DNC Meeting Concludes

The conflict is over: both Florida and Michigan get to go to the convention with the compromise that their "flawed" votes (with voters in both states advised not to bother going to the polls, with only Clinton on the MI ballot) will only count by half.

Can I just say that it was great to watch? It was a room full of passionate people pounding on desks, pulling very few punches, and putting politeness aside to make sure their voices are heard. People were actually behaving as though lives depended upon their arguments, which is great because it's true: in a democracy your voice is your life -- and when your vote is your voice... There you go. So people persuaded instead of pandered, and while the audience in attendance may have been a little rowdy, it's great to see Americans excited about the process that will define their lives rather than American Idol or a bunch of rich, dumb jocks jumping around after an ovoid ball. 

That said, there was quite a bit of ignorance on display. But the thing about ignorance is that when it is hidden, it cannot be cured. It's kind of like how the crime rate can go down but if there's more reporting on it, we feel like the world's going to hell. Or how journalism used to be much less objective and trustworthy, but we tend to feel like journalism is in its dark days now, because now's when we're getting some truth alongside the lies: an improvement because the lies are actually being caught, but it replaces a false "peace" with something that "looks" bad. Or consider these DNC meeting attendees interviewed by Salon:

"Superdelegates? All of a sudden we are hearing about them. Who are these people?" asked Sharon Miley, a 66-year old woman who traveled by bus from South Bend Indiana. "I've been voting since I was 22. This is the first time I felt like my vote did not count," she said.

"It is the whole system," added Phyllis Steele, who came along with her. "It is not democracy any more."

In the past, these people were ignorant: they believed that America was a direct democracy, and that their votes were deciding things. Now they've learned the odd intricacies that were there all along, and they're scared, they think that something's changed. But the only thing that's changed is their ignorance. This may feel scary and bad to them, but in the long run this can only be good.

Here's a taste of the meeting, with Florida Rep. Robert Wexler. The good stuff starts about 1:20 in.

Hey Bill?

Shut up.

Clinton asked the crowd to remember “every time you turn on the television and you listen to one of those people dissin’ her, they all have a college degree. They’ve all got a good job. They all got health care. And they’re having no trouble fillin’ up their gas tank.”
The same is true for every person on television who's supporting Senator Clinton. That's typically the case for professional journalists, opinion people, activists and spokespeople. I'm all about calling for a class war, but if you're going to do it, direct your fire at the people who deserve it--the corporate people who run this country and their allies in the Republican party.

Toxic, Torture

The editorial board of the New York Times is on board with what we all know: the "food system" in the US is a cruel and dangerous catastrophe

It's definitely notable, and good, that so many mainstream voices have been stepping forward on this issue -- unfortunately, when you tell people that "meat is torture," they think you're just an alarmist vegan taking "meat is murder" into the shallow extremes of 21st Century rhetoric. When you tell people that "meat is toxic," they think that for you, pure must mean eating for yoga and meditation: carrots and brown rice.

People are missing the problem entirely: the meat is literally toxic to your body and will give you diseases, disorders, and possibly kill you. The animals are literally being tortured -- kept and fed in such unnecessarily inhumane ways that they barely survive to the slaughter. They are killed at a profit-motivated speed that means every now and then a cow is not stunned properly, and is pulled apart while still alive. 

The problem gets even broader, though:

The astonishing increase in the number and size of confined animal operations has been spawned largely by the very structure of American farm supports, which always has been skewed in a way that concentrates farming in fewer and fewer hands. As both of these reports make clear, the so-called efficiency of industrial animal production is an illusion, made possible by cheap grain, cheap water and prisonlike confinement systems.

In short, animal husbandry has been turned into animal abuse. Manure — traditionally a source of fertilizer — has been turned into toxic waste that fouls the air and adjacent water bodies. Crowding creates health problems, resulting in the chronic overuse of antibiotics.

And, because the modest profits in confinement operations require the lowest possible labor costs, including automated feeding, watering and manure-handling systems, these operations have helped empty and impoverish rural America.

What these mainstream voices are confirming, for a wider and wider audience, is that you can have absolutely no problem with eating meat, but if you've got an ounce of sense, you shouldn't want to eat the meat from animals raised and slaughtered in the US. It's full of feces because the animals are slaughtered too quickly and their guts get on the meat. It's full of hormones and other pharmaceuticals because massive amounts of drugs are required to keep these tortured animals alive. And no matter how comfortable you are with the idea of killing animals for food, you are probably not okay with the way our food animals are treated during their short lives. 

Meat is toxic, meat is torture. But it doesn't have to be that way. If more mainstream voices, like the Times editorial board, keep pressing this issue, we could see a few simple reforms realized which would put things on a far less horror-film footing:
The Pew report recommends new laws regulating pollution from industrial farms as rigorously as pollution from other industries, a phasing-out of confinement systems that restricts “natural movement and normal behavior,” a ban on antibiotics used only to promote animal growth and the application of antitrust laws to encourage more competition and less concentration.
Hard? Not really. Less profitable? Yeah, a bit. Worth it? Every moment and every penny. You are what you eat.

Ah, the good old days.

And with the R&B (Rules and Bylaws) Committee meeting tomorrow to discuss the fate of the Florida and Michigan delegations, if this helps, I'd like to dedicate the following song to you.

Normally, I do the Random Ten on Friday mornings, and technically it's Saturday morning, but what the hell. I've just put a bunch of new (to me) music on my computer, so I'm feeling frisky. Let's spin the big wheel and see what pops out. Put the iTunes on Part Shuffle and post the next ten songs to pop up. No hiding songs you're embarrassed by--we saw you doing the Soulja Boy through the window anyway. Here we go.

1. Lay Low--My Morning Jacket
2. Party Pit--The Hold Steady
3. St. Louis Blues--Dave Brubeck
4. Furnace Room Lullaby--Neko Case
5. Tiago's Groove--Nando Michelin Trio
6. The Warning--Lifesavas
7. Turn You Inside Out--R.E.M.
8. Fickle-Hearted Man--Big Smith
9. The Four of Us Are Dying--Nine Inch Nails
10. Heart of the Sunrise--Yes
The Nine Inch Nails is from their new album, downloadable for free at their website. I've only listened to the first couple of songs, but I like it, even though it's outside my general taste range. So, what song would you recommend to the R&B committee for their meeting, or what song would you dedicate to either of the two remaining Democratic candidates. I imagine the folks over at Hillaryis44 will be listening to "Ain't No Sunshine When She's Gone" by Bill Withers.

I would feel better about this story if it came from a reporter instead of from posters at Daily Kos and Talk Left, but given that Delaware Dem of Daily Kos has done just about everything but spit in Clinton's face over the last month and Big Tent Democrat (the poster formerly known as Armando) has done just about everything but take a bullet from her are in agreement on the story, I tend to lend it some credence.

Here's the short and dirty: Senator Clinton has conceded that both Florida and Michigan were in violation of DNC rules when they moved their primaries up, and that they were properly sanctioned as a result.

"But Brian," you ask. "Was there even a debate about that?"

Yes, apparently there was. It seems the whole time this argument has been going on, it's been based on the theory that because Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina moved their primaries up to maintain their positions in the pecking order established by the DNC, they were as much in violation as Florida and Michigan. Don't ask me to explain more than that--the important thing is that the Clinton campaign has apparently abandoned that argument.

Which leaves them what? According to Delaware Dem, it leaves them this, as provided by Clinton's general counsel.

...[the RBC] "has broad powers to fully reinstate the Florida and Michigan delegations. Rule 20(C)(7) allows the RBC to forgive violations when a state party and other relevant Democratic party leaders and elected officials have taken provable, positive steps and acted in good faith to bring the state into compliance with the DNC’s Delegate Selection Rules."
In other words, if the R&B Committee wants to be nice, they can forgive the two states and pretend nothing happened. I don't know what the Clinton campaign or the Florida delegation plans to point to as evidence that they've "taken provable, positive steps and acted in good faith to bring the state into compliance with the DNC’s Delegate Selection Rules;" Michigan has come up with a plan that many Clinton supporters have a problem with, since it gives her fewer delegates than she "won" in that election, but I don't think Florida's done jack to bring the state into compliance.

