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff and many of their allies on a perp walk through his pages.
Frank’s analysis of why there are so many libertarian think tanks in a country with so few libertarians is dead on: “The reason that we have so many well-funded libertarians in America these days is not because libertarianism suddenly acquired an enormous grass-roots following, but because it appeals to those who are able to fund ideas. … Libertarianism is a politics born to be subsidized.”
Frank’s portrait of the conservative movement, however, sacrifices complexity to caricature. “Conservatism has always been an expression of American business.” Conservatism equals libertarianism equals plutocracy. According to Frank, Grover Cleveland Democrats in the 1890s and Grover Norquist Republicans in the 1990s are different incarnations of the same eternal evil: the subordination of democracy to money.
Frank dates the beginning of the modern lobbying era to 1995 and the arrival of Gingrich Republican idealists. That may be so, but the father of Washington lobbying was Franklin Roosevelt’s former aide Thomas Corcoran, known as Tommy the Cork, a private figure so powerful that President Harry Truman ordered the F.B.I. to wiretap him. Dan Rostenkowski, the powerful and corrupt Democratic chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee in the 1980s and early 1990s, preceded Jack Abramoff into prison. Frank holds up a minor Indiana congressman, David McIntosh, who pushed lobbying reforms before quitting government to become a lobbyist, as an example of conservative hypocrisy. But Fred Dutton, Robert Kennedy’s campaign manager in 1968 and the champion of a “new politics” uniting suburban idealists, college students and racial minorities (sound familiar?), went on to become a lobbyist for Mobil Oil and Saudi Arabia, earning the nickname “Dutton of Arabia.”
Missing from “The Wrecking Crew” is any acknowledgment of what, from a left perspective, should be considered good news: the defeat of the antigovernment right in most major policy battles, from Social Security privatization to private school vouchers. Bush’s plan for Social Security was so unpopular it never came to a vote in the Republican Congress, which enacted (to be sure, with payoffs to pharmaceutical companies) the Medicare prescription drug benefit, the biggest increase in government involvement in the health care industry in the United States since Medicare’s creation. Incapable of overthrowing big government, even when they controlled all three branches, the right has been limited to tinkering with it.
Indeed, one might argue that the defeat of the attempted libertarian revolution puts the money-making schemes of Frank’s villains in a different light. Former young conservative firebrands like Abramoff settled for enriching themselves precisely because they were unable to repeal the New Deal.
But “The Wrecking Crew” is a polemic, not a dissertation. With rare exceptions like John Kenneth Galbraith, conservatives — from Juvenal and Alexander Pope to H. L. Mencken, Tom Wolfe and P. J. O’Rourke — have been the best satirists. In Thomas Frank, the American left has found its own Juvenal. Consider his update of a 1945 civics primer, “We Are the Government,” which followed the cheerful wanderings of a dime that paid for a variety of enlightened New Deal regulations. In Frank’s contemporary version, the dime travels from a private government contractor to a trade association, which “gives the dime to a Washington consultant who specializes in fighting federal agencies, and this man launches challenge after challenge to the studies that the agency is using. … It takes many years for the agency to make its way through the flak thrown up by this clever fellow. Meanwhile, with his well-earned dime, he buys himself a big house with nice white columns in front.” On Chivalry Road or Valor Court, no doubt.
Michael Lind, the Whitehead senior fellow at the New America Foundation, is the author of “The American Way of Strategy.”

From "Why I Was Too Busy to Write This Paper"

As my readers know, this is my favorite "Beth Smith" private paper:

These pages are appropriate for this great day of The Speech. I have assembled them wrong -- so read the third page first.
She is talking about why Americans distracted, and this part is about Toqueville's observations. When she writes "T" she means Toqueville.

