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Friday, February 29, 2008

Bush surprised by how high gas is going

I saw this on cable news this morning - it just totally speaks for itself.


February 29, 2008
Los Angeles Times
Bush seems surprised at predictions of $4 gasoline

WASHINGTON - "Wait, what did you just say? You're predicting $4 a gallon gasoline?" a surprised President George W. Bush said yesterday when a reporter mentioned what energy analysts are saying could happen soon in many parts of the country."That's interesting," Bush said, "I hadn't heard that ... I know it's high now."

[. . .]
Bush's expression of surprise at how high gasoline prices could climb drew comparisons with his father, George H.W. Bush, who took a serious political hit when he was president after appearing to be unfamiliar with the scanners used in supermarket checkout counters. The incident was widely construed as suggesting the first Bush was out of touch with everyday life.


Thursday, February 28, 2008

"There's the Beef"

From my friend Mary - great stuff:

I am trying to find out more about Obama. There was an interesting column in the Post's business section (of all places) about Obama last week. Mark and I were both wondering why more journalists aren't getting to the meat like this (oops - bad pun as I just re-read the title of the column . . . sorry!) and instead are talking about the crazy stuff like the madrassa, the turban photo, the cult of personality, etc. I think our journalism schools aren't doing the American people any favors.


Friday, February 22, 2008
Washingpost Post
There's the Beef

By Steven Pearlstein

During the course of our endless presidential campaigns, lots of silly things are said by the candidates and the press. But few are more ridiculous than the idea that Barack Obama is just an empty suit.

We're talking here about a former president of the Harvard Law Review. Have you ever met the people who get into Harvard Law School? You might not choose them as friends or lovers or godparents to your children, but -- trust me on this -- there aren't many lightweights there. And Obama was chosen by all the other overachievers as top dog. Compared with the current leader of the free world, this guy is Albert Einstein.

Given his youth and relatively short time in government, it's fair to ask if Obama has the wisdom and experience to be president. But it's quite another to suggest that he has no vision, no program, no specifics.

Let's begin with the fact that he has written two books (all by himself, unlike a certain other candidate). The first offers a compelling personal narrative that, for some reason, is dismissed as puffery by a presumptive Republican nominee who first ran for office on the strength of his compelling personal narrative. The second book is a thoroughly readable, intelligent and well-reasoned discourse on politics and policy that offers a fresh perspective on a wide range of issues.

Obama has participated in 18 televised presidential debates in which he has managed to hold his own not only with Hillary the Wonkette, but also with the Senate's leading light on foreign affairs [Biden], a former United Nations ambassador [Richardson] and a former vice presidential candidate who was a skilled trial lawyer [Edwards]. I watched most of the debates, and while I didn't agree with everything he said, I don't recall thinking that Obama was in over his head.


Wednesday, February 27, 2008

"The Audacity of Hopelessness"

Frank Rich is simply the best political writer in America. In this scorching NY Times column, he makes the case that the Obama campaign just worked harder and smarter than the Clinton campaign, and any other explanation is bogus. Below is a link and an excerpt.


The Obama campaign is not a vaporous cult; it’s a lean and mean political machine that gets the job done. The Clinton camp has been the slacker in this race, more words than action, and its candidate’s message, for all its purported high-mindedness, was and is self-immolating.

The gap in hard work between the two campaigns was clear well before Feb. 5. Mrs. Clinton threw as much as $25 million at the Iowa caucuses without ever matching Mr. Obama’s organizational strength. In South Carolina, where last fall she was up 20 percentage points in the polls, she relied on top-down endorsements and the patina of inevitability, while the Obama campaign built a landslide-winning organization from scratch at the grass roots. In Kansas, three paid Obama organizers had the field to themselves for three months; ultimately Obama staff members outnumbered Clinton staff members there 18 to 3.


Stick a fork in her

I asked my politically-savvy friend Mary, who has continued to support Hillary Clinton even after her equally politically-savvy husband succumbed to Obama-mania, if she thought it was over for HC. This is what she said:

Yes, she's done! And the longer she stays in, the more damage she does to our party. How I wanted her to be a transfigurative candidate! And oh, how I wanted a woman president! I'll have to wait. Mark & I agree that if she manages to talk the superdelegates into making her the nominee despite losing the elected delegate races, we'll be taking our names off the Dem Party rolls and stopping our monthly contribution.


Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The press isn't up to the job!

Sadly, I pretty much agree with this analysis on Hullabaloo:


How Do We Defeat Tim Russert?
by digby

The country wants change. They want Washington to stop all the partisan bickering and they want a different tone. They want their government to be serious and deal with real problems.

Can someone please explain to me how that can possibly happen until something is done about the reprehensible political press? From tax returns to Farrakhan to footage shown by "mistake" to the endless, trivial, gotcha bullshit, this debate spectacle tonight was a classic demonstration of what people really hate about politics.

It isn't actually the candidates who can at least on occasion be substantive and serious. The problem is Tim Russert and all his petty, shallow acolytes who spend all their time reading Drudge and breathlessly reporting every tabloid tidbit and sexy rumor and seeking out minor inconsistencies from years past in lieu of doing any real work.

Judging by their silly questions tonight, Russert and Williams obviously know nothing about health care policy, Iraq, Islamic terrorism, economics, global trade or any other subject that requires more than five minutes study to come up with some gotcha question or a stupid Jack Bauer fantasy. It's embarrassing.

