Madeleine Albright is One Heck of a Lady

On Saturday, I graduated from Knox College--a small but respected school which really puts the "liberal" in liberal arts.  Thanks to our historical stature (our signature building, Old Main, was the site of the Lincoln-Douglas debate at which Lincoln first denounced slavery as a moral evil) and a certain alumnus and prominent Democrat named John Podesta, we've had a great run of Commencement speakers lately (Barack Obama in 2005, Stephen Colbert in 2006, and Bill Clinton last year), culminating in this year's speaker: former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.

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AP: Obama has Officially "Clinched" the Nomination!

It's looking clearer and clearer--tonight, Barack Obama will be able to announce that he has amassed the necessary delegates to be the Democratic Party's 2008 presidential nominee.  The Associated Press delegate tally is the first news source to report that he has reached the benchmark number in their delegate tally:

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UPDATED: Sen. Byrd Hospitalized

Sorry for another short post, but information is a bit scarce so far. Olbermann was the first (and so far, only) one with the story so far.  Apparently, he had a high fever and reported feeling lethargic.  He was taken to the hospital by ambulance.  No one seems to have any information on his condition yet , but I'll update as more information comes in.  Let's keep him in our thoughts and prayers.

Senator Byrd (D-WV) is 90.  He is the longest serving senator in American history, having joined the Senate in 1959. During his tenure, he has been majority leader twice, minority leader and majority whip once each, and is the current president pro tempore of the Senate (the third in the presidential succession line, after Cheney and Pelosi).

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Good News: Kennedy Surgery "Successful"

Yes, that's right: Ted Kennedy, who underwent brain surgery today to remove a tumor from his brain, is now out of surgery and doing well.  His doctors say that the surgery was successful at removing a large portion of the tumor and are predicting that he will have no neurological damage from the surgery.  Although Kennedy isn't out of the woods yet--it is impossible to fully remove a glioma with surgery alone, and he'll be starting chemo soon--there certainly seems to be a cause for optimism!

As for the good Senator himself, he was in high spirits: "I feel like a million bucks. I think I'll do that again tomorrow." n_go_co/kennedy_cancer

I know this is a short diary, but I figured that after all the gloomy eulogies for Kennedy when the news about his cancer broke, people would appreciate the update and the reminder that the "liberal lion" ain't dead yet!  

Get well soon, Sen. Kennedy.

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All votes are equal--but some are more equal than others.

A lot has been made lately of the "every vote is equal" prinicple, mostly to argue that Florida and Michigan must be accorded their full delegate tally in the interest of fairness.  What such arguments ignore is the fact that even in "enfranchised" states, not every vote is equal; for instance, a single delegate from Utah represents far fewer votes than a single delegate from Wisconsin.

So which states are the most "enfranchised"?  Here's a full list of all states which held primaries so far this year and their vpd (votes per delegate, calculated by dividing the total number of votes cast in a state by that state's number of pledged delegates) ratios.  I included Florida and Michigan twice--once with a full delegate slate, and once with delegates halved.  Feel free to draw your own conclusions, I just think that vpd ratios are a relevant data point which ought to be taken into account in the Michigan/Florida debates.

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It's a democratic REPUBLIC, stupid!

The U.S. is not a democracy.  It never has been.  It is a democratic republic.  What's the difference, you may ask?  In a democracy, citizens vote directly on all laws and policies.  In a democratic republic, citizens vote for representatives, who in turn make policy decisions on the citizenry's behalf.

In other words, you have the right to vote for someone else who will in turn cast the votes that really count.  THAT is the principle of democracy in this country, as well as in the Democratic primaries.  Halving the delegates of Florida and Michigan in no way violates voters' rights or makes voters voices "count less," because they never directly counted to begin with.  Their votes would count for electing their assigned number of delegates to the convention, same as always.  The only difference would be that those delegates' votes would only count for half as much.

Or, to put it simply: The voters' votes would count in full, but the delegates' (not to be confused with the voters) votes would not.

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Russian Politician Beats Off Flying Penis.

And no, that isn't a joke.  Supporters of Vladimir Putin pulled this prank at a speech by prominent opposition leader and former World Chess Champion Garry Kasparov:

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Becca and David: The Littlest Activist, The Saddest Joy

This past weekend, my thirteen-year-old cousin Becca put on a tallis for the first time, was called up to the Torah, and became a Bat Mitzvah.  Watching her at the pulpit, clearly and confidently delivering her d'var Torah, I almost couldn't believe that this was the same girl who, as a stubborn kindergartener, had shied away from the limelight in our family skits.  Yet here she was: a child no longer, but a full-fledged young woman, poised and proud and capable as she chanted the age-old melody of Parshat Behar.  It was truly a simcha--a joy--to witness her coming of age.  And yet, there was also sadness.  Something was missing.

You see, Becca has a twin.

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IsraelKos and MyPalestine: A Peace Plan for the Progressive Blogosphere

(Cross posted at DailyKos. Check out their response here.)

Where have I seen this before?

We have here two groups--originally cohabitant, but now separated by partition--fighting over the same territory.  One group insists that they are being victimized and overrun; the other group insists that the first group is actually launching attacks on them to try to eliminate or overpower them.  Both groups make gross exaggerations and generalizations about the other group.  Both groups insist that the other group started it.  In both groups, voices of reason are ignored in favor of rabid extremist haters.  And because nobody is willing to be the first to stop the poo-flinging, the entire region ends up drowning in metaphorical excrement.

I could be describing Israel/Palestine.

I could also be describing us.

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Me vs. Ashcroft: The Video Surfaces

On Tuesday, John Ashcroft came to Knox College to give a speech.  Afterwards, students were given a chance to ask questions.  I asked about the case of a Japanese soldier, Yukio Asano, who was sentenced to 15 years hard labor for waterboarding American soldiers, and then diaried his response as I remembered it on both DKos and MyDD, which led to it being mentioned on Countdown's "Worst Person in the World" segment and being spread all around the progressive netroots.

Now, due popular request, the local newspaper has posted the exchange on YouTube.  Check it out for yourselves:

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