Wednesday, February 28, 2007

The Scariest Thing You Will Read All Day here. Another in a growing list of good reasons not to watch "24."

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Narcissistic Students on the Rise?
I'm not sure I believe there's much to this study - looking for ways to demonize the next generation as being overly selfish sounds like one of the more predictable trends in the history of the world. I'm also not sure that self-reporting is the most reliable way to measure feelings of self-worth. If anything, kids have been taught to say that they are special. Not sure that means they believe it. But still, it's interesting. Here's the AP report:
The standardized inventory, known as the NPI, asks for responses to such statements as "If I ruled the world, it would be a better place," "I think I am a special person" and "I can live my life any way I want to."

The researchers describe their study as the largest ever of its type and say students' NPI scores have risen steadily since the current test was introduced in 1982. By 2006, they said, two-thirds of the students had above-average scores, 30 percent more than in 1982.
The researchers traced the phenomenon back to what they called the "self-esteem movement" that emerged in the 1980s, asserting that the effort to build self-confidence had gone too far.

As an example, Twenge cited a song commonly sung to the tune of "Frere Jacques" in preschool: "I am special, I am special. Look at me."

"Current technology fuels the increase in narcissism," Twenge said. "By its very name, MySpace encourages attention-seeking, as does YouTube."

Monday, February 26, 2007

Where Did All the Bees Go?
Honeybees are essential to raising certain plants, fruits and even nuts. We don't know a better way to pollinate's many crops. But tomorrow's NYTimes reports that there's a problem...
Now, in a mystery worthy of Agatha Christie, bees are flying off in search of pollen and nectar and simply never returning to their colonies. And nobody knows why. Researchers say the bees are presumably dying in the fields, perhaps becoming exhausted or simply disoriented and eventually falling victim to the cold.

As researchers scramble to find answers to the syndrome they have decided to call “colony collapse disorder,” growers are becoming openly nervous about the capability of the commercial bee industry to meet the growing demand for bees to pollinate dozens of crops, from almonds to avocados to kiwis.
Hard to count the Oscars as anything but a success - Marty got his trophy finally, though this was hardly his best film. And Al got attention all night long, plus the documentary crowd didn't disappoint, recognizing An Inconvenient Truth for its importance, even if it wasn't the best-made doc of the year. What did you think?

One of the most fun things about it was to read some right-wing blogs during the night, like National Review's The Corner, which had its contributors weighing in during the show. They were so annoyed by the Gore love-fest, it was fun to read. (They're such blowhards you have to scroll down pretty far just to get to last night's posts.)

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Shortest Campaign Ever?
Vilsack is out. 3 months ago I wondered here what the hell he was thinking by getting in. I know he's a Guvna and all but the man's got nothing to say and the most boring possible way to not say it. I'm hoping Kucinich and Dodd will be next. If you know me you can tell that, obviously, I've got nothing against masturbation. But I don't see why these guys have to do it so publicly and bring so many other people into it. The fact that they would run at all tells me all I need to know about their respective abilities in judgment to rule them out. Contrast with Feingold. Now, there's a guy who, having decided not to run, I could really get behind. Oh, wait, a flaw in my system...

On the other hand, Mickey Kaus has some fun but fuzzy-headed speculation about why Vilsack may be getting out:
The fundraising troubles that are allegedly the "only" reason he quit a) don't seem that bad and b) were all quite foreseeable when he declared his candidacy in November. ... Baseless speculation (but why not): Did someone (e.g. Hillary) realize she desperately needed Vilsack's Iowa supporters and make him an offer he couldn't refuse? ...
But this forgets the nature of the Iowa caucus system, in which voters move from one candidate to another after theirs is eliminated in the precinct. Remember when Edwards and Kucinich struck a deal in '04 and each asked their supporters to move their votes to the other if they lost? Vilsack and Hillary could have easily done the same thing, and Hillary would have Vilsack's votes anyway. Plus, any caucus-goer who wanted to go support Vilsack but wouldn't have participated otherwise would be a bonus Hillary vote.

