Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for October 17th, 2007

Cute idea: a virtual personal assistant

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From Download Squad:

Not everyone can afford (or justify) a personal assistant. That’s why Values on n, the folks behind Stikkit, have invented Sandy, your very own personal email assistant.

I Want Sandy helps you stay organized and productive by working with emails to yourself and turning them into to-do’s, address book updates and calendar appointments. It all works by sending an email and CCing Sandy on it. Sandy understands basic terms like ‘reminder’, ‘lookup’ and ‘update’ and will then sort the content appropriately.

If you aren’t up to your neck already in to-do applications, I Want Sandy could be a beneficial application to try out. The concept is straightforward, and it could definitely save time on scheduling and calendar updates. It is currently in beta form, and is accepting signups to join the queue for a free account. In the meantime, if you want to get a feel for how simple and straightforward yet powerful its creator’s web applications are, sign up for a free account on Stikkit, their little yellow productivity tool.

Written by Leisureguy

17 October 2007 at 2:24 pm

Posted in Software

More on the mercury recommendation

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I blogged earlier about this (apparently infuriating one commenter to that post). Now there’s more, by Marian Burros:

Many health advocates were surprised earlier this month when a children’s health coalition that includes federal agencies and professional medical associations contradicted government warnings about mercury contamination and recommended that women of childbearing age eat more fish.

Since then several coalition members have renounced the findings, some criticizing the coalition’s leadership for taking thousands of dollars from the fishing industry to promote the recommendations. The coalition’s leaders did not present the recommendations to its members before releasing them.

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Written by Leisureguy

17 October 2007 at 2:14 pm

Posted in Business, Health, Medical

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Ask all the GOP candidates! Ask them now!

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John Cole has a superb idea:

And while we are at it, the comments yesterday spawned a question many of us would like asked of all the Jack Bauer wannabees in the GOP field who would literally do ANYTHING to save us from terrorist attack:

“Would you have sex with a man to stop a terrorist attack?”

Sure, it is a silly hypothetical, but so is the idiotic ticking-time-bomb scenario people throw around so damned much as an excuse for torture. So what is it, Mitt, Sam, Rudy, Mike, and company? Which is worse? A hot gay dicking or a nuke detonated in NYC?

Written by Leisureguy

17 October 2007 at 1:53 pm

Posted in Election, GOP

Excellent point on costs outweighing benefits

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From Hendrik Hertzberg’s blog:

Imagine that the Pentagon launches a new multi-billion-dollar global program designed to perfect methods of pinpointing the location of certain Russian and Chinese military assets. Imagine that as part of this program, wildlife preserves, nature parks, wilderness areas, and rain forests are regularly subjected to gigantic, blinding flashes of blinding light—flashes as bright as the flash from a hydrogen bomb. Imagine further that apparently as a result of these flashes significant numbers of animals—especially highly evolved animals like elephants and great apes—are turning up dead, victims of panic-induced disorientation and dysfunction. How long would it take the human authorities, a category in which I generously include the Bush Administration, to decide that it might not be worth it?

Quite a while, I suspect. In this morning’s Washington Post, Marc Kaufman reports on a pretty exact undersea parallel to the above scenario. It’s worth reading in full, but here are the opening grafs:

Twenty-two varieties of beaked whales roam the seas, diving as deep as a mile to feed on bottom-dwelling squid and small fish on the dark ocean floor. Shy and seldom seen by man, they are among the least understood large creatures on Earth.

But in recent years, these deepest-diving whales have sent out an unexpected distress signal, alerting researchers and marine mammal advocates, through their confused behavior and beachings, to an environmental hazard that until 10 years ago was not known to exist. The threat comes from very loud noises, especially from Navy sonar, that on at least several occasions have proved fatal to the whales.

The realization that sonar can disorient or frighten whales sufficiently to leave them beached and dying has spurred protests and lawsuits, and has given the Navy a problem that it first denied but now, to some extent, acknowledges. Navy officials, however, have strenuously resisted efforts to limit testing of their sonar, saying it is essential to national security.
In response to angry protests, as well as some pressure from Congress and the marine mammal scientific community, the Navy has now funded an ambitious, $6 million project to learn more about beaked whales and their response to sonar and other loud ocean noises.

Whales live in a world of sound. A large part of their brains, which in many species are larger than ours, is devoted to processing sound. We don’t know how they subjectively experience the processed sound, but it is reasonable to speculate that their experience of hearing is comparable in depth, detail, and complexity to our experience of vision. (They may be able, for example, to “see” inside each others’ bodies, giving them an analogue of the nonverbal communication of emotion for which we use gesture and facial expression.)

