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Thursday, January 31, 2008

Media group think

As usual, pithy analysis on Hullabaloo, this time on the media:

[. . .]
Their group think and feeding frenzy mentality is detrimental to our politics and our country, regardless of whether your preferred candidate is their idol this week. They damaged Al Gore enough that a Republican halfwit was in a position to steal the election.

Last night, between the commentary about the "hallowed ground" of the Reagan library and the naturally ensuring worship of St. John McCain as the successor to the Great Man, we got a preview of what's to come in this cycle.

Here's a guy who did what they all wistfully seem to wish, looking back, that they had done. (You saw this yearning when they gushed over the codpiece, too.) By backing McCain they will be able to seize a little piece of his manly glory, and transfer all that Big Russ, greatest generation love right back on to themselves.

Romney, on the other hand, is just like the guys they went to college with. Handsome, rich, boring. In fact, he's a lot like them. No wonder they hate him.

You'd think that after George W. Bush they would have taken a look at their role in where we are today, but there is absolutely no evidence that they have done that --- or are even capable of doing that. And whether we like it or not, they do have influence. . .


Wednesday, January 30, 2008


Guess I'll have to vote for Obama - I was planning to vote for Edwards, just to make a statement (he's the only candidate who talks about poverty). I have nothing against Hillary, but she's going to easily win in NY, so I thought it would be fun to cast my vote for someone else, just to mix it up a bit.


Wednesday January 30, 2008
Guardian Unlimited

Edwards is out of presidential race, insiders say
by Roxanne Escobales

Senator John Edwards was set to drop out of the US presidential race today, leaving Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama to fight for the Democratic nomination.

Edwards notified a close circle of senior advisers that he planned to make the announcement at 1pm EST (6pm GMT) at an event in New Orleans that had been billed as a speech on poverty.

His announcement will come just hours before the expected withdrawal of Rudy Giuliani from the Republican race.


Change the primary system!!

I can't help it, I just love this blog:


. . .the media, by the way, picked the nominees. Again.
[. . .]
CHANGE THE PRIMARY SYSTEM. If 1-2% of all voters can whittle the field down to two candidates, and deliver a nominee on the Republican side, we have a serious problem and everyone knows it. . . The process sucks. It needs to be reformed in a big way. The fact that Florida broke the rules, moved up, delivered no delegates on the Dem side, but obviously succeeded since they PICKED THE REPUBLICAN NOMINEE, should tell you something. We need a spread-out process and maybe earlier conventions to end this bad front-loaded system. It's terrible for democracy.
[. . .]
So many Democrats threw their vote away by voting early for Edwards, and for other candidates who dropped out before the election in other states. We're moving toward a model not of election day but of election month, and in primaries where candidates drop out, those voters are disenfranchised.
[. . .]
Or, if you prefer media-driven candidates foisted on the bulk of the country, then go ahead and keep this wonderful primary train going! Maybe within a few cycles we can vote for the nominee and the nominee four years hence on the same day! It'd make things so much easier.


Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Mutually Assured Destruction

I've gotten rather obsessed with China as it relates to US economic prospects (my hubby and I joke that we should start practicing with chopsticks now!) I heard this illuminating report by the superb journalist, James Fallows (I read his excellent book, Breaking the News, years ago) who was discussing his recent Atlantic Monthly article, The $1.4 Trillion Question, on NPR today. Among other things, he points out that China could destroy our economy, but it would seriously impact theirs, much like the balance between the Soviets and the US during the Cold War. Here's the article (quite eye-opening, if you can get through it):


At this link, you can listen to the NPR discussion or read a transcript:


All Things Considered
January 29, 2008
China's Trade Deficit: 'The $1.4 Trillion Question'

China's investment in the global economy is huge — especially its investment in the United States. The U.S. trade deficit with China increases by $1 billion a day, and that has some people concerned. In the current issue of Atlantic Monthly magazine, correspondent James Fallows calls it "The $1.4 Trillion Question." Fallows talks with Robert Siegel about China's economy, the U.S. reaction to it and how long China's policy can be sustained.


State of the Union Address

What interests me is the fact checking:


Morning Edition
January 29, 2008
Fact-Checking the State of the Union

A close listen by NPR reporters yields observations about how closely President Bush's rhetoric in the State of the Union address matched the facts. Renee Montagne, John Ydstie, Julie Rovner, Larry Abramson, Christopher Joyce and Tom Bowman discuss the president's speech.


Golden parachutes

What a disingenuous jerk. He made over $400 million selling his stock JUST before its price plunged (and tons of employees lost their jobs). Now he wants to act like a big hero by foregoing a tiny fraction of that. Plus he ran the company into the ground - why should he get rewarded for that? He's going before Congress to testify about executive compensation - that should be a hoot!


Morning Edition
January 29, 2008
Embattled Countrywide CEO to Trim 'Parachute'
Chris Arnold
· The chief executive of the ailing mortgage lender Countrywide Financial says he will forfeit more than $37 million in severance pay and perks that were part of a retirement package. The Securities and Exchange Commission is probing Angelo Mozilo's sales of company stock.


