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Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Hillary takes pandering to a whole new level

Speaking of sickening, I've reached my limit on Hillary Clinton, too. I was torn between her and Obama, even when she started going negative. But her blatant pandering on the gas tax is over the line, IMO. A leader needs to lead. Advocating a policy that she knows perfectly well is bad, stupid and short-sighted really disqualifies her for the top job. Suspending the gas tax is a terrible idea for many reasons, including that it saves the average family almost nothing and we'll just feel the pain that much more acutely when the tax is reinstated. Plus, even more offensive, is the fact that she jumped on this band wagon with John McCain. If she advocates the same policies that he does, what do we need her for? I don't blame McCain - he's demonstrated quite thoroughly that he's an idiot. But she actually knows better. Shame on her!

I have an idea, instead of telling voters what they want to hear, try explaining the truth. Try explaing why this, and releasing oil from the stategic reserve, are quick fixes that actually fix nothing. How about using the bully pulpit for a constructive purpose - to edify and educate. That's what a leader does.


Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Can we please move ON!

Why are we still talking about Reverend Wright? I can't believe that this guy's opinions, no matter how controversial, deserve this amount of attention. This is days and days of conversation about the same ego maniacal dude.

I kinda lost it tonight talking to Larry and watching Newt Gingrich on The Daily Show. That this middle-aged white guy (pretty ego maniacal himself) pretends to care about Reverend Wright is both laughable and annoying. And then Larry starts weighing in - "Did you hear what he said about Louis Farrakhan?" Yes, I heard. And I can't think of anyone less relevant to the current presidential election than Louis Farrakhan. In fact, the only thing I can think of that's less relevant is Jeremiah Wright's opinion of Louis Farrakhan.

This is completely out of hand. I'm convinced that this is almost completely racially-motivated. People like Newt and Joe Scarborough can finally bitch publicly about a black man with total impunity. They just can't help themselves, they have to indulge. It's sickening. This has nothing to do with my ability to get health insurance or find a good job or pay for gas.

The media is completely failing in their obligation to inform the public. Can we PLEASE get off this tripe and get back to a conversation about something that actually matters?

ADDENDUM 4/30/08

I wrote the above before I checked out Hullabaloo, but wouldn't you know it, one of her guest writers said almost the EXACT SAME thing that I was screeching about last night:

Assuming that Obama is the nominee, Republicans will make this a one issue campaign: the color of the next president's skin. Oh, they'll do it mostly with dog whistles, but they'll do it. More overtly, McCain's ad in NC (which, wink wink, he had nothing to do with and actually deplored) was just a trial balloon, a proof of concept. The issue is race, stupid, Wright or not.


Monday, April 28, 2008

Obama's strategy - register voters

I read this yesterday on my favorite blog, Hullabaloo, and found myself thinking about it so went back today to read it again. Very thought-provoking. And I haven't heard a whisper of this on the news shows. This is by a guest writer, not the blog's owner.


The candidate's work as a community organizer included a huge voter registration drive that helped elect Carol Moseley-Braun as the first female black US Senator in history.

I think Obama's gambit is to register so many voters and find so many new people to enter the process that he isn't bound to any particular political structure, from the right or the left or the middle. He really is trying to make his new mass of supporters his power base. It's an audacious strategy, one that doesn't have a lot of historical basis that you can really look to on the national level. But without question there's a tremendous upside to reaching new voters; you're essentially talking about over half the country, between those who don't vote and those who don't even register. And the technology is now in place to more easily find them, target them and talk to them.

There's certainly a danger here of relying on projected numbers instead of traditional power bases, though I don't think he'll be abandoning groups like unions and black churches, nor will any progressive movement structures abandon him. But I really think that the Obama campaign is reacting to this demonization campaign from the right by saying "OK, I'll find voters in so many nooks and crannies and make you work in so many states that you won't have a chance to make this narrative work." His response is not necessarily building a progressive electorate; that would be accomplished by plugging into the nascent progressive structures that already exist. Obama appears to want to build an electorate aligned with Obama's principles and values, and fostering greater participation in politics as a means to move the country forward and break the current polarization. Some Democrats would play on the same playing field and try to win it; Obama's building an entirely new field, one where these narratives and negative ads and the need to tailor the entire general election to 10 independent voters in the middle of Ohio won't matter anymore.

I can't say if it will totally work, but that looks to be the strategy. We've been tantalized with these kinds of efforts before; it's actually a very traditional belief that increased turnout is good for Democrats. There's no question, however, that this is a truly different kind of political campaign, and the benefits could be absolutely earth-shattering.

Then today, the blog owner wrote this provocative and encouraging piece about demographic shifts:

But as D-Day has been writing, there's something else going on too, and that is a rather dramatic shift to the Democratic party among the electorate. Pew has released a study today which shows some demographic shifts that bode very well for the Democratic party.It is particularly marked among the young:

In surveys conducted between October 2007 and March 2008, 58% of voters under age 30 identified or leaned toward the Democratic Party, compared with 33% who identified or leaned toward the GOP. The Democratic Party's current lead in party identification among young voters has more than doubled since the 2004 campaign, from 11 points to 25 points.

And the gender gap is widening to truly amazing proportions:

Fully 56% of women identify with or lean toward the Democratic Party, compared with 33% who identify or lean toward the GOP. Since 2004, the Democrats' lead in party affiliation among women has doubled (from 11 points to 22 points)...currently, the Democrats hold a slight 46%-43% edge among men voters; in 2004, somewhat more male voters were affiliated with or leaned toward the Republican Party than the Democratic Party (by 48% to 43%).


David Brooks, who I generally think is a total tool, has this to say in his latest NY Times column:

The divide has even overshadowed campaigning. Surely the most interesting feature of the Democratic race is how unimportant political events are. The candidates can spend tens of millions of dollars on advertising, but they are not able to sway their opponent’s voters to their side. They can win a stunning victory, but the momentum doesn’t carry over from state to state. They can make horrific gaffes, deliver brilliant speeches, turn in good or bad debate performances, but these things do not alter the race.

In Pennsylvania, Obama did everything conceivable to win over Clinton’s working-class voters. The effort was a failure. The great uniter failed to unite. In this election, persuasion isn’t important. Social identity is everything. Demography is king.


Sunday, April 27, 2008

The same old song

Great remarks at Hullabaloo. She's sure that the Dems will win, but it's still frustrating:


Back in February, I wrote this -- It was only a matter of time before the media began to trivialize Obama and his campaign as a bunch of latte sipping left-wing hippie elites. That's the 30 year conservative rap on liberals and it's been fully internalized by the MSM and a whole lot of Americans, including some Democrats. When you start to hear the pundits talking about "beer track/wine track" this isn't far behind...

This is a Village meme that has been used over the course of thirty years. (Fifty, if you want to go back to Stevenson.) It has been so internalized among the media elites that the Republicans don't even have to say it out loud anymore. It was inevitable that it would happen.
[ . . . ]
I'm not trying to tout my incredible prescience here, but simply pointing out that this was always going to happen. It's the way the modern political narrative is structured and it's the most fundamental thing we have working against us. They did it to Bill Clinton too -- he was a pot smoking hippie, draft dodger you'll recall. Al Gore was portrayed as a little rich girl who grew up in a fancy hotel [compared to the title character in the children's classic, Eloise by Kay Thompson].
[ . . . ]
I don't need to remind you about John Kerry and his "butler" and the "green tea" and the "wit-whiz" psuedoscandals of 2004. If Clinton were still the front runner, she'd be portrayed in the press as a cross between Dalmation draped Cruella DeVille and Evita Peron with her 100 million and Bubba trophy husband. (Actually, she is -- they aren't taking any chances.)

