Wednesday, April 30, 2008

'McGreeveys Argue Over Allowing Aide to Testify at Divorce'

From The Advocate.

The wife of former New Jersey governor Jim McGreevey wants to ban testimony in their divorce trial from a former aide who claims he had sexual trysts with the couple.

Dina Matos McGreevey's lawyer argues in court papers that the testimony of former campaign aide Teddy Pedersen is ''irrelevant,'' ''inflammatory,'' ''far-fetched,'' and should not be allowed.

''The only reason for calling him is to elicit salacious sexual testimony,'' her lawyer John Post wrote.

McGreevey lawyer Stephen Haller contends that Pedersen's testimony is relevant to disproving Matos McGreevey's claim that she was duped into marrying a gay man with political ambitions.

Judge Karen Cassidy will rule on the testimony and other issues when the couple's divorce trial starts May 6.

Matos McGreevey argues that McGreevey concealed his sexual identity, which amounts to fraud and entitles her to more money in the divorce. She is seeking $600,000 for time she would have spent at the governor's mansion as first lady had he not resigned in disgrace in 2004.

Pedersen said in sworn testimony that he participated in regular threesomes with the couple beginning in 1999 while they were dating and continuing until McGreevey became governor in 2001. The couple married in 2000.

McGreevey has said the encounters happened, but his wife denies it.

Pedersen, 29, said he came forward to buttress McGreevey's contention that his wife had to have known he was gay when they married. She says she had no clue, although in a book about her marriage, she acknowledged missing several signs.

McGreevey, Matos McGreevey, and Post did not return messages for comment.

Haller said McGreevey would like the case settled. But if there is a trial, he wants the facts heard since they will ''forcefully contradict'' Matos McGreevey's account. (Angela Delli Santi, AP)

Wolcott on Andrew Sullivan


(From the Vanity Fair article--see post below.)

Perhaps no vilifier of Hillary Clinton traipses across the footlights with a bigger satchel of calumnies than Andrew Sullivan, who diagnosed Mrs. Clinton as “the hollowest form of political life,” a “sociopath.” His solo act had and has a symptomatic significance. Published under the aegis of The Atlantic’s stable of notable byliners, Sullivan’s Daily Dish blog is must-reading among the media elite, those sheep. His words extend wider ripples in the ocean of emotion that passes for opinion journalism than did those of his fellow cobblers. In a column for The Times of London entitled “The Clintons, a Horror Film That Never Ends,” Sullivan compared Hillary to Glenn Close’s bunny boiler in Fatal Attraction—“Whoosh! She’s back at your throat!”—and the Clintons as a couple to the fast-running zombies in 28 Days Later. “The Clintons live off psychodrama,” he contended in a classic pot-kettle-black moment. . . .

'Wolcott on Progressives "Going Postal"'

Talk Left post here.

James Wolcott examines the split among progressive bloggers over Hillary and Obama in the new Vanity Fair.

The vicious Clinton-versus-Obama rupture at Daily Kos, the most activist site in the liberal blogosphere, reflects a party-wide split. What really rankles, as Democrats tear at one another, is the free pass they’ve given McCain—and the White House.

Wolcott names many bloggers (we're not among them). Here's a snippet. [More...]

Once Edwards dropped out of the race, however, the buffer zone was removed, direct contact replaced triangulation, and the Obama and Hillary supporters faced off like the Jets and the Sharks. The rancor was disproportionate in intensity and extravagant in invective, a fervor worthy of ancestral foes. Months-old grievances seethed and erupted as if they had been bubbling for centuries in a lake of bad blood.

On the most egoistic plane, it seemed like a clash of entitlements, the messianics versus the menopausals. The Obama-ites exuded the confidence of those who feel that they embody the future and are the seed bearers of energies and new modalities too long smothered under the thick haunches of the tired, old, entrenched way of doing things. The Hillarions felt a different imperative knocking at the gate of history, the long-overdue prospect of the first woman taking the presidential oath of office. For them, Hillary’s time had come, she had paid her dues, she had been thoroughly vetted, she had survived hairdos that would have sunk lesser mortals, and she didn’t let a little thing like being loathed by nearly half of the country bum her out and clog her transmission. Not since Nixon had there been such a show of grinding perseverance in the teeth of adversity....

Menopausals? Ouch.

The last part of his article deals with Democrats' and progressives' inability to hold Bush-Cheney accountable and speculates the same will happen with John McCain.

Maybe that's why some of us want to choose a nominee based on which Democrat is most electable in November rather than the artificially and contrived formulation of pledged delegates that unduly emphasizes results in open Democratic primaries where Republicans can cross over and vote and caucus results in states where Democrats have no chance in November.

All in all, it's a pretty negative take on both sides.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

McCain on health care

Seen at MyDD.

Monday, April 28, 2008

'Love is good wherever you find it'

ABC 20/20 video (seen at Joe.My.God.). On public reaction to gay couples making out in public.

'Bush Made Permanent'

Paul Krugman here.

As the designated political heir of a deeply unpopular president — according to Gallup, President Bush has the highest disapproval rating recorded in 70 years of polling — John McCain should have little hope of winning in November. In fact, however, current polls show him roughly tied with either Democrat.

In part this may reflect the Democrats’ problems. For the most part, however, it probably reflects the perception, eagerly propagated by Mr. McCain’s many admirers in the news media, that he’s very different from Mr. Bush — a responsible guy, a straight talker.

But is this perception at all true? During the 2000 campaign people said much the same thing about Mr. Bush; those of us who looked hard at his policy proposals, especially on taxes, saw the shape of things to come.

And a look at what Mr. McCain says about taxes shows the same combination of irresponsibility and double-talk that, back in 2000, foreshadowed the character of the Bush administration.

The McCain tax plan contains three main elements.

First, Mr. McCain proposes making almost all of the Bush tax cuts, which are currently scheduled to expire at the end of 2010, permanent. (He proposes reinstating the inheritance tax, albeit at a very low rate.)

Second, he wants to eliminate the alternative minimum tax, which was originally created to prevent the wealthy from exploiting tax loopholes, but has begun to hit the upper middle class.

Third, he wants to sharply reduce tax rates on corporate profits.

According to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, the overall effect of the McCain tax plan would be to reduce federal revenue by more than $5 trillion over 10 years. That’s a lot of revenue loss — enough to pose big problems for the government’s solvency.

But before I get to that, let’s look at what I found truly revealing: the McCain campaign’s response to the Tax Policy Center’s assessment. The response, written by Douglas Holtz-Eakin, the former head of the Congressional Budget Office, criticizes the center for adopting “unrealistic Congressional budgeting conventions.” What’s that about?

Well, Congress “scores” tax legislation by comparing estimates of the revenue that would be collected if the legislation passed with estimates of the revenue that would be collected under current law. In this case that means comparing the McCain plan with what would happen if the Bush tax cuts expired on schedule.

Mr. Holtz-Eakin wants the McCain plan compared, instead, with “current policy” — which he says means maintaining tax rates at today’s levels.

But here’s the thing: the reason the Bush tax cuts are set to expire is that the Bush administration engaged in a game of deception. It put an expiration date on the tax cuts, which it never intended to honor, as a way to hide those tax cuts’ true cost.

The McCain campaign wants us to accept the success of that deception as a fact of life. Mr. Holtz-Eakin is saying, in effect, “We’re not engaged in any new irresponsibility — we’re just perpetuating the Bush administration’s irresponsibility. That doesn’t count.”

It’s the sort of fiscal double-talk that has been a Bush administration hallmark. In any case, it offers no answer to the principal point raised by the Tax Policy Center analysis, which has nothing to do with scoring: the McCain tax plan would leave the federal government with far too little revenue to cover its expenses, leading to huge budget deficits unless there were deep cuts in spending.

And Mr. McCain has said nothing realistic about how he would close the giant budget gap his tax cuts would produce — a gap so large that eliminating it would require cutting Social Security benefits by three-quarters, eliminating Medicare, or something equivalently drastic. Talking, as Mr. Holtz-Eakin does, about fighting waste and reforming procurement doesn’t cut it.

Now, Mr. McCain isn’t unique in making promises he has no way to pay for — the same can be said, to some extent, of the Democratic candidates. But Mr. McCain’s plan is far more irresponsible than anything the Democrats are proposing, and the difference in degree is so large as to be a difference in kind. Mr. McCain’s budget talk simply doesn’t make sense.

