Tag: Politics

Despite Sandy, Global Climate Change is MIA in Campaigns

Fifty years from now, it won’t matter a whit who won the 2012 Presidential election in the United States. The entire human race will be focused instead on minimizing the loss of human life to as few tens of millions as possible as global climate change overcomes rumors of its mythical nature and wipes out huge portions of the planet.

Neither Barack Obama nor Mitt Romney has so much as mentioned climate change during the campaign. The President has taken some modest steps toward environmental cleanup but he’s far, far short of the kinds of drastic measures that are now clearly called for. Romney’s site does not, as far as I can tell, even mention climate change. You can use their search box to locate the topic and a bunch of links come up but as far as I can tell, not one of them is on topic.

Climate change is real. Superstorms like Sandy will seem like child’s play in 20 years or less. The new storms will be bigger, more powerful and more frequent. And that will be the least of our problems.

What will it take for our national leadership to recognize the problem and force the kind of change on us that we need to make if we expect humanity to survive even somewhat unchanged? If “Frankenstorm” can’t do it, what will?

The most articulate description of the dilemma we face and the choices we will be forced to make comes in a well-done amateur video called “The Worst That Could Happen.”

You should stop now and watch it. Regardless of your beliefs about climate change (aka global warming in one of the worst misnomers in history), this movie will persuade you that action is preferable to inaction.

It’s already too late to avoid some of the most devastating consequences of our actions. Perhaps extinction of the human species can be avoided. But not if our leaders continue to whistle past the rapidly melting graveyard.

What Killed the French Republic Could Kill America

Mike Lofgren’s piece on truthout today is a great read and a relevant red flag for anyone who really cares about the preservation of the American democratic experiment. In it, he draws some chilling parallels between the fall of France’s Third Republic in the early to mid 20th Century and the state of socioeconomic and political affairs in the United States today.

He cites the following connections between the two historical periods:

  • President Obama and John Boehner Are GridlockedThe rich corrupt the system and buy the peoples’ representatives.
  • Political polarization becomes the order of the day.
  • Government becomes gridlocked.
  • Politicians of the right demand war and refuse to participate in paying for it.
  • Plutocrats “engage in class solidarity as alleged ‘job creators’ who are owed unconditional deference that outweighs their loyalty to the nation at large.
  • A growing share of the population develops “a visceral sense that the system is rigged.”
  • A “retrograde religious Right” seeks to “roll back the secular state.”
  • “The political groupings of the center and left, on the other hand, are dithering, irresolute, and have not the courage of their own alleged convictions.”

This description does have a clear ring of familiarity about it, does it not?

As I’ve said before here, I worry more about the decimation of the Right than I do about the one-time defeat of the Left if it happens. Without a strong two-party system — and within the framework of reality that we will never have a multi-party parliamentary-style democracy despite its obvious advantages — we fall into dictatorship. And I don’t care if the dictating party is left, right, center or Mars. It will be a Bad Thing.

This is another attempt to wake up America. I hope the alarm clock goes off where it’s needed.

 

Dems Getting Out the Early Vote in Key States

According to press reports, President Obama is getting huge leads in early voting in a number of key states. Reports from various sources this morning indicate that:

  • 21% of Ohio voters have already voted with a 66% – 34% Obama lead. (Ohio is about the only crucial swing state left in real play.)
  • In Iowa, a Wall Street Journal Iowa Poll shows 18% of TOTAL votes cast in 2008 have been cast early. Obama leads 67% to 32%
  • In Nevada, Democrats racked up an 11,000 vote lead in the first day of early voting Saturday

Of course, none of these is an indicator that the Democrats and Obama will carry those states at all and certainly not by those margins. But it is indicative that the Democrats are proving far more effective at getting out the early vote than the GOP.

As I’ve said before repeatedly, this election is just about locked in for Obama despite all the ludicrous national popularity polling that shows this to be a close race. At uberpolling site fivethirtyeight.com, Obama is a 70% favorite to win the Electoral College.

The ground game is going to be determinative, as it almost always is. Republicans have abandoned registration efforts in several states due to a terrible legal snafu with the company they hired to register voters. Reports suggest that in those states their GOTV (Get Out The Vote) efforts have also flagged as workers become discouraged with the antics of the party apparatchik.

 

Romney Gains Pyrrhic Victory in Debate

Mitt Romney won tonight’s first Presidential Debate fairly handily, I thought. He looked energetic, sounded smart, articulated well, and contrasted with a professorially desultory President Obama.

But I think Romney’s victory will prove more costly than its real long-term value for three reasons.

First, he all but abandoned the Right on their hot-button issues. He “moderated” his stance on regulation, on tax policy, on Obamacare, and several other topics so far that he came off sounding reasonable. Which the Tea Party will not tolerate.

Second, he lied while flip-flopping on his 18-month-old economic plan and claiming he doesn’t plan to implement any tax cut that increases the deficit.

Third, he came off like a bully in his shabby treatment of moderator Jim Lehrer and the rules of debate.

 

Iranian News Agency Cites Onion Article Seriously

This is one of those doubly funny stories that come along infrequently.

According to Emily Heil of the Washington Post, an independent news agency in Iran picked up a story from the satire site, The Onion, that lampooned President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad by saying, among other ridiculous things, that a poll showed 77% of rural white Americans preferred him to President Obama, and ran the story verbatim as if it were truth.

