Story, video and slide show here.
Friday, February 29, 2008
From The Guardian.
People who take daily supplements of vitamin E have a higher risk of developing lung cancer, according to one of the largest studies into vitamins and health ever attempted.
Doctors monitored the wellbeing of more than 77,000 men and women over a four-year period and found that a range of vitamins failed to protect against lung cancer, while vitamin E slightly increased the risk of developing the disease.
The study suggested that taking 400mg of vitamin E for 10 years increases the risk of lung cancer by 28%. Taking 100mg of the vitamin each day raised the risk of disease by 7%. . . .
Unsurprisingly, the doctors found that lung cancer was strongly correlated with smoking, a family history of the disease and increasing age, but were surprised to find a slight but significant rise in lung cancer linked to vitamin E. The effect was most prominent in current smokers.
People who took multivitamins, vitamin C or folate supplements had a risk of lung cancer similar to those who did not take supplements, according to the study, which appears in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine. . . .
The prospect of a banking failure in the US was raised yesterday by the Federal Reserve chairman, Ben Bernanke, as the dollar plunged to a record low against the euro and gold surged to an all-time high.
On the second day of his biannual testimony to Congress, Bernanke said that some small US banks were likely to go under from the effects of the credit crunch and soaring mortgage delinquencies.
"I expect there will be some failures," he said. "I don't anticipate any serious problems of that sort among the large internationally active banks that make up a very substantial part of our banking system."
But Bernanke also warned of higher global inflation. "We do have greater inflation pressure at this point than we did in 2001," he said. . . .
Thursday, February 28, 2008
Also from The Guardian.
Italy's highest appeals court has ruled it is a criminal offence for Italian men to touch their genitals in public - a judgment that has far-reaching implications for superstitious males.
Anyone who has seen a hearse go past in Italy, or been part of a discussion in which some terrible illness or disaster is mentioned, will know it is traditional for men to ward off ill luck with a quick grab at what are delicately called their attributi.
The practice has become increasingly frowned on, but Io mi tocco i (I touch my) is a common phrase, equivalent to crossing fingers. The judges of the court of cassation suggested those seeking luck should return to the privacy of their homes before letting their hands stray trouserward. . . .
From The Guardian.
After six years of US-led military support and billions of pounds in aid, security in Afghanistan is "deteriorating" and President Hamid Karzai's government controls less than a third of the country, America's top intelligence official has admitted. . . .
See this by Tristero at Hullabaloo.
William Buckley And The Tattooing Of AIDS Patients: A Correction
Yesterday, in reminding folks that William Buckley had once called for the tattooing of AIDS sufferers, I mentioned that I heard he had changed his mind after hearing that his pal Roy Cohn was dying of AIDS.
Well, if "the father of modern conservatism" had decided that it was just a little too reminiscent of The Final Solution to suggest that the unhealthy be tatooed, then Buckley reverted to his first instinct towards the end of his life (ht, RP in comments):
The objective is to identify the carrier, and to warn his victim. Someone, 20 years ago, suggested a discreet tattoo the site of which would alert the prospective partner to the danger of proceeding as had been planned. But the author of the idea was treated as though he had been schooled in Buchenwald, and the idea was not widely considered, but maybe it is up now for reconsideration.
A discreet tattoo. A discreet tattoo.
See this article in The New York Times (found at The Left Coaster).
For the first time in the nation’s history, more than one in 100 American adults is behind bars, according to a new report. . . .
Watch this video from tonight's NBC News.
From Salon's Blog Report.
On al Qaeda in Iraq, it's Obama 1, McCain 0: Frontrunners square off on Iraq policy, with the Democrat getting the better of the fight - Yesterday’s exchanges between Barack Obama and John McCain over al Qaeda in Iraq offered the political world much of what it craves: a fairly substantive back-and-forth between leading candidates from both parties on the year’s biggest issue. As a result, what was a relatively routine dust-up literally became front-page news. Now, as far as I can tell, Obama didn’t start yesterday’s fight, but he certainly ended it. McCain’s criticism was rather foolish, while Obama’s response was not only quick, it was accurate and tied McCain to Bush’s failures. Given the outcome, I suspect the Obama campaign is sitting around this morning thinking, “What can we do to get McCain to go after us again today?”
What McCain and Obama said:
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) accused Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) of making ill-informed comments about Iraq and al-Qaeda in Tuesday night's Democratic presidential debate, signaling that a general-election brawl between the colleagues would center in part on who has the foreign policy experience to lead a country at war.
Despite McCain's war-hero status and years of foreign policy experience, Obama made it clear that he will not back down from such a fight, issuing a quick rebuke of McCain that linked him to President Bush and the war in Iraq.
The spat began when McCain seized on a comment by Obama that he would reserve the right to return to Iraq after withdrawing troops "if al-Qaeda is forming a base in Iraq."
"I have some news," McCain told voters at a rally here Wednesday morning. "Al-Qaeda is in Iraq. Al-Qaeda is called 'al-Qaeda in Iraq.' My friends, if we left, they wouldn't be establishing a base. . . . they would be taking a country. I will not allow that to happen, my friends. I will not surrender." . . .
"McCain thought that he could make a clever point by saying, 'Well let me give you some news, Barack, al-Qaeda is in Iraq.' Like I wasn't reading the papers, like I didn't know what was going on. I said, 'Well, first of all, I do know that al-Qaeda is in Iraq; that's why I've said we should continue to strike al-Qaeda targets.
"I have some news for John McCain, and that is that there was no such thing as al-Qaeda in Iraq until George Bush and John McCain decided to invade Iraq." The crowd roared its approval. "I've got some news for John McCain. He took us into a war along with George Bush that should have never been authorized and should have never been waged. They took their eye off the people who were responsible for 9/11, and that would be al-Qaeda in Afghanistan that is stronger now than at any time since 2001.
"So John McCain may like to say he wants to follow Osama bin Laden to the gates of hell, but so far all he's done is follow George Bush into a misguided war in Iraq that's cost us thousands of lives and billions of dollars." . . .
WaPo story here (emphasis added).
From Gail Collins in Zanesville, Ohio.
If Hillary Clinton were a state, she’d be Ohio.
