Sunday, September 30, 2007

Yes, a new Iowa poll shows Obama leading Clinton among "likely caucus-goers," and Clinton is still leading Obama in NH by quite a bit. This might be a good time to remind ourselves of the state of things at this point in 2003. Things are coming faster this time around, so let's compare to October 15, 2003, when Kos offered these numbers from a Granite State poll.
Dean 30 (16)
Undecided 20 (30)
Kerry 17 (18)
Clark 10 (3)
Lieberman 6 (11)
Edwards 5 (2)
Gephardt 5 (3)
Kucinich 3 (0)
Sharpton 1 (1)
Braun 1 (1)
And these from a poll in Iowa:
Dean 23
Undecided 22
Gephardt 20
Kerry 17
Clark 7
Notice that Edwards didn't even rate a mention in Iowa (he finished a close second, ultimately), and that not only had Kerry not yet made his IA comeback...he hadn't even really gotten to the meat of his freefall yet.

And who was leading the national polls at the time? Wesley Clark.

The first poll that means anything will come in mid-November.

[UPDATE: Via Kos, Rasmussen - right on cue - discusses the state of the Democratic race, comparisons to Dean's lead in 2003 and the ramifications of a Hillary loss in Iowa. The short version: Hillary's nomination is not inevitable, but comparisons to Dean are probably off the mark.]

Friday, September 28, 2007

Quick Friday Links
I don't understand this. It's fine with me if the FCC regulates such things, but their decisions should have nothing to do with the literal meaning of the word in question.

Kevin Drum is right that Atrios is right that we don't know what we're doing with regard to legislative PR campaigns, for things like the S-CHIP expansion.

Giuliani, Thompson, McCain and Romney are an "embarrassment" and a "disgrace". And that's just what their fellow Republican candidates think of them.

Plus, breaking news: Rush Limbaugh is an asshole. You heard it here first.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Student Pledge Protest
Over at my other blog, I linked to a story about a group of Colorado high school students protesting "under God" in the pledge of allegiance, broadcast over their PA. As for church-state battles, things like "under God" in the pledge are pretty low priority as far as I'm concerned, what with the recent attempt of the bureau of prisons to determine which religious texts are acceptable in prison libraries, the IRS potentially teaming up with the Justice Department to investigate a liberal church for an election-eve anti-war sermon, and the American people believing that the US Constitution establishes America as a "Christian nation" and that public school teachers should be allowed to lead children in prayer during the school day. Don't even get me started on the fact that many elements of the military act as if they are allowed to operate a Christian theocracy right out of the Pentagon.

No, I'm heartened by this pledge story for 2 reasons unrelated to church-state talk: 1) students are protesting? something other than dress code and overly difficult multiple choice questions? and 2) something I could use evidence of these days - a reasonable, thoughtful-sounding high school administrator.

Check it out

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Declining Tourism
At Freakonomics, Arthur Frommer - yes that Frommer - answers questions from readers about travel. It's all a good read, but I was especially interested in his answer to the question: "As the dollar continues to fall against the euro, why aren’t more Europeans traveling to America?" In part, he says:
Because of the psychological, bureaucratic, and political barriers that we have erected to hinder their travels here. In many of the countries that don’t enjoy our visa-waiver program, it takes three to four months simply to receive an appointment to apply for a visa. Once would-be travelers finally get inside one of our consulates, they are questioned about personal characteristics having nothing to do with security or terrorism, but rather with the possibility that they will overstay their visas and become illegal immigrants. One tour operator handling incoming travel from Poland recently said that half of the people he wishes to send to the U.S. are turned down for visas because they are young, single, without property or homes that they own, etc., and are thus more likely to stay in the U.S. illegally.

When people do travel here, they are treated like criminals upon arrival at customs, or, at best, received with cold discourtesy.
Children's Health Care [UPDATED]
The SCHIP expansion passed the House with big numbers, but a handful of Republican votes short of being able to overcome the President's veto. Thoughts:

1. Democrats are in a tough spot for now. If they let the current law expire, it looks like they're playing politics with children's health care. If they extend the current law and funding rate, it looks like a) they're giving in, and b) Bush is right the current state is acceptable.

