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Sunday, September 30, 2007

Ban on cold medicine for young children

My friend Russ sent me this article. I certainly agree that if these medicines offer no benefit, they should be banned. But the tone of this article seems a tad hysterical - 50 deaths in 35 years is nothing (not to the people whose children died, of course) - 10 TIMES that many young kids drown every YEAR in bathtubs and swimming pools and buckets of water.


Saturday, September 29, 2007
NY Times

Ban Sought on Cold Medicine for Very Young

WASHINGTON — Safety experts for the
Food and Drug Administration urged the agency on Friday to consider an outright ban on over-the-counter, multisymptom cough and cold medicines for children under 6.

The recommendation, in a 356-page safety review, is the strongest signal yet that the agency may take strong action against the roughly 800 popular medicines marketed in the United States under names like Toddler’s Dimetapp, Triaminic Infant and Little Colds.

In the new safety review, the agency’s experts suggested that all “infant” cough and cold formulations be removed from the market, and that the droppers, cups and syringes included with products for children be standardized to reduce the risks of confusion and overdose.

The reviewers wrote that there is little evidence that these medicines are effective in young children, and there are increasing fears that they may be dangerous. From 1969 to 2006, at least 54 children died after taking decongestants, and 69 died after taking antihistamines, the report said. And it added that since adverse drug reactions are reported voluntarily and fitfully, the numbers were likely to significantly understate the medicines’ true toll.
[. . .]
Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, Baltimore’s commissioner of health and an author of a petition that led the F.D.A. to conduct its current review, cheered its new report, saying it raised serious questions about why anyone would give cough and cold medicines to young children. “These products are used by hundreds of thousands of kids every year, but no one can say that they’re safe or effective,” he said.

. . . a growing number of studies suggest that cough and cold medicines work no better in children than placebos.


Saturday, September 29, 2007

In the Valley of Elah

"Why did they send a boy to fight?"

I saw this movie over the weekend. My friend Sue had recommended it and said that everyone should see it. I agree. It was completely devastating. Larry fell asleep of course, but I cried through half of it. It wasn't what I expected, but I believe that was completely intentional - you're sure that some dark conspiracy will be revealed, but of course the truth is so much simpler and so much darker than you could have imagined. No one suffers a bullet wound or an IED attack . . . instead the movie focuses on the brutal psychological toll that war, especially this war, takes on the people involved. The movie's message sneaks up on you - you're trying to solve the mystery, determine the red herrings, discern the clues, but it's all misdirection. By the end, you've gotten the message quite thoroughly - that how participating in war destroys the spirit of even decent people. The title refers to the place where David fought Goliath, but anyone who thinks this is about the triumph of the little guy over larger forces has completely missed the point.

It's all very well done. Of course the movie belongs to Tommy Lee Jones, and he's terrific, as everyone says, but truly, it's the women who give this movie its heart. Susan Sarandon is only in a couple of scenes, but her impact is substantial. And Charlize Theron is totally amazing. She can act. And she really grounds this movie - it would be a different, less rich experience, without her.
You have to be up for it - it's a damn hard movie to watch, but it's worth the effort.


Friday, September 28, 2007

"The side of freedom"

This would be funny if it wasn't so sad and scary. I watched Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz) on Hardball last night. I think Chris Matthews was trying not to laugh by the end. The guy had his talking points on Iraq downpat and he wasn't budging. I don't think he even knew the difference between the Sunnis and Shia. I found this exchange especially appropriate after reading Matt Taibbi earlier in the week . . . just watching this guy and his rhetoric on full display - talk about the "head in the sand" vote. But that's the chilling part - knowing that his bluster is what most Americans respond to and probably represents what most Americans understand about the situation (which ain't much). Here's an excerpt:

MATTHEWS: If we stay in Iraq with our troops, supporting the Shia side of the fight—because that‘s what we‘re doing, we‘re arming the Shia majority—and the Sunni revert to their warrior past and they decide to take over the country, is that our position? Mr. Franks said we should take sides with the Shia against what he calls the...
FRANKS: No, that‘s not...
MATTHEWS: Well, the jihadists are the Sunnis, sir.
FRANKS: The fact is—the fact is that our number one foe in Iraq is al Qaeda in Iraq. That is the fact.
MATTHEWS: Well, they‘re Sunnis. They‘re the Sunni Iraqis. That‘s who they are. And you‘re saying we have to defeat them.
FRANKS: They‘re the people trying to kill our soldiers, and yes, I did say we have to defeat them.
MATTHEWS: Right. You‘re saying—well, that means someone has to defeat them. That means the Shia have to defeat them. Somebody has to win in Iraq, right?
FRANKS: Yes. And it has to be the cause of freedom, and it has to be America...
MATTHEWS: What side do you want to win over there?
FRANKS: I want the side of freedom to prevail.
MATTHEWS: Well, who‘s that?
FRANKS: I want to see Iraq be a freestanding government...
MATTHEWS: OK, but which government...
FRANKS: ... that can stop terrorism and completely...
MATTHEWS: OK, I can‘t argue if you‘re going to...
FRANKS: ... completely overrun by Iran...
MATTHEWS: ... filibuster. Who do you want to win the war in Iraq over there? Which side of the fight? I mean, we can‘t—we‘re coming home eventually. Who do you want to be there when we leave? Who do you want running the show when we leave?
FRANKS: I want to see a freestanding government in Iraq that can defeat terrorism and stave off the challenge that Iran faces to dominate that region entirely.
MATTHEWS: OK, in other words, you want—but the Shia are identified with Iran.
FRANKS: Well, there may be different factions that may have some different advantages, but if we see a free government in Iraq, where they have been having elections since they were called Babylon, we could see something happen here that could germinate peace and even an ideal of freedom in the Middle East that may turn the whole of humanity in a better direction.