Meanwhile, you have a temperamental, fabulously wealthy, flip-flopping, seventy one year old warmonger on the other side who's being called "the coolest guy in school" by 20-something reporters.

Nobody should be surprised or unprepared for this by now. I think Obama's campaign people underestimated how this label could be applied to their guy and they allowed it to play out in Pennsylvania in ways that should have been anticipated. But then I have always wondered why Democrats are always off guard every time this hits them.

Friday, April 25, 2008

What am I, chopped liver?

I've followed Robert Downey Jr's career over it's ups and downs, and like many I was intrigued by his choice to play an action hero in Iron Man, based on a Marvel comic book character, which is due in theaters May 2, directed by Jon Faveau, and featuring a great cast - Jeff Bridges (as Iron Man's nemesis) and Terrance Howard (for crying out loud!) I got a kick out of his reasoning:

“I went after Iron Man because Keanu Reeves got The Matrix, and Johnny Depp got Pirates,” he says. “I’m looking at all these posters of the movies I’ve seen with my son, and I’m thinking, ‘Damn! I could do that!’”

But when he continued with this comment, I was pretty annoyed:

He was “tired of working my butt off doing films nobody sees.”

So what does that make me, nobody? I don't quite understand why one of the most celebrated actors of his generation doesn't feel validated until he makes a movie that 16 year old boys want to watch (no offense to 16 year old boys, of course, but let's just say that the acting chops of the star is not generally the main draw for them).
I would have been fine if he said, "I wanted to get paid." But to suggest that adults who pay good money to see sophisticated movies don't count at all is pretty darn insulting.
Here is the Parade article where these comments appear:


Thursday, April 24, 2008

Food prices and food crisis

I've been hearing reports of this issue for several days now. This morning on the news they said the price of rice has tripled and Americans are starting to horde it. The price of wheat has at least doubled. But at least we have access to food, even if prices are rising. Many people all over the world are facing a dire situation.


Food Crisis Needs Aid to Avert Famine
By Ben Russell

Pressure for international action to combat the “silent tsunami” of the global food crisis intensified amid warnings that spiraling prices means more than 100 million people could be plunged into hunger.
[ . . . ]
The British Government rowed back from its support for biofuels, announcing a review of the technology and warning that ministers would press for cuts in European biofuel targets if they are found to hit food prices.

Mr Brown said: “We need to look closely at the impact of biofuels on food prices and the environment.” The European Commission also pledged nearly £100m to help the worst-hit regions. Estimates suggest that 25,000 people are dying daily from hunger, a crisis exacerbated by food prices that have hit their highest level since 1945.
[ . . . ]
The Prime Minister said that food shortages represented a crisis on a par with the global turmoil in the financial markets, and threatened the stability of nations. There have been food riots on Haiti and unrest in a string of countries including Egypt, Mozambique, Senegal and Indonesia.

Leaders in South America have also warned about the impact of biofuel production on food supply.


Hippocrates in the Middle East

Fascinating report on NPR this morning regarding the negotiations between Israel and Hamas, brokered by Egypt. The reporter said that the U.S. is only peripherally involved and that we're reduced to the Hippocratic Oath: "Do no harm."


Wednesday, April 23, 2008

I'm thinking . . .

. . . Secretary of Health and Human Services in the Obama administration.


This has to end

From my favorite blog, Hullabaloo (from one of her guest writers, not the blog owner):


I'm with Matt Yglesias - this kind of has to end. There really isn't a whole lot more information that superdelegates are going to get. There's a saturation level that has been reached. We know the strengths and weaknesses of these candidates. We know what demographics they win against one another and what demos they lose. About half the Democrats in the country like Clinton and about half like Obama. She's from the Northeast and he's from the Midwest, and they get a tilt in their favor in each of those regions. He can't knock her out because she's really good at campaigning, and she was swamped by him early because he's really good at campaigning. The level of competition is far higher here than it will be in the fall against John McCain, actually. So the superdelegates can make their choice. They could make it today.

And I agree with Stoller, we're going to be fine. Democrats forced a runoff, and came within a hair's breadth of winning, in a seat in the middle of Mississippi (MS-01) tonight, an R+10 seat. The "Clinton/Obama voters will vote for McCain if their guy doesn't win" polling is about as relevant in the middle of a hotly contested primary as a national Paul-Richardson head-to-head (You might have noticed that Ron Paul got 16% of the vote in the GOP primary in PA tonight, and Huckabee 21% 11%. Does that mean core Republicans won't vote McCain? Uh, no). There were high numbers for disafffected McCain supporters voting for Gore over Bush in 2000. This is essentially a Parliamentary country among core party members, the kind who vote in primaries.

Obama lost the plot in the last several weeks, and Clinton capitalized with a faintly divisive, but strong campaign. Obama needs to get back on his feet in two favorable states. He has not lost a single state that shares a border with his home state of Illinois (Iowa, Wisconsin, Missouri). His speech tonight was pretty much a replay of his 2004 DNC keynote, and he's trying to return to the themes on which he won early. If he wins those two states it will be very significant. But the superdelegates need to come out from under the rocks where they're hiding and end this.


California girl

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Olympics get political

I've heard lots of stories about protests and counter protests and Chinese nationalism and China's coming out party and whether or not the olympics should be completely separated from politics (as if that were possible). I found this lengthy discussion on NPR with Vanity Fair's international correspondent to be especially illuminating:


Talk of the Nation, April 22, 2008

Writer William Langewiesche talks about his article "Beijing's Olympic Makeover," published in the April edition of Vanity Fair. He writes that Beijing "presents the most unabashedly totalitarian cityscape in the world today. . . "

Here's an excerpt from the Vanity Fair article:


. . . the Chinese see the Olympics as an exercise in national prestige. The authorities’ main focus is not on the sporting events but on the accumulation of gold medals. They are also obsessed with the opening ceremony—sure to be a display of jingoistic pomp, and to include the hideous marching formations and synchronized crowd movements so dear to Chinese leaders. Already the boasting is uncomfortable to witness, because it stems so obviously from insecurity and a fear of losing face. It will naturally provoke reactions opposite to those intended—though probably unspoken, and beneath the official praises. Not that the Olympics much matter one way or the other. They will be hyped on television and soon enough forgotten. But it’s as if the Chinese government does not realize that the world already has a fairly accurate view of China. Yes, China is booming. And, yes, China’s cities are big and modern. But also, yes, China has serious problems—pollution, rural poverty, water shortages, the suppression of civil liberties, corruption, and the abysmal condition of its universities and schools. The problems are understandable, and hardly a state secret. I suppose people tidy up their houses before parties, too. But the Chinese would appear in a better light if they were not quite so nervous in advance.


We miss all the fun

Why, oh why did we have to move away from Philadelphia after 14 years, just in time to miss the most exciting election, probably in my lifetime. In this photo, Obama woos his largest crowd yet - 35,000 people came to Independence Square to worship him. That's just a few blocks from where I worked for 6 years.


Liberals are the cause of ALL problems!