2. On the other hand, this vote should be central to a national strategy that paints Republicans as obstructionist and more concerned about low taxes than about providing health coverage to children. It won't help us bash too many particular Republicans (the endangered ones voted for it) in Congress, but brand the party and hopefully put the screws to the GOP nominee: was Bush right to veto the bill?

3. I'm just about sick of Dennis Kucinich's holier-than-thou bullshit. You will notice he voted no, presumably because it's not a single payer system that does away with the for-profit health-care industry like we all would prefer. because in the compromise with Republicans, Democrats dropped their demand that legal immigrant children be added to the program's expansion. Noble as that may be, it still gives up the possible in demand of the apparently impractical (knowing Bush has already announced a veto and trying to achieve a veto-proof majority). This bill wouldn't drop coverage for those children, it just doesn't expand it as far as he (and all of us) would like. I can hope that if his was the deciding vote he might rethink, but who knows. So, it's not specifically for the reasons I originally thought - thanks Lewberry for the research (I prefer the more scholarly ASSUME method, but whatev), but I'm still sick of him. Looks like I'm not the only one.

4. I'm sick, too, of liberals that bash Dems for being spineless. I'm looking at you Bill Maher. This SCHIP legislation is both bold and practical - would be helpful and represents some compromise to achieve considerable GOP support. Dems are doing their jobs here. Republicans are getting in the way - and the law allows that because we don't live in a BillMaherocracy.

What should Dems do? Let the program expire? (How did that work for the Republican Congress when they let the govt. shut down in a spat with Clinton over the budget?)Give it a month extension and try again wiht the same bill? Tweak it and hope for more support? (doubtful) And what to do if there are simply not enough GOP votes for anything but status quo?

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

UAW Is On Strike
Sing along everyone:
Oh, you can't scare me, I'm sticking to the union,
I'm sticking to the union, I'm sticking to the union.
Oh, you can't scare me, I'm sticking to the union,
I'm sticking to the union 'til the day I die.

Monday, September 24, 2007

What have you been reading, listening to, watching?

Fistful of Quarters
Lewberry and I caught this documentary last week - it's quite good (he liked it even more than I did), the human drama surrounding the controversial world record score of...Donkey Kong. I knew there was a gaming culture in the early 80s, and I know there is a gaming culture now. But I didn't know the extent to which there is an early 80s gaming culture now. If you ever spent any time playing pac-man, missile command, centipede, or especially donkey kong (or were friends with someone who did) you will enjoy King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters.

This quote from the film's Walter Day - video game referee - pretty much sums it up:
I wanted to be a hero. I wanted to be the center of attention. I wanted the glory, I wanted the fame. I wanted the pretty girls to come up and say, "Hi, I see that you're good at Centipede."
Watch the fabulous trailer below:

Oh, and by the way, we were trying to remember: what was the name of the submarine game that was always in those early arcades and bowling alleys?

Friday, September 21, 2007

"The Wonderful World of Umbrage"
What Michael Kinsley said.
Oh Well
Sounds like I made a mistake skipping Bob Dylan at the Ryman last night. Jack White made a guest appearance, Dylan gave a rare live performance of "Workin Man Blues #2", Nashville studio legend (and Robert's Western Wear regular) Don Herron headed up the band, and oh yeah there was this:
He didn't talk much, but he appeared delighted by the music, by the venue, by the reception from a crowd that included heavyweight artists John Prine and Buddy Miller and by the rest of it all.

And Elvis Costello sat up in the balcony by the soundboard, watching with a wry grin.

Elvis Costello? Oh yes, he was a surprise opening act, playing after Amos Lee's well-received set.

Costello plugged his acoustic guitar into an amplifier for a riveting "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding," and he drew a mid-song ovation in "The Scarlet Tide" when he sang "Admit you lied, and bring the boys back home."

