Thursday, June 16, 2005

the power of the future

As the Senate debates the energy bill this week and next, it makes sense to take a minute to examine where our energy policy is in this country, and where we want it to be in the future. It is only through this timely self-examination that we can hope to make any real forward progress with anything, especially energy policy. Little has changed over the past century as far as how we consume energy. Oil and coal, two fossil fuels that conjure up mental images of smog and soot, are still the common sources of our energy, they power our cars, they heat our homes, and they power our bread machines. In a time when technology changes almost daily, one would think that our technology for harnessing energy would have developed over time, too. Well, it hasn't. Ever since colonial times, COLONIAL TIMES! We have used three main fuels for energy, wood, coal and oil. That's it. In four hundred years of development and progress, we are essentially still starting fires to power our blowdryers.

There are other alternatives out there, but at this point they are about as viable as a Ralph Nader presidential campaign. But they have potential, if only we would commit dollars to finding a way to making them more user-friendly. Solar power, wind energy, hydrogen, carbon-based petroleum conversion, and a host of other sources that could help to make our country less dependent on foreign oil, and also make our environment just a little cleaner. Some Senators don't like wind energy because it ruins the scenery. Isn't a little obstructed scenery better than fire-fights in the streets of Iraq?

Our lawmakers can't continue to window-dress this issue. They support renewables at town hall meetings, and on the campaign trail, but when the hammer drops, where are they to be found? Why of course they come down on the side of clean coal initiatives, and drilling for oil right here at home. I am all for those things in the short term, but the key there is short term. But with them, we must also develop a long-term energy strategy that moves AWAY from coal and oil, and towards harnessing other cleaner and renewable sources.

The way this is to be done is by requiring utility companies to use 10% renewables in their energy output by the year 2020. That gives them 15 years to research and develop ways to m

Thursday, May 26, 2005


Senator John Thune is fighting tooth and nail to keep Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota from closing. He's not alone in his fight, as Senators from a bevy of states including Maine, Connecticut, and Rhode Island are all rather upset at the recent decision by the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) Commission to close military bases in their respective home states. And these Senators are certainly not alone in their fury, either. The military and civilian personnel that would be negatively affected by the base closures are also up in arms (pun not really intended). The folks who oppose these closures are from every walk of life, from United States Senators down to mechanics and janitors, but these individuals all share one thing, their motivation. No matter what they say, each one of them are in this fight because of self-interest.

The politicians want to get reelected, and that's really the bottom-line for why they are involved at all. They might say something loosely related to the "war on terror," or the "compromising of America's security," but that is all just cover. If this were the movie Liar Liar, then Thune and the rest of this roving band of base closure opponents would have to say that "We have to stand up tall to save these bases, because regardless of their relevance to America's security, if they close, I won't get reelected." Sorry if this seems coarse, but I am just trying to inject a little honesty into this debate.

The soldiers and civilian employees who work at the base are also driven by self-interest, and they aren't really trying to hide it, unlike our friends on Capitol Hill. I feel for these folks, really I do. The military personnel whose families have to be uprooted as they are moved to another base somewhere else in the country, that's certainly a shame and I wish it didn't have to happen. What's worse, are the civilian employees who won't be transferred, but instead are forced to find totally new employment, in places like South Dakota where the economy isn't exactly booming, its mooing.

But these self-centered, if somewhat justified, concerns aside, the Federal government cannot, and should not, be required to keep every base across the globe open ad infinitum just because people have jobs there. This is reality, and keeping bases open when they don't need to remain open isn't reality, it's communism. Government continuing to fund programs just because people rely on them for income isn't healthy. These bases no longer fit into the security paradigm, which shifted 180 degrees on September 11.

We are no longer fighting the Cold War, for which most of these bases were built in the first place. The War on Terror isn't going to be won because we keep a base in rural South Dakota open, and that's not the issue anyway, lets be frank. The issue is jobs, and in a market economy, sometimes people lose their jobs. Even federal employees.

Monday, May 16, 2005

No Time To Go Nuclear

Talk of the "nuclear option" or, as the Republicans prefer to call it, the "constitutional option" has been swirling around Washington for about the past two months. In those eight weeks the nuclear fire has spread like a well-watered Kudzu vine, with the Majority and Minority leaders in the Senate exchanging verbal jabs at one another on the floor of the chamber, in press conferences, and back home in the district; yet they always play nice when they appear together, "we are in constant contact, trying to come up with a solution to this problem that will satisfy both sides of the isle" is a common phrase heard when the players on this issue need to sound bipartisan and willing to compromise.

But they really aren't willing to compromise on this, and thats the whole reason we are here right now, discussing it at all. Basically, the nuclear option would remove the judicial filibuster from the aresnal of obstructionist weaponry that the minority party has been more than willing to use in the past three years. They have withheld 10 of President Bush's over 200 judicial nominations, which might not sound like a lot, until you consider that no judicial nominee in the over 200 year history of the Senate has been denied an up or down floor vote via filibuster.

The bottom line here is that the Republicans are the majority party, and the Democrats are in the minority, and the minority can't obstruct just for the sake of obstructing. The Republican majority (in both Houses of Congress, and in the White House) is the majority for a reason, because a majority of the American electorate put them there, ergo a majority of the American electorate agrees with the principles of the Republican party. Logic tells us therefore that the Democrats are thwarting the will of the people, and thats never beneficial, particularly in a representative democracy.