But in the end, it seems the Clinton campaign has acknowledged that it doesn't really have a positive argument to ask the R&B Committee to overturn the earlier ruling, other than to say "we need Florida and Michigan in November, so please ignore their earlier conduct." And I hope, as I've said before, that the Committee decides to split the difference on Florida--cut the delegates in half and seat them as is. I'll breathe easier if this actually goes down the way it sounds on Saturday, and if Clinton stops making noises about going to the convention with it.


Every now and then one's internet ramblings leads one to a link and lands one on a page where unexpected hilarity ensues. I don't even remember how I ended up on the Wikipedia entry for Thomas Crapper, but rarely have I been both entertained and edified so well.

You may have believed, like I did, that Thomas Crapper was the inventor of the flush toilet. I'm pretty sure that was a trivial pursuit question at some point -- a fairly memorable one. But it turns out that story traces back to a 1969 book titled, Flushed With Pride: The Story of Thomas Crapper, which was written by the same fellow, Wallace Reyburn, who wrote Bust-Up: The Uplifting Tale of Otto Titzling and the Invention of the Bra. The biggest difference between the two books seems to be that Crapper was an actual person, who was big in, uh, "water closet" accoutrements. His name is on manhole covers in England, and used to be seen on toilets. Wikipedia delightedly adds that he held the patent on the floating ballcock, but really the whole entry's worth reading if just for the debate on the etymology of the words "crap" (n. and v.) and "crapper" (n.).

Happy Browsing!


My name is Amy, and I'm a native Floridian. [response: "hi, Amy."] I've been a native Floridian for 33 years, now, and I feel about like a discarded pair of fuck-me pumps on an inner-city corner. I went out that night with high hopes and dreams of glamour, but obviously something went very, very wrong. Was it murder? Rape? Was she struck by a car? Was she just forced to walk home alone through the dark and felt the need to throw the damn things off? Did she only make that decision when someone gave chase? I don't know. What I do know is this: the place I live (and love) is becoming a bad, bad place, and it makes me very sad.

I went to the dance with my fellow Floridians, who, because that is the way of this state, are a fairly transient bunch, more likely from Ohio or Texas or New York or Tennessee (etc.) than actually from here. They've got a milder form of the snowbird syndrome: "I live here, but I don't actually care about the place. I'm not willing to actually contribute to the community." Unlike the snowbirds, the people who come here to live for a year or two can vote. From the day they unload the U-Haul (or "have their things delivered"), they can vote. It makes things rough for us, it sure does.

Recently, the jackasses voted themselves a tax cut. It saved homeowners an average of $200, and everyone else got zilcho. As a result, our local police is in upheaval, our schools are in upheaval, and everything is rapidly beginning to suck. Where I work, the axe just fell on the first three of many layoffs to come, and the students are already complaining to me about not being able to find an advisor. I'm going to drop the advisor gig because it's already clear that more work is being shifted onto me -- it's no longer worth the course-release (if you don't speak academic, that means I get the same pay but instead of teaching one of my 4 courses, I do advising work -- teaching a course is now far, far less work than this advising gig, since they're loading other people's jobs onto mine, so I'm out).

But I'm even more worried, now, because the same morons who voted to eat dollars rather than buy groceries are being given NINE CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENTS to vote on in November. What are they? Here they are:

1. Repeal "Alien Land" Law -- This would remove a prohibition on property ownership by people ineligible for citizenship.

2. Gay marriage ban -- This would cement Florida's reputation as a hate-filled backwater full of knuckle dragging morons who are so scared that someone, somewhere, might be having sex for love and pleasure and/or regarding women as people instead of breeding husks, that the very idea puts them into apoplectic fits of legislation.

3. Energy/hurricane tax break -- Makes it so you can improve your house to make it more hurricane resistant without raising your tax burden due to the now-increased value of your home. Why this needs to be put into the state CONSTITUTION is a mystery, but I suppose having it there might help with the anti-taxo's long-term plans of making taxation unconstitutional.

4. Conservation land tax break -- Exempts land left undeveloped for conservation purposes from taxation, and makes it so land is taxed according to its "current" use instead of its potential use. Along with reprising my anti-taxo argument above, I'd like to point out that this screams "potential for abuse" by land-developers who, because of, say, a dip in the housing market, temporarily slow their building, yet still own all this "undeveloped" land, which, oh I don't know, they might just call "conservation" land for tax purposes? Hmmm?

5. Tax swap -- Would eliminate property taxes for schools by 2011. The missing money would supposedly be made up by sales tax revenues and other tax expansions. In theory, this could be a good thing: right now schools in poor areas have less money that schools in rich areas because of local-property-tax-funding. Getting rid of that could put schools on a more equal footing: the poor neighborhood's high school and the rich neighborhood's high school having equal dollar amounts to work with. The problems with this, though, are legion. Greatest among them: first, making up shortfalls by sales taxes shifts the tax burden to the poorest people, and second, no one intends to fund the poor schools at the level of the rich schools -- they intend to decrease all the schools' funding, so that the public school system collapses and a private-industry "opportunity" is created (or, really, expanded) with for-pay for-profit schools being the only real option for anyone who has the money and wants a decent education for their kids. This would only increase the disparity between neighborhoods, with poor kids being served by next-to-nothing and rich kids ALL going to private school.

6. "Working waterfront" tax break -- This would give businesses with water views (marinas, boat repair, etc.) a property tax break for not selling out to condo development. Nice idea. 5 years too late.

7. Repeal ban on funding for religious organizations -- Scary evil psycho proposed amendment 7 would remove a ban on state funding for religious groups from the constitution. That amendment, called "the Blaine Amendment," is in the constitutions of most US states, and has been for a century. They want to get rid of it because it impedes the "school voucher" program (aka, the "destroy the public school system once and for all" program) that they want to take effect. #7 & #5 go hand-in-hand to make it so that Florida will truly have a 3rd-world style "education patchwork" of religious schools and private schools for the elite.

8. Community colleges -- Would allow counties to raise local sales taxes to pay the bills at the local community colleges. Once again, this would shift the tax burden onto the poorest people, the people who must spend all their money, paycheck to paycheck, to survive. What bullshit.

9. School funding vouchers -- Puts those public school system destroying school vouchers RIGHT into the constitution, where they belong about as much as a maggot belongs in your brain. Along with #7 & #5, #9 is part of the "destroy Florida's children" trio of amendments.

Now here's the thing: recent experience has taught us that amendments in Florida tend to get passed. For some reason (they're only going to live here 2 years?) too many Florida voters are inclined to just vote "yes" on these things, whether they understand them or not. So defeating the barrels and barrels of toxic fermented bullshit contained within these amendments is going to take effort from each and every one of us. We cannot trust people to figure it out -- they won't. They don't. They haven't in the past. Talk to people, people. Make this the year the Florida voters vote smart.
The text of these proposed amendments can be found here--Brian.

Dignity Restored

King George the Lesser has been working hard to restore the dignity to the presidency that was lost to the power of the Clenis. I believe he has succeeded.

Via Dependable Renegade

AP Photo by Charles Dharapak

Last Saturday, I asked a question about the premise of Newsweek's polling piece titled "The White Stuff." They were saying that Obama was having trouble with working class whites, etc--same old story. But when I looked at exit polls from 2004, it seemed to me that Obama was doing okay with those very demographics Newsweek was bemoaning.

Not being a pollster, I was a little hesitant about reading too much into that, but Mark Mellman has no such hesitation:

Democrats running for president have been losing white, non-college-educated voters since before Mr. Obama was elected to the Illinois legislature. Al Gore and Mr. Kerry each failed to win a majority of this bloc in the general election. With these voters, the size of the losing margin is what matters.

Mr. Gore lost them by 17 percentage points while winning the national popular vote. Mr. Kerry lost them by 23 points and the country by fewer than two and a half points. The last Democrat to win white, non-college voters was Bill Clinton, who carried them by a single point in the three-way races in 1992 and 1996.

By comparison, Mr. Obama is only two percentage points behind John McCain among these voters in the latest New York Times/CBS News poll. Another recent survey shows him down seven points.

In other words, Mr. Obama is faring better today with the white working class than did either Mr. Gore or Mr. Kerry.
He also notes that primary results don't predict general election performance, which leads me to believe that party affiliation is a much stronger predictor than the individual candidate's popularity with a group. Regardless, it's good to know that I'm not alone in thinking this way.

Everyone else is doing it

But I don't see why I shouldn't. Good on Governor David Paterson for pushing his state to recognize same-sex marriages from other parts of the country.