These people guide the way citizens perceive politics even if the citizens don't know it. It's hard for me to see how anything can truly change until this is dealt with.

digby 2/26/2008 07:49:00 PM


I lost my cell phone =(

I seem to have lost my cell phone on my way to work. I thought (hoped!) that I dropped it in my car, but it wasn't there when I got back to it this afternoon. I think (hope!) that it fell out of my pocket on the shuttle bus, but so far, no one has turned it in. I guess I'll have to go to Verizon and get a new one.

ADDENDUM 2/28/08

I got my cell phone back!!! 48 hours after I lost it on the shuttle bus, someone called me to say they found it (I'm shocked that the battery hadn't died!) Wonderful but WEIRD - I called the number many times, hoping someone would hear it and pick it up (assuming it was on the floor of the bus) and no one ever did - I guess people just tune out cell phone ringing. In any event, someone saw it, I guess, and called Larry this morning (hurrah for I.C.E.). She left the phone at the security desk and it's back in my possession now. What a relief! And good timing too - Larry was planning to go to the Verizon store this afternoon to get me a new one (since, fortunately, I didn't take the time yesterday).

Monday, February 25, 2008

Glenn Beck never fails to delight

NPR is doing a new series - Conservative Voices. This morning I heard Glenn Beck. He said almost nothing - "values," "consistency," blah blah blah.


But then he was asked if there were any rising stars in the conservative movement. He said "he blew his senate campaign" and I thought for sure that he was going to say George Allen from Virginia, but it was better than that - Rick Santorum from my former home, Pennsylvania. Unbelieveable. Ricky is a real knuckle dragger, as they say, a real throw back - a member of the Ann Coulter camp, who thinks liberals are responsible for everything that's wrong with America. For example, apparently women going into the work force has ruined the American family. Seriously. His wife home schools their (many) children, even though he's a government official. How can you represent the government if you don't even think it can educate children? I can't believe that Glenn Beck thinks Santorum is the person who will take us into the future. It boggles the mind.


Sunday, February 24, 2008

Oscar highlights

I loved when Jon Stewart watched Lawrence of Arabia on his cell phone! Hilarious. Many great jokes as well.

Loved all the acting speeches. All four acting awards went to non-Americans. Hmmm. (It seems to me that non-Americans have won all four in the recent past, but I couldn't find an example at the oscar.com website.)

Loved that Czech musician Marketa Irglova got to come out after the break and give her acceptance speech which had been unfairly cut off by the orchestra (she's 19 years old - so poised!)

Loved Anne Hathaway and Steve Carrell presenting the Animated Feature award, and of course Seinfeld as the bee. Loved when the soldiers in Baghdad gave the award for Documentary Short.

Loved Kelly Preston's dress and Amy Adams' and Jessica Alba's and Helen Mirren's and Renee Zellweger's and Hilary Swank's and Katherine Heigl's. Not so crazy for Marion Cotillard's or Kerri Russell's or Cameron Diaz's or Jennifer Hudson's or Jennifer Garner's or Penelope Cruz's or Ellen Page's or Nicole Kidman's. And I totally don't get the ponytail as the in hairstyle - all those stylists and that's what they come up with - women who look like they just left the gym. Make an effort, for goodness sake.

I thought Javier Bardem looked amazing (and a bit like Robert Downey Jr) and of course George Clooney and of course Patrick Dempsey, and Daniel Day-Lewis and Colin Farrell (I'm a complete sucker for long hair).


Thursday, February 21, 2008

More Hollywood fun

We went to a famous local eatery called Norm's this morning for breakfast and the director Sam Raimi (Spiderman and many other action films) was there with a huge entourage, planning a scene for an upcoming movie. We spoke briefly with one of his minions, but he wouldn't tell us the name of the movie. The scene involved a character (or actress) named Stephanie and a mysterious letter. I checked Raimi on imdb.com, but he's not listed as the director of any "in production" projects (only as the producer for two, and neither list a character named Stephanie). I'll keep checking back and see if I can figure out what the movie is. I love L.A.!! (I wanted to take a photo, but I chickened out, so Larry took it for me.)

P.S. We went to Trader Joe's on our way back and they have a sign by the time clock that says, "Sunday is the West Hollywood Superbowl, also known as the Oscars, so we'll be BUSY!"


Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Star Struck

I just got back from seeing the Oscar-nominated Animated Shorts at the (Pico Blvd) Landmark Theater in L.A. It was fun, but what was really cool was that there was a directors seminar going on in the theater. I saw one of the attendees in the bathroom afterward and asked her what movie they had seen. Turns out, it was a panel of directors - Jason Reitman (Juno), Julian Schabel (Diving Bell) and Tamara Jenkins (The Savages). I hung around in the lobby for a bit, hoping to catch a glimpse, but they probably went out a back door. What fun though, to have them all right there in the next room.

Side note: I tried to do a double feature, but they have too much staff hanging about and the two movies I wanted to see that were playing there (In Bruges and The Band's Visit; Persepolis was pre-empted by the seminar) were downstairs while the Shorts had been upstairs. Oh well.


Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Another political Tuesday

Really blown away by Obama's win in Wisconsin - a much larger margin than could have been reasonably expected.

