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Wednesday, May 28, 2008

A Considered Appeal For The Abolition Of Superdelegates In The Democratic Primaries

Superman emblem
Courtesy of Sriram Krishnan

This latest article in the American Prospect (thanks, Jon), discusses ongoing Republican assaults on the natural voting rights chartered for this republic. It is a serious problem as it stands, and must be rectified, but if continuing efforts are successful, then meaningful input from the population into the direction and priorities of our government will be lost.

You can't call the cops on the cops. When the checks-and-balances of our government go wobbly (and they clearly have) the only recourse for American citizens is a robust opposition party, and the ability to elect them. Oh, and having a robust opposition party. (This can get a little Oroboros, as the two are necessary for healthy citizen participation in our government.)

Voter manipulation, happily, has a built-in fragility inasmuch as the people being disenfranchised by such shenanigans are likely to get a bit angry and restive in the long run. These people include (at least for now), the "opposition" party - the Democratic Party. As it looks that they are about to ride a tide of popularity into power (none too soon! - and a tide that is likely to swamp Republican voter manipulation, at least this time), one can reasonably imagine that many of these efforts will be swatted back. But that, of course, depends on just how "robust" the "opposition" party is these days.

While I will be thrilled on the day that President Barack Obama is sworn in (and I am banking on the sweet shadenfreude of Election Night in November), let's not kid ourselves. Many Most of the Democratic party and its current crop of candidates, including Obama, are still way too in-the-sway of corporate influence. Howard Dean, Obama and many of the roots candidates across the nation are altering this dynamic with their stunning capture of small-money donations from the people.

This is a positive development. However - the superdelegate model that was injected into Democratic intra-party politicking in the 1970's only serves to weaken the "robustness" of the "opposition." It's very purpose was to put a "governor" in place to modulate the popular influence on the Democratic candidate - ostensibly to preserve Democratic "electibility" - but really, how cynical is that about "small d" democracy?

To the proponents of the superdelegate system (they sure seem to be quiet, BTW - they all just act like the system was signed off on in 1776 or 1787), "robust" equals "radical."

Well, radical is in the eyes of the beholder, and the superdelegate system represents a bunch of folks who are overly-invested in the status quo. We the people are becoming increasingly disturbed at the status quo, and vox populi is becoming more at odds with vox superdelegates - an entirely predictable state-of-affairs as the very creation of the system was intended to temper the public voice.

It is wonderful that the "opposition" party will in all likelihood be victorious come November. Now let's work on making it a more "robust" opposition party.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

They're Cousins!

This is just too funny, May it go magnificently viral.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Is Ben Stein Really This Stupid?

Ben Stein

Short answer? Yes.

Ben bloviates in the New York Times business section - "Running Out of Fuel, but Not Out of Ideas":
...But we have become addicted to gasoline. (I, of course, include my own bad self.) Even if we all bought smaller cars, we would need gasoline and lots of it — although a great deal less than what we use now. And while I have previously said, and I believe, that we are in a temporary price bubble, the prognosis for gasoline is grim in the long run...

...What are we going to do? If there were another oil embargo, we would be in real trouble. If Mexico fell into chaos, if Venezuela stopped sending us oil, there would be extreme hardship.

Beyond that, what if we are close to peak oil — that point at which we have pumped out more than half the oil on the planet? What if supply slips and demand continues to skyrocket, as they are already doing, and these trends continue indefinitely? What if the world has a bitter fight over its remaining oil? Even if this battle is fought with money and not guns, we are at a disadvantage with our pitiful currency and our budget and trade deficits.
Oh, yay. Conservative blockhead acknowledges Peak Oil - but then...
So, what to do? First, we do not kill the geese — the big oil companies — that lay the golden eggs. We encourage them and cheer them on to get more oil. They need incentives, not hammer blows.

BUT most of all, we treat this as a true crisis. As my pal Glenn Beck, the conservative commentator, says, we need a new moon-shot mentality here. We need to turn coal into oil into gasoline, to use nuclear power wherever we can...
Oh, please. "Glenn Beck" and "moon-shot" in the same sentence.
...and to brush aside the concerns of the beautiful people who live on coastal pastures (like me). And we need to drill on the continental shelf, even near where movie stars live. This must be done, on an emergency basis. If we keep acting as if the landscape were more important than human life, we will make ourselves the serfs of the oil producers and eventually reduce our country to poverty and anarchy.
Did you just say "If we keep acting as if the landscape were more important than human life...", Ben? Why, yes you did. To Ben and his ilk, our planet, the mother and source of all life, is merely "landscape." And then he goes on...
...The hour is late. The clock of destiny is ticking out, as the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said...
Oh, no, you didn't paraphase Dr. King, did you?
Let’s roll.
Let's roll? Jumpin' bejeezus.

