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Please Allow Me To Introduce Myself,

As you know from my TL name, I'm Jeffinalabama. I'm a baby boomer, and like many boomers, been married and divorced, with a child. I decided to re-introduce myself in this, my inaugural diary here at TalkLeft.

First and foremost, let me state again much gratitude to Jeralyn for letting me become a diarist here. I will do my best to not let the history or principals of this site down.

Secondly, you get to read all about me, me, me, in the full text.

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Keep On Rockin' In The Free World: Give Obama and the Dems Some Credit For A Change

Crossposted from Antemedius

...............

In 2010, American voters foolishly aided and abetted the Republicans by giving them control of Congress.

We now enter a very dangerous period in the lead up to the 2012 presidential election.

If Obama is not re-elected, and people don't work towards returning workable majorities in the House and the Senate to the Democrats, then the country only continues its decline, and all will be lost.

It may be the end of a two century great social experiment unequaled in human history.

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Chris Matthews is clueless at best

Warning! I'm about to vent some frustration with Chris Matthews. No profanity, Jeralyn! I honor the protocol of the TalkLeft blog.

My annoyance with Matthews focuses on two of his behaviors. First, he sucks up and drops names. Maybe he sucks-up because he worships power regardless of character (Tom DeLay, Fred Thompson, etc.? Sheesh!); he drops names almost certainly because he's more or less subconsciously emulating the nursery rhyme character Little Jack Horner:

Little Jack Horner sat in the corner

Eating his Christmas pie,

He put in his thumb and pulled out a plum

And said "What a good boy am I!

"Look whom I know! Look whom I party with! Look whom I can call a `friend'! How cool is that?  See what a good boy I am?"

Time to pause and gather the threads of the argument.

Just above, I was talking about two manifestations of one aspect of my annoyance with Chris Matthews: namely, his strange hero worship and his pride in being a cocktail-circuit, prideful Washington insider. My second annoyance is that he rarely actually listens to what his "guests" are saying; instead he looks for (or forces) wedges to allow him to interrupt and pontificate.

Yes, I know. This is S.O.P. for the major media. But that doesn't mitigate its annoyance, let alone make it positive, constructive, or right. Indeed, it's exactly the opposite. Tonight's example? The guests came from opposing ideological perspectives, but they agreed that what matters most for Obama's re-election chances is whether the unemployment percentage is perceived to be falling, idling, or rising.

So how did Matthews respond? "Yeah, yeah. But the unemployment rate right now is...." (Memory, not transcript. But I'm confident that's fair.)

From a generous perspective, Matthews seems deaf, dismissive, and/or disrespectful here. From a less generous perspective, he seems rude, dismissive, close-minded, and ... well, my point's no doubt obvious.

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What happens in the Chech Republic affects Micronesia

And not just Micronesia -- all of us, everywhere in the world.

I'm interested in whether the Micronesian States' claims about Transboundary Environmental Impact might provide one more way to bring public awareness and (dare one hope?) pressure to bear on the global warming crisis.

Yeah, I know. Very few persons in U.S. government seem to pay much attention to law or justice these days - especially international law. Still, one can dream. The environmental effects of global warming are evident right now in the U.S., causing immense human and economic destruction. And the carbon emissions right here in the U.S. are causing even more destruction to other nations. Any of the lawyers reading this blog have a thought how accountability might be attached?

And do any of the artists reading this have a complementary thought: We need another version of Al Gore's film, this time with fewer charts and more dramatic juxtaposition and dot-connecting.

A Micronesian island nation is quite literally being eroded to nothingness by tides. Same with an island community in northern Alaska. Worst drought in who knows how long in China. Same with the U.S. Southwest - worse than the "Dust Bowl." Countless numbers of persons die in Pakistan because of flooding. The U.S. is struck by the worst tornadoes in memory.

And it's not just carbon emissions. Nuclear reactors in the Ukraine and in Japan destroy themselves, and the results affect food and radiation all around the planet.

Morally, you have the right to swing your fist as much as you want. But that right ends at the tip of my nose. You have a right to throw stones. But that right ends when one of those stones hits my wife, even if you threw it from across the border separating your yard from mine.

It's one planet. Whatever any of us does affects all of us. (No, I won't quote Donne's sermon, though I can't help thinking about it.)

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Tornadoes, Missouri, and perspective

I'm watching the Rachel Maddow Show right now, 9:41, May 23, EST. She just issued a call for help for the tornado victims in Missouri. Of course I'll chip in to help! Sheesh! Who wouldn't, if she or he were able? Book that ... but read on.

Start by considering any of the real-time online maps showing severe weather conditions. Example? Accuweather. (No particular endorsement, just an exemplar.) http://www.accuweather.com/severe-weather.asp This particular map is restricted to the U.S., but similar maps show conditions for the entire world. Think about it.

Severe weather "events" (as they're officially designated) occur every minute of every day, somewhere on the planet. Many simultaneously. Same with earthquakes, floods, etc. Who decides which is severe enough to justify appeals for help on network TV? On what basis is the decision made? Has anyone ever articulated the principles determining which people, where, victimized by which "event," with what human and economic cost, etc. should be made the focus of media coverage in the U.S., and of media fundraising?

