February 16, 2011 archive

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Is there one Democratic party? Or more?

Of course, in one sense, there surely is one party.  One party in congress, one Democratic candidate for POTUS and so on.

In another sense … no.  And there hasn’t been for quite some time – since FDR at least.  There used to be northern Dems and Dixiecrats.  Now there is a range of people from Al Franken to Ben Nelson.

Can one look at the voting records, speeches, ads and so on of Al Franken or (say)Pete Stark and say he is a tool of corporate America?  REALLY?

Barbara Lee? John Conyers?

Or going back a bit, Ronald Dellums?  

George McGovern?  (First presidential campaign I worked on, I turned 13 that summer).

The problem is two-fold:

1) The two party system

2) The actual views of a lot of Americans.

Let’s take the second first:

In the districts I mentioned, Obama (and Democrats before him) got upwards of 70% of the vote.  Sometimes WAY upwards.  When you have that kind of voter, you get that kind of representative.  Nor are these districts necessarily poor or minority-heavy.  OK, the districts that gave Obama the VERY highest percentages ARE mostly poor and DO have a lot of minorities.  But the 4 highest are all in NYC, and that’s because NYC (unlike many other cities) has a bunch of districts that are entirely inside the city. But CA-13 elects Pete Stark, and it’s a wealthy suburban district.

So, in wealthy or poor districts, suburban or rural, there is a TENDENCY, a strong tendency, for districts that have large Democratic majorities to get representatives we like.  

So, the first question becomes: Why aren’t there more such districts?  That has complex answers.

The first part of the two fold problem is the two-party system.  Unfortunately, with the current system of vote counting, any leftish third party is likely to hurt the causes it espouses.  The solution here is simple, although implementing it will be hard: Range voting (my choice) or some other system of voting.  In range voting, you grade each candidate (0-100 or whatever) and the candidate with the highest average wins.  In this system, I would be free to rate any 3 or 4 or however many candidates, and it couldn’t hurt them to get a higher grade. Range voting even avoids the infamous Arrow’s Theorem, which applied to rank systems of voting.  So, if your view was that Nader was best, then Gore, then Bush, and you thought Nader deserved a 100, Gore an 80 and Bush a 0, then that would be averaged in with all the other voters.  Then you could express your views without hurting Gore; and if a substantial number of people voted similarly, the Democratic Party would listen.

from firefly-dreaming 16.2.11

Regular Daily Features:

Essays Featured Wednesday, February 16th:

come firefly-dreaming with me….

Delivering (cough) Freedom & Democracy

As we approach the 8th anniversary of a U.S. invasion of Iraq, and having just passed the 20th anniversary of another, it’s worth reflecting on what’s been accomplished through two wars and the intervening sanctions that former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright so famously approved of even at the cost of a half million children’s lives.


Your tax dollars at work, my fellow Americans. You cannot destroy a nation and hire religious fanatics to attack other types of religious fanatics without creating hell on earth.


As we busy ourselves denouncing the Republican budget for all of the traits it shares with Obama’s proposal, and as Obama fights off the teeny cuts to the Pentagon that the Republicans are seeking, bear in mind what that money is used for. If we really bear it in mind, if we really consider what the majority of every US tax dollar goes to fund, the day will come when Freedom Plaza in Washington DC resembles Tahrir Square in Cairo. May that day come before it is too late.

by David Swanson…

Hello Cruel World!!!

Welcome, welcome, welcome. Bienvenidos!  This is a blog welcome mat.  Welcome to a wonderful, corner of the Leftblogosfero that you might not have encountered before.  Especially if you are leaving the Orange Giant and looking for a new place to hang out.  And, of course, welcome to the Writers Port Alliance!

If, like me, you miss the free-for-all (one with some basic, human rules of respect and decency for others) of the old group blogs, and if you’re looking for a new “home” for your pajama clad (or unclad or formally attired) self, you’ve found the right place for joining once again in the unrestrained, unsegmented joy of reading and writing in the Leftblogosfero.