Head over here for a sanity check. The venerable James Kunstler:
...One of the basic differences between a child and an adult is the ability to know the difference between wishing for things and actually making them happen through earnest effort.

The companion belief to "wishing upon a star" is the idea that one can get something for nothing. This derives from America's new favorite religion: not evangelical Christianity but the worship of unearned riches. (The holy shrine to this tragic belief is Las Vegas.) When you combine these two beliefs, the result is the notion that when you wish upon a star, you'll get something for nothing. This is what underlies our current fantasy, as well as our inability to respond intelligently to the energy crisis...

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Janet For VP?

Janet & Joe

Is Janet Napolitano, Governor of Arizona, positioning herself to be more palatable as the Democratic Vice President pick?
An executive order signed by Gov. Janet Napolitano has prompted state police to cancel a $1.6 million agreement with the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office and, instead, use the money to create a fugitive task force.

The move effectively stripped two squads of Sheriff's Office deputies from a statewide multiagency team designed to go after crimes dealing with human smuggling. It also took away Arpaio's ability to tap some of the squad members to supplement immigration sweeps at the state's expense.
The odious "Sheriff Joe" Arpaio is a notorious media grandstander. His hubris and reflexive hunger for attention could well make this a nationally visible spat, and that would serve to escalate the governor's name recognition nationally, which is, currently, puzzlingly low for a female governor of a largely conservative Southwestern state.

In addition, her pushback against the jingoistic Maricopa County sheriff could help burnish her progressive credentials, a side of her not exactly trumpeted in her gubernatorial runs in this marginally Red state.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Fair And Balanced

You've seen this one (well, almost 7.5 million of you have so far).

Here's the riposte (/snark).

Monday, May 12, 2008

Dark Landscape

Dark Landscape

Watch Bill Moyers talk with Philippe Sands on America's peculiar predicament of accountability (h/t Christy Hardin Smith at

There was a time that the very word "torture" evoked the chill of a dark landscape, the chill of the evil "other" - a territory so foreboding that one shrank back from even a prolonged gaze.

Now, we have found that we are not merely gazing at it, but we are exploring and mapping the edges of this black geography. It is becoming "familiar."

How long after this trek do we begin to populate the forbidden land, becomes its residents, its very landlords? Will the front doors of Our House make the creaking sounds of diabolical intent?

Perhaps we are at a turning point. Perhaps not.

It's In Our Hands

Earth Burns

Bill McKibben, scholar-in-residence at Middlebury College, has something to say (via, h/t Mike's Blog Round Up):
The World at 350
A Last Chance for Civilization

By Bill McKibben

...All of a sudden it isn't morning in America, it's dusk on planet Earth.

There's a number -- a new number -- that makes this point most powerfully. It may now be the most important number on Earth: 350. As in parts per million (ppm) of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

...NASA's Jim Hansen, submitted a paper to Science magazine with several co-authors. The abstract attached to it argued -- and I have never read stronger language in a scientific paper -- "if humanity wishes to preserve a planet similar to that on which civilization developed and to which life on earth is adapted, paleoclimate evidence and ongoing climate change suggest that CO2 will need to be reduced from its current 385 ppm to at most 350 ppm." Hansen cites six irreversible tipping points -- massive sea level rise and huge changes in rainfall patterns, among them -- that we'll pass if we don't get back down to 350 soon; and the first of them, judging by last summer's insane melt of Arctic ice, may already be behind us.

...It's like watching the tachometer edge into the red zone and knowing that you need to take your foot off the gas before you hear that clunk up front.

In this case, though, it's worse than that because we're... stomping on the gas -- hard. Instead of slowing down, we're pouring on the coal, quite literally. Two weeks ago came the news that atmospheric carbon dioxide had jumped 2.4 parts per million last year -- two decades ago, it was going up barely half that fast.

And suddenly, the news arrives that the amount of methane, another potent greenhouse gas, accumulating in the atmosphere, has unexpectedly begun to soar as well. Apparently, we've managed to warm the far north enough to start melting huge patches of permafrost and massive quantities of methane trapped beneath it have begun to bubble forth...

We're the ones who kicked the warming off; now, the planet is starting to take over the job.
Melt all that Arctic ice, for instance, and suddenly the nice white shield that reflected 80% of incoming solar radiation back into space has turned to blue water that absorbs 80% of the sun's heat. Such feedbacks are beyond history, though not in the sense that Francis Fukuyama had in mind.

...A few of us have just launched a new campaign,

...if this campaign is a Hail Mary pass, well, sometimes those passes get caught.

Hansen's words were well-chosen: "a planet similar to that on which civilization developed." People will doubtless survive on a non-350 planet, but those who do will be so preoccupied, coping with the endless unintended consequences of an overheated planet, that civilization may not.

