If you're not outraged ...

You've likely seen the bumper sticker around town: "If You're Not Outraged, You're Not Paying Attention." The problem is that outrage is a hard emotion to sustain. Life intrudes.

No worries. In the event your outrage is slipping, here are a few items that might ramp it up. Or at least elicit downright puzzlement.

From the outrageous department: In July, the Senate defeated, for the fourth time this summer, Senate bill 3335 &

which would extend investment tax credits for installing solar energy and building wind turbines and other energy efficient systems. Solar and wind industries depend on these credits &

which expire in December &

to remain competitive with coal, oil and natural gas.

The Republicans want to link the approval of the tax credit extensions to drilling offshore and in ANWR. John McCain, whose most recent ad insists he is the answer to renewable energy &

wind turbines are turning in the background &

has skipped all of the votes on the tax credit extension called this year (there have been eight). A missed vote is a no vote.

Outraged just a little?

Try this, as reported in the New York Times: Sudan continues to receive billions of pounds of free food from international donors. Meanwhile the Sudanese government is growing and selling vast quantities of its own crops &

wheat, peanuts, sorghum, eggplants, and pumpkins &

to other countries, taking advantage of high worldwide food prices at a time when millions of its own people in the war-torn region of Darfur barely have enough to eat. Who said despicable could not be given new meaning?

From the puzzlement department: After eight years of Republican stewardship (or chronic lack thereof), while watching this administration drive our nation into a deep ditch, how is it possible that John McCain, who has voted with George Bush over the last four years more than 90 percent of the time, is all but statistically tied with Barack Obama? All things considered, should there not be a rising tide of opinion that wants Team Bush-McCain benched? Good grief.

Is it age? Not McCain's, but Obama's. Polls indicate that voters over 65 are resisting voting for Obama, believing McCain shares their values and outlook far more than does Obama. Andrew Kohut, director of Pew Research Center, stated, "For older voters, a lot of the reservations really have to do with this experience factor, while younger voters see in Obama something much closer to themselves." These older voters turn out at the highest rate on Election Day and are disproportionately represented in such swing states as Florida and Pennsylvania. Their opinion matters (however sclerotic).

Could the 18 million voters who supported Hillary Clinton come into play when trying to understand why this race is so close? Are the supporters of Hillary, in particular women, who stood so tenaciously with her, still angry &

still of a mind to either withhold their votes or vote for McCain? Do they dare contemplate who McCain would nominate to the Supreme Court using Roe v. Wade as a litmus test? Are they prepared to forego meaningful healthcare reform? Are they content with America's current belligerent foreign policy?

And is this reticence to embrace Obama's candidacy tacitly (if not overtly) supported and encouraged by Bill and Hillary? When asked recently by a reporter if he felt Obama was ready to be president, Bill looked visibly uncomfortable and equivocated, unable to bring himself to say, resoundingly, "Of course!" Instead, he mentioned the Constitution, saying no one is ever ready to be president. He still seems angry, wounded by his wife's loss in the primaries and by media reports that he played "the race card."

Despite Hillary's post-primary declarations of a willingness to work for Obama, there is a subtext, however subtle, that seems to say otherwise. After making her wishes known, her name will be placed in nomination at the Democratic Convention for a roll call vote. She has insisted that her supporters are in need of a catharsis, no matter that this would shift the focus and attention of the convention from Obama to herself when unequivocal support of the party platform and Obama should take precedence. Are the Clintons still nurturing hopes for 2012 with chronic, political schadenfreude ever present? We'll see when they each deliver prime-time convention speeches.

Of course, there is the much discussed issue of race, which is so complex that no one seems able to cogently sort out its impact on this election. Does race explain, at least in part, why Obama has not widened his lead? According to a recent New York Times/CBS News poll of white voters, 24 percent don't think America is ready for a black president; 48 percent oppose programs that make special efforts to help minorities get ahead; 19 percent feel race relations will get worse if Obama is elected (only 9 percent if McCain is elected). How are we to interpret such numbers? How are we to understand the McCain-Obama dead heat?

It's puzzling for sure.

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