Hello Folks, We’ve just migrated greaterdemocracy.org to a new computer, and to new blogging software (WordPress). The new host should be invisible – URLs will remain the same. WordPress looks a little different than the old Movable Type blog, but works rougly the same. We’ve tried to minimize differences, and we’ll be tightening up the [...]
Monthly Archive for January, 2007
Greater Democracy was formed with these broad purposes in mind: To explore the roots, goals, and intentions of democratic governance in the United States, To look critically at the governance structures and models currently operating in the U.S., considering what works, what doesn’t work, and (especially) what might work much better, especially in the interest [...]
Let’s do the math on the corn ethanol hoax.
For every unit of energy I put into making grass biofuel pellets, I get 14 out = 14:1 net energy.
With corn ethanol the net energy is just 1.67:1
14/1.67 = 8.383 better return on the investment made in grass pellets.
Now consider how the two fuels will be used.
Pellets will be burned at 80% efficiency. Lets say 70%.
Ethanol will be burned in an internal combustion engine at just 30% efficiency.
.7/.3 = 2.333
So the systems advantage of grass pelllets over ethanol is: 8.383 X 2.333 = 19.56X
Solid biofuel in the form of grass pellets, gives us 19X more return on our investments, 19X more energy independence. And 19X more national security than corn ethanol.
So why is it that all of the subsidies etc go the the biofuel with 1/19 the benefit?
Isn’t it amazing, the out right stupidity of corn ethanol? It is just a mechanism to transfer and redistribute wealth to ADM and Cargill. It just another example of corporate looting of the public treasury. It also depends utterly on fertilizers made from fossil fuels. Not to mention the virgin water degraded by the corn ethanol process: gallons of water degraded for each gallon of corn ethanol made.
Can we say that there is a pathological condition in this market and its supporting politics?
On a couple mailing lists I’m on, people are talking about different ways to address problems in our electoral system. There are, of course, the issues of voting integrity, but there is also an interesting discussion about changes to the primary calendar. I’ve spent a bit of time thinking about this and have a different view from many of the folks on the list.
Let me suggest that we are looking at the issue the wrong way. Perhaps the issue isn’t that because a few small states like Iowa and New Hampshire vote early, they get more say in whom our next president will be. The idea of spreading out the primary season across several months so that we can have more retail politics, more chances for people to shake hands with the candidates is, IMHO, a great ideal. Perhaps the problem isn’t the schedule, but the way it is being manipulated by corporations and large money donors.
People look back at 2004 and complain that the race was over before most of us even got a chance to vote. They cite examples of the way the media played the Dean Scream. Well, the problem with the Dean Scream wasn’t a problem with Gov. Dean or the people of Iowa. It was a problem of the large corporate controlled media. Until we address that problem, it doesn’t matter whether we have all our primaries on one day or spread out over several months. The media will control the message. Focusing on Media Reform is likely to have a bigger effect on making the primary process much more open and inclusive then any juggling of the calendar will. I do agree with some of the people on the lists that juggling the calendar without addressing this issue could make the problem even worse.
The other major complaint is the role of money in the campaign process. If you don’t do well in Iowa and New Hampshire, your money dries up and your campaign can’t keep going. Again, is this a problem with the folks in Iowa or New Hampshire, or is it a problem with the role of money in the political process? The Dean campaign did some amazing things getting everyday people to contribute small amounts to his campaign. In the end, that didn’t do the trick, but it raises a couple interesting points.
First, if we want to address the problem with primaries not being democratic enough, we need to do something about the role of money in campaigns. We need to fix the campaign finance system. This takes me back to big media. What is the biggest expense for campaigns? TV Ads! Yup, that’s right, it goes back to funding those large corporate media institutions that are thwarting our democracy. If we want reform, we need to move campaigns away from the 30-second spot to something that encourages democratic participation. An interim step might be to free the airwaves and allow campaigns free airtime to get their message out. The big media corporations will fight tooth and nail against this. After all, they get billions of dollars from political advertising. So, if they won’t do this, perhaps we need to pull and end run around them. That is why posting video online is so important. All of the Democratic candidates are ramping up their online video capabilities. This may have more of an effect than any changes to the schedule will have.
Then, there is the issue of people saying that they don’t need to vote because it has already been pretty much decided in Iowa and New Hampshire. Yup, it’s those old cynics fouling up the works again. Well, personally, I believe that my vote matters, even though I vote much later in the cycle in Connecticut. I got out and voted for Howard Dean last time. What we need to do here, again is less about catering to cynics, then it is about trying to promote civic engagement. Let’s teach civics! Let’s get people involved. Spreading out the primary calendar so that there can be more one on one engagement between candidates and voters probably does a better job of it than compressing everything into one day.
For me, I believe that I can be more involved, living in a state a couple hundred miles away from an early primary state with the current calendar than I could be if we had one national primary day. I can go to New Hampshire and freeze my butt off, meet some candidates and have some real conversations. If they change the schedule I can perhaps volunteer to serve appetizers at a fund raiser for people contributing $2000 each in New York City, but I’m not likely to get into any real discussions about where we need to be going as a country.
