March 1, 2008

McCain Scores Zero, Texas Fails on National Environmental Scorecard

The League of Conservation Voters recently released their 2007 scorecard for Congressional Conservation Voting Records and John McCain scored a zero for the whole year of 2007. In fact, two dead Congressmen scored higher than McCain.

McCain was the only member of Congress to skip every single crucial environmental vote scored by the organization. Wow, really? You claim to be a proponent of the environment and you missed every single vote on conservation last year? Carl Pope, Executive Director of Sierra Club, had this to say.

Every other Member who received a zero from LCV last year at least had the
temerity to show up and vote against the environment and clean energy time after
time. And unlike John McCain, I doubt any of them would claim to be
environmental leaders or champions on global warming.

More importantly for those of us in the Lone Star State is how awful our state fared on the scorecard. In the Senate, John Cornyn and Kay Bailey Hutchison scored 3% on the 15 issue scorecard. Cornyn, along with McCain was joined by 5 others in the Senate with 0%. The House fared just a little better with 30% but 13 of our 32 Representatives scored a 0%. This is pathetic in a state that has so much potential to lead the way in conservation and environmental policy innovation. Texas has a massive intellectual community# per capita, concentrated in 4 of the largest research campuses and biotech industry hubs in the nation. If our leaders could commit to progressive policies we will see the results in 10-15 years, but we need to harness and incubate newly-born technology now! A down payment now will pay off greatly for our future by allowing us first access to commercial products based on renewable energy and energy efficiency. The warning should be for now, every kilowatt is going to keep getting more expensive as long as we rely on a source with limited capacity and a finite reserve!

But I digress, the Texas score highlights a general trend within the parties with Democrats scoring much higher than their Republican counterparts. Democratic Senator leadership scored a 91 while the Republicans scored a 7.

Democratic leaders were Majority Leader Reid (NV, 87%), Durbin (IL, 93%) Majority Whip, and Schumer (NY, 93%) Conference Vice Chair. Republican leaders were McConnell (KY, 7) Minority Leader, Lott (MS, 0%) Minority Whip, and Kyl (AZ, 13%) Conference Secretary.

In the House the numbers are no better for the Republicans as they clock in with an underwhelming 2%. The Democrats scored 87%.

Democratic leaders were Pelosi (CA, NA*) Speaker, Hoyer (MD, 90%) Majority Leader, Clyburn (SC, 80%) Whip, Emanuel (Il, 90%). Republicans were Boehner (OH, 0%) Minority Leader, Blunt (MO, 0%) Minority Whip, Putnam (FL, 5%) Conference Chair.

The Republicans need to stop protecting big industry on these issues (take a look at those links and honestly tell me all of them aren't screwing you). Companies make large amounts of money and sway much of policy, this is unfair for consumers as none of this money can guarantee a healthy future for anyone. Hopefully people will wake up and demand that these type of issues be discussed and dealt with appropriately. The scientific community is screaming for the opportunity to innovate, but the money isn't there.

At the Biotech company I work at there is a strain all year to produce vast quantities of proposals in the hope that a few get picked and can fund enough of the payroll to write more proposals. Whatever pathetic amount is squeezed out of that goes to actual research, stunting the ability to truly unleash our intellectual wealth.

Google has pledged $20 million on solar and wind technology and in a press release said it "anticipates investing hundreds of millions of dollars in breakthrough renewable energy projects which will [sic] generate positive returns." That's pretty frightening guys, think about it. A corporation is going to outpace our government at seed level research and will reap the benefits in the future.

#Subscription required
*The Speaker of the House votes at her discretion

More After the Fold...


Ok, I lied...

I'm gonna throw in a few FTS (for you non-reef nerds that's "full tank shots").
Holy crap, I just found out if you click the pics you can get full size versions.


Posted by Picasa

More After the Fold...


Even More Reef Pics!

Ok, here's the last of them.




Posted by Picasa

More After the Fold...