Thursday, September 27, 2007

The Republican Fantasy

Matt Taibbi is a god - I would give my eye teeth to write like him. This story is about a lot more than Fred Thompson's presidential campaign - it's about the crazy way we elect a president and the crazy fantasy that Republicans are embracing in an overwhelming world. Great, great stuff and a lot less profanity than usual. This story appeared in RollingStone, where I read it, but this link is from another site (I also included a couple of pithy excerpts).


September 24, 2007
Fred Thompson: Desperate Republicans Cheer for a Reagan Wannabe
By Matt Taibbi, RollingStone.com

Thompson may act like a blank slate -- a homespun version of Being There hero Chauncey Gardiner running on a platform of "Whatever you say" and "I'll get back to you on that" -- but he represents something else that no one, after seven years of George W. Bush, could possibly have expected: a new low. It was bad enough when the GOP field was led by a grinning Mormon corporatist and a fascist ex-mayor itching to take his prostate pain out on the world, but Thompson is the worst yet -- a human snooze button, campaigning baldly for the head-in-the-sand vote by asking Americans not to think but to change the channel.

What Thompson is selling is escapism, pure and simple. He's selling America not as a vast adventure epic [as Reagan did] but as a timid, forty-seven-minute made-for-cable movie about a folksy small-town dad -- a fantasy that makes no sense at all in the context of a massive militarized oligarchy currently occupying half the world's deserts on borrowed money.


Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Tell me something good

Be a lamp, or a lifeboat, or a ladder. Help someone heal.
-Jalaluddin Rumi, poet and mystic (1207-1273)

This is such a wonderful quote, almost a manifesto. And perfect to have read this today while I'm contemplating this story in our local paper, the Post Standard, about 2 men raising 4 children together after the mother of 3 of the children was murdered by her boyfriend (these men aren't rich, they're truck drivers). Sad and inspiring at the same time. Below is a link to the story and to a slideshow of photos of the family.


Wednesday, September 26, 2007
Post Standard

A Hole in a Full House
By Kathy Coffta Sims

Stephen Holowczenko (30) and Don Hooper (32) are young and single. The two friends share a common interest in chatting online and playing video games. Both drive 18-wheel trucks for Land Air Express.

In the aftermath of the death of a woman they both had children with, they'll share something else. The two have decided that the best thing for Karen Jones' three children would be to work together as a parenting team to raise them.




Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Bill O'Reilly is a racist moron

Is there any other kind of racist? I just can't "get over the fact" that he can't see how inherently insulting his words are. He claims the quote was taken out of context, which it was, but even if you add the context back in, the impact of the words is still pretty much the same.


Bill O’Reilly’s remarks on Sept. 19 about a visit to a famous Harlem restaurant (Sylvia's) . . . Here’s the sound bite that every report picks first:

"I couldn’t get over the fact that there was no difference between Sylvia’s restaurant and any other restaurant in New York City. I mean, it was exactly the same, even though it’s run by blacks, primarily black patronship. . .There wasn't one person in Sylvia's who was screaming, 'M-Fer, I want more iced tea.'"

To be fair, he does go on to point out (quite accurately I believe) that many white Americans get their impressions of black culture from gansta rap: ". . . this is what white America doesn't know, particularly people who don't have a lot of interaction with black Americans. They think that the culture is dominated by Twista, Ludacris, and Snoop Dogg."


Warren Jeffs is going to the big house

Couldn't happen to a nicer guy. It was pretty much a foregone conclusion, but it's still to be celebrated:

Mormon Sect Leader Is Convicted as an Accomplice to Rape

The polygamist Warren S. Jeffs was convicted on Tuesday of being an accomplice to the rape of a 14-year-old churchmember.



"The Center Holds"

I hate David Brooks with the burning intensity of 10,000 suns. Helpfully, my (token Republican) friend Russ sent me his latest ramblings, and here is my response. (Thanks to the NY Times for no longer charging a fee to read their most popular columnists.)

* * * * * *
Interesting, but Brooks is hardly an objective observer. The Republicans have done very well *for awhile* by appealing to a rather narrow slice of their base (religious conservatives), but clearly that tactic has severe limitations. The same may be true on the left, but it's too soon to say.

Brooks' arguments are deliberately skewed. He ignores any results or trends that don't agree with his premise. For example, clearly voters in the last election wanted a more definitive policy for withdrawal from Iraq than was being offered by "mainstream" politicians and some surprising candidates won - he fails to discuss this at all. Similarly, Hillary Clinton may be ahead in the polls, but she hasn't won yet, so it's a little early to declare that her approach is superior.