That's terrifying

and awesome at the same time.

Via Sinfonian

Bold words from Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, words I hope she can back up.

Pelosi predicted Wednesday that a presidential nominee will emerge in the week after the final Democratic primaries on June 3, but she said "I will step in" if there is no resolution by late June regarding the seating of delegates from Florida and Michigan, the two states that defied party rules by holding early primaries.

"Because we cannot take this fight to the convention," she said. "It must be over before then."
I want to see it, I really do, because while I continue to hope that this will be over, for all intents and purposes, after the primary and caucus season ends, I'm starting to have my doubts. Yeah, I'm taking a little longer than a lot of people, but I'm a starry-eyed optimist at times.

I hope that we'll take a big step toward ending this drama on May 31, when the Rules & Bylaws Committee meets to discuss the Florida and Michigan delegations. Clinton supporters are planning on protesting the meeting, while the Obama campaign is asking his supporters to not protest, but instead to help register voters in Virginia. I know which group I think is doing more to build the party.

There are a lot of conflicting reports coming out right now. The DNC lawyers issued an opinion that says at a minimum, Florida and Michigan have to lose half their delegates, which is fine with me. I hope it's fine with the state delegation as well, because I think they, not Clinton, get the final say on what gets appealed to the convention floor.
In an interview Wednesday with The Associated Press, Clinton said she is willing to take her fight to seat Florida's and Michigan's delegates to the convention if the two states want to go that far.
Sounds to me like the states can put the kibosh on any appeal to the convention just by taking a deal from the Rules & Bylaws Committee. I hope the people from Florida who have that power make a wise choice, i.e., take the deal and start with the unification.

Still, it would be nice to know what Pelosi has in mind, just in case that doesn't happen. I like watching her bring the hammer down.

A Thought Experiment

Yesterday, over at Shakesville, zuzu started the following conversation:

I thought I’d start off with a little exercise. A number of you have been saying in comments that it’s over, that Obama’s the nominee, that Clinton supporters just need to face reality. For the purposes of this exercise, we will accept that Obama is the nominee....

what is your plan for reaching out to disgruntled Clinton supporters? What do you think Obama should do to reach out to these voters? And finally, please explain the reasons why disgruntled Clinton supporters should vote *for* Obama.

Please note — I said for Obama. I’m not looking for reasons why anyone should vote against McCain, or to preserve the status quo on Roe v. Wade, or to put a Democrat in the White House, or anything else. I know those arguments. I want to hear why Obama qua Obama is worth supporting.
The thread has, to date, garnered 209 comments, and will probably get some more even though it has pushed down the page some. I took part in it, listing the positive attributes that I think Obama brings to the table, including some he shares with Clinton.

I didn't object to the discussion because I see it, in part as a useful exercise--defining your preferred candidate in positive terms as opposed to negative ones. That's not to say that negative reasoning is unimportant--if a person will only vote for Obama because he's not McCain, I'll take it, and gladly.

But now I'd like to turn it around. Let's say, for the sake of argument, that Clinton somehow manages to pull this out, against the odds, gets the super delegates to back her in such overwhelming numbers that she gets the nomination. There will undoubtedly be some backlash, and I would argue that Clinton, in that position, would have a far harder time uniting the party, given Obama's frontrunner status and the inevitable charges (inaccurate as they would be) that she had "stolen" the nomination from him.

So Clinton supporters--make the case for your candidate, a positive one, should Clinton pull this off. How would she unite the party?

Your tax cuts at work

I saw this article this morning and just forgot to blog about it, but it's just as well, since I found another that dovetails nicely with it.

There is a point at which taxes are so high that they cause harm to an economy. Neither the United States nor the state of Florida are anywhere near that point, despite the bleatings of the Grover Norquist disciples of this world, far too many of whom have positions of responsibility in the state legislature. For them, tax money is almost always wasted on unimportant things, like social assistance or roads.

They convinced enough people earlier this year that they were right, and Florida voters passed a property tax amendment which cut their property taxes an average of about two hundred dollars a year. (If you don't own property, you got nada.) Here in Broward County, we're starting to see the effects of those expected cuts in the coming budgets. Here's a partial list of what you can expect to see disappear.

Child support enforcement

The county has decided to end its program that helps mothers collect child support payments and has stopped accepting new clients. The county hopes the state Department of Revenue and private attorneys will provide the assistance. Savings: $1.3 million...

Help for domestic violence victims

Help for victims would be reduced or eliminated. Victims could turn to the state for help. Savings: $238,000 to $536,000....

Care for mentally ill

The county's crisis-stabilization unit that provides 19 beds to the indigent with severe mental illness would be closed. People would be directed to hospital emergency rooms. Savings: $1.2 million.
Those are the high points. And then there's the Tri-Rail issue. This is a tax that most Florida residents wouldn't even pay. Despite the fact that Tri-Rail was poorly designed, and until recently, horribly mismanaged, it is seeing huge ridership gains, and just when it's getting popular, there are money problems.

The money problems are nothing new, actually. Tri-Rail has been trying for years to get a steady source of funding--the tax I mentioned above. They want a $2 a day tax on rental cars to provide stable funding, instead of depending on Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties to fund it, along with the state. A bill passed in 2006, dependent on voter approval--Jeb! vetoed it. This year, it was tied into a bill that would have built a similar line between Orlando and Tampa, but it never made it out of the Senate.

So now, tax cuts are cutting county budgets, and that means Tri-Rail, which was becoming a success despite the best efforts of many to kill it, is likely going to have to cut services. Wonderful. Hope you homeowners enjoy that extra $200.

This Job is Murder

On the "things we should care about as a society and try to change" front: employers can kill their employees with relative impunity (so long as they're doing it to make money -- not to like, date the widow/er that remains, or something)...

My colleagues and I were shocked to learn that an employer who breaks the nation’s worker-safety laws can be charged with a crime only if a worker dies. Even then, the crime is a lowly Class B misdemeanor, with a maximum sentence of six months in prison. (About 6,000 workers are killed on the job each year, many in cases where the deaths could have been prevented if their employers followed the law.) Employers who maim their workers face, at worst, a maximum civil penalty of $70,000 for each violation.

Employers rarely face criminal prosecution under the worker-safety laws. In the 38 years since Congress enacted the Occupational Safety and Health Act, only 68 criminal cases have been prosecuted, or less than two per year, with defendants serving a total of just 42 months in jail. During that same time, approximately 341,000 people have died at work, according to data compiled from the National Safety Council and the Bureau of Labor Statistics by the A.F.L.-C.I.O.

It's a small piece in the Sun-Sentinel, a story about how plans for a Wal-Mart Supercenter in North Lauderdale have fallen through for a variety of reasons, but it made me think, and since I blog, that means you get to read about it. Sorry.

My first thought was "yay!" I'm not alone in disliking everything Wal-Mart stands for and the effect a Supercenter opening has on the local economy, but my dislike has deepened over the years. Part of it has to do with the problem of sprawl. This Wal-Mart was supposed to become part of a "town center," which basically means a huge complex where people from the surrounding developments, load up their stuff, and drive back to their developments. It's acres and acres of concrete and steel, with little to no interaction with the communities its supposed to serve. There's no town at the center of this town center--there's a Wal-Mart, which may be indicative of where we are as a society. Consumer capitalism is at the heart, not the common good.

Then there's the larger environmental impact to discuss. If we're going to get serious about controlling carbon emissions, especially in cities, then developments like this have to disappear, no two ways about it. Cities have to become more compact, more walkable, and more efficient in their use of people-movers. In other words, no more of these multi-acre parking lots surrounding multi-acre developments. Retail needs to be integrated with living spaces, and the whole thing needs to be tied together with a working transit system, because if we don't adapt, we won't be shopping down here at all. We'll have moved north to escape the encroaching waters.

But then there was this:

Further complicating the conflict, city officials refused to approve the tenants that Wal-Mart sought for the center. Wal-Mart development officials told commissioners last year the city could not attract desirable names such as Morton's Steakhouse, Bonefish Grill, Houston's or Ann Taylor and City Manager Richard Sala would not approve the businesses they could deliver. Those businesses have not been identified.
Sounds to me like North Lauderdale got a little snobby on Wal-Mart there. No IHOP's or low end deli's here, thank you very much. We want high-end businesses on that property. And what does it say about Wal-Mart's rep as an anchor store that they couldn't pull in that quality of restaurant for the development? Part of it is no doubt a reaction to the current economy--basketball star Dwayne Wade had a restaurant in Boca Raton that closed after two months. If a local basketball start can't keep interest alive in a restaurant, how many other companies are going to take a shot in a town center anchored by a Wal-Mart?

