Tuesday, January 27, 2009


The Anchorage Daily News on SarahPAC:

"From Erika Bolstad in Washington D.C. --

"The report by the New York Post’s gossip column is true: Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin has formed her own political action committee to support like-minded aspiring politicians.

"The PAC has a website, sarahpac.com, which says that the goal of the committee is to 'make it possible for Gov. Palin to continue to be a strong voice for energy independence and reform. … SarahPac will support local and national candidates who share Gov. Palin's ideas and goals for our country.'

"The political action committee registered with the Federal Election Commission Monday night.

"These PACs are pretty common -- Rep. Don Young has one and former Sen. Ted Stevens had one. They’re a way for elected officials to funnel money to other candidates they want to support, often from donors who have already maxed out on the amount of money they can give to the candidates.

"Palin’s PAC joins that of many former vice presidential and presidential contenders with higher aspirations, like Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who had HillPAC. Gen. Wesley Clark, himself a former presidential candidate, has WesPAC. And then there's one that might be in competition with Palin in 2012: HuckPAC."

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Brazil Creates Adult “Embryonic” Stem Cells

Cross posted at The Next Right

Brazil joins the elite group of countries able to use adult stem cells identically to embryonic stem cells. The other four countries with this capability are Japan, the U.S., China and Germany. The pioneers were Japanese scientists at the University of Kyoto who successfully reprogrammed human adult stem cells in November of 2007.

The key to the process is reprogramming the DNA of adult stem cells. They can then be used for treatment on any type of body tissue. Before the Japanese process was developed only embryonic stem cells had that capability.

The process used puts four genes (Oct-4, Sox-2, Klf-4 and c-Myc) into the DNA of the adult stem cell. This is done by “infecting” the cell with viruses which carry the genes into the cell and insert them into the cell’s nuclear genome. The inserted genes act like genetic software and “reformat” the cell to put it into its original state (non-diferentiated and multi-capable). The viruses die soon after inserting the genes.

The major complicating factor is that the location of insertion of the genes in the genome is by chance. It could interfere with vital functions of the cell. If, for example, the point of insertion interferes with the control for cellular division, there is the risk that the cell could turn carcinogenic. Scientists are hoping for a way to insert the genes without using viruses.

The ability to use adult stem cells not only averts moral issues involved with destroying embryonic life, but taps into the unlimited pool of adult stem cells. Previously scientists doing research in the area had to create or clone embryonic cells, a technically complicated process with attendant ethical issues.

Using adult stem cells has the huge medical benefit of taking the cells from the patient being treated. Thus, there is no risk of rejection as when introducing foreign tissue to the body.

Brazil’s achievement opens the way for major advances in medical treatment in Brazil and South America.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Governor Palin's State of the State Address

Cross posted at The Next Right

Video - Part 1 of 4

Video - Part 2 of 4

Video - Part 3 of 4

Video - Part 4 of 4

Governor Palin's 2009 State of the State

PRESENTED TO THE 26th Alaska Legislature January 22, 2009
AUDIO: 2009 State of the State audio

Thank you. Our good Lieutenant Governor Parnell, President Stevens, Speaker Chenault, lawmakers, Native Leaders, my dear family, and all Alaskans. Thank you for this opportunity.

First, please join me in thanking those who protect our freedoms that allow us to assemble – our good men and women in uniform – they are America’s finest, our U.S. military.

It’s been quite a year since we last gathered in this chamber. Just two days ago we witnessed a shining moment in the history of our country. Millions of Americans are praying for the success of our new president, and I am one of them. His work is cut out for him, but if President Obama governs with the skill, grace and greatness of which he is capable, Alaska’s going to be just fine. We congratulate President Obama. And, for keeping the homeland safe, and being a friend to Alaska, I thank President Bush.

2008 was the year when America looked to Alaska, and one of our own sprang to national attention. There was political drama, controversy, lively debate, a few awkward moments and in the end, some disappointment. But what a glorious debut for a unique Alaskan - and we congratulate our former Senator Mike Gravel.

In the history of Alaska, it was also the conclusion of a long and distinguished Senate career. We thank Ted Stevens, and wish him all the best. We look forward to working with his successor Senator Mark Begich. The best to our new man in Washington.

And to working with long-serving Representative Young and Senator Murkowski. Congratulations on her worthy committee assignments.

Tonight, I’m pleased to see new faces here, and I appreciate all who have sworn to uphold our constitution. Newcomers, some say we have some pretty strong differences among us, and well – subtlety is not always one of our strong points. But we try to keep things friendly and civil, and we’ve been known to actually succeed.

I used to wonder if the occasionally rough edges of politics were unique here under the Great North Star. But I ventured out a bit this past year, and I tell you that, as partisan quarrels go, ours really aren’t so bad. At our best, we are forthright in our opinions, charitable in our judgments and fair just like the people who hired us to work for them.

Today, when challenges may seem as high as Mt. McKinley, and change as constant as the mighty Yukon flows, and political events send shockwaves through our foundation like the ’64 quake – what do Alaskans do? We climb Denali, we forge the river, we rebuild a stronger foundation on higher ground. When it matters most, lesser differences fall away. Just like family, Alaskans unite.

