Sunday, June 26, 2011

Freedom From and Freedom To: We're giving away our privacy and liberty, and for what?

Comedian Lee Camp riffs on the worrisome state of American privacy in one of his great Moments of Clarity.

I have long maintained that the concepts of Freedom From and Freedom To are both vital components of human liberty (and I thank Margaret Atwood for introducing this concept to my young feminist's brain via her masterpiece The Handmaid's Tale).

Indeed, without Freedom From, Freedom To--the necessary foundation upon which any bona fide pursuit of happiness gets built--becomes, itself, an untenable concept.

As our Freedom From is curtailed, so goes our Freedom To. When law-abiding citizens are increasingly prevented from traveling freely about their own country by air, and now by train, bus, and car--as they are searched, x-rayed, groped, and humiliated, absent probable cause, mind you, and even assaulted, and by agents of the We-the-People government that is supposed to be by, for, and of US--these selfsame citizens are also realizing a parallel curtailment of their human potential.

Think of all the opportunities missed, the creativity hampered, the activism delayed, the commerce sacrificed, and the education denied due to the vast reduction of our Freedom From unconstitutional searches and privacy invasions. Every former gypsy and rambling man I know--even people who'd consider themselves apolitical and TSA-agnostic--has drastically reduced his or her travel to a bare minimum these days, if they even leave home at all. And when you ask why, the answer will never be fear of terrorism, but rather, will almost invariably center around an extreme distaste for the overbearing and omnipresent Security State and its concomitant time-sucking nature. It's just not worth it, they say.

It's just not worth it. That sad sentence would break the hearts of our forebears, don't you think? And yet, it perfectly encapsulates the American mindset right now.

Whither Liberty, ca. 2011? Whither Justice For All?

Perhaps we should ask a Constitutional scholar and professor. He might know.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

"And when the broken hearted people living in the world agree, there will be an answer: Let it be."

Violinist Michael Province, aged 15, and cellist Nathan Chan, aged 16, do John Lennon proud. What a beautiful, joyful interpretation of a song for our day.

Shine on 'till tomorrow, gentlemen. And bravo!

(H/T Diane S.)

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Oil sands, tar sands; tar sands, oil sands--let's call the whole thing awful

With so many Americans facing a summer characterized by "staycations" (if they're lucky to even have homes in which to stay), job-hunting, and general belt-tightening, it's understandable that they'd be more receptive to something--anything--that promised to keep gas prices from soaring again, even if it meant turning their heads for a while so as to avoid seeing the toxic morass of trouble waiting for them not too far down the road. Few of us enjoy being reminded about the dirty realities attendant to our oil addiction on a good day--and in a good economy. When the chips are down, though, and the clever PR folks have been busily weaving their magic, even the sticky, corrosive stuff from Alberta might start to sound good to us--Hey, it's from Canada, our friends. It will increase the world's oil supply and that will lower the price!

Or something. Gain an understanding of the nature of the beast--the commodities market, that is, and the manner in which speculators can drive prices upward, as well as the way other oil-producing nations open and close the spigots--and you'll be quickly disabused of any Econ 101-style fantasy. But who's got the heart to do even that much, and can we be blamed, really? I mean, what options exist beyond the gasoline-powered internal combustion engines that power the cars we're all currently trying to cut down on driving?

Yes, more and more automakers are offering electric and hybrid-electric cars, and I'm excited about the ones yet to come. But even taking into account any modest tax incentive, these vehicles don't come cheap, and for the millions of Americans who are currently unemployed or underemployed, buying a new car of any kind is simply not feasible.

And yes, there are public transportation options for some, depending on where you live. In the vast majority of Florida, for example, it's extremely difficult to get around without a car. Few areas in this state were built on a model of sustainability, with a mind toward residents being able to walk to work, school, and grocery stores. For the most part, our peninsula is stuffed like a Christmas stocking with huge, ungainly suburbs, all of them laced together by increasingly threadbare ribbons of horrifically crowded roads and interstate highways.

So, then, at this point in time and given the current economic climate, a lot of us are going to be ripe for a good PR nudge by Big Oil. And boy, are the spinmeisters working overtime in their efforts to overcome the facts about the proposed tar sands pipeline, excuse me, oil sands pipeline. (I imagine the phrase tar sands is being phased out due to its propensity to evoke mental images of tar on our sands, fresh in our minds thanks to the catastrophic BP spill last year.)

