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Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Halloween Quiz

Seeing as I'm the Urban Legends maven, I thought I would do better than 8 out of 10 on this "Halloween Myths" quiz:


Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Illegal immigrants are demonized

Excellent editorial in the Sunday NY Times - this guy makes several very good points. Below is just an excerpt.


October 28, 2007
NY Times
Editorial Observer
What Part of ‘Illegal’ Don’t You Understand?

I am a human pileup of illegality. I am an illegal driver and an illegal parker and even an illegal walker, having at various times stretched or broken various laws and regulations that govern those parts of life. The offenses were trivial, and I feel sure I could endure the punishments — penalties and fines — and get on with my life. Nobody would deny me the chance to rehabilitate myself. Look at Martha Stewart, illegal stock trader, and George Steinbrenner, illegal campaign donor, to name two illegals whose crimes exceeded mine.

Good thing I am not an illegal immigrant. There is no way out of that trap. It’s the crime you can’t make amends for. Nothing short of deportation will free you from it, such is the mood of the country today. And that is a problem.

America has a big problem with illegal immigration, but a big part of it stems from the word “illegal.” It pollutes the debate. It blocks solutions. Used dispassionately and technically, there is nothing wrong with it. Used as an irreducible modifier for a large and largely decent group of people, it is badly damaging. And as a code word for racial and ethnic hatred, it is detestable.
[. . .]
Since the word modifies not the crime but the whole person, it goes too far. It spreads, like a stain that cannot wash out. It leaves its target diminished as a human, a lifetime member of a presumptive criminal class. People are often surprised to learn that illegal immigrants have rights. Really? Constitutional rights? But aren’t they illegal? Of course they have rights: they have the presumption of innocence and the civil liberties that the Constitution wisely bestows on all people, not just citizens.


Monday, October 29, 2007

"Gluten Is a Quiet Culprit"

My friend Janet sent me this excellent article about celiac disease. The highlight:

While the cause is not well understood, researchers know [celiac disease] is linked to gene variations known as HLA-DQ2 and/or HLA-DQ8. . . . It's also possible for a person to just be gluten-intolerant or have a wheat allergy without having the genetically linked celiac disease.

And this is both good an bad news - there's a pill in development but it's a long way off:

Two companies are looking into a pill, a supplement to help celiacs metabolize gluten, but that'll take at least another six to eight years to develop . . .


October 27, 2007
East Bay Express
Stomach Pain in a Slice of Bread: Gluten Is a Quiet Culprit
By Kathleen Richards

[. . .]
Chances are you know someone who has celiac, but even better that they don't know it. Although the numbers vary, researchers estimate that celiac affects about 1 in 133 Americans, and that a staggering 97 percent are undiagnosed. A large-scale study in 2003 estimated there were about fifteen thousand diagnosed celiac patients. This year, that number is expected to exceed one hundred thousand, said Michelle Pietzak, a pediatric gastroenterologist, assistant professor of clinical pediatrics at USC's Keck School of Medicine, and one of the authors of the 2003 study. For each person diagnosed with celiac, another 140 will seek medical attention for twelve years before receiving a diagnosis, Pietzak said.

The disease has only recently gained attention in the United States. Last November, CNN anchor Heidi Collins became a spokeswoman for the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness. Articles in The New York Times, Newsweek, and Time have helped raise its profile. And in 2004, the National Institutes of Health convened its first meeting on celiac. Yet there still hasn't been much of an increase in diagnoses, said Elaine Monarch, founder and executive director of the nonprofit Celiac Disease Foundation.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

The Mom Song

This unbelievably great video was sent to me by my friend Jennifer: "The Mom Song," sung to the William Tell Overture, by Anita Renfroe - what a mom says in 24 hours, condensed into 2 minutes and 55 seconds! (The lyrics are posted at the site under "more info" on the right hand side.)


Anita Renfroe is a (very busy) Christian entertainer:


Saturday, October 27, 2007

"Killing Germs May Be Hazardous to Your Health"

This is seriously one of the most interesting things I ever read - the microbes in and on our bodies serve much larger purposes than could ever be imagined - the latest research blew my mind. Below is just an excerpt - check out the full article!


Our war on microbes has toughened them.
Now, new science tells us we should embrace bacteria.