What really sucks about the whole system is this: Hillary could win Iowa with less than 40% of the vote - If Obama and Edwards essentially split the anti-Hillary faction. Then we'd have a consensus front-runner going to NH and all those big early states now, despite her having been opposed by the majority of Iowans.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Big Hands
Playing piano pieces by Rachmaninov can be a difficult challenge - even if you're not a crapy player like me - because of the span sometimes required to reach all the pitches. He was known for having enormous hands that allowed certain chords to be effortless for him, but difficult for most others. That's the background you need to watch this fabulous video, where a player comes up with a great solution.
Attorney General Gonzales Deputizes the Southern Baptist Convention in New Initiative
Imagine if the religious right's beloved "war on Christmas" was a year-round affair. Legions of lawyers ready to pounce on school and civic administrators, the persistent neon buzz of ACLU-paranoia in the air, Pat Robertson and the Bill O'Reilly Persecution Complex (nice band name...) pressuring corporate America to replace every "gesundheit" with a "God bless you." Now, imagine if the leaders of the effort weren't just the Jerry Falwell Admiration Society, but instead the full weight and force of the Department of Justice, training lawyers and enlisting supporters across the country ready to blow the whistle on any perceived slight to religion. Got the picture? It's the DOJ's new "First Freedoms Project" announced earlier this week by Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, an effort to tout and enhance the Department's pursuit of religious discimination claims through the Civil Rights Divison.

Please don't misunderstand my obvious skepticism. Protecting Americans from discrimination on religious grounds is important, noble work. And a strongly enforced Free Exercise clause is essential to preserving our constitutional religious liberty rights. So why my expression of doubt? After all, hasn't the DOJ promoted minority religion claims as well, and said all the right things about protecting "people of all faiths"? Rev. Brent Walker, Director of the Baptist Joint Committee, says it well in his response to Gonzales's announcement:
[T]his administration's record on protecting religious freedom is mixed.

The First Amendment has two protections for religious freedom - prohibition on religious establishments and protection for free exercise of religion. The administration has often ignored the importance of the no establishment principle by supporting attempts of governments to endorse a religious message, using tax dollars to fund pervasively religious organizations, allowing religious discrimination in hiring for federally funded projects, and going to the Supreme Court to cut back on the rights of citizens to challenge such practices.
Even then, and considering the source, I would still be willing to pay more tribute to their getting right half of the First Amendment's religious freedom protections, if this announcement was made at an interfaith meeting, or in assurance to a concerned religious minority. But, of course, that's not who Gonzales decided would be the perfect audience...

US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales sought out a meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention's Executive Committee as his venue to unveil the new religious liberty initiative of the Department of Justice during a speech in Nashville on Tuesday. The "First Freedom Project" touts the Administration's record arguing religious freedom claims through its Civil Rights Division, provides resources on free exercise rights, and a new  "Report on Enforcement of Laws Protecting Religious Freedom." The project also invites tips on potential discrimination the DOJ might investigate. Gonzales made special mention of this near the end of his talk:

[M]ake no mistake, I am here to ask the Southern Baptist Convention, and all of you in this room, for your help. The Department of Justice has many tools to protect religious freedoms in this country, and we are using them. But even with all of our passion and our dedication to this cause, we cannot do it alone.
Associated Baptist Press has more.

I guess I'm not surprised that the Attorney General chose to speak to a group so full of free exercise fervor, and with such a dubious relationship to the Establishment Clause in recent years. After all, in his 3400-word speech Gonzales didn't once mention a commitment to protecting those of no faith from religious discrimination, and despite having sworn to defend all of the Constitution, did not use the occasion to make any substantive mention of one half of our precious first freedom: the one assuring that the Government will not enact an establishment of religion.

His general support of the free exercise rights of "people of all faiths," and his support of RLUIPA, which he mentioned explicitly, is a good thing. That having been said, I do wonder which other groups will get such a personal appeal for assistance. The concern is voiced well in the Tennessean's report:

If the First Freedom Project was meant to protect the religious freedoms of all Americans, why was it was announced only to a room full of Southern Baptists, asked Hedy Weinberg, executive director of the Tennessee branch of the American Civil Liberties Union.

