IBI Watch 1/8/12

8 01 2012

There Must be a Better Way //

I want to thank the Republican Party and its candidates, but most of all the national media for the incredible insights they have provided to me and others over the past, interminable year.  That’s right – I know so much more about classical music, jazz, and all manner of radio-delivered culture.  This news junkie could take no more speculation, opinion sharing and fluffy ‘news’ in the final five days before the Iowa Caucuses – so I turned the damned news off every time a word about the state was uttered.

Why has it come to this? Does anyone really treasure the two years of campaigning, bribing, exposing and blackmailing that leads up to each time we elect a president to a four-year term?  Does anyone think it delivers the best, or even a good, choice for chief executive?  And never mind how the money-thon affects the two-year terms to the House.

Of course, the real and only reason this goes on – other than mindless inertia and the ‘my state’s earlier than your state’ contest – is the buckets of cash that run the system.  We can’t afford public-funded elections, we are told.  So we can afford this?

Our friend Robert Reich has first-hand experience with this corrupt, broken system.  I had no idea that Reich’s connection with the well-oiled, well-heeled, front-running candidate for all positions was so close.  And commentator LZ Granderson is just as fed up with the endless parade as me.

So what about those better ways?  More and more people and communities are starting to make the connection – unlimited spending by corporations and tycoons feeds the machine.  If we ever hope to overhaul that machine to make it deliver a system for the people, of the people, by the people, we need to get the money out of the process.  Here is one new example – from Duluth.  And on a wide scale, the Move to Amend group is working hard for reform.  To paraphrase the Beatles, “You say you’ll change the Constitution, well you know, We all want to change it, bad!’  Sign Move’s petition, and get involved in other ways.  For instance, there is probably an event near you on January 20.

And what about the never-ending quest for the unholy grail, i.e., the state with the earliest primary?  Try this on – A building wave of Super Tuesdays, beginning just eight weeks before the November elections.  That’s right, start the whole thing right after Labor Day.  Group the states thus: 5, 10, 15, 20.  Rotate the states every four years, except preserve Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina’s place in the first group – to maintain tradition.  Can you imagine how such a system, coupled with the end of corporate personhood, would cut into the spending orgy, and the endless, pointless, media-driven debates?  Can you imagine how much progress we can make on the really important problems facing us?  Can you imagine so many more productive uses for the resources wasted on endless campaigning?  Believe.  Learn.  Act.

GOP Candidate Roundup

Here is all the news you really need on the crowd.  First, Doonesbury speculates on what might happen when the meanest mad dog in the bunch travels through airport security.  And though Michele Bachmann, much to comics’ chagrin, has left the race, her exit deserves special recognition.  Doggy sunglasses?!!  And then there is always the bottomless well of satire, never disappointing.  And finally not just one, but two more chapters on GOP candidates’ tin cultural ear.  First, here is more on the most outrageous campaign songs.  And Paul Krugman has some inconvenient truth about the history of that beloved anthem, America the Beautiful.  Particularly inconvenient to the latest GOP candidate to rise up, Rick Santorum!

Agony, Ecstasy, Awakening

Ever wonder where all that amazing technology comes from?  Particularly the most amazing, elegant tech of all, products from Apple? For most of us, understanding that they come from China, where labor costs less, is enough.  But that was not nearly enough knowledge for Mike Daisey.  He turned his curiosity into a quest that culminated in a one-man show – The Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs – that has garnered rave reviews.  Read some here.  If you spend a little time with Mike Daisey, you will see that he has a way of telling stories that catches our attention and makes us care.  Watch to a short interview he did about what he learned.  The interviewer does not toss him softballs – and Daisey does not argue for extreme solutions, just reasonable, fair, humane ones.  For the best insight into Daisey’s work – short of attending the play when it visits you – check the web site of NPR’s This American Life.  Here’s a TAL promo.  Audio will be available Sunday evening 1/8/12.  Highly recommended.

Misinterpreted, Misunderstood, Mislabeled

This brief article is not about politics, at least not directly.  But it is about a traditionally stigmatized group – those of us who suffer from mental illness.  The author, my son Brendan, proposes some unconventional means of support for people in this group.  Interesting and provocative.