Oct 29, 2007 Issue
Caution: Killing Germs May Be Hazardous to Your Health
By Jerry Adler and Jeneen Interlandi

Behold yourself, for a moment, as an organism. A trillion cells stuck together, arrayed into tissues and organs and harnessed by your DNA to the elemental goals of survival and propagation. But is that all? An electron microscope would reveal that you are teeming with other life-forms. Any part of your body that comes into contact with the outside world—your skin, mouth, nose and (especially) digestive tract—is home to bacteria, fungi and protozoa that outnumber the cells you call your own by 10, or perhaps a hundred, to one.
[. . .]
Relman is a leader in rethinking our relationship to bacteria, which for most of the last century was dominated by the paradigm of Total Warfare. "It's awful the way we treat our microbes," he says, not intending a joke; "people still think the only good microbe is a dead one." We try to kill them off with antibiotics and hand sanitizers. But bacteria never surrender; if there were one salmonella left in the world, doubling every 30 minutes, it would take less than a week to give everyone alive diarrhea. In the early years of antibiotics, doctors dreamed of eliminating infectious disease. Instead, a new paper in The Journal of the American Medical Association reports on the prevalence of Methicillinresistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), which was responsible for almost 19,000 deaths in the United States in 2005—about twice as many as previously thought, and more than AIDS [about 17,000]. Elizabeth Bancroft, a leading epidemiologist, called this finding "astounding."


Friday, October 26, 2007

Dan in Real Life

I went to see this movie because I liked the previews and because my friend Terri said it was cute. I liked it a lot. It's derivative, sure, and predictable, but that's not a deal breaker in my film world. What made this so fun was that Steve Carell and Julia Ormond are the most adorable couple ever - I can't recall ever rooting so completely for two people to get together. Not sure why the critics are being so hard on this sweet little gem. It's not a classic, and it won't get any award nominations, but it's entertainment as pure as you can get, and often that's more than enough to ask from any movie.

As an aside, it reminded me, for several reasons, of The Family Stone - a deeply flawed but still watchable movie with Sarah Jessica Parker that came out last year. Same somewhat contrived Weekend With The Extended (Loving but Dysfunctional) Family, and same partner switching, but in Dan, the family and the partners were much more appealing, IMHO.


"The Art of the Hissy Fit"

Digby now writes for TomPaine.com and this is her latest entry. I'd been thinking this same thing recently. She's really insightful. Below is just an excerpt.


I first noticed the right's successful use of phony sanctimony and faux outrage back in the 90's when well-known conservative players like Gingrich and Livingston pretended to be offended at the president's extramarital affair and were repeatedly and tiresomely "upset" about fund-raising practices they all practiced themselves. The idea of these powerful and corrupt adulterers being personally upset by White House coffees and naughty sexual behavior was laughable.

But they did it, oh how they did it, and it often succeeded in changing the dialogue and tittilating the media into a frenzy of breathless tabloid coverage.

In fact, they became so good at the tactic that they now rely on it as their first choice to control the political dialogue when it becomes uncomfortable and put the Democrats on the defensive whenever they are winning the day.
[. . .]
It's an excellent technique and one they continue to employ with great success, most recently with the entirely fake Move-On and Pete Stark "controversies." (The Democrats try their own versions but rarely achieve the kind of full blown hissy fit the Republicans can conjure with a mere blast fax to Drudge and their talk radio minions.)


Thursday, October 25, 2007

"Trolling For Votes In The Tampon Aisle"

An especially insightful entry at Hullabaloo. It's a bit long, but definitely worth reading. Below is just an excerpt.


Trolling For Votes In The Tampon Aisle
by digby

I just watched a round table on Meet The Press discussing whether Hillary Clinton is, and should be, trying to appeal to the woman vote. It seems this is quite bizarre and freakish and worrisome to many people. Last week, Tucker Carlson and Cliff May tackled the same subject by suggesting that "Vaginal-Americans" who vote for Hillary because she is a woman should be denied the right to vote. (No word on whether the men who say they would never vote for a woman should lose theirs.) I find all this angst about Clinton's alleged strategy to appeal to women a little bit confusing. Am I misremembering something, or have we not just spent the last 20 years rending our garments over how to appeal to the white male voter? Was I hallucinating all those times that gun-toting politicians put on a hunting jacket and threw a football and drove a cigarette boat at 100 miles an hour to underline their macho bonafides for the boys? These were not attempts to appeal to men? A recent book that seems to be sweeping the Village book salons is this one called: "THE NEGLECTED VOTER White Men and the Democratic Dilemma". The insiders are ecstatic, as if they've never heard this amazing insight before.

