Saturday, May 24, 2008

Bookies, You've Only Got 55 Years Left

Or something like that, figures a New York Times critic, to read the rest of the 1001 books a British author says are musts before you die.
The story is wittier than I am today, so just read it, it's short.
Let’s have a look at some of these mandatory titles. Not only is it not necessary to read “Interview With the Vampire” by Anne Rice before you die, it is also probably not necessary to read it even if, like Lestat, you are never going to die. If I were mortally ill, and a well-meaning friend pressed Ana├»s Nin’s “Delta of Venus” into my trembling hands, I would probably leave this world with a curse on my lips.

N.B. It's really novels only. I'm not sure, but I don't think I've even read that many novels so far, even if you count the multiple Bobbsey Twins and Nancy Drews.

FISA Funny Money

Or not so funny, really, just an enlightening exposition by the always reliable Glenn Greenwald on the money being spent by telecoms seeking immunity for cooperating with the Bush administration to illegally spy on Americans.
As Greenwald notes, nothing about the interaction between former Congress members, Congressional staffers, current members and the telecoms is new regarding the way money writes legislation in Washington, but the various analyses he cites shine a bright light on the way things actually work and how bankrupt the process is.
One note of hope: activism against the stalled legislation has so far worked and there is one TV ad campaign aimed at constituents of one of the most corrupt Blue Dogs hitting him where it hurts in an election year.
In one sense, it's just extraordinary how seamlessly and relentlessly the wheels of this dirty process churn. But in another sense, it's perhaps even more remarkable -- given the forces lined up behind telecom amnesty -- that those who have been working against it, with far fewer resources and relying largely on a series of disruptive tactics and ongoing efforts to mobilize citizen anger, have been able to stop it so far.

Newest Happiness Makers

Two women at Huffpo made a list of new things to make us happy.
America's new top model is super sized. (Yawn.)You can get Godiva chocolate-covered pretzels. (Big whoop.) Iron Man is worth seeing. (But not for $9, I say.)
My favorite:

#4 - Frito's Pinch of Salt

We love Frito's and Lay's potato chips because they are all natural and only have three ingredients, each of which we can pronounce. However, after eating a handful of these chips, the salt tends to make us look and feel like a thirstier version of the Stay Puff Marshmallow Man from Ghostbusters. But Frito Lay has just introduced their line of lower salt snacks, called "Pinch of Salt," which are the perfect compromise between bland low salt products and the standard salt lick varieties.

I feel much better about eating Frito's and Lay's potato chips now that I know they're all natural, salt or not.

I'm Tired

Speaking of Mel Brooks (see below), here's the late, great Madeline Kahn doing the showstopper number from Blazing Saddles. 5 minutes.

Best of NPR Saturday

Saturday mornings are the best. I have NPR on all the time except when I've got the TV on, which means I've got NPR on all day and much of the night.
My station is KPLU, the all-jazz award winner out of Tacoma.
But Saturday mornings are the best. That's when the national crew shows their talents. Scott Simon always asks good questions in in-depth interviews of fascinating people with compelling stories.
This morning it was a wonderful new singer musician named Danielia Cotton, whose music stopped me cold. Follow the link and you can read it, listen and hear her music.
And then there's the delightful, hilarious — of course — Mel Brooks interview (not available until 9 a.m. PST).
Then there's the story I missed until I checked out the NPR Web site, which is one of the best of the best, right up there with the New York Times, in my opinion.
Uh, got carried away there. The cool missed story? Netflix keeps track of customer movie preferences by city. I can hardly wait to read it — also not available until 9 — follow the link and get a glimpse of the regional trends. How does Seattle compare to New York, or Houston?

Hillary, Bobby Kennedy Part Deux

Drudge, the right-leaning news aggregator (headline service), which Hillary's campaign has often used to leak news, can't resist the temptation to pile on, and is leading with multiple headlines about the assassination gaffe.
The New York Times editorial board, which endorsed her, has decided her non-apology is worthless, especially since she said the very same thing in March.
Commenters at the Times blog addressing the subject are mostly semi-hysterically accusing her of revealing a secret desire to see Obama killed.
Some, many claiming to be Obama supporters, say it's making too much of nothing.
Some are blaming the Obama campaign for capitalizing on it.
Others recall it was the Clinton campaign that kept the Bittergate story alive.
My take?
I doubt the Obama campaign accusation. Some reporters caught a whiff of a new angle to the tedious endless primary, called the campaign and the campaign issued a statement. Standard operating procedure.
The reference to RFK's assassination has been part of her repertoire for two months, it's a memorized line that got repeated on a video that went viral within hours. And it's a deliberately composed emotional punch that also deliberately misapplies the facts.
In June 1968 when Bobby was killed, the primary had only been going on for three months.
This year, it's been going on for almost six months.
Misrepresenting facts, conjuring up fallacious comparisons, is also standard operating procedure in political campaigns. It seems the Clintons do this much more than Obama. It seems Obama is quick to correct when challenged, while Clinton persists in the face of all reason.
Think the Bosnia sniper fire, and much, much more.
Yeah, it's insensitive. It was insensitive in March, too, but that time the reference was in print. This time, it's all over YouTube.
The Sunday pundits will turn it into a continuous loop.
I think this time she's really over with, but I want to think that.
Not because of this incident. Just because it's time for her to quit.