Dirty Little Secret About Wind Power

The Energy Challenge
Wind Energy Bumps Into Power Grid’s Limits

Mike Groll/Associated Press
The Maple Ridge Wind farm near Lowville, N.Y. It has been forced to shut down when regional electric lines become congested.
Published: August 26, 2008
When the builders of the Maple Ridge Wind farm spent $320 million to put nearly 200 wind turbines in upstate New York, the idea was to get paid for producing electricity. But at times, regional electric lines have been so congested that Maple Ridge has been forced to shut down even with a brisk wind blowing.

Read Full Comment »

That is a symptom of a broad national problem. Expansive dreams about renewable energy, like Al Gore’s hope of replacing all fossil fuels in a decade, are bumping up against the reality of a power grid that cannot handle the new demands.
The dirty secret of clean energy is that while generating it is getting easier, moving it to market is not.
The grid today, according to experts, is a system conceived 100 years ago to let utilities prop each other up, reducing blackouts and sharing power in small regions. It resembles a network of streets, avenues and country roads.
“We need an interstate transmission superhighway system,” said Suedeen G. Kelly, a member of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
While the United States today gets barely 1 percent of its electricity from wind turbines, many experts are starting to think that figure could hit 20 percent.
Achieving that would require moving large amounts of power over long distances, from the windy, lightly populated plains in the middle of the country to the coasts where many people live. Builders are also contemplating immense solar-power stations in the nation’s deserts that would pose the same transmission problems.
The grid’s limitations are putting a damper on such projects already. Gabriel Alonso, chief development officer of Horizon Wind Energy, the company that operates Maple Ridge, said that in parts of Wyoming, a turbine could make 50 percent more electricity than the identical model built in New York or Texas.
“The windiest sites have not been built, because there is no way to move that electricity from there to the load centers,” he said.
The basic problem is that many transmission lines, and the connections between them, are simply too small for the amount of power companies would like to squeeze through them. The difficulty is most acute for long-distance transmission, but shows up at times even over distances of a few hundred miles.
Transmission lines carrying power away from the Maple Ridge farm, near Lowville, N.Y., have sometimes become so congested that the company’s only choice is to shut down — or pay fees for the privilege of continuing to pump power into the lines.
Politicians in Washington have long known about the grid’s limitations but have made scant headway in solving them. They are reluctant to trample the prerogatives of state governments, which have traditionally exercised authority over the grid and have little incentive to push improvements that would benefit neighboring states.
In Texas, T. Boone Pickens, the oilman building the world’s largest wind farm, plans to tackle the grid problem by using a right of way he is developing for water pipelines for a 250-mile transmission line from the Panhandle to the Dallas market. He has testified in Congress that Texas policy is especially favorable for such a project and that other wind developers cannot be expected to match his efforts.
“If you want to do it on a national scale, where the transmission line distances will be much longer, and utility regulations are different, Congress must act,” he said on Capitol Hill.
Enthusiasm for wind energy is running at fever pitch these days, with bold plans on the drawing boards, like Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s notion of dotting New York City with turbines. Companies are even reviving ideas of storing wind-generated energy using compressed air or spinning flywheels.
Yet experts say that without a solution to the grid problem, effective use of wind power on a wide scale is likely to remain a dream.
The power grid is balkanized, with about 200,000 miles of power lines divided among 500 owners. Big transmission upgrades often involve multiple companies, many state governments and numerous permits. Every addition to the grid provokes fights with property owners.
These barriers mean that electrical generation is growing four times faster than transmission, according to federal figures.
In a 2005 energy law, Congress gave the Energy Department the authority to step in to approve transmission if states refused to act. The department designated two areas, one in the Middle Atlantic States and one in the Southwest, as national priorities where it might do so; 14 United States senators then signed a letter saying the department was being too aggressive.

Flynn's Oil, Exeter N.H. Today's Price

Heating oil:


was $3.20 a year ago.

Time to Check in With "MyBestTime"

"Recover From That Disaster"

Tonight at 10 p.m. I'm going to pour myself some gin over the rocks, switch the TV off of football (Bengals-Indianapolis) and over to the convention and let myself bask in the greatest speech of my generation/lifetime. Ewell Blackwell will be pitching. Ted Williams will be batting. Stan Musial will be batting. Seaver will be pitching. Herb Score will be pitching (before he got hit in the face). Frank Dale will be the Editor of the Enquirer. Life will be ahead. Endless possibilities will exist. The Ceder River will flow again into the Ohio River.