The answer, apparently, is zero.

So one fewer Wal-Marts will be built, for now. It's a small bit of good news. But it's certainly nothing I'd call a victory, because the problems here are way more systemic. This one failed because the North Lauderdale city officials wanted high-end restaurants included. The next group might not be so picky.

A Response to Lanny Davis

Lanny Davis has an article in Politico (via Balloon Juice) in which he presents some suggestions for the DNC Rules & Bylaws Committee in their upcoming decision about the Florida and Michigan delegations. It has a few problems, the first of which pops up in the opening sentence.

Here are two important neutral principles that should guide the Democratic National Committee’s Rules Committee when it meets May 31 to decide whether to seat the Michigan and Florida delegations — and, if so, how to allocate them between Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton.
The problem is, of course, the idea that anything Lanny Davis has to say on this matter is neutral. Davis shouldn't utter that word in this discussion--hell, he shouldn't even wear a gray suit when discussing this subject. He's a Clinton partisan, and that doesn't mean his ideas are without merit--it just means that they aren't neutral. He will interpret the situation with his candidate's best interest at heart. Let's not pretend otherwise. Next point:
in some rough approximation, honoring the results expressed by almost 600,000 Michigan Democrats and more than 1.7 million Florida Democrats, who turned out in record numbers though they were told their votes didn't count, were not responsible for the rules violations, and don't want to be disenfranchised.
I'm separating this out from Michigan here for a couple of reasons. One, the situations are different--Obama wasn't on the ballot in Michigan, which causes some difficulties in awarding delegates, should the DNC decide to seat them. Second--and this is personally aggravating--Davis, like pretty much every other Clinton partisan, neglects to mention that there was another reason why people showed up to vote that day. A desire to take part in what we understood to be little more than a straw poll didn't drive turnout in that election. A chance for Florida voters to cut their property taxes drove turnout. Property taxes were such a big deal in Florida that in the 2006 governor's race, the question was not whether there would be a tax cut, but how large the tax cut would be. Voters had a chance to cut their taxes, and in order for it to pass, had to get 60% of the vote. There was strong opposition to the tax cut as well, especially from state workers and teachers unions. That accounts for the record turnout, not a for-show-only straw poll of a primary. Next?
in March, elected officials and party leaders in both states were willing to "cure" — i.e., to hold new primaries and raise the money privately to pay for them. In Michigan, Gov. Jennifer Granholm and Sen. Carl Levin proposed a "fire house" primary in June, in which voters could revote at local fire houses or libraries. In Florida, Sen. Bill Nelson and others supported a revote by mailed ballots and perhaps also offering the fire house alternative for those voters who preferred to vote in person.
One problem--this would have been illegal--mail in elections are illegal by statute in Florida.
DNC Chairman Howard Dean said at the time that such revotes were permissible and would bring Michigan and Florida back into compliance. And there was precedent: In 1996, Delaware Democrats held a party caucus earlier than the permissible date, resulting in a rule violation. But state Democrats were allowed to hold another caucus later on and were then found to be back in compliance.
One of the campaigns said that a caucus was unacceptable. Hint: it wasn't Obama. Clinton's argument about a caucus not being acceptable is a reasonable position, and one I back. But Davis shouldn't compare what happened in Delaware to what happened in Florida simply because caucuses and primaries are completely different animals, each with their own problems. Next, Lanny?

Now the Obama campaign would say that they neither objected nor approved; they just raised "concerns." That is a fact. But here is an unavoidable inference from other undeniable political facts: Had Obama instructed those supporters in Michigan and Florida who were opposed to the revotes to support them, and joined with Clinton in endorsing the revotes, the new rounds of voting would have occurred.

Can anyone seriously argue against that inference?
Yeah, I can, for one simple reason--state parties don't run primary votes, and neither do campaigns. States do that, and here in Florida, there was no way the state was footing the bill for another primary. We have some fiscal issues--you may not have noticed, but our economy took it on the chin more than most when the housing bubble burst, especially since we don't have an income tax and are heavily dependent on property taxes. And here's a counter-question for Lanny--why should a candidate--any candidate--spend money they've raised for the primary season to fix a problem they didn't create? There are two groups to blame for this fiasco--the Florida and Michigan state legislatures. Don't try to pass any blame onto anyone else.

I think that by this point I've shown that Davis is arguing from less than honest positions in many cases, and that his position is anything but neutral. His plan for dividing the delegation is strongly for Clinton's interests, but given Obama's lead, it probably doesn't make much difference what happens. I'd personally like to see Florida's delegation cut in half, which is the standard punishment, and then seated according to the percentages. As for Michigan, I'll be damned if I know what to suggest, but if the party leaders come up with something other than Clinton getting everything and Obama nothing, I could certainly deal with it.

We've been nominated!

The first round of voting for the Florida Netroots Awards is here, and Incertus has been nominated in (I believe) 3 categories. All you need to do to vote is provide your name, e-mail address and vote in, at a minimum, the required categories (those marked with a *). We're up for best state blog, best national blog and best writer (me). There's lots of great competition, and I'm honored that I was nominated by someone other than myself. (I'm shameless enough to have nominated myself, but someone else bailed me out, apparently.) You don't have to be a Florida resident to vote, either, so don't be shy.

Shorter Stanley Fish

If universities are so liberal, why are there so many conservatives?

Okay, that's more an interpretation of Fish's point than what he actually said, but the argument still holds. Fish is talking about the plans made by the President of the University of Colorado at Boulder to create a Chair in Conservative Thought and Policy. Why? The answer is obvious--the university is liberal and needs some "balance." Fish disposes of that nonsense quite nicely.

But there's a larger point I'd like to make here. Conservatives are some of the biggest scaredy-cats around. There are enemies everywhere for them, whether in the form of a not-quite-a-keffiyeh wearing Rachael Ray in a Dunkin Donuts commercial, a presidential candidate with an untypical name, a media they believe is liberal or an educational system they're convinced is brainwashing their kids into believing psychotic thoughts such as evolution or that gay people aren't aliens.

All I have to say to that is that if we're supposed to be indoctrinating young people, we're doing a pretty crappy job of it, considering that the country is still about 50-50, electorally speaking.

Even when they were in complete control of the government, they didn't let up. Enemies were everywhere, always looking to undermine the American way of life, always convinced that liberals had some kind of zombie-creating mind-control lasers in our eyes, when all we really have are ideas that have to be thought out, debated, and can't simply be reduced to an argument from authority.

In other words, we're way more interesting than conservatives, and that's what really makes us dangerous.

Memorial Day, 2008

I thought this poem was particularly appropriate for the day:

Against the War in Vietnam

Believe in the automatic righteousness
of whoever holds an office. Believe
the officials who see without doubt
that peace is assured by war, freedom
by oppression. The truth preserved by lying
becomes a lie. Believe or die.

In the name of ourselves we ride
at the wheels of our engines,
in the name of Plenty devouring all,
the exhaust of our progress falling
deadly on villages and fields
we do not see. We are prepared
for millions of little deaths.

Where are the quiet, plenteous dwellings
we were coming to, the neighborly holdings?
We see the American freedom defended
with lies, and the lies defended
with blood, the vision of Jefferson
served by the agony of children,
women cowering in holes.

-Wendell Berry, 1968
I was born in that year, and yet the poem seems like it could have been written yesterday. One day, I hope to observe a Memorial Day when we're not creating new things and people to remember.

Who said the following?

"Senator Clinton says that she did not intend any offense by it, and I will take her at her word on that."
The answer is, of course, Barack Obama, in response to a question about the tempest surrounding Senator Clinton's ill-advised and historically questionable comparison of her candidacy to that of Robert Kennedy's. So why are you giving him over the rantings of some of his internet supporters? Obama can't control the message that independent bloggers throw out there--and yes, despite the rumors of 400 hired Obama bloggers, the fact is that most are independent--just as Clinton can't control the people at No Quarter or Hillary is 44 or McCain can't control the ravings of The Corner or Little Green Footballs.