My friend Richard sent me yet another email bashing liberals, some of it from Lou Dobbs. Here's my reply:

Oh please. "Congress makes the laws and the president just has to work with it?" That's a gross oversimplification and hardly worth the time to counter. What is this juvenile need on the part of conservatives to blame every problem on liberals? Grow up! The truth is so much more complicated than that. Any useful conversation requires a bit of sophistication. This isn't a schoolyard brawl, this is our nation we're talking about. This is serious stuff and requires that adults address issues in an adult way!

Here's just ONE refutation of Lou Dobbs' statistics, I can't be bothered to go through this whole silly list:


Here's the particular statistic in the email that I checked (the email claims to provide verification for all the "facts" but of course the verifications are all highly suspect. . .)

7. 30% percent of all Federal Prison inmates are illegal aliens.
Verify at: http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/0604/01/ldt.01.html

Here's the refutation:

Here are the facts, according to the Department of Justice:

¶In 2000, 27 percent of the inmates in federal prisons were noncitizens. Some of these noncitizens were illegal immigrants, and some were in this country legally. In 2001, this percentage dropped to 24 percent, and it continued dropping over the next four years, falling to 20 percent in 2005.

Bottom line: illegal immigrants make up significantly less than a third of the federal prison population, and the share has been falling in recent years.

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Defense Secretary disses the Air Force

I asked my friend Mary, who used to be in the Air Force, what she thought of Gates' remarks yesterday. This is her response:

I heard just a snippet about it on the radio yesterday, but thought it was just odd - why would you go public with an internal squabble like that? And it seems like there shouldn't even BE a squabble - the SecDef tells the forces what to do, and they do it (or so I thought!). It's very strange.

Here's what Gates said:


April 22, 2008

Gates says Air Force must step up effort in Iraq, Afghanistan
By Peter Spiegel

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said yesterday that U.S. military services are not doing enough to support soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, singling out the Air Force for adapting too slowly to the new enemies on those battlefields.

In unusually harsh public criticism, Gates said his attempts to get the Pentagon to help commanders more quickly on the ground have been "like pulling teeth," and he blamed military leaders who are "stuck in old ways of doing business."

He said he was particularly upset with the military's failure to get more unmanned spy planes into the air over the two war zones - primarily an Air Force responsibility. While the number of drones has doubled in recent months, Gates has set up a task force to push for even more.

"We can do and we should do more to meet the needs of men and women fighting in the current conflicts while their outcome may still be in doubt," Gates said. "Our services are still not moving aggressively in wartime to provide resources needed now on the battlefield."

The criticism comes in the midst of a tense period for Gates and the Air Force. The Defense secretary has fought a series of increasingly acrimonious internal battles against the Air Force leadership, who have pushed for dozens of new F-22 fighter planes and resisted more drone deployments. In doing so, the Air Force has failed to focus its energies on the wars at hand, Gates has charged.


Monday, April 21, 2008

Nora Ephron pulls no punches

Needless to say, this caused a stir (below is just an excerpt, follow the link for the full article):


White Men
by Nora Ephron
Huffington Post
April 20, 2008

Here's another thing I don't like about this primary: now that there are only two Democratic candidates, it's suddenly horribly absolutely crystal-clear that this is an election about gender and race. This may have always been true, but weeks ago it wasn't so obvious -- once upon a time there were eight candidates, and although six of them withered away, their presence in the campaign managed to obscure things. Even around the time of Ohio, when there were primarily three candidates, the outlines were murky, because Edwards was still in there, picking up votes from all sectors.

But now there are two and we're facing Pennsylvania and whom are we kidding? This is an election about whether the people of Pennsylvania hate blacks more than they hate women. And when I say people, I don't mean people, I mean white men. How ironic is this? After all this time, after all these stupid articles about how powerless white men are and how they can't even get into college because of overachieving women and affirmative action and mean lady teachers who expected them to sit still in the third grade even though they were all suffering from terminal attention deficit disorder -- after all this, they turn out (surprise!) to have all the power. (As they always did, by the way; I hope you didn't believe any of those articles.)
[ . . . ]
If Hillary pulls it out in Pennsylvania, and she could, and if she follows it up in Indiana, she can make a credible case that she deserves to be the candidate; these last primaries will show which of the two Democratic candidates is better at overcoming the bias of a vast chunk of the population that has never in its history had to vote for anyone but a candidate who could have been their father or their brother or their son, and who has never had to think of the president of the United States as anyone other than someone they might have been had circumstances been just slightly different.

Hillary's case is not an attractive one, because what she'll essentially be saying (and has been saying, although very carefully) is that she can attract more racist white male voters than Obama can. Nonetheless, and as I said, she has a case.


Cokie brown noses the Prez

I heard Cokie Roberts (who I used to love and now can barely stomach) on NPR this morning giving some pat political analysis. Among other things, she was asked about the "Catholic vote" and her answer was "I asked President Bush about this when I interviewed him . . . and he should know." What? I had to do an aural double take. Did she really just suck up to the most irrelevant politician in America? Why would she do that? Who cares what GWB thinks about the Catholic vote or anything else? ICK!!!



Sunday, April 20, 2008

Frank Rich on the Philadelphia debate

He makes a bunch of great points, as always, but the last few paragraphs are the best, where he focuses on McCain and the free ride he's getting from the press:


Privileged though they are, Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama do want to shape policy to help the less well-heeled. Mr. McCain, who had a far more elite upbringing than either of them and whose wife’s estimated fortune exceeds the Clintons’, is not just condescending to working Americans but trying to hoodwink them. Next week, in a replay of the 2000 Bush campaign’s “compassionate conservative” photo ops among black schoolchildren, he will show he’s a “different kind of Republican” by visiting what he calls the “forgotten” America of Alabama’s “black belt” and the old steel town of Youngstown, Ohio. What he wants voters to forget is the inequity of his new economic plan.

That plan’s incoherent smorgasbord of items includes a cut from 35 percent to 25 percent in the corporate tax rate. For noncorporate taxpayers, Mr. McCain offers such thin gruel as a battle against federal pork (the notorious Alaskan “bridge to nowhere,” earmarked for $223 million in federal highway money, costs less than a day of the war in Iraq) and a temporary suspension of the federal gas tax (a saving of some $2.75 per 15-gallon tank). Now there’s a reason for voters to be bitter — assuming bloviators start publicizing and parsing Mr. McCain’s words as relentlessly as they do the Democrats’.

That may be a big assumption. At an Associated Press luncheon for newspaper editors in Washington last week, Mr. McCain was given a standing ovation. (The other candidate who appeared, Mr. Obama, was not.) Cindy McCain, whose tax returns remain under wraps, has not received remotely the same scrutiny as Michelle Obama and Bill Clinton, except for her plagiarized recipes. The most damning proof of the press’s tilt toward Mr. McCain, though, is the lack of clamor for his complete health records, especially in the wake of his baffling serial factual confusions about Iraq, his No. 1 issue.

But that remains on hold while we resolve whether Mr. Obama lost Wednesday’s debate with his defensive stumbling, or whether Mrs. Clinton lost it with her ceaseless parroting of right-wing attacks. The unequivocally good news is that ABC’s debacle had the largest audience of any debate in this campaign. That’s a lot of viewers who are now mad as hell and won’t take it anymore.


Saturday, April 19, 2008

McCain's triangulation strategy

Mind boggling commentary from my favorite blog, Hullabaloo:


. . . despite the fact that many of the radio and TV bloviators are pretending that McCain has a problem with the base, he doesn't:
[ . . . ]
Bill Clinton famously said that Democrats fall in love and Republicans fall in line. There you have it. The Republican party is behind their nominee, just as they always are. The problem is whether they can get the independents and swing voters who have come to loathe Bush.