The Climes We Are a Changing

The Star Tribune’s weather reporter, Bill McAuliffe, deserves some credit.  In the January 7 edition, he did a beautiful full-page 2011 weather summary feature with the apt title, Going to Extremes.  And he tells it like is . . . to a point.  He shows all the highs (many), the lows (far fewer), the big weather events – tornadoes, floods droughts, and even the long-term trend (clearly warming).  But there is not a word from start to finish about what might be causing this.  Not a word about 390 parts per million carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.  We must not offend subscribers or trolls, you see.  So here are a few facts left out.  First – our winter temperatures in January-March 2011 indeed measured slightly below average (1.1 to 2.7 degrees below, specifically).  But this allegedly cold winter bottomed out at -16, for a few hours.  Historically here in the Twin Cities, that is a very unusually high annual low – and this winter, we have not seen zero yet!  And in July – more dramatic evidence of the greenhouse effect of our emissions – “The Twin Cities experienced record high overnight low temperatures on July 17 (79), July 18 (80) and July 20 (80) and sweated through an all-time record dew point July 19 (82). . . The three-day July 17-19 stretch in the Twin Cities with dew points of 80 or higher was a record.”  Oh, once we got through that ‘cold’ winter and spring, every month since then has been above average, in some cases dramatically.  October, November and December have been 6.4, 5.5 and 8.1 degrees above average.  And that outside-the curve trend has become even more pronounced in January.  Looks like time to fuel up the lawnmower. Heh, heh.

Fortunately, we have many sources that add to the story told in the McAuliffe summary. Check this entry from Paul Douglas’s blog:

“Remarkably Dry And Warm Winter Due To Record Extreme Jet Stream Configuration. Something is up with the jet stream – changes that have meteorologists scratching their heads in wonder. 4 of the last 6 winters have seen record AO and NAO indices. Weather Underground’s Jeff Masters has a fascinating post explaining what’s going on, but the whys are still very much up in the air: “The cause of this warm first half of winter is the most extreme configuration of the jet stream ever recorded, as measured by the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO). The Arctic Oscillation (AO), and its close cousin, the North Atlantic Oscillation (which can be thought of as the North Atlantic’s portion of the larger-scale AO), are climate patterns in the Northern Hemisphere defined by fluctuations in the difference of sea-level pressure in the North Atlantic between the Icelandic Low and the Azores High. The AO and NAO have significant impacts on winter weather in North America and Europe–the AO and NAO affect the path, intensity, and shape of the jet stream, influencing where storms track and how strong these storms become. During December 2011, the NAO index was +2.52, which was the most extreme difference in pressure between Iceland and the Azores ever observed in December (records of the NAO go back to 1865.)”

Still with me?  Here is that Jeff Masters post that Douglas cites.  Sure looks like a world system in the throes of major long-term change to this careful observer.

Need a laugh?  Me too.  Bill Maher never disappoints.  Sorry, Britain.  This joke’s on you.  Could it be that some of Tony Blair’s hobnobbing with the Decider has tragically dumbed down some of the British public?  Heckuva job, lads!

Boulder Rocks

Electricity generation is by far the biggest source of manmade greenhouse gas emissions.  That’s why Boulder Colorado’s recent experience is inspiring.  Less coal, more renewables, more progress.  Read about the lead-up to an important vote, and the outcome.

Dark for Good

It’s a type of pollution that gets little attention.  You can see it when you drive the interstate.  A long distance from a large city, the glow of the city lights up the sky.  Why?  We need to burn less fuel – why not dim the damned lights?  We – and nature – would be so much better for the change.  Peter Leschak has a fine piece in the 1/7 Star Tribune on this topic.  Curbing light pollution, and cutting greenhouse gas emissions is a win-win proposition if there ever was one.  This organization has long pursued this inexplicably quixotic quest.

Great Names for Malls

It’s not often that decidedly non-political comics get a sustainability issue right.  But such was the case with Pickles this week.  It made me think of an excellent song by Storyhill.

“My 1st Congress on Your Corner starts now. Please stop by to let me know what is on your mind or tweet me later. ” – Gabrielle Giffords

Contributed links or content to this posting – Jeanine Bontrager, Jeff Carlson, Allyson Harper, Brendan Murphy




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