Friday, April 23, 2010

When three is not a crowd

In Britain’s mercifully short political campaign (the voting is May 6), they are actually letting a third-party candidate debate on TV.


The televised debates are a first in Britain, and they are giving much needed exposure to all three parties.

As a result, UK isn’t stuck in the kind of nasty left-right tug-o-war that is wrenching American politics.

The British electorate actually has to venture beyond the linear. This could be taken as a sign of political, even human, evolution.

We do not live in a politically polarized world. We live in at least three-dimensions. Rather than two sides to every issue, there are three. And if you can get to three, four becomes possible.

If American politicians knew that third parties must be invited to nationally televised debates, third parties, and even fourth parties, might form and expand the political possibilities.

The last time we experienced such a phenomenon was when Ross Perot ran in 1990 and 1994. The problem was that his campaigns, first as an independent and then as the leader of the Reform Party, had no congressional representation or legitimacy.

In Britain, the Liberal Democrats are an established Parliamentary presence.

But then the parliamentary system is another story altogether. For one thing, time — the time between elections, the political fourth dimension — can be quite fluid and responsive. Couple that with national television exposure and things get interesting.

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Monday, April 19, 2010

The Volcano Expert speaks. Listen up!

I know something about volcanos.

In 1980 I was a reporter at a newspaper that had an active volcano suddenly come to life in its circulation area. Mount St. Helens made great copy when it erupted.

Disaster everywhere! Ash and mayhem like you wouldn’t believe! We loved it. The stories were so good that the paper, the Longview Daily News, won a Pulitzer for them.

Okay, so I’ve established my volcano “cred.”

Now let me explain what’s going on with the Icelandic volcano.

There are clearly three possible explanations for the disruptive eruption — note, by the way, that the words have the same root. That's a tip-off.

Number 1 explanation

Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda. The eruption is exactly the sort of tactic the terrorists used on 9/11. It goes like this: Carry your cause forward by messing with planes. But this time they went about it in an even more secretive way — underground. REALLY underground. We all know where bin Laden has been for the last nine years: in an underground cave, that’s where. If you were forced to live in a cave, you’d get very good at digging and using the “raw, explosive power of the earth.” You can see where this is going.... That’s right, directly to the bowels of Iceland and the heart of this beastly volcano.

And to think we've been looking for bin Laden in the Afghanistan Kush. Pfsush! He's been tampering with a volcano in Iceland all these years. The plot is so insidious that Al Qaeda chose a volcano whose name is so unpronounceable, so alien, that the source of the problem can’t even be talked about. Go ahead, try it:


Number 2 explanation:

Barack Obama and the majority Democrats. First, note the similarity in the names: Osama and Obama. You may have done this before, but it is STILL very suspicious. Secondly, this volcano is clearly bad. All things bad derive from Obama and Democrats. It just goes with the territory. Health care? BAD! Bank reform? BAD! The unannounced Supreme Court nominee? Pre-BAD! No further explanation needed.

Then there’s the fact that Obama was born in Iceland. Didn’t know that, did you? Very suspicious and hidden by the Media. If you want to get rid of this volcano, vote this November against the socialistic, destructive, Icelandic, Democrat, volcanic cabal in Washington.

Number 3 explanation:

Finally, the traditional source of all disasters that mere mortals can’t control or explain: The Gods. Try to change your flight itinerary. The Gods won't allow it! Try to book a train out of Stockholm (I actually have British friends who are stranded in Damascus — and I don’t mean the one in Oregon). The Gods won't allow it! Complain that the air ministries are being overly cautious. The Gods won't allow it!

And, yes, point your finger at Osama and Obama (I personally suspect Rush Limbaugh but, as a journalist I recognize my bias when I see it). The Gods won't allow it! The fact is that all you can really do is rail against the Gods. Of course THAT won’t do any good. So what now?

SACRIFICES, that's what!

My first thought was to give my accumulated airline miles to my mother-in-law. Another appropriate sacrifice might be vacations. I might force myself to stay at home with the cat. The Gods obviously don’t like all this air travel. Maybe they have a problem with driving too. Perhaps I should sacrifice my Toyota or my motor scooter. Pitch them over the rim of the crater.

My first born isn’t a possibility because he isn’t technically a “first born,” as I have no second born. And he’s 32 and not a virgin either. Worse, he’s an attorney. If you sacrifice attorneys, they sue, which is worse than being stranded in Damascus.


I hope this has made the Icelandic volcano thing clear. Of the three explanations, I’m inclined to go with the last. If we all sacrifice a little, we won’t even notice we have a problem. In the meantime, we can show the volcano a little respect.

Come to think of it, the volcano might just be a god! So, cover your bets. Learn to pronounce his (or her or its) name. It could come in handy.

That’s Ey-jaf-jal-la-jo-kull.

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