For as long as I can remember, the Democrats have been desperate to "recapture" the white male vote and nobody thought it was illegitimate to appeal to a constituency on the basis of their race and gender. But when Clinton is said to be appealing to women, it's as if she's breaking some sort of taboo --- that she's being narrow and opportunistic and cheap.

I frankly think it's smart for her to appeal to women, and not just because she's a woman. It's smart because, for Democrats, that's where the votes are. They should all be appealing to women. Women make up more than half of the electorate and have an equal claim to the attention of politicians as "white males" do, who, as the vaunted book mentioned above details, have been voting true blue Republican for a generation. Women are far more likely to vote for Democrats than men are, particularly unmarried women who make up a majority these days. It's completely rational for any candidate, much less a female candidate, to appeal to women. It's certainly more rational than the endless parade of Democratic men spitting pork rinds and driving pick-ups to appeal to men has been over the last couple of decades.


Wednesday, October 24, 2007

"I want to die of something else"

I saw a wonderful Bristol Myers Squibb ad about breast cancer featuring Lynn Redgrave today. At this site you can watch her ad and several others. The "Bald is Beautiful" spot is also wonderful.


Another set of ads, from the American Cancer Society, addressing the lack of access to healthcare, are narrarated by West Wing actor, Bradley Whitford. Also very impactful.



Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Shock Doctrine

I heard this fascinating author - Naomi Klein - on Bill Maher's show, and when I went to check out her book online I found this trippy promotional video produced by Alfonzo Curazon (who directed Children of Men). The video is 6 minutes and well worth watching.





Monday, October 22, 2007

"Dems are the new Republicans"

This Newsweek columnist is always interesting. The Democrats are winning the fundraising battle this campaign cycle. And how do you think they're doing it? By out-probusinessing the Republicans. This trend doesn't seem like a good one to me.


Oct 13, 2007

Dems Are the New Republicans
By Daniel Gross

Don't take this the wrong way. But everything you know about the link between business and politics is incorrect. For nearly the entire 20th century, a simple formula held: business people like Republicans and don't like Democrats. Republican politicians and voters heartily embrace free trade and lower taxes, while Democratic politicians and their constituencies cotton to protectionism and higher taxes. Over the decades, racial, ethnic and geographic realignments altered the shape of the national parties beyond recognition. But when it came to the wealthy, there was less movement than in the facial muscles of an over-Botoxed newscaster.

Until now. Democrats, who have never out-fund-raised Republicans in the modern political era, are kicking the tar out of their rivals this campaign cycle. Through the first half of this year, Democratic entities—congressional, presidential and party operations—raised $388.8 million, compared with $287.3 million for their Republican counterparts, according to The Wall Street Journal. In the third quarter, the top three Democratic candidates—Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and John Edwards—raised 50 percent more money than the top four Republicans. The Democrats' funds aren't just coming from enraged readers of DailyKos.com who chip in $20.08 via the Internet. They're flowing in from people who can afford to throw $4,000 in post-tax income into campaign coffers. You know the Reagan Democrats, NASCAR dads and soccer moms. Now we have the Fed-Up CEOs and the Angry Yuppies.
[. . . ]
The financial and personal endorsements are partially a symptom of the business world's chronic trendiness. As the noted management guru Bob Dylan once said: "You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows." Wall Street CEOs can read polls as well as they read balance sheets, and they like to be on the winning team. Also, many well-heeled donors give the maximum to several Democratic and Republican candidates—the way you and I might buy a few packages of Girl Scout cookies, and then toss a dollar into the Salvation Army bucket. For hedge-fund managers, maxing out to multiple candidates is a cheap hedge.
[. . . ]
With the exception of John Edwards, the Democratic candidates and their congressional allies have been loath to embrace measures that would alienate their new friends. The trial balloon floated earlier this month to enact a war income surtax, which would weigh heavily on high earners, was swiftly shot down. Closing the loophole that allows private-equity and hedge-fund managers to pay low long-term capital-gains taxes on the compensation they get for managing other people's money would be a popular way to pay for Democratic priorities. But last week Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid told private-equity lobbyists that Congress would move no such legislation this year. After all, it's primary season. And during primary season candidates must shore up their base.


