Norwegian duo Röyksopp are back with a new album, Junior, out March 23, and the first single, "Happy Up Here," is nice enough. It sort of feels like an update of their classic "Eple" (whose bleepy melody was charming enough to last as my ringtone for like 8 months) with some breathy vocals that sound a little like Air circa "Cherry Blossom Girl." Not exactly ground-breaking, but lovely. However, the video is a strange and wonderful counterpoint to the song's casual jauntiness: Space Invaders emerge from hiding in our flashy billboards to engage in battle with what looks like a Trabant. Is that Röyksopp there in the Trabant, and will they save us? Watch and find out...

Still want to drink it? Because the truth is that bottle of water is up to 2,000 times more energy intensive than just turning on the tap. No one really knew that until now.

Researchers at the Pacific Institute in Oakland California ran the numbers and found that bottle production alone wastes 50 million barrels of oil a year (that's 2.5 days of US oil consumption). Add to that energy the energy needed to process the water, label the bottles, fill the bottles, seal the bottles, transport the bottles, cool them prior to sale… well, you get the idea.

Bottom line: Bottled-water drinkers in the US alone in 2007 squandered the equivalent of 32 to 54 million barrels of oil. Triple that number for worldwide use. For perspective, imagine each bottle is one-quarter full of oil.

As reported at Treehugger: Bottled-water drinkers are the new smokers.

Since oil and water don't mix, turn on the tap. Still want a container? Try reusable Nalgene or stainless steel. Not without impact but durable at least. Traveling overseas to the lands-of-unclean waters? Pony up for a Katadyn bottle/filter combination. I can personally attest that this all-in-one system is a miracle worker of good intestinal and environmental health.

Concerned about the one in six humans who must live in the lands-of-unclean waters? Consider tossing a doubloon or two at the LifeStraw people who've found a nifty and inexpensive way to survive deadly water supplies.
Twelve months ago, Mitt Romney made a hero's entrance but a loser's exit here at CPAC. Trailing in the Republican Primary, but recently accepted as the far right's representative in the field, Romney entered the room to thunderous applause but used his speech to make a surprise withdrawal from the race, drawing gasps and cries of despair from the crowd. (For a full report from that day, including quotes from crushed Mitt followers, click here.) From that point forward, you'll remember, Romney became a political odd man out. He had to grovel before John McCain would allow him to be his surrogate on television.

Today, in the same ballroom in the same hotel, Romney made another hero's entrance. The CPAC attendees -- burned by a presidential nominee who did not share their far-right beliefs and disappointed in a Republican congressional leadership they see as providing no leadership at all -- embraced Romney warmly. Organizers were forced to open a second ballroom for overflow viewing. Romney's introducer, the head of the American Conservative Union and the official host of CPAC, called Romney "one of the family." Romney replied, "It feels like coming home, I gotta tell ya."

Fox announced yesterday that the network had renewed The Simpsons for two more years. Breaking the record set by Gunsmoke, which ran for 20 years, the animated show will become the longest-running prime time TV series in history.

Bart Simpson was my age (nine years old) when the show made its network debut in 1989. I'm 28 now, so in two years I'll be 30, only six years younger than Marge and Homer who will, of course, remain 36 years old. Like David Wooderson said in Dazed and Confused: "Man, I get older; they stay the same age."

Sometimes CPAC makes it perfectly clear why Republicans are wandering in the wilderness.

In a seminar on health care held Friday morning, three conservative speakers were not able to articulate a clear alternative to the universal health care plan President Obama has promised to deliver. There was plenty of alarmist rhetoric. "Obama-care," said Michael Tanner, the moderator and a senior fellow at the libertarian Cato Institute, is "one of the greatest threats to our individual liberty that we can find." He paraphrased Reagan: you can't socialize medicine without socializing the doctors, and you can't socialize the doctors without socializing the patients. "That is clearly the agenda that Democrats are pursuing," he said.

