Monday, September 26, 2011

Tinkering With Death

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From this day forward, I shall no longer tinker with the machinery of death.

Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun
dissenting opinion in the capital punishment case Callins v Collins (1994)

In this week's sift:

  • Talking About Killing.Troy Davis' execution galvanized death-penalty opponents. But they're still talking past (not to) death-penalty advocates.
  • The Sifted Bookshelf: The Hour of Sunlight.How Israeli prison made a peace activist out of Sami al Jundi.
  • Poor, Poor Bigots and other short notes. Why military chaplains are not the victims of DADT repeal. The Republican debates are making the party "sound like crazy people" and hurting Rick Perry. The outrageous lie that put Herman Cain's campaign back on the map. Amusing political images. Elizabeth Warren goes viral. And more.
  • The previous Sift's most popular post. Six True Things Politicians Can't Say was on its way to a respectable showing when it suddenly took off last Monday, got 8000 hits in an hour, and set a Weekly Sift record with (so far) 66,000 views. Economics Works Backwards Now got over 400 views, which would have made it the top post of a typical week. Both were voted onto the recommended list when reposted to Daily Kos -- the first time I ever hit that list two days in a row. Meanwhile, One Word Turns the Tea Party Around was having a third burst of popularity, and is now up to 17,000 views. I don't know how long I can resist the Hollywood urge to write "Six More True Things Politicians Can't Say" or "Another Word Turns the Tea Party Around".
  • This week's challenge. Check out a couple of proposals that could use your support: The People's Rights Amendment declares that only "natural persons" (not corporations) have constitutional rights. And the National Popular Vote Bill circumvents the Electoral College through a compact among the states.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Turn the Crank

The Weekly Sift has moved. Check out the new site at

No Sift next week. The Weekly Sift returns on September 26.

In truth then, there is nothing more to wish for than that the king, remaining alone on the island, by constantly turning a crank, might produce, through automata, all the output of England.

-- Jean-Charles-LĂ©onard Simonde Sismondi
New Principles of Political Economy (1819)

In this week's sift:

Monday, September 5, 2011


The Weekly Sift has moved. Check our our new digs at

Undermining Americans' belief in their own institutions of self-government remains a prime GOP electoral strategy.

– Mike Lofgren, retired Republican Congressional staffer
"Goodbye to All That: Reflections of a GOP Operative Who Left the Cult"

In this week's sift:

  • Rootworms, Monsanto, and the Unity of Existence. Liberals like to use the word holistic, but conservatives are the ones whose ideology connects everything. Why a down-on-the-farm issue like Bt-resistant rootworms has larger lessons to teach.
  • Blowing Smoke About Clouds. If you have enough media power, you can hijack the prestige of the biggest names in science and use it for your own purposes. Witness how climate deniers just hijacked the coverage of an article in Nature by researchers at CERN.
  • A ConConCon and other short notes. Lawrence Lessig tries to make common cause with the Tea Party. Cheney's book tour. Geo-engineering. Rolling Stone covers voter suppression. Convoluted music copyrights. Relative costs of the Libyan and Iraq interventions. More on Libertarians.
  • Last week's most popular post. Traffic mostly went back to normal last week, except for continuing interest in Why I Am Not a Libertarian (18K total views) andOne Word Turns Around the Tea Party (7K). (Between them they're still accounting for more than half the blog's traffic.) Last week's Barack, Can We Talk? got a more typical 450 views. However, it took off when I reposted it to Daily Kos, where it went to the top of the recommended list (800 recommendations, 800 comments).
  • This week's challenge. Try to put words around the political message you're waiting to hear. What could a politician say or do that would give you a surprised reaction of "This person really gets it!"?