Friday, October 19, 2007

"The swift-boating of Graeme Frost"

I haven't been paying that much attention to the SCHIP debate, seeing that it's suffused with demagoguery, but I had heard repeatedly of Graeme Frost and wondered what all the fuss was about. This Time Magazine story sums it up nicely (below is just an excerpt):


If you listen closely to the two-minute radio address that 12-year-old Graeme Frost delivered last week for the Democrats, you can hear the lingering effects of the 2004 car crash that put him into a coma for a week and left one of his vocal cords paralyzed. "Most kids my age probably haven't heard of CHIP, the Children's Health Insurance Program," he says in a voice that sounds weak and stressed. "But I know all about it, because if it weren't for CHIP, I might not be here today."
[. . .]
Since then, Frost and his family have been introduced firsthand to something else that most kids his age haven't: the reality of how brutal partisan politics can be in the Internet age. It started over the weekend, when a blogger calling himself Icwhatudo put up a post on the conservative website Freerepublic.com noting what he had found by scavenging around the Internet: that Graeme attends a private school, lives in a remodeled house near one that had sold for $485,000 in March and is the child of parents whose wedding was announced in the New York Times. The post also noted that his father purchased a $160,000 commercial space in 1999.

All of this is completely misrepresented - Graeme goes to the school on a scholarship, the home was not remodeled, it's just appreciated since they bought it in 1990, and the family of six lives on $50K a year - below the 200% SCHIP requirement for the state where they live.

What is just as significant about the way this has played out is that many high-profile bloggers picked up the spin, and it was subsequently reported on CNN. Mitch McConnell's office admits to spreading the story until they discovered how false it was. A lot of really vicious and untrue things were said about this family, just because they publicly supported a government program that they had benefitted from.


Thursday, October 18, 2007


I just read something the other day about this new "command" in Africa, and now there was a brief report on NPR this morning. It's a good question - why is the military (rather than the State Dept) providing "humanitarian" aid in Africa? Here's the take away quote:

"AFRICOM is about oil," says Sandra Barnes, the founding director of the Africa Studies Center at the University of Pennsylvania.


Morning Edition
October 18, 2007
New U.S. Command in Africa Faces Skeptics
Guy Raz

The new U.S. military command devoted to Africa is now operational. It's called AFRICOM and its launch completes a three-year quest by the Pentagon. The Pentagon divides the world up into six regions known as "combatant commands." The most prominent is CENTCOM — the area that encompasses the Middle East and central Asia. Each command is led by a four-star general who, in turn, is responsible for all the U.S. forces operating in the area.

But according to the Pentagon, AFRICOM will be different. The U.S. Africa command will focus on the humanitarian needs of Africa. Most African leaders are skeptical – or flatly opposed – to the development, which the Pentagon says is a matter of public relations.
[. . .]
The U.S. Navy is already starting to train African navies on ways to prevent illegal smuggling. "We're starting [with the training] in the Gulf of Guinea," says Navy Adm. Henry Ulrich, who says African nations have asked for the help.

The Gulf of Guinea sits atop one of the world's largest untapped oil reserves. Several top naval commanders have argued that the U.S. ought to shift its oil dependence away from the Arabian/Persian Gulf and towards the African Gulf of Guinea.

Many U.S. policymakers share that view, but the emphasis on oil feeds African skepticism over the true motivation in creating AFRICOM. "AFRICOM is about oil," says Sandra Barnes, the founding director of the Africa Studies Center at the University of Pennsylvania.

[There's more.]


Wednesday, October 17, 2007

America seems like a second rate power

This column appeared in USA Today. It would be easy to dismiss this guy, but he's no liberal (read, "anti-American") whiner - he runs a business magazine. Provocative stuff. Below is just an excerpt.