So what are Mr. McCain’s real intentions?

If truth be told, the McCain tax plan doesn’t seem to embody any coherent policy agenda. Instead, it looks like a giant exercise in pandering — an attempt to mollify the G.O.P.’s right wing, and never mind if it makes any sense.

The impression that Mr. McCain’s tax talk is all about pandering is reinforced by his proposal for a summer gas tax holiday — a measure that would, in fact, do little to help consumers, although it would boost oil industry profits.

More and more, Mr. McCain sounds like a man who will say anything to become president.

The latest on 'electability': 'Clinton Regains Independents, Young Voters Against McCain'

Post here.

Obama supporters understandably dispute any suggestion that Reverend Wright has done any damage to Obama for November, and rebel at the thought that anything would derail his march to the nomination. By his ability to raise loads of money and win numerous contests due to Hillary's mismanaged and ill-defined effort, it is a miscarriage of justice to them that "party bosses" and super delegates would have reservations about Obama's ability to beat McCain in a head-to-head race and hesitate to give him their endorsement this late in the campaign.

But what if Obama has peaked too early, and Hillary has reason to hang around now on the one issue he claims as his own: electability?

Hillary Rodham Clinton now leads John McCain by 9 points in a head-to-head presidential matchup, according to an Associated Press-Ipsos poll that bolsters her argument that she is more electable than Democratic rival Barack Obama.

On a day when Reverend Wright unfortunately made himself the story again, pay close attention to where Hillary has made her gains recently.

Helped by independents, young people and seniors, Clinton gained ground this month in a hypothetical match with Sen. McCain,☼ the GOP nominee-in-waiting. She now leads McCain, 50 percent to 41 percent, while Obama remains virtually tied with McCain, 46 percent to 44 percent.

Keep in mind that this poll had more Democrats in its sample than independents.

When pitted against McCain, Clinton now wins among independents, 50 percent to 34 percent, when just a few weeks ago she ran about even with him with this crucial group of voters. Clinton also now does better among independents than Obama does in a matchup with McCain.

Clinton has a newfound edge among seniors, too, 51 percent to 39 percent; McCain had previously had the advantage. And, Clinton has improved her margin over McCain among people under age 30; two-thirds of them now side with her. McCain leads Obama among seniors, while Obama leads McCain among those under 30 but by a smaller margin than Clinton does.

And she clawed her way to these leads over the last several weeks by going right at McCain on the issues, and this is the result, even before she hones in on the fact that McCain wants to privatize Social Security and wants the war to keep going as long as he and his disaster capitalist buddies want.

Also note that Obama's recent 10-point lead in Gallup's tracking poll from last week is now totally gone, and this was before Wright's speech today.

Update: I guess I shouldn't be surprised that DailyKos and AmericaBlog have managed to ignore this poll today.

Does French cuisine merit Unesco World Heritage stars?

Story here. (I'm partial to French cuisine myself, but I wouldn't eat horse meat or frogs. And I think force-feeding geese to fatten their livers is cruel.)

French cooking may be awfully good, but it's not awfully interesting to international critics these days: "I find Paris restaurants rather provincial," American Vogue's Jeffrey Steingarten has observed.

It isn't that French chefs can't cut the mustard, but they don't extrude foams or macerate molecules in the style of Heston Blumenthal of England or Ferrán Adriá of Spain who vie these days for the title of world's best chef.

What has happened is that la cuisine française has been reduced to heirloom status, and the odd thing is that the French themselves have colluded in the process, led by President Nicolas Sarkozy, who in February announced his wish that it be listed for protection under Unesco's heritage scheme.

The media fuss shows no sign of abating. "Tête de veau and blanquette as heritages like Mont-Saint-Michel or Machu Picchu?" asked a weekly, Le Nouvel Observateur, while such leading chefs as Paul Bocuse, Alain Ducasse, Joël Robuchon and Guy Savoy announced their support.

Part of the furor came from a confusion with Unesco's World Heritage list, started in 1972, of "properties having outstanding universal value." The list, now up to 851, includes not only Mont-Saint-Michel and, for that matter, Venice but also lesser-known sites from Butrint in Albania to the Matobo Hills in Zimbabwe. Not all the French were thrilled at the thought of having their cuisine co-listed with parts of the Congo basin or an ancient church in Finland.

In fact, it is not among the familiar heritage sites but within Unesco's Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage - which includes oral traditions, performance art, traditional crafts, social practices and "knowledge and practices concerning nature and the universe" - that Sarkozy wants French cooking to be enshrined. The convention dates from 2003, entered into force in 2006 and will get around to adopting criteria in June, with the first inscriptions to come in September 2009. Until then, says a Unesco spokesman, the organization can offer no comments about the merit or likelihood of any inscription. . . .

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Electability: Times change

Also from Talk Left.

That Was Then, This Is Now

AdamB is living in the past. In 2006, Barack Obama may have been the fresh face for Claire McCaskill in Missouri. But things change:

The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey finds John McCain leading Hillary Clinton by nine percentage points, 50% to 41%. He leads Barack Obama by an even larger margin, 53% to 38%.

Survey USA:

* John McCain 50%
* Barack Obama 42%

* John McCain 46%
* Hillary Clinton 47%

Time for Obama supporters to give a realistic argument for Obama's electability and downticket strength, not reprise bromides from 2006. That was then. This is now.

'Obama: What's Not To Like?'

Post here.

Vast Left at Corrente: Obama's smart and charismatic and he voted against the war. Right?

Let's talk about the reasons to like him -- and more importantly, reasons he should be the Democratic nominee for President. Or not.

Update: (different topic) Check out Elizabeth Edwards op-ed in today's New York Times: Bowling 1, Health Care 0. It's about the media's shallow coverage of the presidential race.

'Bahrain Targets Children in Bid to Rid Country of Gays'

Post here.

In February I posted about a crackdown in the Persian Gulf Kingdom of Bahrain intended to rid the country of gay people. Authorities proposed surveillance of hairdressing salons and beauty and massage spas (you know, all the places where gays hang out in huge numbers) as well as stricter surveillance at the nation's customs points ("homosexuals pretend not to be gay by posing 'manly' until they make it past immigration" according to committee secretary Jalal Fairooz).

Now it appears authorities are taking their surveillance one step further, targeting children who display homosexual tendencies, according to Gulf Daily News:

"The committee is also demanding that the Education Ministry carefully monitor students and punishes those veering towards homosexuality. MPs urged the ministry to raise awareness amongst students, possibly through lectures given by visiting health specialists, psychiatrists, or sociologists."

Gays and human rights groups in the region are understandably furious. . . .

Cool: interactive hologram


Interactive Real Size Hologram from Nicolas Loeillot on Vimeo.

Mangosteen?

See video here.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Movie reviews

View from abroad: Dem primaries good P.R. for U.S.

From the International Herald Tribune.

Book review


Shakespeare's Wife by Germaine Greer, 406 pages, Harper/HarperCollins. $26.95.

Few endeavors would appear as arduous and maddening to a responsible scholar as a biography of Shakespeare's wife, Ann Hathaway. We have almost no solid facts about Mrs. Shakespeare's life, and we know almost nothing about the Shakespeares' marriage. We know that the playwright could have brought his wife to live with him in London and did not, though we don't know how often he made the three-day trip back to Stratford. We know that in his will, he left his wife only his "second-best bed."

From this slender evidence, along with liberal and dubious readings of the plays and sonnets, scholars have created a robust portrait of the Shakespeares' unhappy domestic life - a "marriage of evil auspices," as one scholar put it. Rather than inhibiting biographers, the lack of information seems to have freed many of them to project their own fantasies onto the relationship. The prevailing image of Ann Hathaway is that of an illiterate seductress who beguiled the young Shakespeare, conceived a child and ensnared him in a loveless union.

Germaine Greer's task in her ingenious new book, "Shakespeare's Wife," is to expose the construction of this fantasy, tracing its evolution from early biographers like Thomas de Quincey through the work of respected modern scholars like Stephen Greenblatt. "The Shakespeare wallahs," she writes, "have succeeded in creating a Bard in their own likeness, that is to say, incapable of relating to women." . . .