This is a no-frills kind of place, suspicious of glamour. Barack Obama’s promise to make politics cool again doesn’t necessarily resonate here. Eight presidents came from Ohio, and the coolest was William McKinley.
When I grew up in Cincinnati, we always rooted for the players who worked really, really hard, not the ones who were so talented they made everything look easy. If Hillary were a baseball player, she’d be Pete Rose. Minus, of course, the unfortunate gambling issues and the tendency to scratch inappropriate places while standing in the infield.
So there she was Wednesday here in Zanesville, holding an economic summit in a gymnasium with a huge table stuffed full of participants, including the founder of Weight Watchers; former Senator John Glenn, the heroic astronaut who once put the entire Democratic presidential convention to sleep with his keynote speech; and the governor of Ohio, a vice presidential hopeful who looks like an unidentified passer-by.
“We have to start acting like Americans again, and roll up our sleeves and start solving our problems,” Clinton said, launching one of the least-exciting discussions of economic development in memory.
There she sat, one of the best-known human beings on the planet. The first woman ever to be a serious United States presidential contender; the face that launched a thousand books; a former first lady, current U.S. senator and survivor of the most famous sex scandal of the century. And yet she has managed to become the boring candidate in this primary.
This is one of the great anti-glamour stories in history. How could Ohio not relate?
If Hillary can win this one — and if she doesn’t, she is as cooked as reheated risotto — it will be because people here worry that Barack Obama is getting show-offy. . . .
You don’t often see a candidate on a trajectory like Obama’s, and at some point it will inevitably head down again. But until it does, even the original Bill Clinton would have a hard time beating him.
If things don’t go well for Hillary over the next few weeks, some of her consultants may need retraining for a promising new career in, say, motel management, but here’s what I hope she understands. She’s done fine. And she’d probably have won the nomination walking away if Barack hadn’t picked this moment to mutate into BARACK!
You do your best, and if things don’t work out, it just wasn’t your time. Life isn’t always fair.
All of which Ohio understands very well.
NYT story here.
Wednesday, February 27, 2008
Two ugly attacks on gay men, one fatal, have occurred in Fort Lauderdale in the last week. . . .
Naugle has been publicly demonizing gays for months. In July, Naugle proposed installing a timed, $250,000 robotic toilet in Fort Lauderdale public restrooms. Naugle, who claims he uses the word "homosexuals" to describe gay men rather than "gay" because gay people "are unhappy," has said that an added plus to having the toilets is that they would keep gay people from using the facilities. Last August, Naugle stood with right-wing religious leaders and held a news conference where the Rev. O'Neal Dozier said "We want the homosexual community to know that we love them and that God loves them also. But God hates the act of homosexuality." . . .
In The Advocate online.
The Obama campaign is lavishing some of its cash advantage on LGBTs with targeted ad buys in Ohio and Texas leading up to the critical March 4 primaries in both states (Rhode Island and Vermont also vote that day). According to Obama LGBT steering committee member Eric Stern, the campaign has just completed an ad buy with queer newspapers in the four largest LGBT markets of those two states -- Columbus, Cleveland, Dallas, and Houston. . . .
Here's a clip from TPM.
The standout performance of last night was Tim Russert's repeated tirades at the candidates for not answering his clownish questions. So we thought we'd string all of Tim's gonzo moments into one tight reel. . . .
From Tristero at Hullabaloo.
Say What You Want About William F. Buckley...I understand that, after hearing that a friend of his, the odious Roy Cohn, had contracted AIDS, he changed his mind. Fair enough, but most of us sober up and think better of our most repellent ideas before publishing them in the first place.
Everyone detected with AIDS should be tatooed in the upper forearm, to protect common-needle users, and on the buttocks, to prevent the victimization of other homosexuals.
Spectacularly rotten judgment combined with a gratuitously violent nastiness. Those are William F. Buckley's most influential bequests to the conservative movement. And every day they do homage to these character traits, and indeed, to his entire enormous legacy of pretentious snobbery, bigotry, homophobia, and stupidity.
I would tell you what I really think of Buckley but I thought I would go easy today.
Tuesday, February 26, 2008
Such high-minded folks, those Republicans. From The Left Coaster.
The RNC is already polling to see how far they can go with a racist argument against Obama before they lose independent and swing voters. Of course, none of this will be packaged as overtly racist except by right wing talk radio in parts of the country that are already receptive to such arguments. Yet in more mainstream venues there are stories out there already about how the GOP can smear Obama on his name, his wife, his alleged lack of patriotism, and his alleged sympathies to Islamic extremism as simple ways for the GOP and John McCain to indirectly run a racist campaign in a post 9/11 world. . . . [Emphasis added.]
This ran directly beneath the headline of a Salon story by Gary Kamiya.
I'm voting for Obama because he's qualified, charismatic and progressive -- but his blackness seals the deal
I'd tagged this guy as a ravening Obama zealot in an earlier post. The first paragraph of the story is even more bizarre. (I couldn't stomach reading the entire article.)
I admit it: I'm voting for Barack Obama because he's black. Yes, I'm voting for him because he's qualified, intelligent, charismatic and competent -- and because unlike Hillary Clinton, he opposed the Iraq war from the beginning. But if he weren't black, and Hillary had opposed the war, I'd probably vote for her because of her greater experience. In any case, it's a moot point, because if Obama weren't black, he would not be the Democratic front-runner. . . .
I was at work when the power went out. That's only the second time that's happened in all the years I've been working. (Power goes out during hurricanes but most people are home during hurricanes.) Fortunately I don't work that high up in the building (I work downtown). They had emergency lighting and emergency elevator service in the building. I wanted to get out of the office and took the stairs 15 flights down to the lobby (some people were walking up). I sat outside on a bench with some of my fellow employees. (When the power went out in my office building years ago, I walked down 28 flights of stairs and was sore the next day.)
The power was out for more than an hour (I'll try to find a story). By the time it came back on, TPTB in our office had told the employees they could go home (apparently no one knew exactly when the power would be restored). (I talked to the Administrator several minutes before the power came back on--he'd gone outside, too.) I then decided to head back upstairs in one of the emergency elevators and as I stood (briefly) in the elevator lobby, the power came back on. I then rode the elevator upstairs to get my roller case, wrote an email, and went home.
