Thursday, January 31, 2008

And then there were two: Edwards drops out

I know this happened yesterday but I didn't have internet access. Anyway, I was happy to see it. I never really liked Edwards for some reason. He talked about poverty the way Princess Dianna talked about land-mines. Who isn't against such things?

To me there's just something disingenuous about Edwards, a man who butters his bread raising awareness for poverty while getting $400 hair cuts and living in a 29,000 square foot house. He talks about lowering the cost of college for Americans while charging as much as $55,000 to speak at a university. Stories like this just seem to follow him around. Of course I'm anti-poverty, but that's like saying you're pro-education. How much awareness do we need about this? And how far can someone go on such an accepted platform?

People are already talking about whether or not he will be chosen as a running-mate for the November election. Let's remember how much he helped Kerry in 2004, and himself in 2008.

Having pointed that out, I'm sure that son of a mill worker will be just fine.

John Edwards, the progressive Democratic candidate who made a populist, antipoverty message the centerpiece of his campaign, announced his exit from the presidential primary race on Wednesday, saying he was stepping aside “so that history can blaze its path.”

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Sunday, January 27, 2008

The End of The Natural--Bill Clinton's last stand

William Jefferson Clinton's fairy-tale rise from broken family child to President of the United States was no accident. He was a man of sharp intellect, sincere concern, and incredible political acumen. By 1992, at the age of 46, those skills had melded together into an elite campaigning machine. George Stephanopoulus, then an adviser on Clinton's election team, later described the magic like this in his book All Too Human:
Every day Clinton showed how extraordinary he was. Like when he spent his downtime stroking the hand of a little girl, bald and yellow with cancer, and looked into her eyes until she believed she'd grow up to be a movie star. Or when you would prep him for a late-night-car-ride-to- the-airport interview after sixteen hours of nonstop campaigning. His eyes would float, the lids fluttering with fatigue, but once the reporter ducked into the backseat Clinton would repeat the briefing word for word and add six points we missed. We called him Secretariat, the ultimate political thoroughbred.
Former Newsweek reporter Joe Klein remembers another nickname for Clinton: The Natural, which was the title given to Roy Hobbs, the baseball phenom in Bernard Malamud's book of the same name. As political consultant Paul Begala said of Clinton, "He was the best there ever was." Clinton's singular abilities as a finely tuned political animal enabled him to become the third-youngest president in history. Along the way he became an icon of hope, youth, change. It is amazing what a difference a decade can make.

Now Bill Clinton bumbles around his wife's campaign trail, alienating voters, dismissing opponents, and falling asleep on stage. He's like an old pitcher who can no longer find the strike zone, hanging on to past glory. Bill Clinton was ushered into the White House nearly 16 years ago to the tune of Fleetwood Mac's "Don't Stop." Today he has us all thinking about yesterday. Meanwhile a new Democratic luminary, Senator Barack Obama from Illinois, looks forward. And, in a twist of fate, Obama is Hillary Clinton's chief rival for the Democratic nomination. But Obama, not Clinton, represents youth, and hope, and change, and even Bill can't summon that magic for his beleaguered wife anymore. Obama, not Clinton, drew 300,000 Democratic votes in South Carolina, an unprecedented amount. Obama, not Clinton, has stared a movement.

And after his victory in South Carolina Obama noted, "This election is about the past versus the future."

Many political pundits blamed Bill for Hillary's sizable defeat in that southern primary. And even afterwards Bill was back at work, dismissing Obama's victory by pointing out that Jessie Jackson won in South Carolina twice. Jackson, of course, never became president and it doesn't take a political genius to connect the sloppy dots Bill is trying to lay out. But the problem is he just doesn't do it with anything like his previous flair. The willingness is there, but the execution and timing are gone. His charisma has given over to surliness. His uncanny ability to tap an opponent's weakness now sounds like a weak jab. Bill's time has faded. It seems to belong to Obama now.

Bill Clinton's parallels to Roy Hobbs, the main character in The Natural, are worth noting. Both came from obscure, humble backgrounds, and rose on their incredible talent to heroic levels. Both were corruptible by women. And another similarity is how both characters end their journey.

"Look at him standing there, like a goddamn gorilla," a character in Malamud's book says about Roy walking to the plate one last time with the winning run on third. "Look at his burning eyes. He ain't human."