Hints of our diminished state can be seen in our paranoia, our swooning U.S. dollar and our untidy airports.

From afar, America resembles a 2nd-rate power
By Alan M. Webber

A not-so-funny thing happened last month while I was on a business trip to Austria and Sweden: My country started to resemble a second-rate power. I saw it in three different places — at an international conference at the Benedictine Abbey at Melk in Austria, at a quiet public square in Stockholm and at the Los Angeles International Airport, when I got home.

At the Austria gathering, the Waldzell Institute held its annual meeting aimed at the spiritual development of society. The theme on the stage with the Dalai Lama was legacy, but the conversation among participants during breaks turned to America. The questions came not as accusations, but as laments: "What's the matter with your country?"

The Europeans who come to this conference are worldly people who track what's happening globally with an impartial eye. To them, China's growth and dynamism is the most compelling story of the 21st century. "Dynamism" was the sort of word people once used when talking about the United States. Now, they watch us like rubberneckers driving past a car wreck. "You used to be such a great country," they say. "Not even a country. What happened to the great idea that once defined America?"


Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Americans Have Become 'Good Germans'

My friend Janet sent me these hard-hitting words from Frank Rich, which apppeared in the NY Times on Sunday, though this link is to another site that published the column. Below is just an excerpt.


October 15, 2007
The New York Times
Americans Have Become 'Good Germans'
By Frank Rich

"Bush lies" doesn't cut it anymore. It's time to confront the darker reality that we are lying to ourselves.

Ten days ago The Times unearthed yet another round of secret Department of Justice memos countenancing torture. President Bush gave his standard response: "This government does not torture people." Of course, it all depends on what the meaning of "torture" is. The whole point of these memos is to repeatedly recalibrate the definition so Mr. Bush can keep pleading innocent.

By any legal standards except those rubber-stamped by Alberto Gonzales, we are practicing torture, and we have known we are doing so ever since photographic proof emerged from Abu Ghraib more than three years ago.

As Andrew Sullivan, once a Bush cheerleader, observed last weekend in The Sunday Times of London, America's "enhanced interrogation" techniques have a grotesque provenance: "Verschärfte Vernehmung, enhanced or intensified interrogation, was the exact term innovated by the Gestapo to describe what became known as the 'third degree.' It left no marks. It included hypothermia, stress positions and long-time sleep deprivation."

Still, the drill remains the same. The administration gives its alibi (Abu Ghraib was just a few bad apples). A few members of Congress squawk. The debate is labeled "politics." We turn the page.


Monday, October 15, 2007

Presidential candidates court SC black voters

I really enjoyed this report on the way presidential candidates are seriously courting black voters in South Carolina. It's about time.


Morning Edition
October 15, 2007
Presidential Hopefuls Court South Carolina's Black Voters
by Audie Cornish

At this early point in the 2008 presidential campaign, South Carolina's African-American voters get special attention from the Democratic presidential contenders. Churches, hair salons and barber shops are sure venues to stump for votes.


Sunday, October 14, 2007

"The Republican Collapse"

My (Republican) friend Russ foisted another David Brooks column on me (excerpted below), but this one is considerably less offensive than Brooks' typical screed. If conservatism in America took the (ideal) form he describes, of course I would object to it a LOT less than I do the form of conservatism that we actually have (creedal, in his words). However, I must quibble with one of his early points - (since I'm a liberal) I believe that sometimes change can and should happen rapidly, like when this nation declared independence from the British or when Lincoln declared that slavery was over (or when apartheid was ended in South Africa). Of course those changes weren't orderly, but they were Right and Necessary.

* * * *
October 5, 2007
NY Times
The Republican Collapse

Modern conservatism begins with Edmund Burke. What Burke articulated was not an ideology or a creed, but a disposition, a reverence for tradition, a suspicion of radical change.

When conservatism came to America, it became creedal. Free market conservatives built a creed around freedom and capitalism. Religious conservatives built a creed around their conception of a transcendent order. Neoconservatives and others built a creed around the words of Lincoln and the founders.

Over the years, the voice of Burke has been submerged beneath the clamoring creeds. In fact, over the past few decades the conservative ideologies have been magnified, while the temperamental conservatism of Burke has been abandoned.