Needless to say, I wasn't able to gather any ideas for today's blog.
Monday, February 25, 2008
Also from Chris at AmericaBlog.
For a period of time, the Bush Administration promoted the war in Afghanistan as (among other things) a place where Western powers could promote better treatment for women. Visits by Laura Bush, in secure and remote bunkers far from the real world, highlighted the new Afghanistan where women were active participants in modern society. Whether there was any truth to those stories is hard to say and not even relevant considering how the forgotten country has drifted backwards in so many ways. When a country invades and occupies another country, it should be assumed that you accept responsibility for its people. The failing country has booming poppy crops, issuing death sentences for journalists and women are worse off today than even during the Taliban. We own this and it's shameful.
Grinding poverty and the escalating war is driving an increasing number of Afghan families to sell their daughters into forced marriages.
Girls as young as six are being married into a life of slavery and rape, often by multiple members of their new relatives. Banned from seeing their own parents or siblings, they are also prohibited from going to school. With little recognition of the illegality of the situation or any effective recourse, many of the victims are driven to self-immolation – burning themselves to death – or severe self-harm.
As I was reading this, I couldn't help but think of Anne Frank writing in her diary as she and her family hid out from the Nazis. (I've visited the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam and also read her diary.) I found this at The Left Coaster:
Sixteen year old Iraqi blogger Sunshine puts Bush's disaster into a better perspective than I or any other American blogger could:Her optimism, even after having experienced so much disappointment and horror, should make any humane person ache.
The new operation is about to start as you know, I feel like it’ll work this time, although not everyone think so, because the troops announced the operation before it starts .. I still have hope, I don’t know why.. All the ex-operations failed, but there is a voice inside my heart telling me to be optimistic.
I think about Iraq a lot, what happened and what’s going to happen. When I think about our future I wonder weather it’ll worth every thing we faced , Hopefully.
I open the curtain above my bed, look at the sky, and think…
If the troops will defeat the terrorists and we’ll have security, my relatives who live abroad will come to Iraq, and I’ll be able to see my aunt again, we’ll do whatever we want and wear what we like, without being afraid from terrorists .. I’ll feel more free to write about what I feel, and you’ll be able to see Sunshine, I won’t have to make voice interviews only ..
Oh god how much I miss planning to picnics and preparing for parties, I feel I am so close to live in safety, and see my relatives , neighbors , & friends who had to leave Iraq again.
Every bad thing we got through will be a memory only, we’ve been living in a war zone for four long years, full of sadness & fear. It was a bad experience and no one would love to go through that, but It’s out of my power, I can’t end the war, but we say “if you have lemon, make lemonade” there’s no bright side in the war, but in this four years I became stronger, and independent person, I believe in myself and I know nothing can stop me from moving forward, not even the war, nor terrorists when I have determination and faith ..
I realized how much I love Iraq, I didn’t know how much Iraq means to me, until I saw It destroyed.
From Chris at Americablog.
But don't call it a bailout. John McCain can claim economic ignorance (and he's right) but it was the GOP who ushered in this era of laissez faire economics. This is precisely what he wants to do to the US health care system, as if this would somehow help. Now that the banks have lost billions, guess who is running to Congress, asking for help? Wall Street is sending hordes of lobbyists to set up a tax payer bailout to the industry. Wall Street got themselves into this problem, let them dig themselves out of it on their own dollar. . . .
A confidential proposal that Bank of America circulated to members of Congress this month provides a stunning glimpse of how quickly the industry has reversed its laissez-faire disdain for second-guessing by the government — now that it is in trouble.
The proposal warns that up to $739 billion in mortgages are at “moderate to high risk” of defaulting over the next five years and that millions of families could lose their homes.
To prevent that, Bank of America suggested creating a Federal Homeowner Preservation Corporation that would buy up billions of dollars in troubled mortgages at a deep discount, forgive debt above the current market value of the homes and use federal loan guarantees to refinance the borrowers at lower rates.
“We believe that any intervention by the federal government will be acceptable only if it is not perceived as a bailout of the bond market,” the financial institution noted.
And that it should end so ingloriously! No fighting to the last man at the battlements, no martyr’s surrender to an assassin’s bullet, only a creaking, shuffling exit through the ward’s doors, hospital gown flapping. We are less than a year away from the half-century marker of a most astonishing marathon, but even this artist of endurance must bow to fate and acknowledge that it’s time to go. Vámonos, Fidel: no one is standing in the way. . . .
In retrospect, it is astounding how short the period of the revolution’s great achievements was. The literacy campaign was completed in 1961; the health-care system and the food-rationing program (which, though loathsome, provided every Cuban with a guaranteed calorie intake) were both in place by 1962. It was all done with Soviet money, but no one else had done it, and the right to an education and a healthy life was more than enough promise for millions of the world’s poor, who remained faithful to the idea of Cuba during the decades of the revolution’s slo-mo collapse. Housing on the island crumbled; public transportation disintegrated; the sugar industry was destroyed; rationing became a constant form of torture; informing on suspect neighbors was enshrined as an ideal; incorrect thinking or behavior was punished with ostracism and jail; journalism withered; art congealed; and still Cuba’s leader found in himself the dramatic resources to embody a dream, a goal, a purpose for an audience the size of the world. . . .
The words “China model” have been batted around with enthusiasm, but tiny Cuba does not have, among other things, a billion people to provide combustion for an internal market. What Cuba does have, unavoidably and, so far, to its historical misfortune, is the United States, and what the United States does not have is a policy. The mindless trade embargo, imposed in 1962—which inflicts great suffering on a proud people in an attempt to coax them to support U.S. interests—does not qualify. Nine successive Presidents have rubberstamped the embargo; apart from making the island’s American-car repairmen world famous, the only effect recently has been to deprive Cubans of cheaper medicines, food, books, industrial equipment, spare parts, communications systems, and reasons to bear Americans good will.
The only other significant U.S. policy initiative with regard to Castro, as he has always been called in this country, was the Bay of Pigs and, like the embargo, it served merely to strengthen the revolution. The Bay of Pigs was a gift worthy of the magi; it allowed Fidel and Raúl, the sempiternal head of the revolution’s armed forces, to rout fourteen hundred anti-Castro Cubans, armed and trained by la CIA (rhymes with “see ya”), and provided the perfect backdrop against which Fidel could, in the course of the operation, declare Cuba a socialist state. By the time of the Cuban missile crisis, Fidel’s armor of defiance had been polished to a high gleam. . . .