Monday, January 28, 2008

I'm a published author!

After many months, our first paper is coming out in the February issue of Anesthesia & Analgesia. I was originally the 2nd author and then, at some point, Frank traded places with me. That's just him. He publishes so many articles that he said he doesn't need to be the 1st author and Upstate really needs to have its name in 1st place. I don't feel completely comfortable being the 1st author - he wrote 90% of the paper and it was totally his idea. But I understand his point, and I certainly appreciate the gesture - he's a great collaborator in that way - very little ego (despite being totally brilliant)!

My friend Suzanne

My friend Suzanne (gradgirl) has been working with Don Hernandez at SUNY Albany for several years. She starts later this year in a job at the census bureau in D.C., working on the measurement of poverty. She sent me this email today:

Here's our news article on the Child Well-Being Index! Don Hernandez is the lead author and he generously gave me co-authorship credit.


Report: Black, Hispanic children making gains
By Wendy Koch, USA TODAY

Black and Hispanic children have made significant gains in health, safety and income over the past two decades, narrowing gaps between them and white children, according to a pioneering report on child development to be released Tuesday.

They still fare worse overall than whites, but they're catching up in several areas and are less likely to smoke cigarettes, drink alcohol, abuse drugs or commit suicide, according to the report. It was sponsored by the Foundation for Child Development, a philanthropy that funds research on children.

"There's a long way to go, but this is an enormous closing of the gap," says co-author Donald Hernandez, a sociology professor at the University at Albany, State University of New York. He says the overall gap between black and white children closed by one-fourth, and between Hispanics and whites by one-third. "That's stunning. I was frankly surprised by the extent of it."

Sunday, January 27, 2008


Get your "educational" tshirt today!


Saturday, January 26, 2008

TV wasteland

My friend Terri asked me what I'm watching on TV these days, and the truth is, NOT MUCH. I prefer dramas to reality shows and obviously there aren't many of the former and tons of the latter. I've been watching many hours of cable news b/c I'm interested in the presidential election, but I'm getting sick of the pointless horserace reporting, so I've been taking a little break from the wall to wall coverage.

Larry and I watched Breaking Bad, which started on AMC this week, b/c I loved Mad Men so much. It wasn't as good as MM, but we both enjoyed it enough to continue watching.


Larry also found a couple of shows on the Food Network that are fun. They've gone way beyond just cooking shows now, though he saw the original Iron Chef, Morimoto, on the Iron Chef recently - we went to his restaurant in Philly once for a magnificent dinner. Anyway, the best show he's found so far is Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.


Larry loves Mythbusters, but I get bored with that pretty quickly, though I love the idea of it.

Mostly I've been catching up on videos, such as Wordplay, an adorable documentary about crossword puzzle fanactics, that I got at the local library.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Shifting Republican field

I didn't watch the Republican debate in Florida last night, but I heard some interesting discussion on Morning Joe today. They seemed to agree that Giuliani is done (see photo). He wasn't attacking anyone last night and they think he's trying to salvage his place in the party. Also much discussion of how advantageous to the Romney campaign it's been for the economy to have risen as a major political concern, since that's the issue he has the most credibility with.

More interesting to me is the way the debate was mostly a Hillary-bashing fest. What's up with that? I tend to think this is a ploy - they've wanted us to believe that they really want to run against her, b/c she unites the Republican party. But on the other hand, their behavior suggests that they're trying to influence the Dems to reject Hillary. I can't believe that they prefer to run against Obama - he's young, fresh, handsome, well-spoken, the candidate of HOPE, and who wants to walk the tightrope of race for the many months of the campaign? I can just see the dynamic Barack matched with the decrepit McCain. However, now I'm reconsidering. Maybe they think they can more easily beat Barack. Or maybe it's a briar patch thing, and they really want to face Hillary in the fall.

Actually, I don't know what to think anymore.

I had been thinking that McCain wouldn't have much of a chance in the general, but now I'm not so sure - his greatest obstacle has always been the primary b/c he doesn't have the support of the religious wing of the party. But if he can get the Republican nomination, he would get many independents and traditional (read non-evangelical) conservative votes. Hmmm.


Congressman Walsh retiring

I was quite surprised to hear this news (like everyone was!) b/c Walsh is an institution around here (the seat he holds now was previously occupied by his father) and he's been working hard to overcome his support of the war in Iraq over the last few months (the strongest leverage his perennial opponent, Dan Maffei, had against him). Dan came damn close to beating him last time (I worked for Dan's campaign), but this takes the race to a whole new level. Dan will no doubt run again, but many other local politicians are likely to get involved, including the dynamic young Democratic mayor of Syracuse, Matt Driscoll, and Dale Sweetland, a big time local Republican, who lost the County Executive race by just 21 votes (to legacy candidate Joanie Mahoney).

