Sunday, June 29, 2008

Ira Glass' This American Life

My other post this morning made me recall this, my favorite episode from This American Life. Ira Glass has been doing this program for years and getting better at it all the time. You can find You Tube videos to see what he looks like (and why he's better off on the radio), or see the movie (which I have not).

Anyway, if time is limited take four minutes to listen to the prologue, then get a cup of coffee and enjoy the next twenty minutes. Act One is "The Family That Flees Together Trees Together." This is a great story.

The Jarvis family, a group of eight, goes on the run from the law — for seven years. They live on a boat, in a treehouse in a swamp. They escape capture time after time. And how do the kids turn out, living a life outside of society, as fugitives? Surprisingly great. (22 minutes)

Krista Tippett Promo

I listened this morning to another of Krista Tippett's radio interviews, this time with Kate Braestrup who serves as chaplain to Maine Game Wardens. She is promoting a book published last year. In this case the guest is Unitarian-Universalist so readers with preconceived notions about "those" people may want to pass. I found her observations worthwhile and spiritually enriching as I recalled a friend's sarcastic swipe years ago at a Unitarian ("Ya'll are the ones who believe in one God at the most, aren't you?")

Krista's own book is a quick, quiet, revealing read, good summer reading. Starting as a professional journalist not especially aimed at spirituality, she came into her genre with a well-sharpened skill set. It has been her privilege to interview over the last few years some of the most important living writers, thinkers and teachers across the spectrum of all that includes "faith" in the broadest sense of the word. She is another Barbara Walters, David Frost, Charlie Rose, James Lipton , Brian Lamb or Terry Gross.

Can you tell I like to listen to interviews? Done well, the listener pays more attention to the subject than the host. (By the same token I deplore interviews that bring more attention to the host than the guest. I'm thinking here of radio talk shows and what passes for commentary on the popular networks. Larry King gets a point or two but commercials and flashy suspenders get in the way. One reason that Tim Russert was so good was his ability to hold the middle ground among talking heads, but playing umpire to a spate position-players is not the same as interviewing individuals.)

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Lumiere plays Schubert Notturno

One of my favorites.
I have been checking You Tube from the beginning for a good recording of this music. This was added last month. Only 272 views at tnis writing. I wish it were more than audio, but I'll take what I can get.

Chamber music is for many listeners and performers the highest form of classical music. This group placed among the fourth place competition of The Chamber Music Foundation of New England.

The ICMEC auditions were held at Boston University in April and May of this year. Groups competed in five age groups and nine chamber music categories including piano duos, piano trios, piano quartets, sonata duos, jazz and folk ensembles, ensembles with winds and string and vocal ensembles.

Two years as a music education undergraduate many years ago infected me for life. I learned that to be a successful musician one should be rich or gifted... preferably both. That's why I paid the rent as a food service manager. But I had one of the best music appreciation courses anyone could ever want.

Anecdote from the good old days...
If you ask musicians what is the most nearly perfect of instruments most will say the human voice. But when you ask an organist he will tell you the pipe organ.

Change to Hope For

One of last year's posts came up yesterday in someone's Google search. Reading it again I was reminded of how much I want to see the Bush presidency finally come to an end. The story of what one writer called "America's Mesopotamian Misadventure" is a litany of too-little, too-late.

This is not old-fashioned Elmer Gantry-type hypocrisy. That kind of hormone driven corruption is endemic to the population, reaching across the whole political spectrum. Clinton and Kennedy immediately come to mind.The mistress angle may have triggered his undoing, but this is not the same. What we are witnessing is a control-seeking, take-no-prisoners management style that derives from an autocratic, even dictatorial approach to wielding power. Persuasion is not part of the formula. It's all about the power.

It's the difference between seduction and rape. Talk-show hosts may be guilty of seduction, but the gang for whom they are cheerleaders sometimes employ rapists. Entertainers depend upon ratings in the same way that politicians depend on votes. But political appointees don't depend on anyone other than a hanful of well-placed bosses.

The following is from a Google cache. The salient links are no longer active, but the description of a Pax Americana is there. This appeared at the beginning of the Bush Administration. The reader can do a search for "Wolfowitz Pax Americana" and harvest a wealth of interesting links.

"Rebuilding America's Defenses," a 2000 report by the Project for the New American Century, listed 27 people as having attended meetings or contributed papers in preparation of the report. Among them are six who have since assumed key defense and foreign policy positions in the Bush administration. And the report seems to have become a blueprint for Bush's foreign and defense policy.

Paul Wolfowitz
Political science doctorate from University of Chicago and dean of the international relations program at Johns Hopkins University during the 1990s. Served in the Reagan State Department, moved to the Pentagon during the first Bush administration as undersecretary of defense for policy. Sworn in as deputy defense secretary in March 2001.

John Bolton
Yale Law grad who worked in the Reagan administration as an assistant attorney general. Switched to the State Department in the first Bush administration as assistant secretary for international organization affairs. Sworn in as undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, May 2001.

Eliot Cohen
Harvard doctorate in government who taught at Harvard and at the Naval War College. Now directs strategic studies at Johns Hopkins and is the author of several books on military strategy. Was on the Defense Department's policy planning staff in the first Bush administration and is now on Donald Rumsfeld's Defense Policy Board.

I. Lewis Libby
Law degree from Columbia (Yale undergrad). Held advisory positions in the Reagan State Department. Was a partner in a Washington law firm in the late '80s before becoming deputy undersecretary of defense for policy in the first Bush administration (under Dick Cheney). Now is the vice president's chief of staff.

Dov Zakheim
Doctorate in economics and politics from Oxford University. Worked on policy issues in the Reagan Defense Department and went into private defense consulting during the 1990s. Was foreign policy adviser to the 2000 Bush campaign. Sworn in as undersecretary of defense (comptroller) and chief financial officer for the Pentagon, May 2001.

Stephen Cambone
Political science doctorate from Claremont Graduate School. Was in charge of strategic defense policy at the Defense Department in the first Bush administration. Now heads the Office of Program, Analysis and Evaluation at the Defense Department.

By Jay Bookman, 29 September 2002.

Not directly related but very much a consequence of official policies outlined above are the tragedies of Alyssa Peterson and Col. Ted S. Westhusing. These two names have been in the news and their stories, though not secret, carry enough opaque suggestions that, as in the case of Steven Vincent, they don't make for blockbuster journalism. Too much trampling of evidence at the crime scenes.

