This year, the case for reform is being made by a number of credible third-party candidates who have secured ballot status in multiple states, including the Green Party’s Jill Stein, a physician and noted environmental health activist; the Libertarian Party’s Gary Johnson, a former New Mexico governor; the Justice Party’s Rocky Anderson, a former Salt Lake City mayor; and the Constitution Party’s Virgil Goode, a former Virginia Congressman. All have claims to debate spots; under more open formats, Stein debated Mitt Romney when they both sought the Massachusetts governorship in 2002, and before he switched parties, Johnson faced Romney in the 2012 GOP presidential debates.
The commission is disinclined to open things up this year, or even to tinker with the format. It’s still vital to keep the pressure on, however. The best way to do that is by backing the nonprofit, nonpartisan group Open Debates, which is calling on the commission to release the details of its negotiations with the Obama and Romney campaigns, as well as its agreement to implement the campaigns’ debate plan. Transparency poses the greatest threat to a commission agenda that Open Debates decries as “more concerned with the partisan interests of the two major-party candidates than the democratic interests of the voting public.”
But citizens should do more than just pressure the commission. After all, its oversight is not required by law. Only back-room deals engineered by the major parties and their candidates give the commission its power. Why not pressure the parties and candidates to open things up? “Debates have the potential to be the most interesting, unscripted and definitional part of the campaign,” Nader says. “So why ration them? Instead of three presidential debates, why not have twenty-one spread across the fall? Why not have debates all over the country? In inner cities and rural areas? Various formats? Debates that focus on specific sets of issues? Why not let activists ask questions based on their knowledge and experience? Why not have moderators who challenge candidates, who ask follow-up questions, who encourage candidates to go at it?”
The way I see it, the smart money is on First Lady Michelle Obama, not to do a Hillary and go for the Big One in a later Presidential Ritual Contest (aka election). No, to do an Eleanor (Roosevelt) and have a major effect on the nation while her husband does the military strut.
How, pray tell, will she do this? you ask. With her garden, says I, with her garden.
Veggies for Health
As you may know, she’s very much interested in gardening, in particular, growing vegetables. She’s set up a garden on the Whitehouse lawn, grown veggies, had them served in the Whitehouse and has recently published a book on gardening and nutrition.
That’s her angle on gardening. Vegetables are good and good for you. They’re essential to a proper diet, and a proper diet is necessary to prevent childhood obesity.
Her interest in and commitment to gardening is deep, predating her husband’s nomination:
“Back then, it was really just the concept of, I wonder if you could grow a garden on the South Lawn?” Michelle Obama says. “If you could grow a garden, it would be pretty visible and maybe that would be the way that we could begin a conversation about childhood health, and we could actually get kids from the community to help us plant and help us harvest and see how their habits changed.”
She was a city kid from Chicago’s South Side who had never had a garden herself, though her mother recalls a local victory garden created to produce vegetables during World War II. One childhood photo included in the book shows Michelle as an infant in her mother’s arms — the resemblance between Marian Robinson in the picture and Michelle as an adult is striking — and another depicts a young Michelle practicing a headstand in the backyard.
… After the election, she broached her idea to start the first vegetable garden on the White House grounds since Eleanor Roosevelt’s victory garden in the 1940s.
Since the garden’s groundbreaking in 2009 — just two months after the inauguration — she has hosted seasonal waves of students from local elementary schools that help plant the seeds. Groundskeepers and dozens of volunteers weed and tend the garden. Charlie Brandts, a White House carpenter who is a hobbyist beekeeper, has built a beehive a few feet away to pollinate the plants and provide honey that Michelle Obama says “tastes like sunshine.”
So, the First Lady has a garden on the Whitehouse lawn and she’s preaching the garden gospel. Good enough.
Gardens in the Transition
The thing is, regardless of why a family or a community decides to grow a vegetable garden, the moment they start doing so, they’re also participating in the Transition Movement. By that I mean the movement started by Rob Hopkins in England and that now has groups all over the world: Continue reading
GOP = Gutless Old Plutocrats:
As Santorum spoke, not on the message of the night but on a deeper message of outreach to working-class voters delivered the language both parties once employed, the crowd that packed the great hall roared with approval — if not entirely for the political point then surely for the relief from the drab repetition that defined “We Built It” night. This was not the empty rhetoric molded by the mandarins who have managed the life out of the 40th Republican National Convention.
The only speech that might have been more engaging would have been the one that wasn’t delivered — by Ron Paul.
Paul was the Romney challenger who stayed in the race longest, and who won almost 200 delegate votes (193 by the Seattle Times count) during the Tuesday night roll call that nominated Romney.