"Why was just one particular religious community there?" she said. "Religious freedom is a right all of us hold dear...You'd think you'd want the rainbow of religious beliefs represented."
And I would think you'd want to emphasize, in some way, both sides of the constitutional balance that makes religious liberty a vibrant and powerful promise in America.'

[cross-posted in part from the Baptist Joint Committee's blog]

Thursday, February 22, 2007

The Case Against Balanced Budgets
I'm not sure Robert Reich is paying proper heed to the political and common-sense value in seeking a balanced budget. I also think it would be incredibly stupid for a Democratic Party that has been pushing against Republican deficit spending to suddenly not mind now that they control Congress. But I don't doubt his economic perspective.
The federal budget is just an accounting convention. And a lousy one at that. It doesn't distinguish between spending to pay off obligations made in the past, spending intended to make us better off today and spending to make us more productive in the future.
No one in their right mind should worry about balancing this silly agglomeration.

We should worry instead about putting aside enough to deal with past obligations, devoting no more than we can afford to current needs, and making adequate future investments. Even if we have to borrow in order to make them.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Coalition of the Willing
Continues to shrink. Britain and Denmark - on their way out. But does the White House see this as cut-and-run, chaos-creating retreat? Um, no.
"President Bush sees this as a sign of success and what is possible for us once we help the Iraqis deal with sectarian violence."

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Sick of Britney and Anna
I don't guess news channels will ever be punished in the ratings for being frivolous and irrelevant. Celebrity gossip is just too popular, like it or not. I do hate the way those same uninformed people that gobble up that crap are usually the ones - a week away from an election - who complain that candidates never explain "what they're going to do" and wish there could just be more "discussion of the issues". Here's a newsflash: the issues are going on every day. Rolling Stone's Matt Taibbi's pissed.
Britney Spears was an idiot last Thursday, an idiot on Friday, and an idiot on both Saturday and Sunday. She was, shockingly, also an idiot on Monday. It will be news when she stops being an idiot...
On the same day that Britney was shaving her head, a guy I know who works in the office of Senator Bernie Sanders sent me an email. He was trying very hard to get news organizations interested in some research his office had done about George Bush's proposed 2008 budget...
Sanders's office came up with some interesting numbers here. If the Estate Tax were to be repealed completely [as Bush's budget proposes], the estimated savings to just one family -- the Walton family, the heirs to the Wal-Mart fortune -- would be about $32.7 billion dollars over the next ten years.

The proposed reductions to Medicaid over the same time frame? $28 billion.

Or how about this: if the Estate Tax goes, the heirs to the Mars candy corporation -- some of the world's evilest scumbags, incidentally, routinely ripped by human rights organizations for trafficking in child labor to work cocoa farms in places like Cote D'Ivoire -- if the estate tax goes, those assholes will receive about $11.7 billion in tax breaks. That's more than three times the amount Bush wants to cut from the VA budget ($3.4 billion) over the same time period.
I don't mind if it's reported in the news that a model and former reality TV star passed away with some bizarre timing, or for that matter that a pop music star is perhaps losing her grip and, strangely, shaved her head. But how long does it take to mention those things? Look, I just did in one long sentence. Sure, hell, even give them top billing if it's the only way to sell papers. But do they have to take over? Does MSNBC have to provide live coverage of the legal hearing over Smith's body?
The Good News? Scientists are exploring promising new ways to re-grow fingers and perhaps entire limbs. The Bad News? It involves pig bladders.
If Spievack, now 68, had been a toddler, things might have been different. Up to about age 2, people can consistently regrow fingertips, says Dr. Stephen Badylak, a regeneration expert at the University of Pittsburgh. But that's rare in adults, he said.

Spievack, however, did have a major advantage - a brother, Alan, a former Harvard surgeon who'd founded a company called ACell Inc., that makes an extract of pig bladder for promoting healing and tissue regeneration.
Hmmm how convenient! A man with a company touting a new and controversial method of restoring severed tissue just happens to find the success story he's been looking for - in his own family! I suppose it all sounds on the up and up, but if you want evidence that it's all a joke, how about that picture right on the front, of the man extending the finger in question for us.

