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Arkansas Democrats, There Is An Alternative To Electing Another Blue Dog As Governor

Two years ago, Arkansas Congressman Mike Ross left the U.S. House of Representatives, and Democrats around the country breathed a huge sigh of relief. Ross had been leading the Blue Dog Democrats, a group of politicians who embraced Republican right wing policies while adopting the name of “Democrat” for the sake of political convenience. Mike Ross helped put the Democratic Party in the terrible spot it’s in today, with its progressive political base so alienated after years of Center Right posturing that Democratic turnout is projected to be astonishingly low in this year’s congressional elections.

josh drake arkansas governorWhy, Democratic voters are asking themselves, should I bother to turn out to vote when the Democratic Party is putting forth candidates who are almost as far to the Right as the Republicans?

Staying home may be a valid option for some, but for many, there is another choice. When the Democratic candidate is intolerable, sometimes there’s a Green Party alternative.

That’s the case in the race for the Governor’s seat in Arkansas, where right wing Blue Dog Mike Ross is running against right wing Republican Asa Hutchinson. Both Ross and Hutchinson are terrible choices. Luckily, the Arkansas Green Party is running Josh Drake as a genuine liberal candidate for Governor.

Mike Ross voted to cut Medicare funding in order to fund wasteful corporate military contracts. Ross voted with Republicans to block nuclear non-proliferation legislation. Ross spent his time in Congress supporting heavy handed resolutions to try to impose religious theocracy onto the population, instead of working on legislation to help create jobs for Americans. Instead of standing up for the constitutional right to privacy against unreasonable search and seizure, Mike Ross voted to approve renewals of the Patriot Act’s electronic surveillance regime. Instead of helping working Americans, Mike Ross voted for tax breaks for the rich.

Josh Drake openly aligns himself with the economic interests of the 99 Percent, rather than the 1 Percent elites. Rather than pushing the agenda of Big Oil, Josh Drake supports a genuine transition to renewable energy. Rather than special favors for big corporations and wealthy families, Josh Drake supports a progressive approach to taxation that asks those who have profited from the systems put in place by American government to pay their share.

Mike Ross was a disaster in the U.S. Congress. The last thing Arkansas needs is to see his right wing ideology in control of state government. Given Mike Ross’s long history of collaboration with the Republican Party, the reasonable choice on Election Day for progressive residents of Arkansas is Josh Drake.

Why I Will Vote For Howie Hawkins For Governor Of New York Tomorrow

I have met both Andrew Cuomo and Howie Hawkins in person. My general impression of both of these candidates in the 2014 campaign for Governor of New York was that they were more motivated their personal ambitions than by any policy concerns. Perhaps that’s typical of politicians, but the point is that I was not strongly inclined to support either Hawkins or Cuomo. Yet, in tomorrow’s election, Hawkins, the Green Party candidate, will get my vote.

Howie Hawkins, when I talked with him, couldn’t keep his facts straight. He was highly distractible, and mumbled, and accused Democratic politicians in New York State of doing things I knew for a fact they hadn’t done.

The behavior of Andrew Cuomo, however, has been much, much worse. When he gained office, Cuomo cut school and health care budgets and but refused to ask wealthy individuals to pay their share, and cut taxes for big banks. Cuomo has interfered with New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio’s efforts to increase the minimum wage and increase access to pre-kindergarten education. Cuomo has supported charter schools that suck funds out of public schools without providing a reasonable level of educational achievement, and without being accountable to the communities that they’re supposed to serve. Cuomo has silently accepted widespread electronic surveillance against New Yorkers, and has worked to sap the power of labor unions. As Governor, Cuomo has been an ethics nightmare, shutting down an anti-corruption investigation when it began to look into his own shady dealings.

I’m tired of seeing Democratic politicians like Andrew Cuomo take the support of liberals for granted, expecting progressive activists to churn out the vote no matter how wide the gap between their ideals and the politicians’ right-leaning agendas becomes.

On Election Day, when I vote for Howie Hawkins, I’ll really be voting against Andrew Cuomo, and the cynical strategy of triangulation that he represents.

Obama And Congress Continue To Protect Bush’s Torture Architects

The following reminders come from the Shadow Report to the United Nations Committee Against Torture on the Review of the Periodic Report of the United States of America:

“The United States continues to shield senior officials from liability for these crimes, in violation of its obligations under the Convention Against Torture.”

united states of torture“The Bush and Obama administrations and the United States Congress have repeatedly blocked attempts at redress in civil courts by torture survivors and the relatives of torture victims. The Department of Justice under both administrations has invoked jurisdictional and immunity doctrines to shield government officials from civil liability for torture.”