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Times Select Now Free
Unless you're addicted to news on the Internets like me, you probably won't care about this, but the NYTimes has stopped with the subscription-based material that you had to pay to read. They make more money from advertising on those pages and making them free, it turns out. Below, links to columnists and blogs I'm looking forward to reading now:
Stanley Fish
Paul Krugman
Frank Rich
Nick Kristof

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

In the New Yorker, Oliver Sacks has a new article about the case of Clive Wearing, who - due to a brain infection 20 years ago - now exhibits the "most devastating case of amnesia ever recorded." Despite his Memento-like short-term memory, Clive is sustained by 2 things: his ability to perform music, which he can accomplish so long as he is not trying to actively remember how, and his love for his wife, which sounds effusive and, well, desperate, since - though he sees her regularly - he always feels like he hasn't seen her in years and is lost in a sea just-waking consciousness. He doesn't know when he last saw her, and couldn't tell you what she looks like unless she's there with him, but he knows he loves her and knows who she is immediately when she arrives.
Desperate to hold on to something, to gain some purchase, Clive started to keep a journal, first on scraps of paper, then in a notebook. But his journal entries consisted, essentially, of the statements “I am awake” or “I am conscious,” entered again and again every few minutes. He would write: “2:10 P.M: This time properly awake. . . . 2:14 P.M: this time finally awake. . . . 2:35 P.M: this time completely awake,” along with negations of these statements: “At 9:40 P.M. I awoke for the first time, despite my previous claims.” This in turn was crossed out, followed by “I was fully conscious at 10:35 P.M., and awake for the first time in many, many weeks.” This in turn was cancelled out by the next entry.

This dreadful journal, almost void of any other content but these passionate assertions and denials, intending to affirm existence and continuity but forever contradicting them, was filled anew each day, and soon mounted to hundreds of almost identical pages. It was a terrifying and poignant testament to Clive’s mental state, his lostness, in the years that followed his amnesia—a state that Deborah, in Miller’s film, called “a never-ending agony.”
When I asked Deborah whether Clive knew about her memoir, she told me that she had shown it to him twice before, but that he had instantly forgotten. I had my own heavily annotated copy with me, and asked Deborah to show it to him again.

“You’ve written a book!” he cried, astonished. “Well done! Congratulations!” He peered at the cover. “All by you? Good heavens!” Excited, he jumped for joy. Deborah showed him the dedication page: “For my Clive.” “Dedicated to me?” He hugged her. This scene was repeated several times within a few minutes, with almost exactly the same astonishment, the same expressions of delight and joy each time.

Clive and Deborah are still very much in love with each other, despite his amnesia. (Indeed, Deborah’s book is subtitled “A Memoir of Love and Amnesia.”) He greeted her several times as if she had just arrived. It must be an extraordinary situation, I thought, both maddening and flattering, to be seen always as new, as a gift, a blessing.
What we don't know about the brain - it would seem - remains far more expansive than what we do know.
Trivial Filibuster
Republicans blocked the clear will of the Senate yet again with successful filibusters of bills that would have granted DC residents a vote in the House, and would restore Habeus Corpus rights of detainees at Guantanamo. The bills were supported by margins of 15 and 13 votes, respectively, but fell a few short of the 60 needed to end debate. Don't worry though - it's just the representative principle at the heart of our democracy, and the fundamental right to confront your accuser - you know, the one that has been the linchpin of modern civilized justice systems for the last 750 years. Who needs em, right? Kevin Drum has more.
2 1/2
Did anyone think to check if Eric Gagne is a Yankees fan?
Honest Question
Why do we need to hear about this newest O.J. Simpson saga? Way back when - 13 years ago? - when we were inundated with 24-hour talk about his murderous rampage - he was a genuine celebrity: a TV personality in football coverage, an actor in a popular funny movie series. There are 2 reasons why we shouldn't have to receive wall-to-wall coverage of this latest lunacy: 1) now, he's nobody. We shouldn't care. 2) I thought one of the lessons of OJ Simpson was the foolishness of TV-mania descending on a single media circus, cheapening the legal process, obsessing over a mostly pointless story. So now we're just going to do it again? For an even stupider, more pointless crime?

