A few convention highlights

Posted August 28th, 2008 by Sylvia S Tognetti and filed in Civics 101

Just a few convention highlights :

Josh Marshall has it on good authority that John Kerry wrote his whole speech himself – here is an excerpt that bears repeating:

I have known and been friends with John McCain for almost 22 years. But every day now I learn something new about candidate McCain. To those who still believe in the myth of a maverick instead of the reality of a politician, I say, let’s compare Senator McCain to candidate McCain.

Candidate McCain now supports the wartime tax cuts that Senator McCain once denounced as immoral. Candidate McCain criticizes Senator McCain’s own climate change bill. Candidate McCain says he would now vote against the immigration bill that Senator McCain wrote. Are you kidding? Talk about being for it before you’re against it.

Let me tell you, before he ever debates Barack Obama, John McCain should finish the debate with himself.

TPM also has a videoclip of the whole thing.

And Bill Clinton said “Thanks but no thanks” to what the last 8 years has given us – excerpt from the NYT transcript:

But on the two great questions of this election — how to rebuild the American dream and how to restore America’s leadership in the world — he still embraces the extreme philosophy that has defined his party for more than 25 years.


And it is, to be fair to all the Americans who aren’t as hard- core Democrats as we, it’s a philosophy the American people never actually had a chance to see in action fully until 2001, when the Republicans finally gained control of both the White House and the Congress.

Then we saw what would happen to America if the policies they had talked about for decades actually were implemented. And look what happened.

They took us from record surpluses to an exploding debt; from over 22 million new jobs to just 5 million; from increasing working families’ incomes to nearly $7,500 a year to a decline of more than $2,000 a year; from almost 8 million Americans lifted out of poverty to more than 5.5 million driven into poverty; and millions more losing their health insurance.

Now, in spite of all this evidence, their candidate is actually promising more of the same.


Think about it: more tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans that will swell the deficit, increase inequality, and weaken the economy; more Band-Aids for health care that will enrich insurance companies, impoverish families, and increase the number of uninsured; more going it alone in the world, instead of building the shared responsibilities and shared opportunities necessary to advance our security and restore our influence.

They actually want us to reward them for the last eight years by giving them four more.


CLINTON: Now, let’s send them a message that will echo from the Rockies all across America, a simple message: Thanks, but no thanks.

(Bill Clinton on youtube).  If you can spare a dime, you might want to help get this ad on the air during the Republican convention next week, from the Campaign for America’s Future, saying “Thanks for the memories – we’ll take it from here”

And if you missed it, watch, (vs read) what Dennis Kucinich had to say. He was never seen as a realistic contender during the campaign, but I met someone from him home district who told me that much of his base is actually formerly Republican Democrats who he won over when he fought against privatization of the power company, and won. And during the primaries, he was the only candidate to show up in person at a candidates forum at the NCSE annual conference that addressed climate issues. So I think he at least deserves a bit more respect than he has received.

It looks like you can see all of the video clips at the Dem Convention site if you have the right software installed.

Gore doesn’t have to make any plans…

Posted October 15th, 2007 by Sylvia S Tognetti and filed in Civics 101

First of all, congratulations to Al Gore and to the IPCC for the well-deserved Nobel Prize, to the Nobel Committee for recognizing the climate crisis as a threat to the security of mankind, and to the BBC for substantive coverage, that focused on the reason for the award, and, unlike this AP article which appeared in the NY Times, did not attempt to “balance” the story with false and misleading allegations by Bjorn Lomborg – as if the Lomborg were actually a legitimate authority on anything. (debunked already, over and over and over…, as were allegations of “errors” in his film – more here from RealClimate,) The best commentary so far regarding his detractors is from Paul Krugman, who explains “Gore Derangement Syndrome” – select quotes: “The worst thing about Mr. Gore, from the conservative point of view, is that he keeps being right”… “the biggest reason the right hates Mr Gore [is that] their smear campaign has failed. He’s taken everything they could throw at him, and emerged more respected, and more credible, than ever. And it drives them crazy.” Bob Somerby promises more.
It is no accident that Gore keeps being right, and I don’t see that he has in any way “reinvented” himself. Here is an excerpt from a February 2005 interview of Leon Fuerth by Harry Kreisler in a “Conversations with history” series at the UC Berkeley Institute of International Studies. Fuerth, who is now a Research Professor at George Washington University, was a National Security Advisor to Vice President Al Gore, after having worked with him since shortly after Gore was first elected to Congress:

In the Congress, you worked for the Intelligence Committee later in its early period, correct?
I worked for the House Intelligence Committee as my first job after leaving the Foreign Service. I was there for a total of about six years. Around that time, Aspin was reassigned to the Arms Services Committee, which he eventually chaired. The House leadership assigned, then, young Congressman Gore to the Committee. One of my jobs in the committee was to be the staff resource on arms control verification, and Gore expressed an interest to learn something about this. The staff director steered me in his direction, and we began to form at first just a … the two of us talking about these issues in a systematic way. When that was finished, after about a year, it began to develop into a purposeful collaboration to affect the course of public debate on nuclear weapons and arms control.
He was a person who had been elected to office. What in his character or his personality made him open to looking down the road to the future and understand issues? That’s not a virtue that many people in Congress seem to have.
No, but it was something innate in him. By the time I met him, he had already been involved in forming something called the Congressional Clearinghouse for the Future.
This would have been what year?…
…Early, really early. I remember that when the staff director directed me to go see Gore, he said, “The new member says to me he wants to learn something global.” And at that point, the idea of globality was a little odd to me, but it was like an isotopic marker for Gore’s method of thinking. I mean, he naturally went for the full system. I didn’t understand how smart he was for a while, but it became clear. The other thing in the relationship is that he told me early on, explicitly, to tell him what I thought was best for the country and leave the politics to him. And he meant it. So that was the foundation of the relationship, that I knew I could tell him anything — I could tell him the truth, I could tell him I thought he’d just done something wrong, and that it would be absorbed without rancor, and that my value added to him was to tell it as I believed it.