A blog free-for-all.  That’s what I was looking for when I originally came here.  The fun of a crowd of participants.  The excitement of learning others’ views.  A free-for-all.  A “place” where everyone and everything got mixed together and you could pick and choose at your leisure.  It’s a noun (a phrase?) I haven’t used in decades.  In fact, it’s been so long, that I wanted to check its connotation:  

Definition of FREE-FOR-ALL:

a competition, dispute, or fight open to all comers and usually with no rules : brawl; also : a chaotic situation resembling a free-for-all especially in lacking rules or structure (the press conference deteriorated into a free-for-all) …

Synonyms: affray (chiefly British), broil, donnybrook, fracas, fray, free-for-all, melee (also mêlée), rough-and-tumble, row, ruckus, ruction

Antonyms: order, orderliness

Ooops.  Free-for-all.  Well, so maybe it was the wrong word after all.  I don’t think of this blog as a fight or a donnybrook.  Truth be told, donnybrook is one of those words I know, but it isn’t in my primary vocabulary.  And when it comes to my brothers and sisters in the typing class, we all know and dread what can happen when the basic rules of human decency are breached.  So it’s not about creating chaos, or biting off other combatants’ ears, it’s about freedom and excitement that group blogging is so very good at.

There are eight blogs in the Writers Port Alliance.  You can find their links at the top of the page.  Two of these (The Dream Antilles and Ignoring Asia) are solo acts; the others, group blogs with varying points of view and characteristics.  They are much smaller than the mega-blog, which means that they are slower to gather comments, and that essays are available for longer before they are disappeared and pushed off the page.  Items printed in one space might fit in all or some or none of the others, and the members and writers cross-post freely.

Welcome!  As a favorite band says, “Just poke around.”

originated at The Dream Antilles


Book Review: Selfa’s “The Democrats”

 MinistryOfTruth’s recent reclisted diary over at Kos suggests a list of things that a “Democratic Party” ought to offer.  The question this begs, though, is one of whether or not MinistryOfTruth’s expectations of the Democratic Party (“A party that TAXES the richest among us who can most easily afford it/ A party that OPPOSES wars we can NOT win/ A party that PROTECTS consumers and workers over corporate profit”) are things we seriously ought to expect the Democratic Party to do.  

Lance Selfa, in  his somewhat recent (2008) history of the Democratic Party , argues the “no” answer to this question.  In his book, Selfa hoped to “show that the renewed and more confident Democratic Party of 2008 is the latest incarnation of an institution that appeals to ‘the people’ while looking out for the interests of corporations.” (pp. 8-9)  Selfa’s history, then, is a history of betrayals, assuming that the interests of “the people” and the corporations are in conflict.  But the point for our author is not merely to decry this conflict within the Democratic Party, but to expose its dynamic within capitalist society:

The contention of this book is that these Democratic “betrayals” are not primarily the result of unscrupulous politicians or office holders who “sell out” — although there are plenty of each of those in the Democratic Party.  Rather they are the inevitable outcome of a political institution that socialists have long described as a capitalist party that only pretends to be a friend of working people.  (p. 9)

(also available at Kos)  

What’s On At Ignoring Asia

The Dirty War Index: A Public Health and Human Rights Tool for Examining and Monitoring Armed Conflict Outcomes

Calculating and Using DWIs

A DWI can be easily used and understood, facilitating interdisciplinary communication and research on war’s effects. DWIs can measure rates of undesirable outcomes from accepted methods (e.g., civilian casualties from aerial bombing of military targets). They can also measure rates of using prohibited, illegitimate methods (e.g., torture), and rates of applying illegitimate methods to especially vulnerable populations (e.g., torturing children) to describe rates of exceptional atrocity. However, the mere application of DWI analysis to a combatant group does not indicate that it is “dirty”: a DWI ratio simply identifies how often, if at all, the group is linked with the particular undesirable outcome being measured, facilitating comparisons. To illustrate, we draw on data from B’Tselem

An Unsurprising Confession About Iraqi WMD

When former U.S. Secretary of State presented evidence to justify the American invasion of Iraq one the sources was an Iraqi with the code name of Curve Ball. Following the invasion the U.S. military frantically set-out to find the WMD sites described by Curve Ball. As is widely known all the justifications employed by the Bush administration were just meer fabrications they were out and out lies created because of George Bush’s belief that the first Gulf War didn’t go far enough: Saddam Hussein’s downfall. In today’s Guardian the informant known as Curve Ball Rafid Ahmed Alwan al-Janabi admitted in lied.

