Archive for May, 2006

Episode 43: Dump the Dinosaurs

Friday, May 26th, 2006

If we want to change the world (or save it), first we have to beat the Republicans. In our next three episodes, the regulars at the Last Chance Democracy Café will take a look at how this might be accomplished. Step one: Get our own house in order.

The Last Chance Democracy Café
Episode 43: Dump the Dinosaurs

by Steven C. Day

It was 9:00 pm on a busy Wednesday evening in The Last Chance Democracy Café. Following our usual custom, the lighting in the lounge was turned way down, making the Paul Wellstone candles in the center of each table the brightest features in the room. A dimly lighted room like this can, of course, provide the perfect setting for sinfulness, but the only sins being committed at the large round table were those against political orthodoxy.

I love this time of night: With the dinner trade finishing up, the pace slows way down. From now until closing time at 2:00 am, the business of the café will largely consist of cocktails and conversation.

The servers handle the cocktails, while I’m in charge of the conversation, one of the few perks to my position as manager and principal owner of the café under our strikingly socialistic business model.

On Wednesdays, 9:00 pm also tends to be about the time when Horace, Tom and Winston settle into what will become the topic of the evening. Until then, conversational anarchy often reigns; here’s a small taste from earlier this same evening:


The daily doom, part XII

Friday, May 26th, 2006

To repeat myself, yet again: Does a day ever go by anymore without another terrifying revelation about global warming?

(AP) Deserts May Be Creeping Closer to Cities

May 26,2006 | WASHINGTON — Deserts in the American Southwest and around the globe are creeping toward heavily populated areas as the jet streams shift, researchers reported Thursday.

The result: Areas already stressed by drought may get even drier.

Satellite measurements made from 1979 to 2005 show that the atmosphere in the subtropical regions both north and south of the equator is heating up. As the atmosphere warms, it bulges out at the altitudes where the northern and southern jet streams slip past like swift and massive rivers of air. That bulging has pushed both jet streams about 70 miles closer to the Earth’s poles.

*   *   *

Reichler suspects global warming is the root cause of the shift, but said he can’t be certain. Other possibilities include variability and destruction of the ozone layer. However, he and his colleagues have noted similar behavior in climate models that suggest global warming plays a role.

What say we all go watch some of those wonderful oil company (paid for though a private foundation) TV commercials about how carbon emissions are actually good for us!  

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What if you were disappeared?

Thursday, May 25th, 2006

What if fate had deposited the sperm and the egg that eventually became you into the fallopian tube of a woman who lives far away, in a very different sort of world?

What if your skin were brown?

What if your name sounded foreign to an American ear?

What if you prayed to an unpopular (by Western tastes) god?

What if you were in the wrong place at the wrong time?

What if one day you disappeared?

What if you were flown through the darkness of a moonless night to Guantanamo Bay or to a secret prison located who knows where else?

Or carried off in an unmarked plane, with no official flight plan, and dumped into a prison run by a brutal regime?


Hastert finally in the limelight

Wednesday, May 24th, 2006

Over the years, it’s often been said that Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert doesn’t get nearly the public attention his position merits.  Perennially in the shadow of Tom DeLay, Hastert has often seemed to fade into the background.  Several years ago, the Christian Science Monitor described him as “perhaps the most consistently underestimated man on Capitol Hill.”

Well, it appears that he may soon be getting all the attention he so richly deserves.

(ABC) Officials: Hastert “In the Mix” of Congressional Bribery Investigation

Federal officials say the Congressional bribery investigation now includes Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, based on information from convicted lobbyists who are now cooperating with the government.

Part of the investigation involves a letter Hastert wrote three years ago, urging the Secretary of the Interior to block a casino on an Indian reservation that would have competed with other tribes.

In an update to the story, ABC has reported that both the Justice Department and Hastert’s office have denied the report, but ABC is standing by the story.

Speaking of being a broken record . . .

Wednesday, May 24th, 2006

We have to get this guy to run for president.

Be sure to click onto the video.