Satire and irony don’t translate well and it’s hard to blame the Iranian news editors. But that doesn’t make this story any less hysterical.

Pollsters Making Stupid 2008 Mistake, Undercounting Obama Backers

One of the reasons the 2008 Presidential election turned into such an Electoral College runaway for Barack Obama was the fact that most if not all of the pollsters predicting the outcome used outdated methods that focused exclusively on land-line phone numbers. The younger set — which turned out huge for Obama — hardly knows what a land line is. If you want to find out what they’re thinking, you had to undertake the far more difficult task of reaching people on cell phones.

It appears pollsters are for the most part making the same stupid mistake this year. If this is true and if continues, expect Obama to end up 4-8 points higher in the final results than the polls will have the race going into its final days.

On Jobs, Let’s Compare Apples to Apples

This week's jobs report said the economy only gained 96,000 jobs last month. That seems pathetic and the media have consistently played it that way.

But there's another way of thinking about this, a more realistic way that needs to be kept in mind as we make our choice for President in less than 60 days and that's by comparing numbers rather than taking them in isolation.

In context, George W. Bush was losing 750,000 jobs/month. To be gaining any jobs now is a huge improvement. Is 96,000 new jobs worth celebrating? It sure is for that nearly 100,000. And it gives hope to many who remain unemployed — even long term — that the situation isn't getting any worse.

Ask yourself how many jobs per month would be lost if McCain had won in '08? Or how many will be lost if Romney-Ryan wins this time? Sure, the recovery is slow. But it's a recovery, not the double-dip recession widely feared before President Obama was elected.

The President was right Thursday night. The Republican message is, "We left Obama a much bigger mess than anyone knew. In four years, he hasn't completely fixed it. So put us back in power." Nonsense.

Comparing GOP and Dem Energy Plans: Obama’s Better But Still Not Good

This piece on SmartPlanet.com is a detailed look at the two major political parties' energy plans that seems to me to qualify as scientifically reasonably objective and quite helpful.

Columnist Chris Nelder picks apart both parties' plans, finding much to dislike in both of them. In the end, he gives a slight nod to the Obama plan but acknowledges that it is nonetheless full of holes.

He concludes his piece with this observation:

At least as far as energy policy is concerned, there isn’t really a choice between the two candidates at all. One is leading us toward a semi-realistic future, while the other would leave us in the lurch as fossil fuels decline. And while it’s true that elections are about more than energy issues, if energy becomes the biggest challenge of this century as I expect it will, then maybe that’s all you really need to know.

Unfortunately, energy policy is one part of the much larger issue of climate change and on this point, our President's policies are woefully inadequate. Truthout.org today carried a piece fact-checking the Democratic Party platform and while I found some of their "fact" checking more like "opinion refuting," I did agree on the facts with their assessment of President Obama's actions to date on this crucial — life-or-death — issue.

President Obama has steadily undermined international efforts to confront the gravest global concern, lied about it, distracted from it and gotten away with it.

 Neither major party seems to want to think about global climate change despite mountains of scientific evidence that we are rapidly approaching — if we haven't already crossed — the Point of No Return beyond which lies the possible decimation of humanity. It's certain a Romney-Ryan White House would do even less to address the problem than four more years of Obama-Biden, but neither seems willing to make the tough call on this toughest of problems.

What’s Your News Diet?

I've been spending more time than usual lately, thanks largely to the U.S. Presidential Election, reading news. In fact, i've been spending way too much time on that task, so I decided to spend a little time reassessing my approach to the news and seeing if I could somehow streamline it without losing any real value.

On any given day, I tend to read my news from the following sites:

  • Yahoo or Google News (Yahoo's been edging out Google recently)
  • The WEEK Magazine
  • truthout.org
  • AP
  • PBS
  • Pulse (on my iPad, though they have a Mac version now as well)
  • My friend Tony Seton's private news feed
  • NBC
  • MSNBC
  • Salon.com

In the aggregators (Yahoo News, Google News, The WEEK, and Pulse), I get a smattering of other major outlets but I allow the folks responsible for the sites' content to pick and choose for me.

I asked my friend Tony Seton (he of the private news feed), a long-time savvy journalist, thinker and writer, for his recommendations for the slightly above-average American who is interested in keeping current on important news without spending the 2-3 hours a day I spend on it or the 3-4 hours a day Tony devotes. I wanted his help whittling down the vast reservoir from which we draw our news to a small number of outlets that most people who care at all (a distinct but not minuscule minority) would find time to read in some depth. Our focus is strictly on news, not on columnists and analysts.

Tony trusts almost nobody to edit for him, so he doesn't look at any news aggregators except a California-centric site called Rough & Tumble. His thought is that if you read the LA Times, BBC and AP, you get a pretty good idea of the important things going on in the world around you in as objective a way as you're likely to find. So Tony's abbreviated list for the busy reader:

He does, however, say that he won't give up the New York Times even though he considers it a bit pedantic for his taste. The LA Times does a great job of national and international news and the fact that it is based in the state in which he lives (and so do I), makes it that much more valuable.

I mix it up a lot. But I have found some sources that I've eliminated completely:

  • Wall Street Journal (once venerable and reliable, now FoxInPrint)
  • USA Today (brings new meaning to the word "shallow")
  • Washington Post (too insular, but some of their columnists are world-class)

What do you read or listen to?