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Hillary Embraces Romney-Care
Senator Clinton has released her health care plan, which among other things mandates that individuals have health coverage, like John Edwards' proposal, and like the law that Mitt Romney passed in Massachusetts (though Romney now claims that was his evil twin).

You can read the campaign's summary of Hillary's plan here. Or if you're feeling spunky, tackle the entire plan (pdf) here.

Ezra Klein reviews the plan here. Maggie Mahar's take is here. But the best place to start is Shannon Brownlee's new piece that explains the importance of a government institute that would test the effectiveness of competing treatments, a part of her plan.

Monday, September 17, 2007

What have you been reading, listening to, watching?

Discovering the Artistry of a NYC Photographer
Via BoingBoing, I read this interesting article in the Smithsonian about the discovery of Eugene de Salignac's work. As a city employee, de Salignac took tens of thousands of photos of NY city during the early 1900s. Was he the artist or was the city itself? You decide: here is a link to a handful of great photos.

This year's top 5 rated films on Metacritic, so far:
1. Ratatouile
2. The Lives of Others
3. No End in Sight
4. Once
5. This is England

1. The Field: From Here We Go Sublime
2. Arcade Fire: Neon Bible
3. Patty Griffin: Children Running Through
4. M.I.A. - Kala
5. LCD Soundsystem: Sound of Silver

I've seen/heard #2 in the music list and #3 in film. That's it. You? Any recs or disagreements?

Weekend Box Office
1. The Brave One
2. 3:10 to Yuma
3. Mr. Woodcock
4. Dragon Wars
5. Superbad

Nice to see the Sopranos get one last award (I suppose they'll be up for Golden Globes in the Spring also). Here's the full list of winners and nominees.

I have to admit, I've hardly read, listened to or watched anything. Help a brother out.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Local Disappointment
Despite the nation's shift toward blue, Tennessee elected the only freshman Republican Senator in 2006 and took the opportunity to hand the Senate majority to the Republicans for the first time in more than 100 years, just a few seats from turning the House to R as well. That's all bad enough. But if I actually have to say Governor and Frist in the same sentence, or worse yet, Governor and Blackburn, I may just go nuts. This post surely smells like Bill is up to something.
Only A Sweep...
The Red Sox are poised to win the division over the Yankees, and New York seems equally assured a playoff spot as the wild card team. They play their last 3 games against each other this weekend, starting tonight. Only a sweep by either team could make a difference. Taking 3 from the Yankees could open up the wild card to the Tigers - if they can go on a winning streak. If the Red Sox lose all 3, NY could be in striking distance for the division. Things will likely stay the same, and we're ready for an epic AL championship series between them.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Honestly, I didn't see the speech. And haven't read it. But I caught lots of the reaction after and thought Dems were strong. Obama was calm and resolute; Edwards was clear and uncompromising, and to hear Biden and Chris Matthews talk, you would think our commander in chief was completely out to lunch with absolutely no basis in fact for any of his assertions - in other words, a pretty honest discussion.

Giuliani, Huackabee, and McCain all made the same basic point: the surge is working now so it would be foolish to leave as we're on the verge of approaching the precipice of being on the verge of the edge of the beginnings of a very modest success. At least just over the horizon we will be.

Your thoughts?

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Obama's Iraq Speech Today
You can read it here. Here's a (long) snippet.
Nearly 4,000 Americans have been killed in Iraq. Five times that number have suffered horrible wounds, seen and unseen. Loved ones have been lost, dreams denied. Children will grow up without fathers and mothers. Parents have outlived their children. That is a cost of this war.