This morning's post is just a way of refreshing my memory. In weak moments I often allow an impulse toward forgiveness, driven by Christian charity, to forget the truly terrible decisions made by President Bush early on. I like to think that in retrospect he may eventually experience a McNamara moment, but that does not happen often in politics, either here or abroad. More likely he will echo Nixon's attempts to wash the stains off his sad record, even going so far as comparing himself to Lincoln, suggesting that "If the president does it, then it's not illegal." As I said above, it's all about power. Persuasion is not important to the formula.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Dr. Hadar on US/China Strategic Economic Dialogue (SED)

Leon Hadar's article for Business Times takes a look at US trade arrangements with China over the next ten years. As you read, reflect on which presidential candidate's "style" might win more points for America in the long run. No, the president doesn't have a chair at the table, but you can be sure he has input. Read between the lines. the aftermath of Iraq and Katrina, the sub-prime mortgage mess and the financial crunch, Americans are recognising that they are not in a position to lecture the Chinese on how to manage their economic system, or indeed, confront any other domestic and foreign policy issue.
American critics of the SED have been displeased that the nature of the forum tends to be deliberative instead of confrontational. But these critics should recognise that their confrontational approach towards China has failed to produce any progress in resolving some of the legitimate US complaints about Chinese trade and investment policies. Washington should face the reality that America's geo-strategic and geo-economic problems have eroded its ability to use threats to force the Chinese to change their economic policies. The process introduced through the SED forum seems to be the more realistic way to try to advance common US and Chinese interests.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Poll: Bullshit Is Most Important Issue For 2008 Voters

I'm sorry Doc Searls got sick, but if he hadn't I might not have been reading his blog every day for the last week or two. To me he's an ubergeek polymath who puts out more than I can ingest at one time, but today's post comparing Obama with Reagan is an inspiration. Go read.

This Onion Clip is not representative of Doc's point, but he made passing reference to it and it's too good not to grab.

Poll: Bullshit Is Most Important Issue For 2008 Voters

As the Obama bandwagon rolls along I am slipping into a fantasy world that has been on hold for nearly forty years. Ever since the murder of Camelot I have been in a political funk. Every time a candidate came along that got my blood hot he either fell to the wayside early in the running, dropped out for some other reason or got killed. It was a sad day when Bill Bradley retired. Barbara Jordan was taken too early by a degenerative disease. McGovern and McCarthy got put on the shelf. Paul Tsongas got cancer. Every season, it seems, brought another disappointment.

Well, the Obama machine has the remnants of the Kennedy heritage behind it, including Ted Sorensen himself. Paul Tsongas' daughter is on the team. Bill Bradley is behind him. It looks to me like all the right people I have followed the last several decades say he's okay.

I know he's gonna break some hearts. They all do. That's the nature of politics... the art of the possible. (Hell, he cut his teeth on the Chicago machine and I think everyone knows what that might mean.) And he may break mine as well. But unless it's something horrible, I forgive him in advance because I understand it won't be from lack of trying or not having his heart in the right place. He's saying all the right stuff and I think he believes it.

Whatever happens -- even if McCain by some twist of fate become our next president -- the curtain is falling on one of the worst chapters of modern American history. When I was growing up, young and idealistic, I really believed all that stuff about freedom, democracy and high-sounding principles. As the years passed I became aware that in the world beyond our borders it was US policy to sleep with dictators, kings and tyrants of various stripes because there is a difference between principles and interests. And in the world of international diplomacy, those do not refer to banking... except in the most corrupt sense of the word.

In the world of diplomacy, interests trump principles. One of the last remnants of patriotic pride I clung to was that despite the many ways that we bent and twisted principles, at least the US did not openly have political prisoners. At least not until recently. That was a phrase aimed at truly corrupt regimes that made no pretense of honoring rights we held to be self-evident. But beginning with Iran-Contra my confidence in the integrity of our highest elected official began to deteriorate, and the extablishment of an extra-legal entity at Guantanamo has been icing on the cake. Political prisoners are now so much a part of US policy that the term has vanished from everyday usage. (Similarly an explosion of unwed mothers has resulted in the disappearance of the word "bastard" as it was used just a few years ago. Perhaps. Some of us primitive enough to connect morality with principles see a connection. But that is another discussion.) Thankfully, court decisions in the last couple of weeks suggest that even appointees of neoconservative stripe are not ready to betray some of the bedrock ideals of our legal traditions.

Anita van der Krol -- Dubai in Pictures 1975-1980

Last year I came across some beautiful black and white photos made in Dubai thirty years ago by Anita van der Krol, a Dutch expat who lived there during those years. I asked permission to put one of her pictures in my blog but she found it too political, preferring not to allow one here.

Nevertheless, I made the mailing list and received an email announcing an exhibition of her work now showing in Dubai. My chances of going there are zip, but here is a link to the online images.

Here's part of the story from The National, an English newspaper launched by the Abu Dhabi Media Company.

There are 54 black and white images, 30 by Ronald Codrai and 24 by Anita van der Krol, who took hundreds of photographs of everyday life in Dubai between 1975 and 1980. Living as an expatriate in Jumeirah, she became one of the first inhabitants of Jebel Ali village. The wife of a Dutch dredging engineer who worked on the Creek, Port Rashid and Mina harbour, Anita shot intimate pictures of Arab men, women and children, winning their confidence and respect by always seeking permission to take pictures.

Both sets of photographs have a simple, documentary style, and are fascinating to anyone living in the UAE. Some of the locations and traditions are still recognisable today, though most have been lost in the city’s rapid development. Gregg Sedgwick, the founder of Gallery One, who published a book called A Portrait of the Jumeirah Beach Road in 2003, said: “When I first started trying to get my book published about 10 years ago, just before the Jumeirah Beach Road was dug up, it was quite difficult because it showed Dubai in a very raw state. But my argument is that this is the whole nature of the place, and sales of the book now are better than when I first launched it.”

Karl Rove Takedown

This is what blogging is all about.
I don't want to spoil the effect by snips and clips. Lower Manhattanite takes Rove's snooty little remark and runs with it.

“Even if you never met him, you know this guy,” Rove said, per Christianne Klein. “He's the guy at the country club with the beautiful date, holding a martini and a cigarette that stands against the wall and makes snide comments about everyone who passes by.”

Too late, Mr. Rove, to stuff the poop back into the elephant. It's already all in the street.

Tribal Business in the Levant

Here is a fascinating clip from the 92nd Street Y with Steve Coll discussing his book, The Bin Ladens: An Arabian Family in the American Century talking with Leonard Lopate, host of WNYC's The Leonard Lopate Show. The subject is OBL but the explanation of local business and marriage arrangements is what caught my ear. In the case of OBL this was in Syria, but as we have learned during the last four or five years tribal and cultural characteristics are far more important than national considerations.

As he spoke I couldn't help thinking how the US adventure in Iraq reflects local customs regarding business and marriage arrangements. What the US has done in Iraq is not new. A wealthy and influential benefactor comes into a situation where power and influence trump everything else, including the dignity of women. In fact, the role of women is crucial to the appearance of legitimacy... if you want to overlook the difference between marriage and prostitution.

US policy in Iraq reflects the way business has been done there for generations. Diplomatically the US has a lot in common with Osama's father. Someone in the State Department or the White House understood this all along! Who knew?

Garrison Keillor's Writer's Almanac

It is a happy stolen moment when my car radio plays one of Garrison Keillor's little five-minute programs, The Writer's Almanac. In my area they happen at five minutes before the noon hour as a prelude to whatever more pressing stuff might be scheduled for the "top of the hour." Too bad, because the content of Keillor's five minutes is to what comes next as Canadian Black Diamond is to Velveeta.

This morning on impulse I wanted to blog yesterday's program because yesterday (the last two nights, actually -- "eqinox" = "equal nights") was the Summer Equinox and yesterday's program, with historic and literary details that only Garrison Keillor finds, spun off that celestial event. I checked YouTube and sure enough these little treasures are beginning to show up there!