It was this kind of determined action that turned the northland wilds into a territory, a territory into a state, and that state, across 50 years, into a land of industry, opportunity, and enduring beauty. And now that perseverance is needed again, as we go through a time of testing for our country – a time of economic worry for many Alaskans – a time of challenge to the wisdom and resolve of state government.

Governor Wally Hickel said he feared more than any economic depression – a depression of the spirit. Alaska, it’s time we revive the optimistic, pioneering spirit that our founding mothers and fathers birthed in our State Constitution! As we celebrate statehood – let that spirit rise now, and our actions correspond as our founders intended.

See, we have that choice, how to respond to circumstances around us. As public servants, will we draw from a servant’s heart the resolve to put pettiness and power struggles aside and work together for the good of the people? We have the choice. I speak for the entire Palin/Parnell Administration when I declare we choose optimism and collaboration and hard work to get the job done. It starts with a frank assessment of our economy and our budget. We have natural advantages to defer some effects of the global recession. Our banks have good liquidity, our credit market is relatively strong, home foreclosures are lowest in the nation. That’s the upside of a regional economy. The reverse side, our unemployment rate is about the national average – over seven percent, which means thousands of Alaskans need jobs. And when our budget is 90 percent reliant on the value of energy resources, there are consequences.

Two years ago at this podium, I urged spending restraint. I asked that billions of surplus funds be deposited in state savings. This struck me as a simple precaution against, as I described it, massive single-year cuts down the road, if and when we faced tougher times. You legislators agreed, so we can now meet our challenge in a stronger position.

And you understood the challenge is not just to think fast and change plans when the price of oil suddenly falls, affecting revenue by billions of dollars. The challenge is to follow a consistent plan despite inconsistent prices.

With prudence, you built our reserves – that was good planning. This national economic downturn that’s spread to the energy market – it found us prepared. And that’s more than many states can say about their financial situation.

When oil prices and state revenue are on the rise, as was the case, there’s temptation to assume it’ll go on rising forever, and to spend accordingly. Since prices fell, there may be an equal temptation to draw heavily on reserves or, for some, to be tempted to tap the permanent fund earnings or tax our hardworking families.

No. With the budget, the aim is to keep our economy on a steady, confident course. The aim is – with discipline – we protect our reserves and promote economic growth.

Now, unless the price of a barrel of oil dramatically increases, soon, we’re looking at a potential revenue shortfall in excess of a billion dollars this year.

So with a close eye on price, we need to be willing to curtail spending as needed. If there’s a shortfall, there are options. It’ll take a cooperative spirit all around to see us through the uncertainty.

I had proposed we start with an overall reduction of seven percent from last year’s expenditures.

This is a real reduction, not just a reduction in the rate of spending increases – as cuts are often defined elsewhere. That’s transparency in budgeting – just as the public saw when we put the state’s checkbook online. We stand ready to work with lawmakers – who hold the purse strings – to amend the budget, as we receive revenue updates in weeks ahead.

Last year, we all expected another surplus. But even then, with record high prices, I chose prudence and directed state commissioners to cut millions in operating costs.

Finding efficiencies even during times of plenty – that’s common sense fiscal responsibility.

Now obviously, circumstances have changed that even international seasoned oil experts could not predict, requiring us now to adjust even more. Therefore, I am implementing a hiring freeze, exempting public safety, and I am restricting non-essential purchases. These actions reduce the draw on savings as we monitor revenue for the rest of 2009.

For too long, Alaska’s economy has struggled with fluctuating revenue due to global commodity prices.

In a volatile economy, numbers are not fixed, but principles are. We’ve followed the same principles from the start of this administration: fiscal discipline, limited government, and responsible stewardship.

At a time when other state legislatures are staring at multi-billion-dollar deficits, and when our federal government proposes a deficit in excess of a trillion dollars this year alone, we have all the cautionary examples we need in the virtues of living within our means. With less revenue, we have an obligation to spend less money.

With our share of federal funds and Congress’ stimulus package, our obligation is equally clear: we must ensure these public funds serve vital needs – as is the case of infrastructure for our gas pipeline, needed by the nation; and the Kodiak Launch Facility, adding to national defense. President Obama pledged not to let this stimulus package devolve into the past familiar scene of politicians lining up for obscure earmarks. This is reform at work.

Thankfully, in the state, these past couple of years we’ve allocated billions for roads, ports, schools, and other vital public works. That money hits the streets and grows the economy this year – so the private sector creates, and we keep, many thousands of good Alaskan jobs through this.

We can stay on that path of investment in growth with continued support for essential construction projects that will – literally – build this state.

Now, we can’t buy into the notion that for government to serve better, it must always spend more. Reductions we support are a chance to show the true measure in public policy. Simply increasing budgets every year, a common government practice, is no guarantee of success. More often, it’s an incentive to failure. Good public policy is accountable for results, and focused on critical priorities.

We promised public education reform – so schools can plan ahead, and bureaucracies do not smother a school’s creativity or a student’s aspiration. We now take the next step in our three-year education plan – to offer every young Alaskan – rural and urban – the opportunity to learn and work and succeed in the world. We’ll fully forward-fund all our school districts with more than a billion dollars – that’s more than 21 percent of General Fund expenditures. Education is that high a priority. We’ll focus on early learning, vo-tech and workforce development, an enhanced University, streamlined operations, we’ll hold schools accountable, and we’ll encourage opportunities for students with special needs. One of the great privileges given to me last year was the chance to be a witness for the truth that every child has value; to say to special needs children that they are beautiful and loved. And needed. We learn more from them than they from us. Across America, a great change is coming in public policy affecting these children, and Alaska can lead the way. This is a part of the culture of life where every child is cherished and protected.