"That ain't what I see," Someone else says. "He looks old and beat up."

That seems to me how Bill Clinton looks now. Old. Tired. Past his time. And more and more people see it. His unflappable confidence is waning. The limelight which seemed to expand him has turned. You can see how bad he wants one more crack in the big game, but his magic is gone. He is the child of another age. One whose time was, and will forever be, 1992. And where he goes, Hillary is bound. Their sword has been broken. Every day more and more people recognize 2008 seems to be Obama's time.

And how does it end? With the game on the line, Roy Hobbs walked to the plate one last time to face off against a rookie relief pitcher. This pitcher was also from an obscure background, and nobody even knew who he was. But he was a kid a world of talent, and the time to see it to fruition. The blessing had passed on to another. Roy dug in at the plate and reached deep down for one last miracle, but it was not there. The ball "lit its own path" and went right past him. In the end of The Natural--the book, not the movie--Roy Hobbs strikes out. The power was gone. It belonged now to someone else: the young pitcher facing him on the mound. And by the time Roy realized it, the game was over.

The New York Times Hillary / Obama round-up

I find it interesting today, after Barack Obama's commanding win in South Carolina, that no less than four of the top ten most e-mailed articles from the New York Times are anti-Hillary.

Two deal specifically with the emergence of former President Bill Clinton as Hillary's new hatchet man.

Questions for the Clintons, by Bob Herbert

Two Presidents Are Worse Than One, by Gary Willis

The latter is provocative, sighting the founder's desire to keep the Presidency to a single person, and why.

But as the debate went forward a consensus formed that republican rule would check the single initiative of a president. In fact, accountability to the legislature demanded that responsibility be lodged where it could be called to account. A plural presidency would leave it uncertain whom to check. How, for instance, would Congress decide which part of the executive should be impeached in case of high crimes and misdemeanors? One member of the plural executive could hide behind the other members.

The next article, The Billary Road to Republican Victory, accurately pins Hillary (and Bill) as incredible assets to the Republican party if they are to get the nomination.

The last article is A President Like My Father, in-which Caroline Kennedy compares Obama's ability to inspire and unite to President Kennedy. Considering the source, I think that speaks for itself.

Chicago Tribune endorses Obama

My first reaction to this was: well of course the Trib endorsed Obama, he's from Illinois. But then I remembered: so is Hillary Clinton (Park Ridge).

The article is fair, citing Obama's link to Tony Rezko, but also believing that gaff is not a deal breaker. The article also serves as a pithy summary of the two leading Democratic candidates, articulating much of what I have been trying to say about both Clinton and Obama.

Obama inspires people. He can draw from the middle and the right, and seeks to do so. He speaks what is not necessarily politically expedient. He works to form consensus. In an age of skepticism, people tend to disbelieve his charisma. It is as if we have battered wife syndrome, returning to the old political game we know too well. This game is embodied by Clinton who is a lightning rod unifying opponents, working from savvy political acumen to defeat those who oppose her rather than rise victorious for a nation. And her new reliance on her husband is simply uninspiring.

The article also admits that on the issues Clinton and Obama are very similar and so it's less about which one you agree with more, and more about which one can get the country behind their bid for the presidency (and, consequentially, which one will be able to get anything done in the White House).

The candidates' differences on issues are minor and largely irrelevant: Presidents don't dictate laws, they tussle over legislation with Congress. Much of the "experience" Hillary Clinton touts in that realm instead was proximity to power. Bill's power.

Well said.

To the contrary, the professional judgment and personal decency with which he has managed himself and his ambition distinguish Barack Obama. We endorse him convinced that he could lead America in directions that the other Democrats could not.

Source: via Alarmed

Viva, Obama!

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Saturday, January 26, 2008

Men aren't as smart as they think

Shocking news out of England from researcher Adrian Furnham: men aren't as smart as they think.  Surprisingly, this is also news to women, who tend to inflate male intellect, while deflating their own self-perceived intelligence.  I say "surprisingly" because anyone who has seen how men are portrayed on TV must know that the gig is up.