It seems likely that hundreds of persons will have been killed in Missouri. That's terrible. Still, not long ago tens of thousands - probably hundreds of thousands - of persons were killed by the floods in Pakistan. That's so far beyond terrible as to be beyond my ability to express it. (Suggestions more than welcome.)

∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞

Think about this, though. I've been talking about how we decide which effects deserve focus and private financial support. But who says we have to blinder ourselves in such a way as to think only about effects and never about causes?

Let's dip our noggins in ice water, and emerge with a new perspective. Let's think about causes rather than effects. What's causing the record levels of severe weather? Doesn't it make more sense to deal with the hydra's head than to keep jumping hither and yon in trying to deal with its geometrically multiplying tentacles?

My suggestion? We have to deal with global warming. Period. Local, national, regional advantage might be subject to conflict and negotiation. But the survival of homo sapiens depends on our dealing with global warming.

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Whining about corporate tax rates

One of several mantras Republicans are chanting these days is the following: "Corporate tax rates are too high. Businesses will leave the U.S. We will lose jobs."

That ditching the nation and the taxpayers who nurtured them (not least through taking on "externalized" business expenses) would be unpatriotic and morally contemptible; that big corporations are already moving their headquarters to foreign "mail drops" in order to evade U.S. taxes; that regardless of where the putative corporate headquarters might be, they are already shipping U.S. jobs overseas ... all of this is omitted. Also omitted is that the only loyalty that matters to the corporate masters and their political lackeys is loyalty to profit.

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Cather's "Paul's Case" ... and ours.

Cross-posted from Scarabus.

[Technical aside. I tried to include images here, but was unsuccessful. Admittedly, I'm more than a bit wine-befuddled. But (a) if you want to see the images, go to the source: Scarabus; (b) if you're experienced with "hreffing" off-site images with Scoop software, I hope you'll let me know. Sharing knowledge is good.

I've often wondered why most Americans aren't outraged and besieging Congress to change the laws that have created the extreme disparity between the very, very rich and the remaining 98% of us -- a disparity that's already obscene and growing more so every year.

Yes, I know that in part the public's bland acceptance is based on factors like Republican politicians' lying to them, right wing media's brainwashing them, and their having accepted the beliefs of Job's neighbors in the Old Testament story: that if you're prospering, it's because you're a good and virtuous person; if you're not prospering, perhaps unemployed or a victim of natural disaster, it's because you're neither a good nor a virtuous person.

[The best is yet to come! :-)]

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Popcorn, Road Rage, and Handguns

Haven't checked the status in the last little while, but Texas either has approved or is about to approve a law allowing students, faculty, and administrators to carry concealed weapons on campus.

I think that's a dangerously wrong idea. For example, Texans already are allowed to carry weapons in their vehicles. So how has that worked out?

ABILENE, Texas -- Chris North has been identified, officially for the first time, as the man who shot and killed Austin David on Feb. 9 during what the Abilene Police Department called a road rage incident.

A lifelong resident of Abilene, North, 44, was identified by attorney Sam Moore, who was hired by the family to represent North.

Moore told the media during a news conference in his office Wednesday that North fired his gun in self-defense. He said that David "had already pulled a gun and had threatened to kill him.

Forget insanity. Focus on hormones. I taught college for nearly 4 decades, and I can guarantee that college students will fight among themselves ... especially when they're drunk. Guns weren't permitted on our campus, so the fights I learned of almost always involved fisticuffs and nothing more. I wonder how many on-campus murders I'd have seen if students had been carrying guns? If both sides in a conflict had started shooting, multiple victims would have died.

Insanity? That's what's reflected in the laws encouraging citizens to carry guns. The men who support this kind of legislation (including men now serving in Congress) must see themselves as civilian incarnations of the fictional character Dirty Harry.

Instead they should imagine what it might be like to confront a real-life, non-fictional bad guy like, say, John Wesley Hardin. Hardin claimed to have killed 42 men. Might not have been that many, but it was a lot. And all of those men were carrying their own guns. Or, say, Clyde Barrow. He killed plenty of fully armed police officers before he himself was killed in an ambush by a numerous group of lawmen.

[Cross-posted from Scarabus. Illustrations included there.]

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What Scott Walker promised in the campaign is not the point

Lindsay Graham says people in Wisconsin shouldn't complain or act surprised, because Scott Walker is just doing what he promised during the campaign. Others have responded, "Oh no he didn't!" I'd say that whether he promised or not is merely a side issue. Specifically, what matters is whether this is a good thing to do or a bad thing, regardless of what Scott said during the campaign. Especially since Scott's approach here might very well become a template for more of the same in other states.