Needless to say, the Republicans shouldn't change the rule, they shouldn't kill the judicial filibuster. I just don't think its worth it, because one day, maybe not too far off in the future, the Republicans will be in the minority, and they might want to fire up a judicial filibuster to stop someone like Michael Moore from becoming a Supreme Court justice. And just as they start to reach into their aresnal, the Democrats will gently remind them "ah-ah-ah, there will be NONE of that." As my dad always said, pick your fights wisely.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Shock And Awe: The First Wave of the War on Allergies.

It has begun the same way it begins every year. When the temperature outside slowly begins to rise, the days become longer, warmer, and infinitely more enjoyable; that is when they strike. The enemy I speak of is allergies, and the battlefield where the war will be played out over the coming months is from my neck up. The pollen, rag weed, and other undesirable will ruthlessly attack my nostrils, eyes, head, and sinuses; they will burn villages, and take the women as spoils of war. They have the element of surprise, but I have weaponry of my own. It is on these days when the pollen count skyrockets that I commence with chemical warfare of the highest order.

While I certainly don't use Mustard gas or nuclear warheads, the munitions that I resort to are equally effective, if somewhat less apocalyptic. My first-strike is a carpet bombing of known allergenic hideouts with a double dose of Claritin-D, all the while paying no mind to the dosage recommendations on the back of the box. I then saturate the caves of my nostrils with Nasonex, halting the allergens' progress and essentially freezing their Swiss bank accounts and taking away their ability to fund future attacks. Once the Allergy regime has fallen, the urban assault team comes through (in the guise of Vicks Vapo-Rub) to clear the streets and rebuild critical infrastructure.

It is not long before my nasal passage is appointing a transition leader, and holding free elections, and drafting a constitution. The spread of nasal freedom, a beautiful thing.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Honk! If you're single.

My office in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. overlooks a medium-sized pond that boasts a resident goose population of about 25 cantankerous birds. They are a somewhat raucus bunch, never quiet for very long, and always adding a less than pleasant background noise to my conference calls and meetings. I can't tell you how many times the person on the other end of the line has asked "Is that noise real?" If they only knew how real it is.

They are there all year long, and never move very far. Maybe they will fly to a nearby field for a midday snack of alfalfa or grass, but they never fail to return, usually as I am settling in for an afternoon of hard work. But with Spring right around the corner, the geese have reminded me that this is the time of year for renewal and fresh starts; yes, thats right, its mating season in the goose world.

They have never been louder. At lunch I will often take a walk around the pond for a breath of fresh air, and the geese make going into the office with its ringing phones and beeping faxes seem like a great alternative. They are paired off, and the males spend the better part of the day with their heads down chasing the females around the pond. The females are collectively playing hard to get, all of them honking in displeasure at the males' advances. I think to myself, "Keep at it fellas, they'll give in." And given nature, I am sure they will.

But over in the corner of the pond there is a lone goose, who is swimming around a drain culvert that sticks up about a foot out of the water. Its about 15 inches round, and is a rusted-brown color that vaguely (and let me be very clear: VAGUELY) resembles a goose. The goose swims around the culvert, honks, and continues to swim. The cycle goes on for hours. I leave for the day, and the single goose is still trying to convince the culvert that he's the one. But as you can presume, the culvert doesn't respond to the goose's advances. The goose is getting the cold shoulder, and he knows it, and it doesn't please him.

But I don't feel bad for the goose, because once his hormones calm down, he will forget about the culvert that wouldn't put out, and will move on with his life. He'll swim around the pond for another 12 months, free of worrying about keeping up a nest, or sitting on eggs, or waddling around with 6 or 7 goslings in tow. No, I don't feel sorry for the goose at all.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Lets try this again.

So I learned something incredibly useful when I started my first blog, The Mud Room, a little over three months ago. Mainly I learned that keeping a blog or website up to date is tough business, especially when other, more important priorities crop up and restrain you to an office chair, or in my case the Hart Senate Office Building. Meetings, lunch and dinner appointments, and the Federal budget season tend to make unnecessary musings irrelevant, and this blog is certainly an unnecessary musing.

Now having said that, I wouldn't have given this another go if I didn't at least want to try to keep a blog updated with fresh and exciting material. So unlike when I haphazardly built The Mud Room, I have put a fair amount of time and thought into Kline Online. Instead of just throwing something together and posting it online, I have tried to be thought-provoking and to use incisive wit with reckless abandon. Unfortunately, sometimes I lack the ability to think myself, and at times like these there is little hope that I will provoke thought in others. And sometimes, despite my best efforts, I lack any wit at all, let alone incisive wit.

But I hope that times like these will be few and far between, and I look forward to providing anyone who might be interested with my views, opinions, and limited (and I do mean limited) knowledge of world events and current affairs. If I ever upset you with my writing please let me know, and in an attempt at fairness, if I ever impress you with my writing please be kind enough to let me know about that, too. I invite you to check back often, and to let us all know how you feel about what I'm writing, or about anything else, in the comments section of the Blog. Thanks, and be sure to come back and visit real soon.