Are men smarter than women? No. But they sure think they are. An analysis of some 30 studies by British researcher Adrian Furnham, a professor of psychology at University College London, shows that men and women are fairly equal overall in terms of IQ. But women, it seems, underestimate their own candlepower (and that of women in general), while men overestimate theirs.

Fascinating, doctor.

Movember 13

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Friday, January 25, 2008

My plan to stimulate the economy

1. A bottle of red wine
2. Some candles
3. Flowers
4. Chocolates
5. Home cooked meal
5. Personal time with me

Economy, Valentine's Day is coming up. If my plan can't stimulate things, nothing will.

Wolfowitz Returns to U.S. Government as Adviser

I was worried Paul Wolfowitz might be going cold and hungry this winter.  It's a tough job market for anyone, but especially someone like Mr. Wolfowitz, a brazen, damaging erudite, whose track-record over the last eight years is so dismal he was forced to resign from his last, almost child proof job at the World Bank.  Ahh, but there'll always be room for nepotism at the Bush table.

Paul D. Wolfowitz, who resigned as World Bank chief after serving as second-in-command at the Pentagon, has returned to the Bush administration, albeit in an advisory role.

Preceding Mr. Wolfowitz was former Senator Fred Thompson, who resigned

as chairman in the summer to run for president. But his successor

wasn’t appointed until two days after his campaign crashed and burned on Tuesday.

No, Mr. Thompson, you can not have your old job back.

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Thursday, January 24, 2008

Kucinich drops presidential bid

Congressman Dennis Kucinich is dropping out of the Democratic race for president noting the only meaningful attention he gets is from his incredibly beautiful European-style wife.

Cleveland Congressman Dennis Kucinich is dropping out of the Democratic race for president.

Kucinich will make the announcement Friday at a news conference in Cleveland. In an exclusive interview with Plain Dealer editors and reporters, Kucinich said he will explain his "transition" tomorrow.

"I want to continue to serve in Congress," he said.

Then he added: and spend more time with the wife.

His wife, the tall, thin, fair skinned Elizabeth Harper, when informed that her husband would not be, and never would be, the most powerful man in the world, was later found hanging around Barack Obama.

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Tax rebates deal announced to anxious citizens

Congressional leaders announced a deal with the White House Thursday for the release of more bread to citizens that would free up valuable coin for the attendence of circuses.

Leaders sighted a widely noted poll which concluded that the People, who once upon a time handed out military command, high civil office, batallions - everything, now restrains itself and anxiously hopes for just two things: bread and circuses.

Congressional leaders announced a deal with the White House Thursday on an economic stimulus package that would give most tax filers refunds of $600 to $1,200, and more if they have children.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Congress would act on the agreement — hammered out in a week of intense negotiations with Republican Leader John A. Boehner and Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson — "at the earliest date, so that those rebate checks will be in the mail."

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Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Database assembles U.S. warnings of Saddam threat

I found this article interesting because it shows how hard the White

House worked to get this war going, to say nothing of the methods they

employed, or the end result.  I can't help but think if they had been

so enthusiastic about a domestic agenda, if they had put this much work

into economic independence from oil, maybe some of our current financial crisis could have been averted.  If they had tackled domestic and economic issues they way they went after Saddam, who knows..

WASHINGTON, Jan 23 (Reuters) - The Bush administration's warnings about prewar Iraq, from Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's "mushroom cloud" to Vice President Dick Cheney's statements on weapons of mass destruction, were released on Wednesday in a searchable online database.

The Center for Public Integrity, a Washington research group highly critical of U.S. policy in Iraq, put together 935 comments uttered by eight top administration officials including President George W. Bush in the run-up to the March 2003 U.S.-led invasion.

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Play entire tracks and albums on - Free!

As of today, you can play full-length tracks and entire albums for free on the website.

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Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Obama O-Baminates Clinton's Lead

Viva Obama!!

Barack Obama has erased a once substantial deficit to climb into a virtual tie with Hillary Clinton in the Democratic presidential race, according to a Reuters/Zogby poll released on Wednesday.

Among Republicans, John McCain charged to the front of a shifting presidential field, shooting past Mike Huckabee and a fading Rudy Giuliani as the opening contests of the 2008 White House campaign dramatically reshaped the races in both parties.

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Scared of clowns? You're normal

The study, reported in the Nursing Standard magazine, found all the 250 patients aged between four and 16 they quizzed disliked the use of clowns, with even the older ones finding them scary.