Grace-Marie Turner of the Galen Institute argued that Obama's plan to introduce a government health care option that will allow every citizen to have health care coverage similar to what is currently enjoyed by members of Congress will "basically shove out private competition from the market." She suggested that universal health care will be a tool for Obama to consolidate power, and a corruption of the "best health care system in the world." Nothing about new ideas.

Today is closeup day.  Everyone is outside enjoying the (sorta) sunshine and pondering Portuguese water dogs.  Hmmm.  Are there Portuguese water cats too?  Inquiring felines want to know.  If you have inside information, enlighten the rest of us in comments.  In the meantime, have a nice weekend, everyone.

The End of the War

Barack Obama explains his plan to withdraw from Iraq:

Let me say this as plainly as I can: by August 31, 2010, our combat mission in Iraq will end....We will retain a transitional force to carry out three distinct functions: training, equipping, and advising Iraqi Security Forces as long as they remain non-sectarian; conducting targeted counter-terrorism missions; and protecting our ongoing civilian and military efforts within Iraq. Initially, this force will likely be made up of 35-50,000 U.S. troops.

Through this period of transition, we will carry out further redeployments. And under the Status of Forces Agreement with the Iraqi government, I intend to remove all U.S. troops from Iraq by the end of 2011. We will complete this transition to Iraqi responsibility, and we will bring our troops home with the honor that they have earned.

There are some caveats, and Spencer Ackerman explains the details here.  But the bottom line is simple: all combat troops will be out within 18 months, and all troops will be out within 34 months.  That's probably not as quickly as I'd like to see it done, but it's probably about as quickly as it was ever likely to happen given the inherent instability of the political situation.  Keep your fingers crossed.

I just finished writing a post about how clownish it was for Bobby Jindal to exaggerate the Hurricane Katrina story he told in his rebuttal speech on Tuesday, but then I erased it.  After reading Ben Smith's full account, including his update, Jindal's puffery strikes me as a misdemeanor at worst.  He shouldn't have done it, but honestly, it's just not that big a deal.

Newt Gingrich just spoke here at CPAC. If there is anyone who embodies CPAC's hardline, outsider's identity (much time here is spent bashing the congressional GOP for being too willing to compromise), it's Newt. No wonder, then, that Newt entered a packed ballroom State of the Union-style, walking through the back doors and shaking hundreds of grasping hands as he moved up the aisles toward the stage, all while Eye of the Tiger pounded through the speaker system.

As David Corn discussed in a recent magazine article for Mother Jones, Newt is back in a big way. As conservatives try to figure out which national figure is best fit to lead them back to power, they are increasingly turning to a guy who had no role in the failures of the last eight years and was responsible (as he is ready to remind you) for the party's last major success, the 1994 takeover of Congress.

But I've had trouble understanding Newt's appeal. His ideas and theories are sometimes bizarre. ("There is a gay and secular fascism in this country that wants to impose its will on the rest of us," he told Bill O'Reilly.) When he does find an idea that sounds serious, it often doesn't hold up to scrutiny. He argued today, for example, that jobs would flourish and "virtually every American with savings would immediately be better off" if the capital gains tax was reduced to zero. Anyone with a working muscle in their head knows that such a plan, if enacted, would primarily benefit the wealthy investor class. It would essentially be a payday for people who make substantial amounts of money through their investments. That's the rich, not everyday Americans. And there are about a million better ways to create workaday jobs than giving a massive tax cut to the rich.
Boy, what a reversal of fortune for the Environmental Protection Agency. After suffering years of neglect, staff cuts, and intimidation, it now stands to see its budget increased by 34 percent--among the largest bump for any federal agency in percentage terms. Much of the increase would fund clean water projects and restore the Superfund Tax, which expired in 1995, raising an estimated $6.6 billion by 2014 for hazardous waste cleanup. As if to underscore the EPA's return to favored agency status, Michelle Obama spoke at agency HQ while her husband was unveiling his budget yesterday. "Your work will not only save our planet and clean up our environment," she said. "It's going to transform our economy and create millions of well-paying jobs." Her optimism reminds me of Bush's love for his faith-based initiatives, but at least this time around there's a bit more evidence behind the hope.