June 30th, 2008 ~ Perhaps I wasn't paying attention before this whole oil crisis began, but I've noticed a trend in television commercials lately which I never noticed before.  The Big Energy players, like Exxon and BP as well as energy industry groups are all running a LOT of ads to "educate" us on energy issues.
      Their common theme seems to be "we're all in this together" and "they're doing their part to keep the lights on and the wheels rolling".  They're just average Americans like us; equally concerned about our energy challenges and deeply committed to finding solutions.  One ever so pleasant spot "informs" us that we might be surprised how large a role energy stocks play in our retirement portfolios.  Another lets us know they're actively investing in "green" energy.  They're looking to tap our offshore reserves for the good of America.  Their "clean" coal and nuclear power solutions are tried and true.  They're our friends.
      Of course, what they're REALLY doing is their damnedest to define the public dialog on energy.  They see the crosses coming off the walls and the wooden stakes being sharpened, and the peasants shaking angry fists toward Dracula's castle and they're scared.
      They should be.  Their lobbyists and political operatives in Congress and most recently the White House have sold us down the river for decades and reaped a healthy profit for it.  What does it matter if our nation is embroiled in endless wars, our air, land, and water poisoned, our security threatened by petro-terrorists, or our economy held hostage by a small but obscenely wealthy group, as long as we still have a few drops of blood or a few pieces of silver for their taking?
      It matters A LOT.  We KNOW they're NOT our friends.  We KNOW they're ardent sociopaths, holding our nation hostage and hoping we'll succumb, once more, to Stockholm Syndrome before we take any actual action against them.  They're hoping we will continue enabling them to feast on our body politic for years, decades, CENTURIES to come.
      As a Free Nation, we can't do anything about their ads (other than to TIVO past them), but we certainly CAN define our own energy dialog with our votes and our advocacy of truly clean energy solutions.  We can support the campaigns of political candidates who are not in their thrall.  We can "educate" our Senators and Representatives that their continued presence in Congress is predicated on providing tax supports for electric cars and alternative energy solutions.  We can demand nuclear FUSION Power within a decade.
      Make a phone call, send an email, make a campaign contribution, get involved.  For our own sakes and for our children's, we must take control of our own energy dialog.  I'm certain that is NOT the "message" those ads were intended to convey, but then, life can be full of little disappointments from time to time.

      June 22nd, 2008 ~ Returning to energy matters, I was appalled this morning as Lindsay Graham and other tools of the Energy Cartels appeared on the Sunday morning talk shows to push their ripoff America agenda.  Their "solutions" for our $4.00 per gallon gas prices consist of:
1.  Removing tax funding for desperately-needed repairs of our crumbling roads, bridges, and tunnels while retaining billions in tax breaks for the oil companies,
2.  Drilling offshore and in the ANWR for oil we won't see a drop of for 10 years, and
3.  Building more nuclear fission powerplants.
      While I agree that we have little short-term choice but to build a FEW new fission powerplants, I fail to see how this or ANY of their other proposals provide immediate fuel price relief to average Americans.  If they REALLY want to solve our problems, here are some immediate steps our government can take.
      Close the ENRON Loophole to bring all energy commodities under the same regulatory controls as other commodities.  Remove some of the billions in tax breaks to the oil industry to fund the following initiatives...
      Offer tax incentives to GM and other automakers to accelerate introduction of affordable plug-in electric and plug-in electric hybrid cars such as the Volt.  At the same time, extend serious tax incentives to consumers to quickly switch to such vehicles.
      Provide funding to study the impact of large-scale electric vehicle adoption and where we need to focus our efforts to beef up our national power grid to handle that additional demand.
      Offer tax incentives to biotech companies to develop sugar canes that can grow in lower temperatures and more arid environments while retaining their full potential energy output.  Also support so-called "vertical farming" initiatives for increasing biomass production without impacting arable land for food crops.
      Beef up enforcement of our Anti-Trust Laws to preclude oil companies from gaining sole control of and burying clean energy technologies.  Our patent laws should be revamped to provide a special "time to market" window for clean energy technologies to avoid their being kept intentionally in a perpetual R&D status when such technologies are clearly marketable in their current state.
      Okay, that's a start.  Now let your Senators and Representatives know YOUR thoughts on whether we need more BS from the likes of Lindsay Graham, or real solutions to our fuel crisis.