"As adults we make assumptions about what works for children," said Penny Curtis, a senior lecturer in research at the university.

"We found that clowns are universally disliked by children. Some found them quite frightening and unknowable."

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Monday, January 14, 2008

What the World Needs

The world needs more books about the Beatles. The collective body of knowledge on this group simply cries out for more research, the subject matter begs for further examination. At any given moment there are no more than fifty books on the greatest band of all time on the shelves at Borders. By the time I get my latte only three new ones been added to the discount table. We can do better.

The world also needs more Hummers. No, not the good kind. Yes, the H1s, H2s, and H3s. I have to drive at least five minutes before I see one on the road these days. Why? What's not to like? Nothing speaks to your endowment like driving a giant, shiny, military-grade vehicle around the streets of your suburb.

The world also needs more experts, on everything. It's obvious that our current problems are due to lack of information. We could really use more debate and articulation on the issues. What we need are more experts, and fewer generalists. More specialists, and fewer renaissance people.

While I'm at it I think the world needs more crap on television, even more television channels, and more televisions. And while we're there we should all take a moment and sympathize with the writers who are currently on strike, during the rainy season, in Los Angeles, California.

The world could use another Clinton in the White House.

The world could use the Patriots going undefeated this season. And now that Tony Romo is out of the play-offs, the world needs, more than ever, an extra helping of Tom Brady. The world needs more quarterbacks dating, and perhaps impregnating, beautiful supermodels. The world needs more pregnancies.

The world needs less coverage about Darfur, more coverage about Iraq, more rhetoric about Iran, less attention on Pakistan, and more countries added to the "axis of evil."

The world could use barristers in McDonalds, and more McDonalds in Wal Marts, and more Wal Marts.

More Viagra commercials. I love seeing men so excited about their rediscovered ability to have an erection that they meet in a folksy bar off a dusty highway and break into song. Shouldn't they be sleeping with someone? The clock is ticking. Oh, I get it. The world could use more music and less sex.

The world could use more people who want to tell everyone else how to live but can't get their own lives under any semblance of order or control. And the world highly stresses those people to enter politics.

Don't you think the world could use more of John Hagee, Ted Haggard, James Dobson, and Mike Huckabee?

The world is in need of more bottled water, more camera phones, more iPhones, more televisions in refrigerators, more DVD players in minivans, and more minivans.

The world needs more people to buy those items advertised on late night television--the thing that vacuum-seals your leftover meat products; the thing that can cut a can in half, or a rusty nail; those gloves you slip on that can peal a potato. Who buys this stuff? We need more of you.

The would needs Led Zeppelin to re-unite and go on a world tour. I'm serious about this one. And the world needs Zep to come to Minneapolis on said tour. And the world needs them to play a twenty minute version of "Kashmir." And during the concert the people behind me need to talk the entire time and everyone in my row needs to shuffle past me to use the can.

Contrary to popular opinion, the world does not need more love. Even if it's sweet love.

The world needs more bloggers, amateur and professional critics, people who are ready at a moment's notice to register their disgust throughout the world. What the world needs more of is expression of this kind, more venting, more analysis, more narcissism. I have a voice. I was once Time's person of the year. I have internet access, and spell check. The world needs more of me.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Favre: One More for the Road

It gets cold in Green Bay. Damn cold. Think of Wisconsin and you probably think of someplace remote, covered in snow. So, it seemed appropriate Saturday night when the Green Bay Packers came out of the tunnel to snow fall. And I imagine the crowd at Lambeau Field did not mind the snow one bit, welcoming the sight of their ancient winter companion. From there Bret Favre took the controls and never looked back. The Packer quarterback led the team to a 42-20 win over the Seattle Seahawks, knocking them from the playoffs.

But the backbreaking moment for the Seahawks occurred right before half time when Favre completed a short shovel-passed to tight end Donald Lee for a touchdown. What would have been an atypical accomplishment seemed almost patented in Favre's hands. Stumbling through the snow after avoiding a sack, Favre gathered his energy for one last effort before falling to the ground: under-handing the ball five yards forward to Lee, who caught the pass and walked into the end zone. This is the type of thing Favre is known for. But to watch him do it at 38 years old, producing something from nothing, electrifying the fans of Green Bay, yet again, seemed like something out of Ernest Thayer.