Of course, it isn’t just Barack Obama who is responsible for continuing to keep America’s record of torture swept under the rug. Congress has done its part of the job, too.

In the current U.S. House of Representatives, Congressman John Lewis introduced a H. Res. 283, a congressional resolution that should have been uncontroversial and universally supported. The resolution urged the Senate to strengthen the UN Convention Against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and would have, if passed, made opposition to torture the policy of the U.S. government.

Only 10 members of the House of Representatives co-sponsored the bill. They were: James McGovern, Barbara Lee, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Jim McDermott, Charles Rangel, Raul Grijalva, Frederica Wilson, Lloyd Doggett, Steve Cohen, and Shiela Jackson Lee.

Is your U.S. Representative not in this list? Ask yourself why, and ask yourself how that should affect your vote tomorrow.

Deserving extra scrutiny is U.S. Representative Bob Goodlatte, from Virginia’s 6th congressional district. Goodlatte, as chair of the House Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice, used his power to prevent H. Res. 283 from ever having the chance to advance to the floor of the House of Representatives for a vote. Before they vote on Election Day, Bob Goodlatte’s constituents need to ask themselves why their U.S. Representative opposed anti-torture legislation, and whether they are willing to endorse that action.

The Boundaries Of Skepticism About Climate Change

Yesterday saw the official release of the latest scientific report on climate change from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The report is dominated by a skeptical perspective. The scientists who wrote the report repeatedly questioned the data that is widely assumed to show that climate change is taking place and has largely been caused by human activities.

That doesn’t mean that the scientists at the IPPC have concluded that theories of anthropogenic climate change are a bunch of hooey. It means that the conclusions of the IPPC have been arrived at through an extremely rigorous process, with exacting standards of evidence. That’s what true skepticism is all about.

A typical paragraph in the report reads like this: “It is virtually certain that globally the troposphere has warmed since the mid-20th century. More complete observations allow greater confidence in estimates of tropospheric temperature changes in the extratropical Northern Hemisphere than elsewhere. There is medium confidence in the rate of warming and its vertical structure in the Northern Hemisphere extra-tropical troposphere and low confidence elsewhere.” The scientific team behind the IPPC report openly acknowledges where its data is strong, and where it is relatively weak.

That standard of transparent skepticism is not met by those who most loudly claim to be skeptics about climate change.

For example, in the Olean Times Herald, a newspaper published in the small city of Olean in Western New York, a Joel Loeschnig writes that, “Tornadoes, floods, droughts, hurricanes, forest fires and mudslides may be on the increase, but voting in liberal Democrats who support anti-God social agendas is not exactly the answer to our climate change problems. Bible-believing Christians know the greatest flood in the history of mankind was not caused by man polluting the environment, but by the pollution of his soul.”

The Evangelical Declaration On Global Warming, issued by the Cornwall Alliance For The Stewardship Of Creation, asserts that “We believe Earth and its ecosystems—created by God’s intelligent design and infinite power and sustained by His faithful providence —are robust, resilient, self-regulating, and self-correcting, admirably suited for human flourishing, and displaying His glory. Earth’s climate system is no exception.” The declaration further states that “We call on Christian leaders to understand the truth about climate change and embrace Biblical thinking, sound science, and careful economic analysis in creation stewardship.”

Answers In Genesis claims that, “the Bible provides sufficient counsel to enable Christians to evaluate the claims of global warming and arrive at a confident position that is in accord with real science. The contention that man’s activities are causing global warming, as described in the media and by its advocates, is a myth.”

Each of these statements was crafted by a person who asserts that the scientific data analysis, gathered over decades through carefully engineered equipment, evaluated by professionals with years of specialized training, and analyzed with full public transparency, isn’t sufficient to support the theory of anthropogenic climate change. They argue that, somehow, the science isn’t rigorous enough.

On the other hand, their alternative proposal is to demand that we accept on faith, without any scientific data at all, that a series of documents written thousands of years ago, based on serial transmission of anecdotal accounts with the original testimony of witnesses completely lost, depicting magic spells cast by supernatural beings, provides an unquestionably reliable basis for evaluating climatological trends.

Among the conclusions of this Bible-based climatology is that human moral failings, rather than carbon dioxide, cause the planet’s climate to change.Does that count as acceptance of the reality of anthropogenic climate change?