I am looking forward to the time when I can access The Writer's Almanac any time I want on You Tube. It would be great if we could see and hear Keillor in the studio, recording it live, but that my be too much to ask, technology and funding being what they are, but I did find this wonderful clip of Garrison Keillor at the 92nd Street Y, reading and commenting on one of his books. It has only had thirty-two views at this time. I love how he wears red sneakers and leaves his glasses perched in his hair as he reads (!), removing them when he's done. Go figure.

Here is part of yesterday's Writer's Almanac that inspired today's blogpost.

Tonight is Midsummer Night's Eve, also called St. John's Eve. St. John is the patron saint of beekeepers. It's a time when the hives are full of honey. The full moon that occurs this month was called the Mead Moon, because honey was fermented to make mead. That's where the word "honeymoon" comes from. Midsummer dew was said to have special healing powers. Women washed their faces in it to make themselves beautiful and young. They skipped naked through the dew to make themselves more fertile. It's a time for lovers. An old Swedish proverb says, "Midsummer Night is not long but it sets many cradles rocking." Midsummer Eve is also known as Herb Evening. Legend says that this is the best night for gathering magical herbs. Supposedly, a special plant flowers only on this night, and the person who picks it can understand the language of the trees. Flowers were placed under a pillow with the hope of important dreams about future lovers. Shakespeare set his play A Midsummer Night's Dream on this night. It tells the story of two young couples who wander into a magical forest outside Athens. In the play, Shakespeare wrote, "The course of true love never did run smooth."

Later he notes that yesterday was the birthday of Alfred Kinsey, famous for his books about sex. This connection with the Summer Equinox, honeymoons and all that is more than interesting.

He interviewed almost 19,000 people about their sexual behavior and published the results in Sexual Behavior in the Human Male (1948). It found, for instance, that premarital sex was more prevalent than people thought, that masturbation does not cause mental illness, and that virtually all men do it. The book was 804 pages, and it sold 185,000 copies in its first year, making it a best seller.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Sturm und Drang - Buzzline du jour

I'm gonna have to work this one into my writing somehow.
sturm und drang
It sounds so erudite. So in. So cool.
I've come across it three times in the last twenty-four hours from unrelated sources.
Maybe it's a seasonal thing. I dunno. A few years ago I heard a lot about Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), then later a lot of hoopla about Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Passe now, both of them.
I seem always to be behind the times. I wanted to be the first kid on the blog block to use cool-sounding stuff like that.


Credit to Steve Cebalt for the cartoon.

Iraqi Blogger is Murdered

I want to say something about this, but I don't know what to say. Or to whom.
The madness of this war, like all wars, takes many casualties.
Part of the tragedy is that in the context of the Iraq war, a murder seems no different than an accident. Reading this makes me feel sad, angry and helpless.

Yes. Ahmed (BlogIraq) is dead. He was killed in Baghdad on April 11th, 2008. He went back to Baghdad to take his family out, but he did not have enough time to do so.

He had an appointment that day with a guy he knew. This guy was supposed to get him some documents that prove corruption in some USAID office back in Baghdad. I don't have complete details about it. Anyway, he and the guy bringing the documents were killed at their meeting place in Mansour district in Baghdad.

This is the email he sent me a couple of hours before he was killed:

Hi Abu Aya,
Howz everything?
How is the little Ayotta ?
Things are up and down here in Baghdad. But generally its better than last September when I was here. The nights are much quieter. The explosions are less. Some areas got better and other areas got worse. But still the Sunnis can not go to Shiite places and vice versa.
I gotta go now to get to Mansour to meet the guy I told you about. They have threatened him few days ago and he has vanished since then. Hes getting ready to leave Iraq after we meet today. I think I will leave soon too. I am just waiting to get he new ID for my daughter in a couple of days maybe.I'll contact you again once I am in Syria.
Take care abu.


His brother in-law found him dead with his friend in Mansour district in one of the small streets there. Thank God his body was found, unlike many of our friends who were killed or just vanished without a trace.

When I first setup this blog for him, he gave me the admin password of his blog and I gave him the password of mine. We agreed that whoever dies first, the other should write about it in his blog. Its just my bad luck that he died first.

I can only think of his 20 months old daughter. Shes about the same age as my daughter, Aya.
May God take revenge of those who killed him and orphaned his lovely daughter.

Mohammed Alani

Fayrouz brought this to the attention of her readers.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Terry Tate - office linebacker - gets sensitivity training

Found this at Execupundit.
(The clip plays but the timer seems not to be working. It's four and a half minutes.)

Friday, June 20, 2008

Underwater Birth

Too cool. (No pun intended.)
This video was just posted and has fewer than a thousand views at this point.

Oil Crisis Solutions - Offshore and ANWR

As politicians debate whether to open federal offshore waters to oil and natural-gas drilling, there is agreement on at least one point: It isn't a short-term fix.

If the bans were lifted tomorrow, it would be at least seven years -- and likely as long as a decade -- before the first oil began to flow off the coasts of Florida, California and the eastern seaboard.

Wall Street Journal

Seven to ten years between drilling and the first oil.
Imagine what the price of gas will be by then. Heck, by then gas-powered cars may be a thing of the past. But all us who drive second-hand cars can get the benefit.

The Truth About Barack Obama

From: [Redacted]
To: [Redacted]

There are many things people do not know about BARACK OBAMA. It is every American's duty to read this message and pass it along to all of their friends and loved ones.

Barack Obama's new airplane includes a conference room, a kitchen, and a MEGACHURCH.

Barack Obama's skin is the color of AMERICAN SOIL.


Barack Obama says that Americans cling to GUNS and RELIGION because they are AWESOME.

Rumors the Obama campaign shouldn't try to correct.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Firefox and Iraq

Seems Firefox 3 is out and Mozilla is dancing as fast as it can to get their new browser downloaded enough times in 24 hours to set a record. I was vaguely aware because Blogsnow and Rocketboom were both on the story.

James Fallows has the details.

...trying to gin up a world-wide effort to get as many people as possible to download the official version of Firefox 3 on its release day, June 17. And if users around the world hit the servers all at once, they could set a Guinness World Record for most downloads in a 24-hour span.

I'm no geek, but this is clearly as important to geekdom as Tiger Woods is to golf.
This really cool interactive map has the details but for me this is a big ho-hum...
What jumped out at me was a bit of trivia at the end of his post. of this moment, 102 people had downloaded it in Iraq -- versus more than 136,000 in Iran. Make of that what you will.

What I make of it is that the last few years have left Iraq in really bad shape. And the mess has "Made by USA" all over it.
Meantime, Persia is still connected.

About Waardenburg Syndrome (WS)

My wife and I were discussing a delightful toddler we know reflecting some physical traits of one of the parents. No reason here to discuss the details of anyone's family, but a quick search made me aware of a genetic condition new to me: Waardenburg Syndrome.

My interest was piqued because of the hearing issue. Hearing losses are a family trait from my father's side. I always knew he was "hard of hearing" and it was a matter of some delicacy that we had to speak clearly and loud enough for him to hear. In later years he was able to have surgery that restored his hearing in one ear, after which he said he could hear sounds he hadn't head for thirty years... dogs barking in the yard, rain on the roof, the chiming of the clock (which he had made) in the living room.