Sunday, February 24, 2008
From The Miami Herald.
Winter Party is a day at the beach, but National Gay and Lesbian Task Force organizers want everyone to know that the big, weeklong festival has a serious side, too.
''When the Task Force took over Winter Party, one of the missions was to make sure it was not just a [men's] circuit party but a series of events to reach out to . . . the entire spectrum of the community. Transgender people, LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender] families and youth,'' said Michael Bath, Miami's Task Force special events manager. ``We don't have a pride celebration in Miami. This is about the closest thing we have to it.''
Besides the 15th annual beach party, Winter Party Festival this year includes an interfaith religious service, a picnic for gay families, a ''Hollywood Nights'' youth event and a preview of a new memorial to gay hate-crime victims.
Bath expects 10,000 visitors from all over the world to attend this year's festival, with events in Miami-Dade and Broward counties. . . .
(Seen at TowleRoad.)
Found this at TowleRoad. Check out the link, too.
Scientists in New York have developed a paper-thin material that absorbs 99.955 percent of the light that hits it, making it the darkest substance ever made. The Washington Post reports: “The material, made of hollow fibers, is a Roach Motel for photons—light checks in, but it never checks out. By voraciously sucking up all surrounding illumination, it can give those who gaze on it a dizzying sensation of nothingness.”
Speaking of subprime lending, Chris at AmericaBlog had a link to this excellent (and raunchy) slide show on the subject. (CMOs are Collateralized Mortgage Obligations; CDOs are Collateralized Debt Obligations. For more technical information on these terms, see Investopedia here.)
I found this at The South Beach Bum.
I'm lucky I bought this condo several years ago before the real estate prices went sky-high. I don't know whether I could afford to buy it today. Even though the real estate market has bottomed out here, my place is still worth a lot more than what I paid for it. However, with the subprime lending crisis upon us, a lot of buyers in my building can no longer afford their places and haven't been paying their monthly maintenance fees, so we've had assessments to cover their delinquencies. Now the monthly maintenance is sky-high. (They recently lowered it by $100 however, by reducing the monthly reserve assessment fees.)
Yesterday morning my internet was out and so the Vonage phone wasn't working. I tried calling AT&T on the cell phone, but it was out. (It was supposed to be reactivated over a week ago--a long, and sad, story.) So I got cleaned up and walked over to the Sprint Store across the street, where I got the phone. Sure enough, it hadn't been reactivated, so they put that in motion and said the phone would be operational in two hours.
I walked down to Flanigan's for an early lunch and shortly afterward was able to call AT&T on the cell phone. They got me back up on the Internet (I know how to do that now, as long as the DSL is working). (I had to do it again this morning!) I also got the Vonage phone back up.
Then last night, the DSL went down. I called AT&T and was on hold the longest time before the cell phone lost the call. So I decided just to wait until the morning to see what the status was. Sure enough, when I got up this morning, the DSL was back up. What a piece of crap. I'll again look into whether Verizon is offering high-speed Internet access in my neighborhood. According to Consumer Reports, it's among the best services in the country. The last time I looked into getting it, however, it wasn't being offered in this area. [Odd--the spell checker is working again.]
Thursday, February 21, 2008
First, the Cubans who came here in 1959-60 are not and never were 'exiles'. No one forced them to leave Cuba, they left of their own accord. To be more precise, they are emigres. Second, not a single person came here in 1959-60 seeking freedom. There was no freedom in Cuba before Castro. The people who came here were the dictatorship, the murderers and torturers of the dictatorship, and the professional and other scum who used the dictatorship to profiteer on the backs of Cuban peasants.
The Cuban people certainly didn't deserve Castro, but they were well served by getting rid of the garbage who profiteered from the Bautista dictatorship. The emigres will also soon discover that actual Cubans don't want the fascists back.
Everytime I read an article about Miami Cubans on a progressive web site or newspaper I cringe. You never get it right. By the way, neither do conservatives. First, you never get the nuances of Cuban-American politics right. For the record, Joe Garcia and Raul Martinez are highly regarded Cuban-American Democrats. Some of our most popular local politicians are Democrats. In fact, fully one-third of Cuban-Americans consider themselves Democrats. This number is growing by leaps and bounds. Second, you always try to make us more volatile than we really are. For the record, Castro's resignation was met with one huge, collective yawn in Miami and was NOT vocal in the least as was suggested by this article. You may have wanted that to be so but it was certainly not the case. So stop projecting your prejudices onto us.
Now, to Portlander, people like you always ASSUME that Cuban "exiles" or whatever you want to call us were all thick as thieves with the Batista regime, when that is generally not the case. There are many more people in Miami who sided with Fidel and got burned than Batistianos. If you had bothered to research a little bit more about us before painting us all with the same brush, you would know this. Maybe this will prompt you to do some actual research and maybe meet some real live Cuban-Americans. Who knows? Some of the Cuban-Americans you meet may even be Democrats.
My experience with Cuban-Americans is quite different. I was a professional actor for a period in my life, and Miami was a frequent tour destination. Three altercations with Omega 7 and one with some real nasties that called themselves Victory 61 (got myself a nice gunshot wound out of that one) plus many conversations with Cuban Americans convinced me that fascism is alive and very well in South Florida. I've done the research and met the people, both here and in Cuba, and my statement that no one came here in 1959-60 for freedom stands.
[You can read more of this exchange (and others) here.]
This is from Wikipedia.
As a child, John was known for a quick temper and an aggressive drive to compete and prevail. After World War II was over, his father stayed in the Navy, sometimes working political liaison posts; the family settled in Northern Virginia, and McCain attended the educationally stronger St. Stephen's School in Alexandria, Virginia from 1946 to 1949, where he began to develop an unruly, defiant streak. Another two years were then spent following his father to naval stations; altogether he attended about twenty different schools during his youth. In 1951, McCain enrolled at Episcopal High School in Alexandria, a top private school with a rigorous honor code. McCain earned two varsity letters in wrestling, and he excelled in the lighter weight classes. Gaining the nicknames "Punk" and "McNasty" due to his combative and fiery disposition, he enjoyed and cultivated that tough guy image . . . .