When mountaineers don’t soar

Wednesday, May 24th, 2006

Back as a teenager, when I was both much younger and much less pudgy than I am today, I used to be a rock climber.  In fact, I was obsessed with mountaineering.  In addition to the limited amount of actual climbing I was able to get in, mostly during weekend and summer trips, I also read everything I could get my hands on about climbing and climbers.

The great climbers were my heroes.

So it was with sadness that I read this report:

(AP) Everest Pioneer Climber Blasts Group Who Left Man Dieing

Mount Everest pioneer Sir Edmund Hillary said Wednesday he was shocked that dozens of climbers left a British mountaineer to die during their own attempts on the world’s tallest peak.

David Sharp, 34, died apparently of oxygen deficiency while descending from the summit during a solo climb last week.

More than 40 climbers are thought to have seen him as he lay dying, and almost all continued to the summit without offering assistance.

“Human life is far more important than just getting to the top of a mountain,” Hillary was quoted as saying in an interview with New Zealand Press Association.

This probably wasn’t quite as cut and dry a situation as it sounds.  The suffering climber, Sharp, was apparently in very bad shape and located only a thousand feet below the summit under extreme weather conditions, including a temperature of minus 100.  Any attempted evacuation under such conditions would have been extremely difficult and arguably unduly hazardous.


The daily doom, part XI

Wednesday, May 24th, 2006

To repeat myself, yet again: Does a day ever go by anymore without another terrifying revelation about global warming?

Australian study says global warming speeding up

Canberra, May 24: Global warming could be happening faster than scientists had previously thought and weather extremes such as heatwaves could become common, an Australian government report said on Tuesday.

The report by the Environment Department said there was a greater risk that global warming could now exceed previous predictions of a 1.4 to 5.8 degrees Celsius rise in temperatures by the year 2100.

“The impacts of a changing climate are beginning to emerge,” said the report, titled Stronger Evidence But New Challenges: Climate Change Science 2001-2005, adding that evidence of warming was becoming easier to observe.

“High temperature extremes, such as the August 2003 heatwave in central Europe that had severe impacts on human health, are becoming more common.”

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Episode 42: Of Hurricanes and Langston Hughes

Wednesday, May 24th, 2006

There are times when only poetry will do.

The Last Chance Democracy Café
Episode 42: Of Hurricanes and Langston Hughes

by Steven C. Day

It was a particularly dreary evening outside of The Last Chance Democracy Café; a temperamental on-again, off-again storm had been stalking the city for most of the day. Heavy winds, with gusts as strong as 40 miles per hour, slapped raindrops against the windowpanes, giving off a crackling sound much like bits of gravel flying into the windshield of a fast moving car.

The atmosphere inside the café was, if anything, even drearier than that outside, though to someone looking in through the window it might have appeared as though one hell of a party were going on. The lounge was overflowing, with customers packed in like lobbyists in Tom Delay’s anteroom. It had been that way since Katrina hit; Horace, Tom and Winston, who generally only come on Wednesday evenings, for example, had been here almost every night. Zach had been here a lot too, although I’d been running him out early so his studies wouldn’t suffer too badly.

I suppose it makes sense that when something this awful happens people will tend to reach out to others they know well and trust; people they can count on to share their pain and, where appropriate, share their rage. And as odd as it may seem to those who have never frequented a tavern where the people are like family, or at least close friends, to many of our regulars, the café provides that haven.

So we sat there, smashed together like a can of emotionally distraught sardines, watching it all unfold in living color on the café’s televisions: The death of an American city; the death of hundreds and perhaps thousands of Americans; and something else — the death of our national innocence.

The approved talking point, of course, is that we lost our innocence on Sept. 11, but that’s a crock; we simply replaced one form of innocence — the assumption that America was safe from the violence of the greater world, with another even more dangerous one — a particularly rancid and militaristic strain of American exceptionalism: The childlike faith that we somehow had the power, not to mention the wisdom, to bend the entire world to our desires, and, even more, that we could do so at little cost to ourselves.

That illusion had already been on life support as a result of the mess in Iraq. Katrina put it out of its misery.

Sitting there in front of the television for days on end, watching Americans suffering and dying in the waters that had been New Orleans, while our government committed blunder after blunder, it was hard to feel very exceptional.