Civilization is what grows up in the margins of leisure and security provided by a workable relationship with the natural world.
That margin won't exist, at least not for long, this side of 350. That's the limit we face.
(Excerpted, with my emphases - find the whole article at

I just have a couple of things to add to this. One, I think the well-intentioned efforts of McKibben's fall short of a "Hail Mary pass" - rather, I feel that they are imploring that humanity even muster one up... and, further, while very romantic, they are rarely caught.

Two - at 51 years old, I think my senior years are set to be mighty entertaining ones, and not in a good way. The microwave will probably be out of the game by then - will it be immoral of me to pop the corn the old-fashioned way? Alas, I think so...

Update: Tick tock...
Scientists at the Mauna Loa observatory in Hawaii say that CO2 levels in the atmosphere now stand at 387 parts per million (ppm), up almost 40% since the industrial revolution and the highest for at least the last 650,000 years...
Update II: It's Out Of Our Hands

Tuesday, May 6, 2008


This cheered me up some today (my bold):
...Were there only a big man with a big stick somewhere up there, I'd go back to the bedtime prayers of my youth and ask him to whack the shit out of George W. Bush and his corporate minions who have done more damage to this country in eight years than any thinking intelligent person could have imagined.

You wouldn't guess this from a former conservative who will never forgive himself for voting Bush into office two times. Only in the last couple of years has the ether finally started to wear off... how our ilk have consistently selected to leadership those who have the greatest capacity and willingness to bend us over and screw us the hardest without mercy or regret.

So why the about face? In short, it was a fortuitous immersion in the very bullshit conservative media shit storm of talk radio that finally convinced me that I was very much on the wrong track... Hour after hour, day after day, months into years. That kind of tiresome, repetitive exposure to "The Right" should long ago have solidly entrenched me on their side.

But something very different happened. The more I heard them talk, the more I realized what a disconnect I was observing between their lying bullshit and what I was observing around me. I was witnessing the general deterioration of the lives of hard-working people around me, simultaneously coming to see and know just how corrupt and evil are those we vote and depend on for leadership and security. Everything the talking heads on the right warned us about liberals and progressives never materialized. Most everything they promised would happen to our country in the honest capable hands of good conservative leadership never happened either...

Monday, May 5, 2008

Collapse, Or Suicide?

I have a highly-trained American mind.

As the jeers and howls rising from the gallery make clear, this is not a point on which to boast.

Normally, when economic matters are touched on (I will not say discussed) in the national conversation, the materials required rarely rise above the sophistication of a 64-color Crayola box.

Lately, we've dragged out the 128-color set, and things are heating up.

I recently watched a video of a one-hour lecture given by Elizabeth Warren of Harvard Law to an audience at UC Berkeley last June entitled "The Coming Collapse of the Middle Class." (h/t Mike's Blog Round Up and Corrente Wire).

Professor Warren presents some stark data demonstrating the economic fix that American families find themselves in after 30 years of the rise of the dual-income model. It's a great talk, as it begins by tingling the counterintuitive nodes, and ends with the "but of course" that signals a truly successful presentation. Block an hour and watch it yourself, but what I came away with is that while we find that "normal" families (two heads of household) enjoy greater income, the majority of that income is imprisoned by non-discretionary expenses. Consequently, they are so imprisoned.

In this post, I highlighted the national fantasy of wealth, and Warren's talk drove home just how fantastical it really is. I mean, really - even one so bitter about such matters as I am is taken aback. Did I mention that you should watch it?

Now, having a highly-trained American mind is useful in understanding these matters.

The American mind is trained to identify with the successful, and any attacks upon "the high life" are perceived as tyrannical impediments to My Personal Future Success. They are seen as advocacy for a model which is based on Keeping Everyone Down. They are un-American.

In a nutshell, that is it. That is why progressive income distribution is impossible here. It is traitorous, communistic... un-American to not be a capitalist and worship at the throne of success. Even the most progressive of lefty socialists, if they are to be considered a serious contender for public office and be allowed to even get close to the levers of economic policy, must go out of his or her way to toss paeons of idolatry to the American Dream. Which is, of course, to be successful.

America is in trouble, we can see that and say that. But what, really, would a "saved" America look like? Given the depth of the root of the tree that is American thought and identity, would a "saved" America even be America at all?

Joe Bageant (emphasis mine):
...A couple of weeks ago at a speaking engagement I asked the audience to raise their hands if they thought total collapse was the only catalyst that can bring meaningful change to America. Every hand went up.

I was struck damned near speechless. Three years ago when that question was asked, a hand seldom went up in the audience.

Something is afoot inside Americans, something no candidate dare talk about nor the media dare mention.
Afoot, indeed. Not to sound un-American, but it looks to me that in terms of the American identity, our choice is between collapse or suicide.