Why am I so sure it will be the greatest speech of my generation?
Did Ewell, Ted, Stan, Seaver, Herb, Frank, ever let us down when it counted?

Arletha came over last night to my office/home. To push me on her case, which is about the only way I would have spent another minute on it, if you must know. We had a profitable hour, with me literally doing the research as she talked.

She is a beautiful 58-year old African-American with a tough approach betelling the life she has led in Cincinnati.

Although she has a new car now, a bizarre story that figures in her case, she is two payments behind. Although she has an apartment now, how long can that last? She is single.

"Welfare doesn't go to a single person anymore."

"I go to the Dollar Store and buy those cans of chicken salad with cranberries with the wheat crackers and spoon. That's what I live on."

Mr. Obama’s Moment

Published: August 27, 2008

Barack Obama takes the stage Thursday night for the speech of his career after getting a big boost and a big challenge from his former rival, Hillary Clinton, former President Bill Clinton and Mr. Obama’s running mate, Joseph Biden.

Senator Clinton’s address, perhaps the best of her career, provided the long-awaited call for her supporters to back Senator Obama. It did something more: It offered the rousing case for the Democratic Party’s core values and strengths that had been largely missing from the convention.
Mr. Obama needs to be just as clear about what he stands for, and about why — in such dire times — Americans should trust him and his party with their futures.
On Tuesday night, Mrs. Clinton passionately argued that the Democratic Party believes in health care for all, progressive taxation, Social Security, fighting against poverty and for gay rights. The Republicans, she said, support a “government where the privileged come first and everyone else comes last.”
She said that Mr. Obama would “end the war in Iraq responsibly.” On that, like so many aspects of foreign policy, Mr. Obama and his opponent, Senator John McCain, have profoundly different visions that American voters need to understand in detail.
On Wednesday, Mr. Biden and Mr. Clinton continued that argument, offering their rousing endorsements of Mr. Obama as commander in chief.
Mr. Clinton’s speech was not just a reminder of how dazzling he can be, when he’s not pouting. It offered a frightening vision of the many dangers this country faces — global warming, nuclear proliferation, terrorism — and how much its position has been weakened “by too much unilateralism and too little cooperation.”
He promised that Mr. Obama would “work for an America with more partners and fewer adversaries,” to share burdens and leverage its influence. He said that while Mr. Obama “will choose diplomacy first and military force as a last resort,” when he could not “convert adversaries into partners, he will stand up to them.”
Now that others have helped set the stage, Mr. Obama must demonstrate his own passion and policy mastery. He needs to show that he has his own plan for solving this country’s many problems, from reviving the economy to rebuilding a broken military. That is especially true if Mr. Obama is to win the votes of moderate Republicans. Many recognize that President Bush’s terms have been a disaster but still see the Democrats the way Republicans have painted them: the party of a weak defense and economy-killing taxes.
This country certainly can use true bipartisanship — something it has not seen under Mr. Bush. But conventions, like elections, are partisan events, where candidates begin to define themselves for voters. At the 1932 Democratic convention, Franklin D. Roosevelt promised a “New Deal.” At the 1980 Republican convention, Ronald Reagan declared his revolution against “overgrown and overweight” government.
Without such clear choices, elections end up where they are now, wars of attack ads with voters focused on labels and minutiae.
Mr. Obama got to Denver in large measure on his ability to inspire Democratic voters. He has a strong case to make now against the Republicans’ claim to be the party of prosperity at home and strength abroad. After eight years of President Bush, the country is neither prosperous at home nor respected abroad — and increasingly not even feared.
But it is not enough to declare Mr. Bush’s terms a disaster. Mr. Obama’s task is to make the case unequivocally that his ideas and his party’s ideas are the best way to recover from that disaster.