By the by, I don't believe for a second that Walsh just decided it was time to go. I'm certain that he's secured a lucrative lobbying job, just like all the MANY Republicans that are retiring at this time (Dailykos reports that Walsh makes 21) -


. . . Walsh [is] the 21st Republican representative not to seek reelection in 2008. Worse luck for the GOP: New York's 25th is naturally Democratic turf, though not overwhelmingly. Kerry won the Syracuse-based district 50-48, and Gore won fairly handily, 51-45. NY-25 is currently the fifth-bluest district in the country held by a Republican, judging by its PVI of D+3.4. This race was already expected to be one of the most competitive in the country, and [now] it zooms to the top of the list of the hottest races in the nation. . . Republican retirements have been coming in fairly steadily over the last year, but this one seemed to come out of left field. This is an exceptionally bad district for the GOP to lose an incumbent, and that loss will put additional strain on the beleaguered NRCC.

Here's the slavish piece on Walsh from the local paper if you care (e.g., he and his family had Italian takeout while discussing his plans then he and his wife watched the Tom Hanks movie, Terminal):


Friday, January 25, 2008
Post Standard
'It's a Good Time to Go'
10-term congressman says he accomplished all he wanted to do
By Mark Weiner, Washington Bureau

For more than a year, U.S. Rep. James Walsh played the part of a candidate seeking his 11th term in Congress.

He hired a full-time fundraising firm in Washington, held several donor breakfasts a month, and raised more than $600,000. He stepped up his outreach to constituents, staging 12 town hall meetings and telephone conference calls with constituents. He sent out tens of thousands of pieces of mail.

All along, Walsh had a secret. The 60-year-old congressman kept thinking about retirement, a decision he would finally make over dinner with his wife, DeDe, on Saturday and announce to the world on Thursday.
[. . .]
For Walsh, some serious introspection that began after a close call in the 2006 election helped him conclude that now is the right time to walk away.

When his term expires in January 2009, he will end a 20-year career in Congress and a lifetime of public service.

"This last election caused me to think a little bit harder about where I am and where I am going," Walsh said. "I mean, I've been doing this for half of my life. At the end of this year, it will be 31 years that I've been in 10
office in Syracuse (as a member of the Common Council) and Washington."
[. . .]
"Thirty-one years is enough," he said. "I did have a terrific career in the private sector. And I'd like to go back there. It's really about quality of life. I want to have weekends to myself. And when I stay home, I don't want to worry about whether I should be at a meeting or a rally. I want to have a normal life, because I haven't had one."


Thursday, January 24, 2008

Thoughts on Oscar nominations

This is the first year I can remember that I haven't heard of ANY of the foreign film nominees. Weird.

I thought they screwed Cate Blanchett, b/c her two noms will split the votes for her (and I'm not sure why she was nominated for Elizabeth, which is a reprisal of a role she played before AND no one saw that movie as far as I can tell).

Nice to see Michael Clayton honored so much, though I'm surprised, since earlier releases are often forgotten by the time nominations are announced.

Screenplay I can understand, but Best Picture for Juno?

Keira Knightley and James McAvoy were passed over for Atonement, quite unfairly, but at leat Marion Cotillard was nominated for La Vie en Rose - if she had been passed over, the whole enterprise would lack credibility.

A lot of respected directors were overlooked, despite critical praise, including Sean Penn for Into the Wild and Sidney Lumet for Before the Devil Knows You're Dead in favor of neophyte Jason Reitman for Juno and and mainstream Tony Gilroy for Michael Clayton.

The supporting noms were a bit better this year than in the recent past, when lots of famous people in smaller roles got most of the supporting slots, leaving fewer for truly supporting performers. The men are probably better known than the women (Javier Bardem, Philip Seymour Hoffman), but probably mostly by movie fanatics like me. It's exciting to see Ruby Dee nominated, and I thought she was the only truly bold choice on the whole list.

As usual, THREE of the songs came from one movie - Disney's Enchanted. It had great music, but come on!

Overall, not completely satisfying, but it never is.



Wednesday, January 23, 2008

What's the frequency Kenneth?

Maureen Dowd's NY Times column from Monday appeared in our local paper today, and I was pleased and surprised to read her saying the exact same thing that I've said to several people recently regarding our economy:


Red White and Blue Sale
Maureen Dowd

The country is engaged in a fit of nativism and Lou Dobbsism, obsessing about the millions of Mexicans who might be sneaking across the border when billions in foreign money are pouring into Citigroup. You figure out what might be a bigger problem.

The national boundaries that really matter are the financial ones: Who's going to own the American economy?

