Illinois House Races 2010

May 10, 2010

Illinois looks like an exciting state in 2010, with both competitive Senate and Governor races. The grassroots may have been disappointed in the primary, but there really is no reason for that. There was no serious challenge to Kirk, and while the Tea Party candidate didn’t win the Governor spot, the winner is a solid conservative. In truth, this may bode well for downstream races. You have an unassuming moderate running against a shifty banker to bring the squishy Republicans out, and a downstate conservative to bring out the base. Not too bad. Unfortunately, all other state considerations seem to go against the Republicans. The State Party is one of the worst in the nation (they were, after all, the ones that all but conceded the Senate race to Obama 6 years ago), and the Dem incumbents are very well funded. Meanwhile, the question remains if the Dems will be motivated to insure no embarrassing losses in Obama’s home state. And yet, they were just as motivated to avoid embarrassment in the DNC Chair’s home state of VA in 2009, and look how that turned out.

The good news? Judging by how the primary went in downstream races, the Tea Party is rather active in Illinois. If that’s true, hopefully the grassroots enthusiasm will continue through November. I count 5 competitive House races here, with 4 of them being held by Dems.
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Lansing Tea Party

April 11, 2010

Ah, my first Tea Party, how exciting. We started off with hurling racist insults, then we started throwing bricks through windows and rioting, and ended the night with sacrificing a hippy to Zombie Reagan and singing hymns of praise to Hitler.

Or not.

In any case, a quick report of the night. The unfortunate side effect of planning your protests around a bus tour is that things can be late. Very late. The bus was about 90 minutes late, leading to a somewhat restless crowd waiting around and signing nomination forms for candidates or anti-health care amendments. My random guess on crowd size was about 1000; the LSJ claimed 800, and the Tea Party organizers said the police estimated 1500. Not quite as large as I would have expected.

To be honest, I was a bit disappointed with the lineup. The event seemed to be focused more on entertainment and less on activism. A few politicians gave talks, most notably Mike Cox and Mike Bouchard for governor, Brian Rooney running against Mark Schauer in the 7th district, and some state rep who’s name escapes me (hey, he wasn’t in my district, so I can’t vote for him). Only a few activists spoke as well. Instead, a lot of the time was taken by musicians singing Tea Party related songs. I don’t listen to country music and tend to segregate (wait, can I say “segregate” in a post about the Tea Party, or is that racist?) my entertainment and my politics, which led to that part being somewhat boring.

But besides that, it was fun. Much of the conversation revolved around Bart Stupak, and it was obviously celebratory. He was criticized, not necessarily for voting for the health care bill, but rather for sacrificing his principles for a worthless piece of paper. Integrity and principles were some of the common themes surrounding the day. It’s not surprising to see general distrust of politicians be a major theme; it’s long been my belief that we’ve reached a tipping point between joking about how bad Congress is and now believing it (see Gallup’s polls showing record anti-incumbency fervor as an example). Some attacking of the media and it’s dismissive attitude was prevalent as well, and there was also plenty of attacking of both parties (while still clearly favoring Republicans). I would have preferred a stronger warning to Republican candidates that they better walk the walk if they do get elected, but whatever. Both national and local politics were emphasized along with local activism, which was quite useful. And thankfully, the weather was nice.

A few picks follow:
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Respect for taxpayer’s money, or lack thereof

January 26, 2010

Much ado has been made regarding the expense accounts of Congress on their little Copenhagen escapade. It seems that global warming has raised the price of hotel rooms to a whopping $2000 per night, according to a report by CBS (via HotAir):
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Obama’s education plan suggests we need more federalism

September 28, 2009

I was reading DRJ’s post over at Patterico about Obama’s new education plan, and was met with yet another reason with why our top-down government is, well, a poor substitute for the represenational democracy the Founders intended. But first, from the AP:

The president… wants schools to add time to classes, to stay open late and to let kids in on weekends so they have a safe place to go.

That’s pretty much it in a nutshell (the rest of the article is full of fluff interviews with kids and an apology (using the traditional definition) for Obama’s statements). The reasonings are based almost entirely on low-income students. Basically, year-round school sessions and staying open until 7 would benefit them far more than high income students, who tend to have higher parental involvement and are more likely to be involved in extra-curricular activities.