In this chamber, we share a commitment to serious health-care reform. We’ve learned from experience that all the answers do not come from Washington. When Congress turns to health-care reform this year, we look to our delegation to make the case for greater competition, more private sector choices, and less litigation in the health-care market. But we’re not going to wait. Here, reform can move forward without delay.

I look forward to working with you on adjustments to kid’s health insurance. We’ll fund more early screening – for example, for autism – because early detection makes all the difference. We’ll focus on preventing disease and promoting healthy living. I’ll ask that physical education be incorporated into daily school schedules, too. We have alarming levels of heart disease, diabetes, childhood obesity – and all of these maladies are on the rise. Now, I won’t stand here and lecture – for very long – but health care reform on an individual basis is often just this simple: we could save a lot of money, and a lot of grief, by making smarter choices.

It starts by ending destructive habits, and beginning healthy habits in eating and exercise. In my case, it’s hard to slack when you have the ever-present example of an Iron Dogger nearby. But many of us could use a little more time in our great outdoors – and when you live in the Great Land, there’s no excuse.

Protecting good health is largely a matter of personal responsibility, but government policy can help. Our new Alaska Health Care Commission will recommend changes that affect the well-being of Alaskans far into the future.

So, a healthier Alaska via personal responsibility, and subsisting more on our pure and plentiful Alaskan food sources! It’s why we protect our waters and soils from pollutants, and it’s a reason we manage our wildlife for abundance.

To ensure this, we’ve successfully brought the Habitat Division back into Fish and Game, as I promised. Our biologists have protected game by eliminating predators from calving grounds and we'll further protect herds, some of which are at precariously low levels of abundance - thus ultimately promoting the population growth of every species.

We’re building viable personal use and commercial fisheries in some of the most controversial and complex fisheries in the world, dealing with half a dozen foreign countries, including Japan, Russia and Canada. We’re establishing sustainable seafood stocks, and limiting salmon bycatch in the trawl fishery. We’ve increased research on salmon runs, and we’re building new hatcheries for vibrant industry.

As the largest and only Arctic state, we’re studying climate-change through our DEC-led subcabinet. And we’re suing the federal government for misusing the Endangered Species Act. There is an attempt there to use the ESA to impose environmental policies that should be debated and approved legislatively, not by court order or bureaucratic decree. Alaskans have shown through our protective laws that we’re willing and able to protect our magnificent wildlife, while developing our God-given resources, by using conservation laws as they were intended. We’ll challenge abuse of federal law when it’s used just to lock up Alaska.

Vital projects now underway show how much science and technology have improved in a generation, greatly reducing risk to the environment. Continued work in Cook Inlet and on the North Slope, new drilling at Nikaitchug, new exploration in NPRA – these projects and more will be carried out with the safest methods. My administration has dramatically ramped up oversight. We demand the highest standards of stewardship and corporate responsibility, because we want to pass on this Alaska that we cherish to our children and grandchildren and beyond.

And just as we strive to keep our environment safe, we’re dedicated to keeping Alaskans safe. We’ve finally filled vacant trooper positions this fall and we have several innovative initiatives moving, like a Highway Patrol Bureau focused on road safety and DUI enforcement. And I’m excited about the Troop to Trooper program, which offers our National Guard hometown heroes careers in law enforcement.

These priorities should be a powerful incentive to think clearly and act decisively – not politically – in pursuit of funding them with our next economic lifeline: the gasline. Without revenues from developing clean natural gas, priorities can’t be funded, and we will deplete reserves within a decade. Working together, we’re developing a 10-year plan to keep a healthy balance in the Constitutional Budget Reserve. We’re laying up stores, until strong revenue comes in with the flow of natural gas to feed hungry markets here and outside.

Unfortunately, some focus only on potential obstacles when they discuss projects like the gasline: the giants in the land preventing us from gathering fruit. But as I recall, we’ve already slain a few giants.

Remember TAPS 30-some years ago? Alaskans were told the oil line was impossible. And then, all those years when this capitol was filled with talk about a $40 billion gasline, but that’s all it ever amounted to – talk, and closed door deals? Working with you, we shook things up, and passed Ethics Reform and AGIA and ACES. By inviting the private sector to compete for the right to tap our resources, we now have two major efforts underway to commercialize gas – without surrendering Alaska’s sovereignty.

The big line will be the work of years. Last month we took another step closer to steel pipe when we signed the license with TransCanada-Alaska.

To further develop, we’re commissioning preliminary work on a road to Umiat, and pursuing a road to Nome. We need access to our resources. Alaskans – especially in our smaller communities, the heartbeat of Alaska, with truly so much potential – we need jobs for income and achievement. Responsible resource development – including drilling, mining, timber and tourism – means more jobs, instead of more government.

Now with the big line, every enterprise – every great thing worth doing – involves challenges. But we can be confident in this enterprise because it’s founded on the fundamental interests of our state and nation. America needs energy: affordable, abundant and secure. With international conflicts, war, and environmental concerns, laws and markets seek safe, clean energy, and that’s what we offer. The last president supported a gasline, and so does the new president.