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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Heath Ledger, R.I.P. (1979-2008)

I was so depressed all evening after hearing this news. What a terrible waste and a terrible shame. Hopefully his overdose was accidental and not intentional, though the result is the same. Certainly his family is devastated, regardless, and his poor little daughter, who will grow up without him. So young, only 28, and so much promise - I've seen almost all his movies and always thought he was so much more than a pretty face (though he was certainly that too). And he seemed like a genuinely decent human being, a performer with integrity and someone who embraced life. Casts a pall over the Oscar noms that were announced this morning, especially Cate Blanchett, who was nominated for I'm Not There, which Heath also appeared in. I'm a bit disappointed that his final role with be The Joker in The Dark Knight, though apparently he gives an amazing performance. But it doesn't really epitomize his consistently risky film choices (though some say that following in Jack Nicholson's footsteps is the riskiest choice of all). The bottom line is that a shining light has been extinguished and that is so very sad.

Rolling Stone magazine's obit strikes just the right tone:

Monday, January 21, 2008

More on the writer's strike

I read this in our local paper this morning - an interesting take on the writer's strike, focusing on the economic impact on LA.

The TV Diet
by Susan Estrich

Of course, it isn't just the writers who suffer when shows close down and production is canceled. If writers don't work, actors don't work, and cameramen and women don't work, and grips and electricians and carpenters don't work; if those people don't work, the people who feed them, the caterers, don't work, and the transportation people have no one and nothing to transport, and the location scouts have no locations to scout, and the designers have nothing to design, and the makeup people have no one to make up, and so it goes. There is a chain of work and workers that makes up the business of Hollywood, and right now the chain is broken and has been for nearly three months.

The presidential campaign is about to arrive in what we call the Golden State. When they come, they will find that home prices, most people's biggest asset, are falling, and unemployment and insecurity are growing. Six months ago, the big issue here was the war. Now, it's the strike. And it is very much a middle class issue. We can live without our soaps and dramas and comedies, but we cannot live without an industry that is vital to our economic well-being. It's not clear that presidential candidates can do very much about that, but they will surely be asked.


Sunday, January 20, 2008

Useless information

The fun poll of the day:


Of the 250 children surveyed by a British university absolutely NONE of them want clown paintings on the walls of the hospital to cheer them up. Even many of the older children found the paintings "scary."


Saturday, January 19, 2008

Tax rebate 2008

Saints preserve us! Now those economic geniuses in Congress are seriously considering another citizen tax "rebate" of anywhere from $300 - $1000. The whole idea of this just makes me sick.

They did this in 2001 and it cost the government a small fortune to process and deliver these rebates. Plus, the benefit to the tax payer is completely temporary: while it wasn't widely promoted, the "rebate" was really an "advance" on your tax refund, which, if you weren't owed a tax refund (like my husband and I!), you had to pay back the money when you filed your tax return the following year. It's just a big and very expensive shell game. It's like getting a really overpriced loan of your own money. And the economic stimulus benefit is questionable at best.

I plan to let my legislators know what a bone-headed idea this is.


Friday, January 18, 2008

Restoring "faith"

This morning on CNN a reporter was talking to undecided voters in a coffee shop in South Carolina. One Republican woman said she was considering Romney because "we need to restore faith in this country, we really do." And it left me wondering: does she really believe that the government is the best vehicle to accomplish that? Odd.

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Taking serious matters seriously

This pretty much sums it up. From my favorite blog, Hullabaloo.


The reason those comments over race got more attention than, say, the candidates' competing economic stimulus packages is that the traditional media doesn't really want to understand them. They'll hide behind the argument that nuts and bolts issues don't post big ratings, but really, they don't have the expertise to engage them. More often it's rollodex analysis, where men and women from think tanks, almost all of them either center-right or certified wingnut, and all with very defined and specific agendas, are brought in to opine without resistance, when these shows pay any lip service to the issues at all.

This is nothing new. I was reminded of this moment today.

KING: Okay. Were you impressed with this “fuzzy [math],” top 1 percent, 1.3 trillion, 1.9 trillion bit?

KOPPEL: You know, honestly, it turns my brains to mush. I can’t pretend for a minute that I’m really able to follow the argument of the debates. Parts of it, yes. Parts of it, I haven’t a clue what they’re talking about.

And Ted Koppel is arguably one of the most serious journalists on television.

Identity and personality is how we've been picking Presidents for a long time. Sometimes it works, sometimes you get George Bush. But I can't help but think that the malaise we all feel is part and parcel of a press corps that refuses to take serious matters seriously. They can't conceive of the real-world consequences behind numbers and facts and reality, preferring to discuss elections with the depth and penetrating insight of a Sweet Valley High novel or the local high school basketball game (an epic battle where two sides will mix it up!). So many of us are starving for a process that recognizes how much this all matters, how it's not a game played for the benefit of court jesters in ill-fitting suits, how the goal is not conflict, like a televised drama, but progress, which is too difficult for them to contemplate.


Thursday, January 17, 2008

Obama invokes . . . Reagan?!

