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Will Going Hungry One Day Every Month Help Stop Climate Change?

Organizers of Fast For The Climate are choosing not to eat anything on the first day of every month, “showing their strength of commitment by going without food once a month to call for world leaders to do more to solve the climate crisis”.

According to the organization, thousands of people are participating in the fast, but how does not eating food for one day a month help to stop climate change? “It’s a rich personal experience, it gives a sense of revival, and cleansing, and joyfulness.” says one participant.

Jill Stein, Green Party candidate for President in the United States, is taking part in the monthly fast. She explains her involvement in the video below.

Does her rationale make sense to you?

Today Is World Naked Gardening Day

world naked gardening dayEvery year, the first Saturday in May is World Naked Gardening Day. That’s today, this year.

And have you heard anyone at your local garden center say, “Happy World Naked Gardening Day”? Probably not, and if we follow the logic of the American Family Association, that would mean that there is a War On World Naked Gardening Day.

From the World Naked Gardening Day web site: “Why garden naked? First of all, it’s fun! Second only to swimming, gardening is at the top of the list of family-friendly activities people are most ready to consider doing nude. Moreover, our culture needs to move toward a healthy sense of both body acceptance and our relation to the natural environment. Gardening naked is not only a simple joy, it reminds us — even if only for those few sunkissed minutes — that we can be honest with who we are as humans and as part of this planet.”

Honest? To be honest, I’m not sure my knees would feel very good if I were to kneel on the ground while doing the weeding for more than 5 minutes. My bare feet wouldn’t feel very good pushing a shovel into the ground either. Does it still count as naked if I wear knee pads and boots?

What exactly is “fun” about gardening naked? Do people who garden naked let out shouts of “woo hoo” while they’re putting seeds in the ground?

I’m also wondering about how being naked relates to our natural environment, in terms of gardening. Being naked is being totally natural for a human being, but gardening isn’t natural. A gardened environment is an artificial environment, so it seems more akin to wearing clothes than to being naked.

Finally, there’s the sunburn factor. The natural thing for the body of a person of European ancestry, such as myself, to do, after exposure to 2 to 3 hours of sunshine, which is the minimum that any good gardener would put in on a nice Saturday like today, is to burn, to blister, to peel.

Would I still be naked if I put on sunscreen?

Can anyone who actually participated in World Naked Gardening Day today explain these finer points?

At Democrats.com All Democratic Candidates Are Equal, Except Hillary Clinton, Who Is More Equal

On Thursday, Senator Bernie Sanders, who has been serving in Congress for the last three decades, announced that he will be running for the Democratic Party nomination for President in 2016. This announcement disrupted the establishment Democratic Party narrative, which held that Democrats had all decided to support Hillary Clinton for President, before a single primary or caucus ballot was cast.

bob fertik hillary clinton more equalThe discomfort caused by the Bernie Sanders for President campaign can be seen in an email I received a couple of hours ago from Democrats.com.

In this email, Bob Fertik does a little awkward shuffle to preserve the impression that Democrats.com isn’t taking sides in favor of any candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, while also not disrupting the sense that really, behind the neutral posture, we all know that Hillary Clinton is going to be the Democratic nominee.

Bernie Sanders has requested a message to Democrats.com supports, says Fertik, implying that, you know, the message wouldn’t be sent out about Sanders unless the special request was made. But hey, the email says, some of you may not want to hear about any other candidate besides Hillary Clinton, so we’ll offer you that option.

Fertik didn’t offer any such option for Bernie Sanders, to only receive emails about Bernie Sanders, and not about other Democrats candidates. The link offered by the Democrats.com email only provides for an opt-in to Bernie Sanders emails, without excluding emails about other Democratic candidates.

Then, to make the point that Bernie Sanders is regarded as an unwelcome outsider especially clear, Fertik offers a special link for Democrats.com followers who don’t want any emails about Bernie Sanders, but still want emails about other Democratic candidates. Note that there isn’t any option given for Democrats who aren’t interested in Hillary Clinton. The only opt-out made available by Democrats.com is an opt-out of emails promoting Bernie Sanders.