Monday, February 19, 2007

The Last Straw
I'm truly finished with Lieberman. There's supporting the wrong war, there's snuggling up to Republicans and then there's this higher plane of foolishness: he wrote the foreword to the new book by Richard Land.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

from Friday's NYTimes
A year ago, Ms. Larsen, 36, and Mr. Langlois, 37, were hopeful New Orleanians eager to rebuild and improve the city they adored. But now they have joined hundreds of the city's best and brightest who, as if finally acknowledging a lover's destructive impulses, have made the wrenching decision to leave at a time when the population is supposed to be rebounding.

Their reasons include high crime, high rents, soaring insurance premiums and what many call a lack of leadership, competence, money and progress. In other words: yes, it is still bad down here. But more damning is what many of them describe as a dissipating sense of possibility, a dwindling chance at redemption for a great city that, even before the storm, cried out for great improvement.
There was a real opportunity to rebuild a great and unique city. We could have used ample military/national guard to provide some security and give the emergency services a chance to get back on their feet amid war-like conditions; could have used real federal money to repair and rebuild neighborhoods--both remaking a city and offering lots of jobs in one of the biggest and most intense public works projects we've seen since FDR. Instead we got a city and state government that (perhaps understandably) weren't up to the challenge, and a federal government for whom hollow promises seems to be its only expertise, mired in a similarly mismanaged war overseas, and more worried about maintaining tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans than for offering work, security, opportunity and hope for its most vulnerable, damaged citizens.

The tragedy that is Katrina started as a failure of civil engineering, not a natural disaster; but the tragedy continues: a failure of leadership, a lack of focus, and worse still, a sweep-it-under-the-rug sleight of hand that views such challenges in political and public relations terms, not human dimensions. We have a powerful federal government--and a free press to watch it--for just such an occasion. But the characters drawn to such work have a preference for other concerns--foreign policy machismo, Anna Nicole Smith reports, year-round political campaigns, to name a few. They have both let us down, and we have let them.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Wheel of Lunch
Have trouble deciding where to eat out? Give the wheel of food a spin. Just enter your zip code and give it a whirl. (via BoingBoing)
Hard not to be excited about hockey today. Peter Forsberg a Pred? With Paul Kariya, Tomas Vokoun, Kimmo Timonen, we practically have an all-star team on the ice when they're playing up to par. Fun to hear how excited the team is about getting their new hall-of-fame teammate.
"It's incredible to be bringing a guy like him on board," said Predators left wing Paul Kariya, who played one season with Forsberg in Colorado.

"Excitement isn't a big enough word to describe what we're feeling. Everyone is so pumped up. He's one of the best — if not the best — players in the world, and to add him to our team is pretty special."
"It's hard to believe," Predators captain Kimmo Timonen said. "It's like a big energy boost for the whole team. He's a world-class player, one of the best in the league, and I can't wait to play with him."
Here's hoping they don't just stand around watching him the first few games. And hoping this translates into more butts in seats. If you're in Nashville and never been to a game, this is a good time to start, and if you've only been to a few - this is a good time to become a regular.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Gore's planning a big concert. Really big. Looks cool. 7-7-07. He also reiterated again at the press conference that he's not running for President.
Still Dumbfounded
Sorry, I'd like to move on and post about something else, but I can't get over that incredible thing Bush said yesterday that I quoted in the last post (scroll down). After 6 years in office and 4 years of war and declaring himself the decider and months now of discussion about the perils of getting involved in a civil war and is it or is it not one in Iraq now...and this is his new answer? Is it a civil war? *How should I know, I haven't been there*.... AAAAACK. How how how how did we (re)elect this man...

worst.president.ever. Is that race even close anymore?

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

What the....
More from Bush's Press Conference today, asked about Iraq:
Q Do you believe it's a civil war, sir?