This is what the blogosphere is buzzing about today:

Senator Obama:
"I think Ronald Reagan changed the trajectory of America in a way that Richard Nixon did not and in a way that Bill Clinton did not. He put us on a fundamentally different path because the country was ready for it. I think they felt like with all the excesses of the 1960s and 1970s and government had grown and grown but there wasn't much sense of accountability in terms of how it was operating. I think people, he just tapped into what people were already feeling, which was we want clarity we want optimism, we want a return to that sense of dynamism and entrepreneurship that had been missing."

Here is (some of) digby's excellent commentary:

I get that Obama is signaling that he sees this election as a game changing election like 1980. And he may very well be right about that. I hope so. But it's disconcerting to hear him casually recount these Republican arguments without a clear disclaimer, as if it's a matter of fact not opinion. People may have believed in 1980 that the "excesses" of the 1960's and the 1970's were the cause of all their problems and that government had "grown and grown but there wasn't much sense of accountability in terms of how it was operating" but that doesn't make it true. Republican propaganda conveniently offered up all kinds of scapegoats for the fact that the US was reeling from Vietnam, Watergate, a terrible oil shock --- and a lousy economy as a result of all those things. An awful lot of the "excesses" Reagan spoke of in carefully coded speech had to do with civil rights and more urgently at the time, integration, specifically busing, which was one of the hot buttons that drove the "Reagan Democrats" outside the south to the Republicans. And then there was the relentless, militant fear mongering about the Evil Empire ...
[. . .]
Look, I know this is weedy stuff and probably doesn't matter to the average voter under the age of 45. But to long time liberals who lived through this period as an adult, it's like waving a red flag in our faces. Reagan ran explicitly against the left (and in the process normalized the kind of indecent talk that made Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter millionaires.) Because he won big in 1984, leaders in both parties accepted this omnipotent Reagan myth and have run against liberalism ever since --- and have ended up, through both commission and omission, advancing the destructive conservative policies that brought us to a place where we are debating things like torture. It would be helpful if ending the era of Democrats running against the liberal base could be part of this new progressive "trajectory."


Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Holy Huckabee

Even my husband, who is fairly oblivious (compared to me), felt compelled to comment on Huckabee's startling assertion. This blogpost came from Hullabaloo, which takes a pretty hard line against the Huckster.


. . . .here's what Michael Huckabee, GOP frontrunner, said two days ago:

'I have opponents in this race who do not want to change the Constitution,' Huckabee told a Michigan audience on Monday. 'But I believe it's a lot easier to change the Constitution than it would be to change the word of the living god. And that's what we need to do -- to amend the Constitution so it's in God's standards rather than try to change God's standards so it lines up with some contemporary view.'

Looks like Huckabee opened the kimono, as they used to say in Silicon Valley. And there, in all his naked repulsiveness, stands a ruthless, ignorant, far right theocrat.

No doubt there are many causes for our scientific illiteracy - American ignorance has many parents. But given the enthusiasm and ruthlessness with which christianists like Huckabee have proactively undermined education, surely anti-science intimidation by religious fanatics represents one very significant portion of the problem.

Here's more from the same site, part of an interesting story from a former Texas science teacher:

God forbid that we should teach knowledge over “beliefs.” No wonder our politicians keep repeating the mantra “I believe …this and I believe …that” The “belief” word demands free reign to twist reality without being questioned. It is a true tragedy when believing trumps thinking, especially in our schools.

Nancy Hentschel
Sugar Land

And this:

When Willie Geist reported Huckabee's opinion on MSNBC's Morning Joe, he noted that if "someone without his charm," said that, "he'd be dismissed as a crackpot, but he's Mike Huckabee and he's bascially the front-runner."


Tuesday, January 15, 2008

"Merchants of Trivia"

As always, Matt Taibbi's column in Rolling Stone completely rocks. This time he turns his scabrous wit on the media's coverage of the presidential race. Exactly what I would have said if I could write like a god. Below is an excerpt and a link to the full story.


This 2008 presidential race looked interesting once, a thrillingly up-for-grabs affair in which real issues and real ground-up voter anger threatened to wrest control of America's politics from the Washington Brahmins who usually puppeteer this process from afar. And while the end result in Iowa — a historic and inspirational Obama victory, coupled with a hilariously satisfying behind-the-woodshed third-place ass-whipping for status quo gorgon Hillary Clinton — was compelling, the media has done its best to turn a once-promising race into an idiotic exchange of Nerf-insults, delivered at rah-rah campaign events utterly indistinguishable from scholastic pep rallies. "If there's policy in this race," one veteran campaign reporter tells me with a sad laugh, "I haven't noticed it."

And while it's tempting to blame the candidates, deep in my black journalist's heart I know it isn't all their fault.

We did this. The press. America tried to give us a real race, and we turned it into a bag of shit, just in the nick of time.

Every reporter who spends any real time on the campaign trail gets wrapped up in the horse race. It's inevitable. You tell me how you can spend nearly two years watching the dullest speeches known to man and not spend most of your time wondering about the one surefire interesting moment the whole thing has to offer: the ending.