In "A Room of One's Own," with its famous riff on Shakespeare's sister, Virginia Woolf wrote that when one tries to picture the life of an Elizabethan woman, "one is held up by the scarcity of facts. One knows nothing detailed, nothing perfectly true and substantial about her. History scarcely mentions her. . . What one wants, I thought - and why does not some brilliant student at Newnham or Girton supply it? - is a mass of information; at what age did she marry; how many children had she as a rule; . . . did she do the cooking; would she be likely to have a servant? All these facts lie somewhere, presumably, in parish registers and account books; the life of the average Elizabethan woman must be scattered about somewhere, could one collect and make a book of it. It would be ambitious beyond my daring." And now the book written by a brilliant student from Newnham, dreamed of by Virginia Woolf in the last century, exists: lively, rigorous, fiercely imagined.

See full review here.

Chelsea on Hillary's feminism

See here.

'Big questions remain about U.S. evidence against Iran'

Story here.

Even though U.S. officials say they have gathered the most detailed evidence so far of Iranian involvement in training and arming fighters in Iraq, significant uncertainties remain about the extent of that involvement and the threat it may pose to U.S. and Iraqi forces.

Some intelligence and administration officials said Iran seemed to have carefully calibrated its involvement in Iraq over the past year, in contrast to what President George W. Bush and other U.S. officials have publicly portrayed as an intensified Iranian role. . . .

It remains difficult to draw firm conclusions about the ebb and flow of Iranian arms into Iraq, and the Bush administration has not produced its most recent evidence. But interviews with more than two dozen military, intelligence and administration officials showed that while shipments of arms had continued in recent months despite an official Iranian pledge to stop the weapons flow, they had not necessarily increased. Most of those interviewed for this article spoke only on condition of anonymity because they were discussing intelligence assessments and potential military operations. . . .

For weeks, Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and the top U.S. officials in Iraq have portrayed Iran as a significant and growing threat to the U.S. war effort in Iraq. In particular, they have cited an intensified barrage of Iranian-made rockets hitting the Green Zone in Baghdad that have killed Americans and Iraqis.

Two weeks ago, Bush cited Iran as a primary justification in his announcement that he would halt further withdrawals of U.S. troops in Iraq after the level reaches 140,000 this summer. He said a U.S. withdrawal "would embolden its radical leaders and fuel their ambitions to dominate the region." . . .

The administration's focus on Iran has raised alarms among war critics, who accuse the White House of overstating the threat and laying the groundwork for military action against Iran just as it did against Iraq.

Senator Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California, who has called for opening talks with Iran, said that while she believed that there was evidence that Iran was aiding Shiite militias, she worried about the tenor of the administration's latest warnings.

"This is not a new thing," she said of Iran's involvement. "Why all of a sudden do the sabers start to rattle?" . . .

'HIV Patients On Antiretroviral Drugs May Not Need Regular Lab Tests, Study Says'

From The Advocate.

Patients with HIV who aren't monitored with the expensive laboratory tests commonly used in rich countries may survive just as long as those who do get the tests, a new study says.

In a paper published in The Lancet medical journal Friday, experts found only a slight difference between the survival rates of HIV patients on antiretrovirals who were monitored with laboratory tests and those who weren't. Lab tests can be an early indication of problems in HIV patients that aren't yet obvious. . . .

As drugs to combat AIDS have been distributed across developing countries, some doctors worry that without lab monitoring, patients will either die earlier or develop drug resistance faster. But based on the evidence to date, that has not happened. . . .

''Waiting for the perfect lab infrastructure to be ready before rolling out antiretroviral therapy means that millions of people will die,'' Kates said. ''This study says we shouldn't wait.'' . . .

''Laboratory monitoring shouldn't be the priority while we've got less than half of people who need treatment still waiting for it,'' Phillips said. . . .

''In an ideal world, you would want lab support everywhere,'' said AIDS expert Gilks. ''But right now we need to continue to roll out the medicines because that is what's going to save lives.'' (Maria Cheng, AP)

Yellow tabebuia in bloom down the street

About this tree. (Blooming season almost over.)

Paul Krugman: 'Self-Inflicted Confusion'

After Barack Obama’s defeat in Pennsylvania, David Axelrod, his campaign manager, brushed it off: “Nothing has changed tonight in the basic physics of this race.”

He may well be right — but what a comedown. A few months ago the Obama campaign was talking about transcendence. Now it’s talking about math. “Yes we can” has become “No she can’t.”

This wasn’t the way things were supposed to play out.

Mr. Obama was supposed to be a transformational figure, with an almost magical ability to transcend partisan differences and unify the nation. Once voters got to know him — and once he had eliminated Hillary Clinton’s initial financial and organizational advantage — he was supposed to sweep easily to the nomination, then march on to a huge victory in November.

Well, now he has an overwhelming money advantage and the support of much of the Democratic establishment — yet he still can’t seem to win over large blocs of Democratic voters, especially among the white working class.

As a result, he keeps losing big states. And general election polls suggest that he might well lose to John McCain.

What’s gone wrong?

According to many Obama supporters, it’s all Hillary’s fault. If she hadn’t launched all those vile, negative attacks on their hero — if she had just gone away — his aura would be intact, and his mission of unifying America still on track.

But how negative has the Clinton campaign been, really? Yes, it ran an ad that included Osama bin Laden in a montage of crisis images that also included the Great Depression and Hurricane Katrina. To listen to some pundits, you’d think that ad was practically the same as the famous G.O.P. ad accusing Max Cleland of being weak on national security.

It wasn’t. The attacks from the Clinton campaign have been badminton compared with the hardball Republicans will play this fall. If the relatively mild rough and tumble of the Democratic fight has been enough to knock Mr. Obama off his pedestal, what hope did he ever have of staying on it through the general election?

Let me offer an alternative suggestion: maybe his transformational campaign isn’t winning over working-class voters because transformation isn’t what they’re looking for.

From the beginning, I wondered what Mr. Obama’s soaring rhetoric, his talk of a new politics and declarations that “we are the ones we’ve been waiting for” (waiting for to do what, exactly?) would mean to families troubled by lagging wages, insecure jobs and fear of losing health coverage. The answer, from Ohio and Pennsylvania, seems pretty clear: not much. Mrs. Clinton has been able to stay in the race, against heavy odds, largely because her no-nonsense style, her obvious interest in the wonkish details of policy, resonate with many voters in a way that Mr. Obama’s eloquence does not.

Yes, I know that there are lots of policy proposals on the Obama campaign’s Web site. But addressing the real concerns of working Americans isn’t the campaign’s central theme.

Tellingly, the Obama campaign has put far more energy into attacking Mrs. Clinton’s health care proposals than it has into promoting the idea of universal coverage.

During the closing days of the Pennsylvania primary fight, the Obama campaign ran a TV ad repeating the dishonest charge that the Clinton plan would force people to buy health insurance they can’t afford. It was as negative as any ad that Mrs. Clinton has run — but perhaps more important, it was fear-mongering aimed at people who don’t think they need insurance, rather than reassurance for families who are trying to get coverage or are afraid of losing it.

No wonder, then, that older Democrats continue to favor Mrs. Clinton.

The question Democrats, both inside and outside the Obama campaign, should be asking themselves is this: now that the magic has dissipated, what is the campaign about? More generally, what are the Democrats for in this election?

That should be an easy question to answer. Democrats can justly portray themselves as the party of economic security, the party that created Social Security and Medicare and defended those programs against Republican attacks — and the party that can bring assured health coverage to all Americans.

They can also portray themselves as the party of prosperity: the contrast between the Clinton economy and the Bush economy is the best free advertisement that Democrats have had since Herbert Hoover.

But the message that Democrats are ready to continue and build on a grand tradition doesn’t mesh well with claims to be bringing a “new politics” and rhetoric that places blame for our current state equally on both parties.

And unless Democrats can get past this self-inflicted state of confusion, there’s a very good chance that they’ll snatch defeat from the jaws of victory this fall.

'"Death Road" claims 2nd foreign cyclist of week'

"SUV collides with cyclists on Bolivian highway; accident leaves 9 dead"

A friend of mine is from Bolivia, so I know about this infamous road (a "highway" in only the most literal sense of the word). It was replaced last year with a new, safer road that follows another route, but tourists -- bikers mostly -- still travel the old road for thrills. Story here.

LA PAZ, Bolivia - A packed SUV collided with a group of cyclists on Bolivia's "Highway of Death" on Thursday, killing nine people — including a British man who was the second foreign tourist to die this week along the notorious road.

The accident took place just minutes after the cyclists began their tour on a paved section near a 15,400-foot Andean pass, said Lt. Col. Agusto Angulo, head of the La Paz transit police accident division.