As I wrote last month, the Keystone XL Pipeline is a project so encumbered by serious threats--to American water tables, to ecosystems, to human lives, and, thanks to the resource-greedy, carbon-spewing process of refining tar sands, to the future of the planet itself--it is almost surreal. It's a horror show that puts the summer theatre lineup to shame; coming soon, only it's dead real.

Forewarned is forearmed, so here's a sampling of information (emphasis mine) about this nightmare of a proposed oil project, and at the bottom, you'll find a link to the House of Representatives along with the address of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. I hope you'll take a few moments to write to them. It bears repeating: the United States should to be investing heavily in sustainable and renewable energy resources, not enabling further dependence on a fuel that is slowly killing us--or, as is the case with tar sands oil and the Keystone XL pipeline, that will likely sicken and wipe out unknown numbers of lifeforms, including human beings, on an accelerated schedule.

Tar sands oil--that is, the production and exporting thereof--is undeniably bad for Canada:
Oilsands deposits underlie three main areas in northeastern Alberta, totalling about 140,000 square kilometres.

That's about the size of the state of Florida, a comparison often used by U.S. environmentalists to suggest how much boreal forest would be ripped up. But not quite. About 80 per cent of the oilsands will be mined in-situ, a technique that uses injected steam to soften the bitumen underground and pump it out. The gaping, smoky open pits often equated with oilsands mines will sprawl across about 500 square kilometres.

That doesn't mean the rest of the region will remain pristine. Even in-situ mines require roads, pipelines and other facilities that will chop the forest into smaller and smaller blocks and destroy habitat for animals that require large undisturbed areas. One U.S. scientist has estimated that those effects will reduce songbird populations by 166 million birds over the next 30 to 50 years. [...]

The Alberta Cancer Board has found cancer rates about 30 per cent higher than anticipated in the downstream community of Fort Chipewyan, with blood and lymphatic cancers double the expected rate. The board didn't consider possible causes.

Government air-quality monitoring has found no increases in carbon monoxide, ozone, particulates or sulphur dioxide in Fort McMurray, the largest community in the oilsands area. Nitrogen dioxide and hydrogen sulphide have increased slightly. In some streams, PAHs are already at levels toxic to fish embryos. However, a fish with two jaws caught last spring downstream from the oilsands was later found to be a goldeye showing signs of a natural after-death phenomenon.

What about those tailings ponds?

The oilsands use a lot of water and much of it ends up in vast tailings ponds, which are now the size of the city of Vancouver, and they're growing. The ponds are toxic. About 1,600 ducks tried to land in one last year and most died, covered in oily sludge. The ponds are separated in some places from the Athabasca River only by large earthen dams. One study suggests that up to 11 million litres of tailings leak out every year, although Alberta says any leaks percolate harmlessly into bedrock.

Sediment in the ponds has been very slow to settle and dealing with it is one of the industry's most stubborn problems. Companies have proposed "capping" the ponds with clean water and leaving them, but Alberta's energy regulator recently said mines must start converting to dry tailings by the summer of 2011. Of nine oilsands projects that filed proposals to do that, only two plan to meet the timeline, although the regulator promises the timeline will be enforced.

How significant are greenhouse gas emissions from the oilsands?

It depends on the comparison. The oilsands are Alberta's second-largest industrial emitter - coal-fired power plants are bigger. One oft-repeated statistic is that all the greenhouse gas emissions from the oilsands account for only five per cent of Canada's total emissions and 0.1 per cent of global emissions.

Environmentalists respond that any one project which shows up on a global scale is significant, period. They also point out that the oilsands are Canada's fastest-rising source of greenhouse gases.
Tar sands oil and the Keystone XL Pipeline would be undeniably bad for the United States, its citizens, and its environment:

[Nebraska cattleman Randy] Thompson apologizes for becoming animated, but says he's about done using politically correct language where the Keystone XL project is concerned.

Though he is a lifelong conservative and registered Republican, Thompson had never written so much as a letter to the editor or contacted a single politician in his life until agents for TransCanada first notified him, three years ago, that his property lay in the path a proposed $7-billion crude oil pipeline.

Now he is at the centre of a high-stakes fight over Keystone XL, which would transport up to 900,000 barrels per day of oilsands bitumen from northern Alberta to refineries on the Gulf Coast of Texas.

The long-delayed pipeline project has been under intense scrutiny amid persistent concerns - raised by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, state legislators and private landowners - about the dangers posed by a possible spill of Canadian crude along its 2,700 kilometre route.