There have been articles written about Favre, and his gunslinger style. The rocket-armed quarterback from small-town Mississippi, who rode into Green Bay and led the team to a Super Bowl championship. Recklessness was his style, the brand that sometimes caught the best of him, but more often than not he managed to somehow spin straw into gold. And there have already been articles written about this game. And I imagine that particular faltering, improbable shovel-pass has been shown, and is being talked about on ESPN right now.

Many are tired of all the Favre hype and this will only unnerve them further. But love him or hate him, Bret Favre has represented something sorely gone missing in modern sports. He is a throwback, a gritty competitor, and he awkward and pure. He is not flawless, not manufactured in a lab. His style will not be emulated, but his heart will. And to see such things achieved, by sheer act of will, is a testament to the best of what sports has to offer. Favre wears his scars on his sleeve, and in his advancing age it takes all the more effort to rise above them. As athletes like Marion Jones head off to prison, linked to steroid abuse, Favre continues playing, breaking records, and improvising on the fly. And he does this at 38, and he continues to come back every week and start again, in a brutal contact sport. His record of 274 consecutive starts, including playoff births, is nothing short of incredible. He will be done when he is ready to be done.

There is no end to what you can say about Favre's contributions to football and to sports in general. But his meaning to the state of Wisconsin is describe or fathom. I moved to a small town in the middle of that state when I was eleven. I may as well have landed on the moon. I learned there are three pillars to Wisconsin life--football, hunting, and beer--but the greatest of these is football. People in Wisconsin treat the Packers as a form of religion, with a life-linked seriousness matched only by college football in southern states. There's just not that much to do in Wisconsin. It is not sunny California, it is not eclectic New York City. To live and die in Wisconsin is not an entitlement, it is not a distraction, but a birthright faced with pride and stoicism. And Football gives the populace something less benign to ponder.

When I was 16 I worked at a local grocery store at that small town in Wisconsin. Every Sunday I had the early morning shift from 6:30 am to 2:30 pm. And so by the time I left work most Packers games were winding down. I remember listening to Favre's fist comeback win, in his 2nd game as the Packer's quarterback. With a minute left the Packers were down by six to the Cincinnati Bengals. Favre produced a touchdown drive from the eight yard line and Green Bay won the game. Favre led the Packers to a six-game winning streak, which at that time seemed incredible. The Packers went 9-7 that year and barely missed the playoffs. The whole state was caught up in the mania. Of course, the rest is history. This was the start of 13 consecutive non losing years, six consecutive playoff births, two Super Bowl appearances, and one championship.

Much has been written about these years for the Packers, who, for a time were America's team. Favre became the embodiment of the NFL competitor, while winning three-straight MVP awards. And all of this occurred in an almost improbable sports setting of Green Bay, population 100,000, the last vestige of small-towns to still have a professional sports franchise. In an era of market-driven hype and corporate stadiums, the Packers are an anomaly, publicly owned by the people of Wisconsin. You can see what someone like Favre would mean to the community and to the state. Fans from huge cities like New York can say they love sports, and they demand their winners and are willing to pay for them, but in Wisconsin there really is only football, and when the season ends the only thing left to look forward to is spring.

Favre has gone from man to myth right before his people's eyes. I imagine my friends will someday tell their children about Favre's days, and of his exhilarating victories and his crushing defeats. Like all great legends, his career a metaphor of our own uncertain lives. He made the most out of what he had, and that's all any of us can try to do. His career rose and rose culminating in a championship. Back then there seemed to be no end in sight. But now we know there is a decline. Age sets in. Those around you change. Favre, with gray stubble, sets off to answer the bell. And now, at 38, with nothing much left to prove, he plays on, one more time for the road. And we are each reminded of our own fading powers over time, our own missed opportunities, and our own mortality.