When all is said and done, the price-tag will run over a trillion dollars. A trillion dollars. That's money not spent on homeland security and counter-terrorism; on providing health care to all Americans and a world-class education to every child; on investments in energy to save ourselves and our planet from an addiction to oil. That is a cost of this war.
With all that our troops and their families have sacrificed, with all this war has cost us, and with no discernible end in sight, the same people who told us we would be greeted as liberators, about democracy spreading across the Middle East, about striking a decisive blow against terrorism, about an insurgency in its last throes - those same people are now trumpeting the uneven and precarious containment of brutal sectarian violence as if it validates all of their failed decisions.

The bar for success is so low that it is almost buried in the sand.

The American people have had enough of the shifting spin. We've had enough of extended deadlines for benchmarks that go unmet. We've had enough of mounting costs in Iraq and missed opportunities around the world. We've had enough of a war that should never have been authorized and should never have been waged.
Now is not the time to reargue the Vietnam War - we did that in the 2004 election, and it wasn't pretty. I come from a new generation of Americans. I don't want to fight the battles of the 1960s. I want to reclaim the future for America, because we have too many threats to face and too many opportunities to seize. Just think about what we can accomplish together when we end this war.

When we end this war in Iraq, we can finally finish the fight in Afghanistan. That is why I propose stepping up our commitment there, with at least two additional combat brigades and a comprehensive program of aid and support to help Afghans help themselves.

When we end this war in Iraq, we can more effectively tackle the twin demons of extremism and hopelessness that threaten the peace of the world and the security of America. That is why I have proposed a program to spread hope - not hate - in the Islamic world, to build schools that teach young people to build and not destroy, to support the rule of law and economic development, and to launch a program of outreach to the Islamic world that I will lead as President.

When we end this war in Iraq, we can once again lead the world against the common challenges of the 21st century. Against the spread of nuclear weapons and climate change. Against genocide in Darfur. Against ignorance and intolerance. Corruption and greed. Poverty and despair. When we end this war, we can reclaim the cause of freedom and democracy. We can be that beacon of hope, that light to all the world.

When we end this war, we can recapture our unity of effort as Americans. The American people have the right instincts on Iraq. It's time to heed their judgment. It's time to move beyond Iraq so that we can move forward together. I will be a President who listens to the American people, not a President who ignores them.

And when we end the war in Iraq, we can come together to give our full attention to advancing the cause of health care for every American, an energy policy that does not bankroll hostile nations while we melt the polar ice caps, and a world class education for our children. Above all, we can turn the page to a new kind of politics of unity, not division; of hope, not fear.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

For Those in Need
In honor of the people that are having a bad day and could use a little ice cream: a soft-serve dispenser that assesses your level of sadness and misery, and doles out an appropriate serving size.
Petraeus: Make America Safer? Huh?
Petraeus, just now: Will my recommendation to the President of increased troop levels going forward make America safer? I never really thought about that before.

That was in response to questioning by Sen. Warner (R-VA) who had to ask twice - he didn't want to answer. Warner was easily the most interesting and effective of all the Senators with the General.

You'd like to think that would be the headline; it really should be: Petraeus Never Considered Effect of His Strategy on American Safety. But I suppose it will go unnoticed.

[UPDATE: Maybe I'm not so crazy. Spencer Ackerman at TPM has noticed this exchange as well, calling it the "most stunning" moment of the hearings to date. It's what I thought too. He has the video up. I wish it were even more of Warner's time. The whole thing led up to this moment quite well. But until I find video of the whole thing, watch the part in question.

UPDATE 2 Think Progress has more video - a little more of the lead-in to the question to give you a flavor of how he framed it.]
Funny Newspaper Screenshot
I was looking for this story in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution about the popcorn lung scandal, pointing out that the EPA has for more than a year now been sitting on the results of a study they conducted. But on my way there, I noticed this on the front page - you'll see that apparently airport sex is declining (not surprising, but how do they know?) and that Senator Craig "blames 'state of fear'".