September 25, 2007
NY Times Op-Ed Columnist
The Center Holds

In the beginning of August, liberal bloggers met at the YearlyKos convention while centrist Democrats met at the Democratic Leadership Council’s National Conversation. Almost every Democratic presidential candidate attended YearlyKos, and none visited the D.L.C.

At the time, that seemed a sign that the left was gaining the upper hand in its perpetual struggle with the center over the soul of the Democratic Party. But now it’s clear that was only cosmetic.

Now it’s evident that if you want to understand the future of the Democratic Party you can learn almost nothing from the bloggers, billionaires and activists on the left who make up the “netroots.” You can learn most of what you need to know by paying attention to two different groups — high school educated women in the Midwest, and the old Clinton establishment in Washington.


Monday, September 24, 2007

Modern AMERICAN slave labor

I saw this guy, John Bowes, on The Daily Show last night and then heard him again on NPR this morning. This is pretty upsetting. This is not happening in China or India or some obscure country whose name we can't pronounce. This is our brothers and sisters and uncles and aunts running American farms and factories with slave labor. And the vast majority of Americans care more about low prices at Wal-Mart and the local grocery store than they do about the conditions by which those low prices are maintained. There will come a day when this will be as shameful a blot on America as the previous slavery that we tolerated as a nation.


New economy, antiquated labor system

Even with a modern, global economy, slavery can still be found in the U.S. Doug Krizner talks to John Bowes, who has a new book out on contemporary slavery, about how and why it's still around.


Sunday, September 23, 2007

"The New College Try"

I freaking loved this. Especially this:

Is resilience in the face of deprivation a form of achievement? Should universities expect — and even demand — higher levels of achievement from applicants who have enjoyed every social and educational advantage?


September 24, 2007

NY Times Op-Ed Contributor
The New College Try
Berkeley, Calif.

AMERICANS are committed to the belief that everyone, no matter how humble his origins, has a chance to rise to the top. Our leading colleges and universities play a pivotal role in this national narrative, for they are considered major pathways to power and privilege.

Today, the competition to get into these institutions is at an all-time high, and this has led to serious problems across the socioeconomic spectrum — gnawing and pervasive anxiety among the affluent, underrepresentation among the middle classes and an almost total lack of access among the poor. Changing the situation will take drastic action. Despite their image as meritocratic beacons of opportunity, the selective colleges serve less as vehicles of upward mobility than as transmitters of privilege from generation to generation.

Just how skewed the system is toward the already advantaged is illustrated by the findings of a recent study of 146 selective colleges and universities, which concluded that students from the top quartile of the socioeconomic hierarchy (based on parental income, education and occupation) are 25 times more likely to attend a “top tier” college than students from the bottom quartile.

Yet at least since the 1970s, selective colleges have repeatedly claimed — most recently in amicus briefs submitted to the Supreme Court in the landmark affirmative case concerning the University of Michigan — to give an edge in admissions to disadvantaged students, regardless of race. So it came as a rude shock a few years ago when William Bowen, the former president of Princeton, and his associates discovered, in a rigorous study of 19 selective colleges, that applicants from disadvantaged backgrounds, whether defined by family income or parental education, “get essentially no break in the admissions process.”

[He goes on to suggest that those in the lower "tier" get 5% of admissions slots by lottery. Great stuff!]


Friday, September 21, 2007

This made a big impression on me

I find that I can't get this story out of my head. The driver who caused the accident did not die, but the other driver did. How many times have I been distracted enough, by my phone or the kids, to cross the line just enough? Too, too disturbing.

* * * * *
Police suspect driver in fatal accident was on phone
Crash kills Clay man
Wednesday, September 19, 2007

A man talking on a cell phone may have been the cause of a fatal two-vehicle crash Tuesday on Morgan Road, in Clay, the Onondaga County sheriff said. The crash killed John F. Coughlin, 64, of Horseshoe Island Road, Clay, deputies said. The other driver, Christopher Lane, 28, of West Genesee Street, Syracuse, was in fair condition Tuesday night at University Hospital. Neither vehicle had passengers.

Just before 1:30 p.m., Lane was southbound on Morgan Road when he crossed the center line on a curve, just south of Oak Orchard Road, deputies said. His 2007 Hyundai Elantra clipped Coughlin's northbound 2000 Chevrolet Blazer, forcing the Blazer to flip once and land on its roof, Sheriff Kevin Walsh said. Coughlin was pinned in his truck and pronounced dead shortly after the ambulance arrived, Walsh said. The Elantra continued south onto the front lawn of 8840 Morgan Road. The car struck a tree broadside on the passenger's side, then spun before coming to rest against the porch on the south side of the house.

"We have reason to believe the driver of the sedan was on a cell phone," Walsh said of Lane. "It appears the sedan crossed over the double line on the curve."

Talking on a hand-held cell phone while driving is prohibited, according to state vehicle and traffic laws. Witnesses said both cars appear to have been traveling at a normal rate of speed, Walsh said.


