Photo of the day

Recent National Geographic photo of the day:

Picture of a hiker in the Hang Son Doong cave in Vietnam

A Jungle Down There

Photograph by Matthias Hauser, National Geographic Your Shot

A hiker is dwarfed by the massive proportions of Hang Son Doong, the largest cave in the world, located in Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park in Vietnam. It is more than two miles long and, at some places, more than 600 feet high. Where the ceiling has collapsed, allowing sunlight to spill in, vegetation grows heartily.


Bernie and the short and long range future of the Democratic party

First, Matt Yglesias (who has generally been quite positive about Bernie) makes a compelling case for why he is substantially less electable than Hillary Clinton:

But what worries the Democratic Party professionals who’ve rallied to Clinton’s side — not just her inner circle, but the vast majority of the party’s elected officials and interest group leaders, including people who are more ideologically in-sync with Bernie — isn’t Sanders’ personal standing.

 It’s his ideas and, especially, his approach to politics.

Sanders’ appeal in the primary is based largely on the idea that he, unlike Hillary Clinton, full-throatedly embraces the liberal agenda and always had…

But it’s no great mystery why Clinton’s record is different from Sanders’ in this regard. She’s a careful, opportunistic politician who is more likely to follow public opinion and lead it. That’s what makes her a less-inspiring candidate. Someone who’s less likely to attract a vast crowd to her rallies, and less likely to inspire an ordinary person to take $15 or $50 out of her wallet and hand it over to Clinton. But it’s also, in the view of most professionals, what makes her the more electable candidate. Careful opportunists win and the establishment worries that Sanders won’t be careful or opportunistic enough… [emphases mine]

An exchange in the most recent Democratic debate illustrates, beyond polling, exactly what has professional political operatives worries about Sanders. Things that he brings to the table as his primary virtue in a nominating contest — primarily a willingness to take tough stances regardless of the political consequences — are likely to be weaknesses as a nominee…

If it were just carbon taxes, Sander’s issue positions probably wouldn’t be enough to outweigh his poll numbers in the eyes of most political insiders.

But Sanders — quite proudly and openly — takes these kind of stances on a wide range of issues. He markets himself in the primary, accurately, as the bolder, more politically courageous candidate.

Yep.  And plenty more good stuff in this article.  Even if Bernie is better for the long-term future of the Democratic party, short-term, he is more likely to lose them the 2016 election (personally, that’s a risk I’m unwilling to take).

As for Bernie and the long term, Yglesias had another good post on that:

The votes of old people count just as much, of course, but any young and ambitious Democrat looking at the demographics of the party and the demographics of Sanders supporters has to conclude that his brand of politics is extremely promising for the future. There are racial and demographic gaps between Clinton and Sanders supporters, but the overwhelming reality is that for all groups, the young people are feeling the Bern…

Hillary Clinton’s campaign — and, frankly, many DC journalists — has been repeatedly taken by surprise by the potency of some of Sanders’s attacks, because they apply to such a broad swath of the party. But this is precisely the point. Sanders and his youthful supporters want the Democrats to be a different kind of party: a more ideological, more left-wing one…

But though Democrats are certainly the more left-wing of the two parties — the party of labor unions and environment groups and feminist organizations and the civil rights movement — they’re not an ideologically left-wing party in the same way that Republicans are an ideological conservative one. Instead, they behave more like a centrist, interest group brokerage party that seeks to mediate between the claims and concerns of left-wing activists groups and those of important members of the business community — especially industries like finance, Hollywood, and tech that are based in liberal coastal states and whose executives generally espouse a progressive outlook on cultural change.

Sanders’s core proposition, separate from the details of the political revolution, is that for progressives to win they need to first organize and dominate an ideologically left-wing political party that is counterpoised to the ideological right-wing Republican Party.

I’m not sure of Sanders is right or wrong on this.  He may be right.  But I hope he’s not, because it’s bad enough having one ideologically-driven party that is largely impervious to facts.  I’d hate for their to be two in a two-party system.

United States of North Korea

I’ve written about Civil Asset Forfeiture before.  I’ll write about it again.  It’s appalling, evil, horrible, has no place in a democratic society, etc.  If I told you there is a country where it is perfectly legal for the government to take your cash without charging you with a crime, you’d think North Korea or Yemen or Myanmar or some such place.  And yet, it is the law in the United States of America.  But, just one more in a series of utterly deplorable cases.

How police took $53,000 from a Christian band, an orphanage and a church

Eh Wah had been on the road for 12 hours when he saw the flashing lights in his rear-view mirror.

The 40-year-old Texas man, a refugee from Burma who became a U.S. citizen more than a decade ago, was heading home to Dallas to check on his family. He was on a break from touring the country for months as a volunteer manager for the Klo & Kweh Music Team, a Christian rock ensemble from Burma, also known as Myanmar. The group was touring the United States to raise funds for a Christian college in Burma and an orphanage in Thailand.

Eh Wah managed the band’s finances, holding on to the cash proceeds it raised from ticket and merchandise sales at concerts. By the time he was stopped in Oklahoma, the band had held concerts in 19 cities across the United States, raising money via tickets that sold for $10 to $20 each.

The sheriff’s deputies in Muskogee County, Okla., pulled Eh Wah over for a broken tail light about 6:30 p.m. on Feb. 27. The deputies started asking questions — a lot of them. And at some point, they brought out a drug-sniffing dog, which alerted on the car. That’s when they found the cash, according to the deputy’s affidavit.

There was the roughly $33,000 from ticket sales and donations, much of it earmarked for the religious college back in Burma, according to Eh Wah and the band members…

All told, the deputies found $53,000 in cash in Eh Wah’s car that night. Muskogee County Sheriff Charles Pearson said he couldn’t comment on the particulars of Eh Wah’s case because of the open investigation, but it is clear from his deputy’s affidavit that the officers didn’t like Eh Wah’s explanation for how he got the cash. “Inconsistent stories,” the affidavit notes. Despite the positive alert from the drug-sniffing dog, no drugs, paraphernalia or weapons were found. Just the cash.

The officers ended up taking all of the money — all $53,249 of it. “Possession of drug proceeds,” the property receipt reads. But they let Eh Wah go. They didn’t charge him with a crime that night, instead sending him back on the road about 12:30 a.m., with the broken tail light.

NC is plenty backward, but at least, we have one of the best laws in the country.  But so much of the country operates under laws like this.  And it absolutely must change.  Damn would I love to hear a presidential candidate talk about this.  And if the left and right cannot come together here– where?

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