This Salon article examines the possibilities.
Real change in our hard-line Cuba policy may depend more on who's in Congress than who wins the White House. Suddenly, Miami's three Cuban Republicans look beatable. . . .
From Bill Scher at LiberalOasis. (Just saw it on NBC Nightly News. Limbaugh, no fan of McCain, blasted the media.)
Standing By McCain...For Now
I was curious last night to see how the conservative movement reacted to the NYT/McCain story: chance to dump McCain before the convention, or chance to use the NYT as a foil to firm up conservative support for the expected nominee.
It appears that folks are doing the latter, for now, and waiting to see if more shoes drop. The loyalty for McCain is non-existent. And he's not even polling well against Obama. They will shove him off the stage if they have a clear opportunity.
Granted, McCain may poll better than anyone else. But many conservatives would rather lose Goldwater-style -- in a blaze of glory, while laying down clear conservative markers -- than lose Dole-style.
I heard on TV (or read somewhere) that it cost $60 million to shoot down the satellite. (See this article from Slate, "The $60 Million Missile: Why is it so expensive to shoot down a spy satellite?".) Also, check this out from The Left Coaster (quoting from the science journal Nature):
A plan by the US government to shoot down an out-of-control spy satellite has been described as a cynical tit-for-tat move in response to China doing the same last year. Scientists and arms-control experts fear that the operation will create damaging debris and weaken international efforts to ban space weaponry. . . .
But scientists familiar with both satellite re-entry and the US missile defence system question the decision. The chances that the tank, which is 1 metre in diameter, will survive and strike land are extremely small, says Geoffrey Forden, a physicist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge. “Most likely it will land in the ocean,” he says. The reasons given for the plan “don’t sound too credible to me”, he adds. “I think they’re doing it mainly to tell the Chinese that we can blow up a satellite too,” says Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer at the Harvard–Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachusetts. “This gives the US cover to carry out a test.”
So Bush's defense contractor friends got a boost (remember the $6,000 toilet or however much it cost?) and Bush got to thumb his nose at the Chinese. (According to Slate, $60 million is about 0.01 percent of the 2009 budget for the Department of Defense.)
I'm not that savvy about political operatives and in particular Mark Penn, a P.R. executive who's been running Hillary's campaign. I know the very lefty bloggers hate him, and I suspect that a lot of their antagonism against Clinton has to do with him and Hillary's choice of him as her chief campaign advisor (for which he's being paid a lot of money, and the lefties hate money).
Penn is associated with the Democratic Leadership Conference, which helped Bill Clinton get elected. Their tack was to offer up a candidate with more appeal to right-wingers, one who was pro-business and not so "liberal." Of course the hard-core left-wingers in the Democratic Party found the strategy offensive. The goal, however, was to get a Democratic presidential candidate elected, and Bill Clinton got elected.
I think Bill Clinton did the best he could. He did, for example, try to get gays accepted in the military and wound up with "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," which is better than the status quo at the time. He did try to get comprehensive health care reform, but that unfortunately failed. He was working in an adversarial atmosphere not of his own doing. Too many special interests had (and still have) high stakes in keeping the parceling out of health care in this country a for-profit business when, in reality, our health care problems are too vast to be handled fairly and effectively by the private, profit-seeking sector. Taxes will have to be raised. The most wealthy in the country can certainly afford it, but they will resist it tooth and nail and have the means to do so.
I think it's unfair of Obama to slight Bill Clinton's presidency. Let's just see what Obama is able to accomplish in comparison. I'm hopeful that he can live up to the hope he's offering us all. (I think I'm going to faint now, or just go to bed.)
Wednesday, February 20, 2008
Even more than wanting a Democrat to get elected in the fall, I too want change. Obama has held himself out as the candidate for change (we've all heard that before in past campaigns). But you won't effect change by making obseisances to the Republicans. You have to fight them. The Republicans are more than ready for the fight--they have so much to lose--but I don't think Obama is. He just wants everybody to get along and have hope. I think it's very naive.
If he gets the nomination, he'll have to toughen up. And if he wins the presidency, he'll have to toughen up even more to push his programs through Congress and bring about the change he stands for. We'll see whether he can transform his rhetoric of change into reality. I'm surely hoping for it.
(Also from Steve Soto at The Left Coaster.)
[W]hat exactly are the Democratic Party getting with Obama as their presumptive nominee?
They will not be getting a nominee who can take the gloves off against McCain. Even though he spoke less than an hour after John McCain lobbed the “inexperience” charge at him and called him out for being unready to lead the country, Obama could only find it in himself to mention McCain by name only once by my account, and even then, he qualified his remarks with how much he revered McCain.
They will not be getting a nominee who can define differences between the parties. Obama seemingly only mentioned “Republicans” in the context of reaching out to them, while letting their leaders off the hook, as if the last seven years of graft, corruption, and circumvention of the Constitution were bipartisan in origin. Obama aimed his attack not against the party which controlled Washington for the better part of this decade and which controlled Congress for the better part of the 1990’s. Rather, he aimed his critique against both parties and Washington as a whole, as if Democrats are equally culpable for the country’s problems. If tonight is any guide, Democrats will be getting a nominee who runs just as often against them as Republicans. They will be getting a nominee who shows little stomach for holding the Republican Party in general and John McCain particularly accountable for what they have done to this country. His campaign seemingly has an easier time carving up a female Democratic opponent than they do a Republican standard-bearer who represents Bush’s third term, and who questions Obama’s fitness for office.
This nonpolitical message may be the message that Obama’s Millions want to hear, and we can all pray that they show up and vote for him and the Democratic Party in November to offset the wave of motivated far right forces aligned against him, as well as the Indies and Latinos that McCain will pull from him. My main question [to] Senator Obama is this: with the nomination almost in hand now, when does your message shift from being all about you and the movement towards a call for a Democratic government to right the wrongs from years of GOP harm?
From The Left Coaster.