More Reef Pics

Sorry guys, I'm finally learning how to use my camera so I snapped some shots today and have to share. Hope you enjoy!




Posted by Picasa

More After the Fold...


February 29, 2008

Night on the Reef

Snapped some ok photos Wednesday of one of the Sexy Shrimp posing on some Zooanthids. Hope you enjoy!




Posted by Picasa

More After the Fold...


Beat of the Nation: Renewable Energy

I have my own views on renewable energy which I will be spouting profusely about in the coming weeks but today I take a back seat as I continue my survey of the American populace and their thoughts on renewable energy.

Disclaimer: Absolutely none of these polls are scientific as I do not control the sampling or the bias of viewers beliefs who participate. But the results are not tampered and I myself do not count the votes as an automated service registers the answer of each unique IP address.

The major issue we will have to tackle no renewable energy is incorporating the technologies into the transportation sector. As long as Americans can plug in their home devices I'm pretty sure they don't care where its coming from, but for some reason Americans are completely absorbed with their love of cars. So the question is which alternative fuel is more likely to succeed? A whopping 60% said Hydrogen will be the fuel of the future with Ethanol and biodiesel garnering 16% and 9% respectively. Other received 15% which shows the uncertainty the public has with all of the available technologies.

When asked if a hybrid vehicle sounds more appealing now than it did 6 months ago
25% said yes it was a better buy now while 65% said no, I am still as pro-Hybrid as before while 9% was just as anti-hybrid as before. So all of these people say they are pro-hybrid and manufacturers are starting to roll out hybrid SUV's to satiate America's bigger and better complex. The question is will they sell? 79% say yes consumer demand is there while 21% said no, it is not worth the added cost.

You next vehicle will get: 36% said 30-40 mpg; 35% said 20-30; and 16% said 40+ mpg.

Just to show how reluctant Americans really are though to change within their vehicles I asked whether they would consider buying a diesel car. 54% said yes while 46% said no. Little do most Americans realize that the rest of the world is running on diesel and that its a much more efficient fuel (check out this blogger who got 72 mpg in a stock Euro diesel Honda Civic).

Now with these numbers I feel like my sample was biased toward the need for hybrid and renewable energy vehicles but the response was so overwhelming you have to think that companies will be forced to improve hybrid efficiency and strive for innovation within their power consumption.

Massive power consumption on the commercial scale where we need to see the biggest push as we adjust from a coal and oil dependent energy grid to alternatives. Here are a few questions on that.

Governors want coal considered as "green" fuel. You say: 24% Coal is a viable option, 76% Coal is too dirty to be considered "green"

Scientists list "greatest engineering challenges." Biggest of these?
41% Making solar energy affordable; 27% Provide energy from fusion; 10% Prevent nuclear terror. Its interesting here that our politicians rail about the need to stop terrorist attacks and the public's mind is much more worried about energy solutions as two categories of energy trumped the nuclear threat.

The public's interest in cutting edge renewable technologies is growing also. When asked whether the Gulf Stream could be harvested for energy production 83% were confident that a suitable technology could be developed while only 17% said it sounds too far fetched.

Here's a touchy one, and one that I am very invested in. Should we build more nuclear plants to aid energy independence? 71% think so while only 29% don't. I think it is a necessary energy source moving further into the 21st century. I would do an analysis of safety but I really don't think it needs to be done, maybe I'll look up how many people died in nuclear accidents this year versus coal miners but I'm sure we don't need to bring that heartache back up.

Here's probably my favorite:

And what are American's doing now to combat energy expenditure? Are you more likely to buy a product that has an energy star logo? 46% said yes, definitely; 31% said maybe; and 23% said no, not really. This one is a big eye opener to me, especially with how much the answers were skewed toward alternative and energy saving fuels in cars. Maybe the gas price hike has caused Americans to rethink their traveling expenses, but soon enough these prices will be felt in the home.