What Happened To America After Obama Ignored Matt Salmon’s Demands On Ebola

America spent the entire month of October freaking out about Ebola, and many politicians in the U.S. House of Representatives, instead of trying to calm the panic, sensed an opportunity. Among these was Congressman Matt Salmon, who sent a letter to President Obama demanding that the President enact a ban on flights from Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone, to “restrict travel from the affected areas by revoking and refusing to issue entrance visas to citizens of those nations.”

Barack Obama refused to enact the travel ban that Matt Salmon demanded… and do you realize what the consequences have been? The incubation stage of 21 days for Ebola panic have passed since Matt Salmon issued his demands, so it seemed a good time to check.

One person in the United States currently has Ebola, and his condition appears to be steadily improving.

The more the United States ignores Matt Salmon’s panicky demands, the better.

matt salmon ebola

A Little F Makes All the Difference

I am not above a scatalogical giggle. Having tried GOTV, I can say it really does feel a bit like a shit in your neighborhood.

Democrat Emily Cain Hops on the Ebola Panic Bandwagon

While it’s fair to say that more Republicans than Democrats have been caught up in the panic over Ebola in the United States, the Ebola freakout is not an entirely partisan phenomenon. In a recent debate for the Maine 2nd District Congressional race, Democratic candidate Emily Cain was asked the question, “What should government be doing to prevent the spread of Ebola?”

Cain’s answer:

Emily Cain in an October 16 2014 Congressional Debate, speaking on the subject of Ebola policy“This Ebola crisis is scary. It’s frightening.

I’m worried about my friends and family who may be traveling around the country, and it’s very clear to me that the Obama administration has not done enough. I saw some of the hearings this morning with the CDC Director Tom Frieden and it was very clear to me that they are not ready and that we are behind the ball when it comes to making sure we are ready to not only do the screenings that we need but also to make sure the people who are affected get the treatmens they need.

I support closing down flights to the U.S. and, closing down flights period from countries that are dealing with this disease and this crisis. We need to make sure we stop the spread of Ebola in its tracks, and we also need to up the screenings at airports. It’s the right thing to do to make sure that we stop it now before it spreads and gets worse. It’s very scary and it’s something I’m keeping a very close eye on.”

The spread of Ebola is certainly frightening in the three small and contiguous African nations of Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone. According to the World Health Organization’s updated report as of October 31, there have been 13,540 cases of Ebola in those three nations and 4,941 deaths.

Outside of these three nations, however, Ebola is not a significant threat to health. In a world of 7,200,000,000 people, there have been only 10 Ebola deaths outside the borders of these three small nations. This past summer, it looked as though Nigeria might become an Ebola hotspot, with 20 people becoming infected and 8 people dying of Ebola. However, Ebola was utterly eradicated from Nigeria by the end of the summer. Other African nations report just two cases and one death. Spain had a single case of Ebola — but Spain’s Ebola patient has been cured.

The United States is the only other nation on the planet to have Ebola cases this year. In the USA, a nation of 319,000,000 people, there have been just 4 cases of Ebola, and all infected individuals have been placed under thorough quarantine and treatment procedures. There has been only 1 Ebola death in the USA. For some weeks, the disease has been entirely under control and limited to isolation wards in the United States.

The United States has no Ebola epidemic. The risk from Ebola is far more miniscule than the risk of asteroid impacts. And yet Emily Cain, running for a position in Congress as a national leader, does not sensibly appeal for calm. Instead, she twice mentions how “scary” Ebola is and once how “frightened” she is. In stoking panic, Emily Cain gets specific, declaring that she’s “worried about my friends and family who may be traveling around the country.” But there are no people with Ebola in the United States who travelers around the country with which Emily Cain’s friends and family could even possibly come in contact. One of the Ebola patients is dead and buried. Two others have been cured and so are not infectious. The remaining individual with Ebola is in isolation in a New York City hospital and is recovering well.

Ebola is well under control in the United States — but Emily Cain does not recognize this. The risk of family and friends picking up Ebola as they travel through the United States is miniscule — but Emily Cain is worked und worried about the possibility. As someone who is running for the U.S. Congress, Emily Cain stands to disproportionately influence our national policy in regard to Ebola in particular and infectious disease in general. If she does win election, hopefully she will manage to shake herself of her panic before she begins pushing for disproportionate, unneeded, and costly policies to remedy a crisis in the United States that does not exist.

It is the job of a national leader to dispel irrational fears — not stoke them — and to redirect attention toward areas of legitimate concern. I hope Emily Cain redirects the energy and effort of the U.S. government and its citizens to sending aid to the legitimately suffering people of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. I hope she can stop venting her illegitimate panic about risk at home.