Caleb has gotten so invested in Hillary, though I'm not totally sure why - months ago we talked about her as the first woman presidential candidate, but I never expected him to get so fixated. It's adorable but a little alarming, since he has no real to care. He's quite upset tonight because she lost and all the news programs are acting like it's over. I tried to assure him that the primaries are continuing, but it's almost like he wants to be upset. Weird.


Monday, February 18, 2008

Still struggling with Obama v Clinton

My friend Mary asked me if I switched from Hillary to Barack. I guess I sort of did. I voted for BO on Super Tuesday, partly b/c HC was going to win NY anyway. But I go back and forth, panicking about which is more likely to lose to McCain - BO is inexperienced and HC is despised by the Repugs.

On the one hand, I think Obama's energy and cross-party appeal are the perfect counter to McCain, who is old and boring. But on the other hand, Obama may end up seeming not-ready-to-lead, ESPECIALLY if there's any kind of terrorist incident between now and Nov.

Hillary is terrific, I have so much respect for her, but it feels like more of the same and as Super Tues approached I just kept thinking that it's time for something new - really new, not just the same advisors, the same perspective and the same priorities that HC will have if she goes to the White House. Maybe that's too Pollyanna or something, but that's what I found myself thinking. I've always liked the idealistic candidate and this is the first time I can remember one being taken so seriously and getting a real steam up - they usually crash and burn long before this.

I just can't help worrying about the actual election, regardless of the Democratic candidate. God help us if McCain wins. It literally puts me in a cold sweat.


Larry's cousin, Alan, who we're visiting in LA, says he's already completely sick of how condescending BO supporters are - acting like you're an idiot if you're not totally on board. He said the Dems are afraid of leadership. Interesting turn of phrase, though I certainly wouldn't characterize my ambivalence about HC that way.


Friday, February 15, 2008

"Yes We Can" video parody

Totally hilarious parody of Black Eyed Peas' will.i.am's video tribute to Obama, but this one is skewering McCain:


This one is even funnier (by barelypolitical.com):



Thursday, February 14, 2008


Bill Maher makes a very good point on his program, Real Time, this week - there's no such thing! "Fascism" is generally considered the control of a government by corporations! Al Qaeda and other radical Islamist groups don't represent any government, let alone one controlled by corporations.

On the other hand, the term has been used for many decades, and refers more to totalitarian tendencies in general, as well as other characteristics. Here is a good overview of the term's use:



Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Dems co-opting and betraying the peace movement

Another great column by Matt Taibbi:

The Chicken Doves

Elected to end the war,
Democrats have surrendered to Bush on Iraq
and betrayed the peace movement for their own political ends



Tuesday, February 12, 2008

David Shuster is naughty

I've found David Shuster, who appears regularly on Morning Joe and Hardball on MSNBC, to be an intelligent commentator (even if he started on Fox), but lately he seems to be a little ill-tempered and harsh. Turns out, his tendency to speak his mind got him in big trouble this week:


Guest-hosting "Tucker" last night (2/7/08), MNSBC's David Shuster commented on Chelsea Clinton's Super Tuesday phone calls to the ladies of "The View." In discussing whether this was appropriate, Shuster made an interesting word choice: "Doesn't it seem like Chelsea's sort of being pimped out in some weird sort of way?"

Needless to say, Hillary Clinton was outraged and, among other things, threatened to pull out of the MSNBC-hosted debate in Ohio on Feb 26. Shuster was promptly suspended from MSNBC and forced to apologize (which he had so far been unwilling to do).

It was an obnoxious comment, but Cenk Uygur, who hosts a show called The Young Turks, makes a very valid point about why this is unfair:


I think he wanted to serve notice that she [Chelsea] is in the political sphere now, and he did it in a clumsy and nonsensical way. But I would give him a pass on it. Why?

Because he was acting in the role of a talk show host when he made the comment. Talk show hosts are not news people, they give their opinions and are often wrong and misguided. I should know, I am one. We talk for hours on end and often say stupid things. If you suspend or fire every talk show host who says something inappropriate, you would have three hosts left in the country. And they would be the three most insipid people you've ever met.


Obama gets 2 and 3 times the votes of Clinton!


With a clean sweep in the so-called "Potomac Primaries" on Tuesday night, Senator Barack Obama brought his winning streak to eight in a row against Democratic presidential rival Senator Hillary Clinton. But more important, the elections gave Obama the lead in delegates in his neck-and-neck race with Clinton.

What is notable about Obama's wide-margin wins in the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia is that exit polls show he drew support not only from the groups that have already been backing him — black voters, young people, independents and those with high incomes — but also among groups that have been Clinton's core constituency, including older voters, women and lower-income people, according to The New York Times.

In Washington, Obama took 75% of the vote to Clinton's 24%.
In Maryland, Obama had 60% to Clinton's 27%.
In Virginia, Obama had 64% to Clinton's 35%.

Are they the "Potomac" primaries or the "Chesapeake" primaries? Seems like alliteration won out, though "Chesapeake" is certainly more geographically accurate:



Monday, February 11, 2008

"Clinton rules"

Krugman makes several very good points in today's NY Times column:


The bitterness of the fight for the Democratic nomination is, on the face of it, bizarre. Both candidates still standing are smart and appealing. Both have progressive agendas. Both have broad support among the party’s grass roots and are favorably viewed by Democratic voters. Supporters of each candidate should have no trouble rallying behind the other if he or she gets the nod. Why, then, is there so much venom out there?
[. . .] the application of “Clinton rules” — the term a number of observers use for the way pundits and some news organizations treat any action or statement by the Clintons, no matter how innocuous, as proof of evil intent.