No rest for the weary

I'm back to normal (looking), but still feeling dragged, maybe from all the meds or maybe just from the extra energy needed to recover. I've been going to bed very early (for me), but still not bouncing back completely. Big weekend with the Jewish holiday - company at our house tonight and then a big dinner at a friend's house on Saturday. Plus Matt has school pictures this afternoon, and for some crazy reason I decided to drop my car at the shop, since there's not enough going on. Plus there's always all the regular domestics doings. I'm tired just thinking about it.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Screwy generosity

My friend Russ sent this story to me. It's a nice story on one level - good to see such generosity of spirit, but it's a ridiculous amount to give to such a small school. Surely she could have spread the wealth around a bit - there's no lack of worthy causes! Weird to hear Buffet talk about how all these people with money have no idea what to do with it. Thank goodness for people like Bill Gates, who are getting organized and doing some good with their fortunes.


September 19, 2007
NY Times
Alumna Gives $128 Million to High School

It probably would never have happened if Harvard University had not rejected Warren E. Buffett's business school application in 1950. But a string of events originating with Mr. Buffett's disappointment led yesterday to a Quaker high school receiving a gift that dwarfs some college endowments: $128 million.

It all began when Mr. Buffett, long before he became the celebrated investor, was rejected by Harvard and attended Columbia instead. A business professor there, David L. Dodd, was so impressed that after Mr. Buffett returned home to Nebraska and formed an investment partnership, Professor Dodd invested some of his own money for himself and his daughter.

Mr. Buffett soon acquired a then-obscure textile company named Berkshire Hathaway, and over the years made his professor and many other early investors rich.

Professor Dodd's daughter, Barbara Dodd Anderson, an alumna of the high school, yesterday used much of the fortune from that original investment to endow George School, a private, 500-student institution set on a leafy 240-acre campus in Newtown, Pa.
[. . . ]
Mr. Buffett said Ms. Anderson's gift was one of several vast philanthropic contributions made recently by largely unknown and uncelebrated people who have profited immensely by the appreciation of the stock of Berkshire Hathaway, the investment and insurance holding company.

Polytechnic University in Brooklyn, for instance, received roughly $200 million in the late 1990s from Donald and Mildred Othmer, friends of Mr. Buffett.

"One fellow who talked to me recently said he had done something with $1 billion," Mr. Buffett said. "A lot of people get older and they're not really sure what to do with their money if they've got a lot of it. But I'm sure Barbara was always going to give it to something worthwhile."


Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Kindness and Ayn Rand

It's so weird - I read this poem sent to me by my friend Janet just today (though she sent it months ago), after I had read a bunch of stuff about Ayn Rand. She is so much in the news lately, after the release of Greenspan's new book. This poem is exactly the opposite of her (repulsive) philosophy. I was so grateful to see this alternative, which eloquently expresses my own amorphous and unarticulated rejection of Ayn Rand's views.

by Naomi Shihab Nye,
from The Words Under the Words: Selected Poems. (c)
Eighth Mountain Press, 1995.

Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.
Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.
Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.
Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to mail letters and
purchase bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
it is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.


Tuesday, September 18, 2007

This is how politics works

Lots of chatter on the news shows about Hillary's healthcare plan and how it reflects a different approach than the one she took as First Lady (some say wiser, some say sell-out). Mitt Romney is calling it a socialist plan, apparently without irony (a rarity in politics anyway), which is funny because Hillary's plan very similar to what he instituted in Massachusetts when he was the governor there - a plan he brags about on the campaign trail. Perverse, to say the least. Let's make sure the electorate is confused, or better yet, completely uninformed - that's what we count on politicans for.

I enjoyed this commentary on NPR this morning. This gentleman suggests that making healthcare coverage mandatory (as Hillary's plan does) is too much stick and not enough carrot. He also says that it amounts to a bailout of a system that isn't working, and what's necessary is to make coverage more affordable. He has a point. (This link has options to listen to his comentary or read a transcript of it):


Mandatory health care won't curb costs

Presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton laid out her plan for health care yesterday, which includes mandatory health insurance. But commentator Jamie Court says demanding more cost-effective coverage would be a better solution.


Don't blame the subprime borrower

I loved this commentary on NPR, which again points out that the mortgage woes are due at least as much to predatory lending as they are to the people who have poor credit, but still aspire to own a home. And he puts his money where his mouth is, literally - he helps marginal people improve their credit in very concrete ways:


Expert: Subprime Borrowers Can Own Homes

Morning Edition, September 18, 2007 · John Hope Bryant, founder of Operation Hope, offers seminars on financial literacy in low-income communities in order to spur homeownership. Those who know little about mortgages and managing money were hurt most in the housing crisis. But Bryant bristles at the suggestion that subprime borrowers aren't up to the challenge of owning homes. He speaks with Renee Montagne.


Sunday, September 16, 2007

AG nominee

I'm pretty excited by Bush's choice of Mukasey because it shows that he's getting seriously humbled. As several talking heads on TV have noted, Bush has always chosen loyal insiders for these tops jobs, but Mulcacy is not. He's a choice that Democrats had already said they could live with and he has a reputation for indepence and (according to my friend Mary, a former JAG officer in the Air Force) adherence to the rule of law. Exactly the sort of person who should get into high level positions, regardless of which party is controlling the White House.