Well, yeah, people are afraid to have sex in the airport for fear of getting arrested, but how did they get Craig to comment on the decline? Oh....they didn't of course. The Senator blames his "state of fear" for his strange decision to plead guilty. So even though it looks like they turned to an expert in the psychology of airport sex - Senator Craig himself - for an explanation, the two headlines are not directly related. Seeing them together made me laugh, anyway.
Health-Care Costs
The Wall Street Journal reports on skyrocketing health care costs:
Health-care premiums of employers and their workers have climbed more than twice as fast as inflation in 2007 -- to about double their cost in 2000 -- and look to rise at a similar or slightly faster clip next year, a pair of nationwide surveys show.

The average family premium rose 6.1% in 2007...
Small businesses and their employees are bearing the brunt. Though 99% of businesses with more than 200 employees continue to offer workers some sort of health-care coverage, only 59% of smaller firms have a company health plan, compared with 60% last year and 68% in 2000. Among businesses with fewer than 10 workers, only 45% do, down from 48% just a year ago.
Meanwhile, guest-posting at Washington Monthly, author Shannon Brownlee says that even if we bring costs under control, doctors and specialists have a good way of making that money back: they perform more medical procedures.
That means that we don't end up saving any money by tightening reimbursements. But we do end up pissing off doctors, who don't really want to have to run around doing more procedures and seeing more patients just to maintain the same income. It also means we patients can expect to be given a lot more unnecessary procedures, because when doctors do more, they don't necessarily do more of what we really need. In the 1990s, managed care trimmed physician reimbursements and an avalanche of unnecessary procedures and blood tests and CT scans was the result.

All of which is just one more reason why fee-for-service has got to go. It's a broken payment system, and it simply encourages bad quality care. Doctors need to be put on salaries.

Alan Sager, at Boston University, suggests that we take the portion of our national health care bill that already goes toward physician reimbursement — about $500 billion — and say to doctors, in effect, you can keep the money, but you have to take it in the form of a salary. Surgeons would no longer be paid separately for each surgery, and primary care physicians would no longer get a separate fee for each office visit.
Sounds like a good idea to me. And so long as the salary is plenty high, why wouldn't doctors go for it? I doubt they enjoy looking for ways to require unnecessary procedures.

Monday, September 10, 2007

What have you been reading, listening to, watching?

While most of the counry's attention is focused on Gen. Petraeus' congressional testimony, students - mine anyway - are buzzing about something else today: the unfortunate comeback of Ms. Britney Spears at last night's MTV Awards. The reviews are not flattering. I wonder how much longer the corporate music world will tolerate embarassing the industry by pushing music on us from celebrities with no talent? Well, I guess I know the answer to that.

I do have to say that it's not cool in my mind to label her as out-of-shape or worse yet, fat. Clearly she's neither. It's pretty insulting to the women - especially the recent mothers - of the world that her condition is considered that way just for not being tv-toned tiny. On the other hand, it's hard to feel sorry for her on that count. Given the known standards going in, one marvels at the decision to wear the, er, outfit she did. You can read a damning take, and see more pictures than you want to at the This is London review here. Be warned, I guess, that while the pictures are maybe not technically unsafe for work, getting caught perusing them will surely damage your reputation with, well, anyone.

Did anyone dare to watch the actual event?

Elvis Costello
I'm already regretting my decision to skip his show with the Nashville Symphony last night. It was a little pricy and I was really not interested in hearing his ballet Il Sogno, which rather underwhelms me (the most impressive thing about it is that it exists at all, that it's an interest he would pursue), but I'm overhearing people in the coffee shop regaling the fascinating orchestrations of his old material, with the Symphony and Steve Nieve backing him up. I guess I can imagine that sort of thing being so dreadful that I didn't want to chance it. But, I shouldn't have doubted him.