Certainly some bloggers have imputed the worst possible motives to Senator Clinton, but Senator Obama didn't, and what's more, unlike what happened when Senator Obama slipped on his "bitter" comment, he didn't seek to turn this to his political advantage. He didn't have bumper stickers made up saying "Clinton wants me dead" or make commercials with her words repeated making the comparison over and over.

But when it came to Obama's ill-chosen words, Clinton's campaign had a field day, making bumper stickers that said "I'm not bitter," and running ads. Clinton herself took Obama to task for that in commercials and speeches. Notice that I didn't even mention bloggers who trumpeted this message--I didn't have, to, because it was Clinton's campaign that echoed this message throughout the media. Via Balloon Juice.

But on Clinton's remarks, it's been this response from Obama:
"Senator Clinton says that she did not intend any offense by it, and I will take her at her word on that."
Tell me, Dr. Krugman, what else is Senator Obama's campaign supposed to do here? It hasn't used Clinton's words in attack ads, or even tried to exploit them in any way. Should offical Obama surrogates wade into the mire of the blogosphere in order to officially repudiate anyone who takes a position that they disagree with? Not exactly the best use of resources, I'd argue, especially given that the number of people who were aware of this political infighting was probably smaller than your reading audience.

But in the end, Dr. Krugman, since you are concerned with party unity and Senator Obama's responsibility for uniting a party that been pulled apart (a little) by this campaign season, tell me--what exactly is Senator Obama supposed to do about this divide that he neither caused nor exacerbated? What?

I fully expect some unhinged person will make that comparison if this story gets any coverage. Via Rick at the South Florida Daily Blog:

A group of Cuban dissidents has backed a call by the US presidential hopeful, Barack Obama, for direct talks with the new Cuban President, Raul Castro.

The organisation, Women in White, is made up of female relatives of Cuban political prisoners.

In an open letter to Mr Obama they wrote of their hope that his policies may help free their husbands and sons.

Mr Obama told Cuban exiles in Miami on Friday that America needed to talk to its enemies as well as its friends.

Mr Obama also said that - if elected in November - he would lift President George Bush's restrictions on family travel and remittances to Cuba but maintain the US trade embargo.
How long before the "we can't talk to dictators" crowd jumps on the Damas de Blanco? Starts looking in their windows, checking the countertops, asking their neighbors about their finances and the like?

Part of me hopes that they try it, because I suspect that the backlash will be furious if they do. I think Rick put it wonderfully:
- When do you suppose that Cuban-American hardliners and their shills in Congress and the White House might decide that their views don't represent the will of the Cuban people any more?

- What motivates hardliners to stick with unwanted policies that haven't worked for almost 50 years and do not do anything but cause heartache for their fellow countrymen?

- When will mainstream Cuban-Americans marginalize these powerful extremists within their own community and finally declare that is enough is enough?
Yep. And if you want to support some politicians who are trying to bring change to that community, you can join Annette Taddeo tomorrow at Bayfront Park in Miami for the Memorial Day vigil to honor those soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. It begins at 6:30 p.m. and Ms. Taddeo will be reading a letter a female Army officer who was stationed in Afghanistan sent home to her family, and will join in the reading of the 177 names of the 177 Floridians who have died in the wars.

Crist as VP?

The Miami Herald has a piece today on Charlie Crist and John McCain's presidential prospects, a subject I touched on a few days ago, and they come to much the same conclusions I did, i.e. that Crist helps McCain in Florida but not much elsewhere.

But it's the overall tone of the piece that I found interesting. There's a sense that the Herald feels like Florida isn't going to be that much in play this year, but more importantly, that it doesn't really matter to the Democrats if it is. For example:

But where McCain must win Florida to win the White House, Obama must simply make a show of fighting hard for Florida, the nation's fourth most-populous state. The reason: Among the largest states, Democrats are all but guaranteed California and New York, while only Texas is a Republican given. And McCain can't afford to win only one of the big four.

So the Democratic Illinois senator needs to spend just enough time and money to force the Arizona senator to spend more time and money here. That would allow Obama to focus more on must-win states like Ohio, Michigan and Pennsylvania.
It's an understatement to say that this attitude toward GOP Presidential politics is unusual to find in a newspaper, despite the claims by right-wing blowhards about the liberal media. It's also interesting to see the paper acknowledge what lots of people have been saying for a while--Obama can win elsewhere, and McCain is the titular head of an increasingly regional party.

It's also interesting that the Herald doesn't even treat a Florida win as the clincher for McCain. It's more of a "if McCain wants to even have a shot, he has to win Florida" sort of attitude, and they don't write off Obama's chances in the state completely either.
Polls show McCain clings to a narrow lead here over Obama -- bouyed[sic] by Democratic infighting as Hillary Clinton slugs it out.
The closer it is, the more excitement there will be for getting out the vote for our Congressional candidates, and that's good news for us.

The Miami Herald isn't alone in this sense. The NY Times has a particularly pessimistic piece about McCain today also worth reading. It covers some ground the blogs have trodden pretty thoroughly--that the Republican brand is no good right now and that some Republican leaders don't get it. Okay, that's my translation--the article says that some Republican leaders are upset that McCain hasn't used the last couple of months since he became the presumptive nominee to pull away from either Obama or Clinton. Teddy Roosevelt would have trouble pulling away given how crap the Republican brand has become thanks to King George the Lesser--maybe those Republican leaders ought to do some frank self-assessment here.

This is abuse, and everyone in that school who enabled this conduct ought to be looking for new jobs, preferably ones that don't involve young children.

Alex Barton is a 5-year-old boy who, until this last week, was a kindergarten student at Morningside Elementary School in Port. St. Lucie, Florida. Apparently young Mr. Barton has been disruptive in class, and was sent to the principal's office.

Upon his return to class, the teacher, one Wendy Portillo, led Alex up to the front of the class, at which point she instructed the other students to each say what they didn't like about Alex.

I need to write it again: a kindergarten teacher brought a student to the front of the class and led the rest of the class in a public discussion of what each of them thought was wrong, or bad, about that student.

She then had a class vote over whether Alex should remain in the class. He lost that vote, 14-2. In a move that honestly boggles my mind, she then treated that as a legitimate vote and required Alex to spend the rest of the day in the nurse's office.

Alex's parents were not notified by the principal, the teacher or the nurse about what had happened. His mother discovered him leaving the nurse's office when she arrived to pick him up from school.

According to the article, the other students told Alex he was disgusting and annoying, and Alex has been repeating "I'm not special" over and over since the incident. When his mother drops his siblings off at that school, Alex starts screaming.
What causes a teacher to think that's appropriate? I wouldn't do that kind of thing to my college students, and they're adults, more able to handle this sort of shaming exercise. A kindergartner is defenseless. That kid is going to be dealing with this for a long time to come.

The headline reads "The White Stuff", with the subhead "A new NEWSWEEK Poll underscores Obama's racial challenge." This is their argument:

Even as he closes in on the Democratic nomination for the presidency, Sen. Barack Obama is facing lingering problems winning the support of white voters--including some in his own party. In a new NEWSWEEK Poll of registered voters, Obama trails presumptive Republican nominee Sen. John McCain 40 percent to 52 percent among whites.
Sounds bad, right? Except that when I looked up the exit polls from 2004, I found that Bush beat Kerry among white voters 58-41. So why is this disastrous for Obama? McCain is underperforming Bush among white voters, and it's certainly reasonable to think that Obama will not only match Kerry among African-American voters (88-11) but will pull even higher turnout in that group. What am I missing here?

I have to say that when this primary season ends, I hope No Quarter doesn't wither up and dry like I suspect it will, because they've been a treasure trove for me in recent weeks. I rarely have to scroll down more than a post or two, and I've got something.

Take this this piece of work. It's going after Obama because he's said in the past that he'd be willing to talk to the leaders of foreign powers who are currently hostile to us--the No Quarter folks aren't big fans of that. But that's not the fun part. This is.

Well true, the Ayotollah Khomeini is the Supreme Leader of Iran but he doesn’t run the day-to-day affairs of the Iranian government. Ahmadinejad has more day-to-day control and while the Ayotallah Khomenini is likely to sign off on any high level contact between the United States and the Islamic Republic, it is unlikely that the Iranians would want to exclude Ahmadinejad from those deliberations.
Bolding is mine. At first glance you might think that I'm going to go after the two different spellings. I'm not--that would be the easy shot.

