Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Captain & Toast explain it all for you

Corny but heartfelt: Two weeks ago during the Damariscotta Pumpkin Fest, people were asked what they love about the town, and here are their responses set to music. After you’ve noted the Captain & Toast at the 2:32 mark, for excitement you can skip to the end to watch the Great Pumpkin Drop! (Sorry, no footage of the pumpkin races here.)

Thursday, September 10, 2009

She's everywhere!

And now she's reached the great orange pinnacle:

Congratulations to the wonderful Alna Harridan for being articulate, thoughtful, photogenic, and having a great voice to boot.

See the video here, and while you're at it, sign the petition to get Senator Snowe to focus her attention on the citizens of Maine instead of the insurance lobby.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Extremely important article

If you can grasp conditional probability - and you can - you'll see that health insurance recission is not rare.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Getting environmentalists out of their silos

I wrote this to help an environmentalist friend of mine persuade others to join him in Accountability Now, the group founded by Jane Hamsher and Glenn Greenwald to keep elected officials responsive to citizens, not lobbyists. Evidently there are still a handful of single-issue activists out there wary of sharing causes and diluting their power.

Here's my advice.
  • First, go back and read The Death of Environmentalism by Shellenberger and Nordhaus from 2005. Essential!
  • The world has changed, and so should an environmental advocacy approach devised in the early 1970s. What we’re doing now isn't working. Shellenberger:

That approach is failing for two reasons: First, the values, mindsets, frames of reference, and belief systems Americans use to make sense of the world have changed dramatically over the last 12 years, but the strategies of the environmental movement have not. Second, we're faced with a set of massive ecological challenges -- global warming, global habitat destruction, global species destruction, deterioration of the world's oceans, the ozone hole -- that are fundamentally different from the kind of problems the environmental movement was constructed 30 years ago to address. On every one of these emerging issues, our national environmental movement has been strikingly ineffectual.

  • Environmentalists, of all people, should see that the world is interconnected – as a “system in which global economic trends, corruption, ideology and values, political participation, etc. are all related to the fundamental goal of a just and sustainable society.” Complex problems resist small-bore strategies. American Prospect:

“The Death of Environmentalism” was less a condemnation of the environmental movement than a call to all progressives to think more like environmentalists -- and for professional environmentalists to think less like Washington lobbyists. The essay's greatest gift was its critique of “policy literalism,” the process by which activists identify a distinct problem, define it as an “environmental” one, seek the proximate cause, propose a solution, and then mobilize their experts, their lobbyists, and their public-relations machines around that solution.

In the most provocative section of their essay, [Shellenberger and Nordhaus] proposed that rather than defining the problem of global warming as “too much carbon in the atmosphere,” the problem should be redefined as:

  • the radical right's control of all three branches of the U.S. government;
  • trade policies that undermine environmental protections;
  • our failure to articulate an inspiring and positive vision;
  • overpopulation;
  • the influence of money in American politics;
  • our inability to craft legislative proposals that shape the debate around core American values;
  • poverty; and
  • old assumptions about what the problem is and what it isn't

When each single-issue silo zealously guards their small piece of power and tries to call to action only for that specific piece, several things happen. First of all, the counterpoint is easily cast as "special interests clinging to power." Second, there is absolutely no continuity of message across the groups, and in fact their messages can conflict with one another.

  • Single-issue groups don’t persuade the unconvinced. They tend to focus on issues and policies (a bad Democratic habit) over discussions of broader values, and they are better at lobbying than messaging. Matt Stoller:

Markos and Jerome continue with an overview of the party itself, which to them is a series of atomized constituencies epitomized by the single-issue groups. The critique of the progressive single-issue group infrastructure is specific, and conceptually it's not difficult to grasp. Progressive organizations were built during a time of a natural Democratic majority; therefore their main task was lobbying Congress. These groups are almost completely unequipped to do mass persuasion and organizing in a divided America that is not entirely convinced of basic assumptions, like that government can competently build infrastructure or that civil rights are important. My favorite piece of this section is when Markos and Jerome describe a gathering of progressive leaders doing lame trust-building exercises and demanding fealty to their pet issue. Sure it's a liberal stereotype, but it's also a nice metaphor for the culture of liberal middle management.