If you're interested in old Elvis material by the way, you may want to pick up the 30th anniversary release of My Aim is True - with lots of extras - which you can get with a free Newbury Comics pint glass at his website! Also, check out the podcast series of Elvis discussing his first 10 years.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

The bees aren't dying because of cell phones, it seems. It's looking more like a virus.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Religious Minorities in Iraq [UPDATE]
Some brilliant guy has pointed out a disconnect between the Bush team's happy talk on Iraq and a letter sent to Secretary Rice by the US Commission on International Religious Freedom. For religious minorities, they say, the terror has reached a stage that is "beyond critical" and they sound tired of being ignored, given the White House's love of claiming they promote religious freedom. Oh wait, did I say a brilliant guy? I meant super-good-looking! But anyway, check it out.

[UPDATE: As Farge points out in comments, the link has gone sour. I guess the BJC server is offline - and probably won't be reset until Monday morning. But if you're interested you can read the letter I'm talking about here. Link seems to be working now.]
Lindsay Graham (R-SC) is Smoking Crack!
Feel the burn!

Bonus hit--Fred Thompson borrows Lindsay's pipe! Fred D. was worried about Bin Laden this morning, but after a little afternoon inhaling.... Bin who?
Popcorn Lung
You can get sick from being around lots of microwave popcorn. Who knew? The disease has a delightful name: popcorn lung. No, really. I figured that buttery sludge (which I love) could kill me, but assumed it would be a heart attack. It turns out, though, you don't even have to eat the stuff to suffer its ill-effects, just inhale it. There's so much wrong with that, starting with: can the popcorn industry not come up with a way to fake-butter-up the corn without using diacetyl, the (natural) solution that's sickened popcorn testers and factory workers - and now, an enthusiastic eater - when heated and inhaled over long periods?

But I guess mostly I'm thinking....wouldn't it be nice if one of our biggest problems to solve was the scourge that is popcorn lung? As for reality, it will have to stay 5th on the list, behind global warming, the Iraq War, genocide in Darfur, and our health care system woes, just ahead of traffic light synchronization.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

I understand that Senate Democrats might be in a tough spot trying to end a war without having enough power to pull it off, and especially with so many in DC falling for the story that says the "surge" is working. But, I've got to agree a little with Kos here. I wish Obama could find it in him to be more like Edwards - and Dodd - here than like Clinton. If the election was today, I'd vote for Obama, but I haven't ruled out voting for Edwards in the primary.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

"Great News From the World of Science" Strikes Again!
Hey look - new cruise routes are opening up!
The Arctic ice cap has collapsed at an unprecedented rate this summer and levels of sea ice in the region now stand at record lows, scientists have announced.

Experts say they are "stunned" by the loss of ice, with an area almost twice as big as the UK disappearing in the last week alone.

So much ice has melted this summer that the Northwest passage across the top of Canada is fully navigable, and observers say the Northeast passage along Russia's Arctic coast could open later this month.
Changes in wind and ocean circulation patterns can help reduce sea ice extent, but [Arctic specialist] Dr [Mark] Serreze said the main culprit was man-made global warming.
Nice going, man. But not to worry! Noted climate scientist Ted Stevens says that global warming is in its last throes and we're just about to turn the corner onto a cooling period. Oh wait, Stevens is just a Republican Senator from Alaska. But still... Woohoo!
Please, Larry, Please!! Fight on!!

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Is Logging the Answer to Global Warming?
Greenpeace co-founder Patrick Moore [UPDATE: As Doug points out in comments, Moore may be a co-founder but left the group in 1986 and now heads an advocacy group created by the forest industry. He now claims to be in favor of "consensus" not "confrontation" in merging the interests of industry and environment, a position that - I'm guessing - pays better.] says that we are being short-sighted (specifically, the new film The 11th Hour - which I haven't seen yet) in demonizing the logging industry, when, in fact, replacing old trees that are done growing with young ones would be a much more efficient way to soak up carbon with our forests.
To address climate change, we must use more wood, not less. Using wood sends a signal to the marketplace to grow more trees and to produce more wood. That means we can then use less concrete, steel and plastic -- heavy carbon emitters through their production. Trees are the only abundant, biodegradable and renewable global resource.

