Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Cold Comfort in Nightmare Nation

High in the Department of Cold Comfort is Gary Younge's analysis in the Guardian that it really wasn't a wave election for the GOPers, the Dems didn't lose as badly as it seems, etc.

Or that (according to New York Magazine) liberal candidates lost while liberal policies won.  Or that a numbers analysis shows that GOPers did not disturb the Obama base very much.

Or that  "Denton, Texas became the first city in Texas to ban fracking with a locally led ballot initiative. Two counties in California did the same. Richmond, California defied massive spending from Chevron to elect a Mayor ready to take on Big Oil in their backyard," according to

That's about all the analysis I'm going to read, frankly.  Yes, the demographic and historical deck was stacked against the Democrats.  Yes, the billionaires bought themselves a Congress and more states, bought themselves noise and turmoil to upset the confrontation with the climate crisis, as well as other matters.

Did it make any difference in the end that Democrats were timid, running on tested single issues and running away from their President?  Maybe not, but it's going to matter now.  Does anybody know what Democrats stand for?  I guess we'll find out.  But I am sure that today would feel better if Dems had gone down fighting FDR style, i.e. "I welcome their hate."

Maybe the numbers will show that President Obama pulling back from action on immigration didn't hurt Dems in the end, but I suspect it's going to hurt from now on.  Timid Democrats kept Obama quiet, which didn't work out too well.  He and we missed the chance to define what matters and what's really happening, with the ultra-rich fossil fuel magnates, the Koch Brothers and their ilk, buying turmoil and killing the future.  It doesn't look like that electoral chance is coming again soon, not with the likely candidates for 2016.

The best news was that "President Obama did not appear chastened" by the outcome. 2015 is going to be a very important year for the future, it's going to be a lot more difficult now, but it will be all but lost if President Obama loses courage and leadership.

So we woke up to a nightmare country, with Tailgunner Ted as Majority Leader of the U.S. Senate.  It turns out that Tailgunner Joe McCarthy was actually a vampire, and he's got a promotion.

But at least this guy

beat this guy

to become governor of Pennsylvania.  Or something like that.

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

How Can You Mend A Broken Heart

From 2001, this has to be one of the last Bee Gees performances of this song. Great picture and sound--you almost have to see this to get how unique they were.

Hold Your Nose and Vote

It's not much of a slogan.  But it's about how I feel this year: Hold Your Nose and Vote.

Monitoring headlines over the past couple of days, it's clear that the media has decided that the Republicans have won the election that--not to put too fine a point on it--isn't over until tonight.  The NY Times and Washington Post seem sure that even the White House has decided the election is lost.

An amount of money has been spent that likely will never be totally known, but is certainly well beyond obscene.  Unsurprisingly it's estimated that the Republicans have won the contest to spill the most billions in "dark money," courtesy of our Supreme Republican Court.  But then if money is speech, how can I be talking?

My email inbox has been stuffed every single day with pleas to donate $3, $5, $200 from every Democrat with a name, plus some that look made up.  I used to get a thrill when I saw President Obama's name as the sender, but this time around I just got embarrassed, and felt really tawdry sending him to junk mail.  The mailers sent in his name did him no favors--there wasn't even the pretense of a presidential message, just check boxes for cash.

Today I got around to sorting through the piles of campaign mail on behalf of candidates and propositions.  None of it made me feel good about anything.

  Nationally, the Democrats seem to have too many mediocre candidates.  But their Republican opponents are far, far worse.  If Iowa actually elects Joni Ernst to the US Senate (and media has decided it already has), the state and the US Capitol both deserve to fall into the sea.  And I'm well aware of Iowa's location when I say that.

Find me a candidate, incidentally, who even noticed the epic UN climate report on Sunday.  It didn't even last as a news story until Monday.  But then it's only about the fate of the planet, the future of the human race and how the lives of everybody on Earth who expects to live more than another twenty years is going to change significantly... but of course that can't be important in an election.