Saturday, September 15, 2007

I listen differently now

What a perfect quote:

Political history is largely an account of mass violence and of the expenditure of vast resources to cope with mythical fears and hopes. -Murray Edelman, professor, author (1919-2001)

* * * *
At our synagogue on Rosh Hashanah, I was introduced to a soldier from Ft Drum. A very chatty fellow, we talked for over an hour and he came to dinner at our house the following night. He just finished basic/infantry training at Ft Benning and is stationed at Ft Drum until he heads to Iraq on September 28. I'm grateful and yet sorry to have met someone who is shipping out to Iraq. It makes the whole pointless undertaking even more harrowing. I never supported this invasion, but now it has a personal feel to it - I can't be an objective, political observer anymore. I listen to the news differently, especially the news about Ft Drum - how many soldiers have been killed from there, when they're leaving, when they're coming back. It's all so much harder to stomach now.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Vigilante movies are all the rage

It's really interesting to me to see so many A-list actors in flat out vigilante justice movies (as opposed to having those frankly B-movies populated by less stratospheric stars). Immediate examples are Kevin Bacon in Death Sentence and Jodie Foster in The Brave One (the weirdest movie title of the year so far). And what's with that trend anyway? What cultural phenomenon is at work here? Is it some kind of reaction to the Iraq war, or to concerns about domestic crime (though violent crime rates are down nationwide). Not sure where the urge for this particular theme is coming from.


Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Celiac disease in Newsweek

This is very exciting for me - two full pages on celiac disease in Newsweek including the best description of the disease I've ever read (it's NOT just an "allergy"):


. . . celiac disease—an intolerance for gluten, the protein in wheat, rye and barley. The resulting damage to the small intestine makes it hard for the body to absorb nutrients. . . . Celiac disease is an immune response gone awry. Normally, when food enters the small intestine, critical nutrients are absorbed into the bloodstream through masses of tiny fingerlike projections called villi. But in people with celiac disease, the immune system mounts an all-out assault against gluten and any villi that have absorbed it. The villi become inflamed, eventually shriveling up, flattening out or even disappearing. Without functioning villi, the body stops absorbing food properly. . . . Celiac disease is also an autoimmune disorder that can harm many parts of the body. "Name the organ, and celiac disease can affect it," says Dr. Peter Green, director of the Celiac Disease Center at Columbia University. In launching its assault on gluten, the immune system generates antibodies to an enzyme called tissue transglutaminase. This enzyme is an innocent bystander that acts on gluten in the lining of the intestine. But because the enzyme is also found throughout the body—in the skin, heart, thyroid, bones and nervous system—antibodies that attack it can direct their fire at any of these other organs, too.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

90 KIA a month, every month

One of many things I heard during the coverage of the Petraeus testimony before Congress today. I hadn't realized that this many people were dying. And this figure only includes those killed in action, not others who have died in ways considered not in combat. And of course it doesn't include those with permanent brain injuries or lost limbs. Terrible.

* * *
What everyone is talking about, and what had Chris Matthews esp upset, is this exchange:

Republican Sen. John Warner asked Gen. David Petraeus whether the current strategy in Iraq "will make America safer."

Petraeus replied, "I believe that this is indeed the best course of action to achieve our objectives in Iraq."

Warner repeated his unanswered question: "Does that make America safer?"

Petraeus said, "I don't know, actually. … I have not stepped back. … I have tried to focus on what I think a commander is supposed to do, which is to determine the best recommendations to achieve the objectives of the policy for which his mission is desired."

The consensus seems to be that this will make a great campaign ad for the Democratic Presidential candidate, but less cynically, it does seem to call into question what the hell we're doing there.

* * *
And all this on the day that Bush bragged in Australia that "We're kicking ass." Just when you thought the Lame Duck in Chief was harmless, he manages to be stupider than seems possible. He sets the bar lower and lower, it really is a gift.

* * *
The other thing that seemed to have everyone in an absolute lather was MoveOn.org's "General Betray Us" ad. It's so shocking (that's sarcasm). They're only saying what so many people are thinking - it's a snow job (if you can call it that when they're fighting in temperatures that approach 130 degrees!) The response seems to me to confirm our worst fears about the reaction that will follow any honest discussion of this folly, which is hysterical questioning of the speaker's patriotism and insistence that the speaker doesn't support the troops. Sheesh. This absurd and overheated response is exactly why the Democrats have been so cautious in the discussion of Iraq.


Monday, September 10, 2007

Women's soccer lost behind men's sports

Listened to this interesting story on NPR today. The women's soccer World Cup was held in the summer (June and July) in 1999 and got huge publicity (remember Mia Hamm and Brandi Chastain - household names at the time). This year, the tournament is being held in China in September and is lost in the media b/c so many (men's!) sports are already being covered. They discuss how this has kept the profile of the game very low, despite a new generation of great players. Really a shame.


Morning Edition, September 10, 2007 · The Women's World Cup of Soccer starts in China. It's the fifth women's soccer competition, which had U.S. fans on the edge of their seats in 1999. That championship that ended with a packed Rose Bowl where Brandi Chastain made the winning penalty kick and famously whipped off her shirt in celebration. USA Today columnist Christine Brennan speaks with Steve Inskeep.


Sunday, September 09, 2007

Britney Spears is so FAT

Apparently the Net is abuzz with talk of how FAT Britney Spears was on the MTV's VMAs tonight. Sadly, this confirms all our worst fears about how ridiculous the standard has become - Britney has a perfectly lovely figure, esp considering she's had two children (I'd kill for her body!), but she isn't muscular or emaciated, which apparently are the only acceptable options.