And that's where the media gasbags come in. They need to convince the independents that McCain isn't really a conservative. And the good news for the Republicans is that the free media believe it. They think he's the "coolest guy in school."
[ . . . ]
I have never bought this public loathing among the conservative cognoscenti for McCain. They're professional political operatives. They want to win. The whole show they put on at CPAC and on talk radio struck me as bizarre. Indeed, Coulter saying she would vote for Clinton should have been enough to tip us off that this was some kind of elaborate performance art piece.

It's not that they don't care about McCain's heresy on campaign finance reform and illegal immigration, or despise him for his sanctimony. But they don't care about that more than McCain's national security policy, which is their obsession, and raison d'etre. McCain is their best hope to win and continue the glorious GWOT.

He kissed all the right hems and he made all the right pilgrimages to the social conservatives and that is what they require. (In fact, like many petty tyrants, they actually prefer it when the person requesting an audience is insincerely seeking their favor. It's a sign of their power.) McCain embraces the conservative label and will let them have their way as much as he can get away with --- certainly on judges ---because he just doesn't give a damn about them. They know this. It's all about war with him. It's what he does.

Now, I'm not saying that there aren't some in the GOP rank and file who do hate him. But the radio gasbags and the religious poohbahs don't work independently of the party's wishes. When I heard Bill Bennett railing against McCain on CNN as he wound up the primaries even though he'd maxed out for McCain in contributions, it was clear to me that this was a strategy. (Bennett is an out and proud supporter now.)

The Republicans know the brand has been severely damaged by Bush. They can read polls as well as anyone. So, they helped the supine media brush off their 2000 narrative and pretended that despite everything he's done in the past eight years, McCain isn't a Real Republican. They continue to perpetuate the myth that he's mistrusted by the Republican base in order to help him triangulate against Bush. What better way to do it than to trot out Laura Ingraham and Rush Limbaugh's to call him a traitor to conservatism? That's music to the independent swing voter's ear in 2008 and they know it.

The conservatives never get enough credit for being pragmatic. They are. When faced with the total repudiation of their most precious ideals in the wreckage of the worst presidency ever, they picked the one guy in their whole party who any voter could possibly believe wasn't a loyal Bushie.

Friday, April 18, 2008

McCain on the gas tax

A "retread" is what many are calling McCain's ridiculous suggestion regarding the federal gasoline tax. Besides taking important revenue away from the federal Highway Trust Fund, which finances road projects nationwide and is already in the red, the tax "holiday" from Memorial Day to Labor Day is estimated to save the average family between $23 and $28 - hardly a major stimulus to the economy. Even more importantly, many economists argue that reducing prices simply leads to more gasoline consumption - which increases demand and will ultimately increase prices. It's genius in terms of politics (what could possibly pander more to the average voter?), but it's very bad policy.

Read more at this site:



Thursday, April 17, 2008

The We Campaign

I totally love these ads with House Speakers Nancy Pelosi and Newt Gingrich together, and ministers Pat Robertson and Al Sharpton together - even the bitterest enemies can agree on this one thing - addressing the climate crisis!


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Wednesday, April 16, 2008

McCain's foreign policy gaffes

I ran across this piece when I was looking for stuff on Obama.


Huffington Post
April 15, 2008
How Many "Gaffes" Equal Incompetence?
by Moira Whelan

Here's the kicker:

This is not deep homework, and has nothing to do with running for President. For John McCain to make this many mistakes while holding an important national security post as Ranking Member of the Armed Services Committee is simply unacceptable. These types of mistakes would prevent John McCain from getting a job as a research assistant at any think tank in D.C., let alone delivering anything resembling a responsible foreign policy as president.


Tuesday, April 15, 2008

More campaign inanity

Yes, this is completely stupid, but at least McCain is finally getting a tiny bit of bad press!


What will they call it? Farfallegate? The Rosemary Chicken Dome Scandal?

It seems that Cindy McCain, John McCain's perfect, blonde beer-baroness wife is about to find herself painted as the latest example of plagiarism on the campaign trail.

This past Sunday, Lauren Handel, an eagle-eyed attorney from New York, was searching for a specific recipe from Giada DeLaurentis, a chef on the Food Network. Yet whenever she Googled the different ingredients in the recipe, the oddest thing happened: not only did the Food Network's site come up, as expected, but so did John McCain's campaign site.

On a section of McCain's site called "Cindy's Recipes," you can find seven recipes attributed to Cindy McCain, each with the heading "McCain Family Recipe." Ms. Handel quickly realized that some of the "McCain Family Recipes," were in fact, word-for-word copies of recipes on the Food Network site.

At least three of the "McCain Family Recipes" appear to be lifted directly from the Food Network, while at least one is a Rachael Ray recipe with minor changes.


It took less than 12 hours from the time the media caught wind of Cindy McCain's recipe theft for John McCain's campaign website to scrub away the offending pages. That's 12 hours more than it took Cindy to come up with the recipes...

It also turns out that Mrs. McCain submitted "her" Passion Fruit Mousse recipe to the New York Sun for an article that ran on January 16th. Just like on the McCain campaign site, there is no sourcing other than McCain herself...

CNN (and TMZ) are now reporting that Recipegate was the work of an intern, and that according to McCain's campaign, the whole thing is a "low-level unpaid staff debacle."

Personally, I'm not sure how an intern can be responsible for messing up the McCain "family" recipes. Did the intern lose Cindy's recipe box only to haphazardly try to replace them with Food Network recipes? If only we could all steal and lie and lay it off on the unpaid help.


Monday, April 14, 2008

Limits of the Information Age

Excellent piece sent to me by my friend Jan.

April 11, 2008
Chronicle of Higher Education
So Much for the Information Age

I teach a seminar called "Secrecy: Forbidden Knowledge." I recently asked my class of 16 freshmen and sophomores, many of whom had graduated in the top 10 percent of their high-school classes and had dazzling SAT scores, how many had heard the word "rendition." Not one hand went up.

This is after four years of the word appearing on the front pages of the nation's newspapers, on network and cable news, and online. This is after years of highly publicized lawsuits, Congressional inquiries, and international controversy and condemnation. This is after the release of a Hollywood film of that title, starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Meryl Streep, and Reese Witherspoon.
[. . .]
That instance was no aberration. In recent years I have administered a dumbed-down quiz on current events and history early in each semester to get a sense of what my students know and don't know. Initially I worried that its simplicity would insult them, but my fears were unfounded. The results have been, well, horrifying.

Nearly half of a recent class could not name a single country that bordered Israel. In an introductory journalism class, 11 of 18 students could not name what country Kabul was in, although we have been at war there for half a decade. Last fall only one in 21 students could name the U.S. secretary of defense. Given a list of four countries — China, Cuba, India, and Japan — not one of those same 21 students could identify India and Japan as democracies. Their grasp of history was little better. The question of when the Civil War was fought invited an array of responses — half a dozen were off by a decade or more. Some students thought that Islam was the principal religion of South America, that Roe v. Wade was about slavery, that 50 justices sit on the U.S. Supreme Court, that the atom bomb was dropped on Hiroshima in 1975. You get the picture, and it isn't pretty.

