The two areas where we can expect the next administration to usher in massive shifts in domestic policy are health care and climate change. This would definitely be true under an Obama Administration, and could well be true under a McCain one as well. The health care and energy industries aren't stupid; anticipating upcoming movement on their respective issues, they've put their lobbying efforts in hyperdrive to try and direct that movement.

CQ Politics charts the number of lobbying registrations filed in the first quarter of 2008 for each sector, and they come up with this:

Energy: 278 registered lobbyists
Transportation: 85
Manufacturing: 79
Non-profits: 67
State or local gov't: 43
Agriculture: 28
Business and retail: 27
Real estate and construction: 25
Finance: 20
Organized labor: 16

Energy's new dominance knocks health care out of the top dog position. The pharmaceutical industry had a banner 2007, writes the Center for Public Integrity, putting together a record $168 million lobbying effort, according to a CPI analysis of federal lobbying data. Adds CPI, "the effort raised the amount spent by drug interests on federal lobbying in the past decade to more than $1 billion."

Top spenders within the sector in 2007:

On McCain's "Blog Interact" page, where the candidate's supporters can find recommended blogs of all ideological stripes, the campaign is actually awarding points for trolling.

Help spread the word about John McCain on news and blog sites. Your efforts to help get the message out about John McCain's policies and plan for the future is one of the most valuable things you can do for this campaign. You know why John McCain should be the next President of the United States and we need you to tell others why.
Select from the numerous web, blog and news sites listed here, go there, and make your opinions supporting John McCain known. Once you've commented on a post, video or news story, report the details of your comment by clicking the button below. After your comments are verified, you will be awarded points through the McCain Online Action Center.

The site even has "Today's Talking Points" that McCain supporters can cut and paste into the comments sections of liberal blogs.

The lack of online savvy on display here is just stunning. But at least "John McCain is aware of the internet." (Via Andrew Sullivan)

A novel defense in an obscenity case, down in Florida:

Judges and jurors who must decide whether sexually explicit material is obscene are asked to use a local yardstick: does the material violate community standards?
That is often a tricky question because there is no simple, concrete way to gauge a community's tastes and values.
The Internet may be changing that. In a novel approach, the defense in an obscenity trial in Florida plans to use publicly accessible Google search data to try to persuade jurors that their neighbors have broader interests than they might have thought.
In the trial of a pornographic Web site operator, the defense plans to show that residents of Pensacola are more likely to use Google to search for terms like "orgy" than for "apple pie" or "watermelon." The publicly accessible data is vague in that it does not specify how many people are searching for the terms, just their relative popularity over time. But the defense lawyer, Lawrence Walters, is arguing that the evidence is sufficient to demonstrate that interest in the sexual subjects exceeds that of more mainstream topics — and that by extension, the sexual material distributed by his client is not outside the norm.

The defense attorney isn't just freeing a porn king; he's holding up a mirror to our lives: "Time and time again you'll have jurors sitting on a jury panel who will condemn material that they routinely consume in private," he told the press. The Google data will expose "how people really think and feel and act in their own homes."

Recycled Biofuel

57031182_68ca6da51a.jpg A better way to grow biofuel crops is to re-use abandoned agricultural lands. Or farmlands that are less productive. Both are better than current practises: clearing wilderness and converting food farms to energy farms.

There are 1.5 million square miles of abandoned cropland and pastureland available around the world. Energy crops raised on these could yield up to 27 exajoules of energy a year—equal to 172 million barrels of oil. Yet even this would still satisfy only about 5% of global primary energy consumption—483 exajoules in 2005, and rising.

Better than nothing, you say. But only if it doesn't further aggravate climate change. The study by Carnegie Institution and Stanford University scientists used historical data, satellite imagery, and productivity models to estimate how to maximize the benefits from biofuels while also mitigating global warming. Recycling old farms yields the best atmospheric returns.

Julia Whitty is Mother Jones' environmental correspondent, lecturer, and 2008 winner of the Kiriyama Prize and the John Burroughs Medal Award.