A Toyota Land Cruiser carrying a driver and 12 passengers struck the group, killing 22-year-old Tom Austin, Angulo said.

The vehicle then left the road and rolled 300 feet down a rocky embankment, killing eight people inside, Erbol radio reported.

British cyclists Daniel Roberts, 23, and James Marshall, 22, and five passengers in the SUV were injured, Erbol said. The British Embassy later confirmed the riders' identities but did not disclose more information. . . .

Friday, April 25, 2008

Thursday, April 24, 2008

'Florida's back in thick of Demo mess'

Story here.

Just hours after winning the Pennsylvania primary, Democrat Hillary Clinton declared that she has now won more votes than Barack Obama -- if Florida and Michigan's ballots are included.

Her Democratic rival's campaign quickly shot down Clinton's contention that she now leads the popular vote, calling it a ''sketchy notion,'' because neither candidate competed in the two states, Obama's name didn't appear on the Michigan ballot and the national party considers both states' primaries illegitimate.

But with Clinton's campaign claiming momentum after a win in Pennsylvania, she sought Wednesday to intensify her claim to Florida and Michigan, which remain as crucial as ever to her quest for the presidency.

''It's clear that in the states that a Democrat has to carry to win the White House, particularly the big four, Pennsylvania, Florida, Michigan and Ohio, it's clear that Sen. Clinton is the best standard-bearer for us in the fall,'' Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell told reporters on a Clinton campaign conference call.

The argument that Clinton won the two states is part of the campaign's effort to woo the influential superdelegates poised to tip the too-close-to-call contest by casting Clinton as the only candidate who can win the big, up-for-grabs states in the fall.

''She's demonstrated she can win in the big swing states,'' said Florida Sen. Bill Nelson, a leading Clinton supporter. . . .

''This has to do with our civil rights,'' said Millie Herrera, a potential Clinton convention delegate and the president of the Hispanic Democratic Caucus of Florida. "No one has the right to invalidate our votes.''

A lot of people were late to work today

On account of this. (Watch video.)

Typo on home page of Herald website

They can't even spell "Miami" right.

'It's Called Democracy'

From Turkana at The Left Coaster. (Be sure to read the first link.)

It was inevitable. More than a million and a quarter people turned out yesterday to vote for Hillary Clinton, she won another large swing state by more than two hundred thousand votes, and those champions of democracy in the shrillosphere are again today begging someone to pull the plug on this race. Stop her before she wins again!

As Big Tent Democrat continues to try to get people to understand, demography is everything, in this race. After Clinton's disastrous, and politically incompetent, final few weeks of February, she has been doing very well. She has been winning large states by mostly solid margins. She has been chipping away at Barack Obama's popular vote lead. While Obama supporters continue to tout The Math, they continue to ignore the fact that Obama cannot win the nomination on pledged delegates. Once again, repeat after me: the superdelegates will decide the nomination. Obama cannot win without them. Clinton cannot win without them. The pledged delegate metric is only one, and because Clinton cannot catch Obama in that metric, her entire argument rests on the possibility of her ending up with the most popular votes. That's a reasonable argument, and one that the uncommitted superdelegates are clearly willing to listen to. Of course, for that argument to even become part of the discussion is dependent upon Clinton's prevailing in the popular vote, and that's still very much an uphill climb, for her; but it is by no means impossible. And Obama supporters need to understand that.

Last night, Clinton once again denied Obama the knockout punch. Once again, she started with a large lead in the polls, he vastly outspent her, the polls showed him close, and possibly capable of winning, and she then held him off by a significant margin. Once again this took place in a state that was demographically favorable to her. North Carolina is next. For the first time in many weeks, Obama will be on his demographical home turf. In a large state, which could provide him with a large popular vote victory margin. On the same day, he can probably end this race by winning Indiana, which is more demographically favorable to Clinton, but which borders his home state of Illinois. He has, thus far, won every state that borders Illinois, and where Illinois's friendly media markets have spillover influence. If Obama is going to end this race before June, it will be in two weeks. Win huge in North Carolina, and simply win in Indiana, and Clinton will have no chance of catching him in the popular vote, even including Florida. If Clinton wins Indiana, and somehow pulls off the upset in North Carolina, she will be the nominee. But barring a political disaster for Obama, she won't win North Carolina. The demographics are too unfavorable. But if she holds down his victory margin, and wins Indiana, her popular vote possibility will remain alive. Once again, the dynamics are obvious. Once again, many will ignore them. . . .

(I don't even bother to check out the "shrillosphere" anymore. I can only imagine how shrill it is--I'm no shrill-seeker.)

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

'Study: Young Gays Expect Future Long-term Commitments'

From The Advocate.

A new study shows that many lesbian and gay youths, much like their heterosexual peers, expect to have long-term committed relationships and raise families in the future, according to an April 23 press release from Rockway Institute.

The study questioned about 133 gay New York City youths on various topics, including long-term relationships, family, and adoption. Researchers found that "more than 90% of females and more than 80% of males expect to be partnered in a monogamous relationship after age 30." About 67% of males and 55% of females expressed the desire to raise children. In terms of adoption, 42% of males and 32% of females said they were likely to adopt children.

"We seem to be witnessing the mainstreaming of lesbian/gay youth, with many of them wanting exactly what heterosexual youth have always wanted -- the whole American dream complete with kids and the minivan," Robert-Jay Green of the Rockway Institute said in a statement. "Most agree that the primary issue is whether these youth will be given the equal legal rights to realize their couple and family aspirations just like their heterosexual peers."

Social scientists Anthony R. D'Augelli, H. Jonathon Rendina, Katerina O. Sinclair of Pennsylvania State University, and Arnold Grossman of New York University recently published these findings in the Journal of LGBT Issues in Counseling. They report that the study may not be representative of all gay youths in the country. Researchers suspect that because the youths live in an urban environment in which they are aware of the LGBT resources available to them, "youth in rural areas might have different responses."

'Health insurance: the unraveling continues'

Paul Krugman's blog.

From the NYT:

It is never a good thing if many of your customers can no longer afford what you are selling.

The UnitedHealth Group, which announced disappointing first-quarter earnings on Tuesday, said the weakening economy was causing fewer businesses and employees to sign up for its health insurance. UnitedHealth, whose stock fell sharply on the report, also cut its overall profit outlook for 2008.

“We are clearly being impacted by the declining economic outlook,” Stephen J. Hemsley, the company’s chief executive, told investors Tuesday.

While he acknowledged the company’s own missteps, Mr. Hemsley said that fewer employers — particularly small businesses — were offering health coverage to their workers, and that when they did, fewer employees were choosing to enroll.

Expect to see a significant deterioration in the health insurance statistics over the next year.

Things like this can't be helping matters.

Waterboarding

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Hillary's speech in Pennsylvania

'Clinton's surprising appearance on "Countdown"'

From Salon's War Room.

It's hardly unusual to think Hillary Clinton would appear on a popular, national cable talk show the night before a major primary, but her appearance on MSNBC's "Countdown" was at least somewhat unexpected. For one thing, the Clinton campaign has done little to hide its disgust with the network's coverage of the Democratic race, most notably at the hands of Chris Matthews. For another, "Countdown" host Keith Olbermann has been openly critical of the Clinton strategy for months.

But after some finagling, Clinton did agree to chat with Olbermann Monday night, and it was actually pretty interesting. And given the context, there were probably more viewers than usual, many wondering whether Olbermann would be openly critical of the senator.

That didn't happen. The very first question Olbermann asked was whether a president really has the ability to "do anything about the price of a gallon of gas."

"Well, I think it's going to be very much influenced by the economy. I don't know what else might happen between now and then. But it appears to me that the economy is not going to recover, and, in fact, the price of gas is going to be a big issue ...

"I do think there are things that we can do. In the short run, I would, if I were president, launch an investigation to make sure that there's not market manipulation going on ... I would also release some of the oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve ... And I would do what I could to try to alleviate the cost right now. If we could come up with a way to make up the lost revenue with a gas tax holiday, like, for example, a windfall-profits tax on the oil companies, on a basis to try to fill the Highway Trust Fund, while we left people off from paying the gas taxes, I would consider that.

"But you're right. Ultimately, we're going to have to have an energy policy that actually moves us from our dependence on foreign oil and being literally over the oil barrel with the oil-producing countries and companies."