Because even the most promising renewable energy sources are years from general use, between then and now, we need a clean interim fuel to power our grid and heat our homes. Natural gas is ideal.

In Alaska, all roads lead – well, really we only have the one, North – but it leads to the North Slope, and to the central importance of our North American gasline. America’s security, Alaska’s revenue, Alaskan careers, affordable fuel, even our ability to finally diversify our economy – all these hinge on the success of this great undertaking. I assure you: The line will be built – gas will flow – Alaska will succeed.

Ironically, our people are blessed with owning the richest natural resources in the country; here we’re getting ready to flow four-and-a-half billion cubic feet of gas every day in a huge line; yet we’ve been more vulnerable than other Americans to every rise and fall in energy prices. Even though we own the resources.

The solution for our state is much the same as for the rest of our nation – only the source is ours and much closer to us, so delivery can come sooner. We’re facilitating a smaller, in-state gasline with legislation we’ll hand you next month. My goal for this in-state line is completion in five years. It will carry 460-million cubic feet of gas every day to energize Alaska. Previously, we’ve relied on a diminishing gas supply from Cook Inlet, and expensive diesel, and a mix of government subsidies, and not enough conservation – but that is not sustainable. And it shouldn’t take another spike in energy costs to stir us into action. Alaska will help achieve energy independence and security for our country, and we can lead with a long-needed energy plan for America. But let us begin with energy security for ourselves.

This includes meeting my goal of generating 50 percent of our electric power with renewable sources. That’s an unprecedented policy across the U.S, but we’re the state that can do it with our abundant renewables, and with Alaskan ingenuity.

In our energy plan, for the first time, Alaskans will see cooperation among our utilities. We’ll introduce legislation creating the joint utility corporation to finally accomplish this. No more fractured efforts to generate power along the Railbelt via so many different utilities, headed in so many different directions. We will have coordinated power generation that will finally make sense for consumers. Energy is key. Governor Hickel spoke of the undeniable tie-in between energy and poverty, energy and peace and life. He said, “Our answers begin with energy. Freedom depends on it, so does hope.”

For goals of hope, opportunity, and self-sufficiency, government is not the answer, but government can help with energy challenges. In villages, our weatherization programs provide jobs and reduce the cost of living. We continue to support bulk fuel purchases, PCE, power plant upgrades and many projects that foster opportunities and self-sufficiency. We’ve got to row together as one crew – that’s the only way to reach these goals. Now, we need more oil in the pipeline, too. So we strictly enforce state laws and contracts with oil companies. We’ll hold them accountable with those contracted commitments they signed, to develop our resources – as we are expected to keep our word to them. Our reformed oil production formula, ACES, helps them with strong incentives to keep capital re-invested, and it’s working with new developments, as DNR just announced a banner year for new companies entering our competitive oil and gas arena.

Alaska, there will come a day when our success is not measured in barrels. The goal is multiplicity – an economy made strong by a wealth of petroleum, but no longer solely dependent on it. And again, the test of leadership is to be prepared.

We need a plan. Business leaders, local officials, and other stakeholders, we all agree for our economic future, we need this. Like the saying, “Fail to plan? Then you plan to fail.” To that end, I issued an administrative order this week calling for the state’s first comprehensive economic strategy. Like our unprecedented energy plan rolled out this month, the Alaska Legacy Plan is the first of its kind. It will determine practical strategies to implement today and for the next 50 years.

In the past, organizations have studied our strengths and weaknesses. They offered generalized suggestions for change. That’s good, we’ll utilize that. We propose a strategic action plan for private sector and government to stimulate and diversify the economy. We’ll need participation and common sense from those who make this economy run – namely, the small-business owners who do the hard work – they create jobs. That’s where the best ideas are.

This will be the road map for activities and investments, to grow us strong, here in the Great Land of plenty. With our ideal, strategic position on the globe as the air-crossroads of the world; with our massive size, with stores of potential, with our spirit, with our people – together we will plot the course.

I have confidence in Alaskans, in their judgment and groundedness. Even more so after the journey I completed on November 4th. I learned more about fighting the good fight, facing long odds, the need to protect family – my own and our Alaska family – and putting Country First even when voters put you second. Not unlike Alaska’s journey. When I took my oath of office to serve as your Governor, remember, I swore to steadfastly and doggedly guard the interests of this great state like a grizzly with cubs, as a mother naturally guards her own. Alaska, as a statewide family, we’ve got to fight for each other, not against and not let external, sensationalized distractions draw us off course.

As an exciting year of unpredictable change begins, we, too, have our work cut out for us. And we’re all in this together. Just like our musk ox, they circle up to protect their future when they are challenged. We’ve got to do the same. So now, united, protecting and progressing under the great North Star, let’s get to work. Thank you. God bless.

The Oregonian Apologizes

Oregonian, May 21, 2008 front page story

In a rare major media display of conscience, the Oregonian apologized for its treatment of Bob Ball who raised questions about newly elected Mayor Sam Adams' fitness to be mayor in the lead up to the mayoral campaign.