I make it clear to my students that it is not only their right but their duty to arrive at their own conclusions. They are free to defend rendition, waterboarding, or any other aspect of America's post-9/11 armamentarium. But I challenge their right to tune out the world, and I question any system or society that can produce such students and call them educated. I am concerned for the nation when a cohort of students so talented and bright is oblivious to all such matters. If they are failing us, it is because we have failed them.

Still, it is hard to reconcile the students' lack of knowledge with the notion that they are a part of the celebrated information age, creatures of the Internet who arguably have at their disposal more information than all the preceding generations combined. Despite their BlackBerrys, cellphones, and Wi-Fi, they are, in their own way, as isolated as the remote tribes of New Guinea. They disprove the notion that technology fosters engagement, that connectivity and community are synonymous. I despair to think that this is the generation brought up under the banner of "No Child Left Behind." What I see is the specter of an entire generation left behind and left out.
[ . . . ]
It is time to once again make current events an essential part of the curriculum. Families and schools must instill in students the habit of following what is happening in the world.
A global economy will have little use for a country whose people are so self-absorbed that they know nothing of their own nation's present or past, much less the world's. There is a fundamental difference between shouldering the rights and responsibilities that come with citizenship — engagement, participation, debate — and merely inhabiting the land.
[ . . . ]
The noted American scholar Robert M. Hutchins said, decades ago: "The object of the educational system, taken as a whole, is not to produce hands for industry or to teach the young how to make a living. It is to produce responsible citizens." He warned that "the death of a democracy is not likely to be an assassination from ambush. It will be a slow extinction from apathy, indifference, and undernourishment." I fear he was right.

I tell the students in my secrecy class that they are required to attend. After all, we count on one another; without student participation, it just doesn't work. The same might be said of democracy. Attendance is mandatory.


Sunday, April 13, 2008

Did I cringe?

Why yes I did, when I heard what Obama said about people who "cling" to religion and guns and antipathy. Is his observation completely wrong? No, probably not. But why the hell would he say that publically? I don't know that I think it's the death knell of his campaign, but it would have been better if he hadn't confirmed every stereotype that exists about condescending Democrats. Damn!


Saturday, April 12, 2008

Obama prefers orange juice

I read about this in the morning, and found that I kept thinking about it all day:


On last night's Hardball [4/10/08], host Chris Matthews and David Shuster focused like a laser on the things that really matter:
[ . . . ]
Offered coffee, Barack Obama asked for orange juice instead. And Chris Matthews and David Shuster pounced, aghast that he would dare do such a thing as ask for orange juice. A preference for orange juice was supposed to demonstrate that Obama is out of touch with "regular" people. (For what it's worth, neither Matthews nor Shuster so much as hinted that a single, actual voter who was in that diner was put off by Obama's interest in orange juice. But Matthews and Shuster were upset enough for everyone.)

MSNBC runs commercials for itself in which Tim Russert solemnly explains why MSNBC covers politics: "It's about the war. Our sons and daughters. It's about the economy. Our jobs. It's about education. Our schools. It's about health care. Our families' well-being. It's about everything that matters."

MSNBC doesn't run any ads that claim that what really matters is whether the candidates choose to drink coffee or orange juice. But that's what the cable channel's brightest stars (Matthews is reportedly paid $5 million a year for this nonsense) chose to spend their time discussing last night.

Orange juice -- and bowling.

[ . . . ]
These discussions of bowling and beverages may be stupid, but they aren't pointless. They are part of a broader pattern of media portraying prominent progressives as elitists.

Matthews routinely asks if Obama can "connect with regular people." Apparently, all those people who have been voting for Obama are irregular. And, just so you don't have to wonder exactly who it is Chris Matthews considers irregular, he spelled it out for you, continuing: "Or does he only appeal to people who come from the African-American community and from the people who have college or advanced degrees?"

I have to admit that this last one gets on my nerves! I didn't really think I was all that irregular - I'm a voter and my opinions matter just as much as Mr Lunch Bucket or Ms Bible Belt.

[ . . . ]
Most people who are no longer in middle school understand that it isn't a great idea to judge people based on things like their haircuts, their wardrobe choices, or what beverage they drink. Most people understand that we shouldn't choose a president based on these things. Most people -- but not political journalists.

Most people understand that in a time of war, with the nation teetering on the edge of recession (if one hasn't already started), and the housing market collapsing, and an administration that views the Geneva Conventions as "quaint" and the Bill of Rights as optional, assessing candidates based on who would be the most fun to have a beer with is not the way out of this mess; it's the way we got into it in the first place. Most people -- but not political journalists.


Friday, April 11, 2008

Horrible, wonderful story


Crossing guard killed by truck credited with saving boy's life
From 10TV.com/WBNS

HILLIARD, Ohio — An elementary school crossing guard died Thursday morning after police said she pushed a student from the path of an oncoming dump truck about 9 a.m. on Scioto Darby Road outside Scioto Darby Elementary School.

According to witnesses, Diane Sharp was helping students cross the street when she and another student were struck by a dump truck.

Hilliard Police Chief Rodney Garnett said Sharp saved the life of the second-grade boy. "It's my understanding that she saw the truck coming and either shielded him, or tried to push him out of the way," Garnett said. "He's still here and she's not."

"I believe that she saved his life, yes," Garnett said.


Coral cares for algae

This is a particularly weird and interesting story that I heard on NPR this morning in a segment called "Pulse of the Planet" presented by the National Science Foundation. You can go to the website and listen to the 2 minute piece, or read it below:


In a coral reef, the coral provides a kind of skeleton, a home for the algae that live in its tissues. And in return, the algae convert sunlight into food that the coral lives on. Well, now it turns out that coral may be helping the algae in other ways, giving coral reefs a mysterious glow..

Vincent Pieribone is an assistant professor at the Yale University School of Medicine.

"So, the coral need these algae in their tissue to produce food for them. But the algae need light of a certain wavelength, a sort of reddish to orangish light, in order to produce this food. However, as the coral moves into deeper depths of water, the water blocks out a lot of the oranges and the yellows and the red, and the only light that makes it down that depth are blues and greens as you get deeper. So one idea is that the coral produce the special proteins that they put around the little crypts that contain these algae, so that when this blue light that does make it down to depth, this protein absorbs the blue light and converts it through an amazing process into an orange or yellow or red light that is then reemitted and the algae absorb that light and so that they can survive, they can produce food for the coral." Thanks to the special properties of the coral's proteins, they'll glow in shades of orange, yellow or red, even in the depths of the ocean.

"The interesting thing about these proteins is that they don't actually produce light, they take the sunlight that comes down and they convert that into a color of light that can be used by the algae. There's other reasons people believe these proteins might be there, for example, for the tissues of the coral to protect them against the cancerous effects of sunlight. That's part of what we're planning to do is to try to understand what these different functions of these proteins are."

I'm Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Where's the outrage?

I watch a lot of cable news and this just doesn't seem to be getting the level of coverage that it deserves, even on NPR.

In dozens of top-secret talks and meetings in the White House, the most senior Bush administration officials discussed and approved specific details of how high-value al Qaeda suspects would be interrogated by the Central Intelligence Agency, sources tell ABC News. The so-called Principals who participated in the meetings also approved the use of "combined" interrogation techniques -- using different techniques during interrogations, instead of using one method at a time -- on terrorist suspects who proved difficult to break, sources said.