Hey, everybody! Look, it was a substantive question! And a substantive answer! Hell, it was even newsworthy -- Clinton seems to agree with John McCain about the merit of a "gas tax holiday."

It's almost as if we were watching a broadcast journalist who understands how to conduct an interview with a presidential candidate. Be still my heart.

And it got better. Olbermann's second question pressed Clinton to "clarify [whether] ... hypothetical Middle East conflicts would incur massive retaliation by [the U.S.], and what constitutes massive retaliation." Clinton warned Iran of a nuclear response.

It wasn't all substance. Olbermann asked whether Clinton's new ad, which features footage of the Pearl Harbor attacks and Osama bin Laden, constitutes "scare tactics." She insisted the ad "is about leadership." Olbermann asked why she criticized Barack Obama when he said McCain would be preferable to President Bush, given her own praise for McCain. She responded by comparing McCain to someone with a law license, "but that doesn't necessarily mean that somebody should hire you to perform certain services and take on certain cases." Olbermann pressed Clinton on her newfound comfort with Richard Mellon Scaife, and after she stopped laughing, she cited the recent Pittsburgh Tribune-Review endorsement as evidence of her ability to win over conservatives in the fall.

It was, dare I say it, a good interview. And Clinton gave substantive responses.

As Jonathan Cohn put it, "Perhaps Olbermann, reacting to last week's debate debacle, was trying to make a point about how journalists should interview candidates. If so, I think he succeeded."

'The Obama Expectations Game'

Big Tent Democrat here.

Via Mark Halperin, here is the Obama expectations spin:

The Bar for Clinton in Pennsylvania. With all eyes on today’s contest, one thing is clear: Pennsylvania is considered a state tailor-made for Hillary Clinton, and by rights she should win big. She has family roots in the state, she has the support of the Democratic establishment—including Governor Rendell’s extensive network—and former President Clinton is fondly remembered.

What you would expect. More interesting is the ongoing contest spin:

The Race Beyond Tonight

Tonight’s outcome is unlikely to change the dynamic of this lengthy primary. Fully three quarters of the remaining delegates will be selected in states other than Pennsylvania. While there are 158 delegates at stake in today’s primary, there are 157 up for grabs in the Indiana and North Carolina primaries two weeks from today. We expect that by tomorrow morning, the overall structure of the race will remain unchanged—except for the fact that there will be 158 delegates off the table.

Our strategy has always been to gain as many delegates as possible—an important point to remember going forward. If this race had focused on the popular vote, we would have campaigned non-stop in California, for example, and run up our numbers even higher in Senator Obama’s home state of Illinois. But we focused on delegates because, simply, delegates decide the Democratic nominee.

But even if we were to judge the primary on the popular vote, we anticipate having a comfortable lead when voting in the last nine contests wraps up in June. Senator Obama will continue to gain strength with Democratic superdelegates. He will maintain his position as the best candidate to take on John McCain. And he will be ready to unite the American people and begin a new chapter in our history.

(Emphasis supplied.) I think that talking point is a mistake. Not focused on the popular vote? Not focused on the voters? The will of the people unimportant? I would use this against the Obama campaign if I were in charge of the Clinton campaign.

Tonite I watched 2 'Desperate Housewives' episodes I'd missed

I hadn't realized the show was back on. From what I'd read, I thought the slot was going to be filled with Oprah's new reality show till the summer. (Glad it isn't, though I never caught Oprah's show. According to one trusted review I read, it sounded pretty awful.)

Good episodes tonight. Glad the writers' strike is over.

Monday, April 21, 2008

New Hillary ad

The real McCain

Four videos here.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Hillary rebuts Obama's 'Harry & Louise' healthcare ads in PA

See here.

'Electability: Why Hillary Is More Likely to Beat McCain'

Talk Left post here.

There's no question that superdelegates will consider electability as a factor in deciding whether to vote for Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama. Based on this analysis by long-time Democratic party activist William Arnone, which I return to again and again for the numbers, here's what I think they need to look at:

-- Who can best hold on to the 20 states the Dems won in 2004? Which candidate is more likely to put these states at risk in a battle with John McCain?

-- Which candidate has the better chance of winning states that voted Republican in 2004 but are now seen as vulnerable for McCain?

-- Which candidate has a better chance of getting the votes of four key constituencies that could carry the election for McCain?

* * *

The most important factor for superdelegates in my mind right now, given how close the candidates are in vote totals is which candidate has the best chance of winning in November.

Using the factors laid out by Mr. Arnone, that candidate is Hillary Clinton.

I'll add that for me, it may be as simple as which candidate has a better chance of bringing home Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania in November. I think that candidate is Hillary Clinton. . . .

DNC's new McCain ad

'"Vast right-wing conspiracy" leader's paper backs Clinton'

Story here.

Could it be the "vast right wing conspiracy" is having second thoughts? Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton was endorsed Sunday by the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, whose owner and publisher, billionaire Richard Mellon Scaife, personally funded many of the investigations that led to President Clinton's impeachment in 1998. . . .

In its endorsement, Tribune-Review editors said Obama is too inexperienced to be president and that his recent comments about bitter voters living in small towns showed a lack of respect for middle-class values.

"In sharp contrast, Clinton is far more experienced in government — as an engaged first lady to a governor and a president, as a second-term senator in her own right," the paper said. "She has a real voting record on key issues. Agree with her or not, you at least know where she stands instead of being forced to wonder." . . .

In the 1990s, Scaife helped support conservative groups and publications investigating Bill Clinton's financial dealings and sex life. . . .

Hillary Clinton famously defended her husband at the time, saying the allegations were part of a "vast right-wing conspiracy" heavily funded by Scaife.

'Undecided superdelegates don't feel bound by primaries'

Story here.

Many of the Democratic superdelegates who are still undecided say the most important factor in their decision is simple — they just want a winner in November.

Problem is, after nearly four months of primaries and caucuses in 46 states, territories and the District of Columbia, they still aren't sure who that is, don't seem be in any hurry to make up their minds and aren't interested in any artificial process that might force them to choose between Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Most of the more than 100 undecided superdelegates who discussed their decision-making with The Associated Press in the past two weeks agreed that the primaries and caucuses do matter — whether it's who has the most national delegates or the candidate who won their state or congressional district. But few said the primaries will be the biggest factor in their decision.

"I think it's really important that we keep our eye on the prize, and the prize is the win in November," said Gail Rasmussen, an undecided superdelegate from Oregon.

That's good news for Clinton, who cannot catch Obama in delegates won in the few remaining primaries and caucuses.

Obama has been arguing for months that the superdelegates would be overturning the will of the voters if they don't nominate the candidate who has won the most pledged delegates. He has a 164-delegate lead in that category. Clinton, meanwhile, has argued that superdelegates should exercise independent judgment.

Many of the undecided superdelegates say they don't want to be perceived as elite insiders, cutting backroom deals to select a nominee. But that doesn't mean they're ready to forfeit their status. . . .

There will be nearly 800 superdelegates at the party's national convention in Denver this summer. They are the party and elected officials who automatically attend the convention and are free to support whomever they choose. They are in high demand now that neither Clinton nor Obama can clinch the nomination without them.

Clinton leads in superdelegate endorsements, 258-232, according to the latest tally by the AP. However, Obama has been eating away at her lead for much of the past two months, picking up 84 percent of the superdelegate endorsements since Super Tuesday.

About 250 superdelegates have told the AP they are undecided or uncommitted. About 60 more will be selected at state party conventions and meetings this spring.

AP reporters across the nation contacted the undecideds and asked them how they plan to choose. Of those, 117 agreed to discuss the decision-making process.

—About a third said the most important factor will be the candidate who, they believe, has the best chance of beating Republican John McCain in the general election.

—One in 10 said the biggest factor will be the candidate with the most pledged delegates won in primaries and caucuses.

—One in 10 said what matters most is who won their state or congressional district in the primary or caucus.

—The rest cited multiple factors or parochial issues. . . .

Many undecided superdelegates refused to discuss their decision-making process, showing discomfort with the subject. Eighty-nine undecided superdelegates didn't return repeated phone calls or e-mails in the past two weeks, and 42 refused to discuss their decision when they were contacted. . . .

Good Digby post (with video)

Mostly excerpting a Joe Conason article. Read it here.