Now, I’m not going to argue whether or not this is a good idea for lower income students or if this addresses the root causes, or if we should be doing something else on education, or anything else (read DRJ’s post, or Alex’s post at Race 4 2012, if you’d like some discussion on those topics). Let’s assume, for the moment, that the idea is at least debatable. Let’s also assume, for the moment, that funding for these projects is not an issue (big assumption, I know, but bear with me). Read the rest of this entry »

Why ACORN’s usual excuse won’t fly this time

September 15, 2009

By now I’m sure you’ve heard of the Acorn prostitution stings made by O’Keefe and Giles and discussed all over the web. I haven’t seen the NY one, but I have the other two. And while many on the left are giving Acorn’s traditional excuse of saying these employees were aberrations working on their own, it’s becoming more and more clear that this explanation is wearing thin. It’s not just the sheer number of times they’ve been caught, it’s the way it all went down. While the details varied, the big issue IMO (well, ok, not blinking an eye at child sex trafficking is the big issue, but that only explicitly happened once; they never mentioned the age in the DC one) is that they all went immediately to tax fraud. If we condense the conversations down to the logical train of thought, they both went like this (and tell me if the NY one was the same):

O’Keefe: I need to get a loan for a house.
Acorn: You need tax returns to get one.
O’Keefe: We don’t have tax returns for her.
Acorn: Why not?
O’Keefe: Because her profession is illegal.
Acorn: OK, here’s how to fake a tax return that won’t arouse suspicions.

(The Baltimore one was actually the most explicit in this case, actually going so far as to ponder how many of the El Salvador kids could be written off as dependents before it would arouse suspicion from the IRS).

In both cases, there seemed no hesitation, no discussion of what to do, no concerns on the part of the Acorn employees. It was very simple: if they can’t obtain a loan through legal means, we’ll have to do it illegally. All the child sex trafficking and suggestions to bury the money in a tin box and warning O’Keefe to stay away if he ever wants to get elected and all is just icing on the cake. Read the rest of this entry »

Solar power from hair?

September 10, 2009

Now this is an intriguing concept, but don’t start saving your shavings just yet…

A new type of solar panel using human hair could provide the world with cheap, green electricity, believes its teenage inventor.
Milan Karki, 18, who comes from a village in rural Nepal, believes he has found the solution to the developing world’s energy needs.
The young inventor says hair is easy to use as a conductor in solar panels and could revolutionise renewable energy.

The solar panel, which produces 9 V (18 W) of energy, costs around £23 to make from raw materials.

This is early. As far as I can tell, the Daily Mail is the only source for this breakthrough, so our information is limited. From what we have though, here are some thoughts (coming from someone who is, alas, not an expert in hair…):

– More details are definitely needed. It says it generates 18W of electricity, but W/m^2 is the number I’m interested in. It’s hard to tell from the pictures, but I assumed it was 2ft X 2ft. That’s equivalent to about 50 W/m^2, which is pretty decent.

– But even that number’s worthless, because we need to know what conditions it was used. What’s the solar radiance? I think solar panel efficiency (W/m^2 electricity over W/m^2 solar radiance) is more important over the range of expected solar radiances, but I’m not sure. And we have no idea what that was. Did he just shine a light on it to get that value, or did it come from the Sun? Nepal’s at about 30 degrees latitude, which should give it a pretty high solar radiance (don’t know about cloud cover though). So this might be a bit on the low end. Not bad for a first try though.

– 23 pounds per panel works out to ~2.20/W. I just read recently that solar panel prices are down to $1.80/W. So this isn’t necessarily a deal breaker. Then again, prices are probably so low because of the recession and overproduction, not because costs are that low. In any case, this means the payback period (not counting installation and everything) is ~3-5 years. That’s pretty decent. But if the hair needs replacing every few months, then the payback period may never happen.

– Yes, he said costs could be cut in half if mass produced, but I don’t see any way of that happening. Mass collection of hair? Where are you going to get it all? I doubt even New York City could produce enough hair to get a mass production plant.