The prime example of Clinton rules in the 1990s was the way the press covered Whitewater. A small, failed land deal became the basis of a multiyear, multimillion-dollar investigation, which never found any evidence of wrongdoing on the Clintons’ part, yet the “scandal” became a symbol of the Clinton administration’s alleged corruption.
[. . .] it’s a pattern that goes well beyond the Clintons. For example, Al Gore was subjected to Clinton rules during the 2000 campaign: anything he said, and some things he didn’t say (no, he never claimed to have invented the Internet), was held up as proof of his alleged character flaws.
[. . .]
Racism, misogyny and character assassination are all ways of distracting voters from the issues, and people who care about the issues have a shared interest in making the politics of hatred unacceptable.


McCain is right behind both Dems?

I was rather shocked to hear these poll numbers reported this morning - I can't imagine how McCain can be so close to either Obama or Clinton, with so many people still supporting Huckabee and a few vocal conservatives disavowing him completely. And only 9% are undecided? The whole thing is very odd. Who are the respondents to this survey and how are the questions worded?


Obama led McCain in the poll by 48 percent to 42 percent when people were asked which one they would prefer if the presidential race were held now. Clinton got 46 percent to McCain's 45 percent in their matchup.

The poll shows Clinton leading Obama in the race for the Democratic nomination, 46 percent to 41 percent. McCain is well ahead of former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who has remained in the Republican contest, by 44 percent to 30 percent. Texas lawmaker Ron Paul has 9 percent.

The survey was conducted from Feb. 7-10 and involved telephone interviews with 1,029 adults. It had an overall margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points. Included were 520 Democrats, for whom the margin of sampling error was plus or minus 4.3 points, and 357 Republicans, with a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 5.2 points.

Also see this overview of all recent polls:



Sunday, February 10, 2008

Voting for "the poison"

This is an email I got from Larry's Uncle Mel. Quite bitter and I don't necessary think it reflects the common Democratic mindset right now - most people I know are pretty pleased with the choices this year.

I am amazed that this election is left to No. 895 in his class with a bad temper [McCain]; someone with two years in the Senate who avoided voting and taking positions on much of anything and spent all of his two years running for President and is running as the messiah [Obama]; and the poisonous duo [Clintons]. ( I am voting for the poison.)


Saturday, February 09, 2008

Matt Taibbi acts like a jerk

I saw my hero, Matt Taibbi, on Bill Maher's HBO show tonight. His writing is scorching and so intelligent, but in person he comes across as a cynical ass. He even commented on Hillary Clinton's necklace (apparently it looked like a snake). He seemed immature and bratty instead of informed and insightful. Really disappointing, but I'll still read what he writes, as that's clearly his better medium.


Friday, February 08, 2008

"Pink the Rink"

Some good news - the (upstate NY) Fredonia State (college) hockey team is wearing pink jerseys at the game tonight, to help raise awareness of breast cancer.

The Fredonia State Blue Devils will be wearing special pink uniforms (along with pink socks) for the Pink the Rink ’08 to be held this Friday, February 8 at the Steele Hall Ice Arena. All for the fight against breast cancer.

“They love it,” Fredonia assistant coach Greg Heffernan, the organizer of the event, said of the players’ reaction to pink uniforms. “You can’t go through 20 guys where you can’t have one or two of them, or even five of them, who have been personally affected. It affects our wives, mothers, sisters, aunts.”
[. . .]
“I’ve seen it in a couple of women’s games and basketball games, and I thought it would be nice to include it on the men’s side,” Heffernan said. “Plus, the men’s side can generate more publicity with a bigger event.”

This year, they are taking it a step further. They ordered special pink commemorative game jerseys that the players will wear against Cortland. The jerseys will be auctioned off after the game.
There is a minimum $60 reserve bid on each jersey, and the auction winners will be presented with the game-worn jersey on the ice after the game. All proceeds benefit the American Cancer Society.


"Obama Girl" didn't bother to vote


I heard this on NPR this morning and then saw it on cable news. Not really important, but does seem to represent a common problem that I have heard discussed repeatedly, which is that young people get involved in political campaigns, but don't actually vote in large numbers. Of course this young lady just wanted the publicity - she might not have even known who Obama was when she appeared in the video. Apparently she wasn't feeling well enough to go to New Jersey (where she's registered to vote) on Super Tuesday, but she somehow found the energy to attend a vodka company-sponsored party that evening.

If I hadn't read that story, I wouldn't have read this story - on the company's current media campaign: "Put a Fem-Bot in the Whitehouse." This is not a reference to Hillary Clinton, but to their female robot advertising symbol.

The campaign launch will put forth the party's platform which includes such gems as "make cocktails, not war," "help end global warming, add ice, "support socialized plastic surgery, "swing votes have more fun" and "life, liberty and the pursuit of happy hour."

I just love it when major corporations use serious issues (and a slutty, essentially naked woman) to sell unneccesary products to the complacent American public. It makes me so proud to be an American!


Good news all around (that's sarcasm!)