Conventional wisdom is that Republicans succeeded in making these elections about President Obama (even though they dropped their plan to sue him, and stopped insisting they would repeal Obamacare), and because the world not being perfect enough is his fault, they will win.  A few writers were a bit more cautious, noting for example the radio ads Obama made for black radio stations that could affect turnout and therefore outcomes in some highly contested states.  But basically, this is part of the post-election narrative that--like it does just about everything--the media has delivered in advance.

Conventional wisdom is that the Senate is lost to Dems, and except for the dramatic and inflated headlines that the media will joyfully hype, that it doesn't make much difference anyway.  Jonathan Chait's argument is probably the most sophisticated, and maybe the most reasonable.  After noting that "the Republicans in the House are, by and large, barking mad" and oppose everything, including the concept of governing, and without the House, nothing gets passed, therefore the Senate is superfluous. "If the House could make a deal with Obama, the Senate would sign on to the deal if it were controlled by Republicans or if it were controlled by Democrats. Gridlock will continue through the next Congress regardless of the Senate race."

Of course, legislation isn't all that's at issue--there are judicial and executive appointments, treaty ratification etc. Plus the joy of seeing McConnell's face more often.  But basically Chiat is among those who are essentially saying this election means nothing.

My prime political consultant Andy Borowitz agrees that nothing will change, although he sees the impact a little differently, in his story headlined Midterms Prediction: Billionaires to Retain Control of Government.

And yet, on Tuesday afternoon I'll walk a quarter mile or so to my polling place (which is itself pretty dull--nowhere near as interesting as any of my Pennsylvania polling places, with their kibitzing pols and bake sales) and I will (figuratively) hold my nose and (actually) vote.

I will vote.  Why?  Because I'm a damn citizen that's why.

Sunday, November 02, 2014

It Starts: The Fossil Fuels Endgame

From the Guardian:

Climate change is set to inflict “severe, widespread, and irreversible impacts” on people and the natural world unless carbon emissions are cut sharply and rapidly, according to the most important assessment of global warming yet published.

The stark report states that climate change has already increased the risk of severe heatwaves and other extreme weather and warns of worse to come, including food shortages and violent conflicts. But it also found that ways to avoid dangerous global warming are both available and affordable.

“Science has spoken. There is no ambiguity in the message,” said the UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, attending what he described as the “historic” report launch. “Leaders must act. Time is not on our side.” He said that quick, decisive action would build a better and sustainable future, while inaction would be costly.

Ban added a message to investors, such as pension fund managers: “Please reduce your investments in the coal- and fossil fuel-based economy and [move] to renewable energy.”

The report, released in Copenhagen on Sunday by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), is the work of thousands of scientists and was agreed after negotiations by the world’s governments. It is the first IPCC report since 2007 to bring together all aspects of tackling climate change and for the first time states: that it is economically affordable; that carbon emissions will ultimately have to fall to zero; and that global poverty can only be reduced by halting global warming. The report also makes clear that carbon emissions, mainly from burning coal, oil and gas, are currently rising to record levels, not falling."

The BBC hones in on the specifics that also led what US media reports there were:

The unrestricted use of fossil fuels should be phased out by 2100 if the world is to avoid dangerous climate change, a UN-backed expert panel says.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says in a stark report that most of the world's electricity can - and must - be produced from low-carbon sources by 2050.

If not, the world faces "severe, pervasive and irreversible" damage. The UN said inaction would cost "much more" than taking the necessary action."

Anything new here?  Mostly that the UN Panel is officially saying these things, in a reported vetted by governments--the process that typically waters down the final reports.  And by providing numbers in terms of years, it goes a long way in setting the agenda for the next and absolutely crucial international meetings next year.

It emphasizes what Bill McKibben wrote in another of his thoughtful reviews of the recent literature on the subject in the New York Review of Books this summer:

"We may be entering the high-stakes endgame on climate change. The pieces—technological and perhaps political—are finally in place for rapid, powerful action to shift us off of fossil fuel. Unfortunately, the players may well decide instead to simply move pawns back and forth for another couple of decades, which would be fatal. Even more unfortunately, the natural world is daily making it more clear that the clock ticks down faster than we feared. The whole game is very nearly in check."