The U.S. State Department has the authority to grant a 'presidential permit' approving construction, and has indicated it will make a decision by the end of 2011 on whether Keystone XL is in America's national interest. [...]

As the project is currently planned, Keystone XL would run directly over the vast Ogallala Aquifer, which supplies Nebraska with 83 per cent of the water used in irrigation and 78 per cent of the state's public water supply.

Moreover, the pipeline would cut a swath through Nebraska's Sand Hills, the largest sand dunes complex in the western hemisphere, where soil disturbances risk massive "blowouts" and erosion that can take decades to repair.

TransCanada has waged an intense campaign - via mass-media advertising campaigns and lobbying in the corridors of the state legislature in Lincoln - to convince Nebraskans the pipeline will be both safe and an economic boon to the state. But public skepticism has grown following a series of leaks on TransCanada's existing Keystone 1 pipeline, which became operational in June 2010.

One rupture in a pipe fitting last month left a 20,000-gallon mess at a TransCanada pumping station in North Dakota.

"I am appreciative we will have jobs and revenue derived from the pipeline, but I really have an issue with the route that it has taken," says Tony Fulton, a Republican state senator.

"There is no other place on the planet like our Sand Hills, and the Ogallala Aquifer, which is precious not just to us but to the country."

The debate over the pipeline in Nebraska has been characterized by charges TransCanada has negotiated in bad faith, using arm-twisting tactics to coax landowners into granting right-of-way easements to build the pipeline.

Thompson says he was warned, in his very first discussions with TransCanada's agents, that rejecting the company's offer of compensation would prompt it to seek an eminent domain order to condemn his land so the pipeline could proceed.

Some U.S. lawmakers are concerned, if not alarmed, and have called for further review of the pipeline's potential for disaster while questioning the currently weak state of regulatory oversight, facts that even an industry-friendly outlet is admitting:

U.S. Congressmen Henry Waxman, the leading Democrat on the House of Representatives’ Energy and Commerce Committee, is worried that regulatory oversight isn’t keeping up with an increasing amount of diluted bitumen being transported via U.S. pipelines. "I'm concerned that the industry is changing, but the safety regulations are not keeping up with the changes," he said at an Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing. "That could be a recipe for disaster down the road."

Anthony Swift of the Natural Resources Defense Council said at the hearing, "It is in the public's best interest for our pipeline safety for regulators to evaluate the risks that high volumes of heavy, corrosive and abrasive crudes, such as diluted bitumen, will have on the U.S. pipeline."

A number of pipeline accidents in the U.S. Midwest have some questioning whether diluted bitumen may be to blame. TransCanada's existing Keystone pipeline leaked 10 barrels of oil, due to a faulty fitting at a Kansas pump station last month. That accident followed a 500-barrel spill at a pump station in North Dakota in early May.

The committee last month passed a bill requiring the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration to study the impact of diluted bitumen on U.S. pipelines.

Even Republicans think the issue should be investigated. "I think it is something we need to look into," said Republican Representative Joe Barton.

However, President of the Association of Oil Pipelines Andrew Black disputes any claims that diluted bitumen is contributing to pipeline corrosion, saying, “Diluted bitumen has been moved through pipelines for many years.” [Well, then, that settles it!--DNT]

Yet, a large number of the Usual Suspects (aka the House Republicans), are pushing hard for prompt approval of the Keystone XL Pipeline:
House Republicans are attempting to fast-track the controversial pipeline that would carry crude oil from tar sands mining in Alberta, Canada, across the US heartland and down to refineries in Texas.

The House Energy and Power Subcommittee approved a bill that requires President Obama to make a decision on the Keystone Pipeline by November 1.

If he were to do so, he would have to over-rule demands for further review by the Environmental Protection Agency and ignore the protests of local communities that would be affected along the 1,700-mile pipeline route.

House Republicans seem bent on upping the nation's consumption of tar sands oil, presumably to reduce oil imports from the MidEast.

The strategy is blind to the environmental consequences of tar sands production, which has an environmental and emissions footprint that is several times larger than traditional crude oil.

The increased impact is due to the large amounts of energy, water and solvents needed to separate the crude oil from sand with which it is mixed in geological deposits.