Stripped of its prognosticating element, most campaign journalism is essentially a clerical job, and not a particularly noble one at that. On the trail, we reporters aren't watching politics in action: The real stuff happens behind closed doors, where armies of faceless fund-raising pros are glad-handing equally faceless members of the political donor class, collecting hundreds of millions of dollars that will be paid off in very specific favors over the course of the next four years. That's the real high-stakes poker game in this business, and we don't get to sit at that table.

Instead, we get to be herded day after day into one completely controlled environment after another, where we listen to an array of ideologically similar politicians deliver professionally crafted advertising messages that we, in turn, have the privilege of delivering to the public free of charge. We rarely get to ask the candidates real questions, and even when we do, they almost never answer.

If you could train a chimpanzee to sit still through a Joe Biden speech, it could probably do the job. The only thing that elevates this work above monkey level is that we get to guess who wins.


Monday, January 14, 2008

Who gets to claim MLK?

I'm having two reactions to the back and forth between Clinton and Obama. The bad news is that it seems petty and I suspect that it irritates a lot of people and it takes time away from discussions about the important stuff, like the economy and healthcare. But the good news is, the top candidates are focusing on race, are virtually trying to out pander each other. Frankly, I'm thrilled to see non-white voters courted anytime, anywhere b/c they spend most of the time either being ignored or being demonized for political gain. So this is both annoying and refreshing at the same time. In other words, completely schizophrenic, like everything else about this political season.


Sunday, January 13, 2008

Put your money where your mouth is!

This jolted me out of my prevailing political mindset:

We are deep into ugly primary season and we can spend all of our time wringing our hands over things we can't control or we can do something politically positive. . . . there are other crucial races in February-- and I'm not talking about the presidential primaries, where any of the Democrats are so superior to all of the pathetic pygmies that the disappointments many of us feel about Hillary and Obama are nearly irrelevant in comparison. Instead I'm talking about congressional primaries, where we really can make a difference. Along with John Laesch (IL), we have to keep Donna Edwards (MD) in mind, and also Mark Pera (IL).

Check out this website. I made a small donation (they suggest $5 each!) to several candidates (including local stars, Dan Maffei and Eric Massa). As digby says, "feel clean again" by supporting progressive candidates that will work for the things that you know are important and have a decent chance of winning their seats:



Saturday, January 12, 2008

Glenn Beck got a boo-boo

As usual, I'm completely annoyed at Glenn Beck. He had a very bad experience at the hospital recently and now he's a strident voice for reform. He recorded a video while he was completely miserable from complications following a hemorrhoid operation and he's been talking on his radio and TV show about the uncaring staff that he encountered and an adverse drug reaction that exacerbated his difficulties. Of course the bottom line is that the policies that he supports, like free market solutions and less government regulation, are the direct cause of much that he is complaining about. I doubt you'll hear him talking about that!

Watch his video (7 minutes of self pity) if you can stand it:


This 2 minute commentary from The Young Turks radio show on Air America sums up my opinion perfectly:



Friday, January 11, 2008

Huckabee triumphs?

This morning on Morning Joe, David Schuster, a respectable political reporter, said he thought Huckabee could ride his charm all the way to the Republican nomination and, if his opponent was Hillary, he would win, because he's more likable. Wow. Not sure I buy that assessment, but of course I thought GWB was way too much of a lightweight to be taken seriously as a presidential contender. The thought of a Huckabee presidency sure scares the crap out of me. But I spent the whole drive to work thinking about how he could be countered in a national campaign. Then on the shuttle bus, I happened to read this short piece in Newsweek by Howard Fineman, another respected political reporter (below is a link to the full essay and an excerpt):


Mike Huckabee advertises himself as a "Christian Leader." But he is loath to talk about his preacher days. On the campaign trail, it is the Lost Decade of his life. No one can find, or get access to, texts or video of his sermons. He is an ordained Southern Baptist minister; he led two congregations. Still, he'd rather talk about the guitar his folks bought him at JCPenney, or about the bravery of the Founding Fathers.
[. . .]
Trying to have it both ways is what politicians do for a living. But in Washington and the savvier precincts of elsewhere (Nashville, for example), Republicans and their secular conservatives allies are distraught at the thought of Huckabee as the GOP's 2008 presidential nominee. They couch their fears in terms of secular issues: his spending record as governor, his advocacy of a national sales tax, his confusion about the location of Pakistan. Privately, however, what worries the insiders is that Blue and Purple America will run shrieking from a fellow—no matter how media-savvy and just-plain-folks he seems to be—who does not believe in the science of evolution but who does believe that the Bible is pretty close to literally true.

And to them I say, let us turn to Paul's Letter to the Galatians, chapter six, verse seven, in which he writes: "For whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap." For the fact is, Huckabee's candidacy is nothing more or less than the logical result of the GOP's 30-year-long crusade to turn evangelical Christians into the shock troops of the party. After Jimmy Carter first lured some of them into the trenches in 1976—and won much of the South in the process—Republicans, under a Tennessean named Bill Brock, made this the core of their strategy, and figures such as the late Lee Atwater, Karl Rove and George W. Bush pursued it. The full fruit of their labors materialized in 2004. Twenty-seven million evangelicals voted by a four-to-one margin to re-elect the president; they formed more than a third of his total vote.