THE PRESIDENT: I can only tell you what people on the ground, whose judgment -- it's hard for me, living in this beautiful White House, to give you an assessment, firsthand assessment. I haven't been there; you have, I haven't. But I do talk to people who are and people whose judgment I trust, and they would not qualify it as that. There are others who think it is. It is, however, a dangerous situation, thereby requiring action on my part.
Presidential Press Conference
Bush answered questions responded to questions this morning. You can read the transcript here. And read all about it at tpm here. He's beating his chest about Iran and, guess what, pushing a misleading interpretation of the facts. Who knew he was capable of such a thing?
Q Thank you, sir. I'd like to follow on Iran. Critics say that you are using the same quality of intelligence about Iran that you used to make the case for war in Iraq, specifically about WMD that turned out to be wrong, and that you are doing that to make a case for war against Iran. Is that the case?

THE PRESIDENT: I can say with certainty that the Quds force, a part of the Iranian government, has provided these sophisticated IEDs that have harmed our troops. And I'd like to repeat, I do not know whether or not the Quds force was ordered from the top echelons of government. But my point is what's worse -- them ordering it and it happening, or them not ordering it and it happening? And so we will continue to protect our troops.
He "can say with certainty"...that pretty much convinces me; how about you?
Drums of War
Guess who's overstating the argument that Iran is sending heavy weaponry into Iraq? This time CNN does a better job even than the White House.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Attention Article 19 Readers
Why are you still awake this afternoon?? The Washington Post says it's nap time.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Nashville in the News
Way to go, Mayor Purcell.
Saying "this is not who we are," Mayor Bill Purcell today vetoed a bill that would have required English to be the "first" language of Metro government.

"We don't need a law to tell us what language we are already speaking," Purcell said at a press conference, where he was flanked by more than 10 civic leaders and city officials. "We don't need a law that will make it harder for a police officer to do his job, for a school teacher to teach or for a doctor to help a patient."
As of now, 231 news outlets have picked up this story, according to Google. It's the first bill the 7th-year Mayor has vetoed.
Campaign Blogs, If You're Interested
Democratic Candidate Official Blogs
Barack Obama
John Edwards
Chris Dodd
Joe Biden
Bill Richardson
Dennis Kucinich
Mike Gravel

Hillary's blog is not yet up and running... For the record I prefer Obama's blog so far. Joe Rospars (former Dean blogger) is the only front page writer for now. Plenty of stuff there but without getting overwhelmed like I am when I look at Edwards'wunder-blog. There's campaign-driven material, user-generated material, recommended diaries, photos, videos, ways to get involved, and it's all presented very clumsily in my opinion, even if it is clearly the most technically advanced site, and the one offering the most interactivity. I never know quite what to look at when I go there. Maybe it just takes getting used to.
I heard a track from the upcoming Arcade Fire release, Neon Bible, and it's got me itching for the whole album. Should be out March 6. Sophomore releases are tricky - you want to bring continuity with the first popular group of tracks, but still be somehow new and different. But I have to admit I like their Funeral enough that for now I'd settle for a follow up that merely traverses the same ground - that's a plenty wide area as it is. The new tune I heard,"Intervention" (from NPR's All Songs Considered podcast from January 5 if you want to check it out), bears plenty of resemblance to the older material, though with an even grander orchestration. No telling which way the other tunes will go. But it's already ordered for the Article 19 household.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Obama Announcement
You can read his speech here. Or you can view video of his announcement at the campaign website here:

Deb, can you give us an update?

Friday, February 09, 2007

Keep Your Fingers Crossed
Governor Bredesen has proposed a statewide smoking ban in all workplaces, including restaurants and bars. It's a public health issue, and a common sense issue. I hope the state legislature has the good sense to go along with it. It will happen eventually, but would be nice if it would happen soon enough I can enjoy it.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

OK, set your alarm clock or Tivo for 10 a.m. Saturday to possibly catch a glimpse of me, my niece and my sis among the thousands of freezing people gathering for the Obama announcement here in Springfield at our historic Old Capitol. No, I haven't officially endorsed, but how often are you a couple miles from a historic presidential candidacy announcement?