Favre will not be able to play forever, although he has promised to come back next season. One long-shot scenario has him exiting at the end of this season: one last Super Bowl victory. This is highly unlikely given the power of the teams in the rival AFC. But no one gave John Elway much of a chance in 1997, when his Broncos defeated Favre and the favored Packers in the Super Bowl. Maybe this year history will come full circle. But to expect that is to miss the point. It is to miss the magic of games like yesterday, with Favre scampering through the snow, throwing off-balance for another improbable touchdown in front of the fans who now revere him as the embodiment of everything they believe in. Maybe what we have learned from Favre and his originality is the cliche: not the end, but the journey. It is the collection of good days and unexpected moments which make a life. Favre, collectively, may be remembered as one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history, but each moment will forever belong to Wisconsin.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Twins separated at birth married

LONDON - Twins who were separated at birth got married without realizing they were brother and sister, a lawmaker said, urging more information be provided on birth certificates for adopted children. A court annulled the British couple's union after they discovered their true relationship, Lord David Alton said.

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Thursday, January 10, 2008

Richardson Drops Presidential Bid

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson today ended his campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination after back-to-back fourth-place finishes in the first two contests in Iowa and New Hampshire. Richardson planned to announce his decision Thursday at a final campaign rally at the New Mexico State Capitol in Santa Fe but nobody really gave a damn.

Richardson had brought an extensive resume to his candidacy, including experience from his time in Congress, President Clinton's Cabinet as energy secretary, as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, as well as his unique role as a freelance diplomat. In the end however he was dogged by disastrous, sudoriferous performances on Sunday morning talk shows, an affinity for Alberto Gonzalez, and lack of press.

Richardson vowed to return to New Mexico and continue whipping the state's two million people, 27th ranked economy, and 43rd ranked education system into shape.


The 50 Most Loathsome People in America 2007

From the counter-culture paper The Buffalo Beast, it's their annual list of the 50 most loathsome people in America. 

42. Bud Selig

Charges: His version of "The Island of Dr. Moreau" is even worse than John Frankenheimer's. The baseball commissioner who succeeded in making football the indisputable, insufferable national pastime. Followed up the fan-alienating cancellation of the 1994 season and World Series -- the first year without since 1904 -- by studiously ignoring (along with the rest of management and tens of thousands of San Franciscans) his players' mutating proportions. A true, blue-blooded hypocrite, Bud reaped undeserved praise for omissive stewardship, and untold profits for his fellow owners, on the back of his grotesquely augmented super-soldiers, and now wants to pretend he's shocked about it.

Exhibit A: An irretrievable coward, Selig skipped Barry Bonds' record-breaking home run game in San Francisco, "congratulating" the slugger by phone. Fair-skinned Viagra pitchman Rafael Palmeiro remains uncharged for lying to congress about his steroid use.

Sentence: Designated BP hitting tee for Giants; denied medical attention over 162 games.

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Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Clinton Back From the Dead

The news of her death greatly exaggerated, Senator Hillary Clinton, who little more than twenty-four hours ago had been written off and buried by many after a sharp defeat in the Iowa Caucus, was declared the Democratic winner of the New Hampshire primary last night, with all precincts reporting in. The news surprised everyone after polls predicted another victory for Senator Barack Obama following his win in Iowa.

Indeed, after Iowa, it was as if many on the left had suddenly discovered a deep emotional love for Obama, while finally admitting repressed uncertainties for Clinton. Many on the left seemed relieved, if not overjoyed that Clinton's campaign was collapsing so that they could finally come out and declare their love for Obama. That was, of course, yesterday, when crap like this was being written in the Los Angeles Times:

"Memo to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton: We think you're aces. Really. And we love your husband. But we're running off with Sen. Barack Obama. Hope you understand. It's all about being part of history. We'll do lunch after the inauguration."


Don't get me wrong, I'm no Clinton fan. The last thing I want to see is a continuation of Bush/Clinton/Bush/Clin..... dynasty. But come on. Let's get real. Only Hollywood could produce this kind of unashamed capriciousness about something so vital. I don't mean to take some of the fun out of things but this could be one of the most important elections in history and the selection of candidates gets reduced, seriously, to some kind of teen aged crush.

With that on one hand, I'm actually glad Clinton won. Now people can get back to steeling their resolve, stifling their fears about Clinton's un-electability, burying their best interests, and get behind her where they belong. But the odd thing is that all those who jumped ship on Hillary did so for the right reasons. The concepts they articulated after Obama's win in Iowa were correct. I just want to know why they weren't running with it earlier? And will it vanish again now after New Hampshire? Obama is the more likable, more charismatic candidate. He will draw in more independent votes, which are essential for a Democratic victory in 2008.

