Monday, June 25, 2007

Cheney is the shadow president

The Washington Post documents a chilling accumulation of power in the hands of Vice President Dick Cheney. It looks to me like he has served for most of the Bush administration as a shadow president -- placing his own people in key posts throughout the executive branch of government and reaching out into Cabinet branches to enforce his personal will. Most of what he's doing has been hidden:
Across the board, the vice president's office goes to unusual lengths to avoid transparency. Cheney declines to disclose the names or even the size of his staff, generally releases no public calendar and ordered the Secret Service to destroy his visitor logs. His general counsel has asserted that "the vice presidency is a unique office that is neither a part of the executive branch nor a part of the legislative branch," and is therefore exempt from rules governing either. Cheney is refusing to observe an executive order on the handling of national security secrets, and he proposed to abolish a federal office that insisted on auditing his compliance.

In the usual business of interagency consultation, proposals and information flow into the vice president's office from around the government, but high-ranking White House officials said in interviews that almost nothing flows out. Close aides to Cheney describe a similar one-way valve inside the office, with information flowing up to the vice president but little or no reaction flowing down.

The Post aptly calls the series A Different Understanding with the President.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

A plea for the news that matters

My current favorite guru of newscraft, Jay Rosen, has been advocating that journalists find a new way of writing and thinking about political campaigns. Instead of simply reporting or even analyzing the polls that tell who's ahead among particular slices of the public, Rosen wants reporters to dig into what the candidates stand for on the big issues of our times.

Rosen is trying to overcome what many of us have long derided as horse-race journalism. A case in point was in this week's Milwaukee daily. Really, though, outside Iowa, does it matter to any of us if Tommy Thompson decides to campaign on the corn-filled plains? But don't we all have a stake in whether or how Mitt Romney tries to bring to the national level the kind of health plan he put over in Massachusetts?

I hope you'll check out Rosen's blog, then encourage your local press to write more about what the candidates actually propose (or fail to say) about America's needs. An example I think Rosen might approve of was in today's Miami Herald. It's a look at how Hillary Clinton, badly burned by her experience coordinating Bill Clinton's health initiative early in his first term, has refrained from offering health-care specifics in her own presidential bid.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

One part of energy solution: Amtrak

The Baltimore Sun said it as well as anyone could, so just check it out here.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Another electric inspiration

Ever looking for the angles, Florida Power & Light Co. runs up the balloon of building a wind-energy farm off the coast of St. Lucie County. News is in the Palm Beach Post.

The company is, of course, a leading player in wind power. If anyone can make it work, I think it would be these guys.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

FPL's next move

Without missing a beat, Florida Power & Light Co. rebounded from its rebuff at the Public Service Commission by seeking local approval to double the size of its Turkey Point nuclear power station east of Homestead. It may well have done so even if the proposed coal-fired Glades power plant had been OKd. Look for more of the same, even though the Florida geography has until now discouraged further construction of mega-sized nuclear plants.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

A puzzling decision on Florida energy

Some of my greener friends will be cheering the Public Service Commission's 4-0 vote denying a request to build a coal-fired power plant on the west side of Lake Okeechobee. I'm puzzled, though, by the reasoning of Commissioner Matthew Carter II that the price of coal is too uncertain to make a coal plant a wise choice for Florida Power & Light Co. According to FPL, it proposed coal for the 1,960-megawatt plant near Moore Haven as an alternative to natural gas, which is already costly and subject to great price fluctuations. FPL is too reliant on natural gas anyway, in my opinion.

Coal does have an awful reputation, partly a legacy from the sooty smokestack past and partly due to the mountaintop-removal present. FPL did promise that the Glades plant would be the cleanest-burning coal plant in the country, and that is plausible given innovations during the past decade or two.

What killed the plant, though the commissioners seemed not confident enough to say it, was probably concern about mercury falling onto the lake and the Everglades from the plant's smoke. The amount of mercury seems negligible to me, but I really need to do some research on that. I certainly don't want to poison the fish or the people who eat them, so until I learn more I won't say the PSC vote was wrong. There's more on the Everglades angle, and the natural gas, in the Miami Herald.

An interesting sidelight was that the newest PSC member, Nancy Argenziano, sat out Tuesday's debate and vote. That surprised me because, during her six years in the Florida Senate, this Dunnellon Republican was an avid follower of public utility issues. She sought the PSC appointment by Gov. Charlie Crist, and when she got the job in April called herself a "quick study." Not all that quick, it would seem. Here's my hunch: She knew where the decision was going, and reasoned that a minority vote would do her no good.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Welcome aboard, brother

An old friend has joined the fellowship of bloggers, and I think you'll enjoy his cogent remarks. When you've got a minute, check out Barry Sez. He's only just begun, so you might check back after a while when he's broadened his range of commentary.