Over the past six years, the Republican Party has championed the spread of democracy in the Middle East. But the temperamental conservative is suspicious of rapid reform, believing that efforts to quickly transform anything will have, as Burke wrote “pleasing commencements” but “lamentable conclusions.”

The world is too complex, the Burkean conservative believes, for rapid reform. Existing arrangements contain latent functions that can be neither seen nor replaced by the reformer. The temperamental conservative prizes epistemological modesty, the awareness of the limitations on what we do and can know, what we can and cannot plan.


Saturday, October 13, 2007

Rhetorical combat

Excellent commentary by my favorite blogger, at Hullabaloo, talking about the deliberate dumbing down and obfuscation of political rhetoric, especially on the right. (I watched the Bill Maher show she refers to and I agree with her assessment.)

* * *
They [Republican presidential candidates] gesture and talk and sound for all the world as if they are speaking with intelligence and authority. But they make no sense at all.It makes you feel a little bit crazy. Last night I saw Tucker Carlson on Bill Maher respond to a discussion about bombing Iran with a non-sequitor asking why people think it's wrong to have a shotgun under the bed if you live in New York City. It seemed to have something to do with self-defense, but the analogy was so weird that it froze the panel a little bit trying to wrap their minds around what he was actually saying. Tucker's not stupid. He was indulging in the puerile "I know you are but what am I" style of rhetorical combat and knew exactly what he was doing. (His schtick is being a snotty little jerk.) But it was jarring in its incoherence, nonetheless, and even with a sharp panel of Maher, Paul Krugman and Joy Behar, it was impossible to truly nail him down when he was simply asserting gibberish and aggressively pretending it made sense.

This Bushian elementary school level argumentation has been around for some time on the right, but now it's becoming common in the media as well. And the Republican candidates have adopted it as their preferred mode of communication. I don't know if it's going to be successful this time, but unless the media do more than act as theater critics (he looked and sounded presidential!) and actually address the substance of what these people are saying, we could have another president whose communication style is so deliberately simple minded and opaque that we will spend the next four years trying to read between the lines to figure out what is really going on. (Come to think of it, that's undoubtedly one reason they do it...)

Luckily for the country and the world, the favored winners at this point, the Democrats, are not allowed to get away with such things because their voters live on planet earth and have a bottom line requirement that they communicate clearly. Indeed, they are frequently held accountable by the press for things they never even said. But when I hear the media itself adopting these right wing obfuscatory tactics I continue to worry. They remain the ones who are "interpreting" the election for the people and some of them sound as incoherent as Bush, Romney and Giuliani a good part of the time.

digby 10/13/2007 12:30:00 PM


Friday, October 12, 2007

Michael Clayton

Excellent film. Very thought-provoking, very well-made and very intelligent. Quite a breath of fresh air after the barren summer movie season. Always wonderful to see great actors together in a worthy film effort, especially in a film that actually tries to be about something and that requires you to pay attention instead of just checking your brain at the door. I feel primed for the fall film season now!


Thursday, October 11, 2007

Tequila as medicine

My friend Janis sent me this clever and quite subversive video - a parody of medication ads.



Wednesday, October 10, 2007


My friend Meredith sent this AWESOME one minute film to me. You have to click "Play Film" when you get to the site.



Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Know your candidates

This is fun, and just takes a minute. This link was sent to me by my (Republican) friend Terri in Texas. She matched with Tancredo; not surprisingly, I matched most closely with Kucinich, followed closely by Dodd, then Obama-Clinton-Edwards in a three-way tie.

* * *
Every voting American should take this test to see how you much your views agree with the current presidential candidates. You may be surprised at the outcome. This will compare your answers with ALL candidates. Click on the website below, and take an 11-question quiz, then see which candidate's positions are closet to yours.



Monday, October 08, 2007

Sex sells in the presidential race

Very interesting.


The Los Angeles Times
Sunday 05 August 2007
In '08 Race, a Little Leg May Go a Long Way
By Robin Abcarian

Sex, they say, sells. Aspiring presidential couples are bringing that notion to the fore (spontaneously or not).