To find your House reps, click here.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20520


Also at Dirty Hippies

Monday, June 20, 2011

Chocolate Grand Marnier Torte à la Litbrit

This exquisite, dreamily chocolate-y flourless torte is one of my go-to grownup desserts for special occasions, and I say that because creating the torte tends to be a relatively labor-intensive and time-consuming endeavor, certainly more so than the throwing together of my (almost) everyday cakes and cookies (not that there's anything wrong with--or non-delicious about--those). Furthermore, Grand Marnier is a bit pricey these days. Trust me, though, this torte is absolutely, positively worth the effort and expense.

This is my adaptation of a recipe I found in Elle, back in the 1980's. (Come on, America, please go metric already!) It's also the first birthday cake I ever made for Robert, in 1988; the following year, we got married. To be clear, I'm not suggesting any connection between the two, although, as readers may remember, I do firmly believe that a fine chocolate experience affords the kind of transcendent bliss and soul-soothing magic that make fine chocolate itself worth defending from the slings and arrows of outrageous corporate takeovers.

Anyway, I'm going to give you my recipe for an 8" torte; the picture above is of the 10" one I made for Robert's birthday this year, reasoning that the lads would be deeply unhappy if they only got a tiny sliver each and there were no remaining torte over which to fight the next day. If you're making this with an eye toward satisfying a large-ish number of chocolate connoisseurs, just multiply the ingredients by 1.5, and when you get to the eggs, substitute 8 whites and 7 yolks for the 5 eggs called for. (Note to my fellow math-o-phobes: use your cell-phone's calculator, as I did! Or, *sigh*, just e-mail me, and I'll send you the quantities for the 10" version.) As for the chocolate itself, I generally use Ghirardelli's bars in my baking--the quality is reliably good and they're widely available in the States. If you're near a Trader Joe's, though, I'm told their chocolate is superb.

You'll want to make this the day before, at least, as the flavors need to blend and develop.

Chocolate Grand Marnier Torte à la Litbrit

For the torte:

3 oz. unsweetened chocolate
1/3 cup unsalted butter
3/4 cup walnuts
1/3 cup plus 6 tablespoons sugar
2 oz. finely-grated or chopped semisweet chocolate
zest of one orange, finely grated
5 eggs, which you've taken out of the fridge and allowed to come to room temperature, then separated
1/4 teaspoon salt

For the filling:

1 cup whole-milk ricotta cheese
1/3 cup sugar
3 tablespoons Grand Marnier
1/2 oz. semisweet chocolate, chopped finely (but not pulverized)

For the glaze:

3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/2 tablespoons light corn syrup (this is not the same thing as HFCS, don't worry)
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 oz. semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 cup finely chopped walnuts


Preheat oven to 350º F. Lightly butter an 8" springform pan, line the bottom with a circle of parchment paper, butter that, and then dust very lightly with flour.

Melt the unsweetened chocolate and butter together in a double-boiler or pan with a heavy bottom over low heat, stirring occasionally. Remove from stove and allow to cool.

In a Cuisinart or other food processor, whirl the walnuts around with 2 tablespoons of the sugar until finely ground, using the on-off pulsing button, and then tip it into a small bowl and add the grated, semisweet chocolate (not the melted stuff, not yet!) and the orange zest, and stir until mixed.

Beat the egg yolks in a mixer until they are foamy; add 4 tablespoons of sugar and keep beating until the mixture is pale yellow. Then stir the cooled, melted chocolate/butter mixture into the egg yolks.

In another, deep bowl, beat the egg whites and salt until you see soft peaks. Reduce the mixer's speed and slowly sprinkle in 1/3 cup sugar, making sure it's incorporated before adding the next sprinkle (patience, patience). Then increase the speed again and beat like mad until the egg whites are stiff.

Stir 1/3 of the egg whites into the unsweetened chocolate mixture, then sprinkle 1/3 of the nut mixture on top, and fold together gently until barely combined. Repeat this until all is combined and batter is smooth, but do not overmix, or you'll knock all the loft out of your egg whites.

Spread the batter evenly in your prepared pan and bake for about 30 minutes. (My oven is a bit temperamental and tends to run high, so I reduce the temperature 10-20 degrees and watch my precious sweetie-projects like a hawk--this torte is no exception.) Remove when a toothpick inserted in the middle of the torte comes out almost clean. Cool in the pan for ten minutes, then run a thin, flat knife around the edges of the cake; remove the springform pan's rim, and invert the cake onto a wire rack. Peel off the parchment paper and re-invert onto another wire rack on which you've put a fresh piece of parchment. Allow to cool completely, then wrap the cake tightly in plastic film (Saran wrap) and put it in the freezer for about an hour, until semifrozen.

