IBI Watch 5/15/11

15 05 2011

Sampling Republican Presidential Hopefuls – The Smart*, the Mad and the Silly

Today, news that former Governor Mike Huckabee has decided to sit this one out.  Too bad for the Republicans – he had a real chance.  Though Huckabee has much credibility with conservative Christians (he’s willfully ignorant on evolution), he actually ran Arkansas in a decidedly non-ideological fashion.  He is also witty and gutsy – he once appeared on NPR’s Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me and made a great showing.  That’s why I would have assigned Huckabee to the Smart* category.

The non-ideological description also fits the GOP’s assumed front-runner, Mitt Romney.  And of course, in the modern, extreme-right Republican Party, that is the Mitt’s biggest problem.  It is entertaining watching him twist and turn and deny his main success – the establishment of an inclusive health care system in his state, Massachusetts.  First link – a short video that is about a year old.  It highlights the key issue that still haunts Romney.  Too bad, because judging by the evidence, Romney is arguably the least destructive potential Republican hopeful from a progressive perspective.  Too damned smart*, I think!

And what about the Mad? That is, ‘mad’ in the sense of angry, not unhinged.  For angry, it’s hard the beat the back-to-the future candidate, the flamethrower himself, Newt Gingrich.  Just announced this week, Gingrich has a slew of credibility problems, with none more serious than own personal responsibility.  Remember – this is the guy who led the morality-based impeachment of President Clinton, all the while philandering himself.  And in recent years, he has become what you might call ‘conveniently Catholic,’ in concert with his third(!) marriage.  I looked for a useful link for this story – I read that the Newt, while Speaker of the House, pushed for a completely transparent Congress.  That is, every meeting with any citizen, any lobbyist, any corporate titan, would be duly noted, recorded, and available to the public.  All ‘gifts’ and ‘favors’ would be forbidden.  Now that is a platform worth cheering.  Sadly, I could find no evidence that the Contract with America included such a provision.  So, this Christian Science Monitor link will have to do.

And now the Silly.  Let’s fact-check Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann.  Yes, a dirty job, but, well, you know . . .

Final link – for good measure, an updated, big-picture view of the field from NPR.





Climate Chaos – Human Fingerprints?

The debate continues to rage – at least here in science-challenged America.  As carbon dioxide in the atmosphere inexorably grows, and scientists tell us that an atmosphere supercharged by our tailpipe and smokestack emissions will be dangerously unstable, we demand more proof.  That is, enough of us, helped by the likes of ExxonMobil and the Koch Brothers, continue to ‘doubt,’ hamstringing efforts to put our country and world on a sustainable path.

First link – a great site I just discovered.  It tracks NOAA data on atmospheric carbon dioxide.  Before you look, remember that pre-industrial CO2 levels were below 200 parts per million.  As you will see, we are now growing steadily through the 390s.  Hmm, must be those darned sunspots again.  Second link – a Paul Rosenberg piece that quotes prominent scientists who are making the case that we already know enough to base policy decisions on greenhouse gases and sustainability – if enough of us would pay attention.  Finally, an article by Daniel Denvir that looks at the bigger picture of today’s GOP and its fact-averse agenda.  The climate ‘debate’ is only one of the most prominent examples of Republicans’ willfully ignorant approach to science.  What I like best about this piece is this – the author makes a powerful connection that I have long pointed out.  That is, it compares modern Republicans’ corporatist manipulation of science with another ideological manipulation from the past – Stalin’s Soviet Union.  And we know what happened in the end to the Soviet Union.





It wasn’t too long ago that the Obama Administration’s much-ballyhooed and also much-maligned effort to transform the American fleet of passenger vehicles ran its course. So, what was the outcome?  What replaced all those Expeditions, Suburbans, Durangos and other gargantuan gas guzzlers?  Judging by this photo essay, the program had a positive effect.  And BTW – I can personally vouch for two vehicles on the list.  We own a Ford Focus and a Nissan Versa – both fuel-efficient and reliable.  And just for fun, a concert video of Loudon Wainwright III, who took this program as a starting point for an entertaining satire of modern politics.



McCain Tells it Like it is – Based on Personal Experience

Remember when Senator John McCain was a ‘maverick?’  Remember when he spoke his mind on so many issues, staking out positions that often contrasted with right-wing ideological purity?  Of course, that was before the Republican Party became so much more extreme, and thoughtful candidates like McCain, Romney, Pawlenty and so many others had to denounce their previous common sense in order to curry favor with the Tea Party.  The old McCain stepped forward this week and spoke on the issue he cares deeply about – the moral repugnance and indefensibility of torture.  He has a strong, experience-based reason for this stance – he lived through hell as a prisoner of the North Vietnamese.  But this got me thinking.  With the Republican Party staking out anti-facts positions on this and so many other issues, what will it take for them to accept the wisdom of experts, of scientific consensus, of the need for preserving the common good.  Dick Cheney opposes anti-gay legislation.  Why?  He has a lesbian daughter.  James Brady supports reasonable weapons laws.  Why?  He was nearly killed by a maniac with a gun.  Will the James Inhofes, the Michele Bachmanns, the Sarah Palins, etc., all have to personally experience the consequences of their purposefully ignorant (‘pignorant’)policy positions in order for good change to happen?  Just asking.


Common Sense – Somebody’s Got to Pay

One more reason why Paul Krugman is the go-to guy for economics.  He cuts through the rhetoric for the cold, hard facts on solving our nation’s economic woes.  See if you don’t agree.


Making Good Things Happen for the Common Good – or at Least Trying

Back in the 80s, we were sold a bill of goods.  It’s morning in America, President Reagan told us in his grandfatherly way.  The government was the problem.  Stripping away regulation and cutting taxes would lead to broad prosperity.  The good fortune would be shared by all.  We bought it, and something trickled down all right – but it sure wasn’t prosperity.  Today, income distribution in this great country of ours resembles not Canada, not Germany, not even Great Britain.  No, our peers in this important area may be shocking – Mexico, Brazil and Russia.  This is the logical result of policies that favor the wealthy over everyone else, the private sector over the public.  What to do?

For an understanding of what is going on, it’s hard to beat Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine.  I also recently finished a book by David Cay Johnston, Free Lunch.  Johnston meticulously describes case after case of wealthy, powerful people gaming the system for their own gain – with the public footing the bill.  My favorite stories – how George W amassed his own fortune in Texas, and how George Steinbrenner took NYC to the cleaners while replacing the storied House that Ruth Built with his elite-serving new palace.  At the very least, you’ll think twice about buying anything from Cabela’s after reading.  Next, a new book looks promising as a guide for progressives.  And finally, a speculation and discussion – what idea, what cause, could unite progressives?





Music Moves Us for the Good

As a very dedicated hobby musician, I sometimes wonder whether it’s worth the time I devote.  And then I come across studies like this one.  For good measure, I also link to two important books on the matter of what music does for us.  And remember – music is just one area that will suffer mightily if we continue down the Republican path of slashing and burning budgets for social programs and education.




“Media manipulation in the U.S. today is more efficient than it was in Nazi Germany, because here we have the pretense that we are getting all the information we want. That misconception prevents people from even looking for the truth.” – Mark Crispin Miller

Contributed links to this posting – Jeff Carlson,  Allyson Harper




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