Highly placed sources said a handful of top advisers signed off on how the CIA would interrogate top al Qaeda suspects -- whether they would be slapped, pushed, deprived of sleep or subjected to simulated drowning, called waterboarding. The high-level discussions about these "enhanced interrogation techniques" were so detailed, these sources said, some of the interrogation sessions were almost choreographed -- down to the number of times CIA agents could use a specific tactic.


"Make money playing a house concert"

I feel for struggling musicians, but I have to admit, having Pepsi sponsor your house party seems kind of sick (though of course that's in essence exactly what top bands like The Rolling Stones are doing).


Renita Jablonski: Aspiring artists often turn to residential venues like garages, basements and living rooms to get their sound out to live audiences. Shows like these are typically a labor of love. But as Lisa Chow reports from New York, some enterprising musicians are finding a way to profit from grassroots concerts.

Lisa Chow: You almost get the sense sometimes that musicians enjoy not making money. Violinist Joanna Frankel is a Juilliard graduate and has performed at Carnegie Hall.

Joanna Frankel: I mean, I guess to a fault, I'm not thinking about money, because this to me is something very pure, very honest.

Frankel and five other musicians recently performed in a grand apartment overlooking Central Park. They played for dozens of people, but they didn't make a dime. Michael Reingold organized the event. He says he doesn't charge guests because his main goal is getting people turned onto classical music. And that's hard enough.

Frankel: When I package it with the social element, with the intimacy of it, the food, all these elements put together, it becomes more attractive.

At the other end of town, singer-songwriter Ruth Gerson has found a way to make house concerts pay. She used to play at clubs but switched to house concerts when she realized she could make more money that way.

Ruth Gerson: And the first person was like, OK, and got, whatever, 60 people in a living room and between CDs and people throwing something in, I did, you know, over a thousand dollars and I said, ''Oh, I can do this and make a living.''

Now, corporate interests are catching on. A marketing agency working with Pepsi approached Gerson last year about using her concerts to promote a new zero-calorie drink, Tava. Cassie Hughes is with Grow Marketing. She says house concerts are a perfect place to introduce Pepsi's drink to consumers..

Cassie Gerson: The drink Tava is being targeted at someone who, you know, is in their mid-30s and older who loves to entertain at home.

Gerson says she doesn't feel that she's selling out.

Gerson: Making a living, making music involves thinking outside of the box -- you know, being a creative business person.

Pepsi catered one of Gerson's recent house concerts. The company laid on shrimp and sushi, and, a waist-high bin filled with Tava. Not everyone loved the drink. But it did get them talking about it.

In New York, I'm Lisa Chow for Marketplace.


Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Glenn Greenwald on the "establishment media "

This is a must, must read.


Glenn Greenwald
Saturday April 5, 2008
The U.S. establishment media in a nutshell

In the past two weeks, the following events transpired. A Department of Justice memo, authored by John Yoo, was released which authorized torture and presidential lawbreaking. It was revealed that the Bush administration declared the Fourth Amendment of the Bill of Rights to be inapplicable to "domestic military operations" within the U.S. The U.S. Attorney General appears to have fabricated a key event leading to the 9/11 attacks and made patently false statements about surveillance laws and related lawsuits. Barack Obama went bowling in Pennsylvania and had a low score.

Here are the number of times, according to NEXIS, that various topics have been mentioned in the media over the past thirty days:

"Yoo and torture" - 102

"Mukasey and 9/11" -- 73
"Yoo and Fourth Amendment" -- 16
"Obama and bowling" -- 1,043

And as Eric Boehlert documents, even Iraq -- that little five-year U.S. occupation with no end in sight -- has been virtually written out of the media narrative in favor of mindless, stupid, vapid chatter of the type referenced above. "The Clintons are Rich!!!!" will undoubtedly soon be at the top of this heap within a matter of a day or two.

"Media critic" Howie Kurtz in the Washington Post today devoted pages of his column to Obama's bowling and eating habits and how that shows he's not a regular guy but an Arrogant Elitist, compiling an endless string of similar chatter about this from Karl Rove, Maureen Dowd, Walter Shapiro and Ann Althouse. Bloomberg's Margaret Carlson devoted her whole column this week to arguing that, along with Wright, Obama's bowling was his biggest mistake, a "real doozy."

Obama's bowling has provided almost a full week of programming on MSNBC. Gail Collins, in The New York Times, today observed that Obama went bowling "with disastrous consequences." And, as always, they take their personality-based fixations from the Right, who have been promoting the Obama is an Arrogant, Exotic, Elitist Freak narrative for some time.

In a
typically cliched and slimy article, Time's Joe Klein this week explored what the headline called Obama's "Patriotism Problem," where we learn that "this is a chronic disease among Democrats, who tend to talk more about what's wrong with America than what's right." He trotted it all out -- the bowling, the lapel pin, Obama's angry, America-hating wife, "his Islamic-sounding name."

Needless to say, these serious and accomplished political journalists are only focusing on these stupid and trivial matters because this is what the Regular Folk care about. They speak for the Regular People, and what the Regular People care about is not Iraq or the looming recession or health care or lobbyist control of our government or anything that would strain the brain of these reporters. What those nice little Regular Folk care about is whether Obama is Regular Folk just like them, whether he can bowl and wants to gorge himself with junk food.

Our nation's coddled, insulated journalist class reaches these conclusions about what Regular Folk think using the most self-referential, self-absorbed thought process imaginable. The proof that the Regular People are interested in these things is that . . . the journalists themselves chatter about it endlessly. In Great American Hypocrites, I described the process as follows in the context of examining the three-week-long media obsession with John Edwards' haircut (to the exclusion of a whole array of revelations about what the government was doing or planning to do) and how they justified that coverage:

Most certainly, the press will pretend to be above it all ("this is not something that we, the sophisticated political journalists, care about, of course"). But they yammer about Drudge-promoted gossip endlessly, and then insist that their own chattering is proof that it is an important story that people care about. And because they conclude that "people" (i.e., them) are concerned with the story, they keep chirping about it, which in turn fuels their belief that the story is important. It is an endless loop of self-referential narcissism -- whatever they endlessly sputter is what "the people" care about, and therefore they must keep harping on it, because their chatter is proof of its importance.They don't need Drudge to rule their world any longer because they are Matt Drudge now.

Every day, it becomes more difficult to blame George Bush, Dick Cheney and comrades for their seven years (and counting) of crimes, corruption and destruction of our political values. Think about it this way: if you were a high government official and watched as -- all in a couple of weeks time -- it is revealed, right out in the open, that you suspended the Fourth Amendment, authorized torture, proclaimed yourself empowered to break the law, and sent the nation's top law enforcement officer to lie blatantly about how and why the 9/11 attacks happened so that you could acquire still more unchecked spying power and get rid of lawsuits that would expose what you did, and the political press in this country basically ignored all of that and blathered on about Obama's bowling score and how he eats chocolate, wouldn't you also conclude that you could do anything you want, without limits, and know there will be no consequences? What would be the incentive to stop doing all of that?

UPDATE: One other point to note about all of this is that these fixations are as skewed as they are vapid. Barack Obama is an exotic elitist freak because he went to Harvard Law School and made $1 million from his book. Hillary Clinton can't possibly have any connection to the Regular Folk because her husband, who grew up dirt poor, became quite wealthy after being President. John Kerry was completely removed from the concerns of the Regular People because his second wife was rich.