The wave of sound sent out by a modern sonar is no little “ping”—not if you’re a whale. If you’re a whale, and you’re listening your way through the pitch-black depths where no light penetrates, subtle sounds, including your own built-in sonar, give you a detailed readout of the layers of increasingly cold water, the texture of the sea floor, and the moving flow of seaborne animal and plant life. The sudden sonic invasion of an extremely powerful, unnatural, deafening sonic assault would be a horror—or so we may reasonably conclude from the fact that whales subjected to such onslaughts have in their panic shot up so quickly to the surface that they die of the bends.

The study will take at least two years, during which our Navy—and the Russian and Chinese navies, too, among others—will continue to drive many of these sublime, highly intelligent animals to their deaths. And, no matter what the findings, it does not seem likely that the Navy will go all PETA on us and decide to get along without its way cool gadgets.

Any real solution would have to be international, involving some serious diplomacy aimed at a new kind of arms control. The cat-and-mouse games played by submarines may have made a certain kind of sense during the Cold War, but what is the point of them now? Russia is annoying, but it is no longer our mortal enemy. The Chinese have no desire to bury us, except under piles of sneakers and kitchen appliances. Al Qaeda’s navy, as the Cole incident showed, consists of the odd motorboat. The terrorists have no submarines. Perhaps the immense sums still spent on naval toys whose strategic rationale is obsolete could be redirected to teaching the relevant personnel, humans and dolphins alike, to speak Arabic. (h/t: John Leone)

Written by Leisureguy

17 October 2007 at 1:47 pm

Fun aircraft-site

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Explore the various links at this site. Some very odd and fanciful planes to be found.

Written by Leisureguy

17 October 2007 at 1:37 pm

Posted in Technology

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Convicted? Better manslaughter than possessing crack

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At least in terms of the sentence you’ll get:

When crack cocaine possession means 24 years in prison and manslaughter means only 3, you know something is seriously wrong with the U.S. criminal justice system.

The death of Alva Mae Groves on Aug. 9 of this year went largely unnoticed outside of her family and fellow inmates at the Tallahassee Federal Corrections Institution, where she lived out the last 13 years of her life. She never went to high school, lived her entire life dirt-poor and raised her nine children for the most part without the help of her abusive husband.

In 1994 Alva Mae “Granny” Groves was locked up for conspiring to trade crack cocaine for food stamps. It was largely her son, whose trailer home she lived in, who ran an operation that her family and neighbors contested, but some customers testified that Alva Mae would sell them small bags when he wasn’t around.

“The only money I received came from SSI (Supplementary Security Income) and what money I could earn selling eggs from my laying hens (I had about 100 chickens),” Alva Mae wrote shortly before her death in a letter asking for a pardon so that she could die near her family. “I also cleaned houses when I was able, and sold candy bars and soft drinks to the kids coming from school in the afternoons.”

Because she refused to testify against her son, and because of the money she had saved in the bank, which was weighed against her for its value in crack, and most of all because of the current sentencing system for crack cocaine offenders, Groves was condemned to 24 years in jail at the age of 72.

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Written by Leisureguy

17 October 2007 at 1:35 pm

Posted in Drug laws, Government

All your media are belong to us

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The ten conglomerates that pretty much decide what you will see and read.

Written by Leisureguy

17 October 2007 at 12:46 pm

Posted in Business, Media

Enchanté

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Enchanté is probably best known as the home of Method Shaving, the evolving process explored by Charles A. Roberts. At the link, if you scroll down, you’ll see links to several articles on RMWS: Roberts Method of Wet Shaving.

I’m not (yet) a Method shaver, but I still order from this store since they carry a selection of traditional shaving products in addition to the specialized Hydrolast products for Method Shaving. For example, you’ll find D.R. Harris, Feather, Geo. F. Trumper, Merkur razors, Taylor of Old Bond Street, and blades by Derby, Feather, Merkur, Personna Super + Platinum, and Wilkinson.

In addition, Enchanté carries other bath and body products: fragrances, skincare, gels, and the like. There is a brick-and-mortar store in Austin, and those who have visited have high praise for the service and friendliness.

Mantic made a three-part series about Method shaving: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3. Here’s part 1 to get you started:

Written by Leisureguy

17 October 2007 at 12:26 pm

Posted in Shaving, Video

Tagged with ,

Responsible euthanasia

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Interesting. The facts from actual experience should calm the fears and quiet the opposition.

Over the past quarter-century, opponents of physician-assisted death have argued against the practice on the grounds that vulnerable groups—the very old, the poor, and the mentally ill, to name three—would turn to, or be pushed toward, such deaths in disproportionate numbers. A review of records from Oregon and the Netherlands undermines that argument.