Let's boil the entire electorate down to 100 people. Let's say 35 of those people are hard-core Republicans, they will vote for any Republican no matter who gets the nomination. Then let's say 30 are hard-core liberals, they will vote for any Democrat who runs. That leaves 35 people in the middle who swing the election. The Republicans usually have to get fewer swing votes than the Democrats to win. Which of the two candidates, Obama or Clinton, do you think will pull in more undecided voters for the Democrats?

Let's try this another way. In the 2004 national election there were 16 states that were closely divided between Republican and Democratic. But some of these states are more important than others. Battleground states like Florida, with 27 electoral votes, are very important to secure in the national election, as are other close states like Pennsylvania (21), Ohio (20) and Michigan (17). So the question is not which candidate do the Democrats like the best. But which candidate does the entire state like the best? Or, to put it another way, which candidate will bring in the most independent or swing voters?

Hillary polls very strongly because, ideally, she is the strongest Democratic candidate. On paper, between her and Obama, she would probably be the better president. Unfortunately this doesn't matter at all. It's not about who is ideally the best candidate, but who, at the end of the day, is the most electable. Voters from the middle don't care which Democratic candidate has been toeing the party line the longest. They are looking for the candidate who speaks to them. And in this election I imagine that person is probably Senator Barack Obama. I only wish more Democrats would now stick with the impulse that was fueled by Obama's win in Iowa. They were on the right track.

My friends on the right think it will be very hard for the Democrats to blow the 2008 election. But everyone I know on the left is waiting for their party to once again implode. And if they think they can win without the middle vote they surely will lose. Going with the less charismatic candidate is a good way to do that. I'm not saying any of this is fair or reasonable but what does love have to do with it anyway? Those people who couldn't wait to get behind Obama after Iowa, and who no doubt are now rushing back to Clinton after New Hampsire, should think clearly about which of the two has the best chance of winning. It's about who can sway the person in the middle, not which one rubs them the right way.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Study: Healthy Living Adds 10 More Years

A study of middle aged and older people living in Norfolk, UK, has suggested that not smoking, being active, eating enough fruit and vegetables and drinking only moderate amounts of alcohol can increase lifespan by an average of 10 years compared to people who do none of these things.

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Friday, January 04, 2008

Obama O-Bamas the Field in Iowa

Senator Barack Obama, orator, statesman, and friend of Thought Alarm, O-Bama'd Thursday night, rolling to victory in the Iowa Caucus. The victory served a surprising setback for Senator Hillary Clinton, the Democratic front-runner. The result also left an uncertain future for John Edwards, who, even with every hair in place, came in 2nd. Most political experts agreed that Clinton could probably weather a loss in Iowa, but Edwards had staked much of his campaign's future on a victory there. On the Republican side Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee defeated Mitt Romney, dealing the former Massachusetts Governor a serious setback.

Mr. Huckabee won with 34.4 percent of the delegate support, after 86 percent of precincts had reported. Mr. Romney had 25.4 percent, former Senator Fred Thompson of Tennessee had 13.4 percent and Senator John McCain of Arizona had 13.2 percent. On the Democratic side, with 100 percent of precincts reporting, Mr. Obama had 37.6 percent of the delegate support, Mr. Edwards 29.8 percent and Mrs. Clinton had 29.5 percent. Gov. Bill Richardson (who apparently is still in the race) of New Mexico was fourth, at 2.11 percent.

Mr. Obama's O-Baminating victory has been attributed to his ability to reach out to thousands of first-time caucusgoers, including many independent voters and younger voters. The Senator has shown an ability to draw in not only independents but Republicans, although his victory Thursday night was only among Democratic voters. A record number of Democrats turned out to caucus — more than 239,000, compared with fewer than 125,000 in 2004 — producing scenes of overcrowded firehouses and schools and long lines of people waiting to register their preferences. The huge turn-out — by contrast, 108,000 Republicans caucused on Thursday — demonstrated the extent to which opposition to President Bush has energized Democrats, and served as another warning to Republicans about the problems they face this November in swing states like this.