  • Single-issue groups can be short-sighted, as when NARAL endorsed Lincoln Chafee over Sheldon Whitehouse in the Rhode Island senate race, citing his excellent pro-choice record. Chafee went on to vote for Bill Frist as Senate Majority Leader and to confirm “reactionary anti-privacy, anti-choice judges” like Janice Brown and the Supreme Court nominees Roberts and Alito. Says Markos:

Until NARAL (and the rest of the single-issue groups) understand that building a movement is more beneficial to their causes than singular devotion to their pet causes, I can't take them seriously. Divided those groups are being picked off, one by one. Trial lawyers, you're next up. United, the Republicans stand. The groups I take seriously? MoveOn, Democracy for America, National Political Hip Hop Conference, the bloggers -- groups that are working to build an effective progressive movement, not a single issue. Because when Democrats regain power, choice, the environment, worker's rights -- the whole gamut -- will be protected.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Minnesota humor

In honor of Mr. Alna Dem, of Excelsior, MN:
Two Minnesotans, Sven & Ole, walk into a pet shop near Brainerd. They head to the bird section and Sven says to Ole, "Dat's dem."

The owner comes over and asks if he can help them.

"Yah sure, ve'll take four of dem der little budgies in dat cage up dere," says Sven.

The owner puts the budgies in a paper bag. Ole and Sven pay for the birds, leave the shop, get into Sven's pick-up and drive to the top of some big cliffs near Brainerd Lake.

At the cliffs, Sven looks down at the 1000 foot drop and says, "Dis looks like a grand place."

He takes two birds out of the bag, puts them on his shoulders and jumps off the cliff. Ole watches as Sven falls all the way to the bottom, killing himself dead.

Looking down at the remains of his best pal, Ole shakes his head and says: "By yumpin' yiminy, dis budgie yumping is too dangerous for me."
VAIT!!! Der's MOR!
Moments later Knute arrives up at the cliffs.

He's been to the pet shop, too, and walks up to the edge of the cliff carrying another paper bag in one hand and a shotgun in the other.

"Hey, Ole. Vatch dis," Knute says. He takes a parrot from the bag and throws himself over the edge of the cliff.

Ole watches as half way down, Knute takes the gun and shoots the parrot. Knute continues to plummet down and down until he hits the bottom and breaks every bone in his body.

Ole shakes his head and says, "And I'm never trying dat parrotshooting either."
BUT VAIT!!! Der's MORE , you betcha!!
Ole is just getting over the shock of losing two friends when Lars appears.

He's also been to the pet shop and is carrying a paper bag, out of which he pulls a chicken.

Lars grasps the chicken by the legs, holds it over his head, hurls himself off the cliff and disappears down and down until he hits a rock and breaks his spine.

Once more Ole shakes his head. "First der was Sven with his budgie yumping, den Knute parrotshooting, and now Lars, hengliding ..."
Sorry, I had to.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

The duplicity of George Will laid out here. It's quite a record. I've always thought of Will as an insufferable, self-regarding toad without quite knowing why. I didn't know about the lies and ethical lapses. Guess my instincts are good.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Former Republican to Obama: Drop the bipartisanship. We're not worthy.

This open letter to Obama from former religious rightwinger Frank Schaeffer is simply astounding. He takes every warning the left has made against bipartisan soul-selling and amplifies it - then hits it out of the park. He says:
  • The religious right and neocons who constitute the majority of the party are motivated by hatred and fear.
  • Both groups despise Obama and will do everything in their power to see him fail.
  • The show of civility in D.C. is just that - a show. "Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter are the norm not the exception," Schaeffer says.
  • There is no common ground with such people.
This passage is particularly illuminating:
The problem is that when you deal with the Republican Party you're talking to the polished characters in Washington. I wish you could see the hate e-mail's that I have received over the last two years because I supported you, letters calling for God to kill me, telling me that I hate God because I supported you and that I am "an abortionist" and worse a "fag lover" because I've written that I believe that you will be a great president.

What those senators and congressmen are telling you is not what their rabid core constituents are telling them. Their loyalty is to a fundamentalist Christian ideology on the one hand and American exceptionalism of perpetual warfare and hatred and fear of the "other" on the other hand. Between the neoconservatives and evangelical Religious Right Republicans you have no friends.
Schaeffer's prescription: Quit extending a hand and get in the GOP's face. Govern by winning battles. Most Americans are already behind Obama, and some of the rest will come around when they see the GOP exposed for what it is. "Americans are sick of Republicans," he says.
The Democratic Party won for a reason: the Republicans failed and have taken us all down with them! You're doing your presidency and America no favor by extending an open hand to the perpetually knotted fist of what has become the embittered lunatic fringe of our country. They would rather go down in flames than "compromise" their ideology.
He concludes:
As you showed us again at your press conference of Feb 9, you are a brilliant, articulate and decent man. Your Republican opponents are not decent people but ideologues bent on destroying you. To quote the biblical adage sir, don't cast your pearls before swine.
I hope Obama still reads Huffington Post.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