Green Garden Links For a Withering Season

This morning, November is setting in, with dark skies and harsh winds pelting snowflakes at me.

Back inside, I’m closing my eyes and listening to A Guide To Garden Wildlife from BBC Radio If you need to see, there’s also Garden Wildlife video from the BBC.

Other resources for fantasizing about wild things in gardens, for the growing year to come even as the green fades away:

Back Garden Wildlife

frayed gardenEcosystem Gardening

Wildlife Gardener

The Wildlife Garden Project

The Canadian Wildlife Federation’s wildlife gardening advice

Landscape for Life

Beautiful Wildlife Garden

Native Plants and Wildlife Gardens

Southwest Washington Wildlife Botanical Gardens

The Wildlife Trusts advice on gardening

Similar advice from the National Wildlife Federation

Finally, for a very different kind of wildlife garden from what I enjoy in the northeastern United States, there’s the Arizona Desert Xeriscape blog.

Conservative Calls For Climatologists To Be Rounded Up And Shot In Order To Stop Scientific Reports On Climate Change

Tomorrow, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change will release a new report summarizing scientific knowledge about climate change.

Excerpts from the report:

“Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, and since the 1950s, many of the observed changes are unprecedented over decades to millennia. The atmosphere and ocean have warmed, the amounts of snow and ice have diminished, sea level has risen, and the concentrations of greenhouse gases have increased.”

“Human influence has been detected in warming of the atmosphere and the ocean, in changes in the global water cycle, in reductions in snow and ice, in global mean sea level rise, and in changes in some climate extremes. This evidence for human influence has grown since AR4. It is extremely likely that human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century.”

“Evidence for a warming world comes from multiple independent climate indicators, from high up in the atmosphere to the depths of the oceans. They include changes in surface, atmospheric and oceanic temperatures; glaciers; snow cover; sea ice; sea level and atmospheric water vapour. Scientists from all over the world have independently veri- fied this evidence many times. That the world has warmed since the 19th century is unequivocal.”

“Individually, any single analysis might be unconvincing, but analysis of these different indicators and independent data sets has led many independent research groups to all reach the same conclusion. From the deep oceans to the top of the troposphere, the evidence of warmer air and oceans, of melting ice and rising seas all points unequivo- cally to one thing: the world has warmed since the late 19th century.”

“Both anthropogenic climate change and anthropogenic ocean acidification are caused by increasing carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere. Rising levels of carbon dioxide (CO2), along with other greenhouse gases, indi- rectly alter the climate system by trapping heat as it is reflected back from the Earth’s surface. Anthropogenic ocean acidification is a direct consequence of rising CO2 concentrations as seawater currently absorbs about 30% of the anthropogenic CO2 from the atmosphere.”

“While solar variability may have had a discernible contribution to changes in global surface temperature in the early 20th century, it cannot explain the observed increase since TSI started to be mea- sured directly by satellites in the late 1970s.”

In response, a commenter on the Associated Press preview of the report said of the IPCC that, “These people need to be rounded up, taken out and beaten and then shot! Nothing less will do.”

Dan Benishek Abandons Medical Ethics To Whip Up Ebola Panic For Personal Gain

U.S. Representative Dan Benishek likes to point out to voters in his congressional district that he is a medical doctor, as this assertion gives him an air of authority. Benishek knows that many voters look up to doctors, and uses that instinct to give his political agenda the air of a medical prescription not to be questioned.

dan benishek ebolaIn recent weeks, however, Dan Benishek has abandoned all sense of medical ethics, using his position as a medical doctor to encourage public panic about Ebola for the sake of his own personal political advantage in the 2014 congressional elections.

“As a doctor, I understand that many in Northern Michigan are concerned about the Ebola outbreak in West Africa,” Benishek writes. “We must do everything in our power to ensure that a full-blown outbreak does not occur within America’s borders,” he says. “I believe we must pursue all options.”

Not one single person has caught Ebola in the United States and died. Not one.

Compare that to the problem of death by cow. Yes, on average, twenty-two people are killed by cows every year in the United States.

In comparison to the total of four Ebola cases in the USA this year, there are about 33,000 cases of Lyme disease in the United States every year?

So, why isn’t Dan Benishek warning residents of northern Michigan about the dangers of cows? Why isn’t he spending his time warning voters in his district about the dangers of Lyme disease? There are many cows and disease-bearing ticks in northern Michigan, but there hasn’t been any case of Ebola ever recorded within the borders of Michigan, after all.