In March, an aspiring Republican presidential couple - Rudolph W. and Judith Nathan Giuliani - appeared in a fashion layout in Harper's Bazaar that accompanied an interview with Mrs. Giuliani. The most striking thing about the feature, a coming-out of sorts for Judith Giuliani, was their pose: sitting on the arm of her husband's chair, eyes closed, she tipped her head down, caressed his face and planted a kiss that looked like a precursor to something steamier.
Link to photo: http://gothamist.com/2007/02/06/the_rudy_and_ju.php
[. . .]
In this long, hot campaign season, intimations of sexuality are sprouting like wildflowers along the road to the White House. Not that the commingling of sex and politics is anything new, but for what seems to be the first time in memory, voters are being confronted with questions that don't usually break the surface: Just how sexy is a first lady allowed to be? And what constitutes an appropriate display of affection between candidates and their spouses?

With a nominating field full of older men and younger wives, experts say that a youthful, even sexy wife offers a none-too-subtle message about the vitality of the candidate.


Sunday, October 07, 2007


Great link from my friend Janet:

[her comment] You know those perky motivational posters? With the pretty pictures and simplistic quotes? These ain't them.


Saturday, October 06, 2007

Human Terrain Teams

This fascinating story was also featured on NPR. The program is a lot more controversial than this story acknowledges.


October 5, 2007
NY Times

Army Enlists Anthropology in War Zones

SHABAK VALLEY, Afghanistan — In this isolated Taliban stronghold in eastern Afghanistan, American paratroopers are fielding what they consider a crucial new weapon in counterinsurgency operations here: a soft-spoken civilian anthropologist named Tracy.Tracy, who asked that her surname not be used for security reasons, is a member of the first Human Terrain Team, an experimental Pentagon program that assigns anthropologists and other social scientists to American combat units in Afghanistan and Iraq. Her team’s ability to understand subtle points of tribal relations — in one case spotting a land dispute that allowed the Taliban to bully parts of a major tribe — has won the praise of officers who say they are seeing concrete results. Col. Martin Schweitzer, commander of the 82nd Airborne Division unit working with the anthropologists here, said that the unit’s combat operations had been reduced by 60 percent since the scientists arrived in February, and that the soldiers were now able to focus more on improving security, health care and education for the population. “We’re looking at this from a human perspective, from a social scientist’s perspective,” he said. “We’re not focused on the enemy. We’re focused on bringing governance down to the people.”

Friday, October 05, 2007

Juicy leaf pizza

My friend Janet sent me this perfect picture by Brian Andreas. She said she thought this is how I feel, coping with the limitations of Celiac disease, and she's so right (though I think he had vegetarians in mind).


Thursday, October 04, 2007

Misrepresenting inflation

This was very interesting, from the latest issue of Newsweek - "real" inflation is about double what's being reported in the media.


There's No Inflation (If You Ignore Facts)
By Daniel Gross

Oct. 8, 2007 issue - Imagine that a cardiologist told you that aside from the irregular heartbeat, the stratospheric cholesterol count and a little blockage in your aorta, your core heart functions are just fine.

That's precisely what the government's cardiologist—Ben Bernanke, chairman of the Federal Reserve—has just done. The central bank is supposed to make sure the economy grows fast enough to create jobs and make everybody richer, but not so fast that it produces inflation, which makes everybody poorer. "Readings on core inflation have improved modestly this year," the Federal Open Market Committee said in justifying its 50-basis-point interest-rate cut last month, while conceding that "some inflation risks remain."

Catch that bit about "core inflation"? That's Fedspeak for: inflation is under control, unless you look at the costs of things that are going up. The core rate excludes the prices of food and energy, which can be volatile from month to month. Factor them in, and inflation is about as moderate as Newt Gingrich. In the first eight months of 2007, the consumer price index—the main gauge of inflation—rose at a 3.7 percent annual rate. That's more than 50 percent higher than the mild 2.3 percent core rate. The prices of energy and food are soaring, at 12.7 percent and 5.6 percent annual rates, respectively, and have been doing so for years. As a result, the CPI—including food and energy—has risen 12.6 percent since July 2003, for a compound rate of about 3 percent.