This is what Anna Griffin of the Oregonian reported in September of 2007*:
The problem: The story Ball told about Adams and a 17-year-old legislative intern isn't true, according to both Adams and the young man. Adams acknowledges trying to be a mentor, including exchanging numerous phone calls and text messages with the young man over several months in summer 2005. But both men said that they have never been anything more than friends. Ball said he was doing a public service in speaking with [Portland City Commissioner Randy] Leonard, implying that as a reserve police officer he felt a responsibility to report suspected child abuse. Oregon law requires people in positions of responsibility -- public or private -- to report child abuse to police or welfare workers. Those he told, including Leonard and former Mayor Vera Katz, said they took it as an attempt at political assassination.
In an editorial two days ago Oregonian editors apologized explaining:
For one thing, when Bob Ball, [Sam Adams'] would-be opponent began spreading rumors about Adams and Breedlove back in 2007, Adams didn't just deny the allegations and decry Ball's tactics. He launched an all-out public relations assault against the man.

He asked one of the city's leading campaign specialists to coach Breedlove in dealing with the onslaught of impertinent questions. He preached piously about the importance of mentoring young, confused gay men to help them through their identity crises. He derided Ball for falsely employing a vicious anti-gay canard in his effort to force Adams out of the mayor's race and out of politics. He took care, he claimed, to avoid even the appearance of impropriety. He'd do it all again, Adams proclaimed back then, to defend these virtues. He fairly dripped sanctimony
But it was a lie, Adams now admits, cooked up to save his political career.

Sad to say, plenty of us bought it and, for that, we owe Ball an apology. Yet, even this week, Adams felt an underlying justification for his tactics back then because Ball accused him of criminality instead of mere sexual exploitation of a callow young man.
[emphasis added]
Oregonian, January 20, 2009 front page story

The Oregonian editors deserve recognition for admitting their part in covering for Adams and then apologizing.

Unfortunately the Oregonian didn't go on to admit to a lack of creditable reporting in following up on the story as Nigel Jaquiss and The Willamette Week did.

Initial evidence on the Adams/Breedlove relationship was followed by 1) Adams' strange appointment of a reporter who had investigated the story to a position in his administration that she had no background for and 2) an e-mail sent to major media outlets (Willamette Week, The Oregonian, The Portland Tribune, Just Out, The Statesman Journal, The Mercury and KOIN-TV) giving the name and phone number of a contact who had information on then 41 year old Adams affair with 18 year old Breedlove. Apparently only Jaquiss and The Willamette Week cared to follow up. This is a black eye for major Oregon print media--except The Willamette Week.

Bernard Goldberg has said the media is in the trust business. There will be fewer and fewer readers/watchers/listeners as news sources show a lack of regard for the truth, a bias for political favorites, and willingness to look the other way on their mistakes.

When the media wrongly trashes someone's reputation and does not show due diligence in searching out the truth of a story, it kills trust. It's good that the Oregonian recognized its error regarding Ball, but the Oregonian and its reporters owe another apology for not following up on clear evidence because its editors and reporters favored Adams.

*(Archived by WebCite® at http://www.webcitation.org/66EkRBU9P)

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Oregon Right to Life Rally Draws 7,000

Cross posted at The Next Right

Oregon Right to Life sponsored a rally at Pioneer Square in downtown Portland today. It drew about 7,000 people on a cold, windy day.

The rally drew attention to the 50 million children lost to abortion, and speakers urged action to give children the protection they deserve.

There were a lot of youth at the rally, some with their families, some by themselves. A man in his 50's set a long, slim mailing box down on the half high brick wall next to me and took out some sort of banner set up. Two young men came jumping up over the wall to see a small group of 20 or so pro-abortion advocates marching on the other side of the street. The guy with the banner asked if they would help him set his banner up. One of the young men (16 or 17 years old) asked him what was on it. He said, "a picture." Wisely, the young men said they wanted to see what was going on with the marchers and kept going. The banner guy continued fiddling with setting his banner up, but was careful not to show what was on it. The rally was almost over by this time, and I left before he got it unfurled. So, I never found out what the banner was all about.

Among the speakers, young, dynamic Jennifer Salame highlighted what youth can do in the pro-life cause.

The Oregonian's Brent Wojahn took some rather ho-hum photos, most close up, small group pictures--none giving a perspective of the number or diversity of the crowd present.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Thank you, President Bush!

Cross posted on The Next Right

1. “At the time of 9/11, which will forever rightly be regarded as the defining moment of the [Bush] presidency, history will look in vain for anyone predicting that the Americans murdered that day would be the very last ones to die at the hands of Islamic fundamentalist terrorists in the US from that day to this.”
(British Historian Andrew Roberts)

Why no more victims in the US?

- President Bush acted to disrupt Al Qaeda training bases in Afghanistan. Through diplomacy Bush garnered international support to force the Taliban, which allowed the Al Qaeda bases to flourish, out of power.

- President Bush, again with an international force, threw down the gauntlet in Iraq as the main battlefield in the confrontation with Al Qaeda. Al Qaeda accepted that venue. Al Qaeda lost.

U.S. casualties in Iraq today are at an all time low. The 314 U.S. military casualties in Iraq in 2008 were significantly less than the 509 homicides in just one American city (Chicago) in 2008.

Iraq’s democracy gains stability every day. Economically, Iraq has blossomed. The GDP of Iraq in 2008 was $114 billion nearing the 1980 pre-Saddam $130 billion. In 2003 under Saddam Hussein it had fallen to $30 billion.

- The Patriot Act and other congressionally approved programs have disrupted terrorist activities in the U.S.

