Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Republican Candidates or Invasive Species?

They’re swarming… and it’s scarier than fiction

"In the context of jellyfish swarms, the word is a very serious indicator of the health of the ocean. It means that ecosystems are way out of balance. The predators that normally feed on jellyfish are declining due to overfishing, which allows jellyfish species to quickly proliferate. Predators of jellyfish are reduced as are fish species that normally compete with jellyfish for food such as phyto- and zooplankton.

Now, they’re terrorizing tourists and beachgoers as they appear en mass near beaches where they were once rare."

- MarineBioBlog

Call it global warming, call it the great extinction of overfishing and habitat destruction. But our waters are getting clogged with invasive lower forms of life: jellyfish, zebra mussels, and slime molds.

Much the same could be said of the Republican presidential field. It just keeps getting bigger, weirder, and more primitive, and it's invading our habitat.

Jim DeMint, de facto Senate Republican leader, says he thinks even more people could get in, a tacit admission that the present field consists of low forms of life. But how much more can we de-evolve? Just in the last few days we've had the Trump Boomlet (I liked it the first time I heard it, in 1986 when it was Lee Iacocca) Roy "Ten Commandments Judge" Moore, and former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson running on the Peter Tosh platform.

Oxygen-depleting pollution in coastal waters is a problem for most marine species that cannot survive in “dead zones.” Jellyfish, often referred to as the cockroaches of the sea, have no problem living in oxygen-depleted waters.

Such as the Ames straw poll. But once population densities get too thick, jellyfish are known to cannibalize each other. As are candidates.

A species is regarded as invasive if it has been introduced by human action to a location, area, or region where it did not previously occur naturally (i.e., is not a native species), becomes capable of establishing a breeding population in the new location without further intervention by humans, and becomes a pest in the new location, directly threatening agriculture or the local biodiversity.

When an invasive species super-saturates its niche, overpopulating the environment and sucking up all the resources, it starts dying off, a victim of its own fertility.

Thus shall it be with the Republican presidential field. We will not see all these creatures by the time caucus night rolls around. Some, I believe, are already extinct - does anyone really think Bobby Jindal is still looking at it? - and others inhabit the same ecological home (Rand Paul says he won't run if his dad does.)

The ever-objective Ron Gunzburger of Politics1 has 24 "major" Republican candidates or potential candidates listed. Let's make that 25 as Fred "Gay Republican" Karger had made a bit of noise here. Even though most of the candidates will say they don't believe in evolution, I'm going to rate the field on an evolutionary scale, higher forms of life to lower, based on degree of environmental threat. Any similarities between species and candidate are strictly coincidental, says our legal staff.

  • Nomura's Jellyfish (エチゼンクラゲ,Nemopilema nomurai) or Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney. Know for two distinct life history stages (body forms) during its life cycle.
  • Flavivirus (West Nile virus) or Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee; both boast of frequent appearances in Middle East
  • Alliaria petiolata (garlic mustard) or Governor Mitch Daniels (Indiana)
  • Sus scrofa (Wild boar) or Governor Haley Barbour (Mississippi)
  • Caulerpa taxifolia (killer algae) or US Senator Rand Paul (Kentucky) or Congressman Ron Paul (Texas)
  • Felis catus (stray cat) or Former US House Speaker Newt Gingrich (Georgia). Population growing due to habit of mating with multiple partners.
  • Channa argus (Northern snakehead) or Congresswoman Michele Bachmann (Minnesota)
  • Dioscorea bulbifera (air potato) or Former Governor Sarah Palin (Alaska)
  • Agrilus planipennis (emerald ash borer) or Former Governor Tim Pawlenty (Minnesota). Able to bore even the sturdiest trees.
  • Bufo marinus (Cane toad) or Businessman Herman Cain (Georgia)
  • Rattus rattus (Black rat) or Former Governor/Ambassador Jon Huntsman Jr. (Utah) (though new reports are this species may not be seen in Iowa)
  • Paederia foetida (skunk vine) or Former State Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore (Alabama)
  • Cynanchum rossicum (dog-strangling vine) or Businessman/TV Show Host Donald Trump (New York)
  • Panicum repens (torpedo grass) or Former Governor Gary Johnson (New Mexico)
  • Didymosphenia geminata (rock snot) or Former US Senator Rick Santorum (Pennsylvania)
  • Pueraria_lobata (kudzu) or Former Governor Buddy Roemer (Louisiana)
  • Conium maculatum (poison hemlock) or activist Fred Karger
  • Ophiostoma ulmi (Dutch elm disease) or would-be kingmaker Bob Vander Plaats (Iowa)
  • Sturnus vulgaris (European starling) or Former UN Ambassador John Bolton (Maryland)
  • Monopterus albus (swamp eel) or Governor Bobby Jindal (Louisiana)
  • Petromyzon marinus (Sea lamprey) or Former Congressman Joe Scarborough (Florida)
  • Coptotermes formosanus (Formosan subterranean termite) or Former Governor George Pataki (New York). Believed extinct.
  • Phakopsora spp. (Soybean rust) or Governor Rick Perry (Texas)
  • Phytophthora ramorum (Sudden oak death) or Former Governor Bob Riley (Alabama)
  • Carnivorous slobbius (Common coyote) or Super Genius Wile E. Coyote (New Mexico)
  • Hypophthalmichthys nobilis (Bighead carp) or Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani (New York)

I don't expect any of the species that rank below Vander Plaats on the evolutionary scale to grow into actual campaigns; they're listed for taxonomic purposes only. All these species are likely to become extinct by November 2012.

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