27 thoughts on “Monday Message Board

  1. Any thoughts on the US primaries? As far as I can tell, Obama now has enough of a lead, and there are few enough primaries left to decide, that he will almost certainly get the nomination.

    Clinton seems to have three realistic options: (a) agree to quit in return for the Vice-Presidential candidacy, (b) move to the right to solicit cross-over votes in the primaries from Republicans, as advocated by Rush Limburgh, or (c) ensure that Obama loses and hope to try again in 2012.

    Obama has the options of offering Clinton the running-mate spot, or offering Edwards that spot, in the hope of picking up Pennsylvania in late April.


  2. martin,
    No. I doubt Obama will get enough of a lead to beat Clinton outright without the votes of the superdelegates, so there will need to be a real vote on the floor of the convention – the first for many decades. I cannot see either of them nominating the other as VP given the bitterness of the last few months, but stranger things have happened.
    The vote on the floor will be very interesting, but I suspect Obama’s lead in ordinary delegates will be enough that the nomination is now in the bag, unless he stumbles badly between now and then.
    If it is close then he is likely to nominate a VP before the vote that will please the superdelegates. If not he will wait until after the vote to nominate, to show his confidence. Nominating before the vote will be perceived (correctly) as weakness.
    My guess is that he will look to a WASP or a strong Roman Catholic running mate to partially counter the religious question – or, if he was trying to be really innovative, a popular Latino.
    Clinton’s best bet is to stay in the race in the hope that Obama will stuff up badly enough to lose the superdelegates – or, as you say, hope Obama loses the election and then run in 2012.

  3. it turns out edward’s 63(?) delegates may be a decisive number after all. he would be a closer fit with clinton, but the aim of the vp is to extend the reach of the presidential candidate, so he could appeal to white working class men for obama, who is weakest in this area.

    so i have some hope that obama-edwards could be the dem ticket, still. but he might feel he has to pump up his foreign policy credentials, or aim at latinos with richardson. it’s a silly system, and the winner can destroy the world’s economy, or just the world.

  4. There is post well worth reading from the Washington Post today arguing that women disagreeing about the Democrat candidates is not a “catfight”:
    “We can be fed up with the media’s treatment of Clinton and still vote for Obama. We can be inspired by Obama’s promise and still vote for Clinton. And when it’s time to do battle with John McCain, we must be fiercely committed to throwing our weight behind either Democratic leader. So enough with the catfight. Eyes on the prize, people. We’ve got a much bigger battle ahead.”
    Come Together? Yes, We Can http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dlyn/content/article/2008/03/07/AR2008030702848.html?hpid=opinionsbox1
    It’s an interesting piece which also picks up the recurring theme of the role of language in politics.

  5. Al, that 63 figure includes superdelegates.

    Edwards has 25 actual pledged (i.e. directly elected) delegates.

    Both Clinton and Obama will be seeking to win outright without the need for superdelegate votes.

    In that context it’s the 25 Edwards pledged delegates that matter.

    The latest word is that Michigan and Florida will probably re-vote – both states lost their delegates for violating state rules on the timing of primaries.

    A re-vote will increase the chances of one of the candidates getting a clear majority based on pledged delegates.

  6. I noticed the Govt’s splurge on binge drinking by the young http://www.news.com.au/story/0,23599,23349659-29277,00.html
    Whilst not quite relevanyt to the 12-17 yr cohort, 24 yr old MasterO made a comment about closing times for pubs and clubs nowadays. He’s noticing the late start times of his peers going out at 10-30 to 11.00 pm and kicking on til 3-4 in the morning. Whilst in South America he noticed in some countries their young didn’t start til 1.00 AM and kicked on til the sun was well over the yard-arm. I told him we used to go out at 7.30-8.00 and all the pubs closed at 12.00 weekends. The odd wine bar or club (providing they served you food) was open til 2.00am for the night owls and then finito. He reckoned that sounded like a good idea because at least you’d get some kip before work. He has noticed the problem more now he’s got an apprentice under him. Must be slowing down a bit himself if he’s noticing the useless hungover results of staying out til 4 am like his apprentice did friday night and they had a job on Sat morning. Did my parents generation have it right?

  7. As an aside notice MasterO at 24 complete with unlimited use van, mobile and apprentice, pulling $30 an hour normal time and he often knocks off 1-3 hours early because the boss has allowed the whole day for the job based on the oldies’ output. The apprentice is rapt to nick off early and MasterO pulls some extras like $350 on Frid arvo for two hours work putting in a smoke detector and a power point for his own customer and the queue never shortens. Watch your back Warren Buffett.

  8. Stationary Fuel cells may finally be going mainstream:


    “UTC Power, the fuel cell division of engineering conglomerate United Technologies, is poised to launch a phosphoric acid fuel cell system for commercial properties that it claims will deliver power at a lower cost than the grid.

    The company claims that improvements to the electrolyte stack have doubled its life expectancy to ten years slashing maintenance costs, while design changes to enable mass production of the unit have also lowered production costs.

    The net result, according to UTC Power president Jan van Dokkum, is a new fixed-location combined heat and power fuel cell that costs the same as previous versions – around $1m to buy and install – but delivers 400KW as opposed to 200KW of energy and lasts twice as long.

    The company’s calculations claim that the improvements allow it to generate electricity that costs 12 cents per kw/h, making it competitive with power from the grid costing between eight and 19 cents per kw/h in the US.

    “This system is cheaper than the grid for between 40 and 60 per cent of energy intensive buildings with a high level of demand for power and heat,” said Van Dokkum. “The number one candidates will be supermarkets, hotels, datacentres, hospitals, and manufacturing plants with high heat demands.”