Instead, people who receive help dying tend to be better educated and better off than the general population.

The review also finds that, in fact, few people in Oregon have died with a physician’s help. Since the practice became legal in 1997, only 292 people—of whom 85 percent were in hospice care—have chosen to end their lives with a lethal prescription. That number amounts to 0.15 percent of all deaths in the state.

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Written by Leisureguy

17 October 2007 at 12:03 pm

Posted in Daily life, Medical

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The craft of management

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Managing people is a challenge, partly because about 20% of the people you manage will sincerely and truly perceive that the way you do things is simply wrong. And, of course, no matter how carefully you communicate, 10% will not get the word. Moreover, the work of the manager is, in my opinion, also to manage the process—reduce variability, improve efficiency, find appropriate measures, and the like. But in addition the manager has to motivate the people involved in the process and create a common vision and the desire to achieve it.

One of the books that I found helpful in learning some management skills is William Oncken’s book Managing Management Time. Oncken wrote the famous HBR article, “Management Time: Who’s got the monkey?” (PDF file), the ideas of which are included in the book, though the book (of course) goes far beyond those ideas.

Written by Leisureguy

17 October 2007 at 11:01 am

Posted in Books, Business, Daily life

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Strong statement about Pelosi’s subservience

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And, on the whole, deserved:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has admitted knowing for several years about the Bush administration’s eavesdropping on Americans without a court warrant. She was briefed on it when she was ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee when President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney took office. But was she told that within days of their taking office, the National Security Agency’s electronic vacuum cleaner had already begun to suck up information on Americans—criminal law and the Constitution be damned?

In a Washington Post op-ed of Jan. 15, 2006, Pelosi, with a uniquely long tenure on the Intelligence Committee, acknowledged that she was one of the privileged handful of lawmakers who were briefed. Referring to her seniority as ranking member, she wrote in her Post apologia sans apology, “This is how I came to be informed of President Bush’s authorization for the NSA to conduct certain types of surveillance.” She then proceeded to demonstrate her remarkably—one might say unconstitutionally—subservient attitude toward the Executive Branch:

“But when the administration notifies Congress in this manner, it is not seeking approval. There is a clear expectation that the information will be shared by no one, including other members of the intelligence committees. As a result, only a few members of Congress were aware of the president’s surveillance program, and they were constrained from discussing it more widely.”

How did the American people react upon reading in the New York Times in December 2005 of this glaring infringement on their Constitutional rights? Most responded as they have been conditioned to react—out of the old fear-factor shibboleth: “After 9/11/2001, everything changed.”

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Written by Leisureguy

17 October 2007 at 9:49 am

Posted in Bush Administration, Congress, Democrats

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Kimchi stew

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Another recipe sent to me by The Eldest:

From Martha Stewart, recommended for settling the tummy post-Thanksgiving indulgence.  Probably also great for colds!

Kimchi Stew with Chicken and Tofu (serves 4)

3  3/4 c. chicken stock (I’d use 4 c., since I freeze it in 2 c. amounts)
2  1/2 c. water (2 c. would do it, with the extra stock?)
2 bone-in skinless chicken thighs, trimmed
1 TBSP minced garlic
2 tsp. minced fresh ginger (how about a whole TBSP?)
1 tsp. minced anchovy fillet
¼ tsp kosher salt (I would omit)
32 oz. kimchi, drained with 1/2 c. liquid reserved
16 oz. silken tofu
3 scallions, thinly sliced, white and pale green parts only

Bring stock, water, thighs, garlic, ginger, anchovy, and salt to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer until chicken is cooked, approx. 15 minutes.

Remove from heat.  Transfer chicken to a plate to cool.  Shred chicken and discard bones.  Add chicken back to broth mixture, along with kimchi and kimchi liquid.

Place pan over low heat.   Gently add spoonfuls of tofu to pan, being careful not to break tofu.  Gently shake plan to submerge tofu.  Bring to gentle simmer to heat through.  Add scallions and serve.

Per serving:  397 calories, 3 g. saturated fat, 7 g. unsaturated fat, 76 mg. cholesterol, 24 g. carbohydrate., 507 mg. sodium (probably depends on the stock and the brand of kimchi!), 24 g. protein, 5 g. fiber.

Written by Leisureguy

17 October 2007 at 9:45 am

Posted in Food, Recipes & Cooking

The Eldest sends a recipe

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Sounds good. I will probably leave the salmon skin on and eat it: more omega-3.