ClimateRide-002.jpg

Talking about global warming is pretty depressing. If the fear of apocalyptic natural disasters doesn't get you, the big-eyed, fuzzy animals probably will—to say nothing of Al Gore's boiling frog. Given the gloomy subject matter, it's a nice shift to see a group highlight the positive possibilities for lifestyle change.

This fall, 100 cyclists will try to do just that by riding from New York City to Washington, DC via rural New Jersey and Amish country, with an entourage of scientists and green entrepreneurs in tow.

According to organizers, the ride is meant to be a "climate conference on wheels"—intentionally a bit more fun than your run-of-the-mill scientific gathering. Will the riders inspire others to cycle with their own joyful pedal-pushing? Climate-wise, bikes are awesome, so here's hoping.

Photo courtesy Climate Ride.

Worried that America might elect to the presidency a guy who openly admits he can't use a computer without assistance? Have no fear. Mark SooHoo, John McCain's "deputy e-campaign manager," says:

You don't necessarily have to use a computer to understand, you know, how it shapes the country. … John McCain is aware of the Internet.

Imagine if Barack Obama had a gaping lack of knowledge on something integral to our lives as Americans and to the success of the country going forward. Would you be satisfied if one of his staffers told you, "Barack Obama is aware of the economy"?

In the wake of the House of Representatives' passage of a bill last week that grants the White House wide latitude to spy on American citizens, and that effectively forces courts to throw out lawsuits against lawbreaking telecommunications companies, Sen. Russell Feingold, D-Wisc., predicted today that the Senate would likely follow suit, despite strong protests from civil liberties groups and a majority of Democratic party members.

"I'm very worried we're not going to be able to prevail," Feingold said.

prettyinpink-768996.jpg This has gotta be sign of desperation, right? Rove's newest frame on Obama:

Even if you never met him, you know this guy. He's the guy at the country club with the beautiful date, holding a martini and a cigarette that stands against the wall and makes snide comments about everyone who passes by.

Yup. Because when I think of a half-black guy who grew up with a single parent in Kansas, Hawaii, and Indonesia, I definitely think of a 1980s teen movie prepster/villain. The picture of classic American privilege, that Obama.

bush76.jpg

By this point, war profiteering in Iraq has become legend. The conflict has generated well over a hundred billion dollars in contracts for private business—many, like KBR's contract with the Army, awarded without competitive bidding and featuring a "cost-plus" arrangement, essentially entitling companies to name their own price for services rendered (or not rendered, as the case may be.) As contracts have swelled in size, so, too, has the size of contract-related fraud, waste, and abuse. Last year, the Defense Contract Audit Agency identified $4.9 billion wasted on overcharging or fraud, and an additional $5.1 billion spent without any documentation. Just imagine what the IRS would say.

In response to such reports, the Army sponsored a blue-ribbon commission to study the problem and propose possible fixes, which it did in a report (.pdf) issued last November. Among the recommendations was the assignment of five generals to oversee the contracting process and guard against the sort of waste and abuse that had plagued Army operations up to that point. The Army took the suggestion to heart and included $1.2 million in a budget request to fund the new positions—an amount so modest compared to the scale of the larger problem that the measure would surely be approved, right? Wrong. The Office of Management and Budget slammed the brakes on the proposal.

Joe Klein reports over at Swampland that McCain's top three choices for VP, according to a source Klein trusts, are all automatic non-starters.

1. Former Governor Tom Ridge of Pennsylvania--McCain loves the guy, I'm told, and Ridge might bring Pa. into the Republican fold...but he's pro-choice. Fuggedaboutit.
2. Former Governor Jeb Bush of Florida--Ahhh, Florida. But, oy, that last name.
3. Senator Mel Martinez of Florida---Ahh, Florida....and brings Latinos, too! But born in Cuba, so ineligible for the office.

The same goes for McCain's top sidekicks, Joe Lieberman and Lindsey Graham. The first is technically an Independent Democrat and thus a big believer in choice and the second is dogged by persistent rumors about his sexuality.