An Interview with Adlai Stevenson III, Part Four: Diplomacy and Foreign Policy

On the subject of diplomacy and foreign policy, Senator Stevenson followed in his father’s admittedly massive footsteps.  In particular, he spent much time working in the Far East, and holds an expert opinion on Asia and monetary policy.  The most detailed sections of The Black Book are devoted to both subjects.  This next installment, however, will discuss the high-stakes world of brinkmanship and negotiation.  In it, Stevenson directly refutes past political narratives whose veracity has rarely been challenged.  In a Wikileaks world, the Senator has some severe criticisms of a failed system whose abuses have left all of us still feeling the effect.    

Force of Life in the Wakhan Valley


The Wakhan Valley is the Afghanistan of Afghanistan. It’s bleak on a scale where the rest of Afghanistan is lush.

WG - Bill Weir
Photo-credit: Bill Weir

But even here, somebody ties a big white bow in this child’s hair every day of the year, although that particular dress is only for special occasions.

Health and Fitness News

Welcome to the Health and Fitness weekly diary which is cross-posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette. It is open for discussion about health related issues including diet, exercise, health and health care issues, as well as, tips on what you can do when there is a medical emergency. Also an opportunity to share and exchange your favorite healthy recipes.

Questions are encouraged and I will answer to the best of my ability. If I can’t, I will try to steer you in the right direction. Naturally, I cannot give individual medical advice for personal health issues. I can give you information about medical conditions and the current treatments available.

You can now find past Health and Fitness News diaries here and on the right hand side of the Front Page.

Salad Dressings: Hold the Guilt


At the recent Worlds of Healthy Flavors conference, sponsored by the Harvard School of Public Health and the Culinary Institute of America, two prominent researchers called for an end to the use of the term “low-fat.”

Dr. Ronald Krauss, director of atherosclerosis research at Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute, and Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, an associate professor of epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health, have been involved in numerous studies measuring the effects of dietary habits on health. Few of those studies, they noted, have turned up reliable associations between one’s total intake of dietary fat and such diseases as cancer and heart disease. Nor have they turned up meaningful associations between total fat intake and obesity.

As most of us now know, it is the type of fat that matters most to health. A diet in which saturated fats are replaced by polyunsaturated fats, found mostly in plants, nuts and seafood, and monounsaturated fats, present in olive oil, may help protect against heart disease.

On the other hand, trans fats, created during the hydrogenation process, seem to increase heart disease risk. And saturated fats – found mostly in meat and dairy products, and in coconut and palm oils – raise blood levels of L.D.L., or “bad” cholesterol, also a risk factor for heart disease.

Green Goddess Dressing

Creamy Meyer Lemon Dressing

Sesame Ginger Vinaigrette

Lime Cumin Vinaigrette

Mustard Vinaigrette

Timmy “Too Bigs” Geithner: “We’re going, like, existential.”

Geithner (via creditwritedowns):

“I take human life seriously.  I’m obsessed with it: death, existence, bankruptcy, God, mark-to-fantasy-values, interpersonal relationships (mostly with bankers and my self-reflective consciousness).  Unlike Woody Allen, I can’t play Dixieland, so I feel uniquely isolated in an indifferent, if not hostile universe; I was simply born into this financial chaos of logical, ontological, and moral non-structure; and while my existence is inexplicable, I face up to it; I take full responsibility for bailing out the profanely wealthy at the expense of the vast majority of humanity.  Life is hard, and inscrutable to rational or empirical scrutiny, so I create my own reality, in deeds.  God and I can’t both be free.  That’s my facticity.  That’s my authenticity.  That’s my freedom.  That is my will, bitchez.  I have no idea what I’m doing, but I decided.  I acted.  When I choose, I choose for the whole world.  It’s absurd, but I open Pandora’s box, in order to create myself.  We’re all terrified about that, but I owe you that much.  Every ethical act I perform is the point of no return.  If I cut Isaac’s throat on God’s command, that will be my decision.  I take human life seriously.”

That possible interpretation of Geithner’s existential epiphany is my roundabout way of asking, “What bong-farts in Hell did Geithner toke from Bernanke’s ass to utter such, “We’re going, like, existential” nonsense?  

Actually, I know what he really means:

Muse in the Morning

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Muse in the Morning

Time for a break from poetry…in order to create some art.

Abnormal, adj. Not conforming to standard. In matters of thought and conduct, to be independent is to be abnormal, to be abnormal is to be detested.

–Ambrose Bierce


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