By contrast, George W. Bush was a down-home, salt-of-the-earth Man of the People despite being the grandson of a U.S. Senator, the son of a President (who greatly magnified his riches in his post-presidency), and the by-product of an extremely wealthy, coddled life. Ronald Reagan was pure Americana despite spending most of his adult life as a very wealthy Hollywood actor (and converting his post-presidency into far greater riches still). And John McCain is as Regular a Guy as it gets, even though he dumped his first wife (the mother of his three children) after she was disfigured and disabled by a near-fatal car accident so that he could marry his much younger, much prettier, and extremely wealthy heiress-mistress, whose family riches then launched his political career and sustained a life of luxury for almost three decades (that's how McCain's rustic "Sedona cabin" -- i.e., his sprawling compound -- came to be).

It would be bad enough if our political press were obsessed with such trivialities. The fact that they do so in such a Republican-leader-worshiping manner makes it only that much worse, particularly given that it's this dynamic, more than anything else, that determines the outcome of our elections.


Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Redefining McCain

As seems to happen so often, my favorite blog, Hullabaloo, says exactly what I'm thinking (I've heard exactly the same comments on McCain by Democrats as she heard from her friend):


All of this might make some sense if McCain didn't have this ridiculously cozy relationship with the press that's been solid as a rock for more than a decade. He is going to be terribly difficult to redefine. It will take everything they have to do it. And if they don't do it, he could very well win this thing even if he is as old as Methuselah and has the campaign style of a pet rock.

I was talking to a staunchly liberal friend of mine over the week-end who told me that he really didn't worry about the primary because if the party is damaged and McCain wins, it will probably be ok. The reason: he's not stupid like Bush or crazy like Cheney. After I picked up my brains from the floor and put them back in my head, still reeling from the explosion, I tried to explain how that was wrong. It was pulling teeth and I don't think I succeeded. He just likes the guy and doesn't believe he's really capable of being as bad as Bush because he "thinks for himself" and isn't a GOP lackey.

The Democrats had better get themselves together. The Republicans picked the only candidate in the entire country who could elicit that kind of praise from my pal and others like him. He's the only one who could possibly win, and win he may very well do if just let this congenial image continue without challenge.

The Republicans certainly plan to go hard after our guy. Of course, St John will "disavow" every single smear and the press will give him credit for being a stand up guy. That's how it works for him.


Monday, April 07, 2008

Husbands add housework

My friend Richard sent me this article. I follow their documented pattern exactly - I do MUCH more housework now, with 4 children (I'm counting Larry) than I did when I was single.


Study shows that husbands create 7 hours of extra housework a week
Fri Apr 4, 2008

For married women who can't figure out why they always have so much housework researchers may have the answer -- husbands.

A new study from the University of Michigan shows that having a husband creates an extra seven hours of extra housework a week for women. But a wife saves her husband from an hour of chores around the house each week.

"It's a well-known pattern. There's still a significant reallocation of labor that occurs at marriage -- men tend to work more outside the home, while women take on more of the household labor," said Frank Stafford, of the university's Institute for Social Research (ISR), who directed the study.

Stafford's findings are based on 2005 time-diary data from a study on income dynamics that has been conducted since 1968 at ISR. The researchers studied diaries to assess how people spent their time and questioned men and women about how much time they spend cooking, cleaning and doing basic work around the house.

They found that young single women did the least amount of housework, at about 12 hours a week, while women with more than three children spent 28 hours a week cleaning, cooking and washing. Married men with more than three kids, by comparison, logged only about 10 hours of housework a week.


Sunday, April 06, 2008

Movie night

Tonight Larry and I watched Rendition on video (Matt went to bed). It was better than I expected (the reviews were lukewarm and clearly no one went to see it). It's very much worth seeing. It's much more understated than I thought it would be, with good performances from a terrific cast. Jake Gyllenhaal and Peter Sarsgaard were fine as always, and Meryl Streep was especially excellent, though she's only in a few scenes. My only complaint is that Reese Witherspoon, though good, is rather wasted in a small role.


Saturday, April 05, 2008

"Fame, The Musical"

Tonight I got dragged (I wanted to go to the movies of course) by my friend Dawn to the college production of "Fame, The Musical" because her friend's godson was in it (he was the highlight!)

I thought it was a stage show of the original Fame, but it turns out this is a relatively new production with completely new characters and mostly new songs. Here's a review, which I mostly concur with:


The production was pretty bad - the acoustics were terrible and some of the singers did not project well. And I thought the story and the music were uninspired, though there were a few good songs. Overall I wish I'd seen Married Life or Stop-Loss - I'm not a fan of musical theater (I know, sacrilege!)

Friday, April 04, 2008

Hillary's healthcare story

Yet again, I just love the analysis at Hullabaloo:


Ok, look. You can hate Clinton or love her, but this is the lowest form of campaign journalism and it should be condemned. At this point they have said, over and over again, that Clinton told "untruths" or "exaggerated" when the fact is that she repeated a story she heard from a citizen -- a story which, without knowing the name of the person, which she didn't, could not be verified by her campaign. And why should it? The sheriff told her this story on camera, it's completely believable because every single day something like this happens multiple times across the country, she used no names, accused nobody specifically and didn't claim to have personal knowledge of the story. She repeated something that was told to her. It's not a lie or an untruth or fundamentally misleading in any way.
[ . . . ]
Now in this case, I don't know where the story came from, but considering it's a hospital coming forward for truly inexplicable reasons to say it wasn't guilty of something no one had accused them of, I suspect Republicans. Or it could simply be that the press itself just pulled the storyline off the shelf in response to the Bosnia flap and ran with it all on their own. Whatever the case, it's bad journalism, thick with innuendo and short on facts and used as an example of a character defect of a Democrat, creating a self-perpetuating "perception" that justifies the "storyline." Same old shit.

After all, when is the last time you saw something like this pulled on a Republican, especially one named John McCain, who has flip-flopped so badly on the biggest issues of the day that he has to take seasick pills and who lies as easily as he breathes? Never. You see, the "storyline" about Republicans is that they are all "stand-up guys" and "straight-talkers" not hysterical liars and mincing flip-floppers. (Surely you can see the symbolism in all those "stand up" and "flip-flop" allusions.)

You may hate Clinton with everything in your being, and that's fine. But this kind of journalism is what's killing our political system and what gets people like John McCain and George W. Bush elected. Clinton was repeating a story about bad health care which she heard on the campaign trail from an American citizen. She wasn't tooting her own horn or putting down her opponent in the telling of it. She was illustrating the plight of the uninsured in this country, which even if it turns out to not be specifically correct in the details, is certainly not something that doesn't happen every day to somebody in this country.
[ . . . ]
Lot's of nice liberals blamed Gore for losing that race, even though he came out ahead in the popular vote and had a third party candidate running on his left. (I won't even bring up Florida) They said, "he should have run a better campaign." Well, it ain't easy when you have a sophomoric press corps that has decided they don't want you to be president because you aren't as much fun as the other guy.

Perhaps this time they will decide they like Barack Obama better than John McCain. I sure hope so. But you'll have to forgive me if I feel that might not stand us in good stead in the long run. These people have their own agenda and it isn't what's best for the American people. They shouldn't be picking our presidents even if once in a while they might inadvertently pick one you like. Nobody elected them to anything.