And one loaded question for the respondents which I was really impressed with the answer. Your neighbors install an ugly, energy-generating windmill. You: 64% Congratulate them, its green; 22% Grumble but do nothing; 11% Ask local government to remove it; and 3% Ask them to take it down.

So that's the beat of the nation when it comes to energy saving and renewable energy. Next week I'll have a more detailed look at the different types of energy and their true viability in a commercial market which has to compete with oil and coal.

More After the Fold...


Texas Energy Crisis

Texas again reigns supreme as the leader in CO2 production in the nation! This is just another award that embarrasses me being a native Texan along with our degradation of science principles in high schools (I'll cover this on Saturday) and being some of the fattest Americans. This report though hits on the underlying problem in the state; that our local and state governments are in bed with big industry.

So being a scientist I like to tease out all aspects of the facts in order to get a full picture of the information. I'll steal from a Newsweek article here:

If Texas were its own country, it would be the 48th most populous in the world, right between North Korea and Ghana. In terms of landmass, at 268,000 square miles it would be the 40th-biggest. Were the Lonestar State to secede from the union it would be the world's eighth-largest emitter of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide, just behind Canada, with 630 million metric tons spewed into the atmosphere in 2005, according to new figures released this week by the U.S. government's Energy Information Administration. That's actually a reduction of 40 million metric tons since 2003, when Texas was the globe's seventh-largest CO2 contributor. But even though the state is improving, Texas still outpaces the combined emissions of California and Pennsylvania, the states with the second- and third-highest CO2 outputs.
Wow! We produce more greenhouse gas than the number 2 and 3 states combined?!?!? Of course Texas is the nation's largest energy producer, and has more cattle and oil refineries than any other state, effectively making us the power plant, gas pump and beef basket of the nation. So is industry totally to blame for this? Hell no, its us the citizens who really need to look at ourselves. Our 23.5 million citizens use 3,000 more kilowatt hours every year than the average American, and we like to drive large gas guzzling cars. According to the Texas DPS there are 20 million vehicles registered in the state, and a full quarter of them are pickup trucks (nationally 16% of vehicles are trucks). And this last year 61% of new vehicles were light trucks (nationally, 47%) .

A third of our emissions come from transportation and in such an expansive state little to nothing has been done by either local or state governments to ease this environmental pressure. As defined by the EPA's Clean Air Act more than half of all Texans live in areas where the air is unsafe to breathe.

And you think this type of health hazard would spur the government to enact change but Texas stands as one of only 15 states without a climate action plan. And of those 15 states 11 have bills under consideration, but Texas has yet to even begin to consider a plan! And here's how serious our governor is about climate change, last year he said "Al Gore's mouth is the country's leading source of carbon dioxide, not Texas." And bless the good Aggie's heart, you know he's just looking out for big business in his state, but at some point Texas is going to have to break the co-dependence on the oil industry for policy and money.

So how is big industry affecting Texans energy policies? Well last year the Texas Association of Manufacturers and Houston-based Exxon Mobil successfully lobbied against a bill that would have provided tax incentives for businesses and homeowners who install solar panels. The state legislature even voted down a bill that would have increased taxes to provide for a light rail system in the state. The Texas Oil and Gas Association and Texas Automobile Dealers Association spent $12 million to successfully defeat a bill by an Austin Democratic senator that would have set up a task force to study climate change. And in 2006 TXU announced it would build 11 coal plants to supplement the 18 Texas already has. The state government even fast tracked the application process to ensure the public had little to no time to comment on it. Luckily a coalition of 40 cities and local governments blocked the plans and TXU was bought out. An upcoming documentary by Robert Redford, "Fighting Goliath: Texas Coal Wars" will detail the fight against big industry.

But things aren't all bad. Texas continued to push wind power and added $3 billion in wind generation last year. Legendary oilman Boone T. Pickens has invested billions of his own money to build the largest wind farm in the world in the Texas panhandle which should begin construction in 2010.