I'm no foreign policy expert, but I do know that the Ayatollah Khomeini, who was Supreme Leader of Iran in 1979, died in 1989. Wikipedia can be your friend. I also know that the current Supreme leader of Iran is the Ayatollah Khamenei, and has been since--yep, 1989. All I'm saying is that if you're going to blast a candidate as being ignorant on foreign affairs, you might want to check your names and make sure you're got them right.

What is she doing?

I'm trying to figure out what's going on with Senator Clinton's endgame strategy in this campaign, especially given her latest over the top statement.

Hillary Clinton today brought up the assassination of Sen. Robert Kennedy while defending her decision to stay in the race against Barack Obama.

“My husband did not wrap up the nomination in 1992 until he won the California primary somewhere in the middle of June, right? We all remember Bobby Kennedy was assassinated in June in California. I don’t understand it,” she said, dismissing calls to drop out.
I think I've got it figured out. Episode 28 of WKRP in Cincinnati.
Mr. Carlson decides to run for city council and enlists the aid of the staff with his campaign. Bailey discovers that one of the front runners, Charles Tillman, has a drinking problem and has missed many council meetings because of it. Mr. Carlson promises Bailey not to use the damaging information on the televised debate.

During the debate, Mr. Carlson appears with excessive make-up and uses "no comment" for most of his answers. His one prepared answer, which he got from Les, gets pre-empted by Tillman early on. When Tillman pushes Carlson too far by mocking the station and Carlson's performance as station manager, Carlson blurts out "Listen, I'm at that station every day. I'm not off somewhere getting drunk, Tillman."

This boosts Carlson into the lead, but he feels slimy and unethical. In his guilt, he tells the staff to sabotage his campaign, with hilarious results. In his campaign poster picture, Carlson looks like a deranged sociopath, and he tells the League of Women Voters that they look like men. The staff celebrates when Les Nessman walks in and gleefully announces: "We've lost, and I mean big!"
Okay, it's not an exact match. All right, it's not even close. But it is nicer than the alternative, which is that Clinton actually means the stuff she's saying and hasn't thought out the implications of her words.

You Must Watch This

I put on the TV while I was making a sandwich. It was on Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel. It was a re-run of a recent investigation of thoroughbred race horses who are sold for slaughter. The sandwich did not get eaten, because I was weeping in convulsions. 

There is a low-quality youtube presentation here (part one part two). I recommend this, despite the low quality, and frankly the lower quality might help you watch it without being reduced to a sobbing mess. 

But maybe not. This is the most horrible thing I've ever seen in my life. 

Watch it. And demand change in this world: demand it of senators, congressmen, horse racing organizations... DEMAND that this not continue to go on.

If you haven't heard, Puerto Ricans, who, while living on the island, anyway, don't vote for American presidents, do get to vote in primaries, and have more delegates than most US states. The island is actually going to matter in this year's very close Democratic primary -- and apparently (according to Juan Gonzalez on Democracy Now! today), Puerto Ricans couldn't possibly care less: our parties mean nothing to them, and they don't get excited about voting in a primary for an election they won't be a part of in November. Still, the campaigns are active the Caribbean: yet another historic turn in the 2008 election. 

Fellow Florida blogger Sinfonian was at the Obama event in Boca yesterday. His coverage is at the link above, but I'm going to shamelessly steal this video from his site and include it here. I mean, how often do you get to hear a presidential candidate mention male enhancement and Nigerian 427 scams in a speech?

So the big local news is that Barack Obama was in Florida tonight, working on improving his numbers against John McCain for the general election.

And in case there's any doubt, yes, I'm working under the assumption that he is the presumptive nominee.

So anyway, Senator Obama was in Florida tonight, talking to a group of high rollers in Westin after having talked to the B'nai Torah congregation in Boca Raton, and there were some protesters there. I'll let the Sun-Sentinel pick it up from here.

Later in the day, all was fairly quiet for a fundraiser for Obama at the Westin Diplomat Resort and Spa in Hollywood where the high-rollers, those who've raised $10,000 or more, were expected around 8:45 p.m.

The first sign of the gathering outside the hotel was about a dozen protesters carrying homemade signs that read "Stop blocking our vote." They want Obama to intervene with the Democratic party over its decision to not count Florida's delegates to the national nominating convention. The national party took away the delegates because the state held it's primary before Feb. 5.

"We want Sen. Obama to count our vote," said Vanessa Alikahn, of Fort Lauderdale, and one of the organizers. "It's not about being for Hillary or for McCain or for Obama. It's about our constitutional right to have our votes counted."

It's unclear how nonpartisan the group was. Their intention to protest was first posted on Hillary Clinton's campaign Web site. The campaign took down the post shortly after a reporter called to ask about it.
I don't think it's unclear at all, but I suppose there's no harm in a little ass-covering on the part of the newspaper.

As far as the protesters are concerned, they're blaming the wrong person if they're mad about their votes not being counted. If they want to blame someone, how about starting with the Florida legislature and working their way up the chain through the DNC. Barack Obama didn't sanction the state, and contrary to the claims of many Clinton supporters, hasn't blocked the seating of Florida's delegates to the Democratic convention. He's said, time and again, that he's willing to let the process work itself out via the DNC's system for handling this sort of thing. Today, he ventured to say that he thought splitting the delegation in half would be a reasonable solution, a position which happens to agree with positions taken recently by former President Clinton and Clinton official Terry McAulife, and which is keeping with the standard punishment for this sort of offense.

Senator Clinton disagreed, saying "I think that is disingenuous but it's also insulting to the 1.7-million Floridians who actually turned out to vote." Well, Senator, you do know a little something about insulting Florida voters. You also might want to mention that most of that turnout was driven, not by the primary, but by the ruinous property tax cut measure that was on the ballot. The primary was an afterthought.

Anyway, my point is that the protesters, even if they're not connected either in spirit or in organization with Senator Clinton's campaign, are going after the wrong guy here. If you must have a scapegoat, go after Howard Dean, or the Rules and Bylaws Committee of the DNC, or even the state legislators who got us into this situation in the first place.

Here's the Random Ten, fully randomized via the party shuffle on my iPod. I'm going iPod this week because there's a little less music on it and not as much of a chance for something like Howard Jones popping up. I'm trying to be cooler. I doubt it will work.
1. Soon--Squirrel Nut Zippers
2. Shadows In the Rain--Sting
3. Gloria--Patti Smith
4. Cross Road Blues--Robert Johnson
5. Love My Way--Psychedelic Furs
6. One Week--Barenaked Ladies
7. Been Caught Stealing--Jane's Addiction
8. Gone Daddy Gone--Violent Femmes
9. Mellow Doubt--Teenage Fanclub
10. Tainted Love--Soft Cell
Given that grouping, Howard Jones was almost inevitable. Glad I went with the iPod. That could have been (more) embarrassing.


You may have heard some version of this study, which shows that people do not quit smoking on their own; they quit in groups. NPR this morning aired it as a new hot tip on how to quit. What it really is is substantial evidence showing how much of our behavior is the result of groupthink: collections of individuals acting as a brain -- a brain greater than the sum of its neurons. Howard Bloom's Global Brain -- one of the coolest science books ever written -- gives more examples of this, but this is a great one, and very human one.

Researchers discovered a trove of records that shows the health data and human relationships of thousands of people over 30+ years. With this they were able to create a map showing relationships and smoker/nonsmoker status. What they discovered shows just to what extent the human primate is a social animal.

They discovered that smokers smoke in groups. If your group smokes, it's hard to quit. If your group doesn't, it's hard to smoke. Over the course of decades, fewer people smoked. The people at the center of the social web -- the ones with the most connections -- are the least likely to smoke. The people who are more socially isolated, on the fringes, are the most likely to smoke. 
The researchers focused on 5,124 people in the Framingham study who had 53,228 friends, relatives and neighbors as part of their social networks.

They noticed that, on average, smokers clustered in groups of three. Over the years, as fewer and fewer Americans smoked, the number of clusters declined but the clusters that remained stayed the same size, which meant that smokers were not stopping smoking one by one. They were stopping in groups.

Education also played a role. Those with more education were more highly influenced by their friends, and their friends were more likely to influence them. And some social contacts were more influential than others. A spouse’s quitting was more powerful than a friend’s, and a friend’s quitting was more powerful than a sibling’s. If someone you name as a friend quits, that has more of an effect than if someone who names you as their friend quits. Co-workers had an influence only in small firms where everyone knew one another. The effects were greater among casual smokers than heavy smokers.
What we're seeing here is the confluence of being more educated, more influential, and more influenced: it's like being the strongest most well-connected and useful neuron in the brain. In this case, smoking is a meme (I mean this in the Dawkins sense, not the silly internet game sense) being tried on and subsequently discarded by a human super-organism whose brain is you and me.