His paternal grandparents were both deaf and went to a school for the deaf in Danville, Kentucky. One of the great family stories is that my great-grandfather went courting by horseback some distance to his future wife's home several counties away. They wanted to find out if their newborn could hear. Waiting til the baby was asleep, the father dropped a large rock on the porch, knowing that the noise would wake up the baby. When the baby woke up crying they knew he could hear and took it as a good sign.

Over the years I have decided that neglected childhood ear infections were probably the cause of our family hearing losses. I was very impressed when our pediatrician was able to detect ear pain in our babies long before they could tell us why they were crying. That kind of attention was not available to new parents a few years ago and I remember some horrendous earaches in my own childhood that simply had to "run the course."

This is what I found on the Internets...

Waardenburg syndrome (WS) is an inherited disorder often characterized by varying degrees of hearing loss and changes in skin and hair pigmentation. The syndrome got its name from a Dutch eye doctor named Petrus Johannes Waardenburg who first noticed that people with differently colored eyes often had a hearing impairment. He went on to study over a thousand individuals in deaf families and found that some of them had certain physical characteristics in common.

One commonly observed characteristic of Waardenburg syndrome is two differently colored eyes. One eye is usually brown and the other blue. Sometimes, one eye has two different colors. Other individuals with Waardenburg syndrome may have unusually brilliant blue eyes.

People with WS may also have distinctive hair coloring, such as a patch of white hair or premature gray hair as early as age 12. Other possible physical features include a wide space between the inner corners of eyes called a broad nasal root. In addition persons with WS may have low frontal hairline and their eyebrows may connect. The levels of hearing loss associated with the syndrome can vary from moderate to profound.

Individuals with Waardenburg syndrome may have some or all of the traits of the syndrome. For example, a person with WS may have a white forelock, a patch of white hair near the forehead, and no hearing impairment. Others may have white patches of skin and severe hearing impairment. The severity of the hearing impairment varies among individuals with WS as do changes in the skin and hair.

On rare occasions, WS has been associated with other conditions that are present at birth, such as intestinal disorders, elevation of the shoulder blade, and disorders of the spine. A facial abnormality, known as cleft lip and/or palate, also has been associated with WS.

More details at National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders

From a support group website link.

Major characteristics are listed below.
• Heterochromia Iridis
• Bright blue eyes
• Dystopia canthorum
• Broad, prominent nasal root
• Small mid-face
• Prematurely gray hair
• Congenital sensorineural hearing loss
• WS Type 4 & Hirschsprung's Disease

Minor characteristics include the following...
• Congenital leucoderma
• Multiple nevi (moles)
• Eyebrow anomalies
• Hypoplastic nasal alae
• Syndactyly
• Receding chin
• Cleft lip and cleft palate
• Spina bifida
• Communication disorders
• Camptodactyly

Here is a link to an informative interview with Alice Kahn, a speech pathologist at Miami University in Oxford, OH.

Linda: So if a speech-language pathologist is aware of the genetic history in a family, he or she would want the family to be aware of newborn hearing screening. But there will also be families who won’t be aware that they have that genetic link to Waardenburg syndrome, correct?

Alice: That’s right. One of my best friends here in Oxford is deaf in one ear and when I met her we talked about her hearing loss. And she said everybody in her family had a hearing loss: her mother did, her grandfather did, etc. I said, “Yes, and you have blue eyes and you have a white patch in your hair.” For her, the syndrome could be traced for four generations. And I explained that her children (who are now adults) were at risk for hearing loss. We tested all four of them. Some of her grandchildren have other signs, not hearing loss, but some intestinal problems that are also characteristics of Waardenburg’s. Very rarely, and in this family unfortunately, you’ll see children born with cleft palate or spina bifida. My friend’s family had a history of these problems and also miscarriages. Her mother had delivered a child with spina bifida, who later died, and also had a child with cleft palate. And in cases like this, a genetic counselor could identify the presence of the syndrome.

Linda: Do you see cognitive problems as a result of the syndrome?

Alice: No. Typically, cognition is not a factor unless the individual has had a neglected profound hearing loss and hasn’t received the help needed, then he or she might have language-learning problems. But that’s related to the hearing loss and not to a cognitive disability.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Iraq Adventure -- Two More Comments

If I hear any more crap about the success of the surge I think I will throw up. The war in Iraq is the most embarrassing and frustrating piece of official madness and retrograde American activity of my adult life. I can't allow myself to write about it because the prose comes out all stressed. I have a hard time suppressing an impulse to use profanity. Instead, here are two links I have come across in the last twenty-four hours that won't get out of my head until I blog them out of my way.

Eric Martin at hilzoy's place did some arithmetic and figured out the proportional damage to the civilian population compared to what the numbers would look like if the nation/battlefield were the USA instead of Iraq:

Even under the more conservative civilian death counts, the numbers are currently at or nearing 100,000. That would be like 1 million American civilians. One Million! [Check my sidebar link to Iraqi civilian deaths.]
But it's not just dead and wounded. Iraqi society has been traumatized in other ways as well.
...[regarding refugees] imagine that suddenly the entire state of Texas moved to Mexico and all of New York set up tent cities in the Midwest. Or if all of Michigan and Ohio evaporated into Canada while Florida's population spread itself through the rest of the south. I really don't think people have a good handle on just how profound the humanitarian crisis continues to be despite all the "improvement."

Read the whole post. He's done some interesting homework.

Zayed, blogmaster of Healing Iraq, linked to a piece by Joel Brinkley in the Modesto Bee that I couldn't finish because it made me so angry.

During the five years the United States has occupied Iraq, the Bush administration has created a new state with a number of notable features: A venal, dysfunctional government. A terrorist haven and training ground. A nation so violent and dangerous that 10 percent of the population has fled.
Add to that a new hallmark: Nearly the most corrupt nation on Earth.

Only two states out of 180, Somalia and Burma, outrank Iraq in Transparency International's latest worldwide corruption index. They are tied for last place. But Iraq has plummeted through the rankings since 2004, when it was near the middle of the pack, and is now within a hair's width of crashing to the bottom.

Along the way, U.S. officials say, Iraqi government officers, from Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki on down, have embezzled not only uncounted billions of dollars from their own treasury -- but also $18 billion in U.S. aid. That's about equal to the annual budget for Colorado.

For this we are at war.
Michael J. Totten's take on the situation, that it is now a "peacekeeping" operation, is probably correct.
I hope the next president has a way out.

I recall a story a customer told me a few years ago about eating in another restaurant and spotting a rat (!) running across the floor. He quickly put his foot on the animal, holding it down as he and his family were sitting at their table. He called the waiter over and told him to call the manager, explaining the situation. The manager was mortified, of course, and eventually they got the situation under control. But until then, as he told the manager, "If I pick up my foot, this rat is gonna cause a scene in this place you really don't want. You better do something....quick."

That's where we are now. We have our foot on a rat. And if we pick up our foot, the scene is gonna get pretty bad.

Doc Searls is sick

My blogroll is too big. I have so much stuff on it I don't get to reading it for long stretches of time. I can't wait til retirement.

Meantime, I checked in on Doc Searls and discovered he's in the hospital.

Get well soon, Doc. You're one of the smartest men I have found and you have too much to do to be in the hospital.

I can’t sleep. And all I can think about is health shit. Or vice versa. So I blog. Comes naturally.