I was going to say hey to you guys w/ a sign, but the campaign invitation said no signs or bags. Guess we'll have to keep our diapers in our pockets - they might keep us warm.
Because Nothing Kicks So Much Ass as Taking Emergency Contraception
According to a Colorado State Senator, emergency contraception is just so enticing, women will be faking rapes to get it. Nice. (via Think Progress)

For the record, Plan B side effects can include nausea, vomiting, dizziness, exhaustion, headaches, abdominal pain and unexpected bleeding. Most report no side effects and they only last a day or two -- it's safe. Still, sounds like a good time, no?

Stats I have read somewhere suggest that less than 2% of reported rapes are untrue. But the majority of rapes are unreported.

Bottom line: compared to the problem of rape, we don't have a problem with women lying about rape. Plan B is safe and legal and approved by the FDA (if not always pleasant feeling). When a woman asks for it, she should get it. It's not an abortion pill. It's contraception.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

This is Promising
Read this. What do you think?

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

New Spokesman for Nicorette: Barack Obama
I was surprised to find out that he smokes (not a heavy smoker he claims), but not surprised that he's quitting to run for President--or at least trying. It's a good move. Hopefully we'll hear as little about this going forward as we did about Bush's drinking when he said he had quit. The press just took his word for it--both that he quit, and that he didn't really have a problem.
Space Women
Weirder than most? I always thought there was a rigorous screening process for astronaut school...maybe not.
Does It Matter?
Yeah the President submitted a budget, and yeah it sucks. Cuts in Medicare, Medicaid, CHIP, education and Head Start, and fails to fund the Pell grants he *just proposed*. But Democrats are in the majority now, so who cares? We don't have to start the budget process with his foolishness. Of course, when he ponders vetoing the budget, he'll claim that his budget had a lower deficit blah blah blah and we'll all know it was just a sham. But this time I'd prefer not wringing a single hand over his nonsense budget proposal.

We don't have a veto-proof (or even a filibuster-proof) majority in either house but we do have majorities. Let's start with that. Apart from the power to shut down the government with budget vetoes, the President is officially irrelevant.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Richardson Interview
I didn't hear Governor Bill Richardson's speech to the DNC (my thoughts on the ones I did hear are below), but here's a kinda bizarre interview with him in yesterday's NYTimes Magazine. It includes this gem of a question:
I once read somewhere that people who are obsessed with making peace between warring camps tend to have grown up in homes where there was a lot of arguing between the parents. Was that true in your case?
DNC Winter Meeting Speeches and Random Primary Thoughts
I caught the 3 important candidate speeches given at the DNC winter meeting on a CSpan rerun. The initial strategies of each was pretty clear. Here are my short-versions of their speeches:
Obama: This is too serious a time to be playing political games. We have to inspire the electorate to overcome a growing cynicism about Washington.

Edwards (whose speech text is the only one I've found online): This is a time for bold action and progressive ideals, i.e., end the war, enact universal health coverage, do what governnment's supposed to do--take care of those who need it.

Clinton: I know how to win. I've been through battles with Republicans and defeated them (in 1992 and 1996). I know how they think. I know how to counter them.

So, Obama is making a dangerous general election argument - reaching out to independents and those fed up with party politics - dangerous because this is a primary (this didn't work for McCain 8 years ago, remember). Edwards is going right after the Democratic base, appealing to liberal ideals. Clinton is making a practical argument: which Democrats know how to win? Clintons. But she's pushing for the woman vote along the way.

I don't know which will work, but I'm torn between Edwards and Obama and ultimately will probably end up supporting the one I think has the best chance to head off the Hillary steam-roller. Here's another fly in the ointment, potentially. It appears that Nader is preparing to run *if* Hillary is nominated. That's something for Democrats to think about. If he would make that threat very plain - if she wins, I run; if she doesn't, I'll stay out - it could have an impact I would think. Alot of liberals don't want to vote for Mrs. Clinton. I think Nader would do even better in 2008 if she's the nominee than he did in 2000 when he cost Al Gore the presidency.

One other thing is clear: there are too many candidates. Maybe one of the others will jump up and seriously challenge these main 3. But mostly I fear debates that have Kucinich, Gravel, Richardson, Clark, Vilsack, Biden, Dodd, keeping us from really hearing the main candidates go at it.