They hate us for our freedoms

Us bloggers, that is. Chris Bowers explains why the DC press corps was so horrified that President Obama called on Huffington Post the other night:
...[N]ew media has allowed alternative power centers on the left-wing of the Democratic / progressive coalition to rise as challenges to established, and largely corporate, dominance. No one in the political and media establishment would attack the Huffington Post, Daily Kos, or if they were operating as supportive adjuncts to, say, the Blue Dog coalition. The reason they are viewed as dangerous and worthy of attack is because of the political views they espouse, not just because they are new media. As long as these new organizations thrive, they offer voters, activists and politicians potential insulation should they seek other avenues than corporate PACs, large donors, and conglomerated corporate media outlets.
Long live new media. And while I'm sympathetic to the plight of our dying newspapers, I have little sympathy for the White House stenographers that forgot to ask questions these past eight years.

UPDATE: He also lays to rest the "no one reads blogs" canard:
Political blogging, especially progressive political blogging, is a major news medium in Washington, D.C. On a per capita basis, progressive political blogs are more frequently read in D.C. than anywhere else--and by a long, long way. People in D.C. are reading what you post here. How much of an impact it has is entirely open to question, but it is getting read.

Friday, February 06, 2009

You say "tomato," I say "f*** you"

My god this is a good catch. John Cole on bipartisanship:
I really don’t understand how bipartisanship is ever going to work when one of the parties is insane. Imagine trying to negotiate an agreement on dinner plans with your date, and you suggest Italian and she states her preference would be a meal of tire rims and anthrax. If you can figure out a way to split the difference there and find a meal you will both enjoy, you can probably figure out how bipartisanship is going to work the next few years.
h/t kos.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Time to change churches

So I took the Belief-O-Matic test over at Beliefnet and scored 97% Quaker! (I also scored 100% Unitarian, but then, who wouldn't.)

Friday, January 30, 2009

"It was a dark and stormy night" redux

Selections from the 2008 Bulwer-Lytton contest:
  • Grand Prize: Theirs was a New York love, a checkered taxi ride burning rubber, and like the city their passion was open 24/7, steam rising from their bodies like slick streets exhaling warm, moist, white breath through manhole covers stamped "Forged by DeLaney Bros., Piscataway, N.J." --Garrison Spik, Washington, D.C.
  • Adventure: "Die, commie pigs!" grunted Sergeant "Rocky" Steele through his cigar stub as he machine-gunned the North Korean farm animals. --Dave Ranson, Calgary, Alberta
  • Detective: The hardened detective glanced at his rookie partner and mused that who ever had coined the term "white as a sheet" had never envisioned a bed accessorized with a set of Hazelnut, 500-count Egyptian cotton linens from Ralph Lauren complimented by matching shams and a duvet cover nor the dismembered body of its current occupant. --Russ Winter, Janesville, MN
  • Purple Prose: The pancake batter looked almost perfect, like the morning sun shining on the cream-colored bare shoulder of a gorgeous young blonde driving 30 miles over the speed limit down a rural Nebraska highway with the rental car's sunroof open, except it had a few lumps. --Jim Thomas, Gilbert, AZ
  • Science Fiction: Timothy Hanson, Commander of the 43rd Space Regiment in the 52nd Battalion on board the USAOPAC (United Space Alliance Of Planets Attack Carrier) and second in command to Admiral L. R. Morris of the USAOP Space Command, awoke early for breakfast. --Joe Schulman, Cartersville, GA
And I'm pleased to report there's an honorable mention from Maine!
  • The day started out as uneventfully as any other, and continued thus to midday and from there it was nothing at all to ease into an evening of numbing, undiluted monotony that survived unmarred by even the least act of momentary peculiarity-in fact, let's skip that day altogether and start with the day after. --Jon Starr, Rumford, ME

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Fearful? Check. Xenophobic? Check. Aggressive? Check.

Conservatives love to "otherize," or identify demons they can then project their moral clarity all over. First the communists, now the terrorists.... The existence of our republic is at stake! It's black and white, good and evil, us or them, every waking minute. And the hell with sissy diplomacy and liberal due process.

J. Peter Scoblic's U.S. Vs. Them (out last April) examines fifty years of crusading conservatives and the foreign policy wreckage they've left in their wake. It's reviewed today by Sara Robinson over at Alternet:
Whenever you hear a conservative go on about "moral clarity," this is precisely what they're saying. There is always an enemy. They are always out to get us. They will stop at nothing. You cannot coddle them or negotiate with them; you can only survive by annihilating them. And people who see the moral world clearly will not waste time or breath questioning these essential truths.