The reason is cynical: Dan Benishek knows that he can use panic about the Ebola virus to stimulate voters’ xenophobia, and specifically their anti-African racist anger against Barack Obama. Banishek knows that Ebola hype is a powerful way to turn out his political base, so he’s willing to throw reasonable medical caution to the winds, and recommend an “everything in our power” approach to Ebola that is scientifically unsupportable.

Every year in the United States, there are over 23 million visits to doctors’ offices to deal with infectious and parasitic diseases. This year, 4 of these cases have turned out to be Ebola. Dan Benishek won’t share this statistical perspective, however, because it doesn’t serve his political agenda.

Dan Benishek may be a medical doctor, but he’s trained as a surgeon, not as an infectious disease specialist. When he rants and raves about Ebola threatening northern Michigan, he’s betting that voters in his district are too ignorant to know the difference.

Susan Collins, Big Money Candidate. Shenna Bellows, Small Money Candidate. Who Wins?

Contribution totals in the Maine Senate race through October 15, 2014 have become available at the Federal Election Commission, and they tell a story of strong contrasts.

Here’s a graphic profile of Democrat Shenna Bellows’ campaign contributors:

Campaign Contribution Profile of Democratic Party Senate Candidate Shenna Bellows of Maine

And here’s a graphic profile of Republican Susan Collins’ campaign contributors:

Campaign Contribution Profile of Republican Maine Senate Candidate Susan Collins, January through October 2014

Less than 1 in 10 dollars to Shenna Bellows’ campaign came from political action committees and political party machines; more than 4 in 10 dollars to Susan Collins’ campaign came from corporate and party sources.  The vast majority of the individual contribution dollars coming to Susan Collins came from people giving $200 or more; FEC data show that the average contribution to Collins was $792.  A noticeably larger share of Shenna Bellows’ contribution dollars came from people giving $200 or less; FEC data shows that the average contribution to Bellows was $381, less than half the contribution that Collins earned.

Who are these big donors to Republican Susan Collins?  They don’t live in Maine, the state that she is supposed to represent. Collins’ bigger donors come from the centers of power and wealth in this country, centers far outside of Maine.

For example, in this election cycle, 9 people who work for the top lobbying firm in the nation, Patton Boggs, donated funds to Susan Collins.  They are:

Donor Donation amount
BOGGS, THOMAS H JR $1,000.00
BREAUX, JOHN $1,000.00
GREEN, MICAH $1,000.00
JONAS, JOHN $500.00

While Susan Collins raked in 9 donations from the DC giant Patton Boggs, she got no contributions from the town of Pembroke, Maine.

Shenna Bellows received a $50 contribution from Pembroke, Maine, but $50 from Pembroke that can’t compete with all that money from Patton Boggs. Nobody who works for Patton Boggs donated money to Shenna Bellows.

In 2013 and 2014, 60 people working for the lobbying and corporate law firm DLA Piper donated funds to Susan Collins.  They are:

Donor Donation amount:
BURCH, FRANCES $2,000.00
BUSS, DAVID $1,000.00
BYNOE, PETER $1,000.00
COWIN, MERLE $500.00
CRIZ, JESSE $1,000.00
CUSACK, JOHN T $1,000.00
EPSTIEN, JAY $500.00
FORD, ANN $1,000.00
GATELY, MARY $500.00
GRANT, ANDREA $1,000.00
KAHN, SARAH $500.00
KLEIN, GARY J $500.00
LEE, TARA $500.00
MERRIGAN, JOHN $1,000.00
MILLER, LEE $1,000.00
NADEAU, MARK $1,000.00
SHAH, RAJ $1,000.00
SUSLER, DAVID G $1,000.00
WEIL, ANDREW L $1,000.00

While Susan Collins raked in 60 donations from the massive DLA Piper firm, she got no contributions from people who work for the Down East Community Hospital in Machias, Maine.

In contrast, Shenna Bellows received one relatively small contribution of $150 from a resident of nearby Jonesboro, Maine who works for the rural Down East Community Hospital. Not one soul who works for DLA Piper funneled money to Shenna Bellows.

Who is Susan Collins going to represent in her next term as a U.S. Senator? The town of Pembroke or the lobbyists at Patton Boggs? The Down East Community Hospital with its small staff and just 25 beds, or the thoroughly staffed corporate firm DLA Piper? When there are battles on Capitol Hill pitting one against the other, who do you think will win?