The word is "Tahdi'eh"

I couldn't find the right word to describe the Israel/Hamas negotiations. Helena Cobban furnished the word tahdi'eh. Arabic, I suppose.

Anyway, the story was mentioned in passing this morning on the radio. It strikes me as very important because it talks about negotiation instead of conflict, but even if negotiations lead to another stage of conflict resolution between Israel and Hamas it won't make many headlines. Peacemaking rarely does.


• The truce takes effect at 6 a.m. Thursday (11 p.m. EDT Wednesday).
• All Gaza-Israel violence stops. After three days, Israel eases its blockade on Gaza, allowing more vital supplies in.
• A week later, Israel further eases restrictions at cargo crossings.
• In the final stage, talks are conducted about opening the Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt and a prisoner exchange to free Cpl. Gilad Schalit, held by Hamas-affiliated groups for two years.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Michael J. Totten on Iraq

Everyone in the know has a lot of respect for Totten. He and Michael Yon are the two best independent journalists who have worked this war. Read what he says in Commentary Magazine:

...America’s primary political objective must be the prevention of a coup d’etat by Iranian proxy militias and Al Qaeda’s terrorist army. What plausible outcome would justify future costs? Any outcome other than that one. The Gaza scenario is the worst case scenario because it all but guarantees another war will be fought in Iraq by American soldiers. What’s the strategy for preventing that outcome? The current one.

The new counterinsurgency strategy implemented by General David Petraeus is the only one that has ever worked in that country. It doesn’t need to be fixed, and it shouldn’t be modified. Levels of violence are at their lowest in years. Fallujah, Ramadi, Baqubah, and most parts in Baghdad were pacified last year. Much of Basra, Sadr City, and Mosul were pacified this year. Considerable political progress has been made toward reconciliation between the Sunni and Shia communities, in large part because both built trust with the other by turning against their own extremists.

The war in Iraq is beginning to look less like a war and more like a rough-around-the-edges peacekeeping mission. Prematurely removing peacekeepers from the fragile and still-volatile country would, in all likelihood, reignite the war that is finally winding down. If Iraq still looked like a quagmire, as it did two years ago, a tactical retreat might be the right call. Retreating now, though, would be gratuitous. Every military and political gain made since the surge was implemented last year would be undone. And for what?

What was once Iraq’s best-case scenario may no longer be possible. I don’t know, and neither does anyone else. The worst-case scenario, though, is all but impossible while American soldiers remain in Iraq--which is reason enough by itself for American soldiers to remain in Iraq.

Wesley Clark on McCain

I've come across this video a couple of times this morning.
Just keeping up with the campaign.

Jesse Wendel ticks off the points as Clark cleans the clock of the journalist.

1. Clark took on the media and won.

2. The media took sides.

3. Clark was very, dare I say it... Vice-Presidential.

This is worth repeating:

Clark was a full grown adult in a room of children.

The interview was a dangerous emotional blow to McCain's reputation. Furthermore it is a strategic blow precisely because it undercuts McCain emotionally and rationally, at the core of who he (McCain) says he is. The Obama camp needs to get General Clark out in front of more and larger audiences with the same precise message.

Clark is genuinely DANGEROUS. He's not pretending to be; he is.

Sounds pretty good to me.
I looked at his Wikipedia article and he sure looks good there. In fact, he was born to a Jewish father but his name was later officially changed to protect him from anti-semetic sentiments in the South (Arkansas). That should win a few points with the Jewish community. And Barack Obama could use a few points there.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Mortgage Equity Withdrawal Estimate

Via John Robb's Weblog, from Calculated Risk...
Note: MEW = Mortgage Equity Withdrawal

These numbers are from the Department of Commerce, Bureau of Economic Analysis.
Read it and weep. (Click on image for easier to read Adobe image.)

Gaza & Israel...Hope for Peace

Helena Cobban points to an encouraging story indicating that Israel and Hamas are inching closer to.... what? detente? rapprochement? At this stage diplomatic language does not have a good word. "Temporary truce" is about right.

...both Israeli and Palestinian sources expect that by the middle of next week, a temporary truce between Israel and Hamas brokered by Egypt may go into effect. It won't be announced as such - Israel is squeamish about officially striking a deal with what it deems a terrorist group - but if it goes ahead, Hamas will strong-arm its own fighters and those belonging to Islamic Jihad into halting the barrage of rockets aimed at the farming communities and towns of southern Israel. In exchange, Israel is expected to refrain from targeted killings of Hamas operatives, and will hold off on mounting any major assault into Gaza. Israel will also commit itself to gradually lifting the blockade on goods reaching Gaza's besieged inhabitants.

What's that guy running for president always talking about?



He's such a dreamer, you know.
Did you catch that part about "brokered by Egypt"? I wonder where the U.S. State Department figures in all this. Does anyone in Washington know or care what's going on?

The "Palestinian" challenge is represented by a word with a multitude of meanings, depending on who uses it. Readers with time to do some homework can start with this link.

Breakout - Hamas and the end of the two-state solution

My own interest can be tracked back two years...

Hamas electoral victory -- Snips from here and there (January 2006)

Jimmy Carter at eighty-one (February 2006)

Abbas, Hamas and Israeli Intel (May 2006)

Corporal Gilad Shalit -- Israeli hostage in Gaza (June 2006)

Lies, Damn Lies and You Know the Rest

Key line from this morning's look at Five Thirty-Eight's polling data: four out of the last five elections, an average of June polls would have incorrectly picked the winner of the popular vote. That's kind of a problem for anybody who is overly confident about how this election is going to turn out.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Barbara Ehrenreich on "The Shame Game" (Reposted from 2006)

[This post from September, 2006, is worth repeating. This was composed nearly two years ago, long before Barack Obama was mentioned as a presidential contender, but it addresses problems that resonate with the roots of his political origins. The challenges facing the working poor are not far removed from those of the unemployed. I have spent my entire adult life interacting as a manager with that segment of our population and the years have still not jaded me to their plight.

Readers who drill into the links, especially my 9/11 post, may better understand why I an Obama supporter.]

I have mixed feelings about Barbara Ehrenreich and her work. She is the professional journalist who spent more than a year gathering material for her book Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America , an account of how hard life is among the working poor. She has a good heart and sheds light on some very dark corners of our economy. I can relate to her sympathies because my own food service career has exposed me to many of the same problems. Unlike her, however, I was not able to crank out what it takes to be a professional journalist/muckraker, paying the rent by being published in some of America's most notable magazines and newspapers. Instead, it was my task to come to terms with the challenges of the marketplace, managing those problems as best I could.

This is not the time to outline a general business philosophy, but in a nutshell I saw my job as a manager as two-fold. On one hand I had to be the only voice of the company on the property, executing policies and doing all I could to insure that customer satisfaction, quality control and profitability. On the other hand the human resources available to me were limited by the marketplace. My take on low wages and the economy is more nuanced than that of Barbara Ehrenreich but her work is sound and her heart seems to be in the right place.

this column from Huffington Post she speaks of shame as a verb.

Shaming can be a more effective means of social control than force. The peasant who stepped out of line could be derided for daring to question his "betters." The woman who spoke out against patriarchal restrictions could be dismissed as a harridan or even a slut. It doesn't always work, of course. In 1994, Dan Quayle and rightwing writer Charles Murray launched an initiative to "re-stigmatize" out-of-wedlock births by restoring the old pejorative term "illegitimate." But somehow the country wasn't ready to label millions of babies bastards.