2. President Bush’s policies have resulted in freeing over 58 million people from brutal regimes in Iraq and Afghanistan where torture and maiming were commonplace, not to mention execution of political rivals. (This stands in contrast with the shame the U.S. and the world shares for standing idly by while 2 million civilians were slaughtered in Cambodia in the 1970's.)

3. No corruption or graft. The Scooter Libby trial was the closest thing to a scandal, and that was not about breaking any laws initially but about conduct after the investigation started. It turned out that no one broke laws initially.

4. Grace under fire despite continuing bias and withering criticism from political opponents and the mainstream press (which has refused to headline Bush successes--like the Surge--in they same manner they headlined difficulties). President Bush is a lot like Lincoln in regard to not lashing back.

There were failures too–as there are in all presidencies. But, this is a time to dwell on the fact that Americans are safer now than we were eight years ago. That is President George W. Bush’s gift to the American people.

Can the incoming administration keep that gift?* President-elect Obama seems to be following similar policies (in wanting a surge in Afghanistan, voting for renewing the Patriot Act as a Senator, and keeping Robert Gates as Secretary of Defense).

*At the close of the Constitutional Convention of 1787 the question was asked of Benjamin Franklin: “Well, Doctor, what have we got—a Republic or a Monarchy?” Franklin responded: “A Republic, if you can keep it.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Oregonian: pollution caused soot magnifies early snowmelt--or maybe not so much

Oregonian reporter Michael Milstein has a strange sense of perspective on Oregon snow.

Two years ago after a harder than usual January snow fall, Milstein wrote:
If the winter wonderland that gripped Portland this week took us by surprise, maybe it's because heavy snows have grown scarcer.

The past 25 winters brought barely more than 3 inches of snow to Portland on average, the lowest figure on record, according to National Weather Service data. The 25 winters before that average 5.5 inches of snow and the 25 before that 9.5 inches.

The bottom line, weather experts say, is the Northwest is getting warmer, turning more of its snow into rain. Portland is especially sensitive to that trend because the area usually sees snow only when temperatures are very close to freezing.
. . .

Although it may disappoint kids who enjoy snow days and good sledding, the snow will probably grow rarer still as warming continues--a trend scientists believe is linked to escalating greenhouse gas concentrations.
. . .

Since 1969, the biggest accumulation was 14.1 inches in the winter of 1992-93, and that stood out among other annual snowfalls in that era. No more than 2 inches of snow have fallen in eight of the past 10 winters. It would have been nine of the last 10 winters without this week's snowstorm."

(Oregonian, "As the region gets warmer, more rain than snow falls, a trend that some scientists link to rising greenhouse gas concentrations," January 20, 2007, pages A1 and A7.)

In December, 2008, snowfall measured at Portland International Airport was 18.9" (6 times more than the 3" average). Despite Milstein's report that heavy snows are "scarcer" and likely to grow "rarer", the uncommon 2007 winter, followed by the record setting 2008 winter, didn't set him thinking about possible problems with the climate models he has been reporting.

Rather Milstein's front page article today is about bad consequences of pollution caused soot making the snow pack melt faster thereby decreasing water supply at critical times in spring and early summer.
The soot, almost invisible in the snow, absorbs more sunlight, heating the snow and melting it as much as a month earlier in spring, amplifying the effect of already rising temperatures, according to a new study by scientists at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, Wash.

The warming effect of the soot -- known to scientists as the "dirty snow effect" -- melts away as much as 2 inches of snow in some parts of the West before it would have melted otherwise, computer modeling showed.

That erodes mountain snowpacks that Western farmers and cities have long relied on as a critical reservoir of water. It leaves less snow to melt and fill rivers later in the spring and early summer, when water is most needed for agriculture and thirsty cities.

But, there are some major scientific caveats to the study Milstein trumpets in this story. Milstein does report on the caveats, but shoves them down in the text so they don't appear on page 1 but on page 6. The last three caveats don't appear until the final three paragraphs of the 22 paragraph article.

Caveat 1: The amount of soot in the atmosphere hasn't changed much in recent years. [Caveat to the caveat: that could change due to Asian (read: China) sources]

Caveat 2: Since the study is based on computer modeling, and not actual conditions, it is "not precise", and according to Phillip Mote, Washington state climatologist, it "cannot measure specific consequences", and is "an interesting attempt to demonstrate the influence from soot". Mote continued, "The emissions of soot and their changes over time are not well known, and consequently, their role in the observed changes in snowpack and streamflow over time cannot be quantitatively determined."

Now for the last three paragraphs:

Caveat 3: What is the impact of soot from forest fires? (Oregon, not to mention California, has major forest fires most years) Uh, no one has studied that.

Caveat 4: What about dust [or particles from the sand and gravel that Oregon uses instead of salt for de-icing and traction on snow]? Not studied yet.

Caveat 5: What impact does snow darkening on its own due to the normal course of melting cause? Again, not studied.

So, soot causing snow (which wasn't supposed to be here in such massive quantities) to melt faster may or may not be significant. But, no one has done real life studies--only computer models. And those don't take into account other major variables which cause snow to "darken".

