IBI Watch 5/1/11

1 05 2011

The Money Party – Our ‘Bidness’

If you had to boil down what’s gone wrong in modern America, you could make a good case for this – the outsized influence of corporate money in politics.  And when you look at recent developments – especially the Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United, you’d have to admit that things are not proceeding in a very hopeful direction.  It’s pushing us toward a real one-party system – the Money Party.  I still maintain under current conditions, in most cases the best option for progressives is to work to elect Democrats and then hold their trembling feet to the fire.

First – a piece from progressive activist Jim Hightower on how those ‘rebels,’ the Tea Partiers, are faring in Congress. I like his term for the perpetrators of the great financial heist – ‘banksters.’


Chris Hedges makes a persuasive case that things have already gone too far on the national scene.  In other words, corporate power is so overwhelming, and the influence-peddling system is so locked in place, that it’s not possible to make change happen on a grand scale.  You have to admit he has a point.  Remember November 2008?  Maybe 900 days ago?  We elected a would-be progressive president.  Well, how much ‘progress’ has really happened?  Even the baby-step health care reform bill is now endangered by the corporatist Republican majority in the House.  Hedges’ prescription?  Build and preserve democracy in local communities.   In addition to the Hedges article, take a look at this piece on the national agent for corporate power, the US Chamber of Commerce.



To my mind, there are two potential ways to restore a radical idea that I used to think this country was about.  You remember, government by the people, for the people?  Those two ways are simple to explain, but just try to make them happen in today’s climate.  The first is publicly funded elections.  That’s right, get the money out, and the public welfare in.  The second is ranked-choice voting.  With ranked-choice voting, we never would have endured eight years of the W administration.

  • I maintain that, with both of these changes in place, we would have the following:
  • Shorter, more focused election seasons – as you see in so many other countries
  • A chance for people to vote for the candidate they really want to win, rather than the lesser of two evils
  • Dramatically fewer attack ads and ignorance-spewing, demagogic ‘candidates’

I know, chances for all this are less than zero.  Still, let’s dream.  And maybe even act. Read up on both quixotic movements right here.



Worst Wheels

With our gas price back up to about $4, it is encouraging to see that American automakers are really turning out some better products – particularly Ford and GM.  The plug-in hybrid Chevy Volt has garnered much attention, and Ford’s Fiesta has impressive fuel economy.  We have come a long way from battleships like the Caprice Classic and the LTD Brougham.  Even Chrysler has hope, what with small-car power Fiat now at the controls.

Still, recent years have seen a proliferation of highway tanks – Expeditions, Excursions, Suburbans, Durangos.  Think – what happens when those rolling city blocks corrode into hoopties, driven by economically challenged owners, and not maintained at all.  The fact is that rotted tanks can cause a hell of a lot more damage than yesterday’s Vegas and Pintos.  The reason – even in their old age, the big bruisers can still drive over the rocker panels of any sensible vehicle, and then there is that pesky rollover problem.  Ah, that damned physics will get you every time!

Check this list of the worst cars coming out these days, and see how many bloated gas hogs make the list.  Next, check a book I recommend.  Finally, look at this piece on raising fuel economy standards – check her for some good myth debunking.





Royal Wedding Follies

No matter what medium you turned to this past week, it was the William and Kate show.  OK, I must join in.  Let’s ‘celebrate’ Britain’s Royal Wedding!



Tornadoes and Manmade Climate Chaos

Our neighbors to the south deserve our sympathy and assistance.  What is called by many an unprecedented outbreak of tornadoes has left an almost unfathomable wake of death, destruction and suffering.

You can find opinions bordering on certainty as to whether this outbreak is caused by manmade climate chaos (my term for global warming).  But of course you can’t say for certain either way.  Deniers – including minority-view, skeptical scientists – will say categorically that there is no connection – it’s just La Niña, we’ve had tornadoes before, etc.  Others might say it’s a clear case of cause and effect.  The truth is not simply partway between these two extremes –it’s way more complex, and therefore uncertain.  But here are some widely-accepted facts:

  • Atmospheric carbon dioxide today stands at just over 390 parts per million
  • Preindustrial levels of CO2 stood below 280 ppm
  • Atmospheric CO2 tracks with global temperatures – the higher the level, the warmer the planet
  • Computer models of climate point towards less predictable, more volatile weather as more carbon is added to the atmosphere

First link is an amazing animation from NOAA.  It shows levels of atmospheric CO2 down through the ages.  It takes only three minutes, and is well worth it.  Second is a current Star Tribune piece that quotes local meteorologist Kenny Blumenfeld – note his ominous prediction for Minnesota’s not-too-distant future regarding tornado outbreaks like the one just visited on Alabama.  Finally, a Truthout piece that features the comments of Dr. Kevin Trenberth, one of the world’s top climate scientists.  I like it because it illustrates what I consider a wise point of view on these matters.  To use a metaphor:

With our tailpipe and smokestack emissions, we are treating the climate as we might poke a slumbering, powerful, dangerous beast with a sharp stick.  That beast seems to be waking up, and we can see its fangs.  Deniers advise continued poking – after all, the beast has not obviously and undeniably killed any of us.  Others say we should put down the damned stick and figure out what is going on.  I know which view I hold – how about you?





Distorted Reality Bites

This is a short entry about two potential American leaders.  I give you Mitt Romney and Van Jones.  Mitt Romney first.  Here is a guy with a proven track record as a Republican governor in arguably the bluest state in America.  Of course, there is that Mormon religion of his – an issue for the conservative Christian fundamentalists that are so important in today’s Republican party.  But that aside, this guy should be the Republicans’ strongest candidate. But wait – he did what?  Enact an inclusive health care system in his state?  In today’s twisted, propagandized, ignorance-ridden environment, that kind of success is deadly for a would-be Republican candidate.  The Onion weighs in on poor Mitt’s dilemma.  And if those yuks don’t satisfy you, check the Bill Maher appearance on Letterman.  Magic underwear???



And now for Van Jones.  In a fair country where reality mattered, this guy would be a rising star.  His radical idea – correct two of our biggest problems with one initiative – put poor, disadvantaged workers to work building new, green energy infrastructure.  Of course, that would never do in today’s climate. Two links  – a short interview on Democracy Now, and his latest book – recommended.



“All for ourselves, and nothing for other people, seems, in every age of the world, to have been the vile maxim of the masters of mankind.”  – Adam Smith

Contributed  links to this posting – Jeff Carlson,  Allyson Harper




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