Shame was far more effective in the build-up to welfare reform. Consistently stereotyped as lazy, promiscuous parasites, welfare recipients largely failed to rally in their own defense. I remember talking to a young (white) woman who professed great enthusiasm for draconian forms of welfare reform - only to admit that she herself had been raised on welfare by a beloved and plucky single mother. That's deeply internalized shame.

The ultimate trick is to make people ashamed of the injuries inflicted upon them. In many cultures, rape renders a woman an unmarriageable pariah. In Pakistan today - one of our more embarrassing "allies" - a woman who brings charges of rape can be punished for "adultery." Even in America, many women's first response to sexual harassment or assault is to feel soiled and shamed, as if she had brought the unwanted advances on herself.

Something similar goes on in the case of the laid off and unemployed, thanks to the prevailing Calvinist form of Protestantism, according to which productivity and employment are the source of one's identity as well as one's income. Not working? Then what are you? And to put the Calvinist message in crude theological terms: go to you? And to put the Calvinist message in crude theological terms: go to hell.

This provocative article is worth a read. I don't come to exactly the same conclusions the writer does but the points are well-made. Blaming the victim is the typical response that comfortable, well-placed people have toward someone whose life is in a shambles because their job has been taken away by no fault of their own. I am sick to death of hearing about bad choices and other stupid comments from those whose lifestyle is often the result of being at the right place at the right time, born into the right family or having a vision of success that was simply better and more successfully executed than that of others whose imaginations were as limited as their education, IQ or competition for the gold ring.

September 11 post complained about polarization. Illustrating that polarization of the voting public are two comments from the comment thread. One is from an apologist for the Administration, summarizing the popular party line about the economy and all its sparkling success. The other is a point-by-point fisking of the first one, laced with profanity but spot on, I'm afraid, with the counterpoints made.

[The Huffpo comments thread does not have hyperlinks. The first comment is about tenth in the list by "busted." The counterpoint/fisking is about eight or nine posts later by "ManhattanMC".]


Addendum, February 2007:
Here are the two comments I mentioned, the second woven into the first...

There was no universal health insurance BEFORE Bush got into office. He has expanded Medicaid for children, authorized more states to use a variety of innovative programs to expand helath insurance for the uninsured, and passed a Medicare prescription program for theelderly. All of this is more than Clinton did in his Administration! So, THANKS FOR THE BUSH economic successes.

"Busty"-who apparently lives on a different planet, with looney toons laws of physics,writes: There was no universal health insurance BEFORE Bush got into office.
(And this pixie dust I sprinkle on everything keeps dragons away-works don't it ?)
He has expanded Medicaid for children,
(Translation: expedited a billion dollar give away of your tax dollars to the pharmaceutical industry so heinous that Tom Delay threatened the repug congressman who leaked it's bogus numbers to the press with punishment.)
authorized more states to use a variety of innovative programs to expand helath insurance for the uninsured,
(translation: evoked "states rights" to tell the poor falling through the safety net his mis-administration has damaged irreparably, "you're on your own suckers".)
and passed a Medicare prescription program for the elderly.
(That makes drugs more expensive than they are at Costco. There's a real accomplishment.)
All of this is more than Clinton did in his Administration!
(You can say that again.)
So, THANKS FOR THE BUSH economic successes.
(ROTFLMAO ! Strain at those gnats, Busty-swallow those camels.)

We have created 6 million new jobs since 2003.
We have created 6 million new jobs since 2003.
(What part of "net loss of jobs during his terms" don't you understand you miserable little fool ?)

Our unemployment rate is at record lows, and those seeking new unemployment benefits have declined significantly.Consumer confidence is zooming as is productivity, GNP growth, and wages.

Our unemployment rate is at record lows, and those seeking new unemployment benefits have declined significantly.
(Since your lecturing us, tell us quickly-how many people has Bush removed from the rolls because they've given up any hope of ever getting a job ? You don't know do you ? Know why ? That asswipe stopped the GAO from publishing that little factoid and all others damaging to his regime by executive order.And still you defend your tin horn hero.)
Consumer confidence is zooming
(Says whom-you ?)
as is productivity,
(As workers scramble like squirrels on flywheels to keep from hurtling into the abyss.)
GNP growth,
(Unequally distributed you dumb fuck-CEO's get hundreds of millions while workers lose pension funds, health care and adequate compensation.)
and wages.
(How is no increase in the minimum wage in nine years "zooming" ? Your dishonesty and/or mindless ignorance are beyond comprehension.)

When someone is laid off, it is very tough on that person. It is tough on a family. It sometimes requires coaches or mentor or therapists to recover from such events.
However, no one can overcome unemployment for you. Only you cn overcome it. It may require a major change in lifestyle or a relocation. It can be traumatic, but it is not insurmountable. The best solution is to have a plan, which many people do not do!

When someone is laid off, it is very tough on that person. It is tough on a family. It sometimes requires coaches or mentor or therapists to recover from such events.However, no one can overcome unemployment for you. Only you cn overcome it. It may require a major change in lifestyle or a relocation. It can be traumatic, but it is not insurmountable. The best solution is to have a plan, which many people do not do!
(Did you even read the post ? When corporate CEO s get greedy there are real honest to god victims.Blaming the victim is so very Republican.Shame on you.)

Thankfully, we live in prosperous times, thanks to the Bush economic recovery program, and fewer people face the trauma of unemployment. It is easier to find "a job" even if it is not "the job" you might prefer or be qualified for. In a "global environment" competition can be tough. Things can change at dizzying speeds. You need to be flexible as well as prepared!
Here is anothe quote that you might consider as opposed to Chick's, "Success (genius) is 90% perspiration and only 10% luck (inspiration)."

Thankfully, we live in prosperous times,
(How did that kool aid taste anyway ?)
thanks to the Bush economic recovery program,
(Tax cuts for the top one percent created new jobs like a charm right Busty ? You willfully blind dope.)
and fewer people face the trauma of unemployment.
(Again you twit-what part of "net loss of jobs" and "defaulting on pension plans" don't you understand ?)
It is easier to find "a job" even if it is not "the job" you might prefer or be qualified for.
(Right-what's the loss of seventy five percent or more of your income ? At least you can be part of the great leap forward.)
In a "global environment" competition can be tough. Things can change at dizzying speeds. You need to be flexible as well as prepared!
(Flexible enough to compete with prison slave labor in China-prepared to starve on the streets and freeze in doorways. One more repig with a granite heart.)
Here is anothe quote that you might consider as opposed to Chick's, "Success (genius) is 90% perspiration and only 10% luck (inspiration)."(For repugs how about 90% connection 10% theft ?)
(You really need to expand your information sources. Listening to Rush Limpdick is not the same as staying informed.)

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Obama as a Black Jimmy Carter

Having grown up in the South and seeing a dark underside all my life, I don't think this line from David Neiwert is far off the mark:

If you thought the far right went nuts in the 1990s -- when the Democratic president was a white Southern male -- just wait till there's a President Obama. Progressives should be bracing for it.