Yes, we need to change things to make sure that everyone gets to participate in the presidential primaries. I believe that Media Reform, Campaign Finance Reform and better civics education are much better tools to make this happen than moving to a national primary day.
At the Journalism that Matters conference, JTM, in Memphis the other week, I was struck by the parallels of the second and fourth estates. For the second estate, I’m thinking of that political class that most resembles the nobility of the Ancien Regime. For the past forty years, political discourse has been dominated by broadcast [...]
By: FAROOQ HASSAN
January 16, 2007
My friend from my Oxford days, and now a Professor and Dean of the Harvard of Kennedy School and formerly the Deputy Chief of the operations of the most sensitive institution of US government in the Clinton administration, and I were analysing over tea after Christmas some important issues of contemporary politics. While talking of the decline of President Bush’s political stock in the US the Dean said: “Nothing disturbs the mind of a politician or the public like a body bag.” He was speaking of this normative generality of common sense as it were a rule of universal application.
However sad as it may sound, this aphorism does not seem to apply to this country. In Pakistan it does not apparently matter how many people get killed so long as the highest in land are well and alive. Not a day passes when there isn’t a blast somewhere in this country but particularly in the areas next to Afghanistan in the two Pakistani provinces of Frontier and Baluchistan. As I see it these issues are likely to emerge as the top matters to affect the current phase of history of Pakistan. This perspective applies to foreign policy as much as in Pakistan’s domestic affairs.
Read the whole column here.
By: Dr. Farooq Hassan
National Intelligence Director John Negroponte, the head of US spying operations says “the leaders of al-Qaeda have found a secure hideout in Pakistan from where they are rebuilding their strength.” He further said that al-Qaeda was strengthening itself across the Middle East, North Africa and Europe. He told the Senate Intelligence Committee that al-Qaeda was still the militant organization that “poses the greatest threat to US interests”. In his written statement, he admitted that despite world wide efforts of the US, terrorism was still very much in evidence in the regions where despite tremendous sacrifices Washington had even gone to war. Such a claim will be embarrassing for General Musharraf, whom Negroponte described as a key partner in America’s war on terror.
Not surprisingly, Pakistan rejected these comments, which are the most specific on the issue yet. Afghanistan has welcomed the comments. President Hamid Karzai’s chief of staff, Jawed Ludin, told the BBC that Afghanistan has long maintained the Islamic militants operate from within Pakistan and Negroponte’s “statement was refreshing in its honesty”.
But the precise accusation made by him is very interesting. Until now the US has not been so specific about where it believes al-Qaeda’s leaders are hiding. Does it indicate an inherent and subtle policy shift may be possible in this regard? A careful perusal of such a determination by the Americans is certainly not impossible. Hikmatyar’s recent admission of helping the al Qaeda leadership escape the US led onslaught on Tora Bora five years ago has to be seen in this context. Without question he remained and may be still have the support of important Pakistani leadership.
Yesterday was a big day for the future of Democratic Politics. Yes, we all know about the importance of the first woman Speaker of the House. I hope many of us were touched by her reaching out to a new generation and inviting children up to the speaker’s chair to touch the gavel. So, instead of talking about that, I want to talk about a different aspect of it being a big day.
You can read about it on the New York Times’ blog and Beth Kanter’s blog. I recorded various parts of the event using Fraps. Unfortunately, the format that Fraps saves is a bit strange and I haven’t had a chance to edit my two gigs of clips. I did put a couple of them up on blip.tv if anyone wants to grab some raw footage. Also, drop me a note if you want some of my other raw footage.
During the event, we watched the opening of Congress on a C-Span feed streaming in and talked about a lot of different things. Folks from Sun Microsystems and Clearink were there. They had helped a lot with the building of Capitol Hill in Second Space and had some interesting things to talk about.
One of the interesting features of Capitol Hill in Second Life was that the roof was transparent. There were various jokes about promoting transparency in Washington, and Rep. Miller talked a bit about transparency. I asked a question about the Punch Clock Campaign and Read the Bill. He spoke generally about his support of such efforts, and I hope that people stay on top of this.
Also, during a hiatus, I had a great discussion with Katt Kongo. Katt is the editor of The Metaverse Messenger. She claims it is the largest newspaper in SecondLife, with a circulation of around twenty thousand. I was struck by it being a PDF, as opposed to some sort of blog feed with RSS etc. She claimed that she got better advertising rates that way and that M2, as it is known, is self supporting and she is actually managing to earn her living reporting on Second Life.
We talked about what role Capitol Hill in Second Life could pay, and I spoke about how I hoped that it would encourage people not traditionally involved with politics and governance to become more connected with the political process.
Other reporters there included Adam Reuters who runs Reuters bureau in Second Life, as well as a reporter for GQ, who was wearing a tux that did not live up to his GQ billing. There were various discussions about how hard it is to find good men’s clothes in Second Life.
So, while Nancy Pelosi was making history in real life Capitol Hill, Rep. George Miller and a bunch of reporters and Second Life enthusiasts made there own little bit of history. Will Second Life become a tool that will help make our government more transparent.