      June 21st, 2008 ~ Once more, I digress from my energy-related ruminations to address yesterday's 293 to 129 House passage of H.R. 6304, the "FISA Amendments Act of 2008".  Unlike March's H.R. 3773 (an amended version of a Senate FISA bill), yesterday's bill includes retroactive amnesty for telecoms that cooperated in the Bush/Cheney administration's warrantless surveillance of Americans; willfully circumventing Federal Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) oversight as somehow too restrictive.  This bill now goes to the Senate for consideration and a vote is expected sometime next week.
      House Democrats claim the bill as a victory of sorts; a good "compromise" which increases oversight and closes loopholes to prevent future abuses of power.  Others call it a "capitulation" which gives the Bush/Cheney administration and the telecoms exactly what they want.  Supporters have tried to paint opponents as harboring "pre-9/11 thinking" while opponents have called House Democrats "chicken sh*ts" for caving in when they have the majority.  Can we cut through the rhetoric and see the straight story?
      Let's begin with the question: "Do we need this bill?" Strong supporters of the bill have given America the distinct impression that our intelligence efforts will be severely hobbled if it is not quickly passsed by the Senate "as-is".  The urgency of their advocacy makes us feel that the FISA provisions are essentially broken if not soon to expire.
      Nothing could be further from the truth.  ALL the provisions of the original FISA legislation of 1978 as well as the Patriot Act of 2001 continue to be in full force of law and provide breathtaking latitude to our intelligence community in conducting surveillance activities.  The ONLY way these laws have been broken is by a President who chose to ignore them under specious arguements of executive authority.
      While this new bill attempts to close the legalistic loopholes cited by the White House in side-stepping the FISC, it can't change the mindset of those within this administration who deny the essential applicability of the laws to the President and Vice President.  Even if this bill is passed by the Senate as-is, Bush/Cheney will continue to cherry-pick those parts they like and ignore the parts they don't; daring the Congress to have a problem with that.
      Providing amnesty for telecoms compelled by the FISC to cooperate with surveillance directives is probably a good provision of the new bill, but giving those corporations retroactive amnesty for collusion in violating OUR existing FISA laws is not.  The White House knew full well what it was doing as did the ARMY of telecom lawyers.  They just figured they were above the law.  They aren't, but this provision would reinforce that view.
      It sends a serious chill down my back to think of the same companies who routinely cooperate with the Communist Chinese government in spying on its own citizens doing the same with our own government, ex legis, against us.  Again, the ONLY way to change such behavior is for there to be a price to pay for it.  If we signal the opposite with retroactive amnesty, how enforceable do you think any new laws will be?
      One piece of rhetoric thrown at opponents of this bill REALLY bugs me.  That anyone opposed to it is "indulging" in pre-9/11 thinking; viewing the "War on Terror" from a criminal law perspective rather than a national security one.  They claim that only proactive measures can prevent terrorist acts and that a criminal law approach applies only AFTER a crime has been committed.
      I suppose that means we should immediately release all the international drug lords and others incarcerated under our drug laws for criminal conspiracies before the fact! In point of fact, many of those laws deal DIRECTLY with so called Narco-Terrorist activities; terrorists who sustain their operations via drug trafficking.  So to denegrate the criminal law perspective in fighting terrorism is, at best, disingenuous.
      We, the People of the United States of America, have clearly demonstrated our commitment to the "War on Terror" by our acceptance of the original FISA laws as well as the Patriot Act.  We recognized the risks to our Constitutional rights under the 4th Amendment and ensured those laws included judicial safeguards to prevent abuse.  All we asked in return was swift and strict enforcement of those safeguards.  We received neither.
      If you find this abdication of responsibility as disturbing as I do, I urge you to immediately write your Senators,asking them to vote against the FISA Amendments of 2008 when that bill comes to the Senate floor this week.  Tell them to enforce our EXISTING laws, before they enact any new ones for the White House to ignore.

      June 14th, 2008 ~ Yesterday, I had intended to continue recording here, some additional insights into our nation's energy challenges which others have been kind enough to bring to my attention.  Then, like all America, I was shocked by the news bulletins of Tim Russert's sudden and fatal heart attack while at work in his Washington, DC news bureau.  Like all America, it took awhile to sink in that this man, who we had invited into our homes for so many years to inform us about the complex world we live in, had died.
      We knew Tim as much more than the brilliant moderator of NBC's "Meet the Press"; more than the trustworthy journalist who consistently and unerringly asked the questions we would ask of those who shape our world.  We knew him also as a son who had written about his father in a way that touched us all.  We knew him as a stalwart and ebullient Buffalo Bills fan who tickled us with his ever-hopeful prognostications.  Ultimately, we knew him as a genuine human being who epitomized all the qualities of humility, humor, candor, and decency we cherish for their scarcity.
      When the news broke, several of Tim's NBC colleagues were unable, for various reasons, to express their responses on camera.  Chris Matthews was available only by phone, yet he provided us with many poignant anecdotes about Tim as a son, as a father, as a husband, as a journalist, and as a much loved friend.  In the midst of his reminiscenses and almost as a throwaway, Chris used the Latin term "Sui Generis" to describe his friend.  Normally, I'm not too keen on folks peppering their speech with Latin terms ad nauseum (yes, that is intended as humor), but in this case, I think Chris was right on the mark.  Tim Russert truly was one of a kind.

      June 13th, 2008 ~ Since posting my article "The New American Crisis" several days ago, I have received some really thoughtful feedback from a number of old as well as some surprising new friends.  One, in particular, made me aware of several recent breakthroughs in solar array technology as well as UltraCaps which I had not previously known about.  Thanks, Mike!
      I also happened to be browsing through the DVD "bargain bin" at a local drugstore chain, when my eyes landed on "Who Killed the Electric Car?", a documentary film by Chris Paine.  Even the cover art on this 2006 release gave me a bit of a chill.  There, on the cover, is a gas pump crashing down on the revolutionary EV1 with a price of "4.099" per gallon displayed!  Needless to say, I HAD to pick up that DVD and will watch it this weekend.
      Thanks, again, to all who have taken their time and invested their intellectual energy to comment on my article.  I fervently hope more will do so in the coming weeks and months.