Further proof of this comes in what the NYTimes article calls "the sad side":

But there also is a sad side. As Dr. Steven Schroeder of the University of California, San Francisco, pointed out in an editorial accompanying the paper, “a risk of the marginalization of smoking is that it further isolates the group of people with the highest rate of smoking — persons with mental illness, problems with substance abuse, or both.”

These are people, Dr. Schroeder notes, who already suffer from being stigmatized.
While they're treating having mental illness, being a substance abuser, and being an abused person as separate issues from being a smoker, what this study says more than anything is that these things are related: through social ability (or lack of it). The same social ineptness that dooms a person to one problem dooms him or her to the others. Being social is its own reward, but it carries other benefits too: the support and smarts to stay high in the social hierarchy (and so not be subject to abuse), the confidence and happiness that makes drugs unnecessary. Mental illness itself might impair a person's ability to read and interact with others appropriately -- in other words to be social. Being social means being influenced, and in years when a whole society is becoming increasingly aware of the danger and folly of smoking, being influenced means quitting. 

The whole human super-organism's brain has tried smoking on, and, after a century or so, rejected it as unhelpful. Brain cell by brain cell, we individuals are getting the message and playing out the meme.

Some Florida Politics

I've drifted away from this for the last few days, except when national and state politics intersect, and there will be a little taste of that in this post, but I'm going to start a little further south from here in Miami.

Via Miami-Dade Dems, there's an article in the Miami Herald about the Miami Three--Lincoln and Mario Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen--all of whom are facing serious challenges to their seats, and all of whom are afraid to meet their challengers face to face in a debate. Now I don't blame the Miami Three. They have all the advantages of incumbency--war chests, name recognition, close working relationships with the powerful people in their districts. And this is a year when their party brand is suffering--why shouldn't they run from confrontation, from any possibility that their constituents might recognize them as cheerleaders of the worst president in US history? I'd be afraid to face my voters too.

The challengers responded this way:

The Republicans' decision to skip the event rankled the Democrats, with Joe Garcia, who is challenging Mario Diaz-Balart, calling it an "act of political cowardice."

Former Hialeah mayor Raul Martinez, who is challenging Lincoln Diaz-Balart, concurred.

"This is very disappointing," Martinez said. "The voters deserve public debates on the issues. Lincoln votes blindly with [President] Bush and then won't explain why. Lincoln has failed the voters again. He talks tough and then hides."

Businesswoman Annette Taddeo, who is challenging Ros-Lehtinen, and was in Washington, D.C., this week raising money for her campaign, said she's still hoping for a change of heart.

"It's time for some dialogue," said Taddeo's spokeswoman, Anastasia Apa. "We're prepared."
The challengers will still take part in the AFL-CIO events next week, and maybe this time the union will endorse the party that's on the better side of labor issues. Let's send the Miami Three back to Miami and get some new blood in DC.

Presidential politics also hit Florida again, and not only in the form of Senator Clinton's insulting comments. John McCain is apparently going to at least consider tempting fate by looking closely at Governor Charlie Crist as his running mate.
Senator John McCain of Arizona is set to meet with at least three potential running mates at a gathering at his ranch this weekend in Arizona, suggesting that he is stepping up his search for a vice-presidential candidate as the Democratic contest heads toward a conclusion, according to Republicans familiar with Mr. McCain’s plans.

Gov. Charlie Crist of Florida, Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, and Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts and a onetime rival for the Republican nomination, have all accepted invitations to visit Mr. McCain at his ranch in Sedona, Republicans said.
At first glance, the choice seems solid--he's popular here and would likely solidify the state for McCain, he's younger, and he's fairly telegenic. But given that McCain already has huge problems with his Christian conservative base, I don't see Crist as much help other than in the geography. He's great for the tax cut wing of the Republicans--much to the dismay of all responsible people in the state--and he has no great love for higher education, but he didn't back the nutjobs in the legislature who wanted to put creationism in the classrooms, and he's been really silent on Amendment 2, the so-called marriage amendment. Socially, he's no friend of the far right, so he doesn't help McCain shore up that base.

All it seems he really does is give McCain Florida, and while I'm hopeful we can make it competitive for Obama, I do have to say that McCain already has a pretty good advantage here. I'm confident the Democrats will make gains, especially in targeted races, but I'm less sanguine about the state-wide chances. The northern part of the state will be a tough nut to crack for the Democrats.

Enough already

I was all ready to get on here tonight and say to the people I've been fighting with over in the Kos diaries, as well as everyone else, to lay off of Senator Clinton, to stop calling for her to drop out of the race, and to note that there's only two weeks left in the primary season.

And then Senator Clinton had to go and say this:

SUNRISE, FLA. -- Desperate to get attention for her cause to seat Florida and Michigan delegates, Hillary Clinton compared the plight of Zimbabweans in their recent fraudulent election to the uncounted votes of Michigan and Florida voters saying it is wrong when “people go through the motions of an election only to have them discarded and disregarded.”

“We’re seeing that right now in Zimbabwe," Clinton explained. "Tragically, an election was held, the president lost, they refused to abide by the will of the people,” Clinton told the crowd of senior citizens at a retirement community in south Florida.
Make sure you take that all in. Florida, which was penalized for moving its primary forward, and whose delegation will be seated in some fashion is like this.
(CNN) -- Zimbabwe's opposition said post-election violence was increasing Wednesday, a day after the army denied unleashing attacks on critics in the southern African country.

The main opposition party, Movement for Democratic Change, reported 25 supporters have been killed since the March 29 elections, and church groups said militias have killed eight people and wounded 30 others in the past two days.
No Senator, our situation here in Florida is nothing like that in Zimbabwe. You insult the brave people of Zimbabwe when you compare our situation to them, and you insult our intelligence by thinking we'll fall for it.

There are only two weeks left in this process, Senator Clinton. Please try to keep from comparing Florida to any other inappropriate situations.

What's the number?

We're getting close to the end of the primary season (mercifully), and since Sen. Obama passed the majority line in terms of total pledged delegates last night, I wanted to talk about the overall numbers a bit.

But there's a problem. We don't really have numbers, at least not hard-and-fast ones, not yet. There are two numbers being bandied around by the two campaigns, and by the people covering those campaigns. The first is 2,025, which is the official number (for now) needed to win the nomination, according to the DNC. The second is 2,209, which is the number the Clinton campaign has been throwing around--it includes Michigan and Florida.

I'm not going to get into whether FL and MI should be counted as-is, or any of the many variants that lots of other people have speculated on. The only thing anyone knows for certain is that the two delegations will be seated, in one form or another, and the odds are that they won't be seated in a way that will affect the overall outcome of the race. That's the price those two states pay for having broken the rules.

There's going to be a lot of interest in the numbers as Obama gets closer and closer to 2,205. The Daily Kos has had a widget on top of its site for a while now, updating regularly as primaries pass and super delegates make their preferences known publicly, and it's based on the 2,025 figure. I don't blame them for that, as it's the only official figure we're got to work with right now. But it's not likely to be the final figure.

I don't think it's likely that 2,209 will be the final figure either, though. It won't be official until the people who make these decisions have their say, but I'd be really surprised if MI and FL don't take some kind of hit. My guess, pulled straight from my nether regions, is that their delegations will get cut in half, but you never can tell. (Side note: if my math is correct, and there's no reason to believe it is, that would make the halfway point between those two figures 2112, which would make Rush fans squee with delight.)

In the end, what we're left with is this--uncertainty, insofar as we don't really have a finish line. But there is an end in sight, and it should come some time in early June. Clinton supporters probably won't give up hoping until the actual vote takes place at the convention, but there would have to be some massive blunder for the super delegates switch at this point.

Yes, I'm a total sci-fi nerd, but it's not like I don't have any judgment. And yes, I've loved these characters since I watched the mini-series in 2003, but I'm not the type to hold onto a failing relationship for old time's sake.