If they are that crucial to the GOP coalition, it only makes sense for them to want to eliminate the middlemen. Why rely on laypeople such as Bush when you can have the real thing? And that would seem to be Huckabee, if he is still willing to admit it.


Thursday, January 10, 2008

Celiac disease in the news

I found this fascinating - I paid only minimal attention to the drama about baseball player Roger Clemens and his trainer Brian McNamee, but I perked up when I heard repeated references to McNamee's son, who is suffering from a "serious autoimmune disorder." Turns out, it's celiac disease.


McNamee said those words, or a close variation, 21 times. No matter whether McNamee's tone was angry or pleading, whether he was talking about his ailing 10-year-old son or offering to go to jail . . .


After the report was issued, McNamee and Clemens did not speak until Friday, after McNamee sent a text message saying he wanted to talk and that his 10-year-old son was seriously ill. Hardin said the conversation could be taped without McNamee's consent under the law in Texas, where Clemens lives, and New York, where McNamee lives. Hardin played the 17-minute conversation -- which opens with a brief discussion about McNamee's son and then shifts to the steroid allegations -- in the news conference. "It shows how cynical and disgusting Roger Clemens and Rusty Hardin are," Emery [lawyer for McNamee] said, "that they'd exploit a sick child of Brian's."


Mr. Clemens blew you out of the water with his phone call to his former trainer, Brian McNamee, whose son is gravely ill. "He said his son was sick and dying," Clemens said. "That's why I reached out."

Dying? From celiac disease?


Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Digital dining

This story, which I heard on NPR this morning, was fascinating:


Digital Dining the Latest in Self Service

Morning Edition, January 9, 2008 · The latest in self-service technology is a touch screen at your restaurant table. It allows you to place orders directly with the kitchen. Why keep a waitress waiting while you agonize over fries or onion rings? The company behind the technology says it provides faster service, and fewer mistakes. It also makes it easier to order that extra slice of pie. It's unclear whether the screens have an icon where you can pound your fist if you're unhappy with the food, but you can press a button and summon a real waitress.


Tuesday, January 08, 2008

The triumph of democracy

I was at a meeting at the synagogue instead of camped in front of cable news all evening, so when I got in my car at 9:30 p.m. and put on the news, I was SCREAMING - I'm thrilled that the pundits were wrong because (a) the voters should get to decide, not the pundits, and (b) it's still a real race, which is good for the country, IMO.

It probably couldn't happen anywhere but New Hampshire, because they pride themselves on their independence - looks like they agreed with me and didn't want the pundits telling them who they were going to vote for. There may have been some sympathy vote too - I know I felt it myself - I love Obama, but I felt really bad for Hillary when she was considered finished after a poor showing in just one small election (and bad poll numbers). Maybe her show of emotion helped her too, hard to know for sure.


Monday, January 07, 2008

Election rant

I'm yelling at the TV tonight, listening to Chris Matthews and Tom Brokaw and other guests on Hardball talk about the election, because they're saying the same thing as Joe Scarborough and his panel this morning - it's over. Apparently the Obama Express can't be stopped now. But that's just not so. They don't know what's going to happen! As I said to my husband and stepson (who votes for the first time this fall) - those commentators each get one vote, just like the rest of us. So they should shut up and let us choose, let us vote and stop telling us what the outcome will be.


Sunday, January 06, 2008

"Vertical" thought

My friend Mary pointed this out to me: TPM did the leg work on the significance of Huckabee's ad campaign and speeches that mention "thinking vertically."


The ad they use as an example (I stole this "screen shot" from their site) implies that ole Mike just wants to improve America ("take America up not down"), but in fact this is a common expression among Evangelicals that refers to deference to God.


Recall that Bush does a lot of this - embeds evangelical expressions into speeches in ways that appear innocuous to the uninformed, but that communicate clearly to those who recognize the reference.
For the record, I don't object to the Biblical/religious references, I object to the veiled Biblical/religious references.


Saturday, January 05, 2008

Krugman on China

This is the last section of Krugman's excellent and thought-provoking commentary on our evolving relationship with China. Note that Newsweek also has several stories about China in it's issue this week, including an excellent essay by the always lucid Fareed Zakaria who makes very similar points.


January 4, 2008
NY Times
Dealing With the Dragon
[. . .]
On the Republican side, foreign policy talk is all bluster and braggadocio. To listen to the G.O.P. candidates, you’d think it was still February 2003, when the national discourse was dominated by people who thought that American military might was sufficient to shock and awe the rest of the world into doing our bidding.

Memo: China has 50 times the population of Iraq.