If you want to get thoroughly depressed, listen to this roundtable discussion from today's Diane Rehm Show on NPR. Three experts discuss, among other cheerful topics, this year's record-breaking opium crop in Afghanistan (nice to know our intervention over there has been so helpful to the locals, not to mention the average American heroine user). The group also discussed Kenya, Scotland Yard's report on Benazir Bhutto's death, and the current status of Al Qaeda.



Brokered Democratic convention unlikely

Many Democratic voters are clearly relishing the Obama-Clinton contest, and of course the media is over the moon to be able to discuss and dissect to their heart's content, but the Democratic Party is not planning to watch the bloodsport through the summer, as DNC Chair Howard Dean made clear in a recent statement:


Dean told a New York TV station, "The idea that we can afford to have a big fight at the convention and then win the race in the next eight weeks, I think, is not a good scenario… I think we will have a nominee sometime in the middle of March or April. But if we don't, then we're going to have to get the candidates together and make some kind of an arrangement."


Thursday, February 07, 2008

Racism in Spain

I came across this quite by accident. Apparently Spain is notorious in Europe for its racism. I can't even imagine this happening in the US. - it's nice to know we've achieved some level of decency.


February 4, 2008
Times Online
Formula One driver faces racist taunts

Lewis Hamilton says he expected a backlash from Spanish Formula One fans following his falling-out with former team-mate Fernando Alonso, but he has been shocked by the level of abuse he received on Saturday.

The McLaren driver, 23, was subjected to racist comments and was faced with a group of spectators wearing wigs, dark make-up and t-shirts with the slogan "Hamilton's Family" on the front during pre-season testing near Barcelona.

ADDENDUM - Racism in Switzerland

My friend Janet told me about this poster created by a major Swiss political party to promote immigration legislation.

Proposed Swiss immigration laws show 'rise of new racism and xenophobia'
September 7, 2007

Proposals for draconian new laws targeting Switzerland's immigrants raised concern over the rise of racism in the heart of one of the world's oldest independent democracies.

The Swiss People's Party (the Schweizerische Volkspartei or SVP), which has the largest number of seats in the Swiss parliament and is a member of the country's coalition government, is planning the new measures "For More Security". The UN has demanded an explanation from the government.

The party has launched a campaign to raise the 100,000 signatures necessary to force a referendum to reintroduce into the penal code a measure to allow judges to deport foreigners who commit serious crimes once they have served their jail sentence.

But far more dramatically, it has announced its intention to lay before parliament a law allowing the entire family of a criminal under the age of 18 to be deported as soon as sentence is passed. It will be the first such law in Europe since the Nazi practice of Sippenhaft – kin liability – whereby relatives of criminals were held responsible for their crimes and punished equally.

The proposal will be a test case not just for Switzerland but for the whole of Europe, where a division between liberal multiculturalism and a conservative isolationism is opening up in political discourse in many countries, the UK included.

A poster campaign depicting three white sheep standing on the Swiss flag, with one craftily kicking away a black sheep, has been launched – and plastered on to billboards, into newspapers and posted to every home in a direct mailshot.


Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Exciting contest brings out voters

I think our local county is typical of what's happened all over the country: in the last THREE presidential elections, about 15K Democratic voters came out in Onondaga County, but this year, it was more than double that figure - over 36K Dems voted (including my husband, who I dragged to our polling place - the local Mormon Church! - after dinner).


Weak dollar helps US

Heard this fascinating report on NPR this morning. The weak dollar encourages foreign companies to set up factories here, creating jobs!


The dollar's fall against the euro and other foreign currencies has hurt American tourists overseas and boosted the cost of imported goods. But the weaker greenback may not be all bad for U.S. businesses and the economy.

"The weak dollar has had a significant impact on companies' raw material costs," Kate O'Sullivan, a senior writer at CFO Magazine, tells Renee Montagne. Companies buying those raw materials overseas are able to buy less with their dollars.

And companies that manufacture on foreign soil but sell their products in the United States have also been hurt by the sliding dollar.

But U.S. exporters are benefiting from the lower dollar. Compact Power, a South Carolina company that makes tractors and landscaping equipment, has doubled its foreign sales in the past year "because their products look cheap compared to local competitors," O'Sullivan says.

The weak dollar is also encouraging foreign manufacturers to set up factories in the U.S. European auto manufacturers are looking to increase their presence in the U.S., but foreign exchange isn't the only reason.

"It's part of a strategy to be closer to their [customers] as well," O'Sullivan says. "But with the weak dollar, it looks a lot more attractive to set up manufacturing here than it did, say, five years ago."

The dollar may also be having an impact on outsourcing. Because of India's strengthening currency and rising wages, some Indian companies are looking to hire workers for customer-service call centers in the U.S. because it's more cost-effective, O'Sullivan says.

Will all this end up helping the U.S. economy overcome its weakness?

"We're seeing corporate earnings boosted by this phenomenon, we're seeing exports boosted, possibly an employment boost if many [foreign] manufacturers do decide to expand here," O'Sullivan says. "So, in fact, the weaker dollar will help balance a little bit of the economic weakness that we're seeing. But I'm not sure it'll be enough. We'll have to wait and see."


Heath Ledger's death ruled accidental overdose

So freakin' sad. Looks like he was just trying to find some peace.