It's pretty stunning stuff when you read it that way. It really makes you realize that conservatives live in a world of paranoia, xenophobia and seething aggression that most progressives can't even fathom. And their entire moral universe has been twisted to serve their externalized fears; to take that will to project their own demons onto someone else and then destroy them and elevate it as the highest possible moral good.

It's a definition of "morality" that renders the rule of law meaningless but readily justifies genocide and torture as moral acts of self-preservation.
Bush, in other words, wasn't so much guided by neo-conservatives as by straightforward conservative fearfulness.

Robinson exhorts us to call out conservatives on their peculiarly narrow view of "morality" and to remember the Enlightenment values that informed our forebears:
We believe moral clarity is defined by the Constitution, embodied in the rule of law and on display wherever the dignity of other people -- including those whose interests oppose ours -- is upheld. And, in case there's any question about where the real moral clarity lies here: Ours is the morality America was founded on. Theirs is one that almost put that light out forever.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Friends of the Earth hearts Obama

From Friends of the Earth Action:
Obama shows early leadership on climate, acts on states’ request to move forward with clean cars standards

WASHINGTON, D.C.—President Barack Obama today directed his administration to take action on a waiver that will allow California and 13 other states to limit global warming pollution from cars and trucks. Friends of the Earth President Brent Blackwelder had the following response:

“Transportation causes a third of America’s greenhouse gas emissions, which is why President Obama’s action today is so important. President Obama’s action marks a clear change of course from Bush administration policies that kept cleaner cars and trucks off the road. We commend the President for this early leadership on the climate front, and look forward to working with him to implement the many other steps that are necessary to strengthen our economy and dramatically reduce our country’s greenhouse gas emissions.”

Friends of the Earth has for years been a leader in the fight to put cleaner cars on the road. Friends of the Earth board member Russell Long conceived of California’s clean cars bill and was a major force in passing the bill, which was authored by then-State Senator Fran Pavley. Friends of the Earth has also won victories in court that paved the way for clean cars standards to be put in place.
So the "world’s largest grassroots environmental network" - with members in 77 countries - likes Obama's first major action on the environment. I'd have to say this bodes well.

Disclosure: Mr. Alna Dem is chairman of FOE US.

Monday, January 19, 2009

They weren't inept. They did it on purpose.

It was class warfare, government for the few, a kleptocracy, the crime of the century:
Its purpose was never to make America a better place. Indeed, if we define America as a country belonging to its 300 million inhabitants, then the purpose was actually precisely the opposite. The mission of this ideology was in fact to diminish, if not impoverish, the vast bulk of these citizens so that the already massively wealthy among them could become obscenely wealthy.

Where you or I might have looked at the middle of the 20th century and seen the moment when America finally did justice to its national promise by introducing a measure of serious economic equality for the first time, and thus vastly expanding the middle class, the plutocrats behind Reaganism-Bushism saw a filthy aberration to the natural order of master and slave that had long existed in human history. They therefore set about to overturn that aberration and return to "better times" through a process of class warfare. That meant that labor unions had to go, along with workplace protections, good wages, decent benefits, government protections and a far-too-moderate average CEO-to-lowest-paid-worker salary ratio on the order of 50-to-1, replaced instead by something closer to 500-to-1.
Emphasis added. And yes, they were evil.

If you don't believe me, here’s another take from Philip Agre at UCLA. He asks two simple questions:
Q: What is conservatism?
A: Conservatism is the domination of society by an aristocracy.

Q: What is wrong with conservatism?
A: Conservatism is incompatible with democracy, prosperity, and civilization in general. It is a destructive system of inequality and prejudice that is founded on deception and has no place in the modern world.
Conservatism is the antithesis of democracy. This has been true for thousands of years,” says Agre.

P.S. In the "prose too delicious to lose" category, here's a Bush/Cheney sendoff from Meteor Blades:

Good-bye to your rip-offs, your malice, your arrogance, your ignorance, your outlawry, your denial, your deceit, your cronyism and your stubborn refusal to cease pushing the envelope in the department of shameless villainy. Goodbye to the administration you constructed of turdiness and explained with truthiness. To your smirk and your snarl. To your conscienceless cruelty. Good-bye to your corruption, your vanity, your world without grays. Good-bye, good-bye, good-bye, you insufferable despots, and good riddance.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

The year in blogging

...via Wonkette, via conservative blogger Jon Swift, the year's best posts on both sides of the aisle as nominated by the bloggers themselves. And here's my favorite:
TBogg: Your Mumia sweatshirt won’t get you into heaven anymore. TBogg explains reality to Ralph Nader voters.
I could really have used this post the day Snoozetska and I tried to explain presidential politics to a food co-op manager who would rather stay home and make peace flags than vote any day. "I just imagine peace, and that's my contribution," she said proudly.