Here's the question posed on Yahoo Answers by someone who calls himself (perhaps without irony) A True Gentleman:


Saturday, September 08, 2007

Under the Banner of Heaven

Just finished reading this fascinating book by Jon Krakauer (of Into Thin Air fame). Very thought-provoking. Concerns the tragic murder of a Mormon woman and her 14-month old baby, but also explores the roots and current practices of the fundamentalist Mormon movement (which is distinct from the mainstream Mormon church).


Friday, September 07, 2007

How Much 9/11 Tribute Is Enough?

I read this cover article in the Sunday NY Times last week, but found that I've been thinking about it quite a bit since. So true that many past tragic events (who remembers the sinking of the Maine?), though vivid at the time, eventually fade from collective memory and seem less important (except to history) as time goes on.


September 2, 2007
NY Times
As 9/11 Draws Near, a Debate Rises: How Much Tribute Is Enough?

Again it comes, for the sixth time now — 2,191 days after that awful morning — falling for the first time on a Tuesday, the same day of the week.

Again there will be the public tributes, the tightly scripted memorial events, the reflex news coverage, the souvenir peddlers.

Is all of it necessary, at the same decibel level — still?

Each year, murmuring about Sept. 11 fatigue arises, a weariness of reliving a day that everyone wishes had never happened. It began before the first anniversary of the terrorist attack. By now, though, many people feel that the collective commemorations, publicly staged, are excessive and vacant, even annoying.

“I may sound callous, but doesn’t grieving have a shelf life?” said Charlene Correia, 57, a nursing supervisor from Acushnet, Mass. “We’re very sorry and mournful that people died, but there are living people. Let’s wind it down.”
[. . .]
As the ragged nature of life pushes on, it is natural that the national fixation on an ominous event becomes ruptured and its anniversary starts to wear out. Once-indelible dates no longer even incite curiosity. On Feb. 15, how many turn backward to the sinking of the battleship Maine in 1898?

Few Americans give much thought anymore on Dec. 7 that Pearl Harbor was attacked in 1941 (the date to live in infamy). Similar subdued attention is paid to other scarring tragedies: the Kennedy assassination (Nov. 22, 1963), Kent State (May 4, 1970), the Oklahoma City bombing (April 19, 1995).

Generations, of course, turn over. Few are alive anymore who can recall June 15, 1904, when 1,021 people died in the burning of the steamer General Slocum, the deadliest New York City disaster until Sept. 11, 2001. Also, the weight of new wrenching events crowds the national memory. Already since Sept. 11, there have been Katrina and Virginia Tech. And people have their own more circumscribed agonies.


Thursday, September 06, 2007

Benoit's brain damage

This made me want to cry. In the photo, Benoit's brain is on the right and a healthy brain is shown on the left.

Brain exam of wrestler Chris Benoit shows damage
by Lance Pugmire
Los Angeles Times
September 6, 2007
Professional wrestler Chris Benoit, who routinely slammed opponents with diving head-butts and also weathered strikes to the head with chairs during his World Wrestling Entertainment performances, suffered head trauma that doctors who studied his brain said could have contributed to his suicide and the killings of his wife and young son in June.
In analysis released Wednesday by the Sports Legacy Institute that studies the effects of concussions, one doctor who studied Benoit's brain tissue said the number of dead or damaged brain cells "was extensive, shocking in its extent." The damage was "something you should never see in a 40-year-old," Julian Bailes, chairman of neurosurgery at West Virginia University's School of Medicine, said on ABC's "Good Morning America."
"We have great anatomical damage here from previous trauma. We think that's the leading cause" of Benoit's violence. Benoit's father, Michael, approved the study of his son's brain. "We needed an understanding," the elder Benoit said on television. "The person who did this is not the man we know and loved."


Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Snack attack

This story is getting tons of play in the news and on blogs - everyone says, how ridiculous, the dad is so pathetic. But I only heard ONE version of this story that included the relevant information, which is, the dad only pressed charges in order to get his son into a drug treatment program, since he (the son) is a meth addict. I wish those who are enjoying this story so much would realize that the father's actions were taken out of love and concern, not because he's a wimp.

Cheesy: Son charged in Cheetos attack on dad
Associated Press

DES MOINES - A man has been charged with a cheesy snack attack on his dad, police said.The weapon? A bag of Cheetos.

Patrick Hamman, 22, of Des Moines, was arrested on a charge of domestic assault after he threw a bag of Cheetos at his father, Michael Hamman, hitting him in the face Sunday night.

The bag hit his father's glasses, causing a cut to the bridge of his nose, police said. The police report said "Michael's T-shirt was also covered in Cheeto dust."

Police said Patrick, who lives with his father, admitted that he was on methamphetamine at the time of the argument.


Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Mom confronts Mattel

I saw this woman on the news, and I just wanted to slap her. "They" shouldn't let this happen, she says. I wanted to scream: "Who did you vote for? Did you even vote?" "They" is US. We've chosen a government that has done everything it can to remove all barriers to free market capitalism and this is what you get as the result. When the administration allows the FDA and other regulatory agencies to wither, this is what happens. Wake up! If you want to be protected, choose a government that values protecting you instead of just corporate profits. Oh yeah, and quit buying so much crap for your kids. Go to the park, read a book. No lead paint in those.