Heath Ledger’s Death Is Ruled an Accident
Sewell Chan

The New York City chief medical examiner’s office has ruled that the actor Heath Ledger, whose body was found in a SoHo apartment on Jan. 22, died of an accidental overdose of prescription medications that included painkillers, sleeping pills and anti-anxiety drugs.

“Mr. Heath Ledger died as the result of acute intoxication by the combined effects of oxycodone, hydrocodone, diazepam, temazepam, alprazolam, and doxylamine,” Ellen Borakove, a spokeswoman for the chief medical examiner, Dr. Charles S. Hirsch, said in a brief statement on Wednesday morning. “We have concluded that the manner of death is accident, resulting from the abuse of prescription medications.”

The six drugs found in Mr. Ledger’s system included two painkillers: Oxycodone, the active ingredient in the prescription drug OxyContin, and hydrocodone, which is often combined with acetaminophen, as in the prescription drug Vicodin.
Also in Mr. Ledger’s system were three anti-anxiety medications, known as benzodiazepines, that are used to treat anxiety disorders and panic attacks by decreasing abnormal excitement in the brain: diazepam, sold under the commercial name Valium, which is used relieve anxiety, muscle spasms and seizures and to control agitation caused by alcohol withdrawal; alprazolam, commonly known under the brand name Xanax;and Temazepam, brand name Restoril, which is more commonly prescribed as a sleep aid than as an anti-anxiety medication.

One non-prescription drug was found in Mr. Ledger’s system: doxylamine, which is found in common nighttime sleep aids.
[. . .]
Dr. Vatsal G. Thakkar, a psychiatrist at N.Y.U. Medical Center and a clinical assistant professor at the N.Y.U. School of Medicine, said in a statement, “Six different sedative drugs in Heath Ledger’s system show something was amiss. Whether that was in taking combinations of drugs without proper medical guidance or sloppy prescribing, it was an unfortunate situation and with a tragic outcome.”
In a phone interview, Dr. Thakkar added, “Drug combinations are done and can be done safely, to an extent. In this situation, we have two painkillers, three anti-anxiety medications, at least one sleep aid. To have this many medications overlapping — different mechanisms, different compounds – I do not see an appropriate clinical situation where this should be acceptable.” It is not known how Mr. Ledger obtained the medications.

Dr. Andrew J. Kolodny, the vice chairman of psychiatry at Maimonides Medical Center and an authority on deaths by accidental overdose, said that combining anti-anxiety medications with painkillers can be particularly lethal. Both types of medications can lead to addiction, he said, making it more challenging for someone using the two types of drugs to avoid combining them.


Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Election humor

I don't generally find this columnist from our local paper (The Post Standard) all that funny, but I was laughing out loud on the bus this morning, and found myself thinking about his comments all day.


Kramer's guide to who is really on the ballots

Well, here we are. It's Super Tuesday, that blockbuster semi-national primary when nearly half the states pick the presidential nominees while the other states stay home doing laundry and reading online personals.

Here in New York, we've made the "A" list. Only California - with 36 million people and twice that many delegates - figures more prominently in today's VOTE TO DETERMINE OUR NATION'S FUTURE.

Let's review who's running for president:

Ö Hillary Clinton, warm-spontaneous version.
Ö Hillary Clinton, cold-calculating version.
Ö Bill Clinton, inappropriate, possibly intoxicated version.
Ö Bill Clinton, temporarily muzzled, quietly supportive, Philandering Lite version.
Ö Barack Obama (Oprah).

As of this writing the Dems are in a dead heat, depending on which poll you believe, which should be none of them.

Ö John McCain, U.S. senator, old.
Ö Mitt Romney, ex-Mass. governor, shiny.
Ö Aldous Huxley, formerly obese.
Ö Ron Paul. (Exists only online at www.nochanceinhelltowinbutdonatetomywebsiteanyway.com)

McCain again, according to the polls is widely considered the GOP frontrunner in New York state, as well as nationally, although many pundits argue that if Romney were to take a position and stick to it any position, even, for example, stating unequivocally that turnips are root vegetables he would greatly improve his chances.

Romney does have the best teeth in the field. They are extremely white and even.

Super Tuesday is especially urgent for Republicans because most of their primaries are winner-take-all. That's potentially bad news for Mitt Romney because finishing second in individual states won't help him. On the other hand, if he does reasonably well today he'll win the opportunity to blow even more of his absurdly vast personal fortune before he eventually loses the nomination to McCain anyway.

That can't be playing well with Mitt's five devastatingly handsome son clones. In fact, if I were Mitt, I'd be keeping a close eye on the boys to make sure they don't hop off the "Mitt Mobile" and onto McCain's Straight Talk Express. Could you blame them? If my old man were tossing my inheritance down the toilet at this rate, I wouldn't be driving around in a "Kramer Mobile" telling everyone how great he is. I'd be seeking a restraining order.

Democrats, on the other hand, apportion delegates based on the percentage of the vote each delegate receives. For that reason, it's possible that neither Hillary, Bill nor Obama will emerge as a clear winner based on tonight's results. In one worst-case scenario, the three of them would have to pretend to like each other for months until party leaders unleashed them on the floor of the convention to brawl like wild curs.


Monday, February 04, 2008

"They are so fucked."

Sorry for the obscenity, but I was wowed by this statement by the director of the National Immigration Forum in Tim Dickinson's excellent essay, "Blame Pedro" in Rolling Stone (which repeatedly cites, of all people, tax-obsessed Grover Norquist). He makes a strong case that the immigrant-bashing by the Republicans could greatly benefit the Democrats (assuming they don't snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, as they so often have).