Some of you raise valid points about the need for Obama to run against the Washington Democratic establishment and party in order to appeal to independents and crossover Republicans. He is portraying himself as a Beltway outsider, and his rhetoric clearly indicates he is running as a movement candidate and not yet as the Democratic candidate for president. There are obvious advantages in running against John McCain as an outsider focused on the future against a party and a candidate still held hostage to a failed message and governing philosophy of the present and recent past.
Some of you agree with Obama’s reticence to go right at McCain, saying that it would be contrary to Obama’s message for him to get into a scorched earth battle with McCain. But that battle from the other side has already started, and the GOP’s narrative against Obama is already being seeded in the media. If Obama continues to play to his cheering crowds and continues his self-described reverence for John McCain much longer, he will wake up one day this spring and find that independent voters are starting to listen to the “experience” and “indecisiveness” critiques by McCain, and are starting to buy that narrative. The 2004 experience has shown us that waiting until the summer time to set a narrative against your opponent is a recipe for losing a close race.
If Obama cannot draw distinctions between him and McCain on real issues and their judgment, and between the Democratic Party’s priorities and those of the GOP, then by default you end up allowing your opponent to define you and your party to your detriment. He had no problem doing this to Hillary, and yet speaks of reverence for McCain. He now needs to point out what a Bush third term would look like under a John McCain, and what that means for all Americans here and overseas, and why a Democratic government is important. It means going right at McCain’s critique about experience and indecisiveness in the same way he went after Hillary when she used it against him.
Lastly, for those of you who support Obama’s critique of both parties inside the Beltway because he is appealing to new, independent, disaffected, and crossover voters, I understand your position. But tell me again how that argument constitutes a rallying cry to elect strong Democratic majorities in both houses, to carry out a “movement” mandate without party identification after the importance of the Democratic Party as an agent of change was routinely diminished and undermined during the campaign?
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
All I really care about when it comes to the presidential election is that a Democrat wins. That has to happen.
I've been a Hillary supporter, but I could also be an Obama supporter. I just thought Hillary was better equipped to do battle with the Republicans and special interests "from day one" (as she says). I still think that. But if she's less electable than Obama, then I'll gladly accept Obama as the candidate. We can't have another Republican--especially McCain--get into office and continue the policies of George Bush. (I think McCain is talking the talk to mollify conservatives these days, but if he does get into office, he'll reassert his own slightly more measured principles. But that's not good enough.)
I still think that Democrats should elect their own candidate. Some of the primaries and caucuses are open to Republicans and independents. However, their votes shouldn't be considered in our choosing our Democratic candidate, especially in Red States where the vote will probably go to a Republican anyway. They might be an indicator (or not) of how the general election will go. That's speculative.
There is so much momentum and I dare say irrational fervor for Obama right now that one can speculate that lots of Republicans and independents will vote for Obama in the general election (more than for Hillary) and that with Obama as the Democratic candidate, the election will be decisive and not be at odds with the popular vote (i.e., the Electoral College won't matter).
I still think it's a little too soon to arrive at that conclusion.
Notice he puts a question mark at the end, which means it's not substantiated, but meanwhile he's spreading what's probably disinformation to his readers.
I used to like and respect this blogger, but no longer. Lately he's lost all sense of objectivity and has become one of these frenzied, monomaniacal Obama supporters* and now resorts to manipulating his readership--perhaps unintentionally even, since it appears he's lost his mind. But it's still very malicious and divisive.
*I have nothing against Obama, whom I'd vote for in a heartbeat.
Saw this at AmericaBlog. Love those Republican family values.
AP story here.
Now that Fidel Castro has retired, many Cubans are looking to his brother to let more people open businesses, own homes and even travel abroad. But it will probably fall to a new generation of leaders to ultimately fulfill or frustrate their dreams of prosperity.
During his 1 1/2 years as acting president, 76-year-old Raul Castro has hinted at reform but made few major changes — a reticence many see as a sign of respect for his beloved, more doctrinaire older brother, who survived despite the efforts of 10 U.S. presidents to bring him down.
And while hoping that Raul and his likely No. 2, Carlos Lage, will advocate for change, they wonder how that will fly with Fidel, who stepped down but isn't going away.
"There has to be some change, more freedom with Raul," said Andres, 63, who like many Cubans wouldn't give his last name for fear of reprisal when talking about the Castro brothers. "The other one always nipped that off at the bud."
The resignation, announced Tuesday, should give Raul Castro the autonomy he lacked as the government's caretaker since Fidel was sidelined by intestinal surgery in July 2006. . . .
I found this amusing. From Alex Koppelman at Salon's War Room.
At first it seemed like a few random cases of lassitude among Mary Chapin Carpenter devotees in Berkeley, Cambridge and Chapel Hill. But then psychotherapists began to realize patients across the country were complaining of the same distress. They were experiencing the first hints of what's bound to be a national phenomenon: Obama Comedown Syndrome.
The afflicted had already been through the phases of Obama-mania -- fainting at rallies, weeping over their touch screens while watching Obama videos, spending hours making folk crafts featuring Michelle Obama's face. These patients had experienced intense surges of hope-amine, the brain chemical that fuels euphoric sensations of historic change and personal salvation.
But they found that as the weeks went on, they needed more and purer hope-injections just to preserve the rush. They wound up craving more hope than even the Hope Pope could provide, and they began experiencing brooding moments of suboptimal hopefulness. Anxious posts began to appear on the Yes We Can! Facebook pages. A sense of ennui began to creep through the nation's Ian McEwan-centered book clubs.
Up until now The Chosen One's speeches had seemed to them less like stretches of words and more like soul sensations that transcended time and space. But those in the grips of Obama Comedown Syndrome began to wonder if His stuff actually made sense. For example, His Hopeness tells rallies that we are the change we have been waiting for, but if we are the change we have been waiting for then why have we been waiting since we've been here all along?
Monday, February 18, 2008
From Greg Sargent at TPM.
As I've noted here before, multiple sources close to Edwards have told me (and many others) that he feels closer to Obama on the issues (except for health care) and thinks he represents the possibility of a more fundamental break with the status quo, but has concerns about his toughness and readiness to be president.
From ABC's This Week [yesterday]:
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN: ...we'll argue about whether we should increase your taxes or decrease them. Obviously, I'm for decreases in taxes. Maybe Americans want their taxes increased. We'll argue about --
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: ... for middle-income Americans, only raise them on the wealthy.