Blogging: Now It's 'Expressive Writing'...

and good for me. (And you, too, if you care to comment. Hint, hint.)
This research find from Scientific American comes via Andrew Sullivan at The Atlantic, who has interns. And an assistant. And a site monitor.
Also, blogging might trigger dopamine release, similar to stimulants like music, running and looking at art.

Mmmm, dopamine.
Expressive writing of the complaining type apparently satisfies the need for relief from pain and suffering, they say.
If you've spent any time surfing the 'spere, you know it's overloaded with complaint, accusation, libel, slander and even threat.
Which is why I read it. So you don't have to.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Viral Video of the Year

Update below

Okay, you just got out of a coma or off a plane from India and haven't heard it yet.
They're going to make mincemeat of Hillary over this inference that Obama could be assassinated by June.
Well, actually, they already are.

$3 Trillion Shopping Spree

Okay, I'll promote Robert Greenwald's newest cause again. It's viral. And besides, they sent me an email naming me a "celebrity shopper." Smart marketing.
Go pick your own favorite alternatives to endless war.

Today's Polls

As I mentioned below, Markos' predictions are always seat-of-the-pants, but not his analysis. I'm sticking with my 60-40 scenario. But look at the new numbers through his lens.
Going off the averages, Obama currently wins [electoral college] 283-255, losing the Kerry states of Michigan and New Hampshire, and winning the Bush states of Iowa, Indiana, New Mexico, Colorado, and Ohio. If you give him a tiny 3-point "primary boost", he picks up Virginia and Michigan, for a 313-225 lead.

The End Is Near: Wherefore The Polls?

So it's beginning to look and sound as if Hillary will leave the primary race by June 4 after all and not take it all the way to the convention.
This has been a remarkably unusual election year, without recent or comparable precedent for the
historical nature of the two leading Democratic candidates, their contrasting strategies — how could there be a precedent for Obama's online fundraising? — and the drug-outedness of this contest.
Still, John McCain, who as the Republican nominee has had a clear field for months, flatlines in poll after national poll at 45 percent, seldom less, seldom more.
All the liberal commenters seem to agree Obama will get a big jump in the polls once Hillary is gone.
My question, purely for speculative fun, is how much will he gain?
And like Markos at Daily Kos, I won't bother with researching my entirely unscientific guesstimate.
I think the first polls after Hillary exits will show Obama with a 60-40 advantage.
The CW (conventional wisdom) is that national polls mean nothing this early in the game.
There's all the Swiftboating expected against Obama, and the entirely plausible scenario that he could stumble, maybe really badly.
But I still think this year's election will be a landslide for the presidency and both houses of Congress and I believe the Republicans know it.
But, of course, that's what I want to believe.

Clinton Exit Talks?

TPM put together a video of CNN's report about talks between the two sides regarding a dignified way for Hillary to leave the race. VP offer part of it, which the anonymous sources inside the Clinton camp say she would decline. Uh, is this appeasement or rational negotiating with the enemy, hmm?

: TPM then called each campaign, and both adamantly denied the CNN report. Tha-a-at's journalism, folks.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Bread, Water and Abstinence

penance varied in the early Church, depending on the offense.
Examples cited today by Andrew Sullivan, a gay, Catholic Obama-supporting conservative:

Tony Perrottet studies the Church's ban on certain sexual positions during the middle ages. A guide to theocon heaven:

The handbooks listed recommended penance of bread, water, and abstinence for exotic congress. A consensus on the punishments included the following:

Dorsal sex (woman on top): three years
Lateral, seated, standing: 40 days
Coitus retro — rear entry: 40 days

For more, go here.

The Japanese: Way Ahead of Us

How about a solar-powered bra? No? Maybe a shopping bag bra then.

Clinton Mania

Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo, probably the most respected and credible political journalist/blogger, thinks Hillary is going way low now with blatantly false arguments about Michigan and Florida and also contending she's the popular vote winner. So do I.
(And Bill is talking her up for v.p.? WTF?)
...She is embarking on a gambit that is uncertain in its result and simply breathtaking in its cynicism...
And there are actually numerous quotes from the Senator herself saying those primaries didn't and wouldn't count. Michigan and Florida were sanctioned because they ignored the rules the DNC had set down for running this year's nomination process.

The evidence is simply overwhelming that Sen. Clinton didn't think this was a problem at all -- until it became a vehicle to provide a rationale for her continued campaign...