To this day bashing Jimmy Carter remains a cottage industry, not only for those on the right, but a good many others who may not like what they know to be reprehensible but who for political reasons don't want to rub anyone's fur the wrong way. Come to think of it, Tennessee's Al Gore ain't treated a lot better by the same crowd.

For some the impulse to bash is not benign. There is a small but dangerous subset of ignorant people willing to cross the violence line.

...there is indeed a potential threat looming after this election in which terrorists will make ordinary people feel unsafe about going to places like malls -- just like they did in the 1990s.

But they won't be Arabs coming from Baghdad. They'll be little Timmy McVeighs from Buffalo.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Rocketboom: "What is the real cost of war?"

Uh, it's TAX money we're talking about. I suppose if American individuals and companies are getting the benefit that's one way to "prime the pump" but how much of those earnings are sweetening the pie (taxed) and how much is tax-exempt?


I can think of more constructive ways than war contracts to spend taxes.


[I like the wide-screen format of Rocketboom. Wonder if and when YouTube will follow suit?]

“Warning: Drinking Alcohol During Pregnancy May Cause Your Baby to Serve Hard Time in Prison.”

Statistics are a bitch. No kidding.
Read all about it.

H/T Tom McMahon

Republican Party and Oil Interests

Eyeballing the gas price map, I was struck by how much it resembled the electoral maps we've all come to know in the past decade.

As a percent of income, Red America pays more for gasoline.

Perhaps that helps explain why Republicans are the party of oil interests.

Roger Payne picked up on this.

Just saying...

Regarding John McCain's age and health

Nate at posts comments by Will Carroll (subscription site) who analyses medical histories (baseball players, specifically, but I noticed a tickler comment at the link speculating why Big Brown missed the Triple Crown at Belmont) for a living.

I'm not worried about anyone's health (note what an impact Randy Pausch is having on his way to dying) as much as their character and political aims. My memory of the Sixties remains vivid enough to make me imagine the Civil Rights Act of 1964 may not have passed had JFK not been killed. The man and his whole family were widely reviled here in the South and only after his assassination did it become bad form to spew vitriol in that direction. Thankfully, there is provision for an orderly transition of power following the death of a president although disability (Wilson, FDR and Reagan are cases in point) is a more ambiguous issue. So the health of John McCain is way down the list of my concerns.

Unlike Bob Dole, a comparable that many have brought up due to war injuries and an advancing age at the time of their campaign, McCain never seems to wear down. Given his workload recently, made up of mostly fundraisers and media opportunities, he's had a chance to rest that his opponent has not. Sure, Obama's relative youth and athleticism should give him some recovery advantage, but the fall campaign is not going to be the same kind of long-term grind that could wear on McCain. Focused on a few big performances and keyed to his electoral needs, McCain will be able to pick his spots.

McCain's two most significant injuries are to his shoulders and his history of melanoma. The shoulders are a visible sign of his captivity in Viet Nam, leaving the Senator unable to raise either arm significantly above his head. While it prevents a vigorous Nixonian wave of victory, it isn't noticeable and without prompting, most voters don't notice a deficit. The signs of melanoma, a puffy cheek and a long, five-inch scar on his left cheek, are far more noticeable. His appearance on "Saturday Night Live" highlighted his need for careful control of the media environment. McCain needs to be seated head-on to his audience, lit from his right and does not like to turn his head to stage right, exposing his scar. While the signs of melanoma have not recurred, the data does raise some concerns.

There was, buried in his extensive medical records, one glaring warning sign. In an article in the New York Times, Elisabeth Bumiller found that McCain's physicians had noted not one, but two melanomas and suggested some spread. Doctors aggressively removed lymph nodes - hence the large scar - and halted the spread. McCain himself knows well that melanoma can recur. He's had two other instances of melanomas being removed, once from his shoulder in the early 1990s and another on his nose in 2002, two years after the more noted melanoma removal. McCain's health and vigor eight years after the most significant melanoma is a good sign. Patients with this type of cancer have a 65% survival rate, but this is more a curve than a line, trending back up after a period of time.

Finally, McCain claims a genetic advantage and does appear to have it. His mother is 96 years old but notably vigorous and mentally sharp. The rest of his family history is less notable. His father, a Navy Admiral, lived to age 70 while his grandfather died at 61, worn down by the stress of combat during World War II.

Overall, McCain is in good shape for a 71-year-old who has been through harrowing torture and multiple bouts with cancer. McCain's most obvious comparables, Bob Dole and Dick Cheney, offer interesting lessons. Both would have had far more negative Health Reports during their campaigns, but both are alive and well at the end of their terms (in Dole's case, the hypothetical). History is not destiny, but neither is destiny predictable. Age will surely be an issue, though health it appears, should not be.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Randy Pausch Booster Shot

Dr. Randy Pausch is a dying man who knows what to say to make us all live better.

If you don't know about him
you should catch up.

Houston Chronicle: Professor draws tears with a simple message.

Update page

"...Boris, the bull mastiff so large you can see him from SPACE"

Yeah, I'm a sucker for dogs.
Boris, who is only three-years-old, can be seen on Google Earth images as he lazes in the sun outside his owners' house.

His owners, the Milner family, were stunned when they zoomed in on their seaside hotel on the internet to find a brown blob in the garden.

Google Earth image and story via the London Daily Mail on Line.

Bill Tapia, Ukelele Player

I heard an MP3 of Bill Tapia three years ago playing Stars and Stripes Forever on the ukelele. That was before YouTube, but now we can see and hear him on video.

Here he is at ninety-five. After three minutes the video cuts to his version of Stars and Stripes Forever. This is archival treasure if ever one was found.

Over the last few days a series of videos has been released via You Tube following Bill Tapia's one hundredth birthday. Here is a link to the opening number of that occasion which has fewer than ten views at this writing.

Here is a delightful video of Mihana Souza performing with Bill Tapia which captures the spirit of someone who can teach us what it takes to live past the century mark.

Tom Watson on Comity

Tom Watson's blog is one of the solid spots in my blogroll. Over the last several years he has been on the right side of several issues, not the least of which was the case of Mukhtaran Bibi three years ago. His journalistic moral compass always points to the truth as he discovers it, and he is not blown off course by popular breezes blowing in another direction. He was in Hillary Clinton's camp (and still is, probably) but now seems willing to follow her lead and get behind Barack Obama. Like me, he has respect for Jimmy Carter and was my source for the sexism video I posted last month as the contest between Obama and Clinton was winding down.

This morning he posts a comment left by one of his readers, Mr. Mobi, urging unity and reconcilliation among Democrats. I'm putting it here because he's right. As he says, "...generosity is a lucky charm. We have limited campaigns of our own on this planet, election day comes soon enough to everyone, and there's just not enough time to settle every score. Besides, improvement is the idea - of ourselves, our communities, and our country. So cool out, people. Cool out."

What Mr. Mobi says...

I'm an Obama supporter from Illinois, so I've known about him for quite some time. As an older man, I'm not especially given to fawning admiration for any politician (I'm from Chicago), but in the case of Obama, I find his story and his experience both compelling and inspiring.

Today, Hillary Clinton showed all of America how a great candidate concedes a vigorously fought election with eloquence, style, and class.

