Clinton vs. Drudge (2008 Edition)

February 27, 2008

If Matt Drudge is mentioned in a presidential debate the topic likely to be controversial.

Brian Williams Hits Clinton With Obama Photo Question at Debate Outset

Instead of shielding the source, The Drudge Report readily admits that the photograph was forwarded from the Clinton campaign. I am reminded of the Valerie Plame incident, when Judith Miller was sent to jail for protecting her sources. Why exactly she chose to do this is still up for debate; however, at the time many hailed it as a noble defense of the media’s independence. There appeared very quickly some different opinions. At face value, the New York Times had been played like a fiddle. Someone had blatantly used the media to a political end. Instead of exposing this for what it was, Miller went to prison with plenty of well-wishing from certain voices.

The Drudge Report wasted no time in making the Obama photo situation perfectly clear. Apparently its editor does not tolerate the appearance of political manipulation, which is commendable. His consistency, of course, hasn’t entirely been tested.

It’s worth noting that Matt Drudge was the person who broke the Monica Lewinsky story in 1998, ten years and some odd days ago. That event put his website on the map, and opened the world’s eyes to a new form of information flow.

Some might think that this will hurt The Drudge Report’s ability to attract exclusive information in the future. I highly doubt that. This scheme, if the information we have is true, is nothing more than a that: a scheme.


First International Biofuel Flight

February 24, 2008

The BBC reports on the recent biofuel flight from London to Amsterdam.

This is very interesting concept, but as the article notes, the event is easily criticized. Although it isn’t entirely clear, the article seems to imply that the aircraft was entirely powered by its one biofuel engine.

  1. There were no passengers and no luggage weight aboard.
  2. It’s the dead of winter, ideal for combustion and for takeoff.
  3. London to Amsterdam is a short flight, requiring less fuel weight aboard, and less time for fuel gelling.

The media can likely attack on all of those points, at least to make the “stunt” accusation.

One thing we SHOULD have been told is that coconut fuel is rather efficient, both in terms of volume and a per-pound basis. Coconut oil’s energy yield per acre is also rather good.

Here’s a very random abstract on the use of coconut oil to raise the energy density of food given to low birthweight babies.

As for the food supply, Greenpeace’s typical accusation that food prices will be negatively impacted seems to be misplaced. Virgin Atlantic counters by saying that coconut farmland is not used to produce staple food crops. It is worth wondering, however, precisely what land that is.

Biofuel is not an feasible solution to the world’s energy worries. For aviation, however, I have to wonder if it might be useful. The engines powering a jetliner will almost certainly have to be internal combustion; we won’t likely be seeing hybrids either. Although the “hydrogen economy” may be a distant hope, aviation may find itself more interested than Detroit in the prospect of hydrogen fuel. What else is there?


Commander-in-Chief Redux

February 24, 2008

Several days ago this very blog posted about Karl Rove’s use of “commander-in-chief.” The phrase will surely come up time and again across the year, as it did in the most recent Democratic debates in Texas.

IntLawGirls covered the incident very well. The post is well-researched, well-expressed, and worth the read. Candidates of all political stripes seem to have a variety of subjective and inconsistent understandings of this role, which, as I attempted to express earlier, is clear in writing and vague in practice. The terminology, in my mind, is most useful in establishing a legal line of authority and accountability. Its use in political debate is misguided.

When Senator Clinton was asked about Senator Obama’s qualifications as “commander-in-chief” she failed in several ways. First, she did not answer in a manner consistent with her vague criticim of his military acumen; second, she expressed a flawed understanding of the position; third, she did not take the opportunity to demonstrate any national defense expertise (which, relatively speaking, she probably possesses). Riding the “change” train and playing nice seem to be more important than the question at hand.

Nevertheless, emphasis on the executive’s military role is bad practice during a campaign: for the media, for politicians, for pundits. When necessary so as to discharge the duties of the office, it’s nothing short of constitutional (and only tangentially political).

And you thought Chernobyl was bad

February 23, 2008

well, Chernobyl was bad…

The Danish secret police have done what they can to keep this video suppressed, but now the world will know the dangers of a poorly moderated wind turbine. The effects have been noticed as far away as central Djursland.

…and that’s probably the extent of it. Nuclear power is efficient and clean, but I doubt the American public will tolerate even one small scare.

Much of the discussion on this topic seems to inflate the possibility of a meltdown, given the design of modern American reactors. Even so, a leak or a terrorist threat would be devastating. It would undermine many years and billions of dollars of investment. Maybe we’d change our minds after electricity hits $1.00 per kWh.

Yet the opportunity for wind power seems immense, especially given the wind resources in the United States. Why there isn’t more discussion over this is cause for question, given the rapid growth of that industry.

Expectation Bias

February 22, 2008

If you were to ask the average American if the mass media have a responsibility to the voting public, you would likely hear an affirmative answer from most. Just what that responsibility is, however, and how we should interpret it, is quite unclear.

Last Night’s Democratic debates were conducted, as they usually are, as a series of questions from the news media, from minds and pens that are somewhere behind the cameras, deciding which questions should be asked. The “town hall” concept is clearly an exception to the standard practice. Of course, someone has to moderate the discussion — and the media can serve to interpret the market of ideas and interests that stir the electorate. Do they?

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The Experience Factor

February 20, 2008

Senator McCain is beginning to consolidate efforts against his likely rivals, with Senator Obama as the target of what has seemingly become his new stump material.

Eloquent but empty…

The debate over experience has thus far been confined to the Democratic primary, which — although it doesn’t seem resonate well with voters in these turbulent times — has been quite an intriguing comparison. It is interesting to note that Clinton has been a U.S. Senator for only four years more than Obama. He began his term in the Illinois Senate in 1997, four years before Clinton took her first elected office. Her claims of experience, results, and change-that-works seem to be heavily reliant on her non-elected time as an organizer and First Lady.

The two of them have notably short public records.

It will be interesting to see how well McCain, with twenty-six years as a federal politician (and the baggage that comes in tow), will be able to present this issue.

The AP on Doug Wilder

February 20, 2008

The media continues to racialize the nature of the Democratic primary campaign. The Associated Press reports on some former governor Doug Wilder’s statements:

“The grandson of slaves, who was elected in 1989 in what was once the Confederate capital, endorsed Obama last month. Now Richmond’s mayor, Wilder’s comments still get the attention of the state’s black voters, though his influence has waned since he left office 15 years ago.”

Wilder Still Sore Over Clinton Comments…

Is this to imply that white voters don’t care what Wilder thinks? Is he unable to gather the attention of whites in a state that he lead as governor? I’m sure the Associated Press, ever a medium of record, doesn’t mean to convey that message; however, this excerpt causes us to wonder about the author’s presumptions.