MCCAIN: Oh, yes, sure, the wealthy, the wealthy. Always be interested in when people talk about who the, quote, "wealthy" are in America. I find it interesting.
Interesting, like McCain in 2001:
I cannot in good conscience support a tax cut in which so many of the benefits go to the most fortunate among us, at the expense of middle class Americans who most need tax relief.
From Bill Scher at LiberalOasis.
From Joan Walsh at Salon.
[C]laiming that there's one clear way for superdelegates to vote is either naïve or dishonest. The Obama campaign seems to know this, even if many supporters, most notably MoveOn.org, are acting as though superdelegates must support the pledged-delegate winner. Obama's remarks have shaded towards the point of view that superdelegates should support the voters' choice, while his campaign manager, David Axelrod, has said they should vote for the person they think is best. As with most things, Obama's campaign has played the media and expectations game better than the Clinton campaign, succeeding in having it both ways, and leaving itself open to making whichever argument fits its circumstances best in August. . . .
Sunday, February 17, 2008
Here. (Original rancorous post here.) Chris Matthews is an avowed Clinton-hater and basically a "right wing tool" (as Stephanie Miller told him to his face on his own show). For supposedly Democratic bloggers to ally themselves with Chris Matthews in their ecstatic support for Obama borders on the unconscionable, in my book.
Saturday, February 16, 2008
While I've been dealing with some personal issues lately and thus haven't been doing much writing, the bitter Clinton-bashing by the Obama supporters hasn't escaped me.
While I have nothing against Obama and think he would make a great president someday (I voted for Hillary in the Florida primary), I can't get over the rank nastiness of some of the pro-Obama bloggers. I never thought I'd see the day when so-called "liberal" bloggers would resort to the sort of Clinton-smearing that normally you'd find in the mainstream media and on Fox News. The Republicans must be eating this up.
Also, the fanatical fervor that these bloggers and many other Obama supporters have for Obama is frightening. It's so highly irrational. I'm shocked that otherwise thinking people would turn into raving maniacs over a candidate. They talk about hearing the speeches and being converted. Adolf Hitler made rousing speeches too and got the people behind him. I think we have to be a little more circumspect when choosing our candidates for president. (And I'm not even equating Obama with Hitler. I'm talking about the mania that seizes people.)
Thursday, February 14, 2008
Wednesday, February 06, 2008
TOTAL VOTES CAST
Clinton: 50.2% (7,347,971)
Obama: 49.8% (7,294,851)
It’s no secret that the unhealthy American diet is contributing to an epidemic of obesity. But there’s another hidden epidemic that our fatty diets are at the root of: a national sex crisis.
In 1996, the average American had sex 138 times a year. Compare that to 2007, when people reported having sex just 85 times a year. That's a staggering 38 percent decrease in a little more than a decade. Furthermore, psychologists estimate that as many as 1 in 5 couples are in a sexless marriage, which means sex less than 10 times a year. In other words, our sex drive is in a deep dive. . . .
On health insurance. I've talked about this before. The reason why health care in Europe is so cheap (and better than here) is that all citizens participate in one large risk pool (according to his/her ability).
Clinton, Obama, Insurance
The principal policy division between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama involves health care. It’s a division that can seem technical and obscure — and I’ve read many assertions that only the most wonkish care about the fine print of their proposals.
But as I’ve tried to explain in previous columns, there really is a big difference between the candidates’ approaches. And new research, just released, confirms what I’ve been saying: the difference between the plans could well be the difference between achieving universal health coverage — a key progressive goal — and falling far short.
Specifically, new estimates say that a plan resembling Mrs. Clinton’s would cover almost twice as many of those now uninsured as a plan resembling Mr. Obama’s — at only slightly higher cost.
Let’s talk about how the plans compare.
Both plans require that private insurers offer policies to everyone, regardless of medical history. Both also allow people to buy into government-offered insurance instead.
And both plans seek to make insurance affordable to lower-income Americans. The Clinton plan is, however, more explicit about affordability, promising to limit insurance costs as a percentage of family income. And it also seems to include more funds for subsidies.
But the big difference is mandates: the Clinton plan requires that everyone have insurance; the Obama plan doesn’t.
Mr. Obama claims that people will buy insurance if it becomes affordable. Unfortunately, the evidence says otherwise.
After all, we already have programs that make health insurance free or very cheap to many low-income Americans, without requiring that they sign up. And many of those eligible fail, for whatever reason, to enroll.
An Obama-type plan would also face the problem of healthy people who decide to take their chances or don’t sign up until they develop medical problems, thereby raising premiums for everyone else. Mr. Obama, contradicting his earlier assertions that affordability is the only bar to coverage, is now talking about penalizing those who delay signing up — but it’s not clear how this would work.
So the Obama plan would leave more people uninsured than the Clinton plan. How big is the difference?
To answer this question you need to make a detailed analysis of health care decisions. That’s what Jonathan Gruber of M.I.T., one of America’s leading health care economists, does in a new paper.
Mr. Gruber finds that a plan without mandates, broadly resembling the Obama plan, would cover 23 million of those currently uninsured, at a taxpayer cost of $102 billion per year. An otherwise identical plan with mandates would cover 45 million of the uninsured — essentially everyone — at a taxpayer cost of $124 billion. Over all, the Obama-type plan would cost $4,400 per newly insured person, the Clinton-type plan only $2,700.
That doesn’t look like a trivial difference to me. One plan achieves more or less universal coverage; the other, although it costs more than 80 percent as much, covers only about half of those currently uninsured.
As with any economic analysis, Mr. Gruber’s results are only as good as his model. But they’re consistent with the results of other analyses, such as a 2003 study, commissioned by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, that compared health reform plans and found that mandates made a big difference both to success in covering the uninsured and to cost-effectiveness.
And that’s why many health care experts like Mr. Gruber strongly support mandates.
Now, some might argue that none of this matters, because the legislation presidents actually manage to get enacted often bears little resemblance to their campaign proposals. And there is, indeed, no guarantee that Mrs. Clinton would, if elected, be able to pass anything like her current health care plan.