Once upon a time, that might have guaranteed him a convention speaking slot.
But Paul was not allowed near the podium. And the party brass engineered a rewrite of the rules for the 2016 nominating process in order to assure that neither Paul — not anyone else as interesting, or dissenting — will ever again be able to beat the establishment at its own game and win substantial numbers of delegates. The Paul delegates, many Tea Party conservatives and a number of renegade Romney delegates objected, creating the only real drama of the day, and the convention.
Cities have always been built by their citizens. For millennia this was literally so and our cities have grown though myriad forms of participation and creativity into a brilliant synthesis of the ideas and actions of millions. The exponential growth of the modern city has also inadvertently estranged us from a role in shaping it. For many, the city seems just too big, too intractable, too inaccessible. But around the world, scores of people and organizations are intervening directly in their own environments, bringing incremental improvements to their streets, blocks, and neighborhoods. These acts of micro-urbanism, of informal urban design, are characteristically small in scale, and often temporary—the opposite of the qualities we traditionally associate with good design—yet their power resides not so much in their forms as in their impacts, in their immediate ability to infuse places with value and meaning.
Like many psychological and social indicators, GNH is somewhat easier to state than to define with mathematical precision. Nonetheless, it serves as a unifying vision for Bhutan’s five-year planning process and all the derived planning documents that guide the economic and development plans of the country. Proposed policies in Bhutan must pass a GNH review based on a GNH impact statement that is similar in nature to the Environmental Impact Statement required for development in the U.S.
The Bhutanese grounding in Buddhist ideals suggests that beneficial development of human society takes place when material and spiritual development occur side by side to complement and reinforce each other. The four pillars of GNH are the promotion of sustainable development, preservation and promotion of cultural values, conservation of the natural environment, and establishment of good governance.
That’s Bhutan, but I don’t live there and chances are you don’t either. But yesterday, just as I was coming out of my afternoon nap (one of the keys to my personal happiness, BTW) I got a phone call from a young lady who identified herself as being with the Gallup polling organization. She asked me if I’d be willing to answer a few questions and I agreed. Continue reading
TAMPA, Fla. — In a speech that was part motivational, part valedictory and at every opportunity critical of the mainstream Republican Party on the eve of its convention here this week, Representative Ron Paul declared his “liberty movement” alive and well on Sunday before a crowd of nearly 10,000 supporters who were eager to testify to that claim.
Mr. Paul said that he had recently read in newspapers that the so-called Ron Paul Revolution was over, and that whatever enthusiasm voters had shown toward his presidential campaign in the Republican primary season was gone.
“They only wish!” Mr. Paul thundered to an audience that seemed to become more energized with his every word, their roars of approval reaching a deafening level inside the Sun Dome at the University of South Florida.
Money is money, no matter how much blood drips from it.
THE global financial crisis has been a blessing for organized crime. A series of recent scandals have exposed the connection between some of the biggest global banks and the seamy underworld of mobsters, smugglers, drug traffickers and arms dealers. American banks have profited from money laundering by Latin American drug cartels, while the European debt crisis has strengthened the grip of the loan sharks and speculators who control the vast underground economies in countries like Spain and Greece.
Mutually beneficial relationships between bankers and gangsters aren’t new, but what’s remarkable is their reach at the highest levels of global finance. In 2010, Wachovia admitted that it had essentially helped finance the murderous drug war in Mexico by failing to identify and stop illicit transactions. The bank, which was acquired by Wells Fargo during the financial crisis, agreed to pay $160 million in fines and penalties for tolerating the laundering, which occurred between 2004 and 2007.
Late in 1877 the Nez Perce nation fought an asymmetrical war with the United States of America. For over three months Chief Joseph led 800 companions in a battle against the United States Army as they made a thousand-mile flight to Canada that stopped 40 miles short. On October 5, 1877 Chief Joseph surrendered, uttering these words:
Tell General Howard I know his heart. What he told me before, I have it in my heart. I am tired of fighting. Our Chiefs are killed; Looking Glass is dead, Ta Hool Hool Shute is dead. The old men are all dead. It is the young men who say yes or no. He who led on the young men is dead. It is cold, and we have no blankets; the little children are freezing to death. My people, some of them, have run away to the hills, and have no blankets, no food. No one knows where they are – perhaps freezing to death. I want to have time to look for my children, and see how many of them I can find. Maybe I shall find them among the dead. Hear me, my Chiefs! I am tired; my heart is sick and sad. From where the sun now stands I will fight no more forever.
Joseph and his people were not treated well in surrender. Alas.
But it is not the Nez Perce that I’m thinking about today. Continue reading