And even though the state government has dropped the ball, local governments are making a push towards renewable energy sources with Austin leading the way. Austin mayor Will Wynn put forth a plan to have the city run 100% on renewable energy sources by 2012, that's only 4 years!!! The plan also calls for every new single-family home to be zero-net-energy-capable by 2015!

The push for innovation in these areas will come from local governments and their citizens who demand that energy production be adjusted to uncuff the state from the oil industry. Big business has little interest in these goals as witnessed by GM Vice Chairman Bob Lutz who during a closed door meeting with journalists in Dallas said, "Global warming is a total crock of shit. I'm a skeptic, not a denier … I’m motivated more by the desire to replace imported oil than by the CO2." Wow, talk about a real desire to help not only our neighbors but our planet.

I for one am planning to make myself less oil dependent in the next 5 years and for many reasons. One will be the cost of oil consumption. Basic economics tells us that as supply decreases (we keep taking out oil, but no new supplies are being created) and demand increases (humans have used 1 trillion barrels of oil since 1859, more than 93% of it since 1973) prices will skyrocket.

I am unwilling to use a vendor who's cost of service has tripled in the last 7 years and has a 62.8% medium or worse risk of delivery failure. I'm unwilling to rely on an industry which can cut off 97% of its supply for political, weather and policy demands.

Ordinary citizens are starting to listen as well. A family friend of ours has recently added 78 wind turbines twice the size of the Statue of Liberty to his farm outside of Sweetwater, TX. He gets paid abou $500 a month for allowing the turbines on his land and his new favorite catch phrase is "that's just money you're hearing." The New York Times even picked up on this story and has made Louis a local celebrity with farmers and city dwellers alike asking how they can get in on some of the money. This is a very telling movement as always has been the case with human reason, if there is incentive your ideals will change to meet the reward.

So go out and make a difference Texans, this is our damn state! Don't let the businesses and suits in Austin tell you how the energy policy should be, be heard and make a stand. Contact your local politicians and tell them how you feel. I myself have had good conversation with Senator Ogden concerning two separate energy bills which the congress will see this year. I encourage all of you to get out and shoot a quick email or phone call to these guys, its their freakin' job to listen!

Senate District 5--Senator Steve Ogden
District Address: 3740 Copperfield Dr., Suite 103
Bryan TX 77802
Phone: (979) 776-0521

House District 14--Representative Fred Brown
District Address: 1920 West Villa Maria Road, Suite 303
Bryan TX 77802
Phone: (979) 822-9797

And our national representatives:

Congressional District 17--Congressman Chet Edwards
111 University Drive East, Ste. 216
College Station, TX 77840
Phone: (979) 691-8797

Senator John Cornyn contact.

Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson contact.

*All of these Congressman have email addresses on their linked pages. I encourage you to slip a little note that this sort of stuff is important

More After the Fold...


A Very Cool Idea

The Encyclopedia of Life.

I hope it takes off.

More After the Fold...


Glenn Greenwald Rocks

Glenn, once again, gets it right.

This dude is smart, concise, and passionate. He expertly points out the accidental truth in Bush's most recent attempt to scare the living crap (read: civil liberties) out of the American People.

Bush has acknowledged the existence of an "extra-legal" terrorist surveillance program (TSP) which has been in operation since 2001. When he attempted to get the DOJ to vouch for that program's legality, by trying to bullying a hospitalized Ashcroft into signing off on it, even the right-wing fundies Bush had installed in the Department threatened to resign rather than attach their name to that tangled mess of criminality. How bad does something have to be before John Ashcroft refuses to sign off on it? I would venture "pretty damn bad."

So here's the deal. Bush broke the law. Broke it so bad and to such an extent that his own cronies feared being associated with the program, even with the power of presidential pardons behind them. Now Bush wants Congress to ensure, through Telecom immunity, that no account of that program is ever revealed.

He isn't trying to ensure anti-terror efforts are protected; the FISA court, and all courts in fact, are able to handle sensitive information in such a way as to keep it from the very lawyers arguing the case, not to mention all those pro-terra traitors in Congress and the American Public.