Hell, it was hard to feel even modestly competent.


Wingers in search of a gig

Tuesday, May 23rd, 2006

Near the end of the movie Bull Durham, the Annie Savoy character says in narration, “Baseball may be a religion full of magic, cosmic truth, and the fundamental ontological riddles of our time, but it’s also a job.” 

You can say something similar about today’s professional right wing nuts: While a deep love for far right causes is probably what led most of them into the field of conservative advocacy, now that they’ve arrived it’s also how they put bread (often a lot of bread) on the table. 

And doing so can’t be as easy as it once was.  I mean, man, those must have been the days back in the 90s: Just say (or better yet sneer) the name Bill Clinton a few times, and then watch the bucks roll in.

But with Bill long gone, Hillary’s upcoming campaign, while certainly full of potential for exploitation, still largely just a twinkle in the right wing money machine’s eye and George W. Bush and the GOP Congress less and less popular even among the social conservative base, creativity is called for.  Thus, the never ending scavenger hunts for red meat to keep the true believers fed (and the money flowing free).

A case in point is the new “campaign,” being run by a shadowy outfit named Move America Forward, asking Congress to censure former President Jimmy Carter.  They’ve actually been running ads on CNN (you can see one at Crooks and Liars here). 

If you’re interested in more, they’ve set out the full so-called basis for this unlikely crusade on their surprisingly amateurish website; in a nutshell, they’re accusing the former president and Nobel Peace Prize winner of being a traitor.

To state the obvious, this is slanderous, outrageous and contemptible, but mostly it’s just pathetic.  There’s about as much chance of Congress adopting a resolution censuring Jimmy Carter as there is of George W. Bush displacing Abraham Lincoln as the consensus pick for the greatest president in American history. 

The Republicans in Congress won’t touch a Carter censure resolution with a ten foot pole, and wisely so.

But, of course, actually censuring Carter was never the point anyway.

I mean, let’s be fair, Bill O’Reilly already has the whole war on Christmas thing all sewn up.  And these guys have to make a living somehow too. 

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Krugman on Lieberman — ouch

Monday, May 22nd, 2006

Sometimes the truth hurts . . .

Talk-Show Joe
Paul Krugman

Friday was a bad day for Senator Joseph Lieberman. The Connecticut Democratic Party’s nominating convention endorsed him, but that was a given for an incumbent with a lot of political chips to cash in. The real news was that Ned Lamont, an almost unknown challenger, received a third of the votes. This gave Mr. Lamont the right to run against Mr. Lieberman in a primary, and suggests that Mr. Lamont may even win.

*   *   *

Mr. Lieberman’s defenders would have you believe that his increasingly unpopular positions reflect his principles. But his Bushlike inability to face reality on Iraq looks less like a stand on principle than the behavior of a narcissist who can’t admit error. And the common theme in Mr. Lieberman’s positions seems to be this: In each case he has taken the stand that is most likely to get him on TV.

You see, the talking-head circuit loves centrists. But a centrist, as defined inside the Beltway, doesn’t mean someone whose views are actually in the center, as judged by public opinion. Instead, a Democrat is considered centrist to the extent that he does what Mr. Lieberman does: lends his support to Republican talking points, even if those talking points don’t correspond at all to what most of the public wants or believes.

To borrow from the movie Cool Hand Luke, “What we’ve got here is failure to communicate.”

I suspect that Joe Lieberman is feeling betrayed and more than a little confused by all this.  But he shouldn’t be.  The existence of a growing anger running very deep into the belly of the rank and file of the Democratic Party has been obvious for a long time.  Some Beltway Democrats, like Lieberman, seem to have tried to shield their “beautiful minds” from this by selling themselves on two things — first, that this anger is irrational and, second, that it reflects the thinking of only a small minority of hotheads within the overall party.

But this is wrong on both counts, of course.  Anger isn’t just one rational response to this Republican administration and congress; for a thinking and informed person, it’s arguably the only rational response — and it’s one that runs just as wide as it does deep within the Democratic electorate.

For whatever reasons, Joe Lieberman chose to make a deal with the devil and now, whether or not he’s ultimately defeated, there’s going to be hell to pay.

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