Democrats.com, Fertik says, “will make our audience available to Hillary Clinton and the other candidates on the same terms” – except that Democrats.com won’t allow people to block emails about Hillary Clinton. All Democratic candidates are equal at Democrats.com, you see, except for Hillary Clinton, who is more equal.

Through “Level the Playing Field,” Americans Elect Wades into Ranked Choice Voting

During its nine-year history, the privatized-presidential-election corporation called Americans Elect has taken on many names: Americans Elect, Change the Rule, Level the Playing Field, Unity08, Unity12 Task Force. In a post yesterday about the group’s resurrection for 2016, I noted how its recent activity featured a “charitable donation” to a mysterious 501c4 corporation called “The Chamberlain Project” that formed within a month of the formation of “Level the Playing Field” by Americans Elect executives.

Cara McCormick stands at the middle of these circles of activity, serving as a corporate officer for Americans Elect and “Level the Playing Field” and The Chamberlain Project. Cara McCormick’s business Smart Campaigns and “Level the Playing Field” are, according to campaign finance records, the sole monetary contributors to The Chamberlain Project.

According to those same campaign finance records, The Chamberlain Project has spent its money on just one enterprise in Maine — a political one. On November 6 2014, The Chamberlain Project sent $10,000 to Maine’s Committee for Ranked Choice Voting. On December 3 2014, The Chamberlain Project sent another $10,000 to the Committee for Ranked Choice Voting.

The Committee for Ranked Choice Voting did not exist as a registered political group in the Maine campaign finance system until October 28 2014, meaning that it formed just a week before The Chamberlain Project sent it its first infusion of cash. The Chamberlain Project was the single largest contributor to the Committee for Ranked Choice Voting in 2014.

Guess who chipped in an additional $4,000 contribution in cash and more than $1,600 in in-kind support to the Committee for Ranked Choice Voting in Maine on October 29, October 30, and November 1, 2014? Guess who filed the paperwork to establish the Committee for Ranked Choice Voting as a political committee in Maine? And guess who is the Treasurer for the Committee for Ranked Choice Voting? It’s just one person, and you already know the name: Cara McCormick.

“Level the Playing Field,” whose website only describes an interest in changing participation standards for the U.S. presidential debates, does not mention “ranked choice” once.

Why did “Level the Playing Field” send money to a group formed by its officer for the sole purpose of in turn sending money onward to a ranked choice voting advocacy group — a group that was founded on the money it and its officer sent? I don’t know, but I suspect the answer will be interesting. It’s time for me to look up some addresses and see if I can find out. I’ll be sending some letters tomorrow — but in the meantime, the fun of following this money trail has been its own reward.

Dramatizing Science: The League of Extraordinary Researchers

The League of Extraordinary Researchers, from Memorial University in Canada, has released an online comic book to promote its work.

league of extraordinary researchers“THIS IS WHO WE ARE. A GROUP OF SEEKERS. A SOCIETY OF WOMEN AND MEN SEARCHING FOR ANSWERS. ALL WITH ONE COMMON THEME — GREAT RESEARCH WITH REAL IMPACT.

WE GO ABOUT OUR DAYS WORKING FOR THE GREATER GOOD. SOMETIMES ALONE. SOMETIMES IN COLLABORATION WITH THE COMMUNITY. OTHER TIMES WITH INTERNATIONAL PARTNERS. WE ARE DEDICATED TO OUR INDIVIDUAL CAUSES AND THE UNIVERSITY WE SO PROUDLY REPRESENT.

WE ARE STRONG. WE ARE COMMITTED.

WE ARE THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY RESEARCHERS.”

Is this an effective way to promote scientific work?

On Mike Huckabee, Drunken Rednecks, And Fights

Mike Huckabee has just released a video that walks right up to the border of declaring a presidential campaign, and then dances on tiptoe to avoid it.

In this video, Huckabee defines his vision of leadership: “Any drunken redneck can walk into a bar and start a fight. A leader only starts a fight that he is prepared to finish.”

The message seems to be that we should vote for Mike Huckabee for President because he isn’t just any kind of drunken redneck, but is the kind of drunken redneck who can walk into a bar, start a fight, and then finish the fight… by beating his opponent into submission, or maybe killing him.