He is trying to cover his own Constitution-wiping ass. Of course he doesn't want lawsuits revealing "how we conduct surveillance," because he has been conducting surveillance illegally.

More After the Fold...


February 28, 2008


Go Mighty Morphin' Congresspeople, go!

Good to see some more evidence that Congressional Democrats might, collectivly, be in possesion of a human spine.

The power of Congress to issue supoenas if one of the few effective measures we have against a dictator-president, and our representatives have for far too long allowed these outrageous rejections of that power to go unpunished. If this child-president, to quote the Good Doctor, is allowed to withhold whatever documentation and testimony he desires, god have mercy on our nation. The destruction and filth that bumbling fool has spawned around himself and the world will pale in comparison to what I fear his twisted mind could accomplish if he knew his actions could be forever hidden from the eyes of Congress and the American People.

What the hell am I saying? Georgy Porgy doesn't have a mind! He's a burnt-out zombie animated by Dick Cheney's hatred of fuzzy puppies and sunshine.

Go get em, Fightin' 110th!

More After the Fold...


February 27, 2008

Texas Shows Up

Texas is whuppin' ass. Looks to be a record primary. I have a feeling this may have something to do with the phenomenal, by all accounts, ground game Obama's people have been running. Of course, the tight Dem nomination race and a general nausea for All-Things-Bush are definitly fueling voter turnout as well.

Keep this up, and we might just see Texas go blue by 2012.

More After the Fold...


The Beat of the Nation...Candidates

Continuing on with my super-informal and completely unscientific polling of the nation here we look at the presidential candidates and what the public really thinks of them.

First to see how affiliated everyone is with their party this fun little question was thrown out: "If your political party loses, you believe." 6% believe it will have minimal impact, 14% believe we'll be somewhat worse off, and a whopping 80% of the 894 participants said we would be in big trouble. So obviously the party lines are drawn pretty hard and the candidates can expect to tow as close to the line as possible to pick up those partyline voters.

John McCain has a few issues to deal with as a candidate. McCain is 71 years old and 57% believe that his age will be a problem while the other 43% believed that age will not be an issue with the McCain presidency. Another issue McCain is going to have to elaborate on is the use of torture and specifically waterboarding (which he voted to keep legal after years of preaching the other way). The nation overall sees waterboarding as an illegal tactic with 51% believing it should never be an option while 35% believe it should be used in extreme situations and the rest of respondents believing it should always be available.

So what does America think is the biggest issue heading into the election? Lets find out:

The economy is obviously on everyone's mind with the Iraq war becoming a distant second.

Obama himself has some voter issues to quell. After false reports that he was a Muslim and studied at a known extremist school Obama has had to deflect much of that attention. But what does the public think?

Although a majority of respondents were of the opinion that this isn't true, 38% is a huge number of people who doubt the credibility of his response to false propaganda. Along with these numbers this poll may show how important it is for Obama to rectify the truth with all voters before the elections come around in November.

Again the American biased against Islam shows through in the response and is something Obama may have to go on the attack against if he is to win crucial swing voters.

And Obama has screamed from the loudest podiums about Change for this election cycle and what a new culture he would bring to the White House, but public opinion shows that confidence may be waning. When asked "which candidate do you trust least to make good on promises," Obama "won" with 42% questioning his ability to change the capitol culture.

Even with this doubt 47% percent of those polled believe that Obama has the most trustworthy foreign policy with Clinton coming in with 23% and McCain with 17%.

Hillary Clinton may be fighting an uphill battle also it seems as 67% of 375 people polled showed that they do not agree with Clinton's mandatory health insurance plan. Obama's health plan calls for lowered cost insurance that all American's will be able to afford. So will Americans buy it? 72% of respondents said yes that is true for most uninsured while the remaining 29% believe many would not buy it.

Another problem for Clinton is that she is a very polarizing figure, when asked who would be the least polarizing candidate Obama crushed the competition with 60% of the responses. Hillary fared very badly with this question ranking even lower than John McCain with only 11% stating she is the least polarizing figure.