Recipe for Quick Dinner Salad with Salmon, Egg, and Bacon (serve 1)

2 strips of bacon, sliced into approx. 1/3” strips
Baby greens, such as spinach, arugula, mesclun mix, etc.
Salt
Pepper
Olive Oil
Half a lemon
Small salmon fillet, skin removed
Poached or soft-boiled egg

In a large frying pan, cook bacon until hard.  Remove bacon to paper towel-lined plate.  Remove pan from flame, pour off the bacon grease, and add salt, pepper, a little olive oil, and a squeeze of lemon juice to the pan.  Put greens in pan and toss with tongs to mix, then move to serving plate.  Greens will wilt slightly.  Wipe out the pan and add more olive oil.  Return to flame.  When hot, cook salmon fillet on both sides until it reaches your preferred degree of doneness.  Place on top of greens, sprinkle with bacon, and top with egg.  Might be very good with diced roasted tomato as well.  And maybe a sliced of rustic bread, grilled.  Quick, healthy comfort food.  🙂

Written by Leisureguy

17 October 2007 at 9:17 am

A typical Bush appointee

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She opposes the mission of the program she heads. Maybe that’s why Bush appointees seem so incredibly incompetent: they’re actually trying to sabotage the programs for which they are responsible. Here’s the story on this one:

On Monday, President Bush appointed Susan Orr to oversee federal family planning programs at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Orr, who is currently directing HHS child welfare programs, was touted by the administration as “highly qualified.”

But a look at Orr’s record shows that her strongest qualifications appear to be her right-wing credentials and endorsement of the Bush administration’s failed abstinence-only policies. Before joining HHS, Orr served as senior director for marriage and family care at the conservative Family Research Council and was an adjunct professor at Pat Robertson’s Regent University. Some highlights:

– In a 2001, Orr embraced a Bush administration proposal to “stop requiring all health insurance plans for federal employees” to cover a broad range of birth control. “We’re quite pleased, because fertility is not a disease,” said Orr.

– At the 2001 Conservative Political Action Conference, Orr cheered Bush’s endorsement of Reagan’s “Mexico City Policy,” which required NGOs receiving federal funds to “neither perform nor actively promote abortion as a method of family planning in other nations.” Orr said that it was proof Bush was pro-life “in his heart.”

– In a 2000 Weekly Standard article, Orr railed against requiring health insurance plans to cover contraceptives. “It’s not about choice,” said Orr. “It’s not about health care. It’s about making everyone collaborators with the culture of death.

Orr authored a paper in 2000 titled, “Real Women Stay Married.” In it she wrote that women should “think about focusing our eyes, not upon ourselves, but upon the families we form through marriage.”

As Steve Benen notes, the office of family planning carries tremendous importance. Orr will “oversee HHS’s $283 million reproductive-health program, a $30 million program that encourages abstinence among teenagers, and HHS’s Office of Population Affairs, which funds birth control, pregnancy tests, counseling, and screenings for sexually transmitted diseases and HIV.”

Last year, President Bush appointed Eric Keroack to oversee the office. Keroack had previously worked for a Christian pregnancy counseling group that opposes contraception. He stepped down in March over ethical problems.

UPDATE: Jill at Feministe points out that Orr has also referred to child protection as “the most intrusive arm of social services.”

Written by Leisureguy

17 October 2007 at 8:57 am

SCHIP smears: Olbermann reports

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This clip includes Olbermann interviewing Paul Krugman. Good to watch.

Written by Leisureguy

17 October 2007 at 8:45 am

Posted in GOP

Tagged with

The Raymond Report: consumer advocate for health insurance

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Thanks to Michael Samuels in the comments, here’s the Raymond Report:

Eric Raymond is a 25 year veteran of the health insurance industry. A cum laude graduate of the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania, Eric is a widely sought commentator on health insurance issues and has been featured in and contributed to articles in Forbes.com, CFO.com, Life and Health Advisor, The Philadelphia Inquirer, BusinessWeek and National Underwriter. He is co-founder and CEO of Corporate Synergies Group, a full-service employee benefits brokerage and consulting firm, managing insurance premiums.

The first episode (a video) is available at the link, and the next is due on the 29th. Some helpful information, though the writing is lurid—for example:

Discover shocking new laws and regulations, trends, as well as cost-saving tips – plus Eric solves many of the health insurance problems troubling consumers today. Eric’s advice? Get angry, fight back and don’t let the big insurance carriers push you around!

Still, some good information is included.

Written by Leisureguy

17 October 2007 at 8:27 am

Posted in Business, Medical

Time to learn a language?

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Mango now has updated their Website and interface. Still free, though. Modest selection of languages, but including French, German, Italian, Spanish, Russian, Brazilian Portuguese, Mandarin Chinese, Japanese, German, and others. No Esperanto, alas. But Pig Latin is included.