"The die is cast," says Frank Sharry, executive director of the National Immigration Forum, one of the nation's top immigrant-advocacy groups. "The Republican Party is doing to the nation what it did to California — turning it from purple to blue — because they've offended the fastest-growing group of new voters. It's only a matter of how far-reaching and how long it lasts. They are so fucked."


THE REPUBLICAN CANDIDATES treat immigration as if it were 2008's answer to gay marriage: a wedge issue to knock independents and conservative Democrats into the Republican column. But while sixty-three percent of Americans opposed gay marriage in 2004, sixty percent favor comprehensive immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship. And while immigrant-bashing drives Hispanics away from the GOP, it doesn't boost turnout among white voters.

Here are other choice quotes:

"This issue is destroying the Republican Party of the West and Southwest — annihilating it wholesale," says Richard Nadler, president of the archconservative think tank Americas Majority. A study of precinct-level data released by Nadler's group projects that a full-scale backlash among Hispanic voters would drive formerly red Nevada, New Mexico, Colorado, Florida and Iowa into the blue column in November — and with them, the presidency.

Norquist points to an even more dire precedent: In 1884, the GOP attacked Democrats as the party of Romanism. "It cost them the Roman Catholic vote for 110 years," he says. "So it is entirely possible for a political party to be that stupid. It is my hope that it is not possible for a party to be that stupid twice."

To staunch the bleeding, Bush loyalists installed Sen. Mel Martinez of Florida — himself a Cuban immigrant — as the head of the Republican National Committee. But he resigned less than a year later, apparently unable to stomach the nativist ads being crafted by the party's campaign committees. "It was sort of like having a black man running the Ku Klux Klan," says García. "He had to leave."


Super Tuesday

Several people have asked me who I'm voting for in the presidential primary, so here it is: I'm going with Obama. It's a really hard choice for me - I like both of them, I think they would both be terrific leaders. I really want to support HRC just because having a woman leader in America would be so amazing. But I feel like we had 8 years of the Clintons and their advisors and their perspective and I must admit, I would really like to give someone else a chance (even if their "policies" are virtually identical). Obama represents such a breath of fresh air. I know he's "inexperienced," but so was Nelson Mandela. Sometimes a strong character and good advisors can be enough (IMO, Bush would have been a much better president, regardless of his experience or lack of it, if he'd had some better advisors!)

In addition, if McCain is the Republican nominee, Obama will be a great opponent - the contrast of his youth and energy will be very stark against McCain, and I think that Obama neutralizes a lot of McCain's appeal to independents - do they want to support an old, worn out maverick or a new, dynamic one?

Another reason to vote for Obama is that the Democrats ALWAYS pick some wonky know-it-all, and it hasn't been a winning strategy. Kerry and Gore and even Dukakis would have made great presidents, but they made lousy candidates. I REALLY don't want to watch yet another class valedictorian go down in flames.


Watched this terrific video created by the Black-Eyed Peas' will.i.am and a bunch of famous actors and musicians. At this site you can watch the video and there's a list of people who appear in it - see how many you can recognize.


It was a creed written into the founding documents that declared the destiny of a nation.
Yes we can.
It was whispered by slaves and abolitionists as they blazed a trail toward freedom.
Yes we can.
It was sung by immigrants as they struck out from distant shores

and pioneers who pushed westward against an unforgiving wilderness.
Yes we can.
It was the call of workers who organized;

women who reached for the ballots;
a President who chose the moon as our new frontier;
and a King who took us to the mountaintop and pointed the way to the Promised Land.
Yes we can to justice and equality.
Yes we can to opportunity and prosperity.
Yes we can heal this nation.
Yes we can repair this world.
Yes we can.
We know the battle ahead will be long,

but always remember that no matter what obstacles stand in our way,
nothing can stand in the way of the power of millions of voices calling for change.
We have been told we cannot do this by a chorus of cynics...
they will only grow louder and more dissonant ...
We've been asked to pause for a reality check.
We've been warned against offering the people of this nation false hope.
But in the unlikely story that is America,

there has never been anything false about hope.
Now the hopes of the little girl who goes to a crumbling school in Dillon

are the same as the dreams of the boy who learns on the streets of LA;
we will remember that there is something happening in America;
that we are not as divided as our politics suggests;
that we are one people;
we are one nation;
and together, we will begin the next great chapter in the American story

with three words that will ring from coast to coast;
from sea to shining sea –
Yes. We. Can.


On the flip side, my dear friend Stessa sent me this wonderful essay by feminist author Robin Morgan, in which she makes some very good points. It's long, but worth reading. Below is just an excerpt:


February 2, 2008
Goodbye To All That (#2)
by Robin Morgan

"Goodbye To All That" was my (in)famous 1970 essay breaking free from a politics of accommodation especially affecting women (for an online version, see http://blog.fair-use.org/category/chicago/).

During my decades in civil-rights, anti-war, and contemporary women's movements, I've avoided writing another specific "Goodbye . . ." But not since the suffrage struggle have two communities—joint conscience-keepers of this country—been so set in competition, as the contest between Hillary Rodham Clinton (HRC) and Barack Obama (BO) unfurls. So.