    The system runs on natural gas and does result in carbon emissions, however UTC Power maintains that a very high electricity conversion efficiency of the fuel cell and improvements in capturing waste heat mean that 90 per cent of the energy going into the system is used, compared to an efficiency of around 32 per cent for the US grid. The result is a reduction in carbon emissions of around 50 per cent for the same level of power generation.”

  9. He’s not a lower form of life but Terje is currently explaining over on the Republican War on Science how anti-discrimination laws are an unjust imposition on the freedom of business owners.

  10. Canada says from 2012 oil sands processors will be required to capture at least some of the carbon emitted during production.


    Given the current cost of carbon sequestration, that’s effectively going to put an end to the industry unless they find some sort of a fudge such as allowing offsets.

    Which means Albertans who used to be rabidly paranoid about carbon trading are probably about to become its biggest fans.

  11. anti-discrimination laws are a mistake. why force people you don’t like to make more money by serving everyone?

    a better path would be to remove police protection from institutions what discriminate in ways i don’t like. they would at least have to hire private security, and the occasional rpg through the front door might create a more enlightened viewpoint.

  12. You can get economists to “show” the silliest things. You could mount an economic justification for, say, murder or genocide or rape or anything.

    Do we really need so many economists? Most of them just say the same thing(s); they are redundant.

  13. The Australian Govt has released its initial report under the Kyoto Protocol.


    According to the report:
    “Australia will use Australia’s National Carbon Accounting System (NCAS) to identify land areas associated with the following activities under Article 3.3:
    > Deforestation or Land Use Change;
    > Afforestation and reforestation since 1990.
    The NCAS is described in detail in Australia’s National Inventory Report – 2005 Revised and in numerous publications cited in that document. Australia applies a spatially explicit, time-series approach to track forest cover through time. This allows for the separate identification of land use changes from disturbance events and harvests, and also from any forest re-establishment. Australia has not elected to account for any activities under Article 3.4.”

    It is in some ways unfortunate but unsurprising that Australia has not elected to account for activities under Article 3.4. Article 3.4 of the Kyoto Protocol allows for activities such as forest management and grazeland management. Because these activities are not included it means that when we log forests, then provided that some sort of forest grows back, the emissions will not be included as part of our greenhouse accounts.

    This effectively means that none of the forests logged in Tasmania will count towards Australia’s greenhouse accounts.

  14. martin,
    I understand the “pledging” of the superdelegates is somewhat looser than the Pledge that ALP members sign on nomination for Parliament. The pledge can be withdrawn and the ballot is also secret.

  15. Andrew, I think you’re half right – the superdelegates can switch candidates at will – but the voting is done on the floor of the convention and is very public indeed.

  16. Interesting – may make a possible good reason to switch to the one you believe is going to win. Office or influence in the new administration.
    Really looking forward to this. Pity it is only two candidates. That makes it certain one will win on the first ballot. The last series of The West Wing did the convention thing beautifully.

  17. #1 I am very worried by the late February polls, at a time when Obama was thought to have it in the bag (before Ohio and Texas). These suggested the possibility of the Dems losing states like Pennsylvania, New Jersey and even Massachusetts in November.

    Obama is very good at picking up small states that have caucuses. In Texas, HRC obtained 51% of the primary vote, to 47% Obama. But in the caucuses he got 55% to her 44%. It seems that the caucuses are biased towards non-working class voters and women (who have to stay home to fix tea for the kids, or maybe avoid a spat with hubby). So Obama’s ability to bring along mid-west swing states is exaggerated and he may actually lose the Democratic heartland. If I was a superdelegate I’d be thinking about such issues right now. But who knows what the superdelegates are thinking (if at all).

  18. Melanie, there’s also the fact that caucus votes are public.

    There’s a phenomena in US elections known as “race-gap voting” – African American candidates regularly get up to 5% fewer votes in the final election results than in either pre-election polls or in exit polls.

    The generally accepted interpretation of this is that when polled some voters are unwilling to admit they won’t vote for a Black candidate because of their race.

    Caucuses put pressure on people to vote in the way they think they’re expected to vote.

  19. Hopefully, my technophilia isn’t getting the better of me again:

    Los Alamos National Labs has just released details of a new radically cheaper technology for capturing carbon dioxide directly from the atmosphere and converting it back into liquid fuels.


    Click to access Green_Freedom_Overview.pdf

    If this works it would solve two of the most serious technological problems of the present – a carbon-neutral replacement for liquid transport fuels and an efficient way of storing renewable energy.

  20. Ian Gould, it would seem that the Green Freedom process requires energy inputs which the proponents cheerfully assume to be carbon-neutral. They choose nuclear as a carbon-neutral source, which surprised me somewhat.

    I would also be surprised to learn that the energy content of the synthetic fuel could be larger than the energy inputs required to extract CO2 from the air and hydrogen from water. Of course, a more truly carbon-neutral and renewable source than nuclear could “afford” inefficiency losses in these processes, but I am still left wondering whether the energy generated could be used more efficiently than by making hydrocarbon fuel.

  21. Gordon, we have a huge sunk investment (in both monetary and energy terms) in liquid hydrocarbon fuels, hydrocarbon synthesis from atmospheric carbon dioxide seems to be one o the best options to avoid having to scrap that investment.

  22. Yes, Ian Gould, fully depreciated investments are always the most profitable. That’s why it’s so hard to persuade industry to invest in new plant when the old plant is still working.

    Even assuming you could get a balance between the CO2 removed from the atmosphere by the Green Freedom process and the CO2 released back into the atmosphere from making and then burning the synthetic fuel, we still need to work out how to get the level of CO2 in the atmosphere down.

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