One of the issues that matter more generally is what this shows about the way we elect public officials. Just one example: Over the course of a long campaign a candidate's platform is distilled to a series of catch-phrases and talking-points. These talking-points are then repeated ad infinitum. Voters recognize that, and perhaps subconsciously their minds say, "Hey! We've been here and heard this. Yawn." After all, as I understand it, the brain evolved to respond more to novelty than to stasis. (I'll find documentation and add it. Suggestions welcomed.)

In other words, candidates might very well make promises during a campaign, but that doesn't mean the promises are being heard.

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In Politics, Nothing Happens by Accident

"In politics, nothing happens by accident. If it happens, you can bet it was planned that way." - Franklin Delano Roosevelt

All the bad things. Poor president Obama. He's just powerless to stand in the way of the Republicans. Only thing is, he isn't.

This stuff isn't happening to Obama. This stuff is happening with Obama. The president is complicit.

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How Not To Fix Our Schools

Recently, a manifesto  appeared in the Washington Post called "How To Fix Our Schools".  Written by some of the superintendents of public schools , like Michelle Rhee and Joel Klein, the manifesto echos many of the same points made in the recent documentary "Waiting for Superman".  I would like to examine the fundamental claim in the manifesto, that teachers alone determine student achievement and other factors like poverty have no bearing.

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Obama's Power to Produce Progressive Legislation May Increase Dramatically Tuesday

It now appears that in all likelihood republicans will win a congressional majority this coming Tuesday. Nate Silver's projections of Friday October 29...

...found Republicans gaining an average of 53 seats, which would bring them to 232 total. Democrats are given a 16 percent chance of holding the House, down slightly from 17 percent on Wednesday.

Increasingly, there seems to be something of a consensus among various forecasting methods around a projected Republican figure somewhere in the 50-60 seat range.

Several of the expert forecasters that FiveThirtyEight's model uses, like the Cook Political Report, the Rothenberg Political Report, and Larry Sabato, have stated that they expect the Republicans' overall total to fall roughly in this range. A straw poll of political insiders for Hotline on Call found an average expectation of a 50-seat gain. And some political science models have been forecasting gains somewhere in this range for some time.

The forecast also seems consistent with the average of generic ballot polling. Our model projects that Republicans will win the average Congressional district by between 3 and 4 points.

The modeling also suggests that there is a 90% chance that after Tuesday Democrats will control at least 50 seats in the Senate, but that there is a 0% chance that Democrats will control at least 60 seats.

It's not looking good by any stretch of the imagination.

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$378 Billion for Drug Cartels from Wachovia, and No Charges!

Now isn't that a deceptive headline!

Because of course Wachovia charged the drug cartels a lot of money to launder $378 billion for them.

"No charges" only applies to the legal consequences of laundering $378 billion for drug-lords.

Wachovia admitted it didn't do enough to spot illicit funds in handling $378.4 billion for Mexican-currency-exchange houses from 2004 to 2007. That's the largest violation of the Bank Secrecy Act, an anti-money-laundering law, in U.S. history -- a sum equal to one-third of Mexico's current gross domestic product.

"Wachovia's blatant disregard for our banking laws gave international cocaine cartels a virtual carte blanche to finance their operations," says Jeffrey Sloman, the federal prosecutor who handled the case.

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People Need To Buck Up

The biggest mistake many make when trying to sell the Democrats is to call the prospects stupid, and tell them buying the product is the only way they can stop being stupid, apparently thinking the prospects will immediately reach for their wallets and say "where do I sign"?

Of course, that result only happens in salespeople's dreams - and is the reason 90 percent of people who go into sales never make any money at the job.

There is also a (real life) tried and true technique in sales and marketing that the democrats could try: the top sales producers in any industry constantly critique themselves and ask themselves "If I'm not getting the results I want to get, what am I doing to get the results I am getting?"

Instead of asking themselves what they are doing to produce the results they are getting (dropping support) - and they are producing those results whether they want to or not - Democrats and their supporters are taking the easy route of blaming the voters (their prospects) and treating the voters as if they are stupid.

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The Rich Got Richer

From the Street...

The richest Americans are getting richer, according to the latest release of the Forbes ranking of the 400 richest Americans. At a combined wealth of $1.37 trillion, the 400 richest Americans saw their wealth increase by 8% over last year.

Hurrah!

But on the downside, the market for movie stars is collapsing!

Today the actors who used to make $15 million are making $10 million. The filmmakers who used to make $10 million are making $6 million.

And why have salaries for all varieties of Hollywood "talent" declined? Some people blame a 25% decline in DVD sales, and many Hollywood insiders look all the way back to the writers' strike in 1988 as an epiphany for studio moguls, who suddenly realized that money could be made without any talent whatsoever, and the first "reality shows" were born.

But whatever the root-cause or causes may be, the no-talent paradigm of Survivor Vanuatu now extends all the way to major releases!

The end result is a huge recalibration of the money being paid out to talent, especially in an era where a surprisingly large percentage of the biggest hit films, from "Up" to "The Hangover" to "Star Trek" and "Transformers," are star-free movies, potential franchises that involve interchangeable parts.

And when even movie stars have been degraded into "interchangeable parts"...

What kind of individuality remains for you and me?

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