Signs of inflation are evident throughout the economy. When investors fear a rising inflationary tide, they latch onto the driftwood of gold. The day Bernanke cut rates, the price of the precious metal soared to heights not seen since 1980, when inflation ran at nearly 12 percent! I read about this in The Wall Street Journal (whose newsstand price rose 50 percent in July), which I picked up in the lobby of a New York hotel (where the average nightly rate soared 12.5 percent in the first seven months of 2007 from 2006, according to PKF Consulting) while sipping on a Starbucks Frappuccino (whose price has risen twice since last October).


Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Behind the scenes of SCHIP

This was super interesting - I listened to this discussion on NPR yesterday. Bottom line, the Dems knew Bush would veto the SCHIP legislation - they *planned* it that way (apparently it was Rahm Emmanuel's brain child) - can you imagine the campaign ads next year? Now they'll get busy on compromise legislation, with a 200% poverty line cutoff (which everyone can live with), that will surely pass and be signed. As for covering kids who already have insurance or come from wealthy families - I heard weeks ago that many people who apply for SCHIP get Medicaid instead because they don't make enough money to qualify for SCHIP!


What's Next for SCHIP Legislation?

All Things Considered, October 3, 2007 · President Bush on Wednesday vetoed a bill that would have expanded SCHIP — the State Children's Health Insurance Program. The bill has bipartisan support in the House and Senate, but not quite enough to override the veto.

Political commentators E.J. Dionne of The Washington Post and the Brookings Institution, and David Brooks of The New York Times talk with Robert Siegel about the political implications of the move.


Rush Limbaugh and "phony soldiers"

Quite a lot of discussion on the cable news show about Rush Limbaugh's remark on his radio show, calling anyone who disagrees with the Bush Iraq policy a "phony soldier." He since has tried to spin it, saying that he meant real phony soldiers like Jesse Macbeth (whose blog entries about actions in Iraq turned out to be completely fabricated). But Rush wasn't talking about Macbeth and his ilk at the time, and he's gone on to repeat his charge that anyone who disagrees with the war isn't a real soldier (he also said you aren't a real Republican if you disagree with the war, but that is another story altogether). This writer on Huffington Post presents a searing rebuttal, and several people on news shows have pointed out that Congress, rather than arguing over MoveOn.org and Rush and their comments regarding the war, should spend their time discussing the ACTUAL WAR. Hmmm.



Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Religious conservatives threaten to run 3rd candidate

Excellent observations at Hullabaloo - I've been thinking this same exact thing!


Salon reports: A powerful group of conservative Christian leaders decided Saturday at a private meeting in Salt Lake City to consider supporting a third-party candidate for president if a pro-choice nominee like Rudy Giuliani wins the Republican nomination.The meeting of about 50 leaders, including Focus on the Family's James Dobson, the Family Research Council's Tony Perkins and former presidential candidate Gary Bauer, who called in by phone, took place at the Grand America Hotel during a gathering of the Council for National Policy, a powerful shadow group of mostly religious conservatives. The decision has also been reported in an unsigned article by WorldNetDaily, a conservative online news service. "Not only was there a consensus among activists to withhold support for the Republican nominee, there was even discussion about supporting the entry of a new candidate to challenge the frontrunners," the article said.

DIGBY: I'm certainly looking forward to all the stories about the Republicans being held hostage by their far right "activists" who stupidly refuse to compromise and are ruining their party's chance for victory. I'm especially looking forward to the insightful piece in the NY Times that posits that the 60's narrative that so animates the whole political establishment is now turned on its head: the war is unpopular with a vast (somewhat) silent majority, but the social radicalism and upheaval that fueled the Republican rise back in the day is now all on the conservative side. You tell me which party should have more to fear that its base is alienating the American people? Which party really needs to be running from the "crazies" of its base and which one's "crazies" are actually average Americans from all walks of life whose most radical proposal is to ensure that all Americans have access to a doctor? Meanwhile, they ignore the crazed radical religious right which is threatening a third party run against the most conservative Republican party in history and blandly portray a bunch of bloodthirsty billionaire war profiteers as "outsiders" and "activists."


Monday, October 01, 2007

A primer on dad humor

As with everything I find on the Internet, I came across this while looking for something else. Frankie Thomas won a NYT's essay contest (actually, she was a runner-up). And looking at some of her other writing, I came across these musings about dads. Weird, but interesting. Full disclosure - I didn't watch the videos that she embedded in the post, I just read the text.