Meanwhile, make the filling...

Drain any liquid from your ricotta, and press it through a fine sieve into a small bowl. Stir in the sugar and 1-2 teaspoons of the Grand Marnier; fold in the chocolate bits. Cover with plastic and refrigerate until mixture firms up and can be spread.

Remove the cake from the freezer and carefully, with a very slim and sharp knife, trim off any exceedingly obvious bumps on the crust. Now, the tricky part: with the same knife, slice the semi-frozen cake horizontally in two. I find that if I score it around its perimeter first, finding the halfway-mark between the top and bottom and going in about an inch and giving it a quarter-turn at a time, it's easier to do this in an even way. I also pay attention to my knife, making sure it's parallel to the counter and not sawing away at strange angles. Keep turning and slowly easing the sideways knife blade in until you've got two perfect discs.

Place the bottom-most disc, cut side up, on the serving platter you plan to use. Sprinkle it with at least 1 tablespoon of Grand Marnier. Remove filling from the fridge and spread on top of this, going to within 1/4" of the edge of the torte. Then place the top half of the cake on it, sprinkle that with the remaining Grand Marnier, cover the whole thing with plastic wrap and press down gently and evenly to compact the layers and filling. Refrigerate at least five hours, or overnight.

Now, the glaze. Melt the butter, corn syrup, salt, and 2 teaspoons of water together in a double boiler or small, heavy pan, over low heat. Stir occasionally, turn up the heat to medium, bring to a boil, and allow it to boil for 1 minute, stirring all the while now. Remove from heat and stir in the semisweet chocolate, which will quickly melt. Allow to cool for about five minutes; it will thicken somewhat.

Take the cake out of the fridge and unwrap it. Pour the glaze over it, and with a metal spatula or frosting knife, quickly spread it out over the top and sides. Wait five minutes for it to set, then press the chopped walnuts into the sides and slightly on to the top, as you see in the picture. Refrigerate again for an hour, at least; take it out again about fifteen minutes before serving.

If you like, you can use orange slices and a few curlicues of peel for decoration, as I did.

Fire up the espresso machine, take a bow, and enjoy!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Cock-ups will cost you when you're liberal; otherwise, IOKIYAR*

Lovely, dear...we've all seen one before, you know.

Let's see...on this hot, sunny June morning in America, we've got families being thrown out onto the streets thanks, ultimately, to the criminals on Wall Street.

We've got how many wars going on, how many people still without work, how many families in the Gulf states still dealing with the double-blow of the economy followed by the BP spill that everyone has forgotten about?

Healthcare crisis? What crisis? (I just learned that my family's monthly health insurance premium is slated to go up $700--that's PER MONTH--because I turned fifty. Awesome!)

But lest anyone think that the Politicians Who Are Not Anthony Weiner haven't been busy, I'm here to tell you that in three weeks, with the help of the tut-tutting church ladies in the "liberal media", a strong voice of the people was silenced--like *that*--and not because he enabled torture, carried on an affair with an aide and then bribed her to keep silent, or sold his votes to the highest-bidding corporate donor.

No, Weiner was drummed out of office due to his having engaged in salacious (and occasionally illustrated) online correspondence with women he'd never been in the same room with, actions that struck me as being the peacock-like display behavior of a charged-up male inspired by the surfeit of female attentions that typically attend the powerful and/or celebrated.

I now demand David Vitter's naughty bits so I can bronze them and hang them from my rear-view mirror. It only seems fair.

*It's O.K. If You're A Republican

Friday, June 10, 2011

On social democracy, that inexplicably unmentionable phrase that truly embodies the spirit of We, the People

from Andy Warhol's Money series

This is one of those instances where even typing something out does little to make it more believable: Delta charges soldiers returning home from Afghanistan an additional luggage fee of $200 each (they are allowed three checked pieces, but as you'd imagine, members of our armed forces have a lot of bulky belongings that can't be jammed into three bags).

And yet.

I think there is an important larger message here: Delta, as we all know, is a corporation. Supreme Court classifications to the contrary notwithstanding, corporations are simply amoral entities, built from paper and pixels, that do not think or feel one way or another about anything; rather, they just seek maximum profits, period. Think of them like sharks--they don't care who gets hurt, they don't care what standards of decency and propriety they offend (making soldiers pay extra for their baggage? Really??) and they don't care who gets in the way; they only care about feeding, feeding, and more feeding.