And as Barack Obama should have learned during the debate’s first 45 minutes, if not before, the same fuzzy but obsessive focus on "character" that plagues Bill and Hillary Clinton will be turned on him with equal or greater ferocity by those who once claimed to admire him. He is now subject to the "Clinton rules," which have long permitted pundits, editorialists and reporters to indict the former president and first lady for sins that other politicians, mostly Republican, may commit with impunity (see Gingrich, Newt, first, second and especially third marriage). . . .

More on The Finger

See here.

A lot of (good) information

Jane Hamsher interviews Glenn Greenwald on the subject of his new book.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

'Dog crosses desert, mountains and somehow gets back home'

Story here.

Apr 19th, 2008 ELY, Nev. -- A dog that ran off during a road-trip rest stop apparently made her way nearly 80 miles across Nevada's high desert and two mountain ranges to return home a week later.

Moon, a Siberian husky, was reunited April 14 with owner Doug Dashiell, who had last seen her April 6 near Railroad Valley, about 77 miles from his home in Ely.

Moon, who is nearly 2 years old, was no worse for the wear, with the exception of stinking like a skunk that apparently sprayed her somewhere along the journey.

"I've had trouble with her running away before. She's always come home," Dashiell said. But he didn't expect her to show up after a week had passed.

"After seven days — no way," he told the Ely Times for a story Thursday.

Then the White Pine Veterinary Clinic called Dashiell and told him Moon was back in town. She had wandered up to an Ely residence where Alvin Molea took her home, fed her and gave her a place to sleep.

Molea called the clinic because the dog was wearing a tag from it.

The dog's journey would have taken her across the White River and Ward mountain ranges.

Funny video

McCain interview you won't see

'Benefit Managers Profit by Specialty Drug Rights'

Story here. Unconscionable.

Doctors treating children with a rare and severe form of epilepsy were stunned by the news. A crucial drug, H.P. Acthar Gel, that had been selling for $1,600 a vial would now cost $23,000.

The price increase, put in place over last Labor Day weekend, also jolted employers that provide health benefits to their workers and bear the brunt of drug costs.

As it turned out, the exclusive distributor of H.P. Acthar Gel is Express Scripts, a company whose core business is supposed to be helping employers manage their drug insurance programs and get medicines at the best available prices.

But in recent years, drug benefit managers like Express Scripts have built lucrative side businesses seemingly at odds with that best-price mission. A growing portion of their revenue comes from acting as exclusive or semi-exclusive distributors of expensive specialty drugs that can cost thousands of dollars. And the prices of such medicines are rising much faster than for the mainstream prescription drugs available through a wide variety of distributors.

Critics say that distributing specialty drugs with ever-higher prices runs counter to the best interests of the employers that hire companies like Express Scripts. . . .

“This sort of puts the spotlight on the greed angle of the business,” said Dr. Robert R. Clancy, a pediatric neurologist at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. He has been using H.P. Acthar Gel to treat a severely ill 3-year-old girl, Reegan Schwartz. Employer health plans bear most of the drug’s steep cost, with individuals in many cases making only a standard co-payment. In the case of the two courses of Acthar treatments for Reegan, the cost to her father’s health plan was about $226,000. Her father, Mike Schwartz, who works for a large pharmaceutical company, Merck, that has no ties to Acthar or its manufacturer, said he ended up paying only $60 out of pocket for the Acthar therapy.

Steve Cartt, a Questcor executive vice president, said the new price was chosen by looking at the prices of other specialty drugs and estimating how much insurers and employers would be willing to bear.

“We did some market research,” Mr. Cartt said. Talking to pediatric neurologists and others about various pricing options “gave us some comfort that the strategy would work, and physicians would continue to use the drug, and payers would pay,” he said. “The reality was better than we expected.”

NY Times most-emailed story: 'How Obama Fell to Earth'

David Brooks column here.

Back in Iowa, Barack Obama promised to be something new — an unconventional leader who would confront unpleasant truths, embrace novel policies and unify the country. If he had knocked Hillary Clinton out in New Hampshire and entered general-election mode early, this enormously thoughtful man would have become that.

But he did not knock her out, and the aura around Obama has changed. Furiously courting Democratic primary voters and apparently exhausted, Obama has emerged as a more conventional politician and a more orthodox liberal.

He sprinkled his debate performance Wednesday night with the sorts of fibs, evasions and hypocrisies that are the stuff of conventional politics. He claimed falsely that his handwriting wasn’t on a questionnaire about gun control. He claimed that he had never attacked Clinton for her exaggerations about the Tuzla airport, though his campaign was all over it. Obama piously condemned the practice of lifting other candidates’ words out of context, but he has been doing exactly the same thing to John McCain, especially over his 100 years in Iraq comment.

Obama also made a pair of grand and cynical promises that are the sign of someone who is thinking more about campaigning than governing.

He made a sweeping read-my-lips pledge never to raise taxes on anybody making less than $200,000 to $250,000 a year. That will make it impossible to address entitlement reform any time in an Obama presidency. It will also make it much harder to afford the vast array of middle-class tax breaks, health care reforms and energy policy Manhattan Projects that he promises to deliver.

Then he made an iron vow to get American troops out of Iraq within 16 months. Neither Obama nor anyone else has any clue what the conditions will be like when the next president takes office. He could have responsibly said that he aims to bring the troops home but will make a judgment at the time. Instead, he rigidly locked himself into a policy that will not be fully implemented for another three years.

If Obama is elected, he will either go back on this pledge — in which case he would destroy his credibility — or he will risk genocide in the region and a viciously polarizing political war at home.

Then there are the cultural issues. Charles Gibson and George Stephanopoulos of ABC News are taking a lot of heat for spending so much time asking about Jeremiah Wright and the “bitter” comments. But the fact is that voters want a president who basically shares their values and life experiences. Fairly or not, they look at symbols like Michael Dukakis in a tank, John Kerry’s windsurfing or John Edwards’s haircut as clues about shared values.

When Obama began this ride, he seemed like a transcendent figure who could understand a wide variety of life experiences. But over the past months, things have happened that make him seem more like my old neighbors in Hyde Park in Chicago.

Some of us love Hyde Park for its diversity and quirkiness, as there are those who love Cambridge and Berkeley. But it is among the more academic and liberal places around. When Obama goes to a church infused with James Cone-style liberation theology, when he makes ill-informed comments about working-class voters, when he bowls a 37 for crying out loud, voters are going to wonder if he’s one of them. Obama has to address those doubts, and he has done so poorly up to now.

It was inevitable that the period of “Yes We Can!” deification would come to an end. It was not inevitable that Obama would now look so vulnerable. He’ll win the nomination, but in a matchup against John McCain, he is behind in Florida, Missouri and Ohio, and merely tied in must-win states like Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. A generic Democrat now beats a generic Republican by 13 points, but Obama is trailing his own party. One in five Democrats say they would vote for McCain over Obama.

General election voters are different from primary voters. Among them, Obama is lagging among seniors and men. Instead of winning over white high school-educated voters who are tired of Bush and conventional politics, he does worse than previous nominees. John Judis and Ruy Teixeira have estimated a Democrat has to win 45 percent of such voters to take the White House. I’ve asked several of the most skillful Democratic politicians over the past few weeks, and they all think that’s going to be hard.

A few months ago, Obama was riding his talents. Clinton has ground him down, and we are now facing an interesting phenomenon. Republicans have long assumed they would lose because of the economy and the sad state of their party. Now, Democrats are deeply worried their nominee will lose in November.

Welcome to 2008. Everybody’s miserable.

'Clinging to a Stereotype'

"Barack Obama’s 'bitter' comments combined assertions about economics, sociology and voting behavior. In each case, his assertion was mostly if not entirely wrong." Latest Paul Krugman column here.

Will Barack Obama’s now famous “bitter” quote turn out to have been a big deal politically? Frankly, I have no idea.

But here’s a different question: was Mr. Obama right?

Mr. Obama’s comments combined assertions about economics, sociology and voting behavior. In each case, his assertion was mostly if not entirely wrong.

Start with the economics. Mr. Obama: “You go into these small towns in Pennsylvania and, like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing’s replaced them. And they fell through the Clinton administration, and the Bush administration.”

There are, indeed, towns where the mill closed during the 1980s and nothing has replaced it. But the suggestion that the American heartland suffered equally during the Clinton and Bush years is deeply misleading.

In fact, the Clinton years were very good for working Americans in the Midwest, where real median household income soared before crashing after 2000. (You can see the numbers at my blog, krugman.blogs.nytimes.com.)