Aug. 23, 2007
Mom Confronts Mattel at Corporate HQ Over Toy Recall
By Sid Garcia

EL SEGUNDO, (KABC-TV) - She was worried her children's toys could be tainted, so a local mom took action and took on giant toymaker Mattel.

Scared and angry about possibly dangerous amounts of lead in her children's toys, a mother has taken her concerns directly to toy-making giant Mattel.

The Westchester mom tells us she has a 2-and-a-half-year-old daughter, a 13-month-old son, a house to run. She asks, When are you supposed to have time to go to the Web site and check out the lengthy list of recalled toys? Out of frustration, she packed up the family and the toys and came to Mattel seeking action. She got it.

When it comes to her children's toys, Dana Parker, like other parents, just wants them to be safe. So when she heard Mattel's CEO last week talk about toys with tainted lead paint being recalled, she declared that was it. So she packed a suitcase and some plastic trash bags with the kids' Fisher-Price and Mattel toys, put them, her two kids, and mom in the car and drove straight to Mattel's El Segundo headquarters.


Monday, September 03, 2007

Clowns KKKick Ass

What a clever, creative and just plain wonderful way to take away the sting of this vicious rally. This happened back in May, but I just read about it:


Saturday May 26th the VNN Vanguard Nazi/KKK group attempted to host a hate rally to try to take advantage of the brutal murder of a white couple in Knoxville for media and recruitment purposes.

Unfortunately for them the 100th ARA (Anti Racist Action) CLOWN block came and handed them their asses by making them appear like the asses they were.

Alex Linder, the founder of VNN and the lead organizer of the rally, kicked off events by rushing the clowns in a fit of rage, and was promptly arrested by 4 Knoxville police officers who dropped him to the ground when he resisted and dragged him off past the red shiny shoes of the clowns.

“White Power!” the Nazi’s shouted, “White Flour?” the clowns yelled back running in circles throwing flour in the air and raising separate letters which spelled out “White Flour”.

“White Power!” the Nazi’s angrily shouted once more, “White flowers?” the clowns cheered and threw white flowers in the air and danced about merrily.

“White Power!” the Nazi’s tried once again in a doomed and somewhat funny attempt to clarify their message, “Ohhhhhh!” the clowns yelled “Tight Shower!” and held a solar shower in the air and all tried to crowd under to get clean as per the Klan’s directions.

At this point several of the Nazi’s and Klan members began clutching their hearts as if they were about to have a heart attack. Their beady eyes bulged, and the veins in their tiny narrow foreheads beat in rage. One last time they screamed “White Power!”

The clown women thought they finally understood what the Klan was trying to say. “Ohhhhh…” the women clowns said. “Now we understand…”, “WIFE POWER!” they lifted the letters up in the air, grabbed the nearest male clowns and lifted them in their arms and ran about merrily chanting “WIFE POWER! WIFE POWER! WIFE POWER!”

[. . .]After the VNNers left in their shiny SUVs to go back to Alabama and all the other states that they were from, the clowns and counter demonstrators began to march out of the area chanting ‘WHOSE STREETS? OUR STREETS!”

But the cops stopped the clowns and counter protestors. “Hey, do you want an escort” an African-American police officer on a motorcycle asked. “Yes” a clown replied. “We are walking to Market Square in the center of town to celebrate.”

The police officers got in front of the now anti-racist parade and blocked the entire road for the march through the heart of Knoxville. An event called Imagination Station was taking place and over 15,000 thousand students and their parents were in town that weekend. Many of them cheered as the clowns, Knoxvillians and counter-protestors marched through the heart of Knoxville singing and laughing at the end of the Nazi’s first attempt at having a rally in Knoxville.


Sunday, September 02, 2007

Movie Lust

Here's SOME of the movies that I'm especially interested in seeing this fall.


THE ASSASSINATION OF JESSE JAMES BY THE COWARD ROBERT FORD: Brad Pitt is the Old West outlaw, with Casey Affleck the man who'll eventually gun him down.

*FEAST OF LOVE: Morgan Freeman [in his first romantic role], Jane Alexander, Greg Kinnear and Radha Mitchell lead the cast in director Robert Benton's ensemble romance.

GREAT WORLD OF SOUND: Two talent scouts for a small record label gradually learn it's a con game preying on singers' dreams of stardom. [Already heard great stuff about this one.]

IN THE SHADOW OF THE MOON: Apollo astronauts share recollections in a documentary about the NASA moon landings.

IN THE VALLEY OF ELAH: Parents seek their missing son, who has just come home from Iraq. With Tommy Lee Jones, Susan Sarandon and Charlize Theron. Paul Haggis directs.

*IRA & ABBY: A mismatched couple (Jennifer Westfeldt and Chris Messina) takes a stab at romance. With Jason Alexander, Frances Conroy and Fred Willard.

*THE JANE AUSTEN BOOK CLUB: Six modern people's lives parallel Austen's classic tales. With Maria Bello, Jimmy Smits and Amy Brenneman. Book adaptation.

THE KINGDOM: Jamie Foxx is a fed tracking a friend's killer in Saudi Arabia. With Jennifer Garner and Chris Cooper.

LUST, CAUTION: Director Ang Lee follows "Brokeback Mountain" with a World War II spy thriller set in Shanghai.