Another sign that Gore's not running: he shut down his PACs.

And here's a primary tactics question - obviously 1 year early: Vilsack will get plenty of votes in Iowa. But remember the way the caucus works: each precinct has a winner after many rounds of voting. Who will Vilsack's supporters choose second? Clinton? And if so, will Obama/Edwards/etc. supporters add up to more than Vilsack/Clinton?

Last random thought: if African-Americans really go for Hillary over Obama (as they poll now) because of some sense that he's not authentically in that will be a tragedy.

No matter what any of the answer are, it's completely stupid that I'm giving it so much thought so far away from the primaries. But I think of the Winter Meeting as being the beginning of the process. It's the meeting in 2003 that I first saw Howard Dean on TV and almost immediately signed on as a volunteer. What that experience taught me is that things won't really happen to determine the winner until well after Labor Day. But things can happen before then to propel some candidates (Richardson?) into contention, and others (Biden?) into oblivion.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Molly and me.
Creative writing and journ in high school were when I developed a desire to be able to write. I knew I didn't have the imagination to write fiction, didn't have the discipline to write a book, but found I could muster enough creativity, humor, silliness, or pathos to write columns in the school paper. I know they're not worldly authors, but I liked Dave Barry, Erma Bombeck, Anna Quinlan, Linda Ellerbee - liked their informal style.

Then I found Molly Ivins, who had an appealing style plus was going after the bad guys, plus she was a woman not writing about children and family. She became my heroine. Even when I wasn't familiar with Texas-specific issues or people, she made me laugh and think. I read her books as well as her columns, and she never disappointed. In 1998, she had me up to speed on Shrub, and I began to fear his likely candidacy for president. And we all know how well that worked out.

Molly represented what I wanted (and still want) to be: smart, funny, fearless, at home in her skin without being girly and gorgeous. I was in LA once for a seminar, and stepped into a hotel elevator with her. I didn't want to be a fawning pest, so I just said, "you are Molly Ivins, aren't you?" She smiled warmly and said, "well bless your heart, yes I am." So I fawned a little.

She died Wednesday night, age 62, breast cancer. The list of people I miss because of death or distance grows over time, and another breast cancer death makes me furious and fearful. So let's wash that away with a cold beer and thoughts of an afterlife where Molly is drinking and laughing, joining Ann Richards and saving us seats at their table. Cheers and thanks, Molly.
Very Likely vs. Virtually Certain
That's the language argument over the new climate report as to how sure scientists are that humans are responsible for global warming. You can read the report here.

Here's what the LATimes says:
In the strongest language it has ever used, a United Nations panel says global warming is "very likely" caused by human activities and has become a runaway train that cannot be stopped.
The phrase "very likely" indicates a 90% certainty. The last IPCC report, issued five years ago, said it was "likely" that human activity was at fault, indicating a certainty of 66%.

Many scientists had argued during the editing process that the report should say it is "virtually certain" that human activities are causing global warming. That would indicate a 99% certainty.

The report also says scientists' "best estimate" is that temperatures will rise 3.2 to 7.8 degrees by 2100. In contrast, the increase from 1901 to 2005 was 1.2 degrees.

The report also projects that sea levels could rise by 7 to 23 inches by the end of the century, and perhaps an additional 4 to 8 inches if the recent melting of the Greenland ice sheet and the Larsen B ice shelf in western Antarctica continues at current rates.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Update: The Baby Einstein Woman Responds
To the critical Slate article I linked to a few days ago. And Timothy Noah writes back saying you're right, I'm sorry. No, not really.
Hopefully They Won't Count the Votes in Florida
Thanks to a reader for pointing me to this: Al Gore has been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.
Candidate Al Franken
It's nearly official. Franken for US Senate. Should be fun. I saw him on a book tour about 3 years ago, and along with being funny he was very emotional when it came to speaking of the late Paul Wellstone and the hateful sequence of events (you may remember the controversial Wellstone memorial service just a week or so before the election) that Franken clearly believes resulted in Coleman getting elected.

Now he'll have his shot at righting that wrong. Good luck, Al. Get the popcorn, everybody.