But while it’s easy to see how the Clinton plan could end up being eviscerated, it’s hard to see how the hole in the Obama plan can be repaired. Why? Because Mr. Obama’s campaigning on the health care issue has sabotaged his own prospects.
You see, the Obama campaign has demonized the idea of mandates — most recently in a scare-tactics mailer sent to voters that bears a striking resemblance to the “Harry and Louise” ads run by the insurance lobby in 1993, ads that helped undermine our last chance at getting universal health care.
If Mr. Obama gets to the White House and tries to achieve universal coverage, he’ll find that it can’t be done without mandates — but if he tries to institute mandates, the enemies of reform will use his own words against him.
If you combine the economic analysis with these political realities, here’s what I think it says: If Mrs. Clinton gets the Democratic nomination, there is some chance — nobody knows how big — that we’ll get universal health care in the next administration. If Mr. Obama gets the nomination, it just won’t happen.
P.S. My spell checker is for the moment broken so please bare with me (just kidding).
Tuesday, February 05, 2008
Friday, February 01, 2008
The Edwards Effect
So John Edwards has dropped out of the race for the presidency. By normal political standards, his campaign fell short.
But Mr. Edwards, far more than is usual in modern politics, ran a campaign based on ideas. And even as his personal quest for the White House faltered, his ideas triumphed: both candidates left standing are, to a large extent, running on the platform Mr. Edwards built.
To understand the extent of the Edwards effect, you have to think about what might have been.
At the beginning of 2007, it seemed likely that the Democratic nominee would run a cautious campaign, without strong, distinctive policy ideas. That, after all, is what John Kerry did in 2004.
If 2008 is different, it will be largely thanks to Mr. Edwards. He made a habit of introducing bold policy proposals — and they were met with such enthusiasm among Democrats that his rivals were more or less forced to follow suit.
It’s hard, in particular, to overstate the importance of the Edwards health care plan, introduced in February.
Before the Edwards plan was unveiled, advocates of universal health care had difficulty getting traction, in part because they were divided over how to get there. Some advocated a single-payer system — a k a Medicare for all — but this was dismissed as politically infeasible. Some advocated reform based on private insurers, but single-payer advocates, aware of the vast inefficiency of the private insurance system, recoiled at the prospect.
With no consensus about how to pursue health reform, and vivid memories of the failure of 1993-1994, Democratic politicians avoided the subject, treating universal care as a vague dream for the distant future.
But the Edwards plan squared the circle, giving people the choice of staying with private insurers, while also giving everyone the option of buying into government-offered, Medicare-type plans — a form of public-private competition that Mr. Edwards made clear might lead to a single-payer system over time. And he also broke the taboo against calling for tax increases to pay for reform.
Suddenly, universal health care became a possible dream for the next administration. In the months that followed, the rival campaigns moved to assure the party’s base that it was a dream they shared, by emulating the Edwards plan. And there’s little question that if the next president really does achieve major health reform, it will transform the political landscape.
Similar if less dramatic examples of leadership followed on other key issues. For example, Mr. Edwards led the way last March by proposing a serious plan for responding to climate change, and at this point both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are offering far stronger measures to limit emissions of greenhouse gases than anyone would have expected to see on the table not long ago.
Unfortunately for Mr. Edwards, the willingness of his rivals to emulate his policy proposals made it hard for him to differentiate himself as a candidate; meanwhile, those rivals had far larger financial resources and received vastly more media attention. Even The Times’s own public editor chided the paper for giving Mr. Edwards so little coverage.
And so Mr. Edwards won the arguments but not the political war.
Where will Edwards supporters go now? The truth is that nobody knows.
Yes, Mr. Obama is also running as a “change” candidate. But he isn’t offering the same kind of change: Mr. Edwards ran an unabashedly populist campaign, while Mr. Obama portrays himself as a candidate who can transcend partisanship — and given the economic elitism of the modern Republican Party, populism is unavoidably partisan.
It’s true that Mr. Obama has tried to work some populist themes into his campaign, but he apparently isn’t all that convincing: the working-class voters Mr. Edwards attracted have tended to favor Mrs. Clinton over Mr. Obama.
Furthermore, to the extent that this remains a campaign of ideas, it remains true that on the key issue of health care, the Clinton plan is more or less identical to the Edwards plan. The Obama plan, which doesn’t actually achieve universal coverage, is considerably weaker.
One thing is clear, however: whichever candidate does get the nomination, his or her chance of victory will rest largely on the ideas Mr. Edwards brought to the campaign.
Personal appeal won’t do the job: history shows that Republicans are very good at demonizing their opponents as individuals. Mrs. Clinton has already received the full treatment, while Mr. Obama hasn’t — yet. But if he gets the nod, watch how quickly conservative pundits who have praised him discover that he has deep character flaws.
If Democrats manage to get the focus on their substantive differences with the Republicans, however, polls on the issues suggest that they’ll have a big advantage. And they’ll have Mr. Edwards to thank.
This is sickening, all the more so that the bombings took place at pet bazaars.
Feb 1st, 2008 BAGHDAD -- Two mentally retarded women strapped with remote-control explosives — and possibly used as unwitting suicide bombers — brought carnage Friday to two pet bazaars, killing at 91 people in the deadliest day since Washington flooded the capital with extra troops last spring.
The coordinated blasts — coming 20 minutes apart in different parts of the city — appeared to reinforce U.S. claims al-Qaida in Iraq may be increasingly desperate and running short of able-bodied men willing or available for such missions. . . .
The Bush budget to be submitted Monday would cut the budget for the Health and Human Services Department by $2 billion, or 3 percent. By contrast, the Pentagon would get a $35 billion increase to $515 billion for core programs, with war costs additional. . . .
The Centers for Disease Control's budget would face a 7 percent reduction of $433 million. The budget for a program to treat and monitor the health of first responders and others exposed to toxins at the World Trade Center after the Sept. 11 attacks would be cut by 77 percent, from $108 million this year to $25 million in 2009.
The National Institutes of Health, which funds health research grants, would see its budget frozen at $29.5 billion.
A program providing grants to help mental health and substance abuse providers update their treatment programs would be cut almost in half. Bush also would eliminate a new $49 million program to help states provide health insurance to people who are ailing and cannot obtain health insurance in the commercial market. . . .