What she's doing is not securing her the nomination. Rather, she's gunning up a lot of her supporters to believe that the nomination was stolen from her -- a belief many won't soon abandon. And that on the basis of rationales and arguments there's every reason to think she doesn't even believe in.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Action Alert: Torture

Scott Horton, an attorney and active, longtime champion of crucially important causes and opponent of this administration's worst policies, offers a good perspective on the torture issue and asks only three things. Three phone calls. And you can sign up for further information as the movement evolves to persuade the three presidential candidates to abide by the anti-torture movement's proposed commitment.

Ferraro At It Again

From Politico:

"All the surrogates that they had out there, from the black journalists — you know, have you read Bob Herbert recently in the past six months? There wasn't one column that had anything decent to say about Hillary."

Of course, if Ferraro wanted to call out New York Times columnists for being critical of Clinton, she could have just as easily picked Frank Rich or Maureen Dowd. Instead she went with the "black journalist."

So I reached out to Herbert for a response, and received the following: “Geraldine Ferraro’s rants are sad and not worth responding to," Herbert said.

U.S. Tortures for Chinese

Andrew Sullivan picked up on this today from the recently released report.

According to the report by Justice Department Inspector General Glenn Fine, an FBI agent reported a detainee belonging to China's ethnic Uighur minority and a Uighur translator told him Uighur detainees were kept awake for long periods, deprived of food and forced to endure cold for hours on end, just prior to questioning by Chinese interrogators.

Susan Manning, a lawyer who represents several Uighurs still held at Guantanamo, said Tuesday the allegations are all too familiar.

U.S. personnel "are engaging in abusive tactics on behalf of the Chinese," she said Tuesday. When Uighur detainees refused to talk to Chinese interrogators in 2002, U.S. military personnel put them in solitary confinement as punishment, she said.

Your Aging Brain: Better Than Ever

Aha! My longtime theory is confirmed. Too bad I never wrote it up, just used it for quips.

When older people can no longer remember names at a cocktail party, they tend to think that their brainpower is declining. But a growing number of studies suggest that this assumption is often wrong.

Instead, the research finds, the aging brain is simply taking in more data and trying to sift through a clutter of information, often to its long-term benefit.

A Way for Hillary to Leave Gracefully?

She can say, "we're out of money."
Everybody understands what that means and while it may not reflect well on the campaign, it is not exactly like admitting you're beaten.
Because she is out of money.
TPM interviewed the campaign and confirmed the worst.
Figuring it in the best possible light, her primary campaign is a couple million in the red. Debt exceeds cash on hand.
Barack is $37 million in the black.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

How Republicans Will Win

Lol in Missouri Congressional race

Think maybe Kay Barnes, former mayor of Kansas City, has a chance?

Sunday, May 18, 2008

John McCain's Straight Talk

You can share this with friends who are McCain-uncertain by copying and pasting the URL from the menu at the end of the video.

It's Over

in case you hadn't noticed.
From the WaPo this morning:
Top fundraisers for Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama have begun private talks aimed at merging the two candidates' teams, not waiting for the Democratic nominating process to end before they start preparations for a hard-fought fall campaign.

Buy O' Teh Week

I was over at the dairy case at my local QFC yesterday, looking for the sour cream we needed for the evening's planned deluxe baked potato.
My eye memory casually swept the yogurt section, unconsciously identified the familiar brand I use for breakfast smoothies and stopped short at something that didn't belong. Consciousness bloomed, I opened the door and reached for the novel golden carton with Greeky looking letters.
I had read a few weeks ago a great New York Times story about how great Greek yogurt is. I figured I might try it next time I was in New York, but the likelihood of finding it here was nil.
Seattle maybe, but not sleepy old Jefferson County, WA.
The NYT said Greek yogurt is creamier, smoother, more substantial than ordinary yogurt. Of course I bought it, and as an extra bonus, it was on sale, two 24 oz. cartons for $3. I bought one, the honey flavored one. I wish I'd bought two.
The Greek Gods brand, made in nearby Mountlake Terrace, was the first thing I pulled out of the grocery bag.
I opened it, and tasted it before even unpacking the rest of my grocery stash.
I've never really liked yogurt. It has a chalky aftertaste. As a convenient, quick breakfast I've tolerated it off and on over the years. As a filler for the regular morning smoothies — an easy way to get orange juice, blueberries and banana into my meat-centric diet — it's basic sour flavor is hardly noticeable.
But this Greek stuff is entirely different. (My mouth begins to water. I go to the fridge, pull out the Greek yogurt, spoon out a serving and photograph it. Return to the laptop, enjoy a few spoonfuls of subtly cheesy, sweet smoothness that is totally reminiscent of Haagen Das. I think they even have a honey flavor.)
It isn't the sort of thing I want to add fruit to. Maybe with the plain, but this stuff is too good to adulterate and needs no improvement.
This flavor has 160 calories per 4 oz. serving, 90 of them from the 10 grams of fat. It also has 4 grams of protein. As we now know, we all need fat and protein in the morning, not just carbs.
I just had mine, and they were delicious.
No, they don't pay me for this.