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Archive for the ‘2008 Presidential Election’ Category

For all the reasons to de-prioritize ethanol as an alternative source of energy (see An Unusual Sight, an Unexpected Choice), there is one solid truth that would explain why it might be pursued over the others in scientific research, the last disconcerting truth that piques my skepticism,

…ethanol, which already accounts for two percent of what’s mixed into our transportation fuels, promises growth for agribusiness that any stakeholder of any industry would die for, that is, if it becomes the alternative fuel of choice to replace oil.

This may be the deciduous factor between ethanol and all the others: a powerful lobby behind it. (Keep your eye on Presidential Candidate Barack Obama; Illinois stands to gain or lose a fortune on this issue).

Wealthy constituencies (and their handsomely-paid congressional representation) proceeding with their agendas independent of public health or environmental preservation concerns is commonplace, but to observe symptoms of such behavior in the American Association for the Advancement of Science is alarming. The organization is the largest society dedicated to the public advancement of science understanding in the world. It is not-for-profit, autonomous from government, and in addition to advancing science, it is (by self-report) dedicated to serving international society. From the minutes of its first ever meeting, now nearly 160 years ago, the organization committed its endeavor “not exclusively for the benefit of any nation or age.”

Within this large organization are numerous initiatives that reflect their commitment. Progressive programs to further the causes of human rights and social justice account for a great deal of what AAAS does. Specifically focusing on developing the public understanding and appreciation of science, especially among the world’s poorest, AAAS charters projects that ensure all people of the international community, independent of ethic or racial origin, geographic location, or political/ideological background, will be prepared for changes that accompany advances in technology and civilization. With an eye to our natural habitat, other projects focus on “sustainability“, and AAAS provides abundant scholarly resources, an international forum on sustainability science, research and project opportunities, and encouragement for widespread education and pro-environmental action.

For all these accomplishments, the AAAS has my admiration, but for endorsing ethanol, they cause me bewilderment. What of the billions of people in the developing world –cited on the AAAS website– that live in abject poverty? Shall we grow staple crops for their potential to power cars, not for their potential to feed the world’s poor? Are sustainable sources of energy less appealing than those that are profitable? Are these two issues, the issue of poverty and the issue of the environment, unrelated?

– -Daniel Black

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This morning, at the Conservative Political Action Conference, Republican presidential hopeful and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney introduced columnist Ann Coulter by pronouncing, “I am happy to hear that after you hear from me, you will hear from Ann Coulter. That is a good thing. Oh yeah!” After her speech Coulter, with a smug and knowing smile, admitted, “I was going to have a few comments on the other Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards, but it turns out you have to go into rehab if you use the word ‘faggot,’ so I — so kind of an impasse, can’t really talk about Edwards.”

Conservative talkers will undoubtedly claim that Coulter’s comments were a joke and blame the mainstream media for not giving Coulter the benefit of the doubt, as they had done for Kerry; if the media rationalized Kerry’s embarrassing comments about our troops as a joke gone awry, why then, are they taking Coulter’s comments so seriously?

Well, for three reasons, really. First, Coulter has a history and a penchant for making erroneous, sensationalist, and attention grabbing comments orchestrated to manufacture controversy and promote the Coulter brand of political discourse to narrow minded Conservatives. Second, as Think Progress has reported, previously, Coulter has put “even money” on Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) “[c]oming out of the closet,” said Bill Clinton shows “some level of latent homosexuality,” and called Vice President Al Gore a “total fag.” And third, the term ‘fag’ is associated with gay-bashing, nasty homophobia, and even murderous hate crimes. According to one source, “it is often claimed that the derivation is associated directly with faggot meaning “bundle of sticks for burning”, since homosexuals were supposedly burnt at the stake in medieval England. This, however, was never an established punishment for homosexuality in England, although, according to one source, those accused of homosexual acts were sometimes doused in fuel and used in place of sticks for the burning of supposed witches.”

If the Republican Party establishment does not condemn such language, the very history of which promotes violence against a minority population, their silence should be interpreted as a tacit endorsement of hate speech. If this party wishes to advance their agenda and rally its base by promoting hateful commentary, they are no better than the homophobes who kill homosexuals; Coulter’s rhetorical slur is a white collar version of a violent gay-bashing.

— Igor Volsky

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Conservative radio and TV talk show host Sean Hannity has been asking viewers/listeners to send in pictures of Al Gore boarding private planes. To hear Sean Hannity tell it, if Gore flies or drives or burns a fire in a fireplace then he is a hypocrite and An Inconvenient Truth is worthless or dishonest. But Gore’s travel habits, regardless of how lavish they are, don’t negate the dangers of global warming. And to suggest that Gore should cease flying or driving is simply ridiculous; an advocate must spread his message and Hannity’s attacks are thinly veiled political attempts at discrediting the message, by attacking the messenger. (What good would Al Gore do sitting in a cave somewhere worrying about melting glaciers in Greenland?)

