Friday, May 09, 2008

Expecting to be Reincarnated? Better Get Your Permit First!

I'm a big believer in separation of church and state. Thank God our founding fathers included the establishment clause in the US Constitution! But China has no such restrictions, and this is one of the more bizarre results:
"On August 3, 2007, the [Chinese government's] State Administration for Religious Affairs (SARA) issued a set of regulations, effective September 1, 2007, that require all Tibetan lamas wishing to reincarnate to obtain prior government approval through the submission of a “reincarnation application.” In a statement accompanying the regulations, SARA called the step “an important move to institutionalize management on reincarnation of living Buddhas." - from "Tibet: Problems, Prospects, and U.S. Policy", Congressional Research Service report RL34445, April 10, 2008
While this might seem rather silly, it's actually part of China's attempt to control Tibet by controlling Tibetan Buddhism. China has done a similar thing with Catholicism, creating a tightly controlled "fake" Catholic church structure independent of Rome and the Pope. If you can't beat them, subvert them.


The image above is a Tibetan Thangka (painted banner) of the wheel of life, depicting the Six States of Existence of Tantric Buddhism. Image from this site, and a brief explanation of the wheel of life here. Click on the image for a larger version.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Electing Obama Delegates - First Thoughts

Yesterday I attended the 2nd Congressional District delegate caucus to elect pledged Obama delegates to the DNC convention in Denver. If I have time I'll do a detailed post about the process, but I came away from the caucus somewhat disappointed and dejected, so wanted to get these thoughts out first.

It seems to me that pledged delegates should be chosen based in large part on how much work they do for a campaign. Extraordinary efforts should be recognized and rewarded, and becoming a national delegate is a traditional means of doing so. In addition, the amount of work a volunteer does is a strong indication of how committed and loyal to the campaign he or she is, which is a real concern given the possibility of a fight at the convention this year.

Despite this, several people were elected delegates who, as far as I can tell, have done little or nothing to support the Obama campaign. They defeated superb and deserving candidates who have donated hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars to Obama.

The delegate caucus was stacked. Quite legally, but stacked none the less. It looks like all of the Obama delegates who were elected yesterday were political insiders with ties to the Doyle administration. And while some clearly deserved to become delegates, others did not. They won because they had the support of the roughly thirty Doyle folks who were at the caucus.

Unfortunately this is par for the course. Not all all unusual when the grassroots gets rolled by political professionals. But I had some conversations at the caucus that prompted me to think about what happened, and to realize that there's a cost here that tends to get overlooked. A cost to the Democratic Party, and to our candidates.

The Party needs committed campaign volunteers to succeed. But yesterday some of our most active and successful volunteers were kicked out of the way so that politically connected insiders could grab the perks of a successful campaign. We failed to recognize and reward some truly extraordinary efforts, and by doing so we discourage such efforts in the future. Cutting our own throats. It's what Democrats do best.

WI Legislative Clean Government Rankings

Wisconsin Democracy Campaign just ranked Wisconsin legislators based on support for clean government reforms. Not surprisingly, Democrats did far better than Republicans, and in general progressive Dems did better than moderate/conservative Dems. But there are some interesting exceptions, so I made the chart below to make them easier to see. Click on it for a larger version.

My chart is identical to the original WDC chart except that I color coded the legislators by party, blue for Democrats and red for Republicans. The rankings are somewhat coarse, and legislators who received identical rankings are listed alphabetically, so I encourage you to look at WDC's full report before you reach conclusions about particular senators or representatives.

A couple of things did catch my eye. Milwaukee senator Lena Taylor, who is actually quite progressive, was in the lowest category of Democratic senators. She voted for all the reform bills, but the rankings also include bill sponsorship, and Senator Taylor didn't cosponsor of any of them. My understanding is that sponsorship was weighted less heavily than votes, but it was still enough to drag Taylor way down. I have a call into Senator Taylor's office, and I'll post her response when I get it.

Two other Democratic senators, Russ Decker and Jeff Plale, received the same low score as Taylor. Decker's district is fairly conservative, so that's an excuse, sort of, but Plale is from a solidly Democratic district. Senator Plale has a rather sordid voting history, and is probably the number one target for a primary challenge next cycle.

The very worst Democrat, by a very significant margin, is Representative Bob Ziegelbauer. Ziegelbauer basically votes like a Republican, but his district is extremely conservative, so even with his poor voting record it's still better to have a Democrat then a Republican in that seat.