We can argue about how much credit Bill Clinton deserves for that boom. But if I were a Democratic Party elder, I’d urge Mr. Obama to stop blurring the distinction between Clinton-era prosperity and Bush-era economic distress.

Next, the sociology: “And it’s not surprising then that they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy toward people who aren’t like them.”

The crucial word here isn’t “bitter,” it’s “cling.” Does economic hardship drive people to seek solace in firearms, God and xenophobia?

It’s true that people in poor states are more likely to attend church regularly than residents of rich states. This might seem to indicate that faith is indeed a response to economic adversity.

But this result largely reflects the fact that southern states are both church-going and poor; some poor states outside the South, like Maine and Montana, are actually less religious than Connecticut. Furthermore, within poor states, people with low incomes are actually less likely to attend church than those with high incomes. (The correlation runs the opposite way in rich states.)

Over all, none of this suggests that people turn to God out of economic frustration.

Finally, Mr. Obama, in later clarifying remarks, declared that the people he’s talking about “don’t vote on economic issues,” and are motivated instead by things like guns and gay marriage.

That’s a political theory made famous by Thomas Frank’s “What’s the Matter With Kansas?” According to this theory, “values” issues lead working-class Americans to act against their own interests by voting Republican. Mr. Obama seemed to suggest that’s also why they support Hillary Clinton.

I was impressed by Mr. Frank’s book when it came out. But my Princeton colleague Larry Bartels, who had an Op-Ed in The Times on Thursday, convinced me that Mr. Frank was mostly wrong.

In his Op-Ed, Mr. Bartels cited data showing that small-town, working-class Americans are actually less likely than affluent metropolitan residents to vote on the basis of religion and social values. Nor have working-class voters trended Republican over time; on the contrary, Democrats do better with these voters now than they did in the 1960s.

Friday, April 18, 2008

A Takashi Murakami retrospective

From The New Yorker.

My favorite part of “©Murakami,” a retrospective at the Brooklyn Museum of the juggernautish Japanese artist-entrepreneur Takashi Murakami, was the most controversial element in the show when it originated, at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, last October: a functioning Louis Vuitton outlet, smack in the middle of things, selling aggressively pricey handbags and other bibelots, all Murakami-designed. (Vuitton has reportedly done hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of business in Murakamiana since its deal with the artist began, in 2003.) The shop is lovely. Shelving units in chrome and white enamel, with recessed fluorescent lighting that sets brass fittings on the merchandise aglint, caress the eye. They provide a haven from the strident grotesquerie of what might be termed Murakami’s fine-art product lines: paintings, sculpture, and wallpapered environments that play off the charms of Japanese traditional and popular arts with close to no charm of their own. But, then, retail swank is an aesthetic lingua franca today, and equations of art and commerce, pioneered by Andy Warhol and colonized by Jeff Koons, among others, are, at least, familiar. The show’s less cozy aspects remind me that I have never been to Japan. I don’t like Murakami’s work, but my dislike, being moody, feels out of scale with the artist’s terrific energy and ambition. For the second time in a couple of months—the first being at the Guggenheim retrospective of the meteoric Chinese festivalist Cai Guo-Qiang—New Yorkers have a chance to absorb our new geo-spiritual fate, as provincials in a world of creative paradigms that no longer entreat our favor. That has to be good for us. . . .

(Photo of "My Lonesome Cowboy" not from The New Yorker.)

'The Sorrow and the Pity Party'

I hadn't seen this post from James Wolcott. (Read the whole thing.)

Look, I understand the knocks against Hillary Clinton, truly I do. There are no flaming arrows fired her way that I haven't seen traverse the air before, no bill of indictment drawn up containing charges with which I'm unfamiliar. Reciting her sins and liabilities has become a familiar refrain, but if it's the Gregorian chant you live by, if you find Hillary Clinton such an insupportable choice for the Democratic nomination that you prefer to suckle your pride and idealism rather than soil your conscience should she be at the top of the ticket, fine, have fun with that. But, please, I beg of thee, could you at least spare the rest of us your longwinded, preeny, pious dirges?

I have, in sorrow, come to the conclusion that should Hillary Clinton be the Democratic nominee, I will not cast a vote for president. I live in Virginia, which she has no realistic chance of carrying, so perhaps it takes little courage for me to make that decision, should it be necessary. But given that I am politically active, that I teach government to adolescents, that I encourage them to participate, it is truly in sorrow that I find I must make this decision.

I will try to explain, if you care to keep reading, why I have made this decision.

Explain, the Kos Diarist proceeds to do, for numerous earnest, soul-searching paragraphs.

This is personal statement. No one else has read it. My wife is out of town, and will neither read nor recommend it. Were she to read it, she might disagree on some details, but she is so angry at the Clinton campaign right now that she might well append comments with language and expressions far stronger than those I am using.

And I realize that in posting this I may sunder some friendships. There will be those who accuse me of various transgressions.

I have to live with my conscience. For months I have at times sought to put the best case on things that bothered others. No longer.

Let me be blunt. As I look at the campaign run by Hillary Clinton, not just the words and actions of her surrogates and employees, but her own words and actions, I have regrettably come to the conclusion that based on that campaign, and in light of that campaign her record as a Senator, that she is morally unfit to be President of the United States. Thus I cannot and will not support her, should she achieve the nomination of the Democratic party.

Because, IN SORROW, I have come to this conclusion, for the duration of this election season I am likely to write about things others than the presidential contest, I will not be completely silent. I will comment on stories and diaries by others. I will devote my own efforts to things like house and senate races, or policy matters like education.

IN SORROW. At some point I may have to explain to my students why I have made this decision. At least two of my current students read all of my diaries, and are likely to ask me about it in class. I will be challenged on the apparent contradiction between this decision and my pointing out to them that if one does not participate in a political contest then one acquiesces in the outcome. It is a sign of my sorrow that I being to see on too many things that matter to me insufficient difference between Hillary Clinton and John McCain to be able to justify voting for one or against the other.

Lawd, you'd think it was Judgment at Nuremberg, with all this lofty, Oscar-caliber emoting. The Kos Diarist is hardly alone in the tender feeding of personal grief and regret. Consider this pair of melancholy babies from Andrew Sullivan's blog . . . .

'The ..|.. Finger of Hope, Change and Unity'

From The Left Coaster. Lots of good links.

In an earlier post "Campaign Fairy Tales", I addressed the outright lies about the alleged nature of Sen. Clinton's☼ and Sen. Obama's☼ campaigns from a couple of "top" bloggers with a severe case of CDS. Now, after Sen. Obama performed underwhelmingly in the ABC debate (see Boehlert's Revenge Part II - and, as a relevant aside, also check out Eric Boehlert's latest column for Media Matters), some of Sen. Obama's supporters have taken to rending their garments about Sen. Clinton using Republican style talking-points against Sen. Obama and one of the "top" bloggers severely afflicted with CDS has come to the Very Serious Conclusion that Sen. Clinton is therefore Not a Democrat. (Don't you just love all these Very Serious People!)

Now, Sen. Clinton is no fairy and I do agree that she has perpetuated some Republican style talking points against Sen. Obama - something that I disagree with. However, if that is now the key criterion for inclusion in the Democratic party (according to the Crown Prince of CDS), let's just say that Sen. Obama would have had to be expelled from the party quite a while ago. (To be clear, I believe Sen. Obama is a Democrat who requires no expulsion of any kind, but I'm pointing out what would have had to happen if we followed the illogic of the Crown Prince of CDS). All I can say is, if the Crown Prince of CDS and his like-thinking friends keep this up, Sen. Obama's already tenuous support amongst a significant chunk of Sen. Clinton's base (which is roughly half of the Democratic party) will start depleting even further and become problematic if Sen. Obama becomes the nominee. Their behavior is certainly not the kind that fosters any kind of hope, change or unity and it is sad that fact-free, irrational, hate-filled, blog posts - something that used to be the domain of Little Green Fascists and other lower life forms on the Right - have become part of the mainstream of Sen. Obama's blogger base on the internets (also see Turkana's post on this).