Is that really the kind of attitude we need to see in someone who is seeking access to America’s nuclear weapons arsenal?

mike huckabee redneck bar fight

In another gem from this video, Huckabee lectures, “There’s a difference between good and evil. I’ll keep all options on the table in order to defeat the evil forces of radical Islam.”

It’s curious to me that Mike Huckabee can in one breath talk about the stark distinction between good and evil, yet in the very next breath say that he will not rule out any tactics at all as President of the United States. Keeping all options on the table means that Huckabee wouldn’t distinguish between the relative moral status of different options. He wouldn’t bother considering the difference between good and evil that he claims to know so much about.

The problem with Mike Huckabee’s contemplation of evil is that the moral responsibility always rests with someone else. He seems to believe that moral failings are all external, out there in the world, committed by other people, and that all he has to do is confront the evildoers as he finds them. Huckabee doesn’t want to stop to wonder whether, once given the power of the presidency, he might himself do evil.

When Mike Huckabee says that he will keep all options on the table, that means he will keep torture on the table, keep imprisonment without criminal charge on the table, keep the bombing of urban areas dense with civilians on the table, and keep the use of nuclear weapons on the table.

There are some options that should never, ever be on the table. No person who fails to understand that should receive serious consideration as a candidate for President of the United States.

America Needs Scientists…

… but not so much that it needs to encourage girls to learn about science.

The notice below, urging parents to “Stimulate boys’ interest”, is from an advertisement for microscopes, telescopes, and other scientific equipment by Edmund Scientific Co. in the March 1958 issue of Natural History.

america needs scientists

Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders Announcements Compared

Earlier this spring, Hillary Clinton announced that she is running for President in a short statement on video, just 92 words long. She promised to be a champion for people trying to get ahead economically, even though people at the top have unfair advantages. She made no specific policy proposals. Below is a word cloud, prepared by Wordle.net, that represents what she had to say about her campaign.

Hillary Clinton announcement word cloud

Bernie Sanders had his announcement made available to people by video, but he gave his speech live, in front of a group of reporters who had the chance to ask questions of him. His announcement, including responses to reporters’ questions, was 1,726 words long. Sanders made specific policy proposals, referring to past votes and pieces of legislation. Below is a word cloud that represents what he had to say about his presidential campaign.

bernie sanders announcement word cloud

Hillary Clinton’s mode of announcement was more narrative than political, including a video showing quick stories about people’s lives rather than describing a policy agenda. It was tightly controlled and scripted, without a single word of improvisation.

Bernard Sanders’ mode of announcement was more political than narrative, without any pre-prepared visual elements or stories of particular voters. Sanders had clearly written much of his speech ahead of time, but he also spoke freely, improvising responses on the go.

Transcript of the Bernard Sanders 2016 Presidential Announcement Speech

The following is a word-for-word transcript of the announcement made by U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders that he intends to campaign for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination in 2016.

“Thank you all very very much for being out here today. Let me just make a brief comment and take a few questions. We don’t have an endless amount of time. I have to get back.

Let me just say this. This country today in my view, has more serious crises than any time since the Great Depression of the 1930s.

For most Americans, their reality is that they are working longer hours for lower wages. In inflation-adjusted income, they are earning less money than they used to, years ago, in spite a huge increase in technology and productivity.

bernard sanders 2016 announcement speechSo, all over this country, I have been talking to people, and they say, “How does it happen? I’m producing more, but I’m working longer hours for lower wages. My kid can’t afford to go to college, and I’m having a hard time affording health care. What happened, while at exactly the same time, 99 percent of the income being generated in this country is going to the top 1 percent?”

How does it happen that the top 1 percent owns almost as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent? And, my conclusion is that that type of economics is not only immoral, is wrong, it is unsustainable. It can’t continue.

We can’t continue having a nation in which we have the highest rate of childhood poverty of any major nation on Earth, at the same time as we’re seeing a proliferation of millionaires and billionaires.

So, that’s the major issue. The major issue is how do we create an economy that works for all of our people rather than a small number of billionaires, and the second issue, directly related, is the fact that as a result of the disastrous Supreme Court decision on Citizens United, we now have a political situation where billionaires are literally able to buy themselves elections and candidates. Let’s not kid ourselves. That is the reality right now.

