PUMAs at the convention and the irrelevant press

Posted on August 26th, 2008 in Politics by Robert Miller

To hear Chris Matthews tell the story on MSNBC, the Democratic Convention of 2008 in Denver is in the self-destruct mode and the Democratic Party is undergoing an implosion, because the PUMA (Party Unity My Ass) folks, those who still support Hillary Clinton and will not let the issue go away, are disrupting party cohesion and asphyxiating any chance Obama has to win the election in the Fall. But Matthews, staged to be seemingly speaking from the convention floor, surrounded by a group of PUMAs with signs and at least one person dressed as a toilet, reveled in his self-delusional narrative about the convention and the Democrats. In fact, Matthews was stationed nearly six blocks away from the Pepsi Center for his broadcast. It seems that he is either trying to raise advertising revenue for MSNBC or is in danger of losing his job. In contrast to his “theme for the Democratic Convention,” reporter Rebecca Traister, writing in Salon, states that in three days she has been at the convention center, she did not see a PUMA until she went to the MSNBC staging area where Matthews had surrounded himself with a group that supposedly fed the grist to his superior insight. It didn’t matter to Matthews that the PUMA group is minuscule and hardly noticeable at the convention. Nor did it seem to matter to him that the antiwar demonstrators over the weekend far outnumbered the PUMAs. One wonders if the PUMAs that surrounded Matthews were not in reality employees of MSNBC, or part-time unemployed cowboys brought in from Wyoming. Yet that theme, the possibility that disgruntled Hillary supporters are destroying the Democratic Convention, was so presupposed to be the central story, that Matthews declared “we’re at ground zero,” while in fact he was sitting six blocks away from the Pepsi Center. We got pretty much the same story from the talking heads at CNN–signs of destruction and ruin all around: the Hillary camp are destroyers to the Democrats. What we need are Free Press reporters reporting on the reporters. Thank God for the internet!

According to Traister, there is anger over the Hillary issue and anger over the fact that Nancy Pelosi asked Hillary to step aside and encouraged super delegates to vote for Obama. But Traister is quick to emphasize that this is a sophisticated form of anger, a Socratic version if you will, not a brutal, destructive form of hostility. Some women are understandably angry over how Hillary was treated and they want to express that anger, while still speaking enthusiastically about Obama. And that kind of controversy is just the sort of thing that party conventions need. If conventions should ever lose their controversial, issue-debating motif, they would lose their value as a center of gravity for party unity. To me, it makes not difference if Hillary is nominated and we go through a round of voting. We have done that in the past, so it would hardly be a negative. Perhaps it would be a negative if it didn’t happen.

The American Public’s Surrender of Foreign Policy: a Boat Without a Rudder

Posted on August 20th, 2008 in General,Politics,War by Robert Miller

Americans have adopted the habit of letting a small number of people make our foreign policy and deciding when we go to war. George Bush and the neocons proved how easy it is to do this with our invasion of Iraq, when perhaps less than a dozen people in the government decided to go to war and enlisted a willing, compliant press to help them make the case. If a few of those in the press had their sons and daughters called up into the war by a draft, we might have had a less compliant press and we might have imposed a built-in brake on runaway militarism. Lawrence Davidson has written a piece for Juan Cole’s website that deals with the issue of what happens when our foreign policy decisions are made by a small cluster of people. What happens is that a lot of innocent people die.

The Golden Toad of Costa Rica as the Canary in the Mine of Climate Change and Mass Extinction

Posted on August 17th, 2008 in Culture,ecology,General,Science by Robert Miller
Golden Toad

Golden Toad

A beautiful little amphibian called the Golden Toad was first described in the Monteverde mountain region of Costa Rica in 1966, but has not been seen anywhere in the world since 1989 and is presumed to be extinct. This biological tragedy is made more alarming by the fact that this region of the Costa Rica mountains is protected as a national reserve and was presumed to be a site for species preservation, not extinction! Costa Rica has some of the most delicate and unusual ecological systems of the world. Placed at the isthmus of the junction between North and South America, Costa Rica has both a Pacific and a Caribbean coast, with a prominent North-South mountain range that serves as a continental divide, which, like that in North America, determines whether rivers flow to the Pacific or Caribbean oceans. Monteverde is near a unique regional preserve in the mountainous region North of San Jose, the main city of Costa Rica (To get there you have to drive up a 30 km road that is unpaved, very rocky and dangerous. We did it in a small four-wheel drive car, during an intense rain storm, but most others we met hired tour guides to take them up and bring them back: they looked at us like we were a little nuts).

« Previous PageNext Page »