So putting all of this together, who would America vote for? Out of 888 votes 74% answer Democratic when asked which political party will win the presidency. Out of Democrats 69% of respondents said that Obama has a greater chance of winning the election. Given this information poll participants were asked which candidate they would vote for if McCain and Obama are the nominees. Here's the response:

Given these responses I have to believe that the participant pool is rather slanted toward the Democratic view, but that doesn't eliminate the possibility that the population in general is more heavily slanted toward the Democratic side. These are just some numbers for fun and again are not conducted in a rigorous scientifically sampled study, so take what you want from them.

More After the Fold...


Dem Debate 2/26/08

Last debate before the March 4th primaries last night. General consensus seems to be that Obama carried the day. Barack was calm and precise, very issue-focused. He has seemed much more comfortable and confident as these debates have progressed. It seemed to me that Hillary was on the offensive last night, frequently clashing with not only her opponent, but BW and Timmeh as well. Admittedly, I have a bit of a Obama prejudice, but Clinton's attacks did not sit well with me, and they don't seem to be gaining any traction in the general population either.

Underdogs attack, Frontrunners deflect. I think the shift has officially occurred, if it hadn't already.

Remember folks, whoever you support, get out and vote next week. Texas primary on March 4th. Say you're an American? Act like it. Vote.


More After the Fold...


The Beat of the Nation

So I did some informal polling at this week and came up with some good info. I surveyed a good mix of political questions that had at least 300 voters and tried to put them together to make sense of the population's stance on most issues.

First is the war in Iraq.
64% of Americans think the surge in Iraq is a temporary fix while 23% feel the surge is effective at stemming violence. When asked to choose the larger threat to US security between Iraq and Afghanistan, out of 375 respondents 63% answered Afghanistan, 17% said Iraq, and 20% said it was about equal. There is a very clear majority who feel Afghanistan is a bigger threat than Iraq, but what about the rest of the the Middle East?

Two countries and the "other" category score higher than either Afghanistan or Iraq. These two countries, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, are considered the strongest US allies in the Middle East. So why is the general public so afraid of these two countries? It could be that 15 out of 19 9/11 highjackers were Saudi Arabian, or that the Saudi regime has harbored Hamas terrorists and provided medical care to their spiritual leader, Sheikh Ahmed Yasin.

Republican hopeful John McCain has stated that the occupation in Iraq may last for 100 years, when asked whether this policy was good because it finishes what we started or bad because its misguided the poll results showed 78% of Americans feel that McCain's stance is misguided.

Looking back 4 years ago public sentiment was very divided between the war in Iraq and the necessity to pursue Saddam Hussein. How do people feel about the war now?

Out of 700 votes 500 said that in retrospect the war was a bad idea. For me the interesting numbers lie within the "Yes, I see that now" and "No, though I once supported it" columns. These two responses cover the people who have changed their minds about the necessity of the Iraq war. An overwhelming majority of people who have changed their mind about the war have shifted from supporting to disagreeing with the war. Only 2% were against the war initially and later decided it was necessary. The public opinion of our occupation in Iraq has shifted greatly away from support but do our politics reflect that?

One last poll asked participants whether history would judge the war in Iraq as a success. 61% believe it will not be positively judged while 26% say it will be. 12% of respondents thought that to some degree the war will be positively judged.

So what do all of these numbers mean? I really don't think it says who's right and who's wrong as that will take a few decades to sort out, but it does offer a pretty good section of the public's feelings concerning our Iraq occupation. Hopefully the parties will start to reflect this public opinion instead of trying to guide opinion based on politics and scare tactics.

As a disclaimer, these poll results are completely unscientific as the sampling is not carefully controlled and the candidate pool may be biased based on the membership makeup of the polling website. But this does give a pretty good look at some gross trends on these policies.

Next up, the presidential candidates...

More After the Fold...