This is, I presume, not the way most congresspeople are?

I wouldn’t say that, because by implication that would be a criticism for many excellent people in the Congress.
Okay, you’re right.
All I can tell you is that’s the way he was.
He was exceptional, let’s say.
I think he was in many ways. I also know that there were times when on my advice he would not take positions that had become popular and accept political cost for these. I saw him do it time and time again, sometimes with his teeth gritted.

Regardless of whether Gore runs for president, this recognition conferred on him with this prize reinforces a broader framing of the concept of national security, which, for too long, has been defined by in narrow military terms like MAD (Mutual Assured Destruction) that fueled the nuclear arms race. It also served as a blinder to any threat that could not be countered with force or threats of force, such as poverty and global warming, which require some capacity for collaboration, and also a willingness to do so. (For more on the history of debate over the meaning of the concept of security that has taken place since the end of the Cold war, see this post by Joe Brewer at the Rockridge Institute.) Scientists, in this case the IPCC, have also played an important role in this building the capacity for global collaboration, which requires common understanding of the problems and challenges being faced. Scientific assessments provide a good point of departure for this. Given that Gore’s first climate hearings came 10 years before the IPCC, I suspect he played an enabling role in the development of the capacity we now have for global scientific assessments, along with a number of scientists and scientific organizations whose work led to its formation.
Eventually, I’ll write a post about Gore’s call for a Global Marshall Plan – though I think we need a new name for it, because the Marshall Plan left out the developing world, which was then left with the devastation of the Cold War. So I would call it a Post-Cold War Reconstruction. For now, I just want to note a forecast made last February by Jeffrey Feldman:

The Democratic candidate who wins the 2008 nomination for President will not be the candidate who simply puts forward the best policy proposal on Iran or Afghanistan or any other individual military issue. The candidate who wins will be the candidate who reframes the entire debate on national security in progressive terms–the candidate who steps up and liberates the country from the destructive logic of the propaganda frame that President Bush calls “The War on Terror.”

Note also that, if Gore does decide to run, he doesn’t have to make plans… There are plenty of people doing it for him. And so can you! Just visit www.draftgore.com, and sign the petition…

The Lomborg continued etc

Posted September 11th, 2007 by Sylvia S Tognetti and filed in Category 5 Spin, Civics 101, The Lomborg

I’m blogging from a location where I can’t get Comedy Central, and only have a dial-up connection, so I haven’t been able to watch Stephen Colbert put The Lomborg in his place yet – but see David Roberts post, or go straight to Comedy Central. I may have more comments after I see it, in follow-up to this previous post. In related news that I can read, Michael Tobis has comments on a New York Times article that ponders whether Lomborg should be taken seriously. No. While it is news to me that he advocates a carbon tax, limiting coastal development and expanding wetlands, those aren’t the reasons he has been given a megaphone. Even supposing he were intellectually serious and honest, and has a few of his lines right, if he doesn’t understand the complexity, why is he getting the attention? For the moment, I’m not going to go there.

In unrelated news, in Italy (where I came to attend a family wedding etc….), Saturday was “V-day”, short for “Vaffanculo Day,” when, in response to a call from the comedian Beppe Grillo, using only his blog since he doesn’t get on television much anymore, 300,000 people came to selected town squares to sign a petition for a law that would prohibit convicted criminals from being elected to public office, set term limits, and allow people to vote for the actual members of parliament instead of just for the party. Apparently there are about 25 former convicts now in office, cronies of the former prime minister, who also appeared on TV  that evening, saying it is imperative that this government fail so there can be another election in the spring… He still has not accepted defeat. From Pisa, this is Sylvia “Not Poggioli” reporting….

Al Gore’s turn to Answer the Call

Posted July 17th, 2007 by Sylvia S Tognetti and filed in Civics 101

Al Gore may not have any plans to run again, but James Boyce has a plan for him, which I second. As Boyce points out, we don’t need any more candidates to learn from losing. Al Gore has been there, done that, and learned already. The best part:

Al Gore thinks he is a lousy politician, he’s right. He is. We need some lousy politicians who say what they mean and mean what they say. We need some lousy politicians who can’t stop themselves from rolling their eyes when a member of the press asks a moronic question. We need someone who points out how stupid the captions are on t.v. shows. We need Al Gore.

One of the lessons that should have been learned when Reagan won, is that it it possible to stick to your principles and still win an election. Whether you agreed with Reagan or not (and I did not), we all knew where he stood. At the time of that election, I was taking a political science 101 class in which we were all told Reagan would never win because he was a fringe candidate – to win, candidates have to play for the middle ground. As election day drew near, the professor predicted that Reagan would win if if rained on election day because Republicans vote rain or shine. ok, there was also a hostage crisis. But it doesn’t negate my point. We know where Al Gore stands and if he would just answer the call, those who haven’t been paying attention would know too. He is the only person with the vision and the experience to chart a new course – starting with the way to run an election campaign (see Boyce).

Michael Yaki, in an op-ed in the San Francisco Chronicle, expresses a similar view:

if Gore is truly serious about leading the effort to solve, as he has termed it, “the most dangerous crisis we’ve ever faced,” he must look to himself, because that effort must depend on credible, bold leadership inside 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.