I’m hesitant to accept Al Gore as a radical environmentalist. During the Clinton administration Al Gore hit the sheets with the biggest polluters in the industry. Today he seems genuinely dedicated to educating the public about the dangers of global climate change, and this is admirable. People can certainly change and if Al Gore now supports green policy, more power to him.

The campaign season has inspired Fox News to pick up where Sean Hannity left off. Gore may be considering a 2008 Presidential bid and the well-oiled conservative smear machine is working over time to distract voters from the issues and portray or frame Democrats in an unflattering manner. It’s cheap politics and I hate that.

— Igor Volsky

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How long are we going to allow conservatives to frame the political debate?

Even before I finished blogging about the so-called Pelosi-plane scandal, conservative blogger Michelle Malkin was obsessing over the ‘profane’ comments of Amanda Marcotte and Melissa McEwan, two progressive bloggers presidential candidate John Edwards hired to run his blog. Now the New York Times has picked up the story.

John Edwards learned the hard way this week of the perils of grafting the raucous culture of the Internet to the decidedly staider world of a presidential campaign. Mr. Edwards announced on Thursday, after 36 hours of deliberation, that he would keep on his campaign staff two liberal feminist bloggers with long cybertrails of incendiary comments on sex, religion and politics.

Deliberations over the fate of the two bloggers, Amanda Marcotte and Melissa McEwan, created a crisis in Mr. Edwards’s nascent campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008 and illuminated the treacherous road ahead as candidates of both parties try to harness the growing power of the online world.

[…]

Mr. Edwards stumbled into this minefield ahead of his rivals for the presidency, but many of the other candidates could face similar problems as they try to integrate the passionate, provocative and freewheeling political discourse that flourishes on the Internet into more tightly controlled means of traditional campaign.

You can read some of the posts in question here. Buy while the Times is concerned about the perils of democracy, the paper, and the mainstream media more generally, regularly broadcast the bigotry of Jerry Falwell, Michael Savage, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity etc. Corporate sponsored hate speech is somehow more acceptable than carefully placed profanity, used for rhetorical spice. So long as you frame your debate in proper English, wear a suit and tie, and bring in commercial revenue, your speech, regardless of its hateful content, is considered acceptable.

Deterring Americans from actively participating in government policy has good historical precedent. While crafting the Constitution, Alexander Hamilton and James Madison believed that power should be delegated to “the wealth of the nation,” not the general public, a group they affectionately labeled the “great beast.” And while Hamilton tried to overcome the “imprudence of democracy,” Thomas Jefferson observed that the “great beast” was “illy qualified to legislate for the Union.” In the early 20th century, President Woodrow Wilson recognized that physical coercion was a tool of the past, and that the best way to ensure that men with “elevated ideals” remain in power was to “manufacture consent” for the general public. This is a cruel but necessary “evil” since only “responsible men” could manage the interests that “elude public opinion entirely.”

Edwards did the right thing in keeping the two bloggers on staff. The free exchange of ideas must not conform to the ‘traditional’ mode of campaigns or the expectations of the corporate media. Conservative bloggers don’t get to determine what is ‘proper’ and the media must not provide them with a soap box from which to stifle democratic expression. Most importantly, we must not allow these manufactured controversies to distract from the issues. America deserves better; we don’t have to conform to the mold of corporate expectations.

— Igor Volsky

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First this morning (at around 9:30am) and then again this afternoon (at around 2:00pm) MSNBC reported on the Republican-manufactured controversy surrounding the negotiations between House sergeant-at-arms and the Pentagon to secure a large military plane to transport Nancy Pelosi from her offices in Washington D.C. to her district in San Francisco. Congressional Republicans have maliciously and erroneously suggested that Pelosi made the request, characterizing their own invention as ”an extravagance of power that the taxpayers won’t swallow.”

While I’m not surprised that the cable news networks have exploited the non-story to attract viewers, I’m shocked by the sheer sexism of Republican Congressmen and prominent network officials. The media has consistently portrayed Hillary Clinton and Nancy Pelosi, two powerful Democratic leaders, as power-hungry ‘bitches’. This story is ‘credible’ because it exploits female stereotypes; abuse of power by men (like the extravagant arrogance and power corruption of Dennis Hastert and the old Republican majority) is rarely considered news worthy (Tom Delay’s hammer-like tactics were reported, in diluted form, only after he was forced to resign).

All this begs the question: are Americans ready for a powerful female president? The Pelosi story suggests that we’re not; powerful women are still seen, by many in the ‘old boy establishment,’ as threatening masculine power and masculinity.

— Igor Volsky

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Quick note: Why don’t Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have ‘issue’ sections on their campaign websites while John Edwards, Joe Biden and most of the other ‘less viable candidates’ do? The two frontrunners for the Democratic nomination are running on image, not issues. As Noam Chomsky once told me, the same people who sell you toothpaste market political candidates.

— Igor Volsky

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