“They said this country was too divided, too disillusioned to ever come together around a common purpose,” Mr. Obama said. “But on this January night, at this defining moment in history, you have done what the cynics said we couldn’t do.”

He then added: "You've just been O-Bama'd, baby."

The Iowa caucus is a simple affair in which the residents gather at schools, churches, or public libraries, in each of Iowa's 1784 precincts to elect delegates to the state's 99 county conventions. These county conventions then select delegates for both Iowa's Congressional District Convention and the State Convention, which eventually choose the delegates for the national conventions. This is different from the more common primary election used by most other states, in-which residents go to the polls to vote to determine their state's delegates directly. New Hampshire holds the first presidential primary but the Iowa caucus is noteworthy because it is the first major electoral process for nominating the President.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

My de-education

After sitting in the waiting room of a dentist for a few hours you begin to wonder: why, if mine was the first appointment of the day, am I still waiting to be seen? Your first response, probably almost everyone's initial response, is that they must be very busy back there behind those doors. But then the secretary tips her hand: your dental hygienist is just running a little late this morning. This has been my de-evolution over the last ten years or so. I used to think people were more or less capable and if they weren't there was probably a really good reason for it. Maybe that was because my parents seemed to always have it together and there was very little drama. Or, if there was, my sister and I never saw it.

I figured when I went to bible college to be a minister I'd be around people who really took their faith and their calling seriously, much like someone going to medical school would expect to find people who cared about healing the sick. I was surprised when I found out it was just like high school with clicks and phonies and kids who were there because there parents were too scared to send them to a public school lest they get pregnant or hooked on drugs.

Then, I thought once I started working in churches I'd meet ministers who were serious about it, the useless ones having been weeded out over time. But when that failed I thought when I went to work at a Christian school in Los Angeles I'd really love it and that would be my career and I'd live in Southern California for the rest of my days with a wife who really loved me. When that failed I joined the military. To its credit it was the only organization I found whose response correlated with the seriousness of its claim: they were defending freedom and that was so important they'd die for it. The claim may be a lie, but most didn't know or care and they were ready to take it to the hilt. And, in the end, at least the military delivered on its promises. It was the one organization I found where excuses had a very short lifespan.

Ten years ago I would have sat in that dentist office for hours assuming there was a valid reason why I had to wait...that there were large forces at work behind those doors--a patient who needed an emergency root canal, a doctor who had pneumonia and couldn't come in to work--but no, it's just a hygienist who drank too much the night before and over-slept. And, I think you'll find similar reasons for any other number of breakdowns in the system.

Now I find it hard to believe there are any big, omniscient entities behind anything. The reverence is gone. The minister's sermon sucks not because people have a stubborn heart or an ear that wont listen, it sucks because the minister doesn't care all that much. He's the guy everyone's listening to but they don't know he's just the last link in a silly, error prone chain that allowed him to get where he is. He doesn't even know it either.

People want to believe in large, capable forces controlling things. I watched "The Bourne Ultimatum" a few weeks ago and the CIA was staffed with lean, efficient, super-smart hackers who have access to break into every security camera and cell phone in the Western World. I'm so glad all our money is going to people like that, who will keep us safe, who can get things done and harness technology which can help them do it faster. What's far more likely is that I, and the movie going public, and everyone else, love the idea of all that control.

That's why waiting rooms are lined with warnings about being billed for any canceled appointment without 24-hours notice. Because wasting their precious, efficient time should be punishable. Meanwhile the people behind the desk are just as apathetic as anyone. There's no organized force running things. There's no magic going on back there or anywhere, only the illusion.

George W. Bush completed my de-education. He's just a fool born into the right family. He's at the end of a long, connected chain. He has no merit, no skill, he's just a happy accident who made it into the White House and the rest of us will pay the price. But there are only two choices: revere the office, or recognize the man. And that, in a nutshell, is life. But don't ask me to believe the lie, or to cower to the warning signs on the wall. I know there's nothing but a lost old man behind the curtain. I'm not even waiting to be proven wrong anymore.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Second thoughts on life, the universe and everything

When tackling subjects as diverse as human evolution, the laws of physics and sexual politics, scientists and philosophers, including Steven Pinker, Daniel Dennett, Paul Davies and Richard Wrangham, all confessed yesterday to a change of heart.

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