Written by Leisureguy

17 October 2007 at 8:16 am

Posted in Education

Dyson Airblade hand dryer

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I had read that James Dyson, who invented the Dyson vacuum cleaner, was looking at inventing a better hand dryer, using his knowledge of airflow. And now he’s done it:

Dyson Airblade

Like the paper-or-plastic debate, how to dry your hands in a public bathroom seems to be easy to discuss, but not terribly simple to do anything about. Many people dislike air dryers because they are slow, noisy and power-sucking. On the other hand, paper towels are an ongoing source of waste and tree killing. Frankly it’s all too confusing. Will technology come to our rescue?

Dyson, makers of the noted vacuum cleaners, have a solution that may win a few more converts over to paperless, and provide a great energy savings compared to conventional air dryers.

The Dyson Airblade is 80% more efficient than conventional air dryers, using a fast (400 mph), thin (0.3mm, the width of an eyelash) sheet of air to dry hands in about 12 seconds (which, for me at least, equals or exceeds paper-towel speed). Dyson claims a 98% cost savings over paper towels. Since the air does not need to be heated with the Airblade, it does not need warm-up time, and will dry the hands more quickly. Rather than forcing evaporation (as a conventional dryer does), the Airblade uses high speed air to wipe water away. Dyson also claims to be the first and only hand dryer certified by NSF International.

via: Architectural Record

Written by Leisureguy

17 October 2007 at 7:52 am

GPS buying tips

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The Unclutterer has some tips on buying a GPS navigation system, including the  point that it’s much better (and cheaper) to buy the car without a navigation system and buy instead a portable system.

The terminology is a little confusing to me. GPS = Global Position System; GPS system thus = Global Positioning System system. I think people use “GPS” to refer to a navigation system (hardware + routing software + map (that can be updated) + interface) that uses the GPS to indicate current location.

Here’s the advice:

If you travel in your car quite a bit you probably already have a GPS system, but if you are considering one you may want to do a little research as to what you really need. GPS systems can be quite expensive and you may be overpaying for bells and whistles that you will never use.

CNET has a some tips for GPS systems highlighting what you need to consider.

…you pay a price for the convenience of a built-in navi system. For instance, the Dodge Magnum SRT8’s navigation system is an $1,870 option. Compare that to the color, touchscreen TomTom One, which comes preloaded with maps of the U.S. and Canada for $299.

Besides the cost factor, the portable nature of aftermarket navigation units means that you can take them with you on vacation and stick them in your rental car, where you’re most likely to need them. In addition, hard drive or Flash-based aftermarket units tend to have more detailed and up-to-date maps than DVD-based factory systems, since new updates can be easily downloaded from your computer.

If a GPS system is something you may be interested in, you can say goodbye to that gigantic road atlas and trim down on your car clutter with a tiny after market GPS system or built-in system.

Written by Leisureguy

17 October 2007 at 7:47 am

Presidential candidates on global warming

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The NY Times has a nice feature this morning: a summary of each of the presidential candidates’ positions has on climate change. For example, John Edwards:

U.S. MUST LEAD GLOBAL EFFORTS TO REDUCE EMISSION; WOULD SET TARGETS FOR CAPPING GREENHOUSE POLLUTION

“I believe America has to lead the way in dealing with the crisis of climate change and global warming. We are four percent of the world’s population, but we emit as much as 25 percent of the world’s greenhouse gases. We have no credibility with the rest of the world on this issue right now. We’re the worst polluter on the planet. America needs to lead by example. … We must lead the world to a new climate treaty that commits other countries — including developing nations — to reduce their pollution. I will insist that developing countries join us in this effort, by offering to share new clean energy technology and, if necessary, using trade agreements to require binding greenhouse reductions.”
— Scienceblogs.com, July 2007

  • Cap greenhouse pollution starting in 2010 and reduce it by 80 percent by 2050.
  • Lead the world toward a new global climate change treaty.
  • Create a $13 billion-a-year fund, financed by polluters, to be spent on renewable energy and other initiatives.
  • Invest in renewable sources of electricity.
  • Reduce oil imports by 7.5 million barrels a day by 2025.
  • Raise car fuel economy to 40 mpg by 2016.

More information

Voted yes on an amendment to the “Energy Policy Act of 2003,” which would have increased automobile fuel efficiency standards to 40 mpg by 2015.

Voted no on an amendment to the “Energy Security Policy” bill of 2002, which supported oil and gas exploration in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Written by Leisureguy

17 October 2007 at 7:29 am

Posted in Election

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