Sadly, Sen. Obama is also doing himself few favors with behaviors - see video, also here, here and here - not particularly befitting a Presidential candidate (unless you are Matthew Yglesias in which case this is the Change We Can Believe InTM - merely a page from the, um, book of Compassionate ConservatismTM). Taking it up a notch from here and here while pretending to be Troubled by his opponent for behaviors that have long been the defining characteristic of his own campaign is pretty silly. After all, not only does Sen. Obama have an impressive record of repeatedly attacking Sen. Clinton using classic, offensive and usually false Republican talking points, prior to Sen. Edwards' withdrawal from the race it used to be widely known among some of the same people who are now his supporters that Sen. Obama had an impressive record of using false right-wing talking-points against fellow Democrats. I have pointed this out many times previously on a variety of topics and for the record, I am going to point this out again, given the latest outburst of crocodile tears and false indignation from his campaign and some of his supporters in the blogosphere. Here is just a sample of the large number of Republican-style attacks from Sen. Obama or his campaign against Sen. Clinton (and sometimes President Clinton) just in the past 8-10 months . . . .

Clinton on the debate

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Marilyn Monroe sex tape discovered?

Our new emba$$y in Iraq

'Iran Offers Condoms and Syringes to Addicts'

Story here. Iran acknowledges it has a serious drug problem but denies homosexuality exists there. (See past blog posts.)

On Wednesday the deputy head of Iran’s antidrug agency said vending machines will soon be installed to allow drug users access to inexpensive condoms and syringes.

“Five of these machines which have been made will be installed in five of Tehran city’s welfare shelters for addicts,” said Mohammad Reza Jahani. “Condoms, syringes, bandages, and plasters will be easily accessible just by inserting a coin. This protects addicts from acquiring HIV and hepatitis.”

The items can be purchased with a single 500-rial coin, equivalent to about 5 U.S. cents, he said.

“The machines will be used for a three-month period and if the scheme is successful, then we will upgrade them and increase their distribution to other shelters,” said Jahani.

Iran has a serious drug problem, government officials acknowledge. The country is situated along one of the world’s main trafficking routes for cannabis, heroin, opium, and morphine. Out of 2,500 tons of narcotics that enter Iran annually from neighboring Afghanistan, some 700 tons are consumed within the country’s borders, officials say.

Iran has changed its approach to combating drug use by focusing on drug treatment and disease prevention rather than throwing addicts into already overcrowded jails.

'Former Senators Aim to Reform Health System'

Story here.

Between them, they helped negotiate peace in Northern Ireland, investigated the extent of steroid use in baseball, and instigated broad changes in veterans' health care.

Now, former Senate majority leaders Bob Dole, a Republican, and George Mitchell, a Democrat, may be facing their biggest challenge to date -- reforming the nation's health care system.

The two senators said Wednesday they would be joined by two other former Senate majority leaders, Democrat Tom Daschle and Republican Howard Baker, in crafting a series of health policy recommendations that would be delivered in 2009 to a new president and Congress.

There have been scores of recent efforts in Washington to investigate and fix the nation's health care woes. Yet the number of uninsured continues to grow, as does the cost of care. Lawmakers and President Bush disagree so much on how to stop those trends that little gets accomplished. Much the same happened under the Clinton presidency.

The four former majority leaders -- two Republicans and two Democrats -- are betting they can help lead a breakthrough. . . .

'Lest anyone was believing that Scientology isn't homophobic'

Mr. Sardonic post here.

While Scientology has officially maintained that it's not a homophobic religion—despite rampant rumors of actors and actresses who have turned to the cult in the hopes of being "cured" of their homosexuality—an interesting quote surfaced in the Village Voice's interview with actor Jason Beghe, a former high-level Scientologist who is now speaking out against the group. (You may remember Beghe from Cane . . . , JAG, Monkey Shines, or as Matt's gay-in-the-military boyfriend on Melrose Place.)

From the Voice piece:

Beghe says the proof that Scientology was no longer working for him came when he was almost killed in a car accident. After the L's, he points out, that shouldn't happen. "A clear isn't supposed to have a car accident. You're supposed to be practically immortal."

To the Scientologists, the accident was an indication that someone was "suppressing" Beghe. So they pulled him in for more interrogation.

"What about this gay person you're friends with," Beghe says one official asked him, implying that somehow the gay friend was causing Beghe's clear state to be sabotaged. When Beghe objected, he says the official responded, "Well, he's gay."

Just saying, is all.

(Photos added by me.)

'Masturbation May Prevent Prostate Cancer'

From The Advocate.

Frequent masturbation may help men cut their risk of contracting prostate cancer, Australian researchers have found. It is believed that carcinogens may build up in the prostate if men do not ejaculate regularly, BBC News reported on Wednesday. The researchers surveyed more than 1,000 men who had developed prostate cancer, and 1,250 men who had not. They found that men who had ejaculated the most between the ages of 20 and 50 were the least likely to get cancer. Men who ejaculated more than five times each week were a third less likely to develop prostate cancer.

Sexual intercourse may not have the same effect because of the higher risk of contracting a sexually transmitted disease, which could in turn raise the risk of cancer.

"Had we been able to remove ejaculations associated with sexual intercourse, there should have been an even stronger protective effect of ejaculations," Graham Giles of the Cancer Council Victoria, who led the researchers, said in the article.

The prostate produces a fluid that is incorporated into ejaculation, which activates sperm and prevents them from sticking together. Studies on animals have shown that carcinogens like 3-methylchloranthrene can be harbored in the prostate. Frequent ejaculation encourages the cancer-inducing fluids to "flush out."

Stephanopolous defends debate

Post here.

Greg Sargent is still committing journalism at TPM, interviews George Stepanopoulus. The key snippet imo:

In an interview with me moments ago, Stephanopoulos strongly defended his handling of the debate. He dismissed criticism that it had focused too heavily on "gotcha" questions, arguing that they had gone to the heart of the "electability" that, he said, is forefront in the minds of voters evaluating the two Dems. "Overall, the questions were tough, fair, relevant, and appropriate," Stephanopoulos argued. And he rejected the claim by many Obama supporters that the debate had been stacked against him, saying Hillary had faced sharp questioning, too.

Nonsense, imo. ABC was incredibly unfair to Obama in this debate. Not quite as bad as NBC was to Clinton in those debates, nor has Obama faced anything like what Clinton has faced. But the ABC debate was a travesty imo.

'Hypocritical Shrill'

Post here.

That a televised debate revealed that corporate media hacks are biased and unprofessional was no surprise. That the sewage was flung almost exclusively at Barack Obama was. But for Tim Russert's bizarre attempt to knee-cap Obama, back in February, the debate panels have almost exclusively attempted to take down Hillary Clinton. But for the Saturday Night Live parody, and a few honest bloggers, there has been almost no one to decry the relentlessly unfair treatment Clinton has received from various debate panels from various media outlets. NBC and its affiliates have been the worst, yet not only have few called them on it, most in the shrillosphere reveled in it. So, now that the tables have turned, and ABC decided to devote roughly half its debate to making mostly trivial attacks on Obama, it's hilarious to observe the hypocritical rending of garments and gnashing of teeth at prominent centers of Hillary-hatred. Obama didn't deserve this, but many of his online supporters do deserve to be experiencing what they now are.

Because the corporate media always attack Democrats, and always do it dishonestly and unfairly, we Democrats should denounce them for it. Every time it happens. And it shouldn't matter whether or not the Democrat being smeared is one we support. Barack Obama did not deserve what happened to him last night, and the behavior of the ABC questioners was deplorable. But Hillary Clinton has not deserved what's happened to her in almost every other debate, particularly those involving the NBC family of political slime, and the behavior of the vast majority of the corporate media towards her has been almost uniformly deplorable. It would be nice if last night would serve to wake up the Obama supporters who have been so devoted to destroying the Clintons that they have celebrated the media onslaught, and ignored the reality that it will be Obama's turn, once Clinton is out of the way and Saint Maverick is the opponent, but I'm not holding my breath. For many, it would require a cataclysmic psychological paradigm shift to suddenly be capable of honesty and fairness, and to feel protective of two people who are, and have been for their entire adult lives, loyal Democrats. And many of these Obama supporters have behaved every bit as deplorably towards the Clintons as have the corporate media. The Great Convergence has been the single most despicable aspect of this election cycle. Worse than the worst behavior of the candidates. Worse than the worst behavior of the worst of their surrogates. Worse even than the worst behavior of the corporate media themselves. I'm outraged at what happened last night, but to those hypocritical Obama supporters who have been party to the outrages directed at the Clintons, I can only say that you deserve what you're now feeling. It's not poetic, but it is just.