Milstein and the Oregonian think the study is front page news, but the caveats not so much.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Googling and Web Surfing Outstrip Carbon Footprint of Aviation Industry

Cross posted at The Next Right

From the Times of London:
So it's Sunday morning, you're sitting down at the computer with your cup of coffee, and you decide to search for the latest YouTube hit. You groan. That video is taking too long to load. You open a new window and decide to read the morning paper while you wait for the video to download. This scene may seem innocent enough, but were you aware of the fact that your websurfing has an impact on the environment? Would you be surprised to know that it contributes to a greater global carbon footprint than the whole of the aviation industry?

Although they might seem ephemeral, websites have real-world environmental footprints. Their files are stored on servers, viewed by personal computers, and connected via networks. To operate these components, all of which are necessary to create a complete website experience, electricity must be consumed. And to generate much of that electricity, fossil fuels like coal and natural gas are usually being burned.

So, when you are sitting in London viewing a website hosted in California, there are power plants on at least two continents actively pumping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere in order for you to watch that video or read that online newspaper.

Since millions of people are surfing the web every hour of every day, that carbon footprint adds up to an astounding 2% of international emissions each year. In fact, according to the American research firm Gartner, the carbon footprint of information and communications technology exceeded that of the global aviation industry for the first time in 2007. Add to your own footprint those of the billions of existing web searchers, not to mention those now coming online in Asia and Africa, and the numbers are staggering.

Google and googling are not that green:
Google is secretive about its energy consumption and carbon footprint. It also refuses to divulge the locations of its data centres. However, with more than 200m internet searches estimated globally daily, the electricity consumption and greenhouse gas emissions caused by computers and the internet is provoking concern. A recent report by Gartner, the industry analysts, said the global IT industry generated as much greenhouse gas as the world’s airlines - about 2% of global CO2 emissions. “Data centres are among the most energy-intensive facilities imaginable,” said Evan Mills, a scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California. Banks of servers storing billions of web pages require power.

Though Google says it is in the forefront of green computing, its search engine generates high levels of CO2 because of the way it operates. When you type in a Google search for, say, “energy saving tips”, your request doesn’t go to just one server. It goes to several competing against each other.

Our online entertainment uses about as much as Brazilians use to live:
Nicholas Carr, author of The Big Switch, Rewiring the World, has calculated that maintaining a character (known as an avatar) in the Second Life virtual reality game, requires 1,752 kilowatt hours of electricity per year. That is almost as much used by the average Brazilian.

“It’s not an unreasonable comparison,” said Liam Newcombe, an expert on data centres at the British Computer Society. “It tells us how much energy westerners use on entertainment versus the energy poverty in some countries.”

Hat Tip Drudge Report

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Interview with Vice President Dick Cheney

Cross posted at The Next Right

Excerpts from the January 7, 2009 interview with Vice President Dick Cheney

Interview of the Vice President by Mark Knoller, CBS Radio
West Wing Office

Q You said recently that many of your predecessors have been frustrated by the office of the Vice President. Have you ever been frustrated?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: I really haven't. I always remember what Jerry Ford told me about the job. He said it was the worst nine months of his life. I watched Nelson Rockefeller do it; he was never happy as Vice President. So it's often been a job that was frustrating for the incumbent. That hasn't been my experience, and that's primarily due to the President. He said he wanted me to be a major part of his team when he asked me to do the job, and he's kept his word. And so I've been actively engaged for a full eight years.

. . .

Q Did Republicans become big spenders on your watch? You've run up a debt, a national debt now that's in excess of $10.6 trillion, nearly $5 trillion of which was run up on your watch.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Right. I think we'd rather have not added significantly to the debt, but frankly, we were faced from September 11th, 2001 onward with a very, very difficult challenge. We had to spend money on the military; we had to spend money on homeland security. The one exception that we've almost always said we would recognize to trying to run a tight fiscal ship was if we had a national emergency, in particular, wartime. And we've had that. We've had two wars and the global war on terror, and it was necessary and I think the right thing to do, to spend whatever was required in order to be able to prosecute those strategies.

Q So fiscal discipline took a backseat to these other, more important issues?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: In my mind, yes. Fiscal discipline is important, but in a crisis, in an emergency, I think national security comes first. And that's consistent with the decisions we made.

Q Are you worried about the future of the Republican Party?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: I'm not. I think we're in a period here where obviously we're in a troff, if you will -- Democrats have taken the House and the Senate by substantial numbers and won back the White House. But my experience has been over the years that the pendulum swings back and forth. I can remember the '74 election, when we lost the Congress immediately after Watergate; '76, when we lost the presidency; '78, I got elected to Congress; and 1980, of course, Ronald Reagan took the White House and we began the Reagan Revolution.

So over a period of time, clearly we're going to have periods when we're in the majority, periods when we're in the minority. Right now we're the minority, but we've got some very talented folks coming along, and I'm optimistic that the party will rebuild and reenergize and acquire new leadership, and we'll again have a period when they are, in fact, dominant in public affairs and the nation.

. . .

Q What is the biggest mis-impression people have about you?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: (Laughter.) That I'm actually a warm, lovable sort. No, I'd have to give that some thought. I think the job I've had to do as Vice President -- which essentially is a matter of offering advice, I don't run anything -- has meant that I've had to be a very private person during these last eight years, that I could not sit down, for example, with CBS Radio and tell you what I just advised the President that day. If I'd operated that way I wouldn't have been asked much longer for my advice.