For a conscientious human being, then, the question is not "How can Corporation XYZ be so uncaring?" but instead, "How far have we gone--and how much further are we willing to go--in allowing these amoral entities to control all the aspects of our daily existence?"

Right now, when you regard the matter with wide-open eyes, you realize that corporations control our elected leadership--much if not most of it, anyway--as well as our geopolitical posture, our banking system, our education system, our medical decisions, our agriculture and food supply, and, perhaps most worryingly, our very ability to elect candidates for public office who represent us, the people, as opposed to them, the aforementioned entities whose only raison d'être is to turn a profit.

Going by what I learned in high school American history, and what I've since observed about what I'd loosely term "the national character", I'd say Americans tend to recoil at the very notion of being controlled and reflexively put a foot down if they feel that is what someone, or something, is trying to do.

As such, they shy away from--and often will outright demonize--the word "socialist", because they see it as being under the controlling thumb of the state.

Blame the paucity of engaging, thought-provoking debates about political philosophy in our high school social studies classes; blame the shallow nature of the learning that does take place in a teach-to-the-test climate wherein facts are regurgitated and promptly forgotten; the end result is that far too many of us don't seem to realize that we are the state.

Ironically, in a social democracy (which yes, is a form of socialism, albeit one that's rather more grounded in reality than utopian socialism), we would be the ones in control.

As matters currently stand, we're under the control of a plutocracy--and it's an insidious, shadowy, "Aw shucks, we're just like you" kind of plutocracy--with the difference being, the plutocracy is most definitely not us.

And on ever-increasing numbers of issues, we have virtually no say whatsoever, not even within the context of elections, wherein we get the false choice of voting for one beholden-to-corporations candidate over the other beholden-to-corporations candidate, and thanks to their professed differences on a handful of social issues (Roe, marriage equality, guns), we think we've had some say. We "feel" as though we have some measure of control.

We don't.

Whenever I am in a conversation with non-political-junkies--at dinner, say--with people who start complaining about the government this and the state that, and people inevitably head into a discussion about why we are better off not letting the government or the state have so much power, I always chime in: HEY! You are forgetting something! The government is US. The state is US.

When the State-That-Is-Us has control, this is a good thing. Trouble is, that's not what we're seeing. We are not under the control of ourselves--of us--but rather, we're under the control of the wealthy, namely corporations and their interests. That's why our own money, our tax dollars, never seem to get spent the way we want--on excellent public education for all American children, affordable health care, clean air and water initiatives, programs to feed our hungry and provide shelter for our homeless, energy-efficient public transportation that would relieve us of our miserable hours-long commutes in bumper-to-bumper traffic, and so on--but instead get spent, one obscene trillion-pile after another, on endless wars, bailouts, subsidies for Big Oil and of course, Big Agribusiness, and money-pit "security" agencies that violate our Constitutional rights and treat law-abiding citizens as guilty until proven innocent. I'm sure you can think of more.

The government is us. And to my mind, the only way to even begin to make leadership behave that way is to completely change the way elections are funded and do away with all forms of campaign "donations" as well as halting altogether the corporate lobbying of sitting leaders.

Campaigns would be publicly-funded; candidates for public office would be given a strict limit as to what they could spend on a campaign.

Imagine what could be accomplished if, instead of spending months and years in "pre-election money-grubbing-and-vote-pandering mode", a leader could actually lead. No more mudslinging attack ads (too expensive!) and no more ridiculous talking-point pageants masquerading as debates. Imagine candidates running for office solely because they are leaders answering a call to duty. Imagine them getting elected based solely on their leadership abilities--their knowledge, their talent, their record of doing good work on our behalf.

Imagine having leaders who are beholden to no-one but us, the we in We, the People.

It would not be impossible for the United States to implement a truly American-people-controlled system of governance--a social democracy--indeed, I would argue that social democracy is the closest thing there is to an actual embodiment of what the Founding Fathers intended for the country, and one only need read the wise and poignantly beautiful writings of Jefferson, Madison, Adams, et. al. to confirm this.

But given the range of theatrical talents, the vast and tentacular wealth, and the predators' amorality that characterize the beasts we currently face, it is dispiritingly unlikely that we ever will.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Litbrit on the Nicole Sandler show

I had a great time this morning chatting with fellow Floridian Nicole Sandler. We talked about Weinergate, among other things, and wondered why it almost always seems to be male politicians who find themselves entangled in these things.

I come on around the 35:30 mark.