The Democrats in general make far more sense. But among at least some of Barack Obama’s supporters there seems to be a belief that if their candidate is elected, the world’s problems will melt away in the face of his multicultural charisma.

Memo: It won’t work on the Chinese.

The truth is that China is too big to be bullied, and the Chinese are too cynical to be charmed. But while they are our competitors in important respects, they’re not our enemies, and they can be dealt with.

A lot of Americans, when they think about the next president’s foreign-policy qualifications, seem to be looking for a hero — someone who will stand tall against terrorists, or transform the world with his optimism.

But what they should be looking for is something more prosaic — a good negotiator, someone who can bargain effectively with some very tough customers and get the deals we need on energy, currency policy and carbon credits.


Thursday, January 03, 2008

Holy moly!

I'm totally stunned by the results in Iowa and I'm totally thrilled with the Democratic turnout (50% higher than expected and almost double the turnout 4 years ago). Great, great news! I can't wait to vote on Feb 5th!!!

(I stole this photo from msn.com).


Truly startling and eye-opening post at Hullabaloo (excerpt below):


Strange Days
by tristero

. . . religious extremists and rightwing nutjobs should have no place in American national politics. While their candidacies may be doomed, there lie monsters.

Which brings us to the genuinely repellent topic of Michael Huckabee. The fact that he won the Iowa caucus chills me to the bone. This is a ruthless, ignorant, and dangerously opportunistic fanatic who is so unqualified for the presidency that no one in the media should have returned his calls. And they still shouldn't.

. . . Huckabee has absolutely no experience whatsoever in foreign policy and no genuine curiousity about it. His idea of an expert upon which to lean is John Bolton, a man as unhinged as Huckabee's earlier adviser, Steve Dunleavy.
[. . . ]
Of course, Huckabee doesn't believe in evolution, but that's not just because he's a scientific ignoramus. It's because Huckabee doesn't believe in anything except his own will to power, a delusional narcissism so powerful he mistakes it for the will of God. He is a vicious, unprincipled man; the stories of his ruthlessness when governor of Arkansas are legion.

In short, Huckabee's a dangerously awful candidate, certainly at least as bad as Giuliani. The sooner he is defeated and returned to obscurity the better.

He goes on to say:

Numerous commenters responded with something like "Huckabee has zero chance of winning in November. Therefore, tristero, what's yer problem? It's great he won; it will make trouncing Republicans that much easier and sweeter."

Of course, Huckabee will lose a general election. But in the process of losing, maybe even by a landslide, the worst subculture of rightwing extremists and religious fanatics may very well gain a mainstream audience and an influence over that audience that makes their current reach look trivial. Let's not forget, folks, that the current "conservative movement" is traced to Goldwater's landslide defeat.
[. . .]
That viewpoint represents a failure to recognize the uniquely dangerous qualities of Huckabee and the reasons why you would really, really want to prevent him and his followers from gaining any more national attention. Here's one: There are extremely good reasons why this country's founders went out of their way to discourage the kinds of bald appeals to religious exclusion Huckabee wallows in.


Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Iowa caucus

I was frankly horrified to see these figures. It's bad enough that Iowa doesn't represent the rest of the nation demographically, but all this time and money is invested in so few people. And the ultimate question is: "Why do so few people have so much influence in the process of choosing the Leader of the Free World"?


At least 130,000 Democrats and 80,000 Republicans are expected to participate in nearly 1,800 neighborhood meetings across Iowa.


Tuesday, January 01, 2008

The UN oil-for-food scandal

This is deep:


Remembering To Forget

by dday

Hey, remember when the oil for food scandal was simply the gravest episode of corruption in world history? Remember how it discredited the UN and proved that our allies in Old Europe were working with our enemies? Remember when the very serious Paul Volcker was brought in to investigate, and how this was the lead story on wanker cable news shows like Brit Hume's for about a year? Remember when that lightweight Norm Coleman made the scandal his personal crusade and accused George Galloway of getting more in kickbacks than Zaire's Mobutu? Remember when every documented incident of defense contractors stealing billions from the US Treasury as a result of the war was met with cries of "Oil for food, oil for food"?

Well, now that it's completely out of the wingnut spotlight, not only does it turn out that the only guy who's been actually convicted of fraud in this scandal is a Texas oilman, but the latest two companies to be investigated are pharmaceuticals.

GlaxoSmithKline and AstraZeneca have been asked to hand over papers as part of a
probe into bribes allegedly paid to Saddam Hussein's former Iraq regime.
The Serious Fraud Office is examining allegations of bribes paid to secure
lucrative contracts in breach of Iraq's 1996 to 2003 oil-for-food
programme. The programme, established in the wake of UN sanctions, allowed
Iraq to sell oil to buy humanitarian provisions.

I eagerly await the 24-hour news channels to cover this with all the vigor of a missing girl in Aruba.

(Also, Chevron knew about illegal payments too, and they acknowledged their executives did nothing to stop it, including this member of the board of directors named Condoleezza Rice).