So, you’ve got the Koch Brothers and other billionaire families who are prepared to spend hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars in elections to buy the candidates of their choice, often extreme right wing candidates.

I am the former chairman of the Senate Veterans Committee, and I can tell you that I don’t believe that the men and women who defend American democracy fought to create a situation where American billionaires own the political process. That’s a huge issue that we’ve got to deal with.

Right now, in terms of issues, we have a Republican Party that with few exceptions does not even recognize the reality of climate change, let alone that it is caused by human activity, let alone that the scientific community tells us that this is the major global environmental crisis that we face, and I want to see this nation lead the world in transforming our energy system away from fossil fuels, to energy efficiency and sustainable energy.

Real unemployment in America is not five and a half percent, if you include those people who have given up looking for work, and people who are working part time when they want to work full time. Real unemployment is 11 percent. We need to create millions of jobs, and the best way to do it is to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure, and I’ve introduced legislation to do just that: Create and maintain 13 million jobs.

In my state of Vermont, and throughout this country, young people, bright, young, able kids, cannot afford to go to college and are leaving school deeply in debt. In Germany, countries around the world, they understand that you tap the intellectual capabilities of young people, and you make college tuition in public colleges and universities free. That is my view as well.

So, there are enormous issues facing this country. Let me conclude by saying this, and I say this to the media: I have never run a negative ad in my life. I have been in many campaigns, and you ask the people of Vermont, they will tell you, “Bernie Sanders has never run a negative ad. I hate and detest these 30 second ugly negative ads.

I believe that in a democracy, what elections are about are serious debates about serious issues, not political gossip, not making campaign soap operas. This is not the Red Sox versus the Yankees. This is the debate over major issues facing the American people.

Honest people, my conservative friends, differ with me. That’s fine. That’s called democracy. It’s a good thing, but I’ve got to hope, and I have to ask the media’s help on this thing: Allow us to discuss the important issues facing the American people. Let’s not get hung up on political soap opera, and all the other aspects of modern campaigns

Thank you, and just let me take a few…

[Question]

Essentially, well, I’ll give you a detailed proposal right now. I regard it as unacceptable that you have major corporations in this country who make billions of dollars in profit who do not pay a nickel in federal income tax because, among other things, they stash their money in the Cayman Islands and Bermuda and other tax havens.

The wealthiest people in this country and the largest corporations have got to join the United States of America. They’ve got to come back to this country, and they’ve got to maintain and respect their responsibilities, and their responsibilities are not to ship jobs to China. They responsibilities are not to avoid paying federal taxes. So, we need real tax reform that says to the wealthiest people and the largest corporations, you’re going to have to start paying your fair share.

[Question]

I owe my brother an enormous amount. I grew up in a family that did not have a lot of money. My dad came to this country at the age of 17, dropped out of high school, never made any money. My mother graduated high school. We didn’t have a whole lot of books in the house. It was my brother who actually introduced me to a lot of my ideas. So, I hope my brother does very well in his race for Parliament in the UK.

[Question]

Absolutely not. No, that’s a fair question, and let’s be clear. To say that people disagree on issues, and the point of these issues, that’s what a debate is about. That’s what democracy is about. So, no, certainly I would be doing that.

What I’m saying is, you know this better than I do, is turn on these vicious 30-second ads, and vicious personal attacks against other candidates, I think the American people are sick and tired of it and I’ve never done it in my life.

[Question]

I think what is more fair game for my campaign is the role of money in politics. Where are the conflicts of interest, when the Koch brothers are going to be spending 900 million dollars in this campaign, making a lot of their money from fossil fuel, and having a platform which, as I understand it, calls for the elimination of Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid, ideas which are increasingly palatable to my Republican colleagues. That’s a conflict of interest.

So, the issue here is not the Clinton Foundation. That’s a fair issue. The issue is the huge amounts of money that it takes to run a campaign today.

And let me say this, and I say it honestly. One of the hesitancies that I had about deciding whether to run or not, is obviously about money. I’m not going to get money from the Koch brothers, and I’m not going to get money from billionaires. I’m going to have to raise my campaign contributions through BernieSanders.com, and small, individual contributions. That’s how I’m going to do it.