Goodbye to the double standard . . .

—Hillary is too ballsy but too womanly, a Snow Maiden who's emotional, and so much a politician as to be unfit for politics.

—She's "ambitious" but he shows "fire in the belly." (Ever had labor pains?)

—When a sexist idiot screamed "Iron my shirt!" at HRC, it was considered amusing; if a racist idiot shouted "Shine my shoes!" at BO, it would've inspired hours of airtime and pages of newsprint analyzing our national dishonor.

Goodbye to the toxic viciousness . . .

Carl Bernstein's disgust at Hillary's "thick ankles." Nixon-trickster Roger Stone's new Hillary-hating 527 group, "Citizens United Not Timid." John McCain answering "How do we beat the bitch?" with "Excellent question!" Would he have dared reply similarly to "How do we beat the black bastard?" For shame.

Goodbye to the HRC nutcracker with metal spikes between splayed thighs. If it was a tap-dancing blackface doll, we would be righteously outraged—and they would not be selling it in airports. Shame.

Goodbye to the most intimately violent T-shirts in election history, including one with the murderous slogan "If Only Hillary had married O.J. Instead!" Shame.

Goodbye to the sick, malicious idea that this is funny. This is not "Clinton hating," not "Hillary hating." This is sociopathic woman-hating. If it were about Jews, we would recognize it instantly as anti-Semitic propaganda; if about race, as KKK poison. Hell, PETA would go ballistic if such vomitous spew were directed at animals. Where is our sense of outrage—as citizens, voters, Americans?

Goodbye to the news-coverage target-practice . . .

The women's movement and Media Matters wrung an apology from MSNBC's Chris Matthews for relentless misogynistic comments (www.womensmediacenter.com). But what about NBC's Tim Russert's continual sexist asides and his all-white-male panels pontificating on race and gender? Or CNN's Tony Harris chuckling at "the chromosome thing" while interviewing a woman from The White House Project? And that's not even mentioning Fox News.
[. . .]
Me? I support Hillary Rodham because she's the best qualified of all candidates running in both parties. I support her because she's refreshingly thoughtful, and I'm bloodied from eight years of a jolly "uniter" with ejaculatory politics. I needn't agree with her on every point. I agree with the 97 percent of her positions that are identical with Obama's—and the few where hers are both more practical and to the left of his (like health care). I support her because she's already smashed the first-lady stereotype and made history as a fine senator, because I believe she will continue to make history not only as the first U.S. woman president, but as a great U.S. president.

As for the "woman thing"?

Me, I'm voting for Hillary not because she's a woman—but because I am.


Sunday, February 03, 2008

GREAT Superbowl ad

What a fun ad - Bill Frist and James Carville shilling for Coke. They're whores, but I still liked it - it's so rare to see something during the Superbowl that appeals to me, amid all the drinking and cars and sexy women and scatological humor.



What the world eats

My friend Jill sent this to me (I've shown Chad, Ecuador, China, and the US). From the book Hungry Planet. There's parts 2 and 3 as well. You can see the images on the Time Magazine website also.


Saturday, February 02, 2008

"30 Ways of Looking at Hillary" edited by Susan Morrison

I heard about this book on NPR - 30 essays by famous female authors. Sounds like a Must Read.


"No other politician inspires such a wide range of passionate responses, and this is particularly true among women," Morrison writes. "Cold or competent, overachiever or pioneer, too radical or too moderate, Clinton continues to overturn the assumptions we make about her."

According to the book description, “This pointillistic portrait paints a composite picture of Hillary Clinton, focusing on details from the personal to the political, from the hard-hitting to the whimsical, to give a well-balanced and unbiased view of the woman who may be our first Madam President. Taken together, these essays—by such renowned writers as Daphne Merkin, Lorrie Moore, Deborah Tannen, Susan Cheever, Lionel Shriver, Kathryn Harrison, and Susan Orlean—illuminate the attitudes that women have toward the powerful women around them and constitute a biography that is must reading for anyone interested in understanding this complex and controversial politician.”


Friday, February 01, 2008

Two FEMALE suicide bombers today in Baghdad

Female suicide bombers set off blasts at two pet markets
At least 64 dead
BAGHDAD - A female suicide bomber blew herself up at the main pet market in central Baghdad, killing at least 46 people and wounding dozens, police said, the deadliest bombing to strike the capital since 30,000 more American forces flooded into central Iraq last spring.
About 20 minutes later, a second female suicide bomber struck another bird market in a predominantly Shiite area in southeastern Baghdad. That blast killed at least 18 people and wounded 25, police said.

Heath Ledger video pulled

I'm completely shocked, but in a good way, that ET and The Insider chose NOT to run a video they bought for $200K b/c of pressure to show some respect for the grieving family (despite the video being widely available online). I almost can't believe that there is ANY limit to what these hyenas will do, so my faith is somewhat restored.


US shows shelve Heath Ledger video

Plans to broadcast footage on US television of the late actor Heath Ledger allegedly at a drug-fuelled party in Hollywood have been pulled "out of respect for his family".

The footage is understood to have been shot two years ago following an awards ceremony in Los Angeles. Ledger is not shown taking drugs in the video.

In a statement Entertainment Tonight said: "Out of respect for Heath Ledger's family,
Entertainment Tonight and The Insider have decided not to run the Heath Ledger video which has been circulating in the world media."