DiCaprio's movie, The 11th Hour, is another example of anti-forestry scare tactics, this time said to be "brilliant and terrifying" by James Christopher of the London Times.

Maybe so, but instead of surrendering to the terror, keep in mind that there are solutions to the challenges of climate, and our forests are among them.
I don't know whether he's right - in fact I doubt that his answer is all that helpful - but it reminds of one thing that is definitely true when it comes to the complex array of factors contributing to the climate crisis: the obvious response may not be the solution. Planting new trees and ending the practice of cutting down old ones might make lots of sense. But if that comes at the expense of more steel and plastic production, it's at least conceivably a net loss - a calculation worth considering.

So, why do I doubt the helpfulness of Moore's particular critique? His solution has its own problems. Does the timber industry replenish forests at a sustainable rate? How much of the wood they cut down is actually turned into furniture or other biodegradable items, and how much is burned, releasing the carbon into the atmosphere? How much carbon is emitted through the logging process? What is the environmental effect of the chemicals and paint used to treat the wood that is consumed in the marketplace? The more I read, the more I'm convinced to claim humble ignorance about how to proceed...the calculations required for a proper ethical decision here are terribly complex, most variables I'm not even capable of imagining, and surely many important ones haven't yet been conceived by anyone. Drive less, use less coal-powered, gas-powered, oil-powered energy, and vote for the candidates who most care to think through systemic solutions for this systemic crisis. That's all I feel sure about.
My Kid Could Paint That
I saw this preview before seeing "No End in Sight." Looks really great - watch the trailer.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Happy Labor Day! What have you been reading, listening to, watching?

Film Recommendation
I saw No End in Sight, a documentary about the devastatingly bad decisions that have helped make the Iraq War such a disaster. It's very well-done and organized, and it has some very impressive interviews with people willing to speak their minds - Jay Garner, Richard Armitage to name just a couple. Most of these things we knew already from the news. Still, it is truly maddening to watch them pieced together, having the stories told by incredulous officials, who seem genuinely shocked that the war was conducted so foolishly. There was little to no planning, no communication and no listening to experts. Our war was conceived and executed by a handful of naive, tyrannical misfits. They knew nothing about warfare, nothing about Iraq, and especially nothing about running a large-scale peace-keeping and reconstruction project. And they compensated for this majestic lack by making monumental decisions in secret, consulting no one who needed to know and no one who had already developed better ideas for how to proceed.

Like I say, no news there right? But it is instructive (in a want-to-bang-your-head-into-a-wall kind of way) to hear the Army's Colonel in charge of organizing the Iraqi military - for the purpose of integrating them into the rebuilding process - explain how he learned of Bremer's shocking, fateful decision to disband the military through television. The look on his face and the expression of disgust and disbelief in his voice are the kind of thing you can't get from reading the newspaper. It's that kind of moment that makes the film so worthwhile. I've given up thinking that a strong film can change the present, but this should be an essential document for the future...when generations beyond us are wondering how the world managed to get so screwed up. This will be one of the answers.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

"Tearoom Trade"
A NYTimes op-ed by author Laura MacDonald today describes a study conducted in 1970 with unethical means but interesting results. Among other things, combined with Senator Craig's situation, it tells us we haven't learned very much, or come very far in responding to the secret complexities of sexuality .
For almost 40 years most police departments have been aware of something that still escapes the general public: men who troll for sex in public places, gay or “not gay,” are, for the most part, upstanding citizens.
[M]ost of them were married; their houses were just a little bit nicer than most, their yards better kept. They were well educated, worked longer hours, tended to be active in the church and the community but, unexpectedly, were usually politically and socially conservative, and quite vocal about it.

In other words, not only did these men have nice families, they had nice families who seemed to believe what the fathers loudly preached about the sanctity of marriage.
[F]or our part, let’s stop being so surprised when we discover that our public figures have their own complex sex lives, and start being more suspicious when they self-righteously denounce the sex lives of others.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

More Republicans Joining Gonzo
So long, Tony, John, Larry