But, I seriously wonder, and it’s not just Bernie Sanders, I wonder now, in this day and age, whether it is possible for any candidate who is not a billionaire, or who is not beholden to the billionaire class, to be able to run successful campaigns, and if that is the case, I want you all to recognize what a sad state of affairs that is for American democracy.

[Question]

It’s too early. We don’t know what Hillary’s stances are on all the issues, but this is what I can tell you, and maybe let me conclude on this: I voted against the war in Iraq, and not only did I vote against it. I helped lead the effort, and many of the things I said back then turned out to be true, I mean the massive destabilization in the region.

I am helping right now to lead the effort against the TransPacific Partnership, because I believe it continues a trend of horrendous trade policies that have cost us millions of decent paying jobs. I helped lead the effort against the Keystone pipeline, because I don’t think we should be transporting some of the dirtiest fuel in the world, and we have to be really vigorous in terms of transforming the energy system.

So, those are some of my views, and we’ll see where Secretary Clinton comes out.

All right. With that, I have to get going.

Last question.

[Question]

Oh, no, not at all. We are in this race to win. It’s not a question, but you’ve got to understand, I have asked people to understand my history.

You are looking at a guy undisputably, who has the most unusual political history of anybody in the United States Congress.

I have run, it’s not only that I am the longest serving independent in the history of he United States Congress, I have run for statewide office and I got one percent of the vote. I don’t know if I should be proud of that, but my last election, I got 71 percent of the vote. The point is, that’s not the right question.

The question is, if you raise the issues that are on the hearts and minds of the American people, if you try to put a movement together that says, we have got to stand together as a people and say that, this capitol, this beautiful capitol, our country belonged to all of us, and not the billionaire class, that is not raising an issue. That is winning elections. That is where the American people are.”

Behind Americans Elect’s “Level the Playing Field” Donation to “Charity”

(Tip of the pen to Richard Winger for getting me started down this path.)

Earlier this year Americans Elect leaders popped up with a new organization, a new name (“Level the Playing Field”), and two mysterious payments from that group.   The first mysterious payment was made out to “Imaginary Friend.”  It turns out “Imaginary Friend” is a group connected to a web-design firm that has in turn created a web group with yet a third name, “Change the Rule.”  All these name changes take place against a history of other name changes.  Unity08, the original group funded by hedge fund money to mount a private corporate candidate for President of the United States, changed its name to the Unity12 Task Force, which in turn changed its name to Americans Elect when the Unity name became tainted.

The second mysterious payment from Americans Elect’s “Level the Playing Field” comes in the form of a “charitable contribution” to a group called “The Chamberlain Project” operating out of a post office box in South Portland, Maine.

What is a 527 Political Corporation doing making a $50,000 donation to a charitable organization run by its Secretary?

What is a Section 527 political corporation doing making payments to a Maine charity named “The Chamberlain Project?”  To answer that question, we’ll need to search Maine corporate records (there is no record of “The Chamberlain Project” at the federal level).  It turns out that the Chamberlain Project registered as a corporation in Maine on August 28, 2014.  That’s just 11 days before Americans Elect’s “Level the Playing Field” incorporated itself into existence, and just 18 days after the blank domain smartcampaigns.info registered itself with Cara McCormick as its listed individual registrant and “The Chamberlain Trust” as its listed organizational entity).

What is “The Chamberlain Project?” The project appears to have no website to call its own, and I can find no record of public statements by the Project either.  The only document on file with the Maine Bureau of Corporations, Elections and Commissions are its Articles of Incorporation. This document indicates just two novel pieces of information:

1. The sole incorporator of the corporation is Cara McCormick…
… the same Cara McCormick who is the listed registrant for “The Chamberlain Trust,”
… the same Cara McCormick who is listed on the Board of Advisors for Americans Elect,
… the same Cara McCormick who co-wrote a Mission Report sent to Americans Elect investors after the 2012 elections, explaining what Americans Elect had done and what it planned to do next, and
… the same Cara McCormick listed as Secretary of “Level the Playing Field.”

2. The Chamberlain Project is registered as a 501(c)(4) corporation. 501c4 corporations like The Chamberlain Project and Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS have become one of the major conduits through which large donors influence American politics.