– Apparantly it works due to the melanin in the hair. So does that mean that gray or blonde hair isn’t as good? Will barbers start charging different amounts for each hair color? We can be racist AND ageist! Sorry, I had to put that one in there…

– Most importantly of all; this is described as a school project. There appears to be little thought at this point into the details of commercialization. So practically everything at this point is speculation. By everything, I mean costs AND benefits. Maybe they can boost the efficiency with more research. But the costs are probably more than this kid predicts. And there may be other issues as well.

– What about rain, weather, animals, etc? The article does say the hair must be replaced every couple months, so that’s an issue right there. Needless to say, nobody here will do it.

Pretty innovative approach though. My guess is that if it works, it has more of an application for undeveloped countries than for us. There’s no chance we can produce enough hair to satiate even a tiny fraction of our electricity demands, but it would certainly help out in Nepal. Also, even though this is early, I highly doubt hair is as efficient as cells specifically designed to be photovoltaic, and so I doubt they’ll be able to compete in the W/m^2 range. And for countries that use a lot of energy, that’s a deal killer.

Hopefully this kid finds a path to commercialization. I wouldn’t mind hearing more about it.

Keep up the pressure, Stupak

August 29, 2009

Every once in a while, a member of Congress will display a brief moment if integrity, so allow me to praise someone on the opposite side of the spectrum for doing just that. Especially when it comes to the one issue in which integrity is vitally important. Bart Stupak, thankfully, is living up to his role as co-chairman of the House Pro-Life Caucus. He’s been standing up to the health care bill for taking a “wink and a nod” approach to funding abortion.

See, about a month ago, the Capps amendment unfortunately passed, which technically prevented abortion from being funded in the bill. Of course, it was all a ruse, a ploy by the Dem leadership to provide cover for their members while completely bypassing the issue. Essentially, the government will still be able to pay people to buy private plans that include abortion, which, lets face it, is the same thing. While Obama keeps arguing otherwise, FactCheck and others are saying otherwise.

To some members of the House, this Capps ammendment and Obama’s lying on the issue is enough to save face. Fortunately, Stupak doesn’t think so. He’s still refusing to vote for the bill the way it is now, and refuses to vote for any bill that doesn’t explicitly ban all federal money for abortion. According to a recent Time article:

The health-care reform proposed by House Democrats, if enacted, would in fact mark a significant change in the Federal Government’s role in the financing of abortions. “It would be a dramatic shift,” says Representative Bart Stupak, a Michigan Democrat who has vowed to oppose the bill because of how it would affect abortion.

In the meantime, Stupak says that Obama’s statements during recent public events signal one of two things: either he does not fully understand the current House bill, which Stupak maintains has the effect of publicly funding abortion, or “if he is aware of it, and he is making these statements, then he is misleading people.”

Look, whatever else I can say about him, that takes some guts. He’s basically accusing Obama of lying (sure, I did it too, but I’m not a Dem Congressman…). And he’s not taking the typical Congress BS compromises for an answer. Like I said, integrity.

And when it comes to an issue like abortion, such integrity is absolutely vital. We’re talking about innocent human lives here; not mere trivialities like money or jobs or health care. In terms of moral imperative, nothing else comes close. Unfortunately, the debate surrounding abortion sometimes seems to forget that, forget that the reason we care so much is because we’re talking about innocent children being slaughtered. A crude way of saying it, yes, but it’s what the pro-life movement believes. One’s electoral and political position should be irrelevent to the debate, and yet all too often politicians will compromise or ignore their conscience to gain power.

So to make this a huge issue, to publicly denounce Obama’s statements and publicly attacking his party rather than just voting against it and wishing the issue goes away, he’s doing his part to give the abortion issue the supreme importance it deserves. While I don’t know how it’ll affect his electoral position (probably irrelevent; he seems to be pretty entrenched), it certainly doesn’t endear him to advancing within his party. Yet, let’s face it, some things are more important.

Thus, in a grand spirit of bipartisanship, I salute his actions so far. But I note that the fight is not yet over. Stupak and the rest of the Pro-Life Caucus need to continue to make a stink about this. So do the rest of us who are pro life. And the stink needs to be an all or nothing deal. He needs to publicly fight Pelosi and Obama and not fall for any watered down amendments. Hopefully I won’t have to recant my praise for him in the future.