Thursday, April 03, 2008

Garbage bag animals

I heard this story on the radio, and had to go online to see the actual animals.
See a video of the Air Bear here (it's a 4 minute video, but the bear inflates 40 seconds into it; I have to agree that it looks a lot more like a white dog):


NYC art student uses subway updraft to inflate plastic animals

NEW YORK — An art student whose whimsical plastic animals inflate over sidewalk subway grates is drawing more attention to the lowly air vents than they've seen since Marilyn Monroe's skirt flew skyward in "The Seven Year Itch."

The animals, made of garbage or shopping bags, lie crumpled up over the grates until an updraft from a passing underground train fills them with air.

"When I saw a piece of construction tape flying off this grate one day I got interested in what that wind could do," said the artist, Joshua Allen Harris, who is studying fine art at the School of Visual Arts.

Harris, 31, spent weeks developing his first animal, a polar bear made of white plastic bags. The bear became an Internet hit once an arts group posted a video of it inflating.

On Tuesday, Harris brought his second creation, a two-metre giraffe, to his usual installation spot near the art school in the Chelsea neighbourhood. He taped the giraffe's feet to the metal grates and waited.

At rest, the animal looked like the grey trash bags of which it was made. But it rose on wobbly legs as a train passed under the air vent, resembling a real giraffe foal taking its first steps.

The animal's head bobbed in the breeze. Then the train left, and the giraffe was a heap of plastic again.

"The animation part is out of my control," Harris said. "I set this thing up, and then the subway completes it."
Subway grates are a regular feature of the city landscape made famous by Monroe's billowing white dress in the 1955 film "The Seven Year Itch," directed by Billy Wilder.

Mairo Notton, an interior design student who stopped to watch the giraffe inflate, said most people don't like the sidewalk grates because they worry about dropping something into them.

"To use it like this makes it positive," he said. "It changes the street picture."

Harris said seeing the reactions of passersby has been the best part of the project.

"You walk down the streets, and all (of a) sudden trash jumps to life," he said. "It's not what you usually see."


Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Third graders plan attack against teacher

I heard this story on cable news this morning and then read the account in the local newspaper. I think it's odd that there's no mention of the parents. Why would absolutely none of the parents (there were NINE kids involved) have noticed kids this young (8, 9 & 10) discussing this, or noticed their child bringing something inappropriate (hand cuffs! a steak knife!) to school? And these kids are in a special needs classroom. Are the parents paying attention at all? And will they be held accountable? This is serious stuff - this is a lot of kids planning together to hurt someone. What the heck are they being taught at home?


3rd-Graders Plotted Teacher Attack

WAYCROSS, Ga. (AP) — A group of children ages 8 to 10 apparently were mad at their teacher because she had scolded one of them for standing on a chair, authorities say.

That led the third-graders, as many as nine boys and girls, to plot an attack on the teacher at Center Elementary School in south Georgia.

Police Chief Tony Tanner said the students apparently planned to knock the teacher unconscious with a glass paperweight, bind her with handcuffs and duct tape and then stab her with a broken steak knife.

The scheme involved a division of roles, Tanner said. One child's job was to cover windows so no one could see outside, and another was supposed to clean up after the attack.

School officials had alerted police Friday after a pupil tipped off a teacher that a girl had taken a weapon to school.

Tanner said the teacher told detectives the children weren't known as troublemakers.

The purported target teaches third-grade students with learning disabilities, including attention deficit disorder, delayed development and hyperactivity, friends and parents said.

Currie said the children are too young to be charged as adults [according to Georgia law, a person must be 13], and probably too young to be sentenced to a youth detention center.

Nine children have been given discipline including long-term suspension, said Theresa Martin, spokeswoman for the Ware County school system. She would not be more specific but said none of the children had been back to school since the case came to light.

School system policy says any student who brings "anything reasonably considered to be a weapon" is to be expelled for at least the remainder of the school year.


Tuesday, April 01, 2008

"It's not you, it's your books"

I heard the author of this essay on NPR on Monday and had to go back and read it. Fun. Sadly on the radio program, they note that women read the vast majority of fiction, and the website includes an essay on that topic:


* * *
This is my favorite line:

The goal, she added, is “to find somebody where your perversions match and who you can stand.”

This is a close second:

"It’s part of the romantic tragedy of our age that our partners must be seen as compatible on every level."


March 30, 2008
NY Times Essay
It’s Not You, It’s Your Books

Some years ago, I was awakened early one morning by a phone call from a friend. She had just broken up with a boyfriend she still loved and was desperate to justify her decision. “Can you believe it!” she shouted into the phone. “He hadn’t even heard of Pushkin!”

We’ve all been there. Or some of us have. Anyone who cares about books has at some point confronted the Pushkin problem: when a missed — or misguided — literary reference makes it chillingly clear that a romance is going nowhere fast. At least since Dante’s Paolo and Francesca fell in love over tales of Lancelot, literary taste has been a good shorthand for gauging compatibility.

These days, thanks to social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace, listing your favorite books and authors is a crucial, if risky, part of self-branding. When it comes to online dating, even casual references can turn into deal breakers. Sussing out a date’s taste in books is “actually a pretty good way — as a sort of first pass — of getting a sense of someone,” said Anna Fels, a Manhattan psychiatrist and the author of “Necessary Dreams: Ambition in Women’s Changing Lives.” “It’s a bit of a Rorschach test.”

To Fels (who happens to be married to the literary publisher and writer James Atlas), reading habits can be a rough indicator of other qualities. “It tells something about ... their level of intellectual curiosity, what their style is,” Fels said. “It speaks to class, educational level.”
[. . .]
Let’s face it — this may be a gender issue. Brainy women are probably more sensitive to literary deal breakers than are brainy men. (Rare is the guy who’d throw a pretty girl out of bed for revealing her imperfect taste in books.) After all, women read more, especially when it comes to fiction. “It’s really great if you find a guy that reads, period,” said Beverly West, an author of “Bibliotherapy: The Girl’s Guide to Books for Every Phase of Our Lives.”
[. . .]
Some people just prefer to compartmentalize. “As a writer, the last thing I want in my personal life is somebody who is overly focused on the whole literary world in general,” said Ariel Levy, the author of “Female Chauvinist Pigs” and a contributing writer at The New Yorker. Her partner, a green-building consultant, “doesn’t like to read,” Levy said. When she wants to talk about books, she goes to her book group. Compatibility in reading taste is a “luxury” and kind of irrelevant, Levy said. The goal, she added, is “to find somebody where your perversions match and who you can stand.”

Marco Roth, an editor at the magazine n+1, said: “I think sometimes it’s better if books are just books. It’s part of the romantic tragedy of our age that our partners must be seen as compatible on every level.” Besides, he added, “sometimes people can end up liking the same things for vastly different reasons, and they build up these whole private fantasy lives around the meaning of these supposedly shared books, only to discover, too late, that the other person had a different fantasy completely.”

After all, a couple may love “The Portrait of a Lady,” but if one half identifies with Gilbert Osmond and the other with Isabel Archer, they may have radically different ideas about the relationship. For most people, love conquers literary taste. “Most of my friends are indeed quite shallow, but not so shallow as to break up with someone over a literary difference,” said Ben Karlin, a former executive producer of “The Daily Show” and the editor of the new anthology “Things I’ve Learned From Women Who’ve Dumped Me.” “If that person slept with the novelist in question, that would probably be a deal breaker — more than, ‘I don’t like Don DeLillo, therefore we’re not dating anymore.’”

Rachel Donadio is a writer and editor at the Book Review.