If the Chamberlain Project is a political corporation, has it engaged in any political activity? There is no record of such activity by “The Chamberlain Project” registered with the Federal Election Commission or the IRS’ disclosure site for federal political corporations. But the Maine Ethics Commission‘s campaign contribution database does report activity by The Chamberlain Project in 2014 and 2015. Records indicate that the Chamberlain Project officially registered as a PAC (Political Action Committee) with the state of Maine in November of 2014.

There are just two sources of funding listed for The Chamberlain Project. One is Level the Playing Field. The other is “Smart Enterprises Inc.” The registered agent of Smart Enterprises, Inc? Cara McCormick.

More tomorrow.

The Seven Reasons Bernie Sanders Could Win The 2016 Democratic Nomination

The word on the street is that Bernie Sanders will announce his intention to run for President of the United States as a Democrat in the 2016 election. Sanders has served in Congress as an independent for many years. The official Sanders web site already declares that the Senator from Vermont will be running for President, and that the campaign is “coming 5.26.15″.

Many observers are set to dismiss the Sanders for President campaign right away as having no chance of victory. A great deal can happen in a year’s time, however. Below are seven reasons that Bernie Sanders could win the 2016 Democratic Party presidential nomination.

1. Dynasty Fatigue

We had a Bush in the White House. Then we had a Clinton. Then we had another Bush in the White House. Then, another Clinton ran for President, and lost, but now, that Clinton is campaigning again as the Democratic frontrunner – with a Bush as the Republican frontrunner.

If the United States of America was a meritocracy, this political dominance by two political families would be impossible. The nearly complete control over presidential politics by the Bushes and the Clintons for an entire generation is a sign that something’s gone very wrong with our democracy. Voters may have had enough.

Bernie Sanders is the first member of his family ever to run for President.

2. Iraq

Hillary Clinton was an enthusiastic supporter of George W. Bush’s rush to invade Iraq. 13 years after her vote to support Bush’s foreign policy, Americans are still paying the price. What Democrat doesn’t feel a cold shiver of doubt about putting a supporter of the Iraq War blunder into the White House?

Bernard Sanders opposed the invasion of Iraq from the start.

sanders 2016 oval bumper sticker3. Fracking

The majority of Americans wants more regulation of fracking, the risky process that forces the release of methane from underground shale up to the surface. A large majority of Democrats are strongly opposed to the expansion of fracking. Hillary Clinton supports the expansion of fracking.

Bernie Sanders is opposed to fracking.

4. Wall Street

As David Corn says of Hillary Clinton, “She talks populism, but hobnobs with Wall Street.” Just two days ago, Clinton gathered with 35 of the wealthiest investors on Wall Street, to hear their policy proposals and take their money.

Bernie Sanders has pledged a truly populist campaign, “a grass roots, unprecedented campaign in which we are taking on the powerful billionaire class.” Speaking of the Wall Street investors who back the Clinton campaign, Sanders says, “They now want to own and control the government. And we are not going to allow them to do that.”

5. Ethics

Hillary Clinton has a long history of ethical scandals. They started back with the Whitewater investigation, continued with her involvement with Wal-Mart, and go all the way to her recent use of private email servers to hide communications about official government business during her time as Secretary of State.

By comparison, Bernie Sanders looks squeaky clean.

6. Democrats Might Decide To Finally Vote Their Conscience

For decades, Democrats have been warned over and over that, if they vote for the candidate that supports their ideals, the Republicans will win, and then they’ll institute a range of nasty right wing policies. So, Democratic voters have repeatedly elected center right candidates who, when they get elected, work with Republicans to institute a range of nasty right wing policies. After years of this kind of deception, Democratic voters might just be ready to wise up.

Bernie Sanders represents the political agenda that most rank-and-file Democrats dream of. Who is to say that Democrats won’t vote for the values that they support this time around?

7. Democracy Is Never Inevitable

Supporters of Hillary Clinton are fond of declaring that “It’s Hillary’s Turn”, but this cynical perspective assumes that power brokers can simply line up and grease the wheels of the powerful, and wait for their time to be anointed as leader, as if there is a line of political succession.

Political insiders thought that Hillary Clinton’s seizure of the Democratic presidential nomination was inevitable in 2008. They’re saying the same thing now. In democracy, nothing is inevitable. The choice remains with Democratic Party voters.