So I've had to be a, as I say, fairly private person in order to be consistent with the duties and responsibilities I've had. I haven't talked to the press a lot. That's been a deliberate decision on my part. And that probably results to some extent in the image that's been created that I don't like the press, or that I'm a private, Darth Vader type personality. I think all of that's been pretty dramatically overdone, but it does relate specifically to my responsibilities in terms of my job here.

Q You must know that there are people who just don't disagree with you, they hate you.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Yes, I'm aware of that. (Laughter.)

Q Are you troubled by it?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: No. It goes with the turf. No, we got elected in one of the closest elections in American history in 2000. Some people never got over that. And then I've had to, in my capacity as Vice President, be actively involved in some very tough decisions that some people find controversial. I think we made good decisions. I think we knew what we were doing, and I think that's why the nation has been safe for the last seven and a half years. And as I say, some political opponents will never adjust or acquiesce in the view that we did the right thing. But I think we did, and I think history will regard the Bush administration in a favorable light.

Q Do you believe there are those that misunderstand the nature of your relationship with the President?


Q In what way?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, the notion that somehow I was pulling strings or making presidential-level decisions. I was not. There was never any question about who was in charge. It was George Bush. And that's the way we operated. This whole notion that somehow I exceeded my authority here, was usurping his authority, is simply not true. It's an urban legend, never happened.

Media Bias and Governor Sarah Palin

Friday, January 02, 2009

2008 Sees Huge Expansion of Sea Ice--Fastest Rate of Change on Record

Michael Asher:

"Rapid growth spurt leaves amount of ice at levels seen 29 years ago.

"Thanks to a rapid rebound in recent months, global sea ice levels now equal those seen 29 years ago, when the year 1979 also drew to a close.

"Ice levels had been tracking lower throughout much of 2008, but rapidly recovered in the last quarter. In fact, the rate of increase from September onward is the fastest rate of change on record, either upwards or downwards.

"The data is being reported by the University of Illinois's Arctic Climate Research Center, and is derived from satellite observations of the Northern and Southern hemisphere polar regions.

"Each year, millions of square kilometers of sea ice melt and refreeze. However, the mean ice anomaly -- defined as the seasonally-adjusted difference between the current value and the average from 1979-2000, varies much more slowly. That anomaly now stands at just under zero, a value identical to one recorded at the end of 1979, the year satellite record-keeping began.

"Sea ice is floating and, unlike the massive ice sheets anchored to bedrock in Greenland and Antarctica, doesn't affect ocean levels. However, due to its transient nature, sea ice responds much faster to changes in temperature or precipitation and is therefore a useful barometer of changing conditions.

"Earlier this year, predictions were rife that the North Pole could melt entirely in 2008. Instead, the Arctic ice saw a substantial recovery. Bill Chapman, a researcher with the UIUC's Arctic Center, tells DailyTech this was due in part to colder temperatures in the region. Chapman says wind patterns have also been weaker this year. Strong winds can slow ice formation as well as forcing ice into warmer waters where it will melt.

"Why were predictions so wrong? Researchers had expected the newer sea ice, which is thinner, to be less resilient and melt easier. Instead, the thinner ice had less snow cover to insulate it from the bitterly cold air, and therefore grew much faster than expected, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center.

"In May, concerns over disappearing sea ice led the U.S. to officially list the polar bear a threatened species, over objections from experts who claimed the animal's numbers were increasing."

Hat Tip Warner Todd Hudson

Thursday, January 01, 2009

High Interest/Errors in Press Coverage Prompt Palin to Issue Statement on First Grandchild

Cross posted on The Next Right

From the Alaska Governor's office:
Governor Sarah Palin Welcomes Her First Grandchild

December 31, 2008, Anchorage, Alaska – Governor Sarah Palin has welcomed her first grandchild, Tripp Easton Mitchell Johnston, born to Bristol Palin and Levi Johnston on December 27.

“We are over the moon with the arrival of this healthy, beautiful baby,” Governor Palin said. “The road ahead for this young couple will not be easy, but nothing worthwhile is ever easy. Bristol and Levi are committed to accomplish what millions of other young parents have accomplished, to provide a loving and secure environment for their child. They are both hard workers, they’re very strong, and have faith they’ve made the right decision in setting aside their own interests to make this child their highest priority.”

Palin added, “When Bristol and Levi first told us the shocking news that she was pregnant, to be honest, we all at first looked at the situation with some fear and a bit of despair. Isn’t it just like God to turn those circumstances into such an amazing, joyful blessing when you ask Him to help you through?”

Bristol Palin said she “obviously discourages” teen pregnancy and knows that plans she previously made for herself will now forever be changed. “Teenagers need to prevent pregnancy to begin with – this isn’t ideal. But I’m fortunate to have a supportive family which is dealing with this together. Tripp is so perfectly precious; we love him with all our hearts. I can’t imagine life without him now.”

Bristol begins her final semester of high school next week where she’ll get her last credit needed to graduate. She looks forward to continuing her record of good grades and high achievement. Levi is continuing his online high school work in addition to working as an electrical apprentice on the North Slope.

Bill McAllister, the governor’s office communications director, adds: "The governor's office previously declined to comment to honor the family's wishes that the event remain as private as possible. However, the high volume of press inquiries, along with some erroneous information that was published, prompted the governor to make a statement."

AP story here; Anchorage Daily News story here.