There is no secret about the absolute screaming suckitude of this season's Battlestar Galactica. So far two of the episodes (including the most recent one) have been okay -- like, "almost but not quite in the realm of where I got used to the show being"-okay. But the majority have been irritating snooze-fests, and even the good ones are crapped up with things like far too-long-lasting close-ups of Lieutenant Gaeta's lips as he sings far too loudly, and long. It's not the existence of the element (in this case the singing), it's the ham-handed presentation that's getting on my nerves.

Take Gaius Baltar... please. Take him right off the show and leave him at the bottom of a waste basket somewhere. Nothing against James Callis -- back when they gave him good lines and a decent plot, he was one of the best parts of the show. But now he's a garish attempt at a Jesus reference, so clumsily and obviously portrayed that your eyes roll involuntarily. It's hard to watch a show with your irises focused on your cerebellum, but it's just such a relief to see something resembling brains

I extend my pity to every actor on the show: after years of service they've all been handed shit for a script, and they're doing the best they can, I'm sure. But you can't make a turd fly, even if you put an experienced pilot on the job.

Truth be told, BSG didn't fall apart this season; it fell apart last season. The shows started developing long lagging periods of inaction, and conversations that were just a little too "this is the time when we recap the plot to the audience whose attention is clearly fading"-moments. Even the actions scenes are being interrupted to give us longing emotional glances at the characters' faces. Ugh. It's a space drama not a painting. Make the bitch move!

Which brings me to my question: why am I still watching Battlestar Galactica? If I'd checked out at the end of season 2, I would have nothing but fond memories and kick-ass DVDs. Instead I've got this long twisting irritating sloppy-sappy stupid half-organized mess between me and those memories. I have absolutely no faith at all in my storyteller: I expect him to screw me over, take me for granted, fail to come through, and leave me hanging, and bored. Why do I keep watching? Why? Why?

Is it because I care about who the last Cylon is? Not really. So much of the last two seasons' plots have seemed half-assed in their design that whomever the last Cylon turns out to be, it will seem a random choice, not an inevitable truth. Is it because I want to see them reach Earth? Maybe a little: I'm curious when they get to Earth will it be the days of ancient Greece, the modern age, the future? But aside from that, meh. That leg's been pulled so long and without effect that it's lost all feeling. Is it because I care about the characters and want to see what will happen to them, whether they live or die, etc.? Not really. The crappy plot lines have long since destroyed my ability to suspend disbelief, and I so pity the actors for being put through such humiliating paces that I can hardly see them as Kara Thrace, or Saul Tigh, or Galen Tyrol -- I see this, and this, and this.

So why am I still watching Battlestar Galactica? I don't know. I guess it's just the Earth thing. Feh. I'm being made the fool.

Obama in Boca

And on the very day I'm going out of town to watch my daughter graduate from high school, too. Damn

Barack Obama is coming to south Palm Beach County on Thursday, campaign workers for the Illinois senator said today.

Obama will hold a “town hall” meeting in Boca Raton amid his three-day campaign swing through Florida.

The meeting takes place at noon Thursday at B’nai Torah Congregation, 6261 SW 18th Street, Boca Raton.

The event is free and open to the public, but tickets are required.

Tickets can be obtained by going to these following locations between 10 a.m. and noon today (Wednesday):

-- Rainberry Bay Clubhouse, 2801 Rainberry Circle, Delray Beach; or to

-- Kings Point Clubhouse, West end pool, 7000 W. Atlantic Ave., Delray Beach.

Organizers of the town hall meeting are asking those who attend not to bring bags, limit their personal items, and no signs or banners are permitted.

On Friday, Obama will attend a luncheon event in Miami and hold a large rally in Broward County—a 3:30 p.m. Friday event at the BankAtlantic Center in Sunrise.
Have fun, and if any of our readers get to go and take pictures, etc., drop me a line at the email address on the top left of the page.

Who's the bigger draw?

Newsbusters is positive they've caught the liberal media in a dastardly act again, this time about Barack Obama's record-breaking Portland rally. You might have heard something about it--75,000 or so people showing up for a campaign rally. But what did the NY Times leave out of the story?

The Decemberists.

Now I like The Decemberists. They show up on my Random Tens from time to time--I have "Picaresque" and a song off "The Crane Wife" that they released through emusic. But even though they're from Portland, does anyone really think that they were the draw, and not Obama? Anyone outside SusanUnPC, I mean. The Decembrists are good, and one day, they might be 75,000-people-in-an-arena popular, but given the size of Obama's win in Oregon, I think it's safe to say that the majority of the crowd was drawn to the politician, not the band.

The NY Times probably should have mentioned it, but that's a sign of laziness more than of bias.

Get well, Senator Kennedy

The news about Senator Ted Kennedy's health has gone from bad to worse. He's been diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor. We wish him and his family the best and hope for a quick recovery.

A fun little meme

Via Konagod:

1) Ten years ago I was: A junior in college, had been divorced for a year, was working two jobs, and had just changed my major from Chemistry to English with a Creative Writing minor.

2) Five things on tomorrow's to-do list:

Finish prepping Thom Gunn's Boss Cupid for my Modern Poetry class.
Put together a chapbook manuscript for a contest.
Read some more of A Poem of a Life, no matter what August Kleinzahler says.
Take a swim before heading to work.

3) Things I'd do if I were a billionaire:
Make sure everyone in my extended family was set for life.
Fund research into Spinal Muscular Atrophy
Fund progressive groups to support liberal ideals in the US
Take a ride into space

4) Three bad habits:
Spending too much time online
Not exercising when I have the opportunity

5) Five places I've lived:
Fort Lauderdale
San Francisco
Fayetteville, AR
Hammond LA
Slidell LA

6) Six jobs I've had:
English Instructor
Bottler at a Brewery
Electronics Salesman
Forklift Driver

I won't tag anyone--leave yours in the comments if you wish, or take it back to your own blog and leave a note in the comments.

It still happens here

Slavery, that is. And sometimes it even gets prosecuted.

FORT LAUDERDALE - Two people are going before a federal judge in Fort Lauderdale for sentencing in the case of a Haitian girl prosecutors said was kept as a slave for six years.

Fifty-two-year-old Maude Paulin and her ex-husband Saintfort Paulin are set for sentencing Tuesday before Senior U.S. District Judge Jose A. Gonzalez Jr. Maude Paulin's mother was also convicted but suffered a stroke. Her sentencing has been delayed.

They were convicted in March for their roles in the treatment of 22-year-old Simone Celestine. Prosecutors say she was brought to the U.S. at age 14 and illegally forced to work long days in the family's southwest Miami without any school.
And it's not just a small-scale thing either. Keep up with the larger struggle at the Coalition of Immokalee Workers.

There's no place better to go than No Quarter. SusanUnPC is at it again; this time, she's trying to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that Obama can't beat McCain, but Clinton can. And what is she using as proof?

Rove’s Latest Electoral Maps Have Clinton Stronger Than Obama Against McCain
I almost lack the heart to mock her. Not really.

Karl Rove's maps prove that Clinton is better than Obama at beating McCain. Karl Rove.

Let that sink in for a moment so you can grasp the full enormity of the stupid in that statement.

Karl Rove, who is working with John McCain's campaign, has maps which "prove" Clinton is the better candidate. Karl Rove, who said in 2006 that the Republicans would hold the House because he had "THE math," says Clinton will be a better candidate against McCain. Whether you want to bash Rove for being wrong or for being conflicted, there's a whole lot of reason to distrust anything he says, and not much of one to trust him.

Unless you're SusanUnPC.

This is not to say that Clinton wouldn't be a better candidate than Obama--perhaps she would be. The truth is that we'll never know, because we only get to run one of them this time around, and both are likely to win. But using Karl Rove's maps as proof positive brings a whole new layer of the stupid to bear on this discussion.

Monday Reading

There's a lot of good stuff out there on the tubes. Here's a little taste of it.

Sarah J at Alterdestiny talks about how experience was the wrong meme for Clinton to use.

Elle distills the craptacular statements by Clinton and Obama on California's Supreme Court's same-sex marriage ruling down to the bare essentials.

SJ tells a story of how a photo and a narrative are two separate things, and adds to our knowledge of US history all at the same time.

Pushing Rope has the dope on the Florida Progressive Coalition awards, now accepting nominations. (hint, hint)

Bradley passes along a story about the best way to not get a grade changed.

And The Angry Black Bitch celebrates Phyllis Schlafly's honorary degree with all the decorum such an event deserves.

So, what else is awesome out there?

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