SILK: A merchant has a forbidden affair with a woman in 19th century Japan. With Keira Knightley and Michael Pitt.


*DAN IN REAL LIFE: A widower (Steve Carell) falls for the girlfriend (Juliette Binoche) of his brother (Dane Cook).

ELIZABETH: THE GOLDEN AGE: Cate Blanchett reteams with co-star Geoffrey Rush and director Shekhar Kapur for more in the saga of Queen Elizabeth I [with Clive Owen in a rare romantic part, as Sir Walter Raleigh].

GONE BABY GONE: Ben Affleck directs brother Casey Affleck in the tale of private eyes searching for an abducted girl.

GRACE IS GONE: A father (John Cusack) takes his daughters on a road trip to postpone telling them their mother has been killed in Iraq.

*MICHAEL CLAYTON: George Clooney is an attorney handling dirty work for a corporate firm embroiled in a major class-action suit. [Already heard great stuff about this one.]

MUSIC WITHIN: A soldier (Ron Livingston) who loses his hearing in Vietnam becomes an activist for the disabled.

RAILS & TIES: Tragedy brings together a train conductor, his ailing wife and an orphaned boy. With Kevin Bacon and Marcia Gay Harden.

RENDITION: A woman (Reese Witherspoon) races to find her Egyptian-born husband after he disappears on a flight to Washington. With Jake Gyllenhaal and Meryl Streep.

THINGS WE LOST IN THE FIRE: A widow (Halle Berry) finds solace in one of her husband's friends (Benicio Del Toro). David Duchovny co-stars.


CROSSING OVER: An immigrant drama in Los Angeles features an ensemble including Harrison Ford, Sean Penn and Ashley Judd.

LIONS FOR LAMBS: Robert Redford directs himself, Tom Cruise and Meryl Streep in a drama that plays out against the war on terrorism.

*LOVE IN THE TIME OF CHOLERA: Lovers wait half a century to reunite in the adaptation of Gabriel Garcia Marquez's novel. Book adaptation.

*MARGOT AT THE WEDDING: Nicole Kidman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Jack Black and John Turturro star in a comic drama about family nuptials. [Already heard great stuff about this one.]

ATONEMENT: Lives are shattered after a teen falsely accuses her sister's lover of a crime. With Keira Knightley and James McAvoy. Book adaptation.

CHARLIE WILSON'S WAR: Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts and Philip Seymour Hoffman plot American strategy against the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Mike Nichols directs.

HONEYDRIPPER: An Alabama man tries to save his juke joint by hiring a star electric guitar player. Danny Glover stars, John Sayles directs.

LEATHERHEADS: George Clooney directs and stars with Renee Zellweger and John Krasinski in a love triangle set in the world of 1920s football.

P.S. I LOVE YOU: Hilary Swank stars in a drama about a widow whose husband left behind tasks to help her get over her grief.

REDACTED: Tragedy follows amid the persecution of an Iraqi girl and her family by U.S. troops. Brian De Palma directs.

*THE SAVAGES: Philip Seymour Hoffman and Laura Linney are siblings forced to care for their ailing estranged father. [Already heard great stuff about this one.]

THE WALKER: Woody Harrelson is a Washington escort who must clear his name of scandal. With Kristin Scott Thomas, Willem Dafoe and Lauren Bacall.

YOUTH WITHOUT YOUTH: Francis Ford Coppola directs Tim Roth as a professor-turned-fugitive as World war II approaches. [Already heard great stuff about this one.]


Saturday, September 01, 2007

Big disappointment

My friend Suzanne liked it and my friend Frank said "Wow!" but I have to admit that I wasn't too thrilled with The Bourne Ultimatum. The plot was such a retread - haven't we seen that same story in a dozen movies made in the 1980s? You saw the ending coming long before it arrived. To be fair, I'd heard the movie was all action, but didn't find it so - lots of scenes of talk, many quite good. Matt Damon is excellent and so is Joan Allen, but even Larry thought David Strathairn was utterly wasted. Of course, I enjoyed the political message, but it was pretty heavy handed. But my biggest objection - it got SO improbable - how many car crashes can a guy walk away from - even the assassin, apparently near death, appears in the next scene without a scratch. Too distracting. And speaking of distracting, as one imdb commenter said, "get a tripod!" - can it count as a verite camera style if you can't even see what's going on in the scene? I esp hated the way they repeatedly obstructed the face of the person facing the camera when two people were speaking onscreen. It was interesting once, but, again, distracting when done over and over. And I have to admit I felt a bit gypped by the scene of Bourne and Nicki in the hotel room - couldn't they throw a bone to the girlfriends in the audience who were dragged there - they were sharing a moment, would it have killed them to take it a little further? Oh well. Not a waste of two hours, but definitely not what I had hoped.


And I didn't understand why Bourne has these harrowing memories of being brutalized by Albert Finney's character AND Pam Landy reads in his file that he resisted entry into the program, BUT in his conversation with AF at the end, he is told that he volunteered and we see him shooting the prisoner. Those seemed like two contradictory versions of events and yet nothing was done to explain what "really" happened. My theory is that AF was lying to him at the end, but if so, why did he (Bourne) claim to remember it the way AF said it happened? It was just confusing. After contemplating it further, I still don't know what to think.