I've said before, and I'll say again now, these are the two best Democratic candidates I've seen in my 61 years. During the course of the campaign, both candidates were subjected to, and, in some cases used, racist and sexist attacks. That said, this was one of the mildest, most congenial political primaries I've ever seen.

Think about it. We had two candidates whose positions on the issues were, at most, millimeters apart. They fought and scraped for 16 months, and we now have a winner. Hillary today asked her supporters to "not go there" with regard to rehashing the real and imagined slights of the campaign, but to stay focused on how important this election is. It's good advice, and we ignore it at the peril of our freedoms, because the alternative is John McCain.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Contemporary Campaign Paraphernalia

Lindsay Beyerstein points to fashion statements with political messages. Check out this Obama pendant...

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Mean-Spirited Cheap Shots

This will be a short post to help me get something off my chest.

My blogroll represents a sketch of myself. The sites are like the collection of odd stuff I keep in a dresser drawer that I can't bring myself to toss out. No good reason to keep some of them because they seem to have gone inactive, but since Bloglines will alert me if a new post appears, I want to know. Others post so often I don't have time to read them all, but on the chance that I have the time and inclination, it's good to have them there.

A small handful are daily checks. I like to know what's happening with a few people so I check their blogs. Dr. Bob, for example, is someone who doesn't post daily, but I can be sure that when he does, he has put as much time and attention into it as he would if he were taking care of a patient. He's a pro. That's just who he is. He's made like that and he won't change. Bernard Avishai, too, and Tony Karon are sharp thinkers and clear writers. I don't want to miss anything they say. 3Quarks Daily is indispensible. Abbas has put together a stable of contributors that is without peer, with the possible exception of Arts and Letters Daily (which I gave up eating sugar with a spoon...more than I can take via monitor...better to go ahead and read a book, which I quit some time ago...). I haven't heard from Abu Khaleel or Mad Canuck for a long time, but I keep the links because I liked what they wrote and hope someday they will be moved to return to their keyboards.

But that is not what I want to talk about. Without mentioning details, I read a post today from someone whom I respect deeply, a dedicated Christian whose comments and reflections I find edifying, although we do not agree on many issues. But today's post was a tawdry, sub-Christian attempt at cleverness that drew fulsome praise from a string of commenters, but as I read I was deeply disappointed and not a little disgusted by the content. I was tempted to leave a comment, but my remarks would be lost among the others. I decided instead to vent my frustrations on my own blog, try to forgive and forget, and move on with tomorrow.

Unfortunately there is now a crack in that blogger's credibility No, that's not right. The crack is in my level of respect for the person. What was posted was accurate, even cute at some twisted level. But in the same way that racist jokes are not really funny, no matter how well they are told, this post will always ring in my memory whenever I read this writers words in the future. It's sad. It is as though I have caught someone stealing or cheating who I never thought would do such things.

That's all.

One Man's Credo...(very much like my own)

Sean at put his sentiments into an excellent essay prior to Hillary Clinton's speech endorsing Obama. It's fairly long but from the heart. Highly recommended reading.

...As a Democrat and Obama supporter who has been horrified by some of what I have seen this year, I want to explain how I got to where I've gotten with Hillary Clinton, and explain what I think I need to hear to ever change my mind about her as a national candidate in my party. ...

Let me be clear. I did not become a Democrat in a vacuum. Core values got me to this party. Speaking as a white man belonging to virtually every majority demographic this country has, I am a Democrat above all other reasons for the most fundamental principles and values of fairness and equality. That civil rights and equal rights have had to be fought and died for, that the notion that all people are created equal is even controversial... is mind-blowing. I knew those values by the time I was 4 years old. (The things you learn by kindergarten, indeed.)

I came to the Democratic Party at the most basic level because after 1964 and during my entire lifetime the Democrats were the party of civil rights and the Republicans were the Southern Strategy party, the one turning hatred and mistrust of Americans against each other into electoral advantage. Conservatives blocked women's rights. They backed their beloved Reagan as he went out of his way to refuse funding for AIDS research and prevention when the disease was in its incipiency when an aggressive education policy could have saved many lives of my fellow human beings. I don't need to be a gay man to know that is morally corrupt at the deepest level. Just a human being.

These values represent a moral bright line that make me a Democrat and not a Republican. They matter to me. One reason it was so easy to pour the personal energy of grueling hours and negligible pay into defeating Conrad Burns in 2006 was his racist tendencies. This value is no light thing for me.

More at the link.
Lots more.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Financial Times -- Obama "surely he has lost his shine"

The world is watching the US Presidential race with more interest than usual. This assessment by Philip Stephens in London's Financial Times has the effect of a splash of icewater in the face. He makes some compelling points. Mud on his shoes, indeed...

January was a lifetime ago. Familiarity has taken its toll. The fact that Mr Obama is black no longer seems, well, quite so extraordinary. After months in the trenches against Mrs Clinton, the man bidding to be the first African-American to win the White House now has some political mud on his shoes.

He learnt along the way that middle America has more pressing concerns than the price of arugula; that he had better learn to bowl before staging photo-opportunities in a bowling alley; and that it is unwise to denigrate the cultural conservatism of small-town America. As for inspiration, it does not pay the bills. Casting himself as the candidate who transcended old divisions, he has been forced to dump the less temperate black pastor who had been almost a surrogate father. He has found it much tougher to win over white blue-collar workers than to impress the latte-drinking intelligentsia. Mr Obama, the rest of us now know, has his blemishes.

The primaries took their toll. The Republicans’ John McCain will not have to mention his opponent’s skin colour to stir old prejudices among some white voters. He can take his cue from Geraldine Ferraro, a former vice-presidential candidate and supporter of Mrs Clinton. “If you’re white you can’t open your mouth without being accused of being a racist,” she said last week. “They [working class whites] don’t identify with someone who has gone to Harvard and Columbia Law School and is married to a Harvard-Princeton graduate”.

Mr Obama in other words is damned as part of the liberal elite. Never mind he is the son of an absent father and was raised by a mother reliant on welfare. Or for that matter that Mrs Clinton and Mr McCain both had far more privileged starts in life. Mr Obama could not haul in the white votes in the swing states.

There is an unspoken connection here between colour and class. Presidential elections are about character as well as policy. Voters, I heard one Washington insider say the other day, want a president who looks comfortable at a country and western show. Could the black Mr Obama ease himself in to such a picture?

Later in the column...

So there you have it: half a dozen or more good reasons to suppress any lingering sense of excitement about the coming fight between a 46-year-old African-American and a 71-year-old son of an admiral and former prisoner in Vietnam’s Hanoi Hilton. Forgive my credulousness, but this is a truly momentous election. The candidates may also decide to make it an honest one: Mr McCain pitching experience, judgment and independence against Mr Obama’s vision of a different America.

Lower Body Counts DON'T Indicate "Winning"

...the suggestion that a shift or fall in the pattern of violence indicates that the U.S. is “winning” in Iraq betrays the same lack of understanding of dynamics in that country as was so evident in the original decision to invade and occupy Iraq.

That and lots more by Tony Karon at the link. Inquiring minds should go read what he says.

I don't have the patience to parse or explain. Too many people already have their minds made up...mostly the same people who believed the party line coming out of Washington when the Iraq adventure began. Many of them still think there is a connection between Iraq and the attack on the World Trade Center.